“Does it always feel like this?” Cas asked, breathing hard.
Dean looked down at him, at the dark hair that spilled out onto the pillow beneath his head. Cas’s eyes were very wide, unblinking because he had never properly mastered how frequently was natural for a human body. His lips were irrecoverably chapped. He was warm and alive beneath Dean’s body.
“Yeah,” Dean answered, rough. “It’s sex, Cas. It’s gonna feel good, that’s what it’s for.”
A little crease formed between Cas’s brows. He shifted, pressing up so that he could roll their hips together in a long, filthy grind. Even through the layers of their underwear, it was nearly too much. Electrically good. “Sexual intercourse is intended for procreation,” Cas pointed out once he’d managed to exhale. “Technically.”
“Ugh,” Dean said. His nose wrinkled. “Just say sex.”
Cas looked up at him and breathed shallowly, hands petting up the slope of Dean’s spine before back down again, his fingertips impatient as they pressed into the meat of Dean’s back. Dean imagined fingernails biting half-moons into his skin and felt his dick throb in his shorts where it pressed up against his packer.
“Dean,” Cas said, in that stormy-rough rasp of his. His pupils were blown as wide and dark as a night sky with light pollution — no stars, no satellites, just inky-blackness and two rings of icy blue around it. “Dean, I...”
“I know,” Dean interrupted. Whatever Cas was going to say, he didn’t want to hear it. He put his elbows down on either side of Cas’s head, nudging his nose against his jaw. “I gotcha. I get it.”
“I just want to tell you —” Cas started, but Dean kissed him hard, didn’t let him finish.
“Don’t,” he muttered. “Don’t, or I can’t.”
Cas’s hands flexed against Dean’s hips. They squeezed, released, and did not let go. By some miracle, he stopped talking.
In the morning, Sam made eggs. Dean stood at the coffeemaker and stared at it while it filled, and Cas sat at the table and stared at him. Dean could feel that gaze burning into him, searing his skin through his pajama shirt. He wondered if Sam could feel it too.
Maybe eggs were just that riveting, though. Sam seemed content enough to poke the pan with a wooden spoon and whistle to himself tunelessly, and Dean felt the same little frisson of strangeness that he always felt when he envisioned their current life through different eyes. Sam liked the domestic thing, liked playing house. There were some days Dean wished he could give it to him in a way that wasn’t just between jobs.
But normal people living normal lives didn’t get angels for best friends, or for bedmates. And Dean knew his gun calluses had been worn down too deep into his hands to be forgotten.
“You gonna pour that, or just glare at it?” Sam asked, nudging Dean’s side with his stupid sharp elbow. “What’d Mr. Coffee ever do to you?”
“Fuck off,” Dean grunted, reaching up to retrieve three mugs. Three, because Cas had begun to get in the habit of stealing sips of Dean’s cup when he wasn’t looking, and that was exactly the kind of behavior that led to whatever the hell had happened the night before. (And three more times in the past week. And counting.)
Milk for Sam, sugar for Cas with his terrible sweet tooth, and neither for Dean. He fixed their coffees the way they always took them and brought them to the table.
“Thank you, Dean,” Cas said with his usual solemnity.
Dean waved him off before the angel could say the kind of devastating things that usually came after his gratitude. Cas saying ‘thank you’ invoked Dean’s fight or flight response for a reason, after all.
“I’m going to the library today,” Sam announced as he carried three plates to the table, a stack of toast, a second trip for salt and pepper and the newspaper, which had been folded down to the crossword. “I’m deputizing you and Cas to stock up on ammo and granola bars and shit.”
“Whatever,” Dean said, and took a bite of toast. “New job already?”
Sam looked at him like he was particularly slow today. “Won’t know till I go to the library.”
Dean stuck his tongue out at him, because that was what brothers were supposed to do, and would have kicked him under the table if he wasn't afraid of catching Cas's leg in the crossfire.
Cas was focused on his eggs. He didn’t really need to join them, strictly speaking, but he always seemed half-starved for rituals no matter what they were, holy ones and boring human ones weighed with the same gravity. Praying and breakfasting were the same, for him. Dean watched him out of the corner of his eye.
“Deserving,” Cas offered after a beat.
Sam blinked. “What?”
“Forty-two across.” Cas jerked his chin at the paper, reading it upside down. “Nine letters for ‘worthy’.”
“Huh,” Sam said. He took the pencil from behind his ear and jotted it down. “Nice one.”
Dean felt Cas’s gaze land on him again, but he purposefully didn’t return it, just bit too hard into a piece of toast and scrunched one of the paper napkins they’d stolen from a rest stop diner very small in his hand.
Dean might have preferred his father having a problem with what he was, honestly. Would’ve made it easier to hate him later for the shit he did end up getting wrong. But to his credit, John Winchester’s biggest reaction to his teenage son announcing a new name with shame bubbling up on his tongue was to suggest a haircut and tell him to stop stealing his damn jacket, you little shit, don’t you know I’m leaving early in the morning?
Clothes were close to armor, Dean had figured out when he was very young, and that meant he had to work hard to choose the right ones. Loose jeans that were never all the way to baggy. T-shirts purchased by the six-pack. The never-ending parade of flannel after flannel, reds and dull golds and forest greens, safe colors. The steel-toed boots in a size and a half too large for his feet, laced up tight around the delicate ankles he’d inherited from his mother.
And Dean could admit now, looking back, that he must’ve been objectively ridiculous to look at, all bundled up under his father’s huge leather jacket like its bulk would make him any bigger than he was underneath it. It had been too large at the shoulder and hung down his arms all the way to mid-hand, making him look even younger, all pissed-off scowl and cheek fat.
Dean had paced his room and snapped at Sam when he couldn’t take it anymore, demanding, “When the hell is he gonna say what he really thinks?”
Sam had shrugged, dangling feet kicking idly against Dean’s bed frame. “Dad always wanted sons anyway,” he said, which was true enough until he shrugged again and added, “and you’ve always been better at being his son.”
“Hey, hey,” Dean had said, alarmed, and absolutely never brought it up again.
As for the jacket, he filled it out better these days. He tried not to let it make him feel like a parody of its original owner.
“Sam prefers baby spinach,” Cas intoned gravely behind Dean with no preamble, making him jolt.
“Always with the sneaking,” Dean snapped, and grabbed a bag of spring mix that had, as instructed, little dumb spinach leaves. “You’re gonna give me a heart attack one of these days.”
“I’ll revive you, don’t trouble yourself,” Cas replied absently, already browsing the dairy aisle with mild interest. Dean narrowed his eyes and watched Cas study a cup of lemon yogurt with the same wrinkle of concentration between his eyebrows that he’d had when he’d sucked Dean off the night before.
It was suddenly very important to be on the other side of the grocery store. “I’m getting — uh, snacks,” Dean said, beating a hasty retreat before Cas could question him doubling back.
He successfully distracted himself with picking up fish crackers and granola bars, trying to remember which hyper-specific and way-too-expensive brand Sam wanted. He could sense Cas coming up behind him this time, maybe because he was already on edge, but he also thought Cas’s footsteps were a little louder than they had been. Trying not to startle him.
“Think I can pass off a bag of m&ms as trail mix if I stick ‘em in a ziplock?” Dean asked, extending the olive branch.
“I would consider it less dishonest than buying trail mix and picking out all the m&ms before giving it to your brother,” Cas replied dryly. His hand came up to touch the small of Dean’s back briefly, killing whatever reply Dean was going to muster up, and then he wandered off again like it was normal.
Dean knew Cas’s touch wouldn’t stick any more handprint scars on him, here aboveground. That didn’t mean he felt them any less.
“Bring whatever you want to the counter, I’m checking out,” Dean called after him.
Cas didn’t ask for much — it rarely even seemed to occur to him that he could — but he ended up joining Dean at the register with a little cup of yogurt in hand, and Dean added it to the tally without a word. Cas looked pleased with himself for his decision (Dean knew this particular cup had doubtlessly been chosen and weighed with care against every other in the store) and Dean was just pleased at Cas for making choices.
He didn’t even say anything when Cas ate it in the car, hiding his smile with an exaggerated blind spot check as they pulled out of the parking space and headed back. An angel in his passenger seat, plastic spoon in hand, would have been a funnier image if it wasn’t just Cas; Dean looked at him in the rearview mirror and watched a self-satisfied expression bloom across his face. Dean’s tongue felt too-thick in his mouth.
“I assume Sam isn’t to know,” Cas said.
Dean’s hands went white around the steering wheel. Know what? he wanted to say. That we banged real quiet while he was in the other room? That’s exactly the kind of thing I wanna tell my baby brother, thanks, Cas.
“Good assuming,” he grit out instead.
Cas sighed. The soft exhale was directed back into his yogurt cup, and Dean immediately felt like an ass, but he didn’t know how to take it back or explain why this freaked him out so badly. Cas didn’t say anything else. Dean looked in the mirror again and felt queasy when he saw his least favorite expression of Cas’s, the pinched, closed-off one that meant he was dredging up all the resignation he could muster.
“Hey,” Dean said. “I’m not ashamed of you, okay?”
Cas raised skeptical eyes to meet his.
“I mean it,” Dean insisted.
“I understand you mean it,” Cas said. “But I don’t think it’s any better if you’re only ashamed of yourself.”
Caught off-guard, Dean’s stomach dropped to the damn wheel well. “Excuse me?” he said. “We’re really going there?”
Cas turned his head to look out the passenger side window. “We needn’t, Dean. I just wanted to know where we stood.”
“Jesus Christ,” Dean muttered. After a couple loaded seconds, he grabbed a tape and shoved it into the deck so he wouldn’t have to keep talking.
The lead Sam had researched at the library turned out to be a promising one, so they packed their shit up to leave in the morning. Sam sat at the dinner table and made huge, jaw-cracking yawns until Dean thwapped him with a rolled-up dish towel and told him to go to bed.
“Ugh,” Sam said. “Okay.” And then he unfolded his gargantuan legs from under the table and lumbered off to bed.
“Goodnight, Sam,” Cas called out to him, looking up from the dish he was drying. Sam’s reply came through yet another yawn.
Dean scrubbed the last plate a little harder than the others. Cas’s shoulder didn’t quite brush up against his own as they stood next to the sink together, but it was a damn close thing, so close that Dean could sense the warmth radiating out from Cas’s arm. The same arm he’d clutched to the night before, panting harsh breaths into the crook of Cas’s neck; Cas had made him draw back eventually and look him in the eye, which had been nearly intolerable. But he’d also said would you like to keep your shirt on? very earnestly, so Dean had just held Cas’s gaze like he wanted while Cas touched him, even though it scared him almost worse than Hell —
“Dean,” Cas said, voice soft. He put his hand over Dean’s, stilling it where it scrubbed the plate and trembled. “Are you alright?”
“I’m peachy.” Dean stared at his hand, trying to will it back to normal. “What’s up?”
Cas’s thumb stroked the curve of Dean’s wrist under the dishwater. “Let’s finish the washing up. I’d like to go to bed.”
Dean gave a full-body shiver, staying still as a statue in case moving would make Cas stop touching him. “You tired?”
Cas made a thoughtful noise and took the plate out of Dean’s hand to set it down on the counter, sliding around behind him to put his hands on his hips and his mouth to the freckled nape of Dean’s neck. Cas’s wet hand soaked through his shirt, and Dean had to brace his hands on the counter, pressing back against the solidity of Cas’s body behind him.
“In a way,” Cas answered. Another kiss, scraping teeth against skin. “I am tired of standing here, yes, when I could be touching you.”
Dean’s stomach swooped. People weren’t supposed to say shit like that, but then again, most people weren’t Cas. “What about Sam,” he tried.
“He’s sleeping.” Cas mouthed the words right on the topmost vertebra of Dean’s spine. “I would not let us be discovered against your will, Dean.”
That honestly only made Dean feel worse, but Cas kept kissing him, pressing small, soft little kisses all across the backs of his shoulders like that might distract Dean from reality setting in. The worst part was that it worked. The unease in Dean’s belly fizzled out into a pleasant buzz of anticipation.
Cas was unburdened by preconceived notions of what kissing ought to be like, and as such, he tended to want to put his mouth everywhere, spending time on places Dean hadn’t considered particularly sexual before. Cas liked to kiss the insides of his elbows, the soft dips on either side of his kneecaps, each of Dean’s fingertips, his calves, rubbing his cheek against the blond fuzz on Dean’s belly.
He avoided the danger spots without Dean having to show him a single one. How the fuck he knew what they were when even Dean was caught off guard sometimes by his own body was beyond him, but he wasn’t going to fight it, not with Cas skimming a hand up under his shirt so he could pull Dean away from the sink and back against him properly.
“Cas,” Dean sighed.
“You’re so stubborn,” Cas murmured into the vulnerable skin just beneath Dean’s ear. “Why do you make it so difficult to look after you in the moments you most need looking after?”
“Just part of my charm,” Dean rasped, tipping his head back to land on Cas’s shoulder. Cas’s hands couldn’t stay still, they never could, they squeezed Dean’s hips and smoothed up his stomach and back down again in a maddening repetition. Dean took one of them and dragged it upward, laying Cas’s palm flat over his left chest scar.
Cas went very still with his mouth frozen against Dean’s neck. He cautiously thumbed over the silky-soft raised bump of scar tissue, and Dean swallowed hard, pulse springing to life under it. The twin wounds had healed badly, stretched out too soon after scarring over, and he’d had some nerve damage as well — it had taken a long time for feeling to return to his chest, and even then, it’d been patchy at best.
Ever since he’d come back from Hell, though, his soul returned to the brand-new body Cas made him, it was a lot better. He could feel Cas’s touch now as gentle and immediate as it really was. Caging over his heart.
“Come to bed, Dean,” Cas whispered. “Let me look after you.”
Dean squeezed his eyes closed. “Okay.”
It was easy to let himself get herded back toward the bedroom, Cas doing all the work of steering the way, just nudging Dean until he was standing in front of the bed and the door was firmly shut and locked behind them.
“May I?” Cas asked, grave as always. His fingertips tucked up under the hem of Dean’s shirt and all Dean could do was strip out of it himself and toss it wordlessly toward the hamper. The moonlight coming in from the window frosted over Cas’s outline, making him even more statuesque than usual, all marble and mussed hair.
Still overdressed, though. Dean fumbled Cas’s shirt buttons open until Cas kissed him sweetly and took over, shouldering out of it with remarkable smoothness for a guy who’d been a self-confessed virgin until a week and a half ago. But Cas was a damn fast learner, Dean had begun to figure out, and he was almost impossible to embarrass, too. Bodies were still strange and new for him in general, how was learning the rules of sex any different from learning the rules of any other social interaction?
“Yeah, yeah, Cas, c’mon,” Dean murmured as he helped Cas with his belt, like he was the one who needed coaxing to bed like a frightened animal.
Cas didn’t call him on it, though, which was nice of him, and stepped out of his pants with dignity. Dean shoved Cas’s underwear off next, and then it was his turn, although he didn’t focus too hard on the specifics of how it happened now that Cas was kissing him with purpose. Cas’s single-minded attention was overwhelming even on a good day, which today wasn’t. Dean all but panted into the kiss, clutching at Cas with both hands, letting Cas card fingers through his hair a little too rough.
“Sit down, please, I would like to perform oral sex,” Cas said, voice low and sweet like honey over gravel.
Nobody on earth said it like Cas. Dean cracked a smile but pointedly didn’t laugh at him, just sat on the bed as instructed, lower lip caught between his teeth as he watched Cas sink fluidly to his knees and shuffle forward until he was between Dean’s legs.
Cas was looking up at his face as he bent forward. Dean groaned, leaning back on one hand while his other rose to tangle in Cas’s hair. So damn soft — it was such a human thing to care about, keeping his hair clean and nice, and Dean felt a wave of hysteria threaten to crowd up his throat at the idea that Cas was trying to keep himself good to touch for Dean’s benefit. He’d certainly been a little more ragged at the edges before they started fucking.
But maybe that was just Dean’s stellar influence. Who knew.
If Cas’s brain was racing half as fast as Dean’s, he didn’t show it. He was deeply concentrated on his task, tongue working Dean over while his hands stayed where they were bracketed on either side of Dean’s hips, his grip tight.
Dean had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep quiet, and wasn’t that a hell of a thing? Usually he could even jack off dead-silent, the loudest sound his pulse thundering in his ears. But Cas looked up at him shamelessly and rubbed the flat of his tongue just to the left of Dean’s dick, exactly how he liked it, and Dean could feel all these helpless little noises trying to fall out of his mouth despite himself.
“Fuck, Cas,” he whispered.
Cas drew back and breathed hard for a moment, lips wet and shining even in the darkness. His thumb kept stroking over Dean’s dick while he caught his breath, over and over, and Dean wanted to be embarrassed by how easy he was for it, but he couldn’t muster up the energy. His thighs trembled.
“I love the name you gave me,” Cas said. “I love that you gave me a name.”
“It’s just a nickname,” Dean said. The jittery rush of adrenaline under his skin always surged harder when Cas spoke to him like that, words steeped in earnest care and enough devotion to blind him. “You like it that much?”
Cas kissed the inside of Dean’s thigh. “I do.”
(What is the purpose of a nickname? Cas had asked, after Dean had explained why he’d bothered to shorten it all those eons ago.
It’s just something you do to your friends, Dean had said, and wouldn’t have thought any more about it if Cas’s eyes hadn’t started shining like cut diamonds in his face.)
“Cas,” Dean said again, more purposeful. Cas’s shaky sigh before he took Dean in his mouth again made Dean feel a wrenching, possessive tug in his gut. Who was he to nickname an angel like he thought he belonged to him or something, anyway? Like he had any claim to him at all?
Two of Cas’s fingertips stroked between Dean’s thighs, gliding through the silky wetness just beneath Dean’s dick, and his eyes asked a silent question. Dean nodded jerkily, so Cas wasted no time in sliding a finger inside him, crooking it upward at the same time that he did something swirly and complicated with his tongue. Dean exhaled sharp enough to hurt. Two fingers were even better, and Cas gave them both to him after a moment, thick and careful and familiar by now. Dean’s body recognized him. Welcomed him in. His belly went taut as a bowstring, Cas fucking him with shallow, calculated gestures that pressed his fingertips right where Dean wanted them.
A panicky-sharp throb of pleasure warned Dean he was getting close, and he tried to communicate this to Cas by tugging his hair with more urgency — Cas just dropped his jaw and doubled down on his efforts, and Dean came a moment later with his heart in his throat and Cas’s name on his lips. He fell backward to rest on one propped-up elbow and shuddered through it, other hand still buried in Cas’s hair.
Cas eased off slowly. His tongue lathed cautious stripes, gentle as anything, until Dean gave an overstimulated shiver and he backed off. Not that he went too far. He just clambered onto the bed and pushed until Dean lay back and let himself be held.
“You are so beautiful when you orgasm,” Cas said, nuzzling into the hollow beneath Dean’s jaw. “I wish it could last longer than a few seconds.”
If it lasted longer than a few seconds, Dean thought he’d probably pass out. He could barely take it as it was.
“Beautiful, huh,” he said, trying not to sound too skeptical.
Cas kissed his cheek, then the corner of his mouth. Now that the buzz of arousal had eased off a little, Dean could feel how restless Cas was at his side, the squirmy way Cas always got when he was turned on. “So beautiful,” Cas repeated, rougher. He was lying half on top of Dean now, close enough for Dean to wrap a hand around his dick, giving it a slow, firm stroke from base to wet tip.
Did Cas ever jack off? Was Dean’s hand the first he’d ever had? Dean had been a lot of Cas’s firsts, and not only in bed — he’d bought him his first cheeseburger, his first iced coffee, had taken him to his first kitschy roadside attraction and only laughed a little when Cas took it too seriously. He’d given Cas his very first gift, his first blowjob, been his first friend and the first real person to call him family. Dean hoarded these firsts close to his chest. That look of awe and wonder on Cas’s face every time he discovered something new, that was his, it made Dean’s chest go all tight and strained every time on cue.
Cas’s breath hitched when Dean found a particularly good angle to stroke, although his grip was clumsy and kind of bad from how little room his arm had to maneuver. Like hell was he gonna move now, though. He had Cas whining into his neck and fucking his fist when Dean didn’t go fast enough, that was worth the wrist cramp. The weight of him pressing Dean into the mattress could’ve speared Dean through like a butterfly tacked to a corkboard, pinning him to this moment forever, and he wouldn’t have minded.
“Dean, Dean,” Cas breathed, repeating it like a prayer. There were tears in his eyes, glittering as they wet his eyelashes. Cas had never learned to be self-conscious about these kinds of emotional displays, didn’t know it was fucking weird to cry during sex, but Dean wasn’t going to be the one to tell him. Cas bled sincerity. He never tried to hide what he thought, what he felt. Dean would just die if that ever changed.
“C’mon, I gotcha,” Dean muttered, nudging Cas’s cheek with his nose. “I gotcha.”
Cas kissed him hard when he came, and Dean let him, even though they ended up mostly just sharing the same air with their foreheads pressed together. As if this was as close as they’d ever been or could be. As if Dean could peek inside Cas’s head for once if he just concentrated hard enough.
The hunt went about as smoothly as it usually did, which meant it ended up with Dean flat on his back in an open grave with a twisted ankle and blood in his mouth. He cursed a blue streak until Cas appeared at the mouth of the grave and put an arm down to pull him up. Dean clung to his sleeve and spat blood on the ground as soon as he was topside, hands braced on his knees when he managed to stand.
“Fucking ghosts,” he wheezed.
“Are you hurt?” Cas asked, frowning.
Dean shook his head. It was all aches and pains, anyway, and he was used to those — he’d become well-acquainted with his bad knee that throbbed on the drive home after a long hunt, the repetitive stress that made his hands hurt especially at the knuckles, the weird click in his right ankle that hadn’t healed right from a sprain when he was twenty-five (thankfully not the one currently swelling in his boot, however). He’d noticed some of those aches and pains had begun to behave better than they’d used to, although he wasn’t sure exactly when the improvement had started; he had a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with how Cas had put him back together after Hell, like he’d noticed with his chest scars, but he didn’t want to poke at it too hard.
He cast a sidelong glance toward Cas. The angel was striding over to Sam, whose eyebrows were a little scorched, half his face covered in soot.
“Well, that sucked,” Sam said brightly. He looked Dean over. “Jeez, what happened to you?”
“Get fucked, Sammy.”
“Is it over?” Cas inquired. He sounded worn out, and Dean wondered how much of his daily allotment of energy was spent making sure Dean and Sam both didn’t eat shit and die. “I no longer sense an unearthly presence in the immediate vicinity.”
“Far as I can tell, we’re in the clear,” Sam said. “Keys, Dean. You’re not driving like that.”
Dean didn’t even fight it. He fished the keys out of his pocket and tossed them underhand to Sam.
He was still thinking about his stupid old-man pains when they drove back, wondering where they’d gone, and why it bothered him so much that they had. Cas handed him a water bottle from the backseat. Dean took it gratefully, downing half before he gave it over to Sam.
Dean was hobbling by the time they made it inside, which was super annoying, if only because Cas followed him around with narrowed eyes and his mouth a thin, unhappy line. He kept beaming you told me you were fine brain waves into the back of Dean’s skull the entire time Dean was grabbing a bag of frozen peas and wrapping them in a dish towel, and all Dean could do was huff, turning on his heel to face him.
“I’m okay,” he said firmly. “You wanna watch Love Island?”
Either Cas was humoring him extra hard today, or he actually wanted to watch Love Island. It was hard to predict what media Cas would enjoy and what would only perplex him; Dirty Dancing and Singin’ in the Rain had both been big hits, whereas Disney movies bothered him with their internal inconsistencies and normal TV, even the damn food network — although riveting — usually stressed him out after a while. Just too foreign, Dean guessed. On the other hand, Cas adored the muppets, which baffled Sam and Dean both.
Speaking of Sam, it took him fifteen minutes to join them, since he was busy showering off all the soot. That meant Dean and Cas could monopolize the sofa, which they did, and Dean spent a good forty seconds trying to find a way to lie down on it without getting too much in Cas’s space before Cas made an irritated noise and moved Dean’s feet bodily into his lap.
“Ow,” Dean said, mostly on principle.
Cas shoved a pillow under Dean’s feet and arranged the bag of frozen peas on the most swollen part of Dean’s ankle. “You are immensely frustrating,” he told him with that same clipped tone he always used when he chewed Dean out. “You could have just asked me to heal it.”
This was true, but Dean felt weird asking to use Cas’s angelic superpowers for normal mundane things. He used ‘em enough for the big deal shit already.
“It’ll be fine if I ice it,” Dean said.
Cas’s baleful eye just prompted Dean to grab the remote and flick the television on, settling in for an evening of watching people make idiots out of themselves while he studiously didn’t think about the way Cas’s hand snaked under the cuff of his jeans to wrap around his calf.
“Uh,” Sam said. His eyebrows raised as he took in the scene, Cas and Dean tangled up on the couch, Love Island playing on a low volume in the background.
Dean glanced up. “What, dude?”
Sam just kind of stared at him for a second. “Nothing,” he said after a beat, and sat down in the big chair next to the sofa. Dean waited until he heard the sounds of Sam’s laptop keys typing before he relaxed the rest of the way, lacing his fingers together over his stomach while he felt the faint trickle of grace up his leg that meant Cas had taken pity on him after all.
Dean must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing he remembered was Cas hauling him upright and helping him stumble down the hall to his bedroom. Dean grumbled and kind of fought it, but Cas didn’t let up, just kept pushing until Dean was standing in front of his dresser.
“Ngh,” Dean said, rubbing his eyes. Cas sifted through his pajama drawer and came up with a pair of sweatpants and a tank top. “What time ‘s it?”
“Eleven fifteen,” Cas told him. “Put these on.”
Dean stripped out of his nasty hunting clothes and tossed them into the dirty clothes pile, making a mental note to do more laundry soon before the lump of flannel started to actually loom.
“I took the liberty of healing your headache, too, while you slept,” Cas added. He was changing into his own pajamas now: a soft t-shirt acquired from Sam, his usual boxers, the strange and endearing addition of thick socks. Dean took a moment to ogle him a little and wasn’t even embarrassed when Cas caught him in the act.
“How’d you know I had a headache, anyway?” Dean asked, eyeing the stripe of skin at Cas’s waistline before he tugged his shirt down over it.
Cas leveled him with a look. “You always have a headache, Dean. It didn’t take much intuition.”
Right. Well. Dean was too tired to come up with a good retort to that, so he rolled his eyes and flopped onto the bed. “C’mere, man,” he said, patting the mattress next to him. “Unless you wanna go back to your bed.”
Cas joined him after he was dressed, sliding between the sheets with a grunt as he settled. “I specifically waited to rouse you until Sam went to bed, so I could stay here,” he said. “Rest, Dean. You’re tired.”
Dean was tired. That didn’t make him like the resignation in Cas’s voice any more, though, and he lay down with a prickly I fucked up feeling jittering through him, making his skin crawl. I would not let us be discovered against your will, Cas had said. Like he’d be shouting it from rooftops if it were up to him, or something.
Cas slid an arm around his waist, dragging him close. His nose nudged at the nape of Dean’s neck. “Do you know you have freckles here?” Cas asked.
Dean shifted so his back was pressed more firmly to Cas’s front. “Yeah. I never wear sunscreen, you should see me in the summer.”
“Some people consider them angel kisses,” Cas murmured. His lips brushed against Dean as he spoke, the rumble of his voice a physical thing that Dean could feel against his back.
“Should be all freckle by now, then,” he muttered.
“Mm.” Cas gave him another kiss, hidden to the left of Dean’s shoulder blade. “Sleep. I have this watch.”
Ordinarily, this would have been enough for Dean to pass out like he’d been knocked on the head — Cas took the guardian angel thing real seriously, after all — but Dean stared out into the darkness of his bedroom and didn’t know if he could even close his eyes. Cas’s arm felt heavier around his waist by the second.
“Cas, why’d you make my new body with scars?” Dean blurted out. “After — y’know.”
Cas made a thoughtful noise. “Would you rather I hadn’t? I assumed you’d wish to keep them. They seemed a meaningful choice.”
Understatement of the century. “Wasn’t I supposed to be the ideal Michael vessel, though?” Dean insisted. The words were so bitter on his tongue, even more so for the fact that he’d been holding back saying them for so long. “You coulda made me perfect.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I did,” Cas said evenly.
Dean snorted. Cas could have done anything in the process of rebuilding Dean from the ground up, could’ve given him a real dick, could’ve swung the opposite direction and made it like Dean had never intervened on his body in the first place. That idea filled him with so much horror he could have choked on it — clawing his way out of his own grave to find he’d died after all —
“Dean,” Cas said, with a note of worry, now.
“I always thought I was a weird pick, and that was before I heard all the shit your angel buddies wanted me to do,” Dean rasped. “And don’t tell me the folks upstairs are cool with guys like me, ‘cause I know that ain’t true.”
Cas rubbed his cheek against Dean’s shoulder blade, a gentle rasp of stubble against skin. “There is no scripture against this,” he said at last. “I remade you as you are because how you are is perfect. You required no improvement. And no,” he added, interrupting Dean before he could do more than open his mouth to protest. “I am not saying that you are without fault. But I couldn’t build you a body without a self-sacrificial instinct, could I?”
Dean barked a laugh. “Funny guy.”
“Dean.” Cas rolled Dean onto his back and hovered over him, eyes more fierce than Dean had maybe ever seen them. They glowed with barely-suppressed grace, his agitation crackling like a live wire, lighting him up in sparks. “Are you listening to me?”
Dean looked up at him and breathed shallowly. He gave a small jerk of a nod.
“You are made in God’s image,” Cas said. His intensity might have freaked Dean out, under other circumstances. It might have made him skitter away. But there was nowhere to flinch, here, nowhere to look that was not at Cas. “You were remade by my hand, and I made you well. Do you not believe me?”
Dean wouldn’t have been surprised if the windows started rattling in their frames the way they had when Cas had tried to talk to him the first time. He swallowed hard, helpless, and couldn’t answer; Cas’s eyes flashed again, gone green as a thunderstorm in hurricane season.
“I know you down to the cell,” Cas continued, each word forceful, with the conviction of God himself. “Down to the atom. I know every corner and shape of you, and I knew from when I first touched your soul that you were worthy. You bear my mark from where I gripped you, Dean. Where I chose you.”
“You didn’t have free will to choose when you grabbed me,” Dean whispered.
Some of the power seeped out of Cas as he began to deflate, a hand coming up to cup Dean’s cheek. “No, I didn’t,” he agreed, gentler. “But it was that first touch that began to set me free.”
Dean’s face threatened to crumple, mouth twisting up. Cas seemed to sense the breaking point right before Dean did, concern washing over him, and a moment later was ready to catch Dean up in his arms the second that he started making terrible animal noises and needed to shove his face as deep into the crook of Cas’s neck as he was able.
Dean slept well for the first time in weeks. If he dreamed of anything, he couldn’t remember, but the dark circles under his eyes were lighter than usual. He splashed water on his face, crisp and clean, and brushed his teeth while he looked himself over. Cas had done a good job with his faith healer act yesterday. Dean didn’t even have a hint of a headache today.
When he made it to the kitchen, Sam was puzzling through the same crossword from the day before. Dean snuck a glance over his shoulder as he put the coffee pot to work, wondering absently if he should sneak a coffee back to Cas before the angel bothered too much with getting dressed. He could trade the cup for a kiss, if he teased him enough — Cas seemed like the type who could be wheedled with those kinds of tactics, and he looked forward to testing his hunch.
“Rough night?” Sam asked, frowning at the page in his lap. “Heard some yelling.”
“Oh, just the usual,” Dean told him breezily. “We’re passionate about Love Island.”
Sam rolled his eyes, but he didn’t press. He did a lot of that, Dean had noticed, and more by the week, averting his gaze so that he wouldn’t notice whatever Cas and Dean were doing. Sam was good at keeping a respectful distance when people’s lives weren’t on the line.
“Also, Cas ‘n me are together,” Dean added before he lost his nerve, crossing his arms tight over his chest when Sam’s eyes snapped up to look at him. “Just so you know.”
Sam’s mouth hung open for a second before he shut it. “So, like... together, together? Or —”
Dean nodded. Together-together just about summed it up, although he was already bracing himself for whatever flowery way Cas would want to describe it going forward. He’d have thought going on about their profound bond or whatever would’ve been as bad as it could get, but this was Cas. Better to stay on his toes.
“Huh.” Sam smiled, sly. “Didn’t you know you were interested in, uh. Angels.”
“Yeah, well.” Dean directed his smile at the linoleum. What had he been so afraid of? “This one’s special.”
When he glanced up again, Cas was standing in the doorway with the most exquisite expression on his face that Dean had ever seen. He leaned his shoulder against the door frame and looked at Dean like he was a treasure, the way people looked at fine art or a well-preserved classic car, illuminated halfway between love and awe.
“Mornin’, Cas,” Dean said.
“Good morning,” Cas repeated. “Are those bagels?”
Sam must have got them on the way home from his morning run. Cas pushed off the door frame and stepped up to the counter to rifle through the options, selecting a cinnamon raisin and casting about the kitchen for the bread knife so he could slice it for the toaster. Dean hopped up on the countertop and watched him, watched both of them — his angel and his brother — and felt something click into place in the center of his chest, the final tumbler in a complicated lock.
“You good?” Dean asked Cas in low tones so Sam would know to start pretending he wasn’t listening.
“Very.” Cas nudged Dean’s elbow with his own as he got out the cream cheese. “You?”
“Yeah,” Dean said. He untucked one arm to let it dangle down, close enough that he could link his finger through one of Cas’s. “Yeah, I think so.”
Cas rubbed his thumb over the curled knuckle of Dean’s trigger finger. “Be not afraid,” he said in an exaggerated whisper.
Dean stared at him. Cas was smiling. It took a couple seconds for Dean to get the joke, but when it hit him, he tossed his head back and laughed until he couldn’t breathe — in front of Cas and Sam and God too, and the bird that perched on the windowsill, singing.