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Dean wakes up on his 18th birthday, giddy and a little scared, and rips his blanket off of himself to start searching his hands for the soulmark that is supposed to appear somewhere on his body today. Nothing. His arms. Nothing. Shoulders, upper body, legs. Nothing.

It’s okay , he tells himself, don’t panic yet.

He’s lucky that Sammy isn’t hogging the motel’s bathroom this morning, so Dean can rush in and lock the door behind himself without having to shove Sam out first.

Some people have their marks on their back — a soft, calming touch from their soulmate, maybe. Some have it on their ass — not the most gentlemanly thing, but Dean would be okay with it, too. He needs to stay calm and have a closer look, maybe take off his clothes. Calmly. Patiently.

But then Dean braces himself on the edge of the sink to look up into the mirror, and it’s right there .

Black streaks and blotches along the edge of his jaw, dark like ink. Marks like the imprints of knuckles meeting Dean’s chin.

It takes him a little while to fully realizes what this means. That his soulmark is there, for everyone to see, right on his face, impossible to hide.

That his soulmate’s first touch will be a punch to Dean’s face.  

 

~~oOo~~

 

His father takes one look at him and laughs. “Well, it makes sense,” he says, and Dean can’t help but agree.

With the way they live, with all the people Dean hustles on a daily basis, with all the fights he gets into, with how awful of a person he is. It makes sense that his soulmate would punch him, first thing.

They’ll probably take one look at him, and do it.

Afterwards, they’ll realize. When they see color bloom and replace the blacks on both Dean’s jaw and their fist, they will realize, and they will be disgusted. They’ll run, as fast as they can, and that’s gonna be it.

 

~~oOo~~

 

Dean’s 25, and he managed to spend years without thinking about his soulmate.

He learned to ignore people’s looks ages ago, learned to stop looking at his reflection in the windows and mirrors he passes.

But now Sam’s leaving him and dad behind to be with his soulmate — a petite, brunette, lovely, intelligent, gentle girl named Eileen. Dean has never seen Sam smile quite as wide as he did when he came back home a few weeks ago, his palm not black, but red and green and orange and pink and yellow.

They never stayed in one place this long, and while Dean knows that his dad is doing this for Sam, he also knows that with Sam moving in with Eileen today, their time here is over. They’ll move on.

And that night, for the first time since turning 18, he locks himself up in their dirty bathroom, and he looks at his own face. And he doesn’t try to hold back the tears that burn hot at the back of his eyes.

 

~~oOo~~

 

Dean gasps for breath against the cold concrete floor — and immediately regrets it, the stabbing pain in his ribs making his vision go blurry.

It’s by far not the first time he finds himself in this position, curled up on the cold, dirty floor at the back entrance of a dingy bar, bleeding and hurt.

He hasn’t seen Sam in months. And he can’t handle being alone anymore, the awful feeling of loneliness in his chest growing bigger and bigger with every passing day.

So he started doing this.

It’s become somewhat of a constant for him, to drag himself home with a split lip, a few dark bruises on his stomach or face, maybe a bruised rib or two. But the most important mark on his body, the one on his jaw, it stays black every time.

Dean has been doing this every now and then even when Sammy was still around. But he started to provoke even more fights the day after Sam left, because seeing his brother so incredibly happy, walking out of Dean’s life with his soulmate’s hand in his — it made Dean want to meet his own soulmate, too. At least to look at the person that’s supposedly perfect for him, just once. See them, feel their touch, even if it’s just another fist to Dean’s face.

But today, maybe he took it a little too far. He’s had a fight with his dad before driving to the bar, and it was all too much, so he just went for the biggest, burliest guy he could see. He walked up to him straight away, his shoulders squared, and started spitting insults in his face.

And now he’s here, on the floor, and he can’t feel the left side of his face, but his heart is hammering against his ribs, and they never hurt quite like this. Dean shuffles back towards the brick wall of the building and tries to sit up, but when he moves his leg, piercing pain shoots through it.

He turns to muffle his scream against his shoulder, and then he bites down on his lip, tastes nothing but blood,  and heaves himself up to lean against the wall.

His vision fades to black again, and he tries to take a few deep breaths — but it hurts, a lot.

It’s when he leans his head back against the bricks, eyes closed, that he realizes there’s a voice, dim and far away, trying to talk to him.

It’s the last thing he realizes before everything goes dark and the pain washes away.

 

~~oOo~~

 

Dean wakes up with a pounding head, and even with his eyes closed, the brightness of the room is making his headache impossibly worse.

It’s not hard to figure out where he is, the intense smell of disinfectant and the bright light telling him everything he needs. There’s also the fact that he’s lying in bed, covered by thin sheets, and he feels something heavy wrapped around his leg.

He tries to swallow, but his throat feels dry, raw, so he lets himself have a little more time before he tries to carefully pry his eyes open.

When he does, he finds himself face to face with blue eyes and dark stubble.

The man in front of him jumps back a little, far enough that Dean, though his rapid blinking makes everything a little blurry, can take in pink lips, dark tousled hair and blue scrubs.

“Mr. Winchester?” he asks, and his voice sounds as rough as Dean’s throat feels.

“Ye-” he chokes on the word, and gets lost in coughs, his chest spasming in pain.

The man turns and then he’s back in Dean’s space and presses a cup of water into his direction. “Drink,” he says, a worried frown on his face.

Dean’s glad he’s already in an upright position, his bed lifted up, so he just has to lift his hand and accept the drink. He takes a few careful little gulps, and immediately feels better. “Thank you,” he croaks, and tries for a smile.

“You’re welcome. Mr. Winchester, yes?”

“Yeah. Who are you?”

“I’m Castiel, a nurse here in Saint Luke’s hospital. Do you know why you’re here?”

“I guess,” Dean murmurs, and Castiel looks so worried that Dean feels even more ashamed.

“I need a clear answer, Mr. Winchester, to rule out any chances of a serious head injury.”

“Please call me Dean. And yes — got beaten up.”

“Do you remember why that happened?”

“Provoked a guy,” Dean mumbles. “Who brought me here?”

“A passerby found you in a back alley, unconscious. They called an ambulance, thankfully,” Castiel says, as he checks the IV in Dean’s left arm.

“Yeah, when can I get out of here?” He feels a little bad for the harsh tone, but he hates hospitals and he hates when people pretend that they want to take care of him.

“Mr. Winchester, I’m not sure you’re aware of how grave your injuries are,” Castiel says, and he looks a little like he wants to slap Dean. Another one on Dean’s neverending list.

“Bruised rib? Busted lip? What more is there?”

“You needed stitches — both on your lip and on your chin, from where you crashed to the ground. You have two broken ribs, a broken bone in your foot, and a lot of bruising on your stomach and back. You should be thankful that your organs aren’t damaged, with bruising like that… the hits you took could have easily lead to internal bleeding. A ruptured spleen, maybe.” He sounds icy, and Dean hates himself for noticing how hot that deep rumble of Castiel’s voice is.

“Okay, okay. I’m a lucky guy. But when will I be able to leave?”

“Doctor Bradbury wants you to stay for at least three more days, but more decisions will be made during your follow-up examination in a few hours. It’s almost time for her morning visitations, anyway.”

Dean groans and raises his hand to brush it over his jaw, but the sudden pain in his chest makes tears shoot to his eyes. “Fuck,” it slips out the first time, but then he can’t breathe and presses is out again and again, with a lot more intent.

“Are you in a lot of pain? I can give you another dose of pain medication, if you want?”

“Please, yes,” Dean breathes, shallow and flat so his chest doesn’t move too much.

Castiel switches the IV bags, and a few seconds later Dean can feel the cool rush of fluid in his veins. The painkiller starts to work a few minutes of careful breathing and not-moving later, and Dean slowly sinks back into the bed.

“Thank you,” Dean mumbles, but Castiel only arches an eyebrow.

“Not so bad, staying here and having people take care of you, is it?”

“Sorry,” Dean says, and this time he really means it. “I’m just not used to this.”

“That’s alright. But you’ll have to get used to it now, Mr. Winchester. You should try to sleep some more, but I’ll be around. If you need anything , please don’t hesitate to press the call button on the side of your bed,” he sounds softer now, and that, too, makes Dean breathe a little easier.

The last thing Dean notices before Castiel leaves is the back of his right hand, his fingers, covered in black splotches.

Poor guy, Dean thinks. Touching people for his job all day long, and his mark is on his hand.

 

~~oOo~~

 

When Dean wakes up from his nap, he’s still tired and dizzy, and ridiculously hungry.

He waits as long as possible, but at some point his stomach starts roaring loud enough for it to become awkward, and he carefully reaches over towards the call button.

He presses for a second, and waits.

Castiel comes in, looking worried. “Everything alright? Are you in pain?”

Dean blushes, because that is obviously what the button is for — and he misused it. “No. No, I’m fine, sorry.”

“How can I help you, then?” Castiel asks, and his lips pull back up into a soft smile.

Before Dean can think of how to phrase his answer, his stomach roars again, and Castiel starts laughing, though not loud enough to drone out the gurgling sounds of protest of Dean’s stomach.

“Oh no, I’m sorry,” he breathes, nose surrounded by little wrinkles of laughter. “I forgot you slept through breakfast. I’ll have someone bring some food for you, but I’ll have you know that that’s an exception we’re not usually allowed to make.”

 

~~oOo~~

 

Dean eats breakfast; bread and ham and eggs, and then there’s a knock on his door and a lady with bright red hair enters.

She has two nurses trailing behind her as she approaches Dean’s bed.

“Hello, Mr. Winchester. I’m Charlie Bradbury, the doctor that treated you when you were brought in last night.”

“Hello,” Dean mumbles, and carefully brushes the breadcrumbs from his lap.

“So, how are you feeling?”

 

~~oOo~~

 

“I heard Doctor Bradbury ordered you to stay with us for three more days?” Castiel asks the next time he walks into Dean’s room. He has a roommate, now, but the guy has been asleep ever since he’s been wheeled into their room.

“Yeah.”

“You didn’t convince her to let you go today?” Cas asks, one eyebrow raised, as he changes Dean’s IV again.

Dean blushes up to his ears, and his answer is a mumble. “Yeah, no, she was too intimidating.”

Castiel laughs again, and watches Dean with a smirk. “See, I told you so.”

“She’s so tiny, but so powerful. How?”

Cas just shakes his head and smiles.

 

~~oOo~~

 

Cas returns five more times that day; for lunch, a few hours afterwards to check Dean’s IV and make sure his stitches are okay, and then again for dinner.

And in between, to help Dean get up and hobble to the bathroom. It’s really awkward, calling for Cas and asking him to help Dean to the toilet, but Cas and his sweet, understanding smiles make it a lot less uncomfortable.

The first time went quite bad. Cas brought a pair of crutches and let Dean hop towards the bathroom with their help, while he wheeled the IV with him. Dean almost crashed twice, and then again three more times while trying to sit down on the toilet and getting back up afterwards.

And then there’s also the awful little hospital gown he has to wear, exposing all of his behind. He’s rarely been this embarrassed.

But the second time was more of a success, at least.

When Cas comes back in to collect Dean’s dishes after dinner and to check after Dean’s roommate, it’s already dark outside and the hospital light feels even more uncomfortable and fake.

“Well,” Cas says, and turns towards Dean with a smile. “I’ll head home, now. But I have another shift tomorrow, so you’ll have to deal with me again in a few hours. Better catch some sleep.”

Dean can’t help it, his lip stretches into a lazy smile — pain be damned. “I can’t wait,” he says, and raises his hand in a little wave. “Sweet dreams, Cas.”

Cas stops a little on his way out the door, turns around and sends him another smile, bigger and brighter than before. “You too, Dean.”

 

~~oOo~~

 

Dean wakes up quite a few times that night, with a burning chest and throbs of pain in his foot, his lip.

He manages to only call for a nurse once, for a little more pain medication.

The moment Cas walks in and greets him with a smile the next morning, though, everything is suddenly better. Even the pain lessens a little.

“Heya, Cas,” Dean greets, and sends him a bright smile back. “Sleep well?”

“I had a hard time falling asleep, but once I was, I slept very well. What about you?”

“Pain woke me up a few times.”

“I can imagine,” Cas murmurs, as he steps closer. “Could I check the bruises on your chest and back, please?”

He grabs a pair of plastic gloves, pulls them on, and Dean grins at the cliché snapping sound when Cas lets go of them around his wrist.

Dean slowly sits up and carefully pulls the gown from his arms, pools it in his lap.

There’s a sharp breath from somewhere beside him, and Dean shuts his eyes so he doesn’t have to look at Cas’ disgusted expression.

“Dean,” he says, quiet and dull. “Dean, there are so many scars, years old.”

Dean doesn’t answer, just hisses here and there when Cas’ gloved fingers brush over a bruise a little too hard.

“Where did you get them from?”

“Um. Mostly from fights.”

“Bar fights, like the one that brought you here?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?” Cas asks, and Dean looks up to find him with huge, worried blue eyes. “Why are you doing this to yourself?”

Dean just bites his lips, turns back away, and doesn’t answer.

Cas finishes up, helps him slip back into his ugly gown, and pulls off his gloves to dump them in the trash can that stands by the wall.

“Sorry,” Cas says, and steps away from Dean’s bed. “It’s not my place to ask.”

Dean swallows hard, and watches him hurry out of the room.

 

~~oOo~~

 

Cas comes back later with breakfast, and his expression is softer again.

“Have a nice meal, Dean,” he says, and retreats again.

That’s how the rest of their interaction go that day, and Dean feels awful for driving Cas away like that when they barely even know each other.

When Cas returns for the last check-up that day, he looks a little unhappy.

“Everything alright?” Dean asks.

“Yes, of course.”

“Looking a little worried there, Cas.”

“I was just thinking — I won’t be in tomorrow. Has anyone visited you, or is planning on doing it?”

Dean wants to laugh at that, but manages to hold it back. He’s checked his phone, but his dad hadn’t even bothered calling to check up on him. He shrugs, winces at the pain in his chest. “Nah. Not really anyone around that cares.”

“And once you can go home?”

“Same thing. But I know how to survive on my own.”

“Dean, that’s not — you’ll be in pain, even once you’re ready to be discharged. You have trouble walking, you’ll need help.”

“I’ll manage,” Dean snaps, because this worried tone is too much. He doesn’t need people faking their concern for him.

Cas jerks back and his eyes harden. “Alright,” he says, and turns back around. “I’ll see you in two days, then.”

But before he’s even out the door, Dean’s chest starts hurting. And it’s not his ribs, or his bruises.

“Cas, wait,” he says, raspy and unsure. “Thank you. For caring.”

Cas doesn’t turn around, bit his tight shoulders relax a little.

“I’m not used to this, I don’t know how to — I don’t know how to deal with it. Sorry.”

Cas turns to look over his shoulder, face softer. “Goodnight, Dean.”

“Night, Cas,” Dean mumbles, but Cas is already gone.

 

~~oOo~~

 

The next day, everything hurts more and not even Doctor Bradbury can cheer him up.

When a nurse comes in sometime during the afternoon, Dean is attempting another nap, drifting back and forth on the edge of unconsciousness.

“You have a visitor, Mr. Winchester.”

Dean opens his eyes and sits up, squints both at her and the bright light of the room.

“What?”

“A visitor. If you feel up to it?”

Dean cringes, thinks about how this will go down. His dad will stomp in here, tell him what a disappointment he is, cold and emotionless, and then drag him out. People will look, will hear how John will hiss at him, tell him how useless and stupid he is.

“I don’t — my father?”

“No,” the nurse says, and for a short moment he thinks that maybe Sam found him, but he tosses that thought immediately. That’s not possible. “No, it’s -”

“It’s alright, send them in,” Dean interrupts, and only a few seconds later a head pokes through the doorway — tousled dark hair, blue eyes, a soft smile on pink lips.

“Cas,” Dean breathes, and a smile slips on his face, like it’s the most natural thing.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas says, and steps inside. He’s wearing jeans and a henley, and looks so normal and domestic that Dean wants to tell him very badly how amazing he looks out of his scrubs. “I hope this is okay?”

“Of course,” Dean laughs, and nods towards the chair next to his bed. It’s been empty for the past few days, standing lost and lonely in the corner of the room. “How are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine. I got to sleep in, and cook a real meal. The hospital food is nothing in comparison.” He’s beaming while he sits down next to Dean, and Dean only realizes he brought a bag with him when he heaves it into his lap. “Do you — Um, do you happen to like burgers?”

“Like?” Dean laughs. “Dude, I love them. You make a good one?”

“You can try one and tell me yourself?” Cas suggests, and pulls a tupper box out of his bag.

Dean’s pretty sure he has heart eyes when he looks at Cas next, but he can’t make himself care about it much. He isn’t used to good food; growing up in motel rooms means unhealthy gas station food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But every now and then he gets to treat himself, gets to visit a decent diner and have a fresh, greasy burger. Some fries, maybe even some vegetables.

Cas hands him the box with a soft smile. “Don’t tell the nurses, though.”

Dean grins, struggles a little to open the box and then feels like crying with how amazing it suddenly smells.

It’s a gorgeous burger, soft, brown bun, filled with tomatoes and onions and meat — and Dean thinks he might be in love.

“Oh god,” he breathes, and when he takes his first bite, he laughs around it. “Oh m’god Cas, this is so good.”

Cas just sits there and watches as Dean wolfs down the burger and the fries scattered around it in the plastic box. Waits until he’s licked every finger clean of grease and salt and looks up at Cas with a bashful little smile.

“Good?” Cas asks with a smile, though he knows the answer already.

“Dude,” Dean says, smile almost as bright as the awful hospital lights. “That was amazing, thank you so much.”

Cas smiles back, wide and genuine. “You’ve had to survive on hospital food for the past few days, it’s the least I could do.”

And suddenly, all the lightness is sucked out of the room. “No — really, Cas. I don’t know why you… why you decided to do this. Why you spend your free time with — with someone like me. Thank you.”

“Dean,” Cas starts, but Dean interrupts. He can’t hear about how much Cas pities him, how he’s only here because he feels bad for the broken man Dean is.

“The burger was really nice. You cook a lot?”

Cas hums and leans back in his chair, a cloudy expression on his face. “Whenever shifts allow it. I have to admit, after a long day, I’m mostly too lazy and just get some take-out.”

Dean chuckles, shifts on his bed, and for a while, he allows himself to just watch Cas watch him.  

“What did Doctor Bradbury say when she checked your injuries today?”

“Um, it’s all getting better. Stitches lookin’ really great, actually. They’ll let me go home tomorrow.”

Cas is awfully quiet for a while, before he tentatively leans forward and asks: “Where is home for you, Dean?”

It sucks. He’d love to tell Cas about a nice little apartment, maybe even a house, a garden. Something he has to himself. Instead, he answers: “Currently… the motel down on Main Street. Been staying there with my dad for a week or so.”

“Your dad — he’ll come pick you up?”

“I — um,” Dean clears his throat, turns to look up at the ceiling. “I’m not sure.”

“Does he know you’re here?”

“I texted him a few times. Didn’t respond, though. So…”

Cas hums again, and it sounds thoughtful and a little sad. “When will they discharge you tomorrow?”

“Doc said something about early afternoon,” Dean says, and he’s still staring up at the ugly grey tiles above him.

“That’s great,” Cas says, and he sounds happier again. “I have an appointment in the morning, but I’m free during the afternoon. I can come pick you up, if you want?”

“You — You don’t have to do this, Cas. I’ll manage.”

“How?” Cas asks, and just looks at Dean with an indecipherable expression. “How will you get to the motel?”

“Could take the bus or something.”

“Dean,” Cas says, and he sounds both a little angry and a little like he’ll start laughing any second. “Not to make you feel bad, but you can barely make it to the toilet on your crutches. Let me drive you there at least.”

“Cas,” Dean breathes, and his heart squeezes in his chest. He’s thought a lot about this; about Cas. If maybe he feels this pull, too, this warmth all over whenever he’s around Dean, this softness, this feeling of belonging — just like Dean does whenever Cas walks into the room. But every time, he has to remind himself that that’s ridiculous, that even if there was anything between them — Cas deserves better anyway. “That’s really not necessary.”

“I know,” Cas says, a tiny smile on his face, and he stands up and gathers the box and its lid from where they rest on Dean’s stomach. “I want to do this. You deserve good things.”

And Dean really doesn’t know what to say to that at all, so he keeps quiet and watches Cas with what must be the softest smile he’s ever had on his face.

“I’ll find out when exactly you’ll be discharged, and make sure to be here in time,” Cas smiles, and Dean feels like he can’t breathe. It’s not his ribs for once, though, it’s entirely Cas.

Cas is packing up his stuff and getting ready to leave, while Dean’s still wracking his brain for the right words to thank him for everything he’s doing.

When Cas turns towards him with a smile, his jacket zipped up and his bag slung over his shoulder, Dean blurts: “You’re an angel. I — I mean, you’re so great, and I really don’t know how I deserve this. But thank you.”

He’s pretty sure he can see a blush forming on Cas’ cheeks at that, but he’s much more focused on willing away the fiery blush on his own cheeks. “Just, thank you. Can’t wait ‘til tomorrow.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Cas says, and then he sends Dean one last gentle smile, and leaves.

Dean falls asleep not long after Cas leaves, and feels happier for the next day to come than he has in a while.

 

~~oOo~~ 

 

The next morning starts with one last visit from Doctor Bradbury, who explains him how to clean his wounds and repeats that he needs to rest his foot several times. He gets a time and date for when he has to return to get his cast changed, and a few stern but sweet words on how he should take better care of himself in the future.

He has an hour left until a nurse will come to give him one last thrombosis shot, and is very proud when he manages to hop into the bathroom without needing to call a nurse for help.

He washes himself as much as possible, brushes his teeth with the toothbrush the hospital provided him with, and frowns a little at the scruff covering his cheeks. It’s not looking too bad, but he’d prefer to be clean shaven for Cas.

As soon as he catches himself thinking that, though, he shakes the thought from his head. No, he is not cleaning up for Cas. This is not a date. This is just Cas; a nice guy, who has a way too big heart — taking a poor, broken guy home from the hospital. That’s it.

When Cas walks into the room, Dean is sitting on the bed in boxer shorts and a shirt. He realized too late that he can’t fit his jeans over his cast, no matter how much he struggles and stretches them, and blushes bright red when Cas’ eyes land on his bare legs. “I — um, I’m sorry, I didn’t really think about this and I can’t fit my jeans over the —”

Cas interrupts his rambling with a laugh, head thrown back and teeth showing, and Dean feels lost again. He pulls a backpack from his back and unzips it, pulls out baggy grey sweatpants.

“I see that struggle a lot, and remembered to bring something to help,” he says, as he throws the pants at Dean. Dean is incredibly embarrassed about it, but Cas helps him put them on — carefully holds up his broken leg, pulls the pant-leg over the chunky cast, and lets Dean do the rest.

Cas walks next to Dean as he hobbles his way out of the hospital on his crutches, taking a short break to sign the last papers to finalize his discharge, and then continues out to the parking area.

Cas walks close to him, his hands stretched out like he’s ready to catch Dean if he falls — but that doesn’t happen.

Dean even makes it into Cas’ car, an awful Lincoln Continental Dean will definitely joke about as soon as his leg stops throbbing, on his own.

Cas is quiet during the entire twelve minutes it takes him to drive down to the motel on Main Street. He’s quiet as he waits for Dean to get out of the car, as he walks towards the motel clerk next to Dean.

He’s quiet when the clerk tells Dean that John Winchester left two days ago, that the room has been cleared and rented to someone new.

The clerk, a small guy in huge glasses, tells Dean that John left something in case anyone came back asking for him. He pulls a duffle from behind the counter, hands it to Dean — and Dean realizes that this is his duffle, filled with his handful of clothes, his few personal things.

He feels his stomach drop, fingers growing cold. He should have expected this — kind of did, if he’s being honest with himself. But it’s a different thing, realizing that his father has left him, didn’t even care to figure out what’s happened to him. That his father left him with nothing but his few belongings and the money he has in his pocket.

He swerves a little, but catches himself before Cas hands are even close enough to steady him. When Dean looks up, he finds Cas eyes on him, huge and worried and sad.

“Alright, then,” Dean mumbles. “Thanks. I guess I’ll just...” he trails off, nodding towards the clerk.

“Dean?” Cas asks, and he sounds determined but soft at the same time. “Can I take you out for dinner first, at least?”

“I think if anyone deserves to be taken out for dinner, it’s you. Let me pay and I’m in?” Dean smiles, and is glad to get a little more distraction before he’ll eventually have to return back to a dingy motel room. All alone, for the first time in three days.

Dean’s always been good at being alone, has loved the limited hours he could spend without having to either take care of Sam or do work for John, but he feels a little nauseous at the thought of it right now, maybe for the first time ever.

Cas looks hesitant — but eventually he nods, and says: “If you’re sure? Then I’d like that very much.”

They decide to drive the five minutes to the closest diner Cas could think of, and when they walk inside, they are both a little surprised about how nice it is. They get a bigger table, thankfully, so Dean can sit on one side of it and put his leg up on the bench next to where Cas sits on the other side.

They order food; Cas gets a sandwich with chicken and a whole bunch of vegetables, while Dean treats himself to another burger, with a heap of bacon, and a portion of fries on the side.

Cas doesn’t ask about Dean’s family, or why he moves from motel to motel, or even why his father left his injured son alone without even checking on him.

Instead, he talks about his work, about how long he’s been living in Kansas, how he likes it here. He tells Dean stories about his dorky cat and how she tends to get stuck in ridiculous places at least once a day; wedged between couch and wall, in a cupboard, in Cas’ laundry rack.

He smiles wide whenever he’s not stuffing his mouth with food, and Dean can’t help but smile right back.

Dean, in turn, talks about Sam. About their happier childhood memories, about how great he is, about how he lives now — at least the few things Dean knows from the two phone conversations they’ve had since he left, and the times Dean stalked his Facebook page.

Eventually, they are full, and content, and getting tired — hiding yawns behind hands and shoulders, diving back out with bashful smiles.

When Cas eventually suggests leaving, Dean feels cold and hollow already.

He pays, leaves as generous a tip as he possibly can with the money he’s got left, and then they make their way outside and into Cas’ car.

He waits for Cas to start his car, but when, after a while, Cas still just sits there with his hands on the steering wheel in the darkness, Dean turns as much as his cast allows and looks at him.

Cas looks lost in thought as he turns towards Dean, too. “Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you — You could stay with me, if you wanted to,” Cas says, and looks up at him through dark, long lashes.

“Um, what?”

“You could, if you wanted to, stay at my place. I have a guest room. If you — I mean, do you really want to go back to that motel? Stay there on your own?”

“Cas,” Dean says, and his voice is cold, his jaw clenched. “I’m not some charity case you have to take on. I’ve told you before — I can manage on my own.”

“Dean-”

“No. You’ve done enough. Thank you, but I think I don’t need your pity anymore.”

“Dean,” Cas says again, with more force, and when Dean looks up at him, his eyes almost glow with determination. “I’m not doing this for charity, or out of pity. I’m doing this because of you. It’s only been three days, and I realize this might be ridiculous, but I got to know. And you’re a great man.”

“Cas,” Dean whispers, turns away a little, so he doesn’t have to look into Cas’ eyes. “I’m broken.”

“You are not broken,” Cas says, and when Dean doesn’t respond, Cas reaches over. He carefully touches Dean’s jaw with the back of his fingers, guides Dean’s face back up until their eyes are locked again. “Dean,” again, and then he leans all the way in and kisses him.

Dean isn’t really sure what’s happening, until he feels Cas pull back a little and he realizes — realizes that Cas really just kissed him. Him. Dean.

So he wraps his hands around Cas’ neck and pulls him back in, can’t help but let himself have this moment. Cas goes willingly, fits right back against Dean’s lips and kisses him again, soft and careful and warm and just so, so good.

No kiss has ever felt this way, and they both lose themselves a little, only pull back when they both need to gasp for breath.

It’s even darker around them now, with the sun hidden entirely, but Dean can make Cas’ dopey grin out across from him, anyway.

But then Cas smile drops from his face, and instead there’s shock. His eyes grow wide, his mouth drops open, and Dean’s stomach drops right along with it.

“Dean,” he whispers, and then he turns the key in his ignition, and the car’s headlights light everything up around them — and Cas looks at him in awe.

“Is — um, everything alright?” Dean asks, and then Cas lifts his hand towards Dean’s face again, but it freezes somewhere mid-air.

And that’s when Dean realizes — sees that the once-black splotches on Cas’ hand are now red and green and violet and yellow and orange and — and Dean did that?

Dean did that.

And Cas is looking at him with wide eyes, and his lips stretch into a smile again, and Dean can’t help it. He pulls Cas hand the rest of the way towards his face, and starts to cover his knuckles in kisses.

He can’t quite believe Cas hasn’t touched him before, but it doesn’t matter, because now, with Cas’ skin against his lip, his other hand in Dean’s hair — all he wants is to never stop touching Cas ever again.

Cas seems content to not do anything but touch Dean for the next, endless moments, too.

When they eventually pull apart, hair ruffled and lips swollen and skin covered in goosebumps, and Cas asks again: “Will you come home with me?” — Dean can’t do anything but kiss him, hard and desperate, and happily accept his offer.