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In Plain Sight

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 Two years before the wedding...

 

“Aren’t you excited, Cas?”

“I’m very excited, Dean,” Castiel replies patiently, humoring his boyfriend for the third time that afternoon.

“Friggin’ love Halloween,” Dean enthuses, taking a huge bite out of an apple from their hospitality basket and leaning against the kitchenette counter in their hotel suite. “I dunno who prayed or which deity was listening for us to not get scheduled for a show tonight, but I ain’t complaining. First time in…” He paused to count in his head, his eyes turning towards the ceiling as he thought back. “Four? Four years, I think. Even when we weren’t on tour, we did that secret show in New York, and then that special fan-event in L.A. two years ago.” Dean nods, satisfied with his recollection. “We’re free and we get to spend it in New Orleans! This is like, the Halloween capital of the universe.”

Castiel nods distractedly, narrowing his eyes and studying how Dean is leaning on the counter for a moment. “How is your back? You looked uncomfortable during our work out this morning,” Castiel asks gently from his place on an overstuffed couch. He extends an arm and beckons Dean over. “Come here,” he says, indicating the empty space next to him.

Dean scoffs, but complies, dropping onto the couch with his back to Castiel. “Cas, I looked uncomfortable because we were exercising. Working out sucks.”

“But you look so good doing it,” Castiel says with a small smile, running his hands up Dean’s back under his t-shirt and kneading at the muscles surrounding his lower spine. Dean groans as Castiel’s hands find and work to release knots in a way that belies his familiarity with Dean’s body. Dean hunches forward and lets his eyes drift closed, enjoying the pampering.

“So, what are you dressing up as? Sexy librarian? Sexy cat? Sexy guinea pig?” Dean smirks, even though Castiel can’t see him.

“Dean,” Castiel chastises, still massaging his back, “I think you’re confusing me with literally all of your groupies. I have never once in my life felt the urge to anthropomorphize an animal in a sexual way using costuming.”

“Well, when you say it like that…

“My costume is a surprise,” Castiel says firmly.

“S’no fair,” Dean whines. “You know what I’m going as.”

“Dean, you’d go to the grocery store dressed as Batman, if it wouldn’t be even more conspicuous than your actual face. It’s hardly a state secret.”

Dean nods enthusiastically. “You bet your ass I would. And that is exactly why I love Halloween. The one day a year I can go out and no one looks at me twice.” He pauses and dips his head, “Well, no more so than any other sexy as hell Batman. No getting stopped for autographs or selfies, no screaming fangirls, no cameras flashing in my face. And the best part,” he scoots back and leans against Castiel, coming to rest with his back pressed to Castiel’s chest, in perfect position to lean up and steal a kiss, which he does. “I get to take my sexy-ass boyfriend out in public. Hold his hand, kiss him whenever I want, grind on him while we dance. We get to just be us,” he finishes softly.

Castiel strokes his hair and smiles. “I may not understand the appeal of sexy costumes, but being free in public with you is a concept I can definitely get behind. I love you,” he says, kissing Dean’s forehead.

“Love you too, sunshine.”

***

Dean couldn’t help but check himself out in the mirror again. “Sexy Batman, hell yes,” he said smugly to himself. “Looking good Winchester, you sexy son of a bitch,” he grinned, turning to the side and checking out his ass in the snug-fitting black pants. “Sexy Batman” was a treasure Dean had stumbled upon while searching the internet for the regular version. It consisted of the normal mask revealing only his mouth and chin, a black half shirt that, besides missing it’s bottom section, mostly looked like Batman’s, a shoulder guard, arm guard, and glove for one arm (leaving the other bare), a sweet utility belt and the tight black pants.

Dean flexed his bare arm in the mirror and had to admit that he was feeling pretty grateful for Castiel’s rigid insistence on daily exercise. That weird thing with the weighted balls Cas had added in a few weeks ago had really sharpened his ab definition, despite his stubborn refusal to give up pie.  Dean knew his fans enjoyed his body, and that part of his appeal wasn’t his music at all, but his looks, but Dean himself couldn’t care less. He exercised partly because it helped him with his endurance on stage, partly because he didn’t want his geek of a little brother to outshine him in the muscle department, but mostly because it made Cas happy, and at the end of the day, that’s all Dean really cares about.

He bounces on the balls of his feet a little, getting impatient. Castiel had been in the bathroom for over 45 minutes, and the shower turned off a good twenty minutes ago. “CAS!” He calls, “Come on, I’m starving.” As if on cue, the knob to the bathroom door turns, and when Cas steps out Dean’s complaints die in his mouth. “Hot damn, Cas,” Dean breathes, gravitating towards his boyfriend and crowding into his space immediately. Dean gets his hands on Cas’ hips, but he stays far enough back to continue drinking in the whole ensemble. 

Cas has on a very authentic-looking Phantom of the Opera costume, complete with the white half-mask, black suit, black ascot, and a fancy brown waistcoat with gold buttons. It accentuates Castiel’s trim waist and muscular chest, and Dean has to swallow a little bit of drool. He’s honestly unclear how anyone could look that good covered almost completely head to toe. “Sweetheart… I take back everything I’ve ever said about your costumes not being sexy. In fact, this is the only costume you’re wearing from this day forward. Actually, this is the only thing I want you wearing, ever.” Dean drops a kiss to Castiel’s neck, just above his collar.

Castiel smiles, the rare big and gummy one that makes the butterflies Dean will never admit he has in his stomach flutter like crazy, and at that moment Dean comes to a sudden realization. “Thank you, Dean,” Castiel says, placing both of his palms flat on Dean’s toned stomach. “And, for the record, I believe I’m starting to understand the appeal of,” - he uses actual air quotes here - “these ‘sexy’ costumes.” He bites his lip and drags it through his teeth. “You know, we don’t have to go out tonight…”

“Ohhh no,” Dean cuts him off, looping his arm through Castiel’s and dragging him out the door. “We can have sex anytime. We’re not missing out on our once a year chance to go out in public and be ourselves.” Castiel’s hand tightens on Dean’s forearm.

“As long as I’m with you, I’m happy,” he says.

**

They roam New Orleans for the rest of the evening, stopping in voodoo shops and listening to priests talk about the ancient art. Castiel buys two gris-gris bags and tucks one in Dean’s pocket. They take a tour of the Hermann-Grima house, which is definitely more Castiel’s thing than Dean’s but he happily humors his nerdy boyfriend and is rewarded with a short make-out session after in a nearby alley. They grab some light dinner and then wander down to Frenchmen Street, where a giant street party is just gearing up into full swing. They duck into one of the bars and order fruity cocktails, sipping from each other’s glasses and exchanging alcohol-sweet kisses, their thighs pressed together as they sit side by side on barstools. They hardly even notice the patrons crowding and rushing around them, even when Dean gets a drink spilled down his leg.

After accepting and downing replacement drinks from the apologetic spiller, the now-tipsy duo heads back out into the street to take in some street performers. Dean’s arms wrap possessively around Castiel’s shoulders from behind as they pause to listen to a woman playing a sweet, romantic song on her guitar. Castiel leans back into him, and reflexively checks the crowd, but still, no one's looking at them. Everyone is costumed and enjoying themselves in their own little worlds. It’s likely some of these people were even at Dean’s show the night before, perhaps would even brand themselves “superfans,” but tonight they accept him as one of them, even if they don’t know it. Castiel feels the most peaceful he has in public in months.

That is, until he feels Dean’s arms drop away, and sees the crowd surrounding them backing up a little and staring. For a moment, Castiel’s heart drops into his stomach. Someone figured it out, he thinks, somehow they know… we have to get out of here. He scans the area for an exit strategy, turning to face Dean, ready to protect him or to let Dean ditch him if that’s what he thinks he needs to do. But when he turns around, his breath is stolen for an entirely different reason. Dean hasn’t been outed, at least not yet. His mask is still in place, and while a few cell phones have started recording, the reason why is fairly obvious.

Dean is down on one knee, holding a small box that he opens when Castiel turns to face him. Inside is a gleaming platinum band. “Cas,” Dean starts, and then has to pause to take a deep, steadying breath. When he continues, his eyes are shining, but his voice is steady. “Cas. At the end of the day, all I want is you. Everything else- I’d give it all up in a heartbeat, if it meant keeping you. But you’ve never asked me to be anything other than who I am, never made me feel guilty for doing what I love. So I figured it’s long past time I tell you… that I love you most of all. And I don’t want any of it, unless I can have you as my husband. So… what do you say? Will you marry me?”

Castiel is speechless for only a moment before he’s yanking Dean to his feet by the front of his stupid costume and pressing their lips together as what feels like the entire French Quarter looks on and bursts into applause. “Can I take that as a yes?” Dean asks breathlessly when their lips finally part. Castiel nods vigorously, a big smile on his face as he steals another kiss. Dean slips the ring on his finger, and the two of them kiss again before disappearing off into the crowd, the onlookers returning to their own celebrations, none the wiser as to what they actually just witnessed.

***

Some years later, Dean will stumble on a YouTube video uploaded by someone who attended Halloween celebrations in the French Quarter back in 2016. It’s titled “Batman and the Phantom Get Engaged.” Dean saves it to his hard drive and works it into his next year’s anniversary present for Cas. He doesn’t notice the argument deep in the comment section between some anonymous viewers; one who is sure Batman looks just a little too much like rock god Dean Winchester, and knows for a fact that Dean was definitely in town for a concert series over that particular holiday. Hidden in plain sight, indeed.