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Cas and Dean didn’t argue often.

Well, no, Sam thought with a sigh. That was a lie. They argued often, they just didn’t do it with their words, like normal people did.

No, that wasn’t true, either. They did argue with their words, generally. They just didn’t argue using words that related to the actual problem they were having with each other.

Actually. Maybe that was how regular people argued? Or, at least, from Sam’s observations, regular people that were married argued that way.

Sam was not going to take that as quod erat demonstrandum, though. Or whatever was or wasn’t going on with the Castiel and Dean Show: Sam was acutely aware of the fact that his knowledge of married couples was mostly limited to TV shows, or people they were investigating for a case. He did not, as a general rule, mistake TV for reality. (Except when scenes from TV were his—)

Dammit. Anyway, Sam definitely didn’t mistake his reality for normalcy.

That said: Sam occasionally wished that lingering outside the kitchen listening to his brother and his brother’s angel squabble seemed less like normalcy.

“Cas, why can’t you just, I dunno, send a meme or something?” Dean demanded. “You know, like a normal person.”

Sam swallowed his snort. Even though there was a certain painful parallel between his thoughts on normalcy and Dean’s right now… that was still a very big stone in a very glass house, there.

“I don’t know where you get the idea that I’m a ‘normal person,’ Dean.” Cas’s voice, for all that he didn’t have much inflection a lot of the time, could have frozen stone. Sam didn’t need to round the corner to see the air quotes in that. Or the fact that sarcasm was apparently an angelic trait. “Or that you are.”

Touché, Cas.

“Or that I know what a meme is.”

Or that.

Dammit.

Sam contemplated not rounding the corner and going into the kitchen at all. He seriously considered turning on his heel and just going back to his bedroom until the two of them were done with… whatever this was.

But he was hungry. And he’d run out of snacks.

And them ‘being done’ might, at the rate they were going, be never.

Sam sighed and walked into the kitchen breezeway just as Dean lifted both of his hands into the air. “Uh-huh,” Dean sneered. “Your ‘people skills’ are ‘rusty,’ we know, Cas, but—”

From the way Cas was glaring at Dean’s copy of his air quotes—or at least glaring at Dean’s hands rather than glaring at his face—Cas was perfectly aware that he was being mocked (this time). The look on his face should have punted Dean right back into Perdition.

Toddlers. Sam was living with two six-foot-tall toddlers—one of whom was his older brother, the other an angel as old as time.

The silence that fell involved them eyeing other like a pair of cats deciding which of them was going to hiss and swat first. It made Sam briefly hopeful that he could make it out of here with his cereal and milk without getting involved in… whatever this was. He edged around them and shook out his cereal, clinking it into a bowl in a tense hush, and wondered why there was a cup of coffee already steaming on the table that no-one was drinking.

He’d almost made it to the fridge when Dean took the decision to not get involved out of his hands.

“He’s been leaving me all these Post-It notes,” Dean complained, not looking away from Cas’s face. “For months now.”

Right. Dean didn’t generally use metaphors in his arguments, but there was clearly a metaphor going on here that Sam wasn’t understanding.

Sam turned to Cas, the milk carton in his hand. It wasn’t that he was truly interested in hearing Castiel’s side of the argument, but Cas could normally be counted on to take the most literal and straight-line approach to any explanation. Blade of Solomon, meet Gordian Knot. It was one of the reasons that Sam found Cas and Dean’s arguments so confusing, at times: he thought that if either of one actually said what was at the root of why they were actually angry, this would be all over very quickly.

Cas didn’t deny Dean’s accusation. He just straightened, lifting his chin sharply with his lips pinching into an ungentle line. “They’re adherent,” Castiel told them both, like that was supposed to settle the argument.

O…kay. So… actual sticky notes?

What?

“What’s wrong with Post-Its?” Sam asked, mildly, looking between them. “We use them on our tracking boards. We use them for lots of things. They’re useful.”

Cas made a small noise through his nose, like a triumphant little angel horn.

Dean’s mouth puckered like he’d accidentally bitten down on a lemon slice that he’d thought was candied. “It’s not—I’m just—it’s—” Dean looked down at the little yellow sticky that was half-crumpled in his hand. Yes, an actual Post-It? “It’s gotta stop. It’s weird. Okay, Cas? It’s weird.”

Alright, that wasn’t a thrown stone in a glass house, that was an asteroid. But Sam didn’t have any explanation for why Cas’s face straight-up shut down at that—not just pissed-off, but dark and cold, his eyes chips of the Marianas Trench.

“Ri-ight. Because the fact that we use them for a supernatural murder tracking board is so ordinary,” Sam answered, dryly, glancing between them. He patted Cas’s shoulder, solid underneath his trench coat, on his way back to depositing the milk in the fridge. “You can leave me Post-Its whenever you want, buddy.”

Not that he had any idea why Cas was doing that at all, but Sam had seen the little yellow sticky notes pasted up around the bunker here and again. Mostly on Dean’s stuff, but not always. They’d all seemed pretty harmless, in general—a word or a line here and there, sometimes a tiny drawing.

“Oh. Thank you, Sam.” Cas didn’t look smug about it, though, the way he normally did when Sam backed him in something ridiculous over Dean. (It might have been part of the reason Sam did it in the first place, because Sam was still a little brother, thanks.) “I will.”

Suddenly Dean looked… dyspeptic. More than he had than when Sam had walked into the kitchen, and he’d already looked like he’d swallowed something gone bad in the fridge at that point.

Sam didn’t have an explanation for why that was. There was definitely a hidden metaphor that he was missing somewhere. Or a hidden land mine.

Sam Winchester studied the looks on their faces. Dean had a lip curled up in an expression that lingered, ugly, somewhere between a snarl and a sneer. Castiel’s face was carved from graveyard stone.

Definitely not just Post-Its. Definitely a land mine.

However, since he didn’t have satisfactory explanations for why his brother and his brother’s angel did a lot of things, there were times that Sam Winchester was just going to take his Grape-Nuts and milk and just… go.

*_*_*_*

It started with the damned grocery list.

Dean almost didn’t remember to grab it on his way out the door. Actually, he didn’t remember to grab it. He only saw it when he realized that it was colder outside than the tits of a frost giant (Dean really had to stop thinking things like that; if those things were real, they were fucked) and went back into the bunker to get his jacket.

“Grocery list! I’m out of chia seeds!” Sam called through the doorway.

Dean had so many opinions on chia seeds, most of them involving never, ever buying them.

He didn’t look at the scrap of lined paper before he snatched it off the fridge magnet, but he skimmed his way down it when he was climbing out of the car in front of Wal-Mart.

Then Dean was leaning against Baby’s frame and grinning like a fucking idiot in the parking lot.

Lucky Charms (his). Grape Nuts (Sam’s—there was no grape in them, no grape at all, what the fuck). Spring Mix (ugh). Chia seeds. (Pretending he hadn’t seen that.) Cherry tomatoes. Cucumber, which, in Dean’s opinion was a bizarre cross between foul-tasting water and vegetable and only became edible when soaked in salt for a couple of months and served alongside a burger. Or sliced, fried in batter, and served up at a state fair.

In retaliation for the chia seeds, Dean had added all the stuff for meatloaf onto there—80% beef, 20% goodness, none of that 92% shit that made the meatloaf dry and hard. They were on the last of the eggs, probably should grab another carton. They still had the heels of the last loaf of bread, Dean would stick that in the oven to make breadcrumbs, but they needed a fresh one.

Then Dean’s secret ingredients—some ground pork, some Worcestershire. Shit, he’d forgotten to see how much ketchup was left, but if they had an extra bottle, no biggie. Sam pretended he didn’t put it on his eggs when Dean wasn’t looking, but Dean was onto him. They might be out of hot sauce, too. Definitely out of milk. Sam had underlined that twice. Dean was getting the full-fat just for that.

At the bottom of the list, different from either Sam’s neat block print or Dean’s own messy scrawl, was just a few words of script.

Peanut butter, please. Thank you.

And then, squeezed in smaller script underneath so as to fit into the corner margin:

Love,
Castiel

Dean huffed out a laugh and stuffed the paper into his jacket pocket. Number one, yeah, of course he knew it was Cas who’d added it to the list—seriously, the freaking angel couldn’t do the whole PB&J thing anymore, but peanut butter by itself he could still eat by the spoonful. (Or at least he ate it by the spoonful now—dammit, Cas, no, Dean didn’t care if angel spit was technically aseptic or antiseptic or whatever. Cas was still not allowed to stick his fingers into the jar and lick the peanut butter off his fingertips.)

Number two, the fact that he’d added ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to it was really freaking adorable.

And number three, Cas had handwriting like a goddamned Catholic schoolgirl, all loops and curves and perfect sharp angles. Actually, Cas had handwriting like a Catholic schoolgirl font.

Cute.

Dean was still chuckling as he headed into the grocery.

Sam was gonna bitch about the extra stuff that Dean had picked up—what? Nothing wrong with a little shortening for pie crust, Sam knew this was what happened whenever Dean went out for groceries by himself—so Dean figured the least he could do was get all of Sam’s rabbit food. He was standing in front of the misty stretch of vegetation and wondering why there were so many kinds of cucumber and about four different kinds of packaging (he’d just about decided to get the biggest single cuke possible, just to weird Sam out) when his eyes skimmed to the bottom of the page again.

Freakin’ angel. The guy was ridiculous. Dean grinned.

The old guy who’d been standing there since before Dean walked up, a bag of carrots in one hand and a bundle of carrots in the other—yeah, Dean totally understood that dilemma—glanced over at him and grinned, too.

“Did your sweetheart write you a love note on your grocery list, son?” he asked. And while Dean was frowning at him, the man waggled the carrots at him. “M’wife used to do that, too, y’know, while we were young and new-married and such. Made it better for when she’d get on my back for not coming home with everything she asked for.”

“Uh, no.” Dean blinked, and looked down at his paper. What? “No.”

“Oh.” The old guy gave him a confused look, and glanced down at the messy list still in Dean’s hand. “Alrighty, then.”

Yeah, no. Dean hadn’t been thinking about Love, Castiel at all because Cas just didn’t get it. That was sort of Cas’s whole deal. That was why Dean could live with being friends with the guy without freaking dying of shame about the fact that his chest went gooey whenever Cas passed over one of his tiny, shy smiles, or popped up into their space just because, not because the world was ending.

And for all Dean knew he’d gotten that tag from some movie that Metadick had plopped into his mind. Or a million movies that Metadick had plopped into his mind.

Actually, now that he thought about it? That was probably exactly what had happened.

But, yeah, Dean was still kind of thrown by the whole encounter, and he still accidentally forgot Sam’s stupid cucumbers. (There was no accident involved in forgetting the chia seeds.)

While Sammy was pouting over that, Dean tossed Cas a tiny jar of peanut butter he’d picked up, and reached up to put the bigger one in the pantry. Cas looked back and forth between the big tub of Skippy in Dean’s hand and the little container of Crazy Richard’s 100% Peanuts! that was sitting on his palm, blinking and looking inquisitive about the whole thing.

“Figured you should have your own,” Dean grinned at him. “Y’know, since you asked so nice.” He waggled the crumpled grocery list at him.

“Then perhaps I should have the bigger one,” Castiel told him, primly, but he eagerly unscrewed the top of his little miniature tub of peanut butter with what he would probably deny was a happy squeak, because Cas’s voice could hit higher registers when he was excited.

Over peanut butter, sonofabitch, why was it Dean’s life that he thought that the fucking Angel of the Lord was cute?

“Spoon, Cas,” Dean reminded him with a snort, when Cas went to stick his fingers in the jar again.

Cas paused and looked momentarily smitey. “But it’s mine.”

“You’ll get it on your sleeves,” Sam chimed in, popping a cherry tomato in his mouth. By itself. With nothing on it. Dean still didn’t know how they were related sometimes.

No matter how often Cas argued that angels didn’t pout, Dean really didn’t think the guy had two feathers to stand on with that expression on his face. Dean wasn’t gonna compromise on this, though.

(The fucking hard-on he got every time Cas started sucking peanut butter off his fingers with contented little ‘mm’ noises was just not worth it.)

*_*_*_*

The next time Cas left him a message, it was on a yellow Post-It note, stuck to the front of John Winchester’s journal. Dean jerked himself awake off the table and wiped the line of drool off his cheek with the sleeve of his flannel—Sammy hadn’t woken him up, the overtall little bitch, but he had turned off most of the lights, at least. It wasn’t possible to tell in the bunker what time it was. He almost knocked the journal off the table with his elbow, and the bright yellow caught his attention as he picked it back up.

Dear Dean, it’s a hyousube!” was written on it in that dorky, cheerful schoolgirl script. Dean thought he could almost see extra exclamation points floating after it. Followed by “Please kill it. Love, Castiel.”

Dean’s mouth felt like the back end of a shapeshifter right now, but he laughed out loud when he saw that Cas’d drawn a tiny little angel blade on there, underneath his name. He pushed out of the library chair—damn, ow, okay, his memory foam remembered him, this chair didn’t, and it wasn’t friendly about it, either—and went looking for a goofy angel in a trench coat.

Cas was in the armory, looking contemplatively up at a katana with both hands in his trench coat pockets. And either there was a buffalo in the storeroom, or Sam was in there rummaging around for whatever it was that they needed to kill a… Dean checked the little note still stuck to his palm. A 'hyousube.' He craned his head around, clearing his throat, and Cas looked away from what was probably some sort of ancient occult samurai sword, smiling faintly.

He nodded at the sticky note. “You got my message.”

“Yeah.” Dean grinned, flapping it in the air. Jesus, Sam was making a lot of noise in there. He probably needed some help. Dean’s back was still waking up, though, and he stretched it out with a pop. “That Sam in there, or were you guys playing Jumanji before I got up?”

Cas tipped his head sideways. “The book, game, or the movie?”

Dean snorted loudly. “Okay, that’s going to be weird, like forever.” He still hadn’t decided yet if the pop culture history datadump into Cas’s fluffy noggin was a good thing, but whenever Cas popped out with something like that it still gave him a start.

“Jumanji is a rather strange concept, but you of all people should understand: you have been to Heaven,” Cas answered, very innocently. While Dean was still staring at him, chewing over the convoluted nature of that bit of mind-fuckery, and deciding that the implications were really awful even for them, Cas stretched upwards and carefully took the katana off the wall.

“Can you use one of those?” Dean asked, curiously.

“Of course,” Cas answered, calmly.

Huh. Awesome.

There was a crash in the storeroom, and Dean sighed, and stuffed the Post-It back into his pocket.

He found it again two days later before he tossed his jeans into the laundry, grimacing as he pried them off.  The water had gotten the denim stiff enough to pull painfully over the bruises all over his shins from where the hyousube had grabbed him. Dean fingered the sticky, linty bit of yellow paper with a chuckle.

“Dear Dean, I’ve found you a hairy stinky little Japanese river thing trying to drown children, please kill it. Here, have an angel blade, I get to use the awesome samurai sword,” he told his bedroom in a throat-rasping copy of Cas’s voice—ow—but he was shaking his head and grinning. Dean went to toss the Post-It away, but it had just enough adhesive left to stick to his fingers, and, hell, why not. He stuck it in one of the little top drawers too small for anything else, the ones he used to toss away random lugnuts and coins and receipts that they might actually someday need.

He'd throw it out the next time he cleaned out the drawer.

(He didn’t.)

*_*_*_*

The next message wasn’t anything nearly so functional. Cas wasn’t even there—something about Claire again (that kid: she was gonna be the death of all of them, and watching Cas trying so hard to daddy a teen who just didn’t want to be daddied was gonna be the death of Dean).

The note was stuck on a box of Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax, set next to his girl’s left front wheel well, and Dean almost tripped over it on his way to give Baby some love. The little yellow sticky came fluttering off, and Dean smeared it with ancient garage dust and not-so-ancient synthetic change oil when he picked it up. Cas’s handwriting was just as neat, written even smaller.

Dear Dean, I was buying supplies for my truck, and I found this, was written on the Post-It in that even, loopy script. This is the right one, correct? Love, Castiel.

There was a tiny, tiny little sketch of what was unmistakably a blocky little Chevy Impala in the left-hand corner… and next to it? In equally tiny block letters: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!”

Dean laughed so hard he had to lean against Baby’s sleek side, the sound of it echoing around the garage.

Okay, so maybe the pop culture tsunami into Cas’s brain hadn’t been all bad.

It wasn’t the right car wax, no—but that was because Dean normally got the budget version of just this brand, he wasn’t used to splurging for the good stuff. He grinned and grinned and grinned, and this Post-It, he put a little bit more carefully into the drawer into his bedroom.

“You’re the best damned angel ever,” he told Cas, the next time Cas came fluttering back their way and they had a little downtime. No, he didn’t care that Cas might have no idea what he was talking about. No, Cas had no fucking idea that him doing that kind of spontaneous shit made Dean a little bit more in love with him. Cas’s ignorance in this case was definitely bliss.

“Oh. I’m glad you think so, Dean,” Cas answered, happily.

“Your brothers are pretty awful,” Sam added, but since he was holding an ice pack to his shoulder from where one of Cas’s ‘brothers’ had tried to keep them from finding one of Eve’s caches of snakeskin from the Garden of Eden, no-one was gonna argue with him about that.

Two weeks later, the Post-It stuck to the coffeemaker read:

Dear Dean,

“Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.” A Turkish proverb, but it does make me wonder what this poor unfortunate individual’s seen in his life. Afterlife?

This one wasn’t signed “Love, Castiel”—or at least it wasn’t exactly signed. Cas had sketched a little cartoon coffee cup on it, but had made the steam coming off drift into the shape of a heart.

Guy was a damned artist.

Dean grumbled, but he poured out his cup, and went to join Sam in the library.

“Someone really needs to do something about Cas’s emoticon habit,” he announced, sitting down heavily in a chair across from his brother, “‘Cause the day he discovers emoji is gonna be the beginning of the heat-death of the Universe.”

“What?” Sam asked, bemused.

What? Dean watched documentaries sometimes.

But when Cas came wandering up from the library, his arms loaded down with books, and he and Sam sat down and started working their way through something in… Aramaic? Dean didn’t mention the drawings. Or the note. Or emoji.

“Okay, nerd, seriously, why do you know Aramaic?” he asked Sam, instead.

Sam opened his mouth, but it was Cas who gave him an amazed look with just that little droopy bit of pity in the corners of his eyes. “You don’t? Oh, Dean.”

Dean gaped at him. To be fair, Sam was gaping at Cas, too, so he didn’t feel that bad about being shocked. But he was also pretty sure Sam’s reaction when, after a second, Cas dropped the hugest, most exaggerated wink at the two of them, was just to laugh—not to feel his gut drop out from inside him and go rolling around on the ground, because fuck.

Loving Cas had been a lot easier on the heart before Cas’d found himself an actual sense of humor: really dorky, and really corny. It was looking more and more like Cas’s explorations of being an actual person more than just an Asshole of the Lord were gonna give Dean a coronary before he turned forty-five.

That was when Dean made a mistake.

That was when he made a really stupid mistake, because he always knew better than to look for Cas when he was gone—he knew better than to say anything when Cas popped off to save the Big House and his ungrateful brothers and sisters. He knew better than to ask him to stay.

But Dean started looking for the little Post-Its to appear.

They weren’t functional, most of them. Dean didn’t pretend they were. Sometimes they were on his door, but more often he just kind of came upon them: on the keyboard laptop when he flipped it open. Stuck to the laundry basket. Once, attached to the tongue of his boot—he didn’t realize it was there until he went to put it on and it crumpled against his shin. On the outside of a carton of eggs. On top of the big jar of peanut butter.

Dean laughed out loud at that one. Written on it was:

Dear Dean,

The other kind of peanut butter was better.

                                       Love, Castiel

Fucking ingrate angel.

There were sayings—sometimes from different countries. Cas’s observations on humanity. Or little quotes—from books, most of them. “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, was stuck to the bathroom mirror, one morning. Cas had added, This is you, I think. Then he’d underlined the title like a fucking essay citation.

They had a bad hunt—the kind where it became a choice between saving the lives looking into their eyes and letting evil out to hunt another day. Just because Dean had made the only choice he could live with, didn’t mean that he wasn’t gonna live with imagining the screams of those they’d let that evil out to kill, too.

That night, slumping sleepless through the silence of the bunker, Dean found the Post-It resting on the decanter of whiskey when he went for it.

It was written in script so tiny that Dean wondered, eyes hot and blurred, if he was gonna have to get out a magnifying glass to read it. But he didn’t.

Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Then:

Thank you for being kind.

          Love, Castiel

Cas didn’t write down where that quote had come from on it. Who’d written it. Dean knew.

He kind of had to sit down, after that one. He brushed his finger over the tiny, loopy script.

Thank you for being kind.

He didn’t drink the whiskey.

The next one was also a Dear Dean, Love, Castiel, one, but it was in Japanese. Dean had Google Translate now, thanks, but either he was missing something or he just didn’t understand what Cas was trying to say there. Something about sparrows and hiding?

[茶の花に
隠んぼする
雀哉]

But the feather that was drawn underneath it all was small. It wasn’t one of those long proud feathers so big they could be spread—just a little puffy, curly thing, like the tiny ones on the inside of a down blanket. It was so detailed that Dean could see every soft little vane and fluff and prickle.

“I miss my wings,” Cas had said, just once. Because he complained about a lot of things—mostly about humanity, and Dean would never say that he wasn’t right about most of it—but he didn’t complain about that. Just wrapped his trench coat around himself, climbed into the old truck that was maybe marginally better than that fucking ugly Lincoln, and kept on truckin’, wingless or not. And this, this wasn’t some kind of fancy flight feather; it wasn’t the kind of silhouette that would cast fear and salvation and shadows across a barn.

It was the kind of thing that got cuddled into for warmth.

Dean didn’t know why that made his heart wrench.

One night, after Dean bullied him into sitting down and watching Tombstone with them, the Post-It left behind read:

Dear Dean,

I like popcorn!!!

         Love, Castiel

Three exclamation points and all, an inkblot of enthusiasm right at the bottom of the last one.

(Dean added popcorn onto the next grocery list. The real stuff. Nothin’ wrong with microwave, it hit the spot sometimes, but Dean remembered his mom making it on the stove. And Bobby, just once: Dean still wasn’t sure exactly what had happened there, but he and Sam both came running armed into the kitchen to the sound of exploding and swearing, only to find Bobby sprawled across the linoleum with fluffy popped kernels stuck to his beard.)

Dean didn’t even pretend he couldn’t imagine the goofy grin on Cas’s face as he was writing his little note, the way his eyes would have squinched shut and his upper teeth flashed.

Cas wasn’t handsome when he smiled like that. Dean didn’t care.

The little stack of Post-Its built up in Dean’s drawer. He didn’t go back to look at them—or at least, mostly he didn’t. But he didn’t toss them, either.

Cas never said anything about them. He sure as Hell never explained himself, because an angel explaining his reasoning would probably happen just before Chuck decided to chuck the whole deal back into the pressure cooker. For all Dean knew, the answer had something to do with math and metaphysics. But Cas just kept leaving the notes around in places, like little angelic sticky breadcrumbs.

“What’s that?” Sam asked, curiously.

“Nothin’, just… nothin’.” Dean stuffed something that looked like Cas’s observations about emperor penguins into his pocket. Have you ever wanted to embrace one of their chicks? They seem like that would feel very nice. Hugs are very pleasant, aren’t they? Yeah, they were, Cas. “Uh, um. What was that about mutated rugaru?”

Until.

Dear Dean,

“You’re a candle in the window on a cold dark winter’s night.” And you are. I wouldn’t have understood this before I realized how unpleasant being cold is. But I wouldn’t have understood the appeal of candles, either.

                Love, Castiel

Dean was a fucking adult about what he felt about Cas. He had a handle on his emotional shit. No, actually, he did. He really did, dammit. He knew how Cas’s grace worked—even if there had ever been a chance of anything else, anything else, that bright shrink-wrap insulated him from the world and from the crazy, messy up and down of human emotion.

And even if it hadn’t? He was fucking Dean Winchester. Cas had seen him at his ugliest. Had been able to see his soul through his ugliest. Nothing more needed to be said about that.

Cas left him little notes all the time, now, and this shouldn’t have been any different. Dear Dean. Love Castiel. It didn’t mean anything different.

It didn’t. It never had. It was just Cas being bizarre. Just Cas being Cas.

None of it explained why Dean’s fucking stupid heart leapt up into the back of his eyes so hard that Dean felt his own damn cheeks go red.

‘Cause he knew exactly where that quote came from, too. He could hear the song in his ears. He knew just what Cas hadn’t written.

’Cause I feel so secure when we’re together—you give my life direction, you make everything so clear—"

Okay. Enough was enough was enough. Dean put a boot heel on the slowly welling bubble of something that felt a whole lot like hope and happiness and crushed it. Dammit, he knew better. And if his steps were a little too hard when he went looking for the angel—found him in the kitchen, not getting into the peanut butter again for once—well, shit, yeah. Let Cas hear him coming.

“What the fuck is this?” Dean hissed, the crumpled Post-It in his hand.

Castiel cocked his head. The complete obliviousness of his expression nearly ruined Dean.

“It’s a song lyric,” Castiel told him, slowly, like he was talking to a small child. “You like music of that era.”

Yeah, Dean knew it was, it was goddamned R.E.O Speedwagon, and yeah, he did, but that wasn’t—

“I understand the sentiment very well, and I thought I’d share.” Cas blinked up at him, puzzled and beautiful, and achy want twisted harder in Dean’s chest than it had in years, because he had a handle on this bullshit heart of his. Or he’d had it. He’d had it covered.

Then Cas had started leaving little sticky yellow reminders of just why Dean loved him around Dean’s home.

"Is that… not what friends do?” Cas finished, hesitantly.

Yeah. No. Yeah. Friends, yeah. Sure, right.

Goddammit.

Castiel didn’t, couldn’t understand the sentiment in all this. He couldn’t understand what Dean wanted. He couldn’t understand why he was implying, what kind of hope he was offering.

Which was how Dean started laying into Cas, right there in the kitchen, about the goddamned Post-It notes that Cas had been leaving him for months.

The notes that he’d actually loved finding around, like a little surprise every time he came across one—pretty much the first pleasant surprise that Dean had ever had in his life.

The notes weren’t the fucking problem at all.

*_*_*_*

After Sam grabbed his bowl of disgusting whole grain ground-up wood-textured nonsense with milk and left, Dean didn’t even know what to say. Yeah, of course Cas could do whatever the Hell he wanted. If he wanted to flutter off, he could. If he wanted to leave those adorable little Post-It notes for Sam that made Dean smile every time he saw them, well, dammit, he was his own damned angel, he could just fucking—

Cas gave him that steady, sad look that made Dean realize with a punch to the chest that until a couple of years ago Cas’d been some giant wavelength of light, older than dinosaurs. He’d spent millennia floating around with a few hundred thousand junkless dicks that he’d called ‘brothers’ just because they’d happened to have been created by the same Giant Dick at the same time.

Cas hadn’t had brothers, not really. He hadn’t had friends—much less anything else. Of course he didn’t fucking get it. He didn’t, couldn’t, understand why Dean might be bothered. Why would he?

This wasn’t on Cas. None of this was on Cas.

Before Dean could struggle out something that might sound like an apology if squinted at sideways, Cas cleared his throat. The little rasp of sound was so human that Dean stared.

“I realize that many things have changed, over time,” Cas said, quietly. “But I always thought love letters were a nice thing. I apologize if they bothered you.”

All of Dean’s joints locked.

And Cas turned and left the kitchen after Sam while Dean was remembering that breathing was a thing that humans still had to do.

Shit.

What?

Fuck.

*_*_*_*

There wasn’t a pot of coffee waiting for him the next morning, much less with a little yellow sticky note on it. There wasn’t a badly-dressed angel anywhere to be found. The look Sam gave him when Dean came stumbling out of his room with his blood alcohol about half whiskey and the rest hangover the next morning made it pretty damned clear he wasn’t gonna get any coffee from him, either.

The way Sam banged his huge booted feet around in the Vault made it very clear that he thought Dean’s hurting head was his own damned fault, and he wasn’t gonna be doing anything to keep his big brother’s forehead from exploding.

Well, when Sam was right, he was right.

Goddammit. Dean was a fuck-up.

He’d called them Cas’s little love letters in his head. Sure, he had. He’d called them that, sarcastic, then went looking for the next one anyway. He’d stomped hard on the sad, pathetic tiny part of him that said ‘what if’ and ‘maybe,’ because if there was anything Dean Winchester knew, it was that there was no such thing as ‘maybe.’

But.

What if?

Cas was okay. Dean knew that—Sam told him that, ‘cause Cas kept in contact with him. Sam even showed Dean a text Cas had sent him: he’d discovered emoji after all, there were freaking elephants on that text, and the world hadn’t ended.

Cas didn’t text Dean. (He never did, really, it was always Sam he’d liked texting, or Claire. With Dean, he had always called. Dean always got that dark, whiskey voice; he always got the rumble of it shivering right into his ear.)

Dean didn’t pray to him. (What would he even have said? ‘ET phone home?’)

So just finding him in the map room three weeks later, looking around himself like he was standing in their home for the first time rather than the hundredth, rumpled and messy like he’d slept in his trench coat—well, it knocked Dean back, ragged and breathless.

Their eyes met. Cas’s eyes were fathomless and blue as the bottom of the ocean, and Dean must have been wrong before, because this expression was what Dean must have meant when he’d said Cas’s grace could insulate him. It was like looking at one of those huge sheets of ice in the Antarctic, no fluffy penguin chicks to be seen anywhere.

Dean’s chest gave one terrible, painful lurch when Cas didn’t say “Hello, Dean.”

Castiel just looked at him with a stare that came from somewhere around the stars, and said, completely greetingless, toneless and quiet, “I found something that I thought were demonic signs, but it seems more likely to be a nest of vampires. Outside of Oak Park. We should take care of it.” All business angel, all the time, here.

“Hey, Cas, you made it. Vampires, huh?” Sam’s voice popped over his shoulder before Dean had a chance to open his mouth and let something horrible and naked come spilling out of it. “How many, do you think?”

Sam must have known Cas would be coming. He hadn’t said. There was gonna be a reckoning about that—though how, Dean wasn’t sure yet. Someone was gonna bleed.

“Enough that I am here,” Cas told them both, irritable, and turned on his heel to stride past them and towards the storerooms, trench coat flaring out behind him. “I remember cataloguing an artifact…”

He was still talking when he rounded the corner. Either he’d forgotten or he didn’t care that no-one else who lived in the bunker had angelic ears, because what was coming back at them from down the hallway sounded more like the Impala’s engine than anything like a human voice.

“He’s dramatic today,” Sam observed, mildly.

Dean didn’t have anything to say to that, this time. He grunted.

It was vampires. A lot of vampires.

It would’ve probably been too much for Cas to handle by himself without sending up an angel signal that the limey Men of Letters would’ve been able to see from the British Isles. So yeah, good job not rushing in where angels fear to tread, there, Castiel. (Dean wasn’t being sarcastic. He knew just what he and Sam would’ve done. No angels, them.)

It was bloody and bone-bruising and satisfying. When Dean was home three days later and scraping the dried blood out from under his fingernails—the kind that even a washing under an actual hand pump when the blood was still wet hadn’t gotten out—he thought that it should all feel like a job well done. It did feel like a job well done.

It just… felt like just a job, that was all. It didn’t feel like something they’d done together.

Just another hunt. Just another job.

The tap on the edge of the bathroom’s open doorframe jerked Dean upright from where he hadn’t realized he’d slumped, leaning his elbows against the sink. “Hey, uh. Dean, Cas is gonna head out. I asked him to wait, you wanna…” and Sam trailed off into one of those silences that Dean was sure Sam meant to be all kind of fucking significant, but mostly they just came off as really annoying.

“Wanna what? What do I ‘wanna,’ Sam?” was dripping on the tip of Dean’s tongue, nasty, but what actually came out was startled. “What, he’s leaving already?” Cas normally hung around with them for at least a day or two whenever he dropped by, dammit—

Sam’s grimace made it pretty obvious that he knew that, too. “What happened, Dean?”

“None of your business, Sammy.”

“Dean, if I honestly believed that, I wouldn’t be here.” Sam scrubbed a hand through his hair—which was still wet, so it left him looking like a cross between Chewbacca and a mad scientist. “Here.” He underhanded something into Dean’s direction—automatically, Dean grabbed it out of the air. Then fumbled it to the concrete floor when he realized what it was. “I don’t know what Post-Its have to do with anything, but you clearly do. So fix it. Jerk.”

Sam swanned his wet-haired way out before Dean could say anything clever to that. Dean found himself answering, “Bitch,” to a closed door.

Dean looked at the little square block of yellow sticky notes lying facedown on the floor.

He looked at it for a lot longer than he should.

And then he went looking for a pen.

*_*_*_*

Cas straightened off his position leaning on the stair railing when Dean came out, and it was like looking at a museum statue, still and cold and breathless. The eyes followed him, but it wasn’t the way that Cas normally looked at him—there wasn’t anything behind them that Dean could catch and hold onto. None of the warmth, none of the amusement, none of the curiosity. 100% angel serenity here, nothing to see, folks.

Cas didn’t say anything, and the silence thumped like a heartbeat.

“You remember what I told you about humans and lying?” Dean finally blurted out.

Cas blinked at him, slowly. “How is that important?” he asked, and there should have been frost in the air. “You’ve also said that they couldn’t pay you enough to be president.”

Trust Cas to completely miss the point. Trust Dean to not be able to give it. “I, uh, yeah. I just… uh.”

Yeah, Dean Winchester was a real eloquent soul.

Sometimes we hide things we want because we know we can’t have ‘em. And we reach out and bite and claw because being mad about a tiny little bit of happiness, a tiny little bit of hope, is easier than accepting it when you know it’s gonna be ripped away again, and it’s gonna take a piece of you when it goes.

But he didn’t say any of that.

The adhesive on the yellow Post-It note was almost dead, even though Dean had barely just pulled it off the pad—he’d spent the whole two minutes it took to get from his room to the map room picking at it. It just barely clung to the tip of his finger when he held it out in Cas’s direction.

Castiel gave him, gave it, a wary look, just a flick of his gaze. “I don’t need it back.” Loud as the tight, pale corners of his eyes: I don’t want it back.

Dean kept holding it out.

Cas could have turned and mounted the stairs and left anyway. He could have, a dozen times before. He had done just that, a half dozen of those times. Dean never knew when he was just going to pick up and leave.

But Cas didn’t. He didn’t, this time.

Cas edged barely closer and craned his neck, peering suspiciously at the note in Dean’s hand like he thought there might be an angel banishing symbol written on it in blood. It would’ve been comical to see Cas so wary of a damned Post-It, if Dean hadn’t been holding his breath so hard he thought this was what a heart attack could feel like.

Dean saw the moment Cas realized it wasn’t his own handwriting on the little yellow scrap, because that wasn’t space and steel and ozone Dean was looking at anymore: Cas did puzzled like an open book all through his face and his shoulders, the way birds burst into song.

Cas reached out and, very delicately, pinched the Post-It between his thumb and forefinger. The last of the adhesive released and it came off Dean’s fingertip.

Cas held it in both hands like he was browsing a first-edition Fellowship of the Ring. He read the two lines on it with a seriousness that fucking R.E.O. Speedwagon just didn’t deserve, then raised those heartbreaker blue eyes to Dean’s with a confused wrinkle between his eyebrows.

Dean jammed both his hands into his pockets. He’d thought of a hundred things to say and scribbled them all out, almost emptying off the sticky note pad before he’d left his room. So here they were: he was Dean Winchester, the Righteous Man, thirty-goddamned-seven years old, and he was passing song lyrics on a piece of yellow Post-It like a fucking tween.

To an angel of the Lord who’d pulled him out of Perdition, fallen from Heaven for him, become a really terrible god, and broke Heaven’s will. He’d offered to walk towards certain annihilation so Dean wouldn’t do it alone, and Dean was pretty sure Cas had only stayed behind because Dean had asked him to take care of Sammy.

Yeah. Dean could take a little fucking tween humiliation.

’What started out as friendship has grown stronger,’” Cas read aloud, his dark voice crushing the syllables like gravel. “’I only wish I had the strength to let it show.’

He didn’t say what Dean had written after it, the words blurred with the way the ink from the gel pen had rubbed against the heel of his hand.

Love, Dean.

But before Dean could find out if it was actually possible to die of mortification, Cas looked up at him. He looked right at him, and it was Cas in his blue eyes, not some warrior seraphim tower of infinite light—curious, painfully human like no other angel that Dean had ever met.

Like no other human that Dean had ever met, for that matter.

“I like that song,” Cas said into the silence, and his deep voice tipped up at the end in nearly the same way his head was tilting to the side. He didn’t remind Dean that Dean had laid into him not a few weeks earlier about the same damned Post-It habit that he was mimicking now.

Dean swallowed the hot, painful knot in his throat—the one that he’d listened to all his life when it came up and pushed on the back of his tongue, keeping things down, keep them all down. The one that told him he couldn’t have the things he wanted, that he could never have them, because he'd destroy them, or they’d destroy him.

He'd been destroyed before. But he’d been remade before, too.

“Yeah, uh, I…” he took a deep breath and let it out, slow and shaky. “It’s, uh, it’s not… it’s not about being buddies, Cas.”

The very corners of Cas’s mouth came up in a soft curve, but one eyebrow arced upwards. “I speak every human language. I’m aware.

Yeah, Castiel, Angel of the Lord Who Spoke Every Language, spoke sass real well.

The little bark of laughter that made its way out of Dean’s throat pulled free like the sticky coating on a caramel apple—sweeter than it was tart. “Nah, Cas, you don’t get to be all superior about thatyou think dad jokes are about prime numbers.”

“That’s not the same thing.” Cas narrowed his eyes and raised his chin, haughty as fuck. “Just because the format of courtship has changed significantly over the years does not mean that the underlying content has.” And while Dean was still choking—shit, he had not expected Cas to just come out with it like that, he hadn’t—he looked down at the little yellow note still stuck to his pointer finger, and his smile took on a brighter light. “I like the songs now much better, though.”

Dean gulped, and the knot was gone from the back of his throat. Just gone like it had never been, like it had never dragged him down and away.

“Yeah?” he managed, hoarsely. He might have been smiling stupid. Yeah, that might be what the expression on his face was. Shit, he really was. “Cas, you were leaving me messages about Turkish coffee and penguin chicks, how the fuck is that… ‘courtship?’”

“You gave me another gift. I was very happy. I thought…” Cas blinked at him, looking confused and annoyed. “I was talking about hugs. And you like coffee.” His lips pursed outwards, and dammit, Dean wanted to just sink his teeth into him. And for the first time in his life, Dean let himself really think about it. About running his cheek against Cas’s scruff, about tonguing his ear. “Was that strange?”

Oh, Cas. Goddammit, Cas.

Dean didn’t know if he was laughing or if he was having a damned panic attack. He had a hand over his face, and his shoulders were shaking, and the noises coming out of him between his fingers were something like an arcane combination of giggles and snorts.

Cas stepped closer, and that angel looked alarmed now. “Dean, are you having an apoplexy?” he demanded.

Dean peered at Cas’s familiar, pretty, worried expression through his fingers and that started him off again.

Fuck, they were a mess. Both of them—the oblivious weirdo who’d taken a jar of peanut butter as the beginning of some kind of courtship ritual and decided to answer it with little drawings of angel blades and haikus about sparrows… and the fucking moron who’d had no idea he was getting courted in the first place, but who’d liked it, and then got pissed at how much he liked it.

“You are worrying me.” Cas’s hand came up and pressed into the meat of Dean’s shoulder. “Should I get Sam?”

Jesus no. “I’m good,” Dean heard himself announce, letting his hand fall from his face. Huh. He was grinning, and Cas was standing too close. Familiar-close. Cas-close. “I think. S’weird.”

“You are?” Cas squinted suspiciously at him. “You’re not having a seizure?” He reached out and poked Dean’s forehead with two fingers like he was checking. Hell—he probably was checking.

Fucking angel. Dean laughed again—a normal one, this time, and shook his head. “No, Cas.” He reached out and let himself touch—even if it was just to reach over and squeeze Cas’s bicep. Cas still had a hand on his shoulder, and the curves of their arms joined them in a weird, brotherly circle that didn’t feel brotherly at all. “I’m happy.”

He was. Fuck that was a weird feeling.

“Oh. Good.” Cas raised his pointed little chin, imperious as a master of the damned universe, and stepped closer, crumpling the last little bit of space that Dean had always left between them. Now there was definitely nothing brotherly about the way they were standing. “I’m reasonably certain there’s something else about courtship that hasn’t changed. And I have been looking forward to it.”

Cas raised his other hand slowly enough that Dean could still have backed himself out of this situation, if he’d wanted to. He could have swatted Cas’s fingers away. He could have said something. He could have pointed out that there was nothing about Cas’s version of ‘courtship’ that was even remotely normal.

He could’ve done a lot of things.

Cas touched the corner of his jaw, and Dean shuddered as the fingers slid slowly under the curve of his earlobe and back into his hair. He should move in. He wanted to. He should reach out and put an arm around Cas’s waist to reel him in—he was close enough that Dean could do that. Dean was a damned smooth customer. He knew how to do this. He knew how this worked.

He wanted.

He wanted enough that he said, “This is a bad idea, Cas,” in a voice so low he wasn’t sure even angels could hear.

Cas whispered back, “’Kisses are a far better fate than wisdom,’” and Dean knew from the tilt of his voice that it was something someone else had said, but at this moment he really didn’t care who.

Dean was a damned smooth customer who was gonna stand right here as his best friend tiptoed a little and his lips brushed over his.

As Cas kissed him, right in the entryway of the bunker—one of Dean’s hands still holding on to Cas’s upper bicep, the other clutching at the edge of the map table like it was the only thing that was keeping him upright. Because it was.

Dean had kissed a lot of girls. (No guys, not before this, but… well.) He knew good kisses, and he knew really good kisses, the kind that left everyone’s lips swollen and bitten and bee-stung. This, this wasn’t a showstopper kiss. It wasn’t spontaneous. He saw every moment of it coming.

It wasn’t Cas backing him against a wall, mad as hell over something or other Dean had fucked up. It wasn’t them pulling each other out of life or death and Dean not being to hold himself back anymore and grabbing him in hot-blooded and bloodstained. It wasn’t the Pizza Man. It wasn’t Cas fallen and feeling, or Cas playing at getting humanity’s rules and not understanding them at all.

It wasn’t anything like Dean had imagined in those fleeting moments before he’d swallowed the thoughts down, ‘cause those were things he couldn’t have, so why bother thinking about them like that?

It was slow and sweet and careful, no tongue at all. They barely moved together. Cas’s mouth against his was dry and smooth and so, so soft. His thumb feathered up and down Dean’s hairline, at his nape. The feel of the seam of his lips rubbing against Dean’s, hardly parted at all, was like a slow, deliberate, delicious electrocution.

It was a promise. It wasn’t anything that he’d ever forget.

Dean didn’t realize that the little sound he could hear was the shaky rasp of his own breathing in his throat until Cas pulled back to the tune of millimeters and gave him an inquisitive, worried look. It maybe said something about how much time they spent staring at each other that Dean recognized that look even from way, way too close.

“Cas?” Dean didn’t clear his throat, and it came out in a low, harsh decibel of a growl.

Cas didn’t blink. “Yes, Dean?” But his own voice was even lower, too. Damn.

“You start leaving Post-It notes for Sammy and I’m going to kill you.”

The feel of Cas laughing against his lips as he moved in for another kiss—and this one was wet and slick and a threat—was almost as good as the hand that Cas slipped into Dean’s back pocket. Dean felt the little crinkle of Post-It paper even before he registered that, oh holy shit, Cas’s fingers were pressed up against his ass, separated by just a few layers of cloth and one layer of paper.

So if that last stupid, corny, tweeny Post-It, crumpled as it ended up, got stuck proudly onto the stem of Dean’s bedside lamp—set carefully in a place of pride next to his pictures of his Mom and Sam and Bobby? Well, he didn’t argue with Cas about it. There was no-one to see it sitting there but Dean.

Well.

And Cas.

The other letters that Cas started to write him after all that, though? Nope. Those stayed in the drawer. Holy fuck, it was getting so that he couldn’t turn around in his bedroom without finding something that Dean knew was going to make him turn bright red.

Argue with me naked and I’ll let you win.
Argue with me wearing silk, and we’ll both win.

                                   Love, Castiel

Dean slammed his sock drawer—his fucking sock drawer, what the Hell, Casclosed and stabbed an accusing finger in his angel’s direction.

Cas arched an eyebrow at him. “I told you, Dean,” he answered, smugly. “Every language.”

“No. No way. If you tell me that… that…” he was not calling it fucking erotica, he was not, “counts as a human language, Cas, I’m callin’ bullshit,” Dean warned. He refused to think that smug angel was a cute look on him, smug was not a cute look on anyone.

Cas just smiled.

“Are we arguing?” he asked, innocently.

~fin~