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“One single word – like emergency, or love – can revise a whole night. A whole life.”     

-Alena Graedon

 

Dean drops his overnight duffle to the ground and runs his finger down the duty schedule looking for his name and today’s date while silently praying for a good partner. Not that there are lots of people at his job that he can’t stand, but undoubtedly some of them are more fun than others. He’d take twenty-four hours with Benny over four with Garth any day. Not that Garth isn’t a nice guy, Dean reasons to himself, but man, the dude never stops talking, and he always wants Dean to share his feelings after tough calls. That’s just not Dean’s style. Benny, on the other hand, is good at sensing Dean’s moods and leaves him alone more often than not. And he never shirks his chores or complains about Dean dragging him and the rig out to get burgers for dinner. So sue Dean, he has a type. Which is why he can’t help but let out a cheer and throw up a reflexive fist pump when he sees his crew for the day.

 

Monday September 24:

24-hour MICU:

Medic: Capt. Dean Winchester

EMT: Charlie Bradbury

 

2nd Truck: MICU 06-1800

Medic: Lt. Castiel Novak

EMT: Benny Lafitte

BLS 18-2200

EMT: Jo Harvelle

 

On-Duty Supervisor: Chief Singer

 

Some people you just click with and Dean clicks well with everyone on that list, which makes working together under pressure and in tight quarters that much easier. It’s going to be a good day, he thinks, as he grabs his bag and heads through the heavy metal door separating the outer hallway from the ambulance bay. The bay is big enough for two MICUs, though only one is here at the moment. The other is out on a nursing home run for a “98 yof, no pulse, cold, possible signs of rigor, just seen taking her medications 15 minutes ago,” if the dispatch text is to be believed. Dean had rolled his eyes pretty hard at that message- this particular nursing home has a reputation for not providing the best care, and Dean feels bad for the old folks who are stuck there.   

The back doors to the other truck are flung open, and Charlie is inside running through the familiar motions of her daily truck check. She looks up when he comes through the door and flashes him a big smile, saluting lazily and greeting him, “Oh Captain, my Captain!” Dean salutes back, drops his bag, stretches his hands up as far as they’ll go and yawns loudly. 

Castiel is seated on the bumper tying his boot laces and he meets Dean’s eyes, smiling and flushing a little when they drop to the exposed skin of Dean’s stomach where his t-shirt rode up during his stretch. Dean winks at him and makes his way to the front of the truck, sliding into the driver’s seat. He calls back through the opening to the box, “Ready, Charlie?”

“Yes indeedy, shoot,” she replies, grabbing her clipboard and readying her pen.

“43655 for mileage, three-quarters tank of fuel, and the oil is fine - I checked it yesterday. Did you get the onboard oxygen?”

“Not yet, I’m dragging ass this morning. There was an actual line at Dunkin’, can you believe that? At 530 AM. I had to bail out. Who is even up at this hellish hour besides us?”

“I’ll get it,” Dean replies, sliding back out of the truck and opening the tall side compartment directly behind the driver’s seat. He checks the gauge on the large oxygen tank, and quickly thumbs through the equipment, checking that the required amounts are actually there. Satisfied, he closes the compartment and makes his way back around, entering the box of the ambulance from the side door. “400,” he says, reporting the oxygen PSI as he climbs the steps, “We can push that another call or two.” He pecks Charlie on the cheek and collapses onto the bench seat next to the stretcher. “Write down my tags and I’ll take you to the Dunkin’ down the street when we’re done,” he bribes, flashing her a big grin.

Down on the step, Castiel snorts. “Don’t be lazy, Dean,” he says, “Change your onboard before you end up like Rufus.” Rufus is an older paramedic who’s completely burned out and should have retired ages ago. Unfortunately, nobody gets into EMS for the money, and Rufus had never been able to save up enough to support retirement. Last week, Rufus was taking in a woman having trouble breathing, and his onboard ran dry halfway to the hospital. Rufus being Rufus, he didn’t even notice the oxygen mask wasn’t flowing for several minutes, leaving the poor woman in a much-worsened state than when he picked her up. Rufus is out on administrative leave now, and Dean gets why - the guy fucked up. But decades of 24-hour shifts, low pay, and an unrelenting physically demanding job take their toll on everyone. It’s not like Rufus isn’t a victim in a way, too.

 Dean shoots Castiel a glare, which quickly melts into his usual flirtatious smile. “Worried about me, Cas?” He stretches out a little more, propping his feet on the litter and crossing them, spreading his arms wide across the cushioning on the ambulance wall. “You could always change it for me. C’mon, what do I have to give you? There’s gotta be something you want.” Dean lets his left hand fall to his abdomen, tucking his fingers just slightly under the band of his navy BDU pants. He bites his lip when Castiel turns to give him attention.

Castiel shifts so that he’s sitting on the edge of the box, instead of the bumper and leans back against the hinge of the door. “Fuck you,” he says to Dean, with a little grin of his own that makes his eyes crinkle.  

Charlie picks up a jump bag and chucks it at Dean, hitting him in the stomach and making him double forward and go, “Oof,” which of course makes Castiel cackle.

“I’m sure there are tons of girls out there who would appreciate two hot men in uniform flirting mercilessly, but alas, it’s wasted on me, so you might as well knock it off and pull your own weight, Cap,” Charlie quips as she tosses Dean the clipboard and pen as well. “Anyway, how’s Lisa?” She puts emphasis on the last bit, and Dean looks up at her a little guiltily. He doesn’t miss the way Castiel’s head tucks down, and his eyes find an elsewhere to focus on.

Dean shrugs. “Fine. Same,” he replies, coughing and busying himself with checking medications for stock, expiration date, and that they’re accessible in the bag the way he likes them. He checks his intubation kit perfunctorily and then goes to count his narcotics. He pulls the lockbox from it’s home in the cabinet and keys in the code to the micro-fridge, removing the little tackle box and bringing both items to the stretcher. “Count with me, Cas?” The request is a formality, it’s not like Castiel has a choice; narc counts require a witness.  

Castiel nods and takes a seat next to Dean, their thighs brushing. “Two... four… three… one… and two Ativan in the fridge…” He counts off each group of controlled medications, marking the numbers on the count sheet and ensuring everything matches. It does, and Dean breathes a little sigh of relief as they sign the paper. Not that he expected anything to be missing, but you never know, and that is not drama he needs at six AM.

He realizes then that they’re missing someone. “Hey, where’s Benny at?”

Castiel makes a face. “He’s passed out on the sofa upstairs. He sent me a text last night around 2 AM. He had some kind of argument with Andrea, got drunk and came here to sleep it off. I checked on him, but I didn’t see the point in waking him up before the other crew gets back. It’s not like we can do much.”

Dean nods, understandingly. “Story of my life,” he mutters, and then clears his throat as he gets up to lock the narcotics away again. “They should be back any minute, anyway.” He stacks the jump bags on the stretcher and hands Charlie the truck check clipboard, which she stores in the front middle console. Dean hops out of the truck and walks around the front to the wall, finding the controls for the giant bay door and hitting the button for “up”. He drags a rolling chair from the back of the bay out and parks it in front of the ambulance, flopping into it and lacing his hands behind his head. It’s about sixty-five degrees and there’s a soft breeze. Despite being at work, Dean feels very relaxed and at peace.

“Hey, what about my coffee?” Charlie asks, and Dean doesn’t even open his eyes.

“After the other crew gets back, we’ll go,” he promises.

“Fine,” Charlie sighs, “I’m gonna go bang out the BLS QA and since I’m doing it on no caffeine, nobody better complain about my illegible handwriting.”

“Save some for Benny,” Dean hollers after her, as she disappears through the heavy door that Dean came in through. He can hear her duty boots clunking up the stairs to the second floor where the charting room, crew room, and bunkrooms are.

It’s quiet for a moment, and then Dean hears a scraping sound that comes to rest beside him. He cracks an eye and sees that Castiel has pulled up a folding chair. He’s digging his cigarettes out of his pocket and is lighting one up. He sees Dean looking at him, smiles softly and offers the pack. “Want one?”

“You’re a terrible influence on me Cas, you know that?” Dean asks, but he’s smiling as he takes a cigarette. “I quit weeks ago.” Castiel looks at him quizzically, with his head tilted, and Dean swallows against his will.

“I saw you smoking outside of the hospital two days ago,” he says, clearly confused.

“Not me,” Dean replies confidently, his smile never faltering, and he twists his chair so he can kick Castiel’s leg. Castiel rolls his eyes. “Don’t tell Sammy, OK Cas?” Sam Winchester is Dean’s brother, but he is also a well-respected trauma surgeon at Lawrence Memorial, the most prominent hospital in the area. Dean is endlessly proud of Sam, considering he pretty much raised the kid, but he’s also perpetually worried he’ll disappoint or embarrass his little brother. Sam deserves better than that.

“Your secret’s safe with me, Dean,” Castiel assures him, his puzzled expression giving way to a small upturn on one side of his lips, a private smile that Dean wishes were only for him.

They sit and shoot the shit for the next fifteen minutes or so until the drag of on-spot chains clanking and the revving of a diesel engine can be heard coming down the main drag just out of view. When the ambulance turns the corner and swings around in preparation for backing into the building, Castiel stands and takes his place at the back of the bay, so he can spot whoever is driving as they do so.  The backup alarm sounds and Castiel waves his arms to indicate ‘keep coming,’ then holding one palm up and out firmly to signal for ‘stop.’ Dean definitely does not swivel in his chair far enough to take notice of the man’s well-toned biceps flexing as he moves.

Castiel sees him looking and catches his eye, which makes Dean blush and turn away. He curses himself, for what is probably the thousandth time, for being so flirty. There’s just something about Castiel that makes him drop his usual posturing like a hot potato, though never for long, and definitely not in front of anyone besides Charlie. And maybe Benny. Looking at him now, Dean regrets being the kind of man who could never get up the guts to ask Castiel out when they were both single and in paramedic school together. At the time, he told himself that he didn’t want to risk their friendship, that he wasn’t sure if Castiel was into him that way, that he didn’t want to date inside the incestuous EMS pool, literally any excuse that didn’t revolve around his own fear of coming out of the closet. Not that he wasn’t tempted. Castiel was like no one he’d ever known, and they’d had an instant connection from the first day they met. Without any history or even knowing each other that well, they worked seamlessly as a team and were able to anticipate each other’s needs and thought processes when they worked training scenarios. Each of them just somehow seemed to always know what the other would do next.

 It even became a game of sorts for their classmates to try and think of ways to trip them up. They would weave complex scenes with hard-to-diagnose and even harder to treat conditions, but working as one, Dean and Castiel never faltered. Because of that, Dean was always glad to have Castiel on the second truck at work with him now. Knowing that there was essentially no emergency scenario they hadn’t already practiced and nailed together was reassuring and exciting at the same time. He wished that they could work together directly more, but their company didn’t regularly staff two-paramedic trucks, so having each other’s backs as secondary support would have to suffice.

Regardless, paramedic school had wound down, he and Castiel had stopped being forced together day after day, and their window of opportunity closed. Dean had rekindled a relationship with his ex-girlfriend Lisa, and Castiel had started dating some douchebag lawyer named Bartholomew. The man set Dean’s teeth on edge, and he swore that it wasn’t simply because of jealousy. Bart was condescending, always talking down to Castiel and Dean knew Cas deserved better, knew he could give him so much more. But at the end of the day, fear won out time after time. Dean repeatedly chose the familiarity and safety that Lisa provided, even if it lacked the passion and spark he secretly longed for.

Reflecting on all of this, Dean spins in his seat and chances a glance up again to find Castiel’s eyes still on him. He starts towards Dean, looking like he’s going to actually say something this time, but is cut off by the returning ambulance’s driver side door swinging open in his face, and their Chief sliding out.

“Boy, am I paying you to sit on your ass all day?” Bobby glares at Dean and slams his door. “Isn’t there a truck that needs washing, or inventory that needs taking?”

“Morning to you too, Bobby,” Dean says with a grin. Bobby’s like an uncle to Dean, took care of him and Sam plenty of times growing up when John Winchester was too drunk or too busy chasing ghosts to hold down a job, and he’s the reason Dean has the productive and fulfilling career that he has today. He shows his love through insults, but Dean knows there’s no one in his life prouder of his accomplishments. While Dean pissed and moaned about not being smart enough for paramedic school, Bobby had filled out the application and paid his fees, only telling Dean after he was accepted by shoving the letter at him with the stern demand that Dean had “better not waste my money.”

Jo staggers out from the other side of the ambulance, stomping through the bay and looking dead on her feet. “See you suckers at 1800,” she yawns, throwing up a peace sign. “I’m going home to pass the hell out. Three calls since three AM.”

“Yea, and all you had to do was drive,” Bobby retorts, waving his paperwork. “Dean, hold off on sending the billing ‘til I can get back and finish these. I’m gonna grab a couple hours and then I have a meeting with the commissioners, so don’t call me unless you idjits manage to burn down the station, got it?”

Dean nods and waves Bobby off as he and Jo disappear through the hallway door, leaving him and Castiel alone again. Dean swivels his chair so that he’s facing out towards the street again. He knows he should bang out his chores before they get busy, but it’s a nice day, and he’s in good company. Platonic, just-friends company, he reminds himself, as Castiel slides back into the chair next to him. He can’t help but notice that said platonic company looks unfairly good in his tight, navy blue duty t-shirt, though. Dean crosses his legs and gives thanks that the tactical fabric his pants are made of is thick and forgiving. He really needs to get laid. He grimaces when he thinks of trying to seduce Lisa into bed, but such is the reality of his situation. It’s not so bad. He can close his eyes and it’s all the same in the dark, right? Yea. Thrills. Dean sighs and accepts another cigarette from Castiel. They smoke together in silence until the house alarm goes off.

Dean’s phone flashes with the 911 alert text, and he swipes it open.

LAWRENCE COUNTY

465 SUNCREST TERRACE

ALS MEDICAL

REQ: MEDIC 918-A

ADDITIONAL INFO: 64 YOF, ALTERED, POSS HYPOGLYCEMIC EPISODE, HX DIABETES, IS ON INSULIN

 

Dean sighs. “Fucking Rhonda,” he says and Castiel groans. Rhonda is a frequent flyer for them, an older woman who lives alone and has zero interest in managing her diabetes effectively, despite having had it for half of a century. Her family and neighbors frequently find her passed out or half-conscious both inside and outside her home, often in various states of undress, having taken her insulin and not eaten properly, causing her blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels. A little IV dextrose and she’ll be good as new in minutes, and Dean will be back in his chair of relaxation and the company of his best friend. You know, unless Rhonda’s managed to lose consciousness somewhere unfortunate, like the time she was cutting the grass on a riding mower and ended up in a tree. Rhonda is a nice lady, but she’s a pain in Dean’s ass.

Charlie comes barreling through the door and jumps into the driver’s seat looking way too excited. She’s obviously managed to locate some caffeine without Dean’s assistance, and he glares at her through the truck window as he moves his chair to the back of the bay. “Later, Cas,” he grumbles, and Castiel nods as Dean gets in and shuts the passenger side door. He watches Castiel get smaller in the mirror as they pull away before the ambulance rounds the corner and he disappears from sight. 

***

Rhonda is as Dean expects to find her, face down on her kitchen floor. She can be seen through the glass of the side door, the lock of which Rhonda’s neighbor is anxiously trying to pick with a hairpin (unsuccessfully) as the ambulance pulls up. Dean doesn’t even pause as he strides confidently up to the door, jump bag over his shoulder, and reaches up to find a little packet velcroed to the molding. Inside is a key. The neighbor looks embarrassed but Dean just shrugs and tells her that this isn’t his first rodeo. He opens the door and goes to kneel at Rhonda’s side. With practiced ease, he pulls the IV kit from the jump bag and starts a line while Charlie grabs a set of vital signs. Rhonda doesn’t even budge.

Dean checks her blood sugar with a blood drop hanging off of the retracted IV catheter; it’s 42. “Hmm,” he says, turning the little monitor so that Charlie can see. “Would have lost that bet. Seems lower.” Charlie hands him the small bag of normal saline she’s spiked because she knows Dean and his habits that well, and he connects and runs it wide open. Pinching it off, he gives the dextrose slowly. This is not his favorite drug to give, Dextrose is hard on veins. It’s also thick as hell, making it hard to push through smaller vessels and increasing the likelihood it’ll blow them and infiltrate the tissues. Sugar injected directly into tissues causes major irritation, and can leave lasting damage, so Dean is careful to give the med slowly and flow plenty of saline in between pushes. Most paramedics wouldn’t bother, but Dean takes pride in caring for people. He’s vowed that if he ever becomes the kind of paramedic who does the job just to collect a check, he’ll hang up his BDUs and hope he’s taught his successors to be the kind of caregiver he used to be. But in the meantime, this is how he does the job.

Rhonda wakes up pretty quickly after that and sets to eating the peanut butter sandwich Charlie’s made for her. They get her up and into a kitchen chair, re-check her blood sugar (124), take another set of vital signs, review her meds and ask her if she wants to go to the hospital. She grins a gigantic smile, peanut butter all over her teeth, and sprays Dean with bits of the sandwich as she replies with an emphatic, “HELL no, baby.” Dean shakes his head and reminds her to eat after taking her insulin later tonight. He makes a quick call to Medical Command at Lawrence Memorial and gets the OK to sign her off. As Rhonda’s signing the refusal paperwork, the company’s dispatch tones drop over the pagers on their belts.

 

“Company 918 second truck, Company 840, Company 24, and Company 12; respond to Main Street and Miller Avenue for an Accident with Entrapment and Ejection.”

 

The dispatch message repeats, and then Dean hears Castiel’s gravelly voice come over the now-open channel. Charlie and Dean scramble to pack their gear up quickly and tell Rhonda to call back if she needs anything. She waves them off with another mouthful of sandwich, a swift slap to Dean’s rear and a garbled, “Good luck, kiddos.”

“Radio, Medic 918-B responding Main and Miller,” Castiel says.

“Copy you’re responding 918-B, PD is on location reporting a witnessed two vehicle MVA, at least one vehicle is on fire, multiple patients, one still entrapped, per PD the driver of one of the vehicles was ejected and is unresponsive.”

“Received,” Castiel’s voice replies calmly. As Dean and Charlie settle into their seats, they hear the fire companies and the other ambulance company go en route to the scene as well.

As soon as Castiel is done acknowledging their additional information, Dean keys up. “Radio, Medic 918-A is available from Suncrest and responding to assist with Main and Miller.”

The response comes swiftly, “Copy Medic 918-A, you’re available and responding to assist your other truck. Would you like us to recall Medic 840-A?”

“No, keep them coming until we know the scope,” Dean answers, and Charlie nods her agreement. Better to have too much help than not enough. With lights and sirens, Charlie makes the fifteen-minute haul across town in under ten. When they pull up, the other trucks are already there. The two cars are severely damaged, smashed and smoking, but there’s no active fire, probably thanks to 24’s deputy fire chief, Gordon Walker, who is walking around holding a hand extinguisher. Dean’s eyes scan the scene, taking it in. Medic 840’s crew is working on extricating the driver of one of the vehicles with the help of 24’s rescue crew. There’s an EMT inside the damaged car applying a collar and holding the patient’s neck still, and Fire is about to pop the door. There are enough people surrounding them that Dean knows he’d probably be in the way if he tries to help.

From there he sees Benny and Castiel kneeling on the ground next to a motionless body. He tells Charlie to grab a backboard and the other truck’s stretcher and goes to Castiel’s side. He crouches and places his hand on Castiel’s shoulder, who looks up and gives him a little smile. Calm, cool, and collected, as usual, it never fails to impress Dean (and maybe push his buttons in that way, just a little, not that he’d admit it) that no matter how crazy a scene gets, Castiel is forever unflappable. “Hello Dean,” he says.

“Cas,” Dean replies. “You good? Are there any other victims that need evals? You need a hand?”

“Yes, no, and if you’d be so inclined,” Castiel says smoothly, activating the portable suction next to him, and clearing the victim on the ground’s mouth of blood as Benny places a c-collar on his neck. “This man is going to need an airway, and I suspect he may have a collapsed lung that’s on its way to becoming a problem.”

Dean nods and gives an update over his portable radio to the dispatch center. By the time he’s done, Charlie has arrived and is pulling a backboard off of the stretcher and placing it next to the patient, at the ready. The four of them have worked together so many times that they hardly need to speak. The patient is rolled, secured to the board, transferred to the stretcher and being rolled to the ambulance with only a couple of nods and two “1, 2, 3”s from Castiel at the head.

Inside the ambulance, Benny and Charlie work quickly to set up the cardiac monitor, oxygen and ALS gear within easy reach of Castiel and Dean. Charlie hops out the back to follow them in the other truck and Benny nudges Dean. “You good, brother? You want me to get a firefighter to drive so I can help y’all out back here?”

“Nah,” Dean replies, as his hands continue to work at starting an IV and hanging a bag of fluid. “Cas and I got it, right Cas?” Castiel nods, even with a stethoscope in his ears. His head is cocked a little to the left and his brow is furrowed as he listens to air move in and out of the patient’s lungs, and Dean definitely does not find that adorable. ‘So inappropriate’, he chastises himself and refocuses on doing a thorough trauma assessment. Honestly, it would probably be easier to make a list of where this dude isn’t injured… from where Dean’s sitting, he looks broken from head to toe. 

Benny jumps out and closes the doors as Castiel pulls the scope off and declares, “He’s really diminished on the left and his sat on oxygen is down to 90%, I’m gonna pop his chest.” Castiel cycles the automatic blood pressure, just to have another piece of information to support his decision, but Dean knows he doesn’t need it. Castiel is careful. Methodical. Decompressing someone’s chest is a big deal - it’s dangerous, and not the easiest procedure, and Castiel would never take it upon himself to perform it if he wasn’t sure it was necessary. Dean hands him a 14 gauge needle, and Castiel uncaps and positions it a couple of finger widths under the patient’s left clavicle. When he pushes down, there’s no blood and the faint hiss of air expelling can be heard; perfection. Dean has to shake himself a bit and refocus away from Castiel’s dexterous fingers and onto securing the catheter so that it won’t get accidentally dislodged. Christ, his priorities are fucked up sometimes. He has definitely got to get laid tonight. 

The ambulance rocks a little as they take off for the hospital, lights on and sirens blaring. Castiel smiles when he sees the patient’s numbers stabilize on the monitor, and he can’t seem to help to look a little pleased when he listens with his stethoscope again and proclaims the problem “temporarily solved.” Dean is suctioning the man’s airway and nods towards the intubation kit.

“Come on, Cas, let me tube him,” he begs, batting his eyelashes sweetly.

Castiel raises his eyebrows and looks at Dean disapprovingly. “Is that… a flirtation? Right now?”

Dean flushes a little and ignores the question. “Please, Cas. I haven’t tubed anyone in months. You just got one last week.”

Castiel pays no mind to Dean’s pleading and instead grabs for his preferred equipment, an appropriately sized tube, and blade, and slides off the Captain’s chair to crouch at the patient’s head. “This is my patient. Get your own,” he deadpans, but the corner of his mouth twitches.

Dean glares. “Greedy,” he grumbles, but he’s careful to direct and maintain the suction so that Castiel has a clear view.

“Hmm,” Castiel murmurs, after a minute of shifting the patient’s jaw around and obviously not having any luck visualizing the vocal cords. “Need a favor.”

“Or you could just let me do it,” Dean grins, and it’s Castiel’s turn to glare.

“Dean. Be useful or switch with Benny,” he demands, pinning Dean with his gaze, and Dean absolutely does not get a little hot under his collar, or fight the urge to say ‘Yes, sir.’ He licks his lips involuntarily and nods.

“Icepick?” He asks, and Castiel nods. Dean straddles the patient’s lower chest, careful not to displace any of the wires and tubes. “Benny, keep it smooth,” he yells up to through the opening, and Benny gives him a thumbs up in return. They’re going about 70 mph down the highway, this would not be an opportune time for Benny to slam on the breaks. Dean refocuses on Castiel, wrapping both of his hands around Cas’ one on the handle of the blade, and providing leverage.

“Slowly, gently,” Castiel murmurs, and together they lift up on the blade, their combined strength enough to open the man’s jaw and reveal the cords. Castiel uses his free hand to swiftly slide the endotracheal tube through them, and inflate the balloon to prevent dislodgement. He attaches a BVM and ventilates a few times, causing an obvious chest rise. He looks up and grins at Dean, and Dean is suddenly very aware that their faces are only inches apart, so close they’re almost sharing breath. Their eyes meet, and Dean almost forgets where they are. He pulls back and clears his throat, swinging his leg back over the patient and sitting back down on the bench seat. He nabs Castiel’s scope to check for lung sounds and tube placement.

“Perfect as usual,” Dean says, and Castiel looks smug. “Whatever. You gonna call this in before we’re in the hospital driveway or do you actually like getting yelled at?” Castiel rolls his eyes but gets the ER on the radio and gives his patient report. They’re directed to proceed to the trauma bay, of course, and Castiel signs off with an ETA of 5 minutes.

“5 minutes,” Dean scoffs. “Everyone says 5 minutes, whether they’re 30 seconds or 20 minutes out.” 

“We’re actually 5 minutes out,” Castiel replies, unphased. “Would you splint his leg, please? We’re not barbarians.”

Anyone else and Dean would resent being treated like this, but with Castiel, he can’t help but flash a silly little smile and comply. Their handoff to the trauma team at the hospital goes smoothly, and they’re cleaning and restocking the rig in no time. 

“That was kinda fun,” Dean offers as he cleans the monitor cords and stores them again. Castiel nods and gives him a smile back. Benny and Charlie come through the ambulance bay doors with replacement supplies and they graciously offer to finish the clean-up so the medics can have a break. Dean and Castiel thank them and pop off to the side of the hospital where the security cameras can’t catch them sharing a smoke. They’re quiet, but Castiel’s fingers linger just a bit too long when he takes the cigarette from Dean, his eyes never leaving Dean’s face. It feels like they might be on the brink of something here, or close to it anyway, but the spell is abruptly broken when Sam Winchester rounds the corner and finds them standing there, his happy expression melting into Bitchface #23 when he sees Dean with a cigarette in hand. Dean quickly drops it and toes it out, feeling like a teenager whose parents came home unexpectedly.

“Gross, Dean,” Sam starts, looking for all the world like he’s about to launch into a lecture, but something about Dean’s guilty face must put him off. He sighs and starts over. “I just came out to say great work on that guy, Cas,” he says, clapping Castiel on the shoulder.

“Cas?!” Dean says petulantly, “What the hell, Sammy? It takes two to… intubate… or something.”

Sam looks at him sideways. “It really doesn’t,” he replies.

“Whatever, you both suck,” Dean complains, and digs his boot into the dirt. Castiel takes pity on him and links their arms.

“Dean and I did an icepick maneuver,” he says proudly, and Sam raises his eyebrows.

“Yea? Wow. I was wondering about that. Big dude. Thanks for telling me though, I’ll make sure his jaw came out of that okay, later.” He thinks for a moment and then reconsiders. “Might be broken anyway,” he shrugs. “Anyway, Dean, Jess has been begging me to let her throw a housewarming party, are you free any weekend in the next month?”

Dean swipes through his phone quickly and sends Sam his schedule, and Sam turns to Castiel. “You’re invited too, Cas,” he says, and Dean rolls his eyes.

“I’m sure Cas has better things to do than hang out with us on his day off,” he says, but he looks over at Castiel hopefully, who smiles at him and promises to check his schedule once Sam and Jess settle on a date. 

Dean’s about to lay down some killer jokes about Sam’s floppy hair being unhygienic in the OR, but he’s interrupted by their dispatch tones dropping over their pagers again. “No rest for the totally awesome,” he says, clapping Sam on the shoulder as he strides back to his truck, which is now clean and put back together. Benny is already putting Castiel’s truck responding and Dean waves them off. “Catch you on the flipside, Cas,” he calls, and waves as their truck pulls away.

Charlie raises her eyebrows as Dean slides in next to her, but Dean just shakes his head. “Please, Charles,” he says. “Not now, ok?” Charlie just sighs and throws their truck into gear.

“Men,” she says, as she pulls away from the hospital. “Emotionally constipated men. Can’t live with them… end of sentence.”

Against his better judgment, Dean laughs, but as Castiel’s ambulance disappears from sight, he can’t help but acknowledge to himself that she’s not wrong.

***

The rest of the day goes by like that, the trucks alternating calls but nothing serious enough to require both of them at the same time, and while Dean is grateful for having enough downtime to get back to the station and complete his charting, it’s not as fun as working side-by-side with Castiel. Or smoking with Castiel. Or sitting and doing nothing with Castiel. Dean checks his train of thought and immediately stops what he’s doing (checking inventory in the supply closet, boring) to groan and wipe at his face. He sits down on a stack of extra jump bags, leans against the wall, and checks his watch. Five-thirty PM. Castiel should be back from his last call, but by the time he finishes charting, his shift will be over and he’ll be off to the home he shares with Bartholomew , leaving exactly zero opportunity for sitting and relaxing with Dean. Dean knows that he’s being ridiculous and unfair, but no one can see him pout in the supply closet, so what does it matter?

So, of course, it’s right now that the door to the supply closet cracks open, and Dean jumps to his feet, turning away from the door to hide his face and to try and look busy. He’s not exactly expecting the low voice behind him, and while it’s far from unwelcome, with all the unwanted feelings refusing to stop swirling around in his head, he’d really just rather not.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel says softly, stepping in and letting the door fall shut again. The room is dim, lit only by a bare low-watt bulb that casts deep shadows everywhere.

“Heya, Cas,” Dean replies without turning around, swallowing hard and trying to keep his voice light and friendly. “What’s up?”

Cas comes up close behind him and without hesitation, a line from Cas’ inner shoulder all the way down to his outer thigh is pressed up against the edge of Dean’s torso and down the outside of his leg. Cas’ left hand brushes Dean’s lower back and that is all Dean can take.

“Whoa, whoa there, buddy!” Dean whirls around and finds himself just off-center of face-to-face with Castiel, who has his hand in the air and is looking completely confused because he is very clearly just reaching for something that was on a shelf behind Dean’s head, and Dean feels like an absolute idiot. “I’m sorry,” he says, leaning back against the supply rack, shaking his head and looking towards the ceiling, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately.” They’re still really close, and Dean chances to lower his eyes to meet Castiel’s again. He’s honestly afraid of what he’ll see; mocking, disgust, or pity maybe. Or perhaps even worse, the thing he’s really afraid of, a mirror of the same emotion he’s sure is written all over his own face.

But Castiel’s expression is soft, open and curious. Instead of replying, he takes a step closer, now standing with one foot on each side of Dean’s leg as he leans back on the shelving. Cas lowers his hand from its reach and cups the side of Dean’s face, bringing their lips a hairsbreadth apart. “Cas, we can’t,” Dean whispers, but doesn’t push him away, instead bringing a hand up to rest on Cas’ hip.

“No, we can’t,” Castiel murmurs, his eyes flicking from Dean’s eyes to his mouth, and then the gap is closed. Who came the last inch will be a point of contention for years to come, but in this moment, it hardly matters.

Dean’s body comes alive when their lips meet, singing and burning and reaching for Castiel. He’s so used to forcing this, so used to clenching his eyes shut and thinking of the dirtiest porn in his bank just to get through it that his body’s reaction is almost terrifying. He can’t help but surge forward and grip Castiel’s hips, pushing and walking him back against the door, and wrapping strong arms around his waist and up to his shoulders, hands weaving into his hair.

Castiel pushes and pulls right back, all hard, masculine strength and woodsy cologne mixed with the slight tang of sweat from the day’s work, he’s yanking Dean towards him, against him, and it’s nothing like Lisa. With her softness, and her fruity, floral scent and gentle touches. Cas has thick, flexing biceps and strong thighs and Dean can’t stop himself from moaning into his mouth, until from somewhere not far beyond the door there’s the sound of a minor crash, and people laughing. Both Dean and Castiel pull back at the same time, both breathing hard and looking fairly wrecked. Castiel has the tips of his fingers on Dean’s chest, not affectionately anymore, but now holding him at arm’s length. 

“I’m so sorry, Dean,” he breathes, his voice rougher than usual and his eyes wide. He quickly reaches past Dean to grab the item he came for and then darts out the door without another word, leaving Dean feeling more lost and ok, he’ll admit it, scared, than he’s ever felt in his entire life.  

Chapter Text

Castiel isn’t sure when he decided his relationship with Bartholomew was doomed, but getting out is just not as easy as it sounds. For one thing, when they first got together, Castiel’s credit had been in the toilet. Because of that, Bartholomew’s name is co-signed on Castiel’s car, their home, even his bank accounts. He paid off Castiel’s school loans, and medical bills from when he didn’t have insurance, and Castiel will never be able to pay all of that back. His credit has hardly improved in these intervening years, so it’s not like he can just offer to hand things over to Bart and start over. He’d be carless, homeless, maybe even penniless, if Bart was feeling vindictive. And if Castiel is being honest with himself, he knows that he would be. It’s not that Bartholomew is a bad man, not exactly, he’s just… particular. Controlling. His expectations are high, and Castiel doesn’t always meet them. And Bartholomew is a catch, really. Handsome, takes care of himself, educated, wealthy, a big social circle with lots of connections - when Bart had first asked him out, Castiel honestly couldn’t believe someone like that would even look twice at him. And he didn’t really think he’d ever be able to do better, or, again if he’s being honest, that the only man he’s ever been really interested in was even an option.

So he had said yes. And yes again when Bart offered to pay some of his bills, to help him with a loan or two. And yes again when Bart asked him to move in. And yes again when he asked him to cut back his hours at work to part-time so he could be home, waiting for him. Castiel isn’t dumb - he can see what’s happening, knows that these things Bart does are manipulative, but he does put up with Castiel and his laundry list of mistakes from his past life that he brought into the relationship. Bartholomew just wants arm candy and someone to warm his bed in return, and Castiel thought he could do that. Had thought that was perhaps all he was worth.

And so, the first time Bart hit him, he pretended he thought it was a one-time thing. And when it wasn’t, he told himself he deserved it, could take it, that he just needed to be better. He told himself to be more grateful. Made himself smaller, more compliant, less trouble - whatever it took to make Bart happy. But as damaged as Castiel is, he does know that the way Bart treats him is wrong, deep down. And Bart hasn’t yet been able to kill that tiny part of him that still wants something better, even if he’s not sure he deserves it.

And now? Castiel wants.

Because all of this with Bart was before his relationship with Dean began to shift. Dean, who genuinely enjoys just sitting quietly with him. Dean, who constantly tells him how smart and valuable he is as a paramedic and a team member. Dean, who looks at him like he hung the moon when Castiel brings him coffee at six AM. Dean, who lets him take charge, who trusts him to have his back. Dean, who had kissed him and held him like he’d been stuck underwater and Castiel was precious air. Dean, who would never suspect that Castiel is so weak as to let himself be abused and degraded the way he does. Dean would never want him, never look at him that way if he knew… but Castiel has never felt so alive, so full of possibility, so much like a real person… like the person that he wants to be… as he does when he’s with Dean.

And it’s for that reason that he knows he’s going to let this thing with Dean ricochet off the rails, despite putting a temporary stop to it earlier. He wants Dean, selfishly and completely, more than he’s wanted anything in years.

Castiel does feel guilty though, at least a little bit. He’s thinking all of these things as he lays in Bartholomew’s bed and his head is spinning with how wrong thinking of Dean doesn’t make him feel. It’s seven thirty and Bart will be home any time, undoubtedly fresh off of a round of after-work drinks with friends. Castiel himself arrived home about an hour ago from work, made dinner and left it to keep warm in the oven, showered, and is onto his last nightly task, something he can’t help but resent, even if he feels like he owes it to Bart. 

Prepping himself isn’t something Castiel particularly enjoys, preferring the touch and care of a partner, but it’s necessary. Bart isn’t into fingering, and he won’t do it. They don’t switch, and he’s made it crystal clear that Castiel’s failure to prep won’t be his problem. So here Castiel is, naked and three fingers deep and barely half-hard thinking of what’s coming, all in the name of getting through another night without pissing Bartholomew off. He briefly contemplates putting on sweats and taking up residence on the downstairs sofa with ten pillows and the biggest blanket he can find but honestly, he’s not sure if Bart would let him off the hook or not. It all depends on his mood, and Castiel does not have a pain kink.

So he adds another finger, closing his eyes and letting himself drift into thoughts of Dean and their moment in the supply closet. Castiel imagines what might have happened if they weren’t interrupted, imagines Dean’s hands running up and down his torso, his fingers flipping open the button on his pants and sliding down his zipper, reaching inside his boxers to free him. He thinks about Dean pulling himself out and tugging Castiel close so that their cocks slide together, his hands moving to Castiel’s cheeks and then in-between, gently and affectionately opening Castiel up with his large fingers. Castiel moans a little, and feels a few drops of precum fall onto the thigh where his cock is resting, harder than it’s been in ages. Castiel’s eyes flutter open to a noise at the bedroom door and he has to fight the urge to jump when he sees Bartholomew’s silhouette darkening the doorway. He silently gives thanks that he didn’t get lost enough in his fantasy to moan any particular names.

Bartholomew strides over to the bed, giving Castiel a once-over, his eyes lingering on Castiel’s cock. “That’s new,” he says, a little condescendingly, running the tips of his fingers up Castiel’s thigh. Honestly, it almost makes Castiel’s erection flag, so he closes his eyes for an extended beat and pictures Dean licking his own lips. Problem solved. Bart’s hands go to his own waist as he quickly works his belt buckle and pants open, shoving his underwear down and under his perfectly-manicured balls. Without so much as a warning, he grabs Castiel’s ankle and pulls him towards the edge of the bed. Propping one knee up on the edge of the mattress, he looms over Castiel, jerks his cock a few times until it’s fully hard, and then grabs Castiel’s cheeks, parting them and pushing in completely, fast and smooth. Castiel fights to remain relaxed and is almost glad he’s used to the routine.  

“Ugh,” Bart grunts, throwing his head back and fucking into Castiel without regard for his interest or lack thereof.

Bart opens his eyes and looks down at the man below him, as Castiel’s fingers tentatively wrap around his own cock. Bart raises an eyebrow. “Playing the part of the slut tonight, are we Castiel?” Castiel ignores him and continues his ministrations. Bartholomew leans down as if to kiss him, and Castiel turns his face away. “Hey!” Bartholomew says sharply, punctuating his words with a swift, stinging slap to Castiel’s ass. “Don’t disrespect me, Castiel,” he warns.

Castiel’s eyes narrow, but he’s not in the mood for a fight, doesn’t want the inevitable outcome of pushing Bartholomew’s buttons. “I apologize,” he says curtly. Bart doesn’t even bother to reply or try to kiss him again, instead thrusting into Castiel hard until he comes with a groan, his fingers digging into Castiel’s hip. He pulls out right away and pats Castiel’s thigh as he straightens up, heading for the bathroom and tossing over his shoulder that he’s not a fan of Castiel’s natural look and that Castiel needs to remember to take care of himself “down there”. Left lying in the mess, Castiel hears the shower turn on, and only then does he chance to lift his head and look down his body. His cock is limp again, of course, but he lets his fingers drift around it. He’s fully shaved, it’s not like he can control how fast the stubble comes back in. Castiel sighs and gives himself exactly two minutes to wallow in what his life has become. He briefly considers trying to get back into his earlier headspace to finish off and just as quickly disregards the idea as too much work with too little reward. He forces himself to get up, to throw on some clothes and to serve dinner.

They eat in relative silence and Bartholomew goes to bed shortly after, insisting Castiel lay next to him even though Castiel isn’t tired and Bartholomew doesn’t so much as acknowledge he’s there. Castiel reads a book on his phone in the dark and wonders what Dean is doing. He worries that Dean hates him, or at the very least is angry at him for running away like a coward after basically forcing himself on him. His thumb hovers over the “message” icon on his screen, but he can’t bring himself to go through with it. He’ll keep his distance and wait for Dean to come to him when he’s ready. And when Dean’s ready, Castiel will be waiting. In the meantime, he turns over and forces himself to fall asleep to the sounds of Bartholomew’s snoring.

***

Dean was lucky enough to get to sleep through the night at work; not a single call after ten PM. After their little tryst in the closet, Dean hid there until he was sure Castiel had gone home for the evening. He then threw himself into his responsibilities because he’s just that good of an employee - it was definitely not to forget about Castiel and his strong hands holding him close. No, Dean just really enjoys mopping floors and washing trucks, cooking dinner and doing the dishes. Well, he doesn’t hate cooking, anyway. After the second crew put the BLS unit out of service at ten, he and Charlie had collapsed on the dayroom couch together to binge a few episodes of Brooklyn 99. Charlie eventually fell asleep on the couch and Dean relocated to the men’s bunkroom, passing out hard as soon as his head hit the pillow, waking only to the sound of Bobby banging on the bunkroom door at seven AM and calling him an idjit for oversleeping the end of his shift and not clocking out. Thankfully, his sleep was dreamless and with a little time and distance, he’s able to think about what he’s now dubbing the “Cas situation” without the wash of cold, paralyzing fear that he felt initially. In fact, when he thinks of Cas, “cold” is the last word that comes to mind, and because of that, he’s not sure how to react when he’s inevitably brought face-to-face with the man again.

One thing at a time.

Dean packs up his overnight bag and chats with the oncoming crew for a few minutes, reviewing some inventory issues and generally just making small talk. The first crew gets tapped for chest pain at a nearby assisted living around 730 and Dean uses the interruption to take his leave. Sliding into the driver’s seat of his black ‘67 Impala feels like coming home already, maybe even more so than returning to the house he shares with Lisa. He pulls into their driveway just in time to see Lisa’s son Ben come running out the front door on his way to the bus stop. Ben waves excitedly when he sees Dean, and Dean meets him halfway for a big hug. “See you later, Dean,” Ben grins, taking off down the sidewalk towards where a hoard of other kids are waiting. Dean stands in the driveway and watches Ben roughhouse with his friends until the bus arrives and then pulls away with Ben safely tucked inside. Ben may not be his own, but he’s easily the best part of his relationship with Lisa.

He heads inside and drops his duffel in the entryway, unlacing and stepping out of his boots for the first time in 24 hours. He heads for the kitchen to grab a beer and maybe some cereal. Beer at eight AM might sound a little on the alcoholic side, but shift work is weird, and as far as Dean’s internal clock is concerned it’s eight PM and time to unwind and relax, and anyway it’s his day off. When he reaches the kitchen, he’s surprised to see Lisa hovering over the stove, but not at all unhappy that she’s frying up some scrambled eggs and bacon. “Hey,” he greets her, touching her arm and kissing her cheek. It’s not forced, but it’s not entirely as intimate as it maybe should be, and Dean’s guilt ratchets up a couple of notches. He makes a conscious effort to drag his hand along the small of her back as he makes his way to the fridge. 

Dean knows he’s shitty for bringing his insecurity and cowardice down on her and Ben’s doorstep, but it’s those exact things that keep him from breaking down and confessing his reality to her. The awful thing is, he thinks Lisa might understand. Thinks she might even be supportive, that she would sit with him and hold his hand and tell him that it’s okay to be himself, that she only wants the best for him. She’d probably even thank him for being honest with her. He looks over his shoulder at her as he retrieves his beer and actually considers it for a split second, but in true Winchester fashion, he pushes it all down at the last second and drinks his beer. He goes to sit at the counter across from where Lisa is cooking. “Wasn’t expecting you... thought you had a shift today?”

Lisa doesn’t exactly meet his eyes. “Yea, I… I took the day off, actually. Just needed a day to recharge. And to talk to you,” she finishes, looking up and making eye contact with Dean.

“Yea? What about?” Dean flashes her a bright smile and stays intentionally casual as he accepts a plate of eggs and bacon, digging in between sips of beer. Lisa drums her fingers on the counter.

“Listen, I was going to tell you…” she trails off, and Dean puts his fork down to give her his full attention. He waits patiently, whatever she has to say can’t be any worse than his own secrets. But instead of continuing, Lisa opens a drawer and pulls something out. She hands it to him, and it takes Dean a minute for his brain to catch up to what his eyes are seeing. He looks up at Lisa and then back down to the test in his hands, and his eyes must be comically wide. They both end up speaking at the same time.

“This is real?”

“I’m not going to keep it -” Lisa starts and then slaps her hand over her mouth, obviously fighting back tears.

Dean stands, clutching the pregnancy test in one hand and pointing a finger at her accusingly with the other. “Excuse me?” His tone is low and threatening.

“Dean,” Lisa replies quietly. “Neither of us… I mean, we’re not in a position to… we’ve never even talked about…” She shakes her head and then collects herself a little, her tone firmer and more confident when she continues, “I am not going to bring another child into this world into an unstable relationship. I look at Ben and, no offense Dean, you’re amazing with him, but that doesn't mean that his daddy not being around doesn't hurt him. This whole thing, it’s not fair to any of us. Not me, not Ben, and definitely not to this baby. I promised myself a long time ago that I wouldn’t do this again, not without being married and sure.”

Dean flinches as if he’s been slapped. He blinks and shakes his head. “So… that’s what you think of me?” His tone has notes of anger, but he’s mostly hurt, and he knows Lisa hears that when she winces.

“No, Dean, I- this isn’t about you, it’s-”

“The hell it isn’t, Lisa, that’s my kid in there, as much as it’s yours!”

Lisa shakes her head and replies quietly, “I made an appointment for today. I can’t discuss this anymore. I understand if it’s a deal breaker for you.”

Dean backs away, horrified. “I won’t ever forgive you for this,” he says quietly, more sad than anything else, making a beeline for the foyer where he grabs his coat and stuffs his feet back inside the boots he just kicked off. Lisa doesn’t follow and he’s in his car and driving before he can really even process what he’s doing or where he's headed. He feels tears welling up but fights them back and digs his phone out of his pocket, firing off a text with one eye on the road.

To Cas: Talk?

Not even a minute goes by before his phone is dinging back at him. He pulls over to the side of the road, not particularly wanting to become a patient in his own ambulance and opens the message.

From Cas: Of course, Dean. Call?

To Cas: Meet me? The church on the hill off of Winding Creek Road?

From Cas: Twenty minutes.

From Cas: I’m glad you texted.

The church isn’t really a church so much as it is an abandoned pile of stone and stained glass, but Dean likes to come up here sometimes and think. The road that curves in front of the church is almost cut into the hillside, and the ground drops off past it, sloping down gently but consistently and creating a hell of a view out over Lawrence. Dean parks in the unmaintained gravel parking lot, facing the Impala towards the street so that he can sit on the hood and take in the city. It looks quiet and almost pretty from up here. There’s a gentle breeze and a few oversized trees to provide some comfortable shade, so Dean does his best to enjoy the scenery and not think at all, to not consider the ramifications of what he’s about to do, and definitely to not think about Lisa.

It’s not long before the sound of Castiel’s crappy old Lincoln Continental comes rattling up the road. And what even is that, anyway? Dean can’t help but think back to when the hunk of junk first appeared. Didn’t Cas mention that Bart had helped him buy that thing? The man has money and that’s what he has Cas tooling around in? It’s like he wants to embarrass Cas or something. Good thing Castiel doesn’t give two shits about things like that, Dean reasons, though he can't help thinking that his friend still deserves better.  He watches Castiel pull in, said hunk of junk coming to a stop about a car width away from the Impala, and get out, rounding the side to meet Dean. He stands there awkwardly fiddling with his keys and Dean can’t help but crack a little smile, because the man looks so adorably nervous.

“Hello, Dean,” he says.

“Heya, Cas,” Dean replies, the upturn of his lips stretching involuntarily into a real smile as he slides off of the hood and invades Castiel’s personal space right away. He watches the line of Castiel’s throat bob as he swallows.

“We should talk, Dean,” Castiel whispers into the space between them, but Dean only takes a small step closer.

“Don’t really wanna talk, Cas,” he replies, skimming his fingers up Castiel’s arm, then neck, his hand coming to rest softly at the back of Castiel’s head. His other hand slips around Castiel’s waist, to the small of his back, gently tugging him closer. Dean tilts his head and holds eye contact, adding, “Do you really want to talk?” Castiel pauses but doesn’t look away as he slowly shakes his head ‘no’, and then Dean is leaning in, softly brushing his lips against Castiel’s cheek and the corner of his mouth before touching their lips together, just barely. It hardly even qualifies as a kiss but as they come together it's like a dam breaks inside Castiel, and if Dean thought himself in control of this experience, he quickly finds out that he’s sorely mistaken.

Because it turns out that Castiel is ravenous for this. He’s shoving Dean back roughly against the Impala, pushing his tongue into Dean’s mouth, biting his lips, cupping his face with both hands to hold him in place, as if he might pull away at any moment. Dean can’t help but groan and let him do what he wants, sucking Castiel’s tongue and letting his own hands roam freely over the plains of his shoulders and back. Dean squeezes the muscles in Cas’ upper arm, traces the flexion of his trapezius, squeezes his thighs tight against Castiel’s own. Castiel releases him after what could be a few seconds (or hours) and is panting hard. His eyes are sharp and focused, and he drags Dean towards the back of the Impala, opening the door and pushing him inside until he’s flat on his back.

It’s awkward; they’re two fully grown, six-foot tall men and the Impala is only so big but Dean drags Castiel down on top of him and decides he just can’t fucking be bothered to care. He wants, in a way that he might have danced around but never fully acknowledged, never fully succumbed to until this very moment, and something about the way Castiel is manhandling him feels like he’s going through the same thing. He knows Castiel’s been with men, so that can’t be what's driving his desperation, which leaves a common denominator of exactly Dean and Dean is just not able to think too hard about what that really means right now. Instead, he slides his hands up underneath Castiel’s t-shirt to pinch his nipples, which in turn makes Castiel groan and grind down on Dean’s groin and oh, Castiel is really hard. Thank god, because Dean is too, and despite the fact that he has the man’s tongue down his throat, there’s still a small part of Dean that’s telling him he’s got to be misreading this situation; that Castiel can’t actually want him.

But then Castiel is ripping at Dean’s pants and then his own, and pushing clothes down and away until he has both of their cocks in his big, warm hand and he’s stroking loosely and it’s pretty fucking undeniable. Dean arches up a little at the feeling of Castiel’s thick cock sliding against his own. There’s no lube here and the drag is a little rough, so Dean breaks away from Castiel’s mouth long enough to spit in his hand and nudge Cas’ out of the way. Once he has them slicked up a little, Castiel’s hand comes back around his own and then they’re moving together. With the kissing paused, they’re just incredibly close, looking each other in the eye, sharing air, and it should be weird, this is Cas, but it’s just so good, and Dean even sees Castiel’s eyes roll back in his head a little.

“Dean,” Castiel whispers, lips beside his ear, and Dean can’t help but grab his stubbly chin with his free hand, dragging him in to kiss again, and they stay like that, grinding and kissing until the tension starts to build in Dean’s stomach.

“Close,” he whispers, and Castiel just nods, nuzzling the side of his cheek and planting big, open mouth kisses on his face and neck, too lost and sloppy to kiss him properly anymore. Dean slides his free hand up Castiel’s back to rest firmly between his shoulder blades and fucks up into their fists a little harder. “Gonna come for me, Cas?” It’s nothing revolutionary, but Castiel responds to that question with a moan that’s almost a little sad, tensing up and coming all over their hands. He pushes upright, still straddling Dean’s legs, swats Dean’s hand away and tightens his grip until Dean is coming too, then collapses forward onto Dean’s chest. Besides their pants being opened, they still have all of their clothes on, and there’s no way they’re coming out of this without a few questionable stains. Dean grabs a rag from the backseat floor that’s usually for oil checking and cleans them up the best he can.

Castiel just lays there, seemingly uncaring about the state of affairs below his belt, burying his head into Dean’s neck and breathing deeply. Dean gives up and tosses the rag back onto the floor, letting his arms come around Castiel and his fingers sift through his hair. Castiel sighs and Dean can feel soft eyelashes on his neck as he closes his eyes. “Cas,” he says quietly.

“Mmm,” is the only reply he gets.

“Lisa’s pregnant. She’s not keeping it.” Dean feels Castiel’s eyelids flutter open again, but aside from that, a short intake of breath is the only indication he’s even heard what Dean said until Castiel’s hand finds his own and squeezes.

“I’m sorry, Dean,” he whispers, and Dean tightens the arm that’s wrapped around him.

“Me too,” is all he can reply, but the tears finally win out and spill over.

Castiel holds him, and doesn’t leave.

Chapter Text

Dean doesn’t go home that night or the next one. The first night, he drowns his sorrows at the bar down the street from the station all the way until last call. He’d hoped Castiel would join him, but he had to go home as Bartholomew was expecting him. They texted off and on, crossing the line between friendly and flirty around Dean’s third beer. By his fifth, they were sexting. Sometimes there were long gaps between when Castiel was able to reply, and Dean wondered what he was doing. It was pretty clear Cas wasn’t thrilled in his relationship with Bart, but Dean didn’t want to think about that too much, because if Castiel deserved better than Bart, someone who at least showed him off proudly and would kiss him in public, than he certainly deserved better than some closed-door, secretive fucking with Dean. And yet, despite his fears and self-loathing, Dean can’t seem to force himself to stay away.

Castiel isn’t the only one who texts him. Lisa has sent about thirty messages and called twice, leaving a voicemail that he hasn’t listened to. He deletes each text as it comes in without even glancing at the content. When his phone vibrates with her third call, Dean hits the asshole button and signals the bartender that he wants to switch to whiskey. The bar is okay, a typical small town dive with neon signs on the walls and string lights hanging from the ceiling. A shitty jukebox playing shitty background music, a couple of pool tables. Dean weighs his options. He could try and hustle a little, though that’s something he’s generally avoided since becoming a paramedic - integrity and representing the job and all. He could play for fun, but the only folks playing are a couple of douchebag looking co-eds, and that doesn’t actually sound like fun at all. He could try to score with the local talent, but undoubtedly that’d get back to Lisa, or worse - Cas.

Dean starts a little when he realizes that he’s far more concerned about Cas thinking he doesn’t want him, than Lisa. He and Cas can’t even call what they’re doing a relationship - for all he knows that business in the Impala was a one-time thing. Why in the hell is he caught up worrying about what Cas might think of him, for hooking up with someone else? Dean’s head is a little fuzzy, and this train of thought isn’t going anywhere productive, so instead of working it out he shrugs it off and signals to the bartender for another. Guess that solves what he’s doing tonight, then. Alcohol, it is. He drinks until he can barely stand and the bartender cuts him off. The station is close enough for him to walk to, even if he does have to lean on a few buildings for balance along the way.

Dean doesn’t run into anyone in the bay at the station, the night duty crew probably fast asleep upstairs. He steals a cigarette from someone’s pack of smokes sitting on the counter in the ambulance bay and smokes outside alone. He’s sobered up enough by the time he’s finished to not trip on his own feet going up the stairs. The crew tonight is all female, so the men’s bunk room is empty, small miracles. Dean trudges in, closes the door and collapses onto one of the three twin beds without turning the light on or stepping out of his clothes. He pulls out his phone to check the time; three AM. There’s a message from Cas waiting and Dean swipes it open, hoping it’s not from two hours (and four to five drinks) ago. It’s not - it was sent fifteen minutes earlier, and Dean internally fist pumps.

Cas: are you awake?

Dean: Ya… tipsY ;)

Cas: where are you, Dean?

Dean: Station… u shud b her

Cas: I’m not sure if that’s a drunken mistake or a Freudian slip

Dean: I’ll slip you… sumthing ;)

Dean: Come c me. M’nevr goin home

Cas: I can’t… maybe tomorrow.

Cas: I miss you.

 

Inebriated as he is, Dean knows this is verging into dangerous territory, so he steers it back to what feels safe.

 

Dean: i miss ur cock… want it in me Cas

Cas: don’t tease me, Dean

 

The conversation deteriorates from there. Castiel has a surprisingly dirty mouth (fingers?), and despite the whiskey, Dean is hard as hell in his pants. Soon he’s got them unbuttoned and a hand shoved down there, jacking himself roughly while he reads about the things Castiel wishes he were doing to him right that minute. He types back one-handed and between that and his drunken spelling, is sure Castiel can’t be getting much out of this conversation. But Castiel says he’s right there with him, touching himself and already close just thinking about Dean doing the same. When Dean’s orgasm starts to hit, he pulls the pillow over his head and pushes down over his mouth so that his moans are quieted while he comes all over his hand and in his boxers. He lies there for a minute, breathing heavily and thinking blearily that he should feel more ashamed than he does. Instead, he has to admit to himself that he feels truly alive, for the first time in years.

Dean: G’night Cas… think about visiting me 2moro, OK?

Cas: Goodnight, Dean. Sleep tight.

***

Dean finds himself in the same bar again the following night, but this time Cas shows up in the late evening. Apparently, Bartholomew is away for a night or two attending some legal conference in Kansas City and thus, no expectations for Castiel's presence. Dean feels reckless and free sitting next to Cas in public, their thighs brushing occasionally and sending sparks shooting straight to his groin. Plus, it's safe. Everyone knows he and Cas are tight, no one would think anything of them hanging out and throwing back a few drinks. He doesn't overindulge again, in fact, he has to stop drinking earlier tonight, since he’s on duty at six AM for a twenty-four-hour shift, and Cas is too. It’s the perfect cover - the duty crew won’t even blink at them staying the night to be safe and on time after a little boozing and socializing. Unfortunately, the crew is split by gender tonight; Garth is working, so the men’s bunk room will have another occupant.

Maybe that’s for the best, Dean thinks. Even though he knows it happens fairly often, hooking up at the station is kind of disrespectful and hell, tacky.

And yet, he can hardly stand to keep his hands to himself. They’ve only been physically intimate once but Dean craves more from Castiel. When he’d read back their text exchange from the night before in the sober light of day, Dean’s cheeks had been on fire, and he’d been appalled at his own behavior. The things he’d said and asked for? Where did all of that even come from? It was one thing to admit it over text, and it was understandable while he was drunk, but would Cas really expect him to be ready for… that? As much as Dean could begrudgingly admit in his own mind (and, apparently via text to Castiel when drunk) that he harbored a desire to be fucked into oblivion, actually going through with it was another thing altogether. Dean’s hardly even had his fingers up there, it’s not like that’s something a straight man can come out and ask his girlfriend to do for him.

So he’s nervous. But as it turns out, he has nothing to fear because not only does Castiel know what an impending big gay freakout looks like, he also knows Dean, and he makes it clear that there are no expectations. For now, in the bar, they’re just two bros hanging out and doing bro things. And touching their thighs together. Just a little.

The walk back to the station in the cool, crisp air is sobering, and much needed. Castiel smiles at him a lot, and the backs of their hands brush occasionally. Dean fights simultaneous urges to bolt frantically in the other direction and to slam Castiel up against any random building so he can shove his tongue down his throat. In the end, the second urge wins out as they cut down a side alley as a shortcut. Dean peeks over his shoulder just to make sure there’s no one around and then without warning has Cas pinned up against the bricks, their mouths coming together hot and sweet. Kissing Castiel is addictive, and Dean can’t get enough. He lets their tongues slide together for a bit, slipping his hands down Castiel’s back and grabbing two handfuls of his ass. Castiel groans into his mouth and pushes his hips forward, grinding against Dean who pulls back in surprise when he feels something hard between Castiel’s cheeks.

His eyes are wide as he takes in Castiel’s lust-filled, hooded-eyed expression and mischievous half smile. Dean runs his fingers over the lump again and demands, “What the fuck is that, dude?” Castiel grabs a handful of his shirt and reels him back in, kissing him deeply until Dean starts to melt against him again, breaking away only to kiss a trail up the side of Dean’s jaw.

Cas’ voice is lower than usual in his ear and he flips their positions, pressing Dean back into the wall as he replies teasingly, “What do you think it is, Dean?” The admission makes Dean tip his head back and swallow heavily in a heady mix of anticipation and nerves.

“Jesus, Cas,” he breathes, as Castiel works his way down Dean’s neck.

“Let’s go,” Castiel says abruptly, pulling away and grabbing Dean’s hand, dragging him along behind him as he sprints towards the station. “We’re not going to fuck for the first time in an alley.”

“Um… where are we going to… fuck?” Dean ventures, letting himself be pulled. “I mean… we probably shouldn’t… at work…” He trails off weakly, and Cas just shoots him a look over his shoulder. He keys open the side door at the station and yanks Dean into the ambulance bay, opening the door to the truck that’s out of service and climbing into the back, Dean’s hand still gripped tightly in his own. Once inside, he pulls Dean close and kisses him hard, then pulls away and shoves him down onto the stretcher.

“Ouch, Cas, take it easy,” Dean complains, but he’s laughing as he reaches behind himself at an awkward angle to unbuckle the seatbelts that are digging into his back. “Come here,” he says, reaching up and pulling Castiel down to kiss him more softly. Castiel straddles his legs with his feet on the ambulance floor and rocks gently in his lap.

“Does it turn you on knowing I made myself ready for you?” He's clearly trying for seductive, but Dean knows him too well not to recognize the note of insecurity in his voice.

“Cas,” he replies, cupping Castiel’s face in his hand, “You know I hate sappy stuff.” Castiel smiles and moves to grind down on him again, but Dean stills his hips. “Wait- Wait… listen,” he says, looking up into Castiel’s eyes. “I’m no good at this. But you know, you’re more to me than just this,” he gestures between them. “You get me?”

“Of course, Dean,” Castiel replies, swinging one leg back over the stretcher and reaching behind Dean to rummage in one of the jump bags. He throws the airway kit onto the counter and fishes through it, making a triumphant noise as he pulls a little packet out and waves it in Dean’s face.

Dean holds up a finger. “Are you telling me that you did all that prep but forgot to bring lube? Did you at least bring a condom?”

Castiel bites his lip as he settles in Dean’s lap again. “I may have been a bit excited to see you,” he admits, looking down. “I’m clean and so is… but if you don’t want to, I understand.”

Dean hesitates for a moment, and then blurts out, “I’m clean too,” and then more calmly, “I want to.”

Castiel looks up again, surprised. “You’re sure?” He questions, and Dean nods.

They come together again, lips sliding against each other's, tongues tangling. Dean reaches for the button on Castiel’s pants, loosens it along with his zipper, and pushes them and his underwear down over Cas’ hips. It’s awkward getting them off, considering they’re making out in a half-reclined position on a narrow stretcher but they manage it, though Castiel leaves everything wrapped around one ankle. He goes for the fastenings on Dean’s jeans right away but Dean stops him, breaking their kiss and meeting Castiel’s eyes. He leans forward and encourages Castiel up on his knees, bringing a half-naked Castiel’s cock to right in front of his face. Dean licks his lips and steels himself, he definitely wants it, but this… this is a line.

What kind of line, Dean’s not exactly sure but he’s positive it’s a line of some sort. He lets his eyes flutter shut as he closes his lips carefully over the tip of Cas’ cock, swirling his tongue around the tip experimentally. Castiel’s fingers thread into his short hair, his other hand resting gently on Dean’s cheek. Feeling slightly more comfortable, Dean takes in as much of Cas as he can, sliding up and down several times before getting carried away and letting Castiel’s moans make him somewhat overconfident. As a result, he has to pull off and cough, just in time to prevent something embarrassing from happening. He flushes as he clears his throat and wipes his mouth, worried Castiel will think he’s a total idiot, but the man just leans down and kisses Dean’s mouth affectionately.

“Thank you, Dean,” he says warmly, pushing Dean back to rest against the inclined head of the stretcher.

From there, Castiel lets his hands trail down Dean’s clothed chest and abdomen, blazing a direct path to the hem of his pants. Once unbuttoned, Dean lifts up just enough to scoot the clothes down to his thighs and free his own cock. Sucking Castiel off was surprisingly arousing, and Dean doesn’t quite know how to feel about that, so he doesn’t think about it at all. Instead, he guides Castiel’s hips forward to show that he’s ready. Castiel pulls his own plug out, and slicks Dean up, using one hand to guide Dean’s dick to his entrance and holding it there until Dean manages to push the head inside. Castiel breathes out and sinks down in one fluid motion, taking Dean to the hilt almost immediately, and Dean’s fingers tighten on the thin padding of the stretcher. Dean lets his head fall forward to rest on Castiel’s chest and takes a few deep breaths to steady himself as he wraps his arms around Castiel’s back. He feels strong arms come around his shoulders, and while part of him would love to pull back and look Castiel in the eyes, it’s just too much, too intimate, so he stays where he is.

Castiel begins to rock, and Dean lets him lead, meeting him thrust for thrust as he sets the rhythm. As the sensations intensify, Dean shifts to bury his face in the crook of Castiel’s neck and shoulder, feeling the vibration of his moans bleeding into Dean’s own chest. He snakes a hand in between them to help bring Castiel off too, making sure that he finishes first. Dean isn’t far behind though, using Castiel’s shoulders as leverage to fuck up into him hard, making him moan and grip onto Dean’s hair. When he comes, Castiel arches his back, pressing his taut stomach tight up against Dean like he’s reveling in the feeling. It’s like nothing Dean has ever experienced or imagined, and when Castiel’s gorgeous blue eyes slit open, catching Dean’s gaze and crinkling with happiness, he realizes he is royally fucked.

***

When they’re as cleaned up as they’re going to get in the restroom of the fire bay, Dean sends Castiel upstairs to go to sleep. “Just in case Garth is still up,” he explains, and though he knows Castiel sees through him, he’s kind enough to let Dean have this one. He squeezes Dean’s hand and heads up the stairs, promising to see him up there. When Castiel is out of sight, Dean fishes in the jacket he left behind, grabbing his smokes and heading outside. He’s not freaking out, he’s not freaking out. He just needs a minute.

Unfortunately for Dean, when he steps outside the rest of his problems are sitting on the hood of the Impala, waiting for him.

“Lisa. What are you doing here?”

Chapter Text

Lisa doesn’t look like her normal, well-put-together self. She’s dressed in baggy jeans, old sneakers, and an oversized hoodie that Dean recognizes as his own. Her face is bare of makeup, her messy hair is pulled carelessly through the back of a baseball cap and her usually flawless nails look raw and bitten down. The entire image has the effect of reading like armor. She uncrosses her legs and slides off of the Impala’s hood, crossing her arms over her chest once her feet are back on the ground.

“Where were you?” Her tone is soft, non-accusatory as if she knows she doesn’t have the right to chastise Dean right now and yet still can’t help asking. “I’ve been waiting… Garth said your stuff was here.” She turns her face directly towards his for the first time, and Dean feels a pang of guilt at her red-rimmed, puffy eyes.

“Just at Jimmy’s Place, Lis,” Dean sighs. “Grabbing some beers with Cas.”

Lisa nods and visibly relaxes.

Dean narrows his eyes. “What, you thought I was with some other chick?”

Lisa scuffs her toe in the gravel, tilting her head slightly to look at him from under the brim of her hat. “Like you can blame me for wondering. It’s kind of your M.O. Or, it was before me, anyway.” She goes back to scraping the dirt with her foot, and Dean feels a rising rage that he knows he has absolutely no right to. He did, actually, just cheat on Lisa, but it wasn’t like that… was it?

“Fuck you, Lisa,” he says tonelessly. “You come here in the middle of the night just to bust my balls? What, you just wanted to kick me while I'm down? What’s your game?”

Lisa lets out a breath. “No, no, God. How did this get so out of control? Dean, I came here… I came here to tell you that I couldn’t do it. I’m keeping the baby if you’re still on board, and I’m here to apologize for acting like you shouldn’t get a say. For implying that you wouldn’t take care of your child. And to ask you to come home,” she implores, taking a few careful steps closer to him, but not yet trying to touch.

Dean’s vision swims a little. He has to swallow a few times before he can get any words out.

“What?” He manages that single word as Lisa reaches out and takes one of his hands in each of hers.

“Come home, Dean. Come home and we can be a family,” she says. Dean doesn’t reply, but he does take her in his arms, squeezing her tight and resting his chin on the top of her head. Even through the thick canvas of her ball cap, Lisa’s hair smells like coconut and tropical fruit, nothing at all like Cas. She’s small and soft in his arms, all feminine curves and gentle touches, and nothing at all he wants or needs. What he wants is to be upstairs in the station, crawling in beside Castiel in one of the too-small bunk beds, stealing kisses and time until they have to separate before the oncoming crew arrives. Dean pushes those thoughts down, tries to bury them as he tells Lisa he’s glad she came, that of course, he’ll go home with her. He leaves his duffle bag in the crew room and tells himself it’s because he’s coming back in a few short hours and not because he can’t face Castiel or the temptation of seeing him warm and inviting in bed right now. He doesn’t know that he’d have the willpower to go with Lisa if he goes back up those stairs first.

So when Lisa gets back in her own car to make the short drive home, Dean gets in his Baby and follows her, without saying goodbye to Castiel. He figures he’ll see him in the morning anyway. Maybe Cas won’t even know he left. Maybe he will, and that’s for the best, Dean thinks, if he’s really going to try and do the “perfect family” thing with Lisa. But as quick as that thought crosses his mind, he knows it’s wishful thinking. As long as Cas wants him, however he’ll have him, Dean knows he’ll be there to give it right back. It’s been less than an hour since he was in Castiel’s arms and he already misses it. Dean takes a deep breath and runs a hand through his hair, watching Lisa’s dark silhouette lit up by his own headlights in front of him. Dean knows he can’t tell her, not if that would mean risking his child. He thinks there’s probably no point, anyway. He doubts this thing with Cas will go on for much longer, no matter how much both of them might enjoy it. Castiel has Bartholomew, and as smarmy and arrogant as Dean may think he is, he’s way more in line with the kind of man Castiel deserves than Dean is. Dean is just a blue-collar, closeted, weak-ass mess.

He pulls into the driveway beside Lisa and notices that all the lights are off inside. “Did you leave Ben here by himself?” Dean tries not to sound judgemental as he steps out of his car, but Lisa shakes her head no.

“He’s at a friend’s house for the night.” They move to the front door quietly, Lisa unlocking it before letting them in and locking it again behind them. There’s an awkward silence as they stand in Lisa’s foyer until Dean clears his throat.

“Listen, Lis. We can talk more tomorrow. I’ll sleep on the couch for tonight.” Lisa looks disappointed but nods slowly, never one to push Dean farther than she knows he can take.

She heads for the stairs. “If you change your mind… I’m not the one making you sleep there,” she offers gently, and then disappears up the stairs, swallowed by the familiar darkness. Dean does go to lay on the couch, but he spends the rest of the night (early hours of the morning, at this point,) staring up at the ceiling and not sleeping at all. When his alarm goes off at five, he slips out the front door and returns to the station to start his shift.

He’s the first of his platoon to arrive and so he goes upstairs to retrieve his duty uniform from his duffle bag in the men’s bunkroom. Garth must have fallen asleep in one of the recliners in the day room, and Dean is careful to be quiet so as not to wake him when he passes through. Castiel is lying curled up on his side on one of the twin bunks, exactly how Dean imagined he would be. He resists approaching him though, instead focusing on rifling through his duffle bag for his change of clothes. He gathers up his things, intending to cross the room and lock himself in the bathroom, but when he reaches the foot of Castiel’s bed, the temptation is too great, his need for comfort and solace winning out easily. He dumps his clothes, shucks his boots, and slides in behind the slightly smaller man. Castiel’s solid and warm, only wearing sleep pants and a t-shirt that’s rucked up all to hell around his middle. His skin is sleep-warm and soft against Dean’s skin and his body is firm and muscular in all the right places. Dean wraps an arm around his waist and pulls him close, burying his nose into the nape of Castiel’s neck and sighing.

“Hello, Dean,” comes Castiel’s gruff voice, roughened further from sleep.

“Heya, Cas,” Dean replies, doing his best not to sound as miserable as he feels.

“You weren’t here,” Castiel says, and there’s no heat, it’s not an accusation.

“No,” Dean replies simply. “Sometimes I might not be able to be.” There’s silence for a few moments. “That okay?”

Castiel responds by wrapping his fingers around Dean’s wrist and pulling it more tightly around him. They stay like that until the sounds of the rest of the oncoming crew staggering into the station start filtering up from the bay below and then Dean gets up to shower and change, and no one’s the wiser.

***

Things continue like that for several weeks. Their work schedules don’t always line up so sometimes they have to be content with a few stolen minutes of kissing and holding each other in uncomfortable twin beds or on worn down couches under the cover of darkness and in the stillness of late, late nights and early mornings.

But sometimes they get more. The first time Dean sucks Castiel off to completion, it’s in the passenger cab of the fire engine. He’s gotten more confident with a little (a lot of) practice and finds that he really enjoys it when Castiel gets rough with him, though he’s still no deepthroating pornstar (yet, but Dean has goals).

Currently, Castiel is sitting in one of the engine's bucket seats, and the tinted windows of the truck provide an extra layer of protection from anyone who might wander into the fire bay unexpectedly and catch an eyeful. The false sense of security has Castiel even more wrapped up in the moment-- his toes are curling in his boots and both hands are fisted tightly in Dean’s hair as he rocks gently in and out of Dean’s mouth. Dean has a hand over Castiel’s own mouth, pressing down hard to muffle the moans he’s suddenly incapable of swallowing. Dean squeezes one trembling thigh, an established signal that it’s okay for Cas to get a little rougher, to go a little deeper, and his thrusts pick up their pace accordingly. Dean does that thing with his tongue that he knows Castiel likes, smiling around his cock as Cas’ body tenses up tightly and he comes down Dean’s throat. As he does, one of his hands leaves Dean’s head and flails in the air, searching for something to grab and landing very unfortunately on the air horn wire that runs just under the ceiling next to his head.

HOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKK!

The deep, rich sound of the airhorn fills and reverberates through the open bay, and Dean chokes and sputters in surprise at the unexpected sound. He pulls off of Castiel’s cock coughing and wiping at his mouth. “Jesus fuck, Cas,” he grumbles, opening the truck door as Castiel tucks himself back into his boxer briefs and rights his clothes. “You’re lucky I didn’t bite your dick off.”

“Sorry,” Castiel replies sheepishly.

“Hey there, you two! What’s all the ruckus about?” Garth appears out of nowhere in the open doorway of the truck, and Dean has to stifle a second heart attack. He’s starting to think he’s getting too old for all of this sneaking around. 

***

These days most of the time Lisa is too sick, too cranky, or too tired to be interested in sex with Dean. She’s forever apologizing and praising him for being so “patient” and “empathetic” and “understanding.” Dean tries his best to shrug off the compliments while still feeling guilty as hell, but a large part of him also feels relieved, and he feels guilty about that too. He knows Lisa can tell but fortunately, she seems to attribute the guilt to him wanting sex but not wanting to push her for it. Obviously, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, but whatever keeps her happy and in the dark about his dirty little secret.

The truth is, it’s in his nature to be self-flagellating and Dean is not unhappy to have an excuse to mentally beat himself up. Because if he’s being honest, this thing with Cas makes the rest of the world disappear, and because of that, right or wrong, Dean’s having a hard time remembering to feel bad about any of it.

Except that tonight, Lisa is on a mission to reward Dean for all of his patience. He probably should have recognized the signs when she made dinner from scratch and sent Ben to his friend’s house for a sleepover, but he didn’t. And if not then, at least when she took an extra long shower and came out with her legs shaved and wearing new lingerie, that definitely should have been a clue. But Dean was busy texting Castiel, something he’ll feel both guilty and glad about when Lisa takes his phone away and straddles his lap, doing her best impression of an exotic dancer. Taken by surprise, Dean can’t help but be grateful for the half-boner he’s sporting courtesy of Cas’ graphic description of what he wished he was doing to Dean right that minute, because little Dean is just not buying what Lisa is selling.

Before Cas, it was easier. Before Cas, there were walls, there were limits, there were boundaries Dean could take comfort in never having crossed. Anything he thought up inside his own head to get himself into the moment was just that- a thought. It wasn’t real, he wasn’t really... 

But now, he’s had those thoughts, outside of his head. Those thoughts have been half-naked in his lap, writhing and moaning as they clenched around his cock. They’ve sucked kisses into his skin, pressed lips against his own, fucked his face with their dick. Those thoughts have transformed into a living, breathing, blue-eyed, messy-haired, muscular torso-ed real-life wet dream. And in this moment, he’s going to have to face up to the fact that Lisa is not it

And that's a shame because Lisa is beautiful, Dean isn’t blind- he knows that. He knows hundreds of guys would line up around the block to be with her, just based on her physical beauty, never mind her kindness, her thoughtfulness, her intelligence... and Dean is an asshole. Because he has all of that riding his cock and he’s barely able to keep it up without closing his eyes and picturing his best friend in her place. He works mechanically through the motions of kissing her breasts, stroking her clit, moving and grinding and kissing her the way he knows she likes until she comes, her muscles clenching down in such a way that if he squeezes his eyes shut really tight, he can almost get lost in. He manages to fuck her like that, hard and fast and punching out an orgasm that’s almost painful for how much he has to force it.

When they lay in bed together that night, Dean rubs Lisa’s back and listens to her talk about her day at work, her to-do list for tomorrow, her worries about Ben’s behavior at school. He does his best to focus on her for once and to not let his mind drift away to Cas. For the most part, he succeeds. After Lisa falls asleep, Dean lies awake staring at the ceiling for a long time. He doesn’t text Castiel again for several days.

***

November

Bartholomew is a mean drunk. Castiel knows this, but it’s never been much of an issue because despite going out for drinks most work nights and sipping whiskey both at his office and at home, Bart rarely gets drunk. And when he does, Castiel is often able to placate him with sex, which is usually enough to cause him to pass out and sleep off the worst of it. The really scary thing about a drunken Bart is that alcohol doesn’t dull his sharp edges. It doesn’t make him any less intelligent or manipulative, either. And while it doesn’t make him forget that he despises leaving visible marks and bruises on Castiel (because then someone might actually be able to see and prove the kind of man he is), the loss of inhibitions still increases his desire to do so. Bart has reconciled all of these things in his own mind, solving them by engaging Castiel in an unhealthy perversion of BDSM that only occurs when he’s had too much to drink.

Breaking the first and most important rule of any BDSM relationship, none of it is anything Castiel has ever consented to, nor is safe-wording allowed. Sure, Castiel has a safeword, and technically he’s been told to use it, but the one time he tried had ended so brutally that he never did it again. No, like everything else with Bartholomew, it’s safer to just lay there and take whatever he dishes out rather than risk making him angrier. Especially when, as is happening at this moment, Castiel’s hands are locked together by handcuffs threaded through an opening in the headboard.

The night hadn't started out this way. It had all been very normal, Castiel prepping and getting himself ready hours prior, only to be left waiting naked and alone when Bartholomew hadn’t come home. Eventually, he’d given up on lying there doing nothing and gone down to eat dinner alone before retiring to bed. 

This type of thing did happen on occasion, Bart not coming home, and Castiel never bothered asking where he’d been when he finally wandered in. He didn’t really care, honestly, enjoying the quiet, the lack of expectations, and having their big, comfortable bed all to himself. Bart never offered excuses but he would often treat Castiel better for a few days after, so Castiel had lowkey suspicions of infidelity. It was part of why he hardly felt a twinge of guilt about what he and Dean were doing. Well, that, and the fact that if Bart couldn’t absolutely destroy him financially, including his career and professional reputation, he’d have been out the door months ago.

But this is the first time that Bart has ever initiated one of these sessions while Castiel was asleep. He had woken up on his stomach to his arms being jostled above his head, the cool metal of the cuffs clicking into place around his wrists and the sour smell of whiskey invading his nostrils as it wafted off of Bart’s body. Remembering he had work in the morning, Cas had tried to appeal to Bartholomew’s sense of self-preservation, suggesting he at least switch the metal cuffs for the padded ones Cas knew were sitting in his bedside table, but Bart ignored him. Still half-asleep, Castiel had tugged on the cuffs, trying to at least shift into a comfortable position but Bart had locked them up high enough that he couldn’t even rest his chest down on the bed. If he didn’t hold himself up, he’d hurt his shoulders.

“Fuck,” he’d muttered, quietly under his breath but Bart had heard, clicking his tongue and sliding a finger under the band of Castiel’s pajama pants, pulling them down to his thighs and snapping them against the tender skin there.

“Begging for it already, Castiel? Such a needy little whore. You’ll have to wait… I have plans for you tonight.” Balthazar had tapped two fingers sharply over his hole, making Castiel flinch before he abruptly shuffled out of the room.

So now Castiel waits, stuck crouching on his knees and bent in half uncomfortably, breathing heavily with anxiety and anticipation. He flexes his fingers, wrapping them around the edges of the opening in the headboard where the cuffs are threaded through. He’s only been in this position for a few minutes and already his back is sore and his legs are threatening to shake. Part of that is nerves, undoubtedly - there’s a reason Castiel goes out of his way to hold onto the tiny shred of control he has left where Bart is concerned. There’s a reason why he offers his body willingly, why he doesn’t argue or fight back. Because underneath Bart’s suave, charming exterior, Castiel knows there’s real darkness lurking; a capability, no - a desire to inflict pain that Castiel knows he’s right to be genuinely afraid of.

When Bartholomew returns, Castiel can’t see what he’s holding but he can hear it. Bart snaps it between his hands, the sharp thwick-ing sound of snapping leather cutting tauntingly through the air. Castiel’s breath quickens, his hands involuntarily tugging at the cuffs he knows won’t budge.

“Bartholomew… babe, please. Please, not tonight,” he tries. Bartholomew has attempted to cajole Castiel into letting him use the whip on him in the past, but he’s always let him say no, or at the very least, allowed Castiel to distract him from the idea temporarily. It would appear though, that Bart is not interested in bargaining tonight. That explains why he secured Castiel’s hands first, why he didn’t explain what he was about to do, he doesn’t want to fight, he just wants to hurt. Bile rises in Castiel’s throat and he eyes his phone on the bedside table, yet doesn’t know what he’d do if he could reach it. Who would he call? Dean? 911? Either option sounds completely humiliating.

He tries one more time to appeal to Bart, knowing already that it’s pointless. “Please don’t do this to me, Bart. I’ll do anything else you want - anything else,” he pleads softly as he feels Bartholomew approach from somewhere behind him. Three of his cool fingers touch Castiel’s right shoulder blade and trail down his back gently.

“Oh, Castiel,” Bart says with a hint of amusement in his voice. “I do love when you play hard to get. Don’t worry baby,” he leans down and kisses the nape of the bound man’s neck, causing Castiel to flash back to Dean pressed against him from behind, safe and warm and the polar opposite of whatever this is. His eyes sting and he blinks hard until the tears dissipate. He won’t give Bart the satisfaction of seeing him cry. He tightens his grip on the headboard, lets his head drop between his arms and spreads his knees just a little for balance.

He braces himself for the first hit.  

When it comes, it’s both not as bad and worse than he feared. It’s mostly a numbness that expands to an almost itchy feeling. Castiel lets out a breath and thinks for the first time that he might actually get through this relatively unscathed. But unfortunately, the first sensations don’t last. As Bartholomew brings down the whip again and again, Castiel’s back begins to burn in a way that stretches and spreads. He tries to remain stoic but after the fourth or fifth hit to the same area, an involuntary shudder wracks his body and a high-pitched whine forces its way out of his throat. It’s followed shortly after by a broken, sad moan as Bartholomew lets out his own self-satisfied growl. Castiel has to stifle a sob at the realization of just how much his boyfriend truly enjoys seeing him hurt, and it comes from a much deeper, more painful place than the aching soreness in his back.

The next time the whip comes down, Castiel’s toes curl and his back arches and he lets out a wail against his will that causes Bartholomew to gasp, seemingly in awe. There’s wetness dripping down his flank now, and tears freely flowing down his face. Castiel drops his head further to look and his suspicions are confirmed when he sees red puddling on the sheets.

“Please,” he whispers softly, his voice deeper and rougher than usual, the fire on his skin igniting and spreading like dry tinder meeting a match.

“Just a few more,” Bart’s voice floats through his ears, the sound tinged with a bizarre detachment and reverence that makes this entire thing feel even more surreal. Castiel never truly realized Bart was this fucked up. The man’s fingers are on his back again, drifting over his shoulder blades, the knobs of his spine, and then suddenly he really can’t tell where exactly they are because it’s all just burning, a hot, fiery wake of sensations that bleed together and make him grit his teeth against the pain. “You look so beautiful, Castiel, all marked up for me. Just a few more,” he begs as if Castiel has any kind of choice. His fingers flex on the headboard and he chokes out a little sob, raising his eyes to the ceiling and praying helplessly to any god that might be listening.

Please, help me.

Two more lashes and Castiel is dissociating. He knows that he’s crying and his nose is running and he’s drooling a little, but he can’t do much about it, so he drifts while he can. He thinks that there are three more lashes that come but he barely feels them, his entire back a river of paradoxical numbness and fire. The next time Castiel drifts involuntarily back to reality, Bartholomew is fucking him. Castiel barely notices, there’s no pain - not compared to what he feels in his back. He couldn’t begin to get hard if he wanted to, so he just tries to stay upright for his shoulders’ sake. His legs are shaking perilously and fluids of all kinds are absolutely everywhere.

Finally, Bartholomew finishes inside of him with a low noise and apparently decides that he’s done. He keys open the handcuffs and Castiel falls ungraciously down onto the bed with a half-grunt, half-moan. Bartholomew brings him some water in a cup along with a pill that Castiel swallows without even asking what it is. He has to wonder how destroyed his back must have turned out because Bart actually spends some time cleaning it up and throwing cream and a few bandages on. Castiel drifts in and out of consciousness, letting the darkness take him as it’s able, the lack of awareness its own sweet relief.

Bartholomew wakes him at some point to say that he’s turned off his alarm and called him out of work with a “bug.” Castiel stares past him through red, swollen, and slitted eyelids, focusing on an ugly painting hanging on the wall instead of his partner. Bartholomew had purchased the thing last year on a whim while they were on vacation in Italy. The trip had been romantic and Bart had held his hand as they strolled the streets of Rome. They’d laughed and made fun of the painting together, and buying it had seemed funny and whimsical at the time. That all seems so far away now. Castiel nods dazedly when Bart repeats himself, letting his eyes drift closed again shortly after. He dreams about Dean’s strong arms and soft touch.

A few hours later, Castiel wakes to hushed male voices and a bright light shining over him. He's disoriented and wholly uninterested in figuring out what's going on. His back feels a bit more numb than it did when he passed out, and after a few moments, he passively deduces that Bartholomew has enlisted a friend to give him some stitches. Castiel wishes they would just leave him alone and passes out again without engaging either of the men at his back. 

The next time Castiel wakes, the sun tells him that it’s at least early afternoon. Bartholomew is nowhere in sight, probably at work, oblivious or uncaring of Castiel’s plight. His bladder is screaming and so is his back. Attempting to stand doesn’t go over well, the pain telling his brain that he’s being ripped in half down the middle. He catches sight of another pill sitting on his nightstand beside a glass of water. He manages to get his head up enough to choke down the pill with a few painful swallows. The water eases the dryness and at least one part of his body feels slightly better. The glass of water is really big though, and his stomach is roiling - he’s only able to get about half of it down. He takes a breath and tries again to stand, but he just can’t do it. With his face flushing in embarrassment despite no one being around to witness his utter humiliation, he dumps the rest of the water on the carpet next to the bed and turns onto his side just enough to be able to urinate into the cup. When he’s done, he’s able to set the cup on the floor without having to move much more than a gentle reach down. The pain medication is blessedly starting to kick in and he gratefully allows the darkness to take him once again.

Castiel has to call off three more shifts before he’s able to return to work. The only thing Bartholomew says regarding what happened are comments about how pretty Castiel’s injuries look as they heal. Castiel knows he can’t keep living like this.

On his first shift back to work after the incident, something happens, and things start to change. Unfortunately, change is slow, and two steps forward sometimes mean one step back. But Castiel knows he has no choice now. He's going to be free, or die trying to get there.

To be continued...

Chapter Text

Castiel’s first day back to work overlaps Dean’s regular twenty-four-hour shift. Bartholomew is away on a business trip for several days, so Castiel is working extra, picking up the six to ten PM shift on top of his regular twelve hours during the day. Charlie is scheduled as his partner and Benny is with Dean. Normally, Cas would be thrilled about the extra time and excuse to be around Dean, but he’s got injuries to hide and no idea how to do that without giving Dean the wrong idea. His concerns are unfortunately substantiated within minutes of walking into the ambulance bay.

Dean has the hood of his ambulance propped up so he can check the oil, but he stops what he’s doing and smiles widely at the sight of his friend, promptly yanking Castiel behind the hood as if it’s a shield against the world and kissing him hello. Castiel can’t help but melt a little bit at Dean’s gentle touches, his soft lips slotting into place between Castiel’s own, his breath sweet and his presence comforting. But then Dean’s hand comes to rest on the small of his back, and while Castiel is healing well, he’s still sore and unexpected touches aren’t easy to tolerate yet. He flinches, and Dean’s face immediately morphs into one of concern (and a touch of hurt that he schools away quickly).

Dean looks around the side of the truck. “There’s no one else down here… did I overstep?” Castiel shakes his head ‘no’ and steps closer to Dean, moving his hands up to Dean’s biceps.

“Not at all,” he reassures him, forcing himself to meet Dean’s eyes and hold his gaze confidently. “I slipped yesterday, in the kitchen. Hit my lower back on the edge of one of the counters on the way down. I'm just sore,” he lies, hoping he sounds convincing enough to ward off further questions.

“Ouch,” Dean replies, moving his hand up to Castiel’s shoulder and massaging gently. “If you want, I could try to work out some of those kinks for you later,” His eyes are so soft and gentle, so genuine, Castiel wishes more than anything that he could spill the truth and take solace in them. But he can’t burden Dean with his problems, his mess. “I’ve been told these hands work magic,” Dean adds hopefully with a small smile that feels like it’s just for Castiel.

“We’ll see,” he replies in a tone that he hopes reads as flirty and teasing and not standoffish. It’s hard to tell because Dean gives his shoulder one last squeeze and turns back to his task underneath the hood. But when Castiel trails his hand across Dean’s own back as he moves past him, Dean turns his head to give him a wink and another smile.

***

The shift is fairly boring but productive, as shifts go. Dean takes in a little three-year-old boy who had a febrile seizure but is fine by the time the crew arrives, evaluates an elderly man who got in a fender bender with a mailbox and wants to sue the mailbox’s owner, and accompanies the police department as they conduct a welfare check on a 90-year-old woman whose kids haven’t been able to get in touch with her for several days. They have to break open the door when the woman doesn’t answer and everyone is prepared for the worst. But as it turns out, the elderly mother of four had simply removed her hearing aids and refused to reinsert them, having had enough of her children calling and nagging at her to move into a care home. She promises the officer that she’ll keep them in just in case there’s a real emergency, but Dean watches through the closing door as she pulls them out almost immediately when they leave. The police department is nice enough to replace her ruined locks.

In between calls, Dean washes his truck, does some of the billing for the charts piling up in his mailbox, and writes up his own overdue patient care reports. Castiel responds to a carbon monoxide alarm activation with the fire guys (false alarm), an accidental overdose (legitimate), and an allergic reaction at the local urgent care. When Dean hears the clanking of the on-spot chains finally heralding the other truck’s return, the sun has started to set and he decides he’s done enough actual work today to merit a break that includes sorting a few things out with Cas. He stretches in his office chair and pushes back from the desk at the sound of the bay doors activating, darting out of the trip sheet room and hopping anxiously down the stairs, wiping his clammy hands on his heavy duty pants as he goes.

The truth is, Dean is nervous. He couldn’t help but notice that Cas seemed a bit off from the moment he came in today and he’s determined to get the man to admit why. The times both crews have been together at the station throughout the shift it's felt like Cas was intentionally keeping Dean at arm’s length. He's been quiet, he didn’t go out of his way to grab moments alone with just the two of them, and he's stealing fewer physical touches than Dean has come to expect. Dean knew he was probably partly to blame, he’d withdrawn over the last week while Castiel had been out sick. He’d had a hard time imagining the other man at home, being taken care of and pampered by that smarmy jerk of a boyfriend. Castiel hadn’t messaged him much either, so he’d figured the two of them were in a better place and that Castiel’s need for Dean was swiftly coming to an end. That idea seemed to mesh with Castiel’s distancing behavior today, and Dean feels pretty sure about what is coming next. But he’ll be damned if he’s going to be the dumpee.

He strides confidently through the metal door at the back of the bay, just as the truck’s backup alarm stops beeping and the rumble of the diesel engine is cut off. Castiel’s head turns sharply at Dean’s entrance, tracking his movement with those beautiful blue eyes. Dean ignores him in favor of grabbing his smokes off of the back countertop, waving Charlie off from shutting the bay door and moving just outside. Castiel follows him out cautiously as if Dean is an animal that might spook. He stands awkwardly between the two trucks parked just inside the bay and waits for Dean to address him. Meanwhile, Charlie slides clumsily out of the driver’s seat to join them, her short frame requiring a small jump off of the step bar to reach the floor. She’s got her paperwork in hand but is clearly picking up on the weird tension between the two paramedics, so she stops to address them.

“Everything okay here?” She asks brightly, gesturing to the space between Cas and Dean, and at Dean’s turned back.

“All good, Charles,” Dean replies a little too quickly over his shoulder. Castiel just looks at his partner with his eyebrows raised and shrugs.

“Oookey dokey then,” Charlie replies hesitantly, her gaze still darting back and forth between them. “I’ll just be- um, paperwork...” She flashes her fistful of notes and printouts from the hospital and backs up, disappearing through the back door in a flash, the muffled sound of her boots clomping heavily up the stairs echoing through the bay.

There’s a moment of thick silence, and then Dean hears Castiel shift behind him, the fabric of his BDUs rustling as he changes his stance. “Dean?” He sounds small and hesitant, almost hurt, and Dean’s resolve weakens as he wonders if he’s misread the situation. “What’s wrong?” Castiel suddenly sounds genuinely distraught, and then his voice drops almost to a whisper. “Did I… what did I do?”

Dean turns to face him, blowing out smoke and flicking ash off the end of his cigarette using his pinky finger. When their eyes meet, he’s surprised to see how nervous Castiel looks. “Nothin’, Cas,” he replies sincerely, not looking away. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I just wanted to let you know that it’s cool, I get it.” Castiel’s face morphs into one of pure confusion, his brows knitting together and his head tilting just slightly to the side and dear god, Dean finds that look so attractive. It takes every ounce of willpower he has to stay rooted to his spot and continue talking. “I mean, it’s been fun and all but I understand that you and Bart have your thing, and I don’t want to get in the way of that. I don’t want you to feel… obligated to me.” Dean shrugs, trying to play at casual, keeping his eyes fixed now on a hydrant directly across the street from where they’re standing. He’s so focused on not paying attention to Castiel’s reaction, that he doesn’t feel or hear the man come up behind him until there’s a light touch on his forearm.

When he turns, Castiel’s still got that stupid, adorable look on his face with the same irresistible little head tilt, except now his hand is on Dean’s arm and he’s right there in Dean’s space. “Dean,” he says firmly, all traces of his previous hesitation and nervousness banished from his tone, and in fact, Dean thinks he detects a note of anger. Castiel continues, “If you don’t want me anymore, then I will respect that. But the last thing I need is another person in my life telling me what I want for myself.” He pauses, raising his eyebrows and letting Dean process his words. “So is that what you’re saying? That this is over because you don’t want me?”

Dean opens his mouth, unsure of what’s going to come out, but the words he tries to say die in his throat. He can’t bring himself to lie to Castiel when he’s like this, when all he wants to do is kiss him senseless. He takes a moment and gets his bearings, managing to shake his head ‘no,’ which Castiel acknowledges with a small nod. Dean takes a tiny step back, just enough so that Castiel’s presence isn’t drowning him. “I’m sorry,” he says simply. “I shouldn’t have spoken for you.” Castiel’s eyes widen almost imperceptibly, and he cracks a small smile.

“Thank you, Dean,” he says quietly, but Dean raises a hand.

“You can thank me by telling me what’s really going on,” he says firmly. “You’ve been weird and distant with me all day after we’ve hardly talked and haven’t seen each other in over a week. I really am sorry for assuming, but can you blame me?”

It’s Castiel’s turn to have words fail him, and he ends up staring at his shoes. Dean is patient and doesn’t push, leaning back against the brick of the building and propping one foot up. After a few moments, Castiel finally nods and takes a stabilizing breath, but as he opens his mouth to speak he’s cut off by the house alarm and a dispatcher’s voice. Dean swipes the Active 911 app on his phone open to read along.

LAWRENCE COUNTY

IN THE AREA OF VERMONT STREET, MASSACHUSETTS STREET, NORTH SECOND STREET AND ELM

ACCIDENT WITH ENTRAPMENT - VEHICLE OVER A BRIDGE

REQ: MEDIC 918-A, 918-B, COMPANY 840 FOR HEAVY RESCUE

Dean opens the passenger door and leans across to turn the key to the ambulance, starting it up and giving power to the radio. He goes responding and then listens to the additional information. “Copy Medic 918-A and 918-B, you’re both responding. Multiple callers report a van over the side of the Vermont Street Bridge and into the Kansas river. Approximately fifty-foot drop. Caller on the line reporting now that the van landed on a small island in the river, no movement from inside. Additional rescue resources are being dispatched.”

“Received,” Dean affirms, slotting the mic back into its holder. By the time the additional has completed, Charlie and Benny have arrived and are buckled into their respective driver’s seats. Dean makes eye contact with Castiel as he closes his door, raising his eyebrows with intent. The message is clear, we will finish this later, and Castiel nods. Benny pulls out first and Charlie follows, the bay door going down behind them as they coast out onto the street. Dean works the sirens for Benny and traffic is fairly light for this time of the evening, so their response time is under ten minutes. When they reach the intersection named in the dispatch, the police already have traffic diverting down a side street so that the bridge is clear save for the aftermath of the accident. Dean puts both trucks on location with the dispatch center and then motions out his window for Charlie to pull up next to him. He tells her to park and then for her and Castiel to head down to the water and survey the damage from there. He and Benny will continue to try and figure out what happened on the bridge to ensure there are no other involved vehicles or missed patients.

Charlie salutes and throws her truck into park, putting it into high-idle so she can leave the emergency lights on. As Benny pulls forward up and onto the bridge, Dean watches in the side mirror as Castiel grab a couple of c-collars and a jump bag and disappear down below the bridge. When he turns his attention back to the scene in front of him, he doesn’t know what to make of it. Benny whistles. “Whaddaya thinking, brother?” There’s a long trailer jackknifed across both lanes and the emergency breakdown area, a concrete barrier at the side of the bridge that’s moved about a foot and appears to have a chip in its corner, and no sign of whatever was towing the trailer. They park and exit the truck, coming together again at the front bumper.

Dean narrows his eyes and puts the pieces together. “Wind?” He hazards a guess. “Wind and speed maybe,” he adds, and Benny nods.

“Yea,” he agrees. “Wind probably caught the trailer back around here,” he gestures behind them, “Flipped the trailer and the force knocked the van up and over the side of the bridge.”

Now Dean is nodding and takes over, “Caught the corner of the barrier as it went, explains why it’s displaced from this angle, and the van would have broken off from the trailer at the hitch.” The duo moves around the side to check, and sure enough, the hitch is ripped right off. Dean deems it safe to look over the side now and does so. When he leans over, staring back at him is the ass-end of a cargo van that's sticking straight up in the air. Its nose is buried about a half-foot deep in mud on an island that isn’t much wider than the van itself. He notes Castiel standing on the side of the river, scouting the scene from that angle and stands back up to turn and address Benny.

“Does that shit seem as crazy to you as it does to me? Entire river and they manage to land on that tiny ass strip?”

Benny shakes his head. “Guess we’ll see how lucky they are when we get down there,” he replies, and Dean has to concede the point. There wasn’t anyone standing on the island and he didn’t see any movement from inside the van. “You wanna head down?”

Dean nods. “Yea- nothing left to do up here. Radio on OPS to send the tow truck up here first so they can get the road open.”

***

At the side of the river, Castiel appraises the situation quickly. From this vantage point, he can clearly see that the van has two occupants, neither of which appear to be moving. He hears the fire trucks pulling up to the scene and tells Charlie to go meet them and to get every able body they’ve brought down to the water. He kneels in the damp grass and reaches down over the embankment to dip his fingers in the water- it’s cold. Not cool, but cold, which is to be expected for November in Kansas. He shakes his hand off, stands and tries to approximate the distance between the bank to the island. Twenty-five, maybe thirty feet? Between the slope of the embankment, the mud, the height of the bridge and any number of other factors, it’s clear that the only option here is manual extrication. Both of the victims will have to be assessed on the island, extricated and immobilized, and then carried across the river and up the grass to the awaiting ambulances. It’ll take too long to mobilize water rescue, the occupants could be dead by then.

Confident in his decision, he slings the jump bag over his shoulder, picks up the c-collars, and carefully works his way down the muddy embankment using some exposed roots to steady his progress. He’s about to step into the water when he hears Charlie calling his name, so he turns. “Cas, Dean is going to kick your ass if you wade across there.” Castiel smirks at her and raises his eyebrows.

“Until Dean gets down here, I’m in charge of this scene,” he replies. “And this is the best course of action.” Charlie gives him a reproving look, but throws up her arms, bringing them down to rest with her hands on her hips.

“You want me to come with?”

Castiel shakes his head. “Not at all. Fill in the firefighters and send them across after me, preferably tied off together - there’s a section between here and the island that I can’t see to the bottom of. Then grab all the blankets we have in the linen cabinet and bring them down. Have fire bring two backboards across as well,” he adds at the last second, before turning and stepping into the chilly water. Immediately, his boots fill up and he has to fight the stinging impulse to jump back out. He had contemplated leaving his boots behind, but who knows what he might step on in the river, or what kind of glass and metal surround the ruined van. Boots are replaceable, he reminds himself. Feet aren’t. Before moving further in, he relocates his phone and wallet from his pants pocket to his jacket, zipping them in securely. After that he wades across slowly and deliberately, taking note of where the water darkens or froths. He does have to cross a section that gets a bit deep and dicey for his liking, the water coming all the way up to his thighs as it rushes by, but soon enough he’s through it and up onto the island, breathing a sigh of relief he wasn't even aware he was holding.

Once safe on solid ground again, he turns around to check on his backup, noting a group of firefighters in bunker gear with backboards resting against their legs as they tie off to each other. Before he can turn back around, his eyes catch sight of Dean who is standing at the water’s edge with his arms crossed, glaring angrily at Castiel. Castiel waves and Dean rolls his eyes so hard Castiel can’t possibly miss it, even with the distance. He turns his attention back to the van.

***

Dean’s annoyed, but if he’s being honest, it’s more at being left behind and out of the action than at Castiel’s scene management. He understands why Cas did what he did, just wishes the self-sacrificing dumbass would have at least tied off to a tree or something first. Dean also has to admit that it’s kinda hot watching Castiel take control like this. Usually, when they’re on scenes together, they’re working hard side-by-side, no time to step back and appreciate each other’s skills and performance as a bystander. But Dean knows it doesn’t make any sense (and would potentially even be reckless) to send both ALS providers out to that island, no matter how much fun he thinks it would be. Castiel has it under control, and he has plenty of brawny lifting power to boss around on the way, so for now, Dean gets to enjoy the view. Currently, Castiel is directing the second team of firefighters as they cross the river, pointing out areas to avoid and suggesting places to step. He gets them across, like the first group and himself, without incident. Dean’s chest swells a little with pride, though he keeps his stony glare up for show. 

From there, Castiel and the firefighters make quick work of extricating the men and immobilizing them onto the spinal boards. At one point Cas sheds his bulky reflective jacket, tossing it across the warped dashboard so that it doesn’t get in the way as he works. The air is chilly (and the water must be worse, Dean realizes), but Cas is sweating as he works quickly to take baseline vitals and secure an airway before the first patient is moved. The second one seems to be awake and talking, and Castiel correctly triages him to wait. Dean does take note that Castiel’s navy blue duty t-shirt is soaked through on the bottom in the back. It’s hard to tell from this distance, but Dean thinks it’s darker than water and almost looks as if he’d fallen in the mud. Dean files that away to check on later, confident that if something were really wrong with Castiel, he’d say so.  

As the first caravan of firefighters starts making its way back to shore, Dean readies himself and gets in line with the other first responders still on dry land to haul the backboard hand-over-hand up and over the embankment and onto the waiting litter. Dean gives his patient a once-over as he works to pass the backboard up, the guy is stirring and moaning now, which is a good sign. He’s actually pushing out the plastic oral airway Castiel had dropped in with his tongue, and Dean pulls it the rest of the way, dropping it onto his chest for easy access should it be needed again. Dean directs Benny to get the patient loaded, get his clothes cut off and the cardiac monitor on, put him on oxygen and he’ll meet them in the rig. He watches for a moment as Benny sets off with a group of firefighters, struggling to push the litter up the grassy hill. Charlie pulls the second litter forward, ready to receive Cas’ patient.

The second group is more than halfway across the water when Dean notices a white-helmeted firefighter mouthing off to Castiel. Over the sound of moving water and the distance, he only catches every other word but it sounds like the officer resents being told where to step in the river by a paramedic. Dean rolls his eyes, this type of behavior isn’t unusual, but it is obnoxious. Firefighter egos can often be bigger than the trucks themselves. Castiel just shrugs and goes back to minding his own way, but then the big-mouthed officer stumbles, going chest first into the water and pulling Castiel down with him. Fortunately, the two of them were holding the end of the backboard with the man's feet, and so that’s the part that falls into the water, instead of the man’s head. The other first responders scramble to compensate, getting the immobilized man’s legs back out of the water in mere seconds.

“Cas!” Dean calls, as Castiel’s head goes under for a moment before bursting through the surface violently as he fights his way back to standing. “You alright, buddy?” Castiel shakes his head like a dog, sending water droplets flying and leaving his already messy hair fucked to hell as he sloshes towards the shore, shedding his sopping wet jacket as he goes. Dean extends him a hand once he’s close enough, pulling him up, and leaving the firefighters to sort out the mess their leader created while he ensures Cas is alright. He walks him towards the waiting pair of ambulances with a hand low on his back, noting with a quick glance over his shoulder that Charlie and the firefighters are following behind now with the patient strapped to the litter. “Seriously man, are you okay?”

Castiel shivers and wrings out his shirt. “Just annoyed,” he replies curtly and then looks up at Dean apologetically from under dark, wet lashes. “Not at you, of course.” Dean smiles, and pats his back, not missing the pinched look that crosses Castiel’s face when he does.

“Alright man,” he says, “Let’s get these guys to the hospital and then we’ll get you all cleaned up and dry.”

Castiel nods and falls into step behind the group pushing the litter that’s now overtaken them, leaving Dean behind to return to his own truck. His hand is wet from where it rested on Castiel’s shirt, so he moves to wipe it off, glancing down as he does and doing a double take at what he sees. Red. Watery rivulets of red, clinging to his palm. Dean stares for a moment, not understanding. Had Castiel fallen? Someone would have seen, wouldn’t they? He can’t imagine that no one would have told him if Castiel had been injured enough to bleed straight through his shirt. What was going on? He flashes back to Castiel flinching away from his touch that morning, to his strange detachment throughout the day, to his reticence when Dean demanded the truth. With reluctance, Dean casts a last glance to where he can see Castiel through the side window of the ambulance, working hard to help his patient, and forces himself to hop into his own truck so that he can do the same.   

***

Dean and Castiel’s patients both go to the trauma bay, so they’re transferred over quickly and efficiently. Once they’ve both given report to the trauma teams, Dean grabs Castiel by the elbow and tells Benny and Charlie to do what they need to do for cleaning and restocking, because Castiel needs to get checked out. Castiel protests as he’s dragged away, trying his best to yank his elbow out of Dean’s iron hold.

“Dean, this is completely unnecessary,” he demurs as Dean drags him towards the nurses’ station, clearly intent on registering him as a patient.

“You could be hypothermic, Cas. You should at least get a bag of warm fluids, let the doc give you a once-over.” He says the last two words pointedly, with a look that flickers low on Cas’ body, and Castiel finally manages to yank his arm away.

“No,” he insists firmly. “I’m fine.”

Dean steps into his space. “You’re not fine, what I don’t understand is why you’re lying to me about it?”

“Ummm…” A sugary-sweet feminine voice wafts between them, as the petite charge nurse stands up, clearly concerned that a fight is about to break out in her E.R. “Can I help you guys with something? Did you need a print-out for a patient?”

“No,” Dean replies to her, not taking his eyes off of Cas. “He needs to see a doctor, we’re here to register him.”

“Dean!” Castiel forces through gritted teeth, “Stop it.” Dean raises his eyebrows and his hands and Castiel lets out a tight breath. “Come with me,” he says lowly as he wraps long fingers around Dean’s wrist and tugs him off towards a side hallway. Dean lets himself be dragged, and the nurse stares after them in confusion. Castiel beelines for a particular doorway that has a push-code lock. He keys in the code easily and slips inside; it’s a supply closet.

“Meg,” he explains and Dean makes an “ah,” shape with his mouth, nodding. Meg was a student in their paramedic class who had the hots for Castiel. She had basically stalked him, showing up at stations and the hospital when Castiel was doing his clinical time, eventually dropping out when she didn’t actually complete any time of her own. She was weird and clingy, but apparently good for something. Castiel beelines for a set of wide drawers, opening them and pulling out a pair of scrubs. “This is the good supply closet,” he says. “All kinds of stuff in here that you can’t get elsewhere. At least, not without an employee number and a patient with an account to charge them to.”

Dean leans against the door casually, but he raises an eyebrow and stares Castiel down, remaining silent.

“I’m getting there,” Castiel says quietly, and with that, he pulls off his shirt. He’s facing Dean, and the man is only human so it takes him a few swallows and some mental gymnastics to remind himself that they’re in here because something is wrong with Castiel, and Dean’s about to find out what it is. Castiel hesitates, and Dean drops the icy facade. He steps forward and wraps his hands around the half-naked man’s biceps, leaning down slightly to kiss Cas softly on the lips.

“Sweetheart,” he says, “You’re scaring me. What is going on?”

Castiel’s eyes have tears in them now. “I never wanted you to see me like this, Dean,” he says, gaze locked somewhere to Dean's right.

Dean’s brow furrows and his eyes narrow. “Like what? Cas, you lost me like three exits back. I got no idea what’s going on here, you're gonna have to help me out.”

Castiel shakes his head a little and sighs, one lone tear streaking down his cheek, and Dean thumbs it away. “I’ve been so weak,” he continues, voice shaky. “It’s not as if I don’t know that what he does to me is wrong.” He looks like he’s going to say something else, but instead, he raises his eyes to meet Dean’s concerned ones, pulls his bottom lip between his teeth and turns around.

Whatever Dean expected, it certainly wasn’t this. At first, he doesn’t know what he’s looking at, his brain simply refusing to make sense of it. But after peeling off the haphazardly taped on bandages, all he can do is stand there for a moment in shock, taking it all in. Angry, half-healed red slashes are crisscrossing Castiel’s lower back and disappearing down into his pants, some broken open and actively bleeding, likely from Castiel over-exerting himself in the river. There are two particularly deep gashes that were stitched badly by someone who either didn’t care or didn’t know what they were doing - the edges aren’t even approximated correctly and the stitch technique is terrible. They’re definitely going to scar, and Dean can’t help but think they look as if they were stitched to guarantee that they’d do that very thing. That’s a horrifying thought that Dean can’t quite process right now, so he back-burners it for the time being. He runs his hands gently over the mess and Castiel shivers again, involuntarily flinching away from Dean’s hand.

“Cas…” he whispers. “Did you… did you want this? You know I won’t judge you, sweetheart, but this is some really hardcore stuff,” Dean is at a loss for words, but the last thing he wants is to make Castiel feel embarrassed or like he can’t be open with Dean about something he enjoys. It's one thing to consensually go too far while experimenting, but the next thing that comes out of Castiel's mouth makes the edges of Dean’s vision go black, and then red.

“I didn’t,” Castiel whispers, tightening his arms around his own chest. “I don’t… like pain.”

Dean has a million thoughts running and rampaging through his brain, but one overrides the rest.

I’ll kill him.

He doesn’t voice it though, just steps forward and turns Castiel around, takes him gently in his arms and holds him while he cries from the sheer relief of someone else knowing, of having someone to share his burden with, of being comforted instead of hurt.

***

Dean doesn’t try to rush him through his grief or tell him how to feel, just holds him and rocks him through it. When his sobs quiet, Dean grabs some gauze and constructs a temporary bandage over Castiel’s back, then helps him out of the rest of his wet clothes and into the soft, dry scrubs. He shoves Cas’ wet things into a Patient Belongings bag that he pulled off of a stack and then pulls out his phone and makes a call. Castiel, for the most part, feels like he’s underwater. Maybe he's still in the river. Maybe he never left. His secret is out, and he has no idea what Dean will do with it. It’s both liberating and terrifying. He forgets to listen in on Dean’s phone call but he does catch a few phrases - something about not asking questions and meeting him by the ambulances. After he hangs up, Dean shoots off a couple of text messages and then takes Castiel by the hand.

“Hey,” he says, using his other hand to tip Castiel’s chin up so he can’t avoid Dean’s gaze. “I’m going to take care of you, alright?”

“Your shift,” Castiel points out weakly, and Dean shakes his head.

“Don’t worry ‘bout that,” he dismisses him. “It’s taken care of.” He pauses and searches Castiel’s eyes for something. “Do you trust me?” Castiel nods, eyes wide and genuine, and Dean smiles- a small, sad thing. “That piece of shit is away right now, yea? When’s he coming home?”

“Two more days,” Castiel replies, still holding Dean’s gaze. Dean nods and checks his phone when it buzzes.

“Alright,” he says, shrugging off his jacket and helping Castiel into it. “Just stick right with me, okay?” Castiel nods and Dean’s grip tightens on his hand. Dean opens the door to the hallway and looks both ways before heading out. They take a roundabout route that prevents them from having to walk through any of the main hallways or the center of the emergency department. Dean locates a side door that’s key entry only from the outside but opens into the grassy area where they’d shared a cigarette that night back before they’d started hooking up. When they step out into the chilly night air, Sam is waiting for them.

He looks concerned, and his eyes sweep up and down Castiel’s scrub-clad body. “I said I wouldn’t ask any questions tonight,” he says, handing Dean a small duffle bag that Castiel has a vague recollection of seeing Sam use to cart his belongings into the hospital for extended shifts. “But we are talking about this, Dean.”

Dean nods, and in a somewhat out of character move, drops the bag in favor of slinging his free arm around his younger brother’s neck. Castiel gets jerked slightly to the side in the process. “Thank you, Sammy,” Dean says, voice muffled in Sam’s lab-coat clad shoulder. “I owe you one.”

“Sure,” Sam replies, looking even more confused and now slightly alarmed. “Dean, are you sure you don’t want my help with…” his eyes flit back and forth between the two paramedics, “Whatever is going on?” Castiel tenses a little. He trusts Sam, knows that he’s a good man, but he’s not ready to share his secret with anyone else.

“Nah, man,” Dean replies easily, and Castiel relaxes minutely as Dean picks up the dropped bag. “Just needed this stuff.” He claps Sam on the shoulder and pulls Castiel along towards where the ambulances should be parked. When they round the corner, to Castiel's surprise and confusion, he sees both trucks are gone, and in their place, Sam’s car is idling. Dean opens a back door and tosses the duffle onto the back seat. He opens the front passenger side door and gestures for Castiel to get in, which he does, albeit carefully. Dean walks around and opens the driver’s side, looking back at Sam standing on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets and a worried look on his face. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he calls, and Sam nods, lifting his hand in a wave. 

Castiel watches Sam disappear in the rearview mirror as they drive away, the illuminated “EMERGENCY/TRAUMA” sign casting his features in red and blue in the dark. He can’t help but feel that everything is about to change, and he’s not sure yet if it’ll be for the better. He turns his head to look at Dean, who doesn’t take his eyes off the road but reaches out to take Castiel’s hand again. He’s not sure. But he can hope.

Chapter Text

Dean has never been to the home Castiel shares with Bart before, and as they pull up he’s a bit taken aback. It's located within one of the nicer neighborhoods the area has to offer, and the house Castiel directs him to is enclosed fully by a fence made up of tall evergreen trees and stone walls connected by a wrought iron gate. Even from the outside, Dean can see that the house is massive and expensive-looking. Castiel winces and moves to get out of the car.

Dean stops him with a gentle hand on his arm to ask, “Should I just park right here? Out at the curb?”

Castiel shakes his head no and explains, “There’s a punch code override for the gate, but I’ll have to get out to hit it. I usually open this monstrosity from my car with a remote.” The entire ride from the hospital Castiel had been sitting on his left hip, turned in towards Dean to avoid leaning back and putting pressure on his back. Now though, he’s rotating carefully around to face the door so that he can climb out.

Dean flexes his hand on the steering wheel, feeling awkward all of a sudden. Was he intruding? Did Castiel even want him here? He clears his throat. “So um, this is… a lot for just the two of you…” Castiel’s head whips around, the fastest Dean has seen him move all day. His eyes search Dean’s face, and his forehead furrows a little.

He shrugs then, almost appearing embarrassed. “That’s Bart,” he says quietly. “He’s very… particular.” Castiel pauses in his slow exit from the car, one hand on the seat next to him and the other on his own thigh. He stares down at the hand in his lap. “Dean… I understand if you don’t want to be here. You’re not under any obligation…” He sighs, frustrated with his own inability to get the words out. “I will be okay. I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”

Dean realizes immediately that he’s given Castiel the wrong message and attempts to rectify his error by reaching out and gently brushing the other man’s cheek. “The only way I’m leaving is if you tell me you don’t want me here, Cas,” he says, letting his thumb trace down the side of Castiel’s face. There’s a beat, and then Dean prompts, “Do you want me to go?” His hand drifts away from Castiel’s body but he settles it right next to him.

Castiel raises his face slowly, meeting Dean’s eyes like he’s afraid of what he might see. When he finds a soft look and gentle smile gracing Dean’s face, he lets out a breath and shakes his head ‘no’. “Rarely, if ever,” he whispers.

“Good, then it’s settled. Bobby's covering the rest of my shift and I got nowhere to be. Prepare to be pampered,” Dean says, going for lighthearted but Castiel’s pained facial expressions prevent the mood from lifting all that much. “Hey,” he adds, “Any reason why you gotta punch those numbers in? I mean, I totally understand if you don’t wanna share the code, I just -”

“0-8-1-8,” Castiel breathes out gratefully, immediately pulling the car door closed again and slumping against it in apparent exhaustion. Dean squeezes his shoulder affectionately and exits the car. He spies the metal pad mounted to the stone wall, lifts the cover and punches the code in, the gate clicking and swinging open on its own. He gets back in the car and pulls through, the iron monstrosity closing behind them as Dean finds himself on a semi-circle driveway framed by a perfectly landscaped and well-manicured lawn. Dean whistles as he takes in the unobstructed view of the house, but wisely makes no further comment when Castiel doesn’t so much as acknowledge his awe. He pulls Sam’s car as close to the front door as he’s able to get so that Castiel won’t have far to walk and then hops out, hurrying around to grab the duffle and to hold Castiel’s door open. He ends up supporting his friend under his arm as he stands up, his reopened wounds and crappily stitched sutures likely pulling painfully at his irritated skin. Castiel looks like he’s aged about ten years since their conversation outside the ambulance bay earlier that evening. Dean hooks his arm under Castiel’s in lieu of sliding it around his back, and Cas leans on him heavily.

Dean does his best to keep his feelings off of his face and to not be too obvious about checking out the house, but it’s difficult. Dean’s home with Lisa is a nice two-story in a decent neighborhood with a green lawn and a picket fence, but this-this house is a mansion. Complete with carved fucking shrubbery and a damn water feature. Grey, stone exterior, recessed and arched entryway with a heavy wooden door, multiple chimneys jutting upward from the roof and holy hell, how is Bartholomew affording all this? Dean’s pretty sure the only lawyers that make this kind of money work in Hollywood or for like, Phillip Morris. He puts that thought aside for now though and focuses on keeping his face neutral. He thinks he’s doing an alright job, too. That is, until Castiel moves in front of him to unlock the front door, stepping inside and flicking on the light switches to illuminate a cavernous foyer with a giant crystal chandelier. Before he can swallow it, a strangled noise escapes Dean’s throat.

Castiel turns halfway around mid-jacket-removal to raise his eyebrows at Dean with a look that’s half-annoyance and half-amusement. “You know… none of this means anything to me,” is all he says, dropping Dean’s coat on a table in the middle of the room and setting off down the hallway. And to his surprise, Dean really understands that, feels it viscerally in a way that catches him slightly off guard.

Me too, he wants to say, but that wouldn’t make any sense so he just hurries to catch up with his friend, slipping his arm back under Cas’ when he does, just in case he's needed. The simple gesture makes Castiel crack a small smile and he leans into Dean, maybe not completely out of pain and necessity. As they make their way through the house, Dean starts to understand why Castiel is so apathetic about it all. There’s really no sign of Cas anywhere here. 

Castiel is eclectic and thrifty, nerdy and fun. Everything here is stuffy and dark, the decor so formal that while it's clearly barely used, it’s almost dated. The main sitting room has vaulted, cathedral ceilings with exposed beams that make it feel more like a church than a home and the walls are a weird beige-pink. There are a few pieces of art hung up that Dean thinks might have hints of Castiel’s taste, but overall, this place feels more like a museum than anything else. It’s clearly not somewhere that Castiel has been made to feel he belongs, in Dean’s opinion, which only serves to reignite the simmering anger in his stomach. He fights it back down by turning his attention back to Castiel and asking, “Where are we going, sweetheart?”

Castiel nods towards a wide, sprawling staircase tucked in a hallway between the sitting room and the kitchen, apparently leading up to the second floor. With Dean holding him up they ascend it fairly quickly, emerging into a hallway that’s just as dark and formal as the rest of the house has been. Castiel pushes open the second door on the left and tugs Dean inside. “Guest room,” he explains, “Sometimes I stay in here when Bart isn’t home.” He shrugs as he toes off his shoes. “It’s… the only room in the house I really enjoy being in.” Dean nods and looks around, his suspicions from early essentially confirmed. This room is far more ‘Cas’ than anything else he's seen. The decor is still expensive and overdone, but Castiel's personality manages to poke through. The heavy curtains framing the oversize window as well as the bedspread are a cheery yellow, the art on the walls is abundant and abstract, and there’s a small beehive figurine with little bees “flying” around it sitting on the nightstand. It’s still not a lot, though, and Dean hopes this sparse space isn’t the only thing Castiel has of comfort here.

“Are you thirsty?” Castiel’s voice snaps Dean out of his reverie, and he looks over at him in confusion.

Castiel cocks his head for Dean to follow as he limps over to a walk-in closet. Dean drops his duffle bag to the floor before tagging along. The closet is mostly empty, just a few pieces of lounge-style clothing folded up on the built-in shelving, except for a mini-fridge installed at about waist height. When Castiel opens it there are waters, juices, and soda, though none are brands Dean recognizes. When he realizes Cas is watching him expectantly, he clears his throat and says, “Whatever, um, whatever you’re having is… is good with me.” Castiel sighs and rolls his eyes.

“Dean, I meant what I said downstairs. This is just where I live, it’s not who I am. This is all,” he waves his hand around, “It’s all Bart. I haven’t been happy here for a very long time. No matter how nice it may seem to you, it’s nothing but a prison to me.” He finishes his declaration softly, his eyes on the interior of the fridge. He bites his lip and grabs two juices, closing the fridge and turning to move gingerly past Dean back into the bedroom.  

A flood of sadness fills Dean’s chest and he shakes off any lingering weirdness or misplaced awe he had felt at seeing the place Castiel lives. How could he not have realized how unhappy Castiel is? Dean is suddenly ashamed and embarrassed. Of course, this place doesn't change anything between them or regarding the situation. Money didn’t stop Bart from seemingly beating Cas within an inch of his life. Money wasn’t making living like this any easier for him. All the amenities and fancy lounging spaces don't change the fact that Castiel is inexplicably tied to an abusive asshole, and for whatever reasons he doesn't feel as if he can leave. Dean knows he has to help, has to figure out a way to get Cas out of here.

But not tonight. Tonight, all he has to do is show Castiel the affection and care the man so clearly needs and deserves. And if Dean needs to give it just as much, well, that's just a bonus. As Castiel moves by him, he wraps his fingers around the other man’s arm but is careful to wait for his friend to acknowledge his touch before he pulls. Castiel’s been yanked and pushed around enough, he should be the one in control, in as many ways as Dean can give to him. When Castiel turns towards him, Dean takes the juices out of his hands and walks them over to a bedside table, the one with the beehive on it. He returns to Castiel, and slides his palm against the man’s cheek, cupping gently.

“May I?” He asks as he leans in and Castiel’s eyes turn a bit misty as he nods. Dean presses their lips together chastely but firmly, holding the affectionate kiss for an extra beat before pulling away slowly. Castiel’s eyes stay closed, and it’s clear that he’s savoring the moment.

“Cas,” Dean says kindly, “Let’s get you fixed up, alright? Then after- whatever you need, it’s yours.”  

“Just need you,” Castiel replies quietly, trailing a hand lightly down Dean’s still uniform-clad chest.

Dean nods. “Well that’s an easy one, I ain’t goin’ anywhere. Come here,” he says, dropping his fingers to the hem of Castiel’s borrowed scrub shirt. “OK if I take this off?” Castiel nods and raises his hands, wincing as the movement pulls at the broken skin of his back. With Dean’s help, they manage to slide the shirt off fairly easily, Dean not missing the dark spotting soaked across the back of it, tossing it aside before Cas can notice too. He takes Castiel’s hands in his own and walks back towards the bed. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Castiel nods and gives him a small half smile. “I’m not fragile, Dean,” he says, “And I’m not afraid of you. Being with you…” he hesitates briefly and steps closer, letting his forehead drop to Dean’s chest. “You heal me,” he says into Dean’s shirt.

And that’s a lot for Dean “No Chick Flick Moments” Winchester, but he swallows his pride and the reflexive desire to freak out and wraps his arms around Castiel, who needs him. The wetness he can feel on his hand reminds him that he has a job to do, and he pulls back just enough to whisper and coax Cas down onto his stomach on the bed, head propped comfortably on a soft pillow. He steps away only long enough to grab the duffle bag, unzipping it as he returns to the side of the bed. Dean pulls out a couple of suture kits, a removal kit, some bandages, and a couple of pre-filled syringes filled with lidocaine for numbing. 

There’s also a small bottle of narcotics, but those aren’t pilfered - they’re sporting Sam’s name and are from last year when he had his appendix out unexpectedly. Sam’s never been big on taking pain medication, not since he was a teen and did some experimenting with a less than savory crowd, ending up overdosing and then detoxing in the hospital. A decade later and he’s still far more cautious than he needs to be, with others as well as himself, so it means a lot to Dean that he even shared what he had. He wonders how panicked he must have sounded to merit that kind of response from Sam, but decides not to dwell and to just be grateful he has such an awesome brother. He pulls out his phone and quickly shoots off a thank you text, before popping the lid of the medication and shaking out a pill.

Dean crouches next to Castiel’s head. “Don’t feel like you gotta take it or anything, but what I gotta do back there is not gonna be comfortable, and I thought you might need something to take the edge off.” He shows Castiel the bottle and the pill in his hand, and when Cas nods his assent Dean cracks open a juice and helps him swallow it. “I’ll just get set up while that kicks in.” Dean ignores the bloody bandages for now, honestly not wanting to eyeball the damage before he has to. Instead, he opens both the suture kits and the removal one, laying out some sterile drapes and pulling on gloves.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but how do you know how to suture, Paramedic Winchester? That’s well outside of our scope of practice.” Dean's reassured by the note of amusement in Castiel's voice and latches onto the topic for the excellent distraction it is.

He snorts a little at the memory the question prompts before recounting it. “Perks of having a surgeon for a brother. Sammy taught me last summer. Remember when we were building that pergola for his backyard and he cut himself? I sent you that gnarly pic of his arm all ripped open down to the fatty tissue. Awesome,” Dean smiles, staring into space as he recalls what is somewhat strangely an amusing memory. “Anyway, he was so embarrassed ‘bout it, he didn’t want his co-workers knowing how dopic he is, so he walked me through the repairs. Sam keeps a jump bag with some supplies in his car, cuz he’s a major dork like that. Guess it paid off for him, though. And for us.”

You stitched that?!” Castiel sounds shocked.

“Geez, Cas. Way to wreck a guy’s self-confidence. I've practiced on a bunch of oranges since then if it makes you feel any better.”

“No, Dean, I just mean, I’ve seen Sam’s arm, it's barely scarred. You did an incredible job. I can’t believe that was your first time suturing,” Castiel’s head is turned so he can fix his eyes on Dean, who doesn’t meet them.

“S’no big deal,” he mumbles, cheeks heating up a bit. Castiel settles again, resting his cheek on his arm.

“Stop denying your strengths, Dean,” Castiel chastises through a yawn. “You’re a wonderful, talented man.”

“Let me know if you still feel that way in ten minutes.” Dean jokes weakly. “You think you’re ready?” Castiel replies with a simple nod, his eyes slipping closed, and Dean doesn’t ask whether it’s related to the pain pill he took or fear over what’s about to happen.  He takes a seat at Castiel’s hip and gently removes the soiled bandages. Despite using the last several minutes to prepare himself for what he knows he’s going to see, the sight still floors him all over again, and he has to stifle an affronted noise.

Castiel’s beautiful skin is marred from his mid-back down below the top of his pants. Dean tucks his fingers into the hem of the scrub pants and asks, “Is it alright if I pull these down a bit? I can’t quite see it all like this.” Castiel’s eyes don’t open, but he nods affirmatively once again. “Alright, I’m only going to move them just enough…” Dean slides the soft, worn-in material down, exposing the top of Castiel’s buttocks. The lacerations stop just below the top of his crack, and Dean is incredibly thankful Castiel’s most sensitive areas were apparently spared. He wants to ask Cas to make sure but also doesn’t want to push him too far, so he ends up letting it go and focusing on the task at hand. 

Castiel hasn’t said and so Dean can only guess, but these marks look like they were made by some kind of whip or flogger. Theoretically, they could have come about in one of two ways - intentionally, which is what Dean suspects, or he supposes it’s technically possible that someone who didn’t know what they were doing accidentally went too far. Castiel’s denial of wanting this, plus the depth of more than one of the wounds, combined with the overall severity makes Dean extremely reluctant to even consider the second possibility, as it feels like a betrayal to Castiel. The whole thing really seems like it was done to simply cause pain. Dean shudders internally, imagining what the event must have been like for Cas, and has to abandon that train of thought pretty quickly before he gets too angry.

He schools himself for getting distracted and refocuses on his assessment. If there’s any positive to the situation, it’s that none of the injuries look infected and they are all healing, albeit slowly, especially the deeper ones. With increasing horror, Dean again finds himself with rambling thoughts as he tries to imagine what Castiel’s back must have looked like only days prior. He wonders how the man had been able to function at all. From where Dean sits, he doubts Cas would have been able to even get out of bed without excruciating pain. He has so many questions that he wishes he could bombard Castiel with for answers, but in the end, he knows that none of that really matters right now. Besides, if he has to, he’ll get them out of Bart himself.

Dean shifts his attention to the badly sutured wound running from Castiel’s lower left rib cage across his back and all the way down to his lower right flank. The wound is different from the others, in that its lines don’t quite sync up. Looking closer, Dean realizes it’s because Castiel was hit multiple times in virtually the same spot. That’s how the injury got so deep. Dean quickly tosses out any possibility that this was accidental. He’s going to have to have a conversation with Cas about going to the police, but he knows now isn’t the time. Instead, he buckles down and gently cuts away the poorly tied thread sewn at irregular intervals into Castiel’s skin. Whoever did this hadn't even bothered to pull the lower layers of tissue together, or approximate the edges of the wound. This mess would have left Castiel with an atrocious scar if it even healed at all. Dean already knows Castiel is going to scar here regardless, but he’s determined to minimize the damage as much as possible. He uses the lidocaine exactly as Sam taught him, injecting superficially to numb the area before he starts. He also numbs the other wound that will require resuturing while he’s at it. Castiel doesn’t even flinch at the pinch of the needle.

While the numbing agent takes effect, Dean rummages in the duffle again, coming up with some saline and gauze that he uses to gently clean Castiel’s whole back. He can’t stop the fresh blood from welling out of several of the cuts, but at least the dried blood is gone and the wounds are clean. Before he starts sewing, he kneels up and places a gentle kiss between Castiel’s unblemished shoulder blades. When he sits back Cas’ eyes are open and there’s a hint of a smile on his face. He stares at Dean for a moment before closing his eyes again. Dean lets him know that he’s going to start and tests for sensitivity by poking around in the deepest wound a bit. Castiel doesn’t react. Dean starts by placing some deep sutures using absorbable material that won't need to be removed later, just like Sam taught him. 

He’s always been the kind of guy that only has to be shown a skill once or twice, and this is no exception. Starting in the middle and stitching perpendicular to the wound, he moves deep to superficial on one side, superficial to deep on the other, keeping the ends of the suture on the same side of the tie, looping twice to pull them tight into a knot. He knots again several times, burying the closure far below the skin’s surface. Castiel is quiet and unmoving the entire time, and Dean hopes fervently that it's because of the narcotic and not because he's so used to being in pain. Dean cuts the line and repeats the stitch several more times in the deep tissue until the wound looks like it's been superficial all along. He uses Nylon to stitch the rest of the wound closed with a similar technique and then repeats the entire process on the second deep injury. When he’s done he tends to the smaller cuts using butterfly closures, applying a thin coat of neosporin over everything and covering it all up with fresh, clean gauze and tape. Satisfied with his work, he lets his hands slide up Castiel’s back to his shoulders, massaging the muscles there gently.

Castiel sighs quietly, his eyes drifting part-way open, eyelids heavy and dark blue irises hazy. “Give me a second,” Dean says, kissing just behind Cas’ ear before he slips off of the bed. He strips quickly, removing his boots, uniform, and t-shirt, everything except for his boxers and then slides in on the other side of Castiel. He doesn’t plan to disturb him, just lies close on his left side and lets his fingers trail gently through Cas’ messy hair and over the undamaged parts of his back. He’s tired, but still far too overwhelmed by the night’s events to even consider falling asleep. He’s got to watch over Cas.

***

Castiel floats and distantly considers the idea that he should feel worse. He should be more focused on the faraway pinching pain that is Dean working on his back. He should be worried about infection risks related to the lowkey surgery being done in his abusive boyfriend’s guest room bed. He should be working on a plan to get away from said abusive boyfriend. The list goes on. But Castiel can’t help wanting to drift, to feel good for a while. Dean’s touches are gentle, soft and sweet. Dean is gentle, soft and sweet. Even his suture work feels steady and sure but at the same time careful, almost tender. Despite the needle threading through layers of his skin, this is the best Castiel has felt in several weeks. Perhaps it’s the pain medicine talking, but the agony and embarrassment he went through tonight feel almost worth it, to have Dean like this, taking care of him. He doesn’t want to need Dean so much- doesn’t want to be seen as weak, as pitiable, but he doesn’t get the sense that Dean does see him as those things. And it’s been an impossibly long time since Castiel has been made to feel cared for. Since he’s been taken care of.

So when Dean slides in beside him and starts caressing his skin, Castiel forces his bleary eyes open and his relaxed, loose body to turn over and face the other man. He puts one hand on Dean’s smooth, bare chest, pushing gently until he shifts onto his back and Castiel can snuggle up into him. He settles with his head on Dean’s shoulder, an arm wrapped around his midsection and a leg thrown over his thighs.

“Are you comfortable?” Dean whispers in the dark. “Sure you don’t need anything? When was the last time you even ate?”

“Shhh,” Castiel hushes, by way of a reply. “This is all I need right now.” Dean’s torso jostles Castiel as he leans down to kiss the top of his head.

“You just ask, alright? S’what I’m here for,” Dean says, sentiment punctured with a yawn, and Castiel acknowledges him by squeezing his torso tighter.

Feeling safe and warm, and knowing neither of them has anywhere else to be, Castiel is asleep within minutes.

***

Around two AM the pager Dean forgot to turn off clicks open and drops their house tones, the harsh beeping startling the two men awake and causing Dean to bolt out of bed in a reflexive search for his pants and boots as the dispatcher rattles off the address for an “ALS MEDICAL” . It takes him a full minute of groping around and multiple irritated sounds from Castiel before he groggily recalls where he is and realizes what happened. He fumbles for the noisy device and upon locating it, quickly turns the dial to “off”. Crisis averted, he slides apologetically back into bed next to a very grumpy Castiel.

“Sorry, sweetheart,” he slurs tiredly into Cas’ hair as the other man buries himself back into Dean’s neck. “Go back to sleep,” he adds, returning to rubbing soothing circles over Castiel’s upper back.

Warm and comfortable again, Dean lets himself live in the moment. The feel of Castiel in his arms, his hot breath on Dean’s skin, his soft, short hair tickling Dean’s face, his long fingers wrapped around and gripping Dean’s hip. He should feel guilty for taking so much pleasure in this when it’s happening because Castiel is injured and hurting, but he can’t help it. This moment, this feeling - it’s all Dean has ever dared to dream about come to life. The simple bliss of being able to drop off to sleep without worrying someone will walk in on them, the awareness that he’ll wake to the other man’s handsome face, the deep satisfaction of knowing Castiel wants him back. It’s the chance to give Castiel comfort, to care for him, to be the one that gets to remind him that love isn’t pain.

Whoa there, Winchester. Love? Slow your roll, cowboy, Dean chastises himself. He can’t be in love with Castiel. It’s too soon, isn’t it?

His train of thought is abruptly dismantled by the man in question tracing his hand in a downward path over Dean’s chest and stomach, dipping unabashedly under the band of his boxers to stroke at his cock. Castiel rolls his own hips repeatedly against Dean’s thigh, and Dean can feel hardness growing steadily against him as he does. He turns back onto his left side so that he’s facing Cas and drops a firm hand to his hip, stilling Cas’ movements. “You sure you’re up for this?” He means to be gentle, to be considerate; the last thing he wants Castiel to feel is rejection. The truth is, he always wants Cas, but not if it means hurting him. Castiel’s eyes open and meet Dean’s own, his pupils dark and lust-blown, but clear. His hips start to roll again slowly, deliberately.  

“Please, Dean,” his low voice is rougher than usual, and the sound shoots straight to Dean’s belly, the shock of arousal pooling there and starting to spread. “I really need this,” Castiel says, his lips brushing Dean’s in a barely-there kiss that makes the other man chase after them when they pull back. Dean caves and kisses the man in his arms solidly, allowing himself to linger, to nip Castiel’s bottom lip, to run his tongue just inside the seam of his mouth.

He pulls back long enough to reply, saying, “I did promise you anything,” before diving back in to kiss the resulting dazed smile right off of Castiel’s face. Dean tries to keep his touches gentle at first, fingertips light on the other man’s ribs, taking only passive friction from the rolls of Castiel’s hips, kissing his mouth, his cheek, his jaw, his neck, but not escalating things any further. Like hell, Dean’s going to be responsible for Castiel over-exerting himself and ripping open those wounds again. But Cas is having none of his babying. After they’ve been kissing and sharing soft touches for some time without Dean showing any intent to take things up a notch, Castiel pushes himself up and drapes himself across Dean’s chest, taking his face in both hands and using his thumb to pull down on Dean’s lower lip so that his mouth falls open. When it does, he takes full advantage by dipping forward, covering Dean’s mouth with his own and licking in deep.

A moan escapes Dean’s throat against his will, and his hips press reflexively up against Cas’ pelvis. He feels a hand come between them as Cas reaches down to pull the drawstring of his own scrub pants, shimmying them down over his hips and wiggling his body to kick them off. Once free, he’s grabbing Dean’s boxers, tugging down hard until Dean does the same, leaving both of them naked and a very hard Cas straddling Dean’s thighs. Dean keeps his eyes on Cas’ face as his hot, velvety length starts to slide against Dean's own. Dean’s never one to turn down penetrative sex, but he loves it like this almost as much. Just the two of them, moving together, touching each other, everything soft and slow and sweet. Like this, he can focus on the feel of Cas’ strong, muscular thighs bracketing his own, the weight of his body heavy in Dean’s lap, and every inch of Cas’ delicious naked skin writhing on display above him. Dean’s hands come up, laying flat on Cas’ toned stomach and sliding upward with no other goal than to feel, to revel in him. He could do this for hours, days even, just him and Cas and the slow, hot slide of their bodies pressing together.

***

Castiel leans down to kiss Dean softly, their tongues brushing for only a moment before he leans back again, resuming his previous rhythm while stroking them together. He watches as Dean sucks his own bottom lip in between his teeth and drags it back out slowly, leaving it plump and spit-slick. “Wish you could fuck me,” he breathes, and Castiel knows his eyes go wide. “What?” Dean prompts, flushing a little. “I mean, unless that’s not something you’re into…”

Castiel can’t shake his head fast enough. He knows he probably shouldn’t be so caught off guard, but it’s been years since anyone has wanted him to top, and with Bart he’d almost forgotten that switching was a thing that lots, even most, gay couples do for each other. “Dean, I-” he cuts himself off as he searches for the proper words. He swallows. “I would like that very much. If it’s something you want, that is,” he amends.

The corners of Dean’s eyes crinkle with humor, and he’s biting his lip again. “Oh, I very much want,” he replies with a smile.

“I feel good enough!” Castiel blurts his thoughts out without really thinking, blushing and looking down to where his hand is still wrapped around both of their cocks. Dean actually lets out a laugh, and Castiel knows the flush must be creeping down his entire chest now.

“Take it easy, sweetheart,” Dean soothes, “Next time, when you’re healed up a little more.” He runs his hands up Cas’ chest and down his arms tenderly. “You’re really doing it for me just like this, you know,” he adds, and with that, he wraps his own hand around Cas’ and ups the pace just a bit. Castiel lets himself get a little lost in all the sensations of Dean surrounding him, soon fucking carelessly in and out of their fists while Dean groans and pumps his hips beneath him. Dean finishes first and uses his come to slick up his hand to bring Castiel off the rest of the way. When he comes it’s all over Dean’s fist, and the other man’s eyes are bright and possessive when he notices. His clean hand comes around to the back of Castiel’s neck, pulling him down gently but firmly to kiss him hard. And then Dean’s lowering him to his side, positioning him just so, sliding out of bed and returning with a wet washcloth and the bottle of juice from the bedside table.

When Castiel is settled back into Dean’s arms, they both fall asleep rather quickly.

The next time they wake, it’s to Dean’s “end of shift” alarm, letting them both know that it’s time for him to go home.

Dean looks at Castiel regretfully and promises to come back later that evening to check on his wounds and change his bandages. Castiel doesn’t ask what he plans to tell Lisa, he’s not sure that he wants to know.

Before he leaves, Dean disappears downstairs without telling Castiel why. He returns fifteen minutes later with a steaming mug of coffee made exactly how Cas likes it and a pile of buttered toast. Castiel almost spills both items pulling Dean down for an appreciative kiss.  He spends the rest of the day in a slight haze from Sam's pain pills watching a Netflix marathon of some trashy reality show.

Dean keeps his promise and returns that evening with take-out food for Cas and follow-up instructions from Sam, but he's distant. He’s gentle but professional about the bandage change, only letting his hands linger on Castiel’s skin after everything is reapplied. Other than that, he’s stingy with his touches. Castiel tries not to feel hurt and does his best not to let his feelings show on his face. He has no right to expect anything from Dean, but that's easier said than done after what they'd shared last night. 

“Cas,” Dean says, as he repacks the medical supplies into his duffle bag, “What’s the plan here?”

Castiel narrows his eyes and cocks his head, deciding to be intentionally obtuse. “With… us?”

Dean flushes a little, averting his eyes and shaking his head. “No, man. With Bart,” he clarifies, spitting out the man’s name like it’s venom.

Castiel nods slowly. “I have a plan in the works,” he says carefully, and Dean visibly brightens.

“Really? So you’re like, good? You’re not going to try and stay here? You’re gonna leave before he gets back, right?”

Castiel nods again, “I am good, Dean. I… if all else fails I will go and stay with my brother.”

Dean looks visibly relieved, and Castiel knows that he's made the right choice in unburdening Dean over this, even if it means lying. Not that he isn't planning to get out, of course, he is, he just isn't in a position to do so right at this minute. But that isn't a worry he wants to weigh Dean down with. Dean has his own issues, is struggling enough in his own life. He’s already done more than enough for Castiel, been more than enough. 

Dean clears his throat as he nods and says, “That’s real good, Cas. I’m glad to hear it. You call me though… if anything changes. If you need me, or whatever. If that scumbag comes back early.” He’s standing in the foyer now, duffle slung over his shoulder and fidgeting nervously with his phone. Castiel wants to crowd into his space, wants to kiss the breath from his lungs, wants to drop to his knees and beg him not to leave or to take him with or to run away together and never look back. Instead, he gives him a small smile and nod of acknowledgment. Dean does kiss him goodbye, slow and sweet and full of affection, the most Cas has seen from the man all night. He thumbs Cas’ cheek as he pulls away, and his eyes are full of regret.

“Cya, Cas,” he says quietly, heading for the door.

“Goodnight, Dean,” Castiel replies. The heavy door slams closed behind him, leaving Castiel standing alone in the monstrous, expensively decorated foyer with his arms wrapped across his bare chest, feeling more alone than he had when no one knew his secret at all.

Chapter Text

What Dean doesn’t tell Castiel is that when he returned home that morning Lisa was waiting with news. While Dean had been at work the prior day, she’d gone to her first OB-GYN appointment and had an ultrasound to check on the baby and confirm dates. According to Lisa’s estimation, she should have been 8-10 weeks along at the time. Instead, they’d discovered she was closer to six months, far enough along to determine that the baby was a girl. Dean had almost fainted in shock when he’d heard, collapsing heavily onto one of the breakfast bar stools and working hard to process. His timeline for coping and adjusting and getting his shit together had just been abruptly cut in half.

Add to that the fact that the baby was a girl, and Dean was spun. The weight of his recent choices was suddenly hitting him hard. What kind of example was he setting for his future daughter? What kind of way was this to treat his child’s mother? Dean felt sick and had to drop his head between his knees for a few moments to pull himself together. Lisa had been weirded out and concerned, but luckily as a nurse, she was fairly used to family members having exaggerated, dramatic reactions to otherwise routine medical conditions and had simply patted his shoulder and gotten him a glass of water. Lisa herself was elated, more than pleased to have made it through over half of her pregnancy almost unaware. She hadn’t been drinking or taking any problematic medications so she had no worries about the condition of the fetus, which had looked “picture perfect” on ultrasound anyway. She babbled on about not having to buy too many pieces of maternity clothing and how she was “literally three times this size” with Ben, but Dean had already stopped listening.

He had no idea what he was going to do. Weeks ago, he could have cut things off with Castiel, but things aren’t so simple now. Aside from the mess of feelings he's since developed and is still desperate to deny, there’s Castiel’s well-being to consider. Regardless of what happens between them in the future, Dean can’t just leave the man trapped with that monster. But is it even his place to intervene? What can he even do? He’s lost, angry at himself for letting things go so far, and sad. The previous night had been one of the best nights of his life, despite the circumstances. In a perfect world, he’d throw Castiel in his car, they’d drive off into the sunset together, and every night would be like the last one. But this world isn’t perfect, and Dean can’t abandon his child. He’s not going to repeat his own father’s mistakes, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness.

He’ll make sure Cas is safe, and then he’ll start putting distance between them.

***

Dean’s plan is easier said than carried out. He promises himself that he’ll limit physical contact with Cas and he doesn’t even last one evening. The sad, hurt look on Castiel’s face as he stood there half-naked and freshly bandaged was too much for Dean to resist, resulting in a long, lingering kiss that he can't even bring himself to regret. Dean does force himself out the door after that, but it’s a close thing. He gives up almost immediately on the notion of ending things completely with Cas, but he does start to make an effort to limit the text messages (and sex messages) he sends outside of work. He throws up some mental walls and tries to create some emotional distance from the other man. He puts Castiel in a box; thinks of him as something that only exists at work and at the station. For some crazy reason, he’s able to convince himself that if he contains his relationship with Cas to that physical space, what he’s doing is somehow not as bad. He knows deep down that he’s being unfair to literally everyone involved, but he just can’t bring himself to sever ties. Castiel clearly isn’t in any kind of place to be losing pieces of his support system, and Dean is beyond being able to deny how much he wants the man. So, poorly-constructed and poorly-reasoned box it is.

Things go on like that for several weeks, Dean and Cas resuming their flirty and mostly-sexual relationship, both actively avoiding discussing anything beyond the physical, because that feels safe.

One morning, as Dean is coming off of an overnight shift with Garth, Bobby asks him to clock a few extra hours because he needs someone off duty to run one of the trucks down to the service garage. They won’t be down a unit since they have three ambulances, rotating through them monthly to spread out the wear and tear. Bobby tells him that the schedule is messed up that morning, with Castiel coming in at the regular time even though his EMT won’t be in until nine, some scheduling issue or something, Dean wasn’t really listening. Bobby tells him to keep the second truck off-status with the county until nine and have Castiel drive the Squad car down to the garage so Dean has a ride back. He can run chase if anything crazy comes in, in the meantime. Bobby says he wants Dean to look at the truck with the garage’s mechanic and to “be specific with those idjits, the last time they did more damage than they fixed.” Dean agrees and fires off a text to Lisa, letting her know why he won’t be home right away, staring at his phone waiting for her reply until Bobby yells at him to “get the hell out of my office already!”

Dean salutes, grabs the keys to the Squad off the wall and is leaning up against it when Castiel pulls in. The Squad is actually the Supervisor vehicle, a bulky SUV that Bobby drives around in most days, fully equipped like an ALS ambulance and decked out with lights and sirens, just not capable of patient transport.

Dean grins and dangles the keys from his fingertips.

“What’s up?” Castiel greets him with a grin. He’s looking much healthier now, Dean thinks. He’d removed the stitches himself a week or so ago and checked his back again just a few days prior, noting that all the marks had faded to puffy pink scar tissue. Dean hopes that in time those will fade even further, but he’s glad that at least Castiel isn’t in pain anymore.

“We’re running an errand,” Dean replies cheekily, casting a wink in Castiel’s direction as he tosses him the keys. “And I have a surprise for you.”

***

Forty minutes later sees Dean and Cas leaving the garage behind, Dean driving per his insistence and Castiel happily riding shotgun with the window cracked, wind ruffling his already messy hair. Despite being mid-December, it’s not unpleasant outside, a rare fifty-eight degree day that feels more like fall than winter. Dean turns on some classic rock and takes all back roads, winding his way through the rural areas just outside Lawrence proper. He inhales deeply as the scent of the outside air changes, thick with the smell of someone doing a controlled leaf burn. He’s feeling lighter and happier than he has in a while. When he looks over at Castiel, he finds the man already looking back, soulful blue eyes drinking him in while he wasn’t looking.

Before Dean can say something about Cas’ creepy staring habits, he’s unbuckling his seatbelt and leaning over into Dean’s space. His mouth goes immediately to Dean’s neck, leaving wet, open-mouthed kisses and sucking gently so as not to bruise. Cas’ lips trail downward and set to work on Dean’s collarbone next, giving it the same treatment, his left hand bracing himself on the seat and his right hand working Dean’s belt buckle and the button of his pants open. He breaks to palm Dean’s cock roughly through the outside of his pants, and Dean turns his head just enough to steal a quick kiss, reluctantly pulling his eyes back to the road.

“You know this is like, crazy dangerous,” Dean manages to choke out, working hard to keep control of the vehicle while his legs are begging to spread and his hands are itching to twine themselves in Castiel’s hair. Castiel just smiles as he frees Dean’s almost hard cock from his pants and drops his head straight down into Dean’s lap. Dean moans loudly and has to fight his eyelids from involuntarily closing.

“Fuck!” He exclaims, keeping one hand on the steering wheel and unable to resist dropping the other onto Castiel’s head. The wet heat surrounding his cock is delicious perfection, and Castiel is pulling out all the stops from the jump. Sucking, hollowing his cheeks, swallowing around Dean after he takes him in as far as possible, and there is no way Dean is going to last. “Wait!” He cries out as he feels tight heat building at the base of his spine, snaking his hand under Castiel’s head to grab around the base of his dick. He groans as Castiel pops off wetly and looks up at him with a grin. “I don’t mind, Dean,” he says as he wipes his mouth, and at that moment Dean can’t remember why he was stopping, because it sort of seems like the inevitable head-on collision into a tree will be totally worth it. But then he remembers his plan.

“Just give me five minutes,” he pleads, darting a glance between Castiel’s swollen pink lips and the road. Castiel nods and sits back up, returning to his previous position in the crook of Dean’s neck to mouth at him some more. His hand makes a loose circle around Dean’s cock as he strokes him lazily.

Dean takes a few deep breaths and his eyes dart up the road, searching for the turn-off he knows is there and thankful when he comes upon it within the next mile. The turn-off is much less a road and more of a packed-dirt trail, it’s a place Dean hasn’t come for a long time but that he used to frequent on occasion during his teenage years. He hopes the way is still clear and not grown over with brush. Luckily, the SUV traverses the empty trail with little issue, and soon they’re pulling into a clearing that overlooks a sparkling lake.

Castiel raises his eyebrow. “Shouldn’t we be getting back to the station?”

Dean smirks and gives him a little shrug. “I mean if you’d rather-”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Then relax - we have a little time.” Dean gestures to the radio system installed in the middle console next to the lights and sirens panel, turning up the volume on the dispatch frequency. “We’ll hear any dispatches and we’re within response range in case you gotta go play hero.”

“Well, in that case…” Castiel is out of the vehicle and halfway around to Dean’s side before he can say another word. Dean meets him and they crash together, Castiel’s weight pushing Dean hard against the bumper of the truck and almost causing him to lose his footing. Cas isn’t gentle today, he clearly wants something and intends to take it now that Dean has given him an opening. Their kisses are rough and sloppy, Castiel switching between tongue-fucking Dean’s mouth, licking his neck and biting at his ear, leaving trails of spit as he does. 

Dean jumps right to fumbling with the other man’s belt and the button on his pants, loosening them just enough so he can push his hands past the band, sliding his palms down over mostly-healed skin to pull Cas in tight and squeeze the globes of his ass. Dean had never bothered tucking his dick back in while they drove and so all he has to do is shove Cas’ underwear down beneath his balls and then they’re sliding tight together. They rut like that for a couple of minutes before Castiel gets impatient, pushing Dean away and manhandling him to turn around and bend over the hood of the SUV. He pulls Dean’s pants down to his thighs, exposing his ass and revealing his cock hanging hard and heavy between his legs. Castiel makes a low, pleased sound and palms one of his cheeks.

“Gonna fuck me, Cas?” Dean’s voice comes out breathless and hopeful. The air is chilly but Dean’s skin is superheated and he hardly notices. “There’s lube in my right pocket.”

“Yes,” Castiel growls, “Eventually,” and his warm presence behind Dean disappears.

“Wha-” Dean starts, moving to push up and look over his shoulder, but Castiel pushes him back down with a hand on his lower back, sliding it down to join his other hand in parting Dean’s cheeks, exposing his hole. Dean sucks in a breath when he realizes where this is going, and lets out a wholly indecent moan at the first swipe of Castiel’s tongue.

“Oh fuck, Cas, yes,” he whines as Castiel’s tongue teases the space between his balls and his hole, dragging upwards through his crack and circling the puckered skin. Castiel isn’t timid - he dives in with a level of enthusiasm Dean’s never experienced when it comes to this particular activity. He licks and sucks and bites until Dean can’t hold back the little noises in his throat and then pushes his tongue past the tight ring of muscle without hesitation. Dean holds on for the ride, flexing his hands on the smooth metal hood, trying to be courteous and still when what he really wants is to grab a fistful of Castiel’s dark hair and hold him in place. 

He’s got a cheek pressed flat between his hands, legs spread as far as his pants will allow when Castiel starts adding fingers. With the first two, he just relies on his own spit to slick the way, fingers moving alongside his tongue, Dean relishing the very slight burn and stretch that provides. He can’t help but push back now, wanting more and on the verge of begging. Castiel must have retrieved the lube at some point, because Dean feels it when his third finger is added, the cool slick sensation allowing Castiel’s scissoring to become smooth and easy. “Enough of that,” Dean pants, “Come on Cas, you’ve gotta be hard as a rock.”

“Indeed,” Castiel murmurs, far too composed for Dean’s liking, with him so open and undone and on full display. He wiggles his ass a little, searching for Cas’ touch and he gets it - Castiel wraps his fingers around Dean’s hip and squeezes lightly, the head of his cock brushing Dean’s wet hole for only a brief moment before it’s pushing in. Dean knows he’s acting like some kind of needy bottom straight from cheesy gay porn but he can’t hold back the punched out sounds and whines as Castiel slides inside of him for the first time. When he bottoms out, Dean’s hand flies back to grab Castiel’s ass and pull him in tight, grinding against him as he does to take his full length.

“God yes,” Dean moans, and Castiel lets out a breathless chuckle in response as he leans forward and drapes himself over Dean’s back, hands coming up to cover Dean’s own and interlace their fingers on the hood of the car. Dean’s back to letting his cheek rest between his hands, staring out at the dark blue of the water and the pretty reflection of the sun as Castiel’s lips trace the nape of his neck and he starts to move inside him. The quiet, soothing break of gentle waves lapping against the muddy shore is broken by birds singing and the sound of Castiel’s thighs slapping against Dean’s own. Dean’s mind goes blissfully blank, his body lax and Castiel’s to own, to take what he wants from.

“Cas,” Dean whispers, and Castiel’s hands tighten against his for a moment before they release him and drift down to his hips.

Castiel pulls him up and back slightly, his pace and force suddenly increasing, and with the new angle, Dean is seeing stars. He starts to cry out with every thrust, and Castiel is whispering soothing nonsense in his ear, an arm suddenly around his middle and a hand on his cock and Dean’s never felt something so, so good. And then the tight heat is coiling again, Castiel’s hand flying over his cock, Castiel around him and inside him and his lips on Dean’s ear and then he’s coming, hot and hard all over Cas’ hand.

He’s floating then, distantly aware that Castiel is still fucking him, harder now and it still feels good even though he’s had his orgasm, and just when he thinks he’s pleasured-out, there’s wet heat bursting inside of him that has his dick valiantly trying to wake up again. Dean distantly thinks that if this is what a quick fuck in the middle of the woods with Castiel is like, he can’t even begin to imagine how it would be to have hours together, laid out on a comfortable bed and free to take their time. That thought is almost too much to take, so Dean shelves it. He stays where he is as Castiel slides out of him, wincing a little at the uncomfortable sensation. Castiel disappears and returns with some napkins that Dean is pretty sure are from Dunkin’ Donuts. Cas cleans Dean up as carefully as he can and helps him get his clothes back on. For his part, he looks fairly put together, except for his hair which is wild as sin, and the pleased, sated look on his face.

When Dean’s finally upright again and facing him, Castiel slips arms around his waist and steals a gentle kiss. “Thank you, Dean,” he says quietly.

Dean huffs a laugh. “Dunno why you’re thanking me, Cas. You did all the damn work. You fuck like a pornstar,” he says with a smile, and it comes out more affectionate than a statement like that should as he pinches Castiel’s cheek and makes him blush. “We’re definitely doing that again,” he adds and pulls away, slapping Castiel’s ass as he makes his way back to the driver’s seat. He plops down a little too confidently, eyes going wide and a small sound escaping his mouth involuntarily. Castiel is watching him from the front of the SUV, and the crinkly-nosed smile that crosses his face when he sees Dean’s reaction is devious, but he returns to his seat and slides in without comment.

When they get back to the station, Dean spends another two hours just hanging out and shooting the shit with Castiel and the other crew members. They play a few card games and Charlie cajoles Dean into frying them up his famous burgers for lunch. After, when they’re all sprawled out on couches and watching some lame sci-fi movie, Dean steals glances at Castiel from across the room. The satisfied, happy look on his face makes something warm and tight blossom inside Dean’s chest.

“Today was a good day,” he announces, throwing his hand up in a ‘goodbye’ gesture as he exits the crew room to finally head home.

Yes, it was, Castiel’s text message to him reads as he gets in his own car. Thank you.

***

The next time Castiel gets to see Dean, it’s unexpected. Bobby had called him at home that afternoon to ask if he’d cover the night shift EMT spot after Benny went home sick with the flu. No other EMTs were available and Bobby certainly didn’t want to do it himself, so he was authorizing time and a half pay AND a double-medic truck. Double-medic trucks were rare and coveted. The medics all loved working them but they were too expensive to staff on a regular basis, so when the opportunity to work one arose, hardly anyone turned it down. It was fun and reassuring to know that your partner had your back in a way even the best EMTs just weren’t equipped to. And besides all that, Castiel certainly wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to work and be alone with Dean.  

Bartholomew isn’t thrilled when Castiel calls to ask if it’s alright for him to take the shift, asking Castiel what he’s expected to do all alone in their house for the entire night. He relents when Castiel promises to leave dinner in the fridge ready to be microwaved and on request, sends him some dirty pictures of himself with a toy. Bartholomew tells him that he’d be hotter with some new whip marks and Castiel doesn’t reply.

But Bartholomew is the last thing on his mind when he pulls into station for his shift. The ambulance bay door is open and Dean is leaning casually against the hood of his truck as Castiel parks and gets out. He flashes Cas a dazzling smile that makes the corners of his eyes crinkle, and Cas can’t help but reciprocate.

“Heya, Cas,” he says brightly.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel replies, holding Dean’s gaze and fighting to keep his expression semi-neutral, difficult as it is.

Charlie’s leaning against the other truck and taking in their exchange with narrowed, critical eyes. “You’re awfully happy to be working,” she says, her tone belying her suspicions.

Castiel shifts back from Dean slightly, dropping his bag to the ground and shrugging. “I suppose I am,” he replies honestly. “I enjoy my job.”

Charlie nods and purses her lips. “Uh huh. And I’m sure that’s… all you enjoy.”

“Charles!” Dean scowls. “Knock it off. Leave the poor guy alone.”

Charlie doesn’t flinch, just stares Dean down with those same narrowed eyes. “I can start in on you if you’d rather,” she challenges, and Dean rolls his eyes.

“Don’t you have a date? Or some other elsewhere to be?” Dean’s scuffing the toe of his boot on the ground as he glares at Charlie.

Charlie visibly brightens and nods. “Hell yes, I do. Finally got that hot bartender at Jimmy’s to give me her number. Her name is Gilda, can you believe that? Anyway, I reek, gotta go home and shower before I pick her up.” She shoulders her bag and starts towards her car, stopping to point between Dean and Cas. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she says seriously, backing away and flashing the ‘peace’ sign. “Later, bitches.”

Dean sighs as they watch her drive off. “That one’s too perceptive for her own good.”

Castiel cocks his head and waits for Dean to continue. When he doesn’t, he asks, “Do you think she knows about us?”

Dean shrugs one shoulder and avoids looking at Castiel. He snaps his gum a few times. “Maybe.”

Castiel can’t help but raise his eyebrows at the subdued reaction from Dean. “And… that doesn’t bother you?”

Dean does the little half-shrug again. “If it were anyone besides Charlie…” he trails off, turning his face into the cool breeze and standing there silently for a moment. “She’s good as family,” he finally explains. “Better, even. She ain’t gonna say nothin’.”

Castiel is still for a beat and then nods. “I trust your judgement.”

Dean finally raises his eyes to meet Castiel’s and smiles, but it’s tinged with bitterness. “Thought you were supposed to be the smart one. Come on,” he adds before Castiel can respond, hitting the button to close the bay door and heading for the stairs. “There’s no one here. Let’s go make out.”

***

An hour later and they’re relaxing in the crew room with dinner in the oven and a Law & Order marathon providing static background noise on the donated big screen TV. It would be the picture of domesticity, disturbed only by the fact that Dean is kneeling on a pillow between Castiel’s legs and has been for over fifteen minutes, lazily sucking his cock while he watches his reaction through his eyelashes. Cas has one hand twisted in Dean’s hair and the other on the back of his neck, firm but comforting and making no attempt to hurry him along. That part is more “Dear Penthouse,” than it is “At Home With,” but Castiel’s certainly not complaining. 

It’s not like the “domestic bliss” he’s typically subjected to is actually anything of the sort. Castiel’s breath hitches as Dean takes him deeply, swallowing around his width and blinking away the tears that spring to the corners of his eyes. Cas soothes a hand through Dean’s hair and murmurs a few quiet words of praise as Dean does it again. He lets himself crescendo slowly like that, enjoying the leisurely build and the satisfaction that comes with having Dean display his affection like this, of knowing Dean cares for him, whether he's ready to admit it out loud or not.

Dean’s picking up the pace and Castiel is just approaching what he recognizes as the point of no return when the house system comes to life, dropping their alert tones noisily interspersed with static. Dean pulls off with a frustrated groan and a trail of spit, palming the bulge in his own pants as the dispatcher’s voice comes through the speakers.

“Company 918, City of Lawrence, 4851 Harvard Rd, at Pioneer Ridge Rehab, an ALS Medical.”

Dean grunts in annoyance, heaving himself up off of the floor accompanied by several loud cracks of protest from his back and knees as Castiel tucks himself away, resigned to an uncomfortable next hour at least. Dean jogs over to the stove and reluctantly switches it off, grumbling something under his breath about undercooked and soggy food. Castiel stretches and follows Dean down the stairs, admiring the ripples of his broad shoulders and the residual redness where Castiel’s nails had dug into his neck. They move wordlessly into the bay and take their places in the truck as the door goes up, Dean driving because that’s what Dean does when they’re together. Castiel puts them responding with the 911 center and they’re off. During their drive to the nursing home, Castiel steals glances at Dean, relaxed but focused on the road, their red lights bouncing off of the angles of his face in the growing dark. 

It’s hard not to dwell on how easy things are with Dean, how flawlessly they fit together, both personally and professionally. It’s hard for Castiel not to kick himself for failing to make a move on him years ago before they’d dug their mutual holes with partners that were never quite right. It’s hard for Castiel to think about his Dean returning to a home, making dinner for, sharing a bed with, parenting a child that he shares with a girl named Lisa when Dean should be with him. This whole thing... is hard.

Like everything else they do together, the call goes smoothly. It’s a ninety-year-old woman with indigestion and chest pain and an extensive cardiac history that makes Castiel far less skeptical of her chili dinner as the culprit. She’s waiting for them in the lobby of the nursing home and gets up to sit on the stretcher all on her own. She’s spritely and friendly and exactly the kind of patient no one ever minds caring for. As they get her loaded into the truck she voices that she has a minor fear of needles but Dean is charming and has an IV slid into her arm before she even notices, distracted by his flirty behavior and his captivating smile. While Dean’s doing that, Castiel grabs a 12-lead EKG to assess her heart. The results aren’t even fully printed before he’s elbowing Dean, subtly requesting his attention. Dean sees the problem on the strip right away and nods at Castiel to get the truck moving. “Call it in for me?” He asks as Castiel hops out of the ambulance to take his place in the driver’s seat.

Castiel nods. Of course, Dean, anything for you. 

He puts them en route to Lawrence Memorial with the dispatch center and then switches the radio over to the frequency that allows them to communicate with the area hospitals. Once he’s connected with Lawrence Memorial, he asks for a doctor and requests an “MI Alert” be activated, the response code for a confirmed heart attack coming in via EMS. The doctor asks a couple of questions and reviews the strip Castiel sent wirelessly from their monitor before confirming his diagnosis. After he disconnects with the hospital, he catches Dean’s eye in the rearview mirror. Dean still has his prettiest smile plastered on his face but Castiel knows him well enough to realize he’s extremely concerned. 

He sees Dean go through the motions of their cardiac protocol; giving aspirin, nitroglycerin, oxygen, monitoring vitals, drawing blood. He also sees Dean continue to talk, keeping the woman calm and engaged, likely warning her about what’s going to happen when they reach the hospital. When Dean’s done with his interventions and taken down all of the woman’s info on his clipboard, Cas sees him shift closer to her from where he sits on the bench seat to take her frail hand. She says something that gets a genuine laugh out of Dean, one that lights up his entire face.

They sit like that for a moment before Dean’s countenance changes. Castiel can’t see the patient, but he knows from Dean’s reaction that something is wrong. He keeps an eye out as Dean switches the nasal cannula for a non-rebreather oxygen mask, and then Dean’s calling out, “How much longer, Cas?”

“Pulling in,” Castiel replies, smoothly navigating through the last traffic light and turning into the hospital driveway that leads to the emergency room. He flips their red lights off and backs into an ambulance-only space near the doors, jumping out immediately to assist Dean. When he opens the back door, the elderly woman is clammy and grey, her breathing obviously labored. Dean has the cardiac monitor wedged between her legs and the oxygen switched over to a portable tank for the transfer inside.

Dean jumps out and murmurs, “Just happened,” in Castiel’s ear. Together, they pull the stretcher out and lower the legs to the ground, locking them in place and flipping the safety latch to release the stretcher from where it’s locked into the rig. With Castiel leading and Dean at the woman’s side, they stroll briskly into the ER. The charge nurse looks up when she sees them and gives them a room assignment immediately. She gets up and follows them in, accompanied by what feels like the entire rest of the ER, including the doctor Cas spoke to on the radio. Dean succinctly gives his report to the room and hands over the blood samples which are sent promptly down to the lab. 

By the time Dean’s done talking, his patient is registered and has been changed into a gown, her monitor switched over to a hospital one, and they’re ready to take her directly to the cath lab to reverse the blockage that’s threatening her life. Castiel’s waiting just outside the room, listening to Dean but busying himself with changing the linen on their bed and making a mental list of the items he needs to restock. Dean joins him then, absently tucking the side of the sheet under the thin mattress. His patient is wheeled out of the room behind him and as she passes, she grabs Dean’s arm.

“Thank you,” she says from behind her oxygen mask, looking up at Dean with big, watery eyes. “Thank you.” Dean doesn’t hesitate, just leans right in and gathers her up in his strong arms- wires, tubes and all- and Castiel has to smile as he sees her small arms attempting to feebly reciprocate the hug.

“I’ll check in on you,” Dean promises. “When you’re out. Bring you some flowers, make all your bingo friends jealous.” He flashes her his biggest smile one last time as she’s wheeled away, her wrinkled hand holding onto his until it slips out when her bed gets too far away.

Castiel doesn’t say anything as Dean turns back to him, save for giving him a soft smile. Others might be tempted to mock Dean for being overly empathetic, but Castiel thinks this is Dean at his very best. In fact, everyone deserves someone like Dean in their worst moment. The day a healthcare provider forgets that is the day they should find a new profession.

It takes them a while to restock, Dean gave morphine and has to wait for a nurse to sign off on dispensing a refill. Castiel takes the opportunity to wipe down the interior of the ambulance with Cavicide wipes, effectively killing anything that dared try and grow on the plastic surfaces. When he’s done he wanders back into the ER to retrieve a registration printout for Dean’s chart, and to locate the man himself. They’re just about ready to head back out the door (Dean with his arms full of soda and snacks from the EMS room) when the hospital PA system sounds an alert for a code blue.

In the cath lab.

Castiel’s gaze whips immediately to Dean’s face, but he stays impressively neutral, pausing for only a moment before aggressively avoiding meeting Castiel’s eyes at all and stalking out the automatic doors.

Castiel lets Dean drive back to the station, and doesn’t try to make him talk.

***

A large coffee from the convenience store around the corner, four cigarettes, some dinner and a slice of pie later, Dean still doesn’t want to talk. He’s quiet and sullen, responding to Cas’ attempts at conversation with one-word answers and flinching away from his touch. Castiel understands but still wishes Dean would give him a little more credit. It’s frustrating to be open and willing and wanting to let Dean lean on him for comfort and to be rejected as if he’s the source of the man’s angst. He knows that expressing emotions freely is not Dean’s style and that the man is probably struggling not just with sadness but also with feeling emasculated over simply feeling sad at all, and while Castiel may not suffer from toxic masculinity himself, he understands how their profession relentlessly churns out men who do.

In the end, Castiel may be patient, but he’s never claimed to be a saint. After an hour or so of tolerating Dean’s taciturn, depressed mood plus a rather uncomfortable if mercifully short call to evaluate a toddler whose panicked grandmother called 911 when he fell off of his rocking horse, he’s had enough. It’s not like he and Dean have copious amounts of time to be alone together, and there’s no way he’s letting this night go down the drain so easily.

Castiel makes up one of the twin beds in the bunkroom, the one pushed up against the wall that he knows Dean favors. He grabs supplies out of his bag and leaves them on the nightstand. He fills a glass of water and leaves that there as well. And then he goes looking for Dean. He finds him in the fire bay, underneath the hood of the Brush truck. He stands there with his arms folded until Dean finally stands and acknowledges him. Dean sighs.

“Not now, Cas, please.” In response, Castiel just raises an eyebrow and closes the hood of the truck before Dean can stuff himself back under there again. Ignoring Dean’s annoyed expression and without saying a word, he reaches out and closes his fingers around one of Dean’s wrists, tugging him firmly along as he strolls through the bay, up the stairs, and into the men’s bunkroom. Locking the door behind them, he turns to Dean and methodically starts to strip him. “Cas, I’m really not in the mood,” Dean protests quietly, but he doesn’t resist, lifting his arms and legs as required to allow Cas to rid him of his clothing.  

When Dean’s completely naked, Castiel walks him back until his knees hit the bed. He lets Castiel lay him down and doesn’t complain when his mouth starts moving all over his body. It only takes a few moments before his tense, tight form begins to relax, Castiel’s ministrations exactly the distraction Dean didn’t know he needed. Castiel’s still fully dressed and shows no signs of taking anything for himself, just focuses wholly on making Dean feel good. He takes Dean deep and encourages him to fuck his mouth, squeezing his balls lightly and tracing a finger over his hole in what’s meant to be sweet teasing. He’s fully intent on finishing Dean off with his mouth and tucking him into bed for the night when Dean stops him and pulls him up so their eyes can meet for the first time in hours.  

“Please, Cas,” he murmurs, his eyes a little watery, “Please fuck me.”

And of course, Castiel obliges, opening him up slowly and gently, fingertips brushing his prostate and causing him to arch his back and moan. Castiel kisses him through it, nuzzling his face and stroking his cock until Dean pushes roughly at his chest and demands that Castiel “knock it off with the kid gloves.” He looks a little irritated, actually, enough that Castiel withdraws his fingers and pulls away slightly. But that only irritates Dean more, and there’s a weird push and pull between them until Dean finally lunges up, flipping Castiel around so their positions are reversed and he’s straddling his thighs. He rips at Castiel’s pants, yanking them down before they’re even really open and freeing his cock. 

He bends down and takes him in his mouth to the root, sloppily sucking only until Cas is at full mast, then sitting up and edging forward, lining Cas’ cock up to his entrance and pushing down to take him in without hesitation. Castiel can tell by watching his face that there’s pain, but Dean clearly wants it, it’s easy to see that he does. Cas still has to grip the sheets underneath him to stop himself from gentling Dean’s motions, his own experiences screaming in his head that pain can never be pleasure, but Dean’s moans, Dean’s eyes drifting closed, Dean’s hips rocking faster, all show him otherwise.

Dean wants this, he tells himself. It’s not the same, you’re not doing anything he isn’t enjoying. And after a few moments, Castiel even starts to believe it. It’s hard not to with Dean gyrating above him, head thrown back, fingers curled into Castiel’s abs, ass pulling almost all the way off and pushing back down hard with every thrust.

His eyes open then, green meeting blue in a lust and need-filled haze, and Dean’s lips part.

“Please, Cas,” he whispers, and with that, Castiel is finally on board. He pushes up to wrap an arm around Dean’s middle and flip them again so that Dean’s back underneath him. He somehow manages it without pulling out and as soon as they’re in position, he moves his hands up to the back of Dean’s thighs, pushing them up and out, making him open and vulnerable. Dean takes it with his bottom lip pulled between his teeth, biting down hard enough to turn his lip white. Castiel doesn’t waste any more time, just slides out and slams home in a way that makes Dean groan and slam his hand against the wall behind his head. His other hand shoots up to grab Castiel’s forearm, squeezing hard.

“FUCK, yes! More Cas, please,” he cries, and Cas is willing. 

He fucks Dean hard enough that Dean’s head is soon bumping up against the wall, but he’s moaning happily and meeting Cas thrust for thrust. His cock is purple and straining against his belly and with Cas pounding into him, his legs locked around his waist, it only requires a few short strokes before Dean is coming hard all over his stomach. As he finishes, Dean’s stomach clenches hard, outlining muscles in his abdomen Castiel’s never seen on him before. Dean’s legs squeeze Castiel’s hips and his internal muscles do the same to his dick until he’s seeing stars and painting Dean’s insides white. They’re both still breathing hard when Castiel collapses on top of him, slipping out accidentally and making Dean grunt.

Castiel lifts his head and uses his fingers to tilt Dean’s head towards him. His face finally looks relaxed and sated. “Are you alright?”

Dean smiles, nods, and steals a brief kiss. He’s looking at Castiel with such open affection and tenderness that Castiel actually believes for a second that he’s going to say something, something real, but then Dean’s eyes go a little wide and the moment is gone. Castiel realizes in that moment how hard Dean is working to bury whatever it was that he almost let slip, and it breaks his heart just a little.

“Thanks, Cas,” is what he says instead, and Castiel nods, telling him he’s glad he could give him what he needed, and he is.

After that, Dean gets up and showers quickly while Castiel rights his own clothes and throws the sheets in the laundry, remaking his bed with fresh ones. Castiel wonders if Dean will want his own bed tonight... Aside from his issues accepting comfort, these twin frames are definitely not made for two large men, so he makes up a second one up just in case. But when Dean comes out of the bathroom he slides in beside Castiel without hesitation and lets Cas pull him in tight to his chest. They’re cramped, and neither of them sleeps well with so little space, but it’s what they both need, so they don’t think twice about taking it.

They’re undisturbed for the rest of the night, and they at least sleep well enough that they don’t hear Charlie’s car start up and pull away from the outside of the building.

Chapter Text

The Holidays pass without much incident. Dean and Castiel see each other when they can, hook up when they’re able. They work, and juggle their own relationships, and lie to their friends. They don’t acknowledge it but both of them know that something has shifted between them. At some point, without intending to, they’d blown straight past “just fuck buddies” and careened headlong into “emotional relationship” territory. When they’re alone, Dean’s as apt to grab Castiel’s hand just for the sake of holding it as he is to shove the other man up against a wall and stick his tongue down his throat. As time moves forward, touches become more affectionate, kisses more reverent, sex is less about just getting off and more about a chance to connect, to be together, to let down the barriers they’re forced to keep up on a daily basis.

And Dean? He’s barely hanging on. Pulled in two different directions between his responsibilities and - dare he think it- what he loves, he’s never been more lost.

He knows that his anxiety and confusion is manifesting in his daily life. At work, he’s distant and forgetful, often shirking his responsibilities to spend time with Castiel. Bobby’s had him in his office multiple times, reaming him out for failing to complete billing in a timely manner or for overlooking basic truck maintenance that almost resulted in 918-A’s engine seizing up on a call. Charlie is more skeptical than ever, dropping frequent, pointed remarks that suggest she knows more than she’s outright saying, but Dean mostly ignores her and changes the subject. Benny is his usual quiet, non-confrontational self, but Dean catches even him side-eyeing his and Castiel’s interactions these days. 

On top of all that, Dean found out several weeks ago that Castiel never moved out of Bart’s home as he had promised, but Dean’s too much of a coward to actually bring that up, knowing that Castiel will be fully within his rights to call him on his own mess of a personal life and not wanting to have to deal with that at all. No, he'll just have to accept that Castiel is a big boy, and he'll be alright. He knows what kind of a man Bart is now, surely he’ll take steps to protect himself. He’s muscular, strong, can lift Dean up off the floor by his thighs. Dean convinces himself fairly easily that Castiel is well-able to protect himself should it become necessary, and that he's not in any real danger. And besides, Castiel is his own person, allowed to make his own choices. But since none of those thoughts ever really leave his head, some days even Dean wonders who exactly he’s trying to convince.

If there’s one thing that’s not up for debate it’s that Dean could use a guilt-free outlet. Luckily for him, Jo Harvelle is slated to get married in mid-January, and since she’s an EMT at Lawrence EMS and her fiance Ash Miles is a firefighter, the whole affair is basically guaranteed to be a wild time. Bobby’s even given up trying to bribe the staff into working that night and enlisted a neighboring ambulance/fire company to cover the station for twelve hours. Both Castiel and Dean have been given plus-one options for attendance, but neither of them is planning to bring their other significant others. 

Being heavily pregnant and very familiar with fire company parties, Lisa had been quick to wave the invitation off, telling Dean to go and enjoy himself, the only caveat being that he wasn’t to stumble home drunk at two AM. He was to ensure he had a safe ride and a place to crash, whether it be at the station or a friend's house. Dean doesn’t think he’s ever jumped on an offer so quickly in his entire life. Castiel, meanwhile, had excitedly informed Dean that Bart was scheduled to be out of town the night the wedding was happening. They hadn’t explicitly talked about it, but Dean was pretty sure they’d be ending the night in Castiel’s guest room bed.

Dean knows he needs to tread carefully, though. He’s been friends with Jo since they were both in diapers, a function of their dads both working as firefighters for the same company and hitting it off. Their families had been close, going on trips and spending birthdays and holidays together. They’d all grown apart after Jo’s dad Bill had died in a house fire that John Winchester had scene command on, and things were never quite the same after that. Jo’s mother Ellen wasn’t quiet about the fact that she blamed John and thought he had been reckless, making a huge mistake in allowing the interior search and rescue mission that resulted in Bill’s untimely death, and she’d stopped bringing Jo around the Winchesters. In fact, if Dean’s mother hadn’t died in an arson attack on their home (set by an asshole rookie firefighter that John had fired for his bad attitude and worse performance) a couple of years later, their families probably wouldn’t have reconciled at all. Dean and Sam had needed a mother figure though (and a father figure, when John was unable to dig himself out of his depressed hole), and Ellen had realized it was pointless to take her residual anger at the elder Winchester out on innocent children.

There was a tense period again recently when Jo had decided to become an EMT and Dean had supported her, but again a death in the family (this time John, a not-entirely-unexpected succumbing to liver failure related to his endless drinking) had Ellen yet again putting her frustration and fear aside and begrudgingly agreeing that a career in EMS was at least moderately safer than one on the Fire department side, and mothering Dean and Sam through the loss of the only remaining blood family they had left in the world. The thing is, Ellen and Jo? They know Dean, probably better than anyone else alive save for Sam (and maybe Castiel, these days). They aren’t like Charlie, they won’t be easily dismissed if they suspect something is going on that's not completely above board. Dean knows that if he isn’t careful he’s liable to have his secret revealed and have himself ripped a brand new asshole in front of all Jo’s wedding guests and by default, every one of his co-workers and friends.

So the plan is: party hard, have fun, and fly under the radar. If he has to ignore Castiel at the party to do that, then he’ll make it up to him in bed later that night.

Dean has this all under control.

***

Dean does not have this under control, not by a long shot. He should have enlisted someone to monitor his alcohol intake, but he didn’t. Instead, he’d met Benny, Castiel, and Charlie’s date Gilda at Charlie’s place where they’d pre-gamed the ceremony with about ten jello shots each. They’d played rock, paper, scissors to decide who would be the designated driver and a playful fight had broken out where they’d all accused each other of cheating. Benny refused to even play since his wife was meeting him at the reception after work, guaranteeing him a safe ride home. The end result was one they all could agree on, and seemingly obvious in retrospect - they’d just take an Uber. After that was settled, all bets were off. 

Dean was still relatively in control at that point, just flushed and flirty by the time they’d left for the church, and if he’d had to squeeze in tight next to Castiel to fit three of them in the backseat, well, that wasn’t anything strange at all. He managed to sober up slightly during the actual ceremony, enough to remember to keep his distance from Cas and engage with literally anyone else who came his way while folks were milling around afterward. But then Charlie had broken out her flask while the five of them waited for their second Uber, and it was game on all over again.

He’s not sure who started it, but an hour and a half into the reception Dean is neck deep in a game of gay chicken with Castiel. Sober Dean would be running for the hills from this game, but pleasantly-drunk Dean thinks it’s hilarious, and feeling good is all he’s really about right now. It started when he and Castiel had gone to check their coats on arrival at the venue; Dean had sidled up to the window beside Cas, and accidentally let his hand graze Castiel’s right butt cheek. Cas had looked at him with his eyebrow raised before going about his business checking his coat, subtly brushing his fingers over Dean’s crotch as he turned to walk away. Dean had gotten him next at the bar, and Castiel had groped him under the table they’re seated at, and in an embarrassingly short amount of time Dean was having to cross his legs to hide the outline of his mostly-hard cock in his flimsy dress pants.

He’s thinking about his next move in this ridiculous game when he catches Ellen’s eye from across the room and man, only a mom could look so skeptical from so far away. He gives her a little wave and sees her eyes narrow further. Alright, warning received, tone it down, asshole. So instead of scoping out Castiel’s whereabouts, Dean diverts his attention to the newlyweds, making his way over to the sweetheart table to offer his congrats. Jo is beautiful and glowing and stands to greet him with a big smile. She throws her arms around his neck and says, “Hey, dickwad,” affectionately in his ear.

“Hey there, brat,” Dean returns with a grin. “Ash. Congratulations.” Despite the fact that it’s his wedding, Ash is still sporting a mullet that doesn’t look like it’s been combed in years, his suit jacket is nowhere to be seen, and his formal dress shirt is sleeveless. Formal, collared and fitted with a fancy set of buttons, but sleeveless. He’s chugging a PBR and offers Dean a “rock on” sign with his hand.

“Thanks, man,” he says, taking his turn to hug Dean and clapping him on the back. “Good of you to be here, make sure you have a beer or six on me.” Ash kisses Jo’s cheek and lets her know he’s going for a refill, offering sweetly to bring her back whatever she wants.

“I’m good,” she replies, and she’s obviously on Cloud 9 as she watches him walk away.

“Man, Jo. I still can’t believe you and Ash.”  Dean shakes his head. “I may never get it.”

“You don’t have to get it, asshole,” Jo retorts, with a poke to Dean’s ribs. “He makes me happy. That’s all that matters.”

Dean looks down at the tumbler of whiskey in his hand and fidgets a little. “Yea. I guess so.” He shoots a quick glance over towards Ellen, who seems to have decided Dean is alright for the moment and is back paying attention to Bobby. If Dean were a betting man, he’d put money on their union being the next Fire/EMS wedding he’ll be attending. Ellen’s eyes flash back to his for a brief moment, sharp as a knife, and she tilts her head in warning. Dean gulps. If he survives this one, anyway.

***

Dancing. Dancing is the last thing Dean remembers. And, masculine arms? Castiel wrapped around him. He shoots bolt upright from where he’s laying, and frantically looks around. He’s in Castiel’s guest room - how did he get here?! Dean groans and rubs his bleary eyes, trying valiantly to ignore the queasy feeling in his stomach. He’s undressed save for boxers and a t-shirt, his dress clothes neatly folded atop the comfy chair in the corner of the room. There’s a glass of water next to him, and Dean downs it greedily, regretting that decision when his stomach rolls. It’s still dark outside, and a quick press of the home button on his phone tells him it’s only four AM. That tracks; Jo and Ash’s reception started around six, he’s had plenty of time to sleep off some of his binge. 

He puts the water down and turns his attention to the other side of the bed. Castiel is splayed out, stripped to his own boxers, covers kicked down to his calves and snoring lightly. Dean’s torn between the urge to kiss and touch and run his hands all over tanned and healthy skin and trying to put his memories back in order so he knows what kind of damage control he can expect to be running in the morning. In the end, it’s the second impulse that wins out, but only because he really has to use the bathroom, and he can think anywhere.

He slides out of bed and shuffles zombie-like to the ensuite, plopping down to pee because standing and aiming is just not in his repertoire right this minute. He sits with his head in his hands, elbows on his knees for several minutes but unfortunately, the memories just don’t come. He thinks he must have danced with Cas, but that’s not too bad - drunken people dance and hang on anything that’s nearby, right? Probably not terribly tragic. He wonders how Castiel got him upstairs and into bed. Maybe he was just really drunk at that point and only passed out once he hit the mattress. He can hope, for Cas’ sake. He didn’t have any messages on his phone, so that’s got to be a good thing. If he’d outed himself or done something truly embarrassing, someone would have followed up about it. Right? 

Dean decides he’s just going to have to wait for someone else to put the pieces back together for him. He cleans up, borrows the toothbrush Castiel has in the holder to brush his own teeth, downs some Advil that Castiel must have left out for this exact purpose, and chases them with another full glass of water. When he slides back into bed, Cas’ pretty blue eyes are blinking sleepily up at him.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas’ voice is darker and grittier than it usually is, and it’s really doing things for Dean.  

“Hey, Sunshine,” he replies, hooking a finger under Cas’ chin and pressing their lips together. Cas tastes like the barest hint of mint, and Dean’s grateful he’s not dealing with leftover alcohol-breath, though it wouldn’t stop him. “M’sorry,” he says as he pulls back just enough to look into Cas’ eyes. “Didn’t mean to get so sloppy wasted.” He moves back in to recapture Cas’ lips but succeeds only for a moment before he feels a hand on his chest, holding him just out of reach. Castiel lets him go and pushes up from the mattress, scooting back to lean against the ornate headboard.

“About that… we need to talk, Dean.” Castiel’s eyes are serious. “You were… very drunk, and very… affectionate towards me at the wedding. Luckily, most of the partygoers were equally intoxicated, and your behavior was not anything out of the ordinary, considering. At least, I don't think so.” Castiel pauses and clears his throat, reaching for his own glass of water on his bedside table.

Dean tries to wait patiently while he sips, but patience has never been his strong suit. “Alright, so what’s the big deal then? Sounds like everyone was drunk and happy. I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten drunk and flirted with anything that moved.” Dean shrugs as Castiel puts down his water slowly and deliberately.

“That may be… but I’m guessing it’s the first time you attempted to make out with a man in front of Benny and his wife.”

Dean’s jaw drops. “Say what? Wait- a man? Please tell me it was at least you,” he says, his expression horrified.

Castiel tilts his head in annoyance. “Of course.” He pauses and Dean’s eyebrows raise, shaking his head in clear frustration with Castiel’s reticence to share the whole story.

Castiel sighs, and spills.

Apparently, Dean had been quite a happy drunk, joking and laughing with anyone he came across, sweeping Jo wildly across the dance floor and busting a move with anyone that would have him. He was charming and giggly, and the life of the party.

Until he wasn’t.

By Castiel’s estimation, it was somewhere around the halfway point of the bottle of whiskey Dean had been steadily decimating on his own. Castiel had lost sight of him briefly, and become concerned. A quick search of the limited places Dean could have wandered off to had Castiel locating him in the men’s bathroom, slumped on the floor with the bottle of whiskey in hand and tears running down his face. Castiel kindly left out some of the details here, but Dean caught the general gist - crying about his disaster of a life, snottily confessing his love for Cas and his resentment of Lisa, begging Cas to fuck him on the bathroom floor, some really classy stuff.

By the end of this part of the story, Dean’s listening with one hand covering his face, peeking out just barely from between two of his fingers, his face undoubtedly the color of a ripe tomato. “Cas…” he whispers, his words sticking and dying in his throat. He tries again, but he’s unable to voice his disgust and shame, unable to give shape to those feelings, but Castiel just holds up a hand.

“You have nothing to apologize for in laying your soul bare in front of me, Dean,” he says, but that just makes Dean feel about a hundred times worse, and a thousand times more flustered with embarrassment.

“Jesus, Cas,” he finally forces out. He lets his hand fall from his face, the gesture seeming pointless after hearing what he’d already done. “You can’t just say things like that.”

Castiel looks at him sharply. “You did,” he replies simply and then looks back down at his hands. “Anyway, Benny happened to come into the bathroom and saw what a mess you were. To make a long story short, he helped me get you out to his car, and his wife drove us here.”

Castiel further describes how, on the ride from the venue to Castiel’s house Dean abruptly shifted from melancholy-emo-crybaby into a horny, desperate, hot mess. He’d climbed unabashedly into Castiel’s lap, had kissed and groped him, had pulled him down on top of himself when he was shoved off to the side. From the way Castiel describes it, there was really nothing Castiel could have done to make the situation look like anything other than what it obviously was. Dean’s cheeks burn when Castiel hesitantly reveals that Dean had been vocal as well, not sexually but in telling Cas repeatedly that he loved him. Benny had been quiet during the entire ride, and Andrea had been understanding, turning the radio up to try and give the two of them some false semblance of privacy. But there was no way they hadn’t heard, no way they didn’t know.

“Benny helped me get you in the house and up the stairs,” Castiel finishes up. “He didn’t seem… I don’t think that he was judging you, Dean. I’m quite sure that when you talk to him, you’ll find that he just wants you to be happy. He told me that he’d talk to Andrea, keep her from running to Lisa, at least until you call him.”

“Shit,” Dean breathes out, collapsing back onto the headboard next to Castiel and making it rattle against the wall. He looks to his left, eyes searching Castiel’s face. “Cas, I’m so sorry.”

Castiel shrugs and doesn’t look too upset. “Neither of them knows or care about Bart,” he says, “Nothing has really changed on my end. But we should probably make an effort to keep our distance for a little while.”

Dean nods absently and relaxes back again. He takes an extended moment to gather his wits for what he’s about to do before blowing out a long, stabilizing breath. He thinks briefly about making a silly, "Last night on earth," type joke instead, but he wants to be better than that. Cas deserves better than that.

“Cas,” he finally says, eyes looking straight ahead, “I want you to know…” Dean’s throat tries valiantly to seize up again, every fiber of his being telling him to shut up, to run, to change the subject, but Dean presses on. He can do one adult thing tonight, one selfless thing for Castiel. “Idoloveyou,” he breathes out quickly, continuing to avert his eyes afterward.

Castiel’s hand finds his where it’s clutched into the blanket. “I know that, Dean,” he says with a squeeze. “And I love you.” He pauses for a moment. “I wish that changed anything.”

It’s Castiel’s tone as he says those words that gets Dean to finally turn and make eye contact. “I mean it does, in a way. It has to change things. Cas, I never even told Lisa that I love her.” Dean’s admission hangs between them heavily, Castiel’s eyes widening and Dean swallowing tightly. Castiel starts to nod, and then before Dean really knows what’s happening, he’s surging forward and kissing him hard. He climbs up to straddle Dean’s lap, big hands cupping the sides of Dean’s face and pulling them together. Dean is quick to respond, wrapping strong arms around Castiel’s trim waist and hugging him tightly, keeping him close. 

Now, this he knows. This he can do.

***

Castiel’s thighs grip Dean’s hips, the muscles in his folded legs flexing and tensing underneath him as he rides Dean’s cock, working hard enough that they’re just on the edge of cramping. Castiel doesn’t back off though, instead, he rocks harder, the thin sheen of sweat that appears on his chest easing his slide against Dean’s body as they move together.  Dean’s hands grip his ankles, his hip, they pull down on his shoulders and drift down his back as Dean himself looks up at him almost reverently. Castiel uses his own hands for leverage - one on the wall, one on Dean’s firm, strong bicep keeping him upright as he rolls his hips and chases his own pleasure. Dean leans forward and takes one of Cas’ nipples in his mouth, biting gently and eliciting a moan and an arch of Cas’ back, the hand on the wall moving to cup the back of Dean’s head and grasp at the short strands of his damp hair while one of Dean’s own moves to Castiel’s ass cheek and squeezes.

They’re so into each other, so lost in sensation, in touch, in being together without secrets and emotional barriers for the first time, that they don’t hear it. Not the car pulling into the front driveway, not the creak of the heavy front door. Not the footfalls on carpeted stairs or the click of the bedroom knob turning. Not until Dean’s eyes drift open from their blissful reverie, catching on movement from beyond where Castiel’s arm blocks his view do either of them even register that something is wrong.

As soon as Dean recognizes Bart’s visage hulking in the doorway, everything feels like it shifts into slow motion. Dean reacts by flipping them over and then turning back around to face Bart, pushing Castiel behind him as he does, up against the headboard like Dean’s body and a piece of wood can offer him some kind of real protection. Castiel, for his part, refuses to cower, refuses to tremble, and squeaks indignantly at being manhandled. But he wraps an arm around Dean’s waist as Dean pulls the covers up to hip level.

“We can talk about this,” Dean starts with his hand out, obviously trying to appeal to Bart’s businesslike nature.

But Bart doesn’t acknowledge or address Dean at all. His eyes are locked fiercely on Castiel and have been since the moment he opened the door.

“I knew you were a whore, Castiel,” he says, and he’s so calm that his words seem almost conversational, were it not for the dangerous glint in his eye. “I just didn’t know that you were stupid. He spits the last word out like it’s bitter in his mouth as he advances on the two of them. When he’s next to the bed he pauses to scoop up a pair of pants, winging them angrily at Dean and hitting him in the face. “Get the hell out of my house,” is all he says, his eyes still not leaving Castiel.

“If you think I’m leaving him here with you, you’re crazy,” Dean retorts, and then Bartholomew does turn his attention to Dean. He rounds the bed and gets right up in Dean’s face. Dean holds his ground, breathing heavily and using the pants as a barrier between Bart and his nakedness.

When Bart speaks again, his voice is low and threatening. “If you aren’t out of my home in the next two minutes, I will call the police and have you arrested for trespassing. I know every cop, every district attorney, every judge in this City. I’ll have Castiel testifying that you broke into our home, tied him up and raped him. I’ll even give him the bruises to back up his story. And he’ll do it gladly because he has no idea what the alternative is. There’s nothing you can do for him, boy, so I suggest you cut your losses and return home to your pregnant girlfriend and stepson.” Dean’s eyes widen and Castiel watches as he flinches reflexively at the mention of Lisa and Ben. Castiel wracks his brain - how could Bart possibly know about them, about Dean?

A small, “What?” is all Dean can manage, and his face looks ashen.

Bart smiles, an expression that belongs firmly in a bad ‘90’s slasher movie, not on a living, breathing human being. Castiel has the passing thought that Bart might actually be some kind of supervillain. “That’s right, Dean Winchester, I know all about you. I’ve known about this,” he points between Dean and Cas, “for longer than you think. You see, I keep track of my investments and I don’t take kindly to people attempting to steal what’s mine. This was all well and good when you two were just swapping semen, but it would appear that other people are now starting to talk, and I cannot have that. So get out of my house, and stay away from Castiel, Dean, or I will make you live to regret it. Which is to say nothing of what I’ll do to Castiel.”

Dean is frozen, his gaze darting between Bart and his friend, and Castiel’s eyes are brimming with tears as he watches. “Go,” he whispers. “Dean, you have to go.”

“M’not leaving you,” Dean grits out between clenched teeth, fingers closing firmly around Castiel’s wrist. “Come with me,” he pleads, voice softening.

“You’re really trying my patience, Winchester,” Bart interjects. “Thirty seconds and I’ll have the DA’s office on the phone. Or, no- wait, 911 is definitely the way to go. That would be far more embarrassing for you, wouldn’t it? All of your friends showing up here to see you like this?”

“Dean,” Castiel says softly, trying to draw the man’s attention back. When he has it, he gently unwraps Dean’s fingers from his wrist and gets up on his knees, throwing his arms around Dean and hugging him tightly. “You have to go, Dean,” he whispers in his ear. “Go.

Dean doesn’t hug back, and he glares between them as he pulls away and backs towards the door. “You won’t get away with this, you sonuvabitch,” Dean says darkly, still holding his pants.

“I believe I already have,” Bartholomew replies pleasantly as he adjusts his shirt cuffs with a smile. “One last thing. You’ll stay away from Castiel from now on. This is the end of this little game. If you come near him, try talking to him, touch him at all, I will rain down Heaven and Hell on you, do you understand? This entire city is in my pocket. I own everyone you’d turn to for help and I will know if you try. Got it?”

Dean doesn’t reply, just glares, the muscles of his jaw twitching and tense as he backs through the doorway. Castiel watches him disappear into the dark of the hallway and manages to hold back his tears until he’s gone.

He doesn’t have to worry about finding something to say to Bartholomew, or begging, or tolerating whatever punishment the man intends to dish out tonight. As soon as Dean is out of sight and Castiel is turning to Bart to plead his case, the man is throwing a punch that knocks Castiel clear into next week. He’s unresponsive on the bed before Dean, shirtless and shoeless and carless, has even made it down the driveway.

***

Castiel doesn’t show up at work for a week. Bobby says his boyfriend’s been calling him off, something about a medical condition that he may have to take an extended leave of absence for. Dean is a wreck, ripped to shreds inside and guilty as hell, not knowing whether he’s making things worse or better for Castiel by staying away, by not trying to come to his rescue. The part of him that would have been at the police station reporting Bart the night he caught them is tempered by the part of him that realizes Bart knows things, about him, about Cas, about them, that he has no business knowing - no way to know. Dean has no idea who he can trust, and no way to go about finding out. He wants to call Benny, but he realizes that he can't even say with absolute certainty that Benny is on the trustworthy list. That thought fires him up all over again.

Dean had walked home the five-ish miles from Bart’s place back to Lisa’s that night, stumbling in through the back door using a hidden key Lisa keeps inside a fake rock out front. His feet were cut to shit and he probably looked like he’d been through a war. He was lucky enough to have made it home before the house started waking up, having no idea what kind of excuse he’d give Lisa for losing his shirt and shoes and for showing up at the crack of dawn wearing Castiel’s dress pants. Only Castiel’s dress pants. He hadn’t even had the presence of mind to grab his phone, a dilemma which was mysteriously rectified by noon that same day. A delivery boy in a uniform with no logo on it came by the house and dropped off a small brown box which Dean received with not a little trepidation. 

He opened it in the bathroom fearing the worst, and he was right to. Inside was his phone, but it was tucked in beside a stack of photographs. Him and Castiel in all kinds of compromising positions, in all kinds of inappropriate places. There wasn’t a note and clearly, one wasn’t needed. Those photos were much worse than the false-accusation threats. These were real, and they’d likely get him not only fired and blacklisted in the emergency services community, but also give Lisa the ammo she’d need to keep him from ever seeing his soon-to-be-born daughter. Without a source of income, he’d be hard-pressed to fight her. And he’d be outed. To everyone. Unceremoniously and undeniably.

Not to mention the ominous single picture of Castiel shoved in at the bottom of the pile. A Polaroid, likely taken earlier that morning, of Castiel unconscious and tied up, a fresh purple bruise blooming across the side of his face. A warning, “IT COULD BE WORSE,” was written in red sharpie across the picture. Dean keeps it, hides it in his favorite book just in case he figures out a way to take down Bart and burns the rest of the pile out back with some brush while Lisa is otherwise occupied. He blames his red, puffy eyes on the smoke and Lisa doesn’t even seem suspicious.

Hardly a minute goes by that Dean doesn’t think about, doesn’t worry about Castiel. Once he’s called off six shifts in a row and Dean hasn’t figured out a way to even check if he’s alive or not, he really starts to panic. He decides to give it one more day and then he’s going to the police, his life and Bart’s “eyes” be damned. The entirety of Lawrence PD can’t all be dirty cops, right? And won’t outing himself be worth it for proof that Castiel is at least alive?

Dean gets sick in the men’s bunk room toilet three times that day. He blames it on bad tacos and doesn’t notice Benny watching him from across the day room with increasing concern.

When he wakes the next morning at the end of his shift, he’s resolved. He’s going to the police station and he's rolling the dice. He packs up his things and shoulders his duffle, moving confidently down the stairs in a way that he hasn’t had the guts to in days. He clocks out and opens the door to go shove his bag into his car when he runs headlong into Castiel.

Who looks… fine. Dean gives him a quick once over. No visible bruises to speak of, not favoring any limbs, not walking funny, literally no signs that he’s injured.

“Cas!” He breathes a sigh of abject relief, wanting to scoop the man into his arms and at least relish that for one moment, things are okay.

But Castiel doesn’t meet his eyes. “Pardon me,” he says quietly, slipping by Dean and heading for the ambulance bay.

“Cas, wait!” Dean calls after him. “Just tell me you’re okay,” he pleads, his eyes stinging and threatening to cloud over. “Please, Cas.”

Castiel only hesitates for a split second at the ambulance bay door, his palm pressed against it but not pushing. He flicks the barest look over his shoulder back at Dean but doesn’t nod, doesn’t say anything at all, and then he’s pushing open the door and is gone.

Dean stands there for a moment, looking around wildly as if he expects to see hidden cameras suddenly become noticeable, or shady stalkers with telephoto lenses melt from the shadows, or, god, Bart himself to be standing there watching them. But there’s nothing. Just a crisp, cold as fuck winter day with a layer of delicate frost on the ground. Castiel’s ugly Lincoln Continental clicking and cooling in its parking space next to Dean’s Baby. The quiet stillness of six AM in a residential neighborhood of a small city in Kansas.

There’s nothing. There’s nothing.

Chapter Text

The next time Dean comes into work there’s an updated schedule posted and all of Castiel’s shifts have been rearranged to days that Dean doesn’t work. From then on, the most contact they have is at shift change in the morning where Castiel will politely listen to Dean’s report regarding the state of the truck and any other information that needs to be passed along while actively avoiding eye contact. But the second Dean attempts to turn the conversation personal, Castiel will simply walk away, occasionally going so far as to hide until Dean leaves. The first couple of times it happens Dean feels like his heart is actually being ripped out of his chest. Unable to think straight, his breath caught in his throat, he’d sunk to the floor of a stall in the men’s bathroom, hyperventilating and powerless to stop the tears.

That was the first time. The second time, he’d put a hole in the drywall of the station’s meeting room. Bobby had looked at him like he was nuts as Dean had rambled some insane explanation that involved a malfunctioning alarm, accidentally throwing his phone in the air and a wayward broom. Not fooled for a moment, he’d slapped Dean upside the head and said, “I know what it looks like when someone punches a wall, ya idjit.” Dean had hung his head and wisely chosen the silent route after that, quickly agreeing that paying for the repairs out his own pocket and carrying them out was sufficient punishment. Dean’s staring at the damage when Bobby goes to leave and misses Bobby’s hesitation at the door, looking for all the world like he wants to say something else. In the end, he leaves Dean to his misery.

At his lowest, some pretty dark thoughts cross Dean’s mind. It would be easy, he thinks, to end it all. Couple vials of high-dose epinephrine drawn up into one syringe and injected directly into his bloodstream? He’d be dead before he hit the floor, and literally nothing his ambulance stocked could do a thing about it. He’d reached a point of such deep sadness and depression, unable to see a way forward, unable to fathom living the life he’d boxed himself into, a complete lie devoid of all happiness, of all hope, that suicide truly seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel, instead of the train his healthy brain knew it to be. He’d gone so far as to find himself sitting on the toilet in the same stall he’d broken down in weeks ago, vials of epinephrine rolling in hand, trying to steady his shaky fingers as he willed himself to break the tiny glass bottles open. He’d had his phone in hand, a “goodbye” text typed up and ready to send to Castiel, and an apology letter to Lisa tucked inside his shirt pocket.

In the end, he couldn't do it. And maybe at the time that had more to do with the image of Castiel, bruised and bound like he was in that Polaroid, swimming across his brain than it did anything else, but Dean’s as-yet unfulfilled promise to get Cas out, to keep him safe, still burned like a candle in the back of his mind. And if that was the only thing keeping him going, Dean was just going to have to take the win and not look too closely at it. And so, clinging desperately to his memories and his promise to help Cas (whether he wanted it or not, whether he still loved Dean or not), he’d returned the vials to their rightful places and gone upstairs to join his friends who were cluelessly binging Star Wars together in the crew room. He’d collapsed bonelessly onto one of the couches and slept the rest of his shift away. No one had any idea how close they’d come that day to bearing witness to Dean Winchester’s last ambulance ride.

As the weeks go by, it hurts a little bit less, but the hurt is replaced with an aching numbness. Dean’s taken to avoiding Castiel altogether - waking up fifteen minutes earlier on days Cas works so he can go through his early morning routine and be sitting in his car when Cas shows up. A few times he’s caught Castiel looking at him longingly from the window in the station’s side door, but the second Dean makes eye contact, Castiel vanishes into the depths of the building. While his near-miss with taking his own life doesn’t happen again, that doesn’t mean Dean is happy. He starts spending most of his shifts holed up in the men’s bunkroom, sleeping or watching movies alone on his laptop. He’s short with his patients, not going out of his way to provide them the kind of empathy and compassionate care he’s typically known for and doing the bare minimum when it comes to his station responsibilities, just enough to avoid a scolding from Bobby.

Early on, Dean had tried searching the internet for information on Bart, anything that could potentially help him understand what he’s even dealing with or provide him some leverage, but there’s just a whole lot of nothing. Bartholomew’s name links to a boring, straight-laced website run by his law firm and a handful of online review sites for people to rate their lawyers. Bart has an equal number of good and bad reviews, but none of them say anything interesting or useful. There’s a White Pages listing with phone numbers that match the law firm page and addresses that do the same, along with the house he lives in with Cas. There’s nothing. he can use, no hint or breadcrumb trail to follow, and Dean starts to lose hope. And with Castiel appearing to at least be physically fine, it’s getting hard for him to even justify his fear and concern. As time passes and creates some distance, Dean starts to wonder if he exaggerated Castiel’s plight in his head.

It’s Charlie who finally stages an intervention.

It’s ten AM on a Thursday and Dean is wrapped in a nest of blankets and pillows on the bed he once shared with Castiel. The bunkroom shades are drawn and the lights are off except for one low-watt lamp on a bedside table, giving the room the appearance of a cave, Dean playing the part of the angry bear hibernating in the corner. He’s just on the verge of dozing off to Tombstone when Charlie kicks open the door with a loud BANG! The hallway is flooded with daylight, casting the petite redhead in silhouette and making her look far more intimidating than her tiny frame would usually allow. Her arms are crossed and her feet are planted firmly, and Dean knows instantly that he’s not going to be able to blow her off today.  Reluctantly, he closes his laptop and pushes up to a semi-sitting position. He grabs a water bottle off of his bedside table and takes a swig, knowing his voice is going to be scratchy with disuse. He clears his throat and asks, “What’s up, Charles?”

Charlie looks down her nose at him and swings the door shut behind her. “We’re not going to do that,” she says, striding across the room and plopping down on the twin bed directly across from Dean, clasping her hands between her knees. “Dean, you know that I love you.” Dean raises his eyebrows and nods slowly. Charlie holds up her hand, “We’re not doing that either, just hang on and hear me out, OK?” Dean stares blankly, and Charlie takes a deep breath. “I think it’s time that I laid some things out for you. First of all, everyone knows about you and Castiel. So, accept that, deal with it, spank your inner moppet and move on because Dean, no one cares. I mean, we care about you, and we’re all really worried because this whole love triangle of Brangelina proportions thing you’ve been doing is not fair to anyone.”

Dean’s jaw drops. He wants to deny it all, to make some excuse, to bury himself so far in the closet his only company will be Aslan, but he’s honestly just too tired. He closes his mouth and sighs, giving Charlie the hand signal for “proceed,” and slumps back against the wall.

“Dean, I don’t get it. This is me, I’m a lesbian. Why didn’t you come to me? Did you really think I’d judge you? I thought we were bros,” Charlie pretends to pout, and that gets Dean to crack the tiniest of smiles.

Instead of answering her questions though, he asks, “How long have you known?”

Charlie looks him in the eye and replies, “Since the night I went on my first date with Gilda. I came back here to dish and sober up with my two favorite medics, but they were otherwise occupied making each other moan in the bunkroom. ” Charlie screws up her face. “And by the way, ew. You two better not have defiled anywhere I sit on a regular basis.”

That gets a genuine smile out of Dean, and he teasingly replies, “No comment,” from behind his blanket.

“Ew. And also? Ew,” Charlie groans. “But, you are adorable together. Anyone with eyes can see how much you care about each other.” Charlie side-eyes Dean before she continues, “Even when you’re avoiding each other.” Dean opens his mouth to protest, but Charlie puts up her hands. “Listen, maybe whatever happened between you two is none of my business, but you, Dean, you are my business, and you’ve been acting like a real asshole. If you and Cas are done, then that is what it is, but you can’t live your life like this. You’re miserable. Cas is miserable too, by the way, not that you heard it from me.”

Dean shakes his head. “Charlie… there’s stuff going on here you don’t understand. It’s not as simple as all that.”

“Maybe not,” Charlie acknowledges. “But part of it is as simple as admitting you’re gay.”  

Dean’s head snaps up at that. “I’m… I’m not gay,” he protests weakly. Charlie gets up from where she’s sitting and crosses to his bed, sitting down and pulling him into a side hug. She’s small and Dean is big, but she’s determined and Dean lets her do it.

“Dean,” she says, “Aren’t you tired?”

And fuck, he is. He’s so tired. So tired of lying, of hurting, of trying and failing, but mostly - of living a lie. He tucks his head into the crook of Charlie’s neck and nods. “Yea,” he mumbles into her clothes. “Yea.” They sit like that for a moment, before Dean pulls back and swipes at his eyes roughly. “Thanks, Charles.”

“No problem,” she says with a nod. “That’s what gay best friends do for each other.” She looks at him pointedly, and Dean flushes a little, but he manages a smile and a nod.

“Alright but listen, there’s something else,” Charlie continues. “Not that my biggest concern isn’t you, but there’s a reason I came in here today. There’s something weird going on here, Dean. You know how I have that little side hobby?” Dean nods, Charlie’s “side hobby” is committing a multitude of federal offenses hacking into right-wing and hate group organizations and diverting funds to charitable organizations of her choice, but Dean doesn’t correct her. “Alright well, the thing is, my computer automatically scans for networks nearby - visible and secret. And for like two months now it’s been auto detecting this weird subnetwork here in the firehouse. 

I ignored it because I thought maybe it was an encrypted server for patient information, Bobby had talked about getting pressure from the City to go all-digital, so honestly, I didn’t think much of it. But, something about it just didn’t look right. So I cracked into it. And Dean? It’s monitoring software built into a subnetwork. It’s really deep, I haven’t been able to track the home server or even figure out where the feeds are being transmitted to, but the bottom line is that there are cameras everywhere. I would have told you sooner, but I had to disable the feed coming from this room.”

Dean swallows. This room?!”

Charlie nods. “Yea. And there’s a cache of saved clips and stills.” Charlie hesitates and squirms a little. “They’re um, they’re mostly of you…” Dean holds up a hand to stop her.

“Say no more. I can guess what they are. Which means that I also know who’s responsible. And, I think I just figured out why Cas isn’t talking to me.”

Charlie’s eyes widen. “I knew there had to be more to this story! You guys are like, written in the stars perfect together. I thought for sure you’d be endgame. I mean, I know things are complicated with you and Lisa, but -” Dean gently puts a hand over Charlie’s mouth.

“Charles. I’m really going to need your full attention for this, okay? Can you do that?” Charlie nods enthusiastically with big, excited eyes and Dean removes his hand. “Hey, Charlie? Before we move on can I ask you one thing?” Charlie cocks her head expectantly, resting her chin in her hand. “When you say… everyone knows about me and Cas…”

“Everyone, Dean,” Charlie says plainly. “Accept it, own it, get over it.” Dean wipes his mouth. He’s going to need a few minutes to get used to that idea.

***

Over the next half hour, Dean risks it all and tells Charlie everything in order, starting from the beginning. He leaves nothing out, even the parts that paint him in a not-so-great light. True to her word, Charlie doesn’t waste any time on judgement or scolding. By the time he’s finished, Dean can actually see the wheels turning in her head. Without a word, Charlie gets up and disappears from the room, returning moments later with her laptop and power cord. She closes the door and makes herself comfortable on the bed next to Dean. When he tries to find out what she’s doing, he gets shushed and told to go back to his movie until she’s ready. Dean complies but sneaks glances at Charlie’s laptop as she works. He sees numbers and lists and nothing he’s able to make sense of, but for the first time since Jo’s wedding night, he feels a tiny twinge of hope.

Less than two hours later, Charlie’s accomplished what Dean was unable to do in weeks. She’s got a starting point. Bartholomew’s bank accounts were only as encrypted as anyone else’s, which posed no problem for Charlie. From there, it was easy to identify the account Bart used for payoffs and compile a list of the people they were going to. But that wasn’t all.

“Before we go over the list, there’s something else,” Charlie announces, eyes narrowed at her screen. “I eyeballed the money coming in, too, and I can tell you, as someone who does this every weekend,” she glances at Dean and emphasizes, “for altruistic reasons - this dude is dirty. He’s laundering money and a lot of it. He’s good at it, I’d need a lot more time to even begin to suss out what’s going on there, but trust me, I recognize the signs.” She pauses to click around the screen, bringing a different window to the foreground. “Castiel’s name came up, too. The day after Jo’s wedding his accounts were emptied and combined with Bart’s. His direct deposit is going into that account now. Obviously, that raised some red flags for me so I checked into Cas’ financials and Dean, his credit score is in the toilet. His entire credit report is a mess- says his credit card are all maxed out, he’s behind on his car payments, he’s got multiple accounts marked derogatory and sent to collections. Did he ever say anything to you about being in trouble financially?”

Dean shakes his head no. “That doesn’t even make sense. Cas doesn't live beyond his means. He was like, the thriftiest guy I know.” Dean furrows his eyebrows as Charlie nods her agreement.

“Yea,” she says, “I mean, this reeks of identity fraud. But it also seems kind of… orchestrated. We probably shouldn’t jump to conclusions without all the information, but my money is on someone doing this to Cas on purpose. Someone who has something to gain from him being essentially bankrupt. Guess we don’t have to look far to figure out who that might be.”

Dean closes his eyes and presses on them with the heel of his hand. “Alright, well, nothing we can do about that right this second. Let’s get back to the list.”

Charlie clicks around again but hesitates. “Dean, before you look at this, I need you to promise me you’ll keep a cool head.”

“No.”

“Dean! Listen, we don’t know what any of these people actually did for Bart, or why. Maybe he threatened them, too.”

“Who is on the list that I’m not going to like, Charlie?”

Charlie works her jaw a little and hesitates as she clicks open a window and turns the screen to face Dean. The list is long but maybe shorter than Dean expected, considering Bart’s threats. He recognizes a handful of cops, most of them belonging to the City of Lawrence PD, a few names that he thinks are lawyers or judges, a whole chunk that he doesn’t know at all, and then three that stand out. Gordon Walker- Company 24’s Deputy Fire Chief, Zachariah Adler- rarely seen but powerful President of the Board of Directors for Lawrence EMS, and Benny Lafitte- Lawrence EMS EMT and Dean’s fucking friend.

“I’m gonna kill him,” Dean growls, throwing his blankets off and reaching for his phone. “I’m gonna kill him, then I’m gonna resuscitate him, and then I’m gonna kill him again.” He hits the home button on his phone and sees that it's 5:45, Benny will be showing up for his night shift any minute. Dean pulls on his boots while Charlie quietly watches him fume. “Aren’t you going to try and talk me down?”

Charlie shrugs. “I don’t blame you for wanting to tar and feather his ass, Dean. But that won’t help Castiel.” Dean groans and flops backward onto the bed, his feet still on the floor and his hands flexing and clenching into fists at his side.

“Yea, alright, message received, Charles.”

***

Benny doesn’t resist when Dean grabs him by the shirt and throws him against the brick exterior wall of the station. His head hits the unforgiving surface with a sickening smack and he winces, throwing his hands up in front of his face to prevent Dean from doing it again, but Dean just stands there and glares.

“I knew this day would come, brother. And I don’t blame you if you want to keep beating the snot outta me. I ain’t given you a reason not to, but I’m hoping you’ll give me a chance to explain why, and hopefully make up for that.” Benny chances a glance up over his arms to where Dean is still standing with his arms crossed, fingers digging tight into his own biceps in forced self-restraint. Dean’s face is red and the vein on his temple is bulging a little. Charlie’s standing a few feet away, looking on with concern but not getting involved. Dean doesn’t back down, but he doesn’t attack Benny again either, so the Cajun takes the opening for what it is. “I’ve been trying… ever since I realized what that bastard was doing to Cas, I’ve been trying to get information. To help, Dean. And, I think I’ve got something we can use.”

Dean stays frozen in place, but Charlie steps forward, offering Benny her hand and helping him stand. “We should move this conversation,” she says pointedly at Dean, who nods tersely and follows them both up the stairs to the secure bunk room. Once the door is firmly closed behind them Dean pokes Benny in the chest, hard, before going back to crossing his arms. “Talk.”

Benny takes a deep breath. “Alright. As I said, I know you got no reason to believe me, but I had no idea what I was getting into working for Bart. He approached me, months ago, offered me some cash to run some errands for him. But before long, the errands stopped and he started askin’ me to keep an eye on you and Cas.” Deans face darkens as Benny continues. “I refused at first, I swear, brother. But he threatened Andrea, sent me pictures of her walking to her car after work. I went to the police, and it turned out the officer I spoke to was in Bart’s pocket too. I didn’t know what to do.” He reluctantly lifts his soulful, light blue eyes to meet Dean’s. “I didn’t do anything you wouldn’t have done in my place.” Dean grits his teeth but doesn’t reply. “I just reported back on you two. Sent him a few pictures… I only found out about how he treats Cas after the whole wedding mess. It’s my fault he knew you two were there. I can’t… I’m sorry, Dean. I wish I’d found a different way, or come to you earlier.”

“Not really hearing anything that doesn’t make me want to knock you across the room some more,” Dean grits out.

Benny holds up a hand. “I know that, I know. I just wanted to come clean first, lay all my cards on the table. I don’t want you thinkin’ what I’m about to tell you is a trap.” Dean raises his eyebrows and waits. “I’ve gotten in tight with him. I mean, as tight as an errand boy can get with a boss, but the bottom line is that he trusts me. I know some things. The guy is dirty, Dean, like, next-level dirty. From what I’ve pieced together, he’s got his hands in some human trafficking, that’s where his money’s coming from. But if you can trust me, if we work together, I think we can bring him down and get Cas out safely. Believe it or not, I was planning on talking to you today. Because we gotta move quickly.”

Dean’s jaw works for a moment, and his eyes stay narrowed, but he only hesitates for a moment. What other choice does he have? This feels like a crossroads, a tipping point between Dean’s past and his future, and Dean’s tired of being static. He’s tired of hurting, tired of lying, tired of feeling helpless and watching his own life spiral out of his control. He deflates a little.

“I’m in.”

Benny nods, pulling his cap off and scratching his head. “There’s one more thing brother. Something you’re going to like even less than what I just told you.”

Dean barks out a harsh laugh. He finally uncrosses his arms and drops them to his sides, making a loud slapping noise as his palms hit his pants. He sinks down on the edge of the bed behind him, feeling exhausted. “What could possibly make this worse?”

“It’s about Castiel.”

***

Dean listens to Benny’s news, his jaw hanging open as he absorbs what Benny is saying, the plan he’s suggesting, and then reacts by shaking his head emphatically. “Absolutely not. No way. I’m not risking Cas like that. I’ll go get him right now before I risk him going through that. No fucking way.” Dean stands and stalks towards the door, stopped by Benny’s hand on his shoulder. Dean gives the hand a warning look, and Benny backs off with his both of them in the air.

“That’s what I’m saying, brother. You won’t be able to get to him. And on the off chance you do? You can run but you can’t hide. Bart will find him and he will kill him before he lets him walk away. You too if you try to stop him. It’s not just about his pride, anymore. Castiel knows too much and Bart knows he can’t trust him. You think I haven’t wracked my brain about this? You think me going to this thing is what, my idea of a good time?”

“What kind of track record you got that says otherwise?”

“Fair enough, Dean. I hear what you’re saying but you gotta hear me too. This is the only way. We have to have a reason for the cops to enter the house, something that’ll hold up in court or this is all gonna be for nothing. Bart is slick and he’s got friends in high places- he’ll have an anonymous tip thrown out before you can say “bail bond,” and if it comes from me, he’ll argue entrapment. It’s gotta come from Cas.”

“And if Bart realizes what’s going on? If he takes Cas out before the cops get in there?”

Benny’s mouth opens and he shakes his head. “Dean, if we don’t do this, Cas is as good as dead anyway.”

Dean stares back for a moment, then turns away, his fist pressed to his mouth. “FUCK,” he growls, dropping to a crouch and fisting both hands in his hair. “Fuck.” Benny makes his way over and crouches beside him, and this time Dean doesn’t shake his hand off.

“I will do everything in my power to protect him, brother,” he says softly.

Dean is silent for a moment, sniffling and wiping roughly at his face. “Yea. Alright. Let’s get this thing in motion. You fill in the others, let me know who’s on board and what the official plan is. Meantime, I’ve got to figure out how to have a long-overdue conversation of my own.”

“But you’re in?” Benny looks at him skeptically.

“Yea,” Dean nods. “I’m all in.”

***

It took weeks for Castiel to start to give up on finding an escape plan, to start giving up on himself. Bart’s revealed enough to him and backed his claims up with enough shocking proof that Castiel isn’t willing to risk his own life or Dean’s. Technically, he could walk out the door at any time. He could get in his car and drive away. He spends twelve-hour shifts away from the house and Bart for which he could call off and use to just get in his car and drive, just drive, as far and as fast as he’s able in any direction away from this living nightmare. But Bart has made it clear that if Cas does any of those things, he’ll kill Dean and maybe even his family. And from what Cas has been shown of the “side-business” Bart’s been running all along right under Castiel’s nose (and that’s a self-flagellation session for another time), he believes him.

After the upsetting events on the night of Jo’s wedding, Bart has since rarely left the house. He’s been working from home and that means Castiel now has an eye-opening front-row seat to the atrocities of who Bart really is, who he's been all along. The first time one of his cronies paraded a handful of young, doped-up looking boys and girls through their living room, it had taken Castiel the better part of an hour to even sort out what he was looking at. Only when other acquaintances of Bart's showed up and left again taking one at a time with them, did he really start putting the pieces together.

Human trafficking. His boyfriend was a human trafficker. Honestly, when confronted with the truth, Castiel wasn’t sure if he should be more surprised, or less. He’d known for a while that Bart was cruel, that he had a sadistic streak and cared only for himself, but he hadn’t realized that he was evil. That he’d been responsible for causing pain and hurt and lifetimes of misery for maybe hundreds of people, and not just Castiel. Forgetting momentarily about his own situation, he had stormed into Bart’s office in an absolute rage, spitting fire and railing against him.

Bart had just sat there and smiled, humoring him as if Castiel had been a toddler who didn’t understand how the real world worked. When he’d run out of breath and stood there, face red and chest heaving, Bart had actually chucked. “Castiel,” he’d said patiently. “You couldn’t possibly have thought all of this,” he’d gestured to the house around them, “Came from the paltry salary of a criminal defense attorney.” At Castiel’s incredulous stare, he’d laughed outright. “Proving yourself stupid time and again,” he’d added, shaking his head. “I really misjudged you, Castiel. I’d thought you were better than all this. But listen, don’t worry too much about them. Most of them are immigrants, they’re only being sold for cheap domestic labor.” Bart had looked back down at his desk and waved Castiel off, but he didn’t leave.

“I won’t let you do this,” Castiel had said through gritted teeth.

Bart hesitated before putting down his pen again. He’d pushed back his chair and rose to stand tall, smoothing his suit jacket down as he did. “And what exactly are you going to do to stop me? You can’t even save yourself. Oh, Castiel, things would be so much easier if you’d just accept your lot in life,” Bart had said, voice full of false sympathy as he reached out to stroke Castiel’s cheek. Disgusted, Castiel had shoved him, hard, and he’d stumbled back into his desk. In an instant, his face had gone hard and blank again and he’d advanced on Castiel, punching him in the side of the head and knocking him out for the second time.

Castiel had awoken a few hours later, still lying exactly where he fell. Bart’s office was dark and the man was long gone. The message was clear.

You can try, but you won’t win.

Still, Castiel hadn’t given up. He’d been determined enough that he’d actually managed to get one of the girls out a side door and on her way to meet a ride-share car before they’d been caught. As punishment, Bart had beaten the girl to unconsciousness right in front of him while a couple of his men had held Castiel back.

After that, Castiel had stopped trying, trading his vigilantism in for drinking and getting high. Pretty much the only time he’s sober now is for his shifts. He goes to work, does his job, and returns home without deviation. There’s no internet connection he has access to that isn’t being monitored by Bart or his cronies. There’s no way for him to differentiate which police officers or officers of the court are safe and which are in Bart’s pocket. He can’t even say, hello, I miss you, to Dean without worrying that Bart will overhear and punish them for it. He’s trapped between what is and what will never be possible, his every theoretical move met with a check or checkmate from his partner-turned-captor.

Intoxication makes his interactions with Bart easier to take. Knowing what he knows now, he’s not sure he could make it through a sexual encounter with the man sober without vomiting or attempting to cut his dick off. Drunk or stoned though, he’s able to go through the motions of the routine Bart laid out for him ages ago. Clean himself, shave, prep. Lather, rinse, repeat. One, two, three fingers. Lay there, get fucked, pass out and sleep through the night. Over, and over, and over again. As long as he’s compliant, Bart hasn’t shown any interest in hurting him, which Castiel might think was strange if he were sober for any reasonable amount of time. Other than the two incapacitating punches to the head, he hasn’t hurt Castiel at all and hasn’t made any mention of further punishment for his affair with Dean, other than yanking the proverbial financial rug out from under him. Castiel should have known better than to think it wasn’t coming.

When he’s high though, he only ever thinks about one thing.

Dean.

He relives their happiest moments and the times he felt free. With enough drugs and alcohol swimming through his bloodstream he can almost trick himself into believing he’s still there. He closes his eyes and imagines Dean’s warm body wrapped around his own, his gentle hands moving over his skin, his hot breath on the back of his neck. He hears Dean’s gruff voice whispering sweet words in his ear, telling Castiel he loves him, will always love him, would do anything for him. He hears Dean promise that he’ll never leave and he kisses the same promise into Dean's imaginary lips. He falls asleep both less and more miserable than usual.

The next morning he has to force himself to walk past Dean as if he’s not even there, and he spends his shift trying to face up to the reality of his life. No one is coming for him. A THC-enhanced daydream is the closest he’ll ever get to Dean again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  

As he watches Dean get into his car from an upstairs window, Castiel remembers the time that he told him that love was not enough. He wishes like hell that he had been wrong.

***

Chapter Text

Friday

Castiel’s been sleeping in their guest room since the night Bart walked in on him and Dean. In fact, he’s been spending most of his free time there, mindlessly binging Netflix and drinking or smoking his days off away until Bart demands that he do something. He’s still expected to adhere to his routine and Bart still fucks him every night, but he comes to Castiel and he leaves when he’s done. If there’s one small comfort in Castiel’s fucked-up life, it’s that he doesn’t have to try and sleep next to that monster. Instead, he gets to curl up next to the ever-fading memory of Dean, and the last time he held him.

One Friday, Bart barges in sometime in the middle of the afternoon and finds Castiel on his back, blowing smoke rings into the air. He makes a disgusted noise and yanks Castiel off the bed by his ankle, dumping him on the floor.

“Was there something you wanted from me, Bart?” Castiel’s delivery is toneless, his expression flat and uninterested. Bart opens his mouth to reply and Castiel cuts him off, “Though I’m not sure why you even bother asking. You’ll just find a way to take whatever it is I’m not willing to give freely.” He reaches up to the bed and feels around for his bowl and lighter, bringing them down and taking a long hit from his place on the floor. The glass bowl goes flying when the back of Bartholomew’s hand makes contact with Castiel’s face, hitting the wall and spilling its burnt contents all over the floor. Bart steps forward, one foot between Castiel’s splayed legs and pulls him up by the front of his shirt.

“You should show me some respect, Castiel. Wear out your usefulness to me and I can guarantee you won’t like what happens next. In fact…” Bartholomew looks like he’s going to say something but then appears to think better of it, closing his mouth and dropping Castiel back to the ground unceremoniously. “No matter.” He dusts off his hands as if touching Cas has made them dirty, a ridiculous gesture that’s clearly for show. He straightens his tie as he speaks again, “I’m having some friends over this evening and you’re expected to be present. I want you to clean up extra well and try to put some effort into your grooming. I’ll need to blow off some steam before playing host and I don’t want to spend the entire evening dealing with stubble burn on my cock. Is that understood?”

Castiel shrugs. “And if I don’t?”

Bart narrows his eyes and points his finger up and down the length of Castiel’s body. “This whole thing… it’s not working for me at all, Castiel.” He leaves and slams the door behind him.

Castiel can’t help but feel a little bit satisfied at his resistant behavior, but there’s a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that won’t be ignored either. Nothing good has come from pushing Bart’s buttons in the past and he can’t imagine this time will turn out any differently. It’s not that Castiel is suicidal, he doesn’t have a death wish. But he doesn’t want to continue living like this, either. And if forced to pick between the two options… truthfully, he’s a little bit afraid to be honest about that answer, even just to himself.

***

Bart strolls back in dressed only in boxers while Castiel’s still in the middle of fingering himself open, making him regret stealing those extra moments under the hot water in the shower. He drops a lidded mason jar with some kind of fabric tucked inside it onto the dresser before striding over almost disdainfully to where Castiel is lying on the bed. He grabs a handful of his hair and pulls him awkwardly up into a sitting position. He uses his other hand to push his own boxers down over his cock, tucking them under his balls and waiting expectantly. Castiel sighs and goes through the motions with his mouth, but his effort is lackluster and Bart notices. He ends up getting frustrated and shoving Cas over onto his stomach, using his hand to get himself the rest of the way hard. He squeezes some lube directly on Castiel’s hole before sliding in roughly, taking Cas in a way that’s clearly much more about dominance and less about getting off, unusual even for Bart. 

When he’s close, he pulls out and comes all over Castiel’s back, something he’s never done before. If Castiel cared, he would have asked him why he was acting so strangely. But he doesn't, so instead, he just lays there and waits for Bart to leave. He always leaves right after they have sex, and today is no exception. Except that today, he comes back, and he's holding a wet washcloth to wipe Castiel down. Curiosity finally gets the better of him and he turns to find out what Bart’s game is, but when he does all he sees is Bart shoving the cloth from the mason jar into his face and pushing him down into the mattress. He tries to struggle, tries to fight, but he can’t avoid breathing through the cloth and his vision goes dark from the edges inward in no time. The last thing he sees is Bart’s smug face.

***

Party Time

When Castiel wakes, he’s no longer on the bed in his room. He’s on his stomach, totally naked with his cheek plastered to what feels like hardwood, the bony points of his body sore where they’ve been pressing into the unforgiving floor. His eyes are watery, his throat is dry, and his head is pounding. He wonders distantly how long he’s been lying here, and upon cracking his eyes open the first thing he sees (when the room stops spinning) is a window with darkness beyond. So, several hours, at least. He blinks, involuntary tears leaving sticky tracks down his cheeks, and pushes up to a kneeling position. As he does, he realizes several things all at once.

One. He’s in what Bart calls the “Great Room,” a formal living space boasting a fireplace, a hidden sound system, and a giant coffee table, designed specifically for entertaining the type of people Bart calls friends and Castiel calls scum.

Two. The coffee table is missing and in its place is a solid metal D-ring bolted to the floor.

Three. There’s a collar around his neck, and that collar is attached to the D-ring by a metal chain.

What in the actual fuck?

His head is still a little fuzzy from the pot he’d smoked and the liquor he’d downed earlier and he blames those things for his failure to also notice right away that he’s not alone. There are men seated all around the room with drinks in their hands and amused looks on their faces. They’re all dressed in business casual or better and some are smoking cigars, the fancy kind you see people break out when a baby is born. The sound system is playing something classical and generic in the background.

This is a party, Castiel realizes and knowing now what Bart really does for a living, that's far more terrifying than waking up chained and alone in the basement. He reflexively drops his hands to his lap in a vain attempt to himself cover up, but he supposes these people have already seen everything he has to show, what with him being unconscious and sprawled out on the floor for god knows how long. He wants to tug on the chain, to see what it’s going to take for him to bust out of here, but even though everyone is clearly already staring at him, Castiel still feels like he should refrain from drawing more attention to himself.

Our bodies do strange things when we feel threatened, and Castiel’s is no exception. Walter Cannon coined the name for the acute stress response in the early 1900s as “flight or fight,” and Castiel is ready to do either, or both, whatever it takes to get out of this situation alive. For the first time in weeks, his concern for Dean is left to simmer on the backburner. In his estimation, there’s approximately a zero percent chance that this is some elaborate prank, or that Bart intends to use him solely as a pretty decoration, and this is not how Castiel is going out. This is not what he’s survived this long for, to end up as some kind of party favor for this abusive asshole’s inner circle. No, what he needs is a plan. So for now, he stays still, remains quiet, and subtly takes in his surroundings, waiting for something to happen that he can use.

It’s then that he notices his boss, well, not his direct boss but certainly somewhere in the line above him, Zachariah Adler, one of the board members for Lawrence EMS lounging in a winged back chair. What in the actual fuck, Castiel thinks for about the fifth time in as many minutes. He turns his head to look at the others and almost screams out loud in fury as he recognizes two more familiar faces in the crowd. A firefighter he’s worked side by side with, Gordon Walker, and - Castiel can’t believe his eyes - Benny. He lets his eyes make contact with his decidedly former friend, and gives him as much of a stink eye as he can muster, naked and chained to the floor of his own home. Fucking fantastic. Even his friends are out to get him. If he wasn’t so intent on remaining furious, he might have thought that Benny’s eyes looked a little sad, and he might have wondered why Benny was the only one not drinking, but as it is, Castiel’s got too much on his plate right now to take in small details like that.

When he turns his head back around Bart’s there, towering over him with the same smug smile on his face that was present earlier when he chloroformed him on the bed. Castiel glares and opens his mouth to tell Bart off, but Bart smoothly steps forward and slaps a piece of duct tape over it before he can.

“Uh uh,” Bart chastises, his voice calm and relaxed. He’s clearly playing host now, and whatever this is, it’s part of the show. Castiel doesn’t have much choice other than to wait and see where it goes. “We went over the rules while you were out, Castiel, I didn’t want to keep our guests waiting. You’ll just have to be surprised, I suppose. The only rule you’re expected to abide by is that you will cooperate.” Bart crouches down to his level and looks him in his narrowed eyes. “Because if you don’t cooperate, I’ll suspend the rules. And then these gentlemen,” he gestures around the room without taking his eyes off of Castiel, “Will be free to do… whatever it is they wish with you. I don’t think you’d enjoy that. Do we have an understanding?”

Castiel continues to glare as angrily as he can but forces himself to nod his head tersely. Bart reaches out to drum his fingers over the duct tape covering Castiel’s mouth and hums. “I like you better like this, personally, but Mr. Adler here has been waiting quite patiently to be the first to take his turn, and he’s a man who knows what he wants. So alas,” Bart rips the tape off roughly. “We’ll have to take our chances with that smart mouth.”

When he realizes what’s about to happen, Castiel quickly weighs his options and the potential consequences of each one.

Fuck it, he thinks. Fight it is.

Zachariah’s so horny and anxious that he’s already got his pants unzipped and his hand shoved down into his underwear, stroking himself as he waits for Bart's go-ahead. The wanting look on his disgusting face would be enough to make Castiel heave under normal circumstances but here it just fuels his rage. How long has this dickbag been lusting over him? As Zachariah approaches eagerly, Bart grabs Castiel's bicep to pull him up on his knees. Castiel goes without protest and when Zachariah pulls his cock out and waves it in front of Castiel’s face, he drops his hands behind his back, right holding left at the wrist, closes his eyes, and opens his mouth. He knows full well that he’s the perfect picture of submission and compliance.

And that’s what he’s counting on. Because Zachariah doesn’t hesitate to slip inside Castiel’s mouth as far as he can go. And when he does, Castiel bites down as hard as he can and grinds his teeth.

***

Benny

Benny’s done and witnessed some fucked up things in his life, but he’s never watched someone be tortured and raped. In other circumstances, he’d have been throwing punches an hour ago, taking all these assholes out with one hand tied behind his back if necessary. Not for the first time, he kicks himself for ever signing on to work with Bart and helping to enable all of this fuckery. Though he does have to concede that it was making that very mistake which in the end allowed for this opportunity to free Cas and potentially cut off the head of the snake for good. So perhaps there'll be a spot of redemption for him when all is said and done after all. He shakes his head a little and sips on some soda, driving away the daydreams and doing his best to pay attention, which in this case means looking interested in the proceedings. Looking interested in Cas. When Bart started in on “the rules,” Benny’s gaze had been glued to Castiel’s unmoving body on the floor, watching him carefully for the telltale rise and fall of his torso that signaled he was still alive and not in any distress. Bart had briefly discussed the bidding that would take place at the end of the evening, should anyone be interested in “taking Castiel home with them,” and then launched into a list of depraved activities that weren’t allowed while "sampling the goods".

At that point, Benny had truly wished he was drinking, because swallowing all of this with a clear head was enough to make a worse man than he retch. Shortly after the rules were laid out, he had attempted to excuse himself to make the call that would send a flock of hand-picked police officers descending on Bart’s house to arrest the whole lot of them, but Bart was sharp-eyed and suspicious of everyone in attendance. He’d asked Benny where he was going and accompanied him first to the bathroom and then to the bar set up in the other room all under the guise of being a good host. Benny had been working on blindly pocket-texting Dean ever since, but the going was slow.

And of course, Castiel had to go and wake up then, moving Bart’s plans ahead at a pace Benny wasn’t equipped to deal with yet. As he watched Zachariah move lecherously towards the chained man on the floor, he was just about to throw in the towel. He’d have to reveal himself and deal with the consequences as they came, but there was no way he was going to sit on his hands and watch Castiel get raped by these creeps. And anyway, forget Bart killing him for his deception, he was a lot more afraid of Dean’s wrath should any harm come to Cas.

That's enough, he decides, when Castiel lets himself be pulled up onto his knees and opens his mouth in a submissive display that's so un-Castiel-like it's horrifying to see. Benny's done waiting and being patient; his window is about to close. He's just pulling his phone from his pocket when Zachariah screams, and Benny knows immediately what happened, a rush of relief flooding his body. “That smart sonofabitch,” he whispers under his breath as the room breaks out into an uproar of activity. He sees Zachariah react reflexively, hand coming back and swinging, closed fist connecting with the side of Castiel’s face using enough force that Benny has concerns about him accidentally causing his own dick to be ripped off, but they’re probably not that lucky.  Everyone’s fairly distracted by the blood all over Zachariah’s crotch and hands and Gordon shifts into first responder mode, rushing over to see if there’s anything he can do to help. Benny sees his opening and goes to Cas’ side. Bart gives him a sidelong glance but Benny assures him that he’s just going to “make sure that he’s out,” and Bart nods curtly, ushering Zachariah into another room, obviously far more concerned about his guest than Cas' well-being. The other partygoers follow, probably out of morbid fascination and curiosity.

Once they're gone and the room is otherwise empty, Benny leans down over Cas’ body, tucking his fingers into Castiel’s limp ones and whispering in his ear, “Stay down. Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.” Cas squeezes once, thank god. “I’m sorry, brother. We’re gonna get you out, but you gotta do your part.” He pulls his phone out and dials 911, tucking it into the crook of Cas’ neck with the mic near his mouth. “Trust me, just tell the Comm Center what’s going on.”

With that, Benny gets up and exits the room quickly, following the sounds of yelling and cursing, intent on keeping the wanna-be felons occupied for at least another minute so that Castiel can give the dispatch center enough info to warrant the police breaking down the door.

***

Dean

Dean anxiously takes inventory of the team they’ve assembled for the fifth time since they’d met at the firehouse to prepare and stage. There’s an ambulance waiting two streets over (with Charlie and Bobby on board), four police cars full of eight hand-picked cops (some clean, some lowkey dirty but not of their own free will, just like Benny) staging down the street, an ADA in one of the cop cars with a judge on speed dial for the warrant, and Dean. And Dean is a lot closer than he knows he should be. He’d punched in the gate code ages ago and wedged it open for easy access for the cops while he crouches just inside, hidden behind some of that manicured shrubbery Bart seems to like so much. Pretentious bastard. Dean’s nails have been bitten down to bloody nubs ever since his conversation with Charlie, and he’s out of things to fidget with. He tries not to, but his thoughts are drawn back to the conversation he’d had with Lisa right before he’d left her house to meet up with the rescue team.

In the end, there hadn’t been much conversation at all. He hadn’t even given her time to respond. He’d simply blurted out, “I’m gay Lis. I tried not to be, but I am. Also, I’m in love with Cas, and Cas is in trouble. Big, crazy trouble that you wouldn’t even believe if I told you, and it’s all my fault so I gotta go deal with that. After we get him safe I’ll be back, I promise, and you can tell me all the ways you’re going to hate me until the end of time and I’ll do whatever it is you want or need me to do. I’ll take whatever punishment you think I deserve. After I get Cas. I’m so sorry, but I gotta go.” He’d left her there, open-mouthed and speechless with one hand on her extremely swollen belly, standing in the middle of what used to be their kitchen like the coward he is.

Dean’s about to launch into another round of guilt-induced self-flagellation when his radio crackles to life. He’d set it to monitor and put an earbud in so it wouldn’t drop tones and alert literally anyone within a hundred yards of his hiding spot. The dispatcher gives Cas’ address and instructs Lawrence Police to respond and Lawrence EMS to stage in the area for a possible assault victim, injuries unknown. There’s some static before the disembodied voice over the radio comes back with further information and Dean listens intently, poised for action.

...Caller was frantic... stated actors were coming back… lost contact… screaming was heard in the background... caller’s phone line went dead, no response on callback. Requesting police response expedite for possible assault in progress, possibly multiple assailants.”

That’s all Dean needs to hear before he’s off and running, vaulting over bushes and tearing across Bart's perfectly manicured lawn. Let the police do their thing. Let them get their warrants and enter lawfully and whatever else they need to do but there’s no force on this planet that could stop Dean from getting through that door right now. And if Dean had been in a calmer frame of mind, he might have wondered why it wasn’t harder for him to get through the front door. Why, when he turned the knob, it simply opened and let him walk right in.

But hindsight is 20/20.

Dean bursts through the heavy front door like something out of Die Hard, a Glock he’s definitely not supposed to be carrying on this rescue mission cocked and ready to fuck somebody up, but all he’s met with is an empty foyer. He collects himself and moves further into the house, rounding a corner and crashing straight into Benny. Thankfully, he has excellent reflexes and manages to not cap his friend in the knee, or worse.

“Shit Dean,” Benny says, slapping a hand to the middle of his chest. “You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing in here? Where are the cops?”

“On the way,” Dean replies distractedly, looking past Benny and all around the nearby rooms in search of any sign of Cas or Bart. Or anyone else he can take his anger out on, really. “The Comm Center reported an assault in progress, I wasn’t about to sit out there on my ass. Where’s Cas?”

“That’s where I was headed. Bart caught him on the phone and realized something was going down. He grabbed him by his chain and dragged him out here, I’m assuming up the stairs. I was following, and then I ran smack into you. Surprised you didn’t run right into them.”

“By his chain?”  Dean’s expression darkens and he hits the slide of his gun, causing a bullet to go flying. He ignores it in favor of pressing past Benny to head up the stairs. “We’re wasting time.”

“I’ll back you up, brother,” Benny offers as he turns to follow, but Dean waves him off.

“Head outside and tell the cops where to go. Should be headed in any minute, soon as they get the OK on the warrant.”  Dean’s halfway up the stairs already when Benny nods and disappears down the hallway. Dean takes the second half of the stairs more quietly, holding his gun down and at the ready as he listens for any clue as to which room Bart has brought Cas into. He doesn’t have to search long, following the first voice he hears to the guest room he and Castiel had always stayed in together. The door is cracked open and Dean peers cautiously through. What he sees makes his vision tunnel and his blood pressure spike.

Castiel is kneeling on the floor, his hands bound and raised in front of him, shielding his head. Even from the doorway Dean can see that he’s newly bruised and that there are streaks of blood smeared across his skin. The scene is enough to wipe away any lingering hesitation Dean might have had about confronting Bart on his own. He kicks open the door so hard that it smashes against the far wall with a dramatic bang as he points his gun directly at Bart.

“End of the line, asshole,” he declares. At the sound of his voice, Castiel drops his hands slightly and looks up. Dean notices then that his mouth has duct tape over it but the silver tape can't hide that his expression is anxious and desperate, his eyes widening further as he shakes his head in an obvious message, no, Dean! It’s then that Dean realizes he may have made a misstep. Bart turns slowly to face him and whatever Dean was expecting, it isn't this. The creep is smiling, and he’s got a gun of his own pointed at Castiel’s head.

“Ah, Dean. Just in time, we’ve been expecting you. Drop the gun, or I’ll shoot him." He takes in Dean's flickering gaze, his eyes darting between himself and Castiel, understands that he's calculating and adds, "Tick tock. You know that I’ll do it.”

Dean quickly weighs the risks and decides his backup is close enough that he doesn’t need to risk Cas by pushing Bart’s buttons. “Okay,” he says, “Okay, let’s all relax.” He doesn’t miss Castiel’s pleading eyes and shaking head, or his defeated look when Dean places the gun on the ground and kicks it over to Bart, who steps on it and then kicks it away under the bed where it clunks against something hidden by the bed skirt. Dean stands back up with his arms raised. “Just drop the gun, Bart. This place is surrounded, the police are gonna be busting down your door any second. You’re not gonna kill Cas and get charged with murder on top of everything else.”

Bart’s grin widens, and Dean’s arms break out into goosebumps. “You’re right, Dean. I’m not going to kill Castiel. You are.” Dean’s eyebrows furrow and Bart cocks his head at where Dean's gun disappeared under the bed. “Glock 43 single stack 9mm, right?” He nods his head at his own gun, still trained on Castiel. “I do my research. They're identical. Anyway, when the police do arrive they’ll find that, horror upon horrors, Castiel was shot and killed by a jealous ex-lover who was stalking him and broke into our home, unable to accept that his affair with Castiel had ended and he’d chosen me. Even worse, they’ll find that my hand was forced when I came upon the scene and in a blind rage, the intruder turned his gun on me. Luckily, we fought and he lost.” Bart shrugs his shoulders and Dean stares at Castiel with wide eyes. He looks back at Bart when the man speaks again. “It was a good try, Dean, this little rescue mission. But you’re just not-”

His smarmy, condescending harangue is cut off with a loud BANG ! Dean flinches and then looks immediately to Castiel, expecting the worst but instead finding him kneeling next to the bed, hands still bound but now holding Dean's gun. He's looking up at Bart with an expression that looks almost like awe. Bart wobbles briefly before tipping over and falling to the floor, a nasty exit wound pouring blood from the top of his skull. For a moment, everything shifts into slow motion, Bart's body slamming to the ground with a spray of blood and the nasty sound of bone hitting wood unchecked. Dean's frozen, but once the pieces click into place he’s rushing forward, taking the gun gingerly from Cas' shaking hands and dropping it to the floor, kneeling down next to it and dragging Castiel into his arms. Right away, he’s pulling the tape carefully off of Cas’ mouth and kissing away the sting of the redness left behind.

“It’s over, it’s over,” he repeats in what he hopes is a soothing voice, holding Castiel close and carding comforting fingers through his hair. “Shhh, sweetheart, it’s over. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”

Castiel fists his still-bound hands in Dean’s shirt as his gasps turn to sobs. “You came for me,” he cries. “You came.”

Because it’s his default setting, Dean goes for humor, kicking himself even as he’s saying it. “Looks like I got in the way more than anything else. Should have just left you to it.”

Castiel just twists his fingers in the fabric of Dean’s clothes and drags him closer. “Dean,” he sobs into his chest, “I love you."

Dean tightens his hold around Castiel's shoulders and buries his face in hair that's sticky and matted with blood but still smells like Cas. "Love you too, Cas. Love you so much. Missed you so much. Should have never left without you. I swear, Cas, let me make it up to you. Let me love you, sweetheart," he murmurs.

Castiel takes a deep, steadying breath against his chest. "Dean," he breathes, warm air drifting from his mouth over the skin of Dean's neck. "I'm so tired. I don’t want to hurt anymore. Please tell me… please tell me that you’re ready.” He drags himself up and in the process yanks Dean down a little so that they’re at eye level. “I won’t be your dirty secret, Dean. I deserve better than that.”

Dean shakes his head and wraps his arms around Castiel again, falling fully to the floor and dragging the other man into his lap. “You sure fucking do. I’m all yours, Cas. I’m sorry that it took me so long.”

When the police finally storm in that’s how they find them, sitting curled up next to Bart’s body and a puddle of still-spreading blood, Castiel naked and tucked under Dean’s chin, quietly soaking his shirt with tears of relief, and pain, and love, and for the first time in a long time, hope.

 

Chapter Text

 Castiel ends up being stable enough to answer some initial questions for the police but hurt enough to get out of being taken down to the station for an official statement. Dean calms down when he learns that the blood smeared all over him isn’t actually Cas’, but gets fired up all over again when he takes in all of the bruises. There’s some brief conversation about officially detaining Dean, at least until stories can be sorted and verified, but that idea is quickly abandoned in favor of the police officers not wanting to be on the receiving end of the rage Dean's been directing at anyone attempting to come between him and Cas. Dean and Castiel had been separated pretty quickly after the police found them, in part for their own protection as verifying that their stories about the night and how Bart got shot matched would ensure false accusations didn’t get thrown around later. They’d both been walked downstairs and Dean had initially refused to leave Cas’ side, resisting until, as a compromise, Charlie was allowed into the scene to sit with and assess him.  Only then Dean had reluctantly allowed himself to be escorted into a separate room to talk (after first wrapping Cas tightly in a blanket like a burrito and asking him ten times if he was truly feeling well enough for this).

The police were able to establish that everyone’s stories, including Benny’s, seemed to match fairly swiftly. With their advanced knowledge of the situation, the corroborating accounts, and Zachariah’s bloody dick, they had no reason to believe that Castiel wasn’t acting in defense of himself and Dean. While the initial interviews were happening the police also executed a search warrant on the entire premises, finding and seizing documents and ledgers in Bart’s office that appeared to be proof of his dirty dealings. It’s at that point that the ADA entered the house to announce that the FBI had arrived and would be taking over jurisdiction and prosecution.

Initially, the FBI agents say they want to redo Dean and Castiel’s interviews themselves prior to releasing them, but Charlie works her magic. She insists that Castiel needs to be seen by a doctor sooner rather than later and that any further delay would put him medically at risk. After a brief huddle and review of what the local police have found, the agents agree that the scenario does look like self-defense and they give the go-ahead for both Dean and Castiel to leave the scene. While waiting for the agents to decide their fate, Dean had called Sam and asked him to meet them at the hospital. Sam, of course, has a thousand questions Dean can’t answer over the phone, but he promises to fill him in when they arrive. By the time he hangs up, he's being released from his separate detention. At first, Dean just feels proud of Charlie’s clever ruse to get them out of there, but when he walks back into the main room to see her and Bobby helping Castiel onto the stretcher, a rush of fear and sadness fills his chest. Castiel does look pretty weak and his grimacing expression betrays that he's in obvious pain. Dean quickly returns to his side and takes his hand as the stretcher is pulled out of the house and loaded inside the waiting ambulance.

Bobby doesn’t even raise an eyebrow when Dean climbs into the back and sits down on the bench seat, the spot the treating paramedic would usually sit in. He just shakes his head and sits in the Captain's chair behind Cas, busying himself with writing notes on his clipboard. Dean has no doubt that Bobby’s official chart will indicate that he did all of the ALS interventions for Castiel, but Dean’s just not ready to let anyone else touch him. His hands shake a little as he applies the sticky electrodes to Castiel’s chest and the blood pressure cuff to his arm, but going through his familiar patient care routine calms him. By the time he’s sliding an IV catheter into Castiel’s forearm and drawing blood, he’s steady again, and Castiel smiles at Dean’s painless technique.

“Where’s it hurt, sweetheart?” Dean keeps his voice low and calm, making casual but frequent eye contact and maintaining one hand on Castiel’s body, even when he’s not treating or assessing him.

“Might be easier to give you the list of what doesn’t,” Castiel jokes, but it falls flat and Dean’s forehead wrinkles with worry. He parts the blanket covering Cas’ chest gently, taking in the bruises covering his torso and abdomen with increasing concern. Dean wraps his hands around Castiel’s ribs and applies gentle pressure as he asks him to take a deep breath. When he complies, Dean feels clear movement of some of the ribs on Cas’ left side, indicating at least one major break. He slides his hands lower and doesn’t fail to take notice of how intimate what he’s doing is, especially considering what they’ve been through. Dean can feel Castiel’s eyes on him as his own slide up to meet those beautiful blues he’s missed so much. Castiel’s breath catches a little when they do, and Dean doesn’t think it’s from pain. Cas' eyes search his own and his hand comes up just slightly, the tips of his fingers softly grazing Dean’s wrist, and Dean loves him. Loves him so much. Wants to cover him with his body and protect him from anything and anyone that might ever try and hurt him. He wants nothing more than to fall to his knees and beg Castiel's forgiveness for his sins. Wants to take every last ounce of his pain away, would take it all into his own body without hesitation if it meant that Castiel could be free.

Instead, he swallows thickly and drops his eyes back to Castiel’s stomach. He runs an experienced hand over each of the four quadrants and becomes suspicious when he reaches the upper left one. It’s hard, and very tender when he presses down gently. There’s a blooming purple-red bruise spreading out from just under his ribs, down and over Castiel’s right flank, and Dean leaves his warm hand gently covering part of the dark stain.

“He kick you?” His tone is gruff now, concealing the anger and sadness and guilt he feels over all of this, over his part in Castiel's current state.

Castiel nods slowly and lifts his own hand to indicate his chest and abdomen. “Before you came in. He landed a bunch all over, but mostly here and here.” His hand moves up to touch his face then, and Dean can barely look at the purple-blue bloom marring Cas’ perfect cheek. “This one was Zachariah,” Castiel explains, and his voice has an underlying note of satisfaction in it. Dean scowls. He’d found out about Zachariah being there as well as what he had tried to do while they were still at the scene, but that didn’t mean he’d come to terms with it. Still, Castiel’s brave attempt at retaliation has him cracking a small smile. Castiel sees it, and his face briefly breaks out into a dazzling, gummy grin before it’s wiped away by a grimace of pain and Cas’ hand flying to his cheek.

“Hurts to smile,” he admits.

The narcotic lockbox and keys are being thrust into Dean’s face before he can ask for it, Bobby’s disapproving scowl and raised eyebrows reminding Dean that he does have a job to do, if he’s going to insist on being the one to do it. Bobby stands there holding the metal pole at the end of the bench seat for balance as the ambulance sways on its way down the highway. “You gonna medicate the boy sometime today or what? You know your googly eyes ain’t doing nothin’ to help him breathe through a broken rib, ya idjit. And you, take this,” Bobby thrusts a folded pillow into Castiel’s arms. “Squeeze it tight to your chest if you gotta cough or take a deep breath.” Castiel nods thankfully and Bobby turns back to Dean. “I’m gonna call this in, his belly hot?”

Damn, old man doesn’t miss a beat, Dean thinks to himself as he nods. “Whole left side.” Bobby nods and returns to his chair, keying up the radio and giving his report to Lawrence Memorial, notifying them in the process that the patient is an EMS provider, a courtesy notification that will ideally help protect Castiel’s privacy and dignity while providing him with the best care. Dean doses Castiel with Fentanyl a couple of times over the remainder of the ride. His vital signs stay in the stable range and by the time they’re pulling into the ambulance bay, he looks a lot more comfortable. So much so that when Bobby hops out the side door to go around and help Charlie pull the litter out of the back, he catches Dean’s chin firmly and drags him in for a kiss.

“You’re in no shape for this,” Dean protests weakly against his lips.

“I believe that’s my decision to make,” Castiel replies with a small smile, cupping the side of Dean’s face and kissing him firmly several more times, closed-mouth but lingering. They’re interrupted by Bobby clearing his throat, and when Dean turns to look, he knows his face goes red from embarrassment. The back doors to the truck are thrown wide and not only are his co-workers standing there staring (Bobby looking irritated and Charlie with an amused smirk on her face), but Sam is standing behind them, looking positively torn between letting his jaw drop to the ground and breaking out into a giant grin.

“I knew it,” he announces triumphantly. Dean narrows his eyes and gestures with his palms up as he climbs out of the truck.

“Seriously, Sam?” He turns to Bobby and Charlie and waves them off. “Go ahead,” he says, indicating they should proceed inside without him. They’re going to the trauma bay and Sam is the trauma surgeon after all, so Dean is pretty confident that he’s not missing anything besides X-ray radiation.

By the time Dean turns back to him, Sam’s come down firmly on the side of 'shit-eating grin,' and he beams at Dean. “I knew you two weren’t just weirdly close. Avoid my calls all you want, Dean but I know you.” Sam’s almost gleeful until abruptly, the happy look falls off of his face. “But what the hell is going on? What happened to Cas? And when did you break up with Lisa? What about the baby? Where are you living?”

Dean pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration and then rubs at his eyes with his thumb and pointer finger. After an extended pause, he shrugs. “It’s a mess, Sam. I made a huge fucking mess. But me and Cas..." He clears his throat. "Look, I need him. So just fix him, okay? Don't let him...” He trails off and against his will, Dean feels his eyes welling up with tears. “Fuck,” he curses, swiping at them angrily.

Sam drops a firm hand to his shoulder. “Shit Dean,” he says, trying to get his brother’s attention, and when Dean looks up all traces of Sam’s teasing expression are gone. Now he just looks concerned and worried, and that’s so much worse. “I’ve never seen you like this. Listen, fill me in while we walk about the medical stuff, and we’ll table the rest until we’re sure I don’t need to be elbow deep in Cas’ torso, yea?”

Dean scrunches up his nose as they start walking. “You’re kinda gross, you know that?”

Sam bumps his elbow with his own and smiles. “I learned from the best.”

***

It turns out that Castiel’s spleen is lacerated and bleeding into his belly. It’s not the worst thing that could be wrong but he does need surgery, which leads to an awkward discussion about advanced directives and emergency contacts and next of kin to which Castiel adamantly insists that he has none. “That isn’t true,” Dean protests. “You've got like, an assload of siblings.”

“Yes, Dean,” Castiel says patiently, but his tone is tense. “I do indeed have an ‘assload’ of siblings, but I haven’t spoken to any of them in years. My family is religious and they did not approve of my being gay. The last thing I want right now is to have my mother or my self-righteous older brothers showing up here to tell me how I brought this nightmare down upon myself for choosing a deviant lifestyle.” Dean leans back in his chair, propping his foot up on the side of Castiel’s bed for balance. He blinks in shock and swallows the joke he was ready to make about Castiel’s air-quote usage.

“Um… yea, alright. I can see why you wouldn’t want those fuckers around. But you still need an emergency contact.”

“I have an emergency contact,” Castiel replies smoothly as he arches an eyebrow. Dean has to physically look around the room twice before the implications of what Cas is saying sink in. He’s about to have a mini-panic attack when he thinks about everything that statement implies about him and them, but then Castiel starts to crumple in on himself and Dean did that. Seeing the broken, disappointed look on Cas’ face and knowing he put it there is all Dean needs to pull on his big girl panties, shove his bullshit back down into the recesses of his mind and get the hell over it.

“Yes you do, sunshine,” he replies as calmly and confidently as possible, dropping the chair’s front legs back to the floor and sliding closer to take Castiel’s hand. He gives his knuckles a soft kiss and adds, “You've got me. And anyway, Sam’s gonna be the one wielding the scalpel and then Jess is picking you up as her patient when you get to ICU so no worries, you couldn’t get away from me if you tried.”

Cas just smiles at him, his eyes warm and affectionate. “Love you, Dean,” he murmurs, his eyes slipping closed as the pain medicine starts to kick in again.

“Love you too, sweetheart,” Dean replies, kissing his hand again. For a while, Dean just sits there with his own thoughts, Castiel’s stuffy-nosed snoring and the beep of the monitors his only distractions. Bobby and Charlie are long gone back to the station, though both of them had made it a point to pull Dean aside and make their intentions of dragging him into a drawn-out conversation at some ambiguous later point in time known before they left. Sam is upstairs in the OR suite, reviewing Castiel’s radiologic studies and preparing for surgery. Benny is down at the station answering questions about Bart in exchange for immunity. The FBI had called the hospital for an update on Cas and said that they wouldn’t bother coming by until he was out of the ICU, but that neither of them should worry as they’d apparently uncovered a ton more evidence incriminating Bart in some pretty heinous activities. Dean knows what he should do now that he has a free moment, but he just can’t bring himself to type out a message or press “send” on the number in his contacts.

So he waits. He sits quietly, watching Castiel’s face closely for any sign of pain or distress but it stays stress-free and peaceful in his medicated sleep. Dean feels so grateful just to be sitting with him. He runs his fingers over Castiel’s arm, his face, across his stubble, through his short hair. He slides his hand under Cas’ hospital gown and lets it come to rest in the middle of his chest. Dean closes his eyes, just savoring and appreciating Cas’ warm skin and the gentle rise and fall of his chest as his lungs expand and contract.

Alive, Cas is alive and safe, and here. For the umpteenth time that night, tears force their way out of the corner of his eyes and spill down his cheeks.

When he opens them again, watery and probably bloodshot-red, Castiel’s fingers are still clasped between his own while his other hand is still resting on his chest. And so of course, the first thing he sees is Lisa standing in Castiel’s doorway. Dean’s silent and frozen in place once again, and Lisa’s about the same, one hand on her belly and one over her mouth. She’s gently shifted to the side by a nurse squeezing into the room, a bag of IV fluids and a clipboard in hand.

“Time to go,” she announces cheerily, failing to read the vibe in the room and overall a bit of an odd demeanor for sending someone off to emergency surgery, but Dean guesses she’s seen much, much worse and Castiel’s prognosis is good. He lets his gaze dart down to Cas' face as he stirs, and when he looks back to the doorway Lisa is gone.

Dean manages to focus on getting Castiel handed off to Sam and his team. He walks the halls and rides the elevator up to the floor with the OR suites right alongside Cas’ wheeled bed, holding his hand under the railing, even when it’s awkward to do so. Sam meets them at the red door that marks the barrier preventing non-OR staff from continuing on, meaning this is where Dean and Cas part ways. Again, Dean finds himself swelling with gratitude for his stupid, dorky, brilliant and compassionate little brother who knows Dean well enough to realize that he wouldn’t hand Castiel off to just anyone. When they say goodbye, Dean throws caution and discretion to the wind, framing Castiel’s face with both of his hands and kissing him hard. He presses his face into Cas’ neck after pulling away.

“Try not to do anything stupid like dying,” he says gruffly.

“I love you too, Dean,” Castiel says softly. “I’ll see you shortly.”

“Hey, Cas, how are you holding up?” Sam’s smile is warm and genuine as he appears over Dean’s shoulder, and Dean would hug him if he hadn’t already given up his man-card ten times over since stepping inside this shitty place.

“I’m fine, Sam, thank you for asking.” Castiel squeezes Dean’s hand one last time as the bed is pulled away and Dean’s left standing alone on what feels like the wrong side of the painted red line on the floor. Sam claps him on the shoulder as he passes by and says quietly, “I’ll take care of him.” Dean nods tersely and watches Castiel be wheeled down the hallway, standing there until his entire entourage turns and disappears through another set of double doors. Castiel makes eye contact with him when the bed turns, lifting his hand up in a small wave, and then he’s gone. With nothing left to watch, Dean makes his way slowly down the hallway to the family waiting room. His eyes are burning and heavy and he wants nothing more than to lean back in one of the awfully uncomfortable chairs and pass out for an hour or two, or however long it takes for Sam to come bearing good news and bring him to see Cas again.

So of course, Lisa would be waiting for him in the family room, sitting in one of said uncomfortable chairs and looking a lot more composed than she had a half hour earlier when she was hovering in the doorway to Cas’ room in the ED. She’s got that glint in her eye now that Dean knows full well means he’s about to get it. Dean may not always make the smartest decisions, and god knows he’s not always great at putting others first, but even he knows that he has no right to blow Lisa off right now, no right to really do anything save for sit there and take whatever she wants to throw at him and hope that’s not a literal prediction.

He takes a deep breath and enters the room.

***

It turns out Lisa does have a lot to say, though none of it is what Dean was expecting. The moment she catches sight of him she’s out of her chair and striding across the room with purpose. Once she’s within arms’ reach, she hauls back and slaps him hard across the face, a loud smack that seems to reverberate in the otherwise empty room and makes Dean’s head snap to the side.

“That was for Cas,” she says emphatically.

Dean rubs the sore side of his face and nods. “That’s fair. You have every right to be mad at me for hiding him and for lying to you.”

Lisa’s eyes widen and she looks at him incredulously. “No, Dean,” she sighs, exasperated. “That was for leaving him with that asshole creep. For thinking that protecting your reputation and this farce of a family was somehow more important than his safety! You know that he’s my friend too. I can’t believe you think so little of me that you decided I wouldn’t understand, that I wouldn’t want to help him.”

Dean shakes his head to clear it, sure that he’s hearing her wrong. “Wait - so, you’re more angry at me on Cas’ behalf than you are about what I did to you?”

Lisa just blinks at him. “Um, duh. Dean, you and me? We’ve been broken for months. Do you seriously think I’m stupid? Or blind? You barely talk to me, you don’t touch me, you need half an excuse to be out the door doing absolutely anything with anyone besides me. I’ve been waiting for months for you to end this thing. I just- I didn’t know why. I mean, for a while I assumed it was another woman, or maybe that you just weren’t the kind of guy who was capable of staying in one place.” She shrugs and blows out a breath. “I mean, okay, maybe I was a little bit mad when you told me about Cas, but that was a lot more about the ‘how’ and less about the ‘what’ of it all… I mean, Dean, I had to hear half of this story from Bobby, and then I saw you with him and…” Her voice trails off and she shakes her head, pressing two fingers to her lips. Her eyes start to fill with tears but when she looks at Dean and speaks again, she’s not accusing.

“You love him,” she says simply. “The way you touched him, the way you looked at him, you’ve never looked at me like that.” She takes a deep breath and wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. “Don’t get me wrong, Dean Winchester, I’m still angry at you for lying. And for not putting Cas first.” Her hand goes to her stomach. “But I meant what I said when we decided to keep this baby. She needs you, we need you. And you need to be yourself.” She tips her head in acknowledgment. “And I need to be happy, too. We just have to figure out how to make all of that happen… as a team.”

If Dean were a cartoon, his jaw would have unhinged itself and dropped to the floor. “Please don’t hit me again for asking this, but is there any way you could just... spell out what you’re trying to say? Because I really can’t imagine I’m hearing this right.”

“Well, what did you expect, Dean? I can’t change you, I can’t ask you to be something you’re not. Honestly, you being gay is like, the best case scenario I think I could have asked for.” Lisa stands with her hand on one of her hips, and Dean still can’t process so he continues to stare blankly.

“Alright,” Lisa sighs. “For starters, Cas moves in with us. This baby deserves to have both of her parents nearby and caring for her, and I deserve to not be single mom-ing it while you’re off getting laid and twelve hours of sleep a night. Plus, babies are expensive. I really don’t think it’s fair for her to suffer because we’re footing the bill for two separate places to live.”

“Now that’s unfair,” Dean says with a smile. “You know I rarely sleep more than four.”

Lisa ignores him and continues. “You can convert the basement if you want. You and Cas can have your own space, at least until she’s a little older and being away from me isn't such a big deal.”

“I dunno, Lis,” Dean says with a shake of his head. “Seems a little, ‘gay-Brady-bunch’ to me. Don’t you think you’ll resent having us living with you?”

Lisa huffs a breath. “I told you, Dean. My worst nightmare is this baby growing up like Ben had to. You may not understand what that’s like, but I do. We don’t hate each other. We’ve always been good as friends. Cas and I have always been friends. We’re all adults and it’s time we started acting like it. Not to mention, Cas is going to need a lot of emotional support going forward and it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him to have access to a nurse who understands.”

Dean wipes his face. “Man, Lis, I just can’t wrap my head around when you got this fucking cool. I don’t deserve… I’m so fucking sorry. I should have just talked to you. I should have trusted you more. You deserve so much better than me.”

Lisa nods. “OK well, first of all, I’ve always been cool. And yes, you should have, and yes I do. But, you deserve better than hiding who you are. It’s not like you can help it or change it. Obviously, you tried.”

“I did Lis, I swear.”

She shrugs. “It doesn’t matter now. All we can do is move forward. And if your future is with Cas, then so is mine.”

Dean has to blink back tears, again. Fuck. “Can I hug you?”

Lisa smiles. “You’re not off the hook. You’re doing the dishes and cleaning toilets and taking out the trash from like, now until eternity.”

Dean huffs out a choked laugh as his tears spill over and he wraps his arms around Lisa, her belly getting in the way of a true tight embrace. As she hugs him back, Dean feels a weight lift off of his shoulders that he realizes has been there since the first time he kissed a girl in middle school and felt absolutely nothing. Since he’d accidentally gotten aroused in the locker room after gym class. Since he’d heard his dad use a homophobic slur when they’d crossed paths with a gay couple holding hands at the mall. Since he’d witnessed the only out kid at his high school get beaten up and thrown in a dumpster. Since the first time he’d seen Cas and known he was royally fucked.

Castiel wasn’t the only one who was released from his prison tonight. For the first time in his life, Dean feels free.

***

Things aren’t perfect. Castiel initially refuses to come home with them, absolutely sure and unable to be convinced otherwise that he’s unwelcome and would be a burden. With repeated assurances that eventually devolve into begging from Lisa, he finally relents, but he’s awkward and uncomfortable and mainly stays in the guest room he and Dean are sleeping in while Dean renovates the basement. Dean’s not much better at first, sleeping on the couch and attempting to keep his distance physically from Cas when Lisa is around, “out of respect.” 

Lisa has to threaten to slap him again and then explain that his walking on eggshells and asking repeatedly for her reassurance is more exhausting and obnoxious than if he’d just act normally. She reminds him once again that this was her idea and that Cas needs him, and needs him specifically to model normalcy if this is going to work. Dean shoots back that he’s not altogether sure this can work, that it’s weird and unnatural. That argument escalated into yelling, only ceasing when they both notice Castiel lurking in the doorway with his bags packed, ready to leave and go god knows where in the name of keeping the peace.

Apparently, that’s enough to knock some sense into Dean because from then on he’s better. He makes an effort to act supportive and affectionate towards Cas (without crossing the line into obnoxious) no matter who is in the room. He stops sleeping on the couch and in doing so realizes that Castiel has been having nightmares. He wakes in the night shaking and sweating and sure that he’s still trapped in Bart’s house. Sometimes he dreams that the party was never interrupted, that he was subjected to all myriad of horrors he tried so hard to never imagine. 

Sometimes he dreams about Dean showing up too late and Bart killing him there on the floor, or that he’s unable to reach the gun under the bed, resulting in Bart killing Dean, or both of them being hauled off to jail because no one believes their story of self-defense. Dean holds him through all of it every night, pulling him close and stroking his head, his back, his arms, and whispering soothing reassurances until the sobs stop and his breathing evens back out. The shaking takes longer to dissipate, and Castiel sometimes falls back asleep still shivering in Dean’s arms.

But things do start to get better with time. As Dean finally lets himself exhale and stops trying to pretend he’s someone that he’s not, Castiel relaxes too. The nightmares cease to be daily occurrences, popping up only on occasion. Dean finishes enough of the basement for it to be a livable space and the two of them relocate down there while he completes the rest. With the additional space between its occupants, the entire house seems to chill out and settle in more, and Dean and Castiel’s sex life has a fighting chance at getting back on track. Between Castiel’s physical recovery, his mental scars, Dean’s fear of upsetting or scarring Lisa and Ben, and the close proximity of their living quarters, they still haven’t been intimate since the night of Jo’s wedding. 

Dean’s incredibly vocal about wanting to respect Castiel’s healing process and not pressuring him into getting physical before he’s ready, adamantly turning down any and all of the other man’s advances and brushing off his insistence that he’s fine. Frustrated with Dean’s kid-glove approach, at one of Castiel’s follow-up appointments with Sam he pointedly initiates the most awkward conversation of Dean’s life wherein he forces Sam to clear him for several specific sex acts while Dean is in the room. Dean’s face burns and he hides behind his hand, but he gets the message.

That night, by request, he fucks Castiel into the mattress for the first time in months, hard and passionate and full of need, making Castiel come screaming Dean’s name and digging his fingernails into his back so hard he draws blood. It’s exactly what they both needed and the floodgates open, the two of them falling into a much more normal rhythm and routine after that. Things are truly going as well as can be expected. Castiel starts therapy to process everything he’s been through and he genuinely seems like he’s coping. He returns to work and recovers his things from Bart's house and everything they went through finally starts to feel like a distant bad dream. The living arrangement with Lisa and Ben even starts to feel like it's maybe the way things are meant to be. The entire house shares in the chores, the bills, and the shopping, and when they’re all home they even eat together or catch a movie on Netflix. Contrary to Dean’s initial concerns, Lisa’s plan does seem to be working.

And then Lisa gives birth and there’s a whole new normal to adjust to. Cas and Dean are both in the delivery room, and Dean is the first to admit that it’s a good thing Cas is there. He’s a much better support system for Lisa and coaches her expertly through her contractions and eventually, the pushing. He admits to Dean later that he’d taken a class on being a doula online, and Dean couldn’t keep the smile off of his face if he tried. Emma Claire Winchester is born into the world on a cold, snowy day in February, to a family full of more love and affection and honesty than Dean would ever have thought possible. That first night in the hospital, Lisa naps with Ben asleep at her side while Dean holds their tiny daughter. Castiel is curled next to him, sleepily resting his head on Dean’s shoulder. Dean allows himself a moment to look around and take it all in.

He’s not under any illusions that this will always be easy or that living together like this will always be the right fit for their family, but he can’t deny that he’s lucky beyond belief. Castiel hums in contentment at his side and Dean shifts the baby so that he can wrap an arm around his boyfriend. They’re safe. They’re saved. They’re home.

***

Chapter Text

The first few months of Emma’s life pass in a bit of a blur for Castiel. He jumps right in and stays in the thick of things with Dean, both of them attempting to cater to Lisa and make her recovery and Emma’s transition home as easy and smooth as possible. Dean is determined to make sure that Lisa doesn’t have to lift a finger if she doesn’t want to, and Castiel follows his lead, happy to be of use and included. Lisa’s nursing, so Dean and Cas’ responsibilities are all of the less fun parts of parenting, but it’s hard to complain when Emma is so sweet, and they have each other to split the load. Dean does most of the cooking and meal prep and Castiel takes care of the dishes. They take turns getting up in the middle of the night to retrieve Emma from her crib, change her diaper, and bring her to Lisa for a feeding. 

With two other parents in the house, Dean only takes off the first week from work and after that he and Cas just alternate shifts to make sure someone is always home for Lisa. In addition to all that, they all have to work to make sure Ben feels included and taken care of and not like he’s been replaced by the new baby and this “new normal” of Castiel and Dean. When Lisa goes back to work after eight weeks off, things get a bit more exhausting but Dean and Cas are able to stop working complete opposites and spend a bit more time together.

Castiel wouldn’t trade it, he wouldn’t. Even on his toughest days, when he’s gone almost a week without sleeping in the same bed as Dean and between work and the baby he’s verging on a full rotation of the earth without any sleep at all, when he and Dean haven’t had even one spare moment to themselves, the whole situation still feels like it’s borderline heavenly. There are no secrets, no lies, no constant lingering worry in the back of his mind of being hurt or caught or outed. In some ways, Castiel feels guilty about that, thinks he doesn’t deserve such a happy ending, but here he is. He tries to atone for his sins by being as helpful and supportive towards Lisa as possible, a surprising outcome of which is that they’ve grown close, and he knows he can rely on her as well. 

Castiel is grateful for that because despite knowing that Dean doesn’t look down on or judge him, he’s tired of being a victim in Dean’s eyes, tired of worrying that Dean thinks that he’s weak. Having a second close friend to share some of his concerns and struggles with in Lisa is helpful in that way, and has allowed Cas to feel like he’s regained more equal footing in his and Dean’s relationship.

When Emma is six months old, Dean and Castiel surprise Lisa by organizing a girls trip for her to Vegas with a handful of her friends. At first, she’s reluctant to go and leave Emma behind, but after a few rounds of reassurances, she relents and lets herself get excited. Dean and Cas really step up to the plate that week and everything goes smoothly, Lisa returning relaxed and refreshed and even talking about getting back into the dating scene. Dean is enthusiastically supportive, even helping her set up an online dating profile that Castiel has to revoke his access to when he starts swiping left on anyone he deems not good enough for Lisa or Emma (read: everyone). After a brief come-to-Jesus talk, Dean waves his white flag and agrees to take his hands out of the pot and just be supportive unless he’s specifically asked for his opinion. Castiel privately thinks he’ll believe it when he sees it.

All told though, as fall starts seeping into the air, Castiel is really missing having quality time with Dean. And yet, he’s resigned that this phase of their lives is what it is, and while it won’t last forever, it’s also not changing anytime soon. So when he’s woken one morning to Dean gently shaking his shoulder, the world outside their small basement window still black, his mind isn’t on anything except what he must have forgotten to do.

“I’m sorry!” Castiel sits bolt upright and swings his legs over the side of the bed. “I’m sorry, Dean. What time is it? Did I oversleep? I’ll go get Ben’s lunch together, or is Emma awake? Should I change her?” Castiel wipes his hand over his face in an attempt to clear the hazy cloud of sleep from his mind and center himself.

“Whoa, whoa, hey, Cas, relax,” Dean soothes, cupping Castiel’s face with one hand and drawing him close with the other wrapped around his waist. He kisses him softly but firmly, morning breath be damned, and Castiel melts into him. He lets his head drop down onto Dean’s shoulder when he pulls away, just relishing breathing him in. Dean drops a kiss onto the top of his head and huffs a soft laugh. “Nothing’s wrong, sweetheart,” he murmurs. They stand like that for a moment, just rocking gently and holding each other tight until Dean says, “I guess you have been strung pretty tight lately, huh?”

Castiel shrugs. “It’s nothing I didn’t sign on for.” He shifts slightly and lets his hands drop from Dean’s back to his hands, stepping away and tugging Dean insistently towards the bed. “Come,” he says with a soft smile, “If we have a free moment, why aren’t we spending it in bed?”

Dean resists being pulled but holds onto Castiel’s hands tightly. “We’re free, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have somewhere to be,” he says, his eyes lighting up mischievously. “Come on,” he adds, pulling his bottom lip through his teeth and heading for the basement stairs. “Come shower with me. Bring clothes, your wallet and your phone, we’re heading out right after.”

Castiel cocks his head and regards Dean curiously but he obeys, gathering some comfortable but fitted jeans, a navy t-shirt with the Lawrence EMS logo on it, and a cream sweater. As an afterthought, he grabs his sunglasses along with the items Dean mentioned and follows the other man up the stairs. The bathroom situation is really the only frustrating thing about living in the basement of the house; Castiel’s stumbled and fallen on his face more than once in a late-night scramble to relieve himself in the dark. Thankfully, there’s a half-bath on the first floor, so at least he doesn’t have to climb two flights of stairs just to piss, but both the full baths are on the second floor, which means walking through the entire house in a towel (awkward) or making sure that anything needed after showering is brought with. The bathroom they share with Ben is also well within hearing range of Lisa’s and Ben’s rooms, meaning that shared showers are usually out of the question, so Castiel has to wonder what’s up.

The house is fairly dark as he and Dean quietly ascend the two flights of stairs, both clutching bundles of clothing. Castiel notes that Ben’s door is open as they pass and that he’s not inside. Lisa’s is closed though, as is Emma’s, indicating they’re both asleep. Castiel thinks to check his phone and notes that it’s only just past 5 AM. He tugs Dean’s hand and cocks his head at Ben’s door questioningly. He’d crept into a dark and silent house late last night after finishing a 6-midnight shift and leaving Dean behind at the station to complete his regular 24, so he has no idea if Ben was even here last night. Dean wraps his fingers around the ones in his hand and pulls Cas into the bathroom behind him, closing the door gently and starting the shower. As the water warms, he turns back around and crowds up close into Castiel’s space, nudging their noses together and brushing Cas’ lips with his own. Dean's fingers dance underneath the hem of his shirt, sliding it teasingly up still sleep-warm skin. “Ben’s sleeping at his friend’s house. Said something about a science project but I think he just wanted a night uninterrupted by baby cries.”

“Understandable,” Castiel murmurs.

“I checked on the girls before I woke you, everyone’s comfortable and sleepy.”

“This is a nice surprise,” Castiel says as he presses light kisses to Dean’s jaw and neck.

He can feel Dean smiling into his cheek as he replies, “Hopefully the first of many this week.” Castiel pulls back and eyes Dean suspiciously. His green eyes are bright and dancing, wrinkles at the corners betraying his mirth. “Trust me,” he says, sweet and sincere. “Yea?”

Castiel narrows his eyes but doesn't push, crossing his arms and grabbing the hem of his sleep shirt to pull it up and over his head. He shoves his shorts down and steps out of them, smoothly reaching out and pushing his hands up and under Dean’s own shirt, forcing his arms up so that he can tug it off. Dean wiggles his hips as Castiel thumbs his button open and his zipper down, and in seconds they’re both naked and drinking each other in greedily. Castiel’s cock is already filling just at having Dean naked and willing and perfect in front of him. So sue him, it’s not like they get to do this very often, and when they do it’s usually rushed hands shoved down into pants or dicks swallowed down quickly after being pulled hastily out of clothing. Going slow and savoring each other’s bodies has just never been in the cards for them.

Dean squeezes his hand before stepping carefully into the shower and dragging Castiel in after him. He grins and spins them both to press him up against the cool tiles. Dean’s mouth is soft and hot as it blazes trails across Castiel’s neck and chest, tongue darting out to lick the salt from his skin as he goes. Castiel drops his head back against the tile with a thunk and closes his eyes, one hand coming up to tangle gently in Dean’s hair. He hears the click and squoosh of body wash being opened and squeezed and then Dean’s big, warm hand is wrapping around their cocks, squeezing and twisting in a tight, slick tunnel that Castiel can’t help but thrust up into. Dean kisses his way back up to Castiel’s mouth, presses of lips quickly turning sloppy until they're mostly just breathing each other’s air. 

Castiel loves Dean like this, loves how Dean softens and changes and opens for him when they’re together, adores how sweet and pliant he is and how it’s only for Castiel’s eyes to see. He’s so preoccupied with watching Dean that he forgets to chase his own orgasm, but in his defense, Dean is distracting. The biceps of his arms flex as he pumps them together, skin wet and glistening under the spray of the water. His emerald eyes are hooded and hazy, his kiss-swollen mouth is dropped open just slightly, panting as he closes in on the big finish. Castiel stares as Dean's eyes slip closed, as his lips press together before falling open again, a moan escaping from the back of his throat as his cock pulses and spills over Cas’ own stomach. Beautiful.

It’s only when Dean blinks his droplet-studded eyelashes open again, cheeks flushed and stained a ruddy pink that accentuates every freckle and says, “What?” that Castiel even realizes how caught up he is in staring. “You alright?” Dean prods at him as he gets back to stroking with a regular rhythm, but Castiel just nods and places a hand on his shoulder, applying firm pressure. Dean catches his drift right away and goes to his knees willingly, opening his mouth and leaning forward, but Castiel stops him.

“Just stay there,” he says softly, taking himself in hand. Dean’s eyes widen for a moment and then he’s settling palms on his thighs, licking his lips and watching Cas intently. Castiel strokes himself quickly and just before he comes moans Dean’s name as a warning. He forces his eyes to stay open so that he can see Dean's own flutter closed as his come stripes across his face, marking him, claiming him. Castiel almost loses his breath at the sight.

“Dean,” he murmurs. He cleans Dean up then using a washcloth and helps him to his feet. They shower and clean up for real this time, each taking turns soaping up the other’s hair and then rinsing it out. Dean remains flushed and quiet so Castiel checks in on him as they’re toweling off. He takes Dean’s chin between his thumb and forefinger before asking, “Are you alright?” Dean bites his lip and tries to look away, but Castiel’s grip is firm and he ducks back into Dean’s line of sight when it drifts. “There’s nothing you could ever need to hide from me,” he reminds him softly.

Dean sighs and pushes his wet hair up off of his forehead before squeezing out a dollop of gel and running it through. “It’s nothing, Cas,” he replies. At Castiel’s disbelieving look, he insists, “Really. I swear. Just, sometimes I still have my moments. Gay hang-ups, I guess. What we did just now -” He cuts his reply off abruptly and busies himself with applying deodorant and adding toothpaste to his toothbrush. Castiel just lets the silence hang, knowing that Dean will fill it when he’s ready, and he does. “Just pushes all my buttons sometimes, is all.”

Castiel is silent for a moment longer, finishing pulling up his jeans and buttoning them before he speaks. He’s still shirtless when he leans on the vanity next to Dean, placing a hand on his bicep and trailing it down his arm affectionately. “Did you enjoy what we did?” Dean takes a deep breath before nodding, still averting his eyes and only allowing himself to look at Castiel via the mirror. Castiel drops a kiss to his shoulder and looks back at him the same way. “Give yourself a break, Dean,” he says. “You've been through a lot in the past year. “You’re allowed to have things that make you feel good.”

Something in Castiel’s wording must have been the right thing to say because Dean visibly brightens. “Speaking of,” he says, wiggling his brow as Castiel pulls on his shirt and sweater and brushes his teeth. “Hurry up. We’ve got a long ass drive ahead of us.”

***

They’re out on the open road before the sun has fully cracked the horizon, pinks and oranges streaking across the distant sky and two giant, steaming hot coffees resting in the cupholders. Castiel shivers a little, the heater in Dean’s Baby isn’t the fastest to warm up and tries again to cajole their destination out of his smug traveling partner.

“Nope,” Dean replies with a wide, playful grin. “All you get to know is that we’re free for an entire week. I took PTO and Bobby filled your shifts. Benefits of being a part-timer, huh?”

“How did you manage to get Lisa to agree to this? Are you sure she’ll be alright?” Castiel’s almost hesitant to even ask because of how badly he wants this, needs it, and he knows Dean does too, but Emma still comes first. Lisa still comes first.

But Dean waves him off and with his final word on the matter, Castiel’s worries start to dissipate. “It was her idea, actually," he explains. "After we sent her to Vegas, she says she came back feeling like a new person. Said we deserved the same kind of break. Me, I think she just wants to go on a few dates without worrying that I’m going to answer the door when the guy comes to pick her up.” Dean snickers at himself and Castiel rolls his eyes.

“What about Emma?”

“Lis’ mom’s coming into town today. S’all good, sweetheart. You just sit back and relax, take a nap if you want. If we drive straight through we’ll be there by dinner.”

“And there is…?”

Dean winks. “You’ll see,” is all he’ll say. Castiel settles back into the familiar leather seats and sips his coffee, watching rural Kansas turn into Missouri. His eyes start to get heavy after only an hour or so in the car, a side-effect of months of broken sleep and stress, even if it was the good kind. Throwing his usual caution to the wind, he unbuckles his seatbelt and lays down on the bench seat, pillowing his head on Dean’s thigh and sighing in contentment. He feels Dean’s hips buck up and almost displace him, but they’re settled back down after only a moment, and a soft blanket is being draped over him. Dean must have reached into the backseat to grab it. Castiel snuggles down into it and inhales deeply when he realizes it smells like Dean. His last thought before he drifts off is that if this were all Dean had planned for their little getaway, he would have already knocked it out of the park.

“Love you, Dean,” he mutters sleepily.

“Right back atcha, sunshine,” Dean replies, his fingers sifting absently through Cas’ hair. Castiel squeezes his thigh, and then he’s out.

***

It turns out that Dean was not exaggerating when he said the drive was long. Twelve hours long, to be exact. Being baby-free and feeling reckless, they decide to make a go of it and drive it all in one shot. About six hours, a couple of bathroom breaks, and some fast food burgers later, Castiel switches spots with Dean, who gives him directions that are clear enough to keep them going in the right direction but vague enough not to reveal their final destination. Still, Castiel’s pretty sure he’s deduced that they’re going to Tennessee. Dean naps in Castiel’s previous position, head on his thigh, arms wrapped around it. Castiel almost wants to pinch himself for how happy he feels. Dean’s always affectionate and sweet with him but it’s been a long time since Castiel was the center of Dean’s attention, since he was his entire world even for a moment, and it’s a lot to have that suddenly dropped in his lap again. In a good way.

When Dean wakes, they pull over at another rest stop to use the facilities and grab some drinks and snacks. Dean comes back to the car with his arms full of chips, nuts and beef jerky, grinning like a kid in a candy store as he slides back behind the wheel. “Wan thum?” He talks obnoxiously with his mouth full as he offers the open bag of salt and vinegar chips to Cas, shaking it a little to rattle the chips enticingly.

“No,” Castiel replies, shaking his head and plucking the bag from Dean’s hand, but he’s smiling. He unburdens Dean of his snack haul and dumps it all on the bench seat, crawling over it to wedge himself into Dean’s lap, ass pressed up against the steering wheel. “Swallow,” he commands, referring to Dean’s mouthful of chips, and Dean obliges, hands already gripping Castiel’s thighs and eyes locked green-to-blue. Castiel leans down and kisses him, tasting the salt on his lips and the tang of vinegar on his tongue. They make out like teenagers for several minutes, fogging up the windows and everything. By the time Castiel forces himself to pull back, he’s hot under his collar and hard in his pants. He can feel from where he sits that Dean is in the same boat.

“Let’s wait,” Castiel suggests. “Draw out the anticipation and all that.”

Dean raises his eyebrows. “Dude, that sounds like the least fun game ever.” But Castiel just smirks and disentangles himself from Dean, managing to only honk the horn with his ass once as he makes his way off of Dean’s lap and back onto his side of the bench seat. Dean groans and throws his head back dramatically, muttering loudly about blue balls and Castiel being the death of him. Castiel looks on with amusement and rolls down his window to air out the interior of the car.

The last couple of hours go by quickly, Dean blasting and singing along at the top of his lungs to his favorite Led Zeppelin songs and Castiel laughing happily, both of their faces red and cold from leaving the windows down to feel the wind in their now-destroyed hair. Castiel beams as they pass through Knoxville and start to wind their way into Smoky Mountain territory, realizing finally where Dean is going.

***

One Year Earlier...

Castiel can hardly keep his eyes open but he knows he should get up and put his duty clothes back on before falling asleep, especially if he's planning to do so next to Dean. He stifles a yawn and stretches, his bare legs dragging alongside the length of Dean’s as he does. Dean’s nose comes to nuzzle under his jaw, lips brushing lightly against his skin. He’ll never tire of this, this kind of pure, honest affection that Dean gives so freely when they’re alone, not as long as he lives. The only possible thing that could make this moment even more perfect would be the obvious. Castiel knows he should be grateful for what he has, what they have, for getting the opportunity to know Dean at all, to feel him, to get even one moment like this. Some people wait their entire lives to feel this way and never do, and Castiel should be satisfied knowing that he’s one of the lucky ones. He shouldn’t dream. He shouldn’t want. He should just enjoy their time together for what it is, catalog it, and file it away for the day it’ll inevitably be nothing but a blissful, nostalgic memory.

He should do a lot of things.

Fingertips dancing on his flank draw him back into the moment, and a tilt of his head has him staring into an emerald abyss that has his breath coming up a little short. “What’s up, buttercup?” Dean’s smile is relaxed, his expression open and curious. “Where’d you go on me?” His fingers stop dancing and tighten around Castiel’s hip, pulling gently and Castiel goes, rolling onto his side so that they’re face to face. There’s hardly room on the tiny twin bed for both of them, but the opportunity to lay tangled up with Dean is worth any amount of minor discomforts.

Castiel strokes Dean’s cheek, his five o’clock shadow just barely turning sandpaper-y under the pads of his fingers. “Just dreaming,” Castiel replies, stealing a chaste kiss from Dean’s pliant lips. Dean chases his mouth as he pulls away, and as he always will for Dean, Castiel lets himself be caught, the resulting kiss secure and lingering.

“Is that all?” Dean asks his question into Castiel’s mouth as they remain so close their noses keep brushing, and Castiel shrugs. Abruptly, Dean pulls back and props himself up on his elbow, head in his hand. “If we could go anywhere together, where would you want to go?”

Castiel blinks, unprepared for Dean to flesh out what “dreaming” meant so very easily. Instead of answering, he buys himself some time to think by turning the question around on Dean. “Where would you want to go?”

Dean shrugs with one shoulder. “Beach of some kind, I suppose. M’not picky. Picture it, right? You and me, toes in the sand, couple of those girly umbrella drinks?” He wiggles his eyebrows. “Skinny dipping at night…”

A genuine smile spreads across Castiel’s face as he lets himself drop into the fantasy. He closes his eyes and imagines it, imagines all the places he wishes he could go, all the things he wishes he could see and do with Dean. All the things that will never happen. His eyes pop open as his mood sours and the smile fades from his face. Dean pokes him and when Castiel glances up, he’s got his lip jutted out in an exaggerated pout.

“Come on, no fair. I showed you mine.”

“Mountains,” is Castiel’s eventual answer. “I’d want to be surrounded by them. We’d stay in a little cabin, where we could hole up and be truly alone. Being surrounded by mountains makes me feel… isolated. In a good way. We’re never alone like this, not really, and that’s all I really want when it comes to you.”

Dean pokes Castiel again, but he’s smiling. “You’re a big sap, you know that?” Castiel smiles but doesn’t answer. Dean snuggles into the crook of his neck. “I dig it,” he mumbles into Castiel’s skin. “Mountains would be sweet,” he adds, his words half-slurred and giving way to a giant yawn. Dean’s quiet snores start to fill the room shortly after that and Castiel gives up on trying to get to his clothes. The door’s locked, anyway. No one is going to find them.

But inside, deep down where he hides his deepest fears and most secret wishes, he prays that someday they’ll have the opportunity to truly be alone together. Someday.

***

Present Day, Gatlinburg, TN:

“You remembered,” Castiel murmurs, eyes taking in the mountainous landscape while his hand reaches across the bench seat to seek out Dean’s. Dean just smiles and squeezes back. Castiel looks down at his lap and blinks his eyes a few times to clear away the emotion that’s forced its way through.

“Hey,” Dean says softly, “No tears, sweetheart.”

Castiel looks up at the ceiling of the car and shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Dean. It’s just,” he pauses and clears his throat, looking over at Dean with unguarded affection in his eyes. Dean waits patiently, holding his hand tight while Castiel searches for the right words to describe the overwhelming crush of feelings. He finally settles on something simple. “I’m very happy,” he says, and Dean responds by lifting his hand to his mouth and kissing it. They ride most of the rest of the way in companionable silence, Dean humming along to various songs that happen to be playing and Castiel just drinking it all in. As they exit onto the last highway leading into Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Dean pulls a folded piece of paper with directions scribbled on it out of his pocket. He navigates them through downtown, which Castiel takes in with wide eyes and an excited grin. It’s charming and touristy while still retaining a rustic, tucked-away feel.

Dean brings the car to a stop in front of a small rental office. He tells Castiel he’ll only be a moment and hops out, disappearing inside. Castiel takes the opportunity to look up Gatlinburg on his phone and see what there might be to do nearby. He’s pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of activities and excitedly bookmarks a few pages. When Dean slides back in behind the wheel with a new map and an armful of glossy pamphlets, Castiel immediately starts talking his ear off about distilleries and whitewater rafting and ice skating. “Whoa, whoa, slow down there, sweetheart,” he says, pulling Castiel in by the back of his head for a kiss. “We’ll do it all, I promise. Whatever you want. Let’s get settled in first and relax tonight though. I’m thinking pizza.”

Castiel’s stomach grumbles at the reminder that they haven’t eaten in hours. “Sounds perfect. On one condition,” he says, and Dean raises a questioning eyebrow. “I’m walking around completely naked, and you should too.”

Dean throws his head back and laughs. “Fuck right,” he replies with a nod, throwing the car into reverse and shaking out the map so he can follow it. “Shit, Cas. I can’t remember the last time I sat around in my underwear or even walked out of a bathroom without clothes on. Never considered myself much of a nudist but I gotta say, I can’t wait for this.”

Castiel nods. “It will be nice to relax and just be free together.”

Dean grabs his hand again and holds it across the seat. “We are you know,” he says.

Castiel tears his gaze away from the scenery to meet Dean’s eyes. “What?”

“Free.”

***

Twenty minutes and one stop at a convenience store for drinks and snacks later, they’re pulling up a winding road, lushly framed with colorful vegetation. There are a bunch of cabins line the way, and Dean pulls up in front of one of them, an attractive log cabin-style house with reddish oak siding and a green roof. “Home sweet home,” Dean announces brightly, collecting his pamphlets and exiting the car. Castiel gets out too, stretching languidly until his spine pops. He shakes his legs out and joins Dean where he’s pulling the luggage out of Baby’s trunk.

“I can’t believe you put all this together, Dean. You even packed for me?” Castiel shakes his head and leans up to plant a kiss on Dean’s cheek. “Every day you make me feel lucky to be yours,” he says, and Dean blushes bright red. Castiel finds that quite amusing- he’s had his tongue in Dean’s ass, but a simple compliment still embarrasses him. He knows he’s getting somewhere though because Dean doesn’t protest, just finishes extracting the bags and sets off towards the front door. Castiel follows, dragging one of the wheeled suitcases behind him. Dean keys open the front door and enters the cabin with a loud whistle of appreciation.

“Hot damn,” he says, voice full of awe. “It’s even better than the pictures!” Castiel follows him in, pulling the door closed behind them, and upon turning around and assessing the room, he’s equally impressed. To his immediate left upon entering is a full kitchen with several extra amenities including a coffee maker. There’s a full-size refrigerator and an island with two chairs on the opposite side.  To his right is a laundry closet with a washer/dryer. Venturing further inside, the cabin opens up to a two-story living area with a full-size pool table, couch and recliner, grey stone fireplace and a new-looking flat screen TV. The whole cabin has a rustic feel, the walls are done in knotty pine, the windows accentuated with thick maroon curtains. There are a few wall hangings and decorations on the wall, but for the most part, the cabin’s charm is allowed to speak for itself. 

Castiel thinks it’s perfect; homey and comfortable, exactly what he envisioned in his daydreams of getting away with Dean. There’s a staircase on the far side of the sitting area and Castiel is halfway up by the time Dean catches him. He snags a finger through Cas’ belt loop and stops him by tugging at it, almost causing him to topple backward and take them both down the entire flight of stairs. Dean stands on the step below him and presses up against Castiel’s back, standing on his tiptoes so that he can whisper into Castiel’s ear.

“Did you see the pool table?” He gestures with his chin over the stair railing, to where the table sits below. Castiel nods as Dean’s hand slips down his abdomen and brushes across the front of his jeans. “I’m going to spread you out on it later. Kiss you all over, take you nice and deep in my mouth… lick you open nice and slow, get you all sloppy and messy and worked up until you’re begging for my cock… how’s that sound, angel?” Castiel’s leaning back heavily on Dean now, eyes drifted shut and trying not to pant at Dean’s dirty talk. He swallows thickly and nods. “Great!” Dean replies brightly, shoving past him and making his way up the rest of the stairs to the loft.

Castiel has to catch himself on the railing to avoid falling without Dean’s bracing presence. “Asshole,” he growls as Dean hops away. Dean looks back down at him and flashes the panty-dropping grin he’s famous for.

“You love me,” he teases.

“You’re lucky,” Castiel grumbles in reply, but he follows Dean up the stairs, adjusting his half-hard cock as he goes. His mood lifts again when he reaches the top and sees the bedroom. The walls and furniture are the same knotty pine as the rest of the cabin, and Castiel finds he likes the consistency. It gives the cabin a connected and homey feel. There’s a king size bed with a cozy-looking comforter tucked against the back wall, bordered by two nightstands with soft-lit lamps, and it’s facing a giant window on the far wall of the cabin that has a clear view out over the mountains. There’s also a dresser with another flat screen TV and a decent-sized bathroom sporting a sink, toilet, and tub/shower combo.

But the piece de resistance is the jacuzzi tub to Castiel’s left as he comes up the stairs. It’s huge and jetted, and Dean’s words on the stairs have Cas instantly picturing being bent over the side and fucked in it. Damn him. He catches Dean’s eye and finds the source of his struggles smirking, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively once he has Castiel’s attention as if he can read his mind. Castiel rolls his eyes and forces himself not to give in to temptation just yet. He really is hungry, and he wants to check out the outside deck. Dean flops down on the bed and calls in a pizza order using one of the pamphlets he received at check-in and he’s given a delivery time of forty-five minutes. While he’s doing that, Castiel unpacks some of their things, sorting them into drawers and the bathroom. In Dean’s bag, he finds a brand new, economy sized bottle of lube, and he arches an eyebrow as he holds it up for Dean to see.

“Really?”

Dean shrugs and looks completely unapologetic. “Sweetheart, I don’t know what your plans for this week are, but mine include desecrating every surface in this cabin at least twice. And maybe some of the walls. And definitely the tub.” Castiel shouldn't even be surprised when the next thing he grabs is a handful of enemas, and while Dean has the decency to giggle, his self-confidence doesn’t waver for a second. “I ain’t gonna apologize for being prepared,” he says. Castiel sighs and shoves the supplies into a drawer in the bathroom, returning to the bed to grab Dean’s hand and haul him up off the bed.

“Come on,” Castiel says insistently, dragging him back down the stairs. He beelines for the door in the center of the back wall that leads out to the deck, throwing it wide and stepping out into the cool mountain air. He breathes deeply and takes in the view. The foliage is thick and colorful and the mountains are majestic, big and blue-purple on the horizon. It’s stunning. “Oh,” he says, pleased to find a wooden bench and a hot tub out there. “This is wonderful.” He turns back to Dean and slides his arms around his waist. “All joking aside, Dean, this is truly lovely. Thank you,” he says sincerely, planting a soft kiss on Dean’s lips.

“You’re so welcome,” Dean replies, pulling Cas in tight. They stay like that for a moment before Castiel is pulling away, making his way over to the hot tub and yanking the cover off. He fiddles with the controls for a moment before the thing starts bubbling and whirring, heating to the temperature Castiel chose. He’s already pulling his shirt over his head as he heads back inside, Dean close behind him following suit.

“Let’s find some towels,” he suggests, dropping his jeans to the floor and stepping out, leaving them where they lay. He can feel Dean’s eyes on him as he walks away, and isn’t that satisfying.

Ten minutes later sees them settled in the hot tub, which is just big enough to accommodate two six-foot-tall men. They’ve both got beers in hand and the water rising almost to the rim of the tub is keeping them toasty warm. Castiel takes a deep breath and lets it out with a hum. They relax there for a while, Dean resting his head on Castiel’s inner shoulder, his foot propped on the edge of the tub. When Castiel drains the last of his beer, he shifts over to the other side and takes Dean’s feet into his lap. He starts massaging and Dean lets out a loud groan. “Fuck me,” he moans. “That’s amazing, Cas, don’t stop. Mmmm. Ugh, I’d trade sexual favors for one of these, you should have negotiated.”

Castiel smiles and continues to knead Dean’s foot. “As if you’d deny me anything,” he says. Dean doesn’t argue, just closes his eyes and lets his head fall back to rest against the edge of the tub, the bubbles, the wind, and the birds the only sounds disturbing the peace. After a few minutes, Castiel drops Dean’s feet with a quiet splash and floats over through the water to straddle his lap. He’s just about to try and get something going when the sound of a car door slamming breaks through the stillness. Castiel grumbles and shifts off of Dean’s lap so that he can climb out.

“I’d be more annoyed if I wasn’t so hungry,” Dean says, toweling off swiftly and stepping into a pair of sweatpants. “You coming?”

“No,” Castiel replies, relaxing back against the side of the tub with his arms spread out over the side and closing his eyes. “I was serious… no clothes until at least tomorrow morning.” He hears Dean laugh and then the door creak open and closed as he goes to greet the delivery person. Castiel luxuriates in the bubbles for another few moments, swishing his feet in the water and enjoying the slow release of his tight muscles after the long drive. He can hear the muffled sounds of Dean bustling around on the other side of the wall behind him and as the last shreds of light disappear from the sky he thinks, Heaven can keep whatever they’ve got. Surely nothing could be more perfect than this.

***

An hour later sees Castiel bundled up in a soft blanket on the couch, his legs draped heavily over Dean’s lap. The fireplace is on and providing some subtle warmth, they’re both on their fourth slices of pizza, and Dean’s queued up some cowboy movie on the TV’s Netflix subscription. Castiel’s eyes are heavy and so he doesn’t protest when Dean wipes the grease off of his hands and suggests relocating upstairs to finish the movie in bed. They turn off the lights downstairs and go through their bedroom routines, brushing their teeth side by side at the single sink. It’s all so domestic and easy and Castiel’s heart feels so full. As they’re climbing into bed, Dean stretches and yawns as he steps out of his sweatpants, rubbing his eyes like an overgrown toddler. “Don’t hate me Cas,” he says as he flips the movie back on, “but I’ve got exactly zero energy left over for sex tonight.”

“Oh thank god,” Castiel groans, letting his hand drop to his full belly. “I just want to sleep, uninterrupted and hopefully for a very long time.” He turns on his side and wraps himself around Dean, pillowing his head on Dean’s shoulder and abandoning any pretense of trying to watch the movie. “Tomorrow,” he promises sleepily, and Dean pats him in affirmation with the arm he has wrapped around Cas’ body. Castiel falls asleep with the moonlight streaming in through the large window onto his face, the blue flicker of the TV screen lighting up Dean’s.

He sleeps better than he has since he was a child.

***

When he wakes in the morning he can feel warmth on his face but doesn’t open his eyes right away. His arm reaches out, feeling the sheets next to him for the warm body that should be there, but isn’t. A familiar spike of worry shoots through his system and suddenly he’s unable to enjoy the sun-warmed, soft-blanketed haven he’s lying in. His eyes shoot open and then blink to adjust to the bright light. By the height of the sun, morning is well on its way to being over. “Dean?” Castiel calls, with no answer. He takes a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm his racing heart, planting his feet firmly on the floor and squeezing his eyes shut. 

He repeats to himself that he’s safe, he’s with Dean, and there’s no reason to be afraid or worry. There’s a perfectly good explanation for where Dean has disappeared to. All the same, the lump in the middle of Castiel’s chest doesn’t dissolve. He knows he has to relax, though. He can’t keep allowing his nightmares and fears to control him. So instead of bolting downstairs and hunting Dean down like a bloodhound, Castiel forces himself to go about his morning ministrations. He uses the bathroom, brushes his teeth, splashes water on his face. All the while he reminds himself that they’re free, they’re okay, Dean is fine, he is fine, he is fine, he is fine.

Usually a repetitive mantra is enough to bring Castiel back down to earth and shake off the unwanted feelings clinging to him like cobwebs, but apparently, this is just one of those days. His therapist has told him over and over that no matter how strong or determined he is, these days will still happen, and that that’s okay. Castiel’s been particularly hard-headed about accepting that, insisting that he can power through anything he puts his mind to. He’s working on it, and his therapist is slowly disabusing him of the notion that it’s a weakness to need time to heal and repair emotional wounds. And maybe he should have seen this coming; after all, keeping himself busy and occupied has historically been a reliable way for Castiel to keep his feelings from taking up too much space in his head while relaxing and letting go has often been a route for his insecurities to seep back in. Apparently, the past day’s events were disarming enough to bring them back in full force.

Castiel leans over the sink and takes some deep breaths. He’s torn - he doesn’t want to put this on Dean, to drag him down when he’s enjoying their getaway blissfully oblivious to the mess in Castiel's head, but he also knows that he shouldn’t keep these things from him, either. In the few joint therapy sessions they’ve had, Dean’s made it crystal clear that he’s never thought of Castiel as weak or incapable, and in fact, he’s expressed quite the opposite. But hearing something and believing it are two different things, and Castiel still struggles with not feeling like a victim, like a burden, especially when he needs to lean particularly heavily on Dean for support. He looks his reflection in the eye in the mirror and tells himself that drawing strength from someone freely giving it, from a healthy support system, is not weakness. He reminds himself that Dean wants him, wants to help him, would be upset to know that Castiel was suffering and didn’t trust him enough to reach out.

Clinging to that thought and finally acknowledging that the fear for Dean’s safety (baseless or not) is not going anywhere, he pulls on some sweatpants and descends the stairs to look for his boyfriend. The smell of coffee hits his nostrils when he reaches the ground floor, Dean must have made some. A quick glance to the left tells Cas that he’s not in the kitchen though, which leaves only one logical place left. He pushes open the door to the back deck and finds Dean sitting on the bench with his feet propped up on the railing as he sips a steaming mug of coffee and enjoys the view. He’s clad only in the sweatpants he wore last night, a thick blanket wrapped snugly around his shoulders covering his bare chest.

He catches sight of Castiel and breaks out in a huge grin that disappears just as quickly when he takes stock of whatever is showing on Castiel’s face. “Sweetheart,” Dean breathes, placing his mug on the floor and jumping to his feet, rushing forward with his left hand out, reaching for Castiel. He clasps Cas’ shoulder, pulling him in firmly and holding him tightly to his chest. Castiel goes stiffly at first, not because he doesn’t want to touch Dean, but exactly the opposite. He wants- he needs so much; to touch, to feel, to make sure for himself that Dean is alive and whole and safe. His chin bumps the hollow of Dean’s clavicle and Castiel shudders as he suppresses a gasp. Dean is warm and solid and everything is fine. The fear finally starts to dissipate and it’s then that the self-deprecation starts creeping in, disparaging thoughts winding their way through Castiel’s head about his inability to control his emotions, his weakness, his utter failure as a partner and as a man.

But then Dean’s hands are on his biceps, and he’s pulling him back, his concerned face and caring eyes coming into view as Castiel tries his best to fight off the feelings of unworthiness. “Don’t do this,” Dean says calmly, but firmly. “You’re having a moment, and that’s all it is, alright? It doesn’t have to be more than that.” Dean’s hands stay firm and warm on his arms, and he takes a moment to close his eyes and suck in a deep breath, letting it out slowly and focusing on Dean’s voice, which is still murmuring soothing things. When he opens his eyes again, Dean’s still there. He guides Castiel to sit down on the bench and wraps them both up in the blanket. “Tell me,” he says. “Tell me all of it.” His tone is firm and brooks no argument, and for the first time, Castiel doesn’t resist. He lets Dean in, tells him everything he felt and experienced since waking up. And Dean listens quietly, squeezing his hand on occasion but mostly just letting Castiel talk. When he’s done spilling his guts, there’s a moment of silence and then Dean says, “What about now?”

Castiel furrows his brow. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, how do you feel, right now?”

Castiel leans back on the bench and thinks for a moment, really taking stock of his emotions. Actually, he feels pretty good. The irrational fear is gone and so are the whispering voices hounding him about his inadequacies. It’s once again clear that Dean isn’t judging him and he doesn’t feel bad for hiding pieces of himself. He says as much to Dean, who smiles and hands over the cup of coffee, pulling him in tight to snuggle. They stay like that for a while, and Castiel is shocked to realize that he actually, genuinely, feels better.

***

Over breakfast, they discuss their plans for the day and settle on a low-key exploration of the downtown area. Dean’s dying to check out Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and Castiel wants to ride the aerial tram up the mountain. They shower and dress and head down to the main drag, parking and setting off hand in hand down the street. As expected, Dean beelines for Ripley’s, dragging Castiel after him excitedly. Dean’s enthusiasm is infectious and Castiel happily trails behind him, listening to Dean rattle off various pop culture facts related to the displays and exhibits. He’s particularly taken with some of the TV and movie-related displays such as a full-scale replica of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts made completely out of matchsticks. Dean is pointing and carrying on when he notices Castiel just staring and watching him with a fond smile. He blushes and scratches at the back of his neck.

“Sorry,” he shrugs, visibly embarrassed. “Guess I got a little carried away. Sam’s the only one who’s really seen this geeky side of me and I’m used to him tuning me out...” he trails off and drops his arms to his sides, looking at Castiel uncertainly.

“I love it,” Castiel says quietly, stepping towards him. “It’s very endearing.” He grabs Dean’s hands and pulls him off to a darkened side hallway where he wraps his arms around Dean’s neck and presses their lips together. They make out like teenagers for several minutes until a security guard happens by and shoos them off with a reproachful glare. 

“Whoo,” Dean grins, threading their fingers together as they step back out onto the street. “Guess I need to talk geeky around you more often. That was hot. Where to?”

***

They spend the rest of the afternoon poking in various shops and picking up souvenirs. Castiel stumbles upon a candle boutique and leaves with so many different scents they have to make a trip back to the car to drop them off, but Dean is more than happy to humor him because he’s so adorably pleased with his finds. In fact, Dean doesn’t think Castiel could possibly look any happier - that is, until they stumble upon a shop called the “Savannah Bee Company.” Castiel’s eyes go wide when he sees the sign, and he’s through the door and lost in the shop’s interior before Dean can even react. When he finally catches up, Castiel is already animatedly speaking with one of the employees about the shop’s mission to save the honeybees and provide hives for schools across the US. 

The store sells a million products made from responsibly sourced honey, and Castiel quickly puts his candle haul to shame. Hair products, lotions, a full sampling from the honey bar, a tote bag, and several t-shirts (including a tiny one for Emma) later, they’re onto sampling the mead bar, and Castiel looks as if he were any happier, he’d float away. Over an hour later they wander out, back to the car again to unload Castiel’s spoils, a happily tipsy Cas hanging onto Dean’s arm and raving about their amazing luck.

When they’re once again unburdened, they stumble arm-in-arm down the street to the entrance for the aerial tramway. Dean pays for their tickets and ushers a giggly Castiel onto the platform. There’s no one else waiting and they have an entire car to themselves. Still feeling good from the mead, Castiel gets a little frisky on their way up and Dean happily lets him. Castiel ends up on his knees, sloppily swallowing around Dean’s cock as Dean braces himself against the panoramic windows. The mountains provide a stunning backdrop and view for their activities, and as he's tensing up and coming down Castiel’s throat with one hand fisted in his dark hair, he can't help but think abstractly that this has to be the most beautiful place he’s ever had an orgasm. 

When he pulls Castiel to his feet to kiss him, he’s stopped before he can shove his hand down into Castiel’s pants to return the favor. Castiel holds up his hand and it’s covered in his release, apparently, he’d gotten off to blowing Dean, and Dean's spent dick twitches in his pants at how fucking hot he thinks that is. He licks Castiel’s hand clean and presses him up against the window to kiss him thoroughly for the remainder of the ride. They both vow to pay more attention to the scenery on the way back down, but neither are sorry in the least.

They walk around the top of the mountain for a while, poking in stores and grabbing a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. It’s essentially dark by the time they descend back to Gatlinburg’s main drag in the aerial tram, and Dean’s feet are starting to get sore. Cas is more than happy to head back to the cottage and on their walk back to the car Dean’s mind is laser-focused on the feeling of sliding into the hot, welcoming water of their hot tub with an ice cold beer. That is until he catches sight of the distillery. Perhaps the only thing that could have tempted him away from his hot tub and a naked Cas was the lure of high-quality whiskey. When he looks over at his boyfriend to beg permission, Castiel is already looking back with an indulgent smile on his face, and when their eyes meet, Dean can see his excitement reflected in the crinkles of Castiel's eyes. 

Castiel’s little smile stretches into a grin and he grabs Dean’s hand and tugs him inside. They do the free tour and Dean is practically salivating by the time they slide onto seats in front of the bar to do some tastings. The bartender is funny, the different whiskeys are smooth and delicious, and Dean doesn’t need much persuading to set a few bottles aside for purchase. They move onto Moonshine and Castiel elbows him, pointing to a jar on the counter labeled “Apple Pie”.

“No way,” Dean scoffs. “That flavor never translates right.” Castiel shrugs and goes to town on the Moonshine Cherries while Dean is poured a sample of the Apple Pie anyway and sips it without trying to hide his trepidation. Whatever Dean was expecting, this was not it. Flavor explodes across his tongue and he makes a noise that has the bartender throwing his head back and laughing. Dean swallows and immediately holds his glass out for more. “We’ll take however many jars of this you have in stock to go,” he says with an enthusiastic nod. “All of them.”

***

By the time they’re stumbling back to the Impala, Dean’s drunk. Castiel’s laden down with their purchases, not trusting Dean to carry glass, and supporting a wobbly Dean with one arm. Castiel himself is a little tipsy but sober enough to walk and navigate with all of his burdens, so he decides he’ll be fine to drive the short distance back to the cabin. Dean whistles and sings loudly as they stroll, some kind of terrible Zeppelin/Warrant mashup that Castiel laughingly admits he wishes he had a free hand to record on his phone for blackmail purposes later. When they arrive at the car, Castiel dumps Dean unceremoniously into the front passenger seat, and he flails a little as he tries to organize his limbs. He pokes at the radio, growling in frustration when it doesn’t respond, completely ignoring the fact that the car isn’t even turned on. Castiel slides into the driver’s seat with a sigh, turning the key and cringing as the sound blasts at full volume.

“Dammit, Dean,” he mumbles.

Dean just slumps back against the seat and grins. “Yooouuu love it,” he says, tapping Castiel on the nose with his finger. Castiel humors him with a smile and pulls the car out, heading for their temporary home. At one point, there’s a sharp turn and Castiel has to lean far forward to clear their left side, so he doesn’t see Dean unbuckle his seatbelt and slide over, letting out a small shriek when he turns forward again and finds Dean all up in his space.

“Hey,” Dean giggles as Castiel slaps a hand to his chest, gasping a little.

“Fuck, Dean,” he says.

“Yes,” Dean replies very seriously, nodding sagely. “We should do that. You may have to do the fucking though,” he adds with a snorted little laugh as he drops his head onto Castiel’s shoulder. “I’m not sure Master Johnson and the boys will cooperate enough for me to top tonight.”

“I’ve never regretted not recording a conversation more than I am right now,” Castiel replies.

“Cas,” Dean says urgently, sitting upright again and ignoring Castiel’s previous comment, “I need to tell you something. It’s very important.”

“I’m listening, Dean,” Castiel replies patiently, smoothly turning the car onto their road.

“I want you to know…” Dean has to pause to accommodate a few hiccups and a burp, but he continues then. “With everything you went through…” Castiel tenses at the mention, this isn’t a topic they often broach outside of the therapist’s office, and it’s not a conversation he thinks he wants to venture into while Dean is drunk.

“Dean, please, let’s not-”

“No, no, Cas you have to let me-” Dean paws at Castiel as he pulls the car into a parking spot in front of their cabin. “Please, sweetheart,” Dean entreats, and his wide, honest green eyes are too much for Castiel to refuse, so he sighs resignedly and motions for Dean to go on. Dean swallows and takes Castiel’s hand. “I just wanted to tell you, that if you never wanted to bottom again, that would be, like, totally okay with me. I would - I could be, be the bottom, and you could be my top, okay? If you wanted. I would-” hiccup- “do that for you.” Dean is completely serious and so Castiel puts in a good faith effort to avoid bursting out laughing. Unfortunately, despite biting his lip, a small chuckle escapes.  

Dean looks disheartened, so Castiel squeezes his hand and says, “Thank you, Dean. That’s very thoughtful. But I very much enjoy everything we do together in bed.” Somewhat appeased, Dean reaches into the backseat and fishes around in one of the bags, pulling out a jar of the Moonshine cherries and thrusting them into Castiel’s face.

“Time for you to catch up,” he demands, changing the tone of their conversation abruptly and with an eyebrow wiggle as he drops the jar into Castiel’s fumbling hands and tumbles out of the car. Once inside the cabin, Castiel agrees to down a few cherries so long as Dean downs some water. Dean shuffles Castiel over to the couch and instructs him to sit and wait until he’s called, and then he disappears up the stairs, falling halfway up with a loud thump and an “Ow,” but it doesn’t slow him down. Castiel continues sucking on the alcohol-soaked fruit as he hears both the tub and the shower turn on and be left to run. There are a few more crashing sounds but nothing that seems disastrous, so he stays put until Dean calls down to him about fifteen minutes later.

Upon standing, Castiel realizes that the cherries he’s been inhaling may have been a bit more potent than he’d thought, and he sways a little going up the stairs, leaning heavily on the banister for support so as not to end up like Dean. But when he gets to the top of the steps and sees what’s waiting for him, his careful ascent is nearly all for naught as he’s so stunned he trips on the last step and goes face first down onto the floor. He recovers quickly, pulling himself back up using the side of the tub to take in the scene in front of him once again. The tub is filled, bubbly and steaming with pretty red rose petals strewn over the surface and a wafting lemon-cream scent that makes Castiel’s mouth water. 

Dean is standing next to it, blushing and looking self-conscious as hell, completely naked except for a pair of silk forest-green panties with black lace trim and the pink flush bringing out the freckles scattered across his smooth chest. He’s stunningly beautiful- from his plush bottom lip trapped in between his teeth in unnecessary self-consciousness, to his taut, tanned skin, to his toned but not overly beefy biceps, to the perfect swell of his ass, his ridiculous bowlegs and the bulge in his panties that Castiel knows hides his thick pink cock. Taking Dean in from head to toe makes Castiel’s mouth water for an entirely different reason, and he wastes no time on words. He moves forward as gracefully as he can in his intoxicated state and falls to his knees in front of Dean, nuzzling his face into the fabric of Dean’s panties and letting his open mouth drag wetly over the outline of his cock.

“You like?” Dean asks nervously, one of his hands coming up to rest gently on the back of Castiel’s head.

Castiel growls. “I love, ” he replies, possessively digging his fingers into Dean’s thighs and pulling him closer so he can lick and mouth more vigorously. One hand slips up underneath where the panties rest at the crease of the bubble of Dean’s ass, enjoying both the feel of Dean’s skin and the feel of the fabric at the same time as his fingers work between Dean’s cheeks. Cas’ intention is to tease Dean’s hole a little and he’s more than a touch surprised to find his way blocked by the feeling of metal. He pulls his head back in surprise, his fingers dancing over the plug before giving it a tug. 

His eyes are dark and stormy as he looks up at Dean, and he stands quickly, dragging Dean in close with one hand on his face and one on the plug to kiss him fiercely. His voice is low and rolls over Dean like a thunderclap when he pulls back just far enough to look at him and speak. 

“You did this for me?” Castiel knows that he’s probably more surprised than he should be when Dean nods, but no one’s ever prepped like this for him before. The part of him that was once resigned to never topping again still has a hard time believing that Dean would ever want to do something like this, but Castiel knows him well enough at this point that even in his altered state, he is fully aware that no one could make Dean do something he doesn’t want to do.

“I’d do anything for you, Cas,” Dean breathes. “I want to do everything for you.” He clears his throat and tries to look away. “You know, s’long as you’re into it and all that.” Castiel responds by grabbing Dean’s face and ass again and pulling him in for another hard kiss.

“I love you,” he says simply. “I love you.” He steps back to look Dean over from head to toe again, and Dean shrinks a bit under his gaze. “Don’t,” Castiel says, touching under Dean’s chin with two fingers and lifting his head so that his pretty green gaze comes back to meet Castiel’s intense blue one. “Don’t hide from me. You’re stunning. Absolute perfection. I’m going to fuck you in these panties, you know. And then I’m going to buy you more because this is all you should ever be wearing.” Despite the reassurance, the faint blush on Dean’s cheeks deepens. Wanting to let Dean off the hook, Castiel quickly sheds his clothes and steps into the tub, holding his hand out to help Dean step in after him. They settle beneath the hot water, Dean between Castiel’s legs with his back to Cas’ chest, panties still in place. Castiel palms over them under the water, Dean’s bulge growing now that he’s not being scrutinized head-on.

Castiel himself is hard against Dean’s lower back, has been pretty much since he’d turned the corner and seen his boyfriend’s appearance. He wants to drag this out though, and so they relax there, just touching and feeling each other’s skin pressed up against their own. The water is comforting as it swirls around them, the jets soothing after all the walking they’d done earlier. Dean leans his head back every so often and they indulge in some deep open-mouthed kissing, their tongues swiping together, teasing and tasting. Castiel kisses and nips at Dean’s neck, licking the water droplets from his skin and leaving tiny reddened love bites behind. Dean’s hands drift up and down his legs, squeezing and kneading the muscles in his thick thighs and eventually settling on his knees so he can arch up when Castiel finds a sweet spot on his neck. 

The draw things out, slow and easy, Castiel’s hand drifting down eventually to work between Dean’s legs and slide under the wet lace of the panties to skim over his cock. He pauses briefly to roll Dean’s balls in his palm, squeezing gently and caressing until Dean moans and spreads his legs wide. Castiel plays with the plug for a bit, teasing Dean by pumping it in and out, making him squirm and whimper as it brushes his prostate. Dean’s fully hard by now and Castiel can see the tip of his cock jutting out from under the lacy edge of the panties. His only regret is that he doesn’t have a camera to preserve that image forever. His memory will have to do, that is, until the next time.

When he’s had enough of the teasing, Castiel urges Dean forward, up and out of the water so that he’s bracing his hands on the side of the tub. He pulls Dean’s panties down to mid-thigh and tugs the plug out for good, dropping it over the side of the tub where it hits the floor with a clatter. Dean’s smartly brought their bottle of lube over and Castiel slicks himself up really well. Dean’s making sweet little noises and canting his hips back towards Castiel, murmuring, “please Cas, please, please, Cas,” almost under his breath.  Castiel hushes him and places a steadying hand on his hip as he lines himself up at Dean’s entrance. Dean groans when Castiel pushes in, tipping his head back and spreading his legs even farther. He pushes back and has Cas bottoming out flush against his hips in no time.

“Move, Cas, please,” he says breathlessly, “C’mon, need it, sweetheart.”

And as always, Castiel obliges Dean, fucking into him slow and deep at first, letting the rhythm build naturally until he’s going hard. He has Dean bent almost completely in half with his face pressed to the side of the tub and Castiel’s arms wrapped around his middle. Dean’s skin is wet and slick where his back slides against Castiel’s torso, so for leverage, Castiel braces his foot on the side of the tub and the new angle quickly has Dean moaning in delight. Drunken Dean is vocal and uninhibited during sex, writhing and moaning and whining loudly as he adamantly demands what he wants. Castiel is enamored, enthralled with him, would do anything to keep pulling those noises from Dean’s throat. He’s almost regretful as Dean announces he’s close and reaches back to pull Castiel in tight at the angle he wants him, encouraging Cas to pound into him hard and fast. Dean cries out as he spills all over the side of the tub, and Castiel is only a few moments behind him, eyes almost crossing and blurring slightly as Dean’s muscles clench down around him and drag him over the edge.

Castiel braces his body on the side of the tub with his hand so that he doesn’t fall on top of Dean as he comes down, breathing hard and trying to regain his center. As soon as he does, he steps out of the tub and slides his arms under Dean’s armpits, dragging him up to standing and helping him out of the tub and over to the bed. He dries them both perfunctorily and then retrieves a washcloth to clean them both up, rinsing it and leaving it on the side of the tub when he’s done. He pops open the tub drain and flicks the lights off, collapsing next to Dean on the bed as soon as he’s done. Dean’s already completely passed out and snoring lightly, and Castiel fits himself up against him, pulling Dean’s arm up and over his belly and tucking the covers around them both. Dean snuggles against him in his sleep and Castiel is out before the tub has even finished draining.

***

The week goes on with much of the same. Dean surprises Castiel with a whitewater rafting trip that Castiel enjoys so much he talks Dean into repeating it a couple of days later. They do a zipline course, a wine tasting tour, visit a second distillery, and see Ripley’s Aquarium. Castiel enjoys every moment but one of his favorite things is the simplicity of taking a long scenic drive that ends with both of them sitting on Baby’s hood at an overlook to watch the sun go down. They also venture out for a long hike that results in Dean reciprocating Castiel’s semi-public blowjob in the aerial tram, this time with Castiel pressed up against a tree and Dean kneeling in the leaves at his feet. They day drink, and soak in the hot tub, and nap contentedly undisturbed. And of course, they attempt to fulfill Dean’s goal of fucking on every surface in the cabin and then some. 

They spend one of their last full days away at the Island at Pigeon Forge, an amusement park of sorts, riding all of the rides and generally acting like complete children. Dean wins Castiel a prize at the shooting gallery and as evening descends, he swallows his fear of heights and lets Castiel drag him onto the glass-encased gondolas of the oversized Ferris Wheel. Castiel happily snaps a selfie of them kissing at the top, the sprawling Smokies a brilliant backdrop under the darkening sky.

They opt to spend their last day relaxing at the cabin since they have to leave early the next morning to make the long drive back. Castiel disappears into the upstairs bathroom for a while in the late afternoon and Dean’s left to his own devices, so he goes about preparing Castiel’s favorite burgers for dinner. He’s got all of the patties made and is washing his hands when he hears Castiel clear his throat behind him. When Dean turns around, Cas is sitting naked on the pool table with one leg crossed over the other, leaning seductively back on one hand. Over the past few days, they’ve shot some pool for fun and Dean's handsy "help" with Castiel's form has devolved into sex almost every time, but somehow they haven’t managed to actually get it on on the pool table itself. Apparently, Castiel has decided he wants to rectify that. Dean casts a last look at the burgers and decides without regret that they can definitely wait before hurrying over to Castiel’s side.

“I believe,” Castiel says slyly, lookup up at Dean from under his lashes, “That you promised me something regarding this table.”

Dean grins when he remembers his words to Castiel upon their initial arrival at the cabin, and he steps forward with intention. “Well you know me, babe,” he replies. “I’m a man of my word.”

Castiel laughs, his whole face scrunching up adorably and Dean’s heart skips a beat. He’s still amazed that Castiel can do that to him after all this time, but there it is. “That was so corny,” Castiel says, smile still wide, wrinkles at the corners of his eyes only adding to how attractive Dean finds him. He leans forward and kisses Castiel’s cheek softly, trailing the backs of his fingers along his bare ribs. Castiel’s smile melts into something softer, his eyes tracking Dean’s movements with open adoration. Dean pushes Castiel’s crossed legs open so that he can step between them and press open-mouthed kisses straight down the center of his chest. Standing back up, he threads his fingers into the hair at the nape of Castiel’s neck, drawing him in gently to kiss his mouth and palm his thigh. He lets Castiel deepen the kiss and lingers there for several moments, their mouths moving together slow and deep and hot. He pulls back with a lingering nip to Cas’ bottom lip, pushing on the other man’s shoulders so that he lays down flat on the table.

Dean dips his head and takes Cas’ mostly-hard cock all the way into his mouth, hollowing his cheeks and sucking, swirling his tongue and slurping messily until he’s got him fully hard. His hands slide up Castiel’s abdomen, tweaking his nipples and scratching nails lightly down his flank. Cas seems especially responsive today, sighing and moaning softly at all of Dean’s ministrations, abdomen tensing as he works hard not to thrust up into Dean’s mouth. His fingers flex open and closed against his palm as they seek purchase on the felt of the table top, and the whole picture is still like something out of Dean's wet dreams. Part of Dean wishes he could just step back and watch the way Castiel’s body reacts and responds to him, and he makes a mental note to bring up the idea of recording themselves to Cas at another time. For now, he dips his head down, kneading the globes of Castiel’s ass and biting gently at the soft skin of his cheeks. 

He pushes Cas’ legs up and back, holding them there with one arm tucked under his knees and the other spreading him as best he can with one hand. It’s a bit of an awkward angle, but Dean doesn’t mind. He dives in and gets sloppy, holding nothing back as he licks and nips at Castiel’s hole, plunging his tongue inside and pulling delicious noises one after another from Cas’ throat. Due to the angle, Cas can’t get his hands in Dean’s hair or on his head, and he writhes even more as a result. Dean eventually has to still him with a firm hand on his hip, moving to suck on Cas’ cock as he works a few fingers inside his already loosened hole instead.

“I’m ready,” Cas gasps, “Don’t need any of that, Dean please,” Dean has to smirk a little at how undone Castiel is, sweating and fidgeting and begging for Dean’s cock, just from having Dean’s tongue in his ass.

“Hang on, sweetheart, I’m still dressed,” Dean murmurs, unbuttoning his pants and pulling down the zipper to release the pressure on his own very hard dick.

“Fuck that,” Castiel moans, “Just pull your cock out.” Dean stops for a moment to contemplate that, then shrugs and hops up onto the pool table on his knees. He shoves his jeans and boxers down to his thighs and slicks himself up with the lube Castiel brought down. Castiel watches him through slitted, dark eyes as Dean yanks his hips up onto his own thighs and lines up the blunt head of his cock to push past Cas' tight ring of muscle. As he does, Castiel’s head tips back and his eyes close fully, a small moan escaping his lips. He cants his hips up, helping Dean slide all the way in, grabbing both of Dean’s hips tightly as soon as he’s close enough to do so.  He rolls and swivels his hips insistently in a way that makes the edges of Dean’s vision turn black and he has to take a moment to breathe and think unsexy thoughts.

“You feel so good, Dean,” Castiel whispers breathlessly, tugging him close.

They move together like that, Castiel meeting Dean’s thrusts and pulling him in tight, Dean doing his best to hold on for as long as he can, moaning his need through gritted teeth. Soon enough, Castiel’s arching his back and reaching for his own cock, pumping in time with Dean’s thrusts until he spills between them with a groan. After that, Dean lets loose, shifting one of Cas’ legs up onto his shoulder and fucking him mercilessly, hitting his prostate and making him squirm and cry out from overstimulation as he chases his own release. Just as he’s about to come, he feels Castiel’s fingers brush against his hole and just like that, he’s spilling hot and hard inside him. Dean’s still shaking as his orgasm subsides, and Castiel pulls him down to his chest, stroking his hair and tucking Dean under his chin. He has to fight not to pass out right there on the pool table; that’s a cleaning fee he doesn’t want anything to do with.

The mountains visible through the glass behind them are lit up in a beautiful red, pink, and orange glow as the sun sets on their break from reality for the final time.

***

It’s harder than Castiel expected to say goodbye to their little home away from home.

He holds Dean’s hand as they lean over the railing on the back porch, the first rays of dawn just beginning to poke through the inky darkness. “Do you think we’ll come back?”

Dean nods without hesitation. “‘Course we will. We can come back next year if you want. Make it an annual thing.” He squeezes Cas’ hand.

“I’d like that,” Castiel affirms, something in his chest warming at the thought of having a tradition like this with Dean. Though their lives are unquestionably intertwined, so much of what they share isn’t solely theirs. This could be, though. Castiel finds himself looking forward to carving out other things, smaller things, that are equally just theirs in their daily lives as well. “I think this was good for us,” he says quietly, and Dean smiles, kissing his lips softly.

“You ready?”

“Definitely not.”

“Come on, sunshine. If we get moving now we can stop in Nashville for breakfast.”

Castiel smiles and allows himself to be pulled through the cabin and out to the car, on to their next adventure, content in knowing that wherever that might take them, they’ll be together.

And that’s enough.

***

Around twelve hours later they’re rolling through Lawrence and Castiel’s just waking up from an accidental doze. He does so just in time to recognize the neighborhood they’re in. Bart’s house is only two streets over from where they are now, and an overwhelming urge to do something crazy suddenly seizes him.

“Dean, turn here," he demands urgently.

Dean raises his eyebrows but complies, following Castiel’s additional directions until he’s told to pull to a stop and park in front of Bart’s house. Dean waits patiently for an explanation, but Castiel doesn’t give one. This isn’t the first time he’s been back, but when he came to gather his belongings he was still high on pain medication and incredibly sore. And he’d forgotten something. Something important. Before Dean can voice his objections, Castiel bolts from the car and over to the gate, punching in the code and hoping it still works. It does, and the gate cracks open, Castiel slipping through it without hesitation. He can hear Dean yelling at him from the car and then the distant creak and slam of Baby's door as Dean gets out and presumably follows. 

Castiel doesn’t wait, just darts across the lawn and around the side of the house, avoiding the front door with the “crime scene” yellow tape still crossed over it. He rounds the back of the house and seeks out the hollow rock he knows is in the garden next to the back patio. He finds it and shakes out a key, shoving it into the lock and turning without a second thought. He knows that technically Bart’s house is still a crime scene, everything in it evidence being held by the FBI on the off chance that it’s needed to bring down any of Bart’s associates. However, in reality, everything of use was taken out long ago and Cas highly doubts anyone would put up much of a fuss over his mission.

All the same, and with the ghosts of the past looming directly over his head, he wants to get in and out as fast as possible.

He navigates the familiar dark easily, finding and taking the stairs to the second floor two at a time. He only hesitates at the door to the guest room - really, what he’s come to think of as his old room- before pushing at the heavy wood until it swings wide, the doorknob bumping softly against the cracked plaster Dean put there. The lights don’t turn on which is no surprise, Bart’s electric likely hasn’t been paid in months since all of his assets are frozen, but the moonlight spills in through the open windows, illuminating the room almost as well as daylight. And the sight that awaits makes Castiel freeze. He doesn’t remember seeing the floor in this room the last time he was here, perhaps someone had covered it or kept him distracted, but he can’t ignore it now. The stain is brown and dried, but still very much there. Proof of what he’d done, physical evidence of the price he paid for his life, for his freedom, the piece of his soul Bart took with him to his grave. It’s not that Castiel has regrets, no, he’d pull that trigger over and over without a second thought if faced with the same situation today, but that doesn’t make the reality any less sobering. 

Dean finally catches up to him, breathing heavily and leaning on the door frame. “Jesus, Cas,” he wheezes. “The hell’s gotten into you? We shouldn’t be in here.” Castiel ignores him, just continues to fixate on the dark brown stain, head cocked thoughtfully to the side. Dean’s hand comes up to rest tentatively on the small of his back, hesitant as if he’s worried Castiel will spook and run again. Castiel turns then and gives him a small smile.

“I’m alright,” he reassures Dean, and Dean shakes his head.

“Cas, what are we doing here?”

Yet again, Castiel doesn’t answer, but he does cross the room to the bed, reaching out and picking up the figurine he’d left behind on the small end table. It's the little beehive with the bees buzzing around it. It’s stupid and materialistic and unnecessary, but Castiel wants it. In his darkest times, the happy little figurine was one of the only things that had brought him comfort. Sometimes, if he looked at it from just the right angle, it even looked as if the bees were truly buzzing around the hive.

“I watched the bees,” he whispers, cupping the figurine in his hand.

“You what now?” Dean looks confused, and Castiel doesn’t bother to clarify, just walks back across the room and takes Dean’s hand in his own, leading him down the stairs and out of the house for the last time. This time, when he closes the door behind him, locks it and returns the key (though that’s probably unnecessary), it really does feel like it’s over. Castiel leaves something behind in the house that night, something he doesn’t need to carry anymore.

As he and Dean drive away and the house fades into darkness in the rearview mirror, Castiel finds himself letting out a sigh of relief. He looks down at the bees nestled in his hands and smiles. When he looks over at Dean, the other man is looking at him curiously and Castiel shrugs.  

“Let’s go home,” he says simply.

***

The End.

Chapter Text

Glossary & Terms Guide:
First responder- Certified in basic first aid and CPR only, these are usually firefighters/police officers. This term can also be used in an all-encompassing way to describe “everyone” (police, fire, EMS) responding to an emergency or scene. A first responder can not complete a 2-person ambulance crew, but can be a third, or drive while two EMTs work in the back.
EMT or EMT-B - Short for EMT-Basic. For these purposes, “EMT” will be used to describe the basic certification; EMT certification can be obtained in weeks or months and allows the cert holder to perform basic life support skills such as CPR, splinting, spinal immobilization, etc).
EMT- Intermediate- Shortened to EMT-I (or A), an EMT certification that falls between B and P, allowing the cert holder to perform certain advanced interventions, as dictated by local protocols.
Paramedic - EMT-Paramedic, the most advanced “EMT” certification, 1-2 years of training depending on program, able to perform advanced medical interventions including intubation, IV/IO access, cardiac monitoring, 40+ medication administration, etc. Technically, people holding all levels of EMS certification can be appropriately referred to as “EMTs,” but not all EMTs are paramedics.

Rig/Truck/Unit - all words used to refer to an ambulance. 
Ambulance Driver - this is generally thought of by most EMS professionals as a degrading term, used by people who want to demean us, and/or genuinely don’t understand what EMTs/paramedics are capable of. Example: “Stop asking me questions about my medical history and do your job, ambulance driver!” Or, “Where is the ambulance driver that just put a patient in room 4?” Please don’t call your friendly local EMS providers this. :)
Street skirt - a sarcastic term for a nurse who did not go through actual EMS training, but challenged the test/requirements using their RN licensure.
BLS- Basic Life Support
ALS- Advanced Life Support
Protocols - a set of guidelines authored by the state department of health (DOH) that dictate what (and in what order) an EMS provider should do in a given situation. These can and do vary state to state. There are separate BLS and ALS protocols. These are also what give and restrict the autonomy of all EMTs.
Medical Command - a physician currently in the emergency room who an EMT can contact by phone or radio to request and receive orders that are outside their standing protocols.
Medical Director - Every ambulance company must have a physician who supervises their EMS program. It is under this physician’s license that the company EMTs obtain their authority to operate. The medical director may not be physically present at the company often, but may conduct training, classes, review and modify protocols within the company, etc. This Dr can be as hands on or off as they choose.
“On Command” - Term that indicates the Medical Director has reviewed a paramedic’s skills/abilities/competency and approves of them operating under their (the physician’s) license. Paramedics must get on command at each individual company they work for. Denial of such means they cannot work. Denial for reasons of neglect/malpractice must be reported to the licensing board (DOH). Command must be renewed yearly.
MICU/ALS Unit: Mobile Intensive Care Unit/Advanced Life Support Unit - Interchangeable terms describing a transport ambulance with the minimum staffing of one EMT and one EMT-P (or PHRN, or physician), stocked and capable of providing Advanced Life Support services.
BLS Unit - A transport ambulance staffed by two EMT-Basics, not capable of ALS.
Squad/Chase truck/Supervisor truck - A non-transport car or SUV stocked with ALS gear and one paramedic, that may rendez-vous with a BLS truck to create an ALS unit, or an ALS unit that requests assistance.
Dispatch/Radio - The call sign ambulances use to address the County 911 dispatch center to let them know their status. ("Dispatch, Medic 890 is responding to Miller Street.") 
Orange (or emergency) button - a button on a portable radio that transmits an alert to the 911 center, letting them know the crew is in imminent danger.
Monitor - portable cardiac monitor, in this story I'm referring to a Lifepak 15, that allows the paramedic to perform ongoing cardiac monitoring, 12,15 and 18 lead EKGs, as well as multiple advanced cardiac interventions such as manual defibrillation, cardioversion, and pacing.
IV - intravenous access line for fluid and med administration
IO - Intraosseous (bone) access line for fluid and med administration
BVM - bag-valve-mask - a device for manually providing ventilations to a patient.
Intubation - Placing a plastic tube through the vocal cords and into the trachea of a compromised patient in order to assist with ventilations and protect their airway. This tube can be ventilated manually using a BVM or attached to a mechanical respirator once in the hospital. A metal or plastic blade is used to open the airway and displace the tongue/jaw in order to access the vocal cords.

Non-rebreather- Oxygen mask for high flow oxygen.

Nasal cannula - oxygen delivery device that has prongs which sit at the patient's nose - for low-flow oxygen.