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Try-Something Tuesday

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“Whoa, whoa, whoa there, kiddo,” Dean said, lurching forward to grab the little terror who was currently trying to run through a glass door. “Keep it together, man. This is a library.”

The kid didn’t say anything, but allowed Dean to hold him back as the door opened by itself. His name was Shayne, if Dean remembered correctly. God, he was terrible. He’d been teaching these children for the best part of eight months now, and could barely remember who they all were.

Dean sighed and straightened up as the door closed behind him, hoping the rest of his party hadn’t run off already. Ten kids to one adult was the limit, legally, but it sure as heck felt like ten kids too many.

There were coloured backpacks scattered across the entrance hallway, and he could see figures moving about behind bookshelves, chattering loudly.

“All right, everyone get back here, pronto,” Dean drawled, sighing as he rolled his head back. The ceiling was high and layered with pipes, which was odd for a library, but it had this whole modern, clean feel to it, and that was nice enough. The pipes turned away halfway down the ceiling, and from there descended a slope of glass, which dropped at an angle down to the far side of the building, where normal vertical windows met it like a wall. The greyness of the day made the area gloomy, but it was bright enough that it was almost like being under the open sky.

“Mr. Winchester?” a girl in pink ventured, sidling out from behind a bookcase.

“Mm?” Dean replied, glad that heads were popping back into his vision. One-two-three-four... Six, eight, ten. Perfect.

“When are we going home?” the girl asked.

Dean screwed his face up, running a hand down his cheek. They’d been out twenty minutes since lunch break ended, and this was definitely the last time he’d be arranging for class trips after the kids had gotten all hyped up on sugar.

“Three-thirty,” Dean answered, as he’d said about five times previously. “We’re walking back and your parents are picking you up as usual, remember?”

The girl - Sandy? - nodded, and Dean clapped his hands once to get the other kids’ attention again.

“Listen up, I’m only saying this once,” he started, doing another head count quickly, mouthing the numbers, just in case he missed one. “We’re here for two hours, and in that time I want you all to have picked out at least one book, okay?”

“Yes, Mr. Winchester,” the kids chanted. Dean smiled. If anything, this was about as cool as being in charge of a teeny-tiny army.

“And don’t go for your usual cra- uh, stuff, pick something new. If you read books about horses, try something about pigs for once.”

Sandy pouted, and Dean couldn’t help but wink at her.

“If you read books about monster trucks - Damien, sit down - then I’d like to see something else in your hands by the time we get to check-out. All got that?”

“Yes, Mr. Winchester,” came the chorus of a reply.

“Today’s Tuesday. And what is Tuesday?”

There was a pause, before the muddled answer, “Try-Somethin’ Tuesday.”

Dean nodded. “That’s right. Now, go get. Go on. Don’t wander off too far - hey, Nellie, Nellie, stay where I can see you!”

The children dispersed like cockroaches from a spark, and Dean could only mutter, “Goddammit,” before not a single child was in his view. He stuck his hands on his hips and blew a raspberry, glad no other responsible adults could judge him right now, seeing as this front part of the library was deserted.

“New to this, I assume,” came a rough male voice.

Dean turned around to see a man about his own age, warming his hands around a mug of what smelled like microwaved coffee. He had a knowing smile on his face, and Dean returned the smile with a lot less gusto.

“This class? A few months.” Dean shrugged his shoulders and turned his face away to stare at the spring sunshine, watching the new leaves tap against the far windows. “I’m used to teaching pre-teens, not... jumped-up eight-year-olds.”

“They’re not so bad once you get used to them,” the man replied, tilting his head as Dean looked across at him again.

The man’s eyes were a pure, rich blue, and his jawline was about as sharply cut as his waistcoat. Dean gave an easy smile back this time, because there was something very welcoming about this man. He kind of smelled like Christmas.

“You got kids?” Dean asked, tugging his plaid shirt down. He’d not ironed the shirt, but hey, who did these days? It was rugged. But right now he just felt scrappy, compared to this other dude.

The man actually laughed at Dean’s question, his eyes closing as his chin tipped down an inch. He shook his head as he walked past Dean, going towards a black leather couch. Dean followed him, figuring he might as well make conversation while he waited for something to go wrong.

“I moonlight as a substitute teacher,” the man said, hooking one ankle up over his knee as he creaked back into the couch. “But most days, I work here. We get children a-plenty through here, but no. None of my own.”

There was a twinkle in his eye, and Dean stared at the twinkle as he sat to the man’s right, mirroring the position of his legs. “Right,” Dean said.

“My name’s Castiel,” the man said, freeing one hand from his mug so he could offer it to Dean.

“Castiel,” Dean repeated, enunciating as he shook. He was surprised; he’d expected something like ‘Jeffrey’, or ‘Jimmy’. ‘Castiel’ was a bit out-there, for a... A what? “You’re a librarian?”

Castiel nodded, then took a sip of his coffee. He stared into its steaming depths for a moment, then lifted his eyes back to Dean’s. “Books are my children, if you want to look at it like that.”

Dean laughed, because no, he wouldn’t have seen it like that at all.

“What’s your name?” Castiel asked, his deep voice turning softer as he asked. “If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”

“Oh, I’m - I’m the one who called in last week, about the trip today?”

Castiel inclined his head. “Yes, we spoke on the phone. It’s nice to put a face to the voice, but... alas, I’m not spectacular with names, when the name doesn’t belong to a fictional character.”

Dean blinked, then found he was grinning. “Same. Uh, Dean. I’m Dean. Winchester.” He offered his hand.

Castiel stared down at the handshake Dean was offering. Then he took the hand, shaking it.

“We already did this,” Dean realised, just as Castiel pulled away. “Crap, I’m such a dweeb, I’m sorry.”

Castiel chuckled, his laughter echoing into his coffee mug as he took another sip. “All is forgiven, believe me.”

Dean turned his eyes away, relieved to see a swish of movement that was most definitely a child heading into the reference section. So long as he knew where they were, they could do whatever the fuck they liked, as far as Dean was concerned.

“Would you like some coffee while you wait?” Castiel asked, and Dean turned to meet his eye.

Castiel had such steadiness in his eye contact. It was equally reassuring and off-putting, but Dean got the impression that Castiel had no intention of scaring him off. Because really, who offers coffee to people they don’t want to talk to?

“Is it the instant microwaved shit?” Dean inquired, glancing to the mug that wobbled in Castiel’s hand as he tipped it.

“I’m afraid I couldn’t carry my entire star-barista-quality coffee machine into work this morning, so yes.” The damn eye-twinkle came back, and Dean realised he kinda liked it. It was mesmerising.

“Then sure,” Dean nodded. “Crap coffee. Home sweet home. Like hell I could afford anything else, right?”

Castiel sighed in agreement as he stood, unfolding his long legs. “I have the same problem, more often than not. Teachers ought to be paid more for the work they do.”

“Amen,” Dean sang.

Castiel straightened his rolled-up shirtsleeves, still holding tightly onto his mug. “I will be back shortly. Unless disaster strikes, I don’t recommend you go anywhere. Technically I’m not allowed coffee outside of the back room, and if I have to carry it to you - well...”

“Not a word,” Dean said, winking. Castiel smiled, and was still smiling as he moved on past the couch.

Dean sighed and slumped back against the couch, hearing the leather making fart noises under him. He amused himself with that for about thirty seconds, before wondering if he was actually just a giant eight-year-old himself.

“Mr. Winchester?”

Dean’s eyes snapped open and he looked up at Marvin, firstly wondering where he got chocolate from, then wondering why it was all over his face. After a few years in teaching, it honestly shouldn’t surprise him any more. Kids pulled sticky stuff out from thin air.

“What can I do for you, little man?” Dean asked, tiredly.

“Where’s the bathroom?”

Dean sighed and stood up, hoping his three-foot height advantage over Marvin would help him locate signposts.

“Over that way,” Dean said, pointing. He wasn’t meant to go in there with the kids, but he waved for Elroy as he waddled past, instructed them to stick together, and sent them on their way. “And if anyone tries to talk to you, what do you do?”

“Don’t talk, walk away, come and tell you,” Marvin chanted, off the top of his head.

“That’s right. Stay safe,” Dean added, keeping his eye on the boys until they headed around the corner and through the door to the bathroom.

“Ugh,” he muttered under his breath, flopping back down.

Dean’s baby brother Sammy had never been this much work when he was younger - and even then, Dean had only been eight years old himself. Back then, there weren’t a million Stranger Danger issues, but Dean knew first-hand that it wasn’t so much that there hadn’t been a problem, just that there was less awareness.

If anything, even if it was harder to work around now, it was better for the kids. Dean could appreciate that.

“Everything okay?” Castiel’s voice called.

Dean’s head perked up from the back of the couch, his neck unsticking from its surface with a scritchy sound. “Peachy. Thanks man,” he muttered, taking the steaming mug from Castiel’s fair-skinned, careful hand.

Dean purred at the back of his throat as he inhaled the tendrils of steam, loving the aroma. The mug made the coffee smell different than he was used to - a different washing soap brand, most likely - but the flat, milky fumes were enough to drag him right back to his days of teacher training courses and paperwork. A boring time, but there was a whole sense of gaining a future about it that made him feel good.

He took his first sip, sighing as it scalded his tongue. Delightfully awful.

Castiel made the other side of the couch creak again as he wriggled back into it, and Dean watched him pull his legs up, boots and all, until he was cross-legged, swallowing down another sip of his fresh beverage.

“Cowboy boots?” Dean asked, feeling a wide smile crawl across his face. He’d seen the design cut into the leather of Castiel’s shoes, and his stomach gave a floaty little flip.

Castiel looked down at his shoes like he’d only just noticed he was wearing them. “Oh. Yes, I quite like them. They remind me of, a, uh - a character.”

Dean met Castiel’s fluttering gaze, aware that his own eyes were probably twinkling right about now. “A book character?” Dean asked, slyly.

Castiel’s eyelids batted as he stared down into his coffee. “Of course, what else?”

Dean beamed. “Oh, I dunno,” he said, lightly. “But I don’t recall seeing Doctor Sexy in any books, do you?”

Castiel’s breath caught, and his eyes flashed to meet Dean’s. “Oh.”

Dean grinned at him, aware that his eyeline was dropping to Castiel’s mouth instead of lingering on his eyes. “Dr. Sexy’s the best thing on TV, man,” he said, forcing himself to look away from Castiel’s lined, pink lips. He looked into his coffee instead as he continued, “Don’t ever tell my brother I said that, though. He laughs every time he finds it recorded on my TiVo. Well - that and Project Runway, but... Heh.”

Castiel looked intrigued, leaning over his crossed legs, more facing Dean than he was facing the library now.

Dean licked his lips, conscious of the fact that Castiel hadn’t replied, and wondered if he was being judged. He’d got it right, hadn’t he? Cowboy boots?

Feeling awkward, Dean sank back against the couch cushion and tipped back his coffee, eyeing the dark rings as they layered all the way down the inside of the mug as he drank.

By the time he’d counted a total of six of his kids in this area, he’d mostly forgotten about his self-enforced silence, and his eyes drifted over to watch Castiel drinking from his own blue mug. It matched his eyes, Dean thought.

Castiel’s dark hair was disarrayed, but just combed enough to be smart - maybe it was intentionally tousled, but Dean could barely tell. There was a close-cut stubble across the librarian’s jaw, and a muscle in the side of his face that jumped every time he swallowed a mouthful of coffee.

Try as he might, Dean couldn’t stop staring. The rebounding sunlight caressed the front of Castiel’s face, making his straight nose stand out, a stark profile against the dark shadows of the other side of the library. He breathed steadily, still hunched over his crossed legs.

He was relaxed, and Dean thought he looked quite elegant.

Dean’s gaze sank from Castiel’s face to his arms, eyeing the neat point and curve of his wrists and fingers. His fingernails were short and rounded, the nails paler than the almost-tanned skin of the rest of him.

“Had no idea librarians had it in them to work out,” Dean murmured, smiling when Castiel glanced over at him. “You, what, got a jungle gym in the back room?”

A frown descended over Castiel’s face, pulling a line between his eyebrows. “Excuse me?”

Dean mouthed a cautious ‘o’.

“Uh.” He gulped. “You have nice arms.”

Lame.

Castiel looked down at his forearms in exactly the same way he’d looked at his shoes, as if he was surprised they were attached to him. “Oh. Thank you.”

Of course Dean had used the ‘you work out?’ line. Of all things, it had to be that.

“No, but really,” he added, huffing a slightly embarrassed breath. “What is it you’re doing? Because man,” Dean leaned back and patted his belly with a hand, “no matter what I do, jumping around all day with the kids, all I end up doing is packing on the tummy fat.”

Castiel glanced down Dean’s figure, and Dean got the distinct sense that he was being checked out. Like a library book. (Laaaaame.)

“You aren’t fat,” Castiel said, blandly enough that Dean blinked in surprise. “Perhaps not toned, but you are...”

Castiel met Dean’s eye. Then he cleared his throat, eyes dipping back to his coffee.

“What?” Dean prompted, grinning as he leaned a few inches closer. “Come on, don’t leave your poor sentence hangin’ like that.”

Castiel smiled into his mug as he downed another gulp. “I think ‘slender’ is the right word for it.”

Dean smirked. He wasn’t one to fish for compliments - no, really - but that one had been worth chasing. There was something about the way Castiel spoke that lifted Dean’s tired heart, just the smallest amount.

“Heh. Thanks,” Dean said, quietly.

He swished what remained of his coffee around the bottom of his mug, collecting up the dark rings of powder, and the sludge at the bottom.

Less than a minute after he was done with his coffee, he was called away by Travis, and Dean went to deal with his issues for him. He was glad to see Marvin and Elroy both back in the history section, but took a moment to stop them hurling spitballs at Lydia’s head.

By the time Dean got back to Castiel, with two full headcounts of all ten kids successfully completed, he was actually really glad to see the librarian was still cross-legged on the couch.

“Miss me?” Dean asked, cracking a smile as Castiel looked up from the magazine he’d been flipping through.

“I was going to send out a search party.” Castiel slipped the magazine back to the tottering pile by his side, then put his empty coffee mug on the floor beside it. “Seems there’s no longer a need, however.”

Dean spread his arms out over the back of the cushions, feeling the stretch in his shoulders do wonders for the headache that had slowly been building up.

He looked over to Castiel, unsure what he would say to him, but really just wanting to talk some more. There was a leisure between them, in a way that wasn’t quite banter, nor Dean’s usual boyish back-slapping, but it was pleasant. Calm, and elegant, just the same as Castiel’s whole manner.

Castiel was staring out of the far window again, eyes moving like he was reading a story in the way the trees swayed.

Dean’s gaze slid down Castiel’s figure once more, taking in the smart detail of his cowboy boots, of the actual pocket-watch chain that was dangling between his waistcoat buttons and his pocket. His hands resting on his knees.

Dean’s head tilted as he saw a dash of colour that stood out on the inside of Castiel’s forearm. A long, thin rectangle, separated into six small squares of colour: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. The whole shape was about an inch in length, its colours appearing faded by simply being on Castiel’s skin.

“Is that a tattoo, or were you just messing around with your new highlighters?” Dean asked, gesturing at the shape. He smiled, because again, Castiel blinked in surprise at that fact Dean had noticed.

But Castiel smiled as well, looking back to Dean. “Tattoo.”

Dean grinned. “It’s nice. Does it, uh, does it mean somethin’, or is it just there to make your arm look good?”

Castiel’s left hand went to trace over the ink, his fingertips rasping delicately over his soft skin. Dean saw the skin give even under such a light touch, and wondered if it was really as tender as it looked.

“It’s for... gay pride,” Castiel said, quietly. When he looked to Dean and caught his eye, he was smiling shyly.

Dean fiddled with his shirt collar, rubbing its material under his thumb. “All right. So you’re... uh?”

Castiel’s smile widened, as he exhaled through his nose as he glanced away. “You don’t have to be queer to be in support of human equality, Mr. Winchester.”

Dean scoffed. “Yeah, I know that. I just. Um.”

Castiel’s eye-twinkle was back. “But, yes, I am,” he said. He nodded to Dean, then his eyeline swam across Dean’s shoulders, where Dean was still fiddling with his shirt.

Dean nodded slowly, letting out a breath. “You know, I’ve got some ink of my own,” he offered, glancing around in case any children were in the vicinity. When he determined the coast was clear, he leaned closer to Castiel with his hand in the collar of his grey t-shirt, and pulled it down past his clavicle.

Castiel’s eyes dropped to see what Dean was showing him: a pentagram encircled by sun-rays, tattooed over his heart; blue-black ink.

Dean smirked, then leaned back and let his t-shirt go.

Castiel squinted at him, tiny wrinkles appearing in the corner of his eyes. “A devil’s... symbol?”

Dean sniggered, then couldn’t help the sudden but short guffaw that ripped from his throat. “Oh, hell no. C’mon, man, it’s a protection symbol. Me ‘n my little brother have got matching ones.”

“I see,” Castiel said, looking fairly relieved. “What’s your brother’s name?”

“Sammy,” Dean replied, smiling as he said the name. “Well, it’s Sam. He’s four years younger.”

Castiel nodded, appreciative. “I have six siblings, all older.”

Dean blanched. “Six? Holy crap.”

Castiel eyes crinkled up again as he smiled. “We are all adopted.”

“Right.” Dean huffed on a smile, distracted for a moment as he saw Sandy running past, and he called out after her, “Hey, kid, this is a library, no running.”

Dean sat back down, heaving a sigh that was less stressed than it had been earlier.

Castiel pointed out, calmly, “Sir, this is a library, and I would appreciate no shouting.”

“Sorry, man.” Dean pursed his lips, reaching to scratch his nose. He’d have used Castiel’s name right then, but he’d barely remembered it until the last second, and if he’d gone through with using it, it would’ve come out as just ‘Cas’. He smiled at the thought, though, because even if ‘Castiel’ was a tricky name, it was a good sound, and hey, he’d remembered it.

After a moment of companionable silence listening to the distant mutters of engaged children, Dean prodded, “So you don’t have any other work to get back to, huh?”

Castiel glanced at him, then chuckled. “I do. I have about five hours’ worth of shelving to do, since my co-worker called in sick today. There’s a bug going around, I think.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed. “There was meant to be a sub with me today, but I guess she’s spending the day with chicken soup instead. Just so long as I don’t come down with something, the kids are bearable enough.”

“You do find it rewarding, don’t you?” Castiel said, hooking an elbow over the back of the couch, angling himself even more towards Dean than he already was. “Teaching the children, I mean.”

“Yeah, totally. It’s fun, as well. Exhausting, like you wouldn't believe―”

“Oh, I do know; I moonlight as a substitute myself, remember?”

“―But yeah. Yeah, it’s great.” Dean nodded, his face aching a little from his smile.

This guy in front of him was dragging up smiles that Dean usually reserved for the kids, and like Sammy always told him, it was his best smile. As Dean was realising, Castiel was making it effortless. His scent still tasted like - what was that... myrrh? - mingled with crap coffee, and all as one, it made Dean warm from head to toe. It was a scent that reminded him of winter at Uncle Bobby’s house, that one time they finally got the tree up, and had real presents.

The fact that Castiel was dapper as fuck wasn’t really helping the tiny crush Dean may or may not have the beginnings of, somewhere deep inside him.

Dean mulled over random thoughts for a while, his eyes flitting in and out of Castiel’s gaze. Dean really liked when their gazes locked, and they would both smile together. It was freaky, especially given that they were strangers, but Dean honestly enjoyed it.

“Cas... Can I ask you a really, really terrible question?”

Castiel raised his eyebrows at the moniker - Dean silently kicked himself - but nodded.

Dean gulped. “Okay, well. I wouldn’t usually ask this to anyone, ‘cause like I said, it’s a dumb question. But you’re... Uh.”

He ran his hand over his lips, feeling his own stubble prickle his palm. “Just don’t think bad thoughts in my direction after this, okay?”

Castiel’s mouth quirked upward at the sides. “I’m sure your tattoo will protect you.”

“Sure,” Dean huffed. God, he shouldn’t be nervous, Cas was cool.

But still, Dean should probably have just Googled this. Castiel wasn’t Google. And yet...

Try-Something Tuesday.

Here goes.

“What― What’s it like? Kissing a guy?”

Castiel was most definitely surprised by that. “You’re right, that is a terrible question.”

Dean laughed against his hand, wishing he’d at least phrased it differently. “I mean, like... is it good?” He looked Castiel in the eye, hoping furiously that the bird-like head-tilting was a positive thing.

“Why are you asking?” Castiel said, voice free of any real inflection.

Dean shrugged bodily, shoulders touching his earlobes. “Curious. I never exactly...” He waved his hand between his chest and Castiel’s, then dropped it back to his thigh. “Experimented, or explored, or anything.” He shrugged again, setting his pale hand across his eyes. His stomach was clenched tight with self-judgement, because seriously, of all the fuck-tastic things he could’ve used this discussion for, this was the way he turned it.

“Well,” Castiel said - and boy, was Dean relieved to hear a smile in his voice, “usually, there tends to be lips involved. And wet noises, and wandering hands.”

Dean stared at the fuzziness behind his closed eyelids, just listening to the low tone of Castiel’s voice.

“Tongue, more often than not.”

“Yeah, but―” Dean cleared his throat, placing his hands together between his parted knees. “But that’s just kissing in general.” He gulped, and looked to his left to see Castiel peering back, his face impassive. “What’s different about kissing a guy than kissing a girl?”

Castiel’s blank face broke into a warm smile, and his head dipped down as he wheezed out a deep rumble of a laugh.

Dean wasn’t sure what he was laughing about, but he managed a soft, edgy echo in reaction.

Castiel finally raised his head, the look on his face seeming to express a sort of adoration of Dean’s oafishness. “How am I to know the difference, if I’ve never had the experience of kissing a girl?”

“Oh,” Dean said.

He licked his lips, eyes darting to quickly check on Marvin as he trundled past. Dean stayed quiet until the area was child-free once more, then he asked, “How do you know you’re not straight, or bi, or whatever, if you’ve never tried it with a girl?”

Castiel stared back. Okay, that was definitely a ‘Dean is dumb’ expression. Dean lowered his gaze apologetically.

With his voice as flat as roadkill, Castiel said, “If I really had to ask such questions of myself, then how do you know that you like men, if you’ve never kissed one?”

Dean gaped at Castiel’s cowboy boots. “Touché.”

There was a silence that took up several seconds, and Dean only noticed halfway through it that he was staring at Castiel. Throughout the second half of the moment, he noticed that Castiel was staring back. Smiling.

“How about,” Castiel said, his eyes flicking away, then back, “I show you.”

Dean’s jaw actually fell open. “Wh― What, you mean, uh...”

“Kissing.”

Dean’s insides curled and twisted, and hell yes

“You’re serious?” he breathed, blinking across at the blue-eyed beauty who was beaming back at him. “Like, you’re actually, legit, for-real offering to make out with me?” His voice dropped to less than a decibel as he whispered the words, eyes again scanning nervously for eight-year-olds.

Castiel shrugged a shoulder, a hand nudging his fingertips against the side of his own lips. He nodded as he slipped the hand back to his lap, twining all ten fingers together. “I don’t see any reason why not.”

Dean’s mouth was still hanging open, and he consciously closed it, swiping his thick tongue over his lower lip as he did. Okay. Awesome.

Fucking hell.

“But not right now,” Castiel said, all of a sudden, raising a hand to Dean’s shoulder - in case he got any ideas. “After the library closes tonight.”

Dean nodded, and kept nodding as he muttered, “Yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah.”

Castiel flicked him another smile, this one not quite flirtatious, but Dean saw it for the first time as being legitimately interested. Interested in him.

“Now,” Castiel started, unfolding his legs and putting his boots flat on the carpet, “as I said earlier, I have about five hours’ worth of work to do.”

Dean sat halfway out of his seat before Castiel wandered away. He was still suspended in a weird state of shock, because attractive man, and lips, and kissing...

“Hey, Cas?” he called, keeping his voice down.

Castiel turned back, nudging the tower of magazines up a little straighter. “Yes, Mr. Winchester?”

Dean grinned. “See you when?”

“Eight,” Castiel nodded.

Their eyes connected, and Dean breathed in slowly, trying to savour this. There was a fluttery elation in him, something he’d never felt in quite this way before.

Castiel’s lips twitched, and he turned away.

Dean watched the librarian’s backside as he floated off, and caught the tiniest glimpse of his colourful tattoo as he held up both empty coffee mugs.

Castiel went to stand behind the check-out desk twenty feet behind the couch, and Dean sighed and turned back to the window, figuring he shouldn’t stare at the other man while he worked, no matter how enticing he was when he moved.

There was still an air of myrrh and coffee left in his wake, and Dean smirked, subtly taking in a breath.

Christ, this had not gone the way he expected. But then again, when did things ever?

It was the work of minutes before Dean was swept up once again in a tide of desperate, confused eight-year-olds, some of whom had decided to save Castiel work and put all the books back where they figured was best. Dean rolled his eyes and very quickly learned how the Dewey Decimal System functioned.

Dean finished fussing with schoolchildren and their parents by just after four in the afternoon (it’s not like he was paid for that half-hour of overtime, or anything), and then he went straight back to the school building, where he had homework to mark.

Being the genius he was, he’d left it in the classroom he’d told his co-workers to lock, and ended up spending another half-hour chasing down the janitor to unlock it for him. It only occurred to him after he’d scooped up every last scrap of science project remnants that he could have just picked the lock himself. What was the use of having a messed-up childhood if he didn’t even get to use his skills in adult life?

Being sour about that fact maybe ate away another twenty minutes of homework-marking time, and soon enough he realised he was just procrastinating.

He packed up, crammed the stack of paper in the backseat of his prized ‘67 Chevy Impala, and drove home via the supermarket. He had a dinner to cook that evening, for Sammy and his charming girlfriend (Jess, not Jessica), and knew he didn’t have a thing in the cupboard.

Cooking for Dean was a joy, much like childcare was.

But, in the same way as childcare, when the food did not behave appropriately, he had a tendency to get mad.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with it, it’s just crap, okay!” Dean bellowed down the phone line, kicking his oven door shut. “No, I don’t just have the ability to get take-out, man! I don’t earn as much as you, you asshole lawyer! Calm do― Calm down?!

Dean did calm down, however, closing his eyes and seething silently as Sam blathered on about bringing Chinese when they turned up, and chill-pills, and other shit that Dean zoned out by the fifth sentence.

“Yeah, yeah, okay, whatever.” Dean sighed, letting Sam talk himself into silence.

“See you at six-thirty,” Dean said at last, and flipped his cell phone shut and pressed it to his chin. “Fucking shit-ass casserole.”

At a loss for what else to do, Dean cleared up the mess he’d made, threw the burned trays into his sink to soak, then went to go pick out something to wear tonight. Not for dinner with Sammy and Jess - they could make do with Dean’s grubby, sweaty work clothes - but for Castiel.

Sexy librarian.

Sexy male librarian.

Dean practically up-ended his wardrobe over his bed, separating plaid shirts from his neater pairs of jeans, then from his t-shirts. He wanted something similar to earlier, something that said he was comfortable with how he usually presented himself - but something less plain, something that showed off the goods.

He was still grappling between his dark green jacket and his black henley, when the door made that god-awful clattering noise that meant someone was on the other side and knocking.

Dean dragged his armful of fabric to the door, swinging it open to let Jess and Sam in.

“Oh, yup,” Sam spluttered, wafting a hand in front of his face. “You burnt it all right.”

“Now you are most definitely smarter than a fifth-grader,” Dean grumbled, only half-sarcastic. He nodded a greeting to Jess, who was also screwing up her face. “Stick the food on the table, I’ll be out in a minute.”

“What’re you up to?” Jess asked, her long blonde hair swinging as she tried to see what Dean was attempting to fold.

“I got a, uh―” Not a date. “―thing, tonight.”

“A date?” Jess asked, smirking.

Dean pulled a face. It wasn’t a date. There would be no candles, no dinner-and-a-movie, no shared bed afterwards. It was just a kiss. Sure, it was totally non-innocent in its whole all-encompassing thing, but honestly, as far as Dean could see, there was nothing more than a little smooching staring him in the face tonight. As if he could take any more than that, anyway. He was new to this whole bisexual thing, goddammit.

“Not a date,” he said, firmly. “Just a― a... friend, I guess.”

“What’s her name?”

Dean looked back to Jess, who had crossed her arms. Sam was pushing plates around in the tiny kitchenette, and was making an incredible racket, so Dean felt secure enough behind the noise that he could whisper to Jess, “His name’s Cas.”

“Friend, huh?” she pressed, one side of her lips pulling up. “Never thought you bothered wearing your nice clothes for your friends.”

Dean looked down at the jacket and the henley he held, then shrugged, holding them both up to his chest in turn. “Which one?”

Jessica tipped her head, putting her hand against each item. “Which jeans are you wearing?”

“The non-ripped ones.”

“Black t-shirt?”

“Only if I wear the jacket,” Dean replied, having gone over this a fair few times himself. They went together into the tiny bedroom off the hallway, barely both able to fit inside at one time.

Jess hummed a thoughtful note, looking over the spread of clothes. “Go with the black henley, under the green overshirt, under the brown leather jacket. It’s kinda windy out.”

“But I want something, y’know, lighter.”

“Black t-shirt under the green overshirt. Leather jacket. C’mon, Dean, it’s never failed you before.”

Dean sucked in his lips. Yeah, it never failed him before, but that was for girls. “But... he’s a dude. And gay.”

Jessica grinned. “Attractive is attractive is attractive, Dean. You look good in anything. Besides,” she glanced to the kitchen, checking Sam was still occupied, “is he really going to be looking at your clothes all that much?”

Dean hugged his clothing selection, a secret smile curling up his face. “We’re... not going that far, I don’t think.”

“So it is a date.”

Dean ran a hand down his face. He didn’t know what the hell it was, to be honest.

Seven fifty-five found Dean pacing outside the library, peering through the huge glass front. He could just about see the glow of a light around the corner inside, presumably from the check-out desk. He figured he should knock, but...

But this was his last chance to― to... oh, god knows. Rescue his heterosexuality?

Huh, like that was ever an option.

Fact: Dean liked dudes.

Fact: Dean was a chicken when it came to dudes.

So the offer of an apparent no-strings attached make-out session with a dude who was firstly actually within Dean’s league, and secondly, totally and absolutely beautiful, and thirdly, smelled really good, was like an explosion of good things for Dean. He’d wanted to mess around with other dudes since he was a teenager, but did he ever? Nope.

This was his chance. Maybe the only chance he’d ever be willing to take on these terms, because it was so rare that he ever got the time to sit down and chat with a nice man. Let alone find that he was relaxed around him.

Relaxed, my ass, Dean thought, still pacing. His heart was pounding like a death drum, and his fingers itched to take hold of his car’s steering wheel and drive far, far away.

But then the light in the corner of his eye flickered, and Dean looked up to see Castiel’s figure crossing the space between his desk and the glass door, smiling.

Dean grinned back, the tension easing away.

Castiel was so calming. He was like one of those trapped static-electricity lightning balls; exciting to look at, exciting when Dean went near, but somehow, Dean just felt soothed by being in his presence.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting here for a long time,” Castiel said, having unbolted the door and pulled it open. Usually it worked on a sensor, but everything here was shut off, since it was past closing time.

“Just got here,” Dean passed back, watching Castiel stand on tiptoes to replace the bolt on the door once Dean was inside. “Um.”

Castiel flicked his fingers to get Dean to follow him, and they walked together up to the check-out desk. The light from the table lamp was flooding the area in orange, and Castiel headed for the lamp, then turned right, putting his hand flat against the door in the wall there.

“Through here.”

“Not gonna murder me in the back and then hide the body, are you?” Dean asked.

Castiel blinked in shock. “Why would you think that?”

Dean forced out a nervous laugh, looking at the desk, eyeing the spines of the books piled there. “Nothin’, just checking.”

Castiel met his eye, and they slowly raised a smile together. Castiel blinked, looking down at his own hand. He’d not changed his clothes since earlier, but the evening’s stubble shadow on his jaw looked respectably good in this light.

Castiel swayed his hand over towards Dean, letting it hover between them until Dean took it.

The librarian’s eyes twinkled, and he led Dean through into the back room.

The light changed - here, it was fluorescent, and bright white. Dean squinted against it, and Castiel squeezed his hand reassuringly. “We’re not staying in here, there’s a room at the back.”

“Good, because eugh.”

Castiel laughed, his thumb skimming the side of Dean’s hand. Dean liked the warmth of it, letting it guide him around piles of books, lever-arch files slotted into place in shelves around the walls.

There was a single door at the very back, and Castiel led him straight there. Dean brushed the badly-draped red curtain away for him so Castiel could see the door handle. The door swung inwards as Castiel pushed it, and a rush of warm air drifted over Dean’s jeans, wafting upward from his ankles. It smelt like old paper, and dusty cloth.

Castiel pulled the string for a light, and a warm yellow light bulb tinkled into a glow from above.

This was a tiny storage cupboard, about two full paces wide and three paces deep.

Castiel pulled Dean inside while walking backwards, and Dean kicked the door shut behind him without even looking. It clacked shut, and they were alone, only brownish shelves and the light for company.

Dean saw Castiel’s eyelids fluttering, heard his breath hitch then slip free. Castiel was an inch shorter, barely any difference in their height at all. Their lips were so close that Dean tasted the chewing gum on Castiel’s breath, could sense that fiery, warm aroma that surrounded him.

Dean licked his own lips, crowding Castiel back in a sudden wave of eagerness. The back wall was painted cream, and had no shelves on it. Dean only became aware of it when the two of them were a foot away, breathing their hot breaths in silence.

Dean lurched forward and kissed.

He dropped back, suddenly panting, eyes snapping between Castiel’s parted lips and his eyes, long, dark eyelashes...

He kissed again, tasting myrrh, mint gum, sweet saliva; human and warm and rolling against him.

Dean made a soft noise as he pulled away again. His insides were flaring with excitement, a tension returning to his gut, but unlike before, this was flustered and pleasured - Castiel tasted good, he kissed well, he was leaning in again―

Their hands went to each other’s waists, Dean’s finding Castiel’s wide hips were solid and firm under him, his thumbs feeling the ridge of bone, the cut of muscle. Nothing like another person that Dean had ever touched before, not this way.

Lips pressed and shivered; Castiel kissed in some kind of subdued fury, like he was trying to get at something inside Dean’s mouth.

Dean let free a trembling, wanton sound, not caring at all that he’d let it escape. He wanted this, and Castiel knew he wanted it, so why bother trying to hide?

“Oh,” Castiel sighed, just as his back pressed to the wall. Dean’s right hand swerved to Castiel’s lower back, pulling his hips closer, just as Dean leaned into him, taking his lips in another kiss. Their eyes both shut again, Dean’s vision turning to a blaze of warm red, his senses smothered by the everlasting taste of sweet perfume.

It was so soft. Forgive the hard lines of hipbone, forgive the muscles of Castiel’s broad shoulders. When they kissed, everything was tender, and yes, it was needy, and Dean was rocking forward into it like he could snatch two kisses in a single moment, but Castiel moved his mouth with the gentleness of a feather, or a sweeping hand across the back of a fragile animal.

Dean’s eyes rolled back, his lips parting to let Castiel lick out another pattern from behind his teeth. Castiel pulled back for a moment to press kisses to Dean’s lower lip, to the stubble on his chin.

“How is it?” Castiel asked, voice low and smooth, like whiskey on the porch on a summer’s night.

Dean murmured a quiet, broken word, then allowed his eyes to open, just the smallest amount. A smile fluttered over his face, and he was somewhat stunned, or frozen, just at the whole twist of things he felt. Castiel’s eyes were dark, half-closed, lips parted, wet and reddened.

“Prickly,” Dean breathed, and Castiel chuckled.

Dean grinned back lazily, exhaling over Castiel’s lips and watching him take the breath into his own lungs.

“And...” Dean gulped. “And there’s butterflies. It’s exciting.”

Castiel was smiling, tipping his head ever so slightly to the side. “More exciting than girls?”

Dean closed his eyes to think about it. But trying to think of it - to conjure up the thought of kissing a woman - he frowned, face twitching. He peered back at Castiel’s waiting expression, a twinge of confusion in Dean’s lower stomach. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I can’t remember what kissing girls is like.”

Castiel’s eyelids fluttered, gaze dropping back to Dean’s mouth.

Ah, Dean thought. Castiel liked it. Castiel was enjoying this, he enjoyed Dean’s kisses. Dean didn’t know why that was surprising, but up until now, all he’d really thought about was how he felt. He liked it, of course he did. But Castiel? He was craning upward, lifting his chin for more.

Dean smirked. Better give Cas what he wants, right?

Their lips met, warmer and wetter than before, their mouths slipping into place, the soft sounds of smacking lips so mellifluous in Dean’s ears. Castiel made such little noises as he kissed, the tiniest of moans, so quiet that Dean wouldn’t hear them if they weren’t being pushed into his open mouth.

The long lines of their bodies pressed together, Castiel’s shoulders and back to the wall, Dean’s thigh gradually inching between his legs. Dean pressed one hand to the wall, the other thumbing the cotton of Castiel's waistcoat as he banded an arm behind his back.

Dean blinked in surprise as his leather jacket was shoved from his shoulders.

He broke the kiss and glanced down at the jacket, hanging from his forearms. Curiously, he looked back to Castiel.

Castiel stared back with a quiet guilt in his eyes, almost apologetic. But it was okay, Dean was getting too hot under the leather anyway. He pulled his hands off Castiel to let the jacket fall to the floor. It hit his ankles, and he kicked it away. He wanted more, wanted to lean in, but he found he was held back by Castiel’s raised hand.

“What?” Dean asked, eyes flicking between Castiel’s slim-fingered hand and his shining blue eyes. “D’you wanna stop?”

Castiel’s tongue lapped over his lip as he shook his head. The hand on Dean’s chest touched down properly, bunching Dean’s black t-shirt as Castiel dragged his hand upward. Dean felt a thrill as he felt the hand’s shape through his clothing, loving how wide Castiel’s hands were, how much strength seemed to be in them.

“You never answered my question earlier,” Dean muttered, words drowning as Castiel’s mouth found his again, jaws working together to make Dean hot under the collar once more. Castiel’s hand was rubbing Dean’s nipple through his top, and Dean couldn’t do much more than groan as his question faded into a mess of nipples, hands, mouth.

He was straining against his jeans by the time Castiel nosed him away to reply, “What question?”

“What do you do―” kiss, mouth to lip, mouth to cheek, “to work out?”

Castiel’s smile changed their kiss, stubble tingling Dean’s lip, burning on his sore skin. “I run.”

“You’re a runner?”

“I... mm,” Castiel sighed, a hand going to tug at Dean’s light brown hair.

Dean pushed his hips against the other man, moaning out loud as he felt Castiel’s erection through the layers of clothing. Dean was so savagely excited by the feel of male parts pressed to his own, he could only groan again, starting to rock his hips in a rhythm.

“Oh, you like that?” Castiel breathed, smiling against Dean’s ear, putting tiny, tiny kisses on the shell of Dean’s ear. “You like that I’m excited.”

“Yeah,” Dean admitted, as he grabbed for Castiel’s hips - both of them - and pushed him against the wall, parting his thighs with his hands. Castiel let himself be shoved apart, a smile showing on his face as Dean caught his eye. “Yeah, god, fuck, you’re hard.”

“And you’ve never felt another man before,” Castiel observed, followed by a stuttered grunt.

His hands found Dean’s shoulders, and they stayed there to steady them both as Dean kept on rutting, hardened dick sending sparks through him as each miniscule thrust found the mirrored stiffness in Castiel’s slacks.

“Always wanted,” Dean gritted out, huffing as he nuzzled up close to Castiel’s face, body set firmly between his legs, one hand holding one of Castiel’s thighs up so he could hump right between them. “Always wanted it, so badly, so goddamn badly...”

“And this was meant to be nothing more than a kiss,” Castiel chuckled, a rich tone of laughter in the peck he put to Dean’s shoulder. “If this was all just a plot to get into my pants, Mr. Winchester...”

“It wasn’t, I swear it wasn’t,” Dean promised, pushing out another rumbling groan that somehow made his jeans feel even tighter. “I thought - thought we were just gonna make out, I just wanted to try it...”

Castiel moaned, his head falling back with a thump to the wall. His messy hair ruffled as Dean carried him a few inches up and down the wall, hips bucking slowly, then quickly, Dean’s erection becoming sore and wet against the material of his underwear.

“I wanna...” Dean tried, huffing hurried breaths to Castiel’s collar bone. “God, Cas, I wanna―”

“Tell me,” Castiel said, kissing Dean’s cheek. Oh, his breath was so hot. “Tell me what you want, Dean.”

You’re a stranger, Dean thought.

He barely knew this man, this librarian. Dean wasn’t the kind of man who fucked on the first date - he wasn’t the kind of man to date, period. He didn’t meet people, he didn’t fuck strangers. His friends found him girls, they made him dress up nice, they made him mingle for his own good.

And yet, here he was. With a man he’d met only today, someone who for once connected with him instantly, made him love what he was doing. Made him love this...

“Jesus Christ, Cas, I want my hands down your pants,” Dean hissed, growling as he bit down on the cloth of Castiel’s shirt collar. His teeth rasped against the cheap material, feeling its fibres in the grooves of his teeth, dry.

Castiel whimpered.

Dean could barely breathe, just that sound from the other man’s mouth made him wet, leaking pre-come in his pants; he could feel the air cooling it even through his jeans.

“Is that okay? Can I do that, Cas?”

Castiel shoved Dean off him, and Dean eased back, hands up in defence, worried he’d gone too far. But Castiel’s eyes were hungry, his mouth kiss-bitten and wet, and he didn’t move for a moment. Both men just took in the sight of the other; Dean saw the rise in Castiel’s slacks, the tiny damp spot that had been smeared by their rutting. Castiel’s hands were shaking.

Dean watched Castiel set both hands on his silver belt buckle, tugging the leather strap free, slipping it out of its enclosure. Then unbuttoning the top button. Then sliding the zipper down.

The sound of a zipper had never made Dean’s mouth water before, but it did this time.

Dean blinked slowly, his mind hazy. The air in this room was clouded by lust, it was like there was fire in the light.

Dean undid his own jeans, watching Castiel lick his lips as he took down his own zipper. Tantalisingly slowly.

Castiel raised a hand to pull Dean in, taking him by the lapel of his overshirt. Dean shed it for him, sighing as he felt the fine hairs on his arms stand up as the heat of the tiny alcove touched his skin. Felt a shiver pour down his spine like ice as Castiel ran a hand down Dean’s bicep. Felt himself waver on his feet, saw his own vision sparkle with phantom lights as Castiel dipped a warm hand inside Dean’s pants without so much as a warning.

Heat flooded Dean’s lower half, his eyes becoming unfocused as Castiel started to stroke. The total, absolute awareness that this was a man with his hand around Dean’s cock was going to Dean’s head, and his thoughts seemed to pound with the strokes, rising and falling with every twist of Castiel’s palm across his cockhead.

Castiel’s gaze dropped to watch what he was doing, and Dean’s thoughts hastened into clarity. He too looked down, and gasped out loud, simply from the vision he took in.

Castiel was nothing spectacular, going by the male pornography Dean had been viewing in secret. His foreskin was drawn back as his cock was caught on the elastic of his boxers, and a bead of pearly liquid rested upon the tip, ever so slowly slipping down the slit. He was flushed rosy-red, pushed up tight to the dash of dark pubic hair across his middle.

Heat rose on Dean’s cheeks as Castiel had to literally take Dean’s hand off his waistcoat and guide it to his untouched member, setting a rhythm for him. Dean had been so enraptured by the presentation before him that he’d not even moved, just gotten lost in the pump of Castiel’s firm fist.

“Easy now,” Castiel breathed, a tiny smile on his lips. “Oh... yes.”

Dean tipped his face in so they could kiss again, and they both breathed out against each other’s cheeks. They turned their faces as one, experimenting with the way they moved their lips and hands. Dean tried nipping his teeth at Castiel’s lips - no, Castiel didn’t like that; Castiel tried squeezing the crown of Dean’s cock under his thumb - and holy hell, Dean almost came there and then.

They fell into a rhythm; a rhythm that changed and varied as they found new directions to pull, new ways to flick their tongues. Dean became conscious of how he breathed, aware he made the same gentle sigh every time Castiel slid his thumb against his slit, pushing his pre-come around.

Castiel relaxed back against the wall, and the earlier desperation of wanting to touch fell to a simmer. Dean was content just standing here, left hand on Castiel’s muscular hip, right hand on his manhood. Boots knocking, Dean’s feet just on the inside of Castiel’s.

Dean could smell the liquid on their hands, and he’d never sensed it this strongly before. It was nothing like his own, not now there was Castiel’s emissions in the air too. He could almost taste it on his tongue as he lapped at Castiel’s lips, hard, then soft, tasting a new burst of colour with every passing minute.

“Cas?”

“Hm?”

Dean kissed Castiel’s jaw, lips so sore that the scruff there felt like needles. “You got anything infectious I should worry about?”

Castiel snorted against Dean’s chin. Then he laughed, nudging Dean’s face away so he could look him in the eye.

“What?” Dean asked, with a defensive shrug. “I’m meant to ask, right?”

Castiel tilted his head in agreement, but didn’t stop smiling. “I’m clean.”

“Good,” Dean said, mouth quirking. He wanted to play this right, but there was so much opportunity to slip up, here. “Good...‘cause I’m gonna...”

He swiped his lip with his tongue, locking eyes with Castiel for a solid second.

Then he dropped to his knees.

Ohh...” Castiel moaned, and Dean felt Castiel’s knees grow weak under his hands as he slid his grip downward past Castiel’s thighs, resting finally on the man’s calves.

“Dean, do you know what you’re― Do you―? I really don’t think that’s a―”

Dean stared at the hardened flesh before him, inverted-heart-shaped scrotum nestled right to the split of Castiel’s open trousers, raised erection pointing upward. Dean’s eye drew down it, seeing the veins in it, the darker blue shades, the way the flesh was redder at the tip.

He shook his head. “I got no clue,” Dean muttered.

“D― Dean, it’s really not a good idea, not if you― Oohhh...”

Dean’s mouth sank down around the tip, and Jesus, this was easier than he’d heard - this was good, even. Salty and bitter, with a tangy musk that filled Dean’s nostrils. Castiel’s cock was a complete fullness between Dean’s lips, wet warmth oozing against his palate as he held his mouth open around him. His tongue dipped to the sides of his cheeks, pulling back with a disgusting slurp so he could put his tongue against Castiel’s slit...

Ah, yes. A sharp, sour flavour rushed through Dean’s head, and while he knew it was probably gross, he liked it. He liked what it was, what it meant. He liked who it belonged to.

“Dean... Dean, please...”

Dean put a good squeeze around Castiel’s base, fingertips dragging the softest, silkiest skin. He was so hot under Dean’s palm, and wet already from his pre-come, but Dean knelt back to pump him a few times, smiling when another fresh bead of liquid ran to seep in amongst the shiny saliva Dean had left behind.

“This is kinda great,” Dean admitted, grinning up at Castiel. “Tastes all right.” He sank down an inch, sucked hard, teeth wisely drawn back. He suckled on the cockhead, pulling a line of fluid from it, enjoying the messy taste that flattened on his tongue.

“B― Believe me,” Castiel stuttered, fingers grasping emptily on Dean’s shoulders, “you’ll get sick of it. Smells like heaven th― uhhhh... the first t― Dean!”

Dean smiled around Castiel’s cock, closing his eyes as he wrung Castiel’s loose skin into his mouth, wanting to take more. He knew he’d need more practice for sure - he was drooling like a goddamn hellhound - but right now? Yeah, he loved the noises Castiel was making, and the claws that were biting into Dean’s t-shirt.

“Deannnn...”

Dean sucked his lips free, wiping his mouth with the back of his bare arm. He gasped for air, swallowing down the bitter residue that made his teeth feel like the tang inside sherbet candy, sliding down his throat.

“Stand up,” Castiel panted, his chest heaving. “I want to kiss...”

Dean rocked himself to his feet, eyes set on Castiel’s lips as he leaned in. Castiel met his mouth with his lips already parted, a soft, pleasured sound reverberating through Dean’s skull as their teeth touched.

Castiel’s mouth was so sweet after the taste of cock, and Castiel seemed glad enough to have Dean’s mouth back. Their eyes slid shut again, and Dean pushed Castiel back to the wall, allowing Castiel’s hand to take both their members in one hand.

Castiel’s cock was wetter than Dean’s, coated with a layer of spit, but Dean rubbed against him as Castiel’s hand shifted. In barely any time at all, Castiel was crying out with desperate sounds, both of them riding high on the feel of the slick that had Castiel’s hand flying up and down. Dean’s hand swiftly joined his, and they could squeeze even tighter like that, Dean pushing into their joined grip, tight and hot like he was inside somebody.

Like he was inside Castiel.

Their gaze stayed firmly latched to each other’s eyes whenever they could help it; so often their eyes would fall shut from a rush of pleasure, or screw up tight from a burst of exhilaration. Dean was easily overtaken by excitement separate from just the sex, his mind swimming in thoughts of finality. At last he knew for sure: he liked this. More than he had ever expected.

“I’m close,” Castiel blurted out, his words shortly followed by a series of open-mouthed gasps, a deep frown appearing between his dark eyebrows. “Oh, Dean, please... Just... Don’t stop, please.”

“Not gonna,” Dean assured, licking Castiel’s lips, then pushing his nose gently into the hollow of Castiel’s throat. “Trust me, Cas, hold on... Hold on, I got you.”

Castiel whimpered, a cowboy boot rucking up the side of Dean’s leg as Castiel tried to hook his leg around Dean. Dean helped him out, grabbed Castiel’s knee and shoved it against his own hip, kept on rutting, pulling both their hands away from their cocks at once. Castiel’s wet hand splayed open on Dean’s neck, heat seeping onto Dean’s skin, intoxicating.

Dean leaned into the touch, tipping his head to catch Castiel’s gaping mouth in a rolling, passionate kiss, letting their tongues slink wet-to-wet, as their mouths rested together.

Uhhh - Dean. This... is the best kiss...”

Dean chuckled, his rhythm breaking for a moment before he recaptured it, smiling against Castiel’s Adam’s apple. “Fuck yes, the best... C’mon Cas, I got you. I got you.”

Dean felt Castiel’s rush. He felt that warmth in him, that kind of overriding love for touch, wanting more and more until the peak came, and Castiel plummeted right over it. Wetness spread across Dean’s t-shirt, spilling over his belly, something hot dripping onto the waistband of his jeans. Castiel groaned out a garbled sound as Dean drove against him, not stopping or slowing or doing anything to even allow Castiel to settle down after his orgasm.

Dean...” came the destroyed whisper at Dean’s ear, heated lips shivering and dragging on his cheek. “Keep going, Dean.”

“Yes,” Dean grunted, and from then on, that became the only word he could say. He breathed it out, whispered it, pressed it tight to Castiel’s lips. Growled it out, curled it against his tongue to the stars a million miles above him.

“Yes... yesss...”

“Almost there,” Castiel soothed, eyelashes flickering on Dean’s cheekbone. “You’re almost there, Dean, you’re so close.”

Dean whined out a terrible sound, hands sweating on Castiel’s shirt, cock dripping steadfastly into his own clothes. There was so much heat in him, and it was going nowhere. He wanted it all over Castiel, wanted him to feel how much he felt...

“Yes - oh yes―”

“Come on,” Castiel hissed, commanding him. He took Dean’s face between both hands, keeping his eyes on him even when Dean’s eyes tried to roll back in his head; Castiel stared into him, the blue in his irises impassioned and grounding. “Come for me. Dean.”

Dean lurched forward and took a full-body kiss, lip and tongue, surges of power coursing in his bones. He barely noticed the moment his climax hit; he was so surrounded by that taste of Christmas-time, the static electricity singeing his fingers as he tapped them to the ball of contained lightning.

He shivered as he came down, letting free a broken sigh.

“Oh,” Castiel hushed, hands sliding down Dean’s sides, rippling at his t-shirt.

Dean could only breathe into the space between Castiel’s shoulder and his neck, blinking and dragging eyelashes on his burning-hot skin. His lips rested on the fabric of Castiel’s shirt, and it seemed cool now, compared to the lingering heat in the air.

“Jesus. Jesus, Cas,” whispered Dean, shaking his head so his ear touched to Castiel’s. “I can’t believe that just happened.”

“Well, honestly,” Castiel smiled, “what were you expecting?”

Dean pulled his head back, pressing his lips closed to re-learn the feel of his own mouth, no longer having another tongue inside it. “Honestly?”

Castiel nodded.

“Thought it might be awkward. Like, I’d edge up close to you, you tell me it’s all good, we touch lips a bit?” Dean’s shoulder raised in a shrug, and he huffed as he let it drop again.

Castiel was smirking as he let Dean’s body go so they could each do up their pants, gently shoving their junk back under cover.

“Glad that wasn’t what happened,” Dean muttered, eyes on his zipper as he pulled it back up. “Tell you what, you ruined me for girls, you bastard.”

Castiel laughed, flopping back against the wall, nearly boneless. He hummed out a truly amused note, eyes almost closed. “Now, if only I could say I’ve ruined you for other men, too.”

Dean clicked a grin, arching his torso down to gather up his discarded green jacket and leather coat. “You never know, Cas.” He pulled on his jacket, flipping up the collar. His hands were kinda sticky. “I might just find a girl who reminds me of you.”

Castiel blinked a couple of times, then tilted his head to the side. His smile remained fixed on his face, but his eyes weren’t quite twinkling the same way.

But he didn’t say a word, so Dean figured he hadn’t just said something dumb. For fuck’s sakes, his mind was so full of sex haze that he couldn’t even remember what he’d just said.

“I’ll uh,” Dean grinned, “show myself out?”

Castiel’s smile slowly slipped away. “Oh.” His eyebrows raised and his gaze lowered to Dean’s belt. “I see. Yes, of course.”

Castiel opened the cupboard door first, and led the way to the main library area. Dean pulled the lightswitch in the cupboard and closed the door behind him, then followed Castiel’s footsteps. It seemed colder out here.

Castiel held the door open until Dean was through, back in the orange light of the check-out table. The fluorescent light of the back room was flipped into darkness, and Castiel grabbed a set of keys from the table and locked the door in silence.

Dean had this weird feeling like he was meant to stay. But that wasn’t what he came here for, was it? This wasn’t a date. This wasn’t a friend-zone thing. This wasn’t the world’s average depiction of a truck-stop bathroom fuck. This was a smooching-session-turned-quick-desperate-frot, and... that was it.

Dean blinked at the way Castiel kept his eyes lowered. All the way to the glass doors out front.

“I’m all right, Cas, I can do it,” Dean insisted kindly, nudging Castiel’s hand away before he reached for the top bolt.

The night-time spring air blustered under Dean’s t-shirt as the door opened, and he breathed in deeply, feeling the sense of inner warmth disperse, replaced by a fresh start. He smiled. It felt good.

He turned back as soon as he was a step outside of the door. “Hey, guess I’ll see you around?” he asked, hopefully.

Castiel forced a smile. Dean’s own smile fell, because Castiel was definitely not feeling it. Shit.

The librarian licked his lips, hands both on the half-open door, ready to close it. “Yes. Be sure to say hello if you ever come by with your class,” he said.

“Sure.”

“Okay. Have a good night, Mr. Winchester.”

“G’night.”

The door shut between them, and Castiel didn’t even look Dean in the eye as he did the bolt up again.

Dean was left standing in the street, hands in his pockets, the back of his neck touched by the moon, his hair tangled by the breeze.

Left standing there alone, because just as he’d always done with everyone else he had feelings for - he fucked up.

Feeling empty, Dean went home.

How long did people usually spend regretting things? Dean was pretty sure this wasn’t something he could spend his whole life moping about, but it sure didn’t pass into nothingness as soon as he woke up the next morning.

The rest of the week went by, and any time Dean wasn’t marking homework, dealing with kids’ bruised knees, or trying to pay his damn bills (fucking paperwork, man) - his mind faded into a kind of purgatory.

Usually when he was in a drowsy state, he’d end up with classic rock earworms playing on repeat until he hummed them away, or playfully thinking about all the many ways Doctor Sexy could infiltrate his life... or his pants.

But this week, he found himself watching Dr. Sexy reruns without the slightest interest in anything but the cowboy boots. Or seeing blue mugs in the supermarket and only realising he’d bought one when he got the bag home afterwards.

He felt regretful, yeah.

He should’ve at least gotten his number.

Because Dean knew what he’d done wrong. He should have stayed. Should have told him it was great. Told him he wanted to do it again sometime, if he wanted.

Dean tried not to think about his name.

After everything, Dean didn’t even know the librarian’s surname. He knew where he could find him, and knew he could just show up at the library at any time he wanted, and say all the things he didn’t say before.

Dean played out about twenty versions of how he could have done it in his head. Each time the fantasy made him smile into his pillow as he lay there in the dark, because it felt good to be able to see a version of reality where something went right, even if it was fictional. He liked a version where he said something he really wanted to say, no matter what idiotic thoughts stopped him saying it in the first place.

The weekend swept by with no chance to relax at all, and Monday morning kicked off another week which Dean vowed to get through, taking each day as it came, to enjoy what was good and silently rant about what was bad.

Try-Something Tuesday just felt like a mockery of the previous week. No library trip this time, just a set of art projects. Dean loved arts and crafts as much as the next guy (okay, maybe a little more), but it took until halfway through the afternoon before he even sank into it and started to forget.

He couldn’t forget the feel of another man’s cock in his hand, though, or the musky scent of it filling his head. No matter what, that wasn’t something he would ever regret. That night had been something of a newfound freedom for Dean.

The tension was gone, and he could sit back and just be glad that he was okay about liking men. He’d had the guts to go out there and get what he wanted, and even if it didn’t end how he’d thought it would, he felt good about it.

The second week was easier. He barely thought much of anything at all over Easter break. Stuff was normal.

By the third week, Wednesday rolled around, and Dean was all hyped up for the class trip they had going that morning. All the kids had their forms signed, their rain jackets packed up tightly in their backpacks, lunches in well-sealed containers.

Dean tried to calm them all down as they rushed around the space outside the classroom, swinging on the coat hooks. He barely bothered though; they were excited, and so was he. Finally, this was a chance to get free of the classroom and do something outside for once.

“Charlie― Ms. Bradbury,” Dean called, waving a hand over children’s heads to catch the attention of his fellow third-grader teacher. Her red hair was tied up, all ready for the day, and she waved back over the space of the cloakroom while wading through twenty-five small humans to reach him.

“Where the heck’s the sub?” Dean separated Anil from Lydia, trying to stop them squabbling. “Rachel called in sick, I told the office I needed a sub!”

Charlie sighed, her smile still lingering. “The agency's sending Meg. She’s on her way, just chill. The mini-bus rental place is gonna drop the cars off a bit later than expected, but we’ll get there on time.”

“Yeah, yeah. Okay.” Dean straightened up, tugging his navy-blue waterproof anorak down at the sides. It was the least-flattering coat he owned, but when it came to running around in muddy adventure areas in dribbly weather with a bunch of kids under his watch, it wasn’t the best time to be worried about getting his leather jacket dirty.

There was a whistle from the next hall along, and Dean and Charlie recognised it at once as Missouri Moseley's call to attention. Dean and Charlie held up their hands - rock, paper, scissors

Dean lost. As always. Charlie winked, and Dean rolled his eyes as he headed down the hallway to see what Missouri wanted.

Missouri’s wide figure met Dean as he turned the corner, and he gave her a two-fingered salute. “What’s up, boss?”

“Change of plans,” she said, tapping him on the arm in greeting. “Well, change of sub.”

“Great. When’s the new one get here?”

“I’m here now,” came a voice.

That voice.

Dean looked up and past Missouri, eyes landing on the man who strode down the terracotta-tiled hall. His waistcoat had been swapped for a turtleneck sweater, his sleeves covered by a waterproof coat almost identical to Dean’s. His cowboy boots were now sensible hiking boots, again very much like Dean’s.

The expression on his face was unsurprised. He’d known Dean would be here.

Dean blinked a few times, slightly stunned by the pleasant way the morning sun lit Castiel’s face through the mucky windows. He walked right up to Dean, and offered his hand.

“My name is Castiel Godson. I’m your help for today.”

Dean took his hand without looking, and let Castiel shake it for him, since Dean was busy staring at his face.

Castiel seemed distant, his eyebrows raised, his eyes lacking the twinkle that Dean associated only with him.

Uncaring.

Angry.

“I’m Dean.” Dean gulped. “Dean Winchester.”

“Wonderful!” Missouri said, clapping her dark hands to each of the men’s shoulders, dragging the waterproof sleeves with a horrible plasticy scratchy noise. “I’ll leave you all to it. The shuttle buses are outside; Ms. Blake is going to be joining Ms. Bradbury; their shuttle’s a tad bigger.”

Dean nodded, clenching his empty hand by his side. The handshake had been nothing like the two he and Castiel had first shared.

“Call me if anything terrible happens. Mr. Winchester, you have me on speed dial.”

“Yes ma’am,” Dean nodded. He smiled at Missouri as she turned to leave, waving them off.

“Have a good, safe trip, now! I expect you back on time!”

Dean blinked at Castiel, taking in a quick breath. “All right,” he said. “You know the basics, right?”

“Safety briefings as always, I went over it with Mrs. Moseley. I’ve also been informed you’re the leader of this trip.”

“Yup. I guess you’re in my mini-bus.”

Dean turned to get back to the children, knowing Castiel would follow.

Dean would really give anything not to have Castiel in his bus. It was all a question of qualifications; Dean and Charlie were the only ones who sported a certificate that said they were allowed to drive a car of kids around, but given that Dean wasn’t licensed to drive a larger vehicle, that meant Charlie and Sarah would share the bigger bus. Dean had no idea what Castiel’s qualifications were, but if Missouri had stuck Cas with him, Dean wasn’t about to ask questions.

Goddammit, this was really fucking inconvenient.

Dean moved in near-silence as he helped the other teachers herd the kids to the buses, stepping in and around puddles on the way.

Dean wouldn’t bother cursing at the universe for setting the fates this way. Castiel was a substitute teacher, and this school used an agency for their subs; Castiel had been called up on short notice, and it was obvious he was in the area. There wasn’t any divine intervention going on here, it was just dumb luck.

Dean sighed and shepherded the last of his class onto his small rented bus. He had ten; Charlie and Sarah had fifteen. It was manageable. He was sure Castiel would lend him a hand if he needed it, despite him acting so aloof today.

“All right, everyone buckled in?”

“Yeeesss, Mr. Winchester.”

“I don’t believe you. Everyone turn to the person sitting next to you, and check their belt is on properly. Give it a little wiggle - Damien, sit down!”

Castiel was sitting with the kids, in the front row, closest to the door. He turned around in his seat to glare at Damien, who shrank back into his seat. Dean watched this from the driver’s seat and smiled.

He leaned back to check Castiel’s belt for him when he turned back around.

“Dean, what are you doing?” Castiel asked, flatly.

Dean tugged on the belt. “You too. Safety first, Mr. Godson. I’m not having my substitute fly through the windscreen, the rental company will make me eat my own legs.”

Castiel snorted a soft laugh. Then Dean sat still, and Castiel checked his belt for him too.

Dean tried not to smile at him, but it was difficult to hold back.

Castiel saw the smile, but said nothing. Nor did his lips twitch, but Dean saw a twinkle.

Oh, that felt good.

Dean revved up the engine, told everyone to hold on tight, then reversed out into the parking lot. He led the two-vehicle convoy, making sure to drive slow enough that Charlie’s bigger, heavier bus could keep up.

By the time they were five minutes onto the highway, and the chatter of happy kids started to blur into the background of Dean’s awareness, he reached for his bag, and held it up for Castiel behind him.

“Hey, Cas, grab me a cassette outta there. Back pocket, side velcro thing.”

Castiel took the bag, and Dean didn’t see him rummaging, but heard the velcro being unstuck.

“AC/DC, Best of Queen―”

“The first! Hell yeah, gimme some of that.” Dean waved his hand blindly behind him until he felt a warm hand and a cold cassette in his palm, and he barely glanced at the dashboard as he slipped the tape into the player. He could do that with his eyes closed, no matter what car he was in.

The first notes of Back in Black hit the walls of the car like thunder, and some of the kids screamed before laughing. Dean started nodding to the music, grinning at the road. The road always looked cooler with a good beat and some heavy guitar rocking out of a set of crappy speakers.

Dean croaked out his harmony as they drove, not knowing or caring if the children or Castiel could hear him. AC/DC was his jam.

They ran through the entire A-side of the tape - it seemed like every kid in the bus knew the chorus to Highway to Hell, and Dean put that entirely down to his own influence. He even caught Castiel smiling in the rear-view mirror.

But when they changed the tape, and Queen’s We Will Rock You was rattling the windows, Dean bellowed out the words for the chorus a little quieter, just so that he could hear the sounds of his class appreciating good music, and so he could hear Castiel.

The fact that Castiel knew the verses as well as the chorus? Well, that was just pure gold to Dean.

His heart was beating in time to the drums, to the slaps of small hands on the kids’ knees and on the backs of bus seats.

Dean hadn’t been this pumped for anything in months.

They arrived at the forest venue with their heads pounding, smiles wider than the road they’d driven on. Dean high-fived every kid as they leapt off the bus.

Castiel jumped out last, a grin on his face that Dean just wanted to kiss until the sun went down.

“Rock on, Cas,” Dean offered, raising his flat hand for a last high-five.

Castiel didn’t slap it. He put their hands together and wrapped his fingers around Dean’s, and Dean automatically did the same. They squeezed, beaming at each other.

Their hands swung back to their sides, and Dean turned around on the damp gravel to check on the other set of children.

The four adults grouped together and briefed the kids - they’d be split into four teams, and for all intents and purposes, the first half of the day was an extended scavenger-hunt-slash-capture-the-flag, but Dean didn’t really know what they were calling it.

Charlie suggested they call it a Potato, and given that this was a group of twenty-five eight-year-olds, it stuck.

Their guide was a short chubby dude who smiled a lot, and he had the kids jumping around in circles before they even started.

They took a long, disorganised toilet break, and soon after that, Dean was assigned his team, and all of a sudden he had seven mini-terrors all to himself all day.

Dean was only slightly disappointed that the teams weren’t bigger, so he and Castiel could share a group. But no, all the adults had a team each. Dean and Charlie had seven kids each, Sarah had six, and Castiel only had five. Castiel’s team complained about this a lot as they marched up to the starting line, since their team was the smallest, and therefore disadvantaged.

As Dean explained to them (particularly Marvin, who was put-out at not being on Mr. Winchester’s team), “Mr. Godson isn’t as experienced with trips as the rest of us responsible adults. You guys need to take care of him. There’s only five of you, so you gotta show him some extra love, all right?”

Marvin pouted, but nodded.

“Go give him a high-five from me, yeah?”

Marvin ran off, and presented Castiel with a sticky hand. Dean laughed out loud as he saw Castiel’s deliberation before slowly touching his hand to Marvin’s palm. Castiel looked up at the sound of Dean’s guffaw, and Dean winked across at him. Castiel shook his head with dramatic menace. Dean liked it, and he was kind of tingly by the time the whistle blew to start their adventures.

They all split up, and all four teams wandered into the woods and lost sight of each other. Dean was thankful for their walkie-talkies, but checked in no more than once every half-hour, in order to conserve battery.

The forest was deep and dense, but the paths were clear, and they never intended to leave the paths. Dean could see all sorts of horror stories happening here; no monsters, only people. Losing a child in this rain-thick wilderness was a terror that haunted Dean, far more than thoughts of any long-toothed creeping thing that might prowl between the ferns.

The capture-the-flag was about as basic as they could make it. It wasn’t about learning, for once, not about solving clues or puzzles. It was just about getting out there, to learn to enjoy the green of it all.

Dean loved the outdoors. He sang traditional campfire songs with his team as they went, walking slowly and pacing himself, since his kids seemed to have shorter legs than he expected. They swung their arms and they skipped in time, and Dean silently wished that Sammy could have been here. This was just like it was when they were younger, trekking from one campsite venue to the next, hoping one of them might have a disused room that nobody would ever pay for. It was a lonely, hungry time in Dean’s life, but as always, the music made it better, just like the company.

Thank god for toilet cabins beside the paths, too.

Dean was pretty sure his team had missed the point of the exercise by the time they reached their next stop, re-grouping with the other teams at lunchtime. All the other kids had numbered plastic cones, and were handing them in to their guide, who had somehow gotten there long before everyone else.

“I didn’t see any cones, did you?” Dean asked pink-jacketed Sandy, who had pinched one of Castiel’s kid’s cones to inspect it.

“No,” Dean’s team said as one.

Dean bumped his eyebrows, glancing across to the other teachers. Charlie and Sarah were looking at him and laughing, and Dean just scowled.

Castiel made his way over, smiling the same way the other teachers did. Dean was definitely the butt of this joke.

“What, what’s going on, what’d I miss?” Dean asked, frowning at Castiel as he crossed his arms. His dark hair was flopping across his forehead, dampened by the light rain.

“You were meant to take the cones and hide them as you went along, and let the children find them.”

Dean’s face pinched. “How’s that meant to work? I’d end up going ahead and telling them to turn around to go back and get something.”

Castiel shrugged, crinkling his ugly jacket. “Worked for us.”

“Huh.” Dean turned back to his kids, clicking an awkward and apologetic grin. “Sorry folks, Mr. Winchester screwed up. But hey, at least it’s lunchtime!”

Team Winchester cheered, and pattered off to the bench area, which was barely sheltered under dripping fir trees.

Dean shook his head to himself as he watched them grapple with their lunchboxes. “Idiot.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Castiel said, kindly. “You’re good with the children, in any case.”

Dean dipped his head, staring at the muddy ground. “Heh.”

“No, I really mean that. They adore you. Marvin spent almost an hour complaining that I don’t smell like Mr. Winchester, I don’t high-five like Mr. Winchester does, I don’t sing like you do.”

“That’s because you don’t sound like you got run over by a goat when you sing,” Dean admitted. He looked across at Castiel, tilting his head as he peered at his fair skin. Castiel seemed paler in the grey, overcast light. “You sing pretty well, man.”

Castiel’s eyes were lowered, but his smile made the corners of them crinkle, as well as accentuating the crow’s feet at the sides of his mouth.

He didn’t thank Dean for the compliment out loud, but Dean didn’t even think about that until five minutes later, when he was tucking into his salami, and watching Castiel hunker down with a pair of neatly-sliced watercress sandwiches.

Really, the smile said it all, and maybe Castiel knew that.

The second half of the afternoon was more organised; they had two hours in which to follow the guided courses around the forest, but they stuck together for this. The courses would lead them back to where they started, and then they’d drive home.

It began with a rope climbing frame, which really wasn’t all that different to the one they had in the school playground, but this one had bark chips under it, and the air didn’t smell like cigarette smoke and car engines. Dean breathed in the rich aroma of pine oil, feeling a holiday-time type of ease creep into his muscles.

He held tight to the tiny metal cup filled with coffee, trying to savour it, since it was the only cup he’d get. Charlie had thoughtfully brought along a flask, and between the four teachers and their guide, they were truly learning the meaning of rationing.

“There’s something very pure about coffee without milk,” Castiel said, going to stand beside Dean as the kids romped around on the climbing frame before them. “Almost like it’s base-level, much like a forest.”

Dean cackled into his own cup, trying not to choke as the hot liquid sailed down his throat before he’d tasted it. “That’s some deep shit, Cas.”

Castiel stared at him, and Dean tried not to look directly at the other man.

“It’s coffee,” stated Castiel. “Coffee is what fuels the human race on that same basic level, and I think it’s very important.”

Dean smirked, thumbing the metal handle of his cup.

This was where Dean started to question the sanity of this day. It was one thing to be paired up with the only man Dean had ever screwed, but another thing to see him three weeks after an awkward radio silence, only to talk about coffee.

Then again. Coffee was how they first met. Maybe this was Castiel trying to rekindle whatever this was between them.

Because there was definitely something. Dean felt it, and he knew Castiel had felt it too, or he’d never have been upset when Dean left.

Dean’s eyes slunk across to look at the other man. The librarian. The man in a sweater with blue eyes, who smelled of pine and myrrh and damp plastic. He felt warm, even through Dean’s waterproof coat and the space between them.

All Dean had to say was sorry. He knew that. Castiel was a rational man, and he clearly didn’t want to destroy what was left. If Dean apologised for taking off, they’d be cool. Dean didn’t know where they’d go from there, maybe they’d try it again. Take it from the top.

All he had to do was say sorry.

The words were on the tip of his tongue, and there was no better moment to say them than right now, while the women were chatting to their guide, and all the children were occupied. It was just him and Castiel, standing here in silence, drinking the basic fuel of the human race.

Fact: Dean was a chicken when it came to men. And his feelings. And Castiel.

“I’ll be over with the others, call me if you need me,” Dean said.

He went to go and discuss the plans for the rest of the afternoon, and he regretted every single step he took to get there. Every boot to the bark chips, every breath in and out, pine, coffee, mud and rain.

He just couldn’t stop himself walking.

The last activity of the day set each team against each other. Team Winchester (with the addition of Marvin), Team Bradbury-Potato, Team Blake, and Team Godson.

The forest canopy gave a full cover here, and they were only five minutes’ walk from the buses. The bark chips were nonexistent, and instead there was a dip in the ground, a clear woodland space all around it. The pit was about eight feet each way, and had a single log stuck across it. Not a fallen tree log, but a proper carved pole, as thick as Dean’s thigh, and attached a foot above the pit at each side.

The hole was filled with mud.

“As I understand it,” Castiel said, crossing his arms with a swish of anorak plastic, “the aim of the game is to stay balanced until you reach the other side.”

“Sounds easy enough.”

‘Sounds’ was the right word. Half the kids ended up with mud up to their knees, and Charlie reminded everyone that there was a good reason that they had a) brought a change of clothing, and b) left this activity until last.

Still, it was incredibly fun - even Dean found himself shouting out encouragement to his team, clapping his hands and bending his knees in an attempt to be louder than the other kids, who were cheering like a crowd of tiny football fans.

Even Castiel was pretty into it, which made Dean laugh. It brought joy to Dean when he saw him, a man who Dean had thought of as reserved, bleating fake threats at people almost thirty years younger than them both. Castiel was laughing and smiling, patting his team on the back.

There was a reason Castiel was a teacher, Dean thought. Dean saw him as a librarian, but Castiel connected with the children in a way that only a good teacher did. The kids seemed to have grown to like him over the day, and Dean even caught a glance of Marvin going in for a successful hug when he crawled out of the mud pit, smeared stickier than Dean had ever seen him.

The last set of children shook themselves down, no longer bothering to let Ms. Blake scrub the mud off with a ratty towel. They were all exhausted and exhilarated, and their grubby, bright little faces made Dean grin like a buffoon.

“Are you gonna go on, Mr. Winchester?” Travis asked, pulling at the corner of Dean’s coat.

Dean sniggered at him, shaking his head. “No way, kid. You really wanna see me get mucky? No sir.”

Well, apparently that was the wrong thing to say.

The thing with kids was that if one of them had a brilliant idea (particularly if Dean was the centre of this idea), then as soon as the idea was voiced, the others caught on pretty quick.

It was the work of a single minute before all twenty-five kids were screaming over each other that they all wanted to see Dean try and walk the pole, because hey, if they were muddy, he ought to be muddy too.

Dean stared at the other teachers pleadingly, eyes wide and desperate. He didn’t much care for this coat, but he definitely cared for these jeans, and perfect-consistency brown-red mud wasn’t the kind of thing he would enjoy washing out of them.

And not just that. He had a feeling he would fall in on purpose, just so the kids had a story to tell.

He listed all the swear words he knew over in his head, as all the other teachers only grinned and suggested he get on with it so they could all get home.

“Fine,” Dean spat, rolling his eyes to the swaying leaves above. “But I’m taking you down with me, all of you.”

“Oh no,” said Charlie. “Just the one.”

Dean squinted, and then a cruel, cruel grin rose on his face. Castiel had just been shoved forward by Sarah, and he blinked, confused, as the swarm of children rushed to his sides, pulling and tugging him until he stood beside Dean at the edge of the pit.

Charlie went by and took both their phones for safekeeping.

“Not letting my men go in without weapons,” the guide said, his lips pulled back to show his toothy grin. “Take this, it may just save your life.”

Dean felt somewhat dumbfounded as a huge plastic oar was thrust into his hand, and the same for Castiel. The oars were light, but bulky, and they wafted around with every gentle swipe Dean tested.

“I don’t get it,” Dean said.

“I do.” Castiel turned his focus from the oar to Dean’s face, and over the tumult of the excited spectators, he told Dean, “They intend us to push each other off.”

Dean gaped. Not cool.

“Now get up there!” the guide yelled, and the crowd went wild.

Dean was kind of trapped here. He did as the guide said - whatever his name was - and clambered up onto the pole first.

The oar helped him balance, as he walked straight across it; he had to get to the other side, and turn around, so he could face Castiel.

This was definitely the most uncool thing that had happened all day.

The view from here was very different; Dean could see Castiel’s unsure expression, battling his own oar as he tried to grip it correctly. Behind him stood the twenty-five children and three other adults. Charlie had a camera, and the red recording light was on.

Okay, uncool didn’t even cover this.

“On your mark!” the guide called.

Crap.

“Get set!”

Castiel locked eyes with Dean, his stubbled jaw looking a trace muddy already. He seemed determined, and that was when Dean realised that he wasn’t coming out of this as the winner. Sure, he was probably faster than Castiel, but Dean wasn’t a runner. He wasn’t lithe like Castiel was, and Castiel was probably a tiny bit heavier.

And also, Dean didn’t really feel like it would be right to win. He had a loser complex, now that he thought about it.

“Go!”

Castiel hit Dean around the shoulders, and Dean could barely duck before the next hit came. Bastard librarian had swung the oar around like a propeller, and both paddle ends hit Dean squarely on his shoulder blades.

While Dean ducked, he took advantage, trying his best to ignore the third hit on his shoulders to go for Castiel’s legs, trying to whack his knees out. The children were cheering like wild animals, tiny shrieks going up like sirens.

“OW!” Dean shouted, as a hit fell upon the back of his head. His ears throbbed, but he heard Castiel’s voice mutter an apology.

Another whack to Castiel’s legs, which Castiel stood on one leg to kick away.

Dean stood up straight and slid one boot back through the mud on the pole, trying to get a solid stance. Castiel’s eyes shifted across Dean’s torso, and Dean honestly couldn’t tell if he was being checked out or if he was being sized up so Castiel could hit him again.

Turned out it was the latter. Dean grunted as a paddle thumped across his chest, winding him momentarily. It didn’t hurt, it was just distracting, and friggin’ difficult to navigate in order to enforce his own attack.

“You got no chance of getting outta this alive,” Dean growled, grinning. “You’re going down, boy.”

“I’d like to see you take me,” Castiel snapped back, eyes flashing with the spark of the game. “You’re no match.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean whipped the paddle over Castiel’s shoulder, hitting him on the back as he ducked. “Gotcha!”

Dean had made the same mistake Castiel had made earlier, in letting his legs be exposed to the paddle. Castiel got the back of his knee, and pulled Dean down like he’d used a hook.

Dean dropped the paddle in order to grab the pole - god, it was slippery - one knee slipped free and his toe kicked the surface of the mud, feeling cold even through his boot. He panted there for a moment, hoping Castiel would let him back up, but he was given no such chance.

Another hit landed on Dean’s back, and he grunted, shoving the paddle off - but then came another, another, a pause and then another.

Dean was beaten down against the wooden log, hands holding on for dear life so he didn’t fall. One leg still dangled, one knee remained in a crouching position. He could push himself up if he wanted, shove away the oar that descended onto him again, tapping on his ribs, but he stayed down, barely fighting it at all.

Castiel wasn’t trying to throw him off the pole. He was taking out his frustrations, and Dean just let him.

“Come on Cas, I can take it,” he said, just loud enough for Castiel to hear. “C’mon, hit me, hit me―”

“You―” Castiel spat, angrily thumping one side of the oar against Dean’s thigh. “You just... god―”

“You got me, c’mon, Cas. Just do it, take me down, take me d―”

Castiel took a step closer to him, and Dean kept his head low as he saw the muddy boot by his face, the shadow of the paddle moving, and heard the swoop of it through the air amongst the catcalls of the children.

“C’mon,” Dean whispered. He closed his eyes.

A leg nudged his head, and he opened his eyes again and looked up. He looked up into the face of Castiel, who was breathing heavily, nostrils flaring. His hair was messed up, his hands tight around the grip of the oar.

Dean crawled back so he was kneeling, gaze not breaking from Castiel’s. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I left. I’ve done nothing but regret it since.” He drew down a shaky gulp, not wincing as Castiel swept the oar up, ready to hit him again.

“I can take it, Cas. Do it.”

Castiel’s set jaw tensed further, the muscle there twitching.

But then the fire in his eyes seemed to simmer down, and before Dean knew it, all he was looking at was a twinkle. The twinkle. For all he knew, that was what he’d been looking at all along.

Castiel kneed him off the pole, and Dean flailed desperately as he felt himself falling. He heard his own startled cry, then a soggy, heavy splosh, and then a chill was seeping into his bones through every item of clothing he wore. He raised his head, hearing the whoops of laughter of an extremely satisfied audience.

Dean blinked at the man standing seven feet above him, still wielding his oar.

As if Dean would let him live.

Dean kicked the log, making it judder on its axis. Castiel startled, an instant reaction of arms spread wide - but then Dean kicked again, and Castiel was tumbling, curling up as he fell.

Dean laughed like it was the funniest thing on Earth when Castiel popped up out of the mud, perplexed as to the change of scenery.

Dean crawled through the half-foot of mud and under the log, laughing along with the kids, until he was close enough to touch Castiel. Castiel just blinked at him, a quirk of a smile on his lips.

He couldn’t help it. Dean slapped a hand through the top of the mud, shoving it in Castiel’s direction.

Castiel did the same thing at the same time.

Oh, it was on.

Castiel actually pounced. Like, leapt up from his place in the mud, landed with his body over Dean’s. His damp, dripping anorak slapped Dean in the face, and Dean grunted, arms reaching around Castiel’s middle to grapple him off again.

Castiel barked a laugh as Dean rucked up the bottom of his turtleneck, slapping a handful of cold and squishy mud under his t-shirt.

“I never liked turtlenecks,” Dean declared, hauling Castiel down into the slop by his shoulders.

Castiel snorted and shoved a very gross hand against Dean’s throat, and it slid up his face, and he heard the rasp of stubble as mud caught on his jaw. He could only stare at the sky in shock as he discovered that there was a muddy finger in his nose.

“Yeugh―” Dean hit Castiel’s arm away, taking him by the wrists and pinning them down under the surface of the thick brown sludge, turning his face this way and that to avoid Castiel’s forehead as he tried to headbutt him.

“Get off me,” Castiel growled, grinning like a maniac as Dean very subtly let him take control.

They rolled through the depths of the gloop, hearing the squelch of it under their clothes, feeling its disgusting oozy wetness creep against their skin. Dean practically giggled when Castiel flopped down on top of him, their chests pressed together, one of Castiel’s thighs landing between Dean’s.

“Hey, hey, keep it PG,” Dean chortled, kicking Castiel’s thigh away before it nudged him a little too hard. “There’s kids watchin’.”

There was an evil glint in Castiel’s eye as he―

...Oh, crap.

Castiel had an entire handful of mud in each of his hands, and he was aiming straight for Dean’s head.

“Oh no - no, no, NO―” Dean shrieked as he tried to scramble backwards, ending up doing nothing but laughing as a chilling splat found his hair, Castiel’s hands dragging all the way down until mud started to drip under Dean’s collar. “EUUGH, FU― Cas, you bastard,” he hissed under his breath so nobody else heard.

Castiel cackled.

“I’ve had enough of you,” chuckled Dean, trying to ease backwards to get out of the mud pit, back to where Sarah was waving a towel like a peace offering.

“I hope you don’t mean that for real this time.” Castiel gasped for breath as they helped each other to their feet.

Dean looked him properly in the eye, and saw something more authentic than any of the craziness that they’d just taken part in.

“No, I don’t mean it for real,” Dean answered, smiling. “I meant what I said on the dumb log. I’m―” Dean coughed, pulling a fist in front of his face as the aroma of mud started to get at him. “I’m sorry.”

Castiel smirked. “I know.”

Dean watched the other man wade his way back to the bank, watched him get bundled up in a towel and celebrated as Team Godson’s hero. Dean smiled.

Hey. So what if it was cheesy? Cas was his hero, too.

Charlie laid out plastic bin liners on Castiel’s and Dean’s seats in the mini-bus, and Dean thanked her and said it would also be totally appreciated if she took care of his kids while he headed into the washroom to wipe the mud out of his eyes. She rolled her eyes, but of course she said yes.

The bathroom was dingy and grey, the air smelt like stale pee and pine trees, as well as bleach. Dean dragged himself up to the mirror, going to wash his face while he waited for the only cubicle to be free.

The toilet inside flushed, and Dean glanced up to see Castiel heading for him, smiling as he turned on the tap right beside Dean.

Castiel looked like he’d been dipped in chocolate and then had his face licked clean. Dean snorted as he looked at their combined reflection, because he looked about the same.

“What a day, huh?” Dean muttered, leaning down to splash cold water on his face. There was no hot water here, and there seemed to be grit in this supply. He winced as his eyes stung, and he hoped they wouldn’t swell up, since he needed to drive.

“Indeed.”

Castiel blinked at his reflection as he washed his hands, then lifted his cupped palm to pour a handful of water over his head.

“There’s good showers back at the school,” Dean offered, watching Castiel attempt to scrub brown muck out of his usually perky hair. “Water pressure’s marvellous, and the heat doesn’t change. It’s awesome, even first thing in the morning.”

“You seem to know a lot about them. Do you get covered in mud often?” Castiel was smirking, one eye closed to prevent the rivulet of watery dirt going in.

Dean chuckled and dried his hands on a paper towel, followed by his face while he talked. “I can’t really afford hot showers as often as I need them. At least at the school it’s free. But you gotta clean your pubic hair outta the plughole, or the janitor comes down on you something fierce. Learned that one the hard way.”

Castiel laughed into the towel he scrubbed his own face with, then glanced over at Dean as he chucked the rumpled paper into the trash. “I’m sorry you can’t afford it, though. I’m the same. Although,” he said, tipping his head in a shrug, “I do tend to splash out on one-time things. Wide-screen television. A piano.”

“You play?” Dean prompted, gesturing Castiel to the open door of the bathroom.

“As a hobby. I’m not much good. I can play ‘Chopsticks’ and the theme tune from The Simpsons.”

Dean’s knees felt a bit weak as he laughed. Castiel chuckled too, but Dean barely heard it through the cakey layer of mud in his ears, as well as the echo of his own laughter.

Dean leant on the door frame to the bathroom, just smiling at the other man. “Hey, Cas, you wanna go wait in the mini-bus?” he suggested, giving a quick wave to Sarah as she passed by.

“Are you okay?”

Dean blinked at Castiel. “What? Oh, yeah. No, I’m just... uh. Pee shy.”

Castiel’s lips screwed up as he tried to hold in his laugh, but he couldn’t, and he sniggered in Dean’s face.

“I’m not kidding, it’s a legit thing!” Dean snapped back, rolling his eyes as Castiel slapped him on the shoulder. But thankfully Castiel left, and Dean only stood there for a moment, unable to stop smiling.

Castiel was really, really good at making him smile, and that too was a fact.

The ride back was quiet. Dean didn’t dare put any music on, and instead just listened to the rumble of the heavy engine as he drove back to the school.

Every single one of the kids was exhausted, and they all zonked out after only a few minutes, staring blankly out of the window or steadily falling asleep.

Dean would have assumed that was just a kid thing to do, but a glance in the rear-view mirror let him know that Castiel has slumped back in his seat too, eyes closed, mouth open.

Well, ain’t he a little angel, Dean thought to himself, delighted at how relaxed Castiel looked. Dean knew it was kind of a given, but he felt proud that Castiel trusted his driving enough that he could snooze.

They were back at the school faster than Dean expected, and he mused that any journey back always seemed shorter.

He thumped his hand on the inside roof of the bus to wake his passengers, and he grinned as Castiel snorted himself back upright, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Rise and shine, sleepyheads, your parents are waitin’.”

Dean leapt out of the van first, and in the same way as in the morning, he high-fived all the kids as they dragged their feet off the lowest step and into the parking lot.

“Did you all have fun today?” he called to them as they assembled haphazardly, backpacks half-off their shoulders and heavy-lidded eyes being rubbed at.

“Yes, Mr. Winchester...”

“And I think we all have a big thank you to say to someone, don’t we?” Dean hinted, smirking at the way Castiel shifted his feet as he leaned back against the bus.

“Thank you Mr. Godson,” the kids chimed.

Dean settled for that, pleased that his class were still hanging around, even though a crowd of parents hovered at the other end of the parking lot. “All right. Make sure you tell your parents all the cool stuff you did today. And―” The kids started dispersing, sprinting for waving adults. “And if your parents aren’t waiting over there, come back here right away, you hear me?!”

Castiel hummed a laugh as Dean slumped his shoulders, since all the children were out of earshot now. Dean would have gone up to mingle with the parents, but given that he was covered in mud from head to toe, he didn’t think it would give the right impression. Most of the mud had dried, and he felt crunchy.

“Your drive all right?” Charlie asked, swaying up to Dean’s side. Charlie had overtaken Dean’s van halfway down the highway, and it looked like her group had already disbanded.

“Yeah, was good. Mr. Godson here fell asleep,” Dean grinned, gesturing with his thumb over his shoulder.

“Aww.” Charlie was smirking cheerfully, not even being subtle as she lifted her camera and took a flash photo of the muddy teachers.

Dean blinked away the bright light, and then turned to look at Castiel, who shot him an amused expression.

“Your eyes were closed, Mr. Godson,” Charlie said, chuckling. “Let’s go again.”

Castiel sighed, pushing himself off the bus and going to stand at Dean’s side. “I’m not the most photogenic of people.”

Another flash; this time the light made Dean grimace and grunt.

“What are the chances...” Charlie shook her head as she looked at the screen on the back of the camera. “Dean, you’re fine; you’re practically a model. God knows how you do it, since you literally look like shit.”

Castiel laughed, the wrinkles at the sides of his eyes darkening as crisp mud folded into his skin.

“Here - c’mere,” Dean muttered, swinging an arm around Castiel’s lower back. He smiled at him as Castiel blinked, head turned to peer at Dean with something akin to surprise in his eyes. “Close your eyes, Cas, and on three, open them. And Charlie can snap away.”

Castiel set his lips together, looking at the raised camera again with an unimpressed glare. “Fine.”

“Close,” Dean instructed. Castiel closed his eyes.

Dean was meant to look at the camera, but for a second or so, all he could do was look at the way Castiel’s face cleared of stress entirely, and Dean noticed the fact that Castiel leaned into his arm as it held him.

“Three, two, open up―”

The flash made Dean groan, dropping his arm away from Castiel to pinch his eyelids shut with his grubby hands. Castiel gave a soft laugh, putting a hand on Dean’s shoulder. Dean leaned into it automatically, opening his eyes to see Castiel smiling at him, blue eyes framed by smears of brown.

“Perfect,” Charlie declared, switching the camera off. “Sarah already took off, and I’m headed the same way. Either of you need a ride?”

Charlie pointedly looked at Castiel, knowing full well that Dean didn’t go anywhere without his Impala, unless he was driving a rental for the school. Dean smiled as Castiel turned her down politely.

“I’m afraid I have another engagement,” he said.

Yeah, Dean thought. An engagement. Like checking out the showers with me.

“Too bad. Hope to see you some other time, then, yeah?” Charlie offered her hand for Castiel to shake, and they did so firmly, with wide smiles on their faces. “Great to meet you, Mr Godson.”

“Please,” Castiel said, letting their hands drop. “Call me―”

He glanced to Dean, and Dean saw The Twinkle.

“Call me Cas.”

Charlie nodded. “Have a great day, then, Cas. See ya, Dean. Let me know how you like tonight’s episode, huh?”

“Will do.”

Dean watched Charlie turn and follow the last remaining parents as they headed for their cars.

“Did she mean Dr. Sexy?” Castiel asked, eyeing Dean while Dean tried to mess with his own itchy hair.

“Yeah, she and I both love it,” Dean nodded, tipping his head to get Castiel to follow him. “You’ve seen all the episodes, right?”

Castiel shrugged as they walked, rattling his backpack as he held it over his shoulder. “I’ve only been watching for a year or so. They don’t do reruns in order, and... well, I prefer to watch them in order.”

“Take it you don’t have a box set.”

Castiel’s smirk returned, reaching the crisp mud by his eyes. “I take it you do?”

“All six seasons,” Dean said proudly. He turned their stride up to the school’s office door, letting Castiel enter first.

The secretary, Jill, waved to Dean as he passed, and he flicked his fingers back at her in greeting. Usually she was a favourite of his to flirt with, but his attention was elsewhere today. Or for the past three weeks, maybe. Dean casually wondered if she’d noticed.

“Those six seasons are quite impressive, given that you have no money.”

“Look who’s talking, Mister Widescreen-Television-and-a-Piano.”

Castiel rolled his eyes. “I don’t have a DVD player; a box set would be rather useless.”

“I have a DVD player.”

“Congratulations,” Castiel said, dryly. Dean just smiled at him, then shoved him gently to direct him towards the men’s locker room.

School was different when there were no children. After the teachers had gone home, after the cleaners had been around and the janitor had locked all but the fire exits, there was something magical that began to grow in the hallways.

That was how Dean saw it, anyway.

“Cas?”

“Hm?”

“You know when you’re the last one left in school at night, marking homework or whatever... and the hall lights are still on, and everything echoes...”

Dean took a breath in, knowing Castiel was looking at him, but not turning to look back. “It’s kinda great, isn’t it? That you’re allowed to be here, ‘cause you’re not the kid... you’re - heh - you’re not someone small. You’re in charge of this place.”

Dean tipped his head down and watched where he was walking, still heading through the classroom’s corridors. Children’s artwork was stapled to the boards on one side, and parent-teacher notices were on the other side, but Dean barely spared them a glance as he passed.

“I dunno,” Dean continued, giving a small shrug. “It’s total control, right? This is my world. Teaching the kids. Being in this environment, it’s... safe, y’know?”

“Yes,” Castiel said, very, very quietly. “Yes, that’s how I feel about the library. That’s why I stay late, and I let everyone else go home first.”

Dean looked up at him then, watching a set of lockers pass by like a blur as he focused on Castiel’s muddy face.

Castiel swallowed, and Dean realised it was to cover emotion, rather than because he needed to.

“I didn’t―” Castiel sighed, glancing away for a moment as Dean turned them around a corner, and the floor changed from hard-wearing carpet to terracotta tiling. “I didn’t have an easy time growing up. There wasn’t a place to be... quiet. Or alone.”

Dean huffed, without humour. “Same.”

Castiel raised his gaze, and their eyes met. “I was raised in foster care, with six other children. None of us had anything in common, and, to put it mildly, my property was not respected. When I have the chance to care for... books, or children...”

“You make up for a lot, huh.” Dean smiled at him sadly, for once able to say that he knew exactly what that was like. “I never got adopted. Me and Sammy took off before I was eighteen, and we jumped from place to place so we wouldn’t get pulled in. We’d get separated, and―”

“And you wouldn’t want that,” nodded Castiel. “I understand.”

The two of them had slowed their walk without realising, and Dean glanced around him, blinking. “Yeah.”

Castiel’s lips twitched in a smile, and Dean mirrored it.

“Do you think you’d ever have kids of your own?” Dean asked, raising his eyebrows. “Just out of curiosity.”

Castiel laughed quietly, his gaze falling to Dean’s hand as he adjusted his grip on his backpack strap. “I think I would adopt.”

“Right,” Dean said. “Like... with someone, or... just on your own?”

Castiel looked Dean in the eye, and Dean saw a glimmer, but it wasn’t the same as usual. It wasn’t sad, or hopeful. It was just there.

Castiel didn’t even answer him.

“I assume this is where we’re headed,” he said, speaking at a normal volume as he turned for the door to the men’s room.

“Yeah,” Dean confirmed, letting Castiel go ahead and open the door first. “It’s not much, but it’s better than home.”

Castiel went straight for the empty benches that were situated between two sets of lockers, and he dumped his bag.

On the right of the locker room, three shower heads protruded from the wall, each separated by a shoulder-high partition, coloured maroon. The whole place was tiled in creamish-white, and the far side of the room had a set of wide, frosted windows that let the afternoon sun in perfectly, filling the deserted space with warm light. There was no need for electric lights, so Dean didn’t even bother groping for the string as he entered.

Castiel was already peeling his gross anorak from his shoulders as Dean went to stand opposite him, putting his own bag down beside Castiel’s.

“I’m gonna stink like mud for a week,” Dean complained, wincing as he removed his coat and probably a layer of skin, too.

“Do you have soap?”

Dean hummed a thoughtful note, glancing around the locker room. “I left some shampoo in here the other day. Walnut something-or-other.”

“Over there.” Castiel pointed, and Dean followed his gesture until his eyes landed on the line of three bottles left in the corner of one of the shower cubicles.

Dean sighed. “Janitor shifted them again.”

He became distracted for a moment - okay, a long moment, as Castiel wriggled his arms and lifted his turtleneck sweater over his head, cracking the smashes of mud that Dean had shoved underneath. There was a t-shirt there, but it got stuck to the inside of Castiel’s sweater, and he pulled them off as one item.

Dean stood there with his hands latched onto the hem of his own t-shirt, not yet moving to remove it.

Castiel had a nipple piercing.

Castiel wasn’t looking at Dean, so didn’t see him staring, and just kept on undressing, moving from his boots straight on to his mud-encrusted pants.

Dean blinked back into self-awareness, and hurriedly started tugging things off, tossing his ruined t-shirt into the plastic bag that he’d brought along for emergencies just like this. Then his pants went, and god, Dean could barely think of anything except nipple piercing.

It wasn’t a ring, not a loop. It was the kind that had a bulbous silver head at each side, a straight half-inch of metal that just went through his nipple.

Dean pictured the thing in his mind as he sat down to untie his boot laces, since he couldn’t get his jeans off his ankles until he removed his boots.

Castiel’s nipples were so dark, and stood out against the naturally tanned shade of his skin. As Dean had seen them, they were slightly erect from the chill in the room, just like Dean’s were now. Castiel’s chest was wide, his shoulders broad, his coloured tattoo half-covered by mud.

Dean smiled to himself as he kicked his jeans to the ridged tiles on the floor, then put the stained denim in the bag with his other clothes.

Castiel was pretty fucking hot; there was no denying. Dean had never had any interest in peircings, but now?

Fuck yes.

Dean turned his head as the sound of hissing water reached his ears. His breath caught as he saw Castiel ahead of him in the centre cubicle, his face to the wall, bare ass fully visible to Dean.

Dean didn’t usually have such a breath-hitchy reaction to people’s butts, but this one belonged to the dude that Dean made have an orgasm. That was... Jesus, it was crazy, but he loved it.

It was a good butt.

Dean stood up, ignoring the subtle rise that was making his boxer-briefs a bit too tight. He tucked his hands under the waistband and pulled them to the floor, then threw them in the bag.

He made his way to the shower to the left of Castiel’s, his eyes never leaving the round, full muscles of Castiel’s ass.

The bottles of shower gel were neatly set underneath the partition, and Castiel turned his head to smile at Dean as Dean headed up to his own shower.

“Nice of you to join me,” Castiel said. His eyelashes were darker under the shower flow, and Dean saw gems of water stuck to them, like tiny stars.

“Nice of you to save me a spot,” Dean replied, tipping his chin up as he turned the silver handle to make the water flow. The stream splashed straight down his chest, and he sighed, eyes falling shut. “Any other man would expect me to take the cubicle a space away from you, but you took the one in the middle of three.”

Castiel grinned into the water that fell on his face, and he snorted, then shook his head like a dog and sent muddy water flicking across Dean’s face.

“Any other man wouldn’t be in need of shampoo so dearly,” came Castiel’s tart reply. “You do realise you and I have to share the soap, don’t you?”

Dean chuckled, dipping his head under the stream and exhaling as the half-dry crown of mud started to ease out of his hair. “Yeah, I know, man. I’m just messing.”

Castiel smiled over at him, then turned his face into the water again.

They washed in silence for some time. Mud was incredibly resilient, it turned out. Even after two large handfuls of soap, Dean’s hands were still coming away brown when he dragged his fingers down his calves.

“Thank god we were wearing clothes, right?” Dean muttered, hearing his voice echo a little in the tiled room. “If we’d been naked there’d be a hell of a lot more mess to clean up.”

Castiel made a half-amused noise. “I must thank you for the extra mud you decided would suit my midriff.”

“Yeeeah.” Dean chuckled out loud, winking at Castiel over the partition. “Sorry about that.”

“You’re not sorry at all.”

“Ahh, you got me.”

Castiel bent down to grab another squirt of shampoo, and tipped his head out of the water to lather it up. He kept his eyes closed as he did that, and Dean only restrained himself for about five seconds before he leaned a few inches closer to the divider.

Those inches were enough to let him see that goddamn nipple piercing, and he just stood there while Castiel rinsed his hair. Dean’s eyes lingered. Soap bubbles washed over Castiel’s nipple, and the metal changed the path of the foam, made it flow around.

Dean touched his own nipples, and wondered if he could ever suffer the pain of getting a bar put in. He loved to touch there - hell, his own soapy fingers were making him just a bit harder down there, even now - but it had to be better with a spike through it, right?

“Cas, can I ask you something?”

Castiel opened one eye, screwing up his face as he tried to look at Dean while keeping the soap out of his eyes. “Of course.”

“Uh. Nipple piercing?”

Castiel bumped his eyebrows, then glanced down at it. Dean leaned his shoulder on the partition so he could look at Castiel looking at it, because something about him looking at himself was... ugh, it was good.

Castiel always seemed to be surprised when Dean noticed, and this was no exception.

“Oh, that. Yes.” Castiel glanced at Dean, and Dean’s eyes flicked back to his face, trying to pretend he hadn’t just been wondering what it would be like to watch Castiel touch it. Castiel shrugged. “It’s just a bit of fun.”

“I’ll say,” Dean grinned, standing up straight again and scrubbing at the grime between his fingers.

They fell into silence again, and Dean made a breakthrough with the mud on his legs, no longer having to scrape his skin with his fingernails before his hands came away clean. He got to work on his hair after that, dolloping out more shampoo than he’d ever used at one time in his entire life - at least, on purpose.

It was only when Dean was pleased at the fact that his hair squeaked when he tugged it, that he heard something quite different to the regular splashes and elbow-knocks on the partition that he’d been hearing this whole time.

Dean looked over to see Castiel looking down, and first he wondered if he was playing with the nipple piercing, but then... Castiel bit on his lower lip, releasing it to breathe out in a rush, then gasping silently.

Dean heard the slap of flesh, saw Castiel’s shoulder shifting.

“Cas, are you jerking off?” Dean asked, in total disbelief.

“Shhhhhh,” Castiel said. “It’s been a long day.”

Dean was grinning before Castiel had even said the words.

The water was flowing across Castiel’s cheekbones, pulling his near-black hair to a point on his forehead. Rivulets poured down his clean shoulders, and his biceps were dotted with collected water, where they’d been out of the shower stream for a while.

Dean was most definitely hard; he didn’t even need to look down to check. He just stared at the other man.

Then he edged closer, lips parting.

He leant his entire right side on the cool plastic of the partition, eyes dropping from Castiel’s steaming hair to the working muscles in his left shoulder. Then Dean tipped his chin over the partition, eyes drawing further down.

Nipple. Stomach. Pubic hair, free of mud. Cock.

Dean’s lip slid between his teeth, and his hand went to his own dick, just for a single, excruciatingly slow tug. The water had made his skin hot, and the feel of himself under his wrinkled finger pads was crazy-good.

Castiel’s breathing wasn’t laboured, but light, almost hyperventilating. His eyes were still closed, the very tip of his tongue resting on his bottom lip. He looked beautiful. His skin was flushed and sore from scrubbing, and he seemed to be glowing from the inside out due to the pleasure he was feeling.

“Dean, are you watching me?” A smile quirked up the side of Castiel’s lips.

“No,” Dean retorted, drawing back under his own shower head and feeling its warmth encase him again, soaking his chilled skin.

Castiel chuckled, his deep, low laugh reverberating against the ceramic tiles. He didn’t say anything in reply, but opened his eyes a crack to locate the shower tap. Dean heard it squeak, then the water dripped to nothing above Castiel’s head, and the sound of his breath was just that much more noticeable.

Dean kept on staring, through the glittering haze of water that poured over his head. He was trying to hide his face, but it took no more than a few seconds to realise that Castiel knew perfectly well that he’d been watching. And Castiel didn’t care.

Dean’s eyelids fluttered as he shut his own water off. He breathed out, then removed his hand from between his legs to wipe water out of his eyes. Then he went right back to touching, because the sound of Castiel’s huffs were so obvious now that his excited exhales were like fumes in the air, intoxicating.

Castiel groaned quietly at the back of his throat, his chin rising to stretch his neck out. Dean could hear the sound of his slapping hand so clearly; wet skin, wet hand, maybe some body wash to help him along...

Castiel stopped panting for a moment, slipping his lip between his teeth, breathing hard through his nose instead. Dean heard the slip of his hand upping the pace, as well as seeing his body rocking just a tiny bit more, swayed by how his arm moved.

Dean figured... well.

Cas and him had already screwed. They’d seen each other naked, and hard. They’d made each other come. They’d had their fallouts, but they were cool now, as far as Dean could see. What was the danger in... walking over...?

Dean swung around the partition and slowly turned his way into the next cubicle along, his eyes descending the firm lines and beautiful colour of Castiel’s toned back. That round, masculine ass. Dean just wanted to bite it, fucking hell.

He approached slowly, toes curled against the warm tiles. They were gritty underfoot, both from the tiles’ usual gripping ridges, and from the mess of watered-down mud that Castiel had spread around.

Castiel moaned, shoulders slipping an inch lower as something inside him relaxed, unwinding.

Cas had it right, Dean thought. Jerking off was a good way to let it all go at the end of a long day. But jerking off, while watching another dude jerk off...?

Dean put a hand on the small of Castiel’s back, and Castiel hummed a note and turned around, leaning against the far partition so Dean could get in against the left.

Dean smiled at him, and put his back against the partition he’d been peering over only a minute before.

Then his eyes drifted down from Castiel’s face, bypassing his pierced nipple to look directly at his cock. His hand was tight around it, his legs were spread apart as he leaned back. Dean started to jerk himself faster, because his head was pounding faster, and his heart was throbbing hard with excitement.

This wasn’t like the first time. This wasn’t new the same way it was three weeks ago, when Dean licked up his first taste of pre-come, or when he felt how it was to have two cocks in his hand instead of just one.

This time, it wasn’t about Dean trying something untested. It wasn’t Try-Something Tuesday, not today. This time, it was all about Castiel.

It was about the way his eyes were dark, because he was getting off on watching Dean touch himself too. It was about the fact that Castiel hiked his right leg up against the water pipe on the wall, because he wanted Dean to look at the way his ballsack was pulled up tight, round and cute.

Dean saw how much Castiel was enjoying this. His cock was glistening with liquid, and it wasn’t shower gel, nor water. It spread over his hand as his fist slid down then up, tugging all the way to the tip so his foreskin covered over his slit, before he dragged his grip all the way to his base, pausing for a second or two to massage his scrotum.

They breathed out of time, Dean inhaling as Castiel huffed a tiny sound, and then the same the other way. Dean leant back, feet steady on the ground, and simply enjoyed the fuck out of this.

This wasn’t live porn. He wasn’t getting off to this because at last, another man was hard and feeling pleasure because Dean was naked too. Dean liked this because it was Castiel.

This man wasn’t an ordinary librarian. He was the answer to Dean’s past, and Dean hoped to god that he was in his future, too. Dean had never met another person he could see eye-to-eye with so easily. Nobody else knew what it meant when he let himself be beaten in a fight; Castiel knew it. Castiel knew Dean was sorry before he’d even said it.

Nobody else in Dean’s adult life had ever known how crap foster care was.

Or known what it meant to love something and have it taken away.

Dean didn’t know what had happened to Castiel’s parents, but the fact that he was hurled into the system was story enough. It meant he was alone. Just like Dean.

But at least Dean had Sammy.

Castiel whispered out a broken word, eyes half-shut, lips wet and parted. Dean sighed in response, opening his mouth wide so he could make a show of running his tongue soft and smooth across the corner of his lips. Castiel saw it and groaned, head falling back.

His right leg was still hitched against the water pipe, one hand holding tight so he didn’t slip. Dean had never seen a person stand like that and look good, but fuck, Castiel did it just fine.

Castiel shut his mouth then, and let his leg drop back to the floor. Dean looked at him questioningly as he stepped forward, but Castiel only smiled and went for the water control, pulling the lever up and letting a fresh stream descend like sparkles between them.

Dean felt the heat of it on his legs, and he stood up, shoulder touching Castiel’s in the small space.

Castiel’s warm, wet hand slid over Dean’s forearm, dragging him closer. He went willingly, not even surprised as Castiel’s mouth found his without difficulty.

It was so hot.

The spray hit their cheeks as their faces were turned to each other, and their lips worked slowly, gracefully, the sounds of smacking mouths and tongues lost into the pounding of the water as it cascaded onto Dean’s face.

The rays of sun in the locker room coloured the insides of Dean’s eyelids a warm red, and the splatter of sharp droplets hitting his closed lids made bright dots appear in his sheltered vision.

Castiel groaned into Dean’s cheek, tongue prodding as their heads switched sides, neither of them even needing to look.

Dean’s hand found the head of Castiel’s cock nudging his own, and he automatically let his grip slide from his cock to Castiel’s, surrounding Castiel’s own fist as they jacked together. Castiel’s lips pulled apart as he puffed out a pleasured breath. Then he leaned in for another surging kiss as he let go, moving his hand to pump Dean’s member in return.

Dean pulled in closer. Their hips bumped, the heat between them sloshing across their skin, their moving hands sending up spray in every direction.

Dean moaned, long and restless, eyes peeking open so he could see the flush on Castiel’s cheeks, even through the blur of water.

Then Castiel sighed through his nose, and broke the kiss to turn the water off. The sound of drips filled Dean’s mind for a moment before the cold of the air hit him, and his immediate reaction was to stand closer to Castiel. He was like a beacon of heat, radiating sexual warmth and welcome, just the same way his kisses did.

But Castiel wiped his eyes with his hands, then looked up into Dean’s face. The sparkle in his eyes was so permanent now that Dean barely noticed it.

Castiel shoved Dean up against the partition. Dean’s back thumped the plastic so hard it wobbled and creaked; the top of it hit his shoulder blades, and he cried out in pain, but Castiel gave no apology. His mouth covered Dean’s furiously, working him hard and fast under his hand, under his lips. Dean became weak at the knees, helpless while Castiel pushed into him, body rocking against his so tightly that he had to remove his hand from between them.

Those hands went to grip Dean’s wrists, holding them to the partition like shackles while Castiel’s lips kissed Dean into a frenzy, wanting, wanting, reaching for more.

Dean was groaning under his breath, blinking away the beads of water that still layered his eyelashes. Castiel made no sound, only forced himself against Dean, cocks rutting desperately, Castiel’s hips not moving up and down, but humping into him, crushing Dean backwards as their dicks pushed together. The water made them slip a little, and made the silk-soft skin of their members ripple as they hit.

Dean felt a rush of pleasure, and before he knew it, he’d taken Castiel unawares, gripped his wrists in return, and thrown him against the next partition. He kissed him just as passionately, wanting to bite down on his lip but knowing from last time that Castiel didn’t like that. Castiel was again silent... until Dean lowered his head, kissing down his throat.

Castiel let his head be tipped back, allowed Dean to hold his wrists down. But as soon as Dean’s head dropped to his clavicle, started placing kiss after tiny kiss down... down...

Castiel’s mouth opened, and he moaned so savagely that Dean looked up to check that he was okay. Castiel’s eyes were on Dean, so very dark that he barely had any blue left in them at all.

“K- Keep going,” Castiel whispered, his throat so tight that his words were strained. “Please, m- my nipple...”

Dean had to swing a hand to his own cock to squeeze, holding back an orgasm that threatened to arrive before he was ready. Jesus fucking Christ, goddamn nipple piercing.

Dean lowered his eyes to the nipple in question. There was a brown freckle an inch above it, and the skin around it was goose-bumped from the lack of hot water; it was shining with miniscule droplets, and the muscle looked so tender that Dean couldn’t help but lean his mouth towards it.

The tip of his tongue flicked out, catching the silver attachment and simply bumping it.

Castiel grabbed Dean’s shoulders, fingernails digging hard into his skin. He started hyperventilating, eyes only dark, dark slits as they watched Dean watch his reaction.

“Don’t stop, Dean, please... again.”

Dean kept his eyes on Castiel’s as he set his mouth open, gentle and wet, over the whole nipple.

His tongue lapped, tasting nothing but human skin, maybe the smallest amount of walnut shampoo, but he could barely focus to figure it out. Castiel was trembling, not from the cold, but from terrible pleasure, his breath coming ragged and uneven as he whimpered.

“Dean... oh, De―”

Dean started to suckle.

“Dean... Dean, fucking... oh no, no, I can’t... Please, please - oh, give me more...”

Dean obliged, tipping his head, changing the angle of his tongue, licking and twisting, making the metal tilt against Castiel’s flesh. Under his tongue, Dean felt the rise of the central bud, feeling the pucker turn puffy, then tighten again, the expanse of Castiel’s skin flushing hot, getting hotter as Castiel lost it completely.

“Oh god. Oh god. Dean, you fucking - Christ, I can’t take this. Dean, I can’t take it, I’m going, I’m going―”

Dean’s mouth swept from Castiel’s nipple to his mouth in an instant, taking his lips into the most sensitive kiss they’d ever shared; Dean’s lips were sore, his tongue buzzing from the feel of metal under it. Mouth felt different from nipple, strange almost, and Dean kissed like he was new to it, like it was the first time he’d felt a tongue against his own. Like he’d never had stubble rough on his swollen lips. Like he’d never made love to Castiel before.

Dean kissed Castiel away with a soft breath, the sound of their lips breaking apart like a caress all of its own.

“Don’t come yet,” Dean whispered, nosing Castiel’s cheek. He nuzzled him again, smiling at the give under his nose, at the way Castiel nosed him back. They rubbed faces for a moment like cats, Castiel’s tongue dipping to taste Dean’s skin.

“You’ve made me all slimy,” complained Castiel, his tone obviously joking, but severely covered by the gritty low note in his voice. He was steeped in lust, and it had affected his voice so much that the deep sound of it made Dean’s cock twitch. He could feel Castiel’s soft moan through his chest, in his heart.

Castiel blinked himself into a more active state, then turned to the shower again, letting a gentle flow pour down over Dean’s back.

“After you,” Castiel said, nudging Dean in the direction of the water.

Dean stepped into it, sighing as his cold skin was flooded over with heat once more. Castiel pushed him out of the stream after a moment, and Dean watched him rub his own nipple, saw the way his breath caught, and watched his free hand sliding to the erection that still protruded from between his legs.

“I think we’ve used enough water,” Dean muttered, slapping the lever down and making Castiel huff in annoyance. “C’mere, I wanna get off already.”

“I thought you might like to tease,” Castiel replied, smiling as Dean cupped his hips and pulled him close, starting a gentle rocking motion so their members rubbed.

“Teasing is one thing, but letting it go on too long is another. Fuck... Cas, I just wanna see you come already, can you really blame me?”

“What does my face look like when I come?” Castiel murmured the question to Dean’s neck, lips touching a soft kiss there.

Dean smirked. While the image of the first climax he’d made Castiel have was still burned into his retinas, he wanted to do it again. “Let’s see, shall we?”

Castiel smirked and let Dean separate their bodies, and they each took hold of the other’s cock. Dean started slow, but Castiel’s eyes flicked down, watching his own faster fist as it slapped between Dean’s cockhead and his scrotum.

Dean closed his mouth and moaned, swaying on his feet, affected by the feelings that swam inside him from the tips of his fingers to the soles of his feet, jumping like physical sparks in his blood and behind his eyes.

“Are you close?” Castiel asked quietly, kissing Dean’s lips once.

“Uh-huh,” Dean replied, putting a kiss exactly the same onto Castiel’s lips.

Castiel groaned a long note, eyelashes tickling on Dean’s jaw. “You look so surprised when you come, Dean. As if you weren’t expecting it to be―”

“That good,” Dean finished. “Last time we did this? Yeah. I’d gone in... fuck... not expecting anything more than just - ah! - just a kiss, and I get you? Not gonna lie, I was surprised. Sti- Still surprised.”

“You keep saying that,” Castiel said, a questioning lilt in his voice. “You keep saying you have me. That you’ve ‘got’ me.” Castiel swallowed, and he paused for a moment. Dean heard him breathe out, felt his hot breath on his bare shoulder. “Dean, what do you mean by that?”

Dean moved his head so he could put a long, long, sweet kiss on Castiel’s mouth. No tongue, no movement. Just lip to lip, and Castiel didn’t try to change it.

“It means...” Dean lowered his eyes as he moved his lips apart, but letting their mouths rest together. “It means what I say. I’ve got you. I’m not― Ugh, Cas.”

It meant he wasn’t going to let go. He had something good here, and he’d already felt what it was to lose it. Dean didn’t want to lose him again.

Fact: Dean was a chicken when it came to love.

“I think I know,” Castiel whispered, eyes open. “Dean, it’s okay.”

Dean shook his head. He couldn’t say a word, not about this.

“Cas, I’m gonna come. Gonna c―”

Dean drew in a sharp, cold breath as the rush of climax surged up through him, peaking at his hips, the tension in the base of his spine shooting across. He cried out, eyes snapping shut, lips finding Castiel’s without any effort at all.

Castiel kissed him through it, lips rolling, tongue searching his mouth the same way it had for their very first kiss. As if he’d find Dean’s secrets inside.

Dean shuddered as he broke the kiss, exhaling over his slick lips and feeling the air ghost on his own flesh.

“Now you,” Dean said, nosing Castiel’s throat. “C’mon. I’ve got you.”

Castiel chuckled, his laughter rumbling against Dean’s chest. “There it is again.”

“I mean it. I’ve got you. You can come, Cas. I’m right here.”

Castiel whispered a hushed word of nonsense against Dean’s ear, his damp, cold hair fluttering under Castiel’s breath. “Go faster?”

Dean let his hand move faster, as Castiel wanted. Pre-come slicked half of his hand, and he twisted his grip so it spread further, making it glide easier, lessening the amount Castiel’s loose skin moved.

“You got such a pretty cock, Cas,” Dean muttered, licking his lips. His eyes jumped from Castiel’s curled-up toes on the tiles, to the perfect V-dip of his muscular hipbones, then to the reddened, rock-hard cock that filled Dean’s hand.

“Mmmh, tha...nk...”

Dean smirked at Castiel’s discomposed expression, and the rumpled, shiny hair that was mussed up by Castiel’s own hand, as he dragged his hand through it like a comb.

“Oh, Dean, just like that.”

Dean was palming the head of Castiel’s cock now, and he was pleased that Castiel liked that. His slit was leaking hot fluid onto the heel of Dean’s hand, and he massaged into it, coating the pink flesh under Castiel’s foreskin. Dean knew it must feel like heaven, since Cas was uncut, unlike Dean. Dean wished he knew how good that must feel, to have a man’s hand on the most delicate, basic part of him.

Castiel certainly enjoyed it.

“Deee...an... Mmm, yes― Yes...” Castiel’s grip on Dean’s shoulders was getting tighter, his palms flat and taut, fingers pressing dents into Dean’s skin. Dean could feel Castiel shivering, and not only from the cold.

Dean had an idea, and he grinned to himself.

Ducking his head, he leaned his chin up and put his teeth around Castiel’s nipple piercing. He tugged on it - just the teeniest, tiniest amount.

Castiel’s mouth fell open, and he growled out a primal sound that made Dean grin, loving how much Castiel was loving it.

Dean felt the warmth on his hand the second he looked down. Castiel was coming as he cried out; spurts of whiteness spread over Dean’s fist, seeping across his skin and dripping to the tiles below. It was a thinner fluid than Dean’s own, and clearer, but it spilled out just as eagerly, and Dean breathed calm sighs as he watched Castiel’s peak continue.

Finally Castiel squawked into silence, and Dean kept pumping, squeezing tighter and tighter until the very last droplet came free, running over the back of Dean’s hand.

“Ouuh...” Castiel moaned, knees bending. Dean slipped his hands around to the dip of the other man’s back, holding him steady.

“There,” Dean said, with theatrical relief. “Like I told you, I got you.”

“Y- mmm, Dean...”

Dean chuckled, putting his lips to Castiel’s, then blindly moving to turn on the water. The shower spluttered into life again, and Dean and Castiel just stood there under its warmth for a moment, sighing into each other’s mouths, heads tipping to each side.

Dean loved the way Castiel kissed. So much.

Castiel stood up straight at last, regaining some composure. They grinned at each other through the falling water, then made quick work of washing off, needing to do nothing more than rinse down. Castiel turned the shower off with a final thump, and there was a distinctly satisfied smile on his face as he turned away from Dean and marched for the bench where they’d left their backpacks and dirty clothes.

Dean stood in silence for a few seconds, just taking the time to think and focus on the fact that right now, he was happy. Properly, actually... happy.

He followed Castiel, and then followed his lead in digging out his clean change of clothes from his bag. As well as clothes, they had a towel each, since it had only been common sense to bring one.

Dean rubbed his hair dry first, thinking he should probably condition it when he got home, or it would dry funny and probably never be the same again.

Castiel was naked opposite him, and Dean could look at him, run his gaze across his nipples, admire the tight cut of his hips, and his strong thighs, and know that Castiel knew he was looking, and Dean didn’t have to worry that he’d be judged.

For all the years Dean had kept it a secret, never seeking out another man out of fear... This made it worth it. This moment, now. Because he’d found a man whom it was okay to look at. Okay to touch. To kiss, to lick, to suckle.

He’d found Castiel, and that was a good thing. Fact.

They put on clean socks, then smiled at each other as they each pulled their regular shoes out of their bags at the same time. Castiel had his cowboy boots (Dean had no idea how he’d fit them in the bag, after carrying everything else as well), and Dean had his usual work boots: trusty, hard-wearing leather things.

Dean turned his back, sat down, and did up his laces. While he did that, he wondered if he should ask Castiel to join him for tonight’s episode of Dr. Sexy. But that would be a date. They’d both know it, for sure. Dean didn’t think it was right for him and Castiel to sit down and date. Neither of them were like that. At least, Dean wasn’t.

If Dean ended up with someone, when he gained a friend for life, it shouldn’t be via a date. What use were dates, when so much in Dean’s life was cosmic? It seemed too simple. Too normal.

Castiel and him weren’t normal, not a regular set of people. Yeah, it was an egotistic thought, but if there was ever something that was special about Dean, he knew it was his ability to truly love the people he cared about. To find so much of a similar love with Castiel today, while having adventures, and then sit down and date? That wasn’t the way to go.

Dean didn’t know where to go from here.

Castiel did though, it seemed. “I hope we meet again sometime soon, Dean,” he said, warmly, from beside where Dean sat staring into space.

“What? You’re leaving?”

Castiel’s smile only lasted a second. “I don’t meant to present a repeat of last time, but yes. My family is what you might call a disaster; I tend to have to act as mediator. Right now there’s a lawsuit going on between two of my brothers, I need to get back to dealing with that.”

“Lawsuit?”

“Oh,” Castiel grinned, “Nothing serious. One of them parked on the other’s property.”

Dean blanched. “Uh.”

Castiel stepped back, hauling his bags with him. “Like I said. Disaster.” He shrugged, still backing away. “But in any case, I will be catching up with Dr. Sexy tomorrow night. Perhaps we could... arrange a time to discuss it.”

Dean snorted, standing up and straightening his spare jeans across his thighs. “Sure.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Winchester. I... had a good time today.”

“Me too.”

Dean and Castiel locked eyes, Castiel very nearly at the door.

“Goodnight, Cas.”

Castiel smiled, and Dean didn’t see the smile leave his face at all before the door smacked shut between them.

Dean was smiling too, and that smile definitely didn’t leave his face until he fell asleep that night.

Dean would have called Cas and made an arrangement to discuss Dr. Sexy, except he didn’t have Castiel’s number. Or any way to contact him outside of visiting the library, and Dean definitely did not have time to do that.

Of course, he could probably have flirted his way to getting Castiel’s details from the lovely lady in the school office, but Dean couldn’t bring himself to do it. The poor girl probably had no idea why he’d stopped winking at her every time he checked in in the morning, but Dean at least managed a smile, not wanting to be rude.

She was pretty, but he’d never had any intention of following through. That probably made him a bad person, leading her on like that.

Dean wished the weekend wasn’t so full of stuff. Ten children shouldn’t create so much marking in just a week back since Easter break, but as it turned out, he had about three inches of loose paper to go through, and that was sans the reports he had to start preparing for the end of the year.

He knew his class was smaller than the average teacher’s, and for that, at least, he was grateful. God only knew how he would cope with twenty-five eight-year-old monsters at once. He’d shouldered that just fine with his old class, but then they’d shifted up to high school, and he had been bumped back to teach the younger class.

Sighing, he packed up his work on Sunday night, switching off the table lamp and rubbing his eyes as he checked for text messages one last time. Sam hadn’t called for a couple of days, and Dean assumed he was busy working on scoring himself a good lawsuit. He’d been out of work for a bit, but that was unsurprising, given he’d only graduated last year.

Dean brushed his teeth, his mind on Sam. Dean was so proud of his baby brother, more than he’d ever been able to explain to Sam’s face. He was pretty sure Sam knew it, though.

Dean was tired of so much of his life right now, but that hadn’t been true about a year ago. He’d worked at the school in the day, and somehow managed to earn enough money at overnight cafés, diners, and bars to put Sam through university. It had been a veritable tradition ever since Dean was younger: he’d work to pay for Sam to study. That was what the Winchester brothers did.

And now Dean was a teacher. Young minds, and all of that.

Dean rinsed out his mouth, pulled a face at the mirror, then chuckled as he dragged his feet to bed.

Tired of the day, and tired in general. But he was loving these past few weeks so much that he was starting to think that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that he was struggling through all this shit. He’d make it out the other side, and hopefully he’d have people he loved right there beside him through it all. That was the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, or whatever.

Yeah.

He fell into bed, flicked off the light, and got all snuggled up under his blanket, thinking about Cas.

It would be great - beyond great - if Cas was still around when Dean felt stronger. Maybe he’d help him get there. Who knew where things would lead?

Dean was definitely more excited about the library trip than the kids were. He hurried them all through the automatic door at the front of the library, and repeated his instructions from earlier. No shouting, no running; one book by the end of the day.

“But first things first, let’s double-check you have your books from before?”

“Yes, Mr. Winchester,” called the class, some lifting their borrowed library books.

“Okay, cool. Now, we’re going to return these...” Dean looked around, arms swinging at his sides as he scanned the area for the book-return slot.

Castiel waved from the front desk, then gestured at a rectangular hole in the side of his desk.

Dean beamed at him, then turned back to his class. “Over there. Go on, go stick ‘em in. Whoa―” He raised an arm to hold the stampede back. “One at a time. Form a line.”

This only resulted in more stampeding, and he called them to a halt again. “All right, everyone in age order. If you’re born in August, go to the back of the line. September at the front. Hey, no questions. You’re smart, you figure it out.”

He grinned over at Castiel as the class worked it out amongst themselves, and finally assembled an orderly line. He shooed them over to the desk, and leant his elbow on it as they slotted their books inside.

“Awesome. You all had a good read?”

“Yes,” Nellie said, before anyone else did. “I don’t even like dinosaurs, but Travis made me read it.”

“I didn’t,” Travis replied, clearly affronted. “You picked the one on cat breeds and made me swap!”

Dean caught Castiel’s eye briefly and chuckled. He swept an arm to his class as they finished thumping their books into the slot. They gathered around him and listened to what he had to say.

“Well, you know, it’s okay if you wanted to read more books on dinosaurs, Nellie. Or Travis, did you secretly enjoy the book about cats?”

Travis gaped for a second. “No.”

Nellie seemed to hesitate for a moment, then was hit in the shoulder by Sandy, who was wearing a matching pink coat. “No I don’t... like dinosaurs,” Nellie managed, voice quiet.

Dean smirked. “Everyone raise your hand if you liked what you read.”

About half the class raised their hands, and Dean definitely saw a twitch of both Nellie’s and Travis’ hands.

Dean leaned his back on the returns desk, hearing the slow bleep of Castiel checking the books in with his scanner. “Who thinks it’s totally fine if Travis likes cats?”

Nellie raised her hand first. Then she hit Sandy in the side, and dragged her hand in the air. Most of the girls raised their hands too, as well as Elroy and Damien. The other boys seemed hesitant, but Dean hadn’t expected anything else.

“I have a cat,” Damien said. “Her name’s Cake.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah, that’s great. But the rest of you, why’s it not cool for Travis to like cats, huh?”

He was really, really glad that he had this kind of discussion often with his class. They were far more open about discussing issues than the children in Sarah’s class, and that made it easy for Dean to mould them. He hoped he was doing it right, anyway.

“B...ecause cats are girly,” Lydia said, eyeing Travis. Travis looked a little blushy, but not upset. He wouldn’t get shit for this from the other kids, not if Dean could help it.

“But Damien has a cat,” Dean stated. Did he have a point to go with this? He hoped so. He winged his discussions far more often than he would ever admit. “And have you ever met an angry cat? They can be pretty badass with those claws.”

“I liked the dinosaurs!” Nellie’s soft words were directed at the floor, but the class heard them. “I think if girls can like dinosaurs then―”

“Then boys can like cats, okay?!” Travis finished, crossing his arms. Damien laughed out loud and smiled at Dean.

“I like turtles,” Marvin said.

“I have a turtle,” said a completely different voice. Dean turned around in surprise as Castiel leaned over the desk so he could see the kids. “Two turtles, in fact.”

“Mr. Godson!” the class clattered, evidently very pleased to see Castiel there.

“Oh, hey, didn’t I tell you guys?” Dean stepped back so Castiel’s face was more visible to the shorter kids. “Mr. Godson works here when he’s not off working miracles over a mud pit.”

“I’ll have you know I work miracles everywhere I go,” Castiel shot back, blinking at Dean in such a way that it came across as a concealed wink. “But how’ve you all been?” he directed at the class.

“Good!” they all said. Then the collective speech devolved into messy chatter, and Dean just laughed at the way Castiel’s eyes flicked from one kid to the next. He looked a bit like a cat watching fish.

“Come on, guys, give him a break. Hey, Cas, you think you could come out and talk to these critters while they’re here? They missed you, and would not stop talking about you.”

A few kids laughed.

“He’s lying!” Anil called out, but shrank down as Dean glared at him.

“What’s that now?” Castiel asked, leaning his elbow on the desk and his chin on his hand, peering at the bright-eyed students who grinned up at him. “I know Mr. Winchester is many things, but a liar?”

“He means he was the one who was talking about you,” said Damien and Sandy at once. Well, they both said similar statements at the same time, but Dean figured Castiel caught their drift. Goddamn snitches.

“Ah, I see.” Castiel nodded serenely, his gaze turning to Dean with that playful glint in his eye. “Well, Mr. Winchester, it seems you have indeed been caught out in a lie.”

Dean flicked a grin at his class. “Lying’s a bad habit, kids. Don’t do it.”

The children sniggered.

“Hey, Damien, get back here,” Dean instructed, as soon as he saw the kid tiptoeing away. “Wait until I dismiss you.”

Damien sighed and dragged his feet back to the group.

“Okay, what were the library rules?”

The class together ticked off the boxes; no shouting, no running, at least one book to borrow by hometime.

“Aaaand, what day is it?”

“Try-Somethin’ Tuesday,” the class rumbled.

“Good. Now go have fun. Scoot!”

The class scrambled off, shouting for a moment before they remembered themselves and turned down the volume.

“Heh-heh-heh,” Dean chortled, pleased to see Nellie going straight for the reference section with Travis by her side.

“I think you taught them an important lesson today.”

Dean turned to look at Castiel’s pretty blue eyes, both men smiling.

There was a moment of silence before Dean blinked. “What’s that now?”

“Important lesson. About cats, and about people.”

“Oh. That, right. Yeah, I’m hoping there was a hidden ‘boys can like ballet if they want’ in there somewhere.”

Castiel’s smile widened as he glanced down and checked in the last book, then set it on the top of a tall pile. “And do you? Like ballet, I mean.”

Dean tipped his head in a noncommittal shrug. “I may see the appeal. I’m not an all-out fan, but I saw Black Swan.”

Castiel squinted. “I don’t think that movie is an accurate represent―”

“Oh, screw accurate, it was nice.”

Castiel started shifting the piles of books onto an even taller pile of books on a wheeled trolley behind him. “Nice?” He cleared his throat, a smirk on his face. “Yes, I see how that might be.”

“Shut up,” Dean said, trying not to snicker too loudly.

“I could recommend you some books for your class, if you wanted.” Castiel nudged his head in the direction of the first aisle, intending Dean to follow him, which he did. “About diversity. Or acceptance.”

“Sure,” Dean shrugged. “We have a story-telling session on Mondays and Wednesdays. We’re in the middle of the third Harry Potter book, but if there’s something short I could cram in...”

Castiel cleared his throat as they reached the furthest aisle, beginning to push books into the correct shelves. “I’m afraid you won’t be all that impressed with the selection; I certainly wasn’t when I started working here. There don’t seem to be many books about certain subjects than there probably should be. Especially not aimed at the age group you’re teaching.”

“Well, what’s the best fit?”

Castiel’s lips parted as he thought, his eyes becoming distant for a moment.

“Hm. There may be one.” He slunk past Dean, their chests touching in the narrow aisle. Castiel led Dean to the main aisle, then towards the children’s section.

“It would probably be more of a thought-provoking point than anything, but...” He trailed off as they reached the children’s books, and Dean hastily did a headcount of the six children who were in here, some of them browsing, some already sitting down to read.

Castiel was running his hands over the long, flat shelves, where the bright covers of picture books were displayed face-out. “Here,” he said, as Dean’s eyes snapped away from Castiel’s lips and fell instead to what he held in his hands.

And Tango Makes Three,” Dean read out. “Penguins?”

Castiel stroked the cover with a thumb. “Based on a true story. It’s one of my favourites.”

“Huh.” Dean took the book as Castiel handed it to him, flipping through its pages quickly. It was pleasantly illustrated, and sparsely worded. “This is for something like five-year-olds, though.”

Castiel shrugged, folding up his arms and rumpling his rolled shirtsleeves. “There shouldn’t be an age limit on good stories.”

Dean agreed with that, so long as said stories were swear-free and non-explicit. Or too confusing for him to explain when it got to question time.

He wriggled the book and smiled in thanks, then let Castiel wander away with only a pat on the side of the arm.

“You should go talk to Marvin,” Dean suggested quietly, before Castiel got too far away. “He’s missed you something crazy, and I wasn’t actually kidding about that.”

Castiel nodded, and Dean assumed he’d go find Marvin after he’d shelved the book returns.

Sighing, Dean flapped the book at his side and went to go chat to his kids, wanting them to think about what they were picking and why. Sometimes they chose for obvious reasons (“Mom bakes cookies, so she might like this”), but sometimes it got interesting. Elroy picked out a short novel about a mining town in Asia because his uncle went fishing there once, and Elroy wanted to travel just like him. Dean found that fascinating, because he saw the weird connections that kids saw that most adults never bothered prying for. Besides, he liked guessing at where these kids might end up when they were adults.

In about ten more minutes, he had a puddle of kids lying around his feet as he sat on a beanbag, and they were all explaining why they picked what they did.

Sometimes Dean really loved Try-Something Tuesday, and this was one of those times.

Check-out time came around, and Dean waited until last to go up and get Castiel to scan his book. He handed the school’s library card over first, which Castiel typed the code in for, then handed back.

“Did you have a good session?” Castiel asked, glancing at Dean as he dragged the beeper over the electronic sticker inside the book’s back cover.

“Yeah.” Dean looked at his class, some of whom were sitting on the floor with their backpacks and talking about their book choices. “These kids are great, man. I miss my old class, but these ones are growing on me something terrible.”

Castiel hummed an understanding note. “I think I feel the same way. Substituting lets me meet a lot of children, but I have to admit yours are...” he hummed a low note, “I’d say they reflect you, in a way.”

“What, they’re smart, feisty, and incredibly charming?”

Castiel looked Dean in the eye, then raised a hand to brush his collapsing hair-spikes off his forehead. Dean glimpsed his tattoo, and he grinned at Castiel as he nodded.

“Yes, exactly,” Castiel said. “Charming.”

Dean licked his lips, losing his vision for a moment as his eyelids fluttered without his command. His gaze darted across the desk until he spotted a blank library date stamp card for the back of the books, and he slid a hand to grab it. Then he picked up Castiel’s ballpoint pen, and started to write on the card, ignoring the lines entirely.

“I’m gonna give you my number,” he said. “Sooo...” he flipped the card between two fingers and presented it to Castiel gracefully, his suavest smile on his face, “you can call me anytime. Or text. Whatever you’re happier with.”

Castiel took the card with raised eyebrows. “Carly Rae Jepsen sang a word or two about that.”

Dean scowled at him, trying to cover his smile with a pout. “Fudge you, Cas, that friggin’ song’s gonna be in my head for a week now.”

“At least that means you won’t forget to call,” Castiel reasoned, reaching for a block of blue post-it notes. He wrote down his own number, then reached over the desk to stick the note on Dean’s forehead. “Now go away, I have other patrons to assist.”

Dean hurriedly stepped away from the desk, since there were indeed a small group of young women dressed in black coming forward with a stack of text books in each of their arms.

“See you around,” Dean muttered, tapping the desk twice as he pulled the note off his forehead. Castiel glanced up, but then immediately looked back to the women, giving them a smile.

It wasn’t the same smile Dean got out of him, however, and that made Dean’s walk back to the school with the kids just that tiny bit more enjoyable.

[Incoming message!

Fri May 4th 2012 23:38
From: Dean Winchester
All the grls thnk im gay. Im nOT GAY i jurt rly like ur cock]

The empty library was filled with a deep, sudden laugh for a moment, which was followed by a unrefined snort, then, finally, the quiet beeping of tiny buttons.

[Message sent!
Fri May 4th 2012 23:40
To: Dean Winchester
Are you drunk?]

[Incoming message!
Fri May 4th 2012 23:58
From: Dean Winchester
Mayb ea bgt. Sam says i shlud lïe dowm]

“I see how it is,” the librarian murmured, amusement lacing every word.

[Message sent!
Sat May 5th 2012 12:00
To: Dean Winchester
Enjoy your hangover, Mr Winchester.]

[New Message

Received at 09:14 05-05-12

Sender: Cas

Good morning. Time for breakfast.]

Dean only just made it to Sam’s bathroom in time.

[Message Sent
09:30 05-05-12
From: Dean Winchester
Fuck u]

[New Message
Received at 09:35 05-05-12
Sender: Cas
:)]

Dean did as much work as he could as soon as he got back from Sam’s place on Sunday night, and was pleasantly surprised when he reached the bottom of his to-do list an hour earlier than expected. Yes, it was two o’clock in the morning, but thank god, he was done. At least for another day.

He curled up in bed while still wearing his day clothes, and only shed them come morning at work, when he took the best shower he’d taken since that time with Cas. He had to hurry afterwards though, because he wasn’t the only guy who used these bathrooms in the mornings. The PE teachers used it too, and they were both huge and sweaty, and Dean always preferred to be gone by the time they showed up.

He felt rushed throughout that entire morning, and had felt like that for a whole week previously, not even having had the time to read that picture book to the kids. But by Monday evening, Dean relaxed back into Sam’s couch, took the coffee that Jess offered, and let go of all stresses. Sam’s couch was the best place for that, as the past weekend had proven.

When discussion late that night turned to the fact that Sam had just won a gloriously money-earning case, Dean’s phone buzzed with a new message.

“Hold that thought,” Dean muttered to Jess, who’d been about to explain.

Dean flipped his phone open. His heart kind of sparked when he saw the name.

And then he shifted his coffee mug closer to his crotch to hide his reaction when he saw the message.

[New Message
Received at 21:14 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
I’m naked]

“Uhhh,” Dean dragged out, his eyes shifting to Jess, then Sam, who were waiting patiently with curious expressions on their faces. “Got a message.”

“Ooh, who from?” Jessica asked, in a sing-song voice.

Dean was all set to excuse himself and leave the room, but he’d spilled enough in his drunken state over the weekend to realise that Sam probably already knew. “H- His name’s Cas,” Dean said, meeting Sam’s eye.

Dean gulped, flipped his phone shut, then stared at it. “He’s a guy.”

Sam huffed, a smirk drawing up the side of his face.

Dean blinked a few times, then leaned over his knees, scouring his insides for courage to just spit it out already. But what came out was less a statement for Sam, than a question for Jess.

“Is it weird if... Like, you meet someone, and...”

He shook his head, sucking on his lower lip, then started again. “I know it’s... traditional, or whatever, that people are meant to find one person, and s- save it for marriage, right?”

Jess nodded, slipping her hand over to Sam’s knee. Dean saw the movement but didn’t comment, because it definitely wasn’t the right time.

“But, okay, what if a― a theoretical dude - had slept only with one person, aaand... that was the person he fell for? Shouldn’t he, like, try it with more people? And see if he actually really likes it?”

Dean tried so hard not to look at Sam and Jess as he spoke, but his eyes flicked up and took in their blank, yet knowing expressions. “Because this theoretical dude has only done it with one...” he breathed out, clutching his phone to his knee, “one guy. And he maybe likes him - like a lot. And it’s fucking freaking me out, man,” he finished, his face collapsing against a hand as he closed his eyes.

He knew the ‘theoretical man’ cover was crappy and weak, but it made him feel a smidgen safer.

Jess hooked her hair behind her ear, smiling at Dean from Sam’s side. “Dean?”

Dean looked at her properly, not hiding behind his hand any more.

“I think,” Jess said, glancing to Sam, who gave her a warm smile in return, “that just because it’s old and traditional, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Your, um, theoretical man, might see the potential of having some fun with different men, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t stick with the one he has. If he really likes him that much, I mean.”

Dean exhaled slowly, looking steadily back at Jessica. “Yeah. Um.” He gulped. “Thanks.”

Dean’s phone buzzed again, and he glanced down at it, then looked up for the others’ permission to go and answer it.

“Go on,” Jess urged, grinning.

Dean nodded and stood up, holding tight to his phone as he walked towards the door to the hallway. Sam and Jess’ apartment was pretty huge; shiny and modern in its design, and the carpet was squishy under Dean’s socks.

Dean paused at the white doorway as he heard Sam’s voice call out after him, “You know, Dean, I’ve - uh - I’ve known for years.”

Dean turned his face, not quite meeting Sam’s eye from across the room. “Known what, exactly.”

“That you like guys.”

Dean rubbed his phone against his forehead, jumping as it buzzed again. He felt weird. Exposed, kind of weird. But also good.

He didn’t really know what to say to Sam, so he left.

He went to the guest bedroom, found the light switch and closed the door. He threw himself onto the bed, bouncing on his ass until he felt comfortable. Then he flipped open his phone.

[2 New Messages]

He selected his inbox and scrolled to the one received right after Castiel declared his nakedness.

[New Message
Received at 21:18 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
I’m masturbating in my brother’s garden hot tub. He’s gone out to drink a liquor store.]

And you’re texting me while you do it, Dean thought. So, evidently, Castiel thought about him when he jerked off. Hell yes.

Dean pressed buttons until the most recently-received message popped up.

[New Message
Received at 21:19 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
Wish you were here]

That shot straight to Dean’s dick. He didn’t bother thinking twice before he stuck his hand on his crotch, undid his zipper, and slid his fingers inside his boxers.

He started pulling on himself slowly, concentrating more on what he typed into his phone than what he was doing with his other hand.

[Im jealous of that hot tub, it gets to c u doin that.]

As soon as the message sent, he let himself sink into a rhythm, closing his eyes and spreading his legs across the duvet beneath him. The movement of his hand was relaxing, and he felt a low simmer of arousal rather than the sharp twangs of need he felt when Castiel was right in front of him. But his stomach still flipped with excitement when his phone buzzed a minute later.

[New Message
Received at 21:22 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
Ah, but the fun is in the imagination. What are you doing right now?]

Dean grinned at the fact that Castiel seemed to be quite a dextrous sexter. All the classic questions - and they were classic for a reason.

[Alone in sams guest bdrm. Wearng pink satin panties and jerking to thoughts of u]

The fun was in the imagination, right? As far as Dean was concerned, panties would heighten any fantasy. They certainly did it for him.

Dean felt himself leaking against the elastic of his boxers, and he kind of liked how it got cold and dragged across his pubic hair. He shoved a pillow under his head so he could watch himself, watching the plump head of his cock vanishing under his fist.

[New Message
Received at 21:25 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
Now imagine me walking out of the tub, erect and naked. Dropping to my knees to suck on you through the ratio.]

Dean whined, his breath becoming uneven as his hand worked faster, pulling himself harder. God, he wanted that. He wanted Cas on his knees, his owlish eyes looking up at him, bright and innocent, while his mouth did all sorts of dirty things to Dean’s cock.

But... ratio?

Another buzz; another message.

[New Message
Received at 21:25 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
*satin. Sorry predictive text.]

Dean smirked, then composed his reply, not really caring if it made sense.

[Ur makin me so wet cas. We’re gonna have 2 get hot n heavy to dry off]

He rolled onto his front, knelt into the mattress and stuck his face into his pillow, muffling his moan. Maybe Castiel would fuck him like this, while he was all hunched up, curled over a bed. Get him from behind.

Before he’d even given a chance for Castiel to reply, Dean started typing again, one-handed. He gasped into his pillow, his hips keeping up their rhythm, but he was barely able to see the screen from his position. He typed mostly from memory of the keys, figuring Cas wouldn’t care if he screwed up his typing.

[U evr dome anal?]

He sent the message, and groaned deep and low, rolling forward as he fucked his hand. Jesus, just the thought of getting a guy inside him for real - getting Cas inside him... He was dripping onto the duvet, and Dean knew he’d have to wash this cover himself, since Jess wouldn’t touch it. For now, though, he didn’t give a fuck, because fuck.

[New Message
Received at 21:28 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
Yes I have had anal sex before. Have you?]

Dean was having trouble staying composed enough to flip onto his back and type. His legs were shaking, and he was so goddamn hard that his cockhead was right up against his abdomen, and he could feel its heat.

[Not 4 real. But im “open” to try it with u if u want]

His breath was broken and hasty as he pressed send. He hoped that Cas would recognise what he meant with the emphasising quotes.

For a moment, Dean wished he had his vibrator here, just so he could say he had a cock inside him. Pretend it was Cas.

But... he and Cas could have that. They could actually, legitimately try it for real. Dean moaned out loud to the ceiling as his eyes fell half-shut, and he didn’t care if Sam or Jess could hear him, because right now this was just about Dean loving his thoughts, loving that Cas was there for him to play with, to try out all the shit that he’d never had the chance to before.

Something about that potential was just as fucking hot to Dean as the thought of Cas making him come into a pair of pretty satin panties.

[New Message
Received at 21:30 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
You’re a bottom? I never expected that. (I like it though)]

Dean laughed to the empty room, changing the angle of his hand around his cockhead. “C’mon, Cas, it’s not like I want you to whip me or anything,” he muttered, rolling his eyes. Then he smirked, and tapped out his reply.

[Id bottom 4 u, i trust u not 2 hurt me]

He stared at that for a moment, blinking. His hand slowed between his legs, the heavy tingle fading the longer he stared.

There was something so significant about what he’d typed, the same kind of significance as what he’d told Sam and Jess a little while before. Maybe Cas was the one guy for him. And maybe that was because Dean trusted him.

Dean found it so hard to completely trust other men after the crap that went down when he was a kid. He’d thought for years that the reason his sexual preferences were so fucked up was because of that. But he’d since come to realise that his bisexuality was a natural part of him, not a reaction to trauma.

Just like he was realising that, for once, he trusted a male other than Uncle Bobby or Sam.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to press send. But he closed his eyes and did it anyway.

The phone buzzed with a new message before he’d even lowered his hand, and he opened it.

[New Message
Received at 21:33 05-07-12
Sender: #ServiceProvider(?)
We’re sorry, you do not have enough credit to send a text message. To top up, please]

The message cut off at the bottom of the screen, but Dean didn’t bother scrolling down.

“Shit,” he complained, a frown creasing his forehead.

[New Message
Received at 21:34 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
Sorry, didn’t mean to insult you. May we continue?]

Dean gulped, his hand in his boxers barely squeezing at all now. Castiel thought Dean’s lack of reply was because he got pissy about the bottom thing. Crap.

“I’m not fucking insulted, Cas,” Dean murmured at his screen, feeling a sinking stone in his stomach as the light of the phone screen flicked off, going into standby.

Dean kept on touching himself, but his heart wasn’t really in it.

Screw being broke. He worked harder than so many people, and he got jack shit for it. He wished he could just text out for a top-up and have it pulled straight from his bank account, but that was twenty bucks off this week’s food bill. He’d basically starve, or end up living at Sam’s place, and neither of those things were preferable.

[New Message
Received at 21:37 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
Dean, are you still there?]

Dean rolled onto his front, curled up in the fetal position, and jerked himself off under the blanket, staring at the dark shape of his phone as it rested half-under the pillow. The warmth in him was reassuring, and the full-body throbs he felt were pleasurable, but it wasn’t the same as before.

He closed his eyes and kept going until he came, focusing on the splatter of wet heat that spread on his stomach and soaked into the hem of his faded Led Zeppelin t-shirt. He ignored the phone as it buzzed again. It was hardly going to make him feel any better now, was it?

He lay in the dark for a while, listening to his own breathing, feeling his breath fog his own face as it grew humid under the duvet. He tried not to think about anything at all.

After maybe ten minutes, he sighed and sat up, shoving the blanket off after wiping himself down with it. He stood up and tugged his jeans on properly, tucked himself into his boxers, and did up his zipper with an air of finality.

With a sigh, he sat down so heavily on the bad that it creaked, then he flipped open his phone to check that last message.

[New Message
Received at 21:45 05-07-12
Sender: Cas
My brother is back. He’s a very musical drunk. I’m going to hide in his study.]

Dean snorted, smiling at the screen. He hoped Castiel got out of the hot tub without being seen, even if it did make a nice mental picture, him standing there naked with his feet turned inwards, eyes wide like a deer in the headlights, hands over his erection. Dean chewed the inside of his lip, losing himself in that for a few seconds.

Then he sighed again, pocketed the phone, and went to open the bedroom door with his clean hand. He walked to the bathroom first and washed up, before heading back to Sam and Jess, who were chatting in the kitchen.

“Everything go okay?” Jess asked, turning around beside the dishwasher, having just set it to run.

Dean licked his lips, eyes darting to the floor. “Ran outta credit.”

Sam clattered a decorative dish, setting it straighter on top of the fridge. “I can shout you some cash if you want. Here―” He grabbed for his back pocket, pulling out his wallet.

“Oh, Jesus, no,” Dean growled, holding up a hand. “Look, I’m not one of your charity cases, it’s just a phone. It’s not a big deal.”

“Dean, don’t be a jerk, take it.” Sam shoved a twenty into Dean’s resisting hand. “I earned a few thousand this week, it’s not like it’s a dent in my wallet. You use that phone for work. It’s your freaking landline, Dean. God knows why you won’t get a real phone.”

Dean fiddled with the edge of the paper, staring at President Jackson’s face. “I don’t because I can’t afford it,” he muttered, knowing Sam had won this fight.

“Anyway, I was gonna tell you, I had this pro-bono case I was working on,” Sam said, his tone light like he was continuing from where he left off with Jessica, but Dean knew he was repeating it all from the beginning for his benefit. “Some crazy adoptive family, I only agreed to it because I had some experience with their background, as you know.”

Dean’s interest piqued, and he looked up and blinked. “What was the case about?”

“Oh, just some buttface brother wanted to sue the younger one for trespassing. Even though he owns a share of the property.” Sam turned back to the fridge, clacking it open and going for a handful of beers. “Took more than two weeks, but at the end, Gabe paid me for winning it for him, so there’s that.”

Sam knocked his bottle cap onto the dining table, then popped the cap of Dean’s beer and held it over the table towards him.

Dean stared past it like it was invisible. “Uh. That... wouldn’t happen to be the Godson family, would it?”

Sam smiled. “Your ‘Cas’ wouldn’t happen to be Castiel Godson, would it?”

Dean’s jaw slid open. “What the fuck.”

Sam laughed, leaning back on the kitchen sideboard as Jess walked past with a frozen meatloaf in her hands. “He’s been stuck in between the guys, he wouldn’t let himself pick a side for moral compass reasons. But yeah,” Sam shrugged, “he’s more partial to Gabe than Michael. He was sneaking me blackmail-worthy stories about Michael under the table every time he got the chance.”

Dean just stood there with the beer in his hand, only now becoming aware that Sam had shoved it into his grip. “Sammy, did you know about this? About me and... Cas?”

Sam swallowed a gulp of beer, playing it cool. “Someone may have mentioned.”

Dean bumped his eyebrows, staring at the condensation that was collecting on the side of the brown glass. “Sneaky bastard.”

“Heh. That’s one way to describe him.”

Dean bit down on his lower lip for a second, then his gaze shot back to Sam’s, locking eyes with him. “So you like him?”

Sam nodded once, his chin dipping all the way down. “I’m gonna give him half the win money. He deserves it. God, he is smart. I mean, you’re pretty damn sharp, but he’s probably smarter than you would be at his age.”

Dean swallowed down a lump in his throat. “What’d you mean? How old is he?!”

Sam was beaming across the kitchen table, his bottle almost to his lips. “He’s thirty-five.”

Dean breathed out a huff of relief. For a few terrifying seconds, he’d had a rush of oh god what if he’s fifty and just looks younger, and he silently berated himself for not having asked Cas his age earlier, if only to save himself the embarrassment of having Sam laugh at the expression on his face.

“No, he’s a couple years older than you,” Sam continued, still grinning. “You’d be good together, I guess.” He gave an amused huff, one side of his smile higher than the other.

Dean still felt weird. In just one night he’d willingly opened up to Sam more than he had in months, and he hadn’t even been tipsy. He’d given away the secret. And... yeah. It was okay.

It felt okay.

Dean smiled back at Sam, finally. “Thanks.” But then he shook his head, “I dunno if it’s serious, or whatever. It started off just being nothing but a good time had by all, and then... it happened again.”

Sam’s eyes fell to Jessica, who was smiling at the meatloaf she was sliding into the oven.

“So, like,” Dean said, pausing to take his first sip of beer, “he knew you were―”

Dean stopped suddenly. He stared at Sam, felt his own nostrils flare, then he set down his beer on the table so he wouldn’t drop it. “He fucking knew who you were before the case started. He knew you were my brother. And the second time me and him - whatever - he didn’t even mention you. He knew.”

Sam cackled, winding his arm around Jessica’s waist. “I told you he was a sneaky bastard.”

Dean shook his head in utter disdain. “Ugh. That’s it. I don’t have time to go top up my phone, give me yours. I’m gonna call him.”

Sam’s smile faded, but he reached for his Blackberry. “Don’t... Don’t harass him about it, okay? I’m sure he had his reasons.”

“Yeah, I bet he did.”

Dean snatched the phone, then stomped out of the kitchen and into the living room, making sure neither Sam nor Jess were watching through the open partition wall between the rooms.

Then he flicked through the contacts, cursing his thumbs for hitting the wrong tiny buttons. He ended an accidental call to ‘Beverley Ling (Chrys. 1856)’ before it made the first ring, then at last got to ‘Castiel Godson (Tresp. 2372)’ and dialled without so much as a breath of hesitation.

Ring. Ring-ring. Ring-ring.

“If you can text me sexy shit, you can pick up a fucking phone, Cas―”

“I heard that,” came Castiel’s crisp voice from the speaker.

“Well, good,” Dean snapped, frowning at the beige carpet. “You and I need to have a talk, buster.”

“I assume this is about the case. Since this is Sam’s phone.”

“Yeah, it is.” Dean started pacing, glancing up to Sam and Jess, who were both obviously listening while pretending not to be. “Why didn’t you goddamn tell me you knew my brother? Is that why you picked him for the case? Were you trying to do background checks on me? Look, those criminal records aren’t―”

“It wasn’t about that. But you’re going to be explaining those criminal records later. I picked him because―”

“This better be good.”

“―Because, he was working pro-bono. My brothers may have money in abundance, but I don’t. I was the one who hired him, and essentially we picked each other. And I didn’t tell you because it could interfere with the case, given you’re so close to Gabe’s lawyer and― and to me. It was nothing but a precaution. I didn’t know anything about your history with foster care until you told me. Everything you and I did together remained private.”

Dean stood still, staring at the stereo system on the side wall beside the drawn curtains. “Then how did Sam know you and me were a thing?”

Castiel was quiet for a moment. “I don’t know. At the time Sam and I were introduced, you and I had only met once. I simply told him I knew you, nothing more.”

Sam interrupted from the kitchen. “You told me, you idiot, when you bumbled on about theoretical men, and a guy named Cas. I’m not stupid, Dean, I can add up.”

Dean and Castiel were both silent, Dean aware of very faint breathing at the other end of the line.

“I heard that, also,” Castiel said at last, and Dean could sense his smile.

“Uh.” Dean started pacing again, slower this time, dragging his feet. “I... feel kinda stupid right about now. Sonofabitch.”

“Is―” Castiel cleared his throat away from the phone, then returned, his voice clearer than before. “Is this why you didn’t reply earlier? You were mad at me?”

Dean chuckled, tipping his head down and watching his feet swing up, socks coming loose. “Nah. Ran outta credit. Sorry about that.”

“Oh, I see.” Castiel took a breath in. “I never got to, um... finish. Gabe came home, and, well.”

Dean clucked his tongue in his cheek. “Your balls must be mighty blue right about now.”

“Yeah. They are.”

Dean’s laugh came out as a slow, evil chuckle. “We could do something about that, y’know,” he said, pulling the volume of his voice down and turning away from the kitchen. “Tonight? For real this time, not over my brother’s phone.”

“It’s gone ten on a Monday night,” Castiel said, and Dean heard his frown.

“Aw, widdle baby needs to be in bed on time?”

“Yes, actually. I have work at eight.”

“Same, seven-thirty for me.” Dean sighed, wriggling his toes deep into the carpet. He wished he had carpet like this. His was old and stained, and felt like sandpaper under bare feet.

There was a silence that extended a good few seconds, but Castiel broke it with, “I could meet you at the library, if you wanted.”

“When?”

“...Tonight.”

Dean felt a simmer of heat burst back into life low in his belly. “What about our curfews?”

“Screw that, Dean, I’m horny,” Castiel said, so bluntly that Dean broke out in a guffaw that went to his head as much as it went to his dick.

“Cas, you are something else, I’ll give you that,” Dean grinned, panting for breath as his eyes cleared of laughter-induced tears. “All right then. Shall we say eleven?”

“Eleven it is.”

Dean stopped himself before he said “It’s a date.” The silence at the other end sounded much like Castiel had stopped himself saying the exact same thing.

“See you then,” Dean said. “I’m gonna... hang up... now.”

“Right.”

“Right.” Dean was still grinning at the floor. “Uh.”

“Oh, for god’s sake, De―” The phone line cut off, and started beeping.

Dean hummed a very pleased note, stroking the side of Sam’s phone.

“You done with that, Ilsa Lund?”

Dean rolled his eyes and slapped the phone into Sam’s waiting hand, trying not to meet his gaze. “I’m gonna have to skip out on you for dessert; I’ve got a thing.”

Sam mock-dropped the phone in mock-shock. And then mockingly gasped out, “Dean Winchester, skipping dessert, for a boy?!

“Shut up,” Dean said, failing to hide his smile. He directed the same smile to Jess as she came into the living room and slid her arm around Sam’s waist.

“I hope you have a good evening, honey,” Jess said, one mascaraed eye winking shut.

“Yeah.” Dean heaved a deep breath, trying to avoid the mental image of himself with little wings on his feet, floating half a foot above the floor with hearts in his eyes.

It really felt like that, though. Holy shit.

“I’m gonna... go,” he muttered, edging a thumb over his shoulder and shuffling his feet towards the door of the apartment. “Guess I’ll see you soon? How’s Wednesday night?”

“Sure, whenever’s good.” Sam fluttered a hand to Dean. “Now go do your thing, you’re swamping our apartment in your lovey-dovey crap.”

“Believe me, I come in here and I’m already drowning,” Dean tutted, putting his feet into his boots but not bothering to do up the laces. “You and Jess’ve got enough overflowing love to start your own brothel. Or a therapist’s office. It could go either way.”

“Bit like you then,” Sam said, with a playful lightness.

Dean snorted, his hand on the door handle. “Touché, Sammy. Tou-fucking-ché.” He pulled the door open, stepped out into the lamp-lit hallway, and called back one last note of advice, “Don’t touch the sheets in the guest bedroom; just a heads up,” before he closed the door with a last wave to the disgusted-looking couple inside.

He hummed on his way down the concrete stairwell, bouncing faster than he would usually, since he might as well do this whole ‘running’ thing that Castiel was so keen on.

Ahh, everything was kinda awesome right now.

It wasn’t like last time. Dean didn’t pace around, nervous for what was to come. He practically had his nose pressed up on the glass like a kid outside a candy store, and he bounced on his heels when he saw Castiel walking up to him, his shadow blotting out the warm light from the check-in desk.

The door unlatched when Castiel reached up, his tummy showing where his shirt was untucked.

“Good evening, Mr. Winchester,” Castiel said, his voice like syrup, eyes roaming Dean’s jawline. “I hope you’ve come here to ravish me, else I may have to turn you away.”

Okay, it was weird, but Dean kinda liked when Cas talked sexy like that. His voice did things to him. Dean put his hand on the hip of Castiel’s waistcoat as he stepped inside, their bodies leaning together as Castiel stretched to replace the door bolt.

“I’ll ravish you however and wherever you want, Cas - but first, I need coffee. The crappiest kind you have.”

Castiel chuckled, taking Dean’s hand and pulling him towards the front desk. “And why is that?”

“Jess and Sam have a coffee machine. It’s great but,” he bumped Castiel with his thigh, enjoying the touch for the single second their muscles were together, “I like something filthy every once in a while.”

“Mm, filth. If the filth refers to something you’ll be doing tonight, I heartily support it.” Castiel dragged Dean behind the desk, then through the door into the back room. The ugly fluorescent light hit Dean’s face, and he winced, but blinked until he got used to it.

“I’ve got no plans in particular for tonight,” Dean shrugged, letting Castiel’s hand slip away as he went over to the long kitchen countertop at the side of the room. “Got got anything in mind?”

Castiel snorted softly, grabbing two mugs and a glass jar of instant coffee, then leaning down to pull a carton of milk out of the stumpy white fridge. “You got me thinking, from your message...”

“Uh.” Dean winced, guessing at where this thought was headed. “I’m not fully prepared for... butt things,” he said awkwardly, shuffling his feet as he leaned back against a waist-high table stacked with loose filing.

“Oh, me neither.” Castiel waved him off, not turning around as he prepared the granules, then shoved both mugs into the microwave together. “I didn’t even bring condoms in my hurry to get here,” he added, sounding sheepish.

“Neither,” Dean huffed. “I mean, I usually keep some on me, but... I, um.” He swallowed, staring at the back of Castiel’s head as Castiel watched the microwave rotate their mugs. “But I had a pretty long dry spell before I met you. It’s like... the more I got interested in guys, the less I wanted to be with girls. It’s not that my appreciation for them is any less, I just... Dunno. Don’t feel the need.”

Castiel nodded, still staring at the microwave. Dean thought he looked rather like cat watching a hamster spin its wheel. Then he smiled, because that was the second time he’d compared Castiel’s mannerisms to that of a cat.

“I’d...”

Castiel’s entire sentence was lost after that. Dean stayed quiet, until finally Castiel tried again.

“I’d not dated anyone, or... slept with anyone, for...” Castiel shrugged. “Maybe a year? Before I met you.”

“A whole year?” Dean’s eyebrows shot up. He’d had a dry spell himself, sure, but it wasn’t that long. Jesus, that was probably like a twentieth of Castiel’s entire sexually-active life - that wasn’t a dry spell, that was a drought.

Castiel crossed his arms, shoulders sinking a few inches. “I don’t really know why I suggested what I suggested when we met.”

Dean couldn’t help but ask, “Do you regret it?”

Castiel’s chin dropped to his chest, and his shoulders sank even lower. “No.”

Dean’s heart probably skipped a beat, but he wasn’t really paying attention to his heart. Only his feet, as they carried him over to Castiel, so he stood right behind him. And his arms, which wrapped gently around Castiel’s waist like Sam did to Jess. Dean leaned his chin over Castiel’s left shoulder, feeling the other man’s warmth all the way down his body.

Castiel took in a gentle, soft gasp, and turned his face so he could reach Dean’s lips. Dean sank into his mouth, lips parting each other, tongues tasting each other for the first time in almost two weeks.

The day-faded scent of myrrh coated Dean’s throat like he’d inhaled over Jesus Christ’s goddamn crib, and the feel of lips on his own was so welcome that he could barely do anything but submerge himself deeper into it.

“Mmm,” Castiel groaned out, lips slickened, his soft pink tongue just resting on his bottom lip as he pulled an inch away from Dean’s mouth, before turning his head and going back in. He swivelled in Dean’s arms so they could embrace front-to-front.

The microwave beeped, but it was ignored.

“Shit, Cas, I missed you,” Dean whispered, frowning as he snapped another kiss, then another. Their lips smacked, heads turning easily as they cradled each other’s hair, and the other’s hip. “I missed kissing you.”

“Do you―” Castiel kissed, then took a breath. “Do you still feel butterflies when you kiss me?”

Dean looked him steadily in the eye, feeling the softness in his own face, in his expression. He was a man falling in love, and he knew he looked like it. He nodded, feeling childlike, feeling too simple. He was too simple a man to fall in love. Love was too complicated.

“The butterflies never stopped.” Dean swallowed, unsurprised to find his own feelings mirrored in Castiel’s eyes. But maybe he was projecting.

“What about you?” he asked, just to check. “When you kiss me,” he set their lips together, then drove them wide and rolling, then slid them closed again and rested his mouth on Castiel’s. “...what do you feel?”

Dean felt Castiel’s smile under his lips, not needing to open his eyes at all to sense how the other man’s eyes were half-open, eyelashes fluttering. Castiel’s long fingers were spreading in Dean’s hair, holding the back of his neck. Warm.

“Good,” Castiel said. “Very good.” He kissed Dean twice more, then sighed. “I feel safe.”

Dean’s trembled internally. He knew what it meant when a person raised in a bad place felt safe.

He too felt safe with Castiel.

Dean screwed his eyes up tight, exhaling slowly and steadily on Castiel’s cheek as he began to kiss firmer, faster. Licking deeper into Castiel’s mouth, wanting to taste every part of him. Dean only pulled away for air, drawing in a shaky, tight breath.

“Cas, I need you,” he whispered.

He only realised a moment later how that sounded. He’d meant he needed to make love to him, to hold him in his arms, in his hands, to taste what was there to be tasted. But the way Castiel was looking at him now, eyebrows folded out, blue eyes glimmering like an ocean of I know...

He’d meant it the way he’d said it, and they both knew it.

“Other room,” Castiel said, firmly. “Now.”

Dean didn’t argue as Castiel took him by the lapel of his leather jacket and hauled him back to the library’s open-plan area, which seemed gloomy after the fluorescent glare of the back room. Castiel led him blindly, knowing exactly where he was going, and when Dean’s eyes adjusted, he saw that they were nearing the black leather couch where he and Castiel had shared their first conversation.

Castiel led Dean around to the front of it, facing the library and the sloping glass ceiling, and pushed him down against the seat. Castiel straddled Dean’s lap; his mouth found Dean’s lips and began undulating his whole body against him, a low sound coming from deep in Castiel’s throat.

“Cas?” Dean garbled, the syllable mostly lost into Castiel’s smooth kiss.

“Hm?”

“Sit beside me? I wanna try somethin’.”

Castiel gave a long, tight roll of his hips into Dean’s lap, both their excitement becoming obvious. Then he flipped and sat to Dean’s right, looking at him, his profile lit with orange from the side, where the table lamp still poured out its dim light to the room.

Dean licked his lips, then reached a hand over to touch Castiel’s crotch. He fiddled with the zipper, not able to see it, but was rewarded when he grabbed it, pressing its metal tongue between his thumb and forefinger. Castiel bucked up slowly, forcing Dean’s hand to tug down, and Dean’s body coursed with anticipation as the sound of the zipper breached his hearing.

Dean stuck his hand under the elastic waistband of Castiel’s underwear, and oh, he loved this moment. He loved when he could put his hand down there and find a meaty, fleshy stiffness waiting for him, so soft on the surface, but hardening noticeably as he pulled it free of the cloth.

Dean moaned under his breath, seeing how the starlight through the glass ceiling caressed the side of Cas’ cock. Stroking it, just like Dean did.

Then Dean sighed, braced a hand against the back of the couch, and leaned forward to take the flesh into his lips.

Castiel’s hips twitched, then rolled upward into Dean’s mouth, and Castiel made such an almighty noise that Dean’s jaw relaxed enough in reaction that he could take another inch. Castiel tasted just as good as last time, the aroma of his masculinity just as beautifully provocative.

Dean swallowed when a burst of heat slipped on his tongue, pre-fluid that Dean recognised the sourness of. He wondered if other men would taste like that. He wondered if the fates would ever turn so that he might find out.

But maybe he didn’t want to. Maybe Castiel’s emissions were the only flavour he would ever taste.

Maybe that was okay.

Dean sucked, then made a gross slurping noise and winced at the sensation of his own saliva building in his mouth, realising he’d have to swallow it. He grunted as he pulled away, and screwed up his face as he discarded his jacket, then wiped his face on his henley sleeve.

“You would drool more in that position,” Castiel said, as if it was obvious. “It’ll get easier with practice.”

“And you’d let me practice on you, huh?” Dean was trying to be jokey, but crap, again, he’d let slip these fucking feelings. He wasn’t supposed to say that shit out loud.

Castiel didn’t need to know that Dean was all set to stick around for life. Dean wasn’t meant to be a lifer. Dean Winchester was promiscuous. The dry spell said nothing against that; it was what it was: a lull in the barrage of human need. Nothing meaningful at all.

But wasn’t this human need too?

To be wanted? To be...

God, don’t, Dean said to himself. Don’t even think it.

Castiel’s lips were right against Dean’s ear, and his words came like thunder in distant mountains, grating against the ground of Dean’s heart, shaking his skies. “You can practice, any time I’m here. Any time I’m with you.”

Dean kissed him once, trying to make it quick so he could speak, but losing himself in it for a moment.

Finally, “So... so, I gotta ask, this you ‘n me thing, is it...” He licked his lips. “Is it exclusive? Just you and me, nobody else on the side?”

Castiel pulled back suddenly, the warmth in his eyes shading over with wariness. “Why do you ask?”

Dean’s grin came out wobbly. “‘cause, I dunno, I feel like I’d get jealous if you went off with another dude.” He shrugged, eyes falling to Castiel’s glistening cock.

Castiel leaned in to kiss him, softly. Softer than before.

It was then that Dean pieced together that Castiel had thought he meant Dean wanted other people. No. Dean was promiscuous, but only with one person at once, unless a three-way was happening. And hey, that was one time.

If Dean ever slept with another guy - or any other person, that would be because Castiel was gone.

Dean told Castiel that, in those same words.

Castiel smiled into the next kiss he ran against Dean’s lips, and immediately began to undo Dean’s pants.

Dean groaned to the empty library as he leaned back, eyes barely seeing the stars through the glass as total bliss took over. Castiel was nothing less than an expert cocksucker. He didn’t even need to lift his mouth free as he twisted on the couch, slipping off it and going to kneel between Dean’s open legs.

Dean opened his mouth and cried out with sounds he had no real words for; Castiel’s eyes were set firmly on his, his dark hair lit by starlight and moonlight as the moon edged over the corner of the building. His hands lay spread on Dean’s thighs, thumbs rubbing; his mouth formed a perfect ‘O’ around Dean’s cock - and fuck, the suction of his cheeks was faint, but insanely consistent.

Then Castiel’s eyes fell shut, and he groaned.

The sound vibrated in Dean’s pliant body; he felt so supple and weak-boned, but it was like electricity sparked in his veins, setting fire to his walls. His fuse was blown. His head tipped against the back of the couch, his lips parted, hands useless at his sides.

“Oh... C...as...”

“Mmmh.”

Dean concentrated on how good it felt to have such a scorching heat around him. Soft; soft like velvet. Like wet, heated jersey bed sheets in summer, like a fresh orgasm inside a pair of panties, the release still hot and touching his skin.

And Castiel purred like a freakin’ cat, eyes half-closed, hair a mess from Dean’s tugging hand, cheeks flushed and hollowed out as he kept on sucking, head bobbing gently. Slick, sliding down, back up, tongue lashing over Dean’s slit at the peak of his pattern, swallowing his pre-come every time.

“Cas... Cas, I wanna...”

“Hm?” Castiel asked, turning his head as he swallowed, mouth wide around Dean’s base this time.

“Fuck me?”

The thrill Dean got just from saying those words was immense. He’d never said those words. He’d never asked a girl to latch on a strap-on, get him over a desk and take him. He’d never even whispered those words to himself when he lay in bed in the dark, his vibrator on full, pounding into himself at the pace of his own moving hand.

He’d never dared, because it was the most vulnerable thing he could possibly say, outside of confessing his feelings.

He knew that was the wrong thing to think. Women wanted to be fucked sometimes, and that wasn’t vulnerable, that was human. Dean was human, and he wanted it.

God, did he want it.

“I don’t have a co―”

“Not properly. Just pretend. Get behind me.”

Castiel’s breath was uneven as he rested his sore lips on Dean’s scrotum, panting faster ever since Dean spoke out his desires. Oh, yes. Castiel kinda liked that, didn’t he?

“You’ve topped before, right?” Dean grinned, looking up into Castiel's eager face as he clambered up, dark eyes set on Dean’s.

Castiel paused, one leg on the couch and the other on the floor, slacks draping around his thighs and collecting on the tops of his cowboy boots.

“You haven’t,” Dean realised, speaking quietly.

Castiel dipped his head, gaze falling to the open collar of Dean’s henley. “I don’t think I usually come across as the... forceful type.”

Dean slung a hand around the back of Castiel’s neck, pulled him in for a slow, wet kiss. He tasted like Dean’s pre-come, and Castiel’s saliva was far more bitter than before.

Dean exhaled as he pulled their lips apart by an inch, so he could speak. “Topping someone’s not about force, not unless you both want it to be. Sometimes it’s just about putting your dick in the other guy. Sometimes it’s about... I dunno,” he kissed Castiel, eyelashes dancing on his cheek as they turned their faces, “about taking the weight off the other guy. Letting him...”

Dean swallowed, hearing it in his ears. “Letting him feel safe.”

Castiel started rocking against Dean’s cock, the wetness of them both like heaven to Dean’s senses. He gasped, then muttered a weak note as the slide of saliva started rubbing away, and the friction returned, more stimulating than ever before.

“Safety isn’t something I’ve felt with many partners,” Castiel sighed, leaning his chest right against Dean’s, his waistcoat buttons dragging patterns over Dean’s cotton top. “You’re the only one I’ve actually... trusted, I suppose.” He hummed a soft laugh, then added, “I suppose that’s a crazy thing to say. I’m sorry.”

Dean blinked. That wasn’t crazy, no way. He’d been about to tell Castiel the exact same thing not much more than an hour earlier, via text message.

“What’s crazy about trust?” Dean looked into Castiel’s eyes, trying to catch sight of whatever he could in the light of the rising moonlight, and in the snatches of lamplight that occasionally brushed Castiel’s cheeks.

Castiel breathed out another laugh and shook his head. “Not trust in general.” He changed the pace and angle of his gentle rolling hip thrusts, made them harder, and he exerted more force as he nudged his cock against Dean’s, hard flesh to the bone of Dean’s hip and the muscle there.

“Then...?” Dean pressed.

“Trusting you is what’s crazy. I’ve only met you three times.”

Dean was a little stunned by that. “Wh― No, it’s more than that?”

“I met you here, on this couch. We touched for the first time that night; maybe that counts as two times, but I see it as just one. The next time I saw you, we went on the trip together.”

“And jerked off in the shower.” Dean chuckled as he kissed Castiel’s neck, first with a soft peck, then opening his mouth to lick his unshaven stubble.

“And then you came here with you class and borrowed And Tango Makes Three,” Castiel continued.

“Still haven’t read that to my class yet, they keep begging me for Potter.”

Castiel moaned a guttural sound against Dean’s forehead, lips shivering. Dean figured that was more to do with the kisses he was pressing to Castiel’s neck than the mention of Harry Potter, but hey, this dude was a librarian, he was bound to have a few weird kinks...

“And―”

Castiel gasped, head flung back as he started riding into Dean, pants pulled wide open across Dean’s thighs, the toes of his boots over the sides of the couch as he knelt on it. “And then we texted. Th― Then called... oh... And now...”

Dean grabbed Castiel’s lower back, hauling him in close so he could growl into his ear, lips nipping his earlobe, “And now, we’re gonna fuck.”

Castiel got thrown off Dean’s lap, and he scrambled for the place beside Dean on the couch, just as Dean turned himself over, facing the front desk, boots on the floor, pants halfway down his legs. He slowly set his knees on the couch, his forearms on the backrest, then shifted one hand to pull his boxer-briefs down to where his pants were.

His ass was presented for Castiel, who stood up and moved to behind Dean. A hand landed on Dean’s bare hip, pushing his henley so it rode up almost to his shoulders. Dean leant up quickly and threw the shirt off. The library wasn’t cold, nor was it warm. His nipples were hard, and he smirked as he started to play with one, teasing and pinching.

“C’mon, Cas,” Dean encouraged. He wiggled his ass, ever so subtly. “Know you wanna.”

“Yes,” Castiel admitted, a sigh of relief on his breath. “One day, I would love to... to penetrate you, wholly.”

“Oh, believe me, you will. You got no idea h- how bad I want it. I’m hard as fuck just thinkin’ about it. Cock’s dripping. God,” he laughed, “Cas, I might just come just― uhnhh... just from thinking what you’d be like...”

Dean’s heart probably stopped at the second he felt the slick, hot bar of the male erection that slid between his upper thighs.

“O...hhh...”

Castiel’s cockhead nudged at the back of Dean’s testicles, a dot of pre-come touching to the light hair there. Dean began trembling, unable to move his legs tighter out of the simple fact that doing that couldn’t possibly make it any better. This was it. This was what sex was meant to be for Dean; trust, intimacy, an ultimatum of years of pent-up desire.

And pleasure. So much that Dean felt like he’d lost the ability to orgasm and was riding on a permanent high, it was just that good.

“Do you like this?” Castiel asked, sounding unsure. Both hands were on the back of Dean’s hips, and his cock was gliding between Dean’s thighs now, perineum wet with hot pre-come. This was so close to filling him with a solid, living flesh; absolute perfection.

“Y... Cas... please... gonna die... oh god...”

Castiel laughed, leaning forward over Dean’s back to surround him in a kind of hug, kisses descending onto Dean’s spine, starting at the knot at the top and falling downward as Castiel gracefully straightened back up.

“Push your legs together, Dean.”

“No... no, if I do that I’ll come, it’s... Shit, Cas, this is exactly what I’ve wanted... Seventeen years... I’ve wan― wanted this... for almost two fucking decades... and... Mmm, please, please just... Cas...”

Dean was actually dead right now, he’d bet his life on it. It wasn’t possible to feel this much relief, coupled with desire, with neverending want. To want more but be afraid to have it, fearing it would end. For all that was holy in this world or the next, he never wanted this to end.

Castiel rumbled out a dissatisfied note. “If you won’t do it, I will,” he said.

And he grabbed one of Dean’s thighs, and knocked it right up against the other one, so Dean heard the slap of skin, felt the tickle of his leg hair as Castiel started pushing back in between his thighs.

“OUHhh...” Dean roared, sure he was going to pass out from sheer pleasure alone. “CAAAASS...”

“That’s it, that’s it Dean. You’re safe. I’ve... Dean, I’ve got you.”

“Cas... oh, Cas, don’t say that, don’t... I can’t feel this, I c―”

He was emotional, but he didn’t know what the fuck he was feeling. It was like a blaze of energy in him, at the same time as a total lethargy, wanting to pull back inside himself, and equally wanting to spread out his bare soul for Castiel.

Good or bad, he didn’t know or care, because right at this second, he felt pleasure beyond human comprehension. He couldn’t think.

“Dean...” Castiel said his name like it was precious. Sacred. More beautiful than Dean had ever believed possible.

“Cas... finish me. Finish it. Make me...”

Castiel was curled over him now, body flexing and writhing against Dean, desperate to finish, racing for the end.

Climax.

The surge of incredible exhilaration rose in Dean like a firework. He felt it spark, felt it bloom into a bright light that seemed to white out every star that glimmered from the sky above. Then it took off, hurling and smashing through his body, reaching every limb, every fingertip, every single nerve in his skin.

And it exploded in him, and his knuckles turned so white against the backrest of the couch that the moment he took his first breath afterwards, free of inner flame, he saw his knuckles and thought he’d died and become a ghost.

By the time he realised he was most definitely alive, he noticed that Castiel had come too, and wetness was dribbling down the inside of Dean’s thighs. In all honesty, it was the best orgasm Dean had experienced in living memory.

Cas,” he breathed, so stunned he struggled to pull in air. “Oh god, that was amazing.”

Castiel’s lips smiled against Dean’s bare shoulder, and warm breath gusted over Dean’s skin as Castiel sighed. “Yes. But it’s not over yet.”

“What?”

Castiel’s soft laugh was positively evil. “I’ve always wanted to try this.”

He set his hand under Dean’s ass, his middle finger in the slippery crease of his perineum. He started to rub that finger, sliding it back and forth in the dip, staying close to Dean’s anus at first, then sliding it in a rhythm an inch closer to Dean’s scrotum. He pressed quite hard, enough that Dean screwed up his face and blinked in confusion.

“What’re you doing?”

“Trying to find your prostate,” Castiel replied, keeping up the nudging.

“But that’s inside.”

“Yeah,” Castiel said, “But I can find it like this, too.”

“So how does it―” Dean’s eyes widened and he took in a cold, sudden gasp.

“Ah. There it is.”

Dean froze, staying stock-still while Castiel ran his finger-press over the area again, then again, over and over and over until Dean couldn’t help it - he yelped.

“AAugh― CAS! Jesus! I can’t... Cas, too much. Too much, too good. Sto― Oouuhhh...” Dean flopped down onto the couch like putty, moulding into the dip between couch cushions, not caring that his pants were around his knees or his boots were still on, laces undone.

“I’m gonna sleep,” he murmured, already half-gone.

Castiel exhaled a soft, bewildered sound. But Dean found himself warming with a different kind of pleasure altogether when Castiel lay down at his side, a hand sliding on his bare chest, going to rest over his heart. Dean gazed down at the blue eyes that caught the moonlight, and he smiled.

“G’night, Cas.”

Castiel craned upwards to place a soft, unmistakably loving kiss on Dean’s lips. They both lingered, before breaking away. Castiel settled down, and Dean barely heard his returned goodnight before he slipped away into a cloud of complete paradise.

This wasn’t Dean’s bed.

He ran a weirdly bitter-smelling hand over his eyes, trying to figure out why he could see the stars. It felt like Sam’s leather couch under him, but the light was wrong. The walls were too far away.

Then he heard a gentle breath against his bare chest, and he looked down.

He gasped, becoming aware of the face pressed to his skin, the body beside him. Castiel.

“Cas?” he gritted out, blinking hard to try and disperse the fuzziness in his eyes. “Cas, wake up.”

Castiel murmured, but inhaled and shifted when Dean cleared his throat. “D’n?”

“Right here, buddy. We’re still in the library.” Dean squinted, then wriggled his arm, shifting it out from under Castiel’s shoulder so he could lift it over his head and press the button on the side of his watch. The screen lit up green, and Dean’s stomach flipped when he saw the display.

[Tue 8 May 2012
04:32AM]

“It’s half-past four,” Dean announced to Castiel, wiping his eyes again. His voice hurt his throat, and his mouth pretty much tasted like garbage. “I gotta get... home, I guess.”

“You could come to my place,” Castiel said, letting out a body-stretching groan as he sat up. “It’s only a ten-minute walk from here.”

Dean awkwardly tried to pull up his underwear, which was still around his knees. His ass was quite firmly pressed to the leather, and he winced at the sound of unsticking skin as he pushed himself to his feet, going via the armrest of the couch.

“I brought my car, though,” Dean muttered, running his hand over his mussed-up hair. God, what was that smell? Maybe he didn’t want to know.

“We could drive.” Castiel shrugged, and slouched over his knees as he remained sitting.

His waistcoat was rumpled, and Dean could see a slight halo of starlight on his near-black hair. The stars were the only thing lighting the library right now, aside from the glowing EXIT sign. The orange light on the front desk had gone out, and Dean wondered if it was set on a timer.

“But,” Dean licked his lips, doing up his jeans, “I have work in three hours.”

“Is there anything you need from home, or...?”

Dean stopped for a moment to think. “No. Just a shower, I guess.”

Castiel chuckled. “I have a shower.”

Dean inhaled slowly through his open mouth. Going to Cas’ place was something of a mile-marker, wasn’t it? He could just about see this going in a different direction - towards the sort of relationship where they would crash at each other’s apartments, take work there to spread out, use each other’s showers. They weren’t just fuck buddies any more, if Dean said “yeah, sure” to this.

“Yeah. Sure.” Then Dean smiled. “Let’s go to your place.”

Castiel stood up, smiling back. “Give me a minute to lock up.”

Dean followed Castiel as he went for the set of keys on the check-in desk, swiping them into his hand without bothering to hit the light. He shouldered open the door to the back room, flipped off the switch, then jangled the keys until Dean heard the door clack.

With a sigh, Castiel turned back to Dean. “This way.”

Dean stayed at Castiel’s heels as he went in the opposite direction to the glass-front doors. Dean was led into an alcove underneath the EXIT sign, and as Castiel thumped the metal bar, the chill of the night curled over Dean’s unlaced boots.

He took in a deep breath.

He helped Castiel close the door, and stood there and watched him stick the bundle of keys against the keyhole and turn it. There had to be twenty keys on the chain, and somehow Castiel knew which one to use.

“My car’s around the other side of the building,” Dean said, gesturing down the empty street.

There was trash in the gutter, and the night breeze carried it along, making it drag against the grit. The air smelled like bus engines, with a faint hint of spring blossom, the flowers flattened into the sidewalk where Dean walked.

Castiel stayed by his shoulder, his shirtsleeve sliding easily against Dean’s leather jacket.

“You didn’t bring a coat?” Dean asked, glancing at Castiel.

“I was in a hurry.”

Dean did an internal eye roll at himself as he immediately shucked his jacket, and wrapped it over Castiel’s shoulders. “There.”

“I don’t need it, really,” Castiel said, shaking his head. But he didn’t try to remove it, which made Dean smirk.

Then his hand reached for Castiel’s, and put their palms together.

Castiel’s fingers were dry, and Dean’s thumb touched where the palm met the skin of the back of Castiel’s hand, and found that part was softer, more nourished.

“You use hand cream?” Dean asked with a laugh.

“I have to use a lot of hand sanitiser,” Castiel explained, curtly. “Library books get touched by people a lot. The amount of times Becky’s been off sick because she catches something...” He sighed.

“I’m not judging you if you do moisturise, I swear.” Dean was starting to drag his feet. He liked walking with Castiel, and the slower they got to his car, the better. They couldn’t hold hands like this if he was driving.

Castiel was quiet for a while, the only movement Dean noticed being a hand lifted to tug Dean’s jacket closer to his neck.

Then, just as they turned the corner, Castiel asked, “Do you have any pets?”

“Pets? Nope. You’ve got turtles or something, right?”

“Yes. Two.”

“What’re their names?”

Castiel opened his mouth, then laughed. “Harry and Sally.”

“Ah,” Dean said. He was more pleased at Castiel’s deep chuckle than he was amused at the reference, but he could appreciate it, at least. “How big are they?”

Castiel raised a hand. “About the size of my palm. They’re quite cute.”

“I’ll bet,” Dean grinned.

There was a joy in the way Castiel talked, when he spoke about his turtles. Dean hadn’t seen that kind of smile on him before. He’d seen it on other people, but not him.

Dean could only think of it as fatherly.

They made it to the car, and Dean let go of Castiel’s hand to grab his keys from his jacket pocket.

“Wait,” Castiel said, confused. “This is yours?”

Dean looked up at him before his eyes darted to his black Chevy, then returned to Castiel. “Yeah?”

“But...” Castiel’s forehead creased, and he crossed his arms to pull the jacket around him like a hug. “But...?”

“But what, Cas?” Dean opened the passenger-side door for Castiel, let him sit down, still frowning, then walked around to the other side. But by the time he’d sunk back into the leather, sighed, and reached for the ignition, Castiel was still frowning.

“But you don’t have enough money,” Castiel finally said, as Dean pulled out into the road.

Dean smiled, but it was a sad smile. “I ain’t selling her. No matter what. I could go broke and end up on the streets - but no way I’m letting this baby go. Which way do I go, by the way?”

“What?”

“Which way is your apartment?”

“Oh,” Castiel said, eyes flicking to the road. “Left.”

Dean directed the wheels, liking the fact that there were no other cars, no pedestrians.

“She’s...” Castiel trailed off and sank back into the seat, and Dean’s lips curled upward as he heard the surprised exhale. Hell yeah, his baby was comfy.

“She’s beautiful,” Castiel said at last, clearly thrown. “Take a right here. Then the first left.”

“She was my daddy’s,” Dean revealed, taking his time to collect his thoughts before he spoke again. “She’s the only thing I still got of... not so much of him, but of my mom. I’ve got no photos, no... Nothin’. Just the car.”

“I’m sorry,” Castiel said. There was emotion in his voice, and Dean knew just by telling Castiel that information, he’d explained everything. Castiel got it.

They drove in silence until Castiel told Dean to pull up, and he drove up onto the sidewalk, then bumped back into the road. They both winced at the grating sound of the hubcap against the curb.

“I treat her better than this usually,” Dean said as he killed the engine, face still screwed up. “I’m just hella sleepy, I don’t usually get up and drive around at half four in the morning.”

“Of course,” Castiel said, opening his door. “Now, if you’ll follow me, I have coffee.”

Dean grinned as the door shut, and he watched Castiel stand on the sidewalk with his arms folded, waiting. Dean got out and locked the car, then followed the twinkling blue eyes and the grace of the man who owned them.

Castiel buzzed himself in, handed Dean the sticky handle of the metal door, then led the way up a narrow set of stairs. There was no light on in here, but the glow from outside was bright enough that Dean saw the turn in the staircase, and kept climbing.

It didn’t smell of anything in here. Usually these stairwells smelled like cigarettes, or piss, or something dead and rotten under the tiles. But here there was no graffiti, and each door in the first corridor of apartments that they passed had its own mailbox at its side.

“You got yourself someplace fancy here, Cas,” Dean said, hearing awe in his own voice. “Is this like my car? You wouldn’t let it go for the world?”

“Nothing like that,” Castiel said, smiling as he turned his head slightly to catch Dean’s eye. They began a new set of stairs, these ones with painted tiles - coloured patterns, Greek-styled ceramic.

“But,” Castiel added, reaching the top of the stairs and lowering his head as he stopped. “But I will be moving out of this apartment in a matter of weeks, since I can’t afford it any more. The rate is high, and I always knew it was out of my budget.”

Dean could see how miserable he was about that.

Castiel turned, and led Dean through a latched-open door with safety glass in the frame. This next hallway was the top of the building, and the ceiling was whited-out corrugated plastic, the inside draped with green ivy that crossed the hallway, growing on strings. There were lamps set into the walls, but they were all switched off.

The moon was on this side of the building, and the hall glowed with silver light. Dean only realised he was staring at the décor when Castiel unlocked his front door and went inside, leaving Dean alone.

Dean hesitated. This place was legitimately beautiful. The front door was white mahogany, and there was no other apartment on this tiny level; Castiel had real privacy here. Besides all of that, it was ten minutes’ walk away from Cas’ workplace.

Castiel had landed himself something amazing. Even if it didn’t have the same significance to Castiel as Dean’s car had to Dean, then at least he knew it was good. Dean wouldn’t be keen to lose this apartment either.

But Dean knew Sam intended to split the win money from the case. Castiel could have the apartment for a few more months, right? But that wasn’t a permanent option.

Dean lowered his eyes and touched his fingers to the door frame, thumbing the smooth wood. He felt bad for Castiel, knowing yet another loss would be in his future.

“Dean, are you coming in? I’m putting the coffee on,” Castiel called. Dean heard the rattle of a cutlery drawer.

Dean smiled and slunk inside, pushing the door shut with his fingertips.

His smile widened as he saw the open-plan setup of the interior. Castiel hadn’t turned any of the lights on, since the moon lit the place quite nicely. To the right was Castiel’s kitchen, modern but rustic, its cupboard doors made of a kind of grey wood that complemented the lighter tiles behind the stove. Castiel bustled about, shifting from one island to the next, then going to wash his hands, letting the water run hot and steaming.

Dean looked to the left. There were three doors in the wall, one of which was open a crack, another open completely. He stepped to go peer inside the completely open one, and saw a bed, night-time shadows over it. It was nothing special, just a bed. Castiel’s bed.

Dean turned around and walked past the kitchen, where something was making a loud buzzing noise, and he found himself in the living room. It was nice, like Sam and Jessica’s. On the right was a couch, silver-brown, covered with some sort of knitted wool. There was a faux fur thrown over it, not artistically, but like someone had curled up there to watch TV.

Ah, the TV. Dean spun on the spot, and beamed at the gigantic black rectangle that was mounted perfectly between the two protruding walls.

“Hey, Cas, what is this? Forty-inch?”

“Forty-two,” Castiel called back, slamming a cupboard. “High-definition.”

“Awesome,” Dean muttered. He lamented that there was no DVD player, however. And no additional speakers like he had, and no goddamn stereo or record player in the room.

There was a tall bookshelf, however, and an obviously second-hand upright piano, alongside a velvet-cushioned seat. The floor-length grey curtains in the apartment were drawn open, revealing the white lace privacy drape under them... but there wasn’t much else.

There were no pictures on the walls, and no little personal things. No kids’ drawings, no pinboards with reminders, no haphazardly placed magazines or books on the stumpy dark-wood coffee table.

“Do you actually live here, or...” Dean wafted a hand at Castiel as he entered the living room, carrying a tray with two mugs of coffee, “are you just existing here?”

Castiel set the tray on the coffee table, and Dean took a second to admire his ass. Castiel stripped down to his shirt, and put his waistcoat and Dean’s leather jacket and over the edge of the sofa.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Dean said, and circled a finger around the room, “where’s all your shit? Chachkes, or whatever?”

Castiel blinked, tugging at the elbows of his shirt, trying to unfold them. “I don’t like clutter.”

“I don’t mean clutter, I mean things. Photos, souvenirs. Stuff that makes you smile. Stuff that reminds you of someone special.”

Castiel just stood there.

Dean stood there too, looking back at him. The silence said it all.

There wasn’t anyone.

“Nobody?” Dean asked, so quietly he barely heard his own voice.

Castiel held Dean’s gaze and shook his head.

Dean bit the inside of his lip and lowered his eyes, pulling in a breath as he glanced at the steaming coffee. “We should drink that before it gets cold.”

“Yes,” Castiel said, quickly.

“Um, but first, where’s your bathroom?” Dean gave Castiel a quick grin, then shrugged. “I’ll shower later, I just need to spruce up a bit.”

Castiel tipped his head towards the three doors down the hallway. “Second door. Don’t turn the fan on, the gentleman downstairs starts thumping his broom on the ceiling after about midnight.”

“Gotcha.”

Dean snapped the door shut behind him before he’d found the light, but after some random poking at the wall, he smacked the switch, and blinked at the brightness.

This bathroom was designed much like the kitchen; the tiles were a dark, shiny grey, and everything was streamlined and modern, but not in the pretentious way. It was like Sam’s place, again. Livable. It would be perfect if there was a turtle-shaped soap dish or something, Dean thought.

He unzipped his jeans and grabbed some toilet paper, making quick work of the itchy gross smears on his inner thighs. Dried semen was pretty disgusting.

He was back out of the bathroom in a few minutes, feeling clean and fresh as a daisy. His mouth no longer tasted uber-bleh, thanks to Cas’ mouthwash.

Castiel was cross-legged on his sofa, sipping delicately at his coffee. He glanced up as Dean entered, and they both smiled. Dean only noticed then that there was something muted on TV, and he turned around to look at it as he sank down beside Castiel.

“Cartoons?”

“They’re easier to digest when I’m tired,” Castiel replied.

Dean hummed a note and grabbed his coffee, smirking when he saw that Castiel’s mug was blue, and his was green, like his eyes.

He slipped his feet out of his boots and pulled up onto the sofa, folding his legs so he was leaning towards Castiel, one elbow on the back of the couch, shoulder against the white wall.

“I guess it’d be kinda sad if you lose this apartment,” Dean said. “It’s nice, you know? I mean, it needs a few homely touches, but that’s nothing I won’t try to fix while you’re still living here.”

“Hm?” Castiel gulped his coffee too quickly, then blinked over it. When he looked to Dean, his eyes were shiny and curious. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” Dean shrugged, “Figure I’d drop by. I’m not too far from here. You can crash at my place if you ever need it, too. It’s not as nice as this, but it’s... well, it’s not home either, but it’s where I’ve lived for about nine months, so...”

Castiel was staring at his coffee, and Dean began to think that that was what Castiel did when he was mulling things over. That, and frown.

“When you say your apartment isn’t home, why not?” he asked, turning his face towards Dean.

Dean shrugged, which was awkward with one shoulder already up near his ear. “Sam’s place is better. I like being with people, y’know? Or a pet, that would be great too. But my lease agreement doesn’t let me have pets, and I couldn’t find anywhere else close enough to the school. If I were any further away than I am now, I couldn’t pay for gas to drive in.”

He shrugged again, trying to make out like it wasn’t a big deal. He barely thought about it, but since they were talking about it now, he let himself sink into the dreary realisation that he was in the same position as Castiel: he wouldn’t be able to afford his apartment if the rates kept going up.

“Dean?”

“Yeah.”

“Why don’t you take half of this place?”

Dean didn’t quite register that as an actual suggestion for a few seconds. “Huh?”

“Move in here. I have a spare bedroom that I use as a study; you could sleep there. That way, we only have to pay half the rent each month. It would save us both a few hundred.”

Dean stared blankly at Castiel, neither of them paying any attention to the flashes of colour from the TV.

“What,” Dean said, slowly, “and be like...”

“Oh!” Castiel shook his head, raising a hand to deter Dean’s thoughts of boyfriend or together or relationship. “As flatmates. Friends.”

Dean was still hovering in a stasis, because that was the first time someone had offered that and his initial reaction wasn’t to laugh and break up with whoever it was.

“Right, but,” Dean looked at his coffee, “it’s not that simple, though, because...”

Because of... reasons.

“Because me ‘n you... we’re not just... friends.” Dean looked Castiel in the eye, and gulped. “We wouldn’t be just roommates.”

“Roommates with benefits,” Castiel corrected, with a sly smile.

“Yeah.” Dean nodded. Then he shook his head. “No.”

Deep breath.

“Because we’d be roommates, with benefits...” he caught Castiel’s gaze, and held it as he finished, “...and f- feelings.”

Castiel’s smile barely quivered at all. But it did quiver a little bit. “I see.”

“Anyway, that complicates things,” Dean spat out, going back to his coffee and taking his first sip.

He balked at the smooth, creamy taste. He swallowed, then looked over at Castiel. “Huh. You actually weren’t kidding about your barista-quality coffee machine.”

Castiel glanced at Dean’s mug, then shook his head. “I know you, uh, prefer to drink crap because it reminds you of home, but,” he paused, and took in a breath that Dean recognised as a tell: Castiel was about to hand him a deal-breaker. “But home doesn’t have to taste like crap.”

Dean and Castiel stared.

Dean’s stomach was flipping. He didn’t know if it was the caffeine that had gone to his head, or just the endorphins he got flowing around him whenever Castiel was in kissing distance, or what - but the happy-feelings butterflies were fucking fluttering like crazy sons of bitches.

“I’m,” he said. “I’m gonna need some time.”

He exhaled through shaky lips, and stared into the spinning froth of liquid heaven in his mug. “Look, it’s nothing, nothing... uh. I don’t know. I just don’t think I can answer you right this second.”

“All the time you need, Dean,” Castiel said, running a warm hand down Dean’s thigh, patting over the bumps in the denim. “But I will need an answer by the end of next week; my lease agreement is nearly up.”

Dean wanted to tell him about the cash Sam would be handing over. But if Sam changed his mind, that would be a dick move on Dean’s part. It wasn’t his money, so he had no right to tell Castiel what was happening with it.

The point still stood firm, though. There was a deadline for Dean’s decision, and he may as well stick to it.

“Make it Tuesday,” Dean said, drawing down another sip of delicious coffee. “I’ll let you know by Tuesday.”

“All right.” Castiel nodded, then threw back the last dregs of his coffee and curled up against Dean’s side.

Dean looked down at him, saw his beautiful eyelashes catching the colour of the TV. He could see Castiel’s pores, and the neat wrinkle between his eyebrows where his frown always creased. He was totally relaxed against Dean.

Dean slipped his arm off the back of the couch and draped it over Castiel’s hip, giving him a tiny squeeze. Castiel chuckled tiredly, his head nudging back against Dean.

Dean sat there watching some animated show about colourful ponies, with no idea what they were saying because the TV was on mute. He kept sipping his coffee, getting more and more cozy. Yeah, he could see himself living here, but that didn’t mean he was ready to say yes.

He raised his eyebrows in surprise when he heard Castiel snore very gently.

Good-tasting coffee or not, the caffeine was one-hundred-percent useless.

Dean was asleep by the time the credits rolled on the pony show, and he still had no idea what he’d been watching. He kinda liked it, though.

“Buygh?”

Dean snorted himself awake, hearing a grumbling, muttering sound, as well as the horribly familiar noise of an alarm clock.

“Wha’ssup?” he muttered, slapping his own face by mistake.

“Ugghh,” Castiel murmured, making weird faces at the carpet, probably tasting the same post-coffee yuck in his mouth as Dean did. “It’s seven-thirty, I need to get ready for work.”

“Seven-thi―? CRAP!” Dean launched himself to his feet, cursing his bladder. “Shit, Cas, I’m meant to be at work already.”

“Oh,” Castiel said, standing up. He looked ruffled and adorable, but this wasn’t the time.

“What the fuck did you put in my coffee last night? Fuck!” Dean flustered about, patting down his pockets to try and find his phone.

Castiel didn’t answer for a second, but when he did, Dean could have punched him. “It was decaffeinated.”

“Christ, you’re not a vegan or something, are you?”

Castiel stared blankly, then burst out in a laugh. “You’re very lucky that you’re pretty.”

Dean simpered at him, then grabbed his leather jacket off the side of the couch where Castiel had draped it. Not in those pockets, either. He’d lost his fucking phone. Great.

Castiel’s cell phone rang, and Dean gave a vocal sigh and ran for the bathroom, barely taking a moment to appreciate the wool-pile carpet under his socks.

He did his business as quickly as possible, wishing he had a comb or something, because he looked exactly like he’d gotten fucked from behind and then slept on two different couches in a single night. Sad but true.

He rinsed his face, dried off on Castiel’s hand towel, then went back to the living room to grab his boots.

“Yes, yes, I understand,” Castiel said into his phone, words clipped like he was trying and failing to get a word in edgeways with whoever was on the other end. “Yes, but―”

“Who is it?” Dean asked, doing his laces up and grinning at Castiel as he paced.

Castiel rolled his eyes, put his hand over the mouthpiece and whispered to Dean, “It’s your school. They want me to take your class.”

Dean huffed. “Tell them I’ll be there in fifteen. Goddammit.”

“Yes, I would, except―” Castiel wheezed, then practically shouted into his phone, “Gilda! Yes, I know! He’ll be there in fifteen minutes, there’s no need to worry.”

There was a silence, and Dean slowed halfway to the door, watching Castiel start to smile.

“How do I know?” Castiel said, repeating for Dean’s benefit. “Because I spent the night with him.”

Dean locked eyes with Castiel from across the room, feeling a surge of floaty, poppy things in his gut.

“Yes,” Castiel said, looking back at the floor. “Okay. Yep.”

Dean put his hand on the door handle, turning it.

“Yes, thank you. Tell Charlie I said hello. Yes. Yes, okay, Gilda, I need to go―”

Castiel ended the call, and Dean heard him running after him as he left the apartment.

“Dean - Dean, wait!”

Dean paused just outside, grinning as Castiel ran up to him and put his arms around his shoulders so they could kiss. Dean sighed and drifted into it, the warmth and colour feeling endless as it unravelled in his body. Castiel had a magic about him; he made Dean happy.

Dean took in a soft breath as Castiel broke away, his eyes turning to the pale-skinned, purple-haired old lady who was peering at them from the top of the staircase.

“Good morning, Mrs. McKinley,” Castiel said, politely.

“Good mornin’,” she replied, a slow smile spreading over her face. “Nice to see you’ve got summat there, laddie.”

Dean blinked, surprised at the accent, but pleased at the second kiss Castiel put on his lips.

“Now, go on, Dean, you’re late,” Castiel insisted, shoving him in the direction of the stairs.

Dean grinned as he went, taking hold of the bannister as he passed the woman. He nodded in greeting to her, then went faster down the stairs.

“Dean!”

Dean looked up as he reached the first landing, which seemed so much sleeker in the daylight. Castiel smiled as he was leaned over the barrier to his floor, and Dean saluted him.

“I’ll bring your phone if I find it,” Castiel said. “I think it might still be at the library.”

“All right.”

“Now go!”

Dean laughed and ran off, bouncing all the way.

Dean was relieved to find that Charlie had looked after his class for the few minutes he’d been absent, and thankfully not many of them had even showed up yet. He was usually at work at seven-thirty on the dot, and a quick discussion with Charlie told him yes, she had called his phone and not gotten an answer.

“Yeah, I dropped it someplace last night,” Dean shrugged, heading into his classroom after the bleary-eyed Shayne. “Figure it’ll turn up.”

“Gilda told me about your little romp,” Charlie said, voice turned low. “Oh, my god. Big news, huh?”

Dean spun on his heel to stare at her. “What? Seriously, who the hell is Gilda?”

Charlie looked severely affronted for a moment, then her face broke into a smile. “She works in the office, you butt. You’ve been flirting with her for about two years.”

Dean’s mouth opened a bit. “Oh. That... Gilda.” For god’s sakes, he thought her name was Jill.

“And...” Charlie’s eyes drifted to the slowly-assembling students, then rounded on Dean as he leaned back on the ledge of his desk. “And she’s also my girlfriend.”

Dean blinked hurriedly, wondering if he’d heard right. “Girl friend or girlfriend?”

Charlie lifted a shoulder. “The kind that I date.”

“Oh.” Dean bumped his eyebrows, crossing his arms in hesitant increments. “Guess it was all Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell in this department until today, huh.”

Charlie smiled. “You’re uh, into guys, then.”

Dean nodded. “And girls. But mostly Cas.”

Charlie looked like she knew that already. “I’m gonna have that photo of you two blown up nice and big for you. You both came out looking ravishing.”

Grinning at the floor, Dean thanked her quietly. What was a photo of them, if not the first thing to frame and hang on Castiel’s wall?

He got through the morning with no weirdness whatsoever, but was unbelievably irked that the men’s locker room was shut for cleaning at lunchtime. Having had no shower, he felt like the sex haze was following him around, and that was an awkward thing to have when he worked so closely with children.

He really despised decaffeinated coffee.

The first period after lunch, however, he was interrupted by a knock on the door while he was demonstrating basic fractions, the kind of math he never understood himself. The interruption was welcome, and he told the class to talk amongst themselves, so long as they only used words starting with vowels.

He swung open the door and was pleasantly surprised.

“Cas!”

“I found your phone while I was cleaning up the couch,” Castiel said, handing over Dean’s cell.

Dean took it, then smiled up at Castiel. “Thanks, man. Hey, you wanna come in?”

Castiel paused, but then he nodded, and Dean stood back to let him past.

“Mr. Godson!”

The kids were about as pleased to see Castiel as Dean was, and Dean laughed as Marvin launched himself out of his seat to hug Castiel’s side. Castiel patted Marvin on the head, then shooed him back to his desk.

Marvin didn’t go though, just hung around grinning up at the two teachers. “Your smells are all mixed up,” he said. “Mr. Winchester, you smell like Mr. Godson today, and Mr. Godson smells like Mr. Winchester.”

Dean sucked in an uncomfortable breath, but relaxed as Castiel beamed back at him.

“That is strange, isn’t it,” said Castiel, his voice smooth as he gazed at Dean.

“Sure.” Dean gulped. “Real freaky. Now, uh, c’mon kid, back to your seat.”

Marvin went, with an exuberant air of smart-ass about him.

“Get out of my classroom,” Dean told Castiel out of the side of his mouth, still smiling. “Go on, we’ll talk later.”

Castiel nodded, tipped an invisible hat to the children, who cheered, and then he took his leave. Dean chilled out a bit, but still felt on edge. He didn’t feel right mixing sex and school, or sex and children. He didn’t think he would ever be able to let Castiel back in here again, not if they hadn’t washed up first.

He sighed and got back to his lesson, but he couldn’t help but notice that the kids were as equally distracted as he was. At the end of the period he shifted them on to their reading assignments, and everything went smoothly. Math was not his strongest subject, even at third-grade level.

While the kids were settled reading their books, Dean sat back in his chair, swung his feet up on the desk, and flipped open his phone. He praised his phone battery’s life, as it was still at half-power, even now.

[1 New Message]

Dean opened the message and found it was Sam, sending a gift of fifty bucks’ worth of credit. Holy crapola, Sam was the best brother ever.

Dean grinned and started typing him a text.

[Message Sent
14:10 05-08-12
From: Dean Winchester
Thanx 4 credit, hope u know im keeping the 20 bucks cash]

The reply came only a minute later, and Dean put his hand over his mouth as he smiled.

[New Message
Received at 14:11 05-08-12
Sender: Sammoose
You’re welcome. Aren’t u in class right now?]

[Message Sent
14:11 05-08-12
From: Dean Winchester
Im slacking]

[New Message
Received at 14:12 05-08-12
Sender: Sammoose
Get back 2 word b4 I report you, jerk]

Dean didn’t even bother replying, because he figured Sam actually would report him. Best brother ever, sure, but he was also a bitch sometimes. In the best possible way.

Dean didn’t really manage to keep the phone closed for long. Fifty dollars’ worth of credit was the most he’d ever had at one time, and the temptation was too huge.

He went to his inbox and selected reply on the first message there from Castiel, then typed out the first thing that came to mind.

[Message Sent
14:25 05-08-12
From: Dean Winchester
Wish u were here so i could suck u off...]

He hit send, glancing around him in case anyone saw. The kids were all set on their books, but yeah, he knew he shouldn’t be doing this. Maybe that was part of the fun.

He’d get fired if anyone found out.

He knew shouldn’t even open the phone when it lit up with a reply. But he did.

[New Message
Received at 14:26 05-08-12
Sender: Sammoose
I assume that was not meant for me. GET THE HELL BACK 2 WORK]

Dean’s blood curdled, and he slid his feet off the desk and hunched over it instead.

Shiiit.

He made sure he definitely selected Castiel before he sent the next one.

[Message Sent
14:27 05-08-12
From: Dean Winchester
Rule num. 1- when sending sexy txt msgs, make sure u dont send 2 ur brother.]

Dean propped his arm on his elbow and ran his hand over his mouth, bristling his two-day scruff. Goddamn fuck, this was the most awkward day of his entire life.

[New Message
Received at 14:30 05-08-12
Sender: Cas
Yes I learned that last night. The message I sent you about the hot tub went to Gabe first, that’s the reason he came home early.]

Dean snorted against his hand, glancing up to check for the questioning eyes of children. Even though the coast was clear, he figured he really ought not reply. Sam was right, and Dean had the creeping neck blush to prove it. Back to work.

The week was over before Dean even noticed, and he lay in bed late on Saturday morning, staring at his water-stained ceiling and wondering what he was doing with his life.

He loved his job. He loved working with the kids, and he loved the energy that surrounded the school. He hated himself for letting his mojo slip this year, and not letting himself learn the kids’ names until only a few months ago, in the hope that detachment would make it easier when they moved on.

But as soon as Cas had showed up, he’d learned the children’s names and their hobbies, their plans, their likes and dislikes. He’d gotten to know them. The mojo was back.

Castiel gave him that, and with everything else he’d given, he was a gift in Dean’s life.

Dean really already knew what his answer would be to Castiel’s question. But he couldn’t just out and say it. He wasn’t comfortable with how comfortable he was. It was a strange thing to think, but the way Castiel made him feel good, and happy, and sexy... it all seemed too easy.

Where was the catch? Where was the let-down? Where would it go wrong?

Because there was nothing good in Dean’s life that hadn’t gotten fucked over at some point. Just the fact that Castiel was so very good for him meant it would go so badly wrong that it would break Dean forever. It was how Dean’s life worked, and always had.

He didn’t know how long he could put it off before he had to do something. He wasn’t the kind of man to wait it out and hope it went away. For better or for worse, at some point soon he’d have to give Castiel a decision - the kind of decision that would would change Dean’s life, and he knew it.

[Incoming message!

Sun May 13th 2012 20:42

From: Dean Winchester

Hey. Gonna read penguin book 2 class 2moro. Anything i should know?]

The TV volume dropped into mute almost immediately, and the mug of hot chocolate tapped down onto the table as the librarian reached for his cell phone. The room was silent for a while as the man thought. Then he began to press buttons.

[Message sent!
Sun May 13th 2012 20:45
To: Dean Winchester
Make sure you read in a calm voice. And don’t get preachy.]

[Incoming message!
Sun May 13th 2012 20:47
From: Dean Winchester
Preachy? What kind of book is this exactly]

The librarian sighed, but he was smiling as he did so.

[Message sent!
Sun May 13th 2012 20:48
To: Dean Winchester
Did you not look at it?]

The reply took less time than it took for the librarian to reach for his coffee.

[Incoming message!
Sun May 13th 2012 20:48
From: Dean Winchester
Is this a book about gay penguins. Dude]

The librarian laughed.

[Message sent!
Sun May 13th 2012 20:49
To: Dean Winchester
It’s a wonderful book Dean. I hope you have a good class.]

[Incoming message!
Sun May 13th 2012 20:51
From: Dean Winchester
Thanx]

The librarian’s apartment became quiet again, but he didn’t turn the TV volume back up. He waited.

And waited.

[Incoming message!
Sun May 13th 2012 21:09
From: Dean Winchester
Still not sure abt answer btw. Talk on tues. Gonna go 2 bed now, hope u have a good nite.]

[Message sent!
Sun May 13th 2012 21:10
To: Dean Winchester
Ok. You too. Sleep well.]

There was another long silence, and the librarian smiled and turned the volume back up.

He was surprised to hear another buzz, but he knew this would be the last one.

[Incoming message!
Sun May 13th 2012 21:15
From: Dean Winchester
<3]

The kids didn’t want to read a picture book about penguins, because they were too old for picture books.

It had taken Dean two weeks to get around to this, and they weren’t making it any easier.

“Mr. Godson insisted I read this to you, all right? C’mon, guys, don’t be the evil lion from that lion movie.”

“Scar,” Sandy said, plonking herself down on the carpet at Dean’s feet at last. “He’s the coolest lion.”

“Evil’s not cool,” Dean replied, grinning as the other children finally came to join Sandy. “Scar’s only cool because he has a British accent and sings the best song.”

“No!” Travis ran forward, and sat down bolt-upright with his hand on his knees. “Simba’s song’s the best. I’m gonna be a mighty king―”

“Stop-stop-stop,” Dean fluttered, waving his hands at the kids before they all burst into song. “Music lessons aren’t until tomorrow, we can save it for then, all right?”

Travis sighed dramatically, crumpling forward as the other kids tittered.

“Great. So.” Dean got comfortable on his red beanbag, wriggling his ass as he looked at the cover of the book in his lap.

And Tango Makes Three.” He held the cover to the class, rotating it so they could all see. He’d never read a picture book out loud, but he figured it was much the same as reading a regular book, but flipped around so the pictures were visible.

He sighed before he opened the cover. He knew what was inside. He’d not read it beforehand, but he’d skipped through it enough to get the general idea, and he still wondered how many of the kids’ parents would complain about the content.

Not that there should be a ban on this sort of thing, but he knew some people weren’t keen on the whole ‘early exposition’. It was bullshit, in his opinion. But he’d rather not wake a sleeping giant.

Don’t be preachy, he reminded himself.

Opening the front cover, he skipped the pages full of publishing details, and held the book open on the first illustration for a few seconds. Seals on a huge rock, in Central Park Zoo. Dean had never been there, but he’d heard good things.

Then he turned the page to read out the opening line.

“In the middle of New York City, there is a great big park called Central Park.”

He kept on reading, telling the class about how all the animals in the zoo have a family. The kids weren’t bored (he checked), but this pacing was different to what everyone was used to. The class’ reading material had been getting denser and smarter and more complicated recently, so reading this was probably a huge setback.

But Dean started to discover that it was the opposite.

It was refreshing. Relaxing. It was nice to be able to read something simple, and easy, and take it seriously. There was a real story here, and just because it was aimed at a younger audience didn’t mean it wasn’t fun or interesting for the kids. Or for Dean.

His stomach filled with the Castiel-brand of butterflies when he reached the seventh page.

“Two penguins in the penguin house were a little bit different,” he read, gulping as he admired the adorable picture of two penguins standing side-by-side, shooting each other the kind of interested look that Dean totally understood. “One was named Roy, and the other was named Silo.”

“I have a brother named Silo,” Nellie said.

“Good for him, now shhh.” Dean shot her a soft glare, smirked at her tiny blush, then he returned to the page, reading out the next sentence. “Roy and Silo were both boys. But they did everything together.

“They bowed to each other.”

Travis and Alid both bowed, and Dean chuckled and nodded to the class. “Go on. Everyone take a bow.”

The children turned to each other like the penguins did in the illustration, and dipped their heads down, flapping their pretend flippers.

Grinning, Dean continued, “And walked together.”

He raised a hand to stop them before they all stood up and walked off. “Whoa. Okay, we get it. Walk your fingers around on the floor or something.”

They did that, and Dean nodded in satisfaction.

“They sang to each other...”

Oh, I just can’t waaaait―”

Dean gritted his teeth and bore it as the class broke into a squeaky rendition of the last verse of that goddamn song from The Lion King. Dean never liked it much. Scar’s was better.

With a weary sigh, Dean returned to read the last line on the page. “And swam together.”

The kids pretended to swim on the floor. All right, then.

“They didn’t spend much time with the girl penguins, and the girl penguins didn’t spend much time with them. Instead, Roy and Silo wound their necks around each other. Their keeper Mr. Gram― uh, Gramzay, noticed the two penguins and thought to himself, ‘They must be in love.’”

Dean waited for a complaint. Or a chorus of “Ewww”.

But nothing came.

He turned the page, and took a breath to keep reading. “Roy and Silo watched how the other penguins made a home. So they built a nest of stones for themselves. Every night Roy and Silo slept there together, just like the other penguin couples.”

Dean’s gut was twisting now. It was less about how the kids were taking this - they seemed as cool as cucumbers - but about this book.

Nests. Homes. Gay penguins.

Dean could take a hint, and he knew a parallel when he saw one.

“And every morning,” he continued, then paused to clear his gritty throat. “Every morning, Roy and Silo woke up together. But one day Roy and Silo saw that the other couples could do something they could not.”

Dean licked his lips, then turned to the absorbed expressions of the class. “What was it they couldn’t do, d’you think?”

After a few seconds, a few of the kids pealed together with a collective conclusion. Dean caught “An egg”, “Eggs”, “Make an egg”, out of it all.

“That’s right, they couldn’t make an egg. Why’s that?”

“‘cause they’re both boys.”

Dean bit his tongue. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. Only girls can make eggs.”

He took a moment of silence, sucking the inside of his lip. He felt pretty melancholy. Picture books weren’t meant to do this to people, he knew that. He wasn’t meant to feel like crap, or like he should close this book and read the kids Harry Potter instead.

“And―” He interrupted his own thoughts, going back to the book. “The mama penguin would lay an egg. She and the papa penguin would take turns keeping the egg warm until finally, it would hatch. And then there would be a baby penguin.”

Dean smiled, glancing at the floor. “Any of you guys ever seen a baby penguin?”

“Noo,” the class said together, sadly.

“I did, once.” Dean closed the book for a moment, keeping his thumb between the pages. “At a zoo just like the one in New York. It was fluffy and clumsy and really cute. Kinda like you guys.”

The class giggled, and Dean felt pleased at that. He flicked the book open again, muttering, “Now, where were we...?

“Ah, here. Roy and Silo had no egg to sit on and keep warm...”

The book went on. It was every bit as wonderful as Castiel had said it was, and Dean tried not to feel guilty for letting himself think that. The sad penguins sat on a goddamn rock, and just got sadder when it didn’t hatch. But their keeper caught on and gave them an egg to adopt.

Dean was happy for the penguins. Of course he was.

The penguins incubated the egg until it hatched, and Dean got the class to mime themselves breaking out from an egg. That got a few happy faces, too. Awesome.

“She had fuzzy white feathers, and a funny black beak,” Dean read, smiling. “Now, Roy and Silo were fathers.”

Dean’s smile wobbled. His nest with Cas would probably be nothing but the two of them incubating a useless rock, day-in, day-out, he was sure of it. They’d never get a penguin, neither of them were that kind of man. Dean wasn’t up for it, nor did he think Cas was.

He kept reading. “‘We’ll call her Tango,’ Mr. Gramzay decided, ‘because it takes two to make a Tango.’”

That it did, Dean thought. Tango on the couch. Tango on the bed. Tango on the dining table.

Okay, that train of thought had to stop, right now.

He cleared his throat and turned the page.

The penguins raised the baby, taught her everything penguins were meant to do. The children again gave their floor-based demonstrations as Dean read out the list of “singing, eating, sleeping”.

“Tango was the very first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies.”

Dean smiled at the happy faces around him, feeling really glad he didn’t need to explain, or argue. He knew he would have vehemently fought with anyone who said two boy penguins couldn’t raise a chick together. No matter what anyone’s religious or moral beliefs, two good fathers or two good mothers was better than no parents at all.

The book went on to describe how Tango grew up just fine, thank you very much. Swimming, singing, entertaining the zoo visitors. Penguin stuff.

There was a beautiful illustration of the penguin family together on the rocks, illuminated by a dim orange sunset. It was warm and loving, and deep down, something important began to stir in Dean again.

“At night, the three penguins returned to their nest,” said Dean, only half his mind on the book.

Castiel had asked him to move in with him. That was a big step. They’d only met three times. They’d known each other a month.

But people got together after less. People got married on the same night they met, in Vegas. (But, y’know, that’s Vegas. Different planet.)

Castiel had his reasons to ask. Dean had his reasons if he said no. It was too big. Too much. Too much like something real.

Don’t get attached, because it’ll hurt more when it’s gone.

But Dean’s mind fell to the empty walls of Castiel’s gorgeous apartment. It was nice, but it wasn’t a home. It was only inviting because Castiel was inside. If Cas wasn’t there, it would just be a place.

Just like if Castiel wasn’t in Dean’s heart, it would just be a place. Empty walls. Nothing pinned to the fridge. Only Sammy, drifting in and out every once in a while.

“Mr. Winchester?”

“Hm?” Dean jerked to his senses, finding ten tiny faces looking up at him. “What?”

“Are you going to finish the story?”

Dean looked at the collapsed book in his hands, blinking at it. “What? Oh, yeah. That.”

He delayed a few seconds, trying to figure out what the hell was going on in his head.

“Hey, uh, kids?”

“Yes, Mr. Winchester?”

“If...” Dean lowered his eyes, not brave enough to look at anyone. “Okay, say we go back in time, and Roy and Silo only just met. They’ve seen each other a few times, and they, uh, they really like each other. They swim, and they sing, and they... they rub necks, like in the book.”

He glimpsed the kids’ faces from the corner of his eye, knowing they were still listening.

“What if, um. What if Roy asked Silo... if he wanted to build a nest. And, Silo, see, he’s not sure he’s ready for that. Because... before he met Roy, he never wanted to build a nest before. With anyone. Girl or boy.”

The class was silent, so Dean phrased it as a question. “What should Silo do? Should he say yeah, he’s gonna help make that nest, even if he doesn’t know what’ll happen - or, stick to what he’s... what he’s comfortable with?”

Slowly, he flicked his eyes from the carpet, to the children’s shoes, then their crossed legs, to their laps, then to their faces. They were all staring.

Marvin raised his hand in slow motion.

Dean glanced at him and nodded. “Yeah.”

“Mr. Winchester, did you even read the book?”

Dean blinked and frowned. “Yeah? What?”

“If Silo doesn’t build a nest with Roy, then Tango won’t get born. She won’t have any daddies.”

Dean gulped so hard his ears popped. “Guess that’d make her an orphan, then. Yeah―” he shook his head, dropping his gaze back to the book, “Yeah, no, that’s bad. Don’t want Tango to be an orphan.”

“Mr. Winchester?”

Dean looked back at Marvin, feeling like Marvin knew way more than he should.

“Did Mr. Godson ask you to make a nest?” Marvin asked.

Dean’s mouth dropped open. “Wh― No, Marvin, we’re people, people don’t have...”

He huffed, and closed his mouth. Marvin was giving him the kind of look Sammy gave him when he clearly knew better and had won an argument before it started. The expression of a lawyer, no less.

Dean looked down at the book in his hands. His smile rose a little bit at first, but then he couldn’t hold it back, and it broke across his face like a ray of sunlight. “Yeah. He did.”

“Awww,” the class purred, and honestly, Dean almost jumped in shock.

“What’re you ‘aww’-ing at?” he asked, grinning and frowning at them at once. “It’s not like we’re gonna adopt an egg.”

“One day you might,” Sandy said, grinning happily.

Dean gaped, unable to stop grinning. “Uh. Maybe. God, this is crazy.”

“Time to finish the book!” came the determined voice of Shayne, and Dean huffed.

“All right, fine.” Dean went back to the page he’d left off. “And not a word to anyone about what I just told you, it’s classified.”

“Yes, Mr. Winchester,” came the cheeky reply.

There was only a single paragraph left. Dean read it slowly, savouring it. “There they snuggled and, like all the other penguins in the penguin house, and all the other animals in the zoo, and all the families in the big city all around them, they went to sleep.”

Dean gulped, and turned the last page. He’d read this one last night, while he’d lain in bed texting Cas. “All of the events in this story are true,” he began, reading out the information about chinstrap penguins. By the end of the page, he was smiling so brightly that his face hurt.

He knew his answer, and it was so obvious that an eight-year-old had known it better than he had. Could the same reasoning not be applied to math problems, he would have felt like it meant something.

And yet. He knew his answer. Not matter how he rephrased the question to himself, it really did come out simple.

He couldn’t wait for Try-Something Tuesday. Every day should be Try-Something Tuesday.

In fact, he couldn’t wait any longer than it took for the clock to reach quarter past twelve, and the bell rang for lunch break. He shooed the children out into the hallway, then went to knock on Charlie’s classroom door.

He dumped his satchel on her desk for safekeeping, and waited for her to complain.

But she didn’t.

“Go get him, Winchester.”

Dean turned and ran.

It wasn’t even the kind of running that meant he was gonna get there any sooner, it just felt more determined.

He passed corridors and swerved around scurrying children, around surprised teachers.

He heard someone yell after him, “Just because you’re a teacher doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the no-running-in-the-hallways-rule!” but he could do nothing but shout an apology back and keep running.

Because this was important. This was his friggin’ chick-flick moment.

This was when he tore down the walls and fell into doors, bursting out into the sunlight, feeling reborn, knowing he had someplace to be. He pounded the streets under his boots, the drumbeats from his favourite songs thumping in time with him.

This was when he got a soundtrack, this was when he got to run down the centre of a busy street and have the world move by like a car wouldn’t hit him if he moved a few inches to the left. This was where the drumbeat got heavier, where he got a rousing chorus that lifted audiences in their seats, because he was going to fucking do this.

He was gonna go up to him, and he was gonna give him his answer.

Because he knew the answer.

He ran for the library, his heart pulsing hard, his throat raw from his breath, his back sweating under his shirt from the sun. He didn’t notice. He didn’t care.

He hadn’t run for fifteen minutes in one go for years. It nearly killed him - and he knew, parallel to everything else he knew, that he was going to take up running, just like Cas. It was powerful inside him; he was a spring uncoiling with every step, and he felt it. He hadn’t felt something this keenly before. It was beautiful, and raw, and he wanted to feel this every day.

The glass doors of the library reflected the shapes of the cars driving past, and ever so carefully, he dodged the last vehicles, sprinting with the last of everything he had, just so he could make the doors before his heart gave out.

He crumpled inside, dragging in breaths that felt like flaming elephants down his gullet, and he trembled and forced himself upright; he was so close.

He lifted his head, and oh crap.

The library wasn’t empty this time. There were people - school children, old ladies, businessmen, teenagers, people Dean knew from his last job in the overnight diner. There were people everywhere.

And there was Castiel, shining like a fiery beacon, standing behind the check-in desk, handing a man a pile of books, the sound of his voice lost in the distance between him and Dean. He was smiling, but it wasn’t the smile he always gave Dean.

Dean stood there dumbly, heaving his breaths, sweat beading on his skin. He wiped his face with his sleeve, trying to swallow empty air.

He ran all this way, only to stand here and stare.

Castiel hadn’t seen him.

Dean didn’t move from his spot until his heartbeat returned to normal, until he stopped sweating, and then, until Castiel checked out the last person in the queue. There were plenty of other people in the library, but there was nobody waiting for him.

Nobody except Dean.

Dean went up to the desk, his legs feeling like jelly, his vision swimming, the ground floating closer than it should be. He grabbed the edge of the desk, taking control.

“Cas.”

Castiel looked up from his computer, and his eyes widened. “Hello, Dean.”

“Hi.” Dean grinned, wishing he could communicate telepathically. It was all there in his head, but how did he get it out?

“Okay, uh,” he muttered, grabbing for a block of post-its. “I’m gonna put... put my answer down on here. And...” He gulped, then panted for a few seconds before he reached for a pen. “And don’t you dare look at it until I’m outta here, you got it?”

“I understand,” Castiel said. His voice wavered.

Oh, hell, Dean thought. Cas didn’t know what Dean was about to say. It was so obvious to Dean now, but Castiel didn’t know.

Dean lifted the block so Castiel couldn’t see him writing. His hand shook as he put pen to paper, and he went over the lines twice, just in case he didn’t look decided enough.

It was more than just an apartment. It wasn’t about sharing the rent, or sharing a space. It was about sharing their lives, and Dean knew they were both already aware of that.

His life was about to change, and it was okay.

It felt okay.

Dean tugged the top post-it free, still hiding it. He dropped the block down along with the pen, and he looked at the note for a few seconds.

Then he reached over and stuck the note on Castiel’s forehead.

“Don’t look until I’m gone,” he repeated.

Then he left. He went for the glass doors, letting an old man pass as the sensors opened the doors wide, then he followed him out. He put his hands into the pockets of his jeans, and he took a breath.

He hit the sidewalk and started walking back to the school.

“Dean!”

The glass door thudded as it was shoved open against the sensors’ will.

“Dean!”

Dean turned, expecting something, but not this.

Lips crashed onto his, arms around his shoulders, one leg crooked around his hip. He stood there stunned for a moment, then began to kiss back.

On the paper in Castiel’s hand, his thumb smudged at the ink, where, quite clearly, the note read a big, fat, YES.

Dean ached the next day.

And only half those aches were from the running.

There is a certain kind of warmth in a home, when all the curtains are drawn shut, when it’s dark out and the lights are on, when the room is slightly humid due to the steam that’s escaping the kitchen.

Castiel has been in the kitchen for a few hours now, and he’s almost done. He’s humming.

The walls of the apartment glow gold from the lights, and the wall to the left of the television shines a little brighter. Blu-tacked to it, right in the middle, is a two-foot-square paper collage of a pair of emperor penguins, their bodies against each other so the negative space between them makes a heart. In messy letters made by ten different children, the caption above the penguins reads, ‘Congratulations on your new nest!!’.

Beside the collage is a wooden frame, displaying a photo of Dean and Castiel. Castiel is looking straight at the camera, eyes open a normal amount. Dean has his arm around Castiel’s back, and he’s staring at Castiel like he’s the most beautiful thing on Earth.

Harry and Sally the turtles are swimming happily beside the couch, the glass of their tank still smudged with fingerprints from when they’d gone to visit Dean’s class.

The widescreen television has a DVD player plugged in, and a Columbo DVD rests under the Dr. Sexy boxsets. The piano has sheet music for both Nat King Cole and Led Zeppelin accompaniments. Above the couch, there’s a poster from that one amazing trip to the Grand Canyon that Dean and Castiel took together.

There are handprint turkeys strung all across the walls. It is Thanksgiving, after all.

The front door makes a neat rat-tat-tat-tat sound, and Castiel sets down his gravy boat and goes to let everyone in.

Uncle Bobby enters first, tipping the rim of his baseball cap as he passes Castiel. Jessica follows, sighing as she tugs off her scarf.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Bobby; Jess.” Castiel gives them his warmest smile. “Go and take a seat in the living room; I’m nearly finished.”

“Smells delicious,” Bobby replies cheerfully, kicking off his shoes before he passes the kitchen.

Jessica takes a deep breath, leaning over the kitchen counter to look at the goods. “Oh, you have been busy, haven’t you?”

Sam enters right behind Jess, and crooks his ankle against his knee to undo his laces. “You finished up the turkey?”

“Dean said he wanted to do it, but he was late.”

“Yeah, about that,” Sam says with a slow grin crawling up his face.

Castiel looks around, then pokes his head out into the hallway, wondering where Dean is. “He is coming, isn’t he?”

“I’ll shoot him if he doesn’t,” Bobby calls out from the living room. “I ain’t going through all the palaver of getting that damn thing here if he’s not gonna bring it up already.”

Castiel frowns, unsure what’s going on. Dean was meant to be here about three hours ago, and he hasn’t picked up his phone. If Sam hadn’t called to tell Castiel that Dean would be late, Castiel would be worried. As of right now, he is definitely feeling the first pangs of it.

He warily treads back into the kitchen, returning to his gravy boat and the challenge of making perfect gravy.

He only need wonder for two more minutes, before there’s another knock at the door. Sam goes to open it, and Castiel licks gravy off a finger as he turns to see Dean enter.

“Hey, Cas. Hey Sam, hey Bobby.” Dean is walking awkwardly, like he’s carrying something heavy.

“What have you got?” Castiel asks, tilting his head and following Dean as he leads the way to the living room.

Castiel joins Sam in standing there helplessly, opposite Bobby and Jess on the sofa. Dean sets down the cardboard box in his hand, and straightens up with a sigh.

“Got you something, Cas,” he says, sounding awfully proud of himself.

“What is it?” Castiel asks, with some trepidation. “Dean, did you bring home a dog? You know Mrs McKinley said no four-legged animals, unless they’re caged or tank-dwelling―”

“I know, Cas, I read the lease agreement.” Dean gestures a hand to the box, then kneels beside it. “C’mon, I got this for you. Come open it.”

Castiel goes to kneel down too, his apron crinkling against his sweater, and he wonders why everyone is smiling so secretively.

He sees Jess catch Sam’s eye as Sam moves to the sofa, and sees both of them smile as Jessica touches her hand to the ring on her finger. Castiel knows they will be telling Dean later tonight, not right now.

But Castiel’s mind is all on the fact that he and Dean won’t be able to keep whatever is in the box, and that really makes him upset. He doesn’t want to fall in love only to have it taken away, and he is convinced that one look at whatever’s inside will make him fall head-over-heels.

“Dean, I’m really not sure―”

Dean reaches over and puts a cold hand on Castiel’s warm one, and lifts it for him.

“Open it.”

It seems Castiel has no choice. He pulls the cardboard flaps off their fold-lock, and very slowly pulls them apart. He closes his eyes, opens them again, then leans forward to see the creature.

“The lease says we’re not allowed anything with four legs,” Dean says, grinning like an idiot. “I checked with Mrs McKinley, and she just laughed and said sure.”

Inside the box sits a quiet, short-haired Siamese cat. With only three legs and one eye.

Castiel’s heart breaks and mends all at once in a single second. “Does he have a name?”

“Nope.” Dean smiles. “Found her by the freeway, got her to a vet and cleaned her up, with injections and everything. Litterbox and food’s in the car. And I―” He takes a sudden breath in, then sneezes violently. “Aguhhh,” he sighs, sniffing. “I can take tablets, it’s fine.”

“Dean, may I name her?”

“Hell yeah, she’s yours.”

Castiel shakes his head. “She’s both of ours. And... how about Tango?”

Dean smiles, then laughs. He swings an arm around Castiel’s shoulders, and squeezes. “Perfect.”

“I don’t get it,” Bobby says, blinking. “Why Tango?”

“Because,” Dean replies to Bobby, defiantly, while looking Castiel in the eye from right by his side, “it takes two to make a Tango. She’s our nest egg.”

“She’s a cat.” Bobby sounds confused, but Castiel figures he probably does get it, underneath it all.

Dean smiles over at Bobby. “I’m nesting.”

He gives Castiel another firm squeeze, then leans against him to put their lips together. They both breathe out, falling into each other, the same way they always do.

It’s a better kiss than ever before this time - not because it’s more skilful, or less wet, or better choreographed. It is the best, because this is the moment when Dean and Castiel share the first kiss
on the first day
of the rest of their lives.