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Easy Now, With My Heart

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Part I: The Night That Started the Whole Shebang

This is a monumentally bad idea, Dean thinks, and says as much to his brother.

"This is a monumentally bad idea."

Sam just rolls his eyes. "Will you lighten up? You might actually enjoy yourself."

Yeah, right. The thing is, Dean Winchester teaches kindergarten. Which is mostly great, even if it does mean that he spends his days saying things like "oh, fudgesticks!" and "Jeremy, please take the crayon away from Oscar's face", and reading books with more pictures than words and singing songs complete with tambourine (who the fuck even likes the tambourine anyway, come on).

But he's not a fancy-shmancy lawyer like his brother is. So this whole thing that Sam has dragged him to, some corporate asshole get-together in a pretentiously modern bar, is way out of his comfort zone.

"Sam, everyone in here is wearing thousand-dollar suits. I'm in jeans." He ducks behind his brother and a tall potted plant on their way to the bar to avoid Sam's boss, Dick Roman (dude lives up to his name and has a habit of coming onto Dean in the slimiest, most lecherous ways imaginable).

Sam just shrugs unconcernedly. "They're your nice jeans. You look fine, Dean. Lots of people brought their families."

"Lots of people brought their significant others, you brought me. Why couldn't you have asked Ruby?" and Dean's gonna pretend like they haven't had this conversation a hundred times already.

"She's working."

"Liar. It's a Saturday night and she's a secretary."

Bristling on his tramp girlfriend's behalf, Sam says, "She's not a secretary, she's a personal assistant."

"Potato, potahto. She threatened to withhold sex if you made her go, didn't she?" Sam's blush is all the confirmation he needs and Dean snorts. "Man, your crazyass girlfriend has got you so whipped."

"Shut up."

They order (very overpriced) drinks and it doesn't take long for Sam to disappear in the crowd, though every now and again Dean hears his great honking moose laugh at some ridiculous unfunny lawyer joke. He grumbles into his beer then orders another, wondering how soon he can leave. Damn him for not bringing the Impala, because now he's relying on Sam to take him home and he can't make a subtle escape.

"You look as bored as I feel," comes a rough voice from beside him and Dean jolts as he looks up.

The guy is leaning against the bar, trying to get the attention of the bartender and, well, fuck. He's all dark bedhead hair, blue eyes and five o'clock shadow and Dean's immediate thought is that he really wants to hit that.

"You here with someone?" Wow, way to go, Dean. Be more obvious, why don't you.

The guy huffs. "My brother, Luke Milton. Unfortunately I was the only one out of my family not to come up with an excuse quickly enough as to why I couldn't possibly attend. You?"

Dean's heard of Luke Milton from Sam (apparently the dude is a big bag of dicks, mercenary and ruthless in the courtroom) and hopes that it doesn't run in the family.

"Also my brother. I'm being held here against my will," he tells him with a smirk, spinning the beer bottle between his fingers.

The man looks at him again, and whoa, what is with all the staring? Just as Dean's starting to get uncomfortable, the guy nods as if he's come to some sort of conclusion and extends a hand. "Castiel Milton."

Okay, don't freak out. Yes, he has nice hands, but so do lots of people. It's just a handshake. Dean clears his throat and reaches out. "Dean Winchester."

"Nice to meet you, Dean."


They drink their beers in an only slightly awkward silence, a little 'loser brother' club, while corporate schmucks drink and be merry (in a strictly prim and proper fashion) around them. Eventually the guy, Castiel, shakes his head with a chuckle. "This is not my idea of a good Saturday night."

"Dude, same. You know, if you wanna get out of here, I know a great bar not ten minutes away." As soon as the words have left his mouth Dean cringes. Talk about forward. He may as well be wearing a neon sign that reads 'desperate and easy', which, let's be honest, wouldn't exactly be inaccurate.

But Castiel just smiles. "Yes, all right."

Dean sends Sam a text: 'taking off, didn't think you'd mind. catch ya later, sammy' and gets a reply almost instantly: 'You'd better not be going home with one of my colleagues. Again.' Rolling his eyes, Dean assures him that he isn't (which technically isn't even a lie this time) and pockets his phone.

They catch a cab outside, seeing as neither of them drove themselves, and Dean gives the driver the address of the Roadhouse. "You'll love this place, man," he says to Castiel, who is relaxed in his seat and tapping out a rhythm on his knee. "I know the owner, Ellen. They make the best burgers, and it's not full of stuck-up suits like that place was."

"I trust you," Castiel says simply, and isn't that hysterical because they've only known each other half an hour and of course Dean doesn't have issues with trust, what?

Damn, he's had too many beers already.

Turns out though, he was totally right. Castiel does love the place, or at least he pretends to for Dean's sake. They start off with more beer, but that quickly escalates to shots (and the dude's fucking lethal at shots—it takes at least half a dozen before he declares that he's 'starting to feel something') and then they end up nursing two of Ellen's finest whiskeys and laughing hysterically about… well, he forgets but it sure was funny at the time. Castiel's shirt is open at the neck now, his blue tie a lost cause, and Dean's pretty sure he doesn't look much better himself.

And then, suddenly, and he's really not sure how it happened or who initiated it, but suddenly they're pressed together in their corner booth and they're kissing. Like full on desperate tongue and teeth action, and it tastes like booze and bar nuts but is so fucking good, and if Dean had any doubts before he certainly doesn't now. Castiel presses into him hard, forcing him to lean backwards in his seat and he has to grab the table to stop himself from toppling over.

"Hey," he says as soon as Castiel's mouth travels over his jaw and his lips are free. "Let's go somewhere before we get arrested for public indecency."

"I'm fine here," Castiel fucking growls and it takes all of Dean's self-control not to whimper.

"Dude, you gotta stop," he pleads because he is so close to just having his way with the guy right here and now and no matter how secluded they are in the corner, he doesn't think Ellen would ever talk to him again if he had sex in her bar.

And then the heat is gone and a rush of cool air washes over Dean, who is a little more than stunned to be honest, and Castiel is standing over him with a hand outstretched. Really, he should hesitate before taking it. They have, after all, only known each other for a couple of hours and the worst thing is Dean actually likes this guy, he's funny and hot and snarky and hot, and he doesn't have one-night-stands with people he likes—but his downstairs brain is telling him that if he doesn't get in this guys pants right now he might actually die.

They take another cab back to Castiel's place and miraculously refrain from groping each other in the backseat (well, not groping each other much anyway; Dean can't be blamed if his hand accidentally brushes the dude's thigh every now and again). After a little while they pull up outside one of Lawrence's fancier buildings—doorman and everything. He doesn't have time to appreciate Castiel's apartment when they get inside, barely gets a glance at the open plan room and warm colour scheme and piles and piles of books everywhere before he's pressed harshly against the closed front door.

"Fuck, Dean," Castiel murmurs, all hot breath and wandering hands as he slips a knee between Dean's legs and Jesus that's hot.

It's not like this is Dean's first time with a guy or anything; he's known since high school that it isn't just girls that do it for him (he likes to think of his sexuality as keeping all of his options open, really) but never in his life has it felt like this before, guy or girl. Like every nerve-ending is on fire, burning him alive and the pleasure is so intense it's almost blinding—and they haven't even taken their clothes off yet.

Talking of... "Dude, you gotta—" He tugs at Castiel's tie, which is already wonky, until it's loose enough to work over his head and then starts fumbling at the buttons on his dress shirt.

Apparently, Castiel's not going to let Dean's own sweater get in his way and he simply slips his hands underneath it, scratching at Dean's stomach and running his fingers over his chest in a way that's doing nothing to calm down Dean's obvious erection.

"Oh god," he breathes once he finally gets Castiel's oxford off and finds that he's still wearing a white cotton t-shirt underneath, "how many fucking layers are you wearing?"

Castiel just chuckles hot and filthy against Dean's neck, where he's admirably working on a hickey as he strips Dean of his top—and that is totally unfair.

They break apart when Dean finally manages to divest Castiel of his tee and holy mother of god the guy is clearly a runner with a body like that—all strong lithe muscles and toned abs and goddammit Dean wants to do something stupid like lick every inch of him.

So he does.

Grabbing his wrists, he spins them around and slams Castiel against the door in his place. His tongue tracks the tendons in Castiel's neck and down to his shoulders and he can feel the shudder that runs up the guy's spine, feel the rapid pulse under his flesh, but it's not until Dean focuses on a nipple that he gets a guttural groan. He sucks bruises into Castiel's warm skin, a possessive little thrill running through him.

"Dean… Jesus, Dean."

His own arousal amplified by a hundred at hearing Castiel say his name like that, full of uninhibited need and lust and desire, Dean sinks to his knees and works his mouth lower. He presses butterfly kisses along Castiel's ribs and stomach, fingers teasing the sharp jut of his hips (fucking hell, those hips) until he starts working on his belt.

And it's taking all of Dean's willpower not to just yank off the guys pants and give him the best damn blowjob of his life until he comes screaming Dean's name (modesty has always been one of Dean's lesser qualities) but he wants this to last, doesn't want it all to be over in ten minutes. He wants to make it good, because he really does like Castiel.

So he slides the black dress pants down slow enough that he knows it must be excruciating for the guy, and sure enough Castiel's hands scrabble for purchase against the wood grain of the door when Dean mouths at his dick through his boxers, already damp from salty precome.

"Oh," he fucking keens, his head thumping back, and Dean groans and starts thinking of naked Bobby to stop himself from coming there and then (yep, most definitely does the trick). But then he roughly pulls down Castiel's boxers and that's it, there's nothing left between his mouth and Castiel's cock and god he feels like he might pass out from the buzzing under his skin.

He drags his tongue up from the base to the tip, feather-light, and Castiel's fingers land harshly in his hair as he moans. Planting his own hands on Castiel's hips to balance himself, Dean stops teasing and takes Castiel's dick into his mouth, swirling his tongue around the tip.

Now, he wasn't exactly kidding when he said he knew how to give good head and he does so now, pulling out all of his best tricks for Castiel until the dude moans so loudly Dean's convinced the neighbours will hear and couldn't really care less if they do.

He can feel when Castiel is getting close, when his knees start shaking and he's breathing harsh and heavy, his fingers curling in Dean's hair—and he pulls off with an obscene pop.

"What the—?" Castiel pants, eyes wide with blown pupils and flushed cheeks. "Why are you stopping?"

But Dean just stands, painfully aware of his own erection straining against his jeans, and crowds close to Castiel so that he can kiss him, hot and deep and messy.

"There's so much I wanna do to you, Cas," he grunts, breaking off with a gasp when the other man snaps open the button on his pants, and hardly registering his use of the nickname other than to briefly hope that Castiel doesn't mind it. Judging by his answering groan, he doesn't.

"Do it then, you bastard," Cas whispers, sucking on Dean's earlobe and wow, he'd better not be so drunk that he doesn't remember this in the morning, because this is going to be providing the material for his jerkoff fantasies for the foreseeable future.

"Bedroom," he gasps and Cas grabs his wrist and all but manhandles him across the room, stopping every fifteen seconds to kiss the ever-loving shit out of him against a wall, and then dragging him up a narrow staircase to the huge loft bedroom.

And then Castiel goes and says one of the least sexy things Dean has possibly ever heard. "Don't stand on the cat."

Mouth pressed to the bolt of Cas's jaw, Dean stops and blinks. "Cat?"

Cas nuzzles into his neck, nuzzles for Christ's sake, and murmurs, "He's around somewhere. He bites if you stand on him."

And Dean laughs because he doesn't know what else to do, but it's stifled by Cas's tongue fairly quickly and then all semblance of coherency pretty much evaporates from then on out.

It's so fucking hot, all of it, and he somehow lost his pants and underwear along the way and they're all just skin on skin when they collapse backwards onto Cas's fucking ginormous bed (mercifully cat-free). Seriously, who needs a bed this massive? Dean has the sudden image of orgies and Cas doing this every night with a different person and feels a strange surge of anger—which is ridiculous because they have literally only known each other a few hours and how many damn times is he gonna have to remind himself of that?

Then Cas is leaning down to suck on his mouth again, rolling his hips so their dicks slide together, and Dean pretty much stops thinking with his upstairs brain.

"Cas, Cas, I need—" He knows what he wants, what he can't stop picturing Cas doing, but it's not something he asks for very often and he tries not to think too hard (pun fully intended thankyouverymuch) about what it means that he's asking for it now.

"What, Dean? You need me to fuck you?" Cas growls against his jaw and Dean nearly falls apart there and then.

"Yes, please god, yes," he whines, totally unashamed of how desperate he sounds, but Cas is a heavy reassuring weight above him, his fingers digging hard in Dean's hips, and it's so damn good.

Cas crawls across the bed and scrabbles around in the bedside table for lube and condoms, presumably. At least that's what Dean hopes is going to come from this solid thirty seconds of not-touching. And then he's suddenly got six feet of sweaty Castiel in his arms again, writhing on top of him in a way that's friggin' criminal.

"Come on, come on," he urges, but Cas just laughs quietly.

"Easy there, tiger."

Dean growls, pulling him into another kiss and pushing them over so he's on top, pressing their mouths together almost violently and he thinks he's won when Cas sighs softly in pleasure. Clearly Dean should pay better attention to the guy's wandering hands though, because suddenly they're on his dick, and it's everything he wanted and more but oh god he's not gonna come just from a damn handjob.

Cas, the son of a bitch, takes advantage of Dean's momentary lapse of, y'know, sanity, and pulls at his waist until they're rolling around on the bed like he used to wrestle with Sammy when they were little (and ha, no, do not think of jerkface siblings while having sex, Dean) and until Cas is back on top. He pulls back to look at Dean, panting hard with blue eyes twinkling in amusement. For a second, Dean has the stupid idea that he could fucking drown in those eyes, and he wouldn't care a bit.

It's a mildly terrifying thought and he doesn't know what's going through Cas's head, but they're both just looking at each other and not moving. Eventually Dean can't stand the inactivity anymore, and his hands grab at Cas's shoulder blades, pulling him down until they're chest to chest and he firmly attaches his lips to the dude's neck.

"You're so fucking hot," Cas breathes, moaning harshly because of Dean's tongue.

"Yeah, you're not so bad yourself," Dean tells him with a smirk, then adds (and he tries not to sound so needy, he really does), "Now please, c'mon, will you just fuck me already?"

Wiggling away until he's leaning back on his haunches, Cas eyes Dean's splayed out body hungrily and mutters, "As if I could refuse an offer like that." There's a gentle but insistent shove at his side, and Dean gets the message. He rolls onto his front, gets to his hands and knees, and if he was less drunk he might feel vulnerable with his backside in the air like this—but he doesn't.

Cas settles in between Dean's splayed calves, leaning over to press kisses to his burning skin, down his spine, the dimples at the bottom and then one to each cheek and Dean squirms from the attention and softness of his lips. It's when Cas's tongue joins the party, tracing wet patterns on the blank canvas of Dean's back, and then lower lower lower until he's dragging it along the cleft of his ass, that Dean releases an unrestrained dry sob and really it's a miracle he doesn't fall apart right then. "Oh god… Cas, Cas."

Cas drapes himself over Dean's back and Dean whimpers from the loss of his mouth, arms buckling until his head hits the mattress. "I've got you, Dean," he mumbles against Dean's shoulder and really that should not be allowed because he's being so nice, and kind, and there's no way that Dean is going to forget this in a hurry.

"I need you to get in me," he retorts, because hey he always was one for lowering the tone. Cas releases that dirty chuckle again and twists Dean's head around to kiss him, shallow and breathy, his lubed-up fingers brushing over Dean's balls and perineum until they're pressing gently against his hole. "Fuck."

"In a minute," Cas quips, his free hand coming around to grab at Dean's hip, holding tightly. His palm is damp, warm, his fingers drumming a soft rhythm.

Cas goes careful, slow, one finger and then two, occasionally his tongue again, and Dean wants to scream because it's not nearly enough but at the same time it's almost too much. He feels like a nervous prom date putting out for the first time—which is ridiculous because this is not his first rodeo—but the anticipation is almost as good as the actual sex part, and they've hardly gotten to that yet.

When Cas is up to three fingers and is sucking bruises onto his shoulder blades, tantalizingly brushing over his prostate every third or fourth stroke, Dean arches his back and groans incoherently—but Cas seems to get the message. There's a moment of terrible, awful emptiness where Cas's fingers disappear and his body leans back, followed by the sound of the condom being opened and the click of the lube lid. Dean lets his eyes fall closed, face pressed into the mattress, and he thinks absurdly that Cas's sheets smell nice, sorta like fabric softener and sandalwood and soap. He couldn't be more relaxed if he tried, which is strange because the couple of times that he's bottomed before weren't some of his best experiences. But there's something about Castiel… It's just so easy to believe him when he says things like, 'I've got you, Dean', and Dean doesn't tend to believe in promises any more.

His eyes snap open when he feels Cas's hands spreading him open, hot breath blowing against his hole. "This okay?" he asks and Dean struggles not to laugh. He doesn't know whether Cas is asking about what's about to happen or the position they're doing it in, but he'll be damned if both of those things are actually very very okay.

But words seem to be beyond Dean's capabilities at the moment, so he simply nods and reaches a hand behind him, catching Cas's wrist and squeezing reassuringly before letting go and a second later Cas is carefully pushing forward. There's the initial burn that Dean was more than expecting, but it quickly gives way to pleasure as Cas bottoms out and holy fuck is it good.

They still, breathing unevenly and kissing softly, until Dean none-too-gently bucks upwards and whispers, "Move."

And he does, thrusting slowly at first before picking up the pace a bit and when Cas finally hits Dean's prostate he feels pleasure sparking in every nerve, so intense that he wants to cry. But seeing as crying during sex isn't exactly desirable, he instead instinctually grinds his ass backwards and grunts a "fuckyesrightthere", and they both moan loudly.

Cas is ruthless after that, hitting that sweet spot on every single push until Dean is a gasping, unintelligible, sweaty mess beneath him. He knows he's close, can feel that knot of pleasure building up to its crescendo, and the headboard is pounding against the wall in a way that would definitely be funny if Dean weren't so far gone.

"Cas," he breathes, and Cas bends over and kisses the dip of his spine almost chastely as he reaches a hand underneath their bodies and wraps his fingers around Dean's cock, smearing precome around as lube. The pace is slower now that Cas only has one hand to use as leverage, but it's all the sweeter for it. The slow drag of Cas's cock on his prostate is almost painful it's so good.

Dean groans loudly as Cas jacks him off to the rhythm of his thrusts and this is it, this is how he's going to die. And you know what? Wouldn't be the worst way to go.

"Fuck, Cas," he babbles, "So fucking good, so hot, y'know that? Just like—oh—that, c'mon."

And then Cas pushes in roughly again and fucking stops, pressing hard against Dean's prostate at the same time that he rubs a thumb over the spot just beneath Dean's balls, his knuckle unrelenting against that little bundle of nerves from the outside in time with a slow roll of his hips—and Dean manages to gasp out a "Cas," before he's coming in hot, wet fountains all over the sheets, so hard there are stars bursting behind his eyelids and fizzing through his veins. He can't breathe and is dizzy with it, totally lost in the gratification of his release, his limbs shaking spasmodically and either he's closed his eyes again or he's blacked out because everything is dark and Jesus he never wants to come down from this high.

When he cracks open an eye and peers behind him Castiel is staring at him, utterly entranced. "Holy shit," he mutters and continues to work Dean through his orgasm with his hands on his sensitised skin everywhere, all at once, until Dean whimpers pathetically. When Cas starts moving again it's with greater urgency than before; his rhythm is off and his blue eyes lock with Dean's with such visceral need in them that Dean finds himself wishing they were doing this face-to-face, because he wants to stroke the guys hair and kiss him and other lame stuff like that.

Apparently they both have the realisation at the same time, because suddenly Cas is pulling out and Dean is rolling onto his back and using his feet to push his ass up and then Cas is pushing back in again and it feels so good. Whatever little control Cas had been clinging on to seemingly vanishes in that moment, because he pounds into Dean with little finesse, just desperation and desire. Dean hooks his ankles around Cas's middle, his arms around his neck, pulling him in as deep as he can go, and their simultaneous moans are loud in the silent room.

They kiss roughly and it's when Dean sucks on an apparently sensitive spot behind Cas's ear and growls, "Come for me, Cas," that Cas does, his hips stuttering as he groans through his release. And Dean can feel it, Cas's cock pulsing inside him, and it's almost enough to make him hard again (maybe if he was ten years younger) and he moans.

Cas collapses on top him, regardless of the sticky mess on the sheets under their equally sticky bodies, and the two of them simply lie there and try to catch their breath. When one of Cas's palms comes to rest over Dean's chest, Dean automatically loops an arm around the guy's waist—which feels suspiciously like cuddling but he can't bring himself to give a fuck.

"Wow," Cas mutters, chuckling weakly. "That was pretty damn good."

"Dude, that was fucking incredible," Dean retorts and the other man sighs happily, lightly tracing Dean's tattoo with his index finger.

"Why did you get this?" he asks, curiously.

"Oh, it was a long time ago. It's stupid, really," Dean deflects, because this is a little too much like pillow talk, and when you pair that with the lazy cuddling they've got going on—well, it's not Dean's usual one-night-stand protocol.

"I'm sure it isn't," Cas prompts, and there, he's doing that thing again where Dean just wants to tell him everything, and what is up with that?

"Sam, my brother, and I both got matching ones," he says quietly. "We were young and had too many beers and thought it would be a good idea."

"Oh," comes the reply, and then, "What does the symbol mean?"

Dean pauses. He's never told anyone about this before. Usually when hook-ups comment on his tattoo he brushes it off with an 'I was drunk and I thought it looked cool', which is sort of true. But now he presses his cheek to the top of Cas's head sleepily and murmurs, "When Sammy was little he used to be scared of the monsters in his closet, y'know, and I found this symbol in some theology textbook at a thrift store. I think it was supposed to keep evil out or something, I dunno, but I drew it on a piece of paper and stuck it on the front of Sam's closet every night before he went to sleep. I told you it was stupid." He can feel the heat in his cheeks and hopes Cas can't see his blush (what is he, a girl?) through the dim light in the bedroom.

But what Cas says, quieter than he's said anything all evening, is, "I don't think it's stupid at all," and if Dean doesn't love him a little for that.

They don't speak when Cas pushes himself up again and pulls out of Dean, though they both grunt a little at the loss, and Cas crawls off the bed to what Dean now realises is an en suite bathroom on the other side of the room. He comes back a moment later, condom disposed of, with a warm, wet towel that he uses to clean them both off—and it's so gentle that Dean could fall asleep just like this. But then he remembers that this is just a casual one night thing and wonders whether he should start to make his leave. He's just beginning to sit up and shift across the bed when Cas looks at him sharply and asks, "Where are you going?"

"Uh, nowhere?"

Rolling his eyes, Cas throws the towel through the bathroom doorway with startling accuracy before climbing back onto the far-too-big bed and actually pulling back the sheets to get under them. "Look, I don't know about you, Dean, but tomorrow is Sunday and I don't have anywhere to be. And right now I'm exhausted, and so are you. So just sleep, okay? And no pressure or anything, but in the morning you're going to blow me in the shower. Then you can leave, if you want."

He throws the sheets over their rapidly cooling bodies and Dean just gapes at him before muttering, "Shit," and surging forward to kiss him. And this could be the worst idea he's ever had. If he had any sense at all he'd be hot-footing it out of there now, before everything gets messy with feelings and crap. Because seriously, if he thought he liked Cas back at the bar, it's nothing compared to what he's feeling now.

When they break apart, lips spit-slick and swollen, Cas's eyes are heavy-lidded and he smiles sleepily. "I'll take that as a yes then."

"Hell yeah, it's a yes," Dean whispers, and then he does something really stupid and takes Cas's hand in the space between their worn-out bodies. He actually weaves their fingers together and holds and holy mother of God, now he's gone and done it. Cas is going to think he's a weirdo and this is crossing all the hook-up boundaries here—but the other man simply chuckles and tugs Dean closer until he can press a soft kiss to his hairline, humming something sweet and slow, and that's how Dean falls asleep.

Part II: The Immediately (and the Not-So-Immediately) Afterwards

As promised, Sunday morning begins with some very athletic shower blowjobs, and Dean thinks his knees might never stop shaking because seriously, wow.

Afterwards, when they're dressed again, Cas makes him breakfast. Waffles, in fact, and Dean is thrown by this because one-night stands do not cook for each other the morning after. In fact, usually the morning after is reserved for awkward pleasantries and a hurried goodbye. Sometimes not even that. But hey, he never was one to turn down free food and the smell alone is enough to make his mouth water (and the sight of Cas standing in the kitchen wearing a ratty old blue and orange New York Knicks t-shirt and sweatpants really doesn't help matters).

"Once a Knick, always a Knick," Dean smirks, and when Cas looks confused he chuckles and points at the shirt.

"Oh," Castiel says, looking down as if surprised to discover what he's wearing. "This is a leftover from my college days. I went to NYU. The Knicks are… baseball, right?"

Dean gapes at him. "Basketball. Seriously, you lived in New York and never saw a Knicks game?"

"No. I'm not really one for sports. I believe my roommate at the time gave me this shirt for Christmas."

"Man, you are somethin' else," Dean chuckles. He crosses the room to come and sit at the breakfast bar and adds, "You got a nice place."

Now that it's daylight and they aren't trying to rip each other's clothes off, Dean is able to finally take in Cas's apartment. And it's huge. All open plan and wide airy space, sunlight pouring in through the windows, with honest-to-god wooden flooring and soft, comfortable furnishings. The loft bedroom is a bit like a weird inside balcony with a low wall that offers a bird's-eye view of the rest of the apartment, and the kitchen is massive and modern and is on a slightly raised platform. There are stacks of books on every surface and a work desk in the corner that is overflowing with paper, but it's not messy, just well lived-in. Warm and homey and comfortable.

So unlike Dean's own apartment, a shithole he rented the second he was out of college because he couldn't really stand the idea of going back to Bobby's after so much independence. Don't get him wrong, he's quite attached to his little home and it represents a lot of things for him (emotional maturity, mainly) but it's nothing like this place.

"Thank you," Cas smiles as he reaches down to the floor and picks up a small stainless steel bowl, which he clangs with a fork. Ah yes, the cat that bites, Dean remembers, and starts when something brushes his leg. The creature is small and a bit scrawny, bright ginger with an inordinately fluffy tail and yellow-green eyes that observe Dean warily as he slinks between Cas's ankles.

"How long have you had a cat?" Dean asks as Castiel shakes a bag of food into the bowl.

"A couple of years now. I came home from my brother's one day and there he was on my doorstep. No collar, no microchip, all skin and bone. He must have slipped into the building from the street, though how he got past the doorman we'll never know."

Dean's nose twitches like he's going to sneeze. Damn cat. "And you just… kept him?"

Cas puts the bowl down and the food is attacked immediately. He chuckles and scratches the animal behind the ears before turning to Dean. "No, I took him to the local animal hospital. The veterinarian said besides being malnourished he was perfectly healthy, but that because he was a stray he'd have to go to the animal shelter, and if no one claimed him or adopted him then…" he trails off to run a finger across his throat and Dean winces.

"I'd grown quite attached to the little guy, truth be told," Castiel continues, his back to Dean now as he washes his hands at the sink. Dean likes Cas's hands. "So I took him home with me. Stopped at the pet store, bought a load of stuff for him. Named him Jacob after the tiger in Doctor Dolittle. He keeps me company."

Amused, Dean outright laughs. Cas grins as he reaches into the fridge and extracts a can of spray cream and smothers their waffles with it. He scrapes some chopped strawberries on top and then hands Dean a plate.

"Dude," he says in admiration and Cas chuckles, sitting opposite him.

"My brother Gabriel got me the waffle iron for Christmas. It was one of his more useful gifts," he says and Dean smirks.

"He's not a great present-giver?"

"For my birthday last year he gave me a jumbo pack of condoms and the telephone number of an escort, so no."

Dean winks. "Hey, you can't say they haven't come in handy."

"The rubbers or the hooker?" Cas quips with a smirk and Dean chokes on his waffles.

When they've eaten it becomes slightly awkward. This is the point where Dean has to leave, which normally wouldn't be a problem—but then normally he'd have slipped out under the cover of darkness, not got to know his hook-up over food and coffee.

"Well, er, thanks," he says uncomfortably, shrugging on his jacket when Cas hands it to him by the front door. "Y'know, for breakfast. And everything."

"And everything," Cas repeats with a small smile, holding open door and leaning against it. Dean, being the upstanding gentleman that he is, pretends not to notice the sliver of skin revealed where Cas's t-shirt rides up. "See you around, Dean Winchester."

And then he's back out in the hallway and the door is closed behind him.

He travels down the lobby on shaky legs; something in his stomach is feeling unsettled and he's pretty sure it's got nothing to do with the hundred ounces of cream he just digested. It isn't until he's out on the street again, inhaling deeply in the chilly February air, that he finally feels a little bit more like himself. He sets off on foot, keeping one eye open for a cab, and shoves his hands in his pockets—and that's when he finds it.

With fumbling fingers and a frown, he extracts the crumpled yellow Post-It and unfolds it. Written on the paper in neat loopy handwriting is a cell phone number, followed by: just in case you ever wanted to do it again sometime – Castiel.

And, like, whoa. No no no. Nuh uh. Not going there. A regular booty call does not work well, Dean's tried it before. Yes, think of Lisa, Dean. Think of falling in love with Lisa only for her to break your heart by reminding you that you were nothing more than a non-exclusive, occasional hook-up.

Because Dean likes Cas, that's the whole problem. Maybe too much.

So he puts the number in the first trash can he finds and walks away before he can change his mind.


Sam is unbearable.

"You slept with Luke Milton's brother?!"

Dean glances around the busy restaurant, but thankfully no one seems to be paying them any attention. "Seriously, Sammy, say it louder. I don't think the chefs out back quite heard you."


"What? I'm not allowed to have sex anymore?"

Unfortunately, Sam's skeevy girlfriend chooses that moment to come back from the restroom and says, "What? Someone wanted to have sex with Dean? Were they mentally incapacitated?"

Dean pulls an expression of mock sympathy. "Wow, Ruby, you were gone for quite a while. Ticky tummy? Curry disagree with you?"

"Give it a rest, you two," Sam says wearily as Ruby slides back into her seat with a glower. "Look, Dean, I'm just worried about you."

Baffled, Dean asks, "Why?" around a mouthful of naan bread because, c'mon, he had fantastic sex just that morning and he's feeling pretty great. Or he was, before attending his and Sam's biweekly Sunday meal and receiving the Spanish Inquisition.

"You're thirty-two, Dean," his brother says gently, like he's talking about a terminal illness.


"So don't you think it's about time you started to think about settling down?"

Ruby cackles at this, loud and obnoxious, and god, Dean hates her. He wonders how difficult it would be to tip one of the waiters to slip some laxatives into her food.

"We're not having this conversation," he says firmly, stabbing his fork into his tandoori chicken. "I'm fine, all right. I don't need a long-term anything at the moment. It was just one night of fun. That's all."

The rest of the meal passes without incident, other than Ruby being a general bitch and Dean sniping at her and Sam sighing at the pair of them (usual, really). It's not until he's lying in bed later that night, very much alone, that he allows himself to think of the phone number that he put in the bin. Of course he doesn't regret it, that would be ridiculous. Castiel was a great lay, sure, but it's not like he is the only guy (or girl) out there. Dean has absolutely no need for that piece of paper, and definitely doesn't spend a solid five minutes debating the distance of that particular trash can from his apartment and the odds of it still being there. Nope.

He groans, rubbing a hand over his face, and buries his head in his pillow. Denial, my friends, is not just a river in Egypt and Dean is totally and completely screwed.


Dean thought Sam's reaction was bad. Charlie's, if anything, is worse. It's Monday morning and they're in his classroom, doing what they always do in the morning before the little terrors they teach arrive—drink coffee and discuss their weekends.

"What does he look like? Wait, scrap that—was he good in bed? I bet he was good. Look at those hickeys. Did he have moves? Who topped?"

Tugging the collar of his shirt up a bit and straightening his tie, Dean frowns across the desk at his best friend. "Are you kidding me right now? I'm not giving you a blow-by-blow account of my night!"

Charlie catches his eye and they both laugh at Dean's poor word choice. "Anyway," he says, still chuckling, "I don't see why everyone's so invested in my sex life all of a sudden."

"Please," she snorts, leaning back her chair. "It's only because my own is so non-existent. I'm living vicariously through you. So come on, I need the deets, Dean."

She pouts at him, and Dean never has been able to resist that pout. They've been friends for coming up to half a decade now, since he started teaching, and he still can't say no to her. So he rolls his eyes and says, "Fine. He's tall, big blue eyes, sort of dark hair you just wanna muss up all the time. Yes, he was good. Very very good. He had lots of moves, and I am not telling you what damn position we did it in."

Charlie nods sombrely like Dean's just told her the weather forecast. "Good," she says, then, "Though your unwillingness to share would suggest that he topped. There's nothing wrong with that, Dean. It doesn't emasculate you. A man secure with his sexuality would know that."

"Oh my god," Dean groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Will you stop? I've told you everything you wanted to know."

But she ignores him. Flicking her long red hair over her shoulder, she grins. "He sounds dreamy. Do I get to meet him and are you going out again?"

"No and no."

"What? Why?!"

"I threw his number away," Dean confesses, busying himself with pointlessly rearranging his lesson plans on his desk. He can feel Charlie's eyes burning into the top of his head and waits for the explosion he knows is to come. Sure enough…

"Are you insane?! Why would you do that?"

He sighs, because he's been asking himself that for twenty-four hours now. "Remember Lisa?"

Charlie pulls a face. "Ugh, yes."

"That's why."

And that, on Charlie's face now, is pity—and Dean will not be pitied. "Dean…"

"No, stop," he forestalls her, holding up a hand. "I appreciate your concern, all right? But Castiel made it very clear that it was just a casual thing, which I'm fine with by the way, and I didn't wanna be… I dunno, tempted. Or whatever."

"But what if—"

"Charlie! Please, can we just drop it?"

Charlie must see the desperation in his eyes because she nods and does so, but it only makes Dean feel even worse.


Apparently, one night of really fantastic sex isn't the end of the world and life actually does go on.

Two weeks later finds Dean at the end of a very long Friday in which he'd had to deal with a puking kid and a paint spillage on the carpet (much to the delight of Crowley, the miserable janitor who glared at Dean like it was his fault kids had chubby little butter-fingers).

So he's glad to say goodbye to the place for the weekend, giving Charlie a hug outside the school gates and promising to call her on Sunday to discuss the latest episode of Dr Sexy, M.D. Shrugging his briefcase onto his shoulder, he sets off for home, regretting his decision not to drive that morning because he's tired now and his feet ache and it's starting to drizzle and clearly he didn't think this through.

He's only a few blocks away from his apartment when the sky darkens dramatically and the rain begins to fall in earnest, and fuck that. He's not got an umbrella and he's wearing his favourite navy sweater over his shirt, so he ducks into Sweet Treats, a coffee shop that he's visited a handful of times before and does a fucking fantastic hot chocolate (so Sam says anyway, of course Dean doesn't drink anything as girly as hot chocolate).

Only, he pushes open the door, catches a flash of blue and black behind the counter, and freezes. Because that's—that's Cas. Working here. Fuck. Oh it's awkward. Awkward awkward awkward. Maybe if he just turns around, gets out now while he—



"Oh, hey!" Stay cool, man. Act casual. Pretend you don't remember his name, that's a really good dick move. "Er, Castiel, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Cas nods but he looks mildly amused, like he can see straight through Dean's act. He comes around the counter, wiping his hands on a cloth, and why is this place so empty? Why can't there be a queue of customers out the door so Dean can escape unseen? Fucking shit.

"What are you doing here?"

At this Cas does look slightly puzzled. He frowns down at his company apron and nametag (Jesus, Dean's an idiot) as if the answer is obvious (it is). "I work here."

"I've not seen you around before, I'd have remembered," Dean says and if that doesn't sound like the world's cheesiest fucking pick up line. Except that, oh, he's already picked Cas up (in more ways than one).

"Oh, my brother Gabriel owns this place. I'm just helping out for a while," Cas smiles, and why isn't the bastard feeling as uncomfortable as Dean is? Seriously, what is up with that? If Dean leans too heavily on his right leg he can still feel the fingertip bruises on his hip, goddammit. He can still remember running his hands through Cas's hair, licking his way up his neck, listening as Cas murmured all kinds of filthy crap in his ears—and well done, Dean, you're giving yourself a hard-on in a public place. You prime example of the dregs of society, you.

It takes him a second to realise that Cas is asking him something and tries to pull off his distraction as 'I'm bored by this conversation' rather than 'I'm picturing you naked', but doesn't think he really succeeds. "Sorry, what?"

"I asked what you wanted?"

"What I…" You. In my bed. Falling apart and screaming my name as I make you—

"To drink? Dean, are you okay?"

Fuck, the dude has broke Dean's brain. That's the only thing that makes sense. They had great sex and somehow, Dean's brain got broken. And now he can't even string a sentence together. Jesus Christ.

"Black coffee," he says eventually though he's craving something stronger (then he remembers that it's alcohol's fault that he's in this mess and pulls a face). "I'm fine. Sorry. Long day."

"Want to tell me about it? I'm a good listener."

No. No no no. What's he doing? He can't be nice, because then Dean looks like even more of a jerk. And anyway, it's just plain rude to be as attractive as that and kind with it, what a bastard. Dean resolves to hate him, to tell him that it's none of his business, except what comes out of his mouth is, "It was nothing, really. Kids are exhausting, y'know?"

"Not really," Cas admits, then adds, "You're a… teacher?"

And hey, isn't it weird that they've slept together and yet they don't even know what it is the other does for a job? Way to go on being a skeevy manwhore, Dean. Gold star for you.

"Kindergarten. One of them threw up on my shoes today." What? Don't tell him that, you idiot.

Cas takes an automatic step backwards, casting a wary glance down at Dean's feet, so he hastens to add, "Oh no, I've changed them since then. Don't worry." And now they're talking about vomit-covered sneakers. Fan-freakin'-tastic.

To his surprise, Cas just laughs. "Go and sit down. I'll bring over your coffee in a minute, I'm a due a break anyway."

He bustles off and Dean stands there awkwardly for a moment before casting a glance around at the many unoccupied chairs, whereupon he realises his next dilemma. Cas's words suggest that he wants to join Dean, so does Dean go for the simple table and two straight backed chairs? Or does he choose the squashy sofa, because nobody sits in the hard chairs if the soft couches are free? But the couch would force Cas to sit right next to him and Dean doesn't really know if he can handle that.

Perhaps he's overthinking this.

He drops down onto the couch before he can change his mind, slipping his satchel off his shoulder and pulling out his cell phone. Hesitating only for a moment, he composes a new text to Charlie: accidentally having coffee with Cas. told him about pukeyguts and my shoes, which should suggest how well it's going.

It's almost comical how quickly Charlie replies with: OMG! Firstly: what do u mean 'accidentally'?! Secondly: remember. You are Dean Winchester. You are an attractive young man with great hair who's more than adept at stimulating (oo-er) conversation.

Dean snorts with laughter just as Cas comes back, two mugs in hand. He passes one to Dean, one that smells suspiciously sweet and is topped with a mountain of whipped cream and marshmallows, and says, "Now, I know you asked for coffee, but if you've had a bad day then you really should try this. The sugar in it will calm you down, if nothing else. Or give you diabetes."

And fuck, it's a hot chocolate. Exactly how Dean likes it (yeah, he totally lied earlier about Sam being the one to favour the drink). So he smiles a thanks and puts his phone away again as Cas takes a seat next to him.

"So, how long have you been 'helping out' here?" he asks, watching as Cas deftly unties the back of his apron and pulls it over his head. The action messes up his hair and Dean has to palm his knees to stop himself reaching out.

"Well, let's see," Cas muses, amusement twinkling in his blue eyes. "Gabriel's owned the place for coming up to ten years now, so I guess he's been calling me every so often to fill in for him for … about ten years now."

Dean laughs. "Wow. That sucks. This the same Gabriel who gave you the condoms and the waffle iron?"

Nodding serenely, Cas says, "The very same. No, I don't mind so much. I don't really have a day job, so I'm often around. It gets me out of my apartment, though I'm fairly sure he only calls when he wants to go and have sex with one of his many conquests, which I try not to think about too often."

Choking a little on his hot chocolate, Dean clears his throat. Jesus. He briefly thinks that he would quite like to meet Gabriel, dude sounds hysterical. Then he thinks back to what Cas was saying, about not having a day job, and remembers the guy's fancy apartment and wonders how he can afford to keep it. Perhaps he has family money. Perhaps it's also not Dean's place to ask.

"So, if you don't have a day job, what do you do?"

Goddammit. One day, Dean will learn to connect his mouth to his brain. Probably the same day he stops eating pie and takes a vow of celibacy.

Cas settles back into the sofa more comfortably, sipping on his drink and looking slightly embarrassed as he mutters, "I write books."

"Seriously?" Dean asks, eyebrows lifting. "You're a writer?"

"A poor example of one," the guy says with a wry smile and Dean immediately frowns.

"What makes you say that?"

"Oh, I'm sure Chuck, my publisher, could provide you with a list of reasons," he chuckles, picking at a napkin. "I'm not very good with deadlines. And I have a terribly debilitating habit of getting bored."

"What, like writer's block?" Dean quizzes, but figures that the guy can't be that bad a writer if he's able to live off the profession.

"Of a sort. I get distracted, start working on other projects when I should be focusing on my novels."

Nodding, Dean grins. "So, anything I'd have heard of?"

"Maybe," Cas smiles, but he refuses to elaborate other than to say that he writes under a pseudonym and continues to avoid the topic for the rest of their discussion.

The twenty minutes they spend talking is, actually, pretty damn good. It's nice to have a conversation without the added pressure of trying to get into each other's pants, and Cas is smart. Like, seriously smart. It's not like Dean's an idiot or anything. You know, he reads whenever he has time and watches the Discovery Channel sometimes, and he went to college and double-majored in English Literature and Engineering, thankyouverymuch. But Cas is more than a match for him when he starts waxing lyrical about his love of Vonnegut, playing devil's advocate when Dean boldly claims that Cat's Cradle is better than Breakfast of Champions. Slaughterhouse-Five, they both agree, beats them all.

So Dean finds himself weirdly disappointed when Cas sighs and states that he must be getting back to work, muttering something about Alfie being new and prone to clogging up the coffee machine.

"I threw your phone number away," he blurts as Cas reties his apron, and dammit, Dean, you were doing so well.

Cas's hands pause and he says, "Oh."

"It's not that I don't like you," he quickly says, but has the sinking sensation that he's digging himself into something of a hole here. "It's that I do."

"Oh," Cas says again, his eyes looking everywhere but at Dean. "Well, I should be getting back to Alfie. Goodbye, Dean. It was nice to see you again."

And then he's disappearing behind the counter again, his back to the coffee shop as he fiddles with one of the percolators, and what fresh hell? Dean can't work out whether he's supposed to feel insulted or relieved and settles for downright confused as he shrugs his satchel back on and slips out of the shop, the bell on the door signalling his exit with an obnoxious tinkle.

Part III: In Which Dean Engages in a Fierce Battle with Denial and Repression (and Sex Wins)

Dean goes to the Roadhouse a couple of hours after his coffee with Cas. At the Roadhouse he meets a girl called Meg. Meg is pretty. Curves in all the right places, full lips, smoky eyes, soft, long hair. She's snarky and sarcastic, a real firecracker, and he takes her home to his apartment and has sex with her.

It's easy, and she seems pretty into it if the words of encouragement whispered in his ear are anything to go by. He pulls all his best moves and comes with an exhilarating rush that feels damn good—but there's none of that spark that he felt with Cas and he hates that he's comparing them. Not that Meg was ever going to be anything other than a one-night stand, but when they're lying there after, sated and tired, and she's lit up a cigarette, he feels a strange sort of clenching in his stomach.

"What's up, Deano?" she asks, between drags. He wants to ask her not to smoke inside but figures that wouldn't come across all too well.

"Nothing," he says, too quickly. "Up for round two?"

She drops her cigarette into the water on the nightstand that's been there since the night before, bubbles collecting on the edge of the glass, and they're off. Afterwards, she drops a quick kiss to his lips, uses her thumb to wipe off the crimson lipstick smeared across his face, and he drops a heavy arm across her waist before he goes to sleep.

He feels totally gross when he wakes up the next morning, lying in the wet spot in an otherwise empty bed. There's a note on the pillow that simply says, 'Catch ya later, stud. Don't worry, I didn't steal anything.' and feels inordinately relieved that he doesn't have to say goodbye or make her breakfast.

It's Saturday, which means no work to distract him from this emotional turmoil or midlife crisis or whatever this shit it, so he stays holed up in his apartment. He passes most of the morning by rereading To Kill a Mockingbird and then eats leftover ramen for lunch because anything else is too much effort.

He thinks of Sweet Treats, right around the corner, and fleetingly wonders if Cas is working. And Jesus Christ, what is wrong with him?

So he calls Charlie. Which may or may not turn out to be a mistake.

"Dean? What's wrong? You're twenty-four hours too early for our Doctor Sexy phone call."

He smirks, because Charlie always did have a way of cheering him up. "I have a problem."

She sighs down the line, in a 'I've been expecting this' sort of way. "You know I'm only one person and—"

"Shut up. Are you going to offer me some friendly advice or do I have to call Sam?"

"Hit me, baby."

But then Dean can't figure out what to say. What is his problem, exactly? That he can't stop thinking about a barista/writer who obviously couldn't be more adverse to commitment? Or the niggling feeling like he upset the dude last time he saw him, by telling him that he liked him, which is so ridiculous he almost laughs. Or that he is using sex and alcohol to deal with it all, like the mature responsible-for-educating-the-youth-of-tomorrow grown up that he is?

Holy shit, he's pathetic. It's a miracle he has friends at all.


"Sorry." He bites his lip and blurts, "I hooked up with a woman last night."


"And I spent the whole damn time wishing she was Castiel."

Charlie makes an abortive cough, like she wants to laugh but clearly thinks better of it. "Oh, you got it bad, Winchester."

"No," he protests, because this can't be that. He doesn't do crushes, not since Lisa all but ruined relationships for him. He's the love 'em and leave 'em type now. Charlie is totally wrong. "Cas was great in the sack, that's all. Meg was only average. That's what this is."

"Sure," Charlie says, but she sounds disbelieving. "Look, Dean, why don't you just find Castiel and ask him out again?"

"Because he doesn't do relationships, that much is obvious," Dean snaps, then feels guilty about being harsh with Charlie. God, he's an idiot. "And neither do I. I'm just hung up on the idea of fantastic sex, that's all. Once I get over it, I'll be totally back to normal."

Charlie sighs, and he knows he's not going to hear the end of this. "And how do you propose to do that?"

"By having even greater sex," he counters with a smirk, and that's exactly what he does (well, it's exactly what he spends the next couple of weeks trying to do).


He doesn't go back to the Roadhouse straight away, it's too risky that Ellen or Jo will pound on him for using it as a hunting ground, so that evening he takes the Impala to a bar he's only frequented once or twice, but is classy enough and plays none of that indie crap that most places do these days.

On that first Saturday he has sex with a woman called Josie in the back of the Impala in the parking lot. It's fast and hot and she's gorgeous, really, but it leaves him no more satisfied than he was after Meg. He returns to the bar on Sunday to drown his sorrows and ends up going back to the swanky apartment of a pushy brunette called Bela, who whispers criminally filthy things in an insanely hot British accent and ties his hands to the headboard with her scarf. It's really good sex but there's a weird pang of disappointment afterwards that he knows shouldn't be there, and he wears long sleeves to work all week and feels nauseous when he catches sight of his reddened wrists.

By the time Friday comes around again he's feeling restless and confused and buries himself in a cute blonde called Becky, who positively drags him into the bathroom at the Roadhouse after spending a good thirty minutes telling him all about some TV show she's obsessed with and how he bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the leads (not her favourite one, either, but apparently she'll settle with what she can get, and Dean makes an effort not to feel insulted).

But he goes home alone after that, feeling miserable, and spends all weekend with his Star Trek boxsets and lesson plans. Parent-teacher conferences are coming up soon, he recalls with impending dread, and writes some brief progress reports on twenty five- and six-year-olds.

It's Tuesday when he next sees Cas.

And it all could have been totally avoided had the coffee machine in the teacher's lounge not finally succumbed to rust and old age, the entire contraption giving up the ghost with an almighty bang and acrid puff of smoke that had elderly fifth-grade teacher Mrs Jenkins clutching her chest with shaking hands.

See, Dean needs his coffee. Needs it like he needs the air he breathes. It's totally unhealthy, of course, and Sam bugs him endlessly to drink decaf (which defeats the whole entire point, for Christ's sake, but Sam's a freak like that who voluntarily drink green tea and eats salad) but he can't function if he doesn't get his lunchtime caffeine fix.

Also, how come there's a damn Starbucks on every freakin' corner apart from when you want there to be one?

Which is how he ends up driving the five minutes to Sweet Treats, which he never should have announced to everyone because now he's got a list of drink orders as long as his arm, which are never going to make it back to school without spilling somewhere in the Impala.

Dean hazards a guess (and prays to God) that Cas won't be working. No matter what the dude said about being around most days, it's a Tuesday and it's lunchtime—and if what he told Dean regarding Gabriel's sexual exploits are to be believed, Tuesday lunchtimes aren't exactly known for being prime time booty call opportunities, unlike Friday nights, which is when he was there last.

But, when he pushes open the door with that stupid tinkling bell and sees Cas behind the counter, serving a customer and smiling, he's not entirely surprised. He's also not entirely disappointed and hates himself for it just a smidge.

He joins the small queue, examining the sandwich and pastry selection before deciding firmly not to complicate his ridiculous order even more, and can feel his palms sweating as he gets nearer to Castiel. There's a young guy running around like a headless chicken making drink orders who Dean assumes is Alfie, the one prone to clogging the machines, and he wonders whether there's a small chance he'll take over from Cas in the next thirty seconds and this whole fucking tragedy can be avoided.

But no, of course not. Sod's frickin' law.

"Hey, Cas," Dean smiles, pretending like this whole thing isn't atrociously awkward.

"Dean," Cas says, surprised, and Dean's almost glad for the queue behind him because it means there's no pressure to talk.

"Yeah, so I have an insane order," he tells him lightly, pulling out the scrap of paper from his pocket and not missing the expression of relief on the other man's face. "Three skinny lattes, one with two pumps vanilla, one double-shot; two filter coffees, one with space for milk and one without; two cappuccinos and an Americano. To go."

"Is that all?" Cas asks dryly, jotting it down on a notepad.

"Yep. And make them all small ones, I'm the sucker who's paying for this. Oh, and extra hot."

Ever the professional, apparently, Cas nods before recruiting Alfie behind the cash register to take Dean's hard-earned cash, while he personally makes Dean's order. And, yeah, all right, maybe Dean is a little smug about that.

"You taking these back to school?" Cas asks over the hissing and whirring of the machines while Alfie hands Dean his change.

"Yep. Our ancient Mr. Coffee went kaput and we're teachers, man, we run on caffeine."

He moves to the side to wait for his drinks, noticing that Cas is helpfully labelling them all as he makes them. Drumming his fingers on the wooden surface of the counter, Dean says, "So…" and then realises he's a dick who actually has nothing to say.

Cas glances at him before pouring milk into a cardboard cup. "Yes?"

"Gabriel off having sex?" he settles for in the end, because yeah, you may have noticed he has this problem where he can't control what comes out of his goddamn mouth. The woman waiting beside him raises her eyebrows in thinly-veiled disapproval but he just smirks.

Huffing out a laugh, Castiel shakes his head. "God, I hope not. He's meeting one of the café's silent partners, who just so happens to be his ex-wife." His head tilts in this way that Dean so does not find kinda adorable. "Actually, knowing Gabriel and Kali, they could well be fornicating right now."

Dean chuckles, stepping aside to allow the woman and a couple of students behind her to take their orders from Alfie. When they leave the rush has calmed and Dean's the only one waiting, and why is that always happening in this stupid place? There are five of his eight coffees in front of him when he clears his throat and asks, "So, how's the writing coming along?"

"Dismally," Cas replies. "Had any more children vomit on you recently?"

Laughing outright (even though they're back on the topic of puke, and Jesus, how is this Dean's life?), he says, "Nah, not this week."

Smiling, Castiel says, "So which one of these is yours?" as he scrawls 'van. latte' on one of the cups.

"The Americano. Hey, you've not got some of those cardboard trays, have you?" When Cas produces two trays, each waiting to hold four cups, Dean nods a thanks. "I'll have to balance them on the front seat and hope for the best."

Cas takes his time wedging the cups into the holders and Dean winces at the squeak of cardboard on cardboard, and tries desperately to think of something to fill the silence that is witty and clever and leaves an impression, but is saved the embarrassment of what would surely be a failed attempt by Alfie's throat clearing. "Um, Castiel, a man called Balthazar just called. Says he wanted to make sure you didn't forget about dinner tonight, and he'll pick you up at eight."

And just like that, Dean's day is ruined. Which is so not melodramatic, shut up.

"Oh," Cas says, looking at Dean, and it's the first time he's seen the guy flustered. He can't say he especially likes it. "Thank you, Alfie."

Dean carefully picks up the two trays, happily finding that they stack on top of each other rather comfortably, and says, "Well, I'd best be off. Can't let these get cold."

"Dean, wait—" Cas begins, but Dean doesn't let him finish his sentence before yanking the door open and leaving the shop (and fuck that fucking bell).

This is ridiculous, he tells himself as he drives back to school, easy on the brakes and slow on the accelerating as he keeps one eye on the coffee resting on the seat beside him (why didn't he bring one of his colleagues to hold them? Oh yes, that's right, because he'd been half-hoping to see Cas. Shit).

It's not like they're dating. It's not like they're anything, just a hook-up that fucking fate has decided to keep shoving under Dean's nose. Dean has no right to be whatever it is he's feeling, pissy and resentful or whatever. Castiel can fuck whomever he likes. It's none of Dean's business. Hell, Dean has been fucking whoever he likes recently, he's definitely in no position to judge.

It isn't until he gets back to school and Garth Fitzgerald, second-grade teacher and total nerd who is permanently too damn happy, whoops loudly as he points to Dean's cup that he notices it: the phone number scrawled on the side, followed by the words 'This cup is recyclable, just FYI in case you're planning to dispose of this one, too. ;)' in tiny handwriting. With a wink. An actual wink.

Holy mother of God.

Before Dean even knows what he's doing, he's programming the number into his phone. He even momentarily forgets about Balthazar (seriously, who names their kid Balthazar for Christ's sake?), because even if they are going on a date, the fact that Cas is still giving out his number would suggest that they're not exclusive, or whatever.

When he gets home that night, the new addition to his contacts is burning a metaphorical hole in his pocket. So, before he can think too hard about it, he sends Castiel a message.

coffee went down great, ur a lifesaver!Then curses his stupidity and hastily taps out another one. this is Dean, btw. sorry.

Oh, and now he's apologising. Wonderful. You'd never believe there once was a time when Dean was actually good at this sort of thing.

It's a long time before he gets a reply, nearing midnight, and Dean tries not think too hard about why this might be.

Very glad to hear it. Feel free to come by again. I'll be stationed there for the foreseeable future while I remain at an impasse with my writing.

It's funny, but Dean's almost glad that Cas texts like Sam does; as if he's drafting an essay rather than sending a brief message to a friend (are they friends? Perhaps that's too strong a term. More like… a one-time fuck-buddy.)

i'll bear that in mind, he says, because committing to anything (ha, the irony) seems insane when he can't even work out his own damn feelings.

He doesn't hear from Cas again for the rest of the week, deals with parent-teacher conferences Monday and Tuesday and a duller than dull staff training day on Thursday, and by Saturday he's managed to (mostly) convince himself that he was just going through a momentary blip, a fantastic-sex-related crisis, if you will, and fully believes (sort of) that to get over it, as he said to Charlie, he just needs to get laid again. That's probably what Cas is off doing, after all.

So that night he puts on that smart plaid shirt that looks great on him—according to Sam, anyway, and Dean's not sure he's willing to trust the opinion of someone with hair like that, but he'll take what he can get—and his nice jeans, and heads out to one of Lawrence's seedier underground gay bars.

Dean Winchester, you have still got it, he thinks smugly when after only fifteen minutes of standing at the bar nursing a scotch a guy leans so close beside him that their shoulders are touching.

"Hey," Dean says, flashing his most charming smile.

The guy, a few inches shorter than him with dark hair and scruff, grins back and says, "Can I buy you a drink…"


"Aaron. Can I buy you a drink, Dean?"

Dean orders another beer and not ten minutes later he's got Aaron pressed firmly against a dirty bathroom stall as they furiously make out. It's sloppy, and crude, and he feels like shit for not even taking the guy home, but he figures he's testing a hypothesis here. The thing is, he's come to the conclusion that Meg and the others didn't do it for him because they were girls and therefore can't be compared to Cas when they don't even have the same parts. But this dude—Aaron or whatever—well, he does. Have the same parts, that is (at least Dean fucking well hopes so, and the evidence pressing against his hip is pretty compelling).

So he's fully expecting that same heady adrenaline he felt with Cas, that desperately intense pleasure, and realises too late that he's not even fully hard, despite Aaron's expert handjob.

And, fuck, this could get embarrassing quickly. So he does the only thing he can think of and quickly combs through his (shamefully impressive) spank bank. When his brain automatically settles on blue eyes and a chest made for worship, Dean groans. Thankfully Aaron seems to interpret this as arousal, which, really, it sort of is. And goddammit, Dean, you're a terrible person who deserves to go straight to hell, no passing go.

When he comes, he comes thinking of Cas. Cas's eyes, Cas's body, Cas's hair (the smell of which he can't quite remember, and that's bugging him for reasons that are so pathetic he might as well crawl in a hole and die right now), Cas's tongue, hell, even Cas's bed and fucking insane apartment.

He forgets that he's pressed up against a guy he's only just met, forgets everything about this random stranger and keeps his eyes firmly closed so that he doesn't have to remember, pretends it's Cas in front of him as he gets down on his knees to return the favour.

A few minutes later, when he's alone in the stall and realises just what he's done, what he's been doing the past couple of weeks, he throws up in the toilet behind him. Then he washes his hands (three times), swills water straight from the tap around his disgusting mouth and spits, and grips tightly to the edge of the sink. He's not going to cry, not here.

He's appalled by himself, where he is, what he's just done. All because, what? He's crushing on Cas? A guy who clearly only wants a casual thing, if that, and may or may not be dating some douche called Balthazar? A guy he hardly even knows, has only spoken to a handful of times?

Oh god, Charlie was right, he realises with impending doom. She was so totally right.

Fuck, he's an awful person, and he is so totally, completely, in over his head.


Dean drives home and drinks a bottle of tequila that night, thanking his lucky stars that he's alone in his bed, but a maudlin drunk does tequila make and he lies awake for hours in a state of pathetic self-pity that he's not even ashamed to admit to.

As usual when he's in a mood like this, his mind drifts to his late father. He remembers John's drinking, the childhood he was never allowed to have because he was cleaning up after Daddy dearest before he even hit double-digits. They moved from motel to motel, never staying anywhere more than a month at best while John struggled to hold down a job. As such Dean never had friends, never had any relationships more meaningful than a brief flings. Sammy was his priority. He wasn't going to be the next person in the kid's life to leave him. (As it turns out, it was raising Sam that inspired him to be a teacher later on.)

John died four days after Dean turned eighteen in a car crash and, ironically, he wasn't the drunk driver that caused it. Sam had found a journal in their dad's room, documenting everything from the jobs he worked (some of which, it turned out, weren't entirely legal) as well as personal details about the boys, small notes on a good day. It didn't mean much then and it doesn't mean much now, nearly fifteen years later.

Whatever, Dean never needed him anyway. He did all right by Sam, attending his parent-teacher evenings and working damn hard at Singer Salvage as a mechanic so that Sam could have the books he needed and go on field trips.

It was his boss, Bobby Singer, who persuaded him to stay in high school when came close to dropping out. He was the one who took Sam and Dean in after John died and never charged them rent, showed them more fatherly love than they'd ever felt from their actual dad. It was Bobby who convinced Dean to apply for college, and who celebrated with him when he was accepted at Kansas University with a full-ride and didn't even bat an eyelid when Dean brought a boyfriend home in his second semester.

Dean snorts unattractively, now, remembering the occasion his dad had once caught him in the back of the Impala with a boy. He can't even remember the guy's name, had been young and drunk and experimenting at the time, angry at the world and half-wanting to get caught. He's still got the small, white scar on his temple though, where the bottle John threw at him just caught the side of his head, can remember thirteen-year-old Sammy, all legs and shaggy hair, screaming at their father to please, Dad, stop it, you're gonna kill him and then I'll have no one!

"Look at me, now, Dad," Dean mutters into the pillow, not giving a shit what John would have thought of him pining over Cas like he is. The fact that he knows himself that he is totally and utterly pitiful is totally besides the point.

He picks up his phone and sends Charlie a text, a terrible habit of his when he's drunk and it's past 3am, that simply reads, I'm so fucking screwed, and falls asleep with a bitter taste in his mouth that has nothing to do with the booze.

Part IV: That Time Dean Becomes the Accidental Host of an Adult Slumber Party Feelings Fest

Dean awakens to an entirely unwelcome presence in his bedroom Sunday morning. A presence with red hair and an obnoxiously cheery grin.

"Wake up, sleeping beauty," Charlie demands loudly, deliberately sitting down so heavily on his bed that Dean bounces slightly. His stomach roils and he buries his face in the pillow with a groan, begrudging the day he let Charlie into his life (only not really).

"I want my key back," he mumbles grouchily, pulling the comforter higher up his body.

"Not a chance," she snorts, slipping under the covers beside him then pausing. "There's nothing unsavoury on these sheets, is there?"

Pointlessly, for his head is still turned away from her, Dean rolls his eyes. "What do you take me for? I changed them." He had to, to get rid of the lingering tobacco scent and Meg's fruity perfume.

"So, wanna talk about it?" Charlie asks, not unkindly. She's warm beside him, familiar, and he smiles when he rolls over and spies the Firefly emblem on her hooded sweatshirt. When they first met, before he had found out Charlie batted for the other team, he'd looked at her and had a powerful feeling of never wanting to let her out of his sight. This has never really gone away, despite his firm shift to familial love rather than 'I could totally hit that' love. She's the little sister he never wanted but is eternally grateful for.

Most of the time.

"No," he begins, ready to head off her concerns, but stops when she scrunches up her nose.

"Oh, dude, you stink like a brewery. Go and shower and brush your teeth. I'll make coffee."

Oh, so he's what he's been smelling since he woke up. Conceding that Charlie might be right here, he drags himself into the bathroom and makes an effort to wash up, using that fancyass shower gel Sam got him for Christmas that's supposed to smell like lavender but actually carries more of an odour of wet dog.

Charlie comes back with two coffee mugs just after Dean slips on sweatpants and a ratty old KU t-shirt (that's a size too small for him now, embarrassingly; perhaps he should actually start making use of the gym membership he pays an appalling amount for every month—but then he might turn into a giant health freak like his moose of a brother and no one wants that).

They slip back under the covers and watch terrible Sunday morning shows on the little TV that sits atop his dresser for a while, propped up on pillows against the headboard and sipping their coffee until Dean feels marginally more awake.

"Sorry," he eventually says, for that seems as good a place to start as any and he figures it's long overdue.

"Nah, Dean, don't worry," Charlie assures him with a wave of her hand. "You're crushing on someone off-limits which is, like, one of the worst things ever. You're allowed to be bummed out about it."

"I gotta stop sleeping around, I think," he mumbles thoughtfully and Charlie smiles her proud of you, Dean Winchester smile, and he wants to roll his eyes again because he doesn't like that look, only that is when there's a knock at the door and who the hell is that at this time on a Sunday?

He grumbles the whole way there (which isn't far, he only has a small apartment) only to discover Sam standing on his doorstep, a plastic bag in one hand, looking utterly ridiculous in tatty jeans and an old sweatshirt.

"What are you doing here?" Dean asks, surprised, not because he isn't pleased to see his brother, but because he never drops by unannounced.

"I don't know," Sam replies, and Dean is considering calling 911 and declaring his brother insane when he adds, "Charlie called and said that you were in the midst of an 'major freak out' and I was to dress down and bring pop tarts and Apple Jacks."

"Dammit, Charlie!" Dean growls in the direction of the bedroom, stepping back to let Sam in.

"Sorry!" comes a small voice, but she doesn't sound all that apologetic, and one day Dean is going to find new friends.

"D'you not want these, then?" Sam asks, holding up the bag, and seeing as Dean has ingested nothing other than liquor since lunchtime yesterday, the blueberry pop tarts do have something of an appeal.

He snatches the bag from his brother's hand. "Wouldn't want 'em to go to waste."

Together, he and Sam make light work of toasting a dozen of the pastries, which may be going a tad overboard, but whatever. Dean is wallowing. And apparently he's wallowing in sugary breakfast food. He makes Sam a coffee and then trudges back to his bedroom, pouting at a pleased-looking Charlie as he passes her the mountain of pop tarts.

When Sam joins them a moment later, box of cereal tucked under his arm like an idiot, he cocks an eyebrow and says, "Er…"

"Get in, Sam," Charlie demands, tugging Dean towards her to make space and flipping back the covers. "We've hit the jackpot TV-wise. Real Housewives of Orange County marathon on right now."

And, fuck Dean's life, Sam kicks off his boots and joins them.

"Oh, sure," Dean says sarcastically as his mammoth brother wedges in on his right side. "We'll have a slumber party. Braid Sam's hair…"

"Shut up, Dean," comes the answer in unison, and Dean really, truly hates the pair of them.

"So," Sam says, his hand lost in the box of Apple Jacks. "Want to fill me in on why you're being such a gross manwhore?"

Dean rolls his eyes and grudgingly tells him about Cas—the censored version, of course; no one needs to hear details of their big brother going down on a dude—and he's hoping for something resembling sympathy, maybe, or understanding. What he doesn't expect is for Sam to snort and declare, "You're an ass, Dean."

Because whoa, what? How is any of this his fault?

"Whoa, what? How is any of this my fault?"

"You didn't have to start having sex with anything that moved," Sam scolds around a mouthful of cereal, and Charlie nods in agreement on his other side and screw the pair of them. "Maybe if you'd handled it like a mature adult and actually spoken to Castiel, this all could have been avoided."

On the television, two women are having a cat fight about a broken nail or something and Dean wonders what it would be like to move to Orange County, get away from nosey brothers and interfering best friends and too-hot-for-their-own-good writers.

"Look," he says, because he probably couldn't afford the gas to get from Kansas to Cali anyways. "Cas made it very clear that he only wanted something casual—,"

"Did he?" Charlie butts in, dunking her pop tart in her coffee and oh no, that's ruining a perfectly good pastry right there. "What actually did he say to you? Because as far as I can tell, you are the one who threw his number away, you were the one who left the next morning even though he'd practically told you he was available all day, you were the one who tried to leave the night before until he asked you to stay, and you were the one who walked out last week when he mentioned that Balthazar dude. If you ask me, Dean, it's you who's running from this, not Castiel."

Jesus fucking Christ on a cracker. Dean Winchester, if you had a brain you'd be dangerous, you complete and utter imbecile.

How could he have not seen it?

"Wow," Sam says, sounding a little shell-shocked himself. "Lisa really did a number on you, didn't she?"

Dean asks, "Care to elaborate, Oprah?" though he doesn't think he really wants to hear the answer.

"You fell for Lisa, right, and I mean—we're talking three years ago now. And she broke your heart, yadda yadda. And now, this thing with Castiel, you wanna be with him or whatever, but it didn't even occur to you to believe that he could want that too. You've spent the past, what, month, sabotaging the whole thing, and you didn't even realise you were doing it."

Oh, this is too much. This is all getting too deep. Dean isn't deep. He's shallow, like a paddling pool, only now Sam is filling the paddling pool with inflatable floats of the painful self-loathing variety and he's overflowing—and yeah, this analogy has got totally out of hand. But the point is, what if Sam and Charlie are right, the jerks, and Cas hasn't been as unavailable as Dean had thought these past few weeks?

"Oh, god," he breathes, pinching the bridge of his nose, and there are reassuring little pats on each of his shoulders which do little to reassure him.

And then, because clearly the universe is out to get Dean this Sunday morning, there's another knock at the front door and Sam calls, "It's open!" before he can even process what the sound is.

"What the hell?" he yelps when Ruby stalks into his bedroom a minute later, all icy smile and swishy dark hair. Beside him, Charlie (the traitor, he's so never speaking to her again after this) says, "Oh, hey, Ruby!"

Ruby grins in a highly unsettling way and Dean resists the urge to pat her down for knives and poison. "Well, isn't this cosy?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Sam told me where he was, and I couldn't resist seeing it for myself," she says lightly, toeing off her heels and crawling under the covers that Sam holds up, settling herself between his legs so that she can lean back against his chest.

"Don't tramp up my bed," Dean warns, but Ruby tsks and rebukes, "I think you've done enough of that yourself lately, from what I've heard."

When he was nine years old, Dean started to compile a mental list of ways to kill his brother and make it look like an accident, and he wonders if he might finally be able to put it to use. "Sammy!"

Sam has the grace to look embarrassed but does that dick thing where he says, "I was worried about my big brother, Dean," and Dean can't really say anything back to that, so he settles for huffing and folding his arms across his chest, tugging the covers up under his chin.

"Stop pouting," Ruby reprimands, like she has any right to.

"No," he bites, petulantly. But hey, practically everyone in his whole entire family is in his bed right now, watching trashy reality TV of all things and analysing his sex-life, and that's reason enough to be miserable.

They sit there for a while, all four of them, tucked up under the covers and eating cereal straight out of the box and pop tarts (Dean refuses to make Ruby a coffee so she ends up sharing Sam's) and watching Gretchen and Slade buy lingerie, and how is this his life now?

"If it's any consolation," Charlie says after a while, dropping her head on Dean's shoulder and linking an arm through his, and he's sure it won't be, "Gilda still doesn't know I exist. I'm just as pathetic as you, Dean."

Ah yes, Gilda the school nurse whom Charlie has been drooling over for months now. Dean had never seen Charlie so keen to volunteer her class in the school's biannual health check, and has made sure to tease her endlessly with various naughty nurse jokes since.

"You know," Ruby chimes in brightly, "if either of you ever need anything to, y'know, ward off the loneliness, my friend Diane owns a really classy sex shop and does a great range of very realistic looking—"

"Oh god, okay!" Dean splutters, scrambling out from under the covers and inelegantly tumbling off the end of the mattress to the carpet. Straightening up, and pointedly ignoring Ruby's giggle, he frowns down at the three life-ruiners in his bed. Yeah, all right, they're only trying to help in their 'I was brought up wrong and am backwards in the head' kinda way, but motherfucker there is only so much Dean can take.

And maybe, perhaps, he does need to sort himself out and stop being such a dickwad, but he can't do that when he's accidentally ended up hosting some sort of slumber party.

So. First order of business: put an end to this girlish feelings crap.

"Right," he says loudly, pulling the covers away from them all. "Get out of my bed, ladies." He aims a pointed look at Sam, who glares back at him.

They do, with much grouching and complaining, and he's finally able to shepherd them out of his apartment, though he wouldn't have put it past Ruby to vandalise something while his back was turned and he performs a quick check of his flammable appliances before letting Sam take her away.

His phone rings almost as soon as he's shut the door and Dean groans loudly. He's never going to be allowed any peace again, is he? This is like some karmic punishment in the form of social interaction.

But the screen tells him that it's Bobby, and he can't help but grin as he answers the phone with, "I'm sorry, Dean Winchester is not available right now—,"

"Oh, ha-ha," Bobby interrupts sarcastically. "I'll have none of your cheek, boy."

Tucking the phone between ear and shoulder, Dean sets about transferring the remaining pop tarts and cereal from the bedroom to the kitchen. "What d'you want, old man?"

"You're not too old for a smack upside the head, y'know."

Dean laughs as he pours coffee dregs down the sink and rinses the mugs. "I'd like to see you try."

Bobby huffs on the other end of the line. "Just checkin' whether you 'n' that brother o' yours are still comin' round for dinner tonight?"

"As if we'd forget," Dean gasps in feigned insult, though he actually had forgotten and makes a mental note to tell Sam.

"Jody's gonna be there, too," Bobby hedges and there's a quiet hesitance in his voice that nearly causes Dean to whoop with laughter.

"Bobby! Is this a 'meeting the family' dinner?"

The older man's voice is gruffer than usual when he replies and Dean knows he's right on the money."Shuddup."

"It is, isn't it? Wow. Isn't that sweet? Have you progressed to hand-holding yet?" he asks as seriously as possible.

"I'm hangin' up now," Bobby declares and Dean laughs loudly. "Be here by seven or you'll be eatin' with the dogs."

The line goes dead and Dean, still chuckling, taps out a text to his brother.

Okay. Now, second order of business: use sweatpants for activity other than wallowing and go running. This coincides nicely with his third objective of the day, which is to accidentally bump into Castiel.

It's actually quite a nice morning, he realises when he steps outside. A bit cool for March, but sunny and bright. And it's weirdly soothing, jogging through the quiet Lawrence streets, his hangover evaporating as his feet pound the pavements—and Sam must never find out about this, or he'll wet himself with excitement and try to implement some ghastly schedule where they can both run together and Dean may be forced to do something stupid like step off the sidewalk in front of a moving car.

But you know what? He's feeling good. A lot better than he was last night, that's for sure. Well, he hates himself a lot, but maybe Cas doesn't hate him and that's what's important here. And for all he complains about Sam and Charlie, and hell, even Ruby, it's something of a comfort to know that they're there for him with breakfast food and crappy TV.

Dean huffs a laugh to himself as he runs. He may not have any parents, but he's got a cantankerous, ornery old mechanic, a smartass little brother with stupid hair and his bitchy, potentially murderous girlfriend, and a best friend who's always there for you as long as what you need her for doesn't clash with her carefully regimented television schedule. And he loves them all to pieces.

And maybe, just maybe, if he plays his cards right and doesn't screw up this time, he can add one more person to that list.

He goes the long way round to Sweet Treats, cutting through the park and nearly tripping over the wayward leash of some prissy little yorkie dog, before finally turning the corner of the street. His lips twitch when he sees Castiel standing outside the café, cleaning the windows with bubbles staining his polo shirt and a look of frowny concentration on his face that scrunches his nose and makes him look astonishingly fuckable.

Dean wolf-whistles obnoxiously when Cas stretches up and his shirt hitches, revealing a pale strip of skin and the shadow of a hip that Dean can distinctly remember licking at one point.

Like a startled rabbit, Cas drops his arms and looks around in sort of indignant wariness, only then he spots Dean and his features morph into a small smile, a small smile that slips slightly into a rough swallow as he eyes Dean's sweaty t-shirt (and hell yeah, Dean knew running was useful for something).

"Dean—," he begins politely, but before this can turn into another disaster like the last few conversations they've had, Dean shakes his head to cut him off.

"Dean Winchester," he says instead, holding out a hand.

Poor Cas looks completely baffled, staring at Dean's hand as if it might bite him, so he sighs and takes pity. "Look, I figure we got off on the wrong foot. So let's start over. Pretend we haven't seen each other naked already."

Which, yeah okay, he's a filthy hypocrite because he's very much enjoying the flush on Cas's cheeks right now and is already wondering how far below his collar it extends.

But his hand is still hanging there in mid-air, his elbow starting to ache, and he has the fleeting sense of impending crippling embarrassment—what if Cas isn't on board with this? What if he really doesn't want anything more to do with Dean?

Oh god. Maybe if he left now, pretended he was kidding. All he'd have to do is avoid this one café for the rest of his life, perhaps move out of Lawrence, move out of the state, pack up and head out to Orange County—

"Castiel Milton," Cas finally says, his lips twitching, and Dean doesn't try to hide his audible sigh of relief. "It's nice to meet you, Dean."

"Likewise," Dean smirks, remembering their first conversation as he shakes Cas's hand, pleased to find that he's not the only one with clammy palms over this whole fucking thing. "So, Castiel, would you like to get coffee with me sometime? No pressure or anything, I swear, just coffee. But I happen to know this great place…"

Cas outright laughs and Dean feels a not entirely unpleasant swoop in his stomach. His blue eyes are bright when they meet Dean's, full of unbridled delight and not-so-subtle desire that could quite easily give Dean a complex.

"I would like that very much," he says earnestly.

"Great," Dean says as he starts walking backwards. "I'll call—" Unfortunately that's the moment he reverses ass-first into a trash can, and fuck it all. This sort of shit never happens to other people. "You," he finishes, pointedly ignoring Cas's poorly concealed amusement and his own flaming cheeks (not to mention his potentially bruised butt). "I'll call you."

Then he turns and jogs away before he can do something else stupid like kiss the guy or trip over a plant pot or throw up on his shoes.

Part V: Wherein Marks the Beginning of a Depressingly Sexless Phase of Dean's Life

Dean is stupider than usual on Monday morning and goes into SweetTreats before work, just on the off-chance that Cas is around because apparently twelve hours without seeing the guy is twelve hours too long, and damn when did he become so pathetic?

Anyway, he needn't have worried because Castiel isn't in there, just Alfie and some blonde chick behind the counter who, once upon a time, Dean might have hit on. But her nametag says Rachel and she looks unjustly pissed when he, casually of course, asks whether Cas is working today.

"No," is her short answer, and she leaves Alfie to ring up his order.

He spends Monday and Tuesday fighting over the dilemma of when to call Cas. Surely twenty-four hours is too soon, but what if Castiel is waiting for his call and thinks Dean doesn't care? Or what if Dean does call and Cas is put off by his eagerness (because Christ is he eager). He considers asking Charlie for advice, or Sam, but that would involve talking about it with other people and hell no, not after the impromptu slumber party debacle.

And then it's Wednesday, and he's shuffling his kindergarteners into something resembling an orderly line for lunch, and he still hasn't done anything. Because he's a chickenshit coward, and he can talk the talk but he can't walk the walk, or some other equally crap metaphor.

When he gets back from making sure his class are safely seated in the lunch hall under the watchful eye of the TAs, he sits heavily behind his desk, pulls out his cell and decides to ring Cas before he can double-guess himself. It's been, like, seventy-two hours since he promised to call, that's more than long enough in his book.

He scrolls through his (embarrassingly small) contacts list where 'Castiel' is sitting snugly atop 'Charlie', and it makes him smile for some reason that's probably totally pathetic and shall never be mentioned aloud.

And then the static in his ear becomes ringing and he's clearing his throat and what if Cas isn't around, what if he's working or busy and—

"Dean," is the answer, after only two and half rings, and if he didn't know better Dean might hazard a guess that the guy was smiling.

"Hey, Cas. So I was gonna call sooner, but I didn't know how soon was too soon, and… yeah. I'm calling now. I didn't interrupt anything, did I?" Yeah, great start, Dean.

"No, not at all," Cas replies, and it's weird hearing his voice on the phone. Of course it's no less sexy, and if Cas's writing didn't work out he could really make it in the world of phone sex hotlines. "Shouldn't you be teaching?"

"Lunch break," he assures, absent-mindedly playing with a fluffy pencil in his pen pot. "I should be eating. You at Gabriel's?"

"No, I'm actually at home. Writing, believe it or not."

"Found some inspiration, then?"

Cas chuckles. "Something like that." And the way he says it causes a curl of warmth in Dean's gut. So he ploughs ahead.

"So, I was wondering if you wanted to get that coffee?" he asks in a rush and tries not to hold his breath.

"How about lunch?" Cas counters quickly. "I'm sort of sick of the sight of coffee, to be honest."

The rush of relief is immense and Dean grins for pretty much the rest of the admittedly short conversation. They agree on Saturday at one, and Cas is going to choose the place and Dean is going to pick Cas up. Which means Cas gets to see the Impala, and Dean's sort of secretly thrilled at the idea of having the guy sitting shotgun.

Thursday is dull and rainy meaning Dean has twenty hyperactive children on his hands because they can't run it all off outside. He gets out the finger-paints and ends up throwing away his shirt when he gets home. Friday is pretty much the same, only he has the added stress of parent-volunteers and Linda Tran to deal with, who Dean is convinced only has such a good handle on the kids because she scares them half to death.

He goes out with Charlie Friday night, just to The Roadhouse for a burger and beer, and they discuss his lunch date with Castiel.

"It's not really a date," Dean protests around a mouthful of fries. "We're starting over."

Charlie snorts unattractively. "So what, you're 'just friends'?"

Dean swallows and shrugs. "I guess. We haven't even hung out that much. Friends might be pushing it."

Shaking her head, Charlie says, "So you're just casual acquaintances who happened to have smokin' hot sex five weeks ago?"

And yep, that about sums it up. But Dean is nervous, doesn't sleep much that night and wakes early Saturday morning. Because he would quite like to maybe stop being 'casual acquaintances' with Cas, at least attempt a friendship, and he's notoriously bad at making friends. Has been ever since high school, where he was the scruffy kid with a dad who never showed up for things and who couldn't afford the latest sneakers and sloppily stitched up the holes in his shirts because Sam was the one who got the new clothes, not Dean.

Sighing, Dean goes for a run before the sun is even fully up and showers afterwards in cool water. He eats bacon and eggs for breakfast despite feeling a tad queasy because Dean Winchester has never skipped breakfast in his life and doesn't intend to start now. Except it's still only nine and he has nothing to do.

So he tidies his apartment, alphabetises his bookcase, organises the stack of Rolling Stones magazines that have been threatening to topple off his coffee table for weeks now, cleans his oven, calls Sam and is scarred for life when he realises that his brother is screwing Ruby on the other end of the line, watches half a documentary on bees on the Discovery Channel, and then leaves his apartment at 12:35 before he can go completely insane.

Dean arrives at Cas's fancyass building ten minutes early and lingers outside in his car for a while, until a passer-by gives him a judgemental glare that makes him feel like a pervert or something— and thankfully Cas chooses that moment to step outside, and Christ, Dean had forgotten how hot he is, despite the trenchcoat he's sporting that… actually no, it weirdly suits the guy.

"Hey," he says, getting out of the car and hoping he doesn't look as nervous as he feels. God, Dean, get a fucking grip. As Charlie frequently likes to remind you: you're a handsome young man with great hair and good conversational skills. This may or may not be true, but he clings to the hope that it is when Castiel smiles at him with that toothy grin and something inside Dean just fucking melts—and if that's not the gayest he's ever been.

"Hello, Dean. You look nice."

Dean glances down at his t-shirt, jacket and jeans which, honestly, he hadn't really given that much thought to when he'd put them on. But he smiles a thanks and returns the compliment, though he reckons that Cas would look good in pretty much anything. Doesn't say this, of course, because Cas doesn't need to know how much of a creepy weirdo he is just yet.

Cas's eyes fall upon the Impala and widen almost comically until he looks back at Dean and says, "Please tell me that's your car."

And, well, anyone who appreciates Baby is a winner in Dean's book. "Yep, she's all mine. Used to be my dad's."

"She's beautiful," Cas murmurs, running a hand reverently over the car's trunk as he walks around to the passenger side.

Once they're sat down inside and buckled up, Dean asks, "You know 'bout cars?"

"Not much," Castiel admits, his eyes still wide as he takes in the interior. "But when I was a teenager Luke went through a phase of collecting classic roadsters, and I would sit and watch him clean them. I can appreciate a beautiful vehicle when I see one."

Definitely has family money, then, Dean finds himself thinking, and isn't entirely sure how he feels about this. It's not like it's Cas's fault he was born rich, but as someone who had to work damn hard for every dollar, Dean can't avoid the twinge of resentment. He thinks of Cas's nice apartment and his free days and wonders, fleetingly, if they're going to be heading to some prissy upscale place that doesn't serve proper food but teeny tiny bite size portions of pretentious crap. But then Cas says from beside him, "I hope you don't mind, but I decided to forgo a restaurant for this charming little diner just off the Interstate. It may not be fine dining, but the pizza is to die for."

"Dude," Dean grins, pulling away from the sidewalk. "You had me at diner."

Cas directs him there but the place isn't difficult to find, tucked away off I-70 and fairly quiet, judging by the mostly empty asphalt parking lot. It's your typical American diner inside; Formica-topped tables and linoleum flooring, a jukebox in the corner, vintage posters adorning the walls. They are greeted by a cute blonde waitress with a beaming smile once they settle into a booth, and Dean allows Cas to order them both the BBQ pizza with fries and a Coke, and they make easy small talk while waiting for their food.

"I gotta say, man, burgers are usually more my thing," Dean admits, relieved when Cas nods.

"Yes, me too. But just wait, you'll never want a burger again after this," he smiles.

And, fuck, but he's right. Their pizzas arrive steaming hot and loaded with cheese and BBQ chicken, smelling incredible, and Dean makes noises that are positively pornographic if Cas's reddened cheeks are anything to go by.

"Sorry," he chuckles. "But this is damn good."

"Told you."

They eat in silence for a while—well, Cas is silent. Dean's still moaning around his pizza, although to be honest he's sort of only doing it to provoke Cas, whose face is crimson now and can't seem to look up from the table top. And when Dean groans out an "oh, god," Cas actually drops his slice of pizza and narrows his eyes.

"That is very underhanded of you," he says, but the corner of his lips is twitching.

Dean just smirks. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Just enjoying the grub, Cas."

The subtle sexual tension lingers in the air between them for the rest of their meal, even when they're discussing their families (Cas is the youngest of five and hates it; his dad ran off when he was four and his mom, Naomi, has always been very controlling) and their jobs (Cas remains tight-lipped about his novels, but does confess that he has also published children's books under his real name and Dean makes a mental note to search the library at school) and even touch briefly on their love lives (Dean tells him about Lisa and there's understanding in Cas's soft blue eyes as he shares that his college boyfriend, Michael, broke his heart in a similar way—apparently they have since both indulged in one-night stands too often, but then Dean thinks they wouldn't really be here if they didn't, so…).

Dean's enjoying himself a lot, more than he thought he would. He already knew that Cas was smart and funny, but as the hours pass and the guy relaxes and all that awkwardness falls away, he learns that Cas is really hilarious with a uniquely dark, dry sense of humour, and his intelligence is that earnest sort of 'I want to know everything about the world' rather than snooty and intimidating.

Afterwards, when Dean has consumed one and a half slices of cherry pie with ice cream (what, a man's gotta eat) and they've split the cost (because this is not a date), Cas says, "I'm not quite ready for this afternoon to end."

And that does sound like a date thing, but Dean is so warmed by the sentiment that he doesn't care. "So, let's not end it," he says as they cross the parking lot. "Movie?"

They end up sitting in a darkened movie theatre watching some action-comedy thing that's a bit boring for Dean's tastes, but every so often Cas chuckles beside him in that rumbly way of his and yeah. Could be worse.

Only, with Dean not paying much attention to the movie his mind starts to wander, which is all kinds of dangerous. Because, shit, but this feels like a date. A pretty awesome one at that. The kind where he isn't even thinking about sex (much) but he just wants to learn every little thing about Castiel, find out what makes him tick and get his entire life history. And yeah, all right, that's as sappy as all hell, but goddammit there is something about this man that surpasses just the status of 'great lay'.

So Dean, the idiot that he is, removes his slushy (because he's twelve) from the cup holder between them and places his hand on top of Cas's. Which, oh god, major mistake because he can feel Cas tense, can feel his whole hand stiffen, and Dean's palms are clammy too which is gross, and he's wondering whether to laugh this off and pretend he was just grabbing for the popcorn (yeah, right)—only then Castiel flips his hand upside down so they're palm to palm, and without so much as looking at Dean, threads their fingers together.


Dean smiles wonkily after that and turns his attention back the screen, but the warm squeeze of Cas's hand is pretty nice (Dean always has liked those hands) and if he accidentally brushes his thumb over Cas's soft skin once or twice, well, he doesn't get any complaints.

By the time the movie is done evening has well and truly fallen, dark and cold, and they walk closer than they probably should down the street back the Impala, elbows bumping solidly together.

"Wanna. I dunno, wanna get a drink or something?" Dean asks, but Cas looks like Dean has enquired about his stance on the death penalty for all the pouting and frowning and deliberating he does.

"No," he eventually answers, slowly, as if he's still thinking it through, and Jesus, Dean didn't think it was that difficult a decision. "No, I shouldn't."

Trying not to feel too disappointed, he counters, "Lotta things you shouldn't be doing, getting a drink with me ain't one of 'em."

Cas smiles, a genuine little thing that make his eyes crinkle, but he still shakes his head. "No. Alcohol—alcohol impairs my inhibitions. I wouldn't. Around you, I'd… I don't trust myself."

Dean thinks this is a compliment and grins, regardless of the poor guy's hot-cheeked fluster. To be honest, his own subconscious had probably equated drinks with sex anyway out of habit (and perhaps a memory of their initial night together).

"I'm sorry," Castiel offers, biting his lip and clearly worried that he's offended Dean. "But I want to do this right, this time."

"No," Dean assures him. "No, it's er… I get it."

And he does. Because get a whiskey—hell, even a beer or two—down his gullet and he'd be as easy as they come. Especially if it was Cas sitting opposite him again, with that hair and body and damn five o'clock shadow that he can still feel rasping on his thighs and—yeah, enough, Dean. No more popping a boner in public, remember?

"Believe me," he continues, voice embarrassingly rough. "I get it."

They smile at each other a little awkwardly when they reach the car, sitting down heavily and passing the journey in an easy silence. It's not that late, but Cas's head is pressed against the window, his eyes closed and his expression relaxed and content—and Dean briefly allows himself to think that he could get used to this. And perhaps it will be all right to take it slow for once. He's never done that in a relationship before (which could explain a few things, to be honest) and the anticipation—while kinda infuriating—is also great. Sort of like the world's most prolonged foreplay ever.

So Dean doesn't get out when he pulls up outside Castiel's house, not wanting to be presumptuous or too forward when Cas has made it pretty clear that there won't be any nightcaps tonight. But he does twist in his seat when he cuts the engine, an irrepressible smile on his face that's mirrored on Cas's, and for a moment the only sound is the quiet ticking of the cooling engine.

Then Cas opens his mouth and says, "Balthazar," and stops, and Dean feels forgotten-about resentment bubbling in his stomach. Oh yes, Balthazar, with his dinner dates and picking Cas up and phone calls to Sweet Treats and ugh. "Balthazar is an old friend, Dean. We lived in the same dorm at NYU. We did date, once upon a time, but after an intense two weeks we realised it was never going to be anything long-term. I fell for Michael and Balth and I amicably agreed to stop our… dalliance."

"You were fuck-buddies?" Dean isn't finding this very comforting.

Castiel flinches. "Yes. But we remained close friends afterwards. There were times when…" he trails off, shakes his head, and Dean frowns slightly but doesn't press the issue. "Let's just say, Balthazar was there for me when no one else was. Even now we still meet up occasionally. He lives in England, but often comes to the States on business. But we're nothing more than friends, I assure you, Dean."

"Why are you telling me this, Cas?"

Cas rubs the back of his neck a little uncomfortably and doesn't meet Dean's eyes. "I thought you might have got the wrong impression a couple of weeks ago, at the café. I just wanted you to know the full story."

And what is Dean supposed to say to that? In the end he settles for, "Okay. Thanks," and Cas looks inordinately relieved. Time to change the subject. "I had a great time today."

The smile is back on Cas's face now. "Me too."

"Well, I suppose this is goodnight then."

And then their faces are really close, and how did that happen? Dean doesn't remember leaning forward in his seat, but he is, and Cas's blue eyes are blinking at him from just scant inches away, and he smells nice, sort of like laundry detergent and buttery popcorn, and Dean really wants to kiss him because he remembers Cas's tongue and he's got a really great tongue, and he wants to run his hands under Cas's sweater up over those fucking hips and—

And Cas just briefly brushes his lips over Dean's, so light it could hardly be called a kiss at all, and clambers out of the car.

"Sleep well, Dean," he smirks, the bastard, and is walking up his driveway before Dean can even get a chance to say goodbye.

When Dean is lying in bed a couple of hours later (yeah, so what if it's only 9pm, he's got this week's Dr Sexy, M.D. recorded that he needs to catch up with) he grabs his phone from the nightstand where it was charging and taps out a text to Castiel, sending it before he can talk himself out of it.

was that a date?

Then he goes back to the television and pretends like he isn't desperately waiting for a reply. But when it does eventually comes through, a whole freaking three minutes later, he's none the wiser.

Do you think it was a date?

What sort of an answer is that? Half-amused and half-frustrated, he fires back: r u deliberately trying to annoy me? and then, before Cas even has time to reply: do u WANT it to be date?

Not thirty seconds later he gets a: Yes. and Dean smiles because he'd sort of been secretly hoping that would be the answer. Only… hold the phone. What if Cas was answering his first text, not the second? Holy shit, this dating crap is fucking hard.

is that 'yes ur trying to wind me up' or 'yes u wanted it to b a date'?

The reply is quick and Dean chuckles and relaxes when he reads it. Both. ;)

And yeah, okay, the dude uses little winky faces in his texts, but he wanted it to be a date, which means it was a date, and a pretty damn good one at that. If Dean wasn't such a manly man he might call Charlie. But he is a manly man who doesn't talk about his feelings. And therefore it can wait until the morning when he rings her to discuss Dr Sexy.

Grinning now, and wow Dean Winchester you're so far gone on this guy, he sends back: ur an asshole. but i'll call you tomorrow. also…me too. Then he locks his phone and puts it back before he embarrasses himself by adding a 'babe' on the end or sending him kisses or one of those little heart emoticons or something, because Dean is stupid and that is the sort of shit he does sometimes.


Dean is in the midst of a very nice dream about Castiel's mouth and tongue when he awakens with a jolt on Sunday morning, right hand unconsciously wrapped around his morning wood already, so he figures he may as well play out the rest of it in his head—and never let it be told that Dean Winchester does not have an imagination. Because he's fairly sure that some of the things dream-Cas is doing to him aren't even physically possible.

It doesn't take long, a couple of smokin' hot fantasies in which he may or may not moan Cas's name out loud and a few hard, fast twists of his wrist and he's coming in hot, wet spurts right up his t-shirt clad chest, which, gross. But he's too blissed out and sleepy to even care and just peels the shirt off, wipes his hand on it and flings it to the floor before rolling onto his stomach and going back to sleep.

When he wakes up for the second time it's nearly ten and he forces himself to actually get up this time. He's got lesson planning to do, not to mention a field trip to organise and springtime-themed activities to make. A whole world of fun.

Oh yeah, and Cas to call.

An hours passes with the laptop balancing on his knees and a coffee perched rather precariously on a stack of paperwork beside him before he finally picks up his phone. Because, y'know, he has priorities and he can't exactly concentrate on school crap when he's thinking about Cas anyway.

"Good morning, Dean."

"Mornin', Cas. Hey, which is better: zoo or aquarium?"

There's a low hum like Cas is actually thinking this through, bless his heart, and he finally says, "Aquarium. It's smaller, therefore fewer places to lose a child."

Dean snorts and writes 'FISH TRIP' in big capital letters at the top of his legal pad. "You may have a point there. Thanks, man."

"Glad I could be of assistance. I trust you slept well?"

Recalling his dreams quite vividly, Dean blushes and is glad Cas can't see him because he's certain he's got that look on his face that says 'I jerked off to the image of you this morning'. Because he's a terrible person who does things like that.

"Uh, yeah. Fine. So hey, if I—hypothetically—said I was free to cook you dinner tonight, would that—hypothetically—be too, I dunno, soon?"

Cas chuckles low and throaty on the other end of the line, and if that totally doesn't go straight to Dean's dick. God, he's like a horny teenage boy. In fact, he's pretty sure he wasn't this bad when he was a horny teenage boy. Jesus.

"Well, talking hypothetically, of course, I certainly wouldn't say no."

"So," Dean continues, grinning, "if I text you my address and tell you to be here at seven—,"

"I would be there. Of course, this is all a hypothetical, right?"

Dean snorts. "See you tonight, Cas."

Part VI: Commence the War of the Head Lice and Enter Castiel, Knight in Shining Armour

Cas turns up for dinner at seven on the dot and kisses Dean the moment the door is open. It's closed-mouthed and brief, chaste though not as fleeting as their parting the night before, and it's sort of lovely. But Dean Winchester doesn't think about things being lovely (he's not Sam, who voluntarily goes to farmers markets and will sometimes literally stop to smell the roses) so he just quirks a grin and goes back into the kitchen to do manly things with meat.

Which is not a euphemism.

They eat Dean's speciality burgers and Cas laments over their unhealthy weekend, so Dean makes him a side-salad—the ingredients to which he only has because of his health-freak brother thankyouverymuch. Fucking rabbit food in his fridge.

During dinner Cas mentions that he's never seen Star Trek, which like, whoa. So after a brief but intense pitch on the downright awesomeness of the franchise from Dean, they end up sitting together on the couch with Dean's boxset on the TV. Because he cannot go out with someone who doesn't even know who Captain Kirk is, Jesus Christ. Charlie would never forgive him.

It's actually a pretty great evening, and Dean feels happier than he has done in a long time. Cas doesn't get that into Star Trek (because he's a freak with no taste, clearly) but he does take Dean's hand, echoing their movie theatre trip, so Dean figures it all balances out.

By the time Cas announces that he should be heading home, it's getting late and Dean is half-tempted to ask him to spend the night. But he talks himself out of it, reminds himself that this 'taking it slow' fuckery is the right thing to do, even if he does suspect that he might have the worst case of blue balls in history before long.

There's a tension fizzling as they walk to the front door, but not a bad one. More like the culmination of something that's been building all night. So when Cas has put on that damn trenchcoat, it's really only inevitable that Dean should grab his lapels and drag him in for a kiss.

It's hot and heady, open-mouthed and leaves them both gasping. "So, we're really. We're really doing this? We're dating?" Dean breathes, lips rasping on the rough stubble of Cas's jaw. "Because I gotta tell you, man, friends do not kiss like this."

Cas groans, low and throaty. "We're definitely dating." His lips capture Dean's again, tongue licking its way inside Dean's mouth. His back hits the wall with a thump but he hardly notices, because they're supposed to be taking it slow and this is so far from slow. This is fast and deep and dark, biting at each other's lips and sucking hickeys onto collarbones, hips bumping solidly together and it's all Dean can do not to fucking keen against Cas's firm torso.

They break apart as if by mutual discussion, but Dean thinks it's because if they keep going then they won't ever stop. They're breathing heavily, harshly, and Cas drops his forehead to Dean's shoulder and chuckles. Dean's not really sure what's funny because he's rock hard in his pants and his whole brain is a bit of a buzzy mess, but he lifts a hand to twist his fingers into Cas's hair and delights in the other man's resulting shiver.

"Jesus, Cas…" he breathes, staring at the ceiling as he tries to keep his breathing under control. "You have no idea what you fucking do to me."

Cas looks up at that, rubs a thumb over Dean's cheekbone, and suddenly all the fire is gone and in its place is nothing but soft affection and it's really fucking nice, actually.

"Oh," he says, eyes twinkling as he looks at Dean. "I think I do."

When their lips meet again it's back to chaste and gentle, but Dean doesn't mind a bit. Hands on Cas's hips now, he smiles and confesses, "I half want to ask you to stay."

Cas's smile is a little more self-deprecating as he plays with the hair on the nape of Dean's neck and mutters, "I half want you to, too."

They both grin and Dean pecks Cas's lips once, twice, three more times and then they reluctantly part.

"Goodnight, Dean."

"'Night, Cas."

And then Cas is gone, which leaves Dean with this very unmanly pang of something he'd never admit to but could maybe be longing, and the desperate need to go and jerk off like, five minutes ago.


"Someone had a good weekend."

Dean's head snaps up to see a smirking Charlie walking across the playground towards him. It's recess, and he's perched on a bench watching his kindergarteners run around in the warm March sunshine and generally be noisy little shits.

"I don't know what you're talkin' about," he replies aloofly, but Charlie just snorts and flops down beside him.

"Oh, please. The only reason someone smiles that big on a Monday morning is if they had great sex the night before."

Nope, no sex, Dean thinks. But there was a pretty heavy make-out session that left him with a serious case of sexual frustration. Despite that, though, he woke up this morning with a smile already on his face. Which makes him a total pussy, of course, but still. He's willing to admit it.

"We just had dinner. There was no—," he checks there are no kids within earshot before he continues, "—sex of any kind." Charlie's mouth falls behind her coffee mug and Dean huffs. "Why do you look disappointed? Don't be creepy."

"Remember the living vicariously through you thing?" she reminds him and he rolls his eyes. One day, Charlie will actually grow a pair and ask Gilda out. Same day he stops finding those Youtube videos of farting animals Sam sends him funny, probably (i.e. never).

"We're taking it slow," he says, taking pity on her. "Though we kissed last night and I'm pretty sure it could have gone further. I mean, I know I wanted—oh hey, Kevin!"

Dean shuts up quickly when little Kevin Tran comes running over to them, his big brown eyes full of tears. He stops by Dean's knees, bottom lip quivering, and Dean hoists him into his lap. "What's up, little man?"

A big fat tear rolls down the five-year-old's cheek. "Channing said—said I couldn't play with her. But I wanna go on the slide, Mr Winchester, and she's hoggin' it!"

Aaaaand he's back in teacher mode. Charlie shoots him a look that clearly says their conversation is to be resumed at lunch while Dean takes Kevin's hand and they head over to the slide to ask Channing to play nice.

By the time he gets home that evening he's exhausted. He spends a couple of hours cutting coloured card into various shapes and laminating them (because yes, this is Dean's life) then wolfs down some leftover lasagne that tastes slightly questionable, and collapses into bed.

It isn't until then that he checks his phone that he realises he has three texts from Cas and curses himself for forgetting to take it off silent when he left school.

Good day at the office, dear? ;) Dinner again this week sometime?

A customer just came into the café reading one of my books. Surreal.

I hope you're working and not ignoring me, Winchester, or else I'm taking all making out off the menu for the foreseeable future.

Grinning now, all sleepiness forgotten, Dean texts back with: Soz phone was on silent. day was same as ever. YES to dinner. wednesday? (one day ur gonna tell me ur pseudonym yknow)

A few minutes passes before he gets a reply, but when it does come through his smile widens.

Wednesday sounds fine. My place? I'll cook, though I can't promise it will be edible. (And that day will never come.)

Unable to resist, Dean dials Cas straight back. It only rings once before he picks up and Dean immediately says, "What did you, write dirty books or somethin'? Wait, you're not that Fifty Shades of Grey chick, are you?"

Cas's laugh is loud down the line. "No, Dean, I am not."

"So you can tell me what you did write?"

"Mm. Maybe one day."

Groaning exaggeratedly, Dean scratches his head and complains, "God, you're an asshole."

"I know," Cas replies, and Dean can hear his smirk. "So, Wednesday, yes? You're okay to come to mine?"

"Sure, man. Sounds great. What sort of time d'you want me?"

There's a thoughtful hum from Cas. "Well, I'm off all day but I do plan on getting some writing done, so shall we say… seven again?"

"I look forward to it," Dean says with a smile, and he honestly does. Like, he really does. And he's not felt like this in a long time. Maybe not since Lisa. If then, because Lisa was different. That was him pining after her (has he mentioned how pathetic he is yet?) and it certainly wasn't reciprocated like it is with Cas. Or like it seems to be, anyway, judging by the boners they keep popping while around each other.

Tuesday is when it all starts to go to hell in a handbasket, and really, Dean should have known.

It all begins when Charlie knocks on his classroom door ten minutes after the start of class. He pauses his shapes game and gestures for her to come in, before telling the children to draw hexagons on their sheets of paper. That should keep 'em busy for a while.

Charlie comes up to his desk and mutters, "I've got two kids off today because of head lice."

Dean groans, rubbing a hand over the back of his neck. He hates head lice. Obviously no one likes them, but two kids off with them means that there's undoubtedly going to be more, and that means kids taking a day at home while their parents make sure they're gone, lest the whole fucking school get them.

"All right," he sighs. "Have you spoke to the nurse?"

Charlie nods. "Gilda says she'll examine them all this morning, my class first. You're going after lunch."

After lunch ends up coming round too quickly, and Dean spends an hour sitting on a plastic chair in the nurses' office while his students file in one-by-one and have their heads prodded about with. Gilda's got some sort of spray she uses on the children with lice, and she gives them a note to take home advising their parents how to deal with them.

"So, Nurse," Dean says conversationally, leaning back in the chair while he waits for his TA to send another kid in. "How'd you like Miss Bradbury?"

Gilda blushes pink and averts her eyes as she drops a pair of latex gloves into the bin. "She is a friend," she says, but doesn't even sound too convinced of that herself. And, what the hell, Dean is happy so he might as well spread the joy and hook Charlie up.

"You should ask her out," he says, and Gilda gapes at him. For a second he can see why Charlie likes her; she's beautiful, really, tall and dark with wide, passionate doe eyes.

"I—," she stutters. "I don't. I couldn't…"

"You can," he interrupts, just as the door opens and Krissy Chambers comes in, twisting her long dark hair around her finger and biting her lip nervously. Dean smiles reassuringly, standing up from the chair so he can lift her onto the bed. Then he looks back at the nurse. "Trust me, she's not going to say no."

He makes a mental note to tell Charlie about this, because the sort of thing she'd do is panic and say no, because she's about as emotionally developed as Dean in that respect.

It turns out there are three children in his class with nits, and he subtly segregates them from the others when they get back to the classroom, even though Gilda assures him that the spray she used on their hair should have killed the lice.

He tells Charlie after school about Gilda and is first punched on the arm, hard, for interfering in her love life, then hugged tightly for, well, interfering in her love life. He calls Cas when he gets home, just because of reasons (stupid reasons, like he hasn't seen him for forty-eight hours now and that's a long time, and he misses the sound of his voice, and even his stupid scrawny cat that makes him sneeze, and why the fuck isn't is Wednesday evening yet?).

It's totally emotionally constipated of him to be so clingy and attached so soon into their relationship or whatever it is, he knows that. But at the same time, he thinks of Cas and gets this weird twisty feeling, sort of like he really wants to screw the dude into the mattress, but he's almost looking forward to the cuddling afterwards just as much.

They don't talk about anything important on the phone. Dean needles him about his books again but Cas refuses to give in, so instead Dean teases him about the children's stories written by one Castiel Milton that he found in the school library, the ones with the two bears and the raccoon who go on all sorts of woodland adventures.

Dean moans about Ruby, too, convinced that it's somehow her fault that Sam is always so busy at work, and tells Cas about Charlie and Gilda. Cas reports that Gabriel and Kali are back together, for now at least, and informs Dean that he knows this because he was mentally scarred at lunchtime when he walked into the back office of the café.

It's over an hour before they finally hang up, and Dean forgets all about head lice and itchy scalps as he drifts into contented unconsciousness.

It's the next morning that he notices it. The itching behind his ears. Doesn't pay much heed to it at first, sleepy and pre-coffee, but when he's showering and there's a damn persistent itch on the back of his neck that won't go away no matter how much he scratches it, he puts two and two together and comes up with nits.

Fuck his life. Fuck it all.

He calls school, tells the principle that he won't be in until the next day, and then texts Charlie to let her know. Charlie is entirely unsympathetic, texting back nothing but an elongated hahahaha which turns into you DICK when Dean reminds her that she hugged him twelve hours ago.

He sulks around his apartment for a while, making breakfast and feeling weirded out by being at home on a weekday morning. When he figures it's stopped being the asscrack of dawn, he texts Cas and tells him that he's going to have to cancel their plans for that night as he's not feeling well. And it's freaking annoying, because he was looking forward to that but he can't exactly turn up if he's got lice, not if he wants their heads to be close to each other (well, mouths more than heads, but the two are, apparently, mutually exclusive). And he can't tell Cas that he has nits, because how gross and embarrassing is that?

But then Cas has to go and complicate things by calling him back. And Dean is an expert liar, never let it be said otherwise, but there's this part of him that doesn't want to lie to Cas, and he figures his fake coughing fit and raspy voice may be overdoing it.

"This came on suddenly," Cas says, as Dean sniffs exaggeratedly.

"Yeah," he croaks, and actually this pretending to be sick might actually be making him sick because his throat is now a little sore—and jeez, karma is a right bitch. "I'm sorry."

Cas's tone softens. "Hey, it's not your fault. Let me know when you're feeling better, all right? And feel free to text me if you get too bored wallowing in bed with your man flu."

Feeling instantly guilty, Dean thanks him and hangs up, sighing as he throws his phone onto the couch. He sulks for a while longer, pouting at the unfairness that is his life, then heads into his bathroom.

Being a teacher, things like the common cold and head lice are all too frequent and unavoidable when you spend all day with children, who, to be quite honest, are gross little germ factories. So Dean's bathroom cabinet is well stocked and he knows he's got some shampoo to get rid of the little bastards in here somewhere. Sure enough, the blue and red box is sitting at the back of the cupboard and promises to kill the lice fast. (It's also effective on crabs, Dean knows, but the less said about that, the better.)

He steps into the shower and lathers it in, then gets out again because you're supposed to leave it on for half an hour or some shit that's a total waste of his time. He slips into boxers and a t-shirt and slumps at his table with a towel around his shoulders, feeling like a complete ass with his hair all foamy, and plays pointless games on his cell phone.

And then there's a knock at his door. He frowns, because it's only just nine-thirty, and everyone he knows is at work. Well, apart from—oh shit.

He peeks through the peephole and groans inwardly when he sees Cas standing in the hallway. Now, Dean, you have two options here: a) be a decent human being and let him in and tell him the truth; or b) pretend that you're sick in bed and can't hear him. Yes, that sounds good.

He watches as the warped version of Cas fumbles with something out of sight and then a second later there's a buzzing in Dean's hand, followed by a very loud AC/DC ringtone.

Shit. Shit balls shit.

Cas is frowning now, undoubtedly, as Dean drops the phone in his haste to silence it and swears. Well done, Winchester, cover totally blown.


"Yeah, hang on," he says in defeat, straightening up, opening the door and aiming for nonchalance. "Oh hey, Cas, what're you doing here?"

Cas looks half-concerned, half-amused, and Dean flushes red when Cas quirks an eyebrow at his hair.

"Well," he says slowly, stepping across the doorway and it's then Dean notices the Tupperware in his hands, "you sounded awful on the phone this morning so I thought I'd bring you some soup, but you seem to have… miraculously recovered. I wasn't aware sore throats cleared up so quickly."

Oh, fuck. He'd forgotten to do his raspy voice. Goddammit.

"I'm sorry," Dean tells him earnestly, shutting the door and following Cas. "There's a head lice epidemic going around school and apparently I'm one of the suckers they chose to latch on to."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Cas asks, and his face is creased with confusion and worry now. And it hits Dean, then, what Cas must have thought upon opening the door and discovering Dean perfectly well. Like he'd faked illness to get out of their date. And the guy was bringing soup, for Christ's sake. No one's ever brought Dean soup when he's ill before. Oh god, well, now he's gone and done it. Cas is probably never going to speak to him again.

"I was embarrassed, I guess," he says, keeping his distance as Cas places the soup on the kitchen counter. "Jeez, Cas, I'm sorry. I screwed this up, didn't I? I just didn't wanna give the damn things to you, too, so I thought it best that I cancel tonight."

"So you did want to have dinner with me?" the other man asks with an uncertainty Dean hasn't heard in his voice before, and it sends him reeling because how could the answer to that ever be no?

"What? Are you kidding me—hell yes, I wanted to have dinner with you! Don't. Don't be an idiot, Cas."

Cas blinks at him twice, before crossing the room and taking one of Dean's hands in his own. His grip is tight and warm, and Dean exhales a breath he wasn't aware he was holding.

"Are you ready to wash it out yet?" he asks, and it takes Dean a moment to work out what he means.

"Oh, the shampoo?" He checks the clock on the oven. "Yeah, 'bout now."


Pulling him by the hand, Cas leads Dean into the bathroom and reads the directions on the back of the shampoo box, taking out the as yet unused nit comb.

"Er, Cas?" Dean hazards, because this is all a bit weird. Especially when Cas steps forward and peels off Dean's shirt, then steps out of his own jumper and jeans until they're both stood there in nothing but boxer shorts.

"Apparently you need to comb the dead lice out first," Cas murmurs, and it's probably one of the least sexy things Dean has ever heard, in fact it's downright disgusting, but still his deplorable dick twitches in his pants.

"Yeah?" he breathes, because Cas is standing very close now.

"Yes," Cas confirms, and reaches into the shower to turn the water on. When he's deemed that it's warm enough he steps in, pulling Dean with him but keeping his shoulders up out of the spray. Dean shivers and he's fairly sure it's got nothing to do with not being allowed under the hot water.

Cas places wet hands on Dean's arms and turns him around so that he's facing the wall, and a second later Dean feels the rough scrape of the comb through his hair.

It goes on for about fifteen minutes, and is simultaneously one of the hottest and most embarrassing moments of Dean's adult life. Cas is careful and attentive as he goes through the repetitive motions of combing, rinsing the comb, and combing again. One hand remains on Dean's shoulder to steady him, but it creeps further up until the soft pad of Cas's thumb is stroking his nape every so often. Sometimes he angles Dean's hand back or to the side with a gentle nudge of knuckles. But they don't talk, mainly because Dean isn't really sure what to say in this sort of situation, so it comes as something of a surprise when Cas mutters, "I think we got them all."

"Yeah?" Dean says again, and he used to be more coherent than this, y'know.

"You can rinse it out, now," Cas tells him, and they switch places so that Dean can get under the spray. It's an instant warm relief, sending a shudder up his spine, and he closes his eyes as he tips his head back.

When he opens them again Cas is standing startlingly close. Dean can see water droplets clinging to his eyelashes, running in rivulets down his chest, his boxers wet-through and clinging to his skin. It's not leaving much to the imagination and Dean's mouth goes a little (a lot) dry.

"Thanks," he says quietly, and he feels like they're hovering on the edge of something here. Knows it for sure when Cas swallows hard before he nods.

"You're welcome," he murmurs, and one of his hands slips around Dean and traces the channel of his spine from ass to neck. It makes Dean shiver again because this is—this is all so new. So intense, in a way nothing or no one has ever been before. A part of him feels like he might implode from all the sexual tension, but at the same time savouring it makes him feel so damn good.

"Cas," he breathes, and then they're plummeting over that edge and kissing and—oh yeah, this is the good stuff. Tongues clashing, mouths bruising, teeth clacking, hands wandering, hips—hold the phone. Why aren't Cas's hips pressed against his? Dean double-checks and, yep, they're definitely out of thrusting range. He groans a little and Cas nips his lower lip in response, then breaks the kiss by shaking his head.

"There's a reason I left our underwear on," he says, but starts kissing his way down Dean's neck and talk about mixed signals.

"Cas, you're killin' me, man," he whines, completely unashamedly.

At this Cas pulls back completely, putting more distance between them. "I know, I'm sorry," he confesses, and sounds genuinely apologetic. "But I—this whole thing… I don't want to ruin it. Taking it slow is all I know how to do."

Dean isn't really sure what this means, files it away for later thought when his downstairs brain stops trying to run the show, but he sort of gets it. And he certainly isn't going to push Cas into something he doesn't want.

"Okay," he says, pressing a soft kiss to the corner of Cas's mouth. "Okay."

They get out of the shower, which has now gone horribly lukewarm anyway, and Dean goes to get Cas a pair of clean boxers and pretends like he didn't notice the outline of his half-hard erection through the wet ones he was wearing. In fact, he's a perfect gentleman as he leaves Cas to change in the bathroom and slips back into the t-shirt he was wearing, this time adding sweatpants into the mix.

He's towel-drying his hair when Cas emerges into his bedroom and they share a weirdly shy smile.

"Hey," Dean says, "you know what would go great with that soup? Bread. We could make some. Have it for lunch."

The invitation lingers in the air for a second, before a beaming smile lights up Cas's eyes and Dean sags in relief.

"I don't know how to bake bread."

"Good job I do then, isn't it?" Dean winks, and maybe this day off isn't turning out too bad, after all. He starts to lead the way out of the bedroom but stops when Cas says his name. He turns and Cas kisses him, lips parted but unhurried, not pushing towards anything but just firm and reassuring.

"Thank you," he whispers, and Dean smiles.

"You're welcome," he responds, in imitation of their conversation a few minutes earlier. Then he does something so sappy he almost cringes and takes Cas's face in his palms and presses his lips softly and feather-light to his nose, each temple, and then his lips. "C'mon," he says when he pulls away and they're both blushing. Jesus. "Let's go, Bobby Flay."

Part VII: Where Everyone Meets Everyone (or: Where Dean Nearly Has a Nervous Breakdown and Sam is an Unhelpful Jerkface About It)

Dean Winchester is stupid.

True fact.

Stupid stupid stupid, because when Sam called and said, "Dude, Ruby and me are hosting a dinner party and Charlie's coming and she said you gotta bring Castiel," rather than replying with "No," and putting the phone down like he should have done, what he actually did was say, "Sure thing, Sammy."

Because he's stupid.

And now it's Saturday night, just half a week after the lice-fiasco-that-wasn't and Cas is smiling at Dean as he gets in the Impala and remarks, "I'm really looking forward to meeting Sam," and Dean's pulling away from the sidewalk and trying not to throw up.

"Just so y'know, everything he tells you is a lie. Especially if what he tells you involves a tire iron, a gallon of engine oil, and me being starkers in Bobby's salvage yard."

For a second Cas looks intrigued, then he laughs. "As I said, I'm really looking forward to it."

Damn. See, this is why four-year-old Dean tried so hard to convince his mom and dad that his new baby brother Sammy needed to be sent back to the store.

He knows that this evening is going to be a few solid hours of torture, because Charlie has been harpin' on about meeting Cas since the start, and Sam will literally do nothing but embarrass Dean and Ruby—well, Ruby will probably be worse than the other two combined.

When he gets to Sam's house (yeah, house, because Sam's a fancy-schmancy lawyer who can afford a nice three-bedroom, two storey townhouse with actual landscaped gardens) the door is flung open and there are three beaming faces illuminated by the porch light.

"Oh my god," Dean grumbles, shoving them out of the way and pushing inside. "We're not even through the damn door yet."

But Sam leaps forward, extending a hand to Cas. "Hey, I'm Sam. It's really good to meet you, Castiel. I mean, like, Dean's not done dating in forever so this is a once-in-a-lifetime—"

"Dude!" Dean interrupts indignantly, but Cas just smiles serenely and covers Sam's hand with both of his own.

"Likewise, Sam. I've heard an awful lot about you. Your brother is very proud."

"I am not," Dean protests, but it's half-hearted at best because he practically raised this kid and proud is all he knows. So he shakes his head, gestures a hand at Charlie instead.

"Cas, this is Charlie Bradbury. Fellow teacher and geek extraordinaire."

Grinning, Charlie steps up. "You know it, Winchester." She stands in front of Cas, narrows her eyes at him for a moment, then asks, "Can I hug you?"

Looking perplexed, Cas nods. "If you want."

Ignoring Dean's objections, she stands toe-to-toe with Cas and wraps her arms around his middle, her head resting on his chest as Cas awkwardly pats her back. "You are dreamy," she confirms, and Dean pinches the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "And I don't even go for you gentleman-folk."

"Okay, that's enough!" Dean intercedes when Charlie doesn't appear to be letting go anytime soon. She steps back, but waggles a finger at Dean.

"Nuh-uh, I'm not done," she says, then with a change of demeanour that almost gives Dean whiplash, she glares at Cas and demands, "You like Lord of the Rings?"

And poor Cas looks mildly terrified now, but Dean remembers having to pass this initiation himself and can do nothing but look on, amused, as Cas slowly answers, "Yes. The books more than the movies. "

"Harry Potter?"

"Of course."

"Ron or Hermione?"


"Seen Star Wars?"

"Who hasn't?"

Then Charlie holds up her hand and splits her fingers in a Vulcan salute. Hesitantly, Cas returns the gesture.

Behind Dean, Ruby snorts. "God, you're all so lame."

"You're just jealous 'cause you never passed," Dean snipes, and Ruby scowls at him.

"Did I?" Cas asks uncertainly from where he's still stood on the doormat. "Pass?"

Charlie grins, bright-eyed and wide. "Yep."

Rolling his eyes, Dean reaches out and grabs Cas's blue tie, tugging him over the doorstep. "Will you get in here?"

Now, if Dean had his way, Ruby would never get a chance to meet Cas. Actually, if Dean had his way he would be curled up with Cas watching a movie or something right now and not be here at all, but he is nothing if not mature and magnanimous, and grits his teeth and bears it as the devilspawn in question approaches his… whatever Cas is.

"I'm Ruby," she says, and surprises all of them by taking his hand. As soon as Cas's fingers close, however, she jerks him forward and mutters, "I could kill you twenty-nine different ways with nothing but a sheet of paper."

"Ruby!" Dean expects Cas to blanch, freak out and run off because Ruby is the absolute worst. He looks to Sam, but his brother appears nothing but amused, and Charlie entirely disinterested as she taps away at her phone.

But Cas simply leans in further, his face pretty damn close to Ruby's now, and replies, "I could kill you an infinite number of times with nothing but an elastic band."

There's silence for a moment, and then Ruby cackles loudly and slaps a palm to Cas's shoulder. "I like you, Castiel."

And Cas grins too, which, what? "I like you too, Ruby."

Jesus fucking Christ.


Dinner goes okay. For about ten minutes. And then Charlie has to open her mouth and say, "Cas, man, you should have seen Dean that morning after your little roll in the hay. He was totally still hung up on you."

"Really?" Cas asks, quirking an eyebrow at Dean, who blushes profusely.

"Lies," he objects, stabbing at a potato with his fork.

"Oh yeah," Sam nods, through a mouthful of food. "He rebounded like… half a dozen times. That I know of. In the space of about two weekends."

"Fuck me," Dean groans, glaring at his brother. "Will you all please stop?"

And then Ruby, damn Ruby, says happily, "Ooh, Dean, have you told Castiel about that time you wallowed in misery with breakfast food and a marathon of… oh god, what was it?"

Grudgingly, Dean supplies, "Real Housewives of Orange County."

"That's it!" Everyone laughs, and Dean feels a full-on petulant sulk coming on here.

"I'm disowning all of you," he declares, but beside him, Cas's hand comes to rest on his wrist, his thumb gently rubbing across Dean's skin. When Dean turns to look at him, he's smiling, but it's soft and not mocking and Dean is hit with the urge to kiss him. He refrains.

"Hey, Cas," he says instead, shooting a sidelong glance at his brother. "I ever tell you about that time in college when Sam got high and was locked out of his dorm wearing nothing more than a pair of pink satin panties?"

Sam looks confused for a minute, and then frowns and says, "Uh, Dean, that was you."

Shit. "Shit."

This time Cas does laugh at him, but really Dean deserves nothing less, and hey remember he has that problem where he doesn't filter his speech? Yeah.

As it turns out, though, Cas gets on pretty damn well with Ruby, Sam and Charlie. So well, in fact, that he has to practically drag him out of the door at the end of the evening.

"Thank you for inviting me," he says to Sam, while Dean rolls his eyes.

"Yeah, yeah, it was a wonderful evening and the food was great. C'mon, Cas, before I dig myself even deeper in this godforsaken pit of embarrassment."

But he still has to endure another round of hugs, farewells, thankyous, and other various crap before he and Cas are once again safely ensconced in his baby.

Sam's front door closes, but Dean exhales heavily before he starts the car. Placing a hand on his shoulder, Cas chuckles lowly and asks, "I hope we weren't too hard on you."

Dean smiles tiredly. "Nah. Nothing I'm not used to, believe me."

"I had a good evening."

His grin widens, because Cas likes his family and all of Dean's favourite people were under one roof (not including Ruby) and that fills him with this warm sort of contentment. "Yeah, me too."

Cas leans across the seat, kisses him briefly, and then pulls back with a glint in his eye and asks quietly, "So, panties kink, huh?"

Dean just groans again, shaking his head as he fires up the engine, and spends the entire journey back to Cas's place pretending that he can't feel the fingers drumming just on the inside of his thigh.


"My mother would like to meet you," Cas says over dinner, three days after Dean's own meet-and-greet, and he nearly chokes on his tagliatelle.

"What?" he rasps.

"My mother. She's asked to meet you."

Cas's voice is slightly higher-pitched than normal. Continues to sound like he's swallowed gravel, but still, it's enough for Dean to hear the reservation behind his words, the anxiety with which he chews on his already chapped bottom lip.

"Your mother?"

"My mother."

And this conversation is getting nowhere fast, but Dean is struggling to understand. Cas doesn't talk much about his family but he's said enough. Dean knows that Naomi Milton, abandoned by her husband but not by their vast bank account, is controlling and domineering. He knows that she and Cas had a monumental falling out ten years ago (apparently it's frowned upon to be gay in a strong Christian household, who knew?) and that Cas is only on speaking terms with two of his four siblings, Luke and Gabriel, and that even then "Luke is barely tolerable" and "Gabe is an insufferable fool".

He knows that Cas's oldest brother, Zachariah, is just as bad as Naomi and that the relationship with his only sister, Anna, is "complicated, Dean, I'd rather not go into it". And yeah, he's very aware that Cas was cut off from the family money at the age of eighteen, that what he has now he's earned himself through his books after spending a good few years desperately poor, and that they have occasional family gatherings where Cas has his every life choice picked apart.

Dean knows all this, and if his respect for Cas didn't shoot through the roof upon finding out.

But you can see why he is having difficulty wrapping his head around this latest bombshell. "How does she even know about me?" he asks, because the rest of his brain is screaming NO NO NO NO.

A sigh and Cas places down his knife and fork, and thank goodness it's a quiet Tuesday evening and this restaurant isn't busy. Maybe that's why Cas suggested they go out, Dean wonders, to break this news in public where he can eliminate the risk of Dean 'causing a scene' or something. Not that Dean would do that. At all.

"Gabriel knows; he must have told her," Cas explains, picking morosely at a stray thread in the embroidered tablecloth. "She called. Said she's having a dinner on Friday and would like myself and my 'special friend' to attend."

Dean gapes for a second, then, "Fuck."

Cas nods. "Yes."

"This coming Friday? Day after the day after tomorrow, Friday? Jesus."

"I am sorry," he says, so earnestly Dean finds himself itching to reach across the table and join their hands—but that would be totally lame, so he settles for tightly gripping his wine glass instead (and fuck, he doesn't even like wine).

"Hey, it's not your fault," Dean sighs. "I don't expect you're exactly thrilled about the invite, either."

"No." Cas shakes his head. "But you can't say no to my mother. She'll only get Gabriel to bodily manhandle me there."

Dean swears again. Under his breath this time, 'cause this is a classy place and he does have some manners. But this whole thing is freaking ridiculous; he and Cas have only been doing whatever it is they're doing, dating, for a month. Not even that. They still haven't even had sex, other than that very first night. That first, glorious night in which there was Cas's mouth everywhere and those hip bones that just won't quit and Cas's dick buried inside of him and—oh god, it's a good job Dean's sitting down right now because he's gone a lot weak at the knees.

And then, then he says, "But I don't have to go, right? I'd like to see Gabriel try and manhandle me anywhere," and effectively ruins the evening.

Because Cas's face falls in this 'just watched his puppy get killed' kinda way, and he becomes fascinated with the remnants of pasta sauce on his empty plate as he mutters, "You're under no obligation to attend. I understand if you'd rather not."

And—because Dean's a grade-A jackass with the emotional capacity of a stuffed moose—it takes him until then to really get it. This isn't about Dean not being ready to meet his boyfriend's scaryass family. It isn't about it being too soon, or about Gabriel, or the 'what if they don't like me' factor. No, it's about Cas. It's about the guy he… the guy he really likes being forced into a fucking horrible situation with a family who criticise everything he does. It's about Cas needing Dean there, for himself. And here's Dean being a selfish sonofabitch and worrying about awkward silences and if there'll be food he doesn't like.

"Fuck, Cas, I didn't—," he begins, but he can't say he didn't mean it because he did. But he didn't know what Cas was saying, and now he does, and there's no way in hell that he is going to let him go to this shindig on his own.

"It's fine," Cas says shortly, and he's trying to catch the eye of the waiter for their check, but no they haven't even seen the dessert menu yet and Dean always sees the dessert menu and that means Cas is ending the date early and that means he's upset and holy Jesus crap Dean doesn't want this to be over.

"No, Cas, stop," he pleads; this time he does reach across and grab Cas's wrist, and screw the people who think it's lame because it instantly calms Dean, grounds him, and Cas finally looks at him again.

"What?" Cas asks impatiently, but those stupid blue eyes are anxious again and flit between Dean's own and the table-top like he can't decide which is less painful to look at. Fuck.

"I'll go, okay? That was a stupid thing to say. I didn't—I just didn't think. I do that sometimes. Forget to make my mouth and brain communicate. I'm workin' on it." He's babbling but he doesn't care, needs Cas to understand him too, that he'd do fucking anything to make this okay again.

"I said it's fine, Dean," Cas snaps, tugging his hand free. "Honestly, I can go on my own just as I have done every other time. I'm sure I'll survive."

Dean huffs. "Yeah, and I said—," they're interrupted by the oblivious waiter, and Dean doesn't even look at the cost of their meal, doesn't look away from Cas at all, as he thrusts his American Express at the guy and silently wills him to leave again. "And I said, I'm coming with you."

Cas murmurs something that sounds like Dean's name but doesn't say anything, and he isn't demanding to leave so that can only be a good thing. When the waiter comes back with their receipt and a couple of after-dinner mints, Dean says, "C'mon," and takes Cas's hand. He doesn't let go until they're back at the Impala, half-scared that the dude's going to run off or something.

"Thank you for the food," Castiel says as Dean's reversing out of the parking lot. "But it's getting late and I would appreciate it if you could drop me home now."

The journey back to Cas's passes in silence, a slightly uncomfortable one, mainly because Dean's trying to formulate a plan to fix this. Because it can be fixed, right? Right? This is just a spat. Couples have spats all the time. And yeah, okay, maybe not all people are as dumbass as Dean, and fail to see when their partner is asking them to be supportive and there—and Dean is beginning to understand what Sam says when he bitches about his brother having "foot-in-mouth disease".

It's obvious Cas doesn't really want Dean following him into his building, so of course Dean does so anyway. In the elevator, one of those fancy old-fashioned contraptions with sliding grills and gold enamel handrails, he exhales heavily and asks, "What time on Friday?"

"Dean," Cas replies, a warning, and the doors ping open and the grill clatters where Cas's hands are shaking, Jesus—and then they're in Cas's huge apartment and Dean still doesn't have an answer. Jacob is purring around their legs the moment they're inside and Cas busies himself in the kitchen with the cat food, and it takes Dean physically getting in his way for the guy to even look at him.

"I mean it, Cas," he insists, placing his hands on the other man's shoulders to steady himself more than anything. "I'm coming. And yeah, you're right, I don't want to. I don't really want to meet your mom because, y'know, Monster-in-Law and all that, and your siblings sound like tools too, and it'll probably be some posh-ass food that I don't know how to eat and hundred dollar wine that tastes no different to me than the cheap stuff you can get at Walmart for five bucks. And I'm already pretty certain I have nothing to wear. But…"

He takes a deep breath, eyes locked with Cas's whose expression is unreadable, and ploughs ahead.

"But, I do want to be there for you. And you're not goin' without me, y'understand? And anyway, I swear to god, man, I tell 'em that I grew up in motel rooms with a pisshead father and they'll be so uncomfortable they'll practically be begging us to leave."

And then a small miracle happens in that Cas actually laughs, quiet and short, but it washes away some of the tension. His hands find Dean's chest, palms warm through his shirt, as he asks, "Are you sure?"

Dean kisses him in response, firm but brief, and when he pulls back (and hell yes, that was Cas's lips instinctually chasing his, thankyouverymuch) he says, "I'm sorry. I'm an insensitive dick."

A half-smile playing on his face, Cas considers him a moment. "Nah. You're okay."

Quirking an eyebrow, Dean asks, "Only okay?"

"Don't push it, Winchester."

They kiss again, slightly longer this time, and Dean thinks he might be mishearing things when Cas presses a quiet, "Stay, Dean," against his jaw, but can tell from the tense muscles under his hands that he didn't.

"Just sleep," he replies, and it isn't even a question. Of course he'd never say no if Cas decided that he wanted to catch a ride on the Winchester Express tonight, but really what he's been missing is the sleeping part, the warm toasty blankets and humongous bed part, and they only did it the once. You shouldn't be able to miss what you never properly had, and yet Dean does.

Cas smiles, pleased and bright and brilliant. "Just sleep."

They climb the narrow staircase to the balcony bedroom and Dean actually takes a moment to appreciate it this time round. It's a large room, but the bed takes up most of it, and a bookcase swallows the entire opposite wall (seriously, this guy could give Kansas City Library a run for its money). Everything's muted shades of cool, calm grey and white. It's a hundred times nicer than Dean's crummy little apartment.

A pair of flannel bottoms and a faded blue t-shirt are thrust into Dean's arms and he goes to the bathroom to change because he doesn't think he could really keep his hands to himself if he had to watch Cas strip right in front of him.

It's all so freaking domestic, as they brush their teeth side-by-side (Dean using a spare brush) and slip into the massive bed together. Dean laughs when Cas has to get up to take Jacob back downstairs, apologising like the cat can understand him as he explains that he makes Dean sneeze but Cas still loves him and will see him in the morning.

When Cas comes back to bed, one of his arms curls around Dean possessively, his hand splayed on his chest, until they're curled together like parentheses.

Dean grumbles about being the little spoon, when really he's actually sort of loving this because who wouldn't want Cas pressed up against them like that, but Cas just chuckles hotly into his shoulder and says, "Shut up and go to sleep, Dean," like he knows.

They fall silent and the room is dark and still, but Dean feels too alert to sleep. His brain is still stuck on their earlier argument—well, it wasn't even really an argument. It was just Dean being a jerk. But here he is, now, in Cas's bed again anyway. Despite his douchebaggery. And eight weeks ago they had sex in this bed, hot sweaty furious sex, and now they're friggin' cuddling and it's… it's overwhelming. Dean's never had a relationship like this before, ever.

"I'm sorry about earlier," he whispers into the darkness, just in case Castiel is asleep, a concern quashed by the hot puff of air on the back of his neck.

Cas doesn't say anything for a while, but his fingers begin tracing absent patterns on Dean's chest, and Dean recognises the spot for being roughly where his tattoo is.

When Cas does speak his voice is hushed and rough, and so quiet Dean strains to hear it. "My mother once told me it was a crime against God to feel like this about another man; an abominable sin." His fingers clench suddenly, fisting a handful of Dean's t-shirt. "But I'm lying here with you now, and—all I can think is how wrong she is to believe that."

And, holy fuck, Dean doesn't know what to do with any of that. So he blurts out, "My dad threw an empty vodka bottle at me after he caught me with a guy, 's how I got this," and taps his index finger to the small scar on his temple. The shaky exhalation behind him sends a shiver up his spine.

There's a firm tug on his shoulder that he realises is Cas's hand and acquiesces to the demand to roll over. When they're facing each other, just a hair's width apart, eyes locked through the darkness, Cas kisses him lightly and rubs his thumb on Dean's hip, under the shirt. And it's that weird sort of balancing on the edge of something again, that line that they seem to be hovering on lately, waiting for something to push them over into the abyss. And it's Cas who takes the leap, who looks completely and utterly crushed as he says, "I'm totally fucking gone on you, you know."

And yeah, Dean does know. Has known it for a while, maybe even since that very first night and the morning after when he had to put that phone number in the bin because he knew this could be trouble. So he nods stupidly, swallows hard, and confesses, "Ditto."

Cas kisses him again, so gently it's almost sweet, just a brush of tongue wetting Dean's bottom lip, and Dean falls asleep between one soft press of Cas's mouth and the next.


"Dean. Wake up."

Dean groans, rolls over, buries his head under the pillow. It's far too early for this shit.

"Dean. You said you wanted to be up at six so that you could go home and change before school."

He did say that. Why'd he say that?

"Dean Winchester, I will push your ass out of this bed—!"

"All right!" he grumbles finally, because Cas sounds serious and he has wooden floors and Dean bruises like a peach. "All right, 'm awake."

He shifts onto his back, blinking when he sees Cas sitting on top of the covers beside him, already fully dressed. "God, you're a freak. Why d'you look like that?"

Cas frowns down at himself, then says, "I always get up early. It's when I'm most productive."

"How early?"

A shrug. "Usually before the sun comes up."

And that is just not right. "Freak," Dean repeats emphatically.

The look on Cas's face now is petulant, a glimpse of the spoiled baby of the family that he spent the first decade of his life being—before he learned how to rebel and ran away. But he's looking at Dean resentfully, as if he and mornings are somehow one of the same and to insult that sunrise is to cause Cas emotional pain.

"You didn't seem to mind getting up early the last time you were here," he reminds Dean wryly.

Dean snorts. "Dude. It wasn't the sunrise that got me outta bed, it was the wet naked shower sex."

And yeah, okay, maybe not the best thing to be reminded of when there's less than a foot of space and only minimal layers separating them, but it does cause this little prideful smirk to tug at Cas's lips and that sort of makes it worth it.

So really, it's only inevitable that they start kissing next, except for where it's impossible to stop. They kiss until Dean's lips are feeling swollen and bee-stung, until he's forgotten where his tongue ends and Cas's begins, until Dean is hard in his pants and Cas's hands are under his shirt and this is further than they've got in forever and—

"Not like this," Cas breathes, and fuck it all, Dean could cry.


"No, Dean," Cas insists, but he doesn't move his lips from Dean's unshaven jaw, pressing the words into his skin like mini declarations. "Not a quickie before work."

And the worst part is, Dean knows he's right. Knows that after all the waiting, the sex has to be really good, and he can't pull out all his best moves if he's got one eye on the clock.

"You son of a bitch," he murmurs with feeling, palming Cas's cheek with one hand, and Cas kisses his wrist.

"Go to school, Dean."

Dean sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face and through his hair. "Yeah, yeah." He knows he has to go home and shower, change his clothes, get his stuff sorted for work. But when the alternative is spending the day here with Cas, warm and comfortable in this massive bed with soft sheets and pillows that smell like him, he struggles to remember why he loves teaching.

Cas is waiting for him with toast and coffee when Dean comes downstairs in last night's clothes, humming along to some crap pop song on the radio. Dean would tease him about it but he can't bring himself to wipe the smile off his face.

They walk down the Impala together and it's a gorgeous morning, bright and sunny, cool and fresh, and Dean really doesn't want to leave.

"Whatcha doing tonight?" he asks when they reach the car.

Cas pulls a face. "Working at Gabriel's until closing. Tomorrow?"

It's Dean's turn to grimace. "PTA meeting. So, Friday then?"

Ah yes, Friday. The Dinner. Dean's never been so unwilling to reach the end of the week before, apart from that time Sam had asked him over for a beer to discuss "a guy thing, Dean, y'know?" and no one should ever have to hear their little brother utter the words "weird rash" and "down there" in the same sentence.

"I'll pick you up at six," Cas says, and he's looking miserable again, and that's not okay because they've had a really good morning and Dean doesn't want to drive away if Cas isn't smiling (and if that's not one of the most pansy-ass things he's ever thought).

So, because he's a caveman apparently, Dean crowds the guy against the Impala's side door and kisses him like it's going out of style, hot and deep and only a little bit desperate.

And he thinks, briefly, when they pull apart but remain pressed together from knee to chest, that he could say something right now, something that could possibly ruin everything despite how close they hovered to it the night before, and he has to bit down on his lower lip to stop the words from slipping out.

"Have a good day, Dean," Cas whispers, pressing a soft kiss to his cheek. "I'll call you later."

"You better," he demands, and isn't all that surprised by the possessive growl in his voice.

When Dean gets home his apartment is cold and uninviting, and he sighs deeply before he goes to shower.


Friday arrives and Dean enters full-blown panic mode. He's had job interviews less scary than this goddamn meal, and he's also fairly sure it was easier to find something to wear for those.

"It's only dinner," Sam says from where he's sitting at the end of Dean's bed, and yeah that's really not helpful.

"Only dinner?" he repeats incredulously, frantically rummaging through his closet, and why did his apartment have to come with such a large one because now he can't find anything, which is stupid because he doesn't have that many clothes. And that in itself is also a problem right now. God, it's a vicious circle. "You met Ruby's parents yet?"

"Ruby parents aren't around," Sam says, frowning at the tie that Ash, who works at Bobby's, got Dean for Christmas one year and is adorned with a vivid cartoon of a naked lady.

"That's because she's the spawn of hell," Dean mutters, 'accidentally' pressing the button that makes the naked lady's nipples flash just to hear Sam's prissy noise of disgust. "Are you gonna sit there all evening or actually help me?"

"Sit here, I think," and god, Dean hates his brother sometimes. "What's Castiel wearing?"

"He just said 'smart casual'," Dean grumbles, because what the hell is smart casual meant to be? He reaches behind his jeans to where he's sure there used to be a shelf for his posh shirts. "Ugh, it's no good, I'm gonna have to get in the damn closet."

Sam snorts unattractively. "Took you long enough to come out of it."

Dean throws a glare over his shoulder at his brother. "I hate you."

"For God's sake, Dean," Sam sighs, like Dean is being unreasonable when he's in the midst of a genuine crisis here. "Just wear what you wore to my work party."

Eyebrows creasing, Dean says, "The night I first met Cas?"

"Yeah. It's smart but not OTT, and the sentiment is nice."

Huffing a laugh, Dean says, "God, you're such a girl sometimes, Samantha."

"You wanted my advice, there it is," Sam says haughtily, and Dean really doesn't want to listen to him but he does like those jeans, and that grey sweater is comfortable. He fishes them out. "Happy now?"

"Overjoyed," his brother deadpans. "Does this mean I can leave?"

Raising an eyebrow, Dean says, "Oh, I'm sorry. Is that that the end of my appointment?"

"Ruby and I are going dancing." Sam's gaze is steady, almost daring Dean to laugh. And Dean tries, really really hard, not to. But he's seen Sammy dance—and he uses that term loosely, because the guy is all awkward elbows and two left feet. He's too big for dancing, looks like a sasquatch with ants in his pants.


"A salsa class, yes."

Dean swallows hard. "Salsa. Ruby's idea, I take it?" he asks carefully, biting the inside of his cheek to keep a straight face.

"Yes," Sam grits out, "but I think it will be… fun."

And that's it, Dean can't hold it in any longer. He laughs so hard his ribs ache, and makes a mental note to text Ruby and tell her to take pictures. Hell, he'll even pay her for them, because suddenly Sam salsa dancing is the only thing in the world he wants to see.

"Shut up, jerk," Sam snaps, flushing vermillion. "Hey, what are you gonna tell Castiel's mom when she asks how you and Cas met?"

That shuts Dean up. Pretty effectively. "Fuck."

Sam smirks, and wow, he's such an asshole. He gets to his mammoth feet and slaps Dean on the back. "Good luck, man."

Dean is still fretting when Cas knocks on his front door a few minutes before six, but he relaxes a little bit when he sees that the other man is dressed similarly in dark jeans and a white shirt that—yeah, okay, looks pretty damn good on him. (The pervert part of Dean thinks that it would look even better on his bedroom floor, but he's too stressed to dwell on this for long.)

"Hello, Dean," he says, and then, "Okay, stop that right now." Cas steps into the apartment and fixes him with a stern glare, and for a moment of wild panic Dean thinks the guy can actually read minds.

"Stop what?" he asks quickly, but Cas's hands are already framing his face, his thumbs pressing gentle circles to Dean's brow.

"Frowning like that. Stop freaking out about this, Dean," he mutters, and finally presses a greeting to his lips.

"I'm sorry," Dean sighs. "I can't help it."

"I know, but if you panic then I'm going to panic." Cas laughs, but it's forced and Dean gathers him into his arms.

"It'll be fine," he assures him, chin pressing into his shoulder, and hopes he sounds more convinced than he feels. "It's only a couple of hours, right? We'll survive. How bad can it be?"

Cas scoffs. "Don't."

Part VIII: In Which the World Ends, Basically.

Nearly an hour after leaving the relative sanctity of Dean's apartment, Cas's blue Honda Civic (fucking Honda and it's so new and shiny it looks plastic, but Dean wasn't allowed to take the Impala because "there is nothing wrong with my car, Dean") is pulling off the Turnpike just outside of Topeka, up a neatly manicured driveway to what is possibly the biggest fucking house Dean has ever laid eyes on. It's all whitewashed walls and red-tiled roof, with balconies and archways, sprawling and so out of place in Kansas that for a second Dean deliriously thinks that his Orange County fantasy has come true.

It's an insane house, the sort of place that probably has staff, and all of a sudden jeans feel like a very bad idea.

"Fucking hell," Dean mutters, nervously drumming his fingers on the seat.

"Dean," Cas murmurs in warning, but there's an edge to his own voice that does little to comfort either of them.

"Cas, man, I knew you were rich but this is…" he trails off, because they've come to a stop behind one of the most gorgeous cars he's ever seen.

"I am not rich. And besides, my own wealth has nothing to do with my family," Cas reminds him bitterly, and Dean wants to be sympathetic and understanding but that vehicle. Anyway, if Cas's dry chuckle is anything to go by, he gets it. "That's Luke's. I told you he collected cars."

"Dude," Dean says reverently, getting out of Cas's Honda and admiring the '65 Chevy Corvette. Two-door, two-seater with original glossy Glen Green exterior and 327ci motor... He may be in love (not that anything trumps his baby, but he certainly wouldn't mind taking this girl out for a spin). "That is not just a car. She's a beauty."

"Ah, Castiel, I like this one already."

A man is walking across the gravel towards them, his sandy hair and stocky frame thrown into sharp relief by the dull yellow light from the house. In his fingers is a cigarette, and Dean's relieved to see that he's just as dressed down as they are, if not worse in crumpled, faded jeans and shirt. The guy's smiling, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes. Beside Dean, Cas tenses.

"Dean, my second-oldest brother Luke," he says quietly, "Luke, this is Dean Winchester."

Dean extends a hand, but Luke doesn't take it. Instead he drops the cigarette to the ground and stands on it, then points an accusing finger and says, "Sam Winchester's brother?"

"Yes, sir," Dean nods, unable to keep the hint of pride from his voice, which is only more justified when Luke says, "Good, good. I like Sam. Has a lot of potential. Well, come on then, let's get this show on the road. You're the last to arrive and there's only so long I can delay the inevitable with nicotine."

Dean slips his hand into Cas's as they follow Luke across the driveway and towards the porch, dodging a palm tree (Palm trees. In fucking Kansas.) as they go. He squeezes reassuringly and feels Cas lean into him a little, before he breaks their grip and gestures for Dean to enter the house.

If he was impressed by the outside, Dean is stunned by the inside. He'd expected something dark and ominous, but the white columns and walls, marble floors and glittering lighting make the whole place so bright compared to the dark outdoors that he has to blink a few times to let his eyes adjust. In the centre of the foyer (a foyer big enough to fit Dean's entire apartment, he's certain) is a huge sweeping staircase. And on the staircase is a woman who can only be Cas's mother.

Naomi Milton is just as formidable as Dean had imagined, wearing a sharp, pale grey suit that makes her look like she's about to meet with the President rather than have dinner with family. Her auburn hair, pulled into a neat bun, is peppered with silver at the temples, and her pink lips are pursed critically.

"Mother," Luke greets, "You'll be pleased to know that I don't plan on another cigarette break for at least an hour," but he's smirking and doesn't wait for a reply before he slips past them into one of the many doorways beyond. Other than a slight ticking muscle in her jaw, Naomi doesn't acknowledge him.

"Castiel, good evening," she says, voice crisp and clear as she elegantly descends the stairs. Like Luke, her smile doesn't quite extend past her mouth. Dean can see, as she gets closer, where Cas inherits those eyes from. Only hers are so lacking in anything, cold and blank where Cas's are warm and brilliant, that they could almost be colourless.

"Hello, Mother," Castiel murmurs, stepping forward. His hands are neatly folded behind his back, like a soldier standing before his superior. It's almost a shock for Dean to see Cas like this, so reserved and cautious. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who kissed the crap out of him in the Roadhouse's corner booth when they were still practically strangers.

And no, Dean, do not think of sex with Cas when you're standing in front of his homophobic, religious mom, Jesus.

Also do not blaspheme in front of Cas's homophobic religious mom.

"Mother, I would like you to meet Dean Winchester, my boyfriend," Cas says, and it's the first time either of them have said the b-word out loud and it fills Dean with a sort of warmth that can't even be diminished by Naomi's not-so-subtle flinch.

"It is nice to meet you, Dean," she says insincerely, and when she shakes his hand her grip is tighter than he expected.

"You too, Mrs Milton," he says, flashing her his most charming grin, "You look lovely," because Dean can be a decent young man with manners when he wants to be.

"Please, call me Naomi," she insists, her heels loud on the hard floors as she leads them across the foyer. Cas mouths a thank you at him as they follow. "I expected you earlier, Castiel. Poor Garcia has been fretting over the chicken."

"I apologise," Cas murmurs. "There was traffic."

Naomi just hums as she pushes open a glass-panelled door and they enter a huge living room. It looks quite comfortable, actually, not as prim and proper as Dean had been expected. The carpets are plush and cream, the furnishings soft in pale pastels. On the walls are several pieces of biblical artworks, and Dean's no expert but he's sure some of them should belong in a museum. They're beautiful, the whole place is beautiful, but he's yet to see any photos or personal touches. It could be a show home, it's so immaculately presented.

Then he notices the people, Cas's siblings, all staring at them (or rather, at Dean) from various positions around the room. He smiles awkwardly.

"Everyone," Naomi announces, and her position of authority couldn't be more clear than in that moment. "Castiel and his special friend have arrived."

Silence. Silence, and unblinking stares. Holy shit. Dean feels like a zoo animal on display.

"This—this is Dean," Cas supplies, then hesitates and adds, "My boyfriend."

Dean tries to catch his eye, but he's staring at one of the spectators in particular, a tall dark-haired man sat next to Luke on the couch. When no more introductions appear to be forthcoming, Dean clears his throat pointedly and resists the urge to give Cas a prod with his elbow. It seems to do the trick, though, and Cas comes back to himself a bit as he smiles briefly at Dean before gesturing around the room.

"Dean, this is my sister, Anna." The redhead, who Dean would have been so into just a few months ago, gives him a small wave from where she's standing in front of a bookcase. "Gabriel, of course, you've met before."

Gabriel mock-salutes from where he's slouched in a large armchair, and yeah, their first meeting at Sweet Treatshad been a barrel of laughs and consisted of Gabe interrogating Dean for a solid fifteen minutes before frowning for another two and then shoving a cinnamon bun of what Dean hoped was approval at him.

"That's Zach, the oldest," Castiel continues, and a paunchy guy with thinning hair and an even thinner smile steps forward, hand extended.

"Zachariah Milton, Dean, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance," Zach says, more enthusiastic than the rest of the family put together. Still, Dean gets the impression that he isn't someone you want to cross. As far as he's aware and from what Cas has briefly told him, Zach is the CEO of the family business. What that family business is, Dean's got no clue, but he's leaning towards mafia.

"Likewise," he replies, but it really isn't.

"And," Cas interrupts, as Zach grins once more and retreats back to his position by the drinks cabinet, "that's, er, Michael Gott, he and Luke are childhood friends."

Michael. Why is that name familiar? A small crease appears between Dean's eyebrows, but it's not until Cas adds, "It was Michael who encouraged me to attend NYU, as a student there himself at the time," that it clicks.

Michael. Michael. The graduate student ex-boyfriend who broke freshman Cas's heart because he wouldn't come out of the closet, that Michael. Frick on a stick. Dean had no idea he was more than just an older student Cas fell for after fleeing the nest for college, let alone a close family friend, but then it's not like Cas has ever covered much more than the basics.

"Cas," Michael smiles, getting to his feet, and Dean suddenly hates him because he's the only one who is allowed to call Cas that and just who does Mr Cheekbones think he is, with his perfectly smooth dark hair and chiselled jaw—dude looks like a fucking Ken doll. "It's good to see you again. How long has it been?"

"A while," Cas replies tightly, and Dean wonders if this is the first time they've seen each other since the break up, and suddenly Cas's rabbit-in-headlights behaviour when they entered the room makes sense.


Michael turns to shake Dean's hand now, and Dean's annoyed by how different he is to the rest of the Miltons, his expression relaxed and genuine.

Thankfully they're interrupted then by a butler, an honest-to-goodness goddamn butler, and told to make their way to the dining room. Dean hangs back as the group of eight file out, talking amongst themselves, and he tugs on Cas's sleeve.

"Dude, I feel like I'm in friggin' Downton Abbey," he mutters once he's sure they're out of earshot of the others.

Cas does that cute scrunchy face he does when Dean makes a pop culture reference he doesn't understand, i.e. all the damn time. "I don't know what that means."

"It's a British—you know what, forget it." His shoes squeak on the marble floors as they trail after the others down a hallway. "You okay?"

Eyes ahead, Cas says, "I wasn't expecting to see Michael."

"Yeah, 's gotta suck," Dean agrees, glaring at the back of Michael's immaculate hair. "Do any of your family know about you and—?"

"No. And you mustn't say anything, Dean."

Dean holds his hands up in surrender but doesn't get a chance to add anything else because they're in the dining room now, and whether by accident or design (he suspects the latter) he ends up sitting to the right of Naomi, who is at the head of the long rectangular table, and opposite Luke. Fortunately, Cas is on Dean's right-hand side. Unfortunately, this puts Cas smack opposite Michael, and if Dean has to watch them make eye contact one more time he might throw something.

"So, Dean," Naomi says with a saccharin smile, "what do you do for a living?"

"I teach kindergarten," Dean says, distracted, because there's about ten different fucking pieces of cutlery in front of him and he has no idea which one he's supposed to use for the soup that's just been served. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Cas subtly tap one of the bigger spoons. Right.

"Oh, how interesting," Zachariah butts in from the other end of the table, "And is that… challenging?"

"It can be," Dean shrugs. "But I got a class of good kids. Well, when they want to be. Other times I come home with glitter in my hair."

Cas huffs a little affectionate noise through his nose, but he's the only one who does. Dean tries not to slurp his soup.

"So, Cas, how's the writing?" Michael asks kindly, but Naomi scoffs.

"It's about time you got yourself a proper job, Castiel."

Dean can almost hear Cas grit his teeth. "It is a proper job. I make more money with my novels in a month than Gabriel gets in profit in a year."

"Hey!" Gabriel objects, from Cas's other side. "I'll have you know I don't do it for the money."

Snorting rudely, Cas retorts, "No, you don't need it when you have Mother to provide you with an allowance larger than most hard-working men earn in a lifetime."

"Castiel," Anna says softly, while Naomi glares across the table and Gabriel just laughs. Dean wishes he could disappear, and the silence that falls stagnates until the soup bowls are taken away and these fancy little mini quiche things appear in their place.

"Well, this is fun," Luke drawls. "I bet Mike and Dean are real glad they get front row seats to a traditional Milton supper."

Dean says nothing but Michael chuckles, obviously well-versed in these occasions for years now. He asks after Naomi's gardener, some old guy called Joshua or something, and Dean tunes out as Naomi and Zachariah both start to complain about Joshua's 'lack of attentiveness'.

Seizing the opportunity, Dean knocks his knee against Cas's and presses it there, solid and warm. He can feel Cas's deep exhale, but he doesn't look up from where he's violently spearing a quiche on the end of his fork. Dean wants nothing more than to ask if he's all right (though it'd be a stupid question, really) but he wouldn't dare to in front of the whole family.

When he looks away from Cas, Michael is gazing between them both, and maybe Dean's just being a paranoid bastard but he swears there's a flicker of something in Ken Doll's eyes that he doesn't like a bit.

"So, Dean," Zachariah begins, "Luke tells us he works with your younger brother. Are you two close?"

Finally, something Dean can talk about. "Yeah, we are. Sammy's great. A total nerd sometimes and boy does the kid need a haircut, but I practically raised him and I couldn't be prouder."

"You practically raised him?" Anna asks, curious, and it wasn't something Dean was going to mention but he's not ashamed of his childhood so he's not going to keep it a secret either.

Just bend the truth a little.

"Our dad worked a lot when we were kids," he explains, cautiously. "It was just me and Sam most of the time, so we stuck together."

"What does your father do?" Naomi interrupts, and this one Dean does struggle with. What does he say? 'My dad was a an odd-job handyman who ran the occasional con and did a bit of dirty work on the side for a few questionable types?' Yeah, no.

"This and that," he answers evasively, then blurts, "He's dead now though." There's a general chorus of polite 'I'm sorry's that Dean brushes away. "It was a long time ago."

Luke shifts forward in his chair. "Credit where credit's due, Sam's an exceptionally intelligent and promising young lawyer. Dean obviously brought him up very well."

Dean's not sure whether to be flattered or concerned that this guy, who still creeps him out a little, has clearly paid such close attention to Sam. In the end he settles for the former, and listens politely as conversation turns to Luke and Sam's boss, Dick Roman, and it seems to be agreed upon all round that the guy's a ginormous asshole.

After dinner they return to the living room, and Dean is led by Zachariah to sit on the couch and is therefore split up from Cas. He doesn't like it. Likes it even less when he spots Michael making a beeline for the secluded corner Cas is standing it, and has trouble focusing on what Zach is saying.

"—come and work for me. It would be a very lucrative position, far more than you make at the moment, with a high potential for a quick promotion."

He's grinning like he's just offered Dean the winning lottery ticket, but Dean can't think of anything else he'd rather do less than work at some corporate office for a douchebag like this guy.

"Thanks, but no thanks," he declines with a forced smile. "I'm happy where I am."

"Are you sure, Dean? The monthly bonus alone is probably more than you can imagine."

Christ, why is everything about money with these guys? It's like a giant pissing contest over who has more of it.

"Leave Dean-o alone, Zach," Gabriel interrupts good-naturedly. "Why would anyone want to work for you?"

Zachariah loses all traces of humour. "At least I don't own a glorified lemonade stand."

Gabe smacks a hand to his chest. "You wound me, brother."

Promising Dean that they'll finish the conversation later, and yay Dean can't wait for that, Zach vacates the chair. Instantly, Gabriel sinks into it.

"You still hanging in there, kid?" he snorts, passing Dean a tumbler of whiskey.

"Just about," Dean replies, sipping the drink. He likes Gabriel. While the guy is clearly still one of Naomi's puppets, it's obviously to a lesser extent than his siblings (excluding Cas, of course). Though Luke, too, has a similar air of rebellion about him, but seems to be more likely to fight for his cause where Gabriel appears to prefer avoiding conflict.

"I think Mom likes you," Gabe muses, and it's Dean's turn to scoff. Naomi may not have said much to him, but he certainly isn't picking up whatever vibe Gabriel is seeing. "I'm serious! She's not kicked you out yet, and that's a plus. 'Course, helps that you're easy on the peepers."

Dean frowns. "Are you hitting on me?"

Gabriel outright laughs. "God, no. Look, I'm just sayin' that Mom's always been hard on Castiel. Think she sorta blames him for Dad running out on us, 'cause he's the youngest. Castiel was a difficult child, always following Dad around and asking him questions. 'Course it was no more Cas's fault than it was any of ours, guy was a spineless bastard and that's the only reason he left, but whatcha gonna do? Them's the breaks."

Dean's eyes drift first to Naomi, who is smiling at something that Anna is telling her, and then to Cas, who is in deep conversation with Michael. Ignoring the clenching in his stomach, he says to Gabriel, "He was terrified about tonight."

Grin slipping, Gabe nods. "I know. It's been nearly a year since the last one of these dinners, and that ended with Cas and Zach nearly killing each other and Anna in tears while Luke and me tried to pull 'em apart. Was a good night."

Dean's about to ask what happened when there's a loud, "What on earth do you think you're doing, Castiel?" from the other side of the room. He turns, and Zachariah is glaring fiercely at Cas, who is still standing by Cheekbones.

"Zachariah?" Naomi frowns. "What is all the fuss about?"

Zach goes beet red. "I just overhead Castiel whispering homosexual… obscenities to Michael!"

Wait, what? What?

Dean shoots to his feet and Gabe utters a quiet "oh boy," beside him but everyone else is goggling at Cas.

Cas realises he has everyone's attention and laughs humourlessly. "Oh, please. I was merely discussing my relationship with Dean. That is, after all, why you all insisted I bring him, was it not?"

For a second, Dean relaxes, but then Zach shakes his head furiously and says, "No no no. I distinctly heard several crude profanities that I'm certainly not going to repeat under Mother's roof, but were definitely—!"

"Zachariah, that is enough," Naomi interrupts, also on her feet now. "Castiel, perhaps it is best that you and Dean leave."

Instinctively, Dean steps forward. "Now hold on a minute—," he starts, but Cas shoots him a glare and he stops. An uncomfortable dread is settling heavily in his chest at the look on Zachariah's face, which is one of disgusted, horrified, dawning revelation.

"Castiel, were you—were you propositioning Michael?" he splutters out, as if the words alone are too appalling.

Every eye in the room is fixed on Cas, and Dean feels like the bottom has dropped out of his stomach. This can't be happening. Yes, he had been jealous of Michael, but he didn't think that Cas would—that Cas could—that he would ever…

"No!" Castiel insists, looking outraged and hurt simultaneously. "For fuck's sake! I wasn't coming on to Michael, you bunch of jumped up, prejudiced—!"

"Castiel, stop, please!" It's Anna, who's looking distraught as she watches the argument unfold. Dean feels numb, can't stop staring at the scene in front of him like a rubbernecker passing a car crash.

"What, like you stopped the night you outed me though I pleaded for you not to?" Cas snaps, and Dean's never seen him so unravelled, so lacking in composure.

"What did you say to Michael, Castiel?" Naomi asks sharply, getting up in her son's face and whoa, Dean wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of that look.

"I don't think that's any of your business!" Cas glares, at the same time Gabriel says, "C'mon, guys, not when we've got guests."

This seems to get through to Cas, who finally looks at Dean again. His face crumples. "Gabe's right. I'm leaving."

Luke claps his hands together gleefully. "This is hugely entertaining stuff. We should go on Springer. Can you imagine the fun we'd have?"

Everyone ignores him. Zachariah steps in the doorway, blocking Castiel's path, and says menacingly, "You're not going anywhere until we sort this out. This is a Christian household, and you will not bring your bad habits in here and try to influence other people."

Cas laughs hysterically and even Dean flushes with anger. He edges forward, but Cas doesn't seem to need help. In fact, he's pretty much got this one covered.

"Bad habits? Wow, you absolute dick. Being gay isn't contagious, brother."

Naomi sighs, like she's fed up of everything, and for a second Dean can see the mom in her, weary of dealing with her squabbling children. But then she turns to Michael and she's squadron leader again. "Michael, please share what Castiel said to you. Don't be afraid to speak the truth, I know what my youngest son can be like and I do not blame you for any of this."

Okay, this bitch is something else. Dean hates her on Cas's behalf, especially when Cas's eyes widen with unshed tears as he, too, turns to Michael and demands, "Yes, Mike, do share what nasty homosexual me said to you."

Michael looks a bit like Dean feels, like he'd rather be anywhere else in the world. But there's a tremor in his chin, in his fisted hands, that suggests he's thinking hard about the answer. And Dean does trust Cas, he does, but they've never actually stated outright they were exclusive, and maybe while they've not been having sex Cas has been off getting it elsewhere. Maybe he was propositioning Michael—

But then Dean feels guilty and stupid for even thinking it. For even believing for a second that Cas could betray him like that, when he knows full well what the Miltons are like, and what Michael did back in college.

Michael, who's gaping like a goldfish with a room full of eyes on him, everyone transfixed like it's some awful Spanish soap (actually, Dean thinks absurdly, he's sure there was a storyline like this on Dr Sexy, M.D. once, but he can't remember for the life of him how it ended).

"H-he said," Michael stutters, looking between Cas and Naomi and then at the floor, "he asked if—if I wanted to… if I would 'take it up the ass'."

No. No. Dean refuses to believe it, can't believe it, but that doesn't explain why he feels a bit like someone's just dropped a ton of concrete on his head. "Jesus, Cas…" he murmurs, running a hand through his hair, and he has to get out of here, has to get far away from this toxic place and these fucked up people.

"You're such a fucking liar!" Cas screams, looking desperate and furious and like he could throw a punch any second now, then he notices Dean walking away and practically runs over to him, and Dean legitimately feels like his chest is being ripped in two when he sees Cas's face. "Wait, Dean, please. This isn't—fuck, this is such a mess but it isn't that!"

Anna is crying again. Naomi is muttering angrily to the ceiling and twirling the crucifix around her neck in her slender fingers. Luke is cackling as he observes the proceedings and Michael and Zach are both silent. Ever the pacifist, apparently, Gabriel steps forward. "Everybody shut the hell up! Cas, tell us what happened then, if Mike's lying."

And yes, yes, Dean needs to hear Cas's side of this, needs something concrete for the little shred of hope inside of him that he refuses to let go of to cling onto. But Cas looks like he's close to a panic attack, is clinging onto Dean's sleeve so tightly his fingers must be cramping, and he's gasping and shaking his head which is bowed to the floor. So Dean does the only thing he knows how to do—places hands on Castiel's shoulders, counts quietly under his breath, and nuzzles his nose against Cas's temple until eventually his breathing returns to normal.

Lifting his head and gently letting go of Dean, Cas inhales deeply and says, voice rough, "I believe what Zachariah overheard was me reminding Michael that he 'never used to have any trouble taking it up the ass'."

The knot in Dean's stomach eases slightly, and there's a collective intake of breath around the room.

"What?" Naomi utters, voice dangerously low.

"You heard me," Cas snaps, more confident now. "You wanna know how I know that Mike never used to have any trouble taking it up the ass? Because he and I spent three months in New York in a sexual relationship. Which he instigated and then I ended when he refused to come out of the closet. I would not be someone's dirty little secret."

The silence in the room is deafening. Even Luke looks gobsmacked, though Gabriel is smirking and gazing at Cas with that familiar older-brother-pride that Dean sees so often in the mirror when he's thinking about Sam.

"Michael, he's lying right?" Zachariah mutters, then bolder, "Tell us he's lying!"

But Michael looks devastated, resigned, and Dean knows he won't be arguing this time. Apparently, so does everyone else in the room.

"I don't believe it," Anna whispers, as if saying it loudly would make it more real.

"Cas, let's go," Dean says now, because if he doesn't get out of here soon he might actually go insane. And he and Cas really need to talk. Like, now.

The expression on Cas's face now is calmer, more collected, and Dean thinks how awful it must have been to keep a secret like that for all these years.

"Yes," Naomi says, and surprisingly her eyes are swimming with tears. "Yes, go, Castiel. And don't come back."

"Oh, believe me, I don't want to," Cas snorts spitefully. "Come on, Dean."

They head to the door, and Dean almost laughs when Gabriel calls after them, "Proud of you, kid!"

It's almost a relief to see Cas smile, despite it all. "See you Monday, Gabe."

The voices pick up again but are muffled when they reach the foyer, and Dean wonders what Michael's going to do now. Whether he'll be told to go, too. Poor Cheekbones. For some reason, though, Dean can't find it in himself to be entirely sympathetic.

"You think Luke'll still be friends with Mike?" he asks, but Cas just shrugs so Dean lets it drop.

Outside, the air is cool and refreshing and Dean gulps lungfuls of the stuff, already feeling better. When they're seated back in the familiar interior of the Honda, he chuckles dryly. "Well, that could have gone better."

"Don't, Dean," Cas warns.

"Hey, it's okay—"

Cas's hands smack the steering wheel violently. "No, it isn't! How is any of that okay?"

And yeah, maybe he's right. Maybe none of it's okay. Maybe Cas has a shitty family who can't love him properly because they don't understand him properly, but Cas has Dean. Right?

"Sorry, Cas," he mutters. "I didn't mean it like that."

A sigh. "No, I'm sorry. It's just… it's been a long night. I just want to get home." He starts the engine, manoeuvres the car out of the driveway.

"Sure," Dean nods, because this he can handle. "I noticed you didn't eat much at dinner, I can make you something if you—"

"No, Dean," Cas interrupts. "Thank you, but I just want to be on my own. I'll drop you off at yours."


"I just need some space to think, okay!" Cas bites. "Can you give me that?"

Swallowing hard, Dean nods.

Part IX: Bedknobs and Breakdowns

It's three a.m., and Dean's still awake.

It's three a.m. and Dean's still awake because Cas is—Cas is a fucking asshole, that's what he is.

A fucking asshole who Dean may or may not be totally gone on, which makes him an even bigger asshole. Because Dean's so gone on the guy that he can't sleep for worry.

Also, he said some things and now he's scared that he's blown the best relationship he's ever had. Which is typical Dean, really.

Maybe they're both assholes.

He sighs, rolls onto his front and tries to disappear into the pillow. It doesn't work.

"You shouldn't be alone, Cas," he'd said in the car. "Come inside." Because he was, understandably, concerned after their horrendous evening with the Miltons. After Cas's mom and all but one of his siblings had essentially disowned him, and he had to see the man who broke his heart for the first time in ten years.

But, "No, Dean," Cas had snapped, and hadn't even tried to be nice and polite about it this time. "I can't think with you asking me if I'm okay every two damn minutes! I don't need it! I don't need you!"

So, "Fuck you, then," Dean had snapped, because there's only so much he could take and it's not like he had a bundle of laughs tonight either, and then stomped petulantly from the car and into his apartment building.

(And if he ran all the way up three flights of stairs and flung himself into his apartment and over to the window to see if Cas was still there, and felt like crying, or drinking, when he wasn't… well, no one needs to know that.)

As it turned out, he didn't have any alcohol anyway. Not a drop, other than beer and he can't get mind-numbingly drunk on beer. It seemed like too much effort to drive anywhere to get any, and in the end he had settled for a carton of apple juice that had been fermenting in the door of his fridge for god knows how long, so it had a bit of a kick.

And now he's in bed, stomach churning (which could be the juice, actually) and he's fretting. Over Castiel. Who's an asshole.

Christ. Two months ago he had been carefree and single, able to sleep with whomever he liked, whenever he liked. And now, now, he has a boyfriend. And he hates the word 'boyfriend', it sounds lame and high-school. He has a Cas. And Dean—he really likes Cas. Maybe more than really likes. Even without the sex, and the sex they did have is starting to become an annoyingly indistinct memory.

Two months ago things were easy. And now they're not. Now they're complicated and messy with feelings and didn't he say this would happen? Didn't he throw away that damn phone number for a reason?

The trouble with Cas is that he doesn't let Dean help him. He doesn't let Dean in. He shuts everyone out, holds people at arm's length. And yeah, Dean has a habit of doing that himself sometimes. He knows that. But Cas? Cas won't tell him about his books. Cas wouldn't admit that he needed Dean to go to that godforsaken dinner with him. Cas wouldn't let Dean look after him tonight. Cas won't have sex with him now that they're not strangers in a bar because that's too much emotional intimacy.

And the stupid thing is, Cas is ridiculously good at looking after other people. He made Dean stay the night that first time, and brought him a hot chocolate and listened to him ramble about puking kids the second time. He little-spooned Dean, for fuck's sake, and Dean would never admit how safe he felt with Cas curved against his back. He made soup even though he can't cook when he thought Dean was ill, and combed the head lice out without complaint when he discovered he wasn't.

'Taking it slow is all I know how to do', Cas had said in the shower the previous week. Dean hadn't thought much of it at the time, hadn't really understood, but now he does. Cas doesn't do relationships. Michael broke him, irreparably, and now Castiel doesn't know how to be in a healthy adult relationship. A relationship where the other person isn't using him as a gay sex experiment. A relationship where the other person, Dean, wants to show him off to the whole fucking world, not hide him away.

All Dean wants is to do look after Cas. And Cas won't let him.

He sighs, screwing his eyes up tight, but he knows sleep won't be coming tonight. He wonders if he and Cas have reached the end of the line here. If tonight was too much, too soon. The thought makes him go cold.

Really, he just wishes Cas were here right now. Even if they were arguing, even if they were yelling at each other, at least they'd be communicating. The idea of Cas sitting in his big old apartment with nobody but Jacob the cat for company causes a weird ache in Dean's chest.

Which is why he's fairly sure he imagines the knock on the door. Must have done. Because it's nearly half-three in the goddamn morning, and perhaps it's his neighbours or something because that—

The second knock is louder, more insistent, and there's no way he's imagining that. Getting out of bed, he throws a t-shirt on with his pyjamas pants. He knows who it will be before he even gets there, of course, but the sight of Cas through the peephole sends his head spinning with equal relief and apprehension.

When Dean opens the door and they're finally looking at each other, Cas just stares. Which is, well, pretty normal for Cas, actually. But he's staring and not saying anything, not moving from the doorstep, and it's three-thirty in the morning. Also he looks like shit, hair stuck up at all angles, shirt untucked and jeans crumpled. Even his trenchcoat looks limper than usual.

"I…" Cas says suddenly, and his voice is wrecked. Dean wonders if he's been drinking, but he doesn't look or smell like he has. He isn't sure what it means that he's sober.

"You what, Cas?" Dean asks, aiming for nonchalance but ending up with majorly pissed.

Cas flinches almost as if he's been struck. "I don't—I don't know," he confesses, voice hushed, and Dean's angry. He's so furious, wants to spoil for a fight, wants to scream and yell at him for being such a bastard, wants to wrap his arms around him and make promises that scare him half to death.

"I'm not here to apologise, Dean."

And, wow, kick a guy while he's down. Fighting the urge to slam the door in his face, Dean demands, "Why are you fucking here, then?"

"I wanted to see you," Cas confesses, and Dean swallows hard as he steps back to let the guy in, against his better judgement, because he's fairly sure that he's about the hear the 'it's not you, it's me' speech.

Following him into the living room, Dean says sharply, "I hope you're not expecting me to apologise either. Because I ain't gonna."

But Cas just looks at him, face blank.

"I was—am—worried about you," Dean presses, using the lack of argument to his advantage.

"Don't be," Cas replies shortly. "I'm fine."

Scoffing disbelievingly, Dean shakes his head. "Cas, no one would be 'fine' after what happened tonight."

"Well, I am," he insists with a huff. "It's nothing I'm not used to, Dean! I'll get a phone call in a week or so from my mom who will attempt to give me some weird roundabout apology whilst simultaneously making the whole thing sound like my fault, and everything will go back to normal."

Dean stares at him for a moment, because if Cas can't see what's wrong with that whole thing then… then… shit.

"Cas, you aren't… you can't be serious? You shouldn't have to be fucking used to that sort of shit! And if you're so fine you wouldn't be on my doorstep at three in the goddamn morning!"

With an exhale that causes his whole body to slump, Cas sinks down onto the couch, his elbows on his knees and stares at his hands like they hold the answers to fucking everything. "I didn't know what else to do," he murmurs, and yeah, like that's going to do anything to settle Dean's concern.


A sharp jerk of his shoulders and Cas finally looks up. "If this is over then I want to say goodbye face-to-face, and not wake up to a voicemail or text or something."

Reeling, Dean actually stumbles backwards, away from the couch. Because the idea that he was going to end this thing they have is—it's ridiculous.

"You want this to be over?" he quizzes, voice tight, and it's like when he was asking 'do you want it to be a date?' all over again, only a thousand times more painful.

Cas sighs, wringing his hands. Those fucking hands, that Dean really loves. "I don't—I don't know how to want it any other way."

And yeah, Dean was bang on the money. Cas doesn't know how to be in a relationship. Cas thinks he isn't good enough, Dean can see it in his eyes as they stare at the carpet, in his body language which is all harsh lines and angles where he's bent over. But he's trying to break them up, and Dean was right way-back-when; Cas is the commitment phobe, not Dean, and it hits him now with astonishing clarity. Cas may have wanted more from Dean than that one night, but he's fought it every step of the way since, whether unconsciously or otherwise.

"You really can't see the problem here?" Dean asks, voice dangerously quiet. Cas looks up, nods.

"Yes, the problem is me, Dean. I can't… I can't give you what you need, what you deserve—"

"No, the problem is that you won't let me read your books!"

Cas looks up, half in shock, half disbelief. "What?"

Right, aim for coherency, Dean. "It's—you don't let me in. You hardly tell me anything about anything. You're so fucking good to me, and you won't let me return the favour! This whole thing is out of balance, and it's… there's—there's more to it than that, but I can't…" He trails off with a sigh because this isn't going how he wants.

Still looking slightly confused, Cas gets to his feet and asks, "So, what, you want to read my diary or something? Find out all my little thoughts and feelings?" And the worse thing is, he's only sort of joking.

Dean barks out a laugh even though none of this is remotely funny. "You're an asshole. You're an asshole and I am totally in love with you and I don't know what to fucking do with that, because you won't let me!"

There's a stunned silence and, well, fuck. One day, Dean will learn to control what comes out of his mouth. Today is not that day. And now he's said it, that awful little l-word that he's been avoiding for a while now, and it's either going to make or break them, he knows that. Probably the latter, because Cas is staring at him again and Dean may not have said those words to anyone before but he's pretty sure that's not the desired reaction.

So he does what he knows best; deflects, denies, and runs away. Tried and tested Winchester method of dealing with things, patent pending.

"You know what, forget it. Forget I fucking said anything. You can—you can sleep here if you want." He gestures to the couch, practically runs down the hall to get some spare pillows and blankets, and Cas hasn't moved a muscle when he gets back. Clenching his jaw, Dean says, "I can't do this on no sleep. We'll talk about it in the morning." Though he's fairly certain that he's going to wake up later to find Cas gone.

He can't look at Cas as he walks away, can't stand to see the expression on his face, just turns his back and slams his bedroom door behind him. And then, surprise surprise, he's back in his bed staring at the ceiling craving sleep that refuses to come.

The noises from the other room hold his focus, shuffling sounds and the faint rustle of fabric. Dean waits for the front door to open and close, or at least for the creak of his couch springs, but neither come. Maybe Cas is pacing. He's definitely walking around doing something. Probably determining the kindest way to let Dean down.

So yeah, Dean's a bit more than surprised when, more than an hour later, the footsteps get louder and come to a halt outside his room. Dean rolls onto his side, back to the door, because if Cas wants to come in and say goodbye then he's not going to have the satisfaction of doing it to Dean's face.

The door opens with a soft click and Cas slips into the room, stops and sighs. Briefly considering whether to feign sleep, Dean starts to do some skilled deep mouth-breathing, but then the covers lift and the mattress dips behind him and whoa, what?

The warmth of Cas's body is instantaneous as he pushes up against Dean's back, one hand reaching around to palm his chest, his lips pressed to Dean's spine through his t-shirt.

"Cas," he mutters, voice cracking humiliatingly. "Cas. Don't—don't fucking little spoon me."

"You wanna know what's funny?" Cas says, ignoring him, and no, Dean doesn't really. "You've got my books on your shelf. I just saw them. One of them is signed."

Shit. Mentally, Dean goes through his bookcase. He's never been to an author's signing before, but he did enter that competition that time, for Carver Edlund's latest book, because Edlund is one of the few authors he actually—hold up.

"You're Carver Edlund?"

Cas's soft chuckle is warm in the crook of Dean's neck. "Yes."

"Fuck me," Dean breathes, because he loves Edlund's—Cas's—books. They're beautifully written, poignant and intense, and he's been buying them religiously since Sam gave him the first one for Christmas a few years ago. And how fucking crazy is it that it's Cas, Cas's words that he identified with, that he clung on to at times, and now he's here in bed with the guy. It's—it doesn't make any sense, it's changing Dean's whole perception on the universe.

Fate. Fate is a load of crap. A bullshit romanticised notion that belongs in fairytales and overzealous newlyweds. But Dean read Cas's books. And then Dean had sex with Cas. And then Dean went into Cas's workplace because it was raining. And then Dean got to know Cas, fell in love with Cas and, and… fuck.

"Dean?" Cas rumbles, his hand smoothing across Dean's hip.

"Yeah," he rasps, and Jesus, breathe, Dean, come on. "Yeah, sorry. I just. Whoa."

And yes, he's freaking out a bit here. But then, "I let you," Cas murmurs, voice vibrating through Dean's skin and sending a shiver up his spine. "Dean, I let you."

It takes Dean a second to get this, then he remembers what he'd said to Cas. And his chin quivers in a very unmanly sort of way but he couldn't really give a flying fuck.

He tenses and Cas kisses his spine again, up to the nape of his neck. "I let you, Dean," he whispers, tongue tracing the shell of Dean's ear, "I've already told you how gone I am on you. That wasn't a lie."

Oh god. Holy shit and crap. It's nearly everything Dean wanted to hear, but it's not—it's still so broken, they're broken. He rolls over, which is potentially a dangerous distraction because now their faces are really close together, but he needs to say, needs to make Cas understand—

"You're not okay," he tells him, and it isn't a question.

"No," Cas confesses. "But neither are you." And his finger traces that small scar on Dean's temple.

Swallowing painfully, Dean continues, "What happened last night wasn't good, Cas. You have enough family crap to keep a shrink employed for a decade, you get that right? And until you sort through it, either try and make it better or cut the assholes outta your life, you're never going to be 'fine'."

Reflexively, Cas recoils slightly. Dean can almost see those walls going back up, and he fights to keep them down. "Don't," he whispers, "don't. I'm not trying to tell you what to do, I'm not Michael. You're more to me than someone to just fuck around with, Cas. Don't you get that?"

"Why?" Cas asks roughly, like he genuinely doesn't understand. "I'm such a screw up."

Despite everything, Dean smiles, small and secret. "Yeah, you are. You drive a stupid car, for a start. And your damn cat makes me sneeze. Also, that NYU t-shirt you've got, the one with the hole in the collar and the tight sleeves that rides up when you stretch? Yeah, that's gonna have to go if you don't want me jumpin' your bones every time you wear it."

Cas looks vaguely amused. "Are you done?"

"No. You use too many commas in your books, and I didn't like the last one as much as I did the others. You text like you're writing an essay and you talk like a thesaurus. You're as bad as Sammy for eating fucking rabbit food and don't appreciate a good movie when you see one. Also, Cas, you're a right dick sometimes. Like, seriously. And I can't stop thinking about you and that is your fault and—ooft!"

His rambling diatribe is cut off by a hard press of lips against his own, and it's great, it's really great, but then Dean sighs into the kiss and Cas yields, softens, and it's nicer. Of their own volition, he's sure, Dean's hands reach for him, gripping his rumpled shirt, bringing him impossibly closer.

But something uncomfortable squirms inside him when he sees where this is going; when he puts Cas moaning into his mouth and rolling on top of him together and comes up with the realisation that he's about to be screwed into the mattress. And that's not okay—well, it is, and he's sort of hard just thinking about it, but no, Cas is still making this all about Dean, won't relinquish that need he has to keep pushing people away.

"Cas, stop," he mutters against the guy's stubble-rough jaw. "This is what I'm talking about, man. You gotta let me look after you, for once."

"I don't need looking after," Cas retorts, just as quietly but there's a dangerous edge to his voice—and Dean really doesn't want another argument. So he rolls them over, his body a steady weight pinning Cas down, kisses him gently and whispers, "Humour me."

There are no immediate protests, which Dean takes as a sign to continue, and licks his way into Cas's mouth with a sort of desperate abandon. He's been waiting so long for this, but he needs to show Cas that it's okay to be vulnerable sometimes, to let others take care of him. Unbidden, thoughts of Michael rise to the forefront of his mind (and yeah that's really not what you want when you're trying to sex-up your boyfriend here) but he wonders if Michael always topped, if Cas hasn't been able to bottom since because it's too much like losing control.

Wow. And Sammy always says Dean wasn't cut out for psychology.

Some of the unbridled jealousy that he's been feeling all night must have shown through, because suddenly Cas is moaning into the kiss and grinding his hips up, and sweet mother of god, that's good. Dean starts working on the buttons of Cas's creased shirt before he's even aware of what he's doing; the fabric falls open easily under his deft fingers.

"I'm gonna take real good care of you, Cas," he breathes, dragging a hand across Cas's torso and down to the fine trail of hair just above his jeans. "But first, I'm gonna kiss you like it's going out of style," he promises, tongue plunging into Cas's mouth with little finesse, but judging by the groan it's met with, Cas doesn't mind.

They kiss like that for a while, hot and deep and heavy, hips brushing occasionally to draw out the pleasure—but Dean's careful not to push it too far. He's already mostly hard, they both are, and he doesn't want this to be over too quickly. He thinks back to the first night this happened, when he'd confessed to Cas that there were so many thing he wanted to do to him. Well, it's been two months of sexual frustration and Dean's got an overactive imagination. Let's just say the list of Things to Do to Cas has expanded. Considerably.

"Now," he says, breaking away from Cas's mouth to whisper right up against his ear, "Now I'm gonna get you out of these pants."

It's incredibly satisfying, the way Cas writhes underneath him as Dean trails hot kisses along his chest, across his sternum, pausing briefly to lave his tongue around a nipple before blowing cool air over it, and down to his stomach.

"Dean!" he gasps when Dean nips at a hipbone, pressing a soothing kiss to the red mark afterwards. Dean doesn't respond, too focused on what he's doing, hands coming up to snap open the button on his jeans. He can feel the hard line of Cas's erection against his forearm and Cas whimpers at the pressure, thrusting up gently.

Smirking, Dean leans back on his haunches and slowly tugs down the denim, revealing white boxers underneath. And it's tempting, so tempting just to whip the jeans off and concentrate on Cas's dick, where a spot of precome is already dampening his underwear, but this isn't about what Dean wants. This is about making it good for Cas, proving to him he doesn't have to be in control of himself all the damn time.

Dean wants to make him totally fall apart.

He drags his lips up the bare skin on the inside of Cas's thighs as it's revealed, alternately switching legs and tickling his tongue into the crease at the knee, sucking bruises into the pale flesh. A soft moan escapes Cas, whose head is thrown back in wanton pleasure. When Dean smiles against Cas's calf, their eyes find each other through the V of his legs and Cas reaches out a hand, flexing his fingers. The meaning couldn't be more clear: get back up here.

Still, he takes his time removing the jeans and Cas's socks before kissing his way back up, unable to resist mouthing at Cas's dick through his boxers and delighting in the guy's resulting moan of, "Oh, fuck, Dean!"

When their bodies are lined up again, mouths pressed together, Cas's hands scrabble under Dean's sweater. "Take your fucking clothes off," he growls, and it's only then that it really occurs to Dean that he's still fully dressed.

Castiel makes light work of the sweater and they both laugh when Dean nearly topples over trying to kick off his jeans, but eventually it's all skin on skin and the only thing separating them is their underwear and Jesus Christ it's hot. It's not like Dean had forgotten how good the sex with Cas was, but it's all coming rushing back to him now with a visceral blast of pleasure.

"Gonna make it so good, Cas," he murmurs into the crook of Cas's shoulder. "Tell me what you want."

And it's like their first time all over again only with the roles reversed, and apparently Cas is having as much trouble getting the words out now as Dean did back then.

"I want… I don't—I…" Dean lifts his head to look him in the eye—those fucking cerulean blue eyes, so wide and desperate with lust-blown pupils—and Cas sucks in a breath and rushes out, "I need you."

And, well, that's gone and done it. Dean kisses him again, sucks lightly on his bottom lip, as he reaches across to the nightstand to get the lube—a task made much easier than it was the first time because Dean is a normal human being with a normal sized bed.

"When was the last time you bottomed, Cas?" he asks quietly, and maybe this isn't the sort of conversation they should be having right now but he has to know.

Cas shakes his head no, but Dean waits patiently and eventually he confesses, "With Michael, a decade ago. But it was never, he was always—it was always about him. Dean, I…"

Ha. Sigmund Freud, eat your heart out.

Dean keeps kissing him to shut him up, lets one finger trail down the edge of his boxers and slip inside. Cas keens against him as he draws patterns around the base of his dick, along the soft skin just under his hips.

"Take them off," Cas mutters, "Dean, please."

Smiling, Dean does as he's asked and peels Cas's boxers down his legs before he shimmies out of his own. They both groan when cock meets cock, precome making the slip-slide easy enough but not so slick that there isn't also a slight burn of friction, sending a shudder through Dean.

And it's good like this, really fucking good, but it's not enough and Dean senses that they're both spiralling towards that high a bit too quickly for his liking. So he stops, gets up on his hands and knees over Cas—they're barely touching but it's okay because Dean has a plan. He thinks. To be honest it's a little hard to make any coherent anything right now, but he knows that they aren't gonna bump 'n' grind their way to orgasm.

"I'm gonna open you up, Cas," he whispers, looking Cas right in the eyes and not failing to notice the red flush creeping up his cheeks. "Just one finger at a time. So slowly, so torturously slowly that you'll be begging me for more."

A whimper escapes Cas, who tugs his bottom lip between his teeth. Scrabbling for the lube, Dean uncaps it and pours a liberal amount onto his fingers, before wrapping his hand around Cas's hard and heavy cock. He fists it a few times and the guy positively comes apart, chanting Dean's name like a mantra.

"Dean, Dean please," he repeats when Dean relinquishes his grip, choosing to trail the tip of his index finger over his balls and perineum until it's circling his hole. "Oh, god."

"You're gonna feel so full, Cas," Dean utters, breath hot on Cas's neck. He licks his way up to behind his ear as he slowly slips a finger inside him, and holy shit, Cas is tight. "A slow, steady push and you're gonna feel incredible. And when I hit that sweet spot, it's going to feel amazing, like you can't breathe for pleasure, stars bursting in your brain. And d'you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna hit that spot over and over and over until your hands are cramping from being twisted in the sheets, until your legs are shaking and your whole body feels like jello, until you're coming so hard you black out."

Cas gapes at him for a moment, breathing harshly, before lifting his hands to pull Dean's head down in a fierce kiss. "Fuck, your mouth," he says and Dean smirks, wondering whether Cas means the dirty talk or the kissing, and chooses to accept it as a compliment for both.

And it's getting hard to hold back now; he just wants to bury himself in Cas, to lose himself completely in the feel of it. But Cas is relatively new at this, and Dean doesn't know what Cheekbones was like, but he's guessing it wasn't exactly attentive.

He slips in a second finger, begins scissoring gently, and Cas groans, his back arching up off the bed, his fingers tightly pressing into Dean's shoulders.

"Jesus, you're so fucking hot," Dean blurts, slightly in awe of Cas's reddened chest and flushed face, sweat-damp hair curling on his forehead, long limbs splayed out on the mattress.

Smirking, Cas replies, "You're not so bad yourself," and Dean has another flash memory of the first time they did this. Cas runs his hands over Dean's chest, down his belly, until he's got one hand wrapped around Dean's dick. When he starts jacking him off Dean moans uninhibitedly, because it's so freaking good. Too good, in fact. He can feel that coil of pleasure tightening in the pit of his stomach, ready to snap.

"Cas, man, you gotta stop that or it's gonna be shows over, folks," he murmurs, kissing the guy sloppily. It's more open mouths pressed together than actual kissing, to be honest, but neither of them are complaining.

To Dean's surprise, Cas actually does stop his ministrations, his hands crawling up Dean's spine instead until one is wrapped around the back of his neck, pulling his head down.

"Get inside me, Dean, now."

And well, Dean was never going to argue with a demand like that. But he's drawing this out, remember, so instead he simply smirks and inserts a third finger. Cas hisses, but not in pain judging by the way he growls Dean's name immediately after.

When Dean flexes his fingers, crooking them and finding his prostate, Cas practically arches up off the bed with a muffled scream, and wow, Dean wasn't expecting that. He presses frenzied kisses all over Cas's sweaty skin, tongue swirling around his nipples, fingers still bent expertly inside him.

Cas may actually be sobbing at this point, but the noises are too incoherent to make out. All Dean knows is that if he doesn't get his dick inside Cas right now, he might actually die. So he pushes up, pulls his fingers out, smoothes the messy hair on Cas's head with his clammy palm.

"You're gorgeous like this," Dean says with a smile, "whole body desperate for me. It's totally hot." Chuckling darkly, Cas scratches his fingernails through the short hair at the base of Dean's skull. It makes Dean shiver. "You ready?" he whispers, because he knows that he is in the most practical sense of the word, but this is Cas, who hasn't bottomed in ten years and apparently didn't enjoy it much when he did.

But Cas meets his eyes and the implicit trust shining in them makes Dean falter, just slightly, when he realises he's the one on the receiving end of that look. Cas stretches his neck up to kiss him, softer and more gentle than they have been all night, closed-mouthed and essentially chaste.

"Always," Cas whispers, like it's a secret. Maybe it is.

He tries to roll over onto his stomach, presumably to get onto his hands and knees, and oh no, Dean's having none of that. He stops him with a hand and a look, reaches down again and says, "I gotta see you, man." Cas nods.

Oh god, this is actually happening. Dean swallows hard. "Wait, condom…" he realises, but Cas shakes his head.

"I'm clean."

"Me too."

"Well you're not going to knock me up, so what are you waiting for, Winchester?"

It's Dean's turn to laugh. He plunges his tongue in Cas's mouth and they battle for dominance in the kiss; Cas wins, but only because Dean lets him. Besides, he's preoccupied with pulling Cas's legs up, his knees pushing towards his chest as Dean balances between them. He lubes himself up, can feel himself already teetering on that knife point, that edge of sharp pleasure.

There's a moment, right before he pushes in, where the whole universe seems to narrow down and the only things that exist are he and Cas, with their rough breathing and shaky hands, twisted-up souls that aren't great at this but are trying anyway, and it scares Dean to death just how much he needs Cas in that moment, how fiercely he loves him.

"Dean," Cas mutters under his breath, a finger tracing over Dean's kiss-swollen spit-slick lips, as if he can read what Dean's thinking in his eyes. Perhaps he can. And perhaps Dean is okay with that.

Gently, slowly, he thrusts forwardly a tiny amount. A gasp escapes Cas, whose eyes drift shut and fingers grip tightly at any part of Dean they can reach. Dean waits a second for him to adjust, then pushes forward more.

"Oh god, come on," Cas whines, and snaps his hips so sharply, his ankles hooked over the small of Dean's back, that suddenly Dean is buried in him up to the hilt, and they both moan loudly.

"Jesus fuck, Cas," Dean pants, stilling with an immense effort and trying to focus on not coming straight away, because that would be embarrassing and he's embarrassed himself enough already in this relationship, thankyouverymuch.

"Move, Dean, please," Cas full on begs, sending a spike of heat through the pit of Dean's stomach. "I need, oh god, I want…"

"It's okay, Cas," Dean soothes. He leans down to kiss Cas's temple, the new angle doing things to Dean's dick and, judging from the moan, is pretty good for Cas, too.

Slowly, he pulls out and then thrusts back in. Cas keens against him, hands clenching in Dean's hair, and Dean demands, "Open your eyes, Cas."

He does so, blue swallowed by lust-filled black, hazy with want, with need. Dean imagines he doesn't look much better himself.

The pace he sets is almost punishingly slow, enough to build up that pleasure to a painful crescendo, but not enough to push either of them over the edge. The sun is coming up outside, the room filling with a dull grey light, swallowing the breathy gasps and throaty groans.

"Harder, Dean," Cas demands, voice completely wrecked, his lips sloppily meeting Dean's own, firm and hot. "Come on, I'm not going to break."

No, but Dean thinks he might. This is so intense, so overwhelming, and he dry sobs as he puts more weight on his elbows either side of Cas and allows Cas's legs to pull him in quicker, deeper.

"Jesus fucking Christ," he groans, hips snapping harder and faster into Cas, who makes this little sound in the back of his throat that Dean already wants to hear again. He hits Cas's prostate on every other thrust, until he knows that he's nearly there himself, can feel his orgasm curling its way through every nerve-ending.

Desperately, he groans out, "Think you can come just like this, Cas? Hey? Untouched, with nothing but my dick inside you?"

"I don't—oh god," Cas gasps, but Dean knows he can, can see how close Cas is, the way his cock is leaking precome onto their stomachs, so impossibly hard and flushed, his balls tightening even as Dean speaks.

"C'mon, Cas," he all but begs, because he's just as close himself. "Fuck. You want it harder, huh? You wanna feel it for the rest of the day, the rest of the week? You want me inside you so far, so deep, it feels like your body is gonna explode?"

The headboard is banging against the wall now, just like it was the first time, and Dean is pounding into Cas so hard they're actually moving up the bed, the sheets tangled and abandoned underneath them. Cas whimpers in blissful, frantic delight, pressing fingertip bruises into Dean arms, sucking hickeys onto his neck, arching off the mattress until their chests are flush and stubble burns are grazing their faces.

"Dean," he keens, "Oh god, Dean, yes."

"That's it, Cas," he babbles, upstairs brain reduced to a puddle of mush, his open mouth hot on Cas's neck, breath dampening the already clammy skin. "Come for me, Cas. C'mon. I'm so close, babe. You're so fucking hot like this you don't even—oh god, fuck. I can't—I love you, Cas, I love you so fucking much, you bastard."

Dean slams into him again and it leaves Cas breathless, mouth gaping and eyes rolling as he comes untouched between them with a long, rough groan, hot spurts of sticky fluid hitting Dean's belly and chest, and Cas fucking clenches around him and that's it, show's over folks, Dean is coming hard inside him, hands clenching desperately at Cas's hips as his orgasm takes over every nerve in his body, his chest shuddering and his toes curling and his head spinning and holy fucking shit.


Afterwards, when their breathing has returned to normal and Dean has stopped feeling like the whole fabric of the universe is about to collapse in on itself, he reaches for one of the t-shirts on the floor to clean them up with. Because he's not a good human being like Cas is and towels and the bathroom seem a very long way away.

Cas doesn't say anything as Dean wipes his belly, his own jizz from between his legs, just stares at the ceiling with his mouth hanging open in apparent shock. Dean cleans himself off quicker, rougher, because the silence is starting to unsettle him. But when he's thrown the shirt in the general direction of the laundry hamper, he turns back to see Cas smiling at him. And he doesn't realise how tense he'd been in that minute until all his muscles relax and he finds himself grinning back, then laughing when Cas threads a hand into Dean's and pulls him back down against the mattress with a flop.

"That was…" Cas breathes, shaking his head like he's just witnessed a God-given miracle and not had sex. "That was amazing, Dean. You are amazing."

"I know," Dean winks. He stretches out an arm and Cas sighs contentedly as he settles down against him, pressing a soft kiss to his chest.

"I also think we both need a shower," he points out, his voice a sleepy rumble that makes Dean smile wider.

"Nah, it can wait 'til mornin'," he replies.

"Dean, it is morning."

"It's the asscrack o' dawn. We got all day."

Cas hums happily, burying himself further against Dean, entwining their feet. They rest in silence for a while, and Dean thinks he might fall asleep when Cas says quietly, "I'm sorry it took what happened last night for us to get here."

Frowning, Dean says, "Whaddya mean?"

"I mean that I was, as you said, an asshole," Cas chuckles darkly. "And you were right, I do shut people out. But I want—I can be better for you, Dean. You told me you loved me and I—I've never felt like that before."

Dean wraps his arms tighter around Cas's torso, carding a hand through his hair. "I don't want you to be better for me, I want you to be better for you. This isn't about me, all right? But I am here, and you don't have to do this alone."

A finger starts tracing patterns on Dean's still-warm skin. "My family…"

"Your family are a great big bag of dicks," Dean interrupts, and thankfully Cas laughs because, seriously, Dean is never going to learn to filter his thoughts, is he?

But, "Yes," Cas agrees. "However, they are my family and I will… deal with them. It was immensely satisfying, last night, standing up to them."

"Hell yeah," Dean nods heartily. "Fucking hot, too."

He feels Cas's grin against his collarbone, stubble tickling his skin. "You're incorrigible."

Dean shrugs like he doesn't care, because he, well, doesn't. But he does pull Cas a little closer, nuzzling his nose into the top of his mussed up hair and inhaling deeply (not that he'd ever admit that to anyone because it's a total chick thing to do, but Cas's shampoo, some prissy raspberry and lemon stuff that costs a small fortune, that Dean spent weeks trying to remember the smell of, is its own form of comfort).

"We'll talk properly later," Cas mutters, voice like molasses due to exhaustion, "for now, sleep."

And Dean is all to quick to agree with him, his eyes already drifting closed, because he's so fucked-out and tired he reckons he could sleep for days. There are still things to work out, sure, possible apologies to be made and questions to be asked, and Dean sure as hell knows that he wants some more information about Cas's past, and… and Cas hasn't said it back to him yet… but that's okay, because Dean knows it's there, knows it's true nonetheless.


Breathing in deeply, he manages to exhale out a, "Mm?"

"I do, too, y'know."

And Dean smiles bigger than he has done in forever.

Part X: An Epilogue, of Sorts, in That it is Five Months Down the Line

Dean tries to stifle his grin as he slips into Cas's apartment—no, their apartment now as of two weeks ago, and boy, that had been stressful. Apparently Cas is insanely particular for a such a messy guy; "organized chaos" he had called it, and as such Dean's move-in day had mostly involved lots of arguments over bookcases and kitchen utensils and where to put Dean's Barcalounger ("You are not bringing that monstrosity into my home!"—"Our home, babe, our home. By the TV, d'you reckon?") and Dean's move-in night consisted of lots of angry argument sex.

(Also, totally unrelated, but his knee hasn't felt the same since that one particular round on the staircase.)

Anyways, he tries to not let his excitement show as he toes his shoes off by the door, shrugs his jacket to the floor. It's late, way past midnight and the apartment is in darkness besides a single dull lamp left on for his benefit, but Cas is undoubtedly half-awake waiting for him to get in, and the dude's like a freaky ninja mind-reader sometimes and this is one secret he can't be allowed to get out of Dean.

He loses his jeans by the back of the couch, his shirt on the stairs, because he knows that it'll piss Cas off in the morning and what else is Dean here for, if not to annoy Cas?

The man in question is a silent, indistinct lump of blankets and pillows when Dean gets upstairs, but he knows he's awake. Toeing off his socks until he's just in his boxers, Dean slips under the covers and reaches a hand for him, finds his waist, and pulls their bodies together. Cas is in his pyjamas and normally Dean would make a big show of complaining about the lack of skin available, but secretly he likes Cas in PJs. They soften him, make him rumpled and sleepy-warm, and he smells like fabric softener.

"Mm," Cas hums happily, wriggling backwards until he's pressed against Dean from head to foot. "Enjoyable evening with Sam?"

"Very enjoyable," Dean grins, kissing the nape of Cas's neck and thinking of the sneaky covert planning he and Sam had been doing for Cas's birthday party. This coming Friday, September 18th, he had confessed grudgingly after much needling from Dean—apparently he 'didn't do' birthdays and usually spent the day on his own, or working at Gabe's. And Dean, appalled, wasn't going to let that happen again.

"Hm, you're in a mood," Cas observes, and see, freaky ninja mind-reader. Jesus.

Dean shrugs. "Watched Ruby choke on an olive from her prissy drink. That'd raise anyone's spirits."

He doesn't need to be able to see Cas's face to know that he's rolling his eyes, but at least he lets it drop.

"Sam reckons he's gonna ask Ruby to marry him," Dean mutters, relaying what his brother had told him earlier that evening while his trampy girlfriend was blatantly flirting with the bartender to get a free mojito.

"That's good, right?" Cas asks, fingers running against the grain of fine hair on Dean's arm, then smoothing it back down again. "They love each other very much."

Dean gives a non-committal grunt, because he still doesn't like Ruby, won't ever like Ruby, but his dopey brother is obviously totally head-over-heels for her and he supposes he could be supportive if he absolutely must.

"You workin' again tomorrow?" he asks, changing the subject. Thankfully, Cas allows it.

"Yes. Gabriel has asked me to open up at seven."

Making a noise of disgust in the back of his throat, Dean says, "Ugh, Gabe needs to hire actual employees to do that sort of shit for him. Tomorrow's Saturday, Cas. We're supposed to spend all day in bed."

Chuckling, Cas weaves his fingers through Dean's and says, "Oh we are, are we?"

"Yes." And maybe he's sulking, but so what? Now he's got no excuse not to do all the prep for his new class of kindergarteners. "Can't you take the day off? Pull a sickie?"

The righteous indignation rolls off of Cas in waves. "I've never 'pulled a sickie' in my entire life."

Dean blinks. "You've never skipped a class? Ever? Jesus, you're such a freak."

"And yet you still love me."

"Sometimes, maybe."

Cas brings their entwined hands up to his lips so that he can kiss Dean's knuckles, his mouth stretched in a smile, then rolls over so that they're facing each other. "You stink of beer," he points out, nose wrinkling. Dean takes the hint, gets out of bed with an exaggerated sigh to brush his teeth.

The next morning starts with Cas's alarm blaring at five-thirty, and Jesus, Dean hates that fucking clock. He watches groggily as Cas gets dressed in the dark, smiles sleepily as he bends over the bed to briefly kiss him.

"Come in at lunchtime," he whispers, brushing Dean's sleep-mussed hair across his forehead. "There's a free sandwich in it for you. Love you."

He kisses him again, a dry press of lips to Dean's crown, then smiles and pads downstairs in his socks. Dean waits for it and… yep, sure enough, there's a quiet tsk from the staircase where Cas has undoubtedly found the beginning of Dean's trail of discarded clothes. He can't make out his angry mumblings, but he does hear the words, "fucking slob" and chuckles as he rolls over to his stomach, pulling the comforter up under his chin.

It had taken Cas exactly one month and four days after Dean told him he loved him to say it back (not that Dean had been counting). He had been waiting for it, yes, but not impatiently. He knew what a big deal it was for Cas, wasn't going to push him. Besides, there were other ways Cas made it clear. It was in the way his fingers always clenched in Dean's shirt when they hugged, the way he smiled when Dean told him about his students, the way he cradled Dean's head in his hands and kissed his mouth so softly when they were having sex.

And then, after all that, it was hardly even a big deal when he did finally say it. They were in Sweet Treats, Dean having popped in during his lunch break to provide Cas with the notebook he had left in the Impala that morning—the notebook that contained all the planning for his fifth novel—because "I've had an idea, Dean, and I need to write it down on something less perishable than this napkin, and Gabriel won't let me leave because he's a sadistic asshole!" And Dean, ever the dutiful boyfriend, had hand-delivered it to him. Cas had rushed at him as soon as he was through the door, his pen already in his hand, taking the notebook and collapsing at the nearest vacant table to record whatever brainwave he'd had.

Unperturbed by this (Dean had learned Cas's erratic writing habits fairly early on and decided it was best not to question them) he'd chatted with Gabriel for a while until he felt arms wrap around his waist, a kiss pressed between his shoulder blades through his sweater.

"Thank you," Cas had muttered, for Dean's ears only, once he turned around in his arms.

"You're welcome."

Cas had smiled, eyes bright with that spark he always gets when writing. "I love you. Now go back to school, or you'll be late."

And just like that, the final little piece of the puzzle had slotted into place. Grinning, Dean had taken Cas's face in his hands and kissed him quite soundly, tongues and everything, until Gabriel had cleared his throat with an amused, "Oi, this is a family establishment, perverts."

Now, Cas says it every day, without fail. Even if they're bickering and hate each other. Even if Dean has done something despicable, like left a ring of condensation on the coffee table, or not made the bed, or forgot to scrub the water stains off the shower door. Sometimes he tells Dean more than once, as if now that he's said it he can't stop saying it, and he wants Dean to know that it's true.

Still smiling, Dean goes back to sleep.


Dean takes Friday off. He knows he shouldn't, knows he has a class full of kids, but unlike perfect little nerdy Castiel, he's not averse to bunking off now and then. And besides, it's Cas's birthday, and Dean is fairly certain that if left alone the writer will sit around in his sweatpants all day playing solitaire on his laptop.

So Dean gets up early, like normal, but rather than getting dressed and showering he heads downstairs in his underwear to make breakfast. Poached eggs and sausage, which he learned to cook specially because he knows it's Cas's favourite, and he's an awesome boyfriend like that. He even feeds Jacob, who's peering distrustfully at him from behind the fridge. Freaking thing still makes Dean sneeze despite the Benadryl he's taking once daily, and apparently the cat is a possessive little shit unwilling to share Cas, so there's a sort of simmering mutual dislike between them. But still, Jacob's perfectly willing to dart forward and crunch at his cat biscuit as soon as Dean puts it back on the floor.

"Finicky bastard," Dean mutters, but runs his hand through the cat's fluffy tail as he eats.

As the sausages sizzle in the skillet, he calls the principle. His boss is pretty suspect when Dean perhaps exaggerates his poorly stomach (food poisoning, dontcha know?) but she agrees to get in a substitute teacher nonetheless. When he's carefully tending to the eggs (and man, he likes cooking but poached eggs are stupidly hard to perfect; like, why couldn't Cas have said scrambled instead, or fried?), wiggling his hips unconsciously to some crappy pop song on the radio, there comes a soft chuckle from behind him. Dean spins, sees Cas grinning at him, and blushes slightly.

"Enjoying yourself?" he asks, amused, his voice still sleep-rough, and Dean really thinks he has no right to sound so high and mighty when he looks like that, t-shirt inside out and sweatpants creased and hair nothing short of a disaster.

"Yes, thanks," Dean bites, then holds up a finger to motion Cas to wait. Carefully, he slides the eggs onto the plates beside the sausages, garnishes with salt, pepper and parsley (see, he could totally pull off the whole fine dining thingamajig) and places them on the table.

"This is for me?"

Dean grins. "Yep. Though you totally ruined it by getting up, it was meant to be breakfast in bed. Never mind. Hang on, there's more—just a second…" He reaches into his secret hiding place (aka the bread bin) and pulls out the brightly coloured items inside.

"Oh no," Cas says, shaking his head.

"Oh yes," Dean counters smugly, advancing forward so that he can pin the massive 'birthday boy' badge to Cas's shirt, and shove the party hat on his head. And if he snaps the elastic a little harder than intended against Cas's chin—well, serves the dude right. "Happy birthday, Cas."

"You're terrible," Cas scolds, but he's smiling in that eye-crinkly way as he pecks Dean on the lips.

"I know. Now siddown and eat your eggs before they go cold," Dean orders, pulling out a chair for Cas and pushing him into it.

"Can I at least take the hat off?"

"No, you cannot. Promised Ruby I'd take a photo, as payment for that masterpiece she captured of Sam salsa dancing." Dean snickers, thinking of the image, and wonders whether he'd be able to get it blown up huge and framed.

Cas rolls his eyes, but tucks into his breakfast regardless. "I disapprove of you taking the day off work," he scowls, but the effect is somewhat ruined by the subsequent moan around his forkful of egg.

"What, because you wanna sit here stewin' in your own juices all day? Yeah, sounds like fun."


"Cas, it's your birthday. Will you just let me do this, please?"

To Dean's relief, Cas's features relax into a smile as he nods. He's getting better at it, the whole allowing other people to do things for him, but he's not quite there yet. It's easier now that they're living together, but is still at the root of many arguments.

After breakfast they shower together, and there may or may not be a birthday blowjob involved between rinsing and repeating, which is followed afterwards by some heavy petting and making out as they playfully towel each other dry, and before Dean knows it it's mid-morning and they're still half-undressed.

"I could get used to this," Cas sighs happily into Dean's mouth.

"Mm, me too. P'raps I should quit my job."

Up until recently they had been used to slow mornings and cooked breakfasts, what with school being out for summer, but now Dean's back working five days a week and is tired because of it. It's starting to take its toll. Quite often they only manage to have sex once or twice a week which is, in Dean's opinion, a total fucking travesty.

They waste the morning with lazy kisses and daytime television that they're not really paying any attention to, until Dean initiates stage one of Cas's Birthday Extravaganza and tugs him by a reluctant sleeve to the front door.

"Dean, you promised no fuss."

"Yeah, well, I lied. Look, it's only lunch. You're just lucky I let you take off the hat."

Cas scowls down at the badge on his chest as if it's caused him many a personal wrongdoing, but he shrugs into his jacket with the sigh of a martyr and allows Dean to pull him out of the apartment.

They walk down the street to Impala (say what you like about Cas's fancyass building, but the parking's a bitch) and Dean takes Cas's hand, squeezing it tightly. Mainly because he's half-concerned that Cas is going to make a break for it, but also because he's a closet hand-holder and Cas knows this, though is sworn upon pain of a sex ban never to reveal it to Sam or Charlie.

Dean kisses him chastely once they're sitting in the car, for reasons. Also just because he can do that now. Kiss Cas. Whenever the hell he wants. So he does it again.

"Dean," Cas mumbles a few minutes later, just as Dean is thinking about slipping his tongue in there. He palms Dean's unshaven jaw and pulls away slightly. "Lunch?"

A quirked eyebrow and a wink and Dean says, "I could think of something else I'd rather have."

Cas makes an amused little snuffle that's totally adorable. "You're insatiable."

"Yeah, and you're hot." But they both lean back into their respective seats and Dean starts up the engine.

When they're pulling onto the Interstate a short while later, Cas smiles with realisation and asks, "Will you pay me fifty dollars if I correctly guess where we are going?"

"Yeah, like I'm gonna take that bet. I know you know where we're headed, it ain't exactly rocket science."

They are, in fact, currently en route to that little diner they had their first official date in. Because Dean is totally unoriginal and sappy like that. He's also planning a movie for afterwards, again just like last time, but that's got more to do with keeping Cas out of the apartment for as long as possible than it does sentimentality.

Half an hour later and they're seated in the familiar squeaky leather seats of a Formica-smothered booth, chewing happily on two of the diner's speciality pizzas, and fuck are they good.

"I could live off these quite happily," Dean says around a mouthful of crust, stringy cheese extending from his mouth and grease dribbling down his chin. Cas pulls a face, throws a napkin at him.

They eat in silence for a while, until Cas takes a sip of his Coke and suddenly admits, quietly earnest, "Nobody's ever done anything like this for me on my birthday before. Thank you, Dean."

Dean is a little overwhelmed. It was only about six months ago that they sat here the first time, navigating the awkward 'I've seen you naked but am pretending I haven't' waters so familiar to hook-ups past and present. And now look at them. Cas is smiling all big and toothy around his straw and Dean really fucking loves him.

So he does what he always does, and plays it down. "Yeah, well," he says, shrugging a shoulder. "Get used to it. I'm big on holidays. Birthdays, Christmas, Fourth of July—hell, even Valentine's Day."

"Let me guess, any excuse for a metric fuck-ton of sex, booze and a day off work?"

Dean beams with pride, slapping a hand over his chest. "Oh, babe, you know me so well."

Cas rolls his eyes, for what feels like the millionth time, and it's startlingly reminiscent of Sam. Dean's gonna have to watch that, stop them spending so much time together. He's starting to believe that their nerdy 'book club' is a ruse for a 'let's get together and talk about Dean' club.

"Hey, eat up if you want dessert," he reminds him, "'Cause we got a movie to see in forty minutes."

"We're going to the movies?"

"Yep, they're doing a monster movie marathon," Dean grins. "And, if you're really lucky, I might even buy you a drink after."

Actually, this is less to do with luck and more to do with whether or not Dean has received the all-clear from Charlie by the time they come out of the movie theatre, but Cas doesn't need to know that.


Turns out his phone is empty of messages when they emerge again that evening, after nearly five hours of back-to-back monster classics, and Dean grimaces slightly as he shoves the useless thing back in his pocket.

"Everything all right?" Cas asks.

Damn. Smooth, Winchester.

"Yeah, fine. Just checking the time. It's nearly six. No wonder I'm getting hungry."

"You're always hungry."

Dean nods. "That is true."

Glancing at his wristwatch, Cas asks, "Well, you want to head home? We can get a takeaway? Eat it in bed?"

For a second, he wants to say yes, because Cas paints a very nice mental image. But then he comes to his senses and shakes his head. "Nah, let's go for drinks. It is your birthday."

Cas still looks slightly suspicious, but he consents anyway and they head to a bar down the street. It's noisy and crowded because it's a Friday night, but Dean manages to glare at a weedy little dude until he relinquishes his table.

"Dean," Cas scolds, but seems perfectly happy to climb up onto one of the stools. Dean orders them both a beer—because he is driving and also Sam put him in charge of alcohol so he knows just how much booze is waiting for them at home.

"It's very loud in here," Cas complains when Dean returns to their table, but dammit they can't leave yet (and come the fuck on, Charlie, how long does it take to blow up a few balloons?).

"Give it a chance, Cas," he counters, with what he hopes is his irresistible pout. "We never do this any more. We're becoming one of those OAP couples who only ever do lame-ass couple things and go straight to bed after the news."

"I thought you enjoyed going strawberry picking?"

He did, as it happens. It was hard on his back and he got a sunburnt neck, but he made a mean strawberry and apple pie out of it.

"That is—that is so not the point."

Triumphant in his victory, Cas simply smirks around his beer bottle. Watching Dean watch him, he flicks out his tongue to lick the liquid from around the rim, before catching a stray drop with his finger and, wow what a bastard, sucking it into his mouth.

"Stop that right now," Dean warns, half-heartedly, because Jesus fucking Christ.

"Stop what, Dean?" Cas is all fake innocence and big blue eyes, and Dean isn't sure whether to laugh or jump his bones. In the end he settles for seeking a distraction and checks his phone for the millionth time. When he sees the text from Charlie he struggles not to sigh in outright relief.

operation vulcan is mission complete, you're good to go captain kirk!

"Come on, let's go," he says, slipping off the stool. Cas smiles knowingly.

"Oh, now we're allowed to leave?"

"Shut up."

They head outside, the cool, quiet September evening washing over them. Dean sighs, relieved to be out of the rowdy bar, and kisses Cas hard when they reach the car, pushing his hands into his perpetually messy hair and holding him close.

"What was that for?" Cas asks after, a little dazed.

Dean just smiles, shrugs, pats him on the ass and moves around to the driver's side.

They drive home in an easy silence, park fucking miles away from the building as usual, and when Cas is chatting to the doorman Dean sends Charlie a text.

the eagle has landed. I repeat, the eagle has landed

"Ready?" Cas asks, eyeing the phone suspiciously, but he takes Dean's hand as they walk over to the elevator. All of a sudden, he's nervous. Cas explicitly said that he didn't want a big deal made out of his birthday, and pretty much everyone he knows is currently in their apartment waiting to do just that. What if Cas hates it, or—

"Dean, are you okay?"

He looks up with a jolt, sees Cas watching him with slightly amused raised eyebrows. "What? Yeah, of course. Why wouldn't I be?"

And then they're there, outside in the hallway, but before Dean can open the door Cas tugs on his sleeve and mutters his name. He turns, and is suddenly engulfed by an armful of him, all six feet of him pressed as tightly as he can get up to Dean. Smiling now, Dean's arms go around his waist as Cas murmurs, "I just wanted to say, before we go in, thank you for lunch. And the monster movie marathon. And the beer."

Dean laughs softly, even if he is pretty sure now that Cas knows what's waiting for him inside. But still, he squeezes him tightly, presses a "You're welcome," to the bolt of his jaw, before finally moving to unlock the door.

It's your classic surprise party; they enter, Dean flicks on the light, there's an overwhelming number of people jumping out from behind the furniture. Y'know, one big cliché. Dean laughs when Cas rounds on him, eyes wide, and says, "You fucker! I knew it!"

"Happy birthday, babe," he winks, and Cas looks like he's trying to decide whether to punch him or kiss him, and settles, in the end, for both.

Everyone's there, because in the six months they've been dating Dean's family have become Cas's family.

"Cas!" squeals Charlie, throwing her arms around his neck. "Happy birthday, dreamy."

"Thank you," Cas replies, as sombrely as he says everything else, but he hugs her back tightly. Sam goes next and Dean legitimately worries that he's going to knock Cas flying when he thumps him on the back, gigantor that he is. Then Ruby's there, ugh, and she kisses Cas's cheek and slips something into his back pocket with a wink, and yeah Dean's gonna have to keep an eye on her.

Dean loses Cas to the crowd then, as Bobby and Ash grab him, lead him over to Benny, Jo and Ellen. Garth, who's already pretty drunk on one beer, embraces Cas so thoroughly that Dean doesn't think he'll ever let go, but then Charlie takes Cas's hand and rescues him to introduce him to Gilda.

Not without a smile on his face, Dean slips unnoticed through the apartment and heads upstairs. He gets changed, because while his clothes are pretty clean he's certain he still smells of sex, and then leans on the bedroom wall and looks down at the crowd below. Cas is smiling, big and wide, at something Charlie is telling Alfie (who has gone beet red, bless his heart) and Gabriel, who's laughing loudly.

It's weird, but Dean feels a little out of sorts. Sort of melancholy, though he's got nothing to be sad about.

"Whatcha doing up here?" comes Sam's voice, his head appearing on the stairs, followed by the rest of him. He comes to rest beside his brother.

Dean shrugs. "Thought I'd give Cas a minute with everyone else."

"You good?"

"Yeah, 'm good."

Sam narrows his eyes. "You seem a bit... off."

"I'm just." Dean shakes his head, because he doesn't know what he is really.


"I think that this—that, y'know, Cas—is it for me, dude. And I don't... Not since Lisa have I..."

Sighing, Sam places a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Castiel is a good man, Dean. Lisa was a total bitch, and I'm not sorry for saying that. You've been happier these last few months than I've ever seen you. Just... stop freakin' out about everything for once in your goddamn life."

They both snort with laughter, but Dean knows his brother is right, the jerk.

"Yeah, yeah."

Sam smiles, nudges him with his elbow. "Come on, you've been going on about the cake all week, let's go eat some."

The cake is a magnificent chocolate creation, rich and gooey, and it's fucking adorable the way Cas blushes, embarrassed but pleased, when everyone sings and he blows out the candle, and Dean just thinks fuck it. There is no possible reason for him to be having a crisis about commitment, when that is the guy he's committing to.

They eat cake and order ten pizzas and open presents and piss off the neighbours by partaking in some truly awful karaoke until way past midnight. It isn't until Sam, totally inebriated, nearly breaks the coffee table he's standing on during a particularly exuberant rendition of Man, I Feel Like A Woman that Dean finally takes a stand and declares it to be home time, in his absolute best teacher voice.

In twos and threes everybody starts to leave. Gabriel gives both Dean and Cas a massive sloppy kiss on the cheek on his way out of the door, much to their disgust, and Charlie and Gilda, both tipsy and giggly, have to be stopped from going at it against the wall in the hallway—but apart from that the transition of getting everyone out of the apartment and into several taxis goes pretty smoothly.

Eventually it's only Sam and Ruby left, and Dean and Cas stand in the doorway to see them out. They're all pretty happy-drunk. Even Ruby looks less like she's sucking a lemon than normal.

"Well," she says brightly. "That wasn't the worst party I've ever been to. A little tenth-grade, but all right."

"Gee, don't strain yourself." Dean rolls his eyes.

"Thank you both," Cas smiles, gaze on Sam because Dean is fairly sure he's never going to stop geeking out over the fancyass chess set Sam gave him. Jesus, his entire social circle is destined to be lousy with nerds.

"Our pleasure, man," Sam declares, face-splitting grin and everything.

"Yeah yeah, your bromance is touching but it's way past your bedtime, Sammy." Dean shoves a jacket into his brother's arms.

Cas chuckles and leans against Dean, slides a hand into his back pocket (a recently acquired habit) and—shit—finds the envelope Dean had stuffed in there half an hour ago.

Cas's eyes light up. "And what's this?"

"It's not—," Dean falters, but Cas has already seen the handwriting on the front and his face has fallen with recognition.

"My mother?"

"Yeah. Came yesterday. I was gonna give it to you when everyone had gone."

Sam shifts in the hallway, while Ruby snorts. "Awkward."

Cas steps back, the small white envelope held loosely in his hand. "Okay." He pads away in his socks, disappearing from view as he sinks into the couch.

Feeling a lot more sober than he was five minutes ago, Dean sighs quietly at the door. "Damn. Didn't really wanna give it to him until tomorrow, if I could help it."

"Shouldn't you go... y'know?" Sam wafts a hand in Cas's general direction.

Shaking his head, Dean says, "Nah. It's best not to smother him, or he'll lash out. He'll come to me."

His brother looks sceptical, but Dean isn't about to get into a discussion on how he knows what Cas needs better than anyone, so he bids a pointed goodbye to Sam and his tramp and heads back inside.

There's a lot of mess to be dealt with, and the idea of waking up to it isn't a particularly nice one, so Dean does a cursory tidy up. This basically involves filling two huge waste bags with any and all rubbish, and shifting everything else into the sink. Cas doesn't move the whole time, his face a blank mask as he stares at the letter in his hands. Eventually Dean heads over, stands behind him at the couch, places a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm going to bed. Y'coming?"

The answering nod is slow, dazed. Dean can't tell if this is good or bad. So he gives Cas's shoulder a squeeze, bends down to press a kiss to the top of his head, mutters, "Don't be too late up," and makes his way upstairs.

It is only an hour before Dean hears Cas's footfalls on the stairs. He waits, silent, as Cas potters around in the bathroom and strips to his boxers. When he climbs into bed, Dean notes absently that he still smells of popcorn from the movie theatre.

"Okay?" he asks, rolling onto his side to look at Cas, who's staring at the ceiling on his back, hands folded neatly on his stomach.

Cas exhales deeply through his nose. "Yeah." Dean waits, and a second later, "She said… she said she misses me, Dean. Wants to meet me, to talk. Really talk. I don't know what to do with that."

Hell if Dean knows, either. As far as he's concerned, Naomi can fuck right off. But he doesn't think that would be very helpful advice, and he certainly doesn't want to row on Cas's birthday, so he just hums thoughtfully.

"You disapprove," Cas remarks dryly.

"The last time you saw her it nearly killed you, Cas. Hell, it nearly killed us. I just don't wanna see you getting hurt again, that's all."

Cas rolls onto his side now, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth as he looks at Dean. "You're adorable when you get all protective."

Huffing, Dean knocks his foot against Cas's ankle. "Shut your mouth."

"No, seriously, you get all pouty and angry. It's cute."

"You're a bastard."

Cas just grins, kisses him briefly, and asks, "Can we have sex now?"

And Dean laughs, because he can't not, and rolls on top of him. "Oh, I dunno," he says, mock-thoughtfully, hands palming Cas's hips. "You're pretty mean to me."

When Cas smiles up at him his eyes are brilliantly blue in the darkness. "I'm sure I can make it up to you."

"You reckon? Oh, hey," Dean says, remembering, "what did Ruby give you?"

Reaching down to the floor, Cas rummages in the back pocket of his jeans and then snorts, sitting back up with a condom packet in his hand.

"Is that?"

"Yes." Cas squints in the dull light. "Ribbed, for our pleasure. Coated in, ooh, tingly lube."

Horrified, Dean snatches it from him and tosses it across the room. "Dude, no. There will be no fizzy fucking lube up anywhere."

"You're so boring," Cas sighs dramatically. "Could have been fun."

Dean tries to ignore the fingers toying with the elastic waistband of his boxer shorts as he says, "Oh, believe me, I can make it fun without that thing."

Arching an eyebrow, Cas pulls him on top of himself again and mutters, breath ghosting over Dean's lips, "Oh, really?"

"Yeah, I reckon so."

They kiss, slow and unhurried and deep, and Dean feels Cas shift as he reaches an arm out to grab blindly at the nightstand.

"How're we doin' this?" Dean asks him, voice an octave lower than usual.

"You're gonna fuck me until you come," Cas mutters, "and then I'm gonna fuck you until I come. Sound good?"

And boy, if that doesn't send all the blood rushing south.

Dean nods mutely, because this is something they've never done but he's pretty sure he saw it in a porno once and let's be real, anything with Cas is really fucking hot so this can only be—

"Dean, come on," Cas demands, shoving the plastic lube bottle into his chest until Dean takes it from him, uncapping the lid.

"Someone's impatient," he chides, wriggling down the bed and sitting back on his heels. "On your front."

Cas groans, rolls over, and Dean skims his hands down his sides before hooking two fingers into Cas's boxers. He eases them down slowly, until Cas is moaning into the mattress impatiently, hips thrusting lightly.

"We're gettin' there," Dean assures him quietly, leaning over to press a soft kiss into that dip at the base of Cas's spine that he loves so much.

But, "Get there quicker," Cas complains, and Dean chuckles with his chin pressed against Cas's back.

Eventually, he's launching the underwear across the room, throwing aside his own, too. Breathing heavily, cock hardening rapidly at the sight of Cas all laid out like that in front of him—because no matter how many times they do this, Dean never stops being amazed—he slowly straddles him, knees pressed either side of Cas's thighs, and essentially drapes himself over him.

"I love you," he murmurs, not that it really needed saying, teeth catching lightly on Cas's earlobe. A shudder runs through them both when Cas arches his back a little, and Dean picks up the lube again, squeezing a substantial amount onto his fingers. Reaching down between them, he drags a slick finger up the cleft of Cas's ass and draws out a long moan from him.

"I know," Cas whispers in reply, voice already wrecked and they haven't even done anything yet. "God, Dean, please."

He makes quick work of opening Cas up, until he's got three fingers crooked inside of him and Cas is writhing on the sheets, Dean's name falling from his lips between desperate breaths, whimpering when Dean withdraws completely. Hands gripping tightly at Cas's hips now, he hoists him up until he's on his knees. "Ready?"

Dean can't resist briefly swirling his tongue where his fingers just were, causing Cas to fucking keen underneath him, muttering a litany of curse words that possibly aren't even all in English, the total nerd. He's magnificent like this, all sweaty and flushed and frantic.

He pushes in slowly, inch by agonising inch, and Cas tenses but his hands are totally loose and relaxed on the pillow by his head. When Dean's up to the hilt, both of them breathing erratically and Dean's fingers dragging over every part of the body underneath him, he pushes down hard with his full weight.

Cas collapses face-first onto the mattress with a soft ooft, but the new angle allows Dean to be buried even deeper inside of him and they both moan, loudly. And Dean loves this position, because he's pressed against Cas from head to toe and it's so intense, so fucking hot.

"Sure you can hold out long enough to fuck me, babe?" he growls, lips brushing the nape of Cas's neck.

Shaking his head, Cas grits out, "Only if you hurry the hell up."

Dean grins, mouthing at Cas's shoulder as he bucks into him, deep and hard and slow. They both sigh in pleasure, the head of Dean's dick jutting at Cas's prostate. But he knows he has to be careful here, can't make Cas come yet. Doesn't mean he can't make it really fucking good though.

His thrusts are lazy, unhurried, like they've got the rest of their lives to do this. Dean accompanies each with a roll of his hips, his mouth leaving hot breath and wet saliva all over the clammy skin of Cas's neck and shoulders. One of his hands is lost in the bird's nest Cas calls hair, tugging gently, the other is reverently drawing patterns up and down his arm.

Then Cas starts clenching, the fucker, and Dean is so totally gone. He whimpers in a way that he'd never admit to, any words he might have uttered catching in the back of his throat. Cas angles his head back and Dean kisses him sloppily, all tongue and spit-slick swollen lips, a total lack of anything remotely resembling finesse. His chest is heaving with rough breaths, his head spinning, that taut coil in the pit of his stomach feeling just about ready to snap.

Face buried in the crook of Cas's neck now, he murmurs, "I'm so close, Cas. Holy shit. You're so hot."

Cas is helpless to do anything, really, trapped beneath Dean's trembling body, and it must be hell for him because Dean's allowing him no room to even thrust against the mattress. He's hitting that sweet spot on every shove upwards, can tell by Cas's soft little noises, but is going so slowly that Cas is perpetually stuck poised on the edge of his orgasm and unable to tumble over.

"Dean," he murmurs, voice so low and gravelly it's hardly recognisable, "Dean, come, now—please. C'mon. Come for me, Dean."

And when he squeezes around Dean's dick, Dean does. That spiral of pleasure doesn't just snap, it freaking explodes like a pinwheel, and he doesn't know why anyone does drugs because this rush, this orgasmic high, is so fucking fantastic. Every particle of his body buzzes and shakes with gratification, his dick pulsing hotly into Cas's ass—Cas, who's groaning and trembling himself with the effort of holding off his own orgasm, and Dean isn't allowed the chance to relax or come down before he's being bucked off, flipped onto his back, and Cas has a lube-slicked finger up his ass.

It doesn't take much to get him loosened up; his body is so used to Cas's that it trusts him implicitly, and it's only a couple of agonising minutes before his numb fingers are grabbing at Cas's waist, his hips, anywhere, and dragging him forward and telling him he's ready.

And he's glad they're doing it this way, because he loves nothing more than seeing Cas's face when he comes, knowing that he did that, and he's the only one who can do that. Cas is shuddering when he pushes in, rasping obscenities into the sweaty hollows of Dean's chest, occasionally punctuated by a quiet little "I love you so damn much" or "fuck, Dean, oh god".

Body still thrumming with electric pleasure, Dean hooks his ankles behind Cas's back and pulls him in deeper—but he's oversensitive and the stimulation to his worn out prostate and softening dick is ripping the last vestiges of his orgasm from him, to the point where the intensity makes him feel like he's going to black out.

The room is filled with grunts, hard breathing, quietly uttered curses, and the huge bed is creaking and banging against the wall as Cas picks up the pace a bit, high-pitched whines escaping him every time he gets the angle just right. Dean admires his stamina, doesn't know how he's held on this long because he himself would be so totally spent by now—hell, he is. But Cas keeps going, hips snapping against Dean's own, and he's practically sobbing as he sucks hickeys into his neck.

"Babe," Dean murmurs, "Cas, Cas—here, c'mon." And he doesn't know what he's saying, but he makes Cas look up, meet his eyes, and he's pretty sure neither of them have ever looked this fucking debauched before. Cas smiles, small and sweet, and his hands find Dean's and pin them either side of his head, lacing their fingers together and holding tightly.

"Jesus, you have no idea how good you look right now," Dean murmurs, genuinely in awe because Christ, he gets this every day for all of his days.

Cas groans, throaty and low, eyes not once leaving Dean's as his "I love you," gets caught in his throat and breaks on the final word, and he's beautiful. And when he comes, three thrusts later, he shakes and quivers and collapses so heavily and completely that it's hard to tell where he ends and Dean begins.

"Holy mother of God," Cas murmurs, once he's got his breath back, and Dean doesn't care that they're lying in the frankly embarrassingly huge wet spot and he can feel Cas's jizz leaking out of his ass, which, gross. All he cares about is burying his face in Cas's hair, inhaling that raspberry-lemon smell of his shampoo, as his heart rate slowly returns to normal.

"Whatever you decide," he begins carefully, as if they haven't just had gloriously sweaty and hot sex in the middle of their conversation, "you know I'm gonna be there beside you, right?"

He feels Cas's lips curl into a smile against his chest. "Yeah, I know."

"That means no running off and dealing with this on your own."

Cas nods, wearily raises his head to kiss the underside of Dean's jaw. "I understand."

"Okay then."

They settle into a blissed-out silence for a while, and Dean's debating whether to get up and clean them up a bit, maybe indulge in a little shower groping, when Cas's hand fists against his stomach and he murmurs, "She's my mother. But you're my family."

Dean swallows hard around the sentiment in that. "Damn right." And, huh, the cat must be around because his eyes are all prickly and what's that about?

"You," Cas continues gently, "and Sam and Charlie. Even Gabe and Ruby."

"At a push," Dean counters.

"At a push," Cas agrees, smiling now. "You, all of you, are more than I could ever hope to have. I know I'm… difficult, sometimes…"

Dragging his hand up and down Cas's back, Dean says, "Nah. Nothin' I would change about you, Cas."


Dean kisses him, chaste, brief. "Really really."

Silence. Dean listens to Cas's gentle inhales, exhales, inhales, exhales. Tries to count the knobs of his spine with dancing fingers. Tickles the grain of hair on his calf with wandering toes. Is scared of how much he loves him.

"Sometimes," Dean begins, then stalls, falters, 'cause he ain't good at this sort of shit.

"What, Dean?"

"Sometimes, I think… that you sorta made my world—blow up? Like… you were meant to be a one-night stand or whatever, but then, just—boom, y'know? Does that make sense?"

Cas laughs softly, nuzzles his nose further into the crook of Dean's neck, presses a small kiss there. "Yes, Dean, that makes sense."

And Dean smiles, satisfied, his eyes hooded and heavy with fatigue, arm tightening protectively around Cas's waist.



Carver Edlund's fifth and most successful novel to date is published in hardback format on January 24th. The short dedication on the front page simply reads:

For Dean, who caused my universe to implode.