The blackbirds start singing a dawn.
Back and forth, they echo each other, chirping whatever it is that birds talk about. Dean's grown fond of them over the last few months, without meaning to. When he'd first moved out here, he'd done everything in his power to stop them from crooning right outside his window. There are birdfeeders all over the four acres of land he owns, set at the top of each post on his wrap-around wrought iron fence that encloses his property. The birds feast on them, and they seem to have taken it upon themselves to chirp their thanks at him every morning like clockwork, just as the sun rises.
The first few weeks, he'd been tempted to walk outside with his gun and start shooting. Looking back now, he's kind of glad that he hadn't.
Jaw cracking with a yawn, Dean pushes himself to sit up in his bed, whipping the covers away and placing his bare feet on the floor. His joints crack when he stands, a sickeningly satisfying crackle-pop he's become accustomed to in the last few years. He's not as springy as he once was, and his protesting bones often ache to remind him he's lived an eventfully hard life.
The wooden floor beneath him creaks as he makes his way out of his room, closing the door behind him. The squealing of the hinges reminds him that he needs to dig out some WD-40, just as it does every morning, and inevitably, come nighttime, he'll have already forgotten. There's a certain charm to that, to knowing he'll have another chance to fix his door tomorrow.
The banister at the top of the stairs is flaking with cream-colored paint. Every morning he runs his hand along it as he heads to the stairs, the rough calluses on his palms catching the peeling color and flicking more off. Before long, he'll have worn a path down to the wood where there won't be a top layer anymore. He has paint cans stacked up outside, leaning against the shabby siding of the house, unopened.
Each step groans as he moves down them, all except the fifth. It gives a high-pitched squeak, bowing in from where he has yet to nail the side back down. By the time he reaches the sixth step, he's already forgotten the irritating sound of it.
"Good morning, Dean," Cas says, just as he always does, when he steps through the swinging door to the kitchen.
"Mornin', Cas," Dean replies easily, by rote.
Cas hands him his coffee, the spoon leaning against the side, a little curl of steam drifting from the top. Dean curls his fingers through the handle, stirring the coffee with the spoon needlessly, relaxing into the clicking of metal against ceramic. They stand in companionable silence, both staring out the small window over the sink, looking past moth-eaten drapes to gaze at the field out back.
Eventually, Cas leans back against the counter, one hand holding his own mug of coffee, the other tucked into the elbow of the arm that casually brings the coffee to and away from his mouth. He's already wearing shoes, a pair of boots they'd picked up from a cheap thrift store with a good tread and steel-toes. With the amount of work they do on this place, he needs them, and wearing them means he's planning on starting another project today.
"It rained last night," he comments.
Dean hums. "Nice. You coming?"
Cas simply nods, pushing away from the counter to follow him right back out of the kitchen. On the way, Dean pauses to slide into the slippers he leaves beside the door, shuffling a little dance to make sure they're on properly. The front door is pristine and doesn't make a sound when he tugs it open, proof of the first job he took when he bought the place — it's a powder blue that looks good with the black knocker on the front. He remembers painting it and finding blots of baby blue all over his skin for days; Cas had carried around a streak on his nose that Dean hadn't told him about for hours.
They both step out onto the porch, inhaling deep in unison. It always smells so good outside after it rains, a tangible scent of dew settling on grass. This far out, the smell of the rain still hangs heavy in the air long after the drops have stopped falling. It sits at the back of Dean's throat, settling into his lungs, giving him the sense that he's breathing in sweet air.
Fog spreads out across the pasture, rolling out slow and thick, tinging the area with gray. It looks like the fog has decided to flop out on the grass, green hues of the lawn barely visible beneath the outstretch of the mist. Between that and the fence that looks like it's stolen straight out of a horror movie, the morning they face appears a dreary one. And yet, Dean's never been as at peace as he is now, drinking his coffee and watching the fog drift along the grass.
"I'm going to fix the floor in my room today," Cas tells him after they've stood shoulder-to-shoulder in silence and finished their coffee.
"Need any help?" Dean asks.
Cas shakes his head. "No, thank you. Sam's going to bring over the wood and possibly help me pull up the carpet. You're meant to be fixing the roof, remember?"
Dean grunts. "I could fall, you know. Maybe — "
"Dean, you bought all the necessary equipment; it would be wasteful to call a roofer now," Cas chides him.
"Yeah, yeah, I hear ya," Dean mutters.
Cas offers him a benign smile. "Before that, breakfast. I would like an omelet."
"No tomatoes," Dean says.
"No tomatoes," Cas agrees solemnly.
They stand outside for a bit longer, breathing quietly, watching the fog slowly drift away. In a couple of hours, the sun will be shining brightly, making the grass glitter from the last remnants of rain, and the fog will seem like a distant memory. They take the time to appreciate it, silently coming to the mutual decision to put off heading back inside to start their day just a bit longer.
They do, however. Breakfast is as it usually is. Dean cooks while Cas plants himself at the bar, elbows propped on the counter as he flips through yet another of the DIY books he's taken to reading. Dean always has to pry them away from him at meals, flipping them shut and putting a plate in its place.
They eat their omelets together in silence, sitting side-by-side, elbows knocking as they clean their plates. Cas has become very fond of soda — particularly Sprite — and opts to drink that with each meal, while Dean indulges in more coffee. He rarely drinks beer before dinner anymore, the sun he regularly works in making it sour in his stomach — heat and alcohol, as a rule, do not mix.
After they wash their respective plates, they break off to start their projects for the day. By Dean's guess, they won't see each other for most of it, seeing as he'll be on the roof and Cas will be in his bedroom. That warrants a pat on Cas' shoulder, at least, and that's what he leaves him with as he goes to get ready.
Much like Cas, he has his own work boots and even a toolbelt he'd insisted was necessary if he was going to be doing repairs regularly. For some reason, the added weight around his waist is extremely motivating.
Even still, it's with dread that he clambers up the ladder outside to the roof. He hasn't been looking forward to getting up here and finding the places that need a patch. He's going to have go reshingle certain areas, as well as clean out the gutters, and he'll be in direct sight of the beating sun for the entirety of it. He probably won't finish it all today either, not realistically; they have a lot of drips they've been dealing with.
He gets started anyway.
Halfway into the day, when his skin is tight from the sun and he's just accepted the sweat pouring off of him, Dean hears the sound of Sam's car. He'd know it anywhere, that little buzz-buzz of a car, the one he mocks endlessly. Why Sam chose that little Subaru to be his vehicle, Dean won't ever understand. Personally, he refuses to drive anything plastic, but Sam doesn't have the same reservations about that.
He comes ambling down the shaking ladder, thankful to have a reason to take a break. His shirt is soaked through, and he can already tell he's going to have to change before he heads back up to start again. Thankfully, he's had so many sunburns out here that his skin seems to have adjusted — he's just perpetually sporting a farmer's tan these days.
Sam's silver car slowly makes its way up the long, winding driveway that has more divots and dips than a rollercoaster. No one comes up his driveway without experiencing whiplash, yet Dean and Cas already know how to drive up and down it without even jostling.
As Sam slides out of the car, Dean moves over with a broad grin. "Hey, look who finally decided to show their face. Where the hell have you been?"
"Here and there," Sam replies easily, chuckling warmly when he drags Dean into a hug, thumping him on the back a little forcefully. "Got a bunch of buyers all at once, so I've been travelling for what feels like forever. Shit, it's good to be back home."
"Damn, and the first thing Cas has you do is run an errand." Dean laughs and squeezes Sam's shoulder, watching him grin. "How's Eileen doing?"
Sam's smile softens. "She's, you know, adjusting. Did you know she wanted to be a teacher before — " he waves a hand, " — all of this? But now, after being a hunter, she's looking into law enforcement."
"Have you asked Jody if — "
"Already spoke to her. She'll put in a good word."
"Good. That's good," Dean says with a sincere smile.
"And Cas?" Sam jerks his chin towards the house, eyebrows raising. "He sounded pretty upset on the phone when he asked for the wood."
Dean snorts. "Yeah, his floor is starting to piss him off. Says he's having dreams that the dips eventually fall in and he gets sucked down for days before I find him."
"God," Sam chokes out, eyes lit up with reluctant amusement, "we all need therapy."
"Or, maybe he just needs to fix the damn floor." Dean claps his hands together and raises his eyebrows. "So, the wood? I'll help you carry it in."
Together, they haul the slats of wood into the house, quietly catching up as they maneuver up the stairs. Sam's been travelling all over, even flying out the states, selling the various safe objects from the Bunker. Books, weapons, ingredients — all expensive things that someone somewhere wants, and Sam's the one that decides who gets what.
Sam, when he's not traveling, lives in a much nicer apartment in town — he'd stayed with Dean all of two weeks before he couldn't take it anymore and moved literally twenty minutes up the road. The lack of Wi-Fi, Dean's insistence on not having it installed, and the state of the accommodations had gotten to him really quickly. To be fair, the house had been basically falling apart when Dean had gotten it, and the lack of internet is a bit of a strain even on him — poor Sam hadn't stood a chance; refused to, even, because the way he sees it...no one should live like this unless they have to.
Eileen had finally settled into a town about six hours away from them, and Sam pretty much spends most of his spare time with her. Dean keeps waiting for him to just announce one day that he's going to move in. He dreads it and encourages it in equal measure, yet Sam never does. One of these days, he finally will.
Cas has already put a solid dent in his room. He's moved what little furniture he has out in the hall, top mattress and box-spring leaning against the wall, dresser and nightstand sitting right outside his door. Inside, he's cut away large chunks of the carpet, exposing the sunken in dips of the wood beneath. Surveying the damage, Dean realizes it's not as bad as Cas' nightmares made them out to be, and maybe they need therapy after all.
"Sam!" Cas' entire face lights up in a way it rarely does, and he scrambles to his feet, eyes falling to wood they're carrying in. "Oh, you brought it."
"Told you I was," Sam says easily. "Looks like you're making headway here. You coulda waited for me."
Cas shrugs awkwardly. "I was determined. I don't like the dips in the floor; it feels too much like uneven ground. My balance won't be tested. Perhaps after we finish, you'll be open to helping Dean on the roof."
"Yeah, man, if you and Cas help, I might actually be able to get it finished today," Dean tells him, leaning on the wood he's holding up. "You should stick around for dinner. I'm making chili. Hell, just stay the night."
Sam waves a hand lazily. "The roof and chili I can do, but I gotta get back to the apartment to make sure my neighbor actually watered my plants."
"Oh, how are the figs?" Cas asks in interest.
"Last I checked," Sam tells him, "thriving."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Alright, you two nerd out about plants or whatever while working on the floor. I'm gonna head back outside and make this roof my bitch."
"Drink water before you go," Cas says seriously.
"Yeah, yeah," Dean replies, waving a hand as he leans the wood against the wall carefully and heads out to Cas and Sam talking about plants yet again.
He does grab water on his way back outside because Cas usually reminds him to stay hydrated, and he always checks later to make sure a water bottle is missing. If there isn't, Dean catches hell for it, and anyway...he's thirsty. He's already learned not gulp it down, so he nurses it on the way back up to the roof.
At the hottest part of the day, a couple of hours before the sun gives up and goes away, Sam and Cas make their way onto the roof with him. They'd apparently finished Cas' floor and tossed the entirety of the carpet on the firepit to burn later, so they're done. Cas doesn't care about the mismatched wood, just pleased there's no longer any sunken parts for him to step on, and he's in a good mood when he picks up a hammer and listens intently to Dean's instruction.
At first, they all talk. Sam and Dean regaling stories they only realize are good now that they're looking back on them — that time they fought a teddy bear, when they all got thrown into Scooby-Doo — and Cas occasionally provides the random comment that either sobers them up or sends them into uproarious laughter, no in-between. Eventually, however, the manual labor and unforgiving sun gets to them all, and they take to working in exhausted silence.
They work their asses off, but they get it done. Dean's so happy when the last shingle goes up that he could cry. They're all covered in dust, dripping with sweat, nearly stumbling from how fucking worn-out they are. Gathering the tools, they all head back inside, where Cas immediately claims the shower first — as a recent human, he despises being filthy the most, with Dean being a very close second. As he goes off to get clean in the one bathroom they have, Dean leads Sam into the kitchen where they each have a beer, leaning against the counter and watching the sun slowly go down through the same window Dean had looked out over coffee this very morning. As their sweat cools on their skin, they share a small smile and settle into comfortable silence.
After the quick interlude where he gets to enjoy a beer finally, Dean goes knocking around for the things he's going to need for dinner. He's had the hamburger meat pulled out the freezer since Sam showed up, and it's fully thawed out now. He gathers the rest of what he needs while setting up his crockpot — it's a fucking gift, is what it is, and Dean loves it. As he starts cooking, Sam settles at the table, grimacing at the lack of service his phone has while flicking sweaty clumps of hair from his face.
"I might end up staying over anyway," Sam informs him as the pipes shudder in the walls — Cas must have just cut off the shower.
Dean nods at him. "You should. We still got some of your clothes floating around here. I got 'em hung up in your room. Pull-out couch in there still works just fine."
"Dean, that hasn't been my room for awhile. I don't think it ever was," Sam tells him with a snort.
"It's always gonna be your room, Sam," Dean counters lightly, his voice unbearably gentle.
Sam's face softens. "Yeah, I know."
He looks like he wants to say something, and he might, except Cas comes into the kitchen then, looking refreshed. Sam perks up like he's been called on, the yearning to be equally clean like a beacon on his face. Dean heaves a sigh and shakes his head.
"Go on, go get a shower," Dean tells him, waving him off. "I still need to finish the chili."
Sam is out of his seat like a bullet from a gun, shooting out the room towards inevitable cleanliness. Cas blatantly ignores his antics, settling into his old seat, shifting around in the rickety chair. He tugs his DIY book close to him, opening it and thumbing to the page Dean had shut it on this morning. Dean silently continues to cook, splitting his attention between the chili and Cas' little wrinkled brow as he concentrates.
By the time Sam is out of his shower, dressed in clothes he forgot to take when he moved, Dean's almost done with the chili. There's nothing left to do with it now but let it thicken, and he instructs Sam and Cas to watch it as he goes to grab a shower of his own. After the other two used it, the hot water isn't going to be up to par — the hot water heater nothing close to the Bunker's, which is one of the bigger things Dean misses about the place.
Still, he feels much better when he steps out of the bathroom a little bit later. His pain has dulled to a satisfying ache, his skin feels clean, and there's no sweat drenching his clothes. Now all he wants to do is eat, spend time with Sam and Cas, and then fall into bed before doing it all over again.
"Chili's ready," Sam tells him when he walks back into the kitchen.
"It smells good," Cas informs him.
Dean rubs his hands together and moves over to the cabinets, ignoring the one that's hanging on by nothing more than one screw — he'll fix it tomorrow. "Well, what the hell are y'all waiting for? Time to dig in, assholes."
Sam and Cas share an exasperated look before standing up to grab bowls of their own, waiting patiently for Dean to spoon out a healthy amount for himself. He grabs the bread on the counter and picks it up by the end, watching it twirl from where it's been closed for a couple of days, the flimsy plastic wrinkled when he reaches in to grab a few slices. As he settles at the wobbly table, Sam and Cas take turns making their own bowls, grabbing some bread for themselves, and then finally joining him.
Supper is nice. Dean's always happy to have Sam back home, just hanging out with them. If he had a say, Sam would move back in for good. But he's also not gonna make him stay when he'd rather not live here. The poor kid despises the cell reception out here, doesn't see the charm in the house, and would rather live in the moderately busy town right up the street. Dean can't begrudge him that because he's happier there, and hell, it's not like he moved states away — he's right there should Dean ever want to go see him. When he travels, Dean feels the distance like an itch under his skin, but every time Sam comes back, that itch lessens even more. It's getting to the point that Dean thinks he might actually be okay if Sam up and decided to go live with Eileen.
Cas casually talks about what his next project is. There are weeds in the ditches along the driveway, obscuring them, and it's just the type of place for tires to dip into without meaning to. Dean's already had to pull Claire's little hatchback out of the ditch twice with Jody's truck, and she's threatening to stop visiting if they don't do something about it. Obviously, she's just fucking with them, but Cas seems to be taking it to heart.
Dean has a long — and ever-growing — list of things he needs to do for and to the house, but he's shit at prioritizing. He'd probably just do whatever his mood dictated if Cas wasn't around to point him in the direction of the most important repairs. So, when Cas tells him that he needs to fix the leak under the house tomorrow, Dean simply nods and makes a mental note.
As Dean helps Cas wash the dishes they've used throughout the day, Sam says, "I'm gonna crash here because I'm dead on my feet, but don't freak out if I'm gone in the morning. I'm gonna take about a week off before checking into the next buyer."
"You're going to see Eileen?" Cas asks, rinsing the dishes and drying them as Dean passes them to him.
"Probably," Sam admits shamelessly. "If she isn't busy with anything, yeah. But I'll probably stick around for a few days first. Might come back here tomorrow, help you with a few things."
"That'd be nice," Cas says, throwing Sam a warm smile.
"Mhm," Dean agrees.
Sam scratches at the dents in the table. "What else you got on that to-do list, Cas? I'll pick up some stuff you guys need and bring it over."
As Cas launches into the various repairs they have to do and what things they'll need, Dean yawns and sluggishly pushes through the rest of the dishes. His eyes are beginning to droop and his limbs are lethargic from the toll the day has taken. Sleep is going to come easy tonight, that much is for sure.
And it does. That's becoming his strange new normal. Working hard all day, then falling into bed to slip into a deep, restful sleep. Very few nightmares manage to slip past his exhaustion, and he no longer knows if it's because of how peaceful his life has become or because of how he works from sun-up to sun-down. He doesn't think it matters in the end.
The next morning, he wakes to blackbirds singing the sun into the sky.
Life after Chuck is not at all like they'd expected.
Dean, for one, had anticipated it to stay much the same as before him, just with no god-level threat looming over them. Sam had fully expected it to dissolve into a mess, genuinely believing in a future Chuck showed him where Cas died from the Mark of Cain while he and Dean died as monsters. Cas, for his part, hadn't much thought about what would come next, better at taking things day-by-day than they are.
Instead, Billie had swooped in with Jack, providing solutions to problems they didn't even ask to be solved. Sure, Chuck was defeated in the end, Jack was running heaven now, and Earth was officially safe. That was fine, more than fine, even. What had blown them away was her looping a world without monsters into the mix, taking everything not-human and giving it a place elsewhere. Cas had given up his grace as soon as he was given the option, choosing to stay in this world with the Winchesters rather than a new world where angels would be at peace. And just like that, team free will and hunters alike were out of jobs — free to live their lives normally, as if that's something they actually wanted.
Billie hadn't exactly asked for permission.
It had taken a very long time for them to adjust. What were they supposed to do? Get jobs, start families, live on like they all haven't been to hell and back — literally? Dean, specifically, wasn't a fan.
But they didn't exactly have a choice in the matter. Hanging around the Bunker, surrounded by things that no longer provided use, it was unhealthy , according to Sam. They'd waste away in there, waiting for a case that would never come. So, they'd all came to the agreement to pack up and settle down somewhere, if they could.
Research had led Dean to find four acres of land with a shitty house, terrible yard, and next to no potential. He'd bought it in spite, figuring that it didn't matter where he lived or what he did if there weren't people to save. Why not buy the shittiest place he could find? Nothing really mattered in the grand scheme of things, and he wasn't going to be happy anyway.
That's what he thought, right up until he stepped out of Baby and laid eyes on the place for the very first time. What others saw as a lost cause, he saw as a project. Time-consuming, something he could throw himself into, a place he could make his own.
He didn't have many other options, no other purpose, so he stuck to it and threw his entire being into it. Sam got it, but he didn't really get it, and he was more open to taking a spin at life again. Cas was just as lost as Dean, unsure what to do with himself, especially as a human. He'd taken to the house the same way he did hunting; fumbling and confused to begin with, but catching on in time and genuinely coming to love it.
So, no, life isn't what they'd expected at all.
Dean's happy with it, now, after his initial doubt. He's always wanted a home, and to build one makes him feel like he has a purpose again. Not getting to hunt bothers him often and deeply, but it's not like he can do anything about it. But the weeds growing over the sides of his porch? He can pull those up. The clogged bathtub? He can snake the drain. The overgrown lawn? He can mow it over, and over, and over…
Things are different, and they're not always easy to handle, but Dean's doing his best. Life just doesn't surprise him that much anymore.
Or so he thinks.
Having settled into a routine, Dean descends the stairs with the smell of coffee on his mind. Sure enough, when he enters the kitchen, he inhales deeply to find that always-comforting scent waiting for him. The door swings back and forth as he walks in, and Cas is just finishing up his coffee when he comes closer.
"Good morning, Dean," Cas greets him.
"Mornin', Cas," Dean replies instantly, taking the coffee that is offered to him. "Late start?"
Cas nods. "I stayed up too late reading. We don't actually need a gazebo, but I now know how to build one."
Dean snorts. "Dude, you have got to stop getting so wrapped up in those DIY books." He pauses, making a considering noise. "Though, I don't know, a gazebo actually sounds pretty awesome."
"Would you build one with me?" Cas asks him, turning to look at him curiously.
"I mean, if you really wanted to, yeah." Dean tosses him a grin. "We can make Sam buy the stuff we'd need. He is the rich one out of all of us. He's already heading to Eileen's now, but maybe when he comes back."
Cas doesn't say anything for a moment, but his lips curl up in a pleased fashion. "Thank you for indulging me, Dean," he says finally, voice as gravelly as ever, yet somehow equally soft.
"I always do," Dean tells him.
They slip into silence then, comfortable as always. It's raining this morning, so that throws a wrench in about half of his plans. They'll have to focus on the inside today, maybe paint Dean's room like he's been meaning to. He already has the azure-colored paint cans in his closet, just waiting to cover up the dull beige walls he wakes up to every morning. Cas might help him if he doesn't have something else to do.
Before then, though, they stand in front of that window over the sink, watching the rain beat down outside. They'd usually go outside to watch it happen, but Dean can tell without even stepping out that the downpour is the kind that makes the air brittle and cold. It's too early in the morning to subject themselves to the chill, especially Cas, who despises being cold with everything he has in him. It's his least favorite feeling, and Dean easily remembers the first time he got sick, running a high fever but shaking like a leaf all the while. He'd been bundled up to his eyeballs, bitchy and miserable, and Dean won't admit it for the wrath Cas would surely unleash on him, but it had been terribly adorable.
They drink their coffee, relaxing into the quiet, and Dean's already wondering what to make for breakfast. Cas is a picky eater — certain textures piss him off, and he won't eat a sunny-side egg to save his life. He likes over easy though, with the yellows covered with a thin layer of white. He breaks the white to let the yolk pulse out, sopping it up with toast, then usually stirs the whites into grits if Dean can be convinced to make them, which he usually can be. Been awhile since Dean flipped an egg, since Cas got to eat that for breakfast; that's probably what he's going to end up doing.
Like clockwork, Cas brings up breakfast. "What are you making this morning?"
"Already got a plan," Dean says, looking over at him with a proud grin. "You'll like it. Done with your coffee?"
"Yes," Cas confirms, taking his mug and the one Dean passes to him, sitting them in the sink.
He moves over to the table to start reading his book again, and Dean's starting to get a little worried that he's becoming obsessed. He'd probably lose his goddamn mind if he ever found out about Pinterest; Dean's sure as hell never going to tell him.
With ease, he starts moving around the kitchen to get what he needs. After grabbing the eggs and peeking in the fridge, his lips tip down into a frown. Cas is running low on Sprite, which is the equivalent of a smoker only having one cigarette left. Dean's going to have to go into town to pick him up some more, which is always an experience when Cas tags along — he firmly believes they should try something new, so he always talks Dean in to buying shit he'd never eat otherwise. Overall, he'd enjoyed the bacon-wrapped scallops, but the pig-feet were nothing short of a goddamn disgrace.
Whatever. That's a problem for when it's not raining.
Dean sets about cooking, enjoying himself far too much as he tests himself and tosses eggs while trying not to bust the yolk. The ones he does bust go on his own plate, already aware that Cas won't eat them — picky little shit that he is. The grits finish up right on time, and Dean pours them into those stupid, little bowls Sam had insisted they get, which are more handy than he's willing to admit. The toast comes popping out of the toaster just as he's finished pouring out the grits. Since he's only cooked enough for the both of them, the egg-pan and grit-pot goes into the sink before he pours Cas some Sprite, then coffee for himself. He takes the plates first, snatching Cas' book in the process, ignoring his disgruntled grumble while he goes back over to grab their drinks.
And there it is: breakfast.
Cas looks like he enjoys the food, smiling slightly in approval. That always feels good, to know that someone enjoys his food, and Dean's own lips curl in response. However, halfway into the meal, Cas looks up at him with a thoughtful expression. He doesn't look like he's upset with the food, so that's good, but there is a certain look in his eyes that makes Dean slowly stop chewing.
"Dean," Cas says calmly, gingerly sitting his fork down, and oh, this is gonna be a thing, Dean can tell. Sure enough, it is because Cas goes on to say, "What would you think if I suggested we get married?"
Dean blinks and swallows the food in his mouth, staring at Cas curiously. "I would think...you were either on drugs or going insane, why?"
"I'm not inebriated, nor mentally unstable."
"Okay, yeah, but...still."
"You're not answering me," Cas says.
Dean frowns at him. "I answered what you asked me. You — you didn't ask me anything else."
"Will you marry me?" Cas asks simply, almost passively, like this is a normal conversation over breakfast.
"Cas," Dean murmurs, "I'm not gay."
"Yes, I know. There doesn't have to be attraction, and no intimacy is required. I'd request that you be faithful, as I would be to you, if you're capable."
"Okay, so — so wait. What?"
Cas holds his gaze. "I would like to be married to you. If you're protesting because of our friendship — "
"Yeah, 'cause I'm real worried about our friendship suffering if we get married," Dean mutters sarcastically.
"Things won't change," Cas assures him. "We'll just be joined in matrimony."
Dean stares at him. "Right. That's — that's not a big change at all. Cas, you can't just… I wouldn't be a good husband, man."
"I don't think that's within your right to decide. That assumption can only be judged from an outside perspective."
"I've never even wanted a wedding."
Cas pauses, considering that, then says, "Okay, so we won't have one."
"Cas, marriage is — it suggests a...a partnership," Dean says carefully. "You know, living together, working on problems together, just... being together, period."
"Yes, I know." Cas looks at him, his expression almost pitying. "Hence the reason I'm asking."
Dean snaps his mouth shut, the realization hitting him square in the chest. They do live together, they do work on things together, and they spend more time together than they do apart, these days. More insane than this realization, Dean nearly has an out-of-body experience when he realizes that he's been making excuses, but no hasn't left his mouth once since Cas asked.
Cas continues to look at him, patient as ever, calm.
"I — I…" Dean takes in a deep breath, then blows it out heavily. What the fuck is happening right now? "Cas, you're not fucking with me, are you?"
"I'm not," Cas tells him.
Dean says nothing for a moment, his mind completely blank. His heart does a weird twitching thing in his chest, and he has no idea what he's going to say when he opens his mouth.
"Okay," he says, which honestly surprises him, "fuck it, let's get hitched."
"Thank you," Cas murmurs sincerely, then picks his fork back up and goes right back to eating.
Dean...has no idea what just happened.
They go to the courthouse to get a marriage license three days later when they go out to pick up more groceries and Sprite, like it's just another errand.
They stand in line beside each other, wearing regular clothes, not saying a word. Cas is playing a game on his phone that looks like Candy Crush but isn't, and Dean can feel sweat gathering on the back of his neck. They're asked by two younger people to be witnesses for them out of the blue, and Dean agrees to it as long as they're witness for them in return. So, not only is he about to get married, but he's also about to watch two complete strangers go through the process first.
By the time it's his turn with Cas, sweat has taken to collecting on the back of his knees. He's not nervous, exactly, he's just… Well, you could say that he's not entirely sure what he's feeling. Cas, on the other hand, faces this down like a champ, unbothered entirely, like this isn't as big of a deal as Dean feels like it is.
The clerk is an older woman who looks like she can't see two feet in front of her face, let alone whether two people should get married or not. She goes through the process with a bland voice, and Dean's trepidation fizzles out at how anticlimactic all of this is. When she says they may kiss, Dean cuts in to tell her no, thanks, and she doesn't even stutter. Like it really is nothing more than an errand, it's over before he knows it, and they have a marriage certificate coming in the mail after they pay the proper fees. They'd walked in here single, and now they walk out married.
Dean's brain has trouble making sense of that, so he stops thinking about it as they head home. Instead, he focuses on something else. "Should we have, I dunno, rings or something?"
"If you wish," Cas says.
"It just seems...weird to be married without a ring. To me, I mean. Wasn't how I was raised."
"Okay. Where can we get rings?"
"Any pawn shop in the world, or — or like a legit ring shop. I'm fine with just a simple band, so a pawn shop would probably be better."
"Then stop by the pawn shop."
They do. Cas picks out his own ring, pointing to the most simplistic silver band Dean has ever seen, apparently pleased with it. Who's Dean to judge? It's not his ring. No, his is scarily close to what Cas' looks like, except it has designs engraved on the outside. If he didn't know any better, he'd think they were a set of some sort.
It feels weird on his finger, on that finger, and Dean fiddles with it mindlessly as he points Baby in the direction of home. The deep rumble of Baby's engine puts him at ease, but only slightly, and he carefully directs her up their driveway like clearing across a minefield he has memorized. He and Cas slide out of the car when Dean parks her, and it's at Cas' assistance that he abandons the groceries to get started on replacing the cracked window in the living room. As he starts gathering his tools, donning his moral-boosting toolbelt, Dean settles down in front of the window and watches Cas go back and forth with the groceries.
He keeps waiting for this to be weird. Well, weirder than it already is. There's not a sense of wrongness to the situation that he expects, and Cas carries on like having a ring on his finger doesn't matter at all. When Dean thinks about it, it doesn't really matter much because they're not together; they're just...together.
The window pane shudders when he slides the broken pieces out with a quiet snik. His ring clinks against the glass.
Dean's not really sure what he would have done if Cas had decided to move out and go somewhere else. Follow him, probably, or ask him to stay like he hadn't when it mattered most. He doesn't have much in this life without monsters, but Cas is a solid presence at his side. He just kinda figured — in the way that means he didn't think about this at all — that Cas would just stick around for the rest of their lives. Now, with a ring circling his finger, Dean realizes how that may seem.
What were they gonna do, be eternal roommates forever? No wonder Cas asked to get married; shit, maybe he wants to own the house too. Hell, if Dean is gonna just spend the rest of his life with Cas, why not spend it married to him? It's not like it's a hardship, and it clearly doesn't mean, to Cas, what it does to most hot-blooded Americans who take their vows seriously.
And it's not like Dean's going to marry anyone else. He knows there isn't a girl in the world he wants to settle down with, not after all that he's been through. He doesn't even really pick up anyone anymore, not exactly in the prime age to do it easily, and he hasn't has sex in… Jesus. He's gotten used to going without it, is the point. He and his right hand know each other intimately.
So, overall, it really isn't as strange as it could be. That being said, Dean has a husband. A husband who is Cas.
It's...taking a minute to settle in.
"I can cook if you're tired of it," Cas offers when he steps into the kitchen after putting away the groceries. "I left the beef out, and I still know how to make beef stew."
Dean raises his eyebrows as he knocks the new pane of glass into place. "Is that why you got carrots? I thought you were gonna make a legit carrot cake."
"I snuck two bundles in the cart."
"Of course you did."
Cas smiles at him slightly, smug. "So, the stew?"
"This the nice way of telling me that there's another project you want done that's gonna take up my cooking time?" Dean asks, already knowing the answer.
Cas' smile turns sweet in its innocence. "The air conditioning filters need changing, there's a bird nest in the fireplace, and you still haven't power-washed the siding yet. Don't harm the nest, please."
Dean sighs and rolls his eyes, but ambles off to find the filters they have stashed somewhere. He can hear Cas shuffling around in the kitchen and relaxes into the background noise, unscrewing the vent to replace the admittedly smutty filters. They might actually be able to get some good air-flow around here after this.
He goes to the fireplace next, grunting as he gets on his knees and cranes his head down underneath the edge to peer up into it with his flashlight. Dean squints up until he sees the nest, frowning slightly. He's not surprised that Cas knows about this — he's always a little finely tuned to animals, perhaps a little leftover angel quirk that hasn't gone away. It doesn't sound like there's any bird in here now, but he plots out how to get it safely down anyway, at Cas' request. He drags himself out from under the fireplace with a groan, a strain already pulling in his neck, and he rubs at it as he walks into the kitchen.
Cas is cutting carrots, and the smell of the stew is already filling up the kitchen. He can't cook much, and usually burns things when be tries, but he never messes up beef stew for some reason. A bonus is that it's actually pretty good. He looks up when Dean comes bounding into the kitchen, merely arching his eyebrow in question.
"Hey, can I break the broom?" Dean asks.
Cas narrows his eyes. "No."
"I think I'm gonna have to if you want me to be able to get the nest down without fucking it up."
"Break the mop. We rarely use it."
Dean blinks. "Huh. Yeah, smart."
He moves over to the very small closet area where they keep all the cleaning supplies; it was originally just the space where the iron-board swung out from, but Dean had added shelves and little hooks for them to use how they wanted. The rarely used mop has the same exact handle as the broom, and it drives him nuts that Cas just automatically has the better ideas. He brings it out and immediately puts his foot against the end where the mop-head meets the handle, slamming down before Cas can suddenly change his mind and forbid it. That puts it at the perfect height to slide easily up into the fireplace and reach the bird nest with no problems. Cas nods at him as he exits the kitchen once more.
Bird nests do not look or act at all like what they're portrayed as in movies. They're messier, for one, and made up of more than just sticks. They're also a helluva lot more structurally sound than he's prepared for, and it actually takes a lot of effort to get it down. By the time he manages to ease it within reach and get it in his hands, there's dirt and soot covering his face, right at home with the sweat clinging to his skin.
It's only as he squirms back out from the fireplace that he realizes why Cas had asked him to be careful. He blinks down at the dotted eggs in the nest, and he sighs.
"Ah," Cas says when Dean brings it to the kitchen to show him, "as I suspected."
Dean looks down at the nest warily. "Should we, I don't know, move it somewhere else? Maybe the parents will come back to it?"
"No, they abandoned it, most likely because of our presence in the home," Cas tells him, lips tipping down into a sympathetic frown as he stares at the eggs.
"Cas, dude, I know your fatherly instincts have been going haywire since Jack, but there ain't no way in hell I'm helping you raise birds," Dean mutters, forcing his expression into something contrite — he won't be swayed.
Cas rolls his eyes, turning back to the stew to stir it and eye Dean in faint amusement. "There's no cause for concern, Dean, we are not well-equipped to care for them. They would probably die."
"Okay, harsh," Dean says, strangely insulted by that a little bit. He could take care of baby birds. He definitely could. Probably. "Okay, so what do we do?"
"We can probably take them to the vet's office, where they'll be well cared for until they're transported to the proper wildlife agency," Cas murmurs.
"How...do you know this stuff, Cas?"
"Do you remember the three days you spent driving Sam to Eileen's, back before he got his car?"
Cas looks over at him wearily. "An armadillo decided to take your absence as an invitation. I had to go through the same process."
"Damn." Dean snorts and shakes his head as he looks down to the nest in his hands. "Will the stew be ready by the time I get back?"
"Just about," Cas admits. "I will make you a plate, if it is."
"Thanks," Dean says, already backing out of the kitchen to head out. He'll have to power-wash tomorrow.
The bird nest sits on the passenger side of the bench seat, and Dean has the strangest urge to strap it down. He settles for putting one hand on it as he heads right back down the driveway. In the silence, with nothing more than eggs as his audience, Dean begins to think about how fucking crazy his day has been.
He got married today.
Yeah, that's still not processing.
"I have a husband," Dean tells the eggs, frowning over at them as he eases to a stop at a red light.
The eggs are silent, but supportive.
"It's a little weird, right?" he asks, taking care to keep Baby from jolting as he starts driving again. "Probably should be weirder than it is. Didn't exactly expect my life to end up here, trust and believe. But Jesus...I'm married. What the fuck?"
The eggs say nothing. Dean glances at them, sighing heavily and shaking his head.
"What am I doing?" he mumbles.
The eggs have no answer, and Dean reaches up to click on the radio, drowning out his thoughts.
The vet office is a welcoming place with dogs and cats lingering around the lobby with their owners. Dean's never felt so stupid as he does when he carries a nest full of eggs inside. It's like bringing a scooter to a car auction; no one's going to openly judge him, but he's definitely gonna get some strange looks. Even still, the nice lady at reception helps him handle everything, more than happy to help him with his problem.
"Did you know there were eggs in here, sir?" she asks him, peering down into the nest with a small frown.
"No, but my — my, uh, husband guessed there might be. We didn't know for sure, though," Dean tells her, stumbling over Cas' new title.
That is insanely weird, but the woman doesn't seem to notice his struggle. She simply nods and carries on like it's not earth-shattering news that Dean has a husband — which, to her, it probably isn't, and he envies her ignorance to his situation. Before long, someone is coming out to take the nest from him — he will deny the strange hesitance he feels to his dying day — and he lets the nest go before heading out the way he came.
On the way home, Dean turns the radio up too loud and very pointedly doesn't think.
When he clomps his way back into the house, the smell of stew has permeated the entire place, and he inhales deeply as he makes his way to the kitchen on autopilot. Cas smiles at him when walks in, holding up the bowl he's spooning the stew into.
"You made it just in time. I am just now finishing up. Will you pull the biscuits out the oven?" Cas holds out their oven mitt, which Dean takes. "I believe I may have burned the bottoms, but the tops should be edible."
Dean bites back a laugh at Cas' solemn tone and reaches in the oven to pull out the two pans of biscuits. They're golden brown on top, glistening with butter, just like Dean taught Cas to make them. He can already tell by just looking that the base of them are incinerated, but that's fine. Three-fourths of a biscuit is better than none.
Cas sits the bowls down to move over to the fridge, pulling out his beloved Sprite while grabbing Dean a beer. They take their food and drinks to the table, sitting across from each other, calmly eating and casually passing comments back and forth. After, Dean will take a shower to wash away the day, fall into bed for a good night's rest, but for now...he puts away the insane trajectory of the day and just enjoys this.
Dean jerks awake in the dead of night to hear the floorboards creaking. He blinks around blearily, pushing himself up on his elbows as he strains his ears.
Must be Cas.
Sighing, he pushes himself to his feet, shivering slightly at the cool air that comes in from his cracked window. He'd went to sleep sweating after a long day, but now he slips into that warm dead-guy robe he'd brought from the Bunker. When he makes his way down the stairs, he can see Cas standing out on the porch through the screen door, dressed in nothing but a t-shirt and pajama pants. Dean snags the knitted blanket Donna had made for them on his way, sliding into his slippers as he steps outside, coming to a halt beside his...his husband.
Cas does this sometimes, wakes up in the middle of the night from nightmares, coming to stand outside and look up at the stars. If Dean actually gets woken up by the sound of him moving around the otherwise quiet house, he usually joins him. There's no reason not to, if he's awake anyway, and Cas seems to relax with his company. Plus, if Dean doesn't come outside with him, he'll just stand out there all night and won't get a wink of sleep after. It's always him that ushers Cas back to bed.
Dean carefully drapes the blanket over Cas' shoulders, tugging it tight around him until Cas finally grasps it and releases a soft, "Thank you."
"No problem," Dean says honestly. He glances at the side of Cas' face. "Nightmares again?"
"Yes," Cas replies simply. For a moment, it seems like he's not going to provide anything else, but after a brief pause, he speaks again. "Dreaming is very strange. Though I know it poses no threat, I vividly dreamt that our oven ate me whole."
Dean can't help it, he chuckles. "Told you not to read that fucked up version of Hansel and Gretel, man. That shit messes with your subconscious."
Cas' eyebrows crinkle together. "As an inanimate object, I can't understand what might be frightening about an oven, yet I truly experienced fear. Perhaps you're right. The Brothers Grimm created a twisted tale."
"You'll shake it off."
"Yes, I know."
"Come on, you shouldn't stay up," Dean says, reaching out to grab his arm. "Let's go back to — "
"No." Cas goes solid and unrelenting in Dean's grip, tipping his head back to gaze up at the stars. "You may go, but I wish to stay. It's nice out. Pretty."
Dean stares at the side of Cas' face and sighs. "Yeah, it is. Alright, I'll stay up with you. Come on, let's at least lean against the railing. Should I make coffee?"
"I'm not thirsty," Cas murmurs, letting Dean pull him over to the railing, gaze fixated on the moon.
When they get settled against the railing, their hands braced on it, they stop talking for a long time. Dean adjusts to the chill, relaxing as he looks up at the night sky. It is pretty out here, this far away from any city lights. The stars are small and twinkling, but plentiful, and there are little streaks of purple that reminds Dean of some scene out of a painting. You can't see things like this in the city, and Dean is, once again, blown away by the charm this place has.
Cas shifts slightly, shamelessly leaning into him. His shoulder is tucked into Dean's side, making Dean's arm slide back. For a moment, he feels nothing but a strong sense of discomfort — he doesn't get close to people that often, not even his family. However, that twinge goes away when he shoves it away. Cas is, technically, his husband and he doesn't often seek out the comfort of touch himself. Dean's not going to be a dick about it.
"Is this okay?" Cas asks him placidly, almost like he doesn't really care what Dean's answer is either way.
Dean clears his throat. "S'fine," he mutters.
They stand there like that for a while until Dean's awkwardly hanging arm takes precedence. There's not really a place for it with Cas leaning into his side, and it takes him a moment to find a spot for it to sit. He pauses after wrapping his arm around Cas, taking stock of how he feels about it, and honestly...it's nice. The closeness takes a moment to adjust to, but when he pushes past his initial knee-jerk unease, he finds that he actually likes it.
He could probably do this, just this, for the rest of his life. Enjoy the closeness with Cas occasionally, beating the unsettled feeling in his mind into submission.
They've only been married for a week, and Dean's no more used to it than he was on the first day. It strikes him every now and again, out of nowhere, just how surreal this is. But, most of the time, he finds himself forgetting it altogether, reminded by the stray thought or when he mindlessly fiddles with his ring. It's not that it's something he can easily put out of his mind, it's just that it fits so well into his routine that he barely notices it.
Being married isn't at all like he's imagined it in the past. It's not restricting, or all-consuming, or a struggle. It's actually a breeze, and Dean is regularly stunned by that. He often finds that he's been bracing for Cas to have expectations, except he never does, and now...now Dean is left in this weird limbo where being married to Cas is as easy as breathing.
The world is insane.
"Maybe we can take the day off tomorrow," Cas suggests quietly, turning to look at Dean.
"And do what?"
"Nothing. I would like to do nothing with you, if you're amendable to it."
Dean considers that, pursing his lips. It doesn't actually sound like a bad idea — they can laze around, maybe go grab a bite at the local diner, find their own separate corners to do their own things. "Yeah, sure," he says easily, "sounds like fun to me."
They go back inside then, without even deciding to. Once they reach the bottom stairs, they break apart, and Dean's discomfort comes back full force. It's a strange mixture of feeling like he's doing something wrong and feeling as if he's stepped outside of himself to be someone else for a little while. It's unpleasant, and briefly, it feels dangerous.
Dean's heart thumps unevenly in his chest, that same feeling he gets when he steps into a cave full of waiting vampires swelling within him. That unease, that slight thrill, that all-encompassing feeling that he might not be the same when he walks back out...it hits him all at once as his fingers brush over Cas' arm as they separate. He's breathless for a moment, relief washing over him at the fact that he's getting to experience this again.
"Goodnight, Dean," Cas tells him, smiling at him before climbing the stairs, stepping over the fifth step with familiarity.
"Night, Cas," Dean calls up to him, fingers gripping the banister too tight, breath caught in his chest.
Cas usually doesn't curse much, or not so strongly. Not like Sam does, and definitely not like Dean does. So, to see him cussing up a storm as he fights with the vacuum is a rare treat. His entire face is red while he yanks on the string, hair, and various other things that are caught in the bottom of it. Sprawled out on the floor with nothing but his wits and a screwdriver, Cas has declared war.
Dean stands in the doorway and watches.
He's been doing that a lot, watching Cas, considering him. Objectively, he's handsome. Dean has always known that. He hasn't ever stopped to look past that, or look into it deeper, mostly because he doesn't look at anyone man-shaped and ask himself if they're attractive. He knows when a man looks good, because he isn't blind, but he doesn't really think about it.
Dean imagines himself touching Cas' skin, getting him out of his shirt. He's seen him shirtless before, seen him naked before — albeit covered in bees, but still. He tries to imagine himself appreciating it, reaching out to touch, maybe get his mouth on Cas' chest the same way he likes putting his lips on a woman. He tries, and he just...can't. If anything, it makes him feel uncomfortable.
He's a straight man married to another man, and the irony of that kicks him in the goddamn teeth every day.
However, Dean has learned something about himself recently. After that night a few days ago where he's stood outside with Cas, he's come to realize that actually touching Cas is a whole different story. Within their usual boundaries, it's fine — touching shoulders, or arms, or knocking knees and elbows. That's fine.
But, past that, it's different. Dean has been trying something. Touching Cas' hair without permission, squeezing the nape of his neck in passing, letting his palm rest on his thigh when they sit side-by-side. Every time, without fail, it fills him with the same feeling of danger and thrill and being rattled. Like when he first bursts into a room to see a djinn has a captive, or when he's running through the forest towards a Wendigo, or when a werewolf lunges at him. That brief shock of fear, tinged with just a bit of excitement.
Cas accepts the contact without suspicion, oblivious to the sudden change. Sometimes, he even leans into it.
"Fuck!" Cas bursts out, raising the screwdriver up with all intentions of beating the vacuum with it.
"Woah, woah, woah," Dean blurts out quickly, darting across the room to catch Cas' hand and sink down on the floor beside him. "Dude, chill out."
Cas glares at him, nostrils flaring. "I have saved the world, I have carved enochian symbols into my own chest, I have encompassed the entirety of the Leviathans in me, however briefly, and I will not be bested by this — this disgrace of a machine."
Dean can't hide his laughter or his grin, but he tries his best because Cas is clearly frustrated. "Come on, man, relax. Here, let me — "
"I've already tried to — "
"Cas, just let me — "
"Fine!" Cas shoves the screwdriver towards Dean, eyes narrowed into slits. "If you think you can, then do it. Go ahead, Dean, fix it."
"Alright, easy," Dean says, laughter bubbling up past his lips. He slides down until his ass is on the hardwood floor, and he lets his hand drag down Cas' back, the thrill and unsettled feeling sweeping through him as most of the tension leaves Cas' frame all at once. "Look, why don't you hold it in place while I unravel the shit that's caught in the sides, okay?"
"Tedious," Cas mutters, but he does reach out to hold it in place when Dean takes the screwdriver.
They lean on each other while Dean goes to work. It eventually becomes a joint effort, both of them swapping roles, tearing at the build-up and holding the vacuum still. Together, like this, Cas' frustration seems to fade, and he finds amusement in Dean's strain. It's time-consuming, and they spend too long on the floor, but it does eventually get done. Cas' little victorious smile makes Dean snort as he pushes to his feet with a groan, body aching. He offers a hand down to Cas, who takes it and lets Dean pull him to his feet.
For a moment, nearly unnoticeable, they are leaning into each other's space, hands gripped together. Cas briefly looks at Dean's lips, then away quickly, and Dean takes a solid step back — that's a little too much discomfort for his liking. Cas carries on like that little blip in time hadn't existed at all, reaching down to grab the vacuum.
"We should just get rid of all the carpet in the house," Dean muses, lips twitching when Cas huffs.
"I'd agree, but the carpet in the living area seems appropriate. Perhaps we can get rugs if we do pull up the carpet. The floors shouldn't be bare here," Cas says, surveying the living room with a small frown.
Dean hums. "Yeah, that makes sense. What are you about to do now? Just vacuuming?"
"After, do you wanna help me paint my room? I've already started bringing my shit out and laying down plastic. Could probably be finished by dinner."
"I will help," Cas agrees, turning to look at him. "What color did you decide on?"
"Blue," Dean says. "Azure, technically. I dunno, the guy at Lowe's just said to pick what made me feel, like, peaceful and happy or whatever, since it's going in my room. Supposed to be good to surround myself with those feelings, or so he said. That's what jumped out at me, so that's what I went with."
Cas nods. "That is a nice color."
"Yeah, sure," Dean agrees, clapping him on the shoulder. "Come on up when you're done."
Before he goes, he lets his hand drag down Cas' arm, fingers lightly sliding over warm skin. He focuses on the feeling of it, chest tightening, that titillating sensation rushing through his veins. He releases a shaky breath, looking up at Cas' expression, which is tranquil, and he clenches his fist as he walks away.
He's not really going to do this, is he? Use intimacy with Cas to chase the feeling of hunting that he deeply craves. Push boundaries and ignore his own discomfort, just for the rush of it. That's insane. He's insane.
Dean puts it out of his head and goes to his room, carrying the paint cans from the closet and sitting them down on the crinkling plastic covering his floor. The rollers and trays are already laid out, and he methodically pours paint into both of them. Cas will eventually come help, so Dean figures he might as well save Cas the effort. Marriage; it's all about thinking of someone else besides yourself. Maybe he's not the worst husband in the world after all.
Halfway into the first wall, Cas finally makes his appearance. His shoes clap against the plastic as he moves, and Dean throws him a smile over his shoulder. Cas simply grabs the remaining paint roller and starts at the other end of the same wall Dean's working on, that way they'll meet in the middle.
"What are you cooking tonight?" Cas asks him, always one to think with his stomach.
Dean tilts his head from side-to-side, considering his options. "Haven't decided. You got something in particular you want?"
"Something with mashed potatoes."
"What is your fascination with my mashed potatoes?"
"They're very good."
"Yeah, because I add mayo. You'd eat it every day if I'd let you. Sam is gonna judge you so hard."
Cas throws him an arch look. "No one says he has to know. It's strange for him to care for my health now, along with yours. I finally understand your annoyance with his prideful eating habits."
"Don't let him fool you; he can put down more burgers than you and I combined if he wants to. I know, I've seen it." Dean shudders slightly. "Don't get me wrong, it was awesome...but dude, I kept waiting for him to just kneel over from all that grease. And that's coming from me."
Cas narrows his eyes. "And he judges me. I can't help it that I don't enjoy healthy alternatives. Perhaps if you didn't cook so well, I'd be able to settle with it."
Dean waves a lazy hand and stretches up to swipe the paint higher. "Ah, please, we can die fat and happy while he lives on miserably with his quinoa and chickpeas."
"So you'll make mashed potatoes?"
"Yes, Cas, I'll make you mashed potatoes."
"Thank you, Dean," Cas says, openly pleased.
They work quietly after that, while Dean maps out what meal he's going to cook in his head. He could make Shepard Pie; Cas is always fond of that, as it was the first meal he ever had as a human. Or hell, if they're going to clog their arteries, they might as well go out with a bang. There's drumsticks in the freezer just itching to be fried, and Dean's good with fried chicken and mashed potatoes with...probably baked beans to add some sweet to the savory mix. Yeah, that sounds good.
He's drawn out of his thoughts when Cas' elbow knocks into his, them finally meeting in the middle and finishing the wall off. Dean hip-checks him out of the way to finish the last stripe, and they both step back to take in the newly painted wall. It looks good, fresh, and Dean really does like the color. It's brighter and familiar, and he fully expects to wake up to it happily.
"One down, three to go," Dean chirps.
Cas dips his paint roller.
They work through the next three walls in comfortable silence, occasionally talking back and forth about not much at all. Dean finds secret moments to brush up against Cas, touching his hip, letting his fingers linger when he swipes a dot of paint off Cas' neck. It's like he's an adrenaline junkie, that mixture of agitation and excitement like a shot straight to the bloodstream. He has no idea what he's doing, or why, but he can't stop.
He and Cas leave the paint to fully dry, mutually deciding without speaking to go to the kitchen. Cas snags a book on his way, as he always does, and settles at the bar to read while Dean cooks.
The routine, as usual, is nice. Comforting, almost. Even when he grows restless, suddenly struck with the feeling that he should be somewhere, doing something, the easy system their lives have become helps settle him. There are things to do, things he has to fix, a purpose, even if it's not saving people from monsters they're not aware of. There aren't any monsters to gank, so things are dull, but at least he's not just drifting along without having something to throw himself into.
However, this thing with Cas isn't dull at all. It's a lot of things, but dull isn't one, and he's sort of backed himself into a corner with it.
Being a straight man married to another man is already pushing it, but add this weird gay-but-not touching into it, and Dean is pretty sure he's crossing a lot of lines he drew a long time ago. He's hyper-aware of it, of Cas, and he's hooked on the feeling he's getting back into his life from it. He wonders how far he'll push it, wonders how much Cas will let happen, wonders where all of this leaves him.
It's not a problem for now, he decides. He focuses on cooking, cursing when grease pops back at him, rolling his eyes when Cas tucks the book out of harm's way. It's easy to avoid these issues when everything is so normal outside of it, plus Cas hasn't seemed to notice at all.
Dean mentally packs it up and doesn't plan to unpack for however long he can ignore it.
He's always been scarily good at that.
Sam is the spring cleaning you avoid, the constant alarms you hate to hear in the morning, the boxes you've been putting off in the attic. He comes home, and Dean's little act of circumventing things comes to a screeching halt.
"Why are you wearing a ring, dude?" Sam asks him in faint amusement, reaching out to snag Dean's wrist and squint at it. "It's new, right? You weren't wearing it last time I was here. And why is it on that finger?"
Dean's mind instantly goes blank. It hits him then that he hasn't told Sam about his whirlwind marriage. Between the surrealness of it and how utterly normal it can feel, it honestly slipped his mind.
"Uh," he chokes out, eyes wide.
Sam's smile slowly drops, and he stares at Dean carefully, lips parting. "You did not. Dean, I swear, you better have not gotten hitched to some girl from a bar or — "
"Cas," Dean blurts out, clenching his hand into a fist and yanking it from Sam's grasp. "It's Cas. Who I married."
"Oh." Sam blinks, then frowns slightly. "Wait, why didn't you tell me? Did — no, when the fuck did this happen?"
"About...uh, three weeks ago?" Dean grimaces when Sam's eyes bulge. "Yeah, I know. It's — it isn't what it looks like. We weren't waiting for you to leave to immediately get married or anything. Hell, I didn't even know that Cas was gonna ask me."
"Okay, so — okay, wait," Sam mutters, sounding more confused than angry. "So, Cas asked you? And...and you said yes? I didn't know you — "
"I'm not gay," Dean tells him quickly. He shakes his head when Sam arches an eyebrow. "I'm really not. It isn't like that. We're not like that. It's just…" he trails off weakly, the next word slipping out and sounding like a big pile of bullshit, "...marriage."
"Just marriage," Sam repeats flatly. "Right."
"What was I supposed to do? He asked, and I couldn't think of a reason to say no!"
"Oh, the not being gay thing seems like a good one."
"He said we didn't have to...you know."
"Okay, I'm not touching that with a ten-foot pole, but how about the fact that y'all aren't even together?"
Dean shrugs helplessly. "Not sex or romantic-wise, no, but in ever other sense...yeah."
Sam's eye twitches. "Okay...but people don't just get married just to be married, Dean. Not — not that I'm judging, but seriously, what the hell?"
"I don't know," Dean mumbles. "I really fucking don't."
"And what if y'all wanna get with someone else?" Sam asks, eyebrows dipping together.
"With who, Sam? I'm not looking and he ain't either. We're just kinda doing life together now," Dean replies, tossing up a hand. "We were gonna live with each other for the rest of our lives anyway, so what's it matter?"
Sam purses his lips, then sighs. "Dean, you do know that the fact that you couldn't find a reason to say no insinuates that you wanted to, right? Like, you're not an innocent party in this."
"I wasn't itchin' to get hitched to Cas, Sam."
"Maybe not, but you were open to it."
"Oh great, here we go," Dean mutters, rolling his eyes up to glare at the sky.
"Was there a wedding?" Sam asks.
"No, we just went to the courthouse and picked up some cheap rings on the way home."
"And things are just the same as before?"
Dean hesitates for a beat. "Uh, yeah."
"Liar." Sam shakes his head and heaves a sigh, his bitchface turned up to full blast. "What happened? Are y'all okay? Need a marriage counselor?"
"Oh, fuck off," Dean snaps, huffing. "Nothing's wrong. Me and Cas are fine. It's actually freakishly normal to be married, which...Jesus Christ, how did this happen?"
"Is — is he happy?" Sam jerks his chin towards the house, looking unsure. "Cas isn't always the easiest to figure out, but I mean...I worry about him, you know that."
Dean's face softens. "Yeah, he's happy. Actually, he's not that much different than he usually is. He just...wanted to get married, I guess."
Sam looks at him, scanning his face, and his lips slowly curl up. "And you said yes. Aw, Dean."
"Shut the fuck up," Dean warns, pointing at him. "I will fucking deck you."
"You've got a crush on your husband," Sam teases, eyes lit up with humor. "That's just — "
"I'm not gay, Sam," Dean hisses.
Sam doesn't look like he believes him. "Okay, whatever you say. I mean, if there was anyone worth going gay for, it's probably him for you, isn't it? Like your hall-pass."
"That's not a real thing."
"Even a straight guy wouldn't say no to Brad Pitt, Dean. It is a thing, and Cas is yours."
"I hate you," Dean mutters, whirling around to start marching towards his house, clomping up the rickety steps with a sour mood.
"Sure you do!" Sam calls after him, following with a bright burst of laughter.
Dean bangs his way inside, grumbling under his breath, but he's not actually that upset. To be fair, Sam's just filling his little brother role, teasing Dean like he's meant to do — for all that Dean protests it, a greater part of him is thankful that Sam still does it. Plus, Sam's reaction is mild, all things considered. Dean can't even envision what he'd do if he came home one day to find Sam not-so accidentally hitched to Cas. He...isn't going to examine that either because he somehow knows that he wouldn't find anything amusing about it.
Cas is baking again. It's one of the hobbies he's taken up, one that Dean fully encourages. He didn't start out so great, but he's gotten much better with time, and Dean's more than happy to eat whatever he decides to make. He can't cook for shit, but baking is apparently something else entirely because he makes a mean batch of cookies, lopsided and lumpy as they are.
When Sam walks into the kitchen, Cas smiles wide, as he always does. "Sam," he greets, "you're back."
"I am," Sam agrees with a little chuckle, dipping down to hug Cas, clapping him on the shoulder. "I hear congratulations are in order."
Cas blinks at him. "For what?"
"You and Dean," Sam says lightly, reaching out to poke at Cas' ring pointedly.
"Oh." Cas looks down at his ring, blinking some more, and it's easy to see that he's surprised Sam knows. "Yes, well, there's no need to congratulate me."
"Should probably get you a medal for putting up with that asshole," Sam jokes, moving over to dig into the fridge, pulling out two beers and passing one to Dean.
"Dean has been a good husband," Cas corrects, lips curling up just so. "He may seem otherwise, but he's led by strong morals. He would feel bad for being a bad spouse, so he isn't."
"Ha," Dean says smugly, opening his beer and taking a deep swallow, smirking at Sam after.
Sam rolls his eyes. "Yeah, sure, whatever floats your boat. Cas, man, I gotta ask. You swear you weren't coerced or something? Blink twice if you need saving."
Cas doesn't blink. "This was a choice I made completely of my own violation. I wanted to marry him, so I asked."
"Huh." Sam eyes Cas curiously over the rim of his beer, expression thoughtful. "Did you know he'd say yes?"
"No, it's why I asked. I rarely know what to expect from Dean; he is, as you know, rarely predictable."
"Were you surprised when he said yes, then?"
"Not particularly," Cas admits. "I wasn't imagining what he'd say at all. I just asked."
Dean picks at the label on his beer, watching it with far too much fascination considering the conversation happening beside him. The beer in his hand sweats.
"Why'd you ask him?" Sam presses, giving up all pretenses of casual talking.
Cas hums. "Because I wanted to be married to him."
"Yeah, Cas, I got that. But why?"
"I just told you."
"Okay, yes," Sam says patiently, "but what made you — "
"Oatmeal cookies?" Dean blurts out, his skin itching uncomfortably, stomach twisting nervously as he pushes away from the counter. Sam looks offended that he's being interrupted, but Dean honestly couldn't give a fuck about that right now. "Did you add raisins?"
Cas huffs. "Of course not. Raisins only ruin the cookies."
"Damn right they do," Dean says heartily, sliding past Cas to look in their pantry. "Whatcha thinkin' tonight? I'm not really feeling cooking; we could order pizza."
"Yes," Cas replies instantly, an avid fan of pizza of pretty much every kind. "Meat lover's?"
Sam chokes, and Dean shoots him a scolding look for his immaturity. "Yeah, Cas, that's fine. Place the order and me and Sam will go pick it up. Sound good, Sammy? You sticking around for dinner?"
"Yeah, actually, that's perfect." Sam raises his beer in a little salute. "I'm actually gonna be sticking around here for a while. I'll go visit Eileen eventually, but I just kinda want to be at home for a bit. Might ask her to come see me this go around."
"Oh, that'd be fun," Dean says brightly, turning to the side so Cas can dig in his pants pocket and use his phone to order pizza. "Been a while since me and Cas have seen her. It'd be nice to see how she's doing."
Sam just hums distractedly, watching them behind his beer, his gaze accessing. Dean doesn't know what he's looking for, or what he's picking up, but it can't be that big of a deal — he and Cas aren't acting different. Even still, when Cas finishes the call and slips Dean's phone back into his pocket, Sam's eyebrows attempt to get acquainted with his hairline.
Dean loves Sam more than anyone, but shit, sometimes he just doesn't get him.
Cas goes back to his cookies, making idle chit-chat with Sam about his plants again — all of which are still bright and alive, surprisingly enough. Cas asks Sam to help him start a garden, and Dean eases out of the room to go get ready to leave. Out of him and Sam, his thumb is the least green, and he'd try and help Cas of course...but that's not really his expertise. Sam likes plants, even names 'em and shit, so this is more his speed.
Sam is needling Cas into starting with tomatoes first, and Dean already knows that's not going to happen. Cas does not like whole tomatoes — sliced is fine, or even the little cherry ones that go on salads — and he isn't going to be swayed. Sure enough, by the time Sam's walking out the door with Cas slowly following to continue their conversation, Sam has changed his tune and taken to suggesting carrots instead. Here, Cas wavers.
"We won't have to buy carrots for your cakes or your stew," Dean tells him. "You can use your own that you grow."
Cas is sold immediately. "Yes, carrots will do."
With a wink at Sam, Dean heads out the door while Sam and Cas linger to talk. It really is that easy sometimes; Dean doesn't understand why Sam always struggles to get what he wants from Cas. Not like it's hard.
Sam does eventually break away from Cas to amble outside and slide in Baby with a quick affection pat to her roof like he's greeting her too. Cas shuts the door and goes back in to finish his cookies, and Dean heads down the driveway. Sam grips the oh-shit handle needlessly, always stunned by how easily he and Cas transverse back and forth up this driveway of bumps and dips.
Dean can tell Sam has things he wants to say, so he heaves a sigh and mutters, "What is it, Sam? I can feel you thinking. Just say what you need to say, man."
"Is it really not different?" Sam blurts out instantly.
"No, it's not." Dean doesn't have to ask him what he means by that. "It's just...normal. Is that weird? Feels really fucking weird."
"I mean...I guess not." Sam releases a soft huff of laughter, shifting on the seat. "I didn't expect you and Cas to jump into it marriage-first, but...ya know."
Dean side-eyes him. "No, I don't know. What?"
"It's just, you know, you and Cas have always been pretty intense. He looks at you weird, and you're kinda… I don't know." Sam turns around in the seat to face him, hands loose on his legs. "It's like he said, once, you and him have always had a more profound bond."
"Hey, come on, what does that even mean? After all we been through...it's not like that," Dean mumbles, shooting him a frown. "You know Cas loves you."
Sam bobs his head and uses both hands to push his hair behind his ears. "Yeah, I know. It's just that — well, I also know that how he loves me isn't the same way he loves you. I've always known that."
"You — you think Cas is in love with me," Dean whispers, suddenly very thankful that the light turns red, forcing him to come to a halt, giving him a moment to turn and stare at Sam.
"Uh, I mean, I don't know." Sam holds up his hands in surrender. "I — I don't know anything about anything, actually. Don't listen to me."
"This is insane."
"Look, it might seem crazy, but you agreed to marry him. Not as a joke, not even for some reason, just because he asked and you didn't know why you should say no. I'm just saying, maybe look into whether the way you think you love him is the same as how you actually do."
"What does that even mean?"
"It means that we already know you don't love Cas like you love me. You wouldn't marry me, I'm your brother, but Cas...well."
"Hey," Dean protests, throwing him a glare, "how in the fuck did this get turned around on me? We were talking about Cas, not me."
"I think Cas has his shit figured out," Sam says simply.
"And I don't?!"
"No, Dean, I don't think you do."
"You — you can't seriously be suggesting that I'm… Sam, I'm being serious, man, I'm really not gay," Dean insists.
Sam snorts. "Dude, after all the shit we've seen, this wouldn't be the weirdest thing. Probably not the first time either. I'm sure there's other straight guys out there who, you know, have more...feelings than — "
"What?" Dean whips around to stare wide-eyed at Sam, lips parting in shock. "Jesus, you're actually serious. No, I'm not having this conversation with you. This is stupid. You're being stupid."
"Come on, Dean, we're already here. We might as well. We were gonna have this talk eventually."
"What? No, no the fuck we weren't. Why would we even need to have a talk? This isn't — that doesn't make any sense. I don't know what you're talking about, Sam, but you need to get your head checked or some shit."
Sam rolls his eyes and sighs. "It's — it's like with Benny, right?"
"Benny? What the hell does he have to do with anything? He was literally just a friend."
"Okay, but you formed a really deep connection with him, that's all."
"Didn't mean I was plannin' to fuck him on any available surface. Not — not that I'd do that to Cas, I'm just — "
"Dean," Sam says softly, "it's not a big deal. You form really deep connections with other men. That's fine. Doesn't mean you want to...ya know. And if you do want to, uh, be intimate with a man, then who gives a shit? Honestly, who cares?"
"I can't believe this is happening to me," Dean mumbles, staring unseeingly out the windshield.
"You married a man, Dean, what did you expect? People are going to automatically assume you're gay, whether you are or not. You're gonna have to get used to that, come to terms with it, something. I'm not saying it's right, but that's just the way it is."
"I--I...didn't think this through," Dean admits, swallowing thickly as the pull into the parking lot of Cas' favorite pizza place. "I fucked myself."
"Did you, though?" Sam raises his eyebrows pointedly, not taking Dean's shit. "Whether you're gay, straight, both or neither, or somewhere in between...it doesn't really matter as long as you're happy. You are, aren't you? Happy to be married to Cas?"
Dean pauses, holding his breath until his lungs scream, considering Sam's genuine question seriously. "Yeah, I'm — fuck, I am."
Sam smiles at him. "Then that's what counts."
"How did I end up here?"
"You tell me."
"I can't, Sam," Dean rasps, "I really fucking can't."
Cas gingerly lowers himself on the couch beside Dean. It still comes as a surprise to turn and see him dressed so comfortably. He's already in his favorite dark green and white checkered pajama pants with a soft black t-shirt hanging loosely on his frame — must be one of Sam's, by the way it hangs off him and displays his collarbones. Dean can't help but be slightly fascinated by how soft he looks, dressed for bed and curling on the couch beside him, messy hair in disarray atop his head.
"Hello, Dean," Cas murmurs.
Dean puts down the boot he's cleaning, sprawling back against the couch and tossing his socked feet up on the coffee table. "Hey, Cas," he replies easily, gaze flicking over his form. "You don't have your book."
"I finished it." Cas releases a mournful sigh.
"Cas, do — do you read your DIY books like they're novels?" Dean asks, biting back a laugh.
"Yes," Cas answers shamelessly, rolling his head to the side to look at Dean with amusement. "I like to pretend each project is connected. The DIY lampshades from chapter six and nine are long-lost lovers."
Dean's hold on his laughter slips, and he reaches out to squeeze Cas' knee, hand settling on his thigh while he cackles in amusement. Cas watches him with a small smile, blue eyes lit with humor, fondness filling every line of his face. Once he gets ahold of himself, Dean realizes they're just smiling at each other, his hand resting on Cas' leg like he has a right to it. That feeling of danger slams into him, and he goes still, heart kickstarting wildly in his chest. The laughter in Cas' eyes drain away, leaving nothing but a mildly curious glint behind.
Dean goes to remove his hand, but Cas reaches out and catches it, halting his retreat.
"Cas," Dean mumbles, his tone a wary warning, and he doesn't even know what he's cautioning against.
"I find it...desolating, almost, that you waited until we were married to touch me so frequently," Cas tells him, lips tipping down in an unhappy frown. "Surely you know you've always been entitled to do so, even before we tied ourselves to each other."
Dean releases a shaky breath, eyes fixated on his hand cradled in Cas' grip. "You caught that, huh?"
"Even friends touch, Dean." Cas squeezes his hand, as if proving his point. "But yes, I noticed. I catch everything you do...and say."
For a beat, Dean doesn't know what to say to that. He just looks at Cas, really looks at him, scanning his features and paying attention. Cas is guarded in many ways, internalizing a lot of things simply because he learned from Sam and Dean, but he's also open when he wants to be. With Dean, lately, he doesn't hide anything, and he isn't now. His blue eyes are vulnerable, the very depths of him exposed; he doesn't look afraid.
"Cas," Dean whispers, a lump forming in his throat, and he, on the other hand, is scared to death, "are — are you in love with me?"
"Yes," Cas answers without hesitation.
Dean's breath punches out of him and he swallows thickly. "Fuck," he chokes out, just staring at Cas wide-eyed, frozen in place. "Cas, you know I'm not — "
"I know." Cas tilts his head and gives a crooked smile, his gaze warm. "I've never needed reciprocation for those feelings to exist. I don't need anything from you for me to love you; I just do."
"But I — I can't give you what you want. I can't just — "
"What more could I want? I'm already married to you. That in of itself is rewarding."
"And that's it?" Dean licks his lips, barely processing that they're having this conversation. "That's all you wanted? What about sex? Kissing, dates, all of — of that."
Cas simply shrugs and reaches out with his free hand to play with the rough skin on Dean's fingers, his lips curling up. "I'd be welcome to it, but it's not something I find myself craving. With it or without, I derive pleasure from simply being with you. Marriage...solidified that, and it's more than I could have hoped for."
"You don't even want me, you just want me to be yours." Dean scoffs, then releases a small hysterical laugh when Cas simply looks at him. "Oh my god, you possessive bastard, that's really what it is, isn't it?"
"Perhaps a small bit." Cas pinches the rough knuckle above Dean's ring. "My love is kind and patient, but I never said it wasn't selfish."
"So...so you're just fine with us being married, nothing more?" Dean mutters, brain unable to make sense of this, even if he's getting it well enough.
Cas nods. "Yes. For me, it is that simple."
"It doesn't feel right," Dean whispers, swallowing thickly when Cas frowns at him. "I'm sorry, Cas, but it feels like I'm leading you on or something."
"You're not. I know what you are willing to give and what you're not. If that changes at any point, I will adjust. I won't expect anything from you, and this is my choice. I'm pleased. Aren't you?"
"I — I mean, yeah. Happier than a pig in shit, man, but that's my point. This isn't weird, and it should be, and I feel like I'm just...giving you hope."
"Hope for what?" Cas squints at him, genuinely confused. "I just told you that I'm not expecting anything. No matter your actions, I take things as they are, and I assume nothing."
Dean takes in a deep breath, experiencing what it feels like to have a vampire seconds from his throat without ever leaving his couch. "What if — " he stops, the words caught in his throat, and he can't say them, except he forces himself to anyway. "What if...I did something? Just outta the blue. Like — like, kiss you."
"Then I would kiss you back," Cas replies.
"What if I didn't like it?"
"Then I would stop."
"You wouldn't be upset?" Dean mutters, seriously trying to make sense of this, of Cas. "I'm not kidding, dude. What if I just kissed you, said I hated it, and then never touched you again?"
Cas sighs and rolls his eyes. "Dean, I don't know how you see me in your mind, but I'd never be angry with you for stopping something you don't enjoy. If you don't like kissing me, then I wouldn't want you to. Would you enjoy a woman kissing you if she wasn't happy to?"
Dean blinks. That suddenly puts things into perspective, like a slap to the face. He remembers when he was barely twenty-three, hanging out at a bar, running into a girl who kicked his ass in darts. They'd flirted and had a good time, and Dean had charmed her into the backseat of Baby, leading up to him putting his hand up her shirt while he kissed her. Only for her to break away, start crying, and blurt out that she was gay. He'd stopped instantly, awkwardly patted her through her tears, then took her back inside to buy her as many shots as she wanted. No questions asked, no judgement, he hadn't been upset at all. If he, a well-known asshole, had handled that without anger, then Cas would be ten times better about it.
"Oh," Dean mumbles, fighting the mortification he feels for accusing Cas of being that kinda person.
Cas threads their fingers together, letting their hands sit on his knee. He smiles. "You're understanding of your sexuality is fragile. You shouldn't be ashamed of that."
"It's not fragile," Dean argues instantly, shoulders tensing, only for Cas' knowing gaze to make him deflate in defeat. "I don't know what I'm doing, man. I'm — I'm, you know, very much a lover of women. And yet...I married a man."
"This bothers you?"
"Well, yeah, it fucking bothers me, Cas. I don't know what I want from you, and you ain't demanding anything, and this — this can't be all there is."
"Why not?" Cas murmurs, curious.
Dean hesitates, not sure if he should voice what he wants to say, but Cas' expression is patient and without an ounce of judgement. "Sometimes, when I touch you, I feel...I don't know. I feel something. I don't — I've never had that happen to me before. Not even with a woman. Not with Lisa, or Cassie, or — or anyone. I can't explain it, how it's like I'm scared but excited at the same time."
"Claire told me about this, once," Cas muses, raising their hands up to examine them, his lips twitching. "She said that falling in love with Kaia was terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure. She'd always known she was gay, but getting to experience it firsthand was something else entirely. She said it gave her the same rush from going hunting — that mixture of fear and thrill and elation. I couldn't relate to her explanation, as I don't have the same reservations as most humans, but it was nice of her to tell me."
"Shit," Dean says weakly, his heart sinking.
Cas glances up from their hands to look at Dean, blinking in surprise. "Oh. That's what you're experiencing now, with me?"
"I don't know. I — I have no fucking clue," Dean lies, his stomach squirming in discomfort.
"It doesn't matter." Cas shrugs once more, completely unbothered. "Whatever you feel is your business. Should you share it with me, I will simply listen. But, no matter what you say or do, I don't expect anything from you. Please remember that."
"Yeah, nothing at all," Dean mutters sarcastically, holding up their joined hands pointedly.
Cas arches an eyebrow. "You may pull away, if you wish to. I won't be offended."
Dean releases a heavy sigh of frustration. "I don't know if I want to or not. Maybe both."
"Let me know when you figure it out." Cas squeezes his hand again and smiles. "In the meantime, I would like to play checkers. Are you agreeable?"
"Oh, come on, man, you kick my ass in checkers every time," Dean groans, sitting up to get ready and grab the game anyway, his heart simultaneously twinging in relief and panging in regret when he pulls his hand away from Cas' to stand up. "You always know what move I'm gonna make. It's cheating."
"It isn't. It's not my fault that I can anticipate what route and strategy you'll invoke."
"You, like, built me once. That's an advantage. It's definitely cheating."
Cas smirks slightly when Dean plops back down on the couch with the checkers set in his hands. "Maybe be less obvious and I wouldn't be prepared."
Dean narrows his eyes at him. "Is that a fucking challenge? Are you challenging me right now?"
"Perhaps," Cas says in faint amusement, his blue eyes bright with humor and softness.
"I'm gonna kick your ass," Dean declares.
"You may try."
"Oh, this is how it's gonna be? Alright, alright, let's get started then. Be prepared to eat your fucking words."
Somehow, in the midst of their bickering, Dean's hand ends up entwined with Cas' again, and he doesn't know how it happens. He doesn't question it either, pretends like it's not currently a thing, and he plays one-handed while Cas does the same. The board sits between them on the couch, and Cas plays red while Dean plays black, and this game is the first of the night but won't be the last. Throughout, they don't let go of each other's hands, and Dean's brain does a stellar job of ignoring that.
As always, Cas wins every game. Dean's not even angry about it.
Dean keeps waiting for Cas to pop out one day and say, "Ha, gotcha. Turns out I do need sex from you," but he never does. In fact, Cas doesn't act any differently after learning of Dean's shaky feelings. The asshole just genuinely takes shit as Dean throws it at him, and that's so fucking unfair for so many reasons.
Put Dean in an empty room, tell him he can do whatever he wants without consequences, and watch him bust down the walls. That's his thing. He likes demolition and destruction, grenade launchers and the growl of Baby's engine, fucking shit up and standing in the remains with a bright grin. It's the boy in him, maybe, but he's drawn to ruin like a moth to flame. For all that he likes neatness and cleanliness, there's something utterly raw and powerful about being a whirlwind storm without actually hurting anyone.
Cas has basically just led him into a room, slapped explosives in his hand, and told him to have fun.
Who the fuck does he think he is?
Dean would like to think he won't take advantage of his newfound freedom to trample up and down the Kinsey Scale like a newborn foal. After all, he's as straight as they come, and straight men don't ever get the wild urge to check and make sure they're straight. Or, maybe they do and he's been missing out. Either way, Cas has pretty much opened up a new door for Dean without caring how many times he goes in and out, or whether or not he'll eventually shut it for good.
Dean takes advantage. Often and frequently. He has plausible deniability and he is ready to use it like a weapon if need be, though that hasn't happened yet. It puts his mind at ease. He can still be himself and touch Cas as much as he wants, still be one hundred percent straight and be married to a man. He can push his fingers into Cas' hair, stopping to be terrified and eager all at once, and the next day he doesn't have to touch Cas at all. There's no guideline, no expectations, nothing.
The only problem with this is that, just like Baby and grenade launchers and hunting, Dean gets way to into it. To the point that he's actually starting to feel bad about it. Cas doesn't seem to care whether Dean touches him or not, but Dean still worries he's getting frustrated with being yanked around. And to top it all off, Dean also has to deal with how easy it is to be married to Cas.
When they mix, Dean's mind goes offline.
Sam has been hanging around a lot, so he's already caught onto what's going on, or the barebones of it — that Dean's figuring out whether he's gay for Cas or not — and he's made a point to stay out of it. He teases them every now and again, but he's also wildly soft about them being married, which Dean does his best not to think about. He's a people-pleaser by nature — Sam, specifically — and that can't be a reason he does this.
At the table, Sam has taken to lightly fiddling with their outdated stereo, trying to get the radio to catch some signal. All he can manage to get is a crackly station playing 50s music, which makes his expression sour, but Cas seems to enjoy it.
"Leave it there," Dean tells Sam, watching Cas ever so slightly sway at the sink as he washes the dishes from dinner, lips twitching at the sight of him.
Sam snorts. "Can't put it anywhere else. Seriously, man, why don't you get Wi-Fi out here, or cable at least?"
"'Cause I ain't spending all my time looking for cases or watching the news and wondering if the person dead on my screen got killed by a monster or not," Dean admits bitterly, heaving a sigh. "'Sides, me and Cas stay busy. We got repairs, books, and music sometimes."
"It's very simplistic," Cas comments, which isn't the insult it sounds like.
"Yeah," Sam says mournfully, "it is."
The song changes, Cas' swaying becomes more pronounced. He really likes this song. It's the kind of music that Dean doesn't often pay attention to, slow and steady with a swelling chorus. No doubt about it, the couples in the 50s danced to this regularly, Dean would bet his life on it. That brings forth the mental image of him and Cas dancing to it, right here in this kitchen, smiling and laughing as they sway and twirl each other. Probably doesn't get any gayer than that, he thinks and has to hold back a snort.
Yeah, no way in hell is he doing that. Maybe he's a little wistful at the idea, but he's not going to go that far.
Instead, he finds himself walking over to press behind Cas and reach up for a glass he doesn't actually need. This is a boundary he's used to pushing; contact and closeness. His chest drapes over Cas' back as he leans forward and strains towards the cabinet, and Cas merely smiles at him over his shoulder. Dean goes still, holding his position for a moment, heart skipping a beat like it does when he has his gun trained on a witch.
"You like this song, Cas?" Dean murmurs, fingers wrapping loosely around the mason jar they repurposed into something to drink out of.
Cas' nose wrinkles when he smiles this time, wide and gummy, brighter than the sun. "I adore it. Had we planned a wedding, I would have wanted to dance to this. Do you hear the lyrics?"
Dean releases a huff of laughter, but he cocks his head to listen. When I fall in love, it will be forever, or I'll never fall in love. "Who is that? Is that — Sammy, isn't that Nat Cole. Nat 'King' Cole? Mom used to sing that when I was a kid, 'specially when Dad was being sweet to her."
"It might be," Sam tells him, sounding unsure. "I'd be able to look it up if you had Wi-Fi."
"Let it go, man." Dean rolls his eyes and squeezes Cas' shoulder as he starts to pull away. "It's a good song, Cas."
"Yes, I know," Cas agrees.
Then Cas turns slightly towards him, craning his head over his shoulder like he's about to say something, except Dean's mind rationalizes the motion as something else entirely. Before he knows what he's doing, he dips forward and presses a chaste kiss to Cas' lips, just a small peck that's there-and-gone. He doesn't fully realize he's done it until he pulls away and goes back over the last half-a-second in his head.
You could hear a pin drop in the silence that follows. Dean's breath hitches and holds, unable to escape through the narrow passageway of his throat. Cas just looks at him, his expression calm and patient, though his lips are slightly parted. This is the part of the hunt where Dean's ran out of bullets, when a werewolf picks him up and tosses him clear across the room, where a demon gets ready to burn off his anti-possession tattoo.
"I'm — I'm gonna, uh, go check on my plants," Sam announces awkwardly, clearing his throat. "Thanks for dinner and...um, goodnight?"
Neither Dean nor Cas reply, or move for that matter, both poised in silence while the water runs sluggishly over the dishes Cas is supposed to be rinsing. Sam is gone, just like that, leaving them to deal with their shit on their own, and Dean desperately wishes he could flee from this moment too. He probably can, Cas would let him, but his fucking limbs aren't working.
This wasn't a gay thing. Dean hadn't accidentally kissed Cas because he's been taking jabs at his own sexuality. In all actuality, it happened because of the marriage angle he's been too comfortable with. Settling into domesticity, far too at ease with the routine they've created for themselves, leaning in to peck Cas on the lips because that's his husband and it feels right, because that's what married people do for comfort, because it happens without even a thought.
"Dean," Cas says, his tone carefully constructed to soothe him, possibly sensing his panic-induced shut-down, "it's okay. "You didn't — "
Dean shakes his head and lays his hand over Cas' hip, walking him back into the counter, his heart stumbling in his chest when Cas just lets him. Just braces his hands on the counter, elbows pointed back towards the window, his stance open and waiting, happy to let Dean crowd him, happy to let Dean do anything.
"Shut up, just — just shut up, Cas," Dean breathes out, reaching up with his free hand to lightly press the pads of his fingers into Cas' scruff. "I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know what I'm — "
This is a gay thing.
Dean has no idea what to expect when he releases a shaky breath and presses his lips against Cas'. He thinks he might not like it, or might like it too much, but it turns out to be just like kissing anyone else. He never thought about kissing another guy, never particularly wanted to, but right now...he's left a little stunned by how not-disgusted he feels.
Cas pulls his hands away from the counter and presses his palms to Dean's side, a warm and steady weight. He doesn't deepen the kiss, just lets Dean do what he wants, and that is more dangerous than anything else. Left to his own devices, his mind's protests growing weaker, Dean doesn't stop himself from pressing harder into Cas and prying his lips apart.
It's like standing in the eye of the storm, where you think it'll be the most insane, but it's actually the calmest. Everything surrounding him is wild and wreaking havoc, but this, right here, overtakes everything and settles him. It's like returning a kidnapped sister to her brother, like cutting off a vamp's head before they can kill their victim, like setting fire to a ghost's remains. Triumphant, leaving nothing but the assurity of safety afterwards. Dean kisses Cas, kisses him like he would any woman, and it's good. More than good, even.
Still, when he releases a wounded sound, keening and whining low in his throat with want, Dean feels it like a bullet between the eyes. His own arousal shocks him, makes him freeze with fear, takes him right out of the moment. Cas pulls away instantly, lips puffier than normal, eyes so bright they're almost glowing again like when he was an angel. He reaches up carefully and touches Dean's cheek, fingertips ever so gently brushing across his hairline.
"You needn't be concerned, Dean," Cas mumbles, throat thick and scratchy. "I can see that you're conflicted."
"I — I can feel your dick against my leg."
"Yes, and I yours."
"Oh my god," Dean chokes out, taking a step back, heart pounding in his chest. Cas is right; he's — he's actually sporting a boner, one that's rapidly deflating now, but it had been there. For another man, for Cas, all from a fucking kiss. "Cas, am I gay?"
"Do you still find women sexually appealing?" Cas asks.
"Yes," Dean replies instantly, so fucking relieved to find that the truth.
"Then no, you're not gay."
"But — but I…"
"Perhaps you like both men and women," Cas suggests.
Dean blinks rapidly. "You're sayin' I'm bisexual. Like...like Chuck was?"
"Well," Cas murmurs, arching an eyebrow, "are you?"
"How the hell am I supposed to know? I love women, love their bodies, all that jazz. And — and I...you know, like you or whatever. But other men? Maybe they're hot, but I don't — I mean, I don't think about it."
"You find men attractive, but don't allow yourself to think about it. That's what you're saying?"
Dean's lips part as that gets parroted back to him. And what the fuck? That's exactly it. Here he is, a fucking bisexual the whole goddamn time. Just because he never acted on finding men hot, or explored it, doesn't mean he never found them hot to begin with. Jesus Christ.
"I'm not confirming shit I ain't sure of," Dean insists fiercely, but most of the wind leaves his sails all at once as his brain starts providing him incriminating evidence he's always ignored. "Oh fuck. Dr. Sexy? That threesome with Lee? The stuff — you know, the feelings over the years — with you? That's all the — the bi shit, right? That's — "
Cas reaches out and grasps Dean's shoulders, shaking him slightly. "Dean, please try not to be alarmed. You don't have to know, you don't have to rush to figure it out, everything is fine. You have plenty of time."
"Cas, I don't think I'm straight," Dean says, blundering on despite Cas' reassurances. "Okay, that's — it's new. I mean, okay, I was kinda thinking that anyway since I up and got married to you, but still."
"If it helps, I'm not technically — or I used to not be technically considered a man."
"I dunno if that helps, Cas. Is there a word for being into ladies, dudes, and wavelengths of celestial intent?"
Dean lets loose a shocked laugh, blinking rapidly when Cas chuckles with him. "Yeah, that — that works. Sam's gonna have to take back all the shit he ever gave me for being close-minded."
"Are you alright now?" Cas asks him, his gaze warm.
"Yeah, I'm good. Or I'm gonna be. I don't know, but uh, thanks," Dean mumbles awkwardly. Cas simply nods, and Dean's gaze flicks down to Cas' lips. "Can I do that again? The kissing, I mean."
"You may do it as much or as little as you like."
"Maybe...maybe not right now. Probably gonna need some time to get used to it."
"Of course, Dean. Take however long you need."
"It's probably gonna be a while, but thanks."
A mere week later finds Dean gasping as his back hits his bed, the springs creaking as Cas follows him. Licking his palm, he shoves his hands down Cas' pajama pants, watching Cas shudder and close his eyes. He looks good when he's experiencing pleasure, Dean has learned.
"Dean, we — we picked up lubricant for a reason," Cas reminds him, choking on the words while Dean focuses on working him over with a slick grip.
"Yeah, yeah, we'll get there," Dean says, reaching up to fist his hands in Cas' shirt and drag him down into a filthy kiss while he continues to stroke his warm length.
So, it hasn't actually taken that much time at all for Dean to come around to being bisexual. For one, he's missed sex a lot, and Cas is always more than happy to help with that. For two, just as Cas does, he has a dick and knows how to handle one, which makes all of this a lot easier. And lastly, doing anything intimate with Cas is wildly addicting, and Dean hadn't really stood a chance. He likes sex, he likes closeness, he always has. After his initial hesitance, he finds that it's no different with Cas.
There is also, of course, the abrupt realization he had a mere two days after kissing Cas the first time. That he's actually into the man he's married to, which changes the dynamic ever so slightly. It's the exact opposite of dull, spicing up his life with something new and familiar all at once. This, too, feels like handling a case, perfectly counterbalanced with the feeling he gets from having his own home. Cas is just the highlights of his life, mixed up into a quirky, lovable bastard that Dean's lucky enough to be able to call his husband.
There are things that Dean always thinks he won't be able to do, lines he keeps refusing to cross. At first, he wouldn't touch Cas' dick, simply because he'd always known it was wrong to do that. Of course, his curiosity and desire had won out in the end, and now he knows the weight and length of Cas' the same way he does his own. He's wavering on his steadfast refusal to have a dick in his mouth, mostly because he can only imagine the sounds Cas would make during a blowjob, and he doesn't really want to have to guess anymore.
It's only a matter of time before he gives Cas an all-access pass to his ass, and he's reaching a point where he's not even ashamed of that fact.
"Fuck, shit." Dean tosses his head back against the pillow as Cas' hand slips into Dean's pants, fingers wrapping cool and slick from lube around Dean's dick. "Goddamn, Cas, why does that feel so much better when you do it?"
"Because you desire me," Cas breathes out, eyelids fluttering, his words punctuated by a rough moan.
"Yeah, I do, I really fuckin' do," Dean agrees, pressing his forehead into Cas' throat, panting heavily. "I want you to touch me, like, all the time, and I wanna get my hands on you at every opportunity, and I just — Fuck, I want you so bad. I wanna hear you, Cas. Wanna hear you moan my name."
"Dean," Cas growls out, not exactly a moan, but somehow so much better.
Shuddering, Dean drifts along on a haze of pleasure, switching between babbling about how much he wants Cas or just quietly whimpering into Cas' sweaty skin. They get each other off, pausing to get lube on their hands every now and again, laying curled up in Dean's bed facing each other. Cas comes first, spilling all over Dean's fingers, and he reaches up to grasp Dean's hair and tug on it sharply as his whole body trembles. Dean comes from that, rolling his hips to press his slick length over and over into Cas' palm, chasing his own pleasure as Cas rides the waves of his.
After, they pull their hands out of each other's pants, crudely wiping the mess on their shirts, and they kiss open-mouthed and wet.
Dean's adjusting just fine.
The door swings open with a squeal. He's still got to get to those damn hinges. When he stumbles his way out of his room, he slides his hand along the banister, distantly aware that all the paint has been swiped away, leaving the wood bare beneath. He takes the steps with protesting knees, mindful of the fifth step while he takes it, only to immediately forget it by the time he reaches the sixth.
"Good morning, Dean," Cas greets, holding out his coffee like he always does.
"Mornin', Cas," Dean replies with a sigh, squinting at the beam of light pouring into the window above their sink. "Did we sleep in?"
"We did." Cas looks at the window with a small frown, taking a sip of his own coffee. "For some reason, we didn't wake as early as we usually do."
Dean stops. "The birds," he mumbles, blinking rapidly in surprise. "The one's outside my window. They — they didn't wake us up this morning."
Cas hums. "Season's change, Dean. Perhaps they're migrating."
That strangely hits Dean hard. He doesn't know why, but it makes his chest go tight. He's come to appreciate those birds; the same way he's come to adore his house, every broken piece of it; the same way he's come to love Cas, as tremulous as the journey has been.
"Oh," Dean murmurs.
"They'll be back," Cas tells him calmly, his smile warm and sweet, eyes the same color of Dean's walls — and god, how hadn't he noticed that back then?
Dean looks at him for a moment. "I love you," he says, tasting the words in his mouth for the first time, testing out how they feel and sound. He nods. "Yeah, I love you, Cas. You know that, right?"
The smile Cas rewards him with is blinding, and his words are weighted with earnestness when he says, "I love you, too."
"Yeah, I know." Dean smiles behind his coffee cup, pausing to take a swallow. Then he sighs. "Alright, hit me with the shit. What's on the list for today?"
Cas waves a hand. "Not much. First, breakfast. After, Sam and Eileen are coming over after they finish getting her settled into his apartment. I was thinking we could assemble the Ikea furniture that finally arrived."
"Do you want to watch me and Sam fight to the death?" Dean mutters, lips twitching when Cas rolls his eyes. "Alright, fine, that's what we'll do. Glad Eileen agreed to move in with Sam, that way we can have someone with some goddamn sense around here."
"I agree," Cas replies, finishing off his coffee and leaning over to grab his new DIY book — centered solely around gardening — that he's apparently hooked on. As he settles at the bar, he looks up with an arched eyebrow. "Well? What are you making for breakfast?"
"God," Dean mutters, heart swelling in his chest, "whatever the fuck you want, sweetheart."
Dean grins and shakes his head, fondness for his husband making him so light that he feels like he could float away. He steps up to the fridge, moving Cas' beloved Sprite out the way, grabbing the carton of eggs.
With that, he starts the next day of the rest of his life, each one after looking to be as good as this one.