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•·•·•·•·•· ▶ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

All problems, big or small, could be fixed with beer.

Could be’ being the operative words.

Okay, past tense. All problems could have been fixed with beer. By drinking it, specifically. Drinking a lot of it. Feeling all the feels, then feeling nothing at all.

Whenever Dean woke up – maybe in a bed, maybe on the sidewalk – the problem of the previous night seemed less of a problem. Mainly because his headache was a bigger problem. Or the jail cell he was in. Those were real problems.

Those drunken times in Dean’s life were over. He made sure they were over. Everyone around him, his friends, they helped make The Beer Era seem like someone else’s life.

Now Dean lived in The Milkshake Era.

Now all problems, big or small, could be fixed with a pink dessert in tall, grooved glass, whipped cream and a cherry on top, a late night in a neon-lit diner, and a long talk with a close buddy.

Dean pinched his fingers around the curly straw, and took a drag on the strawberry delight. He swallowed, then sighed. “I got a problem,” he said.

Charlie snapped the cover back over the slushie machine, slung her dishcloth over her forearm, and came to lean on the bartop, hoodie sleeves rolled up to her elbows. “What sort of problem?” she asked.

In Dean’s right hand, he fiddled with a circular wooden talisman, engraved and painted with the words ‘SONNY’S HOME FOR BOYS’ at the top, and ‘Good Little Boy: Most Caring’ curved around the bottom.

“Uhm,” Dean said, running his thumb over the letters. “You know Cas.”

Charlie stared. “Is that a statement or a question? Yes, I know Cas. Iced mocha with a chocolate chip blend, peppermint syrup, rainbow sprinkles. Black coffee in the mornings.”

“Not his order, I mean—” Dean sighed. “You’re his friend. You know him. You know how we’ve lived in the same apartment for years. You know everything about him.”

“Again, statement or question?”

“Both. Neither.” Dean rested his forehead in his milkshake-chilled palm. “Look.” He wet his lips, avoiding Charlie’s gaze. “Off the record. I’m, uh. I’m having some serious feelings for him. Like. Like love. Or whatever. And—” He glanced up, curious to see what Charlie thought of that. She was smiling, so Dean relaxed, lowering his gaze again. “And basically I can’t – can’t figure out how to... convey my intentions to him.”

“Okay,” Charlie said.

“And I need your help.”

“Okay,” Charlie said again, her smile audible in her voice. “But I’m gonna need a little more to go on. What are your intentions?”

Dean was immediately stumped. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know.”

“Question or statement?”

Charlie grinned, thwacking Dean with her dishtowel. “How did this even start, Dean?” she asked. “And when?”

“Oh...” Dean thought back. He nibbled his lower lip, then shrugged. “The bet. A bar. New Year’s Eve.”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ◀ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

ᴇʟᴇᴠᴇɴ ᴍᴏɴᴛʜs ᴀɢᴏ

“Aaaaand how many times did you... you win a case this year?” Dean asked, his empty beer glass wavering near his brother’s shoulder.

“I dunno. Twelve?” Sam squinted. “Three hundred?”

“Ballpark,” Dean said, scratching his nose, then recoiling when he poked his own eye.

“More than four,” Sam said. “I dunno, I can’t remember. My brain’ssss gone swimming.”

Dean laughed, head down on the wooden table. “An’ h—” he hiccuped – “how many times. Did you poop!”

Sam chuckled and tipped his head all the way back, bumping against the leather seat in the bar’s corner booth. “Three hundred and sixty five.”

“Regular Joe, eh.”

“Yeah, the coffee helps.”

Dean snickered, lying his cheek on the table, one eye shut to peer closely at the puddle of split beer in front of his nose. “I’mma. Um. Hehehehe.”

“How many times did you drink beer?” Sam poked at his brother’s head.

Dean propped his chin on his hands. “Mm. More times I can count. But this month? Just tonight.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Really.”

“Impressive.”

Dean looked down, suddenly sad. “Yeah.” He frowned. “I think... I think I won’t anymore. Isss— Like, it’s fun? But. I did so well. And I dunno even know why I did tonight, y’know? I made it the whole month. I made it a whole month, Sammy. No beer. Maybe beer is the prize for no beer.”

“Sur-PRIZE!” Sam chirped, then cackled. “Surprise hangover tomorrow.”

Dean groaned, headbutting the table again. “Don’t wannaaaa.”

Sam rested on a fist as he peered down at Dean. “How many times did you kiss someone?”

Dean shrugged. He looked up and asked Sam, “How many times you bang someone?”

Sam grinned. “More than you’d think. Marriage to Eileen comes with its perks.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I didn’t keep count,” Sam admitted. “But it was a lot.”

Dean sneered at how smug his kid brother looked, saying that. Being thirty years old and happily married made it easy for Sam to have a lot of sex with his wife, sure. But Dean himself was only thirty-four, and even in his drunken state, he refused to believe being thirty-four meant he was past his sexual prime.

“I bet I had more sex than you,” Dean said.

“Oh yeah?”

“Probably.” Dean looked down, thumbing the edge of the table. He knew he hadn’t. It wasn’t possible. He called himself a ladies’ man on his dating profile, but funnily enough, that didn’t seem to score him a lot of points with the ladies. Or the men, even.

That was why he’d staved off the beer, really. He could be sober and get laid, and wake up in a nice bed – or he could get drunk and wake up on tarmac.

In the last few years, he’d slowly discovered it wasn’t possible to go halfway. Tipsy wasn’t a thing for him. He wasn’t a lightweight – no way. The opposite, in fact. He could drink anyone under the table. But therein lay the issue. After one drink, he wanted another. Nay, not wanted. He was compelled. Forced. Required. It just happened, he didn’t think about it. And at the end of the night he’d have a four-hundred-dollar tab left unpaid, wet pants, a foul-smelling shirt, and nobody else could look at him without either turning their nose up in disgust, or asking if he needed help.

Then, one confusing night occurred, a couple of months back. He’d had one drink, and that was all he remembered. And he woke up in someone’s bed.

The equation didn’t equate. Either he was drunk, or he got laid. Surely he couldn’t have done both in one night.

He was glad he couldn’t remember.

But that was the moment he swore to himself he wouldn’t drink any more.

Dean turned his empty beer glass upside-down, and shook his head. “I’mma bet you. Next year. Starting midnight.” He glanced at the bar’s blaring TV, showing the ball ready to drop in New York, city lights all around. “I bet I’m gonna have more sex than you do.”

“Okay?”

“And there’s rules.” Dean sat up, finger raised. “Only counts if I remember doing it. Which means I can’t drink. Gotta keep some kind of – somekind’ve memorabilia. Hair or panties or or-or-or something. A photo, somethin’.”

“But for me it’s just Eileen,” Sam said. “She’ll be bald by the end of the year if I take a hair every time.”

“Yeahyeahyeah, asshat, I know. But I’m a sexy single bachelor, a’right, I gotta have proof I bumped uglies with a bunch of people. I’m covering my ass, ‘kay, so you don’t come up at the end of the year and say, hey, doesn’t count. I’m gonna make it count. So suck it.”

“You suck it.”

“Better than you,” Dean agreed. He grinned when Sam laughed. Dean let his smile fade, and he nodded. “This is it. From this night on, not one more drink.”

“You always say that.”

“And that’s why I’m making this bet.” Dean met his brother’s hazel eyes, and said, with an intensity that both shook and steadied his voice: “I am not a weak-willed man, Sam. I like sex. And God help me, I love beer. But something I love more than any of that, is one-upping my baby brother. So.” He nodded. “I get laid. I don’t drink. Because if I drink, I get drunk, I don’t remember, and then it doesn’t count.”

“I’m getting this in writing,” Sam the lawyer said, pulling a yellow legal pad and a fancy pen out of God-only-knew-where.

Dean eyed the TV, as the crowd on the screen and crowd in the bar began counting down. “Ten! Nine! Eight!

Sam scribbled his signature with force into the writing pad. He spun the pad around, and Dean took the pen.

Seven! Six!

He didn’t need to read what Sam wrote. He trusted him.

Five! Four!

He signed.

He held out his hand, and they shook.

Three! Two! One!

Sam and Dean smiled at each other, drunk and smug and safe in each other’s company.

“Happy New Year,” Sam said.

“Happy New Year, little brother. May the horniest man win.”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ♥ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

Dean knocked too hard on his own apartment door.

He leaned his forehead on the wood, eyes closed, groaning under his breath. A handful of confusing keys jangled in his fist, but they were all keys, and keys were keys, and there were too many keys.

He knocked on the door again. “Cas, open up, i’ss me.”

Castiel opened the door, and Dean fell inside, straight into Castiel’s strong arms. “Oof.”

Dean giggled, letting Cas straighten him up again. “Dean—” Castiel met Dean’s eyes. “Dean.” Somehow he sounded so betrayed. “You’ve been drinking.”

“Sam had a beer. And I was like... I wanna beer. And he said noooo, and I said it’s okay! It’s alright, right? ‘Cause I made it a month. And I didn’t havenny. And so I can handle it right now! And he said noooo and I was like pfff that’s bullshit and I ordered a beer and had a little bit and it was niiiiice, Cas, it was real nice and Sam went to the bathroom, right, so— I chugged a few. And! And like it doesn’t matter, you know. I gotta take a piss. But like. Oh, Jesus Christ, was this room always blue?”

Castiel looked around at their living room. “No,” he said. “You and I painted this room, Dean. Last summer. We painted it dark blue.”

“Oh...” Dean peered into Castiel’s eyes, smiling as he held his shoulder. “Yeah. Blue. To match your eyes.”

“To match...?” Castiel tilted his head. “You said you wanted it blue because it was strong and manly.”

“Yyyeah but.” Dean sighed happily. “Pretty eyes.”

Castiel snorted. “Come on, you need to sober up. Can you get to the bathroom by yourself? I’m making you food. Sausage, egg. Go.”

Dean purred, stumbling away.

He came back a half-hour later, empty-stomached, pale-faced, freshly showered, and feeling very sorry for himself. He sat on a barstool at the kitchen island, his back to the living room, staring into nothing.

Castiel placed a steaming plate of food and a glass of water in front of him, then touched his wrist. “Look at me, Dean?” Dean looked at him. Castiel smiled, exhaling. “It’s okay,” he said. “Now you know. One drink is too many.”

“Yeah.” Dean swallowed, looking down, taking a fork in hand. “There’s something wrong with my brain.”

“Mm.” Castiel sat down on the other barstool, right beside Dean.

Dean tucked into his food, shoulders swaying. He cast a sidelong look towards his roommate. “You gonna watch me eat?”

“Yes.” Castiel spoke plainly and evenly, “I don’t trust that you won’t try and leave the apartment and break into someone else’s fridge looking for more beer.”

“The hell would I do that for.”

“You know why.” Castiel placed a hand on Dean’s back. “I’m here for you, Dean. Whatever comes next.”

“We doin’ rehab?” Dean said in disgust.

“Not unless you make it necessary,” Castiel said. “Tonight you had your last drink. Yes or no?”

Dean looked at him, heart softening. He was glad to have someone looking out for him like that. “Yeah. Last drink.”

Castiel smiled. “Good.”

Dean smirked, spearing his sausage on the fork prongs, then lifting the thing to his lips. He suckled the end, giving a low moan. “Wanna hear about my resolutions for this year?” he asked, sausage still in his mouth.

Castiel flicked his eyes to the ceiling. “Of course.”

“Fuck every night.” Dean licked grease from his lips.

Castiel’s cheeks coloured. “Fuck— Who?”

Dean shrugged. “Don’t care. Anyone who’ll have me.”

“Oh.” Castiel pondered for a while, then said, “Is that all?”

Dean nodded. “No drinks, more sex. Easy math. You?”

Castiel smiled, chin lowering to his sternum. “I’m starting my own business.”

“Wha?”

“I’ve worked as a doula for long enough, I... I think I want to start instructing others,” Castiel said. “Begin my own service. A baby delivery service.”

“What, like storks?” Dean grinned.

“No, Dean, like a community of trained adults who are dedicated to helping mothers bring their newborns into the world.” Castiel hesitated, then smiled. “But, you know, that’s not a bad idea. Storks. That can be our mascot.”

“I thought I was your mascot.”

“You’re my... muse.” Castiel held his own hands between his thighs, swinging slowly on the rotating barstool. “I’ve said before, I never would’ve completed my midwifery course without your support.”

Dean harrumphed.

“Genuinely, Dean,” Castiel said. “Meeting you, watching you get back on your feet – it taught me a lot about finishing what you start, and chasing aspirations.”

Dean looked at Castiel, thinking he remembered wrong. “Dude, I was homeless when we met.”

“Exactly,” Castiel said, with the kindest smile. “And the moment that problem was fixed, you went straight back to community college.”

Dean stopped eating, looking at Cas. “That taught you something?”

“Everything.” Castiel smiled, something glad and tender in his eyes. “Finish eating, Dean. Then I’ll help you into bed.”

“Rrrawh,” Dean purred.

“Oh, no,” Castiel chided. “You may plan to bed every man and woman from here to each coast and border of the country, but I am not one of those people.”

“So says you.”

“So say I.”

Castiel slipped off his stool, hand on Dean’s shoulder. He squeezed. “I wish you good luck with your endeavour, however. If you imagine such a goal would keep you from drinking, then... I commend that goal.”

“You okay with me slutting it up around this place?” Dean asked, catching Castiel’s eyes. “You never know, you might see me naked a few times.”

Castiel flustered, averting his eyes. “I. Um. If you must. I don’t mind.” He swallowed.

Dean took the last of his sausage, and placed it deep in his mouth. He slid out the fork, and let his tongue wet the rim of his lips.

Castiel watched.

Then he removed his hand from Dean’s shoulder, and looked away, blushing.

And that was January 1st.

 

•·•·•·•·•· ♥ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

When Dean said he was gonna do something, he did it. Therefore Castiel’s look of surprise that night was completely unwarranted. Dean placed his palm over his roommate’s nose, shoving him in an attempt to wipe the expression away.

“Cas, meet Helga. Helga: Cas.”

“Ooh, he is a cutie-patootie,” Helga declared in a low, melodious voice.

Castiel stared at the six-foot black woman who’d entered behind Dean, his attention as caught on her wild blonde tresses, satin mini-dress, and her seven-inch heels as Dean’s attention had been.

“H-Hello,” Castiel said, as Helga covered her breasts up, unashamed but not trying to be discreet.

“Sorry,” Dean said, winking at Cas. “We got started in the elevator up.”

“Right,” Castiel said. Helga stroked his bristly chin, and he leaned away from her touch. “Um. Have fun.”

“Oh, we are already,” Helga said, striding past Dean, running her manicured fingers through his hair. “Which way’s your room, Dean?”

Dean bit his lip, eyes still on Cas, enjoying how shocked he looked. “Uh. Right this way,” Dean said, stepping away, leading Helga across the living room and to the door on the left. “Go in and get comfortable.”

Dean paused before entering after her. He looked back at Cas, watching him close the apartment door.

Castiel paused like that. Hands on the door.

His shoulders lowered, like he sighed.

Dean wondered what it meant. But Helga called for him, and Dean faded into the privacy of darkness, closing his bedroom door behind him.

 

•·•·•·•·•· ♥ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

That was how it started. And that was how it went on.

Dean did as he said. Over and over and over. Every night.

He always brought home his partners. Women. Latina women, Japanese women, freckle-faced redheads; chubby, curvy, petite, muscular; curly-haired, pigtailed, shaven. He had no obvious preference, besides everyone being around his own age.

Then came the men, after about a month. Their skin was black as coal or peachy as a summer orchard; their frames were lanky or large or lumbering, and Dean seemed equally attracted to all.

He’d bring them into the apartment. Show them the bathroom, offer them a snack, introduce them to Cas. They’d maybe have a brief conversation – and then, always, Dean would take his new friend to his bedroom and shut the door.

Sometimes they stayed overnight. Sometimes only a few hours.

Sometimes they did it once. Twice. Five times, one night, with one guy. Dean never saw that guy again, to his vocal dismay.

Dean didn’t think his habits disrupted the household, not really. Cas was free to go to work and come back. Even on days he worked late, or overnight, delivering a baby, Dean would keep to his room.

But Dean started to get bored with his bedroom. The ceiling was a dull thing to look at. The walls were plain. The sheets were so ordinary, and the more he had to wash them, the thinner they became, and the more he could feel the lumps in the mattress when someone ploughed him into it, or he had to kneel to sink into someone else.

So, on nights Cas was out, Dean made use of the couch. He figured... well, what Cas didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Dean cleaned up after. He wouldn’t wanna eat popcorn on someone else’s love-couch – ew – so he invested in a lot of cleaning wipes. He hired an upholstery-cleaning machine in an emergency, one time.

But then, one Saturday afternoon, as Dean and Castiel shared the couch to do their weekly watching of Scooby Doo while trying new cereal brands, Castiel hit mute on the TV. He lifted something from the couch, pinched between his fingertips.

“What,” Dean said. “What is it?”

Castiel showed him. It was a long blue hair.

“Katrina,” Dean said without thinking. He cleared his throat, looking down into his chocolatey milk.

“You’ve had people out here,” Castiel said. “On the couch.”

“Yeahh... I mean... TV’s right here, so.”

“You watch cartoons with them?”

Dean met Castiel’s eyes. “Not... cartoons.”

Castiel seemed uncomfortable suddenly. “Oh.” He lay the hair down and wiped his fingers on his sweatpants.

“Is it weird for you?” Dean asked. “You want me to take this thing elsewhere? I can do motels if you—”

“No, no, Dean, you don’t need to—” Castiel shook his head. “I’m fine with it. It’s okay.”

Dean wasn’t convinced. “I can move it back to my room. No more couch.”

Castiel parted his lips with his tongue, hands rubbing together between his thighs. “Is...” His breath caught, then released. “Is it nice? Having sex on the couch?”

Dean rolled a shoulder. “More interesting than the bed? I can watch somethin’ sexy while we’re going at it, so that helps.”

Castiel considered that statement carefully. “It helps. Having sex on the couch gets closer to your goal of... having sex every night and beating your brother in the bet. Thereby it encourages you not to drink.”

“Yeah, if you wanna put it that way.”

Castiel drew a breath. “Okay. Okay, then. Have sex on the couch.”

“Really?”

Castiel nodded. “I want you to be sober.”

“O...kay. Awesome.”

Castiel smiled, and this time it seemed genuine. He unmuted the TV, and sank back into the couch cushions, watching Scooby building himself a skyscraper burger, then opening his mouth impossibly wide to eat it.

“I feel like that when I’m suckin’ dick, sometimes,” Dean joked, nudging Castiel’s knee.

Castiel chuckled. “At least it satisfies you, in the end. Even if it’s... tough, in the meantime.”

Dean looked at him, curious. “Yeah,” he said, an unsure note in the word. “Sure does.”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ♥ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

Katrina’s blue hair was not the first item of evidence left behind, nor was it the last that Castiel found.

One evening, late in March, Castiel approached Dean while he was preparing to cook dinner, and asked, “Are these yours? I found them in the laundry, I wasn’t sure...”

Dean looked, and saw a pair of Calvin Klein boxers. “Oh... Naw, mine have a black band.”

“Are they mine?” Castiel wondered, holding them to his crotch, stretching them out. “No, they’re too wide.”

“Since when do you wear name-brand skivvies?” Dean laughed.

“Oh, is that what they are?” Castiel looked more carefully at the brand. “I thought they were second-hand, and you forgot to unstitch the name.”

Dean snorted. “Even when I was homeless, I bought new underwear, Cas.”

“So whose are these?” Castiel asked.

Dean bit his lip, thinking. “Paul? Oh, no, the Nigerian boxer with the glow-in-the-dark tats— Adami— Amandi! Him. Yeah. That guy.”

Castiel held the underwear up to himself again.

“What, you trying them on for size?” Dean grinned. “Face it, Cas, he was bigger than you in every direction. Besides, I need them for my evidence collection. I got a box going under my bed. Go shove ‘em in there. And – uh, wash your hands after.”

“All right.” Castiel folded the boxers. “What’s for dinner?”

“Mm, well, there’s basil and garlic and breadcrumbs going in the pan, I figured I’d dig around the freezer and find what else I can add. You want fish or meat?”

“There’s chicken,” Castiel said, unfolding the boxers to look at them again.

“What, you like the look of ‘em, or something, Cas? You could buy your own.”

“Oh, no, it’s not that.” Castiel held the underwear up to himself one last time, then scrunched them up. “It’s... kind of exciting to me.”

“You a panty-snatcher too?” Dean raised his eyebrows.

“Not at all,” Castiel frowned. “I just— I don’t know. You had sex with this man.” He wet his lips, shrugging. “And he wore this. You liked this. I— I don’t know.”

Perplexion flittered through Dean’s innards, twisting something. But Castiel had turned away, embarrassed. He took the Calvins with him, and returned to sorting laundry.

“Dean?”

Dean turned to look over his shoulder. “Yah?”

Castiel parted his lips. “What... What would I look like with blue hair?”

Dean laughed. “A fuckin’ sea creature, that’s what,” he said, turning back to the stove, then bending to find the chicken in the freezer. “You look good as you are, man. Dark and broody and blue-eyed as the sky in June.”

Castiel went quiet. But Dean was sure he smiled.

Then, after a few seconds, Dean heard Castiel mutter, “I’m a cutie-patootie.”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ▶ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

ᴘʀᴇsᴇɴᴛ ᴅᴀʏ

Charlie passed Dean another milkshake, this one sprinkled with edible glitter. “And?” she asked. “Why do you think he was doing that?”

“Doing what?” Dean asked.

Charlie chuckled. “Um? Obsessing over the people you slept with?”

“He wasn’t obsessing—”

“He remembered what the first girl called him,” Charlie said with a scoff. “Three months later.”

“Yeah? So? I remember it too.”

“And the blue hair? Katrina?”

“Loads of people have blue hair,” Dean said, shifting on his barstool. “C’mon. His barber was probably having his mid-life-crisis and pushing the wild ideas on everyone else. Or maybe Cas always wanted to dye his hair.”

“Right,” Charlie said in disbelief. “Explain what Cas said about the boxers, then.”

Dean licked whipped cream off the cherry from his milkshake. “What is there to explain? Cas was right, it is kinda hot. I fucked a guy and he left his underwear behind for me to keep.”

“Hot for you, maybe. But for Cas? He’s your roommate.”

“Well?” Dean shrugged. “Guy was a virgin, he was kind of curious about sex stuff.”

“So he enjoys random strangers’ underwear, imagining himself wearing it. And says, out loud, explicitly, that he enjoys it because you were sexually attracted to the person who wore them last.”

“God, what do you want me to say, Charlie? He thought it was hot. So what? He was probably just trying not to make it weird that it ended up in our laundry.”

Charlie sighed. “Sure.” She pulled on a curled red lock, pinging it out of her face. “So, go on.”

Dean inhaled, eyes drifting. He started to smile. “Oh, boy.”

“What?”

Dean scratched his stubbled jaw, feeling a burn in his cheeks. “This was where things... seriously started to change between us. I don’t really—” He huffed, one hand over his eyes.

After a moment taken to compose himself, Dean peered up at Charlie, who waited, a toothpick between her glossed lips, its point bouncing gently as she chewed the other end.

“One night,” Dean started. “I don’t know when. Spring. March, April, I dunno. I had a chick over... and she was lying on the couch. I was naked. Deep inside her. Kissin’ her. She was real soft, too. Warm. God, I remember this one so clearly, y’know?”

“‘This one’?! What was her name?”

“What?”

“Name. You remember everyone’s name.”

Dean waited for the name to fall from his lips, but all the escaped was air. “I don’t. I don’t remember.”

Charlie’s jaw dropped enough that the toothpick nearly fell. “Something really was different about this time, huh.”

“Oh, yeah.” Dean ran his hand over his lips. “Cas came home early. He’d just delivered a baby. It was, like, two in the morning. I know he was tired. He’d been out forty hours, texting to give me updates on his patient’s labour. Shit, he must’ve been dead on his feet. Maybe that was why.”

“Why...?”

“Why he— He came into the room. I heard the door shut. Heard him come close. Cas probably heard us moaning. The chick... she was... She was kind of holding me, curled against me. I don’t think she heard Cas. But I heard him. And then I saw him, heading for his room from the front door. You know our place is basically only one room, so he had to pass the couch. And I didn’t— I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop fucking this woman, Charlie. I just kept going. Going deep. Slow. God, it felt amazing all of a sudden. Suddenly it— It wasn’t just...”

Dean palmed his forehead, blessedly glad the diner was empty, and no other customers were around to hear him admit this.

“It wasn’t just mindless, unfocused sex any more,” Dean murmured. “Because Cas stood there. Right there, three feet from the couch. He froze up. But then he – he kind of relaxed. And he watched. And I— I held the girl’s head to my chest so she wouldn’t look up. So Cas wouldn’t see her face. And I remember— I looked up. Looked right at Cas.”

“No,” Charlie said in awe, grinning.

“Yeah,” Dean said. “Looked him in the eye. And I— You know what, I smiled at him. ‘Cause it felt amazing. Finally. After three months I remembered what sex was meant to feel like. Electric. Electrified. Buzzing, all over. Glowing from the inside out. Hair on end.”

Charlie whistled, shaking her head.

“And...?” Dean grinned, gazing bashfully at the bartop, elbows on the black marble. “We just watched each other. God, I don’t know how long, don’t ask me to guess. Ten seconds. A minute. Five minutes. Dunno. But it was forever and it was immediate, and then I came.”

“You—”

“Came. Hard. Shut my eyes and moaned and folded forward into the girl, kept pushing, and pushing. And then I looked up, and... and he was gone.”

Dean swallowed, Cas’ absence still giving him an odd, empty feeling, even now.

“It gave me butterflies,” Dean said. “Intense like I’d never known them before. Just— Just looking at him. Having him watch me. And I know it was me he was watching, not the girl. He only looked into my eyes, nowhere else.”

“Jeez.”

Dean smiled, taking his milkshake and sucking down another heartening sip from the curly straw. “And afterwards, I figured... I thought maybe I liked being watched. And why wouldn’t I think that, you know? Cas was just my roommate. My buddy. My pal. The other half of my Saturday-morning cartoon-and-cereal-review team.”

“And let me guess, you followed up that theory with some experimentation,” Charlie said, tossing her dishcloth to rest over her shoulder.

“‘Course!” Dean grinned. “Things were so normal with Cas, too. In the morning he joked about having ‘seen too many things’ and how he’s gonna move to Peru and become a celibate monk. But then he got all thoughtful and serious, and he straight-up asked me if had fun last night. And I said yes. What else would I say? I said yeah. And he nodded, and smiled, and went back to sipping his stupid black coffee.

“Then... the next girl I brought home, I kind of asked her to watch me while we did it. Maintain eye contact. But— It felt weird. Like, uncomfortable. Not one butterfly like there was with Cas. So I shut my eyes.

“The next guy – girl, I don’t remember – same thing. I know a couple people told me the aggressive staring was freaking them out. And honestly, even when I found someone who was into it – this hippie psychic chick, she sat down on the bed with me and we kinda... held hands, and spent fifteen minutes just looking into each other’s souls... Eh.” Dean pulled a face. “Was intimate, yeah. But me and her never even had sex. We ended up being pretty good friends. Pamela.”

“Double-shot espresso and a coffee donut,” Charlie said automatically.

Dean grinned. “Yeah, that Pamela.”

“So then what?”

“Then...” Dean exhaled, torso slumping forward against the milk bar, head lolling against his supportive hand. “Tried having a threesome. Answered one of those five-hundred Tinder messages asking for a three-way with a bi guy. I picked two married chicks. It’s logical, right? I wanna be watched. So two of us do it, and the other one watches.”

“And how’d that work out?”

“Hot,” Dean smirked. “We partnered up, then swapped. All of us got to watch each other go at it.”

Charlie raised her eyebrows, still waiting for the result.

“Nada.” Dean pressed his lips together. “Like, I realised there was a difference. On the one hand, there was me enjoying sex, having it release a shitton of feel-good hormones, feeling satiated after, feeling connected to someone even if I’m never gonna see them again. There’s that. And then, on the other hand, there’s... whatever I had with Cas. Seeing him, in the room, having his presence there. And that was what I wanted. Not just eye contact with someone. Eye contact with Cas.”

“Oh?” Charlie sounded pleased, leaning forward for more.

Dean snorted. “Don’t look so hopeful. I skipped over the obvious conclusions. Didn’t even occur to me that I had real feelings for him.”

He subdued a smile, ready to explain: “I started having sex only in places Cas would see. Would leave my bedroom door open. Would wait until he texted to say when he’d be home, and then I’d time the sex so I was moments away from coming before he opened the door. I wanted—” Dean’s hand covered his mouth of its own accord, but he forced it down. “I wanted to lock eyes with him. And then come while he watches. And fuck, Charlie, I didn’t know why. I can’t believe I didn’t know why. I just thought it was hot. I go pleasure-seeking, you know? Getting off with Cas in the room gave me a rush, like a drug, like a drink – so I kept doing it, not even thinking about the damage I might cause.”

“Why didn’t you know your motive?” Charlie asked, confused. “Did you not want to think about how you really felt about your best-friend-slash-roommate, or did years of alcohol abuse kill all your brain cells?”

“I—?” Dean ran his hands back through his hair. “Bit of both. And in hindsight, I know what I was doing was gross, okay. He walked in on me with other people. I performed for him. Over and over and over.” Dean shook his head, aghast at his past self. “I don’t know how many people I used... as props. God— No, I do know. I know exactly how many people. Because I was keeping count. I kept score. A tally. A written and illustrated journal. And a box of prizes under my bed.”

Charlie looked away, then began making another milkshake.

“Yeah, I could use another,” Dean muttered.

“This one’s for me,” Charlie said. “I have an asshole for a friend.”

“Yeah.” Dean hung his head. “Yeah, I know.” He let out a long, despairing breath, then admitted, “Cas wasn’t lacking those brain cells. He figured out what I was doing, maybe before I did. But he waited for a better time to confront me. Some sunny Sunday afternoon, between him making calls, trying to get a slot at a prenatal yoga class, wantin’ to make a talk about his upstart business. Honestly, that whole afternoon is just burned into my brain. Because when he did corner me—”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ◀ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

“Dean, are you okay?”

Dean looked up from editing his Tinder profile on his phone. “Huh? Yeah. Yeah. I’m fine. Why?”

Castiel swallowed. He watched Dean with gentle eyes, a small sigh escaping him. He glanced away, then sat down on the couch beside Dean.

“This,” Castiel said, “appears to be happening a lot. I’m seeing a lot more of your skin than I used to.”

Dean sucked his lower lip. “Oh... Yeah. Seems that way, don’t it.”

“Doors left open,” Castiel said. “Or I find you on the couch. Or the floor. Or... up against the wall. The dining table, Dean.”

Dean huffed, embarrassed. “Yeah. Wow. Sounds kinda like a pattern when you put it like that.”

“This isn’t a series of exceedingly similar coincidences, is it? Me arriving when you’re almost done, regardless of the hour I return. None of it.”

Dean swallowed. He gave Cas a good, long look, both of them knowing he was guilty. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t be,” Castiel said.

“What?”

“Don’t apologise.” Castiel lowered his eyes and gulped. “To everyone else, yes, perhaps you ought to. But not to me.”

“No?”

“No.” Castiel managed a half-smile. “The sight of you... The way you... Eh-everything...”

Though Cas completed not a single statement, Dean’s eyes began to widen. Castiel’s manner and his expression said everything: he’d enjoyed it. He was made unsettled by it, but he’d enjoyed it nonetheless.

“Oh,” Dean said.

“The sight of you having sex arouses me,” Castiel forced out. “And I want... I want to see you more. But not with other people. So,” he took a breath, then said, firmly: “Dean, I want you to be my First.”

“First—”

“First sexual experience with another person. First time. First kiss. All of it. I want it to be you.” Castiel’s fierce eye contact shocked Dean’s system like every nerve had become a live wire. “You’re the only person I trust that way.”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ▶ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

Charlie snorted. “I.E. the only person he feels that way about.”

“What?” Dean smirked carelessly. “Nah. You really think so?”

“Um, yeah?” Charlie nearly laughed. “Come on, a guy in his mid-thirties, non-religious but still a virgin, despite being about as empathetic and conventionally attractive as a man can be? Believe me, he was a virgin on purpose. Anyway, Cas trusts me. I put ointment on his awkward rash that one time. But he wouldn’t ask me to bang him in a million years. Not unless we needed to repopulate the Earth, and even then I’d wonder.”

“But... you’re gay. You’re only attracted to women. You’re not attracted to Cas. Why would he ask you for sex?”

“Exactly: he wouldn’t. So something – that’s a sarcastic something – something about your interactions made him realise you’re sexually attracted to him, and he began to feel more comfortable about wanting you. Face it, Dean, you’re the only person he feels that way about. Past, present, and probably future. You’re his lobster.”

“I’m his what?”

Charlie chuckled. “Just carry on, would you? I was supposed to close up shop already.”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ◀ ·•·•·•·•·•


 

“Dean?”

Dean took a second breath, trying to understand what Cas was saying.

“Dean,” Castiel said again, touching Dean’s arm.

“Yeah,” Dean nodded. “Yeah, I— I need to think about it. I need to think about it. I don’t know.”

Castiel removed his hand from Dean’s arm, curling a fist. Softly, he said, “Okay.”

“It’s just— We’re friends. Best friends,” Dean flashed a grin, “and – andand it’s kind of a big deal. Sex. Between you and me.”

Castiel tilted his head. “You have sex with people you barely know.”

“Yeah.” Dean folded his arms, nervous. “That’s why it’s different. I know you, Cas. I’ve known you and lived with you and enjoyed your company for years. Sex changes things, y’know?”

“Makes people closer.”

“Sure, right, yeah – but.” Dean sucked his lips. “But I’m using people, Cas. I don’t connect with them right when I have sex with them. And I might be hurting them, or myself, doing what I do. And I don’t wanna hurt you like that, even by accident.”

Castiel’s breath stuttered. “Are you saying no?”

“No, that’s not it,” Dean assured him. “I’m saying... I need to think about it. I need time. I gotta... get my shit together. I’m not saying yes, or maybe. I’m saying I might say no. Because this is a big deal, bud. You probably don’t get that right now, but it is. I’m doing sex wrong. What you’re seeing me do... it’s not the best example of intimacy, okay? It’s not what you deserve. It’s not...” He looked away, pained inside as he confessed, “It’s not something I enjoy.”

Castiel looked stunned. “Then why are you doing it?”

Because I want you to look at me and I’m not sure how else to get your attention, Dean thought. He forced the thought down. Because I’m trying to fill the void that alcohol used to fill. Because the void was a person who loved me, long ago.

“I don’t know.”

 

•·•·•·•·•· ♥ ·•·•·•·•·•