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The Promise I Made

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Dean has thought this through. Well, sort of. It was more of a sudden realisation, a chick-flick-moment probably caused by watching this damn rom-com marathon with Jack. But when he stood in front of the sink, washing up the dishes from dinner, arm-deep in soap water it sounded like a brilliant idea in his head.

Cas and he had been going steady for a few months now and everyone expected a proposal anyways. Claire insult-joked about it, Kaia made googly eyes whenever they stumble upon marriage advertisement and Jack just kept looking from Dean to Cas in dangerously fast movements whenever the topic was as much as mentioned.

Naturally, Dean would only reply to all of this with a grunt and snarky comment about how marriage was a tax scam designed to keep people in a financial chokehold. But in reality, his heart fluttered every time they passed a window offering engagement rings or an advertisement promoting wedding venues. He would lie awake after Cas and he had gone to bed, watching his not-so-much-angel angel sleep, chest slowly rising and falling, one arm around his middle. Imagining standing at the end of the aisle, seeing him all tuxed-up and blushing. He would map out their honeymoon in his mind while preparing food and wonder how much booze Cas could handle in his new state, or how much Sam would cry at the ceremony.

Needless to say, Dean thought about it a lot and was very much excited to actually propose. The only problem had been the how. After years, after a decade of pining and hiding, stolen glances and lingering touches how was one supposed to ask the love of their life – and their best friend at that – to marry them? It’s not that Dean wants to make a spectacle of it. But he needs something meaningful. Something that is more than… just more than.

This was when it hit him, in front of the sink, bubbles floating and popping at the metal shelves. His old ring. The thing he had to take off every time he did the dishes because he wanted to keep it without a scratch. Because it was the only thing that was truly his. His jacket, his car, his music – as Sam so eloquently pointed out that one time – was his dad’s. But his jewellery, that was all him. He knew it was a bit childish, still, he thought of his rings and necklaces with a fond heart.

He remembered the day he bought his ring in an off-brand store in some smalltown at one of his solo hunts. He must have been what, 22? Maybe. John had been gone on a hunting trip with Marty and gave him coordinates in the Midwest to take care of a possible ghoul situation. Dean left immediately and the whole thing didn’t even take more than three days to sort out; after which he decided a few days off wouldn’t hurt and his father probably didn’t expect him to be back soon anyway. So, instead, he had stayed. Checked out the local bars and passed one shop in particular every day he had been in town. The store was tiny with huge shelves offering everything from fake Prada purses to dubious Nike sneakers plastering the walls up to the glass counter where boxes sat, containing an array of metal rings and glittery ear studs.

Behind the counter sat a young-looking man; dark, wavy hair that reflected the harsh neon light from the lamps above.

He had smirked at the way Dean practically lurked inside like he was on a stealth mission to catch a spy. Dean has been very aware of his appearance all of a sudden, conscious of the too big leather jacket that he wore despite the debilitating heat outside. At his buzzcut hair that was supposed to make him look older and more authoritative, but he then feared made him look like a boy.

The man had studied him thoroughly and Dean had simultaneously bathed in the attention and squirmed beneath it. After a while of staring at some pair of Adidas without even registering what colour they even were, Dean had made his way to the back of the shop and towards the rings sparkling in their velvet rows.

“Can I help you?”, the man had asked with a soft smile and Dean had noticed the white, sparkling nose stud on the tanned skin that stood out like a pearl in the sea.

“Um”, he remembers himself stuttering, “I actually was looking at your rings in the window and… well was wondering if I could… like try them on.”, he had felt the blush creeping up his neck and hated the way his gaze was flitting all over the place, unable to look the man in the eyes. For fucks sake, he wanted to shop for some rings and not hard-core porn, he had scolded himself. Although, shopping for porn would probably have been easier than this.

“Of course. Any style in particular?”

The question had thrown him off. Did he want anything in particular?

“Um, I don’t… No, just, um, the… men’s jewellery”, he had said with a low voice, feeling stupid.

“Of course”, the man had winked and bent under the counter to retrieve some boxes from below. Dean had faltered for a moment, thinking that he didn’t reach for the rings Dean had seen in the glass counter or the window because he asked for the men’s collection, but then discovered that the box from underneath contained the same rings he saw before.

“Do you know your size?”

“No…”

“Not a problem, we just try them on until we find it”, he reassured him and laid out the boxes in front of Dean who he found himself smiling dumbly in relief. Somehow this guy made him feel comfortable, it was easy talking to him. With every second that passed, he felt more confident.

“Thank you..”, he searched for the name tag but the man didn’t wear one.

“Basir”,

“Thank you, Basir”, he had dared to throw the guy one of his trademark crooked grins he normally used on girls in a bar and the man had smiled back, effortlessly like it was the most natural thing to do. Perhaps it was.

The collection was vast, and Dean tried on at least three-fourths of it. Some had weird little engravings on them. Some had tribal work printed on them with cheap black paint. Some incorporated turquoises stones (which Dean found himself try on again and again) and others were simple silver bands.

“Anything you like?”, he asked, and Dean stared at the selection of rings on the countertop, shrugging.

“You seemed to be fond of this one”, Basir held up a silver band with a teardrop-shaped turquoise. Carefully, Dean took it between the pads of his fingers, turning it in the fluorescent light.

He could never show up with that ring when he saw his father. There was simply no chance of that working out without a discussion and a disappointed look from John.

His stomach had curled at the thought, and he had shaken his head putting it down into its box.

“It’s a bit…flashy. I couldn’t”, he tried to explain, his face scrunched up in hurt because deep down he knew if it were not for John, he would have gotten it without a second thought. But he was his father’s son and that meant playing the part. As simple as that.

When he looked up, he met sympathetic eyes.

“I see”, Basir just nodded and bend down again.

“I have these as well. They’re solid, but with a twist.”, he had said, opening the box and it produced a collection of silver rings, each band with a different thickness and carved out linework.

“Less flashy, less overt but still beautiful and unique.”, he added and handed Dean one that consisted of two thinner bands, with a carved line in the middle. It shimmered and glistened in the headlights, and Dean thought maybe this was it, he could definitely wear this one.

“Pretty but masculine”, Basir laughed when Dean put it on, and Dean smiled quietly to himself.

“I’ll take it”, he agreed, admiring his new possession.

“Wonderful.”

“Can I keep it on right away?”, the insecurity in his voice must have been obvious because Basir had thrown him another sympathetic smile and nodded.

“Of course.”

He paid with crumpled dollars and a few coins he saved up from his honest workdays at the bar.

“Thank you. Oh, and one little thing”, Basir said just as Dean turned to walk out.

A little bit confused he stayed put and met curious dark eyes.

“Can you promise me that at some point you will go for the things you really want? Go for the turquoise when you feel ready.”, he said with a levelled voice, so nonchalant and yet it pierced through Dean, hot and cold.

Swallowing against a closing throat he couldn’t help but stare at the shop assistant who just held his gaze, unfaltering and warm.

“It would really suit you.”

Dean nodded, head swirling and cheeks hot.

“Yeah, maybe someday. I’ll try”, he had muttered, voice quiet and defeated.

He left the store and the town at once that day, the ring heavy on his finger.

It had been a promise to a stranger.

A promise to find the courage to free himself from the image he had built. To free himself from the ties that bound him to his father, to play the role he had been brought up to fulfil. The ring he had put on countless countertops when he did the dishes from that day onward. The ring he played with when he felt nervous. The ring he admired when it caught the sunshine.

The ring had been a promise then and it would be a promise now.

A few days ago, he had dug out the box with his old stuff, pictures and old cinema tickets squeezed between other tokens of his youth and there, sitting in a little satchel was his ring. Still shining and as good as new.

Now, Dean sits on the couch, nerves strung so tight he feels like he might snap. His fingers fidget with the metal band, warm to his touch. Cas wanted to go see the town’s fair tonight and it was like right out of one of those YA novels Jack had gotten into lately, so Dean took it as a sign. Only the thought of Cas’ face illuminated by the lampions and multicoloured fairy lights made his heart jump.

“Ready, love?”, the dark-haired angel yells as he puts on the new jacket that they got him. It’s a rough denim one with a few pride pins on the chest pocket. Dean loves it. Not as much as the tight jeans that accompany it, perfectly hugging Cas’ bubble butt and thighs. He had sighed when Cas took it with him in the changing cabin, complaining that Cas went full 00s Justin Timberlake with the denim on denim look but the words had died on his tongue as soon as Cas stood before him turning in his new clothes his usual wonderous expression on his face.

Snapping out of his nervous overthinking at the sound of Cas’ voice, Dean almost drops the ring and hastily puts it in his pocket.

“Whenever you are, sunshine”, he yelps, a little too high pitched and earns a side-eye from his boyfriend.

“Are you alright, Dean?”, Cas asks wearily with his gravelly voice and Dean eases at the sight and the familiar tone. What was he nervous for?

This was a good thing.

“Just peachy”, he snickers and holds out a hand for Cas to grab.

“A pride shirt? Really?”, Dean nudges him as they walk out of the bunker.

“Why not? It’s June, after all. And the people in town will survive a rainbow on a man’s chest.”

“Angel’s chest”, Dean corrects him with a wink and a smirk and Cas rolls his eyes exaggeratedly.

“Not so much anymore. I can hardly stay awake for 48 hours and the last thing I could actually heal was a knee scraping. Because someone decided standing on tippy-toes on top of a chair to reach the top shelf was a good idea.”, he adds with a sour tone and now it’s Dean’s turn to roll his eyes.

“I told you, I almost had it.”, they make their way to the fair bickering the entire time, but it is light-hearted and Dean knows Cas enjoys putting him in his place just as much as he enjoys starting stupid arguments.

All words are forgotten when Cas steps out of the Impala and his eyes widen in awe seeing the fair in full action. Pink, green and blue lights flicker over his face from the rides and the food stands and his lips fall agape.

“Wanna stop fighting and shoot some stuff?”, Dean laughs and shuts the door with a thump.

Cas joins Dean on every ride, soldiers on even though the fast ones make him press up against Dean’s side and burying his face in his shoulder until it’s over. They eat corndogs and too much popcorn. Dean shoots Cas a tiny lama and Cas scores the highest on one stand, resulting in Dean leaving with a giant Buzz Lightyear (score much?!) and a whimsical pink care-bear that he will cherish for the rest of his life because Cas blushed when he chose it for him.

“There is supposed to be fireworks later, wanna stay til then?”, Dean asks trying his best to sound casual and like a normal human being and not like the nervous wreck he internally is.

“I would like to see it very much”, Castiel answers with genuine excitement in his voice.

“Sweet”, Dean laughs shakily. It’s two hours before the show is supposed to start. He will die. Almost certainly. No man could survive the tension that builds in his chest whenever he thinks about his plan.

Refusing to go on any of the thrill rides again, Cas suggests the Ferris wheel which is positioned in the middle of the carnival.

They squeeze their plush companions next to themselves and the wheel stars moving up with a jerk. Slowly lifting them higher and higher until they can see the entire fair from above, tiny huts and stands like colourful sprinkles in an ocean of the night.

“This is beautiful”, Cas breathes at his side and his eyes reflect the stars from above and the lights from below and Dean wonders how the hell he got so damn lucky.

“Almost as beautiful as my view”, he whispers with a smile and Cas looks up to catch him watching him tentatively. He knows it’s a cheap line, but the angel blushes so sweetly in the dark and Dean leans over to close the distance and kiss the shyness from his face. It does the trick. Soft lips return his kiss with little pecks, biting loosely at his lower lip until it's plump and red. One hand had snuck up on Dean’s neck and Cas gingerly strokes the hair on his neck that is the longest it’s ever been. He likes it better this way. It's softer, too.

So, Cas curls his fingers in the hazel locks and uses them to pull Dean closer, deepening the kiss, coaxing tiny moans and noises from the freckled, ex-hunter.

“I love you Dean Winchester”, he breathes against wet lips and Dean’s stomach makes a somersault.

“I love you, too. Cas”, he hums, pressing his lips against the corner of Cas’ mouth and breathing in the clean and fresh smell of Cas’ skin.

Up in the air, legs dangling down, Dean tangles one foot around Cas’ ankle and laughs giddily to himself. This was the most surreal and yet the most real thing he had ever done.

This was his life, his very real, sappy life that he chose and that he deserved. Not because of anything that he had done. No, just because he was himself and he deserved everything good that this world had to offer. He deserved his angel-boyfriend and his son and his family intact. He deserved to hang up hunting for good because he was done putting his ass on the line. He deserved dates at fairs and long walks on beaches. He deserved the life he always dreamed of with the person he loved and who loved him back for who he truly was and not for who he was supposed to be.

“What is going through your mind?”, Cas asks quietly as the wheel slowly turns to bring them back down. Dean’s head is snug in the crook between Cas’ shoulder and neck and he smirks against the exposed skin.

“Nothing, just that this was a good idea.”

He can feel Cas smile at him and begrudgingly straightens up again as they descent further down and get ready to exit.

After a round of burgers and fries were Dean laments the fact, again, that he can’t simply steal all of Cas’ food anymore, it’s finally time for the fireworks.

“Let’s go up that hill, I think we’ll have the best view from there”, Dean points to a tiny slope next to the fair, without any ulterior motifs of course.

They settle on top of the hill where they are basically alone, the only other people around being a teenage couple behind them. But Dean tries to pay them no mind.

“This is nice”, Cas mumbles comfortable, sitting cross-legged on the grass.

Next to him, Dean spreads out, feigning casualness and propping himself up on his elbows on each side. The lights start with thunder and howling and even from the detached position they choose you could hear the crowd cheer.

The night is young, and Dean waits a few moments to let Cas enjoy the spectacle without any interruption. He had nestled into Dean’s side, leaning against his left arm and mindlessly tracing his fingers over Dean’s exposed underarms.

The usual red, white and blue rockets are abandoned after a while and a more colourful display of shapes and figures are painted in the night sky. It rains in gold and pink and there is a distinct “Aah” echoing through the air.

“Humans are so creative”, Cas whispers under his breath, his lips curved in the slightest of smiles and eyes sparkling.

“I think no angel could have ever come up with that idea.”

“Yeah, we’re pretty great polluting the environment for twenty minutes of big lights.”, Dean quips, and he hears Cas huff in a burst of choked laughter.

His heartbeat quickens when he realizes he must do it now if he wants to propose under the illuminated sky, and swallows. He can do this. This was a good thing. In fact, this was the best thing he ever had, and he was finally able to see and accept that.

He sits up shaking his arms, acting like he needed to shake out pins and needles.

Cas just straightens his back, still looking at the lights in the sky with wonder.

Breathing in deeply to brace himself, Dean reaches inside his pocket and closes his fingers around the cool metal. Time to fulfil the promise from all those years ago and make a new one. His neck feels hot, and it is hard to force oxygen into his lungs. Dean can feel his head spinning from adrenalin and needs to force himself to calm down. Only a smidge. Just to get the words out.

“You know”, he starts because this was the part he didn’t think about. What to say exactly. Dammit.

Cas turns his head to catch a glimpse of Dean, blue eyes curious and earnest and so full of love Dean has to actively remember how to breathe.

“Mhm?”

The ring lays heavy in his sweating palm, and he turns around to face Cas completely. The angel mirrors his action instantly, without a second apart. Being nose to nose with Cas is oddly calming. This was real. They were real. And in love.

“After everything that…happened.”, Dean lets out a stuttering breath, “I thought about what I wanted for the first time in… in a long time. And then when Jack got you back and everything settled down, I noticed something. I realised that I already had everything that I wanted. Over the years, without realising, I build a family. I found the love of my life”, he takes Cas’ hand with his free one and squeezes it lightly. The look of curiosity deepens on Cas’ face but he lets Dean talk, patiently like always.

“And now, that we stopped hunting and just are, now that we are sharing a happy and normal life, I found that this is what I want. For me. For you. For Jack and for Sam. For Eileen. To be a family. For the rest of my life. Um, so what I wanted to say.”

His voice hitches, knowing that it was now he had to share what he wanted to do next. What he needed to do next.

“I am happy to share this life with you. And I want everyone to know how happy we are. And that we belong to each other. That we found each other. Against all odds. Against god himself. So, if you want. Um.”, he shifts to sit on his knees. Theoretically, he can say he kneeled before Cas. In a way. The angel stares at him with wide eyes already caught on with what was about to happen and his eyes water in surprise.

“What I want to ask is this”, he picks up Cas’ hand, bringing it up between them. Warm green eyes look into blue ones and there is no doubt left in his body.

“Do you want to marry me, Cas?”

He opens his palm and produces the little silver ring he had carried for the last twenty years. As a reminder, as a promise to be true. To find what makes him happy and go for it. Unashamed and free.

Cas eyes wander down and stick to the metal band in his lover’s hand.

Frowning at the ring Dean holds up.

“Don’t you think this is a little too butch for me?”, his words fall from his lips and Dean just stares. Gobsmacked.

Both look down at the ring and then up to face each other.

“What?!”, Dean yelps.

“That is MY old ring!”, his voice rises an octave and Castiel relaxes visibly at the statement. Offended, Dean lowers his hand, but Castiel only laughs.

“Ah, that makes a lot more sense”, he says, lips twitching.

“And it’s a yes”, he hums with his deep voice and a fiery smile that makes his eyes crinkle; snatching the ring out of Dean’s hand, whose head is still railing from the exchange.

Heartrate slowly dropping again, Dean narrows his eyes.

“You asshole! I nearly had a heart attack.”

“I’m sorry, Dean”, Cas purrs, leaning forward and pulling his fiancé into a kiss. Whispering against his lips. “I was just really confused as to why you would pick this particular ring. But I know now, and I will be thrilled to wear it every day.”

“Next time lead with the YES”, Dean mutters coming down from his adrenalin spike and melting into Cas’ touch. The guy was lucky he was such a good kisser. Restless fingers search for Cas’ shirt, hauling the angel closer to him. His nose bumps against Cas’ jaw and rubs against the stubble.

“Why? Are you planning to divorce me already?”, Cas jokes and the asshole has the audacity to actually smile against his lips.

“Go on like this and I might.”, Dean scowls but is betrayed by his body getting excited from Castiel’s kisses and attention. Hands wander over the angel’s arms and his mouth maps out every inch of his face and neck. “We’re still in public”, Castiel whispers softly, although it is his hand that snuck under Dean’s shirt, groping at the flesh and muscles beneath. “Yeah”, Dean huffs, or is it a moan?

“Maybe we should head home. Or into the forest.”

Castiel makes an approving sound, at what he doesn’t specify. Finding his mouth again, Cas’ sucks and licks hotly at the other man. Eager and desperate to taste as much as he can.

Their lips swell from the action, and the noises grow wetter with each second. With shiny lips and pink cheeks, they part. One of Dean’s hands is wrapped around Cas’ thigh, blunt fingernails scraping at the rough fabric. His other hand is light on Cas’ back, tracing up and down.

Castiel looks at him with dark eyes, full of lust and desire and Dean can’t quite help but get swept up in the knowledge that those eyes were direct at him. Castiel wanted him just as bad as he wanted Cas.

Almost demonstratively, the angel leans back again, stretching his left hand out in front of him and sliding the ring on his finger. Turning it in the glittering of the fireworks and starlight from above, his face falls into awe again, the same way he looked at the night sky moments before and Dean feels his insides turn to pudding.

When Cas looks up again both have tears in their eyes.

“Let’s go home”, Cas says, tilting forward and kissing Dean again, open-mouthed and long. The fireworks are forgotten, nothing compares to the feeling they share at this moment. Together. 

“Yea, let’s go home”, Dean nods, mind emptied of any thought other than “Cas loves me. We’re getting married.”

Cas helps Dean up and they pat down the dust and soil from their jeans and absolutely don’t use it as an excuse to touch each other again.

As they get up to make their way down the hill and to the impala, they hear snickering.

“Um, excuse me”, a high voice comes from next to them and Dean turns already annoyed at whoever interrupts them on getting home and into bed.

It’s the teenage couple from before.

One of the girls snatches the phone from her girlfriend and comes up to them. Cas looks irritated but intrigued and Dean sports a frown that rivalled his spouse’s.

“We noticed, um, that you proposed and, well, me and Mel thought it was just so cute with the fireworks and everything”, the girl is blushing profusely and tapping her foot on the ground. “Well, they thought it was a good idea to take some pictures because it would have been a shame that you didn’t have any pictures of that moment. And we totally delete them from our phones. But in case you want them, I can transfer them via Bluetooth to you.”, she ends, her face a solid scarlet and looks up at them.

A warmth spreads through Dean’s body and he can feel Cas’ grip tighten around his hand as the girl explains what they had done.

“Um, that’s… That was really sweet of you”, Dean stutters, not sure how to react. His gut instinct is to give the kid a lecture about not photographing strangers in public, but he can sense both of them didn’t mean any harm and he feels himself grin.

Visibly relieved the girl sends them the pictures and makes her goodbye and way back.

“Kids these days”, Dean sighs but Cas is beaming at his side, and he cannot keep up the grumpy façade.

“Dean”, Cas says when they’re in front of the impala, behind them the fireworks are still lighting up the sky in all the colours of the rainbow.

“Yes?”, he asks softly, pulling his fiancé close to him.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I’m glad you asked me”, Cas blushes at this confession, hands curled around Dean’s waist.

“Me, too.”, he answers, calm eyes trained on the one face he cannot imagine his life without anymore.

And he is glad. Glad that he chose to live the life he wanted to live and nothing short of that.

After all, he made a promise and you had to keep those, right?