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The bathroom door creaks open and light cuts through the darkness. Dean has his head in his hands, but the swathe of pallid light creeps across the tiles, into his field of vision, stopping at the toes of his boots. There’s a shadow, too, distorted by the angle, so Dean can’t quite make it out.

It’s probably Sam, come to check why Dean is still in the bathroom. Dean had come in here to take a shower forty minutes ago, to wash off the hunt because they drove straight through to get home instead of cleaning up at a motel, but he didn’t make it to the stalls. He ended up sinking to the floor, sitting on the cold tiles with his back pressed against their new tub, unable, or unwilling, to move. He doesn’t know why, he just…couldn’t.

But when a voice calls out, it’s not Sam, but Cas, saying, ‘Dean?’ all concern beneath the gruffness.

Dean wants to say something, brush the concern away, but he’s tired. All that comes out is a grunt of acknowledgement. And then, still without looking up, he knows Cas’s gaze has landed on him, unerring even through the shadows. The light comes on, and Dean winces. Footsteps ring over the tiles, and Cas is by his side in a heartbeat. Crouching down. Hand touching his arm.

‘Were you hurt on the hunt? Sam said you went to take a shower, and you hadn’t come out of the bathroom yet. He didn’t seem concerned, but—’

‘I’m fine,’ Dean grinds out.

‘Let me see.’

Dean sucks in a breath, but he lowers his hands and lifts his head. He turns his face side to side, not meeting Cas’s eyes. ‘See. Fine.’

But Cas doesn’t seem satisfied. He catches Dean’s chin between his thumb and forefinger, inspecting Dean’s face with a furrow in his brow. Dean looks at Cas’s mouth, his jaw, his neck, the tip of his ear. But not Cas’s eyes, which are all but burning into him. There are no marks to find on Dean’s face, though, so Cas drops his hand.

‘Satisfied?’ Dean says.

Cas’s eyes narrow. ‘If you want me to leave, just say so.’

A spike of panic pierces Dean, and he says, ‘I don’t,’ breath catching. He licks his lips. ‘Want you to leave, that is.’

There are a few moments of silence before Cas says, ‘Why were you sitting in the bathroom in the dark?’

Dean lifts his shoulders. ‘Tired.’

‘Hm?’

‘I’m just…so fucking tired.’

Cas frowns at him again. ‘Sam said the hunt was routine. That’s why you finished so quickly.’

‘It was.’ Dean swallows the other words he wants to say, the no thanks to you and good of you to show up once the action’s over.

They handled it without Cas. Dean has no reason to be pissed that Cas didn’t show, and the thing is he isn’t pissed. Not really. It’s an automatic reaction. He wanted Cas there, not because they needed his help, but because he always wants Cas there. Always wants Cas with him. And wants—needs—to know Cas wants to be where he is, too.

But then Cas says, ‘Still, I wish I’d been there, just in case. I came as soon as I could,’ and Dean wonders if he was projecting his thoughts.

Guilt swishes around his empty stomach, and he crosses his arms over his middle. ‘It’s fine,’ he says, ‘you have your own thing.’

‘I prefer your thing.’

Dean’s brows shoot up. ‘What?’

The ever unflappable Cas looks, well, flapped, and he shakes his head. He shifts his weight, and Dean thinks he’s going to leave, but he only moves to sit beside Dean. The press of his shoulder against Dean’s is comforting. ‘Do you want to talk?’ he says.

‘About the hunt? Like Sam said, it was routine. No big deal.’

‘About anything.’

‘Nope, I’m good.’

‘Of course. That’s why you were sitting in the dark, covered in blood and viscera, instead of showering.’

Dean bristles, but Cas isn’t wrong. There’s a weariness deep inside that catches him sometimes. It caught him, today, when they got back to the bunker and Cas still wasn’t there, and a selfish part of Dean wondered why they keep fighting for people to live their lives in peace when he can’t have—

When he can’t have.

And the exhaustion and disgust overcame him, and even the thought of a shower was too much. But he doesn’t tell Cas this, he says, ‘Whatever,’ not sure why he’s being a dick to Cas right now. Maybe it’s easier than the alternative.

He scrubs a hand through his hair and grimaces. It’s gone stiff with dried blood and muck. ‘Shit, I really need to shower.’

‘Why haven’t you?’

‘Don’t know.’ Dean tips his head back against the tub behind him; they’d dug it out of storage and set it up in the bathroom recently, but Dean hasn’t had the chance to test it out yet. ‘Too tired, I guess.’

‘I could help.’

Dean’s brain short circuits. Is Cas offering to help him shower? But then he risks a glance over, and Cas has reached his hand out. Oh. He meant he could use his mojo. Something that is definitely not disappointment wells up in Dean’s chest. ‘Nah,’ he says around it, ‘never really feel clean when you do that.’

Cas huffs. ‘Well, you’ve got this bathtub, now. Why don’t you take a bath? I’m told they’re very relaxing.’

‘You gonna help me with that, too?’

‘If you want me to.’

Dean blinks, heat rushing to his face. All the possibilities of Cas helping Dean take a bath swarm around his brain, and it’s a miracle he manages to sound normal when he says, ‘I was kidding.’

‘Were you?’ Cas levels him with this intense look that makes Dean have to fight the urge to squirm and leaves him breathless.

They’re on the edge of something, Dean can feel it. Taste it at the back of his throat. It’s not the first time, not by a long shot, but each time it happens lately, Dean is closer and closer to jumping right off and diving headfirst into whatever comes next. He licks his lips and says, ‘Maybe not,’ and if Cas is surprised he doesn’t show it.

He looks at Dean—looks into him—and then he pushes himself to his feet.

Heart hammering against his ribs, Dean watches as Cas sheds his trench coat and suit jacket, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. He watches as Cas turns the faucets, water streaming into the tub, and fights the urge to turn tail and run.

This is too much. Too fucking weird, even for them. And he shouldn’t want this, shouldn’t want Cas to do this for him like he’s a kid and—

And no one has ever done this for him. Not even when he was a kid. Not after his mom—

That part of him, the part that never had this, the part that’s raw and aching, that part of him that just…wants. He lets it take over, for once, and tries not to think about what happens next, or that Sam is somewhere in the bunker maybe wondering where he and Cas are.

‘Do you have bubbles?’ Cas asks, breaking through Dean’s thoughts.

‘Huh?’

‘Bubbles?’ Cas repeats. He squints at Dean. ‘For the bath.’

‘Uh…’ Dean shakes his head, then nods. ‘Yeah, I think Sam has some.’ He scrambles to his feet and goes to dig out the bubble bath Sam pretends he doesn’t use and hands it over to Cas.

Cas pours way too much in, bubbles frothing up and threatening to spill onto the floor. He looks somewhere between amused and awed, like it’s the first time he’s seen a bubble bath. It probably is. Dean’s heart overflows with affection and fondness, and he knows he probably has some goofy look on his face, but he can’t bring himself to care.

And then the water stops running, and Cas looks at him. And looks at him. And looks.

‘What?’ Dean snaps.

Cas only raises a brow and says, ‘I was under the impression people get undressed to bathe,’ and runs his gaze pointedly over Dean’s still-clothed body.

Dean may as well be naked already for all that look burns through him. And, yeah, maybe he should have thought this through, should have quashed that small, childish part of him with its stupid longing because now he has to be naked. In front of Cas. But he’s not going to chicken out, not when Cas’s look is part-hope all-challenge. So, he shrugs off his jacket and his shirt, letting them fall in a heap on the tiles.

As he tugs at the hem of his t-shirt, he says, ‘Getting a good look?’

Cas rolls his eyes and makes a show of turning away, but he pauses, brow furrowed, and turns back. He stalks over to Dean, stopping Dean from pulling his shirt back down and says, ‘You are hurt.’ His fingers graze Dean’s ribs, so so gentle despite the accusing tone of his voice.

A bruise blooms along Dean’s side, red and angry; Dean swallows thickly, a shiver running through him at Cas’s touch. ‘Uh, yeah, forgot about that.’

‘Dean.’

Dean starts to protest the reproach in Cas’s voice, is going to say it’s not a big deal, but the words die in his throat, and he ends up saying, ‘Sorry,’ surprising both himself and Cas if the raise of Cas’s brows is any indication.

‘Let me,’ Cas says.

Anticipation thrills through Dean, almost sickening; he nods and shucks his shirt, heart beating like a double kick drum. Cas palms his side, and Dean knows—he knows—Cas doesn’t have to touch him to heal him, and when he does, he usually presses two fingers to Dean’s skin. But this is the full breadth of Cas’s palm, long fingers curling around his ribs, his thumb brushing a little too close to his nipple.

Goosebumps rise up over Dean’s skin, and then there’s that liquid gold feeling rushing through him. It’s more intense than it usually is, and Dean doesn’t know if it’s because Cas is taking his time or if it’s just that he’s letting himself fall into it in a way he usually doesn’t. Either way, he’s breathless as Cas withdraws his hand.

The air feels charged, as it always does between them, but then Cas steps back and says, ‘I’ll check the temperature. Of the bath,’ and there might be a faint hint of a blush colouring his cheeks.

Dean raises his brows as Cas stoops over, dipping his elbow into the bath. Despite everything, his lips quirk, and he says, ‘That’s what you do for babies.’

‘Oh.’ Cas straightens up, wiping bubbles from his elbow. ‘Well, it seems warm enough.’

‘Guess I’ll find out.’ They share a look, for a moment, then Dean unthreads his belt and pops the button on his jeans.

Cas nods, eyes darting down, then away.

Heat creeps up Dean’s neck, but there’s something heady in being able to fluster an angel of the lord. Or, at least, being able to fluster Cas in particular. Even if it means taking his pants off in front of him. Fuck it. Dean sheds his jeans and underwear, trying not to think about Cas standing a few feet away, and clambers into the bath.

The water is warm and, though Cas had healed him of the worst injury, it soothes the aches he always carries with him. He lets out a low groan as he sinks down, the chemical floral scent of the bubble bath filling his nose. The tub is, thankfully, big enough he can stretch his legs out, sink into the water and let it hold him. It’s pretty damn nice, and Dean could get used to this.

He’s so lost in it that, if he weren’t so tuned in to Cas, he might not have noticed Cas kneeling beside the tub, his eyes dark and focussed on Dean. He’s so close Dean imagines he can feel heat radiating off of him, but it’s probably just rising up from the water. But when Cas produces a washcloth from somewhere, dipping it in the water and running it down Dean’s arm, an inner heat overcomes Dean.

Dean goes tense. ‘What are you doing?’

‘You said you wanted my help.’

‘I—’ And, yeah, Dean had kind of said that. But he didn’t think Cas would bathe him. He’s not sure what, exactly, he did think Cas would do. Sit there while Dean washed himself? Run the bath and get the heck out of Dodge?

He looks at Cas, who is kneeling and waiting, and says, ‘Fine, whatever, knock yourself out,’ and manages not to jump out of his skin when Cas touches him again.

Cas is a lot more gentle than Dean had imagined he would be. Not that Dean had ever imagined this. Even in his most secret fantasies—the weird, the wild, the embarrassingly tender—he never thought about Cas giving him a bath.

He doesn’t remember the last time he even took a bath. Or the last time he let someone else do something like this for him. There’s no one but Cas he’d let do this, and that’s not the revelation it might have been once upon a time.

Cas dips the cloth in the water again, brushing Dean’s knee, then brings it back to his shoulder. Water slides down his bicep, gathering in the crease of his elbow; the cloth is rough, old and threadbare, but it’s Cas touching him with it, so Dean doesn’t mind.

And when Cas says, ‘Lean forward,’ quiet and commanding, Dean does it without protest.

The cloth moves over his back in broad, slow strokes, lighting him up and easing him down, keeping him suspended between arousal and relaxation. A tremor runs through him, settling as a quivering feeling in his belly. He draws his knees up, resting his forehead on them, and wraps his arms around his shins.

Being hunched over like this leaves him vulnerable to Cas. His defences are down in a way they so rarely are. But it’s Cas.

That the position also hides his dick is a bonus.

Because Dean might be exhausted and wrung out, but he’s also more turned on than he has been in a long time. Every now and then the cloth slips, and Cas’s thumb or the tips of his fingers brush Dean’s bare skin, and Dean has to bite his lip against the pathetic little noises trying to escape him. He wonders if Cas knows what this is doing to him and how he’d feel about it if he did know.

There’s something in Cas’s gaze that makes Dean hope, sometimes, but he knows better than anyone how dangerous hope can be.

Too soon, Cas finishes with Dean’s back and tugs on his shoulder. Dean doesn’t move.

The hand on his shoulder squeezes. ‘Dean.’

Dean grunts.

A beat and then, ‘Did something happen on the hunt?’

‘No,’ Dean says to his knees, ‘it was routine, like I said.’

‘But something’s wrong.’

Silence rises up, filling Dean’s lungs like the steam from the water. ‘Nothing’s wrong, I just…’ He sucks in a shuddering breath and finally looks up. The concern in Cas’s gaze hits him hard, and irritation flickers in his chest. If Cas is so damn worried, maybe he shouldn’t flit off all the time. ‘Nothing’s wrong,’ Dean says, squaring his jaw.

Cas sighs, hand slipping from Dean’s shoulder. ‘OK.’

And with the loss of Cas’s touch, Dean feels bereft, and the spark of irritation gutters. It’s like it was never there. He chews on his lip, then says, ‘Sometimes, after a hunt, I just feel…’

‘Feel what?’

Dean grits his teeth and says, ‘Empty,’ ignoring the squirming in his gut.

‘It’s probably the adrenaline receding.’

‘Yeah, I guess, but…’ Dean doesn’t know how to explain it. He’s wrung out and stretched thin, and there’s nothing inside him. ‘It feels like it’s more than that.’

Cas tilts his head, eyes narrowed. His voice is careful, but resolute, when he says, ‘You’re not empty, Dean.’

And, fuck, how does he do that? Cut right through Dean’s bullshit and hear what he’s really saying.

‘Right,’ Dean says.

Cas shakes his head, and he’s going to leave, Dean knows he is, but he only says, ‘Do you want me to wash your hair? It’s a bit…disgusting.’

Dean snorts, but he nods, and this time he goes when Cas pulls on his shoulder. He rests his back against the edge of the tub but keeps his knees raised. There’s a moment where this feels like a mistake, where he is going to tell Cas he can handle the rest, tell him to forget this ever happened, because what the hell is he thinking?

But then Cas walks out of the bathroom without a word, and Dean’s stomach lurches, and he realises how much he wanted it.

Fuck. What did he do to make Cas leave this time? He’s about to resign himself to finishing the bath alone, but as he’s looking around for the shampoo, Cas walks back through the door with a jug. He fills it at the sink and brings it over.

Wordlessly, he moves behind Dean, warm at his shoulders, and reaches around to cup Dean’s chin with one hand. His hand cradles Dean’s jaw as he gently pulls, urging Dean to tip his head back.

It exposes Dean’s throat and leaves him looking up into Cas’s face above him. His breath catches, and he squeezes his eyes shut. Moments later, warm water sluices over his scalp until his hair is soaked.

Then there is the sound of the jug being set down on the tiles, the soft plastic click of the shampoo cap being popped open, the wheeze of the bottle as Cas squeezes shampoo out. It must be Sam’s shampoo because the scent of berries fills the air, but Dean doesn’t give a shit what his hair smells like, not when Cas somehow knows exactly how much pressure to apply as he works the shampoo into Dean’s scalp in circles.

It’s both thrilling and terrifying how Cas knows how to touch him when they barely touch each other. When Dean only allows himself to touch Cas if it’s life-or-death or can be brushed off as friendly. When barely anyone touches him at all, these days, except for Cas or Sam. Unless you count the monsters they fight.

‘This is a lot of blood for a routine hunt.’ Cas tips Dean’s head side to side as though he’s double-checking none of the blood is Dean’s.

‘Ghouls can get messy,’ Dean says. His voice comes out rougher than he’d meant it to.

Cas hums and continues to wash Dean’s hair in silence. When he’s done, he gets more clean water from the sink to rinse the suds out, gently guiding Dean’s head back again with his hand cupped under Dean’s chin. ‘Does that feel better?’ He withdraws his hand slowly, fingertips trailing Dean’s throat.

‘Yeah,’ Dean says, and, ‘you’re good at this.’

‘I have many hidden talents,’ Cas says, voice low in Dean’s ear as he leans over his shoulder.

Dean’s mouth goes dry. ‘I’ll bet.’

Cas moves around to the side of the bath, standing there and staring down at Dean. And Dean doesn’t know what to do or say, he only knows that now Cas has touched him he wants more, and finds himself saying, ‘Guess you’ve never had a bath, huh?’

‘No.’

It’s on the tip of Dean’s tongue to ask Cas to join him, but then he looks at the water. It’s dirty from all the grime and blood Cas has washed off of him, and the words die in his throat. His chest squeezes tight. What was he thinking? He can’t let Cas get in here, get all dirty. And not the fun kind of dirty.

That’s if Cas even wanted to, and, okay, Dean might be stubbornly oblivious, and uncertain for the longest time besides, but he can’t deny the meaning in the way Cas is looking at him.

‘It’s a rather large tub,’ Cas says, and he’s so damn hopeful, it near breaks Dean’s heart.

‘Yeah.’

Moments go by before Cas says, ‘I— You probably don’t need me anymore,’ and starts to move away.

But Dean shoots his hand out, curling his fingers around Cas’s wrist. He looks up, tongue-tied and head over fucking heels. ‘The water’s dirty.’

Cas frowns, glancing at the water. As if in slow motion, he leans down, skimming his fingers over the surface of the water, leaving ripples in his wake. And then the water is clean again, the bubbles fresh and frothy.

‘Did you just mojo the water clean?’

‘Maybe.’

And Dean can’t help himself, he grins, then, shaking his head. Fuck but he lov— He clears his throat, face warming, and says, ‘You gonna get in, or what?’

That little crooked smile appears, and Cas starts on the buttons of his shirt, revealing inch after inch of toned muscle and lightly tanned skin. ‘Are you getting a good look?’ he asks.

‘Yeah,’ Dean says, tongue between his teeth, ‘I am.’

Cas huffs, but he looks pleased, untucking his shirt and letting it fall to the floor. His pants go next, and Dean’s immediately fixated by his thighs. They’re solid muscle, and Dean wonders what they’d feel like under his mouth or pushing his own thighs apart.

And then Cas’s underwear falls to the floor, and Dean’s brain goes offline.

Cas is naked, and he’s beautiful.

Maybe another time Dean would let himself feel ashamed, maybe he’d look away. But he’s tired, and he doesn’t care, and he wants to look. And Cas doesn’t seem bothered by him looking. In fact, he looks almost smug, preening under Dean’s appreciative gaze.

A low groan escapes Cas as he settles on the opposite side of the tub. He nudges Dean’s legs apart, resting his own between them. It presses Dean’s feet into the sides of the tub, and he has to bend his knees at an awkward angle to fit, now, but he sure as hell doesn’t mind. Not when they’re naked, and they’re touching, and Cas looks so happy.

‘Feel good?’ Dean asks.

‘Yes,’ Cas says, ‘it does.’

‘Cool.’ Dean shifts a little, wondering if he should ask what he wants to or keep his mouth shut. In the end, he murmurs, ‘So you can feel it?’

‘Yes. Why wouldn’t I?’

Dean lifts a shoulder. ‘I don’t know. The angel thing.’

‘I can feel things, Dean.’

‘Sure, I know, I just—’

‘It’s different from when I was human, different to how you experience things, but I still feel.’ Cas scoops up some bubbles, patting them into a blobby square, then letting them fall into the water again. ‘I can feel the bubbles and the warmth of the water. I feel pain and pleasure.’ He looks at Dean, reaching out to trail his fingers down Dean’s shin. ‘I can feel you.’

Dean swallows. ‘Good to know.’

Cas’s eyes drift closed, and he tips his head back. It exposes the long line of his neck, and Dean aches with how much he wants to put his mouth there. Starting at the edge of his jaw and moving down to the hollow at the base of his throat, and not stopping.

‘The bath is very relaxing,’ Cas says.

‘And me?’

Before Dean has time to be embarrassed, Cas says, ‘More…arousing,’ opening his eyes again.

‘Yeah?’ Dean glances down, but the bubbles obscure Cas below the waist. Dean is hard, though, not quite aching with it, but it’s been simmering since Cas said he’d help Dean with the bath and is now a pleasant burn engulfing him.

Cas nods, his gaze full of unabashed lust, and Dean is certain it’s reflected in his own eyes. A frisson of desire runs through Dean as Cas reaches into the water to wrap his hand around Dean’s ankle. He slowly slides it up Dean’s calf until it’s tucked behind Dean’s knee.

And it’s ridiculous because Cas is touching the back of his knee, and he’d wonder if Cas were using his mojo, but he knows it’s just Cas. He always has this effect on Dean. But, now, there is a promise in the touch, a mutual knowing amplifying the feelings a million times. Turning it way past eleven. All it’s going to take is for one of them to—

It’s Cas who bridges the distance, pushing himself up onto his knees, water sloshing everywhere, and bracing himself over Dean. The bubbles hide nothing, now.

‘Dean—’

Dean lifts his hands to Cas’s face, cradling his jaw, and pulls Cas to him. Their mouths slot together, and it’s somehow new and familiar all at once. Dean never thought that old cliché about the rest of the world falling away when you kiss someone was true. But kissing Cas is consuming.

It’s fucking intoxicating, and Dean wants more; Cas kisses like a starving man, and Dean knows he wants this just as much as he does. Dean presses his lips to the hinge of Cas’s jaw, then trails his mouth down his gorgeous neck, stopping to suck a kiss to the hollow of his throat. It’s even better than he’d imagined it would be, and Cas makes these sexy little noises that shoot right through Dean.

When he scrapes his teeth over Cas’s pulse, Cas says, ’Dean,’ completely wrecked. The hand he has fisted in Dean’s hair tightens, and he moves the other one from where it was curled over the rim of the tub to cup Dean’s jaw. He pulls Dean into another kiss, hands trailing down Dean’s neck, his chest, to curl possessively over his hips.

It’s so fucking good to have Cas’s hands on him, to be kissing him, finally. But when Cas tugs, urging Dean closer, Dean nearly slips, and Cas’s knee is way too close to somewhere Dean doesn’t want it to be and—

‘I don’t think we can do this,’ Dean says, chest heaving. It only takes a moment to realise the mistake in his words because Cas’s face falls, and it’s like a punch to the gut. Dean huffs and says, ‘I mean, in the bath.’ He licks his lips. ‘You want to do this, right?’

‘Yes. If by “this” you mean have sex with you.’

Hearing Cas say that makes Dean’s head swim with lust and anticipation. ‘Yeah, that’s what I meant.’

Cas considers Dean a moment, then he disentangles himself and settles back on the opposite side of the tub. His lips are parted and shining, and there’s a red mark at the base of his neck, and his chest is glistening, and he’s right there and he wants Dean. He reaches out a hand, beckoning Dean to him.

It takes every ounce of willpower Dean has not to launch himself across the tub, but— ‘If I come over there, we’re only gonna have the same problem the other way around.’

‘Come to me, Dean.’

And, shit, Dean has no idea how he’s meant to resist that. So, he rests his hand in Cas’s and lets Cas draw him to the other side of the bath. Somehow, Cas manages to turn Dean around and settle him between his legs, so Dean’s back is pressed to Cas’s chest. His thick thighs bracket Dean’s, and his arms slip around Dean’s waist, and Dean is encircled by him completely.

A pathetic noise, somewhere between a grunt and a whimper, escapes Dean as Cas shifts and his erection presses into Dean’s back. Fuck. Fuck. This is really happening. Cas slides his hands along Dean’s thighs and rests them on his knees.

‘Do you— Are you OK?’ Cas asks.

‘Yeah,’ Dean says, breathless, ‘are you?’ Because Cas might be all confidence right now, but as far as Dean knows, he’s not that experienced. And there’s something in his voice—the catch of his breath, the softness of his tone—belying the assurance of his actions.

‘Very,’ Cas breathes out.

‘Good.’ Dean rests his trembling hands over Cas’s, lacing their fingers together. He lifts one, bringing it to his mouth, and presses his lips to Cas’s broad palm.

‘That feels nice.’

Dean smiles into Cas’s hand and kisses the heel of his palm, then his wrist, but Cas pulls away before he can go further. ‘Hey.’

‘I didn’t finish,’ Cas says. Before Dean can ask finish what, Cas reaches past him for the washcloth, squeezing it so water trickles down Dean’s chest. He runs the cloth over Dean’s chest, paying too much attention to his nipples to pass as cleaning—a slow drag of rough fabric along over-sensitised skin—until Dean is squirming.

Cas.’

‘Yes, Dean.’

‘I think I’m clean enough.’

‘Oh? Do you want to get out?’

‘You know I don’t.’

‘Then tell me what you want.’

‘C’mon…’

‘Tell me.’

‘Just—’ One shuddering breath, then another, and Dean says, ‘Touch me.’

And then Cas does, finally, curling his long fingers around Dean’s aching cock. The pressure is just this side of enough, so Dean encloses Cas’s hand in his own, guiding him—‘Like this’—but Cas is a quick study. It’s only moments before he picks up the right pressure and rhythm, working his hand over Dean exactly the way Dean likes it.

Dean easily loses himself in it, his hips pushing up, fucking into Cas’s touch. He reaches back, curling an arm around Cas’s neck, the other braced on Cas’s thigh. It’s electrifying, to be touched like this by Cas, but then Cas says, ‘You’re so beautiful,’ and everything in Dean goes still.

‘What, no, I—’

‘You are,’ Cas says, ‘so very beautiful.’

Dean’s breath catches, and his hips stutter. He wants to tell Cas not to talk like that, but his tongue is thick and stupid and a small secret part of him doesn’t want Cas to stop at all.

‘You’re lit from within. Full of gold and warmth and love.’ Cas kisses the hinge of Dean’s jaw. ‘You’re so beautiful, so good.’

‘Cas—’

‘So beautiful and good, Dean,’ Cas repeats, ‘and I love you so much.’

And maybe it should be embarrassing for that to tip Dean over the edge. But he’s been wound up for years, and he’s so damn easy for Cas. He tenses from head to toe, and Cas holds him tighter as Dean spills over his hand.

Beneath the white static of his orgasm, there is the refrain: Cas loves me, Cas loves me, Cas loves me, ringing in Dean’s ears.

Aftershocks shudder through him, way too intense for a hand job, and Cas is kissing him and murmuring in his ear, and it’s another cliché, but it’s never been like this. When he comes back to himself, he realises Cas’s dick is still hard against his back; Dean may be many things, but he’s not a selfish lover, so he says, ‘What about you?’

‘Hm?’

Dean wriggles, pressing back against Cas’s erection, satisfied when Cas sucks in a sharp breath. ‘Need me to take care of that?’

‘Later.’ Cas’s voice is rougher and deeper and thick with emotion.

‘But—’

‘Later,’ Cas repeats, more firmly. He gently scrapes his teeth over Dean’s jaw, smooths his hands down Dean’s chest. ‘Just relax, for a while.’

Dean starts to protest—he’s relaxed plenty, already—but Cas runs his hands up Dean’s chest and continues:

‘And then we’ll go to your room, and I’ll lay you out on your bed and open you up with my mouth and hands until you’re begging for me.’

‘What the fuck, Cas?’

Cas tenses. ‘Is that… If you don’t want—’

‘No, no, I want.’ Dean swallows. ‘But how the hell am I meant to relax when you say things like that.’

A shuddering breath escapes Cas, cold air puffing over Dean’s wet shoulder, and he says, ‘Just try.’

Dean snorts, but when Cas eases back, Dean goes with him, hands folded over Cas’s where they rest on his stomach.

He still feels tired, but it’s a peaceful tired now. Not the stretched-too-thin exhaustion that had its hold on him earlier. And with Cas holding him tight and, Dean suspects, keeping the water warm around them, he no longer feels that deep pervading emptiness. He is calm and content in a way he so rarely is. But there’s one thing on his mind.

‘Hey, that, uh, thing you said…’

‘Which thing?’

‘The love thing.’

‘Oh. Yes.’

Dean doesn’t ask if Cas meant it. He doesn’t have to. But he has to answer, and it’s easier to say, ‘I just wanted to say…me too,’ than he ever thought it would be.

Cas sighs and presses his lips to Dean temple. ‘Thank you.’

‘You don’t have to thank me.’ Dean’s face burns and his heart squeezes tight. ‘But I am gonna hold you to what you said.’

‘About loving you?’ Cas says, and Dean can hear the head tilt and the squint.

‘No’—Dean clears his throat—‘about what you’re gonna do to me after.’

‘Oh, I won’t forget about that.’

Dean swallows a strangled noise and says, ‘Good,’ and when Cas tells him to relax, again, he finally lets his eyes drift closed.