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Eyes of a Blind Man

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Kurt is dreaming again.

He thought he was finally getting past this. It has been days since he dreamed of the green-eyed man and weeks since he has dreamed about him this vividly.

Come to think of it, he has never dreamed this vividly.

He can see every line on the man’s face, every shade of golden brown in his hair. He has more freckles than Kurt realized. But the eyes—green and gold like Granny Smith apples and whiskey—are exactly as he remembers. It’s as though he saw him yesterday.

“I am so sorry,” is the only thing Kurt can think to say as he tears his eyes away from the man and bends down to clean up the mess. Thankfully, none of the items that fell out of either of their baskets were breakable. To say he was taken by surprise to find Green-Eyes here—in a grocery store of all places—would be a massive understatement. It is nothing like the open roads and dark warehouses that usually accompany these dreams.

“That’s alright,” the man says, and Kurt notices that he is staring. He must be in shock from the way Kurt nearly jumped out of his skin when he rounded the aisle and saw him. “I, uh, wasn’t looking where I was going.”

At that, Kurt can’t help but smile. The accident was clearly his own fault, but he appreciates the fact that the green-eyed man would take the blame. It also makes him inexplicably sad.

That’s when it occurs to him: this is his chance. All of his other encounters with Green-Eyes are filled with action and adventure. Most of the time, he isn’t even aware that he is dreaming, and even when he is, there is no time for questions as they run away from angels and attack monsters. Not for the first time, he remembers that he hasn’t even learned the man's name. This might be his only chance for a proper introduction.

He decides to go with it, treat the encounter as he would a real-life one. He wants to remember this.

“This might sound strange,” he says, “but have we met before? My memory isn’t very good, and you look so familiar.”

“No,” the man says, and that catches Kurt off-guard. In every dream he’s had, no matter how bizarre the circumstances, the green-eyed man always knew who he was. He tries not to feel disappointed. “No, I don’t think we’ve met. Dean Winchester,” he says, sticking out his hand.

“Kurt Novak,” he replies, shaking his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Dean smiles. “Nice to meet you too.”

He waits. He waits for something to happen, for the organized shelves and fluorescent lighting of the grocery store to fade away, melt into the sound of an engine and the smell of leather in the passenger’s seat of an old car or the feeling of crisp air on his skin and in his lungs on a chilly autumn night in the woods. Or maybe he’ll just wake up. Back in his own bed with nothing but clean white sheets and the bitter taste of disappointment.

None of that happens though, and he finds himself rooted to the spot in the cereal aisle, still awkwardly gripping the hand of a man who doesn’t exist, can’t exist, never will exist. Yet the slide of rough fingers against his sweaty palm as the man pulls his hand away, the heat on Kurt’s cheeks that flares up when he realizes how long he has been holding the man's hand and staring, all those freckles—they’re too real.

Dean Winchester. Even the name fits so perfectly, sounds so natural on his tongue, that Kurt thinks his own mind couldn’t have possibly invented it. He wonders, not for the first time, if the green-eyed man—Dean—could have been someone he knew before. Someone who was important to him before the accident that claimed his memories. It’s a thought that occurs to him often, but he never allows himself to hope it might be true. But the man is standing right in front of him, and Kurt is pinching his own arm, and the scene still isn’t changing.

But they have never met. Dean said so himself. Even if he’s wrong, clearly they weren’t around each other long enough for Kurt to leave a lasting impression the way Dean had, for him to flood Dean’s mind and leave him with dreams so vivid and recurrent that he couldn’t help but recognize his face if he ran into him on the street.

Or in a grocery store.

Why is Dean still staring at him?

Granted, Kurt is staring too. He hasn’t been able to tear his eyes away for more than a second since they bumped into each other. How long ago was that? Seconds? Minutes? People are beginning to notice, confused and maybe uncomfortable with the way the two men’s eyes are locked. Some glance at them and quickly look away with an expression of disgust. Others stare with wide-eyed curiosity, perfectly mimicking Dean’s—and probably his own—expression. Kurt can’t find it in himself to care.

The clearing of a throat is what finally snaps him out of it. The sound isn’t coming from Dean but from behind Kurt’s back, and he whirls around to meet a pair of big, angry-looking eyes behind the thick glasses of a small, angry-looking old woman.

“If you two are done undressing each other with your eyes, I need that.” She points somewhere near Kurt’s shoulder, and he follows her finger to a box of Life cereal. She gives him an insincere “thank you” when he hands her the box, and she rolls her cart away muttering something about how times have changed.

By now, Kurt’s face is practically on fire. He looks at Dean and finds him in much the same state. Dean coughs once, twice, before saying:

“I should…I’m gonna go. Finish shopping. I…” His words trail off, mouth half open and eyes unfocused as if he forgot what he was saying mid-thought. He shakes his head, puts on a charming smile. Kurt thinks it looks fake. “It was nice meeting you, Cas.”

“Yes, you too,” he replies, but Dean is already walking away by the time the words leave his mouth. He lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding and continues shopping. He pays for his items and makes it out of the store without running into the man again.

It isn’t until he’s pulling into the driveway, brakes squeaking in a way that his brother keeps promising to fix, that it occurs to him that Dean had gotten his name wrong. Cas, he thinks. The name doesn’t even sound that similar to his own, is almost too unusual to use by mistake. Yet just like Dean’s own name, it sounded so natural falling from the other man’s lips that Kurt didn’t even notice that name wasn’t his until later.

He realizes that he hates his name.

That isn’t true. He isn't the type of person to give much thought to his name or appearance. But the way Dean had said the other name sounded so lovely that he almost wishes the name were his. A small, wheezing laugh forces its way past his lips. Even he can tell how bitter it sounds.

Shaking his head, he gathers his groceries from the trunk of the car and heads inside.

*

“I found him.”

Sam barely glances up from his laptop when Dean enters the motel room and makes the announcement. “The rugaru? I thought we weren’t hunting him down until tonight.”

The grocery bags are heavy and the plastic handles are digging into his arms, but Dean doesn’t care. Putting groceries away would waste time, distract him, allow Cas to get farther away. Of course, Dean has no idea how to proceed from here, but that’s why he needs Sammy and his big brain. Why won’t Sam look at him?

No,” Dean says. “I…” He stalks across the room and pushes the laptop closed. That earns him a disgruntled “Hey!” and an angry glare, but at least Sam is looking at him.

“Forget the rugaru. I found Cas.”

Chapter Text

“Alright, spill.”

Kurt looks up from his plate to find his brother staring at him across the table, arms folded and eyebrow arched. “What?”

“You’re the one who insists we eat vegetables with dinner, and today I make those peas you claim to like and all you’ve done is push them around your plate like a pouty kid. And you haven’t even touched your steak. What gives?”

Kurt shrugs. “I’m not particularly hungry.”

“Yeah, and why’s that?”

“I don’t know. I guess I had a big lunch.”

“Bullshit. I saw that rabbit food you took to work.”

“Rabbits don’t eat Caesar salad.”

“See? Even they know it isn’t satisfying.”

“Gabriel…”

“Little Brother, I’ve known you your whole life, and I’ve seen that face you’re making often enough to know what it means.”

“I’m not making a face.”

“Sure you are. You’ve got that little wrinkle between your eyebrows and you’re glaring at those peas like you're planning on murdering them. You know, if they weren’t already removed from their cozy pods and dumped into boiling water.”

Kurt tries to relax his forehead muscles and shifts his gaze to the wall. He doesn’t speak.

Gabriel sighs. “Is it because I ditched you at the bakery today when that big group of kids came in? Because I swear, I really did have important errands to run.”

“I know you were hiding in the kitchen, Gabriel. But no, I’m not mad about that.”

“Oh. Are you mad at me for something else then?”

Kurt opens his mouth to say no, but there’s something niggling at the back of his mind, something he has wanted to ask for months but never found the right time to ask. Now might not be that time, but he can’t hold back any longer. “Where are our parents?”

For the first time in Kurt’s memory, Gabriel looks like he doesn’t know how to respond. His eyebrows shoot up and he stares before letting out a puff of breath and running a hand through his hair, all the way back to the nape where the too-long strands are starting to curl. “What makes you ask?”

Kurt shrugs. “You never talk about them. If we are in fact brothers—”

“We are,” Gabriel interrupts, voice warning him that he probably shouldn’t bring this argument up again.

“Okay,” he says, putting his hands up, palms out in a placating gesture he picked up from Gabriel. “We’re brothers. So we must have at least one parent in common, right? But I haven’t heard you mention a mother or a father in all the months I’ve lived here.”

“Did something happen today that made you feel the need to bring this up?”

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“No, I’m not.”

Kurt raises his eyebrows and Gabriel starts running his hands through his hair again. He pauses to duck his head and rest his elbows on the table, fingers tangled in the brown strands.

“They’re dead, alright?”

The room is so quiet that Kurt can hear each breath his brother takes. He doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know what to do. He tries to synchronize his breathing with Gabriel’s. In. Out. In. Out. In—

“It’s not like they were around a lot to begin with, you know?” He looks up and smirks, but there’s none of the usual humor in it. “You aren’t missing much.”

“Who took care of us?”

“We took care of ourselves.”

That isn’t an acceptable answer. Kurt stares at him until he gets the message.

“We were shuffled back and forth between extended family members a lot.”

“And where are they?”

“Does it matter? If they liked us they would have kept us.”

“What about family friends? You haven’t introduced me to any of your friends outside of the bakery, and none of them knew me previously.”

“One: those are my employees, not my friends. And two: before I found you on the roadside six months ago, I hadn’t seen you in years. You might have friends somewhere. How am I supposed to know? We’ve kind of been travelling in different circles.” He absently scoops up a forkful of peas and stuffs them into his mouth, making a face at the flavor. Suddenly, his eyes narrow and he seems to forget all about his distaste for vegetables. “Why? Did you see someone you think you might have known?”

“No.” He glances down at his plate again. “Maybe.”

All anger and confusion leaves Gabriel’s face. He leans forward on his elbows, interest piqued, and grins. “You’re blushing.”

“No, I’m not.”

“They were hot, weren’t they? Did you talk to her?”

“He didn’t know me.”

“And you know because you asked him?” Gabriel doesn’t even seem fazed by the new pronoun.

“As a matter of fact, I did,” Kurt says, cheeks heating up even more. “He said we’d never met.”

“But you think he’s wrong?”

He shrugs. “Or lying.”

Gabriel’s eyebrows shoot up again, and Kurt knows it would be pointless to try to withhold information any longer. With Gabriel, twenty questions could easily turn into two-hundred. His brother is nothing if not persistent.

“We sort of…stared at each other for a long time.”

“Maybe he liked what he saw.”

Kurt shakes his head. “This wasn’t about attraction. He looked at me like he was seeing a ghost. Other people in the store were starting to notice.”

“Really?” Gabriel looks and sounds a little too smug for Kurt’s liking, but his expression returns to curiosity before he can figure out why. He isn't surprised by Gabriel's rapidly changing faces. It’s something Kurt had to get used to quickly when he moved in with him.

“And…okay, I know how this is going to sound. But I have another reason to believe we've met before. He didn’t just look familiar, Gabriel, he…I know I’ve seen him before. I see him nearly every night.”

Just like that, Gabriel is squinting in confusion again. “Huh?”

“I dream about him all the time. He always looks exactly like he did today, right down to his eyes. In fact, when I first saw him, I was certain I must be dreaming again.”

“That’s…wow. Why didn’t you tell me about these dreams?”

Kurt shrugs, hoping Gabriel doesn’t notice that he is blushing again. “I didn’t think it was important.”

Gabriel nods in understanding. “So?”

Kurt squints. “So what?”

“So…did you get his number?”

“No,” Kurt says, and he thinks his brother looks genuinely disappointed. “But I did get his name. Dean Winchester.”

That look—the one that Kurt can never quite decipher—flickers across Gabriel’s face again and is gone in an instant. “Are you going to see him again?”

“Gabriel, I just said I didn’t get his phone number. How am I supposed to—”

“Twenty-first century, Little Brother,” Gabriel says, grabbing his laptop from underneath the dining table (Kurt has lost count of the times he told him that isn’t a safe place for it) and opening it before typing away at the keys.

“What are you—”

“Shh,” Gabriel says, eyes glued to the screen. Several minutes pass before he turns the screen around and points to the picture on the screen. “That him?”

Dean is pulling a silly face in the picture, lips pouted and eyes hooded, but it’s definitely him. What’s concerning Kurt more is the sign he’s holding that says “Little Rock City Police.” He nods.

Gabriel turns the computer around again. “Gotta say, Little Brother, he’s pretty, but not an easy man to find. No Facebook, no Twitter, not even an abandoned Myspace. Apparently, the police have a similar problem. He’s wanted in thirty states.”

Kurt sputters. “For what?”

“You name it,” Gabriel says. “Breaking and entering, grave desecration, suspected murder…”

Murder?

Suspected murder. Besides, doesn’t matter anymore. He died.”

Kurt’s blood runs cold for a reason he can’t explain. “What? When?”

“According to this,” Gabriel taps the screen, “about seven years ago.”

“But…but I just saw him today.”

Gabriel shrugs, eyes twinkling. “Your buddy Dean probably has some interesting stories to tell.”

Suddenly, Kurt can’t sit around anymore. He stands up and starts to pace around the dining room, heart pounding and head aching with the effort of trying to remember all that he has forgotten. He presses his fingers to his temples. It doesn’t help. “This isn’t a joke.”

“I know that. I was just—hey.” He abandons his seat at the table and takes Kurt by the shoulders, hazel eyes full of worry. “Hey, Cas, you gotta calm down.”

Kurt stops dead in his tracks. “What did you call me?”

Gabriel pales before putting on his easy smile, the one that is gentle and crooked and says everything’s alright. It doesn’t meet his eyes. “I called you Kurt.”

“No, you didn’t.” His tongue feels thick in his mouth, and he desperately needs a glass of water but doesn’t think he could calm down enough to drink it without spilling. “You never call me Kurt. You call me Little Brother. Always Little Brother. Why? Why do you always do that?” He doesn’t notice that he’s clawing at his hair with his nails until Gabriel grabs him by the wrists to get him to stop. His brother is saying something but he can’t hear it. “Dean…Dean called me that too. Cas, not Little Brother. Not Kurt. And I-I didn’t even notice! It took me the whole drive home to notice because it sounded right.” His head is pounding. He doesn’t think he could control his breathing if he tried. “I never thought my own name sounded wrong before, but it does. It…all of it. None of it! None of this is right.”

The last thing he sees before he blacks out is Gabriel looking more scared and lost than he ever thought possible. The panic fades with his brother’s face and there is nothing but darkness.

He doesn’t dream.

Chapter Text

The phone is going to go to voicemail, and Dean doesn’t care.

The sun isn’t even fully up yet, but what little light is filtering through the dusty blinds is doing his head no favors. Granted, it’s his own fault that he drank as much as he did the night before, but he still wishes whoever was calling would wait until he’s had a few more hours to sleep it off.

The noise stops at the eighth ring, signifying that it went to voicemail, and starts again almost immediately. Dean groans and buries his head in the pillow, letting it ring four more times before picking it up and answering with a muffled, “What?”

“Well good morning to you too, sunshine, the voice on the other end answers. It sounds familiar, but Dean can’t place it.

“How did you get this number?” he demands, rolling onto his back so he can speak without his pillow getting in the way.

“Let’s just say I know people. Well, not people per se, but you get the idea.”

Dean’s first thought is Crowley. He wouldn’t put it past the bastard to give out his number to demons and other monsters. He’s just about to tell the guy to fuck off when he hears a pop. It sounds like the guy is chewing gum and just decided to blow a bubble into the receiver. That’s when it clicks.

“Gabriel?” he says. No way is the archangel still alive. Dean saw him die with his own eyes. Twice.

Yet the voice on the other end responds with a chipper, “Don’t wear it out.”

“How are you alive?”

There’s a snort over the line. “Hello, Trickster, remember? Besides, with your lifestyle youd think you’d be used to people coming back from the dead by now. Little slow on the uptake today, eh Dean-o?”

“What do you want?”

“I’m glad you asked! You see, my brother tells me you two ran into each other in the store yesterday…”

“Brother?” Dean says. Then he remembers what happened the day before that caused him to drink himself stupid in the first place. “Is that what you’re telling Cas you are?”

“Hey, at least I’m not pretending not to know him. Unlike some people I could mention.”

“Well what was I supposed to say? ‘Hi, you don’t remember me, but one time you pulled me out of hell and we became good friends’?”

“I think we both know you were a lot more than that.”

Dean feels his cheeks grow warm. He’s glad Gabriel can’t see him. “I’m going to ask one more time, and if you don’t give me a straight answer, I’m going to hang up. What exactly do you want from me?”

“How about dinner? Maybe a movie?”

“Gabe, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but I kinda hate your guts. Taking me to dinner isn’t going to change that.”

“Not with me, genius. With Castiel.”

“What makes you think—”

“Oh puh-lease, even before you had your little getaway to an alternate dimension, you two couldn’t get within ten feet of each other without a map or else you’d get lost in each other’s eyes. It was sickening.”

“How’d you know about that?”

“Anyone who’s ever been in the same room with you knuckleheads knows about that.”

“Not the eyes thing—which, by the way, never happened. I meant how’d you know where Cas and I were last year?”

There’s another pop, and Dean wishes there was a way to strangle someone long distance. “Like I said, I know people.”

“What am I saying, you were probably there spying on us, right? Don’t think I don’t remember that there was a Gabriel at the hospital. I bet that was really you, wasn’t it? Travelling between dimensions one of your ‘archangel powers’?”

“Okay, first of all, stop using air quotes. I don’t know if you picked them up from Castiel or vice versa but I can practically hear them through the phone and they are ‘annoying.’ B, even regular angels can travel between dimensions. Not easily, as you might recall, but it can be done. And three, no, I wasn’t there.”

“But then how—”

“Look, princess, I would love to spend all day playing twenty questions with you, but I do have a point to make, and the little bro will be awake soon. I’m not sure how to explain to him why I’m talking to a man he just found out is a murder suspect.”

“He found out what? Gabe, I swear to God…”

“Okay, so that one was a little bit my fault.”  If Dean didn’t know any better, he’d think Gabriel sounded genuinely sorry. “Tried to look you up online to get your contact info and that was all that popped up. In my defense, it wouldn’t have happened if you had a Facebook account like every other American under the age of sixty-five.”

“You’re older than sixty-five.”

“Yet even I have a Facebook. See how old this makes you look?”

“Yeah, and keeping up with a social media account is a great idea. I’m sure the FBI would be thrilled to know I’m still alive and kicking.”

“That’s why you change your name. I tell you, I’ve wondered for years why you and that giant you call a brother don’t just come up with permanent aliases. You already come up with new ones all the time for the job, but meet a stranger in the grocery store and suddenly there’s no harm in telling him your real name.”

“Cas isn’t a stranger.”

“You are to him.”

Dean pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. Gabe is right, but it’s not like Dean can say that. “You said you had a point?”

“Ah, yes. As I mentioned, I think Castiel would benefit from spending some quality time with you. I need you to ask him out.”

“What makes you think Cas would benefit from hanging out with me? Last time he did that he ended up trapped in an alternate universe for months.”

“True. But he’s been down in the dumps ever since I found him, and lately it’s getting worse. He likes you—God knows why—and I think you might be able to cheer him up.”

“And what, I'm supposed to believe you actually care about Cas’s feelings?”

Gabriel gasps. “I take offense to that. Can’t a big brother do something just to make his little brother happy?”

“A big brother? Sure. You? No. Besides, you’re not even brothers. Cas told me a long time ago that that’s not really how it works.”

“Fine, you don’t have to believe me. I really do care about Castiel, but that’s not important. What’s important is that we both know you care about Cas, and you can’t possibly stay away from him forever, even if it means working with me.”

Dean is silent for some time, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth and glaring at the ceiling. He just knows Gabriel is smirking in victory, and he hates him for it, but that doesn’t mean the bastard is wrong. “How am I even supposed to get into contact with him without looking suspicious?” Dean tries feebly.

“I’m glad you asked! I have a plan.”

*

“I’m not sure I like this plan,” Kurt grumbles as he takes another batch of doughnuts out of the oven and immediately puts the next one in. They have been at the bakery since five in the morning and haven’t stopped working for a second since. It’s now half past seven, and he thinks if he never sees another doughnut in his life it will be too soon.

“Nonsense!” Gabriel says, clapping him on the back with one hand while continuing to glaze doughnuts with the other. “All my ideas are good ones.” His brother, lazy though he might be, is annoyingly chipper in the mornings no matter how early he wakes up. Kurt suspects it is the result of a permanent sugar rush from all the candy his brother eats.

Kurt, on the other hand, doesn’t feel human until he’s at least half an hour and two cups of coffee into his day. And that’s when he isn’t rudely awoken three hours before his alarm goes off because his brother forgot to tell him they are giving out free baked doughnuts today.

“I just don’t see how we can possibly profit from this.”

“Little Brother, look out that window.” Kurt looks up and follows his brother’s pointing finger to the shop’s front window, outside of which a small crowd is starting to form. “Look out there and tell me what you see.”

The sight is somewhat unusual. It’s normal for one or two people to be waiting outside when they open the doors, maybe a jittery office worker picking up breakfast for his boss, or maybe a tired parent with a wide-eyed child staring at the treats on display. Today there are nearly a dozen people clamoring to get in, and the bakery doesn’t even open for nearly thirty minutes.

“People,” he answers.

“Not just people,” his brother corrects, not even looking at his hands while he continues to glaze doughnuts, eyes gleaming with a faraway look. “Customers. Needy, greedy, beautiful customers—more than we’ve ever seen at once! Their pockets are lined with cash, and they can’t wait to spend it on the first over-priced pastry they see just so they can get six complimentary doughnuts and think they’ve gotten a deal.”

“Isn’t it a bit deceitful to raise prices on everything but doughnuts and market it as a deal?”

“Welcome to America, land of the free and home of the suckers who will sell their souls to get the free things. It isn’t deceitful; it’s patriotic. Besides, it’s their own fault if they don’t notice that five dollars is outrageous for a cupcake whether they’re ‘gourmet’ or not.” He stops glazing and looks at Kurt in horror. “Oh no. Your air-quote thing. It’s contagious!”

Kurt gives him an unimpressed look until he goes back to glazing. They work in silence for several minutes before Kurt puts the last batch of the morning in the oven and leans back against the counter to rest. Gabriel, meanwhile, is busy licking glaze off his fingers. Kurt will have to make him wash his hands before he does the last batch.

“Mark my words,” Gabriel says around his pointer finger, “by the end of the day we’ll be rolling in dough, and I don’t mean the kind we’re rolling right now. Not to mention all the repeat customers we’ll gain. I expect most of the neighborhood to come through those doors by the time we’re done. Who knows? Your little boy-toy might even show up.”

“I don’t have a boy-toy,” Kurt says, though he can feel his face grow warm. “But if you’re referring to Dean, I seriously doubt he’s going to show up.”

“Why not? Big crowd, lots of new customers, seems pretty likely to me.”

“Gabriel, I saw him days ago. I doubt he’s still in the city.”

“What makes you think he doesn’t live here?”

Kurt pauses. “I don’t know,” he says truthfully. “I just got the impression that he moves around a lot. I guess I assumed—”

Gabriel interrupts with a disapproving click of his tongue. “You know what they say happens when you assume.”

“You make an ass out of u and me?”

Gabriel frowns. “Huh. Not what I was gonna say, but yeah, actually, I like that better. Hey, when did you learn to curse?” He crosses his arms in mock anger. “Have you been watching late-night television again, young man?”

Kurt rolls his eyes before glancing down at his watch. “Five minutes until opening. Wash your hands and glaze these,” he says, taking the last batch out of the oven and setting them on the counter in front of his brother. “I’ll go check on Hannah.”

“You’re so bossy. I’m supposed to be the boss you know! This is my bakery!” Gabriel calls after him as Kurt disappears through the double doors leading to the front of the shop. Kurt ignores him.

Hannah, calm and collected as ever, has everything set up and is giving the counter a final polish, though it doesn’t need it. Kurt isn’t surprised.

“I made extra batches of snickerdoodles and cake pops, since those always seem to go fast, and I reorganized the display case so the more durable items are closer to us. That way you don’t have to reach over a cupcake to get to something and risk messing up the icing.” She says all this without stopping or looking up from cleaning, her blonde ponytail bobbing as she scrubs.

“What would we do without you, Hannah?” Kurt smiles warmly.

“Find another job, probably,” she answers seriously, “as your brother would surely let the business crash and burn, and you and Remi would have no chance of saving it.”

Kurt doesn’t try to deny it; she’s right. He doesn’t know the first thing about running a business. Remi might, but he’s barely more than a kid, and he calls in sick (like he did today) so often that he’s barely any help. He doesn’t know why Gabriel keeps him, but he likes to believe that it’s out of compassion, hidden under layers of sarcasm and sugar though it might be.

He checks out the display case to make sure everything is in order (though he’s sure it is) before glancing at his watch. “Two minutes. Gabriel should be done glazing the last batch of doughnuts. Help me carry in the boxes?”

She nods, putting the rag under the counter and barely glancing at him as she walks past him into the kitchen. Kurt follows close behind and watches her smack Gabriel’s hand as it goes for one of the doughnuts and then pick up several boxes without even acknowledging it. For someone who’s barely five-foot-two, Hannah can be intimidating sometimes.

Kurt and Gabriel gather as many of the remaining boxes as they can, and after a few more trips the three of them have piled all the boxes behind the counter with thirty seconds to spare.

“Ready kids?” Gabriel says, walking to the front entrance and taking the open/closed sign in his hand. By now, the crowd outside is about twice as large as it was the last time Kurt checked.

“Ready as we’ll ever be,” Kurt sighs.

Gabriel flips the sign.

*

Dean waits until the last customer of the morning rush has filed out of the building. He peeks around the corner and sees Cas lean against the counter, hands rubbing his eyes, exhausted. He hates to disturb him when he’s just finally getting a break, but he doesn’t know how long it will be before the place is crowded again, and he definitely isn’t going to bother Cas when he has dozens of customers to deal with.

He takes a deep breath and walks to the front entrance. The bell above the door jingles when pushes it open, and Cas looks up, eyes growing wide and alert despite exhaustion when he sees who is walking in.

“So,” Dean says carefully, putting on a grin and trying to look nonchalant. “What kind of pie do you have?”

Chapter Text

“Why didn’t you ask him out?”

“Good morning to you too, Gabe,” Dean replies warily. He was expecting this, but he was hoping the phone call would occur sometime after six in the morning. He props himself up on his elbows and rubs a hand over his eyes, waiting for the archangel to continue.

“We had a plan. The morning rush was over so you were the only one in there, Cas was too exhausted to be that shocked to see you, I saw you making eyes at each other like you do. Everything was going fine, and then you just left! What’s the deal?”

“The deal is that whether he was tired or not, Cas still looked scared shitless when he saw me. You know if someone hadn’t told him I was a criminal—”

“That’s what you were worried about?” Gabriel scoffs. “He doesn’t even remember that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Questioned him the morning after that. He didn’t even remember having dinner that night.”

“Why not? Tell me you didn’t get him wasted.”

“Nah, guess passing out from shock somehow blocked it from his memory. It’s not like his memory is particularly good anymore anyway. Kid would forget his own name if…wait a minute.”

“He passed out and couldn’t remember it the next day?”

“That’s what I just said. Do you have memory problems too?”

Dean ignores the question. “And you didn’t think it might be a good idea to tell me?”

“Last time we talked, I didn’t know he didn’t remember that yet.”

“You couldn’t pick up a phone?”

“I’ve been busy!”

Dean pinches the bridge of his nose and huffs out a breath. “Gabe, next time I see you, remind me to kick your ass.”

“Hey, I’m trying to help you get reacquainted with my brother here. You could show a little gratitude.”

“Not your brother.”

“Must you keep bringing that up?”

“Yes. So what’s plan B?”

“Wait, you still trust me enough to work with me?”

“Gabe, there are serial killers I trust more than you.”

“Word hurt, Dean.”

“Point is, even if I don’t trust your intentions, I think we really are after the same thing right now, and I could still use some help.”

“Aha! So you admit that you miss him!”

There’s a pause, during which Dean studies the dirt under his fingernails and considers denying it. He knows it won’t do any good; even over the phone, angels have a way of seeing right through him. “He’s my best friend,” he mutters finally. “Of course I miss him.”

Dean is sure that he’s going to receive a smug are-you-sure-that’s-all-you-are, but Gabriel just says, “Well then come by the bakery again in three days. That’s long enough not to look suspicious. I’ll make sure Cas is at the register for most of the day, but try to come in either before or after the mid-morning rush. Keep coming in for as long as it takes to woo him or whatever, but make sure you buy something sort of fancy. If you come in every few days and buy the cheapest thing on the menu, it’s going to look suspicious. And find a damn job, or at least come up with a plausible job you could have nearby. Don’t get fancy; if you say something too impressive he might want to visit you at work, which is why I suggest you actually settle down and get a real job for once. You could be here for a while. Got all that?”

“Yeah, got it. And Gabe?”

“What?”

“Thanks, I guess.”

“Yeah, well. Like I said, this is for Cas, not you. Besides, I’m always happy to take your money.”

“Cas will give me discounts.”

Dean can practically hear the smirk in Gabriel’s voice. “We’ll see.”

*

Kurt manages not to fly into a panic the next time he sees Dean Winchester walk through the bakery door, but that doesn’t stop his face from heating up when the man winks and asks for a slice of cherry pie. His hands only tremble slightly as he cuts a slice and hands it across the counter, face probably as red as the syrup seeping onto the plate.

He realizes too late that he forgot to ask if the pie was to-go, but the man doesn’t say anything about the porcelain plate and Kurt is secretly glad. He doesn’t know what it is about the man that sets him on edge, but he does know that when he came in the other day and only stayed long enough to buy a slice of apple pie before taking his boxed dessert out the door, Kurt was both relieved and disappointed.

He can’t seem to tear his eyes away as he watches the man sit down at the table in the corner of the shop, digging into his dessert with enthusiasm to rival Gabriel’s. Unlike Kurt’s brother, however, Dean doesn’t scarf the whole thing down and start bouncing off the walls as if it is the first sugar he has had in a decade. Instead, he savors each bite, eyes falling closed and tongue peeking out to catch the crumbs clinging to his lips. He looks perfectly content.

“Hot, right?”

Kurt nearly jumps out of his skin at his brother’s sudden appearance. He glares at Gabriel before casting a nervous glance back at the table in the corner. Dean’s eyes are still closed. If he heard what Gabriel said, he has chosen not to acknowledge it. Kurt goes back to glaring at his brother.

“What, like you weren’t thinking it?” Gabriel says, folding his arms and looking much too proud for Kurt’s liking.

Kurt’s doesn’t respond.

“Oh, don’t be like that,” Gabriel says, thankfully lowering his voice to nearly a whisper. “Look, I think it’s cute that you have a little crush on the guy. Really.”

“I don’t have a crush on him,” Kurt defends. “And I am not cute.”

Gabriel doesn’t say anything for a moment, and Kurt almost thinks he has given up, but then he says, “Why don’t you go ask him out?”

“Are you deaf?” Kurt says a little too loudly. He turns his head to find those green eyes staring at him in confusion. His cheeks grow warm again. He shakes his head and turns back to his brother. “Get back to work, Gabriel.”

“I’m sorry, but are you the boss? Do you own this bakery? Does the sign above the door say Kurt’s? Did you build this business up from nothing and become the most successful bakery on this side of town in less than a year?”

“I think something’s burning.”

Gabriel stops his rant to sniff the air. “Shit!” he says and rushes back into the kitchen. “This isn’t over!” echoes into the storefront and then, miserably, “My cookies!”

When Kurt looks back at the table, Dean is gone.

*

“You’ve been in like five times now and you haven’t even tried talking to him except to place your order. Why?”

“Four, and I’m taking it slow. I don’t want to scare him off.”

“Slow is fine, but I’ve cooked with molasses that moves faster than you.”

*

Dean comes in at least once a week now, and Kurt has started looking forward to his visits. He is no longer jumpy and clumsy when the man shows up, but his heart still beats just a little too fast, his face still feels just a little too warm.

And still he can’t shake the feeling that he knew Dean long before they met at the grocery store. The dreams, for their part, have only increased in frequency.

He wishes he could work up the nerve to say something to him other than “Welcome to Gabriel’s” and “Your total is three-twenty-eight” and “Enjoy your dessert” and “Please come again.”

He wishes there was a way to let Dean know how much he means that last part.

But Dean does always come again, and Kurt is always glad. One day the man takes his order to go, as he often does, and as he is leaving he throws a “Thanks, Cas” over his shoulder. Kurt doesn’t correct him, and the man does it a few more times, usually without seeming to notice his mistake. After a while, he decides he likes the name, and he privately starts thinking of himself as “Cas” instead of “Kurt.”

*

“You called him Cas today.”

“What? No I didn’t.”

“Yes you did. I heard you.”

“Well…I mean maybe I did. But damn it’s hard to think of him as anything but that.”

“I know. I slipped up once or twice too. But you need to get to know who he is now before you tell him who he used to be, so either get your butt in gear and ask him out or try harder to call him Kurt.”

“Why can’t you tell him who he is again?”

“Last time I tried he fainted, and when he woke up he had forgotten the entire conversation.”

“And you think if I tell him he won’t?”

“Nah, he probably will, at least the first time. But he’ll remember what you said, at least a little, and you can try again. You don’t know it, and he’d never admit it, but he tries so hard to remember every god damn thing about you.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s you. You’d have to be blind not to see that Cas likes you a whole heck of a lot.”

“He likes you too, you know.”

“But that’s just it. He only likes me.”

*

“Got the day off from work?” Cas asks and immediately wants to kick himself.

“Uh, yeah,” Dean says, rubbing the back of his neck while he hands over the cash for the slice of pie he just bought. Cherry, his most frequent choice. Cas has taken to making sure he always has a fresh-baked one ready on Thursdays, the day Dean usually comes in. “How’d you know?”

“You don’t usually come in on Tuesdays.” Cas’s brain begs his mouth to shut up, but now that he’s finally talking to the man, he can’t seem to stop. “And normally you come in early and get your order to go. It’s nearly nine-thirty, and you said ‘for here.’”

“Oh. Good observation skills. Yeah, thought I’d cash in on my vacation time.”

“And you’re choosing to spend it here? Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I just have to travel a lot for my job, so when I take time off I like to spend it at home.”

“That makes sense. What’s your job?”

*

“You told him you were a trucker?”

“You said to come up with a fake job that he wouldn’t want to visit me at!”

“No, I said use that as your plan B if you couldn’t find a real job. What have you been doing all this time?”

“Gabe, you know I couldn’t give up hunting. It’s in my blood. Besides, how would I explain it to Sam? He knows about Cas, but I can’t very well explain our plan without telling him you’re still alive, and how do you think he would react to that, huh? Need I remind you that my brother knows how to wield an angel blade and still holds a grudge over whatever it is you did to me at that mystery spot?”

“Okay, fine, keep hunting. But did you have to tell him you were a trucker?”

“It’s perfect! He’ll never come to see me at the office, and it’s a good excuse for why I travel around all the time and can only make it to the bakery once a week.”

“I guess, but a trucker?”

“You keep saying that.”

“He’s going to think you’re a loser!”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a trucker.”

“Yeah, if you’re a loser.”

“You’re such a snob.”

“At least I’m not a trucker.”

*

“Fuck me,” Dean says, lowering his hands to his pants.

“What?” Cas says, voice cracking and face heating up.

“I forgot my wallet,” Dean says, patting each of his pants pockets as if he somehow missed it. “Fuck, man, I’m sorry. I’ll just go.”

“No!” Cas says a little too fast. Dean raises his eyebrows. “I mean, I already cut this slice of pie and put it in a box and everything. And you’ve given the bakery so much business. It’s on the house.”

Dean licks his lips, and Cas does not follow the movement with his eyes. “You sure?”

*

“If you don’t ask him out soon, I will break into whatever shitty motel you are staying at tonight and piss on your sheets.”

“You’re just mad because Cas gave me free pie.”

*

“Wait, so how much of the cotton candy did he eat?”

“All of it,” Cas says. “And then got on the Tilt-a-Whirl. I’ve never seen Gabriel look like he regretted a decision more.”

Dean throws his head back and laughs, skin crinkling around his eyes and nose. “Man, what I wouldn’t give to have seen his face.”

“I took pictures.”

“Shut up, really?”

“Really.” Cas pulls out his phone and finds the pictures he took last week at the fair. He hands the phone across the table to Dean.

Dean scrolls through the pictures and dissolves into peals of laughter again. Cas can’t help but join in. A woman seated at a table nearby is staring, but Dean doesn’t seem to notice, and Cas doesn’t care.

Dean hands the phone back, wiping his eyes and chuckling. “My little brother did the same thing when we were kids, only it was with corndogs. Puked his guts out. To this day, he can’t even look at a corndog without getting queasy.”

“I didn’t know you had a brother.”

“Yeah, Sam.” Dean’s smile grows fond. “He’s all grown up and smart now, but I’ll tell ya, sometimes I look at him and I still see that dumb twelve year old who needs me to take care of him when he’s sick.”

“You took care of him? What about your parents?”

“My parents weren’t really around,” he shrugs. “We had some other people who helped take care of us, sort of an extended family but without the blood relation.” He looks down at the table where his hands twist themselves in knots. “It’s just me and Sammy now.”

“Oh.” Cas has the sudden urge to cover those restless hands with his own. “Dean, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay. It’s not your fault. Besides…” he trails off.

“Besides…what?”

“Well, there’s this buddy of mine…an old friend. More like family, actually. We, uh, we kinda went our separate ways a while back. But I ran into him the other day, and, well…I’m starting to feel like Sam’s not my only family anymore.”

Cas blinks hard. He is almost certain now that he and Dean knew each other once. He doesn’t know whether Dean forgot about him on all but a subconscious level or if the man is just lying to him, but he’s certain that their encounter in the grocery store was not their first. He tries to keep his voice even, but he can’t help but wonder if Dean was talking about him, and it shakes a little when he says, “That’s wonderful, Dean. I’m very glad to hear that.”

The bell above the door jingles, and Dean’s face falls as a middle-aged man and woman walk in. “I guess you have to get back to work now, huh?”

Cas looks over his shoulder. Hannah is behind the counter, greeting the customers. If he didn’t know her so well, he might think she is paying him no attention and miss the quick half-smile she casts at the cash register that is really meant for him.

“We’re not very busy today,” he says. “Hannah can handle it for a little longer.”

Dean grins.

*

February 27, 5:46 AM: New Voicemail from Gabe

“Hey, Dean-o, noticed you haven’t been around in a while. Cut it out—Cassie is starting to look all gloomy again. Call me when you get this.”

*

March 13, 5:52 AM: New Voicemail from Gabe

“Yo, Winchester. What gives? Things were going just swell, aside from you never actually seeing Castiel outside of the bakery, and all of a sudden you just disappear for a month and stop returning my calls? You had better hope you’ve got a good excuse, buddy boy. Don’t forget who you’re dealing with here.”

*

March 16, 2:33 AM: New Voicemail from Gabe

 “You know what I think? I think you’re scared. I think you were getting too close and you were afraid of losing him again, so you made him lose you instead. That's why you were too chicken shit to ask him out, and that's why you'll be miserable for the rest of your life. You Winchesters would rather guarantee your miserableness than take a chance on a bit of happiness for once. And you think you're doing good. You think everyone will be better off without you, but Cas is miserable too, you selfish bastard. I hope you're happy.”

*

April 3, 12:25 PM: New Voicemail from Gabe

“Look, just let me know you’re okay, alright? Not that I care, but Cas is getting worried.”

*

April 5, 5:41 PM: New Voicemail from Unknown Caller

“Hello, Dean? This is Ca…Kurt Novak…from Gabriel’s Bakery. I don’t know whom Gabriel had to threaten in order to get this number, but he suggested I call you. I’m sure you’re just busy with work, but we haven’t seen you in a long time, and since you’re such a regular customer…well, we just wanted to make sure everything was okay. We…I miss seeing you, Dean. Call me back at this number if you get the chance. I hope you are doing well.”

Chapter Text

“I think I got something,” Sam says, eyes glued to his laptop as he scrolls through an article. “Three people killed in Nampa this past week, all with what appear to be vampire bites on their necks. Think there might be a nest there?”

Dean shrugs from his place in the corner of the motel room. He is sitting in what appears to be an antique chair with severely broken springs, staring in the direction of the window. The curtains are closed. “With only three vics? Probably not.”

“Yeah but there are also all these cattle mutilations—”

“They’re cows, Sammy. They won’t be missed much.”

“But they’re killing people too, so there’s probably more than one vampire, maybe a good one and a bad one. I think we should at least check it out.”

“And I don’t think it’s worth it.”

“I’m sorry, did you just imply that people’s lives aren’t ‘worth it’? And since when are you not up for ganking a few vamps?”

He shrugs again. “Vampires gotta eat too.”

Sam stares at him with his mouth open, incredulous. “What is with you lately?”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes you do. You barely talk, you never go out anymore unless it’s to go on a hunt, and now you’re not even doing that.” He shakes his head. “Is this because it’s in Idaho?”

“I got nothing against Idaho.”

“No, but you know we’d be near Boise, and you don’t want that, do you?”

Dean stares at the tacky yellow curtains, mouth drawn into a tight line.

“I know you were going there to visit Cas every week,” Sam says. That gets Dean to look at him, but he still doesn’t speak. “You’d make up some excuse about finding a hunt you could handle alone, but I knew you couldn’t just stay away knowing Cas was there, no matter what you said about him not even remembering you.” By now he is pacing the length of the cramped motel room, hands gesticulating of their own accord. “And Dean, that’s okay. I know how much he means to you. What’s not okay is you moping around, refusing to get within a fifty mile radius of him, and, if I know you, probably not telling Cas why you stopped showing up, whatever that reason may be.”

“No, you don’t,” Dean mutters finally.

Sam stops pacing. “I don’t what?”

Dean is looking in the direction of Sam’s face, but his eyes seem to be focused on something Sam can’t see. “You don’t know how much he means to me,” he says.

Sam has to resist the urge to roll his eyes. For someone who claims to be allergic to feelings, his brother can certainly be overly dramatic sometimes. “Okay, sure, maybe I don’t. And maybe I don’t know exactly why you stopped going to see him. But I do know that you’re a wreck without him, and I’ll bet anything that Cas is too.”

Dean is quiet for a long time, and Sam thinks he is finally done with the conversation altogether. He goes back to looking for cases and finds what might be a haunted hotel (but is probably just a tourist trap) in Maine before Dean says, “You want to know why I stopped going?”

Sam doesn’t respond for fear that his brother will stop talking.

“I stopped going because he was happy.” He pushes a hand through his hair. He’s staring at the curtains again. “You should have seen him when I first ran into him in that grocery store. First time in years the guy didn’t look like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Maybe the first time ever. And I should have left him alone. It was damn selfish of me to keep going to see him, but G—uh, this friend of his—said he was sadder than he looked and maybe I could cheer him up and God, I wanted to believe it so bad.”

It’s hard to tell with Dean facing away from him, but he thinks he sees a tear slip down his brother’s cheek.

“But deep down I always knew he’d be better off without me. And last time I saw him, he was smiling and laughing—laughing, Sammy, can you believe it? He had this whole life, nice little job at a bakery, and I should have been happy for him. But all I could think was that it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough just to see him once a week, and sooner or later I’d end up dragging him right back into my life, and he’d have to sacrifice his little slice of happiness for a life of crappy motel rooms and monster hunts. He did the impossible; he escaped this life and got his chance at a better one, but he’s so blindly loyal that he’d give it all up if he knew who I was. He’d do it in a heartbeat, and I’d let him because I’m selfish.” His voice cracks on the last word, and now Sam is sure he is crying. “Trust me, Sam, it’s better this way.”

“Bullshit.”

Dean turns around. “What?”

“You heard me. Bullshit. Cas isn’t better off without you, and even if he was, he’s definitely not better off wondering why you disappeared on him and never even knowing if you’re okay. Dean, did you ever consider that maybe you were the reason he was happy?”

Dean shrugs. “I didn’t do anything special.”

“You know, when you told me what happened last year, about how you got out of that alternate dimension, I was so glad. I thought maybe, finally, you were going to stop with all this stupid, pitiful, self-deprecating crap. I guess I was wrong. But just let me say this in case you forgot: no one thinks as badly of you as you do of yourself. You may frustrate me to no end, but you are still one of the best people I’ve ever known.” He grabs his jacket from the bed and heads toward the door. “Cas thinks so too.”

“Where are you going?” Dean asks.

“Out.” Sam opens the door and steps outside into the warm springtime air. It has just begun to drizzle, but Sam doesn’t bother coming back in for his umbrella. “Call me when you’re done feeling sorry for yourself.”

*

Dean continues to sit and stare at the window for a long time after Sam leaves. He even cracks the dusty curtains open a little and stares at the rain trickling down the windows.

He remembers being younger and laughing at the people in movies who would stare out the window on a rainy day, looking pensive and sad. It always seemed so contrived. Now he thinks he understands. He chooses a raindrop and follows its twisting path to the bottom of the window, then chooses another raindrop, then another. Eventually, his heart rate returns to normal and the invisible fist clutching his stomach loosens its grip.

He is reminded of the days right after he dropped out of high school. With a small weight off his shoulders, he breathes easier but feels the panic returning as he tries to figure out what to do next. He thinks he should probably talk to Gabriel, whose calls he has been ignoring for weeks. He continues to watch the rain.

His concentration is broken when his cell phone rings. Speak of the devil, he thinks. His hand goes to his pocket and stops. He should talk to Gabe, but he isn’t ready yet. He lets the phone ring out.

Five minutes later finds him pacing the floor, wondering if he should listen to the voicemail Gabe probably left on his phone. Of course, it might not have been the angel calling; Dean just assumed because the subject was on his mind. But, come to think of it, Gabe almost always calls early in the morning or late at night so that Cas won’t hear him. He did call around noon once, but Dean assumed he was on his lunch break. It’s nearly six in the afternoon now, which means Cas and Gabe are home from work and are probably about to have dinner. It could have been Sam calling for help or another hunter calling about a job, though most hunters don’t want anything to do with people named Winchester anymore. He takes his phone out of his pocket and checks his missed calls.

He doesn’t recognize the number.

He presses play on the voicemail the unknown caller left, expecting to hear someone give him the name of a monster and some coordinates, but the deep, uncertain voice he’s met with instead makes his heart skip a beat.

“Hello, Dean?”

*

Nearly an hour after leaving, the rain has let up but Sam is still soaked. He knew he should have brought an umbrella when he left, but he decided to brave the drizzle instead. Of course, the drizzle turned into a shower five minutes later, and he was too stubborn to turn back so soon, so he kept walking down the sidewalk until the water sloshing around in his shoes became too much to bear.

Sam returns to find his brother struggling to zip a bulging duffle bag. Dean looks about thirty seconds away from full-on panic.

“Need some help?” Sam offers, grabbing a towel from the bathroom and returning to the main room drying his hair.

Dean scowls. “Why is it always harder to zip when the clothes are dirty?” he says and continues to tug on the zipper uselessly.

“Maybe because you don’t bother folding them.” Sam peers over Dean’s shoulder. “Or it could be because those are my jeans you’re trying to shove in there on top of your stuff.”

“Oh.” Dean pulls the jeans out of his bag and hands them to Sam. “My bad.” He pulls again on the zipper and the bag closes easily.

Sam raises the jeans to his nose cautiously. They smell like dirty laundry. “Aw man, these were clean!”

“Still are,” Dean responds, slinging his duffle over his shoulder. “Jeans don’t get dirty until you can actually see the dirt on them.”

“That’s gross,” Sam says and drops the jeans into his laundry bag. “Where are you going?”

“Idaho,” Dean says. Sam smirks and is about to open his mouth, but before he can say anything, Dean turns around and points a finger in his face. “Shut up.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Sam defends, still smirking. He nods toward his own duffle lying in the corner of the room. “Give me a minute to pack my bag.”

“You’re not coming.”

“What? But what about the vampires?”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“But then it will just take you longer to get to Boise.”

Dean looks like he might try to deny that Boise is his final destination, but Sam gives him an unimpressed look and Dean sighs. “Fine. But as soon as we’re done in Nampa, you’re finding your own damn ride back to the bunker.”

“What if I don’t want to go back to the bunker?”

“California, Massachusetts, Arkansas. I don’t really care where you go just so long as it’s not Boise.”

“But I want to see Cas too,” Sam whines. “I haven’t seen him since before you guys went to that alternate dimension.”

“I’ll tell him you said hi.”

“No you won’t.”

“Yeah, probably not. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re not coming.”

“Come on Dean, please?” He feels like a little kid again, begging Dean to let him come on a hunt that Dean said was too dangerous. “I’ll give you guys your space.”

“Look,” Dean says firmly but without edge. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be there. Could be a few days, could be a lot longer. Maybe if things are going well you can come visit, but as it is, Cas still doesn’t have all his memories back, and it’s risky enough for me to see him at all. I have to do this alone.”

Sam stares at his brother, not expecting that kind of calm and rational counterargument. He nods. “Okay,” he says. “But vamps first?”

“Vamps first,” Dean agrees. “Now go pack your bag, and change into some dry clothes while you’re at it. I don’t want you ruining my upholstery.”

Chapter Text

As it turns out, Dean is right about there only being one vampire in Nampa. The cattle mutilations are the result of an unrelated pack of teenage devil-worshipers in way over their heads, and Sam and Dean call in a few demonic favors to scare them into cutting it out. Crowley has never looked so happy to help.

It’s not that Sam was lying when he told Dean he wouldn’t follow him to Boise. He fully intends to turn around and go to the bunker right after the vampire’s head topples to the ground, but there is a trail of storms headed right for southern Idaho, and Sam has never been one to ignore an omen.

So he tells Dean he’s too tired to drive and is going to spend an extra night in Nampa—still technically not a lie—and Dean looks skeptical but leaves for Boise anyway. Sam rents a scratched gray Camry instead of stealing one so he can feel a little bit better about himself (though it later occurs to him that it isn’t much better if the card he used to rent it was stolen) and drives to Boise the next day.

He finds the motel where Dean should be staying, but either Dean is out somewhere or he intentionally chose a motel that went against his usual pattern; the Impala is nowhere to be seen. He goes inside and finds that the front desk doesn’t have any guests registered under any of Dean’s usual aliases, so he goes back to the rental car and continues to drive. The sky opens up almost immediately, and soon the rain is pounding on the windshield so hard he can barely see the road, much less keep an eye out for the Impala.

He parks the Camry in the first spot he sees and takes his phone out to check the weather and see how long the rain is supposed to last. It won’t turn on.

“Damn it,” he says aloud, searching his bag for a car charger. He comes up empty.

He puffs out a breath and looks around. There is a row of small shops in front of him: a café, a vintage record shop, an amateur art studio, and, on the end, a bakery. The sign above the bakery door says Gabriel’s in swirling golden letters with a small cupcake dotting the i, and the front window is lined with cakes and pies. From this angle, he can’t see far beyond the display, but he remembers Dean saying that Cas worked in a bakery, and a moment of looking around reveals the Impala parked in front of the far corner of the building.

Sam’s conscience barely has time to protest before he is creeping up to the building and pressing himself flat against its brick wall to peer around into the shop window. It takes him only a second to locate Dean, but he doesn’t see Cas. Instead, Dean is talking to a Hispanic guy wearing a blue, flour-dusted apron that, when Sam squints, appears to have "Remi" embroidered into the top in gold letters. The guy is no more than a kid really—his wiry frame and mild acne say late teens or early twenties—but he appears world-weary and serious for his age. Sam is suddenly and painfully reminded of Kevin.

“No one in there is going to judge you, you know.” The familiar voice interrupts Sam’s thoughts, and he nearly jumps.

Cas is standing just a few feet away on the sidewalk, obnoxiously bright-green umbrella covering the grocery bags in his arms more than his own head.

“What?” Sam says, doing his best not to look surprised. He swallows thickly.

“A lot of men seem to find it emasculating to go into a bakery, but I promise that no one in there is going to judge you for it. The women don’t think that way, and the men are in there too, so they have no room to judge. Of course, if you don’t like cakes and pastries to begin with…”

Cas trails off midsentence, and Sam doesn’t need to follow his line of sight to know what he is staring at. He has seen that stare before. He clears his throat awkwardly.

“Sorry,” Cas says, blinking rapidly as if coming out of a daze. “I was distracted. Anyway, I think you should give the bakery a try. Many of the treats are quite good, but then again, I may be prejudiced.”

“You work here?” Sam asks, though he already knows the answer.

“Yes,” Cas says. “Though technically I’m not supposed to work today. Gabriel asked me to pick up more flour.”

“Gabriel,” Sam mutters to himself, the name on the sign registering in his mind for the first time. Surely it can’t be who he thinks it is. “Your boss makes you run errands on your day off?”

Cas shrugs. “He’s my older brother. I suppose he would make me do it even if I didn’t work here at all.”

“Ah,” Sam nods. “Yeah, I know how that is.” He worries his lip between his teeth while he debates questioning Cas about the supposed brother, but he eventually decides that he has pried enough for one day. Cas looks anxious to get inside, and Sam suspects it’s not just because it’s still raining. He’ll have to investigate the Gabriel situation another time. “Anyway, I’d better get going.”

 “You’re not coming in?”

“Nah. I mean, I just remembered I left my wallet at home. Guess I’ll just have to conquer my fear of emasculation another day.”

“Okay,” Cas says, looking skeptical but turning towards the door. He turns around suddenly. “Oh, I never caught your name.”

“Keith,” Sam calls over his shoulder, already making his way back to the Camry. He has already broken a lot of boundaries to find Cas, and now that he is here he feels as though it isn’t worth it to continue spying. His brother deserves a bit of privacy, and Sam has nearly blown his cover enough for one day.

He doesn’t look back when Cas goes inside. He never sees the way his brother stops and stares before pulling Cas in for a tight hug, not caring whether the bakery customers see them. He never sees how Cas clutches the back of Dean’s jacket in his fists and buries his face in Dean’s shoulder, or hears his sigh of relief.  He will one day see Gabriel again, as full of sugar and mischief as ever, but he won’t see the look of pride on his face when he comes out of the kitchen to pat Cas on the back that night.

Sam drives away and doesn’t see any of it. But across the street, in the shadow of a building made of crumbling brick, someone does.

Chapter Text

It is barely past noon, and Cas is already counting the minutes until the bakery closes at five. So far this morning he has burned a batch of cookies, given two customers the wrong change, and dropped a new bag of flour in the middle of the kitchen floor.

“Man, I feel like I inhaled a chalkboard,” complains Remi, who was bending down to pick up a stack of boxes for delivery when Cas nearly tripped over him and dropped the bag right in front of his face. He pulls the neck of his shirt over his nose and sneezes into it for what must be the hundredth time.

Cas finishes sweeping the last of the flour into a dustpan and dumps it into the garbage. “My sincerest apologies,” he says for what must be the two-hundredth time. “Really, if you would like to take the rest of the day off, I can cover your responsibilities. It’s a slow day anyway.”

“Nah,” Remi replies, somehow brushing even more flour out of his shaggy hair and sneezing again. “I can manage. What’s got you so jittery anyway?”

“I—”

“Little bro’s got a hot date tonight!” Gabriel interrupts as he saunters into the kitchen, grin plastered on his face.

Remi looks from Cas to Gabriel and back. “Dean finally asked you out?”

“First of all,” Cas looks at Gabriel pointedly, “no I don’t.” He turns to Remi. “And second of all, why do you assume he means Dean?”

Remi and Gabriel raise their eyebrows in unison.

Cas sighs. “We’re just going to see the new Avengers movie. He wanted to see it anyway, and no one likes going to the movies alone.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s not a date,” Gabriel points out.

“Doesn’t mean it is.”

“It’s the midnight release. You don’t go to those with just anyone, and you two have never even hung out outside the bakery before. It’s practically a proposal.”

“It’s a movie.”

“If it’s not a date, why are you going?” Clearly, Gabriel isn’t going to give up that easily. “You’ve never even seen a Marvel movie. You’ll have no idea what’s going on.”

“Which is why we’re having a movie marathon right after I’m done with work.”

“He invited you to his house?” Remi says.

“Not exactly. He doesn’t have a house.”

“Ah, so you’re going to have this movie night in the back of a semi,” Gabriel nods. “How romantic.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m meeting him at his motel.”

The other men raise their eyebrows again.

“Oh, will you two shut up?” Cas says, storming into the front of the shop, both men close at his heels. Cas refuses to look back to see what are sure to be twin smug expressions on their faces. He hears Gabriel snicker.

“Hannah,” he says to the blonde woman as she hands change to a customer. She gives them the correct amount, of course. “Can you handle customers alone while I run to the grocery store? I need to pick up more flour.”

“Of course,” she nods, reorganizing the pastries in the display case as she does so. “Would you like me to go ahead and charge you for a slice of cherry pie as well?”

“Why would I want you to do that?” Cas asks.

“So you can bring it to Dean when you go on your date,” she responds seriously.

Gabriel howls with laughter at that, bending over and slapping his knees as if it’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard. Remi giggles, but at least he has the courtesy to cover his mouth. Hannah just looks confused.

“That is the kind of pie he likes, isn’t it? I assumed it would be more appropriate than the customary flowers or chocolate.”

None of this is Hannah’s fault, but Cas leaves without responding anyway. He gets about halfway to his car before he hears the telltale jingle of the bell above the bakery door and the slap-slap of sneakers on pavement from behind.

“Wait up, bro!” Gabriel calls. Cas keeps walking. “Hey!” The footsteps grow faster. “Will you just…urgh. Okay, I’m sorry for teasing you.”

By now, Cas is at his car, several feet in front of Gabriel. He pauses with the key hovering over the lock and casts a glance over his shoulder. “Really?”

“Well, you did give me some prime material to work with. I mean, the guy you’ve been mooning over for months invites you to meet him at a motel for a movie marathon? Sounds like a set up for a really nerdy porno.”

Cas unlocks the door.

“Sorry, sorry! It’s an illness.”

“Being an asshole isn’t an illness,” Cas says as he opens the car door and slides behind the wheel. “It’s just an unfortunate aspect of your personality.”

“I like to think I’m quirky.”

Cas rolls his eyes and buckles his seatbelt. “Goodbye, Gabriel.”

“Not going anywhere without your door,” Gabriel grins, wiggling his fingers where they rest on top of the open car door.

Cas briefly fantasizes about closing the door anyway and seeing the smug look fall from his brother’s face as his fingers are crushed. He settles for glaring instead.

“Look,” Gabriel sighs, crouching by the car so he and Cas are at eye level. “Even if Dean has already bought the tickets, which I’m assuming he has unless he’s a grade-A meathead, you’ll want to get to the theater early to get good seats. Now account for travel time and the inevitably long lines at concessions, and that gives you six hours tops to have your little pre-movie-movie-date. That leaves enough time for, what, maybe two and a half movies? Three if they’re short, but they won’t be. Hardly a marathon. And that’s not even accounting for bathroom breaks and technical problems.”

“What’s your point?”

Gabriel smiles softly, and Cas might think he actually looks sincere if such a thing were possible. “Go get the flour, bring it back here, and then take the rest of the afternoon off.”

Cas eyes him suspiciously, trying to figure out exactly what Gabriel will be getting out of this. “You’re sure?”

“Positive! No brother of mine is going to miss out on Loki’s backstory.”

“I thought that character wasn’t even in the new movie.”

“Ah, so you do know a little Marvel trivia. Good, good. Listen, the most important thing is to stick around after it goes to credits. Even if you’ve been holding in your pee the whole movie, you hold it in some more. If Dean tries to make you leave, dump him. You don’t need someone that disrespectful in your life.”

“I had no idea you cared so deeply about superhero films.”

“What can I say? I find the characters to be highly relatable.”

“This is very kind of you,” Cas says suddenly.

Gabriel shrugs. “Yeah, well, you’re no use to me bumbling around the kitchen like you’ve been doing today anyway.”

Cas smiles despite himself. “Thank you.”

*

It’s been more than three weeks since Dean came back to Boise, back to Cas. Since then, he has gone to the bakery nearly every day. Cas never asks why he stopped coming in for so long, nor does he ask how Dean can now afford to spend all his time in the same town despite having a career that demands travel as part of the job description, and Dean never volunteers the information.

Instead, they always sit at a quiet table in a corner of the shop when Cas is on break and talk about their favorite books and their opinions on the different varieties of rice and the rapid endangerment of bee populations. Occasionally, Cas mentions something about the things he wishes he could remember or Dean makes a vague reference to the things he wishes he could forget, but he knows Cas is holding back, and he suspects Cas knows the same about him.

In all this time, they’ve grown closer within the confines of a public setting, given small pieces of themselves away without ever letting the other glimpse the full picture. It takes Dean weeks to muster the courage to ask to see Cas outside of the bakery, and he thinks he can handle it. He wakes up on the day that they are to go to the premiere of Age of Ultron feeling okay, telling himself it’s just another day and almost believing it.

Until Cas calls to say that Gabriel is going to let him leave work early and that he can be there in forty-five minutes, if Dean is alright with that. Dean’s brain screams no and not ready, but for some reason the words that come out of his mouth are, “Sure, can’t wait.”

Thirty-six minutes later, he still has no idea what to wear. He stands in front of the bathroom mirror in a freshly ironed black button-up and a pair of plaid boxers. His best jeans lie on the bathroom floor, a punishment for being tighter than they were the last time Dean put them on.

He rolls his shirtsleeves up, then down again, and frowns at his reflection. A moment later, the shirt joins the jeans on the floor.

He groans, running his hands over his face and cursing himself. This would be easier if he actually knew whether Cas thought this was supposed to be a date or not. But Dean, in all his infinite wisdom, hadn’t bothered to specify. If asked, he might say that Cas should decide what he wants the invitation to mean, as the former angel has the disadvantage of not remembering their history together prior to their encounter in the grocery store a few months ago. If he’s being truthful, Dean will admit that he isn’t sure what he wants it to be either.

So now he’s left to decide how in the world he is supposed to dress, alternating between dressier outfits that might scare Cas away if he doesn’t want this to be a date and casual t-shirts that make it look like he hasn’t tried at all. He even made the mistake of calling Sam for (purely theoretical) advice on what to wear on a maybe-date. When Sam stopped laughing, Dean reminded him that Dean had coached him through plenty of teenage-girl-esqe drama when Sam first started dating. Sam said that teenage girls were much less dramatic than Dean, and Dean hung up on him.

A knock at the door pulls Dean out of his thoughts, and holy shit, he’s early. Cas is early, and the motel room is a wreck, and Dean is in his boxers.

“Just a minute!” he calls as he plucks the black dress shirt and too-tight jeans off the floor again, sucking in his gut and putting them on as quickly as possible. He doesn’t bother with socks as he pushes his feet into his boots and opens the door.

Cas is wearing khakis and a button-up in a horrible shade of green. Probably the same thing he wore to work today, judging by the flour clinging in patches to his sleeves and dusting his shoes. It’s almost the sort of thing Dean is used to seeing him wear at the bakery except for the lack of an apron and the navy tie hanging from his neck, twisted and uneven as though he put it on in extreme haste. Dean swallows a lump in his throat at the familiarity.

“Hey,” he finally manages.

“Hey,” Cas mimics, but it comes out stilted, as though he is saying “good evening.” He holds up a box with the Gabriel’s logo on it. “I brought pie.”

“Awesome,” Dean smiles, ignoring the way the waistband of his jeans is already digging into his lower abdomen. He stands there a moment, smiling like an idiot, before he realizes what he is doing and awkwardly steps aside, clearing his throat. “Uh, you can come in.”

“Thank you,” Cas says, stepping into the room and looking almost as awkward as Dean feels. He looks around the room, and Dean is suddenly self-conscious about the amount of clothes strewn across the floor.

“Sorry about the mess,” he says, nudging a wadded shirt to the side with his foot. It doesn’t make the room look any cleaner.  “I’m kind of a slob.”

Cas tilts his head, and for a moment Dean is afraid he will call him out on the lie, remind him that his father taught him from an early age to keep all but the clothes he was wearing packed away in his duffel so he could grab it and go at a moment’s notice. Instead, Cas holds up the pie again and says, “Where should I put this?”

“Oh, uh, anywhere. Dresser’s fine.”

Cas nods and sets the pie down while Dean pulls Sam’s old laptop and his DVD collection out from under the bed. “So,” Dean says, plugging in the charger, pressing the power button, and breathing a sigh of relief when the computer turns on, “we have time for about four movies before the premiere. I’m thinking we skip the Bana and Norton fiascos and get your basic Tony, Cap, and Thor backstories in before watching Whedon’s first Avengers movie. Sound good?”

“I only understood about half of what you said,” Cas states plainly, “but I trust your judgement.”

“Oh,” Dean says, trying not to blush and failing miserably. “Well. Let’s get started then, yeah?” He sets the laptop on the dresser and is just about to put Iron Man on when he feels a hand on his shoulder. When he looks back, Cas is staring intently at a different DVD case.

“Dean, shouldn’t we watch this one first?”

“No, this one came out before that one.”

“But this says that Captain America was the first Avenger.”

“Yeah, but if you had been a Marvel fan seven years ago, you would have seen Iron Man first. This way you get the most authentic experience.”

“What I would have watched first seven years ago is irrelevant. I wouldn’t have had a choice then. Now I do, and I say the one who was a hero first goes first.”

“I thought you said you trusted my judgement.”

“I was wrong. Just like you are now.”

It takes Dean a minute of incredulous headshaking to notice the tiny smirk playing at Cas’s lips. “Fine, he says,” taking the DVD from Cas and popping it in the laptop. “But we’re watching Iron Man next.”

*

Steve Rogers still weighs 98 pounds when Dean says, “This is stupid.”

“Not at all,” Cas says. “I thought it was very noble of him to jump on that grenade, even if it did turn out to be fake.”

“Not that,” Dean says, reaching out to pause the movie. “I mean this. This…date.”

“Is that what this is?” Cas asks, careful to keep staring at the screen for fear that Dean might see the nervousness in his eyes.

Dean blushes. “Well whatever you want to call it, it’s stupid to sit straight up on the bed in uncomfortable clothes when we aren’t leaving for ten hours,” he says, getting off the bed.

“I got here too early, didn’t I?” Cas mumbles, getting up too. “It was rude of me to expect you to change your plans and spend the whole day with me on such short notice.” His hands fidget as he glances towards the door. “I can leave.”

“What? No, I didn’t mean…I just meant that if we’re going to be here for ten hours, we should be comfortable.” He looks around the floor for a minute before bending down to pick up a pair of gray sweatpants and a black t-shirt. “Here,” he says, holding them out. “They’re clean, I promise.”

Cas takes the clothes, gripping the soft material in his fists while Dean picks up a nearly identical looking black shirt and a pair of jeans that look like they’ve seen better days, split at the knees and frayed at the hems. Dean begins to unbutton his dress shirt, but he stops when he notices Cas staring.

“I can change in the bathroom if that would be better,” he says. “Or you can change in the bathroom. Whatever you want.”

“No, this…” Cas looks down at the clothes in his hands. “This is fine.”

Dean nods. They change in silence, and Cas does his best to keep his eyes fixed on the floor. Without really meaning to, he notices the five-pointed star and flames tattooed on Dean’s chest, and it seems so familiar that he wonders if maybe Dean told him about it already.

“Okay,” Dean says, shutting the laptop lid and snapping Cas out of his thoughts. He tucks the computer under his arm and flops onto the bed, propping himself up at the head of the bed rather than at the end where they were previously sitting. Cas stares.

“Come on.” Dean slaps the spot beside him twice. “If we’re going to have a movie marathon, we’re doing it right.”

Cas hesitates a moment before taking the other side of the bed, careful to leave several inches of space between them.

“You can get closer, you know. I won’t bite.” Dean smirks. Cas scoots over until their legs brush together.

Dean opens the laptop and sets it on the place where their knees touch. He presses play, but they only watch a few more seconds of the movie before he pauses it again. “Wait. One more thing.”

Dean gets up and grabs the pie from the top of the dresser. When he brings it back to the bed, he sits even closer than before and balances the box on the place where their knees touch. He scoops up a forkful, shoves it in his mouth, and unpauses the movie. “Wanna bite?” he asks, and Cas shouldn't find the way Dean talks with his mouth full so endearing, but he does.

Cas shakes his head. He doesn’t care for cherry pie. Still, he can’t help but wonder how it would taste on Dean’s lips.

*

The last thing Dean remembers is starting Thor after finishing both Captain America and Iron Man. Now, as he opens his eyes, he sees the selection menu again. He must have dozed off hours ago.

Soft snores come from nearby, somehow reverberating in his chest, and Dean looks down to see Cas curled against him, fast asleep. His hair is getting long, Dean notes, brushing the overgrown bangs off his forehead without a second thought.

A small sigh escapes Cas’s lips as the snoring stops and his eyes flutter open. “Hello,” he mumbles groggily.

“Hi,” Dean responds, continuing to run his fingers through Cas’s hair. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“That’s okay. We should probably get going anyway. The movie starts in…” He glances at his watch, and his eyes widen. “Half an hour ago.” He sits up abruptly, grabbing his phone from the bedside table and typing quickly with his thumbs. “I’ll see if I can get tickets for a later showing. I’m so sorry about this.”

“Hey.” Dean wraps his hands around Cas’s own. “Hey, it’s okay. We can see the movie some other time. Don’t worry about it, really.”

“But don’t you want to—”

“Right now, the only thing I want to do is spend more time with you. It doesn’t matter where.” He feels his cheeks grow warm as he realizes what he said. “That is, if you aren’t tired of me yet.”

Cas visibly relaxes, the corners of his mouth turning up in a brilliant smile. “Definitely not.”

Chapter Text

The next time Cas wakes, sun is streaming through the window and there is a warm body pressed against his. His face is pressed into a soft t-shirt that smells like cheap soap, and he looks up to find that the chin that had been resting on his head is covered in freckles and stubble. The whole thing is achingly familiar in a way that it shouldn’t be after spending the night with someone for the first time.

Dean doesn’t talk or snore in his sleep so much as mumble, deep incoherencies rumbling in his chest. Cas thinks he hears the word “remember,” but the rest is gibberish. He wishes he could understand him, but that’s nothing new.

He finds his phone on the nightstand and checks the time. He has to be at the bakery in half an hour. He untangles himself from Dean’s arms and climbs out of bed as carefully as he can, but apparently Dean is a light sleeper.

“Hey,” he says, rubbing his eye with his fist and grinning in a way that makes Cas’s insides flutter. “You aren’t going to be late for work, are you?”

“No,” Cas says, trying to focus on gathering his discarded clothes rather than on the way Dean’s voice is even deeper in the morning. “If I skip my morning shower, I should be there in plenty of time. Assuming I can find my pants.”

Dean smirks as he leans over the bed and grabs the khakis off the floor without even looking. “You know, you might be the messiest houseguest I’ve ever had who I didn’t sleep with.”

“But I did sleep with you,” Cas responds. He feels his face heat up as he realizes his mistake. “Oh. By ‘sleep’ you mean ‘have intercourse.’”

Dean barks with laughter, head thrown back and shoulders shaking. “Generally, yeah.” Thankfully, he changes the subject. “If you want to take a shower, I can drive you to work. Not to brag, but I drive like a bat outta hell, so you’d probably still make it to work with time to spare.”

“But what about my car? It’s still parked in the motel parking lot.”

“I could pick you up after work.” His voice sounds almost hopeful, Cas thinks. “Take you back here to get your car. I’m sure the motel staff won’t mind.”

“And you? Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” Dean grins. “Besides, I want you to meet my baby.”

*

“So how was work?” Dean asks that afternoon, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. It has been nearly five minutes since they pulled up to the motel. At first they were continuing a lengthy discussion on the merits of listening to classic rock on tape rather than CD, but now the conversation has dwindled and they are both still sitting in the Impala.

“Work was good,” Cas says, staring down at his hands where they are folded on his lap. “I didn’t drop any bags of flour this time.”

“Oh. Well that’s…good.”

“Yeah.”

They sit in silence for what seems like the longest ten seconds of Dean’s life, still refusing to make eye contact with each other, before Cas clears his throat and says, “I’m going to go to my car now.” He jabs his thumb in the direction of an empty parking space several feet from where his car is actually parked. “And then, you know…home.”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay. I’ll see you later then?”

“Yes,” Cas nods. “Later.” He opens the car door and gets out in record time, but he hesitates when he closes the door. Dean takes advantage of his hesitation and clears his throat.

“Or you could come in and hang out for a while. I mean, if you don’t have any other plans.”

“No,” Cas says quickly. Dean feels his stomach sink before Cas shakes his head and corrects himself. “I mean no, I don’t have any other plans today. I would love to come in.”

Dean grins. “Sweet.”

*

If Cas thought there was a lot of awkward tension before Dean invited him in, it was nothing compared to how much there is now. They are sitting on the bed, close enough that Cas can feel the heat radiating off Dean’s body and hear his breathing and smell his aftershave, and they still aren’t looking at each other.

“So what do you want to do?” Dean asks again, like this time Cas will have an answer.

“I don’t know,” Cas responds for the second time. Actually, I would very much like to kiss you. The thought has been plaguing him since the night before, and instead of fading, the wanting is growing worse. The words keep circling in his head until he thinks they might just burst free of their own accord. And after several agonizing seconds, that’s exactly what they do.

Dean’s head shoots up before Cas even fully realizes that he has spoken aloud.

Part of Cas's brain knows that he should be embarrassed (and that he probably will be later), but they’re finally making eye contact, and Dean’s irises have little flecks of gold in them, and the only thing Cas feels is dizzy.

“Yeah?” Dean says.

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” Dean nods, and then he is leaning forward, cupping Cas’s jaw in his hands, and pressing their lips together.

Cas closes his eyes and breathes a sigh of relief through his nose before kissing back, chapped lips catching against Dean’s smoother ones as he presses closer. His hands still rest in his lap, and he can’t decide whether to try to hold Dean’s face or his shoulders or his hips, so he leaves them where they are.

Dean doesn’t seem to mind any of it. His hands slide to cradle the back of Cas’s head, running his fingers through his hair. Cas gasps when he feels a light tug at his scalp, and Dean’s lips part with his.

Dean's mouth is hotter and wetter than Cas expected, and their lips begin to slide more smoothly as they become slick with spit, and Cas still doesn’t know what to do with his hands. His palms are sweating, so he runs them over his own jeans to dry them. His fingers bump against Dean’s knees. Without giving it much thought, he starts to rub them up and down Dean’s thighs, venturing a little higher each time.

Dean’s hands slide down his neck, over his shoulder blades, down his back. They keep going until they are under him, and then Cas feels himself being pulled into Dean’s lap. He hums into Dean’s mouth and Dean reciprocates with a soft moan, and that’s when Cas notices the bulge in the lap beneath him. He tightens his legs around Dean’s waist and rocks against it, causing Dean to moan again, louder, and Cas can feel himself growing hard too.

The motel room is starting to feel too hot, and Cas’s clothes cling to his body with sweat. He pulls back to breathe and finds himself panting against golden-brown hair as Dean begins trailing open-mouthed kisses down Cas’s neck. His heart is pounding so hard that Dean must be able to hear it or at least feel it in his neck, he thinks, which only makes it beat faster.

“This is amazing,” he finds himself murmuring as Dean starts unbuttoning his shirt and placing kisses over his collarbone. “I’ve never felt like this before.”

Dean’s lips suddenly still. He brings his head up slowly. There is a worried wrinkle between his eyebrows, and his eyes don’t seem as bright as they did before.

“I shouldn’t do this,” he says, voice sounding usually small. He gently pushes back on Cas’s shoulders to create some space. His eyes shift back and forth across Cas’s face, never quite making eye contact. “I’m sorry.”

The pleasant bubbly feeling in Cas’s stomach turns into a sick churning. “Did I do something wrong?”

Dean shakes his head. “No,” he laughs humorlessly, “but I did.” He shifts his legs, and Cas takes the hint and climbs off of his lap. They stay on the bed, more than a foot of space between them. It feels like a mile.

The room is uncomfortably quiet. Cas had no idea that silence could cause two so drastically different kinds of tension. “Is there someone else?” he asks finally.

“What?”

“Are you seeing someone else?” He tries to keep his voice steady. It cracks on the last word anyway. “Is that why you think what we were doing was wrong?”

“No.” Dean pinches the bridge of his nose as though he has a headache. “There’s no one else.”

“Then why?”

“It’s complicated, okay?” He hops to his feet and paces around the room. He stops when he gets to the door and stares at it. “Maybe you should go home after all.”

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong,” Cas responds, standing up and crossing his arms.

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Dean.”

“Look, how about you go home and I’ll tell you later after I’ve had time to…collect my thoughts.”

“Time to think up a good lie, you mean?”

Dean gapes at him.

“I’m not an idiot,” Cas says. “I know more than you think.”

“About what?”

“You.”

“What about me?”

“For starters, I know you’re not a truck driver. If you are, you must have a truly impressive amount of vacation time built up.”

Dean scoffs. “So I got laid off.”

“No, you didn’t. I already know you’re not who you claim to be. I wish for once you would just tell me who you actually are.”

Dean pauses to chew on his lip. “Would you believe me if I said I’m not telling you that for your own good?”

“No.”

bang resonates through the room as Dean slams his fist into the rickety wooden door. “Well it is, damn it!”

“I know—”

“More than I think, yeah, I got it. A hell of a lot less than you think though. Too little to jump into sex with the likes of me.”

“Is that why you stopped?”

“Well, yeah!” Dean sighs. “I mean, you don’t even remember your life past about a year and a half ago. For all you know, you could be married! You might get your memories back and regret this.”

“Am I married?”

“You think I know?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” He walks towards Dean, stopping when they are about a foot apart. “I know you know more than you let on too, and I know you know something about my past. You and my brother both seem to know a hell of a lot more than you’re willing to tell me, and I am sick and tired of being the only one still in the dark about my own life!” He pauses, chest heaving, only now realizing that he had been shouting. “So now that that’s out,” he says, making a concerted effort to lower his voice, “why don’t you just tell me?” He reaches out to cup Dean’s face, but the other man turns his head away and Cas lets his hand drop. “What are you really afraid of?”

Dean remains silent, lips drawn into a tight line.

Finally, Cas nods. “You know what? You’re right. I should just go home. Thanks for the ride.” He reaches for the doorknob, but Dean is standing in front of it. “Move.”

“Listen, Kurt—”

“Don’t call me that! You know perfectly well that isn’t my name!” Cas knows he is shouting again, but he can’t find the energy to care. “You used to call me Cas until you trained yourself not to. Gabriel did too. And I know that’s who I am. I can feel it, just like I feel a connection to you that can’t possibly have started just a few months ago. Everything just…fits.”

The anger in Dean’s eyes melts into sorrow. “I…” It’s clear he doesn’t know how to finish his thought.

Cas reaches up to run his thumb across the wrinkled brow, as though smoothing out the skin could somehow smooth away the worry as well. “What were we to each other?” he asks.

The next thing he knows, Dean is out the door, running to the Impala and leaving Cas with an empty hotel room and an empty feeling in his chest.