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The Cabin

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The cabin was old. Castiel wasn't entirely certain how old, but sometimes, when he laid a hand on the walls once riddled with dry-rot, he got a sense of a young boy and his father visiting every autumn without fail, and then a young man, and then an old man, and then no one for years as nature reclaimed the cabin for its own.

When Castiel had first seen it, back when the Apocalypse had been nigh and he'd carried Dean's precious amulet with him everywhere, the cabin had been on the verge of collapse. The wood had been rotting and crumbled in his hands. Birds had nested in the broken boards that made up the roof and opossums had dug out shelter in the walls and the ancient bedding. The appliances, while present, were utterly destroyed and plants grew through the floor. The chimney leaned dangerously. The well had been taken over by moss and flowers.

The cabin had been situated on the edge of a small meadow, deep in a forest near a trail since forgotten by men. There were deer tracks, fresh and old, and the sound of nearby running water.

Castiel had paused in his search only a moment. He could sense peace there, the kind that made him ache for his home in Heaven, but he didn't have time to linger.

He didn't think about the cabin again until months later, after he had already given up on locating his absent Father and tossed aside the necklace that Dean had then thrown away. He didn't think about the cabin until his wings began to itch and his Grace began to pull as the living feathers died piece by piece in preparation for the Molting.

He had needed somewhere safe and secret to wait out his Molt. During the three days his old feathers fell and his new ones grew in, he would be completely unable to fly and capable of only the simplest spells. He’d cursed himself for his thoughtlessness when the itch began beneath his shoulder blades. The Molt would hit him hard whether or not he was prepared for it; time was short and as things stood, his options were very limited.

Heaven was completely out of the question. He couldn’t return to his old Nest, not when he knew that the archangels still watched for him and would smite him on sight. It would be suicide.

His only other option was Earth, but building a Nest on Earth was foolish. Earth didn’t offer the built-in protections of Heaven and if a demon found him while he was at his most vulnerable… it didn’t bear thinking about. With the right defenses and protections in place, he could wait out his Molt in relative safety.

Cas needed a place of isolation, somewhere he wouldn’t be discovered and somewhere he could cast protections around with no one the wiser.

The cabin had come to mind almost immediately, and Castiel’s fading wings had carried him back there. The cabin was imperfect and wouldn’t protect him or his Nest from the weather or from animals, but with some work, it would protect him from everything else. The cabin was distant enough from humanity and the area of the forest untraveled enough that the remnants of his Grace locked in each feather would hopefully go unnoticed. The Grace would seep harmlessly into the cabin and the woods surrounding it, blending seamlessly with the natural energies of the meadow and making detection impossible.

It was as close to perfect as Castiel was going to be able to find.

He spent the next two days before his Molt started carving every possible protective sigil and concealment glyph into the ruin of the cabin and into every tree that surrounded the clearing. He dug deep into the wood with his blade, getting himself covered with sap but ensuring that the tree’s natural growth wouldn’t distort or destroy what he had carved. There were spells he wanted to cast, but his Grace had been waning ever since he’d left Heaven. In lieu of magick, he poured salt lines and drew Devil’s Traps no demon could hope to break until his hands cramped with effort.

It was time. The sanctuary was makeshift, but would suffice. He would be better prepared next year.

Castiel stepped through the doorway that no longer held a door and walked across the destroyed floor to the only room that still had all four walls and only a small hole in the ceiling. It had once been a bedroom, close to what had been the kitchen. The bed frame was destroyed, time rusting the metal into brittle oxide. There was no closet, just a dresser that contained the moth-eaten and bird-nested clothing of the man who had once lived there.

Castiel’s wings itched terribly as the new feathers pushed at the old. He took a deep breath and began to fumble with his vessel’s clothing. It had been a long, long time since he’d last experienced Molt in a vessel. The clothing had changed greatly.

If Jimmy had still been present, Cas would have asked for permission, or at least told the man what was happening, but Jimmy was in Heaven. The body was Castiel’s, so there was no shame in removing his clothing.

He pulled off his overcoat and suit jacket as one and allowed them to drop. He could wash the dirt out later. The tie was harder, but with some tugging, it came loose. The buttons were simple, once he got the hang of pushing the small plastic disks back through the holes, and the undershirt was easily slipped over his head.

It was strange to suddenly feel the cool air against the bare skin of his vessel. In all his time using Jimmy as his host, he'd never disrobed. His wings could easily pass through the material, but the small, downy feathers nearest his back would become entangled in the material. To fully shed each feather, he needed to be unclothed.

Castiel sighed with relief as he relaxed his true form and allowed his wings to spill beyond the confines of skin and bone. The long flight feathers came first, mirage-like as they passed through his vessel without damaging it. His wings continued to slide out, impossibly long, and they darkened from the color of ash-grey smoke to charcoal in seconds. He spread them, each the size of a fully grown human and let out a breath as he rolled his shoulders. The wings weren't a physical weight, since they were supported by his true form rather than the shell of flesh he inhabited. Jimmy Novak's body alone would never have been able to support them.

His feathers were dull, Cas noted unhappily. They were usually the color of ink and just as glossy, but Hell and age had dulled them, made them weaker. Some of the feathers had become bent or broken. He started with those.

He carded his fingers through his feathers, tugging gently to free those that were already loosening. The Grace that ran through his wings pushed against the dead and dying feathers, new shafts beginning to poke out through the 'skin'. It itched faintly, but the discomfort was mild. Cas tossed his old feathers into a small pile. They would become his bed for the next few nights, his Nest to rest in while his wings remade themselves.

As always, it was a Nest for one.

It was strange for an angel of his age and stature to still build a lone Nest. It wasn't that no one had offered themselves as Castiel's bondmate, though he had gotten fewer and fewer offers as time went on and word got around that Castiel was not interested in bonding. Friends and family members had waxed euphoric about mingling one’s Grace with that of their bondmate in attempts to coax him into entertaining one of his suitors, but he simply had not seen the appeal.

He had felt lonely sometimes, when he curled up in a Nest that smelled only of himself. His rest had been uneasy with the knowledge that there was no one to guard him through his most vulnerable time.

He thought briefly of Dean, of the scents that clung to him. The cheap chemicals from motel soap, oil from the Impala's motor and his guns, leather, and the natural scent of Dean himself. He thought of Dean’s soul, the bright light the gleamed even in the darkness of the Pit and had only grown in glory since Cas had restored him to his body.

With Dean, Cas thought that he was beginning to understand why so many angels found joy in sharing a Nest.

He pushed the thoughts from his mind reluctantly and began to groom his wings once more, not thinking about anything he shouldn't. He shouldn’t wonder what it would be like to sleep surrounded by Dean’s scent mixed with his own, or what it would feel like to hold Dean’s soul in his hands as his Grace was cradled in turn.

He should not wish for the impossible.

By the time he emerged from the room, once more clothed and with wings ink-dark and shining, the plants had receded from the floor and the wildlife had found new homes. The boards that made up the cabin shone with new life, the walls once more solid and the roof whole.

Outside the cabin, the grass was thicker and the trees had new bark over where he’d carved the sigils. Cas checked them, just to be sure, but the sigils remained intact.

He flew away, satisfied. The old Grace from his new Nest, built of his discarded feathers, continued to seep quietly into the walls and the ground.


"This is ridiculous," Dean grumbled, shoving the last of his things into a duffle bag. "We're hunters. We're supposed to hunt things."

"Do you have a better idea?" Sam sniped back, the limit of his patience having been tested and reached thirty minutes ago. His things, of course, were already neatly folded inside his bag and said bag was slung over one shoulder as he waited for Dean to finish packing. Sam was by the window, peeking out the curtain and keeping eyes on the setting sun. "Hurry up. Once night falls, the skoll will be on the move."

Dean scowled and zipped up his duffle. The skoll was a wolflike monster the witch they had been hunting had summoned specifically to kill them. Well, to kill Dean. The damn thing was faster than a wendigo and damn near impossible to kill without the sword of some Norse mythological hero. The witch had gotten a drop of Dean's blood from the window he'd broken to get into her house and the skoll had his scent; it would find him anywhere and even if he ran, it would seek him singlemindedly until he died. Or the witch who'd summoned it got ganked, whichever came first, but she'd skipped town the second she knew she'd been caught. The skoll had been her parting gift.

It grated something fierce on Dean's nerves, but his only option was to get as deep underground, metaphorically speaking, as he could before nightfall. He wouldn’t have even considered it if the skoll might attack anyone else, but fortunately for everyone who wasn’t Dean Winchester, it was only hunting him.

It would have helped if they'd found this out more than an hour before sunset, but that was the problem when all of your research was conducted by ancient text via telephone to people who didn't always pick up. Garth had hunts of his own to conduct and couldn't always be on call. There was too much weird phenomena to investigate and not enough hunters doing it.

Their best option was to get onto the highway and get at least one or two towns over before getting a motel room and doing it up in every protective sigil known to man. They couldn’t just stay here; Dean’s scent was all over the place, it would be on them in seconds. Getting out of here might buy them a little extra time.

The even better option would have been to call Cas and get him to mojo them (and the car, like hell Dean was gonna leave his baby alone and defenseless with a skoll ready to attack anything that smelled like him) somewhere safe, but that wasn’t an option. Cas wasn’t answering much these days. Ever since they’d gotten out of Purgatory, Cas had been distant.

Dean's hand tightened on the strap of his duffle and he gritted his teeth.

Purgatory hadn’t been nice by any stretch of the imagination, but it had been pure. Dean had felt free in ways he’d never felt on Earth, like he could do anything and be anyone he wanted to be, and there was no disapproving father or wide-eyed little brother to disappoint. There had been a moment, right before they’d found the portal that Dean had walked through to get home, that Dean had been certain that Cas was about to kiss him. Dean would have kissed back, and once he started, he didn’t think he’d be able to stop.

Cas had stood as close as he always had, just closer than was generally considered polite, and then he'd leaned even closer. Dean's breath had caught and his gaze had involuntarily flicked downwards to catch on Cas's lips. They’d had moments like this before, close-but-not-quite, and neither had closed the gap. Just then, the air was thick with potential and promise, and Dean felt anticipation rip through his blood.

For a second, Dean had hoped. For a second, Dean had swayed closer.

Then Cas had breathed "Dean" and pushed him roughly backwards just before a Leviathan hit the ground explosively where Dean had been standing. There hadn’t been any time for thinking or lamenting the lost chance for a while after that.

And then, once the fight was over and Dean and Cas were standing in front of the glowing blue door back home, Cas had thrown aside Dean's hand and told him to go. Dean didn't remember much about the ride home, only the look in Cas's eyes as Dean was pulled back.

Cas hadn't wanted to come back with him. Cas had chosen fucking Purgatory over going home with Dean.

The almost-kiss had been a hallucination created by Dean's own wants and joy over finding his way back to Earth at last. Back to Sam, and to hunting, and to what he had thought would be the good life, Team Free Will all back together again and ready to take on the world. Privately, in the thoughts he had never let himself entertain in the harsh light of day, maybe he’d even thought ‘what if’. What if he kissed Cas? What if Cas kissed back? What if Cas stayed and took the empty half of Dean’s room at the bunker and rested on the empty side of the bed?

What a crock.

"Dean, you ready?" Sam asked urgently, snapping Dean out of his thoughts. Dean shook himself and hefted his bag.

"Yeah, I'm ready," he said. "Let's go."

Castiel had shown up a day or two after Dean had, looking pale and pained. Dean had been simultaneously overjoyed that Cas was back and furious that Cas had tried to stay behind. He hadn't been able to get a word past the lump in his throat, but Sam had. He'd greeted Cas with shock and happiness; Dean hadn't told him that Cas had chosen not to come back. It had been too painful - was still too painful - to think about for any length of time, much less say.

Then Sam had asked how Cas had escaped. Cas had been lost for words. It wasn't something Dean had seen often. He'd been surprised (and worried) for a moment, but then Cas had glanced at Dean, looked away, and muttered that he didn't know.

How did the old saying go? 'Don't try to bullshit a bullshitter'?

Dean had known something was up instantly, but he'd been too angry to spit out the retort on the tip of his tongue. Sam had seemed unhappy, but resigned, and ever-patient. Cas would come clean when he was ready, Sam's expression seemed to say, and the secret couldn't be anything too terrible. After all, Cas had learned his lesson last time.

Dean still didn't like to think about that, either. That way lay memories of betrayals and circles of fire and having to watch Sam -Sam- nearly die at Castiel's - Cas's - hands.

To be fair, Dean had done his share of betraying and mistrusting Cas, but he didn't feel like being fair.

After taking one last look around the room, Dean and Sam left. The sun continued to sink towards the horizon line.


They were about forty minutes out of town when the sun finally sank.

They were only fifty-five minutes out of town when the skoll caught up with them.

The beast rammed the Impala from the left. The back driver-side door crumpled and glass shattered. Dean swore.

They were officially out of options.

"Cas," he shouted. He could see something hairy and dark out of the corner of his eye. Claws scraped against the metal top of the car, shredding it like wet paper. "I hope you got your ears on, ‘cause we could really use your help down here!"

Dean was leadfooting it now, but the Impala was slowing. She was riding lower than usual. The skoll was dragging her to a stop.

Dean couldn't see the monster anymore. Its breath had fogged up his window.

            He didn’t want to find out what happened to him if the creature managed to halt the car.


The sound of wings had never been so welcome.

The weight lifted off of the car. The road vanished from beneath the Impala's tires.

Dean slammed on the brakes as a tree suddenly materialized directly in front of him, only to realize that the engine was already off and the car was safely in park. When he checked, the keys were in his jacket pocket.

"You ok?" he asked Sam. Sam nodded, looking a little pale, but otherwise unharmed. Dean breathed out, relieved. He turned towards the backseat. "Thanks, Cas, you really-"

The backseat was empty. The words died on Dean's tongue, old pain throbbing deep in his gut. Cas couldn't stick around for five fucking minutes even when saving their lives.

"Where are we?" Sam asked, squinting into the darkness beyond the car window. Dean shrugged, scanning the area. He couldn't see much beyond the car, but he could already tell they were nowhere near the bunker.

"Don't know," Dean replied. They had to be somewhere rural, judging by the lack of streelamps, but beyond that Dean couldn't tell. Oddly enough, the fact that he couldn't tell didn't bother him. He felt... safe, strange as that was to think with a killer mega-wolf on his tail.

The feeling set his teeth on edge. Hunters never felt safe when surrounded by an unfamiliar darkness. They were too aware of what could be lurking in the shadows.

A light came on in his peripheral vision. Dean turned towards it instantly, one hand already going for his gun.

The first thing he noticed was that Cas had apparently dropped the Impala in front of a cabin. Dean couldn't make out much of the place, but the firelight (it flickered too much to be anything else) that streamed through the window illuminated enough.

Why had Cas dropped them here? He’d expected to be left at the bunker. They could bar the door in the likely event of the skoll finding the place. Dean had walked all over the woods and worked on the Impala outside; there was no way his scent wasn’t splashed about everywhere.

Dean heard the sound of wingbeats and he turned towards the backseat again. This time, however, Cas was there.

"The cabin is ready," he said. It had been weeks since Dean had last heard his voice and the familiar sound soothed Dean’s nerves even as his chest ached.

"Ready for what?" Sam asked, twisting in his seat to face Cas as well. Cas paused for a moment, as though collecting his thoughts.

"I dropped the skoll in the ocean, but it will return. Until the summoner is caught, you'll need a safehouse.”

"Safehouse? Whose is it?" Dean asked, glancing at the illuminated window. There didn't seem to be anyone home, but he didn't want to drop in on some hunter unexpectedly. It had to be a hunter's house; random civilian cabins in the woods weren’t 'safe'.

"Mine," Cas said. Dean and Sam both stared at him for a moment.

"When did you buy a house?" Sam asked. Cas looked uncertain for a moment.

"I didn't purchase it. It was abandoned when I found it and no one has returned to claim the property." He looked down. "It will be safe enough until I can locate the witch or warlock responsible. Whose blood was used in the summoning?"

"Mine," Dean said, irritation pulling at the corners of his mouth. Cas looked at him sharply. The angel's jaw clenched as though he wanted to scold Dean, but Dean glared and Cas gave up with a short, irritated breath.

"You'll need to stay within the clearing. You'll be able to see the boundary in the morning. Inside, the skoll will not be able to track you." He paused again. "I will return with food supplies."

With another beat of his wings, he was gone. Dean and Sam looked at each other, Dean exasperated, Sam resigned.

"Come on, let's get inside," Dean grumbled.

"I'll grab the bags," Sam said.

The cabin was decently sized, if a little on the small side. The kitchen was small, with little more than two counters, maybe half a dozen drawers and cabinets, a sink, and an ancient stove. There was no fridge.

There was a couch in the living room and a threadbare rug. The fireplace was against the far wall and crackling happily away. There was a door, slightly ajar, against the back wall. From what Dean could tell, it looked like it led to the bathroom.

There were two more doors. The one closer to the kitchen was shut, but Dean guessed it was probably a bedroom. The other door was wide open and Dean could vaguely see the outline of a bed.

"One for each of us, I guess," Sam said, noticing the direction of Dean's gaze. Dean nodded.

"I'll take the one on the left?" Dean offered. Just then, the sound of feathers announced Castiel's reappearance.

"That one is mine," Cas said, setting down an armful of bags on one of the countertops. Metal cans clinked together."My apologies, but one of you will have to sleep on the couch."

"What?" Sam asked. "Why?" He looked momentarily ashamed of his manners, but Dean was tired, a little cranky, and more than a little annoyed.

"Well, can I borrow your room for a few nights? Just until the witch gets ganked and we can get out of your hair," Dean said. "It's not like you need to sleep."

Cas looked at Dean and frowned.

"My room does not have a bed. The couch would be... more comfortable for you," he said, tripping over his words a little. Dean frowned, irritation morphing briefly to concern before he shrugged it off. Cas stumbling over phrasing wasn't big enough to worry over.

"Fine," Dean said. He looked at Sam. "We're switching off. I'll take the couch tonight."

Castiel vanished from the kitchen and reappeared in the room he had claimed. He had been mostly truthful with Dean. The room had no bed, nor any other furniture. Castiel had gotten rid of it years ago. However, Castiel doubted that the couch would be more comfortable or provide a better rest.

In the center of the room was a pile of feathers, dark and soft, and pieces of cloth. Several old bandages that had since been cleansed of the blood that had once stained the cotton; a few shirts that had once been ripped, bloodied, and dirt-caked beyond human hope of repair; an old pair of jeans made soft with age; and Castiel's prize and greatest shame, a set of sheets and a pillow that had been new when Dean and Sam had rented the motel room for a week. They were the only like-new items in the nest and though Cas had been tempted to take the mattress as well, he thought that it was more likely to be missed.

The room smelled of himself and of Dean. Castiel closed his eyes and breathed it in.

He imagined that this was a proper Nest, one he'd shown his intended bondmate and had been accepted. He imagined that he had allowed Dean into this room to see the Nest, perhaps to sleep in it while Castiel guarded his rest. For a moment, Castiel was tempted to open the door and beckon Dean from where he was preparing for bed.

But the Dean of reality would not take as kindly to a Nest built without his permission as the Dean of his dreams. Dean would not understand and wouldn’t – couldn’t, not after all Castiel had done – return his interest.

It mattered little that the tenuous mental bond he and Dean shared had been enough to pull Cas back to Earth after Dean had successfully escaped Purgatory. The bond would never be allowed to reach completion.

It ached, faintly. The bond wanted to be completed, and with the other side of the link so close and still not close enough, it was bordering on painful. Castiel had dealt with it for years now; the link had been formed when he’d pulled Dean out of Hell, without his permission or Dean’s knowledge.

Cas opened his eyes and looked at the Nest wearily. It hadn't been quite an accident the first time he'd taken one of Dean's discarded shirts from the motel room trash and secreted it back here. Almost, but not quite. It had been an impulse to steal the shirt, but one borne of much time spent longing and a momentary lapse of control.

Since then, Castiel had been lost. Or perhaps, as his sister Hester had told Dean, he had been lost since the moment he’d pulled Dean from Hell. He could have severed the link as soon as he realized it existed, but he had not. Now, he knew he couldn’t bring himself to unless Dean asked it of him.

In the year that followed the theft of the shirt, he had left Dean alone. The shirt had become well-loved and was mixed in with the feathers Cas laid his head upon during those rare times he needed rest. It no longer smelled like Dean, but it felt like him. It carried the memory of Dean’s skin and his sweat.

The other items, Cas had collected guiltily while he worked with Crowley, trying not to wonder what Dean would think if he knew. What would Dean think if he knew about the Nest? What would he think about Cas working with Crowley?

Cas had known that Dean wouldn't approve of either, so he had kept both to himself.

He reached into a hidden pocket on the inside of his jacket and pulled out a torn-up shirt. It was dark grey and thin, too worn to wear, and stained in places. It still smelled like Dean. Cas inhaled deeply. He knelt next to the Nest and carefully draped the shirt over one of the feathered walls.

By all rights, he should have told Dean about the Nest long before now. Were he in Heaven with a Nest that had gone unannounced this long, he would have been instructed to either disassemble it or let his intended make their choice. He couldn't.

The Nest had been his refuge during the war with Raphael. He'd layered protection upon protection on the cabin until even an archangel would be unable to find it, much less harm a blade of grass within the circle of the trees. No one Castiel himself did not invite would even be able to fathom the cabin’s existence.

With every Molt, bits and pieces of his Grace had seeped into the cabin and surrounding land, restoring life to the wooden beams. The dry rot had receded, the mold had died, and the walls had restored themselves until the place was habitable once more.

During the year after the Apocalypse-that-wasn't, Castiel had spent much of his time away from Heaven here. He'd spent the time planning for war as well as indulging himself in a fantasy he hadn't thought he'd live to regret.

And now, with Dean actually here...

Cas would need to find the witch quickly and keep his bedroom door locked in the meantime. Dean could not know. Cas ran his fingers lightly over the newest addition to the nest and then stood.

The sooner he got rid of the witch, the sooner Dean could leave, and the less likely that Dean would discover Cas's secret.

It had started as a just vague curiosity, but over the days that Dean had been trapped in the same half-mile of woods, it had ignited into full-blown needtoknow.

After all, one did not stick Dean Winchester in a small box and warn him against investigating a corner. That just made the corner very, very suspicious, and Dean was a hunter. He ate suspicious corners for breakfast.

He eyed the door to Cas's room. Dean had tried turning the door handle once, the first morning he and Sam had been here. He’d wanted to know what was inside the room, so he’d tried the door in hopes that he’d get to open it and get a good eyeful before Cas shooed him back out. Knocking might have been more polite, but not nearly as satisfying.

            Dean twisted the handle, but his hand just slid around the metal ball. It wouldn’t budge. He jimmied it, hoping it was just a finicky knob, but nothing happened.

            The sounds of movement beyond the door stopped. Wingbeats sounded behind him.

Had Cas really just flown out rather than open up?

"Yes?" Cas asked impassively. Dean looked from him to the locked room.

"What, you forget how to use a door?" he asked. Cas's expression tightened almost imperceptibly.

"No," he said. "What was it you needed?" His voice was stiff and formal, more like the angel Dean had first met, back when the Apocalypse was still gearing up and Dean hadn't known that Heaven was just as eager to end Earth as Hell was. For a moment, Dean almost longed for the days of the failed Apocalypse. At least back then (before Raphael, before Crowley, before the Leviathan and Purgatory and losing Cas over and over and over again), Dean had been able to talk to Cas. Now things were strained, and worse... Cas was keeping secrets again.

"Don't suppose you'll give me the grand tour of this place?" Dean asked. Cas looked confused for a moment, tilting his head.

"Very well," he said, and Dean felt a moment of surprise before Cas turned and began pointing to the various rooms. "There's the kitchen. The bathroom is over there. There's the door outside. This is my room, and that's the second bedroom." Castiel looked at him again, still puzzled. "The cabin isn't large.”

"I don't get to see your room?" Dean asked, already certain he knew the answer. Castiel's confusion melted away, replaced by an oddly wistful, oddly sad resignation.


"What, is it like the West Wing or something?" Dean asked. "Forbidden?"

The confusion was back, but this time, magnified. Cas opened his mouth to say something, but another voice beat him to speaking.

"Did you seriously just reference a Disney movie?" Sam asked, appearing in the doorway to his room. Sam yawned and stretched a bit, then shook his head. "Since you're the one that's stuck here, does that make you Belle?"

"Bitch," Dean replied, without heat. His face may have reddened slightly, but thankfully neither Cas nor Sam called him on it.

The door to Cas's room had remained shut tight. Dean had occasionally heard movement from inside, but whenever he called Cas, the angel would fly out instead of walk out. Dean had to know what was inside that room, if Cas was going to this much trouble to keep it out of sight.

There was no time like the present. Sam had gone out for a hike, since he could leave the small clearing Cas's cabin was situated in, and since he claimed that Dean's grumpiness and moping were getting annoying.

So maybe Dean was a little grumpy. He figured he had a right to be.

Cas was rarely around during the day. He'd come when they called, but otherwise made himself pretty scarce. Cas always had this slightly guilty look Dean didn't like whenever he was in the cabin, and Dean would bet money that it was tied to whatever Cas didn't want him to see.

His lockpick set was, as always, hidden inside the lining of his jeans, and it was the work of a moment to slide them free. It took only two minutes to pick the lock and then, with a deep, anticipatory breath, Dean opened the door. He half-expected there to be some form of 'human-proofing', but either such a thing didn't exist or Castiel had trusted the locked door to be enough of a barrier for the short time Dean and Sam were expected to be at the cabin. Or maybe he'd underestimated Dean's curiosity or overestimated his own ability to act like there was nothing hidden inside the small cabin.

In any case, the door opened easily and Dean stepped in without incident.

The first thing that struck him was how bare the room was. It seemed more like an empty wooden box than a bedroom. There was no furniture, no posters or paintings, no decorations of any kind.

There weren't any weirdly glowing roses floating in glass vases either, but Dean hadn't really expected that. He'd expected some kind of equivalent, but the only thing in the room was a pile of feathers and bunches of cloth in the middle of the floor.

Dean stepped closer and crouched next to it, studying it. There was old denim, some cotton bandaging like what he and Sam used when they could afford it, a couple of Tshirts, a sheet set. The pile looked almost like a nest crossed with a bed. Did Cas sleep in this, then? Dean had thought that angels didn't need to sleep, but what else could something like this be used for?

Dean's brain immediately offered several helpful suggestions, all of which involved Cas getting sweaty and horizontal with people who were not Dean and he booted the thoughts forcefully from his mind. Jealousy coiled thick and fierce around his stomach and he shook himself.

Something nagged at the back of his mind. The shirts seemed familiar, he just couldn't quite place them.

He frowned in thought. They looked a little like some old shirts of his, ones he'd thrown out over the past few years. Money was tight when you were a hunter and clothes for daily wear tended to be cheap and practical and worn until they were little more than rags. Dean picked up the nearest shirt, a gray one that looked just like the one he'd tossed out after their most recent (successful) hunt, and absently turned it over in his hands.

He stopped. Across the chest were three rough gashes, exactly like the ones he'd gotten on that last hunt. This didn't just look like his shirt, this was his shirt.

Dean looked at the other shirts again, and the jeans. His. They were all his. He'd be willing to bet the bandages had been his too, though he had no idea from what injury. Or when. How long had this been going on?

He hadn't gotten a bad enough injury to warrant a bandage like that in over a year. Some of the shirts were ones he recognized as having tossed out more than two years ago.

The knowledge settled like a sucker punch to the gut. This was what Cas had been hiding? The fact that he slept with clothes Dean had tossed out?

Why the hell was he sleeping with Dean's old clothes?

"Cas, get your feathery ass down here," Dean said. He heard the sound of flapping wings a few feet behind him as Castiel touched down. He didn't look up, hand still clenched in the grey shirt.

"What do you-" Cas started, then stopped abruptly as he realized where they were. He was silent for several heartbeats and when he spoke again, there was more than a touch of anger in his voice. "I told you not to come in here."

"I wonder why," Dean bit out as he stood. He turned to face Cas and thrust the shirt at him. "Was it because I'd find out that you've been stealing my trash to sleep with?"

Cas flinched. Maybe most people wouldn't have been able to read the angel well enough to tell that's what it was, but Dean could. He felt a flash of guilt, but his anger was strong enough to keep him pressing on.

There had been too many weeks of frustration, going back ages before Dean had ever set foot in the cabin, and Dean was fed up. It felt like ages since he and Cas had talked, really talked, about anything, and Dean was sick of the secrets and the lies.

Did he really know Cas at all?

"What the hell is this, Cas?" he asked flatly. Cas wouldn't meet his eyes. The angel shifted uncomfortably and made an aborted move to kneel, then thought the better of it.

"A Nest," Cas said finally. Dean fought the urge to roll his eyes.

"Yeah, I can see it's a nest. What I want to know is why you stole some of my clothes to make it." It didn't matter that the shirts would have been in the trash by the time Cas had taken them. They still hadn't been Castiel's to take.

Dean briefly wondered if he'd be so angry if he'd discovered that Cas had taken the clothes for some other purpose - to make rags with, to turn into makeshift bandages, whatever it was an angel would use old clothes for. He quickly decided that no, that was less weird than taking the clothes to sleep with.

Hell, why hadn’t Cas asked him?

"You no longer needed them," Cas answered. He looked shifty as all hell, reminding Dean uncomfortably of a circle of holy fire and ugly revelations. His scowl deepened.

"That doesn't answer my question," he said. Cas finally looked up at him and met his eyes. He seemed determined suddenly, though to do what Dean didn't know.

"I want to build a Nest with you," Cas said carefully. Dean stared at him, uncomprehending.

"To build something with me, don't I kind of need to know ahead of time?" he said. The question was rhetorical, the answer obvious, and Castiel looked away again. Dean felt frustration surge inside him again; he used to hate how Cas stared straight at him, straight into him, all the time, and now Cas wouldn't so much as glance at him more than once or twice a conversation. It was starting to really piss him off.

"Do you want me to take the Nest apart?" Cas asked quietly, like he didn't want to ask. Dean didn't even pause to think.

"Yes. No offense, Cas, but it's really fucking creepy."

Cas flinched again, this time visibly enough that anyone would have noticed. A half-formed impulse to take back his answer crossed Dean's mind, but his irritation with Cas squelched it.

Besides, it was a little weird that Cas was sleeping with Dean's cast-offs. It was creepy, or so he tried to convince himself, and made Dean's stomach do odd little flips and think things he really, really shouldn't hope for. Hoping made him imagine meaning where there was none and he couldn't. Not with Cas. Not again.

Cas turned away from Dean.

"Your things will be returned to you by the morning," he said formally, voice stiffer than Dean had heard it in years. "You've got what you came for. Now go."

Cas didn't stick around to see that the order was followed. He was gone between one breath and the next, leaving Dean alone with the nest.

Dean took one more look at it and then, still holding the ruined grey shirt, he left. He shut the door behind himself and, after a moment, locked it as well. The secrets of the room had been discovered, so it’s not like anything was being hidden. Besides, maybe Cas would cool down once he had his space back.

When Sam returned from his hike, Dean was back on the couch and holding the battered copy of 'Slaughterhouse Five' he kept in his duffle. The grey shirt poked out of the top of the bag.

Dean woke up. It had been his turn to use the bedroom last night and he was damn grateful for it.

He'd tossed and turned a lot, mind still one door over and on the nest Cas had built. Dean hadn't managed to quiet his thoughts and fall asleep for hours and he would've hated to keep Sam awake.

Or worse, pique Sam's curiosity.

Cas stealing Dean's old clothes was creepy. Dean knew that. He knew it was weird. He knew he should be a hell of a lot more weirded out by it than he was, but he couldn't find it in himself to freak out over it. He saw freaky shit day in and day out; in comparison to a wendigo or a ghoul, a little clothes-stealing between friends was nothing.

He wasn't sure if Sam would understand. Hell, Dean didn't understand.

He yawned and stretched, then swung his legs over the side of the bed. His feet hit something soft and he looked down.

Cas had done as promised. He'd returned Dean's things. Dean scowled faintly; he'd been hoping Cas would return the items in person and give Dean the chance to talk to him, but apparently Cas had decided to sulk. Fine. Whenever he wanted to show up, Dean was prepared to be generous and act like nothing had happened. The freaky angel-nest-whatever didn't change anything. They were still friends. Or at least, Dean wanted to be.

A lot of shit had happened, but Dean wanted to believe that they could get back to how things used to be. The good times, back before a year of separation and shady deals with Crowley had put a strain on things. Before holy fire and Dean’s refusal to listen.

 Dean had to believe it was possible.

He tried not to think about what else he'd once thought 'possible' between him and Cas. That led to hope and hope led to misinterpreting things and they had enough communication issues as it was.

Still, repairing anything would need to wait until Cas decided to show up again. He'd get over his sulk and be back; it probably wouldn't even take a day.

Dean carefully didn't think about how upset Cas had seemed upon finding Dean in his room.

Dean opened up one of the cabinets and scowled darkly at the contents, as though the cans of soup and Spaghetti-Os were at fault for Cas's continued absence.

It had been two days since the incident in Cas's room and Dean hadn't seen so much as a flap of tan fabric since.

The cans of food were new. The cabinet had been running low on food just yesterday and considering Dean couldn't leave the house and Sam couldn't go into town (nor did he have any idea where town was), Cas had to have stopped by.

Was he not even talking to Dean anymore?

Dean practically slammed the cabinet shut.

"This is getting old," he said, staring up towards the ceiling.

No response.

Dean pushed himself to his feet, appetite lost, and headed for Cas's room. Dean hadn't heard any movement from inside in days, but he wasn't going to discount the possibility that Cas was hiding right under his nose.

He knocked. At least, he tried. The door was just barely ajar, the latch not engaged, and so at the first touch of his knuckles, it slid open.

The room was empty.

Not just empty as in 'lacking Cas', but empty.

The nest was gone completely. Not even a feather remained.

Something uneasy slid down the back of Dean's neck and along his spine. It nagged at the back of his mind; what the hell did a nest mean to an angel? What did it mean that he'd wanted to build one with Dean?

Whatever it meant, it was bigger than Dean had realized. Just how much had he upset Cas...?

But no. This wasn't his fault. He'd asked his stuff to be returned, not for Cas to take the whole damn thing apart. If Cas had decided to get rid of it, it wasn't Dean's problem.

The uncertain guilt that lingered at the bottom of Dean's gut could just go away.

It had been five days.

Five. Fucking. Days.

And still Cas hadn't shown up.

By the end of day three, Dean's patience had reached an end and he'd prayed for Cas to get his ass to the cabin for dinner. Cas might not need to eat, but he could, and Dean was done waiting for Cas to get over his hissy-fit.

Cas hadn't responded, but when Dean had tacked-on a half-hearted request for pie, there had been the sound of wingbeats behind him. Dean had turned, heart leaping, and found a perfectly prepared apple pie on the countertop. No Cas.

It had given Dean an idea, though, and he'd spent all day yesterday coming up with more and more ridiculous requests to see if he couldn't goad Cas into making an appearance. If nothing else, maybe Cas would show up to tell Dean to stop bothering him.

No dice.

Dean had asked for coffee, for Cas to open a window, to get new towels for the bathroom, to close the window, to chop wood for the fireplace. Every task was done without Dean catching so much as a glimpse.

By lunchtime, Dean had graduated to asking for more outlandish things. He'd requested beer and bratwurst from Germany and pie from that sweet diner on Route 86. He'd turned around and the table had been covered in pie of various flavors, one slice from what was probably every diner along Route 86. The beer came in a real stein and the bratwurst had been fucking amazing.

Dean had asked for a real moon rock and a solid gold apple. When they appeared on the nightstand in the bedroom, he'd tossed them through a closed window and ordered Cas to repair it. In between blinks, it had been done.

Dean was furious. He was tired of being trapped in the cabin, sick of Cas doing everything requested of him without having the decency to show up so Dean could let him know that he was no longer pissed about finding his clothes in Cas's nest, and was now pissed that Cas was being a baby and avoiding him.

"I pray that the angel Castiel will stop being a big, trenchcoat-wearing baby and get his ass down here now," Dean growled, looking at the ceiling as though his prayer would reach Cas easier that way, or like staring upwards towards Heaven would force Cas to comply. "Have you found the damn witch yet so Sam and I can get out of your hair and you can sulk here in peace?"

There was no response.

"I want an answer on this one, Cas," Dean said. "You can't just-"

The sound of wings cut Dean off. Dean breathed in, heart leaping in anticipation. He turned, relief loosening his muscles as he opened his mouth to greet Cas with a 'finally' or a 'what took you so damn long', but then the words caught in his throat.

There was an angel standing behind him, one he recognized, but it wasn't Cas.

"Anna?" he said, a trickle of irritation sending tension through him again. Cas couldn't even talk to him directly anymore? "What are you doing here?"

"Hello to you too, Dean," she said, lips quirking into a thin smile. Dean returned the smile with a quick, polite one of his own. "To answer your question, Castiel sent me."

Dean's smile dropped and he scoffed, turning away from Anna.

"He can't talk to me himself?" he said. His earlier irritation was quickly simmering into rage. Cas had sulked long enough. "What, is he too good to talk to me now?"

"That's not the impression I got," Anna said frankly, her smile fading a bit. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

Dean didn't meet her eyes.

"There's nothing to tell," he said gruffly. He heard Anna sigh.

"Right. Castiel just spends days trying to find me so he can send me here with a message for you, because that's so much easier than telling you himself." Dean could sense her stare boring into the back of his neck. A shiver went down his spine. Sometimes, he forgot that Anna was a powerful angel. She looked so frail and waif-like, and she'd been only human when he'd met her; he still thought of her as that wide-eyed, confused girl he'd met all those years ago.

But she was an angel, and not just some low-rung lackey. She'd been Cas's superior and his friend, and could probably smite Dean with her left pinky.

"Look, I don't know what happened," Dean said. He rubbed at the nape of his neck. "I went into his room a few days ago and found a pile of feathers and some old clothes I'd tossed out. I asked him about it and he asked me if I wanted my stuff back. I told him 'yes', found them by my bed the next morning, and haven't seen Cas since."

He looked at Anna, hoping she'd have some kind of answer for him. He wasn't expecting to see a stricken expression on her face, lips parted and eyes wide in shock. Dean frowned.


Anna shook her head wordlessly for a minute, biting her lip and looking at the floor. She swallowed heavily, and Dean got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Apparently, the nest or whatever meant something to an angel that Dean hadn't picked up on.

"This may be an odd question," Anna started, voice striving for casualness and not at all reaching its goal. "But the clothes you say you'd tossed out... do you have any idea what the oldest item was? How long it had been there?"

"I don't know... maybe two years? More?" Dean said slowly. "I don't know."

He was starting to get the sense that he'd seriously fucked up somehow.

"Two years?" Anna repeated. "Maybe more than that, you say?"

Dean nodded.

"Is that important?" he asked. Anna looked away and tucked a strand of her hair behind an ear.

"It's... unusual," she said. Her voice was strained and she seemed at a momentary loss for words. Dean waited, but when she didn't explain to him why the timeline mattered, or why it was unusual, he prompted her.

"You want to shed some light on what's going on?" he asked. Now he knew he'd fucked up somehow, and that whatever had happened was apparently a Very Big Deal by angel standards, but he was at a loss to explain anything else.

"Did he say anything about wanting to build a Nest with you?" Anna asked softly, like she already knew the answer. Dean nodded. "What did you say?"

"I told him that if he wanted to build something with me, I'd kind of need to know about it first," he said. Anna winced.

"Anything else?"

Dean swallowed heavily, unease rolling through his intestines.

"I told him it was a little creepy that he was sleeping with my trash."

"You said that?" Anna said, stunned. Dean held up his hands up to try and placate Anna.

"Look, I didn't know. Whatever I screwed up, I had no idea, so would you just tell me what the hell is going on?" he said. Anna took a deep breath and looked away from Dean.

"I know you didn't know. I'm sure Cas knows that too, but..." She shook her head again and rubbed her palm over her eyes. “I'm sorry. It’s just… difficult.”

"Yeah," Dean said slowly. He waited. Anna took another deep breath, this time to steel herself, and then she began to speak.

"What I'm about to tell you must never be told to anyone else. Not even your brother, Dean. Promise me." She stared at him intently.

Dean hesitated a second, but only a second.

"I promise."

Anna studied him for a minute, clearly considering whether or not his word was worth the information. After a moment, she nodded.

"Did you know that angels Molt once every twelve months?"

Dean blinked, confused.

"No..." he said, wondering what that had to do with anything. Something clicked in his mind and he breathed in sharply. "Wait, were those Cas's feathers I saw?"

Anna nodded again. Dean felt the knowledge roll through him and he strained to recall anything he could about them.

They were black, and he thought they’d looked soft…

"During Molt, an angel is extremely vulnerable. I won't go into details, but no angel will willingly reveal the location of their Nest or when their Molt is to anyone, except for one other." She glanced away. “There are… extenuating circumstances sometimes, though.”

Apparently, Dean asking Cas to take the Nest apart counted as ‘extenuating circumstances’.

Dean's heart sped up. He could sense that something earth-shaking was on the horizon and part of him was paralyzed with shock and a mounting desire to ask Anna to stop speaking, stop explaining. He could carry on as he'd been, blissfully ignorant of Molts and Nests (how had he not heard the capital letter before?) and whatever-it-meant that Cas wanted a Nest with him.

"An angel begins courtship by collecting the discarded feathers of the one they wish to court and including the feathers in their Nest. The intended is then shown the Nest and given the chance to refuse the suit or accept it, and if they find that they're compatible, they build their next Nest together." Anna's expression was soft, full of sorrow and reverence. "Usually, the process takes about a year."

The words hit Dean's ears, but made no sense. Everything had faded to noise after the word 'court' and Dean's brain had gone completely blank.

"'Court'?" he echoed. Anna smiled sadly, but Dean barely noticed.

"Angels don't love frivolously, Dean. For us, there is no such thing as a casual date or hookup. We enter relationships with the intent to find a bondmate, someone to be with for the rest of our existence." More quietly, she added, "One of the things I liked about being human was how simple affection was to come by. Humans love so easily."

Dean felt lightheaded. His heart was pounding and his mind spun. What Anna was saying sounded a lot like-

It sounded like.

Dean breathed in deeply, forcing air passed the lump in his throat and feeling it shudder in his lungs.

"Cas is in love with me," he said, halfway between a statement and a question. The words felt awkward and unreal on his tongue and as he spoke them, they seemed to dissipate under the force of reality.

"That's not for me to say," Anna said simply, staring at Dean wistfully. At her words, the world settled unsteadily beneath Dean's feet. Technically, it wasn't a confirmation, but it sure as hell felt like one.

Euphoria was bubbling up deep inside Dean's belly, euphoria and fear and longing he'd tried for what felt like years to bury. Part of him wanted to run, because this was big and something in him knew that this wasn't a path he'd be able to get off of once he started down.

The greater part of him didn't give a damn and wanted to run full-tilt down the trail he hadn't realized was at his feet.

Dean felt the corners of his lips twitch upwards. His chest felt lighter and he let himself grin. However, when he did, Anna's expression grew heavier and her smile faded into an expression of sympathy and secondhand regret. Dean felt a slight stab of foreboding cut into his sudden good mood, deflating it.

"Would you like to hear the message he asked me to pass on?" Anna asked.

"Sure," Dean said. His mouth felt dry with sudden nerves.

"Cas asked me to tell you that the witch has been taken care of. The skoll is gone," Anna said dutifully. "He also asked that I fly you and your brother back over the border, and asked me to request that neither of you speak of the cabin to anyone else."

The bottom dropped out of Dean's stomach.

"What," he said, staring at Anna uncomprehendingly. She gave him a pained smile in an attempt at comfort. It didn't help. "He's not coming back?"

He wanted them to leave?

He wasn't even going to say goodbye?

"Sam and I aren't in any rush. If Cas is busy, we'll wait." Dean nodded decisively, deliberately not-thinking about how not-busy Cas had been, if he'd had time to not only do whatever dumbass thing Dean asked of him, but find Anna and take care of a powerful witch and a skoll besides. Dean also deliberately ignored how careful Cas had been to keep himself out of Dean or Sam's sight, how he'd only tracked down Anna so he wouldn't have to talk to Dean...

Anna's sorrowful, sympathetic expression was not helping.

"Dean," she said gently. "You told him to take your things out of his Nest. You told him it was creepy."

"So?" Dean said, though he felt the realization knocking at the back of his mind.

"You haven't figured it out?" she asked. "You're smart, Dean. Think about it."

Dean didn't want to, but the answer was there and the stubborn ignorance he tried to cling to was crumbling. If an angel proposed - asked out, got betrothed to, whatever - by adding another angel's feathers to their Nest, then to ask for the feathers to be removed...

"Shit," Dean said, running a palm over his face. "Shit."

Cas had basically asked him out, and not in a casual 'hey, you're fun, what are you doing Saturday?' sense, but in a 'I think I could imagine spending the rest of my life with you' sense, and Dean had shot him down. Worse, he'd called Cas creepy.

It didn’t matter that Dean hadn’t known at the time, he still wanted to kick himself.

There was a small part of him that still did find the clothes-stealing a little odd, but given what Anna had told him, it could have been a lot worse. Dean would've been much more freaked out if he'd found toenail clippings and tufts of hair. In comparison... hell, this was more like Cas borrowing one of Dean's T-shirts to sleep in.

The mental image of Cas in a shirt just slightly too large for him, curled up in Dean's bed, sent waves of heat through Dean's blood. He used to daydream about shit like that, sometimes, when he let his thoughts wander where they would and they started getting into unfamiliar territory.

Sex fantasies were nothing new to Dean. Domestic fantasies were infinitely more dangerous.

"How do I fix this?" he heard himself ask.


Dean stared at her, heart somewhere around his boots.

"No?" he repeated. Anna crossed her arms and met his gaze evenly, determined but a little uncertain.

"I'm not saying that you can't," she said. "That's up to Cas. I'm saying I won't tell you how." She considered him for a moment. "But Dean... promise me you'll really think this through before you do anything you might regret."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean asked stiffly, crossing his arms.

"What I mean is 'don't do anything unless you're sure it's what you want'," Anna said firmly. "If you rush into something because you don't want to lose Cas as a friend, you're just going to end up hurting him again."

The room was quiet for a moment as Dean digested her words.

"I didn't mean to," he said finally, like repeatedly admitting his ignorance could absolve him of some of the blame. He would’ve loved to get angry that he was being blamed for something he did unknowingly, but he was too irritated with himself to muster up any rage for anyone else. He could’ve asked what Cas had meant by ‘Nest’ before asking him to take it down. In fact, he should have. These last five days would have gone differently.

Whether he’d meant to or not, he’d hurt Cas.

"But you did," Anna replied, matter-of-fact yet sympathetic. She waited as though expecting Dean to speak, but he stayed silent. She nodded decisively. "Right. I'm going to leave now, but I'll come back at sundown. Or earlier, if you call for me."

She was giving him time to decide. Sundown was still a few hours away and Dean had until then to figure out what he wanted to do about this whole mess.

Somehow, he didn't think he'd need that long.

"Got it," he said. Anna smiled and flew away.

When Sam returned from his hike, he found Dean sitting on the couch with an old, grey T-shirt in his hands. Cas was, as usual these days, nowhere to be seen, and Sam swallowed an exasperated sigh.

He had no idea what Dean had done, but something must have happened. Sam hadn't seen Cas in almost a week and Dean had been getting steadily more and more miserable, and the greater Dean's misery, the less bearable he was to be around.

Sam loved his brother, don't get him wrong, but sometimes...

Dean looked up when he heard the cabin door close. The older Winchester nodded a greeting.

"Hey," he said before he turned back to the shirt he was holding.

"Hey," Sam replied. "Any word from Cas?"

"No," Dean said. Sam was about to sigh and head to the bedroom (it was his that night) to relax, but then Dean continued. "Well, unless you count sending Anna to tell us 'ding dong the witch is dead'."

Sam paused.

"He didn't tell you himself?" he asked, shocked and trying not to show it. He'd known they were having a fight, but for Cas to go out of his way to avoid Dean... "Dean, what the hell did you do?"

Dean looked up, surprised and instantly offended.

"What do you mean 'what did I do'?" Dean asked hotly. "Why do you assume it's my fault?"

"Because Cas is avoiding you rather than you giving him the cold shoulder," Sam replied instantly. Dean looked chagrined, so Sam adopted a more soothing tone and walked back to the couch. "What happened?"

Dean looked at the shirt in his hands.

"A couple of days ago," Dean said. "I might've... ok, I did... break into the West Wing."

It took a moment for Sam to remember the reference, but when he understood, he stared incredulously at his brother. Dean glared. Sam shook his head in exasperation and gestured for Dean to continue. Dean's scowl deepened and he turned away from Sam again.

"I found the rose. He got pissed, I got pissed... I said some things."

Sam nodded encouragingly. He could understand the shape of the story, even if he didn't understand any of the specifics.

"I might have told him to take the rose apart," Dean said lowly, like he was ashamed. He was staring at the shirt in his hands again. "And he did."

Sam looked from Dean to the shirt and then back again, frowning in confusion.

"So..." he said slowly. "You're trying to figure out how to put the rose back together again?"

Dean smiled thinly.

"Something like that, yeah." He sighed and tossed the shirt at his duffle bag. “Though I’ve been warned by the talking clock to make sure it’s what I want before I do.”

“I take it Anna is Cogsworth?” Sam asked, grinning a little. Dean chuckled.


A companionable silence feel between the two for a few heartbeats, then Sam cleared his throat.

“So… do you?” he asked. Dean frowned, confused.

“Do I what?” he replied. Sam dipped his head meaningfully towards the grey shirt Dean had tossed in the bag.

“Do you want to fix it?”

Dean looked down.

“I think…” he said slowly. He trailed off. “Yeah, I think I do.”

Sam grinned, this time wider.

“Good. I’m happy for you.” He slapped Dean’s shoulder lightly and got up. He headed for his room again, but partway there, he stopped and turned around. “You know… it isn’t the rose that puts everything right again.”

 “What are you talking about?” Dean asked, frowning.

“What breaks the spell is true love’s kis-“


Sam laughed loudly all the way into his room.

With a little more than an hour to go until sunset, Dean came to a decision. He cleared his throat and straightened up.

"Anna?" he said. He waited.

"Yes," Anna answered, the sound of her wings fading as she stepped forward. "I take it you've decided."

Dean smiled at her, nerves prickling along his spine and palms damp with sweat.

"Yeah, but I've got a question," he said. He took a deep breath. Once he asked, there was no backing out. The thought didn't scare him as much as he thought it should. "How do angels usually get the feathers of the angel they want to, uh... 'court'?"

Anna smiled widely.

"By asking the friends and family of the angel they're pursuing," she said simply. She reached into her jean jacket and pulled out two long feathers, the same gorgeous black Dean remembered from seeing Cas's Nest almost a week ago. He reached out, a faint tremor running through his wrist, and Anna gently laid them in his hand.

They were so soft.

Dean ran a fingertip over the smooth edges, mesmerized as the feather bent under his touch. They looked and felt just like birds' feathers, but there was something indefinably other about them, too. The hollow quill of a birds' feather would snap, brittle and sharp, if put under too much strain, but Dean had a feeling that he could twist and stomp on these and they'd never be anything but wonderfully soft and smooth.

"Thanks," he told Anna, glancing at her briefly before looking back at the feathers in his hands.

"Just don't make me regret it," she said. From her tone, Dean could tell that she didn't think he would.

Well, at least one of them had some confidence.

"I'll take Sam with me now," Anna said. "To give you and Cas some privacy."

Dean's mouth felt suddenly dry. He nodded again.



Castiel lightly touched down inside the room that had once contained his Nest. His wings were heavy and aching, to say nothing of his emotions.

He had known that some angels went into a mourning state if rejected by someone they'd wished to have for a bondmate, but he hadn't understood. Now he did, and he would give his Grace to go back to being ignorant.

Now, all he wanted to do was curl up in the Nest he no longer had and rest until his next Molt. He'd had to get rid of all the feathers from his previous Nest; Dean's smell and the sense of his soul had collected in each and every one of them. It had been comforting while Cas had allowed himself to dream, but when Dean had stumbled upon the Nest and unknowingly shattered the fantasies Cas had kept hidden for so long...

He didn’t blame Dean. It was how he had expected the hunter to react if he ever found out, but he wished he’d had more time. Or less time, because he felt at once like he’d had too much and too little; he’d wanted the fantasy to last a lifetime, but would it be less painful if Dean had found out in that first year?

He didn’t know.

Oddly enough, the room still smelled and felt like Dean. If Anna hadn't told him that she'd done as he asked, he would suspect... but no, Dean couldn't still be here.

Movement in the center of the room caught Castiel's attention. He looked and then stilled completely as he realized what he was seeing. Dean was, in fact, still in the cabin. He was in Castiel's room, curled up on what looked like a pile of his laundry, and two black feathers.

Castiel felt himself frozen in place as Dean stirred. Green eyes blinked open in the dark and Dean stretched. Castiel watched, dazed. Had he fallen into a dreaming state while on wing? He wouldn't be the first angel to dream so vividly, he was sure.

Then Dean turned and saw Cas. Their eyes met for the first time in almost a week, and Dean breathed in audibly. Cas felt his heart pound as his vessel reacted to the myriad emotions coursing through Cas's true form.

"Heya, Cas," Dean said. He didn't take his eyes off the angel for a moment, and Cas felt trapped by them, and by the implications of the makeshift Nest - could he call it that? is that what it truly was? - Dean had built upon the very same patch of floor Cas had used to build his.

"Dean," he said. His voice sounded quiet next to the frantic beat of his heart. "What are you doing here?"

Dean stood. Cas found his attention divided; he kept glancing from Dean's face to the pile of clothing at his feet and the two feathers tucked innocently among the socks and old T-shirts.

Did Dean have any idea what that meant?

"Cas..." Dean said, voice oddly choked and quiet. He sounded nervous, and Cas frowned. "I wanted to ask if... shit, I was a jerk, ok? But I wanted to ask if you still wanted to... you know. Build a Nest. With me." Dean straightened up and met Castiel's eyes firmly, a prouder set to his shoulders now that he'd gotten the words out.

"Did Anael tell you to say that?" Cas asked in clipped tones, mouth setting itself in a thin line. Dean looked taken aback, but Cas was already drawing away, anger pumping through his blood. "Is this supposed to be some form of apology?"

"Apology?" Dean parroted, his ire slowly rising to match Castiel's, fed by his worry over Cas rejecting him like... well, like he'd unknowingly rejected Cas.

"Do you understand what is it you're asking?" Cas demanded lowly. Dean scowled.

"Yes," he said. "Anna told me."

"And what did she tell you?" Cas asked. "Did she tell you that, if I accept, we'd be considered betrothed in the eyes of Heaven?"

"Yes," Dean said impatiently. "She told me about the courting, the bondmates thing, the whole nine. I know what I'm asking, now are you going to answer me or not?"

Cas shut his mouth and looked away. He wanted to say 'yes'. He wanted desperately to say 'yes' and just allow himself to feel the joy bubbling up from deep within him, but he couldn't bring himself the say the word. Part of him was convinced that this was some sort of dream, that he had imagined the words and to say 'yes' to an imaginary proposal would only hurt when he woke.

Dean sighed and ran a hand over his face.

"Look, Cas, I didn't know, all right? I didn't know what it meant until Anna explained it." His voice was thick with regret. Cas didn't look at him.

"I know." Of course Dean couldn't have known. No human in over a thousand years would have had any cause to know about angelic mating rituals, none since the time of the Nephilim and all of those records had been destroyed.

Dean couldn't have known. Cas understood that.

"Then why are you still acting like I knew what I was doing when I called you 'creepy' for proposing to me?"

That brought Cas up short. He couldn't look at Dean, nor answer in any concrete way.

"It's irrational," Cas finally agreed. He said no more. There was just something deep and visceral about building a Nest, and that something had curled up in pain despite Cas knowing that the harm was unintentional.

Dean snorted a soft chuckle, then fell silent. The silence stretched. Out of the corner of his eye, Cas saw Dean inhale deeply and then look down.

"If you've changed your mind, I get it," Dean said gruffly.

"Why?" Cas asked. Dean looked at him, almost belligerently confused.

"Why would you have changed your mind?" Dean asked slowly, tone bordering on indignant. Cas shook his head.

"Why did you build this Nest for us?"

Dean looked away again. The silence rested heavy between them for a moment, and Castiel ached to cross it and stand close to Dean as he had always done. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it until nothing but his own will had kept him away. When there were problems to focus on or opponents to face, there was at least something to distract him from the lack of Dean.

"The oldest thing of mine in your old Nest... I threw it out what, two years ago?" Dean asked.

It had been closer to three, but Cas wasn't going to correct him.

Dean looked up and stepped forward. In another situation, were the air less tense, Cas thought that Dean would have been smiling. Dean certainly tried, but gave up after one or two half-grimaces.

"Maybe I haven't - maybe we haven't..." Dean shook his head and let out a breath of air. "It hasn't been that long for me. I haven't thought about this-" He grabbed Castiel's hand, gentle enough that even were Cas human, he could have easily pulled away. "-as long as you have."

Cas didn't move. He watched in fascination as Dean linked their fingers together, then shook himself mentally. He brought his attention back to the sounds coming out of Dean's mouth, rather than focusing on the warmth of Dean's palm pressed to his. Dean was close, closer than Cas had allowed himself to get since that moment in Purgatory...

Cas had wanted to be selfish. He'd wanted to kiss Dean once, just to have the memory to carry around with him, but he'd put his plan on hold when the Leviathan had shown up. Afterwards, he'd scrapped his plan entirely because he'd been frightened he would never be able to bring himself to let go once he had held Dean.

Now, Dean was telling Cas that he would never need to let Dean go.

Dean was swaying closer, lips parting, and Cas knew that unless he spoke now he never would.

"If we do this, you have until my next Molt to decide that it isn't what you want," Cas said. Dean chuckled quietly.

"What about what you want?" Dean asked, tone dipping into innuendo on the word 'want'. Cas stared at him until Dean coughed and looked away as the moment turned awkward.

"This can't be casual to you, Dean. It isn't to me," Cas said. Dean swallowed heavily and nodded.

"I know, Cas. I know." Dean took a deep breath. "I want to see where this goes."

"Me, too," Cas murmured. His gaze fell to Dean's lips.

"Do you want to build a Nest with me?" Dean asked, leaning forward once more.

Cas tilted his head and finally - finally - closed the last of the distance between their mouths.

It was answer enough.

Ten Months Later

Dean looked around the room. He took a deep breath to try and calm his nerves. It didn't help.

There was no need to be nervous. Dean knew that, but no matter what he did there was still anticipation dancing along his skin. It was just him and Cas and ever since that night ten months ago, 'him and Cas' had become very comfortable company. There was still tension, sure, and sometimes it was the bad kind, but most of the time it was the kind that led to Dean or Cas getting pinned to the nearest flat surface and kissing and touching.

This wasn't even the first time that Dean and Cas had been alone together in the cabin, so Dean didn't even have that to excuse his nerves. Some days, when hunts were thin on the ground or Dean wanted a break (or Cas felt that Dean needed one), Cas would fly Dean up to the cabin and they'd have an afternoon or a day of lazy domesticity. There would be lazy kisses on the couch, or a movie after dinner since Cas had finally gotten a TV, or short walks around the cabin. Sometimes, though Dean would deny it until he was blue in the face, they held hands and just wandered, and that was more than enough for Dean.

Being with Cas was comfortable, but terrifying in its own way.

Dean touched the pocket of his jeans. The ring felt heavy and cold against his fingers, even through the layer of fabric, but it calmed him down. He'd been carrying the ring for over a month now and had taken to touching it whenever he began to feel a bit overwhelmed. Stroking a fingertip along the cool metal, or imagining it on Cas's finger, always brought a peace to his heart and strengthened his resolve that he could do this.

Dean wanted this. More than anything.

He just couldn't fuck it up. He couldn't lose this, not now that he'd had a taste of what it was like.

There was a quiet flap of wings and Dean suddenly felt another presence in the room. He smiled and let his hand relax at his side, no longer touching the ring as he turned casually around to face Castiel.

If Cas was still nervous, as he had been earlier when he'd told Dean that the Molt would begin that day, he showed no sign of it. He seemed rather calm and collected for someone that was going to get angel-married to his boyfriend tonight.

Or maybe Dean was the only one freaking out. He wasn't sure if that made him feel better or worse.

"I've checked the perimeter," Cas said. "The wards are still perfectly intact."

Dean nodded and looked away from Cas. Everything was ready to go... except Dean. Damnit, he'd had months to get used to the idea, why was he suddenly struggling with it now?


Dean didn't want to look up. He needed a minute, or perhaps several minutes, but that had nothing to do with Cas or any (nonexistent) desire to call off the wedding. He just needed to calm down and trust himself to not ruin this.

He looked up. He wasn’t sure what Cas saw on his face, but the angel frowned, concerned. Dean felt like an ass for the sudden worry in Castiel's eyes and the tightness to his jaw.

"Dean, we don't have to bond tonight," Cas said. "We don't have to bond at all. We can keep going as we have been, or-" Cas's voice tripped, just for a moment. "If you no longer want-"

"That's not it," Dean interjected quickly, knowing that Cas's sentence couldn't end anywhere good. He wanted to step forward and kiss Cas. He wanted to sooth Cas's worries with his lips and tongue, but his stomach was in too many knots. "I want this, it's just..."

There was no 'just' about this.

"Overwhelming," Cas supplied quietly. Dean felt himself relax. It was calming to know that he wasn't the only one nervous about this, though he hoped Cas wanted it just as badly as he did.

"Yeah," Dean said. He cleared his throat. "Shall we start?"

Cas studied him for a moment, still obviously a bit worried about Dean's reaction. Cas nodded slowly.

"Very well," he said, and began to disrobe. His movements were quick and efficient, but still sent heat through Dean's blood like no other striptease ever had. Somehow, the fact that it was Cas unbuttoning his shirt and letting it drop to the floor was a hell of a lot hotter than some chick Dean had just met at a bar.

Once Cas was naked from the waist up (a view Dean certainly appreciated, the desire almost enough to match the nervousness running through his veins), he straightened up. Dean stared in awe and anticipation as two familiar wings spilled out from the smooth skin of Cas's back. He had seen Cas's wings once before, months ago, as a part of the courting process. He was just as awed now as he had been then; somehow, he didn't think the sight of two magnificent wings, almost too large for the room, would ever get old. The feathers, which varied in size from as long as Dean's arm to the length of his pinky finger, were dulled now with age. Some were bent slightly and more were loose. They were still gorgeous and Dean ached to touch.

Cas flexed his wings to display them as best he could in the limited space. Dean's breath caught.

“Dean Winchester," Cas said. He approached Dean and knelt in front of him, as though he was some sort of offering and Dean was his God. Cas kept his eyes fixed on Dean's, neither shy nor ashamed, but filled with a desire Dean knew well. "Ten months ago, you asked me to consider sharing your Nest as your bondmate. Today, I Molt and ask you that we solemnize our bond and join in the eyes of the Host and our Father. It is my will."

"Castiel," Dean replied, trying to recall the words of the ritual. Angel marriages and human marriages had a lot in common, apparently, though Cas insisted that angelic marriage vows were more poetic and beautiful in Enochian. "Ten months ago, I asked you to share my Nest as my bondmate. Today, you Molt and my will has not changed. I accept the solemnization of our bond, to join us in the eyes of the Host and our Father. It is my will." The words felt a bit odd on his tongue, but this ritual wasn't just a ceremony. It had its roots in an actual ritual, the magickal kind, and Dean wasn't about to mess with the wording and risk screwing something up.

Cas smiled beatifically and Dean felt more of his fears slip away. An answering grin found its way onto his face and he extended a hand to help Castiel up. All that was left now was the symbolic building of the Nest - it would take three days for Cas to Molt and they'd be adding feathers to it the whole time - and for Cas's Grace to touch Dean's soul. First things first, though, with the angelic marriage vows out of the way...

Dean reached into his pocket for the ring, heartbeat picking up and skipping. He held onto Cas's hand, gently turning it in his grip so that he could get at Cas's fingers.

The ring felt cold against Dean's fingertips.

"Dean?" Cas asked.

Dean slid the ring onto Castiel's finger. It fit perfectly, as Dean had known it would.

Cas breathed in sharply, stunned. Dean waited breathlessly for him to say something; he hadn't exactly told Cas that he'd been planning this. Part of him had wanted to keep it a surprise and part of him was terrified that Cas would say 'no', or not see the point in any symbols of their bond. Apparently, angels didn't need rings or other jewelry to show who was taken. It was marked on their Grace.

Still, Dean had decided some time ago that if they were going to bond in the angel way, he wanted to do it the human way too, with a ring and a promise.

"Dean?" Cas asked again softly, eyes transfixed on the thin silver band around his finger. He looked up at Dean.

"Cas," Dean said. He swallowed thickly, the words caught in his throat. He coughed to dislodge them. "I wanted to do this right."

Cas wrapped his hand around Dean's and squeezed reassuringly. Dean could feel the hard edge of the ring against his knuckles.

"I..." Dean started. He took another deep breath and closed his eyes. This hadn't been this difficult to say in front of the mirror back at the bunker. He'd been mentally preparing this for weeks. Unlike traditional weddings, his vows required no priest or any witnesses, save himself or Cas. "There’s no real word for what we are, Cas. I’m not the kind to stand up in a church and make big declarations or anything, but I wanted this.” He ran his thumb over the ring. “I wanted to do this the human way too, so… in sickness and health, rich or poor, the whole nine. I promise.”

Dean knew he'd never be able to bring himself to say any of these things to Cas in a church filled with friends and family. It didn't matter how true the emotions behind the vows were, this level of emotion wasn't something he was comfortable sharing with anyone else.

Just Cas.

"Cas, I lo-" The sentiment, so long felt, stuck on his tongue, and Dean could have growled in frustration. "I need you."

Cas kissed him. The press of his mouth was sweet but desperate, his hands warm and frantic as he pulled Dean in. The anxiety curled tight in Dean's chest slowly eased with each touch of Cas's mouth and the taste of Cas's tongue against his lips.

The storm of kisses abated and then Cas drew away. Dean breathed heavily and opened his eyes, not having realized he'd closed them. Cas was staring at him intently, blue eyes dark and filled with reverent awe.

"Wow," Dean said hoarsely.

"Dean," Cas said. His voice was deeper than normal and it sent shivers up Dean's spine. "Tonight, I take you as my bondmate. I vow to you that I will love and cherish you faithfully, without end. I vow this in sickness and health, and in poverty or riches. On Earth, and in Heaven."

Dean let out a weak chuckle, hoping the sound didn't come out as strangled as it felt. There was a lump in his throat and a lightness in his chest. He was exhilarated, emotional, and holyfuck he was so glad there was no one here to witness this.

"Just had to show me up, didn't you," he said, any sting immediately taken out of his words by the soft kiss he placed against Cas's mouth. He swallowed, trying to keep his emotions in check, and placed his hands on Cas's hips to pull him closer.

"It's the truth," Cas said simply. He rested his forehead against Dean's. "I love you, Dean."

It wasn't a revelation, but it felt like one. Dean kissed Cas and tugged him towards the Nest, hands pulling at what remained of Cas's clothes. Cas kissed back, putting everything Dean had taught him.

There had been a lot of making out on couches, and in the Impala, and on crappy motel room beds and Dean's bed and against walls and anywhere they could spare a minute these past ten months. There had been heavy petting and groping underneath clothes, too, but little more than that. Something had always interrupted, or Dean or Cas had called a halt to the proceedings. Dean had wanted to take things slow for once and do this 'right', and fuck he knew that when he got Cas between the sheets, he'd be ruined for absolutely anyone else.

There was no one and nothing to interrupt them tonight, and judging by the way Cas's hands were eagerly yanking Dean's belt through the loops, Cas wasn't interested in waiting any longer.

Dean groaned against Cas's mouth. They stumbled towards the Nest, Dean barely aware of it until he stepped on the edge of the silk-soft sheet set he and Cas had bought new to celebrate their six month anniversary. He sat and pulled Cas down on top of him. Cas allowed himself to be pulled, using his magnificent wings to slow the descent just a little so his full weight didn't crash into Dean.

Dean didn't give a damn. He captured Cas's lips again and pulled the angel's pants and underwear down to his thighs in one motion. Cas shivered as the cool air hit his heated skin.

"You're still dressed," he growled against Dean's mouth, clearly disapproving of the layers of cotton and denim still separating them. Dean found himself suddenly pinned in the Nest, staring up at Cas. Cas simply tore Dean's shirt in two, as easily as a human might tear tissue paper, and then opened up Dean's pants. Dean wiggled his hips a bit, lifting them just enough for Cas to pull his clothes off, then removed the torn remains of his T-shirt himself as Cas impatiently finished the removal of his own pants and boxers.

Dean carefully added the ripped material to one of the small walls of the Nest and smiled in satisfaction. He turned back to Cas to find the angel staring at him, the heat briefly banked in his expression and replaced with something soft and tender.

Cas moved closer and kissed Dean with more sugar than passion. Dean slid a hand up Cas's side to his back and raked his nails through the place Cas's wings passed through his skin. Cas moaned softly in appreciation, arching his back for more.

Dean mouthed at the stubbled skin of Cas's jaw, trailing kisses over the line of it and down Cas's neck before nipping and sucking small bruises into the flesh. Cas moaned again, louder this time, and angled his head to offer Dean more access. Dean took full advantage, moving his mouth over everything within reach and skimming his hands over bare skin.

Cas's wings were twitching behind him, unused to the amount of sensation running through Cas's body. Cas ground his hips down against Dean, burying his victorious smile in Dean's neck when the hunter drew in a sharp breath at the friction. Castiel's very grace was thrumming, alighting with every touch of Dean's hands and screaming its desire to complete the bond.

"I'm going to touch you now," Cas said against Dean's neck. Dean nodded.

"Yes," he said, rolling his hips up against Cas's body. Cas moaned, loud and long, as Dean's erection rubbed just right against his own.

Cas put a hand on Dean's chest and cupped Dean's face with the other. He kissed Dean, hips starting to roll in a rhythm his body knew but with which Cas was unfamiliar. Dean's hands roamed freely as though trying to memorize the feel of every inch of Cas's skin. Dean's hands dipped low to grab Cas's ass and pull him in tighter, closer, fingertips sliding just into the cleft of Cas's ass. Cas moaned.

He let his Grace slip from his control, letting it seep between his fingers and from his lips to Dean's and sinking from his hands through Dean's flesh. Dean shuddered as the energy snapped along his skin, drawing his soul to the surface.

"You're beautiful," Cas said, watching as Dean's skin took on a subtle glow as his soul swelled with Grace. Dean was breathing heavily, sweat already sliding over his neck. Cas chased a drop with his tongue.

"Fuck, Cas..." Dean breathed. His hips were still rocking, but gently, because mere physical pleasure was secondary to the feeling of Cas's Grace wrapping around and through Dean. It felt like every nerve ending had come alive at once, bliss firing along every neuron, and Dean wanted more.

He'd been right. Being with Cas was going to ruin him for anything else. There was no feeling like this, nothing that could even compare, and Dean wanted more.

He slid one hand until he touched Cas's entrance. He circled a fingertip around the sensitive rim, his arousal spiking when Cas moaned and jerked into the touch.

"I want to be in you," Dean said, voice so low he hardly recognized it as his own. Cas kissed him, his Grace singing his consent directly against Dean's soul. Dean shuddered.

He'd brought lube with him, tucked into the pocket of his jeans, and he barely had time to wish he'd grabbed it and kept it within reach earlier before Cas was pressing it into his hand.

"Please," Cas said, completely unashamed as he spread his legs wider to give Dean's hand easier access. Dean quickly slicked two fingers up. His hands trembled in excitement.

He circled Cas's rim again with a wet finger, stroking up and down Cas's ribs with his other hand to encourage him to stay relaxed. Dean knew they were both so wound up they wouldn't last long, but he wanted to make this good for Cas. For Cas, he could take it slow.

He pressed in gently, feeling the muscles reluctantly spread around his finger. He pushed a little firmly and his finger sank up to the first knuckle.

Fuck, Cas was so tight.

"I won't break, Dean," Cas said. He rocked his hips slowly, letting Dean feel his erection on one side and taking more of Dean's finger on the other. Dean could feel his impatience.

The next few minutes passed in a haze of hungry kisses and the feel of Cas hot and tight around his fingers. Cas was practically writhing on Dean's lap, moaning softly every time Dean pumped first one, then two, then three fingers in and out of his hole, stretching the muscles. Dean applied more lube to his fingers, doing his best to keep himself under control as Cas's body and Grace moved against Dean without shame, asking him for moremoremore.

"Ready?" Dean asked, already squeezing a little more lube on his hand. He didn't wait for it to warm up before he spread it over his erection, hissing a bit as the cool liquid met heated flesh.

"Yes," Cas said, word breaking off into a groan as Dean lined himself up and began to slowly push in.

That first moment, as the head of Dean's cock pushed through the muscle and he slid home, was pure joy. Cas was literally aglow with it, his Grace agitated and spilling beyond his control. His wings were no better, twitching then stilling then moving erratically as Cas strove for some semblence of control.

Dean stopped for a moment to catch his breath. There was no way he was gonna last as long as he would like, not when Cas was this gloriously tight around him, not with the choked little noises Cas was making in the back of his throat.

"Dean, move," Cas ground out, wrapping his arms tightly around Dean's shoulders. Dean captured Cas's lips for another kiss, swallowing the moans the angel made as Dean began to thrust. Every shift of his hips sent a wave of pure bliss through him, echoed in the bond between them and returning magnified.

Everything was a blur, a hot mix of sensation and words that meant little said with a voice that meant everything. What finally brought Dean to the breaking point and made him come undone, though, was a tiny spot of cold and a pinch on his shoulder when Cas grabbed him. The ring he'd given Cas scraped over Dean's skin and Dean was gone.

He groaned Cas's name, loud and long, as he came, still jerking his hips to try and bring Cas over the edge with him. Dean's pleasure must have triggered something in Cas, though, because he was only seconds behind.

They collapsed into the Nest, sweaty and exhausted. Dean let himself just breathe for a minute, too warm and content to want to move. Still, as the bliss of orgasm faded, he knew he had to.

He pulled out of Cas with a groan, grinning when Cas made a noise that was half a sigh and half a protest. He could still feel Cas's Grace just beneath his skin, like a layer of warmth that was more emotional than physical.

"Can you clean us up?" Dean asked as he rolled onto his side to kiss Cas again. Cas returned the kiss lazily and though he didn't say a word, Dean felt a rush of sparks along his skin. Clean and comfortable once more, Dean wrapped his arms around Cas and tucked himself against the angel's side. "Thanks, Cas."

"Sleep well, Dean. I'll be here when you wake," Cas said. Dean let his eyes slide shut.

"Wake me up for round two," Dean murmured, already half-asleep before the end of his sentence. Cas chuckled lightly and wrapped a wing around Dean. Some of his feathers had fallen out during their lovemaking, but those could wait until his bondmate woke.