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broken when I'm lonesome

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It was just another seedy bar on a long list of seedy bars. Dean hunched his shoulders and stared wearily into the tumbler of whiskey sitting in front of him, wondering why the hell Sam had been so insistent that they stop here. The place was a shithole on the outside and even worse on the inside. Even the alcohol wasn’t that good. Although it was dirt cheap, so at least that was a bonus. He picked up the tumbler and tossed its contents back, relishing the familiar burn.

Without him even having to ask, the bartender brought over another. He nursed this one, taking smaller sips as he looked around the bar for his brother. Sam had claimed he was going to the bathroom over an hour ago. Now, he was in the corner talking to a pretty redhead. It was unusual for Sam to pick women up in bars, but it wasn’t unheard of. Hell, for all Dean knew, maybe it was usual. The months he’d spent trapped downstairs certainly seemed to have changed everything else between them, so why not that too?

As though sensing his attention, Sam looked up and grinned in Dean’s direction. After saying something to the woman, he pushed off the wall and headed towards him. “Hey man.”

“Hey,” Dean muttered, noticing that the woman was still watching them both. “Not taking her home?”

“Oh, she wasn’t interested in me.”

It took a few seconds for that to sink in, and when it did his throat got tight. “Not happening, Sammy.”

“Come on, Dean,” Sam wheedled, sinking onto the barstool beside him. “It’s been six months since you came back and you’ve barely slept with anyone.”

“I didn’t realize you were paying such close attention to my sexual behavior.”

Sam made a face. “I don’t want to, trust me. But I’m worried about you. You’re not coping well, Dean. Hey -” He grabbed Dean’s arm when Dean rolled his eyes and tried to turn away. “No, listen. You don’t sleep, you barely eat, you don’t pick up chicks. I thought you wanted things to go back to the way they used to be. Maybe a night to forget everything is what you need right now.”

Laid out like that, it made sense. Of course it did. This was Sam, and his plans always made sense. But there were variables that Sam was missing. Things that Dean didn’t know how to put into words. He snuck another quick look at the redhead. She had long hair and great curves, and the blue dress she was wearing left little to the imagination. She was too good to be in a dive like this. In another life, she was exactly the kind of woman that Dean would have been all over.

“I dunno.”

“Come on, Dean. I don’t know what else to do here!”

“You don’t have to do anything.”

“So I’m just supposed to sit by and watch you drink yourself right back where you came from?” Sam shot back.

Dean froze as a look of mortification spread across Sam’s face. He wrenched his arm free and ignored the apologies spilling out of Sam’s mouth as he got up. It was a lot harder to ignore the iciness that was spreading rapidly under his skin; a familiar terror that left him breathless. Being taken back to hell was one of his deepest fears, right up there with losing Sam. He’d never said as much out loud, and it bothered him that Sam had picked up on it so quickly.

He walked right over to the redhead and let the smile come, switching the old Winchester charm on. “Hey there. My brother told me you were too shy to come talk to me.”

She rolled her eyes, but she was smiling too. “More like I wondered why such a cute guy wasn’t coming over to talk to me,” she replied, extending a hand. “I’m Holly.”

“Dean.” He took her hand, half-hoping that there would be the familiar rush of tingles. But there was nothing. He bit the inside of his cheek, not letting his smile shift, subtly checking her out. This close, he could see that her eyes were brown. She was wearing a perfume that smelled of vanilla. Her dress, or maybe her bra, was doing an excellent job of pushing her breasts up. They were right under his nose: generous and creamy and just the right size to fit into his hands.

Nothing.

“Your brother is very forward,” Holly said, drawing his attention back up to her face. She’d obviously realized what he was doing and liked it. “But I’ve always been the kind of girl who appreciates someone who is reserved. It makes it that much more fun when they finally come out of their shell.”

He barked a laugh at that, because no one in their right mind would have ever called Dean Winchester reserved. “Yeah, well, it’s been a rough couple of months. I can’t remember the last time I had some fun.”

Holly’s eyes brightened. “You’re practically a virgin.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

She squeezed his hand and then tugged. Dean went with her willingly, refusing to look back at Sam as they left the bar together. The air outside was crisp and cool and Holly shivered, pushing closer to him. He wound an arm around her shoulders and led her over to the Impala, deciding that, since Sam was so hopped up on getting him laid, he could make the trek back to the motel on his own.

It turned out that Holly was just passing through too, and she had a hotel room a couple blocks from the bar. She spent the drive snuggled up against him, pressing kisses to the curve of his jaw. The attention felt nice. Better than nice, actually. He wanted to drop his head on her shoulder and just spend the night right there in the car, holding her close and feeling her warmth, listening to her breathe and knowing that her presence meant he was alive and safe and loved, even if it was just for one night.

But Holly wanted more, and she wasn’t shy about it. Practically the instant he had switched the car off, she dropped her hand to his crotch and gave it a squeeze. “Come on, baby, let’s get this show on the road,” she said with a wink. “I got a lonely bed upstairs.”

“Yeah,” Dean said, and this time he had to force a smile. He followed her through the lobby and into the elevator, not surprised when she immediately pushed back into his arms and yanked him down into a kiss. As far as kisses went, it wasn’t bad. She was very skillful with her tongue, and at one time he would’ve been deep into a fantasy about how that tongue might feel on other parts of his anatomy. Right then, it just felt kind of wet.

“Mmm, you’re a good kisser,” Holly said when the doors open. Her lipstick was a little messed up. So was her hair, though he didn’t remember running his hands through it. She led the way down the hall, using her card to get into her room. Dean hesitated for only a second before he entered.

There was an advantage to a dress, and Holly showed him what it was as soon as the door was shut: she reached behind her, grabbed the zipper, and pulled it down. The material of the dress fell away from her, revealing that she was wearing a matching set of black-and-purple bra and panties underneath. The cut of the bra just barely showed him a hint of brown nipple, peeking out over the edge. That, combined with her seductive smile, should have had him rock hard and ready to roll.

“You’re beautiful,” he told her, and at least that was honest. He put his hands on her hips when she came to him and they kissed again. She pressed herself against him, grinding her crotch against him. Dean could tell when she realized he wasn’t affected because she stopped. She looked up at him through her eyelashes with a coy smile.

“Having some performance issues, baby?” she asked, dropping to her knees. “I bet I can get you fired up.” She reached for his belt and he let her undo it. His heart was racing uncomfortably fast and he felt sick to his stomach as she slid two fingers into the waistband of his boxers.

“Don’t.”

The word popped out before he could stop it. To her credit, Holly obeyed. She looked up at his face, smile gone, and then removed her fingers without a word. Dean stumbled back from her, his hands shaking as he redid his zipper and belt. He didn’t understand why the hell this kept happening. Ever since he’d returned from hell, it was like something in him was broken.

He hadn’t even gotten into bed this time. He’d chickened out before he even had the chance to see her naked.

“Are you okay?” Holly asked, raising her eyebrows.

“Sorry. I can’t - I’m sorry.”

“You brought me back here and you can’t even have sex with me?” she said, sounding pissed. “I wasted a whole night flirting with your goddamn brother! He promised me a good time!”

“Then maybe you should go find him to follow through,” Dean snapped, pushing past her and storming over to the door. He slammed it behind him as he left, taking the stairs down to the lobby rather than waiting for the elevator. His heart wouldn’t stop pounding and he couldn’t breathe right until he made it outside, and even then it took several minutes of leaning against the Impala before he felt okay enough to drive.

Damn it. Damn it. Why did this keep happening? Before hell, sex was right up there with alcohol in terms of coping mechanisms. And god knows he was good at it, because he’d been practicing since he was fourteen and a cute waitress offered to let him and Sammy eat free if he went out back with her. He liked sex. He loved women and how pretty they were, he loved hair and lips and breasts and hips and pussies and butts and now he just - he didn’t.

Oh, he could still appreciate the female form. From a distance. He could look at a woman and know that she was attractive or beautiful. But it didn’t do anything for him. It had as much of an effect as staring at drying paint. And it wasn’t just that. He didn’t even masturbate anymore. Never felt the urge to knock one out in the shower, or while Sam was out for a run, or even after he woke up in the morning. It was like his libido had been left behind in hell when Castiel raised him.

He growled in frustration and punched the steering wheel. He didn’t know how to fix this. No matter how many times he tried to take a woman to bed, he couldn’t go through with it. The first time, he’d actually stripped down and gotten into bed with some chick. The first time she touched him, he panicked so badly she thought he was having a seizure. Which was bad enough, but when he added in the fact that he hadn't really wanted to go to bed with her in the first place...

Needless to say, he was in a shitty mood by the time he made it back to the motel. All hopes that Sam wasn't going to be around were dashed when he saw the play of light against the curtains as he parked the car. For about a minute, he seriously contemplated sleeping in the car. But it would just put off the inevitable conversation for a little while. Dean sighed, wishing that they'd spent the extra money for two separate rooms, and slowly climbed out.

Sam was in the shower when he walked in, which gave him at least a little bit of a reprieve. He grabbed his bag and threw it off the spare bed, sprawling out on the ugly white sheets. He stared up at the ceiling and wondered if there was a way to fix him, because it had been long enough that the problem clearly wasn't going to fix itself. Maybe he should be calling Castiel and telling the angel that he'd messed up while he was doing some rebuilding? But what if Castiel had to put him back to fix it?

A sweat broke out across his whole body at the thought. He'd gladly give up sex for the rest of his life if he never had to go back to hell.

He was still there when the bathroom door swung open about twenty minutes later and Sam sauntered out. Sam stopped short when he caught sight of Dean and he grabbed for the towel around his waist like he was afraid it was going to suddenly fall off as he exclaimed, "Dean! What are you doing here?"

"We're staying here for the night," Dean said shortly, glad that he'd at least rolled over to face the wall.

"But I thought you'd be with Holly," Sam said, sounding bewildered. "Didn't it go well?"

"It didn't go at all."

"What? Why not?"

"Because it just didn't. Would you please drop it?"

Sam sighed loudly, now more frustrated than confused, and walked across the room. "I don't get what's wrong with you lately, dude. It's been ages since you got laid. When I go this long without having sex, you're all over me. Are you sick? Did you get cursed and not tell me? Are you -"

"I'm not sick!" Dean snapped, sitting up so quickly that the room spun a little.

"Dean -"

"I don't want to have sex!"

Those six little words hung in the space between them and left Dean feeling even worse than before as he watched the incredulity play out across Sam's face. And no wonder. It even sounded ridiculous to him. Sex was awesome. Sex was amazing. Sex, especially with beautiful women, was one of the things that he used to live for. The old Dean Winchester would have been laughing his ass off had anyone even suggested that someday that sentence might actually come out of his mouth.

"You... don't want to have sex," Sam repeated slowly, eyebrows furrowing so deeply it made him look constipated.

"That's right. So would you just drop it, please?"

"But - you know that's not normal, right? You should go to the doctor; it could be a hormonal issue. Or maybe you're just depressed. Or maybe -"

That hit a little too close to home. "I'm not fucking broken and I don't need to hear your opinion," Dean hissed, rolling off the bed. For the second time in one night, he stormed away from his brother. This time, he went into the bathroom and slammed the door so hard it bounced off the frame and he slammed it shut a second time. A sickening combination of anger and embarrassment was hammering through him. He hadn't wanted to let Sam in on what was going on, but living in such close quarters with someone meant that everything came out in the open eventually and it was mortifying. He stepped over the lip of the tub and sat down, not caring that his jeans were getting damp.

What the hell was wrong with him?

--

Much to Dean's shock, Sam didn't bring up their conversation after they left the hotel the next morning. Once or twice Dean caught his brother shooting him concerned looks when Sam thought he wasn't looking, but that was the extent of it. He even stopped trying to set Dean up with chicks. On the one hand, it was a relief. It was still weird to go into a bar, have some drinks or hustle and then walk out with Sam - or worse, alone because Sam had gone ahead and hooked up with someone - but at least it was better than having his lack of desire shoved in his face all the time.

But on the other hand, it was worse. He and Sam had never been overly affectionate with each other. Or at least, Dean didn't think they were. It wasn't until that night and Sam started going out of his way to not touch him that Dean realized yeah, they kind of were. They stood too close together. Their hands brushed when they gave each other something. They'd grab an arm or a shoulder when it came to a hunt, either to pull each other out of harm's way or to communicate with touches and looks when silence was required. Hell, Sam frequently kicked him under the table when they were in a diner and Dean said something inappropriate.

After that night, though, Sam stopped touching him. He was so careful about it that Dean couldn't ignore it. It was like Sam thought this whole thing meant he had an aversion to touch, and that was so far from the truth Dean had to bite his tongue to stop himself from starting a talk that had Chick Flick written all over it. There was no way he was going to tell his brother that actually, not being touched in any way meant that his nightmares about hell were a thousand times worse. And that he got so cold and lonely at night sometimes that he would just stay awake and shiver, even though he was wrapped in tons of blankets and the heater was cranked so high Sam woke up bitching.

He was desperate to be touched.

About two weeks after that conversation with Sam, it got bad enough that he tried. He left Sam stewing over a large pile of library books and slipped off to the local bar. There were loads of attractive women in the place, and he got more than a few inviting smiles. Dean ended up approaching most of them before the night was through, but every single woman turned him down once, after a few minutes of chatting, he brushed off the less than subtle suggestion that they leave the bar together for some fun.

All of these people were on the lookout for one thing, and if he wasn't willing to provide it then they didn't want to waste their time.

After the last woman outright laughed in his face for trying to hint that maybe they could just spend the night actually sleeping together, Dean slunk out of the bar. His head was spinning even though he hadn't had much to drink, and the whole night had left him hot and humiliated. There just didn't seem to be anyone who wanted what he wanted. It was official: he was a freak.

"Goddamnit," he said in a rough whisper, reaching the Impala and resting his forehead against the cold metal. He stood there for a minute, struggling to get his emotions under control. After the way Sam had looked at him for the last dent he'd put in the steering wheel, he had no desire to leave any more evidence of this whole thing behind. He'd already noticed that Sam and Bobby had been having a series of whispered phone calls about depression that they thought he didn't know about, and it didn't take a genius to guess who they were referring to.

He opened his eyes finally and reached into his pocket, snagging his phone. Sam had given it to him preprogrammed; his number was first and Castiel's was second. Dean hit the right button and held the phone to his ear, half-hoping that for once the angel would actually pick up. Of course, it went straight to voicemail.

"Cas, it's me," he muttered after clearing his throat several times. "I, uh, need to talk to you. Quick as you can. So whenever you can drop by... I'll let you know where we are..." He trailed off, feeling like he should be adding more, but uncertain as to what he was supposed to say. In the end he just hung up.

Nothing to do now but head back to the motel and spend another night pretending he didn't notice the tension in the room.

"Hello, Dean."

"Jesus!" Halfway into the driver's seat, Dean jumped and swore as he hit his head against the top of the Impala's roof. The angel sitting in the seat beside him watched with an impassive gaze as he fell back into his seat and grabbed at the back of his head. "Fuck, Cas, what I have told about giving some warning?"

"I apologize," Castiel said, tilting his head a little. There may or may not have been just a hint of a smile lurking there around the corner of his lips. It disappeared too fast for Dean to be sure.

"How did you even know where I was?" Dean said, scowling as he realized he'd have a nice bump at the crown of his head later on. The only consolation was that he hadn't hit himself hard enough to get a concussion. Thank god his head was pretty hard.

"I could hear people talking in the background of your message," Castiel replied. "I was able to trace the Impala to within a general area, and then I located the bar. It was not hard. You sounded as though it was urgent."

"I did?"

"Yes."

"Shit. Sorry. It wasn't. It's not. If there's something you gotta do, you can go."

Castiel narrowed his eyes. It was an even more focused version of that penetrating stare that always seemed to see straight through Dean, and he squirmed at the intensity.

"Is there something wrong?" Castiel asked eventually.

"No. Yes. Maybe." Dean blew his breath out in a frustrated sigh as Castiel's eyebrows drew together in confusion. He was half-tempted to bang his head against the steering wheel until he did the rest of the job in knocking himself out. Instead, he stared straight ahead and forced himself to spit the words out. "Cas, you ever think... I mean, is it possible that when you... you know... put me back together... you did it... wrong?"

Now the angel looked surprised. And intrigued. "What do you mean?"

"I just... I'm not... right."

It only took a moment, but Castiel visibly checked him out. "You look fine to me."

"Not like that. Well, maybe like that. It's just... I'm not interested in having... you know." He made a gesture with his hand.

Castiel looked blank.

"Sex, Cas," Dean snapped. "I don't want to have sex."

"Dean -"

"And it's not right, man! Before I went to hell, I loved sex. It was awesome." Dean tightened his hands into fists, remembering with a pang all the nights he had lost himself in physical pleasure. That he couldn't do that anymore was like torture. "Now I'm not attracted to anyone. I get in bed with a hot naked chick and nothing happens! I can't even jerk off anymore. You did something wrong and I need you to fix it. I can't take it anymore." He was breathing hard and there was an edge of hysteria to his words that he wasn't comfortable with, but couldn't stop.

"Dean," Castiel said again, and his voice was noticeably softer. "I rebuilt your body exactly as it was before you died. I may have removed your scars and repaired the damage to your liver and a few other internal organs, but that was it."

"No. You did something wrong. You have to fix it."

"There is nothing to fix. If you no longer have the same desires that you did before, it's not something I, or anyone else, can change."

He'd known it was a long shot, but hearing it said out loud was almost more than Dean could bear. It drove home the point that it was him that was defective and he had no one else to blame. He didn't even realize he'd closed his eyes in defeat until fingers touched the back of his arm, light at first, then seizing his wrist in a hard grasp. Dean flinched, but there was no escaping that grip unless Castiel wanted to let him go. After a tense moment, his shoulders slumped.

"So that's it, then," he said dully, seeing a long, empty life stretching out in front of him. The first time Sam had abandoned him and left for Stanford, he'd coped by drinking and sleeping around a lot. Somehow the empty passenger seat didn't seem as bad when he was in the arms of a beautiful woman. What would he do when the Apocalypse was over and Sam left again? Even if he wanted to settle down into the kind of normal life that Sam was always talking about, what kind of a woman would want him now?

"I can't do anything. I'm sorry."

In lieu of anything to say, Dean just shook his head. It hadn't escaped his notice that Castiel still hadn't let go of his wrist, but he was loathe to try and pull away again. The angel was the first person to really touch him in weeks, and the contact felt so good. Castiel's hands were warmer than the average human - his temperature always ran a few degrees hotter - and his grip was so solid. Dean could feel that pressure tingling all the way up his arm, like someone had turned a heater on full blast and it was warming him from the outside in. Only pride kept him upright instead of slumping sideways into Castiel the way he suddenly wanted to.

The silence dragged on, but it wasn't uncomfortable. When Dean finally summoned up the courage to glance at his companion, he saw that Castiel's head was facing forward. But like he'd just been waiting for Dean to look at him, his head turned and his eyes met Dean's. There was no sympathy there, no pity, no disgust, no contempt.

"You are not broken," Castiel said, his rough voice very quiet. "Hell was a traumatizing experience for you, even if you pretend that you can't remember. Your soul will always bear those scars. What Alastair did to you is not something that is easily forgotten, and the more you try to force yourself into something you're not ready for, the worse you will feel. Give yourself time, Dean. You may find that you'll become interested in intercourse again."

In spite of himself, a smile twitched at his lips. Something about hearing the stuffy, sometimes naive angel talking about sex was a little amusing. "Thanks, Cas, but that doesn't really make me feel much better."

"How can I help?"

The question was so earnest that Dean's chest tightened. Castiel looked like he genuinely wanted to help, like he would've gladly done whatever it took to make Dean feel better. It was the kind of attitude he'd wanted from Sam. Even if there wasn't anything that anyone could do, and even if Dean had been a bitch about this from the beginning, having his brother treat him like a leper was only making the situation worse. Castiel's attitude, like this was just a small blip on the scale of what mattered, was refreshing. Because of that, Dean let himself be honest in his answer.

"I don't know. Unless you can find a chick who won't mind sleeping beside me at night without having sex first, I don't think you can," he replied bitterly.

Castiel paused briefly before he responded. "Dean -"

"Just forget it, Cas," Dean said with a shake of his head, feeling guilty that he'd bothered the angel about this in the first place. Now that he was actually paying attention, he thought that Castiel looked very tired. No doubt the other angels had been giving him a hard time lately, not to mention the increased volume of demons they'd been dealing with. Petty human problems were the last thing Castiel needed to be worrying about.

"Are you certain?"

"Yeah. Look, I'm gonna go back to the motel and have a beer. You wanna join me?"

"Alright."

Dean raised his eyebrows, a little surprised that Castiel had agreed. It was swiftly replaced by disappointment when Castiel removed his hand from Dean's arm. Having had that little bit of contact made him feel that much worse. He swallowed hard and switched the car on, backing out of the parking space. Both of them remained quiet on the drive back, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence.

Sam was gone when they walked into the room, something that Dean was relieved about. He figured his brother had either hooked up with someone or was spending the night in the library. Either way, Dean didn't care. He kicked his boots off, grabbed two beers from the motel's fridge, tossed one to Castiel and threw himself down on his bed. It wasn't memory foam by any stretch of the imagination, but after a long day it felt pretty damn good. He pushed the pillows flat and then reclined, taking a long drink of his beer.

The remote was on the nightstand and he switched the television on, flipping through the channels until he found some dumb action flick that didn't require too much attention. By that time, Castiel had perched himself on the side of Dean's bed and was taking slow, steady sips of the beer. Much to Dean's amusement, his nose wrinkled after the first couple of sips, but he kept stoically drinking until the bottle was empty. When Dean got up to get himself a second beer, he didn't bother offering a second to Castiel.

"You are lonely," Castiel said, no warning whatsoever, right as Dean popped the cap off and lifted the bottle to his lips. The timing couldn't have been better, or worse depending on your point of view, and nearly resulted in Dean spewing his mouthful of beer all over the bed. He just barely choked it back, swallowing too hard and coughing until his chest ached.

"What the fuck?" he finally choked out. "Dude, you don't just say that."

"Why not? It's true. You desire companionship."

The worst part about this whole conversation was that, when Dean swung around to look at him, Castiel's expression was blank. Like he had no idea whatsoever why this could possibly be an uncomfortable or awkward conversation. It was times like this that Dean was strongly reminded that, while the man sitting at the end of the bed seemed to be just a man, he was actually a supernatural creature with a completely different set of ideas about what was right or wrong, okay and not okay. It got even worse when Castiel put a hand on top of Dean's ankle.

Even through the fabric of his jeans, that hand burned and he jerked his leg away instinctively. "Dude, I said -"

"Humans," Castiel interrupted with a roll of his eyes, "place far too much importance on what activities you perform while naked. I am angel of the lord, Dean. I do not have the same urges that a normal human male would. Humans are all the same to me. While I can and do experience the world through this vessel, that does not mean I have a desire to engage in intercourse with anyone. Not even you."

Dean stared at him, absorbing this slowly. "So... angels don't have sex?"

Castiel gave him a perfect version of Sam's patented 'that's what you got out of what I just said?' bitchface, but replied, "We share grace, but it does not serve the same function as intercourse. Sharing grace is more akin to an embrace between friends or family. It is a sharing of one's essence, not of your physical body." He looked away then, turning his nose up a bit. "Of course, in heaven our true form is made up of energy. This intercourse business seems like a frankly boring and silly way to spend your time."

"Don't knock it till you try it," Dean said.

"I don't need to try it."

"Then how do you know you don't like it?"

"Did you need to try soy milk to decide you wouldn't like it?" Castiel asked, raising an eyebrow, and Dean had to laugh. He could hardly believe Castiel remembered that conversation. Sam, in the midst of one of his we-need-to eat-better-or-we're-going-to-die-tomorrow fits, had swept through a grocery store in some random town and maxed one of their hard-scammed credit cards buying the place out. The sight of so much healthy, green food had almost given Dean hives. As it was, he'd thrown a fit when Sam tried to serve him a breakfast of granola, soy milk and bananas.

"Right. You're right. Sorry Cas," he muttered, realizing that he was probably being insensitive. Good thing Sam wasn't here, or this time he'd be giving Dean one of those bitchy faces that meant he was fucking up royally. He scrubbed a hand through his hair. "I guess... that's cool. Not wanting sex, I mean."

"I'm glad I have your seal of approval."

And there it was, the sassiness that never failed to make Dean crack a smile. Then he realized something. "Wait. What did you mean when you said that you didn't want to have sex with anyone, not even me?"

"We share a profound bond, Dean," Castiel said deliberately, like he wasn't quite sure why he was bothering to spell this out for Dean's benefit yet again. "If there is anyone I would desire that intimacy with, it is you." There was a short pause, and then he added quietly, "Particularly now that I am cut off from heaven and I am no longer able to share grace with my brethren."

"Cas..."

"Until now I thought it would be a problem, being that your memories made it clear that you enjoy sex with women on a regular basis. Not only is my lack of interest an issue, this vessel is male. But -"

"Hang on," Dean interrupted. "What do you mean, my memories?"

"I raised you from perdition. When I rebuilt your body, I cradled your soul in my grace. I know everything about you, Dean Winchester, down to the smallest details."

Dean shivered. There was definitely no reason Castiel needed to sound so grave while saying that. It was overwhelming. There was so much about himself that he tried to keep hidden, but here was Castiel telling him that he already knew all of it, even the most sordid details. And that he'd been sticking around regardless. He had to look away from the angel, taking a few minutes to reorient himself by staring at the faded paint on the wall like it was fascinating.

This time, he didn't jerk his leg away when he felt the warmth on his ankle again. He turned his head slowly, watching from under lowered lashes as Castiel inched closer. There was still a bit of space between them. It felt like the angel was too far away and too close at the same time. He was torn between jumping up and making some sort of excuse to diffuse the tension and sinking into what Castiel seemed to be offering.

"You're lonely," Castiel repeated, the words softer. Almost kinder, if Dean thought angels were capable of that sort of emotion.

His throat felt too tight. "Cas.." he said weakly, and it wasn't enough but it was the only thing he could think of to say.

But Castiel nodded, like he could hear everything that Dean hadn't said. Maybe he had. "You are in my charge, Dean. It is my responsibility to care for you. In all things. This is something I can provide." The grip of his fingers tightened, five points of pressure so strong that he had to be able to feel the thread of Dean's pulse beneath his skin. For the first time in months, since he'd dug his way out of a grave, Dean felt like he had an anchor that was keeping him tied to the surface.

"You don't have to -"

"I know."

"This isn't -"

"I know," Castiel said again, like he really did know, like seeing right through him was as easy as hearing what he wasn't saying. "What would make you feel more comfortable?"

Dean's tongue swept out to moisten his lips. He didn't know how to feel when Castiel's eyes didn't follow the nervous gesture. "Um, humans don't... usually go to bed with our coat and shoes on. You could take those off. And the tie. And... turn off the light."

Obediently, Castiel stood and switched off the overhead light, leaving just a bit of moonlight filtering in through the gap in the curtains. He removed his coat, shoes, tie and - surprisingly - his suit coat, leaving him in just a shirt and pants. Dean was still wearing his clothes, including his jeans. He reached for his belt automatically, unzipping his jeans and pushing the stiff fabric down his legs. He kicked them and his socks off and onto the floor, not caring where they landed. It wouldn't matter until Sam walked in and tripped over them -

Sam.

"I can't. Sam," he said, unable to believe that he'd forgotten about his brother for even a few seconds. This couldn't happen, not with the risk of Sam walking in. What was going on here felt like way more private than even sex, and it was not something he wanted his brother to witness. He was halfway up and off the bed before Castiel's hand landed on the back of his neck. It was just as hot as before and Dean's muscles melted like butter underneath that firm pressure, pushing him back against the sheets.

"Your brother is otherwise occupied," said Castiel, not once removing his hand from Dean's neck as he sat and swung his legs onto the bed. "He will not be returning to the room tonight. And even if he were to decide to come back, you forget that I do not sleep. I will depart should that happen."

"You promise?" Dean asked warily. Was he really gonna do this? Lay down in bed with a guy - even if said guy was technically an angel - just because he was that desperate to sleep beside someone? It sounded so pathetic.

But when Castiel laid down, stiff as a board, and pulled Dean half beside, half on top of him, he couldn't deny how good it felt, even when Castiel's hand slid off his neck. It turned out that angels radiated heat all over. Castiel was like a giant heating pad, and he wasn't nearly as tense as Dean had expected. Where their bodies made contact he turned soft and yielding, allowing Dean to poke and prod them both until he was completely comfortable: Castiel on his back with Dean on his side, his back tucked up against the angel. That was fine, but then Castiel rolled onto his side so that his front was one long line against Dean's back.

He'd never been the little spoon before.

"You promise?" he asked again.

"Yes, Dean." Castiel's breath was a tickle against the curls on his neck and he shivered.

"You know," he muttered. "I usually make someone buy me dinner before this happens."

Castiel's hand slid up his hip until he was palming Dean's stomach, and one leg slipped across Dean's and hooked around his ankles, and then he really was enfolded in angel. "I raised you from perdition, but if you truly wish for me to procure you a cheeseburger I suppose that I can."

Dean smiled to himself, because seriously what was his life right now? If someone had told him a month ago that this was going to happen, he would've socked that person in the jaw. He wasn't gay. He liked women. But it wasn't like he wanted to have sex with Castiel. It was the complete opposite. He wasn't aroused at all, and he could tell that Castiel was similarly unaffected. This was just two dudes in a bed together sharing body heat, and one of them wasn't even really a dude. That wasn't gay, right?

He relaxed a little more and nuzzled his cheek against the pillow, a heavy weariness settling over him that made him feel about a hundred pounds heavier. With Castiel at his back he felt safe, but he doubted that would be enough to keep the nightmares at bay. "Sorry in advance if kick you," he mumbled.

"Why would you do that?" Castiel asked, sounding honestly confused.

"I don't usually sleep well," Dean said. He didn't like talking about his nightmares, but it was a little easier to do it in the dark when he didn't have to look at Castiel. "I have nightmares. The usual stuff."

"About hell."

It wasn't a question, but he still answered, "Yeah."

Castiel sighed. It was such a human sound that Dean tensed a little in surprise as the angel said, "I will guard your sleep tonight, Dean. You won't have any nightmares about hell. I promise."

"You can do that?"

"Yes."

"Thought you weren't supposed to interfere."

"I find that, with you, that is increasingly becoming a challenge." Castiel's grip tightened just a bit. Enough so that it was impossible for Dean to ignore the fact that his arm was very much there. "Go to sleep. It's been a long time since you have slept well, and you need the rest."

"Thanks, Cas," Dean muttered, because he knew he wouldn't be able to say it in the morning - if Castiel would even still be there, and that was probably a big if. He let his eyes close and focused on the heat at his back and how the mattress cradled his body in all the right places. He wanted to stay awake and savor the feeling, but he was way too tired.

Right before he fell asleep, he thought he heard Castiel whisper, "Anytime, Dean."