On the very first time that Castiel manifests in front of Father Dean Winchester, he gets as far as "Rejoice, for you are blessed-" before Dean shoots him with a salt-loaded shotgun.
"Wait, you shot an angel?"
Dean winces as Sam's voice starts to rise into girly registers over the phone. "Keep it down!" he hisses, sneaking a glance out of the phone booth towards the Impala. Castiel - a real, live, angel of the Lord - sits woodenly in the front passenger seat, staring vacantly out over the parking lot. It's still early enough in the morning that the sun isn't yet out, and the car park is empty, the disused warehouse about ten minutes behind them.
The air's nice and crisp, a fine day if any to create original sins. Dean's pretty sure that no human's tried to kill an angel before.
"Dean, you're a priest."
"And you're a lawyer. Maybe karma's a bitch today, and I'm pulling your weight." It's an old joke between them, and Sam huffs irritably. "Look, it didn't hurt him, and he isn't angry, all right? We're cool."
"Well," Sam muttered grudgingly, "What does he want?" There was a pause, then he added, "Do you need help? Are you in trouble again?"
"I'm not in trouble. I just wanted to let you know that I'm closing in on Alastair. Castiel being here just confirms that."
Dean waits, and sure enough, Sam eventually sighs, cutting through the faintly buzzing silence. "Dean..."
"Yeah, you've already let it go. I just wanted you to know, that's all."
"Okay," Sam says, tense even over the line. "I wish you could let go too, Dean. You'd be happier. And isn't that what you're meant to be teaching? Turning the other cheek?"
"I'm not in that line of hallelujahs, Sam," Dean gently reminds him. "Take care of yourself."
"You too." Sam lets out a wry laugh. "I guess... I guess maybe I shouldn't be too worried. I mean, the angels are literally watching over you. Mom was right after all."
"Bye." Dean hangs up, and saunters back over to the car. When he lets himself into the driver's seat, Castiel glances at him, with his unnatural economy of movement. The angel's body - vessel - didn't breathe, didn't twitch, and didn't even blink. It was a little disturbing to watch, and it didn't really help that the angel had chosen a vessel that was this pretty: he seemed doll-like at the best of times, too perfect. "Sorry about the wait."
Castiel glances away. "I am here to serve."
Well. That was awkward. "Uh," Dean fidgets even as he starts up the engine, "You don't have to be here, by the way. I mean, I could call you or something, when I reach Alastair."
"You do not need to feel uncomfortable," Angels could also mind-read, which made things even more awkward. "Only the blessed are accorded guardians."
"Yeah, uh, I know that," Dean pulls out of the car park and onto the road, his hands clenched on the wheel, "But I'm not exactly used to having company, and I'm sure that you have better things to do. Don't you? Uh. Sir," he adds belatedly, when Castiel glances back at him.
"My duties at present are to stay by your side," Castiel states, "But if it would make you more comfortable, I could make myself invisible." And just like that, Castiel disappears.
"But you're still here?" Dean asks out aloud.
Dean resists the urge to bang his head against the steering wheel. "Never mind. Just make yourself visible. Thanks." He never knew that an affirmation of faith could be so... so...
"You have no faith," Castiel cuts into his train of thought, his tone as neutral as ever, as he pops back into view. "You wear the collar, and yet you do not believe. You know me to be an angel, and yet your lack of faith remains unshaken."
"Hey," Dean glowers at the road, "I'm as shocked as you are that you showed up, angel. Plenty of devout priests out there whom you could have played shepherd to. You didn't have to pick the broke travelling one who prefers to spend his time hunting monsters instead of holding Mass."
"My orders are clear," Castiel says flatly, and looks back over to the road, still again. Dean swallows down his retort, and tries to remain calm. Maybe if he thinks of Castiel as just another gun in his arsenal, this entire, incredibly improbable situation could be easier to tolerate.
More than Dean's lack of faith, it is Dean's lack of fear - and perhaps consequently, his lack of respect - that surprises Castiel. This incarnation of the Righteous Man is an angry and bitter one, for all that he wears the collar, and it is curious that he has retained all the trappings of faith when he had rejected faith itself.
Castiel is frustrated at first, and a little angry; watching over Dean all these years hasn't managed to prepare him for being at the brunt of his caustic nature, and Castiel is used to respect from humans. The original occupant of his vessel had been properly awed, when he had understood what Castiel was. Dean, on the other hand, borders on hostility.
Still, Castiel has his orders. In order to prevent Armageddon, he has to protect the Righteous Man, and now, on the cusp of the turn of days, the shadows grow longer in Dean's wake.
Dean allows himself one vice, and it's Doctor Whisky. He reckons that he's entitled, what with dedicating his life to running a one-priest-fight against anything that bares its fangs and hunts in the dark, and frankly, hard liquor damps down the occasional rational thought that maybe, just maybe, he's long gone fucking insane.
Castiel watches him silently as he pulls over off the road and into the camp site, and the angel doesn't get out of the car as Dean grabs the bottle of cheap whisky from the back seat and pads over to the stone tables. He perches on a table as he opens the bottle, and as usual, he doesn't bother with a cup. Cups are niceties, really, for people who don't spend their lives alternating between dodging vampires and being alone on the road.
He coughs and chokes when Castiel goes from sitting in the car to abruptly sitting beside him on the table. "Jesus! Don't do that."
"Don't blaspheme," Castiel rebukes him, the angel frowning slightly. "You are a man of God."
"Yeah, well, I figured that God and I had a good arrangement," Dean scowls at him. The whisky is warming him up, loosening his tongue, and Dean is pretty sure that talking now is a bad idea, but he couldn't help himself even if he tried. "I get rid of monsters for His flock, and He'll let me drink and use His name in vain now and then."
"There is no such arrangement."
"Really? Well, fuck me," Dean takes another swallow of the whisky. "I thought I was going into credit, too, what with the sudden angel bodyguard. What do I have to do to get back to neutral? Lie to a baby?"
Castiel exhales irritably, curling his fingers together. "Dean, you chose the priesthood. You could have chosen to live another life, like your brother. Instead, you chose to be ordained. In the light of your choice, I find your irreverence incomprehensible."
"We were abandoned in the orphanage by our dad," Dean drawls. "I was a kid at that time. I wanted answers. I thought maybe that theology would help. I was wrong. And it turned out that the Church does have some experience with exorcisms and whatnot. So I decided to specialize. That's all there was to it."
"Yet you wear the collar."
"Keep harping on that if you want, angel," Dean squints at the bottle. Half empty already. Huh. "Maybe I just haven't gotten around to handing it back in, that's all."
"And you blessed that child today, when we were in town."
"She asked, didn't she? What was I to say? 'No'?"
Castiel stares at him with his creepy, unblinking gaze, until Dean grimaces and glances down at his feet, his eyes stinging from the effort of trying to hold it. "The blessing was gracefully said," Castiel notes, his tone almost conciliatory.
"Well, uh, thanks, I guess." Dean shrugs. He has a good memory, and most of his training had stuck.
"You are naturally charismatic, and you were born to lead," Castiel continues, as though he hasn't heard. "Had you chosen to look after a parish, you would have done well for yourself."
"Me, in charge of a flock?" Dean guffaws, shaking his head. "Have you seen me, angel? I live alone and out of a car. I shoot things with big teeth in my spare time."
"And today you made a child's life brighter with only a few words and a smile," Castiel counters earnestly. "You have passion. You could-"
"I save more lives doing what I do now," Dean interrupts curtly. "That skinwalker we took down on the way here could have killed that little girl. The things I do keep people safe. Safer than sitting in a church reading the Good Book from a pulpit."
Castiel sits back, as though satisfied, and Dean blinks at him for a moment before he realizes, belatedly, and all at once. Some time ago, a long time ago, what he is now had moved far further than a child's wish for revenge, evolved into something more. Had he been only after Alastair, he would have driven past this town, past the reports on the news of suspicious murders on the streets.
"You are far more than what you think you are," Castiel says gently, then. "A better man than who you think you are."
"Don't give me a pep talk," Dean bites out, taking another mouthful of whisky. "You're ruining the mood."
"Despite your lack of faith, you are the Righteous Man," Castiel observes, as though to himself. "Where you lead, angels must follow."
Mood thoroughly ruined by now, Dean glances sourly at the remainder of the whisky, and screws the cap back onto the bottle. "I'm going to sleep," he tells Castiel, and trudges back towards the car, rubbing at his eyes. The 'Righteous Man' indeed. If Sammy was here, he'd laugh.
Dean becomes fractionally friendlier over the next few weeks, especially once they grow closer to their quarry and start attracting demons. Minor demons aren't difficult to dispatch, but Dean seems impressed, and finally starts to treat Castiel with something better than grudging tolerance.
Still, Castiel remains bothered by Dean's militant disinterest in his eternal soul. "You know now that angels exist," he tells Dean one day, while they're on the road. "Why do you still lack faith?"
"Angel, I came to a conclusion a few years ago," Dean tells him, without looking up from the road, and Castiel sees a brief flash of an image in Dean's mind, of a house, and a string of plush children's toys soaked in blood and viscera. "One, that God doesn't exist: the world's fucked up all to hell. Innocents die for no reason. Bad people live. Downright evil stuff happens everywhere. The strong eat the weak."
"Two, and in alternative," Dean continues, when Castiel opens his mouth, "That God does exist, but he doesn't give a fuck. And if he doesn't give a fuck about us, then why should I give a fuck about him? And before you start going on about the collar, by the way, if a normal person asks around town about monsters and strange occurrences, people think that he's crazy. If a priest asks around, people think of The Exorcist. Funny but true. It makes things easier."
"Deep down," Castiel observes then, with a sweeping glance through the jumble in Dean's mind, "You want to believe that there is a God."
Dean has the grace not to deny this, though he glares. "So that I can punch him in the face, maybe. Or ask him, why? Why did he create people only to give some of us the tools to fuck up others? Why doesn't he give a damn about us?"
"Self-determination," Castiel tries to explain. "God no more interferes with the lives of ants than he will with the lives of humans."
"'Cause we're all one and the same, huh? Ants and humans?" Dean's voice shakes with an anger so sudden that Castiel blinks, and then the priest looks away, exhaling loudly. "Don't answer that."
"Very well." Castiel waits for another outburst, but Dean seems to have decided to keep a frosty silence instead. The priest's thoughts are a roiling tempest of fury and disappointment, and Castiel supposes that this was only to be expected. The Righteous Man, after all, could never abide the strong declining to protect the weak, and in all of his iterations, on this point, he has ever had an unsteady alliance with Heaven.
"Does Heaven exist?" Dean asks, as they're trudging out of the vampires' nest.
The air's rank with the stench of butchery and offal, and Dean's trying not to breathe through his nose. Castiel's clothes are pristine, as though the angel hadn't just spent the last few hours wading through the thick of it beside Dean, and Dean's wryly aware that he's used to having Castiel around, now. Annoying as the angel can be with his questions, he's far more powerful than Dean imagined possible, and being around him is like being caught in the biggest safety net of all time.
He's probably going to grow rusty, at this rate.
"Of course," Castiel looks puzzled at the question. "Hell exists, as well."
"So who decides which humans go to which piece of real estate after they die?" Dean carefully steps over a rapidly drying pool of blood. "Especially the godless unbelievers? Or the gay people?"
"The scales are beyond my purview," Castiel seems even more bewildered. "Sexual orientation plays no part in the determination. As to belief, devotion helps, I understand, but it is not key."
"Really?" Dean actually stops to stare at Castiel, shocked. "Seriously?"
"The disseminated teachings of organised religion," Castiel notes regretfully, "Are often bastardised versions of the Word."
"In its essence? To do no evil."
"What about you?" Dean challenges, because he's feeling off-balance, what with being told by an angel that everything he's ever learned in Sunday School or in the seminary has possibly been bullshit, "You're possessing a human. What happened to the poor bastard who used to be in there?"
"He is in Heaven," Castiel narrows his eyes for a moment. "He invited me; he wished to aid Heaven. He was a devout man."
"But he had family? A wife, maybe? Kids?" At Castiel's nod, Dean growled, "And what do they think of this?"
"They would not understand-"
"Damn right they wouldn't! You just took their father!"
"Dean," Castiel says, with his fucking annoying unnatural patience, "You are projecting your childhood wounds onto an issue that bears no resemblance to your personal circumstances."
"Fuck you," Dean snarls, and he doesn't realize that he's running until he's outside, in the overgrown garden surrounding the run-down apartment block, and he's got his hands pressed against the bonnet of the Impala, shoulders hunched, and he stares at his reflection, blurred under travel dust, and swears under his breath. After a heartbeat, Castiel pops into existence next to him, standing woodenly still and silent.
Eventually, Dean mutters, "So is that the point of living? To earn brownie points for the Great Hereafter?"
"No, Dean," Castiel shakes his head. "What you know as 'life' is the greatest gift that God has given you. For this short space of existence, you and the rest of your kind are truly free; you exist with no function save what you have chosen for yourself. Even you, Dean - you are born with a specific destiny, but even so, you have a scope of choice that only you can determine. There is no 'point' to life save what you dictate. What happens after, in Heaven and Hell, are merely the echoes cast by your choices in life."
"Wow," Dean blinks, glancing over. "That's... kind of depressing, actually."
"If I may," Castiel adds, hesitantly, "I apologize if my presence causes you pain. Angels have always required permission from their hosts to take their vessel, and our hosts are usually devout men who choose to aid us eagerly."
"No, I get the difference," Dean concedes grudgingly.
"My host's family is being watched over," Castiel continues. "They will be safe."
"As you say."
Dean shakes his head, but he finds that he's no longer angry; he's just tired. He wants to go somewhere and drink, alone. He wants to shoot things; he wants to find Alastair, he wants to sleep. Most of all, and intensely, he wants Castiel gone.
Castiel blinks at him, owlish and slow, and then he vanishes.
"Castiel?" Dean ventures, startled, and when there's no response, he reaches out like a blind man, patting into empty space. The angel's gone.
Somehow, this doesn't feel as great as Dean thought it would be.
Castiel doesn't actually have to be present to keep tabs on Dean, especially not now that he's so attuned to the pulse of Dean's soul from acquaintance. He checks in on Dean now and then, unnoticed, and spends the rest of his time in Heaven, pulling a few garrison duties. None of the other angels question his return; humans are notoriously fragile where otherworldly entities are concerned, even those whose lifelong tasks involve hunting in the dark.
When he hears Dean's prayer, however, he takes himself back to earth, and finds himself standing in a tiny motel room that smells of old cigarettes and soap. Dean's kneeling by the bed, his hands clasped in prayer, and he looks startled.
"Cas... Castiel! You came back."
"You prayed," Castiel points out, matter-of-fact.
"Yeah." Dean gets awkwardly to his feet, looking shamefaced. The priest is radiating relief, and Castiel fights the sudden, odd impulse to preen a little. It's gratifying to know that he's been missed. "I'm a bit out of practice."
"What do you need, Dean?"
"I didn't actually think that you'd come," Dean admits. "I just wanted you to know. That day, I was just tired. I didn't really want you gone."
"At that point, sure. But not really. Overall." Dean huffs, frustrated. "This is fucking hard."
"You wish me to stay with you?" Castiel asks, a little surprised, and when Dean nods cautiously, Castiel finds himself smiling; he's pleased at this, he realizes, incongruously so. Dean should be a task like any other. An honoured one, of course, but it's duty.
It's been a very, very long time since Castiel has taken pleasure in duty. Dean grumbles under his breath, then he mutters, almost inaudibly, "Missed having you around."
"That's good to know, Dean." Castiel tries to be careful; Dean is on the defensive.
"Okay." Dean seems to undergo some sort of internal struggle for a moment, then he walks over to the table to pick up some newspaper clippings. "Take a look at this. Tell me what you think."
Later, when Dean prepares to sleep, Castiel takes a seat at the motel room's desk, the way he normally does on the rare occasion that Dean decides to sleep in a bed instead of in his car, and summons his copy of Ulysses to himself from the ether. He notices Dean glancing at him with an odd expression just as the priest folds himself into bed, but Castiel decides that it isn't important enough to check. Dean needs his rest.
They lose Alastair's trail in a small dusty farming town in the middle of nowhere, but at least this exorcism's roundly successful; the poor fifteen-year-old girl who'd been ridden had even survived the process. The townsfolk insist that he stay on for a while and hold Mass, and tired as he is, Dean finds himself agreeing. There's no church in the town, so he ends up doing it in the open in a field with some hastily set up benches and chairs, and he's roundly out of practice, he's nervous, and he's not entirely sure what the hell he's doing, and throughout it, he's aware of the intensity of Castiel's stare, all the way from the back row.
It's possible that his performance is being assessed by an angel of the Lord. If that isn't stressful to a priest, Dean isn't sure what will be. Self-consciously, he gives a sermon about Psalm 23, since it's his favourite, even though it's predictable, and when he recites it, there's a hush in the field, a tranquillity to it all, and Dean supposes that maybe, just maybe, someday, when he's bagged Alastair, when he's old and slow on the trigger, maybe doing something like this in the last days of his life won't be so bad.
The weird sense of contentment follows him all the way out of the town and onto the road, and when the town's out of sight, Castiel observes, "You did well."
"You're probably just saying that," Dean drawls. The angel's probably watched millions of sermons, and he's well aware that Psalm 23 is one of the bread and butter Psalms. "But thanks."
"You are holy, Dean. It shows. Those people knew it as well."
There's a touch of reverence in Castiel's tone - the angel always gets that way when he's referring to Dean's role in the Great Scheme of Things or whatever the hell it is in Heaven's script, and Dean grimaces. It creeps him the hell out. "I'm not exactly good at following your edicts, Cas. I drink. I kill. I don't ever fucking turn the other cheek."
"But you will do no evil," Castiel points out. "It's anathema to you."
"I don't know about that," Dean mutters, with a sidelong glance at the angel. God, Castiel is gorgeous. Dean only belatedly keyed in to this when Castiel had disappeared, possibly never to return, and found that he missed more than the angel's company; he'd missed those crazily blue eyes, that lush mouth, Castiel's low, gravelly voice. Besides, more so than the shell that Castiel is wearing, Dean can tell that there's something far more, folded within it, something built of holy purpose, something that will touch eternity and not even blink. It's alluring and frightening at the same time, and he's had his share of uncomfortable dreams, since.
Castiel blinks at him again, slowly, as though the angel hears him, but he makes no comment, peering back over at the road. Dean shrinks a little in relief. He isn't really sure what he'd do if Castiel brings up the matter. As much as Castiel's noted in no uncertain terms that matters of sexuality are mostly irrelevant to Heaven, Dean's still taken vows of celibacy. He's stuck to it so far, out of habit if nothing else, and it's a little depressing to realize that this is the very first time he's actually seriously considered breaking his vows, during this slow burn of relief-anticipation-contentment that he's enjoyed ever since Castiel returned to his side, and for a creature effectively alien to humanity, at that.
Besides, aren't angels asexual? The thought's comforting, in its way. Dean holds on to it all the way on the long drive to the next motel. He's feeling bruised from when the demon had thrown him up and through some old plasterboard, and he needs a bath, a drink, and a bed, possibly not in that order.
The bored girl at the reception doesn't even blink when Dean buys a room with a single bed. Castiel doesn't need to sleep, but in some towns Dean has had to buy a room while Castiel stays outside until he's upstairs, just to prevent misconceptions. Today, he's tired enough not to give a fuck, and he drags himself up sticky concrete-gray steps to the upper walkway, and lets himself into the designated room with a sigh of relief.
"Long day," he tells Castiel, or tries to; when he turns around, Castiel has closed the door and has taken a step way into Dean's personal space, crowding him against the peeling blue wallpaper. "Cas...?" Dean tries, and it's more of a strangled squeak, especially when Castiel hooks fingers around the back of his neck and pulls him down for a kiss, and hell, Castiel can kiss. Dean doesn't know if it's his vessel's muscle memory, or the experience from centuries of observation, but it's sure and confident and Dean's going weak in the knees, he's groaning and clutching at Castiel's hips, and the angel's immovable, trapping him against the wall.
Dean thinks that it's quite possible that he's gone mad, or something. This can't really be happening - Castiel is an angel, and angels wouldn't kiss like this, would they? Castiel's kisses are hungry, punishingly so, he barely gets enough time to breathe before Castiel's taking his mouth again, his tongue delving deep, and his brain's shot through, it's too much, he never thought that the simple act of kissing could be so beautifully intimate, never knew that it could spark lust so quickly - he feels like he's burning up, consumed, and he doesn't know what to do with his hands, fumbling at Castiel's coat, then his jacket, fabric pooling on the floor at their ankles.
There's a background litany of whimpers and rasping moans and it's all from him, Dean realizes, high on ecstasy as they rub together, Castiel's thigh thrust between his legs; Castiel doesn't make a sound even as he methodically takes Dean apart. "C'mon," Dean gasps, desperate, "Talk to me, Cas, I can't- what are you- c'mon," and it's a broken babble of demands and pleas, he doesn't know what he's begging for, even when the angel tilts his head back to watch him, flushed, that pretty mouth swelling from kisses.
"You've never had carnal relations before," Castiel notes, and how is it that he isn't even out of breath? "Let me show you all of pleasure's iterations."
Dean tries to laugh - he does - angels are awful at pillow talk, he wants to tell Castiel that you don't just say things like iterations when you've kissed someone out of their mind, let alone say anything at all in that flat, deadpan tone, but then he's whining and jerking again as Castiel latches his lips to his neck, just over the collar, and bites-nips-something and it's delicious and he can't move, held down by the angel's immense strength, and God, it's so fucking hot.
His cries pitch higher when Castiel finally slips a hand down between them, first undoing his own pants, then Dean's, drawing out their dripping dicks and stroking them together, it's dry, a little too rough, and Dean's screaming into Castiel's mouth as the angel kisses him and thrusts up against him and he's coming, his mind's a white flare of noise and his hands are clenched tightly enough into Castiel's shoulders to leave bruises. The angel shudders against him, lets out a shaky breath, and goes still, his breathing only slightly uneven, while Dean gasps and pants like he's running a marathon.
It feels so impersonal that Dean looks up, looks into Castiel's eyes, forces himself to; if he sees that deadpan neutrality, he thinks, it's going to end up killing him. Instead - instead, Castiel wears an expression of such naked wonder that Dean sucks in a sharp breath and doesn't let it go; it's something akin to awe, even, as though what they'd just done had shaken Castiel to the very threads of his existence, and this humbles Dean, stifles the smartarse remark brewing inside him, makes him lean his forehead against Castiel's, to share one breath together.
Castiel has a reputation in Heaven for being thorough. Obsessively so, if Balthazar's to be believed. He's proud of it, though, after a fashion. And he definitely meant what he said when he promised to show Dean every shade of pleasure that he had ever learned in the centuries he had spent watching over humanity.
Besides, Dean is beautifully pliable when sundered by ecstasy, broken down to the basest of desires, spread open beneath Castiel with his hands clenched in the cheap motel sheets, his black jacket half open and his collar askew, his head arched against the pillow, giving voice to the most divine, filthy groans as Castiel shoves greedily into him, only barely able to watch his own strength. The heat, the clench around him, feels beyond sensation, it's that incredible, and Castiel has to draw back into his grace to keep his vessel from completion.
He's still not entirely sure what drove him to make a claim on Dean. Angels aren't encouraged to engage in carnal liaisons with humans, but it isn't forbidden. And Castiel can feel the humming contentment drawn wide in Dean's mind, that's been slowly chipping away at all that ingrained bitterness, that heartbreaking isolation that the Righteous Man had drawn about his shoulders as a shield. Castiel isn't certain that he's being unselfish, though, but with Dean in his arms, shaking apart so beautifully under him, he can't really find it within himself to care.
"C'mon," Dean rasps, his heels digging into Castiel's back, urging him on, "Harder," he demands, and Castiel huffs, braces himself with palms pressed on the bed and draws almost all the way out before hilting himself again with a sharp, savage jerk of his hips and Dean keens like an animal, arching beneath him, they're filthy with sweat and come and Castiel buries his face against Dean's neck with a moan. Sensation always seems overwhelming whenever he's tangled up in a vessel, and it's a thousand times more intense, somehow, with Dean, as though Dean's touch and Dean's cries are hooked deep into every thread of his grace; he wants to enfold Dean with all of his wings and hide him away forever; he wants to press like this against all that warm, sticky skin until the end of eternity; Castiel wants.
Dean kicks at him again, cursing breathlessly, until Castiel obligingly shifts and scoops a hand under the small of Dean's back, urging him up effortlessly, holding him still as he takes this further, to the very edge of his broad estimate of what Dean's fragile frame can take, but Dean only cries out at the brutal pace and tries to move against him; Enochian chokes in Castiel's throat and his wings want-need to be unfurled, pleasure's skewing his control and he can't get enough of Dean. He kisses Dean, pouring his intoxication into him, rough and sloppy, and Dean jerks and grinds himself against him with a muffled groan as he comes.
"Angel catnip," Dean mutters, rolling his eyes, when Castiel grins, lopsided, at him, kissing down to press the flat of his tongue against the collar.
Castiel always seems amused whenever Dean brings up the possibility of leaving the Church. "It won't change what you are," the angel takes to saying, untroubled.
"You're the voice of temptation in the fucking desert," Dean tells him, and Castiel scowls. It's funny how easy it is to rile up angels.
"I'm not the Devil, Dean!"
"You're tempting a priest away from his vows, etcetera," Dean contends. They're at another pit stop, sitting on the grainy wooden bench, watching the stars. Dean isn't drinking, this time; he hasn't for weeks, he realizes, abruptly. It's a good feeling, kinda. Maybe it's possible to change. "Seduced a priest into a life of sin."
Castiel huffs, offended. "Humanity set the rules in organised religion, not God. God wants humans to have sex, if they're willing. That's why He went to the trouble of creating sexual organs for mutual stimulation regardless of sexual orientation. The holy men mentioned in the Book have all had sex. Many times."
Castiel always has such horrifically scientific methods of approaching philosophical issues. Dean fights the urge to facepalm. "Thanks for the explanation." He doesn't really want to entertain any mental images about biblical characters engaging in copulation, thanks.
"Good," Castiel eyes him suspiciously, as though wondering whether he's being made fun of. "I am here to answer your questions. And correct your misconceptions."
That reminds him. "What happens after? I mean, when we get Alastair," Dean adds, a little awkwardly. "Will you go?" The thought's rather more painful than he liked, even though he'd braced himself.
"Dean, I've watched over you for your entire life," Castiel points out, patiently. "I only chose to show myself to you recently and intervene directly. My overall task hasn't changed, nor will it. I'll be here tomorrow, and the day after, and after that. I'll be there when you close your eyes on the very last of your days."
That's... Dean isn't really sure what to feel about that. It's nice to know that he'll never be alone, he supposes, even if his entire lifetime is hard to contemplate. It's sad to know that he'll leave Castiel behind, someday. He'll grow old, while Castiel is eternal. "I'm sorry," he says finally, after a while.
"Don't be." Castiel reaches over, to take his hand, and he squeezes it faintly as he looks up at the stars. "I wouldn't change any of it for the world."
Dean squeezes back instead of pulling his hand away, it's fucking girly as hell, sitting in the middle of the wilderness with only the road stretching before and behind them, under the stars; still, he relaxes, feels something deep within him loosen up, stretch, change.
Maybe he starts to believe, at that point. Just a little.