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We're Not Muppets, Dean.

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"It's really not that deep, Cas," Sam's voice floated down the hall in that same tone he got whenever he tries to explain bitcoin to Dean. "It's just... I don't know, a gag gift."

 

Dean walked into the war room to find his brother looking amused yet slightly exasperated. Meanwhile, Castiel, former angel of the Lord, was sat at the map table frowning down in deep concentration at what, at first glance, appeared to be a rubber duckie. Oh, yeah -- nope, it was at second glance, too. He looked to Sam who only shrugged in response.

 

"What you got there, Cas?" he asked, lips twitching around his beer as he took in the tiny sunglasses painted on its little yellow head and miniature blue beach towel wrapped around its little ducky shoulders.

 

"This rubber duckling was on display at the checkout line and Sam insisted that it would... 'make bath time fun'." He made air quotes and Dean fought back a laugh while Sam tried to hide his smirk. Cas had been adjusting to being human all over again and having to 'urinate' and shower were still ones that he grumbled about daily. Of course, all he really seemed to do was grumble these days. "I don't understand how a rubber duck could possibly make sitting in a tub of one's own sweat and grime seem pleasurable."

 

"Ok there, Bert." He huffed out a laugh and decided it was best to leave Cas to figure out his own existential duckie crisis. He was just about to resume his trek to the kitchen, thinking maybe he'd make the grumpy ex-angel a PB&J and see if that helped, when Sam had to open his big, dumb, clueless trap:

 

"So, does that make you Ernie?" Dean choked on his beer. Sam chuckled at his own lame joke, seemingly proud to have jiggled the latch on Pandora's box, just for funsies.

 

Dean wiped the beer from his chin and chanced a glance at Cas, not surprised to find him carefully watching his reaction, full head tilt and all.

 

In the three weeks since Jack pulled Cas' ass out of the Empty, Dean had gone out of his way to pretend like "the incident" had never happened. He'd been doing a pretty spectacular job of it thus far, too, but damn if he hadn't been walking on pins and needles waiting for the other shoe to drop. And, right on cue:

 

"Alright, time to leave you two love birds to it -- Eileen and I are going out for dinner," Sam said, obliviously, as he grabbed his keys and made his way up the stairs. Dean watched as Cas' squint turned into a frown and, was it hot in here all of a sudden?

 

The bunker door slammed shut and Dean cleared his throat, awkwardly, when the moment stretched on. He thought about beating a hasty retreat but Cas was still doing that soul stare thing and there was something of a challenge behind it.

 

"You told Sam?"

 

"No, Cas." It wasn't the first time Sam or any number of people or creatures, friend or foe, had joked about their relationship but this was the first time since Castiel had dropped the bomb of all bombs right before the Empty dragged him off. Cas' brows raised in understanding.

 

"Oh." Dean didn't like the kicked puppy look any more than he liked the angry scowl. The man hadn't looked like he'd had a happy moment since...

 

Dean sighed and hung his head in defeat.

 

"Cas... You deserve better. I know what you want and, believe me, it's killing me that I can't just give it to you, but I can't." He shook his head.

 

Cas stared down at his folded hands, frustrated. "Dean, you already know that I never would have said those things aloud if there had been any other way, but I believe I said at the time that I didn't expect anything from you."

 

"Then why are you so pissy?!"

 

"BECAUSE," Cas growled and then cursed under his breath. Finally, he looked up and held his eye. "Because I just want to know if I made it all up?" He looked away again. "I knew you had your hangups but I guess I just thought..."

 

Dean felt his gut sink. Cas thought he didn't care about him, too. He could kick himself because No, duh. I wonder why, genius? If completely freezing after a heartfelt love confession wasn't enough to do the trick, then surely greeting the man (fresh back from the dead after sacrificing his life through the power of freakin' love and then, subsequently, having relinquished his powers just so that Jack would let him come back to earth to be with, you guessed it) with a measly clap on the back and a 'Welcome back, buddy!' had done it.

 

The stupid part was that he'd spent months exhausting every book and spell the bunker had to offer, following every dead-end lead he could cobble together, shaking down whatever backwater witch he could find, and praying to Jack until he was blue in face in his efforts to get Cas back. But then Cas walked through that bunker door and... 'Welcome back, buddy!'

 

Cas had looked so hurt and then silently resigned as he hit him with a "Hello, Dean" in response that seemed paltry in comparison to the last set of words he'd said to Dean.

 

He owed Cas more than that and he knew it. Hell, as much as he'd beaten himself up over the way he'd just... froze that night... He owed himself more than that. But it was complicated. And, while Dean had a lot of feelings about what Cas had revealed to him in the bunker's dungeon, he did not have a lot of words. Not the right words, at least. Although... Sesame Street had been simplifying complicated things for the masses for what? Fifty years now?

 

Dean swallowed, dryly, and drained the rest of his beer.

 

"Cas, do you actually know who Bert and Ernie are?"

 

Cas narrowed his eyes. "Yes, you said --"

 

"Forget what I said!" His freckled face flamed as he remembered his own words before they faced Raphael all those years ago. "I'm just sayin', maybe the good folks over on Sesame Street had it right not to label 'em. The point is they're best friends. But not like Big Bird and Elmo are best friends, you know?" Cas had his face all scrunched up in confusion. "They're more than best friends -- like, you just know they are each other's person and they lo--" He swallowed. "Love... each other."

 

Cas gasped, face softening. "Dean..."

 

Dean gripped the map table to stop the room spinning.

 

"Are you saying those strange Muppets are like us?"

 

Dean nodded.

 

"Maybe. But like... Cas..." This was the part that worried him most because he had no idea where Cas stood here. "You know Bert and Ernie have separate beds, right?"

 

Cas squinted, confused. Dean's heart was beating frantically as Cas tried his best to search his soul, as if he still had the power. Then his face softened and a warm smile slowly spread across it.

 

"So, it is real? You feel it, too?" he asked, cautiously hopeful.

 

Dean held his gaze and nodded, slowly.

 

He hoped it was enough -- needed it to be enough! Thankfully, Cas -- the literal Godsend that he was -- looked pleased as punch, like it was all he'd ever wanted and... OK. Maybe... Maybe they could figure this out after all.

 

"Dean..." Dean looked up, still trying to keep it together at this point, to find Cas with his arm outstretched and the little rubber duckie balanced on his palm. That damn smile was still there. "Maybe you should have this, then."

 


 

There was no immediate, drastic change between them. There didn't need to be.

 

Dean still always made Cas' cup of Joe right along with his each morning and made him his favorite food whenever he looked like he was having a rough day. Cas still had Dean's back in every hunt in that obviously protective way and remained the only one who could get Dean Winchester to admit when he wasn't fine without making him feel like that was a bad thing. They still watched Westerns and bee documentaries and made their way through entire Netflix catalogs in the Dean Cave or listened to the mixtape on the car rides Dean always invited Cas on whenever he needed to clear his head.

 

There were subtle shifts that felt different than before, though. Like, they hardly ever touched in any particularly intimate way but, as much as Dean had always preached about personal space in the past, Castiel noticed that Dean always seemed to drift a little closer to him than was necessary these days. Little touches happened more, too. Dean had bought him a whole new wardrobe filled with flannels and graphic tees, but Cas secretly still loved to wear his suit for the simple reason that Dean always seemed compelled to straighten his tie when he wore it.

 

And that was enough, really. Because Cas had been right all along: Sometimes happiness is in the being; In the saying. It was enough for them to just know and know that each other knew.

 

But then Cas went and caught the flu.

 

"Do you regret it?"

 

It took way more energy to lift his head than it should have but, when he finally managed, it was to find Dean stood in the doorway of his bedroom -- a glass of cold water in one hand and a bottle of Tylenol PM in the other.

 

"Catching the flu?" He squinted back at him.

 

"Becoming human."

 

Cas laid back down and closed his eyes tight against his pounding headache.

 

"I regret catching the flu."

 

"That's not what I mean, Cas."

 

He sighed.

 

"I resent that I have survived for millenia as a soldier of God and now a common viral infection has the power to take me out. But no, Dean. I don't regret any of the sacrifices I made to keep you safe or be here with you today. My only regret is that you feel responsible for it."

 

Because it was never really a choice. Sure, he could have chosen to remain an angel, but Jack's gatekeeping would have meant being stuck in heaven away from the Winchesters and he'd take that tradeoff every time -- just like he'd choose to save Dean again, without a question.

 

There was silence from the doorway.

 

"I only wish that you could see past my sacrifices to see my gains. That you could believe me when I say that you are worth it."

 

He heard Dean's footsteps come closer and the glass clink on the nightstand before the bed dipped with his weight. Cas cracked open his eyes to find Dean sitting on the edge of the mattress staring at him with something warm but conflicted in his gaze. He reached out a hand to his forehead to check his temperature and then gently brushed away the damp hair plastered to his face.

 

He knew he must be burning up, yet, he couldn't stop shivering despite the two blankets he was buried under.

 

"Take this," Dean said, handing him two Tylenol and the glass. "We've got to get this fever down."

 

Cas sat up to do as he was told, grimacing when even the water burned on its way down.

 

"Budge over," Dean commanded after he replaced the glass on the nightstand.

 

Cas squinted back at him. "What do you mean?"

 

Dean rolled his eyes and tried to make his voice sound gruffer, tougher, when he spoke.

 

"Look, Cas, your teeth are almost chattering. Do you want me to help stop the chills until the fever breaks or what?"

 

Cas gasped when it finally registered what he was suggesting and he moved as fast as his sluggish limbs would allow him to make space. Dean climbed in under the covers beside him and then Cas was being pulled onto his chest and caressed gently. He sighed at the touch and suddenly, everything felt so much better.

 

He wrapped his arm tighter around Dean's middle, in case he tried to run, and then said, "I thought we didn't share beds?"

 

Dean huffed out a laugh and rubbed up and down Cas' arm, comfortingly. "This ain't that, Cas. I used to do the same thing for Sammy all the time when he was little."

 

Cas looked at him wryly. "And you would do this for him now? As an adult."

 

Dean's cheeks turned red and he gave a short, embarrassed laugh. "Shut up, Cas," he said without any heat. Cas smirked against his chest.

 

A few minutes passed before Cas broke the silence again. "This feels wonderful. I think it's helping."

 

"Really? Because you still look like death."

 

Cas squinted. "Which one?"

 

"The OG."

 

"Oh. Because I thought Billie's human form was rather beautiful."

 

"Huh." Dean was smiling in that teasing way. "Billie do it for you? She your type?"

 

Cas shrugged. The medicine was already starting to kick in and he could feel sleep nipping at his heels. "Well I think most humans are beautiful in some shape or form."

 

Dean rolled his eyes. "But like... sexually. Who does it for you? What's your type?"

 

"You," he said, simply.

 

Dean stiffened momentarily beneath him but then gave him a brief squeeze in acknowledgment.

 

"Get some rest, Cas."

 

Cas didn't need to be told twice. The diphenhydramine from the Tylenol agreed. He had the fleeting thought that this really wasn't very smart because Dean was bound to catch his bug this way, but then his heart just felt so full as he drifted off to sleep and swore he felt the soft press of lips to his hair.

 


 

Dean felt more content than he had in... Well, as long as he could remember. Jack had taken care of all the big bads so all they had to deal with were run of the mill salt and burns or the occasional monster here and there; If Sam and Eileen kept going at the rate they were going, then it wasn't long before they were going to make him either a best man or an uncle; And, of course, he and Cas were... He and Cas. 

 

Lots of things were shifting in ways that he'd never dreamed of. It was good. He just wasn't always great at recognizing exactly how things were shifting until they bit him in the ass.

 

They'd found themselves in Grantsburg, Wisconsin one late afternoon after Garth called about an potential rogue werewolf and, of course, no one wanted Thriller bringing any extra attention to Garth's family. They'd stopped by a bar for drinks and cheap bar food after they'd hit an unexpected roadblock.

 

"It's just not following the usual rules. I think we need to go back to the drawing board because I'm not even sure this is a werewolf. If not, then a silver bullet is only going to piss him off," Sam said, losing his patience by the end of it as he tried and failed to pick baby spit-up out of his shirt.

 

"Hey, maybe it's like pigeon poop. You know that crap's supposed to be good luck?"

 

Sam rolled his eyes at the bad pun and frowned. "I swear Garth's kids have it out for me."

 

"I rather liked little Sam and Castiel," Cas said around his burger.

 

Dean had to admit, their aim was pretty dead on. He was just about to make a joke about his brother being lucky it came out the top end when the bartender tossed her hair and bent low in front of Dean, cleavage spilling onto the bar top.

 

"Another beer for you, sugar?"

 

The flirty smirk came naturally. "Why hello there, sweetheart. Sure, another round for me and my friends here."

 

She nodded and began pouring drinks with a little more bounce in her step than was probably necessary. "So, are you guys law enforcement?" she asked, pointing at the suits.

 

"Yep, Dean Bonham, FBI. We're just wrapping up a case in town."

 

"Hmm... interesting. Well, Dean," she leaned in close. "I'm Ashley, I'm off in 30, and I know how to do a few things with my tongue that should probably be illegal, if you want to check it out."

 

She slid over a cocktail napkin with her number and winked before she walked off. Dean grinned, dopily, at her retreating form until Sam clearing his throat brought him back to the room. Sam chuckled and shook his head, incredulously, beside him and that's when it hit him. Cas! Panic started to build as he sought out the ex-angel sitting on the other side of Sam. Cas was watching him closely but not revealing any cards as he continued to eat his burger.

 

What was the protocol here? Dean flirted all the time, usually for a case or something, but this was the first time he was considering having sex with someone since they... What? They were still just bros, right? But if Cas was in love with him, would that mean he'd be hurt? Cause he'd had dry spells before and he could probably just not have sex at all if it meant Cas would be hurt...

 

"Uh... Well we know where the thing is, whatever it is. You figure out a way to kill it and I'm all ears," he said to his brother. "Cas, can I talk to you for a second?" he asked around Sam. Cas nodded and followed him outside.

 

"Is it... Are you ok if I..."

 

"You can go and fornicate with that woman, Dean. I don't care."

 

Dean's eyes widened. "Really? You sure?"

 

Cas shrugged. "You have been philandering with women the entire time that I've known you."

 

"Yea, Cas, but that was before..." Now Cas was doing the head tilt squinting thing. Maybe he was making a bigger deal out of this than it had to be.

 

"Dean, what is the name of the last woman you had intercourse with?"

 

"Geez, Cas! Would it really kill you to just say 'had sex with' or 'fucked'? And... I don't know! Kristy? Kristina? Something with a K."

 

"What was the last meal I had before this?"

 

"What?" Dean frowned, not understanding where this was going but having long learned that Cas' seemingly random lines of thought usually had a way of connecting to something meaningful to him. He sighed. "You mean like a meal meal?" Cas only shrugged so he took his own liberties. "I made you pot roast with potatoes and glazed carrots the other day... You've been on that cinnamon toast crunch kick the past few days -- but I don't know if that really counts. And you had beef jerky and chips for the car ride. Speaking of which, you gotta eat a vegetable today, Cas, or you're going to be stopped up like nobody's business."

 

Cas smirked back at him, something sparkling in his eyes. "My point," he accentuated. And then when Dean still looked confused: "I don't care who you fuck, Dean."

 

Dean's jaw dropped and something stirred in his gut at Cas' words.

 

"O-okay... But, you should have somebody, too!" Cas raised a questioning brow. "Yea! You need to get your rocks off, too, right? And it's probably been even longer for you."

 

Cas was frowning. "Dean..."

 

"Yes! Maybe we can find you someone to go home with, too!" he insisted, guiding Cas back into the bar. "There's got to be someone... You said I'm your type, right? So maybe there's someone with green eyes or something."

 

Cas looked momentarily hurt, but then he swallowed and nodded, resigned. "Is this of import to you, Dean?"

 

He couldn't say that it was important, per se, but it sure as hell would make him feel a lot less guilty. He plastered on a big, encouraging smile and pat Cas on the back. "See anyone you like?"

 

Cas rolled his eyes and marched off into the crowd. Dean didn't know what he was expecting. A part of him kind of thought that he'd call his bluff and go back to join Sam's side at the bar. Or that maybe he'd nervously glance around the bar and Dean would have to coach him on how to pull someone like the time he'd taken him to the "Den of Inequity." What he didn't expect was that Castiel, former Angel of the Lord, would just walk right up to some guy with green eyes and a leather jacket, lean in close, and whisper something in his ear (not unlike what the bartender had done to Dean). He especially didn't expect for the dude to grin ear-to-ear then eye Cas up and down like a tasty piece of meat. He especially, especially didn't expect dude to down his beer, wrap his arm around Cas' waist, and lead him out of the bar without either of them giving Dean so much as a backwards glance.

 

"Huh."

 

He was stuck to the spot, still staring at the closed door that Cas had just walked out of. 

 

"So. You decide to take me up on that offer?" The bartender was beside him, tugging on her jacket.

 

"Uh... Yea, I guess..."

 


 

The bartender didn't live far so it wasn't long before Dean found himself lying half naked in a bed filled with too many pillows and sheets that reeked of Love Spell.

 

Amy, or whatever her name was, was pretty and confident (confident like, apparently, Cas was, too -- his brain supplied, unhelpfully). And as her bright blue eyes stared up at him and she kissed slowly down his chest, his thoughts drifted back to Cas and he wondered what his best friend was up to right now. Was he having fun? And who was that douchebag he left with? Wait... he hoped he wasn't a douchebag because Cas didn't deserve that. Wait... was this Cas' first time since that reaper bitch? Did he know to be safe? Last time he thought being safe meant having his angel blade... Should he have given Cas the talk? Wait... what if Cas really didn't want to do anything with that douchebag but just thought he had to for Dean's sake? The consent issues with that reaper bitch already made his stomach turn to think about too deeply.

 

"Are you ok?"

 

Dean snapped out of it long enough to remember where he was and what he was supposed to be doing. The bartender chick was staring up at him, trying and failing to get little Dean's attention, too.

 

Dean blushed. "Yea. Sorry, I just need to..." He pointed towards the hall and grabbed his phone on the way to the bathroom.

 

He dialed Cas' number but it just rang and rang.

 

He's probably busy. Having fun. He splashed some water on his face and decided to try it one more time. Again it rang until it went to voice-mail and Dean hung up.

 

He exhaled a long breath and tried to mentally prepare himself to go back out there and have some fun himself. He got as far as his hand on the handle before he realized that he should probably at least leave a message.

 

"Heya, Cas. I'm just checking on you. Let me know that you're alright," he said into the receiver.

 

Then he shot him a quick text in case he didn't listen to the voicemail.

 

Ok. Time to let him fly the coop and leave him be. Except... what if he's not answering because he's in danger? What if dude's not a dude? But like a leftover Leviathan or some shit?! He was starting to panic, this was all his fault! Maybe he should have Sam track his phone!

 

There was a knock on the door. "You ok in there?"

 

"Yea," he said, dialing the number (one more) one more time. "I'm just... Nachos and beer nuts, you know what I'm saying? I'll be out in a minute!"

 

It took a while, but finally, finally, Cas picked up the God damned phone.

 

"Dean? Are you ok? Is everything alright?" came Cas' voice, low and gruff and concerned.

 

"Yea, Cas. Are you?"

 

There was a pause. "Yes."

 

Dean closed his eyes tight and asked the question he only now realized he was afraid of asking. Afraid of the response. "Whatcha doin', Cas?"

 

Another pause. "Dean, did you call me 32 times in fifteen minutes?"

 

Dean wondered if Cas could hear his face heat up over the phone. "Pssshhh! Uhhh... Nooo. Your phone must be acting up."

 

Cas sighed and now he felt especially stupid.

 

"I'm still with Ryan."  He didn't know why, but it felt like he had just been punched in the gut."Are you with Ashley?"

 

"Who?" It sounded sad, even in his own ears.

 

"Where are you, Dean?"

 

"I'm in the bartender's bathroom."

 

"Dean, I'm leaving right now--"

 

"Cas, you don't have to cut your night short. I just wanted to check on you." He felt small. And that made no goddamn sense. He wasn't a teenage girl here! Besides, he was the one who pushed Cas into this! And Cas did deserve to have someone with less hangups. Someone who could give him what he needed.

 

"Dean, I'm leaving right now. I want you to do the same. If I take a ride share, I can be back at the hotel in forty-five minutes. Meet me there."

 

"Ok."

 


 

Dean was sat on the hood of the Impala, head bowed low, when he pulled up. His eyes were closed and he looked weary -- and not the it's-been-a-long-day type of weary, but the the-world's-about-to-end-again type.

 

"Dean?"

 

Dean lifted his head as he approached and shot him weak smile. Cas sidled up beside him so that they were sat, shoulder-to-shoulder, looking out over the darkening parking lot and the shabby exterior of the hotel-of-the-night. Cas looked to the room they shared with Sam and assumed he was probably tucked away inside, the only one actually doing research tonight.

 

Dean reached into the green cooler at his feet and pulled out two beers, pressing one into his hand just as the vacancy sign flickered on up above and half cast them in the glow from its red, neon light.

 

"Dean, talk," he said, at last, angling towards Dean so he could read his face.

 

"There's nothing to say, Cas. How was your night? How was Ryan?" He'd put on his best fake smile, but Cas didn't miss the bitter note on the name or the way he pointedly averted his gaze as he added, "What did you all do?"

 

Castiel was really trying not to get angry, to have patience, but it was hard to keep the irritation out of his voice as he registered Dean's disappointment and thought back through the sequence of tonight's events.

 

"Dean, I don't understand how you could possibly be upset right now," he groused.

 

Dean hung his head and his smile turned rueful. "I'm sorry. You're mad. I really didn't mean to ruin your night, Cas."

 

The lack of fight caught him off guard. Not that he wanted a fight, but this was the type of scenario that was ripe for Dean's trusty, reliable defensiveness. Instead, he seemed defeated.

 

Cas took a deep breath and tried for a gentler tone.

 

"No, I'm not mad, I'm just incredibly confused... Dean, I told you I wasn't interested in being with anyone else. You insisted I do, and now I don't know what is happening."

 

Apparently that did it because, right on cue, Dean raised his hands, defensively. "You got it all wrong, man -- this isn't like a jealousy thing! I was just... worried about you, is all!"

 

Cas resisted rolling his eyes. Just last week he'd called to tell Dean that he'd encountered a small vampire nest that he planned to take on on his own and Dean had just asked him to stop for pie on the way home. "What exactly were you worried about?"

 

"I don't know, Cas. That guy just seemed all wrong for you," he said as he uncapped his beer, gaze laser-focused on the task. "Actually, the situation was all messed up from start. And, you're right, it's my fault for pushing you without thinking, 'cause, you're not even the type of guy you just hit once and then leave." He paused to take a sip from his beer. Cas narrowed his eyes and tilted his head, intrigued but not sure where this was going. "As gruff as you can be sometimes, buddy, you still got that whole innocent 'I still love humanity and think all of God's creations are beautiful' thing going for you." He shrugged nonchalantly and then turned to look Cas in the eyes. "I just figured if this was your first time bumpin' uglies with a dude, then you at least deserved somebody who would see that and be gentle with you, you know? And then I just kept thinking about the fact that I don't even know if you know how to just fuck. You seem like the type who would... I don't know... dole out body kisses and whisper sweet nothings and shit. Or something." It was especially hard to tell in their current lighting, but Cas would've sworn he was blushing. "And that's not really what you want in a situation like this."

 

Cas stared back at Dean for a long moment, suddenly feeling breathless and speechless as something became increasingly apparent. He had spent the past ten years accepting that he and Dean would only ever exist in orbit of one another in this queerplatonic space. He'd quietly gone through every stage of grief around the thought of it ever turning into more than that throughout the years, culminating with the moment he conjured the Empty as the final stage of acceptance. Their recent understanding even moved the needle from 'tolerable' to 'preferable' for Cas, who placed much more value in emotional intimacy than physical intimacy, anyhow. But all the while, it had always seemed an easy place, safe even, for Dean to be in (even if he didn't fully understand it). And it always made sense, what with all of his hangups around masculinity and intimacy. But, now, for the first time maybe ever, Dean seemed to be struggling with the "platonic" part of the equation. He glanced behind him to where the little yellow duck had taken up permanent residence on Baby's dashboard and then back at Dean.

 

Dean turned his gaze back to the parking lot. "It's just too bad I didn't realize all that before you did the deed." He glanced at Cas from the corner of his eye as if hoping for confirmation.

 

"Oh, Dean..." he said, warmly. He wanted to reach out and caress his beautifully freckled face but was afraid of causing him to shut down. Instead, he just scooched closer until they had a few points of contact. "This is all very confusing, isn't it?"

 

Dean looked down at his shoes to hide the sadness.

 

"No, Dean. I did not have sex with that man," he clarified.

 

Dean looked up at that, surprised and visibly relieved. "That's... that's great, Cas!" His smile was beautiful and bashful and tugged at Cas' heart.

 

Cas sighed. He held out his hand, palm side up between them. An offering. Dean didn't take it fully, but he did reach out to gently trace the lines of his palm with the tip of his finger, making Cas' heart warm.

 

"So why did you go with Ryan if you weren't going to get your dick wet?" he asked after a while, effectively breaking the spell.

 

Cas rolled his eyes. "Because you insisted. I told you I didn't care. Honestly, I was going to give him fellatio for his troubles--" Dean's eyes widened in surprise at this but Cas only shrugged. "But he lived so far away that, by the time we got to his home and had a couple of glasses of wine, I checked my phone and realized..."

 

He was sure Dean was blushing now.  "That I had lost my mind?"

 

"Yes. Are we acknowledging that, yet?"

 

Dean shook his head and chuckled, lightly, to himself. "Not yet, Cas."

 

Cas nodded. Dean reached out and turned over his hand again, going back to retracing the path from before.

 

"So... did you just not want sex tonight? Or you don't like it in general?" Cas turned to face him more squarely, careful not move his hand. "Like do you even... You know..." Ok, he was absolutely blushing as he made an obscene gesture with his free hand. "Shake hands with the milkman?"

 

Cas frowned in confusion and then decided to just answer the parts of that that he understood. Like the confession before the Empty, Cas felt hesitant to share, nervous that maybe it'd reveal too much and be too much for Dean. But something about Dean's thinly veiled vulnerability tonight made him think that the truth might actually be the balm that Dean needed.

 

"Dean... You are the only person I want to have sex with."

 

Dean's finger stuttered along it's path.

 

"When I say that you are my type, the word type is misleading because it implies subcategories. What I mean is that you are the unique combination of you that could make a once singular minded angel feel more human than falling or choosing ever could." Dean looked at him, stunned; green eyes searching his for the lie. But there was only truth. "So when I say that you are 'my type', know that I don't just mean physically, I mean spiritually and emotionally and wholeheartedly. No, I don't value sex in the same way that you do, which is why the fact that I do desire that with you is special. Most days, I don't even think about being sexual. Whenever I do think about it, it's with you. And the part that 'does it for me'--" He made sure to do the air quotes. "--is the thought of you and I being as close as we ever possibly could in this form, not necessarily the act itself. It's only ever you. Always you." Then he added, as an after thought, "And yes, I masturbate."

 

Dean choked out a laugh and stared back at him in absolute awe, trying to take in the words of reassurance that he'd desperately needed to hear all night. He finally reached out to take Cas' hand, interlocking their fingers and squeezing tightly.

 

He stared down at the pavement. "You know, at some point in all this it just hit me that I had probably just pushed you right into the arms of the man that was going to make you open your fucking eyes and realize that you can have better. That I'm not all I'm cracked up to be because I couldn't even give you what you want."

 

Cas squeezed his hand back, ready to dispute that until 'the cows came home'. And since there were no cows that called the bunker home, he was prepared for the long haul.

 

"So I'm really selfishly glad that that douchebag wasn't what you wanted." Ryan had actually been quite kind and understanding but he could probably keep that part to himself. "But, man, there was a part of me that just couldn't stop thinking about the fact that this might be your first time with a dude and then feeling salty because it wasn't with me and like it was my own damn fault that it wasn't with me."

 

"Do you think about you and I having sex?"

 

Dean smiled, candidly, and shook his head like he couldn't believe he was about to say this next part. "Yea, Cas... I mean, how could I not when you're walking around telling me you love me and shit? And, have you seen yourself in a doctor's coat or a cowboy hat? Come on man." Cas felt like his whole world was pivoting, shifting upside down and turning inside out all at once. He'd never in his wildest dreams imagined that he'd hear those words. Dean shook his head again. "Putting the two dicks thing aside, it's just... Cas, I've never had something like this. With anyone! I don't have the blueprint for all this feelings crap and I don't want to mess it up. But like, sex has never meant that much to me besides like base, hedonistic pleasure and whatever we have, man, it seems pure. I don't want to turn it into whatever crap I have with girls, but adding all this feelings shit into it is..."

 

"Unkown."

 

"Terrifying," Dean countered.

 

Cas nodded. "But it could be beautiful. And you do do things that terrify you on a fairly regular basis."

 

Dean laughed. "So, you saying I should do you, Cas?"

 

Cas shrugged. "If you'd like."

 

His heart fluttered when Dean smiled sweetly in response and then lifted their intertwined hands to press a soft kiss to the back of Cas'. He looked up at the vacancy sign and then back at Cas before nudging him with his shoulder, suggestively.

 


 

Dean woke up the next morning feeling... Whole. That was the word. Whole. He looked down at the naked angel (because grace or not, he'd always be his angel) lying half on top of him and smiled. He was beautiful. And wasn't that something?

 

"You're beautiful, Cas," he whispered into his hair, feeling adventurous enough to say it aloud, even if Cas was sleeping soundly.

 

He squirmed experimentally and winced when he realized that he ached in places he wasn't used to aching; But it was a good ache, and came as a reminder of the moment he'd gotten over himself and let himself be loved and taken care of in a way that he'd been afraid of for so long (Cas had been so sweet and of course he was the type to dole out soft body kisses and whisper sweet nothings). Surprisingly, tumbling over the line had felt easy when they finally let it happen. All this time he'd been worried that it might be awkward or feel unnatural, when in reality, it had been more taxing trying not to fall.

 

Cas stirred and Dean kissed him on the nose to help coax him awake, smiling lovingly when blue eyes slowly blinked open.

 

"Good morning, sleepy head." He rubbed up and down his bare back, soothingly, and Cas blinked up at him, drunk off the touch.

 

"Dean?" he croaked, sleepily. "Is this all a dream?"

 

Dean snorted and then squeezed him closer. "Dream realized, maybe," he said before planting another kiss on his forehead.

 

Cas' smile was breathtaking. He scooched up so that they were face to face, sharing the same pillow, and cupped Dean's face gently in his hand.

 

"I think this is the best morning I've had in all of existence, Dean."

 

Dean blushed harder than a nun in an adult toy store. "Kinda strong for a pickup line there, buddy." Because he didn't know how many mornings there were in 400 million years but it wasn't exactly playing fair.

 

Cas simply shrugged and pulled the covers more snug around them. "Then I'll say it every morning that I wake up next to you," he said, sincerely. Dean's heart melted at the words and he was putty when Cas' lips claimed his, soft and yielding, yet, possessive. And that's why Dean loved Cas. He always saw through his bullshit insecurities and never let him push him away when he really wanted to be held closer.

 

"Huh."

 

Cas narrowed his eyes in question.

 

"Nothing I just..." He stared lost into blue eyes that were clear as the ocean. His heart was beating fast against his rib cage as his mouth dared to form the words. "I just love you, Cas."

 

Castiel smiled and caressed the side of his face with his thumb. There was a sparkle in his eye and the corner of his mouth twitched as he responded, "I know."

 

"Oh, you son-of-a-bitch!" Dean laughed and rolled Cas onto his back to kiss the smartass out of him.

 

Cas eventually flipped their positions and pinned him. "I love you more, Dean," he said at last and Dean beamed up at him.

 

By the time they'd gotten out of bed and showered (turns out Dean found a way to make bath time a lot more fun than a rubber duckie), it was almost midday. He was just slipping on a shirt when he heard Cas gasp.

 

"What is it, dude?"

 

Cas was staring at his cell with his brows furrowed in concern.

 

"Dean, did you not tell Sam that we were sleeping elsewhere?"

 

Dean's eyes grew the size of saucers as he rushed to find his phone.

 

5 missed calls, 3 unread texts, 3 unread group texts.

 

Sam [8:32pm]: I think it's a Rugaru. Where are you?

 

Sam [8:41pm]: Is Cas with you? He's not picking up either...

 

Sam [9:02pm]: Ok... Impala still here. You and Cas missing... GPS says you're still at the hotel...

 

Team Free Will 1.0 (Sam, +1)

Sam [9:27pm]: Well the guy at the front desk was verrrry insightful. Stopped by your room to make sure you were OK. You sound more than OK. 😳

 

And now Dean's face was on fire.

 

Sam [10:38am]: 😑 Garth and I handled the Rugaru 👍. Hope you're enjoying the honeymoon 😒🙄

 

Cas👼 [11:11am]: We haven't eloped.

 

Dean frowned and turned to Cas, who was still staring down at his phone, perplexed. "Cas, did you just send this?"

 

Banging at the door made him jump before the guilty ex-angel could answer.

 

"Coming!" he yelled as the pounding continued. He took one final look at Cas for moral support before swinging the door open and revealing his brother wearing a smug smirk and holding a cupholder with three coffees from Dunkin Donuts.

 

"Uh... Hiya, Sammy..." He rubbed at the back of his neck, guiltily, and shot him an apologetic smile. "Sorry, we um..."

 

"Finally decided to push the beds together?" he finished for him.

 

There was something about his gentle tone and the understanding, encouraging nod of his head that left Dean feeling overwhelmed and speechless. But then Cas was at his side.

 

"Yes," he said, leaning in to kiss Dean, sweetly, on the lips. "Because we're not fucking Muppets."

 

Dean's jaw dropped and Sam wheezed with laughter. Cas just grabbed a coffee and sighed contentedly as the first sip went down. "Thank you for the coffee, Sam."

 

"No problem!" Sam got out once he finally composed himself. He smiled a big, bright, megawatt of a smile and said, "And guys? It's about damn time!"

 

The last of a weight he hadn't even realized he'd been carrying simply slipped away and Dean floated on cloud nine as he pulled Cas close and kissed him like no one was watching (Which Sam certainly did not appreciate but, hey, he'd get over it).