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Room for Two (The Mattress AU)

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“It’s today.”

Charlie looked up from her laptop, her unmade hair becoming a waterfall of flame in the morning sunlight. “What’s today,” she asked, eyes falling back to her keyboard. She kept typing.

“The day I need a new mattress,” Castiel answered tiredly, taking a seat at the kitchen’s third-best barstool and lifting a tangerine out of the fruit bowl. The tangerine was warm and soft from the sun, which made it easy to peel. Castiel watched the skin and pith unravel under his thumb, falling in one long, curled spiral on the dented wood.

“Charlie,” Castiel said again, when Charlie didn’t respond. “I need to go out and buy a new mattress. Today.”

“Yeah, I got that,” Charlie said. “I’m googling the nearest mattress stores.”

“A spring came up right in the middle,” Castiel said, frowning at his tangerine. “I’ve only had that mattress seventeen years, it shouldn’t—”

“Dude.” Dean’s head peeked up from the couch, his bed-ruffled hair and unshaven jaw standing out, bright against the shady side of the studio apartment. “Seventeen years?”

“Yes? My parents bought it when I transitioned from a child’s bed to a full-size single bed.”

Dean looked offended. “You’ve. Had the same mattress. For seventeen—”

“Six blocks over, they have a sale on,” Charlie interrupted. “I’ve emailed you the address, and a coupon code. Go.” She fluttered a dismissive hand, eyes glued to her screen.

“You’re not coming with me?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I forget to mention the immediate deadline I have? Honestly, a girl works on coding the same app for five months straight and talks about it constantly and it’s like I didn’t say anything at all.” Charlie shot Castiel a stern look. “Take that couch potato over there, he could use the vitamin D.”

“Hey, I take supplements,” Dean complained, scowling. He glanced at his cellphone, then let it fall between the couch cushions. “And who you calling a potato, anyway. I’m one of those carrots that look like a massive dick.”

“Yes,” Castiel said curtly, putting a tangerine segment into his mouth. “Yes, that does seem apt.”

Dean snorted. “God. Too easy, dude.”

“Oh, you are,” Charlie smirked. “Way too easy.” She smiled over at Dean, then cocked her head towards Castiel.

Dean shook his head.

Charlie angled her head more forcefully, frowning this time.

Dean gritted his teeth, glaring.

Castiel looked between them, wondering why they weren’t speaking aloud. “What’s going on?”

Charlie sighed. “Dean’s just... busy deciding. Whether or not to go. With you. To buy a mattress. For your bed, which incidentally, is something Dean does not have. And could probably use.”

Castiel narrowed his eyes at his roommate. “Are we teasing Dean about the fact his girlfriend kicked him out, he abandoned all his classes in the aftermath, and and now he’s living on our couch? I thought we stopped doing that because it made him cry.”

Charlie gave Castiel a kind look.

She then sighed and looked back at Dean.

Dean swallowed, eyes turned away. He sat up on his couch, where the red cushions were all dented and squashed from his weight. He’d slept there for five entire weeks, give or take a weekend. For the first two weeks he’d begrudgingly attended classes, eyes glazed and hair dishevelled, but a week before the first semester ended, the lectures and the coursework and the daily showers turned into cowboy-movie marathons, fourteen Dr. Sexy, M.D. tie-in novels read on his phone, and exactly four showers in two weeks. Classes didn’t begin again for a while, but Dean had done no preparation at all.

Castiel occasionally forgot that Dean did not officially live in this apartment. Sitting on the couch to watch TV had begun to feel invasive, since Dean’s scent was very much ingrained into the couch fibres, and his clothes were strewn across it, and the only blanket was the one he used at night. Seeing Dean leave the couch was like... seeing a rocket leave Earth and head into space. Rare, exciting – and cause for immediately vacating his charted path, lest someone invite a disaster. Especially if Dean was headed for the kitchen.

Finally, perhaps upon calculating that he hadn’t left the apartment once in eight days, Dean separated his lips with his tongue, and let his chin drop to his chest. “Fine,” he said. “Fine, whatever, we’ll go mattress-shopping.”

Charlie seemed delighted for one moment – “Oh, goody,” she chirped, before her frown of concentration returned and her eyes locked to her laptop screen. She began to type again.

Dean let out a long, loud breath as he got up. He was wearing boxers and a t-shirt that hadn’t been washed in at least a week. He scratched the back of his neck, then stretched his arms out, yawning.

“How long until you’re ready to go?” Castiel asked, picking up the rest of his tangerine.

Dean looked confused. He lifted a discarded pair of jeans from the floor and stepped into them. “What d’ya mean? I’m ready.” He buttoned up the jeans, yanking them twice so they closed around his soft middle, which had recently increased in softness. He put his phone in his pocket.

Castiel stared at Dean’s stubble, and the bare feet he slipped into a pair of flip-flops, and then shook his head. “If you say so.”

divider art by almaasi: tangerine

“And here we have our latest models – the recliner: perfect if you like to sit up and read – it comes with a remote control—”

The store’s polo-shirted seller led Castiel from one giant mattress to the next one, gesturing, ponytail swinging, giving a smile that seemed slightly disingenuous. “This one has a specially-designed layer to absorb and redistribute heat. No more nights tossing and turning when the weather’s too hot!”

Castiel gave a polite smile, following the seller to the next mattress, and the next sales pitch. He disengaged for a moment to look behind him, seeing Dean trailing ten feet back, staring at his phone, scratching his stubble. His jeans scuffed along the tough carpet, white threads extending several inches behind every step.

“And over here we have our smaller mattresses. Um.” The seller’s eyes darted to Dean, then back to Castiel. “Are you looking for something for... both... A queen-size, or...?”

“A single,” Castiel said firmly.

“All righty, well, that’s just over here. Top-of-the-line scientific functions have been applied to every mattress here—”

Again, Castiel looked back, expecting to see Dean falling behind – but instead Dean approached, his flip-flops flip-flopping, his expression pinched with concern.

“You’re getting a single?” Dean asked, pocketing his phone and standing so close to Castiel that their shoulders touched. “Seventeen years and you’re just – replacing what you had with something the same?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” Castiel replied. “My bed frame is a single-size. There’s only one of me, and I’m somewhat slender.”

Dean looked down at Castiel’s body, considering that. “But— You’re kinda muscly.” He touched Castiel’s middle with the back of his hand, as if to check. His eyebrows rose at the confirmation.

“I fit in a single bed, Dean.”

“And over here,” the seller announced, a few beds along, “are the memory foam mattresses, which are very comfortable, some of our best-sellers. And did you know, memory foam is what they use for astronauts on space missions! Is either of you a Trekkie?”

Dean perked up, bright-eyed, but when he glanced at Castiel, Castiel sighed, examining the mattress labels with discomfort in his stomach. “I can’t afford any of these,” he remarked to Dean, too quietly for the seller to hear. “I didn’t plan on buying a mattress so soon. I’d been saving up since the spring coil started to poke through, but it emerged much sooner than I expected. It’s... pointy.”

“I’ll bet,” Dean said understandingly. Castiel thought he smelled like stale popcorn, and it was hard not to notice, given how closely he stood.

The seller approached, looking hopeful. “Are you in need of any other assistance or would you just like to wander around? I can give you a pamphlet of what we sell and our current prices so—”

“Hey, no, that won’t be necessary,” Dean said with a quick smile. “Me ‘n my crewmate here are gonna check out some other stores on our list. So. Thanks for your time, and uh... have a great day. Live long and prosper.”

He took Castiel by the back of the arm and turned him, then led him away.

Castiel breathed out in relief. “I didn’t think I’d get a word in edgeways. And I didn’t want to be rude.”

“That’s why I came along, Cas,” Dean said, rubbing Castiel’s arm. “C’mon, there’s a second-hand place on the other side of the mall. We can stop for mini-pretzels on the way.”

“Why mini-pretzels?”

“Uh, ‘cause they’re mini? And anything mini is inherently cuter than the original.”

“And cute is... good.”

Dean gave Castiel a slow, soft-eyed look. “Yeah,” he said, with a gentle smile. “Cute is good.”

divider art by almaasi: pretzels

“Oh, this is much better,” Castiel said, beaming at the junk jam-packed between the wood-panelled walls. Bed frames stood upright, their metal curls strung through with neckties and scarves. Mattresses were piled up ten-high, others crammed between dressers and battered-looking armoires. “Fifty dollars for a mattress. Yes. I can do this.”

“Cas—” Dean took Castiel’s hand carefully, keeping him from pushing down on a suspiciously stained foam square. “Maybe don’t touch. Just ‘cause it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s good.”

“But I can afford these.”

“Yeah but—” Dean grabbed Castiel’s hand again, pulling it back to his side. “Seriously, this crap is dirty.”

“We can vacuum it?”

“Cas, to get that kind of muck out we’d need two days with a carpet washer. And hiring a carpet washer for a couple hours costs almost as much as the mattress. This thing looks like it’s older than you are.”

Castiel looked longingly at a forty-dollar price tag, stapled at eye-height to a floral mattress.

“Trust me,” Dean said, pushing a hand away in mid-air. “You’re gonna sleep on this thing. You sleep for, what, eight hours a night?”

Castiel scoffed. “If I’m very lucky. Or heavily medicated.”

“But ideally that’s a third of your day. Imagine spending a third of your year – January through April – trying to recuperate your energy so you can study, so you can fill your brain with ancient languages – and you’re trying to draw energy out of somethin’ someone already used to death. Why are these things here, Cas? ‘Cause it started giving someone back problems, but they wanted some cash instead of tossing the thing out. This ain’t a store, Cas, it’s a furniture graveyard.”

Castiel bristled. “I saw a perfectly good footstool back there.”

“Mattresses are different,” Dean said firmly. “They’re soft, and full of... absorbent stuff. Alright? Imagine using someone else’s bath sponge! Imagine someone else using a mattress for ten years. Putting dents in the middle. Sleeping on it. Sweating on it. Dropping milkshakes on it. Having sex on it.”

Dean saw Castiel recoil in disgust, and he nodded. “Exactly.”

“But I can’t afford a new one,” Castiel said. “I have two hundred dollars. That’s it. Two hundred and seven dollars and fourteen cents, that’s what I have saved.”

“So we find a big box store that’s got something going cheap,” Dean shrugged. “A kid’s bed, even. Sears might have something on clearance. Or we could hunt down somebody who has a Costco membership. This mattress just needs to last a couple years, Cas, until you’ve finished your degree and you can save for something better.”

Castiel sighed, shoulders dropping.

He began to smile, and his eyes skipped to Dean’s. “For a couch potato, Dean, you’re quite wise. And a hypocrite, dare I add. You’ve spent all this time sleeping on our couch, where many other people have sat. We bought that couch second-hand.”

Dean looked down, a flip of discomfort radiating from his gut. “Yeah. Well.” He looked away. “Sometimes there’s no other option.”

Castiel tilted his head. “Did you ever consider... going back home? Your mother would take you in again, wouldn’t she?”

Dean folded his arms. “Yeah. Probably. But Mom’s got Sam to look after, and Sam’s doing great, he’s actually going to college at eighteen like normal people, not friggin’ twenty-three like me ‘n you. And Stanford is a really long way away, Cas. I’d have to fly to California, and you know I hate planes.”

A line appeared between Castiel’s dark brows. “I still don’t understand.”

“Understand what?” Dean met his eyes, searching his face for answers.

“Why you gave up on every class you took. You met Charlie in Programming class, and she said you were the most involved student, your first lesson. You met me in Translating Ancient Texts, and I know you were excited; you yelped “ooh” when the professor brought up Ancient Egypt. All the science classes, the hospitality course— Dean, why are you crying?”

Dean shook his head, over and over, frantically blinking away tears. “Dude, shut up, I’m not. I’m not friggin’ crying. I just got mattress dust in my eye.”

“Dean...” Castiel’s warm hand enclosed Dean’s right shoulder, squeezing.

“I just—!” Dean’s eyes rose to the wooden rafters and the chandeliers. “I don’t know.”

“Tell me, Dean,” Castiel said, with so much care and intensity in his blue gaze that Dean simply folded.

“I don’t... think... I ever learned how to study?” Dean said quietly. “Or pass tests. People just— People said I was smart, and I was goin’ places. All my life. And I kept up with Sam, and Sam was smart as hell. So when people said I was clever – fuck – I was naive, and I believed them.”

“You are clever.”

“But I failed all my classes. So clearly I’m not.”

Castiel tilted his head. “You didn’t fail. You underperformed on a handful of papers in your first semester.”

“Uh! Yeah?! I’d count that as failing, Cas!”

“Shh, I don’t think you’re supposed to shout in here,” Castiel said, touching Dean’s arm.

Dean gulped, glaring at a glass-fronted crockery cabinet, seeing his own frustrated expression reflected back. He barely recognised himself. Not the baggy grey t-shirt, not the stained jeans, not the flip-flops or the pudge around his middle and under his chin. He looked cute, in a ‘homeless twink’ kinda way, maybe, but it wasn’t who he was used to seeing.

“You know there’s still time, don’t you?” Castiel asked. “There’s still a few weeks to prepare before semester two begins. At least if you carry on with classes, you’ll get another round of Financial Aid for rent and food. You can make up your grades by doing better on other papers.”

“You really think there’s any chance of that?” Dean said snidely, kicking the carpet and making his flip-flop curl. “Dude, after failing the easiest classes – the tutorial playthrough, let’s say – if I jumped in at level five I’d just be askin’ to get kicked while I’m down.”

“Dean, the classes don’t start easy and get harder,” Castiel said softly. “Sometimes they begin with the hardest part. You were just overwhelmed at the start. You moved across the country, away from your supportive family for the first time in your life. You had no friends here to begin with, and your girlfriend didn’t have the emotional availability you needed at the time. You registered for so many courses, Dean – far more than most people. Starting college was a huge change for you. Your coping ability suffered, and you didn’t have the tools to recognise it immediately. It happens. It took me a full year before I properly learned how to manage my workload. And I still struggle.”

Dean gulped, flickers of hope and alarm twitching inside him.

“You haven’t failed,” Castiel said. “You’ve just... stopped for a bit. You’re still enrolled, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“So talk to the school’s counselling services. Get back in contact with your academic advisors, the professors – whoever. Get them to understand you haven’t given up, and you have no intention of giving up.” Castiel smiled when Dean met his eyes, and Dean smiled back, if weakly and tearfully. “You can do it, Dean. I have the utmost faith in you.”

Dean swallowed, and he felt his angry inner icicle melt a tiny bit. Cas was so easy to believe.

“Okay,” Dean whispered.

“Okay?” Castiel seemed to brighten.

“Yeah.” Dean shrugged, failing to hide a smile. That smile wanted to be there. “Just... can I keep staying at your place, though?” He shrugged. “Kinda got... nowhere else to go.”

“Our couch is your couch,” Castiel said. He looked around. “But none of these mattresses are for me. So let’s go.”

This time, when Dean trailed behind, it was because he was smiling too much, and didn’t want to explain why.

Cas was right: Dean hadn’t had him or Charlie to help before. He’d collapsed under the weight of his own existence without emotional support.

But now he had people who cared about him, and talked to him when his head was full of crap, and they made him realise that crap was bullshit.

Maybe having two really good friends by his side would be enough to get him through.

divider art by almaasi: forty dollar tag

“Cas, this is perfect,” Dean said, opening his arms wide, gesturing to the gridlocked display beds. “Buy a bed frame, get your mattress half price.”

Castiel hummed, shaking his head. He fiddled with the untucked flap of his button-down shirt, looking around.

“Come on, what’s the problem?” Dean asked.

“The only ones half price are all double beds,” Castiel said. “Even if I could afford one with monthly repayments – I really don’t need that extra space, Dean.”

Dean pouted, then cocked his head and grinned. “You never know. You might someday.”

“Under what circumstance?” Castiel seemed taken aback. “I’m happy with the body shape I have.”

Dean chortled. “Dude, I don’t mean you double in size – I mean, what if... you know.” He nudged Castiel’s side. “What if you had a friend.”

Castiel squinted. “I have enough friends already.”

“Naw, man, a special friend,” Dean grinned. “A lady friend.”

“Charlie has her own bed.”

Dean exhaled, hands clutching his forehead. “Cas. Buddy.” He let his hands drop, then he reached to place his palms on Castiel’s chest. “If you got yourself a girlfriend. Maybe she stays a little late, you had a real good evening... Maybe, um...” Dean bit his lower lip, his cheeks flushing with heat. “Maybe she needs a place to sleep. But that couch is uncomfortable as hell and super cramped, so you ask if she wants to share your bed. And...?”

“And?”

“And you sleep with her, Cas. Naked. For fun.”

Despite all the elaboration, Castiel didn’t seem to get it. He looked completely perplexed, like Dean was describing an abstract concept, and he had no way to relate it to his own life experiences.

Dean rubbed the back of his neck, feeling unsettled now. “Just saying,” he murmured, shrugging a shoulder. “Single bed kind of gives the wrong impression. If there’s no space for a girlfriend in your bed, then where’s the evidence you’re gonna make space for a girlfriend in your life... you know?”

Castiel tilted his head. “Dean— Why in God’s name would I want to acquire a girlfriend?”

Dean met his eyes in surprise, slowly taking a silent breath.

Castiel lowered his gaze. He inhaled, then looked away. “So I take it your recommendation is to invest in a larger bed. In case I – somehow, by some miracle – find myself in want of a sleeping partner. Who I would feel the desire to see naked and kiss and have sex with.”

“Yeah.” Dean couldn’t take his eyes off his friend, suddenly wanting to ask a hundred questions, heart hammering inside him for reasons he suspected were not pretzel-sugar-related.

“If, by this wild, unfathomable miracle, somebody else does happen to appeal to me,” Castiel glanced at Dean with his eyebrows raised, “which bed, of the ones before us now, would they be most drawn to? And feel comfortable sleeping in?”

Dean huffed. “Heck, I dunno, do I? I’m not a chick.”

With an upward roll of his eyes, Castiel went to the nearest mattress and lay down, staring at the ceiling. “Hm! This is better than my bed with a broken spring.”

“Yeah, they all are,” Dean muttered, sitting on the bed, then swinging his legs up to relax right next to Cas. He looked over, smiling gently. “It’s comfy. You prefer soft or hard?”

Castiel looked back, examining Dean’s lips, then his nose, then his eyes. “Hard on the outside and soft in the middle. Sweet and salty all over. Like a fresh pretzel.”

“That’s real specific.”

“You asked.”

They both turned to stare at the high warehouse ceiling, where a fluorescent pendant light swayed in the draft from a giant metal vent.

Dean sat up and looked around. “That frame’s cool,” he said, angling his head to indicate the one he meant, when Cas sat up too. “Sleek black metal? Kinda badass.”

“Would you sleep in a bed like that?” Castiel asked.

He followed Dean to the frame and they sat down on opposite sides, rolling to lie parallel on the bed.

“Hm,” Dean said. “I preferred the other mattress. But—” he grasped a bar in the frame’s headboard and gave it a shake. Nothing moved except him. “Seems sturdy.”

“This frame is two hundred dollars,” Castiel noticed, seeing the price tag upside-down. “And that other mattress was four hundred. Even at half price, it’s a lot.”

“Yeah, well, you need a new frame, don’t you? For the big mattress.”

“But I could use my current single frame.” Castiel perched his torso up on his elbows, looking at Dean. “I could pay the same four hundred dollars for a full-priced single mattress, and use the frame I already own. But you’re suggesting I pay four hundred dollars – which is two hundred more than I have, by the way – to purchase space for a whole other human being who doesn’t exist, and by my best guess, may never exist.”

Dean leaned up on his elbows too, indiscernible emotions tightening in his stomach. His lips parted but he couldn’t speak.

“I’m getting the single,” Castiel decided. He sat up and swung his legs out of the bed. “I can pay it off in instalments.”

“Wait—” Dean rushed to get up too, flip-flopping after Cas and taking his arm. “Wait.”

Castiel looked at him, curious.

Dean wet his lips. “What if—” He breathed twice, letting go of Castiel’s wrist and hugging his own middle instead. He looked away, huffing. “What if I paid for half of it. Half the bed. Half the frame. The double sized one.”

Castiel blinked. “Why?”

“Because?” Dean shrugged. “Because I’m your friend and I have the money – sorta – and I don’t want you to lose sleep over friggin’ mattress repayments. You barely sleep as it is.”

As Castiel started to smile, Dean quickly added, “And I kind of hate the couch and I basically live with you anyway, I’m paying rent, I pay for food— And I can’t afford a proper goddamn bed by myself, so.” He shrugged hard, gaze set on the floor. “We could share. Temporarily. Or whatever. And you keep the bed when I’m gone.”

“Gone?”

“Gotta move out sometime, don’t I?” Dean said crisply, shouldering past Castiel so he didn’t have to look at him. “I can take a hint, dude, I know I’m taking up space where you’d rather put other stuff. Maybe I’ll go back with my mom like you said. It’s a good a plan as any.”

Castiel sighed; Dean heard the sadness in his breath.

Dean stared at the mattress he liked, longing starting to squeeze in his chest.

“I don’t want you to move out, Dean,” Castiel said. “I adore your company.”

Dean’s face crumpled in uncertainty, still turned away, glad Cas couldn’t see.

“Dean... Would you consider staying, if we bought a bed together?”

Dean turned around now. “A double bed?”

Castiel held his eyes and nodded. “Yes. To prove that there’s space in my life for a... ‘special friend’.”

Dean gulped, heart in his throat, eyes cast down. God, this squinty dork was gonna make that special friend really happy, someday. Finally, after all Dean’s curious prodding and poking, it seemed clear: Cas wasn’t interested girls. So maybe if Dean agreed... there was a chance that Cas’ special friend could be him.

But – what were the chances? There were better people out there, and Cas knew most of them. People loved him. He was lovable. The trenchcoat and the button-downs and the easygoing generosity made him basically the hottest student on campus. But not being attracted to girls was one thing – did he like guys? And even if he liked guys, did he like Dean? Was there any point Dean filling in as that ‘special friend’ if he was going to be replaced someday?

“Dean,” Castiel said with a sigh. “You’re thinking too hard. Your eyes move like that and you chew your lip when you’re thinking.”

Dean smirked, but glanced away. “Yeah, I know. It’s just – complicated. A whole bunch of people have said they care about me and then I never saw them again, so it’s – it’s kind of hard to hear that shit right now.”

“It’s not complicated,” Castiel squinted, stepping closer. “You’re my closest friend. And I want you to stay. Please, Dean. I’m telling you I care about you. What you think of yourself isn’t relevant. Nor are the ways other people have mistreated you in the past. I’m telling you what I think of you. You’re my friend. And you’re incredibly special to me. As far as I’m concerned, that makes you my ‘special friend’.”

Dean took two consecutive breaths, fighting the urge to explain how Cas was backing the wrong horse here. Running his hand backwards up his neck, he muttered, “I actually meant that in a romantic, sexual kinda way, Cas.”

“Yes, that was how I interpreted it,” Castiel nodded. “I simply felt it was something you needed to hear in this current context.”

As he met Castiel’s eyes – stern blue, so determined – Dean’s trust in his friend won out over his insecurity, and he shook his head. Maybe he could believe he deserved love. Just this once. “Okay,” he exhaled.

“You’ll stay?”

“Yeah.”

Castiel beamed. “Then let’s do it. This mattress, that frame. Two hundred dollars each.”

“I’ll pay, you get me back later,” Dean said, pulling out his cellphone. “C’mon.”

They went up to the front desk, and Dean gave the staff member a big smile. “Hey there. I’m lookin’ to buy a bed frame-mattress combo. Uh. That black frame over there, and—? And—”

“The Super Snoozer mattress,” Castiel reminded him.

“The Super Snoozer,” Dean repeated. “I can pay with my phone app, right?”

“Abso-posi-lutely,” the worker said, sliding a clipboard holding a paper form across the desktop. “I’ll just need the delivery address, and we can get you set up with our free four-hour delivery within city limits!”

“Awesome,” Dean uttered. “Don’t gotta pay for postage.”

Castiel took the form to fill out, while the seller rang up their total and Dean prepared to pay.

“That’ll be exactly four hundred dollars. Do either of you have student ID? We offer an extra ten percent off if you have—”

“Shit,” Dean said, looking at Castiel.

“You didn’t bring your wallet, did you,” Castiel intoned.

“I didn’t bring my wallet.”

“Aw, that’s too bad,” the seller said. “We can hold your items for you if you like? You can run and get your ID, no worries. We won’t sell out while you’re gone.”

“Can’t I just use mine?” Castiel said, tugging his university ID out of his wallet.

“Um,” the seller’s eyes darted between Dean and Castiel, looking nervous. “The ID has to belong to the person making the purchase.”

Dean shook his head. “We’re both paying, I’m just covering the cost so Cas can – y’know – reimburse me later.”

“I understand, but,” the seller breathed, giving a tense smile, “the ID has to belong to—”

“Besides, the thing’s going in his bedroom,” Dean said quickly, throwing his arm around Castiel’s shoulders. “‘Cause—” he flustered, “we’re a – couple.”

Castiel stared at him. “We are?”

Dean gave him a quick, insistent look. “Yeah! C’mon, we’re buying a bed to share. Pretty sure that makes us a couple.”

“Oh,” Castiel said. He looked at the seller with a radiant smile. “Yes, we’re a couple.”

The seller did not look fooled, but... yes, there was a hint of a smirk there. “I’ll see what I can do.”

divider art by almaasi: student id

“You know what, Cas? We should pretend to be a couple more often,” Dean said happily as they left the store, arm in arm.

“Pretend?” Castiel said, blinking. “What— What do you mean?”

“Maybe we’d get couples discounts on – I dunno – laser tag, or party invites, or fancy restaurants. Cheap movie seats, and giant vats of popcorn.”

When Castiel frowned, Dean sighed and exclaimed, “Jeez, it’s just a thought, Cas! Stuff’s sometimes cheaper if you include more people. If you’re not comfortable with it then we won’t. It’s fine.” A small, bothered scowl made its home on Dean’s face.

Castiel swallowed, a disappointing realisation dawning. “We were just... pretending. To get the extra ten percent discount. We’re not really a couple.”

“God – I know, dude,” Dean said, slipping his arm out of Cas’ and sticking his hands in his pockets. “Like I need reminding. Message received, all right? You’re not interested. I’ll keep my distance from now on.”

Castiel stopped walking, too stunned to move. He shook his head, then ran after Dean, taking his arm again. Dean seemed startled, but Castiel said firmly: “We can pretend to be a couple more often. I don’t mind.”

“Yeah?”

Castiel smiled, glad to see Dean relax. “Yeah.”

divider art by almaasi: instructions

“Oh, boy,” Charlie said, pausing in Castiel’s bedroom doorway, her hands cradling a steaming bowl of noodles. “Looks like an IKEA delivery truck crash-landed in here.” Parts of the unassembled bed frame leaned on every surface, while the new mattress was propped against the wall. Castiel’s old bed had been shoved into the corridor, and currently blocked the walkway.

“Ahhk,” Dean said, standing with his bare feet spread apart on the floorboards, his torso bent down until his t-shirt rode up. “Cas, pass me a silver nut. The one with the spinny thing on the end.”

“Part D, hole fifteen,” Castiel said, passing Dean the requested nut.

Charlie chuckled, slurping her noodles. “Hm, it’s like Twister for geeks. Careful you don’t slip, Dean, or Cas’ll get an eyeful. Cute tush, by the way. Lesbian seal of approval.”

Dean grunted.

Castiel peered past Dean’s spread legs, smiling at Charlie. “Dean already had to take his pants off, he put the tiny L-shaped wrench in his pocket. There was a hole in the pocket and we lost the wrench down his thigh.”

Dean held out his palm. “Gimme another D.”

Charlie snorted. “Yeah, ‘cause one D’s not enough for Dean.”

Dean sighed. “I am absolutely fine with just one D, thanks. Unless I somehow happened upon Gunner Lawless in the men’s changing room. Or Dr. Sexy at some convention. Or—”

“Or, fifty-four other people’s Ds, if the obscene browsing history you left open on my laptop the other week is anything to go by,” Charlie said flatly, inducing Dean’s shyest smile. “I imagine Castiel’s D might appeal somewhat, too.”

Castiel passed over the nut, then leaned in and asked Dean, quietly, “Are we still talking about the same thing?”

“We’re talking about putting a bed frame together,” Dean said, straightening up and flipping the tiny wrench in his hand. “That’s all.”

“Sure, Jan,” Charlie said from the doorway. She gave Dean a look that undoubtedly sent prickles down his spine, then shot Castiel a grin. “It was a dick joke, Cas.” She winked at him, then turned her gaze back to Dean. “Good luck erecting that frame, huh? Make sure it’s up properly; don’t wanna have the whole thing flop over when you’re sinking in for the first time. That would be embarrassing.”

Dean turned to snort over his shoulder.

Charlie grinned, then slid away, chuckling to herself.

divider art by almaasi: dean’s vhs tapes

Dean sighed as he entered the kitchen. On the one hand, he really hoped nobody would notice that he’d showered, shaved, moisturised, changed his shirt, and was now wearing his best boxers. But on the other hand—

“Oh, heyyyy! Looking good, hot stuff,” Charlie said, eyes leaving her laptop for the first time in three hours. “Did you cut your hair as well?”

Dean ran a hand past his ear, feeling the slight fade. “A bit. Took the sides off.”

“Wheeew,” Charlie whistled. “Gimme a twirl?”

Dean grinned, head down as he spun around, arms out.

“Okay, now I know you had a good day,” Charlie nodded. “Cas told me you had fun but – damn. I haven’t seen you this pulled-together since the morning you walked into our first class. Lemme guess: something boosted your confidence like crazy.”

Dean grinned, tipping his head. “Eyeeeaaah. Maybe.”

“Was it Cas?”

“Maybe.”

“Was it the investment bed? Ten-year mattress guarantee?”

Dean looked away, opening the food cupboard to get out his room-temperature almond milk. “Maybe.”

“Are you gonna pack up your shit so we can marathon Dr. Sexy, M.D. from the couch instead of the kitchen now?”

Dean poured his almond milk into a glass. “Yeah.”

There you are,” Castiel said, entering the kitchen with a smile. He was wearing a fresh pair of striped cotton pyjama-bottoms and a faded black t-shirt. “Hello, Dean.”

“Hi,” Dean said, turning to face Castiel.

“Oh – you look nice,” Castiel said, looking Dean up and down, then standing close. “Oh, and you smell nice too.”

Dean blushed. “Hm.” He bit his lower lip, trying to keep his smile tame.

“So, I’ve made up the bed,” Castiel said. “Unfortunately we’ve overlooked something.”

Dean’s skin chilled. “We have?” Was there not enough space for both of them? Would they not be able to share?

“We need to buy new sheets,” Castiel said. “And a new quilt. Everything I own is single-sized.”

Dean inhaled. “Shit. Yeah. God, so much else to think about, stuff like that just—” he passed a hand over his head, “whoosh.”

“We can still sleep together, but we’ll have to sleep very close to stay warm,” Castiel informed Dean, watching him guzzle his warm nut milk in his attempt not to fluster. “Half the mattress has no protection at all so we should definitely avoid spilling liquids or anything sticky on that side.”

Dean’s eyes shot to Charlie’s, daring her to make a dirty joke.

Charlie simply sat, holding a glass of water, smiling smugly and staring at Dean, waiting for him to crack.

“We should probably double-check that the frame is stable,” Castiel suggested, looking away in thought. “Like Charlie said earlier, it would be bad if it collapsed in the night.”

“So, what’cha thinkin’,” Charlie said, “maybe shake it around a little, make sure it gets a good amount of action before you two snuggle up?”

“Yes, that sounds like a good idea,” Castiel agreed. “But if I do it alone it might unbalance the frame – Dean, would you come and shake the bed with me, please?”

Dean whimpered.

Charlie patted him on the back. “Go get some, tiger.”

As Castiel pulled him away by his hand, Dean snarled under his breath at Charlie. But then he smiled – and she smiled back.

Dean entered Castiel’s bedroom, and chuckled. “Ho-ly— Wow, Cas.” He shut the door, gawping at the softly-glowing string lights that adorned the bed’s headboard. He admired the newly-vacuumed carpet, and the woven rug that had likely been pulled from storage. The place had been transformed from a gloomy little study-cave into a warm, inviting cuddle-den. “When the hell did you have time to do this?”

“When you were in the bathroom for two-and-a-half hours, using my clippers?” Castiel smiled. “You’re not the only one who can clean up your act.”

“Looks fuckin’ awesome,” Dean said, stroking his hand along the fairy lights which extended all the way along the wall. “Where’d these even come from?”

“I’d been keeping them for a special occasion,” Castiel shrugged. “I figured sleeping with a special friend in a new bed is special enough.”

Dean couldn’t help blushing, ears burning, breath going short. “You gotta stop callin’ me that, man. Even as a joke. People are gonna get the wrong idea.”

“Oh...” Castiel sat on the end of the bed, pulling the half-made covers. “What should I call you, then?”

“Uh. Roommate?”

“Okay.” Castiel looked down. “Room-mate.”

“Soooo...” Dean put his hands on his hips, gazing at the bed. “Which side do you usually take?”

“Um. I don’t know, I’ve never slept with anyone before.”

Dean cleared his throat. “Wow. ‘Slept with’ sounds...” He exhaled. “Uhhh. Whatever. Okay.” He ran his thumb and forefinger past the sides of his mouth thoughtfully. “Which side do you usually get outta bed?”

“Left? Because the door is on that side. But I keep my glass of water on the right because I’m right-handed.”

“You go right, then. I’ll take the left. I’m used to sleeping on the couch that way anyway.”

They went to their newly designated sides, each taking hold of the duvet. They pulled it back, revealing how the bedsheets were not tucked in at the sides of the mattress, just spread out in the centre, with the mattress left bare on either side.

Dean felt hot-cheeked. Shit. Shit-shit-shit, they were about to share the bed. How was he meant to do this without being weird about it? Cas was his best friend and crush and they were just gonna... snuggle up?! Dean had no intention of flirting on purpose – he rarely did – but how the hell was he meant to hold back now, in a situation like this?

They weren’t a couple. But Dean liked guys, and Cas maybe liked guys, and... they cared about each other a lot, right? Dean desperately wanted to fool around with Cas – and what was the point of sharing a bed if they couldn’t tease each other about it? The last thing Dean wanted was to lie stiff in the bed, terrified of moving too close in case they accidentally touched. They had to keep this light or tonight would be hell.

Well... There was a fun way to find out where Cas stood on this whole issue. A way for Dean to flirt that didn’t require pushing Cas somewhere he didn’t want to be pushed. A way to turn it all into a joke. A game. Just pretend.

And so, Dean smirked, and fucking went for it. “So, darlin’, how was your day, huh?” he asked in a soft voice, biting his lip.

“Excuse me?” Castiel raised his eyebrows, mid-way through fluffing up his pillow.

“We’re testing out the bed,” Dean explained, in his own voice. “It’s a couple’s bed. So if we pretend to be a couple – that makes sense, right? You said outside the store – you wanted to pretend more often. So.” He shrugged. “I’m being your – uh, ‘special friend’.”

Castiel parted his lips. “Uhm.”

“Gawd, I just wanna snuggle you tight, Cas, you’re so damn precious,” Dean said with an eyelash-flutter and a swing of his hips. “And I have no idea why I’m Southern, but shucks, that’s what I am now.”

Castiel laughed, a hand on his chest. He looked away, then looked back, shaking his head. “You don’t need to pretend to be someone else, Dean.”

Dean grinned, shrugging. “Eh, just thought I’d try it.”

“If you want to roleplay, we can pretend to be a couple while being ourselves. And we can find out how it suits us,” Castiel said thoughtfully, nodding to himself.

Dean was thrilled. He tried to act cool, while his heartbeat danced.

“So how are we testing this?” Castiel asked, looking at the bed, then at Dean.

“Well, try lying in it, first of all,” Dean said, flopping onto the bed and crossing his legs at the ankles. Castiel crawled in next to him.

“Heya, sexy,” Dean said seductively.

“Are— Are you pretending?”

“Uh-huh.” Dean rolled onto his front, walking two fingers slowly up Castiel’s arm, feeling the fine hairs rising in reaction. “First night in our new bed. You ‘n me. As a couple.” Dean sucked his lower lip, feeling excitement churn through his lower half. He surged closer, letting his gaze fall to Castiel’s parted lips. “We gotta do couple things.”

“Whh—” Castiel’s voice came out in broken silence, and he needed to swallow before repeating, “What kinds of things do couples do in bed?”

Dean rolled a shoulder. “What’s your usual bedtime routine?”

Castiel glanced away. “Well, I usually say my prayers before I get into bed, but—”

“Do that,” Dean nodded, giving Castiel a small push.

“But how is it pretending if we’re doing what we normally do?”

“It just is?” Dean sat up, legs straight, hands pushing into the mattress behind his ass. “We’re not actually a couple-couple, so.” He shrugged. “Anything we do together in this bed counts as part of the roleplay.”

He watched Castiel get out of bed, then kneel down on the carpet with his elbows on the mattress.

While Castiel pondered, Dean considered how his own routine had been thoroughly interrupted. Usually, when everyone else had gone to bed, Dean had the privacy to whack off, and then he was out like a light. Except he couldn’t do that tonight, because he was gonna share the room with Cas, and Cas was praying.

“Dear Almighty Unknown Forces of the Universe,” Castiel began, speaking softly, eyes closed, hands clutched together with his fingers interlocked. “I give thanks for the blessings in my life, and in the lives of those around me. Thank you for the planet-wide struggles we faced and observed today, which taught us right from wrong through the mistakes and cruelties of others, and will ultimately help guide our growth as the guardians of the Earth, and all the life it supports. Please give us all the strength to overcome.

“Thank you for breaking the spring in my old mattress, thereby giving me a reason to buy a new bed, and to spend such a pleasant day with Dean. Thank you for Dean’s generosity and willingness to offer his own savings to help me afford something new.”

Dean watched Castiel with a strangely guilty feeling rising in his gut. Was generosity all it was? Did he just want Cas to be happy?

Or was insisting Cas get a bigger bed than he needed an act of pure selfishness?

“I pray that Dean is right, and someday I will have a girlfriend,” Castiel said, before sighing heavily. “No, wait, please – I-I take that back...” He looked sad. “I don’t want a girlfriend.”

Dean’s heart hurt at the emotion in Castiel’s voice. He wanted to ask questions, but this wasn’t the time.

“Dear Almighty Forces,” Castiel said, even more softly now. “Thank you for giving me Dean.”

Dean’s heart leapt and flipped over and sank to his belly, making him feel... good. Really fucking good. And hopeful. And happy. And – kinda horny—?

Before Castiel opened his eyes, Dean looked away, pretending he hadn’t watched the whole time.

Castiel knelt back, separating his hands. He exhaled. And then he got up.

“What do you usually do before bed?” Castiel asked.

Dean shrugged. “Nothin’ much,” he lied. He could go without an orgasm for one night, it wasn’t a big deal.

Castiel crawled back into the bed, stretching his bare feet under the blanket, reaching to pull the blanket over their laps where they sat, side-by-side.

“So,” Dean said. He held Castiel’s eyes, elated by the soft way he looked back. “Now what?”

“Are we still pretending to be a couple?”

Dean grinned. “You wanna?”

Castiel nodded. “I love you, sweetheart,” he said, monotone.

Dean laughed, cheeks flushing hot as he hid his eyes behind a hand. “Oh my God, Cas.”

“Do you like when I say that?” Castiel asked.

Dean bit his lip, still grinning. “Maybe lose the ‘sweetheart’.”

“I love you,” Castiel said, looking at Dean.

Dean drew an involuntary breath. He let it go again in a gentle, happy sigh. “Yeah. Yeah, like that.”

Castiel nodded. “This is fun. And then— We should...?” He hopped closer, left hip pushed against Dean’s right. He leaned in to kiss him.

“Whoa—” Dean leaned back, heart suddenly racing. “Cas! What the hell!”

“It’s pretend, I won’t really kiss you,” Castiel complained.

“Oh.” Dean sat up straight again, leaning towards his friend.

Castiel shut his eyes and moved close... Dean’s breath caught in his throat, and he considered backing away again, but as their noses bumped, Castiel stopped. He pursed his lips and made soft kissing noises. Silly ones, like he was trying to entice a stray cat.

Dean grinned, but shut his eyes and made kissy-noises back. He tilted his head, feeling Castiel’s breath warm his cheek, and he sighed, enjoying it.

After a few moments, Dean stopped making kissy-noises and just relaxed, lips hovering a half-inch from Castiel’s. He hummed, nudging forward.

Their lips touched, but it didn’t count.

Castiel stopped making silly noises, and sighed against Dean’s lips, so closely that Dean tasted his toothpaste.

Castiel licked his lips, and Dean felt his tongue touch his own lip. But it didn’t count.

“Mmm?” Dean said, blinking halfway as he nudged a tiny bit closer.

Castiel exhaled again, hand softly cradling Dean’s cheek. Such a big, warm hand. His thumb stroked Dean’s sideburn, then his ear.

“Mm...” Dean’s eyelashes fluttered. God, this felt good...

He smiled. Then he sighed, in absolute bliss.

Castiel made a soft sound of pleasure. A real one. Dean’s skin tingled from his scalp to the soles of his feet.

He opened his mouth and uttered, so softly, “Cas, I wanna...?”

“Oh,” Castiel whispered, nudging his nose against Dean’s cheek. “Dean.”

“Cas,” Dean sighed, feeling a twitch between his legs. Whatever they were doing, it had the exact same effect on him as real kissing. This was just as thrilling. Just as intimate. Just as nice and soft and sweet.

Castiel let their lips... touch together.

It didn’t count. They were just making contact, that was all.

Castiel pursed his lips, giving Dean a tentative press, stubble between their upper lips.

Dean pressed back, smiling. Didn’t count. They were pretending still.

Castiel parted his lips; saliva clicked, Dean’s mouth opened too.

They closed their lips together, and Dean sighed, “Mm.”

Castiel kissed him again, turning his head, purring, “Hmm...”

Dean felt yet another fire start inside him. “Hm—” He nosed forward, kissing again, licking Castiel’s lip. “Hahh...” They broke apart, turned their heads, and kissed again.

Dean let himself moan, ever so softly. His hand held the back of Castiel’s neck, stroking. “Cas...” Their kiss parted, wet, a little saliva cooling on their lips.

Dean looked into Castiel’s eyes, seeing a beautiful, gorgeous darkness there. So soft. So gentle.

Castiel smiled at him. Dean shut his eyes and kissed him one more time.

They smooched for a little longer, noses touching, tongues tasting, keeping it as tender and innocent as Dean could bear.

Finally Dean licked his lips and bowed his head, hand over his mouth. His lips were hotter and plumper than he was used to.

His heart felt sparkly. His entire chest was tight. There was a definite thickness between his legs, hidden under the covers.

Maybe this counted? Maybe Cas was actually into him?

No...

“And then,” Castiel said, a trembling hand pushing back Dean’s hair, “w-we, um. Lie down. And if— If we were a couple, then, we’d—”

Dean nodded, lying on his back, eagerly opening his legs.

Castiel looked at how Dean offered himself, but lay down too, running a hand down his own chest, sweeping his erect nipple, reaching the hem of his t-shirt and lifting it a few inches. “Just pretend?”

“Yeah,” Dean promised, rolling over, moving himself to lie between Castiel’s parting legs. “It’s just for... testing the bed.” For a second Dean had struggled to remember what they were doing. But he remembered and cooled with relief. He knelt over Castiel like he was about to push inside him, but didn’t touch him at all. Hands planted either side of his neck. Hips trembling, cock hard over Cas’ taint.

Castiel’s eyes were dark and interested, his gaze quickly dipping down Dean’s body then back up. Down, then up. The third time, he lingered on Dean’s crotch.

“We should probably... move,” Castiel said. He looked Dean in the eye. “And see what the bed does.”

Dean licked his lips, adjusting his weight, then began to rock. Skimming Castiel with his t-shirt, not touching him. Not touching him. Not wanting Cas to notice how stiff he’d gotten.

The bed did not creak, or budge a single inch.

Dean was going slowly, trying desperately to keep his balance. He was sure there was a pink flush all the way down his chest.

“Faster,” Castiel said, putting a hand on Dean’s shoulder. He thrashed in the bed, grinning, letting out a theatrical cry of pleasure. “Auhh, faster, Dean, faster—!”

“Auaahh—” Dean moaned without meaning to, but bit his lip and kept humping, hips turning, arms shaking from the strain of keeping himself up. He hadn’t done a push-up in five weeks, maybe six, and he wasn’t used to this. “Ah— Shit, Cas—”

“Harderrr,” Castiel moaned, with a hand thrown back against his forehead, his flushed cheeks and bright eyes just showing his enjoyment of their game. “Mmm, this feels – oh, oh, oh...”

Dean laughed, amused by Cas’ show. “Yeah?” he teased, “You like that, Cas? Like bein’ fucked?”

Castiel nodded quickly. “Uh-huh. Yes, Dean, right there. Right there.”

Dean chuckled, changing his position; he rested his legs on the bed, took Castiel under one thigh and lifted it, and began to hump towards him, again just skimming his clothing but not pressing down.

Castiel’s breath became jagged, his hands shaking. He shut his eyes, seeming worried for a moment, then relaxing. “Hmmm... Deaaan...”

Dean couldn’t even believe how awesome it felt to hear his name like that. All deep and gruff and... Cas-like...

“Ohh...” Castiel’s hand scrunched into Dean’s hair. “Mmmmhmmm.”

The bed made no sound. It didn’t move.

“We’re not fuckin’ hard enough,” Dean said. He fell away from Cas and lay face-down on his side of the bed, raising his ass. “Fuck me from behind. C’mon.”

Castiel’s breath was shaking, his hands hot as they touched Dean’s hips, grasping him, stroking him, mapping out his shape.

Dean shut his eyes and moaned, hand going to stroke himself through his boxers. He was hard. Like, properly, totally erect. There was a wet spot on his underwear now. He stroked it, trying to be subtle.

Castiel arranged himself behind Dean, Dean’s knees bracketing Castiel’s. Dean felt the dip in the new mattress from their combined weight. Castiel slid his hands under Dean’s t-shirt, stroking up, and Dean groaned, skin searing hot, thumb working faster over his cockhead through his boxers.

Starting to hump, Castiel pushed Dean into the bed with both hands, but made no contact on his ass. Dean wished he would, he wanted to feel his cock there, wanted to feel the hard press and fast thumps of Cas’ hips.

“Cas—” Dean gasped, feeling pre-come spurt into his boxers. “Shit. Shhhit, c’mon.”

“Yeah,” Castiel whispered, “Ahhf— C-Can... Dean, can you moan again? I like how it sounds.”

Dean moaned into the pillow, both hands stretching out to grip the headboard’s metal poles. “Caaaaas... Aouuhhh, mmmhh...”

“Yeah,” Castiel moaned. He humped faster – faster – jiggling now, humphumphumphump— “Dean— Ah, Dean, Dean! Yes! Yes, yes—”

Dean squirmed into the bed as he listened, skin on fire, breath shaking. Cas actually kinda sounded like he was about to come. Was this real for him too? Was the ‘pretending’ a pretence?

“Dean! Deaaaann... Aughhkhh...” Castiel froze, holding Dean in place.

Then Castiel let out a massive sigh, like he was hugely relieved. And then he flopped over and rolled onto his own side of the bed. “Oh, what a mess,” he said casually. He looked over at Dean with amusement in his eyes. “Oh, I came all over you. It’s... sliding down your thighs...”

Dean sobbed, hiding his face in the pillow. He was so hard. So fucking hard. He wanted someone to touch him. He wanted to touch himself.

But... this was pretend. Cas was all cheerful and innocent, acting like he’d just come – but no, there was no way he’d just come. That was an act for sure.

Dean was the only one who was into it for real. “Shit,” he breathed.

“Dean?”

Dean looked over.

Castiel faced him, hands together between his cheek and his pillow. “Do you want me to pretend to make you come?”

Dean nodded.

Castiel bit his lip and reached over, putting his hand between Dean’s legs but not touching him. He started to shake his hand, purring, giving Dean his undivided attention. “Come on, Dean. Almost there. Almost finished.”

Dean whimpered, hiding his face in the pillow and letting his hips jerk forward, hand between his own legs just to stretch his t-shirt down to hide his erection. He humped and humped, gasping, aching, pretending to get closer and closer to his peak just so Cas would be satisfied.

“Yeah... Oh, Cas, I’m so close,” Dean said softly, looking him in the eyes. “Oh, you’re gonna make me come... Yeah... Mmmm.”

Castiel smiled, then grinned, wriggling a little closer. Wow, he was actually having fun. Where did this sexual game even come from? Dean seriously wondered. Most of the time Cas didn’t get the sex jokes. Yet somehow he knew enough to perform a whole show?

“Come on the bed,” Castiel whispered, dark-eyed, swallowing quickly. “And then you have to sleep in the wet patch.”

Dean breathed out through his open mouth, astounded. Little dominatrix, right here. What the fuck. And why the fuck was Dean so into it?

“Yeah,” Dean whispered, shutting his eyes. “Gonna come.”

Dean heard Castiel’s breath hitch. “Orgasm for me, Dean.”

Dean let out a whimper – “Auuhh?” which was half real, half faked. But God, he didn’t need to come for real to feel the pressure release as he faked orgasm – “Ah! Cas! Fuck—” and sighed heavily, panting like he was done. He smiled at Castiel, and lay on his hard cock, trying to act like it was softening.

Castiel gazed at Dean with delight in his eyes, gaze roaming all the way down to Dean’s ass, then up to his hair. “That was nice.”

Dean smirked. Even with blue balls, he couldn’t deny it wasn’t exciting. “Yeah.”

Castiel sighed, snuggling closer in the bed. “Can we kiss goodnight?”

“Like, pretend kiss, or—?”

“A real pretend kiss,” Castiel said.

“Uh.”

“We kiss for real but it’s... the fictional couple who just had sex.” Castiel stroked Dean’s hair back. “I think they love each other a lot.”

“Yeah,” Dean smiled, feeling weirdly sad. “Yeah, they do.”

Castiel kissed Dean softly. Slowly.

Deeply.

Dean opened his mouth and gave himself to the kiss, letting it comfort him, warm him. He sighed as it ended.

“Was that exciting for you?” Castiel asked, looking carefully at Dean.

Dean nodded.

“I, um,” Castiel glanced around, then grinned, biting his lip. “I actually felt a little aroused. Doing that. It was fun.”

“Ch! Yeah,” Dean grinned, unable to express a complete truth. “Yeah, it was hot.”

“Well... goodnight,” Castiel said. He reached to turn off the lamp on the nightstand, then the fairy lights. Suddenly the room was pitch-black... and it was time for bed.

Dean was still so fucking hard. This wasn’t fair.

What was he gonna do now? Maybe he could sneak to the bathroom and jack off? But no... he listened, and he could hear Charlie in the shower. Fuck.

Perhaps if he lay still, and relaxed, he’d fall asleep. And it wouldn’t matter.

Castiel wriggled closer, wrapping his arms around Dean. “Hm! Much better.”

“Cas, what’re you doing?”

“Couples cuddle in bed.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Do you not want to cuddle?”

“Ummm...” Dean rolled onto his back. “Look... Cas, can I ask you something? Serious question.”

“Anything.”

“So... we bought a bed together. And we’re sharing it. Like, maybe permanently.”

Castiel smiled – Dean heard him smile. “Yeah.”

“Are we gonna kiss and cuddle every night? Or was this just a... a game. For today. To test the bed. Which held up pretty good, by the way. Didn’t even creak.”

Castiel was quiet for a while, humming once as he pondered.

Eventually he answered, “Do you want to kiss and cuddle with me?”

There was no time frame attached to the question. No qualifiers to separate tonight from other nights, or separate their fictional fuck-buddies from themselves.

Dean gulped. “I-I mean...” He shrugged. “Maybe just this once?”

“Okay.” Castiel kissed Dean’s shoulder. “We can cuddle this once. To test the bed.”

Dean smiled. “To test the bed.”

He and Castiel embraced each other, t-shirt to t-shirt, tummy to tummy. Dean kept his hips away, because his erection refused to soften.

He kissed Cas a few times. Just because.

They smiled together, and held hands... just because.

It didn’t count.

But when Dean eventually fell asleep, he was was pretty sure: even once his erection faded, the ache inside him wasn’t going away any time soon.

divider art by almaasi: fairy lights

Castiel didn’t sleep.

Well, that wasn’t strictly true. He slept sometimes.

Occasionally.

Rarely.

There was really no reason for him to buy a real mattress and a frame, now he thought about it. He’d have been content to purchase an air bed, or a pile of pillows. For the amount of time a severe insomniac and too-awkward-to-function person like Castiel would actually spend dreaming or having sex with people, it was laughable to consider devoting a hundred percent of his savings to a new bed where he would do absolutely nothing.

And yet...?

This wasn’t a waste of money. How could it be? Dean was warm and snuggly, and he smelled very nice indeed. And Castiel was allowed to hold him in his arms, and shut his eyes, and pretend Dean was his boyfriend.

Castiel had read once that sharing the bed with a partner promoted ‘pair bonding’, and induced oxytocin, a hormone which aided a better night’s sleep. Maybe this was his answer. Maybe now he had a better bed, and Dean to cuddle, he’d finally be able to rest.

The content smile stayed on Castiel’s face as he nestled into Dean’s warmth. Dean was a teddy bear. A very big, very lovable bear.

Castiel’s eyes fluttered open, feeling Dean’s breath on his lashes. Gentle, almond-scented breath.

Castiel wished he could watch Dean sleep. Alas, it was too dark, as Castiel always made sure no light breached his room to disturb him – not even an alarm clock, or the standby light on his laptop.

So Castiel made do with listening. Holding Dean as close as he could, feeling his breaths draw in... pause... then gush away, sneaking heat under Castiel’s t-shirt collar.

An unknowable amount of time passed. Castiel heard Charlie pack up her projects and get to bed. He heard the bathroom extractor fan turn itself off. He heard the upstairs neighbours finish watching their TV show – N.C.I.S., Castiel recalled from the TV guide – and they soon retired to bed too.

Dean breathed in. And out.

In. And out.

He slept so peacefully. Undisturbed. He sometimes murmured, or squirmed a little, but generally, he remained silent and still.

When Dean twitched and gave a small whimper, Castiel tried stroking his back, hushing, “It’s all right,” assuming Dean would respond like a cat, and a familiar voice would soothe a nightmare.

He was correct: Dean sighed, and hummed a glad note, wriggling himself closer and wrapping his arms around Castiel’s waist.

“Oh,” Castiel breathed. He opened his eyes but saw nothing. “Okay.”

“Hmmh,” Dean complained, nuzzling his forehead against Castiel’s chin.

Smiling, Castiel nuzzled back, softer, applying a kiss to Dean’s cheek.

Dean seemed to lean towards that touch, seeking more. Castiel kissed him again – he was almost required to, as Dean’s cheek was right against his lips. Dean sighed heavily – relief? discontent? – and then frowned, complaining again.

“Dean?” Castiel asked. He couldn’t tell if Dean was awake; he seemed responsive but was not communicating the way Castiel expected.

“Hmm?” Dean rested his crotch against Castiel’s hip.

Castiel drew a deep, shocked breath. Dean had an erection.

Frozen, Castiel blinked, wide eyes staring at nothing.

“Hmm...” Dean gave a small, testing hump against Castiel’s upper thigh. “Mmmm.”

“I— I’m not sure if—?” Castiel said hurriedly, his voice almost silent. “Are you certain you want to? Are we allowed? I’ve never—?”

Dean let out a small, soft whimper – pushed his hips forward – then groaned, clearly pleased.

Castiel shook his head. “Dean—”

“Cas,” Dean whispered back, smiling, kissing Castiel’s neck. “Mmhh. HhCasshhhh...”

Castiel couldn’t help melting inside. “All right,” he smiled. “Okay... you can have sex with me. I’m ready.”

He adjusted himself in the bed so Dean could easily push against him, Castiel’s legs open around Dean’s hips. Dean felt the change, and he seemed strengthened – he groaned under his breath, starting to move his hips softly, slowly, rolling himself into Castiel’s slowly-swelling personal space.

Castiel’s heart felt like it was stuttering, his skin buzzing. His breath wouldn’t come out evenly, and his eyes closed tight, tight enough that he saw fireworks in the absolute darkness. He relaxed, and let out a tender cry of unexpected pleasure, brow wrinkled in his shock.

Dean kissed his chin, and his nose – incredibly sloppily, but with clear intent – and moaned, and held Castiel with both hands, rocking, pushing, humping in urgent, hungered movements. “Yeah. Yeah.” He shivered. “Cas.”

“Deeean,” Castiel whimpered, sliding his arms all the way around Dean’s waist.

Now Dean rolled fully atop Castiel, laying his head on Castiel’s chest, humming, hand scrunched lazily into Castiel’s shirt. “Hmm,” he murmured, still pushing his cock onto Castiel. His rhythm was so erratic, and his pressure was weak... He’d pause for entire seconds, then inhale, and sigh, and hump again.

Castiel wanted to be pleasured more, so asked, “Can you push harder?”

But Dean swallowed, and nuzzled Castiel’s chest. “Hmh,” he said.

“Please, Dean?”

Dean snuffled.

Then he snored, just a tiny bit.

Castiel froze again. “Wait—” He took Dean’s shoulder and shook him. “Dean. Dean. Are you awake? Dean!”

Dean grunted, squirming in their warm embrace, wrapping his arms under Castiel’s. “Hey,” he uttered, pushing into Castiel again. “Mm. God you’re hard, Cas.”

Castiel sighed in relief. Dean was awake again.

They resumed their frotting, Dean’s dampened boxers pushing directly against Castiel’s bare skin. Somehow in all of their wrestling, Castiel had pulled his own pants down, or Dean had. He didn’t know who. But he moaned, raising his hips a little to make Dean rut alongside his erection.

“Ohh... this is so exciting,” Castiel whispered, grinning into the darkness. “Hmm... Dean.”

Dean kissed him, missing his lips twice, but finding the mark, and deeping their kiss. They moaned together, pressing – rolling over, Castiel gasping, Dean chuckling. Dean stroked Castiel’s back, and let Cas hump him a few times, making Dean cry out— “Ah— Auh— Auhhmmm, Cas— Cas... Yeah.”

Castiel nodded, kissing Dean, holding his cheeks in both hands, pushing into him, over and over.

“Cas...” Dean bent his head up, forehead against Castiel’s clavicle. He grunted, then tensed, then sighed and relaxed back to the bed, still letting go of a huge, slow breath.

· · · ★ · · ·

Dean rolled them over, one hand slipping into Castiel’s to hold it. They both purred, Dean applying a deep, slow kiss to Castiel’s lips, then lowering his attention to Cas’ neck.

God, this was the best dream ever, hands down. The experience was dark and blurry and clumsy, but it was realistic as hell. No way Dean wanted to wake up from this one. Even after he’d come, he was allowed to keep kissing Cas – and that was always the best part of his wet dreams: making Cas feel good.

Castiel scrunched his hand in Dean’s hair, taking kisses, giving them. They nosed and nuzzled, Dean smiled – then felt the thump on his stomach as Castiel’s cock pulsed hard. “AAhhh—!” Castiel curled his hands, clutching Dean close as he climaxed. “Mmhh—?”

He accepted Dean’s kisses, so Dean lavished him with extra care, smooching him, still rocking against him. Dean thought Cas was perfect to push against. Push, push, push, just to get those last few pumps out of their systems.

Castiel sighed in relief, head falling back to the pillow. “That felt good.”

Dean nodded. “Uh-huh. Real good.”

“I, um.” Castiel smiled as he admitted, “I worried for a bit. I thought you were asleep.”

Dean chuckled. “Heh.” He glanced to the side, smile vanishing. Darkness. He looked back at Cas. Darkness. But he could see him still; his brain knew what to expect and shaped out Castiel’s smile in bright lines, flashing shadows: Dean saw his tilted head, the flutter of his lashes as his hand caressed Dean’s hair. A moment ago the experience had seemed transformative, trippy – dreamlike.

This... wasn’t a dream any more.

This wasn’t a dream any more.

Dean lurched across the bed, across Castiel’s body, turning on the lamp. He was blinded by the yellow burst, and had to look away, eyes watering, forced shut. He swallowed, trying to calm himself. This wasn’t a dream, but it wasn’t the end of the world, either. They’d just humped a bit, right? Dean could explain it was a wet dream and Cas would get it. It didn’t count.

But Dean peeked under the covers at himself, and saw a wet patch in his boxers. And a little white smear.

Okay, so he’d come. Still totally natural. He could explain.

He looked over at Castiel, seeing how he lay in bed, gazing at Dean with adoration in his eyes, looking ravishing with that sex hair and his plumped-up lips. He stretched into the pillow, smiling.

Dean had to look. He had to. He had to know

He threw back the other side of the covers. Cas’ pyjamas had been pushed down. His erection was half-softened. There was come on his stomach.

This counted. Dean’s dream had come true and he’d missed it.

“Shit.” Dean looked away. He gulped. “Shit.”

“Dean? What—”

Dean got out of bed, running to the door.

“Dean, what’s wrong—?”

Dean thundered across the hallway, clambering over Castiel’s old bed and straight into the bathroom, slamming the door.

Dean!

· · · ★ · · ·

Castiel burst into the bathroom. “Dean, why are you—”

“Cas, go away,” Dean said thickly, hunched over the sink, bare from the waist down. In his hands he held his boxers, soaked with water, trying to wash away semen with a thumb.

Castiel exhaled. “Oh. I’m sorry.”

He was about to leave, but saw Dean swipe at his face. Wiping away tears.

Castiel stepped closer. “Dean...”

“Go away, Cas,” Dean repeated, pain in his voice. “Please.”

Castiel left, though every little part of him wanted to stay, and make Dean okay again. Why was he crying?

He shut the door between them, but he remained outside, staring at the wood.

Charlie shuffled out from her room, messy-haired, tying her Harry Potter bathrobe around herself. “Wha’s going on?” she rasped. “Why’s everyone shouting and banging doors?”

· · · ★ · · ·

Dean went still and silent, hanging on to the edge of the sink. He was shaking a little. His underwear dripped onto his bare foot. He dared not peek at his reflection; he felt vulnerable enough, and he didn’t want to see how he looked with all his walls down.

Outside the door, he heard Castiel and Charlie talking.

“I don’t— He won’t let me see him... Charlie, I don’t know what happened, we were having fun and then—?”

“Having fun doing... what?”

Castiel’s silence and quiet breath said everything Charlie needed to know.

Dean felt his body flaming, in excitement and pleasure and shame and fear, all at once.

“I thought – maybe he was asleep. But then he said my name, and... I said okay. I said I’d like to try being intimate for real.”

“He – said your name? Like, mumbled, or...?”

A pause.

Then Castiel said, quietly, “I think maybe he woke up when we’d already started. But—! But we finished, and I’m certain he was awake for the end. And it was incredible, Charlie, I felt so loved, and he was so gentle, and we kissed, and—” Castiel’s breath caught as the same time as Dean’s did. “He’s upset.” Castiel huffed, annoyed. “If I missed half of the experience I’d be upset too.”

Dean raised his eyebrows, feeling acknowledged. “Huh!” he said to himself, carelessly.

“Maybe he’s upset because he didn’t... fully agree,” Charlie said gently. “If he was asleep.”

Dean bristled, and before he could stop himself, he scoffed aloud, “Oh, come on! Like hell I wouldn’t agree. It’s Cas.”

Charlie and Castiel went deathly silent. They’d heard.

Dean gulped, all his emotions locked in stasis, just waiting for someone to breathe.

Shit. He’d never felt this much like an open book in his life. He trusted Charlie and Cas as much as he trusted his own brother, yet until this moment he hadn’t known what it felt like to be so vulnerable and not feel fear. He waited – not for a reprimand, or a harsh comment, or a joke – but comfort. He knew it was coming eventually, in the form of hot cocoa or a hug. Someone was about to tell him it was okay, and that his overwhelming emotions were all valid, and he wasn’t being judged. It sounded like bullshit in his head at present, but he knew it would be real once Charlie or Cas made it real. Because he trusted them. With every fragile little piece of himself.

He smiled, brushing away the last of his tears. He saw himself in the mirror, and took a strengthening breath. He appeared as vulnerable as he felt – soft-lipped, shiny-eyed, low-shouldered – and it was a good look on him, honestly. Bizarre as it was, he took confidence from that. He no longer minded what his friends saw. He was so bare on the inside that being naked from the waist down made no difference at all. His expression hardened as he became fired up with determination.

Dean slapped his wet boxers to the tiles, wrenched open the door and stormed between Charlie and Cas, head down, crossing the room to his couch. He flopped into the cushions, snatched probably-clean panties from the mounds of clothing, and kicked his legs into the air as he pulled the lacy underwear up his thighs. They always made him feel better and he totally needed that right now.

Still scowling, he yanked his blanket off the floor, tossed it over him, and lay down like he was ready to sleep, glaring at the floorboards. His heart was pounding. He heard Charlie and Cas whispering, urging each other to speak first.

After a moment, Dean saw the long, blurred shadow of careful footsteps approaching, leaving the bathroom behind.

Castiel sighed, now he was close. The couch dented with his weight as he sat in the crook made by Dean’s waist and thighs.

Dean heard Castiel gulp, and his hands rubbing together, and his head turning as he tried to think of words to say. Dean smiled to himself, understanding how useless words were right now. Thankfully, Cas’ presence alone was soothing for him.

Only when Dean angled his head to meet Castiel eyes did Castiel look back. His intense gaze pierced through the gloom. And his voice was low and guttural as he asked, “What were you dreaming about?”

Dean looked away, feeling guilty and thrilled but unsure how to express both emotions at once.

Castiel hung his head. “Did you dream about me? Is that why you said my name?”

Dean poked the tip of his tongue between his lips, wanting to reply but unable to force any noise past his throat.

“Do you intend to sleep here now?” Castiel asked, looking at the couch. He touched it with a hand, touching Dean’s elbow at the same time.

There was no time frame attached to the question. Did he mean the rest of the night, or forever?

“Yeah,” Dean said, without inflection. “Yeah, I’m sleepin’ here.”

Castiel swallowed. “Okay. You need space. I can understand that.”

He didn’t sound pleased, but frankly, he didn’t sound anything. It was a simple acknowledgement.

“Goodnight, then,” Castiel said. He breathed in, then leaned close to Dean. He kissed his cheek.

Dean did not react. His heart leapt in hope and longing but he didn’t move or breathe or speak.

After a few seconds of consideration, Castiel tilted his head and kissed Dean’s lips.

Dean sat up and pushed him away, head down, staring at nothing. “No,” he said firmly. “Cas – we are not doing that on the couch.”

“Why?”

“Because!” Dean looked up at Castiel, anguish stinging inside him like acid. “Because we’re not a real couple! We don’t kiss, or – or-or have sex, or-or-or cuddle, or share a bed— And we’re not dating, and we’re not in love with each other. So just don’t. All right?” He pushed a hand between them, making himself clear. “Because, frankly, Cas? It’s real confusing for me. And it hurts, and it’s—” He swallowed hard, eyes to the ceiling, jaw set firm. He snorted and looked away. “It’s not fair.”

Dean couldn’t look back.

But judging by Castiel’s halting, uncertain breaths, pausing like he was about to speak – yet he continued to say nothing – he wasn’t any less confused.

“But,” Castiel said, bafflement obvious in his tone, “we do kiss. We have kissed. We have... had sex. We cuddled. We’ve shared a bed – we bought a bed to share. We schedule time to spend together, and we care deeply about each other, so isn’t that dating?”

He pondered for a moment more, then nodded, and said clearly: “I love you. And unless I’m very, very mistaken, Dean... I think you love me too.”

Dean felt his heart breaking, despite and because of everything he heard.

Castiel reached to take Dean’s hand, and Dean let him.

“I’m sorry if I confused you, Dean,” Castiel said. “I’m so sorry if I hurt you. I thought I was being very clear when I said I loved you earlier tonight. And I— I thought when you said we were a couple to the mattress seller, you meant it. Then I thought you wanted to pretend to be a couple, because that way it wouldn’t be so difficult to turn your urges into real actions.” Castiel chuckled sadly. “Would you believe, I thought I was the only one who found this see-sawing unfair. I thought you were just... scared. I didn’t—” Castiel set his tongue between his lips, shaking his head as he wet them. “I didn’t realise how difficult you’d find it to believe that someone really loves you.”

Dean bowed his head all the way down, one hand in his hair, the other still holding Castiel’s. He couldn’t think. He could only feel. And he felt too much to know what any feeling meant.

“You say we’re not a couple,” Castiel said. He squeezed Dean’s hand. “And I think you’re wrong.”

He stood up, leaving Dean’s hand empty.

He left, leaving nothing but a shadow.

Then the shadow was gone. Castiel’s bedroom door closed. The living room went silent.

Then Charlie approached in her slippers.

Dean sighed, glancing over as Charlie sat beside him. She patted his back.

“And to think,” Charlie said lightly, “I headed to bed tonight thinking ‘so far so good’. You guys bought a bed together. Half ‘n half. His ‘n his. Everything was going according to plan. I even heard you moaning through the walls and I figured, welp, time for a shower so I don’t gotta listen to this.”

Dean grinned, embarrassed, but amused – in a slightly hysterical sort of way.

“How come you can admit to me that you’re madly in love?” Charlie asked. “But you can’t say a damn thing to him?”

Dean rolled a shoulder. “He’s... Cas.”

“And?”

“And—” Dean rolled his eyes pleadingly to the ceiling. “And until tonight I was desperate not to – I dunno, corrupt him, or some shit. He was such an innocent freakin’ angel, just thinking about actually squeezing his ass or making him moan felt weird. I wasn’t even completely sure if he liked guys.”

“So what happened tonight?”

“He told me to do stuff?” Dean glanced at Charlie. “He got all bossy and started moaning and—” Dean covered his eyes, huffing out a laugh. “I think he’s been holding back.”

Before Charlie could reply, Dean blurted, “And fuck, I was dreaming about him. Good dream. And it was hot. Not ‘ooh, yeah, I could jack to this’ hot – or volcano, lava, exploding-ball-of-fire hot. I mean, like—” Dean exhaled, grinning wildly. “Like I’m blind, I’m deaf, I’m just giving myself over to how he touches me, he wants me, I’m all his – mind, body, and soul – and he can do whatever he fucking wants and I’d let him. I trust him completely. And I trust myself to do him right. That kind of hot.” Dean sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. “And then I woke up, and the same stuff was still happening; he was all over me, kissing me, and I was so into it, you don’t even know. And I didn’t even realise I wasn’t still having history’s most intense wet dream until he talked about it after. I think I snored, maybe.”

Charlie burst out laughing, but covered her mouth and snickered instead.

Dean grinned. “Yeah, okay. Hilarious. I mean, God – I woke up, and I was doing it with Cas. Dream come true, right? Chances of that being reality seemed pretty slim.” He huffed, amused by it now. “Besides... I’ve had lucid dreams before. The line between dream and reality starts to get real hazy. Pretty sure I kept hallucinating visual representations of my feelings once my eyes opened.”

“Yeah?” Charlie looked interested. “You see little lovehearts floating around Cas?”

Though Dean smiled, he appreciated the question. “I felt my hands on him and I felt like I was holding the whole world. My whole world. Like... my future.”

“So you freaked out.”

“I freaked out.” Dean sighed at his thighs. “So goddamn hard.”

After a silent moment, Charlie squeezed the back of Dean’s neck reassuringly. “You wanna go talk to him again?”

Dean nodded. Then shook his head.

“Which?”

“Just— Just gimme a minute.” Dean folded forward, hand over his mouth.

Charlie got up, stroking Dean’s hair as she went past. “I’m making cocoa, you want some?”

Dean shook his head, but smiled because she asked. When Charlie padded away, Dean sat up, looking around. Fishing in the couch, he found what he was looking for: his dirty jeans, and in the pocket – his cellphone.

Before he got a chance to second-guess anything, he dialled, and hit call.

He shut his eyes and pressed the phone to his ear.

Six rings...

Seven...

A crackle. “Khh-h’llo?

“Sammy.” Dean’s heart jumped and he smiled automatically.

Dean? What— Jesus Christ, it’s two-forty, why are you calling me this late? I have hockey tomorrow!

Dean breathed out, misty-eyed, searching the room for a reply. “I don’t know.”

Are you high?

“Pretty much,” Dean laughed. “Naw, I’m not... I’m just...?”

Sam relaxed, grunting as he rolled over in bed. “You just need to talk, huh.

“That okay, little brother?”

What’re you gonna do if I say no? Fly a thousand miles and kick my ass?

Dean laughed, shaking his head. “I wish.” His smile turned quiet, and he collected himself, at ease with his company. “I’m, uh.” He swallowed. “I’m gonna go back to school. Re-join my classes for the second semester. Most of them, anyway.”

What, really? Oh my God, that’s great! Finally! Yes!

“And I’ll declare my major next year,” Dean nodded. “So the classes I’m gonna drop weren’t a complete waste of time. At least I figured out what I’m good at.”

I’m so glad, Dean. Really-really. It’s been hell trying to keep this a secret from Mom. Every day I’ve just had my fingers crossed you’d – you’d choose, you know? Whether you’re going back or dropping out. This is the better option. By far.

Dean beamed, though it was quiet and humble, and he stared at a bruise on his leg from before. He’d bumped himself setting up the bed frame with Cas.

So what swayed you in the end? All my encouraging emails?

A small grin fluttered onto Dean’s face. “Cas.”

Your dorky, blue-eyed, hopefully-gay autistic friend with insomnia who wants to be an Ancient Linguistics professor?

“Yeah. Him.”

What’d he say?

“Same shit you said a hundred times over.”

What? Deeean, what the hell!

“I just needed to hear it from someone else, I dunno,” Dean uttered, pulling at a leg hair on his kneecap. “Someone I’d actually be spending time with. Living with. Just... hearing him say he genuinely wanted me to stick around, that helped.”

Yeah, I’ll bet.

“I, uh, actually have a question,” Dean said, glancing up as Charlie sat beside him, blowing steam off her cocoa. “Kind of an important question.”

Shoot.”

Dean gulped, aiming to keep his voice steady. “Say you had a friend. A roommate. You have a couple classes together. And this friend – a guy, let’s say. They... kind of became one of your best friends, ever. And th—” Dean trembled. “They helped you though... maybe one of the worst times of your life. A five-week long, dark night of the soul.” Glancing at Charlie, Dean smiled. “Him and a few other people.”

Okay?

“And, say you’re living on this guy’s couch. But this guy buys a mattress – with room for two. And this guy basically never sleeps, he just bought it so you’d sleep next to him. And fuck, Sammy, neither of us want to talk about it, but it’s a fact – and it’s so obvious. He bought it for me. He bought me a fucking mattress so I didn’t have to sleep on the couch and so I’d cuddle him, Sammy.”

Overly specific metaphor is not a metaphor, got it,” Sam said, still listening.

“I just—?” Dean screwed a hand into his hair, looking desperately at Charlie. “He’s my best friend. And of all the people in the world who deserve a boyfriend who drops out of school and fails classes and can’t keep his life together, he’s not that guy. Cas doesn’t need my crap.”

“But he wants you,” Charlie said.

He clearly doesn’t want you to leave,” Sam said. “He wants you to be with him. He must like you a lot.

“Yeah,” Dean smiling, biting his lip. “Yeah, he does. It’s real hard to trust people when they say that, but... he’s easy to believe, somehow.”

And... you like him back?

Dean smiled harder. “Yeah. Helluva lot.”

Then let him be the reason you don’t fail, and let him be the reason you get your life together. But— Seriously, for my sake, at least reply to my emails, you jerk. I’m trying really hard to help you, here.

Dean laughed. “‘Kay. I will. Your pep talks help a bunch, Sammy, I promise.”

Yeah, yeah, I believe you,” Sam said kindly.

Drawing a deep, refreshing breath, Dean straightened up. “Thanks, little brother. Good luck with that hockey game, sorry for waking you up. Talk soon.”

Tell Charlie I said hi.

“Yeah.” Dean hung up, still smiling. “Sam says hi.”

“And I say bye.” Charlie sat up, holding her half-empty mug. “I finalised that app and I’m exhausted now. So I’m going back to bed. And if you have any sense in you at all,” she caught Dean’s gaze and winked at him, “you’ll go to bed as well. Those panties of yours are cute but that couch is sick of your lacy butt-print.”

Dean tossed his phone back into the couch cushions, nodding.

He took another deep breath, smiled... then stood up.

This was it. Point of no return.

Slowly, steadily... he made his way towards Castiel’s bedroom.

He smiled, feeling midnight sunshine in his heart as he realised: it was their bedroom now.

divider art by almaasi: panties and boxers

Sometimes failure was acceptable. Welcomed, even. Celebrated.

This morning, Dean had been planning to get up by nine at the latest, so he could email his professors and ask to be caught up on all the lectures he missed as soon as the next semester began. He was meant to book counseling appointments, and ask for his schedule to be shifted so his workload was lighter. And before all of that, he was supposed to have made himself a healthy breakfast with all the ingredients Sam recommended for the most efficient study fuel. Even if that healthy breakfast was a gloopy green smoothie, Dean planned on drinking it.

But failure to wake on time was... fine.

Failure to get out of bed was kind of nice, actually.

Opening his eyes to see Castiel there, in his arms, sleeping—? Staying in bed this late was the best bad thing Dean had ever done.

Apparently Castiel slept pretty soundly when he fell asleep being the big spoon. He’d mumbled something about Dean being his teddy bear, and Dean was well and truly on board with that particular mumble.

Cas looked content. Blissful. Like he was catching up on seventeen years of sleepless nights, all at once.

Maybe all he’d ever needed was a better mattress.

But maybe he’d always needed a Dean.

Oh, boy, this counted. This counted a lot.

Eventually the time would come for Dean to get up, make everyone some breakfast, and kiss Castiel a dozen times while doing it – and he would not be discounting any of those kisses again, never saying it ‘didn’t count’. Nor would he discount any other part of his life experience, good or bad.

Because even the failures were blessings, sometimes. Dean had to come apart at the seams before he got to Charlie and Cas’ couch. He had to lose his girlfriend in order to become closer to an already-close friend, who became a best friend, who became a boyfriend. And he had to fall behind in his studies, his life, and lose every speck of faith in his own ability before he could ache to try again.

Deep in the pits of darkness, the only place for light to go was up, or out. And Dean wasn’t going out.

From now on, maybe failure wouldn’t be the end of the world. Maybe it could be the catalyst for something better.

Dean shut his eyes, snuggled closer to Castiel, and together, they slept on.

{ the end }