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Castiel was finishing up the dishes when he looked through the window over the sink and saw Dean in the backyard. He was tugging on the new tire swing Castiel attached to the old maple tree in the backyard as a surprise. Dean looked concerned, as he tentatively leaned his weight against it, and Castiel chuckled to himself at his unease. Castiel ducked his head and watched as Dean stepped gingerly into the center until he was standing on the rim, his hands firmly grasping the thick nylon rope that attached the old truck tire to the branch some 20 feet above his head. The tree limb groaned slightly, but Castiel knew it was solid enough to hold both of them at the same time.

This was too good to pass up. Castiel threw down the rag he just wiped the table with, then quietly tiptoed out the back door and stepped into the yard. Dean was too busy testing the rope's strength by hopping up and down to hear Castiel's approach.

"You scaredy-cat!" Castiel said, loudly enough to make Dean jump again. "I'd have thought for sure that by now, you'd have stopped worrying about the thing breaking!"

Dean twisted in the wind until he was facing Castiel. He was grinning, but it was that 'naughty boy' smile he used when he was secretly a little embarrassed.

"Yeah, well, I just wanted to make sure," Dean said. "There are some pretty big kids around here, and I don't want to risk any lawsuits."

Dean flexed his arms and lifted his legs out of the center hole, then widened them and pulled them around until he was straddling the top of the tire where he settled his weight. Castiel grabbed his knees and pulled him, and the tire, to himself until Dean's face and his were even.

"Sweetheart," Castiel whispered and watched the heat of his words spot Dean's cheeks, "After what we did with this thing last night, I'd think you'd realize there isn't a kid alive big enough to get this thing to fall; no matter how hard they tried."

"Yeah," Dean laughed. "You have a point. That was something else again. I didn't think it would work."

"I told you, you could trust me," Castiel reminded him. "Trying new things can be an exciting experience."

"Just keep reminding me of that," Dean said, as he leaned over and kissed Castiel.

Castiel grinned. "Haven't I always?"

"Oh yeah," Dean whispered as he rested his forehead on Castiel's. "And I've always been so glad you did."

And so was Castiel, Though there had been times when he hadn't been sure at all of the outcome...

 

 

July 24th, 2004

It had been a really shitty day. Two of the younger associates at work had started it off by screaming at Castiel because the research wasn't done on a property they had to present at a meeting to the partners. Never mind the fact that they hadn't even given him the assignment until a mere twenty-four hours before.

Then, one of the bigwigs came in and handed Castiel a list of designs he needed yesterday. And another one wanted to know why Castiel hadn't found time to create a scale he'd given Castiel a couple of days ago, conveniently forgetting that he said there was no hurry, and to 'work at it at his own speed.'

Between this and all the other bullshit Castiel had to deal with, he didn't get out of there until well after eight, which meant Castiel's been sitting on his ass staring at a computer for the better part of twelve hours. Charlie had taken pity on him and had shared her lunch of fruit and yogurt, but otherwise Castiel had nothing in his stomach all day except coffee. At least it was Friday, and he didn't have to be back in that hellhole for another two whole days.

Okay - maybe not a hellhole - not really. All things considered, it was still a pretty good place to work and leagues above what most students had for employment. The problem really wasn't work; it was him. Castiel just wasn't in the mood for office politics.

Of course, there wasn't much he was in the mood for lately. It'd been a month since Castiel's disastrous phone call to Dean. They hadn't spoken since. Castiel wrote twice and started a dozen more, and Dean had sent Castiel a few postcards showing the sights he wasn't seeing in Rome and saying, in as few words as possible, that he was okay. But it wasn't nearly enough to make Castiel feel better about the whole fiasco.

Castiel could manage to shove it to the back of his mind for only so long anymore. He'd be working or running an errand or just kicking back... And suddenly, he would get this sinking sensation in his stomach that usually meant his brain was reminding Castiel he forgot to do something important. But in this case, it meant that somehow his internal clock was telling him that time was running out - that the longer Dean stayed away, the less chance there was that he'd ever come back.

Castiel tried to tell himself he was just being paranoid. Even if Dean did decide that they could never be friends again, Castiel didn't think he'd do that by cutting him off without a word. But as the days turned into weeks, it was getting harder and harder to convince himself of that.

In Castiel's darkest hours, he imagined Dean in Rome, surrounded by a new circle of jet-setting friends and laughing, forgetting all about Castiel, or maybe turning them into an amusing anecdote complete with shrugs and self-deprecating banter. Dean would finish his tale, and the beautiful girl by his side would kiss his cheek and assure him that as funny as the story was, she was sure he was making it the whole thing up. Especially in light of what had happened between them the night before in his bed.

This was nothing more than self-indulgent pity on Castiel's part, and he knew it. In fact, he had gotten news from Rome that assured him that the reality of Dean's life there was quite different than Castiel's perverse daydreams were making it out to be.

Sam had made good on his promise to call Castiel after he got back from his gig as personal slave to a Vatican dignitary. And Sam wasted no time either in assuring Castiel that he thought that his brother Dean was totally nuts - but not fatally so, and that he'd come around eventually. It was a sentiment Castiel was most grateful for. But it was sometimes hard to remember that, late at night when he was alone in the dark.

Castiel had to admit, he was kind of surprised that this was Sam's attitude. Obviously, Castiel knew Sam was aware he was gay, so it didn't shock Castiel that Dean had told Sam what had gone on between them. Even though the brothers had drifted apart over the years, Castiel figured Dean would have to have shared something this big with his brother. Hell, that was undoubtedly the reason he'd gone to Rome in the first place.

What did amaze Castiel was Sam's acceptance of the whole situation. He didn't seem in the least bit surprised that Dean was grappling with the issue of his bisexuality. To Castiel, that seemed to be a pretty big thing to be blasé about.

"Look," Sam said, "Dean has always been a little more interested in guys than he'd have most people believe. I've known that since we were kids."

"You trying to tell me something?" Castiel was joking when he said it, but the silence on the other end of the phone went on little two long and he realized that maybe he had inadvertently struck a chord.

This was an interesting development. Castiel waited for a minute, hoping that Sam would add to his little revelation. But if there was a story to be told, it didn't look like Castiel was going to hear it from him today. Castiel decided to let him off the hook.

"On second thought," Castiel drawled. "I think we can just leave that topic alone." Sam chuckled self-consciously and Castiel grinned to himself. Oh yes, he thought, there was a story...

"Yeah well," Sam finally continued. "Let's just say you know stuff about your sibling you've depended on your whole life, you might otherwise miss with another sibling you aren't as close to. At least, I do. So it didn't exactly come as a shock to me when he finally admitted his feelings for you. Actually, I've sort of expected it."

Castiel was stunned. "You're kidding!" He said. Though Castiel realized Sam wasn't. But what did bother him was why this had apparently been so clear to everybody except for the two people who were most involved.

"You want the honest truth?" Sam went on, oblivious to Castiel's internal thoughts. "I was less surprised by that than I was when he announced his engagement to that girl Lisa. In fact, I think in the long run, this is something that was bound to happen. Especially since the day he met you."

Castiel sighed and shook his head. "Too bad Dean isn't as thrilled about it as you are."

"Listen Cas," Sam said. "I know my brother. He wouldn't be miserable if he realized that what he really wanted was you. And trust me," Sam continued, laughing. "He's the most miserable jerk on the face of the earth right now."

"Sorry, but that doesn't exactly make me feel better." Castiel responded dryly.

"Oh, hell! I don't mean that the way it sounded," Sam apologized. "But look at it from his point of view: for most of his life, Dean's been one of those guys who always had it easy, and he got used to things going exactly the way he thought they should. You've been a real shock to his system. And, I think maybe that's not such a bad thing."

Sam went on from there in his very logical Jesuit manner. By the end of the conversation, Castiel was feeling pretty good. That lasted about as long as it took him to get ready for bed. Much as it was nice to hear Sam's words of encouragement, it didn't mean squat if Dean didn't agree with his assessment.

But Castiel is nothing if not stubborn. He promised himself to not give up until Dean actually told Castiel himself it was hopeless. So Castiel got up the next morning, and all the other mornings after that and he went to work and planned for the day when he and Dean finally would talk again face-to-face. But he'd be lying if he said it was easy. And as the days grew into weeks, Castiel was beginning to think that even his pigheaded optimism wasn't going to last longer than Dean's indecision.

That morning, Castiel took his car into the shop for some repairs, so he rode his bike to work. What had seemed like a great idea in the cool of early hours had now turned into a test of endurance. July in Gainesville is like July in his home state: hot, muggy, and miserable. The day had been a scorcher, and it showed no signs of letting up. By the time Castiel got home, he was dripping with sweat and filthy with the grit and exhaust residue of a hundred cars and trucks from the seven-mile trek from downtown. All he wanted to do was take a long shower and veg in front of the TV with a beer and the bag of tacos he picked up on the way home.

The light on his answering machine was blinking when Castiel walked through the living room, but he ignored it. He didn't even think about it again until he was getting ready for bed. With a yawn, Castiel punched the play button, ready to hear the spiel of some telemarketer. Instead, he froze as a very familiar voice spoke from the box.

"Cas, it's Dean. I guess you're still at work, or maybe you went out. I wanted to talk to you, but it's probably better that we wait and do it in person."

In person - had he really said that? Castiel stopped the machine and rewound the message. That's what he said all right. Castiel listened to the rest with his eyes shut in concentration, his heart pounding like a jackhammer in his chest.

"I'm coming home. The flight number is 734 on Northwestern. I'll be landing at Regional at 12:40 AM tonight - or I should say, tomorrow. Anyway, I could really use a ride, but if you can't make it... well, I'll understand."

There was a long silence then a sigh.

"Still, I'd really like to see you."

There was a click and the phone went dead. Castiel looked at his clock. Shit! It was already 11:55 and he was car-less. It didn't matter; if Castiel had to use a skateboard, he was going to get to that airport! He grabbed some clothes and threw them on. His fingers shook as he buttoned the fly on his jeans. He was down the steps and banging at Eleanor's door in under 60 seconds. She was still up, but not very happy to see Castiel at first.

"There had better be a damned good reason for this, young man," she said, raising an eyebrow in irritation.

"Can I borrow your car?" Castiel asked, breathlessly. "It's kind of an emergency."

Castiel knew the Caddy was Eleanor's baby. And he was half expecting her to say no, but the look on his face must have convinced her that this was no late night run for beer.

"Of course." She said, looking at him closely. "Come in while I get you the keys."

Castiel stood in her kitchen, first on one foot, then the other. His mouth was dry and his heart was pounding. Eleanor came back into the room with a set of keys in her hand.

"Are you okay, Castiel? Would you like me to come with you?" she asked with concern.

Castiel shook his head. "I'm fine," he said. "I have to go to the airport and pick somebody up."

Castiel didn't want to get into some long discussion, so he deliberately omitted saying Dean's name - but she knew. She smiled, then raised her tiny hand to his face and softly stroked his cheek.

"Things usually have a way of working out for the best," she said quietly. "Even if it doesn't seem that way at the time, Castiel. If you need to talk later, I'll be here - anytime, day or night."

She pulled him down and kissed him, quite firmly, on the forehead, then pointed towards the door.

"Now, get out of here and don't worry."

"I love you, Eleanor." The words were out of Castiel's mouth before he could stop them.

"Of course you do," she said calmly, "I'm irresistible! Now hurry, and take care you don't hurt my car."

Castiel practically ran to the garage and jumped into the big, comfy gas-guzzler. He glanced at the dimly lit dashboard clock - it was now 12:10. He silently cursed as he gunned the engine and tore off down the street. There was no way he could make the drive in a half an hour, but he was counting on baggage and customs to slow Dean down. Thank God, traffic was light for a Friday night, and he made good time.

At first, Castiel was too absorbed in the driving to think of much else, but after he got on the freeway, he started to wonder how this was going to go. The nervousness he lost in the initial act of plotting the quickest route out of Gainesville returned with a vengeance.

By the time he pulled into the front of Northwestern's Terminal, Castiel was a basket case. He wasn't even sure where he should meet Dean. There was no way he could park without having to walk about a mile, and Castiel was too afraid to do that in case he missed Dean. At least his thoughts kept him from facing what he was really worried about. What was he going to say to Dean when he saw him? And more importantly, what was Dean going to say to him?

Castiel glanced at the dashboard. It was after 1 AM. The concourse was a madhouse, and his heart sank when he didn't see Dean. Because of the traffic, Castiel couldn't stop and take a good look, but had to keep endlessly circling, craning his neck as he avoided an ocean of pedestrians, cabs, cars, and shuttles. On Castiel's fifth go-round, a spot in the loading area miraculously opened up. He grabbed it and carefully pulled the Caddy up to the curb. He took a quick look around, and decided to risk a ticket and go into the terminal. Suddenly, a shape detached itself from the shadows and stepped into the light.

It was Dean. He didn't appear to recognize the car, but then, he was probably expecting Castiel's old Duster. Castiel watched him for a minute as he stood there looking into the gloom beyond the streetlights. He looked so... alone.

Castiel caught his breath as his emotions surged. It was only then that he realized a part of him had truly believed he'd never see Dean again. His hands were shaking. He gripped the steering wheel and steadied himself. Whatever the rest of this night would bring, Castiel assured himself, it had to be better than the waiting he endured in the last few months. After tonight, he would be getting on with his life - one-way or the other.

Castiel shut off the engine and got out on legs he weren't sure would hold him. Dean looked up just as the door slammed.

You know how in all those corny romantic stories the two lovers stare at each other and everything else slows down and disappears? Well, that didn't happen. Castiel was acutely aware of the lights, the sounds of traffic, a porter checking in a young girl's bags. No romantic music, no swelling orchestra - just two, long-lost friends staring at each other from forty feet away, each filled with anxiety.

But Castiel was aware of Dean. He stood in a pool of light and the glow sharpened the edges of his outline. Castiel could see he needed a shave, and there were hollows in his cheeks that hadn't been there a couple of months ago. The eyes that met his own were shadowed with a weariness that wasn't caused by jet lag.

A man in a hurry bumped into him, but Dean didn't notice. He never moved, just continued to stare at Castiel. Castiel walked around the car and stepped onto the pavement next to Dean. He wanted to touch him - to hold him, to comfort him like a lost child. Instead, Castiel picked up the bags that sat at his feet.

"Is this all your luggage?" Castiel asked.

Dean seemed distracted. "Yes," he said.

"Okay. I'll put 'em in the trunk."

Castiel suited his actions to his words. Dean continued to stand motionless. His shoulders sagged.

"Why don't you get in the car?" Castiel said quietly.

Silently, Dean did. Castiel got into the driver's seat and buckled up, then cranked the engine. He looked over at Dean.

"Seatbelt?"

Dean obeyed him, and then lay his head back on the seat and drew in a long breath and closed his eyes. Castiel stared at Dean worriedly. He didn't know what he expected, but it wasn't this.

"Take me home, Cas," Dean whispered. He spoke so softly, Castiel barely heard him.

Castiel wanted to say something, but he didn't have a clue what that would be, so he kept his mouth shut. They drove to Gainesville in silence. It had started to rain and the only sound in the car was the steady womp-womp of the wipers. Dean's eyes were still closed, but Castiel didn't think he was sleeping.

There was a light on in Eleanor's kitchen as they pulled up to the house. He put the car in park and turned it off. Dean never moved. Castiel leaned over and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Hey - you awake?" He whispered.

Dean turned to him slowly and they had another long stare. Castiel could feel Dean's heat radiate from his hand where he touched him. It traveled the long arc of Castiel's arm and entered his heart. Castiel smiled at him. Dean's hand stretched out and pulled Castiel towards him. Slowly their arms tightened until they were holding each other in a fierce, tight embrace. Dean's head was on Castiel's shoulder and he buried his nose in Castiel's t-shirt and took a deep, shuddering breath.

"I've missed your smell." He whispered. "Sometimes I'd catch a whiff of something, someone who would remind me of you, and I'd follow..." He trailed off and took another deep breath then he trembled.

"Oh, God, Cas... I'm so scared."

Castiel's heart pounded and his hands were around Dean's back stroking him softly. The swelling in his cock was an intrusion he wanted to go away. This was not the time for sex; it was love they were talking about. Dean had made his decision. Castiel's heart soared with that realization at the same time his bowels turned to water because of the fear that gripped him. Castiel rubbed the top of Dean's head with his cheek.

"So am I, Dean." Castiel replied as softly as he did. "So am I. But we'll figure this out. I love you."

Dean raised his head and smiled a little.

"That's why I came home. You love me, and I finally realized that's the only thing that matters in my life." He shook his head in wonderment. "Who'da thunk it?"

"Well, apparently, not the two of us," Castiel added dryly, "considering it only took us four years and the help of a bunch of people pointing it out for us to realize it."

They were silent for a few minutes just holding each other and breathing in each other's scent. It amazed Castiel how right it felt to have Dean in his arms. For the first time in his life, he knew what it was like to be completely content. Hell, he was ready to take up residency in that car. Castiel wondered idly if Eleanor would mind if he told her she couldn't have it back. But all good things must come to an end. Both his legs were going to sleep from the awkward position he was in.

Dean must have been getting a little uncomfortable too, because he finally broke the silence. "We should probably go upstairs," he said, nodding his head towards the entrance.

Chapter Text

Reluctantly, Castiel agreed and they slid apart and got out of the car. His arms felt empty. Castiel popped the trunk and helped Dean retrieve his suitcase and backpack and trudged up the squeaky staircase. Castiel got out his key and put it in the lock and shivered when Dean brushed against him as he opened the door. Castiel stepped aside and Dean walked in. Castiel turned to look at the big house. The light in the kitchen blinked off. Eleanor had waited to make sure everything was okay.

Castiel went inside and closed the door. Dean had dropped his things as soon as he got in and was just standing there. Castiel reached for the light switch.

"Don't." Dean voice was hoarse. "I need to say some things to you, and I don't think... I don't think I'll be able to go through with it if I can see your face."

Castiel's hand froze on the switch and he waited for Dean to go on.

"When I left here, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be coming back. Not ever." His voice sounded sore, as if the words were hurting him. "I had it all planned out. I'd take a year off; apply to another medical school, start over. I had decided it would be better if I never saw you again."

Castiel stood there appalled. The fact that he already figured that out didn't make it any easier to hear it coming out of Dean's mouth. A choking fear squeezed his chest and made it difficult to breath.

Dean seemed to sense Castiel's feelings. "I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't be telling you this."

Castiel shook his head even though he knew Dean couldn't see him do it. "No," Castiel said, keeping his voice steady. "I want to hear everything."

Dean sighed heavily and went on. "I told myself that in a couple of years, maybe we'd be able to get together, pretend nothing had happened. Maybe we could salvage at least some of our friendship. I was kidding myself, of course. But the only way I could face the possibility of not seeing you was to tell myself it was only temporary." He laughed but there was no humor in the sound. "That fact alone should've told me I wouldn't be able to go through it."

Castiel's eyes had adjusted to the dark room and he could see Dean shake his head slowly and shrug his shoulders.

"Self-deception is an amazing defense mechanism," Dean continued. "It can make you believe the most impossible things."

There was so much pain in his voice Castiel regretted encouraging him.

"Dean, you don't have to..." Castiel started.

"Let me finish." Dean was too harsh and he knew it. "Please." He'd softened his voice, but it was still an order.

Castiel stayed quiet and Dean continued after a few moments.

"When I got to Rome, I was determined to put all of this behind me. Sam had an apartment with two other priests. I stayed with them for a few days until I found a place of my own. Sam didn't want me to go, but I told him I needed some time alone to think. He didn't like it, but eventually he gave in, after making me promise that I'd check in every few days."

Dean paused and cleared his throat.

"Can I have a glass of water?" He asked politely, almost formally.

Castiel was surprised he asked. Dean always helped himself before.

"Sure." Castiel walked over to the kitchen and grabbed a glass and filled it from a bottle in the fridge. The light momentarily blinded him and he had to wait for his eyes to adjust before he walked back over to Dean. Castiel handed him the glass. Dean was careful not to touch him, but his fingers shook and some of the water slopped over the rim onto the floor.

"Sit down," Castiel said gently.

He could barely see Dean's face, but Castiel still felt like Dean's eyes were burning into him. Dean stayed where he was for a minute, then put the glass to his lips and drained it. He handed it back to Castiel, again avoiding physical contact, then went over and slumped on his usual spot on the couch - legs bent, knees spread, with his large hands dangling between his legs. Castiel went back to the kitchen area and filled Dean's glass again and got one for himself. Castiel walked over to the sofa and put Dean's glass in front of him and then turned to go sit in his recliner.

"Could you sit on the couch? Like... like you usually do?"

Castiel stopped. He had thought Dean would be more comfortable with some distance between them. Apparently, he was wrong. Castiel turned and moved to his traditional end of the sofa and sat down carefully. The bizarre familiarity and strangeness of the scene struck him at once: how often they had sat like this, just bullshitting and telling each other their dreams. Yet somehow, this felt like they were talking for the very first time.

Dean started to speak again in a low, soft voice. Castiel leaned forward and hung on every word, as if his life depended on it.

"At first, I had this plan. I was going to do all these things - play tourist, meet new friends. For a few days I tried, but nothing really interested me. The ancient ruins left me cold; museums were a bore. Nights, I'd just sit in a bar and I'd listen to the people around me. I couldn't join in, and not just because of the language barrier. It seemed like I'd lost the ability to connect with people." He cleared his throat. "It was a novel experience."

I'll bet, Castiel thought. Dean was used to having an entourage. Except for the times they spent alone, Castiel can't think of a time he had ever seen Dean without at least of couple of friends tagging along.

"I told myself I wanted companionship," Dean continued, "but I kept avoiding it at the same time. Sam was almost out of his mind worrying about me, but even with him I couldn't really open up. I mean... I told him about us, but only to a point - only the facts. I just couldn't make myself tell him how I felt. Our connection had been slipping for a long time - ever since high school, really - but I didn't know how much we really grew apart until I saw him this summer."

Dean stopped talking and took another gulp of water. "It wasn't like we were suddenly strangers. It'll never be like that; he'll always be my brother. But we no longer depend on each other the way we used to. Sam has the church; I had... well, I wasn't sure what I had, but I knew it wasn't him anymore. I couldn't tell him all that'd happened between Lisa and me. I... I couldn't tell him how I really felt - about you."

"He knew anyway," Castiel interrupted gently.

Dean nodded and turned away slightly. "Yeah," he admitted. "That's right. Sam was always good at reading me. Anyway, he guessed or whatever - I don't know. But he finally came to me and confronted me. It took him a while to wear me down, but he kept after me, bugging me. The day you called was the day I finally broke down and told him all of it. You calling like that..." Dean made a gesture of helplessness, then sat back and ran his fingers through his hair. "Well... it seemed to just be the final straw. That's the real reason I blew up with you. Sam was pissed at me about that, by the way. He thought I'd acted like a real shit-head. We fought about it more than once."

"I know."

"That's right, he told you. I knew he talked to you afterwards. He likes you - did you know that? He says you're tough and brave, even if you do have lousy taste in men."

Castiel couldn't stop himself; he reached over and stroked the arm Dean had draped over the back of the couch. Dean slid it back until their hands touched. Castiel could feel his hand twitch slightly from nervousness, but then his fingers curled and gripped Castiel's tightly.

"I'd been there for almost 5 months and I'd developed a whole routine. Every morning, I got up, I'd shower and shave; eat my breakfast and then go out for a walk. I would go in any direction I felt like. I'd walk for hours, only stopping for something to eat or a coffee. Most of the time, I'd get hopelessly lost and would have to take a taxi back to my apartment. At night, I'd go down to the cafe on the corner and I'd watch the neighborhood people. Eventually, I did get to know some of them, but I still felt like an outsider. The world was going on around me, but I didn't feel like I had a place in it anymore."

Dean squeezed Castiel's hand harder and took a deep breath before he continued. "One day, I walked to this little neighborhood about three miles from where I was staying, near the Villa Celimontana. I'd been there before, but it somehow appealed to me, and I'd gone back several times. It was just a middle-class neighborhood, not very beautiful, not particularly old - at least by Italian standards - but there was this little park with a fountain, Parco di Porta Capena, and the neighborhood kids would kick soccer balls and the old men would play bocce and the mothers of the smaller children would sit on the grass and gossip while keeping an eye on their bambinos. But that day, there didn't seem to be anybody around."

"The church on the corner opened its doors and six pallbearers appeared with a coffin. A middle-aged woman, all in black, walked behind it. Two young men supported her. She was crying, and the boys and the crowd that followed were grim. I watched as they loaded the coffin into a hearse and kept my eyes on the scene until everybody had left. After all the activity, the street seemed unnaturally quiet.

"Suddenly, the front door of the house across from where I was sitting swung open and a bunch of people came running out of the house laughing. It was as if somebody had thrown a switch. Houses from all over the neighborhood opened up and people were laughing and shouting at each other.

"An older man appeared in the doorway of the first house and seemed to address the whole neighborhood. Everyone got quiet and watched him as he turned back to the house and motioned to someone. A beautiful young girl appeared beside him, dressed in a white wedding gown. Her cheeks were bright red from embarrassment, but she was smiling. The crowd went wild. They cheered and applauded. Over and over I heard the word, 'bellissima.' Then as suddenly as they started, they were silent again.

"A young man dressed in a dark suit had broken from the crowd and started to walk towards his bride. I saw the look on his face, in her eyes. He took her hand and together, with all the people who lived around that square they made their way to the church. The same church where so many had cried just a little while before. I watched until the crowd had disappeared and the doors had shut. The street was silent again.

"Again, I seemed absolutely alone in that park. It was so quiet I could actually hear the sound a squirrel made as it jumped in and out of bushes looking for stray candy and snacks left by the neighborhood kids. But, after a while, I realized that I wasn't really alone.”

"There was a mime or a clown - I never did figure out what to call him - standing just behind the fountain. I'd seen him before; he used to work the street corner up from the café on evenings, when the tourists would be taking a pre-dinner walk. He had this whole schtick he'd do, with balloons and pratfalls, not really the normal 'man in a box' stuff that mimes do, but he was silent like them. Anyway, I'd seen him a lot, so I recognized him now, though I'd never met him before outside of my seat at the café.

"I don't know why he was there that day either. Maybe he was hired for entertaining at the wedding party later - I never did find out. But when I saw him, I realized he must've been watching me for some time. We looked each other over. He smiled at me and motioned towards the church to show he knew what I'd been looking at. I smiled back politely and grabbed my book and pretended to read. A minute later I realized a pair of black ballet shoes were visible in front of me.

"I looked up and saw the clown. He had a big red balloon in one hand, and he lifted it above his head and let go. We both watched as it sailed up over the trees and disappeared. Then he grinned.

" 'La vita è bella,' he said. And then he turned and walked away."

Castiel had never heard the phrase before. "What does it mean?" He asked.

Dean cleared his throat. "It means, life is beautiful."

Dean stopped, and then Castiel realized he could feel Dean's thumb lightly stroke the top of his hand.

"I couldn't believe it," Dean said. "I felt like I was in a fucking Fellini film! I started to laugh out loud and had to restrain myself from looking for movie cameras. I couldn't sit there anymore. I was still grinning, but I got up and started to walk back to the apartment, then began to run. I was in a hurry - I had to get back. I wasn't sure why, but the compulsion was irresistible."

He looked up at Castiel. The light was so dim, Castiel couldn't make out the details of his face, but he could see a faint reflection in his eyes. "Suddenly, I stopped," Dean said. "I knew. I knew that what I wanted - no, needed to do - was to tell you... to share with you what I'd just seen. And not just what I'd seen on that day, but on every day."

Dean stopped for a moment and sat there. Finally, he began again, his voice soft in the darkness.

"Cas," he said, "I don't know where this will take us. I don't even know if what we feel for each other will last."

Dean's hand squeezed Castiel's, then released it. Castiel felt his heat as Dean slid towards him. Castiel strained his eyes in the darkness, searching Dean's face as it closed in on his. Long habit made Castiel want to turn away, to jump up and move to a safer distance - the distance he always kept between them in self-preservation. Castiel held his ground.

"But one thing I do know," Dean reached up and stroked Castiel's cheek. Castiel could feel the trembling in Dean's fingers. "And that's that I love you. And even though I don't know exactly what that can bring us, I can't let my fear keep me from finding out."

Dean tilted Castiel's head up so their lips were only millimeters apart and stopped. Castiel wanted to pull Dean towards himself, but he knew it was important to Dean that he be allowed to be in control for that moment. The moment stretched and Castiel forgot how to breathe.

With a shudder, Dean closed the distance between them. The kiss was awkward, their noses got in the way, their teeth clicked harshly, and their tongues felt fat and clumsy as they dueled. Yet Castiel almost came from the sheer joy of it.

"Jesus, this is strange!" Dean whispered in Castiel's ear. "The women I've kissed never had heavier beards than me."

"Well, there was that one girl from Greece I remember you dating..." Castiel said, falling back into their normal pattern.

"Fuck you, asshole." Dean punched him lightly, then stopped as he realized that the previously innocent comment had just taken on a whole new meaning.

"Sure," Castiel said with a chuckle. "I'll go get the lube." He tried to leer at Dean in the dim light, but started laughing instead at the look of alarm on his face.

"Relax," Castiel said, reassuringly. "I was just kidding."

Dean grinned a little, but his eyes still looked worried. Castiel figured now was as good a time as any to get the inevitable sex talk out of the way. He gently pulled away from Dean and twisted to turn on the lamp on the coffee table. By the time he turned back, dean was in his usual corner of the sofa, eyes cast downward, cheeks flushed in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry." He said simply. "I thought that this would be easier, that somehow things would just fall into place."

"What?" Castiel said, incredulously. "You thought after one kiss I'd be up on all fours wagging my ass in your face?" He shook his head and frowned in mock disgust. "You've been reading gay porn, haven't you?"

Castiel waited until he saw Dean grin again. "Dean, it's okay," he said. Now it was his turn to move to Dean. He pulled him into a loose embrace that he didn't return, but didn't resist either.

"Listen," Castiel said soothingly. "We can go as fast or as slow as you want. Gay sex is not as absolute as the boy/girl kind. Different partners make up different dynamics depending on their tastes, their needs. I think we'll just have to take our time and find out what works for both of us." And, Castiel silently prayed, he hope to hell they find it.

Castiel leaned forward and took Dean's mouth again. Now, there was no hesitancy in his kiss, no restraint. Their mouths opened and this time, the awkwardness was gone. Their tongues dueled expertly, as if they'd always known each other. Castiel could have pressed on at that moment. He knew it from the way Dean's body leaned into his, the way their hearts had taken on each other's beats, but Castiel broke the kiss instead. There were still things to be said and now that Dean was here with him, Castiel felt like they had all the time in the world to explore their possibilities. He was not going to risk rushing through something he waited so long to experience.

Which makes him sound like he was making some sort of sacrifice. Not a chance. Sure, Castiel wanted Dean, more than he's ever wanted another human being, ever - but he didn't just mean that physically. Castiel wanted to let Dean's voice sink into his bones and he wanted to re-memorize the planes of Dean's face, the way Dean's eyes asked him questions he wasn't able to put into words. Like Castiel said, this wasn't about sex.

"So," Castiel brushed Dean's hair off his forehead. "Are you hungry?"

He laughed shakily. "Starved."

Castiel pulled out the cold cuts he bought the night before for the weekend, and quickly threw together a sandwich. Dean stayed on the couch and watched him as if he'd never seen Castiel before. Castiel poured him a glass of milk to go with it and brought them both over to him. Dean thanked Castiel - again too politely - then sat there and stared at the food as if he'd forgotten how to eat.

"Go on," Castiel urged him, "dig in! Just don't get used to the service. I'm not exactly handy in the kitchen."

"Like this is exactly news?" Dean said with a grin. He picked up half of the sandwich and bit into it. As he chewed he gestured to the remaining part.

"Aren't you having any?" He said as soon as he'd swallowed.

Castiel shook his head. "I'm not hungry."

Dean shrugged and gulped down the rest of the snack in silence. Castiel watched him greedily. He hadn't exactly been truthful when he said he wasn't hungry. He was - just not for food.

Dean picked up the glass of milk and drank half of it without taking a break. When he set it down he had a milk mustache. Letting himself give into temptation, Castiel reached across and wiped up the moistness with his finger and stuck it in his mouth, sucking off the sweet liquid, warm from his skin. When Castiel looked back at Dean, he was staring at Castiel's mouth, his eyes hot and filled with desire. He noticed Castiel looking and licked his lips nervously.

They reached for each other at the same time. The kiss was deep and full, as they tasted each other's flavors. Another new style to add to their growing repertoire. Again, Castiel had to force himself to break away before they got too caught up in the moment. Dean made a little moan in the back of his throat when Castiel did, but he didn't protest anymore. Dean knew as well as Castiel did that they needed to take care of other things before they sampled any more of each other.

Dean looked at Castiel steadily. "I want to tell you something."

Dean sat up and shoved back on the couch until he was in the crook of the arm, as far from Castiel as he could possibly get. He seemed to need the distance and Castiel wondered what it was that dean could possibly have to say that would make him think that.

"You can tell me anything," Castiel said. "I hope you know that."

Dean nodded, then bit nervously at his thumb. "I wish I had a cigarette. You didn't know I started smoking in Rome, did you?"

It amazed Castiel. Dean had always been so adamant about all the ' your body is a temple' crap. "That's what you wanted to tell me?" Castiel asked incredulously. "'Cause if it is, I'm not wild about the idea - but it's your life." He looked towards the kitchen. "I think I have an ashtray over in the cupboard. Let me go..."

Dean reached over and put his hand on Castiel's arm. "Relax - I quit. I threw out the rest of my pack in the airport in Rome."

"Oh." Castiel was confused and he looked at Dean, waiting for an answer.

"I was just trying to put this off. I need to get it off my chest, but I'm not sure I want to - if you get my drift."

"Take your time," Castiel covered Dean's hand with his. "We can even wait and do this later if you're too tired now."

Dean slid his hand out from under Castiel's. "No, I don't want to wait. I've been keeping this inside me for far too long as it is - way too long." He sat back again and closed his eyes and began. "I've never been very good with telling the truth."

Chapter Text

Castiel started to protest, but Dean held out a hand, shook his head and Castiel stopped. After a few seconds of silence, Dean began again.

"Cas, you've been honest with me, and now it's my turn. Forgive me if I get confused or don't make much sense. I haven't had much experience with it; lying is so much easier, especially when you've had as much practice at it as I have."

Dean waited for Castiel to take in his words. When he had no further comment, Dean went on.

"From the time I hit puberty, I knew I liked boys sexually. Oh, I liked women, too - plenty - but the attraction to men was always there. I never did anything about it. Well... not much, anyway. There were a few times when my buddy Todd Wright and I sorta helped each other out when we were beating off, but that was at camp when we were about twelve, and I really don't think that counts."

Actually, it does, Castiel thought, but he wasn't about to interrupt Dean with a discussion of adolescent gay psychology.

"Anyway, that was about it, 'cause when I realized how much I'd really enjoyed it, it scared the shit out of me! So, I decided that I'd make sure it never happened again. Instead, I just thought, 'big deal, I like girls too.' That's the easier route; I'll just choose that path. I mean, who wouldn't if they could, right? Who would choose being something that half the world hates? At least, that's what my 13 year-old mind thought."

Castiel winced a little but nodded.

Dean smiled apologetically. "Sorry if that's offensive. But you started the truth game, so consider it your fault that I've decided to play, too."

Castiel shrugged. "It's the truth. I never had a choice myself, and I think most guys are the same way, but I can understand what you're saying. If I'd been in your shoes, I'd probably have felt the same way."

Dean nodded briefly, but he looked relieved at Castiel's reaction. "You'd be amazed at how easy it really was to do this. It was like I trained myself to be 100% heterosexual. 'That guy's got a cute ass,' I'd think, and then correct myself. 'No, don't look at him! Look at that girl with the great boobs, instead!' After awhile, it just became second nature. Hell, I thought I was over it - like it was a cold or a case of the measles."

He shook his head as if he was still amazed at his own self-deception. "And it didn't exactly feel like I was denying myself anything. I still had all the girls I wanted. Why not? It was socially acceptable, and trust me - I loved every minute of it. That was another reason I was sure that I wasn't really gay. How could I have enjoyed sex with girls so much if I really wanted sex with guys?" He grinned. "Of course, the complexities of bisexuality escaped me in high school."

Dean's smile faded and he looked at Castiel, suddenly serious again. "And they may have forever if something hadn't happened. I met you."

Castiel's face flushed momentarily.

"But I wasn't as smart as you," Dean continued. "I had no idea how I felt for you in the beginning. All I knew was that you were this really cool guy that I liked a lot." He dropped his eyes and studied the hands he was absent-mindedly twisting in his lap.

"Here comes my first confession," Dean said. "When you told me you were gay, my reaction had more to do with panic than anger." He laughed and shook his head. "I was so freaked, I thought the reason you were telling me all that was because you knew - that somehow you'd guessed my secret! That you knew how attracted I was to guys."

Castiel started to say something, but Dean shook his head.

"And there was more," he said quietly. "For one brief moment when you finally said, 'I'm gay,' all I felt... was happy. And that really scared the hell out of me."

"I had no idea," Castiel said softly.

Dean looked up. "Of course you didn't! I wasn't about to let you or anybody else know my big secret! Hell, I couldn't let myself believe it! Anyway, I managed to justify my reaction pretty damn quick. All those years of conditioning kicked in. By the time I'd gotten home to Lawrence, I was just chalking it up to 'one of those things.'

"But, that's why Sam was able to talk me out of being so pissed, so easily. I had already convinced myself that you were no threat to my sexuality." Dean shook his head and smiled wanly. "Funny - if I'd really thought about it, I wonder if I'd have realized how much I really wanted to be talked into apologizing, and what exactly that meant."

"You made me very happy when you called back that night," Castiel said.

"Don't!" Dean protested. "Don't try and make this sound like it's something I should be proud of! I did that enough on my own. Do you know I actually had the balls to congratulate myself for being so liberal? You wrote in your letter that you thought you'd been an asshole, but I have to tell you - you don't exactly hold the corner on the market, Cas."

"I told myself I loved you like a brother. Hell, it even made sense with Sam so cut off because of being in the seminary and all. It didn't even occur to me that no matter how close I was to him, I'd never felt the connection I'd felt with you - and he's my blood! But I barely missed him after a while, 'cause I didn't need him the way I always had before. I had you."

Castiel had to admit what Dean was saying was starting to make a lot of sense, especially after his conversations with Sam. All the pieces Castiel hadn't been able to fit into place before were working their way into the picture. It was a different picture than what he expected, but he had a feeling that when it was complete, he was going to like it a lot better.

Dean, for his part, was caught up in his story. "I can tell you the first time I started to realize that I might be feeling something for you, that didn't exactly fit in with my self-image of rampant heterosexuality. If you think about it, you can probably figure it out for yourself. Do you remember? ‘Twas the night you came home after spending that day on Zeke's boat."

Castiel nodded. Again, this made sense, and he already figured out this was a turning point in his own little journeys down memory lane these last few months.

Dean made a sour face. "I never liked him, you know - not from the moment I saw you look at him when he walked into that bar. I told myself that it was just that I was worried about you. Of course, that was pure bullshit, but I bought it because it was what I needed to believe. Then came that night when you came home with Zeke, and even my powers of self-deception weren't strong enough to keep me from facing the truth.

"I'd been real happy when I got to your place. You didn't know that, did you? How could you? It sure wasn't the mood I was in when you finally got home. See, Lisa had called an old mutual friend of ours... and then she'd gone to Illinois for the game, and I saw her there afterwards. She told me Lis was on her way back. Of course, I picked up the phone and tried to call you right away, because by that time, I shared everything with you. It seemed natural... addicting. But you weren't home. I tried a couple times, but hey - it was Saturday night, I understood."

"Big of you," Castiel said dryly, then immediately regretted it when he saw the look on Dean's face.

"Yeah, that's me alright," Dean agreed bitterly.

"I didn't mean it that way," Castiel said quietly. "I'm sorry."

"No, you should mean it. It's true. You know, you once told me I was too easy on you, but from my point of view, it's always been you that's excused me. I mean, why the fuck are you even letting me in your house after I just deserted you like that, with the rape and..." Dean choked as the words caught in his throat.

"Stop it!" Castiel moved over and grabbed Dean by the shoulders. "We'll talk about that later. We'll talk about all of it, but right now, let's take one thing at a time, alright?" He looked at Dean and watched as he struggled to get back his control. When Castiel figured Dean succeeded he spoke again. "Now, tell me the rest of your story."

Dean nodded then cleared his throat and started again. "The first I thing I did when the team got back was to go over to your place. You still weren't there. I was a little disappointed, but I let myself in and thought you'd be back any minute. That was at 3p.m - by 4, I was asleep on the couch; by 7, I was awake again, and by 10, I was worried."

Dean yawned and Castiel almost stopped him; he looked so tired. Maybe now wasn't the best time to discuss anything. But Dean saw Castiel's look and shook his head no.

"I'm okay, Cas," he said. "Believe it or not, it feels good to tell you this finally. It's such a relief."

"All right, but if you want to stop don't worry about it."

Dean shrugged. "No, I'm fine. Where was I? Oh, I remember.

"You showed up at 11 that morning, and I knew the moment I saw you that something momentous happened, and I knew it had to do with Zeke by the way you looked at him. I'd never seen you look at anybody that way - not even me. I was instantly so jealous I could barely breathe. Of course, I couldn't let you know that, so I just translated all that emotion into anger. Not exactly a hard trade, since I was pissed, but only at myself for feeling that way. You know the rest of what happened after that, but you never knew why."

Castiel shook his head. "Not right away, no. But these last months, I've been doing a lot of searching through the past, and I wondered..."

Dean shrugged again. "You were always smart."

"Yeah," Castiel said ruefully. "When I wasn't being a total dumbass."

Dean actually smiled a little. "I was the dumbass that night. Even then I knew what I was doing was unbelievably stupid. But the fact was, until that minute when you walked through the door, it'd never dawned on me that I'd ever have to share you with anyone. Oh, I knew you had boyfriends, but you were always so casual about it. You even told me a couple of times how you didn't ever see yourself really getting seriously involved with anybody. I depended on that being true. I should've known better."

"But you're the one who told me I needed more in my life!" Castiel shot back, indignant at Dean's last statement.

"Yeah, well... I thought we'd already established what a liar I can be," Dean said with a sigh. "Do you know I almost kissed you that night? I was so nuts about seeing you with Zeke, I was ready to do try just about anything to make you see what a mistake I thought you were making - even to the point of telling you the truth about my feelings. But when I put my arms around you, I suddenly realized that he'd been there first! I felt like he'd beaten me at a game I hadn't even known I was playing."

Castiel's eyes widened. Just as Dean said those words, he realized that was something else he knew - somewhere deep in his brain, Castiel knew even then what Dean wanted to do. He just buried it like so much else he buried about his true relationship with Dean.

"And deep down inside, I knew," Dean continued. "I knew that however much I might think I wanted you at that moment, I really wasn't prepared to give up everything I'd created about myself... not even for you."

"And that wasn't fair. At least Zeke was sure of who he was. If you two didn't make it, it wouldn't be because he'd never given it a fair shot. I couldn't say that about myself."

Dean looked at Castiel and smiled sadly. "It was probably the one time in this whole mess when I was honestly thinking of you and not being a selfish prick."

Jesus Christ, Castiel thought, suddenly angry. Couldn't you at least have given me the opportunity to try and change your mind? Then Castiel stopped that train of thought before it could consume hin. Of course Dean couldn't, and why would he have thought Castiel even wanted it? It wasn't like Castiel been any more honest with Dean about his own feelings. Hell, at the time Dean was describing, Castiel hadn't even been honest with himself! Seems like they had a lot more in common then Castiel ever believed.

Castiel struggled to his feet, still weary from the day's activities. Nothing was going to get resolved tonight, that was clear. He was worried that they were both so exhausted that they could inadvertently make it worse. Dean's little confession might be good for him, but it was starting to piss Castiel off, and that wasn't the way he wanted their reunion to go. They had a lot of baggage to sort through, but it wasn't all going to happen in one night.

"Okay, enough," Castiel said, raising his hands in surrender. "All my hair shirts are at the cleaners, so we can't continue this conversation until I get them back." Castiel leaned over and grabbed Dean's arm and dragged him up to his feet. "I'm about to fall down dead from lack of sleep, and so are you. We can't solve anything if we can't think clearly."

Dean started to protest, but a yawn caught him in mid-word so he stopped and smiled at Castiel sheepishly. Castiel remembered suddenly that he was in love with this guy. He pulled Dean to himself and wrapped his arms around him tightly. After a moment Dean put his arms around Castiel's neck and buried his face in Castiel's shoulder.

Castiel felt his anger melt. Maybe they wouldn't exactly make a poster for the perfect gay couple, but what they did have was worth trying to build on. Castiel hugged Dean tighter and felt his heart swell when Dean returned the favor. Yeah, Castiel thought. He was in love with Dean and Dean seemed to feel the same about him. Life really is beautiful.

They stood like that until they started swaying. Dean looked up at Castiel. "If we stay like this much longer, we're probably going to fall down."

"I know," Castiel agreed sadly. "But I don't want to let you go."

Dean's mouth found Castiel's and they shared a soft, sweet kiss. Surprisingly, there was no passion behind it on either of their parts. It was as if they both realized that they had the time to explore that side of them later, and that now was the moment of promise, not fulfillment.

Dean kissed Castiel again and then they reluctantly broke apart. Castiel went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. When he came out Dean was still standing in the same spot Castiel left him in.

"I thought you'd be ready for bed by now!"

Dean flushed and had a hard time meeting Castiel's eyes. "Well, I wasn't sure how we were going to work this."

Castiel walked up to Dean and gentle tipped Dean's face so that he was looking directly at Castiel. "Well, I thought first we'd strip, and then I'd fuck you silly."

Dean's eyes widened.

Castiel laughed. "Jesus, Dean! You have got to get a sense of humor!"

Dean looked at Castiel and blushed even redder. "Asshole," he muttered.

"Look," Castiel put his arms on Dean's shoulders and felt how tense he was. "I think we should just relax and take our time here. You're totally beat, and so am I. Why don't we just get some sleep for now, and then we can start to figure out where we go from here in the morning."

The muscles under Castiel's fingers relaxed. Dean nodded and then smiled shyly at Castiel. "Thanks, Cas." He brushed his lips over Castiel's. "I don't want to act like some virgin at a prom, but I guess I'm a little bit nervous."

"S'okay. If you want the truth, so am I, a little bit." Castiel pointed towards Dean's duffel. "Now, get your jammies on and come to bed."

Castiel deliberately turned his back to Dean and walked over to the clothes hook on the back of his closet and started to strip. Castiel was being honest - he was a little nervous. He wasn't even sure if he shouldn't just offer to sleep on the couch. God knows, he was totally ready for sex with Dean, but it was clear Dean was scared shitless. Castiel figured Dean go through with it if he really pushed it, but sacrificial virgins had never been a turn-on for Castiel. He was willing to wait - at least for a little while - until Dean got in his bearings.

Castiel stripped to his boxers, but stopped there. He normally slept nude, but it didn't seem like such a hot idea tonight. He turned to see Dean standing there in his briefs too. From long habit, Castiel started to avert his eyes. Then he stopped himself. What the hell was he doing? Maybe they weren't ready yet for the big event, but they sure as shit could check each other out.

After all, it wasn't like Castiel hadn't seen Dean's body before. He had, but only in stolen glimpses. And even those didn't happen often. All the times Dean lived down the hall from him or borrowed Castiel's shower when he'd show up at his door after a workout session or a run, you'd think they would've been a little freer with each other. But Castiel was always worried Dean would think he was trying to make the moves on him, and Dean had his own concerns, as Castiel now knew . But now, here Dean was, standing right in front of Castiel, and finally Castiel got a look at the man he fantasized about for so long.

Dean lost some weight since the last time Castiel saw him, and he'd always been thin. Now, there wasn't an extra ounce of fat on his body. Dean's chest was hard and lean, and he had a triangle of golden hair spreading across to his nipples. From there, it trickled down to a narrow arrow that dissected his navel, then continued south until it spread out again at the waistband of his briefs. His legs were heavily sculpted, long and toned, and covered with a light covering of down that matched the soft hair on his chest. Castiel's eyes followed the length of Dean's bowlegs to his long narrow feet and toes and then they reversed and covered the same ground until they stopped at the top of Dean's thighs. He had quite a bulge there, and it stretched and weighed down the soft cotton knit of his underwear. As Castiel looked he could see a twitch and he thought he noticed a thickening of the shaft, whose outline was plainly visible under the thin fabric.

Castiel forced himself to stop from licking his lips and turned his eyes back to Dean's face. Castiel suppose he was worried that he might be making Dean uncomfortable, but he shouldn't have worried. Dean was too busy looking at him to notice what sights he'd been taking in. Dean's eyes flickered up and down Castiel's torso and when they stopped, Castiel's cock told him it knew it was being admired.

Now it was Castiel's turn to blush. Because unlike Dean, his distress over the last few months had caused him to gain, not lose weight. Not much, only 10 pounds or so, but still, Castiel was no lightweight to begin with, and the new weight had settled into small love handles and a little thickness over his chest. Thank God, he'd been blessed with a naturally decent body, and the rest of Castiel still looked toned and pretty fit. He was promising himself that this time; he really meant it about starting to work out when Dean interrupted his thoughts.

"Which side of the bed should I take?"

"Huh? Oh," Castiel finally focused on Dean's question. "I usually sleep on the right because of the phone and the alarm and all. That okay with you?"

Well, at least Dean answered the question of whether they were going to sleep together that night.

"Sure," Dean replied, and walked over to the right side, pulled down the covers, and scooted in.

Castiel watched as he did this and it suddenly hit him. This was Dean in his bed. In his bed! Right there, sprawled out underneath Castiel's official Spiderman sheets! And he had just told Dean that he thought it was a good idea that they get some sleep. Was Castiel out of his fucking mind?

Casti turned off the overhead light, then slowly walked over and sat down on the bed. He could feel Dean's eyes burning into his back. He reached over and turned off the desk lamp, and the room was suddenly illuminated with a pale blue light from the full moon outside. Castiel didn't even have the dark anymore to try and convince himself that lump next to him wasn't a guy he'd been lusting after for four years.

Shit, Castiel thought, it was torture! Castiel wasn't even tired anymore. But, he reminded himself; he was going to keep his word. God knows how, but he was going to try. Castiel swung his legs around and pushed them under the covers.

They lay next to each other - not touching, not saying anything, and barely breathing, if the truth be told. Castiel didn't know about Dean, but to his way of thinking, this was turning into a goddamn long night. Castiel's head and his heart knew without a doubt that this was absolutely the right thing to do; he just wish his cock felt the same way. It was as hard as a baseball bat, and it was pointing directly at Dean's face, acting like a beacon to show Castiel exactly where it should be right now.

Chapter Text

"Cas?" The sound of his name on Dean's lips made Castiel's heart lurch in his chest.

"Uh-huh."

"I think this is a good idea."

"What's that?" Castiel mumbled.

"Uh," Dean stalls as he searches for the words. "You know... us not rushing things."

"Sure."

"I mean... it's not like we don't have time now," Dean continued, though it wasn't clear if he was still talking to himself or to Castiel. "And we've waited this long..."

"Absolutely right," Castiel said, mentally willing his erection to deflate.

"It shows maturity, a real grasp of our knowing what's important."

"Yup."

"Oh for fuck's sake!" Dean whipped the covers back and straddled Castiel. "To hell with maturity!" Dean smashed his mouth down on Castiel's.

Okay, Dean had a point. Not that Castiel was thinking that right then, mind you. He was too busy trying to suck Dean's tongue down his throat to worry much about anything else. He snaked his arms around dean's back and pulled him down until Dean rested on him - although, 'resting' wasn't exactly an accurate description of what either of them were doing.

Dean squirmed on top of Castiel like he couldn't get close enough. This was just fine with Castiel as he helped Dean along by moving his hands down to Dean's ass and grabbing it, shoving his groin into Dean's, making him gasp and raised his head to look at Castiel.

"Wait a minute," Dean panted. "There's something I want to do."

He lifted his hips up. But before Castiel could protest, he felt Dean's hand slide down his belly and without missing a beat, shoved it right under that waistband of Castiel's boxers and squeezed tenderly.

"You like?"

"Oh, God - yeah," Castiel sighed, as Dean clasped him shaft and began to stroke.

"Good, cause there's more," Dean let go and with both hands tugged at Castiel's shorts.

Castiel, of course, was most helpful as he was just as anxious as Dean was to get rid of the only clothes that separated them. As soon as Dean was done stripping Castiel, he peeled off his own jockeys and then he sat back on his heels.

"Turn on the light," he ordered in a husky voice.

Castiel reached behind him to his nightstand, and after almost knocking it over, found the switch and twisted. The light pooled in a yellow circle over half of the bed. Castiel was only interested in one spot that it illuminated however.

Castiel had heard other men describe someone as having a beautiful cock. Even been told that about himself a time or two, but he could never understand that term. Sexy, hot, powerful, erotic... those were the adjectives that had always come to Castiel's mind when he looked at another guy's dick, but never beautiful. Now, for the first time Castiel knew what those other guys were talking about.

Dean had a beautiful cock. Only a shade or two darker than the rest of him, his cock was straight, smooth, and cut, and capped by a perfectly bell-shaped knob. He was probably close to Castiel's size, and his balls were good-sized and covered with soft golden blonde down.

Dean made no noise as Castiel studied him. For a minute Castiel was so absorbed in looking that he almost forgot that dean was aware of his scrutiny. Dean's cock had remained hard, though, and as Castiel watched, a drop of precum bubbled up from the tip and dropped off to make a small pool on his belly. Dean sucked in his breath at the touch and Castiel transferred his gaze to Dean's face. His cheeks were flushed, but he looked Castiel straight in the eye.

"Okay?" He whispered.

"Oh, yeah," Castiel answered softly. "Perfect."

Dean had been doing his own inventory and now he returned to it. Castiel knew what he saw and he watched Dean's face for a reaction. He finally noticed and flushed like a kid who'd been caught doing something he wasn't supposed to do, then he grinned.

"You're bigger than me."

Castiel shrugged. "Maybe a little longer, but I think you're thicker."

Dean was back to staring at Castiel's cock. "We can get out the measuring tape later," he murmured. Then he dove down and took Castiel's whole tool in his mouth, and promptly gagged.

Castiel grabbed Dean's shoulders and pushed him back. "Easy there, stud," he laughed.

"Jesus Christ!" Dean sputtered. "How the fuck does anybody ever do that?"

"Practice and determination," Castiel hauled up Dean until they were face to face again, then he kissed him. "But hey, I appreciate the effort."

"It didn't seem so complicated when I was on the receiving end," Dean smiled wryly. "I want this - God knows it's all I've been thinking about for weeks," he continued. "But it's been a long time since I've felt this stupid about sex."

Castiel shook his head. "You're doing fine." He kissed Dean lightly on the mouth and felt his lips quiver. "The rest we'll just figure out as we go along." Dean was tensing up and Castiel worried that maybe it would have been better to wait.

 

Dean's next words made Castiel think he was right. "But what if we can't?" he moaned. "Oh God, what if I'm too uptight? I don't know now if I'm gonna be able to do this!"

Dean started to draw away again, but Castiel held him in place. Whatever should have been was in the past, and there was no going back now. If Dean needed a little seducing, then fine - Castiel will do that. But there was no way he was going to let Dean stop at this point. It would just make things that much more awkward later.

"Let me see if I can convince you," Castiel murmured softly. "Maybe I just need to refresh your memory."

Castiel gently ran his fingertips up and down Dean's upper arms. Dean shivered and Castiel kissed him gently then pulled back and studied his face.

"Okay?"

Dean nodded.

Castiel pivoted their bodies and gently pushed Dean back until he sat down on the bed. "Tell me if I go too fast," Castiel told him.

Castiel knelt in front of Dean and studied his body. God, he was beautiful! It was all Castiel could do to keep from grabbing Dean. But he's a quick learner, and Castiel wasn't about to push Dean into being any more uncomfortable than he already was. Instead, Castiel contented himself with just lightly stroking Dean's chest, tracing the line of muscle that lay just below his skin. Almost by accident Castiel ran a fingertip over a nipple. Dean sucked in his breath at the touch.

That seemed promising so Castiel slid his hand and pulled on it lightly and Dean arched his back and closed his eyes. Encouraged Castiel moved my fingers to a small taut nipple and tugged on it a little harder. Dean yelped and Castiel watched as Dean's cock throbbed.

"Ah, you're one of those guys?" Castiel said playfully.

"Huh?"

"Your tits are hardwired to your cock," and to prove his point, Castiel rubbed it again only to have the satisfaction of seeing the nub swell and redden.

"No! I mean, yes... God, I don't know - I've never..." Dean gave up and arched his back and moaned quietly.

Castiel smiled down at Dean's startled eyes. "Good. It gives me something to work with."

Castiel followed up his words with a hand to Dean's other nipple and gently tweaked it. Dean just groaned and thrashed some more. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so Castiel leaned in and gently tugged on the first nub with his teeth.

"Shit! Don't stop!" Dean hissed.

Not a problem. Castiel licked and sucked and bit until he could tell his boy was just about out of his mind. And even though Castiel could have been happy doing just that all night, he was on a mission, and he wasn't going to be sidetracked.

Castiel rose up to his knees and crawled into the center of the bed and held out his hand. Dean shook his head as if he was trying to get it back on straight. Then, slowly, he realized if he wanted any more, he was going to have to go to Castiel.

Dean sat up and grinned. "You can be a real hard-ass, can't you?"

"Oh, you have no idea." Then Castiel grabbed Dean's arms and roughly pulled him close.

He found the small of Dean's back and pressed their chests together. Then Castiel sprawled over Dean pushing him back into the pillows and kissed him hard. Dean made a little moan in the back of his throat as Castiel sucked the breath out of his lungs then blew it back. Castiel repeated the breathing trick until both of them were starved for oxygen. They broke their kiss only because it was that or pass out.

"Convinced?" Castiel could only manage the one word.

"Need... a little... more... data." Dean gasped.

"Damn scientists! So analytical," Castiel muttered as he searched for, and found, Dean's earlobe and bit it gently.

"Oh God, that's incredible!" Dean groaned, his groin grounding into Castiel's hip; Castiel could feel Dean's cock hard and pulsing against him.

"Hmmm, another hot point to file away." Castiel raised his head and met Dean's eyes.

Still panting, they stared at each other. Castiel could see all Dean's questions, all his doubts, but Castiel could see need, too. Castiel lowered his head and sucked Dean's soft lobe back into his mouth with gentle lips.

Dean groaned and pulled Castiel tighter to him. Slowly, Castiel moved his hand from around Dean's back to his hip. Then Castiel pulled back and watched Dean's face as he brought it further, dragging his fingers through Dean's pubic hair, pulling ever-so-slightly until Dean's hips squirmed. Dean's eyes widened as he felt Castiel reach his shaft.

Castiel watched a muscle by Dean's mouth twitch in an involuntary response to his touch and Castiel encouraged it by wrapping his fingers around Dean's rock-hard flesh and giving it a light squeeze. Dean shuddered and his eyes widened, but still they didn't break their gaze. Then Castiel started to stroke... up and down, up and down... and he saw Dean's eyes dull as lust finally grabbed him.

Castiel didn't want to make Dean cum with his hand. It wouldn't have been new; Dean had already done that before with a guy, half a lifetime ago. Castiel wanted to mark him, imprint him; start them out with a first for Dean.

Castiel took his hand off Dean's cock and was gratified when his hips followed it, trying to get Castiel to return to his center of pleasure. Castiel pushed Dean further into the pool of light from the lamp. Bright light wasn't strictly necessary for their pleasure, but again, Castiel wanted to push Dean, to make sure he knew that he was with him: Cas, a man.

Castiel sat back on his heels and let Dean take another good look at his cock. Dean said nothing, but when Castiel held out his hand, Dean took it and pulled him down until Castiel sprawled on top of him. Castiel shifted his hips and for the first time their cocks touched.

Dean arched his back and twisted his head, his eyes screwed tightly shut, then both of them froze as they fought the desperate need to shoot, which the electric contact had instantaneously created in them. Castiel felt Dean's heart pounding in his chest and Castiel realized it matched his, beat for beat. A long minute later Castiel moved his head and found Dean's lips already open, already inviting him in.

That kiss went on forever and still it was over too soon. Castiel's full weight on Dean finally got the better of him and he struggled under Castiel until Dean finally got his hands on Castiel's shoulders and pushed gently. Castiel let go of his mouth with a gasp and looked at him.

"I'm sorry," Dean panted, "I can't breathe."

"Sorry," Castiel said, rising up on his elbows. "Let's see if I can't find a way to solve the problem."

Castiel moved farther up off Dean's chest and bent his head down and nuzzled Dean's neck. Dean sighed and wrapped his arms around Castiel's neck. Castiel licked and teased his way down to Dean's collarbone and then looked up at him.

"Better?"

"Oh God, yes!" Dean groaned and then yelped as Castiel took a nipple in his mouth and bit down gently.

Dean slid his arms down Castiel's back and stroked him gently. Castiel shivered under his touch, but he wasn't concerned about getting off himself. Castiel's whole being was concentrated on Dean's body and Dean's pleasure. Castiel could feel Dean's erection pressing into him, the heat of it searing him. Dean's precum flowed out of him, leaving a sticky trail on Castiel's belly as he slid further down on Dean's sweating chest, leaving Dean's nipples to dig his tongue in Dean's navel. It tickled Dean and he laughed and then groaned as Castiel's tongue finally found the tip of his cock.

Dean's taste was salty and sweet and instantly addicting. Castiel lapped it up like a thirsty dog. Dean said nothing, but his breath was coming in short gasps now, and Castiel knew he wouldn't be able to last much longer. Castiel's hand slipped to Dean's sack and rubbed gently as he took Dean's entire length into his mouth, feeling that familiar bump as the glans hit the back of his throat. Dean's hands came down to Castiel's head. He didn't hold him, though, but only gently stroked Castiel's hair.

"Cas," Dean whispered hoarsely, "please... you've got to stop. I'm gonna cum."

Castiel lifted off Dean with a wet pop and looked up at him and grinned, then Castiel took him back in his mouth. Castiel ran his tongue over the underside of Dean's shaft and tasted the hard sweetness of him and Castiel felt his own balls rise as the reality hit him: This was Dean he was making love to!

Castiel moaned deep in his throat and Dean answered with a gasp. His hips were thrusting uncontrollably now, forcing his cock deep into Castiel's mouth. Castiel loved it and pushed down, trying to take every bit of Dean inside him. He was lost now; there was nothing in his world except the feel of Dean... the smell of him... the slick, salty wetness of his skin.

"CAS!..." Dean cried out and froze as his first shot landed on Castiel's tongue.

His cream tasted like heaven, but Castiel doesn't think he was really a good judge at that moment. All he knew was that after four long years, he was finally making love to the man he always wanted. Dean filled him up and yet Castiel needed more. Castiel doesn't know how many shots Dean gave him -you don't count when you're feeling the way he was. - All Castiel knew - all he could think about - was that he wanted to live in that moment forever.

But of course, that wasn't going to happen. After a few seconds, Castiel could feel Dean softening in his mouth. Castiel's always extremely sensitive after he climaxes, so he's hyper-aware of doing anything that might destroy the pleasure that had just gone before. He opened his mouth to reluctantly let Dean's cock free.

"No," he whispered fiercely.

Castiel raised his eyes and looked at Dean startled. Dean was propped on his elbow watching Castiel. His face was flushed and his eyes glittered, but he shook his head when he saw the question in Castiel's eyes.

"Please... don't let go - not yet."

Since this went right along with his fondest wishes, Castiel had no trouble complying. Gently, he suckled Dean's cock. In a way, this was almost more satisfying than the heated passion they just experienced. Cautiously, Castiel licked at Dean's tender skin, cleaning him while Castiel searched his face for discomfort.

There wasn't any. Dean watched for a moment, then with a sigh, leaned back and closed his eyes. Castiel wondered if he was actually drifting off to sleep. But a few moments later, he felt strong arms pulling him up until he was at face level with his new lover. Dean wrapped his arms around Castiel and pulled him close.

"That was... amazing," Dean said, drawing a long sigh of contentment. "If I didn't already love you, that might've done the trick."

Automatically, Dean leaned down to where Castiel's head rested on his shoulder and searched out his mouth. Castiel parted his lips under Dean's and watched, trying to gauge his reaction, as he tasted his own cum.

Castiel broke the kiss and smiled. "What do you think?"

Dean considered the question for a moment and Castiel could see he was running his tongue around the inside of his mouth. After a few seconds Dean grinned back at him.

"You know, I'm not completely innocent. I have tasted myself before."

Castiel pretended to be disappointed. "Well, then, we're just going to have to think up another new experience for you tonight."

Dean raised an eyebrow. "Hmmm, what did you have in mind?"

"I thought," Castiel said carefully, "that maybe I'd let you make that decision."

"Okay." Dean sounded thoughtful, but not, thank God, as nervous as he'd been ten minutes ago. He looked Castiel's body up and down, as if studying it. "I know what I'd like to do. I'm just not sure I'm really qualified to give the job the, uh... proper attention it deserves."

Castiel laughed lazily even as his heart pounded in anticipation. "Don't worry about that. There're extra points for enthusiasm."

"Then maybe this might just turn out okay," Dean murmured before pressing his mouth to Castiel's again.

Now it was Castiel's turn to lie on his back. And this time, Dean didn't attempt to take everything in one big gulp. Instead, he seemed to think it would be best to drive Castiel crazy with his slowness.

It worked.

At first, Dean tasted every inch of skin from Castiel's hairline to his toes. Except, for those oh so important inches that strained to get his attention at every opportunity. When he was done with that, Dean proceeded to really make Castiel insane by demanding he turn over so Dean could finish off the job. The fact that in the meantime Castiel was on the verge of exploding didn't seem to bother him a bit.

It wasn't until Castiel was moaning like a five-dollar whore that Dean finally took pity on him and had him roll over again. And even then Dean didn't try to put his mouth on Castiel's favorite body part. It was a good thing Castiel was past the point of speech, or Dean might have heard a few things that would have shocked even his jaded ears.

"Spread your legs," Dean finally commanded.

This seemed like a really good sign, so Castiel decided to do Dean one better and not only spread his legs, but lifted them until his knees rested on his chest. Castiel's always nothing if not accommodating, and if Dean wanted a clear shot, Castiel was sure as shit going to give it to him.

Dean raised his eyebrows and the bastard had the nerve to laugh. "Jesus, Cas! I didn't know you were this easy."

Castiel just growled at him and he think Dean realized that his life was going to be in grave danger if he didn't make his move. The next thing Castiel knew, he felt a hand on the base of his shaft and a hot, wet mouth enveloping the rest of it. Castiel moaned and it was all he could do to hold still and not thrust hard enough to poke a hole through the back of Dean's head.

"Mmmmm," Dean hummed sending quakes of lust through Castiel's body and then he popped his mouth off of him and grinned. "Now, I think I'm getting the hang of this." Then he slurped at Castiel's corona with his tongue and watched as Castiel writhed.

Castiel would like to tell you that Dean was absolutely perfect in everything he did, but... well, this is real life we're talking about, and things just don't go that way the first time for anything - especially sex. He couldn't get more than the first few inches of Castiel's dick into his mouth without choking, and Castiel knows Dean scraped him with his teeth more than once. But none of that mattered. It was still the best goddamned blowjob Castiel's ever had, bar none. Because he found out that night that skill has nothing on need, and Castiel needed Dean more than he had ever needed anything else in his life.

At one point, Castiel managed to prop himself up on his elbows and they made eye contact. Dean was serious now, his whole being concentrating on giving Castiel the pleasure that was as important to him as his own. Castiel understood that. It was exactly the same feeling he had just a brief time before. As Castiel felt a familiar warm wave begin to rush out from his groin, and his balls tightened and his cock swelled, he groaned out loud and struggled to keep watching, to see Dean's face as the first blast hit the back of his tongue. His eyes widened momentarily, and then darkened with an emotion that sent a warmth to Castiel's heart that had nothing to do with his orgasm, even as stupendous as that was. And then Castiel was lost, carried away in a moment of lust and love and the thought that this was only the beginning.

Dean had collapsed. His head rested on Castiel's hip, his mouth still inches from Castiel's now soft, but sated cock. Castiel wanted to pull Dean up, to feel his lips on mine, but his body was still in that state of bliss that wouldn't allow it to even think of moving, wrapped in a wave of pleasure that seemed to vibrate and envelop the entire room.

They lay there silent for a few moments. Castiel couldn't tell you whether it was five minutes or an hour, but eventually, he felt Dean stir. Castiel looked down to see Dean's eyes were open and watching him. He smiled.

"Hi," Castiel said in a thick voice he barely recognized. "How ya doing?"

Dean stretched lazily and then crawled up carefully until he was lying full out on top of Castiel. Dean kissed Castiel and now it was his turn to taste his own seed on Dean's tongue. It was an experience Castiel wanted to experience again and again for the rest of his life.

"I think the question should be," Dean said when he finally broke the kiss, "how are you doing?"

"I love you," Castiel said simply.

"Then I was... okay?"

Chapter Text

Castiel thought Dean must be joking, then he saw the real concern in his eyes.

"Jesus, Dean," Castiel said, as he stroked Dean's hair. "If it'd been any better, you would've had to send for the paramedics to revive me."

Dean smiled and Castiel saw the relief flicker over his face, though Dean tried to hide it by reaching down and grabbing the covers and pulling it over them. He settled back down in Castiel's arms and sighed.

Castiel nuzzled Dean's neck and took a deep breath, taking in the pungent aroma of sweat and sex that emanated from Dean. And underneath it all was the aroma of the man he'd been dreaming of. Essence of Dean, if Castiel could figure out a way to bottle it, he'd make a fortune.

"I thought when you made me cum, that it was the ultimate experience of my life," Dean murmured. "But watching you as you came, seeing what I was doing to you..." He paused, then looked into Castiel's eyes. "That was something else again. I never knew it would be this good."

Castiel smiled. "What? Gay sex?"

Dean shook his head slowly. "No. Sex with the person you truly love."

He sighed again, then yawned and closed his eyes. Castiel watched as Dean's breathing slowed and his muscles relaxed. And instead of moving away, as so many lovers of Castiel's had done in the past when sleep had claimed them and they didn't need to pretend any more that they cared, Dean moved closer and draped his arm around Castiel's back.

This had started out as such a shitty day. Hell, the whole year had been one long string of calamities. Castiel fought back, though - harder than he knew he could. And now, here lay Dean - his Dean. It was hard for Castiel to take in; hard to even believe it was real. But Dean was real and he was here. Castiel vowed to himself that he'd do whatever it took to keep it that way, forever.

To be continued...