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Two years ago, Sam and Jess made the decision to break up. Though they had planned on going to Stanford together, Sam reluctantly decided to stay in Lawrence after graduation at his father’s behest, and after a year of trying to make it work, they decided that neither wanted to put the other under the pressure of a long distance relationship fresh into their college years. So they decided that parting on good terms would be better than the slow suffering.

The moment that Sam said goodbye to Jess, he began to regret all of his decisions. He felt as though his life no longer had direction. The images he’d had of a happy future all hinged on graduating from Stanford Law, marrying Jess, and starting a family. Instead, Sam spent the last three years studying part time at the local community college while helping out on his free days with the family business, restoring classic cars at John & Bobby’s garage.

He had also taken to casually dating girls that were as different from Jess as he could find and he outright refused to talk about Stanford.

 “Come on, Dean. Please?” Sam pleaded.

“Dude, I am NOT going on some blind date just so you can hook up with Ruby,” Dean answered with distaste. Sam’s latest fling was definitely Dean’s least favorite so far. Sam rolled his eyes in exasperation.

“It’s not a date, Dean; it’s a group thing. And yeah, Ruby’s bringing her sister, but Jo’s working tonight and Charlie said she’ll be there too, and I told her I’d bring you. And if I don’t--” Sam frowned at the thought. “She’s like… a really angry kitten. With sharp claws.” He curled his fingers like a cat for emphasis.

Sam knew that Dean wouldn’t have plans, even though it was Friday night. Unlike himself, Dean hadn’t had much of a social life since he and Lisa broke up last year. The split was amicable and the two remained friends, but something seemed different about Dean lately. In fact, he and Sam had somehow changed roles, with Sam now being the Winchester more likely to bring home a random waitress than his once infamously womanizing older brother.

He gave Dean his best sad puppy eyes, knowing that his brother really had no excuse to turn down the offer anyway.

“Fine,” Dean relented, “but you’re paying the tab.”

“Deal,” Sam breathed in relief.

***

Sam slammed the heavy passenger door of Dean’s ’67 Impala as soon as they were parked in the lot beside The Roadhouse. He stomped off toward the door, clearly relieved to have finally escaped the confines of the vehicle.

“Hey! Manners!” Dean yelled after him with false indignation, failing to hide a smirk as he stroked his hand over the car’s roof soothingly. “He didn’t mean it, Baby.”

Dean might have used the 20-minute drive to the bar to amuse himself by mercilessly annoying his younger brother. He’d managed to cover an impressive array of topics in the short time, concluding with Sam’s steadily lowering standards when it came to dating.

“Jerk!” Sam yelled back before swinging open the green wooden door and disappearing inside.

“Bitch!” Dean shouted back, followed by a smug grin.

A neatly dressed man sitting alone on a bench beside the entrance chuckled at the exchange. Pleased with the fact that even a perfect stranger could see the amusement in his brother’s annoyance, Dean called over to the man as he closed his own door and headed toward the entrance, “No respect for a classic!”

“Kids these days,” the man responded with a solemn shake of his head, and a flash of a smile just as Dean threw his head back in laughter and passed through the door to enter the bar, his mood lightened.

Inside, he waved a greeting to Jo Harvelle, the pretty blonde behind the bar, before making his way to one of the booths that lined the wall. Sam, still pouting a bit, sat facing away from the door with the wall on his left side with Ruby at his right, so Dean slid onto the bench opposite. His pleasant mood was enough that he even greeted Ruby with a polite smile as he settled into his seat.

“So, uh, where’s the rest of this group thing?” Dean asked, just as Jo reached the end of their table with a bucket of ice that held six beers.

“Charlie said she’s running late,” Jo commented offhandedly. Sam and Dean both eyed her with suspicion as her cheeks and ears turned pink.

“Well, hi there, Jo,” Dean greeted with exaggerated cheerfulness. “Something you wanna share with the class?”

 “Nope,” Jo answered, quickly turning on her heel and ducking back behind the bar before she could be asked any further questions.

The Winchesters thought of Jo like family, along with her mother, owner of The Roadhouse, Ellen. Dean couldn’t remember exactly when Ellen had first appeared at their Uncle Bobby’s side, but he’d been a young teen. It seemed like she was an instant fit and she’d been around ever since. She and Jo were two of a kind, sweet but tough, and afraid of nothing.

Charlie had been patiently pursuing Jo for weeks now, but as far as they knew, her attempts had so far been unsuccessful and the pair’s interactions had gone no further than friendly chatting at the bar.

“I think Charlie’s persistence is finally paying off,” Sam laughed, picking up his bottle and taking a draw, the annoyance from earlier finally melting from his face.

“Meg’s on her way. Her date’s meeting her here,” Ruby stated without looking up from the text she was reading. Her face twisted with disapproval as she scrolled on. “Castiel,” she read. “Stupid name.”

“I like it,” Dean challenged with a glare, his tolerance for Ruby dipping dangerously low, “It’s different.  Better than some douchebag name like Brady.” Sam huffed a laugh; Brady had been Sam's best friend until he tried hooking up with Jess behind his back and Dean had nearly beaten him to a pulp when he found out. Ruby glanced up, but said nothing. “Date, though? I thought this was just a casual group thing,” he added, recounting Sam’s words from earlier in the day.

Ruby looked up from her phone, one eyebrow quirked upward. “What do you care? You interested? I could probably still make it happen, you know.” She held up her phone up to imply that she could easily arrange such a tryst between he and Meg with a simple text.

“What? Hell, no! I just meant--” Dean stammered. He hadn’t even met this Meg girl yet, but he already knew that he was not even remotely interested.

“Dude, chill. I’m just messing with you.” Ruby laughed, though Dean suspected that hadn’t been joking at all about making that arrangement if he were really interested. “I didn’t know she was bringing a date,” she shrugged, “but that’s Meg. She likes ‘em rich and pretty. Unless they’re really rich. Then pretty is negotiable.”

Dean frowned, deciding that he was going to like this Meg even less than Ruby. Sam had carefully averted his eyes, avoiding the glare that Dean was now burning into his forehead for dragging him out tonight. Dean briefly considered bailing to the parking lot, but decided that once Charlie arrived, he’d be able to ignore Ruby for the rest of the night if he had to.

After a few more minutes of painful small talk, the infamous Meg finally walked through the door. Much like her sister, she was small and dark haired, with a sullen look about her. Just behind Meg stood the man that Dean had shared a laugh with in the parking lot. He had apparently been waiting in the late November chill for Meg this whole time and that already made Dean like her even less.

Dean didn’t know if the guy was rich, but now that he could see him properly, he thought he definitely fell into the pretty category. Castiel was close to Dean’s height, tanned with dark messy hair and hypnotic blue eyes. He had just the right amount of stubble and was currently pulling off a slim-fitting leather jacket, revealing broad shoulders under a white button-down shirt. It wasn’t until Dean’s eyes had tracked from the man’s lips to where he was rolling up his sleeves to bare strong forearms and then to his well-fitted jeans that he realized he was practically ogling the guy. He turned back to focus on his beer, hoping that no one had noticed.

As Meg and Castiel approached the table, Ruby slid out of her seat to greet them, tugging her sister away by the wrist and off toward the bar, leaving Castiel standing awkwardly abandoned at the end of the table.

“Kids these days, right?” Dean commented with an amused smile, resulting in a laugh from Castiel. Dean held up one of the full beers and sat it down on his side of the table, inviting the man to sit.

Sam looked between his brother and the newcomer with slight confusion before asking, “Have you two met?”

The man gave a noncommittal shrug as he slid into the seat beside Dean, smiling briefly at both, “Not officially.”

“Dean Winchester," Dean offered, shaking Castiel’s hand in greeting, “and this sasquatch here is my little brother, Sammy.” The man’s hands were strong, but gentle, and Dean felt silly for thinking such a thing.

“Just Sam, actually,” Sam added, shaking Castiel’s hand in turn. “You must be Castiel.”

“Castiel Novak,” he confirmed. “It’s nice to meet you both.” His voice was deep and his eyes were such an electric blue that Dean could barely tear his own green eyes away.

And damn it, if Dean didn’t have a crush on this guy already.

He shook away the thought, going over all the reasons that made the idea ridiculous. First of all, they’d only just met, and Dean was not some kind of Disney princess falling for the guy at first sight. Secondly, this man was here on a date with Meg, and Dean had no reason to assume that he was even attracted to men. And, most importantly, Dean had absolutely zero experience with dating men anyway. He’d finally come to terms about his own interest in men after realizing the attraction about 3 years ago, but he had never actually acted upon it, nor had he mentioned his revelation to anyone else.

The first time he’d realized that he felt attracted to a man, he had panicked, diving headlong into his first and only long-term relationship with the first woman he met. Things were going well with Lisa and her young son Ben at first but the chemistry just wasn’t there, and after almost 2 years, Lisa finally called it quits.

“So, Cas,” Dean began, “First date?” The three men glanced toward the bar to see Jo pouring Meg and Ruby each a shot of some dark liquid.

Castiel looked apprehensive, hesitating a moment before answering. “I guess you could say that. Actually, I wasn’t given much choice in the matter. Meg works on another floor of the hospital where I work. She cornered me in the cafeteria and told me to meet her here at 8 o’clock because we had a date. I agreed before I even knew what was going on.” He ran his hands through his hair sheepishly, effectively making it stand up even more than it already did. The bedhead look suited him, Dean thought.

“Wow,” Sam remarked with a small laugh. Dean threw an annoyed glance at Meg who was now flirting with a stout man in an expensive suit.

“Yep.” Castiel nodded, “Now I just have to figure out how to tell her I’m gay.”

It took a moment for Castiel’s statement to wash over Dean, and when it finally did, it hit him like a tidal wave.

Okay, so Cas likes dudes. So what? That doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean he likes me. It doesn’t mean I’d try. It doesn’t mean anything, Dean thought frantically. Besides, he’s still on a date with Meg. But is it really a date if Meg just kinda bullied him into showing up, then made him wait out in the cold and ignored him? Bitch…

The possibilities, some realistic, most insane, flew through his mind dizzyingly fast. Dean was pulled from his momentary internal panic by the sound of a familiar voice.

***

“What’s up, bitches?!” The cheery redhead grinned as she flung herself into the booth beside Sam, who instantly wrapped a long arm around her in greeting.

“Hey, Charlie,” the brothers chorused with surprise, beaming with genuine smiles for their friend.

Charlie and Dean had developed an odd but meaningful friendship during high school. They met in detention where both were frequent visitors, and gradually the two became friends.Dean had placed his trust in her, opening up about his life at home with his father, who’d gone a bit off the rails after his mother’s death. Charlie had promised to always be there for him and had lived up to that promise. In the last few months, she’d even managed to rope Dean into playing the role of handmaiden to the queen of Moondoor, who happened to be Charlie herself, in monthly LARPing events.

She and Sam had also developed a close friendship, bonding over their mutual love of tech gadgets, gossip, and college courses they’d shared. She, like Dean, wanted the best for Sam and had gotten closer than anyone to discussing Jess and Stanford with him.

“So, who’re we telling we’re gay?” she asked, having overheard the boys talking while she walked up. She thought Dean would have seen her approach, but he’d seemed oddly lost in his own head.

“That would be my ‘date’,” the handsome stranger answered, using air quotes.

“Charlie, this is Castiel. He’s here with Ruby’s sister Meg tonight,” Sam gestured toward the bar where two women were giggling flirtatiously with the man Meg had been talking to earlier. The man seemed to be paying for another round of shots they were sharing, sliding a few bills to Jo as she poured.

“Nice to meet you, Castiel. And samesies!” She flashed a toothy smile. “The gay thing, I mean. See that gorgeous girl behind the bar? She wants me.”

Dean ducked his head in laughter, coming out of whatever fog he’d been in. “Does she know that she wants you yet?”

“Quiet, handmaiden,” Charlie quipped in return.

“Handmaiden?” Castiel asked with a teasing smirk, turning to lock eyes with Dean whose ears had quickly turned a brilliant shade of red.

If she hadn’t know better, she’d think the two men seated across from her might have been on their first date. Dean looked shy and nervous, rubbing a hand on the back of his neck, stammering through his lame explanation while Castiel smiled at him with amusement. She looked up to Sam, but he seemed oblivious to what she was seeing. Or at least, what she thought she was seeing, which was subtle but definite flirting.

Meg and Ruby approached the table, each carrying a fruity cocktail. Instead of sitting, Ruby stood at the end of the bench, frowning at the sight of Sam with his arm still draped over Charlie’s shoulders. Charlie noted Ruby’s contempt but was too entranced in Dean and Castiel at the moment to address it. Instead she allowed Ruby to reclaim her position at Sam’s side while she pulled up a chair at the end of the table. Meg, however, had pushed herself onto the opposite bench, crowding Castiel into Dean while she pressed against his side.

For the three to fit, Dean raised and rested his arm on the back of the bench behind Castiel’s shoulders, careful not to touch him. Meg had placed herself practically in Castiel’s lap, ignoring the look of discomfort that instantly crossed his face. Charlie watched on in curious amusement.

“I don’t think we’ve been introduced,” Charlie said, directing her attention toward Meg. “Charlie Bradbury. Long-time friend of these handsome fellas,” she made finger guns at the brothers.

“Meg Masters,” she drawled, uninterested.

Charlie bit her cheek and pulled a beer from the ice bucket. “I’ve already met Castiel here. How did you two meet?” she asked, wiggling her fingers at Meg and Castiel. Meg perked up, clearly keen to flaunt her attachment to her handsome date.

“Clarence here is an angel,” she said, running a finger across his chest. “He’s a pediatrician at the hospital where I work.”

Castiel cleared his throat and shook his head, directing his words to Charlie. “I’m a pediatric physical therapist,” he corrected. Meg pouted with disappointment.

“That’s awesome, Clarence,” Dean chimed in, and now it was Castiel’s turn to flush. “Really, though, helping kids, man? That’s great.” Charlie couldn’t hide her grin.

“Yeah, what’s that like?” Sam asked. “I mean, working with kids?”

Meg groaned, cutting Castiel off. “Ugh, I really don’t know how he does it, kids running around and having to entertain them like some kind of clown all day. And all of the noise all the time. No thank you. I’ll stick with the old bedridden geezers upstairs.”

“Old people are assholes too,” Ruby added. “Luckily for me, working in luxury retail means no brats, but sometimes we get the old ones bitching about the prices.”

Charlie could see the danger in Dean’s face, and cut him off before he could respond to either of them. “Well, I get to work in a dark room with loud music and no one but my computer to keep me company. Heaven,” she sighed happily.

Castiel chuckled. “Actually, I love working with the kids. Their resilience in the face of adversity is inspiring. Plus I get to wear scrubs with honeybees and ducks on them.” The table broke into laughter, breaking the tension once again.

After a while of chatting, Charlie decided that she officially approved of Castiel, and seeing the fondness growing on Dean’s face, she supposed he was mere steps away from falling off a new cliff in his life. He’d never mentioned being interested in men before, but she had suspected for a while now.

About three years ago, just before Dean and Lisa started dating, the Roadhouse had hired a new chef—a sweet, burly man with a Cajun accent. When Jo introduced Benny to Sam, Dean, and Charlie, Dean had reacted with instant animosity. Charlie hadn’t understood Dean’s dislike at the time; Benny had been more than friendly. But Charlie saw Dean behave with Benny just as she was seeing him behaving now with Castiel—shy, nervous, and flustered. She suspected his attitude might have stemmed from attraction, but a week later Dean and Lisa were dating and Dean’s negative attitude toward Benny dissipated.

Charlie attempted to gently approach the subject with Dean, but he was quick to evade the conversation. And though she had been proudly open as a lesbian since her teens, she still knew better than to push a person before they were ready. It had not come as a surprise, however, that Dean and Lisa’s relationship struggled.

Now that the crowd had thinned, she excused herself from the table, and perched on a barstool near the center of the bar. Jo smiled as she made her way over.

“Hey, barkeep,” Charlie winked. “How’s it going?”

“I should be asking you that,” Jo replied, nodding toward the group at the booth. “What are you guys doing hanging out with those bitches?”

Charlie rolled her eyes. “Sam,” she said, as though this were explanation enough, but Jo seemed to understand.

“Ruby’s just a snob, but that Meg girl’s a real piece of work. She was over here making plans for a date tomorrow with some other guy.” She looked over at the Castiel. “What’s his story?”

Charlie looked over her shoulder. Dean, Castiel, and Meg were still crowded into one side of the booth, but the stiffness had waned while they talked and drank. Dean and Castiel looked more comfortable now, still seated hip to hip, each stealing glances now and then while the other wasn’t looking.

“He’s pretty great, actually. Physical therapist, works with kids, nice guy, funny,” she listed. “Gay.”

Jo nearly choked on the beer she was sipping. “Gay? Does Meg know?”

“Nope.” Both looked at the group again, just in time to see Dean laughing at something Castiel had just said and Castiel beaming at Dean’s response.

“Wait a minute… Red, am I missing something important here?”

“I have a theory.” Charlie smirked. “Have dinner with me tomorrow. We can discuss it over sushi.”

Jo squinted, giving Charlie a pointed look. “Make it Italian and you’ve got a date.”

***

Castiel hadn’t really known what to expect from tonight after being cornered into this “date” by the pushy hospice nurse. He certainly had not expected to spend the last few hours having great conversation with a fun group of people, give or take a certain few, for what he truly hoped would be the first time of many more to come. Sam was smart and witty, although Castiel suspected he may be hiding some pain. Charlie was funny and charming with her bold personality. And Dean… Well, he certainly had not expected Dean. While the man seemed to be cocky and confident on the exterior, there was definitely much more beneath, and Castiel wanted to learn so much more.

He hadn’t intended for it to happen, but he felt a sort of bond with Dean even before they’d been properly introduced. Of course, there was no point in pining over a straight man, although being crowded against one another all evening had been an unanticipated turn of events. Dean had turned stiff and tense against his side at first, uncomfortable with the unwanted touch, Castiel assumed. But as the evening went on he felt Dean relax, and though he wasn’t sure if he’d just imagined it, (wishful thinking, perhaps), it seemed Dean had even begun to lean into him, their legs pressed together from hip to knee, feet resting against one another, and Dean’s arm just behind his shoulder occasionally grazing across his upper back. Castiel felt sparks of electricity with each tiny touch.

Unfortunately, he’d also spent a large portion of the evening avoiding unwanted advances from his other side. Meg’s hand kept finding its way onto Castiel's thigh and she’d wiggled her way under his arm. As the night went on he knew that he needed to confess his disinterest before this went any further, however he was not looking forward to that conversation. He had a feeling that Meg wasn’t the type that faced rejection very often or very well.

“Y’know, I think Charlie just might be getting somewhere with Jo,” Dean said to Sam as they looked toward the pair at the bar.

Meg craned her neck to whisper into Castiel’s ear. “We’ll be getting somewhere ourselves as soon as we ditch this dump,” she hissed, pecking a kiss on his neck and gripping his thigh once again. He straightened up quickly, pushing her hand away. He had to put a stop to this now.

“I, uh, think we might need to talk… privately,” he could feel his face flush, and he glanced around the table quickly. Sam looked on with empathy while Ruby rolled her eyes, probably assuming that he would be propositioning her sister momentarily. Dean's face was difficult to discern, but there was a fleeting glimpse of a smile hidden under that forced neutral gaze.

***

Dean watched with bated breath as Castiel and Meg slipped their coats on and stepped outside to talk. He wondered how the conversation would go. Would he ease into it and let her down easy? Would he bluntly say it? He’s attracted to men. Dean wondered how he would say it himself, how the words would sound in his own voice. He’d never actually said them out loud before.

They didn’t have to wait very long to find out what Meg’s reaction would be. She stomped back into the bar with a scowl on her face. “Come on, Ruby, we’re leaving.”

Ruby separated herself from Sam without hesitation and pulled on her own coat. Sam looked annoyed, but not hurt, Dean noticed. As the sisters headed back to the door, Castiel stepped back inside facing their glares as they passed him without speaking. Once they were gone, he slumped back into the booth beside Dean.

“Sorry, Sam,” he said. When Sam looked confused, he added, “for my date ruining yours.”

“Oh!” Sam shook his head. “It’s fine. Going out with Ruby was probably a mistake anyway.”

“Trust me, you’re both better off,” Dean commented matter-of-factly. “Hey, Jo! Can we get another round?”

The mood was considerably lighter for the rest of the night. Charlie and Jo joined them shortly after when Jo’s shift ended. Dean and Castiel sat side by side with occasional bumps of their elbows or knees. They mused about bad dates they’d been on in the past, and filled Castiel in on their favorite funny stories about their little circle of friends, and Dean called for a toast when Jo finally admitted that she and Charlie would be going on a date tomorrow evening.

“About time,” Dean said with a smirk.

Charlie mocked a whisper across the table to Dean loud enough for the group to hear, “Don’t worry, I’ll give you all the details.”

“Like hell, you will,” Jo said, poking at Charlie playfully.

Dean’s chest swelled seeing the two interact. He loved them both, and if they could be brave enough to take a new step in their relationship, maybe Dean could be brave enough to take new strides as well.

He turned his eyes to Castiel, catching those intoxicating blue eyes once again. “Hey, Cas… can I, uh, get your number?” He nervously fiddled with his phone, setting it flat on the table and sliding it toward him. ”Y'know, for next time. We, uh—we should hang out again.”

Castiel smiled and accepted Dean’s phone, tapping at the screen. A moment later, he pulled his own phone from his pocket as it chirped a notification. “I’ve got yours now, too.” He held up his phone to show Dean the little yellow smiling face he’d sent himself.

Dean chuckled, pocketing his phone again with pink cheeks and a hard-to-hide smile. “Thanks.”

“No, thank you. Thank you all for taking me in tonight, especially after I ruined your date, Sam,” he replied.

Sam waved him off. “Dude, no worries. It wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Besides, we traded in two bad dates for a new friend. I think that’s a pretty good deal.”

Charlie had apparently been holding back some excitement for a few minutes now, because she pounced from her chair as though it were spring-loaded and hugged Castiel.

When they finally left the bar, Charlie tugged Dean off to the side as everyone said their goodbyes in the parking lot. “We need to get together for lunch, Winchester,” she demanded.

Dean raised his brow at her tone. “Um… sure? How about Sunday so I can get all the details about—” he lifted his chin toward Jo and winked.

Charlie relaxed and poked him in the center of his chest, “My place. Noon. Sunday. We’ll talk.”

“Will do,” Dean answered, hugging his friend.

As they returned to the others, Dean hugged Jo goodnight and Charlie swept Sam into a quick conversation about a class that he was currently taking. Dean stepped away toward Castiel, rubbing his hand over the back of his neck.

“So, uh,” he began, speaking toward Castiel’s shoes, “you—you have my number. Feel free to—you know—or whatever.”

Castiel didn’t immediately answer, but when Dean finally looked up, he hadn’t been expecting the wide, soft smile and those eyes waiting for him. He felt breathless and dizzy. It took him a moment to realize that Castiel had his phone in his hand and Dean’s own phone was vibrating in his pocket. As he retrieved his phone, Castiel zipped up his leather jacket and climbed onto a sleek gray motorcycle, pulling on a matching helmet. Dean’s eyes followed him as he started the engine, waved a goodbye, and pulled off into the night.

Dean watched until the motorcycle disappeared around a corner, before coming back to his senses. He smiled as he finally unlocked his phone and checked his message.

Cas (12:14am): Goodnight, Dean. Talk to you soon.

Chapter Text

Sam climbed into the passenger seat of the Impala and waited for his brother. Dean stood in the parking lot a few spots away where Castiel’s motorcycle had been parked, the glow of his phone illuminating his face. After several minutes, Sam finally reached over and punched the Impala’s horn. The sound seemed to effectively remind Dean of his surroundings and he slid the phone back into his jacket pocket as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

As they pulled out of the parking lot, Sam braced himself. He knew it would be any moment now that Dean would start his I-told-you-so lecture about Ruby. How did I even end up here, he questioned himself, with people like that? He sighed. This was definitely not the life he had ever wanted for himself and he was not proud of his choices lately.

Five minutes went by, and Dean still hadn’t said a word. Sam wondered if he might be getting the silent treatment before he noticed that Dean really didn’t look upset at all. In fact, he had the slightest smile on his face. And that was not normal.

“So…,” Sam began warily, not really knowing what he wanted to say. “Interesting night, huh?”

Dean flushed, with an unexplained wave panic. “Uh, yeah. I mean—Sorry it didn’t work out with—” He let the sentence trail off, waving a dismissive hand.

“Yeah, no, that was a bad idea in the first place,” Sam admitted. There was a moment of silence in which he stared blankly at the dashboard. “I miss Jess.”

Dean let out a deep breath and gave Sam an understanding nod. “I know, Sammy.”

He hadn’t really meant to say it out loud, but there was relief in letting it out. He was grateful for his brother’s simple response, not wanting to think about it anymore. After Ruby left with Meg tonight, Sam realized that they were disposable to one another, each just a warm body keeping the other occupied while they waited for better. But for Sam, better had already come and gone.

“You should call her,” Dean added, keeping the conversation casual. “Just say hey, y’know. See how she’s doing.”

Sam didn’t answer but nodded slowly. They both spent the rest of the drive in contemplative silence, each lost in his own thoughts.

***

Dean waved goodbye to his brother as he dropped him off in front of their childhood home. Sam technically lived with their father, John, though it was not unusual for John to be absent for weeks at a time. He’d currently been gone for eleven days since the last time he’d shown his face at home. After the death of Mary Winchester, Sam and Dean had essentially lost both of their parents. At fourteen, Dean had tried taking on the role of ten-year-old Sam’s caretaker, but in the end, it was John’s friend Bobby that stepped in as their guardian.

Were it not for Bobby and Ellen, the boys would have disassociated themselves from John Winchester long ago, but the pair did their best to keep the family intact. Bobby brought the boys into the car restoration business that had once been John’s passion in an attempt to give them a common footing to try and save the floundering relationship, and when the time came for Sam to head off to Stanford, John made an emotional plea for his son not to go, to stay and be a part of the family business. However, after Sam agreed, sacrificing the path he had planned for the start of his own life, John had fallen back to his old ways, and was again gone more often than not.

Once Sam was inside the house, Dean drove to the edge of the neighborhood, pulling into the semi-secluded driveway of his own home. The property was set back from the road, partially surrounded by tall trees. The building was once a small industrial garage with beautiful red bricks and paneled windows. The upper level housed a renovated loft apartment and the garage below had become a home for Baby and a space for the side-jobs that had replaced most Dean’s social life for the last year.

Instead of pulling Baby into the garage tonight, he turned off the engine just in front of the steel door, not bothering to get out of the car. Tonight seemed so surreal.

Am I really considering this? he wondered. No, don’t be stupid. This was just a fluke. It wasn’t real. I’m just reading into nothing. Maybe it was the beer or—or something. This is just—I shouldn’t even think about it. It’s nothing. Not real.

He let go of a deep breath, closing his eyes. When he reopened them, he had his phone in his hand, unlocking the screen to view the very real message from Castiel. Talk to you soon. He smiled. Damn it, he smiled.

He pocketed the phone again, finally exiting the Impala, and made his way up the steel stairs that led to his front door. Once inside he felt an onset of exhaustion leaving a trail of clothes along the polished concrete floor, until he dropped into his bed wearing only his boxers.

*

The next morning, Dean dragged himself out of bed and straight into the shower. He pulled on his favorite Led Zeppelin shirt, layered it under a flannel, and managed to find a pair of jeans not covered in grease stains. He wandered to the kitchen in socked feet until he found himself staring into his mostly empty refrigerator. Deciding that he’d have to venture out if he wanted breakfast, he slipped on his work boots and headed out the door.

Ten minutes later, he was walking into his favorite bakery, Holy Cannoli. Donna greeted him cheerfully, as always, scribbling down his coffee order without having to ask for it. He ordered a couple of pastries and found his way to a table nearby, pulling his phone from his pocket, once again staring at the message from Castiel.

Holy shit, I think I’m really gonna do this thing, he admitted to himself after a deep breath, butterflies in his stomach at the thought.

He wondered if he should send a text or call, if he should do it today or if it was too soon, or if he should just rethink this whole thing and just go hide in his garage until the thought faded away. He nearly jumped out of his seat when the phone buzzed in his hand.

Cas (9:37am): Come here often?

***

Castiel froze, his coffee cup midway to his lips, when he saw the man enter the bakery. He took a moment to appreciate the sharp jawline, the thin but strong frame, and perfectly tousled sandy hair. He couldn’t see them from this distance, but he remembered the green of his eyes as though they were staring into his soul. He scrubbed a hand over his face.

You said you wouldn’t fall for a straight man, he scolded himself. But is he straight? He didn’t say he was. He didn’t say he wasn’t. But he didn’t say he was.

He thought about the way Dean had tensed when they first touched in the booth of the bar. But that thought faded as he remembered the way Dean threw his head back when he laughed, and the way his knee nudged into Castiel’s when he spoke, the way Dean’s fingers had lightly brushed along his shoulder, and the way his face had turned pink when he asked for Castiel’s number and even pinker when he asked if he’d call. There was no way that he’d pass up this opportunity.

He pulled out his phone as Dean sat down, realizing that Dean, too, was staring at his own phone with an interesting smile.

Cas (9:37am): Come here often?

Dean jumped visibly and Castiel had to hold back a snort of laughter.

Dean (9:39am): Maybe

Dean (9:39am): You stalking me this morning?

This time he didn’t hold back the laugh as he typed out his response. Dean looked around the bakery, finally spotting Castiel at his table near the back wall just as he pressed send.

Cas (9:40am): Maybe

Cas (9:41am): I didn’t have work today. I needed something to do.

He saw Dean smile before his face changed to an anxious determination. He watched on as Dean tapped out another message, pausing for a moment and deleting it, then tapping it out again. He paused only for a brief second before hitting send.

Dean (9:43am): Want some company?

Cas (9:44am): Absolutely

***

Dean let out the breath he’d been holding. Here goes nothing, he thought. He navigated through the tables and chairs, settling across from Castiel. He was dressed down this morning, in an old blue tee that emphasized the bright blue of his eyes, Dean noticed, and a pair of black jeans. His hair was still a little damp and somehow stood up even more than it had last night.

“Mornin’, sunshine,” Dean greeted with a smirk.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel said as he looked up from his coffee. And there are the eyes.

“How come I’ve never seen you here before?” Dean asked Castiel as Donna delivered his coffee and pastries.

“Mr. Novak’s a regular like you!” Donna chirped, answering for Castiel. “Dunno how you boys haven’t bumped into one another before.” Castiel shrugged, as Donna wandered off.

“I live— “Castiel bent his head down a little, pointing through the window beside them to a three-story building about a block down the street, “—right there. I usually pass through here on my way to the hospital.”

“Huh,” Dean huffed. “And here I thought you were just here stalking me for fun today.”

“Oh, I was,” Castiel said with a straight face, sipping his coffee. “I anticipated you’d want coffee and baked goods, so I’ve been waiting here for you for about 20 minutes now.”

Dean covered his face in laughter then shook his head. “My empty fridge had something to do with it, too.”

“Mm. Well, I broke in and stole all your food just to make sure you’d come. I’m very thorough.”

“Glad to know how desperate you were to see me,” Dean said with a wink. He knew he was flirting, but it came so naturally that he didn’t fight it. For the first time, he wasn’t trying to hide his attraction and it felt… easy.

Castiel grinned without answering and Dean took it as a win. They spent the next hour chatting about work, and Sam, Charlie and Jo, mildly flirting before Dean decided to take another bold step.

“So, my fridge really is empty right now,” he said before asking in exaggerated seriousness, “How do you feel about grocery stores?”

“I’m pretty neutral,” Castiel replied, fiddling with his empty cup, “I’m not much of a cook though. But I can make a mean PB&J. And I can order a pizza like no one’s business.”

Dean closed his eyes in exasperated disapproval. He began clearing their table. “C’mon. We’re going to buy some real food and I’m making you lunch. And you’re going to help.”

Castiel raised his brows in disbelief, “Are you sure about that? I really don’t want to burn your kitchen down.”

“Shut up. Let’s go,” he said, standing and collecting their empty cups. Castiel laughed and followed him outside to the Impala.

***

“Alright, Cas, you do the driving,” Dean said, pushing a shopping cart in his direction. Castiel accepted it willingly, leaning forward on his elbows as he steered the cart through the aisles. “I’m thinkin’ burgers,” Dean said, looking around the produce section. “Ever made your own burgers?”

“No, but I have a lot of take-out menus,” he offered. Dean spun on his heel to stare at him in mock horror.

“Oh, Cas. Cas, no. Cas. Really. This is the start of the rest of your life, dude.”

I sure hope so, Castiel thought to himself, enjoying the way Dean sounded saying his name, even if it was a shortened version that the man had adopted.

The pair made quick work of collecting the ingredients for burgers along with a few things for Dean to restock his empty refrigerator. Before heading to registers, Dean grabbed a case of beer and stood staring between a selection of fresh apple and cherry pies for several minutes before Castiel suggested he just buy one of each.

“You know what, Cas? I like the way you think,” he grinned, placing two pies on top of the beer. “Let’s get out of here.”

*

“You live in a garage?” Castiel asked as the Impala rounded the curve of the long driveway that led to Dean’s apartment.

“Well, Baby here lives in the garage,” Dean answered, patting the steering wheel as they came to a stop, then pointing to a staircase along the left side of the building. “I live in the apartment above it, though. Shoulda seen this place when I bought it. It had been empty for years. Had to bring it back to life. It’s come a long way.” The pride on Dean’s face as he looked at the building was enough to convey its worth.

Together they unloaded the groceries and carried them up the staircase. Dean unlocked and kicked open the door and they both dropped the bags onto the large stainless-steel table that served as a kitchen island. Now unburdened, Cas perched on one of the round wooden stools and took a moment to survey the place. Dean had apparently done the same as he was now quickly scooping up a trail of clothing that led from the front door and down a small hallway just off the kitchen.

The loft was beautiful, and Dean’s hand-built touches were evident throughout. Large windows with wide wooden sills lined one side of the open room, looking toward a wooded area. The fall leaves made for a picturesque view. The outer walls were the same red brick as the exterior of the building and the floor was a smooth sheen of polished concrete. The kitchen was a mixture of stainless steel and wooden surfaces with shiny utensils and cooking gadgets that Castiel didn’t recognize hanging from hooks along the wall. A wooden dining table with old metal chairs sat near the wall of windows and on the opposite side stood tall wooden bookshelves that surrounded a large television mounted to the wall. A very plush leather couch and armchair, a vintage floor lamp casting a pleasantly warm dim light, and a wooden coffee table sat across from the television, and before he could stop himself, Castiel was envisioning long cozy movie nights with warm blankets.

He snapped out of his daydream when a door shut in the hallway beyond the kitchen and Dean returned without the little pile of clothes he had gathered.

“Home sweet home,” Dean said as he washed his hands. “So, you’ve really never cooked your own burgers before?”

Castiel shrugged, “I’ve never cooked my own anything before. When I lived back home in Illinois, my dad loved cooking for us, so I never really learned how. Then I went to college and lived off cafeteria food and pizza, and now it’s still pretty much cafeteria food and pizza.”

Dean shook his head and pulled a large metal bowl from a shelf below the stainless-steel island, “You have absolutely no idea what you’re missing out on. I’m about to change your life. Get over here.”

Castiel smirked and obliged, washing his own hands before, standing at Dean’s side as he opened the packages of ground beef and dropped them into the bowl. He pulled out a few containers of spices from a rack above the stove, dumping in generous amounts without measuring. Then, without warning, he grabbed Castiel’s hands and shoved them down into the squishy meat.

“Oh!” Castiel’s jaw dropped in shock for a moment before giving Dean a narrow-eyed glare that vowed vengeance as the man buckled over laughing.

“I’m so sorry, I couldn’t resist.” He leaned playfully against Castiel’s shoulder for a moment regaining his composure.

“You know, burning down your kitchen is still a definite possibility,” Castiel threatened, though his words were laced with humor.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry!” Dean relented, still standing shoulder to shoulder with his victim. “So, you just want to kinda squish it up, mix everything up like this—,” he placed his hands over Castiel’s, sending a wave of electricity through him as he guided him in blending the spices,”—then you’re gonna flatten it out like this.” He took a handful of beef from the bowl, forming it into a patty and presenting it to Castiel. “Ta da! Got that?”

Castiel nodded and for the next few minutes busied himself by forming the burgers while Dean cleaned his hands and put away the rest of the groceries.

“So, Illinois, huh?” When Castiel looked up, he caught Dean’s green eyes staring back at him. “I, uh—I’m born and raised here. Still doing the whole family dinners on Sunday night thing with my Uncle Bobby and Jo’s mom, Ellen. Bobby practically raised Sam and me.”

“Pontiac, Illinois,” he confirmed. “My dad’s still there, and my sister Anna. My brother Gabriel actually lives here. In my building.”

“What’s that like?”

At this, Castiel laughed, “I feel like you’d have to know Gabriel to understand how truly terrifying it really is.”

“Can’t wait to meet him someday.”

Castiel’s face split into a smile as he considered the fact that Dean wanted to meet his brother someday in the future. That there would be a someday in their future.

He washed his hands and turned back to watch the man that had undeniable captivated him toss the burgers into a pan. He sat in a happy silence, letting the possibilities flow through his mind as Dean artfully twirled his spatula.

“Sammy’s my only brother. And Jo’s kinda been around since we were kids.” He furrowed his brow, apparently considering how to say whatever was coming next. “My—my mom—she died when I was fourteen. Sam was ten. My dad—he didn’t take it so well. Bobby and Ellen kinda stepped in, took care of us when my dad couldn’t. He’s still around, sometimes, but—” He shrugged and turned back to the burgers.

“I don’t remember my mother,” Castiel offered gently. “It’s just been us and my dad for as long as I remember. I’m the youngest, so Anna and Gabriel have some memories of her, but as for me—nothing.”

Dean turned around, leaning against the countertop with sadness in his eyes but the slightest hint of a kind smile on his lips. “Let’s eat.”

***

Dean set two beers on the table and watched with quiet interest as Castiel bit into his burger. When he took his first bite, the reaction was exactly what Dean had hoped it would be.

“Oh my God, why is this so good?” he said, his mouth still half-full. Dean laughed, feeling the sadness of their family stories ebb.

“Because they’re not frozen cardboard served by a clown?” He crossed his arm and raised his chin in pride.

“No, they’re magic served by the food gods,” Castiel replied, closing his eyes dramatically.

Dean snorted a laugh, lowering his head bashfully. “Aw, shucks, Cas. I’ve never been called a food god before.”

“Mm. Well, someone that looks like you, laughs like you, and cooks like you is definitely some kind of heavenly creature.” Apparently home cooked meals were a direct path to Castiel’s flirty side.

Dean could feel the heat of a blush creeping over his face. “Back at ya, Cas,” he reciprocated, “I mean—you know what they say…”

Castiel took the time to indulge in another bite before asking, “What’s that?”

“The way to a man’s heart is through is stomach,” Dean answered, sounding much bolder than he felt. He held his breath as he nervously awaited a response.

“That is true,” Castiel paused, tilting his head to one side. “Is that where you’re aiming?”

Dean hesitated for just a moment. He immediately knew the answer to this question, but he wasn’t sure how to approach the fact that this was all totally new to him.

Yes, he thought. “Maybe,” he said.

Castiel looked at him pensively for a moment, then smiled as he turned back to his burger. “Hoped so.”

Much to Dean’s relief, they didn’t delve any further into their intentions for whatever was happening between them. It wasn’t that Dean was afraid of heading down this new path, but he felt that he had a few things that needed to be addressed before he set out on the journey.

They finished their burgers over casual conversation (with some definite flirting peppered in) before taking their beers downstairs for a tour of the garage. They sat side by side on one of the stairs near the bottom landing, knees and elbows touching as they had at the bar. Castiel told Dean all about his motorcycle, a ‘77 Harley-Davidson that he’d acquired during his college years, and Dean told Castiel the story of his Impala. It had once belonged to his father, but John had let the car go to waste after Mary’s death. Under Bobby’s guide, the Impala was the first car that Dean had ever restored, leading to Dean’s eventual position of helping Bobby run the garage in John’s absence.

It was nearing 3 o’clock in the afternoon when Dean’s phone vibrated in his pocket.

“It’s Charlie,” he said in explanation as he looked at the screen with a snort of laughter. “She’s going out with Jo tonight.” He leaned in close and held the phone between them so that they could both see the message Charlie had sent to Dean and Sam.

Charlie (2:39pm): IT’S DATE NIGHT BITCHES!

Castiel shook with laughter. “Is she always that intense?”

“Pretty much,” Dean answered as a series of messages appeared on the screen.

Sam (2:41pm): Good luck! And behave yourself.

Charlie (2:42pm): I’ll be on my best behavior

Charlie (2:44pm): Give you boys the gossip tomorrow. Still on for lunch, right Dean?

Dean typed a quick message and hit send, staying shoulder to shoulder with Castiel.

Dean (2:46pm): Yeah we’re on. Good luck. Be good.

He shoved his phone back into his pocket with a little smile and a shake of the head. “If you think she’s excited now, just imagine after the date. And after lunch with Charlie, it’s dinner at Bobby’s with Jo and Sam. Trust me, it’ll be a full day of gossip,” he said with a grimace.

 “I guess running into me today will be a surprise, too,” Castiel added.

Dean roughly rubbed a hand over the back of his own neck, “Yeah, I think so… but I—I, uh…,” he stammered. “She doesn’t know that I—uh, no one, actually does yet—I haven’t—,” he looked to Castiel, pleading for understanding.

It took a moment, but Dean could see when comprehension dawned.

“You’re not out,” he stated flatly. The deflated look on his face lit a fire somewhere in Dean who bravely took Castiel’s hand. The man eyed their entwined fingers before locking blue eyes to green once more.

“Look, this—it’s new to me,” Dean admitted, rubbing his free hand over his face, “but I’m good with it. Really, I am. I—I just haven’t had a reason to mention it to anyone before now.” He paused, squeezing Castiel’s hand, “Cas, I’ve had a better time with you in the last 24 hours than I’ve had in…,” he thought for a moment, trying to remember the last time he’d honestly felt happy, “…ever. And we haven’t even been on a date, yet. I just need a little time to get my shit together, y’know?”

Castiel sighed, looking down at their joined hands again. “I don’t know, Dean.”

Dean’s heart sank.

Castiel continued, “We’ve shared a meal—two meals now—had a few drinks, I met your brother and your friends. We talked about our jobs and our families. Dean, I think we might have accidentally had a date.”

Dean laughed and nudged Castiel hard with his shoulder, embarrassed but happy. “That was pretty mean, dude.”

“That was payback for shoving my hands into raw meat without warning me, dude.”

Chapter Text

The pair sat side by side in quiet contemplation on the stairs that led to Dean’s apartment for what felt like a long time. For Castiel, the day had so far been bittersweet. While he was definitely interested in the man that sat nervously beside him, Dean’s confession changed things. Castiel had been worried that the man was straight, but being in the closet wasn’t much better. Deciding to proceed with caution and refusing to allow himself to be hurt in that way, he turned to Dean.

“Dean, if we—if this is something that you want, you need to do it for yourself. I won’t say it’s something you have to do, because that isn’t up to me. But until then—”

“I know,” Dean cut him off. “And I get it.” Castiel could see that there was more that he wanted to say, but he didn’t seem able to get the words out yet. “I,uh—I’m gonna tell Charlie tomorrow.”

Castiel nodded, still wary, but hopeful. Dean looked at the ground and huffed a laugh.

“You know, this morning when you sent that first text at the bakery? I was staring at my phone trying to decide when to call you. To, uh, ask you out on an actual date.”

Castiel remembered the way Dean had jumped after he’d sent the message and the corner of his mouth curved into a slight smile. It steeled his confidence to hear that Dean would have been willing to take the initiative and ask him out first. He may not have been out yet, but it seemed, or at least Castiel hoped, that he was ready to open the door.

“So ask me,” he said bluntly. Dean looked at him with confusion. “Ask me on a date.”

Dean hesitated, opening his mouth to speak but the words didn’t come out. After a minute, he shook his head. “I can’t.”

Castiel’s hope plummeted, but Dean continued, “Not yet. But soon. In fact,” Dean raised his head with confidence, “I’m not asking you on a date for Friday. I’m not asking for you to come to dinner with me and I’m not asking you to have drinks at the Roadhouse with me. But Cas?”

Castiel looked up into hopeful green eyes, his brows raised in response.

“I am gonna ask you on that date. Soon. Promise.”

Dean’s optimism was infectious. Castiel gave the slightest nod. “Okay.”

“C’mon.” Dean stood, patting Castiel’s knee as he did so. “I’ll take you home. I’m gonna go see Sam.”

***

When Dean pulled into the driveway of his childhood home, he found Sam under the hood of his pick-up with a smear of grease across his forehead. The sight pained him, just as it always did. Sam shouldn’t even be here. He should be sitting in some lecture hall or having dinner with Jess in a shared apartment, not covered in dirt and oil, miserable.

“Hey, Sammy,” he greeted as he tilted his head up at the truck, “what’s up with that?”

“Alternator finally kicked it,” Sam answered, straightening up and wiping his hands on an old red rag. “What’re you doing here?”

“What, your big brother can’t come to check up on you?” Dean retorted, avoiding all the reasons that were currently swimming around in his head for coming to see his brother. He pulled two beers from the green cooler that sat just behind the cab of the truck and offered one to Sam. “You were kinda down when I dropped you off last night. Just thought you might need some company.”

Sam’s jaw clenched and released as he set his eyes on the glass bottle in his hand. Dean hated seeing him this way.

“Sam, I know—I know this isn’t what you wanted.” Sam raised his brows and laughed at the gross understatement.

“No, can’t say it is.” He closed the hood with a slam, staring for a moment. “Dean, I stayed because he wanted me here. I thought—,” he stopped short, shaking his head, “you know what? It doesn’t even matter.”

The brothers made their way inside, kicking off their boots at the door and slumping down in their self-assigned seats, Sam at one end of the couch with feet crossed on the old coffee table, Dean on the armchair opposite a matching recliner. The recliner was where John sat, though on most days it held little more than coats.

“I called Jess this morning,” Sam said, drawing Dean’s attention away from the recliner.

“You—what?”

“I, uh—I thought about it last night. I couldn’t sleep. I—I can’t do this anymore,” he kept his eyes on the beer bottle in his hand, ”Not without her. So… I took your advice. I called her. Asked how she’s been. Turns out she’s been pretty miserable too.”

Dean smiled sadly at his brother, not sure what to say to the admission.

“She’s coming back to Lawrence for a few weeks for winter break. We’re gonna get together then—talk some stuff out.”

“Sammy, that’s great,” he said sincerely. “You thinking about Stanford again?”

“Thinking about it,” Sam answered, sounding more like the ambitious brother Dean knew and loved. “One step at a time, though. Gonna take my life back, Dean.” And with Sam’s smile, Dean forgot about all the other reasons that had brought him to see Sam in the first place.

They lounged around for a while, with beer bottles piling up on the old coffee table as they watched Die Hard, (the only acceptable holiday movie). It was a relaxing evening, and Dean had a decent buzz, enjoying hanging out with his brother.

Sam shuffled into the kitchen and called, “Hey, you hungry? Wanna get burgers or something?”

“Nah, I had burgers with Cas earlier,” he said reflexively. “Maybe Chinese or pizza?”

He hadn’t realized what he’d said until Sam wandered back through the kitchen doorway carrying a take-out menu. “Cas? As in… Castiel? From the Roadhouse last night?”

Shit. He wasn’t prepared for this yet, and scrambled to think. Sam’s a smart guy. Maybe I can just let him… figure it out.

“Uh, yeah. We ran into each other this morning at Holy Cannoli, and we had breakfast together,” he said casually.

“Oh—wait—I thought you said you had burgers,” Sam countered, confused.

Dean downed the rest of the half-full beer in his hand. “We, uh—I invited him to hang out, so we made some burgers.”

Sam considered this for a moment before passing Dean the take-out menu. “That’s cool. He seems like a good guy.”

“Um. Yeah...” Dean was numb. “I was thinking about asking him to hang out again on Friday.”

“Yeah, man, you should. You need to get back out there in the world.”

Dean stared, stunned silent. He couldn’t determine whether his brother was being awesomely cool about this or completely dense. He decided to let it simmer for tonight, hoping that it’d dawn on Sam sooner or later if it hadn’t quite sunk in already. He planned to talk to Charlie tomorrow and he had confidence that she would be his key to navigating this whole awkward experience.

***

Castiel Novak was not a morning person. He slapped his phone as his alarm sounded on Sunday morning, covering his head with his pillow. He didn’t always work on Sundays, but today happened to be his turn in the rotation. He finally hauled himself out of bed and lazily dressed after the second alarm, pulling on a gray long-sleeved shirt and a set of navy scrubs with a teddy bear embroidered on the pocket before dragging through the rest of his morning routine. He finally threw on a warm fleece jacket with the hospital’s logo and grabbed his messenger bag as he left the apartment.

Castiel made his way down the stairs and out of the building, ignoring any and all living creatures. There would be time for them after he’s had his coffee. He headed down the street with his hands in the pockets of his jacket and his eyes on the sidewalk as his feet automatically carried him to Holy Cannoli.

When he walked in the door, Donna was kind enough to start making his coffee before greeting him cheerfully. “Mornin’, Mr. Novak! Mornin’, Dean!”

Still in a sleepy fog, it took a moment for the greeting to register. He spun around to find apple green eyes and sandy hair and a bright smile.

“Oh, no. You’re a morning person,” he groaned. “Dean, I don’t think this is going to work out.”

“Shut up, you like me,” Dean said, reaching around Castiel to pay for both of their drinks. “I see why I’ve never noticed you here in the morning, now. You’re like a grouchy… grouch.”

“A grouchy grouch?”

“You heard me. C’mon. I’ll give you a ride to work,” Dean offered. It was only a few blocks to the hospital, and Castiel was used to the walk, choosing to leave his motorcycle parked in the safety of his building’s secure garage during work, but there was absolutely no chance in hell that Castiel would turn down the offer this morning.

They bid goodbye to Donna and climbed into the Impala, Castiel feeling much more awake now than he had when he entered the shop. His brain finally catching up to him, he turned his head, watching as Dean started the engine.

“So, definitely not a morning person,” he said as if committing the fact to memory, watching Castiel with mild amusement. Castiel’s cheeks pinkened under his gaze.

“No, definitely not,” he admitted, leaning back into the soft leather of the Impala’s seat. “But you—look at you, all bright and shiny.” Dean grinned.

“I’m not always a morning person. Just when I bump into you, I guess,” he flirted as he made the corner, pulling up in front of the hospital’s main entrance..

Castiel shook his head, “Don’t you start that charming shit, Dean Winchester. I haven’t had enough coffee to fight it off yet and I have a whole day of work ahead of me.” Dean threw his head back with laughter. “Thank you for the ride. And for the coffee.”

“Anytime, sunshine,” Dean said with a grin as Castiel exited the car.

*

At eleven, Castiel made his way down to the cafeteria for lunch. Castiel groaned when he spotted a man with dirty blonde hair and rectangular glasses sitting at a table with his camera gear piled on a chair beside him. He made his way through the line and paid for his lunch and a bottle of water before heading toward the table.

“Cassie, why didn’t you tell me there were so many hot women working in this hospital?” Gabriel waved a red lollipop, pointing it toward a group of nurses on the opposite side of the room. “Look at her! And her! And, ooh, look at her!”

“Mostly because I’m gay and this is my place of employment,” he answered nonchalantly, settling into an empty chair. “Why are you here?”

“Official business, baby bro,” he said, patting his camera bag. “Gettin’ paid the big bucks to be on call to document the miracle of birth.”

Castiel averted his eyes as Meg walked into the cafeteria and past their table. Gabriel, of course, pointed this out, much to Castiel’s annoyance. “What’s that about, ladykiller?”

“That’s Meg,” he answered simply.

“Meg, the girl you went on a ‘date’ with, Meg?”

“That’s the one,” he answered. “It… didn’t end well.” Gabriel raised a brow in curiosity, but Castiel didn’t elaborate, turning his attention to his sandwich instead.

“Does it have something to do with the hot guy in the black car that dropped you off in front of our building yesterday? And here today?” He pointed his lollipop to the windows that overlooked the main entrance. Castiel nearly choked on his sandwich, and Gabriel’s grin told him that he’d given himself away. “It does! Cassie, you dog, what did you do?”

But before he could answer, Meg approached their table, carrying her lunch in a plastic take-out container. She looked Gabriel up and down before turning to Castiel. “Oh Clarence, when you told me you were into men, I thought you’d at least have had some standards.”

“Meg,” Castiel greeted with a growl, “This is my brother, Gabriel Novak.”

“Oh, baby bro’s mentioned you. You’re the heartless bitch he went out with the other night, right?” Gabriel answered brightly. “Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’ve seen his sexy new boytoy, and, trust me, he’s surpassing all kinds of standards.”

“Mmm, so the whole family is gay, then? Miracle you two made it into the world at all,” she bit back.

“Hey, the equipment doesn’t matter as long as you know how to operate it. Why have limits?” Gabriel grinned and Meg narrowed her eyes at the man. Castiel leaned on his elbow, hiding his face in his hand, just waiting for the conversation to be over.

After a momentary lull, Meg spoke. “I like him, Clarence.” And with that, she left the cafeteria.

***

Dean parked the Impala outside Charlie’s townhouse and killed the engine, grabbing the bag he’d brought with one of the pies that he and Castiel had bought yesterday but forgot to eat. He had just reached the door when his phone vibrated in his jacket pocket. He knocked before pulling it from his pocket as he waited for Charlie to open the door.

Cas (12:05pm) : My brother met Meg today. I’m pretty sure they’re in love now.

Dean laughed out loud at the message. When Charlie opened the door he was caught grinning at his phone before he could stuff it back into his pocket, but he kissed her cheek and let himself inside before she could mention it.

She followed him into the kitchen. “Was Dean Winchester just smiling like a schoolboy at a text message on my front step?”

“I brought pie,” Dean said, holding up the bag in a lame attempt at a distraction, before making a split-second decision to just dive in head first.

“Also, I, uh—I think I might like dudes. I mean, I do. Well, one dude… specifically.”

Charlie froze, clearly stunned. Dean had also lost his ability to move. He’d thought about how he’d tell Charlie over and over again, but he knew it didn’t matter. She’d support him through it. He hadn’t really intended on just blurting it out that way, but saying it out loud was like pulling off a band-aid. He was suddenly rushed with emotion. He released his grip on the pie, dropping it onto the countertop as he sunk onto a wrought-iron backed barstool, tears threatening to pour, though he couldn’t put his finger on the specific reason why.

Charlie rushed to her friend’s side, wrapping him up into a hug. “I knew it,” she said, and Dean could hear the smile on her face. “I’m so proud of you, Winchester.” She squeezed him tight before gripping him by the shoulders to face her. “Now, tell me everything.”

***

Charlie had planned on prodding at Dean about his possible bisexuality, but she definitely was not expecting him to come out to her in the first two minutes of their lunch date. Once the news sunk in and her brain was kicked back online, she had run to Dean’s side, there for him as she promised she’d always be.

Forgoing the home-made enchiladas that Charlie had waiting on her stovetop, the pair sat on the couch with the pie dish and two forks. Dean filled her in on the encounter at the bakery the previous morning, and then shopping for groceries and lunch, and their conversation on the stairs. She stayed quiet, allowing Dean to get through it without interruption. By the time he told her about bumping into him again this morning and driving him to work, she was practically giddy.

“First of all, you guys are adorable. And I don’t mean ‘aww, look at all the gay’-dorable, I mean like tooth-rotting sweet-sweet fanfiction adorable. I totally get it, though—the not being out thing is a big red flag most of the time. He’s a good guy for giving you a chance.”

Dean smiled, still dazed and nervous and scared, but also ridiculously happy. “I, uh—I tried to let Sam know last night, but I don’t think he understood. It—I couldn’t just—,” he sighed. “I knew it’d be easier with you.”

Charlie grabbed his hand and gave it a squeeze. “It’s going to be fine, Dean. Sam loves you, and so does Bobby and Ellen and Jo.”

Dean scrubbed a hand down his face and leaned forward, elbows on his knees and head hanging. “What the hell do I tell my dad?”

“Hey, look at me,” Charlie demanded, putting the pie dish on the coffee table. When he turned, eyes shining, she said, “If he loves you, he’ll accept you for whoever you are, even if he doesn’t like it. It might take him some time to get used to the idea, but—” She stopped herself, realizing what she was about to say.

“—but he’s never around anyway,” he finished.

“And if he doesn’t accept you, you still have people—family—here that love you.”

Dean nodded at her words, leaning back into the sofa cushions. He pulled his phone from his pocket, smiling again. He handed it to Charlie, allowing her to read the messages he’d told her about from the bakery and the latest about Gabriel and Meg.

“Oh my God, his brother and Meg?” she laughed. “Wouldn’t that be fantastic? And he’s texting you from work? Dean, he so likes you.”

Dean’s cheeks turned pink at the thought. “I hope so.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure Jo likes me, too,” she grinned. “I got an invite to Sunday night dinner.”

“What—no way. You’ve gotta be shittin’ me. She’s never brought anyone home before!”

“I shit you not, good sir. Our date went very well. We—”

“Wait!” Dean waved his hands to stop her. “Please keep in mind that Jo is like a sister to me before you start spilling details.”

Charlie’s jaw dropped in offense and she gave him a shove. “Oh, come on! It was a first date! We just kissed, geez. What kinda girl do you think I am?” The look on Dean’s face answered that question, so Charlie continued. “Okay, I know what kinda girl I am, but I was on my best behavior! We went to Romano’s and ate dinner, then went back to the Roadhouse and—” She mumbled the end of the sentence so that Dean couldn’t understand what she’d said.

“Come again, Charles. I didn’t catch that last bit there.”

She huffed in weak protest. “We, uh—we talked to Ellen and she invited me to dinner tonight.”

“You talked to Ellen?” Dean couldn’t hold back the laugh that fell out with the words. Ellen was sharp and downright scary if you crossed her.

“Scariest night of my life,” Charlie said as though she were having a war flashback.

“She invited you to dinner, though, so it must have went well,” Dean said brightly.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she agreed. “Are you—are you gonna tell them?”

Dean took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly before speaking. “I think so. I mean, I want to. I guess I’ll see how it goes. I mean, I tried with Sammy but I obviously didn’t do a very good job. For a smart guy, he sure can’t take a hint. Will you, uh, help me—I mean, if I need—if I can’t—” He stopped his stammering with a frustrated sigh, his point clearly made.

“Don’t worry, Winchester. I got your back.”

Chapter Text

By the time Dean left Charlie’s house, he had just enough time to stop in at home and grab a quick shower before dinner. He saw his phone’s notification light blinking on the counter when he stepped out, so he wrapped a towel around his waist and checked his messages.

Sam (5:42pm): So, my truck still won’t start... Can you pick me up on the way to Bobby’s?

Dean shot back a quick ‘yeah no prob’ before pinching the bridge of his nose. After the emotional day he’d had so far, he was mentally exhausted, and the idea of being in the car with Sam for the 30-minute drive to Bobby’s house brought an instant pang of tension across his neck and shoulders. He knew his brother would hold no judgement, would be just as accepting as Charlie had been, but Dean couldn’t figure out why it just seemed harder to tell him.

He thumbed the arrow that backed him out of Sam’s text to the list of recently received messages. Clicking Cas’s name, he smiled, the tension in his shoulder loosening. He hadn’t replied to Cas’s message earlier, as he became a bit preoccupied with the whole coming out thing.

Dean (5:59pm): I did a thing today

Cas (6:01pm): I did several things today. I thought you’d be a more productive person, Dean.

Dean laughed, covering his face with his palm. Something about that dorky sense of humor just made his heart flutter.

Dean (6:03pm): Smart ass

Dean (6:03pm): Just for that I’m not telling you how it went

He headed into his bedroom, dropping the phone on his bed. He dressed, still laughing to himself. He was seated on the bed with one sock on and the other in his hand when his phone began to ring, the caller ID flashing: Incoming call - Cas.

His heart leapt into his throat, which is possibly why he answered with such a hoarse “Hey, Cas.”

“Hello, Dean,” responded a deep gravelly voice on the other end of the line.

“Thought you could convince me to tell you about my thing by calling, huh? I’m still not telling you how it went,” Dean said teasingly as he continued putting on his socks.

“I have been told I have an irresistible voice. I figured it was worth the try.”

Dean chuckled. He’s not wrong, he thought as he pulled on his shoes. “Well, you do have a point there.”

“So, does that mean I get to hear about the thing?”

He hummed timidly, but planted his feet on the floor, grounding himself. “I, uh, told Charlie everything. It was… a blur, honestly.”

Castiel was silent on the other end of the line for a long moment. “And by everything, you mean—?”

Dean cleared his throat. “I, um, told her that I’m—that I’m bi.” He let out a quick puff of breath. Even though he and Charlie had talked about it at length today, it was the first time he’d ever just stated it outright. “And that I’m kinda into… well, you.” He stood up, pacing toward his kitchen, thankful that Castiel couldn’t see his red face. “She’s going to help me tell Sammy. I, uh, tried telling him first, but I guess I probably wasn’t clear enough.”

There was another moment of silence from Castiel, until he said, “I’m kinda into you, too, Dean.”

Dean’s face lit with a grin. “We’re going to Bobby’s for dinner tonight, and—son of a bitch, I’m late.”

Castiel chuckled, “Go, Dean. Have a good night.”

He couldn’t wipe the smile from his face. “’Night, Cas.”

He hung up his phone but didn’t—couldn’t—move right away. I really am doing this.

***

Sam sat on an old wooden porch swing, checking the clock on his phone once again. Dean was running late. He cast a glare at the broken-down pick-up in the driveway. It had been Bobby’s truck before he gave it to Sam for the purpose of picking up parts for the garage, but Sam was grateful. Just after graduation and finally in charge of his own life, the truck meant freedom. But as he looked at it tonight, it seemed quite the opposite. His father’s house, Bobby’s truck, a job he didn’t want, a life that was so far from what Sam had intended, it barely felt like his own anymore—he felt trapped.

Dean finally pulled the Impala into the driveway and Sam hauled himself into the passenger seat. “Dude, you’re late. Ellen’s gonna kill us.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dean said, but he didn’t seem too concerned. “I was, uh—distracted.”

“Dean, ew.”

“No—I wasn’t—dude, seriously?” He rolled his eyes as he pulled back onto the street and took off. “I was on the phone. Lost track of the time.”

“I think I’m going to buy a new car,” Sam said, mind still on the old pick-up in the driveway.

“A new car? We can fix the truck, Sam, it’s just the alternator. No big deal.”

Sam shook his head. This wasn’t about the truck. “No,” he said, maybe a bit more aggressively than he intended. “I—I want to get my own car. I just—I want something that’s mine.”

Dean was quiet for a moment. He cast a thoughtful look in Sam’s direction and nodded. “Alright, Sammy. New car. You deserve it.”

Sam smiled gratefully.

***

“So how did lunch with Dean go? Confirm any theories?” Jo nudged Charlie with her shoulder as they sat together on the tailgate of Bobby’s pickup.

Charlie shrugged. “He’s… had an eventful weekend. I’ll let him be the one to tell you about it. Where is he, anyway?”

“Eventful, huh?” Jo gave Charlie a curious look, but the redhead steeled herself. It’s not your story to share, she reminded herself, no matter how cute she is. Ugh, she’s so freakin’ cute, though.

 “I dunno where they are, but they’re—oh, look.” Jo pointed as the Impala turned off the dark road onto the long gravel driveway. It skidded to a stop behind Charlie’s Volkswagen. “You boys are laaaate,” Jo said, waggling a finger at them.

“I know, I know. C’mon, let’s get in there,” Dean said, ushering the group toward the front door.

Charlie lingered for a moment. She’d met Ellen many times over the years, of course, but she hadn’t been dating her daughter then. In fact, she felt as though maybe Ellen knew a little too much about her already. Charlie wasn’t exactly shy about parading her dates through the Roadhouse, and not many of them ever made it farther than one or two dates. But this thing with Jo was different—a slow burn, friends to lovers story that had finally peaked.

“You good?” Dean asked, low enough for only Charlie to hear.

She let out a long, slow breath. “Yeah—yeah, I’m good. What about you?”

“I dunno. But I’m gonna get through this one way or another,” he answered, flexing his hands nervously.

“You and Sam talk?” She followed him through the front door and the pair stopped in the entrance while Jo and Sam proceeded into the kitchen.

He shook his head. “Not yet. Sammy’s working through some shit right now. He needed some time to vent on the way over.”

Charlie nodded, gesturing toward the kitchen. “Well… I guess it’s show time.”

***

“Glad you could join us,” Ellen greeted, eyeing Dean as he entered the kitchen. “Hi, Charlie. You two help Jo and Sam set the table. Dinner’s ready.” Both, grateful not to have been subject to Ellen’s inquisition, gathered up dishes of food and carried them out to the dining table where Sam and Jo were already arranging plates and utensils.

“So, this is a pretty formal affair, huh?” Charlie asked, neatly centering a large glass dish of lasagna.

The others laughed, shaking their heads. “I wouldn’t say that,” Dean answered, thinking of many, many Sundays past. Though their dinners were routine, they were far from formal.

“Mom’s been hosting her Sunday dinners since I was a kid,” Jo explained. “I’ve seen them go from low-key casual meals to full out brawls. But lately they’re pretty much just loud family talk, lots of food, and beer until all the boys plant themselves on the couch with their jeans unbuttoned.”

Offended, Dean turned to Sam, who shrugged sheepishly. “She’s not wrong.”

“Well, well. I see we have a visitor,” came Bobby’s voice from the stairs. The man wore a tattered baseball cap and flannel, and though he didn’t wear a smile, his presence was a friendly one. “Hello, darlin’, we haven’t been introduced,” he addressed Charlie. “Bobby Singer. And who might you be?”

“Charlie Bradbury,” she responded with more nerves than Dean had ever seen Charlie display before.

“Well, Miss Bradbury, which one of these deviants might you be attached to?” Bobby asked, gesturing toward Sam and Dean. Both boys grinned mischievously.

“That one?” Charlie pointed lamely toward Jo whose cheeks were now a bright pink.

Bobby took a moment to let the idea settle but didn’t seem bothered. “Smart girl. Those two are trouble,” he said, tilting his head at the brothers. Charlie sighed in relief and Dean smiled, genuinely happy to see his friend more at ease.

They all settled into their chairs, bowing their heads while Bobby said grace before digging in. Dean piled his plate high with lasagna and garlic bread, even making himself a small salad to appease Ellen.

“So, which one of you do I get to fuss at for being late tonight?” Ellen asked, pointing her fork at Sam and Dean.

Sam pointed tellingly at his brother. Traitor, Dean thought. Ellen gave him her best pointed gaze.

“Okay, okay. Yeah, it was my fault. I got tied up on a phone call, lost track of time.” He could feel the heat in his cheeks as his face reddened. I was talking to Cas and he said he’s into me, he thought happily. A hint of a smile must have creeped onto his face, because Ellen tilted her head ever so slightly.

“Mm-hmm. I see… So, who is she?” She tipped her beer back and the entire table turned to look at Dean.

“What? I—uh…” He looked to Charlie who gave him the slightest nod and a smile. I can do this. “Cas.”

He dared a glance at Sam whose attention was apparently on assembling his salad. Jo sat opposite Sam with a large knowing smile, and Charlie beamed.

“Well, I’m glad to see you’re getting out there again after Lisa. I’ll let it slide this time, but next week I’m putting you to work in the kitchen.” Ellen isn’t always so scary, he thought to himself. “So, this Cas? Would I know her?”

Dean rubbed the back of his neck nervously, casting a look to Sam and Bobby before answering. “Actually, uh… he’s a physical therapist down at the hospital. We, um, met at the Roadhouse a couple nights ago.”

“Nice guy,” Sam chimed in. “You’d like him, Ellen. They’ve only been on, like, one date and Dean’s already hooked.” Dean’s eyes stung with realization as he finally caught his brother’s eye. Not only did Sam understand now, he’d understood when he told him on Saturday night.

Jo and Charlie jumped into the conversation, singing their praises about Castiel as well.

“He’s pretty hot,” Jo said reminiscently, earning her a playful glare from Charlie. “What? He is!”

“And he works with kids. How sweet is that?” Charlie teased, nudging Dean with her elbow.

“He’s got a pretty sick motorcycle too,” Sam added. “Late 70’s Harley, I think.” Dean nodded weakly.

He felt that dazed, slightly numb feeling again as the people he loved sat around the table discussing Castiel. It seemed so surreal. He finally looked to Bobby who had been silent thus far.

Finally finding his voice after wiping the tears that threatened to roll down his face, he addressed the man. “Bobby?”

Bobby looked up from his plate, his face difficult to read as always. He took a long swig of his beer and heaved a breath. “Son, I’m gonna tell you, just like I told her,” he said, tipping his beer bottle neck to indicate Jo, “as long as you’re happy, I’m happy for you. But I’ll be expecting to meet this… Cas, is it?”

“Castiel,” Dean said, eyes locked on Bobby’s patient stare.

“Castiel, then. Invite him to dinner, ya idjit.” Dean stared.

Suddenly, Jo and Charlie had Dean wrapped up in hugs, and Sam joined in, wrapping his long arms around them all, while Ellen watched and smiled. Even Bobby cracked a momentary smirk before breaking up the scene. (“Come on, now, this isn’t some kinda soap opera. Food’s getting cold, ya idjits. He’ll still like boys after dinner.”)

Eventually, they relinquished their grip and finished dinner with good-hearted conversation. Bobby seemed more offended by the fact that Sam planned on replacing his old truck than he had by the fact that Dean was dating a man, which Dean mused over for quite some time until he remembered that, technically, he and Castiel were not dating. Not yet, anyway.

While everyone else retreated to the living room, Dean slipped out the back door and sat on the edge of the porch. He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time before dialing Castiel’s number.

“Dean?” He answered. “I thought you were at dinner.”

“I—I am,” he replied, keeping his voice low. “I just wanted to tell you—I wanted to say thank you.” He struggled to control the emotion in his voice.

“Thank you? But why—”,                        

“For giving me a reason to finally face the truth,” he said, cutting Castiel off. “I know it’s not really what you signed up for, but I just—I just needed to say it. So… thanks, Cas.”

There was a moment of silence on Castiel’s end before he said, “I’m happy for you, Dean. Truly. It’s a huge step.”

Dean huffed a laugh. “Yeah, you got that right. And the next step is convincing you to go on that real date with me on Friday,” he said bravely.

“Well, what are your plans for lunch tomorrow?”

“Cold sandwich in the garage office,” Dean answered, hoping for a better offer.

“Hospital cafeteria food isn’t much of an upgrade, but if you’re interested, maybe you can finally ask me on that date in person,” Castiel said, optimism lacing the words.

Dean smirked to himself, “You know, I think that sounds pretty good, Cas. Noon?”

“Noon,” he confirmed. “See you then, Dean. Go be with your family tonight.”

“’Night, Cas.”

***

“You’re doing great, Jack,” Castiel encouraged as his favorite patient held himself upright and balanced between two long horizontal handrails. The young man was one of his older patients, having suffered a spinal injury in his youth that had led to a very slow recovery. The surgeons hadn’t been confident that he would walk on his own again, but Jack had a determination about him that made Castiel swell with pride. And now, at 18, Jack was back on his feet with the help of a sturdy set of crutches.

After a few seconds of standing, Jack leaned heavily again on the rails on either side of himself. “So, did you go on that date with the nurse?”

Castiel helped reset his position between the rails. “I did,” he answered plainly, “and it went just as well as I expected it to go.”

“So, terrible?” Jack asked, taking a few steps before standing to balance once more. “I guess she wasn’t too happy to find out you’re gay.”

“Very good, let’s turn around and go back to the other end,” he praised, helping Jack change directions between the rails. “And yes, that’s exactly what happened. The night wasn’t a total waste, though.” He couldn’t hide the smile that crept onto his lips. “I made some new friends.”

“He met somebody,” accused a young woman with wavy blonde hair leaning back in a nearby chair with her arms crossed over her chest. Jack’s girlfriend Claire, though tough and edgy on the outside, had never missed one of his appointments.

“I might’ve,” Castiel said innocently, following closely behind Jack as he took five forward steps. “Excellent, Jack! You’ve been practicing.”

As they reached the end of the rails, Claire stood, offering her boyfriend his crutches. “So, what’s the story with the new guy? I mean, I’m assuming it’s a guy.”

“It is,” Castiel confirmed, “but there isn’t much of a story yet. Keep practicing and I’ll give you an update next week. You’re making progress, Jack. I’m proud of you. Keep working on your balance, okay?”

They exchanged goodbyes and set an appointment for the following week before Castiel headed into his office. He entered his notes about their session, cleared his desk, and checked his phone for the time. In fifteen minutes, Dean would be in the cafeteria to meet him for lunch, so he collected his phone, cash, and keys and headed downstairs.

When the doors to the elevator opened on his floor, Castiel was somewhat surprised to find Gabriel. “Why are you here?”

“Do we just not say hello anymore? Just ‘why are you here?’” Gabriel chided.

“Hello, Gabriel. Why are you here? I thought you were just taking birth photos yesterday.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes as the elevator began descending again. “Yeah, well, apparently the kid isn’t ready to hatch yet, so I was exploring.” He pointed a finger, indicating the upper floors. “Hot nurses, bro. Even got a number.”

It was Castiel’s turn to roll his eyes. “Please at least stay away from the people I work with directly. I like my job and would prefer to keep it.”

“Aw, Cassie, I wouldn’t put your job in jeopardy. You know that.”

“I do,” he admitted, “but it never hurts to remind you.”

Gabriel twisted his face in thought for a second before nodding, “Yeah, okay, you’re probably right about that.”

As they stepped out of the elevator and into the lobby, sandy hair and flannel caught Castiel’s eye. Dean grinned as he approached, holding a paper bag. “Hey, Cas.”

“Hello, Dean.” He smiled broadly, momentarily forgetting that his brother was standing beside him.

Gabriel looked Dean up and down before letting out a low whistle. “Niiiice job, baby bro. He’s even hotter than I expected.” Dean’s brows raised in surprise and Castiel closed his eyes in exasperation.

“Dean, this is my brother Gabriel Novak. Gabriel, Dean Winchester.”

“So, you’re the guy in the sweet black Impala,” Gabriel said. Castiel watched as Dean visibly relaxed and gestured toward his brother.

“Good taste runs in the family, I see.”

Gabriel chuckled and clapped both Dean and Cas on the shoulders. “I’ll let you boys have your alone time. I’ve got a nurse to ask out anyway.” And with that, he wandered off into the hospital.

 “Brought us some leftover lasagna, courtesy of Ellen,” Dean said, holding the bag up. “Figured it beats cafeteria food.”

Castiel broke into a smile, “Perfect.”

The two settled at a table near the windows that overlooked a small courtyard, delving into the lasagna. “Mmph, I really need to learn to cook,” Castiel sighed after his first bite. “This is amazing.”

“Yeah, Ellen’s an awesome cook. You can, uh, find out first-hand if you’re not busy Sunday night.” He twirled his fork anxiously. “Ellen and Bobby—they, um, want to meet you. When I told them about you, Sam and Charlie and Jo kinda jumped in and started talking about how awesome you are, so—yeah.”

Castiel ducked his head down a little to catch Dean’s green eyes with his blues. “I’d love to come to dinner, Dean.” Dean nodded in relief.

Dean told Castiel all the details of his Sunday. He told him about the reactions of the people he loved and their acceptance, and Castiel’s chest swelled in happiness.

“Dean, I’m so happy that it went so well for you. It’s not always such a positive experience.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dean said, and Castiel noticed a sadness in his eyes. “My dad still doesn’t know. I don’t know when I’ll see him, though. I don’t know how well it’ll go over with him.”

Castiel reached over and squeezed Dean’s hand. Dean took the opportunity to thread their fingers together. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’ll be worth it.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.” That drawling voice could only be one person. Castiel cringed.

“Meg!” Dean said brightly.

You’re the sexy new boytoy?” she asked, incredulous.

Dean grinned, amused. “I dunno, Cas, am I the sexy new boytoy?”

Castiel covered his face as he laughed, but he couldn’t hide the shake in his shoulders. Before he could respond, Meg stomped out of the cafeteria.

“Man, lunch at the hospital is fun,” Dean laughed. “I might have to come more often.”

“I wouldn’t say no to that,” Castiel chuckled.

Dean turned to face Castiel once more. “Would you say no to going on a date—a real one, this time—with me this Friday?”

“I definitely wouldn’t say no to that.”

Dean’s eyes twinkled a stunning green. “It’s a date, then.”

Chapter Text

Dean wrinkled his nose at the rows of glossy new cars as Sam sat in the driver’s seat of a dark blue Dodge Charger. “Sammy, when you said you wanted a new car, I thought you meant, like, a real car.”

Sam leaned his head out of the door. “And this isn’t a real car?”

“Dude, no. This is a plastic douche-mobile. It’s a computer with wheels, not a car.”

The small salesman standing beside Sam’s open door bristled, but didn’t dare argue, instead directing his attention to Sam and muttering about horsepower and torque.

“I like it,” Sam said simply, unaffected by Dean’s complaining. No car would ever measure up to Baby in Dean’s eyes. “Anyway, it’s what I want.”

Dean sighed, recalling his brother’s reasons for wanting a new car in the first place. I want something that’s mine, Sam had said.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a terrible car. Dean could appreciate the distinctly commanding look and the subtle hints at the horsepower hidden beneath its hood. And maybe he shouldn’t be making this hard on Sam. It was clearly important to him.

“Well… I guess if it’s gotta be a douche-mobile, it’s not terrible.”

Sam’s smirk was enough to say that he knew exactly what was going through Dean’s head, and that only irked the older brother even more. He turned his back on the car and pulled out his phone.

Dean (12:35pm): I can’t believe I skipped lunch for this. I should have sent Sam car shopping with Charlie.

He knew that Castiel would be at lunch at this time. They’d agreed to meet for lunch three times already this week, but tonight would be their first official date. They’d been getting to know one another a bit over their casual lunches in the hospital cafeteria (where Dean supplied homecooked leftovers, much to Castiel’s pleasure), however they could hardly be called dates. They hadn’t ventured past flirty banter, both anxiously awaiting their “real date” to explore romance. Dean’s stomach knotted at the thought.

Cas (12:37pm): Doesn’t Charlie drive a VW Bug? I can only imagine what she could talk Sam into buying.

The mental image of Sam trying to squeeze his long legs into Charlie’s tiny car was enough to pull a small chuckle out of him.

Dean (12:39pm): Still would rather be having lunch with you though.

Cas (12:40pm): Well, allow me to paint you a picture of what you’re missing.

Cas (12:41pm): I’m eating something that sort of resembles turkey and I’m trying to imagine that it’s the barbeque chicken that you brought yesterday.

Cas (12:42pm): Meg is still avoiding me, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Cas (12:43pm): And the weird x-ray tech guy is back again today.

The last text pulled a laugh from Dean as he recalled an unusually upbeat man they’d encountered on their second lunch date that had used a sock puppet to talk to a stern looking doctor. Dean had joked that he’d been completely right in saying that lunch at the hospital was fun.

Dean (12:45pm): Quite a picture. Just missing a few details. What are you wearing? 😉

Dean smirked at the screen as he awaited a response. He laughed out loud when he received a selfie of Castiel in black scrubs with a honeybee embroidered on the breast pocket. He was pouting at a forkful of pinkish-grey something.

Dean (12:49pm): Wish I was there.

Cas (12:51pm): Me too. Can’t wait to see you tonight.

“Dean,” Sam called, pointing a thumb toward the dealership office, “we’re gonna go do the paperwork.” Dean nodded in response before Sam and the salesman disappeared between the rows of cars.

He looked once more at Sam’s new car. Dean had to admit that it suited Sam. He admired the dark blue paint, stepping closer to peer into the windows. The interior was black leather with neat stitching. It’s really not so bad, he thought.

*

Back at the garage, Sam sat in the parking lot exploring all the buttons and gadgets his new car had to offer. A few of the other employees had come out to admire it, and Sam was glowing with excitement. Dean couldn’t ignore that happiness, and reluctantly sat in the passenger seat.

“You know, you’re allowed to like it,” Sam said, a playful smirk on his face. “You just have to stop trying so hard not to.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I do like it, Sammy, much as I hate to admit it.”

Sam grinned. “So, the big date’s tonight, huh?”

Dean fiddled with the sunroof, refusing to let Sam see the anxiety he was currently wearing like a mask. “Uh, yeah. But, I mean, we’ve hung out a few times, so no big deal.” He wished he believed his own words.

Sam, apparently, didn’t believe them either. “I dunno, Dean. This’ll be your first ‘out’-in-public date, right? I mean, it’s kind of a big deal.”

Dean sighed. “Yeah, Sammy, I know. Trust me, I know.”

“Wanna talk about it?” When he looked back up to his brother’s face, the playful smirk had been replaced with concern. He considered it for a moment but shook his head.

“Not really,” he said, fidgeting awkwardly. “I mean—I think it’ll be different, but—I don’t know—he’s just easy to be around.” He felt his cheeks start to go hot. “And it’s weird talking about it with my little brother.”

Sam huffed a laugh. “You really like him, don’t you?” Dean just shrugged one-shouldered, eyes fixed on the floor mats. “Dean.” Sam waited until his older brother’s eyes fixed back on him before continuing. “You’re allowed to like him. Stop trying so hard not to.”

With a half-smile, Dean opened the passenger door to get out, but turned to address his brother once more. “I like the car, Sammy.”

***

Castiel arrived at his building just before dark. Dean would be coming to pick him up in just two hours. Usually Castiel was quite calm about first dates; he’d been on plenty of those. But he was less accustomed to second or third dates. And although they’d agreed that lunch at the hospital, coffee at the bakery, burgers at Dean’s, and the night they met at the bar were not real dates, they’d sure felt pretty important to him. He already knew that he liked Dean.

Relax, Castiel thought to himself. Dean will probably be nervous enough. His coming out had been sincere so far, but tonight felt like new territory. Even as he speculated, Castiel couldn’t help but feel optimistic.

He climbed the stairs to his hallway, passing Gabriel’s apartment door on the way to his own, only to find that the door to his own apartment was already unlocked. He rolled his eyes as he stepped inside, and just as he expected, he found his brother making an absurdly large sandwich in his kitchen. “What are you doing here, Gabriel?”

Seriously, Castiel? Not ‘hi’? Not ‘hello’? Not even a ‘hey, asshole’? I’m really starting to feel unwelcome.”

“Unwelcome in my locked apartment while I’m not home?” Castiel hung his bag and jacket by the door, before dropping onto the couch. The apartment was fairly small and plain with warm oak floors and mostly bare walls. The step-up kitchen overlooked the living room which was furnished with little more than a navy-blue couch and ottoman that faced a wall of bookshelves and a television mounted above a fireplace.

Gabriel waved his brother’s exasperation off. “So, tonight’s the night with Dean-o, right? Should I wear my noise-cancelling headphones?”

“We’re going out tonight, yes, but we’ve seen each other several times this week already,” he answered casually, choosing to ignore the second question.

“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t exactly call lunch hour in the hospital cafeteria ‘sexy time.’ Tonight’s the night for romance, bro. In fact, you’d better spiff this place up, light some candles, get some mood music, do you need extra condoms? I have these glow-in-the-dark—”

“Okay, brother bonding time is over!” Castiel interrupted, standing and ushering Gabriel out the door, sandwich in hand.

“Fine, fine! I’m going! I have my own date to get ready for anyway.” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively. “The hot nurse that gave me her number. Totally wants me. You know, on second thoughts, maybe you boys might wanna go back to his place instead.”

With another roll of his eyes, Castiel shoved Gabriel into the hallway, closing the door behind him.

***

Dean pulled the Impala into one of the guest parking spots and checked his phone for the time. Fifteen minutes early. He had tried to bide his time, taking longer than necessary to carefully sculpt his hair, meticulously choosing an outfit, going with a steel-gray V-neck under a black jacket and his best fitting dark-wash jeans. But even wasting time as he had, his eagerness found him pacing the floor, just waiting for time to tick by so that he could head over to Castiel’s building.

He debated with himself about whether it was too soon for him to get out of the car and head up to Cas’s apartment. Ultimately, he decided that he wasn’t too early, and it’d be okay to go ahead and head up. He didn’t mind if he’d have to wait for Cas to finish getting ready, he just couldn’t wait to get this night started.

He entered the lobby and climbed the stairs to the third floor, following the directions that Castiel had given to find Apartment 3C. But before he could reach Castiel’s front door, he was stopped short. Gabriel was leaning against the doorframe of Apartment 3B with his arms folded across his chest, one of his cameras in hand and wearing a mischievous smile.

“Well, well, well. Here to take my baby brother out on your first date, huh? Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the whole big brother lecture.” He snapped a picture of Dean, momentarily blinding him with the flash.

“Uh—thanks?” Dean rubbed at his eyes with some pressure, attempting to calm the spots that were swirling before him. When he could see again, he raised a brow as he took in the man’s appearance. His hair was combed back neatly, and he was wearing a burgundy button down with intricately embroidered details on the cuffs and collar. “Looks like Cas and me aren’t the only ones heading out tonight.”

“Au contraire, Dean-o, I will be staying in tonight.” He held up the camera he’d been holding out of Dean’s sight and winked. “Not alone, of course.” He lowered his voice dramatically, winking as he said, “Boudoir shoot with a hot nurse, if you know what I mean.”

Dean laughed and turned leave, but Gabriel’s hand grabbed loosely at his arm before he got too far. “Hey, Dean?”

“Yeah?”

For the first time since Dean met the man, there was no humor in his eyes. “Don’t hurt him. Please. He kinda told me about—,” he gestured vaguely at Dean,” so if you’re not gonna follow through—just don’t lead him on, ’kay?" The look on his face expressed a real concern for his younger brother, and Dean could relate. He gave him a kind smile.

“Look, this whole thing—dating guys, coming out, being out—it’s, uh, new to me, y’know? I might not really know what I’m doing here, but what I can tell you for certain, is that hurting Cas is the last thing I’d ever want to do. He, uh—he’s kinda the reason I’m seeing things clearly for the first time in a long time.”

Gabriel let Dean’s response sink in and he nodded. “Have a good date, Dean-o.”

“Yeah, have fun with your nurse.” Gabriel grinned again and slipped back into his apartment as Dean finally knocked on Castiel’s door.

The moment the door swung open, Dean forgot how to breathe.

“Hello, Dean.” Castiel’s dark hair was an artful mess and his usual scruff was shaved smooth. He was pulling that slim fitting leather jacket that Dean liked over a sleek subtly-patterned black button-down with the most perfectly-fitting pair of jeans Dean had ever seen. He couldn’t help the way his eyes scanned his date from head to toe.

“Wow,” Dean whispered to himself as he finally exhaled. Castiel smiled shyly, and holy shit, he was even more beautiful. “Hey, Cas.” He paused, closing his eyes for a moment to pull himself together. “You—you look—you—wow.” They stood, smiling awkwardly for a moment in the doorway.

“So, I guess we should—” Castiel gestured toward the hallway.

“Yeah, yeah. Let’s, uh—let’s get going, huh?” Dean stepped aside and waited for Castiel to lock his apartment door. They walked in a nervous silence toward the stairs, throwing occasional glances back and forth as their hands brushed against one another. The pair made it to the top of the stairs when they ran into a familiar petite woman in a long red coat with dark wavy hair.

Shit,” she groaned.

Castiel looked at her with confusion, while Dean broke into a fit of giggles. When he finally caught on to what Dean found so funny, Castiel prodded his date in the ribs with his elbow. Dean made an attempt to stifle his laughter.

“So, you’re the hot nurse Gabe’s having a ‘night in’ with tonight, huh?” he teased, throwing his arm around Castiel’s shoulders.

Meg rolled her eyes, ignoring him altogether and addressing Castiel instead. “Clarence. What are you two doing here? Shouldn’t you be sipping margaritas and singing showtune karaoke somewhere?”

“I guess my brother didn’t tell you that he lives next door to me,” he explained. Dean touched his forehead to Castiel’s shoulder, trying to hide his face as he attempted to contain a new wave of giggles. “And we were actually just heading out,” he added, placing his palm on Dean’s back and steering him toward the stairs as Meg let out a noise that sounded like a growl and moved on down the hallway.

“Come on, hot-stuff, those margaritas are calling our names,” Dean said loudly so that it would echo up the stairs.

***

Castiel chuckled when they reached the empty lobby, stopping to turn toward Dean with amusement.

“Hot-stuff, huh?” He grinned flirtatiously.

“Yeah, well…” Dean rubbed the back of his neck, flustered. “I mean, have you seen you?”

Castiel laughed, moving close to whisper into Dean’s ear, his lips nearly touching the lobe. “You’re not so bad yourself, cowboy.” He could feel the shiver that ran down Dean’s body, and he smirked with pride.

Dean let out a slow breath, casting a playful glare Castiel’s way. “Keep that up and we’re not gonna make it past the lobby.”

As tempting as that sounded, Castiel behaved himself long enough for the pair to make it to the parking lot. Once they were both seated in the Impala, Dean started the engine and they headed off to his favorite hole-in-the-wall diner. He’d promised Castiel that if he’d liked Dean’s cooking, he’d love this place.

There, they sat in a cozy curved booth. Castiel worried that Dean would shy away from touching in public, so when they first sat down, he made sure to leave a gap between them. However, the space quickly grew smaller and smaller until they were shoulder-to-shoulder and knee-to-knee. Dean suggested some of his favorite entrees and they ordered a variety of dishes to share between them. Castiel found Dean’s enthusiasm for food endearing and was surprised when he even reached over to feed him a bite of brownie à la mode from his own fork.

“You know, at this rate I’m never going to be able to eat good food again without thinking of you,” he said as they finished off their dessert.

“Well, mission accomplished,” he responded with a wink and a smirk, bumping him with his shoulder.

They left the diner hand in hand, opting to leave the Impala parked in the public lot and walking the two blocks over to The Roadhouse. It was a beautifully crisp, early December night. Some of the storefronts had twinkling lights strung around the windows and the town had hung large red bows on the all the lampposts. When a cold breeze blew, Dean squeezed Castiel’s hand and moved a little closer, seeking his warmth.

They reached the edge of the parking lot that led to the bar’s entrance, but Dean stopped walking, staring at the green door thoughtfully.

“Dean?” There was a swirl of doubt building in Castiel—a worry that Dean may be having second thoughts about the two of them entering the Roadhouse together. The Roadhouse—a place where Dean and the people he cares most about gather. Maybe this was too much. “Is everything okay?”

Dean turned to face him, green eyes locked on blue. “Yeah, I—I just—look, before we go in there, I just wanted to—” Dean closed his eyes tightly, trying to gather his thought and Castiel’s head dropped sadly.

Castiel wasn’t sure how it happened, but in the next moment, Dean’s hands were cradling his face and his lips were pressed firmly on Castiel’s own. Once he recognized that this bliss was Dean kissing him, he relaxed into it, wrapping his arms around the man, effectively slowing the pace. He parted his lips, welcoming his tongue, relishing the feeling of his fingers stroking the sides of his face. When Dean pulled away, both their faces flushed, Castiel wished that he could kiss this man forever.

“I, uh, just wanted to kiss you before we went in,” Dean said, voice low as he gestured at the bar.

Castiel stood wordless, staring into that beautiful face, glad to have been so wrong.

***

Is this what a heart attack feels like? I mean, it kinda feels like I could drop dead at any moment, but on the other hand, that was fuckin’ awesome.

Dean’s heart was racing. It wasn’t his first kiss; hell, he’d kissed plenty of girls. And yeah, it was his first kiss with a man, but that wasn’t why his heart felt like it was humming like the wings of a hummingbird. It was because this kiss, the kiss between himself and Castiel Novak, the kiss in the parking lot where they’d first laid eyes on one another, the kiss on this cold December night, was the best kiss he’d ever had.

He realized that they were still staring, so he reached for Castiel’s hand once more. The movement seemed to draw him out of wherever his thoughts had carried him off to as well. They made their way inside, both wearing shy smiles. Jo was behind the bar, and she waved them over when she saw the pair enter.

“Lookin’ good, boys!”

The pair sat side-by-side, close enough that their knees touched. It seemed that since they’d first made contact tonight, neither was willing to be without it for long. “Hey, Jo, how’s it going? How’s Charlie?” Dean gave her a look that begged her to be cool.

“Um, things are… really good, actually,” she said, almost sheepishly, a blush creeping into her cheeks. “Charlie’s great. Really great.” Dean held up his hands to stop her.

“STOP! Stop right there! I don’t wanna know!”

Castiel laughed at Dean’s outburst, leaning into his shoulder as he did. Jo covered her face with both hands in embarrassment, but quickly shifted gears. “So, you guys are looking awfully cute and cuddly. How’s the first date going?” She leaned forward on her elbows, resting her chin in her hands.

Castiel looked to Dean, curiosity in his eyes.

“Awesome,” Dean answered confidently, and Castiel smiled in agreement.

“Awww, I ship you guys,” Jo said sweetly.

Castiel tilted his head slightly in confusion, and it was the most adorable thing Dean had ever seen. “Ship us? I don’t understand.”

“It means she’s definitely been spending a lot of time with Charlie,” Dean responded as he stood, taking Castiel by the hand. “C’mon, we should go find a table. It’s getting pretty crowded and Jo’s neglecting her patrons.”

Sure enough, there were a handful of people with cash in hand waiting impatiently along the bar, throwing frequent looks their way. Jo shrugged, passed them each a beer, and said, “On the house. Call it a first date discount.”

“We should have more first dates,” Dean said to Castiel who grinned.

“Yeah, we definitely should.”

*

When the Impala pulled into the guest spot beside Castiel’s building, neither man moved to exit. Dean certainly wasn’t ready to say goodbye, even if it was just for the night. His skin itched in need of the closeness, but this was still so new to him. The thought of getting closer had definitely crossed his mind, but he had come to the conclusion that he just wasn’t ready for that yet.

But it didn’t mean that he was ready to say goodnight.

“So, uh… can I walk you up?” He cringed inwardly. How lame was that, Winchester??

“Of course, Dean,” Castiel answered with a smile. Dean exhaled in relief as they both opened their doors.

They made it to the third floor, a quiet tension building between them, but halfway down the hallway they both stopped walking. There was a repetitive sound—bang, bangbang, bang—coming from somewhere between the doors that opened to Gabriel’s and Castiel’s apartments.

“Oh my God,” Castiel said, putting a hand over his eyes.

Dean didn’t understand. What could possibly—oh. “You don’t think—you think?” He held in a laugh.

“Oh, I think, alright. Meg and Gabriel.” He cringed, and Dean doubled over with laughter.

“Jeez, it’s gonna be a long night.”

“He did warn me earlier that we should go back to your place—” Castiel mused, catching himself too late and fumbling to recover. “I mean, not that I expected—he was just kidding around—”

“We could go back to my place,” Dean blurted with a slight shrug. Castiel just stared for a moment and Dean worried that he had overstepped. “I mean, if you want to, y’know, hang out for a while.”

Without answering, Castiel stepped closer and wrapped his hands around Dean’s waist. He pulled him closer and kissed him, and Dean felt like he was vibrating with electricity. The kiss was slow and hot, and his hands found themselves on Castiel’s chest, fingertips brushing along his collarbone. Their bodies pressed against one another, and Dean relished every point of contact. Castiel’s hands felt strong on Dean’s back; his chest was firm and solid, broader than Dean—such a different feeling from the fragility of a woman; his lips were soft, eager and welcoming, pressing against Dean’s own as though they were made to fit together. He could feel Castiel’s body responding just as his own did, and the hardness of growing erections brushing together in their jeans.

Castiel had evidently felt the mounting pressure as well, stepping back and leaving Dean breathless as he stared with lust-blown pupils. “—Or we could just stay here.”

Chapter Text

Castiel fumbled with his keys. He could feel Dean’s eyes burning into his back as the key finally turned in the lock. When the door swung open, Dean took him by surprise, grabbing his wrist, spinning him around. The two stumbled over the threshold in a flurry of heated kisses.

The keys were dropped on the small table near the entrance, although from the sound of it, they’d slid onto the floor, and the door was kicked closed. They dropped their jackets on a chair, each too occupied with the other to be bothered with hanging them. They somehow managed to find the couch, both kicking off their shoes along the way. Castiel sank down on the center cushion as Dean climbed onto his lap, straddling muscular thighs and trailing warm, wet kisses down his neck.

Castiel knew he had to pump the brakes before they got carried away, though getting carried away was exactly what he wanted right now. He tried to ignore the little bites currently being left along his neck and shoulder, and instead reminded himself of the weight in this moment for the man in his arms. The idea of becoming a heat-of-the-moment regret for Dean was enough for Castiel to reign it in.

“Dean. Dean—”

“Mmmh,” Dean murmured, sucking lightly at a spot behind his ear. Castiel began tilting his head to allow access, before steeling himself to pull away.

“Dean,” he said a bit more firmly, though Dean continued to nuzzle at his ear, “Dean, we—ahh—should we slow down? We don’t need to—I don’t want you to—”

Dean sat up to face him. They locked eyes and he leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together. “Cas,” he breathed, “I—I don’t really know where this is going, but, uh… I just—I don’t want to stop yet. I mean, it’s cool if you don’t want to—”

Castiel quickly shook his head, wrapping his arms around Dean. “No, no, that’s not—I just wanted—I want to make sure this is what you want.”

“I mean, I don’t think I’m ready for—y’know, everything—but,” he placed a long, warm kiss on one side of Castiel’s jaw, “if this is okay with you—,” he placed another kiss on the opposite side, “I’d, uh, like to keep going for now.”

Castiel took a deep slow breath, running his hands gently around Dean’s waist, lowering his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was nearly a whisper. “Promise me you won’t regret this later. Promise you won’t regret me.”

“Cas, look at me.” He waited until their eyes met. “I promise.”

***

As soon as the words left Dean’s lips, he found himself being lifted by Castiel's strong hands, gripping tight at the back of his thighs.

Holy shit, yes! he thought as his eyes widened as he wrapped his legs tightly around Castiel’s hips, hands clinging to his sturdy shoulders. Dean had never been handled this way—had never felt the strong hands of a man hold him, but fuck, he liked it. He melted into the hard, strong body against him, kissing him greedily.

Castiel carefully walked a few paces never losing contact with Dean’s lips. They continued through a door just off the kitchen and into a bedroom where Dean was suddenly dropped onto a bed.

Fuck, Cas,” Dean said breathily from his back, “Get over here.”

He grabbed the man’s hands, pulling him down to the bed. Castiel crawled over him, straddling his hips, up on his hands and knees and only barely touching him. Dean ached for more contact. His hands found smooth skin under the back of Castiel’s shirt and he let out a hum when their lips finally found one another again.

More, Dean thought greedily. He blindly felt for the buttons of Castiel’s shirt, becoming frustrated when he made no progress in getting them undone.

“Goddammit Cas, is this shirt welded on?!” Castiel shook with laughter before straightening himself upright on his knees, still straddling over Dean’s hips. Dean pulled his own shirt off over his head in one quick motion so that he could appreciate the sight of Castiel above him, slowly removing his shirt to reveal toned, tanned skin. Castiel looked hungrily at Dean who gasped slightly, suddenly unable to resist the urge to touch. He ran his thumbs over prominent hip bones.

“I can’t wait to get my mouth on those,” he whispered, surprising even himself.

When that torturous shirt finally fell to the bed, Dean sat up from between Castiel’s knees to mouth at his stomach and chest. He felt gentle hands cradling his neck and fingers finding their way into his short hair, sending little sparks of electricity down his spine.

He roughly pushed Castiel backward to lie flat on the bed, crawling over top of him. The smirk he received in response was enough motivation to finally bend his head down to suck and nibble at those hipbones he craved, leaving little marks along the way. His hands found their way to Castiel’s thighs, carefully avoiding his erection for now, though Dean’s curiosity was getting the better of him. He kissed just below Castiel’s navel, trailing a path down to his waistband.

***

Castiel swallowed hard as he allowed Dean to explore. The man had a way of moving his lips across his skin that absolutely destroyed him. And the sinful little hums and moans had Castiel throbbing in his jeans. When Dean paused at the button on his waistband, looking up with questioning green eyes, and a low “Can I—?” Castiel could do little more than nod.

Dean made quick work of the button and zipper, tugging the pants down and off before tossing them on the floor beside the bed. He palmed the front of Castiel’s black boxers, slowly exploring, tracing the outline of his erection with his fingertips. The touch sent shockwaves through Castiel. He pulled Dean up beside him, kissing him deeply as his hands continued to gently explore the shape of Castiel’s body.

Castiel’s own hands roamed over Dean’s body, feeling the movements of the lean muscles in his back and shoulders, tracing his hands around narrow-framed hips, dipping his fingertips just under the waistband of his jeans.

Using one hand while the other continued its trek up and down Castiel’s clothed shaft, Dean tugged at the button of his own jeans. Taking the hint, Castiel hastily unfastened them, sliding them down until Dean was able to kick them off. Castiel slipped his fingers under the waistband of Dean’s boxers, hesitating before pulling back from the freckled shoulder he was kissing to look for Dean’s reaction.

Yes, Cas,” he hissed in Castiel’s ear, “Please.”

Castiel didn’t need to be told twice. He shifted his position, sliding his hands over the perfect curve of Dean’s ass, up to the waistband of his boxers before sliding them downward. Dean kicked them away as he worked Castiel’s boxers off as well.

Dean sat up, admiring the naked body laid out beneath him. A sound of wanting escaped Castiel as he took in the vision of the man above him, becoming absorbed in the hungry look behind those green eyes. Dean crawled back up to kiss him deeply. The weight of his body rested on top of Castiel and he wrapped his arms around him. When their erections lined up, brushing together, the sensation sent a shiver through them both. Castiel placed his hands on Dean’s hips, guiding him as they moved together.

Dean,” Castiel exhaled the name, the only word that he could form in his current bliss. “Dean…”

“I love the way you same my name, sunshine,” he huffed through heavy breaths.

Castiel reached blindly for the nightstand, producing a small bottle. After a click!, his slick hand found its way between them. Dean sat up on Castiel’s thighs, allowing him to take them both in hand. They moved together, heavy breathing and quiet moans filling the room. Their eyes locked, and Castiel could feel them both getting closer to the edge.

“Cas... Mmmh, God, Cas, you’re amazing…,” Dean groaned. He closed his eyes and bit his lower lip, and that was the image that pushed Castiel over the edge. He pumped them both a little harder and Dean came right behind him. When his body buckled, he found Castiel’s lips, first hard and passionate, but slowing to soft and gentle as their bodies came to rest.

Dean rolled languidly off top of Castiel, staring at him with stars in his eyes. Once Castiel caught his own breath and regained movement of his limbs, he retrieved a damp towel from the bathroom, first cleaning himself up and then perching on the edge of the bed to carefully clean the sticky mess from Dean’s stomach. Dean still hadn’t said a word but was now staring dazedly at the ceiling.

“Dean? Are you—is everything okay?” Castiel asked nervously.

Finally coming to, Dean turned to Castiel with the slightest smile. He pulled him down for a kiss. “I’m good, Cas. Really good. And that was awesome. But you, Cas—you’re perfection.” He smiled fondly. “Now, get in this bed.”

Castiel laughed, dropping the towel on the floor before slipping between the sheets. Dean wrapped him up in his arms, nuzzling his nose into Castiel’s hair.

“You’re a cuddler,” he said with a smirk.

“Shut up, you like it.” Castiel could hear Dean’s smile.

Castiel just smiled as he laid his head on Dean’s chest.

***

The sun streaming in between the open curtains lit the room. Dean hadn’t really bothered to look around last night, but now, as he lay in bed enjoying the pleasant warmth that was Castiel curled up beside him, his eyes surveyed the room, taking in little details. It was neat and simple, but it was very Cas. The dark blue curtains matched the blankets on the masculine metal-framed bed. There were framed pictures arranged on top of a low black bookshelf. The books here looked well-worn and Dean figured they were probably Cas’s favorites. Beside the bookshelf sat a tidy wicker hamper and a pair of athletic shoes that Dean had seen Castiel wear to work. And in the corner, the door to the bathroom stood open. He made an attempt to dislodge himself from the tangle of arms and legs, but the movement caused Castiel to stir and cling to him tightly.

“Stay,” he whined as he buried his head into Dean’s neck.

Dean answered with a chuckle, “Cas, if I stay I’m gonna pee in your bed.”

There was a short pause. “Just keep it on your side,” he mumbled.

With another laugh, Dean pecked a kiss on Castiel’s forehead and managed to slip free from his grasp. Cas let his head drop on the pillow and covered his head with the blanket. “There’s extra toothbrushes in the cabinet,” mumbled the lump.

Dean gathered the clothes that were still scattered around the room. He dropped Castiel’s clothes and the towel into the hamper and slipped into his own boxers and shirt. He stepped into the bathroom, closing the door halfway to relieve himself, then opening the cabinet while he washed his hands. Sure enough, there were several unopened toothbrushes lined up in a box off to one side. Looking at the stash, Dean wondered how many times Castiel had supplied toothbrushes after impromptu sleepovers. He tried to shake the thought from his head, deciding that he shouldn’t ask questions that he didn’t want the answers to, but it nagged in the back of his mind as he squeezed toothpaste onto a new green toothbrush.

He stepped out and leaned on the doorframe, toothbrush in hand. “Hey, Cas. You, uh—you always keep extra toothbrushes handy?” His attempt at keeping casual was thinly veiled, but luckily Cas was still half asleep and didn’t notice.

“For guests,” he responded, voice muffled by the blanket.

“Guests, huh?” Dean stuck the toothbrush in his mouth, brushing as he speculated.

A mess of hair and squinted eyes, one possibly still closed, poked out from under the covers, peering at Dean. “My dad, usually. He always forgets to pack one. And sometimes Gabriel steals them. I don’t know why. I don’t ask. I don’t—I haven’t had any overnight guests here in,” he paused, thinking, “a long time.”

Dean gave a slight nod as he processed that statement and ducked back into the bathroom, with the excuse of rinsing his mouth at the sink. But when he looked in the mirror, there was a definite little smile across his lips. He left the toothbrush on the edge of the sink, and headed back to the bed. He crawled across the bed planting a minty kiss on Castiel’s lips.

“Me, either,” Dean said quietly. When Castiel’s brows furrowed in confusion, he explained, “I mean, I, uh—haven’t had any overnight guests in a long while either.” He rubbed the back of his neck.

He looked thoughtfully at the man, still hiding from the day in his cocoon of blankets. He was not kidding when he said he’s not a morning person, Dean thought. He looked like he could use at least another hour or two of sleep.

“Tell you what, sunshine,” he said as he stood up and tucked Castiel back into bed, “you stay here, get some rest, do your grouchy-grouch thing. I’m gonna go home and shower and I’ve gotta go help Sam with Bobby’s old truck today anyway. Once you’re up and at’em, just give me a shout, ‘kay?” When Castiel nodded, he leaned down for a quick kiss before slipping into his jeans and heading out of the bedroom.

He chuckled as he assessed the mess they’d made. Castiel’s keys were on the floor beside the entrance table and their jackets crumpled into a heap on a chair. He found their shoes strewn across the living room floor. Once he’d taken care of the mess, he programmed the coffeemaker to start a pot of coffee for Cas to wake up to, and finally slipped out the front door.

When he turned toward the direction of the stairs, he realized he wasn’t alone in the hallway. He averted his eyes when he spotted Gabriel and Meg kissing in the doorway of Apartment 3B, but it was too late.

“Oh-ho, Dean-o! I guess the date went well!” Gabriel beamed as he stood proudly in a silk robe.

“I guess I could say the same for you,” Dean grinned, though his face was surely turning red. Meg looked affronted, but didn’t dare reply. Instead, she shifted her coat and lightly pushed away from Gabriel, making her exit.

Gabriel disappeared back inside with a smirk as Dean caught up to Meg. Neither acknowledged the other, but they walked silently down the stairs together. They continued through the lobby and out the front door side-by-side before Dean finally broke the silence.

“Need a ride?” Meg stared. “C’mon, we’re both doing the walk of shame here, I’m just trying to be nice.”

She rolled her eyes, but changed direction to follow Dean into the parking lot. They stayed quiet for much of the drive, with the exception of Meg’s directions. Once they’d turned into her neighborhood she let a little smirk flit across her face.

“So… you and Clarence.”

Dean smirked right back at her. “And you and Gabe? Hey, you never know, we might be in-laws someday.”

She narrowed her eyes dangerously, but Dean saw the faintest bit of humor in them as they arrived in front of her house. “Thanks for the ride, Winchester.”

*

Dean grinned as soon as he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket as he made his way out of his front door and down the steel steps. He pulled out his phone and unlocked the screen, and sure enough it was a text from Cas.

Cas (10:07am): You made me coffee.

Dean (10:10am): Next time I’ll make you breakfast. 😉

Cas (10:12am): I think I like you, Dean Winchester.

Dean chuckled, leaning against the hood of the Impala to let the butterflies settle as he typed out his response.

Dean (10:13am): Think I might like you too, sunshine. See you later?

Cas (10:15am): Of course.

He felt silly, like a teenager with his first crush, like he could just giggle at the mere idea of seeing Cas, as though they hadn’t seen each other almost every day for the last week. He rolled his eyes at himself as he pocketed the phone and headed into the garage to gather up his tools before heading over to Sam’s.

When he pulled into the driveway, the hood of the old truck was already up. Dean pulled the Impala in behind Sam’s Charger and climbed out, toolbox in hand just as Sam walked out the front door of the house with the new alternator for the truck.

“Hey,” Sam greeted. “Wasn’t sure if you were gonna make it today or not,” he teased, “you know, since you didn’t go home last night and everything.”

Dean froze. How does Sam know already!? The shock must have shown on his face, and Sam laughed as he explained. “I passed by to borrow a wrench early this morning and you weren’t home. I was just guessing about you staying the night, but the look on your face right now tells me I’m right. So, uh, I’m guessing it went well then?”

There was no sense in hiding it, but Dean was definitely not talking details with his little brother. He shrugged as he set down his tools, pulling a socket wrench out and fitting it to one of the bolts. “I guess you could say that,” he admitted sheepishly. “I ran into Meg leaving Cas’s brother Gabe’s apartment on my way out this morning, too.”

“Wait, what? Meg Masters? Like, Ruby’s sister that went on a date with Cas Meg?”

“That’s the one,” Dean called from under the hood.

Before Sam could respond, a truck pulled into the last available space in the driveway behind Bobby’s old parts truck. Dean and Sam stared as the engine quieted and the driver’s door swung open. A thick tension fell as the driver sidled past the old parts truck, reaching into the cooler tucked behind the cab and popping open a beer.

“Hey, boys.”

Dean exhaled slowly, feeling on edge. Sam shifted on his feet and a muscle in his jaw twitched. “Hey, Dad.”

Chapter Text

John looked over to the shiny new Charger in the driveway. “What’s this?”

Sam exhaled, touching his forehead anxiously. “That’s, uh—that’s mine.” John frowned but had no further interest in the vehicle.

“What’s wrong with the truck? Must be pretty bad if you had to go and get something new.” Sam could hear the condescension in his father’s voice, but he had expected as much.

“The truck’s fine, Dad. It’s just a bad alternator,” Sam answered stiffly. “Gonna replace it and give the truck back to Bobby for the garage, so he can send some of the other guys out on parts runs since I’ve decided to take on a few extra classes.” Dean had ducked his head into the engine bay, keeping himself out of the conversation, but Sam could see the tension in his movements.

He wasn’t sure if his father’s disappointment was directed at his decision about school or about the truck, but John shook his head as he climbed the porch steps and made his way inside the house. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, unclenching his fists where his nails had dug into the heel of his hands.

John’s returns always weighed heavily on the brothers, but this time felt different. Sam had finally made up his mind and decided to take back his life, but why did it feel like he had to betray his father to do it? And Dean—Dean had just stepped onto a brave new path. He didn’t want to see his brother crawl back into the shell he’d been living in for the last two years now that he’d finally found himself. It was all new, but it was already clear to Sam that Cas was good for Dean. Cas made him happy.

While Dean busied himself under the hood of the truck and John had disappeared into the house, Sam slipped away around the side of the house. He sunk onto an old bench under a shady tree and he pulled out his phone to dial for backup.

“Hey, Sam, what’s up?”

“Hey, Charlie,” he greeted, but before he could continue, she cut him off.

“Dude. What’s wrong? Did someone die? Please tell me no one died.”

“What? No. Calm down, geez. It’s just—,” he sighed. “My dad’s back,” he said solemnly. “And he’s being, well, his usual self. Thinks I’m an ungrateful asshole. Dean hasn’t said a word since he got here.”

“Oh no. Are you guys okay? I know you’ve both been, uh, going through some stuff.” Sam appreciated the concern in Charlie’s tone, and he smiled as he thought of how lucky he and Dean were to have her as a friend. Even though she was Dean’s friend first, she’d always been there for both without judgement, a rock for them to lean on.

“I’m good, Charlie. For now, at least. Once I work out all my shit, I’ll deal with him, but for now I’m good. But Dean… I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s ready to deal with this yet.”

“He’s gonna panic and run,” she sighed. “You should’ve seen him freak out about how hard it was gonna be telling you.”

“He freaked out about telling me?” he asked, confused. “Wait, I thought he told me before he went to see you...?”

Charlie laughed. “He did. I guess he just wasn’t expecting it to be so easy, so he figured you must have misunderstood what he said. Poor guy.”

Sam’s lip curled up into a half-smile. “Honestly, I think I knew before he did. Remember Lee Chambers from high school?”

“What?! No way!” She took a moment to process before speaking with amusement. “I never put it together then, but… holy cow, he did have it bad, didn’t he?”

“Dude, he put highlights in his hair,” Sam mused. He paused, considering how much he should divulge next. “His date with Cas, um, went well last night… Charlie, he’s been so happy this week. Happier than I’ve seen him in years.”

“He’s been holding back for a long time. It’s like he’s the old Dean again.”

Sam nodded, then spoke when he remembered Charlie couldn’t see him. “Yeah. Well, now I’m worried he’s gonna let my dad get into his head.”

“You think your dad would have a problem with Dean being bi?”

Sam hesitated. “I don’t know. I mean, he’s a shitty dad, but he’s not a monster. At least not when he’s sober.” He closed his eyes, allowing himself to let his own feelings settle. “But, I mean, we’re all supposed to go to Bobby’s tomorrow night. Including Cas. I think he’s gonna need us.”

“Yeah,” Charlie agreed. “Emergency meeting. Tonight, Dean’s place. 6-ish. I’ll bring Jo, too. Can you make sure he’s there? And don’t let him cancel on Cas today, because if he starts to freak, he’s gonna try. Tell him it’s a game night.”

“Yep, I’ll make sure,” Sam answered confidently. “Thanks, Charlie. You’re the best.”

“Hell yeah, I am. Later, Sam.”

Sam let out a sigh of relief as he made his way back around to the driveway. Dean was dropping his tools back into the box and wiping his hands on a rag.

“Start her up, Sammy,” he said, reaching up to close the hood.

Sam climbed into the driver’s seat and turned the key. The engine roared to life and Sam leaned back against the worn seatback, taking in the interior of the old truck. The bench seat had a few rips and the dashboard was cracked. There were tools strewn across the passenger floorboard. As ready as he was to be rid of the thing, as much pain and toxicity as he’d attached to it, he’d still probably miss it.

Missing the good times isn’t a good enough reason to keep it around, he reminded himself as he killed the engine. Time to move on. He glanced in the rearview mirror at John’s truck parked behind him. He’d have to wait until John moved it before he could back out of the driveway. He planned drive it back to Bobby’s tomorrow night and catch a ride home with Dean after dinner, and the thought led his attention back to Dean who was now loading his toolbox into the Impala’s trunk.

“So… you, uh, meeting up with Cas later?” he asked as he exited the cab, trying to remain casual.

Dean straightened as he slammed the trunk closed. “I, uh—we didn’t make any plans or anything, but—I dunno.” His hand rubbed the back of his neck. It had been a nervous tell of Dean’s since he was a kid, but Sam didn’t need the tell to know that there was an internal struggle going on in his brother’s head.

“Well, you and Cas obviously enjoy spending time together, so we want to get to know him better, too… and Charlie has declared it game night—” Sam smirked as Dean groaned, but even though he was looking at the ground, Sam could see his brother’s smile. “—and you’re hosting.”

Dean’s head snapped up. “Wait, what?! How did that happen? And why am I the last to know?”

Sam laughed and shrugged animatedly. “She probably just wants details about your date. You gonna tell her you spent the night?”

Dean’s face drained of color as his eyes drifted just over Sam’s shoulder.

No. No! Fuck! No no no, please, no!

He turned, following Dean’s eyes, and his heart dropped. Sure enough, their father was standing just behind the screen door, keys in hand. How long had he been listening??

***

Dean stood frozen beside the Impala. Sam’s hair flew up as he spun quickly back to face him, searching for words that never made it past his lips. Dean wouldn’t have heard the words anyway. His ears were currently filled with a deafening whoosh. John, however, had made his way out of the house and down the porch steps. He passed Sam without acknowledging him, his eyes trained on Dean.

He moved down the driveway between the vehicles, turning his attention to his truck. He opened the door and climbed in, starting the engine and shutting the door without saying a word. When his truck backed out and sped off down the road, the noise in Dean’s ears began to fade.

“Dean, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean—I didn’t know—Dean, please, I’m sorry,” Sam pleaded.

Dean held his hands up to stop him. “It’s fine, Sam.”

“But Dean—”

“I said it’s fine!” Dean bellowed, his brows pinched in anger, though he wasn’t sure exactly who or what he was angry about. He slid into the Impala, turned the key in the ignition, and made his own way out of the driveway, Sam frozen in place.

“It’s fine,” he repeated to himself as he headed home. “Just fine. Fine, fine, fucking fine.”

He stomped the gas pedal, wanting nothing more than to get out of this car and lock himself inside his home and hide from the world for a while. It only took a few minutes before the Impala was kicking up the gravel of his driveway and he was hurrying up the steel stairs.

He needed to think, but he just couldn’t. His mind was somehow spinning out of control and completely blank all at once. His body ached with tension. He slouched onto the plush leather couch that he loved, pulling a blanket over his face. He could feel his phone vibrating in his pocket, surely Sam calling to check on him, but he ignored it. He just needed to think. Everything would be fine. I need to think! Why can’t I think!?

He wasn’t sure how long he laid on the couch pressing stars into his eyelids before a sound outside caught his attention. A motorcycle? He jumped to his feet and peered out the window that overlooked the driveway. Beside the Impala was a sleek gray Harley—Castiel’s. He wiped his hands over his face and moved to the front door, pulling it open just as Castiel made it to the top of the stairs. There was a knowing look on Castiel’s face, and Dean knew instantly that Sam had somehow gotten in touch with him.

“Dean—” He didn’t make it any further, as Dean abruptly wrapped his arms around Castiel’s waist, burying his face in the man’s chest. Seeing a worried Castiel at his door had kickstarted his brain, and he was suddenly flooded with something that felt very much like grief.

Castiel wrapped his arms around Dean’s back and guided him back inside, leading him to the couch. He pulled the blanket over the both of them and they sat quietly wrapped up in one another’s arms for a long while.  It was Castiel that finally broke the silence.

“Sam told me what happened. He’s very worried that you hate him.” Dean scowled, but Castiel shook his head, speaking calmly. “You don’t hate him, Dean.”

Dean took in a deep breath. Castiel was right. He didn’t hate Sam; he kinda wanted to right about now, but he knew he could never hate him. In fact, he knew that Sam wasn’t the problem at all. He felt so many things that it was overwhelming, but there was only love for his little brother. The image of Sam’s pleading face was painful, and he knew that he had to make it right.

“I—I’ll talk to him,” he said. His voice was scratchy after his silence and he wondered what time it was. He finally pulled his phone from his pocket, noticing a long list of missed calls and messages, mostly from Sam.

Sam (3:27pm): Dean, I’m so sorry.

Sam (3:28pm): I didn’t mean to out you, Dean, you know I would never do that to you.

Sam (3:37pm): Please answer your phone, I’ve been trying to call.

Sam (3:40pm): Just let me know you’re okay. I know you don’t want to see or speak to me, and I won’t bother you anymore, I just need to know you’re okay.

Sam (3:55pm): Please don’t be mad, but I asked Ruby to get Cas’s number from Meg.

Sam (4:10pm): Cas says he can’t get you on the phone so he’s coming over.

A wave of guilt washed over him, and he closed his eyes, leaning his head heavily on Castiel’s shoulder. “I’m a dick.”

Castiel pecked a sweet kiss on Dean’s forehead. “Yeah, you really are. Now go call your brother.” Dean managed a chuckle and lightly shoved Castiel as he got to his feet and dialed Sam’s number. The phone had barely begun to ring before Sam picked up.

“Dean?”

“Yeah. Hey, Sammy.”

“Dean, I am so—” Sam began, but Dean cut him off.

“Sam—Sam, it’s okay. Really, it’s fine. I know you didn’t mean to—I know you didn’t know he was there. I’m fine now, I just—just needed a minute to clear my head, y’know? I’m—we’re good. I promise. I mean, I was gonna tell him sooner or later anyway. I don’t know how much he heard, but, uh, I think he got the gist.” He took another deep breath and looked toward Castiel who was flipping through the channels on the television, still wrapped in the blanket. “And, uh—thanks, by the way.”

“Wait, what—thanks?”

“Yeah, Sammy, thanks. For, uh, caring enough to—to get in touch with Ruby.” He knew his brother would understand what he was really trying to say: Thank you for sending Cas.

“Oh. Yeah, I just figured—I figured you might need someone right now.”

Dean sniffled. “Yeah, well… you were right.” A flicker of a smile found his lips.

“Good. Well, I, uh… I guess I’ll see you in a little while for game night, then.”

Dean groaned. “Ugh, I forgot about game night.” He could hear Sam laughing on the other end of the line. “What time is Charlie gonna be invading my place?”

“I’d say in about an hour, so, uh... you guys make sure to wrap things up before we get there, ‘kay?”

“Shut up, Sammy,” he bit back, though a hint of a laugh escaped.

“Jerk.”

“Bitch.”

“See you in an hour.”

Dean let out an exasperated chuckle as he ended the call and dropped back down on the couch, dramatically dropping his head on Castiel’s shoulder.

“Everything okay?” he asked, resting his cheek on the top of Dean’s head.

“For now,” Dean breathed. “But in an hour, I might change my mind.”

Castiel leaned back to see Dean’s face, eyes narrowed. “What’s happening in an hour?”

Dean sat up and faced him with dread. “Game night.”

***

Castiel quirked a brow, amused. “Game night,” he repeated.

Dean leaned back onto the leather cushions, fixing his eyes on the ceiling. “Maybe I should just cancel…”

Castiel seized the opportunity and swung his leg over Dean’s lap, settling on his thighs. Dean looked surprised for a moment but wrapped his arms around Castiel’s neck pulling him down into a warm, slow kiss. When they finally separated, Castiel straightened to stare into those green eyes—those beautiful green eyes.

“Dean, you are not going to cancel.” He placed a small kiss on Dean’s neck. “You’re not going to sit here and pout and overthink.” Another kiss. “You’re going to have a fun night with your friends playing games, though I assume there’s more to game night than games, based on your fear of it.” Another kiss.

Dean tilted his head to one side with a half-smile, looking up through his lashes at Castiel. “Keep kissing my neck like that and I’m gonna have to cancel for a whole other reason,” he whispered gruffly. Castiel grinned and placed one more kiss.

In the next moment, Castiel found himself with his back to the couch and Dean lying on top of him. They kissed long and deep before Dean rested his head on his chest. They lay silently, not really watching the television, but instead just enjoying the closeness.

 “Maybe it’s better this way,” he said in a low voice, not moving his head from its place on Castiel’s chest.

“What do you mean?” Castiel asked, lightly ruffling the short hair on the back of Dean’s head. There was a long pause where he could feel Dean holding his breath.

“I mean, telling him was gonna be—it’s a suicide mission. It was never gonna go well. Maybe like this… maybe I can avoid the worst of it.”

Castiel could hear the weak hope in Dean’s voice. “I hope you’re right, Dean. But even if you’re not, we’ll get through it.”

Dean picked up his head to look him in the face. “We?”

With a roll of his eyes and a smile, Castiel sat up, pulling Dean up along with him. “Yes, Dean, ‘we.’ You won’t have to do this alone, you know.” Dean looked at him fondly, eyes glossy. “Now… I’m going to order some pizzas. You’re going to make sure there’s enough beer. And we are going to be ready to host game night.”

***

A light rain had begun to fall when Jo pulled her silver Honda into the gravel driveway. Charlie was initially surprised to find that there were no other vehicles around, but then, it was quite possible that Dean had parked Baby inside and out of the rain.

“Is he even home?” Jo asked as she shifted her car into park at the bottom of the stairs.

Charlie pointed up to the windows, warmly lit against the dreary evening. “Lights are on. And Sam said he’d be here.”

Jo shrugged and killed the engine. They gathered their bags and headed up the stairs to the dry alcove and knocked on the door. To their surprise, it was Castiel that opened the door.

“Oh! Hey!” Charlie grinned as he stepped aside to let them in from the rain. She looked around, as she hauled her bags onto the kitchen island beside a stack of pizza boxes. It appeared that Castiel was there alone. “I didn’t see any cars in the driveway, wasn’t sure anyone was here. Where’s Dean?”

“Beer run,” he answered simply. “He moved my bike inside when it started raining, and I stayed here to accept the pizza and to let you guys in. He should be back soon.”

A smirk slid across Jo’s face. “Isn’t that cute, babe? They’re so domesticated already.”

Castiel rolled his eyes, but Charlie saw a shy smile. She carried one of her bags over to the tv and began unpacking a tangle of wires. “So, how’s he doing with John being back?” she asked. “I heard they hadn’t talked much yet.”

Castiel nodded, but the look on his face showed worry. He sighed. “He’s upset about how it all happened, but he’s holding it together.”

Charlie stopped untangling the nest of wires in her hands to look up with confusion. “How what happened?”

Castiel’s brows raised in shock. “Oh, you don’t—you don’t know yet,” he said, eyes wide.

Jo’s expression turned stony as she stepped a little closer. “Know what yet?”

Castiel hesitated, but a voice came from the front door before he could respond.

“That Sammy accidentally outed me,” Dean said, entering with Sam following sheepishly behind, pulling off a damp jacket.

“No!” Charlie groaned lowly, covering half her face with her hands. Dean moved toward the refrigerator to put away the newly acquired 12-packs, except for one bottle, not making eye contact with anyone until he opened it and took a long swig.

“It was an accident,” Sam explained apologetically. “We were just talking, and I asked Dean about—I mean, I mentioned Dean and Cas’s date, and—” He deflated. “I messed up. I’m so sorry, Dean. And Cas, too. I didn’t mean to throw a wrench in the gears.”

Charlie wasn’t sure when Jo had moved to her side, but their hands were clasped tightly together as they listened and watched. Dean and Castiel leaned against the kitchen counters, shoulder to shoulder, leaning into one another as Sam sunk onto one of the round stools, elbows propped on the stainless-steel top and his fingers shoved into his hair.

“Sam, please don’t apologize,” Castiel said kindly. “We’ll get through it. All of us,” he looked toward Charlie and Jo in inclusion, “we’ll be there to support Dean in any way he needs.”

“Of course, we will,” Charlie volunteered, followed by a deep nod from Jo.

Castiel turned his eyes to Dean, and they stood staring for a moment. Charlie sensed that there was a silent conversation happening right before her eyes, and a moment later, Dean reached back into the refrigerator pulling out another bottle. He opened it and set it in front of Sam.

“Sammy, Dad was gonna find out anyway. I’m done hiding. From him, from myself… from everyone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably gonna suck, but, uh,” he turned to Castiel who flashed a smile and gave a slight nod, “we’re gonna get through it. Plus, I have a pretty awesome family to back me up. So, uh, stop beating yourself up.”

Sam looked up hopefully, and Dean clapped a comforting hand on his brother’s shoulder.

Charlie was drawn out of the conversation as Jo lifted their joined hands to kiss them. Now that all the drama was settled, Charlie grinned, pecked a kiss on Jo’s lips and went back to plugging in wires. Jo ushered the guys to the couch and handed fresh beer bottles to each.

Sam lounged on the leather armchair while Dean sat in his favorite corner of the couch. Castiel settled on a pillow on the floor between Dean’s legs, and Jo took up the opposite end of the couch. Charlie started the game and passed out controllers.

“Okay, bitches. Here are the rules. The game is Drunken Mario Kart. You each have a full beer that you must finish before the end of the race, however,” she narrowed her eyes and wagged her finger, “drinking and driving will not be tolerated! Your kart must be at a complete stop before you touch the bottle. I’ll be the police officer for the first round, and if I catch you drinking and driving, there will be hell to pay!” She raised a bottle and a shot glass.

***

Sam was the first to wake the next morning. He was sprawled out over the armchair, his long legs dangling off one side and his back aching. He scrubbed a hand over his face before pulling himself upright. Charlie and Jo were tangled together on the couch, huddled under a blanket.

He laughed to himself as he looked around the place. The kitchen was a wreck. Dean and Jo had drunkenly decided that they needed dessert after their pizza and had attempted to take a shortcut by making cookies in Dean’s waffle maker. Castiel’s helmet had found its way onto the coffee table. Charlie had worn it, taking her role as police officer quite seriously, though eventually Sam had to take away her shot glass. There was also a trail of clothes leading toward Dean’s bedroom where Sam assumed his brother and Castiel were still asleep.

He fished his phone from between the cushions to check the time. Oh, no. He closed his eyes tightly when he saw it: 1 New Message. Praying that he hadn’t drunk dialed any of the random girls he’d hooked up with in the last few months, he worked up the courage to unlock the screen.

Jess (2:56am): Miss you too, Sam. Let me know how it goes with your dad tomorrow. See you soon.

Chapter Text

Castiel leaned against the kitchen counter, eating one of Dean and Jo’s waffle-cookie concoctions. Sam had fallen asleep half an hour ago with his phone resting on his chest, and Jo and Charlie were slurring drunken whispers to one another beneath the blanket on the couch. Dean set a few empty beer bottles into the sink, laughing to himself as he looked around. Game night always seemed to end this way—drunken bodies sleeping wherever they landed at the end of the night and a mess to clean up the next morning.

He turned to face Castiel who was licking the crumbs from his lips. Dean couldn’t pinpoint what it was about the man that called to him, but just watching him standing here so casually in Dean’s own kitchen made his heart skip a beat. He positioned himself in front of him, placing a hand on each side, pinning him to the counter.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel said, wrapping his arms lightly around Dean’s waist. And damn it, Dean loved the way that voice resonated through his entire body.

“Heya, Cas,” he answered, moving closer, pressing himself against Castiel’s firm body. His eyes roamed his face, from bright blue eyes to soft pink lips. He closed his eyes for a moment to steady himself, still feeling a bit of a buzz. Before he opened his eyes, soft lips met his own. The kiss was sobering, and his body, numb for most of the last few hours, indulged in the sensations that traveled through him.

His hands lifted, finding Castiel’s neck and jaw. The scratch of stubble ignited a new excitement, but it was nothing to the sound of Castiel’s whispered growl in his ear. “Dean…” He felt the electricity in his fingertips and his toes, and the bulge in his jeans suddenly begged for attention.

He couldn’t have stopped the wanting sigh that left him if he’d tried. Castiel’s hands had moved beneath his flannel and under the hem of his t-shirt, and his fingertips felt like feathers moving softly over Dean’s skin. Their slow, deep kisses turned rough and greedy. Dean pulled back slightly, and Castiel’s lips chased his own for a moment, reluctant to separate.

“We—we should—we, uh—,” Dean gestured toward his bedroom. “Let’s—" Castiel nodded.

They didn’t make it more than a couple of steps before they were wrapped up in one another again. They clawed and pulled at shirts, dropping them along the way as they stumbled toward the short hallway just beyond the kitchen.

Dean heard giggles from the direction of the couch but ignored them as they finally made it through his bedroom door, and he kicked it closed behind them. The lamp on his nightstand flooded the bed with a warm light as the pair made their way toward it, shedding the rest of their clothes as they went.

Dean didn’t know if it was the buzz or if he just felt happy for a change, but there was no hesitation tonight. He needed Cas—needed the closeness and the contact. He kissed Castiel’s shoulders while his thumbs traced the shape of those prominent hipbones. He guided them backwards toward the bed until they collapsed onto it. Dean pushed Castiel onto his back and slid his hands down the man’s smooth naked body to take hold of his erection.

He stroked loosely, drawing throaty groans from Castiel that only amped up Dean’s arousal. He kissed and nibbled his way down the man’s torso, taking his time at the nipples and leaving a pair of small hickeys on his collarbone, before he lifted himself on his arms to see those astonishing blue eyes again. He gave a little smirk and a wink before leaning back down and taking Castiel’s cock into his mouth.

He let out a surprised gasp and Dean could feel him squirm beneath him for a moment. Castiel had propped himself up on his elbows, watching with hooded eyes as Dean’s tongue slid slowly up and down his shaft. Dean was thoroughly enjoying the sight of Castiel’s parted lips and darkened eyes and enjoying the feeling of his breathing changing from heavy sighs and little gasps to not breathing at all when Dean traced circular patterns around the tip with his tongue.

This is… easy, Dean thought. After all, he had experience on the receiving end of a good blowjob, and he knew what he liked. And if this was all it took to make Cas look at him that way, it was more than worth it. He thought he’d have more qualms about going down on a man, but, then again, he had no idea how much he was going to enjoy having Castiel in his bed.

***

“Dean,” Castiel breathed, watching the man working his sinful lips over his cock. “Dean—mmnh…”

He could feel Dean smile before he pulled himself upright once again. “You like that, sunshine?”

Castiel groaned his approval before pulling Dean up to kiss his lips. He could taste the saltiness of precum on Dean’s tongue, only feeding his own craving to taste Dean. He gripped him by the shoulder and rolled them over together. Wasting no time, he trailed kisses and licks down Dean’s chest and stomach until he found what he wanted, but once there, he took it slowly, taking his time to slowly wrap his lips around the swollen head. The resulting low moan and the fingers in his hair encouraged him on. He slid Dean’s knees over his shoulder, freeing his hands to follow the perfect curve of the man’s ass and lower back.

A slight movement, an adjustment of his hips, and another of those low moans welcomed Castiel’s fingers to explore more. As his mouth continued to work over Dean’s shaft, alternating teasing licks and firm suction, he held himself up with his left hand while his right ran lightly over Dean’s sack, his thumb rubbing circles over his perineum. After another eager adjustment of hips, Castiel slowly sat up, leaving Dean’s cock to bob freely. He looked up to find wide green eyes.

“It—it’s okay. I’ve, uh, done this part before,” he said shyly. Dean reached behind the solid wooden headboard and offered a small bottle of lube that he’d apparently stashed on the windowsill behind it. Castiel displayed a sexy smirk as he accepted, quickly slicking up his fingers.

With a generous bead of liquid on his fingertips, he just brushed a finger across Dean’s hole, leaving a glistening wet path. He offered no pressure yet, instead waiting to see Dean’s response to the sensation. The man exhaled deeply, moving ever so slightly toward Castiel’s fingers. He touched again, rubbing small circles over his entrance, each with a little more pressure. The heat of arousal radiated between them. Castiel used his free hand to guide Dean’s length back into his mouth at the same moment that his fingertip sunk into him.

Casss,” Dean hissed as his hands found their way back into Castiel’s unruly hair. He allowed the muscles time to relax as he licked another stripe up the underside of Dean’s shaft. The loosening grip on his hair was the indicator that he was ready for more. Castiel pulled his fingertip back to the entrance before plunging it a little deeper. Gradually, he worked Dean open and inserted a second finger. He made up for each push with a tight suck until he couldn’t go any further. He sat up to see Dean’s face and was rewarded with a lust-filled gaze, flushed cheeks, and parted lips.

“Keep going,” Dean breathed. Castiel smiled and nodded as he began sliding his fingers in and out, moving slowly at first but working up to a pleasurable speed. He kept his eyes locked on Dean’s, as he moved, drawing pleasure from the vision of this beautiful man writhing beneath him. As he adjusted his angle, he crooked his fingers. He knew he’d hit his target when Dean let out an, “Ohh!”

***

Dean clapped his own hand over his mouth, muffling his moans as Castiel continued to thrust his fingers against his prostate. It was an intense sensation, sending pulses of electricity up his spine. The stars cleared from his vision as the thrusts slowed, but Castiel’s warm, wet mouth had returned to Dean’s cock and he felt like he might lose control. He reflexively threaded his fingers tightly into Castiel’s hair as he bobbed up and down.

Fuck, Cas! Cas, I—I’m gonna—mmmngh,” Dean groaned at the loss of Castiel’s mouth, but the returned pressure of Castiel’s fingers on his prostate was enough to send him over the edge, spilling over his own stomach. He winced as Castiel removed his fingers but quickly pulled the man up to straddle over his hips. The view of his broad shoulders and those goddamned hipbones was nearly enough to start Dean up all over again, but right now wasn’t about Dean. He clicked the little bottle open and slicked up his hand. They locked eyes as Dean wrapped his hand around Castiel’s neglected hardness, stroking him quickly and firmly. It didn’t take long before he came, collapsing over Dean.

They lay panting for a few moments before Castiel rolled off of him, leaving them both sticky and exposed. Dean eventually stood, pulling Castiel up by his hands. “C’mon. Shower.”

Castiel dragged himself out of the bed as Dean grabbed a couple pairs of boxers and sweatpants from his dresser. Thankfully Dean had a private bathroom, because now that they were coming down from their lustful high, they remembered the three people beyond the bedroom door.

They showered lazily, holding each other in the hot spray until exhaustion set in. When they crawled back into the bed, Castiel curled himself behind Dean’s back, sliding an arm around his waist. Dean, who had never felt so safe and warm in his own bed, allowed himself to melt right into Castiel’s arms, entwining their fingers together before falling asleep.

*

Dean woke in the morning to the smell of coffee. He sighed happily when he opened his eyes, finding himself still wrapped up in Castiel’s arms. He could lay here all day, but if there was coffee being brewed, it meant that someone else was already awake. It definitely wouldn’t be Jo, because she was nearly as grouchy as Cas in the mornings, and Dean suspected that Charlie would be having a rough morning after the shots she’d done the night before. Sam, he concluded.

He smiled to himself, knowing what was about to happen. He turned his head to see Castiel sleeping peacefully, sharing Dean’s pillow, before making his first attempt to leave the bed. As expected, the arms around him tightened and Castiel croaked, “Stay with me.”

Dean wriggled around to face the man, touching forehead to forehead. “I gotta get up, babe. Pretty sure Sam’s in my kitchen doing who knows what.”

Castiel made a complaining noise, not yet willing to let go. He peered at Dean through one open eye. “Your bed is better than mine.”

Dean grinned. “Memory foam. It’ll never forget you.”

“That’s because I’m never leaving it.”

Dean rolled his eyes and laughed. “You can stay as long as you want, sunshine. But if you let me up, I can go make breakfast.”

Castiel considered it for a moment before relenting.

Dean planted a kiss on the sleepy man’s nose before making a break for it. He pulled on an old t-shirt, headed into the bathroom to brush his teeth, and took a deep breath before exiting the room. On the floor outside the door were his flannel and t-shirt and Castiel’s shirt. Seated at the wooden dining table and scrolling through his phone, Sam smirked as Dean scooped them up and tossed them back through the bedroom door.

“Shut up,” Dean said, avoiding Sam’s eyes by making a bee-line to the coffee pot.

“Really? As loud as you two were last night, you’re telling me to shut up?” Dean blushed and Sam laughed. “Dean, relax. You two—you’re good together. Really.”

Dean kept his eye on his cup as he sat in an empty chair. “So, you’re saying you’re cool with--,” he pointed a thumb over his shoulder toward his bedroom.

“I mean, I don’t want the details or anything—please don’t tell me the details—but, I mean, yeah. If you’re happy, I’m happy. And Cas definitely makes you happy.”

Dean couldn’t hide his smile. Yeah, he does. A pained groan came from the couch and Charlie’s head popped out from beneath the blanket, red hair everywhere.

“You okay over there?” Dean asked, amused at his friend’s dishevelment.

“No,” she answered, “Why is your house moving?” She ducked back under the blanket beside Jo.

“I think she’s still drunk,” Sam said as he tapped on his phone. Dean narrowed his eyes at his brother. It wasn’t like him to be so absorbed in his phone.

“I’m definitely still drunk,” said the muffled voice under the blanket.

“Who’re you texting this early in the morning?” he asked Sam curiously.

“Well, first of all, it’s almost eleven o’clock,” he responded, sending his text and setting his phone face-down on the table, “but, apparently, I—I, uh, drunk texted Jess last night.” Dean’s eyes widened, but he didn’t speak. “I guess drunk Sam likes to share his feelings.”

“Yes. Yes, he does,” Dean quickly nodded, having had to endure listening to drunk Sam many, many times over the years.

Sam rolled his eyes. “Well, I told her everything. I told her about all the girls and about Dad and about—um—about you and Cas,” he paused, waiting for a reaction, but Dean simply shrugged his shoulders. “I told her how miserable my life has been without her,” Sam continued.

“How’d she take it all?” Dean asked, hoping his brother hadn’t done anything that would come back to bite him in the ass.

“Um… surprisingly well, actually. Especially when I apologized this morning for texting her in the middle of the night. She—she’s going to be in town for her winter break starting this week, and we, uh, have a date.” It was Sam that was unable to hide his smile this time. Dean’s chest swelled seeing his brother so happy.

“That’s awesome, Sammy.”

Dean understood now what Sam meant when he said that what made Dean happy made him happy. Without realizing how miserable they both were, they’d both been going through a pretty rough few years, and suddenly it was all changing. He felt invigorated, like he could take on the world.

“C’mon, Sammy, I’m making you your favorite breakfast.”

Sam laughed and pointed back at the kitchen. The waffle-maker sat on the counter, caked with cookie dough. The sink was still filled with empty bottles and empty pizza boxes were stacked on the counters.

Holy Cannoli it is, then.”

Thirty minutes later, he returned with a large bag of muffins and a box of pastries. Charlie was awake again, now seated at the kitchen island with a bottle of water while Sam was disposing of the bottles in the sink. “’Morning, Officer Bradbury,” Dean greeted Charlie with an amused grin.

“Hey, stud,” she countered, “Good night?” She wiggled her brows suggestively.

Dean opened a drawer and tossed Charlie a bottle of Advil. “Yep.”

He winked and headed back into his bedroom. The sight of Cas so content in Dean’s bed was surreal. He sat on the edge of the bed and ran his fingers through that wild mane of hair until Castiel finally stirred and opened his eyes.

“’Morning, sunshine. Got something for you.”

Castiel eyed him curiously. “Breakfast?”

Dean chuckled, “Got that too, but not what I meant.” He pulled a small plastic bag from his pocket and handed it over. Castiel laughed as he pulled a new toothbrush from the bag.

“Y’know. For overnight guests,” Dean said. He leaned in for a quick kiss before handing over a clean shirt. After Castiel brushed his teeth, they emerged from the bedroom together to applause from Sam, Charlie, and a yawning Jo.

“Alright, alright, calm down,” Dean responded as he moved to pour a cup of coffee. Castiel laughed as he hid his pink face behind a hand.

“Yeah, it’s not like it’s the first night they’ve spent together,” Sam added with a mischievous smirk. Dean shot him a half-hearted glare.

“Wait, what?! Your first date was just on Friday!” Charlie prodded Dean’s shoulder accusingly. She lowered her voice to an audible whisper. “You put out on the first date, didn’t you?” Now Dean’s face was just as pink as Castiel’s.

“What can I say? He’s irresistible,” Dean answered, handing the coffee mug to Castiel.

“It’s true,” Castiel said to Charlie. “I am irresistible.”

Charlie shook her head as she picked at a banana nut muffin. “You two were definitely made for each other.” Dean shot a grin at Castiel, only to find him grinning back.

“Yeah, okay, you can stop being cute now,” complained Jo whose head was leaning sleepily on Charlie.

They ate their breakfasts of muffins and pastries, laughing about the night before, and then worked together to clean the mess they’d left behind. When the place was tidy again, they sat around the wooden dining table beside the rain-soaked windows. Dean sat close to Castiel, holding his hand beneath the table. Sam filled the girls and Castiel in on his conversation with Jess and Charlie was embarrassed to learn that a fresh bruise on her elbow came from falling off the coffee table, though she had saved herself from a potential concussion by wearing Castiel’s motorcycle helmet most of the night.

“So, Cas, you’re coming to dinner tonight, right?” Jo asked cheerily.

Dean reflexively tensed, and a worried glance told him that Castiel had felt it too. Sam’s smile had also turned to a look of worry.

“I, uh—,” he looked to Dean and lowered his voice, “Dean, I’m here for you, no matter what. But if you’re not ready to—”

Dean shook his head insistently. “No, Cas. I—I want you there. I want you to meet my family.” He looked around the table to all the eyes upon him. “The rest of my family. And if anyone has a problem with us, well… we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I just—I want you there, Cas. For me. I mean, as long as you’re okay with that.”

“Of course, Dean.” Castiel squeezed his hand.

“Hey, we’ll be there too,” Sam offered, “and we’ve got your back, y’know, if things get ugly. We don’t even know if it’s going to be an issue. I mean, he’s not winning Dad of the Year any time soon, but he’s never been—I mean, he’s not—at least not always—,” Sam sighed, dejected and unsure of how to be hopeful when it came to his father.

Charlie hopped up and pulled Dean and Cas into a hug. “You guys are gonna be fine. Just maybe don’t start making out at the dinner table and taking your clothes off in the kitchen, hm?” She grinned before she moved over to hug Sam tightly too. “And you… we’re gonna have a talk soon.”

Sam tilted his head to touch the top of Charlie’s, accepting his fate. “Yeah, we’ll talk.”

***

Not long after their talk, everyone began making their way home. Jo and Charlie packed up the Nintendo and all the wires, and Sam walked them down the stairs, heading home as well. Once they were alone, Castiel pulled Dean into his arms.

“So, this was fun,” he said with a smile.

“Definitely,” Dean said thickly, wrapping his arms around Castiel’s neck. “Can’t wait ‘til next time.”

Castiel leaned in for a kiss before teasing, “Mm, you really like game night, huh?”

“I like any night that ends with you in my bed,” Dean answered, his fingers now combing through the hair on the back of Castiel’s head.

“Me, too,” he replied, lightly touching the tip of his nose to Dean’s. “Your bed is way more comfortable than mine.”

Dean laughed. “That’s it, huh? You just want me for my memory foam.” Castiel made a face as though he were deep in thought. “Shut up, you like me,” Dean said with the most adorable crinkled eyes.

“Yeah, I do like you, Dean.” His cheeks turned the palest shade of pink.

“I, uh, like you too, Cas.” They stared for a long moment with smiles in their eyes. “I, uh, guess you wanna get home soon, huh? I can give you a ride if you want.”

“No, I should really get my bike back home. I’ll need it in the morning to go to work,” he said as they finally stepped apart. Castiel retrieved his helmet from the coffee table.

“You’re gonna freeze your ass off on that thing,” Dean protested as they headed down the steel stairs, “and I’m growing pretty attached to your ass, Cas.”

Castiel snorted. “I appreciate the concern, Dean, but it’s all I’ve got.”

Dean shook his head as they stepped into the garage. “Not anymore. Now you’ve got me. I’ll bring you to work. It’ll give me an excuse to see you every morning.” Castiel tilted his head, considering. He found Dean’s concern completely endearing but didn’t want to put him out. Dean stepped closer again. “C’mon, Cas, it’ll get you a few extra minutes of sleep and I’ll even make your coffee for you.”

“Okay, Dean, if it’ll make you happy, you can bring me to work,” he conceded.

“Good, I don’t wanna be worrying my boyfriend is laying in some patch of ice on side of the road—" Dean froze, his mouth still open but no words escaping.

Boyfriend.

The corners of Castiel’s mouth turned up, watching as Dean gaped awkwardly. “Boyfriend?”

“I—I mean, I don’t mean—I mean, yeah, unless you—I, uh—if you wanted—”

Castiel kissed him quiet. “Boyfriend,” he confirmed. They beamed at each other until Castiel finally reminded Dean that he still had to get home.

“See you soon,” Dean said, planting a quick kiss on Castiel’s lips before he pulled his helmet on and waved, leaving his boyfriend smiling in the garage doorway as he pulled off.

Chapter Text

Castiel shivered as he entered his apartment. Dean was right about freezing his ass off. He loved his bike, but it really wasn’t very practical in the winter. He’d gotten used to bundling up to walk the few blocks to work or borrowing Gabriel’s car when absolutely necessary. He’d even gotten an Uber a few times when he’d found himself stuck at the hospital during an afternoon rain shower. Thinking about it, he looked forward to taking Dean up on his offer to bring him to work in the mornings—of course he looked forward to that for other reasons as well. He smiled to himself as he kicked off his shoes and sunk onto the couch, leaning his head back on the cushions to stare at the ceiling.

As if on cue, the door to Castiel’s apartment opened and Gabriel let himself in. He didn’t make his usual boisterous entry, instead sinking quietly on the couch beside his brother to stare at the ceiling as well.

“That woman is a demon,” Gabriel said without preamble.

“I could have told you that,” Castiel answered flatly.

“You don’t understand, Cassie. She’s a total bitch. She drives me crazy. She’s bossy. She calls me on my shit. We fight like cats and dogs. I’m pretty sure she set my bed on fire on purpose—”

“She set your bed on fire?” Castiel interrupted, lifting his head to look at his brother. Gabriel waved a dismissive hand.

“Yeah. Candles, oil, tequila, set off the fire alarms—it was a whole thing,” he said in a rush, as though this were not the important part of his story. After a small pause, realization formed across his face and he sat up to face his brother accusingly. “By the way, you would have known that if you’d been home last night. You were with your pretty boy again.” It wasn’t a question. He wiggled his eyebrows but didn’t wait for a response. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure she did it on purpose. She wanted to do this thing with her blood pressure cuff and a—”

“Gabriel,” Castiel interrupted, not wanting to hear the rest of that sentence. “She drives you crazy. I get it. Is there a point to this story?”

Gabriel sighed longingly, dropping his head back to look at the ceiling again. “She’s amazing.”

Castiel could do nothing but laugh. Gabriel broke into a grin and began to laugh along. Once they settled, they resumed staring at the ceiling side by side.

“Dean’s not just a pretty boy, you know,” Castiel said, shooting his older brother a sideways glance.

“I know, Cassie,” he offered with a sincere smile. “I can tell.” He patted his younger brother’s knee as he stood to leave. “For what it’s worth, I like him.”

Castiel’s face flushed happily and he nodded his thanks. Gabriel gave him another quick smile and headed back into the hallway.

An hour later, Castiel had washed up and dressed nervously, spending more time than he usually would picking out an outfit that wasn’t too casual, but didn’t look like he was trying too hard. He settled on a pinstriped button-down and dark jeans—neat but not overdone.

He jumped when he heard a knock at the door and hurried to answer with bare feet and untamed hair. He knew it would be Dean on the other side, but his heart still skipped a beat when he swung the door open and laid eyes on him. It was amazing how Dean could make a simple black shirt over a heather grey tee and jeans look so good, he thought. Shaking himself out of his reverie, he leaned forward to greet the man with a quick kiss and stepped aside to let him in.

“I know I’m a little early,” Dean said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I couldn’t—I mean, I was ready early, so I figured I’d come hang out here. I hope that’s ok.”

“Of course, Dean,” Castiel assured, taking note of Dean’s fidgeting. “I’ve, um, been a little nervous anyway. Having you here might help.”

Dean’s demeanor steadied as he stepped forward and rested his hands on Castiel’s hips. “Cas, you don’t have to be nervous. Who wouldn’t like you?”

Castiel slipped his arms through Dean’s to wrap them around his back and rest his head on Dean’s chest. “Your uncle… Ellen... Your dad.”

Dean shook his head. “They’ll love you.” A tiny spark of panic widened his eyes before his voice shifted back to its usual playful cockiness. “I mean—of course they’ll like you. You’re awesome, Cas.” He slipped his hands into the back pockets of Castiel’s jeans and leaned back to look him in the eye. “Now I, uh, don’t know how they’ll feel about me… but… they’re just gonna have to deal with the fact that I’m not taking my hands off this ass for the rest of the night.” Castiel barely managed to hold back a laugh as Dean gave his ass a squeeze.

“I won't complain, but I can see how that might make for awkward dinner conversation,” he chuckled. “The drive over might be a little difficult, too.”

Dean released him with a grin. “Fine, but that ass is mine later.”

With a mischievous smirk and narrowed eyes, Castiel moved forward, close enough to growl deeply in Dean’s ear while lightly nosing at the hair on his temple. “See, that’s where your mistaken, Dean... because it’s your ass that is, without a doubt, mine.” There was the sound of a quick intake of breath, and Dean suddenly stood very still. Castiel stepped back with a sly smile, pleased to see Dean fallen speechless. With a quick, innocent peck on the tip of Dean’s nose, he made his way back to the bedroom to finish getting ready.

***

Dean was frozen to the floor. All the blood had apparently abandoned his legs and gone straight to his crotch. It was completely unfair that Castiel should be able to completely destroy him with one little sentence, but hey, he wasn’t complaining either.

Once he regained movement in his limbs, he found Castiel standing before a mirror in the bathroom attempting to flatten his hair. Dean slid in behind him, lining kisses along the curve of the base of his neck.

“Dean, we’re never going to make it out the door if—” Castiel was cut short when Dean spun him around, pinning him to the bathroom counter with a heated kiss. Luckily, there wasn’t much argument as Castiel’s lips parted. Dean reached down to hoist the gorgeous man up onto the counter.

“I’m okay with that.”

“Dean,” Castiel admonished through a kiss. “Dean!” He chuckled as he lightly pushed at Dean’s chest. Dean let up long enough to show off a grin before he advanced toward Castiel’s lips again, but he wasn’t quick enough. Castiel had already gotten his bare feet back on the floor and turned to continue combing his hair, ignoring the spectacular display of puppy eyes Dean gave him through the mirror.

“Aw, Cas. You can’t just claim a dude’s ass with that damn sex voice and then send him off to dinner with his family,” he complained. “There’s gotta be some kinda rule about that.”

Castiel gave him a wicked smile in the mirror until Dean snatched his comb away with a pout. “Fine, we’ll go… but leave the hair.” He leaned forward, nosing at Castiel’s ear to whisper, “I like the ‘freshly fucked’ look on you.” He winked, satisfied with the sudden blush that proved he’d at least gotten an ounce of revenge.

By the time Castiel put his shoes and belt on and slipped into his jacket, it was time to get on the road. Dean hesitated, inhaling deeply through his nose and releasing a long huff in an attempt to settle his nerves.

“Dean,” Castiel said, his voice low and comforting, “you’re strong. You’re brave. You have the support of your friends and family. And no matter what happens, you have me.”

Dean nodded minutely with a half-hearted smile, but the look behind those blue eyes gave him strength.

The drive went by much faster than Dean would have liked. He parked the Impala behind the old truck Sam had driven, remembering that he’d promised to bring Sam home later. It eased his mind to spot Charlie’s car and he breathed a sigh of relief when he didn’t see his father’s truck. They walked side-by-side to the front door, and Castiel gave a little smile of encouragement before they stepped inside.

A Christmas tree had been set up in one corner of the living room since last week, and Sam, Jo, and Charlie were currently fussing over boxes of garland and ornaments. Dean cleared his throat to announce himself, but because Sam was currently distracting Jo by wrapping silver garland around her head, Charlie was the first to spot the new arrivals.

“Dean! Cas!” She bounded over to wrap them both in a single hug. The movement finally caught the attention of Sam and Jo, silver garland draped around her shoulders.

“Hey, come help us decorate,” Jo called with a grin, but Dean placed a hand on Castiel’s shoulder and shrugged.

“I, uh, think we’re gonna go say hi to Bobby and Ellen, if—if that’s okay with you, Cas?”

“Of course, Dean. I can’t wait to meet them.” Castiel leaned close to bump his shoulder, looking him in the eye with a fond smile.

“Yeah, you guys go make your rounds. We won’t be finished here for a while anyway,” Sam said with a genuine smile. “We’ll be right here.”

Dean and Cas turned toward the kitchen, Dean taking a deep breath before raising his eyebrows at Castiel. “Here goes nothing.”

***

The kitchen smelled of roasted potatoes and pot roast, and the smell warmed Castiel to his core. Ellen stood at the counter chopping vegetables, turning when she sensed their presence behind her. Her face split into a wide smile as she greeted Dean with a hug. “Hey there, hon. I’m so glad you boys came.”

“’Course,” Dean responded, “You said you’d have work for me in the kitchen, unless you wanna issue a reprieve.” He gave her a winning smile and she chuckled, swatting at him with a dish towel.

“What, you think if you bring a date you get out of chores?” Ellen flashed Castiel a playful smile, though she furrowed her brow at Dean. “You haven’t even introduced us yet.”

Dean laughed and rubbed his neck shyly. The motion became more endearing each time Castiel spotted it. “Ellen, I’d like to introduce you to Castiel Novak. Cas, Ellen Harvelle.”

“I’m so happy to meet you, Castiel. Dean and Jo have told me so much about you.” Castiel smiled as the woman wrapped him in a hug. He immediately understood that Ellen wasn’t just Jo’s mom or Dean’s Uncle Bobby’s girlfriend; he looked to her as a surrogate mother.

“Oh, the pleasure is mine,” he told Ellen. “I’m very happy to know Dean has such a great family.” Her eyes filled with sentiment and she hugged Castiel once more before moving back to her chopping board.

When he looked back up to Dean, he found him beaming. With Ellen’s back to them, he reached out to grab Dean’s hand long enough for a quick squeeze. He’d intended on letting go, but Dean pulled him closer, pecking a kiss on his cheek. A blush spread across his face. Castiel felt like a teenager, meeting his crush’s parents before his first date, but then, that really wasn’t so far off, was it?

“Dean, I have some dough chilling in the refrigerator. There’s filling just over there,” Ellen gestured at a bowl of cherry filling waiting on an empty section of counter, “you boys go on and assemble those pies for me, hm?”

“You’re making pie?” Dean asked excitedly. Castiel didn’t think Dean’s smile could get any brighter.

Ellen spun on her heel to look at them. Barely hiding a smile, she shook her head, brandishing a large knife as she spoke. Castiel suddenly saw the mixture of sweet but scary that Dean had tried to explain on the way over. “No. You’re making pie.”

In the next few minutes, they had their sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and Dean rolled the dough out flat. Castiel mostly watched until Dean put him to work trimming the dough around a large plate and fitting it to the tins. When they were set, Dean skirted around Ellen to put them in the oven for a few minutes before adding the filling.

While they waited, Castiel and Ellen chatted about his family and his work at the hospital, happily discovering that Ellen knew his favorite patient Jack through her niece, Claire. Dean stood quietly at the counter, watching them share stories. Castiel threw occasional glances his way, and the fondness on Dean’s face grew with each look.

The beeping of the timer made Dean jump. Castiel, now feeling comfortable in Ellen’s kitchen, removed the tins from the oven and delivered them to Dean’s workspace. Now waiting for the crusts to cool, Dean leaned backward against the countertop and plucked a sweetened cherry from the bowl. He popped it into his own mouth before offering a second to Castiel. Instead of taking the cherry with his hands, Castiel opened his mouth wide, earning a chuckle from Dean as he carefully dropped the cherry on his waiting tongue.

“Well, that was cute,” said a bearded man in a trucker cap as he wandered into the kitchen. Dean’s eyes went wide, and his face turned a crimson to rival the cherries. The man opened the refrigerator and retrieved three bottles. Handing one each to Castiel and Dean, he gave a small smirk. “Go on, boy, introduce me to your fella here.”

Dean hadn’t quite recovered yet from the man’s sudden appearance. His mouth opened, but no sound came out. After a moment of gaping like a goldfish, it was Castiel that spoke.

“Castiel Novak, sir.” The men shared a solid handshake. “Thank you for inviting me tonight.”

“Um, sorry—,” Dean said, finally finding his voice. “Bobby, Cas. Cas, Bobby Singer.”

“Bobby’s fine boy,” he said to Castiel in a rugged but kind voice, “no need for formalities. We’re all family here.”

“Thank you, Bobby.”

“I’ve heard you’ve been good for our boy. That true?” Bobby gave Dean a little hit with his elbow and Dean gave him a breath of laughter and an emphatic nod. Castiel turned his eyes shyly to his bottle. “Good. That’s all I needed to know,” Bobby said kindly as he clapped Castiel on the shoulder and headed out of the kitchen.

***

Charlie and Jo were busy hanging garland from the bannister of the stairs while Sam wrapped a string of lights around the top branches of the tree. Of course, he’d been assigned this job. He was at least a foot taller than the girls and Dean and Cas had gotten tied up with Ellen. Sam wondered how that conversation had gone, though he knew that Ellen and Bobby would be nothing but accepting. Just as the thought circled his mind, Bobby came in from the kitchen with a fresh bottle of beer and seated himself on the couch.

“Met Cas yet?” Sam asked, drawing the man’s attention.

Bobby grunted in the affirmative. “Your brother seems happy.”

Sam chuckled. “You have no idea… They’re—I dunno—adorable?”

“They really are,” trilled Jo from the cased opening of the dining room where she and Charlie had dragged a chair to hang mistletoe.

That pulled a hearty laugh from Bobby. "I guess that explains why they're feeding each other cherries in my kitchen as we speak."

“Yep, that sounds about right,” Charlie said with certainty.

Ellen ventured out from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel and addressing the room, “Dinner in five. Girls, would you mind setting the table?”

When Jo and Charlie had disappeared back into the dining room, Ellen turned to Sam and Bobby. “Is John coming?”

Sam grimaced. “I, uh—I don’t know. We all stayed at Dean’s last night, so I haven’t seen him since—” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Sam?” Ellen’s voice sounded concerned. She and Bobby were both staring at him now, waiting for whatever it was they were missing. When he explained what had happened, about possibly outing Dean, Ellen covered her mouth with her towel. Bobby, however, looked angry. While the men had once been best friends, John had changed, and when Bobby became the guardian of Sam and Dean, he’d also become their protector.

“I—I don’t know what he heard. I didn’t know he was standing there,” Sam said quietly, more to himself than to anyone else. “But he just left. He was already pissed at me, and then I—,” he scrubbed his hand over his face.

“Sam, hon, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Ellen crossed the room to pull him up into a hug, rubbing his back soothingly. “And for what it’s worth, we’re proud of you for deciding to pursue your dream.” Bobby nodded firmly.

“Boy, you don’t worry about your dad’s problems. If he wants to keep running off to God knows where and drive himself to an early grave, then that’s on him. Don’t let him hold you down. You’re better than that life. Both of you boys are. You don’t deserve the shit lifestyle he’s tried to shove on you for years now. You are gonna go to school and leave this grease pit life behind because that is what you want to do. And I’ll be damned if anyone is gonna say otherwise. You got that?”

The front door closed with a clunk, and to Sam’s terror, his father headed into the living room with a furrowed brow, looking between him and Bobby. “What’s going on here? Bobby, you got no right to—”

Bobby cut him off, “To what? Give the boy some good advice?” The air in the room grew heavy with tension.

“Good advice? Telling my boy to turn on me? To just give up the family business so he can go run off to some expensive school and piss away his time?”

“Piss away my—are you serious? I’m going to college, Dad! I’m trying to do something better with my life! Why is that not enough for you?! Most parents would be proud! Family business??! I don’t even know if this is a family anymore! You’re always gone! And when you are here, you’re just putting us through hell—” Sam’s bellows rang through the house drawing Dean and Castiel out of the kitchen.

Bobby got to his feet to stand beside Sam. “You’ve got no right to hold this whole family business bullshit over the heads of these boys—” Bobby added in a dangerously low tone.

John stepped forward, countering, “MY boys, Bobby!”

“No,” Dean said firmly, stepping forward. “No, we’re not your boys anymore. We stopped being your boys the day you stopped being our dad. You left us. We needed you, and you left us! You just quit!” Angry tears streaked down his face, as the words long overdue spilled out, but he stepped back and intertwined his fingers with Castiel’s, grounding himself with his chin held high. “We managed without you as kids, and we don’t need you as adults. Hell, it’s better when you’re gone most of the time anyway. Why do you even care?”

“What the fuck is this?” John asked, glaring from Dean to Castiel, then turning to face Sam and Bobby again.

“This is my boyfriend, Dad,” Dean said matter-of-factly, overcoming the shake in his voice. “Yeah, I figured you probably wouldn’t really be on board with it, but you know what? I don’t care.”

Castiel’s face was stoic and his stare was strong and intense. Sam was impressed at the man’s solidarity and grateful to have him beside his brother.

Bobby sighed deeply and glared back. “John, when Mary died you gave up on these boys. I know you were grieving, but so were they, and you abandoned them. Hell, Dean just about ended up in jail for stealing food so him and Sam could eat. I couldn’t sit by and watch that happen. So, I took them in and raised them myself, and goddamn it, I think I did a pretty damn good job,” Bobby’s voice had a tone of sadness mixed with much anger and resentment. “These boys have grown up into good men. And if you can’t accept these boys, MY boys, then you can get the fuck out of my house and never come back.”

“You ungrateful—,” John lunged toward Bobby, but Dean and Castiel were too close. Castiel grabbed John around his ribcage, while Dean wrestled his swinging arms. Sam hurried over to help, but before he could reach the scuffle there was the sound of a punch landing and Dean stumbled backward with a bloody nose.

“Bastard!” Sam yelled, tackling his father and delivering punch after punch. Castiel had momentarily stepped back to tend to Dean but now he pulled at Sam, dragging him backward as he gasped for breath through tears.

Bobby stood over John who was now laying on the floor. “Get the fuck away from my family.”

Without another word, John left.

Chapter Text

The room fell into a stunned silence. Castiel glanced at Dean, slumped against the wall with Ellen using her kitchen towel to mop up his bloody nose. He and Sam were still on the floor where they’d landed when Castiel had finally succeeded in pulling Sam off of his father, though he’d already gotten in a few good hits. Bobby stood rooted to the spot, staring daggers through the window of the closed front door as he watched John’s headlights back down the long driveway.

Castiel got up first, offering Sam a hand and pulling him up to his feet before moving over to where Dean sat against the wall. Jo and Charlie had swept into the room after John’s exit, and now Charlie busied herself calming Sam while Jo hugged her mother who’d broken into silent tears.

“Dean? Are you—are you okay?” Castiel asked cautiously, dropping to his knees beside him.

Dean looked up but didn’t say a word. He shook his head slightly. Castiel moved to sit beside him, reaching over to run a hand across his shoulders in an attempt to comfort him. Dean leaned sideways and Castiel draped his arm around his back.

He bent his head close to Dean’s ear and whispered soothingly, “You’re okay, Dean. I’ve got you.” The twitch at the corner of Dean’s lips was enough to rekindle Castiel’s hope. “We should get ice on that.”

Dean nodded, allowing Castiel to pull him up from the floor and lead him into the kitchen. Jo and Charlie must have tended to the food during the confrontation because the pies sat cooling on the counter and the stove’s burners had been turned off. Dean sat on a barstool, leaning heavily on the breakfast counter in front of him. Castiel opened the freezer in search of ice but came away with a bag of frozen peas instead. Dean groaned in complaint as the bag was gingerly placed over the bridge of his nose, covering the top half of his face.

After a few quiet minutes, Charlie slipped in and waved Castiel toward the dining room. Once they were out of earshot, she asked, “Is he okay?”

“I, um—I think so, but he’s still in shock. He hasn’t said anything yet. How’s Sam?”

“Same,” she said, resigned. “This has been a long time coming. I don’t know how much you know about John—?”

“Not very much... I know that Bobby and Ellen took Dean and Sam in after their mother passed, and Dean didn’t have much confidence in how tonight would go. I don’t think this is what he expected, though.”

Charlie shook her head. “They’ve had to put up with a lot of crap in the past. He made them believe he was the center of their whole damn universe, then he abandoned them… and he did it over and over again. Man, they were so loyal to him for so long, and he never deserved it.” Castiel had never seen Charlie angry, but he could see her hatred for John Winchester written all over her face. He could hear it in her tone. “He made Dean promise to look after Sam before he left them the first time—told him that Sam’s life depended on him. He was just a confused kid that had just lost his mom. And Dean being Dean, he managed for almost a year with John being mostly gone, but when he was about 15, he got caught stealing food. That’s when Bobby realized that John was M.I.A. so he started keeping an eye on them. Eventually he took them in. Even now, though, their dad—he’s got this way of getting in their heads! He had Sam convinced that he had to stay here for him, had to be the one to hold the family together, and that keeping the ‘Winchester tradition’ alive was the responsible thing for him to do.” She shook her head in anger. “Such bullshit.”

Charlie’s rant was enough to solidify Castiel’s opinion of John Winchester. He’d abandoned and manipulated his sons when they needed him the most, and that was all he needed to know. “Have they had fallouts like this before?”

She shook her head, now wide-eyed. “No, this—I’ve never seen them stand up to him like that. And Sam—I mean, I’d expect Dean to take a swing, but Sam? I can barely believe it. I’m hella proud of that kid right now, to be honest. Both of them.”

Castiel allowed himself a quick laugh. “I’m proud of them too. And I’m glad they’ve got you and everyone else here to call family.”

Charlie gave his arm a little squeeze. “That includes you, dude. I don’t think you know the effect you’ve had on Dean.” When Castiel tilted his head in confusion she continued. “He sort of shut down a few years back… like he lost himself or something. He dated Lisa for a long time, but,” she shook her head, “I don’t think it was a good fit. Just kinda seemed—I dunno—convenient, maybe. But before that was even over, he just kinda… vanished. Work and home, and when he had free time, he’d just work from home. He didn’t date, he didn’t hang out anymore… and then… he met you. And it’s like…” She sighed and eyed Castiel as though she were studying him. “It’s like you reminded him how to live. It’s only been, what, two weeks? Cas, he’s a new man. He’s out of the closet. He stood up to his dad. He’s talking to his friends again. He’s happy again. And you did that. You gave me my friend back.”

Charlie’s voice was thick and sounded as though she were fighting back tears. Afraid he may shed a few tears of his own, Castiel pulled her into a hug, holding her close for a full minute.

“C’mon,” she said. “Let’s see if we can salvage this dinner. You go tend to your—did I hear Dean call you his boyfriend?”

He laughed a little at the quick change in direction and nodded. “Yes, you did. It’s official.”

“Aww, you guys make me so happy,” she cooed. Castiel grinned. “Now go make sure he’s not still bleeding or eating all of the food. I’ll go check on Sam.”

Breaking their little two-person huddle, Castiel went back into the kitchen to check on Dean only to find the room empty. He stuck his head back into the living room and saw that Charlie had rejoined Sam and Jo there, and Ellen and Bobby spoke quietly together near the stairs, but Dean was nowhere to be found.

He returned to the kitchen and peeked out of the window beside the back door. Sure enough, Dean sat alone on the steps, staring ahead with his elbows on his knees. He stepped outside noiselessly, settling beside Dean and mirroring his position. Dean stared out into the darkness, but Castiel studied his profile. He could almost see the wheels turning behind those green eyes and he found himself wondering what thoughts were brewing there.

“I’m okay, Cas,” Dean said calmly, turning those thoughtful green eyes to look at the man beside him. “This—I mean, this sucks. He’s my dad, but—”

“Dean, you don’t have to explain. Charlie, um, filled in some of the gaps for me.” He worried for a moment that Dean would be angry, but instead he looked somewhat relieved.

“I dunno, Cas. I just… I don’t know how I’m supposed to—to feel about it all. Like, my dad just punched me in the fucking face.” He let out a pitiful laugh. “But then Bobby—the stuff he said… It’s all true. And Sam—Jesus Christ—did you see him?” His face broke out in an astonished grin. “I’ve never seen him like that.”

Castiel slid closer, leaning his shoulder against Dean’s. “You don’t know how to feel because you’re feeling everything. Grief. Loss. Shock. Relief.” He gave Dean a half smile, “Pride.”

Dean hung his head to hide his expression, but Castiel suspected he’d smiled. He could feel the tension unwinding.

“I’m proud of you, Dean. I’m proud of all of you. You have the most amazing family right there inside that house,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder.

Dean turned his eyes to lock back onto Castiel’s. “With all my baggage, I’m surprised you’re even here right now,” he confessed softly.

Castiel leaned forward to kiss Dean sweetly on his lips. “I told you—whatever happens, you’ve got me.”

***

When the pair finally headed back inside, the kitchen was a bustle of activity.

“Boys, bring those pies into the dining room,” Ellen said as she made her way past them into the dining room carrying a large covered dish.

Charlie and Jo carried enough beer bottles for everyone while Sam had his hands full with a large salad bowl and serving utensils, each disappearing one by one into the dining room. Bobby stopped on his way out holding a glass dish filled with the roasted potatoes and vegetables, giving Dean the kind of dull stare that only Bobby could—one that said everything was going to be fine. “C’mon, boy. Let’s eat.”

With that, they gathered the pies and a serving knife and joined the others at the table. Dean was thankful when everyone began filling their plates over small talk and occasional laughs. While Sam, Jo, and Charlie argued about the Christmas decorations, Bobby engaged Castiel in a conversation about his Harley.

“So, will you be bringing Castiel to the Christmas party?” Ellen asked Dean, drawing his attention away from the others. His face must have showed some confusion, because Ellen added, “The Roadhouse Christmas party? You boys are coming, right?”

“Oh, I, uh—I haven’t asked Cas yet, but—”

Overhearing his name, Castiel turned to face Dean. “Asked me what?”

“Um, Cas, would you, uh, wanna go to the Roadhouse Christmas party? It’s Friday night, right Ellen?” She nodded. “Everyone’ll be there.”

“Of course,” Castiel smiled, eyes shining brightly. “I can’t wait.” Dean grinned back.

“And Sam, you’ll be there too?” Ellen pointed her fork at Sam who looked like a deer caught in headlights.

“Oh, um,” he rubbed the back of his neck in a very Dean-like fashion. “Yeah, we’ll be there,” he answered.

“We?” Jo asked, eyeing Sam suspiciously. Sam’s cheeks flushed pink.

“Yes, and can we please not make a big deal about this?” he asked, knowing full and well that there was no escape from the conversation.

“Depends,” Ellen answered, still brandishing her fork. “Who does ‘we’ include?”

Sam hesitated a moment before answering, “Jess.”

Ellen’s eyes widened in surprise, but she simply smiled. “Good, Sam. That’s good.”

As dinner wound down and empty pie plates were carried off into the kitchen, everyone gathered in the living room. Sam, Jo, and Charlie resumed their earlier decorating, now under Ellen’s direction. Dean and Castiel sat side by side on the stairs while Bobby sipped from his beer on the couch beside Ellen.

Dean could tell that the confrontation with John was weighing on Bobby. Having noticed Dean watching the man, Castiel bumped his knee with his own, giving him a meaningful look. The corner of Dean’s mouth tipped up just a bit as he wondered how Castiel did that—how he could just tell Dean what he was thinking with those stunning blue eyes. He nodded, giving Castiel’s knee a squeeze as he stood to follow Bobby who’d gone into the kitchen for a fresh beer.

Bobby opened the refrigerator as Dean entered the kitchen. Noticing his arrival, Bobby pulled two bottles from the shelf, opening both and passing one over. Taking a deep swig of his own, Bobby leaned back against the kitchen counter. “Your brother was right, you know.”

Dean’s brows pinched in confusion. “About what?”

“Your fella—Cas—he’s good for you.”

Dean flushed. This wasn’t the conversation he’d expected. He avoided eye contact but he nodded. “Yeah… he is.”

There was a hesitant huff before Bobby spoke again. “Your dad… He does love you boys. And I don’t want you leavin’ here tonight thinkin’ otherwise.”

“No, Bobby, I know… He’s just—I dunno—he’s messed up.” Dean picked at the label of his yet untouched beer. Bobby nodded sadly.

“I don’t know where his head’s at,” Bobby admitted, his voice revealing the disbelief behind his words. “I don’t know what he’s tryin’ to accomplish. I just… don’t know. Now, I’m not excusin’ what he’s done. He’s wronged you boys and he’s wronged me, too. And I’ve tried, damn it, I’ve tried gettin’ through to him. I’ve given him every chance, I’ve—” He rubbed his eyes tiredly, giving up on his thought.

“I know,” Dean said, stepping forward to squeeze Bobby’s shoulder. “Look, I want you to know, everything you’ve done for us—for me and Sam—it’s not lost on us. I mean, if it weren’t for you, I don’t know what would have happened to us. I probably would have ended up in juvie and Sam would have been sent to some group home or something. Bobby, man—we owe everything to you and Ellen. You saved us. You were the dad that he couldn’t—he didn’t even try to be.”

When Bobby looked up at Dean, his eyes were glassy. He pulled Dean into a burly hug, patting him roughly on his back before releasing him. In all the years he’d known him, Dean had never seen the stoic man react that way and it pulled at Dean’s heartstrings.

“You boys mean everything to me.” Bobby said as he scrubbed his hand down his face in an effort to wipe the emotion away. “I just… want you both to know that.”

Dean gave him a mild but telling smile and nodded. With that, Bobby left the kitchen, tightly clutching his beer bottle and leaving Dean to ruminate.

***

As the night came to a close, Sam slipped into the backseat of the Impala, insisting that Castiel take the passenger seat up front. He felt the weight of tension slipping back over his shoulders as he wondered whether his father would be at his house. Probably not. But when, then, would he return? He wondered if he ever would. They were halfway home before Dean’s voice pulled Sam out of the whirlpool of his own thoughts.

“You okay?” he asked.

Sam caught his eye in the rearview mirror. “I, uh—I don’t know. Do—do you think he’ll come back home?”

Dean scratched the back of his head. “I dunno, Sammy.”

Sam nodded glumly, running scenarios through his head and trying to prepare himself for whatever may come. In the front seat, Castiel lightly touched Dean’s arm with his fingertips to get his attention. When Dean glanced his way, Castiel tilted his head toward the backseat.

“Hey, uh, Sammy,” Dean said, looking back up into the rearview, “why don’t you come stay at my place for a few days? We can stop and get some of your stuff and your car and you can come crash on my couch for a couple nights.”

The swirling of Sam’s thoughts stopped abruptly, and he looked between Dean and Castiel. “I… Are you sure, Dean? I don’t want to, uh, impose.”

“Don’t be stupid. You know you’re welcome any time. Besides,” Dean said with a grin, “we always have Cas’s place.”

Castiel covered his face with his hands as he laughed, his cheeks pink. Sam did the same.

“C’mon, Sam,” Dean said more seriously now. “Just ’til things settle down.”

“Yeah, I mean—if you’re sure. Okay.” He nodded resolutely. “Thanks.”

When they turned into the driveway of their childhood home, Sam was relieved to see that his Charger was the only vehicle in the driveway.

“I, uh, I’m gonna go bring Cas home,” Dean said before Sam could step out of the car. “You’ve got a key, right?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I’m just gonna grab some stuff and I’ll meet you there. Don’t worry, I won’t wait up.” He winked and flashed a thankful smile to both as he slipped out the back door. “See ya, Cas.”

“Goodnight, Sam,” he responded. As he shut the door and the car backed away, Sam couldn’t help thinking of how happy he was that Dean and Cas found one another. He’d been that happy once. His mind lingered on that thought until, rather than head inside, he sat down on the porch swing and pulled out his phone. He smiled when he noticed a message waiting for him.

Jess (8:57pm): So how did it go??

He cringed as he thought through the events of the night.

Sam (9:44pm): Not so good… Kinda turned into a brawl.

He sat waiting a few minutes for the next message to come, but when it didn’t, he unlocked the front door and headed inside. He’s made his way to his bedroom and tossed a duffle on his bed when his phone rang, the screen flashing Incoming Call – Jess.

He took a deep breath before answering, preparing himself to relay the story. “Hello?”

“Sam, hey, are you okay?” He smiled. Even though her voice reflected worry, it soothed him.

“Hey, Jess. Yeah, I’m okay. Just had a rough night.” He tossed clothes into the bag as he spoke, not really bothering to pay attention to what he was grabbing.

“Tell me about it,” she said. “What happened? Was it because of Dean?”

Sam let out a bark of laughter. “No… no, actually, it was because of me. Because I want out of the business.” He sat on the edge of his bed and shoved his fingers through his hair. “Because I’m not letting him hold me down anymore, Jess. I know what I want.”

There was a moment of comforting silence between them before Jess replied in a low voice. “I’m so happy to hear that, Sam. So happy.”

Sam gave Jess all the details of the night and of his ongoing efforts in reapplying to Stanford. He’d been in contact with the school and there was a chance that his previous acceptance combined with the classes he’d been taking as a part-time student could help him with his scholarship applications if he could take on a few extra classes in the spring term.

They stayed on the phone talking about Stanford while Sam gathered the rest of his clothes, tossing them into the duffle, and Sam listened to Jess talk about her classes as he packed his laptop and books into the backpack he carried to classes. When Sam had loaded his things in his car, he connected the Bluetooth and they talked about Jess’s winter break as he drove over to Dean’s place. When he pulled into the driveway, rather than gathering his belongings and heading inside, he reclined his seat as they continued their conversation.

When the Impala’s headlights illuminated the interior of the car, Sam sat up and checked the time. It was well after midnight, which meant that he and Jess had been on the phone for over two and a half hours.

He chuckled as he leaned back into his seat. “Dean’s finally back. Only took him three hours to drop Cas off at his apartment that’s about 10 minutes away.”

Jess laughed. “Don’t be jealous, Sam. You’re crashing on his couch. Let them have their alone-time while they can.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he laughed back. “I think I’m gonna start looking for an apartment, though.”

“An apartment? You’re not going back home?”

Sam took a deep contemplative breath. “I don’t think I am. I went through all this crap tonight because I want to live my life my way… so I should do that.” Jess hummed in understanding.

Dean, now out of the Impala and on his way to the stairs, knocked on the driver’s side window giving Sam a confused look. Sam held up and pointed to his phone, to which Dean gave a one shouldered shrug and turned to head inside.

“I should head up. I’ve got my two last exams tomorrow anyway.”

“Good luck, Sam. And if you’re really sure you don’t mind picking me up from the airport, I’ll see you on Tuesday, right?”

“Of course,” he responded emphatically. He didn’t want to wait even one second longer than he had to before he could see her again.

Chapter Text

“Dean, you really didn’t have to walk me up,” Castiel insisted as they emerged onto the third-floor landing.

“I don’t mind, Cas. I, uh… I’m not really in any hurry to go home,” Dean answered somberly, his eyes on the floor.

He studied Dean’s face as they approached the door to his apartment. There was a sadness settling over his features, probably an adrenaline crash after the eventful night. It dawned on him that Dean may not be ready to be alone for the night yet.

He slid his key into the lock but paused before turning it. He quirked up one corner of his mouth in an attempt to lighten the mood and gave Dean his best puppy eyes. “You know, it’d be a shame for you to have come this far for nothing. Would you like to come in?”

Dean narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “Castiel Novak, are you trying to seduce me?”

“Possibly.”

He was pleased to see the twinkle return to those green eyes just before Dean crowded behind him, reaching around him to unlock the door himself and planting a kiss on the back of his neck. They stepped inside and pulled off their coats before Castiel slid his arms around Dean’s waist, giving him a pensive stare.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Dean let out a sigh as he draped his arms around Castiel. “No,” he said as they locked stares, “not now. Right now, there’s something else that I want…”

There was a fire behind Dean’s eyes that felt as though it were boring into Castiel’s soul. After a pause Dean leaned in close enough to lightly rub his nose against the side of Castiel’s.

He leaned in for a deep, slow kiss. Their bodies pressed together and Dean’s hands cupped Castiel’s jaw as their tongues explored one another. There was a heat between them, but no rush in their movement. Small, light kisses trailed along Castiel’s jaw as Dean’s lips found their way to his ear.

“They were right, y’know,” he whispered, breathy and low. “You’re good for me, Cas. You’re so good.”

Goosebumps spread over Castiel’s body with the praise and he turned to catch Dean’s lips with his own again. Dean had started slowly unbuttoning Castiel’s shirt with a touch so delicate that he hadn’t even realized it was there until he felt cool air on his bare chest. Letting the shirt fall to the floor, Dean laid a line of nips and kisses trailing from the curve of his neck across the top of his shoulder. The growing heat between them was only intensified by the achingly slow pace.

Dean straightened, licking his lips as he watched Castiel’s nimble fingers work the buttons through the holes of his own shirt. Once it was pushed off his shoulders, they connected once again, flesh against flesh as Castiel’s fingers traced the shape of Dean’s collarbone.

“I need you, Cas,” Dean exhaled, tightening their embrace.

Castiel’s heart fluttered. Dean’s tone wasn’t sexual—no, this was something else, and Castiel felt the same way. Since they’d met, a moment hadn’t gone by that Castiel hadn’t ached to be with him. He had questioned whether they were moving too fast, but he and Dean seemed to be on the same page with this whole thing, and he wasn’t about to hit the brakes now.

Without speaking, he took Dean by the hand, leading him into the bedroom.

They toed off their shoes and shed their pants before climbing into the bed. Their pace remained slow as they lay on their sides, indulging in the light drag of fingers over warm skin, their legs tangled together.

Gradually, the space between them disappeared and their touches became firmer and needier. Castiel’s fingers found their way beneath the fabric of Dean’s boxers and followed the curve of his ass to slide them down. He moved lower on the bed to mouth at firm pecs, allowing the flat of his tongue to linger over Dean’s nipples. He let out a low groan and arched his back, chasing the warmth of Castiel’s tongue as he traced the shape of Castiel’s shoulders and biceps with his hands.

Pushing Dean flat onto his back, Castiel moved lower still, now sliding the boxers down his long bowlegs. He took his time, letting his hands trail down the man’s body with them, inch by inch, until he pulled them off completely, tossing them aside. He circled his hands around Dean’s ankles before gliding them back up once more, slowly, as though he were memorizing every inch of skin. His hands at last found a home at the back of Dean’s thighs.

Dean let out a hiss when Castiel dipped his head. His tongue circled the head of his cock while featherlight fingertips traced a vein down his shaft.

Cas… Want you, Cas.”

“Mmh, you’ve got me, Dean. You’ve got me,” he responded breathily between the kisses and licks he lined down his length.

Dean let out a content sigh but shook his head. “No, Cas… I want—I want you to…” He trailed off as Castiel turned bright eyes on him.

Was he saying—?

Want you inside of me, Cas,” he breathed.

Holding himself just inches above Dean’s naked body, Castiel crawled back up to be face to face with Dean. There was a nervous but hopeful look in Dean’s eyes that lit a fire in Castiel.

“Dean… are you sure that’s what you want?”

In response, Dean surged forward, crashing his lips against Castiel’s, his fingers finding their way into the hair at the back of his neck. They pulled apart just enough for Dean to look earnestly at him.

“I want you, Cas. All of you. Need you. Please.”

After an affirming kiss, Castiel pointed toward the nightstand while he kicked off his own boxers. Dean seemed to understand, and a moment later a condom and the small bottle of lube landed on the bed beside him. After slicking his hands with the liquid, he slid back down, returning his attention to Dean’s cock. He loosely slid a hand around him causing Dean’s hips to squirm in search of more friction. With his other hand, he rubbed tiny circles into his perineum.

He took his time, keeping with the slow pace they’d maintained so far. He stroked Dean while his other hand traced patterns over Dean’s hole. He could feel the muscles moving beneath him in anticipation, though his eyes were trained on Dean’s face. It was the subtle movements that had captivated his attention—the way Dean licked his lips and closed his eyes, the hitch in his breath, the way his teeth ran over his lower lip when he wanted more. Castiel was struck by how beautiful Dean was like this.

When the tense movements subsided, he allowed his finger to breach Dean’s body. The moan the man released was stimulating and Castiel could feel it reverberating through his body. He worked Dean open slowly and carefully, studying his face with every movement. He relished the way Dean’s breath caught and his eyes closed in pleasure, indicating he was ready for more.

“Cas, please... I’m ready.”

He gave Dean an appraising look, determined to make his first time as gentle and pleasurable as he could.

Dean grimaced at the sudden emptiness as Castiel moved away to change position. He pulled Dean up to his knees, turning his away to face the headboard. However much he wished he could watch the heave of his chest and the flutter of his lashes, this would be more comfortable for him right now. There would be time for the rest. There would be more of this in the future, he was certain of it. He tore open the condom, slipping it on one handed, and generously slicked them both with lube.

He leaned forward to leave a line of kisses on Dean’s spine, just brushing against Dean’s entrance as he did so. He straightened as he lined himself up, gradually increasing the pressure, pushing little by little until the head of his cock was inside. Hearing Dean’s sultry groan, it took every ounce of self-control he had not to plunge in too deep. He waited patiently, allowing Dean’s body to adjust as he ran his hands up and down his sides, cherishing the smooth skin and the flex of his muscles.

When he felt his body relax and saw him nod his readiness, he slowly pushed himself inside, filling him up. He paused at the sound of Dean’s gasp until his contracting muscles calmed. He leaned forward, praising him in whispers against his skin.

“So good, Dean. You’re doing so good. You’re gorgeous. Amazing.”

Dean rocked his hips back, ready and imploring Castiel to move.

***

Castiel moved slowly and deliberately behind him, and Dean was suddenly grateful for the calm pace. He felt at ease in his arms, knowing that Castiel would be careful with him, would never do anything to hurt him, and that feeling filled his chest with warmth. There had been an initial burn when Castiel’s cock had filled him, but the man’s patience and praise soothed him, helping him relax until the pain quickly subsided into a pleasure, growing with each thrust.

Dean gripped the headboard, pulling himself partially upright. He rocked his hips back driving Castiel deeper to hit the bundle of nerves that had stars flashing in his eyes. He couldn’t have held back the low moans and pleasured gasps if he’d tried.

Castiel’s hands wandered sensually over Dean’s back and sides, leaving sensitive echoes of contact on his skin. Dean could feel the heat of labored breath on his neck and back. And those hands, God, those hands. There were so many sensations, his body tingled from his head to his toes. Gripping the headboard with one hand, he let the other drop down to stroke himself, keeping with Castiel’s tempered pace.

As they both climbed closer to the edge, they moved faster, pushed harder. Their bodies crashed together in perfect rhythm. Castiel held on to Dean with one hand on his shoulder and the other gripping his hip with bruising fingertips.

Castiel continued muttering praises into Dean’s skin and his chest swelled with each word.

Beautiful.

Brave.

Sweet.

Amazing.

Perfect.

Mine.

Dean’s muscles contracted as he spilled over his own hand, and Castiel came crashing right behind him. Arms weak, he dropped to the bed, immediately pulling Castiel down into a long, deep, and meaningful kiss that took his breath away. This may have been his first time with a man, but he was no stranger to sex. And this… This was more than that.

“Cas, that—that was… wow.” He grinned with fondness in his eyes.

He received another kiss in response. “Dean, you—,” he grinned back at him, “you make me very happy.”

When Castiel finally rose from the bed to dispose of the condom and fetch a towel to clean them up, Dean’s eyes followed him, wanting—needing—him back in his arms already. Once they were clean and the towel had been tossed aside, they lay together quietly, contentedly holding one another. Dean’s mind swam with thoughts.

Castiel had been his rock tonight, keeping him grounded and present through the whole ordeal with his father. His family and friends had accepted him whole-heartedly. Then he’d been so gentle and so soft… Dean had to remind himself that it was too soon to think that he could fall in love with this man. He was just basking in the glow of good—no—great sex.

His thoughts must have shown on his face because Castiel’s hand, which had been rubbing pleasant circles over his bare back, paused.

“What are you thinking about?”

Dean rested his head on Castiel’s chest, listening to his heart beat. It was strong and steady, calming him as Castiel’s fingers lazily combed through his hair. He wished he could stay here forever, but he knew he couldn’t stay tonight. Sam would be waiting up for him even though he said he wouldn’t.

He planted a kiss on Castiel’s chest, just over his heart. “Just wishing I didn’t have to leave tonight.”

Castiel responded by kissing to top of Dean’s head and holding him a little tighter. Eventually, he dragged himself out of the bed to head home for the night, reminding himself that he would be back in just a few more hours.

*

Dean knocked loudly on the door of apartment 3C for the third time, balancing two large coffee cups and a bag from Holy Cannoli. The lock on the door finally clicked and the door opened just a crack, as though Castiel had turned the knob and walked away. Dean pushed it open to find him flopped onto the couch, wrapped in the blanket from his bed.

“Mornin’, sunshine. You’re looking downright chipper this morning,” Dean teased as he unloaded the coffee and breakfast in the kitchen.

Castiel grunted in response, bundling his blanket tighter over his head. Dean carried their cups over to coffee table, sitting carefully near Castiel’s head. There was still a bit of a sting when he sat down, and he smiled to himself at the sensation. With eyes still mostly shut, Castiel wriggled closer until his head rested on Dean’s lap. He pulled Dean’s arm over him, hugging it like a teddy bear. Dean threw his head back, laughing at the pitifully adorable creature now clinging to his arm.

“Alright, time for Sleeping Beauty to get up. C’mon,” he said as he hauled a pouting Castiel upright, shoving his coffee into his hands.

Once his arm was free and Castiel was well on his way to full consciousness, Dean returned to the kitchen to explore the cabinets in search of dishes. He shooed Castiel away to his bedroom to get ready for work as he unwrapped the bacon and egg sandwiches he’d purchased from Donna and split a container of mixed fruit between their plates. While he waited for Castiel to dress for work, he made himself at home in the kitchen, browsing through the refrigerator and the pantry and taking a mental inventory in hope that he could cook their breakfast tomorrow.

When Castiel emerged from his bedroom, he hugged Dean from behind, kissing the back of his neck. Dean spun around for a minty kiss. “Mornin’,” he greeted again, since awake-Cas and sleepy-Cas were clearly two different people. “You need groceries.”

Castiel hummed in response, diverting his eyes to the plates on the counter and popping a blueberry into his mouth. “Thank you for coming, but you really don’t have to drive me—”

Dean waved him off. “Have you looked outside yet today?” When Castiel shook his head, he pointed toward the window. There was a thin dusting of snow blanketing the rooftops across the street. “I’m not gonna let you walk in the snow when it gives me a perfectly good excuse to see you first thing in the morning.” He shrugged nonchalantly with one shoulder. “Plus, I just like seeing you all grumpy when you wake up. It’s kinda cute.”

Castiel narrowed his eyes in a playful glare but gave it up as he dug into his breakfast. They ate quickly and pulled on their coats. Just before they walked out the door, Dean handed Castiel a paper bag to which he tilted his head in question.

“Apple turnovers,” he explained with a grin. “They’re basically pie-to-go.” He was pleased to see Castiel smile, exchanging a kiss for the bag as they headed out of the apartment.

***

This week had been one of the best Dean had had in a very long time.

Every morning he went to Castiel’s apartment and every morning Castiel fought for a few extra minutes of sleep. Dean found it endearing, and didn’t mind when Castiel would get grumpy, moping around wrapped up in his blankets.

Donna had learned their usual breakfast order and she grinned each time she greeted Dean, reminding him to tell Mr. Novak she said hello, which he always did, though there were some mornings in which Dean preferred to cook their breakfast. The noises Castiel made when he devoured Dean’s vanilla pancakes were well worth the effort and had nearly made them both late for work that particular morning.

They texted one another randomly throughout the day, and every afternoon the Impala was waiting in the parking lot. The weather had gotten colder, so they usually spent their evenings curled up together on the couch binge-watching episodes of Dr. Sexy, which had actually turned into sex on the couch at least twice already. Dean had also reminded Castiel of his promise to help him learn to cook, and together they’d managed spaghetti, grilled chicken, and burgers again, at Castiel’s request.

On Thursday, Dean’s phone pinged, and he smiled as he reached in his pocket to check the message. His smile faded just a little, though, when he realized that the text wasn’t from Castiel, but from Sam.

Sam (2:12 pm): Jess and I are going to dinner at the Roadhouse tonight. You and Cas want to join?

Eager to catch up with Jess and to see his brother finally taking a chance at happiness, Dean replied.

Dean (2:14 pm): Yeah definitely, I’ll let Cas know.

He immediately sent a message to Castiel who responded with an enthusiastic yes twenty minutes later.

***

Sam and Jess had been spending most of their free time together since she arrived on Tuesday. After picking her up from the airport, they’d spent the evening catching up over Christmas cookies at Jess’s parents’ house. Sam divulged to her all the things that had haunted him over the last few years, and Jess had wrapped her arms around him in response. They’d fallen easily back into old habits like Jess holding onto Sam’s arm at his elbow as they walked together and Sam dozing off during a movie on the couch while Jess ran her fingers through his long hair.

With classes out for the winter, when he wasn’t working, Sam had focused his days on apartment hunting, though he reminded himself that it would only be temporary since he’d be heading to Palo Alto in the fall. On Thursday, he and Jess toured a cozy loft apartment that Sam fell in love with right away. It had rough brick and concrete walls and a warm wooden floor. An alcove with a built-in desk and shelves would be the perfect place to study. He’d have to find some furniture, but he was excited for this next step.

After he’d signed the rental agreement, it had been Jess that suggested they celebrate.

“Let’s go to the Roadhouse! And you should call Dean; I’ve been dying to meet Castiel. We should celebrate. C’monnn…” She gave Sam perfect puppy eyes, and Sam threw his head back and laughed, realizing that he must have picked up the habit from her.

A few hours later, they were seated at a high-top table at the Roadhouse. Dean and Cas would be joining them any minute now, but Sam seized the opportunity to take Jess by the hand. When she looked up at him, he smiled sheepishly.

“I, uh, just wanted to say thank you. This—all of this—it’s because of you, Jess.”

She peered up at him with glassy eyes for a moment before she pulled Sam’s head down by the collar to kiss him sweetly on the cheek. She shook her head. “Sam, it’s not because of me. So, thank you for the credit, but I don’t deserve it. This is all you, and I think that’s pretty awesome.”

Sam’s ears reddened a little as he ducked his head shyly. Jess touch Sam’s chin with two fingers, lifting his gaze to meet hers. When their eyes met, Sam wasn’t sure who moved first, but they met in the middle somewhere, lips crashing together in a long overdue kiss.

“Well I see you two are getting along pretty well. Maybe save that for the bedroom,” Dean said with a grin as he and Castiel perched on their barstools across the table from them.

When Sam and Jess separated, Sam threw a glare at his brother. “You’ve got nerve. I had to sit in my car for an hour the other day while you two Netflix-and-chilled on the couch that I sleep on.”

Jess giggled as Dean gaped and Castiel hid his red-faced laugh in Dean’s shoulder.

“Oh my gosh, Sam, you were right! They are adorable.”

Really, Sammy? You’ve really gotta stop telling people we’re adorable.”

Castiel tilted his head as he shrugged one-shouldered. “We are adorable, though.”

Dean turned his head slowly to face his boyfriend with narrowed eyes. ‘Not helping,” he said before pecking a kiss on his lips. “But true.”

They chatted for a while, catching up after years apart. Jess and Cas got along famously, sharing a similar sense of humor. After they placed their order, Jess gave Sam a nudge with her elbow and a look that was clearly encouraging his to say something.

Dean looked between them curiously. “What’s up?”

Jess looked imploringly at Sam before he finally spoke up. “I, uh… I found a place. An apartment.”

“That’s great, Sam,” said Castiel with a kind smile, but Dean looked torn at the idea.

“So, uh—you’re sure about this, then? I mean, this is what you want?”

Sam stared at his brother. It was as though he could see the thoughts forming in his head. Are you sure you’re ready to walk away from Dad?

“Yeah, Dean. This is the right thing.” His voice portrayed a little more confidence than he felt, but he was grateful that Dean seemed to accept his response without question.

“Alright, Sammy,” Dean nodded with a smile. “Congratulations. When’s moving day?”

Chapter Text

Dean was running late.

He’d been in charge of closing the garage on Friday since Bobby had taken off early to help Ellen prepare for the Christmas party. Of course, just minutes before locking the door, a customer rolled in with an engine that whined and squealed. Normally Dean would have told the customer that they were closed for the weekend since he’d already sent everyone home, but the woman had a toddler in tow, and she seemed desperate. There was no way he could turn her away.

An hour and two replaced belts later, covered in grease again, Dean was finally locking up. He slid into the driver’s seat of the Impala as he dialed Castiel’s number, turning on speakerphone and dropping his phone on the seat beside him.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas. Just wanted to let you know I’m running late. I’m just leaving work. Got tied up.

“Should I be jealous?”

If Dean hadn’t been driving, he would have covered his face in his laughter. On the plus side, his mind was suddenly flooded with all types of images he couldn’t wait to think more about.

“Nope, but now I have some ideas for later,” he chuckled. “Just wanted to let you know I might be late picking you up.”

“I have some ideas myself,” Castiel answered in that gravelly tone that always shot straight to Dean’s groin. “I could meet you at your place, though, if you want.”

“Mmh, I think we’ll need more time for that kinda fun, Cas. I’m already running late.”

Castiel laughed. “While I agree, what I meant was I could meet you at your place to save you the detour of picking me up.”

Dean shook his head with vigor, almost a reflexive response that was purely for himself. His voice was a little harsher than he intended, but he went with it anyway. “No way, Cas. You can’t take that bike out on these roads.”

He could practically hear the roll of Castiel’s eyes. “Dean, I’ve ridden that motorcycle for years and I haven’t died yet.”

Dean sighed and his voice softened. “I know, Cas. I’d just like to keep it that way.”

“So, would you like me to meet you at your place?”

Dean furrowed his brow in confusion. “Cas—”

“Gabriel and Meg are going to the party,” he said, cutting Dean off. “I’m sure Gabriel won’t mind giving me a ride.” There was a tone of amusement in his voice that told Dean that this had probably been his plan all along, and he was grateful that Cas couldn’t see his reddened face.

“Oh. Uh, yeah. Okay. Yeah, that sounds good. I, uh—I’m gonna go jump in the shower, so I’ll leave the door open for you.”

“Okay. See you soon.”

***

By the time the Impala pulled into the parking lot of the Roadhouse, the building was bustling with activity. Partygoers were spilling outside, gathered in huddled groups as they smoked cigarettes and chatted. With each swing of the door, the sound of laughter and music reached the parking lot.

Even with the time saved by not having to drive to Castiel’s building, they’d arrived late. It didn’t help that Dean had gotten somewhat distracted when he’d emerged from the bathroom to find Castiel sprawled on his bed looking festive in his bright red button up and a flashing necklace shaped like colorful twinkling lights. Castiel had insisted that the gray V-neck sweater that Dean had picked out was boring and after several minutes of negotiations that became playfully dirty, they compromised on an emerald green sweater of the same design as the gray one.

“Fine. But only because it matches my eyes,” Dean grumbled as he pulled it over his head, though he fluttered his lashes dramatically at Castiel once it was on.

“I’m sure the promise of a blowjob in the kitchen had nothing to do with it,” Castiel said with a disbelieving smirk.

Dean grinned. “I’m gonna treat that as an early Christmas present.”

As they headed toward the Roadhouse now, Dean stopped to greet one of Ellen’s employees. The man that Dean introduced as Ash was sporting an elf-ear headband over a spectacular blonde mullet. The ears were only the tip of the iceberg as he opened his coat to show off a green tunic and candy cane striped tights.

“And you thought my necklace was too much,” Castiel whispered to Dean as they managed to find their way inside.

The place was packed. It seemed like the entire town had turned out for the party. Castiel knew that his brother and Meg were somewhere inside, but he couldn’t see them yet. Near the bar he could see Sam towering over most of the crowd. He tugged on Dean’s hand and pointed. Dean nodded and they slid through the crowd toward the bar.

“Castiel!”

The voice came from somewhere to his left. When he turned to find its source, he spotted Claire and Jack in a booth waving. Castiel tugged on Dean’s hand again to signal a detour, and he followed along willingly.

“Hi! I didn’t expect to see you two here,” he greeted with a grin. When Dean moved to stand beside him at the end of table, Claire’s eyes widened, and her mouth opened in disbelief.

“Wait. Dean Winchester?” She looked between the two until her eyes stopped on Castiel. “Oh my God! Dean? He’s the guy?

After meeting Ellen last weekend, he had learned that Claire was her niece, but he hadn’t even considered that, at the very least, she’d probably met Dean before or that she would be at the party tonight, though it seemed like there weren’t many people that hadn’t come. He blushed as he thought about how he’d allowed himself to gush a little during Jack’s appointment this week, a reward for the progress that Jack had made with Claire’s persistent help. He hadn’t told them who he was dating and had figured that there would be no harm in it. Though, he hadn’t planned on standing face-to-face with them either.

“Of course, I’m the guy. Right, Cas?” Dean grinned proudly with a wink at Castiel before turning back to the girl. “I know you… Jody’s kid, right?”

“Yep, she’s mine.” Both men spun around to find Jody, a short-haired brunette wearing blinking reindeer antlers. “It’s good to see you,” she said as she greeted Dean with a hug and gave Castiel a kind smile. She slid into the booth beside Claire. Jody seemed friendly, though she carried the same air about her as Ellen did, giving Castiel the feeling that he wouldn’t want to end up on her bad side.

“This is Castiel,” Jack said, gesturing toward him. Apparently, Jody needed no further explanation as her smile widened.

“Oh, I’m so happy to finally meet you!” She beamed, reaching for his hand. “Claire and Jack have told me all about you!”

“They’re great kids,” he said truthfully, “and Jack has made tremendous progress with Claire’s help.”

Jack reached across the table to squeeze Claire’s hand. Jody smiled at them both while Claire stared shyly at the table.

She reached over to pat the teenagers’ joined hands lovingly. “Yeah, they really are. They’ve both come a long way.” She tilted her head a little as she looked between Castiel and Dean. “I didn’t realize you two knew each other. Small world.”

Claire had once mentioned that her mother was a detective and suddenly it seemed quite obvious. Castiel looked to Dean, hoping that he would step in to respond. While Dean had come out to his immediate family and close friends, there were still a lot of people in his life that didn’t know, and Castiel didn’t want to cross that line.

“Uh, yeah, Cas and I—we, uh,” Dean reached over to thread their fingers together and the corners of Jody’s mouth quickly turned upward in surprise, “we’ve been together for a few weeks now.”

Castiel nodded and squeezed his hand with a slight smile.

Another voice drifted in over the racket of the party. “Dean?”

The pair turned in unison to find a pretty brunette in a cream-colored sweater-dress. There was confusion across her face and what Castiel thought seemed like hurt in her eyes.

“So, it’s true,” she said accusingly, her eyes locked on Dean.

Castiel turned his eyes to Dean as well and there was a definite shade of panic over his face.

“Lisa,” he said on an exhale.

Lisa, Castiel remembered, his ex.

They excused themselves from the table and took a few steps away, back toward the entrance.

“I heard rumors,” Lisa said, pausing to take a long drink of her eggnog. By the slur in her voice, Castiel figured it must be spiked and it must not be her first of the night. “But I thought they were just rumors,” she continued. “No way macho-man Dean Winchester is gay, I said. No way. He wouldn’t just waste two whole years of my life, although it definitely would explain some things!”

Dean’s hand was holding Castiel’s more and more tightly, and he thought that Dean’s grip was probably the only thing keeping him there. He wanted nothing more than to disappear into the throng of people, but he stood with false confidence at Dean’s side.

“Bi,” Dean finally said, interrupting Lisa’s tirade.

“What?” Lisa’s face contorted dangerously.

“Bi,” Dean repeated, this time with more bite. “Bisexual. Not gay. But, uh, yeah. I am with a man now.” He moved a little closer to Castiel so that their arms pressed together.

Lisa’s glare fixed on Castiel momentarily before she hissed at Dean, “Can we talk? Alone?”

Dean let out a heavy breath and turned, silent question in his eyes.

“It’s okay,” Castiel said, leaning close to speak into his ear. He could feel Lisa staring daggers at them. “Take your time. I’ll go find Gabriel or Sam.”

He was greatly surprised when Dean turned to give him a quick kiss on the lips before mouthing Sorry and Thanks.

Dean followed Lisa into the crowd, leaving Castiel standing alone. He definitely needed a drink and he could still see Sam’s head peeking above the crowd in the direction of the bar, so he made his way over. He breathed a sigh of relief when he finally reached the bar top. He found Sam and Jess, each wearing thick gold garland around their necks like a scarf, and they were currently laughing with another couple.

“There you are, Cassie!” Gabriel draped one arm around his chuckling girlfriend, showing off an inappropriate Christmas sweater with a nude Santa holding a gift box in front of his crotch and bold letters that read I have a big package for you.

“Hey, Clarence!” Meg gave him a tipsy smile and wave. Castiel smirked at the difference in demeanor of the currently rosy-cheeked Meg. She, too, was indulging in the eggnog, and her usual standoffish attitude seemed to have taken the night off.

“I was starting to think you and Dean-o had decided to hole up and have your own party,” Gabriel said wiggling his eyebrows.

Castiel rolled his eyes while Sam laughed.

“I see you all have met,” he said, gesturing between the couples.

“Indeed, we have,” Gabriel said, winking flirtatiously at Sam. “Cassie, can I have this one? He’s a whole lotta… mmph.” That statement was rewarded with a smack to the back of the head from Meg, a deep blush from Sam, and uncontrollable giggles from Jess.

Castiel just closed his eyes in exasperation before turning to Sam. “I apologize now for whatever he has done or will do tonight.”

Sam threw his head back in a laugh, “No need for that. We’re all having a good time. Where’s Dean?”

Castiel turned toward the bar, waving at Jo to get her attention and pointing at Meg’s eggnog and then himself. She seemed to understand, giving him a thumbs up.

Sam raised his brow at Castiel’s hesitation. “Everything okay, Cas?”

“Lisa stopped us when we came in. She… didn’t seem very happy. Dean went to talk with her.”

Sam put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, it’s gonna be fine. Lisa’s not a bad person.”

Castiel sighed, grateful for the glass that Jo placed on the counter. “Thanks, Jo. Can I get another? This one isn’t going to last very long.” He took a deep chug.

“Hey, take it easy there, champ,” she said. “What’s going on?”

“Lisa,” Sam said in explanation. Castiel simply continued sipping quietly.

Jo grimaced. “Oh. She’s pretty drunk already, too…” After a moment of thought, she wandered off to prepare another glass of eggnog. She stopped on her way back toward them to add an extra shot to the already-spiked concoction.

“It’s fine,” Castiel said, finishing off the first glass. “She just seemed… angry.”

He wondered where Dean and Lisa were and what they were talking about. There was a mix of fear and worry, and even a tinge of jealousy causing his mind to swim in bad ideas. He just hated the idea of Dean dealing with his first negative reaction to coming out—hated the idea of Dean having to explain himself to his ex. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. He picked up his double-spiked eggnog and pointed a thumb over his shoulder.

“I think I’m gonna go get some air.”

***

Dean let Lisa drag him through the crowd and into the small storeroom beside the kitchen.

“What the hell, Dean? Is this—is this why we broke up?” She crossed her arms and glared at him.

“What? No!” He was irritated by her accusation, but he tried to gather his thoughts. He wanted to be honest with her. “I dunno. I mean, it might have played a part, but it didn’t change anything. We just... didn’t work.”

Her face dropped and she sat down on the stepladder that stood beside her.

“Look, Lisa, I—I didn’t know what was going on in my head back then, but us? I mean, it was real. I wanted to be with you. I wanted us to be happy. It just wasn’t—”

“—enough?”

Dean sighed. “We were missing something, Lis. You felt it too.”

She frowned. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

He stacked a couple of empty crates and sat across from Lisa taking her hands in his. “I’m still figuring a lot of this stuff out, but I can tell you this much—I’m happy, Lisa. I met someone that makes me feel like me again. Makes me want to get up in the morning just so I can drag his ass out of bed and make him breakfast.” The corner of his lip quirked up just at the thought. “I—I stood up to my dad. He gave me that.” Lisa looked confused, as though unsure how to react to that. “He reminded me that I’m worth a damn. He just… I dunno. He makes me better. And it just so happens that he’s a man.”

Lisa stared at him, studied his face. Dean tolerated the scrutiny, hoping she understood.

“Sounds like you’re in love,” she finally said with a resigned laugh. “We—we never had that.” Dean kept his eyes on his hands, choosing not to dwell on her choice of words. She got the point, and that was what mattered.

He shook his head. “We didn’t.”

There was a long moment of silence between them before Lisa spoke up again.

“Dean, I’m sorry.” He looked up to meet her apologetic gaze. “I guess I just didn’t want it to be true. I thought—I just wasn’t what you wanted. I was just being selfish. Maybe I need to lay off the eggnog.” She gave him a weak smile which Dean returned. She stood to leave the store room but paused before she opened the door. “I can only hope I’m as lucky as you someday. Maybe I’ll find the one.”

She opened the door and disappeared, leaving Dean to digest the conversation.

***

As Castiel stepped outside, he headed toward the bench that he’d sat on the first time he’d ever seen Dean. Tonight, however, the bench was occupied by a man in a thick leather jacket. He recognized him immediately and supposed that it was the eggnog that gave him the courage to continue his path.

He cleared his throat as he approached, announcing himself as he stepped into the glow of the streetlamp. When the man looked up, there was pain in his eyes. He was clearly in the midst of some mental struggle as he sat out here alone, and Castiel didn’t have to wonder why.

“I’m pretty sure this isn’t the best place for you to be right now,” Castiel said, standing off to one side. The man didn’t answer immediately, though his eyes surveyed Castiel as though trying to decide a plan of action.

“Don’t suppose we’ve really been introduced,” the man said, ignoring the statement. He reached out his hand, though Castiel didn’t take it, so he dropped it back to his side. “John Winchester, and you… you’re Dean’s…”

It wasn’t a question, but Castiel nodded. “I am.”

“Look, I know I fucked up. I fucked everything up. Everything—everything I ever had. I don’t… I don’t deserve their respect. I don’t deserve them.”

John rubbed his hand over the back of his neck, the same way Dean did when he got nervous or upset, and it hit Castiel—this is Dean’s father. He let out a huff and against his better judgment sat down beside the man.

“You’re right. You don’t deserve them.” John hung his head, but Castiel continued. “I’ve only known your family for a few weeks, and they’ve been nothing short of amazing. You have no idea, do you? No idea how brave and strong and smart your sons are? Sam is ambitious and loyal to a fault. And Dean—Dean is—is the kindest man I’ve ever met. He’s sincere and sweet. He’s funny, and he’s strong. And he’s brave. He’s so brave.” Castiel could feel the anger bubbling in him, and he knew that he should stop, but he couldn’t stop himself.

“The first time I saw him, I was sitting right here—right on this bench. And by the end of the night, he had worked up the courage to exchange numbers with me. That doesn’t sound like much but think about it. Think about the way you reacted to him. He knew, by the way, that you would be the one that rejected him. He was afraid to tell you. He was so happy that the rest of his friends and family accepted him—so happy—but he knew that you wouldn’t.”

John’s hands were balled into fists now, but he kept his eyes fixed on the ground between his feet.

Castiel continued more quietly now, “You should be proud of him. You should be proud of both your sons. You are—were—a lucky man to have them.”

John sighed and ran his hands over his face before leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. Castiel expected fury and contempt when the man turned to face him, but instead he looked resigned.

“What’s your name, son?”

Castiel was a little taken aback by the question, but he answered anyway. “Castiel.”

“Castiel.” John nodded. “Well, you’re right, Castiel. Right about everything.” Without another word, John clapped a hand on Castiel’s shoulder, then stood to leave. He shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and walked to his pickup without turning back. Castiel stayed seated on the bench and watched the truck pull out of the parking lot and down the road.

He covered his face, pressing the heels of his palms against his eyes. Why did I do that? He wondered what he would tell Dean about the encounter—if he would tell him. He was deep in his own thoughts when he felt the weight of another body sit down beside him. He looked up to find green eyes and a slight smile.

“Hey,” Dean said, reaching up to cup Castiel’s jaw in his palm.

“Hey,” he returned, staring into that face, that beautiful face.

Dean leaned forward, closing the space between them. They kissed long and slow, ignoring the whistles and catcalls of the small crowd that lingered outside the entrance. In no hurry to part, they sat with their foreheads pressed against one another for a minute, just enjoying the closeness. Castiel wished they were home, curled up in Dean’s bed.

“We should get back inside,” Dean said. Castiel smiled at the reluctance in his voice.

They stood together and walked hand-in-hand back into the Roadhouse, maneuvering their way through the crowd to find their brothers at the bar. Dean raised his brows as they found Gabriel relentlessly flirting with Sam, much to Meg and Jess’s amusement.

Dean introduced Castiel to several more people, and with each introduction he could sense Dean becoming more comfortable in explaining that they were dating. There were several people that Castiel recognized from the hospital as well, including the strange x-ray tech with the sock puppet who introduced himself as Garth. They chatted for a while and it turned out that he was actually a pretty nice guy.

Once Jo was free from the confines of the bar, the group of friends managed to snag the only extra-large corner booth in the place.

“There’s so many of us now!” Charlie cheered with a grin and she slid into one side, dragging Jo in behind her. Gabriel and Meg slipped in beside them while Sam, Jess, Dean and Castiel slid into the opposite side.

The party took a definite upswing now that the group was gathered together. Gabriel and Meg fit in surprisingly well, and Castiel’s chest swelled with happiness at their inclusion. He’d worried that they’d be a bit much to handle, but Gabriel had already won the friends over with his humor, apparently becoming fast-friends with both Charlie and Sam. He suspected that the low bar that Meg had set while meeting them all the first time around had something to do with their acceptance tonight. She seemed much less cold and guarded around Gabriel and it was a nice change of pace.

After another hour and a few more drinks, Castiel was feeling the buzz. He rested his head on Dean’s shoulder, yawning. Dean chuckled.

“Alright, I think Cas is just about done for the night, hm?” He gave Castiel a quizzical look to which he just nodded. “It’s been fun, but I think we’re gonna get out of here.”

After a chorus of goodbyes, hugs, and handshakes, they finally made it to the Impala. Castiel slumped sideways, resting against Dean’s shoulder again. He smiled when he felt Dean plant a little kiss on the top of his head and turned to peer into his favorite shade of green.

Dean grinned. “Your place or mine?”

Chapter Text

“Morning,” Sam greeted as Dean and Castiel exited the Impala, both looking tired and grouchy. He climbed down from the open cargo area of the rental truck where he’d been organizing a few of the boxes he’d already packed.

“Hey. Ready to get this show on the road?” Dean asked, though he hadn’t quite seemed to shake last night’s party off yet. Castiel stood silently at Dean’s side, apparently lost in a sleepy daze.

Sam chuckled pointing toward the front door of their childhood home. “Yeah, unless you wanted some coffee and pancakes first. Jess is inside making breakfast.”

He’d barely gotten the words out before Dean had hurried off, dragging Castiel behind him by the hand. Sam rolled his eyes in amusement as they disappeared into the house. He made quick work of stacking the boxes and followed behind a few minutes later.

In the kitchen, Jess and Castiel were at the table sipping coffee and chatting quietly while Dean piled two plates high with pancakes. Sam leaned against the counter while Dean folded a pancake in half and took a big bite out of it before turning his attention to his brother.

“So, what’s the plan?” Dean asked through a mouthful of food, waving the remainder of the pancake around with one hand while he poured syrup over the plates with the other.

“You eat like a wild animal,” Sam said as he shook his head in exasperation as his brother’s lack of manners. “So, Jess and I are gonna pack up my room. You guys can pack up the office. The living room and kitchen are mostly Dad’s things.”

Sam paused with a pang of guilt as he thought of his father. They had never lived an apple-pie kind of life, at least not since their mother was alive, but it suddenly felt as though the little inkling of family that they had salvaged over the years was falling apart at the seams now.

“Sammy, I can see it in your face. Stop thinking about it,” Dean said with a protective growl as he set the two plates on the table. Castiel was clearly alarmed by the gigantic pile of pancakes Dean had just given him.

“We’ll get some new things,” Jess added, holding up a particularly ugly coffee mug. “Better things.”

That earned half a smile from Sam. “Yeah, well, I figure we’ll start with the bedroom and the office, just about everything in those rooms will need to be packed, and we can come back for whatever’s left later.”

Everyone nodded. Sam grabbed a bottled water from the refrigerator and joined them at the table, chuckling as he watched Castiel move a few pancakes from his own plate onto Dean’s.

***

Two hours later, Castiel and Dean sat on the floor of the upstairs bedroom-turned-office boxing Sam’s many books. The room, Castiel had learned, was originally Dean’s childhood bedroom. There were still posters on the walls and a twin bed that had been pushed into the corner. Sam had added some bookshelves and a desk but had otherwise left the room as it was.

Feeling stiff from sitting on the floor, Castiel twisted his body, stretching his back and shoulders before standing. Dean’s eyes followed him as he paced around the room, admiring the framed photos on top of an old wooden dresser. He smiled at a picture of two young boys, clearly Dean and Sam as small children, holding sparklers as a young John Winchester smiled beside them. In the next frame was a pretty blonde woman in a flowered sundress. Castiel saw Sam’s eyes when he looked at the woman, but her expression, a sly and perhaps mischievous smirk, was all Dean.

“Is this your mother?” he asked.

He hadn’t noticed Dean get up from the floor, but hands were now wrapping around him from behind and Dean’s chin rested on his shoulder.

“Yep. Cas Novak, meet Mary Winchester.” He let out a quick deflating sigh. “She would have loved you.”

Castiel tilted his head to touch Dean’s. “She’s beautiful. I can see you in her smile.”

Dean hugged Castiel a little tighter. He reached out to touch the edge of another frame. This photo was much older, but Castiel recognized the black Impala parked behind a young John and a very pregnant Mary.

“That was the day my dad got Baby.” He pointed to the woman’s belly. “That’s me.”

“You were such a cute baby,” Castiel deadpanned, leaning backward to press against Dean’s chest, laying his own hands over the ones wrapped around him.

Dean gave him a playfully rough kiss on the side of his head. “Were? Dude. I’m still cute.”

“Well, I won’t argue there,” he said, breaking free to explore the rest of the room. So far, he hadn’t really seen much more than the books and computer parts they’d been busy packing for Sam. He took in all the band posters, shooting Dean an amused look when he spotted a poster of three bikini clad blondes above the bed.

“What?” Dean shrugged nonchalantly. “Turns out I like brunettes better anyway,” he said with a wink as he approached Castiel and slid his hands into the back pockets of his jean and kissed him.

There was a quiet creak behind them, though, each too distracted by the other, neither of them heard it.

“Oh—I, uh—sorry."

They pulled apart quickly at sound of the voice. When they turned, they found its source in the doorway—John Winchester. He seemed small as he stood there, his eyes averted toward his hand which was still on the doorknob.

“Dad? What the hell are you doing here?” Dean sounded angry and Castiel couldn’t help but feel embarrassed. He felt like a teenager that had gotten caught sneaking into Dean’s window in the middle of the night.

In response to Dean’s tone, John stood up straighter as he addressed his son. “Last time I checked, this was my house.”

Dean glared.

“Look, I’m not here to fight,” John said, the hardness in his voice ebbing once again. “I—I’m here to… to try and fix what I fucked up.”

“Dad?” Sam’s voice carried in from the hallway drawing John’s attention.

John looked back and forth between his two sons. “Can we talk? Please.”

Castiel didn’t know John very well, but from the reactions of his sons, he didn’t think ‘please’ was a word that he used very often. Dean reluctantly nodded before turning to Castiel.

“I should finish packing up these books,” Castiel said, sitting himself on the edge of the bed before Dean had to ask him to stay behind. “I’ll be right here,” he said reassuringly. He gave Dean a meaningful look and a slight nod, trying to wordlessly tell him that he should at least hear John out.

As the three men stomped down the stairs, Jess entered the room and sat beside Castiel. She let out a deep sigh and leaned her head against his shoulder.

“They don’t deserve to be so miserable all the time,” she said. Castiel hummed in agreement. “It never ends. There’s always something holding them back. This is the closest to free Sam’s ever been. I just—I hope it lasts.”

Castiel wrapped his arm around Jess’s shoulders in solidarity and she rested her head on him. He agreed; the Winchester brothers did seem to live their lives weighed down by their father. However, after his own confrontation with John, there was the tiniest glimmer of hope in his heart—hope that his future with Dean would be one filled with love and happiness. He allowed himself a moment to imagine what that would be like.

When he realized where his mind had wandered, his heart skipped a beat. A future together. A future filled with love. A future with Dean.

After getting lost in a sudden wave of panic—too fast, too soon, slow down, don’t get hurt, don’t scare him away—it took a moment to realize that Jess was now staring at him.

“Are you okay? You look a little… pale,” she said, concern written across her face.

“I—I, um—I was just thinking about—,” Castiel stumbled, but stopped himself. The look on Jess’s face was sincere and concerned. He decided there was no use in pretending. He let out a long slow breath before continuing. “Can… can I tell you honestly? Without you thinking I’m crazy?”

“Of course,” she said supportively. “Is something wrong?”

He shook his head quickly and laughed nervously. “No, no, nothing wrong. It’s just…,” he took a deep breath to inflate his confidence, ”Dean and I haven’t been together for that long. But it just—it feels like he’s just always been a part of my world. And I—I was thinking about… I was thinking about the future, and…”

He let the sentence trail off, tilting his head curiously at her toothy grin. He raised his eyebrows in question.

“You think you’re falling too fast, don’t you?”

She seemed amused by his confession, and he was beginning to think that maybe saying this out loud was a mistake. He gave her a shy, guilty smile and a one-armed shrug.

She rolled her eyes. “You two are adorable.”

She slid off of the bed and onto the floor, tossing a book into one of the open boxes. He didn’t know how he’d expected her to react, but this wasn’t it. It almost felt like she knew something he didn’t.

***

Dean and Sam followed their father down the stairs in silence except for the sound of their heavy footsteps on the old staircase. In the living room, Sam sat in his corner of the couch with folded arms, glaring at his father. Dean sat in his usual armchair and John sat on the closed recliner, scrubbing a hand over his face.

“So, what do you want?” Dean finally asked flatly. Sam glanced at his brother before sitting up straight and turning his attention back to his father.

John wore a look of regret, but Dean was determined that forgiveness wouldn’t come that easy this time. They’d finally pulled themselves out from under his thumb and Dean had no intention of going back.

“So, you’re moving,” John said, rubbing the back of his neck while looking toward Sam. It wasn’t a question, but Sam nodded all the same. “That… that’s good, Sammy. I, uh—you deserve better than this.” He gestured at the room around them with its dusty furniture and faded wallpaper. There was another minute of silence before John began again.

“I know, okay? I know how bad I’ve screwed up. I know I don’t—I don’t deserve to even be here talking with you boys right now. Trust me, I’ve been doing some soul searching. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I’ll be sorry for the rest of my life. I’ve, uh, apologized to Bobby and Ellen. Let them give me the earful I deserved. Hell, it took me three days to get Bobby to even answer the door. And if you boys never forgive me, I wouldn’t blame you.”

Dean and Sam both had their eyes fixed on the threadbare rug. Neither had the heart to look at their father right now. John Winchester wasn’t a man to apologize, wasn’t a man to beg forgiveness, wasn’t a man to worry about how he made others feel at all. But here he was, spilling his sorrows. That didn’t mean he deserved forgiveness, Dean thought. He shifted in his seat and remained silent.

“I won’t get in your way, Sammy,” John continued. “Go. Go live your life. You—you’ve always been so smart. I’m sorry I’ve held you back, boy. You’re your own man, now. When did that happen?” He laughed to himself sadly.

The catch in John’s voice did not go unnoticed, but Dean only stared harder at the floor.

“And Dean… Dean, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I took your childhood away from you. You deserved to grieve and I—I took that from you too. From both of you. Dean, I’m sorry I wasn’t supportive of—of you. I’m… I’m glad you’ve found your happiness. Let him save you like your mother saved me.” He laughed that sad laugh again. “For what it’s worth, I like him. He gave me an earful too. Made me think of Mary, actually.”

Dean refused to let himself react, so he kept staring at the floor. He couldn’t look at his father’s face right now. He couldn’t speak to him. Not if he wanted to keep his resolve.

“Boys, I don’t expect you to want anything to do with me right now. But when—if you ever decide to forgive me, I’ll do better. Hell, I can’t do any worse. I… I love you, boys.”

There was a squeak of the recliner and a few heavy footsteps followed by the sound of the screen door slamming shut. When Dean finally looked up, John was gone. Sam’s face was tear-streaked but stony. They sat without speaking for a while before there were footsteps on the stairs.

Jess, followed closely by Castiel, descended the staircase leading into the living room, probably having heard the sound of the screen door slamming or the sound of John’s truck leaving. Jess moved in front of Sam who wrapped his arms around her without standing. He rested his head against her and closed his eyes while she gently ran her fingers through his hair.

Dean looked to Castiel who was still standing at the foot of the stairs.

I like him, John had said. Made me think of Mary.

He stood from his chair, giving Castiel a tentative smile, just enough of an upward twitch to show that he was okay. When he reached the man, he wrapped his arms around his neck and melted into him as strong arms enveloped him. In that moment, he felt safe again.

***

A few hours later, the last box had been unloaded and Sam sat on the edge of the empty truck. Jess and Castiel were upstairs sorting the contents of the boxes by room and working on a checklist of items that Sam would have to buy. Dean climbed up to sit beside him, feet swinging below the bumper.

“So… Officially on your own now, huh?” Dean gave him a weak smile. He’d never been good at hiding his concern for his brother.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Sam said, “but, I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t really on my own already. Just wasn’t my house.”

Dean rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess.”

Sam could feel the tension rolling off of his brother in waves—the need to talk, but his own stubbornness keeping him from saying so.

“So, uh, Dad today—” Sam began, offering Dean the opening.

“Yeah, what was that about?” he asked keenly. Sam gave him a pointed look and Dean finally rolled his eyes and nodded. “Okay, well, yeah, I know exactly what it was about, but I mean… I’ve never heard him talk like that before.”

Sam chewed on his lower lip. It was true. John Winchester was not the type to lay his feelings on the table, at least not in his experience. Then again, John Winchester hadn’t had a lot to say to either of them at all over the last 10 or so years.

“Maybe that’s why he ran off,” Sam speculated. He turned to look squarely at Dean. “What does he want from us?”

Dean shook his head slowly, brows furrowed. “I don’t know, but I don’t really give a fuck. I’m done with him.”

Unsure of what to say, Sam turned his gaze back to his dangling feet. “Yeah.”

After a few silent minutes of contemplation, Sam closed the truck’s roll-down door and the pair made their way inside. Jess was taking an inventory of the sparse kitchen while Castiel was lining books onto the shelves above the alcove desk that had sold Sam on the place.

While Dean headed to where Castiel was working, Sam made his way to Jess, giving her a peck on the top of her head. “You hungry?

“I could eat,” she answered, dropping her notepad and pen onto the countertop. “But I know your brother won’t turn down a meal.”

They both glanced over to Dean and Castiel, playfully bickering about something. It was hard not to smile at them. Sam watched his older brother’s face, glowing with happiness—a sharp contrast to the somber expression he’d worn just a few minutes ago.

“Cute, aren’t they?” Jess grinned up at him. “I think they’re in love.”

Sam turned his attention to her with a skeptical look. “Love? It’s a little soon, don’t you think?”

“Sometimes you just know.” Jess crossed her arms and tilted her head. “Look at them, Sam. Have you ever seen him so happy with anyone else?”

He had to admit that the look on Dean’s face was one of pure adoration, and it was reflected right back in Castiel’s. Even when Dean was with Lisa, before things went south, Sam had never seen him so enamored.

He raised a brow and quirked up the corner of his mouth as he looked back at Jess. “Y’know, you might be right.”

Leaving Jess to wrap up her list in the kitchen, he joined the couple in the alcove.

“No way, Cas, you’re crazy.”

“C’mon, Dean. Live a little. Don’t you trust me? I thought you were the brave one in this relationship.” Castiel smirked teasingly.

“Please, please, please tell me I’m not interrupting something,” Sam said, wincing.

Dean rolled his eyes. “Cas wants us to take a ride on his bike tomorrow.” His tone made it clear that he thought that this was a terrible idea.

Sam raised his brows in confusion. “So? Go take a ride. Sounds like fun.”

“Thank you!” Castiel gestured appreciatively. “A man of logic.”

“It’s winter!” Dean protested. “What if you run into an icy patch or something?”

“Dean, the weather has been great. The sun has been out, there’s no snow on the ground. It’ll probably be the last good opportunity of the year.”

Sam recognized Castiel’s puppy eyes technique and silently commended him on his exceptional pouty face. It didn’t take long for Dean to melt.

“Fine—fine! We can go. But if I die, I’m coming back to haunt you both.” He pointed reproachfully between his brother and his boyfriend.

Castiel grinned at his success and Sam chuckled at Dean’s obvious inability to resist him.

“Hey, uh, you guys hungry?” Sam asked, finally remembering the reason he was standing there. “There’s a diner a couple buildings down. My treat.”

Dean didn’t need to be asked twice. "Hell, yeah. Let’s go.”

They dug through a box labelled ‘Bathroom stuff’ to find some hand soap and towels and cleaned themselves up before heading back downstairs. The diner had a classic ‘50’s vibe with red vinyl booths and a checkered floor. They slid into a booth and pored over their menus.

When the waitress, a cute and curvy brunette in a short skirt that Dean would have definitely pursued just a few years ago, fluttered her lashes at him, Sam and Jess both had to duck behind their menus as Dean promptly ignored her blatant flirting to lean over toward Cas and say with a big smile, “Hey, they have brownie à la mode. Want to share? It’ll be like our first date all over again.”

Wonder if he knows he’s in love yet, thought Sam.