One moment, Castiel is flying. The sky is lit only by the soft light of the crescent moon and the distant stars. Beneath him, the earth is mostly dark. The town, whichever one it may be, is sleeping—not that he pays it much mind. He has a job to complete, and a timeline to do it in. Destinies must be set in motion.
And then his peace is shattered. Something dense hits him from above, striking right between his wings. It jolts him, snapping him out of the idle thoughts he tends to settle into while on duty. Thankfully, he only loses a few feet of altitude before he recovers. He twists in the air, trying to catch a glimpse of his assailant, but all he sees is a flash of white feathers before he’s hit again, this time by an arrow skewering through one of his wings. Now, there’s no recovering.
One moment, Castiel is flying. The next, he’s falling.
Someone’s speaking. Not to Castiel—the tone isn’t right for that—but near him. To someone else? There doesn’t seem to be a responding voice, though. Castiel’s head feels heavy, his thoughts slow and thick like molasses, but he does his best to focus in.
“—not make it to dinner. I’ll give you an update later, but for now, I just don’t know.” There’s a pause, and a sigh. “Yeah, ‘course I talked to Benny, first thing this morning. You can check with him, if you want. I’m just taking a sick day, Sammy, nothing to be concerned about. Talk to you later, bitch.”
There’s a definitive silence after that, which Castiel isn’t sure is better than the stranger’s voice. At least with the man—and it does seem to be a man—talking, he could determine that there was some distance between the two of them. Now, Castiel has no clues to go on. All he can do is feign sleep for a bit longer, and wait for whatever comes next.
It’s terrifying, not knowing things. Fear isn’t something he’s used to experiencing in his line of work.
Then, without warning, something cold touches the side of Castiel’s face, and the foreignness of the contact wrenches him out of the stillness he has maintained thus far. He leaps upward and away from the contact, his only thought that he is being threatened and he needs to get away . In an instant he materializes his bow, nocks an arrow, and draws it. His vision wavers nearly as much as his stance, but even in the scarcely-lit room, he can see his target clearly enough, kneeling beside a couch where Castiel was lying. He aims his arrow directly at the man’s heart, a location chosen more out of muscle memory than logic.
Without taking his eyes off of his target, Castiel tries to get a quick appraisal of his location. He’s in a house, that much is obvious—it likely belongs to the man in front of him. The lights in the room are off, but enough spills in through the archway to the next room to see reasonably well by. Scarcely more than the man’s silhouette is visible with the lighting as it is, but even in his current position, Castiel can tell he is tall and broad-shouldered. He might be able to overpower Castiel, if he is given the chance.
The man swallows hard, his throat illuminated just enough for the bobbing of his throat to be visible. He slowly raises his hands to be level with his head. Castiel sees that one of them is clutching a small, wet towel.
“Hey—I’m not gonna hurt you,” the man says, catching Castiel by surprise. He’s addled enough that his attention was still on the towel, stuck trying to determine its purpose. His eyes snap back to the man’s shadowy face as he continues, “I was just trying to clean the blood off of your face. You’re pretty banged up.”
Castiel’s bow arm quivers. With the entirety of his being aching as it is, he doesn’t doubt the truth of the man’s statement. He still holds his arrow steady toward the man’s heart as he asks, “Who are you?”
The man’s eyes flicker between Castiel’s face and the gleaming red arrowhead not six feet from his chest. “How about,” he begins, though his voice cracks and he has to stop to clear his throat. “How about you put the bow down, and then we talk like adults, huh? We can have a nice, calm information swap, and get this all straightened out without anyone getting shot.”
It’s a reasonable enough request, so Castiel slowly lowers his bow. He’s not yet comfortable enough to send it away, but this still seems good enough for the man, who sighs in relief.
“My name is Dean,” he says. “Dean Winchester. Look, man, I don’t know who the hell you are, but I found you in my front yard this morning, half dead. I was gonna call an ambulance, but then I saw a gash on your leg literally knit itself back together, so I figured, whatever the hell you are… You’re probably not the kind of guy who needs a hospital.”
Whatever his injuries are, then, Castiel notes, at least he is healing. He agrees, “No, I’m not. Your foresight is appreciated.”
Dean nods slowly. He runs his eyes up and down Castiel’s form, and again catches on his bow. “So… Who are you, then?”
He hesitates, but only for a second. “My name is Castiel.”
“Okay,” Dean says, nodding again. “Nice to meet you, Castiel. Next question: What are you? Last I checked, not even Legolas himself could pull a bow out of thin air like you just did.”
Castiel frowns. “Is that a figure I should be familiar with?”
“No, it’s—” Dean cuts himself off and shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter. Never mind. Just answer the question—what are you?”
“I’m a cupid.”
Dean scoffs. “Come on, the Legolas thing was more likely than that. Cupids are like, little fat kids. Everyone knows that.”
Castiel squints at him, uncomprehending. “I am not a child, nor am I overweight. Is this a joke?”
Although the man’s face is made unreadable by the shadows stretching across it, his body language makes it clear that he rolls his eyes. When Castiel only frowns, though, the man goes rigid, then staggers to his feet. The quick movement prompts the cupid to halfway raise his bow again in defense, but Dean, thankfully, maintains his distance.
“Holy shit,” he breathes, “you’re serious.”
“Why would I…” A wave of vertigo hits Castiel, cutting him off and sending him falling to the floor on one knee. He grunts in pain at the impact; his bow falls from his grasp and slides a few feet away over the hardwood floor. The lights in the room flick on, and an instant later, a set of hands grip at his shoulders, keeping him from collapsing onto the ground completely.
“Hey, let’s get you back on the couch, alright?” Dean suggests with an obviously forced level of calm, already working to guide the cupid in that direction. “Doesn’t matter what you are, I wasn’t kidding when I said you were banged up.”
Castiel twists himself out of the hold, though he stumbles when he once again becomes solely responsible for his balance. He remains upright, but only barely—but even barely is enough to make his push for independence worthwhile. He already doesn’t want to be where he is, he doesn’t want to be being touched on top of everything else.
He turns to face his captor (because surely that is an apt term in this scenario; Castiel is in this man’s home against his will), but abruptly freezes in place.
Until this very moment, he realizes, he hadn’t truly seen the human as anything more than a vague, shadowy figure. The lighting was dim, his senses were—are—blurred; the man with a cupid’s life in his hands was faceless.
In the light, that ceases to be true. Dean Winchester very much has a face.
No, Castiel thinks. Dean Winchester does not just have a face. He has a beautiful face. Perfectly symmetrical. Paler than Castiel’s own, but sun-kissed and freckled. Plush, pink lips and wide, green eyes. Even the dark lines beneath those green eyes carry beauty, as does the disheveled arrangement of his dark-blond hair.
Overall, it’s a beautiful face worthy of taking Castiel’s breath away.
It’s also a beautiful face which looks very concerned.
Castiel blinks back into focus, forcing his attention toward the sounds he is sure must be leaving Dean’s moving mouth. And what a good mouth it is; the way it moves is nothing short of entrancing.
“Castiel?” the man is saying, voice hesitant. “Are you… okay? What’s happening? Can you sit down already, you’re stressing me out.”
“I—Um.” Castiel clears his throat and turns away as quickly as he is able, stooping to retrieve his bow. His face feels too warm, and he doesn’t like it. “My apologies, Dean. I think I must have… hit my head, at some point during the events of last night. But it is getting better, I will be alright.”
And it’s probably true. Dean mentioned his leg was cut, and he distinctly recalls being shot through the wing; having a blow to his head thrown into the mix is perfectly believable. It would explain his behavior well enough, too. His… distractions.
It doesn’t provide reason for the sudden twisting in his stomach, of course, but, well. He can keep that part to himself.
Dean nods, accepting the answer. “Okay. Good. How about you just…” He shuffles closer, his concern unrelenting. “Lie down? I’ll go get you some food or something.”
Castiel’s instinct is to decline on both counts, but Dean is gone before he can say a word, ducking through the doorway that presumably leads to the kitchen. Castiel, now alone for the first time since he woke, sighs.
So it seems this is happening, then. He resigns himself to his fate.
There’s a sharp pain in his side when he lowers himself onto the couch, and he grasps at his ribs like the added pressure will provide relief. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t. All he gains from the experience is the knowledge that his wrap, the fabric typically flowing and white, is marked with dirt stains and patches of dried blood. He’ll have to mend it as soon as he is able, when he has the energy to spare.
The sash that belongs around his waist, however, is absent. The red silk isn’t a necessity, by any means, but it is a universal sign that a cupid is on duty and actively pursuing targets. Castiel must have lost his when he was knocked out of the sky. Unfortunate, yet perfectly timed, Castiel has to concede.
The couch is surprisingly comfortable, though, and smells faintly of Dean—which, based on Castiel’s first impression, seems to mean apples and whiskey and flour. It’s easy to let the pain fade from the forefront of his mind as he soaks in the array of scents, and he steadily relaxes into the cushions.
Dean returns a few minutes later, a paper plate balanced on one hand and a bottle of water in the other. As he shuffles in, his eyes lock onto Castiel’s hand, still pressed tight over his aching ribs. “You okay? How bad does it hurt?”
“I’m fine.” Castiel lets his hand fall away from the sore point and takes the plate from Dean’s hands, eager for a way to occupy himself. It’s only when he’s blinking at the sandwich that he becomes aware of what it is. He looks back up at Dean. “My kind doesn’t require food.”
Dean frowns. “Oh. Well. Just eat it anyway. Humor me.”
Castiel does. The first bite is not as revolting as he expects, and after a few more, he has to admit… it actually tastes pretty good. He tears into the rest like a starving man.
Although Dean smiles, he has the good grace not to comment.
“Brought you water and some Tylenol, too,” he adds, sitting himself down on the edge of the coffee table and placing the bottle of water beside him. He twists open his palm and reveals a pair of white tablets, which he dumps unceremoniously beside the water bottle. “Don’t know if they’ll be much good for something like… you, but, well. Figure we might as well try, right?”
Castiel pauses, his final wedge of sandwich shoved halfway into his mouth. Will human medicines have an effect on him? He doubts it, but he can’t actually be sure without having any experience in the matter. He mumbles around his mouthful, “’ank you, Dean.”
Dean wrinkles his nose, but Castiel can see that he’s also suppressing a smile. It makes the cupid feel oddly pleased.
“Sure thing, buddy. I’d kinda rather you didn’t die on me, so.”
Once he’s finished his sandwich, Castiel smiles at the man. “Considering I would rather not die, thank you. I appreciate your efforts.”
Dean snorts. “Fair enough.”
The cupid reaches for the water and medicine tablets next, swallowing the latter and then drinking some of the former. Dean gives him a funny look, but doesn’t comment; Castiel doesn’t ask. If he is to be staying with Dean, that may simply be the best plan of action.
If he is to be staying with Dean.
Castiel doesn’t know where that thought came from, but as soon as the thought is there, it alarms him. He is injured, yes, but that doesn’t mean he is staying. He has a job to do. He has a purpose, and one which certainly does not allow for even so much as a friendship with a human.
But he is injured. Though they’re not on the human plane of perception, he can feel an ache in his right wing, reverberating all through the limb and down into his shoulder blade. It’s dulled while his wings are stowed, thankfully, but that will change as soon as he pulls them back into the physical plain.
What damage will he find there when he does, he wonders? He doesn’t remember what caused him to fall in the first place, and while that’s alarming in itself, it means that he truly has no idea how broken his wing may be.
He prays it’s not irreparable.
Since that’s not a subject he wants to focus on too closely right now, he turns his attention elsewhere.
How did he get here?
He voices the question aloud, though the only person he means to be asking is himself. Still, Dean’s brow furrows, and he takes it upon himself to try to answer.
“We went over this. You were in my front yard—”
“No, not in your house,” Castiel cuts him off, shaking his head. “Why was I in your yard? I don’t remember what happened. I was… I was flying, on my way to an assignment in New York. I shouldn’t have fallen. I shouldn’t have…”
“Hold on, did you say you were flying? You mean cupids are actually—Wait. Do you have wings?”
Castiel gives him a look. “Of course I have wings. How else would I be able to fly across the globe on a regular basis?”
Dean’s mouth opens like he’s going to argue, but then it snaps shut again. It takes him a moment to finally choke out, “But—Where are they?”
Dean’s eyebrows shoot upwards. “Concealed? What the hell does that mean?”
“It means,” Castiel replies through gritted teeth, “that they are in a tremendous amount of pain and tucked into a plane of existence adjacent to the one you know for their own safety.” He assumes they were crushed when he crash-landed in Dean’s yard; he doesn’t remember much of what happened prior to that, but the pain speaks for itself. It’s dulled somewhat by the barrier of the realm separating them, but that only means so much. They’ll be kept in stasis until he rematerializes them, meaning that he will have to face the full reality of it sooner or later.
Dean’s expression softens a little at the mention of Castiel’s pain, his mouth pulling down a little at the corners. “Is there anything I can do to help? I mean, I’m only a human, there’s probably not much I can do anyway, but…”
He’ll have to deal with them at some point, but at this moment in time, Castiel is still reeling and disoriented—both from the crash and from Dean Winchester. Dean means well, but Castiel just can’t face the damage to his wings, not right now. His shoulders hunch slightly, and his gaze slides away.
Dean must sense his reluctance to further address the issue, because before Castiel can muster up any kind of deflection, he clears his throat and stands from his perch on the coffee table. “We’ll just deal with that when you’re ready then, huh? Until then, I’m gonna…” He makes a vague gesture. “Got stuff to deal with for work. I’ll be in the kitchen. Holler if you need me, will you?”
And with one last lingering look, Dean leaves, disappearing off into the next room. Castiel can hear him moving things around for a few minutes before eventually falling quiet.
The cupid sighs. This might turn out to be a difficult experience.
Castiel remains on the couch for the next several hours. Dean comes through every now and again, checking in on him and offering him snacks, water, and painkillers, but for the most part, the human gives him space. It threatens to be awkward, due to the fact that Castiel is in Dean’s house, but he focuses on conserving his energy and healing his pains, and leaves Dean be.
They’re two strangers, cautiously trusting one another. Castiel is depending on Dean to keep him safe while he recovers, and Dean, meanwhile, is allowing a non-human being to be in his home.
Even though Dean doesn’t say anything more about Castiel’s status as a cupid, Castiel knows it is something he has to be thinking about. Most times when Dean comes through the living room, there’s a crease between his brows, and he stares for extended periods of time at Castiel’s strange clothing, his lingering injuries, the bow sitting on the floor beside the couch.
Supernatural entities tend not to reveal themselves to humans for this exact reason—humans are set in their ways, and have notoriously fragile worldviews. They don’t like learning that there is more to their world than they previously knew.
So while Dean does handle Castiel’s existence remarkably well, Castiel can’t fault him for getting hung up in a few places. And he also isn’t going to push his luck any more than he has to.
Dean is already being far more accommodating with him than he needs to be, after all.
And that’s proved by the fact that, when night falls, Dean helps Castiel transfer from the couch into the guest bedroom. The bed is made up with crisp, white sheets, and though they smell more like detergent than like Dean, as the couch had, Castiel rather likes it, anyway. It reminds him of the sterility of Heaven, where he lives with his fellow cupids.
Once Castiel is in the bed, Dean fusses over him with nervous movements, tucking the covers in around him and surrounding him with extra pillows. Castiel simply watches him, too curious about the man’s mannerisms to resist.
Of all the humans to be stuck with, he got this enigma. A completely selfless man with an apparent penchant for taking care of strangers.
“Alright, so.” Dean clears his throat, then awkwardly pats at the foot of the bed. He’s hovering, like he still isn’t sure whether or not he can leave his new houseguest on his own. “Anything else you need before I go to bed? Will you be okay?”
Castiel shifts in place. The mattress is soft beneath him, and the sheets provide an odd sensation against the bare skin of his legs, where his clothing doesn’t keep him covered. Unlike eating, sleeping is something that he knows his kind can do—but it’s been quite some time since he last needed to do it, so he’s sure it’s going to be an interesting experience nonetheless.
But there isn’t anything Dean can do about that, so Castiel smiles. It’s a remarkably easy thing to do, thanks to the warmth that has made itself at home in the cupid’s chest over the last several hours. “I should be alright. Thank you for all of your assistance, Dean. I greatly appreciate it.”
The room is dim, lit only by a lamp beside the bed, yet Dean’s cheeks clearly turn pink. It’s an interesting reaction; Castiel cocks his head to the side while he considers it.
“Yeah,” Dean says back, not making eye contact, “it’s, uh. No problem.”
“Perhaps not for you,” Castiel agrees without missing a beat. “You have a good heart, Dean.”
Dean’s head snaps up, and his eyes are wide while he gapes at Castiel. His blush, Castiel can now see, extends all the way up to the tips of his ears. Then after a beat he says, “That sounds like something that means a lot, coming from a cupid.”
Castiel blinks—maybe it is, he supposes, though he wouldn’t have thought of it in such terms himself—but before he can respond to the comment, a look of shock crosses Dean’s face, and his blush grows darker.
“I mean. Sorry. I’m not trying to…” Dean’s throat audibly clicks when he swallows. “Goodnight, Cas.”
Then Dean turns on his heel and flees the room, closing the bedroom door behind him. Castiel is left with the distinct feeling that he missed something.
Was Dean… trying to be flirtatious?
And why had he called him Cas ? That isn’t his name.
Castiel isn’t sure what the answer may be for either question, but he sits awake and mulls them over, long into the night.
Come morning, he’s determined that he’ll have to ask Dean about what happened. For all that Castiel may know about human relationships, he has never had to identify signs of courtship from such a near distance. In fact, he has never even had to interact with a human on a level such as this. His job may be to facilitate romance between couples with soulmate-level compatibility, but he does so invisibly, and from a safe distance.
It isn’t a job that requires… people skills.
Staying with Dean, however, most certainly will.
When he gets out of bed (which is absurdly comfortable, now that it has been slept in), Castiel is determined to seek Dean out and get his explanations without delay. There is no reason to delay, after all—except for the one that Castiel almost immediately discovers when he starts to roam the house.
Dean isn’t there.
The kitchen and living room are empty and the lights are off, and Dean’s bedroom is in a similar state, when Castiel finds and checks it. The realization that he has been abandoned makes him frown. Where could Dean have gone? Especially as early in the morning as it is? It’s only a little past seven, and even Castiel knows that that is before most humans begin their days.
So where has Dean gone?
Castiel walks back through the living room and into the kitchen before he finds his answer, in the form of a plate on the counter and a square of paper beside it. The plate holds a slice of apple pie, the top crust woven into a perfect lattice. Castiel squints at it for a moment, unsure of its purpose, then gingerly picks up the accompanying note.
Sorry for the vanishing act, forgot to warn you last night that I had to work this morning. Don’t know how long you’ll sleep, but I shouldn’t be home too long after noon. Pie makes great breakfast, if you’re hungry. Tylenol is in the cabinet closest to the fridge.
Work. Dean hadn’t mentioned anything about his work the previous day, Castiel realizes, so he doesn’t have the slightest idea of what his job may involve. Given Dean’s build and physique, his wide shoulders and strong arms, he would guess that it’s something physical. Construction, maybe? Some form of carpentry?
Castiel glances at the clock on the front of the stove. Assuming Dean is home at noon, Castiel will have approximately four and a half hours to himself. Alone. In Dean’s home.
Castiel doesn’t know what to do with that.
He eyes the slice of pie warily. It’s probably a fine piece of food, but as far as he’s concerned, he’s already done enough exploration into human food. A sandwich can’t be all that different from pie, surely.
Most of his smaller wounds have healed, so as he is, Castiel feels better than he had previously—but that doesn’t stop him from checking through the kitchen cabinets until he finds bottle of Tylenol. He swallows a pair of tablets under the assumption, if anything, they can’t hurt.
The pain in his wings is terrible enough that he’s willing to do whatever it takes for a chance of relief.
But beyond that… he truly doesn’t know what to do with himself. He could assess his wounds, but that would mean looking at his wings, which isn’t something he is ready for quite yet. He could snoop through Dean’s belongings to try to find out if the man is actually as pure-hearted as he seems to be, but even just thinking about it strikes him as a breach of trust.
Dean took him in and is caring for him. Asking him direct questions (as Castiel still intends to do, as soon as Dean is home) is one thing, but invading his privacy without his knowledge?
No. He won’t. He may not be human, but he still has manners.
In the end, he decides to simply sit himself back on the couch and wait. The TV remote catches his eye where it sits on the coffee table, so he pushes buttons on it until the television turns on. When, by some miracle, a program actually comes on, the cupid can’t help but feel proud of himself. He shifts around to lay on his stomach, relieving any unnecessary pressure from his back, then settles in to watch whatever the TV decides to show him.
That’s how Dean finds him when he gets home, four hours later. Sprawled across the couch on his stomach, utterly engrossed in Dr. Sexy M.D.
“Hello, Dean,” Castiel greets when Dean enters the room. It comes out muddled, the words distorted by the couch cushion Castiel’s face is halfway pushed into. His wings are well and truly aching, now, and his grace is throbbing from the strain of keeping them concealed. Staying relaxed and distracted by his show, though, at least has the benefit of making it easier to ignore. “How was work?”
“Uh…” Dean is slow to approach the couch, and even though Castiel doesn’t look directly at him, he can tell that the man looks between him and the TV several times before getting his bearings. “Work was… fine. What are you doing?”
“Watching a fascinatingly inaccurate medical drama. All of these characters are attracted to one another and talk about true love, yet so far, none of them seem to have any idea what it means. No cupid would ever stoop so low as to bother getting involved with such…” Castiel makes a vague gesture at the TV. “Trivial flights of fancy.”
It takes a long moment, but eventually Dean just says, “...Right.”
Castiel glances at him. He’s dressed casually, in a plaid shirt with sleeves rolled to his elbows and jeans marked with streaks of white, clearly in the spots where he wipes his hands. “Where do you work?”
Dean blinks. “Where do I work?”
“Yes. What is it that you do?”
“Oh. I… bake.”
The cupid swings his feet down to the floor and sits upright. “You bake,” he repeats.
“Yeah. I own and operate a bakery.”
Baking. It’s in a completely different realm from what Castiel would have ever guessed. It’s so… soft.
But from what he knows of Dean so far, of his kindness and his selflessness—perhaps that’s fitting.
Castiel eyes the stains on Dean’s jeans. Probably flour, he deduces. He asks next, “Did you make the pie that you set out for me?”
Dean’s entire expression lights up. “Yeah, I did. Did you like it?”
He suddenly wishes that he had. He confesses, “I’ve never had pie, and I wasn’t quite feeling adventurous enough for it this morning. Perhaps later.”
And just like that, Dean deflates. “Later. Sure. Okay. Guess it’ll be more fun for me if I’m there when you pop your pie cherry, anyway.” Castiel frowns, puzzled by Dean’s word choice, but Dean quickly rushes ahead before he can be questioned. “So, how are you feeling? Any better?”
He crosses the living room while he speaks to get a better look at Castiel, and reaches out his hand to touch the back of his knuckles to the cupid’s forehead. Castiel sways back before Dean makes contact, though, then stares at the extended hand until Dean clears his throat and drops it.
“It’s alright. I am feeling better.” He gestures stiffly toward himself. “This is all… mostly healed. I cannot say the same for my wings, but. Small steps.”
“Your wings. Right.” Dean carefully lowers himself to sit on the couch beside Castiel, a respectable distance away, yet near enough that Castiel can still feel the tension that radiates off of him. His nervousness is a palpable thing. “My offer from yesterday stands, you know. If you need help, I can do my best.”
“No, I—” Castiel starts to turn him down on instinct, because despite how quickly he is warming to Dean, his wings are his wings—but he thinks better of it before the words are fully out. Judging by what he can feel, he won’t be able to fix his wings himself. He can’t return to Heaven until they’re healed, which means he has no easy way of finding another cupid to help him instead. It may be awkward to let Dean touch his wings, but it’s better than the alternative.
Which, as far as Castiel can see, is letting them sit and become even worse than they already are.
He sighs heavily. “Do you have any medical knowledge?”
“Oh, um.” Dean scrubs his palms against his jeans. He seems to be genuinely shocked that his help isn’t being turned down. “I’m first aid certified. And, inaccurate though it may be in the love department, I’ve definitely seen every single episode of this trash.” He flicks his chin toward the television, where Dr. Sexy is currently making out with a nurse in a closet. “So if what you’ve got is worse than that, I’ll wing it.”
Castiel stares at him. Dean stares right back until, eventually, his facade cracks and he laughs.
“Sorry,” he amends, “pun unintended.”
“I’m sure,” Castiel replies dryly, most definitely not fighting a smile of his own. Any amusement he may feel quickly drains back away as soon as he remembers the actual subject at hand, however, and his fingers automatically begin to tug at the hem of his wrap. “So. How shall we do this?”
Dean immediately turns serious, too. “Right, how about… Follow me?”
Castiel does as he’s told and goes along with him. Dean ends up sitting him on a low stool, backless so that his wings will have room to fall free and be maneuvered around. It’s perfect for the job, Castiel has to admit.
Even if it also puts him in a position of vulnerability that gives him his first ever desire to throw up.
Or maybe that’s just the pain that his wings are causing him. He can’t be sure, at this point.
Dean makes a quick trip into the kitchen to retrieve a first aid kit, then another upstairs to the bathroom attached to his bedroom for some additional supplies. Castiel doesn’t bother asking what any of it may be, trusting Dean to figure out what he needs, and spends the time mentally preparing for what he is about to endure.
He really hopes he isn’t wrong about putting his trust in Dean. Because if he is, this is when he’s going to find out.
Eventually, Dean comes to stand behind Castiel, his gathered equipment laid across the nearby dining table. “Okay,” he prompts, “whenever you’re ready.”
Castiel takes a deep breath and splays his trembling hands across his thighs, then concentrates. The pain increases sharply as he pulls his wings into the material plane, which nearly convinces him to abandon this endeavor—but leaving the limbs as they are isn’t a solution, so he grits his teeth, steels his resolve, and makes the final push to bring them into existence.
Somewhere during the process, Castiel had squeezed his eyes closed. The first assessment of his wings’ condition comes from Dean, when he sucks in a sharp breath between his teeth and whispers, “Fuck.”
Slowly, Castiel opens his eyes and turns his head to the side. His left wing can still support its own weight, to an extent, though it feels fractured in a few different places from his crash landing. His feathers look dull and brittle, many of them missing and in a worse state of disarray than Castiel has ever seen them. It’s ugly, to say the least.
That’s the good wing.
He turns his head in the other direction to look at his right wing, and tears well up in his eyes. It’s no wonder that the pain is so unbearable. The wing hangs limply by his side, at an angle that Castiel is sure means the radius and ulna have been snapped in half. The feathers, as well as being dull and broken, are also clumped and matted with blood, a vicious red-on-white mess, and it’s too much for him to process right now. He wrenches his gaze away and fights back the sob that threatens to rise from his throat, closing his eyes for a second against the waves of pain and grief that threaten to overwhelm him.
Dean whistles lowly, circling around Castiel to view the damage from another angle. “You concealed it looking like that? Jesus Christ, Cas, how does that make sense? It’s like finding out your house is on fire and dealing with it by closing the front door and hoping for the best.”
“It’s a safety measure.” The cupid glares up at Dean, his teeth grinding against the pain. His nails dig into the meat of his thighs in an effort to ground himself. “It didn’t hurt very badly before. Now it hurts.”
Dean is quiet for a beat. “Can I…. I’m gonna…” He blows out a sharp breath. “Don’t freak out, okay?”
There’s a sharp tug right at the center of Castiel’s damaged wing. The cupid cries out, but before he can give into his desire to lash out at Dean for exacerbating his pain, the man circles around to his front, an arrow held delicately between his fingers.
“I take it this was your problem. Probably wasn’t yours, huh?”
It’s a cupid’s arrow, but it’s definitely not Castiel’s. He grits his teeth, pain still radiating from his injured wing, but his brows draw into a frown as he reaches for the arrow. Despite Dean’s obvious curiosity over it, he relinquishes it to Castiel’s grasp and careful inspection. The arrow itself bears no distinguishable markings; Castiel had always been of the opinion that identifiers are a vain practice for cupids, but now the lack of one is nothing but a source of frustration.
Someone shot him out of the sky that night, but he has no idea who. And until his wings heal, he has no chance of finding out that information.
He sets it aside, and though Dean’s fascinated gaze follows the movement, he quickly snaps it back to the broad expanse of Castiel’s wing. “Alright,” he says decisively, pulling up his own stool and opening up his first aid kit with a sharp snap . “Not gonna lie, this is probably gonna hurt, but there’s no other way it’s gonna get better. You’re sure you want me to do this? Last chance to back out.”
Not really, Castiel thinks, but there’s no other way around it. He can barely reach all of his feathers on a good day; right now, there’s no way he could properly clean and tend to them. Furthermore, he’s never had to deal with any injuries even remotely similar to this one. Despite how much he wants to rely on his grace to heal it over time, he has a terrible suspicion that he needs more than that.
If Castiel wants to fly again, Dean is his best bet.
“Yes,” he mutters, and tries to extend his wings a little in invitation—get it over with, he wants the gesture to say—but even the small movement sends pain lancing through his nerves, and he bites out a sharp curse in Enochian.
Dean immediately looks concerned. “Cas, hey, relax. You don’t have to move, okay? Just… just sit there, and think of Heaven or whatever happy places cupids like, and let me look after you.”
It will have to do. Castiel tries to ‘relax,’ as Dean said, and let his mind wander, but the thought of someone touching his wings while he’s so vulnerable has him on edge, and he watches Dean like a hawk as he raises a damp cloth to the wound on his right wing.
As soon as the cloth touches the exposed skin and muscle beneath his feathers, Castiel’s whole body tenses up, because it stings like nothing he’s ever experienced before. A growl vibrates in his chest, and Dean makes a quiet, sympathetic sound. “I know, Cas. I know it hurts. I have to clean it, though, dude.”
If he’s going to heal properly, the congealed blood in his feathers has to come out. Castiel knows that, but it doesn’t mean he has to like it.
“Quickly,” he growls out, and this time manages to stifle his reactions as Dean presses the cloth to his wing once again.
It’s an excruciatingly slow process. First, Dean cleans the blood from his wing. Then he rinses out the wound and bandages it as best he can—which is difficult, considering Castiel’s feathers and the general shape of his wing.
The broken bones prove to be the worst part. For his left wing, there’s only one fracture that requires a splint (which Dean has to make on the fly), which is relatively painless to apply. On the right wing, though, the weight of his wing has dragged the snapped bones out of alignment. In order for Castiel’s body to heal properly, Dean has to maneuver them back into alignment, or as close as he can get. He apologizes constantly as Castiel grinds his teeth against the scream that claws at his throat, the wing twitching in Dean’s grip. His vision begins to go spotty, and he has to focus all his attention on not passing out.
By the time his vision and breathing return to normal, Dean has finished affixing the homemade splint to the broken bones. He has one hand splayed across Castiel’s chest, the other on his shoulder, and looks up at him with worry from where he’s kneeling on the floor. “Cas? Cas, buddy, you with me?”
His wings still ache, but now that the injuries have been treated, the pain has lessened a little. Castiel forces his hands to unclench, and eyes the crescent marks his nails cut into his palms. “I’m fine,” he mutters, his voice hoarse from the scream he’d tried so hard to suppress. Dean doesn’t look entirely convinced, but when Castiel leans back, away from his touch, he gets the message and settles back onto the floor.
“I’m sorry I had to do that,” he says after a few seconds, and Castiel can almost feel the guilt radiating off of him.
“Dean.” His voice is sharper than he’d intended, but still rough from its misuse. “I told you to do it. Don’t take on blame you haven’t earned.”
It wasn’t Dean’s fault that he’d been shot out of the sky—Castiel shouldn’t have let it happen to begin with. Dean is being nothing but helpful, though, so he has no reason to feel guilt for something Castiel needed him to do.
Dean still doesn’t seem sure, but he doesn’t push the matter, either. In the few minutes of silence that follow, Castiel takes the opportunity to close his eyes and attempt to better ground himself. He needs to adjust to the new pains in his wings if he is going to function with them like this, and that isn’t going to be an easy thing to do.
When he opens his eyes again, he finds Dean holding the removed arrow, twisting it between his fingertips.
“Don’t let it prick you,” Castiel warns. “If it does, you’ll go wild with romantic and sexual desires for the first person you see.”
Dean stills, looking to Castiel with wide eyes. “Dude, are you fucking serious?”
Castiel huffs, and despite his ordeal, his lips curl up into a tired half-smile. “No.”
Surprise flits across Dean’s features, followed by a reluctant sort of amusement. “Then why did you… Alright, whatever. What would happen?”
“There would be romantic and sexual desire,” Castiel admits, “though I wouldn’t truly call it wild, not in the beginning. Those emotions take time to grow and mature, even if a couple chooses to copulate only a short time after meeting. Also, you wouldn’t experience these things for the first person you see, as I said. Typically two people are struck within moments of each other, so the emotional responses are mutual and neither party is stuck with unrequited love. The first person you see should most likely be the person you were intended for—your soulmate—but if you were to be hit right now, it would not be.”
Dean’s cheeks go a bit pink; Castiel tells himself he’s imagining it. “And… Why is that?”
The answer, though, is simple. “Because at this instant, the first person you would see is me, and I’m a cupid. Cupids don’t have soulmates, so I could not be the person you are drawn to.”
Dean blinks. “Cupids don’t have soulmates? So, what? No true love, no happily ever after?”
“No. No cupid has ever had a soulmate. We… aren’t encouraged to experience love. Only deliver it.”
“Well that’s fucked up.”
Castiel hums, not quite agreeing, but not disagreeing either. It may be normal for his kind, but the unfairness of it has struck him on more than one occasion.
Dean returns to turning the arrow over in his hands, his thumb pressed firmly against the shaft. “But what that means is… You’ve never…”
It isn’t difficult to catch Dean’s meaning. The cupid clears his throat before answering. “No.”
“But like—cupids. You’re literally the symbol of human love. Seems a bit hypocritical, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps. But this is the way we were all created, and it’s all we’ve ever known. Among my kind, we rarely even exchange basic physical contact. We’re very… solitary.”
“Oh.” Dean blinks at him. “Is that why you..?” He doesn’t finish his question, but instead reaches past Castiel’s wing toward his torso. He lightly brushes his fingers across the fringes of the cupid’s white wrap, but before skin can meet skin, Castiel shies away uncomfortably.
He’s aware that he’s blushing, but there’s nothing he can do to combat it. “I… Yes. Contact is… strange, to me. I understand my behavior is probably considered rude, by human standards, but I apologize. I can’t help it.”
Dean sits for a moment with his lips pursed, then nods. “I’ll try not to push you too hard on it, but no promises. I can’t really help being a tactile person. But hey, maybe I’ll help you loosen up a bit, huh?” He reaches out again, and this time manages to drag his fingertips along the bare skin of Castiel’s forearm before the cupid instinctively recoils.
Castiel clears his throat, his ears red. “I, um—Okay. Yes. T-thank you.” He presses his wings in as close to his back as their current state allows, like hiding his vulnerability will end the conversation.
Dean, bless him, takes the hint for what it is. He takes a final look at Castiel’s wings, checking his work, then starts to clean up.
Castiel watches his deft, capable hands as they pack up the first aid kit, and wonders if he could ever get used to being touched.
It doesn’t seem like a very likely thing.
Once all of Dean’s medical supplies are put away, he helps Castiel move to sit in one of the chairs at the dining room table, straddling it backwards so that his wings have space to hang freely in their makeshift splints. They’ll heal better while they’re corporeal, he knows, so it’s for the best that he doesn’t hide them away for the sake of returning to the couch.
Dean joins him a few moments later, taking the chair adjacent to Castiel’s. He brings two plates along with him, each with a lattice-topped slice of pie situated on it.
“Pie cherry,” Dean says, like it’s an answer for an unvoiced question.
Castiel squints at him. “Those are clearly apples. Not cherries.”
Dean barks a laugh. The sound sends a tingle down the cupid’s spine. “Touche. Apple pie is my specialty, almost always sells out at the shop. But what I meant was, this is your first taste of pie, and witnessing this is going to be the best part of my day, hands down.”
“So what did ‘cherry’ have to do with anything?”
“You know, like—Actually, you know what? Never mind.” Dean pushes one of the plates closer to Castiel and offers him a fork. “Just try it.”
Although he continues to frown, Castiel accepts the fork and cuts off the pointed end of the pie slice. He eyes it skeptically—it doesn’t seem like anything special, despite how bright Dean’s excitement is—then slowly wraps his lips around the fork to assess the taste.
His eyes immediately go wide. His morning assessment had been so very wrong. Apple pie is much better than a sandwich.
He savors the flavors that burst across his tongue while he chews, loving the contrast of the apple slices against the flaky crust, and the cinnamon that brings it all together. He itches to take another bite, but before he does, he looks to Dean, disbelieving. “You made this?”
Dean grins, and his chest puffs up with pride. “Damn right I did. It was my grandma’s recipe originally, but I’ve spruced it up over the years. Our bakery, The Family Business, was voted best pie in the state three years running thanks to that apple pie right there.”
“Well.” Castiel cuts off another bite and shoves it into his mouth. He may not need to eat, strictly speaking, but if this is the food he has available to him? He’ll do it all day. “You’ve certainly earned it. This is wonderful.”
Dean’s grin softens and he ducks his head. “Thanks, Cas.”
Castiel is too busy devouring his pie to respond, but since Dean soon follows his lead, he thinks it’s fine. They eat their pie in a comfortable silence, each bite making it easier and easier for Castiel to ignore the pain in his wings. By the time his pie has been reduced to a smudge of filling and a pile of loose flakes from the crust, he’s practically forgotten about the bandaging ordeal all together.
He has, however, thought of something else. He twirls his fork through his hand, flipping it around his fingers, and asks just as Dean takes his own last bite, “Why do you call me Cas?”
Dean coughs around his pie, nearly choking. “I, um.” He struggles to swallow his bite, his face burning red. Then, “Does it bother you?”
Castiel tilts his head while he considers the question. “I don’t believe so,” he concludes after a moment, “but I don’t understand it. My full name is Castiel, as you know.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Dean fidgets in place. “It’s just. Your name is kind of long, and I’m a nickname kind of guy. And I think we’re kind of bound to be friends at this point, so…”
That answer shocks Castiel. “We’re… friends?”
A look of panic crosses Dean’s face. “Oh. Uh. I thought so? Since you’re staying with me, and I’m helping you out, and…” He clears his throat and sits back further in his chair. “I know this isn’t something you chose, so. Sorry for assuming.”
“What?” Castiel wrinkles his nose. “No, that isn’t what I meant. I would very much like to be your friend. But I’ve never had one before.”
Now it’s Dean’s turn to look shocked. “You’ve never had a friend?”
Castiel shrugs, pretending it means less to him than it suddenly does. “Cupids are very work-oriented. I trained a new cupid a few decades ago, and I’m friendly with him, but I don’t see him very often. And there are cupids I like more than others, but I would call our relationships kinship, not friendship.”
Dean’s mouth turns down into a deep frown. “Right. Okay. Guess I’ll just have to be a damn good friend to make up for all of that, then.”
There’s a tingling warmth in Castiel’s stomach when he agrees, “I like the sound of that.”
Dean beams at him, and that warmth Castiel feels doubles in strength. And, since he doesn’t know what to do about it, he wets his lips and changes the subject.
“Do you have more pie?”
Dean is off from work the following day—his bakery is closed on Wednesdays, as he explains, a built-in day off for himself and his employees since normal weekends are their busiest days—so he sits around with Castiel, keeping him occupied from the issue of his wings with samples of pie, tarts, and other baked goods he puts together from ingredients already waiting in his kitchen. He offers to teach Castiel how to do some of it, and doesn’t take no for an answer when he asks the cupid to slice apples for him, but for the most part, Castiel simply observes him.
He likes the way that Dean moves around the kitchen. There’s a simple sort of grace to it, and a comfortable ease which Castiel knows he could never learn to replicate. Everything he does is smooth and sure, and even though his confidence isn’t contagious, his good mood certainly is. Even when he mis-cuts all of his apples and Dean nudges him out of the way to fix them, Castiel enjoys himself immensely.
And when was the last time he did that?
While Dean bakes for him, he also talks. He starts off by telling Castiel about his favorite pie recipes and where they came from (some of them are family recipes, but most of them actually came to be as they are today thanks to harebrained experiences and lucky mistakes), but once the last mini pie for his ‘pie flight’ goes into the oven, Castiel asks after the name of his bakery, and the subject begins to drift.
Despite being called The Family Business, he doesn’t operate his bakery with his family. “It’s kind of a family joke,” he explains, “we’ve always called things that we like to do the family business. And since I grew up baking with my mom, it fit.”
It also seems to fit in that the people Dean describes as being his coworkers—his co-baker Benny, and his front end team, Charlie, Kevin, and Eileen—sound like family in their own right. Dean speaks highly of each of them, smiling like a proud older sibling as he describes each of them to Castiel. It’s incredibly endearing, and makes Castiel want to meet the people Dean is talking about even more than the actual merits he is associating with them.
From there, Dean also goes on to talking about his blood family, by which he means his brother Sam. Dean has even more praise for his brothers than he did for his friends and coworkers; he’s a few years younger than Dean and a lawyer, because he made an abysmal baker.
“Oh, and you should see him around Eileen,” Dean says at one point. A wistful look comes into his eyes, which captures Castiel’s attention more than anything. “They both act like they don’t see it, but they’re so into each other. It’s adorable, you know? Once I hired her, Sam started coming around to Family Business more than he ever had before, but only when she’s scheduled. And then whenever I see him, she is like, all that he talks about.”
Castiel smiles. He likes the mental image Dean is creating; fresh love is one of the cupid’s favorite things to witness. “They weren’t my assignment,” he tells Dean, “so I won’t know until I can return to Heaven, but I would guess that they’re soulmates. I’ve put enough couples together in my time to know how the results look, and what you are describing sounds like it came directly out of the manual.”
Dean stares at him, a smile slowly stretching across his face. “Soulmates, really? You think so?”
“It’s not guaranteed,” Castiel concedes, “but it’s likely. I’ll look into it when I return home.”
Just like that, Dean’s smile ebbs back away. “Right.” He clears his throat, then turns around to look into the oven to check on his pies. Castiel expects that to be the end of the conversation, but Dean surprises him, and says into the still-open oven, “You know, if that’s what love between soulmates looks like, I hope I get that some day. Sam and Eileen are good for each other. They’re not even dating yet, and I can still see from a mile away that they’re going to be happy together, too.”
A heavy weight presses against Castiel’s chest. He says, keeping his voice carefully devoid of emotion, “I’m… confident that you will experience that one day. Your soulmate is out there. Everyone’s is.”
Every human has a soulmate. It’s an undeniable fact. Cupids may be solitary, but humans…
Castiel takes a deep breath. “Whoever is waiting for you, they are very lucky. When I return home, I’ll see if I can bring the two of you together sooner than is planned. As thanks, of course.”
Dean’s shoulders have gone stiff, and even when he closes the oven, he doesn’t look back at Castiel. “As thanks. Yeah. That’d be cool, Cas.”
Castiel doesn’t say anything to that.
The kitchen is silent for a long while.
Slowly but surely, Castiel’s wings begin to heal. Dean regularly helps him change his bandages and realign his splints, and thanks to all of the gentle care and rest they receive, they feel better by the day. Before long, new feathers start to grow in to replace the damaged ones, and his left wing stops needing a splint all together. He hides them less often with each passing day, feeling more confident in their appearance and less self-conscious around Dean.
Why it matters to him what Dean thinks of his broken wings, he doesn’t quite know—Dean bandaged them, he knows just as well as Castiel does how disgusting they were—but he likes having at least one (mostly) healed wing to flaunt anyway. He likes the interest Dean takes in them. He likes that Dean asks him questions about them, and about his cupid duties, always interested no matter how much Castiel tells him. He likes having something to show off.
He even likes knocking his good wing against Dean’s shoulder when he wants to get his attention, or to tease him after one of the lame jokes he loves to crack. The first time he does it, he doesn’t think before he acts, which is almost more surprising than the action itself. He doesn’t do affectionate touches, or affection or touches, for that matter.
But when he did it the first time, Dean gave him the most tender smile he had ever seen. And that smile is the best motivation Castiel has ever had to do anything, in all of his existence.
So maybe it’s weird to be deliberately touching Dean in such a casual way. And maybe it’s weird to be using his wing to do so, a limb which is entirely foreign to humans and therefore inherently personal than a touch with his hand would be. But it’s also something that he has no desire to ruin by overthinking, so he refuses to let himself do just that.
Despite his growing comfort with his wings, however, there come times when Castiel has to hide them. Mainly because when Dean offers to take him out, there is no way the cupid is going to turn him down.
He’s been down on earth more times than he can count, but truth be told, he’s never paid much attention to the intricacies of human life. Until this incident, he has only ever been there for the job—once it was done, there was no further reason to stay.
Being with Dean shows him a completely different world from the one Castiel previously thought he knew. But then, Dean has been doing that since the moment Castiel laid eyes on him.
Although he still wears his wrap around the house, since it leaves his back uncovered so that his wings can be free, Dean insists on dressing him properly when they leave the house. It’s a slightly absurd concept, but when Dean gives him clothes from his own closet to put on…
Well. He doesn’t fight it.
Especially since it means Dean takes Castiel to his bakery.
At first, Castiel is skeptical of the place. As he helps Dean open it up for the first time, much too early in the morning for his liking, he wonders if being here could really be better than eating pies that are made just for him, in the warmth of Dean’s home. Dean speaks highly of The Family Business, but the bakery is cold and dark, and it definitely doesn’t smell as good as Dean had promised.
(And, it doesn’t smell as good as Dean does.)
Not to mention the fact that, now that he’s sleeping on a nightly basis, waking up at the hour he did was far from pleasant. It was only the coffee that Dean put into his hands that got him out of bed to begin with.
And that coffee ran out long ago.
But as soon as Dean begins flipping on lights and leads Castiel through to the kitchen, the space completely transforms. In the light, it looks so much more like Dean , the front being decorated through with classic rock paraphernalia, and the kitchen hosting a fridge filled with familiar, lattice-crusted pies.
Oh, how Castiel adores those pies.
Dean turns on a radio, cranks the volume of the pop song that comes on, and then gets to work. Castiel watches over his shoulder at first, fascinated by the difference in Dean’s baking at work versus what he has seen at home—he’s more intense here, more focused, yet beneath that he’s still his same, casual self—but before long, he finds himself working right alongside Dean. He doesn’t know what he’s doing with most of it, but Dean is patient as he gives him instructions and coaches through everything he needs to do.
The ovens make the kitchen warm, and their preparations make it smell nearly as good as Dean’s home. They talk idly as they work, chatting about nothing, and by the time the first batches of desserts are coming out of the oven, Castiel understands better than ever before why Dean loves his job so much.
And when Dean grins at him over a tray of palm-sized pecan pies, Castiel decides then and there that the bakery must be the earthbound representation of Heaven.
Charlie arrives shortly before the bakery’s set opening time, and after Dean introduces her to Castiel, the three of them finish the last of the morning preparations, filling the display case with pies and tarts of all shapes and sizes, then they unlock the front doors. Customers immediately begin to file in. Dean is all smiles and warmth as he chats with each patron, social even though Charlie is beside him to ring them all up, and every single person leaves looking happier than they were when they came in.
Castiel makes an important observation, then. His work may allow him to make people fall in love, but Dean makes them happy.
The next morning when Dean again invites him along to work with him, Castiel is out of bed and ready to go in record time.
It develops into a nice routine.
He gets the chance to meet the rest of Dean’s coworkers, too. Benny only sometimes bakes with Dean in the mornings, since he more often works in the afternoons, but he turns out to be a kind man, and Castiel likes his brotherly dynamic with Dean. Kevin has a very dry sense of humor which Castiel greatly enjoys, and Eileen is easily one of the sweetest people the cupid has ever met. Dean is surprised to learn that Castiel knows sign language (and all other languages) and beams whenever he catches the two of them signing. He even gets to meet Sam, when he comes into the bakery to flirt with Eileen—though that’s an encounter which quickly turns awkward, when Dean then has to give his brother a fake story for who Castiel is and why he’s there.
Castiel enjoyed meeting Sam enough that the encounter was more than worthwhile.
Overall, life with Dean is wonderful. It begins to feel like it is Castiel’s life; his true one feels unbelievably distant.
But, like all good things, it must eventually come to an end.
The beginning of that end is the day that Castiel finally takes the splint off of his broken wing.
From there, it takes a couple more days for him to strengthen his back and wing muscles, doing a series of careful exercises every night before bed, but eventually, he deems himself ready to fly.
He feels nervous when he tells Dean, though he isn’t quite sure why. It just feels like… a breach of trust, almost. Dean is his friend—his first friend, his best friend. Telling him that he wants to try flying, the thing he has been waiting on to be able to leave, feels an awful lot like a death sentence for that friendship.
He doesn’t want to leave Dean. But he needs to. He has a life to return to. Duties.
Dean gives him a thin smile in return, and Castiel knows that he knows. “We’ll go out tomorrow,” he promises. “I know a place where no one will see you.”
Castiel’s smile is equally thin. “That would be wonderful. Thank you, Dean.”
Dean’s eyes shine just a little bit too much, and not quite in the right way. “No problem, Cas.”
They don’t need to go to the bakery in the morning, since it’s Wednesday and the business is closed, so they get into Dean’s car, and head toward the nearest forest. As promised, Dean takes them directly to the perfect place—a large, open clearing in the middle of the woods, filled with green and far away from anyone else. It’s very nice, and utterly picturesque.
It gets Castiel more excited than he cares to admit. It’s been so long since he flew, and though he hasn’t exactly been missing it of late… On a fundamental level, it’s also impossible not to miss. It’s part of who he is, and his wings need to be put to work.
“This work?” Dean asks when they get out of the car. He leans back against the hood and folds his arms across his chest, grinning at Castiel in a way that says he already knows the answer.
Not that that stops Castiel from letting his enthusiasm show. He grins back at Dean, and shakes his wings out in anticipation. “This is perfect, Dean. Thank you.”
He nearly bumps Dean with his wing in what is now a familiar gesture, but he hesitates at the last moment, and grabs Dean’s shoulder with his hand instead. Dean’s eyes widen at the touch, and Castiel repeats, “Thank you.”
Dean wets his lips. “Yeah. You’re welcome.”
Castiel beams at him for another moment, then lets his hand slide off of his shoulder and turns to stride out to the center of the clearing. He can feel Dean’s eyes on him as he goes, but Castiel pays him no mind. If he is going to fly, he needs to focus. And paying attention to Dean’s attention isn’t the right kind of focus.
He takes a second to adjust his wrap, ensuring it is properly secured around him, then stretches his wings out to their full length. He flexes them up, then down, then carefully twists them forward and back to test their range of motion.
In the distance, Dean lets out a low whistle. Castiel blushes, but otherwise ignores him.
His wings feel good. Not quite strong, but strong enough. He trusts them.
He takes off into a sprint to build up momentum. Just as he reaches the end of the clearing, he beats his wings, and soars up into the air. The feathers of his right wing are still slightly out of alignment, he can feel, so he has to work a bit harder than usual to keep his flight level, but it’s not all bad. He makes a few laps around the clearing’s perimeter, loving the feeling of the wind in his hair.
When he eventually lands, skipping to a halt in the overgrown grass, his heart is pounding with excitement. He feels good. He feels alive. His wings are whole again, and there’s no better feeling in the world. He grins widely at his victory; Dean looks just as thrilled as he rushes to meet him, awed in a way Castiel has yet to see.
“Dean, did you see—”
He’s cut off by a pair of hands cupping his jaw and lips crushing against his own. They’re soft, eager, demanding. For a moment, Castiel loses himself in the pleasure of their touch, his own mouth giving into Dean’s without thought.
Until he comes to his senses.
Dean stumbles backwards and nearly falls from the force of the shove Castiel delivers to his shoulder. The cupid follows with a threatening step, his wings spread in a display that trembles just a little too much to be intimidating.
“Do not,” he says, and apparently his wings aren’t the only things that are trembling. “Do not do that. You have no right to do that, no purpose.”
Dean winces. “Cas—”
“ No . It is unacceptable. We can’t… I can’t…” Castiel feels himself beginning to crumble, and if the sudden sadness in Dean’s wide eyes is anything to go by, he sees it, too. A pit forms in the cupid’s stomach, one which he doesn’t want to identify.
Instead, he goes on the defensive, flaring his wings out threateningly when Dean reaches for him again. He flinches backwards, and Castiel pushes down the guilt that rises in his chest. “It’s not right. I’m a cupid; this is not what we do. I don’t…” I don’t have a soulmate. You do. Cupids don’t get to love.
I could never be what Dean deserves.
That realization hits him like a punch to the gut, a pain somehow worse than his broken wing, because he knows it’s true.
“Cas, please, just…”
Dean looks just as stricken as Castiel feels, and Castiel can’t take it anymore. He turns and flees, flapping his wings to pull himself toward Heaven, and he doesn’t look back.
Although he fully intends to go to Heaven, that isn’t where he ends up. Between one flap of his wings and the next, Castiel finds himself in the darkened kitchen of The Family Business. It’s as clean and devoid of life as it is before every open; how fitting that, when Castiel goes to it in a mindless bid for comfort, it’s completely lacking in everything that makes it so appealing to him to begin with.
There’s no smell of baking pies, no flour or powdered sugar spilled across any of the counters. No Benny, no Charlie, no Eileen, no Kevin.
He didn’t mean to come here, but he can’t bring himself to be surprised that he did. He wanted to get away from Dean, but he also wanted to go somewhere that felt safe . He would have gone home if he felt up to dealing with Heaven’s other occupants, but as he currently is, having to speak to his brothers and sisters is the last thing he wants to do.
Castiel sinks to his knees on the tiled floor and heaves a dry sob.
Dean kissed him. Kissed him. What on earth would make him do that? It’s no true love, surely, because as Castiel knows, such a thing isn’t possible. Not for him—for them.
He likes Dean, quite a lot. He knows that Dean likes him a lot in return. The two of them have a good balance, and despite the short amount of time they’ve known one another, they seem to… click. Dean took Castiel in, and now Castiel wants to stay, like a stray animal given a scrap of food.
Maybe Dean pities him. That has to be it. Why else would someone so radiant take an interest in something like Castiel? A cupid with no practical knowledge of the human world, who has been damaged and broken since the day they met?
Unless it’s purely physical, which could also make sense. All cupids are conventionally attractive, and he has caught Dean staring at him on more than one occasion.
Of those two possibilities, though, he doesn’t know which one hurts him the most.
He doesn’t know how long he spends kneeling on the bakery floor. The cold of it doesn’t bother him, so he doesn’t pay much attention to it, but after a time, the trembling in his wings subsides. And that, he supposes, has to count for something.
Dean kissed him.
Castiel runs back through it in his head. Dean had definitely kissed him. Right? Deliberately, with a clear mind and an abundance of determination. Castiel landed, and then Dean was there, kissing him like it was something that he didn’t even have to think about.
Dean kissed him.
It didn’t last for all that long, but the memory of it seems to stretch on and on. Kissing isn’t something Castiel has experience with, but he still thinks he can judge it as having been, well. Good.
Dean’s lips had tasted nice. Their mouths fit together well. Dean’s palms had been scalding against Castiel’s jaw when he grabbed him, but in a way that makes the cupid shiver when he thinks back to it. His eyes had been so beautiful, thanks to the happiness which was lighting them, and the light freckles across his cheeks were so easy to see while they were out in the sun.
All things that Castiel didn’t let himself notice in the moment. But now that he’s looking back, God, does he wish he had.
That observation makes him stall, however. He frowns at the bakery floor while he goes over it again.
He likes Dean. Dean likes him.
Dean kissed him.
Maybe that wasn’t a terrible thing.
Yes, it surprised Castiel. And, yes, it hurts him to know that his affection for Dean—which is alarmingly easy to acknowledge—can never be requited in the way he might want it to be. But so what? Since meeting Dean, Castiel has already grown tremendously more comfortable with physical touches than he used to be; perhaps it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to grow emotionally, as well.
So maybe Dean will never love him at a soulmate level. That’s alright; Castiel knows love well enough to know that it takes many other forms.
When it comes to Dean, he’s willing to take any love he can get.
Considering he’s been a cupid for several centuries, he thinks he deserves to try love out for himself just once, anyway. And if he’s going to try it, he wants it to be with Dean.
Castiel shoves up to his feet and makes an effort to straighten himself out. He adjusts his wrap, runs a hand through his hair, and even shakes out his wings to fluff them up. He wants to look good for Dean. He wants this to go right.
Because he really wants to kiss Dean again.
Once he deems himself ready, Castiel spreads his wings and takes flight, opting for the quick route and pulling himself across reality to return to Dean in the blink of an eye.
Dean is sitting in the living room when Castiel lands back in the house, a beer bottle in one hand and listless gaze directed out the front window. The soft whoosh of displaced air must get his attention, because his gaze lazily turns in Castiel’s direction, and then his eyes widen when he processes the cupid’s presence. The beer in his hand nearly goes flying as he scrambles to his feet, then gets hastily set on the coffee table.
Unlike during their morning encounter, though, Dean keeps his distance. His fingers twitch by his sides.
Castiel stares at him. He had been so sure of himself when he decided to come here, but now that he’s actually facing Dean, now that he needs to act—
“Cas.” Dean’s voice nearly cracks on the word, and the swallow that follows is audible in the otherwise-silent room. “Cas, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to kiss you, and I shouldn’t have done it without asking you first. I understand if you’re mad at me for being a prick, and it’s okay if you don’t feel the same way I do, but I—”
Dean’s frantic babbling instantly comes to a stop. Despite the gentleness in the one, single word, Castiel can still see the fear in the human’s eyes. Because of that, he’s not sure if Dean will listen to words and reasoning; he already seems to be misunderstanding greatly.
So he opts for a different language instead. One that Dean will understand.
He reaches for Dean’s hand. Aside from the kiss, it’s the most intimate touch they’ve shared. Hand-holding is significant, and although the simple contact would have been uncomfortable for him not long ago, it now doesn’t feel like enough, even while it sends electricity thrumming through his veins.
Dean’s breath hitches. His fingers weave easily through Castiel’s.
When Castiel lifts their entwined hands, Dean leans forward without seeming to realize, tongue swiping out to wet his lips. He is undoubtedly the most beautiful man Castiel has ever seen.
And Castiel loves him entirely.
When he leans forwards to press his lips against Dean’s, there’s an unmistakable shift in the universe, and puzzle piece slotting into place that Castiel hadn’t ever been aware was missing. The sensation only gets better when Dean begins kissing him back, sliding his free hand into the cupid’s hair and holding him close. It’s perfect in every way.
Only a few moments later, long before Castiel has had his fill of the taste of Dean’s mouth, the timer on the oven beeps, popping the bubble of perfection.
If it were up to Castiel, he would ignore it. Whatever may be in the oven can burn, for all he cares. He may love Dean’s pies, but they’re nothing compared to Dean himself.
But Dean has other ideas. “Wait, hold on, Cas, I—” He pulls away just slightly, and though he brushes their foreheads together, he makes the stubborn choice not to continue kissing Castiel. “Hang on just for a second. I want to show you something.”
Castiel makes a sound of general displeasure, but sags into Dean as he relents. “Make it quick. We’ve wasted enough time not kissing as it is.”
Dean chuckles at that, and presses one last quick, chaste kiss to the cupid’s lips in compensation before stepping back. He keeps his hand in Castiel’s, though, and takes advantage of the contact by pulling the cupid along with him into the kitchen. It’s then that Dean releases him fully, and though Castiel frowns at the loss, he quickly understands why it had to happen.
Dean grabs a pot holder and pulls a pie pan out of the oven. He shields it with his body until it’s on the counter, keeping it out of Castiel’s view until the last possible moment.
When he finally gets to see it, Castiel is hit by a strange urge to cry.
It’s an apple pie, as perfect and delicious-smelling as every other one Dean has made him. Where this one differs is the crust; instead of being woven into Dean’s signature lattice, the crust was formed into cut outs of hearts, which were then laid across the top to seal the pie closed. They overlap in places, and some of them are a bit lopsided, but it’s the most beautiful thing Castiel has ever seen. Just looking at it makes him breathless.
Dean huffs. “It, uh… I don’t really know what my plan was, actually. I was hoping that you were gonna come back, and when you did, I wanted to have the chance to explain myself. Or… give you a going away gift, if nothing else.”
Castiel can’t bring himself to ask what Dean might have done if he hadn’t come back. He did come back, and that’s what matters.
“I don’t want a going away gift,” he tells Dean, already moving back toward him. “Because if you don’t mind, I don’t want to go anywhere.”
Dean’s expression crumples, and before Castiel knows it, the human is closing the rest of the distance between them and catching Castiel in his arms. They hug for a moment, holding each other as tightly as they can, and then Castiel slides a palm up to curve along Dean’s jaw and guides him back into another kiss.
(Because as it turns out, Castiel really likes kissing Dean.)
He adds between presses of their lips, “We’re going to eat that pie later.”
Dean huffs into his mouth, but his eyes are bright with unshed tears. “I would hope so. I put my heart and soul into that pie.”
Castiel brushes the ends of his wings against Dean’s back. “I love you.”
A sound bursts from Dean’s lips that’s dangerously similar to a sob, but he stifles it with another kiss. Castiel is happy to oblige, pushing his wings in closer to Dean’s back until he asks, “I thought cupids don’t do love?”
“There’s a first for everything. And you make it very easy.”
“I love you, too.”
Not in the right way, a traitorous part of Castiel’s mind reminds him—but right now, with Dean in his arms and the rich smell of a freshly baked apple pie in the air, he can’t bring himself to care. Love is love; they don’t have to be soulmates for Castiel to love Dean, so why should the opposite have to be true?
He pulls Dean back in, encircling him fully with his wings, and kisses him with the all the warmth that has made itself at home in his chest. He loves Dean fully and completely, and he wants to show him.
They stay like that for an indeterminable length of time, kissing like there’s nothing in the world save for the two of them. Castiel is more than happy to continue on like that, too—or so he thinks until Dean sways back and asks, pupils dilated and lips red from use, “Want to take this to a bed?”
Castiel doesn’t need to be asked twice. In lieu of an answer, he scoops his hands around the back of Dean’s thighs and lifts to wrap around his waist; Dean gasps in surprise, but goes along willingly, and grabs hard at Castiel’s shoulders once he’s being held up against him. The position proves to be a bit distracting when Dean spends the entire trip down the hallway kissing at him, but Castiel gets them where they need to be, anyway.
He bypasses the guest bedroom and goes straight to Dean’s room. When he deposits Dean against the grey bedding and spreads his wings up over them, he knows he made the right choice.
Things progress in a bit of a haze, after that. Castiel loses his wrap first, but Dean’s clothing follows soon after. Dean is patient with Castiel, too, guiding him through what works, what feels good, and what he likes. He makes the most beautiful sounds when Castiel touches him in the right way, which is more than adequate encouragement to do just that.
And of course in return, Castiel has never known bliss like he does when Dean is between his legs.
Despite what Castiel had briefly feared while he was in the bakery, however, and despite how good the sex is, it isn’t just sex. Castiel may be naive in such matters, but he knows Dean well by now, and as such, he knows how to read him.
Dean is sweet, and tender, and oh so affectionate. It’s everything and nothing like all of their past interactions; they fit together easily, just like they have since they met, and it’s so full of love and adoration that Castiel’s heart feels full to bursting.
When they eventually fall asleep, sated and spent and glistening with sweat, they do so with Castiel’s head pillowed on Dean’s chest, his love’s heartbeat in his ear, and the cupid’s wings blanketing them both.
The bakery isn’t Heaven, Castiel thinks just before he slips under. This is.
Morning comes too soon. Sunlight streams in through a crack in the curtains over Dean’s window and falls directly across Castiel’s eyes, and though he turns and presses his face further into Dean’s bare chest, once it has woken him up, there’s no going back.
Dean hums in amusement, revealing himself to already be awake. “Sorry, babe. I’d offer to fix the curtain, but I can’t exactly move.”
Castiel grumbles against his skin, “You’re not allowed to move, anyway.”
Dean laughs. “Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say. You’re a clingy son of a bitch, you know that?”
The cupid only grunts in answer. Dean laughs again.
“At least you’re cute.” He slides a hand into Castiel’s hair and scratches lightly at the base of his scalp; the sensation sends a shiver down Castiel’s spine, and he feels his feathers fluff up in response. Dean’s other hand begins to comb over them, gently tangling with the white feathers, and he adds, “Your wings look good. Even better than they do yesterday. No pains left, right?”
Without lifting his head, Castiel sends a ripple down his wings, quickly testing each muscle. They feel new, like they never sustained any injuries. He pushes up against Dean’s hand in approval of the touch. “No pains, thanks to you.”
He finally looks up, then, feeling like he has to. He props his chin against Dean’s sternum and says, “I don’t think I can ever properly repay you for all you have done for me. I appreciate it more than you could ever know, and if there is anything I can do for you to show my thanks, name it, and it’s yours.”
Dean goes still beneath him, and for several long moments, he says nothing. Then, just when Castiel suspects he won’t receive any answer at all, Dean brushes his thumb against the nape of his neck and offers, “You could stay.”
Castiel blinks. “Stay… here?”
“Yeah. With me.”
Castiel sits up, abandoning the warm touch of Dean’s body against his own. “Dean, I… I don’t know if I can do that. I love you, and I want nothing more than to stay by your side, but now that my wings are healed, I—”
“No, I get it.” Dean cuts him off and sits up, turning his back on Castiel as he swings his feet down to the floor. “It’s fine, Cas, you don’t have to find excuses. I just… It’s fine.” He stands and pulls on a pair of boxers, then leans back over the bed just long enough to peck a quick kiss to Castiel’s cheek. “I’ll go get some coffee going.”
After he leaves, Castiel feels cold. He wouldn’t have thought it possible to love a person as much as he loves Dean. His grace is overflowing with it, his heart full—but even if Dean wants him to stay, he isn’t sure if he can.
He has duties, as he was going to say to Dean. As much as he has enjoyed working at the bakery at Dean’s side, he is a cupid, first and foremost. He was created to be a cupid, formed from stardust to do nothing else. Cupids don’t abandon their post, but if he did, he is sure there would be consequences. Terrible ones, potentially.
But beyond that…
Castiel loves Dean and he knows that Dean loves him in return, but all humans have soulmates, so Dean’s is bound to come along eventually. Castiel knows already that he couldn’t bring himself to make the shot even if his superiors were to ask him to, but if he failed to make the connection, the next cupid in line would not. Dean will get his soulmate connection one way or another.
And even if he chooses to stay until then, when the time comes for Dean’s true soulmate to enter his life… Castiel will not be able to come between them. He already loves Dean too much for that.
It’s a terrible predicament, and Castiel’s heart aches with it.
From the other side of the house, Dean lets out a shout of surprise. Then, “Cas!”
The cupid is out of bed and sprinting through the house before he can even think about it, wings flapping wildly to propel him onward. He skids to a halt in the kitchen only seconds later, his wrap pulled into existence around him and his fingers twitching, ready to do the same with his bow if need be. “Dean, what—”
Castiel’s blood freezes in his veins. Dean stands awkwardly just to the left of the doorway, his shoulders tense and his hands clenched into fists. And across from him, sitting at the table as if he belongs there…
The other cupid smiles, his nose scrunching in a way that Castiel is entirely too familiar with. He would feel nostalgic for the sudden reminder of his normal life, if not for the trouble that he knows from experience always accompanies that expression.
Castiel’s wings twitch with agitation. “Brother, what have you done.”
As Samandriel gracefully extricates himself from the table, Dean makes a strangled sound. “Brother?”
“We are all siblings, in a sense,” Samandriel interrupts. He doesn’t so much as glance at Castiel as he straightens the red sash tied around his waist. It means he is on duty; Castiel frowns at it. Samandriel’s smile is still firmly in place even when he finishes, wings and hands alike folding primly behind his back. He beams at Dean. “I was Castiel’s apprentice once, you know. Cupids aren’t created all that often; it was a novel experience for us both.”
Dean, for his part, looks more confused than he had before. His gaze flits toward Castiel for a fraction of a second before returning to the unknown cupid. “Get to the point, buddy.”
“I’m getting there.”
Castiel scowls at him. “Not quickly enough. Why are you here, Samandriel?”
Samandriel answers him with an easy shrug, but there’s a glint in his eyes that Castiel can’t say he likes. “To check in on you. And partly to apologize. And perhaps to even see about getting my arrow back.”
“Your—?” Before Castiel can even ask for clarification, the reality of it clicks into place. He snarls at his former apprentice and takes a threatening step forward, wings flaring. “You shot me.”
Samandriel smiles. “I did. But I was operating under orders, Castiel. I did not mean to damage your wing as much as I did, but you did need to fall in order to meet Dean Winchester. It was unavoidable; the cause justified the means.”
“The cause?” Now it’s Dean’s turn to advance on Samandriel, hands curled into fists at his sides. Considering he is still dressed only in his boxers, it would make an amusing sight, if the situation was not such an intense one. The younger cupid’s smile doesn’t so much as falter. “It’s taken him weeks to recover from that! You shot that damn arrow, and you could have—”
Samandriel raises an eyebrow. “Before you accuse me of attempting to murder my brother, I think you should have a bit more insight.” He leans slightly to the right so that he can smile at Castiel around the human who has asserted himself between them. “Castiel, for your new lover’s sake—how often do you miss your target?”
Castiel sighs, and stubbornly ignores the heat that rises into his cheeks. New lover. He knows where Samandriel is going with the question, though, so he glares at his brother to let him know that he is aware of the trap he is laying. It takes Dean’s confused prompting of, “Cas?” for him to finally answer.
“And how often is your mark anything but exactly what you intended?”
Castiel runs his tongue along the front of his teeth, feeling a petty need to delay his answer as long as possible. “Never.”
Samandriel’s smile widens. “And who has a track record that’s just as impeccable as your own?”
“Exactly!” Samandriel claps his hands together and rocks back on his heels, making him look even more childlike than usual. “Castiel, don’t you see ? I struck Dean with an arrow as he went to sleep that night, and he met you in the morning, when he found you in his yard. It was perfectly planned and executed, if you ask me.”
“Wait,” Dean starts to say, startled by what he has heard, but Castiel beats him to it.
“You struck Dean?”
“Castiel, has anyone ever told you about retirement?”
“What are you—”
“Retirement,” Samandriel goes on as if Castiel had not tried to interject, “is what awaits all cupids, after they have served their term. It comes for each of us at a different time, depending on when our soulmates are born.” His smile turns sly, and he rocks forward like he’s sharing a good secret. “Our superiors weren’t eager to tell me much more than that, but as I am your replacement, I’m sure my soulmate will not be along for quite some time. You were a good mentor, though, Castiel. You deserve the chance to be happy.”
There’s a lot in that to unpack, and Castiel isn’t prepared for any of it. In fact, he’s still stuck on the main point. Which seems to be that Dean is…
Dean is his soulmate.
Which also means that he is Dean’s soulmate. No one else is coming along to take Dean away from him.
(And maybe that shouldn’t be the main conclusion he latches onto, but, well. He can’t help himself.)
He’s still stuck processing when Dean asks Samandriel, “So this means… Cas doesn’t have to keep being a cupid? No more playing Katniss Everdeen?”
Castiel waits anxiously for his brother’s answer. He thinks he can fill in the gaps well enough, but he wants to hear it. This isn’t the place for a misunderstanding.
Samandriel says, “Castiel has been relieved of his duty. He may live a human life, if he so chooses.”
Castiel scarcely believes what he is hearing. He turns to Dean, wings twitching with the urge to wrap around Dean as they had overnight. If Dean is his, if Castiel actually gets to keep him…
“I should leave you two.” Samandriel shakes out his wings and steps around Dean, but when he reaches Castiel, he darts forward to catch him in a quick hug. Castiel stiffens at the unexpected embrace, but pats at his brother’s back in return, anyway. Samandriel grins at him when he steps back again. “You’ve earned this, Castiel. And, in case you should want it…”
When Samandriel lifts his hand, Castiel’s sash is hanging from his fingers. There’s no doubt that it’s his—he can see the white embroidery of his name in Enochian, and it’s a length of fabric he has worn for the majority of his existence—but despite his familiarity with it, it looks remarkably foreign. He lost it weeks ago, and hasn’t thought about it since.
He carefully accepts it, and rubs it between his fingers.
Castiel swallows. His hand tightens around his sash. “Goodbye, Samandriel.”
His brother vanishes with a rustle of feathers and a rush of air. The kitchen is silent in his absence.
Dean takes a careful step forward. “Cas? Are you… okay?”
Castiel tears his gaze away from his sash and blinks at Dean. “I…” He rubs the pad of his thumb across his sash, an idle, nervous movement. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. Better than fine, actually.”
Dean looks hesitant. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” And he is. Although he can’t even begin to say that he knows what to do from here, there’s at least one thing he’s certain about. He steps forward, closing the distance between himself and Dean. “Dean. May I ask you something?”
“Um. Of course?”
“Can I stay? With you?”
“Cas, you…” Dean grabs him by the shoulders and ducks his head to make sure his eyes are perfectly level with Castiel’s. “Cas, are you sure? You don’t have to stay just because Samandriel said you should, if you don’t want to—”
“Dean Winchester, I have never been more sure of anything in my entire life. I love you, and if you’ll have me—”
“Jesus, Cas, don’t be stupid— ”
Dean cups a hand to Castiel’s cheek and pulls him in close, resting their foreheads together. Somehow, it feels like the most intimate moment they’ve shared yet. And it’s something that he gets to keep . He can’t understand how he got so lucky.
Castiel kisses him, short and sweet. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Dean gives him a watery smile. “Want pie for breakfast?”
Castiel opens his hand and lets his sash fall to the floor. He won’t be needing it again.
He has his soulmate.