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Moonshine Lullaby

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He was alone. Nothing new. And it wasn’t like Dean needed company to sweep the floor and check all the lights were off. The only thing he needed was the cigarette hanging off his bottom lip and the broom they’ve left him. He didn’t move out to California to tidy up like some housemaid but he reckoned it was better than sweeping up after horses on some ranch or picking fruit out in the Central Valley. His footsteps echo around the concrete emptiness as he sweeps, rhythmic.

Some people think the studios are goldmines, others imagine them as glamorous palaces, full of some mysterious magic that made the ordinary extraordinary. Or a place to be made rich beyond their wildest dreams. And Dean thought that some of them might even manage to grab one of those contracts, appear in a starring role or three. But for him it was a tomb, sealing the daylight out and trapping him in the dark with creatures he’d rather not know.

Blood-sucking demons. That’s what he’d call the producers, with their cigars, their blank-eyed stares, their ability to see dollars in everything.

Dean’s sweeping grew more furious. He needed a drink.

He was glad of the heat of the cigarette as he sucked the smoke into his lungs. Days were never cold, not really. Not like the Kansas winter back in the place he used to call home. Home was a fuzzier concept than it used to be and one that Dean couldn’t be bothered thinking about. He let his thoughts slide back to the real stars in the sky, familiar constellations marking out their unchanging domains. Fuck knows when he got so sentimental. Probably somewhere between turning down the blonde chick and his ninth whisky.

Then he remembered what he’d been thinking about. Cold. It got real cold at night. His coat wasn’t really heavy enough for this. He sped up, flicking the ash from his cigarette and sucking another warming draught in. He’d been thrown to see Sam in the backroom of that particular restaurant, that was all. Everyone knew it was a front for one of the dozens (if not hundreds) of places where a man might get a decent shot of whisky but Dean still thought of his baby brother as someone too innocent to do more than stare disapprovingly at Dean when it was mentioned.

Sam. Samuel C. Winchester. Who knew what the C stood for? Sam had never needed a middle name before he got his break. But here he was, expensive suit, slim black cigar, gold rings on his fingers. Girls - they definitely weren’t women - hanging off him in furs and sparkles that might even have been diamonds. And this ridiculous line of a moustache, curled with wax at the ends, hugging his lip like a worm. He’d slicked his too long hair down, thrown his head back laughing too loud and had the eyes of the entire place drinking up his charisma, his generous warmth. His arrogance.

Dean had to look twice to check it was his shy, bookish brother.

And that had led to the “leave the goddamn bottle” demand and the approach of a girl too dowdy, too old or just possibly too smart to join Sam’s little harem. Which, in turn, would no doubt lead to Dean’s aching head in the morning. If the cold didn’t sober him first. Dean’s steps weren’t entirely steady and his path wavered over the strip of beaten down dirt at the edge of the road. He couldn’t find it in himself to care when he tripped and landed full out on every sharp stone in existence. Not even when his hand came away wet and red from his head.

The stranger rushing to his aid seemed to be more worthy of his attention. A firm warm hand grabbed his shoulder to hold him up, and from the instant of contact, the confusion that had been clouding Dean’s mind started to clear. It was like having the sunrise on his back, and he straightened up easier than he thought he could, found his balance quicker than he had any right to. A touch like magic. Odd as that thought was. Dean searched upward to find the face to go with such improbably magical hands.

These days in film, when a leading lady appeared on the screen, the camera went into a sort of fuzzy, gentle place; Dean had overheard directors and cameramen talk about it as “soft focus.” That’s what this man looked like, with distant lamplight gently illuminating his face -- like he was a man on film, surrounded by a barely visible background, with light in his eyes and skin so smooth it couldn’t be real. Like an oil painting come to life. In the dark, the blue in his eyes was barely perceptible, but it was there, and his pupils glittered. His smile was gentler and more mysterious than any of the screen sirens of the day. And as he stood, his hand still firm on Dean’s shoulder, Dean thought for a moment that the sound of cars in the distance was instead the soft hum of violins on the soundtrack. He’d dropped into a movie and found himself face to face with a leading man.

“Are you all right?” the man asked, his brows furrowing in concern. His voice was rough and low, and completely incongruous coming from that soft-focus face. “Can you stand?”

The throbbing in Dean’s head returned just in time to stop the flow of coherent thought. “I,” he said, and then “Ugh.” He reached up and found the wet spot where he was bleeding and poked at it, dully, blinking.

“I didn’t think so.” The stranger reached up to bat Dean’s hand away from his wound, then gently pressed at the tender area around it. Dean winced. “It must have been a bad night.”

“It wah--” Dean started, and cut himself off with an “Ow.” He started again. “My bruh--”

A finger across his lips. Dean fought back an urge to purse them against the intrusion. “You’re drunk and you might have a concussion,” the man said. “I should take you to the hospital.”

Dean tried to shake his head. It hurt too much, so he just frowned. “Get arrested.”

“You need a doctor.” The insistence in his voice was starting to grate in Dean’s already-throbbing head. “Come with me.”

“No doctors.” Dean shoved him away roughly. He was starting to come back to himself now, and the himself he was coming back to was ornery and disillusioned. He didn’t want some stranger coming in and taking away his pride when it was the one thing Dean felt he had left. “You hear me? I said, no doctors.” His voice rose to a shout, and the street that had been alive with the music of cars and wind now seemed distressingly empty of all other sound.

The stranger stepped back and regarded him. “All right,” he said finally. “No doctors. At least let me take you home and bandage up your head right.”

Dean peered at him. “You a doctor?”

“No.” The man almost smiled at that.

“Then what?” The situation was almost funny now.

“Come along.” The stranger slung an arm around him and pulled him along the sidewalk; Dean’s unruly feet tried their best to cooperate, but he was having trouble keeping them coordinated when the night was cold and this man’s body was so very warm in contrast. He was hauled around a corner and into the seat of an automobile. “What’s your name?”

An automobile, how long had it been since Dean had ridden in one? Since his brother had stopped inviting him along to parties, maybe. “Dean.”

“Dean.” The name sounded heavy on the stranger’s tongue. “We’ll be home shortly.”

Dean nodded, and his head lolled back. He should ask all sorts of questions. He should ask where they were going. He should ask why the man had been walking along the road in the middle of the night. He should ask his name. Instead Dean gave in to the pull of the black. He didn’t remember the rest of the ride.

The whisper of car tires on gravel woke him. The sound was different enough from the rumble of the road that Dean knew they’d reached their destination. There was another noise, a constant whispering. He opened his eyes, tried to straighten from his sprawl across the seat and the man stopped him from sliding to the floor of the car. There was a persistent throbbing in his head, drink and injury combining to make his eyesight dark around the edges. He was aware of voices, soft, trying not to disturb him. Then the car door opened, cool breeze pricking at where his shirt had ridden free from his pants. Gloved hands lifted him up and then he was being half carried, half led through an arch into a courtyard filled with greenery. Another rumble of voices and he was inside again.

The bed facing him had white sheets. Something in Dean rebelled. He was bleeding, he’d fallen, he was covering in dust from the road and dirt from his work and he wasn’t worth ruining those sheets for. He could take the floor, he’d done it often enough.

That low rumble started again and then those hands that seemed to draw the pain from his limbs and the weariness from his bones brushed over his forehead, down his neck, along his arms. He was held up while his boots were removed and he remembered the hole in his sock too late. Those hands just held his ankle still - not hard and harsh like he’d been held before, but with enough strength to let Dean know not to fight, to let him know that he was in the right hands.

Time seemed to shift again. Dean was lying back on the pillows, a wet towel wiping at his head. That noise again, an incessant hush hush hush, seemed to be telling him to let his heavy eyes close, to let himself sleep. He fought against the urge, frowning at the low chuckle.

“Knew you were made of stubborn stuff, Dean.” It was the voice from before. Dean blinked away the darkness to see the stranger, lit only by one soft lamp, holding his wrist and smiling in a lopsided way. None of his glow had gone, that focus that seemed to make him otherworldly almost. “I should have guessed you’d be iron through and through.”

“More like piss and vinegar,” Dean responded, feeling a little too laid bare for his own comfort. Beyond the man a window must have been open, judging by the way the gauzy white curtains seemed to flutter. A strong gust caught one of them and Dean had to blink his eyes to clear the sudden impression he’d got of wings rising proud from the stranger’s back. He really was delusional now. Concussion sounded right.

The towel came back, freshly damp. Dean let the gentle motion sooth his eyes shut, let himself give in to the whisper to sleep, to rest, to trust the stranger...

It was only when he shot bolt upright the next morning in the stranger’s bed that he realised what he’d been seeing. He’d been taken for a ride by none other than James Novak.

Now it all made sense -- the way he’d looked in the dim light, the feeling that Dean had dropped into some sort of movie-madness dream. He really had been with a leading man that night, and not just any leading man. The one they called the Heart of Hollywood, the one whose soulful eyes and good looks were making women of all ages quake and scream whenever they saw him onscreen. “Jimmy,” they called out to him in the newsreels sometimes, “we love Jimmy,” and here Dean was in that same Jimmy’s bed, looking out his window at the proud blue Pacific, his head wrapped in bandages that had been laid on him carefully by a movie star.

He was embarrassed to even be there.

It had to be some sort of mistake. James Novak had thought Dean was an old friend, had mistaken his face for someone else’s and by the time he knew better, he’d already extended the invitation. Or this was some sort of a fiendish plot and he’d been drugged, hallucinated the whole thing. But the way his head throbbed spoke to a good old-fashioned hangover, and Dean couldn’t figure out any other way he’d been put into this bizarre position. He was in the house of Hollywood royalty, and he didn’t belong.

Dean scrambled to his feet. His bruises protested mightily, but his pride was stung even further, and he hurried about the room, squinting to keep the sunlight from hitting his eyes too directly, and tried to gather up his things. With any luck, he could be dressed and out the door before James Novak was even awake to find him there, littering up the place like an unkempt mouse. He knelt to grab his boots from the corner and paused when he caught a glimpse of his sock.

The hole in it had been mended, painstakingly. Dean’s heart sank. He was someone’s charity case. He might have known. Humiliated, he slid his boots on and made for the door.

“Going somewhere, Dean?”

The words almost threatened, but Novak’s gaze was level, and he stood almost jauntily, head tilted and shoulder pressed against the doorframe.

He was even more gorgeous in the morning sunlight, his features softer, but his eyes and smile that much more relaxed. Crinkles formed at the corners of his eyes as he leveled a pleasant gaze at Dean. Dean wanted to stand and gape, to drink him in. He’d never been in the presence of a movie star before, this close up and intimate. Sam was one thing, but... Sam was just Sam. This was completely different.

“I was just gonna get out of your hair,” Dean said, gesturing awkwardly. “Thanks for everything, but I ought to go.”

“You ought to stay,” Novak said. “You were hurt pretty bad last night and you can’t be having a good time waking up.” His smile widened, and Dean could suddenly taste his heart in the back of his mouth. “Stay. Rest a little longer. There will be breakfast when you’re ready.”

Dean looked around for an escape, or an excuse -- something that would keep him from accepting Novak’s offer. None appeared. He gave a lame little smile and met the man’s eyes.

Novak seemed to understand Dean’s acceptance of his fate.He slipped through the doorway, leaving the door wide, and padded through to the rest of the house. Dean scrubbed his hand over his face. He looked around again, trying to regain some dignity, some bearings. Instead he took in a room that was surprisingly simple. Everything was quality, expensive, but there weren’t gold lined ashtrays or anything. It was almost austere - polished wooden floors and lots and lots of windows. The whole room seemed designed to let as much light in as possible.

Dean clambered to his feet, wincing a little as his boots clattered on the floor. Novak had been noiseless as he made his way wherever he was going and wherever Dean was following. The rest of the house seemed equally plain as Dean followed the sound of someone whistling through white walled hallways tastefully decorated with the odd painting. It didn’t exactly scream movie star. Windows lining one wall of the corridor offered glimpses into the courtyard Dean thought he’d dreamed last night. Plants spilled out of containers placed around the bases of palm trees, a veritable oasis. It looked cool and shaded out there and Dean’s aching head made him pause beside an open door and step out.

Either it had rained or Novak’s gardener had just finished up, for the first thing Dean noticed was the way the morning sun caught the droplets of water that seemed to bejewel every leaf. He was so caught up in his contemplation of green and light and the wet, damp scent of the earth that he missed Novak’s presence until the scent of fresh coffee drew his attention towards the man.

Dean waited for his heart to slow, to stop trying to pound out of his chest. He was expecting Novak to look more ordinary out here, in daylight, sober, yet the man’s long eyelashes, the way he tilted his neck looked every bit as astonishing as it did when his face was twenty feet high on a movie screen. Dean knew he was spending too long looking but Novak seemed resigned to it, holding out a second mug towards Dean, steam drifting lazily into the warming air. Dean had to shift closer to take the mug, glancing down to see Novak’s feet were bare (which explained the noiselessness) and coated in dirt.

“You must have a really great gardener,” Dean blurted out, in excuse and explanation.

Novak shrugged. “My chauffeur waters the plants when I am unavailable.” His voice still sounded like gravel mixed with coal, rough and dark. Dean leaned forward to hear more, before realising that Novak must be responsible for the garden by himself. He snorted when he thought of Sam looking after anything like that. The only thing Sam had learned to take care of was himself. Dean supposed that was what happened when other people had spent their whole lives looking after you, taking you out west to look after you when your father died, supporting you through those early auditions...

Novak was watching him in a way that Dean thought should make him uncomfortable,but felt non-judgmental instead. He was merely getting to know Dean, trying to understand him. Dean shrugged. “It’s nice.” It was all he could think to say for all that it was completely inadequate. The small bit of praise brought a shy smile to Novak’s face, though, as if he was pleased for his plants.

They re-entered the house through a door that led straight into an airy kitchen, French windows open to the ocean on the far side, a veranda set with a table, chairs and a sun lounger jutting out in the sand. There was no one actually on the beach outside, bar a few gulls bobbing up and down on the gentle swells. Novak led the way through the room, stepping out and putting his mug on the table. He drew out a chair and looked expectantly at Dean. Dean scrabbled to get into the seat, feeling inadequate at the welcome. He’d be ashamed to have Novak return to his own cramped apartment, shoebox living at its best.

Dean sipped his coffee and tried not to startle when Novak showed up with a plate of eggs and toast for them both. The silence between them made Dean twitch nervously.

“So do I call you Jimmy since I slept in your bed and all? Or is it Mr. Novak?” Dean tried to cover his nerves with a mocking edge. He was sure that Novak didn’t quite fall for it.

“James Novak is my screen name, if you will.” Novak patted at his lips with a cloth napkin before carrying on. “My nom de guerre. I prefer Castiel.”

“Cas-ti-what?” Dean blurted out, sand shifting under him once more.

“Castiel.” The man in front of him drew out the word slowly, each syllable lingering in the air in front of them. “The studio said they ‘liked the looks but hated the name’.” Castiel drew air quotes around the statement, the twist in his mouth betraying his distaste. “Too foreign, they said.”

Dean nodded. Maybe that was where the new C in his brother’s name had come from too. He applied himself to his eggs, feeling a bit of a fool. Every presumption he’d made about Novak — Castiel. He liked Castiel better. It seemed to contain more of the essence of the man, something mildly otherworldly and strange — was turning out to be wrong. Dean wasn’t used to that. He could normally judge a person with one glance, feel out their history, their story. What they wanted from him. He had no idea whether Castiel wanted anything from him, not even his thanks.

He dug his boots into the sand. Around them, the particles shifted, falling into a groove, and he wished he had bare feet, if just to feel the texture of it all, to bury his toes as though he could grow roots in the earth. With the sea blowing salty air toward his face, and the sun on his back, he felt detached from reality in this place. He wanted to ground himself.

Castiel was gazing at him, almost unblinkingly, his chin lightly propped on his hand. “You look uncomfortable,” he said. “Do you need some aspirin?”

Dean realized his brows were pulled into a knot. He hastily relaxed them. “No, I’m good.” He stole a glance at Castiel -- blue eyes, pursed lips, even features all hitting him in a flood -- and averted his gaze again, staring into the sand. “Nervous, but good.”

“Nervous?” He could practically hear Castiel’s head tilt. “Why?”

Dean frowned. “That’s my question.”


“Why are you doing this? Why not just let me get out of your hair? I don’t belong here, in some movie-star mansion. I’m a freaking janitor. You ought to kick me out before I bring down your property values, for Christ’s sake.” His jaw snapped shut.

Castiel regarded him silently for a long time, long enough to make Dean wriggle like an insect under a microscope. He felt more out of place now than before he’d opened his trap. Now Castiel knew he knew his place, so what the hell was he still doing here?

“What?” he finally said.

“You think you don’t deserve to be here?” Castiel spoke slowly, methodically, as though he were just figuring out the words he was saying. “Why?”

Anger flared up in Dean, red-hot and uncomfortable. “What do you mean, why? You’re Jimmy freaking Novak. I’m nobody.”

“You’re my company at the end of a long day,” Castiel said. “To me, that’s everything.”

All words fled, and there had been a bunch of them, bitter ugly words that would have spit themselves from Dean’s mouth without hesitation. He found himself staring at Castiel. This strange, beautiful man, with a house on the beach and a chauffeur and millions of adoring fans, said without skipping a beat that Dean was worth everything. Just for being there, just for being company. Hangover and all.

Then his mind percolated around the words one more time and found something odder even than that sentiment. “Wait a sec,” he said. “Did you just say... the end of a long day? As in, now is...?”

Castiel smiled briefly, and he ran a finger around the edge of his mug. “I’ve been at the studio since three a.m.,” he said. “I was late, because I stopped home to take care of you, but after you lost consciousness, I went to work.”

“Uh-huh.” Dean stole a glance at the sky. The sun was climbing high overhead, but the house cast a shadow over the sand. It was late morning, but it was still morning. “So what, you found me keeled over on your way to the office?”

“My driver dropped me off downtown. I prefer to walk part of the way. It wakes me up.” Castiel said it all so calmly and with such little intonation that if Dean didn’t know he was a good actor, he might be convinced it was a line, scripted and spoken without expression. Either that, or he was ashamed to be saying it at all. But that didn’t make any sense.

Then again, none of this made any sense, but dreamlike, the reality persisted -- a breakfast that was a dinner, in a morning that was an evening, Dean and a man who looked ever less like a movie star and ever more like another simple, lonely man as Dean stared at him. “So that’s how the other half lives, huh?” he said, picking up a crust of toasted bread from his plate and chomping on it. “Up at midnight, to bed at dawn?”

“Today was merciful,” Castiel said. “I shot five scenes and was done for the day. It’s very tedious.” He said it, again, without an inch of bravado or sarcasm, and Dean found that he believed him. His job was boring too, and it’d be boring even if it won him awards and fame and fortune. Who said every actor had to love what he did? It was nearly a relief to think that the celestial creature known as a movie star could find his job just as full of drudgery as the average janitor.

He nodded. “So’s mine,” he returned with a short laugh. Castiel answered his smile, and their eyes caught for a moment of simple connection in the morning sunshine.

The silence that resumed was easier to bear and Dean set to his food with a vengeance. The ache in his head drifted from the persistent throbbing of hangover dehydration to something dull. He’d bashed his head hard when he’d tripped and, when he lifted his head quickly to check Castiel was still there, his vision swam for a moment.

Castiel seemed aware of Dean’s problems, letting a hand drop to Dean’s shoulder to steady him, long fingers curling around to the back of his neck, fingertips brushing his hair line for a moment before trailing down his arm. An ugly thought - that Castiel only brought him here to feel him up - shot through Dean’s brain. He’d become a little too adept at dodging passes from stars convinced a janitor would be rough and eager for it. But Castiel only let his hand linger long enough to set Dean upright. Then Castiel stood and gathered his plate and mug, drifting back through to the kitchen without another word. Dean took another bite of his eggs, though they were nearing that cold rubbery state that turned his stomach.

Castiel came back with the coffee pot, filled Dean’s mug fresh, dropped a couple of small white pills on the table and headed back into the house. His bare feet hardly made any sound on the deck.

Dean’s thoughts couldn’t settle after that. He cleaned his plate, drank the coffee, swallowed the pills and watched the waves roll up the sand. The sun was starting to get a little too much for his comfort when Castiel came back. He’d lost the suit, now, wearing blue pyjamas. Not silk, not monogrammed. Just plain pyjamas that made his eyes startle Dean all over again.

“I’m going to bed.” Dean couldn’t make out the tone of his voice. Castiel spoke so evenly that anger or lust or disappointment was completely obscured. “You can stay or Chuck can take you home. There is a telephone to call your work if you want to. And food in the ice box.” Castiel didn’t wait for a response. Instead he turned to head into the house. That made Dean mad enough to speak, finally.

“So you trust me in your house?” Dean knew he sounded a little pathetic.

Castiel had one hand on the door frame and he turned to look over his shoulder in an unconscious echo of one of his movie star shots. “Why wouldn’t I?”

Those eyes seemed to look right into Dean. “Which bed are you in?” That got a reaction. Castiel’s shoulders hunched, pulled tight. Dean panicked, thoughts racing, before he worked out how to explain. “I don’t want to disturb you, wake you up.”

The stiffness eased in Castiel’s body. “So you’ll stay?”

Dean nodded, coughed around the lump in his throat. “Yeah.” It was hoarse, but he choked it out and watched Castiel for as long as he remained in sight. The thin pyjama material clung to broad shoulders, a narrow waist Dean could fit his hands around, a tight, round ass that was straight out of his dreams. Lean thighs were hinted at. It had been a while since Dean had looked so clearly at another man. He scrubbed his hands through his hair and cursed silently.

He started his ‘say thank you to Castiel for taking care of me’ mission by washing the dishes in the sink, careful to not let the cutlery bash off the metal. Dean had to open a million cupboards and drawers before finding the right place to put them away. Then he took off his boots and padded around, exploring. In the noontime hush, with bright sunlight streaming in all the windows, Dean had the feeling of being a thief, stealing away a moment of luxury in a landscape he might never see again. He grinned as he moved through ivory doorways, slid across burnished wooden floors and into the path of lazy sunbeams. It was the same feeling he had when he swept out studio sets. He wasn’t the type to start dancing with his broom, but Dean did sometimes look into the imaginary cameras and pretend, just for a moment, that he was someone else.

From the hallway he crept into a small library, the most ornate of all the rooms he’d seen so far. An elaborate rug drew patterns of paisley and floral beneath his feet, and a leather chair provided a solitary place to sit and read, or view movies on the projector mounted just behind it on the wall. Dean sat down there briefly and imagined he was a rich mountebank, chomping a cigar and calling for another glass of wine as he reviewed his own greatest hits on newsreels or film.

But thinking of Castiel sitting here saddened him for a reason he couldn’t define. Curious, Dean sneaked back to review the films that were meticulously labeled along a low shelf below the projector. He saw a number of the great pictures of the day, along with some of the silents from the past decade, but there was a tremendous gap in his benefactor’s collection: None of the movies there featured one James Novak.

That didn’t make a whole lot of sense to Dean. Sam, he knew, had all his old films - he kept the reels even before he’d made enough to afford a projector. It just seemed to Dean that that’s what you’d do if you were a big movie star. And if you looked the way Castiel looked, why wouldn’t you want to see yourself all done up and lit beautifully? But maybe he was wrong. Maybe Castiel kept his own films in a secret vault. Safer that way.

Or maybe the world wasn’t at all the way Dean figured it was. He was getting that feeling now, increasingly, and he wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Exiting the library, Dean wandered a little further along the hall and stopped in front of one of the broad windows. The courtyard outside was lush and green, like a jungle had sprung up in the arid California climate, but well-manicured, too -- each leaf and blossom had its place, and all of them reached up toward the sun in unison, like a hundred Hollywood hopefuls.

So what kind of a guy let this garden grow and wandered through it barefoot? What kind of guy woke at midnight and went to work with a borrowed name, then came home to sleep as the sun was rising? And what was Dean, that this kind of man would upset his own meticulous schedule to help him out, then beg him to stay even after Castiel had gone to bed?

The puzzle was maddening, and Dean frowned out at the sun-drenched plants. He knew that once he left this house he’d likely never come back. He might never have the chance to solve that mystery if he didn’t solve it now. So in spite of the low voice in his head that said This is a terrible idea, Dean turned and shuffled carefully toward the door at the end of the hallway.

The door whined slightly as Dean pushed it open; for a moment he was afraid it would wake Castiel, but after the first few inches it fell silent again and Dean was able to enter quietly. The light in the room filled his eyes. He wondered how anyone could sleep like this, with the breeze coming in from the beach and the white curtains amplifying every ray of sunlight until the room was almost blindingly bright. And then his eyes fell to Castiel.

Dark hair on a white pillow glittered as though metallic. Tousled, it lay matted against his forehead in some places, spiking into the air in others. But his face was slack, and pale as the bedsheets, save slightly pursed lips that blushed pink against his white face. His eyelashes, dark and thick, fluttered on his cheeks.

The soft blue pajamas he wore hung loosely from his shoulders, and his hand was bunched in the comforter like a child might clutch at a stuffed animal. In his sleep, he snuffled briefly, licked his lips and then fell still again, the pajamas parting to offer a glimpse of his collarbone and chest. Dean held his breath. He looked innocent, buried in the mountains of sheets and comforters and pillows, as though he might be lost within them. Dean felt an urge to reach in and pull him out before he was buried.

His body buzzed with the tantalizing idea of contact. Of sliding into that bed and pressing his body to Castiel’s, holding him close, arms around his waist, breathing in the scent of his skin. A lurch of want burned through him. Dean eased the door closed, his hand shaking. He started to lean against it, sliding down until he was sitting, back against the door and head clasped in the hands balanced on his knees. The quiet of the house made its way into his breathing, into the thundering of his heart. The sounds faded into the background again where they belonged. The omnipresent sweep of the ocean seemed to draw the sudden panic from his body until Dean was nearly tranquil once more.

He knew. Of course he knew. He’d known since he was a boy that sometimes a man, a youth would draw his attention in a way that would result in a furtive, sweaty and altogether too shameful session locked in the bathroom on his own. He’d received looks of his own that he wondered were reciprocal invitations, been bought drinks where men’s eyes lingered on his lips for too long. He’d let an older man kiss him, press up against him once, on the way out west. He’d taken the money the man offered and hidden the source from Sam, and used it to feed them without dipping into their reserves for a week after they’d hit Los Angeles. He’d turned down other offers from men used to those doing their will without thought.

It had never felt like this. Never felt so real, so wanted. He cursed his imagination as it provided vivid images of bodies twisting together, his back arching, lips, teeth, tongue. Dean waited for his heartbeat to return to normal once more, ignoring the other tug of possibility, of him and Cas sat on the veranda, looking at the sun rising over the ocean, together alone and perfect and untouchable. Dean crept back down the hallway, slowly, carefully, dreading waking Castiel and being caught watching. In the end, he returned to the kitchen, found a newspaper lying on a counter and sat outside to read, letting the warmth of the sun and the quiet lead him into a soft doze.

Hunger woke Dean. He sat up, grabbing at the newspaper falling from his lap. He had no idea how much time had passed but it was enough to make his skin feel tight with too much sun and his throat parched. His stomach growled as he pushed himself up from his seat. “Alright, alright.”

The door into the house was open as he’d left it but there was a new person in the kitchen. Not a stranger to the place either, by the way she moved deftly around the space, opening cupboards and pulling out ingredients and utensils. Dean didn’t want to invade her kingdom but he coughed slightly and knocked at the door.

“Mr Novak said he had a guest,” the woman told him. “I’m Marta. I do for him and I guess I’ll be doing for you while I’m here.”

Dean nodded stiffly. He didn't know what that meant, doing for Castiel, but he had a hunch it was fairly benign. Nothing like someone might offer to do for Sam, or any of the other stars who strutted through town like they owned the world.

He nodded as though he understood. "Yeah, sure." Shaking the sleep from his eyes, he came to sit at the table and watch Marta bustle around the kitchen, humming to herself. "Hey, uh... Marta, was it?"

She turned, her smile pleasant. "Yes, sir?"

"Can you tell me about him?" The name "Castiel" was seared into his brain, but that's not how she referred to him. "Mr... Novak? What kind of a guy is he? A good man? Not--" He gestured vaguely with his hand. "Wild and crazy?"

Amusement pinked her cheeks. "No, not crazy. Mr. Novak is.... quiet. He keeps to himself, he likes to read." She paused a moment, likely weighing the words on her tongue. "I think he is," she added carefully, "lonely."

Dean nodded. "Yeah, I know that feeling." He sat back again in the chair, pondering what he'd heard. It seemed like his assessment of Castiel was on the money. And his heart was throbbing, as though it had grown too large for his ribcage, with the knowledge that Castiel was lonely, perhaps as lonely as he was. He knew well the longing to be with another human being but no knowledge of how to start. What a gift a fainting man in need of care might seem to someone who was desperate for a companion. Dean was starting to be almost glad he'd ended up planted on that sidewalk, lingering pain in his head notwithstanding.

The sun flashed a bright spot across his vision, tinting the world red. Dean drew in a sharp breath. "Marta, what time is it?"

She tiptoed to the doorway to peek at a clock in the other room. "Is six o'clock."

Dean stood abruptly. "I'm gonna be late for work." He looked around briefly and bit his lip. "Do you think that guy, uh, Chuck, could give me a ride into town? Frankly, I have no clue where we are. I was half-out when I got here last night." Marta squinted as she watched him, and Dean could tell she was picking up on about half his words. He turned to her and said, slowly and loudly as though she were deaf. "Chuck. Driver. Where's Chuck?"

"He'll be out front if you need him," said a low voice. "Are you leaving, Dean?"

Dean turned. "Hey, Cas..." The name disappeared on his lips. Castiel stood with a robe pulled loosely over his pajamas; his face was pink from being pressed into pillows so long, but his eyes were bright with restfulness. He looked more alive than Dean had yet seen him, and there was a sharpness, a purpose to his gaze that stole Dean's breath away.

Dean ambled forward, trying to appear put-together. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yes. It was comforting knowing someone was in the house with me."

Dean frowned. "You got someone here. You got Marta here."

"Marta is different."

Castiel stepped forward. All at once he was uncomfortably close, and Marta was humming in the background. The whole situation was feeling somewhere between embarrassing and claustrophobic. Dean retreated. "Look, I'm grateful for your hospitality and all. I got work. Supposed to start at six, though I'm gonna be late. Do you mind if I borrow your driver? I got no idea where we are and..."

"Dean." One syllable and Dean was silenced. "Come outside with me."

Saying no wasn't an option. Dean took a breath and followed Castiel out to the deck overlooking the beach. Behind them, Marta's hums faded away as she headed into another room. The solitude settled over Dean like a weight, and he felt infinitely small, dwarfed by waves and sunset, by a beautiful house and stunning blue eyes.

"May I ask you a favor?" Castiel said. He licked his lips. "And before I do, please know that I will understand if you refuse."

In the orange light he looked otherworldly, like he'd been painted with oils. Dean swallowed and nodded.

"How long do you work?"

Dean thought about it. "'Bout five or six hours. I take out the trash, sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, turn everything off--"

"So you are finished around midnight?"

"Uh, yeah. Yeah." Dean wanted to ask why, but he couldn't seem to get the frog out of his throat no matter how many times he cleared it.

Castiel leaned forward and laid a hand on his forearm. Lightly, but the contact sent a conduit of warmth up through Dean's arm and into his cheeks. "If I were to send Chuck out to pick you up afterward," he said, "would you come back?"

Dean sucked in a breath. The heat in his face was turning his vision cloudy.

"Is there someone who might be waiting for you?" Castiel went on. "A wife? Or girlfriend?"

Dean shook his head. "No. There's my brother, but he doesn't care."

He winced as he said it, and he could feel Castiel taking in the motion, analyzing and trying to understand it. He forced himself to meet Castiel's eyes and found compassion there, warmth that calmed the pain like a salve. Castiel went on carefully. "Listen, Dean. I don't know you very well, and I don't think that you know much about me--" He paused, looked down at his feet, and shuffled forward a step. His hand fell from Dean's arm to his wrist, then his hand, cupping Dean's fingers gently in his own. "But I feel as though there is a reason I met you when I did. A reason your presence--" A smile darted across his face, and Dean could see a flicker of nervousness as his features jumped. "--is so comforting to me. And I would like to learn about you..."

He was struggling to find the words, this Hollywood man whose name was up in lights across the country, and Dean wanted more than anything to help him. He curled his hand under Castiel's so their fingers intertwined and took a breath deep into his lungs.

"Cas," he said hoarsely. "I'm gonna ask you a favor now, and if you don't want to, you can say no, too."

Castiel nodded.

They were so close now the sunset was sending rays of gold and red through the slit between their bodies; the light reflected off the French doors and illuminated Castiel in burning hues. He was almost too bright to look at, and Dean's eyelids fell to half-mast. He couldn't find the words to ask a question, but his free hand was moving up, up, and falling onto Castiel's face, guiding him closer. Maybe there really wasn't a question Dean wanted to ask after all.

Their lips touched briefly. Sunbeams and waves and hearts all paused in their beating. There was only the kiss.

When the next wave crashed onto the shore, when Dean heard the next pound of his heart in his ears, they were staring at each other in wonder.

"I have to go to work," Dean managed to say.

"Will you come back?" Castiel's voice was thick with want.

Dean nodded, trying to swallow the lump in his throat. Desire he could deal with, could understand.

“And then you will tell me all about you and your brother and your job.” Castiel’s fingers danced up Dean’s arm, throwing his thoughts into confusion. He could only nod again, unable to look away from Castiel’s eyes.

“I’ll come back.”

In some ways Dean wasn’t sure how he even managed to get through his hours. The crew were still filming when he arrived, the wound on his head purpling beautifully. Dean threw on his overalls, grabbed his broom and hid until they were finished. He lost himself in the shadows against the concrete wall, and watched the lights, make-up and costume that magiced actors into the stars their public demanded. Even with all the gloss and the directions to stand and look just so, Dean privately thought they couldn’t hold a candle to Castiel, standing on the beach with the breeze ruffling his sleep tousled hair.

Switching off the lights and hearing the click echo ominously through the cavernous space, Dean let the thought that had been plaguing him finally make itself clear. When he stepped outside the studio gates, would there be a car waiting for him or would there be an empty space like he expected? Castiel wouldn’t want someone like Dean Winchester messing up his neat orderly house and his insane routine. He would have second thoughts about the man he’d kissed. The one he’d had to pick up off the roadside and look after.

Dean lingered in the darkness before shrugging on his coat and hat. He needed to get home.

He turned onto his usual path home, only to be stopped short by a shout. “Mr Winchester!” Dean looked around expecting to see Sam coming out of the gate or something, but instead there was a black car, polished chrome shining in the streetlights, and a worried looking chauffeur standing beside an open door.

Dean hesitated, but he was a man of his word. If Castiel wanted him back, he’d go. He shook the chauffeur’s hand. “Dean. Just- I’m just Dean.”

Castiel had music playing when Dean wandered into the courtyard. Lights he’d not noticed the day before cast a soft glow over the plants, making shadows dance in the light breeze. Dean followed the music - soft piano - through to the bedroom. Castiel was reading, or at least, he was holding a book in front of him. He mainly seemed to be listening to the music and watching the moon on the water. Few lamps were lit, only one behind Castiel and one by the bedside. Dean felt like he was intruding on the moment, so he stopped, watched and waited.

Castiel let out a sigh then shifted in his chair. His expression was sad, a little lost. Dean knocked at the open door, bringing Castiel’s attention to him. “Hey.”

“Dean-” Castiel’s face shifted from sad through too many emotions to count before settling on a soft half smile. “I didn’t...”

“Yeah. I was late finishing. Then I had Chuck drop me past my place. Thought I’d better grab a clean shirt.” Dean coughed, shifted his feet. “I mean. I didn’t want to be... dirty.” Dean’s confidence deserted him.

“It was warm today,” Castiel observed solemnly.

“It’s always warm,” Dean pointed out, happy for the change in topic.

“Would you-” Castiel stood up, interrupting whatever he had been about to say. Then he started unbuttoning his loose shirt, hands trembling almost imperceptibly. “I’m going to bathe. Would you like to?”

Dean closed the door behind him, crossing the floor to Castiel in as few steps as he could without seeming to be running. He caught Castiel’s hands in his, leaning across the inches between them to place a kiss on Castiel’s mouth. The gentle peck he’d intended deepened when Castiel held tight and kissed back, opening his mouth and letting Dean’s tongue have access, swiping across Castiel’s own tongue. Dean groaned as he pulled back, still holding tight to Castiel’s hands.

“Yes.” Dean noticed the glazed look in Castiel’s eyes, the heat they contained. “Yes.”

“This way.” There was a stutter teetering on the edge of the words, a dim hint at some anxiety behind Castiel’s implacable facade, but his voice held steady once he’d found it.Stepping backward through a side door, Castiel guided him into a tile-lined corridor. Steam filled the air as they walked, and Dean began to realize that Castiel had been waiting for him. He’d filled his bathtub or run his shower and waited.

It would have been presumptuous, would have angered Dean for being thought of as a sure thing. But there was so much hope in Castiel’s eyes mixed with the desire Dean saw there, and Dean couldn’t help but think Castiel must have known the chance he was taking. He must have made a leap of faith, and Dean was flattered to be the one Castiel gambled on.

He was making a hell of a gamble himself, too.

The tub caught his notice, brimming full and glistening, and a bead of sweat trickled down Dean’s brow and stung the corner of his eye. Heat from the day, heat from the tub, and now Dean was struck with the heat of knowledge... he would be in there, with Castiel, nothing between them, nothing but their bodies and steam and water together. Excitement roiled his blood.

His eyes darted up to catch Castiel’s again. The blueness swallowed him and he was gone. He teetered forward, clasped Castiel in his arms and kissed him. Their mouths fit together perfectly, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle snapping into place - the angle hit and everything was just right. Dean’s eyes closed, and he inhaled steam and Castiel’s breath, pushed in ever closer and very nearly sent them toppling into the tub still clothed. Castiel’s mouth was like a whirlpool. Dean just wanted to delve in deeper and deeper. His hands slid down Castiel’s half-unbuttoned shirt, found the remaining buttons and slid them loose one by one. Castiel made a low noise in his throat and shifted his shoulders back, and the shirt fell limp to the floor.

Skin assaulted Dean’s fingers, warm beneath his touch, and Dean flattened his palms against it, groaning into Castiel’s mouth as he mapped each muscle. Castiel’s tongue relaxed, flattened in his mouth, and he gave delirious little sounds as Dean explored, then clasped him close so he could feel the heat of Castiel’s bare chest against his clothed one. The sounds sent honey-sweet bolts of heat down to his toes and up his spine.

It was inevitable that he explored Castiel’s mouth with his own again, Dean tasting the salt of sweat on Castiel’s skin. He licked it away, let his tongue sweep around Castiel’s mouth before trailing soft open mouthed kisses down his neck, sucking the sweat soaked skin into his mouth, biting down gently at the junction of Castiel’s shoulder and licking away the hurt. He could become addicted to the noises Castiel made, the way he tasted. Dean hauled Castiel as close as he could to kiss him again, feeling a wild freedom rising up within him.

Castiel seemed equally eager, parting his lips, luxuriating in every touch of Dean’s mouth. His hands scrabbled at Dean’s shirt and Dean couldn’t deny him any more, pulling his shirt up without undoing the buttons. He’d lost one or two but he could beg a needle and thread in the morning. Right now he had to feel Castiel’s skin against his sweat slicked body. Fever overtook him, as Castiel’s hands searched out the spots that made Dean writhe involuntarily. It was almost a shock to feel Castiel’s hands at his belt and the cooler air against his legs. Dean kicked out of his pants and shoved his underwear to the floor. There was no time to worry about being naked in front of Castiel, who pushed his own slacks to the floor and wrapped his arms around Dean’s neck once more, hard cock a hot line against Dean’s hip.

Dean bore them to the floor, laying Castiel back against the soft towel beside the bathtub. Dean knew he should wait, build up anticipation for what they both wanted. But all the worry and frustrations of the hours at work, clearing up after people happy to ignore him, gnawing over his concerns about Castiel, seemed to be burned away with the pure white heat of want. Desire overrode all his conscious thoughts and Dean let his body pulse against Castiel’s, first sweat and then his own fluids slicking the way. Castiel arched up off the floor, hands pulling Dean close, tight, hard, fingertips brushing against the crease of his ass. Sensation overwhelmed him and Dean cried out, spilling between them. Castiel rode against him hard, lips bruising hard against Dean’s mouth as he sought his own completion.

Their wild rutting ended with them breathing into each other’s mouths, sticky and complete. Dean brought a hand, trembling, up to brush the loose sweat soaked hair from Castiel’s forehead, smiling at the way Castiel ducked free before allowing Dean to pull him close for another kiss, this time gentle and soft.

“Thought about you all night long,” Dean said.

“As did I.” Castiel’s fingers twined through his hair. “Thank you for coming back, Dean. I worried.”

Dean silenced him with a press of lips. “You shouldn’t have,” he murmured. “I told you I’d come back.”

“You are a man of your word.” Castiel sounded vaguely impressed. He trailed his fingers down Dean’s arm. “Good to know.”

“And you...” Dean pressed their bodies together and laughed as they very nearly stuck fast. “You need a bath.”

“I do.” Castiel’s smile was rueful. The lights of the bathroom illuminated his cheeks, and he looked almost like a child.

“Lucky thing,” Dean blustered, “I happen to have one right here.” They both laughed. Dean rose and helped Castiel up with an outstretched hand. They slid into the water together, supporting each other to make sure they didn’t fall. Castiel hooked his legs around Dean’s waist, drawing him forward.

The heat overwhelmed Dean, and he pressed his face to the cool tile at the rim of the tub, panting. “So hot!”

Castiel reached over and held his hand loosely. “You’ll get used to it.”

“My back itches. Oh, God.” Dean wriggled like he’d been electrocuted, but after a moment he abruptly went still. His head tipped back and he closed his eyes. “All right, I’ll admit this is nice.”

“Do you get a sore back?” Castiel asked. “From the work you do?”

Dean nodded and groaned. Even so, the hot water was seeping into the base of his spine, loosening tired muscles and easing the stress on every bone in his back. He was being lifted, buoyed back into place after years of gravity weighing him down into a heap.

And then there was Castiel, too, his hands reaching up around Dean’s neck to knead at Dean’s shoulders. He had rocked forward in the tub, near enough in Dean’s lap, and as his fingers worked the knots from Dean’s muscles he sought out Dean’s mouth in a leisurely kiss. Liquid against his mouth, liquid all around him. Dean was being melted all over.

He wanted to reciprocate, but beneath Castiel’s hands he couldn’t find the strength to raise his own arms. His hands alit on Castiel’s knees instead, and, leaning into the kiss, he ran his palms up the thick columns of Castiel’s thighs.Castiel shivered slightly, smiled and moaned into the kiss. His hands went slack on Dean’s shoulders, and Dean took the opportunity to pull Castiel onto his lap. Winding his arms around Castiel’s waist, kissing his neck, Dean murmured, “Tell me all about you, Cas. Where’d that name come from? Where did you come from?”

Castiel pulled back and Dean let slip a disappointed moan at the loss of his hands.

“Why do you call me Cas?” Castiel’s expression had slipped into unreadable neutrality, a face for the press photographers.

Dean let the water slop around his neck as he lay back, shrugging. “Castiel’s a little long.” That wasn’t entirely it. He wanted something that was him and Castiel’s alone, an intimacy. “I’ve always given people nicknames. People I... People I care about, anyway.” Dean hid his eyes from Castiel at the last, running his hand along the slick white enamel rim of the bath.

Castiel didn’t respond in words. Instead he pushed himself up until he stood in the bathtub, water sluicing down his body. Dean couldn’t stop watching the trails of water, the way Castiel’s skin shone in the soft light. He wanted to taste that skin again, follow the trails of water with his tongue, circle the pink nipples, trace a path from freckle to mole to perfect imperfection that told him Castiel was real and not a perfect cold image on a screen.

A smile crossed Castiel’s face as he stepped out onto the towels, drawing another clean towel around his body. It was as big as some of the blankets Dean owned, or so he reckoned, as Castiel buried his body in its folds.

“I like it.” The words were soft but firm. Castiel met Dean’s startled gaze. “Cas. I like it. My family always insisted on Castiel. My brothers had equally long names. Balthazar. Gabriel. When I was young, I would shorten them. Baltie. Gabe. But I was reminded not to until that affectation was long forgotten.” Discomfort was apparent in Castiel’s recollection. Dean stood, satisfied with the way Castiel watched his body rise from the water like some nymph. He even held out his hand to help Dean step over the high side and down to the tiled floor. Dean didn’t wait for a towel, crowding against Castiel’s body and kissing him deeply.

“Cas. A new name for the start of something new.” Dean smiled at the sudden darkening of Castiel’s eyes. They’d waited long enough.

They kissed again, for another minute, long and wet, tongues stroking each other leisurely. Dean had the feeling he was memorizing Castiel’s mouth, the dark wet corners of it and the sharp jut of his teeth, for those endless seconds when he wouldn’t be able to just reach out and taste it. There was the sense of time sliding inevitably by, even though it was very early on a Saturday morning, with a whole weekend left to explore and discover each other. This too would end. The knowledge burned deep in the back of Dean’s head even as he took his time.

Castiel stepped back, his mouth staying pursed as though yearning for the kiss it had just left. He took Dean’s hand and led him back through the tiled hall into the bedroom. Even in darkness, the white of the sheets and curtains gave the room a sense of unearthly light. In the midst of it, Castiel’s body seemed to glow, droplets of water still clinging to his skin and projecting tiny halos all around him. Castiel backed up to the edge of the bed and held out both hands, palms upward, beckoning.

Dean swallowed hard. He was brutally aware of his own nakedness, of the erection fiercely hot at the core of his body. He almost didn’t belong here, all earth to the light and air that Castiel exuded. Too dirty, too low and solid for this creature. But Castiel’s eyes pleaded with him, and he couldn’t leave them unanswered.

He moved into Castiel’s arms, and when their hips came together, a pair of brackets sliding into alignment, he gave a sharp gasp. Castiel’s lips twitched upward, and he kissed Dean through the smile, the rumble of a low chuckle vibrating into Dean’s mouth. The feeling of it drew a shiver from the base of Dean’s spine. Oh, God, but Castiel was smooth, and strong, and warm. The bathtub’s heat had turned him into a furnace, and Dean wanted nothing more than to stretch his own flushed body against it, to be between the cool sheets and Castiel’s warmth. He groaned, loud, into Castiel’s eager mouth and in a burst of strength turned them both and collapsed down onto the bed, pulling Castiel on top of him.

Surprise widened Castiel’s eyes and he broke into the widest smile Dean had yet seen from him as he found himself atop Dean on the bed. But as quick as it appeared, the smile was gone, and Castiel was on his hands and knees, pressing himself carefully against Dean in the most tantalizing tease-dance Dean had ever witnessed. One moment Castiel was hot and steady above his body, the next he was crawling over him, deigning to nuzzle at Dean’s elbow, the flat of his stomach,. One minute Castiel’s thigh rode between Dean’s, teasing as his balls were hefted against the gentle weight; the next minute, nothing. Dean’s throat was dry. He could barely swallow. Anticipation was roiling every nerve in his body, and he didn’t even know what he was waiting for, besides more.

He pushed the word out. “More. God, Cas, I need more of you.”

Castiel pressed a hand against his forehead and eased it back into Dean’s damp hair. “Dean,” he said, and there was a promise in the name. Dean closed his eyes and moaned.

The weight of Castiel’s body vanished for a moment before a small jar dropped onto the centre of Dean’s chest. Dean opened one eye to look at it speculatively. Castiel seemed to be waiting for Dean to make a decision again, kneeling up and stripping his own cock slowly. Dean’s mouth watered at the sight of Cas’ cock slipping in and out of the tunnel of his fist. He stretched his legs apart, knowing he looked wanton, needy, and not giving two hoots.

“C’mon, Cas. Show me... Show me what it’s like.” Dean brought his arms up above his head, on display for Castiel. Castiel’s calm composure was wavering, eyes unable to settle anywhere, dancing, caressing, Dean’s body up and down. Dean noted gleefully that Castiel seemed less certain now, trembling slightly. Castiel dipped down to kiss him again, body sweat-slick and damp against him. It was enough to make Dean let loose a low moan. He wasn’t usually vocal in bed, but something here made him want to scream and shout and yell Castiel’s name until it echoed out over the ocean.

Cas took his time then, biting his way down Dean’s neck, rolling a nipple between his lips before finally reaching Dean’s aching cock. When Castiel opened his mouth around his dick, Dean was torn between leaning back and revelling in that hot moist heat and leaning up to see the way Cas’ cheeks hollowed around him. In the end, he had no choice but to arch up and yell, head tossed back on the pillow as Castiel’s long, clever fingers stroked down, down, down and circled slowly around his hole.

Touch upon touch, each small movement of Castiel’s fingers and mouth seemed magnified until they quite overwhelmed Dean. He had nearly lost control of himself, grabbing at the wrought-iron bedstead to hold himself still and to stop him driving into Castiel’s mouth and pushing back against those persistent teasing fingers. Dean groaned, low, animal. He didn’t recognise the sound as coming from himself. It was too much, the sensation, the way every nerve was afire. He didn’t believe he could take any more. That, naturally, was when Castiel chose to breach him.

The feeling was hard to describe. Odd. Strange. New. Tight. Full. Dean wriggled his hips as Castiel moved his hand in concert with his still bobbing head. The brush of fingertips inside his most intimate of place made Dean near blush to think of what was happening but the way he lit up with pleasure at the stretch and the pull made him desperate to feel more. To take more. Castiel seemed to understand Dean’s bitten off cries, slipping another finger in. Dean was surprised at the intensity of the slow burn that usually signalled his orgasm.

“Cas- Stop. Cas.” He couldn’t seem to string the words together more skilfully than that. Immediately, Castiel withdrew, sitting up and looking at Dean in concern. “No, no.” Dean had to steady his breathing, close his eyes and retrain his thoughts. “I want you. I want to come with you...” Dean was too embarrassed to outright beg for it still.

“You want me in you, Dean? You want me to fuck you.” The coarse words in Cas’ gravelling tones made Dean’s hips jerk, electricity running down his spine. “Is that what you want?”

Dean smashed his mouth against Cas’, tasting the salt of himself on Castiel’s lips. It made him groan, writhe upwards to find some contact, some pressure. Castiel held back though. “Ask me, Dean.”

“Yes, yes. I want you to...” Dean had to take a shuddering breath. “Fuck me, Cas.” It was quieter than he’d probably be happy to admit. Softer. Dean felt a pressure in his chest and the words spilled out almost unbidden. “Make love to me.”

Castiel kissed him again, pressing until Dean was back against the sheets. A careful hand cupped his jaw, stroked down his rapidly rising and falling chest and came to lift Dean’s leg up. Dean hooked his foot over Cas’ hip and waited, patiently, for Castiel to slick up his own cock. He was trembling, simultaneously terrified and elated. It only got worse when Castiel readied himself, steering his cock towards Dean. It was impossible to look away, to shut his eyes and focus fully on the sensation, when Castiel’s eyes seemed to be boring into him, seeing all the way through the bullshit and the persona and the obfuscation Dean was prone to. Dean felt like Castiel was stripping every layer from him, looking deeper than anyone ever had as his cock pushed slowly, carefully, into Dean.

If he’d thought the strain and push of Castiel’s finger was intense, he had known nothing about what it would be like afterward. Dean arched up, grabbed Castiel by the shoulders and pulled him down even as his body struggled to hold in the tremendous pressure inside him. Undoubtedly good, but powerful, too, so much of a new experience that he wasn’t sure he could handle it all. His body rebelled, and he tipped his head back, trying to breathe, trying to learn to manage all the things this one breach was making him feel. Panting and taking in shallow gulps of air, he held fast to Castiel, staring at the ceiling, praying for the strength to bear it.

But when his breathing got deeper, when he tried to relax and accept, the burn turned into something amazing, something he wanted more of. His lips sought out Castiel’s, and he gave himself to the weight above him, relaxing under the push and crush of Castiel’s body. He could hear himself whisper, then hear his whisper rise to voice -- “Oh, God, Cas. It’s-- it’s so much, it’s so strong.” Words that belonged in the mouth of a ravished damsel, not him, not Dean Winchester, the piss-and-vinegar janitor who lived in the shadows of a studio, but he couldn’t help himself. Not when he was being taken apart like this, and God, he needed Castiel to move--

The shift was sudden, the pressure unbearable, and then relieved, and then back again. Castiel watched, gauging each expression on Dean’s face, and Dean didn’t have a clue what his face was doing because this was what it felt like when Castiel moved and Dean couldn’t stand it and didn’t want it to ever stop. “Fuck,” he hissed, his body trembling with each thrust. “Fuck, I can’t--” And when Castiel stopped, Dean seized up and urged him on. “Damn it, Cas, don’t stop.

Castiel’s eyes widened at the growl in his voice, and then he rocked forward with a throaty noise of his own. His lips met Dean’s and they made wild, untamed sounds into each other’s mouths, moved together on the big white bed, nightfall all around them hushed and listening to the noises rising up from creaking mattresses and hurried breaths. The moving made it bearable, and Castiel’s skin pink and glowing from the bath made it beautiful - not a word that Dean tended to abuse, but there was no other word for Cas, his face taut with passion, his body firm and eclipsing everything else in the room as he rocked forward into Dean. Dean’s eyes kept slipping shut, his senses overwhelmed by the delicious burn of Castiel sliding into him, but when he opened them, Castiel’s skin was all he could see.

He gave up seeing altogether when Castiel found the leverage to reach forward and gently stroke Dean’s cock with his fingertips. Flames raced through his insides, and he groaned and threw his head back, body arching impossibly under Castiel’s weight. Castiel answered the push with a groan of his own, and now the shifts were coming faster, the thrusts harder, the two of them racing toward an inevitable peak. It barely took another set of tentative strokes for Dean to come, muscles locking up entirely as his whole body seemed to pitch itself off the bed. He could feel himself hanging in midair for seconds before Castiel pushed him back down with a loud, tortured sound and thrust in deep as his own orgasm wracked him. They trembled, gasped and shouted, and they finally came crushing together, bodies sticky with sweat, kissing and holding tight and eventually breaking into shaky laughter.

The morning was well advanced by the time either of them surfaced. It was still a little too early for Dean to be up and about but he didn’t want to waste more time in unconscious sleep. Dean was aware, dimly, that during the night he’d made adjustment for another body in the bed. And those adjustments weren’t the rearrangement of blankets and the shoving of limbs that had been common when he’d been forced to sleep head to toe with Sam as a kid. Not in the slightest. These movements were more to accommodate Cas’ head on his chest, an arm wrapped around him, a thigh between knees. Blankets and sheets were wrapped tight, as if neither of them wanted to risk the other escaping and pillows were shared, not greedily hoarded. Dean woke to fingers carding through his hair, teasing the stubborn locks into spikes and waves that would grace the most frightening of movie villains.

“Mornin’,” Dean muttered. He ached. His lower back was particularly noticeable, a throb that wasn’t so much a pain as a pleasant reminder of what they had done. It was nice that it was less transitory than he’d expected. Castiel’s scruff of stubble had left patches of burn, a scrape that was as much a mark of possession as anything painful. Underneath these minor and enjoyable souvenirs, Dean was surprised to feel a lightness. It made him want to lie in bed, entangled, and kiss and talk about the weather and baseball. Dean let his arms tighten around Castiel’s hips as he tried to identify exactly what it was. The rumble of Cas’ stomach interrupted both his plans and his train of thought. “Hungry?”

Castiel arched an eyebrow and Dean clarified, “For food.”

Another teasing brush of fingertips. “Yes. I’m hungry.” Castiel sounded like he had the same lightness under his skin, bubbling up into his words. Effervescence. The fizz of the finest champagne.


Dean dropped a kiss, a wet suck of his mouth, onto the nearest spur of hip, tasting sweat and salt and Castiel. He might be satisfied with feasting there. Instead he rolled off the bed, pulling sheets with him and laughed as Castiel pouted. “I’m cold.”

“I heard about this amazing invention that helps with that.” Dean couldn’t contain his glee. “Clothes.”

Castiel’s eyes darkened as they swept up and down Dean’s body. “Overrated,” Cas rasped out. He was debauched, lying back against the white sheets, completely comfortable in his nudity, hair rumpled, yes, by sleep, but also by the way Dean had grabbed and pulled and buried his hands in it as they both found satisfaction. Another chuckle burbled up inside him and Dean let it out, ignoring the mock outrage on Cas’ face. He turned for the bathroom, only to be stopped by the stealthy wrapping of arms around his waist, holding him close against Castiel’s chest. “I normally swim,” Cas suggested, hands splayed wide to cover as much of Dean as he could.

Dean nodded. The memory of Castiel wet and glistening needed refreshing after all. “Got a suit for me?”

The ocean wasn’t blue. In all Dean’s remembrance of Sam’s experiments in crayon art, the ocean had always been blue. This sea was green and white and grey and the colour of Castiel’s eyes. It was something that had surprised him when they first came out to California, and maybe they had just been at the wrong beaches, but this beach was the same as all the others. The waves rolled high and the spray landed on Dean’s lips, making him lick them and shiver a little, even in the bright morning.

He wasn’t sure how to take the ocean when he first laid eyes on it. Coming from Kansas, where fields lay out in every direction, he shouldn’t have been scared of an open horizon. But at least in Kansas he could run or bicycle or once in a million years even take a car and drive to the end of it, until at last there might be a tree or a farmhouse or even the edge of a city. Not so the ocean. You can’t reach the end of it, Dean thought with some panic as he followed Castiel down to the edge of the waves. You could get ripped away from shore in the current and there would be nobody there, no one around for miles and miles, no solid ground and no people, not even any air, just deep green-grey that faded into black if you sank far enough from the sun.

But Castiel strode in confident, comfortable, even as the gooseflesh ripped up his skin at the first touch of the waves against his toes. His arms widened, as though he could embrace the earth, and he kept moving along the murky bottom (stepping on shells and rocks and God knows what else, Dean thought) until he was in chest-deep. Then he turned back, and the sun touched his hair with a rim of gold as he smiled. “Come on,” he said.

Dean hesitated. The water looked more than anything like some kind of evil, gaping mouth that might swallow him whole. The waves bared toothy grins of white foam. But Castiel stood comfortable within it and Dean wanted to join him more than anything in the world. He took a step, bit back a gulp at the shock of cold, and stepped forward.

The sand stayed smooth under his feet, with an occasional brush of slimy seaweed, but rocks didn’t crop up unexpectedly to bite him, and he wasn’t being crawled all over by tiny, invisible creatures that he imagined might lurk on the floor. It was halfway his pride that drove him forward -- he was a man who cleaned up the gory aftermath of fight scenes and the vomit from drunken starlets who came to set unable to work. Something so simple and natural as a clamshell or a hermit crab shouldn’t give him pause. But nonetheless, he was digging his hands into his palms to keep from a shudder of anxiety as the water bobbed up, shockingly cold, around his hips and to the bare skin of his waist.

Then a wave swelled and burst in his face, and he was freezing and shivering and crying out, spitting salt water from his mouth. “Damn it, cold!”

Castiel’s laugh sounded gentle and low a few yards away,and then abruptly he was swept up by wet arms, a cold chest pushed against his. He shivered further, but Castiel was holding him tight and he couldn’t push away, only raise his hands to clasp him closer. And, all right, this was warmer, now that Castiel’s body heat was seeping into his skin. Warmer and smoother, their bodies lubricated by the sea water, sliding together effortlessly.

“Dunk in up to your shoulders,” Castiel murmured in his ear. “It will warm you up.”

“I’d rather not,” Dean started, but then Castiel was pulling him down, and the water closed around him with startling speed. A shock of cold zipped through his system. A moment later, he was blinking in surprise as the feeling vanished. He was warm and enveloped by water now, Castiel still holding him up, keeping his head from going under. He laughed, leaned in, rested his head against Castiel’s and tried to calm the racing of his heart.

“Better?” Castiel said. Dean nodded. Castiel himself had no problem dunking; his hair and face were wet, and Dean found the coolness of his damp cheeks somehow calming. For a while they floated together, tangled in each other’s arms, bobbing at the surface and letting their legs hang low to brush the sandy floor.

Their lips found each other naturally, drifting together. The kiss lingered. Dean sighed into the salty warmth of Castiel’s mouth.

“You aren’t used to the ocean,” Castiel said. Dripping fingers teased at the back of Dean’s neck, near his hairline.

“You are,” Dean answered.

“I grew up with it,” Castiel said. “My father was a fisherman. When we weren’t going out in his boat and helping him haul in a net full of fish, we were playing on the beach, watching the boats go in and out from the harbor.”

“You and your brothers.” Dean remembered Castiel mentioning them. “Older? Younger?”

“All older.” Castiel smiled and squinted up at the sun. “I was the precious little baby boy. The one who reminded them all of my mother, and the only one who didn’t remember her.”

Dean bit his lip. “Yeah, well. It was just me, my dad and Sammy growing up too. But I was the big brother. There was a fire.”

Castiel brought his mouth to Dean’s ear. “Well, you’re certainly big in the right places...”

The innuendo broke the tension of the memories. “I bet you got away with everything, man.”

“I was a little angel, I’ll have you know.” Castiel tried to loosen his grip on Dean but Dean clung tight, hands locked in placed around Cas’ back. The teasing note dropped from his voice. “I always did what they expected of me until... Let’s leave it as until my father died.”

Dean used his grip to pull Castiel close to him again, a true embrace. “How did he die?”

“He went out in the boat and never came back.” Castiel was matter of fact about it, blunt to the point of uncaring but Dean could sense the edge of a hurt that would never heal under it all.

“Sam and my dad fought like hellhounds on a regular basis. I was the peacemaker and the one who cleaned up afterwards..” Dean laughed. “Still doing that, I guess. At least I get paid for it now.”

Castiel hummed in agreement.

They drifted together some more, Dean becoming more confident in kicking at the ocean floor to keep them moving and afloat. They didn’t need words, just lips and touch and the way their eyes met to say things Dean would never dare say out loud. It was as if he’d stepped outside of himself, his own sphere of influence and been pulled into another world, Castiel’s world. A place that was not part of reality, a science fiction world in a bubble, where they were the only inhabitants.

Castiel pulled Dean up the beach and he shivered when the air hit his wet skin. Castiel’s hands were there immediately, drawing a towel around Dean’s body, the touch of cloth sending shockwaves through him. Hands tucked themselves under the towel, plucked at Dean’s nipples, stroking smooth palms over goosebumps and pushing off the wet shorts. Dean was naked, exposed and willing. He tackled Castiel down onto the sand, laughing when he had the man pinned. Castiel laughing back was the best sound and it filled Dean’s head. He kissed along Castiel’s neck in order to keep the laughter going, tasting salt and sweat and skin. Then the laughter turned to groans.

Dean pulled away reluctantly. Romantic notions of doing more than rolling against Castiel, whose skin still glistened with droplets of water, fucking against him in the sand warred with more practical considerations. Dean really didn’t want sand getting everywhere. Castiel seemed to read his thoughts, smiling wildly, so hard his cheeks might hurt. He scrabbled to his feet before towing Dean to the deck. A shower head tucked under the steps offered a way to rinse their bodies of sand and brine, although neither of them could wait for their turn. Jockeying for the spray resulted in Dean pulling Castiel’s suit down and off and using it to cushion his knees as he drank in salt off Castiel’s hips, his cock. It was only Castiel pulling him up forcibly that stopped Dean drinking all Castiel would offer him. Dean loved the way the soft skin sat on his tongue, the stretch of his mouth.

“Your lips...” Castiel ground out before using his own to seal up Dean’s mouth. Dean fumbled a hand out to turn off the water, unsurprised to find Castiel’s hand already there, turning the wheel with economical movements. Still soaking wet, Castiel chased Dean into the house, through the doors to his bedroom and onto the bed. Dean turned the tables, pinioned Cas back against the sheets and resumed his quest to taste each part of Castiel’s body.

It wasn’t enough. No amount of touching and tasting could satisfy their hunger for each other. Dean felt as though someone had turned a screw inside him and all of the desire and optimism and appreciation for life he hadn’t felt in so long had been set free. In Castiel’s arms he was a kid again, fascinated by every movement of Cas’ face, the mysterious depth in his eyes, his voice and body. The weight of the world was off his shoulders for two days of play, of learning, and of falling into something that he didn’t recognize but might very well be love.

But Monday morning at three a.m., James Novak had a call to begin shooting a new film, and that meant that Sunday evening, Dean had to take his leave. Chuck stood patiently by the car, facing the other direction, as Castiel held both of Dean’s hands and stared at him as though he might never get the chance again.

“I’ll call for you again,” he said soberly. Dean no longer had to wonder whether he was wanted. It was there, blazing, on Castiel’s face every moment. What they had built was far more than a single weekend could sustain.

“You better,” Dean said, grinning. Even though they were parting, even though his skin ached for Castiel’s still, he couldn’t help but be optimistic. “Maybe next weekend?”

“Maybe before,” Castiel said hurriedly, and then averted his eyes.

Dean laughed and leaned over to brush lips against his cheek. “Sounds good.”

They lingered another moment in the brightening sunset and kissed longingly before they parted. Chuck, good man that he was, didn’t sneak a peek, at least not so far as Dean could tell. But he had a secret smile on his face when he opened the car door for Dean, a smile that hinted at him having an idea just what was going on. He didn’t mention anything, though, nodding pleasantly when Dean reminded him to go left or right in the crowded, narrow streets. People on the sidewalk stopped and stared at the lush automobile going by in a part of the city not known for the wealth of its occupants. Dean felt a bit like a celebrity himself. And why not? He’d had a weekend full of Castiel, and it was harder to imagine a luckier sop on the front page of all the papers. And soon he’d have more.

Was there any end to his luck?

The answer came as he locked the door behind him, looked at his tiny apartment and breathed a sigh of relief and happiness. His plan was to flop unashamedly onto his bed and spend the night reliving the weekend in excruciating detail. The memories would be sustaining him for as long as it took to see Castiel again, and he couldn’t wait to dive into them.

But it wasn’t to happen. A hiss sounded in the dimness. Dean stiffened. He wasn’t alone here.

He inched along the wall, going for the kitchen, his eye on the block of knives he barely used for cooking. They’d be of better use defending himself against an attacker. The hiss came again, and this time it had a word attached to it. “Dean!”

“Who’s there?” Dean lunged for the counter, got his hand on the knife block before the answer came.

“It’s me. It’s Sam!”

A light switched on. Under the glow of the naked bulb Sam looked skinny, emaciated. His eyes kept darting to the door and window, as though worrying someone might burst through any moment. Dean’s hand moved away from the knife block, and he backed up..

“Dean.” Sam moved toward him, not raising his voice above a whisper. “You’ve got to help me!”