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For the most part, Dean likes his job.

He likes the quiet of the library. He likes the books. He likes the little old ladies who come in every other day and have been doing so for decades, always looking for something new to read and eager to chat with ‘a handsome young angel such as yourself ’. Hell, he even likes the groups of elementary and preschool kids who occasionally come through, no matter how loud and messy they can be. At least they’re cute, and Dean’s always the first to advocate for kids learning to appreciate reading from a young age.

But of course, it can’t always be sunshine and rainbows. As with any job, there’s always going to be annoying aspects to offset the positive ones.

Usually, that amounts to irritation with people who eat or drink in the library and make a mess, or with patrons who think they’re above late fees or other standard policies and try to argue with him.

Other times, though, his irritation comes in the form of teenage demons.

He knew that they were trouble as soon as they walked through the doors. While all teenagers seem to travel in packs these days, demons are the worst about it, always striking out in groups to cause as much of a disturbance as possible. They’re hoodlums more often than not, and a quiet library run by an angel, of all people, is doomed to be their perfect target.

Still, he thinks that their pulling of the fire alarm was a bit more vile than it needed to be. Why couldn’t they just be vandals, like most punk kids their age?

The worst thing about it isn’t the technical issues involved with having the alarm pulled, though. No, the worst part is easily the panic that envelops the library’s patrons when the shrill alarms and flashing lights start up. The kids are especially upset by it, several of them bursting into tears, and almost all of them pressing hands over their ears and curling in on themselves like they can hide from it. Dean is up from his seat behind the counter in a second, calmly opening his wings and letting a few of the younger children cling to the downy feathers before their parents return to the reading area to collect them.

Even though there’s no real fire—Dean saw the group of demons loitering around the fire alarm, for god’s sake—the staff still have to treat it as such. Dean and his co-workers do their best to guide an organized evacuation of the library, and soon enough, the building is empty, and all the children have been accounted for by their parents. Since there is no drama of an actual fire, no one sticks around for long, either; it’s too cold to stand around and wait for the fire department to show up if there’s not even going to be a good story to tell in reward for that show of patience.

Dean curls his wing in to rub a patch of feathers that were tugged a little too hard by a small set of hands, then leaves Hannah in charge of the dwindling crowd outside to check that there have been no stragglers left behind in the stacks. He doesn’t find anyone left behind in the library, even though he checks every area, and scowls up at the still-ringing alarms. Fuckin’ demons.

He hadn’t seen any sign of them in the mass exodus—though he’d had a wing-ful of children to deal with, human, angel, and demon alike—and they’re not still in the library. It only confirms his suspicions that they ran for the hills as soon as they’d pulled the alarm, not wanting to be caught at the scene of the crime.

The list of books that Dean had been writing up at the time still lies on the front desk, sad and abandoned, and Dean snatches it up and scrunches it in his fist as he passes. There’s no way they’ll be able to afford new books now, not if this incident depletes their already-limited excess funds.

Dean sighs, scrubs a hand through his short hair, and turns to exit the empty library.

~

It takes almost fifteen minutes for the fire department to show up. By that time, all of the patrons have disappeared, and Hannah has gone home as well. There wasn’t much point in her waiting around with Dean, since the library will probably have to stay closed for the rest of the day.

Dean, as the head librarian, is stuck with the job of explaining to the firefighters exactly what happened, and that knowledge has put him in a sullen mood by the time the firetruck rolls around the corner.

He unwraps his wings from around his body, where he’d been using them for warmth, and tries to make an effort to look presentable. They’re already going to think he’s an idiot for the false alarm, he wants to ride this out with at least a little bit of dignity.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that’s on the cards for today.

The first man to climb down from the cab of the truck does so with quick, determined movements, calling orders to the others who follow, but when he sees Dean standing in front of the doors, alone and more irritated than upset, he seems to pause.

A gloved hand waves at a pair of firefighters, and he tells them something that Dean can’t quite make out. The two nod and quickly make their way inside, while another circles round the outside of the building. They’re evidently checking for an emergency, which is fruitless—Dean knows exactly what happened.

“Can I help you?” he calls to the first man, unable to keep the impatience from his voice. It’s cold, dammit, and he just wants to be done with this bullshit.

The man turns back towards him, and Dean really wishes that he could see properly past the visor on the helmet. As it is, he has to wait until the firefighter is satisfied enough with the actions of his team; only then does he approach Dean.

“Do you work here?” he’s asked by a low, rumbling voice that makes it sound like the guy takes gravel in his whiskey. It’s enough to make Dean’s wings flutter just slightly in response, and he swallows, taking note of the name ‘Novak’ on the breast of his uniform and filing the information away for later.

“Yeah, I’m the head librarian.”

Novak lifts one hand to his visor and flicks it up with gloved fingers, unaware of the profound effect the gesture has on Dean.

The man in front of him has some of the most piercingly blue eyes Dean has ever seen. They’re a shade that wouldn’t be out of place on an angel, even though this guy doesn’t have wings (it’s generally considered a pretty big fire hazard to have at least twenty pillows’ worth of down attached to one’s back—angels don’t go into firefighting). Still, wings or not, Novak is goddamn gorgeous, with his blue eyes and slightly chapped lips and a hint of dark hair that is probably a mess under that helmet.

Novak is also staring at him, one eyebrow raised, head tilted slightly to the side.

“What?” Dean blurts out, and he can feel the blush spreading like wildfire across his cheeks.

Novak’s lips twist into an amused expression, and his eyes sparkle as he looks up at Dean.

“I said , would you care to fill me in on what happened here? There doesn’t appear to be any sign of smoke or fire, though I’ve sent my team to investigate regardless.”

Right. There are bigger problems at hand right now than the obscenely attractive firefighter standing in front of Dean. The reminder puts somewhat of a dampener on his momentarily-lifted mood.

“Yeah,” he sighs, wings drooping slightly. Maybe he can talk his way out of potential discipline if the firefighter shares his attraction? It’s worth a try, at this point. He looks up through his lashes and cracks a smile, aiming to be as charming as possible. “I’m pretty sure it’s just a false alarm. Some asshole kids pulled the alarm—there was a group of demon teenagers in the library just before it happened, and you know what demons are like.”

Dean is expecting Novak to agree with him—everyone knows that demons have a reputation, especially while they’re young and rebellious—but instead, the man’s eyes go cold and flinty. There’s a tightness to his jaw that hadn’t been there before as he reaches for his helmet.

Dean was right about one thing—he does have amazingly messy helmet hair.

He also has a pair of onyx horns, set at the crown of his skull and curving up towards the sky. Dean had failed to notice the small points to his helmet before the flipped-up visor obscured them altogether.

At the same time, a tail appears from behind him, deep red in color and pointed at the end. It curls idly around Novak’s leg—who is still staring down his nose at Dean, and now he knows why.

Well, fuck.

“No matter what you think happened, we’re going to continue to investigate,” Novak says stiffly. There’s no more amusement, no more bright eyes. Only dry professionalism. “Please remain here; don’t go inside the building until it has been cleared, and don’t leave until one of my men has been able to give you some paperwork. False alarms can be a lengthy process.”

And with that, the firefighter turns on his heel and stalks away, his tail whipping behind him in agitation as he returns to the truck. He goes into the library next, only a few moments later, and when he passes, Dean makes sure to give him a wide berth. Not that the demon looks at him anyway—and that just makes Dean feel like even more of a jackass.

There’s nothing he can do but wait while the firefighters give the building the okay and figure out exactly what happened. Turns out that the fire alarm had tripped on accident, without being pulled—at least, that’s what one of the firefighters tell him. Dean spots Novak watching from a distance, his blue eyes still flinty, as the firefighter hands Dean sheets and sheets of paperwork and explains each one of the myriad of alarm-resetting charges.

The paperwork does turn out to be a pain in the ass, but it’s not quite as bad as Novak had made it seem. It’s not hard to figure out why the demon had made him wait, though, because in the end, Dean ends up standing in the cold for nearly an hour, freezing his wings off and stewing in his misery while the crew of firefighters take their sweet time.

He doesn’t doubt that that’s Novak’s doing.

Fucking. Demons.

~

The next time Dean runs into the demon, it’s certainly not somewhere he would expect.

A week has passed, long enough for Dean to stare at the list of fines slapped on the library for resetting and repairing the faulty alarm. Surely labor charges don’t cost that much, and as for the ‘dangerous’ aspect—Dean had checked after the fire crew had left, and the only danger that he could see was one electrical wire half a foot from the fire alarm’s mechanism that was just slightly frayed.

All in all, Dean is pretty sure that the list of charges is bogus, but the fact remains that the library has to find some way to pay them, and they don’t just have that kind of money lying around.

He’d talked to Hannah and they managed to scrape together some semblance of a plan, which is why Dean is currently at the grocery store, staring at the shelves of baking ingredients.

The fundraiser that they’re planning has a couple of different elements to it. Since Hannah’s cooking skills are pretty non-existent, Dean has been left in charge of the bake sale portion, which means that he should probably field some of his own creations to support the library. Not that that’s a problem; he’s collected some favorite recipes over the years, mostly nice cakes with a couple of good pies, so he’s confident in his abilities.

He doesn’t know where he’s going to get the energy to bake them all before tomorrow night, though. Dean’s day was spent at work, wrangling children who had been dumped at the library by their parents for storytime. He’d caught a wing to the face breaking up a squabble, and barely stopped a pair of demon kids from drawing in sharpie across the front covers of the display books. Beyond that, he’s also had to deal with pissy customers, books being left out everywhere with no regard for their proper home, and a broken bathroom sink that had required a plumber.

It’s been a day.

And now Dean is standing in the grocery store, staring at different brands of flour. Why the fuck are there so many? He rubs at his eyes, pinches the bridge of his nose, then reaches for the closest bag and drops it into his basket. It’ll do. Right now, he just wants to get home and put this mess of a day behind him.

So, of course, that’s when he turns away from the shelf and walks straight into someone’s shopping cart.

Dean manages to bang his ankle on the bottom shelf of the cart and staggers back with a yelp of pain. His wings flare out to either side in an effort to keep his balance, promptly knocking over a display of chocolates and sending them spilling across the linoleum floor. Fuck.

It takes Dean a second to regain his balance, pulling his wings in tight against his back once he’s steady again to try and avoid destroying any more of the grocery store’s displays. His ankle aches, his cheeks are burning with embarrassment, and he’s flat-out had enough as he turns his head towards the owner of the cart and snaps out, “Would you fucking watch where you’re going?”

And then he looks, properly, at the man behind the cart, and his heart sinks even further. Even without the firefighter get-up, it would be impossible to not recognize him.

Blue eyes, chapped lips, and a pair of onyx horns nestled in the messy mop of hair.

Novak.

The demon stares at Dean, his head tilted slightly to the side and tail twitching in small movements behind him. It’s not lashing back and forth—a sure sign for any demon that they’re pissed—but it’s also not still and relaxed. Dean swallows.

“Sorry,” he mutters, embarrassment spiking higher than his anger. He shifts on his feet and holds his basket in front of him, a blatant shield. “I mean. I didn’t see you there.” It wasn’t all Dean’s fault—who the hell sneaks up on people like that, Dean hadn’t even known he was there—but there are people staring at the scene he’s caused, so he keeps his mouth shut. Now’s not the time to make an even bigger ass of himself.

Novak just inclines his head, and while there’s still no sign of the smile he’d initially greeted Dean with when they met, at least it’s not the sharp, venomous glare that had followed their first and only interaction. “We both should have been paying better attention,” he says levelly. “Would you like help with cleaning up the display you knocked over?”

Dean grits his teeth and shakes his head. A demon being helpful? Since when? And this demon in particular, the one who’s singlehandedly responsible for the fact that Dean’s in this store gathering baking ingredients at all.

Right.

“I’ve got it just fine, thanks,” he answers, just barely refraining from snapping. The onlookers are already beginning to disperse, so Dean sets his basket on the ground beneath the knocked-over display and gets to work. It’s not actually too terrible of a mess, but his wings remain pinned to his back in agitation regardless, and he grumbles to himself under his breath about being haunted by demons and the growing sense of futility he has pertaining to the upcoming fundraiser.

Although Dean’s brief audience moved on with their shopping, Novak, apparently, did not. And apparently he’s been listening to Dean’s grumbling, because he suddenly makes his presence known by asking, “Fundraiser? What for?”

Dean startles at the sound of his voice, and falls out of his crouch to slam one of his knees against the unforgiving laminate floor.

“Jesus Christ, why are you still here?” he replies, glaring up at the demon where he stands over him. He sighs as he gets back to his task and continues, louder, “The fundraiser is for the library. You know, the one you slapped with all of those fines just to spite me? Can’t afford to pay those and host the elementary school lock-in next month, let alone get new books. We’re not exactly a profitable business. Don’t have deep pockets.”

Novak is silent. So silent, in fact, that Dean assumes that the demon left, and he’s been talking to the air for at least the last few seconds. It wouldn’t surprise him.

And then Novak lowers himself to his knees beside Dean and helps gather up the last of the chocolates. He starts putting them back on the display stand exactly how they were, in neat, orderly rows, sorted by variety.

Dean stares.

After a few seconds, Novak seems to realize that Dean hasn’t moved. He very slowly lifts his gaze, raising a curious eyebrow at Dean. “Is everything okay?” he asks in that deep rumble of his, and Dean blinks.

“I, uh. Yeah,” he mutters, reaching for another chocolate, but he doesn’t put it back on the display just yet. “Wasn’t expecting you to help, is all.”

Novak’s curious expression softens, and he reaches for another handful of chocolates. Dean catches the faintest edge of a smile. “Yes, well. It sounded like you could use it. Also, there are a lot of chocolates—you have very large wings, they can do a lot of damage, it seems.”

Dean draws his wings in tighter and grits his teeth, staring down at the mess of chocolate, but Novak’s quiet chuckle draws his gaze up again. He’s smiling at Dean, blue eyes kinder than they had been that cold day outside the library. “I’m only teasing, Dean. Really, they’re very nice.”

He pauses, then sets the last of his chocolates on the display and reaches out his hand.

“I’m Castiel. I hope we can get off on the right foot this time, after what happened at the library.”

Dean stares down at the offered hand, then back up at Novak—Castiel. His expression is open and earnest, eyes sparkling and mouth slightly upturned, just as it had been the first time they’d met.

But then Dean’s gaze flits up to the horns on Castiel’s head, and the just-visible tip of his tail, twitching back and forth. He remembers the cold way that the demon had looked at him, the unnecessary fines that he’d slapped on the library, and he sits back on his haunches. Castiel must see his expression close off, because his hand drops just a little, and the playful light in his eyes disappears.

Dean clenches his jaw.

“I’m not exactly in the market for new friends right now, because in case it’s somehow not clear, I have work to do. Thanks to a certain someone, I have to spend my time tonight baking for the fundraiser to try and pay for your bullshit fines.” Castiel flinches back from the steel in his voice, but Dean doesn’t let himself care; he pushes up onto his feet and snatches up his basket, leaving Castiel kneeling on the ground. “Try not to fuck up anyone else’s job today,” he growls, then spins on his heel and stalks away.

He knows his wings are twitching in agitation, showing the demon just how bothered he is, how upset, but he can’t make them stop. Instead, he holds himself tall as he makes his way towards the checkout, Castiel’s gaze burning between his shoulder blades.

But with the way things have gone, Dean doesn’t owe him a damn thing.

~

As much as he hates to admit it, even to himself—Castiel can’t stop thinking about Dean Winchester.

Dean, the angel whose natural beauty had Castiel enthralled the first time he laid eyes on him. Dean, who has big, soft, gorgeous-looking wings, the most stunning the demon has ever seen. Dean, who runs a library, and (as Castiel can only guess) is probably the sweetest when he’s in his own, quiet environment, gushing over books and giving patrons easy, kind smiles.

Alright, so maybe he’s thinking about Dean more than a little too much. But he simply can’t help himself.

The crux of the issue, though, comes from the fact that Dean is also the angel with an apparent grudge against demons.

Following their minor clash in the grocery store, Castiel begins to truly regret being so thorough with his paperwork following the library’s false alarm. He’s rarely one to impose all of the fines he technically has at his disposal, but the call to the library had come near the end of a very long shift, which had in turn followed a sleepless night and a hectic day before that. Prank calls, harassment, a disastrous house fire, as well as family drama and a bout of human-to-demon discrimination to boot, during his personal time when he was out of uniform.

Whether the cute librarian had meant it or not, a line like you know how demons are had been one straw too many. And he was cold-hearted as a result.

He isn’t sure whether it was Dean’s continued irritation with him or the mention of a need for a fundraiser which cut through to him more. Either way, it served as the wake up call he needed, and the guilt came crashing in the instant Dean stormed down the aisle away from him.

No matter how much he reflects upon it, he doesn’t know how to rectify the mess he has caused.

And he does reflect on it. A lot.

The issue is front and center in his thoughts for the remainder of the night, after the grocery store incident. He thinks about it when he pays and leaves with his groceries, when he’s home and putting those groceries away, when he’s lounging on his couch and is supposed to be enjoying the night off he worked so hard to earn. He puts on his favorite hospital drama television show, as is his Friday night habit, but not even the excitement of Dr. Sexy M.D. can clear his mind.

He suspects that he deserves it. No, he knows he deserves it. He was cruel to Dean, angry about things that were beyond the angel’s control, and that isn’t fair. While the blame for what happened at the library cannot fall entirely on Castiel’s shoulders, he still feels torn up about the ordeal. He should have felt like this sooner.

It figures that fighting with Jimmy would cause him even more problems than he already had. It’s not the first time such a thing has occurred, and he’s sure it won’t be the last, but regardless, he’s tired of the stress his twin causes him bleeding into other aspects of his life.

On Saturday, Castiel wakes up determined to do better. He might not be able to undo his fight with his brother or any of his other early-week drama, and he can’t take back the fines he leveled at the library, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make improvements in other ways.

He starts the day by treating his coworkers at the station to a selection of doughnuts, bagels, and coffee, an apology for being a hardass, and a thanks for all of their hard work. The on-duty squad is incredibly appreciative, and one of the human officers, a man called Garth, even goes so far as to hug Castiel and loudly declare that he is “the best chief in the state!”

It’s not true, by any means, but it’s a sweet sentiment, and certainly makes going to the station on his day off worth Castiel’s efforts.

He takes care of personal errands, next. He might be at-odds with Jimmy, as is the usual, but Claire’s birthday is still coming up, and Castiel will be damned before he lets anything stop him from being the best uncle possible. He has a gift to find, and he’s determined to succeed.

Try as he might, though, he can’t seem to find any copies of the book Claire wants, anywhere he looks. The one store that seemed most promising in his search for ‘We Are Not Ourselves’ turned out to not be very demon-friendly, and he’s not quite up for a venture into the library to see if any of the librarians (Dean) might know where else he can find it (and risk being discriminated against again). But he won’t let the bias he’s faced stand between him and success; he continues to check every possible store in the county, determined to hunt to the ends of the earth if he has to.

He busies himself so thoroughly in his search that it’s nearly evening by the time he realizes he has to change focus; he can’t put off his final objective any longer. He can try for the book again another day.

He’s not confident in his appearance—wearing his station pants and a fire department t-shirt with his name and title on it might be fine for errands around town, but it’s less suited for a potentially-fancy fundraiser—but he also knows that if he goes home to change, he’ll talk himself out of leaving again.

He at least takes the time, looking into the mirror in his car, to try and neaten his hair. For a second, he glares at the dullness of his horns, their care neglected while he focuses on other things, then catches himself. He’s not trying to impress anyone at this fundraiser. He’s not.

And so he bites the bullet and goes to the library as-is.

At least they’ll know who he is and why he’s there, as he reasons. He just hopes it doesn’t also serve to mark his guilt.

The library’s parking lot is nearly full when Castiel arrives, which the demon takes to be a good sign for the fundraiser’s sake. The message board by the street—Fundraiser! Saturday 4-8, Bring a friend!—seems to have done its job.

It makes Castiel feel slightly better about the slight he has committed against the library.

Still, he can’t help but be nervous at the prospect of possibly facing Dean again. After the fire alarm (not his best day, he’ll admit) and the scene at the grocery store, he can’t be sure how Dean will react if he’s seen here.

Castiel resolves to just duck in, check things out, donate some money, and then leave again.

In, out. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

The library looks very different than it had last time he was here. Then, it had been barren, dark, devoid of life thanks to the evacuation. But now it’s alive. It’s brimming with people, young and old alike, and almost all with smiles on their faces.

It’s so energetic, so beautifully decorated—Castiel briefly wonders if that’s Dean’s doing, but immediately pushes aside that thought. Instead, he wanders further into the library, taking in the tables full of books and different activities, and the open space further into the center of the library where most of the patrons are gathered, milling around and talking.

It’s warm and it’s homely and filled with a sense of community… and most of all, it smells amazing.

Castiel finds himself drawn further in to the crowd, following his nose towards whatever that heavenly smell is. A couple of people stop him to talk, since he’s a well-known and respected figure around town, so he does his part and engages in a few minutes of polite chit-chat before moving along. He still has to find the source of that smell, then make a donation and get out of here. He’s not looking for any kind of altercation with Dean tonight—no matter how handsome the angel is.

If Dean’s negative view of demons persists, well. There’s no way anything could happen between them, anyway.

It doesn’t take much longer for him to figure out where the wonderful smell is coming from. Along the side of the main, open space is a long table, filled with a variety of baked goods. Castiel finds himself drawn towards the array of cakes and pies in the center which, he soon figures out, is the source of the smell that’s been enticing him ever since he walked through the library’s front doors.

A few of the pies have already had slices cut out, but Castiel isn’t just interested in a slice, not with how good they look.

So he might have a bit of a weak spot for pie. Sue him.

They’re a little on the expensive side, but Cas doesn’t mind. His purpose in being at the fundraiser is to spend, anyway. He hands over a few bills with perhaps a touch too much eagerness.

“Let me just get that boxed up for you, sweetheart,” the angel running the bake sale says, flashing him a smile that’s just this side of flirtatious. She has beautiful brown wings, and it suits her. Castiel gives her a bright smile in return, and gratefully accepts the boxed pie when she passes it over.

“Have you had a look at the silent auction prizes?” she asks, grinning at something past Castiel’s shoulder before her gaze returns to him. “There are some good ones up for grabs, but I think they're closing the bidding soon.”

As curious as he as about this silent auction, staying longer increases his chances of running into Dean, which is not a particularly appealing prospect. He politely declines, then turns away from the bake sale table.

And with that, he’s done his part; he’s contributed to the fundraiser, spent from his own pocket to make up for his mistakes, and now he can go home and eat his pie in peace.

But, of course, the universe is never so kind.

“Hey, where’d my apple pie go, Lis?” he hears from behind him, just as he begins to turn away from the table. “Someone buy it already? I told you it was good.”

Before Castiel can walk faster and disappear into the crowd, he hears the approaching footsteps stumble, a sound which is accompanied by an agitated rustling of feathers.

The first angel, Lis, smiles. “This gentleman right here bought it,” she says, gesturing toward the demon still lurking near her table. “Obviously you’re not as bad a baker as I thought. I shouldn’t have doubted you.”

Her voice is light and teasing, and Castiel finds himself hoping that her bubbly nature will be enough to ward off an incident.

“Novak.”

No such luck. Dean’s voice is colder than it was, devoid of the playfulness he’d had while talking to his co-worker.

Fuck.

It’s only now that Castiel realizes how truly unfortunate it is that his shirt has his name on it. There’s no chance that Dean might have missed him, or failed to recognize him. The demon couldn’t have been more obvious.

He slowly turns toward Dean, his tail flicking in embarrassment. “Hello, Dean. Nice to see you again.”

Dean folds his arms across his chest and glares. His wings, still stunning, are halfway raised in an intimidating gesture—he’s as near to it as he can be without causing a scene. The positioning highlights their grey undertones, darkening the angel’s entire appearance.

And this is what Castiel gets for attempting a good deed.

“So did you just accidentally walk in here, or what?” Dean demands. “You here to see us scramble?”

Castiel pointedly glances around, eyeing all of the activity filling the library. “I’m not sure I would call this scrambling. You seem to be doing quite well.”

Dean scoffs. “We’re still fighting our way back from a deficit, which was caused by your fines. We wouldn’t be having this fundraiser at all, if it weren’t for you.”

From the corner of his eye, Castiel sees the brown-winged angel casually step away. Obviously, she’s clued into what’s happening between the pair and doesn’t want anything to do with it. Castiel doesn’t blame her; it’s probably for the best that she steers clear.

He heaves a sigh. “You mentioned at the store that you were preparing for this fundraiser, which is how I knew about it. I bought a pie as penance. I don’t believe that’s worthy of harassment.”

“A thirty dollar pie doesn’t undo hundreds of dollars worth of fines, pal.”

Castiel’s fingers tighten around the pie box, the thin cardboard threatening to crumple in his grip. “I’m trying. I believe that should be worth something.”

Trying isn’t gonna pay the bills,” Dean snaps, his wings twitching in agitation. “Maybe you should have tried harder not to be a jerk and charge us for something out of our fucking control.”

All at once, Castiel’s patience disintegrates, and he goes cold. He narrows his eyes. “Maybe you shouldn’t blame all of your problems on demons.”

For a moment, Dean has the gall to look surprised by that—and then his expression shifts toward outrage. “This isn’t about demons,” he grits out, “this happened because I thought some punk kids pulled the fire alarm and then you were a dick about it. Maybe you have something against angels.”

Castiel shakes his head, upper lip curling into a snarl. “You know how demons are, were your words. It’s too late to rescind that, and don’t turn it on me, either. Demons are subjected to enough discrimination, I’m not going to apologize for reacting to such a comment accordingly.”

“Reacting accordingly means destroying a public library’s rainy day fund? Really.”

“My team and I were responding to an emergency call and you explained yourself with a racist remark—”

“—I didn’t know you were a demon, alright—”

“—And those were fines I am well within my right to assign to begin with, you are the one assigning personal value to this incident. I didn’t do anything that I shouldn’t have.”

“So you turning up and buying one pie like a cheapskate isn't an admission of you feeling guilty? You know what you did was a shitty move.”

Castiel’s tail has been whipping back and forth behind his calves for the duration of the argument, but the pie comment, being called a cheapskate, completely up-ends the defense he has been building for himself, and he goes completely still.

He is guilty. He walked into the library knowing that. And now, mere minutes after encountering Dean, here he is arguing against it.

Damn this angel.

Castiel refuses to be bested.

Someone calls out from the other side of the library, “Last call for our silent auction!”

The demon clenches his jaw and raises his chin, seeing his opportunity for what it is. “I didn’t realize that apologies have a minimum price tag, but if you’re going to insist.”

He turns on his heel and stalks off through the crowd, making a beeline for the auction side of the fundraiser. There’s enough signage to make it easy to find, and the crowd parts easily for an irritated demon emblazoned with fire department logos—there would be no logic whatsoever in blocking him.

Behind him, Dean sputters and hurries to follow. “Where the hell are you going? Novak!”

Castiel ignores him.

He reaches the silent auction just as the human woman overseeing it begins gathering up the auction’s clipboards. She looks up in surprise, glancing between Castiel and Dean behind him with wide eyes. She doesn’t object when Castiel grabs the top clipboard off of her pile, and silently passes him a pen.

Castiel skims the information at the top of the page, seeking out the auction’s estimated value. No use overpaying for a movie basket, or something equally small. He spots the number he needs—three hundred dollar value—and drops his pen to the next available slot on on the bidding sheet. He only spares a brief glance toward the current winning bid before writing in his own number. It’s not about winning the item, it’s about making a point.

Castiel Novak  |  Bid: $500

“There.” Castiel recaps the pen and passes both items back to the employee. When she sees his bid, she lets out a low whistle; he flashes her a tight smile before finally turning back to face Dean, who has been trying in vain to peer over his shoulder. The angel falls heavily onto his heels, a confused frown pulling at his features as Castiel finishes, “I made a more sizeable donation. I have atoned for my sins, and there is not a word you can say about it.”

“A sizeable donation?” Dean repeats shrilly, brows shooting toward his hairline. Clearly, his coworker’s whistle unsettled him. He’s too loud, draws a few people’s attention, and his cheeks go pink as he reins himself back in. He continues in a harsh whisper, “How much is sizeable? I wasn’t trying to challenge you, jackass, you didn’t have to do something stupid.”

Castiel shrugs. There’s still anger simmering beneath his skin, and he knows he’s being fueled primarily by spite, but he’s too far into it to care. “I’m confident in your ability to pay off your fines.”

Dean grits his teeth. “How much, Castiel.”

The use of his first name only throws Castiel for a moment, then the demon shrugs again. He may have made his bid to make a point, but he’s not aiming to gloat, so he has no intention of revealing the size of his donation.

Unfortunately, Dean doesn’t care. He steps around Castiel and grabs for the clipboard himself, rifling through the pile the other employee has continued to gather until he finds Castiel’s name on one of the bidding lines. It’s obvious when he sees it, because he hisses a breath out through his teeth and drops the stack of clipboards back into place. He turns on Castiel with fire in his eyes.

“So now you’re just bragging, huh? I called you a cheapskate, so you’re proving me wrong?”

Castiel’s jaw very nearly drops. “A pie wasn’t enough, but winning an auction is too much? Fucking hell, Dean, I’m starting to suspect that I’m not the problem here.”

Dean goes red to the tips of his ears. A few moments pass without a response, and when he realizes that the angel simply doesn’t have one, Castiel turns smug.

Before Dean can reply and attempt to save his dignity after being called out, the other employee steps up onto the podium at the front of the room, and the crowd slowly goes quiet. There’s no way they can continue their argument without drawing attention to themselves, and Cas smirks while Dean quietly seethes. It’s nice to know that he came out on top for once.

“Hello everyone!” the woman at the front says into the microphone. “I’m Hannah, for those who don’t know me. Thank you everyone for turning up tonight and helping us out! Now’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the results of the silent auctions!”

The first few are small fry compared to the prize that Castiel bid on, whatever it was. They go for forty dollars, fifty dollars, slowly climbing higher and higher in prices. From the stack of clipboards Hannah still has beside her, there’s a little way to go until they reach Castiel’s five hundred dollar bid.

He settles in to wait, but beside him, Dean is getting more and more agitated. “What did you say you bid on again?” he hisses at around the halfway mark, as the stack of clipboards yet to be read out starts to grow shorter than those that have.

“I didn’t,” Castiel whispers in return. When he glances over, Dean is still staring at him, waiting. “What?” the demon demands, defensive, then lowers his voice when a handful of people turn in their direction. “I didn’t see it, okay? I just grabbed whichever one I could, I didn’t look.”

Surely Dean shouldn’t care that much as to what he bid on, as long as the library got the money, but the angel has suddenly gone pale, and his feathers are puffing up in agitation.

“Dean, what?” Castiel asks again, now growing a little suspicious. He doesn’t see what the issue is, yet there so clearly is one. It’s starting to piss Castiel off; it takes an incredible amount of concentration to hold his tail in place instead of letting it reflect that agitation.

Dean just shakes his head, and his wings lie flat again. That, too, looks like it takes a great deal of effort. It seems they’re in similar situations.

“Nothing,” the angel mutters, seemingly to himself. He avoids Castiel’s eyes. “It’s not important.”

Castiel doesn’t buy that for a second, but if he pries any further he has no doubt that they’re going to make a scene. He folds his arms tightly across his chest and stays quiet, waiting to see what he’s won.

Eventually, there are only two clipboards left.

“And the winner of the fully catered spa day valued at two hundred dollars is… Jody Mills!” Hannah beams and the crowd applauds, but Castiel swears he hears Dean whisper “fuck” under his breath. When he glances over, he finds that the angel has gone from pale to bright red, his jaw clenched and his wings twitching.

“And last but by no means least, thank you to his very generous donation… esteemed fire chief Castiel Novak has won the honor of a five-star, three course dinner at Benny’s Broiler tomorrow night with none other than our very own head librarian, Dean Winchester!”

Castiel goes very still. The crowd has no trouble identifying the pair—even if they somehow don’t know Dean, Castiel is, again, terribly obvious thanks to his choice in attire—and practically turn in sync to ogle them. There’s smiling and clapping and even a few wolf-whistles, everyone clearly thinking it’s cute that their fire chief made a very generous donation to go on a date with the librarian they all know and love.

Fuck. Dean’s distress suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Is it the library that’s cursed, or just Castiel? What did he do to deserve this?

(Aside from being stupid and prideful, that is.)

He sees that Dean is forcing a smile and makes himself do the same. The two of them are just high-profile enough that the absolute last thing they need is an incident. Even simple gossip could prove detrimental to either of their careers, if the wrong person were to be involved in it. People are going to be assuming that there is something going on between them, based on how highly Castiel bid, and that means that while there are eyes on them, they need to pretend.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long for the crowd to lose interest and move on, turning back to their own circles and breaking out in conversation. As soon as there’s no-one looking their way, Dean grabs Castiel by the bicep and drags him away from the crowd, towards the outskirts of the fundraiser and just out of sight of most of the patrons.

Castiel yanks his arm away the instant they are on their own, his tail lashing in agitation.

“What the hell was that?” Dean exclaims. “Did you do that just to fuck with me? The fire alarm bullshit, bumping into me at the store, turning up here tonight—was that not enough for you?”

Dean.” Castiel pinches the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to keep himself from snapping. He’s getting real sick of Dean’s accusations. No matter what the angel might think, this isn’t a plot.

And that’s why Castiel snaps anyway. He drops his hand from his face and jabs a finger into Dean’s chest, a snarl on his lips and a growl underscoring his words.

“You really think I care enough about some bigoted angel to want to make your life miserable? Newsflash, jackass—I don’t. I’m just trying to help. I didn’t look at the damn clipboard when I was bidding, but if you want to add that to your list of crimes I’ve committed and keep insisting that I’m a horrible person, go right ahead, and don’t feel obligated to go to this dinner.”

Dean’s green eyes are furious, his wings flaring out to either side now that Castiel is the only one who can see his irate display. “Good,” he hisses, crowding up into Castiel’s personal space and jabbing Cas in the chest in retaliation. “You’re probably a fucking terrible date anyway. I’d have more fun sitting at home by myself and eating expired Chinese food.”

And that’s a little more than Castiel’s pride can handle. “I’ll have you know that I’m a fantastic date,” he retorts, his voice low and irritated.

Dean’s breath seems to hitch for a second, but then the cold glare is back in full force. “Oh yeah?” he taunts. “Prove it.”

Castiel raises his chin; he’s not one to back away from a challenge.

“Alright, I will,” he says, and it’s worth it for the way Dean’s eyes go wide in surprise. “What time am I meeting you there?”

Dean opens his mouth as if to reply, then snaps it back shut with a resounding clack of his teeth. He stares at Castiel like he’s expecting the demon to go back on his agreement, to reveal that it’s all a joke, but it very much is not, as Dean soon realizes. An array of emotions flit across his face, and then he visibly steels himself, his wings calming and rearranging as he squares his shoulders.

“The reservation’s for six tomorrow. I’ll enjoy dinner myself if you decide you’re too good to show up, but otherwise, I can’t wait to have the worst date of my life.”

Castiel barely keeps his lip from curling. The nerve of him. “Likewise.”

Dean scowls in return. “Fine.”

“Fine.”

They stare at each other in a heated silence. Neither of them show any intention of giving up the contest, but a commotion off in the main portion of the library breaks the spell and draws both of their eyes. They’re isolated enough that they can’t see exactly what caused the sudden excitement in the crowd, but Dean’s sense of responsibility clearly gets the better of him; he steps away from Castiel and huffs.

“I have an event to run,” he says, though whether he’s reminding himself or further reprimanding Castiel, the demon can’t tell. And have his cheeks gone red again, or is that just the light? Dean gives him a once-over as he continues to back away, like he’s sizing him up, then gives the parting words, “See you tomorrow, I guess.”

And then he’s gone, and Castiel is standing alone in a back corner of the library.

The cursed library. Belonging to the wretched librarian he just agreed to go on a date with.

Son of a bitch.

He doesn’t lurk for much longer before escaping out of the building to his car. From there, he has a long night of building up his mental fortitude ahead.

And maybe some pie eating to forget his woes.

~

Dean arrives at the restaurant early. Not necessarily by design, of course, but because he’s too nervous to sit still long enough to kill the extra twenty minutes he accidentally granted himself.

It was reasonably easy to ignore the upcoming date while the fundraiser was still on and immediately after, as cleanup lasted late into the night and he didn’t crawl into his bed until close to midnight, but the reality of it hit him hard as soon as he woke.

He has a date. With Castiel Novak. Because apparently, there’s just no escaping the bastard.

Really, after agonizing over it all day, it’s probably a miracle that he’s only twenty minutes early. But then, the fact that he changed his outfit at least three times, redid his hair twice, and completely combed out his wings likely accounts for most of that padded time. It’s not that he wants to impress or anything—he doesn’t—but if he’s going to make a point and use this dinner as his opportunity to prove himself better than Castiel once and for all, he’s going to be damn sure he does it while looking his best. He’s a goddamn ten , as the demon is going to see.

He clings to that thought as he walks into Benny’s Broiler, using it to bolster his courage. He flashes the host a smile and gives his name for the reservation.

The host—a young, handsome angel with sleek, silver wings and big brown eyes (not quite Dean’s type, but still cute enough to warrant a bit of flirtiness to that smile)—doesn’t even need to check his book before he steps away from his desk. “Ah, Mr. Winchester. Your date just arrived. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your table.”

Dean’s wings droop just slightly. Of course Novak beat him there. He doesn’t need the host to see that there’s already drama between the two of them, however, so Dean forces a smile and follows him through the dimly-lit restaurant.

It’s clear where the host is leading him; Castiel is easy to spot, seated at a small, candle-lit table-for-two near the dining room’s back corner. The demon’s head is bowed over his phone, and the candle in the center of the table casts a warm, orange light over his features, making his horns gleam where they stand out from his hair.

For a moment, Dean can’t stop himself from acknowledging just how achingly beautiful he is.

And then Castiel looks up, and Dean remembers that the two of them are antagonistic for a reason.

(Even if the demon is still absolutely gorgeous, especially with his stubbled jawline, and the way that crisp, white shirt with it’s slightly-open collar makes his eyes pop—)

Dean takes his seat, carefully arranging his wings on either side of the back of his chair, and the host leaves them alone.

Castiel stares at him, looking stunned, but while that’s flattering (Dean looks fucking fantastic and he knows it), Dean raises an eyebrow, and the demon snaps out of his daze. He looks back down at his phone long enough to lock the screen, then slides it into his pocket and turns his full focus on Dean.

“You came,” he says, tone indicating that it’s an outcome he didn’t expect. It gives Dean the urge to roll his eyes.

“Told ya I would,” he quips in return. He leans back in his chair in an exaggerated show of nonchalance and easy confidence—neither of which are things he actually feels. He’s off his game. It’s weird sitting across from Cas—Castiel —like this, all civil, especially while the demon is dressed… like that. “You think I’m going to turn down a free meal, and miss out on a chance to embarrass you? Right.”

Castiel scoffs, and the corners of his mouth turn up into a humorless smile. “What good motivations you have, Dean. I’m glad to know we have such an upstanding citizen leading our city’s library service. Do the parents know this side of you when they allow you to influence their children, or…?”

Dean’s faux aloofness evaporates in an instant, and he grits his teeth. “Hey, dickweed, I do my job, and I do my job well. Of the two of us, you’re the one who abuses power and harasses public institutions!”

Harasses!” the demon hisses in return, outraged by the accusation. His blue eyes are sharp and fiery in the flickering candlelight. “All of the fines I levelled at your library were valid, and I was well within my rights to assign them. Just because you have a vendetta against demons and can’t imagine any of us ever doing anything but spiting you , does not mean those fines were the personal attack you clearly believe them to be.”

Dean feels his cheeks heat, embarrassment flooding through him. So maybe there’s a bit of validity in there. Maybe Cas isn’t wrong.

And maybe keeping this fight going is only reinforcing his pettiness.

Fuck.

Dean runs his tongue along the front of his teeth and gathers up his courage.

“I’m sorry.”

Cas stops short. “What?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry.” Dean waves his hand in a vague, meaningless gesture. “I’m sorry I’ve been a dick, okay? I’ve kind of been having a series of shitty days since we met, but I don’t need to take it out on you.”

The demon sitting across from him blinks. He looks like he’s short-circuiting. Dean laces his fingers together on the table and waits for him to finish processing what he’s heard. When that eventually happens, the demon sits up straighter in his chair; Dean would almost say that he looks impressed by this sudden turn of events.

“Well. Thank you, Dean. That’s big of you.” Cas shifts in his chair and clears his throat, then adds with only a slight amount of hesitance, “I’m sorry, as well. I was more abrasive with you than I needed to be that day. Neither of us is free of guilt in this scenario.”

Dean snorts at that. Even though they’re both definitely still guilty, he already feels better now that they’re on less-hostile footing. The atmosphere is still far from date-like, of course, and there’s probably still plenty for them to battle their way through before they can even call themselves friends , but all things considered, it doesn’t seem to be a bad start.

Their waitress appears mere moments later, bringing menus and glasses of water. She places a drink menu in the center of the table, and Cas snatches it immediately. The waitress only barely manages to ask what she can get them started with before Cas flashes Dean a suggestive smile.

A smile that definitely does not heat Dean to his core and leave the bases of his wings tingling. Absolutely not.

“I think,” he begins, a twist of amusement in his voice which Dean hasn’t had the privilege of hearing until now, “we could do with some alcohol to ease this date along. Don’t you agree?”

Dean doesn’t have to put much thought into his answer. “Oh, hell yes.”

The bright grin that Cas rewards him with only makes him happier to have agreed.

Maybe this date really won’t be as bad as he expected.

~

In hindsight, starting with shots may not have been their best idea.

It loosens them up, which is certainly nice, but it does so quickly, which is dangerous. They trade stories with increasing volume, and lean further and further over the small table between them while the flushes on their cheeks grow stronger. Cas is all gummy smiles and bright eyes, so enthralling in the intimate lighting that Dean can’t help but be drawn to him.

“—all because of this damn book her mom loved,” Cas is saying, making vague, yet dramatic gestures as he describes the plight he was on before going to the library’s fundraiser. “I swear, I love Claire, but that was traumatising. I didn’t know there were such… niche bookstores. It looked so unassuming from the outside.”

Dean throws his head back and laughs, and Castiel gives him a matching grin. He doesn’t know Cas’s family, but Cas talks about his niece with such fondness that it doesn’t matter, and it’s awesome to see an easier, more affectionate side of Castiel, dedicated to the people he loves. Their dinner had been delicious, Cas has been great company, and it’s all compounded by the tequila shots and several glasses of wine that they’ve each consumed.

Of course, Dean has been drawn to Cas since he climbed out of that damn fire truck, looking like he stepped right out of one of Dean’s wet dreams. Until now, he’s had ample reason to pretend that draw didn’t exist. Until now, Cas has been a dick.

But tonight has been awesome and Dean is more than a little bit drunk, which is why, despite their easy conversation, it seems like an awesome idea to hook his foot around the demon’s ankle beneath the table. Cas’s story falters, and when he looks at Dean in surprise, the angel shoots him a wink and grins.

Slowly, Cas’s lips turn up in a smile of his own.

“Why do I get the feeling you’re a handsy drunk?” he teases, resting his elbows on the table and leaning in closer. “Am I lucky there’s a table between us right now?”

“I think your definition of lucky depends on whether you want me to be handsy,” Dean fires back with a smirk.

Cas looks at him for a long moment, his tongue darting out to wet his lips.

“I think perhaps we should get out of here,” he says, and Dean’s pulse spikes, his wings flaring out slightly. There’s no mistaking the look in Cas’s eyes.

And that is something Dean is definitely drunk enough for.

They don’t have a tab to pay—a perk of their meal having been a donation to the library’s fundraiser, and the restaurant’s owner being a friend of Dean’s—but Dean hastily digs through his wallet and finds a pair of twenties to toss onto the table as a tip before grabbing Cas by the elbow and hauling him out of the restaurant. As they stumble their way onto the street, they’re quick to realize that neither of them is in any condition to drive, which is how Cas ends up wrestling with a rideshare app on the curb while Dean giggles over his shoulder.

The fact that they find themselves at the front door of Dean’s building a mere fifteen minutes later is an honest-to-god miracle, all things considered.

It takes him a few attempts to get the right key into the lock on his apartment door, but once they’re inside and away from any prying eyes, Dean takes the opportunity to do what he’s wanted to do for far too long.

He fists his hands in the front of Cas’s shirt, backs him up against the closed door, and kisses him.

It’s a bit off the mark—he’s pretty smashed and he knows it—but the idea makes up for the execution. At least Cas doesn’t seem to mind, from the way he moans against Dean’s mouth and reaches up to tangle his fingers into his hair.

The other hand goes to Dean’s wing, fingers digging into the downy feathers right near the base, and fuck , Dean is not going to last long at all if Cas keeps that up. And they haven’t even made it out of the goddamn entryway.

As if reading his mind, Cas breaks their kiss long enough to say, “I have a feeling we’d be better off in a bed.”

Dean couldn’t agree more. He keeps Cas pushed against the door for another few moments and mouths over his jaw, simply because he can, then laces their fingers together and guides the demon to his bedroom. They bump off of every wall they pass and have to lean on each other for support, given that their drunken states don’t make for efficient travel, but the promise of getting to a bed makes it absolutely worth it.

Once they reach Dean’s bedroom, Cas reels him in for another deep kiss, winding his arm around Dean’s waist and backing him towards the bed. The mattress bumps against the backs of Dean’s knees, halting their progress. It’s a little clumsy, but they manage to make it onto the bed itself without any mishaps, with Cas settled in between Dean’s legs and pressed along the length of his body.

Even drunk, Cas is an excellent kisser, and for a while Dean is happy to stay like this as they sober up a little, sliding his hands underneath Cas’s clothes. The removal of Dean’s shirt and Cas’s pants take a little fumbling, but eventually it all comes off and they’re left wonderfully bare, so much warm skin and wandering hands. Cas is hard against Dean’s hip, and Dean is in the same state—can he really be blamed, when he’s faced with Cas’s tanned skin and the fireman’s muscles beneath?

And when Cas sinks his fingers back into the feathers of Dean’s wings, he keens, his back arching  and his wings canting submissively against Castiel’s hands. The demon must be a little more sober than Dean, because he reduces the angel to a sobbing, writhing mess within minutes, until his cock is weeping against his stomach and the bases of his wings are soaked through with oil.

“Cas, Cas,” he sobs, his wings twitching helplessly as he clings to Cas’s biceps. “Fuck, you’re driving me crazy. I need you.”

Cas groans against his throat and drags a hand through Dean’s flight feathers. “How do you think you’re making me feel? You’re so fucking gorgeous...”

Dean tangles his fingers in Cas’s hair and pulls him in for another desperate kiss. From there, it turns slow and languid, Cas licking into Dean’s mouth as he presses one oil-slick finger into Dean, then two, then three, until Dean is trembling with need beneath him. The effects of the alcohol have almost completely dissipated, leaving nothing but pure desperation and desire. Cas is beautiful and gentle and everything Dean had never thought he would want from the demon he had once been so at odds with.

Strong hands guide Dean as they roll over until he’s straddling Cas’s hips; from there, it’s not much effort to lever himself up and sink down onto Cas’s cock with a stretch that has him moaning and flaring out his wings.

The demon’s tail curls loosely around Dean’s calf, and Cas pushes himself up into a sitting position so that he can wrap his arms around Dean, as though he wants to be as close as possible, and touch Dean in as many places as he can. From there, they rock together, Cas’s hands stroking down Dean’s back and raking through his feathers as Dean gasps his pleasure against Cas’s throat. His wings twitch, partly from Castiel’s ministrations and partly to give himself extra leverage to move on Cas’s cock. His hand twists into Cas’s hair, fingers wrapping loosely around one of his onyx horns for support. Cas groans, and his tails wraps tighter around Dean’s leg as he rocks his hips up, meeting every one of Dean’s downward thrusts.

Cas is beautiful like this, with his horns gleaming and eyes shining bright and oh-so-blue, moonlight glistening off his sweat-damp skin where it filters in through the window. Dean can’t take his eyes off him.

They move together for an indeterminable amount of time; when Dean comes, it’s with a soft, punched-out gasp, his forehead pressed against Cas’s. Cas follows him over the edge a few seconds later.

As Dean catches his breath and leans his weight against Cas’s chest, he has the vague realisation that he is so, so fucked when it comes to Castiel Novak.

~

The sex is incredible. Beyond incredible. It wasn’t something Castiel started the night expecting—it wasn’t something he expected at all in relation to Dean—but he thinks that only contributes to how wonderful it is. He enjoyed the encounter immensely.

But by the time it ends, the two of them laying out in the bed with Dean tucked into Castiel’s chest and the angel’s wings around them both, the alcohol which encouraged them into bed to begin with has long since worn off.

And without that liquid confidence, the details of their recent actions fall into sharp relief.

He and Dean have been antagonistic for the majority of their acquaintanceship. The instant they got past that tension in their pseudo-date, Castiel ordered them drinks, and their remaining inhibitions swiftly dropped away. It was only the alcohol that swayed Dean into inviting Castiel home with him, perhaps with the help of base, physical attraction; there can be no more meaning to it for the angel than that.

No matter how Cas feels, or is at least starting to feel… There’s no way it could be more.

Which is why Castiel cannot let himself stay. The feathers he is cocooned in give him too much of a desire for something he can’t have.

He takes every care in extracting himself, gently sliding out of Dean’s hold and then his bed. His tail uncoils from around Dean’s leg and then drags across the span of a wing, but he doesn’t allow himself any more contact than that. He can’t risk waking Dean, anyway.

Castiel gathers up his scattered clothing, dresses, and forces himself to leave without a backwards glance.

Before he goes completely, though, he stops long enough to scrawl his phone number across a sheet of scavenged notebook paper. He doesn’t want to expect the impossible, but—it doesn’t hurt to leave the door open.

~

Despite his repeated attempts to keep his emotions in-check, Castiel does the unthinkable and lets himself hope. In the aftermath of his ‘date’ with Dean, he finds there’s not much else for him to do.

He’s not entirely sure he regrets leaving Dean’s apartment (his concerns over their inebriated state are still valid, so giving Dean space was probably still the right move), but he does regret not having had the chance to spend a bit more time with the angel while they were both in their right minds and not actively resenting one another.

He also very much regrets not having Dean’s number. Waiting for Dean to make the first move on that account is excruciating, to say the least, and fills the days following their date with more stress than Castiel cares to admit. He aches to hear something from Dean, even if it were to turn out to be a rejection of anything else between them. A rejection, a request for another date, more complaining about the fees against the library—anything would be better than the limbo Castiel is currently trapped in.

The obvious way to take matters into his own hands, of course, would be to go to the library and simply see Dean. He could find some excuse to go during work (checking the alarms and ensuring that they were reset and repaired properly), or while he is off-duty (he could always use a good book to read, that’s a normal reason to wander into a library, right?). It wouldn’t be unreasonable.

But as he also debates—would that be an invasion of Dean’s personal space? If the angel has the ability to contact him and yet chooses not to, who is Castiel to force himself into Dean’s life regardless?

It’s exactly these kinds of relentless back-and-forths which plague him twenty-four seven, and result in his coworkers giving him concerned stares and regularly asking him if he’s alright. His melancholy hangs over him like a cloud, and that fact alone is almost as depressing as his actual depression.

All because he had to go and develop a crush on Dean Winchester.

After his and Dean’s night together, Castiel is saddled with a busy work schedule. It provides the members of his squad ample opportunities to watch him mope, which is less than ideal, but it also has the benefit of keeping him busy and, when he is busy, keeping him out of his own head. He has two days on, burns a day for sleep and recuperation, then immediately has another two days.

It’s when he’s on his way home from his second long shift of the week that all of his emotional turmoil over Dean is abruptly usurped. Because life is cruel, he gets a call when he is less than five minutes away from home and his memory foam mattress.

Castiel groans and scrubs a hand over his face. If it weren’t the station’s ringtone, he would ignore it. But as it is, he reaches for his phone and puts it on speaker.

“This better be important,” he grumbles.

“It is, Castiel.” The voice on the other end of the line is deadly serious, and Castiel is immediately alert. Jo, his second in command at the station, isn’t prone to exaggerations; she has only called him from the station phone once before, on an occasion that was memorable in the worst kind of way. This can’t be much different.

She goes on without prompting, “There’s a fire at an apartment block across town. First report isn’t looking great. We need all hands.”

“Where.”

“92 Main Street.”

All of the breath leaves Castiel’s lungs like he’s been punched in the gut. He suddenly feels cold.

Dean’s apartment block.

Even though he was drunk and distracted by a hot, handsy angel when he arrived there, there isn’t a scrap of doubt in his mind as to the address. Addresses are too important in his line of work for them not to be a part of his mental catalogue, which means that he knows where he was, and where Dean lives.

And that in turn means that Dean’s building is burning.

Castiel swallows down the fear clawing at his throat and forces himself back to his conversation with Jo. “I’ll meet you there. Deploy every resource we have. And please, for the love of god, hurry.”

Jo gives an affirmation, but Castiel hardly hears it before he ends the call. He’s closer to Dean’s building than the fire station is. He can make it there faster than they can. There’s no way he’s going home or back to the station, not when he knows that Dean could be in danger. It’s after-hours for the library; the chance of Dean being home is far too high.

Castiel wrenches the wheel of the Impala around and floors it.

Even though he started closer than the fire station, it takes him far too long to make his way downtown. There’s traffic, pedestrians, red lights—every precious second he wastes makes him want to scream, and by the time he reaches the front of Dean’s building, all he can do is pray that he’s not already too late.

Most of the right side of the building is engulfed in flames, spreading downwards from the top corner. The apartment block is only five or six storeys high, and seeing the fire creeping over the third storey—3B , Dean was in 3B, corner apartment—has fear curdling in Castiel’s gut. He hastily parks and leaps out of his car, and hurries to take stock of the situation on the ground.

The building’s inhabitants stand in clusters on the street, staring up at the flames engulfing their homes in horror. Castiel scans their numbers, desperately hoping to find Dean among them, but the angel’s distinctive white-and-grey wings are nowhere to be seen.

“Is there anyone left in the building?” he calls, fireman’s instinct making him ask the broad, necessary question first. Most of the apartment’s inhabitants turn toward him, responding to the authority in his projected voice. “Did anyone not make it out?” He gets shrugs, head shakes, panicked looks. He asks next, “Has anyone seen Dean Winchester today?”

A young woman standing near him suddenly looks distraught. “I saw him going up the stairs when the alarm was going off, did he not—?”

Castiel’s stomach drops. He went back in. Why would he have gone back in?

But he did. He went back in, and he didn’t come out again.

When Castiel finds him, he’s going to kill him.

Despite the sirens he can hear in the distance, his team responding to the blaze. He knows that he has to act now. If he waits for the trucks to arrive, the fire could spread to Dean’s apartment.

Someone shouts as Castiel pushes through the crowd and sprints toward the door, but he ignores them, single-mindedly focused. He has enough years under his belt to understand that what he’s doing is fucking suicidal, but he can’t stand back while Dean is inside, and out of everyone on hand, he has the best chance of making it out alive again. He’s more than adequately trained, and demons are resilient; he can do this.

He takes the stairs two at a time as he races up to the third floor. The smoke gets thicker and thicker, until Castiel has to pull his shirt up to cover his nose and mouth.

The third floor hallway is almost completely filled with smoke, and he has to focus on keeping his breaths shallow and even as he searches for Dean’s apartment. It doesn’t take him long to find 3B, and he doesn’t even think; he shifts back onto his back foot and kicks the door hard, right next to the locking mechanism.

It splinters under the force of his boot and swings open; more smoke billows out from inside, making it even more difficult to see.

It’s also getting hot.

“Dean!” Castiel shouts, fear making the call frantic. There’s no answer, only the nearby-yet-out-of-sight crackle of flames and the creaks and groans of the building. “Dean!”

He makes his way into the apartment, trying to see through the smoke and narrowly avoiding banging his shin on a displaced piece of furniture. A knocked over chair, like Dean was in a panic. He isn’t in the kitchen, and he isn’t in the hallway, but when Castiel makes his way through to the apartment’s living room, he sees a shape through the hazy, billowing smoke.

White-grey wings, flared out across the floor and completely motionless.

Oh fuck, oh god.

Castiel doesn’t have time to check Dean for injuries—or even that he’s alive, for that matter. The building gives another ominous creak, and he doesn’t even think, just throws himself to the floor beside Dean and wedges his arm under the angel’s motionless body. Heaving Dean up over his shoulder takes a lot of effort, forcing Castiel to take his first deep lungful of smoke, and a hacking cough rattles up out of his lungs. He has to force himself to stay calm and keep taking shallow breaths, no matter how much his lungs burn for a full breath of smoke-free air.

Dean’s apartment is so filled with smoke that even shallow breathing is becoming difficult, though. Castiel tries to open the living room window, either to give himself that much-needed clean breath or to signal to the responders who should be on the street by now, but the lock is jammed—which must be why Dean was collapsed in front of it. He hadn’t been able to jump out and glide down to the ground.

Which means that Castiel will have to go back the way he came and hope that he has enough oxygen left to make it outside. Even using both of his hands to keep Dean in place, the angel’s wings drag dangerously across the floor; Castiel doesn’t dare lose a hand to holding his shirt over his mouth.

With his heart in his throat, Castiel tightens his grip on Dean, holds his breath, and runs. He nearly trips over the same chair he hit on his way in and rams his shoulder into the doorframe on his way back into the hall, but he doesn’t let it stop him. He can’t.

And so he keeps going. Out of the apartment, into the hallway where everything is lit by an orange glow and filled with smoke. Down the stairs, flight by flight. Castiel’s lungs burn, and he can’t hold his breath in any more. He pulls in the smoky air and immediately coughs it back out, but he keeps going. The smoke saws at his throat, his lungs, and tears of desperation blur his vision further.

He can’t fail.

He can’t fail Dean.

He stumbles on his way down the final flight of stairs, and his hold on Dean slips. Elsewhere in the building, there’s the horribly familiar sound of the structure beginning to cave in on itself. Every breath Castiel takes burns in his lungs, while the irritation of smoke in his eyes is beginning to make it more impossible to see than the actual smoke itself. Dean is too heavy to continue carrying over his shoulder.

If they wait too much longer, the building will come down on top of them.

He can’t fail Dean.

The way their relationship started, the potential they still have, the charming, loving side to Dean that Castiel has only just begun to glimpse—it can’t end like this.

It can’t end without Castiel telling him how he feels. What kind of fool waits for the other person to reach out, when they also have the authority to say what they want?

Castiel gathers up every last bit of strength that he can and scoops Dean up into his arms. The angel’s wings only partially fold against his back, leaving them mostly hanging down in front of Castiel’s knees, but the demon doesn’t care. With Dean cradled to his chest, his ashen face is incredibly close to Castiel’s. The demon ducks his head just enough to press his lips to Dean’s forehead, calls upon his strength once again, and starts to move.

One foot in front of the other. Slow and steady, but not too slow. Shallow breaths to keep from inhaling too much more smoke.

By some miracle, he makes it down the stairs. His arms start to shake as he crosses the building’s lobby. By the time the smoke begins to lighten with sunlight, the front door in range, his knees are weak, and he truly can’t see. There’s so much smoke.

He’s careful to guard Dean’s head as he shoulders his way out the door and onto the street. Shouting erupts from several directions, and the sound of sirens is deafening, but Castiel doesn’t have the wherewithal to care about any of it. All that matters is that when he starts to collapse, several pairs of hands grab him, and neither he nor Dean hit the ground.

He got Dean to safety.

With that knowledge in mind, he lets the angel be taken from his arms, and the world goes to black before they even reach an ambulance.

The last thing Dean remembers is smoke. In his eyes, in his mouth, his lungs—there was so damn much of it.

Yet when he comes to, blearily blinking his eyes open, the world is no longer grey and dark, but stark white and sterile. It’s too bright, and he has to squint against it for a few seconds before his eyes can adjust.

Every part of him hurts in some way or another; it takes him a few more moments to realize where he is. The nondescript walls, the beeping of machines, the crisp, white bedsheets covering him…

He’s never been in a hospital, but it’s still impossible not to recognize.

But how the hell did he get here? The fire should have gotten him. He shouldn’t be alive.

Dean finds the answer to that question once he musters the energy to turn his head.

Castiel is asleep in the bed beside Dean’s, curled up on his side and looking worse for wear. There’s soot staining his face and what clothing Dean can see above the sheets, and there’s ash littered through his hair. It’s not difficult to put two and two together; the reality of the situation sends Dean reeling.

Cas saved him from the fire. Cas put himself at risk to save Dean.

From the look of him, he wasn’t even wearing any kind of safety equipment when he did it. What kind of crazy idiot would do that?

Of course, Dean knows why he would run into a burning building to save someone. Most people’s reasoning is probably similar, as a matter of fact.

But Cas can’t…

“Dean?”

Dean refocuses with a blink. Cas’ eyes are open and squinting against the light, though it’s easy to see the moment when he becomes fully cognizant, because the demon’s breath suddenly hitches and he pushes himself into a sitting position.

“That’s me,” Dean jokes weakly. It comes out as a low, rough rasp, scratching uncomfortably in his throat. He winces, pulling a look of concern from Cas.

“Are you okay?” the demon asks, climbing out of his own bed. He stops just before he reaches Dean, though, and a look of doubt crosses his face, his brows creasing. He ends up hovering awkwardly by Dean’s bedside, unsure of what to do with himself.

Dean tries to clear his throat in the hopes of being able to talk better, but that only makes it hurt more, and he winces again. “Water?” he mouths to Cas, who almost trips over himself in his haste to fetch Dean a cup.

“Sorry,” he says when he hands the cup over. Dean props a pillow behind his back so that he can sit up more easily to drink his water, while Cas tentatively lowers himself onto the edge of the bed. “You inhaled far more smoke than I did; I’m trained in this, I should know better than to expect you to be able to speak with ease. I don’t want to cause you more pain. But I…”

The demon rubs a hand over the back of his neck and looks away. Dean, oddly entranced by the motion, forgets to keep drinking his water. He finds himself hanging on Cas’ every word.

When Cas’ gaze returns, his expression is one of guilt, his brows furrowed and the corners of his mouth pulled down. “I was worried for you,” he confesses. “I wasn't sure if you would make it. I didn’t think I made it to you in time. Christ, Dean, I didn’t think I would have the chance to…”

Cas cuts himself off, leaving Dean wondering as to how that sentence might have ended. Based on the slightly-too-bright spark of light in Cas’ eyes, the hint of what he’s pretty sure is desperation… He thinks he might have a decent idea.

But there’s a detail that isn’t quite tracking.

Dean takes a small sip of his water, and takes his time in finding his voice. The words still scratch and his throat aches with them, but neither of those facts deter him. “You were gone when I woke up.”

Clearly understanding what Dean is suggesting, Cas returns to looking awkward. His tail flicks and bumps against Dean’s blanket-covered knee. “I was. Yes. I was worried you would regret having me there. But I did leave my number.”

Cas’ words only provide Dean with the barest hint of the answer he was looking for—he thought Dean might regret that they slept together, that doesn’t mean he regretted it himself, right?—but before Dean can push it further, the demon changes the subject.

“Why did you go back into that building instead of evacuating, Dean? What the hell were you thinking?”

He went back into the building. That’s right. He had started to leave, but went back. He’d almost forgotten.

Embarrassed, Dean makes a weak attempt to deflect. “How could you know that?”

The arch of Cas’ eyebrow practically screams unimpressed. “One of your neighbors told me when I arrived. Now answer the question.”

Shit.

Dean resigns himself to his fate, and sighs as much as he can without tearing up his throat. He glances around the room, then asks, “Any chance you know where my coat went?”

Cas gets up to search it out, and eventually finds it in a cabinet in the corner of the room. He brings the overcoat to Dean, who then folds it open and rifles around to find the inside pocket. He finds the hard lines of the hidden object before he finds the opening of the pocket; he’s incredibly relieved that it’s still there, after all he went through.

He glances up at Cas, biting his lip. “I, uh. Might have not called you or anything because I was… Well. Remember you said you were trying to redeem yourself and all that? Well, I was also kind of a dick, so I wanted to do something to help too, and…” He pulls the book out of the pocket and shyly offers it up. “I had to pull some strings. And it was too important for me to let it burn in my apartment, so I went back, and…”

Cas accepts the book with reverence, eyes wide as he carefully runs his fingers across the cover. “We Are Not Ourselves. You… You got this for me? For Claire?” His gaze returns to Dean’s. He looks like he could cry. “Why?”

Dean lifts his shoulder in a shrug. “I wanted to prove that I can do things right, too.” Cas’ next exhale is a shuddering, heartbreaking thing, and encourages Dean to add, “Thought it might give me enough brownie points to help a second date along, even though you ditched my ass the first time.”

“Dean, I didn’t mean to—”

“Yeah, Cas, I’m getting that. But still. Redemption, right?”

Cas huffs. “You didn’t have to…”

“I wanted to,” Dean counters, not missing a beat.

“You could have died.”

“I didn’t. You saved me.”

The demon blinks. He looks stunned for a moment—god, how can he be so cute?—then concedes, “I did.”

Dean smiles. “Thank you.”

Cas contemplates that for a moment, then wets his lips. “You’re welcome. But I… I didn’t do it for thanks, Dean. I wasn’t going to let you die.”

“I know,” Dean says, and he takes a risk. He reaches out and takes Cas’ hand, interlacing their fingers; Cas just stares, his mouth hanging open slightly. God, please let this be happening. “You know what I was thinking, just before the smoke got to me and I passed out?” he asks. The moment between them is so fragile, so tenuous. If he fucks this up…

Cas swallows and shakes his head, his fingers flexing around Dean’s.

“I was thinking,” Dean goes on, “that it would really suck if I died without ever getting to kiss you while sober.”

He holds his breath.

Cas blinks once, twice.

And then his grip on Dean’s hand tightens, and he smiles, bright and radiant.

The first tentative brush of lips is better than all of the heated, sloppy kisses they had exchanged after their date. It’s soft and careful and gentle and real, so much different than the blind lust that had brought them together the first time. Dean absolutely loves it. He smiles against Cas’ mouth and brings his hand up to cup the demon’s jaw, relishing the moment before they have to stop for breath.

Cas presses their foreheads together, keeping their hands linked while his eyes crinkle with a smile. “Did you really mean that?” he asks, awe clear in his voice.

“Would I have let you kiss me if I didn’t?” Dean counters with a grin. Cas matches the expression.

“Touche,” he says, and leans in to kiss Dean again, as easily as if they’ve been doing it for years.

They end up curled up in Dean’s bed, pressed close. It takes some maneuvering to make sure that Cas’ horns aren’t tangling in any of Dean’s IV cords and Dean isn’t tickling Cas with his feathers, but once they’re successfully cuddled up together, Dean has to admit… It’s nice. It’s nice to have his wing folded around Cas, and the demon’s tail wrapped loosely over his leg.

“I was afraid I was going to lose you,” Cas admits some time later, so quietly that it’s almost lost to the Wheel of Fortune music emanating from the TV in the corner of the room. Dean brushes his arm reassuringly with his primary feathers (which, annoyingly, still reek of smoke).

“I guess you really like me, huh?” he teases, trying to distract the demon with a bit of levity. Dean can tell that there’s a lot going on in his head right now, and while there’s certainly a lot of shit between them that needs to be spoken aloud, this isn’t the time for all of it. “What matters,” he continues more seriously, “is that we’re both okay. If you’d hurt yourself in that fire, I would’ve haunted you for the rest of your life just to tell you you’d been an idiot.”

Cas huffs a laugh against Dean’s shoulder, and he feels the demon’s tail flick against his leg. “I don’t doubt that,” he says. “And yes. I do really like you. Sorry I didn’t make it more obvious for you sooner.”

On the small television, the wheel spins, and the audience lets out a collective cheer that sounds tinny through the speakers.

Dean makes an abrupt decision.

“You know,” he says, looking up at Cas, “this isn’t exactly traditional, but as far as second dates go, it could be a hell of a lot worse, wouldn’t you say? It’s no dinner and a movie, sure, but we’ve got Wheel of Fortune, I’m sure they’ll bring us some hospital food soon, and we both escaped death today. All in all, not terrible.” His expression softens, and he flashes Cas a cheeky smile before craning his neck up to press a quick kiss to the demon’s temple. “I couldn’t imagine anything better than being here with you.”

Cas’ eyes look too damp, and when he speaks, his words are nearly choked—but his smile is sweet and soft, and that’s what makes Dean’s heart melt more than anything else. “Yeah,” Cas agrees. “Me neither.”

 

fin