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1.

It's funny, how nothing really happens to change absolutely everything. There's no particular catalyst. No one has to nearly die. It's just that one day Dean and Cas are sitting in the kitchen after dinner, the two of them hanging out after everyone else has gone to bed, and Cas is about to get up for refills when Dean blurts, "You wanna go out sometime?"

And Cas says, "What?"

And Dean says, "Uh."

And Cas says, "Like a... date?"

And Dean says, "Sure."

And Cas pauses.

And Cas says, "Sure."

And then he gets them both another beer.

And that's it. They go back to talking about whatever, the hydroponic spinach farm Sam's trying to start in a spare room and whether this new show Jack is watching is appropriate. There's no torrid confessions of love. The most that changes is Dean dares to scooch one boot forward to line up alongside Cas's, heel to toe and toe to heel. Cas presses in until their knees knock together, but that's it. None of it's new. Nothing really happens.

Until a few days later. Dean wanders in to do his usual buddy-buddy song-and-dance about taking movie night on the road straight into town for the limited run of Thelma & Louise. This is something they already do, although Dean prefers staying in his Cave or, on the best days, in his room with one laptop propped up on one of each of their thighs. Sometimes there'll be a matinee of something, though, at the movie theater in Lebanon, some one-off showing of a classic he swears Cas has to see.

So this is normal, ish. Until.

"Is this—?" Cas starts, then stops, glancing at Jack at one of the other library tables, headphones on but still very much in the room.

Dean freezes. It was not, but...

"Sure," he says, kinda hoping it comes off like a smooth callback but not surprised when it doesn't.

Cas looks like he wants to say something but instead just nods once, awkward but earnest, before Jack is calling him over to watch whatever video he's found.

"So—" Cas starts as he stands, Jack watching eagerly from the other end of the room. "Tonight?"

"Yeah. It's, uh— Six? We could get dinner. Before. Or after. Whatever."

That's definitely a stupid suggestion: Cas doesn't eat. Still, Cas nods and repeats, "Six," before Jack arrives to physically drag him to the computer.

And thus is Dean's panic mode engaged.

He doesn't go fully off the rails: he doesn't have time for that. Three hours advance warning is, somehow, not actually enough time to start properly freaking out. Before he ended up (again) impulsively asking out the love of his life, there were all sorts of things Dean was planning to do today, among which idly checking the theater's ancient-looking website was, like, the lowest priority. He was gonna reorganize the pantry and maybe give Baby a tune up, not to mention making dinner, which he'd already promised Jack he could help with. That's not gonna happen, apparently. Shit, and—a buzzer goes off, deep in the recesses of the bunker—he was in the middle of laundry.

That last part admittedly becomes a more pressing issue when Dean remembers his favorite flannel is in the next load set to go into the wash, stained with grease. At least that'll keep him busy. Keep his hands occupied enough to pretend his brain isn't with something way more important than the creases in a t-shirt. No time to daydream about Cas pulling out his chair for him, walking him to his door, leaning in to say close that he had a good time, can he call, stupid stuff. No time for that. No brain space.

Dean is actually approaching calm as he folds the last load (mostly Jack's ever growing collection of sweaters and pullovers, wherever the hell they keep coming from), so when someone knocks on his open door, it doesn't occur to him that it could be anything more than the routine laundry fits into.

"Are you the one buying all these?" Dean asks when he sees who it is, gesturing at the piles. There's one just for shades of brown, another for blues. It's ridiculous.

Cas shrugs. "He likes them."

"At least get him some stripes next time," he mumbles, trying to stack them all back in the baskets. Kid has more sweaters than he has individual socks, Dean has no idea where he's putting them all cuz that dresser definitely isn't big enough. "Maybe a pattern. Mix it up a little, y'know?"

He doesn't need to look to know Cas is shrugging again as he says, "He—"

"Likes 'em, yeah, I've heard."

When Dean turns, Cas is already standing there, arms out to take the basket from him. "Just so you know, it's 5:30."

"Oh."

"I thought," Cas shifts a bit, holding the basket closer to himself, "that would be enough warning if you had anything left to do, while not long enough for you to freak out."

The guarded awkwardness that was building up in Dean's chest bursts like a bubble, spitting out in an airless laugh. Jesus Christ. Guy's really got his number.

"Uh. Yeah. Good call."

Cas nods, looking just as awkward, and starts to back out the door. "I'll... meet you in the garage, then."

"Sure."

Already twenty worries ahead, Dean barely hears his own voice, or even registers Cas leaving, though he does take a tiny bit of solace in the fact that Cas gives him an empathetic half smile, half grimace on his way out. The second he notices Cas is out of sight, he's up, running around the room like a moron. He finds the flannel easily enough, does a bit more digging for his nicest henley and the only pair of jeans he's never gotten blood on.

(He then spends a ridiculous amount of time fidgeting in front of the mirror before making eye contact with himself and realizing what he's doing.)

When he runs out of parts of his appearance to distract himself with, Dean is forced to leave his room—to find Jack, of course. He's not doing all the kid's chores for him.

Unfortunately, he runs into Jack the second he opens the door. "Hey, kiddo."

"Hello!"

"You've got more clothes in my room."

"Yes! Cas told me. I was just coming to get them. Have a good night!"

Jack grabs the basket before Dean can figure out what he's talking about, disappearing back down the hall with another cheerful wave. If it weren't for the fact that he was kind of always bewildering, Dean would be more worried; as is, he's got more on his mind than whatever the hell the kid's talking about.

He figures it out pretty quickly when he gets into the garage.

"Hey."

Cas's head pops up over the top of his truck and, though he smiles the same startled-but-pleased smile that makes Dean's stomach do fucking cartwheels, Dean still has the wherewithal to notice the change.

"Hello, Dean."

He tips his chin up in Cas's direction, very casual. "Nice duds."

Cas looks down at the sweater he's now got on over his usual button-down, sans tie. It looks like Dean's advice about Jack branching out worked, nevermind the impossible turnaround. It's definitely something the kid would've bought, except, y'know, Cas sized: that same smoothed out H&M look, thick stripes of dark green and navy and magenta.

"Thank you. Jack got it for me."

"No way." Dean twirls his keys lackadaisically as he steps into the garage. Cas comes around the other side with his coat draped over his arm—something in his hand too, though Dean can't quite tell what. "I never would've guessed."

He smiles adorably as Cas gives him an unimpressed look. Normal, he tells himself. All of this is normal. Don't think about it any more than that.

"He said it was going to be for Father's Day but I could have it early for the occasion." Before Dean can shove his foot in his mouth, Cas adds, "He doesn't know the significance of this specific movie night, but it seemed too auspicious to say no."

Significance: Dean would've gone with "vertigo-inducing stakes," but sure. At least it makes him feel a little better about doing a whole load of laundry for one shirt. He mentally apologizes for what he said about the kid's fashion sense, too. It's a good look. Nice colors. It looks soft. The stripes make Cas's chest look... Yeah. It's a good look.

"So," Cas says eventually. "I told Jack not to wait up."

Dean's mind goes lots of places. "Uh."

"Because we're trying to get him on a regular sleep schedule."

"Right." Dean's key twirling is less successfully casual this time. "Ready to go?"

Cas nods. Dean nods. They get in the car.

And Dean starts to think that he might make it through the night—that as long as there's no time for daydreaming, maybe he'll stay sane. Maybe he can power through. So he starts the engine and points them towards town with more deliberation than anything he's done any part of this thing so far.