Getting used to Heaven is something of a marvel. It ain't perfect, and Dean thinks he'd hate it if it was, which is probably why it isn't. There's just enough human-esque nuances to it that keep it feeling like life rather than death, and he's thankful for that because he's got the smallest inkling that he should have gotten to live a little longer than he did.
Ah, well, what the hell, right? He's here, and that's that on that. No point in dwelling on it.
Being here—Heaven—has its own little complications that he has to adjust to. Sam pops up pretty quick, which is nice, but Dean isn't exactly eager to get back to the crowd waiting for them back "home". He has too many things bouncing around in skull, things involving Cas and his dad and people who are here in Heaven only because he'd inadvertently gotten them killed—or semi-advertently in some cases.
There must be some magical sprinkle of peace that Jack tosses into Heaven because, shockingly, things go rather smoothly. All the reunions are nice and easy, happy tears only, and it's like all the awkwardness and anxiety and pain that comes with living as an earthly being just doesn't exist here. It isn't all the way around perfect or anything, because there are some hiccups, but Dean figures that he gets off light as far as how easy things go, all things considered.
The only thing is, Cas isn't around.
Dean expects him to show up, to at least show his face, but Cas doesn't. And so, Dean corners Jack.
He says, "Where is Cas?" and Jack hesitates before muttering, "I don't think he wants to see you, Dean," and Dean responds, "I don't care."
Jack is Jack, though—a kid still, through and through—so Dean convinces him to tell him where Cas is, which just so happens to not be too terribly far from where Bobby lives, where everyone is lingering at. Dean promptly hops into Baby while ignoring everyone asking him what the fuck he's doing and where the hell he's going. Sam's the only one who doesn't ask a damn thing, watching with a small smirk and a wave as Dean burns rubber and leaves the flabbergasted group behind.
Cas is found out by a very familiar lake, sitting out on the deck with his feet dangling over the water, and Dean marches right up to plop down next to him. Funnily enough, Cas startles, looking over at him in surprise, and Dean considers shoving Cas into the lake for being so stupid.
Cas, in a very resigned tone, says, "Hello, Dean."
Dean suddenly finds a lump forming in his throat. Not one that suggests he might cry, but the kind of lump that gets lodged when your breath catches and creates a small pocket of air that feels solid, all because you've forgotten how to breathe. He tries to say, "Hey, Cas," and finds that he can't. He tries to say absolutely anything, and does not manage it.
So, maybe there's not some sprinkle of magic in Heaven. Maybe everyone cultivates their own experience here, and Dean just isn't hoping this will go well hard enough. Fucking fantastic. He'd like for this to go well, but he's not gonna hold his breath. On purpose. The fact that he can't actually breathe at all because Cas said hello after saying goodbye is something else entirely.
Cas doesn't look at him, but the relaxed expression on his face before Dean joined him is gone. Now, he's just frowning at the water. There's a tension between his eyebrows, a small wrinkle there that he can't seem to help. Dean is studying it, trying to measure how this reunion is going to go off that one detail, and it takes him a long moment to realize that he's just staring at Cas without speaking.
"Hey, Cas," Dean finally responds, clearing his throat. There's an undeniable weight of awkwardness between them. He glances over his shoulder at the house behind them—it has an overhang roof and a porch with one rocking chair that is the kind all respectable, ridiculous church-going southerners have owned at least once in their lives. "Nice place you got there."
"Thank you," Cas says quietly, still just watching the ripples on the lake. He doesn't look embarrassed, or angry, just...pensive.
Dean doesn't feel the need to talk about everything, not so soon. He just wants… Well, he wants to secure a chance to talk about things. He thinks that they have to hash things out from when they were alive before anything else, because they have a lot of shit between them they need to figure out. But there's no rush. There doesn't have to be a rush. Time is weird here, and there's no expiration date.
Their time has already run out.
It makes him wonder what the hell he's going to do for the rest of eternity. There's no Hunting here. There's nothing to hunt. Sam has already made it a point to ask Jack how one comes by a place because he's eager to have a home waiting whenever Eileen arrives. Charlie has mentioned that she volunteers to help the people in Heaven who never owned laptops or phones in their time how to manage technology, claiming that it's something of a job. Bobby has a vegetable garden, and Rufus spends most of his free time trying to steal his fresh cabbage, which is sort of a hobby, Dean guesses.
Some people don't do anything, from what he sees. Others run restaurants, or garages, or things that can't actually be necessary in Heaven. It's just something to do for the people who prefer having it. Dean's going to be one of those people; he just knows that, deep down in his bones. He lived longer than he ever expected to, but he sure as shit didn't get to do much living.
Life without hunting… That's going to be hard. You don't kill things in Heaven. You just don't, and that's a pretty fucked up thing to be worried about missing. Dean's gonna have to do something else. Anything else. Some new hobbies to feel useful, to give him structure, to let him do something.
He wonders what Cas is doing.
"So, uh…" Dean clears his throat and throws Cas a cautious glance. "Whatcha been up to?"
"Up to," Cas repeats, as if this is a foreign concept to him. He squints at the lake, still not looking directly at Dean.
"Yeah. You know, you've been here—what? I don't really know how time works in Heaven, actually. But, I mean, what have you been doing for however long you have been here?" Dean asks.
Cas' eyes open a bit, losing the squint. "Ah. Well, I oversee reconstruction. Heaven was not...suitable by any standards. I helped Jack fix it."
"So, you're like an architect?" Dean muses, eyebrows raising slowly, impressed despite himself. "Bobby kinda said something like that, but—well."
"Something like that," Cas allows quietly.
Dean coughs. "Seems like an important position, man. Pretty—um, pretty high up there. Is there, like, a team for it, or…?"
"No," Cas says. "I made the designs. Jack followed them. It was very simple."
"Oh, wow. So, you just—you created everything up here, huh?" Dean mutters, blinking rapidly.
Cas shakes his head. "No. It's not exactly architecture, Dean. Designing isn't...building. It's more about strategy and engineering. The structural integrity of Heaven before remodeling wasn't sufficient. Jack didn't like it. He wanted it to be different. He is, however, only three years old, so he noted that perhaps he wasn't the best candidate for coming up with the new design. Rather than reliving your happiest memories, or living only with those you came to love in life, I...had a different idea."
"Which was?" Dean asks.
"The beauty of life is in living," Cas murmurs, face softening. "The beauty of living is that everyone does it differently. Reliving the same happy memories blocks the chance to make more. Living only with those you loved in life removes the opportunity to love others. People have an ingrained desire to survive, to continue on and live, because dying is being taken away from the comfort of humanity. My idea was freedom. Free will. Heaven is not that much different from Earth, just without all the minor inconveniences that come with life."
Dean takes in a deep breath, holds it for a long moment, then lets it explode out of him. "Well, damn. That's—that's pretty fucking amazing, Cas. What minor inconveniences do you mean, though?"
"The necessities of life on Earth aren't necessary, but the option remains available." Cas tilts his head a little. "You can eat, but you don't have to. The same with sleeping. Anything you could possibly want is simply given to you. Things you eat or drink remind you of specific memories. Places you've been that are significant are places you can go to again. You could want a sandwich, and it will appear; or, if you'd prefer to make it, that choice is there as well. Heaven adapts to your personal desires, and it will do so naturally. A subconscious thing. Freedom."
"Huh." Dean blinks rapidly. "And I'm guessing bad shit just...doesn't happen here? Like, Baby will never break down. People can't kill each other. No one ever gets lost or stranded. Shit like that, right?"
"Precisely," Cas agrees.
"Nice," Dean acknowledges.
Cas' lips twitch. "Yes, I thought so."
"Sam said something about wanting a house for him and Eileen," Dean says. "So, just because he wants it, he'll get it? That simple?"
"He can't force her to be there, but yes. When she arrives, if she wants to stay and he wants her there, it will become her home that adapts to her own subconscious wishes as well." Cas looks over his shoulder, surveying his own house. "I did not think I would have a preference for a home, but I find myself partial to this one."
"The wind chimes are a nice touch," Dean admits, joining Cas in looking. He squints, trying to peer into a window. What would Cas' house look like on the inside—a home untouched by Winchesters, a home of his own design.
Cas hums. "Thank you. I have a rock garden in the back. A hammock, too."
"Give me a tour, man," Dean mutters, rolling his eyes. "Show off all your cool shit."
"If you insist," Cas says dryly, but he dutifully pushes to his feet, heaving a sigh as he stands.
Dean follows him up, distantly pleased by the sound of his knees popping—something achingly familiar to him—but there's no actual pain.
There's something truly odd about that, about how there's damage that can feel like home to him. He would not be himself if his knees didn't creak or pop, because he cannot remember a time they didn't—his knees were shot to shit before he was even twenty-five with all the hunting he did. It's a remembered ache, an intricate brokenness that he has adapted to so well that it pings as necessary and nostalgic in Heaven. How strange.
Cas doesn't immediately head for the house. Instead, he stands right there on the deck and looks at Dean while trying (and failing) to not look at Dean. His efforts are so painfully obvious that Dean's heart pangs in sympathy. He gets it—wanting to look at someone, talk to them, be okay enough that neither of those things feel impossible. This must be so hard on him.
Dean reaches out and puts his hand on Cas' shoulder, drawing his gaze. For a beat, they stare at each other, not saying a word. Then, promptly and with no warning, Dean pushes Cas into the lake.
Whatever tension had been mounting between them cracks the moment Cas hits the water with a splash, and he comes up sputtering and pissed off. Dean laughs, watching while Cas drags himself back onto the deck, sopping wet and glaring at Dean like he wants to kick his ass. And that is—well, that's pretty nice, actually. Cas' shoes squelch when he stands, his trenchcoat going from the color of sand to a darker beige. His hair is plastered to his forehead, dripping into his eyes. He looks ridiculous.
In between one blink and the next, Cas is dry. Completely and utterly. Man, Heaven sure as shit has its perks, or whatever the fuck.
"That," Dean declares, "was for dying on me. Again."
Cas looks contrite immediately, his gaze darting to the side. "Dean, I—"
"Shut up," Dean says shortly—too sharp, too harsh, and Cas does. After a moment, Dean clears his throat and looks back to the house. "So? The tour?"
Cas' house isn't too big, or too flashy. Dean's first thought when he gets closer to it is that it's cozy. Going up the steps to the porch, Dean pauses when Cas does, confused because Cas is. He follows Cas' gaze to the two rocking chairs, not understanding why they've grabbed Cas' attention, but before he can ask, Cas just shakes his head and opens the door. Dean shrugs it off and follows after him.
Immediately in the door, there's a small hallway that leads into the living room. There are plants peppered around the open area, not obtrusive, just there. Everything seems sensible—reasonably sized TV, normal couch (though the color is horrible), and there's a rug in front of a fireplace that looks inviting in a way Dean won't think about. There seems to be a sense of clutter, but the satisfying kind where everything sort of has a place—books on shelves, a record player in the corner, a decent sized nook shaped out with pillows and comfortable lighting. It looks… Well, it looks pretty cozy.
"The kitchen is through here," Cas murmurs, passing by a table with a stack of records on it.
Dean follows, but he nearly jumps out of his skin when the records on the table wobble in place. For a second, he thinks he's nearly knocked them over, but no, the stack has just grown. Cas doesn't seem to notice, so Dean doesn't ask.
Cas' kitchen is also sensible. It's not extravagant, but it isn't dingy either. He has open cabinets, just shelves with no doors, and there are small plants lining the windowsill behind the sink that looks into the backyard—all the tiny pots are different colors, like a little rainbow. The table can sit four, and it's made of what appears to be sturdy wood, a deep brown that offsets the neutral colors of the room (of the whole house, really) very nicely.
"What kinda drinks do you got?" Dean asks, heading right for the fridge. Before he can even open the door, there's a few clinks from the inside, and he raises his eyebrows. When he does peer into the fridge, there's a row of beers—his favorite brand.
"Oh," Cas says, very quietly.
Dean snorts and grabs a beer. "Dude, Heaven is great. Watch this taste like the time me and Sammy sat up all night on my birthday and drank for hours. We laughed so hard we cried."
It doesn't, actually. It tastes like the time he sat out on Baby underneath a stretch of stars in some bumfuck town, leaning against her hood, feeling calm and settled as he so rarely did. The beers had been cold from the chill in the air, and he'd fallen asleep right outside, waking up with pink cheeks and a numb nose. It was some of the best sleep he ever got, no matter how cold he was.
"Damn, that's good," Dean mutters, shaking his head ruefully and turning to Cas. "So, is this it? No other rooms? You could have a whole movie theater if you wanted, right?"
Cas hums. "I could, yes, but I have no need for one. I have a bathroom and a bedroom as well, obviously."
"Obviously," Dean echoes, faintly amused. He sits his beer down, sweeping out a hand. "Well? Go on, lead the way. The tour ain't over yet."
"No, I suppose not," Cas murmurs.
Cas leads him back through the living room, and he once again pauses for a moment—less confused, but seeming...stalled by something. He's staring at the couch, so Dean stares at it, too. Maybe he was too quick to judge it, because it actually doesn't look bad anymore. The shade of it is different, so it must have been a trick of the light before.
Shaking his head, Cas walks across the room and down the opposite hall. There are two doors across from each other—right across, as if for convenience sake. Cas opens the left first, stepping back to let Dean peer inside. It's the bathroom.
The biggest part of the room is the shower. Dean's eyebrows fly up in surprise. It could surely fit two people at least, and it has wrap-around showerheads, all that can be picked up and manipulated. Dean wonders if Cas' shampoo and soap smells like memories, or just something normal. He doesn't ask, though, somehow sure that it's inappropriate.
The sink has a little case with a toothbrush sticking out of it, and there's a comb sitting on the edge of the porcelain. A mirror is at perfect height above the sink, and it looks like one of the kinds that open to a hidden compartment inside. There are towels and rags hanging up, once again in a bunch of different colors, like a splash of rainbow to decorate the cool, neutral colors of the room.
Dean steps out, easing the door shut. There's a clink like something dropping into a cup, and he pauses, poking his head back in. He frowns, scanning the room, but he can't tell what's different, not at first. It takes him a second, and then he's confused why Cas would need a second toothbrush. A sudden urge to clean? He's a weird dude, whatever.
"You know, you can tell a lot about a person by their bedroom," Dean muses as Cas moves to the other door, opening it and walking in.
Cas eyes him over his shoulder. "Yes, I know."
For a second, Dean forgets to take in the room at all. Cas is looking at him strangely—which, that isn't new, exactly, but this is a little different. He's watching Dean closely, a curious glint in his eyes, a frown of muzzled confusion on his face. It's like Dean has done something that he's trying to figure out, but Dean hasn't done anything. Probably? Shit, he doesn't know. He's always doing something.
Dean clears his throat and tears his eyes away from Cas, scanning his room instead. Once again, it's sensible. More plants—only two, and they liven up the room somehow, not overtaking the space. There's an open closet with what appears to be a genuinely depressing amount of clothes to one half of it. This isn't too much of a surprise. Cas is still in his trenchcoat getup, even in Heaven, and his closet only seems to hold a handful of jeans and t-shirts and what looks to be two different hoodies. There's a glaring absence of flannel.
The bed isn't big—a twin, just enough to fit Cas comfortably. It does look good, though. Cas must appreciate a fine place to sleep, because Dean's pretty sure that it's a memory-foam mattress, and there's at least three extra pillows than required. To the side of the bed, there's a nightstand with a book on it, but that's it. In the corner, there's a desk with a closed laptop, what looks to be a notebook, and a mug of pencils and pens and markers.
Otherwise, the room is simple and...cozy. Everything about this whole house is just cozy. Dean doesn't know why he's surprised that it's like this, that Cas appreciates simplicity and things geared towards his comfort rather than a place that looks expensive or nice. The place isn't themed. There's not necessarily any structure here—everything is just comfortable.
"Well, I—" Dean cuts himself off at the sound of a heavy thud, head whipping back towards the bed in surprise. On the other side of it, there's suddenly a second nightstand. He blinks. "What the hell?"
"Oh," Cas says again, eyebrows furrowed.
"Cas, is your…" Dean squints, staring at the bed in mounting confusion. "Is your bed getting bigger?"
Cas clears his throat. "Ah...it would appear so, yes."
Dean sends him a sharp look. "Really, dude?"
"It isn't me," Cas snaps, narrowing his eyes.
"It—what?" Dean blinks, losing some of his edge. He'd been under the assumption that Cas was making his bed bigger for, ah, availability—a subconscious desire, maybe, because Dean is here in his room. Unspoken things aside, if Cas isn't doing it, who the fuck is?
"Dean," Cas says slowly, "you—you know that you're welcome here, don't you?"
"Uh," Dean mumbles, freezing. He had known, he supposes. More unsaid things, yeah, but it's not like Cas would just kick him out, even without—well, the confession. "I mean, yeah, I kinda figured."
Cas stares at him for a beat, then releases a soft exhale. "Do you remember what I said about Eileen living with Sam, if she wants to?"
When she arrives, if she wants to stay and he wants her there, it will become her home that adapts to her own subconscious wishes as well.
Dean blinks. He blinks again. No. Surely not. This isn't—he wouldn't. There's no way he showed up in Cas' house and just—
Cas doesn't need a second toothbrush.
It's Dean's turn to quietly say, "Oh."
Dean is unintentionally changing everything because he has apparently come to the decision that he's going to be living here. That's pretty incriminating. Dean isn't really sure if that's something he wants to be aware of, but Heaven architecture obviously doesn't give a shit about the delicate issues in his head.
Anyway, the rather blunt, over-the-head blatantness of Cas' bed going from a single to a queen makes Dean grimace and look to the ceiling to berate his very fucking obvious subconscious. Well, at least he knows that Cas has to want him here for any of this to even be happening, so that's...helpful. Okay, it's not, because Cas has already done his whole Love Confession thing, so the only person who has to figure their shit out here is Dean.
"Heaven is geared towards your...wants, Dean," Cas murmurs. "If this is what you truly want, you're not going to get other options. Unless you're also wanting a second home, this is...all you've got."
"Awesome," Dean says weakly. He stares at the bed, a lump in his throat. "Can I at least get my own room? Jesus fucking Christ."
Cas clears his throat. "If you wanted one, there would be one. There...isn't."
"I don't want to sleep with you," Dean mutters, reaching up to scrub a hand over the side of his face, willing the bed to suddenly split into two. It remains stubbornly one bed, a side clearly just for him.
"Apparently you do," Cas retorts.
Dean cuts him a sharp look. "Fuck you, I don't."
"Then sleep on the couch," Cas tells him, his tone flat and bland. "I don't care."
"Wait, I'm—" Dean lunges forward to catch Cas' arm as he pivots to leave, swallowing a groan. He blows out an explosive breath and grimaces. "Shit. Shit. Sorry, just—I'm sorry, okay? Gimme a second."
There isn't a second to be given, however, because there's a small thump on the bed, like something falling on the covers. They both turn to stare, neither of them saying a word at the would-be innocent bottle of lube just casually waiting. There is absolutely nothing innocuous about it, and Dean drops Cas' arm like it's scalding.
"Dean," Cas starts.
"Was that you or me?" Dean chokes out.
Cas stares at him, then arches an eyebrow. "Perhaps it was both. Don't be alarmed."
"I'm alarmed. I'm so fucking alarmed," Dean declares, staring at the lube like it's going to grow legs and attack him. "I should—I want to leave."
The door slams shut.
"No, you don't," Cas says knowingly.
Dean closes his eyes. "Shit."
"You should relax," Cas suggests, though it's more of an order. He sighs and moves over to the bed, scooping up the lube like its meaningless, swinging around to put it in his nightstand drawer. After closing it, he turns and gestures to the bed, his eyebrows raised. "Sit down."
"On the bed?" Dean wheezes.
Cas rolls his eyes. "Yes, Dean, on the bed. I'm not going to do anything untoward. Calm down."
"Maybe I want you to. Subconsciously. Who the fuck knows?" Dean blurts out, a little hysterically. He moves over to the bed anyway, sinking down on the edge of it. "Fuck, I don't even know!"
"Okay," Cas says, then moves over to sit down next to him with a sigh. "Let's not—discuss that right now. Instead, tell me what you want to do in Heaven. I presume you won't wish to do nothing."
Dean swallows. "Right. No, I wanna—well, I guess I want to do something. I just don't know what."
"Heaven might know," Cas muses. "Do you have any ideas, or anything you wanted to do before you—"
When Cas cuts himself off with a violent clack of his teeth, Dean grimaces and blurts the first thing that pops into his mind. "I wanted to own a bar, once."
"You can do that here," Cas tells him.
"Wanna help?" Dean asks, before he can think about why he shouldn't. He immediately wants to drop his head in his hands as soon as the words leave his mouth. This is getting worse and worse.
"If you'd like," is all Cas says.
"Sam isn't going to be living here," Dean mumbles, staring down at his fingers. He curls them into a fist, taking a deep breath. "I've never—well, I can barely remember a time that I wasn't living with Sam."
"I'm sure he'll be close by. Unless he has the desire to be far away from you, I wouldn't be surprised if his home is just...up the road," Cas tells him.
"Yeah, but still. He's not going to be here. It's just me and you, man," Dean says, glancing at him.
Cas frowns. "I can't erase your desires, Dean, not even to save you the discomfort of acknowledging them. Whether or not you realized them before—"
Again, Cas snaps his mouth shut, nostrils flaring, and Dean winces. Ah, hell. "Cas," he says cautiously, hesitant, "I know you're pissed, okay? I know that. I get it. I'm pissed at you, too. But what good does it do to be mad at each other for dying when we're already dead? It's—it is what it is, man."
"Time and time again," Cas whispers, his voice shaking with the ferocity in it, "I have done things to protect you, to keep you alive, to—and I'm gone for a few months, so you just die? Do you have any idea how frustrating it is, Dean? You should have gotten more time. You deserved—you—"
"Okay, okay, stop it," Dean says, hushed. He knocks his knee into Cas', drawing his gaze—bright blue and utterly furious. "Come on, Cas, don't do that. Life ain't fair, ya know? It's just...not. I had way more time than I ever expected to get."
"Time you spent as a warrior for the world, rarely getting the chance to live for yourself," Cas snaps.
Dean clears his throat. "Yeah, well, that's… Whatever, it's fine. I'm not upset about it. Sammy had a good life. And I have eternity to do whatever the fuck I want."
"You deserved that on Earth. You deserved a good life. Out of everyone, you earned that." Cas makes a small sound of frustration, a raspy grunt in the back of his throat. "You saved the world, Dean, in so many ways. Do you understand that?"
"Well, hey, so did you," Dean says weakly.
Cas fixes him with an intense look. "You can take the credit for every good thing that I ever did for the world. It is only because of you that I came to care enough to do so. You saved the world in this way as well, by simply being you, because I—"
He doesn't say it. He snaps his mouth shut yet again, but Dean hears it anyway. He can practically see Cas' mouth shaping the words. Because I love you.
"Yeah, well, you saved my ass more times than I can count, so it's—it evens out, whatever." Dean clears his throat and looks down at his hands again. He can feel his own face twisting into anger. "And that last stunt you pulled? Cas, you don't—you have no fucking clue how much I wanna beat your ass."
"I'm sure," Cas says, flat and toneless.
"Fuck you," Dean spits, swiveling around to glare at him. "You don't just do shit like that to people. You didn't deserve to go out like that. You earned—you should have had a different ending."
Cas looks at him, defiance curving the set to his jaw, eyes flashing. "It is what it is, Dean."
"That's not the same." Dean releases a huff through his nose like an agitated bull. "That's not even close to what happened to me. I know why you did it. I know why you had to say what you did. I—I get it. We were gonna die, so you summoned the Empty to lower the number of casualties, but that isn't good enough for me. I would have preferred to die, do you get that? I coulda went my whole life not feeling as fucked up as I did after you—after—"
"It was what I wanted," Cas murmurs when Dean falters. "I wanted to save you, and I did. I do not regret giving you the extra amount of time that I did, no matter how short it turned out to be. I made the choice to do it then, and I would do it still."
"I didn't know how to get back up," Dean whispers, closing his eyes. "I wouldn't have, if Sam didn't need me. And—and eventually, even that wasn't enough. I was just so tired. I barely fucking remember everything that happened after. It all just feels like a blur. I was going through the motions, I think, and it wasn't bad, exactly, but it wasn't—it wasn't right either. I dunno. It's bad enough when you would kick the bucket without saying the shit you did, but that time, with what you said… It was fucked, man."
"I am sorry for your—discomfort," Cas says.
Dean opens his eyes, turning to stare at him. "My discomfort. You're sorry for my discomfort."
"Well," Cas mumbles awkwardly, "yes?"
"You think my discomfort was my top priority?"
"No. I'm sure you were mourning your best friend, and for that, I apologize as well. That being said, I still can't bring myself to regret it. I saved you. For a moment, I was—free to be happy. Thankfully, you allowed me that without interruption."
"I couldn't fucking speak, Cas!" Dean explodes, launching himself off the bed to wheel around and jerk his hands out in front of his chest. "I wasn't just standing by and letting you have the goddamn floor, you absolute bastard. There was so much—there was too much, and I couldn't—I wanted—I—"
"Dean," Cas says, vaguely alarmed now, and he also stands up from the bed, peering at him cautiously.
"No, shut up," Dean chokes out, his chest heaving. He can barely breathe, and every single word fights its way out of his mouth, punching out of him. "You were free in that moment, fine, what the fuck ever. But what about me? I—Cas, I couldn't fucking talk. I could barely goddamn breathe, and you just—you just—" He gives a growl of frustration, infuriated that he still can't say what he needs to. "That may have been the happiest moment of your life, but it was—it was the worst moment of mine. I had to listen to you, and watch as you—and I couldn't, Cas. I couldn't say—I can't say—"
"Dean. Dean," Cas says insistently, stepping forward to hold his gaze, "it's okay. It is. You don't have to speak. You don't have to say anything."
"You don't understand," Dean whispers, exhaling shakily. "I know you don't, because even I don't. The instant you were gone, I wanted you back. Cas, I wanted you back. I wanted—I wanted—"
Cas stares at him, searching his face. After a moment, his own face falls slack, eyes widening just so. "Oh," he breathes out.
Dean wants to be furious that Cas has figured it out before he has—whatever it is—but he's not even that surprised. Cas knows him too well, always has, even more than Dean knows himself. He's been kicking Dean in the goddamn teeth with how deeply he understands him, even about the things Dean doesn't, ever since they first met. You don't think you deserve to be saved, that's what Cas had said. All bundled up in impossibilities and power, this being that looked at Dean Winchester and knew every single inch of him, as if he had a right to each part.
"What?" Dean grits out.
"I love you, too," Cas says, simple and to the point.
And Dean just—he breathes. For a second, he just breathes, and he keeps doing that. He stares at Cas, and he breathes. He stands still, and he breathes. He doesn't think, and he breathes.
Long ago, Cas said you don't think you deserve to be saved, and at the time, Dean hadn't believed him. He'd denied it. Yet, it soon became something he just accepted about himself, just another part of who he is and how he's fucked up. He doesn't think he deserved to be saved, he never does. And Cas knew.
Dean doesn't ever recall telling Cas he loves him. He doesn't remember realizing it. He doesn't even think he's been denying it all this time. And yet, Cas says I love you, too with the assurance of someone who has the chance to return the gesture—return it, echo it, because it has been given to him.
And maybe...maybe Dean has been saying I love you in all the ways he hasn't. Saying I need you instead. Saying I'd rather have you, cursed or not. Saying I didn't leave you. Saying Morning, Sunshine, and Where's the angel, and It's a gift, you keep those. Saying Don't do this, because the last thing he ever wanted was for Cas to confess his love and trap Dean in a world where Cas never figured this part of him out.
I wanted, Dean had said, only seconds ago, and he hadn't been able to get much farther than that. Maybe there isn't anywhere else to go from there. He wanted, that's the whole point. He wanted, and he still fucking wants.
There's a bed big enough for two to prove it, a bottle of lube, an additional toothbrush, a different colored couch, more records on a table, a second rocking chair to join the first. Cas is right about him. He's always so fucking right, and Dean can't even hate him for it. He doesn't even try to.
Cas has him backed into something of a corner, except it's a trap of his own making. He can't open his mouth to say that it's a lie, because it just...isn't. He can't open his mouth to agree to it, because he doesn't know how—he didn't when it mattered most, and it hasn't gotten any easier since.
Dean doesn't say anything—can't say anything—and it feels like the most grueling thing he's ever done to just nod. Just that—a stiff, jerky nod that makes his jaws creak. He feels like he's being preserved in this moment, stuffed and encased in concrete, frozen into this person who admits something he's simultaneously known and never known about himself, something that perhaps shouldn't be so fucking terrifying, but is anyway.
It's not necessarily the guy part, though Dean's sure to have a breakdown about that later, because what the fuck? But no, mostly it's just that it's Cas.
They're both so fucking weird, and so fucked up, and honestly have so much shit between them that it would take forever to sort through it—but they have eternity now, so who knows? Honestly, in retrospect, they probably can't make it with anyone else. In the most ridiculous and horrifying and perfect way possible, they're meant for each other.
Jesus fucking Christ. That's why this shit is so terrifying. If Dean fucks this up… Well.
"You are thinking very hard," Cas notes, his eyes shining—he's been openly delighted from the moment Dean nodded.
"You get that this isn't—" Dean's throat clicks, and he has to swallow a few times before attempting to speak again. "This isn't like...stepping into a puddle, Cas. It's—it's a whole goddamn ocean, and we can definitely fuck around and drown in it. Uh, metaphorically, I mean."
Cas narrows his eyes. "I know how to swim."
"Tsunamis don't give a shit about that," Dean says harshly, distantly aware that he's comparing his ability to screw up everything to literal natural disasters. Trauma, Sam would say, and Dean would have to do jazz hands to laugh it off.
"Even after the great flood, there were survivors, Dean," Cas murmurs.
"Okay, Yoda," Dean snaps, "real wise of you, but that's not—you're not listening to me."
"I always listen to you." Cas rolls his eyes, up and over, exasperated. "If you think I haven't learned how to deal with you after all these years, then you haven't been paying attention. Your best is not the condition of my love; it was just as present at your worst. You can attempt to metaphorically drown me, but I've been tolerating you at your most ridiculous for so long that it's safe to assume I've evolved and grown gills. I'll be fine."
Dean stares at him, then he barks a sharp laugh, slightly stunned. "That's—that's how you reassure me? Hey, no big deal, we're gonna be just fine because your fuck-ups don't faze me anymore?"
"Well, do mine faze you?" Cas challenges.
"I—" Dean pauses, thinking about that for a second. It takes a moment, but he thinks he gets what Cas means. Cas has done so much stupid shit over the years that Dean just...dealt with, because there's nothing in this world that Cas can really do that would ever make him want to let Cas go. Dude literally tried to end the world once, and Dean hasn't thought about it in years. The closest thing that ever came to them not making it was the whole Mary and Jack mess, and even then, somewhere deep down, Dean knew they'd make it anyway. Of course I forgive you, he'd said, because of course. Absolutely. Always. So, yeah, he gets it. "Okay, fair enough."
"We're well-suited, you know," Cas muses idly, lips twitching. "I wouldn't like you otherwise."
Dean snorts. "We are not well-suited. You put up with too much of my shit, and I—well, I have too much shit, so."
"We can spend forever arguing who is the worst of us, if you'd like, but I don't think we'll ever actually agree," Cas says, his gaze soft and fond. "There isn't trouble to get into here, so I sincerely doubt we'll have many opportunities to display our worst. I'd say we could try for our best instead. Or moderate, at the very least. Normal, perhaps."
"There isn't shit normal about us," Dean says.
Cas inclines his head, amused. "Yes, that's true. Normal for us, then."
Dean holds his breath for a long moment, working out what he's being asked to agree to, and once he does, he still agrees. "Yeah, okay, let's do that."
"Good." Cas regards him for a moment longer, then hums. "Alright, I want to see Sam now."
"You want to—what?" Dean blinks, startled. All of that, and Cas is ready to just drop it and carry on? He's ready to turn around and abandon Dean for his brother? If this is the start to...whatever the fuck they're doing, they're gonna have to work on it.
"I miss him," Cas says simply, then turns and walks away without another word. When Dean doesn't immediately follow, his voice drifts back, quiet but firm. "Hurry up, Dean. You're driving."
Dean stares around the room for a split second, then shakes his head and fishes his keys out of his pocket, blowing out an explosive breath and putting one foot in front of the other.
It should be weird, but it's not. Cas slides into Baby with familiarity and reads the whole time that Dean is driving, his eyes narrowed in concentration. Every once in a while, when Dean glances over at him, Cas will look up and stare at him for however long it takes for Dean to remember that he should be watching the road. They don't say a word.
In fairness, it's not a very long drive. Cas was right about Sam being right up the road. He's literally right up the road. Like, Dean has been driving for all of five minutes before he passes a mailbox with Winchester on it and has to do a u-turn in the middle of the road. The house itself is pretty nice—bigger than Cas' house, maybe a bit more traditional.
Dean has just cut the engine when the door swings open and Sam comes ambling out with—shockingly enough—Eileen following behind.
"She was not dead an hour ago," Dean mutters, squinting out of Baby's windshield.
Cas hums thoughtfully. "Time is different here, Dean. A day on Earth can be decades here. Decades there can be a day for us. It's whatever suits our wishes. It's why I'm not surprised that Sam is here, because you would need him to be for Heaven to ever be home. People come very quickly, generally, even if they live their whole lives."
"Oh," Dean says. "I just thought it was because she got old and died pretty quickly after he did."
"There's that possibility as well," Cas admits.
Huffing a laugh—seriously, Cas is so fucking funny sometimes—Dean opens the door and hops out. Cas does the same. It's mildly amusing to see Sam's entire face light up as soon as he sees Cas, but it's even more amusing to see Eileen start hopping in place and swatting Sam on the arm.
"Cas!" Sam calls out, holding up a hand, grinning.
"Dean!" Eileen bellows, practically shoving Sam out of the way to come barreling right for him, nearly knocking him off his feet.
"Uh, hi, Eileen," Dean chokes out, startled again. He gingerly pats her on the shoulder, surprised that they're having something of a moment. It's not like they were strangers, but they weren't best friends either. They got along well, and Dean has always liked her, but they weren't close.
They didn't have the time to be.
Eileen wrenches back and beams at him, her eyes sparkling. "You're about to settle so many arguments, Dean Winchester, you have no idea. Why'd you have to go and die so young, hm? Sam is the most stubborn asshole in the world, so I could have used your backup, you know. You're not allowed to agree with him on absolutely anything, okay?"
"Don't listen to her. Do not listen to her," Sam declares, pulling out of a hug with Cas. "She doesn't know what she's talking about. She never does. Let me tell you, man, she once argued—unironically, I should point out—that the Mandela Effect is a phenomenon that pushes the world into alternate timelines. Curious George never had a tail!"
"He's bringing up the Mandela Effect thing again, isn't he?" Eileen asks, raising her eyebrows. She apparently doesn't need to turn and read his lips to know what the fuck Sam is saying.
Dean nods at her. "Yeah. Also, I'm pretty damn sure Curious George had a tail."
Sam makes a sound like he's in pain.
"You're my new favorite," Eileen informs him, grinning, and Dean smiles back just as brightly.
"Is Curious his first name?" Cas murmurs. "Surely not. It would be George. To earn the title of Curious, he would have to be all the time, consistently and perpetually. I don't think anyone is curious all the time, certainly not a monkey. He should be called George, I believe."
"Man," Sam breathes out, "it's really good to see you, Cas. This is going to sound strange, but I've missed you being weird. It's been—Jesus, it's been years, dude. I mean, I knew Dean was skipping out to go find you, but—but still… It's been too long."
"I apologize for not coming to greet you," Cas tells him. "I was…"
"Hiding," Dean says.
Cas sends him a sharp look, then softens when looking at Sam. "I was preoccupied. You have a lovely home, by the way. I'm assuming it was where you and Eileen lived when you were alive?"
"Oh, yeah," Sam chirps. He reaches out to curl a hand over Eileen's shoulder, beaming. "You two wanna come in and see? It looks exactly the way it did before I died. You can see pictures of Dean."
"You have pictures of me?" Dean asks, eyebrows jerking up as he follows the others towards the house. He's oddly touched.
Sam snorts. "Well, yeah, sure. But no, I meant the other Dean. Our son."
"Oh, right," Dean mumbles, blinking slowly. Sam had mentioned that already, but it's still such a strange concept to him. Sam's a dad. Weird.
The house is as nice on the inside as it is on the outside. It's a lot of open, breathable space and cheerful lighting. It's what Dean would think of if he were ever required to describe a happy home. Scattered throughout are photos of Sam and Eileen's son. Dean watches him grow up through the pictures, enthralled by how much his nephew looks like Sam. He has Eileen's nose, and her smile, but his eyes... Dean blinks, surprised to find his own eyes staring right back at him—the shape of them, the long eyelashes, even the apple-green shade.
"This was just after he graduated," Sam tells him quietly, tapping the picture Dean's staring at. "I wasn't doing too hot at the time, actually. I think I had just recovered from my first heart attack. Anyway, he was so—he was really excited about graduating because I'd… Well, Eileen and I promised we'd take him on a hunt after he did."
Dean glances over at Sam in astonishment. "He was a hunter? Sammy, you—"
"Ah, ah, don't start. Don't tell me how I should have raised my kid," Sam interrupts, fixing him with a serious look. "We never lied to him. He grew up knowing what mommy and daddy went through. He grew up on stories of Uncle Dean. Claire and Kaia were his godparents, man. He knew about the life, and he knew we wouldn't let him be in it until he was a grown man who could decide for himself."
"Right," Dean murmurs, his throat thick. He clears it once, twice, a third time. "And did he?"
Sam laughs softly, staring at the picture with open love in his eyes. "We took him on a hunt. Hearing about it is one thing, but seeing it, doing it...that's something else. He decided to go to college and actually finish, but after that… Well, the family business is still going strong, I guess."
"I guess all Dean Winchesters are the same, huh?" Dean muses weakly.
"What?" Sam snorts, shaking his head. "Hell no. My child is a helluva lot more well-rounded than either of us could have ever dreamed to be. He's also a lot nicer than you ever were."
Dean rolls his eyes and reaches out to give Sam a shove. "Oh, fuck you."
"Hey, I think I lost my wife." Sam glances up with a frown, looking around. "Shit, she can't stay put for anything in the world. Lemme tell you, she just wanders off wherever she goes. It's like she gets distracted by anything shiny, and I have to stumble around trying to figure out where the hell she went. I'm gonna put a leash on her, man."
"Kinky," Dean teases, amused by how much of a crotchety old man Sam sounds like at the moment.
Sam ignores him and heaves a sigh, going looking for Eileen, and Dean follows because Cas is also missing and that doesn't bode well.
They're found a few minutes later in the kitchen, fingers flying as they sign back and forth in between drinking from oversized glasses of wine. Sam and Dean share a look, and Dean just shrugs. After a beat, Sam moves over to the fridge to grab two beers, then they move over to sit down at the table as well. They watch in equal amounts of interest as Cas and Eileen have what appears to be a very fast and very intense conversation without ever uttering a word. Dean has no idea what the fuck they're saying, but he's sure that Sam does, likely knowing ASL as well as Eileen does at this point.
"He's telling her about his gardens," Sam tells Dean, likely noticing the confusion on his face. "He apparently has two at his house. A rock garden and a normal one."
"Yeah," Dean says, "he was telling me about that. His house is nice. Lots of plants. Kinda livens up the place, if I'm honest."
"I'm sure we'll see it at some point." Sam stares at him for a beat, then frowns. "What about you? Heaven didn't conjure the Bunker for you, or something, did it? Do you even have a house? Shit, Dean, I didn't even think—you can stay with me and Eileen. Of course you can. You know that, right?"
Dean stares down at his beer and clears his throat, catching Eileen and Cas' hands slowly coming to a halt out of his peripheral. "Uh, that's—I mean, thanks, that's great, but I'm good, Sam. I'm actually, um, staying with—with Cas."
"Are you?" Sam asks, sounding absolutely thrilled, and when Dean glances up, he has a shit-eating grin on his face.
"Oh, fuck off," Dean mutters, picking up his beer to take a swallow, just to give himself something to do. It tastes like the beer he had after Cas came back from the Empty the first time. His face is hot.
Sam tilts his head back, his shoulders shaking with laughter, and he just keeps wheezing, "I knew it, I knew it, I fucking knew it," over and over.
Dean throws the bottle cap and pings him right in the forehead, smirking in victory when Sam yelps and rubs the red spot, scowling. "You didn't know shit, so shut the fuck up."
"Oh, so you and Cas are just cohabitating, is that it? Really? Nothing to see here, just two dudes spending the rest of eternity together?" Sam raises his eyebrows pointedly. "Is that what you're going with, Dean, seriously?"
"You know what, Sam? Bite me." Dean huffs and leans back in his chair. "Maybe it's none of your goddamn business, you ever think of that?"
Sam stares at him, blankly. "Dude, I had to watch you two be—I don't even know what to call it. But, the point is, I had to be an unwilling witness to all your shit and his. If anyone has earned the claim that it's their business, it's me." He holds up his hands when Dean opens his mouth. "However, because I'm a wonderful person and a great brother, I won't be an ass about it. Do what you do, man."
Eileen releases a bright burst of laughter, and Dean jolts in surprise, having forgotten her and Cas for a split second. He glances over to see them back in the middle of a conversation, fingers moving quickly. Cas is smiling a little sheepishly, and Eileen looks utterly delighted. She leans across the table and gives Cas a very enthusiastic high-five.
"I don't even wanna know," Dean mutters.
"Yeah, me neither," Sam agrees. He pushes to his feet. "Come on, bring your beer. We have a pool table in the attic. Dean loved the damn thing. He got so good that he was better than me, you know. I think he might have been as good as you. Let's leave them to...whatever they're doing."
"Preaching to the choir, man," Dean says, hopping to his feet and hastily following Sam through the house, his beer cooling his palm.
They spend the rest of the day in the attic, playing pool. It's a long game because Sam keeps going through boxes and showing Dean different things that he wasn't ever around for—his nephew's first drawing, his nephew's first (forgotten and discarded) phone, Eileen's bow and arrows when she went through a phase of loving them, Sam's cookbook that he put together later in life.
Eileen and Cas show up, drifting in, but they eventually drift back out. It's sort of nice, just knowing they're around, even if they're not interested in joining in on the Winchester Brother Bonding. Personally, Dean's having a great time.
He knows, realistically, that he's going to have to see other people eventually. His mom is here. His dad. Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Charlie, Kevin, Mrs. Tran. There are so many people that he's going to have to be around, people he's forgotten how to be around. He's not sure who he's supposed to be around them.
That's another thing. People are different. Sam, for example. It's strange because Dean has this idea of who Sam is in his head, all because he never got to see Sam get older, grow, change. Now, Sam is different—he bitches like an old man, tells stupid jokes, gets sentimental at the drop of a hat. People aren't frozen in time just because Dean died; they kept right on going, even when he didn't.
It's an adjustment, and he's pretty sure that it's going to be an adjustment for others in regards to him. The only people who won't be surprised by what he's like now is Jack, Cas, Sam, and Eileen. They knew him well before he died, right before. And, well, maybe Mary, too—that's a complicated situation, though, and Dean doesn't wanna think about it just yet.
This is enough, for now. Just spending time with Sam, Cas, and Eileen. It's more than enough. It's downright wonderful, is what it is. He'll worry about the rest when the time comes.
As the day starts to come to a close, Cas appears in the attic and says, "I need to water my plants."
"Do you actually need to?" Dean asks, genuinely curious. "Would Heaven let them die?"
"I prefer tending to them without the interference of Heaven, so yes," Cas says.
Dean grunts. "Huh, weird, but okay. Well, alright, let me finish kicking Sam's ass real quick."
"Oh, please, you aren't…" Sam trails off, pressing his lips into a thin line when Dean proceeds to sink in the rest of his stripes and the eight-ball in short order. He frowns. "How are you still better than me at this? I've had more years of practice by now."
"Yeah, and you've had more years to get sloppy," Dean says with a snort. He sits aside the pool-stick, then heaves a sigh. "This is just one of those things I'm better at, Sammy."
Sam rolls his eyes. "Yeah, whatever. Get the hell outta my house, asshat."
"Sure, sure," Dean mutters, biting back a grin.
Sam and Eileen walk them out, chattering away the whole time. They're cheerful, seemingly having endless stories to tell, all these things they want to catch Cas and Dean up on. It's nice, but it's also a lot to take in. Throughout, there's nowhere in the world Dean would rather be, but after, in the silence of Baby, he releases a deep breath of relief.
"Are you alright?" Cas asks.
Dean nods. "Yeah, just... I feel like I'm gonna get punched if I admit that I already forgot my nephew's birthday. It's just a lot, is all."
"It will get easier." Cas glances at him, smiling slightly. "I don't think they mean to overload us with information. They just...missed us."
"Yeah, I know," Dean mumbles.
Cas hums and picks his book up from where he left it sitting on the seat. He goes back to reading, not saying a word, and Dean drives them away.
It's about ten minutes into the drive that Dean realizes something is up. Cas' house isn't this far from Sam and Eileen's, so he has absolutely no idea where the fuck they are. Cas had said people don't get lost or stranded in Heaven, but Dean's got a creeping sense of dread that he might be the first. How the fuck did he get lost on a straight road?
"Hey, uh, Cas," Dean says warily.
"Hm?" Cas looks up from his book, blinking over at him. "What is it?"
"This is gonna sound weird, but I don't know where the fuck we are," Dean admits.
"Oh?" Cas leans forward to peer out the windshield, squinting out at their surroundings. His lips tick down. "Ah, neither do I."
Dean sends him a look. "We're lost? Should we be panicking? I feel like we should be panicking."
"We're not lost," Cas corrects. "There is somewhere we wish to be. Either that, or there's somewhere that Heaven wants us to be. Just keep driving. We'll get wherever we're supposed to at some point."
It's lucky that Dean trusts Cas, because he swallows his arguments and keeps driving. He has no idea where they are, but it's just a straight road with some curves, so at least he doesn't have to take any turns. He blows out a deep breath and turns on the radio, eyes bulging when Taylor Swift comes on first. Cas doesn't so much as twitch, though, so Dean hesitantly leaves it alone. The song is new, something he's never heard before.
Dammit, he likes it, too.
Cas is right to say that they'll eventually end up where they're supposed to, because they do. Dean sees it first, slowing to an idle halt in the middle of the road as he squints out the window. Before he can think twice about it, he pulls into the driveway.
It's a—well, it's a bar. It's the bar, the one from his own head, the one Michael weaponized against him, recognizing it as a distant dream he never really let himself pursue. It's why it worked so well to keep him trapped in his own head; he never actually wanted to escape. It's another one of those things that he simply wants, even if he never really allowed himself to acknowledge it.
Dean stares at it for a long time, lips pursed. He's assuming Heaven is just...giving it to him. What, are he and Cas just gonna run a bar together? Are family and friends gonna stop in for drinks and visit? It'd be nice, admittedly. It'll give him something to do, and it'll provide him a place he can deal with others in spurts, in an environment that he feels secure in, or whatever the fuck.
Eventually, Cas seems to realize that they're no longer moving. He looks up, peering at the bar with narrowed eyes, assessing. Finally, after a few minutes, his face smooths out as he looks over at Dean, patient, waiting. No judgement.
"What about you?" Dean asks. "Isn't there anything you want to do?"
Cas hums thoughtfully. "I already do them. I tend to my plants and my gardens. I spend time with Jack. I visit friends. I read books I've never read before, things Metatron hadn't forced into my head already. I help with the upkeep of Heaven itself. Those are things I want to do, so I do them."
"Okay. Yeah, okay." Dean takes a deep breath and nods. "And you're just...cool with doing this, too?"
"Yes," Cas says simply.
"Right," Dean mumbles.
"We can figure it out tomorrow," Cas murmurs, turning back to his book. "For now, I really do need to water the plants. Let's go home, Dean."
Dean swallows, his fingers spasming around Baby's wheel. "Okay," he says, and his voice cracks. If Cas hears it, he thankfully doesn't mention it.
Getting back to the house is so much simpler than what it took to get to the bar. Despite the fact that it was a half-hour drive from Eileen and Sam's to the bar, it takes ten minutes, at most, to get back to Cas' house. Dean doesn't even need to know where they're going—he just starts driving, and the house comes into view pretty quickly.
Dean has the feeling that distance is as weird here as time is. He's not complaining, though. He took an hour drive that apparently lasted decades on Earth, and then Sam showed up, so there's nothing to complain about. It's confusing, but not in a way that really seems to matter. It just feels...accommodating.
It's late in the evening now, and Dean's instantly distracted by the lake. Cas bustles off into the house to, presumably, water his numerous plants, but Dean is rooted to the spot, staring at the lake.
There are bobbles of light floating above the water, reflecting and glinting off the ripples. It gives it a story-book feeling, like something out of a fairytale. It's like the stars have dipped down to kiss the water, something so effortlessly ethereal about it. Dean stares with his mouth hanging open, amazed, awed. It's just—well, it's fucking pretty, actually.
"It's glowworms," Cas tells him when he eventually comes back outside. "They settle on the branches over the lake during the day, then hang over the water and light up at night. I'm fairly certain there are some fireflies there as well."
"I'm guessing it's here because you wanted it," Dean murmurs, still just staring, taking it in.
Cas makes a small sound. "I suppose so. I spent a lot of time watching the lake. It's beautiful."
"It's awesome," Dean breathes out.
"Yes," Cas agrees, his voice soft. "Stay as long as you like. I'm going back in to see what surprise awaits me in the microwave."
Dean jolts, blinking, and he turns to look at Cas with a small frown. "You don't gotta do that. I can cook, man. I mean, I didn't know you'd eat, but…"
"Food tastes like memories here, Dean," Cas tells him gently. "Of course I eat."
"Oh, right," Dean mutters. He clears his throat and glances back at the house. "Well, I can still cook."
Cas surveys him for a long moment, then nods slowly. "Okay."
So, they go back inside. The house is mostly the same, but Dean can pick up on little details that his subconscious has changed without his knowledge. A poster here, a gun there, a few pictures lining the shelves that weren't there before. Cas doesn't seem to care, and it wouldn't happen if he did, so Dean doesn't say one word about it.
In the kitchen, there's food already sitting out on the counter. Raw beef and bacon, buns, lettuce and tomatoes, whole potatoes. Cas looks equally startled, so Dean knows that the ingredients just popped up. Apparently one of them wants burgers and home fries, or maybe both of them do. Fair enough.
Dean cooks. Cas leaves him to it, disappearing out of the room. Eventually, Dean can hear him moving around outside the kitchen, and then a little bit later the record player comes on. All My Love by Led Zeppelin plays, and Dean stares stupidly at the potato he's peeling for a long time, his jaw working.
By the time the food is ready, Cas has apparently switched from Led Zeppelin to Judy Garland, and it's genuinely such a whiplash range of music that Dean can't even be surprised about it. Cas is so fucking weird, Jesus Christ. This point is only proven when Dean pokes his head into the living room to find Cas making a mess all over his very nice rug, doing some kind of wood-carving out of a tree stump the size of a small tire. He's intensely focused, and he looks utterly ridiculous hacking away at it, still wearing his stupid trenchcoat and leaving a goddamn mess of bark on the floor.
"Hey, what the fuck are you doing?" Dean asks.
"Rufus showed me how to carve out designs from tree stumps," Cas says, not even looking up. "I can do owls very well, but Charlie has requested that I try my hand at an X-wing Starfighter. I needed the firewood anyway. The extra goes in the fireplace."
"Okay, who's the lumberjack now?" Dean mutters, snorting under his breath. Cas pauses to narrow his eyes at him, and Dean grins with all teeth. "Yeah, not so funny when it's you, huh? Whatever, stop making a mess and come eat. But, like, wash your hands first. And dude, you gotta get out of that trenchcoat one of these days, man. I know it's basically your security blanket, but come on."
Dean ducks back into the kitchen before Cas can come back with a retort, which feels a little like a victory of some kind.
A little bit later, the record changes again, and it's Billy Joel this time. Only the Good Die Young. Dean has something of an out-of-body experience listening to it. He thinks maybe Cas is trying to tell him something, or maybe he just has a very eclectic taste in music, which is also just as likely. Either way, Dean is staring off into space with the lyric Oh sooner or later it comes down to faith bouncing around in his head when Cas shows up in the doorway, now notably in just a t-shirt and jeans.
Is Cas Virginia? Cas is Virginia, Dean thinks a little ridiculously, blinking at him.
But Virginia they didn't give you quite enough information. You didn't count on me, when you were counting on your rosary, Billy sings, and Dean is pretty damn sure Cas is Virginia and he's Billy, and this is just fucking wild, is what it is.
"Thank you," Cas says, taking his plate.
"You're welcome," Dean mutters.
They eat in silence, listening to Billy Joel. They say there's a heaven for those who will wait. Some say it's better but I say it ain't. I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.
Jesus Christ. Dean rubs his fingers over his forehead and huffs out a weak, slightly hysterical laugh. The burgers taste like a random, relaxed day in the Bunker—a memory of him and Sam, taking a tiny break in between world-altering cases. Cas isn't there, but he isn't dead, and that was apparently enough to put Dean in a very good mood. Whatever memory Cas has, it makes his lips curl up as he eats.
Come out come out come out Virginia don't let 'em wait. You Catholic girls start much too late. Oh sooner or later it comes down to faith. Oh I might as well be the one, Billy Joel belts out, and Dean launches from his chair to go lift the needle and dip the house into silence. He exhales shakily and clears his throat, shaking the cobwebs from his brain as he stiffly walks back into the kitchen and goes back to eating.
"I was listening to that," Cas says.
"Yeah, well, now you're not," Dean snaps, and then they really do eat in silence.
After dinner, Dean does the dishes. Cas tells him he technically doesn't have to, that Heaven would handle it, but Dean actually wants to, so Cas just shrugs and leaves to go get a shower. He's out by the time Dean finishes up in the kitchen, so Dean goes to take one of his own. He very carefully doesn't think about the empty half of the closet being full of his clothes, the glaring absence of flannel a thing of the past. He just grabs some clothes and heads into the bathroom to enjoy the very hot water and genuinely delightful water pressure.
When he gets out, Cas has stubbornly put the same song back on, and he's curled up on the couch with a book. The fireplace is crackling, emitting an orange glow over the room, leaving it comfortably warm.
Dean scowls at the record player, gritting his teeth, but he doesn't risk trying to cut it off again. He's very sure they'll just get into a passive-aggressive battle of turning it on and off, which he has no desire to do. He tries to drown the song out, settling down at the table near the little nook to take his guns apart and clean them. He doesn't have a reason to, seeing as he won't be hunting anything, but it's something he has always done—a comforting routine, something to do with his hands.
It's already late at night, but they waste an hour doing their own things. That song thankfully changes, so Dean eventually relaxes. He's actually bobbing his head along to Uptown Girl when Cas shuts his book and sits it aside, moving over to cut the music off. Dean looks up just as he jerks the barrel of the shotgun back into place, the resounding snap echoing into the abrupt silence.
Even from here, Dean can see the way Cas' pupils dilate at the action, his whole body jerking in the middle of motion. He freezes for a second, just staring at Dean, then he blinks and relaxes all at once. His pupils return to normal. His initial sharp inhale seems like a distant memory when he breathes out casually. Dean would have never noticed if he didn't see it happen.
"I'm going to bed," Cas informs him. "Sleep on the couch, or don't. Goodnight, Dean."
"Night, Cas," Dean says weakly, gingerly laying the shotgun down and watching him disappear into the hall towards his room.
This is Dean's house, too. He keeps thinking of it as Cas' house, but it's not. Not anymore. Cas wants it to be his home, and apparently so does Dean. Jesus fucking Christ, what the hell has he gotten himself into? This is genuinely insane.
Dean puts his elbows on the table and his head in his hands. Right, so, there's no point in trying to deny anything. He literally can't. Heaven isn't going to let him, because it seems the thing he wants the most is—well, this. Just this. A bar, his family, and a life with Cas. What kind of life, he doesn't really know yet. He has eternity to figure it out, but he honestly doesn't want to take that long.
He just wants to get to the part where it makes sense, where he's already figured it out, where he doesn't have to explore and work shit out. He wants it to be routine already, but to do that, he's going to have to actually do things. Whatever those things may be. He's still not clear on that one.
Guys? Dean asks himself, then instinctively shies away from the thought. Those kind of things are saved for the midst of sexual acts and are not permitted to see the light of day otherwise. It's one thing to picture Dr. Sexy naked while he's getting himself off, but it's something else entirely to let that kind of thing have weight.
But it's gonna have to have weight now, isn't it? There's a bed he's trying to convince himself to crawl into with a grown man waiting on the other side of it, and it's not like sharing a bed with a buddy out of necessity. It's just not. It's something else. It's the way Dean will be able to reach out and touch, and the way Cas will definitely let him, and the way he maybe, possibly, might want to.
Guys??? Dean asks himself more forcefully, because he should know that at the very least. If he can't even figure that out, he's going to have to resign himself to a life of sleeping on the couch.
And the thing is, yeah, okay...guys. Maybe. Whatever. Some guys. A few guys. The ones with strength in their grips, and the ones who wear cowboy hats and boots, and the ones that lean casually up against bars with their ankles crossed, and the ones with some scruff on their face, and okay, maybe the ones with rough laughter and sleeves rolled up to reveal veiny forearms. It's not a thing. It's just—envy, maybe?
If he sees some guy who could probably kick his ass, his appreciation isn't like that. He's pretty sure it's just some version of dick-envy, but about someone's demeanor. Right? Right.
Okay, well, no. The thing is, Dean's never once wanted to be Dr. Sexy. Getting off to the idea of Dr. Sexy wearing nothing but his cowboy boots has fuck all to do with Dean wanting to wear nothing but cowboy boots, and trying to rationalize it that way makes him sound fucking stupid, even in his own head. Jesus Christ. It's just Dr. Sexy being naked in cowboy boots, isn't it? Because he's hot.
"Fuck," Dean swears, then groans quietly and drops his head to the table with dull thunk.
Guys, Dean thinks mournfully, and yeah. But hey, ladies, too! That's still true. If nothing else, that's a relief. It gives him some room to exhale.
Really, this small revelation wouldn't really matter in the grand scheme of things because women. They're a lot easier. He's not really sure how all this shit works, but he does know for goddamn sure that thinking dudes are hot doesn't make him think women are less hot. He could have gone his whole life not knowing that he—
Well, he did go his whole life not knowing.
Or, maybe he didn't. Not really. If he didn't at least have the smallest inkling, he would be freaking out a lot more than he is right now. He thinks he did know, but simply never cared to deal with it. In fairness, when did he have the time to? Life was already fucked up enough without him trying to work out if there was a little more to his secret fantasies of sucking Doc Holliday's dick—the one from Tombstone, specifically.
It wasn't a thing, okay? There is something intricately sexual about that man's mustache, and Dean just simply understood he was no better than anyone else and had also fallen prey to it. Anyone would think that way, he's sure.
In any case, this revelation does matter now, because he has a best friend who's in love with him, who he loves back—even if he can't say it—and there's a bed that they apparently want to share. Having a fantasy of sucking Doc Holliday's dick as a guilty pleasure is one thing; having a best friend right next to him who would probably suck his dick if he asked is another thing entirely.
Eventually, he would ask. At some point, he's going to ask. Dean just knows himself too well. Cas will be warm, and he'll probably smell nice, and then Dean will be obsessing over it because he knows he shouldn't and he always does things he shouldn't. One of these days, he'll blurt out something very stupid, and Cas will—
No, no, Dean is not thinking about that. It's different when the man is real. It's different when it's his best friend. He doesn't care what love confessions they have between them now, it's different. He's not thinking about it.
Just, well, if he was thinking about it, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Hell, maybe it would be good. Actually, it would probably be—
"Fuck," Dean hisses, snatching his head up and staring across the room without actually seeing anything. He takes a deep breath. He lets it out.
Cas abruptly appears in the mouth of the hallway, squinting at him, and he says, "Dean."
Dean jerks so hard that his knee slams into the leg of the table, making him yelp instinctively, even though it doesn't actually hurt. Right, no pain in Heaven. He rubs his knee anyway and stares at Cas with wide eyes, throat bobbing.
"Yeah?" he rasps.
"Go to bed," Cas tells him.
Dean blinks. "What?"
"Go to bed, Dean," Cas repeats, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. He heaves a sigh and tips his head to the side. "You don't have to be the one who decides to get into bed with me if you're already in it when I just so happen to join you. I believe it's called compromise."
"Oh." Dean stares at him for a long beat, then he stands up and clears his throat. "I'm fine."
"You're lying," Cas says blandly, with the air of a man who knows Dean so well that he doesn't even have to try anymore. He arches an eyebrow, his tone going firm. "Go to bed."
Dean considers arguing for a moment, but Cas is wearing that expression and talking in that voice that states he's fully not fucking around. If Dean isn't careful, he's going to be picked up and carried to bed by a very irritated Cas who is tired of his bullshit. That's fair. Dean's tired of his own bullshit a lot of the time, too.
Because he's very sure that being carried to bed will make his brain give up for the rest of ever, Dean forces himself to walk to the room—their room—on his own. Cas doesn't follow. He just stays where he is, watching Dean walk by without a word.
Dean gets into the room and stares down at the bed for a long moment, but it is surprisingly easier to get into it without a man on the other side of it. He settles in, biting back a groan of relief. If anything could convince him that this is Heaven, it's this goddamn bed. Holy shit, it's literally perfect.
He's just relaxing into it when Cas moves into the room, not faltering as he flicks off the light, dousing the room in complete darkness. Dean's heart immediately starts thumping heavily in his chest, and he wills his eyes to adjust fast enough, but they don't. He can't see shit, so he's tense when the covers tug and the bed dips as Cas slides in.
The bed is big enough that they don't have to touch. That doesn't mean Dean isn't painfully aware of Cas being next to him. He is warm. He does smell nice.
"Go to sleep, Dean," Cas rumbles, settling down with a quiet sigh.
Dean coughs. "Probably won't be able to do that, but thanks for the vote of confidence."
"If you did not wish to sleep beside me, Dean, you would have a bed of your own. Technically, there is nowhere else you should be able to rest perfectly than here, or you would have that place to go to."
"Yeah, okay, I get that. My subconscious is a bitch, wonderful. That doesn't—it doesn't mean I've come to terms with it yet, Cas."
"I see." Cas is quiet for a beat, and Dean can just make out the outline of his body in the dark. "Yes, well, be quiet while you attempt to do that. I like my sleep, and I won't have it interrupted because you're not going to allow yourself the things you want."
"You're literally such an asshole," Dean mutters.
"I'm worse without sleep," Cas says, pointedly.
Dean turns his head, squinting at the faint shape of Cas' head. "Would you suck my dick if I asked?"
"Yes," Cas says. Then, "Are you asking?"
"No," Dean blurts out hastily. "Just—well."
"Well," Cas echoes dryly.
"Shut up, Cas. Get your goddamn beauty sleep and leave me the fuck alone," Dean grumbles.
Cas hums. "As you wish."
He doesn't say another word. His breathing is quiet, and it eventually gets slower. Dean can actively hear him falling asleep. He can sense it, can feel it as Cas' breathing grows deeper, as his limbs become slack. It's a very vulnerable thing, and Dean finds himself inexplicably wanting to protect Cas. From what, he's not sure. Everything, maybe. Anything.
Despite his belief that he's not going to sleep a wink, Dean's lulled by Cas' breathing in short order. His eyes grow heavy. He starts to relax. He's not even tired, but he feels sort of lethargic and safe, happy to just lay here with his eyes shut and his thoughts drifting. It doesn't take very long before his breathing evens out with sleep, too.
At some point later, he jerks awake to his arm being pushed down. He blinks rapidly, making a muffled sound of confusion. There's something warm beneath half of his body, fingers pushing his elbow away, breath ruffling his hair. What the fuck?
It takes Dean a second. He has to relearn to exist first, and then he realizes that he's sort of lying half on top of Cas and elbowing him in the side. He smacks his lips and mumbles an apology, pulling his elbow away, and Cas gives an amused sound in the back of his throat. Dean's lips curl up. He closes his eyes again, ready to go right back to sleep.
A beat later, Dean's eyes snap open.
"Oh, shit," Dean garbles, jerking back in mounting alarm. He can feel the long line of heat from Cas' body pressed right along his own. They're practically knocking knees over here.
Cas huffs quietly. "Stop flailing, Dean. Just go back to sleep."
"Go back to—" Dean sputters and tries to squirm backwards, nearly braining himself on Cas' elbow with how hard he jerks back when his hand lands on Cas' exposed hip—a stretch of warm skin, soft and supple beneath his palm. "Dude! We're fucking snuggling right now! What the fuck?"
"Again, this wasn't me," Cas snaps. "You're on my side of the bed, in case you didn't notice."
"You coulda shoved me away! Jesus!"
Dean releases a squawk of offense. "Clingy? I am not clingy. Fuck you. Move the fuck over."
"I can't. I'm on the edge of the bed. If I move over anymore, I'll be on the floor."
"Sounds like a goddamn improvement."
Cas huffs again. "I liked it better when you were sleeping. Stop being ridiculous and go back to doing that, instead. You're not going to run me out of our bed because you have an aversion to comfort."
Our bed, our bed, our bed, Dean's brain chants, apparently feeling the need to point out something else that's just going to send him spiraling further.
"It's not an aversion to comfort, Cas. Maybe I just don't wanna wake up fucking cuddling you, did you ever think of that?"
"Then perhaps you shouldn't cuddle me, Dean."
"Oh, fuck off," Dean snarls, still trying to figure out how the fuck to get his arm out from under Cas' and roll away. Jesus Christ, he really did just wrap around him like a particularly clingy vine. That only pisses him off more. "Don't act like you're not enjoying this, you fucking bastard."
"I'd enjoy it more if I were sleeping," Cas grits out, his hand fumbling in the dark to grab Dean's wrist and snatch his arm out.
"Oh, boohoo, Sleeping Beauty, sorry to have woken you up. It's too goddamn bad I didn't elbow you in the face. That would have been much more entertaining," Dean snips, trying to yank his hand out of Cas' grip, only to realize a little too late that Cas has tightened it. His fingers flex around Dean's wrist, firmer, and Dean freezes. He goes from being furious to being wary in a second. "Uh, Cas?"
Cas, when he speaks, does so in a growl of outright annoyance. "Are you going to be an ass every time you wake up this way? Because, if so, you can sleep on the couch."
"So much for fucking comprise," Dean mutters.
"If you weren't being ridiculous, I wouldn't suggest it. Is it really so bad that you've touched me? What's the problem with seeking the comfort of contact instinctively in your sleep?" Cas asks harshly.
Dean doesn't say anything—can't—and Cas eventually just releases a sigh. He drops Dean's hand and flops back into his pillows, falling silent and going still, apparently trying to go back to sleep.
As much as he's tempted to turn over and do the same, he doesn't. Dean stays on his side, his hand settling limply against the sheets in the small space between their bodies. If he wanted, he could reach out and poke the outline of Cas' arm. Cas would let him. Cas doesn't see anything wrong with it.
Pursing his lips, Dean wiggles his fingers forward and does exactly that, poking Cas' arm. This earns him a huff, but that's it. Dean clenches his jaw and smooths the pads of his fingers over a small section of Cas' skin. He can feel the warmth of it, the tiny goosebumps that pop up under his touch. He traces a circle, then writes his name, then drags his fingers farther up and farther down. Pushing the perimeter of where he allows himself to go, so to speak.
Cas doesn't say anything, but Dean can hear the shush of his hair against his pillow as he turns his head. It's dark, but Dean's eyes have adjusted. He can see the imprint of his fingers dragging along Cas' arm. Cas must be looking at his face. Dean wonders what expression he's got right now.
Eventually, Dean works up the nerve to put his whole hand on Cas' arm, letting it rest there. After that, he gathers the courage to drag his hand up and down, tapping his fingers against the warm skin beneath in some kind of code he doesn't even know. He thinks it might be to the beat of that goddamn Billy Joel song, and he hates himself for it.
"Dean," Cas murmurs, his voice soft, the name spoken with some emotion that Dean can't really spare the brain power to identify.
"Sorry," Dean mutters. "For—you know."
Cas hums in faint amusement. "It's fine. I told you, I know how to swim. You don't have to touch me, not even to apologize."
"Okay," Dean whispers, then keeps right on dragging his hand back and forth.
There's a certain kind of stillness, like the tremble of the air before lighting strikes, and then Cas exhales slowly and puts his hand over Dean's. He turns over carefully, burrowing his fingers underneath Dean's and bringing them up in between the spaces left open. Dean's whole body is stiff as Cas slots their fingers together, letting their hands drop down onto the bed between them. Their hands are slack, and so are their fingers, and Dean's heart is beating so fast that he thinks it's trying to escape.
"Is it really so bad?" Cas muses, his voice a gentle rasp, deep and unnecessarily melodic, sort of entrancing without even trying to be.
Dean's swallow clicks loud in the quiet as Cas pulls their hands up, his other one reaching out to pinch at the skin around Dean's knuckles. He proceeds to run his fingers all over Dean's hand, tracing his fingers, drawing shapes into the back of his hand, tickling the nailbed. After a few moments, with no warning whatsoever, there's the smallest puff of hot breath before Cas' lips—soft and warm—touch the raised mound of their threaded fingers, just where the knuckles meet and overlap. Dean's eyes flutter shut against his own will. He holds his breath.
He doesn't exhale until Cas hums and tugs their hands up to tuck them under his cheek and chin. At that, at Cas practically laying on their hands, Dean's breath explodes out of him—too loud in the strange lull of quiet between them, like a heavy rock landing in a still lake, too heavy to cause ripples and instead making too big of a splash. Cas' fingers twitch around his, spasming, but then they go still.
Dean clears his throat. "You're just—you're gonna hold my hand?"
"Yes," Cas confirms.
"That's it?" Dean chokes out, closing his eyes.
Cas sighs. "Did you have anything else in mind, Dean? I'm more than willing, of course."
"I don't know," Dean whispers, trying to get back to the unhindered sense of solitude from before. There was something safe about it, a place to tell secrets, a stretch of shrinking distance between them that anything could happen in. It's dark, and quiet, and Dean can speak here, almost without any issues. Breathing is questionable, but not everything is perfect. "I don't know, Cas. I think—I think you could do anything you wanted, and I wouldn't—I don't know. I don't—"
He stops talking when he feels something hit the edge of their arms, sliding in the small space between them. He fumbles for it before Cas can, his breath coming out short and loud, hitching. He can feel his fingers shaking as he wraps them around the small, incriminating bottle. He knows what it is, and he knows why it's here. He doesn't bother to ask who it was this time; he's pretty sure he already knows. He just doesn't want it confirmed.
It's confirmed anyway when Cas says, "Is that—"
"Yeah," Dean admits gruffly, hating that Cas doesn't know, because Cas isn't the one who had a sudden desire for lube. Jesus Christ.
"Dean," Cas murmurs, "we don't have to—"
"Well, apparently I fucking want to," Dean snaps, trying to wrench his hand from Cas', to absolutely no avail. Cas just tightens his fingers and keeps their palms stubbornly together. "Apparently I want—apparently I—"
"Again," Cas says dryly, "is that so bad?"
"Let me go, you fucking—" Dean makes a low, angry sound in the back of his throat and tries to jerk his hand free. "Cas, I swear on my life—"
The unfinished threat—a pointless one, seeing as Dean has no life to technically swear on—does seem to work, surprisingly enough. He doesn't expect it to because he's distantly aware that he's being an asshole, and also Cas doesn't really, uh, give in to most things. He's stubborn as fuck.
It all becomes clear a moment later when Cas lets his hand go, only to grab his wrist and slam it down into the pillow beside his head. Dean automatically drops the bottle of lube and reaches up with all intentions of prying Cas' hand off of him, except he doesn't get very far because Cas just grabs that wrist as well and slams it down right along with the first. This leaves him half-leaning over Dean, and even in the dark, his arched eyebrow is visible.
"Dean," Cas says, effortlessly and infuriatingly calm and firm, "we can fight about this if we have to, but I won't let you lash out at me about my desires because you're ashamed of your own. Whether you act on them or accept them is your business, but you won't attack mine simply because yours exist."
Dean wants to tell him that it's his fault. He wants to say that none of this would be happening if Cas didn't love him, didn't confess it, didn't be it. He wants to yell at the top of his lungs and deny absolutely any part of this, because what was he supposed to do? Cas is this person, this thing, this absolute force of nature, and he's goddamn everything. He's just so effortlessly everything Dean has ever needed, or wanted, or was scared to lose… So, what was he supposed to do? What could he do, besides love him back? It's all Cas' fault.
Instead, Dean says, "Yeah, we're gonna have to fight about it," and proceeds to try and do just that.
It's sort of a moot point, considering Cas has him pinned by the wrists, but Dean has elbows and knees for a goddamn reason. He gives it his all, too. He really, really tries on purpose, going for cheap shots and maybe getting a few in—he's pretty sure he actually manages to knee Cas in the side hard.
It's a minor scuffle, and it ends embarrassingly quick. Cas sort of kicks the cover over Dean's lap and just—sits on him. And yeah, that's pretty undignified for Dean, specifically, but it works a treat for Cas. Dean stops and realizes all at once they're essentially wrestling around on a bed—their bed—in the middle of the night, and there's no chance that Cas is going to die, and there's no one in this house besides them, and—
"Are you done?" Cas asks sharply.
"Yep," Dean says, appalled by how high his voice has gotten and unable to do anything about it.
"I can feel your pulse." Cas sweeps his finger over the inside of Dean's wrist. "It's fast."
Dean squeezes his eyes shut. "Great observational skills there, Sherlock. Can you get the fuck off of me now? If I knew you were gonna fight dirty, I would have waited to kick your ass in the morning."
"I'm not fighting with you about this." Cas doesn't move to get off, but instead dips down, closer. Dean can feel the movement in the pit of his stomach. "I have nothing to fight about. I am not and never have been ashamed of my desires, Dean."
"Oh, is that right?" Dean grits out. "If that's the case, why didn't you say anything?"
"I was under the impression that you would prefer not to hear them. I was also under the false impression that you would not share them."
"Uh huh," Cas says, tone dirt-dry. "Need I remind you of the bottle sitting next to my knee?"
"Fuck you," Dean mutters.
Cas hums. "Is that a desire of yours, Dean?"
"Je-sus fucking Christ," Dean hisses out between his teeth, his whole body prickling with a flash of heat. He doesn't dare open his eyes and see the shape of Cas leaning over him—the weight of him bearing down on Dean's thighs is bad enough, thank you very much. He needs Cas to get off of him now.
"Are you doubting that I'm not ashamed, just because I never told you?" Cas asks. "I could tell you now, if you'd like."
"You're being an asshole on purpose."
Dean twists his wrists, choking out, "Son of a bitch," because that's actually—that's genuinely working for him right now. Fuck.
"I'm not ashamed, Dean," Cas tells him, "and I don't care if you are. If you wish to pander to that shame, so be it. I will never ask you not to."
"Cas," Dean blurts out, his chest heaving. He can feel it, without even opening his eyes, just how close Cas is right now. He's so warm and sturdy. Why the fuck is he so sturdy?
Cas is a stubborn bastard, and he's clearly got some shit he wants to say, because he ignores Dean's minor freakout entirely to lower his voice and declare, like it is law, "What you choose to do, and how you choose to act, is your decision. I, on the other hand, will not allow anyone—not even you, Dean—to come into my home and tell me I am wrong for the desires that I have."
"Okay, yep, loud and clear," Dean whispers, his breath coming out short and choppy. Cas has that sharp, commanding snarl he gets when he's threatening to set people on fire, and Dean's struggling to grasp the concept of what shame even is. This was literally the stupidest thing he could have ever done—let Cas pin him down in a fucking bed and proceed to be all growly, like Dean's most recent revelation that men are, in fact, very hot isn't going to latch onto this immediately.
"I would sooner list all the different ways in which I would enjoy it if you touched me, in front of a live audience of everyone in Heaven, before I act as if anything I want is something to be ashamed of," Cas continues, his fingers flexing around Dean's wrists.
Dean swallows a small sound. Maybe a whimper, maybe not. He has no idea how weak he is right this second, so he can't be sure. As it is, the only thing he finds himself capable of doing is babbling, "Jesus fucking Christ, shit, shit, shit."
"So," Cas concludes harshly, "you can fight if you'd like, but you will do so alone, and I will not provide a willing target. Do you understand?"
"Yes, oh my god, yes," Dean gasps out, and the moment Cas' fingers go slack around his wrists, his hands are surging up to grab Cas by the head and yank him down.
He has never been so goddamn turned on in his life, which is a damn shame, really, that he went his whole life on earth without getting to experience the effect Cas can have on him when pinning him to a bed and snarling at him. The first thing he does to prove it is moan into Cas' mouth, because he can't really help it, and Cas needs no time to go from mildly scolding Dean for not taking what he wants to participating when Dean takes what he wants.
Cas kisses him hard and deep, lips warm and supple, pressing in without demanding anything else in return. A hook almost immediately forms in Dean's gut, tugging incessantly, and he unfurls at the necessary guidance. As with true defeat, he goes out not with a bang but with a whimper, lips parting as he gives in.
His whole body shudders in response to the surrender, fantasies turning to reality, hopes squashed popping back up like novelty books from his childhood. Cas has metaphorically opened his pages, breathing life into the images of his wants, and Dean is helpless to do anything but accept.
Dean slides his hands down Cas' arms, gripping harder than he means to, kissing back with as much fervor as he's being treated to right now. It doesn't slow down, doesn't ease up, doesn't stop. And he's so fucking thankful that it doesn't, because he doesn't want it to, because it feels so fucking right that not doing this would be wrong in every conceivable way.
He's never given thought to how Cas would be in a setting like this. If he had, he might've expected Cas to be gentle, or maybe even stiff and robotic. That's not the case at all. Cas really is shameless. He gives zero fucks about holding himself back. If he wants it, and he can have it, he takes it. If he likes it, he makes sure that Dean knows. If he doesn't like something, he makes that obvious, too.
Cas is loud. Like, vocal as hell. It's unnecessarily attractive to hear him gasp against Dean's mouth, to hear him groan roughly. Cas is also very grabby. His hands seem to be everywhere. Dean can barely keep up, slightly overwhelmed in the best way at the feeling of fingers in his hair, fingers cupping his cheek, fingers draping over his shoulders, nails digging in. Cas is also—most importantly—not scared of any part of this. He just fucking goes for it, the first to break the kiss to yank his shirt off, folding back in to continue the kiss while Dean is still trying to catch his breath. Dean may have started this (or maybe it was Cas; he's not sure, because this has been going on a long time, in retrospect), but Cas is clearly glad to take over.
Dean—well, Dean is...a little more hesitant. He doesn't really mean to be. He can't help it. He's a little dazed, struggling to breathe, failing to make sense of anything outside the absolute shock of how fucking into this he is. He's so startled and lost amongst sensation that it takes him a bit to figure out that he can and should reach out and touch.
His fingers are shaking when they connect with the warmth of Cas' sides. He drags them up, trembling, and he marvels at the feeling. His head is spinning, and Cas is doing something absolutely problematic with his tongue in Dean's mouth—problematic because it feels like something Dean's always going to want now, just...all the time. Fuck him. This is all his fault. And thank fuck for that, Jesus Christ.
Cas stops kissing him—see, very problematic—to say, "We have to move. We can't do anything like this."
"Yeah, sure, okay, whatever you want, Cas," Dean wheezes, barely understanding what the fuck he's agreeing to. Right now, he'd probably agree to absolutely anything.
"Whatever I want?" Cas asks, his voice rough, the amusement there sort of barbed. "Is that your blanket permission that I'm allowed to do anything to and with you, Dean?"
Dean tries to grab Cas back when he swings off his lap, and he realizes belatedly that he's been asked a question, so he rattles off, "Yeah, Cas," without a thought in his fucking head.
"Okay," Cas says. "Take off your clothes."
"What?" Dean blinks at him.
Cas says it again, firmer, "Take off your clothes."
"Oh, right, okay," Dean mutters, then kicks the covers off of him and scrambles to do what he's told. It's not until he's sliding his boxers off and tossing them to the side that he remembers he's supposed to be freaking the fuck out about this, and maybe a lot ashamed, but Cas is leaning in to kiss that little niggling problem right outta his head.
Cas is taking to heart that it's whatever you want, Cas in the house tonight, because he proceeds to do exactly that. What he wants is apparently to drive Dean absolutely batshit insane. He just—he touches Dean everywhere, anywhere he can reach, fingers moving from the very top of his head and slowly dancing their way down. He keeps getting distracted by swooping back in and kissing Dean, fingers stalling out on whatever stretch of skin he was feeling before their mouths met once again.
All Dean can really do is hold on, squeeze his eyes shut, and feel. Cas slowly makes progress, his nails ever so slightly skirting along the inside of his arms, and he gets lower at an aching pace. With each centimeter he drops his hands, his mouth ticks down to a new spot—the curve of his jaw, the sensitive spot just below it, his hummingbird pulse, and lower still, the dip where his shoulder and neck meet. He peppers kisses the whole way, warm and hot, unafraid to use teeth, doing so more frequently after Dean's whole body shudders at the sensation.
Dean doesn't even really realize how hard he is until Cas' fingers reach his boner and, without so much as a stutter, feels absolutely every inch of that, too. For the entirety of that, Dean loses himself entirely, head tossed back, biting his lip hard enough to make it throb, digging his nails into the top of Cas' shoulders. Cas' hands are big and sure and hot, and there's no way Dean is surviving this shit.
At some point, Dean starts to feel like a place rather than a person. It's like Cas is trying to know every nook and cranny, every secret in his skin, every bump and divot. He leaves Dean gasping and arching to touch his thighs, the ticklish spot behind his knees, the curve of his bowlegs. He even gets low enough that he's kissing Dean's small pudge of stomach, just so Cas can map out the shape of his ankles. Dean is so frazzled that it takes him a long time to remember what he wants to say.
Then he does, and he blurts out, "I swear, Cas, if you touch my feet, I'm going to fucking kick you."
"I know you're ticklish there," Cas informs him, then proceeds to ignore Dean's threat entirely to actually, genuinely skate his fingers over the tops of Dean's feet. He's so fucking weird, what the fuck?
"How the hell do you know that?" Dean chokes out, thankful that Cas actually doesn't touch the bottom, most ticklish part of his feet and instead starts dragging his hands back up.
"I built you, once," Cas murmurs. "You could say I'm getting reacquainted. Now turn over."
"Turn—" Dean picks his head up to squint at him in the dark. "Are you kidding?"
"You're actually planning to touch every part of me?"
"And we can't skip this part?"
"Right. Fuck. Okay."
Cas hums in approval when Dean starts squirming to turn over. It should be weird. It is weird, but it's the kind of weird that Dean expects from Cas. It's oddly intense and intimate, but it feels too good to complain about. By the time Cas is kissing and nipping at the back of his neck—and woah, that's definitely an important spot he wasn't even aware of until now—Dean forgets that this is weird at all.
It seems that Cas is serious about touching every single inch of him. He does. Even the strangest places. His elbows, the span of his ribs, the arch of his back, his ass, the dip right below his ass, the back of his knees again, the heels of his feet, if not the bottom—he respects that boundary. By the time he's made it as far as he can go, he's taking a portion of Dean's skin on the small of his back between his teeth and worrying it, pulling on it. There shouldn't be anything erogenous about it, and yet.
Dean feels sort of unspooled and wrenched tight all at once. It's what he imagines the most cherished books feel like, every single word read, every page worn from adoring fingers, falling apart not out of mistreatment but because of the earnest destruction of loving something so much.
Cas could pluck the unspoken words right out of his heart and quote them, Dean is sure.
"Turn over," Cas says again.
"Mm," Dean agrees, flopping over without complaint this time. If Cas wants to touch him everywhere for the rest of eternity, he'd just let him at this point. He feels known. He feels revered.
"Are we going to do this again, Dean?" Cas asks with a certain kind of idle curiosity, as if he doesn't necessarily care what the answer is, but he needs to know nonetheless.
"Dunno," Dean admits, hissing between his teeth when Cas presses his thumb against a sore spot on his neck. Hickey? Oh, fuck that noise. He's going to be so pissed about that later.
Cas hums. "Then I guess we should make this count, shouldn't we?"
"Might be for the best," Dean agrees a little breathlessly. Cas' knee is slotting between his own, knocking them apart. "Whaddya got in mind?"
"Sex," Cas declares, rather bluntly.
Dean had been pretty sure of that, considering they're both literally naked, and yet that one word still manages to steal his ability to breathe. Obviously they're doing that, because not doing that at this point would be such a waste of Dean's tendency to let his dick make the decisions for him every once in a while. It's now or never, Dean's pretty sure, and he's on board for now.
"Yeah, okay, awesome," Dean blurts out, blinking rapidly at the feeling of Cas' fingers hooking behind his right knee and hitching his leg up. His mind is moving slow, so it takes him a second. "Oh. Oh. Oh, shit. Hold the fuck—"
The rest of his sentence is lost in the groan he releases when Cas' free hand wraps around his dick, and then he forgets what he was about to say altogether. Cas leans over him, ducking down to press their lips together. The kiss shouldn't be so gentle and sweet, not with Cas stroking him, but Dean is torn between the flutter in his chest and the slow unfurling of heat low in his hips.
Over and over, Dean is reminded that Cas clearly has plans here, and that he knows what the hell he's doing, somehow. Books, maybe? The internet? He's a gay angel, right, so he might have looked this shit up? Who hasn't stumbled upon gay porn once in their lives? Hell, Dean has a few times. It wasn't a thing—okay, well, maybe it was, he doesn't actually fucking know at this point. Now really isn't the time for take two of his panic, not when he's dead, making out with the best friend he loves, and also arching up into a man's hand on his dick. He doesn't really have a leg to stand on at the moment.
Anyway, Cas has an idea of what he's doing, is the point. Dean also has a distant idea, but every time he tries to think about it solidly for a second, it slips away when Cas bites his lip, or twists his wrist, or makes a rough sound in the back of his throat. Dean just keeps getting distracted, and that turns out to be a pain in his ass.
There's the pop of the cap on the lube, then the spread of Cas' hand against his thigh, pushing his legs further apart, then the pressure of Cas' knees under his legs to give his hips some leverage. Cas leans back, breaking the kiss, and Dean has just enough time to heave in a deep breath before there's a finger where fingers just aren't meant to go.
Dean chokes, jerking in place, stunned by the absolute audacity of this man. He can't quite manage to get his tongue to unstick from the roof of his mouth to actually say anything, a little too lost to what Cas' left hand is still doing—stroking, squeezing, slow and torturous.
And to start with, admittedly, Dean doesn't like it. He just doesn't. It's an intrusion. He's never felt anything like it. His brain is scrambled, but he does manage to catch the random passing thought of the implications that surround this particular act. What's it called? Something to do with bunk beds, right? The bottom bunk. He's the goddamn bottom bunk, and that might be the most baffling thing that has ever happened to him.
In life, Dean has always slept on the top bunk—literally and figuratively. Seriously, whenever there were bunk beds, Sam slept on the bottom and kicked the top to piss Dean off. And, in regards to sex, Dean has never had a woman come anywhere close to his ass, except for that time a hookup wanted to spank him, but that's an experience he has tucked away in his guilty pleasures box. He's had women on top of him, and that was really nice, but—
But not the point. The point is, Dean's not the fucking bottom bunk, and he's going to tell Cas this the moment his hand leaves Dean's dick, just not a second before because it feels too good for him to remember how to do anything other than moan.
So, no, he doesn't like this. It feels strange. It doesn't hurt, but it doesn't feel great either. Really, it's just a finger in his ass—a slippery one, at that. Dean's having a hard time believing that other bottom bunk people actually enjoy this shit. Is it like when women collectively fake orgasms? They do it so much, too, which is depressing and had been a pretty big blow to his ego when he'd been informed that he'd had it happen to him as well. Do people just regularly pretend to like things during sex? How do guys manage it? They can't fake orgasms.
He's either going to have to learn how to pretty quickly, or he's going to have to tell Cas that the finger thing just isn't working for him. Preferably the latter, because Dean can love Cas until the cows come home, but he isn't about to lay here and pretend like this is in any way feeling—
"Woah, what the fuck?!" Dean blurts out in astonishment as his whole body jerks, curling in on himself in response to the sudden and startling jolt of pleasure that just rocked him solid at the curl of Cas' finger. That had—okay, that had been good.
"Ah," Cas says, then does the same thing again.
Dean blows out an explosive breath and twitches, fingers fumbling for Cas' arms, gripping tight. He swallows. Cas does it again, and again, and again. Dean's toes curl. He has to close his eyes and try to hold still, fingers digging into Cas' skin hard enough that he's probably going to leave bruises. In a mere minute, Dean has gone from unimpressed and offended to locking whimpers behind his teeth.
"Cas, you gotta—you can't—" Dean loses the thread of his thoughts, feeling them all unravel too quickly. Okay, so the finger thing is starting to work for him, fine, whatever. It's just that Cas is still stroking his length, and now he's adjusted to the intrusion to the point that it's starting not to feel like enough. It's starting to feel like too much, too. His hips jerk, and he sucks in a sharp breath. "Hey, uh, hey, could you possibly—ah, ah, you gotta stop, I'm going to—"
Cas knows him well, as we've established, and so he abandons his dick entirely. That should be something that Dean mourns, but he's a little too wrapped up with what's happening to his ass. In fact, the split sensations were so much that it's almost a relief not to have to feel both.
There's a second where Cas pulls his hand away to get more lube, and Dean—who wasn't a fan of the intrusion at all—immediately despises the loss. He huffs, blinking around blearily, clenching around nothing because he's just empty now, and he's not sure why that suddenly feels like an foreign concept to him, but it does. He thinks, a little stupidly, that he would like to never be empty again.
Maybe Cas is indulgent, because he comes back, and he comes back two-fold. Now with a bonus finger. Dean's back to not being a fan, because this time, it kinda does feel the opposite of good. There's some burn to it, a different kind of stretch, and yet another adjustment period. He doesn't mind the burn so much—actually, he kinda likes that part. What he doesn't like is that it's not immediately just feeling the way it did before.
It doesn't take very long, though. He does adjust because, presumably, that's what bodies do. This is a little different, a little fuller, a little more impactful. He's here for it, though; he really is, because Cas does that thing again, and yeah, yeah that's good.
Dean gets it. He gets the bottom bunk people. He's never going to think badly of bottom bunk people ever again. They clearly know the goddamn secrets to the universe or whatever, especially when it comes to pleasure. If this is what the bottom bunk people get, he's going to sign the fuck up, because this? This is really, really good.
It comes in layers. A finger, then two. A constant buildup that really puts in the work, leaving his legs shaking like they do when he's fucked someone nonstop for hours, except he's doing nothing right now. It steals his breath, wipes his mind clean, sends out waves of heat and pleasure-discomfort through every single inch of him. It builds, then stops. An emptiness, then a third finger. More burning, more lube, a stretch, some pressure, that full feeling and the reckless spurt of tingling pleasure through every trembling limb of his body. He breathes. He moans.
It shuts up every thought in his head, and Dean thinks—or simply senses—that he could get high off of it. He's being wrung out from the inside out. He feels used. He feels pinned down without a goddamn hand on him. This is… This is…
This is making him babble. It feels like his ear drums pop, and he hears himself through stuffy cotton, chanting, "More, more, more. More, Cas," and it sounds like he's begging, but surely not. Not Dean Winchester. He'd never.
He does. He absolutely does, and he can't even blame himself. The general consensus right now is more, because he genuinely wants—needs—more, and since Cas started this shit, he's going to have to fucking deliver or Dean might kill him.
Cas takes his time delivering because he's a bastard, but deliver he does. When Dean feels less and less full by the second, all stretched out and aching, considering the merits of actually clocking Cas in the jaw in the middle of sex, that's when Cas removes his fingers and replaces them with his dick. And it's at that precise moment that Dean actually realizes in full that he's about to get fucked.
The thing is, at this point, Cas has kind of ruined him. If he doesn't get fucked, he might actually figure out a way to do the impossible and kill them both in Heaven. There's no room for shame here. He has officially forgotten the definition.
Dean's ears ring when Cas slowly eases into him. He closes his eyes and holds his breath. Three fingers have nothing on a dick, Dean learns. There's an adjustment period for this too, another layer that builds, more burning, further stretching.
This is Dean's favorite part of sex. That moment where the bodies meet and click into place, and it feels like anything can happen. It feels like his body isn't even his own, not really, and somehow that's so much better. It belongs to whoever is getting pleasure from it, however they are, and he gets to escape in someone else. Right now, that person is Cas, and oh, oh, that's something else entirely.
A bastard Cas may be, but a gentleman he is as well. He holds still, waiting, and he oh so slowly dips over Dean to press close, his face dropping into the bend of Dean's neck. It causes Dean's legs to open further and push back, letting Cas slot between them. Dean exhales softly and eases his hands up Cas' arms, wrapping around his shoulders, fingers crawling up into his hair, gently pushing through the strands.
For a long, drawn-out heartbeat, they just breathe.
"Move," Dean whispers, finally.
"Dean," Cas breathes out, then moves.
It's slow. It's tender. Dean's not sure why, or what changed. This isn't getting fucked. They're abruptly making love. It's the careful drag out, then the achingly gentle press back in, making Dean's breath stutter and his eyes flutter shut.
It feels good. That's all there is to it. No, Cas isn't hitting that spot in him, and Dean doesn't feel like he's barrelling towards an orgasm, but this is something different. This is emotional when Dean never wanted it to be, but now that it is, he never really wants it to stop. Cas is kissing him deeply, his warm hand reaching up to hold Dean's cheek, thumb caressing just below his eye.
It can only be described as devotion in the truest sense of the word. It's what faith is supposed to be, an unwavering locked-in immobility that someone devout carries with them in every inhale and exhale. It's worship, plain and simple. Cas holds him, and kisses him, and makes love to him like the most faithful being to exist, all for Dean Winchester.
Dean fucked around and converted Cas to freedom, and now Cas uses it to love him without shame.
The slow unraveling of them both continues until Dean is making quiet sounds into Cas' mouth, fingers twisting into his hair. It continues until there's sweat on their skin and an ache in their muscles, like they need to cherish each other until they're sore. It continues and continues and keeps continuing, intimate and intense and heady, right up until Dean hooks his heel around the back of Cas' leg and urges him to go faster.
And, just like that, Dean is getting fucked.
Cas peels himself away from Dean and shuffles back onto his knees, reaching out to grip Dean's thighs and yank him up for a better angle. From there, things go from sweet to brutal. Dean has just enough time to grip the pillow behind his head with both hands before Cas really goes for it.
"Oh," Dean gasps out. "Holy shit. Okay. Oh, okay."
Dean presses the back of his hand over his mouth to shut himself up, because he sounds like a goddamn idiot. He ends up having to bite the skin to muffle the hiccupping moans that escape him. Cas has found the spot, and he's not letting up.
Cas tells him—rough and gritty and moaning—that this feels good, and Dean wants to agree but has been reduced to sounds and sounds alone. He no longer has the grasp on speech. His eyes are rolling back, and he knows it, and he doesn't care because Jesus fucking Christ, this is—
"Dean," Cas chokes out, and he sounds divine, he sounds like sin, he sounds like sex and Heaven and so fucking good that Dean kinda wants to cry.
Dean almost does cry when Cas reaches down to start stroking him again. He cries out, jerking, and Cas slams his hip back to the bed with his free hand, holding him there, holding him there.
"Oh my fucking—" Dean can't finish the sentence, his brain likely melting out of his ears, too much of everything happening at once that he breaks.
It's probably the best orgasm he's ever had, in retrospect. He twitches through it, getting fucked through it, and he never knew that it would feel this damn good. He rides it out, barely hearing himself chant Cas' name like a prayer, like an oath. And, when it's over, he slumps and goes slack like all of his strings have been cut.
Cas keeps right on going. Dean has to lift a shaky hand and weakly push Cas away from his spent dick, too sensitive to do anything other than whimper. Fortunately, Cas doesn't take much longer. He practically folds Dean in half to lean in and kiss him, and then his hips are stuttering as he releases a muffled, raspy groan into Dean's mouth. He has enough mind to pull out, but not enough to aim. He ends up making a mess of Dean's thigh.
Dean is too busy shaking all over to care.
Cas must care, though. When he eases back and lets Dean's legs fall flat, before he does anything else, he shuffles down to, first, clean up the mess off Dean's chest that Dean himself made, then lastly, clean up the mess on Dean's thigh that he made. He does all of this with his mouth, which Dean's brain—that is currently the consistency of pudding—finds to be very hot, actually.
After that, Cas wobbles and crawls his way back up to flop down next to Dean with a gusty sigh. His hand lands limply on Dean's hip, fingers twitching. Together, they breathe for a while.
"I'm very tired," Cas croaks, eventually.
Dean makes a high-pitched noise and mumbles a slightly hysterical, "You fucking should be."
"I think I'm going to go to sleep," Cas murmurs.
"Right behind you," Dean agrees, feeling relaxed and completely exhausted in the best way.
Cas sounds like he's smiling when he softly whispers, "Goodnight, Dean."
"Hey," Dean says.
"We're doing that again."
"Oh." Cas pauses, and now he's definitely smiling, the smug asshole. "Okay."
"Night, Cas," Dean mutters, closing his eyes. There's long beat of silence, and Dean's eyes open again, peering into the darkness. He swallows. After some silent deliberation, he shoves himself over until he's sprawling against Cas' side, tucked into the curve of his arm. Slowly, hesitantly, he lifts his hand and hovers it over where he imagines Cas' heart to be. He taps his finger against it gently three times, his heart racing, waiting.
I love you.
Cas knows. He always knows. He hums, a pleased sound, and he presses his face into Dean's hair. "Goodnight, Dean. I love you, too."