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Dean shuffles into the kitchen intent on a cup of coffee at exactly 6:47. There’s no reason for him to be up, but Sam sets his alarm for 6:30 every day, and Dean hasn’t quite reached the point of wanting to murder him for the early morning wake up call. Yet.

Unseeingly, Dean acquires a plain white mug and pours himself a big cup of bitter life giving elixir. He holds it close to his face for a moment, breathing it in, before taking a sip. Another couple gulps later, Dean’s higher functions begin to come online and he is instantly met with the disaster zone next to the sink. Plates stacked high, empty plastic packaging wadded up, and something so viscous it’s solidified on it’s slow dripping path down the front of the counter.

With a grimace, Dean turns, fully intending to march down the hall and chew Sam out. The table - or rather, a jar of peanut butter on the table - stops him. The jar itself is nothing to look twice at, but the state it’s in… The plastic top is nowhere to be seen and a big glob of peanut butter is clinging desperately to the top of the jar and the thick, silver handle of a butter knife protrudes from the top.

Dean’s used to the mess. He lives with fucking animals. But this particular scene - an abandoned jar of peanut butter just waiting for a loaf of bread to come around - that is caused by a very specific animal. One that hasn’t been home for a while.

Invigorated, Dean very nearly jogs down the hallway to the common room (although he’d never admit, even held at gunpoint), stopping just outside to run reconnaissance. Sam is there, of course, sipping at his coffee and reading something. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just kitty corner to him however, is Cas, scowl on his face as he silently accuses the peanut butter sandwich in his hands of the most heinous of crimes.

Biting back a grin, Dean stomps into the room. Like his radar has just been pinged, Cas’ head swivels around and he smiles. Just a closed mouth, barely there thing, but a smile nonetheless.

“Hello Dean,” he says, practically ecstatic if the subtle lilt in his voice is anything to go by.

“You two are fucking slobs,” Dean announces. He’s grinning so wide, his face hurts.

Chapter Text

“Cas?” Dean pokes his head into the dim, cool aisle. “Hey, Cas!”

“I’m here, I’m here,” Cas calls back, harried, as he side steps through the narrow tack room door, arms laden with saddle, bridle, and various other accoutrements. Dean could sort out all the pieces if he felt like it, but then he might have to admit to caring about - shudder - English.

Dean trots down the aisle, finally yanking off his sunglasses and lifting them up to sit on the brim of his wide, worn hat. As his eyes adjust, he realizes Cas isn’t wearing the usual tight, stretchy beige pants and knee high boots. It’s not much of a loss though. Not when Cas is wearing a pale, worn-soft pair of jeans (that, on second glance, might actually belong to Dean anyway) under his navy blue leather chaps.

As Cas pauses to set his load down next to an empty stall, Dean hovers behind him, unabashedly checking out his ass. Hey, in his defense, it’s a good ass, covered in Dean’s jeans and framed by the tight pull of the leather chaps.

“Alright,” Cas wheels on him. “What are you doing here?”

Dean rocks back on his heels, both hands raised in a silent proclamation of innocence. He has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. “What do you think I’m doing here?”

“Interrupting me,” Cas informs him blandly. “I have to school-”

Taking Cas’ answer as advice, Dean hooks a finger through the strap lying just under the button of his jeans and hauls him close mid-sentence. With his free hand, he pushes his cowboy hat up off his forehead so it won’t get squashed and leans in for a kiss. Cas releases a muffled squawk but gives in with a slow sigh, sliding his hands around Dean’s hips and dipping into his back pockets.

“This,” Dean murmurs, breath hot against Cas’ jaw when they pull apart, “is way better than schooling any horse, Cas.”

Rolling his eyes, Cas yanks his hands free of Dean’s pockets and gives him a firm slap on the ass. “But I distract you when you’re training with Sam one time and it’s the end of the world,” he snorts over his shoulder, striding down the aisle with purpose.

“Cas,” Dean whines, scurrying after him and wrapping his arms around his waist, pressing damp kisses along his neck. Cas is pliant against him, so Dean knows he’s not actually irritated yet. “We had a rodeo that weekend.”

“And I have an event this weekend,” Cas fires back, reaching back to pinch at Dean’s sides. Dean lets him go before he starts to feel too clingy (and before Cas can get mad at him), and Cas makes a break for the shaft of light pouring through the half opened doors at the end of the aisle. “You’re welcome to watch, though,” he trails over his shoulder.

He doesn’t wait for Dean’s answer, but that’s fine. They both know Dean’s staying.

Chapter Text

“Dean,” Sam chokes, swiping his fingers across his cheek. Cas lays a bracing hand on his shoulder, face grim. Swallowing back the wave of sound rolling up his throat, Sam gives Cas a nod. “I’ll miss your stupid face,” he admits, voice reedy, “but at least I’ll be able to listen to my own music in the Impala.”

“I can ride shotgun,” Cas intones. They share weak smiles, determined to carry on through the misery.

“You guys fucking suck,” Dean howls, hurling a stray pen at the back of Sam’s head. “I bet shifter me in St. Louis got a better funeral than this.”

“Sometimes,” Sam continues, voice wavering with suppressed laughter now, “it’s almost like he’s still here.”

“I’m replacing you both,” Dean huffs, crossing his arms and flopping back on the couch like an overgrown toddler.

“With who?” Cas asks, turning from this sham of a funeral to stare at Dean with innocent curiosity. “I wasn’t aware you knew two other people who could stand in for us.”

Sam snickers, trying with little success to make it sound like tears.

Chapter Text

Sam’s voice echoes down the hallway, commanding and tickled all at once. “Sit!” His order is followed by the excited click-clack of nails on hard floor and the jingle of metal tags shaking against each other. There’s an anticipatory silence, noticeably fragile, even rooms away. “Good girl,” Sam crows. More jingly tags and a gleeful little puppy yip.

“Ugh,” Dean groans dramatically, slumping in his chair, mediocre sandwich gladly forgotten. “I can’t believe this.”

Castiel doesn’t bother to pretend he’s paying Dean any attention, still determinedly reading the ingredients on a package of potato chips. “Sam seems rather pleased,” he mutters absently. “Mercedes’ training is coming along well.”

Mercedes,” Dean repeats venomously. “American cars not good enough for you, Sam? You’ve got to name her after a yuppie German maker?”

“It was my understanding,” Cas says, setting down the chips and turning a much too serious look at Dean, “that the dog was already named Mercedes when Sam acquired her.”

“That’s not the point, Cas,” Dean insists, leaning forward in his seat to slice his palm through the air. “He should have renamed her. She can’t be a Winchester with a name like Mercedes.”

“I believe your brother has begun calling her Mercy for short,” Castiel informs him, casual. Too casual. Dean tenses. “Given everything you have fought and died for, I find the name quite fitting for a Winchester.”

Chapter Text

The wind whips past them, sending snow dancing and sparkling in the orange of the street lights. Dean hunches into his jacket, hands shoved in his pockets. It doesn’t help much. He still feels raw and drained, like each wintery gust that blows through is pulling the very life from him.

“Cold tonight,” Sam murmurs beside him, adopting the same hunched shoulder posture.

“Winter sucks,” Dean snarls, wishing he had a hat. Or some damn gloves. Sam makes a small mewling sound, commiserating. “We are never doing this again,” Dean huffs adamantly.

“It’s kind of cute though.” Sam blows into his cupped hands, trapping warm air against his fingers.

“What’s cute?” Dean snorts. “He’s like a billion years old. It’s about time he take some initiative.”

“Whatever, man.” Sam rolls his eyes. “Why’d you bother coming along if that’s how you feel about it?”

Dean grumbles wordlessly, because the only answer he’s got is that it is kinda cute. Cas, all bright smiles as he tromps around in the snow, watching the ridiculous light displays and pausing to listen to carollers with that single minded intensity he’s still carrying around with him. It’s downright heartwarming, in fact. It’s almost enough to relieve some of the guilt Dean feels when he remembers that Cas’ life is shit largely because of him and Sam.

The door opens, bells on the cheery wreath jingling merrily, and a herd of carollers depart, chatting amicably as they cradle styrofoam cups of cocoa. Cas follows on their heels and though his part in the whole shebang remains a mystery, he looks content with his steaming cup. He strolls up to them, unconcerned with the carollers marching off down the sidewalk.

“Hot chocolate?” Sam asks. At Cas’ nod, he grins. “Good call on a night like this.”

“Yeah, it’s fucking freezing,” Dean grunts with an impatient look for Cas. “You done?”

“Yes,” Cas replies simply. He thrusts his cup at Sam, who takes it haltingly, looking bewildered. Hands newly freed up, Cas starts digging through the depths of his pockets.

“You don’t,” Sam starts, stumbles, valiantly pushes on. “This is yours, Cas. You don’t need to give it to me.”

“I think you’ll appreciate it more than I,” Cas says, squinting as he wriggles his fingers. “I wasn’t out here waiting n the cold.”

“Oh,” Sam exhales, short with surprise. He hides the start of a sunny smile behind the rim of the cup. “Thanks Cas.”

Cas nods absently, eyes narrowing further, until he comes to a sudden stop. His eyes light up, like a pair of neon signs shouting “Got It!” and he yanks his hand free of his pocket with a flourish. Clenched in his fingers are a pair of bright green and dark purple knitted mittens. He holds them out toward Dean.

“Those are hideous,” Dean says gravely.

“Are they?” Cas gives them a look over before shoving them pointedly at Dean again, clearly not giving even a rat’s ass about Dean’s aesthetics. They engage in a stare off over it, but it’s obvious from the get go that Cas is going to win this one.

“Where did you even get these?” Dean whines, gracefully conceding defeat and shoving his hands into the mittens. They’re stupidly soft.

“You don’t like the cold,” Cas shrugs, taking a neat 90 degree turn away from the question. He moves off down the street then, heading directly toward the large black shadow that is the Impala in the distance.

“You get hot chocolate and I get these,” Dean complains, holding his hands out in front of him with disdain. He starts following after Cas automatically.

“Yeah,” Sam laughs, slurping at his drink with relish. “I think he likes us, Dean.”

Dean rubs his fingers against the inside of the mittens, testing the soft material against his rough skin. Feelings’ mutual he thinks, biting down on the warm feeling unfurling in his chest. “Poor bastard,” he says aloud.

Chapter Text

The captain taps his chalk pencil against his hasty drawing on the jagged slab of dark metal or thin slate or… whatever scrap he’d scrounged up for this. He’s plotting out some inane strategy that none of the soldiers assigned to his training squad care about, judging by their complete lack of attention. Castiel taps his fingers against the helmet tucked under his wrist, keeping his features schooled even as his mind wanders. It’s no surprise to him that his eyes turn unfailingly to Winchester, mindlessly fiddling with his pistol while he tips his head close to Harvelle, swapping insults, presumably.

“What’s with the blackboard, man,” Winchester pipes up, relying on the training uniforms’ anonymity to keep him from getting into trouble.

“Seriously, I feel like I’m in middle school,” Harvelle adds.

“Middle school a hundred years ago,” another man, to Winchester’s far side, drawls. Castiel can’t tell exactly, but he’d hazard a guess that this is the infamous Benny Lafitte that Winchester is always going on about.

The trio manage to look smug, even standing perfectly still and hidden behind their heavy helmets. The captain jerks to his feet, stumbling over his reprimands and turning redder by the moment. Castiel forces his spine just a little straighter, and steps forward, hoping the N7 stamped on his chest will give him the extra weight he needs to calm his superior.

“Captain,” he interjects, carefully respectful. The captain turns to him, face purpling with barely concealed rage.

What, Commander,” he snaps.

Castiel remains impassive. “I could remove these troublemakers for you,” he offers, even though he knows the captain still doesn’t know which three trainees to foist his blame on. “A few more drills should teach them some respect.”

While the captain mulls this over, Castiel cants a look at Winchester. He’s got his hip cocked, helmet tipped like he’s got his chin lifted. Castiel can practically see the cocky grin on his face. Harvelle, beside him, is much more closed off. She, at least, is aware that getting pulled out of lineup by the presiding N7 officer is probably not a good thing.

Finally, the captain agrees, muttering under his breath as he turns back to his poor planning session. Castiel raises his free hand to perform a sort of informal move out signal. “Harvelle, Winchester,” he commands. He’s not positive the third person is Lafitte, but he’s willing to take the shot and hope for the best. “Lafitte,” he adds. He barely manages to resist smirking when the man beside Winchester slumps in defeat, just a little. “Let’s move.”

Chapter Text

Cas bounces on his haunches once before dive rolling across open space and tucking his shoulder in tight against another barrier a few meters ahead. The overhead turret snaps toward him, whining as it spools up and spits bullets at the floor behind him. Even in a crouch, he moves with a controlled grace, pistol at the ready and breath steady through his helmet radio.

Lightning quick, he pokes his head over the barrier, scouting out his next stop, and explodes over the top, sliding on one hip to the other side. He sprints forward, skidding into cover behind a wall. The turret tracks toward him, still laying down fire. After a few long seconds, it releases a low groan and slows to a stop.

With a deep, steady breath, Cas bursts out of cover and races toward the turret, keeping just a hair’s breadth ahead of the stream of bullets. As he clears the turret’s effective range, he comes to a stop and turns to stare across the training room at them.

“See?” Cas says, his voice ever so slightly smaller through the radio than it is in person. “Very simple.”

Benny huffs his disbelief. Jo folds her arms, turning to look at Dean. Her expression is hidden under her helmet, but Dean can practically feel her accusatory stare.

“Yeah, we see,” he speaks up. He’s met with an expectant silence and Jo turns up the accusation behind her stare. “Sir,” he tacks on, winking despite Cas not being able to see him. It’s probably a very bad idea to be flirting with a senior officer, but Dean can’t quite stop himself. It’s not like Cas is going to report him.

“Thank you for volunteering, Winchester,” Cas says, voice even and unimpressed. “You can start whenever you’re ready.”

Chapter Text

“This is some form of magic,” Castiel announces gravely.

Dean quirks a brow at him, turning to Sam with “what the hell is he talking about?” written all over his face. Sam smiles, perfectly aware of what Cas is watching so intently. Maybe it makes him a big softy, but he genuinely likes getting to see Cas develop interests of his own, free of the weight of his or Dean’s influence.

Symphonic metal bands are definitely probably free of any Winchester influence.

“Whatcha watchin’ there, bud?” Dean asks, in that ever so slightly condescending way he has. Sam frowns at him, lips pressed together disapprovingly.

“It is a song,” Cas says. “Performed by a band called Nightwish.”

Dean perks up slightly, and Sam internally cringes back. The fallout from this will be worse if Dean thinks this is something he might be able to share with Castiel. For all that Dean only listens to like three different bands and pretends that all other musicians are inferior, he still considers himself the musical brother.

“Oh yeah?” Dean asks, dropping his feet to the floor as he leans forward in his chair. Cas nods, turning the laptop slightly, clearing offering to share his video if Dean is so inclined. After a moment’s deliberation, Dean rises to his feet and scoots around the table, dragging a chair close to Castiel. Sam watches surreptitiously, holding his breath as Dean sets his eyes on the screen.

Sam can picture it. Lots of long hair being thrashed around by headbangers, black leather as far as the eye can see, and a multitude of bright, flashing lights. He watches Dean closely as his older brother freezes up part way into his new chair, staring in wide eyed shock at Cas’ choice in musical artists.

“Uh,” Dean stutters, and Castiel plucks an earbud from his own ear and presents it to Dean with wordless trust. Sam glares at Dean, thinking as many harsh warnings at his brother as he can, but Castiel’s offering seems to be enough on its own. With a little nod, Dean takes the offered earbud and plops into the chair.

Castiel returns to staring at the video with devoted fascination, and after a few long moments of watching Cas’ profile, Dean turns his focus to the youtube video too. While they watch the band perform, Sam watches them. He watches them lean imperceptibly closer and closer, until their shoulders are touching and their heads are tipped close. He watches as Cas finally lets the crown of his head lean against Dean’s and as Dean’s fingers start to drum the song’s rhythm on the table.

Maybe, Sam thinks, Cas wasn’t wrong. Maybe it really is some form of magic.

Chapter Text

“Hold still,” Dean mutters gruffly, dabbing with the damp cloth at the blood caked in Cas’ hair. The gash in his scalp is wide and long and bright red. Dean bites the inside of his cheek to keep the worried questions at bay. What happened? Where’s your grace at? How long were you planning to walk around like this?

He doesn’t bother to ask. He sort of doubts he’d get an answer anyway.

“It was my own fault,” Cas admits on a soft exhale, as if he knows that Dean is aching for some kind of explanation. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“Hey, whatever man,” Dean says, scraping dried blood off Cas’ temple. “Accidents happen.”

“I didn’t want to bother you,” Cas offers. His voice is strong and even, but Dean can see the misery crumpling his features.

“You’re not bothering us,” Dean snaps, harsh with frustration. In a world where Dean could be honest with himself, he might even admit that most of the frustration is directed at himself. His inability to show Cas how important he is to both Winchesters coupled with the knowledge that, in Cas’ current position, Dean would be equally as uncomfortable accepting help.

Cas just sighs, deep and heavy. Scrubbing at the blood caked on Cas’ face, Dean bites his tongue. He counts backwards in his head, breathing out through pursed lips, visualizing the bad thoughts leaving with his breath. It doesn’t work, not really, but at least he can say he tried.

With the blood washed from Cas’ skin, Dean turns to rinse the cloth in the sink, watching pink water swirl down the drain. Cas’ shoes scuff against the floor as he fidgets.

“What do you think?” It’s that performative voice he sometimes tries on, when he’s making a real effort to be more human, or something. “Will I live?”

It’s not quite gallows humor, but it’s in the same realm. Dean’s shoulders relax in a rush. The stress and frustration pour out of him on a rough laugh.

“Today?” Dean jokes back, turning to face his old friend. His dearest friend, despite the layers and layers of hurt and betrayal they’ve stacked upon their connection.

Cas gives him a tentative smile and Dean lets himself smile back.

Chapter Text

Dean leans close to his phone screen, listening to the staccato breathing and pounding hooves and rushing wind through his shitty, tinny sounding earbuds. He nearly finds himself rocking to the rhythm, half a smile on his face as he listens to the rider in the video chatter at his horse. Dark tipped ears flick back and forth, reacting to the voice in the video.

He’s so involved, he doesn’t notice Sam walk up to him until a big, meaty palm smacks into his shoulder.

“Sam!” Dean shrieks, practically throwing his phone in his haste to hide the video he’s been so lost in. “Jesus dude!”

Sam chokes back laughter, face twisting with hideous amusement. “Were you watching a helmet cam?”

Dean ducks his chin, hiding his reddening cheeks under the shadow of his hat brim. “No,” he grunts, way too gruff. Sam’s going to call him out, that bastard.

“Eventing is kinda outside your wheelhouse, Dean,” Sam snickers. Voice filled with vindictive glee, Sam keeps picking at it. “And that was one of Cas’ videos wasn’t it? Don’t you hate that guy?”

Dean maybe wants to scream. Or punch Sam in the face. Because, yeah okay, maybe he’s cultivated the idea that he can’t stand Cas. And right yeah, maybe they haven’t had the best interactions the few times they’ve met. So yes, it’s possible that Dean has tried to hide his stupid ugly teenage boy crush on Cas behind a bunch of macho manly bullshit.

So what if all of Cas’ breathless, often sarcastic but sometimes downright genuinely elated chatter at his horses makes Dean’s heart skip a beat. Let a dude live, damn.

“I wasn’t watching anything,” Dean snarls, jerking to his feet. He keeps his chin tipped down so he can continue hiding his blush under the brim of his cowboy hat. “Why are you even here?”

Sam coughs to cover his amusement. “Well, Dean, I could train by myself, but the event is called Team Roping.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dean mutters, shoving his phone back into his pocket definitively. “You need to train, I get it.”

Sam rolls his eyes, but nods, obviously appeased just to be getting his way. “Yeah, you got me,” he agrees flatly. “You got me good.”

Chapter Text

Sam was tromping across the parking lot, two coffees balanced in one ginormous hand, when he stooped to pick something up. He smiled a bit to himself, before he sidled up beside the Impala. Gassing her up, Dean had raised an eyebrow.

“Found a penny,” Sam announced cheerfully and offered Dean the top most coffee.

“Wow,” Dean said flatly, took the cup and immediately popped the top off it so he could get blasted in the face with steam. “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

“All day long, I’ll have good luck,” Sam had informed him, snotty little brother voice in full effect before he’d thrown himself into the passenger seat.

That was where the stupid superstition was supposed to end.

But then at lunch, Sam’s fancy fish tacos with the avocado and lime crema or what-the-fuck-ever came out of the kitchen with the wrong side, and as apology, Sam got his whole meal for free. Dean’s overcooked burger with droopy fries was still full price.

An interview with an attractive widow landed Sam a plate of fancy cookies, a cappuccino straight from the recently deceased’s snazzy cappuccino maker, and a phone number. Dean got a water in a hard plastic cup.

Sam found a $50 bill lying forlornly in the middle of a completely vacant parking lot.

The TV in their crappy motel room that refused to answer to Dean’s silent pleading jumped to bright, beautiful, technicolor life after barely a brush of Sam’s hands.

The M&M ice cream swirl monstrosity Sam just had to have after dinner was “not mixed well” the first time around, so it was replaced, free of charge, with smiles all around. Dean wanted to complain about that, but he got the first one out of it, so it wasn’t that big a deal.

And then Cas rolled up to their motel in his ugly brown car and he and Dean stood too close together, staring too hard, and filling the room with all that barely restrained feeling that neither of them was particularly good at doing anything about. Sam was resigned to yet another endless stretch of time, watching his brother and his brother from another dimension doing their thing, but then the motel clerk had come knocking, demanding and placating both. The room needed to be cleared for reasons and “oh I’m so sorry I don’t have any doubles left but can I offer you two separate rooms.”

Sam, lying on his double bed, in the middle of his empty room completely devoid of any idiots with too many feelings between them and not enough words spoken on the subject, flipped his penny up and down off the end of his thumb.

Chapter Text

“Okay,” Charlie chirps, dropping her stack of books on the table. Despite its solid construction, Dean is fairly certain it trembles under the weight. “I cannot allow my new best friend Cas to go a single minute longer without discovering the beauty and joy of Dungeons and Dragons.”

Cas looks around the table, just a touch wide eyed. Sam politely swallows a laugh, but Dean leans into it, biting off a grin. “Charlie’s right,” he announces. “It’ll be good for you, Cas.”

Dean thumps Cas’ back hard enough to rattle his own teeth, although it clearly has no effect on the angel.

“I don’t know what Dungeons and Dragons is,” Cas admits begrudgingly, turning his narrow eyed stare from Dean to Charlie. As if concerned he’s about to be teased, Castiel hurries to add, “I know what dungeons and dragons are, but I’m not sure how that pertains to the situation.”

“It’s a game,” Sam interjects, saving Cas from any further misery. Sam always was the nice one.

“That’s right!” Charlie practically throws herself into the seat next to Cas, reaching across the table for the topmost book. “You get a group of friends together,” she pauses to gesture around the room demonstratively, “and you all pretend to be great heroes, out saving the world from monsters and drinking ale and making out with all the hot ladies you save.”

Charlie’s finishing blow is an exaggerated wink that has Dean choking on laughter. Castiel, however, just blinks.

“It is a game,” Cas repeats slowly, like he’s trying to make sure he’s really got the gist of it down, “where you fight monsters and save the world?”

“Uh huh,” Charlie nods. “Pretend to, anyway. We don’t need to go fight real monsters when we’re just trying to have fun, you know?”

Castiel slants a skeptical look at each of them in turn, like he’s pretty sure this is an elaborate hoax and any second now, someone’s going to drop the punchline.

“I know it can be difficult to visualize,” Charlie tells him, flipping open the book with purpose, “but I swear, it’s like the most fun you can have with your best pals.”

Cas gives Dean another little questioning look, and Dean grins, nodding toward whatever passage Charlie is quickly summarizing for them.

“Will you play too?” The question is directed at Dean, although Cas turns after a moment to include Sam as well.

“Of course they’re playing,” Charlie scoffs. She drags her finger through the air, pointing from Dean to Sam to herself, enclosing Cas in the invisible loop she’s just drawn. “Best pals? Most fun?”

After a moment, Castiel nods. “I see,” he says quietly. He leans in to absorb Charlie’s geek knowledge, a crooked smile blooming on his face.

Chapter Text

Dean gnashes on the end of his pen, trying to pick the pertinent information out of the wall of text that is Practice Question 5. He checks the equation he’s pretty sure will get him the answer, makes a mental note of all the variables present, and tentatively identifies F as “35?” before stopping. Heaving a sigh, Dean shoves away from his desk and turns sideways in his chair.

Cas is sitting on the edge of his bed, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. His stupid mohawk is extra blue today, and it makes the blue of his eyes even more unreal than usual. He looks up at Dean’s staring, an eyebrow raised in question. The stud in his lip is caught between his teeth.

Ugh,” Dean groans, dropping his forehead onto the back of his arm. “Don’t distract me. I’ve gotta study.”

After a moment of indignant silence, Cas says, “I wasn’t doing anything.” When Dean only grumbles in response, Cas snorts a little laugh. “Nerd.”

“Shuddup,” Dean demands weakly, patting at his desk blindly until he finds his giant eraser. He hurls it at Cas, but it goes wide and smacks into the wall instead. “Why are you here anyway? Don’t you have an establishment to tear down? Government to overthrow?”

“No, that’s on my calendar for tomorrow,” Cas snorts, scooping up Dean’s wayward eraser and lobbing it back at him. “Today I’ve got nothing to do besides keep you from studying.”

“And you’re not even doing it in the sexy way,” Dean sighs. Cas gives him a look that clearly asks “how is that my fault?” before pushing to his feet with determination.

“It’s almost like you want me to distract you,” he says idly, gazing down his nose at Dean. Despite the studs and the hair and the attitude, Dean knows that Cas would never hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. Still, with Cas looming over him, the bad boy Dean never knew he wanted, a little thrill slips down his spine.

“What gave you that idea?” Dean winces at how damn breathy his voice is. Falling all over himself around Cas, as per usual.

“Dean,” Cas says lowly. His features are cold, but his fingertips through Dean’s hair are startlingly soft. Dean feels instantly stupid and pathetically needy.

“I can study later,” he says, urgent. Cas’ fingers curl against his jaw and Dean stretches up as Cas leans down.

Chapter Text

“So,” Sam says, drawing the sound out for an obscene amount of time. Dean drags his eyes away from Cas to give Sam an annoyed look. Sam just grins, wicked. “You and Cas?”

Dean freezes. Like it’s just been released from a slingshot, his heart pitches into his throat and plummets down into his stomach. He’s a good liar, even face to face with Sam, but Dean finds his throat clicking as he swallows his immediate terror.

“What about me n’ Cas?” He asks it with just the right amount of “god you’re so annoying Sam” mixed with “what the ever loving fuck are you talking about” to throw Sam off his scent.

Sam smirks, like the goddamn Cheshire cat. “Uh huh. Sure, Dean.”

Maybe he had the ratio of “you’re so annoying” to “what the ever loving” off? Or maybe Sam is just trying to lead him, getting the answer he wants instead of the truth.

Even if the answer he wants kinda is the truth.

“Whatever, dude,” Dean scowls, picking up his coffee cup and holding it close defensively. “Who asked you?”

“You can deny it all you want,” Sam shrugs, smug like he’s ten years ahead of Dean and has already witnessed the wedding. Smug is bad. Smug means Dean is missing some vital piece of information.

“There’s nothing to deny,” Dean cries. There’s everything to deny.

He throws a balled up napkin at Sam. It falls to the floor after a really solid deflection.

“That’s not how I would interpret Cas’ response,” Sam offers casually. Dean’s fingers squench around his mug. It’s not that Cas is a bad liar per se, it’s just that he’s not as well versed with on the fly bullshit as Sam is. His forte is more cryptic mysticism and avoidance.

“Sam,” Dean growls warningly. This has gone far enough. Time to stop the ride.

“I’m just saying,” Sam says easily, “I can only be best man for one of you, so you’d better start thinking about the wedding now.”

Dean calmly sets his coffee mug safely in the center of the table, where it won’t be disturbed, and leaps at Sam.

Chapter Text

“C’mon Baby,” Dean pleads, turning the key and listening to the engine whine, but not turn over. “I’m sorry, girl, I know it’s hotter than Satan’s asshole out here but you gotta start for me.”

Baby does not start. She sputters weakly until Dean lets the key turn back. Sam gives him a desperate look and Dean can’t even blame him. It’s sweltering inside the car. They’ve barely gotten into the seats - Dean hasn’t even shut his door yet - and already his back is slick with sweat.

“What’s wrong with it?”

Dean ignores Sam’s disrespectful tone, dropping his forehead to his steering wheel glumly. “Sounds like the battery,” he groans. With great effort, Dean hauls himself out onto the blistering tarmac. A few feet behind Baby, the Ford idles steadily, Cas’s arms folded over the edge of the door as he watches impassively.

“Lucky bastard,” Dean sniffs, popping the hood to stare into the guts of the Impala. Apparently the angel and his stupid truck are impervious to the heat. He makes a cursory effort to check over the engine, but it’s mostly for show. He’s pretty sure the battery is fried. With the generous application of some jumper cables and Cas’ truck, they should be good to go, at least for now. “Fuckin’ Arizona,” Dean sighs.

Turning up the swagger to mask his wounded pride, Dean saunters down the length of the Impala to pull up beside the truck. Cool air pours out of the open window, making Cas’ hair sway to and fro. It feels so good, Dean squeezes in close, sliding his arms over the lip of the door. His skin is melting right off his bones, so he doesn’t even care that he’s essentially cradling Cas’ shoulders between his forearms.

“Car trouble?”

Dean snorts. He feels his own exhalation bounce off Cas’ cheek and come back to hit his chin. Their eyes meet and Dean realizes that they’re pushing the limits of even their weird boundaries. Swallowing thickly, eyes dropping without his consent to Cas’ mouth, Dean nods.

“Yeah,” he wheezes. Embarrassed by the breathy quality of his voice, Dean clears his throat and tries again. “Yeah,” he grunts, overcompensating and sounding way too gruff. He forces his eyes up and makes himself pull away from the door a bit so maybe a few more cylinders in his brain will fire. “The batteries toast. We gotta jump her.”

“Okay,” Cas says simply, turning to throw his truck into drive. Dean remains clinging to the door like a particularly pathetic limpet, and Cas raises an expectant eyebrow at him.

“Right,” Dean says, after much too long standing and staring at Cas’ small but gaining strength smirk. He marches back to the front of the Impala, sneering at the bitchy look Sam throws him over the roof.

The truck crunches to a stop beside the Impala, and Cas climbs out with jumper cables in hand, because of course. No one who willingly drives a truck would be caught dead without jumper cables squirreled away somewhere in the cab. Cas pops the hood and props it open, but then turns to the brothers, thrusting the leads at Dean.

“The AC is running,” Cas tells Sam, gesturing to the passenger side in clear invitation. Sam takes him up on the offer immediately, all smiles like he’s out here trying to scoop Dean’s best friend out from under him, the bastard.

“Why do you even have AC,” Dean grumbles, leaning into the Impala to attach the leads to the battery. “This thing is like 30 and it’s a fucking truck.”

Cas shrugs, clearly unimpressed with Dean’s slow roasted attitude. Rolling his eyes, Dean takes the cables to the truck. He’s reaching toward the positive post with the red clamp when the sky lets loose a truly threatening crack of thunder. Dean rears back to look at the sky, and realizes he’s in a race with the black clouds stampeding across the blue.

He slaps the clamps into place with probably less care than he should and, gesturing Cas back toward the cab, clambers into his own seat. Precious seconds are wasted on Cas revving the truck’s engine while Dean pleads so sweetly with his girl to please please start. She does finally, with a groan that lets Dean know he’s done something truly terrible he’ll need to make up for sooner rather than later.

A strong wind has kicked up in the minute or two they’ve spent coaxing Baby’s battery back to life, and Dean yanks the jumper cable free of the engines with the desperate finesse of a snake wrangler with a feisty reptile. Sam jumps out of the truck and makes his way back into the Impala while Dean and Cas tend to their respective hoods.

One creak-slam is followed by another and Dean is just skirting the front corner of the car when the sky opens up. He’s soaked instantly, the rain coming down in buckets.

“Seriously?” He shouts into the sky, though his voice is completely drowned out by the storm. “You couldn’t wait five more seconds?”

A low thrum of laughter burbles through the deluge, and Dean whips around to see Cas. His hair and clothes are plastered to him, a drowned rat, though Dean has no room to judge. The blue of his eyes is alight though, like the lightning in the sky is unfurling inside Cas too. Dean damn near shudders with the untamed power of it, thrown a little off his axis to see something so intensely primitive in Cas now. It’s been so long, Dean sometimes forgets that Cas is a storm wrapped up in a convenient human case.

“What are you laughing about?” He yells it, even though he suspects Cas could hear even a whisper if he wanted to.

“Can’t you feel it?” Cas’ eyes catch Dean’s, dancing like the lightning against the black clouds. His hand presses against Dean’s chest, where Dean’s heart is thundering. Slowly, Dean lifts his hand to cover Cas’, caught up in the storm.