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V is for Vibrance

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The first time Dean meets an angel it’s on a Tuesday. Tuesdays at the tattoo shop are always busy because they run a special - linework no bigger than the size of a coffee cup for the low low price of sixty dollars - and the lines always seem to be endless. It’s mostly people looking for their next ink fix but unable to save up for their dream piece; there’s even a few people who have managed to cheat the system by having tattoo artists work on their larger pieces ‘one coffee cup at a time’. Granted, it’s gonna take them all about a year to get their pieces finished, but Dean is too amused at their wits to turn them away. If they wanna spend every Tuesday for the next year getting a few inches of ink scribed into their body, more power to ‘em. Sixty bucks a pop goes into Dean’s pocket.

Anyway, the reason Dean even notices the man at all in the throng of people hanging in the lobby and spilling out onto the sidewalk is because of how grossly out of place he is. He’s wearing slacks with neat vertical creases, an argyle sweater over a button-up, a trench coat hanging off of his frame. He’s wearing thick-framed glasses on his sharp features and his hair looks like it’s been thoroughly ravished in the last five minutes, even though the man has been sitting politely in a chair for the past fifteen. He seems demure at first glance, but Dean can tell he’s got control tethered on a tight string. A certain… look, about him, despite his dorky attire.

Dean sees him from where he’s currently drawing a ‘shine bright like a diamond’ tramp stamp onto a flirty twenty year old girl and he has to slow down the motion of his wrist so he doesn’t accidentally fuck up the tat because his attention is stolen. For a second he observes the out of place man, watching him clutch a briefcase in his lap and survey his surroundings with quiet intensity, and then Dean finds himself smiling as he returns to the girl’s tattoo. He’s well aware of the line and the waiting people, but he’s already thinking about fudging the lineup so he can get that guy in his chair sooner than later.

He finishes three more pieces over the span of an hour and by the time he can actually stand up from his stool without worrying about needing to sit back down again, he sees the man has a book held in his long, elegant fingers. Dean tracks his gaze over his tanned skin and strong knuckles and then clears his throat, wandering up towards the desk and leaning to peer over Pamela’s shoulder.

“Who’s Constantine?” Dean asks lowly, so only Pamela can hear him.

“Thought you’d like him,” she replies easily. “Jo’s already tried to snag him twice but I keep fending her off so it’s about time you get to him.” She points down at the log book, her neatly trimmed fingernail pointing to a name.

Castiel Novak.

“How the fuck do you pronounce that?” Dean wheezes.

Pamela laughs, shrugging and turning to gently pat Dean’s cheek in a slightly patronizing manner. “Ask him, stud.” She directs her voice to the lobby, “Novak, you’re up!”

The man doesn’t startle, which Dean finds surprising because he’d clearly been engrossed in his book. Castiel carefully puts his bookmark in place and then puts his book into his briefcase before he stands, smoothing down the front of his sweater and sending Dean a slightly reserved, expectant smile.

“Hey,” Dean comes around the counter, holding his hand out. A few nearby women look jealous that it’s not them his hands are about to touch, but that’s about par for the course on Tuesdays. Cheap line work and the chance to breathe the same air as the infamous Dean Winchester. “I’m Dean.”

“Castiel,” the man replies, shaking his hand with a firm, solid grip. His hand doesn’t linger as he pulls it away. “They say you’re the best.”

Dean can’t help the prideful smile on his features as he nods, “They could be right, but I’ll let you see for yourself. Come on back and take a look through my book.”

On Tuesdays most of the tattoo artists work out in the open so people can watch others get their work done, instead of sequestering their clients into the private rooms that are normally reserved for the bigger pieces of artwork. Dean gestures for Castiel to take a seat in the sanitized chair waiting for him and dips back to his personal room to grab his portfolio, quickly returning to Castiel’s side and handing it over.

“Normally on Tuesdays people bring their own thing,” Dean explains, “but since this is your first time here, I’ll let you have a look.”

“Thank you,” Castiel says gratefully, opening up the book with the same reverent care he’d handled his own book with. His eyes track over the pages and Dean takes a seat on his stool, turning towards his workstation to start prepping the needle and ink. The only sounds between them are the pages turning and the rustle of Dean wrapping part of his machine in plastic, and then Castiel breaks the nice ambient noise with a soft, low hum in the back of his throat. “You did the mural on Oak street, didn’t you?”

Caught a little off-guard at the recognition, Dean offers a smile and a nod. “Sure did. That piece took me the better part of a month, graveyard shifts. Hardly got any sleep between there n’ here but the money sure made up for it.”

“You have an incredible eye,” Castiel says, lifting his gaze towards Dean’s and oh, ok, now that those blue eyes are focused on him Dean feels his skin prickling with heat.

“Yeah,” he says lamely, and then clears his throat. “What were you thinkin’, anyway? You got any ink?”

“I do not,” Castiel says wryly, looking back down at the watercolor lilies on his lap. It had taken Dean a long time to master the opacity of making tattoos look like watercolors, but it’s one of his ‘signature’ things now.

Dean regards the line of Castiel’s stubbled jaw, the point of his straight nose. After a moment, he says, “What do you have in mind?”

Making another hum, Castiel’s head tips back slightly, thoughtfully, before his gaze returns to Dean’s. He’s beautiful, Dean’s artistic mind supplies.

He’s gorgeous, his downstairs mind retorts.


Dean blinks in surprise. “Wings?”

Castiel nods, looking down at the watercolor flowers. “I very much like this style of coloring. I understand that today is line work day, so I am more than ready to come back on a different day for the work and pay you today for the consultation.”

Shifting his gaze between the flowers on the page and Castiel’s face, Dean feels himself warming infinitely. “Can still give you some line work today. You’re payin’ for it anyway, might as well get somethin’ done, right? ‘Sides, wings… depending on how big you want ‘em it’s gonna take some time and probably a pretty high pain tolerance. Ya wanna try something small to get used to the feeling of the needle?”

Lifting his thumb to his mouth, Castiel presses it against his pink lower lip thoughtfully, eyes on the flowers. After a moment he comes to a decision, sending Dean a small, grateful smile. “Yes, that makes sense. We can do that.”

Dean grins, rubbing his hands together. “Alright. So we know you want wings- you want something to complement them? Since you’re starting with a blank canvas you could easily tie in all your tattoos together with a theme.”

Castiel nods in understanding. “I would like that.” He shifts forward, shrugging out of his trench coat. Dean stands so he can take it and hang it up, and then Castiel starts pulling his sweater off of his body. Dean tries not to stare as Castiel hands him his bulky sweater next, revealing the button-up that’s currently straining to hold itself together over the firmness of his chest.

Damn, he’s one hot nerd.

He starts unbuttoning his shirt and Dean’s throat is a little raspy when he asks, “Uh, what, uh, where…”

Castiel only undoes half of his shirt, letting it hang open over his chest. He sets his briefcase down on the ground on the other side of the chair and then pulls his phone out of his pocket, unlocking it and opening up his photo gallery. Not wanting to pry, but also very content staring at the light dusting of hair over the swell of Castiel’s pecs, Dean tries not to startle when Castiel holds his phone up for him to see.

“Woah, what language is that?” Dean asks, taking the phone out of Castiel’s hands and using his fingers to zoom in on the symbols.

“Enochian,” Castiel replies, “the language of the Angels.”

Dean can’t help the smile that spreads over his face. “Fuck yeah, man. This is badass.” Their gazes meet as Dean says, “I’m gonna really like working with you.”

Eyes held, Dean almost falls into the depths before Castiel chuckles softly, nodding and tapping the tan expanse of skin above his left nipple. “I would like it here, over the heart.”

“What’s it mean?” Dean asks. He sits down on his stool and sets the phone in Castiel’s lap, instructing him to keep the screen awake as he grabs what he needs to start cleaning Castiel’s skin.

“It’s to ward away other angels,” Castiel explains as Dean wets his chest. He doesn’t flinch or question it when Dean picks up a disposable razor and starts carefully gliding it over the skin, which leads Dean to believe that he’s done quite a bit of research before heading into the parlor. It’s refreshing - Dean is understanding of skittish first-timers, but they do get tiresome.

“Why would you wanna ward angels away?” Dean inquires. Once the hair is removed from Castiel’s skin he wipes it clean again, and then dries his hands with a paper towel before working his fingers into a pair of black vinyl gloves. “I’m guessin’ you want angel wings?”

“When angels fall, they are outcast,” Castiel says. His voice is almost melancholic, which Dean finds curious, but doesn’t press. “It is important that when they fall they do their best to assimilate with the humans and ensure that other angels can’t find them.” His fingers wrap around his phone briefly. “Fallen angels are considered… lowly. If another angel comes across one, it won’t end well.”

“That sucks,” Dean finds himself saying without pause. Castiel glances at him curiously, and Dean shrugs as he picks up his machine and dips the needle in the ink pot. “I mean- hey, I bet angels have lotsa reasons for falling. Can’t all be bad. Heaven is probably really stuffy, right? All those rules. Boring.” He continues talking over the buzz of his machine as he presses the needle to Castiel’s skin, impressed that the man doesn’t even flinch. “Anyway, those other angels are probably jealous they didn’t have the guts to fall.”

“That is a very…” Castiel seems to struggle to find the word, “humbling interpretation, Dean.”

Dean glances up briefly to flash him a smile, before dropping his gaze back to the symbols lit up on Castiel’s phone. “Humans have their flaws, especially compared to angels I guess, but… I dunno. What’s life without choices? Without tripping and getting back up again?”

Castiel is quiet after that, but the silence isn’t oppressive. It’s comfortable, and even though Dean is free-handing the symbols it doesn’t take him longer than thirty minutes to complete the piece once all his focus is on it. Sitting back and turning off his machine he sets it on the tray and then grabs a paper towel, gingerly wiping away the excess ink to reveal the tattoo.

“There we go.”

The other man looks down at the tattoo, the corners of his eyes crinkling in delight. “It looks wonderful, Dean. Thank you.”

Shrugging and deflecting, Dean rolls his stool away a bit on squeaky wheels. “Hey, working on you is a nice change o’ pace. Most everyone tries to talk my ear off and it’s hard to concentrate.”

“Oh,” Castiel frowns a little. “Did you want to talk?”

Dean chuckles and shakes his head, “We did talk, Cas. But you bein’ quiet… Don’t take this the wrong way, but it was nice.”

Castiel pauses for a moment, and belatedly Dean realizes he’d shortened Castiel’s name without permission. But Castiel replies with, “You’re in your element here, Dean. It would be remiss of me to distract you.”, while Dean carefully puts dressing over the tattoo. He then shifts so he can start buttoning up his shirt and Dean is suddenly regretting the fact he hadn’t gotten a better eyeful before all that skin got covered up. “I would even say you may have been fated for this line of work.”

“I did doodle a lot as a kid,” Dean concedes with a smile. He stands up, handing Castiel his sweater, and then his coat once he’s dressed. Normally he lets Pamela take care of payment, but since this was technically a consultation, Dean follows Castiel up towards the counter. He plucks a piece of paper from a cardstock holder and slides it across the counter to Castiel. “These are your aftercare instructions. Make sure you follow them, and make sure you don’t scratch it if it gets itchy.”

Castiel nods, picking up the paper and reading it over briefly before folding it up and tucking it into the front pocket of his briefcase.

“Alright,” Dean nudges an amused Pamela out of the way with his hip, “Gonna set him up for another appointment.”

“Addicted already?” Pamela asks, impressed.

“Dean is quite talented,” Castiel says, a warmth to his voice that normally doesn’t come from customers.

Dean’s ears flush as he wiggles the mouse of the computer to wake up the screen. “Anyway, what size were you thinkin’ about for the wings?”

Pamela walks away, but not without swatting Dean’s butt as she passes. He knows he’s gonna have to go through the Spanish inquisition with her later.

“I think I must ask,” Castiel says thoughtfully, “how well tattoos can be inked over scars.”

Dean glances up, curiosity pinging all his radars. “Scars on your back?”

Castiel nods, shifting his weight from foot to foot. He suddenly looks tiny in his trench coat, totally opposite of the confident man that had been just sitting in Dean’s chair. “Yes. They are quite large and… well, vicious looking.”

Doing his best to offer a reassuring smile, Dean ducks his gaze to catch Castiel’s. When those pretty blues meet his, Dean says, “Tattoos are great for scar cover up. Depends on how old the scar is, though, and what coloring it has. Newer, darker scars are a bitch but it’s doable.”

“The scars are quite old,” Castiel says thoughtfully, his eyes dropping to the counter. “I… am not sure of the color, as I have not looked at them in quite some time. But I imagine the color is light, since they have had much time to heal.”

“Alright then,” Dean says, widening his smile. “At your next appointment we can take a look and then we can see where to go from there.” He doesn’t ask about the origin of the scars, the size, or anything like that- he’s not an animal. He’s got respect, and Castiel looks a bit uncomfortable talking about them, so Dean won’t push. Not professionally, or personally. “So: size?”

Castiel seems grateful that Dean doesn’t ask too many questions. “I was hoping to cover most of my back. Your watercolors are beautiful, Dean. Perhaps wings… and in the empty spaces, flowers?”

Nodding to himself, Dean’s artistic mind is already coming up with a few designs. “Yeah- hey, that sounds great. Tell ya what, I’ll set you up with an appointment and by the time you get here, I’ll have a few ideas sketched out.”

“No,” Castiel says quickly, and then flushes when Dean blinks at him. He wrings his fingers on the handle of his briefcase idly. “I… would like you to freehand them, if you’re comfortable with that.”

“Damn, Cas,” Dean breathes. “No one’s- I mean, I do a lotta art, but no one’s ever let me freehand on ‘em before.”

“You did with my warding,” Castiel says with a small smile, chin dipping towards his chest.

Dean blinks again, this time in realization. “Huh. Guess I did.” Drumming his fingers over the keyboard, he rings up Castiel’s linework and then clicks into the booking agent, starting to look for his next opening that’s longer than two hours. Castiel sets the cash down on the counter and Dean ignores it for a moment, trying to grasp the fact that Castiel wants him to freehand a piece on him - that Castiel has that much faith in him after just one baby session. After his very first tattoo. “When works for you?”

“Weekends, if you can,” Castiel says. “Today I had someone else cover my shift while I came here, but I normally work during the week.”

Saturdays for Dean are booked all the way out til December.

It’s June.

Chewing his lip, Dean looks up at Castiel, unsurprised to find the man’s gaze on him already. Tonguing the inside of his cheek, Dean clicks ‘open new timeslot’, and then pulls up Sundays - his one day off a week, and consequently, the only day of the week the parlor is closed. “Sundays work for you?”

Castiel’s breath hitches for reasons unknown, his eyes getting a bit heavy and dark and in return causing Dean’s breath to stutter up a bit. “Sundays.”

“Uh-” Dean laughs a little, the sound awful and pitched. “I mean maybe it’s a bit ironic to get fallen angel tattoos on Sundays but you can’t come in during the week and my Saturdays are always booked from open to close.”

“You don’t work on Sundays,” Castiel concludes on his own, his brow furrowing, some of the heat in his gaze dissipating. “I do not expect you to change your schedule for me, Dean.”

Something about the way Castiel says his name has him shaking his head, reveling in the warmth and familiarity of it. “Nah, Cas. It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about a project, and I’d be more than happy to spend a couple hours every Sunday with you.”

Falling silent, Castiel stares down at the money laid out on the counter. After a moment, he finally says, “Alright, Dean. It would be… enlightening, to spend my Sundays with you.”

The way Dean’s heart thumps against his ribs has him letting out a giddy laugh, which he covers up by clearing his throat. Nodding, he books Castiel for noon on Sundays over the next few months, still unsure as to how long it’s going to take to complete the piece. He gives Castiel a rough estimate of cost, which Castiel agrees to, and before Castiel leaves, Dean calls out to him.

Turning, head tilting curiously and eyes slightly squinted, Castiel waits for Dean to speak.

“For what it’s worth, the angels are gonna be jealous of your new wings.”

Tension bleeds from Castiel’s body so suddenly Dean’s surprised he didn’t notice the rigidity of his frame until now. The tentative, thankful smile on Castiel’s lips imprints itself on the backs of Dean’s eyelids and Castiel turns to leave the shop, the chime tinkling overhead as the door swings.


It’s three Sundays later when Castiel comes back to the tattoo parlor. Dean had given them that much time mostly for himself; they’re going to be in the shop alone, the CLOSED sign displayed prominently on the door despite the fact the shop will be lit up and occupied, and Dean is wrestling with his attraction to the man - as well as trying to figure out if it’s returned, or if Castiel is just dorky and intense and doesn’t understand social cues.

Maybe a little bit of both, Dean helplessly hopes.

Besides, three weeks was enough time for Dean to get a vague idea of what he wants to do all figured out in his head. Castiel wants it freehand, so Dean has had to force himself not to sketch anything. He’s sitting at the desk when a shadow falls into the lobby and he glances up to see Castiel standing outside of the locked door, wearing that blasted trench coat even though it’s a balmy eighty degrees out. Getting up and unlocking the door for him Dean grins when Castiel immediately discards his trench coat and drapes it over his arm; he’s sans briefcase today, but even though it’s the weekend he’s still wearing slacks and a button-up.

He’s, frankly, adorable.

“Come back into my studio,” Dean says, leading the way.

His studio is intimate and ambient, a few flameless candles lit on various surfaces. He’s got a magnifier light on a stand by his chair but other than that he likes his space to be calming, never wanting clients to get overwhelmed by the ‘too clean and clinical’ atmosphere that some other artist’s studios have. Castiel glances around appreciatively and hangs his trench coat up on the rack, hands lifting to his shirt to immediately start unbuttoning.

Now, Dean knows it’s obvious the guy’s gotta take off his shirt to get a back tattoo, but he’s still a bit surprised at the nonchalance Castiel has as he undresses. Most people get even just a smidge shy. Dean’s starting to think that Castiel doesn’t really understand social cues, after all.

Once his shirt is off and hung up next to his trench coat Castiel awaits direction. Dean unglues his tongue from the roof of his mouth and then sanitizes his hands, taking a step towards Castiel, giving the Enochian symbols a cursory glance to check out their healing process.

“Alright, let’s see what’s going on back there,” he says, friendly as possible once he’s satisfied with the healing tattoo on Castiel’s chest. He knows Castiel has scars, but he doesn’t want to make him self-conscious about them, so he’s being as casual as possible.

Still, Castiel hesitates slightly, chewing his lower lip. “The scars…” he swallows, unable to hold Dean’s gaze.

“Hey,” Dean says softly, taking another step closer. “No matter what they’re like, Cas, we’re gonna turn ‘em into art. Ok?”

That seems to be the right thing to say, because Castiel relaxes minutely and then turns around on an exhale, exposing his broad, firm back to Dean’s greedy eyes.

Dean has to hold his breath to keep it from violently rushing from his lungs as the sight of the scars on Castiel’s back.

They’re vertical, jagged and white-hot. It looks like the flesh had been ripped off of Castiel’s skin with great talons, the length of the scars spanning from the tops of his shoulder blades nearly down to the small of his back, the tail ends of them curving slightly inwards. Without his own permission Dean’s hands lift, fingertips gently touching Castiel’s skin. Goosebumps break out on the healthy, tan flesh, and Castiel tenses slightly - which causes Dean to whip his hands back as if burned, feeling immediately guilty.

“Sorry- sorry, I should have asked,” Dean apologizes, curling his fingers into fists in mid-air as he looks over Castiel’s back. “These are…” he licks his lips, feeling intense sorrow for whatever Castiel had gone through in order to be left with these garish marks. He swallows a few times, organizes his thoughts, and then reaches out with a slightly firmer palm - this time to gently grip over the curve of Castiel’s shoulder, gently turning him around so he can give him a soft smile. “These’ll take the ink, no problem.” He can tell they’re old, a lot older than he’s comfortable thinking about, so he knows that the tattoos will show up nicely and do a great job covering them.

“Thank you,” Castiel murmurs softly, turning to fully face Dean. “I am ready when you are.”

“Right,” Dean says, throat clicking with his swallow. He moves over to his chair, pulling a few knobs and levers until he adjusts it properly. “Here, sit with your chest here.” He gestures to the back of the chair and Castiel gets the hint, sitting on the chair backwards, his arms automatically wrapping around the backrest, elbows on the armrests. Dean pointedly doesn’t look at the way Castiel’s slacks tighten over his thick thighs. “Comfy?”

“Yes,” Castiel says, shifting slightly and sinking further into the seat. He turns his head so his cheek rests against the chair, his eyes on Dean. “Very.”

Unable to keep the smile off his face, Dean sits on his stool. This one in his studio is much more cushy and comfortable than the ones out of the floor, and as he pulls his tray over, he’s more than thankful for it because he can tell already he’s gonna be sitting on it for quite some time today. “I already set out all the colors I like to use. Do you see any that you don’t like?”

Castiel surveys the tray and the ink laid out on it, and after a few moments he shakes his head. “I don’t mind the black… but perhaps, don’t use too much of it?”

“Really want a washed out look?” Dean inquires, pulling on a pair of gloves.

“Black is unbecoming for an angel,” Castiel says, a strange edge to his voice, “fallen or not.”

An interesting thought to have, but Dean decides it’s none of his business. Castiel has his reasons for getting this tattoo - covering the scars being one of them - and while normally Dean encourages his clients to talk up a storm about the whys, Dean reflects back on his earlier thought that he wouldn’t press Castiel for information. They’ll have plenty of Sundays to talk about it, and for now Dean just wants to get Castiel used to the position he needs to rest in as well as how much the needle is going to be pressing into his skin.

With the expanse of Castiel’s back in front of him, the most beautiful blank canvas Dean has ever seen, he finds himself taking a moment to appreciate it. It’s almost a shame, he thinks, to mark up this beautiful skin. Even the scars that run down Castiel’s back are beautiful in their own way, even if Dean doesn’t know their reason for existence. But, Castiel has hired him, and Castiel trusts him, so Dean pulls his tray closer and picks up his gun, meeting Castiel’s gaze.

Castiel’s eyes are heavy again, like they know Dean is drinking up every inch of his skin - and instead of being embarrassed Dean holds his gaze for a moment longer than necessary, before dipping his needle into a cornflower blue that he knows will rival Castiel’s irises.

The sound of his machine buzzing fills the tattoo shop, punctuated only in pauses where Dean swipes away excess ink with a damp paper towel. Castiel’s eyes close, like he’s actually relaxing, and Dean marvels at the guy’s pain tolerance. Not that back tattoos are particularly painful, especially over scar tissue which has less nerve endings than healthy flesh, but Dean still finds himself impressed that Castiel basically naps while Dean works on him.

Outlining the shape of the wings is the first order of business. Castiel had said he doesn’t want a lot of black, so Dean uses it sparingly and only to break up spaces between feathers, and even then he mixes in a bit of blue, muting the starkness of it as he lets the watercolor effect bleed out. He’s only working with blue, a bit of black, and some purple today; freehanding means that he has to take frequent breaks to draw back and look at the entire piece before moving forward, and he’s already estimating that it’s going to take about six sessions for him to complete the piece. The wings will be one thing, but Castiel had also requested flowers, and despite doing everything freehand, Dean has decided that he’ll do some research on what kinds of blossoms he’ll be putting on Castiel’s skin.

After four hours with one bathroom break, Dean pulls back and rotates his shoulders, wincing at the tender spot that pulls on the side of his neck. He turns off his gun and sets it on the tray, grabbing his squeezy bottle and a clean paper towel, gently cascading the water over Castiel’s back and wiping it away. Even though it’s just an outline the intent is clear and Dean finds himself smiling, proud with this initial stage. There are just ghosts of definition where feathers are going to be, the details of which to be added in as time goes by and more colors get blended into the palette.

Castiel perks, sensing things are coming to a close, and when he sits up a few crunches emit from his spine. He lets out a soft breath and Dean chuckles in solidarity, standing up.

“Here, come over here and we’ll get you to take a look,” Dean says, gesturing towards a mirror hanging on the wall. He grabs a smaller handheld mirror, waiting for Castiel to extricate himself from the chair and walk over.

When Dean hands over the smaller mirror Castiel hesitates, his back to the big one. It’s the first time their eyes have met in the past four hours and Dean softens his expression, gesturing lightly with his hand. Castiel’s grip tightens on the handle of the mirror, and then he shakes his head and takes a step closer to Dean, his expression pinching slightly with anxiety.

“I don’t want to look.”

Dean is surprised, and his own expression fails to hide it. “You don’t?”

Castiel gently presses the mirror to Dean’s chest, searching green with blue. “Do you like how it looks so far?”

“F’course I do, Cas,” Dean replies, slightly amused but mostly confused. “S’my own work, I gotta like it.”

Castiel nods, the movement decisive. “Then I will not look until it is complete.” The heat from his bare skin is intense, inches away from Dean’s chest.

“You sure?” Dean asks. “You’re puttin’ a lotta trust in a stranger, y’know.”

“You are not a stranger,” Castiel says it so simply, so truthfully.

So Dean swallows, nods, and takes the mirror back from Castiel. “Alright.”

Castiel proves to be quite flexible when Dean tells him where he needs to spread the healing ointment around. The barely-there wings dance over muscle and bone as Castiel proves he can reach every inch of his back without help and then Dean is assisting him into his shirt from behind, watching his artwork get covered up with starched pinstripes.

“Whaddya do for a living, Cas?” Dean asks.

Turning around, Castiel is buttoning up his shirt as he answers, “I’m a librarian at the public library.”

“Oh,” Dean laughs a little.

Castiel frowns.

Dean quickly says, “No- I mean- that’s… fitting. For you.”

Castiel’s head tilts. “It is?”

“Sure,” Dean shrugs a little, gesturing at Castiel vaguely with his hand. “You got that… bookish, nerdy kinda look goin’ on.”

Castiel glances down at himself as if seeing his clothes for the first time. His frown is confused and adorable. “I am getting the impression that being ‘bookish and nerdy’,” he dork uses air quotes, “is something to be teased over?”

“I mean-” Dean shakes his head with a laugh. “I guess, but not in a bad way. M’not makin’ fun of you, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Oh,” Castiel nods, his gaze sweeping over Dean’s form, no doubt taking in the frayed jeans and the threadbare AC/DC shirt.

“Not that I’ve got the inside scoop on what’s fashionable,” Dean suddenly says, finding himself a bit embarrassed at his own sloppy attire.

The tiniest of smiles curls Castiel’s lips when he lifts his gaze to Dean’s and says, “It’s… fitting.” He pauses. “For you.” He turns and grabs his trench coat off of the hanger and starts shrugging into it, walking out of Dean’s studio and leaving him behind, trying to catch up.

“Did you just make a joke?” Dean laughs, following after Castiel.

The teasing smile on the librarian’s lips replaces the stamp on the inside of Dean’s eyelids, and Dean finds himself looking forward to next Sunday with new anticipation.


Two more Sundays pass. Castiel remains quiet during every session, nearly asleep while Dean works on him. The wings on his back finally take shape and Dean starts shading them with purples and pinks, pleased that Castiel hadn’t insisted on a more ‘manly’ palette. The pastels are a beautiful contrast against his tan skin, and where the flesh of his scars are lighter in pigment the splashes of color stand out brilliantly.

The conversations they have are small and quiet, but revealing. At least, on Dean’s part. He tells Castiel about how his mother was a talented artist, and how she’d died of cancer ten years ago on Dean’s eighteenth birthday. That’s where he gets his passion from. His dad hadn’t been entirely supportive, but for some reason John Winchester approved more of being a tattoo artist than painting on canvases that would get hung up in galleries, and Dean has always taken his wins where he could get them. He talks about his brother, Sam, who lives in California and is nearly ready to graduate law school and take the bar, not bothering to hide the pride in his voice. Dean says he’d love to visit, but the trek from Texas to California in the middle of summer is rough in a car - Dean admits he’s afraid of flying to a very amused Castiel - so his visits typically happen in the spring and autumn. Dean waxes poetic about his Baby, the Impala his dad helped him restore for his twenty-first birthday, and all the while Castiel listens attentively, patiently; he asks questions when appropriate, but for the most part allows Dean to talk and talk and talk.

It’s a big change from how sessions with clients normally go. Lots of folks treat their tattoo artists like therapists. Dean’s never resented anyone for it, but he also never really realized he little he talks in his sessions until Castiel let him chatter to his heart’s content.

On the fourth Sunday, Castiel breaks a barrier that they’ve yet to approach. With his cheek cushioned on the leather chair, Dean draped over his back as he works, Castiel’s voice rumbles Dean to the core when he asks, “Do you have a significant other?”

Dean’s trained enough to not let his fingers skip around when his nerves jump. He tenses slightly, the question not necessarily coming out of nowhere; he’s talked about his family, his brother, his friends, and school, but hadn’t mentioned his love life at all. He never really does, choosing to allow the clients and his coworkers to assume whatever they want about him.

Usually they assume he’s loose and a flirt, from how many women slip him their number at the end of their sessions.

No one knows that Dean hasn’t called a single girl.

“No,” Dean finally answers, focusing on blending periwinkle into lavender. “Not for a few years. Thought I had somethin’ special with a girl and her son… but that tanked quickly.”

“What happened?” There’s no judgment in Castiel’s voice, just plain curiosity. Castiel is a very curious person, Dean has learned. Like he doesn’t get to talk to people frequently, have actual conversations, and when Dean thinks about it the guy does work in a library, which is a notoriously quiet space, so it makes sense that the moment Castiel got a chance he’d be inquisitive.

“Was goin’ through the motions,” Dean admits, for the first time out loud. “We got along fine, and I loved the hell outta her kid. But there was no…”

“Passion?” Castiel hedges.

“Yeah,” Dean lets out a breath. “No passion. Before she an’ I got together I kinda had a reputation… I wanted to settle down with her to get rid of all the nasty rumors, and she wanted to be known as the woman who finally tamed Dean Winchester.” He snorts a little, shaking his head as he gently swipes the damp paper towel in his free hand over Castiel’s skin.

“Were you?” Castiel asks.

“Was I what?” Dean replies, changing out the color on his needle.


Dean meets Castiel’s eyes and sees the trapped heat in the depths, the restrained hunger that’s been there - and barely contained - since day one. At first Dean had thought that maybe Castiel is closeted, and that’s why he doesn’t act on the clear attraction sparking between them, but after getting to know Castiel he realizes that the man is just careful, attentive, and interested in a deeper connection. It’s strange but refreshing, to have someone’s attention like this.

To have Castiel’s attention like this.

Dean’s under no illusions that things between them aren’t charged. But he also knows that it’s a professional courtesy that Castiel hasn’t pushed or given in; he’s very aware that right now Castiel is paying him for a service, and it’s Dean’s duty to complete the task. They’re both adults. That’s not to say that as soon as money exchanges hands Dean will be able to keep his hands to himself, but they’ll cross that bridge when they get there.

In response to Castiel’s question, though, Dean smirks.

“No, Cas. Ain’t no one’s tamed me yet.”

Challenge sparks in Castiel’s eyes and heat zings through Dean’s frame so violently he’s glad he doesn’t have his needle anywhere near Castiel’s skin, because he surely would have stabbed him. Tearing his gaze away, Dean focuses on changing out the color, trying to quell the tremor in his fingers. Castiel doesn’t say anything further, and Dean feels his gaze on the side of his face like a brand, but Dean manages to find his focus and move back to his work space, swallowing thickly and shifting so he can detail the flight feathers.

They don’t say anything else for the rest of the session, and when Castiel leaves he takes all the tension with him, leaving Dean boneless and breathless.

He definitely takes the time to reacquaint himself with his right hand that night.


“Dean,” Castiel says on the final Sunday of their weekly sessions. Today Dean is touching up some details on the flowers, and once he’s finished he’ll be taking photos for his portfolio (and maybe keeping a few for his personal collection, sue him) before collecting the money from Castiel and sending him on his way.

“Hm?” Dean asks, shading the petals of a freesia placed between the wine glass dimples on either side of Castiel’s spine.

“When we are finished today, may I see you again?”

The needle slows over Castiel’s skin, Dean lifting his chin up a bit to look at Castiel’s face. The man’s eyes are closed, expression peaceful and blissed out like it normally is when he’s being stabbed by a needle at a million times per second.

“You… want to?” Dean asks.

Castiel opens an eye to send Dean an unimpressed glance. “I wouldn’t ask if I was not interested, Dean.”

“Oh.” Dean’s teeth clack when he shuts his mouth, eyes turning to the orchid ink staining Castiel’s skin under his needle. A small smile starts to curl his lips, “Yeah, Cas. I’d really like to see you again. Uh- more. ...Outside of work.”

Quiet falls over them, the buzz of the needle stuffed in the small studio space, but it’s drowned out by the blood rushing in Dean’s ears. Castiel wants to see him outside of the studio. Castiel is interested in him. Castiel wants to… date him.

Dean finishes and pulls away, wiping lavender ink off of Castiel’s skin before setting everything down on the tray, looking over the expanse of Castiel’s back.

“It’s finished.”

Castiel remains where he is for a moment while Dean stands up, cleaning the rest of his skin off and then smearing salve over the ink. The horrific scars are completely covered, but the shape of them remains, Dean having followed the lines of them to make the general lay of the wings. As he takes in the piece as a whole Dean feels his heart pitter-patter against his ribcage, a slightly misty smile overtaking his features. Periwinkles, lavenders, orchids, butter yellows, cornflower blues, easter greens, and only the slightest bit of black so soft it’s almost grey where it defines details. The soft wash of colors is complete, and stunning.

“Shit, Cas. I sound like a cocky bastard, I’ll bet, but that looks damn good.”

“Would you like to take photos of it with me lying down or standing up?”

“Stay there,” Dean instructs, adjusting the overhead lamp and taking off his gloves. He sanitizes his hands, grabs his phone, and Castiel lies patiently while Dean takes a few shots; one of the whole piece, and then a few separate shots of the details of the feathers and the flowers, and when he’s done he scrubs a hand over his mouth, pride welling inside of him.

Castiel gingerly sits up, stretching his arms and rotating his shoulders. He carefully stands, walking backwards to extract himself from the chair, and when Dean reaches for the handheld mirror he shakes his head, sending Dean a small, secretive smile.

“Join me for dinner next weekend,” Castiel offers. “You may show it to me then.”

Dean’s eyebrows rise up and he finds himself nodding, ducking his gaze as Castiel starts to pull on his shirt. He tracks the way Castiel’s fingers do up the buttons, the top two left untouched, and before Dean loses his grip on his sanity and breaks half a dozen health codes he leaves his studio to head up front to the front desk, starting to ring up Castiel’s sessions. He ends up charging Castiel for only the product, not the labor, which Castiel notices on the receipt and argues against - but then Dean reaches across the counter and grabs Castiel by the starched collar of his shirt, hauling him closer so he can speak directly into his ear.

“You can give me a tip after dinner next weekend.”

Castiel’s low, throaty chuckle ignites a fire deep in Dean’s gut. “If things go the way I plan, you will get more than the tip.”

Castiel pulls away and Dean sways on his feet, barely bidding the man goodbye before he realizes he’s left alone in the parlor, Castiel’s cell number scrawled on the receipt clutched in Dean’s hands.


Being nervous before a date is probably the norm for most people, Dean knows. But being nervous before his date with Castiel is… probably next level. Dean’s on the man’s doorstep - he lives in a cute rancher at the end of a cul-de-sac, his front lawn beautifully manicured and mailbox likely handmade. He’s wiping the palms of his hands on his jeans and tries to talk himself out of being nervous, but obviously everything is against him because the door swings open after five minutes of him standing there silently and Castiel is on the other side, sending Dean a fond, exasperated smile.

“Were you going to knock?”

“I was getting there,” Dean says, going for defensive and falling face first into pathetic.

Castiel is wearing jeans for the first time since Dean’s met him, and even though it’s still summer he’s got a soft sweater wrapped around his frame and he looks… well- Dean steps up to him and wraps him up in a hug, unable to resist. Castiel melts into him, arms wrapping around Dean in return, face tucked into the curve of Dean’s neck.

“Hello, Dean.”

The greeting brings Dean back to earth and he lets out a slightly embarrassed chuckle, releasing Castiel. “Heya, Cas.”

“Come in,” Castiel says, moving aside to let Dean in.

Toeing off his shoes and putting them on the shoe rack, Dean follows Castiel into his home. Dean tries to not be surprised, but he can’t help it; Castiel has one worn, well-loved looking couch, the rest of his living room buried in books. There are shelves on every wall, all stuffed to the brim, and there are stacks of books scattered on the floor, end tables, and coffee table in organized piles. It’s an open space that leads into a country-style kitchen, the cabinets painted out light grey and the appliances all new, but mismatched. There’s a dining table that seats four in front of a sliding glass door that leads to a well-kept backyard, two places set, a candle in the middle.

Dean’s immediately charmed.

And immediately hungry, once a heavenly aroma filters its way into his nostrils.

“Mmm, smells good Cas. What’s on the menu?”

“Pot roast,” Castiel replies. He’d made his way to the kitchen while Dean had been taking everything in, and he’s lifting the lid off of a crockpot. “Potatoes, carrots, gravy.”

Dean grins, heartened by the fact that Castiel had remembered Dean had mentioned offhand that he loved his mother's pot roast recipe. “How much longer til’ it’s ready?”

“The longer it simmers the more it will fall apart,” Castiel says, replacing the lid. He turns to face Dean, his gaze sweeping over him appreciatively - Dean’s wearing well-fitting jeans and a black henley and thankful he had the foresight to wear something decent for once in his life.

“So…” Dean rocks back on his heels, sliding his hands into his pockets and purposely letting his gaze wander around the kitchen as casually as possible. “If it were to simmer for like… another hour or so, it’d be fine?”

Castiel’s feet don’t make any sound as he carries himself over towards Dean with purpose, that suffused heat sparking in his eyes. “More than.”

Dean lets his eyes land on Castiel’s features, a wolfish smile curling his plush lips. “Think we could occupy ourselves for an hour?”

“No,” Castiel’s eyes track over Dean’s features. Dean immediately feels embarrassment creep up his throat - shit, did he misread the situation? - but then Castiel is reaching up to grip the back of Dean’s neck, tugging him forward so their chests collide, Castiel’s voice volcano deep. “It will take much longer than hour for me to have my way with you.”

Dean swallows, Castiel’s fingers tightening their grip on the back of his neck.

“You did say you still need tamed, after all.”

Dean’s knees tremble.

The kiss takes Dean by surprise - not because it happens, but because of its intensity, Castiel’s mouth pouring holy fire directly into Dean’s gut and causing his nerves to alight with pleasure and anticipation. Castiel’s hands are on Dean’s hips and he starts walking him backwards to a hall that probably leads to bedrooms; Dean’s suspicions are confirmed when Castiel kicks open a door unceremoniously, and then arousal fogs Dean’s head when he’s pushed back onto a plush bed.

Lying back on his elbows, his feet on the ground, Dean licks his lips as he watches Castiel lift the hem of his sweater and discard it without a thought. Dean can’t help it - his cock throbs and his legs spread, his eyes tracking the way the muscles of Castiel’s chest and stomach flex and move as the man starts undoing the belt of his jeans.

“Do you know the significance of a fallen angel regaining his wings, Dean?” Castiel asks.

Dean’s a bit too fuzzed out to keep up with the conversation, but his mouth goes dry when Castiel grips the belt in his hands and steps forward between Dean’s spread knees. “No.” He manages to reply when Castiel doesn’t elaborate.

“When an angel falls,” Castiel says, setting the belt down on the bed next to Dean. His hands move to Dean’s shirt, rucking it up at the hem until Dean gets the message and raises his arms above his head so Castiel can remove it, “his wings are ripped from his physical form and torn to shreds, never to be recovered. An angel doesn’t just fall; he gets destroyed.”

Unbidden, Dean thinks about the scars on Castiel’s back, where the lines had been so jagged it looked like something had dug deep under the man’s skin and fished something out, ripping it free from his bones and flesh with great force. Unsure of what to say, Dean stays silent as Castiel’s hands drop to his pants, undoing his button and fly and encouraging him to wiggle his hips so he can drag them - and his boxers - down his bowed legs, leaving him completely bare and naked. There’s a power balance, Castiel still wearing his pants and Dean delightfully bare, his hard cock resting against his thigh and thickening by the second with Castiel’s eyes roving over his body, and Dean relishes it.

“His wings are removed so that he cannot fly back home, to Heaven,” Castiel continues. He stands between Dean’s legs once more, reaching for the belt, gently guiding Dean’s arms behind his own back, Dean automatically wrapping the fingers of his right hand around his left wrist. The leather of the belt is cool against his skin as Castiel starts to bind him. “But if a fallen angel regains his wings… he becomes powerful again.”

Dean believes it. He believes everything Castiel is saying, mouth dry. When the belt buckle clatters Dean tests the give of his restraints, satisfied that he’d be able to break free of them should the need arise. This is the most Castiel has ever spoken at once, and Dean is greedy for the sound of his voice, the cadence and pitch of it hypnotic. Now restrained, Dean is helpless to Castiel’s mouth, which starts laying kisses over the curve of his shoulders while Castiel continues speaking, stubble scraping across Dean’s freckled skin.

“You gave me my wings back,” Castiel murmurs. The flat of his tongue slides over the flaming pentagram on Dean’s left pectoral. “And now I can make my own personal Heaven… with you.”

“Please,” Dean finds himself breathing before he realizes his mouth is even forming the word.

Castiel’s hands slide down the tops of Dean’s thighs, fingers caressing the dreamcatcher on his left quad and the proud tiger face on the right. His palms skate up to Dean’s hips and then he grips them tightly, his strength surprising as he flips Dean over; chest to the bed, hips canted up, toes on the floor and legs spread obscenely, Dean moans when he feels Castiel’s hand glide over the swell of his ass.

“I find it interesting, Dean,” Castiel says almost conversationally, the pad of his thumb swiping dry over Dean’s rim, “that you claim to not be tamed… and yet you have given yourself over to me.”

“Hasn’t been worth it,” Dean finds himself answering honestly. Something about Castiel’s presence, his commanding aura, has Dean saying things he wouldn’t normally be caught dead saying. “No one’s been worth it.”

“You’re right,” Castiel agrees. His thumb catches on Dean’s rim and tugs, the sensation sending pinpricks of pleasure up Dean’s spine and down to his toes.

Please,” Dean repeats, breathless and needy. “C’mon, Cas, fuck.”

Castiel’s other hand passes over where Dean’s hands are bound at the small of his back, no doubt tracing the shape of the grim reaper inked into Dean’s back. His thumb tugs at Dean’s rim again and Dean’s cock throbs where it’s trapped between his stomach and the soft duvet, Dean pressing his face fully into the soft blankets to muffle his groan as his spine arches. The heat from Castiel’s body disappears suddenly and Dean does not whine in protest, but he definitely yelps in surprise when Castiel’s hot, wet tongue swipes up from his balls all the way to the top of his crack. Castiel must be kneeling behind him. Dean’s fingers flex uselessly, his legs spreading wider, allowing his knees to sag so the bed can hold up his weight. He’s already trembling. Castiel lets his tongue drag over Dean’s taint, down to his balls again, sucking each one into his mouth leisurely. Dean’s hips buck, and then Castiel’s tongue is on his hole, licking and probing and tasting and Dean turns his face to the side, feeling his whole body flush as arousal shoots through him, breathing heavily as Castiel eats him out.

It feels like hours for Castiel to surface. Dean’s close to the edge even though Castiel had kept his hips pinned and hadn’t allowed him to thrust his cock into the blankets to relieve the ache. A hand stays on the center of Dean’s back and he feels the bed shift and dip to his left, signalling Castiel climbing on. Dean blearily opens his eyes to watch as Castiel props himself at a slight angle up against the headboard. He makes a come hither motion and on weak knees Dean shuffles forward to straddle him; it takes some maneuvering, but Castiel is a lot stronger than he looks, and soon enough Dean is straddling the man’s chest backwards, his cock leaking onto Castiel’s stomach as Castiel spreads his ass cheeks with his hands and spits lewdly onto his hole.

It’s too natural for Dean to fall forward gracelessly without the aid of his hands, his chest on Castiel’s pelvis so he can put his mouth on Castiel’s dick. He laves it with spit and kisses and nibbles and he groans when Castiel slips a finger into his hole next to his tongue, working on diligently and expertly loosening him up. Since he can’t use his hands Dean can’t get the right leverage he needs, but enough wriggling has Castiel’s cock finally sliding down his throat, Dean bobbing his head and feeling tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. Castiel is working him open with the patience of a saint while Dean is messy and sloppy, spit dribbling out of the corners of his mouth and getting Castiel’s skin shiny with moisture. Castiel’s cock is perfect, long and thick, and it stretches Dean’s mouth better than anything he’s ever experienced before, and Dean is finding himself antsy to feel what it’s like to have his ass be split open on it.

Castiel is thorough enough that when he finally guides Dean away from his mouth, his hole feels empty, clenching reflexively on nothingness. With one hand on Dean’s shoulder and the other on his hip Castiel guides him into reverse cowgirl, and the nirvana Dean feels when he finally sinks onto Castiel’s cock has him believing in the Heaven Castiel said he wanted to build with him.

At first, there’s no movement. Castiel seems content to just let Dean’s ass warm his cock, the muscles clenching tightly around the length. Dean’s not delicate, he’s not dainty, and normally by this point he’d be saying something like “I won’t break”, but he bites his tongue. Castiel shifts under him, and then a hand is gripping the belt binding Dean’s wrists together and the world tilts on axis when Dean is suddenly pushed forward, Castiel’s legs moving in tandem with him to keep his cock lodged as he adjusts Dean onto his hands and knees. It’s impressive that they got into this position, but Dean’s wonder gets fucked right out of him when Castiel pulls his hips back and slams back in.

Using his grip on the belt as leverage, Castiel pounds into Dean so hard Dean’s teeth clack. He clenches his jaw, relaxes the rest of his body, and doesn’t even try to keep himself upright. It takes him a bit to realize that the noises from Castiel are actually words - praises. Dean’s beauty, his radiance, his soul, reverent and worshipful as Castiel praises him like a god but fucks him like the devil. After a few more pointed thrusts the bindings on Dean’s wrists fall away and blood rushes to his fingers, numbing them immediately. Castiel’s then hauling Dean up to sit on his lap, Castiel’s strong thighs keeping them both balanced and upright as he fucks up into Dean’s slick, tight channel, this new angle hitting directly against Dean’s prostate.

Crying out sharply, Dean lifts his burning arms up and back, tingling fingers tangling into Castiel’s wild hair. He grips as tight as he can, which is a feat in itself, and feels Castiel’s face bury into the curve of his neck. Dean’s cock and balls are heavy and flushed and Castiel winds one arm around Dean’s chest, pinning their bodies together, his other hand dropping to start tugging on Dean’s dick. It’s rough and raw, a dry drag, tempo mismatched with Castiel’s thrusts but it’s perfect. Castiel is consuming Dean from the inside out, breaking him in, claiming and taming him and Castiel swipes his thumb over the wet head of Dean’s cock, words leaving his throat in a rough command.


And Dean does.

He’s never been able to come on command, in any situation, but with Castiel’s cock pressing on his prostate at the same time he dips a blunt fingernail into Dean’s slit, it’s an explosion. Dean yells out Castiel’s name and arches his back, his head hitting Castiel’s shoulder as he throws it back, his entire body seizing and clenching. Suddenly Dean’s staring at the ceiling, Castiel having fallen back against the bed, Dean’s back on his chest. His cock slips out of Dean’s hole and Dean feels his hand wedge under Dean’s thigh to jerk at his cock and after a few movements Dean feels hotness splashing over his cock and balls, Castiel’s cum mixing with his in hot globs and dripping down, gravity carrying their spunk back into Dean’s gaping, twitching hole.

Castiel wraps his arms around Dean, and Dean briefly worries that he’s crushing the man, but Castiel’s breathing is still even and deep despite Dean’s full body weight resting on his chest. They lie like that for a few moments until Castiel’s wandering hand slides along Dean’s over-sensitized cock, drawing out a delirious giggle, and then they’re shifting carefully so the drying cum on their skin doesn’t smear over too much of the bedding.

Dean’s a little wobbly when he stands and Castiel is there in an instant to steady him with an arm around his waist, catching him and drawing him forward for a deep kiss. Kissing Castiel is amazing, deep and consuming, and Dean manages to feel a little bit of remorse for the fact they barely kissed at all during their romp. Pulling away from Castiel’s lips with a soft wet sound, Dean feels as fucked out as Castiel looks. The man’s wild hair is even messier than usual, his blue eyes bright, cheeks flushed healthily.

Dean presses their foreheads together, absorbing the moment and the calm, before finally speaking. “D’you wanna see your wings, now?”

Their gazes meet and Castiel reaches up to cup either side of Dean’s face, thumbs gently stroking over his cheekbones. “I’m looking at them right now.”

Dean’s heart skips a beat and he laughs a little, shaking his head. “You’re really corny, y’know that?”

“I could be accused of such a thing,” Castiel admits.

“You really don’t wanna see your wings?” Dean asks, pulling back slightly and searching Castiel’s gaze.

Castiel tracks Dean’s expression, and then smiles softly. “I don’t have a small mirror. Perhaps I can see the photos you took on your phone?”

Dean grins, immediately pulling away and bending to grab his jeans off of the floor. He’s sore and sticky and in dire need of a shower but when he pulls out his phone and opens his gallery to hand it off to Castiel, he forgets about all of that in favor of instead taking in Castiel’s expression as he looks at the photos of the tattoos. The first photos he swipes through are the detail shots of the flowers and the feathers, beautiful enough in their focus and as singular things. But when Castiel finally swipes to the full shot of his back tears spring in his eyes and Dean feels his stomach swoop, his hands immediately reaching out towards Castiel.

“Cas? Oh- fuck, are you-?”

Castiel lets out a wet chuckle, looking at the photo for a few moments longer before lifting his eyes to Dean’s face. “It was worth falling in order to have wings like this.” He looks at the photo again, and Dean has a hard time trying to figure out if Castiel is being literal or figurative with his angel references, but decides it doesn’t matter when Castiel sets his phone on the bed and throws his arms around his neck, drawing him into a tight, grateful hug.

“They’re beautiful,” Castiel murmurs, disbelief tingeing his voice.

Dean wraps Castiel up in his arms securely, pressing a kiss to the side of his head. “You’re beautiful, Cas. Whatever you lost… whatever gave you those scars, it made room for you to be exactly as you are now.”

He can feel Castiel’s grin against his shoulder. “Human. With free will and tripping only so I can get back up again.”

Pulling back slightly, Dean levels his gaze with Castiel’s and feels affection blooming through every inch of his being. “You make a good human, Cas.”

The compliment makes Castiel’s eyes wet with a different emotion, and he laughs as he presses kiss after kiss to Dean’s lips.

“It… fits.”