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take the bones, begin anew

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Eventually Cas finds the coat.

They’ve just finished a quick run to the store—they haven’t decorated the house for Christmas or anything, and likely never will, but Dean wants Jack to experience the epic highs and lows of building a gingerbread house. He’s got it all planned out: slow cooker hot chocolate, double feature of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Die Hard , and a nice roaring fire. Just like families on TV.

He’s wrapping up a text from Jody, simultaneously planning for New Year’s and apologizing for not calling lately, when he hears Cas go to get the groceries. It’s snowed a little bit thanks to the elevation, but it’s weak shit compared to what gets conjured up in the midwest. Dean hears Cas’s boots trudge through the slush, and the click-swing of the trunk opening behind him. There’s the rustle of the bags, and then—nothing. It all stops. Dean thinks he might also be distracted by a text or something, but the silence stretches on and on and on.

Dean wraps up his text and makes his way to the back of the car.

Cas has got on one of Dean’s old jackets, a brown suede thing with a hole in the shoulder seam and a crusty sheepskin collar, and a thick navy-colored sweater Dean likes to stick his hands under when they get cold. He’s also holding his old trench coat in his hands, eyebrows drawn together. His fingers trace over the smudges of black and knock into the buttons.

He looks up at Dean, a silent question written all over his face.

Dean shrugs, trying for nonchalant and not getting there by half. “I missed you,” he says. 

Twenty minutes later, the coat’s in a pile near the door, dropped or thrown. Dean can’t really remember. Cas hadn’t let go of it when he’d pulled Dean into a kiss in the driveway, he knows that. And it’d been with them going through the front hallway and up the stairs. Dean had nearly gotten jealous of the thing—it was taking up precious Cas real estate, and so he’d—oh, yeah. He’d been the one to throw it. Well, good. Mean’s Cas’s hands are free, which Dean is enjoying very, very much.

“Oh, fuck me,” he lets out between gritted teeth. He grips the headboard and lets the sensation roll through him. He doesn’t have another option, really; Cas is following his ‘delayed gratification’ philosophy to a tee, which means Dean is slowly beginning to lose his mind with Cas’s fingers up his ass.

Cas’s fingers stop pumping. He’s got an eyebrow raised. “That is what I’m doing, yes,” he says. Dean doesn’t know how he can be so cool and collected. Dean feels like he’s losing coherency by the minute.

Dean laughs and swats at Cas’s shoulder. “Fuck you.”

Cas hums, and Dean feels his fingers crook a little inside him before pumping in and out again. Dean keens and Cas kisses the underside of his jaw. “Later,” he says, and Dean’s suffering. Oh god, he’s suffering in all the right ways, Jesus fucking Christ.

This goes on and on and on, and Dean’s got a sneaking suspicion that Cas is only taking his sweet time to see if Dean can come untouched, the bastard. It just might happen. That or he’s waiting for him to beg, which he does eventually.

“God, come on just—just,” he babbles. He grips at the forearm keeping his hips in place. “Just give it to me, come on, please. Please.”

He sees something light up in Cas’s eyes, followed by a low sound. Dean only whines a little when Cas pulls his fingers out too quickly. Then there’s the mad dash of relocating the lube that got folded between the sheets and comforter sometime around finger #3. 

It’s only in the absence of sensation that some of Dean’s blood flow returns to his brain, and he can see that Cas is sweating, hands frantic. His lubed fingers keep slipping around the bottle—rookie mistake—and he glares at the thing like it just killed a loved one. Dean takes mercy and takes the bottle from him, pouring a generous amount onto his hand and watching as Cas’s eyes widen when he wraps his fingers around him. He strokes one, two, three, and Cas lets out a low groan, gripping Dean by the shoulder to keep himself from falling forward. 

They take things slow (the smart move, considering what happened when they first did this way too eagerly a couple weeks ago) so by the time Cas is fully seated inside Dean, they’re both breathing heavily. Cas has a dazed look on his face, all wide blue eyes and hair clinging to his forehead, and Dean pulls him for a kiss before saying, “Please, Cas” and then Cas is moving.

They find a rhythm fairly quickly, Dean getting impatient and rolling his hips with Cas’s as his arousal builds back up again. Cas, for his part, is stuck to Dean’s shoulder like a leech, rebruising old marks and murmuring sweet nothings that Dean can’t concentrate on for too long without feeling like he’s about to explode. 

Dean’s not very good at keeping his mouth shut either, once they shift a bit and the angle gets good. It bubbles out of him, totally uncalled for, his breath hitching as Cas fucks the words out of him nice and steady.

“Missed you,” he says like he hasn’t been back for over a month. “So fucking much, fucking Christ, I jacked off to that stupid coat way too many times.”

Cas pulls away and up, bracketing Dean with his arms. His eyes are dark and hungry and it’s the only warning Dean gets before Cas rearranges his legs a little higher and slams back into him 0 to 60 in under five seconds. From that point on Dean doesn’t really know what he’s saying, all he knows is that he’s getting fucked into the mattress and someone’s moaning like they’re losing their goddamn mind. And Cas keeps looking at him like...god, Dean doesn’t know what he did to deserve that look, but he’s got it and he ain’t letting go of it.

Cas takes a hold of his cock, thumb swiping the head, and Dean’s orgasm punches out of him in a string of half-sounds, coursing through him from head to toe as Cas fucks him through the come down. 

Dean grabs a hold of the hair at Cas’s nape. Cas folds into the crook of his neck, breath fast and shallow. There’s a string of profanities Dean recognizes as Enochian as Cas’s hips begin to stutter. There’s a low groan against his neck and Cas stills above him before going limp.

They bask. They’ve got time to spare, and these cold afternoons always remind Dean of when their motel would get snowed in somewhere and he’d have an excuse to just not do anything for a few hours. Cas makes quick cleanup and tastes salty in the aftermath. The bed smells like it needs to be washed in the best way possible. They nap for an hour.

When Dean opens his eyes again he takes a moment to just watch Cas. He’s realized that the guy’s getting new sleep lines on his forehead. They intersect and cross-hatch with Jimmy’s old ones and with the frown lines evident all over his face. Dean traces them like he would a map of the world. Cas’s face twitches and his breath wheezes between his teeth.

Letting his hand drop, Dean sits up. His eyes fall to the coat on the floor, and something catches in his throat.

“Cas?” Dean asks. Cas rouses awake at the pace of molasses. “You still got my jacket under the bed?”

Cas’s eyes blink open. “Yes,” he says, voice like gravel. “Why do you ask?”


The hot chocolate doesn’t taste good until Cas suggests Dean add a bit of cinnamon into it, and then it becomes perfect. At the rate he’s downing them he’s going to be regretting it here in a few hours, but that’s a problem for later Dean. Now Dean is sipping bitching hot chocolate and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on the couch as the fire cracks and pops in the fireplace. The smell of snow is coming in through the cracked windows.

Their attempt at a gingerbread house is sitting down in the hall in the kitchen. It turned out...surprisingly well, but then again the people who built it were either a) former construction workers or b) beings of celestial knowledge. They still didn’t get the chimney exactly right, and it’s now lying in the vanilla frosting front yard alongside Jack’s gingerbread people. They’ve all made promises to eat it, but if Dean knows anything it’s that they’ll each take a bite tomorrow and then leave it to go stale until next week. 

“No one’s very nice to Charlie Brown,” Jack observes from his seat on the floor. He sips at his hot chocolate. Cas nods next to Dean. They’re sitting up straight but have managed to maintain contact from their shoulders down to their feet.

“They’re a bunch of dicks now, yeah, but just...just wait, okay?” Dean tells him. He pats Cas’s knee and watches as the man visibly relaxes.

I wouldn’t be mean to Charlie Brown,” Jack continues. “We’d be best friends.”

And, of course, people stop being dicks to Charlie Brown and Linus gives his speech and they all sing as the snow starts to fall. It leaves everyone feeling all warm under the chest and they’re all going to have “Christmas Time is Here” stuck in their heads for weeks without knowing half of the words.

The credits start to roll, and Dean gets up from the couch to put the next DVD in. He stretches a bit—doesn’t hurt to give Cas a show—and feels his back pop in three different places. He switches the discs and, when the previews start playing advertising for movies coming soon in 2008, decides to tend to the fire.

It’s not in need of a new log, not yet, but Dean pokes at it anyway. A piece of black-stained fabric has found its way out of the embers and onto the floor, so he guides it back into the flames. It’s nearly all gone now. 

He takes the jacket folded up next to the fireplace and regards it for a moment. He rubs a thumbs over the stain on the shoulder and watches the old blood flake off. It still terrifies him a little, he can admit that. He thinks that even when it's gone, it’s always gonna scare him.

“Dean,” Cas says from behind him. “Let me.”

Large hands tuck themselves between Dean’s palms and the old fabric, lifting it up and away. There’s the brief smell of lighter fluid, and then the jacket is lying in a heap on top of the blazing log. It catches quickly, and before long the bloody handprint disappears into the flames, its ashes already mixing with the trenchcoat. They’ll sweep it all out by the end of the week and dump it into the compost bin for the garden soil. Dean hopes that come six months from now he’ll be eating tomatoes off the vine and forgetting what it took to grow them.

A hand grips his shoulder and pulls him up and away from the fire. “The movie’s about to start,” Cas tells him. 

The hand on his shoulder trails down to grasp his hand. Dean squeezes back, and they make their way back to the couch.

Jack twists from his spot on the floor to frown up at Dean. “You okay?” he asks. 

He’s got secret permission from Dean to yell out ‘yipee-ki-yay motherfucker!’ when John McClane says it later in the movie, and it’s going to be hilarious. Cas is going to be pissed at him for this, he knows it, and he’ll be passive aggressive about it for a day or two but it’ll be okay because they’ll still kiss and maybe even fuck each other goodnight if they’re not too tired. And in the morning there’ll be breakfast and the stale gingerbread house and fielding phone calls from Sam as they drive Jack to school for his last run of finals. And they’ll keep doing that over and over again until something better comes along, but honestly? Dean can’t think of anything better than what he’s got right now.

Dean lets out a breath. “Yeah, kid,” he says, and for once he’s not lying. Jack is sitting criss-cross applesauce in front of him. Cas’s hand is warm in his, full of love and all that goop and Dean’s got it just as bad as he does. The fire makes everything glow soft orange, and they’ve got Die Hard on the TV. It doesn’t get any better than this. “I’m good.”


When they arrive at the house, the party’s already in full swing. Sam can hear Claire and Alex arguing about something inside, and Jody intervening. He can hear newscasters talking about looking forward to the New Year on the TV. He knocks a couple times for the sake of politeness, but it becomes apparent pretty soon that no one can hear him. Eileen steps in front of him and opens the apparently unlocked door, stepping inside.

Cas is the first one to see them, relief clear on his face. “Oh, good,” he says/signs. “Did you bring them?”

Sam nods. “Uh, yeah,” he says, and holds up a grocery bag full of potato chips. He’d gotten a text from Cas with a list of flavors, a pair of prayer and praise emojis, and a follow up text that just said ‘please’. Eileen was happy to comply, only because it meant she could cajole Sam into also buying matching wolf t-shirts from the truck stop.

Cas makes no note of the shirts, and immediately takes the bag. “Thank you,” he says. “We were running low on food.”

They follow Cas into the dining room, which looks... way different from the last time Sam was here. It’s painted, for one, and the walls are full of framed pictures and protective amulets behind glass. The table is absolutely covered in snacks, some store bought and some housed in secondhand pyrex dishes: coffeecake, popcorn, a whole tray of what Sam can only guess are the ‘cheese and pepper stuffed sliders’ Dean was talking about last week.

“Are you sure about that?” Eileen asks. Sam tries not to think about the fact that they’re sharing one bathroom with at least ten other people.

Dean rounds into the room, then. He looks so different from the guy Sam last saw at the Bunker, and it’s not just because he’s got an actual, god’s honest button-up shirt and jeans thing going on. Last Sam saw Dean, he was only just starting to talk to the other hunters and was still looking pale coming out of a weeklong detox period. Now he’s got color in his cheeks, and his voice when he makes a sound of greeting is clear and well-used.

After giving them both hugs, he pulls away and points at their shirts. “Went full Duran Duran, huh?” he asks.

“I think you both look very stylish,” Cas says.

“Well of course you would,” Dean says. He gestures to Cas’s torso. “You usually dress like a tourist from Maine. A hot tourist, but still.”

Cas looks like he’s about to say something, then turns to Eileen and begins to sign at a rapid pace. Sam’s fluent enough at this point to catch what he’s saying, and only manages to look away once Cas mentions something about a costume fantasy.

Dean goes to bat Cas’s hands down. “Eileen...Eileen does not want to hear about that.”

Eileen shakes her head. “No, I do,” she says. “I definitely do, keep going.”

Dean makes eye contact with Sam, which is very difficult to do now that Cas is signing something about Batman. “Want a drink?”

“Yes,” he says. “Please.”

Sam nearly knocks into Jody in the hallway, who says her hellos before going back to the living room where everyone’s seemingly gathered. Sam thinks he can hear some noise upstairs in Jack’s room—he knows Jack flew Max, Stacy, and Eliot over for the party because he’s supposed to be the responsible adult cover for any of their parents. The counter’s already littered with half-empty glasses and cans, and a big punch bowl full of orange liquid and what looks like sour gummy bears.

“You want a beer?” Dean asks. “We’ve also got soda and the, uh, New and Improved Spritzer of the Century.”

“New and improved?” Sam asks.

Dean shakes his head. “Look, all I know is that Patience and Alex came in with a full box from the liquor store, and now every bottle that was in that thing is empty. Donna had like, half a cup and now she’s stuck to the floor.”

Sam eyes the punchbowl warily. “I think I’ll stick with beer for now,” he says.

“Smart choice,” Dean says, and fishes through the fridge for a bottle. He uncorks it and hands it to Sam, before going in again and, thank god, pulling out a can of soda.

“Mr. Pibb?” Sam asks. “Seriously?”

“It was on sale, shut up,” he says. He gestures. “Besides, you’re one to talk with that thing on.”

Sam looks down and pulls at the hem of the shirt. “Eileen thought it’d be cute and funny,” he says.

Dean grimaces and makes a whip crack noise.

Okay, two can play at that game. “Oh yeah? And why’re you wearing that whole getup, huh? I don’t think I’ve seen you wear something like that outside of a case in like...never.”

Dean shuffles from one foot to the other, looking down at his chest. “Cas said I looked handsome in it,” he mutters. Red is crawling up his neck.

Sam makes a whip crack noise.

“Okay, yeah, yeah, whatever,” Dean says. He takes a sip out of his knockoff soda can. “How long are you two staying here, by the way?”

“Not long,” Sam says. “We’ve got a uh, trip planned. Visiting a few old Men of Letters hideouts along the coast, staying in a cabin in the mountains for a couple days, that sort of thing.” He smiles and picks at the label. “We’re calling it our ‘non-honeymoon honeymoon’.”

Dean whistles. “A vacation?”

“I mean, things run pretty smoothly in the bunker without us. It’ll only be a couple weeks.” And Sam’s excited. The last time he went on vacation was when he was 19 and drove up to Pfeiffer Beach for a weekend. “But yeah. Weird, right?”

“Well, yeah. Always thought the job was gonna be an all-or-nothing thing, that…” He lets the sentence hang there. Sam can fill in the blanks. That we’d only get time off when we were dead .

“Yeah,” Sam agrees. He’s still getting used to the idea himself. He always thought for so long that it had to be one way or the other, but now...He’s got a dog and a wife and a home, and sure that all looks normal on paper. But then you see that the dog is some last fuck-you from God, and both him and Eileen are still legally dead, and that home is a library full of monster hunters. It doesn’t exactly fit, like the puzzle pieces don’t line up for the right kind of picture, and Sam thinks that might be why he loves it so much.

Dean fiddles with the soda tab. “You know I’m proud of you, right?” he asks. “And that I’m happy for you?”

Sam smiles and clears his throat. “Yeah, man,” he says. “Of course I do.”

Dean nods. “Good,” he says. “Good.”

He stands there next to the fridge, looking perfectly content. Or, not content—he’s still fidgeting, and Sam guesses he’s probably keeping his hands busy so that he doesn’t go back into the fridge for a beer. But...happy. No tension in his shoulders, no closed off expressions, no volcano waiting to happen. 

“You know it’s the same for me,” Sam tells him. “With the...being proud and happy for you.”

Dean blinks. “Really?”

Sam laughs. “Yeah, man, really.”

Dean fiddles with the soda tab more, smiling like a little kid. “Awesome,” he says. “Hey, we should go check in on our better halves, don’t you think? I’m getting kinda worried about what they’re telling each other.”

Sam, who’d been taking a pull from his bottle, sputters a little. “Definitely,” he says, nodding.

Laughing, Dean pats him on the shoulder and leads him back out into the party.


The sky is mercifully clear. It had been touch and go for a while, with the rain and the slush coming down all week, but when Castiel steps out onto the back deck all he feels is the cool, dry air coming off of the mountains. It’s a welcome reprieve from the stuffiness of the interior. Not that Castiel doesn’t appreciate the party—he enjoys the company. He enjoys sitting next to Dean on the couch as conversations come and go, as the mild chaos seeps into every room and leaves no picture frame rightly angled, no surface unlittered with paper plates and plastic cups. The house isn’t meant to be empty, and Castiel rejoices to see it so full and lively.

Still, he needs a break. He is mildly drunk, having had a glass of the New and Improved Spritzer of the Century, and slightly sweaty. The deck has been cleared of any chairs or tables since the rain came in, so Castiel goes to the wooden steps and sits there.

There is a nail sticking out of one of the steps. Nothing hazardous, just a result of expanding and contracting wood. Castiel presses his thumb against the top and slowly pushes it back in. He thinks about the past summer and Dean working for hours on constructing this whole thing. He was in love with you then , he thinks to himself, and smiles. Out of everything that has occurred since Dean and him have confessed to each other, these small realizations are his favorite. Castiel feels as if he is being loved non-linearly. It is the closest he’s come to time travel in quite a long time.

He fishes through his pockets for his lighter and a small plastic tube. The man at the dispensary had given him this one for free, calling it a ‘frequent flyer discount’ and telling him to enjoy the new year. Castiel sticks the filter between his lips and lights the end, taking a long draw before watching the smoke climb up, up, up into the sky.

He hears the back door open. Shuffling footsteps make their way to him, and Kaia plops down on the step next to him. “Hey,” she says.

“Hello,” he says. He passes the joint to her without prompting. They’ve gotten into somewhat of a pattern since everyone started arriving a couple days ago. Claire even joined in yesterday, and proceeded to be incredibly quiet before bursting out into a long, meandering ramble about American Girl dolls completely unprompted.

Kaia exhales. “No offense, dude, but your place is way too cramped.”

Castiel hums in agreement. “It was worth a try,” he says. “Perhaps next year we’ll go back to the Bunker.”

“I mean, it’s nice,” Kaia amends, “and like, cozy and everything, but right now it feels smaller than my apartment.” She takes another puff before handing it back. “Again, no offense.”

“None taken.” He inhales. “So,” he says. “What are yours for this year?”

Kaia’s eyebrows knit together. “What are my what?”

“Your resolutions,” he clarifies. He can feel his fingers beginning to numb at the tips. “I believe it's customary to ask about them on New Year's Eve, along with the exercising and excessive amounts of alcohol.”

She snorts. “Ha-ha,” she says. She takes the joint from him and shrugs. “I dunno. This is the first year I ever actually, like...followed through? Kinda scared to break my winning streak.” She watches the end of the joint glow red as she breathes in. “Also, I don't want you stealing any of my ideas again.”

Castiel has to give her that. “In all fairness, you told me I could.”

Kaia shrugs again. “True.” She hands the joint back, and plays with her sleeves. “Maybe I'll start a garden, too. One of those kinds you grow out of window boxes or something. Or...catch up on all the moves I missed when I was gone. Like, I don’t really know what the deal is with Cats .”

He frowns. “They're a diminutive subspecies of feline,” he tells her, though he’s surprised she doesn’t know this, “domesticated in the Fertile Crescent in the early—”

Kaia shakes her head. “No, no,” she says. “Different kind of cats.”

Castiel nods. “Ah,” he says, trying his best to sound like he’s not completely confused.

As he takes another puff, Kaia asks him, “What about you?”

“Hm?”

“Your resolutions.”

Castiel contemplates this. He takes one hit, then another even though he’s recently learned the etiquette of ‘puff puff pass’. He finally hands the joint over to Kaia, now nearing a stub. “Meet as many new people as I can,” he says. “Reorganize the bookshelves. General continued existence and happiness.”

Kaia blinks. “Wow,” she says. “Broad. And kinda boring.”

“Yes,” Castiel happily agrees.

Once they’ve smoked the joint down to the filter, Kaia stands up and thanks him before heading back inside. Castiel elects to stand up himself, but walks in the opposite direction towards the lake.

The mountains, usually already dusted with snow, are great ridges of white on the horizon. As Castiel makes his way around the perimeter of the house, he notes the empty garden beds and their frozen soil, the line of cars that trickles out on the gravel driveway. His boots crunch under the thin layer of snow that is spread out on the landscape.

Castiel wanders toward the dock and notes the long, bright green flotation device tied to it and loaded with many illegal fireworks. The alcohol and weed buzz low within him, and he does his best not to slip on any icy patches as he makes his way out to the edge. There are no crickets, no birds. Just the muffled sound of the party behind him, and the twinkling light on the water. It’s twenty minutes to midnight. 

He stuffs his hands in his pockets and simply watches. He wants to pray, but he’s having a difficult time figuring out what he wants to say. It all feels too big for words, this feeling in his chest. The light of the house behind him doesn’t warm his back, not in the literal sense, but…

Castiel was around for the discovery of fire. He’d been fascinated by the way humans drew themselves towards it. He hadn’t understood the concept of the cold, or of sanctuary. He thought it an endearing quirk, how humans were drawn to that glow, to the noise of other people.

This is all to say that he understands now, better than ever.

He stands there at the end of the dock, rocking along to the ebb and flow, until he feels the wood tilt with the weight of another person. “Figured you came out here,” Dean says. He’s got Castiel’s sheepskin jacket in his arms. “Also figured you’d start freezing.”

Castiel smiles and takes the jacket. “Thank you,” he says, and kisses him.

“Need to get you some breath mints,” Dean says. “You taste like friggin’ Pepé Le Pew.” Despite this he goes in and kisses Castiel again. “Was missing you back there.”

Castiel hums. “I needed some fresh air,” he explains, and puts the jacket on.

Dean nods. “Yeah, so did Kaia by the smell of it,” he jokes. He goes over to the floatie and leans down to push it. They watch it amble and drift out until the rope goes taut about a hundred feet out. “Y’know,” he says, standing up to his full height again, “you’ve never told me what you do when you’re hanging out over here. And I know you still do it, you ain’t as slick as you think.”

Castiel studies Dean’s face for a moment before looking out on the water. “I smoke,” he tells him, “and I pray.” When his eyes meet Dean’s again, they’re full of surprise and confusion. “Not to God, obviously.”

“Then to who?” Dean asks.

Castiel shrugs. “Pine needles, mostly. The mountains, the stars. The fish. Whoever I wanted to be listening.” He gives Dean a soft smile. “To you, on occasion.”

Dean doesn’t say anything to that, his mouth parted slightly and his fidgeting goes stock still. Castiel admires the constellations above as he waits for Dean to process; he spies Cassiopeia again, and the Ursas Major and Minor. He sees their breath form one temporary, conjoined fog.

“Were you praying before I got here?” Dean asks finally. His voice is rough.

“I was about to,” Castiel says.

“You, uh,” Dean licks his lips, “you mind if I listen in this time? For real?”

Instead of answering him, Castiel beckons him closer. He presses a kiss into his cheek, and rests his head on his shoulder. They both look out on the scene before them.

“I was attempting to express my gratitude,” he tells him. “For this...simple feeling.”

“How Spock of you,” Dean says, his body humming the words against Castiel’s cheek.

Castiel laughs under his breath. He likes prayers better when the objects of worship talk back. “In any case,” he says, then sighs through his nose. “For so long I thought this kind of happiness was for other people. That it would never…” He collects his words. “A little over a year ago, I decided to die. I had thought it to be the end, and even when it wasn’t, I had wished it was.”

He feels Dean swallow. “Cas—”

“But now,” he continues, “now I’m happy. Truly happy. And I feel such gratitude.” He lifts his head up to look Dean in the eyes. “I’ve always been grateful to have you, Dean, in any way I could. But I’m most grateful to have you as I do now.”

Dean stares at him for a good, long while, his eyes going glassy. His head ducks down and he clumsily wipes his face. “Fuck,” he says. “Now I feel I gotta say something.”

Castiel frowns. “Like what?”

“I...I dunno, a grand declaration or something,” he says. He holds Castiel’s gaze. “You keep giving me all these great ones and I…” He swallows, then scoffs. “I wish I could. But I try to put it into words and it just all feels too…” He gestures to his mouth. “I can say I love you, but everything else just gets swallowed up.”

Castiel considers the deck that wasn’t there a year ago, the new glass in the windows. He considers the patched roof and the raised beds, the flooring, the paint clutching the outside of the house. Socks tugged onto his feet in the dead of night and a blanket pulled up to his shoulders. The smell of coffee and eggs in the morning, the orchid in the dining room. 

“Dean, you don’t have to,” he says.

Dean blinks. “I don’t?”

Castiel puts his back to the water and looks at the house, a verified beacon on a dark winter night. Dean turns with him. “I think your heart resides in your hands,” he tells him. “And if that is the case, then you’ve given me a grand declaration at least three times a day.”

Dean stares at the house, realization dawning. His eyes drift from the roof down to the very foundation of the house itself before his lips form a small, self-conscious smile. “Well, now I’m blushing,” he says, and he is.

Castiel goes to say something, but before he can Dean reaches out and intertwines his hand in his. Dean’s smile goes from self-conscious to loving, and Castiel can’t stop himself from smiling back. He feels a thumb slowly and reverently graze his knuckles. The grip is firm—not suffocatingly tight, but resolute.

There is the sound of a door opening, and suddenly many voices are piling on top of each other, growing closer. When Castiel finally tears his eyes away, he sees a great crowd of twelve or so people rushing out of the house and towards the dock.

“Two minutes to midnight!” Donna yells. 

The dock is overcome with people, rocking back and forth as it attempts to carry the weight of too many people. It suddenly rights itself, and Castiel sees Jack crouch down to give the wood an affectionate pat. There’s a lot of minor arguing as everybody tries to get themselves a good view of the lake, and Stacy nearly shoves Eliot into the water. Castiel and Dean get themselves turned around to face the lake again, hands still interlocked. 

“Alright, alright, settle down!” Jody commands. “We got fifteen seconds left. Light her up!”

Jack’s eyes glow, and there’s the distant sound of a fuse hissing. 

“Ten, nine, eight!” they count down, voices clumsy and discordant with joy. They all harmonize around five, and when they hit one it comes out in a great burst of cheers. 

Castiel has his eyes to the sky for a moment before he feels Dean squeeze his hand. He cups Castiel’s face and pulls him in for a kiss. It is as sweet and lovely and awe-inducing as any other kiss they’ve shared. Dean’s hand slowly goes to the back of Castiel’s neck. Castiel grasps the fabric of Dean’s shoulder.

Distantly, there is the sound of water splashing. Someone has definitely fallen into the water. He and Dean are certainly missing this hilarious occasion, as well as the fantastic display of fireworks going on in front of them. Castiel really can’t bring himself to care, if he’s honest. For now there is only light, only celebration, only the great boom of something new.

the end.