Dean draws up to the curb, his cane resting lightly at its edge. There’s a woman to his left complaining loudly into her phone – the tinny replies from her equally impassioned conversation partner obvious even from a distance – and a group casually chatting to his right. He waits, sun warming his shoulders and back and humming idly to the low sounds of passing traffic.
The signal chirps as it turns and Dean steps forward to cross, the click-clack of the woman’s heels pulling ahead at a speed that makes Dean snort in mild amusement. He hits the opposite sidewalk just as the countdown begins to beep its way down to the turn to stop – and say what you will about Palo Alto, but there’s no denying their APS game is seriously on-point.
‘In 200 feet, turn right,’ Siri directs, and Dean continues on his way, careful as he can be when navigating downtown foot traffic at midday on a goddamn Sunday. Whatever it is Sam wanted to talk about had better be good, otherwise he’s gonna feel real shitty when he ends up visiting his concussed brother at the hospital after Dean gets sideswiped by some jackass on a Google motor scooter.
‘Turn right,’ Siri chimes, volume low from Dean’s single open-ear earbud. Then, ‘New message from: Sam.’
Dean digs in his pocket, brings up his cell. “Read new message.”
‘You have a new message from Sam: Here. Out on the patio. Would you like to reply?’
Dean rolls his eyes and tucks away the phone. Of course he is, the freakin’ hippy.
A couple more blocks before ‘Your destination is on the right,’ and Dean uses his cane to knock around until he finds the step up to the entrance. The smell of fresh food, even from outside, is giveaway enough, but Dean swipes curious fingers across the door and feels the tell-tale texture of an Hours of Operation embossed on the glass, set right below some fancy-ass swirl of lettering Dean’s gonna go ahead and assume reads Relish Café. Dean huffs and heads inside; so much for hoping the joint wouldn’t be exactly as frou-frou as it sounds.
“Hello!” someone, a woman, chirps as soon as he’s clear of the door. “Welcome to Relish!”
“Hi,” Dean returns, cautiously stepping forward. Now indoors, he unlocks and collapses his cane, choosing to focus on the warm scent of toasted bread and distant clink of cutlery rather than the hostess’s soft, involuntary “oh,” as she registers the walking guide and the meaning behind it. “My brother’s on the patio?”
“Oh,” the hostess says again, “of course! It’s, um,” she hesitates then, uncertain, “right this way?”
More than used to what he personally likes to call the hey, look, a blind guy double-take, Dean simply puts on his most charming smile and extends a hand, wiggling his fingers. “Do you mind if I…?”
“No, not at all!” the woman says, a smile back in her voice, and she steps forward to offer Dean her elbow. She slowly guides the way through the small indoor space of the café and back outdoors, the smell of greenery and gardens and the twitter of small, fat birds hopeful for crumbs.
Dean turns towards the call and the hostess alters course. “Here you go,” she says, dropping her arm, and Dean feels out until his grasp lands to the back of a chair, some spindly iron number Dean’s not entirely sure won’t collapse right from under him. Freakin’ Sam.
Dean pulls out the chair and gingerly sits, collapsed cane tucked into his lap. He grins up towards the general direction the hostess should be. “Thank you, sweetheart. ‘Preciate it.”
The hostess giggles. “Not a problem. Your server will be with you shortly!” She steps away, headed back the way they came. Dean turns to the table and settles more comfortably in his seat.
“You’re such a flirt,” Sam accuses, exasperation and reluctant amusement.
“You’re a fuckin’ nerd,” Dean counters, running his hands along the curved edge of the table, feeling out the short, rounded width of it. Dean’s knee knocks to Sam’s under the small, close space. “What the hell is this place?”
“What,” Sam says, defensive, “they have good salads!”
“Oh, my god,” Dean says. “Nerd.”
Sam only huffs, knocking Dean’s shoulder with a playful fist. “Relax. They have a killer steak sandwich.” Sam’s own chair creaks and squeaks as he shifts around. Dean frowns. What’s he looking for? “Dean, where the hell is Gabriel?”
Dean groans, long and loud as he slumps back in his seat. This again. “Yeah, okay, sure, and let him walk me straight into traffic? Are you insane?”
Sam splutters. “He’s perfectly well trained!”
“He’s a menace!”
“Just because he’s not your typical breed—”
“A corgi. You got me a fuckin’ corgi, Sam!”
“—doesn’t mean! He’s not a state-certified guide dog! He’ll be good for you, Dean!”
They bicker straight through ordering their food, because Dean’s gone 32 years without so much as a passing thought to a pet fish, much less a whole goddamn dog. It’s been less than a month since Sam showed up on Dean’s doorstep with a food bowl and 30lb surprise, and already the thing thinks he’s rule of the roost; constantly underfoot and he always steals the best spot on the sofa, the bastard. And, fine, Dean can at least admit that when you get him in a harness he’s eerily well-behaved, but as soon as he’s out of the leash all bets are off.
Dean sulkily bites into a (admittedly delicious) home cut parmesan-crusted potato wedge. “I swear, he’s gotta be hoarding them some-fuckin’-where, who even knows. I haven’t had matching socks in a friggin’ week.”
Sam exhales on a choking sort of cough, as if Dean doesn’t know exactly what he sounds like trying to conceal a laugh. “You, uh,” he says, tellingly strained. “You sure you’d know the difference…?”
Dean hides his smile behind his sandwich and kicks at Sam’s shin under the table. “Bitch.”
“Jerk,” Sam easily returns, then falls into momentary silence, fork tapping absently against the edge of his salad bowl. “Actually, I…” he trails, “I, I-I’ve got some news.”
Dean frowns, straightening in his seat. “What’s up?”
Sam bellows out a sigh of air, stuttering on a breathless laugh. “I bought a ring.”
The sudden weight of worry vanishes under the force of Dean’s grin. “You’re shitting me.”
“No, no, I’m—” Sam says, then all in a rush, “I’m gonna do it.”
Dean whoops, leaning back. “You little shit, I can’t believe you didn’t even tell me—”
“Yeah, well, I’d’ve asked for help picking something out, but—”
Dean cracks a laugh and again knocks at Sam’s leg, fondness and pride welling past the point of containment. “Wow. Just…congrats, man.”
Sam huffs, self-deprecating, “C’mon, she’s got to say yes, first…”
“Oh, please,” Dean says. He’s been waiting for this for years. “She’s gonna say yes.”
Sam had met Eileen on the tail end of his second-to-last year of Law school, at a time when he was practically living in the library where Eileen was working as a part-time shelver, and they’ve been together ever since. Dean thinks she’s basically the best thing ever – way too good for his moose little brother, obviously – and the fact that Dean’s blind and Eileen’s deaf definitely hasn’t stopped them from getting along like a house on fire. Dean’s learned some rudimentary ASL over the years, though he’ll be first to admit Eileen picks up most of the slack with her verbal nature and badass lip reading skills.
Sometimes Sam fills in the gaps, at least up to the point their conversations inevitably dissolve into relentless heckling. Something about them ganging up on him, the baby.
Holy shit, he’s gonna have a sister-in-law.
“It’s good,” Dean says, grinning across to his brother. “It’s— It’s gonna be good, Sammy.”
“Yeah, well,” Sam says, warmth in every word, “you’ve set a pretty great example, you know.”
Dean’s already full chest tightens that much further. Must be heartburn. “Sap,” he accuses.
Sam exhales hard, clothes rustling and chair giving another creak as he leans in closer. “Dude, are you crying?”
“Shuddup,” Dean roughly returns, swiping a quick tumb under one eye. “Sun’s in my eyes, c’mon, you know how it is.”
Sam’s too busy laughing to pick up the check, but Dean finds he doesn’t much mind.
Dean unlocks the door and steps into the apartment. His keys clink sharply to the glass change tray on the entryway table and he rests his cane, propped between the table and the wall. It’s not until he’s halfway through pulling off his shoes that he hears the distinctive thump and scrabble of Gabriel abandoning his favored spot on the sofa, and within seconds he’s got four legs of fur knocking at his ankles, completely fucking up Dean’s attempts to unlace his second boot and entire backside waggling with belated enthusiasm.
“Yeah, yeah,” Dean says, patting around until he finds Gabriel’s head, roughing his hand over the entirely of the corgi’s face and snout in a clumsy pet before gently pushing him to the side, “I see ya’.”
Off comes the boot and Dean straightens, arching out his back in a stretch and shuffling forward to clear the entryway into the living room, Gabe hot on his heels.
Dean hears the soft, cottony squeak of socks on the hardwood and a hand slides to rest at the small of his back. He feels the nuzzling press of a nose to his jaw, the warmth of breath. “He missed you.”
Dean smiles and leans further into the man at his side, mutual stubble catching on a pleasant rasp. “Yeah, right.”
“Mm,” Cas says, indulgent, before brushing a welcoming kiss to the thin skin below Dean’s ear and, drawing slightly away, “How was lunch?”
Dean turns, catching Cas at the waist and pulling him into a proper kiss. “Tell you in a minute,” he says, thumbs teasing low on Cas’s sides and relishing the smile it draws, pressed against his lips. Dean sways back and steps towards the hallway, one hand tugging at his overshirt as the other trails the wall, guiding his way. He veers into the bedroom and calls down the hall, “It’s Sunday! No pants allowed!”
“When will he propose?” Cas asks, words murmured low at Dean’s ear, a pleasant burr.
Dean ticks a shrug, shoulders shifting and settling into a more comfortable lean against Cas’s chest. Accommodating, Cas wraps one strong arm secure around Dean’s waist, sinking further into the back of the couch. “Soon, he said.” Dean smiles. “It’s about damn time.”
Cas huffs a laugh. “Is that a hint?”
“Hell no,” Dean snorts. He slides a hand to grip at Cas’s wrist, giving it an affectionate squeeze. “I’ve got you right where I want you.”
It’s not that they haven’t talked about it – it’s been eight years, of course they have – but, well. That’s the thing. Being with Cas, loving Cas, is the best, easiest, most rock-fucking-solid thing Dean’s ever had. Always has been, right from day one. And it’s a hell of a thing to know Cas feels the same, and to know with everything you are what ‘forever’ really means, legally binding documents or no.
Maybe someday, when Sam and Eileen start popping out kids, or for the taxes, or when Cas finally tells Dean what that secret savings account they both pretend he doesn’t know about is really for. But, for now, “Kid was more disappointed he didn’t have a dog to pet than he was excited to tell me the good stuff,” Dean says. “Thought he was gonna drag me straight back home just to get ‘im, swear to god.”
“You should let him do his job,” Cas gently chides. “It’s what he was trained for.”
As if he knows they’re talking about him, Gabriel perks up; head lifting from his previous tight curl into the space between Dean’s legs kicked up across the available length of the couch. The warm, compact body stretches out against Dean’s thighs and Gabe yawns, big enough to whine, and flops his head back down directly in Dean’s lap. Dean scritches absently into the base of the corgi’s wide, soft ears, and within moments he’s once again breathing deep and even in sleep.
“I know how to walk,” Dean grumbles. He’s being needlessly difficult, he knows, and mildly insulting to his own blindness to boot. It’s been a long, long time since Dean’s truly believed dependence equaled weakness, but he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to completely kick that initial knee-jerk response.
He’ll get over it eventually; let Sam and Cas teach him all the proper directives and start taking Gabe out properly; will legitimately be and feel better for it. But there’s always that one, small part of him, the piece Dean hates, that whispers but what’s the point, what does it matter, you’ll never know normal, never know all that’s good, what’s important—
Dean stops those particular thoughts right in their tracks, not giving them the chance to spiral, but can’t help the “Cas—” that breaks free, stripped far too bare to fit the moment. He lifts a hand to find Cas’s face; one finger trailing the line of his jaw, the whorl of his ear. “Tell me what you look like.”
Cas hides a smile into the nape of Dean’s neck. “I’m reasonably sure you’ve asked that question before.”
Dean bites his lip against a smile of his own, momentary melancholy draining as quick as it came. “Have I?”
“Mm,” Cas hums, a tingling buzz through the base of Dean’s skull, “once or twice.”
“Tell me again,” Dean requests, voice low.
A moment of thoughtful quiet, and Cas leans back, a slight readjust for maximum couch comfort. Dean’s hand again lifts to Cas’s face; cradling palm and fingertips pressed light to one sharp cheekbone.
“My eyes are blue,” Cas begins, the well-worn opening to this familiar routine, and Dean’s finger slots into place at the corner of Cas’s eye.
Blue; the color of the sky, the ocean. Deep, vast, unfathomable things. Dean thinks of floating, flat on his back in a chlorine-sharp motel pool and his ears submerged. The calm, muffled weightlessness of the water and the increasingly-distant fear of knowing that here, in that moment, absolutely anything could happen in the outside world and Dean would be none the wiser.
He likes to think blue looks like ice chips taste; clear and sharp as they melt to soothing, liquid relief on the back of his tongue.
Cas blinks, gifting Dean the fluttering kiss of lashes. “My hair is brown,” – dirt, earth, warm – “dark, with eyebrows to match.” Dean’s hand drifts, thumb smoothing the arch of one brow on his way to burying his fingers in Cas’s soft hair. Cas chuckles, chest rumbling at Dean’s back. “It’s a mess,” he confesses, then, with exaggerated accusation, “I blame you.”
Dean only smirks and roughly rakes his hand through Cas’s hair, pushing the thick of it every which way before scratching down to the shorter, bristly strands at the sides. Cas hums and pushes into the touch.
“I have high cheeks, a straight nose,” Cas eventually says, lazy and slow. “A cleft chin.”
Dean’s fingers follow the thread, cataloging the well-loved features Dean, by this point, knows practically as well as his own. He moves to trace the shape of Cas’s plush, smiling mouth.
Cas’s lips split on a grin, and he snaps playfully at Dean’s fingers as they fall to tap at his teeth. “I have a wide mouth,” he says, accepting the prompt. Then, with a thoughtful air, “Wide features in general, I suppose.” His own hand rises to wrap around Dean’s wrist, thumb warm at his pulse, holding him in place. “My lips are pink. Perpetually chapped, as you well know.” The lips in question graze Dean’s fingertips as Cas speaks, teasing and light. Dean shivers, and the fingers circling his wrist tighten in acknowledgement.
Cas lifts Dean’s hand to press a lush kiss at the base of Dean’s palm and, hot fan of breath, says, “A mouth not near as beautiful as yours.”
And with that, Dean twists, hungry and searching for a kiss from Cas’s sinful lips. Their mouths meet and it's a simple truth that Dean, born to darkness, has spent most of his life groping for context on the things he's been told – pretty, and handsome, and sexy and sweet – but this, there’s nothing Dean’s known as beautiful as this.
The arm around Dean’s waist slips lower, and Cas’s hand finds the curve of Dean’s hip to grip and pull, warm through the fabric of Dean’s boxers and encouraging him closer. Dean lifts one leg for room then nudges out the other to gently force a disgruntled Gabriel down to the floor. He sends out a brief mental apology as Gabriel huffs and complies, granting Dean the freedom to turn, he and Cas chest-to-chest and continuing to trade long, lazy kisses.
Dean breaks from Cas’s lips to trail a line of kisses down Cas’s jaw and neck, Cas’s head tipping back to grant him space to explore. Their joined hands come up to trace unseen patterns on the sensitive skin of Cas’s collar and neck. “My tattoos,” Cas says, a hint of breathlessness thinning his voice, and flattens Dean’s hand to cover the entire left side of his neck.
Dean rests his forehead to Cas’s shoulder and breathes deep, taking in Cas’s unique scent and willing down the sudden racing of his heart. “Flowers,” he says, rough and low.
Cas nods. “Freesias, here. Purple and pink,” he confirms, and Dean, impatient for what comes next, drops his hands to tug at the hem of Cas’s tee. Cas rumbles a laugh and leans up enough for Dean to strip the shirt completely, dropped carelessly to the floor.
Cas again catches Dean’s hand and presses his fingers to Cas’s bared torso, high on his right side. “Yellow daffodils,” he says, his guiding touch and gravel voice slowly painting a picture in Dean’s mind’s eye of the art which stains his skin. Their fingers reach the ends of the daffodil stems then sweep back high, an elegant bow of complimenting curves. “Bluebells and lavender.”
Dean’s palm skims Cas’s chest to rest flat against his left pec. His thumb lightly brushes a peaked nipple and Cas’s breath catches so gorgeously Dean does it again, then again, smile hidden into the curve of Cas’s shoulder as the other man’s hips involuntarily twitch forward, half-hard cock a sweet press into Dean’s abdomen.
“A geometric crescent moon,” Cas grits, both arms snaking around Deans waist to pull him in, fingers teasing at Dean’s back, the elastic band of his underwear, and leaving Dean to trace out the shape of the tattoo from memory alone. Dean ducks in to lay a path of wet kisses down Cas’s torso, starting at his heart. Cas sighs, pure pleasure. “And a rain of feathers, in black and grays.”
Cas cuts off on a gasp as Dean drops to nip a bite at Cas’s flat stomach. Cas may be out of ink to map, but Dean’s far from finished. He noses in at the skin warm and low, dry lips dragging and catching across the smooth band of Cas’s underwear.
“Dean,” Cas says, rasping, the tinge of a plea, and lays a cautious hand at the crown of Dean’s head, fingers threading through Dean’s hair, grounding and good. Dean’s lips part, a long, shaky inhale of breath and he thrills to smell something dark and sharp and male, stronger by the second. Blinding anticipation builds in Dean’s chest as the heady scent of arousal overwhelms his senses: skin, and salt, and damp and—
Cas tenses under Dean’s hands, and that plus the split-second smell is the only warning he gets before he’s suddenly assaulted by a face-full of fur. Dean lets out a smothered yelp as short legs and rough, blunt-nailed paws batter and claw at the back of his head and neck as Gabriel struggles to settle, because apparently there’s a party in Cas’s lap and Gabe wants in. Cas’s stern voice calls out from above, ordering Gabriel down just as Dean manages to free his head from the unexpected weight.
“Fuck, Gabe!” Dean splutters, wiping roughly over his own nose and mouth. “Read the goddamn room!”
Silence, and Gabriel simply curls and falls into a comfortable ball in the newly-made space between his two owners, even though Dean knows he knows what ‘down’ means, stupid fucking corgi. Cas’s knees begin to shake minutely under Dean’s bracing grip.
“Oh my god, shut up,” Dean gripes, even as he fights down a smile. “Don’t laugh at me! I was totally getting somewhere!”
“You were,” Cas concedes, then a cradling palm touches gently to Dean’s cheek. “You’re alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Dean says. He turns a hopeful look Cas’s way. “Bedroom?”
Cas snorts, but takes Dean’s offered hand. “Bedroom,” he agrees.
Dean grins. That, he can work with.