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Prince of the Ether Realms

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“I just don’t understand,” Castiel said, a little too harshly.

“Whup,” Dean said, toothbrush hanging from his mouth, foam around his lips. “Wha’s to umberspanb?”

Castiel narrowed his eyes and folded his arms, still leaning on the frame of Dean’s bedroom door. “Why you would rush into the portal without telling me. You didn’t even text me. I trust your phone still works.”

Dean glanced down, eyes on the mirrored cabinet over his bedroom’s corner sink. He bent at the waist, and spat out toothpaste. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” he said, turning on the faucet, rinsing out his mouth, then splashing water onto his face with a hand. “All I was thinkin’ about was saving Mom and Jack.” He straightened up, exhaling a minty puff of air in Castiel’s direction. “Sorry, bud.”

Castiel didn’t seem even remotely soothed. “And the tentacles!”

Dean grinned. “What about the tentacles?” He reached into the cabinet for his razor.

“You didn’t call me for help then, either.”

“No big deal, Cas, I came out of that just fine.”

“Your body was almost appropriated as a vessel for an interdimensional tentacle monster!” Castiel growled, unfolding his arms and staring at Dean in concern.

Dean still grinned, flipping his razor in his hand. “Not like I’d look any worse for it,” he teased, reaching to bat at Castiel’s chest with the back of his hand. “You’d still have a pretty face to stare at, huh?”

Castiel seethed, in a mild sort of way. “You know that’s not why I—” his eyes darted away, “appreciate you.”

Dean felt a funny flip in his chest, following Castiel’s slight pause. Now Dean’s smile turned wonky and he chuckled a little, eyes cast down. “You know you love me.”

A soft snort escaped Castiel’s nose. “Just tell me next time you decide to run head-first into a monster’s mouth, please. I worry about you, Dean. Exactly as much as you worry about me. And you know as well as I do: you couldn’t bear it if I ended up getting... dead.”

Dean wore an aching smile now, knowing it was true. He thumbed at the handle of his razor, forgetting for the moment that he intended to use it.

Gently – slowly – his attention drifted back to Castiel. He looked into his angel’s eyes, holding them for a while, just taking a moment to enjoy his presence, and his care, knowing it was the result of deep, unconditional affection.

Even after all this time, Dean had no freaking idea what to do with all that love.

Dean drew a breath, wanting to say something – anything, didn’t matter what – when his train of thought was interrupted.

“I’VE GOT SOMETHING!” Sam yelled, his shout echoing down the bunker’s hallway. “Dean! Cas! Library! Now!”

Sam stopped at Dean’s door, panting, fist thumping on the frame. “Dean! Oh – there you are, Cas. Hi.”

Dean peered past Castiel, finally drying his face with a towel. “What’s up?”

I’ve got something,” Sam breathed.

Dean snorted. “I’ll make you a doctor’s appointment after breakfast, dude. Quit tellin’ the whole world about it.”

Sam frowned and held up the heavy book he’d carried all the way here. “No, I’ve found something. A clue. A way we could – maybe – open the portal to the other universe. Get Mom and Jack back.”

Castiel inhaled, shifting his eyes to Dean.

Dean put his razor back in the cabinet, and pushed the cabinet door closed. “Give us two minutes.”

“I’ll be in the library!” Sam called, running off again.

Dean gathered up his gun, his lucky lighter, and, finally, Cas, and together they hurried off to find some breakfast, then discover whatever it was Sam had found.

As per usual, Dean thought, as they jogged along, there really wasn’t a good time to talk to Cas about feelings. Battles called, and emergencies beckoned, and all the soft, nice, pleasant things in life were left abandoned by the wayside.

∞ ·········· ♥ ·········· ∞

“This. Here.” Sam thwacked the tome’s open page with the back of his hand. He glanced up when Dean and Castiel approached – Dean with half a croissant stuffed in his cheek, the other half in his hand. Castiel followed two paces behind, muttering about how he didn’t understand why anyone would brush their teeth and then eat breakfast.

“Fill us in,” Dean said to Sam, standing rather than taking a seat.

Sam cleared his throat. “In Islamic lore, God made three great creations. The holy trinity of sentient beings, if you will. We can discount demons and other supernatural creatures for the moment. The story goes that God fashioned angels from light, djinn from fire, and humans from—”

“Clay, right, right,” Dean said, impatient. “So what?”

Sam shook his head, poring over the book. “Look, I can’t promise this is an exact translation – I just about remember the Arabic alphabet, that’s all. This book is ancient, so there’s some conjecture. But this translation app...” He pulled out his phone and hovered it over the page. On the phone screen, the calligraphic glyphs pixelated, and re-formed into English.

Castiel leaned in to take a look. He peered between the book and the phone, and nodded. “The syntax leaves something to be desired, but the translation is literal enough.”

Sam breathed out with a smile. “I’ll read it out. I’m basing my interpretations on what I already researched, what I know about how certain concepts were interpreted back then. I mean, a word isn't a word; it’s a word in a historical context. It’s meant to rhyme, but—”

“Just get to it, Sammy.”

Nodding, Sam read, “The one who makes a marriage of the holy three – fire, earth, and light – rules the power of all ether realms combined.”

“Ether realms?” Dean said. “The hell’s that?”

Sam wafted a hand, about to explain. “‘Ether’ is... the concept of everything. Atoms. Spirit. The spheres of the Earth, the sun, the moon – like in that medieval-style art from the eighteen-hundreds, the Flammarion engraving, with the guy crawling under the edge of the sky to find an infinite universe. Ether is both inside and outside that star-studded dome. Take quantum physics, for example. Electrons move differently when they’re observed, and nobody knows why. Conceptually, ether is the space between atoms, resulting in all that weird stuff that’s scientifically provable but not always explainable. To rule it would be to bend both the known and unknown universe to your will.

“The power of an archangel,” Castiel remarked, his voice low and intrigued.

“Wait.” Dean put his unfinished croissant down on the table, then folded his arms. “So you’re telling me that if someone combined the elements of fire, earth, and light, they become an archangel? You’re saying we could set fire to some graveyard dirt in the sunshine and that’s all it takes—?”

“No, I’m saying it’s literal. An actual marriage of fire, earth, and light. A wedding. Someone marries a djinni, marries an angel, marries a human, and they become powerful enough to bridge the worlds at will. According to the Qu’ran, the djinn usually exist in a parallel plane, just offset from our own current location. Angels exist in Heaven, which is another ether realm. Marriage is like... the way people join kingdoms together, to bring peace. I’m not saying it’s a certainty, but I’d hazard a guess with a decent amount of confidence: marry the three, and you combine them.”

Castiel stood in silence, unseeing, staring towards the other side of the bunker’s library.

“As soon as I found this passage,” Sam said slowly, “I only considered it might actually work because...”

“Because I told you about my quest to the Tree of Life in Syria,” Castiel said, his voice distant. “I married the queen of the djinn in order to gain access to the Tree’s fruit. She offered the fruit as a dowry, she was impressed at how I slaughtered her guards and wanted me in her harem.”

“Harem?” Dean blinked. “Wait, y-you told her no, right?”

Castiel turned to look at Dean. “I said yes. And then I ran away.”

Dean lowered his head, hiding a relieved smirk.

“So anyway, my point is that you’re two thirds of the way there,” Sam said with a small smile. “You’re an angel, married to a djinni. All you need is a—”

“Human,” Dean said quietly, eyes averted. His gaze shifted to a different part of the floor, and he stared at that instead. His arms were still folded. “So... Cas gets married-married? To who? One of us?”

Sam shrugged, then nodded.

Suddenly Dean’s eyes darted to Castiel.

Sam saw a smile pinch at the corners of Dean’s lips, ever so subtly. He straightened up a bit, maybe feeling eager, or expectant. But his expression quickly clouded over with doubt. “It’s just for science, though,” Dean said, unsurely. “It’s not the kissing-and-cuddling, go-on-dates, share-a-bed, settle-down-and-have-kids kinda marriage. We’d just... try this on the off-chance that it does something.”

His eyes roamed to Sam, considering him closely. His smile had faded.

Then Dean clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “So! What’re we waiting for?” He reached for Castiel and slapped him on the back. “Congrats, Cas, it’s your wedding day.”

Castiel raised his eyebrows. “Dean, you’re agreeing to this? We’re... really going to do it?”

“Hell yeah we’re doing it,” Dean said. “If the djinni queen has a harem of her own, I doubt she’d mind if her new angel darling has a little side-piece. What’s stopping us? Let’s get Cas to a church and get this over with.”

“Actually, I don’t think we even need to go anywhere,” Sam said. “We can just do a no-frills ceremony right here. It’s a verbal, symbolic agreement. Not a legal or religious one.” He glanced at Castiel. “Cas, you up for it?”

Castiel kept his eyes down, drawing a breath. “It... It’s very sudden...”

“C’mon,” Dean encouraged. “This is our shot, Cas. If you do this, you said you’d become basically an archangel, or some equivalent, right? We can use your grace for the portal-opening spell, and we go get Mom and Jack. And Charlie! And Ketch, even. We can save them all from that hellscape.”

Castiel nodded, swallowing. “All right.” He hesitated for a number of moments, then said, “I suppose... I should, ahhm...” He lifted his chin, turning his eyes to Dean. “Dean... W-Would you...” He paused to clear his throat. “Dean, will you – marry me?”

He gazed at Dean, shiny-eyed and hopeful.

Dean chuckled. “Pch. Yeah, right.” He rolled his eyes sideways, taking the big book from Sam. “There a page of ancient marriage rites or something in here I can read? Or do I just say it off the top of my head? This whole thing’s in Arabic.”

Sam’s lower lip quivered. “Well... I don’t know, do you have some vows prepared?”

“Pff.” Dean set his boots apart, facing Sam and Castiel with the book open on his hands. “Think that’s more your jam, not mine. Here goes, I guess. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today—”

“Whoa, hang on—” Sam raised a hand. “I thought I was doing the ‘dearly beloved’ thing.”

Dean screwed up his face in disbelief. “What, and have me marry Cas? Hell no. I’ve been through enough this week, I am in no mood to become part of a freaky holy three-way. Means to an end, dude, it’s not like it means anything. Just stand there and say ‘I do’.”

Sam’s eyes shot to Castiel, looking for reassurance. Instead he saw tears glazing Castiel’s eyes, which Castiel hurriedly blinked away, jaw set.

Castiel reached down and took Sam’s hand. “Just get on with it, then,” he said, toneless.

Sam swallowed, heart aching in sympathy. But he turned his eyes to Dean, and nodded.

Means to an end. That was all.

Dean huffed. “Awesome. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the joining of this human, Sam Winchester, and this angel, Castiel, uh... Castiel O’thelord.” He quirked up an eyebrow, flashing a shrug-like grin. “Insert something here about holy matrimony... Married in the eyes of God, whether or not Mr. Chuck Shurley is even looking this way, who knows.”

Sam chewed his tongue, fidgeting in place. He felt a little sick.

Castiel hung his head, squeezing Sam’s fingers – either for comfort, or because he was closing a tight fist and Sam’s hand was in the way. Sam watched him, seeing how Cas’ jawline flickered with tension, lips trembling as they pressed together. It seemed obvious: he was holding back a flood of tears.

“If there are any present who know of any reason why these two should not be married... blah blah blah,” Dean said, cocking his head to the side. “Sam Winchester, do you take this non-gendered angelic entity—”

“Dean,” Sam scolded. “Say it properly.”

“Say what properly?”

“If there is anyone present,” Sam said firmly, staring directly at Dean, “who knows of any reason – any reason at all – why Sam Winchester and Dean’s best friend Castiel should not be married... speak now... or for-ever hold your peace.”

Sam saw the moment Dean shattered inside. The skin around his eyes seemed to slacken in regret, his lips parting to exhale unsaid words, his gaze flicking to his friend in sorrow.

“Me,” Dean sighed. “Me, I have a reason.” He looked down. “Shit.”

Sam let go of Castiel’s hand, smiling when Castiel looked up, alarmed and confused.

Dean gritted his teeth, avoided all eye contact, and then shoved the book at Sam’s chest, making him take it. Sam beamed, taking Dean’s place beside the library table, watching Dean shuffle up to Castiel, head down.

Dean,” Castiel said softly, in appreciative awe.

“Shut up, Cas,” Dean said. “Hold my hand already.”

With a gentle smile that could’ve lit up the entire world for a whole summer, Castiel took Dean’s hand and held it, fingers interlocked.

Together, they turned to Sam, expecting the rites to begin again.

Sam felt a happy skip in his stomach as he started fresh. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the eyes of any and all existing gods to witness the marriage of Dean Winchester – a man borne of earth, the Righteous Man, saviour of humanity – and Castiel, an angel borne of light. He may have fallen from grace a few times, but he’s always been an upstanding pillar of support for those he loves.”

Castiel smiled at Sam, eyes glistening.

Dean stared at the side of Castiel’s face, as if dazzled by him now. Sam had never seen him so enamoured without trying to hide it.

“With this joining,” Sam went on, “we combine by marriage the holy creatures of the three great ether realms: djinni, angel, and human. Castiel brings love to all communities, and brings an offering of peace to each kingdom. May he bridge the worlds with his love, and all the space between every living creature: man, woman, or otherwise.”

Now Dean smiled, pressing his shoulder against Castiel’s. Castiel seemed humbled. His eyelashes fluttered as he noticed Dean staring, and turned his face to peer back.

They held each other’s eyes, and remained lost in their own private universe as Sam continued. “If anyone knows of a reason why these two ought not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

The library echoed with silence. Dean exhaled with a subtle hum of delight.

Wow. Sam had never seen two people more in love. Dean and Castiel’s eyes shone like gems, absolutely entranced by each other. Both pairs of hands gripped around each other, their hearts aligned with only the smallest space between them now. Castiel kept his chin steady, eyes lifted a single inch to make up the difference between their heights.

Sam beamed, reciting slowly and carefully, “With the power vested in me by the planet Earth and the universe we exist within, I hereby pronounce you man and angel. You may kiss the... groom?”

A flicker of panic crossed Dean’s face.

Castiel leaned in. Dean parted his lips, inhaling. But he jerked back, grinning, and the kiss closed upon thin air. “Okay,” Dean huffed. “Whoa. That’s close enough, buddy.”

He cleared his throat and let Castiel go, stepping back. “Right!” With a preparatory clap of his hands, Dean changed track. “Let’s try that spell now. Cas – archangel grace, if you please.” He opened his hands to Castiel, as if expecting him to puke up some grace on demand.

Castiel looked totally crushed, mouth in a flat, sad line, and Sam didn’t blame him.

“Dean,” Sam said sharply, “you didn’t seal the deal. You have to kiss.”

“What’re you talkin’ about, we just did a whole thing,” Dean scoffed. “Not everyone kisses at their wedding, especially not when it’s a first kiss and there’s – y’know – people watching. What we did is good enough. We’re married now, c’mon. So let’s get on with the spell already.”

Sam seethed. What was his problem? “Dean, just kiss him.”

Dean puffed out an angry noise. “I don’t need to kiss him.”

“You do need to kiss him,” Sam countered.

“Do not.”

“Do.”

Castiel gritted his teeth, took the book from Sam and turned around, slamming it onto the table as he stalked away.

“Now look what you did,” Sam tutted.

“I didn’t do anything—”

“Huh! Couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“Shut up, Sam.”

Sam didn’t dignify that with a childish response; he turned his furious gaze from his brother and marched off towards the library’s exit.

“Get the spell ingredients!” Dean shouted after him. “Blood from a holy man, seal of Solomon, fruit from the Tree of Life! And a vial for the grace! Can’t hurt to try, dude!”

“Get stuffed, Dean,” Sam called back.

“You’re getting it though, right?”

“Yeah,” Sam sighed as he left.

∞ ·········· ♥ ·········· ∞

The moment the library was empty of Sam, Dean untensed. He sighed, shoulders sinking, hand reaching up to cover his lips. They tingled, feeling a phantom kiss. Cas had almost gotten there, almost planted one on him.

They almost sealed the deal.

And yet Cas never made it. Dean couldn’t believe he’d pulled away.

Fuelled by his own nervous energy, Dean journeyed across the library to Castiel, slowing down as he got closer. Cas pawed at a bookshelf, not pulling out any books.

Dean gulped and touched Castiel’s trenchcoat sleeve, inhaling. “Hey... Cas.”

“Dean,” Castiel said bluntly.

Dean pressed his lips together. “Look, I... uh. I’m sorry I pulled away.”

Castiel raised his gaze sharply, blue eyes observing Dean like two cold suns. “Why did you pull away? There was so much riding on that moment, Dean. Your mother. Jack.” He seemed hurt now, more than angry. “Why?”

Wetting his lips with the tip of his tongue, Dean raised his empty hands. “I got nothin’. Reflex, maybe.” He averted his eyes. “Dunno.”

He stared at Castiel’s boots, then stared at a section of the glossy floor. He sighed, defeated, and floated away to sit at the library’s big table, slumped back in a chair with his heels planted on the marble. He locked eyes on the half-eaten croissant on the tabletop beside him.

After a moment, Castiel came to join him. He leaned his butt against the table’s edge, folding his arms. He glared at nothing, saying nothing.

Dean glanced up at Castiel, observing him deep in a sulk.

“Truth is, Cas,” Dean started, as anxiety fluttered in his chest, squeezing his stomach, “Crazy as it may sound, I wasn’t actually thinkin’ about Mom and Jack while we were— Y’know.” He chilled all over, and bit his bottom lip. “All I was thinkin’ about was... you.” He raised his eyebrows and parted his lips, amazed at his own admission. “Or us. How things change, or don’t change.”

“What do you mean?”

Dean shrugged a shoulder, turning his head, leaning forward with his hands clasped between his knees. “We’ve been through a bunch, Cas. We’ve been enemies, friends, best friends. Far as rides go, our relationship’s been a pretty wild one.” He swallowed, wondering why his mouth had gone dry. “Whatever’s between us, Cas, it’s stable now. It’s been the same for a long time. And—”

He looked up, meeting Castiel’s curious eyes. “You and me are friends, Cas. The best kind. But we’ve never been—”

“We’ve never been romantic,” Castiel finished, saving Dean from saying the word.

Dean hung his head, feeling the heat of a sudden blush. He grinned, exhaling as he said, “Change is scary, man. I had one freaking minute between thinking you were doing a magic-related ritual with Sam to realising you were marrying me, and I panicked.” He covered his mouth with a palm, then huffed, letting his hand drop. “I just panicked.”

Castiel nodded, a bit stiffly.

Dean wet his lips. “But, look, what’s the deal with us now? Are we...? Are we married? Husband and – husband?”

Castiel’s irritation evaporated in an instant. He uncrossed his arms, resting his palms back on the tabletop, eyes turned carefully to Dean. “Symbolically? I suppose so. I don’t think legally we would have equal rights if one of us adopted or spawned offspring, but potentially, yes. We are... husband and... spouse.”

“So, are we, like, bound to each other now? Are you still expecting me to see other people, or—?”

Castiel bristled. “I don’t care what you do, Dean,” he said. “I never have before. Sleep with whomever you like.”

Dean sat up straighter. “Uh. Okay. Thanks for the offer, Cas, but I actually meant – maybe I might not want—”

“This changes nothing between us,” Castiel went on. “I’m still nothing more than a friend to you. A... A ‘brother’.” He averted his eyes once again.

“Soooo. We’re not gonna... celebrate anniversaries then,” Dean supposed. “‘Cause the ten-year mark of when we met is coming up in about six months. Not that I ever sat down to calculate it or anything,” he huffed. He licked his lips shifted to the edge of his seat, asking, “Are— Are we meant to get each other rings? Or go on dates? Order a burger each, then I steal yours? Go out for drinks, stay in and watch movies? Cuddle; make out a little?” A helpless, sideways grin appeared on his face at the thought.

Castiel didn’t answer, eyes roaming the floor.

“And seriously, Cas,” Dean pried, “do you think we’d ever sleep together?” He tried to meet Castiel’s gaze, hoping to spy his real feelings on the matter. “Share a marital bed?”

Castiel stared at Dean, eyes slowly narrowing. “I don’t sleep.”

“No, but,” Dean shrugged. “Theoretically. If you got tired, or you were in a cuddly mood, or horny, or somethin’. You wouldn’t come knock on my door and... y’know. Hang out. Consecrate the marriage.”

“You mean consummate?” Castiel seemed perplexed now. “I thought I was banned from your room. Because I stole the Colt from under your pillow. And because I like watching you sleep and you find it unsettling.”

Dean felt fire on his cheeks; he hung his head, eyes on his wringing hands. The warmth in his stomach returned to worry and dissatisfaction, and he despised the sensation.

“So no cuddling then,” Dean said roughly. “Fine, Cas. Whatever. Just so we’re both straight.”

Castiel snorted, and Dean wasn’t keen to find out what was so funny.

The library went silent.

And then... slowly... Castiel drew a breath. A deep one, like he’d had a realisation.

“You know,” he said, so very softly... “I didn’t actually say I wouldn’t want those things, Dean. It’s true I don’t expect anything to change between us. But...” He met Dean’s eyes with tenderness as Dean looked up. “It would be a very different matter if you’re saying you do want to kiss and cuddle.”

Dean inhaled sharply. “What! No,” he grumbled, looking away again. “Why would I want that.”

Castiel sighed. “I don’t know. You brought up the subject – several times now, in fact. I just thought I should ask.”

In a frustrated silence, Dean gripped his own fists, turning palms over his knuckles, working to adjust his attitude. He hated himself equally for not spitting out the truth that lay like a rock on his tongue, and for having a rock in his mouth in the first place.

This rock was too damn big to swallow. He couldn’t will it away.

It had to come out.

“Cas, you know that thing. That you said. Way back, when you got – stabbed. Harpooned. And you were dying, and you said something.”

“Yes,” Castiel said curiously. “Yes, of course. I remember.”

“And you were kinda talking to all of us – me ‘n Sam ‘n Mom—”

“I was talking to you,” Castiel corrected. “The first time, at least.”

A wonderful heat flooded Dean’s face and shoulders and ears and eyes, blinding him, making his hands numb, leaving him breathless. All he could do was open his mouth and exhale a shudder.

“I said I love you,” Castiel repeated.

“Yeah,” Dean whispered. “That.”

“What of it?”

Dean swallowed, hard. Still, there was no dislodging the weighty rock of truth in his mouth. “Me too,” he said, and the rock shattered upon the ground, the sound of Dean’s confession echoing in the air like a fifty-foot boulder had split at the foot of a mountain. Dean’s entire world shook.

Castiel breathed.

Dean lifted his eyes to look at him. “Me too,” he said again, to be clear. “I – that – so much, Cas.”

Castiel gazed back, astounded to hear Dean say so.

“And—” Dean got up, standing against Castiel’s side, taking his hand and holding it. “H-Hard as it is to admit, I kinda do wanna do all the – the things. Y’know. That I said.”

“You want to consummate the marriage. Go on... romantic dates, and offer celebratory gifts?” Holding Dean’s eyes, Castiel tilted his head, adding, “You want to kiss me. And cuddle with me.”

Dean nodded shyly, chin bouncing as he blushed from pretty much head to toe. “Mm-hm.”

“Oh.”

After a nervous moment, Dean asked, “Cas, do youuuu... wanna do that stuff too? Not today, but someday?”

Castiel’s attention flicked back and forth between Dean’s left eye and his right, perhaps looking to find the joke, or the spark of shame that would inevitably lead Dean to pull away again. But when he finally found nothing but longing, Castiel nodded. “Desperately.”

Dean’s blush probably gave him a third-degree burn with its sudden flame. “Desperately,” he repeated in a hush, smirking, trying to come to terms with that word. “Holy shit.”

“Dean?” Castiel reached up, taking Dean’s jaw in his warm, steady hand. Dean relaxed into the touch, not willing to squander this moment to fear. “I do want all of that. But what I also want,” Castiel said, eyes dark and gleaming with compassion and a hint of a smile, “is to be with you, and love you, and protect you—” He shook his head, chuckling fondly when Dean began to fluster and squirm. “No, I really do mean it, Dean. I want to marry you.”

Dean half-giggled to himself, hand over his mouth. But he nodded, and smiled, and drew a breath as he pulled himself to his full height. “And I wanna do the same for you. Be with you. And care for you, and – and support you. Make sure you’re safe. Always ‘n forever, all that jazz.” A smile of gratification tugged on his lips. “I – heh. Guess I do wanna marry you, Cas. Damn.”

With a hum, Castiel slipped a hand behind Dean’s neck, and held him. “All right. I’m going to kiss you now, Dean.”

Dean glanced back and forth between Castiel’s eyes, starting to pant. “A-Are you sure—? ‘Cause we could wait, y’know, like— Doesn’t have to be right this second—”

Not wanting to force him, Castiel slid his hands off Dean, and began to back away.

“Wait-wait, Cas, no, please, I— I can’t—” Dean darted after him, caught him by either side of his jaw, and turned both their heads to push his lips upon Castiel’s.

Immediately, Dean relaxed and sighed heavily, washed over with relief of joy and warmth, all rushing from his head downward, heart outward, feet lifting from the ground. They were kissing! Dean was kissing Cas! It was prickly!

A moment passed before he realised his feet were actually off the ground.

He broke the kiss and gasped— He clung tight to Castiel so he didn’t fall, seeing a three-foot drop between his boots and the marble floor. Dean became aware Cas was glowing, all his clothes and skin and the air around him now a searing white.

His blue gaze met Dean’s with astonishing serenity. There was a pleased smile in there somewhere.

All at once came a boom of thunder, wings rolling out across the library. Books tore out of their shelves; the crystal chandeliers sung brightly on their hooks in the high ceiling, swaying; the tables groaned, legs heaved from their places. The room vibrated with the deepest drone of sound, filled up with rising power, pure white light.

The light seemed to be on fire, every beam flickering with flame.

And... as Castiel finally lowered himself and Dean back to the marble, still holding tight... the blaze faded back to the usual soft amber glow. Dean was left staring, flabbergasted, seeing the face of Castiel’s familiar human vessel, crafted to perfection from God’s holy clay.

That was it. They were properly married now. They’d sealed the deal with a kiss, and Cas had connected the three holy realms by marriage.

The chandeliers still swung. The final few books clopped out of their places and tumbled on top of their floored companions.

Sam breathed out a sigh of satisfaction from the other end of the library. “Mazel tov,” he said.

Dean turned to look at Sam, embarrassed at what his brother might’ve seen. One helluva first kiss, for sure.

Sam approached, one shoulder weighed down with a backpack of weapons, the same arm hugging his and Dean’s winter jackets. His other arm balanced a pestle and mortar full of the portal-opening spell ingredients: the seal of Solomon, a pomegranate, and a slightly-less-than-full vial of human blood. With a huge grin, Sam dumped all the things on the shifted table, then turned to Dean and Castiel, clapping them both on the shoulder. “Welcome to the first day of the rest of your lives.”

Dean smiled, elbowing Sam away.

Castiel chuckled, straightening the ruffled lapels of his coat.

“I counted six wings,” Sam said. “I’d say you got a pretty decent deal, all-in-all.”

Castiel gazed at Dean with endless adoration. “I’d be foolish to disagree with you on that,” he uttered. Perhaps it was true: Dean had never seen him so content.

Sam offered Castiel an empty glass vial, wordlessly asking for some grace.

Castiel seemed to choke on a laugh, looking down at the dainty little bottle. He reached up – but rather than taking the vial, he pushed it aside.

He turned his back to Dean and Sam, facing the end of the library, where the telescope resided. Stretching out a single finger, he poked a hole in the fabric of the universe. He wiggled it, loosening the stitching. A frayed edge of gold was left hanging in the air, cut by Castiel’s finger. He dragged the seam all the way down until the gleaming void came level with his knees.

He retracted his hand, and the portal remained humming, sparkling golden.

“Hoooooooo,” Dean cooed, unable to think of real words.

“Heeee,” Sam grinned, in much the same predicament as his brother.

“Hm-hmh!” Castiel said, smug.

He turned his chin over his shoulder, reaching to take Dean’s hand. “Dean, Sam. It would be my honour,” he said, “as the newly inaugurated Prince of the Ether Realms, to lead you on to your destination.”

Dean grabbed Sam’s arm. “Everyone got a gun?”

Sam grabbed the winter coats and the extra weapons. “Yup.”

“Okay,” Dean breathed, nodding. He looked to his right. “Little brother; check.” He looked to his left. “Universe-bending angel spouse? Check.” He looked back at the table – then reached over and grabbed the rest of his croissant, stuffing it into his mouth so one cheek bulged. “Now I got everything I need. This mission’s in the bag already.”

The portal’s light fritzed with electricity, ready and waiting. Adventure lay beyond.

Dean squeezed Sam and Cas’ hands. “Ready?” he asked.

Sam and Castiel both nodded.

Dean swallowed his mouthful, then grinned. “Let’s go.”

{ the end }