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November 1st

“Diamonds” - Rihanna

 

 

The lights shine in quick snaps, slashing bars of color that flash across faces, bodies, writhing all together to one beat. He sweats, his head pounds, but his mind is light in a way he’d never felt as a wavelength of celestial intent. Because he isn’t that anymore. Not anymore. Now, he is an impossible, indefinable thing. Mortal, if he had to guess, though he hadn’t bothered to test it, but not quite human. Stronger. More in tune with the elements, the veil, the essence of the universe beyond the tangible earthly plain. But he feels it all now. Hot, cold, hungry, horny. Overwhelmed. Sad, lonely, thirsty. Longing. He wants. He needs.

And he is free.

It’s been crippling. But not tonight. Tonight he’s going to be mortal. He’s going to imbibe and dance and sweat and be with people.

Castiel had never expressed himself to any great length in his millennium of serving the Host. His greatest act of self-definition had been joining Sam and Dean on their justified though seemingly endless endeavors to rid the world of evil. He regrets none of what he’s done in the service of what he thought was right. Now that he is small, frail, and finite he realizes that thinking too much on all he’d gotten wrong when he possessed nearly-infinite power would truly drive him insane. And Castiel had been insane before. He didn’t relish the idea of returning to a state of near catatonia due to guilt and denial. Making ham sandwiches while his friends planned their suicides.

No. Castiel couldn’t think too much about what he used to be. So he focuses on what he is. A creature that draws people to him with his alienness. It made them think he was special, attractive. Maybe he is - he had no way to know. But he is making a point to try things now. Now that he could feel and taste and have favorites. Tonight, he was dancing. If you could call it that. He’d had a whiskey neat, breathed in manmade chemicals at the hands of a handsome couple who had introduced him to the weightless, cotton-brained experience of intoxication. He is listening to barely discernible music in a dark with a room full of strangers who sway and writh and hold onto each other in an incredible tangle of human desire. A woman with dark eyes and soft limbs had closed her arms around his neck, danced close to his body, keeping his thigh snug between hers until he’d grown hard and dizzy, and until her friends, happy, riotous things with so much beautiful skin on display, had pulled her away with regretful smiles. He smiled back. Their happiness made him happy.

A man had held him from behind, hands anchored on his hips, rocking close, body hot against Cas’. Castiel rocked with him, with both of them, without thinking. The chemicals helped. Helped him not think. Helped him not acknowledge how much he didn’t know. Helped him take in the sea of iridescent constellations of souls that surrounded him, enveloped him. it was another side-effect of his mutant existence - he had retained the ability to see the human soul. But through human eyes, which was newly overwhelming.

It was beautiful, so beautiful that the first time he’d seen it with new nearly-human eyes, he’d all but ceased to function. He’d blinked awake, alive once again, and was met with the sight of Dean standing over him. Castiel had felt the foreign, hot moisture of tears in his eyes as he tried with desperation to look at all of Dean’s soul at once, to understand the impossible beauty of color and light and diamonds at the center of him. He’d reached up, placed a palm flat to the center of Dean’s chest, and struggled to breathe. The man, placed his hand over Castiel’s, but held himself back from doing anything further, watching Cas with confusion and curiosity. In the days after his return from the Empty, the sheer diversity and multitude of souls, in all their etherial beauty, was enough to keep him distracted and overwhelmed. He could hardly think. When he saw them, he felt them. Their power. In all their undiluted glory. And for the most part it filled him with wonder and awe and impossible affection for all of those attached to said souls. It got to be so much, that for a time he hid away. He locked himself into the bunker, even going so far as to avoid Sam and Dean.

Dean had finally snapped after two weeks of cabin fever and had confronted Castiel with a typical level of irritation and straightforward command to cut the shit. But Castiel’s newly compromised emotional state left him surprisingly shaken, shockingly hurt by Dean’s harshness. As a result, Dean sighed, defeated, apologized, and sat heavily beside him as Cas cried while clearly flummoxed as to why it was happening. In his tumult he attempted to explain the overwhelming enslaught of sensory information he faced when he saw into people’s souls and Dean had attempted to take it in stride.

He’d barely hidden his discomfort, a simultaneously endearing and infuriating self-consciousness when Cas confirmed that yes, he could see Dean’s soul too. He told Dean the truth, that he had a bias, a preference for Dean’s soul over others’. And Dean looked awed, before blinking it away, clearing his throat and joking that Castiel just hadn’t seen enough others yet.

That’s how Castiel had ended up here.

He couldn’t hide in the bunker forever. He needed to feel. Everything. All of it. The uncountable masses in all of their unique sparkling glory. Like an inoculation. He wanted to let it swallow him.

So he’d taken one of Sam’s credit cards, commandeered one of the Bunker’s vehicles, and driven to the nearest city. It was Saturday night and there was no shortage of human activity. He wandered from place to place, in a haze, until he’d met the handsome couple, who invited him to join them in “huffing poppers” and “dancing it up.” He didn’t know what it was but once the drugs started taking effect, he found himself not caring. Even when he realized he’d gravitated into the mass of starry cosmos of souls on the dancefloor, little glass bottle of poppers still in hand. He pocketed it and closed his eyes, just feeling.

It was uncomfortably loud, sticky hot, the bass thudding through his ribcage, and it was beautiful. They were all so beautiful. He decided to stay.

 

*

 

Dean’s heart thudded in his chest when he thought about all of the ridiculous shit that could befall a newly-human Cas in this neighborhood. He was gonna really tear him a new one. Castiel had spent weeks in the bunker, scared of his own shadow, glaring at the microwave and miscellaneously expressing profound thoughts about morality and the limited scope of effect most humans felt they had on the trajectory of history, fate and everything. Weeks of experimenting with various levels of undress and refusing to leave the shower for hours at a time and hovering weirdly in hallways and doorways and refusing to step outdoors and then this. Dean wishes he could say it was unbelievable that Castiel would just up and vanish, but in his meaner moments he believed that was the ex-angel’s M.O. When he couldn’t find him anywhere he informed Sam, who seemed all too calm with the idea that Cas maybe just needed to go out. Further irritated and starting to worry like a mother hen, Dean had gone down to the garage to jump into the Impala when he noticed a car missing.

“Son of a bitch,” he muttered, realizing Cas had probably gone much further than anticipated. Perhaps it had been a creepy idea, Dean wouldn’t argue against the fact, but he was extremely relieved in that moment to have turned on the tracking device in Cas’ phone and typed his own information in as the recovery device.

He tracked Castiel all the way to the city where he found the car, parked at the mouth of the block which housed all of the most well-traveled/worn bars and immediately assumed Cas had come downtown to get trashed. But the bars were empty of former Host of Heaven. When Dean’s phone finally kicked into gear and narrowed down the search, he tracked Cas to the warehouse-looking club on the corner. He was relieved there was no velvet rope, not that he wasn’t confident in his looks, but he knew he probably looked like a man on some sort of insane mission. He didn’t give off the same devil may care aura as he had in his younger years, when a smirk would have gotten him into literally anywhere. He was tired now, stressed beyond his years and war-torn and he wasn’t dumb. He knew it. He paid his cover and stepped into the sweltering darkness.

It’s sheer luck that he happens to glance to the right, out over the dancing masses, just as a beam of bright white light slashes out across them. And there he is, in the middle of all of it, swaying, eyes closed, face turned up. Dean can’t help but watch him. He seems... free. Every admonition dissipates on Dean’s tongue and suddenly, he is just happy to see him happy. More than anything, he needs to get to him. He elbows his way through the oblivious crowd and reaches out as soon as he is within reach, gripping desperately to Cas’ shirt.

Castiel turns to him, slow, eyes big and glassy, and fuck he just... smiles.

“Cas, you on something?”

Cas just smiles lazily. “Poppers. The effects are brief but... pleasant. It’s a manipulation of the blood vessels and soft muscle groups.”

“Sexy,” Dean jokes. But Castiel just continues to look at him and says, “Yes.”

They’re eyes lock for an amount of time Dean knows isn’t normal. He shakes himself out of his trance and looks around taking in the bacchanal display of carefree partying - bodies grinding to the beat. Men and women, women and women, men and... oh. Wow. They’re really into it. Dean blushes, turns back to Cas, who is still staring at him. He has to lean in close for Cas to hear him, and he feels when Cas is pulled as if by invisible magnet to him. “You like this? This place? The dancing?”

Cas just hums, and Dean pulls back just barely far enough to see his face. He looks flushed and sweaty, but pleased. Relaxed.

“They’re beautiful.”

“The people?”

Cas nods, smiling, “The souls. It doesn’t feel as... much now. I was overwhelmed.” He shrugs and the fact that Dean can feel the movement against his own shoulder sort of shocks him into the realization of how physically close they are. “I can show you,” is all the warning Dean gets before Castiel’s palms are framing his face, as though he would kiss him. Dean pointedly ignores the thumping of his heart and the fluttering in his stomach as Cas holds onto him, body swaying close to Dean’s, eyes closing in concentration.

Dean feels a warm tingling that spreads from his temples, into his hairline and across his scalp, down his spine and he shudders. He doesn’t know when he closed his eyes but when he blinked them open, he could not breathe. He wasn’t able. All around him, was a sea of clusters of etherial light - swirling, shimmering, pulsing clouds of colors that Dean could feel. Like seeing them had opened up the very essence of him, something that sparks in his core, and he could feel.

“This helps,” Cas tells him, dazed, and pulls a little glass brown bottle from his pocket. “It’s called poppers,” he states, so very Castiel, giving weight to the fact. And yeah, Dean has heard of it. When this night is over, he is really going to have to sit Cas down and talk to him about the nightmare he’d lived in faux-2014 and the drugged-up funhouse mirror version of Castiel that he is increasingly more terrified will come to be truth. He may have to also talk to him about the implications of a man offering another man poppers at a night club. But that was tomorrow’s predicament. For tonight? Fuck it. He hadn’t felt loose and weightless and dumb for the sake of it in years. Dean nodded, and his heart seized a bit when Cas, all loose-limbed and determined, closed in on him, encroaching on his personal space with his entire body, one hand anchoring to the back of Dean’s neck as he brought the little brown bottle up to Dean’s nose. Dean breathed deep, his eyes staying on Cas’ the whole time, and Castiel couldn’t be sure with the riotous swirl of color and light around him, but he thought he could see the moment those green eyes got dark. It robbed the breath from his chest.

Dean’s head went fuzzy and he felt his body go loose and relaxed so suddenly and in such a foreign and private way that his face flushed and he simultaneously felt mortified and wanted insane, inappropriate things done to him. By Cas.

He watches Cas take a delicate sniff for himself, feels him press in tighter to Dean’s body, pelvis first, and the dynamic is dizzying. Dean had always lead, and Cas had always followed. Now that Cas was newly mortal, Dean had assumed he would continue to lead. But here, now, Dean has no idea what they are doing. It’s utterly uncharted territory for them. But Castiel, he seems content.

So Dean follows.

They dance, if you can call it that. Their limbs tangling as they press together just barely, and mostly hug on the dance floor. There is occasional swaying or rocking but for the most part, they just relax, exist beside each other while the chaos of not-quite-mortality swirled like stardust around them. All the while Castiel kept his hands on Dean, to keep him seeing what he sees.

Castiel pulls back at one point, watches Dean a long silent moment, and then smiles lazily. Dean feels light and blissfully stupid, and he says, “What?”

Cas tilted his head to the side, “Yours is still the most beautiful.”

Dean can’t see his own soul but he can see Cas’. It isn’t like other people’s. It is pearl and opalescence with a shimmer of blue, dark blue. Like an oil slick. Dean reaches out, presses a palm to Cas’ chest, tries to touch that stardust. He can feel his heartbeat - or maybe it is the bass of the awful, trance-inducing dance music. Regardless, the face Cas makes when he realizes that Dean must being seeing something in him too, like it's just occurred to him that he has a soul, makes Dean pull him in tight. He rests his forehead on Cas’ shoulder, and they hold each other, surrounded by the undulating sparkle of humanity.

Chapter Text

November 2nd

“Run” by Snow Patrol, performed by Leona Lewis

 

His lungs ached. The air so cold it hurt seared with every panted breath. He could feel himself sweating through his waistcoat, the sweat freezing against his back. His thighs burned - he’s run for an hour from town. And he’s not there yet. Not yet. But he won't stop - he has to get to him.

“Brother, you’ve done yourself in now.”

Castiel stilled at the tone of his brother’s voice. All vehement warning and desperation. Gabriel was never desperate.

“Take this,” he handed Castiel his signature velvet bag. The one that kept his coins, all the money he had in the world. And Gabriel did love his money.

“Gabriel - what?”

“There isn’t time. You must go. Take it. Run.” Castiel merely blinked at him. “They will be coming for you next, brother, please.”

“Next?”

“Castiel, you cannot possibly have believed you could entertain this... buggery with Dean Winchester unnoticed and unchecked.”

Castiel felt his cheeks in flame. He had no shame in his love for Dean, but the thought that shared perversion was common knowledge terrified him. But something worse startles him about his brother’s words. “What have they done to Dean?”

“It’s too late for him, Castiel. They rode out nearly one half of an hour ago. Before they return for you you must- CASTIEL!”

His body carries him out the door and toward Dean before he can register he is moving. His heart is seizing in his chest, even as he hears his brother calling to him.

Since Castiel began running, the sun had set, the air had become crisp. But he was too terrified to pause, and he knew the way by heart, even by moonlight. He knew every step, every tree root, and he could feel that something was wrong.

He smelled it before he saw it - smoke. His breath puffing opaquely in the air before him is the only thing he can see as he pushes on, tripping in the underbrush in his desperation. Dense forrest and the corn crops beyond obscure his view of the house he’d come to know and love. Dean’s house. A sanctuary where they had first brushed hands, and eventually lips. Where Dean had touched him unabashedly, given Castiel bliss he couldn’t have imagined, and held him in the tortured hours after, when Castiel had known they would burn in hell. It was the house where he’d held Dean in his arms as he shook from screams, his sleep plagued with nightmares, memories of the war. Of limbs, and blood and friends cut down for who know’s why. And where, in the dark silence of an autumn night not unlike this one Dean had said that loving Castiel had been the only right thing in all he’d done. And where Castiel felt himself break apart into true vulnerability for the first time at those words. It was the house where Castiel had learned to love. And where they two had fantasized about a life shared.

But now he could smell smoke and his heart seized in his chest. Branches and brambles tore at his clothes and skin, corn stalks hitting his arms and legs and he bulleted through, falling through the other side to the open grass and faced with the sight of the house in flames. The window leading to Dean’s bedroom gone, a gaping char engulfed in flame. Somewhere through the smoke and heat and licking flame he could hear men’s voices, a chorus of cheers and hateful screaming, horses whinnying to get away from the heat. But he didn’t hear Dean. He tried to scream out for him, but there was ash on his tongue and invisible noose closing his throat. Smoke in his lungs, fire in his eyes, and the knowledge that his love was in that house broke him. He felt the frozen ground under his knees, the world going blurry as it tilted on it’s axis. His head throbbing - Dean is gone. Dean is gone.

Warm arms wrap around him suddenly, from behind, hefting him from the ground and pulling him back into the corn. He collapses in his discombobulation, turning on his assailant and raising a fist. But his body halts, frozen.

“Dean?” he can barely whisper.

The man is sooty and disheveled, but he’s here. He lives. Castiel lurches forward, wrapping the man in his arms, gripping his clothes hard, desperate, and all but screams into his shoulder. His body wracks with tears, or laughter, Castiel can’t be sure. He thinks this must be what it means to be hysterical.   

“We have to go,” Dean whispers, leads him by the hand.

Again, Castiel runs. This time with Dean at his side. They barely make it out of the county alive, but eventually a hop up onto a train car is their salvation,  takes them out of dodge. Finally resting, hay and burlap under their bums and a burlap scrap to cover them, they stare, silent, out of the open train car door into the night. Dark-stained sky, freckled with stars and so much open land. They watch it go by for a long time.

“My brother is out west,” Dean tells him quietly.

“Sam?”

He nods. “I... I told him. About you.”

Castiel’s heart skips a beat because that is dangerous, to say the least. But Castiel is profoundly moved to know that Dean would tell his little brother, who was once (and Castiel suspects, despite their distance, is still) his most beloved companion, about their darkest secret. The truth of their abnormal nature.

“He said there’s a lot of open land out west," Dean continues, soft but eager. "Even more than here. Got a piece of it for himself. Right on the edge of the city. He could use a hand. He says... he says we could go there.  We could farm the land while he opens his practice. Both of us.”

Castiel’s next breath exhales with a tremble. “So where are we going then, farmer?”

Dean smiles brilliantly, “Kansas.”

Castiel smiles back, then looks up at the stars. “Kansas.”

Dean moves in closer, presses to his side, and the train rolls on. Castiel should be afraid- he can't go back to his family, and a new territory is like a new world - but he feels Dean relax at his side, the rocking of the train lulling the man to sleep against him, and he finds he can’t be afraid. He’s hopeful.

 

Chapter Text

November 3rd

“Honey” by Joe Iconis, performed by Jason “SweetTooth” Williams

 

The way Dean strolls into the place, after hours, right past the unlit OPEN sign and right up the the bar, his bar, used to not bother him. It used to make his finger tips tingle and his heart zing. But not tonight. No, tonight Dean had practically fallen out the door with some beautiful bronze creature with silky black hair and a wicked smirk and he’d had the audacity to throw a wink at Castiel, over his shoulder, as she pulled him away.

And now, here he was. Back with swagger.

And Castiel has stopped himself from crying so many times over moments just like this, that he doesn’t even feel the inclination anymore. No, now he thinks of Dean’s hand on her hips and his bottom lip caught in his teeth as he watches her and his blood boils.

Dean whistles and Cas wants to throw a pint glass at him. 

“Good night?” Castiel baits, jaw tight, body tense. But Dean is either oblivious or teasing as usual, because he merely straddles a barstool, collapsing against it, and waggles his eyebrows.

“Oh yeah.”

Castiel throws down the bar rag, punching out a gravelly, “Great.”

“Ohhhhhkay,” Dean squints at him warily. “You ok?”

Castiel laughs bitterly. “Well I’m not doing as well as you.”

“The hell does that mean?”

“Why do you come here?” Castiel faces him suddenly, glaring with hard blue eyes. There’s a cruel satisfaction he gets from the shocked, unsteady look on Dean’s face. “There’s plenty of places in town to get a hook-up. Are you determined, specifically, to get your dick into every single one of my patrons?”

“Woah! What the fuck?”

“Do you have some sort of tally going? Do you get them all with the same bullshit - the smirking and the fucking ridiculous pick-up lines. Oh, here’s a question: do you whisper in all their ears when you come, how much you need them and oh how fucking good they feel? Or is it just my life you’re trying to ruin with that shit?”

Dean blinks, astonished, and there’s a little betrayal there for a moment. Something that looks dangerously close to hurt. But he stiffens up, an angry blush rising to his cheeks, effectively covering it. Which is good, because Castiel was nearly tempted to feel bad.

“‘S a free country Cas. I’m clearly free to fuck or not fuck whoever I want.”

And that hurts. Because it’s the fact that Cas was not chosen that hurts so much more than Dean exercising his ability to get laid literally any time by nearly any one. It’s the fact that Cas was right there in front of him, and that Dean felt free for anyone else.

Castiel chokes down his jealousy, his hurt, and laughs coldly. “You know Dean, in every love song there’s the love interest, the one the singer is imploring to look their way, and there’s the fuckboy. You know, the one that always lets the love interest down, doesn’t treat them right. Loves and leaves and all that typical unfeeling alpha-male fuckboy bullshit. The disastrous mistake before the singer comes along and actually appreciates them. And in our song, Dean, you’re not the romantic interest. And you’re not the singer. You’re the fuckboy.

Every night you come in here and you flash me a smile and you look at me those fucking eyes and you know - you fucking know - what you’re doing to me. But then you leave with someone else. Like... like you enjoy tearing me apart. Like you’re flaunting it - that you could have anyone and you will.”

Castiel’s ears are ringing from the pent up frustration vibrating through his body and the adrenaline of lashing out. He picks his rag back up and keeps wiping the bar, so hard he might take the polish right off.

Dean’s voice is low and angry, “Wow, Cas. Just... wow. That’s what you think?”

“That’s what I know.” He flips the bar pass-through up and stalks away.

But Dean doesn’t take the hint and leave. He shoots up off of the barstool and follows.

“Cas - wait hold up! You know what, no.” Dean plants himself in front of him. “This is bullshit. We only had a one night stand because when I woke up in the morning you were fucking gone. And when I came in to talk to you, you acted like,” he shrugs bitterly, “nothin’. You acted like we hadn’t done anything different than any other night. Like I hadn’t said shit to you that I never... So you know what, fuck you. Because I came in here like a fucking stalker every night for two fucking weeks, just hovering around you, totally pathetic, and you wouldn’t give me the time of day. So yeah, I found someone else.”

“Everyone else.”

“Is that the problem? You’re mad because, what? I’m a slut? Newsflash Cas, that’s exactly how you treated me. You fucked me and then left without a goddamn word. You didn’t even look at me twice when I came in here the next day. Or the next. Or the next, like a clingy dumbass. I mean, christ - what else was I supposed to do!?”

“I just followed your common practice, Dean. Or what I’ve heard of it.”

“Oh so what now, you’re gossiping about me?”

“I can’t throw a rock or serve a drink without hearing how good a dicking someone got-”

“And that makes you think I treat people like shit!?” Dean throws his arms out. “I’m not an asshole! I don’t trick people into fucking me by like... promising them eternal love or anything. Jesus. They’re just no-strings bar hook-ups.”

Cas laughs bitterly, his heart in his throat at those words. Just a hookup. Dean was never that to him.

“If you’d really asked around,” Dean tells him, voice edgy, “you would have realized a few things, Cas. I don’t bring people home. And I certainly don’t fucking bottom for any random douchebag I pick up in a bar.”

Castiel’s heart seizes at the enslaught of memories - keying into Dean’s house, falling into Dean’s bed, the, dare Castiel think, tentative way Dean had spread his legs beneath him.

“But I guess you heard what you needed to hear, huh?” Dean continues, voice raised and bitter. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do here, Cas, but if you’re trying to make it seem like I played you, just remember that I asked you over, I asked you to stay the night, I told you all that shit about...” He huffs, frustrated. “You know what, it’s not even that you left or that you never decided to man the fuck up and tell me that you wanted more. It’s the fact that years, fucking years of being friends, and you really think that I’m some heart-breaking slut. Running around lying about how much I care to get into people’s pants. Your pants. My best friend. You thought I’d fucking play you to get laid? You really fucking believed that.”

His eyes are round with anger and glassy with something can’t even stomach to think about because all of a sudden, he feels like shit. He feels awful from his feet up. In unbearable flashes he recalls years of laughter and long talks and shared predicaments. He remembers holding onto Dean’s bicep at his Uncle’s funeral when Dean was afraid he might collapse for grief and he didn’t want anyone to see him stumble. He thinks of the way he’d watched Dean frolic meaninglessly with men and women he barely knew, and how over time it had twisted his heart into a writhing tangle of jealously and want and anger.

Then he remembers how Dean had gasped in his ear, the one and only time they had touched. How he’d gasped his name and held him so tight, fallen asleep holding him just as tight, a content smile on his beautiful face.

And suddenly, Cas thinks he might have been wrong about a lot of very important little moments.

He looks at Dean, really looks at him. Sees his clenched fists and his embarrassed blush and his teary, hard eyes.

“Oh shit.” He states, in awe. “You care about me.”

Dean’s mouth falls open. He stares, blinks, and then huff angrily and all but yells, “Are you fucking kidding!?”

Castiel waves him off, “No - of course, I know you care. But... you... I never thought you might have felt... the way I wanted you.”

Dean looks all at once baffled and heartbroken. “If you wanted me, why didn’t you... I mean I followed you around like a puppy. I used all my best moves - I flirted like I was trying to win the olympic gold and you just... froze me out. I thought...” He looks down, his voice gets low and shaky, “I though you thought I was a mistake. That you... didn’t like me... in bed. Or, like, you just wanted to do it to have done it, and then you were finished with me.”

Cas swallows and finds it strangely difficult. His heart aches in his chest. “You thought...?” He drags both of his hands down his face. “I just assumed - I didn’t think that you’d want anything more from me. I... I assumed, since you’d never noticed how much I... I figured you’d just want to keep it... simple. But I knew if I stayed, if I woke up beside you in the morning and asked you to breakfast either I’d fall hopelessly in love with you or, you’d say no and I’d be... crushed. I was trying to keep distance because I didn’t think I could take it. Knowing how it felt to have you, flirting with you over the bar all night just to watch you go home with someone else.”

“I never wanted to go home with someone else!”

Then why did you!?

“I don’t - I don’t fucking know!

Dean paws at his face as quickly as he is able, but Castiel sees the tear fall anyway. And even though he’s mad and jealous and confused, he still feels his heart ache underneath it all.

“I don’t know,” Dean says again, voice low and hard. He’s looking away from Cas, eyes cold, but Cas knows him well enough to see through it. He sees Dean’s hurt, his confusion. But then suddenly Dean explodes, his voice loud and angry and it startles Castiel. “It’s what I’ve always done when I feel like shit!”

Completely un-cheekily, Castiel pans, “I had no idea you felt like shit so often.”

Dean glares at him for a long moment before realizing that Cas isn’t making a dig. Of course he’s not. He’s just being Cas. Dean shrugs, his cheeks burning.

“Sex has always just been... something I’m good at.”

“I won’t disagree,” Castiel states flatly.

Dean chuckles, and the real smile that graces his lips for just a moment pulls Castiel right back into the same endless torrent of impossible devotion that he’s been trapped in since they met. Because when Dean smiles, really smiles - not a smirk or a cheeky grin, but a truly honest expression of real happiness - it’s transformative. It’s beautiful, and it warms Castiel’s whole being from the chest out.

“I’m not good at very much. I guess it just... felt good to be what someone needed. Even if it was just for a little while. To make someone feel good. But you, Cas...” He shuffles on his feet, and Castiel unknowingly leans closer. “You made me feel good.” Castiel gravitates closer to him, he can’t help himself. “I thought maybe I hadn’t... been good enough. When I was with you, it was the only time I wasn’t trying so fucking hard. When you didn’t want to see me again I thought I must have been too...I thought I must not have been any good. When I was just... being me.”

“You were perfect,” Castiel is telling him before he can stop himself.

Dean’s eyes meet his, all round surprise and hopefulness and vulnerability and Castiel cannot deal with that.  “Fuck,” he mutters, covering his face with his hands. He takes a deep breath, and steadies himself before looking at Dean fully. “Ok, here is the truth. Undiluted as it can be.” Dean blinks, looks nervous, but Castiel pushes on. “I hate seeing you with other people. I hate it, because I’m jealous. I’m jealous, because I wish I were the one with you. Because I love you, Dean. I have for... I don’t even know. In my bitterest moments I think, I know you better than anyone else. I want you to stop wasting your time, giving yourself over and over to people who don’t ‘make you feel good’. None of them love you like I do. So, i just want to tell you, I believe that you’re the only one for me.”

Dean blinks, as if he cannot fully process what Castiel has said. They stand in silence for several long moments, Dean just staring at him blankly.

“I’m done,” Castiel tells him. “That was it.”

Silence.

“Oh - and,” Castiel looks away, embarrassed, “you’re not a fuckboy. You’re the love interest. I shouldn’t have said that, I just - you make me insane but that’s not your fault. I’m sorry.”

Dean swallows loudly but manages to say, “Shouldn’t I be saying that?”

Castiel sighs, “I don’t know,” and he sounds exhausted.

“L-love, Cas? Really? You love me? like... for real?”

Castiel rolls his eyes, exasperated, but nods.

Huh,” Dean plays it off cheekily with a smile, but his eyes are shining. He steps in close to Cas, “I never meant to rub it in your face, Cas. I just... I came here because it was where you were. All I’ve wanted for years is just, to be as close to you as I can. I’ll be here every night, if it’s where you are.”

“Yes, I would like that. But, perhaps from now on you leave with me? It would... simplify things.”

“It would, wouldn’t it?”

Chapter Text

November 4th

"Hotel California" - The Eagles

 

“So get this,” Sam clears his throat, “this place is the only hotel between the two cities on this stretch of highway. After all the farming communities and indusrty dried up during the great depression, it seems like everything even close to this area closed up shop, the people all moved on. There’s literally nowhere else to stop.”

“And these missing people, we got nothin’? No bodies no sightings?”

“Far as we can tell everyone gets within fifty miles of this place and just,” Sam snaps, “disappears.”

“Ah so it’s a Hotel California situaion we’re dealin’ with, huh? You can check out but you can never leave?”

Sam snorts, “Looks that way.”

“K, so, what’re we thinking?”

“Well, there’s nothing specific in the history, that I can find. Short of anything that’s collecting courses for dinner, honestly... I’m not sure.”

“Really pissed off spirit? Like an HH Holmes deal?”

Sam shrugs, “Guess we’ll just be ready for anything.”

Dean’s grip tightens on the wheel, “Oh good.”

The Impala is sleek as ever as she cruises into one of the multitude of open parking spaces. The telltale creak of her doors opening and the following slam is followed by an eerie silence as Sam and Dean hesitate at the rear of the car. The two men both stare up at the horizon, the looming structure of the hotel and the unnaturally lit sky behind. An unearthly pink haloes the hotel’s roof, backlighting it.

“Sam?”

“Yeah.”

“...What time is it?”

Sam looks down at his watch, then up, warily, at the glowing sky. “Two thirty.”

“Yyyeah, not creepy at all.”

Sam adjusts his shoulders, raising his eyebrows in agreement.

They share a look, and step froward toward the hotel.

Chapter Text

November 5th

"Volcano" - Damien Rice

 

He’s beautiful. Beautiful, and young. Too young. He has flashing smiles and wide eyes and when Castiel kisses him, holds him a little too hard, the boy shivers.

“I’m twenty six, dude,” he says one night, perusing Castiel’s book collection with an effortless nonchalance. He’s gifted that way. His limbs are loose, his posture easy, as though he doesn’t have a care in the world.

It’s not the only reason Castiel is enamored with him. Not by a mile. But it’s enticing. He doesn’t think he’s ever felt the way Dean does; that his skin, his movement, his life, are his own, naturally. Castiel has always felt one wrong move away from punishment and disaster. Ease was trained, beaten, into him. It’s false confidence, though no less attractive, he’s learned. But he doesn’t hold a candle to Dean, he knows this instinctively. The man is bold as brass in his leather jacket and carefully messy dark blonde hair. Hard edges and words completely unthought out, bold movement and confidence.

But he trembles when Castiel holds him. And that is... torturous.

Everything Dean is, is the kind of imperfect beauty Castiel couldn’t have planned in more perfect detail. And Dean opens to him so wonderfully, so sweetly, so reluctantly even as he begs. It is only torture, because in those moments Dean is the realest thing Castiel has ever witnessed, and yet everything Castiel is, is utter falsehood.

He offers little of himself but what can be touched, kissed, worshipped by rough, freckled hands. And everything he offers, Dean takes greedily.

Castiel had tried, he tries still, to break it off. He knows nothing good can come of his ever-increasing fascination with this man. But Dean is more clever than Castiel anticipated. Of course he is.

“I know you ain’t some simple travelin’ salesman, Cas,” he’d said, pinning him with serious green eyes. “I know, whatever you are, it probably ain’t pretty.” Cas had merely stared at him, awed by his intuition. And terrified. “Takes one to know one,” Dean shrugged.

There hadn’t been many words after that, not until Dean was leaving bruises in the shapes of his fingers and Castiel was deep inside. “I’m not what you need,” Cas had growled into the skin below his ear. “What I am, here with you - it isn’t real.”

Dean hadn’t said anything at the time, but then, Castiel had been aiming for incoherence when he’d angled his hips.

It wasn't until later, when Dean was sitting on the edge of the bed that he spoke up. “You’re here,” Dean had stated, his back to him, “so you’re real.” He’d dressed and left, Castiel sitting completely still, frozen in uncertainty for the first time in thirty years.

After that, he’d tried simply cutting him out. Like a cancer. One that would undoubtedly kill them both. But Dean was stubborn. He’d shown up with hard eyes and an angry blush and it had done absolutely nothing to make him less intoxicating to Castiel, who had merely straightened his back and moved aside to let him in.

“So, what? You’re tellin’ me you’re a bad man?” Dean argues, after the fourth unfeeling dismissal by Castiel, the final one garnering an edge of threat.

Castiel fixes him with an unmoving, blue stare. “You don’t need me to tell you that.”

“You’re right. I don’t. ‘Cause I know bad, Cas. I see it when I look in the mirror.”

Cas doesn’t mean to huff a sarcastic laugh, it’s condescending. But he can’t help it. This freckled creature standing before him, all drearily blinking lashes and pink lips and oblivious attitude wrapped in ripped jeans and soft t-shirts... this was nothing bad.

“You’re young.”

Dean’s eyes flash. “Not too young, though, huh?” he challenges. But Castiel stays firm. He stays taut and cold and distant. Even as Dean keeps himself loose and charming, even if his words are angry. “Not too young to put a bullet in you. Not too young to put you at the end of my knife.”

Castiel prides himself on his impenetrable nerve. His steadfast aloofness has kept him successfully above goading his entire career. But with Dean... Dean is... infuriating. Impossible. He gets under Castiel’s skin. In ways that Castiel had long believed himself immune to. But here he is, hands fisted, heart pounding, muscles itching for action. “Careful, boy.”

Dean’s eyes flare, his jaw ticks. He doesn’t like that, the nickname. Interesting.

“Well come on then, Cas,” his voice has dipped lower, rougher, and it tingles in Castiel’s spine. “Show me how incapable I am.”

It’s a long moment, tense, that they stand there. And when Dean lunges it is impressively fast, but he still telegraphs it. Castiel sidesteps him easily. They exchange deflected blows in a violent dance, and Castiel can taste the younger man’s frustration. He’s working, planning, and Castiel can see it all on his face. Moves with him, around him, oh so easily despite Dean’s obvious skill. It’s Dean’s frustration that ultimately undoes him. He moves too quickly, too confidently, and does not anticipate Castiel when he strikes back with full force, out-maneuvers him using his own weight against him until Dean is thrown back against a wall, pinned.

Again, he’s good. He uses all of the best techniques to free himself. But Castiel is better. Castiel is the best.

But of course, Dean doesn’t know this.

And now Castiel’s heart is thudding, heavy in his chest, his brain sparking and spinning. His knife is in his hand before he can register moving to retrieve it, a reflexive motion ingrained in his body. Cas presses the blade to his throat, feels his body tense, sees his throat work. He should just kill him now. He’s special, and special is dangerous. Castiel isn’t permitted special. But... he can’t.

He’s familiar now. He’s the loose-limbed, mischievous, hungry boy that fills silences and eats all his food and tosses Castiel’s most precious knives around with carefree ease and unsettling skill. He’s the one with the smirk and the soft lips and the scars they don’t talk about and the endless lexicon of lyrics and movie quotes. He’s a living, breathing, laughing lifeline to a world Castiel hasn’t known... ever.

Dean just barely whispers his name, and that’s all it takes. The blade clatters against the floor and Castiel releases his hold in favor of pressing his body to Dean’s and crashing their lips together. From the groan he receives and the way Dean wraps his arms immediately around Castiel’s body, Castiel assumes Dean has not been so effectively frightened away from him.

Castiel fucks him against that wall. Memorizes the sounds he makes, the way he moves, and can’t help but kiss him and kiss him and kiss him. That night, Dean doesn’t laugh it off when he stays. For once, he doesn’t collapse into Cas’ bed with a fuck you, I’m tired and a joke. There is no subterfuge when he climbs, naked under the blankets and carefully winds himself around the older man.

And Castiel shouldn’t. He shouldn’t. Because he’s not a good man, because he’s older and meaner, because of what he is. But Castiel holds him, kisses him like they haven’t already done all they can for the night. He watches him soften into sleep, eyelashes fluttering, completely helpless, unguarded in Castiel’s arms. He shouldn’t, but he falls asleep holding Dean against himself, feeling terrifyingly content.

Chapter Text

November 6th

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" - performed by Marilyn Manson

 

It’s a sound that would have irked him before. Now he relishes it. Blade-tip against the concrete walls of the Bunker. He drags it as he walks, unhurried, through halls that used to be home. The Mark burns on his forearm, hungry, instigating.

The red emergency lights bathe him, their blood flush washing out everything in the place, leaving it dim and without contrast. But it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t need light to see anymore. Just like he doesn’t need to eat, or sleep, or breathe, or see Sam and Cas and know they're ok.

Sam is probably awake by now. Afterall, it was Dean who had done such a good job keeping him war-ready. He trained him into a light sleeper. Yeah, Dean could feel it - Sam was up, moving about. Dean could smell his uneasiness, his fear, at waking to find the Bunker plunged into darkness. Dean didn’t really need to give them the advantage of such a warning, but the Mark had given him cause to indulge in dramatics. Why not play with them a little. Sam would be tough. But Dean could end him.

His body shuddered, something deep inside searing at the thought, but the Mark screamed on his arm. He shook it.

He would work up to Sam. He could do it. He would do it. But first... he closed his eyes, reached out with his mind. There were so many skills that had come to him so easily once he’d let them soak in. Ah, there he was - pathetic nearly-mortal shell of a former angel, sleeping in one of their guest rooms, none the wiser. Dean smirked.

It was nothing, to navigate his way through these halls silently, or even to open Castiel’s door, and find himself at the end of his bed.

He slept. It was... odd. Castiel, once God, fellow blasphemer, who had always held such power over Dean. Castiel the etherial warrior of Heaven. Here he slept, soft and warm and unawares. How easy it would be, in nearly unlimited ways, to end him right here and now.

Dean’s insides twinged and he shuddered again, but he pushed it down. The Mark sang, resonating with the echo of Castiel’s true self. It was intoxicating; Dean swayed on his feet, felt his eyes going black. He climbed, gentle as anything, over the prone form of the angel, a knee on either side of him. When Castiel stirred, Dean’s heart thudded - he wanted to be seen. He wanted to scare him. Castiel blinked sleepily up at him, processing everything in a fraction of a split second. He reached under his pillow and was nearly too fast for Dean to intercept, but when he did he came away with Cas’ throat in one hand, and his angel blade in the other.

“Now Cas,” he purred, “is that any way to great your old war pal?”

“Dean,” he grunted warningly. But Dean merely laughed. It was so ridiculously easy, pinning him down, hurting him. The idea of Cas chastising him was hilarious. “If you’re here to kill me, do it,” Cas barely gritted out.

Dean smirked. “I haven’t decided yet,” he teased. He flipped the angel blade around in his hand, testing the weight. “Mm.”

“Dean,” he said more softly. Enough so that Dean was caught a little off guard, looked down at him with human eyes. “I know you’re still there.”

“Course I’m here Cas,” he said with cruelly false regretful emotion. He searched Cas’ eyes until he saw that little spark of hope light, then he smirked again. Blinked his eyes black. “Can’t you feel me?” he joked, voice dangerously low as he ground his body down onto Cas’. Castiel’s little gasp at the movement lit Dean’s insides up and he bit his lip, staring big black eyes down at him.

“Dean, don’t,” Castiel warned.

“You know,” he whispered breathily in Castiel’s ear, shifting so that he held Castiel’s wrist to the mattress, “I get real tired of bein’ told what to do all the time.” He sat up, straddling Castiel, flipping the angel blade between his fingers. “There isn’t anyone left who can give me orders, Cas. So we’re gonna do whatever I want. Maybe we’ll play with his pretty thing,” he dragged the blunt end of the blade down Castiel’s throat.

Out of what Dean assumed was fear, Castiel clutched Dean’s wrist, with his free hand. He was nervous, Dean could taste that. But there was a look of defiance in his eyes that irked him.

NOW,” he yelled, at the same time that he slid his thumb up under Dean’s sleeve and brushed his skin against the Mark. It was like sparks lighting in his veins and his back arched at the sudden touch, as he felt magic at his back. He threw a black glare over his shoulder and saw his brother behind him, in the doorway hand slapped over blood spellwork. He read from a dusty old tome Dean didn’t recognize and the words made him scream in rage - it felt like his bones were shifting under his skin.

The enslaught was too much and he screamed, he heard lightbulbs exploding overhead, and Castiel’s voice commanding Sam, “Don’t stop!

Dean looked down at him, the angel gripped his hand over the cursed Mark tighter, and Dean felt his body shake.

In a quiet grumble he was sure no one else could have heard, Castiel said, “I will save you, Dean. I will save you.” With the Mark dampened, Dean’s insides sparked and writhed and tingled, all but begged Yes, yes - save us. Save us again.

Everything went black.

*

Dean awoke in the dungeon. He was chained, hands behind his back. He blinked awake and looked around, his eyes coming into focus on a figure, impossibly still, and so familiar. With nothing better to do, and no sense that these bonds would be breakable anytime soon, Dean flashed black eyes and chuckled. But the figure didn’t move. He was determined, righteously determined, and Dean could taste it in the air. The only response Dean received for his defiance was a familiar steadfastness.

“Hello Dean.”

Chapter Text

Nov 7th

"Sign of the Times" - Harry Stiles

 

 

Cas is leaden, nearly boneless on the futon as Dean stomps, humorless around the shack they call a cabin. He's building up to something, and the barometric pressure of Dean Winchester's angst has always made Castiel's nose tingle. 

They'd lost someone. It's not new. They lose someone all the time. That's the thing about living in the world after it's ended - humans get shredded easily. No one takes it harder than Dean. He plays it off because he thinks a lack of emotion is strength and Castiel understands that. Of course he understands. So well, that the irony of the who clusterfuck has sent him into drug-feuled hysterics more than once. Because of fucking course, Dean has evolved to being as efficient and cold as Castiel had been the day they met. It's not funny, really. Castiel scratches his beard and reflects on the idea that the detachment keeps sane. But only to a point, he realizes now, as he turns lazy blue eyes up just in time to catch Dean flip a chair and put his fist, repeatedly, through the mirror. 

"We’re all doomed these days," Castiel drawls easily, even as Dean pants, knuckles dripping. "It’s hardly something to break glass about. Unless you’ve suddenly inherited the skill of mirror-making. Consider them a luxury in short supply.”

He licks the blunt-wrap he;s been working on and rolls the joint together with the expertise of a skill repeated into perfection. He looks up when Dean says nothing. Castiel sits back heavily, squinting at him.

“You’re constipated aura is very... heavy.”

Dean swallows. “We’re gonna die.”

Castiel’s eyebrows raise in surprise and it’s the most emotion Dean’s seen out of him in years. Then, miraculously, he smiles. It’s a big, cheeky thing and his voice is deep, reverberating as he chuckles. He twists the blunt in his fingers, searching his pockets for a lighter.

“That’s funny?”

“In a way,” Cas shrugs easily.

Dean gapes.

Castiel looks up at him again. “Dean,” he states clearly, “we’re human,” he says gently, his smile almost watery. “It’s our purpose to die. To live, and then die. It's a gift, not to breathe forever.”

“Easy for you to say-”

“Is it?”

Dean sighs, shifting his weight in frustration. “You don’t - it isn’t -”

“Come,” Cas pats the futon beside him.

Dean squints warily, but ultimately sits.

“There are no more tricks for us to play, Dean. No more magic. No more help from upstairs. Whatever happens now, it’s of our own, exclusively mortal making. I think there’s a kind of beauty in that.”

Dean huffs, shakes his head angrily. “Beauty. Like what happened to Mitchell. Watching Reesa get her throat torn out. That poor kid from the urban sector that got bit, only we didn’t know so we brought the poor thing all the way back here, put him through that whole fucking trek to watch him burn up and go... TO PUT A FUCKING BULLET IN HIM ANYWAY!? That’s all BEAUTIFUL?”

Cas merely stares at him, but not cowed, not even surprised. He merely looks at him like an expectant therapist, like he’d known Dean needed to scream and feels a catharsis from seeing it happen.

Dean’s hands shake, and he doesn’t know when he let that tear sneak out but he feels it drying on his cheek. “All these people’s lives are in my hands and I can’t... I can’t do anything. I can’t save them.”

“I know,” Cas tells him sadly. He brushes a hand through Dean’s hair. “You are kind, Dean. Elementally. At your core. You’d have to be. To do this.”

“Cas,” his voice breaks, “I have to fucking get out.”

“Oh Dean,” he continues to stroke his hair. “There is no getting out this time. I don’t know why we’re always stuck, trapped in the worst case scenario, laying our souls and lives down for humanity. It’s how you’re made, I suppose. And one day, maybe everything will change and the world will be... better. But I’m not waiting for it. There are so few human moments left. We have a moral imperative to indulge.”

Dean blinks at him, then very nearly smirks. “Did you just give me the last night on earth speech?”

Castiel smiles, “Would it have worked?”

Dean chuckles, pawing the trail of saltwater away from his cheek and mumbling sorry.

“If you didn’t cry in these times I’d assume you were a demon. Or Michael.”

Dean laughs once, “That would probably be better.”

“No,” Cas shakes his head, “it’s always better that you’re you.”

Dean doesn’t know what to do with that - the blatant affection in Cas’ voice. “So, what’s your advice for keeping me from going Guano?”

“You won’t like it.”

“I don’t like anything anymore.”

Cas cocks his head in agreement. “You should open up. Before it’s too much... You know Dean, we don’t talk enough.” Dean shoots him a salty look. “You ground me,” Cas admits and Dean rolls his eyes. “And I lighten you.”

The way Cas states it, knowing it’s true, knocks Dean off balance. So much so, that when Cas leans in, he just blinks at him. When their lips brush it’s... weird. It’s familiar in a way that it shouldn’t be and heart-sparkingly new in a way that heats him up. It’s just barely a touch, but Cas is sure of himself, smiling when he pulls back a moment later.

“Cas - what’re’ya doin’?” Dean whispers practically against Cas’ lips.

“Banging a gong.”

Dean grimaces. He looks adorably put-out. But Castiel laughs and it’s full and rough and it shivers Dean’s spine.

The gong,” Cas corrects. “You’re the thing I’ve died for Dean,” he admits easily, like it doesn’t nearly crack Dean’s chest open. “You’re what I lived for.”

When Dean surges forward, the next kiss is less hesitant, to say the least. Later Dean will laugh, for the first time in years, when Cas glares at him over ratty blankets as he discovers the torn remnants of his crushed joint under the pile of their combined clothes. And Dean will realize, that it's the end, and he's glad he's only human. He's glad Cas' furrowed brow and rumbling discontent make him feel something. He remembers, 

it's worth it.

Chapter Text

November 11th

"I’m Going Down" - Mary J Blige

 

 

Sam could probably hum the baseline by heart at this point. He’s already done so with the horn line while he was making lunch yesterday and was pretty impressed with himself. He’s not a great singer but there’s something inherently helpful in repetition. A lesson he’s learned oh so friggin’ well at this point.

He’s hovering awkwardly at the end of the hall, still in his pajamas. He sighs heavily, rolling his shoulders before he works up the nerve to head into what is guaranteed to be a bizarrely awkward situation. When he knocks on Dean's bedroom door he’s certain the soulful tones of Mary J Blige have drowned out the sound, but moments later the door open. Sam is actually surprised to Castiel looking much the same as usual - dress shirt, slacks, no tears in his eyes, no heartbroken weariness to him. If anything, he looks extremely alert, almost irritated that Sam has intruded upon him.

“Yes?”

“Hey Cas... uh, how ya doin’ in here?”

“I’m fine, Sam. What do you need?”

“Oh - no, I don’t need anything. I was just... checking in.”

Cas squints, tilts his head.

“You’ve uh, been in here since he left.” The squint intensifies and Sam is quick to continue, “It’s just, you’ve been listening to this song on repeat for like, two days and you’ve locked yourself in here and I just want to make sure that you’re, you know... alright.”

There’s a tense moment before Castiel sort of deflates, his body letting go of the tightness of the angel’s stance and melting into the familiar slouch of Cas. His squint softens into downturned, almost sad avoidance. Sam is all at once relieved and heartbroken.

“I am concerned that I have made a grave error. Again. As usual.”

“Ok, you wanna tell me what happened?”

Cas shifts his weight and it’s so human that Sam can’t help but smile a bit; he’s glad Cas doesn’t notice.

“I was... I suppose I was rude to him. We had a quarrel.”

Sam snorts a laugh at the word choice and says, “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad, Cas.”

Cas furrows his brows at him and snarks, “Are you?”

Sam’s eyebrows shoot up - Cas has become weirdly adept at being extremely salty. His penchant for sarcasm is a little unsettling. “What did you say?”

Cas looks ashamed then, won’t meet his eyes. “You won’t forgive me.”

“Cas-”

“I told him that I was glad we couldn’t reopen the rip. I told him that the loss of your mother was something that I would willingly accept if it meant not losing him, either of you, to that place. I... I said that I would stop you, from eliciting Jack’s help.”

Sam stares at him, Cas stares back warily, knowing he’s hurt him but not understanding what the right thing is to say or do next.

“Wow, ok... uh...” Sam clears his throat. “You know, Cas, Mom’s always been a blindspot for us. Losing her the first time - I mean that was the catalyst for our entire lives. Hunting and this crazy destiny - you. We never imagined we’d get her back. And when we did it was... it wasn’t what Dean... It’s been difficult. Dean’s been so turned around, spinning his wheels, and losing her again was like, the universe had snatched the gravity right out from under us. I knew he wanted to save her but he couldn’t say so, he couldn’t dare believe that there was a chance because if it was all for nothing?” Sam shakes his head, “It’d wreck him. Making him believe, forcing him onto the save mom train, that’s on me. But taking that hope away after he’d just accepted a glimmer of it?”

Castiel looks sad, but it only lasts for a moment. He corrects his posture and states clearly, “I’m not sorry that I don’t want to lose him, both of you, to that place. I won’t apologize to him for wanting to keep him alive.”

“I know, and I appreciate that. But... when have you ever known us to give up on something like this?”

Castiel sighs. “I know. That’s why I became so incensed. There’s nothing I can do to make him listen! He’s already made up his mind. He has no idea - no concept - of the horror I feel at the thought of him trapped there, or forever in the empty. I can’t stand it and it makes me... scared,” he grimaces as though he doesn’t comprehend it. “Irrational.”

“Welcome to humanity,” Sam jokes.

Cas smiles sadly at him, but it soon sours. “He’s gone. As soon as he left I... I wanted to say I was sorry and...” he flashed bashful eyes to Sam before saying more to the floor that to Sam, “I miss him? I can’t seem to control it,” he admits as though it’s the most frustrating thing in the universe.  "Longing, regret. This,” he presses a palm to his chest, “heartache. It's baffling. Consuming. I want to tell him I’m sorry, even though I’m not. Just so he’ll come back.”

“I guess that’s love.”

Castiel merely hmm’s sagely. “Music helps.”

“I can tell.”

“Mary J, her name is.”

“Yeah,” Sam laughs a little, “I recognize it.”

“It was on Dean’s music player. There is much on there that I have never heard him play before. Almost as though he hides it. I find her pain... soothing.”

Somewhere between the realization that Dean is a closet Mary J Blige fan and the startling realization that the human need to share in other’s pain is objectively kind of psychotic, Sam realizes that this thing - Dean and Cas - is the real deal. He’s known it for years, he guesses, but to see it come to fruition and realize that they are gonna have arguments and share music and be a real couple, it kind of scares him and warms his heart at the same time. They’re a regular couple, despite everything about them that is so not normal. 

Eventually Dean comes home.

Sam had sent him a text message detailing that Cas was listening to “I’m sorry” love songs on repeat for days after he left and that Dean better not get himself killed because, Hey asshole, there are people who love you over here, and within forty-eight hours Dean was clamoring in the door exhausted and filthy.

Sam had listened from around the corner as Dean has hesitantly knocked on his own bedroom door and shifted nervously as the music turned off. The silence when the door opened, followed a moment later by the door closing with Dean on the other side of it and the music not coming back on was all the relief Sam needed.

They’d work it out. They always did.

Chapter Text

November 12th

"Fistful of Tears" - Maxwell

 

The night is typical of this time of year. Summer in Louisiana is a torturous mix of heat and oppressive humidity, but Castiel loves it. Every bead of sweat that rolls down his back as he cooks and takes orders and checks inventory is a blissful reminder that he is alive. Really alive. Human.

The crowd is mostly usuals tonight. He’s been around long enough now, almost two years, that he’s got the names and faces down and the small but close-knit community had accepted him not long after he’d first open the doors to this place. He had a reasonable following that kept him in business, grilling and frying for the good people here. And most days that was enough.

Tonight, he had an itch under his skin. It isn’t unfamiliar. it’s like the ache of a missing limb, or the undercurrent of thirst that an addict carries with them for the rest of their days. These are the nights he thinks of Dean and Sam and what he used to be. The nights he almost prays, almost calls, almost leaves.

But he never does. This is his life now. There’s no going back to that.

The last time Dean and Cas had touched it had been so clearly a goodbye, that Dean had shaken in his arms. It had been a long time of Castiel, tearing himself apart to keep Dean together. He’d have worn himself down to depression and death if Dean had allowed. But he hadn’t. And Castiel, having gained a modicum of self-worth, knew when to take an opportunity to save himself.

That was two years ago.

Two monsterless years. Two years of using his tactical mind to run a business, modest though it is. Two years of washing dishes and chatting subduedly with locals, of reading and listening to music as he preps the kitchen and taking sowers and sweating and living.

When the bell over the door dings and the screen door slams shut behind, Castiel looks up and his whole body freezes.

Two years without a word. And here he is. As beautiful and damaged as ever. The love of his once-immortal life, righteous man and terribly flawed, perfect example of humanity.

Dean Winchester.

Their eyes are locked for a long, still moment.

He doesn’t even say anything.

He crosses the room in long, determined strides and Castiel’s body is pressed to his, a hand behind his head, Dean’s lips on his own, before he can process any of it.

It’s familiar and perfect and he feels his body light up in ways it hasn’t since they parted over two years ago.

When they part for breath, Dean’s eyes are glassy as they take in every molecule of Cas’ face. And it’s this - this vexing, intoxicating vulnerability that Dean has always had - this is what always does him in. When he hates him. When he feels betrayed. Abandoned. Distant. That look in this man’s eyes, it breaks any will to stay away from him that even years of time and hundreds of miles of distance might have built.

Castiel whispers his name like a reflex, like a curse. It’s something he can’t help. Like breathing or remembering. And when he does he can sense the charge in Dean’s being. He isn’t even surprised when Dean crashes their mouths together and backs him up against the bar roughly, holding him too tightly. And Castiel can’t help pulling him in even tighter, holding Dean to himself with near-violence.

Dean’s never been here, never seen what Castiel built for himself, never seen the home Castiel has made. But when they stumble up the stairs to the apartment above it feels right, as though Dean was always meant to be here. As though Castiel had unwittingly made this a place for them, had built his life around the terrible hope of Dean.

For a moment it’s too much. Too much all at once. And when Dean feels it, the look he gives Cas is gentle. Moreso than anything he’d ever offered Cas before. Where Castiel’s weaknesses, his easily overwhelming affection and hesitations, used to be met with shadows of guilt, ghosts of regret and anger and Dean’s utter inability to respond patiently, now Dean only holds him more softly, watches more carefully. Kisses him more slowly. He is the epitome of patience, and Castiel feels his chest tighten at the thought, the hope, that Dean  has finally found his way out of the darkness.

Dean moves through Castiel’s bedroom the same way he’s always moved through Castiel’s life - strong and unpredictable; an unstoppable force that Castiel loves, even if it destroys him.

Conscious thought is lost to them both with gasped breath and familiar bodies reuniting, hands gripped in sheets, promises and apologies made by lips and sweat. it feels perfect. A perfect, inevitable, riot.

 

*

 

The sun is soft and white, the room warm, his body soft with sleep, relaxed like it hasn’t been in years. Dean doesn’t dare move, he’s terrified to dispel the magic of the moment. Waking up next to Cas, for the first time in two years. The man is hot and boneless, dead asleep beside him and Dean’s heart aches at the sight. There’s a little more grey at his temples, he’s letting his scruff grow a bit, there are little lines beside his eyes and it nearly undoes him, to think of Cas smiling. Two years worth of smiling and living without Dean. Wasted time. But Dean knows it had to be this way. He tries to hold onto that as his breath leaves him in a tremble. He wasn’t the man he needed to be for Cas then. He was crazy with the job, the obsession, the obligation. To be hard, cold, to die for his father’s legacy. And Cas, wringing his affection out as a balm for Dean’s scars because he loved him. Cas doing everything he could to keep Dean’s shit together, and Dean not being able to even say thank you. Dean not even being able to admit he loved him. Not even when Cas held him, in a bed they so clearly shared, as he shook from all of it - the weight of his responsibilities and the still unanticipated pleasure Cas brought.

He’d saved Dean again and again and Dean was... broken.

When Cas left, Dean hadn’t said a word to stop him. When had made love that night it was desperate, perfect, but sad. Dean pretended to be asleep when Cas hesitated by the door, bag in hand.

They both knew it was for the best. They both knew it would have to be a clean break. Dean had agreed to that, insisted on it, but ti nearly killed him regardless. He’d almost hunted him down a thousand times. It hadn’t taken long to find him.

But Dean couldn’t bring his darkness into Cas’ new human life.

Until suddenly, one day, he broke.

He looked over at his brother. Across a pyre of dead things, and Sam had just known. He’d vaguely nodded, looking more pleased than he should while also looking sad, resigned. Dean had just, in a random, unspectacular moment realized that he was done. He’d done enough. And the only thing of his life left to salvage that was worth anything, was Cas.

Sam had hugged him tight, and then Dean had driven through the night. Watched Cas through the window only for moment as he moved around the tiny, wooden restaurant, setting rickety wooden chairs on scarred-up tables and grabbing his broom. He was beautiful as ever, and in that moment Dean felt no hesitation or shame at thinking so.

Lying here now, he brushed his fingers through Castiel’s hair, his other hand lacing their fingers.

Dean can fit into this life, if Cas will let him. Of cooking good, salty food, and washing plates and going to bed between white cotton sheets in Cas’, their, home above the restaurant. He can take him for beignets on sunday mornings and slow dance to old records on the creeky wooden planks when the shop has closed for the night. He can be unselfish and reliable and not leave every time he glimpses a newspaper or gets a call. He was made to be someone’s everything. Dedicating himself to that kind of love, Dean will be good at that. He knows it. Cas deserves that.

He watches Cas as the sun rises, leaking in through gauzy, haphazard curtains. It’s still strange to see him sleep. When his eyes blink open, for a moment he looks at Dean like he’s shocked all over again that Dean is here. Dean wonders if Cas doubted that he would still be there when he woke up.

His eloquence hasn’t improved in their time apart, but he kisses with everything he feels, hoping that it all comes across. The promise - that it’s forever this time.

 

Chapter Text

November 13th

"You're Gonna Go Far Kid" - The Offspring

 

He likes to walk. He likes the way he moves through this shitty city when it’s barely thirty  degrees outside and his black boots are heavy on the pavement. People take notice of him. His jeans are light-wash and ripped-up, but he’s not an idiot. He’s wearing red and black flannel underneath. Pneumonia’s not cool on anyone, not even him. But there are sacrifices that have to be made for style. His black t-shirt is ripped, the collar pulled wide and draping loosely below his clavicle and he relishes the chill. His leather jacket is beat to shit form years of breaking it in, of taking it on monster hunts and burial diggings. The safety pins are more for aesthetic than function, but damn if he hadn’t smirked at his father the one time they came in handy.

John has no patience for trends. He hates the very concept of personal style. He thought a Hunter should come and go from a town as unobtrusively as possible. And Dean, with his ever-changing shades of faux-hawk and ostentatiously ripped-up band t-shirts, was very easily described to any and all interested parties.

Times like this, Dean gloated as he turned into an alley, quick on his feet, his noticeability was helping their case. He could feel it was following him since early that morning, but he didn’t call John. No, Dean was nineteen and he could do this on his own. He smirked to himself, thinking of the look that would erupt on his father’s face when he came home later and casually mentioned he’d killed the shapeshifter. Him. In a city of millions, he found and dispatched the one murdering son of a bitch who could literally be anyone.

He pulled his switchblade from his pocket, a nicely weighted thing, solid silver, that he liked to flick around like he was in West Side Story.

Not that he liked West Side Story.

Not that he found forbidden love intoxicating or appreciated the struggles of family versus heart.

...Shut up.

He bent his knees, readying his stance for the asshole to come around the corner.

So when a strong arm wrapped around his chest crushingly tight and hauled him back so hard he was lifted off of his feet. He wriggled like crazy, screamed in rage, snapped his head back and caught the fucker’s jaw. In shock, the monster dropped him and Dean spun around, knife at the ready. The thing parried him easily, but Dean wasn’t about to be toyed with. When he lunges again it’s a fake out, and it ends in his blade sunk to the hilt in the monster’s chest. He feels the blood seeping, thick and stick and warm onto his hand as he watches the things realize it’s been killed. He fights the usual nausea that rises when he kills something. He’s gotten good at hiding it. When he yanks his blade back, the shifter falls to the ground, gurgles briefly, and then goes limp.

Just lying there he looks... human.

His nausea triples, hands shaking, vision tunneling to black, ears ringing.

No, he thinks, maybe says out loud, no, no, no. He punctuated each with a hard knock to his own skull. Keep it the fuck together.

He grabs the trashcan nearby and throws it, fueled by adrenaline and rage. It crashes against the brick wall with a satisfying clang and he feels better. He breathes deep, wipes his knife on his jeans and stashes it back in his pocket. He doesn’t spare the shifter another glance as he stalks away.

He’s barely rounded the corned when he’s brought up short by a body in his path. He’s halfway to What the fuck when his eyes dart up to the man’s face and the words die in his throat. Dark, messy hair, a sharp jaw, dark stubble, and the dark blue eyes that level Dean with a hard look.

Dean’s usually the first to talk, he has a quip for everything. A wicked tongue. But caught in this man’s stare, he can barely swallow.

The man barely smirks, just barely leans in, and Dean is pulled to him like gravity. His eyes are practically fluttering closed when the man’s voice interrupts his apparently total fucking loss on reality with his low rumble of a voice - “Excuse me.”

Dean blinks out of the spell this man has him in and stares at him, mouth open as the man outright smirks at him. Winks as he swaggers away. And Dean can’t even be irritated or creeped out. That look warms him up, makes him tingle. He bites his bottom lip when he sees the man glance back over his shoulder at him and they both have red cheeks.

Dean turns, a pep in his step as he heads back on his long trek back to their shitty motel. There’s bright red blood drying on his hand, smudged across his partially buzzed head where he’d hit himself.

People stare, scramble out of the way.

He’s making a scene. His father would hate it.

He smiles.

Chapter Text

November 14th

"City of Angels" - The Distillers

 

Dean knows when he’s being followed. And he knows when coincidence isn’t coincidence. And that’s always.

There’s no such thing as a second chance meeting, not in his life. Once there’s a second meeting, Dean’s pretty much 100% sure that the first meeting was no chance either. And it’s a damn shame because this guy is like, smokin’ hot. And he looks at Dean like he knows it and maybe that cockiness shouldn’t rev him up but Dean’s young, he’s got plenty of appetite and he’s nothing if not eager. Even when he’s all but made up his mind that this guy is out to eat his heart or tear him apart Dean makes the necessary resolution to kill him first, while adjusting himself in his jeans.

Honestly, his life is so fucked.

It’s just his luck to meet a sexy monster. Maybe the guy’s a demon. A shudder goes through him at that - he better not be, because Dean is tough and well-trained but he’s no match for a fucking demon.

“You got any money kid?”

Dean blinks out of his whirlwind thoughts, hand tightening over the knife he’s holding at the ready under the table. He’s staked out in the two-person window-booth at this shitty greasy-spoon diner roughly the size of his motel room being as obvious and visible as fuck. He doesn’t like getting trailed and he’s trying to make it obvious. It’s as good of an invitation as yelling out into the street for the handsome stalker to come and get him. But it seems the old geezer running the joint, who’s now hovering over him with a quirked eyebrow, doesn’t appreciate some penniless punk taking up one of his booths.

“Sure do,” Dean charms sarcastically.

The old man rolls his eyes. “You plan to exchange any of this tender for food?” the man snarks back.

Dean is halfway to admitting he might like the old coot when a gravelly rumble of a voice he’s heard only once before interrupts them both.

“He’s not hungry.”

The old man seems equally if not more baffled than Dean not to have heard him come in, and Dean thinks back to when he’d entered, tries to remember if there’s a bell.

“And you?” The old man asks as the stranger slides easily into the seat across from Dean.

“Coffee.”

The old man rolls his eyes, “Great,” taps his pen to his order book and waddles away irritably. But Dean can only watch the stranger, his heart beating hard, as the man smiles indulgently.

“Who are you?” Dean asks baldly.

“Castiel.”

What are you?”

The man only smirks. He’s playing with Dean, and sure he’s hot, but Dean hates being toyed with by asshats who think they’re tough.

“Don’t squeeze the hilt of that knife too tightly, Dean,” he says easily, not a concern about him, “you’ll lessen the blood flow to your fingers.”

Dean squints, his heart skips a beat and for the first time he reconsiders his confidence. “You didn’t answer my question, asshole.”

“And I won’t, if you’re gonna talk like that.”

“Maybe I don’t like being toyed with.”

“Maybe I’ll wash your mouth out,” he pans. The way he says it, it’s ever so calm, but there’s a new edge to it. The undeniable belief that he could absolutely do that, and more.

Dean’s throat is dry when he swallows and the fact that he feels a mix of fear and attraction is infuriating. He nearly jumps out of his seat when the old man clunks the coffee down on the table with a glare that says I’m watching you two yahoos, and it’s only then that Dean realizes how far he has leaned in.

Again, Castiel only smiles.

“You’re a what, though. You admit to that.” Dean shrugs, plays at nonchalance, “All I need to know.”

For a moment, he could swear the stranger looks... disappointed. “You’d kill me for that much, would you? Hunter?”

He says the word like it’s an insult, and Dean feels both cowed and insulted.

“Well, what do you do to stay so human-looking? Drink blood? Eat babies? Sacrifice virgins under the solstice moon?”

The man sips his coffee, fixes Dean with a stare that incapacitates him, and then says, “Yoga.”

“Fuck you.”

“Charming.”

“Quit fucking around.”

“Another step closer to getting dragged into that restroom and bent over the sink, Dean. Don’t think I won’t wash your mouth out.”

“Try it asshole! I’m not some -” Dean halts, sits up straight, remembers who he is, what he does. “How’d you know my name?”

Castiel studies him a long moment, then looks pointedly at the salt before picking up the little shaker and pouring some into his hand.

Nothing happens. He throws the salt over his shoulder.

“Let’s have it.”

Dean blinks at him.

“Holy water. Silver. The whole shebang.”

He barely even thinks about it before he’s handing the flask of holy water over and watching intently as Cas takes a gulp before sliding it back across the table. Dean takes it, fishes a small silver blade out of his coat and gapes as Cas rolls up his sleeve glancing over at the the register where the old man sits on a stool reading a paperback. He nods at Dean.

Dean cuts him, just a line across the underside of his forearm. Nothing happens aside form the man bleeding like any human would.

The man swipes his thumb over the wound as though removing a smudge, as as his touch passes, the cut disappears.

Dean stares at him.

There’s isn’t anything that heals like that. Not that he’s seen.

“That’s an interesting choice,” Castiel says suddenly. Dean shakes his head, not knowing to what Castiel refers. The man gestures at Dean, his eyes zeroing in on Dean’s lips, and then even more pointedly at the small ring that adorns the right side of his bottom lip. Dean’s tongue traces it absently.

He catches Castiel’s almost smirk at the sight and tries very hard not to pop a boner under the scrutiny of those blue eyes and the intangible electric presence that was this... creature.

Yep. Dean was fucked.

Chapter Text

Nov 15th

"I Will Wait" - Mumford and Sons

 

He adjusts his suspenders. It’s a nervous habit. His trousers are creased and cuffed and his shirt is clean if not unscathed from the same excessive wear as everything else he owns.

Sam had teased him mercilessly, dressing up well and dapper to go sit in the damn woods. Said he must be trying to make quite an impression.

He wasn’t wrong.

But Dean could never talk about it as baldly as that. He doesn’t entirely understand it himself. This bi-weekly meeting, deep in the woods of appalachia with nothing but the moon, the cicadas and thirteen mason jars of moonshine to keep him company - it’s the best thing he’s got lately. The waiting is bittersweet. He has time to think which is a blessing and a curse, and in the summer months the heat and mosquitos were a plague. But Dean would never shirk this responsibility, not even sweating through his clothes and itching like a son of a bitch. The sweetness of the waiting comes from the waiting’s end. 

He tells everyone else it’s too delicate a task, that the relationship between them and the gang from the north who buy the stuff is a delicate business and Dean’s set on handling it himself. But in truth, the relationship between their respective clans is pretty steady. It’s a straightforward matter of supply and demand, and Dean knows their ‘shine is the best.

The expectation is for a dozen jars, but Dean’s made something special up for Cas. A sweet shine, fermented with peaches straight from Atlanta. He’d tasted a bit, just to make sure it was right, and even he had to admit the sweetness was damn appealing. He was fidgeting again, thinking about Cas smiling at the gift, thinking about them sitting around on the hood of Cas’ car, sampling the latest stock. He thinks of the way Cas’ shirtsleeves are always rolled haphazardly up to his elbows and his heart aches, beats hard. He thinks of the way he talks, expressive and intelligent and unusual and Dean can’t wait to ask him about a million different things.

It’s late, the moon is high and bright and Dean feels crazy. He must be. But it’s too late to hide from it now. Cas should be here any minute.

I’ll wait for you, he thinks, smiling up at the moon.

Chapter Text

Nov 16th

"Eet" - Regina Spector

 

He doesn’t have to work, god knows he’s not expected to pick up after himself and none of his friends have yet mastered the art of pretending they can act the same around him, so he’s got nowhere to escape to and nothing to occupy him. He’s isolated and bored. The one and only task on his to do list seems... insurmountable:

Dean has to relearn how to be human.

There’s something so inherently sad in being home that sometimes he wishes he wasn’t. He knows that isn’t right, knows it isn’t fair to all the ones that can’t come home. And it’s not fait to the people who prayed for his return either. To Sam or Mom or anyone. But when he crutches outside and looks around the bright suburban neighborhood, it just kind of makes him sad. Because he should be so glad to be here, but nothing here feels real. It all feels like an illusion, and since he’s stepped foot (singular, yes) back on American soil he’s been utterly separate from everything around him.

He loves his family, he knows that. It’s a fact. It’s been a driving motivator in his life since he can remember; and yet, when Sam hugged him, teary-eyed and overcome in the hospital in Germany, Dean felt... nothing. When his mother all but screamed at seeing him alive, he just sat there. He’s destined to exist through others reacting to him, for the rest of his life. Especially with this - he looks down at the pant leg that’s knotted up right under what’s left of his knee, nearly tipping himself over.

It’s the lack of feeling that he knows should be there that scares him. It makes him anxious. That frustration is only thing left. That and physical pain.

And his fascination with Cas.

He’s knew to the neighborhood. New to Dean, anyway. But he’s been gone for five years so, the signt of a man roughly his age with dark bed-head and weirdly determined movement grumping inhumanly around the poorly kept-up yard down the block had been jarring. His mother had referred to Castiel almost politely as ‘the oddball’. Dean had instantly liked him when he’d realized that people had almost as little idea what to do with Castiel as they did with him. Apparently he baffled and alienated the masses but somehow managed to live some semblance of a life and Dean had been so intently intrigued that their first meeting came after Dean had toppled over into Castiel’s shrubs on an ill-conceived reconnaissance mission. He’d gone too far on his only leg, worn himself out with the effort. He should have known he was pushing too hard by the full-body ache and the increasing unsteadiness, but he was motivated. And he hadn’t been motivated to do much of anything in a long time.

He knew, for certain that he was right about Cas, that they were meant to be friends, when he looked up and the man was merely looming over him, head tilted in curiosity, posture the very picture of a lack of concern.

Nowadays if Dean moved too quickly or shifted his weight  or, god forbid, sneezed there were five people suddenly at his side with palms out just in case asking what he needed and if he was ok and treating him like his body was nothing more than tissue paper stretched taut over a wire frame. He should be thankful. Grateful. Dean’s aware that he is an asshole for letting kindness irritate him. But he doesn’t seems able to make himself stop.

So when Cas doesn’t ask if he’s ok or fawn over him in terror or even offer him a hand up, Dean is relieved.

There’d been a brief conversation about Dean being a truly terrible stalker in which it became clear that yes, Castiel knew Dean had been watching him, and no, he was not nearly as impacted by that information as any normal human being would be. That was two months ago and Dean and Cas have barely gone a day without seeing one another since.

So when Dean crutches his way down the cul de sac on his polyfiber rod of a leg - a recent edition - there’s nothing unusual in the way Cas glances up from his busted truck bed expectantly and slides over for Dean to join. Hopping up is a fucking event, but Cas doesn’t help and Dean appreciates that.

They sit a long time, the birds chirping, the sun shining, the neighborhood alive around them. The longer they watch, the darker Dean’s mood becomes until he can feel Cas’ eyes boring into him.

“All of this,” Dean says, gesturing to the green grass and the blue sky and the clean air, “it’s sad.”

Cas nods. “Them too,” Cas points at the little kids, playing across the cul de sac.

They’re so carefree, so innocent, so... fragile. Dean swallows the knot in his throat. “Them most of all.”

“Still doesn’t feel like home?” Cas asks, picking a splinter out of his palm.

Dean watches, admits lazily, “No.”

“Have you cried?” Cas asks, doing the small mercy of not looking at him.

Dean squints out into the horizon, trying to remember.

“It took me a year,” Cas admits with a sigh, giving up on the splinter and staring ahead, shoulders slumped.

Dean just blinks at him, mouth open.

After a long moment Cas notices and smiles indulgently, and Dean likes the little lines at the corners of his eyes. “After I came back,” Cas starts easily, “I wasn’t human for over a year. I don’t know what I was. But I wasn’t me. Sometimes I’m still not.”

“You... you fought?”

Cas nods. “Surprised you couldn’t tell.”

“Actually,” Dean stares out into the distance again, “I think... I guess I could.”

“I was sad, I guess. But mostly... numb. I saw - I did horrible things. The price of remaining sane under the weight of that, was not being a person at all. I was a Veteran,” he says the word with false gravitas and Dean feels like he’s being prodded with a spear. “I was a Thank You for Your Service bumper sticker that ate and slept and occasionally blinked.”

Dean just stares at him. “Everyone’s always looking,” he says, not knowing he said it. And then, “How did you... wake up?”

“I’m only starting. It’s weird. Being awake.”

“How?”

Cas looks at him hard, then looks away, swallows nervously. It’s the only time Dean’s ever seen a speck of uncertainty in him and it’s vexing. Cas does meet his eyes finally, and when he does they’re dark blue and intense. “I met you,” he says. “I felt.”

They don’t talk after that. They sit, watching, until the sun goes down and Cas hops so easily off of the truck bed and quirks his head toward the house as a way of invitation.

He stays by Dean’s side as he unsteadily climbs down, knowing it’ll be a lot harder than it was for Dean to get up there. But he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t make it weird with nervous energy. He’s just... there. Formidable and steady and warm, where he catches Dean’s elbow, lets Dean fall into him a little bit while he’s getting his not-leg under him. Cas’ body is solid and alive and Dean’s neurons fire in a baffling zing where they touch. It nearly shocks him off balance, as unexpected as it is.

When they’re comfortably in the kitchen Cas’ has warmed up frozen burritos in the microwave and they cool on the table beside them as Dean works diligently on removing the splinter from Castiel’s palm. Cas is straddling the back of a kitchen chair, draped carelessly over it, watching Dean and the furrow in his brow, Cas’ hand pulled into his lap.

Dean snorts when Cas flinches and grumbles ow as Dean finally extracts the little shard of wood. But he says sorry too, and means it. He and Cas both chuckle quietly, and they don’t bother moving further apart when they start eating.

Chapter Text

Nov 17th

"Eet" - Regina Spektor


It's like forgetting

the words to your favorite song

You can't believe it

You were always singing along

It was so easy 

and the words so sweet

You can't remember

You try to feel the beat

You can't remember

You try to move your feet.

 

 

Cas doesn’t need Dean’s help to put neosporin and a bandaid onto the barely-there pucker in the skin of his palm where Dean had painstakingly removed the splinter, but he hands it off to him anyway. They end up moving to the living room to veg-out in front of the TV, Castiel noticing the way Dean hobbles stiffly, barely able to straighten his back. But Dean merely glares when Castiel quirks a brow at him. He essentially collapses onto the couch, the walk form the kitchen to the living room having winded him.

They watch one full episode of some trashy reality show on VH1, Dean’s teeth gritted through the whole thing, his fists balled on his lap so hard that his knuckles are white. He knows Cas can see him, can tell something is wrong but Dean doesn’t want to say it and Cas knows that too.

He makes it forty five minutes before a slight involuntary movement has him hissing a breath in, clutching tightly to his upper thigh as though he can cut off blood flow to the place that hurts.

“You can take it off,” Cas says, pretending not to be concerned. He’s looking straight ahead, the light playing off the plains of his face in a way that makes him look... something more than human. But Dean can tell he isn’t watching the TV. “If it’s bothering you,” Cas clarifies needlessly. “I won’t look.”

Dean feels a lot of things at once in that moment and he is completely at a loss as to how to deal with any of it. He’s barely felt a thing that wasn’t strictly physical in so long that for a startling second, he thinks he might cry. But it passes. He looks down at his treacherous limb, sees that his hand is kneading into his thigh without him even realizing. And he debates, all while Cas sits still and silent beside him.

The doctor had warned him, too much too fast would be a huge mistake, and one that he suspected someone as stubborn and self-sufficient as Dean was sure to make. He was supposed to let his body acclimate to the prosthetic, only use it an hour a day, not wear it if he wasn’t using it. Not until he’d made progress in physical therapy. Not until they learned how his body would react.

But Dean hadn’t wanted to wait to feel whole again. He thought he could take pain if it meant looking, even sort of feeling, like he was himself again.

He was wrong.

His leg ached in screaming flashes up the meat of his thigh to his hip. The skin of his stump felt raw, the muscle bruised like someone had taken a bat to him.

His hands are cold and shaking as he reaches to pull his pant leg up, but beside him he feels Cas exhale, relax. When he unhooks the thing he has to bite his lip to keep from crying out and when he lays a palm to the mottled end of his leg it is hot to the touch and he has to exhale a long, trembling breath to keep from feeling nauseated from pain and the seemingly never-ending feeling of alienness.

Finally Dean can relax. He all but melts back into the couch and he feels Cas’ shoulder against his own, can feels his body’s tension melt away too.

They watch stupid TV and chat about nothing for hours. Until Dean is yawning and stretching like a fat cat, his stumped leg stretching too, the empty trouser-leg flopping off the couch, and Cas is quirking a smile at him. Cas watches as Dean ties the empty trouser-leg into a knot that hangs loosely below his leg. Dean feels his cheeks heat under the scrutiny but, weirdly, he doesn’t feel bad about it. He isn’t embarrassed.

Cas walks him home, holding Dean’s ‘peg-leg’ as Dean calls it, after Dean stubbornly refuses to let Cas drive him “half a goddamned mile down the road”.

When they say goodnight at Dean’s front door Cas smiles at him and Dean smiles back and it feels like something more should happen, but then Cas is walking away and Dean is trying as best he can to be quiet and not clumsy as he keys into the house.

 

It’s two days later that they kiss for the first time. It’s filthy and lacking in any kind of finesse and Dean is shocked when he feels himself smiling on the crutch-walk home.

*

It’s two days after that when Castiel invites Dean inside the house as always, but this time only if they’re officially something. Dean agrees, it barely takes him a moment. They are something. The fact that they don’t have a word for it yet doesn’t bother either of them, so long as it’s an it.

*

It’s a week later when Cas is on his knees in the living room, between Dean’s thighs and kissing a path down his t-shirted stomach, hands undoing Dean’s belt buckle, when Dean shudders and puts a hand to Cas’ shoulder.

“W-wait - don’t-”

Cas looks up at him, waits for Dean to say more, and then continues unbuckling his belt, unzips his zipper, but never lets his eyes leave Dean’s. Dean’s still almost entirely clothed when Cas swallows him down, holding him tight at the base so this all doesn’t end way too early. After only a few moments, Dean’s appreciation turns to apprehension and Cas can feel it. When he stops, backs off to look up at him, there’s trepidation on Dean’s face. Suddenly Dean’s moving - he struggles, uncoordinated, trying to push his pants off with shaking hands.

Cas lays a hand on his good thigh, “You don’t have to-”

“I thought you wanted me to.”

“I did. I do,” Cas says. “But I don’t want to push you. I don’t want to push either of us.”

“Maybe I wanna be pushed,” Dean counters. And Cas looks at him for a long moment. He uses those intelligent blue eyes to pin Dean to this moment until Dean relents, knowing he’s got to say it.

“I want you to make me feel.”

Cas nearly winces at the admission. He looks down at the couch, “You can’t pick and choose,” he warns softly, “it’ll all come back.” When he looks up his eyes are wet, and it takes Dean’s breath away. “You’ll hate me for it later.”

“Maybe,” Dean admits as though he doesn’t think it’s likely.

“You will.”

“Ok.”

Dean’s never seen him look small, or shy, needy in any way. But that’s what he is when he says, voice small, “...I don’t want you to hate me.”

“I won’t forever,” Dean promises. And then he grabs Cas hand where it’s resting against the couch, and begs with a hard edge, “Don’t let me. Stay until I don’t anymore, and I promise, I’ll love you more than anything.”

Castiel exhales shakily, and Dean can tell from the way he rests his forehead gently against Dean’s gnarled thigh that he’s fighting back the urge to combust. And that too is riveting.

*

It’s the next day when they’re heading over to the Winchester household for family dinner, Cas keeping up casually, easily, with Dean’s stilted pace, that Dean finally grits out what he’s clearly been failing to say all day.

“They don’t know I’m gay.”

Castiel merely chuckles. Dean glares, but Castiel quips, “I didn’t know I was gay until two months ago.”

Dean stares, eyes and mouth both wide and Cas merely shrugs.

“Oh, perfect. Dinner should be totally not weird at all,” Dean says with a signature sarcasm that has escaped him since he’s been home, until right now. It feels... comfortable. In the sense that he wasn’t aware how uncomfortable he was until, for a split second, he became himself again.

Cas smiles, and he’s beautiful. Understated and bizarre and beautiful. And Dean just knows somehow, that when he and Cas finally meet each other, as their real selves, they’re still gonna love each other a lot.

 

 

Chapter Text

November 18th

"Cop Stop" - Gavin Degraw

 

Castiel sighs, turning his face up to the beating sun. It’s too hot for this shit. The back of his uniform shirt is already damp and he hasn't even gotten to finish his coffee yet. But, when a frustrated, very rookie deputy calls you up over the radio all full of piss and vinegar, you don't leave him out in the hot texas sun to make his own decisions. So here Castiel is, at barely nine in the morning, on his fourth Dean Winchester related call of the week. 

It's Wednesday.

He takes a deep breath, gathers his will, and heads toward his deputy.

“Sheriff,” the young man says, his bonnet clearly already full of bees, “He’s done it again. He’s over there just... watchin’ me. After what he done this mornin’!”

“What he did,” Castiel corrects evenly. The young deputy looks chastised for a moment before his eye catches Dean Winchester, pleased as pie with himself, just barely giving Castiel a cocky little wave hello. The deputy’s lips all but disappear as he scrunches his face up in rage, but Winchester chuckles. Castiel can’t hear it, but he can tell. He sighs again.

“What did he do?”

“Criminal trespassing!” the deputy squeaks incredulously.

“Where?”

“The old Campbell mansion. They saw him drive up in that awful thing two days ago, which didn’t alarm anyone at first ‘cause people drive up all the time. See the house ‘n all. But he didn’t never leave. He’s just been... loitering! So I go to see what he’s up to and what do I find but no good Dean Winchester inside the Campbell house! Like he owned the damn place! But he don’t -”

“Doesn’t.”

“-so I said to him, ‘Boy, you better come on out of that house!’”

Castiel can’t help the splutter of a chuckle that he gives at that. Dean hasn’t been a regular fixture around these parts for long, but since he has Castiel has learned one thing to be absolutely true about the man - he does not take well to condescension. Dean winchester is not a man that likes to be handled. And he’s certainly not a man who will respond positively to a Deputy nearly half his age calling him Boy.

“Sir?” the deputy falters.

“I don’t imagine that turned out well for you,” Castiel guesses.

“That son of a bitch took off runnin’, like he was playin’ with me! ‘Cept when I got all the way around the house there he was, in my car.”

“Your cruiser?”

“Yes sir!”

“Was your shotgun in it?” The deputy looks away, head down. “You left your cruiser, with a loaded weapon and access to the police server, unlocked.” The deputy’s cheeks are red and he’s clearly mortified. “What happened next?”

“Son of a bitch stole the keys is what happened.”

Castiel could feel his own eyebrows raise so high he could swear they'd get stuck. “The keys were inside the - you know what. We will talk about this back at the station. I’ll talk to Winchester.”

Talk to him?! That sneaky bastard had me chasin' him all over the damn property. Like he was havin’ the time of his damn life! I had to fish those suckers out of the damned swamp because he threw ‘em-”

“And whose fault is it that a civilian, a potential criminal, had your car keys?”  A full minute of letting the kid roast in his own shame and embarrassment under the hot sun was enough. “Alright, Deputy. Back to work with you.”

“But sir!”

Castiel points at the deputy’s squad car and watches the man dejectedly go, throwing one last fiery glare at Dean over his shoulder. Castiel turns back just in time to see Dean salute the deputy, wide grin on his face. He can’t help his own smile at that, but he is sure to school it by the time he’s crossed the road to stand before Dean.

“Sheriff,” Dean greets cheerily.

“Mr. Winchester,” Castiel nods. “I hear you had quite a morning.”

Dean shrugs, grinning easily. “If you mean runnin’ circles around your deputy, I’m sorry to say it’s not as unusual as you might think.”

“Well I’m sure you know now that the Campbell mansion is private property. And that while we permit people to walk the grounds, go and see the house, we and the laws of this state prefer the looker remain on the outside of the house.”

“I see,” Dean fixes Castiel with a look that nearly draws the man physically closer to him. “My mistake, Sheriff.”

“You know you can’t park this here,” Castiel says, gesturing to Dean’s trailer.

“Yes, sir.” Dean moves to get in, presumably to move the vehicle. Castiel stops him, “Dean.”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t pull that stunt with the Deputy’s car again.”

Dean smirks and it’s bright and dangerous and beautiful and Castiel feels his chest constrict. His breath is still a little shaky when he watches the trailer drive away.

 

Chapter Text

November 19th

“Jessica” - The Allman Brother’s Band

 

This is what Dean loves. If he ever gets back to Heaven, he hopes part of his own little construct will be moments like this.

This sun is low and bright in the sky, making the endless acres of cornfields glow gold. The air is a perfect clean warmth and the two lane black-top stretching out in front of him feels infinite. It hug to the curves of the land just enough to make the drive fun while still being relaxing. "Jessica" is playing on the radio and Sam is in the seat beside him, frowning into a book. It’s a relaxed furrowing of eyebrows that means he’s engrossed, not the familiar squint that means he’s learned something difficult and disturbing. No, Sammy’s just reading for fun.

In the rear-view mirror Dean can see Cas. He sits in the middle of the seat, always does, and it makes Dean smile. It’s one of the million little ways in which Cas just isn’t normal. It doesn’t even occur to him to pick a side. The golden sunlight is catching in his hair, showing those little highlights of different brunette, and some gray too if Dean’s honest. That stirs something in him that makes him take a breath. Cas doesn’t age because Angels don’t age. But... he has, hasn’t he? There are lines in the corners of his eyes, there’s more gray in his hair, in his five o clock shadow, when he deigns to have one. Dean’s been noticing for years, though he’s never dared to say anything.

Dean glances back again. Cas is looking out the window. He seems relaxed, a small smile on his face. Dean wonders what he’s thinking about. he doesn’t ask though, because he hates to upset the balance of such a quiet moment.

Later, the sun is almost down, the road is a little more winding, and Sam is asleep against the door. When Dean looks to the mirror to watch Cas, he finds the angel is already watching him. When their eyes meet, Castiel smiles. It’s private and honest and it makes Dean blush. He brings his eyes quickly back to the road in front of him, but he isn’t able to keep himself from smiling too. Every so often his eyes flick back to Cas, almost as if without his permission or the conscious decision to do so. Castiel continues to watch the landscape go by out the window, but his smile is stronger now. Almost cheeky. Dean likes it.

 

Chapter Text

November 20th

“Harder To Believe” - Gavin DeGraw

 

The call came in around ten p.m. That same ‘good-for-nothin’ Winchester was taking up residence, parking that hideous, god forsaken trailer on land that doesn't belong to him Again. Wherever this man goes he seems to stir up controversy. People can’t seem to get enough of spitting out Dean Winchester’s done this and Dean Winchester’s done that and did you see him make eyes at this one and that one and can you believe him. Dean gets himself a lot of attention, but he’s harmless.

Castiel catches himself before he allows himself to smile.

Castiel is in desperate need for harmless. He’s worked eighty hours this week and it’s not even over yet. He’s too busy, too in demand, too exhausted and lately, he’s just overwhelmed. This is a small town, and they are woefully understaffed. He does everything he can to keep his people safe, but sometimes things are beyond his control.

Sometimes the world is terrible.

Before his mind can be swamped with shadows of the past, Castiel stands up, knees creaking with the protest of being still too long. He grabs his keys, lets the appropriate people know he’s heading out on a call and practically runs from the station. He has to take several deep, concentrated breathes on the drive, but the fresh air helps clear his mind.

When Castiel rolls up to Dean’s trailer he can hear music coming from inside. When the screen door smacks open, Dean descends the stair and hops out onto the grass, completely oblivious to Castiel’s presence and completely, except for his cowboy boots, in the nude. Castiel finds himself staring, mouth hanging open, at the sight of Dean Winchester, naked as the day he was born, contently just staring out to the horizon. His back is to Castiel and the sight of the man’s round ass is... distracting. But Castiel chuckles to himself. What a character they’ve found in Dean Winchester. Whoever he is.

Castiel is quiet as he gets out of his car and moves toward Dean, as it is his nature, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t trying to sneak up on him.

“I see we’re moving up to class B Misdemeanors.”

Dean nearly folds over, tripping over himself at the unexpected sound of someone else’s voice. Holding a discarded dishtowel grabbed hastily from a lawn chair to his groin he stares, round-eyed at Castiel, hand-rolled cigarette dangling from his lips.

“Indecent exposure,” Castiel tells him.

“Bullshit,” Dean sucks the end of the cigarette back into his lips in a quick little trick of lips and tongue. Castiel watches it carefully. “I’m outside my house. In the middle of fucking nowhere. How the hell was I supposed to know you were here?”

The smoke from Dean’s - oh, not a cigarette then - floats lazily across Castiel’s face. “Minor drug possession,” he gestures to Dean’s lips.

Dean stares at him blankly for a moment, before his usual swagger creeps back in and he’s sucking on the blunt, making the end bright, cherry red and smirking around it. “You got me there, sheriff.”

Castiel wishes his heart didn’t leap at the sight of that stupid, disrespectful smirk. He wishes his eyes weren’t drawn to the way Dean’s hipbones are a perfect highlight to the divot that points down, down, down. He wishes that the man’s green eyes didn’t sparkle in the yellow light from the trailer. Wishes that the sight of him in only cowboy boots didn’t make him hot under the collar; thirsty and desirous for something more between them.

Such a sudden flush of want makes Castiel unsteady. Attraction - it’s not typical for him, but when it strikes him it’s nearly debilitating. How he hadn't realized that this feeling was attraction earlier, he chalks up to denial. Ever since her, Castiel hates even the idea of attraction. Suddenly, with the first traitorous twitch of an part of him he’d refused to feel was anything but perfunctory, the shadows are back. He hasn’t made this mistake in a long time - trusted the wrong pretty criminal just because they’re innately disarming - and he swore to himself years ago he wouldn’t make this mistake again. Suddenly he feels like a fool. There were a hundred times in the past week alone he could have arrested Dean, could have had his ass thrown in jail. But he went easy on him, because his instincts told him that Dean wasn’t truly a threat. Because Castiel, in some pathetic way, liked him.

God, how stupid could he be to let himself fall prey to this again?

He’s learned, your instincts aren’t shit against a con artist. He needs to be tough, needs to be exacting in his execution of the law or someone could get hurt again. There can be no feeling about it. He absolutely cannot allow himself to be tricked by chemistry, and surely anyone who would use that must be cut from the same cloth as her.

Castiel shakes himself out of his thoughts and looks at Dean again with new eyes. He hates this smug, good-for-nothing pain in the ass man. For making him feel sexual interest, for being a goddamned menace. Of course he is charming. Of course he is beautiful. Dean Winchester is the epitome of the kind of thoughtless chaos that Castiel has dedicated his life to making order out of.

“Not gonna take me in like this, are ya?” Dean wiggles his eyebrows. “Maybe you’d like that.” His chin raises slightly, showing off the long column of his throat. “Maybe I’d like that.” He steps forward and he is like moving art, perfection made of skin and muscle - Castiel’s stomach turns, even as Dean’s eyes glitter. “Could be beneficial for us to spend a little time,” he drawls lowly.

It’s the truth within it that makes Castiel see red. Maybe he would like to see Dean naked. Maybe he is attracted to him. Maybe it does blind him to the potential of who, what, Dean could be. And the way Dean clearly knows it, toys with him about it so flippantly, it makes Castiel ashamed. This unpredictable nonsense-man is laughing in the face of Castiel’s duties; he makes Castiel feel out of control and that is unacceptable.

“You can quit smiling at me,” Castiel says, voice hard. It’s clear it is a command and not a suggestion. “Prostitution is a Class B Misdemeanor too. That’s $2000 or 180 days in jail. You prepared for that?”

Dean’s cocksure demeanor slips. His smile melts away, and he shifts his weight, suddenly uncomfortable. He looks almost... stricken. Castiel feels inexplicably bad about it.

But Dean recovers, finishing his smoke and throwing it to the ground. “Hey, you came to me, Officer. I wouldn’t be flashin’ you if you weren’t lurkin’ outside my house.”

“Your house is parked on city land.”

“So what, now you need a permit to live?”

“To live here, yes.”

“Well I don’t have one.”

“I could have guessed-”

“Where would you like me to go!? Huh? Is there a square goddamned inch of land in this town where I’ll be left in peace!?”

Castiel is actually stalled for a moment at the true frustration Dean lets out. He’s only ever seen him look nonchalant, painfully careless in his every loose movement and his every easy smile. But now his eyes are hard and his face older, gruffer. It definitely does not assuage Castiel’s attraction. And that, is surely a terrible sign.

“Maybe it’s time you move along,” Cas states, cold and deep.

Dean’s head tilts and his eyes narrow, “You mean to run me outta town, Sheriff?”

“Do you have a reason to be in town?”

“I gotta have a reason?”

“I’d say so.”

“Well I do. But I don’t hafta tell you shit.”

“That’s true.” Dean seems surprised by that response. “Are you planning to move in at any point?” Dean merely squints further. Castiel jerks his head toward the trailer, “You gonna live in this thing forever?”

Dean looks at him incredulously, “There’s nothin’ wrong with my trailer. Plenty of people live in a trailer.”

“Plenty of people don’t forgo renting a legal lot for it to sit on in favor of moving around town from patch to patch.” Dean says nothing, just squares his jaw and looks at Castiel hard. “What were you doing at the Campbell place?” Castiel asks.

Dean’s face smoothes out a moment, taken off guard. “Nothin’,” he lies. “‘s a nice place. I was curious. And squatting,” he challenges.

Castiel’s head tilts as he considers Dean carefully. That’s not the whole truth, that much is blatantly obvious. Dean is a decidedly terrible liar. In that, though he may succeed in keeping you from the truth, he doesn’t care whether or not you believe whatever flimsy excuse he puts up. Strangely, it seems, Dean doesn’t give a hot damn if you know he’s not telling you the truth. His frustration is real, and he isn’t as smooth as he seems from afar once you start poking at him. This fills Castiel with relief.

She wasn’t like that. She was surefooted in every falsehood. She was clever in her manipulation and Castiel knows now, in retrospect, that he never saw her truly flustered. That exasperation, he believes, is a sign of goodness in that it means if nothing else, you are capable of moments without guile.

He looks at Dean, standing here, buck naked, and looking simultaneously furious and hurt and though he hates himself for his attraction to the man, Castiel has to admit that maybe, just maybe Dean Winchester is harmless as he hopes. Maybe, his sudden animosity toward the man, is not entirely fairly founded.

“I apologize,” Castiel states.

“For?”

“I was harsh. I never meant to - I shouldn’t have insinuated that you were a prostitute. I... That was incorrect of me.”

“Jesus, you change gears fast.”

“Castiel.”

“What?”

“I know you weren’t calling me Jesus. It just... occurred to me that we have never been properly introduced.”

Dean watches him for a long moment before offering his right hand, Castiel looks away briefly as the towel changes hands. Castiel takes his hand.

“Nice to meet ya, Sheriff Cas.”

Cas nods, and he can’t help but smile when Dean grins at him.

“You ever off the clock?” Dean asks easily as he takes his hand back.

“Of course.”

Dean shifts his weight, looking almost unsure. “I got beer,” he offers. Castiel merely blinks at him, baffled. Dean rolls his eyes exaggeratedly, “Come in, asshole. But let me put pants on first. Unless you want to take yours off-”

Dean.”

Dean puts up the one hand that’s not preserving his modesty in fake surrender and hops, smiling, into the trailer. Castiel hovers outside, questioning this decision, shocked at his own unreliable emotions and feeling the echoes of past trauma pull at him until his mind is a dizzy mess. He feels himself spinning in circles, feels out of control. He takes his deep breaths, like he was taught, until his head feels clearer. Dean whistles, indicating that he's ready for Castiel to come in, and with one last calming breath, he does.

 

Chapter Text

November 21st

“I wanna be sedated” - Ramones

 

 

It’s cold as fuck but Dean doesn’t give a shit. His headphones are cranked and his boots are warm and heavy and the cold keeps his split lip closed up. The chill touches every cell of his skin, makes him physically aware of the entirety of his face not just the places that are sore and hot from bruises.

He winces, remembering the way he’d pushed John, cussed him out and disrespected him and thrown it in his face how he’d killed that shifter all on his own. And then he remembers the backhand he got for it. The wince is a reflex, and it doesn’t help him forget that his face is a black and blue mess.

Fuck it. Makes him look tough.

Maybe he should analyze why he pushes him. Why, after killing that thing, he grinned all the way home with bloody hands and couldn’t wait to say Look what I fucking did without you. Look what you couldn’t do. Look how much I don’t need you. John is quick to anger, but Dean isn’t stupid and he isn’t blind. He can see the hurt underneath it. The fear, at what Dean had gone and put himself in the middle of. Dean can see on his face the way he tries and tries and tries to be patient - until he can’t.

And he doesn’t know why he pushes him until he cracks. Even knowing how hard he tries. He doesn't know why he wants to rub it in his face, that that try as he might John, when pushed, just can't keep a lid on it. Dean is compelled to needle him.

He could just as easily not. He could say he’s sorry and admit the truth - that he wanted to show John he was tough.

That he wanted John to be proud.

Dean balls his hands into fists in his pockets, his pace quickens and he kicks a can in the street so hard it skitters down the sidewalk and pings off of someone’s beamer. He smiles at the little dent it leaves in the yuppie car.

He walks to nowhere, in no particular path, and to places he’s never been before. Which is why the alarm bells are particularly loud when he rounds the corner and who is leaning casually against the brick wall, all loose-limbs and bed-haired, but Castiel.

Dean doesn't have anything to say but, "The fuck?"

Castiel merely stares at him, obviously having known Dean was coming.

Obviously having been waiting for him.

His smile is unexpected - soft and genuine. Until his eyes seem to hone in on the split in Dean’s lip and the bruise on his cheek. He stands up abruptly, steps toward Dean too quickly. Pretty face or not, Dean’s not one to be advanced on by a stranger. He backs up, body ready to fight, pulling off his headphones to rest on his shoulders. Castiel seems to realize he’s spooked him and halts his progress.

“You were in another fight.”

Dean shrugs, but his body doesn’t let go even a bit of the the tension of preparedness. “More of an extension of the first fight,” Dean says.

Castiel squints at him.

“Nothin’ I can’t handle. Barely felt it,” Dean smirks.

“You’re a skilled liar,” Castiel says with a small, dare Dean even think sweet, smile. Dean merely blinks at him. “Distraction is something you’re good at.” he squints, head tilted, "Opposition. You're a Prince of Opposites."

Dean’s body’s tension just sort of seeps away without his awareness and he doesn’t back away when Castiel takes another step toward him.

“It hurts,” Castiel states, like he knows, eyes tracing over the curve of Dean's cheek.

Dean doesn’t admit that he's right, but he doesn’t deny it either. The stranger is so close now - and how the fuck did that happen? - that Dean can feel the warmth of his body, can smell him. Not cologne, just... him. Petrichor and ozone and summer lightning.

Fuck.

Castiel smirks, “Want to try something?”

Dean smirks back, shrugs as if he doesn’t care, as if he’s nonchalantly game for anything. His hackles are raised on instinct, nerves uproariously on edge, but he ignores it. When with glinting eyes Cas starts to walk away, like a dare, Dean follows. He thinks, Just fuck me up.

Chapter Text

November 22nd

 

"Live Forever" - Oasis

 

Dean follows him for miles. A silent, somehow companionable trek across the city. Eventually they get to the part of town where the brownstones aren’t spray painted with gang tags and there are actual trees sprouted through the sidewalk, providing a canopy of barren branches in the winter sky.

Cas turns down a dark alley and Dean literally rolls his eyes - of fucking course. He jogs easily up stone steps hidden from street view and unlocks the heavy metal door with a big iron-looking key. Dean snorts at the sight of it - who the fuck has an old-timey skeleton key these days? Castiel peers over his shoulder at Dean, confused, and then follows his eyeline to the key. Suddenly he smiles, and the bastard has the gall to look almost bashful.

Dean doesn’t know what he’s expecting - a murder room, or a sex torture dungeon, or something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula - but it is not a warmly painted foyer-living room combo with colorful mismatched furniture and stacks of books. One stack with a dome-topped, bronze birdcage on top - empty. There’s art on the walls and it’s noticeably optimistic and clearly not expensive. More... sentimental.

The place has it’s dark and dramatic touches, namely the darkly painted vaulted ceiling strewn with pipes and I-beams, and the painted over small-pane windows that reach from the floor nearly to the ceiling. If Dean had to guess he’d say this place wasn’t actually zoned to be a living space, but hell, he’s lived in much worse himself.

Castiel moves about the apartment easily, as though he has no concern at all for Dean being in his home. He motions to the brown cuorduroy couch shoved against the wall and Dean takes a seat, watching as Castiel opens a little box from under the antique-looking coffee table. He pulls out a few odds and ends - something that looks like a chunk of amethyst, a coin Dean doesn’t recognize, a folded up piece of paper - before pulling out a baggie of something looking quite a bit like oregano, and a pipe.

Not like the kind of glass bowls Dean’s smoked weed out of in the past. No, this is an intricately carved Sherlock Holmes looking thing. He packs the pipe and lights it up. Dean watches the way his cheeks hollow out, the way the flash from the match lights his face in dancing flashes. He puffs out some smoke before coming to sit beside Dean and handing it over.

Dean hesitates. He doesn’t even fucking know this guy. All he knows is that A) he’s not strictly human, and B) he’s clearly stalking him. But the way Castiel looks at him, eyes starting to go a bit hazy but no less challenging, just pushes Dean’s buttons.

He takes the pipe, and the lighter from his pocket, and he puffs. It’s sweeter than weed, tastes almost like... jasmine. It’s dizzying, how good it is, and when he breathes a long, smoky exhale he realizes his eyes were closed. Because when he opens them Castiel is still there beside him, now smiling softly.

“Pretty good,” Dean croaks, giving a little cough.

Cas smiles a bit wider, and relaxes limply against the back of the couch which startles Dean because why the hell is he sitting so far forward. Following Castiel’s lead he falls back too and the two pass the pipe back and forth silently until they are warm and boneless and the herbs are spent.

Dean looks over at his new companion, studies him with a fuzzy, unworried mind. “You’re a fuckin’ creep, you know that?”

Cas turns slowly toward him, “Am I?”

The way he says it, like he has no idea and is genuinely concerned makes Dean snort. “You always stalk teenaged boys and bring them back to your creepy castle-apartment and drug ‘em up? You’re like an episode of Criminal Minds.”

Castiel glowers but Dean merely laughs. He can feel Castiel watching him, but he can’t seem to care. Even as the man’s eyes burn into him, he can’t muster the will to tell him to fuck off and if he’s honest, he doesn’t really want to. When Dean meets his eyes, Castiel’s singular focus back on him is startling, somewhat debilitating.

When Cas reaches a hand lazily toward him, Dean doesn’t panic. Though his heart beats wildly as Cas’ fingertips come carefully to just barely brush the mottled skin of his cheek, Dean doesn’t act. And when Cas’ fingertips are followed by a breathe-catching warm tingling sensation in his skin, Dean merely brings his fingers up to trace their touch. When his fingers touch his cheek though, there is no soreness there. He presses, but his bruises are gone.

He blinks at castiel; his mussed hair and glassy blue eyes. “How did you...?”

Castiel shrugs, looking shy and somehow way younger than he should. “I dabble in magic.”

“You’re a witch,” Dean states flatly.

Castiel merely shrugs again.

They’re quiet for a long time. Dean’s mind races. Everything he knows about hunting tells him that Castiel is an enemy. John would have killed him already, healing power or not.

“My dad would skin me if he knew I was here,” he says.

Cas grins, eyes closed. “Now you’re a real rebel,” he says, voice a sleepily deep rumble.

Dean could see how that voice could cast spells. He smirks, “Yeah, guess you’re right.” He looks Cas over for a long moment, unashamed by how long his eyes linger. “What else can you do?”

Cas shrugs. “Anything. Guess I’m not sure yet.”

“Do you like... talk to demons?”

Cas cracks an eye open, and the look Dean receives for that suggestion is no less clear for it only being one eye. “I’m not that kind of person.”

“Geez, sorry. Touchy.”

The quiet between them is awkward for a moment, as if they have both just realized horribly belatedly that they are supposed to be mortal enemies.

“I can alter perception.”

Dean squints, scrunching his face up, “What, like mind control?”

“Mmm... kind of? But it only works for me.”

“Whatta ya mean?” Dean asks, intrigued. He sits up from the couch clumsily so that he can better face him.

Cas sits up too, but stays sunk back into the couch. He looks uncomfortable for a moment before fixing Dean with a hard stare, like he’s really trying to parse who Dean really is, and undertand him all at once.

“Close your eyes,” Castiel demands.

Dean looks at him incredulously as if to say, uh, i fuckin’ think not. But Cas continues to stare, that imposing look, and Dean folds. He closes his eyes.

He doesn’t hear anything or feel anything, from what he can tell, Cas barely moves. But after a moment his voice says, “Ok. You can look.”

Dean does. Dean stares. He’s... confused. In Castiel’s place, there is what seems to be a version of himself about five years younger - he’s thinner, not a built, not quite grown into his body yet; his hair is softer, curlier, and longer - nearly down to his chin and a little less I just had my manly way with someone and a little more I'm in a band and I've done drugs in the desert; his five o clock shadow is a mostly smooth, barely prickly face; and that gut-melting, cocky smirk is replaced with an expression of apprehension.

All in all, he’s pretty fuckin’ cute. But not cute like kittens and bunnies are cute... No he’s... charming? He looks more like Dean, more like a handsome odd duck who's still got some growing to do. Dean would say he’s about two years older than himself. Twenty one, maybe twenty two. Castiel tucks a lock of dark hair behind his ear and pretends not to care that Dean is staring at him. One eyebrow is raised as he ignores him, giving his expression an aloof sort of rebelliousness. 

“Wow,” Dean barely gets out. Cas looks back at him, and his blue eyes seem huge. It's bizarre to be looking at the same man, but not. “Are you like... part shifter?”

“No,” Castiel rolls his eyes and Dean smiles at the saltiness in the action. “It’s about perception," Cas explains. "It’s... something that comes to me naturally. Part of my... magic, I guess.”

“So... sometimes you just make yourself look younger?”

Cas looks away, almost disappointed. “No, Dean. Sometimes I make myself look older." Dean blinks at him, mouth open. "How I will look. ...Someday.”

“Wait, wait -” Dean leans forward, “so this is the real you?”

Castiel shrugs again.

Dean just keeps looking at him. “Huh. You’re about my age.” He shakes his head, “Trippy.”

“Yes.”

“I better not find out later that none of this is real and you just drugged the shit out of my with your old-timey peace pipe.”

Castiel chuckles, and despite the change in age, it’s still a low rumble. Dean likes the way it reverberates through his chest. He likes the sound.

 

 

Chapter Text

November 23rd

“Turn the Page” - Bob Seger

 

 

Dean has always loved making music. He’s only just barely, after four successful albums, three tours and seven years in the business become comfortable with calling himself a musician. He always thought he tinkered and got lucky. But, here he is, on the road again, with a full caravan of fellow musicians, technicians, drivers, and roadies criss-crossing America on what might be his biggest American tour.

There’s a culture to the industry that he’s managed to avoid - the drinking and drugs and womanizing - that’s kept him well-liked and respected, but even so... He thinks the life might be killing him. Because it’s thirty degrees outside, pitch black, and they’re pulling into some truck-stop diner and all Dean can think is how goddamned lonely he is. He is surrounded by people all day and night, but he doesn’t feel whole. He wants to be where Sam is. He wants to make a new, deep connection.

He wants love.

When success first came to him, it was everything he’d ever wanted. When his first record when gold he and Sam had screamed and hooted and even cried. Dean was making music, being acknowledged, and on top of that he paid all their bills, put enough away for Sam to go to any school he damn well wanted.

He toured and wrote and played for years with a steady, sustained but not overwhelming appreciation from the public. It was what any musician on Earth would dream of.

But one by one, all the musicians and roadies he came up with eventually moved on. They’d made a good living and wanted to share it with their families and make their own homes. The ones who had been single either paired-off or met someone special. Dean didn’t resent them for it, he was glad. He liked to see the people he cared about doing well. 

Sam went away to school, and Dean nearly busted up he was so goddamned proud.

After that, everyone he’d started this adventure with, was gone. He still continued on, mostly because he didn’t have anything else planned.

Now, he was nearing the end of his studio contract, and though they’d been nothing but good to him, Dean had looked around one day and realized... he felt stuck.

He was hungry. For... he didn’t know what. A soulmate, maybe? A new family to dote on, to dedicate himself to, to be happy to see succeed.

They were somewhere in Nebraska when a strange, overwhelmed feeling overtook him. They’d shuffled their way into a roadside diner, the kind of place Dean grew up on - cheap food, tired waitstaff - and when Dean stepped in the door he felt... strange. He felt like everyone in the place was staring at him and that, unlike in the beginning of his career, there was no one there with him who knew him well enough to realize he needed distracting, or escape, or for someone to at least acknowledge that he was very suddenly not ok.

These musicians and technicians, they were all great guys and gals. Dean didn’t  hire people who were into the stereotypical scene - drugs and booze and anonymous sex and chaos. He was just a guy with a guitar and he wanted to surround himself with real people, just doing their jobs. He had succeeded in this. And yet, these weren’t really his people. Maybe that was his fault. Maybe he hadn’t tried hard enough to build a new family when his moved on. But either way, in that moment, Dean felt terribly alone. Alone and on display. As his throat started to feel tight and his face hot, he tried to keep his shit together but he knew he was gonna slip.

He patted one of his guys on the shoulder, “Gonna hit the head.”  They nodded and Dean made a break for it. He tried not to look desperate as he stalked through the restaurant, past the bathroom, and right back outside through a door marked “Employees Only”.

As soon as he was outside Dean took a gasping breath, the sudden need of which surprised him. It was damn cold, but that wasn’t why Dean’s hands were shaking.

In that moment, Dean was at a crossroads. He felt... impotent. This life he’d so loved had him feeling stuck, as though he had no forward momentum. His life, in the past seven years, had been amazing. But things were about to change, he could taste it on the air. He needed it. The fear of ruining everything he’d built, compounded with not having any idea what it was he wanted to do, was incapacitating.

“You look overwhelmed.”

Shit!”  Dean startled at the sound of a deep, rasping voice behind him. He whirled around to see a man, sitting on a crate against the wall, potato in one hand and a peeler in the other. He was wearing a black puffer coat, a grey knit cap, and his eyes were a dark, dark blue. “I’m sorry,” the man said, poorly hiding a smile “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Dean should probably have spoken if he hoped not to seem like a total loon, but he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. 

“Are you alright?” the man asked, with a sincere tone, as though he were an old friend.

Dean stared at him a moment, taken off guard. “Uh... yeah. No - I’m - it’s fine.”

The man smirked as he peeled, giving a little laugh.

“That’s funny?”

“It’s... attractive. Pleasant.” The man stated it solidly, fixing Dean with a smile before going back to his peeling, leaving Dean to flounder in the moment.

“W-what is?”

“You’re a terrible liar.” The man smiled at him, “I like that.”

“Ohhhhkay...” Dean glanced around, feeling like he had accidentally stepped into another someone else’s life.

“What’s bothering you?”

“Nothing’s-” Dean didn’t even bother to continue denying it when the man arched an eyebrow at him,  giving him a look so knowing that Dean could have sworn the man was in his head. He merely sighed dramatically, and turned his face toward the sky to take another deep breath before he talked to a complete stranger about his personal shit. “I think I’m having a - whatta they call it - an existential crisis.”

The man looked intrigued, but didn’t speak.

“I have a good life. I’m pretty well set up. But...”

“You’re unhappy?”

Dean shook his head. “Not unhappy no. Just...”

“Unfulfilled.”

Dean looked at him for a long moment, “I guess so. If I’m being honest, I’m... lonely.”

The man hmm’ed in response, as though he completely understood and it actually made Dean feel a little better.

“I’m surrounded by people all the time and I still feel... alone. My brother says I’m a nester.” Dean rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help the fond smile. “He says I need to have someone to take care of.”

“And to take care of you.”

Dean was shocked by that. He shrugged, blushing; rubbed his palm against the back of his neck. He didn’t know why having the idea turned back on him made him so uncomfortable.

“None of these people around you make you feel fulfilled?” the man asked curiously. “None of them really know you? None of them looked at you and could tell you were in crisis.”

“I’m not in crisis -” Dean was distracted when the man stood, realizing for the first time that the man was fit and tall. He dropped the last of his potatoes carelessly into the metal pot sitting on the ground. It thudded against the others with a clang against the side of the pot that distracted Dean. When he looked back at the man, his breath was robbed from his chest at the strength of the stare he was met with.

“Maybe I could be that. For you,” the man said.

Dean stumbled back a step, mouth hanging open. “D-dude! You’re a fuckin’ stranger! We haven’t even really met-”

He said as though it were obvious, a universal rule that Dean was foolish for not acknowledging, “Two souls that recognize each other are not strangers. They can’t be. And my name is Castiel.”

Dean blinked in awe at the hand offered. Out of instinct and a need to do something, he shook the man’s hand. His hand was warm and calloused, his handshake strong. “Dean,” he barely whispered.

Dean,” the man smiled around the name and Dean’s heart skipped a beat at the sound of it in his mouth. “Well Dean, I am in desperate need of an adventure, and... companionship. Not necessarily in that order. And you are beautiful and guileless and in need of the same. So, I have a proposition.”

“Oh God-”

“I would like to be your friend.”

Dean did not respond. In truth he was trying to remember if anyone had ever actually asked to be his friend before. Of all the things he though this Castiel might ask for, all the nasty shit that's been asked of him by men and women alike since he got famous, has apparently made him pessimistic. Cas' proposition, in relation, seems bizarrely innocent.

“I think,” Castiel added in Dean’s silence, “I’d like very much to go on my next adventure with you. It’s fortuitous timing. I was going to quit this job when I was done with the potatoes.”

“What? Why?”

“I’ve needed... freedom. A change. A connection. So do you.”

“No offense Castiel, but you have no fucking idea what I need.”

“You need a companion -”

Dude.”

“A friend. So do I.” Dean blinked at him, but was entirely without retort.  “You want to be off the road. You don’t want anyone to know you’re tired.”

Dean felt a shiver that knocked him off kilter. “...Yes.”

“Where? Where do you want to be?” Castiel asked as though he really wanted to know.

“I don’t... I can’t explain it.”

“Because it isn’t a place.”

“No,” Dean agreed, baffled.

“It’s a feeling.”

“Jesus- how are you... How do you know all this?”

“It’s obvious,” Castiel told him. He squinted at Dean and it was all Dean could do to stop from looking down at himself to make sure he was presentable. Castiel tilted his head and stared at him empirically. “Are you a womanizer?”

“What - no!”

"Good.”

“What the fuck - why would you ask that?”

“You’re handsome. Enigmatic. You have... the potential. I can’t abide the manipulation of affection. Sexist though it may be, I am particularly offended on behalf of women.”

“I... don’t even know where to start with that one.”

“So, will you be my friend? Will we have an adventure?”

Dean looked at him hard for a moment. “You... play an instrument?”

“No.”

“You strong?”

Castiel cocked an eyebrow.

“Can you coil cable? Push road boxes?”

“I suppose.”

“Christ, I must be nuts.”

“Possibly.”

“Not really helping your case, Cas.”

“You’ve already made up your mind,” he shrugs.

Dean squints at him, incredulous. “You are so fuckin’ weird.” Dean sighs dramatically. “I better not regret this.” Castiel  simply smiles and Dean grimaces at him. “Alright listen, I have a strict no hard drugs no drinkin’ til you puke rule. This isn’t your chance to be Axle Rose.”

Castiel tilted his head in confusion.

“You do what your T.D. tells you to do, you do it well, and you don’t act shady. I have a zero tolerance policy against harassment of any kind but specifically of the ass-grabbing, catcalling variety that stipulates not only that you’ll be fired but that one or both of your legs will be broken when we dump your ass by the side of the road if I find out any of that shit’s goin’ on. Capice?”

“Capizio.”

Dean looked him over  for a long moment. “We roll out at seven a.m. tomorrow. Have your stuff and be ready, by the bus. We’re not waiting.”

“I’ll be there,” he said succinctly, a small nod to accompany his words.

 

*

 

That night, Dean laid his hotel bed staring up at the stucco ceiling and considered the bizarre turn his night had taken. He’d stepped off the bus run-down and overwhelmed, and now he was a million different things - curious, baffled, intrigued, wary, sympathetic. He’d made a pretty rash decision, and he couldn’t stop asking himself what the Hell he’s been thinking. Castiel didn’t give off a vibe like he was an axe murderer or anything, but Dean couldn’t help but question himself, hiring some stranger from the back of a shitty diner to join his crew halfway through the tour. A guy with seemingly no experience or interpersonal savvy. It occurred to him that if asked why he brought the guy on, he didn’t really have an answer.

Despite all of this doubt and the impending awkwardness of him showing up randomly tomorrow, however, Dean knew somehow that this was right. It was scary, makign a decision for seemingly no reason. Trusting his gut when it had been tearing him up so much recently felt like a big risk. But Castiel wanted an adventure, and Dean had the means to give that to him.

Not for the first time that night, Dean was restless, nearly desperate to know more about this blue-eyed stranger. He sighed, flopping over onto his front, but still not finding rest.

“Shit.”

 

 

Chapter Text

November 24th

“Live for Today” - The Grass Roots

 

Castiel is flummoxed. Dean has never been a particularly manageable human; he’s always been complicated and disobedient. In many ways those elements are what truly drew Castiel toward him. And they have known each other long enough now that Castiel is familiar with many iterations of Dean Winchester.

But this... This is not something he recognizes.

To a degree, elements of Dean’s recent behavior are familiar. He’s always a bit reckless, always head strong and he never seems to miss an opportunity to wade into a dangerous situation. And he’s always been, even if falsely so, blatantly lustful. But since Castiel had miraculously resurrected from the Empty, Dean has been diving head first in to certain death and the chaos of life and any and all emotion that passes through him with a voracity that Castiel finds extremely unsettling.

Today is no different.

Dean cuts and slashes and it’s like a dance, the way his body moves - swinging and stretching with a grace he only seems to have when he’s fighting. Sam is occupied across the room, throwing together the spell. But Castiel’s foe is dead and he finds himself immobile, under the spell of Dean’s bizarre ferocity. He’s watching Dean fight, and it’s beautiful. And terrible. They’re outnumbered and Castiel is, as always, terribly aware of how easily their mortal lives could be snuffed. Yet...

Dean smiles.

Castiel is used to a grim determination, a militant sort of focus from Dean with the occasional snark and mishap. But this... it’s like Dean is playing. It’s as though the stakes are somehow low, as though it’s no concern to him that their lives are on the line. There’s a manic glint in his eye that unsettles Castiel. He’s enjoying himself. Even when he takes a swipe of blade to the gut, Castiel feels his own stomach drop, but Dean merely smirks at the monster, and keeps on fighting.

Castiel sees red.

He feels the heat of grace crackling in his palm before he knows he’s made the decision and a moment later he’s standing over the limp carcass of the monster Dean’s fighting. Dean has the gall to look cheated, even as his left hand holds his guts in.

Heavy, rapid footfalls are the only thing that draw Castiel’s eyes from the seeping red and his wits are sharpened right back up when Sam rounds the corner and catches sight of his brother.

Dean,” Sam says, eyes wide and focused on the blood dripping from Dean’s middle. He looks shocked, haunted. But Dean ignores him.

“The Hell, Cas?” he says incredulously. “I totally had him!”

“Cas!” Sam begs, gesturing at Dean’s wound.

Castiel reaches forward, heals Dean with a touch. Dean blinks, looks down at himself, and barely skips a beat when he says, “You know if we drive triple digits all the way there we can make it to that Vamp-shakedown in Missoula.”

Sam looks at his brother like he’s out of his mind.

“Fine,” Dean shrugs flippantly at the silence. “But you know what I did see on the way in? Strip club!” He wiggles his eyebrows.

Castiel seethes. Dean may be more chipper than he’s been in years, but he’s also more suicidal and he now suspects willfully oblivious to the concern he’s causing the people who care for him.

Castiel turns to Sam and catches the man’s eyes, feeling a further surge of frustration and determination at the utter bafflement and fright in Sam’s eyes. It’s not the fear of a monster at their throats, or an evil plan in motion, but that very specific fear caused by Dean. “Sam, please finish up here while I have a word with your brother.” Castiel doesn’t wait for a response. He reaches for Dean and he isn’t sweet about it when he grips his arm. In a blink they’re back in the motel room.

Dean wobbles unsteadily, “Woah-  dude! Warn a guy-”

“You tell me what is going on with you. Right now.”

Dean blinks at him, bites his lip coyly, “Scare ya, Cas?”

“If I didn’t have the power to heal you, you’d be dead.”

“Yeah, but you do. Soooo,” Dean licks his bottom lip in that way that always makes Cas’ jaw muscle tick, “why don’t’cha some over here and check out your handiwork.”

Castiel shakes his head, furious. “You know why I’m angry. You, acting like you’re invincible. Behaving as though it doesn’t matter what happens to you. Behaving... stupidly.”

“Aw, come on Cas,” Dean crowds in close to him. “I tell you what,” he runs his fingers up Cas’ chest, then down to his hips, around to his ass, “if you forgive me? I’ll let you fuck me. How’s that sound.”

Amazing.

Wrong.

This is when Castiel knows, undoubtedly, something isn’t right. Because Dean’s a physical person, and they’ve been physical together for years; but anything in the vicinity of penetrative sex has always spun Dean into a fit of denial and machismo. Castiel has known him, loved him, long enough to have gotten damn acrobatic at arousing Dean while simultaneously avoiding setting off his many, many fight or flight triggers.

“Why would you offer me that now?” Castiel asks sincerely.

“I’m human. I wanna bang a few gongs,” Dean chuckles to himself, as if there's some inside joke Cas isn't privy to. Then he levels Cas with a look that nearly propels Cas to the bed, flat on his back, against his will. “I wanna bang ‘em with you.”

He swallows, grips Dean’s hips tightly. “I appreciate that.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean’s hand slides down Cas’ body and grips him easily through his trousers.

“However,” Castiel pulls his hand away, “it does appear to be... short-sighted. And somewhat out of your character. You live to fight another day, Dean. That’s what you said. Can’t save anyone if you’re dead. That is important to you-”

“I just wanna feel good,” Dean says, as though it’s easy. “I wanna feel everything. With you. ‘Cause this, today, that’s all we got Cas. Aren’t you tired of running out of time?”

“Dean...”

His eyes are sympathetic and Dean can’t stand it. “Don’t. Don’t look at me like that. I’m finally doing it right.”

“What?”

Life.” Castiel squints at him but Dean looks away from his eyes, hides his face in Castiel’s neck as he kisses there. “Love.”

“This is inspired by... an epiphany?”

“Sure,” Dean whispers to the spot behind Cas’ ear, “you wanna call it that.”

“And what was this epiphany that has you acting so... irrationally.”

“Nothin’ irrational about it Cas. We’ve been, I’ve been, dancin’ the same dance to the same shitty song since forever. This life, it isn’t gonna end well for us. And living optimistically - like there’s a chance we’ll live on, like there’s a chance we could be happy but only after - just ain’t workin’. So,” he nips at Cas’ lip, “go big or go home. We’re gonna fucking die anyway.”

Castiel’s warring emotions of arousal and concern make him somewhat immobile. “Difficult logic to argue with,” he splutters with difficulty.

“I’m cursed, Cas. You’ll die. You’ll leave me alone again and I know that now. That’s my fate. But instead of trying so hard to keep it out, to keep surviving, I’m just... I’m just not gonna think about tomorrow. Only right now. And right now, I wanna touch you.”

“And earlier? The hunt?”

“Earlier? I wanted to fight. I wanted to enjoy the fight more than I wanted to win it. I need that.”

“To fight?” Castiel asks curiously, as Dean’s hands touch him everywhere, press and knead and even caress. Suddenly Castiel understands, he has an epiphany of his own. “To feel,” he says. “To be free to feel joy in fighting, in pain. To be consumed by feeling. To go to the edge of...” His words fail him when he realizes Dean’s head is resting against his sternum, and that the man is suddenly still, but gripping him just this side of too hard.

It shouldn’t be easy for Castiel to decide what to do next, so it is beyond explanation that it somehow is easy. He knows, inexplicably, exactly what he needs to say.

“Dean,” he rumbles the word more like a Holy command than the name of a friend. And as Castiel suspected, Dean cannot help but look up. “I don’t want you to escape into sex. I don’t want you to only want me because you’re sure I’ll leave you.”

“What do you want, Cas?”

“I want you to stop fighting vulnerability by throwing yourself into danger. I want you to stop putting yourself further into harms way than is strictly necessary. And I want... I want your touch to be a choice. Not a defense mechanism.”

“You want a lot, Cas,” Dean blushes, laughing it off. His eyes go wide and his body still when Cas grabs his chin and forces their eyes to meet. He can feel Dean’s breath speed up, his heart beat faster.

“We can fully live these moments without constantly making them almost our last. And if you want to feel... free,” he backs Dean up slowly, “loose,” he crowds him against the wall, “without responsibility or control,” he grips Dean’s wrists and holds them behind his back, pinning them between Dean’s body and the wall, “then that is something we can try too. I would do that for you, Dean,” he tells him, voice soft and dark as he presses his body fully into the man’s, “you only need to ask.”

Dean’s eyes are wide with something like awe as he cusses lowly. Castiel chuckles.

“If you need to feel wild and alive, perhaps we could find a way to make that happen without Sam and I having to see you dead.”

“Do not talk about Sam right now.”

Castiel chuckles again, lets his hands slip to the globes of Dean’s ass, when he grips tight and lifts, savoring the choked gasp that comes from Dean. He runs his thumbs as much into his crease as he can with Dean’s jeans in the way, and feels the man shudder as they brush the furl of muscle that Dean has never let him near and yet, less than five minutes ago offered up as though it was nothing. “Is this something you still want?”

Castiel feels the way Dean’s body melts against, into him, sees the way his pupils have dilated. But, he also feels the deeply rooted trepidation within him.

He kisses him filthily, and completely in control and he feels Dean’s arms wind softly around him.

“We can get there, if that’s what you want. But I can make you feel alive to the fullest, Dean Winchester, even without that.”

They’ve touched countless times over the years. And every moment has been sensual and mind-blowing and special. But nothing was quite like what they experienced that night. Dean’s need was blatant, deeper, more raw and desperate than strictly sexual. Castiel took very well to meeting and exceeding his needs.

The next day, Dean was more himself. He didn’t look for unnecessary violence, he didn’t throw himself at any willing body that passed. He was level-headed and reliable, much to all of their relief.

That night, he went to Cas’ room in the bunker and let Cas take away his worries and remind him just how alive they both were.

 

Chapter Text

November 25th

“No Scrubs” - TLC

 

It’s a gaybar.

It doesn’t matter to Castiel how classy it is, how upscale and discerning it is, how many codes of conduct and dress code rules there are for its clientele. It’s still a gaybar. And Castiel detests gaybars. He detests all bars. Clubs, even more. He cannot stand for the open invitation of ogling and clumsily attempted courtship. He is made extremely uncomfortable by the advances of strangers and worst of all, he met Bartholomew (may he trip and fall into a ditch) at a bar much like this one. Granted, Castiel had been a few scotches deep and extremely horny at the time, neither of which he is right now, so the likelihood of starting a similarly unfortunate and utterly mismatched relationship at this juncture is not likely.

Castiel is acutely aware of the fact that he told his brother no, adamantly, many times throughout the day upon his request for company tonight. He is also aware that he finds himself somehow here anyway, at an over-priced, well-disguised gaybar.

“Loosen up, Cassie. You look like you’re gonna hit someone with a Bible.” Castiel glares at him, unamused. “That sourpuss isn’t reelin’ in any rebound action.”

“I’m not fishing, Gabriel.”

“Sure you are. It’s been long enough.”

“It was four hours ago.”

Gabriel shrugs, grinning into his cocktail. “No love lost, though, am I right?”

Castiel sighs the huffy sigh of the extremely put-upon.

“You hated that guy. I hated that guy. Literally everyone hated that guy. He was a smug little prick who happened to be drunk at the same time as you once. That was about all the chemistry you had. Soulmates you were not. You were lookin’ to kick him to the curb a month ago. So, he did it for you. Brush off your ego and find a new boytoy. Behold,” he gestures grandly around the room. “The cream of the crop.”

Just then the door opens and a rush of frigid winter air sweeps through the place and right up the back of Castiel’s shirt. He turns to glare daggers at the man who would dare to irritate him further and sees six feet of leather jacket-wearing handsome man swagger in the door. Their eyes meet and Castiel could swear the man smiles, even though Castiel is certain he has maintained his look of displeasure.

Gabriel follows Castiel's eyes and whistles his appreciation. “Check out them bow-legs.”

Castiel can’t help but do just that. It does lend to a somewhat racy train of thought - and sweating between someone else’s knees might just help him cleanse his palette from Bartholomew. Yet, when the man starts walking towards him, Castiel turns away, suddenly uncomfortable with the attention.

“Howdy,” the man’s voice is close over his shoulder, smooth and deep.

Castiel rolls his eyes. Who says Howdy? This isn’t a spaghetti western.  He turns and gives the man a cold but appraising stare. It doesn’t do any harm to look at him, he has invited the attention after all. In looking Castiel finds that the man is, indeed, aesthetically pleasing, if not very well presented.

He’s tall and handsome, with green eyes and a well-formed, symmetrical face dusted with criminally adorable orange freckles. He has pink lips that look plump and soft. His dark blonde hair sweeps up to one side, and his eyes are very green, which is somewhat of a rarity.

But, his jeans are filthy and worn. Cheap, for sure. Boots no better. He’s wearing flannel of all things and there is black under his nails and permanently pressed into the whorls of his fingerprints.

He even stands classlessly. A little too relaxed, a little too at home. A little too much like he doesn't give a fuck what anyone thinks. 

“Buy you a drink?” he asks quietly, sparkle in his eyes as he smirks at Castiel.

Castiel wants to kiss him.

“I’m not interested,” he rushes to say. 

“You’re not!?” Gabriel shouts, eyes up to his hairline. Castiel narrows his eyes at his brother, but it does little to dissuade him form action, as always. “That’s a lie if ever I heard it. Pull up a stool,” Gabriel winks at the handsome man, he then smacks Castiel’s arm. “Don’t be a stick in the mud - catch your damn rebound.”

“There’s nothing to rebound from, and if there was, it wouldn’t be here with this stranger.”

“Hey, I was just gonna offer to buy you a drink-”

“Bartholomew was a stranger,” Gabriel argues haughtily.

“No, Bartholomew was a coworker in a three thousand dollar suit who works at the firm across the hall. We had plenty in common.”

“Should I go put on a suit and come back?” the stranger jokes, good natured but awkward.

Castiel looks at him, his eyes scan him top to bottom and yes, he is handsome, but he’s obviously some blue-collar mechanic. He's probably flashed that smile at better men than Cas and gotten everything he wanted. But after Bart, Cas is done with perfect smiles and rowdy nights that lead to nothing. This handsome man and Castiel would have nothing in common and therefore this is a waste of both their time. Just like Bart was a massive waste of his fucking time.

“They have a twenty dollar minimum," Castiel states dismissively. "You shouldn’t put yourself out in some poorly executed attempt to woo me. If anything, I should be buying you a drink.”

The man blinks, a look crosses his face but is gone too quickly for Castiel to successfully parse. “I wouldn’t say no to that either,” the man drawls with a smirk.

Castiel blushes and beside him Gabriel clicks his tongue and says, “Yee-haw.”

Castiel snaps, “I don’t need a matchmaker Gabriel! I hate bars, I hate small-talk and I hate feeling obligated to spend immense effort and what little free time I have entertaining a man with whom I have no common ground and who couldn’t even bathe before he got here.”

In the deafening silence that follows, Castiel glances up from the bar to see his brother looking shocked and the handsome stranger, whom he had just insulted loudly, in public, and for seemingly no reason, leveling him with a cold stare that makes Castiel feel very, very small.

“Well I’ll just leave you be then,” the man says politely. Too politely. He walks away and Castiel buries his face in his hands.

“Wow.”

“Gabriel, please don’t.”

He feels his brother get up and move, hears him drop cash on the bar. “Dick move, Cassie. I’m shameless and - yeah, I'll cop to it - generally rude, but even I wouldn’t have said all that.” Castiel feels all of the will to exist seeping out of his body in embarrassment and guilt. “Whatever’s got you so torn up, maybe don’t be an huge jerk to the nice guy who has nothing to do with it and is, oh yeah, a fucking American adonis. Just, you know, life advice.”

When Gabriel leaves Castiel sits at the bar, alone but feeling like the whole bar’s eyes are on him until he finishes his dink. He dares to glance around the room and spots the handsome man in the corner, chatting amiably with a dimpled african american man in a suit. They seem to be getting along just fine.

Before he can talk himself out of it, Castiel rises and heads in his direction. He is motivated to make this right, and little else but the actual rule of law can impede Castiel when he is motivated. He approaches, and like the fine specimen of suave interpersonal propriety he is, he horns into the ongoing conversation like a bull in a china shop.

“Hello.”

Both men halt suddenly and stare at him. Castiel has the decency to blush at the obvious social mistake he’s made.

“Kinda in the middle of something,” the handsome man says.

“Yes, I... see that...”

After a long moment the handsome man shifts his weight irritably and says, “This table’s not only for first class, is it? Should I go out back and commune with the other rats before I get something dirty.”

“Uhhh,” the handsome man’s companion looks around uncomfortably, “I’m just gonna...” He points to the bar and steps awkwardly away.

Castiel watches him go. When he looks back at the handsome man, he is glaring.

“I wanted to buy you a drink. As an apology.”

“Sweet. But I don’t think they sell PBR in cans here, so...” He moves to walk away and Castiel gapes - he’s never had apology not be met with the reasonable propriety of acceptance before and he feels spun around. Castiel reaches to stop the handsome man from escaping before he’s been fully apologized to.

When he lays his hand on the man’s warm, very solid forearm, he cannot deny the chemical thrill that surges through him. The man looks at Castiel’s hand, then up at his eyes, and the look there is not kind. Castiel withdraws his hand and plants himself firmly before him. “I don’t excel at interpersonal nuance. That being said, I’m not so oblivious as to be unaware of how rude I was. In truth, I was terrible to you because I knew I could be. Because I was mad and I felt bad and I wanted to make you feel bad too. I don’t know why, but I am sorry. I feel guilty and I hope you will accept my apology.”

“Wow,” the handsome man nods at him. “Well, consider your apology accepted on behalf of all the peasants.”

Castiel blinks, shocked, “I never called you a peasant-”

“You should wash your hand. You touched my arm.”

Castiel’s mind is reeling, he looks down at his palm, baffled.

“Wow. Seriously?” the man seems offended anew.

Castiel huffs in frustration. “This is ridiculous. Will you please sit down with me so that I can buy your forgiveness with alcohol.”

The handsome man looks at him a long moment, seems to analyze him carefully, before his face breaks out into a very attractive smile. “Ok,” he says, and follows Castiel’s lead. As he’s sitting down at the small table he smirks back at Castiel and says, “Sure you can be seen with someone who doesn’t bathe?”

Castiel rolls his eyes. “How many times shall I apologize? A few more, perhaps?”

“Hey, you were rude to me, pal. I just thought you were cute.”

Castiel grimaces, “Cute?”

“Yeah. After all that pompous shit you think I’m gonna willingly tell you I thought you were sexy and wanted to bring you home to my place and have my dirty, nasty way with you? Nope. You’re relegated to cute.”

Castiel swallows thickly and clears his throat. “Do you have a name?”

“Yep. They give those to poor folks too.” Castiel sighs heavily, but the man merely laughs. “Dean,” he finally tells him.

“Dean,” Castiel repeats. He offers his hand, “Castiel.”

“You sure?” Dean hold his stained hands up, palms forward on display.

“Give me your hand, Dean,” Castiel demands. The man smirks again but does shake Castiel’s hand. Castiel is treated to a second bout of that pleasant tingling through his body.

“So, Castiel,” Dean smirks at him wickedly, “you’re gonna buy me a taste of the most expensive whiskey on the menu.”

“As you wish.”

“Now that I’ve got a sugar-daddy for the night, I’ve gotta really live it up.”

Castiel squints at him, unamused. “You are... challenging.”

“You’re an asshole.”

Castiel glares.

“Excuse me, a rich asshole. Better?”

Castiel rolls his eyes.

“Rich, white assholes don’t get challenged Cas. It’s a new experience for you. Bask in it.”

Three hours later Dean’s got two tumblers worth of very expensive whiskey keeping him warm from the inside and Castiel’s cheeks are slightly pink from his own. They’ve talked about everything from the gentrification of the city to Castiel’s work in Law to Dean’s hobby of binge-watching truly terrible television and they find that the conversation is easy. They talk about their brothers - crazy things they have done, fights they’ve had - and Castiel admits that his brother’s guilting was part of what motivated him to come apologize. The camaraderie with which they swap stories and argue about books is strange, in that it’s true that they are nothing alike as people, but talking is easy somehow.

Conversation, for Castiel, has never been easy.

Castiel pays the bill with Dean laughing over his shoulder, “Don’t think you’re getting out of it just because I forgive you.” Castiel can’t help but smile as he signs his name to the not insignificant bar bill, his chest feeling warm and fluttery.

As they step out into the cold, they hover awkwardly outside the bar as though they don’t know where to go from here. “Is your car near?” Castiel asks.

Dean gestures to the bus stop across the street.

“You took the bus here?”

“Yes, I fucking did,” Dean smiles.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“May I drive you home?”

“I’m a big boy, Cas, I’ll survive the terror of public transportation just fine.”

“No, I meant - I would like to spend more time with you. Perhaps I could... ride with you?” Even as he says it, he’s talking himself out of it.

“I’m sorry, did fancy-britches Castiel just offer to ride on the city bus with me?”

Castiel rolls his eyes dramatically, but his heart leaps at the sound of Dean’s laugh.

“You’re just tryin’ to get me to take you home.”

Castiel smirks back at him, “Maybe." Dean's eyes are glittering, but he seems shy too. Castiel doesn't want to push it, he likes him. A lot. "But I also wouldn’t mind just... sitting with you,” Castiel admits.

Dean blinks at him, seemingly caught off guard. “Ok,” he agrees quietly with a private, softer smile.

They make a slow-going leisure stroll out of their walk to bus stop. Dean leans over and whispers, “You’re totally gonna uber back, aren’t you?”

Castiel looks at him, completely straight-faced and says, “Absolutely.” They both laugh.

They stand shoulder to shoulder waiting for the bus.

Chapter Text

November 26th

"Doolin - Dalton" - The Eagles

 

Go down Bill Dalton it must be God’s will.

Two brother’s lyin’ dead in Coffeyville.

Two voices call to you from where they stood.

Lay down your lawbooks now,

they’re no damn good.

*

The sun was high and hot when Castiel stepped off the train in Coffeyville. It was barely a half hour’s ride into town from there, but somehow the short trip left him feeling dirty - sweat down his back, the dust of dired-up, loose earth clinging to his clothes and skin. It wasn’t hard to find the Sheriff’s station, never was in these little frontier towns. The usual staple of a man sitting outside, looking more menacing than the criminals as he squinted through the midday sun to keep a careful eye on the town, rifle in his lap.

Castiel nodded as he climbed the steps. He was met with a hard stare but no resistance as he walked into the station.

Which was empty.

He turned right back around and stood by the man. “You’re the Sheriff then?”

The man just barely smirks. “That I am. Cain,” he says, by way of introduction.

Castiel has no time for games, but still, he has to admit a sort of immediate fondness for the man’s incomplete lack of humor.

“You the one they sent to help us with our... plague?”

Castiel nods. It was never for pleasant reasons that Castiel was summoned to the frontier. It could only mean bounty or plague but either way it meant death. This time it was both: a murder that resulted in a hanging followed almost immediately by an outbreak of a supposedly never before seen pox. It was all too much for the small town and talk was of curses and certain death. In this instance, Castiel couldn’t have shirked the duty if he’d tried. He was a well-respected lawman in the city and he’d been a medic in the war, so it seemed he was the best qualified for the job.

All he’d been told was that folks in this town were coming down with marks, over night, like pox. But that no one had died and it was something that had to be seen, first hand.

“When was the first?”

“‘Bout two weeks ago.”

About?”

The man looks at him sharply, letting Castiel know he has no mind to be sassed by a stranger. “Wasn’t the Sheriff then,” he tells him. “Wasn’t really around town when it happened.”

“And what happened to the previous Sheriff?”

“He didn’t want anything to do with you.”

“How so.”

“I don’t mean to cast dispersions, I wanna be real clear about that. Bobby Singer’s ‘bout as steadfast a man as they come. But he’s an old coot too. The world’s changin’ around him and he can’t keep up.”

“No crime in being old.”

The man chuckles, “None, that. But the days of cowboyin’ and handin’ down law as you see it, one man judge-jury-executioner, are done. People these days get mighty unsettled by bodies in the street.” Cain adjusts his rifle in his hands, “He doesn’t want any outside law comin’ in talkin’ about what happened here when they don’t know anything about it. The hanged man, Dean Winchester, was as good as kin to him. Sheriff loved him like a son. Couldn’t bear for him to get the rope.”

“He did though.”

Cain nods, a sad look in his eyes.

“You don’t seem pleased about it either.”

“Only one wanted Dean to hang, was Dean.” Castiel must look baffled because Cain adds, “Couldn’t live with it.”

“The murder?”

Cain nods. “The fratricide.”

“The man he shot - he was family?”

“His brother. His little brother. Practically raised him.” Cain sighs, “Right mess the whole thing is. No one can make heads or tails of it. Those boys were inseparable all their lives. They loved each other. But Sam... somethin’ went wrong with him. Went away to fancy school, came back... wrong. Dean puttin’ him down, it was murder, but that don’t mean it wasn’t right. Buried ‘em both in the church lot. Side by side.”

“Against policy.”

“Sure is. Gonna be a problem?”

Castiel shakes his head. “No. It is not.”

*

When Castiel tries to speak to Bobby Singer he’s met with angry rumbling that would rival a drunken grizzly, but no useful information is given. He mostly tells Castiel to “fuck off or lose a toe” and as Castiel did not fancy pain or having to buy new boots, he left the man to his rot-gut and moved along.

The most recent afflicted was a young woman by the name of Lisa. From what he could tell, she was well-liked by the men in town and by the younger women, less so by women over thirty-five. When she answered the door to her modest but very well kept cabin, he immediately took note of her beauty. She was tan-skinned with silky black hair swept up, loose pieces floating down to frame her face. Her smile was kind, but her spirit sharp.

He sat with her in the parlor for over an hour. She held her young son in her lap, lifted the boy’s shirt to show the mark left on him. She described her own, completely identical and on her right hip. Castiel squinted at the boy’s mark - this was no pox. This was no disease at all. It looked more like a brand, something a mix of devil worship and cattle raising might have inspired. It was a five-pointed star within a circle of flame.

“First you, and then your son shortly after?” Castiel asks.

Lisa nods, I was walking back from the well. Nearly knocked me off my feet. A few minutes late, I hear him scream and I high-tail it up here so fast...” She pets the boy’s hair and it is obvious he is beloved. “He was cryin’ but they were crocodile tears mostly. Whatever it is, it wasn’t raw or bloody. It just... was. It scared me,” she admits quietly.

“Understandably so.”

“Ben, he hasn’t been... it’s been hard for him since... A friend, died recently. He wasn’t Ben’s father and... forgive me the impropriety but the truth is he lived with us for a short while. He and I playing at man and wife. It was not a blessed union,” she laughs to herself before he face turns sad again, “but he never stopped being good to us.”

“This is Dean Winchester?”

She looks at him shocked, then her expression grows hard, and as formidable as she looks Castiel would not want to be on the wrong end of an argument with her. “Yes,” she confirms strongly. “He was a good man.”

“That’s what I’ve heard.”

She softens after that. They sit quietly for a long moment, watching the boy play with small, carved soldiers.

“You’re feeling well, aside from this?”

She nods, “No more complaints than usual. Ben’s all but forgotten it happened.”

Castiel makes a contemplative noise before rising to his feet. She rises with him. He thanks her for her hospitality, promises to let her know if he learns anything further but that he suspects they will be fine.

He thinks about the anomaly of it on the horse-ride back to town, trotting easily, riding so leisurely so as to give his mind time to think, that when he passes under the wooden archway back into town, dusk has set. He can hear chatter in the hotel restaurant, piano in the saloon, women down the way chatting lively.

He’s tying up his horse, sunlight nearly entirely gone when he catches movement out of the corner of his eye. When he turns to look he just barely sees the shape of a man in the shadows by the stables. He doesn’t know why the shape draws him, doesn’t even feel himself moving toward him. The man steps forward only slightly, seeming similarly drawn, and the last, fierce strike of daylight catches his face, his eyes.

He is handsome enough to rob a breath from Castiel, eyes green and enigmatic, as though his soul was deep and heavy.

“Castiel.”

Shocked from his spell, Castiel turns, faced with the sight of Cain looking overly pleasant, as though the attitude does not come to him naturally. “Let me buy you a whiskey, for your assistance.”

“Ah... yes,” Castiel agrees distractedly. He turns back to the stables, but finds the handsome man gone.

“Looking for something?” Cain asks.

Castiel turns back toward him, “No. No.” He climbs the stair up onto the porch, “About that drink.”

“Good man,” Cain says, slapping him on the back and leading him into the hotel restaurant.  Castiel follows easily, but not without one last glance backward, to the stables.

Nothing meets his gaze but shadows.

Chapter Text

November 27th

“La La Lie” - Jack’s Mannequin

 

Sam’s actually getting handsome - god help him. Don’t get Dean wrong, to him Sam will always be the funny looking little squirt who tripped over his own shoes. But Dean also kind of can’t help but look at him with new eyes when he leans on the doorjamb and sees him - newly six feet tall (yikes), dressed in his nicest slacks and a tucked in button down, utterly pathetic as he struggles with his tie. He’s tan from the sun, his hair floppy and ridiculous. But hey, they’d moved out to the west coast chasing that dream of an ideal, sunny, California life and Dean is pleased as punch to see it suits him. He’s more of a rolling plains and cornfields kinda guy himself, but after Dad... They needed a fresh start. Dean’s more than glad to see they’ve made the right choice, if the healthy, well-adjusted look of his suddenly too grown-up looking baby brother is anything to go by.

“Ugh, God! You’re not gettin’ misty on me, are you?”

“Shut up, punk. I’ll mist all I damn well please.”

Sam snorts.

Dean strolls into the room, snapping up the tie and turning his brother to face him. He ties it with minimal difficulty, the only challenge coming from doing to reflexive habit backwards.

“Thanks for doing this,” Sam says sincerely.

“Yeah well, don’t get excited. It’s not a double windsor or anything.”

“Dean, you know what I mean.”

He does. Sam had skirted around begging Dean to be a chaperone for this stupid dance for a week before he’d started demanding outright. Dean had not relished the idea of being the only guy there above twenty but below forty five. The chaperones were always parents and counselors and he did not want to be that creepy just slightly too old to be their contemporary guy standing around awkwardly like the college guy that shows up to junior prom. But Sam had, for some reason, not given up on it. And Dean sort of can’t help but give the kid what he wants.

“How else am I gonna make sure you don’t act like a moron in front of Jessica and completely ruin your chances?”

“Ha, ha,” Sam’s sarcasm reaches new pinnacles every day.

The dance is much like Dean expects of any Alateen event, the efforts all there but it still ends up feeling like Dollar-Store-Prom. Honestly, he kinda loves it. The decorations are cheap, and the space is run-down and kind of smells like old basketballs, but there’s music and smiling teenagers and a ridiculously innocent punch-bowl set-up. It’s everything Dean might have dreamed of having when he was Sam’s age, when frivolity wasn’t an option. The Dark Years, he narrates to himself dramatically. Despite the painful memories he makes himself snort a little laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Missouri Mosely, toughest sponsor on earth, snaps at him with the usual attitude. She seems to enjoy putting Dean through the ringer the most - she’s downright sugar sweet to Sam - but Dean wonders if it isn’t because secretly she likes him the best.

“All this. It’s... nice,” Dean gestures around.

“It is nice, isn’t it.”

Dean can see Sam smiling as he chats it up with Jessica, both of their dimples out in full force.

“Coupla love birds,” Missouri smiles, watching them too. Then she turns to Dean and he doesn’t dare meet her eye. He can feel that stare. “And how ‘bout you?”

“My dimples are adorable,” he winks at her.

She makes an exaggerated sound of exasperation. “Dean Winchester, don’t you make me beat it out of you.”

He sighs, “Nothing to report, Captain.” He’s surprised when she doesn’t say anything. When he looks down at her, she’s smiling. That familiar, sneaky smile that means her ‘woman’s intuition’ is leading her down an interesting path of supposition that will, Dean has no doubt, turn out to be freakishly accurate.

“Nothin’ yet,” she says coyly. “But you do look very nice tonight. And I think there might just be someone else who thinks so too.”

Just then, the only counselor from the group who’d ever made Dean stutter happens to walk right up to them. Castiel was the kind of guy that made Dean reassess his entire fucking existence. Not only was he handsome, but he was intelligent and well educated, with a great job and he is apparently crazily empathetic and charitable. His duties at Alateen are entirely volunteer but he is one of the most well-qualified counselors they have. Sam had referred to him as “challenging” with a bit of a spark of rebellion warring with respect in his eye.

Dean did not like that look. It was too close to the sparkle of rebellion that had Sam spinning out of control just to stick it to Dad. He didn’t like the idea of anyone spinning Sam out. He’d been full of piss and vinegar all night over something Castiel had said that he wouldn’t tell Dean about. So the next day Dean had stormed into the place with every intention of giving that guy a piece of his mind... until he actually saw him.

Castiel was not what Dean expected. Slightly older than himself. Messy bed-head which was totally at odds with the rest of his professional get-up, but which paired incredibly with his dark, five o clock shadow, dark blue eyes and strangely poised aura.

Castiel had been in no way cowed by Dean's abrupt and blustering entrance. He calmly stated that he was impressed and relieved at Dean’s amazing handling of his younger brother amidst so much change and turmoil and that he had no intention of hurting Sam but that he also had no intention of telling him only what he wanted to hear.

Dean left Castiel's office more baffled than ever.

After that they saw each other every once in awhile, but their interactions were politely distant, even if Dean’s eyes did end up tracing the man’s features from across the room.

Now, here he is, standing right in front of them looking handsome as ever in a crisp, dark suit and saying “Good evening” in that rumbling voice like it isn’t the classiest shit Dean’s ever heard.

Dean’s mouth goes completely dry and his brain completely blank as he realizes he should probably be reacting. Missouri laughs beside him and gives them each a look before walking away with a haughty bounce in her step. Castiel seems to blush which makes Dean want to point and scream Wait! What was that!?

“You look very nice, Dean,” Castiel says.

“You don’t clean up bad yourself.”

Castiel smiles, moves so that he’s standing beside Dean, shoulder to shoulder. “Sam looks happy. I see he found Ms. Moore.”

“Honed in on her like a heat-seeking missile. I tried to tell him to play it cool.”

“It’s better if he goes to talk to her, no? Makes himself... visible.”

“Nah,” Dean waves. “He’s gotta play the game. Put himself across the room so she has to come after him.”

“Is that right?”

Dean shrugs.

“In that case,” Cas takes a few steps before turning to face him. His hands are in his pockets and he looks so painfully casual as he smirks and says, “I’ll see you from across the room.”

Dean gapes, watching him go. Cas throws him a smile over his shoulder.

It takes Dean a full ten minutes to work up the courage to cross the room and stand across the punch table from him. But when Cas looks up from the glasses of punch he’d pouring for some of the kids and sees that it’s Dean, his face breaks out into a radiant smile.

*

Later in the car, Sam and Dean are both smiling like idiots, riding in silence until Sam says, “When’re you going on a date with Castiel?”

Dean nearly swallows his tongue, “Wha - we’re not - mind your business small fry!”

“Uhhhh you’re the small fry now jerk.”

“I’m older. You’re small fry forever.”

“Seriously though,” Sam says, still smiling but not being a dick about it. “You guys were totally googly-eyeing over the punch bowl.”

“Shut up.”

Sam laughs. Dean doesn’t have words for the blessing that is Sam’s acceptance. Dad hated that Dean was bisexual, and he wasn’t quiet about it. Which made for some very awkward explanations to a very curious young Sam who wanted to understand why Dad was yelling. They don’t talk about it out right, Sam seems to know not to push. But he’s always there with his nonchalant acceptance and sometimes smart-assery. “He was totally checking out your butt, by the way.”

Dean shifts uncomfortably but Sam can see the twitch of a smile, “Really?”

“Yes, dumbass.”

“Hey,” Dean smacks his shoulder, “language.” Sam laughs. “You ask Jess out?”

Sam smiles to himself, “Yeah. She said yes.”

Dean smiles so wide his cheeks hurt, “Awesome.”

Maybe the dance turned out not that lame after all.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

November 28th

“Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand)” - The Shangri-Las

 

Once again, this feathered jackass had Dean completely, irrationally, spun-out. And Dean is tired of being left a spun-out mess every time Castiel decides to ditch him on one of his ridiculously stupid hair-brained plans. This shit was supposed to be over. They were supposed to be unified.

Castiel reaches for him, a hand on his shoulder, trying to pull him in, but Dean shakes him off.

“Dean?”

“You have a good time with your brother?”

Castiel squints at him, taken aback.

“Not like we were sitting around, wondering where the hell you were. Not like you said you were going to ask a few Angels some questions and ended up in a bar full of demons that you went missing from. But it’s fine. Because you did what you had to do right? As usual.”

Cas reaches for him again but Dean steps back almost violently, eyeing Cas like he’d very much like to punch him.

“Did you even think about what it would do to m- us - if you got yourself killed?” Castiel looks down, obviously upset. Dean laughs humorlessly.

“I never meant to disappear - I was kidnapped, Dean!”

“Yeah but you didn’t call me! You didn’t tell me you’d thrown down with the angels! You should have picked up the fucking phone and said, oh, hey, B-T-dubs, the friggin’ devil is back! But you didn’t! You did what you always do and you went off on your own-”

“Am I supposed to call you every decision I make?” Cas argues strongly. “Are you still that faithless in my capability to make the right choice?”

“You haven’t given me a lot to go on in the faith department, Cas!”

The moment that follows that statement is silent and tense. Cas looks simultaneously crushed and livid. Dean feels a pang of regret at the heartache he causes Cas, but thirty plus years of hardwired stubbornness makes it impossible for him to admit.

“I thought we were past this, man,” he says, suddenly exhausted.

Extracting Cas from the clusterfuck of Asmodeus versus Lucifer had not been easy. But they’d gone in, guns blazing, because that’s what they do for each other. Dean shakes his head, “What happened to Team Free Will rides again? Huh? What about the ‘I won’t leave you, Dean’ and the ‘No more lies, I promise, Dean’? Just your usual bullshit I guess. Because you were never gonna stay. Were you Cas?”

“Dean...”

Dean shakes his head, turning his back to Cas. “I feel like a fucking moron.”

“You are not a moron.”

“Gee, thanks.” He rolls his eyes. “Doesn’t change that I feel like... every time I trust you, I’m just proving what an idiot I am.” He can’t look at him as he admits it, “I didn’t... this wasn’t easy for me, Cas.”

“I know Dean-”

“No, I don’t think you do.” Dean huffs, pacing, and Castiel has the good sense to be quiet. “It took me years, years, to say it. I still don’t know if I understand...” he gestures between them, “this.”

Castiel does that infuriating thing where he stands there, stronger than any man alive, and has the gall to look vulnerable.

“No more bullshit. That was the rule.”

“Yes,” Cas agrees.

“We talk, like actual people, that’s the rule.”

“Dean-”

“You took off. You took a stupid chance, with Lucifer, who the last time you were together-” Dean cuts himself off. He’s been through a hell of a lot in his life, but seeing Cas’ eyes glow white as a angel blade peeks through his chest is something that still makes his physically shake.

They’d gotten together, finally, only after Cas had come back from the empty. And it was almost too much, how fully Dean loved him. The thought that they might have lost Cas so soon after, had Dean sick with rage and anxiety until the moment he’d finally seen him again, through bars in a prison in Hell.

He doesn’t realize how tense he’s gone until he feels Castiel in front of him. His body is warm enough, presence electrical, that Dean knows he’s moving in close. “Dean,” he says quietly, like a purr, and Dean doesn’t have it in him to move away. “I would never have gone away without saying something. I don’t - I won’t do that anymore. As for Lucifer...” he looks up to the ceiling, trying to find the words. “It all happened so fast. I was... hesitant to put you back in his sights.”

“Nothin’ good comes from you workin’ alone to protect us, Cas.”

“I know. I had no intention of doing so.” Dean looks chastised but typically stubborn. Castiel watches him for a long moment and Dean can feel his eyes on him. “Dean, close your eyes.”

Dean huffs as though it’s an irritating burden, but he does close his eyes. He feels Castiel’s hands on his shoulders, and then a shift in the atmosphere around him, like a subtle pressure. Then he’s outside. The first thing he notices is the warm breeze against his skin, then the clean air, fresh and salty. He breathes deep, and opens his eyes. When he does, he gapes - they are on a beach. Miles and miles of empty, moonlit beach.

“Cas?” His voice soft, “Is this...” he so clearly recognizes this beach. The quiet, beautiful place Cas brought him shortly after they had first managed to verbally address their feelings for each other and Dean found himself so thoroughly overwhelmed that he had to get out. Cas did the best thing he could think of, took Dean’s hands in his, and brought them here. The open night sky, the repetition of the crashing waves, and most of all the false but comforting feeling that they were the only two beings left on earth helped Dean’s breathing slow down. They’d sat so close, side by side, listening to the ocean, completely alone for hours. It was one of those rare, perfect memories.

Dean’s heart twists, he looks back at Cas with hard eyes. “Did you bring me here ‘cause you thought it’d shut me up? You’re not charming me outta this with your angel magic.”

Cas looks at him like the idea is utterly insulting. “No, Dean.” He steps even further into Dean’s personal space. “I know what you want, Dean.”

Dean looks at him, suspicious.

“I try not to know more than you offer willingly,” Castiel tells quietly. “I’ve hidden your desires from myself, because I knew that you would feel... violated. To have me know your most secret wants. Things I know you have a hard time... accepting. I know you like your space. Privacy. And I knew... I knew if I started looking too hard, into how much you wanted love, I would dedicate myself to giving you everything you want. I wouldn’t be able to help myself.”

“Why you tellin’ me all this, Cas?” Dean scratches the back of his head shyly.

“I thought you wanted open communication,” he smirks.

Dean laughs, rolling his eyes, “Asshole.”

Castiel kisses him quickly. They both smile. “I won’t leave you without a word ever again, Dean. No more secret plans to keep you safe. But I’ve been a soldier, a warrior, for a millennia. You have to trust me to make decisions on my own.”

“I do, Cas.”

“Whatever happens-”

“Jesus Cas.”

Whatever happens, I want this. You. I have no illusions about a happy ever after. But I believe, I have to believe, that we can have a happy now.”

Dean is blushing, and Cas delights in watching him. Finally Dean takes a few steps toward the water, looking back over his shoulder at Cas and nodding for him to join. Dean sits in the sand and Cas joins him, hip to hip.

They sit for a long time in perfect quiet until Dean mutters, “‘M sorry.”

Castil kisses him, luxuriating in the glow of Dean’s blush. He hopes that never goes away.

 

Chapter Text

November 29th

“Elastic Heart” - Sia

 

Being human doesn’t really make anything easier this time around. But Castiel doesn’t need easy, per se. What he does need, is freedom and stability. He’s thought about it long and hard and these are the two things he needs the most.

He needs a chance to test his limits, to learn, and he needs to know he’s got a home to come to when he figures that out. He wants that home to be the bunker. Or not. It’s wherever the Winchesters are, really. It could be anywhere, as long as they’re there.

Stop lying to yourself Castiel.

It’s Dean.

Dean is home.

Dean is the poison he gorges himself on, again and again, hoping that this time, it won’t kill him. This time, the poison will be tonic. This time, the poison will curl in his veins and make him stronger. Castiel thinks, finally, it's happening.

Maybe that’s insane, but it isn’t sufficient motivation to cut Dean out. To give up. Not even now that Dean punishes himself, punishes them both, for every time his eyes drift to Cas’ lips, every time his mind wanders and Cas can tell, every time he hovers too close, just on the verge of touching him. Or of exploding.

Dean’s rage and repression, it’ll kill them both.

There’s just one problem with that - Castiel wants to live. He refuses to die.

He wants to exist fully in every moment of this human life he’s been given. The frustration and heartbreak of love are unfortunately part of the package. That’s a lesson he didn’t need to be human to learn. He’s known for years that they were at an impasse.

Dean makes him crazy.

He hurts him, again and again. They hurt each other. But it never gets old. And Dean seems to put real effort into driving a wedge between them. Now more than ever.

But it won’t work.

Castiel isn’t going to let it.

He’s spent thousands of years bouncing back, for this. For him.

Dean won’t break him. He won't drive Castiel away. He isn't capable. Because Castiel can’t be broken. Not after everything he’s been through to get here. Maybe it’ll take years, maybe the rest of their mortal lives, but eventually Dean will see that Cas can’t be manipulated out of loving him, can’t be beaten down any further. He’s healed over - steadfast and cut-proof when it comes to him.

And Dean will love him.

Chapter Text

November 30th

“Little Lion Man” - Mumford and Sons

 

 

He left a note.

There are things I need to do.

I will return.

Sam supposes they should feel lucky he left that much. Castiel isn’t one to indulge in social niceties. Often, it doesn’t occur to him. The idea of politeness, even after all these years, still trips the poor guy up. Sometimes he’s downright rude, but Dean’s established that with Cas it doesn’t count.

Sam sips his coffee wondering what kind of week is in store for him now that Cas has pulled another disappearing act. It was always bothersome when he would disappear, even when he was still an angel. But now that he’s human, every time he suddenly hits the roads for weeks at a time Sam’s troubles increase two-fold. Castiel is his friend, and a newly mortal friend at that, so Sam’s got his anxiety about the guy being out there in the world without backup.

But worse than his own worries, is dealing with Dean. He thinks he does an ok job of hiding how much Cas’ absence makes him completely nuts, but Sam is infuriatingly aware of Dean’s concern. It’s in everything he does - his compulsions, fueled by longing and worry and everything he hasn’t manned-up to say spinning into overdrive by was of fixing and cleaning and occasionally hunting.

Sam has seen, with an aching heart, the way Cas has tried and tried to bridge the distance between them. He isn’t skilled at subtlety. But Dean has always kept a buffer of no-homo space between them that Sam often knows, in his heart, Dean doesn’t even realize he’s cultivating. This life’s done a number on his brother, and Dean has gone in the direction of isolation. Which shouldn’t really be surprising. He’s lived most of his life as an outsider. Sam can tell the happy-go-lucky and devil-may-care facades of Dean’s youth are too much energy now. He hasn’t been good at making friends in a long time. Not that they could make friends these days anyway.

But Cas... Cas is steadfast these days.

He tries so hard. To be close to Dean. And Dean tries so hard, to pretend that he doesn’t want to let him in. That shallow affections of friendship are enough. But they’re not. Not really. Sam has been worried for a long time that Castiel wouldn’t be able to take it. That he might take off.

Sam really hopes this isn’t that time. 

Sam sighs, pinning the note back to the fridge and gripping his coffee like a lifeline.

Dean is already twitchy when Sam rounds the corner. He just barely glances up as Sam enters. “Castiel’s on walkabout again.”

“Yeah, I saw. And I don’t think you’re supposed to say that.”

“What?”

Walkabout. It’s... racially insensitive.”

“To who!?”

Sam tilts, exasperated, “Dean, can you attempt not to insult me by pretending to be dumber than you are. I know it works on everyone else, but if you could just give it a friggin’ break-”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dean says easily, arms crossing his chest.

Sam rolls his eyes, turning to leave.

“Bitch!” Dean calls after him.

“Jerk!” Sam responds from down the hall.

Dean smirks. He looks around the empty room, his smirk falls, he looks... lost.

*

The next day Dean spends almost entirely in the garage. Working with his hands has always helped Dean work through tough stuff. Where Sam employs avoidance through solely mental stimulation, a need to keep his brain completely busy by challenging it with texts in ancient languages and developing cyphers for the MOL archives, Dean lets his brain chew on the matter at hand through the guise of manual labor.

When Dad died.

When Cas left them to be a super-Leviathan false God.

Fifty other times Sam could recount off the top of his head when Dean was working through something - big or small - and he needed time, space to himself.

It’s taken Sam years to see it, but the Impala is the best therapist either of them have ever had.

It doesn’t surprise him, per se, that Dean spends the entirety of the sunlight hours down there in the garage with a little radio and the occasional clanging of tools and metal the only indication that Dean was moving at all. But it does make him think. Because Cas has come and gone from them so many times that Sam has lost count, and it’s not always some dramatic schism. But Dean’s acting like he’s torn up about it regardless. Dean’s always been pretty good about hiding what’s truly bothering him, but Sam’s also been pretty good about seeing through it. And this, sort of gives Sam pause. Because to the naked eye, Dean seems fine. His usual surly, smart-ass, beer-drinkin’ self. But he’s been in the garage tinkering for eight hours.

*

The next day Dean checks his phone no less than ten times while they’re at the table having breakfast. Sam can’t help but glance up from his laptop every time. He bites his tongue because he knows his brother well enough to know that asking him how he’s feeling, or outright telling him that he knows he’s nervous about Cas being gone, will be met with a middle finger and a Dude, you’re smothering me or a Dude, Cas is a grown man - he can do whatever he wants. Which is hilarious because that is both true and so completely untrue. Cas can’t just do anything he wants because Dean will flip out at the slightest hint of loose-cannon-ness.

Yes, Castiel is an ages old being with a mind of his own and a newly discovered sense of self. He makes his own decisions and he’s his own person. Dean is very adamant about it. Until he’s making a decision Dean doesn’t like. Or until he’s out of sight.

Dean is restless all day.

His phone is in his hand constantly. Sam starts making a game of it, counting the number of household tasks Dean will attempt to complete with the phone in his hand. When he sets it on the counter by the sink in order to wash dishes, he glances at it every minute nearly on the dot. Just to make sure.

Sam doesn’t have to ask who he is so antsy about hearing from.

*

The next day Dean is insufferable.

He’s loud and he won’t stop slamming shit around. Sam goes to his room and knocks on the doorjamb, looking into the open door with raised eyebrows. But Dean doesn’t hear him. How could he through blasting records and that tunneled focus he gets when he’s working on a project. His room is covered in drop-cloths scattered with weapons. He’s got disassembled guns everywhere. His head is bopping along to the hard beat of rock as he cleans his pistol.

When he sees Sam he smiles big, gestures with the gun to all the others.

Sam nods, but shakes his head when a moment later Dean’s focus is back entirely with the pistol.

Earlier he’d rearranged the armory. Loudly. Sam had finally stormed in after the foreboding clang of what sounded like a lot of blades on the concrete inspired him to set down his MOL lore book and make sure his brother was alive.

Dean had organized the blades by size and then by composite/substance extremely meticulously. Silver with silver, angel with angel, brass with brass.

Sam leaves him to clean his guns in peace, if you can call it that. He hopes Dean isn’t spiraling into some sort of obsessive compulsive habit.

*

The next day is quiet.

Dean frowns into the computer screen for hours. He says he’s looking for a case, even throws out a few possibilities. One call to Jodi tells them that the little stuff is being handled. Garth’s got people moving and shaking all of the continent even from his undisclosed British MOL-proof hideaway. Dean hangs up frustrated. The longer it takes him to find a case, the more ornery he gets.

Sam is of two minds. On the one hand, he is extremely appreciative of the break. It’s been a hard year already and he’s not twenty two anymore. He needs rest, mental and physical, to kick ass as efficiently as possible. On the other hand, Dean is like an irritable cat who’s been left alone in the house too long. Sam’s worried what he’ll get into if they don’t occupy him soon.

Dean storms off to his bedroom some time later griping about not knowing that they had apparently retired because apparently Garth’s got somebody on it. On everything.

Sam smiles into his mug as Dean storms down the hall.

It’s kind of nice to have a working network of hunters who don’t want to kill him picking up the slack so he and Dean can sleep. Eat. Shower. Exist for a solid chunk of hours without the rush of adrenaline that comes from something trying to kill you.

The boredom is luxurious.

For the first time all day, he thinks of Cas. He hopes he’s safe. Hopes he's doing what he needs. Hopes he comes home.

*

The next day Sam and Dean are at the table, reading and typing respectively, when the large metal door of the bunker scrapes open. They both look up, but Dean nearly launches out of his chair, standing there, awkwardly. Sam can barely hide the smile that shows his relief and amusement. Castiel's eyes meet Dean's as he descends the stairs and that's it. It's pretty much over. He just barely manages to glance at Sam, saying "hello" and giving Sam the opportunity to nod and say, "Hey, Cas." But then his eyes go right back to Dean, and he steps righ up to him. 

Dean's doing that awkward fidgety smile thing that he does when he's happy to see someone but trying to be cool. It is the least cool thing he does.

"Hey Cas!" he smack Cas' arm. "How was the world?"

"I'm heading back out."

Sam watches as Dean's smiles falls. He doesn't cover it well, but it says a lot that he tries so hard. "Oh. Still got things to do, huh?"

“I’d like you to come with me.”

Castiel is on a mission. Sam can see it in his eyes. Dean seems oblivious as ever and Sam wants to shove him outside with Castiel in hopes that he'll get with the frigging program. 

Dean blinks at him, a little taken aback. “Oh. Yeah. Sam and I can be-”

“No.” Castiel meets his gaze extremely evenly. “Just you.”

Dean stares at him like a deer in the headlights and Sam couldn’t not smile if you paid him. Dean’s obliviousness was often infuriating, exhausting even. But sometimes, in moments like this, it was almost... cute.

“S-sure. Yeah. I’ll just, uh... lemme get my crap.” Dean turn toward his room with a flustered blush on his face and doesn’t meet his eyes when he announces, like Sam didn’t just witness that whole cluster, “Yo, Sammy! Me and Cas are goin’ on a little road trip. Don’t wait up.”

“You got it.”

“And don’t take any cases without telling me!” Dean points at him, hard.

Sam quirks his eyebrows at him, “I’m a grown man-”

“No, you’re an overgrown man. And do go being the lone ranger while I’m gone, you got me?”

“Got it,” Sam conceded, mostly just to get him out the door.

When he’s gone, off to his room to pack a bag, Sam looks over to Cas and sees him looking almost anxious. He smiles at him, and in a rare moment of them being completely, totally on the same page, Cas shyly smiles back.

Because it’s Dean, he makes a lot of noise and commotion as they’re leaving, Castiel trailing steady and quiet as ever behind him. Sam watches them go, feeling like a parent watching his kid leave for the Prom with the nicest boy in the neighborhood. He snorts a laugh to himself when the thought crosses his mind that he actually hopes Cas is a little forward with Dean.

Even if it means Dean will be back for a week of emotional adjustment by way of fixing cars and cleaning guns and being a grumpy bastard before he ultimately comes to terms with what Sam suspects is happening between them. Because he'll get there. Sam has to believe that. And if there's anyone whose stubbornness can match him, if there is anyone who can wait him out, it's Cas. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Makeup Chapter: November 8th

“Tennessee Whiskey” - Chris Stapleton

 

Castiel’s welcome into the crew had been a series of quirked eyebrows and eventual acceptance. In that line of work, people had seen folks come and go many times and the fact that Dean apparently picked some rando up off the side of the road didn’t phase them as much as maybe it should have. It was a relief to Dean, who in the light of day realized he had no fucking idea what he was going to tell people about Cas. Once he’d gotten a night of sleep, Dean woke up and realized that he had no earthly idea why he would’ve invited a stranger with zero experience onto the tour.

It wasn’t the first time he’d worried he might be cracking up, but it was the first action he’d taken that was truly questionable.

When Castiel seemed to sink into the ranks with ease and soak up every new fact and lesson as eagerly as a sponge, Dean was relieved.

At some point every night Dean would find himself occupied with Castiel’s attention. The man seemed to have no qualms whatsoever with walking into Dean’s room either on the bus or in a hotel as though they’d known each other forever. Dean pretended to gripe, but honestly? He was sort of relieved to have someone treat him like they knew each other well enough that the utter lack of personal space was not a shock. Cas didn’t seem to have an inkling of realization of most rules regarding interpersonal behavior. He stood too close. Stared to blatantly. Spoke too bluntly.

But he always got away with it. No one seemed put off by him, which surprised Dean.

After two weeks of successful integration, Cas finally made it backstage. Dean had wondered why he never saw him during a show. Not even a fleeting glimpse in the wing. Cas had merely said that he often made time for himself so that he could be ready for Dean after his show. Dean tried not to think too hard about that.

“So, you watchin’ today?” Dean asked as just twenty feet away the openers greeted and revved up the small crowd.

It was one of those intimate, live studio experience shows that Dean has actually grown to love. Earlier in his career he liked the big stadium style concerts for the opposite reason - safe distance from the audience. He liked the roar of it, the almost... anonymity. Now, he much preferred the quieter, more intimate settings he’s often booked in. He’s often thought on how strange it was that you have to get big, success wise, in order to then perform small. He liked the feeling of a no-fuss no-muss jam session with a room full of people who actually appreciate it. It felt like getting back to his roots somehow.

Cas watched Dean nod along to the opening band’s first number. He peaked out toward the audience, taking stock of the number and enthusiasm of them.

“You’re fairly successful.”

Dean looked at him, mouth open. He blinked. His mind went completely blank. “I literally don’t know what to say to that.”

Castiel shrugged. “Nothing.” They watched the band rock out for a little while before Castiel turned to him and said, “Good for you.”

Dean smiled. That was the most innocent, honest congratulation for his success he’s gotten in years. “Thanks, Cas.”

When it was time for Dean to go out, Castiel was almost certain he was more nervous than Dean, who only rolled his shoulder and then smiled at Cas before jogging out into the spotlight to an uproar of cheers and hoots.

As Dean took the stage the lights hit him in such a way that Castiel wished he could replicate it through paining. He really was beautiful. As he took his seat on the stool before a lone mic, draping the guitar strap over his shoulder, he smiled happily, almost shyly out toward the audience.

When he spoke his voice was deep and even, not affected at all. Again Castiel was surprised. There was nothing of a character in Dean’s addressing the crowd - he was amiable and imperfect and real. When he started playing, Castiel had to fight the urge not to sit down on the floor in the wing, prepared to make a life there where he could listen for the foreseeable future.

The tune was mellow, somber almost. Castiel liked it. It was like a lullaby in a way, Dean’s voice was a comforting, imperfect lilt of masculinity that Castiel found intoxicating.

Castiel hardly blinked for the entirety of the concert. Not for the first time, he was very glad the universe brought his path directly into Dean’s.

*

Later, back on the bus, Dean was sweaty and clearly exhausted and Castiel found himself in some kind of trance. He was... enamored. Dean caught him staring and stared back, eyes challenging.

“You’re not gonna be weird now, are you?”

“I’m always weird.”

Dean snorted a laugh. “You know what I mean.”

Cas shrugged. “You were quite beautiful. I find the sound of your voice soothing.”

Dean watched him for a moment as though stuck, before looking away shyly.

“For an apparently famous person, you don’t take compliments very well.”

Dean shifted uncomfortably, “You like the way I sing?”

Cas nodded solemnly, “Mm, yes. The singing and the playing.” He turned bodily toward Dean, surprising the man a bit. “If there was a song I wanted to hear on your voice, would you play it for me?”

Dean shrugged, smiling devilishly, “Depends on the song. What is it?”

Cas settled back into the couch. “I’ll let you know.”

Dean cocked his head, staring at Cas a long moment, baffled, before shaking his head with a smile. It hasn't occurred to Dean hardly at all since Cas hitched his wagon to the tour, that he didn't even know him two weeks ago. He hasn't once regretted him. 

 

Chapter Text

Make up Chapter: November 9th

“Fidelity” - Regina Spektor

 

“She’s an empath.”

Sam’s arms are crossed in front of his chest which is a dead giveaway that he’s got something planned that he’s only pretending he doesn’t care about. 

“So, a witch,” Dean surmises curtly. “Welp, we got the cure for that.” Dean brandishes a magazine of witch-killing bullets and is met with two eerily similar disapproving glares.

“Not necessarily, Dean,” Sam chides. “And even if she was, don’t you think we’ve moved a little beyond the shoot first ask questions later practice?”

“Sam has a point,” Castiel states with very little interest.

“Whose side are you on?” Dean shoots back. Castiel looks up at him, squints.

Dean, immediately uncomfortable under his assessing stare, turns back to his brother and says, “Fine. So we ask first, then we shoot.”

Dean-”

“No. Don’t Dean me. Every time you want to work with some superhuman baddie it always ends up biting us in the ass.You tried it with Rowena, and we let out the Darkness. Which, as you recall, was not a picnic.”

Sam mutters, eyes downcast, “Got us Mom back.”

Really Sam!?

“Look, I know - you’re right. But... Dean what if she’s not evil!? What if she’s like Pamela or Missouri?”

“Then us walkin’ into her life is about the worst thing for her.”

All three sober at that sentiment.

“Dean,” Castiel starts softly, moving closer, “what happened to Missouri Moseley was not your fault.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean says with false nonchalance. “I get it, Sam. I do. You think we need an ally. You think an empath will help us with Jack. It’s a fair point, honestly man, it is. But don’t you think our time is better spent, you know, hunting actual bad guys than talking feelings with Miss Cleo?”

“Which bad guys would you like us to hunt, Dean? If you can find a case more worth our time than figuring out if this woman’s a natural empath and making sure that everything there is copacetic, then let’s hear it.”

Sam and Castiel both look to Dean, waiting.

*

Two hours later Dean has no leads on Jack, and no news of a case that needs working. Which is how he ends up sat, in defeat, at the library table across from Castiel, Sam leaning on the end of the table between them, Dean very unenthusiastically agreeing that he has been out-voted and fine, we’re doing the stupid empath thing.

“Ok, so as best I can tell, she helps couples deal with everything from loss and grief to run of the mill marital strife. I already set up your profile and fudged any information she’d need so you and Cas should be able to get in there some time this week.”

Dean’s brain screeches to a halt. “Wait - me and Cas what?”

“You have to pose as a married couple. It’s the only way you’ll get in to see her,” Sam says as though Dean is a moron for not putting the pieces together.

“What? Why can’t you and I do it?” Dean all but shrieks.

“First of all, Ew. Secondly, we don’t have the right chemistry.”

“Chemistry - what’re you talkin’ about chemistry? We know everything about each other. That’s a huge asset.”

“And when she asks us about our love-life?” Sam pans. He rolls his eyes at Dean’s expression which rolls in quick succession from bald shock (as though the thought had never occurred to him), to a grimace of disgust, to extreme discomfort. Sam can’t help but let a little smile through. Dean - nothing if not dramatic. Really, an acting gig like this is perfect for him. “Dean, man-up. Just do what you always do and lie your way through it.”

Dean shifts uncomfortably but he covers it with a smile. “Well Cas, congratulations. You officially married up.”

Castiel stares at him across the table, and his expression so flat, so intimidating in it’s complete lack of discomfort, that Dean shivers a bit. He looks Dean right in the eye and says, “Mazel Tov.”

*

The office was, disappointingly, exactly what Dean expected. It was a small converted office space that had been decked out with hippie tapestries and smelled like burnt sage and years of rotating incense scents. It was carpeted with one of those high-endurance, non-color styles but the witch, empath, had put colorful shag and impersonation Native American rugs at strange junctures throughout the space. The little glass coffee table had crystals and books about personal healing and a lit white pillar candle with a fake celtic symbol carved into it.

Dean rolled his eyes, turning to Cas, “This is a waste of time.”

“Bit of a skeptic, huh?” an amused female voice says. Dean and Castiel turn to face her, but only Dean looks surprised she is there. She’s tall, statuesque, with beautiful brown skin and freckles. Her tightly-curled hair is piled up almost haphazardly on top of her head. Her eyes are dark brown and glittering in a way that makes her seem both cheeky and kind. Dean is immediately having trouble imagining having to shoot her.

“Yeah, uh - sorry.”

“So, you’re Dean then,” she guesses with a smile. “Which means you must be Castiel.”

Castiel nods while Dean squints at her suspiciously.

“Not magic, boys. You filled out a questionnaire, remember?”

Dean nods awkwardly, because he’d made Sam fill most of the damn thing out and now he’s a little embarrassed by how spot-on it must have been. And curious.

“Come,” she gestures to the next room, “have a seat.”

She leads them into a tidy, small parlor with a deep, ovular chair with a small table beside it that is clearly meant for her, and a tiny, overstuffed love-seat that is obviously meant for couples. It doesn’t occur to Dean until they are taking their places how ridiculously close he’s going to be to Cas, physically. They are hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, thighs pressed together, and Dean’s breath catches for a second which is completely insane so he covers it with a cough.

“My name is Tiponi. Today we’re just going to talk a little bit. See what we can learn about your love and your relationship. Nothing too scary. I know Dean’s not a fan of ‘head shrinkers’ and ‘chick flick stuff’ I think it was.”

Dean laughs awkwardly. Inside, the picture of what his brother must have written becomes very clear.

“And Castiel,” she smiles at him and Castiel blinks back at her like he’s shocked to be singled out, “you strike me as a man that struggles to put emotion into words also.”

“That is... true.”

The look she gives him is approving and Dean is a little jealous. “So, how long have you two been together?”

“Oh... about nine years,” Dean answers with false cheer.

Castiel nods stiffly.

She squints at them, small smile on her face. “Not easy years, though.”

“We’ve had our rough patches,” Dean generalizes with ease, unsettled by her insight.

“Mm,” she responds, and then says nothing. Dean gets the uncomfortable feeling you get when you know, instinctively, that someone’s not buying what you’re selling. “Started off... rocky then?”

Dean can’t help but huff a little laugh. “You could say that.”

“I did.” Dean just blinks at her, stilted, but she only smiles back.

Finally kicking into gear, Castiel says, “Dean was... in a bad place, when we met.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, Cas saved me,” Dean adds with a smile and literally no forethought.

“Really?” she asks, interest piqued. “How so?”

“Oh.. he, uh...”

“I gripped him tight and dragged him from-” Castiel’s eyes dart to Dean’s, “...the situation.”

“You must have felt a great debt owed to him.”

“No,” Dean laughs, “I thought he was a huge dick.”

“But that’s not all you felt,” she states, utterly certain.

Dean is a little tilted off his axis, “No. Guess not.”

“He scared you, too. His... dedication?”

Dean’s eyes narrow, “A bit.”

“And what about you, Castiel? How did you feel about Dean when you first met?”

“I...” he shifts uncomfortably. “I tried not to feel anything at all.”

“Mm,” she hums with a nod, clearly thinking that over. “I see that didn’t work out.”

Both men blush and fidget.

“Seems like you have a deep foundation, if a little tumultuous. But, you have been together for nearly a decade. So,” she crosses her hands in her lap, “what brings you here today?”

“Well, we heard through the grapevine you might be able to help us work through some things. See we’ve been kinda at each other’s throats lately, you know, the typical relationship stuff,” he elbows Cas, who merely stares back at him, then at Tiponi, like he's afraid he's missed a step in the conversation. Dean barrels on, “And we thought we’d come see an expert. We heard you were the best.”

“Did you?”

“Very... intuitive.”

She nods, leans back in her chair, and fixes them with a scrutinizing stare for long enough that Dean’s fingers itch for a weapon.

“You wanna know the truth to success in repairing a relationship? Enriching something that’s already there but has been bruised or covered over?”

Dean shrugs, “Yeah sure! Hit me.”

“You have to want it.”

Dean doesn’t miss a beat. “Well, we want it.”

“Do you?” Dean’s jaw muscle flicks and Castiel’s eyes dart around the room. “I see couples all day long, gentleman. People who shouldn’t be together but are trying to force it. People who have grown apart over the course of decades and want me to put it all back together in forty five minutes. People who have survived horrible loss. Losses of children. I’ve talked lovers off of ledges - both of break up and of needless resignation to love fizzled out - for years. So I can tell if people have it. And you two...”

Dean and Castiel both tense, Dean can feel Castiel’s body go rigid beside him.

“You two have it.”

Dean stops breathing. He can feel Castiel beside him, not relaxing a bit.

“But I can also tell when someone’s bullshitting me,” she continues. “And you’re that too. I don’t know about what, but,” she shrugs, “if the love is there, I feel compelled to help. And from what I can tell?" She looks them both up and down, "You two need help. So, if you can attempt to keep the bullshit to a minimum, I’m in. How about you?”

Cas’ movement is the only thing that shocks Dean into taking a breath in. Maybe that’s why he feels a little dizzy, a little shaky.

“Yes, we would like to continue,” Cas says.

She looks at Dean. “Uh, yeah. we’re in.”

“You’re sure? My... intuition can get a little personal.”

Cas slips his hand against Dean’s, laces their fingers, and Dean must have some sort of small stroke because he completely loses track of everything. He suddenly has no idea what they are talking about, doesn’t hear anything being said, doesn’t see anything but their hands fitted together so... nicely against his thigh. His stomach sort of flutters but the feeling is so distant in its familiarity that it baffles him.

Dean?” that rumble of a voice is extremely familiar. As well as its urgent tone.

“What?” his eyes shoot up to Cas’ and then Tiponi’s.

“I was just wondering what you think is the largest element of your discord.”

“Our...?”

“What do you think is causing the strain on your relationship?”

“Jesus, uh... Well,” Dean laughs awkwardly, “his family kinda sucks.”

She blinks at him, shocked at the baldness of the statement, then looks to Castiel for his reaction.

“That is an oversimplification. Some of my siblings are pleasant.” He glances at Dean who rolls his eyes. “But yes, they do often suck.”

“They’re not approving of your homosexual relationship?”

Dean chokes on nothing.

Castiel covers flawlessly, “They don’t approve of Dean or I, separately or together.”

“Hm. Yeah,” she taps on her bracelet absentmindedly. “That’s not false. It's not it though.”

Dean and Cas stare at her.

“I told you I’ve been doing this a long time. And do you know what strangles the hope right out of love, like 98% of the time?” She looks at them a long moment before saying quietly, “Trust and communication. A lack thereof, I should say.”

Dean snaps, “Communication. That’s it.”

“Yep. That, and, you don’t trust him,” she says to Dean.

“What?” he squeaks. He glances at Castiel and notices the angel has the gall to look at Dean like he’s checking him to see, like he believes she might be right. “I trust Cas with my life,” Dean says harshly and without thinking.

“But not with your heart,” she says. “That you won’t give. You can’t. Not at the moment anyway. And without that, you can never love fully. Even if you do so desperately want to.”

Dean feels like he’s got a tidal wave bearing down on him and an audience of people saying, well, tell it to go around you, like it’s easy or something. But before he can muster the wherewithal to get his hackles up, she turns to Cas.

Dean can feel him brace for her words like he’s about to get bitch-slapped.

“And you, Castiel. You’re... hard to get a read on. Which is part of the problem. You’re bottled up so tight. Like you're still trying not to feel anything. Like you can’t afford a mistake,” her eyes narrow and it’s like she gets a little lost, looking at him. “Another mistake,” she says softly, almost questioning. Dean can hear Castiel swallow and his throat sounds dry. Dean feels suddenly awful - guilty and sorry and regretful. He shakes it off.

“You are together, and yet you are both so lonely. You’re both so angry. The anger is...” he eyebrows jump momentarily as she looks away, like she can physically feel it and is impressed but wary. “It’s loud. And it’s pointed outward as much as it is inward. But you want to know what else I can tell?” she asks, but doesn’t give them time to answer. “It’s not pointed at each other.”

Dean can feel the way Cas looks at him, tentatively, like he’s trying to see if that’s true but he’s nervous to look, in case it isn’t. Dean has to fight so hard not to look back at him that he’s squeezing Cas’ hand in his own. Dean feels his heart beating hard and he can't make sense of it.

Tiponi looks at Castiel, leans forward, “There are things you’ve never said. Weaknesses, confusions, you don’t want to show. But,” she looks at Dean, at them both now, “how can love survive where you won’t let it be seen?”

*

The door to the bunker scrapes open, then slams closed. Sam perks up at the table, calling up the stairs, “So? How’d it go?” He notices at once they both look a little slap-happy. Dean covers it with his usual forced cool, smiling and shrugging, but Castiel has never been so adept.

“Usual quack stuff, Sammy,” Dean waves it off. “She might be an empath, but who can tell? All that touchy-feely crap is nonsense but it’s distracting. Grade-A conwoman, you ask me.”

“Excuse me,” Castiel turns and walks away, headed toward his bedroom with an almost glazed-over look on his face.

“He ok?” Sam asks quietly once he’s out of sight.

Dean shrugs as if to say he doesn’t care, which couldn’t be a clearer indication to Sam that something is definitely wrong. “She really got under your skin, huh?”

“Me?” Dean smirks, “Nah. Cas’s just a delicate flower.” He grabs a beer from the table and heads off to his room. His pace is casual, almost too slow, which Sam also recognizes as surefire indication that Dean’s covering. He always overdoes it. If he’s scared he acts twice as excited to be reckless, if he’s bothered, he tries twice as hard to look like he doesn’t care. Slows down, so you can't tell how desperately he wants to leave.

That’s always been Dean.

Sam sighs. Maybe this plan wasn’t such a good one after all.

But then again, if a brief period of discomfort can do for Dean and Cas what nine years of dancing around each other hasn’t, and force them to acknowledge one another honestly? Sam can deal with some brooding.

He’s waited them out this long. He’s more than prepared to see them through all five sessions of their ‘therapy’. Whether they like it or not.

 

Chapter Text

Makeup Chapter: November 10th

“Wild West” - Lissie

 

 

Neither of them says it.

That’s important, Castiel thinks.

There’s no case here. That’s irrefutable at this point. One trigger-happy old cowboy off his meds and one dead cow makes for a couple of days worth of bizarre headlines in the local paper of a basically-dead, dusty town outside Silver City. But there was nothing here for Castiel and Dean. No hunt. Which is why it should be a topic of conversation when, after a few days, they still haven’t left. Neither of them seems to possess the necessary gumption to up and go.

It’s a delicate thing.

The motel is mostly closed down for a ‘renovation’ that Dean has surmised has been partially finished for at least three years. “Must’ve run outta money,” he guesses as they walk the pebbled lot to their room, way at the end of the building. Castiel remembers thinking it must have either been very poor planning, or very optimistic. Both, most likely. Either way, it’s surprising to Castiel when Dean hardly misses a beat after the man behind the desk tells them that they only have King’s available. No doubles. No pull-outs, no cots. Only Castiel would be able to catch the barely-there twitch of Dean’s jaw when he meets the man’s eyes and says, “Whatever, man.”

To his credit, the man has no reaction at all. With the looks of their desperation, Castiel imagines he can’t afford to have an opinion one way or the other about two men sharing a bed - they need the business badly enough. For a moment, Castiel wonders if Dean has forgotten his current state of decline into humanity. Maybe he’s forgotten that Castiel also needs to sleep now. Maybe he intends to put Castiel on the floor, or in the car. Maybe they’ll rock-paper-scissors for it. Castiel smiles, he’ll be getting the bed if that’s the case.

It’s day three and they’re hovering around town without aim. They hardly talk but there isn’t anything hostile in the quiet. It’s companionable. Calm, almost. With the exception of the low humming vibration of anxiety rolling off of Dean. It isn’t something he can talk about - or at least, it isn’t something he will willingly talk about. Castiel knows that Dean hates putting anything he feels into words. Even if the feeling is good. It’s a tragic truth of him - deep and smothered. Knowing this, Castiel waits. It does no good to push Dean, to rush him on anything, and Castiel is very good at waiting.

The impala purrs on the open desert highway. They hardly see anyone for miles and miles, save for tractor trailers, traveling for work. It’s hot, too hot probably, over one hundred and three, but Dean has the windows open. Castiel finds he likes the smell of desert air. He doesn’t know where they are going, but he isn’t worried. Not even when Dean pulls off at a particularly desolate and nondescript stretch, turns the car off, and gets out. Castiel watches him, curious, as he walks ten yards out into the flat horizon, and simply stands there.

When watching eventually isn’t enough, Castiel gets out and walks out into the sand to join him. There’s nothing but sun-bleached rocks and scrub brush as far as the eye can see, but when Castiel looks at Dean the man is transfixed. Castiel lets the sight settle into his bones and follows Dean’s eyes with his own, out to the horizon. He wonders if Dean is once again met with the humbling, overwhelming realization of his own smallness. It’s still new to Cas. The reluctant acceptance of his own frailty, his relative lack of importance.

The concept is hammered home for him when, later, they are driving back in the direction they came, back toward the motel and the bed they silently share, and Castiel’s stomach growls loudly. Loud enough for Dean to glance over at him shocked. Castiel meets his eyes with equal bafflement and after a pause, Dean breaks out into laughter. And seeing Dean laugh has the inevitable side-effect of drawing laughter out of Castiel. They only calm down after Dean gestures to a billboard advertising El Coyote restaurant and pulls easily off the exit just following.

They sit down at a very clean formica booth and Castiel notices Dean’s attention is fixed very solely on the tabletop. Eventually Dean says, “So it’s happening, huh?”

Castiel waits for him to clarify.

“You’re becoming human?”

Castiel nods, “I’m becoming mortal, hence my apparently very obvious hunger,” he says with a smile.

Dean smiles back, but doesn’t look at him, not even as his smile suddenly falls. “This isn’t like before, though, right? When Metatron took your Grace and you... You’re not gonna die...”

Castiel considers this for a long enough moment that Dean glances up, clearly terrified and expecting the worst. “I don’t think so,” Castiel says.

The statement does not seem to assuage Dean’s concerns in the slightest.

“It doesn’t feel the same,” Castiel adds. “Before I felt like... a husk.” He can feel Dean’s eyes boring into him, “Like my vessel was utterly unprepared to house me now that both Jimmy and my Grace were gone. But this time... it’s different.”

“How?” Dean rasps, his intensity making Castiel’s skin prickle hotly under the collar.

“This isn’t a vessel anymore. It’s... me. Somehow I have more than Grace now. And when it dissipates, peters away, it won’t take me with it. There’s no certainty to the matter, of course. But it’s what I feel. I’m... more.” He finally looks at him, and finds the depth of Dean’s expression utterly immobilizing. After a moment, Dean finally blinks, clears his throat and sits back.

“Good,” he says, as though the issue is final. “Better be.”

That night, the light from the moon is bright enough that Castiel can see Dean so clearly (even without his advanced Host-sight) by the way the silver light glows on the plains of his face, the sweep of his hair, the length of his arms. He doesn’t need to see him to know that he isn’t asleep. He can feel it in the room, like pressure. The electric hum of Dean’s anxiety is ratcheted up to an un-ignorable level. Castiel fights and fights the urge to speak up.

When Dean moves, it so slow, so calculated, that at first Castiel thinks he’s just rolling over to get comfortable. When he continues moving, closer and closer, Castiel feels his heart thud in his chest in a way that he’s never felt before. It isn’t unpleasant. When Dean finally touches him, the man’s confidence is feigned but that doesn’t stop him from sliding close, pressing the length of his body to Castiel’s side, winding his arms around Castiel’s body. Castiel lets his body do the bizarrely natural thing, and he wraps his arms around him, one hand resting on the arm Dean’s draped over his chest, the other coming around Dean’s back and shoulder. Dean is tense, hesitant in a way that makes Castiel’s whole essence ache as he finally lays his head to Cas’ chest.

For a moment the hum of him is nearly unbearable, a crescendo of eardrum-popping vibration that makes Castiel wince. Until Dean’s arms tighten around him and Castiel’s hold tightens in return and it stops.

Dean’s breath trembles against his chest as his body molds to Castiel’s, warm and impossibly close.

*

Castiel worries, with a manic edge that brings him dangerously close to panic, that once they’ve left the safety of their private space outside Silver City, the tentative step they’ve taken will be retracted. But the next night when Dean books them another single-bed room near Nara-Visa despite the drive back to Lebanon being (off major highways) less than seventeen hours, Castiel feels that familiar crackling energy of anxiety building up around them.

When the lights are out and the room quiet, Castiel waits, hoping. They seem to move at the same time, inching into the center of the bed and folding into and around each other like it's second nature until Dan is pressed to Castiel once again, his head resting on Castiel's chest. Castiel falls more easily into sleep than he ever has before with the solid, warm weight of Dean's body against his own. 

*

When they get back to the bunker, Dean is subdued. Sam notices with a quirked eyebrow, but says nothing. He only glances to Castiel, who merely meets his eyes with an even look of his own. He doesn’t have anything to say.

That night, Dean seems to loiter before heading to bed. He cleans counters, wanders around the bunker with the intention of not looking aimless. But he always ends up back near Cas. When he eventually states that he’s going to bed his cheeks are flushed prettily, his eyes deep and glittering with a million things he won’t let himself say. He doesn’t ask Castiel to join him, but he hesitates before leaving.

When Castiel gets to Dean’s door less than an hour later, he doesn’t knock. Dean sits up awkwardly, eyes wide, watching silently as Castiel closes the door behind him and heads toward the blatantly empty side of the bed. He leaves his layers of clothing carefully draped over Dean’s desk chair, unable to keep from smiling when he catches Dean staring, hears the man swallow loudly. Finally, in only boxers, he climbs into Dean’s bed without hesitation. His heart beats hard enough to make him feel unsteady but he works very hard not to let it show. When he lays back into the mattress, he reaches for Dean immediately, pulling him into his arms, pressing Dean’s trembling body to his own as though he has zero doubt. Dean settles against him in stilted movements, as though he’s afraid to move too much, and Castiel has never wanted with more ferocity to comfort him. And to keep him. 

For a long time they don’t sleep. They lie together, getting accustomed to the feel of it, the feel of them, the way this could fit into their lives here. Castiel presses his lips to the top of Dean’s head, heart aching when he feels the man’s arms tighten around him.

They don’t say anything.