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Wait and See

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Dean stands alone in a graveyard in Kansas, where the Apocalypse didn't start. Bobby's body, head twisted, is lying in the grass, splashed red with what used to be Cas.

There's nothing to indicate Sam was there at all. Dean crawls over to where he disappeared, looking for the key laying in the grass, sure he saw it glinting down here just a second ago, but there's nothing.

Dean searches for as long as he can, but he's broken and busted up and so very tired. He lays down to rest for a moment, between the untouched grass where Sam had just swan dived into Hell, the bloody red patch of Cas, and Bobby.

He falls asleep.

He wakes up to his face throbbing, but he doesn't care. He slowly drags together a pyre for Bobby and sits and watches until the fire dies away. It's incredibly illegal, incredibly open, and insane that no one catches him.

He keeps Bobby's hat. There isn't a big enough piece of Castiel to bury or burn. He finds a shred of trench coat, torn and bloodied, and tucks it in his pocket. There's nothing left of Sam at all. He wants to lay back down in the graveyard until he dies of exposure, but that seems melodramatic, so he goes into town, finds a motel, and asks for a single room.


 

He stays in the motel, drinking and sleeping it off, for a few days. He's charged for a week, but it seems longer. He's hungry for the first time in days and goes out to the Impala to go grab whatever's closest.

He catches sight of himself in the rearview mirror, and the sight shakes him out of it a little. The left side of his face is purplish black with sickly yellow green at the edges. He looks like he's rotting. He drops into the driver's seat and turns his head back and forth, trying to make out his own features underneath the swollen jaw and discolored skin.

It wakes him up. He's starving. He stops at the drive-thru on the way out of town, orders enough for two and scarfs it all down in the parking lot before heading to Sioux Falls.


 

Dean had imagined the house would feel different, like it would know Bobby wasn't ever coming back. But it's just Bobby's house. He'd considered finding a place for the hat here, propping it up on a shelf or something, but having it sit in the front seat of the car had been too depressing. He'd dropped it into a river and watched it float away a couple hours before the South Dakota border.

There is whiskey in the cupboards, food in the fridge, and there are books everywhere. One of them must have the answer to getting Sam back. Dean heats up some left overs, pours himself a glass and drops onto the couch to read.


 

He works the phones when he's sober and bored. Sometimes he lets them ring. Sometimes he's so drunk it seems like a good idea to answer the phones after all. He probably gets Griggs arrested for impersonating an officer, but Griggs is a moron, so jail probably at least saves him from a nasty death by monster.

He gets despondent. He's not actually stupid, but he's not Bobby. He's not Sam. He can't find answers in dust and wood pulp.

He tries things his way. He makes calls. A lot of his old psychic contacts have dried up since what happened to Pamela. A lot of his hunter contacts dried up after word spread that Sam was the Antichrist.

And after they killed Gordon.

And after word got out that they started the Apocalypse.

And after word got out that he and Sam were constantly being dragged back from the dead. Supernatural was one thing, but Hunters didn't want to deal with shit once it got esoteric.

He's reached the end of his rope after a few weeks. Bobby's got a few half finished bottles of painkillers in his medicine cabinet. Dean's already soaked in whiskey. All of it combined would probably be enough. The idea of just going to sleep and not waking back up is appealing until Dean muzzily remembers that he'd probably just end up throwing it all back up.

Well. His gun's on his nightstand.

The argument against it that he's been using for the last month- that he has to save Sam- is failing. He can't do it. Not this time. He's probably blown his last shot at Heaven. Maybe he could spring Sam from Hell from the inside. Or maybe he'll just go back to Alistair's rack and get what he deserves for letting his brother die.

It's time.

He gets up off the couch and is walking toward the stairs when he sees the mail slot clack open and clack shut.

For some reason what drops catches his curiosity. He bends to pick it up.

It's a letter. Pastel pink.

It's addressed to him. In the corner, where the return address should be, there is just a name. Missouri Mosely.

He tears the letter open, perplexed to find an old Easter card inside. It looks like a cheap gas station one, and the pile of orange stickers on the back advertise that it must have been the last card on sale. The cheerful little message about Easter eggs is crossed out and underneath is written, in black pen and oddly blocky script: Wait and see, you damn fool.


 

Dean goes out the yard and works on the cars. It keeps him busy. It keeps him sober. It keeps him alive. There's a hollowed out body to a 59 El Dorado that could be worth some money after a little paint.

Priming it is sweaty, tedious work. Even out in the chilly, damp air Dean works in his T-shirt, tossing his jacket and shirt underneath the metal shell. He's gotten most of the quarter panel done when he hears his cellphone ringing from the house.

That phone hasn't rung in over a month and it takes him a moment to realize what the sound is. He runs for the house, grabbing it on the last ring.

It's a wrong number.

Everyone he knows is dead.

He doesn't even go back outside to the cover the car or grab his stuff. He opens a fresh bottle of whiskey and sinks back into Bobby's couch.


 

He feels guilty about the binge in the morning. He should have been working on the car, Bobby's water and electric cost money. He should have been back at the books, trying to save Sam.

He almost pours the last of the bottle out, but can't quite force himself to do it. He drinks some water and goes out to the yard. He's less hung over than he expected to be: the sun blazes, but doesn't burn.

He walks over to the El Dorado. He should have covered it, but it doesn't look like there's been any harm done. He stretches, then grabs his buffer from the hood of the car.

And that's when he sees him.

Castiel is asleep on the ground under the car.

He's wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, and for some reason, a grey bathrobe with black stripes. His head is pillowed on the clothes Dean left under the car.

Dean dives through the window, nearly landing on him.

"Cas? Cas!"

The yelling wakes Cas up, but Dean still grabs him and shakes him, just to make sure he's really there. Cas gives him a confused and slightly irritated look before responding, "Hello, Dean," as though he had just stepped out for some milk instead of just reappeared from the dead after a month and a half.

Dean hugs him fiercely, and Cas pats him on the back uncomfortably. Dean drags him inside.


 

Dean isn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but he still keeps an eye on Cas for the first few days. Not only did Cas come back from the dead, because really, who hasn't? But a quick search of his clothes reveals a plain black billfold with a South Dakota Drivers License, a social security card and an insurance card. All of these are made out with the name Castiel Novak on them, who is apparently thirty three years old, a hundred and sixty pounds, and an organ donor.

In a long and storied history of scary and bizarre, somehow that takes the cake for Dean.


 

Having two people in the house breathes life back into Dean. He gets the car primed. He works the phones. With Cas around they even get back to researching.

But it's evident after only a few hours of having Cas back that all they can do is research.

Cas is human now.

And while that's disappointing as far as killing their hope for an easy magic solution to getting Sam and Bobby back, it's not the end of the world. It's almost nice. Cas is always around now and teaching him to be human is kind of fun when Dean's not trying to save the world at the same time.

He brings Cas different things to eat, and even makes a few things. He only has three specialties- bacon at the perfect crispiness, Chef-Boyardee, and the defrost button- but Cas has never eaten anything but White Castle so he's not hard to impress. Dean shoplifts some clothes for him and teaches him how to do laundry. They have an interesting night when Cas learns that there is a huge difference between a human alcohol tolerance and an angelic alcohol tolerance. Dean finds a cassette player in the closet of the room he set up for Castiel and plays him the tapes from the Impala.

He teaches Cas how to fix some easy things on the cars. He finds a TV for free out on a curb and steals some old Clint Eastwood movies. He teaches Cas to play cards and cheat at poker. He teaches him how to shoot a rifle and a nine millimeter and how to hold a knife.

Cas picks up on things quickly too. He doesn't really understand the movies, but he gets good at the song lyrics. He'll never be a great bluffer, but he can count cards.

He's doesn't really understand how his mortal body works, and oddly that seems to be the hardest part of the learning curve for him. He doesn't eat if Dean isn't around to eat with him and Dean will come back from errands or working and be able to hear Cas's stomach growling. Sleeping and the necessities that surround it don't really seem to click for the Angel either, and for the first couple of weeks Dean is forever finding Cas dozing all over the house and sometimes the yard.

Cas understands that Dean set up the other extra room for him and that he should theoretically be sleeping there at night, but Dean usually finds him on the couch or on the porch swing in the middle of the afternoon. Dean would push harder for him to try to normalize that, but after a lifetime of working nights and getting less than four hours in a day, Dean is just as bad and between the two of them it becomes acceptable to fall asleep on pretty much any mostly horizontal surface on the property at any time.

One morning Dean finds a few strange deaths in Montana and asks Cas if he wants to go check it out. Cas isn't up for it and Dean finds that he doesn't really mind sitting out a potential case.

It's nice not being a Hunter for a little while.


 

Dean feels like a dick – well, it's worse than that, but he can't even put together the words for how bad he feels about it- when he finally realizes that he may be enjoying teaching Cas to be human, but that doesn't mean Cas is dealing with it well.

It doesn't even occur to Dean that Cas is essentially crippled now until he comes home one day from picking up Chinese food to find Cas in the kitchen, screaming and raging and hurling dishes at the walls.

"Cas!" Dean yells, dropping the take out in the hall way and running into the kitchen. "Cas!"

Cas doesn't stop, doesn't turn, just heaves a coffee mug against a part of the wall that's already dented.

Dean grabs him under the arm and heaves him against his chest, but it's like Cas can't even tell. He launches himself toward the cupboard, Dean wrestling him into a hold even as the former Angel tries to move. He grabs a plate off the cupboard, spins just hard enough to break Dean's grip and comes circling around ready to whack Dean with the dish. Dean catches his arm and hurls the plate of his hands, but Cas is still fighting.

Dean slips on a piece of plate when Cas pushes back against him. Cas drops, carrying Dean after him even as Dean gets a grip on him. He winds up forcing Cas to the floor on his stomach, only managing it in the end because he has just enough height on Cas and just enough weight on Cas that the little bit of awareness of the situation helps him overpower the other man.

"Cas! Calm the fuck down, jesus-fuck what are you doing?" Dean barks. Cas has stopped shrieking, but he keeps struggling against Dean's hands for a few more moments until he stops with a shaky breath and Dean realizes that there is blood on the linoleum. He's holding Cas down in broken glass.

"Cas? I'm gonna let you up. You're gonna hurt yourself if you don't calm down. We have to take a look at your hands."

Cas doesn't respond. He goes so limp in Dean's hands that Dean's afraid he's passed out, but when he jostles Cas the other man replies with a dead but reproachful sounding, "Don't shake me, Dean."

Dean hauls Cas up to his chest like a life sized, too-heavy-for-this rag doll and manhandles him to the bathroom with Cas only taking the occasional helping step, like a toddler who doesn't want to go to bed. Dean makes him sit on the counter while he looks at his bloody hands, forearms and knees.

"You're lucky, you just missed a few major fucking arteries here."

Cas sighs and leans back against the mirror, unresisting as Dean mops up blood with a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide.

"What the hell happened?"

"I broke a plate," Cas replies.

"You don't say."

"And I couldn't fix it."

"So you decided to go for the matching set?"

"I can't fix anything. Not anymore. I don't think you understand what I used to be, Dean."

And that's the moment that it kicks Dean in the stomach. In his mind, Cas just got normal. In Cas's mind he's lost everything. It would be like if Dean woke up one morning not just without limbs, but blind and deaf as well.

And he's been making the poor bastard spaghetti-os.

"No, Cas. I don't think I do," he replies. He grabs a tweezers and starts pulling shards of glass out of Cas's hand. There are only a few, and they're small. It could have been a hell of a lot worse. Cas hisses with every shard of glass and porcelain that Dean tugs out of his flesh. If it had been Sam, Dean would have teased him about not being a baby, but Cas clearly isn't in a place where he can be pushed.

Cas doesn't say anything else. Dean focuses on fixing the only thing he can. He holds Cas's arm over the sink and pours the hydrogen peroxide over it. Then the other. Then he wraps it them both up in gauze.

Now Cas looks like the one who was going to kill himself.

"I'm sorry, Cas. I shoulda…" Dean starts, then finally looks up at Cas, who is still and expressionless like before, but now has red rimmed eyes on top of it. Cas clears his throat and shakes his head. Dean walks him up to his bedroom, tells him to lay down and then goes downstairs to clean the kitchen.

Dean stays up most of the night trying to figure out anyway to help.

He can't. Obviously he can't, but he starts thinking of things Cas might like. He likes the patch of wildflowers in Bobby's yard. He likes when they order take out. He likes when they play cards.

Dean can work with that.

Chapter Text

 

Dean starts trying to get Castiel to like things after the incident in the kitchen. He didn't realize before that he was just trying to get Cas to like the things he liked, and now he is making a concentrated effort to find things that Cas likes all by himself.

This would be easier if Cas knew what he liked.

Cas likes listening to music with Dean. They sit in Bobby's living room and listen to Bobby's records and Dean's tapes. So Dean takes him to a record store in town to pick out his own music. Cas actually knows most of the old music. Classics. Boring piano and harp stuff that Dean would never listen too. But apparently there were fewer musicians back then so Cas can remember some of them. He picks out a few records and he and Dean listen to them, but wind up going back to Lynyrd Skynard.

Dean points out the flowers by the house and asks Cas about starting a garden. Cas seems to like the idea, but is hesitant about actually making it happen. Dean doesn't push but he slips a few packets of seeds in his pocket the next time he's at the grocery store.


 

Dean wakes up one night to screaming, and he's got a knife, his handgun and the rock salt rifle already in his hands before he knows what's happening. He's out of bed and ready to hunt in seconds.

Then he realizes that the screamer is Cas. He bounds over to his room, throws the door open and has the gun up and ready. The room is empty except for Cas, wailing and writhing around in this sleep. Dean grabs his shoulder and shakes him awake. He has to get pretty rough before Cas finally comes to.
He presses two fingers against Dean's forehead as he comes out of it. Dean flicks on the light. Cas is white as a sheet, clammy and cold to the touch. He shakes his head and pulls his hand away.

"Nightmare?" Dean asks.

"Um… yes. I suppose it was," Cas replies breathlessly. "I've never…. Uhmm…"

"What about?" Dean asks.

Cas gives him one of those looks. The trapped sort of look he used to give Dean when he wanted to give him some kind of hint or information and couldn't.

"Umm… Hell," Cas finally admits. "When the garrison… came for you."

"Oh," Dean replies.

"But now it's over."

"Yeah. It is."

"Yes. I'll go back to sleep now," Cas says.

"Yeah. Alright." Dean pats Cas's knee, grabs the weapons he set on the nightstand and leaves. He goes back to his room, sets the guns and the knife somewhere that makes them easier to get too and lays back. He stares at the ceiling, half dozing for a little while before guiltily getting back up.

He finds the whole concept of a 'first nightmare' unfathomable. And then he realizes that he finds the whole concept unfathomable, and then he feels weird. Maybe he should have done more for Cas, but he can't think of what. Writhing, screaming, sheet twisting nightmares are, and have always been, a fact of his life. He and his father had gotten to the point where they would just shake each other awake across the space between motel beds. They barely even woke up to do it. Dean can't imagine not having nightmares.

He wanders around the house for a little while, then goes to check on Cas. Cas is lying stock still in bed.

"Dean?"

Too still to actually be asleep.

"Yeah. Just checking on you."

"I can't sleep."

"Well. You were conked out in the yard for an hour today."

"Right. I only need a certain amount of sleep," Cas sighs rubbing his hands over his face, the bandages on his forearms flashing white even in the dark room.

"Right. Come on. There's still left over Chinese. You're losing weight."

"So are you," Cas tells him.

It's true. All of Dean's weight came from muscle. You lose muscle when you're not garroting monsters and digging up graves every day.

Cas throws his blankets off and crawls out of bed.

He and Dean go out to the kitchen together. Dean tosses the Chinese food in the microwave and sets out plates for both of them. Cas scarfs it down like he's starving and Dean makes a mental note to keep a closer eye on when he actually eats.

He considers asking Cas about coming into Hell for him. He'd always pictured it as Cas dropping out of the rocky outcropping overhead and grabbing him by the shoulder, but he's never actually asked.

He looks up at the struggling, mortal, trying man in front of him, nibbling at a shrimp as though there is something about it that he doesn't trust, and decides not to ask.

After all, he knows what he has nightmares about.


 

Dean steals a couple of long sleeve shirts for him and explains to Cas that he has to wear them and that they don't want people to see the bandages. Cas cottons on to the concept a little too quickly for Dean's peace of mind.

He takes Cas out running errands.

Of all the weird things- Cas likes the grocery store. He keeps picking up strange looking fruits and going "What is this? Is this good?"

And it's the first time that Dean's really seen him look interested since he came back. He lets Cas get whatever he wants. He doesn't know what half of it is. There's a kind of fruit that looks like a nerf ball, yellow and spikey. Another that looks like it's made out of wedges of wax all stuck together in the middle. Stuff he's heard of but never tried, like mangoes or passion fruit.

Cas finds the bags of marshmallows fascinating. Dean gets smore stuff.

They are in the grocery store for over an hour. Dean leaning heavily on the cart handle while Cas walks along in front of him, peering at everything as though they are in a museum.

Dean's trying to figure out what in the hell they are actually going to make out of their bizarre collection of fruit and cans. And what he's going to do if Cas develops expensive tastes. Their cash situation is starting to worry him. He's got fake cards, but they've been in town too long to start relying on them for anything.

He's going to have to think of something. He's got a slightly mentally unstable angel to support after all.


 

"But I could help," Cas argues as he buttons up the shirt that Dean had laid out for him. He'd given up on trying to get Cas to do something-anything- else with his hair, which Cas refuses to cut and has started combing back with product he found in Bobby's bathroom. He looks like he runs a speakeasy.

Dean doesn't usually care how Cas dresses or what he looks like when they go out in public, but they are going out to hustle pool and cards tonight. Bobby's house costs money, it's too dangerous to run credit card scams when they've been in one place so long and a sales girl followed him the last time he ran to shop-ko, so he needs to cool it on the shoplifting too.

"Look, man, you're good at playing cards, but you're not good at playing people. We're not going to play, we're going to scam. You're not good enough at talking to people yet."

"I talk to people all the time," Cas huffs. "People are very kind to me." He drops down on the floor and starts tying his shoes slowly and methodically.

"Yeah, Cas… that's because they think you're retarded."

"What's retarded?"

Cas asks a question like "What's retarded?" in the same reasonable, measured tone that he asks questions like "Why aren't pennies gray too?" or "What flavor is bubble gum flavor?"

"Like… slow, mentally. Mentally childlike."

"Oh. Why do they think that?"

The full answer is long and hard to explain. It's also pointless because even if Cas knew why people thought that there isn't anything he could do to change it yet. He's learning and he's doing so well considering what he's going through. He's only flipped out once again since the plate thing and the bandages are already off. He tries to be normal in public, but he's still a grown man who takes several minutes to tie his shoes, has no concept of personal space and has developed a tendency to touch two
fingers to Dean's shoulder or elbow as though making sure he is still there.

He'll get shoelaces figured out. Personal space is a problem that they are working on. Dean has given up on getting any personal space for himself for a while until Cas doesn't need to ask so many questions or stops needing to do the arm touching thing. Personal space as it applies to women is difficult as well. Women tend to crowd Cas and middle-aged potato-mother types, the ones who assume he's retarded the fastest, are forever touching his shoulder when they talk to him, like he's a child.

And Dean's not sure exactly why the arm touching thing developed, but he does know it started after Cas started having nightmares and after the night Dean had blown out a tire on the highway and gotten home three hours after he'd expected to be back. He'd come home to find Cas, sitting silent, still and starch-white on the couch. He'd expected it to stop, and not put any further thought into it when it didn't.

"Don't worry about it. It's simpler if they think that. Until we… get you used to things.

"Dean, I am several millennia old. I am used to all kinds of things."

"Human things, Cas. Like shooting the shit over cards."

Cas looks at him suspiciously. "What is shoo-"

"It's an expression," Dean cuts him off.


 

"Cas? Two beers and that's it, all right?" Dean says, handing Cas a few bills. Cas has been drinking a lot, and while Dean understands just how glass his house is on that front, he's seen a little too much of future Cas's dead grin on Cas's face after he has overdone it and it scares him. Earlier in the week he hid all of Bobby's meds in the panic room. God knows Castiel deserves to drink himself through a spot of depression, but after the demon blood detoxes of the last year, Dean can't handle the idea of trying to wean Cas off pills.

"Can I have a shot?" Cas asks.

"Is that enough money for a shot?" Dean replies.

"Right. I'll ask the bartender."

He folds the money into a tidy square and tucks it into his breast pocket, then he reaches out and taps two fingers against Dean's elbow. Dean's about to ask him not to do that in the bar. Out in public during the day it's an odd enough gesture and goes along with enough of Cas's other quirks that people assume "retarded". In a bar, on top of the ongoing personal space issue, it's going to read "lovers".

Well. Whatever. Dean'll work it into the scam. The kind of mark he's looking for, at this kind of bar, would freak at being wiped out by a fag. It'll make them bet stupid.
Dean walks around the bar a little bit, relieved that there is a game in process tonight too. He wasn't sure if a game was a regular feature here and he doesn't want to try bringing Cas to a casino quite yet. Big crowds still make him jumpy and it kills Dean to drag Cas through them. As an Angel, it didn't matter if Cas got lost, or was surrounded by people. Cas has explained that Angel's don't get lost, they are all seeing, and of course there were always the wings. As a human, mortal and impotent, Cas is terrified of getting lost.

So, a small local bar it is.

They drop into a booth and the waitress- cute, blonde, curvy- bustles almost immediately over with water and menus.

"Start you boys off with anything?" she asks, turning to Cas, who looks at her blankly.

"Cas?" Dean prompts him. Cas turns the blank look on him and the waitress's smile gets a little fixed. "She wants to know what you want to drink."

"Oh." He tugs the little square of money out of his pocket and holds it out. "Could I have a beer, please?"

Dean grabs his wrist and pushes it gently down to the counter. "Not yet." Dean didn't realize he's only really ever taken Cas to a bar, not to a bar/ restaurant. New scenario, new skill set.

The waitress's smile goes from fixed to soft as she looks at Cas in the same way the older potato mother women do. " 'Course. What kind, sweetheart?"

Cas looks at Dean again. Usually Dean would go over the options with him, like a bizarre kindergarten teacher, but he's got to work.

"Two Millers," Dean says.

"Light?"

Dean narrows his eyes at her in surprise. "No?"

"Coming right up."

"I don't pay first?" Cas asks. They're having trouble with the concept of money, and Dean knows that he is over complicating it with their reliance on theft and cheating.

"Not when there's a waitress. She'll come back with a check when we're done," Dean tells him, trying to keep one eye on the poker game. Cas scoots a menu toward himself.

"Can we get something to eat?"

Dean wanted to avoid spending any more money than what he'd already given Cas, but he can't remember if Cas ate today.

"You hungry?"

"Yes?"

"Fine. Stay under eight bucks." Dean shows him where the prices are and tries to gage the progress of the game while Cas picks something out, and seeing if anyone is giving them any weird looks. An old guy at the bar looks pretty skeptical of them, a woman is sizing them up, the other waitresses are shooting them slightly sad looks.
Their waitress brings them their beers. Somebody at the card table finally pulls their winnings toward themself.

"Kay. I'm gonna go play. If you have a question ask our waitress, if you need something, come get me."

Dean decides on his way over to play himself a little soft. He knows what he looks like, he's going to have to sit somewhere where he can keep an eye on Cas and the likelihood of Cas coming over and needing to whisper something in his ear is too high. He might as well play into the situation.

It works. They let him into the game. There are two guys his age, two that are probably mid fifties, and one real old codger who always deals and doesn't talk.
Dean's first hand is playable but nothing special and the guys all know better than to be reckless with a new player in the mix. The pot's barely enough to pay for Cas's onion rings, and Dean decides to just take it.

Talk opens up on the second hand. The older guys are going deer hunting. One of the younger guys is shopping for an engagement ring. The other's going to Afghanistan.

Dean tells them that he's moved into his father's old house after he passed and he's getting it fixed up. He loses a little money on the second hand.
Over at his and Cas's table the waitress is checking in on him. She points the jukebox out to him, then, when he looks interested actually takes him over and shows him how to use it. She even makes change for him so he has quarters. Dean mentally triples her tip.

The bets begin to creep up. Going-to-Afghanistan raises too much not to be a bluff. The other's call. This pot is shaping up to be a solid win. Dean realizes that he's going to eventually need to either leave Cas home for a night to go to the casino's or just suck it up and drag him along. This is way too friendly, way too small time.
A girl from the bar slinks over to Cas. Dean keeps any eye on her but his cards are good. The younger guys are getting sloppy. He draws the four he needed. One of the older guys folds. The girl puts her hand on Cas's shoulder. The old codger raises.

The girl takes both of Cas's hands in her own and sets them at her waist. She presses a button on the jukebox. Hotel California starts to play.
Dean calls the raise. Getting-Engaged raises again. The girl steps closer to Cas. Dean shoots a look at their waitress, who is watching Cas and the girl with her lips pursed. Dean calls the new bet, pulls another card and winds up with a flush he'd be willing to start betting heavily on if this weren't the only time the codger had raised and if the man weren't completely unreadable.

The girl is sort of dancing with Cas. More spinning slowly with him. Cas actually looks like he's following the rhythm well, which falls so far out of Cas's general awkwardness that it sticks out to Dean. The other older guy folds. So does Going-to-Afghanistan. The girl presses her face to Cas's ear and Dean see's Cas's eyes go wide. He takes a large and sudden step back, and hits the jukebox with a crash, when he tries to move away he's too crowded by the girl to move. People are watching.

"Shit," Dean sighs. "'Scuse me, fellas."

He sets his cards down and lopes over, grabs Cas's forearm and pulls him out into breathing room.

"Geez, touchy," The girl taunts.

"Okay, just move along," Dean tells her. He's giving her the benefit of the doubt. Coming on to a guy in a bar isn't a crime and Cas seems pretty normal until he hits some sort of roadblock.

"Fine, princess, he's all yours."

"Back off," Dean barks. If she's going to be a bitch then fuck her. Cas reaches out and presses two fingers to Dean's shoulder. The girl scoffs and stalks away.

"You gonna be alright?" Dean asks. This is not a good time for Cas to have an episode. People are watching them and Dean's got a lot of money on this hand.

"Yes. I'll… I'll just sit back down and finish my appetizer."

"Okay. I'll finish this hand and we'll leave."

Cas goes back to their table. The waitress appears instantly.

Dean goes back to the game. At least now they all know that he's planning to win this hand. The last younger guy folds as Dean sees the waitress returning to their table with a little plate full of different types of dipping sauces.

"That guy a buddy of yours?" The codger asks. It's the only thing he's said all game.

Dean hears the implication. It bothers him more than he though it would.

"Yeah."

"And where'dya meet him?"

Dean's done. He looks up at the Codger, and with just a little bit of an edge answers, "Fallujah."

Codger nods and taps a finger to the side of his head.

"Not when he got there," Dean replies.

Codger nods, and then folds. Dean takes his winnings, leaves behind enough for a round of drinks. He goes back to his table, asks for the check and he and Cas polish off the last of the onion rings, trying all four of the different types of dipping sauce that the bar offers.

"So... what did she say to you?" Dean asks as they settle into the Impala.

"That I was cute and that I should go back to her place so that she could swallow me down."

Dean snorts. "Do you know what that means?"

"I would assume she was referring to oral sex," Cas replies. "If her intent was to actually eat me I doubt she would have advertised it in that manner."

"How did you learn about oral sex?"

"Sam's computer."

Right. Cas uses Sam's computer. Dean's still surprised at how easily Cas gets around the internet for a guy who needed a couple of tries before he got buttons down. Cas can't type, but he's been pretty good with using the computer for research.

All kinds of research, apparently.

"Oh. Sure," Dean laughs. "You should have seen the look on your face though. You looked like you though she was going to eat you."

"She grabbed my penis through my clothes. I was startled."

Dean laughs. Cas echoes and they turn on the radio.

Dean counts out his winnings on the coffee table. After his and Cas's bill, the round of drinks for the other players and the thirty dollar tip he left for their waitress they're up about a hundred and fifty bucks. Not too shabby for a night's work.

As he's folding up the bills and tossing them in the coffee can where they keep their cash Cas holds out a couple of crisp, folded twenties.

"Where did you get this?"

"That woman put my hand in her pocket. I took this."

Dean nods. Cas managed to lift almost a hundred bucks. "Nice man. I'll have to teach you to pick pocket."

"Can we listen to music?"

"Sure."

Cas puts on one of his classical records and sprawls out on the couch. Dean sits at the coffee table, researching, until he hears Cas star to snore lightly, then goes upstairs to get some shut eye himself.


 

In the morning Dean spends half an hour looking for Sam's computer before finding it in Cas's room.

When he opens it up, it's very obvious how Cas learned about oral sex.

Dean suddenly realizes that Cas takes weirdly long showers and tries not to think about it.

Chapter Text

Old habits die hard.

A string of people die suspiciously in a hotel just down the highway from Bobby's house. The article about the deaths attributes them to accidents due to improper maintenance and cites the bad wiring and odd air conditioning malfunctions.

It's been almost six months since the apocalypse, six months since Sam went to Hell and Bobby died. About five since Castiel seemingly sprung out of the ground. Dean is itching for a hunt.

He finally takes Sam's duffle out of the Impala, carefully unpacks it, puts everything in it into a drawer in the dresser in Bobby's rom and is ready to pack it full of Castiel's stuff when he realizes that they are staying in town. The hotel is only 20 minutes away. They could come home for dinner and then go back to hunting later.
He tosses a few changes of clothes, a toothbrush, and some deodorant into the bag anyway, just so he feels prepared.

He grabs Cas out of the yard where he's started tilling up the ground near the house for a garden and tosses him the duffle. Cas clearly recognizes it. He turns it over in his hands for a moment before he looks up, expectantly.

"Come on. Haunting at a hotel downtown."

Cas just nods and follows him out to the car.

It's a tame, straight-forward hunt. There's a ghost story consistent with death records and both are consistent with the spirit's MO. The graveyard is just outside of Sioux Falls. They run into another hunter- Greg Kilgerny, who is relieved to find out that someone is in the old Singer house, and seems to equate this with someone like Bobby being back in the mix. He gives Dean and Cas a couple of dangerous amulets to lock away somewhere safe. Cas wraps them carefully in a worn and over bleached towel.
They go out for a burger while they wait for dark to fall so they can go torch the body. When they go back to the hotel to double check that everything went over as planned it turns out that the hotel owner was in the middle of being attacked when they ghost went up in flames. Her name is Chelsea. She's grateful. And hot. And she gives Dean her number.

He and Cas are on their way home before midnight, Cas sitting with his legs drawn up to his chest, looking small and tired.

"You alright, man?" Dean asks as they pull back into their yard.

"Yes, Dean. Fine."

"You sure? Cause you don't seem like the Happy Chef of ghost flambé." Dean asks as they trudge into the house. He sets his guns out on table and starts to clean them.

Cas drops onto the couch. "What's flambé?"

"You know, I don't actually know. It's something you set on fire. What's wrong?" Dean sets a few guns out for Cas to clean as well.

"I don't want to be a Hunter," Cas says. His voice is quiet and grave, as though he is admitting to some horrifically depraved crime.

"Oh," Dean replies.

Cas curls back up and closes his eyes. "I was a soldier for so long, Dean. Forever. Literally. And I have all those memories, compressed into this skull where they don't fit right and sometimes I can't think around them. It's been too long an eternity. I don't… I can't fight anymore. I'm something different now and I can't add more pain and fear into that mess. I'm so sorry."

"No, that's fine. I mean… you don't have to."

"You want to go back to it. You miss it." Cas settles further down into the couch, like he's going to go to sleep.

Dean doesn't know what to say, so he doesn't say anything. Cas doesn't move or open his eyes. Dean keeps takes apart the next pistol. "No. Whatever. We don't have to hunt."

Cas lets out a sigh that Dean could swear sounds disappointed. "Dean, this is what you are."

The anger flares up suddenly. Like a struck match. Dean is angrier than he's been in months. He bites it down before he replies, because he's not angry at Cas, but it takes a while to bring the rage down.

"No, Cas," He says eventually. Cas looks over at him, as though surprised the conversation is still going. "This is what my father made me."
Cas doesn't reply, just keeps looking at Dean, his bright blue eyes soft, but focused. Quietly paying attention as Dean realizes that he's started digging and he can't stop until he's done.

"He treated us like we'd enlisted into his revenge quest. I was making sawed offs when I was nine. I was sixteen years old, helping him kill monsters while everyone else was in school. I wouldn't even have gotten a GED if Sam hadn't pushed for it. And nothing I did was good enough. Ever. Never a clean enough shot, never a quick enough reaction. We could never be happy, it was always our responsibility to make sure everyone was safe first and we never could." Dean finishes cleaning the gun and starts disassembling the next with trembling hands. He keeps his eyes on his work, he knows Cas is watching him and he can't bring himself to look at the former Angel's expression right now, not when Dean can't stop talking and Cas just admitted that he has millennia upon millennia of the same thing Dean is bitching about experiencing for a handful of years, so much of it that it clogs his mind up.

"And always: Watch out for Sammy! Watch out for Sammy, watchoutforsammy watchoutforsammy. Because he wouldn't. We weren't important enough for him to watch out for. And I did watch out for Sam. I taught him to walk. I taught him to talk. I used to steal toys for him. I taught him how to talk to girls. I was supposed to keep him from finding out about monsters when Dad couldn't hide the journal or the trunkful of salt. You know what Dad taught him? How to shoot. How to hold a knife. How to drink whiskey. And every time Sam talked back, or ran off, it was my fault. Cause I wasn't raising him well enough." The pieces of the gun fall from Dean's hands and he wipes a hand over his mouth.

They don't talk about Sam. Dean never mentions him and Cas, who originally tried to be comforting, has realized that Dean can't talk about him yet.
"I umm… I can't let people get killed. Like that Chelsea chick. I can go out and save people. I do have to do that. But maybe… maybe I don't have to be running all over the country sacrificing absolutely everything to do it."

Cas sits up. "Maybe we've lost enough."

Dean chokes, trying to cough or sneeze or do anything to cover up the fact that he's crying. Trying not to outright sob.

Cas scoots over on the couch, and hugs Dean.

It's not a consoling hug. It's not a "hope it gets better hug". It's the way you hug someone when they're back from the dead. It's the way you hug someone when you are so glad that they are there, and so glad that they are alive and it pushes Dean over the edge.
Not for long. He gets a hold of himself pretty quickly, but he lets himself slip for just that moment, because this is Cas. He's seen Cas at his absolute weakest, and if Cas sees him the same way the world won't end.

He clears his throat. "Okay, man. Come on. Enough with the chick flick moment."

But Cas just replies, "I don't know what that means," and doesn't let him go.


 

Dean didn't realize that Cas was such a manipulative bastard. He probably didn't used to be, but Dean supposes that he rubs off on people.
He and Cas wind up at the little movie theater near their house later in the week. Just in time to see Chelsea. The hotel manager. Just walking into a 5:00 pm showing of some random comedy. Like you do.

Cas has been quiet and strangely focused all day. He's been working in his garden, which is probably the only garden with mugwort planted all around the petunias because "They look nice like that". He suggested the movie because he'd been working all day and wanted to do something relaxing and fun.

That's when Dean should have suspected that something was up. Cas doesn't really like movies, and he definitely doesn't find them relaxing. The whole ruse falls suddenly into place when Cas spots Chelsea at the door and waves her over.

He then shoots Dean a deeply smug look and as soon and Chelsea has walked over to them declares that he's tired and has changed his mind and he'll just walk home. He practically skips out of the theater.

"Your friend's not subtle, is he?" Chelsea asks. She sounds shy, a little tentative. Very aware that Cas invited her and Dean didn't.

It's only been… maybe a week? A little over a week tops since they ran into Chelsea. Dean had been planning to call, but he and Cas have been busy. They've been making safe boxes and researching what kind of herbs they should have readily available in the garden. Dean's been calling everyone in Bobby and Ellen's books, checking in on whose still alive and if anyone's seeing anything weird. Cas was part right, hunting is what Dean is, but that doesn't mean he has to go out and rack up even more of exactly the kind of issues that Cas was talking about. They can do this. They have given enough. They're trying to become a sort of headquarters, so that they can be hunters without actually hunting.

"Well…" Dean shrugs. "He's… his hearts in the right place but his brain is a little… scrambled. Subtlety is not really something he's good at."

"Oh…" Chelsea looks uncomfortable. Dean feels bad.

He shrugs and clears this throat, and then realizes that Chelsea knows what he and Cas do. She knows about ghosts.

He decides to try something that he's never tried with a woman before. Honesty. Not crazy honesty. There's just no point in trying to tell her that Cas used to be an Angel of the Lord. That was a stretch for him, it's going to be a straight up bitch to get Chelsea to believe him.

"Yeah… he's just… we've got a rough gig. "

Chelsea bites her lip. "Did something… happen to him?"

"A lot of things happened to him."

"So you guys… hunt ghosts together. Ghosts are real. That is not something I expected to learn about the world this week. Ghosts are real. Still getting over that one."

She's got a beautiful smile, all teeth and laugh lines. She looks genuinely happy when she smiles, Dean notices.

"Yeah. So are vampires, zombies, werewolves, demons, changelings. Sometimes you run into weird stuff."

Chelsea laughs uncertainly. "There's weirder stuff than zombies?"

"Uh yeah… zombies are pretty run of the mill. You get stuff like ghost sickness, hoodoo curses, mad scientists who find ways to live forever. There was a manic depressive man sized teddy bear one time."

Chelsea nods again, her deep brown eyes looking a little glazed over.

"Big foot's a hoax." Dean feels like this is all diarrhea of the mouth. You don't go out on a date with the grateful girl, you take her up to one of the rooms of her mediocre hotel, you rock her world, you enjoy yourself, you kiss her goodbye, you get behind the wheel.

She laughs. "Well, clearly. Otherwise what kind of crazy world would be living in?"

Dean laughs back. He has no idea what he's doing. He feels like all his joints are attached wrong. Like his feet and hands are too big and he might knock something over if he tries to move.

"You know… I didn't really want to see this movie."

Dean nods and steps back. That's what honesty gets you. "Yeah… that's… uh… Fair enough."

She bite her lip and looks up at him from under her dishwater blonde bangs. "I was actually thinking that I might go for a walk," Chelsea continues. "And now that it turns out there all these monsters out there, I was hoping you'd come along. You know. To protect me." She gives him a smile that is just a little bit mocking.

Now Dean really doesn't know what to do with himself. That could be genuine, 'let's go talk and walk' or the 'let's go get it on in the back of the Impala' which would put him on more comfortable ground. "Oh. Yeah. Right. I could do that."

They walk. They talk. They tell each other about their lives. Chelsea talks about her business and her family- three sisters, all older. Dean talks about hunting and taking care of Cas and growing up on the road. He tells more stories than she does. She seems interested, but Dean's not sure how much of it she really believes.
It's a bizarre experience. Dean has never been himself with a woman. There have been a couple of girls- not so different from Chelsea- saw the ghost, saw him hunt it, saw them naked, saw him leave town, but even then he's still usually the guy from his fake ID and always at least "Dean Winchester: The Guy Who Just Saved You From
Certain Death" and never "Dean Winchester: Alcoholic Dropout With Zero Real World Skills"

"So… What happened to Sam, if you don't mind me asking." Chelsea inquires carefully as their walk takes them back around to the movie theater.

Dean stops. He and Cas have been researching ways to save Sam every night for months, but talking about Sam, in the way of "Remember when Sam…" or "The time when Sam…" had been off the table. Sam only stopped being an utterly forbidden subject in the last week. Cas was awake in the afternoons more often now. He had found sitcom reruns useful for understanding the world. He like "Three's Company" but Dean was doubtful that he understood a damn word of it. He had also discovered talk shows. He had patiently explained to Dean, in a mixture of Angel and Doctor Phil, that it was unhealthy for them not to acknowledge that they missed Sam and that Sam was a hero and his name should be spoken aloud.

The moratorium on Sam stories had been lifted. A strict ban on talk shows had been immediately set in place.

"He… I'd really rather not talk about it. He's… ummm."

"Oh," Chelsea sets her hand to Dean's back. "I'm sorry. Forget I said anything."

"Sorry. It's a rough gig. That's why we're retiring."

"You and Cas?"

"We both uh… need someone to watch over us, I guess."

They're weaving around the parking lot when Chelsea stops next to a silver Prius. Dean doesn't realize that it's her car until she starts digging out her keys.

"This was a nice night, Dean," she says quietly.

"Yeah, it was."

She sets her hand at his elbow, leans up and kisses him, just one soft press of her lips to his. "Tell Cas thanks for the date. Hope I see you again."

Dean's not sure what to think as he watches her drive away. He had a nice night. But he can tell that it's not so much about Chelsea, who is fun and beautiful and apparently, incredibly understanding, and more about the fact that he just had a night different than any other in his life. He spent a pleasant night of conversation, with someone other than Sam or Cas, he didn't kill anything and he didn't pretend to be anyone else.

He just feels weird.


 

"Did you enjoy the movie?" Cas asks when Dean walks into the living room. He's sitting on the couch eating what looks like an entire bowl of the weird green fruit with all the seeds in it that he'd turned out to love. He's grinning at Dean in a way that could be classified as wicked.

"What's with the Parent Trap, Cas?" Dean sighs.

Cas lowers his eyebrows. "What's the-"

"The set up. The sting operation. Why?"

Cas shrugs and takes a huge bite from his bowl. "I think you need more companionship."

"I need more companionship?"

"Yes. And she liked you." Cas chews contemplatively. "Are you mad at me?"

Dean wants to be. Not yelling mad, just… a little mad. But he isn't. And he doesn't really want to investigate why that is.

"No. I'm not mad," He walks past Cas, slapping the side of his head, just a little, as he walks past. "Pull that shit again though and you will eat that fucking Mugwort."

He hears Cas snort at that, and Dean goes up to bed.

Chapter Text

Cas finally finds a hobby. He likes to cook. He likes food. He likes directions. It's a perfect combo. He makes fancy, fiddly, multi-ingredient things- many of which are very green. Most of it's great, but Dean's sure a man can't live on that many vegetables, so every once on a while he sneaks out for a cheeseburger.

Dean goes out with Chelsea again. She takes him to a horror flick and they go out for drinks afterward. They wind up in the back seat of the Impala, making out a little bit before Dean realizes that the shot of whisky he talked her into when he found out that she had never tried it went straight to her head. He drops her off at home.

Dean gets a job. A guy at a body shop down the highway found the old car frames that Dean was trying to sell online and asked to interview him, when Dean showed up in the Impala the deal was pretty much clinched already. It seems a little silly to be employed somewhere else when he lives in what was a body shop at one point, but he doesn't have the money to start Bobby's business back up and he doesn't know how to run it if he does.

Working a regular job like a regular guy is bizarre. It's the limitations that stick out at first. Dean has never had to be at the same place at the same time every day before. He's never had a supervisor or a lunch break either. It's a little suffocating at first. He spends the first few weeks very aware that if he got in the Impala and drove away there would be actual consequences.

He wonders if it's just a little bit of what Castiel feels like now.

Cas has clearly realized that this job means that Dean is in every way supporting him, and Dean tries as best he can to make sure Cas knows he's contributing too. Cas does all the cooking, most of the cleaning, and he's the one who's home now when people call and need to talk to a Hunter's superior at the CDC, or need to know where to find a Valean Amulet in Oklahoma.

Far from just wanting Cas to know he's a part of the team, Cas goes a little "Guardian Angel Overboard" when he feels like he's being taken care of too much and then Dean suffers the consequences.

The thing that Dean really does enjoy about being a regular Joe is having coworkers. He's never had coworkers before, unless you count Sam and Cas-which, really, you can't- and he enjoys the experience. He likes joking around with the guys at work. Eating his lunch in the break room and jabbering about their weekends and the last game.

Even after you account for the still slightly emotionally unstable former Angel of the Lord at home and the phone calls at three am where some one yells "Shit, Winchester- how do you kill a Djinn?" and then hangs up after the answer, it's a pretty normal life.

For him anyway.


 

The first time someone at the body shop asked him if Cas was his wife he'd only been there for four days. He should have seen that one coming. A single guy does not bring his lunch every day and he definitely doesn't bring himself good cooked lunches with a little slice of every piece of the food pyramid. A single guy also does not check in at home on his afternoon break everyday just in case someone there has flipped out and set a beat up old car door on fire again for no discernible reason.

"Wife?" Dean asks blankly before realizing that on top of all these things "Cas" is also not a name people come across regularly. "Oh. No, he's," Dean fumbles for a just a moment before deciding to dive into the army buddy who needs a caretaker story. It's just enough of a fumble to make him sound suspicious, and he knows it.

Thomas, the guy that asked, just nods along though. Apparently his question was less about the lunches and the phone calls than just about the fact that Dean talks about Cas all the time. Dean probably should have realized that Cas is his only constant topic of conversation. Before he started this job Cas and Chelsea were the only people he'd exchanged more than a few minutes conversation with in months, and when the guys asked "So whatchya do last night?" Dean can't answer "spent three hours trying to translate a twelfth century Italian grimoire with the use of a very suspect translation website so I can spring my brother from Hell. You?" but he can answer, "Hung out with Cas."

And once he's explained that Cas isn't quite all there, he even feels less awkward about talking about what they do. They made dinner together. They went to the wetland by the park and fed the ducks. They sat around and listened to albums.

Most of the guys don't pry. Dean looks out for an army buddy who needs to stay with him. Fine. A few of them obviously think Dean's not being entirely truthful about the nature of the relationship, but they don't say anything and Dean doesn't care what they think.

It's a weird little life. Job. House. Acquaintances that could become friends. Woman he's been out with more than once. Cas.


 

The guys at work play soccer. They invite Dean along. Dean doesn't know how to play, due to never having completed an entire unit in gym in his patchy high school career, and Cas is having a really off day. But Cas insists that he go. Apparently it's very important for them not to be isolated from Dean's coworkers. Dean doesn't want to leave him in the house alone when he's like this, and drags him along.

Apparently just pick up in the park soccer on Wednesday night is a big deal. Everyone has brought their wives or girlfriends and their kids. There's a huge patchwork of blankets surrounding the field.

Cas agreed that him coming with was the most sensible solution to get Dean to go without Dean needing to worry about him being alone, but once they get into the park the two-fingers-to-the-elbow starts up again.

Thomas spots them and waves them over as they pick their way through the blankets. His girlfriend, Sophie, and his two young sons are spread out on a huge blanket with an honest to god picnic basket on one corner.

Thomas is an enthusiastic guy, to the point where he's a honestly a little too much before that first cup of coffee in the morning hits Dean's blood stream, but he's friendly and he shakes Cas's hand like the suddenly glaring fact that only Dean didn't bring a girl isn't weird at all.

Cas shakes Thomas's hand, staring at the park around him as he does. His eyes are bugged out and as soon as Thomas drops his hand he touches his fingertips to Dean's elbow again and asks quietly, "Why are people eating out of a basket out here?"

Dean grits his teeth. He was right about this being a bad idea. "Because it's a nice night. It's a picnic, Cas. It's fun."

"Oh."

"Do you want to play soccer or should we go get you a blanket from the car?"

Cas looks around the park again. "I didn't bring a picnic."

Thomas smile gets a little worried. He shoots a look at his girlfriend who smiles sweetly. "Cas? You're more than welcome to sit with us. There's plenty. Do you like pasta salad?"

"Umm… I've never tried it." Two fingers to the elbow again. He gets a little out of it in crowds sometimes, but usually if he's outside he's fine.

Sophie looks at Dean, for permission, Dean's gotten used to that.

"Here, try some." She hands him a little portion sized Tupperware and a plastic fork. Cas takes them, takes a bite and chews it contemplatively. Everyone watches him. He realizes this.

"It's very good." Something seems to occur to him and he perks up a little. "I would enjoy having the recipe."

"Oh, it's simple. I'll write it out for you."

"Thank you."

"Alright, Cas, let's go get you a blanket from the car."

"I…. I thought I was invited to sit here?" Another elbow touch. What is going on today?

"Of course," Sophie answers.

"We'll get it for you and set it next to Sophie's so there's more room." Dean sets his hand to the small of Cas's back and starts guiding him back to the car. Cas realizes
that he still has the Tupperware and fork and sets them down carefully on the blanket before coming with.

"What's wrong, Cas?" Dean asks.

"I didn't expect the park."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't want to tell you yet. It's fine."

Dean's a little taken aback by that. They've been operating with this unspoken rule that they explain everything. Sam was the only forbidden topic for a while, and now even he's back on the table.

"Do you want to go home?"

"Dean, I don't want you to miss a social function for me. This is important."

"You don't seem fine, and you're worrying me."

Cas sets his hands to his head for a moment, like he needs to squeeze it back together, then drops them to his sides. "I am fine, Dean. I'll sit with Sophie and she will be kind to me and we will eat cold pasta in the park."

"Cas-"

"And-" Cas cuts him off. "If I am not fine I will tell you."

Dean doesn't push, even though he wants too. He digs a blanket out of the backseat and tosses it to Cas, who quietly points out there is blood on it. The other blanket is clean.

Back at her blanket Sophie has set out a whole meal for Cas. Fried chicken, pasta salad, and a little Tupperware of strawberries.

One of the things that's surprised Dean most about his quiet suburban life is how kind people have been.

Dean lays the blanket out for Cas, who drops onto his stomach and picks up the container of pasta salad.

"Alright," Dean drops down to his haunches and sets a hand on Cas's shoulder. "You hang out with Sophie, swap recipes, watch me get my ass kicked."

Cas gives him a brittle smile and Deans goes out onto the field.

"So… That's Cas huh?" Thomas says, as he shows Dean the best way to move the ball between his feet.

"That's Cas."

"What's… different about him?"

Dean quirks his head. "You mean what kind of crazy is he?"

Thomas's shrug is uncomfortable and apologetic. Dean realizes he was a little harsh. "Sorry. It's hard to explain. He's usually a lot better than this. Something about the park is setting him off and he's trying to pretend it's not," Dean huffs out the last part. It feels good for a second to admit that Cas frustrates him, and then he instantly feels bad about it. Taking care of Cas is what's kept Dean from blowing his brains out or turning into a drooling mess, but that doesn't mean he doesn't occasionally get cabin crazy.

"Sophie'll watch him. Her brother's autistic. Cas'll be fine with her. Come on. Let's teach you to kick a ball around."

Dean picks up soccer pretty quickly after the guys find out he doesn't know how to play and they all help him warm up. He doesn't have enough control of the ball to play offence, but he's good at kicking the ball away from people and getting it to someone on his own team. Despite the slight chill of the night Dean's red and sweating by the first time they break. He jogs over to the patch of blankets, which now includes Jose's wife Marta and their twin girls. They are both sitting in the grass with Castiel, all intently focused on something between them. Dean shrugs out of his jacket and drops it on Cas's blanket.

"How's he doing?" Dean asks Sophie quietly.

"Honey, he's fine. We've got this covered, go play."

It's not a game so much as a picnic with intermittent periods of soccer. All the players break after a couple more goals and spread back out amongst their families. The breeze feels good on Dean's overheated skin, but it must be getting cold out. Back at the blankets Cas has pulled on Dean's jacket and the kids have been tucked into sweaters.

Cas is still sitting with the twin girls. They're all watching something in the air.

Sophie hands Dean a few containers of pasta salad and chicken. Marta pushes over an enchilada that's still warm.

"This is amazing," Dean says, though a mouthful of chicken. "I feel bad we didn't think to bring anything."

"Don't worry about it," Marta shrugs. "You boys will bring something next time. Right, Cas?"

Cas doesn't reply and when Dean looks over at him his head is craned further back, staring at something in the sky with his mouth and eyes wide open.

Dean reaches over and shakes Cas's knee. "Cas? What is it?"

Cas stays silent, but Carla, one of the twins, leans out from the other side of him. "He's watchin' the kite. He got real quiet, but it's not even doin' anything."

Dean shakes him again. "Cas? What about the kite?" Still nothing, and Dean's starting to worry. This is new, and doesn't exactly bode well. "Castiel? Cas?"

Cas tears his eyes away from the kite for a moment, and looks at Dean. Cas's face is tear streaked. He doesn't look good.

"Cas, you okay?"

"What?"

"Dude, you're crying," Dean says this in a whisper, as though the group of people around them might not have noticed that Cas is having some sort of episode.

Cas looks surprised by this information. He palms over one eye. "I just..." he puts his other palm to his other eye, and Carla puts her little hand over his knee. "I really like this park."

Dean sits up. This is going nowhere good.

"Okay. Okay…I think we might need to head out."

He sets a hand on Cas's shoulder and Cas bats it away. "No… no I don't want…. I don't want to leave."

"Cas-"

"No I just… I think I used to come here in heaven."

Even Sophie is giving him a sad look now.

"Cas, come on."

Cas drops his hands from his eyes and looks back up at the kite, still a little dazed. "Dean, can we go sit in the Impala for a few minutes?"

"Yeah, good plan, come on."

He grabs Cas around the arm and hauls him up. Cas comes along willingly and Dean walks him along to the car, dropping him into the passenger side.

"So… this is a Angel memory/human mind issue right?"

Cas drops his face into his hands and nods. "It's very… overpowering. I don't… I'm sorry. I think I scared Sophie and Marta."

Dean shrugs. "Don't worry about it. You didn't do anything wrong. They kind of get it."

Cas rubs his hands over his face and down his neck, holding his hands just under his ears for a moment before tugging at the buttons of Dean's jacket. "I'm not sure if it's the same park, and it looked different in heaven. It was the memory of a man… the heaven of a man who thought differently. It's different, the colors are…"Cas runs his hands over his forehead and closes his eyes. Even out of the cool breeze his cheeks are still flush and pink. There's sheen of sweat across his forehead. Something occurs to Dean.

"Cas? Hold still I'm gonna touch your forehead."

"Why?" Cas asks, leaning back in his seat so Dean can reach.

Dean sets his palm over Cas's forehead. He's roasting.

"I think you're coming down with something."

"What?"

"You're irrational and moody and burning up. You're sick. Come on. We've got to get you home. You need… soup and cartoons and to lay down."

Cas rubs his hands over his face again. "Dean… I'm not your ward," he growls. "I'm not your obligation."

"No, you're family!" Dean barks. "So just wait here while I get the blanket and your pasta salad recipe. And don't throw up in my car!"

Cas sighs, sounding defeated, but doesn't say anything else.

Dean books back to the field, makes their excuses, thanks Sophie and Marta again and goes back to the car. Cas gets sick on the way home and Dean winds up holding him up in a ditch while he loses the pasta salad and the chicken.


 

Cas's opinion that Dean isn't obligated to take care of him and should be out engaging with their community apparently doesn't apply when Cas is sick.

Dean can't even blame him. He's never seen anyone so miserable. He spends a couple of hours sitting in the bathroom with Cas while Cas throws up. For some reason Dean feels like this is his fault. Like if he'd realized that Cas was sick earlier then he could have kept him home and he wouldn't have gotten this sick.

He does what he would have done if Sam was sick. Gets him an ice pack for the fever, some juice to wash away the taste. Cas won't drink the juice because he doesn't want to throw it back up. Dean starts rubbing his back after Cas has been almost constantly upchucking for about forty five minutes and starts muttering about how this is the worst part of being mortal so far.

He doesn't fall asleep so much as pass out in the bathroom. He won't go back to his bed in case he has to throw up again and he's only out for an hour before he does just
that.

By morning the dry heaves set in. Cas looks like death warmed over. Dean calls into work. By the afternoon Cas is getting delirious and Dean is getting scared.
He can't shake the feeling that the flu isn't something you can go to the ER for, and, starting to panic, he calls Chelsea, who basically orders him to get Cas to the hospital.

Now.

He is surprised that Chelsea meets them at the ER, but more surprised when he's told he should have brought Cas in last night and they'll have to admit him.

Apparently, not only did the poor bastard get his first flu, it compounded with some food allergy that they're going to have to figure it out, and then throwing up that much made him dehydrated, which, perversely, made him throw up more.

"I have to stay here by myself?" Cas asks woozily while Dean fills out his paperwork. He's still dehydrated with a wickedly high fever and he's not all there. Chelsea's sitting on the other side of his bed, holding his hand. Cas keeps looking down at it, as though continually just remembering that she's doing it.

"They're going to make you feel better, and you can get some rest. Then you can go home with Dean. Couple days of movies and soup and you'll be good as new," Chelsea tells him.

Cas looks at her critically. "I had to stay in the hospital the last time I was human. I got pain medication."

"No pain medication, Cas," Dean says absently as he wonders how suspicious it is going to look if Cas has no medical history. Then he remembers the miracle of the insurance card and wonders if there is a way to find out if he already has an invented medical history and if there is a way to get to it and find out what Cas is allergic too.
Cas sighs and looks back at Chelsea. "You're very lovely. You remind me of the Angel of Coronations. But only your face. Because she is a bitch."

Chelsea laughs awkwardly and brushes Cas's hair back from his forehead. "That's sweet. I think."

Dean checks the last box and tosses the clipboard onto Cas's nightstand. "Chelsea? Could we get a minute?"

"Yeah."

Dean waits for the door to close behind her before leaning over.

"Cas? Listen to me, this is important."

Cas nods dourly.

"If I leave you here, you need to be as normal as possible. Got it? No talking about demons or angels or monsters or ghosts."

"Why?" Cas asks. "I mean… I know…but… why are you so worried?"

"Because there are things that can happen if they think that you're crazy and or that I can't take care of you. They might try to take you away from me."

Dean's not sure how this works with someone like Cas who doesn't seem like they can take care of themselves, but he remembers his father bending down to talk to him very seriously the couple of times he and Sam wound up in the hospital when they were young, with those same words. They might try to take you away from me.

Cas grabs his hand, squeezing it before Dean can pull away in instant, embarrassed instinct.

"Okay. I'll be normal."

"Okay."

"You'll leave me here by myself?" Cas asks again.

"Visiting hours are only until nine. I'll hang till then. Watch some crappy TV. Go acquire some jello. You need to get some sleep. And let go of my hand."

"This is a pleasant gesture of affection," Cas says with no feeling behind it. His eyes are starting to drift shut.

"Not when you're a dude," Dean tells him. Cas lets go.

"Okay. No affection for dudes," Cas sighs. His eyes are shut and they don't open when the nurse comes in and grabs the forms. Dean makes a jello request. The nurse, youngish with a Swedish blonde face and box black hair smiles at him and promises to be back with a few.

Chelsea comes back in, drops into her chair and wraps her hand back around Cas's. Dean turns on the news quietly. They're both a few bites into their jello and Cas is breathing steadily by the time Dean speaks.

"Hey, Chelsea?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks. For dropping in with us. It's really… nice of you."

"Well. You did save my life."

More silence.

More jello.

Cas starts to snore lightly.

"Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"There's… something else going on here isn't there?" Her tone is quiet, more like she doesn't want Dean to hear her than she doesn't want to wake Cas. "With Cas?"

Dean digs at his Jello. "You're not going to believe me."

"Try me."

"It's all true? The stuff he's been fever dream mumbling?"

"What?" She looks confused more than surprised, even when Dean clarifies "The guy whose hand you are holding is Castiel. A former angel of the lord. The angel of Thursday, actually."

Chelsea looks down at her hand. "And how did he become human?"

"I don't know. He came back from the dead that way. Remember all those storms and gang wars earlier this year? That was the apocalypse. Cas, my adoptive father Bobby, my brother Sam and I stopped it."

"How?" Chelsea's look of cautious patience is being changed into something Dean can't quite place.

"It's hard to explain. Sammy… let Lucifer take over his body. Lucifer killed Bobby and Cas. Sam managed to get control of the wheel back and he threw himself into Satan's special cage in hell, along with the Archangel Michael, and stopped the whole war."

"Satan. The Devil killed Cas?"

"Blew him up like a water balloon of guts hitting the pavement and then he showed up asleep in my yard dressed like any random armchair quarterback a few weeks later."
Chelsea doesn't reply. She thumbs over Cas's knuckles.

They eat more jello and turn their attention back to the news.

If the mysterious deaths in that gated community in Phoenix aren't another changeling infestation Dean's the Queen of England. Dean knows that Carver and McGee are in Tuscon, he stands, whips out his phone, remembers Chelsea and stops, then realizes that she knows what's going on, and now that she knows about Angels, she knows more than most Hunters do.

He calls McGee, asks if they can go check it out, walking around a little bit like he was just going to stretch his legs a little. Cas shivers, Dean pulls his blankets up.
He and Chelsea eat another jello cup. Cas wakes up. Dean forces him to pick at his own jello cup. Cas seems deeply suspicious of the concept of flavored gelatin, so they open all of them until he finds a flavor that makes up for it.

Chelsea leaves. She presses a quick kiss to Dean's forehead this time. "I'll bring you guys some of my famous soup once you get home. Bye."
Nick at Nite is having a Three's Company marathon. Dean stays until the nurses kick him out.


 

Cas makes a full recovery. It turns out he's allergic to arugala, which Dean is convinced isn't a real food anyway.

Chelsea brings them soup and doesn't kiss him at all when she leaves that time.

McGee calls back, it was a couple of changelings working together, a few kids and two mothers did die, but they saved most of them, more than they would have if Dean hadn't called. They tell him that they heard about a vamp nest in Connecticut and ask if he knows if anyone's in the area. Dean makes calls.
He and Cas go to the next soccer night. Thomas and Jose teach Cas to play. He's truly terrible at kicking the ball, but winds up to be a surprisingly good goalie.

Things go normal. They stay normal.

And then one day at work, Dean gets assigned a car for an oil change, finishes his work, notes the shoddy cabin filter, and goes to the lobby. He calls out the name like a nurse coming out into a waiting room and chokes halfway through it.

Bobby Singer.

Chapter Text

Reading the name makes his heart freeze. Looking up and seeing Bobby, looking just like he did before Lucifer snapped his neck, sitting in the lounge, the water stained copy of "Motor Trend" that he had been reading hanging from his hands nearly makes Dean's heart explode.

Bobby's mouth is hanging open like a flytrap and he manages a strangled, "Boy!" before they're launching themselves into a hug. Dean's fighting down tears and failing and Bobby's not much better.

When they finally let go, Dean ducks in to tell his boss that something's come up and he has to go. He doesn't even ask why. Dean works hard, he's the best body shop guy they've got (years of torturing a classic car that he treated like a war vehicle/bedroom has given him some serious skills in that department) and Dean has a suspicion that Thomas and Jose talked to the boss man when Dean missed two days because of Cas getting sick. Dean works his ass off, and no one challenges that sometimes he needs to go home to take care of his roommate.

He and Bobby don't even talk until they get to the Impala. Dean's already whisking the "Human or Not" test supplies out of the trunk when Bobby sets his hand against Dean's arm.

"I don't need it."

"You don't need it?" Dean demands of a man who had a fully demon and ghost proof panic room in his basement. Bobby shrugs and Dean smirks. "Well… now I'm not letting you in my car until you do it." He passes Bobby the flask of Holy Water. Bobby takes a quick surreptitious swig, holds a hand full of salt and cuts himself with a silver and then an iron knife.

"How long you been back?" Bobby asks.

"I'm not back, Lucifer didn't kill me."

"He didn't?"

"No… he beat most of the life out of me, then Sam took the wheel, told me it was going to be all right, grabbed Michael and jumped into the cage," Dean's tears kick back up a little bit as he relates this information. As much as Cas has started carefully opening up talking about more of Sam than what'll it'll take to get him out of Hell, it still stings to bring him up. Bobby takes his hat off his head and holds it over his heart for a moment. A salute.

"So, Sam took on the Devil and won. This really is post-apocalypse America," Bobby huffs out a shaky breath.

"Yeah. What did you think it was?"

"Honestly? I was putting Vegas money on Heaven," Bobby says.

Dean wipes at his eyes. He's trying not to be insanely obvious, but this is too much. On top of everything else, he doesn't know how to handle getting Bobby back. His life works. He's been trying hard not to think about it, but he's been terrified for the last couple of months that he might really be happy, and now this.

"I… burned you, Bobby," Dean finally says. "I built a pyre in the graveyard with my eyes swollen mostly shut and I gave you a Hunter's funeral."

"Well… thanks?" He laughs, a tight held back chuckle. Dean echoes, then clears his throat. "How'd you come back?"

"I don't know how I got there, just woke up by a river in Nebraska. Clean dry, in my usual clothes, but a bathrobe on top of them, with more cash than I left for the apocalypse with and the keys to the car I brought in."

"You got miracled a 2008 Camry that needed an oil change?" Dean scoffs.

"Looks like," Bobby replies.

"Cas came back in a bathrobe too," Dean says. His brain is buzzing like a swarm of flies and he feels like he's just talking to try and reign in the thought that had been threatening to overpower him.

Cas is back.

Bobby is back.

Sam must be back.

"Cas is back?"

"Just showed up in the yard one day like he'd sprung out of the ground," Dean sighs. "A couple weeks after the whole show down. And he's human too."

"The yard?"

"At your place. We live in your house."

Bobby looks completely stunned. "You… you live there?"

"Yeah. I… I went almost straight there."

"Let's go."

Bobby's already heading back inside for his car. Dean doesn't go after him but does stand rooted to the spot until he comes back. He lets Bobby pull out in front, then tails him a little too close all the way back to the house.

Bobby pulls all the way up to the house and hops out of the car, looking up at the house and around the yard in what is either horror or shock.

Dean walks over to him, not sure what to say. "We… cleaned up a little. Hope you don't mind." He and Cas have been working on the house. They fixed up the porch. Put some new paint on it. Before Dean had landed his job they had sold off about half the cars for scrap to add to their gambling and pick pocketed money.

"How long have you two been here?" Bobby asked.

"Seven… maybe eight months."

Bobby shakes his head and rushes into the house. Dean follows him inside. He's glancing around the living room, staring at the bookshelves like there is something horrible about them. He jumps when Chelsea ducks her head around the kitchen entrance. "Hey, Dean," she glances back at the kitchen slightly guiltily before saying in a voice obviously meant to tell Cas that they've got company. "Who's your friend? What are you doing home so early?"

Dean can hear the careful shuffling of Cas hiding books that might look odd to normal people.

He holds up a finger, requesting a minute before he responds to her, and then calls out. "Cas? Come see who's back."

Cas clearly recognizes how shaky his tone is. There's a crash, like a book dropping. Chelsea's face snaps toward Castiel, concerned, before he rushes out of the kitchen and freezes in the doorway.

Dean suddenly sees him the way Bobby must and realizes just how long they have been here. Cas's hair is nearly down to his shoulders. Chelsea had taken the product away from him about a month ago and given him conditioner. His hair hangs around his face in waves. If he was blonde he'd look like just like the angels in old paintings. Or if he didn't have a raggedy quilt from the trunk in Bobby's room wrapped around his shoulders. Cas had never felt cold before and he hated it. He'd been wrapped up in that blanket since the first chilly fall day and Dean had made a point of never explaining to him how the furnace worked because he didn't want to think about the electric bill.

Cas pauses for just a split second when he sees Bobby, then crosses the living room in two half steps, half leaps, and claps Bobby into a hug, wrapping them both in the blanket.

"You came back!" Cas yells.

"Yeah, son, you too," Bobby says. The hug goes on a few moments past appropriate, and then a couple of moments into awkward. Dean realizes that between Chelsea being a very tactile person and his own reluctance to correct Cas, they may have skewed some of Cas's perceptions of acceptable expressions of affection.

Bobby pats him on the back and finally pulls away. Cas stares at him with dish plate blue eyes. "We… umm… we should give you lunch," he stammers. "Hospitality dictates that we should feed you. I made alfredo. We can… we can heat it up and then you can eat it with us."

Bobby laughs, but it's distracted, he's still looking around the room like there is something wrong with it. He steps a little further back from Castiel and shoots a questioning glance at Chelsea, who steps forward into the living room.

"So… this is Bobby." Chelsea tucks a hand into her pocket and holds the other out to him. He shakes it. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Chelsea."

"She just found out about ghosts a couple months ago. She helps out sometimes now," Dean supplies. "She reads Latin."

"And Cyrillic and French," Chelsea adds.

Bobby shakes her hand and Chelsea excuses herself, with a slightly awestruck, "I should let you guys catch up. Cas, give me a call about that chupacabra thing, okay?"
"My time will probably be spent on catching up for a while," Cas tells her, still staring at Bobby.

"I get that, sweetheart. That's fine. Whenever you've got the time."

"Alright."

Chelsea lets herself out with a little wave back at the shaken men assembled in the living room and Bobby waits until the door closes behind her, then goes directly to the bookshelf and starts pulling volumes off the shelf, flipping them open and checking pages.

"Bobby, what's going on?" Dean asks.

"These are all my books!" he hisses.

Cas looks alarmed and takes a step toward Dean.

"Of course they're your books," Dean responds. "Who else's would they be?"

"I came straight here after I came back to the land of the living and packed all the books, weapons and spell stuff up! I brought the books out to my place in Mitchell! I sold damn near all the weapons off!"

Cas takes another step toward Dean, quirks his head like he always used to and asks, "When?"

"When I came back. Three months ago," Bobby says. "But look at this," he holds out the book in his hand, pointing to the notes scrawled in the margins. "This is my handwriting. These are my notes. This book is in a rubbermaid on a shelf in my basement an hour away!"

"We were living here three months ago," Dean says. "There's no way you couldn't have noticed. We had the garden planted and the yard cleaned up and the porch painted. And we were here."

"You weren't," Bobby says. "The place was dark and musty and full of cobwebs. Like no one had been in here since we left, and everything I took is still here. What in the hell is going on?"

"Cas?" Dean turns to him. "Ringing any bells?"

"I… it could be side by side realities… but I don't understand how you would have been switched back and forth between them."

"What would I have seen?"

"A human body would not have been able to withstand the transition. You would have been split open like a hot dog in the microwave," Cas says. He touches two fingers to Dean's arm, which he hasn't done in a really long time, and Dean damn near does it back, just to make sure that Cas is still there.
"What in the hell going on here?"

The three of them walk through the house. Bobby mentions something every once in a while like "I sold that gun to Donovan." Or "Milgerny cheated me out of the fair price on that opium."

And Cas and Dean will respond with who they've talked to in the last three months. None of them have mentioned Bobby.

The third time this happens Bobby pulls his phone out and dials a number, panting out an intense breath of relief when there is an answer.

Dean can hear the voice on the other side of the phone. It's a woman. She asks what's wrong.

And then Bobby replies, "I'll tell you when I get home, Karen. I'm on my way."

It takes a second for Dean to place the name. He's only met her twice. Once when she chased them through Bobby's nightmares and once when she was dead and making pies in Bobby's kitchen.

"Okay. Are you sure you're okay to drive? You sound a little strange."

"Everything's fine. I'll tell you about it when I get home."

"Kay. Love you."

"Love you too."

Bobby hangs up and looks up into Dean's incredulous face.

"Karen? Karen, your wife Karen?" Dean demands.

"Cas and I aren't the only ones back."

They won't let Bobby just take off. Bobby's so afraid Karen won't be there when they get to Mitchell that he won't slow down. Dean and Cas pile into the Impala and follow Bobby down I-90.

"Cas, that side by side reality thing, you think that's what's going on?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Even for an extremely short time, say just the few hours Bobby was in our house… making that happen on Earth is beyond anyone's power. I only suggested it as a hypothetical possibility based on the fact that it can be accomplished in Hell, but reality is essentially meaningless down there."

"Are you sure there aren't any players on the board with that kind of mojo? Or anyone who could have potentially gotten it? Maybe some big-daddy demon who fell into the top spot with Lucifer locked down?"

Cas shrugs. "This could be accomplished in Hell because reality isn't… fixed there. It's a completely different…thing than on Earth. No Demon, no Angel could do this."
Bobby turns off the freeway. Dean follows.

"What about someone more powerful. What about Death?"

"Death?"

"Death! The horseman. He could have brought us all back without even straining himself."

"Perhaps. But why would he?"

Bobby pulls into a neighborhood then a driveway. Dean pulls up beside him.

Karen is in the house, she accepts Bobby's crazed hug with a surprised smile, and then sees Dean and Cas. Dean belatedly realizes that Cas is still wrapped in his blanket.
"Oh my god," Karen manages. She looks from Cas to Dean, then back before finally stuttering. "L-l-l-et me go get the pie out of the fridge."

"We'll be right there."

Bobby takes them down to the basement and shows them all the books. Even the one that Cas and Chelsea were going through at kitchen table when Bobby showed up.
Karen comes down to check up on what they're doing. She gives Cas a sweater. They go eat pie.

Dean is freaking out. Months and months of the same old, run of the mill weirdness, and now this. Karen's pie tastes just like it did, and he's only a few bites in before he realizes that the reason she looks so different this time around is that in addition to being alive- she's older. She's as old as she would have been if she'd never died.
And she knows what happened last time. They both do. Bobby says he remembers what happened but not how it felt.

Bobby updates them on his last few months. He ran into Karen at a diner after he'd packed up everything in Cas and Dean's house. Walked in and she was sitting there, just like she was waiting for him. He ran the full test on her, they talked about what happened last time. She had a house in Mitchell, he loaded up a truck and moved then and there.

He does home remodeling. He's quit drinking. He's retired from hunting, though Dean can tell that he sees some appeal in Cas and Dean's version of retiring. They all eat three pieces of pie before Cas hesitantly asks for the recipe.

Karen ushers him into the kitchen to copy out her recipe card and Bobby leans in when they're out of ear shot.

"I'm not sure I should be telling you this, and I don't want Karen to know," he starts. "And Cas… doesn't seem all there."

"He's fine. Mostly," Dean interjects.

"Dean, I had my phone when I woke up. And the first thing I did was call you boys. You, Sam and Cas."

"I never got a call. I've got the same phone, same number. So does Cas."

"Calls went to voicemail, but here's the part that's making me… scared as all hell. All three voicemails were the same. None of them were any of you. It was a man's voice: young, not a voice I recognize, a little nasal on all three phones. And on all three it said the same thing."

"What?"

"Wait and see, Bobby."

Karen and Cas come back, Bobby leans away and Dean stares down into his pie.

It's dark by the time they leave. Bobby calls Cas and Dean's phones while they're still in the living room. Everything works. Dean's new voicemail, with no mention of monsters on it, comes up. They exchange a look. Dean realizes that Cas's voicemail is still "I don't understand, why do you want me to say my name?" he'll help him change it later.

Karen sends them home with a lasagna.

Dean tells Cas what Bobby told him. Cas nods and they both fall silent for miles.

Cas keeps looking at Dean as Dean drives, like he wants to say something but has no idea what. Dean's relieved. He's fighting down the rage that feels like molten lead in his stomach.

Something is screwing with them. Something is building this little life he has. Something invented a life for Bobby. Something made Cas human. Something made Cas suffer. Something kept Bobby from seeing them.

And Sam could be out there somewhere.

"I could call him. Sam," Cas offers, as though he read Dean's mind. Dean shrugs. He wants to know. He doesn't have the guts to call Sam himself. When Cas calls the number's been disconnected.

"Not that it means jackshit," Dean huffs. "What in the hell is going on?"

They sit in silence for a little while longer. Cas turns on the radio. Dean speeds. They're home in under an hour. Cas takes the lasagna inside. Dean stands by the car for a moment, then kicks the tire for all he's worth, pops open the trunk and grabs the same bag he took out earlier. He storms into the kitchen, grabs Cas and pins him back against the counter. Cas pushes back, with a startled cry, and Dean pushes him back harder.

"Dean? What are you doing?"

"I never tested you. When you came back. I just accepted it was you."

Cas gulps, but loosens under Dean's hands. "Alright. So test me." He holds his arm out. Dean pours the holy water, sprinkles the salt. By the time he pulls the knife out he already feels less crazed and ashamed of himself for flipping out. On Cas of all people. He's holding the knife but can't bring himself to put it to Cas's skin.

Cas tugs the silver knife out of his hand and pulls a shallow cut across his forearm. Then takes the iron knife and does the same. He sets them both on the counter.
"Would you like me to test you as well?" By all rights he should sound angry. But he doesn't. He sounds serious and genuinely concerned and Dean doesn't deserve it.
Dean drops his head into his hands. "I'm sorry. You can if you want. I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to… I shouldn't have pushed you."

"It's okay."

"No it's not."

"I understand. It's been a trying day."

Dean steps back and lets him go. "I'm sorry," he says again before going out to the couch and falling back onto it. He hears Cas moving dishes around in the kitchen. He finally emerges with two mugs and sets one on the coffee table in front of Dean.

Dean hates tea. He picks up the mug anyway.

"You're upset about Bobby," Cas says. Dean almost snaps at him for being obvious, but decides he's not trying to medal in douche tonight. He just threw Cas against a counter, and Cas is trying to help. He's only had Dean to learn from, it's not his fault he doesn't know how.

"Not quite." Dean sips his tea. It's got a dry, hay like taste, almost completely covered by honey. It's not so bad.

"You think Bobby and I both being back, not to mention Karen, is proof that Sam is out there somewhere too. He might even be back in this house in another reality."

"Do you think he's back too?"

Cas is quiet for a long time before he answers, "If he is, would you want to find him yet?"

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Bobby didn't find us here. Bobby came and found things to sell, and a life to say goodbye too and then he found the love of his life waiting for him a diner 15 years after her funeral."

Dean looks up out of his tea and back up at Cas.

"He seems very happy. It's almost as though…" Cas clears his throat. "It's possible to see it as a reward for service. Bobby fought well for years and lost much. I… I used to believe that those kinds of sacrifices were rewarded."

"Which still brings us back to who is behind it. Gabriel used to create realities, maybe it's not a side by side reality. Could an archangel be behind this?"

"Raphael was the only one left. I don't see him doing this. He doesn't believe in rewards."

"Maybe he's doing this to keep us out of the picture. Keep us all… pacified while he sets up round two."

"I suppose it's possible… but I don't… I don't think that's what's happening. You didn't answer my question. If Sam is out there… in his reward… would you want to find him and… drag him out of it? If he's happy?"

"I feel like we're all just being screwed with!" Dean bursts out. Cas sets his hand over Dean's. Dean lets him.

"And what if he isn't ?" Dean replies. "I mean… look at you. You didn't get rewarded. You're stuck down here with all the fun extras of cold and allergies and the flu and nightmares and a big fat stop-service on any and all mojo. Are you telling me that you're happy?"

Cas casts his eyes down before answering, in a small voice, "Yes."

Dean lets that settle. "Oh. Okay. Good."

"You really don't believe that good things happen. Do you?"

Dean picks up his tea with the hand that isn't under Cas's and takes a sip. "I once saw a rapist die in a freak car crash on a hunt."

Cas quirks his head. "Okay. Closer."

Dean shrugs apologetically.

"We should reciprocate Bobby and Karen's hospitality. We should invite them over for dinner."

"Yeah. I'd like that." Dean tugs his hand away from Cas's. "Okay. I gotta work in the morning."

"Yes," Cas agrees.

He shuffles up the stairs behind Dean. He stops at Dean's bedroom door.

"Yeah, Cas?"

"Dean… will you promise me something?"

"Sure."

"Promise that you won't run after Sam without telling me first?"

Dean has to admit that's fair. "Yeah. Cas. Okay."

"And when you run off anyway, promise it won't be to do something that'll get you killed?"

Dean feels almost as bad as he did when he pushed Cas into the counter.

"Okay. I promise."

"Okay." Cas clears his throat. "Okay. Thank you."

He sounds a little shaken up and Dean realizes that Cas got parts of his family back today too. Dean almost smirks at the thought of Bobby realizing that, for at least one person, he's a substitute for God.

Cas sweeps a hand over his eye and Dean steps forward and hugs Cas, who squeezes him back in a way that nearly scares Dean.

Chapter Text

Dean still thinks of Cas as fragile and simple. He tries to remind himself that up until this year Castiel was an immortal, all seeing warrior of God that got beat up just as badly as anyone else did, but he tends to mentally default to an image of Cas clutching a beer in a whorehouse and looking terrified.

He feels younger and more fragile as a human and Dean has to keep reminding himself that Cas, for lack of a better term, is growing up. He does a better job remembering this than Chelsea, who still molly coddles him. She braids his hair and hugs him like a little girl hugs a dog, arms thrown around the neck. Bobby treats him like he’s broken.

But all three of them are shocked when, while researching a truly weird case in Ohio that turns out to be a sort of singing curse mania, Cas, in his blanket, with his hair braided and drinking the broth out of his bowl of soup like it’s a giant cup, reaches out absentmindedly and grabs the FBI phone as it rings.

“McTavish.” He nods along for a moment then sneers, “You think I don’t know who I put on this case? Donnelly’s one of my best agents. If he says those bodies need to be exhumed, you hand him a damn shovel,” and hangs up. Bobby’s staring. Chelsea’s jaw has dropped. Dean is mostly trying to imagine Cas, the hair, the blanket the whole nine, actually out on a case.

Cas dispassionately flips to the next page in his book and picks his soup bowl back up. Bobby shrugs and goes back to his own book. Chelsea rubs her hand over his back a few times before going back to hers.

Dean looks down, more at his juice glass than his book, thinking.


 

Dean expands the scope of his research. He’s looking for Sam on Earth and in Hell now. He goes through the obits, the arrest records and even the engagement announcements everyday looking for Sam or the couple of aliases they use when they get split up. He sets up a Google alert linked to his phone.

He gets… a little reckless. It’s part exhaustion, part hopelessness, just a little bit relief. Cas can take care of himself, take care of business if Dean’s gone for a few hours. Dean’s even gotten one of the junkers in the yard running and started teaching Cas to drive. He doesn’t go over 20 miles an hour, the plates are discards and the registration is forged under the name “Horton Hornswagle” but it moves. Cas takes it down the back roads to the grocery store (unless there has been any kind of weather).

Just one of those things being true would be enough for Dean to start thinking about making some bad decisions.

All of them together… he can feel himself thinking these things and keeps fighting to remember that just because if Dean took off to go hunting for Sam, Chelsea or Bobby would take care of Cas, that Cas is to a point of becoming human now where he could survive without Dean, doesn’t mean that he’d be okay with out Dean. They’ve built this family together that Dean doesn’t quite know how to explain to himself.

And he promised Cas he wouldn’t.


 

One day at work the google alert on Dean’s phone goes absolutely ape-shit. He ducks into the bathroom to check it, not even bothering to wash up first and smearing grease across the screen.

Heart racing, he reads through the first five before he realizes what’s going on and nearly throws the damn thing against the wall.

Apparently, a bunch of kids who spent too much time on their computers had set up some… internet thing so that all of the Twilight web traffic got redirected to an… under appreciated… book series that had miraculously come into the funding to start publishing again. Just in time to reveal it’s main character’s last names and get one of them mysteriously back from Hell.

So now he’s got a tattoo and a hand shaped burn (which he covers up all the time anyway, because there is no possible explanation for it) that make him look like a nerd. His “Sam Winchester” google alert is sending him all sorts of things that he doesn’t need to ever see, and it’s useless for actually finding Sam.

Dean dials Chuck’s phone number as he walks out to the field behind the garage where he won’t be over heard.

“Hello, You have reached the voicemail of,” a brisk female voice started followed by a “Chuck Sh… oh crap” then back to the robotic woman “cannot take your call now. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Dean leaves a message that he even admits is just an off the cuff list of ways he’s thinking of ganking Chuck then hangs up with a promise to call back when he thinks of more.

That burning anger that his misery is back up for public consumption pushes him toward the edge. A couple snobby bitches who don’t realize that their oh-so-impressive German cars were actually built in Mexico push him over. He buys a bottle of whiskey on the way home and by the time Chelsea and Cas get home from her (finally successful) trip to get Cas to trim his hair and then a detour to the bookstore on their way home, Dean is more than halfway through it. He pours some for Cas, who knows that Dean is drunk, and then a shot for Chelsea who seems to think she needs to stay and take care of them. She takes a second shot, decides that she doesn’t want to drive in the snow after two and goes upstairs, dropping into the bed in Bobby’s old room, where she sleeps if she’s there late working on a case.

The hangover Dean has in the morning makes the list of his top ten worst hangovers of all time. He hasn’t drunk more than a whiskey chaser with a beer in months. Cas keeps wine and beer and in the house and Dean hasn’t really bothered to go out and get anything else.

Cas finds him hunched over the toilet, sweating like a pig and hurling like a champ. Cas gets mad when he realizes that it’s not the flu, but he still calls into work for Dean and brings him juice.


 

A team of hunters in Oregon call to tell them about a strange amount of Demonic omens just over the border in Minnesota. It’s a little closer to home than the stuff they’ve been dealing with and Cas goes into a sudden, complete panic, about possession. Now that Cas is no longer the thing that is occupying a body, but the body itself, he could be possessed. Dean digs an anti-possession out of Bobby’s desk for him, Cas puts it around his neck immediately. He fishes out the second one.

“We need to give this to Chelsea,” he says.

“Yeah, man,” Dean grabs Cas’s hand, clenched around the charm. “We will.”

“No… we… we should go now. She’s not protected!” Cas insists. Dean can’t talk him out of it. Chelsea doesn’t answer when they call. Cas calls her over and over again until she does answer, understandably scared.

She’s out on a dinner date.

Dean’s not sure why that seems weird. She’s not his girlfriend. She still kisses him on the cheek a lot, but just as much as she kisses Cas. He hasn’t taken her out in… four months? She eats dinner with them all the time and sleeps over if they’re researching too late at night. She and Cas make breakfast sometimes. But it does still seem weird. They segued from a state of dating to a state of non-dating easily, without sex or fighting, and Dean’s not sure how it happened.

Cas gets a little garbled and excitable, Dean takes the phone away from him and tells Chelsea that they’ll meet her outside so they don’t ruin her date and to just tell the guy that she forgot something and a friend is dropping it off.

Dean splashes a little holy water on her when they get to the restaurant anyway. She passes the test.

“He a nice guy?” Dean asks as he fixes the necklace around Chelsea’s neck.

“I think so.”

“Good. He tries to pull anything, you know we’ll kill him.” Dean smirks and kisses her on the cheek.

It’s strange to be part of an actual team.

He and Cas go home and research. Cas obsessively touches the charm around his neck for the next two hours until Dean just can’t take it.

“Cas? Stop that. You aren’t going to get possessed in Bobby’s house. There are devil’s traps under all of the rugs and salt under all the doors. You’re safe in here.”

“It’s just…” Cas shudders. “It’s just the worst thing I can think of. The worst.”

Dean knocks his knee against Cas’s. “Hey… if you’re that worried about it, do you want to just tattoo it on?”

Cas looks intrigued. “How does a tattoo work?”

“They push ink under your skin with needles. It doesn’t really hurt that much.” Dean unbuttons his shirt and pulls it aside so that Cas can see. He’s a little surprised when Cas reaches out and runs his fingers over it lightly.

“You can feel where the ink is, a little bit,” Cas comments. “Under your skin.”

He seems to be thinking pretty seriously about the idea. He runs his fingers over the ink again, tracing his fingertip around the edges.

“Cas? Whatchya thinking?”

Something about the way that Cas looks up at him his guilty and Dean doesn’t understand why. Cas stops moving his fingers, Dean grabs his hand in his, noting distantly how comfortable that has become and just how limited his ability to deny Cas comfort (or undermine what Chelsea sets as a standard of normal) really is.

“It’s strange to think about purposefully scarring my skin.”

“Well. You can’t lose it and it works.”

“Yes.” Cas’s forehead scrunches. “This would cost money.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got it.” He’s got savings for the only time in his life. Protecting Cas is a completely reasonable thing to bite into them for.

“How much money?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Cas purses his lips. Now he’s annoyed. “I have two hundred seventy five dollars and fifty eight cents. Would I be able to purchase this?”

“How did you get money?”

“Chelsea pays me to clean the hotel room sometimes when the other maids are ill or off.”

“Oh,” Dean says finally. “Why didn’t you tell me that?”

Cas shrugs. “It’s very dull work.”


 

Dean takes Cas into town in the morning. There are four tattoo parlors in Sioux Falls and one of them has an open appointment. It’s a two hour wait. They drop into chairs and listen to the buzzing in the other room. Cas has a paperback that Chelsea lent him that seems to be pretty engrossing. Dean has a book of Hell lore with a relatively plain cover.

Dean watches while Cas shows the artist the charm and explains what he wants. It’s still strange to see Cas interact with people outside of himself, Chelsea and Bobby. He’s gotten pretty good at normal and he gets asked where he’s from now more often than Dean quietly gets asked what’s wrong with him, but it’s something he turns on and off. He’s admitted that he finds it draining and so he doesn’t bother to pretend with the three of them.

Dean’s surprised when it takes almost three hours for Cas’s tattoo to be done. He and Sam just got the ink in and got out. But when Dean ducks back to check on Cas he sees why. It’s Cas’s tattoo, it’s Cas’s money, Dean found a crazy long search history about tattoos and he knows that Cas doesn’t like black so he isn’t surprised that Cas’s tattoo is a little different. It’s dark blue, with the edges of the flames in a lighter blue so that they look like waves in the water, little beads of the former angel’s blood blossoming up between them as the artist works. There’s also a little line of enochian symbols down one side, also in shades of blue.

Dean asks what they mean after they get home. Cas shrugs and looks up out the the window at the sky before answering, “It seemed prudent to be protected against both sides. Since I stand in the middle.”


 

There’s nothing out of the ordinary about the rest of the day, so Dean’s not sure why he’s so antsy by the evening, but he is. Cas spent the afternoon absorbed in his book. Dean called and threatened Chuck’s voicemail again. Cas fell asleep on the couch.

He needs some air.

He leaves Cas a note and goes to the bar, vaguely interested in a couple hands of poker.

There’s a woman in the parking lot when he pulls up that makes him reconsider. He realizes, with something like horror, that he hasn’t slept with a girl since Anna.

Over a year ago. What is wrong with him?

He sees her eyes rake over the car and when he gets out he smiles at her. She offers him a cigarette and he accepts. He doesn’t usually like to smoke, but it’s a good excuse to talk to people.

Her name is Santia. She pronounces it very dramatically and laughs when Dean repeats her with a cheeky grin. She’s already touching his arm.

She dropped out of nursing school. She thinks the fact that he’s a mechanic is sexy.

She asks about the car. He tells her it was his dad’s. She asks if they can go for a ride. They get in. She gives directions. It starts to snow slightly. Dean’s not surprised when they wind up in a well concealed dead end. Santia gives him a look and slinks out the passenger side door and drops into the back seat. Dean leaves the engine running, cranks the heat up so high that the legos in the register rattle and follows her.

He’s just a little bit worried she might go monster on him, but he’s not entirely out of practice yet and he’s got a gun and a silver knife in the glove compartment.

Dean is very aware that this is where he had sex last too. With Anna, who was brave and about to die and had forgiven him for things that were unforgivable while she kissed him and stroked her palms over his arms.

Santia is tugging open the buttons of his shirt now. She makes a noise like a purr when she sees the tattoo and runs her tongue over it. Dean wonders what he’s getting himself into.

She brings her face up to his, but moves when he tries to kiss him, running her talc soft cheek across his, her lip gloss making her lips stick against his ear as she whispers filthy things to him and tugs his jeans open.
She’s wearing perfume… it’s heavy and sharp. Almost venomous. Dean lets his head drop back against the seat. He tries to catch her lips again when she moves, but she drops to his neck, nibbling along a tendon.

She pulls his cock out and strokes him hard. It doesn’t take much. It’s been so long. Her hands are soft and strong, she’s good at this and his body is desperate for it.

She thumbs over his slit, with a hum of approval when he’s already just a little wet there, then sinks down to the impala floor and takes him into her mouth.

From a technical standpoint- like if he were awarding points in the blowjob Olympics, this would be the absolute best blowjob of his life. Tens across the board even from the eastern block judges. Her tongue is amazing, the word nimble springs to the part of his mind that’s still thinking, her mouth is perfect. He’s already ratcheted so high that only strength of character keeps him from exploding down her throat the first time she swallows around him.

But he’s not enjoying this at all.

It’s… girly and embarrassing and he would never admit this to anyone, but he doesn’t like “hook ups”. He doesn’t mind one-night stands, but there is a difference. He doesn’t like sticking his cock into whoever is passing by. He likes to have spoken to a girl, know something about her. Maybe have saved her life. He likes to run his hands through her hair, over her skin. Kissing. Eye contact. He likes to feel like she knows he’s getting her off, and maybe, even if it is just for the night, that she likes him, and he’s glad she’s there.

He sort of feels like Santia saw him pull up and thought to herself that she had better suck his cock before her perfect technique got rusty.

His mind fighting his body keeps him from coming, but doesn’t affect how hard he is. Santia’s breathing heavy from the effort now, but just keeps sucking him.

He doesn’t like this. He can’t see her, folded up on the floor between his legs. He tries to stroke her hair, but it’s styled with something that catches in his hands and she pulls his hand away and pins them to the seat.

Dean’s about 70% sure that this was an installment of Casa Erotica.

She ups the tempo, the suction, the tongue action and he can’t help it anymore. He comes hard. She swallows and then she’s climbing into his lap, her pants already pulled down.

He presses two fingers inside her. Tries to kiss her again. She leans back, mewling and moaning and putting on a show. When he touches her clit it’s pierced. He gets her off, she grabs his hand and sucks his fingers clean.
He wishes he’d stayed home.

And now the awkward part. How does he take her back to the bar?

His phone rings, solving the issue. He answers it.

“Dean, are you okay?” Cas asks. It’s his ‘trying to be reasonable when I don’t want to’ voice. He uses it when he knows he’s asking for something that he shouldn’t be asking for.

“Yeah. I’m okay. I’m just out for a drive. Needed some air. Went to the bar.”

“Alright. It’s snowing.”

“Cas. I’m fine.”

“I know. I just… I can’t drive in the snow. If you drink too much at the bar I can’t come get you. You’re making me very nervous.”

“Cas. I’m not drinking. I’m okay. It’s barely snowing. I’m coming home.”

“Okay. I mean… you don’t need to. If you need air.”

“Will it make you nervous if I don’t though?”

“…yes.”

“Kay. I’ll be home in half an hour.” He pulls up his pants and shoves the phone in the pocket.

“Girlfriend?” Santia asks.

“No,” Dean replies, offended. He’s never had a girlfriend, but he likes to think he’s the kind of guy who would be faithful if he did.

“Wife?”

“No!” Dean gives her the traumatized army buddy story. She seems unmoved. This bothers him. He could pretend that he doesn’t want women to look at him like he’s a hero, but it’s a transparent lie.

“Good,” Santia smiles. “Cause this is a great cock and I’d love to take it for a ride sometime.”

Dean’s not sure how to reply to that. He goes for awkward smile.

He takes her back to the bar. She still doesn’t kiss him. He goes home.

Cas is sitting on the counter when Dean gets home, blanket around his waist, shirt unbuttoned, tugging at the plastic and bandaging on his chest with the tube of tattoo cream they gave them at the shop sitting on his lap.

“Hello, Dean.”

“How ya feeling?”

“Fine,” Cas replies. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you to come home.”

“It’s fine,” Dean shrugs. “I was all aired out.” Dean drops down into a kitchen chair and pulls over a book from the pile of Hell lore.

“Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m worried about you.”

Dean’s heard that a couple times since Bobby came back. From Bobby, from Chelsea, from Tom at work.

It sounds different from Castiel. Especially when he keeps going. “You’ve been tired and obsessive and moody and withdrawn since you started to believe that Sam might be back.”

“Wow, Cas. Covered everything?”

“Grouchy.”

Dean hates it when Cas tries to be snarky. He doesn’t answer. Cas goes back to his bandage.

“Cas. I’m fine.”

“Going through the obituaries twice a day is not fine.”

“He’s my brother, Cas. He might be wandering around thinking that we’re all dead. He could be anywhere. I can’t… Cas… I can’t just…”

“Wait and see?” Cas asks.

Dean huffs. “Don’t make me hit you.”

Cas deflates. Dean feels bad. The more normal Cas gets the more Dean thinks he can treat him like he’s just one of the other guys and it doesn’t always work.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.” He stands up and goes over to the counter. He pushes Cas’s shirt back off his shoulders. “Here. I’ll do it.”

Cas drops his hands down to the counter, Dean takes the edges of the bandage in hand. He decides not to yank it off at the last minute. Cas has made it vehemently clear that he does not appreciate the “not really on three” trick.

Dean peels it off slowly, even though that makes it hurt more. Cas makes a face.

“Looks good.” He tosses the bandage in the trash, picks up the cream off Cas’s lap and pours a little on his fingers. He’s already got it spread over half the tattoo before he realizes what he’ doing. And then there’s nothing for it but to keep going.

It seems like Cas is thinking the same thing. “Dean, it scares me that you are doing exactly what you always do.” Cas leans forward, hugging Dean suddenly. Dean sighs but lets him. “You hurt yourself when you’re obsessing about Sam. You went to Hell for him and I had to pull you out.”

Dean gulps, remembering the nightmares that Cas wakes up from about that. He settles his arms around Cas’s shoulders and Cas keeps going. “You hurt the people around you. You…screw things up. Please don’t screw things up.”

Dean, for the millionth time this week, doesn’t know how to reply. So he just sits and waits for Cas to stop hugging him.

Cas doesn’t. He just sighs, “You smell bad.” But he doesn’t let go.

Dean doesn’t let go either.

Chapter Text

Dean gulps, remembering the nightmares that Cas wakes up from about that. He settles his arms around Cas's shoulders and Cas keeps going. "You hurt the people around you. You…screw things up. Please don't screw things up."

Dean, for the millionth time this week, doesn't know how to reply. So he just sits and waits for Cas to stop hugging him.
Cas doesn't. He sighs, "You smell bad," but he doesn't let go. Dean doesn’t let go either.
He let’s his palm slide up over Cas’s back, the way Chelsea does, surprised when he feels his fingers go over the neckline of Cas’s shirt and he feels Cas’s bare neck against his fingertips.

Cas sighs and turns his head, so that his face is against Dean’s neck. Dean shivers at the alien feeling of the former angel’s stubble dragging over his skin, then, startled at his reaction, Dean jerks away. The movement is covered when his phone rings at the same moment.

“Chelsea” flashes on the screen. Dean’s eyes dart to the oven clock. It’s quarter to ten. Not too late for her to call, but still weirdly late.

“Hey, Chels what’s up?”

“Umm… okay… I don’t… I might be being ridiculous.”

Dean recognizes the fear in her voice. “What’s wrong?”

“The guy from the date? Well, it didn’t work out, and I ran into him a couple times in the last week, and… I umm… now I think he’s following me. I think he’s outside my house.”

Dean looks up at Cas. “Cas, get dressed to go out.” He’s already moving toward the door, Cas following. “Okay. Chelsea- lock the doors. All the doors. When we were cleaning guns a few weeks ago, I left a rifle in your closet and a box of salt rounds. Get them, go up to your room, stand in the corner. He comes through the doors, you blow him full of holes.”

“Dean-”

They’re outside, Dean’s popping the trunk, shivering in the frigid cold. He grabs a knife and hands Cas one. “You won’t kill him, but it’ll hurt like hell, and keep him down long enough.”

“For what?”

“For me to fill him full of holes.”

“Dean-“ Chelsea starts.

“When you get upstairs put the phone on speaker, put it somewhere so we can here what’s going on. Here’s Cas.”

Dean tosses Cas the phone. He doesn’t really track what the conversation is. He hits 90 on the freeway and kills the lights on the Impala as they come down the highway and turn into Chelsea’s neighborhood and parks a few houses down.

“Are we really going to kill this man?” Cas asks. He doesn’t sound like he’s against it, just like he thinks he ought to clarify. Dean can hear Chelsea commenting on this question in the background.

“Probably not. We’re just going to see if he’s there, if he is, we’re going to rough him up a little bit.”

“He says we’re going to rough him up a little bit…right. We’re here. I’m going to hang up now.”

Cas tucks the phone into his pocket and pulls out the knife.

“Dude, not yet. Put it away.” Dean smacks the back of his hand against Cas’s arm. The last thing they need is to be the armed creepy dudes sneaking around a girl’s house.
Cas slips his hand under his coat, hiding the knife, and they head toward the house. Like he used to do with his blade under his trench coat.

Dean almost hopes the guy is there. After the weird day with Cas, and the half great, half terrible blow job with some random girl who probably doesn’t even remember his name, he just wants to carve up a pervert until he screams and then go get some shut eye.

It’s a little unhealthy. He’s okay with that.

He and Cas take opposite sides of the house. They don’t find the guy. Dean finds footprints in the snow. They go around the yard, and to just outside Chelsea’s window. Chelsea comes home with them without even pretending to put up a fight about it.

Forty-five minutes later they’re back in the house. Chelsea’s shakes are already worked down, and she’s laughing with them. She’s sitting really close to Cas, even for her, and the laugh is fake, but she’s laughing.

Dean some how winds up making hot chocolate. Some deep buried memory of what people get when they’re upset in the winter. He has old, vague memories of stealing some for Sam once because they saw it in some holiday special and Sam had never tried it and Dean couldn’t remember if he had or not.

When he comes back from the kitchen Cas has relinquished part of his blanket to Chelsea, and their hands are twined on top of it. He quietly blames Chelsea for the fact that Cas has learned to be a little clingy and drops down on her other side.

They don’t talk about the guy. Chelsea says she’ll go down to the police station and file a report in the morning, but other than that, they talk about cases. Cas shows her his tattoo. They both suggest she get one and Dean learns that Chelsea actually has a tattoo. A rose on her ass that she got when she was eighteen. Apparently it’s not her least regretted decision of all time. She says she’ll think about the anti-possession tattoo.

They finish the cocoa. Dean dumps the mugs in the sink. Cas goes to rinse them out and Dean hangs downstairs with him, letting Chelsea have the bathroom first.

“I’m glad she’s staying with us,” Cas says, squirting soap into a mug and scrubbing it out. “I don’t think I’d be able to sleep if she had stayed at home. Is that condescending?”

“Condescending?” Dean asks.

“Because it sounds like I don’t think that she can take care of herself?”

“That’s different. If it was simpler- ghost, monster, whatever. We’d just hunt it, it’d be dead, we’d let her sleep in her own bed. We can’t just go kill some dude. It gets complicated.”

“Oh.”

They go upstairs, Chelsea is in her room and they slip into the bathroom to brush their teeth. Cas still does this very methodically. Even after months of being human he still puts exactly a pea size dot of toothpaste on the brush, as per instructions.

Chelsea walks by, apparently on her way downstairs from Bobby’s room. She quirks an eyebrow at them. “You two brush your teeth together?”

Dean looks between Cas and Chelsea in the mirror. “Is that weird?” Of all the things that he knows are weird between him and Cas, this never would have occurred to him.

“No. Not really. It’s adorable.” She shrugs and continues on her way.

Dean shoots a look at Cas before nudging the door closed with his toe. “So… you wouldn’t be able to sleep is she wasn’t under our roof tonight, huh?”

“No. I don’t expect so.”

Dean nods, spits, rinses. Cas gives him a little bit of a look. The toothpaste tube says to brush for two minutes and Dean never does.

“You two spend a lot of time together. Get along. Get a little cuddly. Do you maybe have a little crush on Chelsea?”

Cas’s industrious brushing slows. “I don’t understand anything you just said to me.”

“Do you know what a-”

“Yes, Dean, I know what a crush is.” He sounds impatient, but not pissed. “And I don’t have romantic feelings for Chelsea. She’s important to me. She cares about us. She is our friend. What is ‘cuddly’?”

“Holding her hand all the time and sharing a blanket on the couch.”

“We do that,” Cas says, flicking a finger between the two of them. Dean flushes in embarrassment. Cas isn’t wrong.

“No we don’t,” he says.

Cas looks askance at him. “Yes we do.”

“We don’t… cuddle,” Dean asserts before throwing out. “It’s different with a girl.”

“Oookaay,” Cas says, his sarcasm undercut by the toothpaste foam around his mouth. “And why do I need your permission for any of this?”

“Because I went out with her first.”

Cas spits, rinses and rubs his tattoo (Dean can’t believe that was just this morning. He’s gone from tattoo, to dull afternoon, to random chick in the woods to picking up Chelsea from some stalker freak and now this).

“You’re weird tonight,” Cas says finally. “Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

Cas looks disbelieving. “Okay. Goodnight, Dean.”


 

Dean sleeps better than he was expecting to and wakes up with the feeling of a dream fading away. The details are fuzzy, a few images stand out like flashes in closed eyes after looking into the light. Sam in a bathrobe sitting silently in the corner of the tattoo parlor, watching Chuck burn a handprint onto Cas’s chest while Cas sat still and unconcerned.

It’s not really a nightmare but it makes Dean feel scattered and uncomfortable. He goes to check on Chelsea. Her room is empty. He goes downstairs, then up to check Cas’s room when the kitchen, living room, and panic room are all empty too.

Chelsea is in Cas’s bed. Dean’s first reaction is embarrassment, then something… dark and sticky in his chest that he doesn’t understand, then something like relief when he realizes that it is the least intimately two people have ever slept. Cas is on his stomach with his face buried in his pillows. Dean wonders how he breathes like that. Chelsea is snoring lightly, one arm thrown haphazardly over her face.

Dean goes back downstairs and puts on a pot of coffee. He considers making everyone breakfast, but all he can make is bacon and Cas… tutted in disappointment the last time Dean attempted pancakes.

Dean waits a little longer before starting bacon anyway.

The smell wakes everyone else up. Chelsea makes crepes, Cas watches in fascination. It turns out Chelsea wound up in Cas’s room because Cas has been slowly pulling all of the blankets in the house into his room, like a bird building a nest. The thermostat outside reads neg 20, and Dean’s pretty sure it was even colder last night. The simplest solution had been to just curl up under them and keep warm with Cas.

It’s a pleasant breakfast, like a family breakfast must be, only punctured by the way that Dean suddenly… notices the way Cas actually does touch him. Hand on his shoulder when he asks a question. Squeezing his hand for no reason. Dean decides that he’s just being overly self-conscious because they’ve got an onlooker. Cas hardly does any of these things in public, people don’t usually see them like this.

The cold hits Dean like a slap in the face when he goes out to the car for work. It takes him four tries to get the Impala to turn over. Work is deathly boring. No one’s leaving their houses and the temperature is inching down even lower. Dean texts Chelsea the location of the thermostat with express orders not to tell Cas where it is.

He and the guys finally give up on sitting in the chilly garage and move up to the heated break room. He got razzed about the girl he was texting and told them mostly the truth. Chelsea had stayed with him and Cas. He’d changed “crazy stalker” to “furnace on the blink” but still got weird looks. Apparently, even if she’d freeze to death if you didn’t, it was a little weird to just completely platonically put up a beautiful, single, female friend. Particularly when you already lived with a traumatized army buddy who seemed to be getting better and better, but still wasn’t picking up on the whole personal space deal.

When the boss starts letting people go home early because it’s too cold for anyone to come in, Dean volunteers first.

When he gets home Cas is making tacos, and he and Chelsea are watching Ellen.

And Ellen’s guest? Carver Edlund.

Dean walks in and sees him on the screen, hunch shouldered, with that same look as always on his face, like he expects to get struck down by some random and humiliating accident.

“I’m gonna kill him,” he growls, throwing his coat onto the arm of the couch and dropping down next to Chelsea to watch this whole train wreck.

“So I take it you know him?” Chelsea asks.

“Not for long,” Dean says.

“Oh, don’t kill him.” Chelsea sticks her lip out. “He’s cute and he must be getting rich. Set me up.”

Dean shakes his head. There is whiskey in the freezer… but the bad hangover binge hadn’t been the last one and he knew Cas and Chelsea had started keeping an eye on his drinking.

But there is also a beer in the fridge. If he only has one then it’s social. “You’re not his type.”

Chelsea sticks out her lip, faking a pout. “Gay, huh?”

Dean wasn’t expecting that. “No! He uh… he likes dominatrixes. Actually.”

Chelsea wrinkles her nose at him. “How do you know that counts me out?”

Dean’s mind forces an image of Chelsea in thigh high leather boots onto him before he can stop it. Now he definitely needs a beer.

“What’s a-” Cas starts from the armchair.

“Please don’t answer that,” Dean sighs, walking to the kitchen. He hasn’t even stood up before Cheslea is saying, “It’s a woman who sexually excites men by causing them physical pain or making them sexually submissive to her in role play games. Dominatrix usually has the connotation of a woman who is paid for services and may not actually have sex with the men who pay her. If a woman is a Domme it would usually mean that there is an actual sexual relationship involved.”

Dean’s not sure why he expected Cas to look shocked. He forgets that Cas is as old as time and has probably seen every sexual perversion ever, if not over the course of history, at least on the internet.

Cas nods. “Oh.” After a few moments he works up to “Ew.”

Dean silently agrees and decides to pretend that he doesn’t know Chelsea knew that and try not to wonder why she sounded like she swallowed a gender studies textbook before she explained.

“So really, how do you know him?”

“He’s the prophet,” Cas supplies. That actually seems to floor Chelsea. Dean’s never seen her floored.

“Wait, what?”

Dean rolls his eyes while Cas explains that Chuck Shirley is a Prophet of the Lord and Dean sees the glazed look in Chelsea’s eyes when she realizes that a former angel (who is making her tacos and in whose bed she spent the night) is telling her that a prophet is hawking a book series that he wrote about the guy that she once dated and how they all saved the world on a goddamn talk show.

Dean recognizes the look. It’s the one he gets himself whenever he tries to make his life sound like it really happens.

They eat tacos. They answer the phones. Chelsea googles a bunch of stuff about the Supernatural books. When it turns out that the newest book starts with a mysterious force pulling Dean out of Hell, who turns out to be an Angel named Castiel she finally seems to believe it.

She also finds some fan art that Dean did not need to see. He wishes he knew what in the hell was so thrilling about his devastation.

Garza and Coffrey call from Nebraska, there’s some sort of weird witch thing going on. There’s a small body count, but they think they can handle it.

Chelsea goes back to looking up Supernatural stuff. Dean explains that it’s really his life. It all really happened and he’d appreciate it if she did not go poking around his and Sam’s life story.

They all decide to take a night off from research, which, since it’s too cold to leave the house ends up just being having another beer and watching a movie on cable. Dean can’t just sit in the house and not research, so he grabs a book off the shelf at random and starts paging through it.

Garza calls back, things in Nebraska took a weird turn. Research is back on before the first commercial break. Nothing is lining up with anything anyone has ever heard of. Evidence is pointing to superhuman, but motive is pointing to human. They call Bobby, who starts researching at home.

They’re still looking at midnight, and just when they’re about to go to bed another death happens. A little girl. They stay up till two, and still find nothing.

Dean is tired and frustrated and he hates everything the next day. And it’s even colder, which means he’s away from the books, helping no one, for no reason. Bobby calls at lunch to ask some questions about when he and Sam hunted Samhain, before sighing that everything Dean told him killed his theory, but they’re still working on pagan gods.

The shop closes early again and Dean books home. Cas and Chelsea are bent over the kitchen table with Bobby. Bobby’s got a glass of juice. It takes a moment for Dean to realize that it’s weird to see Bobby researching without whiskey. It’s good, it’s just strange. Especially when he learns that three more little girls died and they’re not any closer to finding the thing that’s doing it.

Reading languages from Angelic memory with human faculties makes Cas a little disoriented, by nine that night he’s digging his fingers into his eyes and complaining about the lights looking weird. Chelsea figures out he’s getting a migraine. Cas throws his book down in frustration and makes a fresh pot of coffee.

They keep reading. Garza keeps calling. It’s getting worse. More girls are dying. A pattern isn’t emerging.

At eleven Bobby finds some lore on a goddess of childbirth who may have gotten shaken loose during the apocalypse war and started reclaiming children that she felt were owed to her. They need an obscure, wooden stake from a certain tree to kill her. Chelsea finds one in a museum in Arizona. Dean makes calls and organizes a dagger relay between Arizona and Nebraska. Three hunter teams, and no one has to postpone their own hunt for more than an hour.

The shut the books, hit the lights, liberate some of the quilts from Cas’s bed and return them to Bobby’s. Chelsea decides to sleep in Cas’s bed rather than the couch, because it’s still too damn cold.

Dean drops under his blankets, fully dressed, and is only asleep for two hours before his phone rings again.

It’s Garza. The stake didn’t work. The monster’s not a goddess.

Dean walks down the hall and bangs on everybody’s door, they’re back at the books in ten minutes.

Dean’s reading over something he thinks he read when he got home, about vampires, which they’ve already crossed off the list when something occurs to him- the MO doesn’t line up with anything they’ve ever seen. But parts of it line up with some things and parts of it line up with others.

“Guys?” Dean says, looking up from his book. “What if we’re looking at a hybrid?”

“Hybrid…” Bobby asks. “As in a mommy and daddy monster who loved each other very much?”

Dean shrugs and pushes the book over. “Could be a lamia. It eats children. That covers part of it, and the rest… we were thinking witch originally, but went for Goddess because of the souped up powers? What if it’s a human lamia hybrid? Or maybe… the fact that we cant’ find it… it could be a shifter lamia hybrid. Hell, at this point it could be a shifter/lamia hybrid that’s also a witch.”

“I’ve never heard of a lamia outside of Greece.” Bobby runs his hands over his face.

“A hybrid creature does explain the unlikely combination of powers,” Cas yawns.

“We’re running out of time and ideas here, the magic stake didn’t do shit. We’ve gotta have something to go on.”

Bobby agrees. They run the idea past Garza, who’s pissed about the mishap with the stake, but thinks there is merit to the hybrid idea. They’ve got a blessed silver knife, which will take out a lamia, shifter or human.

They keep researching, while Garza and Coffrey hunt, looking for a back up plan if they were wrong about this too.

It’s almost four am when they get the call. Ding-dong the monster’s dead, all signs point to a hybrid situation and they saved three girls just in time, who are in the hospital already and expected to recover.

Bobby throws down his book and goes up to bed. Cas sighs in relief like every muscle in his body just relaxed all at once.

And Chelsea let’s out an honest-to-god whoop, grabs Dean around the face and kisses him full on the lips. He pushes her away in surprise. He can fell that his cheeks are a little flushed, which seems crazy from just a kiss.

He glances over at Cas, who is looking at them in that head-quirked way that he used to.

“Fucking brilliant, Dean!” Chelsea crows. She gets up, rushes around the table, hugs Cas from behind and goes upstairs.

Cas yawns. “You should go to bed, Dean. You have to get up early.”

“You should watch out with her in your bed,” Dean sighs. “Apparently she’s an enthusiastic celebrator.”

Cas shrugs, he looks like he’s going to comment on that for a moment and then gives up.

“Good night, Dean.”


 

When Dean gets to work in the morning he’s painfully aware that he got three hours of sleep last night, and he feels like he’s dead. three hours of sleep used to be enough to propel him through a couple of days of horror, fighting, and near death, and now it’s barely enough to get him back up to the break room to do nothing in the cold.

So he’s really not up for Jose’s grin. Or the fact that the rest of the guys have found out about Supernatural. Apparently Jose’s younger brother, and one of the other guy’s daughters have started reading them. And they know about the Winchesters. They know about the Impala. Dean only gathers that they don’t know about Castiel the Angel yet because that book isn’t coming out for another couple months.

They think that Dean’s some sort of hardcore nerd or bizarre criminal that assumed an identity from a crappy pulp book for no sane reason.

Dean decides to hit back hard. He tells the guys that Chuck was Sam’s roommate in college (he’s pretty sure Chuck is older than he is, but no one’s going to know that) and that because Chuck’s father was kind of a mess too, Sam told him about their own father’s weird little issues. He cribs pretty liberally from Henricksen’s description of his home life, getting more brutal than he needs to because this topic is not going to come up again, especially not with Cas in the mix. He is killing this here and now.

He tells them that his father thought demons and all that stuff was real. That he dragged Dean and Sam around with him and that’s why he’d never finished a unit in gym and that he’d finally committed suicide (which is almost true) when they were just sixteen and they’d been raised by their Dad’s friend Bobby after that. He also tells them that Sam was killed and he doesn’t want to talk about how.

It accomplishes what he wanted it to accomplish. No one says shit about the books from there, and Dean winds up sitting in a corner of the break room drinking his coffee and reading a newspaper from two days ago while the guys watch TV in silence before they’re let go early again.

Dean doesn’t even want to think about the state of his paycheck this week.

But the couple of silent hours do get him thinking… he’s had the feeling that he’s being screwed with for months, and now, when all he’s trying to do is live a quiet, inconspicuous, anonymous life, Supernatural happens.

He has a theory.

When he gets home Chelsea’s gone. She’s decided to go back to her house. She promised she’d call over so much as the hair on her neck standing up.

It makes the house seem strangely quiet.

Dean convinces Cas to order Chinese and they sit at the table, eating quietly. They’re both tired and disappointed. They both think they could have saved more of those little girls.

Dean drops down on the couch after dinner and goes through the newspapers online. Obits. Arrests. Wedding announcements. He’s never sure which one would be the worst to see Sam in. Dead is pretty bad, but probably not permanent. In jail could be solved. Married is probably the worst. If Sam really is off on earth somewhere, happy and apple pie’d… Dean probably won’t be able to take that away from him twice.

Cas is going back over the hell lore.

Dean doesn’t even realize that he was asleep until he’s waking up from his dream with a crick in his neck and a blanket thrown over him.

“You should go to bed,” Cas tells him as soon as he sits up.

“Yeah.”

They stand up together and go up to brush their teeth. Dean lets something in the back of his mind nag around Chelsea’s little smile about two dudes and oral hygiene.

Whatever.

And then it does get weird.

Just before they part ways in the hallway Cas steps into dean’s personal space, slots his hand against Dean’s face, leans forward and kisses him.

Dean’s first impulse is to shove him away and he’s already got his hands on the other man’s shoulders before he stops.

It’s a Cas thing. Let him explain.

He doesn’t kiss back but Cas is already pulling away and quirking his head. It’s a non-human, not understanding gesture. Dean feels safer already.

“What the hell was that?”

Cas shrugs. “Curiousity. I see it on TV. Chelsea says it’s nice.”

“Then kiss her,” Dean says, taking a step back. “You can’t kiss me.”

“My apologies.” Cas is just standing there, like all he did was shake Dean’s hand. And there’s something… unthreatening about it. Dean’s too tired for this. And it’s just a Cas thing. It’s okay. If he just lets it go, it’ll be like it never happened.

“Okay… so let’s… I’m going to bed. Okay?”

“Okay” Cas replies. “Good night, Dean.”

And then he just turns around and walks back to his room, like he hasn’t just broken all rules of being a Hunter, a roommate or a dude.


 

The spell’s not hard to find. The hardest part is hiding what he’s doing from Cas especially after Chelsea goes back home and isn’t there as an extra distraction. The ingredients are a little harder to find, and even harder to keep fresh, because he can’t let them freeze outside in his trunk and while Bobby’s house is full of nooks and crannies for hiding things, Cas knows where they all are, and if he found out what Dean was planning he’d freaking kill him.

And Dean would deserve it. It’s stupid. It’s dangerous.

But… if he’s wrong, nothing will happen. He doesn’t think that defense will work on Cas though, because if he’s not wrong then he’s up against a very good chance that he’ll get smote.

Outside of what he’s actually attempting he is being as safe as he can. He found somewhere really remote so that he won’t get arrested. He dug out one of the old Angel blades from Bobby’s attic. He set up a couple of holy fire Molotov cocktails. He is even prepared to put out the ring of holy fire when he’s done. Smoky the Bear would approve, Cas will get over it.

He drives out to the broken down warehouse after work. Cas thinks he’s working late to make up the hours he missed when it was so cold. He sets up the ring of oil first, then chalks the symbols, then pours the herbs and does the chanting. He tosses the match the second he feels that weird inside-the-spine itch that you get with this kind of magic.

A tall, handsome, slender blond guy appears in the middle of the circle, but the jacket jeans, and mostly the smirk are familiar.

“Gabriel?” Dean asks.

The man in the circle looks ready to get to the smiting for just a second before he notices the lawn chair. And the beer.

“Dean Winchester.” The voice is different. Deeper but with that same snark. “I’m not sure if I’m flattered or creeped out. You and Castiel looking for a third? Cause I think I’m out of your league these days.” He says this with a sweep of his arms down his new body.

Dean rolls his eyes. “Yeah. You upgraded. Congrats on ditching the short stack.”

Gabriel shrugs, drops into the lawn chair and pops open a beer before tossing one to Dean. “Fair’s fair. Eighteen hundred years ago that guy was a catch. He was tall with very few visible scars and all his own teeth. Yowza.”

Dean crosses his arms in front of himself. “So. You’re back too.”

“Mmmhmm. It’s all very prodigal son,” Gabriel agrees. “How did you know I was back?”

“Call it a hunch.”

“Ah. Sure. You got Castiel back. You saw the unsinkable Mr. Singer and his lovely wife, and- let me guess- you invoked a god damned Archangel because you think Sammy is out there somewhere. Am I warm?”

“Nail on the head, jackass.”

Gabriel drinks deeply. “Don’t get me wrong. I love screwing with you and Cas is an easy mark, but you must have noticed that this is not my MO. A bunch of ressurections and happily ever afters? Look at you. You’ve got a nice house. Decent job. Friends. You’re a hunter without ruining your life. Your father’s back.”

Dean’s jaw drops, “My-”

Gabriel holds up a hand. “Sorry- I meant Bobby. Papa Winchester is still not on earth. And admit it. You’re not that broken up. He’d fuck up you’re nice little world.”

“Fake little world. Plastic little reality.”

“Nope. You can tell the difference. This is the real deal. No one’s fucking with you. This is just the world now.”

“And whose got that kind of mojo?”

“Me,” Gabriel says. “Though I’m not doing it and I didn’t come by it fairly.”

“What about Raphael? He’s the other Archangel right? Unless the rest of you dicks crawled back.”

“He’s missing. Everyone else is still dead. I’m going it alone these days.”

“Boo hoo.”

“And the worst of it?” Gabriel’s head drops back against the lawn chair. “Since I’m the only one, and I suddenly returned onto them after a long absence, all those wide eyed little bastards up in heaven think I’m God now. The little surge in power from the belief is a trip, but…” he sighs. “It’s no fun.”

“Any word on where God actually is?”

“Still gone. And if he ever comes back the bitch owes me some serious babysitting money.”

Dean picks at the label on his beer. “Can you bring Sam back?”

Gabriel doesn’t answer. Dean finally looks up.

The look of pity that Gabriel is giving him surprises him.

“No.”

“Come on. You’re practically God, you just said you had the power.”

“I do have the power. I just can’t find him. No one can.”

“Why the hell not?” Dean demands.

“I DON’T KNOW!”

For a moment, Gabriel’s wings burst in Dean’s vision, and he’s overwhelmed by how huge they are. How bright.

“Why won’t you look around you?” Gabriel asked. “There’s a long grift going on here buck-o and for once- for fucking once- it’s not trying to deliver you into Hell. Why don’t you just calm your fucking tits, and wait and see what happens.”

“Wait and see?” Dean repeats.

“Wait and see.”

Dean’s first instinct is to grab one of his molotovs and watch Gabriel roast, but the look Gabriel had given him, like he actually felt bad, surged up in his mind. He pulls his hand back, and tightens it into a fist.

Gabriel sighs and pulls himself out of the lawn chair. “Look. I’ve got a soft spot for you and your merry band of trouble makers. You free-willed the apocalypse into non-existence. Respect. So I’ll tell you what. I’ll keep an eye out. If it starts to look like Hell is working on something, I’ll drop in.”

“And if you suddenly see Sam?”

“I’ll drop in. Couple conditions-” he flicks a finger around the circle. “This doesn’t happen again. And you just try to believe something good could be happening here.”

“When did you go all Kumbaya?”

“About the time I got brought back two feet taller with abs,” Gabriel grinned.

Dean smothers the fire.

“Oh, also? I turned your phone off. You’ve got four missed calls. You’ll see why that’s funny later.”

He slaps Dean on the back fraternally and disappears.

Chapter Text

All four missed calls are from Castiel. He went to the bookstore and his tire went flat. He’d called Dean, more and more annoyed with each voicemail as the store got closer and closer to closing and Dean still hadn’t picked up.

Freaking Gabriel.

Dean called Cas back.

“Hey, I’m alright. Sorry. My phone must be acting up.

“I know you’re alright. I also know you’re lying to me. I called the shop. You weren’t even open late today.”

Shit. Dean drops his forehead down onto the steering wheel. “I’m sorry. Are you still at the bookstore?”

“No. Someone helped me and took me home.”

“I’m glad you’re alright.” He was a girly thing to say, but it was best to walk carefully with a totally pissed off Cas.

“Come home. I’m mad at you.” Cas hangs up on him and Dean checks the ringer volume on his phone, cranking it all the way up, before tossing the phone onto the seat.

He wonders when he started living the kind of life where his response to “Come home. I’m mad at you,” is to hurry.

When he rolls up to the house he can see both Cas and Chelsea in the kitchen. The greeting he gets from Cas is cold. From Chelsea just a little pitying. Dean points to the books in front of them.

“Are we hunting?”

“Not really,” Chelsea says, “Just background. Not all of us grew up with this.”

“Were did you go?” Cas asks. It’s not a demand, it’s just very obviously a question that Cas expects to have answered. Dean knows that lying is going to make it worse, but he just can’t face up to telling Cas quite yet. He needs a second before he watches that hard set of Cas’s eyes burn.

“I… just needed some air,” he says, pouring himself a mug of hot water and dropping a tea bag into it. It’s that night time, makes-you-sleepy stuff that Cas likes

“And?” Cas asks. Dean hears his chair scoot back and then feels the very light lift of his jacket as Cas pulls something off of it.

And then he makes a sputtering sort of noise and Dean turns to see the post it in his hand. It says “Kick Me. I’m into that.”

Cas lifts the paper to his face and sniffs it.

“You summoned Gabriel,” Cas says, then repeats it- shocked to furious in four seconds.

“Cas-“

“You summoned a Goddamned Archangel.” Castiel barks. “Did he know where Sam was?”

“No. He says that no one does. But hey, your brother’s alive.”

Cas looks like he is seriously considering decking Dean right in the face. He spins, grabs his book off the table and storms up the stairs.

“That is the second most pissed I have ever seen him.” Dean rubs a hand over his face and turns to Chelsea. She is giving him a very disappointed look.

“What?”

Chelsea holds up her hands placatingly.

“Dean, I love you boys. I really do… but you realize that you’re a codependent mess right?”

“I’m always a codependent mess. It’s my thing.” Dean replies. “And I may have taught Cas to be a codependent mess. I’m not going to stop looking for Sam. You both should know that.”

“We know. I know. Bobby knows. I just… Cas and I… and Bobby… think it would be good for you to maybe ease up on the hunting and do other things.”

“What?”

“You need a night off. Just one. Call the guys at work. Have a poker game. You liked the soccer games. You like your co-workers. We’ll even help set it up.”

“Chelsea, we can’t have people over to Bobby’s house for a damn play date. There’s a cast iron demon proof panic room in the basement that looks like it’s where we gut our virgin sacrifices. There’s an arsenal next to it. And then there are the huge piles of lore everywhere.”

“We’ll lock the basement. We’ll move the bookshelves. Poker night. This is happening. Don’t make me go to your work and invite your little friends.”

Dean grabs a book and takes his tea into the living room. He thinks about telling Chelsea to leave. He thinks about going upstairs to talk to Cas. He winds up reading on the couch until Chelsea leaves and then just going up to bed.


 

Cas is talking to him again by the next evening. Though not with all that much enthusiasm. Dean also figures out, by pure chance, that Cas has hidden away all of the myrrh in the house. Dean feels a little shiver when he remembers that he did the same thing with the pain killers.

By Thursday Cas has swung wildly in the opposite direction. He’s affectionate and laughing a lot. It’s almost like he’s excited about Friday and the stupid poker game. It’s nice, really. Big excitement about a little normal thing.

Well. Mostly normal. Cas and Chelsea are planning it like it’s a dinner party. Dean has learned from TV that poker between friends involves snacks from bags and beer from cans but Chelsea and Cas are preparing hors d’oevres. Dean’s a little embarrassed but it’s not like anyone’s going to turn down Cas and Chelsea’s little sandwich roll up slice things. Or those spicy meat balls.

Thomas, Jose, and Matthews are all up for it. Dean fixes up the box that Bobby made to hide all of the labeled phones. Chelsea puts flower pots on it so it looks less suspicious than a random wooden thing in the middle of the kitchen. Also less like dudes live there. Dean huffs and is ignored.

Friday just gets steadily weirder. Chelsea comes over early. She braids Cas’s hair so it looks neat and old fashioned. When Cas does it for himself he looks like a hippie. It’s hard to figure out how Chelsea makes it seem classy. The she irons one of his shirts for him. Dean gives Chelsea a refresher in poker while Cas puts the appetizers together.

Thomas shows up first. Dean notes that he, as a totally normal guy who is not badgered by female friend or an ex-angel, has shown up with a six pack. He does, however, dive right into Cas and Chelsea’s slices of rolled up sandwich things. He’s very polite about the house. Particularly the way that the wall paper behind where the bookshelves used to be is a totally different color than the rest of the wall. Thomas thinks the old cars in the yard are funny.

“Cas, you gonna play?” Thomas asks.

“Yeah. And you better watch out. He’s pretty good,” Dean tells him, patting Cas on the shoulder. He’s gone from excitable to gradually more nervy and Dean’s not sure why. He likes Thomas, Jose, and Matthew.

“Well… I’m not staying long.”

Dean stops. “Wait. What? Where are you going?”

Cas shrugs and looks at the floor.

“Cas- where are you going?”

“I have a date,” Cas admits, looking up suddenly.

Thomas whoops like a junior high kid. Dean feels like the floor has just gone out from under him.

“You have a what?”

“A date,” Cas repeats.

“And you didn’t mention this because?”

“I was mad at you,” Cas says shrugging. Dean’s aware that Thomas is looking at him like something’s really weird. He can practically feel Chelsea preparing to dart between them.

There’a a knock at the door.

“I’ll get it,” Chelsea volunteers. Cas turns and follows her.

“She’s picking you up?” Dean demands.

“No,” Cas answers.

Chelsea opens the door and does a double take. So does Dean, but for a very different reason.

“Hey, Castiel,” says the lanky blonde in the doorframe with a familiar smirk. He steps inside and takes Chelsea’s hand. He kisses the back of it. “Chelsea, beautiful as ever.”

“Who are you?” Cas demands, stepping toward Chelsea protectively.

The blond looks affronted and Dean reigns in an urge to punch him.

“You don’t recognize me? I’m hurt. Here. Imagine. Two feet shorter, still devastatingly handsome, just in an old fashioned way. Really old fashioned.”

Cas’s eyes narrow, then fall wide open. “Gabriel?”

“Nice to see you two, little brother.” Gabriel smiles. “Like the long hair on your vessel.”

“What in the hell are you doing here?” Dean demands.

Gabriel shrugs. “I heard you made spicy meatballs.” He walks right past them, then turns on his heel. “Oh, and I brought someone.” He snaps his fingers and Chuck appears in the foyer, looking clean cut and exasperated. Chelsea jumps back.

“Hey.” Chuck waves. “How’s everybody been doing?”

“You don’t know?”

Chuck’s eyes fall shut for a moment. “Prophet humor. Classic.”

“I meant the voicemails I’ve been leaving you.”

“I haven’t gotten any voicemails.”

“Now that’s too bad. There were a couple of those that I was proud of, like the one where I was going to shave all your skin off.”

Chuck grimaces. “Well then… let’s start drinking.” He slips past them and into the living room.

Chelsea throws up a time out sign. “Wait- hold up. Exposition time- who’s the cute blond?”

“Gabriel. The archangel that Dean summoned. He’s notoriously capricious and dangerous and spent most of the last two centuries pretending to be a pagan god of deathly petty vengeance,” Cas hissed.

Chelsea nodded, then laughed and dropped her head to her palm.

“What is funny?” Cas demanded.

“Sorry… just… a mechanic, and archangel and a prophet walk into a bar.” She laughed again. “I haven’t been properly bored since I met you guys.”

Cas doesn’t think it’s funny. He crosses his arms and rounds on Dean. “You had to provoke him didn’t you?”

He storms off after Gabriel and Chuck. Dean can hear Gabriel talking exuberantly to Thomas and Chuck’s squeaky muttering.

Chelsea shrugs and follows. There’s another knock at the door. At this point Dean’s ready to usher the Easter bunny in and give him some of that salad shit that Chelsea keeps at their place.

It’s Jose and Matthew. Dean welcomes them into the living room. Gabriel is doing card tricks. Chuck already has a glass of whiskey. Jose recognizes him as “the writer”. Dean sees him puff up at that, and deflate instantly at the hateful look Dean gives him.

Cas is tugging at his shirtsleeves. Dean’s fighting an urge to forbid him to go. Cas is getting better at faking normal, sure. He’s really close with Chelsea, he deserves “companionship” too, but it’s just so weird.

Chelsea’s handing out the poker chips. Dean’s surprised to see them for a moment before he realizes that no one should bet money against Gabriel and Chuck.

“So, Gabriel,” Jose starts. “How do you know Dean?”

“I actually grew up with Castiel. Cousins.”

Thomas smiles a little more. “Castiel, huh? I didn’t realize that was your full name.”

“Yes,” Cas replies. He’s standing behind Chelsea, looking bizarrely human.

“Our family’s religious.” Gabriel shrugs. “I’ll deal.”

“No.” Dean grabs the cards out of his hands. “You won’t.”

There’s another knock at the door. Cas bites his lip. Chelsea grins. Dean moves his chair so that he can see this girl.

Cas opens the door. Dean catches Thomas leaning over to peek too.

There is a brief greeting on the theme of “Hey, it’s cold, come in.”

And a tall lanky guy with glasses and a tulip in his hands steps inside. Dean’s wondering what the hell angel is crashing the damn poker game now.

Thomas whispers, “Wait- is Cas…”

And then lanky and glasses leans down and brushes his lips over Cas’s and it finally clicks.

“Son of a bitch.”

Chapter Text

"Son of a bitch."

Cas seems a little confounded by the tulip. He moves it from hand to hand as though he has no idea what to do with it. Chelsea bustles to the rescue. She introduces herself and Dean catches the guy's name, "Tony".

"Let me go grab a vase for this," Chelsea tells them, dropping Tony's hand and brushing her hand over Cas's arm. She shoots Dean a look as she crosses to the kitchen. Dean feels two fingers press against the bottom of his chin and push his jaw shut. It's Gabriel. Dean looks over at him. He smirks.

Dean glances around the table. Thomas looks like he's trying not to laugh. Chuck is carefully arranging his cards; he of course, saw this coming. Matthew looks uncomfortable and Jose looks vaguely amused.

Over by the door Cas looks flushed. Tony looks anxious.

Chelsea crosses back with a wine bottle that has been rinsed out and is half full of water. She holds it out and after a moment, Cas realizes that he's supposed to put the flower in it. Dean's about to stand up and try to establish just when in the hell Cas wound up with a date, with a dude, without Dean hearing shit about it. And since when was Cas gay?

But as he's pulling his feet under himself Chelsea is already herding Cas and Tony out of the house. She comes back to the table, drops into her chair and pulls her beer toward herself.

"Chels?" Dean asks. He meant to use his empathetic Fed voice, but her name comes out in his gruff –threatening-monsters voice and he's not sure how that happened. "Can I talk to you for a second?"

"Mm. I don't think that'll be necessary," Chelsea answers.

"Upstairs, Chelsea." Dean growls. She rolls her eyes but sets her cards face down on the table and follows Dean's lead when he pushes his chair back and starts up the stairs. Gabriel follows too and Dean doesn't bother trying to dissuade him.

"What the hell, Chelsea? Why didn't I know about this?"

"He was mad at you for lying to him so he decided that a lie by omission would teach you a lesson. And I told him that was petty and childish, but I didn't think he should tell you either."

"What?" Dean demands. "Why?"

"Dean- Cas is going forward by leaps and bounds, when I met him he was probably emotionally like five years old and now he's up to like… maybe 16. Okay? He's never been on a date. He's never just liked someone. He told me all about this guy helping him with his car and taking him out for coffee and taking him home and kissing him at the door and asking him out and he was so excited. It was heartbreaking. And I thought if he told you, you might… shit on it."

"I might what?"

"Look me in the eye and tell me that you're not freaking out that this person that he clicked with is a dude, Dean."

Dean huffs, but he doesn't sound convincing. "I don't have a problem… that's not…."

"You get all squirrelly when there are gay couples on TV, or we see one when we all go out. Cas told me all about "no affection for dudes" even though you let him hold your hand all the time. He told me about you telling him that it's all different with girls and that he can't kiss you."

"He kissed you?" Gabriel laughs out loud. Dean looks at him, he'd sort of forgotten that he was around for this.

"Shut up, Gabriel. And Chels- it's not like I freaked out- I just explained that he can't kiss me. That's true. He can't just go around kissing people. And getting back to this "emotionally 16" thing- you just ushered him out the door with a grown ass man. If you think he's this gawky little teenager, explain how that's okay?"

"We went over all the scenarios, Dean. I told him not to get drunk, I told him not to go over to the guy's house. We had an incredibly weird little sex talk and God now owes me some sort of sainthood for explaining blowjobs to a millennium old Angel."

"God owes us all a lot of things," Gabriel declares.

Chelsea plows on. "He has our phone numbers. We're all here. I'm staying sober and besides," she sets a hand on Gabriel's shoulder. "You're not going to let anything happen to your little cousin are you?"

Dean could just kill her. Gabriel looks down at her hand and then back up at her with a grin, as though this entire scenario just tickles him.

"Of course not."

"See? And we've got a prophet with a pretty singular focus on your life downstairs. Castiel is going to be fine."

"Okay- I don't have a problem with the… with this, but seriously- He lives with me. No one was going to mention to me that the guy I live with and spend all my time with might be gay?"

Chelsea gives him a look that makes Dean able to feel his balls trying to climb up into his body and out of the way. "Would it matter?"

Dean's not doing this pansy, city shit right now. "You know yeah, when he's all kissy and grabby- it does. I'm sorry, but it does."

"Castiel can't be gay," Gabriel declares. "Angels don't have gender. That's a totally human thing. Cas is a multidimensional wavelength of celestial intent in a Jimmy Novak suit."

"Jimmy Novak?" Chelsea asks.

"I'll explain later," Dean sighs.

"Well. Anyway. There you go. Cas isn't gay- and you just proved you would have shit on it and if I hear anything at all- anything, Dean Winchester- about you giving Cas a hard time about this little dating a guy interlude, I will kick six kinds of crap out of you," Chelsea declares.

"Yes. That would be fun!" Gabriel agrees. "Let's go for seven!"

The previous part of the conversation, part of which had been poking Dean in the brain, finally gets his attention. "Wait… this guy helped him with his car?"

"Yeah. Cas went to the bookstore last week and his tire popped. You were off summoning Gabriel and he couldn't get a hold of us. This guy- Tony- helped him out."

Gabriel turns his tickled grin on Dean. "It's too bad both of your phones were on the blink, huh?"

Dean snaps. His fist is cocked back and gunning for the Archangel's face before he can stop it. Gabriel doesn't even flinch and it's like slamming his hand into a brick wall.

"Dean, calm down," Chelsea admonishes him.

"Chelsea- stop it," Dean shouts shaking out his hurt hand and turning to Gabriel. "Did you set this up, you dick?"

"No, this was actually an unforeseen consequence," Gabriel says, still with that shit eating grin. "All I did was pop the tire and block the phone calls. I just wanted to get you caught. This is gravy. Maybe Fate stepped in. She really really hates you guys."

Chelsea gives Gabriel a slightly more cautious look, as though she is (fucking finally, Chels, Dean thinks) starting to realize that Gabriel is actually a very powerful supernatural creature and not just a big blonde Cas and maybe she shouldn't treat him like a dress up doll too.

"Fine. Whatever. Let's go play cards. But I swear Gabriel, if anything happens to Cas because of this I am throwing myself and angel barbeque."

Gabriel fakes a shiver and then fans himself. Dean almost hits him again.

"Alright, boys. We have guests. Back downstairs."

Dean can hear Chuck's nasal, squeaky voice as he comes down the stairs and ties to fight down the irritation so that Matthew, Thomas and Jose don't have to deal with him in a killing mood. They've already been sucked into Life-with-Castiel weirdness, they don't know that they are in the middle of Angel and Prophet weirdness, and they only came for cards.

"I mean, yeah, everyone asks where you got the ideas and I got a lot of them from Sam." Oh, good, Dean thinks. Cas saw the break room thing and knows to play along so he isn't that suspicious of a extra dude in the game. "Like, originally, but now they just kind of come to me. Like… Castiel is in the new one."

"Really?" Jose asks. "Is he a Hunter too?"

Good. Now Jose from works knows what a Hunter is. Awesome.

"Umm… actually he's an Angel. I'm spinning on his name a little. I'm setting the Angels up as soldiers."

"Huh," Jose comments. "I guess that makes sense."

"Cas in is the next one, huh?" Dean says. Chuck jumps at the sound of Dean's voice. Dean thinks that serves him right.

"Yeah… you know. Whole… warrior… thing. Don't look at me like that. You all come off really well. World saving and everything."

"So, Dean gets out of hell then?" Thomas asks.

"Do you bastards all read these books?"

The guys all give him grins. Chuck nods and gulps from his whiskey glass. He starts fiddling with his cards again. "I uh… brought an advance copy of the new one… if you … Dean if you want to breeze through it or anything."

"Nope. It's bad enough everyone else reads them, Chuck."

"I think they're good, Chuck," Chelsea says kindly. She sees the look in Dean's eye and shrugs. Dean is slightly mollified when she adds. "I only read the first couple."

Chuck steers the conversation away from topics that are eventually going to cause him to die in the dark somewhere. Gabriel tells a couple either invented or completely reworked stories about growing up with Cas and their huge gaggle of religious cousins. Zacariah comes up in a context that makes it seem like he's not the absolute worst. Dean wishes he didn't know that.

Dean's surprised when he realizes that Gabriel never wins a hand. He just talks and laughs and listens to everyone's stories. Freaking Angels. Chelsea surprises everyone by winning one of the bigger pots of the night.

Matthew's the first to go home, giving up after a couple hours. Jose leaves after another hour or so.

After the other guys leave Thomas switches to water and a Chelsea deals out the next hand, Thomas asks, in his cheerful, neutral, Thomas way.

"So… were we… not supposed to find out that Cas is gay?"

Chuck chokes on his whiskey, then drinks more to wash it down.

"It's a little complicated," Gabriel offers.

Thomas nods. "Yeah. Totally. I get that. But just… I'm fine with that. I mean, not to get all goobery on you, or anything. Just- If you weren't expecting it from a small town mechanic, it is okay with me."

"Uh… kay. Thanks, Thomas," Dean replies awkwardly, wondering why Thomas is telling him this when this is totally a Cas thing.

Gabriel breaks into the awkward moment by declaring that the next game will be Texas Hold'em. Chuck starts pressing his fingers into his temple. Thomas doesn't seem to be done though.

"I mean, I had this cousin, Chad. And he was kind of like Cas. Not… really impacted the way Cas is, but a little quiet. Little Shy. Usually hung back at social stuff, but would always talk to anyone who talked to him. He was gay. We were buddies."

Dean hears the tone and takes a sip of his beer before deciding to ask. "What happened to him?"

"He passed. Hunting accident."

There's something about the way Thomas stresses hunting. Something about Thomas's slight change in stance and expression. He's suddenly not bubbly Thomas anymore. He's the kind of haunted and stretched thin guy that Dean recognizes.

"And what were the two of you hunting?" Dean asks carefully.

"I didn't say we were hunting," Thomas says, a little of his normal grin seeping back onto his face.

"Call it a hunch," Dean says. He flicks his gaze around the table. Chuck looks like he's getting a prophesy, he looks like he's about to hurl and he's trying to hold his head together. Chelsea looks like she's not sure what's happening, but she's ready to duck under the table anyway. Gabriel looks like he wishes he had popcorn.

Thomas shrugs and laughs. "Pagan harvest god in Nebraska. Locals were sacrificing travelers to it for good corn." Thomas divulges this like he's laying down his hand and he knows it's good, but he knows it's not that good.

Dean nods. "Sammy and I had a case like that a few years ago. Locals were all about their apples though."

Thomas laughs. "I knew it. As soon as walked in and saw the missing bookshelves. You're really Dean Winchester. And you're real."

Gabriel snorts. Chuck starts rubbing his other temple. Chelsea's watching in the same way she does when Dean teaches her to clean a gun or hold a knife.

"I'm real?"

"I've got cousins that still Hunt. There was a rumor going around the Winchesters were hunting Death himself. But no one had ever met the Winchesters. They just told stories. When I found out about Chuck's books I assumed he hand Hunters in the family and had heard about it. Figured you might be a hunter and you'd just taken the name on because no one would recognize it unless they'd heard of you."

Chelsea turns to him. "Dean?"

"Well…" The tone that Thomas is using makes Dean uncomfortable. He's talking to Dean with awe. Like he's legendary. Worse- like he's legendary for something he stumbled into. Ike he actually scythed Death instead of had a discussion that made him feel like a four year old while he ate a horseman's deep dish.

"Death? Like skull and robe anthropomorphic personification Death?" Chelsea demands.

Dean looks at her blankly.

"Death. The horseman," Thomas supplies. Cause the rumor was you'd already taken out War, Famine and Pestilence."

"Sam took out Famine. Cas got Pestilence. And I didn't… Death was kind of on our side. We ate some pizza. Talked."

"You had pizza with a horseman?" Thomas asks quizzically.

"Wait… like capital "D" Death?" Chelsea asks. Dean wonders why she seems so surprised by this.

"That guy loves his greasy food,' Gabriel comments.

"The drafts for that scene are a nightmare," Chuck mutters, topping up his glass.

"This I have to hear." Thomas crosses his arms and settles back in his chair. Cards forgotten.

"Me too," Gabriel says, monkeying Thomas. "You'd already gotten me killed by this part of the story. What happened next?"

Thomas let's that register. "What? What are you?"

"Let's not talk about what I am until after the saga of the horsemen."

Dean tries to dissuade them all, but they keep looking at him and insisting. Chelsea pushes it into a story about how they beat all of the Horsemen. There's more of Sam in this tory thatn he wants to include, but he doesn't want to deny his missing brother the heroism. He manages to avoid… well, outing, Cas as an Angel, but Gabriel volunteers his identity when they get to the part about the Horsemen's rings opening Lucifer's cage. Dean can't get through the part about Sam taking on Satan. Chuck takes over.

Hearing The Prophet speak onto the people about your deeds is a trippy experience. It makes it sound so ordered and intentional. Dean and Sam set forth to beat Lucifer intentionally. Like even when Dean dropped by Stanford because he was lonely and afraid and miserable because even his father had abandoned him, the endgame had always been stopping the apocalypse with pure stupid free will. Not guilting Sam into hunting whthin him and ruining Sam's life and then getting Sam locked in hell with the most powerful and most pissed off of all the Archangles so that Dean didn't have to be alone.

He doesn't like the way Chuck's intonation makes them all look at him.

His attempt to drag the night back to cards fails, so he redirects to Thomas's hunting stories, wondering through all of them how Thomas seems so normal after seeing what Dean's seen. By midnight the human's are tired. Thomas goes home. Dean starts to worry that Cas isn't back yet.

Chuck is clutching his head and looking like he's about to hurl, but he swears it's not about Cas and he'll call if that changes. Chelsea has started fussing over him. Which is better than her talking to Gabriel like he's a normal person.

Dean runs up to the can. When he comes back down Chuck and Gabriel are gone. Chelsea's on the couch fiddling with a can of popl.

"Oh good. The Heaven squad finally booked," Dean sighs. He grabs a beer and drops down next to her. "You seem quiet and not particularly annoying. What's up?"

"Just… tired." She shrugs. "My life got weird. But I guess I shouldn't complain. I'm sorry about Sam."

"Don't, Chelsea."

"I know. I'm just… I'm sorry that we've all being pushing you. Especially me. I didn't understand the situation. I shouldn't have assumed that I did."

"Could we kill the chick flick moment, please?"

"I'm a chick, Dean. I'm allowed.

Dean actually laughs at that. "Right. So, when did you and Cas secretly arrange for him to get home?"

"Don't be like that. I put in the obligatory creeper call after he left. He said it was fine. They're doing dinner and a movie. It's not that late for that."

"Chuck getting all prophety makes me nervous."

Chelsea shrugs and curls back against the couch. "So. Tell me more about Gabriel."

"Chelsea? It's a body he tricked some poor bastard into handing over. Gabriel is not cute. Gabriel is not fun. Gabriel is a monster. Also, you are not his type."

"Gay, huh?" she laughs.

"Why do you always say that?"'

"I'm kidding. And I don't like him, he's just interesting. How often do people who aren't you meet an Archangel?"

"It's no good. Trust me on this."

"Well, maybe the middle Angel's are okay. Look at Cas. We love Cas," she yawns deeply and settles back into the couch.

"We don't love Gabriel," Dean says.

"Maybe he's lonely," Chelsea volunteers. "Cas said he was always very solitary in heaven. Besides. He didn't cause any trouble all night. He just hung out."

"Well… he could have caused trouble. We might just not know it yet."

Dean groans a little when that's the note where the door quietly creaks open and Cas steps inside.

Chapter Text

Dean groans a little when that's the note where the door quietly creaks open and Cas steps inside. Well… bitching about Gabriel making things worse right before Cas get's home probably isn't an omen. Gabriel's not that subtle.

Dean's half geared up to be mad at the both of them for real now. Outside of not telling him that Cas's date was a guy, they've completely disregarded the fact that Cas isn't human. Pretending to be normal is one thing, but a date requires lying on a scale that Cas doesn't have the life experience to put together. How is he supposed to make up embarrassing high school stories? How is he supposed to explain his life now? The most effort Dean and Cas ever put into a background for him was making the last few years sound like roguish grifting. Neither of them have workable life long histories.

But before Dean can point any of these things out, and remind the amatuers that he is the criminal here, he sees Cas's face and can't convince himself that nagging about the proper way to lie is the first thing that Cas needs to hear after his first date ever.

He looks happy, and just slightly nervous and he's wearing they guys scarf, tied carefully around his neck.

And that just stabs Dean in the chest. He remembers the first time he went out with a girl. He'd been 14, her father hadn't liked the look of him and insisted that they're only choice was to go to the mall for a few hours, be driven there by him and be picked up by him. They were supposed to go to a movie, but they had just wandered around doing nothing. She'd kept blushing at everything he'd said and just before they were supposed to be picked up by her father she had grabbed him around the face and planted one on him.

And he'd felt very cool about it, even when he'd had to pretend to live in the suburbs, get dropped off in someone else's driveway and walk back to the motel. And then it had turned out that Dad had swung back for a special knife and found Sammy alone in the motel.

Dean had though he'd been too old to get a hiding like that. He'd been wrong.

Which is one of the many reasons he can't admit to being angry with Cas right this second. Tomorrow he can't bring up backstories and the impossibility of dating when you've only been human for 9 months and you need to make up an entire life, but tonight Cas is smiling and fiddling with a scarf that was obviously a gift.

Chelsea turns to him, shooting him a look that is truncated quickly. He wonders what she thought he was going to say. She rubs her hand over his knee, lmost apologetically, and turns back to Cas.

"Hi, sweetheart. How did it go? Did you have a nice time?"

Cas shrugs and peels himself out of his coat before hanging it on the rack near the door. He leaves the scarf on.

"Yes. I did." His eyes flick to Dean and Dean feels like shit when he realizes that Cas is gaging his reaction. Now that it's just him and Chelsea and Cas, instead of everyone they know, the whole… dating a dude thing is a little less… weird.

"Where did he take you?" Dean asks. He mentally pats himself on the back. He sounds interested and nothing like his father.

"The Arboreatum," Cas answers. He tucks himself into his favorite chair, still fiddling with the fringe on the scarf. "It was very pleasant. I've missed my garden. And they have special lamps to keep the plants warm. It was like going to Spring."

Dammit Dean thinks to himself. The skinny little dude took Cas somewhere green and warm. I'm going to have to like him.

Chelsea's grinning like a maniac. "That's so sweet." She eyes Castiel like she just noticed some small clue about him that Dean can't see. "Did he kiss you?"

Cas doesn't answer. He looks at Dean again, but Dean's expecting it and forces his face into an expression of moderate interest and a total lack of freaking out.

"Umm… yes," Cas said, more to his scarf than to either of them. "In the car in the parking lot."

"Isn't that dangerous?" Dean asks.

"I carry a silver knife. I'm diminished, not useless."

Dean doesn't have the heart to explain what he really meant. And Cas isn't going to pick up on it. He lets it go. A silver knife would take care of what he was worried about anyway.

"I like kissing," Cas announces. He looks startled when Chelsea laughs out loud. She quickly regains her cool, stretches, and stands. She grabs Dean's face, and kisses him on the forehead, in the way she does that always makes Dean feel… squirmy and young.

She walks over to Cas and does the same, smoothing his hair down carefully on one side. "I'm glad you had fun. See you tomorrow."

Things get a little bit uncomfortable when the door smacks shut behind her.

Dean decides to head the whole thing off and just gets up off the couch, heading up to bed.

"Dean?" Cas says quietly.

"Yeah. What?"

"I'm sorry I lied to you about this. It was petulant and childish."

"We don't have to do this. We're okay. I lied too, let's just call it square."

"You're my friend. I was in the wrong."

Dean sighs. He does not want to do this now. "I said it's fine."

And then Cas reaches out and grabs his hand… and yesterday, it was just… Cas. Just a Cas thing. Just some weird little habit that had developed because it was just the two of them and Cas was just… Cas. Damaged and healing and not human and … not sexual.

Dean snatches his hand back and the look that Cas gives him was like being carved open by Alistair, but worse.

He cleared his throat. "I mean it. It's… fine."

And then he goes up to bed, without brushing his teeth, or looking back, and doesn't fall asleep for hours.


 

The week gets weirder. And it doesn't help that this is the one goddamn week that all of the other hunters seem to have finally gotten their shit together. No one calls for help. No one calls for a pretend supervisor. Nothing.

Things with Cas are tense. He keeps reaching out for Dean and not completing the motion. His phone rings and he disappears up to his room. Dean doesn't know what to say to him, or how to say it. He's planning to wait for it to blow over.

Dean comes home to an empty house on Wednesday night. He hasn't come home to an empty house since Cas came back from the dead and the silence is driving him nuts. He calls Cas three times before finally getting an annoyed reply.

Cas went out to dinner with Tony. In a going out sort of way.

Dean grabs a book. Might as well take advantage of the quiet to research the Hell lore.

But the quiet gets to him. He tries to put a movie on in the background, but it just agitates him. He puts on a basketball game and then remembers that he hates basketball.

He's about to start drinking, and just manages to hold himself back. Cas and Cheslea will lecture him. Bobby will… not say anything… but he'll know about it.

Dean sits in the kitchen and resents the phones for not ringing.

Then he calls Thomas and tries to get him to come over to practice shooting. Thomas is all about it until he realizes that Dean means tonight. Thomas has kid and family stuff to do, but they set up some time for Sunday. Apparently Thomas used to be able to take down a wraith with throwing knife at 20 yards and has missed being able to practice.

That leaves Chelsea. She's pissed at him about the whole tense-with-Cas issue. And if she comes over she's going to make him talk about his feelings.

But it's better than sitting here with no one but himself for company.

"Hey, sweetheart, I was just about to call you," Chelsea says when she picks up. "Are you boys up to anything exciting?"

"Cas is out. On a date."

"Oh. Umm. How long has he been gone?"

"Wasn't here when I got home."

"Good. I need to show you something."

Dean feels his heart skitter at that. "Chelsea? What did you find?"

"I'm on my way over."

They say goodbye.

Fuck it, Dean thinks. He grabs himself a whiskey and a beer chaser and he's finished both of them and has another beer that he's only pretending he just started open before Chelsea walks in. She stopped knocking about a month ago. Dean hadn't noticed until now.

"So… you were all… weird… on the phone. What's going on?"

Chelsea tosses her coat over a chair grabs her purse, holding it in front of her like a shield.

"So… remember when you asked me not to read Supernatural. And I promised that I wouldn't. And then said that hadn't?"

Dean has a bad feeling about where this was going. "You lied?"

"I did lie," Chelsea confirms. "And then Chuck brought the new book over and I stole it. And I'm reading it now… and I think you should see this."

She pulled a hardcover book with the word "Supernatural" emblazoned in white letters outlined in black at the top and the words "Lazarus Rising" in gold at the bottom.

"Lazarus Rising?" Dean repeats. "Oh shit." He gets it. "This is when I got out of Hell isn't it?"

"Yeah. And look, at this-" She grabs a book mark about a quarter of the way into the book and drops the book down onto the table.

The title of the chapter is "The Scorching of Castiel's Wings"

Chelsea hangs out with him while he reads the book. She puts on a record and sits flipping through some of the lore and magazine she obviously brought because she expected to sit with Dean while he read.

His assumption that Castiel had just, dropped out of the rocky ceiling, grabbed him and got out of dodge is completely and totally wrong.

They'd gone into Hell as a battalion. They'd full on attacked Hell, for him. Cas hadn't been at the lead. Cas was just a guy in the ranks, but he'd been close enough. And he'd gone up against Alistair, himself, and been damn near roasted alive pulling Dean away from the rack.

And been… injured.

Disfigured.

For him.

And Dean was being all…fucked up about letting Cas touch him, because Cas had a boyfriend?

And it got worse from there.

Cas touching his hands was nothing. He cleared his throat loudly when he reached one of the flashbacks. Chelsea didn't even look up.

"Did you get to the part where he rebuilt your body like clay yet?"

"Yeah."

Dean finishes the chapter, then finally looks up. It's midnight.

"Wait… where the hell is Cas?"

Chapter Text

"You don't have to eat it," Tony laughs.

Castiel had never heard of any of the appetizers at the restaurant, so Tony had ordered one to share. Castiel was trying to eat it. It was resisting him.

"What is this called again?" he asks.

"It's calamari. It's fried squid. It's okay if you don't like it. I'll eat it. We can order you something else."

Castiel likes the way Tony laughs. He's very cheerful and relaxed. It's strange after spending most of his time on earth with the Winchesters. It's also somewhat… disconcerting. Tony is a "regular person" who anticipates living a long life on earth. Castiel is slowly coming to terms with the fact that he will remain human, remain on Earth, grow old and die. He finds Tony's way of ignoring these facts fascinating and comforting and very different from the way Dean seems to think about the same problem of mortality. He enjoys engaging in conversations with Tony.

Also kissing.

Angels don't touch casually and don't ever express affection with more than words. And even then, it's not a common occurrence. He's been thinking about the way Tony had kissed him in the car for the last few days.

The one thing that Castiel really does find discomfiting is that he's not sure how to hold an ongoing conversation with Tony when he can't mention many of the inconvenient truths about himself, Dean, or Chelsea. It has taken arduous practice, but he's almost good at small talk. He can carry on conversations with Dean and Chelsea, and has gotten to the point where he actually just sitting and talking to them about nothing in particular.

So far, he and Tony have been discussing books, and events and history and when things turn toward the personal, Castiel redirects things so he can learn about Tony's experiences growing up. Tony keeps answering at length, laughing and trying to bring the conversation back to Castiel, but he isn't as good at directing the conversation.

Castiel enjoys the way Tony talks. Dean is very concrete and prefers to discuss the facts of a situation. Chelsea is similar, but not as serious. Given a topic, Tony spins castles in the sky and builds roads to them. It's lovely. And it's the reason they've been able to spend so much time so far away from each other's personal histories and so much time on ideas and imaginings.

Cas's phone rings. It would be rude to answer it in the restaurant, so he ignores it. It rings again. Cas apologizes to Tony and checks it. It's Dean. He'll get back to Dean after they sort out the squid issue.

He doesn't understand why Dean is upset with him. He gets the impression that Dean is more upset with himself than he is with Castiel, but the tension between them is still preying on his mind and he doesn't want it encroaching on his pleasant evening.

"Something wrong?" Tony asks when Castiel's phone buzzes again.

Castiel excuses himself, tells Dean he is out to dinner and ends the call.

"That was Dean," Castiel says when he sits back down. He eats another squid. Once he gets past the shock of the texture they aren't so bad.

"The roommate? Everything okay?"

"He did not find the note I left for him. He was just concerned."

Tony nods. "You two are pretty tight knit, huh?"

"Yes."

Tony wrinkles his forehead and after a pause asks. "How did you meet?"

Cas relates the story that he and Dean tell people. They met as soldiers. The war was hard on them. They live together because it's best to have someone who knows what it's like.

He doesn't understand the look that Tony gives him as he apologizes, stammering, and then suggests they order a few more appetizers so Cas can try things.

Their food comes, they go back to discussing topics rather than a history Castiel is starting to worry about not being able to fake. Castiel finds he is partial to the spinach dip. Tony talks about his schooling, family, and pets and Castiel has nothing real to offer back. Dean, Chelsea and Bobby are his family, and while he has siblings it's not really the same thing. He brings up Gabriel, because Tony met him, but attempting to make up an actual event involving Gabriel without acknowledging his powers is harder than he thought it would be.

When their meal is gone Tony takes Castiel's hand and they go back out to his car. He asks if Cas wants to return to his apartment for a drink. Castiel has already had a glass of wine, and feels pleasantly light. He's anxious about finding more things to discuss, and Chelsea warned him not to go to Tony's apartment on the first date… but this is the second date… so maybe it's okay… and there hasn't been any kissing yet.

So he agrees.

Tony's house is bright and new and nothing like his and Dean's house. Castiel likes it. Tony directs him to the couch and goes into the kitchen. He returns with two glasses of wine and hands Cas one before settling down on the couch next to him.

He sits close, so that the sides of their legs are touching. Dean and Cas do this too, Cas hasn't figured out the rules for when this is and isn't okay. Tony takes Castiel's hand in his own. Cas smiles and closes his fingers around it.

This is one of Castiel's favorite things about being human. He likes these quiet intimate moments. They way they forge a connection between himself and the people around him. He likes the reminder of camaraderie in the world that you can't have when you're intangible.

Tony gives him a soft sort of smile. Cas smiles back. He has learned and now he can readily interpret facial expressions and hardly has to think about it at all.

"I feel like I've been doing all the talking tonight," Tony says, sipping from his glass and setting it on the coffee table. He leans back against the arm of the couch and tugs Cas down with him. Castiel isn't sure how to fit against Tony in this position and pulls back. Tony loosens his grip on Castiel's hand and bites his lip.

"Tell me about your friends. How did you meet Chelsea?"

Castiel had a lie ready for this and feels bad that he has to use it. He tells Tony that before Dean worked in the garage he was doing odd jobs and had responded to Chelsea's ad. Tony laughs when Castiel tells him that Chelsea braids his hair, then reaches up and tugs at it gently. Castiel leans into the pull, toward Tony and sees Tony glance down at his lips.

"Can I kiss you?" Castiel asks, because Tony asked the last time.

"Yeah."

Cas presses his lips his lips to Tony's. He really likes this how warm, soft, intimate and just slightly overwhelming it is. Tony had slipped his tongue into Castiel's mouth when they'd been kissing in the car and he'd barely been able to contain his cry of surprise at the sensation. He wonders if he was supposed to initiate kissing with tongue this time or if he should follow Tony's lead again.

The issue is resolved when Tony opens the kiss and slides his tongue against Castiel's. He slips his fingers into Cas's hair, brushing it back from his face.

"I like your long hair."

'Thank you."

For some reason Tony finds this funny and grins as he resumes the kiss.

He pushes down at Castiel's back. He's not sure what he's supposed to do.

"Come here," Tony whispers.

Oh…. Oh. Cas follows the motion of his hands down. His entire body is pressed flush to Tony's now, they meet everywhere, tongues tangling as Tony's hands run through his hair.

It's wonderful, but a little odd, Castiel thinks, to be so close to someone he's known for a week and a half. He's unsure of how exactly he feels about this, but Tony's arm is loose around his back. If he needs to pull away he can. He feels safe here.

They keep on kissing and Castiel can feel the pleasant heat building in his body, burning hotter as Tony's soft touches at his back and in his hair turn firmer, palms pressing into his back and pulling up his shirt. Tony's hands run across his bare skin and Castiel's hips buck into Tony's before he can stop himself.

The most frustrating thing about being human is having no control over your form.

Tony's head rocks back out of the kiss. Castiel feels a burn of pleasure rip through his body as he feels what Chelsea calls a "hard-on" pressing into Tony's body.

Tony sweeps Castiel's hair back and Castiel realizes that they're both breathing heavily.

"Do you want to go upstairs?" Tony whispers.

"Why? What's upstairs?"

Tony kisses him again. "My bed, Cas."

Castiel doesn't know what that means, or how to ask.

And he can tell it's a thing a man appearing to be his age should know.

"Cas?" Concern shrouds Tony's features. "It's only a second date. You know there's no pressure, right?"

Castiel isn't sure of a right answer, and feels suddenly embarrassed and a little upset. It's very trying to be somewhere between several millennia and 9 months old.

He finally settles on a question. "What would we do if we went upstairs?"

And then a computer screen image of writhing, grunting bodies suddenly pops up in his memory.

No. He doesn't want that. It's not affection like this. He likes this.

Tony tugs at the ends of his hair again. "Whatever you want to do."

"I don't know what I want."

Tony let's his hands fall back against the arm of the couch. "Cas… can I ask you something?"

"Yes."

"Are you… are you a virgin?"

Cas considers lying… but what would be the point? "Yes."

Tony is quiet for a moment, and Castiel would be concerned about the pause, but Tony's hands are still in his hair. "What about girls?"

"I don't understand."

"Are you… just new to the guy thing, or have you never been with anyone?"

Humans are so very weird about genders.

"I'm new to everything," Castiel says… an excuse that Chelsea has used a couple of times that always made the other room-cleaners at the hotel nod as though everything was explained occurs to him. "Secluded, religious upbringing."

That seems to make Tony sad. "Oh. That must have been hard."

Castiel's hard on is subsiding, but still present enough to be distracting and he's trying not to move his hips against Tony's. He doesn't understand how he managed to interrupt the kissing. He also has no idea how to make up an entire childhood.

His silence makes Tony uncomfortable. "Tell you what. This couch is killing my neck. Let's just make out upstairs. Is that okay?"

"Yes."

They shift up off the couch. Tony takes a deep draft from his wine glass. Castiel echoes.

"Making-out" would be more fun if Castiel didn't feel like he had to dread the point where they stopped kissing and he'd have to pretend to be human enough to carry on a conversation with someone who had never hunted ghosts or demons.

He'd wanted to do a normal human thing. Chelsea dated, people on TV dated. He'd tried to make Dean date. It had seemed like such a good idea to divert Dean's attention away from him a little. Dean deserved normal things and he couldn't have them if he was always supervising Castiel. He had been considering bringing Chelsea on as a co-conspirator and trying to find Dean a girlfriend again, though he wasn't as pleased with the prospect as he used to be. Especially because something has changed with Dean over the last few days too and now Castiel just feels… lonely.

But Castiel knows he has to try harder to be human. He can't spend his entire life as Dean's ward, living on Dean's paychecks and sleeping one door down. The ex-Angel doesn't fit into the normal human life he wants for Dean and if Dean ever gets it Castiel needs to be able to stand on his own two feet.

Attempting to date like a normal person, forging a bond with a civilian had seemed like a good way to do that.

Tony's room is a light mint green. There are plants in all the corners and the room is infused with a sharp soap like smell. His bed is huge and it takes Castiel a moment to realize that's because it's built under the assumption that two people would sleep on it. Unlike the small cots in his and Dean's separate rooms.

He takes a deep gulp from his wine glass. The light feeling is starting to creep back in, though he doesn't feel as good as he did half and hour ago.

Tony sets his free hand at Castiel's waist and draws him into a wine sweet kiss, then walks him back toward the bed, plucking his glass from his hands.

They lie down together, hands skimming over each other's bodies as they kiss. It's subdued like it wasn't before and Castiel can't quite place how or when it changed, though he expects it has something to do with him being a virgin. Humans are very strange about that too.

The kissing slows and fades away He is tired and warm and just aroused enough to be warm and sluggish, but not aroused enough to need to be finished off. It's difficult to perceive how time is moving out at the edges of this feeling.

"It's late," Tony murmurs eventually. He shifts up. "Oh, Cas. It's one in the morning."

There's a jolt at that. Deans' home alone. He'll be concerned. Probably drunk too.

And that sting of loneliness creeps in again. Why hasn't he called?

Because my phone is in my coat downstairs, Cas realizes.

"I should go home," Castiel yawns. "Dean will fret." Castiel yawns again and realizes that humans don't say "fret" anymore.

Tony chuckles and presses a kiss to his hairline. "Come on. I'll take you home."

Cas checks his calls while Tony hunts for his keys. None from Dean. Two from Chelsea from an hour ago. It's too late to call back.

The ride home is awkward. It's taken two nights together for them to run out of most of their topics of discussion and you can't kiss and drive at the same time. Castiel has to find a way to avoid Tony's question about whether or not he went to college.

Tony kisses him again before Castiel gets out of the car.

When Castiel enters the house Dean is standing over Chelsea, draping one of the blankets from the back of the couch over her. There are two beer bottles next to Chelsea, and three next to Dean. Well. At least he wasn't getting drunk alone anymore.

"Hey." Dean grabs a book off the end table. Hell lore. Cas keeps the disapproving expression off his face. He's frustrated by Dean's refusal to understand the potential consequences of breaching Hell. But it isn't as though he can say thing to dissuade Dean.

And Dean's obsessive quest will distract him from what Cas is slowly beginning to believe must be the truth. Sam is actually, very literally gone. Only God could have brought Sam out of the cage without also releasing Lucifer and Michael, and God had abandoned them all years ago.

But there were many things out there- things with debts and compassion and maybe just plain fear of the Winchesters- who could have ceased Sam. Simply wiped him from his tortured existence, as though he had never been.

Cas is afraid of what it would do to Dean if he found out he can never get his brother back, and afraid of what his friend might do to himself if he blames himself for his brother no longer being. And Dean would blame himself.

Personally, Cas hopes that Sam has been unmade. It's a better fate than eternity in the Cage, at the mercy of Lucifer and Michael.

"Hello, Dean," Castiel replies cautiously. Chelsea has tried to explain the basics of why Dean is uncomfortable around Cas now. She used words like "Hyper Masculinity" and "Homosexual Panic" and refered to Dean as an "Emotionally-constipated wreck- not that I don't love the guy." But Cas can tell she's self editing her answers in an attempt to spare his feelings in some way. He has gathered that Dean thinks he is gay and that this makes it uncomfortable for Dean to touch him. But he doesn't understand why and it makes him sad.

But he knows Dean. Dean distrusts, then gets angry, then acts like it has always been this way. He was the same when Cas first introduced himself as an Angel of the Lord.

"How was your date, man?"

Perhaps he's already getting over it.

Castiel shrugs. "My date was fine." He can seethe small battle that seems to incite across Dean's features and wonders if Dean knows how expressive he is when he isn't lying.

Dean clears his throat, "Good. You wanna… wake Chelsea up and tell us about it?"

Castiel hesitates. He doesn't want to admit that it didn't actually go well. He would like to seek Chelsea's guidance, and this whole attempt is an experience he would like to share with Dean. It's would just be prideful to refuse to admit he may have been mistaken.

"Alright. But I want to go get my blanket first. I'll be back shortly."

Cas hears Dean wake Chelsea as he goes up the stairs and as he comes back down hears the two of them hissing at each other and then hears their voices hush as he footsteps come down the stairs.

He settles onto the couch, next to Dean, then after moment, experimentally moves closer. Unlike all week, Dean doesn't lean away.

You also have very little control over your emotions as a human, Cas has learned and his intention to simply explain the events of his evening devolves into a diatribe about the frustrations he's been trying not to voice about how he'll never be quite human enough to function on a planet where he may have as little as 50 years left.

Chelsea strokes his arm. Dean settles his hand on his knee.

And he feels loved and relieved and a little more at home.

Chapter Text

Thomas comes by when the snow starts to melt and they do some shooting. Thomas helps him brush up his knife throwing technique. The guy really is impressive. He can hit the bulls-eye of a dartboard from 20 yards off. It's almost superhuman.

Thomas it turns out, got out of Hunting after his cousin died, and other than salt lines under all the door and window moldings in his house, hasn't really thought about ghosts or monsters since. Hunting had been like an extended teenage rebellion thing for him. His father had been raised in it, and refused to carry on the tradition. But he was a mean drunk and a selfish prick and Thomas had run off to find his Hunter uncle when he was 15, then just walked away, found this job, found Sophie, and settled down.

Dean learns from Thomas that a lot of Hunters think the Winchesters are just a story. Two hero brothers built out of the experiences of all other Hunters. Thomas tells him a few stories that he heard from his uncle about them and whistles low when Dean says that they're all true, even though a few details are off. The couple of Hunters that Thomas has talked to about the Supernatural series have assumed that Carver Edlund must be a retired Hunter who decided to take down the Winchester legends.

Dean doesn't want to be a legend. And he doesn't want anyone reading Supernatural. He's finished Lazarus Rising and the idea of thousands over-hormonal teenage girls reading over the passages that seem to focus weirdly on he and Cas exchanging "intense glances" makes his stomach roil almost as much the thought of them all getting a bird's eye view to Cas's feathers being burned off for him in Hell. Every page made his spine tingle like Becky Rosen was heavy-breathing outside his bedroom window.

Cas and Tony break up a week later. Chelsea comes over, clearly prepared to do some equivalent of ice cream and chick flicks, but Cas is actually taking it pretty well. It was only three dates, they didn't do more than make out, Cas already had his freak out about never being human enough. The three of them wind up putting on a record, eating the big quiche thing that Cas made, and amusing themselves inventing life histories for Cas, spinning more and more ridiculous ones until Cas can't stop yawning. Chelsea goes home. Dean and Cas go to bed.

Dean lies there, thinking about it, how it was just stupid fun to make Cas feel better. They didn't research, they didn't talk about Hunting or Hell, or Sam or monsters. They just had fun. It's a weird feeling, and it makes him feel a little guilty and suddenly awake. He goes downstairs, gets the stack of Hell lore he's been working on and reads until he falls asleep.


 

He wakes up screaming. Fire and brimstone and burning flesh in his nose, ash and blood in his mouth, the sounds of Cas screaming still in his ears.

He lashes out at the hands holding him down, trying to throw them off, until the insistent noise, of a different texture than the screams, finally gets through.

"Dean! Dean! Wake up! Wake up! Dean! It's not real!"

He stops moving, eyes adjusting in the dark until they can see the moonlight against Cas's chin and hair.

"Cas?"

"You were dreaming, Dean. You're awake now. It's me."

Dean forces out a breath and drops back onto his pillows, Cas still holding him down.

"What did you dream about?" Cas asks.

Dean doesn't answer at first, then figures, what the Hell, it's Cas. "You coming for me in Hell. Why didn't you ever tell me what happened to your wings?"

Cas stiffens and Dean wonders if he's breached some sort of Angelic etiquette. Nothing is said for a few moments and then Cas moves, sitting down next to Dean instead of hanging over him, holding him down. The bed's not really big enough for both of them, and Dean shifts over a little to give Cas room. Cas sets his hand on Dean's chest. Dean can feel the way his heart is still hammering from the dream.

"How do you know about that?"

"Chuck's new book. He brought a copy. Chelsea was reading it."

"Oh." Cas doesn't say anything, just sits and looks at his hand on Dean's chest. Dean has a sudden flash of the memory of Cas kissing him, innocent and curious.

It wouldn't be innocent anymore.

He shakes his head, willing the thought to go away.

"I wasn't the only one. Angel's haven't attacked Hell since Lucifer first fell, to cage him, it's too dangerous. We all understood the risks of going into save you. There were causalities. Deaths. I wasn't the only one burned. I wasn't even the worst injury."

"But you got hurt. For me."

Castiel sighed, a deep, angry sigh. "No, Dean. I got hurt for God. Under his orders, for his purposes. And based on what's happened over the last few years, I'm not sure it was God, and we could have been under anyone's orders. Uriel's. Raphael's. Michael's. Considering what a cluster-fuck the whole apocalypse was it may have even been under Lilith or Azazel's orders. Don't blame this on yourself."

"But Cas-" Dean starts. Cas huffs again and pushes his hand down over Dean's mouth.

"My wings are gone now. Who cares how ugly they once were? Here and now you do everything for me, too much, sometimes. You saved me, you saved the world, you taught me, you love me. Hell burned me. You did not. Don't you dare simper about it."

Dean pushes Cas's hand away. "Cluster-fuck?"

"I learned it at the hotel. It's accurate."

"You were the one who remade me. When I came back from Hell. That was in the book too."

"It was given to me as an honor. A reward for injury in service. I didn't do it very well," Cas sets his hand over the handprint burned into Dean's skin. "You go this in Hell, when I grabbed you as I burned. I couldn't remove it."

Dean can't answer that and feels his heart start to thrum against Cas's hand again. He can see the wrinkles move on Cas's face as he frowns. Cas brushes a hand over his forehead. "Can I make you something?"

Dean clears his throat and sits up. Cas is so close he can smell him, like his lavender shampoo and the meals he cooks and the continually dusty smell of the blanket he's wearing less and less as winter starts to melt away.

It doesn't worry him like it may have before. Sitting here in his bed like this with a guy who had saved his life a thousand times and once kissed him. Who he'd taught to use the shower and who sometimes held his hand. Who he saved the world with and now ate all his meals with. He catches Cas's hand as it falls from his chest.

"I'm just… I'm sorry about all the times I was a dick to you," Dean finally says, noticing with every word just how stupid they sound coming out of his mouth.

Cas laughs at him. Real, deep, guffaws. His head drops down onto Dean's shoulder and Dean wraps an arm around his back until he finally stops laughing and moves into a hug. "You're ridiculous." He pats Dean's back and pulls back out of the hug. "I'll leave your door open. I'll come wake you again if you stir."

"Cas…" Dean starts… but doesn't know what he was going to say. "Thanks."

Cas shrugs and goes back to bed.

Dean lays back onto his pillows. It's stupid, Cas is right down the hall and heard him the last time, and it was just a dream, like a thousand other dreams he's had, and it's not real, and it's not nearly as frightening as most of his actual real life experiences, but he'd feel better if there was just someone else in the room. On the other side of the nightstand, like there had been his whole life.


 

Things finally pick up on the monster front. While he supposes that's not actually a good thing, it does keep everyone busy. Cas doesn't brood about not being human. Dean doesn't think about the weight of obligation to Cas that's on his shoulders. Chelsea is distracted from her offer to help set Dean up.

For some reason early last week, she had decided that this was a great idea. She theoretically knew tons of girls willing to put up with a drinking, nightmare having, Hell obsessed lunatic like him. Dean had just nodded, not seeming approving or enthusiastic, but not shutting her down either. Because if Chelsea really did have all of these great, open minded, single female friends- why did she spend most of her days and weird portion of her nights, here with them? If he stayed totally neutral about it, she'd probably forget to bother trying to dig up a girl who obviously didn't exist.

A couple of Hunters who are in the area even stop by, old friends of Bobby's, Cray and Jesslyn. Bobby drives in from Mitchell, everyone has a beer and trades war stories. Dean asks them if they've heard anything about Sam. Bobby and Chelsea exchange a look. Cas runs a hand down his back.

Cray shrugs. No they haven't.

But they can ask Ellen Harvelle if she has.

Cray and Jesslyn don't understand why that makes everyone freeze.

"Ellen Harvelle is alive?"

Cray looks askance at them. "Was she dead?"

"YES!" Bobby, Cas and Dean all answer together.

"She and Jo got blown up in a town full of Reapers when Lucifer raised Death. Jo got shredded by a Hellhound. No one heard about this?" Dean demands.

Jesslyn shakes her head. "Well… I mean, you guys know how things were during the last year. It was the apocalypse. You were the destiny players I heard. The rest of us were just treading monsters. Wasn't a lot of time to just call people and catch up."

"You got her number?"

Jesslyn writes it down and hands it over. That more or less kills the reunion. Chelsea lets Cray and Jesslyn out. Cas, Dean and Bobby sit around a phone and call her.

She is alive. She's hunting in Omaha because without the bar she doesn't have anything to settle down for, so she's scamming and snowing and taking down monsters. She promises to mosey up to South Dakota just as soon as she's taken out the werewolf she's hunting.

Jo's alive too. She' going to school in Delaware.

Neither of them have heard anything about Sam.

"So… what?" Dean barks. "Everyone else is coming back?

"We'll keep an eye out, Dean," Ellen says. "But… I saw a whole damn bar full of people burn. I ain't seen any of them, walking around. Maybe we can't get everyone back."

Dean hangs up the phone, throws it across the room, grabs the book he's been working on and goes up to his room. Somewhere in the haze of rage he can hear Bobby's car start up and leave. You can't hear Chelsea's damn Prius do anything, and she hardly leaves as it is.

Dean stares at the words in his book for a while, he can't tell how long. There's a squeak and a click as his door opens. He jerks his head up to yell, but it's Cas.

"What?" he asks, keeping most of the anger out of his voice. Cas holds up a book like a shield in one hand, he's got a mug in the other.

"I just came up to help."

Dean can't think of anything to reply that won't make him feel like a dick and he's starting to realize that he's having a tantrum and Cas is tolerating him. He shrugs.

Cas drops into the old, just a little bit broken arm chair in the corner of Dean's room. He sets his tea mug on the windowsill and he reads until he falls asleep.

Chapter Text

Cas gets weirdly intense about making dinner for Bobby, Karen and Ellen and when Dean is pressganged into helping, he doesn't put up any sort of resistance whatsoever. Cas has been dealing with his shit all week. He's not sure what spring of patience Cas has tapped into, but he owes Cas the equivalent of growing and reaping the vegetables for it, he can handle a little light chopping.

It's been a rough week.

On Monday, Gabriel had dropped in to let Dean know that Hell was in total chaos, and starting to collapse in on itself. Dean asked what that had to do with him and Gabriel had warned him that it could lead to some unusual Demon activity up on Earth. He still had no news on Sam.

Tuesday, Dean had picked up some of his Hell lore, finished it while he nuked some left overs, and grabbed a new book. Two pages in he'd realized that he'd already read it and grabbed a different one. Which he'd also already read. Then a third.

And then he realized that he'd read them all.

Cas comes home from the grocery store to find books everywhere, and Dean stinking drunk, face down on the floor.

Cas drags him upstairs, forces some water into him, and manhandles him to Bobby's old bedroom.

All Dean remembers is realizing he'd read all of the books, finishing the whiskey and waking up fully clothed, across Bobby's bed from a sleeping Cas, with his hand clasped around Cas's, and a screaming headache. He'd quietly explained to Cas, who hadn't asked, that he'd run out of leads and he'd been looking for almost a year and hadn't found anything.

At least it's his day off, so the debilitating hangover and the void of any will to live doesn't mean he misses work. Cas brings him aspirin and juice and lets Dean stay in bed all day before crawling back under the covers with him at the end of the night. Dean doesn't argue, just lets himself be soothed by the sound of another person breathing.

Cas forces food into him in the morning after the daylong hang over. An epic bacon and eggs breakfast when Cas usually tries to get him to eat something that doesn't make his arteries cry quietly from the abuse.

And then Cas explains to Dean that he is going to quit drinking. Because Cas doesn't want to worry about him drinking by himself, or drinking himself sick, or his drinking and driving or his drinking himself into a stupor to potentially drown in his own vomit if he doesn't have someone watching him.

Dean insists that he's not an alcoholic, and he deserves the occasional overboard, like when he realizes that he's wasted nearly a year of researching and done nothing to help find Sam, who he doesn't believe anymore is going to get magicked back to him the way that Cas, Bobby, Jo, Ellen, Karen and even Gabriel have been.

Cas asks Dean to go a week without a drink.

Dean accepts out of stubbornness more than any real desire to change, then realizes before the end of the day that he's having withdrawal symptoms. He's snappy and jumpy at work. He's having a whole host of unpleasant… digestive problems. His hands shake. His nightmares on the second night without a drink are so intense that Castiel basically brow beats him back into Bobby's bed and crawls in with him.

And the worst part is that it helps, just to have Cas there, and Dean asks him to stay. And he talks, which he never does, and Cas listens, which no one ever does, and Dean tells Cas about stealing Christmas presents for Sam and going hungry for him and lying to him for years to protect him from the truth. Cas just watches, nodding, the light flickering in his wide blue eyes while he strokes his fingertips over the back of Dean's hand and Dean wishes like hell that he didn't need this so badly right now.

So Dean now lives with a man with no sense of personal space, whom he brushes his teeth with, holds hands with, eats all of his meals with and now sleeps in the same bed with, even if Cas does stick to his side, only occasionally inviting their hands to meet in the middle.

Dean's father would beat the shit of him if he knew about this.

But what a dead man wants isn't Dean's problem, and things are hard enough without full-on tossing, screaming night terrors on top of everything else.

Cas hasn't once called him an alcoholic, there hasn't been the slightest hint of an "I told you so", he's just removed all of the booze from the house and suddenly happened to have a lot of tea and juice around, which Chelsea drinks with the enthusiasm of someone trapped in a commercial saying things like "Yum! What's a guava actually look like?" and "Oh there's jasmine in this… drinking flowers must be healthy."

Actually, Dean's been trapped in a commercial. So that analogy isn't totally true and he knows it.

He only takes the day of the hangover from Hell, the day of the moping and the day of the really bad symptoms of withdrawal off before he digs out the copy of Bobby's journal that he'd hidden in the panic room and starts making a list of Hunters to call.

There was nothing in the Hell lore and Gabriel had said he couldn't find Sam. Dean was going to keep looking on Earth, but the daily Google wasn't going to help.

Maybe he could just hope like Hell that Ash would come back from Heaven, that's who he needed. But while Ash may have been a genius, he wasn't one of a kind. He gets ahold of Hunters who tend to frequent California, in case Sam is somewhere in the Stanford area, in case that's the life he got magicked back to.

A really obvious solution occurs to him in that heavy concentration that comes from a repetitive task when he's priming a car at work. The only person that everyone knows is powerful enough to do this, and enough of dick to do it like this is God.

He does have one link to God.

He calls Chuck, who finally answers, and asks about the prophecies. Chuck says he hasn't gotten a prophecy since the one about Sam jumping into Hell to save the world. Dean asks about the headache at the poker game. Chuck says that he's still getting the headaches but nothing comes with them. When Dean asks about the new books, Chuck tells him that those were all already written, they just hadn't been published, and the books he was working on now were all still from old drafts and notes on the old prophecies. God's been silent.

Dean keeps making calls, getting increasingly desperate.

And Cas plans dinner.

"Why are you getting so… hardcore about this?" Dean asks Cas, scooting carrots off the cutting board into the bowl. Cas lets out a quiet, frustrated sigh when a few of them roll away onto the floor.

"It's the first real, planned out reunion," Cas answers. "It's important. I want it to go well."

"I don't think anyone is going to call you out on your hostessing skills," Dean says.

"This is just important to me, Dean."

"Okay." Dean wraps and arm around Cas's waist and side hugs him, letting go just before Chelsea comes in with a "Hi, boys. Karen said she's bringing pie, so I figured rather than try to subject your people to my attempt at a side I'd just pick up some fancy coffee to go with dessert."

Dean waves her in. Coffee for dessert. It's a fancy little bag with a ribbon tied around it, and it could not possibly be more obvious that Chelsea had bought wine for the pasta, gotten to her car, realized that she shouldn't bring wine, picked up coffee on the way and swapped out the ribbon. Dean wants to be a little offended that they both seem to think he can't even handle having anything in the house. But neither of them are wrong.

Thomas had mentioned his intention to host his own poker game and Dean had turned down the invite because he knows if he goes he'll have a beer, and then at least three more and while he probably wouldn't get that drunk, he does not need to relive this last week. He made it a week without a drink, but it shouldn't have been anywhere near as hard as it was, and now, with the liquor out of the house he'd either have to buy some, which would be like admitting Cas was right: he needs to quit drinking or hiding it so that Cas wouldn't find out, which would mean admitting to himself that he really is just an alcoholic, which seems like a terrible thing to be with a half normal life at stake.

They chop vegetables. Cas starts stewing things. He's making something Italian that Dean can't pronounce. It's mostly vegetables and the smell is amazing. It sometimes strikes Dean as odd that someone's who's been eating for less than a year has such a good sense for how to make something appealing and delicious.

Chelsea has also brought nice bread and olive oil and vinegar. Dean slices the bread.

This is what he imagines preparing for a family holiday is like. But even more awkward. It's all the official adults coming to a house that Bobby owns. Dean sleeps in Bobby's old bed now, with Cas, every night, even though the nightmares are subsiding already. Chelsea is just a friend. Dean's starting to think more seriously about letting her set him up with some girl, but can't get over the worry that it's going to be exactly like Cas's attempt to date.

He doesn't want someone that he can't be honest with and his attempts to be honest with girls haven't gone well. Cassie rejected him. Lisa didn't really reject him, but he can't shake the feeling that Ben is his biological son. He's a Hunter, he has instincts and every time he tries to choke it back as just wishful thinking, it pops up again- he just knows. He doesn't blame Lisa for lying, she's got a family and a life and plenty of reasons not to want him around. But it still feels like a rejection.

And then Chelsea. Who accepted who he was, what he did, has been around for every instance where the story he tells her gets more crazy, like Archangel's and Prophets dropping in for poker night and people coming back from the dead every couple of months.

But who he has absolutely zero romantic interest in, and who has even less romantic interest in him.

Maybe, like Cas, he just has to wait a little while longer. Become more of a civilian first. Because "boyfriend" isn't something he knows how to be. Dean Winchester is a one night stand. He's a codependent mess. He's a drifter. He's not boyfriend material.

"Dean?" Chelsea says, and Dean can tell she's been repeating his name for a while now. "Hey, you wanna try some?" She's holding out a piece of bread with stuff on it, like she's going to feed it to him. Dean carefully takes it out of her hand. It's good.

He helps Chelsea set the table. Cas pours three glasses of some fruit flavored ice tea he found somewhere and the three of them sit, listening to the dinner bubble until the doorbell rings.

Cas welcomes Karen and Bobby in, pours them some ice tea too. Chelsea offers them some bread and oil.

Bobby talks about his business. He's just gotten a pretty hefty contract for some one out east who's willing to put down some very serious money for a custom designed bathroom. Bobby is clearly delighted with the prospect of traveling for business. Karen works at the Mitchell library. They're just happy and peaceful. It makes Dean happy to see them.

Ellen blows in the front door in a gust of cold wet air, that ugly March breeze that's melting but not melted yet. She hugs everyone, including Chelsea. She tugs at Cas's hair, and when she asks for a real drink she gets shut down with a quiet shrug from Bobby and an even, "We don't have any in the house," from Cas.

And then everyone goes over who is alive and who is confirmed dead. Ellen hasn't run into anyone that she knew was dead. All she knows about are Cas, Bobby and Karen. Dean and Cas chip in the Gabriel is back and kicking too, but says he's the only Archangel, even though Raphael didn't kick it the first time around either.

"Well," Dean huffs. "Let's hope we don't get Gordon or Bela back. Or Hell, we still don't know whose behind this whole "Wait and See" nightmare. Maybe we'll still run into Ruby. Or Meg."

"Meg didn't die the first go round," Bobby pointed out.

"Son of a bitch," Dean sighs. Cas pats his shoulder.

"Wait and see?" Ellen asks.

"Some cryptic bullshit we keep getting told."

"You're kidding. I called here soon as I got back. That was the message on every phone. Your cell," she points to Bobby. "CIA, FBI. CDC everything."

"When did you call?"

"When Jo and I woke up in a motel in Michigan two months ago. You were our first call.

"And the message you received was "wait and see"?" Cas asks.

"Yeah. Man's voice, kind of… high pitched a little nasal."

Bobby nods and explains his own cryptic message experience.

"I got the regular message at your number, Dean" Ellen says, through a mouthful of pasta. "And Sam's."

"I never got the call. I always check," Dean said. "And Sam had his phone when he… so who the hell knows when the cell phone company starts cutting people off."

"We tried Ash, Kubrick, Rufus, hell even Gordon, all disconnected," Ellen continues.

"Rufus isn't dead. We took a call for someone looking for Luther Vandross's superior at the CDC last week," Dean says.

"Well, we didn't know that until he picked up."

"We saw Ash in Heaven. I don't think he's coming back," Dean says. Karen and Chelsea both give him a look he's not sure how to interpret. "Were you… in Heaven?"

"I don't remember. I remember the hell hounds and the explosions and then I would up in Michigan."

"Pamela was in Heaven. Someone got her number?"

Bobby dials. Disconnected.

"Okay. So here are the facts we have," Bobby starts. "Two people last seen in Heaven- disconnected numbers. Kubrick you gotta hope is in Heaven, though who knows if they let Jesus freaks in."

"Gordon?" Ellen asks.

"Purgatory," Cas answers. He was a vampire. At the end."

Chelsea and Karen start clearing the table.

"Dean…" Cas starts quietly, setting his hand on Dean's leg as he does. "We had a disconnected number when we called Sam."

"But Bobby got a "wait and see" when he called all of us, and Ellen got a message for him. Besides it's just a damn phone, it's not like it's a reliable gage for who is and is not dead."

"Dean… it's been almost a year. Sam died a hero," Bobby starts. "I ain't saying-"

"Yes. You are." Dean's surprised that he isn't yelling. "No one thinks he's coming back. I know that."

"I think he could still come back," Chelsea declares, setting her hand to the back of Dean's neck. Cas is quiet, but squeezes Dean's knee.

"This is pointless," Cas says. His voice is utterly emotionless, and completely firm. "We don't have any method of determining what is really happening. We don't know who's behind this and the only person with the power said he's not behind it."

"Who's that?" Bobby demands.

"Gabriel," Dean answers.

"And you trust the trickster?"

"Usually, no," Cas sighs. "But for this, I do. Gabriel isn't… subtle or generous. If there was any chance at all he felt the need to do this, he would have just dropped everyone he intended to bring back into the living room. He may have staggered them, he's powerful, but not all powerful, and he'd never mess around with the sort of time anomalies we've been running into with Bobby visiting our house and finding it empty, or no Hunter mentioning Ellen for months when it's unlikely they hadn't seen her."

Dean sees the way that Bobby's eyebrows lift slightly at "our house" and Cas's hand on his leg seems heavier.

Karen and Chelsea start clearing plates.

"Ellen, how was your werewolf hunt?" Cas asks.

And the conversation is suddenly over.

Karen and Chelsea pass out pie and coffee and everyone goes into the living room for dessert. Bobby grabs Dean's arm just as everyone else goes into the living room and they duck into the laundry room off the kitchen.

"Bobby, please. Can we not… get into the Sam thing right now?" Dean asks.

Bobby just shrugs. "You seem tired, Dean."

And it could mean all kinds of different things, and Dean just finds himself responding to issue that is most central in his mind right now.

"You don't have to worry."

"Maybe. But I still do." Bobby shrugs again. "Glad to see there's no booze in the house."

Dean feels a little flush of shame. Even though Bobby always knew, and knows even better now. "Cas is watching out for me."

"I noticed that. Guess you just take the guardian out of the Angel."

"Yeah."

"Been thinking. I don't need both these houses in my name. Two of you… have a home here. Might set aside some time in the next couple weeks. Sign some paperwork."

Dean nods. "Bobby, are you giving us this house?"

Bobby gives him a look that he can't quite interpret, then chuckles. "Well, you've been here the better part of a year without even asking. Might as well."

They pick up pie and coffee. Conversation in the living room sticks to hunting and life and away from mysteries. Everyone leaves before midnight.

Dean helps Cas wash dishes in silence for a while before he suddenly has to know.

"Cas, what do you think is happening with "Wait and See"?"

"I don't know, Dean."

"Just your opinion?"

Cas scrubs a dish, Dean just watches him. "There are so many things that could be doing this, so many combinations of possibilities. I just… what worries me is that Gabriel says that he can't be found. So he's either no where, or he's hidden."

"Then whoever's hiding him would be the one taunting us?"

"I'm not convinced it's a taunt. I just don't know." Cas sets the dishes in the sink and turns to face Dean. "I wish so much that I could give you answers, or bring him back to you."

"I just… I'm not sure what to do anymore, Cas," Dean admits. "I… don't have any leads. I don't know where to look. I don't know what to try. I read all of the Hell lore and he might not even be in Hell. I've got most of the Hunters in North America looking for him, and zilch. I called down an Archangel, who we all think is on the level and he can't find him. Cas… I don't… I don't know what to do if I don't get him back. I just… I take care of Sam. That's who I am."

"You take care of me," Cas offers.

Dean sets his hand at Cas's elbow. "Don't. I'd have been so dead, in so many humiliating ways if it weren't for you. You make… me miss him less."

Cas steps forward and hugs him… and it's… like it usually is. But Dean's starting to really… think about it.

Our house. Our friends. Our bedroom. Our bed. Cas's "You love me" from last week. Him helping Cas be human. Cas helping him chase away the nightmares. Neither of them Civilian enough for anyone else. Neither of them Human enough for anyone else.

Cas is warm in his arms, tight around him, stroking his back when he hugs him. It's not different from how they usually are.

But it's not a normal hug. Between friends. Even close friends. It's the same way they've been hugging. Arms around each other, chests pressed together. And it's not how Cas hugs Bobby, all shoulders. Or Karen. Or even Chelsea.

And even as Dean realizes this, and shivers, he still can't let go.

"I'm starting to worry that I'm never going to find him," Dean whispers. And it's the first time he's admitted it. Even to himself. It's been almost a year of spinning his wheels.

Cas insinuates himself even closer. Dean hears him start to say something, then cut himself off.

"What if we looked for Adam too? They are the two that were in the cage. They were both possessed by Archangels and the time. If there are any leads to Adam they may at least provide a blue print for finding Sam. And we haven't asked anyone about him."

The gratitude burns in Dean. Cas still has faith. Cas still thinks there are trails to follow. Cas isn't giving up. Cas finally loosens his hold on Dean and pulls back, just inches.

Dean leans forward and presses a kiss to Cas's lips.

Chapter Text

Dean leans forward and presses a kiss to Cas's lips, then finds himself shocked to be there.

It had just been an instinctual push. He hadn't even thought it through, it had just happened, like pulling out a gun during a Hunt, or pouring salt across a door.

Cas's eyes aren't closed.

He feels like he should pull back. Let it just be some slightly too old fashioned little weird affectionate thing that he doesn't stop in time. Like everything else. This isn't okay. This isn't what men do. This is too much.

But he can't pull back.

Cas does, with a panted, "I don't understand."

Dean shakes his head.

"You said I couldn't kiss you," Cas persists.

"Yeah."

"Tony always asked me if he could kiss me. You… you were upset that I was dating a man. You didn't want to touch me."

It kills Dean that Cas does sound confused more than anything else. Like he's just laying out the facts and looking for support or correction.

"I'm sorry for that. That was stupid."

"No. Don't be. We… I…"

Cas's eyes lock on Dean's lips as Dean moves down, heart hammering so hard he'd be surprised if Cas can't hear it.

Dean's hands are shaking worse than they have all week. Cas's eyes are inhumanly blue and his lips are dry and warm.

The warmth of gratitude and heat of affection start to falter under the chill of panic.

And Cas tips his face up, turning it into an actual kiss rather than a press of lips. He grips Dean's elbow. The angel's thumb digs into the spot where he used to tap his fingers. It's strangely reassuring. It's a ghost of a gesture Cas used to make when Dean took care of him. It's okay to take care of Cas.

Dean knows he's getting in over his head… but he just, suddenly wants this. Like he wanted Cas to stay when Cas manhandled him into Bobby's bed. Like he wants this constant, oppressive loneliness to let up, even just temporarily.

It's an… honest kiss. Cas's inexperience is obvious. He has no rhythm or technique. The hand that isn't tight to Dean's arm keeps landing unsurely elsewhere on Dean's body. It makes Dean feel strangely protective of him, like when he was still tying Cas's shoes and making him food out of cans. Dean sets his arms just behind Cas's waist and feels a fine tremor travel up his fingers from Cas's body.

Cas's tongue probes at the seam of Dean's lips and Dean's nerve is suddenly, utterly gone. He pulls away.

"Umm…" Dean starts. "We should… we shouldn't leave all these dishes here."

Cas looks hurt for a moment, but blows out a steadying breath and nods, turning back to the sink.

There are a lot of dishes left and Dean's heartbeat is nearly back to normal by the time he hands Cas the last plate to dry.

Dean declares that he's going to go turn in. Cas makes a soft noise of assent but doesn't follow. Dean goes upstairs, brushes his teeth and is in bed, in the big bedroom, where they've been sleeping. He can hear Cas shuffling around in the house. Hear the creak of the stairs. The water in the bathroom. It's like a physical pain in his chest when he hears Cas pad down the hallway, toward his own room.

Then after a moment he hears the floorboards creaking again and his door opens.

"All the pillows are in here." Cas takes a few steps into the room.

He looks so small. It makes Dean just hate himself. He sits up, and holds out a hand before remembering that it might not be a universal gesture. Cas seems to pick up on it anyway, walking in and taking Dean's hand.

"Stay here."

"Dean, I don't understand what's happening. You're acting very strange and I don't… I won't put up with you getting mad at me about any of this."

Dean tugs him closer. "I don't understand either. Please stay?"

Cas resists the pull of Dean's arm, stepping away.

"Please?" Dean pulls him over again he comes willingly.

They sleep on separate sides, hands wrapped together in the empty space between them.


 

Cas wakes Dean up by shaking his shoulder gently until Dean opens his eyes.

"Dean. You'll be late for work if you don't hurry."

So Dean hurries and is grateful for the distraction. He doesn't have to freak out about what he did quite yet. He's got to hurry and get to work.

When Dean gets down to the kitchen Cas has a toasted peanut butter sandwich ready for him in a baggie. Their fingers touch when he hands it to Dean and he looks so wide eyed that Dean kisses him again, just a quick brush of the lips.

It's very 50's sitcom, running off to work and kissing the wife goodbye.

Dean wishes he hadn't thought of it like that.

He's doing a good job not thinking about it at all at work, letting his mind just hibernate in the repetition of priming and scouring a car that someone brought with the whole side panel scraped to hell.

But he can't block it altogether. Because he kissed Cas last night and woke up with him this morning and has to go home and face it tonight and for the first time in years he doesn't feel like total and complete shit.

He doesn't feel good. He feels uncomfortable and worried and stupid and ashamed.

Because he should have seen this coming. The total lack of space. The hand holding. The lingering touches and desperate clinging hugs. His near disgust at the hot chick and her perfect blow job and how it felt better to be a ruler's width from Cas than to be balls deep in that random girl's throat.

And under the discomfort, worry and stupidity, and shame, there's still the fear.

Dean goes to the library after work. Lingers in the occult section. Picks up a big stack of books. Stops at the grocery store. Realizes that he has no idea what's in the cupboards because that's Cas's domain. Buys juice.

His phone rings in the grocery store. There's some sort of Kelpie situation in New Orleans, which is just fucking weird. He heads home but circles the block six times, cranking Metallica just a little too loud before finally feeling fucking ridiculous about it and just going the hell home to deal with Celtic monsters in Creole territory.

There's a full house when Dean walks in. Bobby, Chelsea, Ellen and Cas are in full hunting mode. Apparently Gabriel's hint about Hell was supposed to be a decent heads up after all. There has been an explosion of monster attacks, just since Dean got off work. All over the country, all sorts of things, almost coordinated.

Bobby and Ellen are on the phones, sending out troops. Chelsea's on her computer with a weather map up, looking for omens. Cas has a map out on the table and he's sticking pins in it, looking for patterns.

Dean, with his encyclopedic, though thus far fruitless, knowledge of the lore library starts digging for causes and correlations.

It's three hours later and Mackintosh is dead before they get a call from Carrington over in California. It's Demon on Monster violence. They need to set the rag-tag little army to work protecting civilians, but they might as well set down a salt circle and let the damn things try to kill each other. They pass the message along and all let themselves take a breather for dinner, but keep vigil over the phones.

Cas makes pancakes. Dean reaches his fork out to snag one off the stack and finds it already snatched away by Gabriel who has manifested himself a chair around the table.

"Hello, Hunters Headquarters," he says cheerfully.

"What the hell are you?" Ellen demands.

"Gabriel. Archangel," Cas and Dean answer, wearily and in unison.

"I come with news. Still nothing about Sam, but I do have two things. You're not going to like them."

"I never do," Dean points out. "Hit me."

"Tonight's big battle? Crowley is trying to take over Hell and annex Purgatory."

"Purgatory?" Chelsea asks.

"Where the bogey men go when the die," Gabriel clarifies. "I wouldn't suggest buying a condo there, but it's better than Hell by a long shot."

"I though Purgatory was like a soul car wash. They got you scrubbed up for Heaven?" Ellen asked.

"Nope." Gabriel began oozing syrup all over his pancakes. "It's like a big black forest from a fairy tale. A monster terrarium. It's also a little more… fluid than Heaven or Hell. Easier to escape back to Earth."

"So if Crowley gets his way he could install a revolving door?" Bobby asks.

Gabriel shrugs. "Don't worry about it."

"Don't worry about it?" Dean demands. "What in the hell do you mean don't worry about it?"

Gabriel rolls his eyes. "Let me put it this way- who has two thumbs, the Armies of Heaven under his command, likes this world, and will sweep in and save the day if the monsters or Demon's gain the upper hand?" Gabriel points at himself. "This guy. This is waaaaaaayyyyy above your pay grade, little Hunters, but I appreciate the enthusiasm. Kick back, have a drink and leave the big guns to the big boys."

"You said two things?" Cas prompts.

"Right. Maybe you'll like this one, maybe you won't. I found Adam. And his mother. They're happy and healthy and back in Minnesota."

Dean gaped at him.

"I asked him to look," Cas offers quietly.

"How long?"

Gabriel grabs another pancake and starts eating it daintily off of his fork. "Looks like they could have been there this whole time."

"So… someone popped Adam out of the box on day one, and Sam is nowhere to be found?"

Bobby clears his throat. Dean sees Cas shoot him a look.

"There have been a hell of a lot of time anomalies though. We might not know the truth about when he got back," Bobby points out.

"He's been here on earth," Gabriel asserts.

"Can you tell for sure?" Cas asks.

"Yes," Gabriel replies immediately. "I can. Belief creates power. The Angels believe I'm God. I've been enjoying a miracle here and there," he nods at Ellen, who draws back suspiciously. "For all intents and purposes, I'm God these days." He admits this a though it's a gross and highly contagious skin condition. One involving pus or blisters.

"You're God?" Cas scoffs.

"And say a prayer of Thanks, Castiel. There are a lot of Gods who would let this little Purgatory vs. Hell match burn out of control. I'm a God that cares enough to go and put the fire out if need be. There are worse people in the world to be… all seeing."

There's something about the way he says it And if that didn't sell it, the leer at Cas does. Gabriel knows that there is something happening between them. Now on top of all of the other worries, Dean can add the threat of Gabriel showing up while he's in bed with Cas and cheering them on to his list of concerns.

He grabs his juice and takes a deep and disappointing gulp when he realizes that he is already actively planning being in bed with Cas again later.

Cas pulls back on himself at the insinuation.

"Okay. Your lordship," Bobby snarls. "Give your poor servants a leg up then. Who else is back?"

"What do you want me to do? List everyone who's still kicking? Give me some names, Bobby."

They all start tossing them out. Dean and Ellen both ask for Ash first. Dead, according to Gabriel. Having so much fun in Heaven that Gabriel's considering upgrading him like the pagan's used to do. Ellen asks for a couple more people from the bar. All dead. Dean checks on Bela and Gordon, just in case. Dead. And Ruby. Dead.

It's Bobby that asks about John. Dean's surprised, and then ashamed at the relief he feels when Gabriel declares that Papa Winchester isn't coming back.

"Okay, plebians. That's enough of the questions," Gabriel declares. He reaches out and grabs the plateful of pancakes. "I've done my duty to the home team. Gabriel out." He disappears.

"Freakin Angels!" Dean yells at the ceiling. Cas pushes his foot up against Dean's.

"Adam," Cas says quietly.

"Yeah, well. The kid's only crime was getting born to the wrong man," Ellen sighs.

"Pretty common crime," Bobby comments.

"Epidemic," Cas agrees. His foot moves a little against Deans. Dean takes another gulp of his juice.

"So… did we just get switched off?" Dean asks. "If Hell gets out of control Gabriel will just swan in and take care of it and we can all go play bingo?"

"Bingo?" Cas asks.

"He's kidding, sweetie," Chelsea says.

"Well… hell with it. Pretty bastard's got my vote then. Or prayer, or whatever." Ellen yawns. "Let's break out the whisk- ahem- pie."

And so the noble Hunters have dessert and coffee, Dean thinks to himself. It should sound more bitter than it does, but after years of an absent God who let them all struggle and die, Dean is ready to accept Gabriel's little experiment in giving a shit.

Adam though. Gabriel never did say if he could just pop down into the cage… but he was the one who had known about the horsemen's rings being the keys. But that didn't prove anything. Adam being out didn't guarantee that Sam was out. Gabriel had seemed to want to take credit for getting Ellen and Jo back on Earth. That didn't mean he would take credit for Adam as well. And Dean had a gut feeling that Gabriel was telling the truth about not being able to find Sam. He was coming through on everything else he'd promised.

Dean's head hurts. He just wants everyone out of his house so he can deal with one huge fucking issue at a time.

It's another hour or so. The phones aren't ringing. Ellen, Bobby and Dean make calls, it sounds like Hell and Purgatory may still be at war, but the Human casualty isn't going to be an issue. There have been Angel sightings.

Everyone slowly peels away and goes home.

And Dean and Cas are alone.

They find themselves back at the sink just like they were last night, doing dishes in silence. Dean keeps waiting for Castiel to say something, but he doesn't. Finally the last dish is put away. Cas turns to Dean, takes a step just a little too close and looks up at him, already moving up into the kiss.

Dean lets out a breath he didn't realize he was holding and sets his hands back around Cas again. They tilt their heads back and forth for a few moments, in a comically chaste kiss before Dean mentally girds himself, and whispers, "Cas?"

When Cas responds with a quiet, and somewhat overly resigned "Yes?" Dean takes advantage of his open mouth and slips his tongue along the inside of Cas's mouth.

Cas responds with a gasp that makes Dean's thudding heart stop for a moment, before erratically kicking back up.

"Dean?" Cas quavers, turning his head. "Can we go upstairs?"

"Okay."

Cas's breath is sharp on the stairs, each one carving out into the utter silence of their house. The house they've lived together for the last year. The house that Bobby is going to give them. Both of them. "You boys have a home here".

Dean's terror is peaking by the time they settle into their bed, and Cas seems to have his own reservations. The light goes out and they lay on their sides, hands clasped, kissing slowly, but thoroughly as Cas worms his way closer and closer.

Cas makes noise when he's being kissed.

Little gasps and heavy breaths. Vocalized shivers and stutters. A noise that seems to come right from his chest and can only be described as a rumble. Deans' mouth catches them all. He lets his hand slide out of Cas's, down his forearm and up his shoulder, palming down his back and bringing Cas that little bit closer. Cas struggles to balance for a moment before pushing his knee forward. Dean lets it slide between his own legs and they're suddenly hip to hip and chest to chest.

Cas makes a noise that's almost like a squack and Dean can feel him, completely hard against his hip.

They still haven't talked about what they're doing, and they're going to have to deal with that eventually. And Cas hasn't gotten any further than this with anyone, so this might push up the day where they eventually have to deal.

And Dean wants to know what other sounds he might make, and it's easier to kiss Cas in the dark.

He pushes forward, rolling Cas onto his back, and letting his hips press down against Cas's. The former Angel's whole body goes still with a noise like a cry from something with no voice box.

"Stop?" Dean whispers.

"No, no, don't stop," Cas replies. He hooks his fingers around Dean's neck and pushes back up against Dean's hips with an honest to god whimper. Dean meets the hesitant little roll of Cas's hips with his own and Cas's head falls back out of the kiss.

Dean hasn't been so turned on by this since he was 15, doing this standing up in a broom closet at school with some girl whose name he doesn't remember anymore. He'd shot all over his jeans and just skipped back to the motel they were staying in early.

He and Cas are both in their jeans now, and Dean feels a little bit 15 again, because he sure as hell isn't taking his jeans off for this. It's too much like admitting what's going on. He can play the "celestial beam of intent" or whatever thing pretty hard, but Cas's cock against his means things and it's easier not to worry about that yet if the clothes stay on. It's just going to have to be a laundry day.

Cas is starting to catch on, miniscule little bumps up turning into long drags against Dean's body. His whimpers are turning to whines. Dean shifts out of Cas's increasingly sloppy kisses and kisses down his jaw. Cas's gasps are loud in Dean's ear as he works his mouth against the angel's neck. Dean let's the tip of his tongue slide along the vein that sticks out of Cas's neck, and Cas's entire body jumps underneath him.

"Shh… I gotchya," Dean whispers "I gotchya, Cas."

"Dean… I think I'm… I'm going to…"

"Good," Dean says. He kisses Cas's neck again, rocking down against Cas's stuttering hips. Dean brings his teeth into play, nipping gently at the spot under Cas's ear.

Cas's body goes rigid and he swallows his gasps as his hips pup upward into Dean. Dean digs his fingers into Cas's spine, holding him close as Cas thrusts up against him one last time and then goes entirely limp in Dean's arms, with a noise like he's deflating.

"Oh," Cas pants. "That was different than when I do it for myself."

"Good different?" Dean asks, though he can guess the answer from the way Cas's body feels like water in his arms.

"Yes." Cas turns to kiss Dean. "Did you… do you need to?"

"It's okay," Dean tells him. Cas doesn't look convinced, but Dean's not fifteen anymore and he's perfectly happy to not have to scrub a come stain off his jeans in the morning. Besides, he's not that far gone. Cas held out longer than Dean had expected him too, but it had still been a sprint not a marathon.

And he's still got this fence in his mind. Without logic or reason holding it up, that separates "okay" and "too much". Cas- with no experience or real gender or clue what's going on, coming underneath him is weird but okay. There is still something dark and forbidden and too much about Dean letting himself get off on this too.

"But… it's customary to… reciprocate? Isn't it?" Cas gropes for words. "Chelsea said-"

"It's okay," Dean says more firmly.

Cas is shifting uncomfortably, clearly only beginning to realize the sticky underwear situation he's gotten himself into. He glances down at Dean's lap where the bulge of Dean's engorged cock is obvious under his jeans. Dean sees his fingers flex but then he wriggles in place again.

"Why don't' you go clean up? That's going to get uncomfortable."

Cas nods. "This is less complicated in the shower."

Dean's shocked at the brashness of the invitation from Cas and then more shocked when he realizes that Cas thinks he's begin coy. Dean goes for oblivious, even though it's a risk trying to sell that on the master of oblivious.

He leans over and kisses Cas. "Go take a shower. I'll be here."

Cas shuffles out.

Dean feels weirdly neutral. Too aroused for panic, too panicked to be really aroused. Hard, but not so hard he has to do anything about it.

And he's starting to realize that he knows where the fence in his mind came from. His father built it. There are things that men don't do. This is definetly one of them. But the foundations of the fence were laid wrong because he'd had to be a man and be Sam's mother (look after Sammy) at the same time and he's been letting Cas move the fence around post by post all year. But he still can't just cross over it or knock it down. Not all in one go. He likes Cas here. In the house. In the bed. Coming surprised and gasping underneath him. He just needs time. He just needs… privacy and patience.

And for no one to ever find out.

Dean dithers for a moment before deciding it would be okay to kick off his jeans. Cas has complained about Dean sleeping fully clothed. Apparently his jeans catch in the covers and pull them away from Cas, who then gets cold. And Cas does hate being cold.

But some habits die harder than others. He's laying on his side, quietly qualifying and rationalizing and sorting the last few days into okay and not okay when Cas slips into bed with him.

Dean feels him scoot closer after a moment, then again. He holds still, letting Cas work his way to the end of whatever he's trying to do. And that's when Cas throws his arm around Dean's waist.

Being the little spoon is not something men do and Dean clamps down the instinct to throw Cas off, slowly rationalizing this too.

It would hurt Cas to push him away.

He's got to look after Cas.

So it's okay.

"Good night, Dean."

Chapter Text

It takes sometime, way more than it should have, but Dean finds Adam's phone number.

"Interrogate" is a harsh word, but it's accurate.

Adam remembers the beautiful room. He remembers Zakariah. He remembers saying yes.

He's fuzzy on anything that happened after Michael actually took over his body, but he remembers Sam grabbing him and pulling him into the cage.

He remembers a feeling like being submerged in water.

He remembers seeing Sam disappear.

He remembers feeling Michael pulled out of his body, and how it was like boils popping all over his body, and the light that ripped out of him.

And then he was in his house and everything was okay again, and he doesn't want to have memories, old or new, about Dean, or Sam or their Heaven and Hell bullshit.

And then he hangs up.


 

Dean's out of bed early on his day off. He pulls carefully out from under Cas's arm. Cas makes a noise like "Wstfgl?" but falls back to sleep at Dean's quiet "shhh".

One make out session has turned into a regular nightly make out session. Almost a ritual. A kiss after Chelsea or Thomas leaves inevitably turns into going upstairs to rub against each other with their denim encased hips together and their mouths wandering strictly above the collar bone. Cas is holding out longer and longer, but still popping like a teenager, surprised and grateful. Dean has yet to come from just grinding, but Cas is a fast learner and he's starting to find those sensitive points on Dean's neck and take advantage of them.

Last night he'd found the spot just above Dean's collarbone and between the way he'd groaned in victory when Dean finally spasmed the way he did, and how perturbed he'd seemed when Dean was still going to sleep unsatisfied, Dean had finally caved. He'd jerked himself off with Cas spread over his chest, kissing him and running his fingers through his hair.

He feels less weird about that than he might have, but he's also trying not to think about it, which would be easier if today wasn't laying out in front of him, empty of any obligation. Cas hasn't really asked him anything about what they're doing, and nothing has come up around Chelsea. Dean thinks Cas has probably figured out that Dean is uncomfortable, but might not have worked out all the nuances of why, and that's fair enough. Dean can't either. But Cas's careful not mentioning it is like repression by osmosis and Dean feels bad about it. Cas deserves better.

But they couldn't all grow up fenceless and genderless and only mentally scarred by millennia of war against Hell. That thought, and the coda to it- that Cas was physically scarred in Hell too, for him- makes Dean feel worse.

He goes into the kitchen and starts making Cas coffee. It's even the fancy frilly stuff that Chelsea brought them for the big reunion. And there is still a ton left because that was only a week and a half ago.

Dean runs his hand over his face as the water starts to gurgle.

Only a little over a week since they saw Ellen for the first time after she had died. Only a little over a week since Bobby had offered him and Cas the house. A few days since Hell and Purgatory had started waging war on earth. And only a little over a week and a half since… the whole Cas thing.

Dean sets out a couple mugs.

It's cold and grey and miserable outside, dark clouds switching between rain and sleet. Bobby's supposed to come over with the paperwork for the house today. Dean hopes the weather stops him. The highway between Sioux Falls and Mitchell isn't great on a nice day.

He rubs his hand over his face again. He has that heavy stickiness in his eyes that he used to get when he finally crashed after too many hunts and too many long nights and stayed asleep for most of a day. He's been sleeping better since he and Cas… It's hard for him to sleep without a drink and Cas being there helps, despite the weirdness of… cuddling the former angel.

He pours them both a cup of coffee, cream and sugar, and starts back up to their bedroom. He doesn't quite jump when he sees Cas, wrapped in that blanket, watching him from the stairs.

"Good morning, Dean."

He looks sexed. His long hair is mushed and a little snarled. His lips, slightly pouted, are too flannel pajamas and the blanket around his shoulders kill the effect a little, though.

"Made you this," Dean says, lifting one mug a little.

"Thank you."

Dean heads for the couch and sets both their mugs on the end table before dropping down onto the couch.

Cas grabs his mug as he passes and then sits on the opposite side. Dean flicks a questioning look at Cas and the space between them. Cas pulls his knees up, rewraps his blanket around himself and takes a sip from his mug.

Something's obviously bothering him and Dean's ready for it when he says, "Dean? Are we in a relationship?"

Dean takes a moment of refuge in a deep gulp of his coffee. "Why are you asking?"

Cas scoffs and looks away. Now he's pissed. "Because we live together. And we're very close and we eat together and spend all of our time together and now we're having sex and-"

"Woah- hey-" Dean cuts him off, shocked. "We are not having sex."

Cas gives him an incredulous look. "We had sex last night."

"No, we didn't."

"We both orgasmed. With each other."

Dean feels like he might just die from the embarrassment of having to explain this to Cas. "Grinding and…. jerking off with you… there does not count as sex. You have to…" Dean makes a gesture that consists of interlocking his fingers and moving them together and away from each other. Cas shakes his head- uncomprehending.

Dean clears his throat. "Someone has to… be inside someone else."

Cas is unimpressed with this. "Are we going to have sex then?"

"Not… I don't kn… why?"

"Because… I like… the affection I share with you. I like living here with you. I want to keep living here with you and being close to you. I want to at least bring you to climax myself and I don't understand what I'm supposed to do if you don't want that, or if what we're doing if you don't want that, or what's going to happen if you break up with me. You're very strange and confusing now and I'm upset with you." Cas hunkers down further against the opposing arm.

Dean drinks his coffee again and gives in under Cas's fretful, immature, and oddly worded wrath.

"Okay. Look. And… stop glaring at me. And come here," Dean holds out his arm. Cas rolls his eyes but unclenches and scoots over a little. Dean settles his hand over Cas's elbow.

"You're not stupid. And you've seen the whole history of everything. You've heard people talking and you've probably gotten the looks, considering you were walking around South Dakota with a boyfriend." Dean clears his throat. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"No."

"Cas… I just… I want you to be here… okay? But this… part of what we're doing is hard for me."

Cas shakes his head. "Do you not… want me physically anymore?"

Dean drops his head into his hand. Cas's only experience with dating had to be a lopsided relationship that ended in less than a month. It's like the insecurity expressway. "Christ, do you have to put it like that?"

"Dean-"

"Look, I can't just jump into this. It's not… it's not that I don't want… I just…"

"It's a human gender thing?" Cas probes.

"Yes. Sorry."

"Oh."

"Give me time, man. Just give m-"

Dean is cut off by his phone ringing. It's Bobby calling to cancel the big home buying party. He's been too busy to get the paperwork totally put together and Karen's not letting him out on the highway.

"Yeah, I figured," Dean says. "The highway's gonna be all ice by dark and everyone's died enough this year. We'll do it another time."

"I think Cas should be on the deed too," Bobby says. "Hell, if it were a homestead you'd probably both own it by now anyway. What did his last name end up being again?"

"Novak," Dean supplies.

"Oh. Alright. We'll get it done. Ain't like you boys aren't going anywhere."

"Yeah."

"Okay. Well, find something fun to do in the weather."

"Shouldn't we be looking into Crowley and the whole overhaul of Hell thing?"

"You heard. Gabriel. We're B-squad. Enjoy it while it lasts, kid. I've got some work I need to be getting together. Bye."

"Bye."

Dean turns back to Cas. "The old man is really looking to unload this house. I'm starting to worry there's something wrong with it."

Cas shrugs.

Dean hates this. He wants to, he just… can't. It's been a week and a half. That's it. And Cas is right about how fucked up everything would get if something went wrong. Their lives have totally wrapped in on each other's. They're both going to be owners of this house. Hell, if they fuck they'll practically be married.

He wants to know what he really feels and what he's most sure of is that he wants Cas to feel better.

"You know what we should do?"

"Hmm?"

"Take a day off."

"It is your day off."

Dean huffs out the shadow of a laugh. "Yeah, but from everything."

Cas narrows his eyes. "Everything?"

"Yeah. We'll order Chinese, you don't cook, we let the dishes lay in the sink. And I won't do any research."

"None?"

"No."

"Then what will we do?"

Dean leans in and presses a coffee kiss to Cas's warm mouth. "Practically nothing."

It's almost bliss. Almost because Dean still feels himself looking over his shoulder as he kisses Cas. As the kiss turns to being wrapped around each other on the couch, Dean's arms around Cas's hips, fingers tangling at random for a ridiculous portion of the day while they watch old movies with the rain and sleet humming in the background.

But Cas is smiling at the attention. Dean feels… cozy with it. Wrapped in Cas's blanket with him, not even talking all that much. Dean's a little freaked out by how easily he could get used to this. Like he's gotten used to an honest living, and a home of his own, and friends.

An almost normal life.

Except for this. The man in his arms when he knows it should be a woman. It should be Chelsea or Jo or someone. But neither of them are Cas and dammit if he's starting to think he's been falling for the weird little bastard for months.

He's still running a tally of Hunters he hasn't called yet and psychics he could try to find Sam since calling Adam was a bust. He's been trying to get a hold of Missouri Mosely for months, but no one's heard of her. It's like she was wiped from everyone's existence but his, which the way things are going could definitely be true.

But technically that's not research, it's just organization, so he's still not working on the Sam issue. He's just being with Cas. In a very very not manly way. Cuddling and kissing and cozying for hours on end, even intermittently dozing until it starts to get prematurely dark as the sun sets behind the bruise blue rain clouds.

Cas shifts in his arms, turning to face him and doing something seriously painful to Dean's elbow and ribs in the process that Dean pretends didn't happen.

He smiles at Dean. "This has been a nice day off." Then he kisses him. It's tea flavored and sweet and Dean opens his mouth to it lazily. The credits on whatever it was they were watching start to play. The kiss gets deeper. Their hands start roaming over each other. The kiss gets hotter. Cas's hips start moving against his own, little circles. The long day of just laying on each other, building little steps up to taking little steps, feels like a huge fucking tease all of a sudden.

Dean threads his hands into the hair at the back of Cas's neck and pulls him in a little closer.

"I want to touch you tonight," Cas whispers. It's quiet and maddeningly neutral for something like that. "Please?"

Dean's mind isn't totally sold on this, but his body is sick of this bullshit and pushes forward into Cas. Cas makes a pleased sort of murmur and dives back into the kiss, dragging his hands into Dean's as well so that they're just pulling each other further into the kiss. Cas is warm and eager and everywhere and Dean's too turned on to ignore those simple facts right now. He's been denying himself the kind of orgasms he's been watching Cas have every night and certain parts of him don't care enough about the gender thing to keep putting up with that.

"Yeah. Okay."

"Can we go upstairs?" Cas asks. He gets a weird thrill out of asking this question. Dean doesn't get it, but he likes the way Cas's cheeks flush when he agrees.

"Okay."

Cas presses into a last kiss and a less than subtle thrust of his tongue into Dean's mouth. It should be ridiculous, but it's just stupidly hot. Then he peels away.

They walk upstairs hand in hand. Cas surges back into the kiss when they reach the foot of the bed. Dean wraps his arms around Cas's waist and pulls him close. They're both starting to get hard and Dean feels overheated against the wet chill of the room.

Cas's fingers tangle in the hem of his shirt and tug upward. Dean's heart thrums. He's not sure about shirts off, it's getting a little close to too much- but you know what else men don't do? Spend weeks carefully groping because they're afraid.

Besides. Cas wants this.

"Dean?" Cas asks quietly. Dean nods and grabs Cas's shirt as well. He tugs it upward. Cas laughs when the neckline catches around his nose. Dean feels like an idiot, but Cas doesn't seem to notice and pulls Dean out of his shirt with no problems. Dean runs his hand over Cas's collarbone, tracing his fingers across the tattoo and Cas's firm, flat chest, fingers catching against the sparse smattering of dark hair. For a guy who's always bitching about the cold, he's absolutely burning to the touch.

Cas pulls Dean back into the kiss and turns him so that his back is to the bed, then steps forward. Dean feels the bed hit the backs of his thighs and he falls backward onto the bed, scooting back on instinct when he finds himself at crotch level. Cas follows.

This is a lot. Dean's been on top and in control every night up to now. He's been making sure of it, which is stupid because he's never on top for long with a woman. He likes the weight on top of his body. How much easier it is to touch them. See them.

It's easier to see Cas like this. He's not hesitant. He's not shy. He's not feminine. He looks like he's doing everything in his power not to devour Dean. It occurs to Dean that a millennia old virgin is the same thing as a guy who hasn't gotten laid in thousands of years. The thought makes Cas seem suddenly feral in Dean's eyes, and Dean jumps when Cas plants a kiss to the place where his ribs meet his stomach. The way that Cas looks so damn proud of himself when he looks up and smiles at Dean makes the nerves wrench back down though. Cas thinks dry humping is sex. Dean's safe. Nothing is going that far.

Cas continues to trail his lips up Dean's chest, moving over him, hovering above but not settling down against Dean's body. He niggles his teeth against one of the tendons in Dean's neck and Dean's head rocks back of it's own accord. He lets out an unfamiliar nose and Cas takes instant advantage of the expanse of skin, kissing his way up to Dean's mouth before collapsing into him, tangling himself up in the kiss.

They're chest to chest, bare skin to bare skin. Dean is screaming hard under his jeans and he can feel that Cas is too. His body doesn't care about the fucking fence and it's finally getting what it wanted. Pushed against a warm and loving body, flush along his entire length, weight pressing him down on his back.

He sinks down against the pillows and lets Cas's mouth work down his neck and chest again. He gasps at the sudden lightening of the pressure on his cock before he realizes that Cas has unzipped his fly. He sits up a little. Cas's eyes go wide, but Dean lifts his hips.

It's just the jeans.

Cas shucks his own pants and settles back down against Dean's body. They fall back into their familiar rhythm, Cas rocking down as Dean rocks up, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. The back-and-forth makes the friction, under just the two layers of thin cotton now, perfect. They're both squirming and gasping. Dean digs his fingers into Cas's arms, drags them up his shoulders, over his back and then his shoulder blades, digging his fingers under the scapula. Cas bucks forward, hard and sudden with a noise that jumps out of his throat. He drops his forehead to Dean's shoulder, making sounds that Dean doesn't understand, but definitely sound like cursing as he gets his breath back.

"Don't do that," Cas finally manages. "Not yet. I want… first… you said…"

He's so turned on he's speechless. Dean can feel his cock starting to smear against his underwear where it's unabashedly tenting.

Cas snakes two fingers underneath the waistband of Dean's boxers.

"Yes?"

No Dean thinks, but it's not what he wants to be thinking. He doesn't want to be thinking at all. He wants to be going after Cas with the same gusto that Cas is going after him with.

"We don't have to," Cas huffs out. It's the single least genuine statement Dean has ever heard in a career of professional lying, but the angel's hand doesn't move.

Dean's being such a pussy about this. He never takes what he wants, fucking never, and Cas is gagging to give it to him.

He traces his fingers over the wings of Cas's shoulder blades again and Cas shudders.

Well, it's practically hurting Cas not to let him touch right? He doesn't want that.

"You first," Dean whispers.

Cas's boxers practically evaporate. Thousands of years of pent up sexual energy are definitely coming to a head, and now Cas is straddled over him, naked, cock standing between his legs, right over Dean's.

One layer of cotton.

Dean's surprised that the main descriptor coming to mind is "thick". He'd expected something… like in the old angel paintings to go with Cas's slim build and long hair. Thin and small and artistic… not… like a real cock with precome already shining at the… oh god he'd thought about Castiel's cock.

Son of a bitch.

Cas strokes himself almost absentmindedly, leans down to kiss Dean for a moment and then tugs Dean's boxers down. Dean lifts his hips. Cas tosses them away.

No layers left.

Cas is looking at him. Like looking at him.

"You're lovely," Cas tells him huskily.

"You don't say that to other dudes."

Cas actually rolls his eyes. "No one can hear me." He reaches out for Dean's cock, hovering just above it, fingers at the ready before looking up for permission. Dean nods. He's a little worried about what Cas might do. All indication is that he can get himself off just fine, but this is still Cas.

He's gentle, not hesitant but careful, as though this whole thing is a very delicate operation that can't just be rushed into.

It's not enough, but everything else is too much, and Dean's perfectly content to lay back against the pillows and give himself a minute to adjust while Cas just warms him up. He takes a deep breath and reaches out for Cas's cock. Cas brushes him away.

"Not yet."

Dean waits, the comfortable but slow stroking doesn't change and he grabs Cas's hand.

Cas flinches. "Is this not… what am I doing wrong?"

Dean shakes his head. "Nothing it's fine, just…" he pulls Cas's hand up to his mouth and spits.

"Dean!" Cas looks at him like he just took on dump on his palm, utterly appalled. "You spit on me!"

Dean recalls that spitting on someone was some sort of horrible insult back in biblical times and quickly laughs, "To slick it up," then keeps laughing. This is just the stupidest thing that has ever happened to him. This is why he'll never get why some guys have a thing for virgins. Why do the awkward thing over and over?

Cas doesn't look convinced. Dean spits in his own hand, grabs Cas's dick and starts stroking. Cas's eyes flutter shut.

"Oh."

"Yeah," Dean agrees as Cas grips his cock with this newly wet hand. Better. He grips Cas a little tighter. Cas echoes. Dean speeds up. Cas thrusts up into his hand and then does the same, before pulling Dean's hand away with a whine.

"I want to bring you… off first," Cas whispers.

"Alright," Dean sighs. He drops his hands down onto the bedspread, then as an afterthought tangles his fingers in the covers.

It's getting hot again. The road block of fear is melting away under Cas's eager stroke, the utter stupidity of not knowing quite what they're doing together is fading back as Cas echoes just what Dean was doing to him, then after he's got the pattern down, stoops down to kiss Dean.

The closest Dean has ever come to feeling like this is when he had sex with Anna. The same… understanding of something he's not sure how to articulate, but it wasn't as… good as this. Anna's kiss had been sort of a generic, biblical grace and forgiveness. She kissed him like any other sinner, despite the enormity of his sin.

Cas's ministrations are about him. Not humanity. Not for a hero, not for a sinner, just for Dean. Dean opens his eyes. Cas's cheeks are burning red, a blush that goes all the way down his chest. He's just watching Dean, like he's never seen anything quite like him. Dean rocks up into his hand, seeking more of the adoration as well as more of the friction. Cas starts working him harder, faster.

"Yeah, Cas, just like that," Dean offers.

Cas scoots a little closer to Dean, and as Dean reaches out to grab Cas, reciprocate, even if he has to do it slow and careful because endurance isn't Cas's strong suit quite yet, Cas scoots his hips closer, and lets go of Dean's cock.

His hand comes back wet and holding both of them, squeezing around them and pressing them together and despite Dean's claim that there has to be… penetration, this feels like sex. Pressed intimately into Cas, ratcheted high enough already before Cas is kissing him again, while his hand strokes over both of them and his pants and mutters pour into Dean's mouth. The slide gets better, spit and precum from both of them mixing as the velvety skin slides together.

Dean can't help himself, he's thrusting up into Cas's grip, up into Cas's cock, muttering and panting back into Cas's mouth too as they kiss and thrust and tangle together like they might knot.

Cas comes first, with a cry that makes Dean glad they don't have neighbors. The hot wet drip of Cas's orgasm all over him brings him off too and after a lightning-bright moment they're sticky and panting and covered in each other.

Cas grabs an abandoned sock from earlier off the floor and wipes them both clean while Dean searches for words and comes up with "Wow."

And then, because this is something that happened with Cas, and Dean should listen to Chelsea when she says things like "emotionally 16", the moment goes weird and heartwarming and a little terrifying. The angel flicks the light off, burrows them both under the covers and, buck naked, wraps himself around Dean, the way they've been sleeping all week and says, "I learned that on the internet. I love you."

"You too," Dean murmurs before he has time to think about it. Cas hums happily and Dean lies there until the angel falls asleep and then the fear kicks back in.


 

Cas sleeps like a dead rock. More accurately like some sort of coral bed that grew around Dean and then died off, trapping him in its fossilized reef.

Dean doesn't sleep very well.

Cas said the L-word. Dean agreed. They practically had sex. Dean lies there until his eyes ache with tiredness, and he finally falls asleep.

He jolts awake to a light room, and the jolt can't carry him all the way up because of the heavy weight of Cas on his chest.

The panic is sudden and absolute.

He can't do this.

He can't let Gabriel relegate him to the cheer squad in the fight against evil. He can't die a mechanic. He can't lie here in bed with Cas every night and be… this guy.

He can practically hear his car calling out to him and the keys are lying on the night stand.

He carefully extricates himself from Cas's arms, feeling the chalky dry feeling on his stomach from where Cas had wiped the come off of him. Cas sleeps on while Dean shoves himself into his clothes from last night and pulls his old duffle, more or less still packed, out from under the bed. He grabs the keys, and works his way downstairs, avoiding the creaking steps and floorboards on his way.

There's something suffocating about the way his somehow doubled possessions are laying around the living room. He ducks around the room grabbing a few books some notes about Hell and monsters and dimensions. He's gotta find Sam. He can't just stay here in suburbia, putting in the time when he's got it. He's gotta start knocking on doors, tracking people down.

He feels a little sick, and drops down onto the couch for a moment to get his bearings, then decides it's just hunger. He goes into the kitchen, grabs a box of the granola bars Chelsea had left behind, shoves them in the duffle with his extra clothes and his knives and his fake credit cards and takes a breath to steel himself.

Over his drumming heart he hears a soft, strange sound from the living room. Cas must have shuffled down to see what he was doing. Shit. He shoves the duffle into a cupboard, takes another breath and walks back into the living room, fake smile plastered on.

The smile falls off the second he crosses into the living room. His entire body freezes.

Sam is sleeping on the couch.

Chapter Text

Sam is sleeping on the couch.

Dean stares, then closes his eyes and counts to ten. When he opens them again Sam is still there.

He looks awful. His hair is longer than Cas's, but it's tangled and dirty and separated into greasy looking strings hanging from his head. His hands are covered in mud, his face and arms are covered in grime. There are dark circles under his eyes and his face looks sunken until Dean realizes that it's because he's lost so much weight. Sam used to be big, broad and entirely muscle, and now he looks like some scrawny little law student. Not sickly thin, but it looks sickly on him. He's wearing the same clothes he was when he jumped into the pit and they look huge on him. Like a little kid in his father's clothes. His father's dirt crusted, slightly charred clothes.

Dean steps toward him and his knees give a little. His heart is beating so hard it hurts and he realizes he hasn't breathed for a while. He lunges for the armchair that is turned toward the couch and falls into it, gulping breath.

Sam smells. It's mostly body odor, stale sweat and unwashed hair. But there's the dark smell of earth and the smell of ash too.

An awful, awful though occurs to Dean and he freezes for a moment watching Sam's body intently for any evidence of breath before he detects the deep and steady movement of Sam's chest.

He can't think his way to a next. Sam's here. He's alive. He's damaged, but he's back. He's here. In Bobby's house. On the couch. Dean could reach out and touch him. Reach out and wake him. Dean actually lifts his hand to do exactly that, and just can't make himself follow through on the movement. What if it's not Sam in there? Or what if it is Sam… but whatever's ravaged his body like this has ravaged his mind too?

Dean drops his face into his hands for the second time on this very overwhelming morning then looks up and just stares at his little brother. Laying on the couch and actually looking little for once.

He's not sure how much time actually passes before he feels a hand on his shoulder. He jumps, flipping up out of the chair, ready to take someone apart on pure instinct before he realizes it's just Cas. Long hair, kiss bruised lips. A light hickey on his neck. Looking at Dean with those bright blue eyes blown wide.

"Is he… why haven't you woken him?" Cas asks quietly. Quiet enough not to wake Sam himself.

"I just…" Dean whispers back. Cas's hand slides down from arm to Dean's hand, wrapping the shaking fingers in his warm palm. Dean feels like that little gesture is stabbing him in the stomach.

He had been ready to run. He was going to just leave Cas here.

But Cas doesn't know. And something bigger than a truncated mistake is happening. Dean will… deal with it.

Cas squeezes his hand and it's like twisting the knife. "I'll do it."

Dean drops his forehead. Cas kisses his cheek. Dean steps back. "No. I can."

Cas nods.

Dean takes a shaky step toward Sam's skinny and recumbent form. He lays a hand on Sam's shoulder. He feels fragile, but warm to the touch, and Dean shakes him gently.

"Sammy?"

His brother doesn't respond and Dean shakes him a little harder, calling his name again. No response. Starting to get frightened, Dean shakes him even harder and raises his voice.

Sam's eyes finally open. Dean sees Sam register his face, and then he lets out a pained sigh and clenches his eyes shut again.

"Sammy? Sammy it's me! It's your brother. Wake up!"

"No." It's Sam's voice. He doesn't sound sick or damaged. He sounds like Sam. Tired, but like Sam.

"What the hell do you mean, no? Come on… please," Dean can feel his throat tightening. "Please be you."

"Huh. I will if you will," Sam says. He lifts his arms to cover his eyes. His shirt sleeves fall down his skinny arms. Dean grabs his arms and pulls them away, Sam pulls against his hands… too weak to have any effect. The resistance seems to bring him out of it a little. He looks at Dean again. He turns his head and his eyes go wide.

"Castiel?" He doesn't sound sure, but Cas gets that a lot these days from the old guard.

"Hello, Sam"

"No. No. You died. He killed you." Sam tries to put his hands back over his face. Dean pushes them down again. Something about that small struggle seems to make Sam actually believe they're real.

"Dean?" He asks, pulling against Dean's hands again. Dean pushes down on his arms again, because something about the motion is bringing his brother back to him. Sam pulls his arms up against the pressure again and swallows deeply. "Dean?" He repeats, voice starting to crack.

"Yeah, yeah, it's me."

Sam elbows himself up, Dean leans back to give him room and Sam throws his arms around his shoulders, clinging to him like he's afraid that if he lets go something is going to come to drag him back. Dean shivers at the thought and clings tighter to Sam. Whatever Sam thinks is coming to get him isn't. Dean's not losing him again. No matter who wants him.

Dean's crying. He hears Sam snuffle in his ear. Then "Where's your trench coat?"

Cas laughs. Dean laughs. Sam laughs like he doesn't know what's funny but is prepared to laugh at anything.

Dean lets Sam hold onto him for longer than is comfortable, even for them and when he finally lets go Cas offers a tentative, "Would you like to get cleaned up?"

Sam chokes out something that's not quite a sob and not quite a laugh. "Yes. Fuck. God. Yes."

He tries to stand up and topples back onto the couch. He shakes his head and tries to get up again. He gets his weight onto his feet, but can't hold it and falls back.

He looks down at his feet and then looks up at Dean as though suspicious again. That this isn't real, that it's not Dean, that it's going to be taken away. Dean recognizes that look. Sam used to have it every time they started at a new school.

"It's okay," Dean tells him. "Hey, Cas, can you go run him some hot water? Bathtub?"

Cas nods. He gives Dean a slightly trapped look, then darts forward and hugs Sam himself, quick but tight. Sam hugs him back.

He grabs Sam's arm and pulls it over his shoulder. He carries Sam up the stairs, letting him put down a foot here or there to help.

"What happened to you?" Dean asks.

"I was… away," Sam answers. Dean recognizes the tone. The voice you use when you're picking at a scab in your head as carefully as possible. They'll get the mud off of him. They'll get some food in him. They don't need to do this now.

Helping himself be carried up the stairs seems to have taken it out of Sam, Dean lowers him down to the bathroom floor as Cas sets out all of his fancy long hair shampoo, and his comb, and grabs both of their post toothpaste cups from the sink.

Sam starts unbuttoning his shirt. He's not having a lot of success. Dean keeps himself from doing it for a moment then gives up.

"Come on," he says, brushing away Sam's hands and doing it himself. "We gotchya. We'll get you cleaned up. Get you fed. You'll be good as new."

He won't. Dean can tell he won't. But it doesn't look like they need to rush him to the hospital either. He's weak, but he doesn't seem sick, and a year of taking care of an Angel who only learned in the last few months how to tell when he was sick had made Dean a pretty decent judge of when something was too big to deal with without a doctor. Besides, what would they tell a civilian? That much muscle loss, this much trouble moving and walking and balancing? Sam seemed atrophied. Like he hadn't been moving, at all, in months, maybe this whole last year. Maybe longer.

Dean pulls Sam's shirt off and just throws it away. Works him out of his undershirt. He deals with the pants clinically while Cas finishes with the tub.

Sam's so thin. There's nothing to him. Dean barely needs Cas's help to move Sam from the floor to the bathtub. The blissful sigh as the settle him into the water makes Dean feel a little better. Sam lays back against the tub wall, knees up a little so that he can lean back and still fit.

It should be weirder. His brother naked in the tub while Dean carefully washes him, like when they were really little and Dean used to bath Sam in motel room sinks. Or usually next to them. What really should be weirder is Cas, sitting on the ledge of the tub and patiently combing the snarls and clumps of dirt out of Sam's wet hair, like a little girl with a ravaged but beloved doll.

Sam just lays there. Dean hopes he's asleep, he obviously needs it, and that will make this slightly less awkward later, especially because based on the state of the water they're going to have to drain the tub and start over to get him from "Not Dirty Anymore" to actually clean.

"He looks like he climbed out of his own grave," Cas whispers eventually.

"Don't say things like that," Dean replies.

"But he's back. We can fix him." Cas dunks a cup into the dark grey bathwater and pours it over Sam's head, carefully cupping his hand over Sam's forehead so the dirty water doesn't pour down his face. "It's going to be okay, Dean."

Dean's throat clenches. Sam makes a familiar, sleeping type of noise. Dean lets Cas finish with Sam's hair before they pull him back out of the tub and drain it, using the toothpaste cups to scoot the mud down the drain.

Dean wishes they had big fluffy towels to wrap him in, but Bobby's towels are all thin and threadbare and utilitarian. Cas nests Sam in his blanket and they set him against the wall while they draw him a second bath. Dean keeps a careful eye on him. He doesn't seem like he's dreaming, he seems restful. Like he knows where he is and thinks he's safe. He's not struggling, he's not asking questions, he seems to just be too tired to participate, and not worried enough to try.

They pile him back in the tub, soap actually coming into play this time. He looks human when they're done and he's gone from completely asleep to dozing, opening his eyes every once in a while to check that Dean and Cas are still there. Cas fetches him some of Dean's clothes. He looks ridiculous. The jeans are hanging off the belt more than off of Sam, but they're still too short and a few inches of Sam's leg above the ankle are showing. The shirt is way to big on him, Dean's actually much broader than he is now and it hangs most of the way down his thighs. Cas has carefully braided his hair.

The two of them start helping Sam down the stairs, he's already better coordinated with it, could almost do it himself, but there's no reason to spend your first day back on earth falling down stairs.

They're just reaching the landing when Chelsea walks in. Sam flinches.

"It's okay, she's a friend," Cas says quietly. "Nothing's going to hurt you."

Dean's still holding back the urge to interrogate Sam, but it can wait. First cleaning, then eating, then sleeping, then they'll find out. He's here now, they have time to make him better first.

Chelsea is staring up at all of them. She looks like she's trying out a greeting when the usual, "Hey, sweetheart, how's it going?" is not going to be appropriate.

"What do you guys need?" She finally comes out with.

"Breakfast," Sam answers. He's so firm about it that Dean chuckles, just a little.

Chelsea nods and she's already moving toward the kitchen. She's setting out plates by the time Dean and Cas get Sam into the kitchen and lower him into a chair. The coffee pot is gurgling.

Cas gets Sam a glass of milk and Chelsea is pulling out pancake mix. "So… are you going to introduce us… or tell me what's going on?"

Sam is staring at her. "Who are you?"

Chelsea smiles. "Chelsea Clearwater. I'm a friend of Dean and Cas."

"A friend?" Sam seems unfairly incredulous, Dean thinks.

"She's a Hunter, sort of," Dean says.

"Yeah. Strictly desk side, but sure. I guess I am." Chelsea shrugs.

"Chelsea- this is Sam," Cas tells her.

Chelsea's face is a picture. Of all the things anyone could have said at that point, that was clearly the one that she was expecting the least.

"Oh my god. Sam as in Sam Sam?"

Sam is staring at her like he's trying to determine what she is. He looks like he suspects some sort of spell or shifter or monster out of her. Chelsea extends her hand to him and he flinches backward in alarm. She hurriedly retracts it.

"I'm sorry, sorry."

"No," Sam sighs. He offers his own hand, looking at Dean for guidance. It's like the first time Dean taught him to talk to girls. Chelsea takes his hand cautiously, and Dean can see Sam squeeze it. "It's nice to meet you."

"It's so good to finally get you back, Sam," Chelsea says. She sounds so warm and sincere it surprises Dean. "We've been worried out of our minds."

She wants to hug him too, Dean can tell. Sam's absence has cast such a shadow on Dean even someone like Chelsea, who's never met him, has missed him.

Sam drops her hand, picks up his milk glass and drains it in one gulp. Cas is pulling bowls out and Dean's watching him, on edge as he never actually opens the cupboard with the duffle in it. Chelsea joins him at the counter and shoos Dean toward the table.

Dean drops down as his weird little family makes pancakes happen around him.

"What do you remember, Sammy?"

Sam's eyes go a little blank. "I… I don't know. It's all… really far away. I was… I wasn't… real? I think-"

"Okay. Okay. Well…. Eat something. We'll figure it out."

"We need to call Bobby," Chelsea said, setting coffee cups in front of both of them.

"Bobby?" Sam asked, his eyes locked on Dean. "Bobby? I remember… before. Lucifer killed him. And he killed Cas… and…"

Dean reaches out and grabs Sam's arm, which seems to calm him down. He focuses on the hand and Dean squeezes. It's like proof. You can feel me, so I'm real. Like when Cas came back.

Despite everything, Dean feels a little bubble of happiness coming out of him as he says, "Yeah, well, that doesn't seem to be sticking these days."

Sam nods, pulls his arm out of Dean's grip as Cas deposits a pancake in front of him, and proceeds to inhale the pancake. Cas sets one in front of Dean too and Dean hates himself for a second. He would've come back, he tells himself. He would have gotten to a motel, realized what he'd done and come back. He would have.

He hopes.

Sam starts to feel sick two bites into his second pancake. They move him out to the couch and he falls back to sleep. Dean doesn't realize that he's just staring at him until Chelsea's hand settles over his. She smiles gently at him. "He needs clothes that fit. I've got a brother-in-law about his size that I always buy clothes for Christmas. I'll make a run."

"Yeah… that would… thank you," Dean manages. She kisses his temple as she stands up. Dean's phone rings in his pocket. He picks it up without looking at who it is.

"Dean! Sam's coming back! He's alive and he's coming back!"

Dean sets his forehead in his hand. "Thanks, Chuck. But you're behind the times, especially for a prophet. He showed up like two hours ago. You wanna be helpful you call me if you get a vision about where he's been."

"Fine," Chuck snarls. "Well, I feel a debilitating head ach coming on, so I'll be sure to call you when I can work a phone again."

"You do that, because I'm feeling a little prophetic myself and I'm seeing me, my car, and my trunkful of guns coming to negotiate how much of your royalties you owe me."

"Oh come on-"

"And you're exploiting Cas's life for profit now. We'll figure out what you owe him too."

He hangs up. Cas quirks his head at him. Chelsea clears her throat. "So… in questions I never thought I'd ask- if the prophet is getting visions again does that mean that God's back?"

Dean shrugs. "Chuck was getting prophecies while the world was dying bloody. I don't know if it has anything to do with God being around. He's the only prophet we've got. Honestly, I'd rather have Gabriel at the helm. He's a prick but he cares."

As though on cue there's a rush of wings and Gabriel is standing in the living room. He opens his mouth, sees Sam and closes it again. "Oh. Never mind. You already know." His gaze sets on Cas and turns to a smirk. He brushes his thumb at the side of his neck. "You've got a little… right there, bro." and he disappears.

Cas brushes his own neck, confused.

Chelsea sees the mark. Her eyes widen, her mouth drops open and she blanks the look out almost immediately. Almost.

"Okay. Well. I'm off to big and tall. Be back in a couple hours."

"I'll go with you," Cas volunteers. "I'll go dress first."

"Okay. I'll… umm.. go wait in the car." Chelsea says as Cas goes past her.

Dean's relieved. This is a lot. He'd like to have some time to himself to digest it. Just sit with Sam and … think.

Chelsea squeezes Dean's arm, tosses a blanket over Sam and goes out to the car. Cas comes down the stairs, ducks behind Dean's chair and also kisses his temple with a whispered "Everything will be okay."

And they leave.

Dean's not sure what to do with himself. Normally if Cas was gone he'd be researching. He doesn't need to now. Sam's here.

He makes a list in his head. They'll need easier food. If a pancake and a glass of milk made Sam sick they'll have to be careful of what he's eating. He's going to need help getting his strength back. Chelsea's hotel has a little gym and a pool. Cas has keys. Dean can google some old fogey water exercise videos. He needs to go make up a bed. Schedule a doctor's appointment just in case. He should go through the pockets of Sam's dirty clothes in case he's got miracle stuff like Cas and Bobby did. He needs to call Bobby and Ellen. He needs to call off a nation wide manhunt actually.

But right now, he's going to sit, and watch over his brother as he sleeps.

Chapter Text

The newest Supernatural book, "Lazarus Rising", has an epigraph at the beginning. Being a gospel of the Winchester Brothers and the Apocalypse that has been foretold. There are a couple people, hilariously religious people, who are horrified at that. In fact a great deal of the publicity that is pushing the book up bestseller lists is the reaction to people who are horrified at the way that a "fake gospel" is wound into the story and how the narrative occasionally diverts into the voice of a prophet foretelling the story of the Winchesters next adventure.

Chelsea thought it was funny.

Especially because she not only knows the stupid, cheesy, sci-fi show was the gospel, really, actually the gospel, but she'd met the prophet and the Archangel playing God and as of this morning had met all of the boys who'd stuck it to the Apocalypse with Free Will, tears, and whiskey. She'd read the whole series in like two months and now sometimes she wondered if she would ever pop up in the gospel one day.

Course, she had the prophet's phone number. She could just call him up and ask if she ever made it into Holy Writ.

And that's her life now.

It's still hard to believe it. The monsters, the ghosts, helping save people and hunt things. She loves it. It's a little shallow, but she likes knowing that no matter how boring and pointless her day job seems, when she goes over to Dean and Cas's she matters.

But mostly she just really loves Dean and Cas and they love her. She moved to South Dakota from Minneapolis for this hotel management job years ago and she never really made friends… until they broke down a door in her hotel and started shooting off salt rounds. And now she stays over so often that she keeps spare clothes there and had noticed that all of the pillows had migrated into one bedroom. She has friends that appeared at her house minutes after being called in a panic and showed up with bowie knives they knew how to use. And she is their friend who winds up at Target shopping for clothes for Lucifer's ex-vessel when he suddenly comes back from the dead.

And she was shopping with her ex-angel buddy who had a hickey on his neck and something on his mind, both obviously caused by the same ex- Hunter.

Like ya do.

Cas hadn't said more than twenty words since he'd gotten in the car. He did that sometimes, when he was trying to figure out how to phrase a question or whether or not he wanted to talk about something. Chelsea was picking out clothes that seemed like what Sam would wear based on what she knew about him from the Gospel according to Chuck. Every once in a while Cas would hand her something he thought Sam would like and she would pick out another one like it in a size that Sam could wear.

She picks out jeans and doesn't ask about the hickey. She picks out undershirts and doesn't ask about the hickey. She tosses socks into the cart and doesn't ask about the hickey. She's debating whether or not Sam would mind boxers with flamingos on them (and definitely not thinking about the fact that she knows Sam wears boxers because of the parts of the gospel where Sam, broad and muscular and tall had had adventurous, vertical sex, because she had definitely skipped over those parts and had in no way re-read a few of them several times. No siree) when Cas finally says, "I think Dean and I are having sex."

That is not what Chelsea was expecting to hear. She spends a lot of time with Cas so now that she's heard it she's not surprised that's what he chose to start with, but it's just so bizarre that it takes her a moment to evaluate.

Dean and Cas moving from pillows in the same bed to sex in a week seems nearly impossible. Dean's a big mess of denial, Cas is a virgin and if they keep at the pace they've been at since she met them they'll both have dentures before they have sex. She plays the statement over in her mind again and realizes that it's mostly a question.

"You're not sure?"

Cas sighs, frowning at the socks as though they have offended him. "Dean says there has to be penetration for it to "count" as sex. But Tony said that sex was characterized by two people being naked and orgasming together. And he had more experience with sex between men."

"Okay…" Chelsea says, making a note of naked and orgasming. She's surprised Dean had it in him, and has a very uncharitable thought that it might be more about Dean being crazy with grief over Sam and having a hard time dealing with being more or less forced to quit drinking before she reminds herself about how Dean and Cas are together.

Cas looks at Dean like he could cup the world in his hands, and Cas is the only person Dean really lets in. Sure he'll talk to Chelsea and he'll stumble through confessions and uncomfortable truths, but he and Cas stand basically toe to toe and whisper together. She's realized, by the time Cas had wound up in the hospital that Cas was Dean's entire world, it was one of the reasons she'd quietly stopped dating him, but when she'd asked Dean if there was something more between them and he hadn't even known what she'd meant she had chastised herself that it didn't have to be romantic. It could be a brothers in arms type of thing. She's stopped believing that possibility after the hand holding had gotten really common, but it could have been true.

"So… do you want to be having sex with Dean?" She asks.

"I…think very highly of him," Cas comes back with. "He is… dear to me. And I want… I have always wanted… him to have someone to… "

"Love him like he deserves?" Chelsea asks. She's certainly thought about it. Whenever she saw him hunched over a book at the table, hiding the slight wateriness to his eyes, she's thought about it.

Cas shrugs, but it's a yes.

Despite how insanely different Cas and Dean are as people, it's moments like this where it's painfully obvious where Cas learned to be human. When he couches his feeling in terms of someone else's.

"Okay… and would being with Dean- dating Dean and being in a relationship with Dean and having sex with Dean- would all of that make you happy?"

Cas shrugs again. "I don't like the idea of not being with him. I umm… I've thought about it. But this isn't… quite what I was hoping for."

Chelsea can imagine. She and Dean don't exactly hang out and paint eachother's nails, but they were friends and he told her things. If this was the first she was hearing about it Dean must be in full denial mode.

She squeezes Cas's hand. "Let's go get some soup and equalite for Sam ad then I'll take you out for a frappachino and we can talk about this. Okay?"

Taking Cas out for coffee is a little manipulative. Something about sitting with a cup of ice, sugar and cream with a little coffee in it makes Cas feel like he's expected to talk. Chelsea's always assumed that his brief fling with Tony had come about be Cas, confronted with a cup of stewed bean juice, had said something like "I am interested in pursuing a romantic relationship" and Tony had found him charming.

Maybe it's something he thinks he learned on TV. Whatever the case, Chelsea's too curious to be above using it against him.

So he tells her all about the last couple weeks. Things she already knows: Dean half passed out drunk because he ran out of books. Things she doesn't know, like sleeping in the big bedroom together has been going on for weeks.

She lets out a little "whoa" when it turns out Dean kissed Cas first, but can't quite figure out how to put into words why Dean starting it means they're both in way over their heads.

And Cas keeps going. Making out all week and getting to what Chelsea wouldn't necessarily count as sex, but is close enough that she can see why Cas thinks it counts and Dean is worried that it does.

After the fourth time Cas says "penis" and the third time he says "ejaculate" in a normal, conversational tone and volume the guy behind them gets up purposefully bumping into Cas so hard the Angel falls forward.

Chelsea's up before she feels her muscles moving, standing in front of the guy with her hands on her hips already barking that he either leaves now, or he leaves in a couple seconds with a chair leg shoved up his ass.

The guys shoves her shoulders and Cas is at him, reaching down for his pocket where Chelsea remembers too late that he carries a knife.

There's a weird feeling, like a second long cold shower, and Chelsea and Cas are sitting back down. Their drinks have been refilled. The guy is gone, and no one around them looks as though they noticed anything happening.

Cas ducks down and picks a snickers wrapper off the floor. "Gabriel," he comments.

Chelsea decides to process the fact that an all-seeing god is directly impacting her life at some other time.

She decides to use the example that was just presented too them. It feels a little like taking Cas's innocence, but better her than Dean.

"That's what Dean's afraid of, you know."

"Being shoved?" Cas asks. His expression is blank, but Chelsea spends a lot of time with Cas. Sometimes he's putting it on.

"No. People thinking he's weak. Vulnerable. Gay."

"I don't understand how sexual orientation is related to weakness."

"Neither do I," Chelsea sighs. "But it's something that men like that dude," she points to the now empty space behind Cas, "and Dean believe is true."

"Dean doesn't think I'm weak."

"You're… something different to Dean. I think you know that. And you know what he's like. He'll forgive other people in a heartbeat for things he'll spend eternity flogging himself for. He's got his father and every crazy macho Hunter he's ever met breathing down his neck, telling him he can't have this and on top of it, he believes he doesn't deserve it."

"So… what should I do?" Cas asks.

"I'm not sure. Give him some breathing room for starters, but don't let him off too easy. He'll come around." She sets her hand comfortingly over Cas's. "I've seen you two together. You're his world."

"Sam is his world," Cas corrects immediately.

Chelsea nods in acknowledgement. "I've noticed. But I'll bet that Dean is Sams' world too. Sam wants Dean to be happy, and so do you and Bobby and I. Four against one is decent odds. Right?"

Cas gives her one of his slow-bloom little smiles. "Right."

Dean's asleep in the armchair when they get back to the house. Cas tenderly tucks a blanket around him, even though he's still in his jacket. Chelsea calls Bobby and tells him the news. She can hear the tears in the old Hunter's voice and invited him over for dinner. She warns him that Sam is changed, but he seems fine, so that he's not shocked when he gets there. Then she sends Cas upstairs for a collared shirt and starts putting away the weak stomach food and pulling out dishes to make dinner.

She ducks down for the salad bowl. A dirty, ratty duffel falls out of the cupboard when she opens it.

"Boys," She sighs. Then she unzips the bag.

Clothes.

Weapons.

Cash.

Fake IDs.

Extra Credit Cards.

"Dammit, Dean," she sighs as the meaning dawns on her. She hears Cas coming down the stairs, sips the bag shut and bolts down to the basement. She chucks the bag into the mostly unused panic room and runs back upstairs, where Cas is looking puzzled in the kitchen.

"What were you doing downstairs?"

"Sorry. Though I heard something. Long day. Bobby's coming in from Mitchell wit Karen. Why don't you get dinner started and while I let Ellen in on our little miracle of the day. We'll wake the boys up in about half an hour?" She buttons Cas's shirt up a little higher so that the collar hides the hickey completely. Cas smoothes his shirt down almost self-conciously.

Cas starts putting together dinner and Chelsea zones out while he bosses her around his kitchen, trying to think of the best way to confront Dean without making it worse.

Sam wakes up after about half an hour. Rather than haul him back upstairs Cas helps him get dressed in the living room.

Dry and in clothes that fit he actually looks fine. Tired, as Cas drops him into a seat and puts him in charge of salad, and a little sadly resigned when Chelsea gives him a chocolate Equalite because no one's sure he can get dinner down quite yet, but fine.

They let Dean sleep. Cas thinks he's needs it. Chelsea needs to give it an hour before she can trust herself not to slap him. But the way he yells "Sam!" when he wakes up to an empty couch softens that impulse.

"I'm in here," Sam calls back.

Dean gets assigned mashed potatoes and clears his throat uncomfortably at the way Sam smirks at him when Cas sets the bowl in front of him and he starts mashing instantly.

Everything is weirdly domestic and normal, the way it usually feels at Cas and Dean's place. Labeled phones and spell books everywhere while heroes make dinner.

And then Sam bellows out a noise like a lion, jumps to his feet and hurls the salad bowl across the kitchen. Chelsea ducks out of the way just in time, and Dean is already barreling Sam down to the ground.

Chapter Text

"He looks like he climbed out of his own grave."

Sam's pretty sure that's not right. He didn't have a grave. He's pretty sure he wasn't dead. He's not positive, but he thinks… he was dead before, and it had been different to be dead. He had been… away… It was hard to remember.

He'll worry about that later. He's so incredibly tired, tired like he's never been before.

But he's also mostly sure that it's really Dean, slightly less sure that it's really Cas, and completely sure that this is really hot water. Wherever it is that he's been, there hasn't been hot water.

He wants to talk to them, but just can't quite manage it yet.

He feels better by the time they dress him. The clothes don't feel good, but how clean they are does. He missed clean. He recognizes Bobby's house. He's been here recently but it wasn't… right. Things were missing. Things were wrong.

Dean and Cas help him down the stairs. His whole body feels heavy and his stomach feels painfully empty, like he's never eaten before in his life.

Then it's wrong again. The door opens and it's not Bobby, it's some woman, someone he doesn't know and he's worried that he was wrong.

"It's okay. She's a friend. Nothing is going to hurt you," Cas assures him. He believes Cas. Has someone been hurting him?

He's a little more sure of himself when they get into the living room. It's Bobby's living room. It smells right, like old paper and dust and old wood and iron… from somewhere…

The kitchen is different, but Sam thinks that might be him. He doesn't really think about Bobby's kitchen.

The smell of coffee is definitely real.

The woman is still here. Dean and Cas don't seem to mind her being here. Cas gives him a glass of milk.

The milk is real, and it feels so good going down his throat. He knows he hasn't had anything to drink, he knows he's been thirsty. He can feel it in his stomach. So this all must be real.

Cas looks weird… but he could feel Cas. He couldn't feel things while he was away… he shouldn't just grab the woman to check that she's there. She knows his name, but had to be told.

He's tired again and things are starting to spin and feel… not right.

She's happy to see him, but doesn't know him and he's worried about her when she reaches out for him. He's upset her. He feels bad.

He can feel her skin against his when he shakes her hand. She's real too. It's all going to be okay. Because Cas and Dean are here and he's in Bobby's house.

And Dean's telling him that Bobby's alive, and he knows Bobby's not, but Dean's really here… right?

Pancakes.

The heavy fog in his mind starts to dissipate as he feels the calories start to work their way to his blood stream.

He's not sure where he's been, but he can feel in his mind where those memories should be but aren't. He can remember Lucifer in his body. He can remember Dean's face beaten until it looked more like a hamburger in a leather jacket than like Dean.

He can remember the sound Cas made. Splash. The sound Bobby made. Crack.

Maybe they're all in Heaven?

But he can remember Heaven too… it was… plastic. This isn't. He can feel how solid the world is, like it hasn't been in too long.

And he can feel his own body now. Different. Weak.

He knows something's changed he just can't put his finger on what it's changed from.

The pancake is too heavy in his stomach and the world goes foggy again.

Couch.


 

Sam wakes up to the sound of Dean snoring lightly and knows he's home.

He sits up and sees Dean asleep in the armchair where he had clearly watching Sam sleep. He wonders how out of it he was. He feels a little like he just woke up from a major bender, that same sticky mouth, inexplicable body ache feeling.

There are soft clangs and voices coming from the kitchen. He walks toward them. His body feels so strange like this, like he can feel the bones moving inside of him instead of the muscles.

"Hello?" he says quietly, when he peeks his head into the kitchen. Cas and… Chelsea? Smile at him.

"Hello Sam," Cas says. Sam looks him over. How long has it been? Cas is so different. The hair, the clothes. He's slicing a piece of chicken up into slivers of meat when he looks over at Sam and the smile on his face is so… human. "How are you feeling?"

"Better," Sam says. "A lot better. Do you guys need any help?"

"Sure. Let's get you out of Dean's clothes though," Chelsea says. "Not that you don't have nice ankles, but I'm sure you're not really in a mood to show them off."

She has a wonderful smile, Sam thinks.

"Sweetheart? Why don't you go give him a hand with that?" She says to Cas, patting her hands against the small of his back. Sam entertains a truly weird thought about that.

Cas takes him out to the living room where Dean is still snoozing, making a sound like someone very quietly, very slowly sawing a log in half. He grabs a Target bag from near that couch and fishes out a pair of jeans and a couple of long sleeve flannel shirts. "We went to get you clothes that fit. Chelsea says if we're off the mark we'll just return them for new ones. Do you like these? I picked this one out for you."

It's really strange to think of Cas not just understanding clothes as something that people change in and out of instead of just magically heal and clean, but it's so… frigging nice to think of Cas picking clothes out for him that Sam feels weird about how happy it makes him.

"Yeah, Cas, it's great," he says taking the blue and green flannel shirt that Cas apparently picked.

"Do you need help?" Cas asks. Sam is about to give him a look like he might be crazy, then remembers that since he got here he's been carried up and down the stairs and bathed. But he doesn't want to feel like a complete invalid. "I think I got it." He unbuttons his jeans and let's them drop. Cas politely looks up and away. And it's such a human thing Sam's question pops out of him before he can stop himself.

"Cas… how long have I been… gone?"

"About a year. How long was it for you?"

"I… I don't know." Sam lifts his legs out of his jeans and stumbles forward. Cas catches him easily, as though he were expecting it. He braces Sam carefully while Sam kicks his way out of his jeans, then hands him a new pair and holds Sam up while Sam pulls them on. Sam hopes this is some hangover effect. He can't actually be this weak.

"A lot has changed," Cas says, as though he guessed what prompted Sam's question. "Bobby lives in Mitchel. Chelsea and I invited him over for dinner. He's very excited to see you. We thought you'd like to see him."

"Yeah. I do. I really do."

"He has a repairs and design business. He enjoys it. His wife Karen was brought back from the dead- as a living woman this time. I think Bobby is very happy. He's quit drinking."

Sam can just barely process that, Bobby happy and married and sober.

"Dean and I live here. Bobby is going to give us the house he says. Dean works as a mechanic in town. Our friend Thomas, one of the other mechanics, used to be a Hunter as well. Chelsea owns a hotel. I sometimes clean there and she pays me."

"You're a holy hotel maid?" Sam laughs, trying to fit this image into a rapidly shifting world that's actually a little overwhelming.

"I'm human," Cas says. "And I'm aging. I found a grey hair last week."

"Oh. I'm sorry."

"I'm beginning to be resigned to it. There are worse things to be than human. It does have its perks."

"Still…" Sam gets his jeans on and Cas lets him go, but picks the shirt up off the floor for him. He fiddles with Dean's blanket while Sam painstakingly works the buttons.

"And Chelsea? Is she… I can't believe I'm even asking this- is she your girlfriend?"

Cas looks up at him, clearly startled. "No, no, she's… she's a dear friend."

Sam thinks of something else, less weird, but seemingly as impossible. "Is she Dean's girlfriend?"

"No." Cas relates the story of how they met Chelsea, how he tried to set her up with Dean and how it didn't work out but she became part of their lives and their "desk side hunting".

Sam is trying to digest the fact that Dean and Bobby are pretty much safe and happy and out of the game when he starts having a lot of trouble with his buttons and Cas carefully takes over.

"Chelsea is lovely, but I think- romantically and sexually- I prefer men," Cas says as he finishes buttoning up Sam's shirt all the way, just like his own shirt is buttoned.

"Oh," Sam replies, stopping Cas before he gets choked from having his collar buttoned up like a 7th grade altar boy. "Alright." Cas looks down sadly at his hands and Sam realizes that his timing with brushing Cas away wasn't great. He tugs at the ex-Angel's hair. "What about this?"

Cas shrugs. "I like it."

Something niggles at Sam. "Does… does Dean know about this whole… gay thing?"

Cas looks shocked again, then laughs one loud, strange laugh that Sam's never heard before, then he shushes himself when Dean stirs, just a little.

Sam likes the laugh on Cas, but it does make him feel a little lost- there's clearly a story there and Sam doesn't know what it is.

"I'm sorry," Cas says. "That was funny. Yes. He definitely knows."

Sam turns this over in his head as he carefully cuffs his sleeves. "So… you, like… date now?"

Cas shrugs. "There have been a couple of men."

And that, more than anything, cinches it for Sam. Manic-Depressive Teddy Bear. Attacked by Pagan God who looked like Paris Hilton. Bathed by shy gay Angel who was rooming with his homophobic brother. This was definitely his real life, it was too weird to be anything else.

"It's been a hell of a year for you, huh?"

"Yes."

Sam hugs Cas, who squeezes him tightly back and they walk into the kitchen, Cas's arms up just a little as though he expects to have to catch Sam. Cas gives him a way to help with dinner and he feels a little less helpless, but a little more…set apart as he watches Cas and Chelsea moved around each other.

Sam knows that Dean trusts Cas more than anyone, maybe even more than he trusts Sam. And as out of it as he had been, he remembered that Chelsea had just walked in. She knows them. She might even live here.

She says something quietly to Cas, who laughs again as she bumps her hip against his. She ducks around Cas and grabs an Equalite out of the fridge and hands it to him. "Here. You seemed hungry, but we figured you'd need to take it easy for a little while. Try this. And Cas is making chicken noodle soup for dinner. From scratch."

Sam tears at his salad leaves as things start to smell good around him.

This is like college, he thinks sadly. When he and Jess and their friends would get together at someone's apartment and they would all hang out in the kitchen and drink wine and laugh while they cooked. It's- from afar- that same feeling of warm and cozy family-ness that he had never experienced before Stanford. Not even Jess had ever known just how alien an experience it had been for him.

And this was Dean's little surrogate family. Sam choked up a little at that. Not just because Dean deserved it, but because Sam was grateful and little embarrassed. He had always assumed that if they didn't hunt- he would be the one that was okay, and Dean would be the one that wasn't.

When Dean had died on a Wednesday after an eternity of Tuesday's Sam had become a shell without him. A year without "Looking after Sammy. Look after your brother, boy," and Dean had a house and a job and friends and a life that looked like it worked. It made Sam feel like he'd been the one holding Dean back this whole time.

"Sam?"

"I'm in here!"

The slight undercurrent of panic in Dean's voice hurts. A few fucking hours and Dean's already got his little charge back on his list of worries. And if Dean had been overprotective back when Sam could actually take care of himself, this was going to be a nightmare.

"What are we making?" Dean asks dropping down across from Sam.

"We are making soup," Cas replies. "Sam is making salad. You are making mashed potatoes." Cas sets a bowl of boiled potatoes, cream and butter floating around them. Dean starts mashing and Sam chuckles. He's never seen Dean cook anything that didn't involve a box or a can.

Dean smiles warmly at him, but wriggles slightly out of Cas's hand when the angel squeezes his shoulder.

That's weird. Dean had gotten practically immune to Cas's rudimentary understanding of personal space.

Sam goes back to his lettuce tearing. Chelsea gives him some hardboiled eggs to slice up.

"So… I just missed everything I guess?"

"Everything?" Dean asks.

"Yeah. I… it's been a year Dean. What's happened this year that would surprise me? Or that I might not believe?"

Sam doesn't want to fill in the gaps around that. That he doesn't know what's happening in anyone's life anymore and he feels disconnected and weird. That maybe he was more dependent on his 24/7 life with Dean than he thought and the idea of Dean off living a life entirely without him that he has to slot himself back into makes him a little panicky.

Dean coughs, like he's choking and gives Sam a look that Sam doesn't really understand, which just makes Sam more upset.

"Uh… I…"

Something behind Dean catches Sam's attention and he looks up and the horror hits him like a fist in the stomach.

It's Michael.

He's on his feet instantly, letting out a yell with the effort of trying to hurl the heavy glass salad bowl at the Archangel. It's not a good weapon, but it's what he has and it doesn't even make it toward him.

And then Dean is throwing him down to the ground.

Sam struggles against him, and Dean effortlessly grabs his arms and pins them above his head.

Sam's heart drops instantly. It's not real. He's not home. It's still happening. He pushes up against Dean. He can still feel him but maybe that's… maybe it doesn't mean anything. He struggles wildly, trying to break Dean's grip, but he's not strong enough.

"Get off me!" He yells. It's coming back to him now. Where he's been. He remembers parts and broken bits like shrapnel. Michael pouring out of Adam like lightning made liquid. Lucifer screaming under his skin. And woods and sulfur and flames and ice and clouds and light and music but still dark patches where they should be something. "Get off me!" he screams.

His arms are freed for a second before he feels them pinned back to the floor.

He can hear "Sam! Sam! Sam!" over and over and suddenly there's a splash of cold water in his face. It's so unexpected, and so obviously happened and he's trying to cough up the part of it that wound up down his throat. The hands clamped around his wrists loosen and push him over to his side so he can cough the water back out.

"Christ, I'm sorry," a woman's voice is saying. "I should leave aiming to the professionals. I thought it would help."

Chelsea, Sam thinks as he tries to cough up a lungful of water.

"What did you see?" Dean is asking, his arm tight around Sam's arm. "Sammy, what was it, what did you think was there?"

He coughs and another hand pats his back.

"Dean? Don't interrogate the kid, let him get the water back up."

"Shit, I'm so sorry."

"It's fine," Dean says.

Sam gulps in a few breaths and Dean starts hauling him back up to his feet. "You okay?"

Michael is still standing in front of the fridge, looking down at the shattered salad bowl with a smirk. Dean shakes him.

"Sammy? There's nothing there. You know that right? Sam? You know I'm real?" Dean shakes him again and Sam closes his eyes and grabs onto Dean's shoulders.

"Don't shake him, Dean." Cas's voice.

"Stop it," Sam manages. "Quiet. Please."

He's not sure if nothing is there. It doesn't make sense that Michael wouldn't start smiting if he was out. He can feel Dean. He can hear Bobby. He takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. He sees Cas. Long hair, cooking, gay Cas. He moves his hand from Dean's shoulder to Cas's. He can feel Cas. He's right there. Cas sets his hand over Sam's. Sam looks past him. Chelsea- who he doesn't know and who doesn't make sense as someone he'd bring in is here. If he's being punished for something why make him watch anything that might happen to some strange woman? Right?

Has he been watching terrible things happen to people?

He looks back up. Michael is still there. Still not moving.

"Sammy?" Dean asks quietly. "What do you see?"

"Umm… it's Michael."

"What's he look like?"

"What?" Sam asks, letting his eyes move back to Dean. Dean looks terrified, but in that firm hard way, like when he's pretty sure he's going to die and he's pulling his gun out anyway.

"Who's he wearing?" Dean clarifies.

"Dad," Sam says. "Like Dad."

Dean's eyes close. "Okay. Okay. What else?"

Sam gulps and looks at him again. And realizes. "Like Dad in the 70's. Back when we… back then. Back when Dad said yes because of us and mom."

"That doesn't make sense, Sam."

Sam nods. Yeah. It doesn't make sense. If Michael had been able to use their father as a perfect vessel why hadn't he just tricked him back then like they'd tricked Jimmy Novak?

"It doesn't make sense," Sam repeats. "I know that."

He watches Michael, in his father's body from forty years ago and thinks about that. It doesn't make sense. The Archangel, who had been solid enough to throw a bowl at a few minutes ago, starts to fade, almost like a TV going to static until he's gone.

That pretty much kills the family relaxation vibe of the night. Sam tries to catch up with Bobby, but feels awkward that the first time Bobby saw him in a year he was screaming and writhing on the floor. He feels sick with an all encompassing worry. He's had hallucinations more than once. Back in the Demon blood days they were de riguer. And then he reminds himself that he realized this one was a hallucination. You can't be crazy if you realize you're seeing things right?

He's tired again, bone dead tired, and dinner gets cut short. No one wants to be there, but no one wants to leave, and Sam gets hauled up to Bobby's old bedroom, where Dean must be sleeping now, because it's set up like a bedroom not a guestroom.

Or maybe it isn't and Sam's just imagining it for no discernible reason.

Dean throws the covers back and sets Sam, unresisting in the bed. Cas and Chelsea are shacking up down the hall and Bobby took the last bedroom.

"I'm sorry," Sam sighs as Dean settles onto the other side of the bed.

"I only eat the damn salad because Cas insists," Dean says, his tone forced and light, like a pop fly waiting to crash back down.

"I'm sorry about me," Sam says. "You have this nice little life going for you and now I'm back and I'm crazy and I can barely get up the stairs by myself and-"

"Sam? Shut up." Dean says, flicking the light off. "You're not ruining my idyllic life. You ask Cas and Chels in the morning about life without you if you think that's what's going on. Besides. You're going to get better. When Cas came back he had a total melt down like every week. He broke all the dishes and most of the glasses. He lit a car body on fire. I came home once to strawberries smashed all over the kitchen. He's fine now."

"Yeah. He said. Cooking an laughing and wearing jeans and dating dudes."

"Go to sleep, Sam. You'll be better in the morning. You'll be better sooner than you know."

"And if I'm not?"

"We've got friends in high places. We'll make calls. First, you calm down, you forget about tonight, and we all get some sleep."


Dean can't sleep.

He believes Sam's going to be better, he does. He recovered from Hell. He still has nightmares and he was a gibbering mess once or twice when Sam wasn't looking. Whatever happened to Sam was a long run. And if it's not fine he's going to trap Gabriel in a very small ring of fire and reimagine all of the Alaistar's greatest hits until someone makes Sam better.

He can't sleep. He doesn't want to leave Sam but he can't just lie here. He listens to Sam's steady breathing for a moment. He sounds like he's pretty solidly asleep. Dean carefully scoots out of bed and goes out to the hallway. There's a light on in the bathroom, the door's ajar. He takes a step toward it and stops. He can't take Bobby's worry or Chelsea's pity. The hinges on the door aren't tightened right though, and it creaks a little further open.

Dean can see Cas, drinking water, reflected in the mirror and feels the other man's eyes settle on him. Cas offers him a weak smile, and it makes Dean weak. He walks toward the bathroom. He's… he's not even sure how he feels, other than guilty. He should have gotten Sam out earlier. He shouldn't have freaked out this morning. He should have already called Gabriel, even if this nights already over it's sudden archangel quota.

And mostly- he wants this, he wants to steal a moment of that near bliss he'd gotten from Cas yesterday (fuck, yesterday?) and he doesn't deserve it. Not with that duffle still laying in it's piss poor hiding place in the kitchen. Cas nudges the door open for him, pulls it closed behind him, wraps his arms around Dean's shoulders and kisses him. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

It shouldn't feel like the apocalypse all over again.

Chapter Text

Dean kisses Cas in the bathroom, pulling away while it's still a relief and not yet a temptation. Cas goes back to bed and Dean ducks downstairs to move the duffle.

It's gone.

He spends the next thee hours looking for it with the lights off, running up to check on Sam every fifteen minutes, only to find the fucking thing in the panic room.

Empty.

Except for a note.

In weirdly curly script, on thick, old fashioned paper.

Wait and See.

Dean goes back to bed, where Sam is muttering and kicking and manages to soothe him without waking him, but lies awake for hours himself.

What the fuck are they still supposed to be waiting for?


 

Dean takes another day off work, but Cas convinces him that he should keep on top of his PTO for emergencies, that he can watch over Sam, and that if anything happens he'll call.

Dean's boss, Hugh, calls him in to his office the first day he's back. Dean's a little panicked about it. He's going to need money and time off and all of these things, and while he can get money, it's been a while and there are complications now. Major complications.

But it's actually a good thing. Or it's presented to him like it's a good thing. His boss tells him that he's a great body shop guy, and a dependable mechanic, but in order for him to move up from wrench turning and make some real money, he needs an automotive degree. They can't let him take a car apart without the right licensing, and they want to keep him around.

They want him to go to school, and depending on his grades their willing to pay for most of it.

"Oh…" Dean manages.

Hugh waits for him to say something else, and then laughs. "Don't worry, son. I can tell by the way your car runs that you know the basics inside and out. The computer crap gets more complicated, but you've got the right kind of mind to figure it out. You'll be fine."

"It's just… school was a while ago. And things are a little… complicated at home right now."

Hugh nods. "With your… roommate?"

Dean wonders if he imagined the pause or not. He can't tell. He shakes his head. "No. Cas is practically a new man. But there are a few family things and-"

"Dean, there are always reasons not to do something. And I don't know you're situation down to the brass tacks, but I'm the oldest brother of five kids, we didn't have a father, and my mother was too sick to keep work. I understand sacrificing for others, and I understand that you can't do it forever."

Dean fiddles uncomfortably with his coffee cup.

"And I also understand taking a job because you need it, and not wanting to get stuck there. You're obviously a bright guy. If this isn't the right opportunity for you, let us know. If you decide you want to go this route, tell us that too, we'll get you enrolled. You've got a job here either way.

Dean nods, shakes Hugh's hand and goes back to work.

Dean feels constantly on edge for the next week. He makes the mistake of bringing up the auto mechanic school thing at dinner and now everyone is on his case about it.

He keeps finding things from the duffle spread around the house like they'd never been packed away and it gives him a nasty jolt every time. Knives are integrated into Bobby's organization system. On hooks that didn't used to exist. Clothes he never unpacked are washed and folded and in his drawers. The fake ID's turn up in a shoebox, in his closet, lined up in alphabetical order.

Sam sleeps for most of the first couple of days that he's home. He still has trouble eating real food without getting sick. Cas and Chelsea are exploring a whole range of mushy food. Sam fakes enthusiasm. Once he starts being awake for longer stretches he puppy eyes Cas into taking him to the hotel to use the little gym.

Which would have been fine if Sam hadn't started pushing too hard. Cas calls Dean at work with his carefully soothing on to tell him that Sam fell off the treadmill, and it totally fine, except that he hit his head on the arm. He's not concussed, but it's a pretty livid bruise.

Chelsea suggests something a little safer- water aerobics. Sam's less than enthusiastic. Cas tries to help by taking him walking in the park.

Attempts to get a hold of Gabriel haven't been fruitful. It's more annoying for prayers to go unanswered when you're starting to expect at least a quick note.

Thomas finds them an "off the books" doctor in Henderson, Minnesota, which is just long enough of a drive for a shitty motel to be a possibility. Dean's actually looking forward to that. Even though it won't be the same to nuke Sam some soup and be asleep by eight.

Sam sleeps almost the entire way there, other than stopping to throw up by the side of the road a couple times and finally cave and pick up some Dramamine.

The verdict is exactly what Dean expected. Atrophied. Malnurished. Vitamin D deficiency. Nothing a few squares, a little sunshine and some exercise won't eventually fix. The news depresses Sam. Sure he's fine, but getting back to what he was would take for freaking ever.

Sam doesn't want to stay in a motel. He wants to go home. Dean drives.

Dean doesn't ask why it's important to Sam to be fighting fit. He doesn't want to think about the possibility that Sam may want to get back out there, but there's plenty of time before they have to have that fight.

And Dean's stressed out enough as it is. On top of taking care of Sam things with Cas aren't great.

Sam moves himself to one of the empty bedrooms as soon as he figures out that Chelsea doesn't live in the house too. Cas comes back to Dean's room and Dean has to ask him if maybe they can just sleep separately and tone down a few… little things like the hand holding and the lack of personal space while Sam… reacclimatizes. Dean just doesn't want to throw anything else at Sam right now.

Cas agrees, but Dean can tell he's upset, and can't blame him. But Sam's… not really well enough for Dean to be willing to risk putting this on his plate as well. He's still having hallucinations.

The big hallucinations aren't really that bad. Sam will jump at nothing, close his eyes for a couple seconds and go back to what he was doing, sometimes looking up at something that isn't there and en trying to ignore it.

It's the smaller things that hurt to watch. One afternoon Sam spent ten minutes at the kitchen table reading a newspaper that wasn't there and flipped out when he tried to turn the page.

Cas doesn't fight with him about it. He accepts Dean's request with a simple "If that's what you think is best."

But then he cuts Dean out. Not so much that Sam would notice anything is different. Cas is perfectly polite when everyone is around. But when Chelsea's not around and Sam is asleep- the times Dean was hoping to sit with Cas and be able to feel a little bit better, Cas basically ignores him. Not maliciously, just… as though they are only roommates and are only in the same room, not in the room together.

So now Dean is trying to deal with all of the messes crumbling in over him without the only non-alcoholic source of comfort and relief he's ever had.

Which is why he goes and buys a bottle of whiskey to keep in the trunk, and a couple of mini bottles to refill from it.


 

About a week after the doctor visit, a week and a half after Sam was delivered back to them and about three days after Dean starts drinking again, Chelsea corners him. She stops by in the afternoon and – surprisingly gently- informs him that she knows about him and Cas.

"And basically, if you need to talk about it- I'm here." She sets down the farm fresh beef she's brought with her as a preemptive peace offering.

"There's nothing to talk about," Dean tells her.

"Okay. Fine. We don't have to eat ice cream and braid each other's hair, but I'm here all the time and I know that there's stuff going on."

"Nothing is going on with me and Cas," Dean declares, choosing to ignore that fact that he knows she figured it out on her own, and he's sure that if she hadn't Cas still would have gone to her first.

"Look me in the eye and tell me that you've never kissed Castiel," she says.

Dean steps further into her personal space. "I've never kissed Castiel." He says it with the unwavering confidence of the born liar.

Chelsea actually stamps her foot. "Okay. Fine. You do have to talk about it. I know what's happening and you have to deal with this."

"Nope," Dean replies, tossing the beef in the freezer.

"Dean you have too much going on to bottle everything up. You're going to do something that you regret," she insists.

"You're not my damn mother, Chelsea!" Dean tells her, louder than he meant to. Sam's asleep upstairs.

"I found your duffle, Dean!" she counters.

Dean snaps.

He grabs her arm way too hard and backs her into the counter so fast that she knocks something over. Dean realizes what he's doing when the crash settles.

Chelsea juts her chin up and in a slightly wobbly voice asks, "Do you feel like a man now?"

It's like being slapped.

He lets go and steps back, running his face over his hands and counting up about how many shots he's had today. He's not drunk. He's only been drinking to take the edge off, just like he used to back when he actually Hunted. Even at the worst of the Hell nightmares he never got wasted enough that he wasn't on top of taking down monsters or couldn't drive. He never drank to a point where he was putting Sam in danger.

But he did maybe over do it just a little today.

Chelsea crosses her arms and clears her throat. "So… the bottling. That's going well then?"

"I'm sorry," Dean says. "Did I hurt you?"

"I'll live. But now you owe me. Talk to me." She leans back against the cupboard and looks at him expectantly. There had been a slight lick of fear to her when Dean had shoved her. He'd seen it. But it really was gone now. He shouldn't allow himself to feel better because of that.

"I can't deal with this right now, Chelsea. There's everything with Sam-"

"-Which we're all helping with," she cut him off.

"Covering my ass at work and this fucking school thing-"

"Which we will all help you with."

"The fucking Wait and See problem-"

"Which theoretically should work itself out if we wait and s-"

"Chelsea- I can't."

"Dean." She steps forward and wraps her hand around his wrist, an echo of what he'd just done, but gentle. "You have to talk about this. Okay? I love you, you know that I love you- but you're too emotionally stunted to deal with your life right now. You need help. You're working full time, you're devoting all of your energy to your recovering brother. You're being asked to make this big commitment at work, your working through an addiction," –Dean carefully doesn't let his face move at that– "and on top of all of that you are dealing with this huge relationship thing that, honey- you are just not equipped to deal with."

Her words echo weirdly in his head. It's nice that she's not coddling him. But he still… can't.

Chelsea huffs when he doesn't reply. "Fine. I get it. I don't want to make it worse. We don't have to talk about how scared you are of Sam finding out that Cas is usually the one sleeping in your room, or how terrified you are of letting Cas touch your wiener-"

"Christ, Chelsea-"

"-But we're going to talk about the bag if I have to strap you into the bed in the panic room. Also- you're going to explain why the bed has straps on it, unless it has anything to do with Bobby."

Dean's about to keep resisting before he realizes that his only coping methods are violence and alcoholism. He already started drinking, and he just hurt someone he considers family. He's clearly not coping. And it is just Chelsea.

He looks up at her, then looks away. She moves toward the coffee pot and grabs the carafe. "It's too late now, I'm making coffee."

"I would have come back," Dean says quietly. It's easier with Chelsea's back to him. She probably did that on purpose.

"I know that, Dean," she says.

"I'm not… I'm not this guy. House. Job. School. Rela… relationship," – yeah, he wouldn't have been able to say that without a little whiskey in him – "I'm… I'm a killer. I'm a Hunter. I've been on the road since I was four. I've been on the frontlines since I was thirteen."

"You can't possibly be arguing that you're a monster who can't take care of people," Chelsea scoffs. "Not even you are that unaware."

"I've been living in my car for my entire adult life. Not including 40 years in Hell."

Chelsea starts unnecessarily tidying the kitchen.

"I panicked. It was too much. It was way too much. I needed some air. I wanted… I wanted to go home, I guess. Get in the Impala, go gank a ghost. Knock on some psychic's doors, ask about Sam. Collapse in some shitty flophouse. Regroup. Then come back."

Chelsea sets a cup of coffee in front of him and kisses his cheek. "Alright. You almost sound like you believe yourself. What about how you're running away now?"

"Now?"

"Mhmm. You ran away to Sam. You can't leave the house while he needs you, but you can move him into your room and drive off with him and use him as a reason not to let this whole Cas thing get out of hand. But you can't hide behind him forever. He's already getting better and he's not going to let you use him like this. You're going to have to deal with what Cas means to you pretty soon here."

"I thought we didn't have to talk about that."

"I lied." Chelsea shrugs and sits down across from him.

"He is so pissed at me."

Chelsea sips from her own mug. "Yes. He really is."

"You're pissed at me too."

"I'm… resigned at you."

"Resigned?"

"Fine. I'm a little pissed. Asking Cas to pretend nothing's going on was a dick move. But Dean, I'm not telling you that you're completely wrong. I can see letting Sam get used to being back before dropping a bombshell on him, though I have to tell you I don't think he'll care. And no one is expecting you to wake up and be fine with this. This is a big deal under the best of circumstances and we don't have to pretend that you don't have baggage. And Cas gets all of that. But he's not a saint."

Dean snorts. Chelsea rolls her eyes. "You know what I mean. He's full on teenage crush, first love head over heels for you. He only logistically understands why you're afraid of this. You should be having this conversation with him, not with me, and you have no idea how good he is for you. Take it from the only third party observer you have."

Dean thinks about an afternoon without Cas, but with a loaded gun in the nightstand and a sudden Easter card en route to it. He thinks about a bottle of whiskey he didn't need as badly with Cas still talking to him.

"I know," he admits, mostly into his coffee cup.

"You're both being really stupid about this. You don't let anyone in like you let Cas in. He's the only person you care about as much as you care about Sam and the gay thing freaks you out, but not nearly enough for it to stop you from sleeping with him-"

"I didn't sleep with-"

"Fine, so pick your term. I thought you'd prefer "sleep with" to "be intimate with"."

Dean winces at the Lifetime movie terminology.

"See?" Chelsea scoffs. "You need to spend sometime with him. You've been brushing him off since Sam got back."

"No. I haven't," Dean bites back. "He's been acting like I don't exist."

"I know that, and I'm not saying he's right either, but I am saying that he's a year old and you're in your thirties and maybe you should suck it up and take the highroad here."

"I can't deal with this if everyone knows. I can't deal with all of this and Sam knowing."

"I can get Sam out of the house."

"How?"

"Sam needs a hair cut. I made him an appointment for 5:00. Cas should be home from cleaning at the hotel by quarter till. When Sam gets up you'll be engrossed in checking out your school stuff, he won't want to give you an excuse to blow it off. Conveniently, I'll be around to give him a ride."

"How long can a hair cut take?"

"Trust me," Chelsea insists.

Dean settle petulantly back into his chair. "I couldn't have just fucking fallen for you, could I?"

Chelsea sighs melodramatically. "I say the same thing to myself whenever I come over right after you've gotten out of the shower."

Dean can't help but smile at that.

"Don't tell Sam."

"Of course not."

"Sometimes you lie."

"Not about this."

"So what do I do with Cas while you're babysitting Sam?"

"Dean- I'm helping, but I'm not holding your hand and wiping your nose. Figure it out."

"Fine. I just have to get him to talk to me."

Chelsea opens her mouth, as though she's going to suggest something, then must decide against it. "So… back to my original concern- straps on the panic room bed?"

Chapter Text

Dean is holding up his part of the bargain when Chelsea goes to wake Sam up. He's at his computer. He's looking at automotive programs. He's noticing that they're all two years. He's freaking out about that, but he's not drinking because he doesn't want Cas to figure out that he fell off the wagon. Once he gets everything else delt with, he'll get back on. It'll be fine.

He really had felt like a better person back when he was killing things every day.

Sam is… a little weird as Chelsea tries to scoot him out the door. He pinches her shoulder before he leaves the house with her, just to double check, which isn't that unusual, and he hugs Dean, a big gigantor bear hug, which is.

Dean orders Chinese for him and Cas. It's familiar. It's something that just the two of them did together a million times in the last year. It's not the height of romance, but Dean's not sure how to tell if you're in a romance "place" with someone. Especially under the circumstances.

Chelsea's spot on in her estimate of when Cas will be home from the hotel. The ex-angel walks in the door at 6:00 on the dot, while Dean's on the phone with a couple hunters from Connecticut that he's never heard of, who need some advice on building a bomb, which is at least something Dean can give them without there needing to be any further research.

Cas goes up to his room without even pausing to say hello, and as soon as Dean hangs up, he girds himself and follows.

Cas doesn't answer Dean's first knock, and at the second he sticks his head out into the hallway with a "Yes?" soaked in indifferent politeness.

"Can I come in?"

Cas shrugs and opens the door.

Dean realizes with a shock that he never really comes in here during the day. While the entire rest of the house more or less looks like Bobby still lives here, this is obviously Cas's room. At some point he (or more likely, he and Chelsea) had painted the walls from their grungy old fashioned green to a bright sky blue. The little collection of postcards taped to the wall- artsy shots of rainforest flowers and somewhat more domestic animals- has been steadily growing. There are a couple of potted plants, one that Dean remembers Cas bringing home as a gift from Tony.

It suddenly seems weirdly personal to be in Cas's space.

"What do you want, Dean?" Cas asks, arms crossing in front of himself.

"To hang out with you. Dinner. Little piece and quiet."

Cas sighs, clearly frustrated and turns away. He settles himself down at the head of his bed, knees up. "How much time are you going to require, Dean?"

"For dinner?"

"No. To decide whether or not you want to be with me."

"Wait, what?" Dean wonders where in the hell that came from. He's not deciding whether he wants Cas- he wants Cas, he's just acclimatizing to the idea.

"You said you needed time. And I understand that this is culturally taboo for you. But when we spent the night together I thought you had decided. Then you told me to keep it a secret from Sam, so now I feel like you've changed your mind." Cas digs protectively back against his pillows. "And I don't care if I sound childish, or retarded or whatever, just because I'm new to this but I don't think this should be difficult like this. I want to be with you. And I want to know that you want that too." His tone is so reasonable, almost removed from the situation. Even while he's telling Dean exactly what he feels, he sounds nearly robotic. Like he's been practicing this in his head for the last week and a half.

"I want to be with you, Cas-" Dean starts.

"Then tell Sam and stop ignoring me."

"I can't just tell-"

"Sam doesn't care that I'm not romantically interested in women. I told him pretty much as soon as he got back. He's been very supportive," Cas replies.

Dean supposes, on some level, that he knew this about Sam, or should have guessed it, based on Sam's big fancy liberal college in a big blue state.

"It's different, Cas. You're… kind of a question mark, you know? A little outside expectations. I'm his big brother. It's different."

"No. You're pretending it's different to give yourself time." Cas sits up, fiddling with his hands as though there is something in them. "And I don't want to have anything else between us that feels like a promise you're going to choose me, when you might not."

"I already-"

"No. Dean. One night and then having you cut me out right away doesn't count as choosing."

"What the hell do you want me to do, huh?" Dean growls. "Meet Sam at the door when Chelsea brings him back and just be like- Hey little brother, I'm helping Cas move into my room tonight because I'm kind of in love with the little bastard. Don't come a-knocking."

"Yes," Cas says immediately. "If you really have chosen me- that's exactly what I want. You don't have to make a big announcement at work, you don't have to tell Thomas, you don't have to tell Ellen, I want you to tell Bobby eventually, even if it's a long time from now. But I want you to tell Sam tonight."

"And if I can't?"

"Then I think I should go stay with Chelsea."

That actually stops Dean cold. "What?"

"I'll still come back during the day to help Sam, but I've been looking for another part time job in addition to cleaning at the hotel and if you don't want me here I should leave." Cas drops back against his pillows again. "It would be painful to stay."

Dean's stunned. He tries to think of anything he can actually say to that, but can't and after gum flapping like a fish on a dock for a little while finally comes out with, "I'll bring up some Chinese for you."

Cas just shrugs.

Dean's not surprised when he hears the front door slam as soon as he gets into the kitchen and sits down for a little cashew chicken with a whiskey chaser.


 

It's so strange to be bringing Sam out for a few errands. For one thing, Chelsea keeps noticing herself looking wherever Sam's looking to make sure that what he's seeing is really there.

For another, it's weird to talk to someone she barely knows, but knows so much about. Thanks to Dean and Cas and Supernatural, she's seen him watch the girl he'd considered marrying burn on the ceiling. She's seen him fuck Demons and get addicted to their blood. She's seen him watch Dean die every single day for months on end and swan dive into Hell to save the world.

It's sort of like meeting a celebrity, in a weird way. She knows it'll wear off. She'd felt a little like that about Dean and Cas at first and now it was more like having a dog and a young, socially awkward nephew. Sam will slot back into the normal side of things anytime now.

"I hope this place isn't too girly-salony for you. My stylist had an opening and I figured you've only got like a week before Dean starts teasing you about the Jesus look-alike thing."

Sam snorts, flipping through a magazine, looking for his old haircut.

"If I tell you something do you promise not to tell Dean?"

"Sure." Chelsea's not sold on this. It makes her uncomfortable that Sam might need to keep something major from Dean, when Dean's been such a mess trying to get him back. But sometimes Chelsea lies. If Dean has to know, she'll pass it along.

"I usually spent more than sixty bucks on a haircut. I mean… not really "spent". Credit Card fraud. But I'm not a stranger to the girly salon haircut."

Chelsea laughs, and then laughs harder when it makes Sam smile, then sends him off with her stylist.

Chelsea wanders off while Sam gets his haircut. She buys herself some jeans, then on a whim, goes to the makeup counter at Herberger's counter. She puts on a little eye shadow, then ends up buying herself some before heading back to the salon.

Sam looks good when she picks him up. Less "Hermit being reintroduced to society" more "young academic". He yawns as Chelsea hands over the cash that Dean sent her out with.

"I'm so fucking sick of being this tired," he sighs.

Perfect. "So let's not give into it yet." Chelsea shrugs. She's had Sam out of the house for an hour, her goal was to give Cas and Dean three, which should be enough time for talking and sex. "Come on. We'll get you some swim trunks and then I'll take you to Barnes and Noble for a smoothie. My treat."

"Right. Swim trunks. For my old man calisthenics. So I can be healthy enough to actually work out and not look like a cancer patient anymore."

"You're surprisingly vain for a guy who lived in a car and motel rooms and abandoned cabins. Anyone ever tell you that?"

Sam snorts. "I'm not the only one. You've never seen Dean getting ready to be a Fed."

"No. I haven't. Come on. Swim trunks."

She takes him to Target. She's gotten too used to shopping with Cas and needing to allot a couple of hours for simple clothing needs. (How do you know the underwear fits if you can't try it on? What is the purpose of the very small pocket inside the larger pocket? Shouldn't I try this on in a small and a large just in case one of them fits better?) It takes Sam about two minutes to pick out a few pairs he likes in a few sizes.

He's fine until they get to the dressing room. He looks up into one of the mirrors in the hallway and freezes with a little gasp. Chelsea sets her hand to his back. "Sweetheart, you okay?"

"I… just…" he reaches behind him, watching his hand as it moves in front of Chelsea and then lands directly on her boob. He jumps again and whips around. Chelsea steps back out of grope range.

"That was you, right?"

"Yeah. It was. Why? Who did you see?"

"Umm… Jess," Sam says. "She was my…"

"I know who she was."

Sam turns back to the mirror and relaxes a little. "Right… it' s just… it's just in my head."

Chelsea takes his elbow. "You wanna go home?"

"Umm… no. That' s all right. I need trunks. And you promised me a smoothie."

"Okay." Chelsea nods. "I'll be out here."

It only takes Sam a few more minutes to try on trunks. Chelsea sets him in the furniture display while she stands in line and then takes him up to Barnes and Noble.

Neither of them were expecting the sign out front. Sam's forehead scrunches up and his jaw drops.

It's a cardboard cut out right in the front of the store.

Of Chuck.

Leaning against a 1967 Impala.

With a shotgun.

"What a douchebag!" Sam says so loudly that three people turn around. "And there's a new one?"

Sam marches forward grabs one of the display books. "When Dean is raised from Hell by a mysterious force… smoldering psychic Pamela… and the thrall of Sam's new companion…" He turns to Chelsea. "Thrall? This is bullshit. I'm gonna get better, and then I'm going to hunt the fuck out of Chuck." He clenches his eyes shut. "This is real right?"

Chelsea takes the book out of his hands and knocks on the cover. "Sorry. Sweetheart. It's real. It's… um… pretty good. I got an advance copy from the author… prophet. Whatever."

Sam rolls his eyes and tucks the book under his jacket.

"So… smoothies."

"Yeah."

They walk back through the shelves toward the little café.

And then it's Chelsea's turn to freeze.

Cas is sitting at a corner table. With Tony. They look pretty intimate. Cas is resting his head in his hand, the other hand is out on the table, friggin nestled under Tony's.

Sam doesn't notice him. Chelsea pretends to playfully push him into one of the chairs and then lets him sit there while she gets him a smoothie. She catches Cas's eye while she's paying. He gives her a very steady look back. Her counter is mouthing "I will text you about this later" at him.

So now she's got to get Sam out before he sees Cas, and there's no reason to give Cas and Dean time alone. Sam yawns again and Chelsea starts herding him back to the car.


 

Dean is pleasantly buzzed at the kitchen table with a half-eaten container of cashew chicken and a stone cold, totally unopened container of moo goo gai pan when Chelsea and Sam come home. They're home late enough that her headlights give him enough warning to hide his flask in his boot.

Dean had decided to let Cas get a little air, and after half an hour had called him. He hadn't picked up. He'd waited another 45 minutes. Cas hadn't picked up. Then another half hour. Cas had finally answered and brusquely told him that he was running errands and he didn't want to talk to Dean right now.

He almost jumps to clean up the evidence of dinner when he hears the door open. Either to hide from Sam anything approaching evidence that he'd anything even a little bit like an assignation planned, or to hide from Chelsea that this is how lame his assignation was.

Sam looks half back to normal when he comes in. The Crazy Hobo Jesus look is gone. He'd look just like he did the last time Dean saw him if he wasn't a solid hundred pounds lighter.

Chelsea looks weirdly grave. Dean looks at Sam harder, but doesn't see any evidence that anything might have happened to him to cause Chelsea's concern.

"Hey, you clean up pretty good," Dean laughs. "Now you don't look like you live in a cave in the woods with Cas."

Sam laughs. "Yeah. I'll be a real boy again anytime now."

Chelsea steps back so that she's behind Sam, and tries to communicate silently. Since this involves nothing but pursing her lips and him and widening her eyes, it's not really helpful.

"I'm gonna go lie down," Sam yawns. "I was out having an adventure for almost two hours, and now I can barely stand."

"Okay, man."

Chelsea waits for Sam to get all the way up the stairs, then turns around and punches Dean in the arm.

"I saw Cas out at the bookstore with Tony. What in the name of fuck did you do?"

"Wait… you saw Cas out with…"

"His ex. What did you do?"

"I didn't do shit."

"Bullshit!"

"Keep your voice down, will you? Sam's right upstairs," Dean says. "We had a little bit of an argument. He left. But it's not as bad as it sounds."

He doesn't believe it. He fucked this up before he even got to give it a shot.

"So you had an argument, and then he stormed out and called his ex…"

"Chelsea, not tonight okay. Just let it lay for tonight. Please?"

Chelsea purses her lips again but hugs him and leaves.

Dean… doesn't freak out. He goes to great lengths to avoid freaking out. He puts away the chinese food. He does the dishes. He finds piddly house stuff to do until eleven. Then he does some research.

Maybe he should be hoping that Cas and Tony are getting back together. Tony treated Cas really well. He thought Cas's little quirks were cute. The only major roadblock to them being together was that Cas couldn't tell him why he didn't have all those little personal histories that people come to expect. If Cas could just be honest with Tony, maybe it would be best for them if they just got together and were happy. Hell, Dean would even back his story up.

The idea of doing just that seems like the right thing to do, and gives him this nasty tickle in the back of his throat and the corners of his eyes. And he knows what that means.

He holds out until midnight before he calls Chelsea and asks her if Cas has gotten a hold of her. Tells her that Cas mentioned staying with her.

She hasn't heard from him. Cas is out with Tony.

And he's not coming home.

He's hanging up just as he hears Sam on the steps. He clears his throat, wipes his eyes, and shoves his phone in his pocket.

"Hey, Sammy, need anything?"

Sam shrugs and keeps working his way down the stairs. He drops into a chair opposite Dean. "Just came down to see how you were."

Dean shakes his head. "Me? Why?"

"Cas still isn't home. Thought you might be worried."

"Well, he's almost a big boy. He can stay out as late as he damn well pleases," Dean huffs.

"Where is he?"

"He's… out."

"I noticed. Where is he?"

"He's got a date I guess."

Sam leans back in his chair and stares at Dean for a moment. "Yeah… Chelsea thinks I didn't see him at the bookstore. But I did. How are you doing with that?"

"Why should I care?"

"Because I overheard Chelsea before she left. I know Cas is out with his ex." Sam looks up at Dean with his big, stupid, empathetic Fed eyes. "And I overheard you this morning and I know you and Cas are together."

Chapter Text

"Because I overheard Chelsea before she left. I know Cas is out with his ex." Sam looks up at Dean with his big, stupid, empathetic Fed eyes. "And I overheard you this morning and I know you and Cas are together."

Dean just stares at his younger brother. He should be thinking of a reply. Any reply, but he's been fighting with people about this all day and he's tired. And Cas is out with a guy that is so much less complicated than Dean is and Dean doesn't want to discuss something that might already be over.

Sam's big forehead furrows. "And you know I'm supportive, right?"

And that's what pushes Dean over. He kicks the coffee table so hard the whole thing creaks and jumps over a few inches.

"Dammit, Sam! I am sick of you and Chelsea and you're fucking support. Take your PFLAG, happy pride bullshit and shove it up your ass!"

Sam purses his lips in response. "Yah done?"

"Chelsea's been down my throat about this alre-"

"Yeah, I know," Sam cuts him off. "But guess what, Dean? She's awesome, but she's a girl and she grew up with a normal family in a big city." Sam jerks his thumb at himself. "I grew up the way you did. I can hear Dad joking about "Hunting Fairies" in my head too. And more importantly: I can hear him telling you that your happiness isn't as important as saving people and –oh right- taking care of me. I can recite the speech about how you don't have anything but family and you can't lay down roots anywhere that you could get someone killed. So yeah, I know what Chelsea said, but I know what you're actually thinking, because unlike everyone else around here, I was trained to think it too."

Sam drops back against the couch. "It's not just because he's a dude, it's because you're fucking terrified of settling down. And no one knows more about that than me, because I've already done it. So how about you calm the fuck down, sober the fuck up and talk to me about this big dark secret you've been trying to protect me from?"

Dean crumples back into his chair, and tosses Sam his flask.

Sam doesn't manage to catch it and lets it fall to the couch. "We'll get the rest out of the Impala later."

"I don't know how to be this guy, Sam," Dean says.

"I know. Do you think I ran off to Stanford and I was just happy and normal and Jess instantly liked me and I was a good boyfriend and I was totally okay?"

Dean sees the look on Sam's face and decides not to mention that's almost exactly what he thought.

"It was like going to a foreign country and not speaking the language. I didn't know anything about how to fit in long term with ordinary people. I wound up patching a personality together out of Nick at Night reruns and treating all of freshman year like a long grift. I had a gay roommate who hated me because he made me super uncomfortable and I changed in the bathroom.

"I kept joining clubs and dropping out because I couldn't handle all the inane discussions. Some bastard whose rich father got past the admissions board snuck up on a group of girls on the mall one night and I didn't understand that they were all just playing. I knocked one of his teeth out and probably would have been dismissed, but I'd finally started to make friends so I didn't seem completely crazy, and one of the girls he'd been trying to scare was in classes with me and told the faculty that I had been convinced they were actually in danger. But I'd still beat him so badly that, as a condition of getting to stay- I had to go to counseling for the rest of the year, which I then had to fake my way through, because I couldn't just admit that I knew how to deal with a threat and it seemed like a totally appropriate action to beat an attacker until he stopped moving. I felt like a freak and I was fucking miserable."

Dean nods along. They'd never discussed Stanford. Sam hadn't wanted to talk about what had happened after Jess. As curious as Dean had been about this big missing spot in his brother's life, he hadn't wanted to pour salt in the wound by making Sam talk about it. And then they'd been swept up in a storm of demons and vampires and their father and they'd never had the chance to talk to each other about it.

"You know why I really fell for Jess? Because she figured out what a freaking head case I was and she didn't care. She made me able to function out in the world. And look around you. That's exactly what Cas has done for you. You look healthier. You have a job. You have friends. You have a house. You have the entire white pickett fence life you've always wanted and he even sobered you up for it. And all the stupid bastard wants in return is you."

"Yeah, not really getting his money's worth is he?"

Sam groans. "If I was strong enough, I'd hit you for that. Give the 'not worth anything' shit a rest. You've saved the world. You've killed thousands of monsters. You've saved thousands of people. And Cas has been hauling me around for weeks and talking about you. You've saved him too. Believe me."

"You know, Sam, this is the third time I've been berated about this today."

"Is it the charm?"

Dean shrugs.

"Everyone around you wants you to be happy," Sam sighs. "The things in your head, the ones Dad put there? You know they're bullshit. You've done everything he asked you to do. I'm safe and you killed the Yellow Eyed Demon."

You killed the Yellow Eyed Demon Dean feels that last thing hammer into his mind. Yes he had. He'd killed Yellow Eyes, and that had always been the most important thing. They'd been hunting leads on that Demon for his entire life, running around on an epic quest for vengeance that had lasted longer their parents' marriage actually had.

And something else that had gotten pushed under the constant battle strategizing and case hunting occurs to Dean. His father had known about the Demon's plan for Sam when he'd told Dean that he might have to kill his brother.

He'd asked Dean to kill the only person in his entire life, not to prevent the Apocalypse, not to save Sam from going dark side, but just to make sure that Yellow Eyes would be down a pawn.

His father hadn't thought about protecting Sam, he hadn't considered what it would do to Dean to have Sam's blood on his hands. But he'd known the Demon's plan. And he'd known that Dean would follow orders.

And his dying wish had been for Dean to destroy his entire life, because nothing was more important to John Winchester than vengeance.

A wave of nausea pours out over Dean. This was the man he'd worshipped? This was the man he'd let dictate everything he thought about himself? The man who had once walked out on the wife he had spent years trying to avenge. Who had been willing to make Dean kill Sam (and should have known, or cared, that it would kill Dean in the process) in order to hurt the demon.

The demon Dean had killed.

"Dean? Dean?" Sam taps his shoulder. "You haven't said anything in a while. You okay?"

Dean didn't owe John Winchester anything, and certainly doesn't deserve to let a dead man ruin the one thing that might be part of his reward

Dean shakes his head. He's not totally sure what to do next but there are two thoughts buzzing in his head, both of which pour out of his mouth.

"I killed Yellow Eyes. I need to talk to Cas."

Sam nods. "All right. If you call him right now is he going to answer?"

Dean shakes his head.

"I'll call him," Sam volunteers. He's already dialing. Dean hears a couple of rings and a low growling voice on the end of the line. Sam gives him a thumbs up.

"Hey, Cas. I was just calling you to tell you that I know what's going on, and Dean I were talking about it… No. He didn't tell me, I overheard Chelsea talking to him… well, but I know now, and I know where you are, okay. Please come home…Yeah. I know that it's late…" Sam looks a little worried, then looks up at Dean with an 'oh shit' expression that Dean recognizes instantly.

There is a sudden crack like lightning.

Sam is gone and Cas is on the couch with a Butterfinger's wrapper on his lap. He's wearing a ratty t-shirt and flannel pants that Dean knows don't belong to him. He looks up at Dean, and Dean can tell he looks guilty.

He can hear Sam on the other side of the line.

And then the whole world freezes. Dean feels suddenly cold and Bobby's whole living room dims around him, just slightly, like when a cloud passes over the sun. Cas is frozen and blurred too.

"You know, there's something about you that resists any effort at divine planning."

Dean recognizes the voice. It's a little nasal, a little high, and suddenly lacking that indefinable quality that made the speaker sound like he was waiting to be hit.

He wheels around, right into a beatific, bearded, smile.

"Hello, Dean."

"Chuck?"

The writer shrugs. "Sort of. Not exactly. It's a vessel, but I don't… own it. I sort of just hang out in the subconscious part. Enjoy the ride."

Dean's hand twitches at his side. He may be a civilian now, but he's still got a knife in his boot and he's sober enough to only need one shot. "Okay… then who are you exactly?"

Chuck tilts his head to the side, almost an 'I'm so shy' boyband type pose. "I'm God."

Dean lets that settle for a moment and when it does, he cocks his fist back and slams it directly into the middle of Chuck's face.

Unlike punching an Angel, which is like hitting a stone, Dean's fist sinks into Chuck's face with a satisfying "crack".

Chuck groans and cups his face in his hands. "Son of a bitch."

He makes a weird snuffling sound and Dean's about to deck him again when the man moves his hands away from his gushing nose, and taps his forefinger to the tip of it. The blood is gone instantly.

"You know, that's why I started appearing as weird shit. No one ever clocks a burning bush." He clears his throat and looks up at Dean. "So. You're angry."

"Oh, ANGRY doesn't BEGIN to cov-"

Dean's lips keep moving, but his voice isn't working. The sudden freeze in his vocal chords feels bizarre, like swallowing a huge jawbreaker and having it stick.

"Dean- I haven't interfered like this in millennia."

Dean feels like he's about to burst with rage at being unable to point out that only a year ago they were all neck deep in the apocalypse and could have used some goddamn interfering.

"I know, I know. But I couldn't play my hand there," Chuck says, responding to Dean's thought. "It's complicated, it was a really well set up story if you ask me. I planted you and Sam and Bobby centuries ago. And the Angels never saw you coming. Every father hits the point where he has to give up and let his kids duke it out and then- there you were-" He thrusts his fist into the air, more like a cheerleader than a revolutionary. "Team Free Will. Stopping what I couldn't just sweep in and halt, not without just setting up another one in a few decades."

"That had to happen Dean. I'm sorry, but it did. I gave you the tools you needed, made you the people you needed to be in order to stop it and gave everyone else the pieces too. The Demons had to have boy king Sam. You know that. Our side had to have you as our Righteous Man. You had the training, the humanity, the brotherly love. I needed you to be what you were. And you exceeded my wildest expectations. So now, my project for the last year has been making you what you could be. Giving you your reward."

Dean's voice is returned. "My reward was to watch my entire family die in a field and get sent back to a dead man's house to grieve and drink and nearly eat my gun?"

"And then I gave you Castiel," Chuck says quietly.

Dean stops and digests that. "You gave me Cas?" Dean demands. "You stripped him out of Heaven, you made him human and miserable?"

Chuck crosses his arms behind his back and rocks up on his tiptoes. "Dean, you don't know much about Heaven. Or Angels. Angels are warriors. I gave Castiel an honorable discharge. No Angel has ever cared about a specific human like Castiel does. He was given a life as a gift. Angels don't live. Humans live. I gave him family and experience and love. I'm giving Bobby and Jo and Ellen all of that too."

"You left us all to die in the apocalypse and now you're dropping pieces back on the chess board to watch them dance?"

"This is my last hurrah for a good long while Dean." Chuck sighed. "Yes. I set the pieces up to stop the apocalypse. You stopped it. And now? Now we all go off into the sweet hereafter. Jo and Ellen get their lives back because they didn't deserve to die that way. Bobby has done so much good. He got his wife back, he got the life he so easily may have had. Gabriel- exiled from Heaven, rules it. He has the energy for it. He cares about people in a way that a God can't. And he's doing a hell of a job." Chuck smiles at Dean and it burns away under Dean's glare. "You were just supposed to fall in love with Cas and be happy."

"Your last game before retirement is The Dating Game?"

"History's been manipulated to make you the warriors you needed to be. I needed you to be exactly the man you were a year ago. And I can't unmake that man. I had to work with the pawns I had. You came here alone so you wouldn't fall right back into Hunting. Who but Castiel would convince you to retire? Who but you could teach him to be human? I couldn't rewrite you, but I could give you new circumstances and hope you grew into happier lives. If I'd given you Sam and Bobby right away you'd packed up the Impala again and all lived short, lonely lives of terror and destruction. I brought Castiel back when he was ready. It takes time for an Angel to be made human."

"And Bobby?" Dean demands. He could have gone back with Bobby to recover. That might have worked.

"He had to be alone too. At first. He had to settle in with Karen, start building a life he couldn't leave. Like you and Castiel were by the time Bobby found you. It's not a chess board it's a garden. A little water here, a little pruning there. Just to stop you from throwing yourselves into the thorns." Chuck smiles. "That's a good line. I'm going to let Chuck keep that."

Dean clears his throat.

"Anyway. I've been trying to just make you wait before you charged back into those old lives and see what you could have in the new ones."

"Wait and See?" Dean demands.

Chuck… God shrugs with a self satisfied smile and Dean almost punches him again.

"What about Sam?" Dean asks. "Why is he sick?"

Chuck finally looks guilty. "He wasn't supposed to be. I was trying to get him back to you months ago. He was supposed to be better than this and he was going to help you and Castiel get together. It all made so much sense in the idea stage, but complications arose."

"Complications arose?" Dean demands. "You're God."

"And there are still rules. Multiple players. Earth is a garden but Heaven and Hell are still chess boards. Pieces move in certain ways. Sam sacrificed himself. He drank Demon blood. He was Lucifer's vessel. There are rules that I couldn't just overturn. Getting him back at all was only possible because I am God and because he didn't technically die. Hoops were jumped through. Favors were cashed in. Bargains were struck. Death and Fate are not happy anthropormorphic personifications. Sam's back now. He's suffering from… call it a celestial hangover. He'll recover once he starts to remember where he was."

"And where was that?"

Chuck shrugs. "He has to realize that on his own. It'll work out."

"And where is he now?"

"Gabriel zapped him to Chelsea's. He's fine. There are plans in store for Sam's reward too."

"Gabriel said he hadn't seen you around."

"That's true. No one but Joshua has spoken to me in months. Making Gabriel the new god was his idea. And I think that's panning out. Gabriel's not… involved he's just cheering you two crazy kids on."

Dean flushes with angry embarrassment that all the top players in heaven have been watching him like a soap opera and trying to make him gay.

But Cas does make him happy. And apparently Cas got humaned up because Dean is supposed to make him happy. And God does owe them all.

"I don't suppose there is anything you can do that is actually helpful? Maybe let us undo a mistake or two and start over before the last few fights? Considering what a crap deity you are?"

Chuck pursed his lips. "Not this time."

"When have you done anything for me before?"

Chuck gave him a look that was finally genuinely annoyed. "There's something huge you'll ask me for in the future. Impossible. And you only get one huge thing. There are still rules."

"What huge thing?"

Chuck shrugs. "Wait and See."

Dean nearly hits him again but his arm finds itself frozen at his side.

Chuck looks up at him, looking just a little pitying. "Look. I'm talking to Cas right now too. Little Father Son chat."

"Is it working?"

"That's still going to be up to you," Chuck says. "I'm turning time back on after our little reprieve here. You need to get your head out of your ass, talk to the Angel" – Chuck points a finger accusingly at Dean– "And don't screw it up this time. I am the Lord Your God."

And without so much as a tablet of stone to commemorate those words from the Lord, the world unfreezes and Dean's staring back into Cas's wide blue eyes.

Chapter Text

Cas looks stunned, not just surprised but as though he's plugged his finger into a socket. His eyes are wide and watery. His phone is slipping out of his grip. Dean can hear Sam's tinny voice on the other side. He tugs the phone gently from Cas's grip.

"Sam?"

"Dean? Dean I'm in a house I don't recognize. Chelsea's here. I can't hear Cas and I… I can't tell if this real." He sounds frustrated and terrified.

"You're okay. Gabriel zapped you over there. You know it's me right?"

"Um… yes?"

"Hand the phone to Chelsea."

"Hey, Dean." She yawns, utterly blasé about finding a confused hallucination sufferer who had been Angelically transported to her house. "What's the weird word, sweetheart?"

Dean tells her that Gabriel zapped Cas back when he zapped Sam to her place.

"Kay. I'll make up the couch for him."

That is the thing Dean does sort of hate about Chelsea. She says things like that and there is nothing that makes it necessary to put off talking to Cas. She's taking care of Sam and now he and Cas have the house to themselves. And she realizes it when she does it and she does it on purpose. Which Dean can tell from the ever so slightly snarky, "Here's your brother back."

Dean assures Sam it's all real and they hang up.

Cas still looks like someone put him on pause and doesn't really register Dean until Dean sits down on the coffee table in front of him.

"So… life long ambition realized," Dean starts. "Punched God right in the face. Gonna make it that much harder not to punch Chuck when I see him now."

Cas still looks overwhelmed and he jumps when Dean sets his hand over the ex-Angel's knee.

"You okay?" Dean asks.

Cas shakes his head. "I thought… I thought I was forsaken. I thought… God was gone. And he was in the prophet. I spoke with him. Or… he heard me at least. I stood next to him… and he never…"

"Yeah. I think I kind of get it."

Cas just stares, awaiting an explanation.

"Sammy said something to me that made me realize… I thought my Dad was there, but he wasn't there. Not for us. Just for his… crap. Makes you feel like your life's a little… wasted, doesn't it?"

Cas shakes his head again. "No. No. I was favored. I was… humanity was supposed to be a gift. To me. A life… A heaven. You… you and I were… um… blessed, God said."

"Blessed?" Dean resists the urge to snort. Right now is hardly the time.

"Umm… it's… he told me that we were favored. Fated… really. For a… it's hard to explain. There's not a good translation in English, there's a word for it in Enochian. It's archaic though, an old idea. A… sacred… um… love. A pure, simple bond."

Dean shivers a little at that. God hadn't been that sincere with him about what had been intended for him and Cas..

Cas wipes at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Or it's supposed to be."

"Yeah," Dean says gently, rubbing his hand over Cas's knee. Cas jolts as though to pull away and Dean stops moving but doesn't pull his hands away. "We've been really screwing up simple, haven't we?"

Cas wipes his eye again and sets the slightly wet hand over Dean's.

"I did something wrong," Cas says quietly.

Dean glances over Cas. The guilty look. The pajamas that he doesn't own. His mussed hair, pulling out of its braid. He's got a pretty good idea of what's coming and it already hurts, but he braces himself for it. Until about half an hour ago he felt like he deserved it. He isn't so sure now, but he doesn't move his hand.

"I called Tony. I was so mad at you and everyone's been trying to explain to me why you don't want to be with me because I'm… male on a technicality, and I didn't understand and I thought he might… and it was just so much easier."

"Okay," Dean responds quietly.

"We had a nice conversation. He held my hand and when someone was rude to us he told them that we were together and I just… I don't know why it was important to me."

"Because I wouldn't have done it for you," Dean says. It's true. He's still sure there's a next step though.

"No. You wouldn't," Cas says. "I'm not even sure why it was so important. I felt… you didn't…"– Cas clenches his eyes shut before he opens them again–"He invited me back to his house. And I didn't want to be here. He got me a glass of wine, and he kissed me."

That hurts more than Dean thought it would. Then Cas keeps going and Dean feels a little bit like his chest is caving in.

"And we went to his room and I let him start to undress me," Cas tries to pull his hand away and Dean doesn't let him. "I… didn't stop him until he started to undo my fly. And then I told him that I didn't think I should… because I wasn't sure what was happening with you."

"Okay."

"And then he gave me these pajamas and told me I could sleep on the couch. I was uncomfortable. I was going to call Chelsea when Sam called, and that's when Gabriel brought me here."

"Okay," Dean says again. He'd never thought about it before. He'd never been with someone the way he was with Cas. This kind of feeling in his gut wouldn't have cropped up when all he had was one night stands. He can feel a little bit of an angry burn starting up under the hurt, but it goes out suddenly when Cas clears his throat and says, over an obvious tearful pull in his voice, "That's called cheating, right?"

Dean turns his hand up into Cas's and grips it gently. "I don't know," He says. "I mean… I wouldn't tell anyone about what we're doing."

"I didn't even give you a chance to tell Sam," Cas says. "Dean, I'm so sorry, I'm so-"

Dean turns his hand up to Cas's. "Don't be."

Cas tightens his grip around Dean's hand and finally leans forward a little before he looks up at him. "But I-"

"No," Dean says. "Don't feel bad. Look," – he steels himself for the admission he's about to make. He was just going to let the fact that he nearly left disappear into history. Cas doesn't deserve to be hurt with a pointless admission, but he also didn't deserve to flog himself for a first offence when Dean had done something just as bad and a couple things on top of that. It feels a little manipulative to use this to even the score, but he's doing it to help. He wants this, wants the little apple pie life they've been setting up, wants Cas, and he's starting to feel like he can have him.

"The morning Sam came back?" he starts. "The morning after we… I was freaked. I was… afraid. I didn't think I could deal with what was going on. So I grabbed my duffle from under the bed, and my keys, and I was leaving to go back to Hunting when Sam got…delivered unto the living room."

Cas's hand shivers in his own. Dean finally looks up at him.

"Oh," he responds after a few moments. The sinking feeling in Dean's chest gets even worse.

"I was coming back, Cas, I swear. I would've gotten to a motel, realized what I'd done and I would have come back. Like you, you stopped what you were doing with Tony. That guilt, that same guilt, that's what I would have felt. I would have stayed in some shitty flophouse and been home in time for lunch."

"You… wouldn't have gotten very far," Cas says. "I made Bobby help me activate the GPS in your phone after you disappeared last time to summon Gabriel. I would have caught up to you by dinner."

Dean smiles a little at that. It's so… kind of creepy and suffocating. But in a weirdly okay way. He likes that Cas would have caught him for screwing up that badly.

"Still," he shrugs. "Forgive me?"

"Yes. I do," Cas says. "And me?"

"Yes," Dean replies.

They sit in silence for a moment, just holding hands until Cas scoots a little closer.

"This bond we were supposed to have… is supposed to be stronger than this," Cas moves again so that they're knees are touching. "I feel… a little as though we've… failed. Like we were given something beautiful and smashed it."

Dean nods. "You said it's an Enochian word?"

Cas just shrugs.

"So it's like an unfeeling, Angelic type thing. Predetermined too, I'll bet."

"Yes?"

"Cas… we're human." Dean picks up his other hand and holds both of them between his own, hands folded around Cas's like he's praying. "And sometimes, we screw things up. "

"So… you're not mad?"

Dean sighs. "I am… but I just don't want to be. What if we just… agree? You didn't go home with Tony and I just told Sam like you asked me to and never tried to run."

Cas shrugs. "Pick one. You can't have both."

"I never tried to run," Dean says, soft, but immediate.

Cas smiles and sniffs. Dean leans forward and kisses him. A sudden sense of relief floods his body. He opens the kiss and Cas pulls back with a soft noise of dissent. "You taste like whiskey."

Dean drops his head for a moment, and moves onto the couch next to Cas.

"Yes. I do," Dean says. He reaches behind Cas and grabs the flask he'd just tossed Sam. He hands it to Cas who looks at it long enough that Dean starts to worry.

"We're going to talk about this in the morning," Cas says. He unscrews the top, takes a deep pull and hands it to Dean. "Say goodbye."

Dean nods, finishes the rest of the flask before dropping it behind the couch and pulling Cas forward. He kisses him and scoots down the pillows, letting his knees fall apart so Cas can settle on top of him.

It's easier the second time around, fresh off Sam's acceptance, the blessing of God himself, and the fear of losing Cas to some skinny fucker with ugly glasses. The weight of Cas on top of him feels good, the narrowness of the couch forces them closer together. The feeling of needing to look over his own shoulder is gone, and somehow he can even ignore the much more real feeling that there are a bunch of Supernatural beings (well, at least two) out there who are probably actually watching. He can smell Tony's cologne on Cas's body and rather than put him off it urges him on just a little bit, kind of a harsh reminder that he could still lose Cas. They're being guided together, but not forced. They weren't just shot with cupid's arrow and crossed off the list. Despite all the divine planning, he could possibly still free will his way out of this if he isn't careful.

Their breathing gets heavy as their shirts come off. Dean rolls his hips up into Cas's, letting himself enjoy the way Cas murmurs nonsense when Dean runs his palms up and down his back, the way Cas starts to shiver against him when Dean reaches between them and undoes the ex-Angels fly.

They toss off their clothes, Dean pulls the afghan hanging over the back of the couch over them. Cas sets his palm to Dean's cheek and curls his fingers into the hair at the nape of Dean's nick as he kisses him and rocks down into him. Dean moans and pulls Cas tighter, digging his fingers into the grooves under his shoulder blades. Cas cries out and shoots all over him. Dean can feel it hot and wet all over his stomach. Dean reaches between their bodies to finish himself off, but Cas won't move his hips to let Dean's hand in.

Cas pants out a few steadying breaths, harsh in the utter silence of the empty house, and keeps going, hands still around Dean's face as he moves against him until Dean comes too, his hands in Cas's hair.

Cas drops down to Dean's chest. There's a little noise- like a party squaker, and a little burst of confetti rains down on them.

"Fucking Gabriel," Cas huffs.

They wake up hours later, just as light starts to creep up at the edge of the horizon, stiff from their ridiculous sleeping position, pervy angelic confetti still in their hair, and go up to their room.

Chapter Text

Castiel wakes up before Dean does and listens to the comforting sound of his steady breathing for a few moments before rolling over and opening his eyes.

Dean doesn't always look peaceful when he sleeps. Sometimes his face contorts in pain or anxiety from his nightmares. Sometimes he's so tired or drunk that he looks dead. He looks peaceful now. Castiel has missed being here to see him like this.

Other than that Castiel isn't sure how he feels right now. That happens a lot when one is human. No feeling exists by itself. It's always tangled with other things. He feels the warm pleasant feeling that being with Dean gives him, and at the same time he feels the cold aching feeling that he'd felt when he'd been asked to sleep alone in his room again. He's mad at Dean for drinking again, he's a little mad at Dean for not telling Sam, which is ridiculous because Sam knows. And he also feels like he can't be mad because he still feels so incredibly guilty about the terrible thing he did last night. He's mad at himself because there is something about the way his human body needs touch and comfort and sex that makes him feel weak.

And on top of and despite it all, he's happy.

Because he was promised that the growing pains would fade, and that this would be his reward. He was promised love and family. He was promised the ability to grow and change and learn. To eventually grow old, die, and go to Heaven.

Being human is very complicated.

Dean's eyes open and he looks at Castiel, blinking into the sunlight behind him.

"Hey."

"Hello, Dean."

"How did you sleep?"

"Well. But there is a pain in my neck."

Dean smiles the smile he gives Cas when Cas is being "cute". Chelsea gives him a very similar smile but it doesn't make him feel warm all over the way Dean's smile does.

"Yeah." Dean yawns. "We shouldn't have slept on the couch. I'm too old and battered for that."

Cas laughs. He runs his hand down Dean's arm and tucks his fingers into Dean's. Dean squeezes them and Cas is suddenly a lot less mad.

"Last night was pleasant?" Cas is embarrassed that he makes that sound like a question. But Dean never talked to him about the last time they'd had sex and he feels a little unsure and exposed.

"Yeah," Dean says. He brushes his hands through Castiel's hair and some of Gabriel's confetti falls out. "It was."

Castiel wonders if this is an appropriate time to tell Dean what he wants in order to make this work. He knows that you're not supposed to just tell people what you want, but being coy about things makes them too difficult and confusing.

But he can soften the blow a little.

He leans forward and kisses Dean. "I'll make pancakes if you make bacon?"


 

It's been a couple of weeks since Dean and Cas, for lack of any other term, got official. Cas had had a few demands. Dean had said yes to all of them. Because it took nearly losing Cas to Tony to make Dean realize just how serious a hit that would have been to him. And because Cas smiled when Dean said yes and Dean had been sick of getting nothing out of Castiel but a look of disappointment and stretched patience.

And all of Cas's demands had been reasonable. A little too reasonable, actually, but Dean was still struggling. The worst part was that he was beginning to realize that what he was actually struggling with was the idea of being happy.

Cas wants Dean to come clean to Bobby, Karen, Ellen, and Thomas, he'd told Dean that Dean could do it on his own timetable, but that's what Cas wanted.

Thomas should be easy. He had his little hunting story about his gay buddy. Thomas isn't family like everyone else, he's just a coworker, but he's Dean's only outside friend right now. Dean decides to tell him first, but never finds the right time. He does tell Thomas that he'd turned down the invite to the next poker game because Cas wanted him to dry out. It should have been the perfect segue into telling him that it was more than friendly concern… but Dean hadn't said anything. Thomas had clapped him on the arm, told him that there didn't have to be alcohol and asked him to come along to the next one.

So Dean's got that impending guys night hanging over his head. Not being able to tell Karen or Bobby yet is getting stressful too. A regular Friday night dinner has started since Sam got back. Chelsea is a feature at this dinner too and last Friday Karen had asked Dean to help her carry in a casserole dish from the car and asked him why he didn't give Chelsea a second chance. They got along so well and he clearly cared about her.

Bobby is also still pushing for Dean and Cas to be on the paperwork for the house. Dean can't sign the papers until Bobby knows. It's too much of a lie.

Cas's other demand was that Dean couldn't be secretive around Sam and Chelsea. He wanted the elbow and shoulder touching back. He wanted to be hugged. He was particularly insistent about the handholding. So now, if the four of them settle in for a little TV, Dean has to endure the annoyingly proud look that Sam or Chelsea or both sometimes give him when Cas slips his hand into Dean's.

And it's not just the fact that he's over thirty and after two weeks is in the longest relationship of his entire life, and it's with a guy, and that guy used to be an Angel, and Dean practically nursed him back to health over the last year, and he has to deal with all of this while his brother is back from mystical parts unknown and still Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs.

It's also that Sam's point about their father, about how unimportant Dean and Sam had been to him, is still eating at him. He can't stop thinking about it. And not just in an all over… haunting type of way, every once in a while something sticks him like a goddamn knife. He'd known that his father was possessed because he'd told Dean he was proud of him. He'd called his father for help a hundred times and he'd been ignored. He'd had a son that he'd actually taken out for father-son things that didn't involve knives and gore and never told Dean that he had another younger brother.

In the middle of the week Sam texts Dean from Cas's phone. Chelsea's giving them run of the pool for a while and Cas wants to get groceries. They'll be home late.

Dean's been resisting the urge ever since Sam reamed him out… but he's got the house to himself for a couple hours. And he can't not look into it.

He digs out his dad's journal and reads through it. And this time, he's not amazed at the way his father could trace a pattern of bizarre across decades and miles. He sees the obsession. The obsession that was different than other Hunters. Different from the way Sam could become a machine when he needed to. Different from the way Bobby had nothing else but Hunting.

His father's obsession had been like Gordon's. Cold. Overwhelming. Eating away at everything around him.

Dean reads through the whole thing. Cover to cover instead of entry by entry. The entries start out clinical and brief. John was there. He killed this. A brief description of habits and weaknesses. Like a field guide.

Within a year they'd blown through detailed and dived head first into crazy.

Lengthy descriptions of the amount of blood that gushed out of a vampire's decapitated body. The sound a ghoul made while being killed.

He goes back over a few entries that he'd never given much extra thought to back in the day but now… with a few years and discoveries under his belt… he sees them differently.

There was an entry about a monster from a few years back. Every victim was described in exhaustive detail. The hunt wasn't. There was one line- one- about the hunter he'd been working with who died. And reading over it, knowing what he knew now, he realized that the nameless, one line worthy Hunter, was Jo Harvelle's father.

There are a few entries from after Sam left for Stanford that Dean had never looked that far into. No mention of monsters or demons or useful intel. Just short notes with a little notation he'd never thought much about.

It only took about 10 minutes of research to find out what the notation really was. Coordinates for Windom, Minnesota.

That realization isn't one he needed right after Cas and Sam took all the booze out of the house. Sam had bailed. Dean had been falling apart, and his father hadn't been out Hunting by himself. He'd been with the only Winchester son who had ever been taken out to the ball game.

It's just masochistic to keep going, but he does. He's a mess when Cas and Sam get home. He pretends that he's not, and they both see right through him. Sam goes upstairs for the longest shower anyone has ever taken. Cas tries to nudge, but since Cas is the world's worst nudger, Dean ends up telling him exactly what's wrong and refusing to talk about it. Cas yells at him for being "emotionally constipated". Dean caves, but refuses to talk to him about it until later in the night. They'll get dinner dealt with and then they'll talk about it. It's obviously not what Cas had in mind, but they make dinner. Something complicated and overly-health concious for Dean and Cas, something mushy and brothy for Sam.

Cas crowds Dean a little while they cook, standing too close, touching him for no real reason. There's nothing Dean can do about it though- he promised. And hell if it doesn't make him feel better. Even with Sam in the room, not watching but not by any means oblivious… it's the type of thing they'd done before things had gone from a little too intimate to actually intimate and it's kind of a relief.

Dean still doesn't want to deal with it, doesn't want to admit that he's this fucked up about his father's stupid journal. It makes him feel like he did when he first picked Sam up from Stanford. Lost. Like he wasn't his own person at all. Like he really was just Daddy's little blunt instrument and he couldn't go out Hunting alone. He puts in a movie after dinner just to delay the conversation. Sam falls asleep before it even gets going. Cas turns to Dean and crosses his arms when Sam starts to snore.

"Fine," Dean sighs. "But first things first."

Dean gently shakes Sam awake. Sam shuffles up to bed, he's asleep again by the time Dean and Cas have their teeth brushed.

Cas undresses, slips into the pajamas that Chelsea had bought him when she realized that he was sleeping in his clothes. Dean's been a civilian for the better part of a year and he's never the hang of pajamas, he drops down to his boxers and tee shirt. Cas crawls into bed and gives Dean an expectant sort of look. Then he holds his hand out.

This is really the weirdest part. Laying down with Cas every night. Talking to him. Touching him. Waking up with him every morning. The fact that he's a guy is weird, but not as weird as the relationship thing is. Dean's not afraid of commitment. His life has been dedicated to fighting evil since the day he ran out of his burning house with his little brother crying in his arms. He knew that men were supposed to be running free and spreading their oats and whatever in Hell, but he knew exactly what that life looked like and it wasn't heroic it was lonely. But even if he's not afraid of it, it's still bizarre that he has it. Dean settles down next to Cas and after a second, takes his hand.

"You're upset," Cas says. "Something happened to you today."

Dean reaches out and flicks off the light. "You know I hate dragging my ass through all this feelings crap."

He feels Cas's fingers tuck into the hair at the nape of his neck. "I know that. You know that it's good for you to drag your ass through this feeling crap though." Cas kisses him. "Tell me what's wrong."

Dean's first instinct is to refuse. To bury it under violence and alcoholism. Then he realizes who ground that reaction into him and it makes him so angry that it takes him a minute to calm down before he can talk to Cas.

He tells him about the journal. The things about it he'd never noticed before. Cas listens. He rubs his fingers against Dean's scalp while Dean talks. Dean doesn't go overboard. He's sharing, but he's not about to kumbaya all over his big gay bed. Eventually he blows his own anger out. Cas scoots closer to him when he quiets, and kisses him. He runs his hands through Dean's hair and Dean kisses him back.

He tries not to think about the… context of what's happening. That this isn't an isolated incident anymore. It's routine. It's not just him and Cas alone in this house with this thing between them building just outside of his conscious awareness of it.

Chelsea knows what's going on, Sam's asleep in the next room, Cas is rolling him onto his back and slipping his hands under Dean's shirt.

And he wants this and the people who know keep telling him he can have it.

He's letting go of his "it's only sex if you get in" idea. Cas has no expectations and Dean's starting to think Cas might be fine with it if they camp out on second base for so long they have to plant crops and build a town hall.

This not-exactly-dry-humping thing that he and Cas do together is starting to feel like some of the best sex he's ever had. It's not physically intense. It's not the kind of thing where you fight back the orgasm like hell, thinking about any distracting thing you can possibly dredge up to keep it from ending too fast.

It's all… close. It's having his hands knotted in Cas's hair. It's Cas's breath hot in his ear. It's his tongue in Cas's mouth and sometimes Cas's legs wrapped around his back. He never has to pull back in his mind and think about cleaning his guns or a particularly nasty salt and burn. He can just concentrate on Cas.

And it's weird, but it's also kind of awesome.


 

Bobby jumps a little when Karen sets her hand over his shoulder.

"Sweetie?" She asks. "You okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, why?" Bobby asks, shaking his head. He'd been a little hypnotized by the rhythm of the passing streetlights and gotten lost in his thoughts. It was all that driving at night over the years that did it.

"You missed our exit," Karen replies.

Bobby looks up at the street signs and realizes that she's right. And because he's taken this highway so many places so many times he realizes that he's actually missed it by a pretty solid distance and she's only pointing it out to him now. He merges into the left lane. The next exit's not for a few miles.

Karen turns the radio volume down a little. "Sam seems to be doing a lot better this week. Maybe he'll even be ready for cake in time for his birthday."

"Yeah. That's coming up," Bobby says.

"It's a relief to see Dean get him back too," Karen says. "It's strange, actually."

"What is?"

Karen shrugs and fiddles with the radio again. "You were so… adamant, that you couldn't be trusted to have children. And they're… your boys."

Bobby feels a shiver of discomfort at that. The strange thing about getting your wife back decades after losing her is that it's almost like starting over, but not quite. The old fights and old memories are there, but there are so many gaps. So many ways you have to relearn each other. Especially when one of you had been a Hunter and one of you had been dead.

"Well. Except for the holes that John left in them," Bobby replies. He'd often wondered, back when Dean and Sam were little, if he'd been overstepping his boundaries as "Uncle Bobby" by never doing anything John asked him to do with the boys. When John said gun drill, Bobby took them out to play ball. When John said research skills, Bobby took them hunting. It had been years of taking in the ankle-biters for a week here and a weekend there before he realized that part of it was how much John reminded him of his own father. John wasn't just a mean son of a bitch. He was grieving, and trying, and at first, he'd loved those boys. And Bobby was sure that he'd loved them at the end too, but… there were things in-between, where he had to wonder how far off the reservation John had really gone. And there were too many things- like the look on Dean's face when he'd admitted to selling his soul to save Sam- that Bobby would never forgive John Winchester for.

"Yes," Karen sighs sadly. "Well… Sam seems to have recovered from him pretty well. Dean will heal. You did."

Bobby doesn't respond to that. He wants her to believe it about him, he wants to believe it about himself, but it's not true and sometimes when he looks at Dean he wonders if it can ever be true, and hopes like hell it can.

Karen's right, they are his boys, which is why he'll never play favorites, but he's only human, and he does have a favorite. He sees too much of himself in Dean not to sometimes… prioritize him over Sam. Sam is sick and recuperating, but he's got three people looking out for him and even with Cas and Chelsea propping Dean up as much as they do, Dean is usually still alone in his head somehow.

"You know what Dean needs?" Karen goes on. "A girl. I don't understand why he and Chelsea aren't together. I know Dean doesn't know me all that well, but I've got half a mind to drop by and take Chelsea out to lunch. Little… girl talk, I guess."

Bobby spots the exit sign he was waiting for. "Dean's not dating Chelsea because he's sleeping with Castiel," he tells her.

She gives him a skeptical look. "What makes you say that?"

"Coupla things. For one that's a three bedroom house and you don't have to be a genius to tell that no one sleeps in one of them, you just have to be a nosy son of a bitch. For another… there's just something about those two. And there has been, ever since Cas pulled him outta Hell."

"Oh," Karen says. "Well, now I feel bad. I've been… pushing Dean a little bit about Chelsea. I mean… I just want him to be with someone that sees how special he is. And Cas is… well, I mean I like the boy… Angel… you know what I mean."

"Yeah," Bobby agreed. "That's why I've basically been trying to give the idjits the house."

"Do you think we should say anything?"

"We'll give him a little more time. You can tell that he's getting better. They all are. That's what's important."

Chapter Text

A routine is starting to settle in the house. It's not a normal or necessarily good. But whatever it is it feels like progress.

Sam starts to get really serious about Hunting, which worries Dean. He understands that Sam can't do much else while his eggs are still scrambled and Sam is just like him- when things get bad, he wants to be working. It gives him purpose, it takes his mind off other things, but Dean's still sorting out the occasional revelation about their father, and Sam's single mindedness is a little too close for comfort.

Dean's starting to sicken himself with his heretofore-undiscovered propensity for being in a relationship. He let's Cas boss him around the kitchen. He let's Cas read with the Angel's head in his lap while Dean watches TV. He's started to realize that he's as into spooning as Cas is into handholding. He's never going to say it out loud. To anyone. Ever. But sometimes it's just as nice to lie there listening to Cas fall asleep in his arms as it is to have their teenagery-semi-sex.

Chelsea joins a book club. Apparently spending all her time with a couple and hunting monsters is not conducive to finding a boyfriend and after Karen tries to set her up with some guy who comes into the library in Mitchell all the time, Chelsea decides it's time to dive back into the dating pool.

Friday night dinners are starting to feel weird. Dean hasn't been able to tell Bobby yet. He thinks about it, and then he freaks out and can't do it. Chelsea and Sam are starting to shoot each other epically mocking looks across the table at basically anything that comes out of Dean's mouth during dinner.

Dean, Sam, and Castiel all start receiving royalty checks from Chuck. Dean's pretty sure that this has nothing to do with God riding shotgun in Chuck's melon, but doesn't push the issue.

There's suddenly money everywhere. Dean's had only realized a few months ago that the majority of Cas's hotel cleaning paycheck went to groceries, and all three of them have been living on Dean's job and Cas's checks since Sam got back. And, since Dean, Sam and Cas have never had more than a few hundred bucks in their pockets at any given time in their entire lives, none of them know what to do with it. Chelsea suggests some stock or mutual funds or at least a savings account for a rainy day. Dean admits that he's been cashing his check from the body shop at Wal-Mart and keeping the cash in a coffee can under his bed for the last year. She drags him to the bank practically by the ear.

And then he puts everything into savings. He doesn't need it; he doesn't know what to do with it. If he needs it later, he'll come get it.


 

Thomas comes through on his promise to host a dry poker game. He invites Dean, Cas, Sam and even Chelsea. Chelsea opts out for her Lonely Girls book club. Apparently the first meeting is the day after the game and she hasn't finished the book yet.

The atmosphere is a little awkward. Nobody's drinking, but they clearly want a beer on their Friday night a little more than they want to be supportive. Thomas also invites the new body shop guy, Spencer, who Dean's gone head to head with a couple times since he got brought on because the guy's a butcher with no feeling for cars. Spencer gives Dean an exasperated look when Thomas hands Dean an O'Doul's, but it's gone when Dean, Cas, and Sam sit down.

Dean expects problems explaining how Sam is suddenly less dead than previously described, but he massages the truth a little, Cas keeps his mouth shut, and Dean leaves the impression that he and Sam were estranged because of something to do with drugs. No one digs into it. Something about an ex-junkie and a recovering alcoholic under one roof with a traumatized veteran is just too much to poke at apparently.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about the night until Dean follows Cas into the kitchen to bring out another round of non- alcoholic beers.

"It was very kind of Thomas to do this. I understand alcohol is integral to these sorts of male social gatherings," Cas comments, handing Dean a few cans.

"I think I would have been okay," Dean says. And it's true. Everyone around him could have had a beer and he would have been fine. But only because he has Cas and Sam to watch him. He's only been sober for a month and a half. He was never really a binger, preferring a constant buzz to a black out drunk, but it's impossible to pretend that it isn't hard to come home and not have a beer. He'd known he drank too much, but it wasn't until Cas really started pushing it that he'd realized that he really was an alcoholic, and that his father had been, and so had Bobby.

Cas gives him big wide confession eyes and Dean sighs in his head.

"I'm very proud of you for working hard to be okay," Cas says.

"Can we not do this Dr. Phil thing?" Dean says. He tries not to sound too disparaging but sometimes Cas needs to be a little more aware of time and place.

Cas face falls. Dean feels bad and leans forward to give him a quick kiss just as the door opens and Thomas and Spencer walk in.

His heart stops. He could probably save this. Say something. Bat Cas away.

But it's just Thomas, who looks at Dean like he's a legend, and Spencer, who Dean thinks is a moron. It's not worth hurting Cas over, not when they're both trying so hard.

So, not quite ready to face the look he's expecting, Dean pulls back like everything is totally normal, smiles, clears this throat, and pats Cas's hip. He and Cas bring the beers back out to the table and Dean tries not to squirm in his seat for the rest of the night.

Thomas asks him about it in the break room on Monday. It's just Thomas, Jose and Dean up there. Dean remembers the way they'd both look at Cas after his boyfriend surprise. Vaguely charmed and just a little amused. So he tells them a very limited version of the truth. He'd realized how good Cas was for him and one thing had lead to another.

It's bizarrely not a big deal.

At least not with Jose and Thomas. By the end of the week word has spread. Most of the guys are suddenly awkward, but without actual malice. Matthew stops talking to Dean, and if it weren't for Spencer it might have been fine.

Cas calls with a question on Kitsunes while Dean's working. Spencer overhears the call, and Dean overhears the only partially whispered "faggot" that Spencer lets loose. The only thing that keeps Dean from braining him with a tire iron is Thomas showing up in the nick of time.

Dean doesn't actually lay a hit down on Spencer, but he fights Thomas to get to Spencer and Thomas was a Hunter once too. They're both way out of practice, Dean's better trained, but Thomas is stronger and it takes some effort for him to put Dean down.

All three of them get hauled into Hugh's office. Dean and Spencer get put on probation.

Sam tells Dean that Spencer can go fuck himself and if he's this much of a wad about Dean and Cas being together then he's probably just super insecure about either his own sexuality or masculinity.

When Dean talks to Chelsea about it she jokingly suggest that Dean "accidentally" show Spencer his trunk/armory. More seriously, she agrees with him that it's never going to be easy to be a gay auto mechanic in South Dakota. The guys will come around, there will be more and more people like Thomas and Jose, but there will always be a Spencer. Dean declares that he won't let Spencer drive him out. Chelsea kisses him and says "But sweetheart- you don't want to be a mechanic."

Dean's never thought of it like that before.


 

Sam's been back for just shy of three months. Physically he's improving. He can stay awake all day and eat solid food. He can run on the treadmill totally unsupervised.

He's still a little… spotty in the brainpan. He can tell most of his hallucinations from reality, but they aren't going away. He's starting to remember what happened to him in shards of memory here and there, and he's having rampant nightmares about Heaven, Hell, and the Cage.

He's also living his with his brother and brother's boyfriend and being driven crazy by, not just the two of them having the combined emotionally maturity of a lemon-lime gummy bear and a relationship that makes them both seem like they are about fourteen years old, but by the fact that he's totally and utterly dependent on them and their one friend.

He's not sure if he's more embarrassed by the "Sammy has two daddies" feeling he gets when Cas and Dean stumble into his room half dressed to pull him out of screaming nightmares, or by the feeling he gets when Cas or Chelsea take him out for errands or to the hotel pool- like he's a dog Dean told them they could keep if they promised to walk him.

Oddly, the thing that makes him feel the least like a freak is finding cases. Even if on his bad days he needs Cas or Chelsea to confirm that the article (and sometimes the newspaper) he's reading is real, he's good at tracking supernatural patterns.

He works phones. Dean gives him the hunter address book and lets him go for it. He starts being the first Winchester to get the call when the weird gets too complicated. He wonders if this is how Bobby felt.

But he's not Bobby and when a bunch of corpses with no hands or feet show up n Chicago, Sam has to bow to the experts. He's surprised when Bobby offers to drive into Sioux Falls on a weeknight, but relieved. Bobby treats him like less of a responsibility than everyone in the house does.

Dean gets a little flustered when Bobby walks in unannounced and Sam wants to smack him. Sam's about to tell Bobby about Dean and Cas screwing himself if this keeps up. Dean's little closet worry breezed past ridiculous months ago and is now hopping around at the "batshit crazy" watermark.

But every time Sam asks Cas about it Cas just shrugs and says, "He needs more time."

Sam thinks Cas just feels bad about the whole Dean/Spencer thing.

Sam's showing Dean the intel he found on a rash of similar murders in Miami two years prior when Bobby walks in and pours himself a cup of coffee. Sam goes back over the information with Bobby as well. Bobby nods when they finish, tops up his mug with a sigh and says, "So, Dean, where's the boyfriend?"

Sam can't help but laugh when Dean Winchester, who once used to convince people he was an FBI agent on a daily basis, chokes on his juice in the least subtle way ever.

Bobby waits, sipping coffee nonchalantly, until Dean's got his breath back.

"Just how stupid do you think I am, boy?"

Sam feels bad when he realizes how small Dean suddenly looks.

"I don't think you're stupid, Bobby," Dean replies.

"Do you think I'm prejudiced, Dean?"

"No, sir," Dean replies. "No I don't."

"Do you think you're happy?" Bobby goes on in the same slightly accusatory tone. Sam realizes that it's suddenly not funny anymore. Dean stills, looks up and shrugs. "Umm… yeah. I am. I guess."

"Well then," Bobby sips his coffee. "Guess I've got an Angel in law. Somewhere."

"He's helping Chelsea with something for her lonely-girl book club," Dean supplies.

"Literary Girl," Sam corrects. He'd spent the day with her yesterday while she bitched about trying to finish Pride and Prejudice. Apparently, she thought Mr. Darcy was a tool and didn't want to listen to "Sickly Marjorie" and "Crazy Devon" swoon over him anymore. Sam had missed girls like Chelsea. She reminded him of the girls he'd been around back in college. Fun. Smart. Feisty.

"Sure."

"Alright," Bobby cuts in "Well. When he gets home, how 'bout you idjits just sign the damn paperwork for the house. Now, let's switch off "Days of Our Lives" and get back to work. Bunch of people loosing limbs out there."

The nightmares are getting less intense and less frequent. Sam's getting bits and pieces of what happened. He was in Hell. He was in Heaven. He remembers being chased by Demons. Captured. Tortured. He remembers times where that stopped, because he had stopped somehow, but he doesn't remember anything from those times when he stopped. He was in Heaven for a while, he remembers being chased by Angels, he remembers Ash saving his ass again. He remembers Gabriel smiting a few Angels before they got to him. The sound of an Angel dying is different in Heaven, and the true form of Gabriel was overwhelming.

But he's getting better. Nightmares aren't a real problem. The hallucinations are only a problem is something sets him off, he can eat and take care of himself and unless it's a bad day he can tell if something is really happening.

None of these are convincing arguments when Sam tries to convince Dean that he can be left alone in the house for a week.

And he could push it, he could get angry, he could point out that Chelsea is going to check in on him all the time anyway.

But if Sam stays here alone Dean is going to spend the whole week worrying about him and Sam doesn't want to ruin Dean and Cas's little vacation. For their six month anniversary.

"No matter how many times I think about it, it doesn't stop being weird," Sam says, reaching up to get Chelsea's blender down from the top of the cupboard. She applauds him for his epic reach and takes it from him.

"I know, right? I mean, don't get me wrong, happy for those two crazy kids, but it's so… I don't know. I can't get over the fact that Dean thought this up mostly by himself."

Sam pops one of the little appetizers Chelsea had set out for the big girly book club thing that Dean and Cas's trip had landed Sam a first class ticket to. He's a little pissed that he's stuck here with the options to join in on or do anything he can to avoid a long discussion on "A Hundred Years of Solitude" but he appreciates what Chelsea does for him. He can help mix drinks and heat up appetizers before everyone gets here. "I thought it was your idea?"

"Well," – Chelsea pulls a bottle of rum and banana liqueur out of the freezer. "Karen asked if they were doing anything special for their six month. And I suggested a trip- but Dean came up with Yellowstone all by himself and even thought to get a nice hotel instead of just whatever skeevy motel was open."

Sam laughs. "I booked the hotel. Dean's plan was a skeevy motel."

Chelsea snorts and pulls two shot glasses out of the cupboard. "Okay… well. Dean did come up with Yellowstone, and we've got to give him that. Awesome power of nature? That's totally Cas's thing." She fills each glass three quarters full of rum then tops it off with banana liqueur. "I feel like we're not even going to recognize Dean in a year. He's just come so damn far."

"Yeah."

Chelsea gives him a half sad look. "You too. You'll end up surprising us too."

"Totally. I'm already working on my plans to do nauseatingly sappy crap with my boyfriend by this time next year."

Chelsea hands him one of the shot glasses. "A legitimate goal. But seriously. Give yourself some credit. You're doing amazing things with the hunting. You figured out that Tulpa after only two people had died. You wiped out that Amazon tribe."

"It's less impressive when you tack on the fact that I didn't actually do anything. I just made calls."

"And did the research, and the legwork, and figured out the pattern based on years of experience in the field. Lighten up, Sammy."

For some reason he lets the "Sammy" slide.

She holds up her shot glass. "Come on. Let's pregame this bitch. I am not looking forward to Marjorie bitching about how she can't keep track of the names and Donna trying to figure out magic realism."

The book club endeavor is every bit as bad as Sam expected it to be. He winds up having two daiquiris and on top of his shot he's actually pretty buzzed. He'd forgotten that he hadn't actually had a drink since before Hell. He's only been well enough to try one for the last few months and there's no alcohol in the house. They're at the point where Sam having a beer or two in the fridge wouldn't throw Dean off the wagon, but Sam's' not going to do anything to threaten his brother's sobriety.

Weirdly everyone wants to know what Sam thinks of the book and the mystery of why they would care is slowly illuminated when, over the course of the night, Sam gets slipped three numbers. Maybe Dean's moniker for her book club had been more accurate than Chelsea wanted to admit.

Sam shows the numbers to Chelsea after everyone's gone. She laughs and looks at them. "Annabelle… nope." She tears it up. "She is baby crazy and not picky about how she winds up with one. Donna… oh, Donna. She's married. Devon… Devon might be worth calling. She got a little drunk at the last meeting and told a story or two. Don't tell her where you live, but she's probably worth a roll in the hay."

Sam laughs. "I didn't think girls said things like that. Wouldn't you be pissed if she said something like that about you?"

Chelsea rubs her fingers over her forehead. "Put it too you this way, sweetie. I spend my Friday nights at another family's family dinner. I spend my weeknights at your house hunting monsters. I joined this club that was not supposed to be all women to meet non-hunter people and that last guy I went on a date with who was not a psycho was Dean. It has been a long as time since I was rolled anywhere near hay."

"Dean? Dean who's about to find out that I booked him the honeymoon suite for his anniversary vacation with his boyfriend? That Dean?"

"Rub it in why don't you?" Chelsea sighs dramatically. "Now you've driven me to a third daiquiri.

Sam follows her into the kitchen and holds his glass out for a refill as well. He's a little too buzzed for a third drink, but having a drink with a friend and talking about sex makes him feel a little more grown up and normal than his usual weeknight activity of explaining why sit com re-runs are funny to Castiel or assuring Dean that just because he zoned out for a second doesn't mean he's in the middle of a psychotic break.

Hell, having a friend makes him feel more normal.

He takes a deep drag of his girly-ass drink. "If it makes you feel better I haven't been in a relationship since I was 22 and the last fling I had was with a demon who used me to open the door to Hell and gave me a super fun demon blood addiction."

"I'm not getting into my last relationship," Chelsea says as Sam's phone rings. He digs it out of his pocket. His screen actually reads "Dean" when Dean calls these days. It's weird.

"Hey. How was the drive?"

"Long. Forgot how draining that could be. But thankfully we've got this ridiculous suite to kick back in."

Sam grins and turns his phone up loud enough that Chelsea can hear. "The website described it as very romantic."

"You couldn't have just gotten us a normal room?"

"It's a vacation. Why, is there something wrong with it?"

"No it's just… weird. It's flipping enormous for one thing. There's a damn Jacuzzi and chocolates on the pillows. And you should have seen the way the girl at the desk looked at us."

"Screw her. You deserve this."

"No, it was like an… excited… Becky Rosen sort of look."

"Awkward. Well, they would have given you that look with a regular king sized bed too. Especially if you'd gone with your shitty flophouse idea."

"What did this even cost?"

"It's Chuck money. Don't worry about it. Does Cas like it?"

"Yeah… he… yeah he does."

Chelsea presses her face into her palm to stifle a giggle. Sam notices just how flushed her cheeks are.

"That was a pregnant pause."

"He's… setting up the Jacuzzi. You okay with Chelsea?"

"Yeah, yeah, sure. We're taking candy from strangers and playing with matches. Don't worry about me. Go enjoy your vacation. And your Jacuzzi. And don't ever tell me what you did in there."

"Done. And uh… thanks, Sam."

"No problem. Bye."

Chelsea's grinning evilly when Sam hangs up. "You know what would be fun?"

She hand him her glass and runs upstairs. He goes into the living room and plops down on the couch. She returns with her computer and grabs her phone after a few moments of googling.

"Hello, I'm actually trying to reach room service? Thanks… yes, hello. I'd like to send up a plate of chocolate covered strawberries to the honeymoon suite?"

Sam laughs. Chelsea grabs her purse and reels off her numbers.

"That's your idea of a prank?" Sam asks when she gets off the phone. "Weak, Chels."

Chelsea grabs his knee. "Take a moment with me to imagine Dean's face when he has to get up out of the Jacuzzi to get them, and then realizes that we sent them."

Sam snorts. "Fair enough. Moderately funny."

Chelsea tucks her computer and purse away and settles back into the couch. "You know. In retrospect, my "book club normal" idea may have blown. My sister told me it was a stupid way to meet people, but then she suggested Internet dating instead, so there's no need to listen to her."

"You really want to do the boyfriend thing that badly?" Sam's surprised. He's always equated a desperate want for a boyfriend with being… frivolous. Maybe even weak. But Chelsea's not like that.

Chelsea shrugs. "I mean… it's not like a rush to the altar or a ticking clock issue. It's just… you know. Bobby and Karen. Cas and Dean. It's hard not to start thinking "how the hell do I make this happen for myself?" And I know you don't think it counts, but the hunting, even just desk side, means a lot to me. And it's way too easy to let it become everything. I mean… Dean was so obsessive when I first met him. I'm a little afraid I could become like that. And how long can I really third wheel alongside Dean and Cas before I'm just completely pathetic?"

Her slightly slurred words hit home. Sam clears his throat. "Yeah. I know exactly what you mean. If it makes you feel better at least you're not a freak with Hell PTSD who has to be under constant supervision. At least you can go looking."

"Sammy, everyone's a freak somehow. Marjorie? Calls each of her grown up sons every day to tell them about her medical conditions. Hillary? Calls up random customer service lines to bitch about her ex husband. Devon and her phone number are convinced that she was Janis Joplin in a past life."

"Those are a little different level than being able to see Lucifer tap dancing behind Marjorie for the whole book club."

Chelsea snorts. "Is Lucifer a good tap dancer?"

"Yeah," Sam says. "Totally." It actually feels good to hear someone be glib about it. Bobby ignores it. Dean gets this look like he's expecting Sam to fall to pieces. Cas gets a little "talk show host".

"Huh." Chelsea presses a hand to her pink cheek and then catches Sam's hand. "You're as bad as Dean you know. You don't give yourself any credit."

"Credit?"

"You've got a less than ideal grip on reality. Fine. But you still save lives everyday. You stood up to your father enough to finish high school, and then got a free-fucking-ride to Stanford. And I hate to harp on this but there was the time you over powered Lucifer and sacrificed yourself to save the world when even God wouldn't step up to the plate."

"It sounds great when you put it like that, but-"

"Shut up, Sam. It sounds great because it is great. I've listened to you berating Dean about his self worth a million times. I'm not going to sit here and listen to you ignore yours."

Sam grabs his drink with his free hand. "I see why they all like you so much."

Chelsea shrugs. "I am pretty awesome. And if it makes you feel better, I'm a freak too. What kind of normal person doesn't only not pick up and move back home when she finds out there are ghosts all over her hotel, but then seeks out the guys that burst in with shot guns full of rock salt and thinks: let's be friends. I just signed up for some freshman Latin classes at Augustana because I need to brush up to be able to get into the lore the way Bobby can."

"Maybe you'll pick up some college kid."

"Go cougar on some poor little nerd who decided to take Latin?"

"You're not old enough to be a cougar."

"I will be by the time I get laid again if I keep this up."

Sam laughs. "I'm on the same page. In fact," –he hands her the piece of paper with Devon's phone number on it–"You better take this away from me. I'm almost desperate enough to succumb to the temptation."

Chelsea grabs it from him. "You sure? She can put her legs behind her head."

"Oh, well in that case." Sam pretends to grab it back. Chelsea pulls away. It turns into a little play-wrestling match. The number finally tears and Chelsea falls just a little forward. Sam catches her.

Her eyes are deep dark brown. Her lips are dark pink. Her cheeks are flushed with alcohol and laughter. Sam can feel her warm breath on his face.

"Umm… maybe we…" but he can't think of how he expected to finish the sentence.

"Yeah…" Chelsea agrees. "Sam?"

"Uh- huh?"

"How long has it been for you?"

"Umm… including the gap where I was deadish… maybe two years?"

"Right… two and a half," Chelsea says. "Ugly break up."

Sam realizes what he's doing. He's seriously considering screwing his only friend. Who Dean and Cas are incredibly protective of. Who may have had too much to drink. And he's seriously considering doing this knowing full well that he might have Angels screaming in his head while he tries.

"How drunk are you?"

"A little drunk. Not much drunker than you though."

"Right."

Chelsea clears her throat but she's still looking at his lips. "I… uh… read the prophecies. Everyone you sleep with seems to die."

"Umm… yeah… but you know… you've got all these hunters looking out for you."

"Yeah. And Thomas has been teaching me how to throw knives. So I think I'll be good."

"Yeah."

They both lean in at the same time, a rum flavored kiss blooming between them.

Chapter Text

Dean is going to kill her for this, Chelsea thinks as she pulls Sam's shirt over his head. She's seen him shirtless. A few months ago she was holding him up in the pool while he did butterfly kicks.

He's cute shirtless. Slender, but with a little muscle now, not the toast rack look he'd had when he'd just gotten back to the world.

He's also warm and he smells good and his hands are big.

So maybe she is a little too drunk to be making this decision. She'd never had the best tolerance in the world and now that Dean, Cas, Bobby and Karen had all quit drinking she mostly had too. She probably hadn't had a drink since Dean had quit drinking, with the excepting of one glass of wine with dinner when her sister had come into town.

But she would very much like to get laid, Sam would very much like to get laid, and Sam may see Satan tap dance, but they're still both consenting adults.

Drunk, horny, kind of lonely adults who may not be making epically brilliant decisions right now.

Sam unbuttons her blouse like it's a competition- fast and efficient. She swings a leg over his thighs and he slides his hands up her sides and around her back. He pops her bra open with one hand.

"Skills," she comments as Sam slides her bra down her arms.

"Like riding a bike," he replies with a brighter smile than she's seen on him in a while. He slides his hand into the back of her hair and pulls her into a scorching kiss.

It's weird how much different he is than his brother. Dean had been slow and unexpectedly tender for a guy who had made it very clear in their first conversation that he was a warrior. He'd twined their hands and stroked her hair. Sam was already tugging her fly open and working his fingers against her, mouth closed around a nipple and teeth working at the peak.

The thought is weird for a moment, and then she writes it off. She didn't sleep with Dean, Dean had pretty clearly been in love with Cas, even way back then, and it was more than a year ago. So it's not weird if she and Sam wring one out tonight.

Except for the part where Dean is going to kill her.

Her hips are already working against Sam's hand. She tugs his fly open and slips her hand into his boxers, a little surprised that he's already mostly hard. He jerks his head out of the kiss with a harsh breath.

"Everything okay?" Chelsea asks.

"Yeah. Fine. No crazies, just… ummm…"

Chelsea lets go of his cock and brushes her other hand over his cheek. "We can stop."

"No, I'm fine just… two years."

"Oh," Chelsea nods, understanding. "Right. No worries. You first and then you owe me a long second run."

She sits up on her knees and tugs Sam's jeans and boxers down past his hips. He kicks them the rest of the way off. She slides her hands into his hair the same way he did to her and pulls his head down to the couch. She nips lightly at the tendon running down his neck and he squirms.

"Don't worry about impressing me. Just close your eyes."

She spits in her palm and starts stroking him slow but firm while she kisses his neck.

He holds out pretty well, and after a moment or two she's barely teasing him. His hand is gripping her knee so hard that it's starting to hurt. His cheeks are red and sweat is starting to glisten on his forehead as she works her hand up and down. His breathing is shallower. He spasms as she bites gently at the juncture between his neck and shoulder. She grips him tighter and after a few more strokes his whole body jerks up underneath her and he spills wet and hot over her hand while she kisses him.

She grabs a Kleenex off the end table while he catches his breath and wipes them both off. Sam pulls her into another kiss.

"Normally, I'd just grab you and flip you over, but I'm not quite back to fighting weight yet," he laughs, soundly less self deprecating than he normally would with a sentence like that.

Chelsea chuckles, stands up and sits down by Sam's side. This is far from the sexiest night of her life, but it's almost better for that. It's friendly, it's comfortable, it's low pressure.

Sam slides her jeans down, working his fingers against her as she kicks them off. She expects him to take her upstairs. What she doesn't expect is Sam to shuffle off the couch, and kneel between her knees.

"What do you think about a long second run for you, and then a really long third run for both of us?" He asks, grabbing her leg under then knee and lifting it up over his shoulder.

"This is what I like about you, Sam," Chelsea giggles. "You're a thinker."


 

Dean wakes when the sunlight streaming in through the floor to ceiling windows is too bright to ignore. He rolls over and feels his hand go through where he expected Cas to be. He sits up and smells the warm coffee wafting over from the nightstand. There's even a Danish on a napkin next to it.

"Awesome," he says, grabbing the cup and taking a sip. Dean kind of just thought coffee was coffee, unless it was the grainy shit from the last pot of the day at a gas station, but whatever this stuff is, it's freaking amazing. Maybe he and Sam should have stayed at five star motels more often back in the day.

Cas is sitting on the little porch, with one of the blankets from off the couch wrapped around himself. Dean slips his jeans back on, grabs the other blanket and his Danish and goes out to sit with him.

The air is crisp and just a little cold, the sun not quite warm enough to counter the chilly breeze.

"Morning," Cas says, smiling up at him. "I was about to come wake you." He has a map and his own cup of coffee. "I went downstairs to buy some breakfast and I met Harry and Margaret. They're here for their 30th wedding anniversary. They've vacationed in the park twelve times. I told them I was here for the first time on my anniversary and they gave me this map."

Cas holds out the map. It's old and worn out with big circles in pen all over it. "They also told me that sometimes people will give you things if you show them that you're staying in the honeymoon suite. That's how I got us breakfast."

Dean loves scheming Cas. He leans over and kisses him. Cas takes his hand.

They sit on the porch in the fall air, plotting out their day and holding hands and Dean just feels overwhelmed with how insanely, surreally, ludicrously normal this feels. A romantic vacation, away from his normal job, with Cas. Who isn't normal, but who Dean loves so much that for the most part he's stopped noticing.

Dean's plan had been to get in the Impala and just drive until something looked interesting, but apparently Harry and Margaret had been very helpful and Cas wants to make more of plan. Dean goes with it. They've got all week. Cas can have a couple carefully outlined out days and Dean can have a few aimless ones. It's their vacation.

They pick four attractions and one restaurant by the time their coffee is finished. Dean decides to add another layer before they leave for the day, because it's almost eleven and it doesn't feel like it's going to get much warmer than this.

Cas follows suit and Dean is watching with just a touch of impatience as Cas pulls out long sleeve shirt after long sleeve shirt, apparently looking for a specific one, which he finds at the bottom of the suitcase. There's a weird rattle and Dean peeks over into the suitcase.

The first reaction is blankness. The second is panic.

Cas packed condoms.


 

Sam wakes up feeling relaxed and unkinked and satisfied like he hasn't felt in years. His shoulders and his thighs are sore as hell, and a slight sting when he moves makes him remember the nail marks on his back, but it feels good. After Chelsea had done him the courtesy of a run-up he'd gotten her off two more times and gotten another orgasm in for himself to before they'd passed out exhausted. He feels just a little proud of himself for the fact that she still looks well fucked. Her hair is a mess and the very slight amount of makeup she'd put on for the book club was just smudged enough that you could tell it was there.

Sam eases out of bed, careful not to wake her, and goes down to the kitchen. He puts on a pot of coffee, and after digging around for a while, scrapes up the ingredients he needs for Eggs Florentine. It's his only specialty, and he feels a little twinge of weirdness. Jessica had taught him to make this.

Jessica had also been the first person to buy him pajamas. Chelsea was the only other person who ever had, and he'd never admit it, but he'd cried when he taken the bag of clothes that Cas and Chelsea had brought him on his first day back in the world and found that she'd picked out soft, light blue, flannel, pajama pants for him. It had felt like a promise that things could be normal again.

For a little while, at least.

He makes eggs and tells himself in no uncertain terms that Chelsea and Jessica are not alike just because they're both pretty girls who don't care if a guy's not totally normal. He's not projecting or transferring or whatever other pop-psychologist gobbledy good term might get thrown out. Chelsea is his friend. And he had needed last night, and so had she. This is a booty-call, but that is completely fine when it's mutually beneficial.

"You made coffee!" her sigh cuts into his little mental beratement. "My hero."

"I'm making eggs too."

Chelsea makes a noise of appreciation that he last heard with his face buried between her legs.

"You're officially my best hook up ever," she sighs, side hugging him. He jumps a little at the feeling of her wet hair cold on his arm.

"I can finish these up if you want to hop in the shower," she offers.

"Yeah?"

"Totally. Go for it."

Sam accepts her offer. Her calm is reassuring. He'd realized rather belatedly that right before they'd wound up in bed together Chelsea had been talking about wanting a boyfriend, but this definitely had felt like just a friendly hookup. And, granted, that had never gone well in college, but Sam had still been breaking in the concept of "friends" and hadn't really been ready for an advanced maneuver like "friends with benefits".

Sam runs the shower just a little too hot and climbs in before he realizes that he didn't grab his shower stuff out of his room first. He winds up just using Chelsea's shampoo and conditioner. They smell like coconuts.

"She is a fiery little beauty though, isn't she?"

Sam grits his teeth and keeps washing his hair as though he hasn't heard the voice. He sees things all the time, but only Lucifer ever talks to him. And not in that Nick guys voice. In his real voice. The one that Sam had been able to hear when Lucifer was inside him.

That worries him. He'd overheard Cas and Dean talking about the shell of a man that Rafael had left behind, but he kept reminding himself that Jimmy Novak had been fine after a couple of burgers. Sam had hoped he would get better, and Dean had told him a million times that God had promised that he would get better, but Sam has a hard time believing that God's version of "better" is the same as his.

"And I caught the show last night. She's got some talent."

Sam can see the shadow of Lucifer through the shower curtain. He's pacing back and forth across the bathroom, which he crosses in in three steps because Sam always sees Lucifer in his own body, but dark and twisted and… physically not him somehow, even though it's his body.

"And it was sweet of her to throw you a pity fuck when you're such a train wreck. Don't you think it's a little…Oedipal though? Poor motherless little Sammy going after the woman who drives him around and takes him to the swimming pool and feeds him? I mean… Jessica was a little Oedipal too. The first girl you ever manage to nail down and she's the spitting image of all those pictures your brother used to show you of your poor sainted and roasted mother. I don't know. Fucked up, Sammy."

"Don't call me, Sammy," Sam barks before he can stop himself. He doesn't usually respond to the figment of Lucifer in his head, but sometimes it's just too much.

"Right… right. Only big brother Dean gets that privilege. You know she fooled around with him first. Maybe she's just got a thing for broken guys."

The shadow on the other side of the curtain is pacing back and forth as it pontificates. "Or maybe it didn't even happen and you've just got some sort of fucked up nurse thing, yah kinky bastard."

The hot water hits the scratches on his back at that, and the shadow is suddenly gone.

It's not usually that bad. He can usually push Lucifer away easier than that. Maybe he's just tired. Or even a little hung over.

He dries himself off quickly and goes back downstairs, where Chelsea has coffee and breakfast already set out.

He kisses her before he sits down and she smiles at him and pats his shoulder.

Chelsea drops him off at home after breakfast and he works on his cases. The singing curse in Ohio that Dean worked last year has cropped back up. Sam has been following up, trying to determine why destroying the cursed object would have seemed to have worked last time.

It should be weirder when Chelsea comes over for dinner. Sam's muscles are still sore from working into her last night and she's still got a little hickey visible until she hitches up her camisole.

They make spaghetti. Chelsea asks him what he's working on, then pulls a chair up and starts going over the books with him. It's as comfortable as it was last night. Except for one thing.

"Hey… I'm not sure how to phrase this. I don't want to hurt your feelings."

"Umm… Alright. I'll brace myself then," Chelsea replies, looking up from the book she had been going through.

"Is it okay if we don't tell Dean about… umm… last night?"

Chelsea chuckles. "Tell Dean that I got his mentally unwell baby brother drunk and then seduced him? I was going to send him a card, but, yeah, I guess I don't have to."

"Awesome. Then I'll cancel the cake with "I got your best friend smashed and took advantage of her after she'd just told me she was looking for a boyfriend," written on it in frosting."

"Works for me. And I never said boyfriend," Chelsea says. "I mean, yes. It was implied. But I actually pointed out that I don't like being a third wheel to Cas and Dean."

"I have to agree with that."

"Mhmm."

They go back to the books. Sam turns a page. Chelsea turns a page. Sam clears his throat. Chelsea takes a sip of her juice.

"What would your thoughts be on doing it again?" Sam asks.

Chelsea looks up at him, smiles, and closes her book.


 

Dean has been doing pretty well with not freaking out about the condom thing all day. He did spend most of the drive to the Painted Gorge mentally cataloguing all the times he and Cas have had sex in the last two months, and freaking out just a little bit over the fact that they didn't have sex last night, despite the soap-opera esq seduction scene thanks to stupid Chelsea and Sam.

Cas goes directly to the jacuzzi when they get back to the room. He wrenches the faucet up to full blast and he's already stripping as Dean drops their bag on to the bed.

Dean's vaguely aware that with all the royalty money floating around from being the three main characters of a New York Times bestselling series of 61 books that they could actually afford their own jacuzzi in their own house. But even though they're the ones on the paper work and the ones who have actually been living in the house for the last year and a half, Dean can picture the skeptical look on Bobby's face better than he can picture where they would actually put the jacuzzi.

"Dean?" Cas says and in that one word Dean can already hear the tone. It's not actually coy. Coy is too subtle for Cas and hearing him try it is like listening to someone trying to fake your own accent. Even if they're doing it almost right, you can tell how it isn't quite right. "Come sit in the hot water with me."

Dean shrugs and clears his throat, but pulls off his shirt and walks toward Cas. Cas reaches out for him as though he's going to catch him, slots his arms under Dean's and pulls him in for a kiss.

"Are you alright?" Cas asks him. "You've been… distracted all day."

And Dean could lie. He could pull the Sam card. He could bring up the case that he'd left with Bobby because he had a vacation planned and whether or not the word kept turning wasn't on his shoulders anymore.

But the great thing about him and Cas is that neither of them are actually good at being in a relationship, so they don't have the advanced skills like half-truths and could-have-been-trues and they wind up just telling each other the truth pretty much all of the time.

"Let's get in the water first?" Dean says. Cas nods, shuts off the tap, and hits the jets. Cas climbs in and Dean's very aware of the way that he watches Dean as he finishes undressing.

"So why were you so weird today?" Cas asks. He lounges backward in the water and sets his feet on Dean's lap. Dean grabs one and starts kneading it. Cas's head tips further backward. The picture of the jacuzzi in their house is getting clearer.

"Because I saw the condoms in your suitcase," Dean admits.

"Oh. Alright." Cas nods. "I don't understand why that upset you."

"Umm…" Dean's getting better at telling people what he needs, but it's still not comfortable and there are some things that he's not sure how to explain. "Are you… happy… with everything that we do… together?"

Most people would get indignant or desperate to make a point of just how happy they were. Cas just smiles. "Yes."

"So you didn't have anything…planned for this week? With…condoms…which you do realize we don't need right?""

"Chelsea suggested it was best to be prepared. I didn't see any harm."

Dean's starting to wish he hadn't gotten into this. He feels a little like 'the girl' as he continues, "Is that something that you want? Are you… you know… bored?"

Cas settles back further in the tub, eyes only half open. "I am… curious. I hadn't been previously interested because the little exposure that I'd had to the act of anal sex from porn made it appear unpleasantly bestial. I like how intimate we can be together, but I do understand that it's atypical and thought you might be more comfortable in an officially consummated relationship. You did say that sex only 'counts' if there is penetration. Chelsea agreed, though with the caveat that it might be… umm… 'too gay' which I didn't fully understand."

He must be either really tired, or really relaxed, Dean thinks, if he's back to speaking in full Angel. Dean switches to his other foot and Cas arches his back, just enough to be noticeable, as Dean digs his thumbs in.

Having… official sex with Cas shouldn't be too gay, but it kind of is. Rubbing his feet in a jacuzzi on their vacation and- oh yeah- the goddamn strawberries last night should be too gay, but it's… not. Dean struggles to figure out how to explain why that is- or why it even matters. He's dating and stupidly in love with Cas, who can be gender neutral in his own head as much as he damn well pleases, because in the real world he's got stubble and a penis and that makes Dean just freaking gay already. But he's still not sure he can do this.

"Umm… yeah… she's right," Dean finally says. "I'm sorry."

Cas's eyes finally open. He shifts his feet away from Dean and sits up, scooting around the edge of the jacuzzi until he's got an arm around Dean's back. "Why are you sorry?"

"Because… I just can't."

Cas kisses his cheek, and brushes his nose along Dean's cheek bone and- okay, seriously- if anything is too gay it's got to be this. Dean turns to Cas and the nuzzling turns to a kiss. Cas's hand skirts across Dean's stomach. "I don't care, Dean. I'd never be able to enjoy anything you weren't enjoying."

Dean brings a hand up to brush through Cas's hair. "Six months, man. You're really fine just… grinding like teenagers?"

"I was never a teenager, Dean," Cas whispers, tipping his head forward into the kiss again.

"Yeah, you're like a billion years old."

"And human for one and a half. I'm perfectly content with the progress of our physical relationship."

"Okay." Dean pulls back far enough out of the kiss to look Cas in the eye. "Are you sure?"

Cas's eyes shift downward for just a second and Dean's heart sinks. He doesn't want to hold out on Cas… but he just can't do this.

"Cas?"

"There is… one thing that I'd like to…umm…consider."

He's blushing Dean notes with sudden fascination. "What's that?"

Cas crosses the last little gap between them, pressing the length of his thigh suddenly against Dean's and tightening his fingers around Dean's side. Despite the tiniest touch of fear, Dean's getting hard.

Cas licks his lips, then pulls his bottom lip into his mouth. "I think… there is something…umm… enticing about oral sex?"

Dean's mouth goes a dry at the way Cas's tone tilts up into a question.

"Oh…"

"We don't have to do anything that you're not going to enjoy," Cas repeats, moving back into a kiss and then speaking so close that his lips tickle against Dean's as he talks. "And if you don't… want to… I could… I could do something you'd enjoy and reciprocation wouldn't be required."

Cas's voice drops from its usual rasp to a complete growl as he stumbles through his request. Dean's definitely hard now. Cas wants to blow him. Cas is flushed and breathy and has clearly been thinking about this for a long time and for some weird, possibly Angelic, totally inexplicable reason, is actually desperate to blow him.

"That's not fair," Dean manages.

"It's not a transaction, Dean," Cas whispers, his hand is gliding down Dean's side in a very familiar way. Dean's hips bump upward and Cas settles his hand around Dean's cock, stroking so lightly it's almost like he's not there.

Dean spreads his legs and leans back a little, his body immediately shifting to grant Cas better access even while his mind is still kicking around what's actually happening here.

"Why do you want this so badly?" Dean asks. It's bizarre. He's never known a girl to get this hot and bothered about the idea of doing this to him and it would be one thing if Cas was expecting something back, but… there's the honesty thing. If Cas says it's okay- it's okay.

"It's… um… it seems…" Cas tries. Dean pulls him in for a kiss and Cas puffs out a harsh breath. "It's so intimate... and… umm… sensual."

Dean doesn't say it out loud… but he can't stop himself from wondering just what the hell kind of porn Cas stumbled across and how they managed to edit out the choking and spit and occasionally awkward angles he remembers from the times he's had a girl go down on him, and particularly from the first couple times he'd had girls go down on him. And those girls had been less virginal than Cas by a long shot.

It makes him kind of determined to make this as good as Cas seems to thinks it'll be. He pushes Cas's hands away from his cock, and pulls Cas into a deep kiss. He slides his fingers into the hair at the nape of Cas's neck and strokes his other hand down across that shoulder blade line that still makes Cas tremble. Cas had finally admitted that it was a wing thing- that was where the joint should be, and it still felt like it shouldn't be possible to touch it.

"Stay here, okay?" Dean says.

Cas nods. Dean kiss him quickly, gets out of the tub and grabs towels for both of them. He sets Cas's on the counter, dries himself, then tucks the towel around his waist and goes out to the bedroom. He closes the drapes, flicks the dimmer switch on the fancy wall sconces down to low, arranges the pillows on the bed, and congratulates himself on starting to get good at this whole 'romance' thing.

He goes back to the bathroom, where Cas is looking just slightly anxious in the tub and hands him the other towel.

Cas is warm and dry when Dean wraps his arms around him and starts walking him carefully into the bedroom without breaking the kiss. He navigates back to the bed by feel, and stops when he feels the mattress hit the back of his knees. "You still sure about this?"

"Yes," Cas replies.

Dean lowers himself down onto the bed and leans back onto the stack of pillows he'd set up. Cas lowers himself between Dean's legs and sets one steadying hand over his thigh. Dean brushes a thumb over Cas's cheek.

Cas wraps his hand around Dean's shaft, stroking unhurriedly. Dean shifts his legs a little further apart to give Cas room. Cas starts setting kisses to the insides of Dean's thighs.

Dean's been on the receiving end of a blowjob too many times to count. In the Impala. In ratty motel rooms in at least half the states in the lower forty-eight. Up against any amount of bedroom doors. And it's not like he's ever treated any of those girls as means to an orgasm. He can list all their names and he'd recognize them if he saw them in the street. He's lived a lot of nights like they were his last, but he's not a dog.

But he's never done anything quite like this. Petting his hands over Cas's bare shoulders and tracing his fingertips up Cas's neck as Cas patiently kisses his way up Dean's legs and sets another kiss to his stomach. He looks up at Dean as he takes just the tip into his mouth, and it's not a teasing porn star look, it's not a sexy look-at-what-I'm-gonna-do-for you smirk of the grateful-girl variety. Cas is just looking at him. Making eye contact because it is something suddenly intimate and vulnerable.

Cas isn't hesitant, but he's experimental. It's slow and a clumsy and Cas's total lack of technique should be agonizing, but the look of hopeful concentration on his face is the single most brain meltingly hot thing Dean's ever seen in his life. Cas doesn't work his palm up and down the shaft to take care of what his mouth can't reach, he wraps one arm around Dean's body and holds on just below the small of Dean's back, like he's anchoring himself. When Dean realizes that Cas hasn't quite worked out the potential of his free hand, Dean just takes it in his own, letting Cas work his mouth up and down and show unbelievable promise with his tongue.

It's not perfect, but it's wonderful and Dean's tapping Cas's shoulder to warn him sooner than he thought he would be. Cas pulls off and pushes himself up to kiss Dean, finally bringing his hand into play to finish Dean off as Dean stutters Cas's name out against his lips.

Cas kisses him against the pillows while Dean comes back down and realizes that Cas is working his hips against Dean's like he can't even help it.

Dean would almost have been able to switch places with Cas after that. Held onto his thighs and brought Cas off in his mouth thinking about how hot Cas has been while he'd done it.

But despite the romantic vacation and the hand-holding hiking during the day, (even out amongst the tourists) and the six months of falling asleep holding each other… he just can't… not yet. Not quite yet.

Dean tosses the pillows back toward the headboard, guides Cas up to them and then kisses him everywhere while he works his fist over him. His cheeks, his neck, his chest, his forehead.

They barely bother to clean up before crawling underneath the covers, Dean holding Cas close to his chest and still setting the occasional kiss to the back of Cas's neck until they're asleep.

Chapter Text

Sam's been working on this map for what feels like forever. It's probably only been an hour, but everything feels longer when Lucifer's playing Nasty Mystery Science Theater in your head all the freaking time.

But Lucifer doing a running commentary is basically the only thing from his year away that's still torturing him, and that's easier to hide than trying to drink from mugs that don't exist and pinning up articles that only he can see.

So he's been… misinforming everyone. They all think he's fine. And it's just Lucifer, pretty much everything else has stopped. And pretending that he's fine is improving his quality of life so much that he barely feels bad about it. He can get left in the house for a night with out Dean freaking out. He can hunt in peace without being constantly checked in on. He even bought himself a car with his Chuck money.

He's managing. And everyone around him is lightening up a little bit, because they don't have to manage him anymore. Cas is helping Sam compile a Hunter's Journal that is a more complete reference to things that go bump in the night. The Angel's also writing his own book of angelic magic. Dean is visibly truly happy now that one of the last off things in his life has sorted itself out.

It's fine.

"Sammy?"

Sam's head snaps up from his map, annoyed at being interrupted. There's something suspicious about the pattern of attacks in Denver and the only hunter out that way is Garth. And while Garth isn't half bad at a basic kill, crush, destroy, he's not going to sit and work out a pattern if an obvious answer presents itself first. Sam had been shocked to realize how many hunters were actually bad at solving mysteries. No wonder Bobby was always calling everyone an idiot.

But his annoyance dissipates when he sees Dean's face. It's Dean's serious/embarrassed/slightly worried face and it never means anything good for Sam. The last time Dean had given Sam that look had been directly before the "December Blow Job Discussion" a couple months ago, a few weeks after Dean and Cas had gotten home from Yellowstone. That discussion, and then the way Cas had hummed dreamily to himself all through making breakfast the morning after that discussion, had been the two most uncomfortable moments of Sam's entire life, including being tortured in Hell.

It's not that Sam's not supportive. If Dean's happy then Sam is raising the flag, marching in the parade, willfully ignoring the squeaky bedframe, talking about blow jobs all the live-long day supportive.

But that hadn't made it less weird to sit- stone cold sober- while Dean freaked out about convincing himself that it was okay to want to put Cas's cock in his mouth. And not just stone cold sober- but at breakfast. When they were having pancakes. With sausages.

"Yeah?" Sam responded, swigging his coffee, trying to brace himself with a little more caffeine before whatever subject broaching that was about to occur happened to him.

Dean sits in the chair across from Sam and purses his lips at Sam's map. "Can I talk to you about something?"

"Awww. Brotherly Bonding," Lucifer simpers from his perch on the kitchen counter. He sweeps his hair back the way Sam knows he does himself. "You know, you should just see if Dean and Castiel will let you join in sometime. Your blow job advice was bizarrely astute and you've been extra tense since Chelsea got bored with trying to bang the crazy out of you."

Sam ignores him.

"I um…" Dean shakes his head and chuckles to himself. "I hate my job." He laughs as though it's embarrassing.

"Okay?" Sam says, wondering where this is going.

"I kind of thought that Spencer was what made me hate it, but then… you know."

Sam just nods. A couple days after Dean's birthday Spencer had been found dead in a tutu on the street outside a gay bar in Minneapolis. It had seemed like a pretty legitimate death until the news had featured a tall, handsome blonde man, covered in glitter, crying over the tragedy. Spencer was dead, and Gabriel's involvement made Dean feel guilty, but apparently the whole incident had raised nearly twenty grand for the Trevor project. The trickster was apparently growing now that he was the new God.

Dean shrugs. "Anyway… it wasn't some douchy coworker. I just hate this job. It's dull and repetitive and back breaking and I hate that nothing I do means anything." Dean's picking at an imaginary chip on his mug as he talks. "You remember before Dad died, how he was telling us what he'd want for us if we could stop hunting?"

Sam always remembers that with an instant burn of anger. And the last nine months have only made that anger worse. A couple years ago, when Sam had pretty much made his peace with the idea that he and Dean would die bloody saving the world he'd almost been able to forgive their father for making them what they were. But they were normal now. And Sam remembers how hard it had been to try to become normal at college, but watching Dean struggle with it is just in a whole different category- the gay thing not withstanding. And Sam's pretty sure that he'll never forgive John for that.

Not trusting his voice, Sam just nods.

"He wanted you to go back to school. Take advantage of that whole free ride at Stanford Law thing."

Sam chuckles, realizing too late how self-deprecating it sounds. He can tell by the way that Dean's eyes flick up that he noticed, but Dean lets it go.

"And he said he wanted me to have a home."

Sam pushes the anger down. Lucifer rolls his eyes.

"Dean, we've talked about this. He only wanted one thing- and the demon's dead."

"No. I know. Just… it was a long time ago that he told us that. And it was more… what he thought we wanted for ourselves. Right?"

Sam shrugs.

"I'm… I'm doing okay. Got out of the life. Settled down. It's… not anything that Dad wanted me to have… but you and Cas. Chelsea even. You're all… home for me."

"Alright…" Sam says. "Where are you going with this?"

It breaks Sam's heart that Dean sounds shyly proud of himself when he answers. "I think… I want more than that."

"You are so about to wind up watching his little half Angel brats. Good thing he doesn't know you're still crazy. Maybe Andrea Yates crazy. No bath time with Uncle Sammy."

Sam digs his thumb nail hard into his palm. Sometimes that helps. Lucifer just gives him an all too familiar bitch face.

"Okay. What are you telling me?"

"I've been… thinking about, and talking to Cas about what I want. What I want my, you know, normal life job to be."

"Lay it on me."

Dean's jaw clenches and he looks at Sam- a little wide eyed and worried. For a split second he actually looks bizarrely like Cas.

"Umm… nursing."

That doesn't process right away. "He said nursing," Lucifer shouts.

"Oh. Really?"

Dean's face goes a little too still.

"I mean, that's- that's awesome. Just… I guess I'm surprised."

Dean shrugs. "I just… I need help with the applications. And for some of the entry type test… things."

"Are you... how did you pick that?"

"Save people during the day. Hunt things at night."

Sam nods, holds his mug out to toast Dean's.

"Family business," he laughs. Lucifer makes kissy noises. Sam carefully doesn't react. Dean smiles back, a big, bright, real smile, like Sam's only ever seen from him since Cas happened.

His brother clears his throat, takes a sip of his coffee, tries to wipe the smile off his face and fails.

"Speaking of night- Saturday night. Cas's birthday thing. I would really owe you one if you stayed at Chelsea's so we could… have the house to ourselves."

Sam sighs. "Dean. You are running out of ones to owe me. You still me for not getting some damn WD-40 on your bed. You still owe me for the time I walked in on you blowing Cas on the kitchen table. And you still owe me for not taking care of the cleaning the table like I asked you to."

"We lysoled the shit out of it."

"But I asked you to burn it."

Dean utterly fails to look ashamed of himself. Sam laughs. "Yeah. I'll help you with applications. And I'll stay at Chelsea's. Do you need to take the ACT for nursing school?"

"I'm not sure. I haven't quite gotten that far. GED, remember?"

"If you want to get in, we'll get you in…to a nursing program." Sam chuckles. Dean echoes.

"I know. I know. Dad would be so pissed. I just… I… want this."

"Good," Sam says. "Then we'll all make sure you get it."

Dean smiles at him, gets up, hugs him and goes back up to his room. Sam goes back to his map. It takes him until three to realize that the pattern doesn't make sense because there are at least three shifters working as a team.

It wouldn't have taken nearly as long, but it's hard to concentrate with Lucifer sitting at the head of the table, pontificating on whether you and your brother's roles may have been reversed if Jess hadn't been roasted alive on your apartment ceiling.


 

"So… let me get this straight," Tanya says with an exasperated sigh. "You spend all of your time with these three guys, and you've never mentioned any of them? Even when Martha was in town and you two had drinks, you didn't bring up your little brigade of lost boys?"

Chelsea can see her sister's glare reflected in the mirror as she finishes brushing on her foundation. Cas's party is a little dinner thing at the fanciest restaurant in Sioux Falls. Chelsea doesn't get a lot of chances to dress up. She figures she might as well take advantage of the few opportunities that crop up.

Chelsea rolls her eyes. She usually got along with Tanya better than with her other sisters, but Tanya had just broken up with her boyfriend and showed up out of the fucking blue and now she was pissed that Chelsea was flat out refusing to invite her along to Cas's birthday thing. Besides. She had told Martha, their oldest sister about the guys.

"I told Martha, but you know what she's been like every since she and Clyde started trying to get pregnant. The second she found out that I wasn't dating Sam and I couldn't date Cas or Dean, she stopped listening and it was all ovaries this and uterine lining that."

"She's still not pregnant either," Tanya said, with a disbelieving eyebrow raise. "So if these guys are so great, and they all totally exist, and you're not in anyway hiding anything, why aren't you dating any of them and why can't I come to this 'party'?"

"Tanya, if it was a normal birthday party, I would invite you. But it's Cas's first birthday party and it's sort of a close friends intimate dinner type thing. You'd just be really left out and it would be uncomfortable."

"What the hell do you mean it's his first birthday party? I thought Cas was a grown man."

Chelsea sighs. "He is. He's turning 35. It's complicated. Strict religious upbringing. He's never had a birthday party, Dean thought this up all by himself and he'll be pissed if things don't go according to plan. Look- they're coming here to pick me up and Sam is staying here tonight. You'll meet them."

"Are they cute and single?"

"I wouldn't say cute," Chelsea replies. "I might go with gloriously, unfairly handsome. Dean and Cas are seeing each other."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"And Sam?"

"Don't rebound on my friend, Tanya."

Tanya takes a sip from her wine glass and shifts her posture in the door. "Is he one of those touchy feely types that's not into a fling or have you kind of earmarked him for yourself?"

Chelsea clears her throat uncomfortably before she can catch herself and Tanya's smirk gets just a little too triumphant.

Chelsea sighs and starts on her eye makeup. "I haven't earmarked him. Three months ago he was having a pretty tough time, Cas and Dean were on a trip for their anniversary, he was staying here, and we kind of…"

"Bumped uglies?"

"If you need to put is as crassly as possible, sure," Chelsea huffed. "But it just… that's all it was. He wasn't doing great, I wasn't doing great. Dean would have popped a gasket and we decided that it wouldn't really be appropriate to do it more than once."

Tanya looks utterly unconvinced.

"Fine. We decided that it would be lying way too much to keep going once Dean and Cas got back. It's a… look, we all grew up in this big tight group, and now Martha's in Wisconsin and I'm here, and you're in Idaho and Libby is in Sweden. These guys and their father Bobby and his wife Karen… they're my little family unit here. I shouldn't have done anything to throw a hitch in that. It's lucky that Sam's a mature enough guy to realize that."

Tanya nods and takes another sip from her glass. "But Sam is staying here again tonight. If Cas and Dean really need to get it on, Sam stays with you and not in one of the empty rooms in your huge hotel."

"I didn't expect you to be here," Chelsea counters before realizing that she's not helping her cause any.

"Did you really like Sam?"

"It's really hard not to like Sam," Chelsea admits.

"Uh huh."

"Chels?" She hears Dean call from downstairs.

"They just walk in?" Tanya asks.

"They have keys," Chelsea replies to her sister before shouting, "I'll be right down!"

She brushes her finger over her eyelid to finish blending the shadow and heads downstairs, Tanya in tow.

She laughs when she gets down the stairs. "Well, well. You boys sure clean up nice."

Dean is in a full suit. Sam and Cas are in slacks and buttons downs. Cas somehow wound up with suspenders. With his long hair he looks cute and old fashioned. Chelsea kisses him on the cheek with a quick –"Happy Birthday, Sweetheart."–before she turns back to her obviously somewhat flabbergasted older sister and does introductions. She sends Sam up to the library (which was really just the tiniest bedroom, which she'd never had another use for) where she had set up the air mattress.

Dean blushes and stammers adorably while trying to talk to Tanya as though the implications for why Sam has to sleep here are not hanging in the air.

Cas, with his hand tucked into Dean's, seems oblivious. Sam comes downstairs bagless and Chelsea ushers the boys back out, saying she just has to grab her purse and coat and she'll be right out.

"Those are your friends," Tanya starts. "So… what you just moved to South Dakota and fell in with a clutch of male models?"

"More or less."

"We're going to have a more detailed discussion about your romp with the tall one."

"Fine," Chelsea sighs. Then, enjoying it more than she should, adds, "You really want to see sexy? Go look at the car."

Tanya goes to the window and Chelsea leaves to the sound of her indignant. "Hot damn!"


 

Castiel feels like he's glowing. Dinner had been enjoyable. They had just ordered a plethora of dishes so everyone could try everything. Dean's hand had rested warmly at the small of his back the entire time they were out. Chelsea's laugh had been loud. Sam's smile had been bright. Everything had been lovely.

This part, though, is his favorite. Dean had ordered them desert that they could bring home with them, and now they are sitting together on the couch, Castiel in his pajamas and Dean in his jeans and the shirt that he sleeps in, slowly working on a piece of cake and a cup of coffee, with one of the rock and roll records playing softly in the background.

"Did you have a good birthday?" Dean asks.

"Yes." He bites his lip and continues. "You look very handsome in a suit."

Dean laughs and it makes Castiel smile.

"How about in this ratty tee shirt?"

"You're very handsome in most things."

"I'm sorry we didn't do your Birthday last year."

Castiel wishes Dean didn't feel bad about things he can't control so often. He pulls Dean a little closer, sets down his coffee and kisses him.

"Last year, there wasn't that much to celebrate. And now there is. We should find more things to celebrate."

"Yeah. Yeah. We should. And… you know… ways to celebrate.

Castiel laughs and kisses him. That means sex, which sounds like the perfect way to end a perfect night.

He let's the hand that he has at Dean's neck slip down to his chest. He can feel Dean's heart pounding like he's been running. He pulls back a little ways out the kiss, but leaves his hand over Dean's throbbing heart.

"De-"

"I love you," Dean bursts out.

Castiel pulls back a little further. Dean's eyes are wide. His throat is working. Castiel can feel his heart going even faster under his hand. He doesn't understand why Dean's afraid to be saying this to him. It's not like Castiel didn't know this. But he understands that Dean was afraid to say it and said it anyway, and he understands that firsts are important.

"You've never said that to me before," Cas says.

"I know. You said it months ago. I'm sorry."

Cas shakes his head. "I love you too." He knows Dean is aware of this, but it seems like an appropriate response. Dean grins and kisses him again, pulling Castiel's body on top of his own.

Castiel laughs. Chelsea's birthday is only a month away. They'll have to celebrate that too.

 


 

"I'm just saying," Lucifer goes on as Sam hangs up his new suit (he still hasn't filled out enough for his old ones). "You always assumed Dean was the mess. But look. Year without you to look after and he's in hopeless faggy love with a nine to five and a picket fence. He's even trying to move up in the world."

It's been a bad month, satan-wise and a particularly bad week. He's not usually this talkative. He's not usually… always around giving Sam his own dewy empathetic expression. And every time Sam's sure that it's just something he ate, or it's because he worked too long and just needs some sleep, or that it's because of something that he read, it gets worse.

"You on the other hand, have a hallucination constantly berating you. You can barely hunt. It'd be a pretty tall order for you to be at all close enough to functioning well enough that you could go back to school or nail down a girl."

Sam presses a hand to his forehead. He tires not to let Lucifer see it when he starts to get to him. And then he feels like crap about it because Lucifer is not real and he can't see anything.

He opens his bag and sticks his hand in to dig out his pajamas. It makes him feel a little like an idiot, but his pajamas make him feel better.

Everything in his bag has been moved.

Just a little. Not like it was dumped out and then stuffed back in, but nothing's quite where it should be.

"Right. And you're so good at where things are supposed to be. Lucifer's supposed to be in the cage."

He goes through his bag because he's almost sure, but he's only almost sure.

There's a soft knock at the door. "Sweetheart?"

Sam doesn't answer, just keeps going through his bag. He hears the door open behind him. "What are you doing?"

He looks up. Chelsea and her older sister are both standing in the door with a glass of wine in hand.

He can't really deal with this right now. Not after a week of the constant barrage of Lucifer bullshit, not after –yes– being happy for Dean all night, but not being able to shake the feeling that he was never going to be well enough, or normal enough to have that again.

"Come have a drink with us," Chelsea says. And Sam can hear the edge of concern in her voice and it just pushes him that little bit further.

"Someone… everything in my bag is different. It's all moved. I didn't… I didn't put it in here like this," he says, still digging.

And then Chelsea says exactly what's been secretly killing him for months. "Are you sure?"

Sam presses his fingers into his forehead again. "I… I can't tell. I just… I can't…"

His fingers hit a book and he pulls it out. It's some old grimoire that he's sure (almost sure), he didn't pack. He flips it open. "No… I know I didn't bring this. It's the Honorious grimoire and I was working on goddess of truth case cause Kilgerny still thinks it's demons."

Sam's aware that he's breaking the cardinal rule. You never mention hunting to normal people, but he's just not… quite where he needs to be in relation to reality right now.

"See… now you just look like you're tweaking," Lucifer needles. "And sisters tell each other everything. In a couple days her entire family is going to think that you're a satanic druggie." Lucifer's smirk widens to a real smile. "And if they only knew!" he crows.

Sam snaps. "Shut up! SHUT UP!" he screams at Lucifer, who just smiles back.

"Chelsea, what the-"

"Go downstairs, Tanya, it's fine."

"Che-"

"Go downstairs!"

Sam just stares at Lucifer and for the first time he really really can't tell if he's there or not.

He feels Chelsea's hand warm on his cheek. She pushes his face back toward her own and away from Lucifer's smirk.

"Hey."

"Hey," Sam responds mindlessly.

"Who are you yelling at, sweetheart?" she asks. She sounds normal, but Sam's paying attention now and he can hear the tremble in her voice and see the tears starting to well under her eyes. She strokes her thumb along his cheek. "Who are you seeing up there?"

Sam takes a deep breath and presses his face just a little tighter into her hand.

"I'm not okay."

Chapter Text

"I'm not okay."

Chelsea fights the urge to clear her throat at the way Sam closes his eyes at presses his cheek harder into her hand as he admits this.

"Alright." She moves her thumb as though she's going to stroke his cheek, but stops herself. She can't treat Sam like she treats Cas. That ship had sailed when she slept with Sam. They could be friends, and everything could be fine in the group, but there was going to be this little line between "okay" and "too far" with them that she wasn't going to have with Cas and Dean. "Who were you screaming at?"

He closes his eyes a little bit tighter. "Lucifer."

"How bad is it?"

"It's... it's been… it's been happening since I got back. And it was getting a little better, but it's been… bad this last month. It's been really awful all week."

"Alright."

Sam's eyes open and turn just a little toward the empty space that he'd just been screaming at.

"Don't listen to him, listen to me," Chelsea says. She wonders if that just makes it worse, but she's doing what she can. There isn't exactly an agreed upon method for dealing with a friend (with whom you at one point had benefits) having satanic hallucinations. "Can I get you anything?"

"I don't… I don't know."

"Okay. That's okay. Tell you what. You put on your pajamas, I'll go make you some tea."

"I should go home. I scared your sister. I have earplugs and just because it's the day printed on Cas's fake driver's license doesn't mean they can fuck in the kitchen."

"I'll deal with Tanya. Don't worry about that. That isn't your problem. I'll be right back with your tea."

Chelsea realizes what she's doing. She's going into "make it better" mode and she's learned damn well in that last two years that it doesn't work on the boys. But it works on her and Sam is scaring her. She's not sure if she's more spooked by the fact that Sam freaked out, or by the fact that he's had the Devil talking to him for months and seemed pretty normal for a Winchester anyway.

Tanya is pacing the living room with her arms wrapped around herself. They drop down to her hips when Chelsea comes down the stairs.

"What the Hell is going on, Chelsea? Is this why you've been so secretive about these "friends" of yours?"

"Not now, Tanya," Chelsea huffs, going to the kitchen.

Tanya follows her. "Yes. Now. He had all this creepy satanic stuff and a knife in his bag and now he's-"

"You went through his stuff?" Chelsea demands.

"You left me here alone to jet off with your weirdo pals. I snooped. You'd do the same thing and you know it."

"Ugh! You know, this is Billy Herzendorf all over again. I can't believe you went through Sam's things."

"Billy Herzendorf was creepy and he had a gun in his backpack."

"He had ADHD, we were twelve years old and it was a cap gun. Don't exaggerate."

"Okay- it didn't look like a cap gun- it looked real- and you went through Jeffrey Loggen's suitcase when he came home with me from college."

"And he had condoms and weed in his bag."

"And you showed Mom!"

"She walked in on me snooping. You're exaggerating again."

"I'm not exaggerating Sam screaming at someone that no one can see."

Chelsea grabs a mug from the cupboard, fills it with water and sticks it in the microwave.

Tanya glowers at her. "What the hell is Sam's deal?"

The lie suddenly arrives, fully formed in her mind as she digs out tea bags. "Fine. Sam's only been back from Afghanistan for about nine months and sometimes he sees things. He's not dangerous and he probably would have been alright if he hadn't started out by thinking that he was having an episode because you moved all of his shit."

"He has a knife!"

"This is South Dakota! They all have knives. One of my janitors uses his hunting knife to eat apples in the break room. No one cares," Chelsea counters.

"You always do this. You're always the one bringing home the birds with broken wings and the starving kittens. You can't do that with enormous, crazy, ex-soldiers, Chelsea, seriously."

"Sam is not crazy and he is harmless."

"Chelsea, psychosis induced by PTSD is still psychosis. I'm not saying that you should shun him and throw dirt on him, but maybe don't let him and his knives and his creepy demon crap stay with you in your house alone."

"Sam. Is. Harmless," Chelsea insists. "The demon stuff is just academic curiosity. He graduated from Stanford." She knows that'll get him points with Tanya, who mentioned that her now-ex-boyfriend went to Yale to anyone who would listen. "I'm not sending him home to deal with Dean at one in the morning, and I'm not leaving him alone when he's like this. If you're that freaked out I'll give you my keys and you can stay at the hotel. We'll go get breakfast in the morning and I'll tell you everything about Sam and about the boys. But I need you to grow the fuck up about this right now."

She pulls the mug out of the microwave and drops the tea bag in it.

"Chelsea?"

Chelsea spins around at the sound of Sam's voice. He looks like someone let the air out of him. He's holding his arm out. A smallish butterfly knife is lying in his palm. Chelsea glares at Tanya, who at least seems to understand that Sam is not wielding the knife, he's offering it.

Chelsea plucks the knife out of his hand carefully. She's learned enough about knives to know that butterfly knives can be dangerous if you fuck around with them and she's careful to tuck it into her pocket with out bumping the latches.

"I'm sorry that I scared you," Sam starts. "You guys… Chelsea, I know you don't get to see your sisters as much as you want. I shouldn't be here. I can stay at the hotel if that's okay, or you can bring me home. I can sleep in the Impala. I've slept in the Impala while Dean's getting lucky a million times, it'll practically be a nice welcome home for me."

"I… you'd sleep in your car?" Tanya asks.

Sam shrugs, but Chelsea can see that Tanya is crumbling in the face of Sam's puppy eyes.

"They didn't have… a home growing up. Really," Chelsea says. Sam shoots her a questioning look. Chelsea just shakes her head. Sam goes with it. "Spent a lot of time on the road, in the car."

Tanya caves, just like Chelsea knew she would. She apologizes and goes up to the guest room. Chelsea drags Sam over to the couch and he drinks his tea while she finishes her wine.

Sam tells her about having Lucifer in his body after he'd said yes. About drinking demon blood. Having powers. About the things that Lucifer says to him.

Chelsea's pretty horrified by the whole ordeal by the time Sam finally talks himself out. Chelsea walks up the stairs with him. She grabs his hand at the top of the stairs and suddenly just can't face sending him off to an air mattress with only Satan to keep him company.

"Sam?"

"Yeah?"

"Come on." She tugs him toward her room.

"Chelsea, I can't-"

"Shh… we're only going to sleep. Just… I'll worry about you all night if you're alone. Come on."

This is definitely over the "not okay" line, but it only takes another tug at his hand to convince him to come along. He's mostly asleep by the time Chelsea's changed, and she can feel his breathing settling and slowing underneath her head.

She doesn't fall asleep quite as easily. She's worried about Sam. She's going to have to deal with Tanya in the morning. It would be easiest just to tell her the truth but she's got no proof and Tanya's… more concrete than her other sisters. Libby could be convinced that Chelsea really does help a bunch of paramilitary vigilantes fight monsters. She would probably even take it on faith, if there was a promise of forthcoming proof, but Tanya's got a minor in psychology and she's going to throw out words like "psychosis" and "PTSD" a few more times.

Chelsea drifts off with her head on Sam's chest and wakes up with an idea. She brings Sam home, dropping him off when he insists that he'd rather deal with Dean on his own and that Chelsea needs to deal with Tanya.

She goes home, takes Tanya out to breakfast and decides to stick with the Afghanistan veteran story. When Tanya goes upstairs for a nap, Chelsea calls Bobby and asks him for help.


 

Dean doesn't freak out when Sam tells him that he's been lying, but the fact that Castiel is gripping Dean's shoulder so tight his knuckles go white is obviously a contributing factor to the lack of Dean freaking out.

Dean does insist that from there on out Sam always tell them if Lucifer is sitting in on conversations. Sam agrees. He's actually okay for most of the day. Finally telling people and talking about it has lightened the load a little bit. But it hasn't fixed anything. Lucifer shows up after dinner to berate him about looking like a freak in front of Chelsea's sister and Dean looks like his heart is broken when Sam tells him.

It just kills Sam that Dean takes this so hard. The look Bobby gives him at dinner that Friday kills him. The way Chelsea hugs him now, careful and close with her hand on the back of his neck kills him. Lucifer popping up at random intervals is really killing him.

But it's three weeks before there's a fight about it.

Sam gets home from the grocery store to find Dean asleep on the couch with something glossy on his chest. Sam assumes it's a look book for a school and slowly steals it out from under his brother's arms.

Dean wakes up just in time for Sam to see that it's a Cosmo and mock him appropriately.

"25 Ways to Blow His Mind With Your Mouth," Sam reads with a quirked eyebrow. "Isn't the major benefit of being gay that you already know all of this?"

Dean snatches the magazine back, blushing till he's purple before spitting out, "I'm not gay… exactly. And can't a man read in peace? And why are you even… grabbing a magazine that Chelsea left here on accident?"

Sam decides to let the unfair accusation that Chelsea reads Cosmo go. "I thought you were looking at schools. Remember? You're gonna be a nurse. Cas picked you up all those look books for South Dakota State."

Dean nods and tucks the magazine down next to him in the couch cushions. "Right. Yeah. I know."

Sam hears the tone. "Please tell me you're not talking yourself out of this. Cas told me how much you guys have talked about you wanting a meaningful job."

"I'm not talking myself out of anything." Dean gets up and heads toward the kitchen. He starts putting away groceries. Sam follows him. "I just…right now isn't a very good time."

"Why not?" Sam asks, then realizes why not. "Dean- this isn't because of me is it?"

Dean shrugs.

"Dean."

"Look, I just… right now, we need you to be okay. I'm not like you, I can't do school on top of something else. We're working on you right now. Cas is trying to track down some magic flower thing that can help people who used to be vessels. We've dropped a couple lines with Gabriel. The dickwad isn't answering, but we've dropped lines. Bobby's got something in the works. I can go to school later, this is mor-"

"Dean, you can't put your life on hold for me!" Sam yells. "It can't always be like this!"

"You're my brother. Your marbles are scrambled, that's what's important right now!"

That explodes outward back into basically every fight the two of them have ever had. Dean yells at Sam for acting like nothing's wrong. Sam yells at Dean for refusing to take responsibility for his own life. Lucifer shows up to point out, yet again, just how much Sam holds Dean back.

The yelling inside and outside of his head turns out to be way too much. Sam gets in his car and just drives. He winds up at Chelsea's. They open a bottle of wine and order a pizza and she lets him bitch about Dean until he runs out of bitch.

"I kind of get it," She says, when he's finally quiet. "I'm the baby in my family too. I didn't get raised by my sisters, but there are three of them, and I'm always the one who has to be checked in on or watched out for. Look at what happened with Tanya."

"I had a psychotic episode in your house in the middle of the night because I was missing a grimoire," Sam says. "I think she was justified to worry about you."

"And Dean's not justified to worry about you?"

"It's just a hallucination." Sam shrugs. "It's not a wendigo. It's not a ghost. It's not a demon. It's just something wrong in my brain. We used to go up against things that could kill us every day. I don't need to be babysat over this. And Dean… Dean gives up way too much shit for me. And he always has. I'm not four years old anymore. He doesn't have to make me the last can of spaghetti-os, pour salt across all the windows, and sit up in the living room with a shotgun. I'm a grown ass man and I can take care of my self while Dean sorts his shit out and gets on with his life. And… He just… he can't use this as an excuse. Cas can go ahead and track down magic flowers, and we can wait and see if Gabriel ever bothers to come around with a suggestion, but this whole Coo-Coo for Cocapuffs thing?" Sam clears his throat. He hasn't admitted to anyone that he thinks this is true. "It might not be from being a vessel. It might not be from being in Hell or some hangover effect from being put in some holding pattern of nonexistence for however long it was. I've been at war against monsters since I was six months old, I had a disaster of a childhood, and I've taken loss after loss for years. Maybe I just snapped. I wouldn't be the first Hunter who has."

Chelsea wraps his hand in hers. "Sam, I think you might be right, but I don't think you have to be so resigned about that."

"Chelsea, there's nothing that I could do about it. If a shrink asks you to tell them about your father and you talk about the werewolf hunt he once took you on, they lock you up and throw away the key. Dean and I once pulled a scam to get into an institution. We just showed up and described our last two months. We were in carpet slippers in half an hour. When what's happening to me happened to Marvin, they pumped him full of drugs and put him in a blue paper night gown and he called it a vacation. I can't do that to Dean."

"I don't think you'd have to. Bobby and I have been working on something. We don't think you're crazy… but you've been through a lot and… there's no shame in admitting that you may need some professional help."

"Which I can't exactly-"

"You're not the only Hunter's kid that went to college, sweetheart. And you and Dean have saved a thousand people from a thousand things. And so have a lot of other hunters. Those people had day jobs. Bobby and I found someone. Her name's Joanne Claybourne. She's a psychiatrist in California and a couple years ago she moved into an office with a Tulpa in it."

"A tulpa in a shrink's office?"

"Right? Unholy disaster. Anyway- she'll believe you. She said she'll do skype sessions for you at no charge, she just needs you to pick someone to vouch for you that what you're telling her about the supernatural stuff is true, which Bobby says he'll do to keep Dean out of your hair. If you're uncomfortable with Bobby doing it, you know Cas'll do it."

Sam's flabbergasted at this. It's a normal person's solution, tailored so that it can be his solution too.

Chelsea's looking askance at him. "I'm sure you're not into talking about your feelings, but please at least try this."

"A shrink…" Sam says, thinking back to his year in a faculty ordered counseling in college. He'd never even admitted to Dean that he'd been in counseling, let alone that it had actually helped.

"She did say that she won't do anything illegal to get you medication, but-"

"I don't want to get doped up," Sam says immediately.

"I know!" Chelsea says immediately, holding her hands out placatingly. "And I'm sure she won't push because she can't prescribe it and she'll know that we have to go black market to get it. It's one plan," Chelsea says. "Worst case scenario, maybe she can help you deal with the hallucinations while we go mystical to heal them."

She's trying so hard to help that Sam can't even stop himself. He leans forward and folds her into a hug. His hands wind up around her waist. Her arms creep up around his shoulders. Her cheek tucks against his.

She smells like talc and coconut and roses. She's soft around the edges. The way she yields under his hands makes him think about the way she spills out of her swimsuit, just a little bit. Just enough to make her seem… welcoming.

They hit the point where the hug has obviously gone on too long and it doesn't end. Chelsea's hands stroke down his back.

"Umm… thank you."

"Bobby did all the leg work. I just… I just had the idea."

The hug just keeps going. Chelsea's hands are still moving across his back. His hands start moving at her waist.

"We should…" Sam starts.

"Did we really… last time… did we really stop… things just because we didn't want to tell Dean?" Chelsea asks. Sam looks at her empty wineglass. It's her second. He had three.

"No," he replies. "We had reasons. You're… one of the gang. And we agreed it was just a… it was a friend in need sort of thing." He's starting to cross the line between stroking and groping. Chelsea's not stopping him.

"Yeah. Right. I remember… and I thought you… I thought you didn't want to."

"Why did you think that?"

"You didn't ask me again," Chelsea says.

"Oh," Sam says. "Right."

"And now… you're having a rough time," Chelsea says. She moves her head so that she's laying it on his shoulder.

"What about you?"

"Me?"

"Yeah. No one ever asks you if you're having a rough time. You just run around… helping us."

Chelsea laughs. Her breath is warm against Sam's throat.

"Umm… I don't have hallucinations. I'm not still slowly wading through my deeply repressed same-sex attraction and daddy issues. I've been human this whole time. I guess I'm mostly good."

Something he hasn't thought about at all recently occurs to Sam as he feels the way his hands fit into Chelsea's waist.

"You stopped looking for a boyfriend."

Chelsea stiffens in his grip. "It's just been a little crazy lately."

"You stopped looking after we slept together."

Chelsea doesn't answer, but she also doesn't let go.

Sam pulls back. Chelsea's dark eyes follow him as he moves away, and drop down to his lips. He leans forward and kisses her.

Chapter Text

Cas moans and shudders as Dean moves his mouth down Cas's shaft. He flattens his tongue against the soft skin. Cas's fingers tighten in his hair. Dean's let it grow out a little since he started school. Not like Sam or Cas's ridiculously long hair, but long enough to grip. Cas likes it.

And Dean won't be making an announcement about it or anything, but now that he's chilled out a little more about the gay thing- he loves this. He likes the weight on his tongue. He likes the way Cas pets his hair and cheeks while he does this. He likes the sounds Cas makes and the way Cas's thighs shake under his hands when Cas is fighting off an orgasm so he can be in Dean's mouth just a little longer. He loves the greedy, desperate way Cas kisses him when Dean finishes him off with his hand, and the way that Cas lies completely still except for his heaving chest and his fingers in Dean's hair while Cas comes down. He loves the way Cas laughs before he rolls Dean onto his back for another round. And he loves that there's no chase or come-on or seduction. He wakes up with Cas next him and wants to feel like this, so he can.

"Your turn?" Cas sighs, already moving to roll Dean onto his back.

Dean laughs but makes a small noise that basically means, "I don't want to say no, but I have to."

Cas groans in recognition. "But Sam's gone this morning. So you don't have to be quiet."

Dean's on his back. Cas starts kissing down his torso.

"And I love it when you don't have to be quiet."

It's Dean's turn to groan. "That's exactly what you said on Monday and I was twenty minutes late to class."

"You did very well on your exams. You can be a little late."

It sounds like such a convincing argument with Cas's breath warm against his navel, but Dean musters up some self-control. He sits up and pulls Cas's face up to his. "No. I've got to go."

"You should at least shower first," Cas wheedles. "You're sweaty."

"I do have to shower. Alone. That's how you got me last week."

Cas has the decency to look as though he regrets what a bad influence he's become. "Fine." He rolls back to his side of the bed. "I can wait until you get home."

"I remember when you were this incredibly innocent little thing who was horrified to be in a brothel on the night he expected to die."

Cas smiles brightly. "I'd expect you don't remember that very fondly."

"Sometimes I do." Dean smiles at him

Cas kicks him gently. "Go shower. You'll be late. Besides. We'll have the house to ourselves all weekend."

"Right. Thanksgiving. Sam's big trip."

Cas closes his eyes and doesn't respond. Dean takes the opportunity to escape the temptation of naked Cas and heads for the shower, scrubbing up quickly while grousing mentally.

Sam's going to Chelsea's for Thanksgiving and it shouldn't be weird, but it sort of is. Sam's meeting her family. Because after months of lying and sneaking around and a few more months of being crazy and just recently a couple months of dating like normal people, they're officially serious. Really serious. Meeting her entire family so that they can announce that they're moving in together serious.

And Dean's happy for them. Mostly. Chelsea's a great girl. Sam's his brother. They seem happy. Dean of all people gets that you can really love someone without quite being able to shout it from the rooftops or anything. He's just… wary.

Part of it is pure negativity. It's hard for him to believe that the other shoe isn't still waiting to drop. Sam's been perfectly normal for almost six months and Chelsea and Bobby's "Hunter Therapy" plan had been doing him a lot of good even before Gabriel had come through with some sort of "vessel-detox" tea, and the excuse that "Look, I'm God now. The prayer voicemail fills up. Take your fucking tea and quit your bellyaching."

It's just still a little weird that it started when Sam was so broken. Even though they all met Chelsea when they were broken. But this is different. Sam is as important to Dean as Cas is… and then Bobby is a close second and then Chelsea is like a second and a half. For all Sam and Chelsea's soft eyed glancing at each other, and the fact that they've already been together for a year, it's scary to Dean that if something happened between them, he'd lose Chelsea.

And it still stings that Sam lied to him about this. Like he thought Dean would flip out or not understand. Dean's willing to get over Sam and Chelsea never owning up to the little fling they had when he and Cas were on their anniversary vacation. Mistakes happen. It had been a strange time for everyone. They hadn't let anything get awkward afterward. But they'd been together for almost four months by the time Cas had walked in on Chelsea and Sam doing it in the panic room with Sam strapped to the cot.

And then they'd asked Cas not to tell Dean yet. Cas had refused, but they'd still only told Dean first because Cas had given them a twelve hour window to own up before Cas told Dean himself.

Also- Dean wasn't quite ready to let this go- one blow job on the kitchen and the world's going to end, but porno crap in a creepy basement is A-okay?

They do seem happy. Really happy. Happy like Dean is with Cas. And he wants his brother to have that. And he wants Chelsea to have that. And if things are good between them… Chelsea's already family. And if Sam's going to move in with a girl at least it's a girl who lives and works in town.

It's not like when Sam ran off to California. They'll still see each other all the time. Sam had started talking about getting his own place a couple days after Gabriel's stupid heaven tea had started working. Dean knows Sam feels like he's squatting in Dean and Cas's house.

But Dean's not ready for Sam to move out. It changes too much. And as petty as it sounds he's harboring a little resentment about Thanksgiving in particular. About Sam running off to do Thanksgiving with Chelsea's big normal family in Minnesota (and the time that he ran off with some other girl's family for Thanksgiving being some Heaven-worthy memory) when Bobby and Karen are hosting a big bizarre Hunter's catch-all Thanksgiving for Dean, Cas, Ellen, Jo and any Hunters within driving distance.

Any Hunter except Sam… who's got to go meet his soon-to-be-live-in-girlfriend's parents.

Dean dries off and is very careful to get dressed before he grabs his backpack and kisses Cas goodbye.


 

"Just be yourself," Chelsea says, leaning over to kiss him as she pulls her key tab thing out of the ignition.

"Right. I can be myself. No problem," Sam puts on a voice, pretending to be her father. "So, Sam what do you do?" Then in a voice that sounds more like Dean's impression of him than his real voice replies "Oh, I live on a percentage of Carver Edlund's royalties because I'm the real Sam Winchester and I'm working on a lore database that can be accessed from anywhere in the country and searched by keyword. You have a lovely home."

Chelsea pats his cheek with mock condescension. "It'll be fine. We have our stories worked out."

"And the only person who ever sounds sane in any of our made up backstories is Dean. And a long grift- like you know, eventually marrying you and settling down with you and doing this every year- gets you caught." Sam realizes what he just said. They still haven't used the m-word like it's a thing they think about… but he has been, especially since he started boxing his things up.

It's not like he expected Chelsea to freak out, but he's still surprised that her only reaction to the newsflash that he thinks about marrying her is a soft smile. "I think we could tell them the truth eventually. Just not… you know- the very first time they meet you."

"Right. I'll just have to find a ghost to hunt in front of them. I'm only nearly two years out of practice. It'll be fine."

"We could call the Prophet of the Lord and get him to back you up?"

"Call it plan b?"

"Libby might buy it. She reads the books. She called me to freak out about the Trickster turning out to be Gabriel at the end of the new one and she can't believe that I once beat Carver Edlund at poker. If she only knew that Gabriel was at that game too."

"You've got to stop reading those books," Sam laughs. "Remember how upset Cas got about his drugged up, orgy hosting future self?"

"I didn't realize that Dean had never told him about that. Come on. You're just stalling because you're nervous."

"Yeah. Nervous like you wouldn't believe," Sam answers.

Chelsea laughs. "You'll be fine. Little bit of tryptophan, little bit of wine. You'll just charm the crap out of everyone. It'll be great."


 

The Impala smells like pumpkin pie for the whole drive to Mitchel. Warm and sweet and spiced. Sam had found the recipe for him online. Castiel curls comfortably against the window with his stocking feet on the seat. It's snowing softly, thick flakes whip past the window and halo around the street lights. Dean's playing AC/DC quietly and staring out at the road with his jaw set just a little too hard.

"You seem agitated," Castiel says.

"I'm not agitated," Dean replies. "I'm just tired and I've got a paper to write this weekend."

"Right," Cas says, turning back to the window to watch the snow. "So, this isn't about Sam moving in with Chelsea. You're completely fine with that."

"Yeah," Dean agrees.

Castiel doesn't believe him. "You are not in anyway upset that Sam's moving out of our house and not coming to Bobby and Karen's Thanksgiving."

"Yep."

"You're not still annoyed that they kept their relationship a secret?"

"Pretty much. That pie sure smells good."

"Dean."

Dean blows a breath out between his lips, making an odd noise. "It's not like I'm mad at them for dating. My brother and our best friend happy together- that's a good thing. I get that. And I suppose that I can understand why they lied to us for a couple months. Sam was crazy. They didn't want to make it awkward… whatever. I'm just… I don't see why Sam always has to be so secretive and why Chelsea eggs him on."

"I don't understand how Sam and Chelsea telling us that they are moving in together is secretive."

"Because they decided to do this like a month ago and just told us now because of the whole meet-the-parents deal."

"Sometimes we make decisions as a couple and don't tell Sam right away. We talked about you going to school for weeks before you told Sam what you intended. "

"That's different," Dean insists.

"Why?" Castiel asks.

"Because I'm the oldest."

Castiel settles back more comfortably against the door. "That argument carries very little weight when you're both grown men. Also, if age is how we'll be deciding things, I still want a cat. And I should get one. Because I'm always going to be the oldest."

He was hoping that would make Dean smile. Or get him to agree to get a cat.

But Dean just turns the tape up a little bit as they reach the exit for Mitchell. Cas decides to let it go for now. It takes a few tries to get Dean to admit what's really bothering him when it's about Sam. He'll talk to Castiel about it eventually.


 

All things considered, dinner could be going worse. They dive head first into the disturbed but treated and recovered Afghanistan veteran story, which is fine, because Chelsea had talked to her mother about that before they'd even admitted to Cas and Dean that they were together. They have to bring up Supernatural and the inspiration of John Winchester way sooner than they hoped, but Libby and her boyfriend Sven shuffle that off the radar by getting really excited about their favorite book character being at the table. Chelsea adores Sven. He's a skinny little Swedish thing who treats Libby like she's a Goddess and doesn't have a macho bone in his body.

They are both delighted when Sam tells them that Castiel is also based on someone he knows, he's actually his brother's boyfriend. Chelsea does notice the slightly uncomfortable expression that Martha's husband Clyde pulls at that.

The conversation slips from Sam to Martha, Clyde, and new Baby Georgie. Chelsea finds herself with a new worry that she'd never thought of: Chuck's still cranking out books. There's no real word on whether or not he's back to prophesying, and Chelsea can't imagine that Dean and Sam's lives as they are now would be all that interesting to people who were all gung-ho about monsters and ghosts and the apocalypse… but she suddenly can't shake the image of Libby and Sven sitting somewhere, reading about this dinner and wondering how in the hell some writer knows so much about them.

It really makes the reality that, for this whole thing with Sam to work, they'll need to tell her family the truth at some point, hit home that much harder.

Maybe she should start praying to Gabriel for some proof now.


 

"So she's coming after me, big ratted up hair, one of those huge civil war hoop skirt dresses, and she's screaming, nails out like claws, and I hit the coffin with the shovel, wrench that bastard open, drop the salt, drop the gasoline, jump out of the grave, drop the match and just go- 'you've been Garth'd, bitch'."

Garth mimes sliding on a pair of sunglass, sits back in his chair and grabs his wine glass. Everyone around the table laughs. Jo- red cheeked, applauds lightly.

"Famous ghosts." Rufus shakes his head. "You want famous ghosts? I'll see your Sarah Fox and I'll raise you Jim Bowie."

"No!" Jo cuts in. "No, I got this. Sam and Dean and I once hunted H.H. Holmes."

Ellen covers her eyes. Garth whistles. Rufus raises his glass to her.

"Tell 'em, Dean," Jo insists.

Dean just shrugs. "We once hunted H.H. Holmes."

Jo rolls her eyes at him as though he's just being annoyingly modest.

Famous ghosts moves to biggest kill, then to most gruesome injury. Dean isn't really contributing to the conversation, but he's listening and realizing that no matter how far the subject wanders, he can trump everyone's story, every time. He just doesn't have the desire to do it. Partly because he doesn't really feel like discussing the time he and Sam shot Lucifer in the face and Lucifer barely noticed, or the time Hell hounds ripped his intestines out. But also because everyone here knows all of his stories. Apparently he's a Hunter legend and there is still the constantly annoying fact that anyone who doesn't know all of the stories can pick them all up in paperback.

Cas doesn't contribute. He just listens with this fond little smile on his face and his hand tucked into Dean's.

It's so freaking normal. Yeah, no one cares about the football game, and yeah, they're talking about kill counts and whose dead and if anyone's been able to track down the magic amulet of what in the hell… but Dean's warm and full and watching Cas's head droop over and over as he tries not to fall asleep. Dean's worrying about schoolwork and getting Debbie, a foxy, but-not-for-him blonde twenty-two year old to not hit on him. Not about death, demons and the apocalypse.

And he is thankful.


 

Thanksgiving has been survived, Chelsea thinks to herself. Sam's mental health issues, abusive father, and mysterious couple years off have been addressed. Her parents don't seem thrilled, but her father also hadn't started to do that weird try-to-catch-him-out thing he sometimes tries when he really hates someone one of his daughter's brings home. The fact that Sam lived with Dean and Cas got him some points too. She's talked about them more than she realized in the last couple of years and her parents remember them as the guys that she stayed with for a couple weeks when some creepy guy was stalking her. They only have to survive two more days and then they just have to deal with how badly Dean doesn't want Sam to leave.

The guys had all gone out for a walk. Her mom had gone downstairs for a nap and left the sisters and Baby Georgie to get desert ready.

"So…" Chelsea starts, knowing that she might be getting herself in over her head. "What do we think of Sam?"

Tanya's face darkens. Martha busies herself with the baby. Chelsea's stomach, already upset from nervously overeating so much rich food at dinner, roils. Libby is the only one to smile.

"I think he's great. And I think you two are really in love. And you've been in love for a while too. You've got a little bit of happy relationship pudge creeping in."

Chelsea's used to weird shit like this from Libby. "I'm choosing to hear that as a positive thing."

"It is positive. You're cute and round and the most ridiculously gorgeous guy I've ever seen in real life loves you."

Chelsea laughs, Libby laughs back, but Tanya expression doesn't lighten.

"What, Tanya?" Chelsea asks.

"Chels…" Martha cuts in. "We all know that you didn't bring him here on a whim. There's something big you want to tell us and you wanted us to meet him before you made a final decision. And I'm… sure he's a really lovely young man… underneath it all... but…"

"But?" Chelsea prompts.

"But there's a lot of 'underneath it all'," Tanya supplies.

Baby Georgie makes a happy gurgling noise in Martha's arms as Tanya continues.

"I'm just saying… dating him, hanging out with him… okay. But you sound… serious, and have you really thought about marriage and kids with someone who grew up like he did? With someone who is fine now… but isn't exactly guaranteed to stay okay?"

"You are so unforgiving Tanya," Libby huffs. "Doesn't the guy get any credit for the things he's done? He grew up the way he did and went to Stanford on a free ride. He came back from Afghanistan with some mental injuries and recovered and is trying to help other people. I like him. And I like the way he looks at you," Libby declares, patting Chelsea's shoulder. "He looks smitten."

"Martha's right. You had a big reason to bring him home for a holiday." Tanya's mouth drops open. "Georgie's not getting a little cousin is he?"

"No!" Chelsea says immediately. "No. That's not it."

"So what is it?" Libby asks.

"We're moving in together. And just because you're all going to be so skeptical of that isn't going to stop us… but I was hoping for a little more support."

Libby hugs her. Tanya purses her lips in a way that Chelsea recognizes. Tanya thinks this a phase that will run it's course in a few more months. Martha just seems too tired to pay much attention to anything.

Chelsea tells herself that it will all be easier after they've known Sam for a while. He'll make more sense when they know the truth about him. When they know him like she does.

But the promise of things working in the distant future doesn't make the present less awkward, and when Martha yawns for the thousandth time since dinner Chelsea seizes the opportunity to kill the awkward. She scoops up Baby Georgie and shoos Martha off for a nap. The baby distracts everyone from talking about Sam until Sam comes back from the walk with the guys. Everyone couples back up.

Clyde sees Chelsea with the baby, yawns, gives her a thumbs up and heads directly to the spare room, presumably for his own nap. Libby and Sven curl up in a chair together and whisper to each other in Swedish because they're nauseatingly cute like that. Sam comes into the kitchen like he's retreating and they compare notes.

"Sven likes me," Sam concludes.

"Not to burst your bubble or anything sweetie, but Sven likes everyone."

"I kind of figured."

"You want to hold Georgie?"

Sam looks hesitant, like he really doesn't want to, but feels like he can't refuse. He holds his hands out anyway. Chelsea settles Georgie into Sam's arms.

The baby looks at him wide eyed for several moments before it's clear that it's terror more than any other potential baby-emotion.

Sam looks at Chelsea nervously and chuckles, "Kids are really more Dean's thing," seconds before the wail starts. Chelsea takes him back and it only takes a little bit of swinging and patting before Georgie's calmed back down.

"Okay. Well. Baby doesn't like me either. That makes it just Sven." Sam makes a check mark in the air and heads to the fridge.

Cheslea looks down at Baby Georgie. He sniffles and turns his head toward her, which is cute until she realizes that he's trying to get a meal off her and that she now has a pressing tits and drool situation going on. She sighs in resignation.

She looks up at Sam grabbing a beer from the fridge, then back down to the baby, still adamantly attempting to get something that isn't there.

And that's when the thought occurs to her.


 

Cas finally succumbed to turkey fatigue a couple hours ago and is lying down. Karen and Bobby are sitting together on the couch, talking to Ellen. Rufus is showing Garth a press he tweaked to get a better silver bullet.

Dean wanders back to the kitchen for another piece of pie. Jo, a little more sober than she'd been a few hours ago, is at the kitchen table with her computer.

"Whatchya working on?" Dean asks.

Jo shrugs. "Research."

"Yeah? What's the MO?"

"No. Not a case. Homework. Grad schools. Normal stuff."

"On Hunter's Thanksgiving?

Jo laughs. "Yeah. I guess."

"You want some pie? Cas made it."

"Sure."

Dean dishes up a plate for both of them and settles across the table from Jo. "So, grad school? Really?"

Jo shrugs. "I don't know. I like college this time around. Being the freak with the knife collection seems a lot less dire when no one knows you're the freak who got killed by Hellhounds and magicked back to the land of the living by an Archangel playing god."

"So Gabriel really did magic you and Ellen back, huh?"

"If he didn't he's still taking credit for it. He dropped by my dorm in his new body for no reason. My roommate was insanely jealous for weeks. I had to tell her that he was a gay cousin to get her to calm the fuck down."

Dean chuckles. "In my experience that doesn't do much to deter those girls."

Jo snorts and covers her mouth to save herself from spraying pie. "So how about you? How's higher education treating you?"

Dean's about to shrug and give her the same answer he gave over dinner- simple. Non-committal. Non-detailed. Because Rufus and Garth and Ellen hadn't really wanted to know. They had conquests to compare and news from the front lines to deliver. The little that he had said about his whole nursing thing had made him feel like an interior decorator in an old west saloon.

But Jo's different. She's in school too, and graduating this year.

"It's really good." Dean tells her about finally being in classes where he doesn't feel stupid. About how he's got enough field experience that he usually catches on first. He also admits that he gets a little bit of a strange thrill from being utterly irresistible.

"Irresistible?" Jo challenges.

Dean grins and ticks his points off on his fingers. "I'm older. I'm experienced. I'm the only guy in all of my classes and on top of everything- I'm taken."

He jumps at the feeling of a hand settling over his shoulder. Jo snorts again and he looks up into Cas's amused blue eyes.

"You're also very handsome," Cas says, almost teasing. He kisses Dean's temple, yawns and shuffles toward the pie.

"You forgot modest," Jo taunts the both of them. Dean shrugs. "Cas, you don't get jealous of these little girls fawning over your guy?"

Cas returns to the table with a slice of pie. "No. Dean loves me. Why would I be jealous?"

It's the kind of thing Cas says, but it still brings Dean up a little short. He squeezes Cas's knee under the table. Jo gives them a glowing smile.

"I don't want to sound like a big dork or anything, but it's nice to see you like this, Dean. Happy and successful in your, ya know, post-hunting life. Gives me some hope for mine."

Post-hunting life echoes weirdly in Dean's mind and he's brought up short for the second time in two minutes.


 

Chelsea and Cas basically force Sam and Dean to go out on the town for a night of brother bonding and Dean's grateful, because it's exactly what he wants, and now it doesn't have to be weird to ask for it. He and Sam end up going out to some greasy diner on the interstate, just like old times.

But not really. Dean realizes halfway through his meal just how much he's going to have to pay for it later in heartburn. Without a case to talk about like they normally would have, even someone else's case that they're just running the legwork on they end up just talking about Cas and Chelsea. Sam laughs about how much he does not fit in with her family at all, and how he's a little worried about her solid belief that one day they'll be able to come clean about who he really is. And how he's happy, but nervous about the fact that her solid belief that there will be a one day makes him believe it too. Dean admits that he's been delaying getting a cat with Cas because he thinks Cas would probably prefer a dog, and Dean hasn't quite decided if he's over the Hellhound thing enough to have a dog in his house.

"You're not scared of the commitment at all then, huh?" Sam asks.

"Cas and I have been together for almost two years already. This would be a weird time to freak out about it." Dean replies. They're walking back out to the car, but it's late and the large parking lot is absolutely deserted.

"You talk about him like you're expecting to be tottering around with him when you're both eighty."

Dean shrugs. "I umm… I guess that's cause I am. If you don't feel that way about Chelsea, we might have to kick your ass."

Sam and Dean drop into the car. Sam yawns.

"I do feel like that about her, but it's different. We're still… I feel right now like I want to be with her until I'm old and senile and drooling, but I just don't have your solid- yeah, this is how it's going to be. I don't know, man. That could just be that it's different for us. You've known Cas for like triple the time I've known her and he pulled you out of hell and you had this whole heavy bonding year just the two of you."

"Maybe… moving in with her… you'll have something like that. With less anguish and whiskey."

"Yeah," Sam laughs. "Yeah maybe."

"Listen, Sammy, I've been thinking."

"About?"

"I haven't been as supportive as I should have been about you and Chelsea."

"I wasn't as honest as I should have been," Sam counters.

"It's not like I admitted to Castiel the second you got back."

"That's different," Sam allows.

Dean pulls the car keys out of his pocket, and just squeezes his hand around them. "I guess you moving out just… makes it all official, you know? We're not… we're not gonna be how we were. You and me and the car and the monsters. It's gonna be me and Cas and my job. And you and Chelsea and your jobs."

"And that's so terrible? Having relationships and not having to worry that we could die on any given night?"

"It's not that it's terrible it's just… you and me. We've been each other's go-tos all these years. I spent… the year you were missing I spent everything I had looking for you. I can't believe Cas put up with how much of a maniac I was about it. And now… you have Chelsea. I have Cas. Other people have the monsters. You and Chelsea might get married and have babies. It's a brave new world out there. I guess it's just… it's a little scary to have the world move under my feet. Again."

"At least you've still got the car," Sam teases him. "And trust me, babies are a long, long way off. Look, I get what you mean. But… this is good. This is more than we ever could have hoped for all those years. We got out of Hunting. We're grown men, we need to be able to… operate outside of each other's bubbles a little more. And it's not like I'm taking off across the country again. I'm not dropping by in a stolen car to give you a heads up that I'm going to college and not coming back."

"Right. I know. You'll come over to play catch with Cas's dog and we'll all still research together and we'll pick some damn holiday that we do over at Bobby's."

"Yeah, yeah. I know."

"Okay. This is going to be good. Post-hunting lives." Dean sighs. He slots the key into the ignition and they go back to his and Cas's house. "We're ready for this."


 

Sam goes back to his place with Chelsea when he and Dean get home. Dean goes upstairs, pops three tums and goes back to Cas in the kitchen. They have a weird rash of murders in Louisiana to look into, but Dean's got a gut feeling that it's just a psycho of the non Supernatural variety and there's nothing specific to research yet.

Cas is standing in the kitchen, just staring out the window when Dean comes back. He pulls his Angel into his arms. Cas wraps his arms loosely around Dean's waist and they just stand like that for a little while in the kitchen. There's no other noise in the house. No creaking floorboards upstairs, no books being shuffled around in the living room.

"House to ourselves," Dean says.

"Chelsea's pregnant. I'm not supposed to tell you," Cas replies.

Chapter Text

Sam's a good liar. Hell. He's a professional liar. And that's the only reason he gets through Chelsea's big announcement on their third week of living together sounding supportive and dignified.

Well, that and the fact that Chelsea sounds at least half as scared as he is. Had she come at him with pure joy and a list of names, it's possible he would have panicked and been in Cuernavaca by morning, but Chelsea is on the same page that he is as she goes through everything. How careful they've been. How many types of birth control they were using. Holding Baby Georgie and realizing that she'd been eating weird, had put on some weight and had actually been five days late already. All three of the pregnancy tests she took, including the one in the CVS bathroom when she'd just "run an errand" later on Thanksgiving night. The whole discussion she had had with the doctor, and how even her gyno had agreed that this whole thing was statistically unlikely.

Their conversation ends with Sam feeling a little bit like he's been hit by a bus and the two of them wrapped in a desperately clingy hug- like they're the only people on a plane full of skydivers who changed their minds. They took the class, they know they have the parachutes, but they're not ready to jump.

They shuffle around the living room tensely for another hour before going up to bed, where they lie together staring up at the ceiling with their hands clasped tightly between them.

And for all of Sam's determination to be less codependent and have a healthier relationship with Dean, and despite his promise to himself that he was going to pull back a little and make sure that they stayed "Sam and Chelsea" and "Cas and Dean" instead of merging back into "Sam and Dean and Chelsea and Cas", right now he is terrified and he needs his brother.


 

Castiel is a little out of his depth. He's adjusted and learned and acclimatized. He's been human for a little more than three years and when he puts forth the effort, he can pass as perfectly normal. Sometimes he enjoys surprising Dean with how normal he could be if he tried. They had been invited to a party thrown by one of Dean's fellow students, and Dean had been amused (and, Castiel suspected, jealous) of how charming the other nursing students had found Castiel.

But he's not actually human. His behaviors are all learned. He doesn't have human instincts. So the introduction of an oncoming baby human into his schema is confusing and overwhelming.

Particularly because he doesn't understand anyone's reaction. Chelsea had seemed afraid and regretful when she'd first told him. She had hugged him as though she was sad. She seemed better now, not relieved at all, but a little bit happier.

When Castiel had seen Sam the morning after Chelsea had told him he had been wearing the type of expression that Castiel would have expected from someone who had just been shot, and a few weeks later, he still seems nervous and distracted. He had come over to work phones yesterday afternoon and "zoned out". The CIA line had rung for a very long time before Sam noticed.

Castiel supposes that this is mostly because this came as a shock and he does know that an unexpected pregnancy makes women upset. When Gabriel had been sent to deliver the news unto Mary he had come back rather shocked at the beating that he'd taken from the young virgin.

While Cas can't wholly empathize with Sam and Chelsea's reactions because procreation was never an option for him, and is even less of an option now that he is in a homosexual relationship, he can at least logically understand them.

But he can't make sense of Dean's reaction at all. Sometimes Dean is thrilled. Something about the way he had smiled when he'd told Chelsea that he knew and hugged her had made Castile's heart ache. He smiles a lot when Chelsea and Sam are around, and when he was still trying to keep the secret.

But sometimes, when he thinks Castiel isn't looking, he seems… not sad exactly. Melancholy maybe. Wistful. They've been having sex a lot more than usual and sometimes Castiel's not sure if it's comfort, or celebration. Or both. Or neither.


 

Chelsea is getting used to the idea of the baby. She can feel how her body is changing and that makes it more real. She has always wanted kids-not like this- she had wanted to be married a couple years, have a little more savings. A few months ago, when she realized that when she thought about kids, she also thought about Sam as the father, she had also wanted for him to have a couple more years to acclimatize to normal, and have a couple years where he didn't live with Dean before they did this.

She knew going into dating Sam that there was going to be the occasional conversation about Dean and boundaries in her future. She got that they had an extreme relationship and that it was unhealthy and codependent, but she also understood why. She thinks a couple more years out of the life, when both of them have steady important relationships other than each other will undo a lot of damage.

Besides. She loves Dean and he's a good guy. And she needs a few answers from someone who knows everything about Sam, and Dean fits the bill.

It's not that Sam's done anything wrong. He's been sweet and attentive, but obviously white knuckling it. He's dazed and panicked and jumpy. And it's starting to freak her out. She's not afraid that he'll run away. And even if she was- if she woke up one morning and Sam was gone, Dean would hunt him down and drag him back hogtied to the roof of the car within a couple days. He's just… not okay.

And Dean wants them to be okay, and out of everyone, Dean seems the most excited about the oncoming baby. So the next time they are all hunting at the house, Chelsea decides to use it against him. She lies about something she thinks she lost upstairs, has Dean help her look for it and shuts the door behind them.

"I'm afraid that Sam's going to freak out on me here," she tells him.

Dean nods and wraps his arms protectively around himself. It takes him a minute to respond. "Yeah… I noticed."

"Do you… do you know what's wrong?"

"No. But I'll take care of this."

Chelsea smiles, hugs him and sighs, "Uncle Dean to the rescue."

Dean's whole body shivers in her arms at being called 'Uncle Dean'.

"Uncle Dean?" He asks with that cut off uncomfortable laugh he uses when he's refusing to get emotional.

Chelsea him tighter. "Uncle Dean."


 

It's not an intervention. It's just dinner. Karen started a Zumba class at the YWCA, so Dean suggests to Bobby that he and Sam come over for a visit. Cas volunteers to hang out with Chelsea and, apparently, help her throw up. The only way that it's really like an intervention is that no one tells Sam about it. Dean shows up at Sam and Chelsea's, drops off Cas and hustles a surprised Sam into the car.

So maybe a little bit more like a kidnapping than an intervention then.

It's only made slightly less weird by the fact that Sam acknowledges it first. He melts back into the passenger seat with a groan. "Okay. I deserve this. For years I've been all- I just want to be normal. I want a normal life. This is normal. House. Girlfriend. Baby on the way. Normalnormalnormal," Sam babbles.

"And yet- you've spent the last week and a half looking like you'll hurl if someone yells boo," Dean says.

"Yeah… well it's a lot of normal really quickly, and guess what- my life could be a goddamned Leave it to Beaver episode and I'd still be the freak guest star." He bashes his head back against the seat. "I have no idea what I'm doing. I could fuck this up so badly. I'm not ready to be a father."

"Well. You've got seven months. Get ready. Because if you do fuck up, I am going to kill you, invite Chelsea to move in with us, and be living in the worst fucking sitcom ever."

"How could I possibly not fuck this up?" Sam demands.

"What are you afraid you'll do? It's a baby. They're pretty resilient. I once fed you kool-aid and ramen and the worst thing that happened was you hurled purple."

"I'm afraid I'll turn into Dad!" Sam bursts out.

"You used to bitch about Dad not letting us be normal all the time. At the very least can't you calm down by telling yourself that you'll do the opposite?"

"But I won't," Sam spits. "It'll just kick in."

"Why would you think that?"

"Adam," Sam replies instantly. "You said it yourself. An hour around that kid and I was Dad. Quoting him, teaching how to shoot and that he couldn't be anything but a Hunter once he was in the life?" Sam snaps his fingers. "Just like that."

"That was different. He was a grown man. We were on a case."

"That's not what you said back then."

Dean can't think of an answer to that and lets silence settle in the Impala.

"I can't give this kid a normal life," Sam finally continues. "Salt lines everywhere. Devil's traps under all the rugs. If I don't have those things… I'll never sleep. I'll just be convinced that something awful is going to happen to both of them until I crack. And I've already cracked this year."

"So we'll do it," Dean agrees. "Kids gonna have a cast iron crib, there'll be salt in the goddamn nursery paint and when that kid hits six months we're all gonna sit there all night armed and ready for a platoon of demons, but that doesn't mean you're going to turn the kid into a hunter or that having a baby will make you into Dad."

"If I do… if I starting treating this kid like Dad treated us- you'll stop me right?"

"Course I will."

"And if I peel out on Chelsea like Dad peeled out on Mom after I was born?"

"I will hunt you down."

The rest of the drive is silent. Dean can tell when they get to Bobby's that Sam's freezing up. He takes delivering the news on himself.

"So, Bobby, Sam's got a question for ya."

Bobby can clearly tell he's being set up.

"Uh huh. And what's that, son?"

Sam's head jolts up and gives him the slightly crazy-eyed stare he's been giving people a lot lately.

Dean slaps Sam on the back to snap him out of it. "What do you think of being called Grampa Bobby?"

Bobby looks confused, then after his gaze shifts over to Sam's rigid expression of crazy nerves, stunned, then excited. Bobby pulls Sam into a hug and Dean fights down the uncomfortable spike of sadness and jealousy. He's still gonna be and uncle, even if he'll never be a father, and he's gonna be a great uncle.

Bobby waves them into the kitchen while Sam stutters through all the updates that everyone else had needed. The baby isn't why they'd moved in together. They were surpised. They were getting over the shock and now they were happy and excited.

"Yeah. You look like it. Come on. I'll fix you a drink. You look like you could use one."

The only liquor in the house is Karen's Midori, but Sam doesn't turn his nose up at it. He tells Bobby what he told Dean. Bobby nods along until Sam finally talks himself out.

"John had some misguided instincts with you boys, but he loved you. That' ll show. You can't … you can't let your father haunt you. I let my father haunt me. He was a rat bastard and the only mercy he ever showed anyone was dying young. Karen and I never had kids because I was terrified of becoming him." Bobby shakes his head.

Dean's skin crawls uncomfortably at Bobby's admission. Dean had never heard him talk about his family, and was only now- in his 30's- realizing the he'd never asked. He remembered always being excited to be dropped off at Uncle Bobby's when he was little because Bobby played baseball with them and made them good hot dinners. Dean had kind of assumed that bobby had grown up happy and normal and then things had taken a tragic later on. From the look on Sam's face he'd though the same.

"And it's not worth it to let a dead man make your decisions."

Sam nods, finishes his stupidly green drink and pours himself another. Bobby smiles fondly at the two of them. "I always thought if I had kids, I'd make an unholy mess out of them. But you boys tuned out alright. The…" Bobby clears his throat and Dean realizes the grizzled old man is choking up. "My grand kids will be alright."

He slaps Sam on the back again.

"Yeah…okay. Yeah… I'll just… have to be really sure that I don't give him a 45 when he thinks there are monsters in the closet."

Dean laughs, a little mirthlessly. He remembers that. He'd wound up taking the gun from Sam and promising to sit up with it and watch for monsters so he could sleep.

"Maybe you'll have a girl," Dean offers.

Sam freezes like someone hit pause on him. Dean and bobby watch him warily for a moment.

"Maybe I'll have a girl," Sam repeats. "Maybe… I'll have a girl."

He laughs. One loud sudden boom, like thunder. "Well…shit. I could do that."

The three of them dissolve into a weird relieved laughter and the conversation lightens. Bobby offers to help convert the extra room into a nursery that is both cuddly and demon resistant and after another half hour Dean piles Sam back into the car.

"So, you okay now?" Dean asks.

"Nah, still terrified and freaking out, but better. Definitely better."

"Alright. Well. I hope so."

Chapter Text

Chelsea thinks it's sweet how all the guys have gone a little baby-crazy. It's a little too much, but it's sweet.

She gets asked how she's doing too often. Cas gets nervous if she shows essentially any sign of discomfort and calls to make sure that she can eat what he's going to make for dinner if she's coming over. Dean is always in the background of these conversations going "Cas? Why wouldn't she be able to eat spinach?" or "Seriously, man, apples?"

Bobby and Karen had been almost crazed with happiness at the latest Friday dinner and Chelsea had cried a little bit (and tried to pass it off as hormones) when Bobby showed her a sketch of what he'd been working on. He was making a crib, and Castiel was helping drench the thing in Angelic protection magics. There were carvings and the whole thing could be rocked.

The boys are all working on the nursery. It's a Winchester baby, so it's less about picking out a soft color, a mobile, and some stuffed animals and more about ripping out the window and door frames and laying down hidden salt lines and cutting into the walls to slip hex-bags everywhere, but it's cute to watch them all working together on it. They're planning on getting the anti-demon/ghost/monster stuff done first and them moving on to the paint and toys part.

It's nice that they're all so excited. Her own family is trying to be supportive, because it's too damn late at this point to be anything else- but they obviously think that she's making a mistake and that the only reason she's even trying to make a go of it with crazy, abused, weirdo Sam is because he knocked her up.

Sam's expedition with Dean seems to have helped him calm down. Minimal nudging afterward had gotten him to come clean about why he was so scared. She's promised to call him on his shit if he goes weird on her again. Having proactive baby stuff to work on seems to be helping keep him centered too. Working on the nursery gives him something to do. He's started reading "What to Expect When You're Expecting". Chelsea's trying to scrape up the balls to read it too, but the expressions Sam sometimes makes while reading it scare her, especially because this is a man who used to routinely dig up bodies.

The ultra sound had spun him a little bit, but not in a bad way. Chelsea could see the way his face changed when he looked at it, like the concept of the baby was a little less terrifying and a little more real to him. He'd asked three times how soon they could find out the gender. Chelsea knows he thinks he'll have an easier time wrapping his head around a daughter than a son, but she's sure that either way he'll be fine.

The one person who seems to be completely level headed and in control about this whole thing is Dean. He's keeping Castiel's worry (about lady parts in general as far as Chelsea can tell) under control, he's keeping Sam's panic under control. He's helping Bobby maintain his whole gruff old Hunter persona whenever the old guy gets a little worked up over grandkids.

Which mean's Chelsea's expecting Dean to lose it basically any day now. She's just not sure over what.

And then one day the boys are over, trying to figure out how to hide Devil's traps so that Chelsea's mother will never see one of them, and Chelsea sees Dean looking at the ultra sound that Sam had put up on the fridge.

His jaw is set hard and his eyes are faraway.

And that's when Chelsea realizes that Dean's been quietly losing it the whole time. Just like he was when he was obsessively looking for Sam, but everyone's been too busy or too emotional to see it.

"We're going in for the second ultra sound on a couple weeks," Chelsea tells him. He doesn't jump, but she can tell that he didn't hear her come up to him. "Where we find out if it's a boy or a girl."

Dean flicks a smile at her, and then another at the black and orange blur where you can barely tell there's a baby before sticking the picture back on the fridge. "Awesome."

"Yeah." Chelsea nods. "We'll be sure to get the video so you guys can see it."

"I'd like that."

"Sweetheart… can I ask you something?"

Dean tears his gaze away from the picture and lets his eyes actually settle on her. "What do you need?"

"Do you… have you thought about kids at all?"

Dean huffs. "I was never going to have a stable enough life for kids. Then I was always going to die too early to worry about it. And now… I've got Cas… so… not exactly going to be getting a girl in trouble anytime soon."

"Well, yeah. But do you want kids?"

"It doesn't matter," Dean says. "Cas and I couldn't have them even if I did." He stands up a little straighter, pulling into a conversation ending stance, and Chelsea dives in before he locks off again.

"So you do want kids."

Dean doesn't answer.

"Sweetheart, you don't have to actually have kids, you could ado-"

"Adopt?" Dean cuts her off. "Yeah. We could afford to adopt on the book money from Chuck, and we've been patching up the house enough that if we moved the armory over to Bobby's and scrubbed up some of the devil's traps and thought of some excuse to keep someone out of the panic room, and Cas was at his most normal we might be able to pass a home study, but that's kind of a stretch. And even if we lucked our way through that, or moved, there's the financial evaluation. I'm in my thirties and I only have two years of tax records and the credit history of a potato. Cas doesn't even have that."

Chelsea lets the revelation that Dean hasn't just thought about this, he's looked into it, researched it like a case, wash over her. "What if… what if you just waited a few more years? After you finish school and you've both been… on the grid a little longer?"

"Cas isn't on the grid. No birth certificate. I have a death certificate on file from the time the FBI caught up with us and the helicopter we were supposed to be in got roasted by Lilith and her crew. There are a couple of ways to get around that, but it takes years for a normal family to get an adoption set up. They ask for references and I'm sure you and Sam and Thomas and Bobby would be on board, but if they ask anyone from my old job or at my school? We're a couple of psychologically scarred gay veterans in South Dakota. If we started trying tomorrow I could be pushing 60 at the kids graduation. And surrogacy's got most of the same issues at five times the cost." Dean drinks from his glass of ice tea like he's willing it to become a beer. "It's a huge impossible thing, Chels. That's just the way it is." Dean clears his throat and slaps an innocent smile on instantly as Cas walks into the kitchen.

"Hey, you were supposed to bring us ice-tea," Cas says.

"I know. I'm on it. Just checking in with Chelsea," Dean says. Cas gives him a carefully evaluating look, and Chelsea can tell that he knows better than to just blindly believe the smile.

"Are you alright?" Cas asks her. Again.

"Fine, Cas," Chelsea says. His constant fretting is starting to grate her nerves just a little bit, but she gets that his mother hen concern comes from love and a total lack of understanding of babies, pregnancy and the whole enchilada. She had also, because of something Sam had said, looked Cas up one time and learned that one of the duties of the Angel of Thursday had been to watch over children born on Thursdays and come to the somewhat creepy realization that he'd probably heard a lot of prayers from mothers delivering, and that most of them weren't just sending up a jolly little thank you note.

"I'll be right up with the tea," Dean says. Cas nods and goes back upstairs. Dean turns back to Chelsea. "Please don't tell him about this. He'll think it's because of him and it's not. This is just as impossible for me now as it was before the apocalypse. That's just the way it is. Besides. I love the crap out of the guy, but really imagine Cas as a father here?"

Chelsea sighs, scoots Dean away from the fridge and grabs the pitcher of ice tea. "Well. He's going to be an uncle in six months. And I think the two of you are going to be fantastic."

Dean huffs, but pulls her into a hug and kisses her temple. As much as Dean has softened in the last couple of years, this is still not really a Dean move, and it breaks Chelsea's heart a little.


 

The next six months are a blur for Dean. School's insane. Cas starts looking for a part time job because he's bored and keeps getting shot down because he's thirty five with no work experience other than a hotel cleaning job.

Sam shows up at the house a couple nights before New Years when Dean and Cas are in the middle of a little pre-dinner stress relief and bangs on the door yelling, "It's a girl! It's a girl!" until they come out to celebrate with him.

Chelsea's sister Libby shows up unannounced just after the nursery is done being bad-guy proofed, but in the middle of putting up wards, protections and deterrents around the rest of the house. She finds the Enochian symbols that Cas has been carefully carving underneath all the window frames. Chelsea has her convinced that it's an old English superstition when Dean, Cas and Sam was in with a bucket of graveyard dirt, herbs, a bunch of leather pouches and a sack of goopher dust.

Just as Libby's about to have a conniption over Chelsea getting brainwashed into a crazy occult cult Gabriel appears in the middle of the living room with flowers, a giant teddy bear, and a declaration that he's always liked Chelsea and thinks she could have done better. He'd been tickled when Libby had shouted, "This shit's all real? You're really Gabriel?". He'd kissed her hand, disappeared and it had taken three shots of rum and a walk around the house to calm Libby down. But she'd believed them, and they'd gotten her to start wearing an anti possession charm.

Dean had already declared the Libby/Gabriel incident the moment that, should Chuck keep writing Supernatural, the books with jump the shark, but then in March Kilgerney and Martinez call just to let everyone know that they are hunting an Honest-to-God Big-foot.

Sam's ready to call that the moment the world officially went crazy until a series of normal, mundane issues mean he misses one of Chelsea's Lamaze classes and she ends up taking Cas. When they come over for family dinner directly afterward Chelsea can't stop laughing. Cas is huffy and offended. No one ever finds out what happened at the class and halfway through dinner Sam has to hammer on Dean's back until a pretty major hunk of chicken dislodges from his throat, because Cas asked him what a "Guncle" was.

Outside of the blip with Chelsea, Dean's doing a decent job avoiding the subject of his own potential kids, given the circumstances. He knows Chelsea had told Sam what he said. Sam's hasn't said anything directly, but he started talking about "Uncle Dean and Uncle Cas" a lot more, and making a lot of jokes about Dean babysitting.

That comes to a sharp, sudden, weird end, though. Sam makes a joke about letting Dean do all kinds of Dad things. Like cleaning up puke and changing diapers. Cas makes a disgusted "urgh" noise. Dean responds with "You think I don't have a damn black belt in cleaning up puke and changing diapers? Who do you think cleaned you up when Dad was passed out on the couch?"

Sam snorts, but Chelsea looks a little scandalized for a moment before she hides it. Dean catches the expression that flicks across her face, and the expression that settles on Sam's face when he must have felt her tense up beside him.

Dean tries to fix it with, "Seriously. I had to teach you to walk just because I was sick of carrying you around like a doll." And unlike the millions of times he's thought this to himself with a mental smirk, watching Chelsea, obviously pregnant, tucked under Sam's arm, with his hand resting on her stomach, thumbing tenderly along the roundness of her, it sounds… the way it would sound if they had ever been normal.

Things are just about to get really, really awkward when Sam and Chelsea both jump and yell.

Cas and Dean are both on their feet, looking behind them, ready, because some instincts die hard.

"No, no, she kicked, she kicked!" Chelsea says, "Come here!"

That night kills the "Dean-with-babies" jokes from there on out. Libby's totally innocent, unknowing attempt to gently rib him gets very weirdly shut down to the point where even Cas notices.

Dean hasn't said anything to Cas about the whole… thing where he wants kids. He feels like crap about it, which is stupid because it's not like he's snowing Cas… but it still feels like it's a lie by omission.

He just doesn't feel like discussing a totally moot point. And as moot as it is… he's not sure he'll be able to hear Cas declare he's glad they can't, or that he wouldn't want to anyway. He's not sure why it matters, but it does.

His midterms grades taking a beating with everything that's going on, and he decides to take the summer off. He knows better than to think that he can concentrate on anything else when there's a baby niece crawling around.


 

Dean's fried after a completely brutal week at school. There were tests and readings and one of the girls who's been having a rough time because of her own family issues had actually snapped, cursed a blue streak at their shocked prof, and stormed out.

It's Friday, he's gotten four hours of sleep every night all week and he's really feeling it. He should be doing homework, but he's exhausted and Cas is indulging him. There was strawberry rhubarb pie with whip cream. And now there is a John Wayne movie in the DVD player. He's sitting between Cas's legs with his back resting against Cas's chest, zoning, verging on dozing. He can tell by the way that Cas is absently playing with his fingers and rubbing against his cheek that he is getting blown tonight. Or maybe in the morning after he's finally gotten some fucking sleep.

"I'm concerned that the baby stops kicking when I touch Chelsea's stomach," Cas says quietly. "She's kicked for everyone else. She stops kicking sometimes when I touch Chelsea."

"What, afraid she's not going to like you?" Dean yawns.

Cas doesn't say anything. "Is that an indication that she might not?"

"No, no," Dean sits up and kisses him. "I'm kidding. I'm sorry. Babies like everyone. Whatever makes her not kick probably has nothing to do with you.

"Oh. Good," Cas tugs at Dean's arms as though he's trying to pull him back down, but changes his mind. His hands creep up Dean's arms and around his neck, thumbing at the nape. "It makes you sad that we won't have children."

Dean feels like he's just been dunked in ice.

"What?" He asks.

"It makes you sad that we won't have children," Cas repeats, a little more loudly.

Dean clears his throat and tries to pull back, Cas follows along with him and Dean pulls Cas's hands away from his face.

"Umm… I don't… I don't want to talk about this," Dean finally says.

Cas's head quirks, in the old way. Dean leans forward to kiss him and Cas turns his head away.

"Did Chelsea say anything to you?" Dean asks with a defeated sigh.

"No. I'm socially under developed- I'm not stupid. And I know you," Cas says. "And I don't want you to be sad."

"It doesn't matter," Dean tells him. "You just said it- we won't have any." His voice finally croaks a little and it's one of those moments where he realizes out of nowhere that this is being in a relationship. Cas is the person he's telling this to. Not Chelsea, not Sam. Cas is the person he can hold on to and not have to be… "Dean" with when he talks about this crap. "It's not… it's not something I'm giving up. It's something that was never a possibility and it's still not." Dean shrugs. "But… there's Sam, and Chelsea, and at least one rugrat so far. Right?"

"Right," Cas says, "But-"

Dean's phone rings. He groans. It's probably Anya. She's kind of sad and chubby and intense and has nothing better to do on a Friday night than homework, but they worked together on a project one time and now sometimes she calls him about the homework. She's sweet and she's the only girl in class who's never hit on him.

"Hold that thought?"

Cas nods and when Dean ducks forward for a quick kiss Cas lets him.

It's not Anya. It's Sam.

"Hey? Everything alright?"

"It's time!" Sam yells. "It's happening! Now. We're- what? What do you mean they won't admit you? There is a person coming out of- four minutes are you fucking kidding me?"

Dean hears Chelsea yelling something in the background.

"Okay… well… Dean's practically a nurse so… how many minutes is it now?"

"Is Chelsea having the baby?"

"Umm… not enough for the hospital apparently, but yeah."

"We're on our way."

Dean hangs up, grabs Cas.

"Come on. We're gonna be Uncles."

Chapter Text

So, apparently, his panic had been an overreaction, and his reaction had been premature. But when he tries to call Cas and Dean and tell them that they've got hours, possibly the rest of the night, before they even go to the hospital, he can't reach them.

He's helping Chelsea down the stairs when Cas and Dean crash through the front door.

"It was a contraction." Chelsea sighs when they both stare up at her. "I've been getting them all day. I called my family hours ago to let them know it's going to be tomorrow some time. My gyno said we can't even go to the hospital until the contractions are four minutes apart."

"And how far apart are they now?" Dean demands.

"They're not consistent, they just hurt more," Chelsea says. "We've still got a few hours."

"You yelled out. I panicked. So sue me," Sam huffs. He can see Dean's stance. He's tense and full of adrenaline with nothing to do with it. Sam's having the same problem, but he's already freaked out once tonight. He needs to be normal and together right now. This is going to be brutal enough for Chelsea. He doesn't need to add his shit on top of hers right now. This is step one of being a good Dad, and he's going to rock it.

"So what do we do now?" Dean asks.

"Well, since you're all here, how about this," Chelsea says, as Sam helps her down the last step. "Everyone stops looking at me like I'm going to explode. Dean- you go pick a movie. Cas you go make me some tea. Sam I'm going to need you getting really into a foot rub. My parents and Libby are flying in tonight. Martha and Tanya won't be able to make it out until the weekend. Did you call Bobby and Karen yet?"

"Yeah, we called them on the way here."

"I'll call them back, tell them not to hurry. If they want to come in tonight then they can stay at the hotel."

"I don't understand… the baby isn't coming?" Cas asks.

"I've got some stressful, painful, time to kill," Chelsea says. "So- about that tea, movie, and foot rub?"

They all snap to. Chelsea's got a pillow under her back, a mug of tea in her hand and her feet in Sam's lap by the time the credits roll on Twenty Seven Dresses. Bobby and Karen decide that they aren't going to turn down a night in a nice hotel if Chelsea's offering to put them up.

They aren't really watching the movie. It's just playing in background. Chelsea is tucked under his arm, warm and solid and in some sort of pre-labor Zen except for the occasional spasms of pain. Dean is leaning against Cas in a way that he never does when there are other people around. His eyes are drooping and a little unfocused when he speaks. Sam vaguely remembers Dean saying something about a tough week at school.

Sam is mentally repacking their bag in his head again. Couple changes of clothes. Toothbrushes. Toothpaste. Deodorant. Lotion. Some creature comforts for Chelsea. A small stuffed pink bunny that Cas had surprised everyone by presenting to Chelsea as a present for the baby at Friday night dinner a couple of weeks ago. It had already somehow picked up the slightly suspect name of Captain Hops-Along.

Sam has packed and repacked that bag pretty much every day for the last few weeks. It's starting to become a glaring neon sign in his brain for how much of a paradigm shift is about to happen to him. And Chelsea. And to some extent Cas and Dean. They're all going to normal. He's gonna be a Dad. In a house. With a daughter. And a plush rabbit.

It's not exactly going to be Leave it To Beaver. He's going to be a stay at home dad who works phones to help a group of monster hunters access confidential information. There are hex bags, salt lines and devil's traps all over his normal house, and the daughter's bunny was picked out by his brother's boyfriend- the formal Angel of Thursday.

But it's damn normal for him, and he's been steadily moving toward happy-freaked out and excited-freaked out, and away from just plain freaked out. He's really looking forward to a family and a semi-typical life, and ever since Chelsea told him about Dean's quiet rant about how much he wanted exactly what had dropped onto Sam's lap, it had made Sam more grateful for this, and more dedicated to keeping all of these good things in his life. He'd picked back up on his gym routine. He'd cut down on his already modest beer intake. He'd called Dr. Claybourne a couple of times to just… maintain a little sanity when things got to be a little too much. He's fine, and she agrees that he's fine, but it's a lot of stress and he just wants to make sure.

The one thing the Doctor mentioned, with the clarification that it was more as a mother than a psychiatrist, was to make sure that he didn't fall back into his co-dependent relationship with his brother. He got what she was saying and he was totally aware that his attempt to be a little more separate from Dean had failed miserably, but as long as Chelsea didn't care, he was actually glad for that. He and Dean had grown up so isolated with a couple of "uncles" and a handful of babysitters.

He's thrilled that his daughter is going to have two parents in the house, two uncles in town, two grandparents in the state, two grandparents in the next state over and a couple of aunts not too much further. She's going to have a family and an extended family. She's going to spend entire years in the same school. He's gonna start a college fund for her and not blow it on ammo. She's not going to spend most of junior high sleeping in the backseat of the car.

She's going be happy. She's going be loved. She's going to be taken care of.

It's going to be great.


 

Chelsea was right. They've had hours. Sam had been starting to wonder if it was actually a false alarm, but she'd kept having contractions. Karen and Bobby had dropped in, and then gone on to the hotel to get some sleep. Dean had fallen asleep on the couch for a couple of hours, first with his head cranked back against the back of the couch, and then with minimal half asleep protesting, with his head in Castiel's lap. Chelsea and Cas had talked about the names they were considering and everything had been, not exactly peaceful, but not exactly tense until- very suddenly- it wasn't peaceful at all anymore.

The shift from Zen-Early Labor Chelsea to time-to-go-to-the-hospital Chelsea is a loud, dramatic change. Sam was never expecting a bad rom-com birth, and while Chelsea isn't exactly berating him for doing this to her, there is some yelling and bone-crushing hand clamping.

Sam tosses Dean his keys, knowing better than to suggest the Impala, and Dean floors it down the highway. Cas makes increasingly awkward phone calls at Chelsea's instruction, starting strong with a simple "Hello, Bobby, we're going to the hospital now" and deteriorating down to "Hello, Tanya. I am Chelsea's friend Castiel. Cas is a shortened version. Sam, his brother, Dean, and I are bringing Chelsea to the hospital to have the baby. We are in the parking lot."

Sam almost feels bad for the guy. They're all out of their element with this, but Cas is already a little out of his element on his best day.

Dean pulls up the door. Sam jumps out and rushes in to get a wheel chair while Cas helps Chelsea out of the car. As he comes back through the doors he sees them both lurch in alarm and when he reaches them they are both standing on wet pavement. Chelsea has the unmistakable expression of someone who has completely given up on not freaking out, and Cas looks like he's regretting all of the life choices that brought him to this moment.

Sam brushes him out of the way, lowers Chelsea down into the wheel chair and leaves Cas on the sidewalk, still gaping at his shoes.

He races Chelsea inside, nearly loses his temper with the reception nurse when she makes him sit down and fill out a form. Dean and Cas run in after a few moments. Cas slides on the tile and tumbles backward. Dean catches him.

Sam hears Cas's growled. "I have amniotic fluid on my shoes," Dean's incredulous, "Amniotic fluid?" and Cas's slightly hysterical, "I read the book too. It is not helpful in a real world context!"

The reception nurse stifles a laugh and Sam decides to hate her. He shoves the form at her and she shows them to their room. He helps Chelsea up into the bed and drops down into the chair next to it before gulping in what feels like his first breath in hours.

"Sam?"

"Yeah, baby, what do you need?" He asks, jumping back up instantly.

"Did the Angel of Thursday just pull a banana peel pratfall because my water broke all over him?" She asks distantly.

"Yeah. He's fine."

Chelsea lets out a peal of overwhelmed giggles. Sam grabs her hand.

Chelsea's laughter stops abruptly and she turns to Sam and says, very clearly, as though making sure he doesn't miss a single word, "Go find a nurse and tell them I want the drugs."


 

When Castiel comes out of the bathroom from washing his shoes in the sink Bobby and Karen are talking to two older people who must be Chelsea's parents. Dean has stolen him some blue socks to wear while his shoes dry.

It's all very strange. Everyone's excited, which doesn't seem appropriate when he can hear Chelsea screaming when the door opens. Castiel understands that everyone's excited to welcome the child, but it seems like that should wait until this part is over. He and Dean still sometimes wake up to the other screaming, and he knows how he feels when he hears it.

He's also concerned that no one else seems nervous about the imminence of the introduction of an infant. Sam has been swinging wildly between joy and terror for months, Dean between joy and depression, and Castiel has quietly not mentioned that he has been nervous for months. He does not know how to be an Uncle. He does not know how to care for an infant. It makes him nervous that Dean is so saddened that he doesn't expect to ever father his own children. He's not afraid of losing Dean for this reason… but Dean might expect him to want to be a father as well. Maybe after Dean finishes his schooling he may even want to try to adopt a child.

Cas already feels like a child too often, and knows that it's about to get worse as he has to be taught about babies. He's not ready to watch over a child. He can't teach a child to be human when he's still learning. Three years is not enough time to become an entirely different species.

When Dean starts yawning again Castiel jumps on the chance to go get him a cup of coffee and have an excuse to get some air.

He wanders down a hallway, asking the occasional nurse where he might be able to find a cup of coffee. There is a small counter open. He purchases a cup of coffee for himself and goes to stand outside. There is a small, welcoming garden outside the door, with a bench. He seats himself on it.

It's a few hours after dawn. The world isn't warming under the sun yet, but it's no longer cool. The sent of the spring lilies is heavy on the air. He takes a deep breath then a sip from his cup.

"Gabriel? I know you can hear me, you bastard."

There's no answer at first. Castiel takes another sip of his coffee.

"For the last freaking time. I got promoted. I'm God. I've got a world to run here."

It's Gabriel's true voice. It insinuates it's way through the garden without actually coming from anywhere. Castiel is surprised that he can withstand it. He's not Jimmy Novak- who was able to hear an Angel's voice- he's just a facsimile of a man he hopes is in Heaven now.

"That's nice," Castiel replies. "But you were the Angel of Childbirth once as well."

"Cut to the chase, little brother."

"Are you watching over her?"

"Not personally. But she is being taken care of. I promise."

"Thank you."

"Humanity suits you, Castiel."

Gabriel's presence is suddenly sucked out of the Garden. Castiel shivers, goes back inside and buys another cup for Dean.

It's not much longer before Sam runs out to announce that the baby is crowning. Chelsea's mother's voice is kind as she explains what that means.

It's hardly any time after that before Chelsea's screams turn to a baby's cries.

Cas can't keep himself from grinning at the smile that spreads over Dean's face.


 

Sam apparently worries the doctors because he has no qualms over cutting the chord and is the only father they've ever had reach out and take the baby before it's washed. He is told this later, when one of the nurses is chiding him gently about it, pointing out that he also didn't count fingers or toes. He just looked at her and handed her to Chelsea, who then asked to have the poor girl scrubbed up.

His memory of those first few moments is fuzzy at best. He mostly remembers the way she practically fit in his hand the way her whole body got a little bigger when she pulled in breath to scream out.

The day in the hospital is a little clearer. Dean getting choked up when she grabbed his finger and punching Sam in the arm with an indignant "Shove it, I'm an uncle," when Sam chuckled at him. Chelsea's father and Bobby winding up having a celebratory cigar out in the hospital garden and getting shooed away by a nurse because they were too close to the door. The shade of purple that Dean had turned when he'd turned around from talking to one of Chelsea's sisters and seen Chelsea breast feeding behind him.

Chelsea's sister Martha is a little indignant about how short Chelsea's hospital stay is, but the doctors all say that she recovered remarkably fast for a first time mother and Chelsea wants to go home.

Sam's inexplicably nervous that night.

Chelsea's entire family, and Karen and Bobby are staying in the hotel, if anything happens there is a whole host of people they can call for advice on babies. He'd given up about a week ago and admitted to Chelsea that despite all the wards, magics and protections, he wasn't going to be able to sleep with the crib all the way down the hall. There was enough iron in it that it had taken him, Dean and Castiel to move it into his and Chelsea's bedroom.

Bu it's still their first night alone with the baby. Their first night as parents. Their first night as a family. Sam, Chelsea, and little Sophie.

Chelsea's leaning back against the headboard, supporting Sophie with the help of a few pillows on her lap while she feels her. Sam's propped up next to her, watching. They only sound in the house is a happy baby-eating noise.

Sam reaches out, brushes his hand over his daughter's silk fine hair, and kisses his girlfriend's cheek.

This is his life now.

Chapter Text

When their father had told Dean and Sam what he wanted for them it had been for Sam to go back to school and Dean to have a home. Dean's been thinking about that a lot since the baby came.

Sam was the baby in their family, and John obviously would have wanted this for Sam at some point out in the future where he would have been able to think of Sam as more grown up. Dean can picture John's face meeting Chelsea. John would have gotten Sam and Chelsea, even though Dean has a suspicion that John wouldn't have actually liked her. He can imagine the way he might have smiled when handed the baby. Even in Dean's imagination, Grandpa John can't work up the warmth of Grandpa Bobby. Sophie doesn't enthusiastically try to eat his shoulder like she does with Bobby. But it's a mostly normal little scene.

Unlike Dean's current one.

Chelsea had fed Sophie, Sam had changed her, Cas had started dinner, and now Sam and Chelsea were napping and whatever Cas was making was baking in the oven. Most of Chelsea's sisters had gone home. Her parents were still in town, but were taking a night for themselves. Dean and Cas were holding down the fort.

Dean had told Cas that he'd noticed that Cas had been actively avoiding holding Sophie. Cas had admitted that he didn't know how. So Dean had taken a break from his epic game of peek-a-boo, grabbed Cas and set him down on the couch to teach him how to hold his niece.

"The most important thing is to hold up her head," Dean says quietly. Sophie is looking up at him wide-eyed, like she has doubts about this endeavor, Cas is giving him a very similar look, but there's a clear undertone of want there. Cas had picked up on the expectations around the baby quickly. He'd brushed his hands over her hair and let her grab his fingers. It was obvious that he'd wanted to hold her, but hadn't wanted to throw in an extra thing for Chelsea to explain about him when he knew he already seemed odd to her family.

Her sisters thought he was adorable, her mother clearly has concerns about the whole "strict religious upbringing" thing and her father had given Cas and Dean a couple of very awkward smiles, and initiated a couple of even more awkward conversations where he was obviously trying to get across the information that he was completely fine with the whole gay uncle thing, but didn't have the finesse to realize that the best proof was not mentioning it. But he was seventy and he didn't mean any harm by anything he said. He was trying. Dean wasn't really the type to get offended, and Cas was just trying to seem as normal as possible and trying to meet small talk for small talk.

And that's what makes Dean keep thinking about John as he carefully arranges Cas's arms into a baby holding position. If Bobby were here he'd smile warmly and say something like "It's a baby, not a grenade, son," to Cas. Chelsea's father would give them a tight smile and find somewhere else to look. John… Dean wasn't sure what to think about that. He was mostly just trying not to.

He brings one of Cas's arms up against his chest, then tucks his other arm underneath it. He scoots a little closer, perching on the coffee table and slowly shifting Sophie's weight into Cas's arms.

She kicks and squirms, Cas's eyes widen in panic as she moves before he realizes that his hold is firm. Dean watches the way that Cas just stares at the baby for a while before looking up and whispering, "She's very small."

Dean swallows the lump in his throat at that. Cas doesn't chatter at her, or coo, or play. He just watches her, gaze moving from her face to her feet whenever they wriggle.

"Who do you think she looks like?" Dean asks, scooting a little closer to him on the couch, so that their knees are touching.

"Looks like? I don't understand."

"People usually try to figure out who a baby looks like."

Cas stares at the baby more intensely for a few moments, then looks back up. "She looks somewhat like Bobby." He blows his cheeks out to demonstrate Bobby's newly filled out frame. "I didn't think it would be polite to mention it."

Dean laughs out loud and can't help but kiss Cas, lingering a lot longer than he usually would have in someone else's house because it's one of those moments where he just loves Cas so much he can't even deal with it.

"Hey, come on," Sam's still sleep-gruff voice cuts into the moment. "Don't make out on my kid." He heaves out a put upon sigh, but grins at them and comes to sit on the coffee table with Dean. "You finally got a turn?"

"Yes," Cas says quietly. "She's kicking now."

Sam beams at Cas, slaps a hand on his shoulder and looks down at Sophie too.

Dean's glad that he's shrugged off enough macho Hunter bullshit to love this moment: watching his six day old niece kick and squirm in his lover's arms. This is what you live for.


 

A routine settles for the summer. Dean picks up a few scattered shifts at the garage. It's a nice recharge from school, and he realizes just how badly he needed this break. Sam and Cas buckle down on getting their lore database live and Hunter accessible. Chelsea goes back to work. Dean and Cas come over most evenings to baby sit and make dinner while Sam and Chelsea nap or go for a walk or just basically take a break from the New Parent life.

Dean and Cas never pick up the conversation on their own kids. Dean writes it off as not worth dredging up. Cas seems to be biding his time. Dean lets him bide away. They do end up getting a dog. They go to the shelter and tell them that they are looking for an older, calmer dog who likes kids. They wind up with very chilled out Newfoundland/Irish Setter mix. His name is Dodger. When he runs around he looks like a very happy bear, when he lies down, he looks like a very ugly shag rug. Chelsea adores him and buys him a bandana that gets lost in his shaggy mane.

They get so used to just walking in that they forget when Chelsea mentions her mother is staying over for a long weekend. They walk in one day to the sound of lung bursting cries. Chelsea's mother Cindy is walking around the living room, bouncing Sophie and trying to get her to take her pacifier. Dodger startles her when he barks loudly and Cindy's feelings are clearly a little bruised when Sophie spots Cas and reaches for him, and a little more when Sophie calms almost instantly in Cas's hold and Dodger plops down between her and the boys.

"I must be a little out of practice," Cindy sighs.

"She's just used to us," Dean says. "We're here everyday. Didn't mean to scare you."

"No, no," Cindy says. "As long as you calmed her down."

"Sam and Chelsea out for the night?"

"Movie and dinner. Sam's idea. Very sweet," Cindy says. Dodger seems to realize that they all like Cindy. He plods forward and presses his head to her thigh in greeting. She reaches down to scratch his ears and seems mollified when he nudges her harder.

The three of them exchange uncomfortable small talk while Cindy pets an absolutely blissful Dodger. Cas hands a smiling, happy Sophie back to Cindy with a bright, "Your Grandma wants to hold you!"

Cas's bright baby voice is still weird to hear, but he does it because it makes Sophie burble at him. He's recently realized that it also makes Dodger wag his tail so Dean's been hearing a lot more lately. Sophie seems to trust Cas's decision to give her to Grandma Cindy more than she trusted Sam and Chelsea's decision and she coos happily at Cindy whens she asks Cas and Dean to stay.

They wind up making dinner together. Cindy and Cas cook. Dean sits on the floor with Sophie so that she can pet Dodger and shriek with delight whenever the dog licks her fingers.

"You two are good with her," Cindy comments.

"Thanks," Dean says, pushing Dodger back a little bit so he doesn't lick the baby's face again. "We're trying to get her first word to be uncle," he jokes. "Sammy would be so mad. He would be so mad if we got you to say uncle before the D-word. He would be so mad at us."

Sophie smiles. Dean's bright voice is way more annoying that Cas's and Cas ribs him about it.

Cindy chuckles. "So how did you boys meet?"

It should be an easy answer. For as long as they've been together it's a little suspicious that they don't have a coordinated response but it takes them a second before Dean just responds "Fallujah."

"We were soldiers," Cas corroborates.

"It's really not a romantic story," Dean says, taking refuge in blowing a raspberry on Sophie's tummy.

"It's not," Cas assists.

It's awkward again for another moment before Cindy dives back into the always safe topic of all the cute things that Sophie has done today.

The evening with Grandma Cindy basically forces Dean to think about what he's really been avoiding thinking about- the idea of Grandma Mary. Dean's aware that the only things that he knows about his mother are rose-tinted at best. It's all based on John's drunken hagiographies and the gold cast memories of a four year old remembering the good old days before his life burned.

But he'd like to pretend that his mom would like Cas. Make some joke about Angels watching over him, because he'd be able to tell her about where Cas had really come from. How they'd really met. Cause she'd been a Hunter and she'd believe all of it, and maybe even understand why it had to be Cas.

He feels a touch of guilt when he thinks this, because they have Karen. She knows the raised from perdition story. She knows the truth about how Dean and Cas moved from brothers in arms to lovers. But still. Dean thinks about it. He's a little lost in thought until he's dragged back to reality by Sam and Chelsea coming back from their date, and the bizarre look that Sam gives them for just hanging out with his mother in law before Chelsea sticks out her hand and shows them the ring.


 

Sam almost feels silly these days about how worried he'd been about giving Sophie a normal life. They haven't given her a normal life, but he feels like, collectively, they've done better than that.

Sophie's happy and healthy and she runs around laughing and buries her face into the fur of Dean and Cas's mutt with this happy growl noise the makes Sam able to feel his heart actually melting.

She's starting to talk a little bit. She can demand most of her most important needs "Bun" for Captain Hops-Along. "Jus" for her juice cup. "Da", "Ma". Dean and Cas's combined efforts had gotten a delighted "Unk!" out of her before any other babbled syllables had gotten a meaning attached to them. Her second word is "Buhd" which she yells at al the robins in the yard, and chimes out every time a new one lands in the birdbath outside the kitchen window.

Sam and Chelsea have agreed that they tied for third with "Ma and Da" and poor Dodger comes in fourth with "Doj".

She's an incredibly well behaved baby. She sits through most of Dean's graduation ceremony without getting fussy, and calms down when she's handed to Cas.

Sam's noticed this over the last year. Cas is, for some reason, an instant balm. At first he thought it was like all the baby books said- babies are usually more easily calmed by people other than their parents for the first few months because their parents are tense and exhausted. But the by time Sophie was crawling Chelsea had stopped believing this. She thinks it's a residual Angel thing. Cas, who is starting to go just a little grey at the temples, is skeptical of this theory.

They have a huge graduation party for Dean. Sisters in law fly in. Chelsea's parents fly in. Gabriel scares the ever-loving crap out of Sam by waltzing into the kitchen with a giant piece of cake in one hand and Sophie in his other arm. She's grinning and eating her fingers and yelling "Buhd! Buhd!" over and over again.

Sam pulls Sophie out of his arms instantly, ignoring the look that Cindy and Martha give him. Sophie looks back at Gabriel with a questioning, "Unk?"

"No," Sam says to her, a little to harshly. "Not an Uncle."

"Buhd!" Sophie concludes.

"Chelsea! Sam! Good to see you!" Gabriel crows. "And the baby, just darling. She looks just like you, Chelsea, you must have been so relieved." He grins, takes an illogically large bite of cake and meanders outside where he gives some creedance to Chelsea's hasty explanation that he's a cousin of Castiel's by hugging the poor shocked guy.

Sam keeps an eye on him, and doesn't let anyone but Dean, Chelsea or Cas hold Sophie until Gabriel leaves.

He can be God all he damn well pleases, but Gabriel's not holding his daughter.


 

Dean wakes up, gets out of bed, and then carefully pulls the covers up so that Cas and Sophie are still covered up. He goes downstairs to put on a pot of coffee before he wakes them up.

Sophie's staying with them for a long weekend. Sam's taken Chelsea on a mini-vacation. Sophie comes over after pre-school with Sam most days of the week, they still have Friday night dinner, and some times Chelsea brings her by for Sunday breakfast, but he and Cas have never had her all to themselves for this long.

They had eventually had their discussion about how they'd never have kids of their own. It had bummed them out for a couple days, but there had been a baby niece to distract them, then a dog, then Dean's classes had become a struggle, then he'd had a job to start.

He'd been able to let the want fall away to the back of his mind until this week. And then last night the thunderstorm had scared Sophie. Dodger, who had been sleeping in her room, walked her down to his and Cas's room, and kid and dog had both crawled up onto the bed with them. Sophie had scooted down between him and woken him with a very loud whisper of, "Uncle Dean? You awake?" and a hand on his cheek.

And all of a sudden, the slight ache that he hardly thought about anymore, was a hard, sharp pain. Like a gunshot wound.

He hears nails clicking on the stairs as Dodger works his way down the stairs and trots over for his morning ear scratching and Dean allows himself to wallow a little bit before anyone else wakes up.

He's got himself back together by the time happy chatter and creaking floorboards signal that Cas and Sophie are awake. Sophie is telling Cas all about how scary the storm was and Cas is agreeing.

Breakfast is quick. Sophie and Cas team up to sneak Dodger bacon, even though Cas knows that it drives Dean nuts when he feeds Dodger from the table.

She has a minor meltdown over her pink shoes not being in her suitcase, but Cas coaxes her into her brown ones while Dean grabs the paper.

Something about the paper sets his spidey sense tingling, and it takes a moment before he realizes that it's the date.

It's been six years since the apocalypse. To the day.

"Time for school!" Sophie cheers, now that the pink shoe apocalypse has been likewise averted. Dean scoops her up and leans over with a distracted, "Give Uncle Cas kisses," before giving Uncle Cas a quick kiss himself and hustling out to the Impala.

It's weird to realize that it's been so long since he stood between Adam and Sam possessed by Michael and Lucifer in that field. Weird to think about how everything everything, everything has changed. Cas, human and greying. Dean with his life and dog and house and job, and how he shares all of those things with Cas. Sophie getting excited about the geese in the yard. Dodger chasing after them. Sam and Chelsea married. Bobby and Karen thinking about retiring. Their coven of sisters in law. Holidays with their big extended family.

It's weirder to think about how little he's thought about it recently. Outside of an aggravated sigh whenever another Supernatural book comes out, and the less and less frequent calls as Sam becomes the go-to for monster advice, Dean doesn't think about Hunting much at all anymore. He sees the odd stuff in the paper, but it's not as frequent as it used to be, and he hasn't read specifically for weirdness in months.

Sophie wants him to walk into school with her, and the shoe meltdown is obviously mostly about her missing Sam and Chelsea, so Dean decides to humor her.

Sophie marches him into her classroom, and Dean waves helplessly at the young teacher as Sophie drags him into the classroom behind her.

The teacher grins at him. "Let me guess- you're Uncle Dean?"

"That's me." Dean shakes her hand. She introduces herself as Mrs. Roach.

"Uncle Dean can come to school," Sophie offers.

Dean picks her up and kisses her cheek. "Uncle Dean already went to school. That's why he has to go to work now."

Dean sees the next round of tears starting, so does Mrs. Roach.

"Sophie? Why don't you show your Uncle your drawing before he goes? It's in your cubby."

Sophie runs off to get it.

"She's actually already showing talent for drawing. We've been talking about families this week and I recognized you from her picture."

Sophie comes back with her drawing and Dean has a split second to admire the fact that he recognizes Sam by his hair, and himself by his scrubs before he realizes that Sophie has not drawn Uncle Cas in his jeans, shaggy hair and flannel button downs.

She's drawn him with a tan coat, blue tie, black pants.

And wings.

Chapter Text

Dean's brain stops. Cas, the image burned in his mind of old Cas, how he always thinks about Cas when he remembers his old life, is crayoned onto Sophie's family portrait between two huge, blue wings. Kind of the same blue as Cas's tattoo.

It takes a couple repetitions of "You like dah picture?" before he snaps out of it.

"Yeah, yeah, sweetie," Dean manages.

Sophie's forehead wrinkles and she puts her hand on his face. Her wrinkles deepen at the contact and something occurs to Dean. He pulls her hand away from his face, but tugs at her sleeve like he does when he's pulling her close to tie her shoes.

"I drawed a lot of people. Mindy's family has four cats," Sophie tells him.

"When did you see Uncle Cas wearing a suit? I haven't seen Uncle Cas in a suit since before you were born."

"He doesn't wear a soot," Sophie replies, giggling like Dean is telling her a joke.

"I was more curious about the wings," Mrs. Roach laughs.

"Uncle Cas has big blue wings," Sophie says matter of factly.

"Like an Angel?" Mrs. Roach asks playfully.

Dean's laugh in response is fake and loud and Mrs. Roach looks at him with some concern until he kicks out, "Hah, an… Angel. Yeah… he's…" Dean forces himself to calm down. "Well, only to me."

Mrs. Roach's eyes widen a little at that, obviously she hadn't understood the full implication of "Uncle Dean and Uncle Cas" but she smiles at Dean's joke and goes back to her desk. Dean squats down so that he's eye to eye with Sophie.

"Honey, can I take this? Put it up on the fridge?"

"It's a present," Sophie agrees. Dean hugs her tight and takes the picture out to his car. He stares at it. It's a really impressive drawing for a four year old. The proportions are pretty spot on. Sam is towering over everyone, but in the way that he actually does. You can tell who everyone in it is supposed to be. Dodger is sort of a big reddish black blob, but he's like that in real life too.

And then there's Cas. From years ago. Dean realizes that he's getting too upset over this, he does calm down a little when he realizes that the pink blob in Cas's hand is Captain Hops-Along. It takes him a little while to shake it off and go to work, and then it's still an incredibly long day.

Dean can't stop thinking about Old Cas. Immortal and removed. Zipping off without warning. Standing too close because he didn't understand that he shouldn't, not because Dean's personal space just was his personal space.

It's kind of terrible to think about up against his Cas with his stupid hair and his warm smiles that crinkle his eyes. The way he talks seriously to the dog and plays hide and seek with Sophie and scolds Dean for forgetting to take out the trash. It's a picture of Cas before he loved Dean and it's screwing with Dean's head, on top of the existing emotional hangover from the sudden resurgence of the want-to-be-a-Dad feelings from last night.

By lunch it's all just starting to get to him. He takes his sandwich out to a visitor garden and calls Cas.

"Hey. What's going on?"

"Oh, just…" Dean starts and realizes that his only real reason for calling is to hear Cas's voice and he can't think of a non-girly way to admit it. "It's been a weird morning. I wanted to talk to you."

"You noticed the date, didn't you?"

"Yeah. It's not helping."

He tells Cas about the picture. Cas seems surprised but not upset.

"You're not worried about this?" Dean demands. "I mean, where could she have possibly seen a picture of you like that?"

"There aren't any. Maybe she's just psychic."

This is exactly the conclusion that Dean's been trying to avoid. "And that doesn't freak you out?"

"Psychic humans are a natural occurrence," Cas says, and Dean can picture the way that he's shrugging. His shoulders moving entirely independent of his head, a natural move that he'd never quite been able to make look natural.

"What about the whole boy-with-the-demon blood thing?" Dean asks, glancing around to make sure no one's around to overhear him.

"That's not genetic," Cas says. "Dean I'm sure that has nothing to do with it. Azazel's dead. Sam's visions stopped with his death so it makes sense that the magic is done with. And if he could have marked a child with genetic heritage, why would he have made deals instead of just overpowered the mothers and force-fed them blood?"

"You know, those are exactly the sorts of things that I love almost never needing to think about anymore."

"I'm going to pick Sophie up in an hour. Do you want me to try to talk to her about it?"

"And ask her what? 'Sweetie, are you having visions of Uncle Cas going back to Heaven?'"

There's a long pause. Dean drops his forehead into his hand.

"Dean," Cas starts softly. "There's no proof that she has visions. All we have proof of is that she might be able to pick up images from people's minds. That's a very common trait for psychics."

Dean digests that. "Wait… do you still think of yourself like that?"

"Like what?"

"An Angel. The coat, the suit. Your wings? Do you… have you been thinking about that while Sophie's been staying with us?" Dean keeps his voice level, but he sounds weirdly demanding in his head.

"Yes," Cas replies matter of factly. "A little. I mean, with the anniversary of the apocalypse coming up. It's crossed my mind how much things have changed." He sighs and Dean can hear the wistfulness as Cas continues, "I miss my wings sometimes."

"I'm sorry," Dean responds.

"It's not important," Cas says. "I'll see you tonight. Chelsea and Sam said they'd be back in time for dinner. Try not to worry unduly."

"Yeah. I'll try. I love you."

"Love you too."

He feels a little bit better after that, even though the rest of his day is crap. He loves this job, but the reminder last night that he's going to have to borrow all of his experiences with kids from Sam and Chelsea, the shock this morning that Sophie might not be as typical or as safe as they were hoping and now being forced to think about the apocalypse and Cas as he was is a little too much to take on top of the very small body he winds up wheeling down to the morgue before his second break.

He's relieved to walk in his own door to the smell of enchiladas and the sound of Cas and Sophie talking. Sophie's drawing at the kitchen table while Cas does dishes, but it's just a bunch of harmless pictures of Dodger.

Cas hands him an O'Doules. He must have made a special trip to the grocery store after he picked up Sophie. Dean wraps his arms around Cas's waist and kisses behind his ear.

"You okay?"

"Bad day," Dean replies. He hugs Cas little tighter. "Glad we'll have the house to ourselves tonight."

Cas chuckles, turns in Dean's arms and gives him a real kiss. "So, where's this picture we're supposed to put up on the fridge?"

Dean runs back out to the car for it. It seems to bring Cas up a little short when he sees it. He brushes his fingertips along the top of his crayon wings with something that Dean imagines is longing. Sophie watches him with a smile.

"You're very pretty," she announces.

Cas nods and swallows hard before sitting down in one of the kitchen chairs and pulling Sophie into his lap. "When did you see the wings?" he asks gently.

"I don't know," Sophie says. "Sometimes I can see them. I don't like your coat."

Cas closes his eyes and sets his chin lightly on her head. "Can you see them now?"

Sophie touches his face, then nods. "I can see 'um like this. Can I go play with Dodger?"

"Yes." Cas kisses the top of her head and lets her wriggle down to the floor.

"I think she's just picking it up out of our heads," Cas says. "It's very common for people in the bloodlines of vessels to have abnormal sensitivities."

"And we've never noticed? Sam has never noticed?"

"She's four, Dean," Cas says. "It's not like we were expecting this. Why would we have been watching for it?"

"Sammy is going to blow a gasket," Dean declares.

"Well, then we'll have to calm him down."

They're halfway through dinner when Sophie perks up with a cry of "Mommy!" and runs to the door just before Sam and Chelsea walk in.

They get herded into the kitchen by Sophie and Dodger and Dean dishes them up. Sophie crawls into Sam's lap and Cas asks about their trip. Dean's not really listening, he's waiting for a way to get Sophie out of the room so he can tell Sam and Chelsea about his and Cas's theory. The conversation's winding down and Dean can sense an opening coming up when Sam and Chelsea turn to each other and smile.

"And… um… we've got news."

Dean doesn't have to be psychic. He can read the smile and he's ready for it when Chelsea grins from ear to ear and Sam announces. "We're having another baby!"

Sophie cheers. Sam and Chelsea start telling her how great it's going to be to be a big sister. They send her up to put together their suitcase while they talk to Dean and Cas.

"So… what's going on with you two?" Sam asks. "You're not quite working up the excitement we were hoping for."

"We're very excited," Cas says. "But there is something that Dean and I have to tell you."

Dean grabs Sophie's drawing off the counter and sets it in front of his brother and sister-in-law.

"Holy shit," Sam manages.

"Yeah," Dean agrees.

"I'm missing something," Chelsea says.

"They've been drawing their families in preschool," Dean says. He starts to point out each of them. "Here's you. Here's Chelsea, me and Dodger."

"And that's Castiel, from, shit, six years ago," Sam says.

"Six years ago today," Dean says quietly.

"Oh," Chelsea says. "So… where did she… maybe a picture or."

"No. There are no pictures," Cas says."

Chelsea stares at the picture, digesting for a moment. "Is it weird that the suit seems freakier than the wings?" She finally asks.

"What does this mean?" Sam demands.

Cas spreads his arms out pacifyingly and explains his psychic theory. Sam does blow a gasket. Chelsea barks at him to quiet down before Sophie hears and Cas does his best to assure Sam that it can't possibly have anything to do with Azazel or Lucifer, he knows that she's not a prophet, and it's very common for psychics and mediums to pop up in the bloodlines of vessels.

Sophie can tell that everyone is upset when she and Dodger come downstairs, which (probably unfairly) makes Sam freak out even more. He, Chelsea, and Sophie hustle out of the house. Dodger sits at the front door after they leave and whines for a few moments. Cas patches the hole in his world with a treat and Dean pulls Cas down onto the couch with him, then into a kiss, then on top of him.

"Well, today was a rollercoaster," as says, scratching lightly at Dean's scalp.

Dean leans back into the touch. "I wish I meant this in a sexier way, but I really need you right now."

"Everything is fine," Cas says, not quite a sing-song, but close.

"It's not the psychic thing," Dean says, starting to pull Cas's tucked in shirt out of his jeans. "It's kind of everything."

"Should we talk first or have sex first?" Cas asks.

Dean pulls him down into another kiss for an answer. They're both hard and half dressed by the time Cas starts to kiss down Dean's stomach. Dean grabs his shoulder. "Hey… could we…"

"What?"

"Could we actually go all out tonight?" Dean asks.

They've had what Dean begrudgingly thinks of as "traditional sex" a handful of times in the last few years. It had been nearly two years by the time Cas had asked to try it, and it hadn't been anything special. Cas hadn't liked it. Dean had gotten off pretty hard, but didn't like how far away he felt. They'd given it another couple tries, mostly because Dean was determined to get Cas off while he was inside him, and even when he'd managed it, Cas had opined that it was a little to much work to really be worth it.

Dean had worked up enough indifferent to machismo to let Cas top him exactly once and it was still one of their biggest disasters as a couple. Years of battle and then post-battle surgery with whatever was handy had left Dean's body pretty ravaged. Back in nursing school he'd offered up several examples of what happened when a wound was not seen to by a professional. Cas had carefully opened him, and Dean had been warm and turned on and ready, but Cas had hitched his legs up and something had clicked, popped and then felt like it was ripping. It had hurt like Hell and Dean had barely been exaggerating. The entire cost of his nursing degree had been justified to Dean when he'd been able to un-fuck-up his own leg and not have to go to the doctor with sex related injuries.

And that, in and of itself had been pretty bad, but then when he'd convinced Cas that he was still up for it, and that he could do it if he laid on his stomach he'd made the mistake of using the phrase"and I owe you one, I've done it to you a few times."

They'd gotten into a huge fight about how Cas hated it when Dean treated sex like currency, he didn't let Dean inside him out of a sense of obligation, he didn't find it arousing to do anything that Dean didn't actually want to do and it he didn't want to have sex when Dean was in pain. It had culminated in Cas yelling "I don't want to make love to the back of your head!" and storming off to sleep in the spare room.

But tonight Dean doesn't want to take turns, and just rutting isn't enough. He wants to feel buried in Cas, wants to feel Cas human and his underneath him.

Cas looks slightly concerned for a second, like he thinks he might have totally misjudged Dean's mood, but he nods and Dean pulls him back up into a kiss, rocking up into his body steadily until Cas pulls away with a gasp and starts tugging Dean upstairs.

Cas walks Dean backward to their bed, and slips him out of the rest of his clothes before pushing him down onto the mattress. He discards his own clothes efficiently and settles down on top of Dean, threading his fingers into Dean's hair and pulling him into a kiss. Dean fishes the lube bottle out of the nightstand by feel, squirts some in his palm. Cas lifts his body up so Dean can slick their cocks up and they slide together as Dean slicks his fingers again and starts working to Cas. The angle is awkward, but it's worth it when Cas drops out of the kiss, presses his face to Dean's neck and starts breathing heavily into Dean's ear. He waits until Cas is starting to work back on his hand before turning him over.

Cas is flushed red under the smattering of dark hair down his chest and stomach. He cheeks are glowing and his eyes are heavy. Dean strokes him languorously. There's no hurry. They've got no obligations, no world to save, no monsters to chase. They do have Sam about to go nuts with worry, a niece who can either read their thoughts or pierce the veil, and another niece or nephew on the way, but that's all far away from here. Dean sinks into the thought that the world is off his shoulders like a pair of worn slippers. His only immediate responsibility is making Cas feel good.

He kisses down Cas's stomach, taking his flush cock into his mouth despite the slightly medicinal taste of the cherry flavored lube Cas had bought. Cas groans and Dean smiles at the way he can see Cas's hands knot in the sheets while Dean works him a little further open, sucking slowly.

He carefully extracts his fingers when Cas's legs start kicking out, slicks his cock generously, and wipes his hand on the sheets, making a mental note to do the laundry tomorrow. He lines himself up and starts working into Cas's body in slow slides. Cas's head drops back with a moan and Dean strokes him while he works in, trying to keep him hard.

He holds his hips still once he bottoms out, letting Cas breath as he eases his lovers's legs backwards and sinks down as low as he can. Cas leans up just enough so that their lips meet. Dean can feel Cas's legs inching around his waist, the hard muscles, the coarse hair. He pulls the pillow under Cas's head down lower so Cas doesn't have to strain up to kiss him.

Dean holds out as long as he can, breathing through the feeling of Cas clenching cautiously around his cock, and adjust his legs around Dean's waist. He's just about to ask Cas if he's ready when Cas nods against his forehead.

The build up is the best part of doing it like this. The foreplay, working in slow, waiting, starting slow. If Dean's being honest, his favorite thing they do together is when they just rub together, kissing and pressed into each other everywhere. Cas prefers oral, and while the ex-angel doesn't seem to have any actual kinks, he has developed a delight in surprise blowjobs. Dean has woken up to Cas's mouth around him more than once, and every once in a while he'll drop onto the couch after work and Cas will come over, kiss him, and settle between his knees before Dean even has his shoes off.

Dean likes to keep up with him. He likes to catch Cas while he's doing the dishes. Turn him around and have his jeans down before Cas even has time to get his hands in Dean's hair. Surprising Cas in the shower is always fun too. It's easy, it's always amazing and it's something they can do with no prep, no mess, in every room of the house, sometimes several times in a day.

But Dean just needs this right now. Cas's sweaty forehead against his, breath hot on his face, tight around him in every way as he rocks into him.

It was just a picture. It was just colored wax on paper. And he's though about Cas from the old days a thousand times. And he remembers him fondly.

In theory.

Someone else seeing him like that. Potentially psychic little Sophie having visions of Castiel- Angel of Thursday had shaken him. That Castiel had been inhuman and removed and able to disappear mid sentence. He had grander concerns than where Sophie's coloring books were, or whether Dodger was low on food. The idea of Cas being an Angel again is terrifying. The idea of Cas before he loved Dean is terrifying.

Cas's fingers dig hard into Dean's arms as Dean starts pumping deeper, hovering at the edge between making love to Cas and fucking him. Cas' head rocks back with a breathless "Oh, Dean."

Dean tries to hold back but can't. He buries himself deep inside Cas and comes hard. It's a moment before he catches his breath. He pulls out, finishes Cas off in his mouth and, spent, drops his forehead down to Cas's thigh.

Cas's fingers trace through his sweat sopped hair and Dean has no idea how long he lays there before Cas shifts underneath him.

"I need to shower."

Dean sighs and wraps his arm around Cas's other thigh. "No. Don't go."

Cas laughs. "Come with me."


 

Sam watches Sophie play with her legos and tries to be calm and logical.

There is nothing Demon inspired going on. Unlike his parents, he and Chelsea are aware of what's really out there, and aren't trying to pretend that just because they don't hunt, doesn't mean that can't be hunted.

"Come play with me, Daddy," Sophie says. Sam shakes himself. He's sitting on that line he can feel in his head sometimes. Where if he doesn't watch himself, he'll become John. It's not a thought he needs with Chelsea two months pregnant with his second child, or when his four year old might be able to hear what he's thinking. He shakes himself and moves down to the floor with her.

"What are we making?"

"Captain needs a house. And a dog. He needs a place for the fire and marshmallows."

"Marshmallows?"

"Like at Uncle Cas and Uncle Dean's. We cooked marshmallows in the fire in the living room."

Sam smiles and starts building a wall for Captain Hops-Along's house.

"Did you have fun with your uncles?"

"Uh huh. We made marshmallows and Dodger licked my nose and Uncle Cas let me bury flower seeds in his garden."

"That sounds fun."

"Uh huh. Dodger's breath is yucky."

Sam carefully prods at Sophie's long weekend with Cas and Dean. It doesn't yield much. Captain Hops-Along is afraid of Dean and Cas's basement. Dodger is afraid of storms and Sophie thinks that sometimes Dean is sad when he holds her. Chelsea overhears his gentle interrogation and gets mad at him. She drags him upstairs for a bit of a squabble before she makes him agree not to pick at this. Sam says he'll agree not to pester Sophie about it, but refuses to ignore it.

"Look, I just… I can't let this sit, Chels," Sam tells her. "I can't. I can't… I can't let my kids get sucked into hunting. I can't let this happen."

"She's not going to be a hunter," Cheslea tells him. She sets her hand at his arm like she was going to soothe him, but grips him tight instead. "There are a lot of things that could be happening here and I'm not letting you treat your daughter like a case. We are going to act like everything is normal."

"Cheslea!" Sam starts, but she cuts him off.

"We are going to act like everything is normal. We are going to call Bobby, and ask him what he thinks we should do. He knows a ton of psychics and they're all just fucking fine."

Sam doesn't respond that Pamela isn't. Chelsea read the stupid books. She knows what happened to Pamela.

"And then we'll call Chuck, and see if he knows what's going on, and if we have to we'll start praying to Gabriel."

"I don't want Gabriel anywhere near her," Sam replies.

"Fine. We'll cross that bridge if we even get to it. You go call Bobby, I'm going to go get Sophie in the bathtub."

Sam gets himself a beer out of the fridge and calls Bobby. Bobby seems utterly unperturbed after Sam tells him that Cas is sure it has nothing to do with Azazel. Sam's not sure if he's annoyed or relieved that Bobby is taking this so well. The call ends with Bobby telling him not to worry, and promising to hit his old psychic network and ask a couple questions.

Chapter Text

Dean's been keeping an eye on Sam. Not out of any actual worry, but just because Sam is always going to be his little brother. Things have been a little hectic, what with Sophie being officially declared psychic, Chelsea hitting the always-sick stage of her pregnancy and Cas finally getting a part time job at the bookstore in town.

Everyone needed a break by the time Tanya came into town and offered to babysit, though, in Dean's opinion, Chelsea needs a break from Tanya more than anything else tonight.

Dean had gotten the impression that Tanya wholly expected Sam and Chelsea to treat themselves to some sort of date night or maybe even a night in the hotel just to get away a little bit. She had seemed surprised when Dean and Cas had shown up at the front door, and then even more surprised when Dean and Sam had taken off in the Impala and Chelsea and Cas had gone off to do something equally no-stress in her Prius.

Dean had no idea what Cas and Chelsea had decided to do, but he and Sam had somehow wound up in the middle of a standby from a life that was starting to feel, sometimes, like it had never happened. They'd dropped by a liquor store, Dean had grabbed a six pack of O'Doules, Sam a six back of Miller, and they'd wound up at the clearing that looked out over the city, sitting on the hood of the car and watching the stars in the slight chill of the early June breeze.

Dean cracks open his non-alcoholic beer. He's gotten used to not drinking, but there are times where you still just need a beer. The hiss of Sam's beer echoes.

"Kinda like old times," Dean comments.

Sam chuckles. "Yeah. Sort of. Except no half healed cuts and bruises. And I've been checking my phone all night in case Tanya takes Sophie outside, gets her mind read, and freaks out." He waves his phone as evidence. "As it stands we are going to need to think of a reason behind our bizarre "no face touching" rule."

"How are you doing with that? The whole thing with Sophie?"

"It's weird how it's not that weird." Sam shrugs. "I mean, what's really changed? I believe her when she tells me what the dog's thinking." Sam shrugs and gulps down his beer.

"Yeah. Well. You've got the warded house. We've had a meltdown or two."

Sam nods. "I know. But… you know what Missouri said."

The psychic that Bobby had found to pay Sophie a house call had been Missouri Mosely. She'd driven up, checked the energies in Sam and Chelsea's house, then Dean and Cas's. She'd cackled a little at Dean for "having a fella", then declared that everything felt normal. Sophie was just psychic and it had taken this long for anyone to notice because all the wards and magics in Sam and Chelsea's house were dampening it. Her extended stay with her uncles had probably been the first time she'd had a couple of days to get used to the way her powers worked.

"Yeah, I heard Missouri," Dean sighs. "It just sucks that we've all been working so hard to… you know, shield her and now we just flat out can't. You haven't woken up from a nightmare to a toddler sobbing because you accidentally gave her a glimpse of Hell."

"No… but I'm the one she crawls in with when she can't sleep because of those things… so there's that. I'm trying to just stay positive. We saw terrible things when we were younger. We eventually worked our way to normal…ish. For her at least they're just pictures. And it'll keep her from ever wanting to Hunt for herself. She'll never get taken in by some handsome drifter." Sam gave him a pointed look. "She won't have any creepy guys able to lie to her." Sam takes another drunk from his beer. "Or some creepy girl, I guess."

Dean accepts the fraternal punch to the arm with a snort. "Very PC"

"I'm an accepting guy."

"How are you accepting the other news?"

Sam shakes his head. "Oh you mean the news about twins? That news?"

"Yeah. That news. The twin news," Dean laughs. Sam had been handling baby two just fine, but had shown up at Dean and Cas's house a little on the freaked out side when he'd learned that his brood was increasing to three in one fell swoop.

"It'll be great. I like being a Dad."

"You do not seem excited."

"I am excited. I am. I'm just tired. I've got a constantly morning sick wife, a sister in law who I know still doesn't like me in my house and a baby psychic. I just wasn't braced for another surprise. But it'll be fine. I'll be more excited when Tanya goes home and Chelsea feels better."

Dean nods and shoves his hand into his jacked, into the inside pocket where he still keeps a switchblade and pulls something else out of the pocket. "How's this for a surprise?" He hands Sam the little box he's been carrying around for the last month and hands it to Sam.

Sam takes it and pops it open. He whistles. "Well… if you're proposing to me then I'm surprised. If you're proposing to Cas then I'm going with what the hell took you so long?"

Dean takes refuge in a little bit too long sip from his beer before he replies. "It's not really a proposal. I just… you know. Carry it around. I saw it somewhere after I'd cashed a chuck-check and I just… I don't know. It made me think of him."

Dean leans back against the windshield. He's getting better at the whole feelings and honesty thing. He can talk to Cas about anything even if there are a couple of topics that he needs to work himself up to. He can admit when he's upset. He can ask Cas to just sit with him. He can lay on the couch with his head on Cas's chest without feeling "chick-flicky". He can accept flowers from Cas's garden, and has been the object of some jealousy at work because once or twice Cas has brought him a few. He can suck Cas off in the shower or the kitchen and not think about anything other than how much they're both enjoying it.

But it's still hard sometimes to talk about Cas. Everyone around him accepts it, and he knows that and it's not the problem. Sam's even attempted to initiate a few milder versions of the locker-room style conversations that they used to have now that it wasn't just a validation conversation like it had been the first couple of times.

Dean just can't quite wrap words around what Cas actually means to him. He can't just sit on the hood of his car with his brother and say "I want him around until the day I die, and I want to show him that I want him around until the day I die."

He can't even quite admit to Cas yet that there is an undercurrent of "I want you to always been here, and I'm terrified that you won't be."

Dean takes another gulp of his O'Doules. "I don't know. I mean… it's not a proposal. I can't marry him. And he's… I mean… he is what he is. He's only been human for a few years. I'm not really sure what his reaction would be."

"Well. No one knows him like you do."

"Yeah." Dean says. "I guess." He takes the ring back from Sam and tucks it into its box.

"But I know you. I know how badly you want something permanent. I know how happy you make Cas and how much he wants you to be happy. As long as you've known each other and everything you've been through together I'm just shocked you haven't put a ring on it yet.

"I just want…" He clears his throat and tries to force what he's thinking into words. "The whole picture thing freaked me out. Cas. Wings. Holy roller reunion. The idea of him just… gone…" Dean drinks deeply from his can again before going on, "but you don't ask a guy to give up his home and his species and his immortality for you."

"There is no evidence that any of that is on the table. And even if it was. You're his home, Dean. We're his family. Has he said a word about wishing he could go back to Heaven?"

"He said he misses his wings."

"Yeah, but has he ever said shit about going back to Heaven?"

"No," Dean admits.

"So, why wouldn't you just give him the ring and show him that you don't ever want him to go?"

Dean tucks the box back into his pocket. "I'll wait for the right time."

Sam laughs. "Yeah. I kept saying that. It's crap. Just go home tonight, tell him you love him, tell him you always will, and hand the damn thing over. And while you're at it, start calling him your boyfriend in public. The verbal gymnastics that you go through to avoid it are ridiculous."

Dean lets that sink in. "Did you just 'Dad voice' me?"

Sam looks a little embarrassed. "Yeah. I guess I did. I must be all grown up now."


 

"You seem nervous," Cas comments.

Chelsea looks up from her phone, feeling suddenly guilty. "Nervous?"

"You keep looking at your phone as though you expect terrible news."

Chelsea sighs and tucks her phone back into her pocket. She is trying to enjoy an almost nausea free night with her friend. And she'd been doing just fine so far. She and Cas had gone to the mall, gone to the movie they'd both been interested in, but that Sam and Dean didn't want to see, they are relaxing. She is relaxed. She's just… concerned as well.

"Well… maybe not terrible news, but Tanya isn't Libby. You know?"

"I think Sophie understands that there are certain things she must keep to herself," Cas replies.

Chelsea sighs. She wonders a little about Cas's confidence in Sophie's maturity.

"Well. She's four. Tanya is Tanya." Chelsea gathers up her purse and light jacket. Cas extends his arm to her. She's not that pregnant yet, she's barely showing and she can get up just fine, but the gesture is gentlemanly and sweet.

"I'm starting to really freak out about not being able to tell my family the truth, Cas," She admits. "I mean… at first it was just a couple white lies. A couple half truths… but now they've known Sam and all you guys too long. The lies just keep piling up and now we have to lie about our daughter and I'm asking her to lie. It's too much already and we've… we have two more kids incoming. Two more kids who are…" she looks around and drops her voice "Who are in the whole vessel of Lucifer bloodline. What if they've got powers too? I can't hide three psychic kids… but there is no way to make it sound true."

Cas looks at her with concern heavy eyes. He sets his hand at her elbow. "Would you like some ice cream? Sam says it calms you down when you're pregnant and upset?"

If Dean had pulled that on her she would have smacked him, but it's not condescending from Cas. He's actually just trying to help. And it's the sort of subtle nuance of understanding that you need in order to deal with Cas. It's something that she's used to. It's something the rest of her family has almost gotten used to, just because he's been around at holidays for a couple years and it's the kind of thing that makes so much more sense when you know the truth about him.

"I would like some ice cream."

"Come on," Cas says.

Chelsea tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow and they leave the theater. "I think telling them will be easier than you think."

"And why is that?"

"Because none of us are convincing as normal people," Cas says matter of factly. "And your family doesn't really believe the lies we've been telling them."

"What?"

"Chelsea, I don't have any human experiences before the age of thirty three. I've been getting away with it because of the stupid cult lie, which I also don't have any detailed information for. I know your mother doesn't believe me."

"How?"

"I heard her telling your father that she thinks Dean and I met in prison. She thinks we were both incarcerated very young and we're lying about the Iraq war because you asked us too and that's the reason that Dean and Sam were estranged for a time."

"Really? And my Dad believes that too?"

"I didn't know what the VA was. I am a terrible liar."

"Awesome…. That is… awesome," Chelsea manages, realizing that it does make sense. It's a decent guess. "Well, the truth is better than came-of-age in jail, but still, how are we supposed to convince them that a bunch of impossible crap is true?"

Cas gives her a serious look before answering.

"How do you kill a vampire?"

"Decapitation. Why?"

"Poison one?"

"Dead man's blood."

"Repel Ghosts?"

"Salt and Iron. Burn the bones."

"Identify a Demon?"

"Holy water."

"What regiment did Sam serve with in Afghanistan?"

Chelsea could feel the way her mind went blank as Cas's point loomed. "Oh."

"Yes."

"Still. It's going to be an uphill battle," Chelsea sighed.

"When isn't it?" Cas replies.

Cas springs for ice cream for the two of them and they wander outside and find a bench out in the fresh air and near quiet.

"I'm glad we did this," Chelsea says. "The two of us haven't just hung out in forever."

Cas nods, then stills. "Chelsea?"

"Hmmm?"

"Do you think Dean wants to be married?"

Chelsea processes that for a second, making sure she understands what he actually said and not just the words he used.

"I think he wants to be with you," she replies, watching Cas out of the corner of her eye.

"No. I know that. I just… I know Dean wants something… permanent. I feel like I can't give it to him."

Cas shuffles, digs into a pocket and hands her a ring box. She pops it open.

"He used to wear a ring a little bit like that," Cas says. "Heavy and gray. It's just a gesture. We wouldn't be tied. There's more legal significance to the fact that the house is in both our names. I can't… sometimes I feel like he gave up so much of the normal life that he envisioned. For me. I want… I think this might work as a way to show him that I can be… permanent."

Chelsea tries the ring on. It absolutely dwarfs her finger and she wonders if Cas thought to have it measured.

"I think he'd love that, Cas," She pulls off the ring and hands it back to him. "And to hell with legal. I don't think legal means much to Dean."

"Back during the Renaissance a marriage was considered official with just a friar and a witness," Cas says, playing with the ring, watching it as he talks. "A friar doesn't mean much to either of us, I guess."

"I think having actually been and Angle makes you a decent stand in."

Cas clears his throat, puts the ring back in the box and slips the box back into his pocket. "Now you need to tell your family that I was an Angel."

"And that Sam was a Hunter. And what a Hunter is."

"Not to mention the apocalypse and your psychic daughter."

Chelsea groans and drops her head down to Cas's shoulder. They talk about ways of bringing it up, ways of telling her family the truth. Nothing inspired springs to mind and they give up before their ice cream is finished, instead talking about Cas's new job.

Tanya is watching TV quietly when Chelsea and Cas get back. Sophie is asleep upstairs and Chelsea and Cas both go upstairs to kiss her goodnight.

They hear Sam and Dean coming in the front door. They're not loud but it's just enough commotion to wake Sophie. Chelsea carries her downstairs to say goodnight. She manages to stay awake for another ten minutes before falling asleep in Dean's arms.

Chelsea knows that Sam thinks Tanya still doesn't like him. She has been writing this off because Tanya doesn't really like anyone, but Cas's "Previously Cell-Mates" revelation has her wondering. She's watching the way Tanya talks to all of them and realizing that Tanya does watch Cas and Dean a little too hard with Sophie. The way that Sophie puddles in Dean's arms and tucks her face into his neck as she starts to fall asleep. The way Dean kisses her hair when she sighs.

It's not as though the truth would change that, Chelsea thinks as she and Sam brush their teeth before bed. If anything, the truth makes them all seem more dangerous and even getting them to where they are in her family- accepted, celebrated, trusted with the kids, has been a struggle.

"You alright?" He asks her, jolting her out of her thoughts.

"Mmm? Yeah. Sorry. Just… thinking." She rinses and spits.

"Clearly." He rinses and spits. "You have a nice girls night out with Cas?"

"You know Dean hates it when you call it that," Chelsea chides.

Sam shrugs. "So get this- Dean bought Cas a ring. Like a month ago. Just carries it around."

"You're kidding. Cas bought Dean a ring too."

Sam scoffs. "Those two are ridiculous. Dean… I mean I get it. He's always going to… have those scars and no matter how long or how much Cas fixes him, he's never going to be Normal Joe, but damn… just put a ring on it man. And when Cas proposes to him it's going to be really ridiculous. And Dean's going to get all awkward about feeling like a girl."

Chelsea laughs at Sam's indignation. "Really? You think Cas'll pull the trigger first?"

"I think Dean will hold onto that ring until he confuses it for the box he keeps his dentures in, and that when Cas finally sees it he'll say yes. I think the only thing that can prevent this is the weird-ass proposal that Cas will come up with before that happens."

Chelsea adjusts her pajamas bottoms, loving the way Sam watches her do it, and sets his hands to her stomach as she does it.

"I think Dean'll propose first," she opines. "I think Cas'll do one of those things that makes Dean smile like all the weight on his shoulders is lifting and the question will just pop right out of him."

Sam smiles warmly at her. "That was poetic. You think that up ahead of time."

Chelsea takes his forearms in her hands. "I feel like you look at me like that sometimes."

Sam leans down to kiss her. "I do."

"But… umm…" Chelsea pulls teasingly out of the kiss. "Back to the Cas Dean question… fifty bucks?"

Sam snorts. "Fifty bucks Cas proposes first. And when I win, I'll take you out to dinner."

Chelsea rolls her eyes, but shakes his hand and then tip-toes back up into the kiss.

Chapter Text

The family has a lot more than just the nation's independence to celebrate by the time the fourth of July rolls around. So in order to celebrate Martha and Taylor's new baby, Henry, Libby and Sven's engagement, and Mr. Clearwater's 75th birthday, the Clearwater Clan all rent cabins around a lake west of the Twin Cities for the holiday weekend.

Dean, Cas, Chelsea, Sam, Sophie and Dodger all go in on a cabin together, and decide, more or less collectively, that this is as good a time as any to start letting go of some of the lies. Warm the family up to the idea that they aren't all what they appear, and that Sophie has abilities that they might not believe are real.

They all agree to be themselves a little more than they usually are. Nothing major, just… not hiding the things that they might otherwise have hidden.

Oddly the thing that catches the most attention is Cas getting a tan.


 

Dean understands that it's Sam and Chelsea's decision to come clean about Sophie. If she was his daughter, he'd probably wait a few more years, but she isn't, and Chelsea thinks asking a four year old to keep a big secret will somehow scar her terribly.

But he doesn't think they should tell the family about Hunting, and he thinks his opinion on this front should count for more. Telling the truth about Hunting goes against all of Dean's instincts. He'd rather have Chelsea's parents think he was locked up for years than know what he really was. He knows that Hunting will always be a part of him. He knows there are things he'll never grow out of. Sophie's in the house too often for him to leave guns out that way that his father did, but he's got a jug of holy water under the bed, silver knives in the nightstand, and a container of salt. He's still got the exorcism memorized and he taught it to Cas, just in case.

But everyday that goes by he feels more and more like a former Hunter. He's starting to feel like that part of his life could be over. He can just be a boyfriend. And an uncle. And a nurse.

And be happy.

Dean's worrying is interrupted by a quick press of lips to the back of his neck. He shivers and shivers again as he feels Cas's cheek tucks close to his. "I've been talking to you for the last few minutes," he says gently.

"Sorry," Dean sighs, turning to kiss him. "Just the whole fourth of July thing. Dropping the bomb on civilians. Having everyone know our deep, dark secrets," Dean sighs. Cas edges around the couch and settles in next to Dean. He grins and settles his legs over Dean's.

"All those terrible times you saved the world. All those regrettably longer innocent lives," Castiel pretends to kick him.

"I hate it when you get snarky," Dean sighs.

"I hate it when you get gloomy," Cas replies with a playful smile.

"What's gotten into you?" Dean asks.

Cas shrugs, sweeps his legs off of Dean's and scoots closer. "It's beautiful outside. Everything's blooming. You have the day off. We're taking Sophie to soccer tonight. It's a nice day." He wraps his arms around Dean's shoulders, and presses a kiss to his lips. "I'm just happy today. You should join me."

Dean sighs and kisses him again. "I'm stewing too much about this aren't I?"

"Yes. It's very tiresome. Come do something with me. Let's take Dodger to the park."

"Alright," Dean agrees. He doesn't take his hands away from Cas's waist. They stay, for just a little too long, arms around each other, faces pressed together but not kissing, breathing each other in while Cas lets out a quiet chuckle.

"I love you."

Dean nods against Cas's forehead. "Love you too."

His thoughts flick to the ring box hidden inside a pair of ratted up socks in their bedroom. Cas sinks past him.

"Dodger!" He says in his bright voice. "Dodger! Go for a walk?"

Dean hears the thumping paws and clicking nails as Dodger goes into what sounds like paroxysms of joy.

Cas gets Dodger out to the car, Dean runs upstairs, grabs the ring box, tucks it in his pocket and hustles out to the Impala after dog and boyfriend.

It really is a beautiful day. It's just stupidly nice. They walk around the park. They go out for ice cream. They run into the old gang from the garage at the soccer game, and then take the long route home, through fields of long grass and fireflies.

It's the perfect day to propose. It's a perfect day period and watching Cas in the mirror while they brush their teeth, Dean just can't quite convince himself to do it.


 

They've decided to drive from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis, and somehow as part of the whole family vibe, they had all wound up agreeing to take the Impala together.

Dean can't help but make comparisons between this trip and the million other trips he's made in this car. Six years and everything is so different.

They aren't planning a 12 hour drive. They aren't staying in skeevy motels. They got rooms at a Sheraton in Stillwater to break up the drive. He's not cruising down the highway with most of a buzz rocking, Sam researching in the passenger seat.

Sam is in the backseat with Chelsea and Sophie, reading Sophie one of the books they brought to keep her entertained. Castiel is in the front seat, Dodger resting his head in his lap.

He looks up at himself in the rearview mirror and suddenly has a moment where he can see just how different everything looks and feels. Sam's shorter, but still not short hair. Cas in one of Dean's flannel shirts. Chelsea round and glowing. The way the crows feet around his own eyes are deepening.

It's one of those moments where he suddenly realizes that he never truly believed that he would live this long, and he never, ever really believed that he'd have something like this if he did.


 

Sam doesn't realize until he puts on his swim trunks that he hasn't thought about what he actually looks like in years.

He's been so focused on Sophie being out from under the wards and around so many people for days on end that he hasn't really stopped to consider that his and Chelsea's insistency on being more honest than usual applies to him, Dean, and Cas just as much as Sophie.

And Sophie's already gotten a couple slightly odd looks for knowing where George hid a toy from her. It wasn't a big deal, and really, neither is this, but these things add up. They slowly turn into just enough pressure on the first domino.

Sam's never been shirtless in front of Sophie's family before. He spends a moment looking at himself in the mirror before deciding that they have this whole honesty goal this weekend and that wearing a shirt in the water is going to just make everyone imagine that he's even more beat up than he is.

And it could be worse. There are a couple stab wounds that pucker out strangely from being stitched together with dental floss. There's a notch out of his arm from when Bela shot him, and a couple other bullet wounds in his arms and legs. Then there are assorted knife wounds, a couple burns and a bite mark here and there, all of which are hard to explain, but most of which he's sure his in laws won't ask about.

He definitely gets a look from Cindy when he checks in with Chelsea before he goes down to the lake. Tanya and Libby are floating on air mattresses, drinking hard lemonades. Cas, Dodger and Sophie are chasing minnows in the shallows. Dean is in the water, wearing a dark tee shirt. George is thrashing and kicking back and forth between the small space between Dean and Martha. Dean's congratulating him on getting to be a good swimmer already.

It's a fun summer day. Sophie and Cas eventually abandon minnow hunting to join the circle of those attempting to swim. They all get called upstairs when lunch is off the grill. It's exactly the sort of normal family stuff Sam used to dream about, excluding the horrified look Martha gives him when George sticks his finger into the bullet hole in Sam's arm and asks how he got that.

It doesn't get weird until after lunch. Cas falls asleep in the sun. Dean sprays an extra layer of sunscreen on him and lets him sleep. It's ridiculous, but sweet. After a popsicle, and then having most of a popsicle wiped off of her with a washcloth, Sophie climbs up on Cas's lap and sets her head to his chest. Sam watches her for a little while before realizing that she's sitting with her eyes open, a little smile on her face.

"Are you and Cas taking a nap?" Sam stage whispers.

Sophie shakes her head. "No. I'm listening," she whispers back.

"Listening to what?" Sam asks.

"Uncle Cas has pretty dreams," Sophie sighs happily.

Cindy chuckles. Sam sees Dean's face flicker through a couple expressions he's never seen before and settle on an expression that seems sort of… hopeful but sad.

"What's he dreaming about?" Dean asks quietly.

"Dean," Sam scolds. They have been trying like hell to find a way to be careful about not making Sophie feel like a freak about this, but not letting it get out of control. They'd agreed to make it a privacy issue. It was okay to be capable of seeing into people's private thoughts, but it was wrong to actually do it because they should be private. "Privacy. Remember?"

"Right. Sorry."

"Pretty clouds," Sophie answers, oblivious to Dean and Sam squabbling. "And big…nice monster people in the park."

Cindy chuckles. "She has quite the imagination, doesn't she? Do the nice monsters have names?"

"Oh, we-" Sam starts, not sure where he's going to go with that. We're trying to teach her it's rude to look into other people's heads. We all know better than to ask what's in Castiel's dreams.

But Sophie cuts in. "Inias an' Samandriel, an' Rachel."

Cindy looks a little taken aback, and her next chuckle is strained.

"Okay, kiddo, come on," Dean sighs. He reaches out to pick her up.

She grins and snuggles down into Cas. "But if he has nightmares I can wake him up."

Sam sees the way that Dean falters at that. He clears his throat and reaches down to grab her. "If he has nightmares, I'll wake him up. Okay?"

"Promise?"

"Yeah. I promise. Come here, squirt."

Dean scoops her up, Cas's arms come up after her, with a little bit of a waking up noise. Dean shushes him and he settles, snoring a little as Dean walks back into the nearest cabin with Sophie hiked over his shoulder.

Cindy sighs and chuckles. "So… they're having a baby soon, right? Your brother and his…umm…"

"Boyfriend," Sam supplied.

"They are so good with her. And she adores them. They'd be great parents. You can tell."

"Yeah, they definitely would," Sam says. "But uh… they can't. Dean's looked into it a couple time, they are a couple paperwork hurdles they just won't be able to clear."

"Well, maybe a miracle then," Cindy sighs, pats Sam's knee and wanders off.

Sophie and George go butterfly hunting. Martha hands Baby Henry to Dean and goes to help clean up lunch. Dean wakes Cas up when his cheeks start to go pink. When he sits up, the thin white scar lines of the Angel banishing symbol he had once carved into his own chest are easily visible under his dark hair and over his newly darkened skin.

Everyone notices before Dean whisks Cas back to the cabin to get him into a shirt.

In and of itself, it's not that big a deal. Cas has a scar. They all have scars. Sam has his scars on display. Sam's scars fit into the soldier lie easily enough. He's caught a couple of his sisters in law staring over the course of the afternoon, but that's fair. He understands that most people don't see a gunshot wound very often.

But Cas's marks are different. They're creepy and ritualistic and otherworldly. They do fit into his own lie- the cult upbringing fiction- but they do it in a dark and scary way that changes the story.

Cas's scar is the first nudge on that domino, and Sam can feel it. And the weirdest part is that Sam can see the gears moving in everyone's heads. Sam has clearly gone through Hell, and has the marks to show for it. God only knows what's happened to Cas, and he's covering the marks up now that they do show. Dean's wet tee shirt suddenly seems suspicious. And based on what's clearly happened to the rest of them, it's hard not to wonder what they are all hiding.

Chapter Text

Chelsea can tell that Sam is super tense about this whole weekend and it's making her tense for him on top of her own tenseness. And she is too damn pregnant to be this tense.

She wishes they'd tried harder to convince Bobby and Karen to come along. Bobby had been very supportive of her plan to 'come out' to her family about the whole Hunting part of their lives.

Maybe they just shouldn't have started so big. Maybe she should have gone to Martha's and broken the news about the whole psychic thing. Maybe she and Sam should have just visited her parents and come clean. She just wants the secrecy to be over though. It's just been too long, and she hates that he has been keeping secrets from her family for so long.

Also- Cas and Dean are driving her crazy. They've been together longer than she and Sam have, they've fixed each other in ways that she and Sam weren't even broken and it's just stupid that they aren't married with a damn litter of cute little things with big pretty eyes by now. But instead they are dancing around, each hiding rings from each other, each worried about the other leaving, when the other has no intention of ever doing that.

"Mom! Mom!" Sophie's voice cuts into Chelsea's moping. "Can I put some water in Dodger's bowl? He's thirsty." She has her hands wrapped around Dodger's collar while the poor guy pants.

"Yeah, let me carry it though, I don't want the floor all wet."

"Dodger likes to chase the fishes with me," Sophie says while Chelsea fills up a bowl. "He likes it here. He likes the birds."

Chelsea reaches down to scratch Dodger's ears. "Do you like it here?"

"I went swimming with Daddy," Sophie replies. She climbs up onto a kitchen chair and grabs her crayons. "He held me up so I could kick big splashes."

"Big splashes, huh?"

"Big!" Sophie confirms. Dodger barks in agreement and Chelsea sets his water bowl down for him. She wonders a little bit about just how much of Sophie's connection with the dog is just basic four year old stuff and how much she can actually understand him.

"How's your head?" Chelsea asks carefully.

Sophie pushes her palms to her temples. "It's all bright and loud."

"Too loud?" Chelsea asks.

Sophie shrugs. "No. Dodger and Uncle Cas make it quiet."

"Uncle Cas makes it quiet?" Chelsea asks.

"He's all mmmmHmmmMMMmmmhmmm," Sophie says, humming lightly. Chelsea smiles. She worries about Sophie, but not as much as she would if she didn't know what was really going on out there, or if Sam wasn't her father. And sometimes she's a little jealous that she'll never see the world the way her daughter does.

"And what is Dodger like?"

Sophie holds her hands out her little fists and flashes her fingertips outward. "Boooooommmmaaahhhhbommmmahhh h" she whispers. "I try not to listen. You said it was rude to listen. But Dodger… I don't think he thinks it's rude."

"I know, baby. I'm just trying to understand," Chelsea says.

Sophie nods. "Okay. Mrs. Roach says that you should ask questions when you don't understand."

"That's smart. So Uncle Cas and Dodger are quiet. Is everyone else loud?"

Sophie's forehead wrinkles. "No, they're not loud. Well… sometimes they're loud. Aunt Tanya is loud. She hurts my," –her forehead wrinkles again and she puts her fingertips right above her eyebrows– "right here."

Chelsea nods. Sophie goes back to coloring. "Uncle Dean is bright green inside," she says casually. "And sometimes he goes 'whoosh' with lights."

"What about me?"

" 'Ping!'," Sophie responds. "With sparkles an' blue."

"What about Daddy?"

Sophie's mouth twists, like she's really concentrating. "Daddy doesn't make noise. It's weird. And it's really dark."

"I thought you could see what people were thinking about," Chelsea says.

"No, have to touch them for that," Sophie sighs. "Because it's… umm… it's too far away? I don't know."

"What are you guys talking about?"

Chelsea's head snaps up. Libby is standing in the doorway, looking puzzled. Sophie scoots around in her chair. "I'm telling Mom what people look like in their heads."

Libby chuckles. "That's nice sweetie."

"She doesn't believe me," Sophie stage whispers.

Chelsea leans back in her chair. The logical thing to do is let it go… but this is what they came to do and Libby already knows most of the truth.

"Sophie? Do you want to show your aunt?" Chelsea asks.

"Okay," Sophie says. She holds out her little hand. Libby takes it and shoots Chelsea a wink.

"Concentrate on something," Chelsea suggests.

Libby looks like she's starting to think she is in over her head, but swallows and nods.

"Okay, what am I thinking about, sweetheart?"

Sophie giggles. "Pink Elephants. You're silly."

Libby's smile freezes. Sophie's giggle cuts out like the power to it shorted.

"No…" Sophie says. "No, now you're scared." Her bottom lip trembles. "No, don't be scared."

Chelsea heaves herself out of her chair and cups her hands around her sister and her daughter's joined ones. "It's alright. It's fine. That's my fault. It wasn't nice of us to surprise Aunt Libby like this. It's all fine."

And God bless Libby, because she clears her throat and smiles. "Right. Right. It's fine. It's just a little shock. Like when you watch a scary movie for fun."

"Right!" Chelsea agrees instantly.

Libby sits down and strokes Sophie's hair. She offers her hand again and watches Chelsea carefully while she thinks of a few more silly things for Sophie to pull out of her head until Sophie is smiling again.

Sam checks in to grab a beer, and Chelsea silently indicates that he should take his daughter and his beer outside with her own brand of non-supernatural, but still totally effective psychic communication.

"So… psychic," Libby manages. "Cause you're life isn't weird enough, with the gay Angel-in-law, house full of graveyard dirt, pulling dividends from the book sales of the Prophet of the Lord, and of course, trying to find ways to explain why your husband looks like he's been through a meat grinder and duct taped back together."

"Yeah… I know."

"Mom thinks Cas got sliced up when he was young as some sort of cult god sacrifice."

"Well," Chelsea sighs. "That tracks."

"And I'm guessing that Dean's walking around in a tee shirt like a chubby girl at the beach because there really is a handprint burned into his shoulder? Just like the books?"

"You got it," Chelsea nods. "What does every one think about Dean?"

"That they don't even want to know what he looks like if Sam's walking around shirtless with three visible gunshot wound scars."

"Maybe he can try to pull it off as some sort of chemical burn branding type thing. That he got in prison."

"You know about that?" Libby asks.

"Cas overheard Mom and Dad talking." Chelsea gets up and pulls a popsicle out of the freezer. "I guess… I thought the truth would come up sooner. I mean… I know about the ghost thing from the second I met Dean and Cas… the Angel thing came up a couple months later. Cas got really sick and was rambling about Heaven and Dean told me… I thought that it would just come up one day. And now, it's years later, and I sort of feel like I'm sitting on this bomb. And I can't ask my four year old to lie to her family, or make her feel like this part of herself is some big shameful secret. It's gotten too big."

Libby sets her hand on Chelsea's knee. "Well. I know. Sven knows. Let's… talk. Figure out what we'd need to do to convince everyone else."

Chelsea sighs. "Thanks, Libby."


 

"What do you dream about?" Dean hears himself ask. He curses a little internally. He hadn't mean to ask that. It's all the moonlight and the soft noise of the waves starting to get to him. A whole day of swimming and grilling and walking and playing with the kids had ground him into a state of hyper relaxation.

Cas's stubble pricks through his shirt and he adjusts his head on Dean's shoulder. "What do you mean?"

"Sophie said that she likes to listen to you dream because you have pretty dreams."

Cas yawns. "Oh. I didn't know that. That's potentially problematic."

"Problematic?" Dean asks.

"Mmm. My dreams are often about you. Naked." He pinches Dean's side playfully. "The pretty ones anyway."

Dean slaps Cas's hand away. "She said you dream about clouds and monsters in the park. She threw out some names. Angel names. Is that… Heaven? Do you dream about Heaven?"

Cas picks at Dean's shirt. "Yes."

"A lot?"

Cas keeps picking, then lifts himself up over Dean and kisses him. "Dean? I'm millennia upon millennia old. I'm actually older than time. I was only stationed on earth for a few thousand years. I have a lot of Heaven to dream about."

"Right," Dean says quickly, feeling shitty about pushing the issue.

"It upsets you that I dream about Heaven, doesn't it?" Cas asks, settling back into his spot in the crook of Dean's arm. Dean wraps his arm tighter around his boyfriend and tries to think of a way to answer.

"Not exactly? I …. I can't… It… the…"

Cas is quiet and patient as Dean starts his sentence over and over again, trying to get the admission out.

"I get upset thinking about you there instead of here," Dean finally manages. "Instead of here with me."

Cas taps his fingers on Dean's stomach. "But I'm not going back to Heaven without you. And we were brought together by God, so it's safe to assume that we'll be together in Heaven."

Dean's entire body has that pins and needles feeling, like he's made entirely of waking limbs as Cas keeps talking, calmly and matter-of-factly telling Dean what he's wishing he just asked to hear months ago.

"I mean, really, we've only got 50 or more years together on earth. It's very little time, all things considered."

Dean can feel his heart throbbing and he can tell by the way Cas's hand creeps up his chest that Cas has noticed.

"What's wrong?" Cas asks.

"Nothing," Dean replies. He swallows hard and digs his heels down into the sand. "I got you something."

"Is it something that makes you very nervous?" Cas asks, laying his palm over Dean's pounding heart.

"Umm… sort of," Dean admits, wishing that it wasn't true. Cas doesn't move and after one of the longer pauses of his life, Cas replies, "I bought something for you as well. I brought it with me."

"Yeah, yours is in my suitcase inside…Do you… wanna go inside for your present inside?"

Cas nods against Dean's chest and Dean is eternally grateful that he didn't try to plan a cheesy speech. His entire proposal plan from the time he bought the damn ring has been to shove it at Cas and try not to run like hell in the other direction. So far, so good.

"We can exchange," Cas agrees.

Neither of them moves for a few moments more. Dean finally steels himself, squeezes Cas quick and moves to sit up.

The handful of yards between the beach and their cabin feels like miles. Dean, clenching Cas's hand in his own, feels like he's trudging through molasses.

The cabin is quiet and dark except for the light left on for them in their room and the soft light in Sam, Chelsea and Sophie's room. Dean breathes deep, convincing himself that, yes, he really is going to do this. Tonight he's going to officially ask Cas to be around for the next 50 or so years.

Cas squeezes his hand and Dean eases the door open. His breath catches in his throat. His ring box is sitting, open, on their bed, glinting in the lamp light.

And another box is sitting next to it. Also open. Also with a ring inside it.

"Cas… did you plan this?" Dean manages.

Cas, wide eyed, shakes his head.

"Sam!" Dean yells, "Did you plan this?"

"I did!" Chelsea responds from the other room. "You're both ridiculous!"

"Ridkless!" Sophie chimes.

"You bought me a ring?" Dean asks. He's a blindsided by this. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing Cas would think about.

Cas steps forward and scoops his ring off the bed. "You used to wear a ring very much like this one. I thought it would appeal to you."

"Yeah. Yeah. It does."

"It's traditional to get down on one knee, correct?" Cas asks. Dean grabs his upper arm preemptively. Cas doesn't actually look like he'd been planning to drop down, but it's not a chance that Dean is willing to take.

"Umm.. .yeah, but we're… nontraditional. Is this an engagement ring, Cas?"

Cas draws inward and stiffens in Dean's hand. "Isn't yours?"

"Yes!" Dean assures him immediately. "Yes, it is. Come here." He kisses Cas, slightly panicked at having made Cas think Dean would reject him. "Of course it is."

Cas smiles. Dean grabs his own ring off the bed. Cas grabs his hip as though he's steadying himself. "Shall we exchange?"

Dean plucks his ring out of his box with shaking hands, Cas mirrors him and holds the ring out. Dean hesitates, then takes Cas's hand and slips the ring he'd bought onto Cas's fingers. Cas carefully takes Dean's hand and does the same.

"Mine is a gesture of permanence," Cas says, voice a little wobbly. "It's a promise to stay here. With you."

Dean pulls him close.

"Well. Not here, but at our house. Or anywhere else we would go."

Dean kisses Cas to shut him up before he continues to ruin a nice moment. He hears the door creak open. Sophie bursts in with a "Yay!" and wraps herself around their legs. It's a couple more moments before Sam's enormous form envelops them both in a hug, and Chelsea tucks between them when they finally pull apart.

"Thank you," Dean whispers as she kisses him on the cheek. She smacks his shoulder affectionately before pulling back.

"So, do we get to throw you boys a party now? Tuxes, dinner, cake?"

"Yeah… we'll see," Dean laughs. "You already planned the proposal, don't get that far out ahead of us."

"We should have a drink to celebrate." Sam says. "Sweetie? Can you share your fancy juice with Dean and your Mom?" Sam asks, picking Sophie up.

"Are we having a party?" Sophie asks.

"You bet. You even get to stay up late."

"Yay!"

Dean chuckles to himself as they all head out to the kitchen. A benefit of a psychic niece that he had not previously considered was the ability to act as an emotional weathervane. Sophie is practically vibrating with glee.

Dean drank juice at the kitchen table with his family, his arm draped over Cas, trying to think happy family friendly thoughts until Sophie finally sagged into Sam's chest and he took his girls back to their room.

"So, what should we do now?" Cas asks.

"We should go for a drive," Dean says, leaning in to brush his lips over the streak of gray at Cas's temple.

"A drive?"

"Yeah. Somewhere quiet. And private. Away from thin walls and psychic toddlers and… our clothes."

"Ah," Cas chuckles. "A drive."

"Yeah. How about we peel out of here so I can prove that a ring doesn't make me an entirely honest man."

"But you are an honest man," Cas protests.

"It's an expression, Cas," Dean says, kissing down the side of his face and down his neck.

"What does it mean?" Cas asks. " 'an honest man'?"

"Umm… married. It means a married man."

Cas does one of his little slow bloom smiles, the type that crawl carefully across his face like they could be chased away.

"Oh."

Chapter Text

Seven Years Ago

Chuck is a little lost. He has piles of notes. He's got nearly all of the "Righteous Man Raised from Hell" arc written into drafts, and four books written, polished and ready to be sent out. He's even still got the Scandinavian investors willing to publish.

He's just out of visions. He hasn't had a vision in months.

It should be good. No more headaches, way less drinking. He's got books outlined all the way out to Sam's swan dive into the cage, which is a pretty awesome ending, though Chuck is considering tweaking it. He's thinking he might go "off prophesy" a little bit. Have Dean push Adam/Michael into Hell after Sam jumps and then have Adam/Michael pull Dean in after him. He hates the idea of the brothers separated at the end of the series, and he's seen Dean since he lost Sam. He doesn't want to just leave that end flapping in the wind.

The point is, he's sitting on forty more books with a hungry (if small) fan base waiting for them and he has a way to continue to publish. He doesn't need visions anymore.

But he was a two-bit hack working at a video rental place and drowning in student loans before Supernatural, and now he's a real writer–it makes a little nervous to plow on without knowing that an occasional jolt from Heaven will keep him going.

He thumbs through the neatly bound manuscript for "Lazarus Rising".

It's done. It's good. It's a great way to revitalize a series that's been out of print for a couple years and bring in new readers with an updated mythology.

Chuck finishes his whiskey and calls the investors.


 

Dean used to hate it when Cas called him beautiful. They'd be in bed, or occasionally on couch, and Dean would be naked and feeling vulnerable, already trying so hard to convince himself that he deserved to enjoy Cas's skin against his, deserved to enjoy the way that Cas marveled at him, and Cas would throw out a compliment that made him feel… girly.

He'd asked Cas to stop a couple times. And he would, for weeks, until it would pop out of him like he couldn't stop it.

Dean can take it as a compliment these days. He loves the way Cas looked at him when he said it. How soft Cas's fingertips were against his skin as Cas slips him out of his clothes. The way Cas whispers it in his ear as they press together.

"I love you, Dean."

Dean tugs Cas's tee-shirt over his head and throws it into the Impala's front seat. Cas isn't a fan of sex in the Impala, but their bedroom back in the cabin is not a workable solution right now and this lake is buzzing with too many tourists to just throw a blanket out in the field and strip down.

Cas shuffles off Dean and they both chuckle at the utterly unromantic pause as they sit next to each other in the back seat and shuffle out of their pants before Cas throws a leg over Dean and pulls himself onto Dean's lap again.

"Mmm, love you too, Cas. Bought that ring months ago."

"I bought yours months ago as well. I wasn't sure of an appropriate way to ask."

"You could have just handed it to me when I got off work," Dean says. "Given it to me before bed." He rolls his hips up against Cas's as Cas pushes closer. "At dinner. Thrown it at my head while I was walking out the door. Anything. I would have said yes."

Cas sets his forehead to Dean's pulling back from the kiss like he's going to say something. He set sets his palms to Dean's neck and slides his fingers up into Dean's hair, before he seems to give up, just diving forward into the kiss. Dean works them down onto the seat, grinding and grabbing at each other until the windows are fogged up ad they are completely covered in each other, sticky and gross, Cas sprawled over Dean, face tucked into Dean's neck.

Dean had his left hand twined with Cas's. He could hear the tiny click noise their rings made with they touched together.

"In a metaphorical sense," Cas sighs, breath hot against Dean's neck. "I think I could stay here forever."

Dean chuckles, wraps his arms around Cas's waist and silently agrees.


 

His brief experiences with Supernatural fans have made Chuck a little shy about fame, and unlike other authors, he has been violently threatened by his heavily armed main characters several times.

But fame and fortune still has its perks. He's been on TV. He put a hot tub in at his house. He bought a laptop so he can work while he's jet setting around. It's pretty great.

And now, after the release of "Heaven and Hell" he's in New York to meet with a Big Six editor who can launch him word wide, and freaking out a little bit that one of the next books he has written and ready to go is still tentatively titled "Criss Angel is a Douchebag" and that in one of the next few book he himself turns up. As a prophet. The idea of trying to explain that is giving him a stress headache.

Now that he knows that the visions are of real events and not just things he's randomly making up, he feels less free to mess with them. He's put in all the stuff about Sam drinking demon blood back into the books. He's calling the prophet book "The Monster at the End of This Book", which has been the title ever since the day Dean and Sam burst into his house, but he's rewriting the character of Chuck to be more of a parody of himself instead of actually himself, so that he doesn't feel like a complete and utter douche about it.

He's choosing a tie, worried that the green one that his mother sent him for his birthday makes him look like a pushover, when it happens: the splitting headache, searing through his brain.

He stumbles to his bed and lies there in agony for a few minutes before the image moves into his mind. Sam in the Cage, on fire and screaming. Sam in Heaven, running. Sam nowhere, really, and then finally, back on Earth. Back in Cas and Dean's living room, which he recognizes from the time an Archangel abducted him for a poker game and sleeping on their couch.

He lets the worst of the pain subside, calls Dean, gets yelled at by Dean because they've already found Sam, and then books it to the meeting because he already has the beginnings of another headache but if the old pattern holds he should have a few hours before the next utterly debilitating and now totally unnecessary vision hits.

He pushes himself through the meeting, buys a 5th of whiskey before calling a cab and is starting to buzz by the time he gets back to the hotel. By the time the next vision hits, he's drunk enough that the pain's not that bad.

He sees Dean kneeling in a field, beaten bloody by Lucifer, then sees him pile himself into the Impala. He sees him toss Bobby's hat into a river and go back to the house in Sioux Falls. He sees Dean wallow and drink. He feels his despair, feels him decide to go upstairs and end it all, then sees the card fall through the mail slot. Feels Dean's confusion and just the edge of hope at the words "Wait and See". Sees him work in the yard and feels the spark of pure joy when Castiel returns.

It takes a couple hours for the headache to stop. When it does he makes himself some coffee to try to sober up a little and pulls out his laptop. He stops, hands hovering over his keyboard at the large wooden hotel desk, when he realizes.

Castiel's been back for months. Dean's been living in that house with him for months. He's already heard all about the whole "Wait and See" thing.

He started his day with a vision of something that happened hours before hand, and now he's got a vision of something that happened months ago?

Chuck's freaked out, so he pours himself another shot, and writes it all down.


 

Sam is trying to coax Sophie down for a nap, but in all honesty, he's not trying that hard. It's sunny and beautiful out. The bees in the field of wildflowers behind the cabin are humming. Libby and Tanya and their mother went into town. Cas and Dean are asleep on the porch, poured into an oversized lawn and wrapped up in each other in a way that would be nauseatingly mushy if Sam weren't so happy for them. His game plan for Sophie's nap has been to bring a book out to his own lawn chair and to read to her with the hope that she'll fall asleep, since her uncles are doing it, so it must be the cool thing to do.

The sisters keep shooting Cas and Dean fond smiles. Chelsea, who knows that they stumbled home at 3:00 am reeking of sex and sweat, is giving them a slightly more mocking smile. Martha's husband Clyde, who has never really been chill about Cas and Dean, looks uncomfortable when he sees them in a way that pisses Sam off. Especially today. They're engaged and everyone's happy for them. Even Chelsea's father Arthur patted Cas's shoulder affectionately when he walked past them. Sam has privately thought for years that Clyde is just an asshole, and this trip is certainly confirming that. There's something about the way that Clyde looks at Martha when she hands the baby to someone that has Sam's alarm bells going off. There is trouble in paradise.

"Daddy? Do you have scary scars?" Sophie asks, yawning just a little as she traces her finger along a long knife wound on Sam's shoulder that he'd gotten from Samhain rising and up to the nick from when Bela shot him.

He tucks his hand more securely around his daughter.

"Why are you asking, sweetheart?" That was usually a safe second question. Sophie was bright, and there was usually more to the first thing she asked then what she said.

"Everyone thinks you have scary scars."

"Well. I guess they're probably a little scary," Sam concedes. "What do you think?"

"I don't know. This one is scary. This one is from a monster, but this one is from a pretty girl."

Sam instantly clamps down the worry that runs through his body at that declaration. Sophie is hard to scare, considering the things she must have seen, but she gets very upset if she thinks she has caused fear.

She keeps tracing. "Monster, ghost, monster, monster, monster, ghost." She shrugs and leans back against Sam's body. "All the monsters got you," she declares.

Sam tightens his grip on her. "Not anymore," he tells her. She nods somberly just as Sam becomes aware that Arthur has been standing behind him. Close enough to hear if he has his hearing aids in.

"I'm happy you don't fight monsters," Sophie yawns. Arthur settles down into the chair next to them.

"Cause your monsters are scary. One of 'em," –she yawns again, setting her head to his chest–"He was melting. And he made everything ice. And he made Uncle Dean cry!"

Sam tries not to think the name and tries not to look upset in front of Arthur. He combs his fingers through Sophie's sun-blonde hair. "Well. He's gone now. Far away."

"Locked up," Sophie agrees.

"Locked up tight," Sam confirms.

Arthur settles down in the empty lawn chair next to them, looking out over the lake and drinking a beer. He hands an open one to Sam. Sophie is quiet. It's about another ten minutes before Sam feels the puff of her breath go steady against his chest and feels her get heavier in his arms.

"She sleeping?" Arthur asks quietly.

"Yeah, I got her."

Arthur nods. "So, monsters, huh?"

Sam clears his throat. "Yeah. Guess the Disney channel isn't what it used to be," he replies

"I bet," Arthur replies, patiently unbelieving.

Sam doesn't reply, just shoots a look toward Dean and Cas, still asleep on each other like teenagers. Or kittens. He'll have to make that comparison in front of Dean later, just to piss him off.

"I ever tell you that I served Sam?" Arthur asks.

"Yes, sir. Korea."

"Yep. Lucky that I didn't see much action. Not compared to others. But I saw enough."

Sam nods.

"Got a couple scars. Shrapnel whipped past my arm and dropped a cooking knife on my foot. Nothing too heroic. And I got a tattoo. Cindy was mad when I came back."

Sam chuckled. "What of?"

"A knife through a heart. Thought I was pretty cool back then. Things were different. Racked up a couple of wounds on the force too. Knife cut here and there. Never anything too serious."

Sam nods, thumbing over Sophie's arm.

"Lotta differences between Korea and Afghanistan," Arthur continues. "And I gotta ask: how does a man get so few explosion burns and no automatic weapon wounds, but rack up so many knife cuts and pistol wounds in a modern war?"

It's not an accusation, but it's a gentle challenge. And Sam doesn't have an answer.

Arthur waits, and when it's clear Sam doesn't have anything to say, keeps going, "Look, Sam. You're a good man. Your brother's a good man. His boyfriend's a good man. You're good to my daughter. You're good to my granddaughter, but you're not as good a liar as you think you are. You've got the haunted look, but anyone who ever wore green can tell you were never a soldier. Dean may have been, Cas sure as hell wasn't. So you're not a solider. My next thought was gangbanger, that would explain the knife wounds, but you don't have that smirk and swagger. And everything about you says you've never been in the clink. So. I gotta ask. No war. No jail. No gang. How are you walking around looking like you've been riding around the Old West?"

Sam looks up at him. Arthur's got a very kind face and while it's sternly set, the kindness is still there.

"Was it that bad?" Arthur asks.

"No, sir," Sam replies. "I did a lot of good. I saved a lot of people and I'm proud. But it's hard to explain and harder to believe."

"Try me. Cause my best theory so far is that you did burst out of the Old West, but your teeth are too good and you're too good with the computers," Arthur chuckles.

"I heard you thought we were all juvenile felons."

"Like I said. You've never been in jail. Cas either. Dean… hard to tell with that boy, but I'm assuming not. After a few stories, it's clear he's been around your whole life, but," – he shrugs– "doing what?"

Sam busies himself fiddling with Sophie's hair and checking that she's still asleep.

"You're not going to believe me," Sam repeats.

"I might. Known you for five years. And Bobby mentioned that you boys might have quite a tale to tell. I think I'd believe a lot of crazy stories from Bobby Singer. And I'll bet that what you won't tell me you've told Chelsea, and I'd believe her too."

"Yeah… Bobby's got a lot of crazy stories… and, uh, so do I."

"I'm an old man with a beer and a long afternoon, son. I have time."

Sam takes a deep breath. "Alright. Dean and I grew up on the road because our father was a Hunter."

"And you don't mean deer do you?"

"No. Most of our lives we were hunting one particular Demon, but picked up cases along the way. Ghosts usually, but a couple of vampires here and there. Shape-shifters. Djinn. Wendigos. Kitsunes. We hunted a werewolf one summer when I was thirteen." Sam watched Arthur carefully. His father-in-law was just nodding along. Eyes hardly widened.

"What's a wendigo?"

"It's a man who stayed out in a wilderness winter too long, turned to cannabilism and became a super human man eater. You actually get a lot of them in Minnesota, but not this urban."

"Kitsune?"

"They look human, but when you get them angry or startled, their eyes go gold they grow claws. They kill people and eat pituitary glands."

"Aren't Djinn like genies?"

"Not really. They don't grant wishes. They have a venom, works as a hallucinogenic, makes you live in a dream world while the Djinn spends a couple days drinking you dry. Dean got caught by one a few years ago. Thing had a warehouse full of bodies strung up like beef sides in a meat locker. But we saved a girl. Got her before it did, dropped her off at the ER. Last we heard she was going to make a full recovery."

"Alright… that explains the scars and the look. What about the tattoo that you and Cas and I'll assume Dean have?"

"It's a protection sigil. Makes it so demons can't possess your body."

"Ever been possessed by a Demon?"

"Yeah. Once. For a week. Not exactly a vacation."

"Okay."

"Okay?" Sam huffs. "Just like that? You don't think I'm crazy? Or in a cult, or need to be rubber roomed here and now?"

"Sam- have you ever even worn fatigues?"

"No, sir."

"Ever been to Afghanistan?"

"No, sir."

"Could you tell me anything about boot camp that you didn't see in a movie?"

"No, sir."

"But you got all this detail about monsters. And I'll bet it matches with everything that Dean, Cas, Chelsea and Bobby would tell me if I asked them."

"I guess."

"And you'd protect Chelsea and Sophie from all those things?"

Sam tucks Sophie's hair back. "With my life."

"And that I believe." Arthur holds his beer out. Sam toasts him. "As long as I got you in a truthful mood for the first time, I'll ask this too. What's the real story with Cas?"

"That really will strain your already generous credibility. Maybe give it a little time."

"Not a monster is he?"

"No. He's really, really not," Sam replies.

"He human?"

"He is now."

Arthur chuckles. "Not something I ever expected to hear, but that makes a lot of sense."

"Arthur… there is something else, a little out there, that Chelsea and I wanted to make sure you and Cindy know."

"All ears."

"Sophie's a psychic," Sam tells him. He'd expected saying it like that to feel more like ripping a band aid off, getting it over with as quick as possible and having a sting left behind, but now he feels like he can just keep going. Give his father in law the necessary information and get on with their lives. "She can pick up the mood around her, see images in people's minds, and if she's touching you she can read your thoughts. Kind of. She's four, so it's still just developing, but we're expecting her to be capable of reading thoughts when she's older and we're trying to teach her 'privacy'. I've met a lot of psychics in my time, it's not something I'm worried about, it's just… something we think it would be best for everyone to know about and accept."

That seems to finally blow Arthur's cool a little bit. He pinches the bridge of his nose for a few moments, takes a deeper sip of his beer and sighs. "Well. Okay then."

Sam nods. Sophie snuffles and burrows down against him. On the porch he sees Cas sit up, stretch, look at Dean and lay back down.

It's not a normal life, Sam thinks, but he'll take it.


 

Chuck keeps getting visions and wondering a little bit what the point of them is. The chronicles of Dean and Cas at Bobby's house is hardly paperback material, and it falls short as far as prophesy as well. He debates on whether or not to tell Dean that he's having visions again but ultimately decides against it. If he starts seeing the future again, he'll re-evaluate, but there's not value in telling Dean that he knows what he did last summer. He writes it all down, hoping that it turns out to be useable exposition for something that is actually interesting.

It's odd trying to write Chelsea. She's the only character that he's ever met before he had visions about her. He doesn't feel like he has her fleshed out very well in the notes, and based on their interactions at the poker game that Gabriel had hijacked him to, Chuck is already working on writing her in as Dean's love interest, which he knows is going to piss off fans. Writing women into Supernatural is insanely hard. He can never tell who the fans are going to like. They loved Bela, who he'd hoped would be uniformly reviled as a villain because she was supposed to be a dark side reflection of Dean's "going to Hell" arc. He's still waiting on the reaction to Anna but he's not hopeful.

And then there's Becky. She's important to the plot, she works well with the way he's written himself into the story and she's a nice spot of humor as the books get darker and darker. But she's going to find out about this and Chuck's pretty sure that she still has his number. It could get really awkward.

Oh well. At least Chelsea isn't Sam's love interest. That's more Becky-crazy than anyone needs.

Chuck tugs at the clothes that wardrobe had picked out for him. He's in tighter jeans than a man really needs to wear when he spends all day at his computer, a Henley and a leather jacket. He looks like a complete tool. And just a little bit like he had described himself in the drafts for "The End". He's also had a headache all day and can't tell if it's actually a stress headache or another prophecy coming on. He's got a migraine prescription for them this day, which actually helps a lot.

"Mr. Edlund?" the mousy young girl they've assigned to him pops her head into the room. "I'm so sorry, our photographer is having a small technical issue. It's going to be at least another 15 minutes. Would you like me to send Sarah up with another coffee?"

"Oh, yeah, no problem," Chuck sighs, rubbing his temple.

She nods, adjusts her clipboard and leaves. Chuck's headache gets steadily worse while he waits for coffee and he's struggling to remain polite when the assistant comes back to tell him it'll be another fifteen minutes, but she'll give an earful to Sarah about coming up with the coffee.

Sarah takes another ten minutes, and by the time she finally shows up with his coffee is having a vision. He tries to manage the pain, a normal conversation, and visions of Gabriel in Heaven and Crowley in Hell planning to go to war over Purgatory. He sighs in relief at something interesting finally happening and drops into a chair to manically take notes. He picks up that Ellen and Jo are still alive, and a couple flashes of a dinner party that he doesn't want to figure out how to work into the good part.

The assistant comes back They've just swapped the interview and the photo shoot because apparently their photographer is having some sort of breakdown. Chuck's relieved, it gives him more time to arrange his vision notes.

The interviewer comes in and sits down just as Chuck sees Dean and Cas standing together at their kitchen sink talking seriously, standing close together like they always do, in that much too intimate way that Chuck thinks he's managed to make moderately amusing without really mocking either of them.

Chuck excuses himself to take another dose of his migraine meds. As his hand touches his own mouth, the visions kick in harder and he sees Dean kiss Cas. Feels the press of Cas's full and chapped lips and the drilling thrum of Dean's heart as their lips touch.

"Son of a bitch."

How in the Hell is he going to work this in?

Chapter Text

Chuck's been getting invited to a lot of high profile writer things. He thinks it's odd. He knows that he's not exactly the next Great American Novelist. He puts out a book every few months, they're all paperbacks, and despite his meteoric rise from the level just above obscurity, where he could mostly make his mortgage payment to where he is now, on talk shows and in magazines and with a big beefy security guard that had totally not seen Becky Rosen coming while they were at Comicon this year, he is somehow deemed worthy of being invited to things with real writers.

He's even getting a little bit of praise for the whole prophet arc. Apparently it's all brilliantly meta.

Not that he isn't looked down on by a lot of them. He got seated next to some smug Newberry bastard at a Charity dinner a couple months ago who, for some reason, had wanted to interrogate him about his process, whether or not his characters ever spoke to him, and if he aspired to write anything with the potential for a legacy.

It was times like that when Chuck wished he could tell the truth. That his process was loading up on anti-migraine medication and trying to keep himself separate from the divine visions of his Masculine But Vulnerable Main Character making sweet soap-opera love to his Bad Ass Former Angel Sidekick suddenly turned Fish Out of Water Human. That he didn't really talk to his characters, but three of them were extorting him. And that he was pretty comfortable with his legacy of being the next fucking gospel in the Bible because he was a fucking Prophet of the Lord, Conduit of the Divine Word, Scribe of Heaven, you smirky kiddy-book motherfucker.

But the salmon had been good, the wine had been good, and one of the charity plate buyers was actually a fan, so it had still been an enjoyable night. And then he had gone home to not just a vision of Sam's satanic hallucinations, but Dean and Cas's post "I-love-you" tender and tentative blowjobs.

And then he had to write about it.

Chuck would feel like it's a little homophobic for the Dean-and-Cas visions to freak him out the way they do if it weren't for how digital-surround-sound his visions are. When he'd been getting visions of Dean and Anna he'd been able to feel her desperation, feel Dean's regret… but he'd also been able to feel Anna's boobs. He'd used Sam finally succumbing to Ruby in his um… personal fantasies… for months before he'd found out that everyone he thought that he'd made up was freaking real.

And it's way more awkward now that it's not Dean and some random blowjob girl he found outside a bar, or Sam and a demon.

It's not until after the release of "Changing Channels" that Chuck starts to feel like more prophet than voyeur.

The Apocalypse arc is getting him some actual literary respect, which is nice. And now that their lives and relationships are all settling, Chuck hardly ever gets… erotic visions of the Winchesters. Which is a relief. It's awkward to divinely peep in on a married woman and her husband. Especially because Chelsea and Sam get up to all kinds of things that even now Chuck's pretty sure he couldn't afford from Mistress Magda.

As vanilla as they are, it's even more awkward to watch Dean and Cas, with the panting and the kissing and the endless hair stroking. There's a whole section of the Domestic Arc that Chuck refers to in his mind as the "Big Gay Gospel". He hasn't mentioned any of the post Post Apocalypse Domesticity Arc to his publisher but, given the givens, he's started… slanting the Cas/Dean relationship. So far he's getting away with it.

He's starting to catch up too. He was still having visions of the past up until Sophie was born and then boom- suddenly it was all Heaven and Hell. Gabriel had restructured Heaven, delegated a lot of things to the choirs of angels, and ascendeded Ash and a few people like him. He'd also waged a mostly off the board war against Hell, and was winning. Crowley had secured absolute power over Hell, but "King of Hell" wasn't the position that it used to be.

The way the visions work is changing to. Heaven and Hell still give him shrieking headaches, but the images of the Winchesters aren't terrible seething spikes through his temples anymore. They're just quick blips, no more painful than a quick shock: Sophie's birthday party. Chelsea round with the soon-to-see-the-world twins. The small party that Chelsea basically forces Dean and Cas to have to celebrate their engagement/marriage. Sophie bizarrely scarring a bully with her powers at the playground. Dean and Sam going on one last hunt together when Dean realizes that there is a schtriga in the pediatrics unit. Dean slowly shifting his focus at work until he's the only person under sixty in the Hospice unit.

But he can still feel them. Cas's growing understanding of his mortality. The acute pain Dean sometimes feels when his niece kisses him goodnight because he won't have children of his own. Chelsea's warm happiness that someone like Sam fell into her life. Sam's burning gratitude that this is how his life ended up.

Chuck doesn't really check in outside of the visions. For one thing- the Winchesters hate him. For another, it's hard to hang out with people and then go home and write a book about them.

But he gets a lot of advance prophecy information about the retirement party that Chelsea, Sam, Dean and Cas are planning for Bobby. He wants to go. And he knows the date and place.

And he knows what's going to happen after the party, and even though he can't be there for that part, he still wants to be around for it.

So he ships a couple of very expensive gifts out to Mitchell, timing it so they get there a couple days before he crashes the party. Then he hops a plane to South Dakota.


 

They've been working really hard on this party. Cas, Chelsea, and Karen have cooked and cooked. Dean and Sam have made all kinds of calls. And it's going well, but there's no getting around the weird factor of mixing the Hunters and the Clearwaters.

The first big weird thing is when a Kilgerny and Rodriguez show up and announce that Sorenson is dead. There's a quick toast and a couple muttered "son of a bitch"s but before the party kicks back up. Dean notices how scandalized Martha (who very obviously came without Clyde) seems to be by this, and he also overhears Chelsea gently explaining that sometimes… Hunters die. Everyone here respected Sorenson, but he was never going to have a retirement party.

Stories about Sorenson become stories in general. Everyone's got a story about their most recent hunt. A couple people have stories about their most noticeable injury. Ellen has lost an eye to witches, but she's bursting with pride over Jo, who has been helping Sam put together a Hunter's Auxillary network of lawyers, psychiatrists, cops and even a few doctors. Jo had been considering becoming a cop, but after Martin killed himself in the loony bin a couple years ago, had decided to go for mental health.

"Dean? Do you mind grabbing me a beer?" Cas asks, laughing. He's letting Sophie stand on his feet while he twirls her like they're dancing. She's been doing really well with the introduction of the twins into her life, but Dean and Cas have privately agreed that nothing solves the problem of a slightly overlooked five year old like extra attention from her uncles.

"Yeah, okay," Dean says setting out for the kitchen.

Sam and Chelsea's brand new baby girls are really making the rounds at the party. Chelsea has Emily, who Dean can recognize by her little pink hat, and is handing her over to Rufus. Dean can see the little girl's smile from here. Tanya is holding Lizzie, who has a green hat. She's talking to Garth, who is obviously tipsy, red cheeked and loose off of one wine cooler. Dean overhears him as he passes by. "-can only be seen when you're drunk and has to be killed with a sword blessed in a clear spring. So I asked this cook at a Japanese restaurant to read the blessing, and I got a bottle of Evian and tequila, and I just went for it."

Dean gives Sam and Bobby a quick smile before grabbing a beer out of the fridge and heading back to the living room. When he passes Tanya and Garth again Tanya is laughing and has her hand on Garth's arm as Garth says "Yeah, I've got the sword in my car."

He's not sure if he's more horrified at Tanya flirting or at Tanya flirting with Garth.

He stops by them, like he's just checking in and holds out the beer bottle. "Here, trade ya."

Tanya hands him the baby and he hands her the beer. Garth opens it for her with his lighter then winks at Dean when she laughs. Dean shakes his head warningly, adjusts Lizzie in his arms and goes back to the kitchen.

"I think I just facilitated Tanya going out to Garth's car to see his magic sword," Dean reports, grabbing a replacement beer for Cas.

"Well. He's a tough little guy," Bobby says. "He'll live." He holds out his arms. "Which of my littlest granddaughters you got?"

"Lizzie," Dean answers, handing her over. "So, Sam, can you tell them apart yet?"

"Dude, they're my daughters," Sam scoffs.

"Really? I kind of assumed that identical twins just swapped names back and forth until they got old enough to remember who they were by themselves."

"This one is Lizzie," Sam answers in his soft baby voice, bending way down to kiss her forehead. He grips her teeny foot in his hand as he continues, "And I can tell because," –he peels her itty bitty sock off–" I drew a circle on her foot with a blue marker." He tickles her sides gently. "Yes I did. Yes I did!"

Dean and Bobby snort.

"Are you serious?" Dean asks, watching Lizzie kick at Sam as he tickles her.

"I get two hours of sleep a night, man. "If I wake up and know what state I'm in, it's a good morning. I simplified."

"Fine. But I'm going to tell them about this when they're old enough to mock you for it."

"How's Sophie doing with two new ones in the house?" Bobby asks.

"Fine, mostly," Sam yawns. "She's gotten a little teary over us needing to do baby stuff when she asks for something, but nothing too major. I think the psychic thing helps her understand. And she mentioned that you and she have had a couple conversations about being the older sibling."

"Yeah," Dean chuckles. "It's fun trying to explain to her that you are my little brother."

"It still doesn't fix a lot of things. She brought a book to our room last night and just started crying "you're too tired!". I think I felt my heart break."

"Poor thing," Bobby says, toying with Lizzie's little hands.

"She's tired too. Everyone's on edge."

"We'll take her for a weekend," Dean offers. "Or come over and take care of the twins so you and Sophie can spend some time together."

"That would be really great," Sam says. "I'll talk to Chelsea, we'll plan something. Something that includes a nap."

Bobby laughs and rocks Lizzie. "You know… I just… I still can't believe this is where we ended up. Three grandkids. In-laws. Damn retirement party instead of a quick salt and burn before everyone else goes on to the next battle."

"You got both, actually," Dean says lightly.

"Yeah," Bobby huffs. "There's that. Just… hard to watch all those guys out there… and feel like you dodged a bullet."

Sam pats Bobby's arm and takes Lizzie from him, kissing her forehead quickly. "Yeah. Well. We served our time, Bobby. And we got out."

"Uh huh. That's what I didn't see coming," Bobby sighs.

"I did!" An unexpected, but recognizable voice cuts in. Dean turns around and looks down at the increasingly hesitant Chuck Shirley.

"Prophet humor? No?" Chuck squawks. "Okay… I'll just…uh…"

Dean sighs and hands Chuck the second beer he had meant to bring Cas.

"Hey, Chuck," Sam laughs. "What brings you to South Dakota?"

"The party mostly," Chuck replies. "Thought a little celebration was in order."

"We invite you?" Bobby asks.

"Not exactly. I sent you some big leather arm chairs and Karen invited me."

"Fair enough," Bobby shrugs.

Dean doesn't bother to catch up with Chuck. He doesn't care what Chuck's up to and Chuck has a front row seat to what he's up to. He grabs Cas a third beer and goes back to the living room, where Cas is still spinning with Sophie perched on his toes.

"Can I take a break, sweetheart?" Cas asks. Sophie graciously agrees and wanders over to Chelsea, who is now talking to Martha and Rufus. Rufus looks like he's expounding on Bobby's theme. No one ever expected to hold a Hunter's granddaughter.

"Is Bobby having a nice time?" Cas asks.

"I think he's a little overwhelmed, actually," Dean says. "Oh. And Chuck's here."

"Oh," Cas replies, disinterestedly. "Have you spoken to Martha? She and Clyde are going to get divorced. She is very sensitive about it. Be careful if you do talk to her."

"What did you say?"

"Nothing. Sophie asked her about it. She's getting very powerful."

Dean scoots Cas over to a couch. They talk to Rodriguez, and each end up with a twin for a little while. Dean wonders what causes that baby smell. Chuck proves that he's not completely useless by writing Sam and Jo a big fat check for their Hunter Auxillary.

"Why don't you call it Hunter's Helper?" Martha asks after Sam explains it to her. "Too cute?"

"Hunter's Helper is whiskey," half the room answers her.

"Oh," Martha replies.

Sam falls asleep on the couch at nine. Chelsea conks out next to him at ten and Sophie climbs into her lap and goes to sleep a little later. Everyone let's them be. Dean can't help but chuckle at all the grizzled Hunters passing around the baby girls, letting them grab often-broken fingers and cooing at them through scarred faces. It takes several minutes of watching Rodriguez bounce Emily while he talks to Ellen before Dean realizes.

He doesn't think of himself as a Hunter anymore.

He's banking on a future longer than the next case. He's thinking about years with Cas. He's thinking about a retirement party. He's imagining Sophie going off to college and teaching the twins to drive. He's hoping Sam and Chelsea talk themselves into at least one more kid.

He's looking at a room full of former compatriots, living on borrowed time, doing the only thing he was ever told he could do, and he's thinking to himself- "We got out."

Cas yawns hugely next to him. Dean turns to him and smiles.

"You're deep in thought," Cas says.

"I'll tell you at home." Dean replies, kissing him quickly.

"We should probably go home soon." Cas yawns again. "I think we've tired everyone out."

"Yeah. People are starting to break up," Dean agrees. "We'll head out in a little bit."

"Did Garth and Tanya ever come back?"

"Nope."

"Oh."

Dean leans back in the chair and lets himself settle against Cas more than he usually does in public. He looks out over the room and realizes that Chuck is watching them. He's been doing that, at least a little bit, all night. It's freaking creepy. Especially because the last time Dean talked to Chuck face to face it was God speaking through him. But when he comes over Dean and Cas sit and try to talk to him.

"How's fame and fortune, Chuck?" Dean asks.

"It's alright."

"Any chicks in writing?"

"Dean," Cas scolds.

"Um… not as many as I was hoping," Chuck replies.

They chat. It's not as awkward as it could be. Most of the Hunters are gone by midnight. Chelsea's offered free rooms at the hotel and everyone has taken her up on it. The party is probably going onward into the night back in Sioux Falls, but it's not Dean's world anymore. Sophie wakes up as Ellen and Rufus head out. She comes over to where Dean and Cas are still talking to Chuck. She rubs her eye and pats Chuck's knee. When he finishes his sentence instead of turning to her right away she sighs.

"Mister? Mister, you're in my way," she pats his hand and leaps backward with a gasp after her fingers touch his skin. She presses both palms to her mouth.

"Sweetie, you okay?" Cas leans forward, grabbing her elbow.

"That was my fault," Chuck says. "I should have known that was going to happen."

Dean watches suspiciously as Chuck holds his hand out to Sophie, like he's letting a dog sniff it. Sophie shoots Cas an unsure look then slowly moves one hand from her mouth. She holds out one finger and touches it to Chuck's knuckle. Then after a moment, sets her other fingertips to the back of his hand. Her eyes widen.

"Wow," she says.

Chuck nods and pulls his hand back. Sophie stares at him for a few moments, then runs behind Dean's legs and laughs. Dean pulls her into his lap. "You okay, Soph?"

"Mmmhmm. Chuck is shiny inside," she giggles, much too loud. It's her trying to keep a secret giggle. Dean can tell that Cas recognizes it too, but they both let it go. Sophie's happy, Chuck is… being Chuck and there is only so much that Dean really needs to know about the Prophet and the Psychic meeting.

Chuck goes home. Dean and Cas get the twins settled in their car seats and Sophie into her shoes ad jacket before they wake up Sam and Chelsea. They hug Bobby and Karen goodnight with a quick "See you Friday".

The drive home is quiet. Cas fiddles with the radio. They wonder about Garth and Tanya. Dean concludes that they might be just weird enough to work out. Cas wonders if it would make Garth their brother in law if it did. Dean tries not to think about it.

"So," Cas asks as he steps inside and kicks off his shoes. "What were you going to tell me when we got home?"

Dean settles his hands around Cas's waist and pulls him close. Cas kisses him. "Nothing major… just watching everyone… it was a weird feeling."

"Yes. I know what you mean. Our lives are very different than they might have been."

Dean moves closer. Cas runs his palms over Dean's back. They stand together in the quiet of the house for a few moments. Warm and content.

Dean is just about to suggest they go up to bed when he hears it.

A baby crying upstairs.


 

Supernatural's cache has faded since the end of the Apocalypse arc. The first few Domestic Arc books do all right. The crazy outcry when Chuck ends a book with Dean kissing Cas briefly repopularizes the whole series. Chuck gets invited to several political events that make him very uncomfortable. There is also a huge mix up in Alabama, and Chuck narrowly escapes what turns out to, in fact, be a book burning.

The last book is almost finished. He's promised himself that he's not getting up from his computer tonight without finishing it.

He's having trouble finding the best ending. He'd left it at Cas and Dean coming home to hear their son cry for the first time in the initial draft, but decided that wasn't conclusive enough. So he had added Dean and Cas running upstairs to find Dodger dutifully watching the squirming baby in the basket on their bed.

The fourth draft had ended with Cas and Dean finding the completely legal adoption papers with a note pinned to them in the same curly script that "Wait and See" had once been written in: "One Huge and Impossible Thing".

But then Chuck had added the scene of Dean calling Sam and Chelsea and the two of the rushing over with the girls. Bobby and Karen driving in even though it was the middle of the night. Then he had added Chelsea, after everyone had calmed down a little bit, asking if anyone had noticed that the baby had dark brown hair and big green eyes.

Chuck had actually seen a lot of the Winchester kid's futures. They were happy and largely successful. They all went off to college and had mostly typical lives, though Sophie really stretched the definition of typical.

But the more Chuck looks over his notes the more he realizes that he's going to be writing the longest epilogue in the history of English Literature if he doesn't stop somewhere.

After several drafts he finally ends the story at just that night. Bobby and Karen asleep in the guest room. Sam and Chelsea tucking all their daughters in back at their house.

And Cas and Dean in their bed, staring at the baby between them in awe, fingers tangled together, quietly bickering over names as their son sleeps.

Chuck scrolls back up to the blank title page and lets his cursor blink expectantly at him. This is the only book in the entire series that hasn't organically developed a title halfway through or succumbed to its working title (he's still embarrassed about "Are You There God? It's Me, Dean Winchester").

He stares at the cursor for a few more minutes, and then it hits him. He sets his hands to the keyboard and clicks out

"Peace When You Are Done"

Chapter Text

"We're far away!" Matthew announces to the pretty young desk attendant, twisting around in Cas's arms so that he can face her while Dean digs through his bag for his check in information.

She gives Matthew the warm smile that all women give him. "What are you far away from, honey?"

"My house!" Matthew proclaims.

The desk attendant, whose nametag reads "LaRhondha" smiles at Dean.

"He is so cute."

Dean smiles at her. He realizes that he's biased, but he thinks it's pretty hard to deny that they've got a good looking kid. His and Cas's features stripe across Matthew's face- Cas's dark messy hair, Dean's bright green eyes, Cas's mouth and Dean's jaw. Everyone agrees that he looks like Sam when he laughs. On the very rare occasion that someone really pushes to find out who his biological father is, they usually say that it's Cas, because Dean feels like people assume that Matthew is his son from a previous girlfriend, but assume that if Cas is the father, Matthew is a child they had together.

"Well, I bet you'll like it here," LaRhondha tells him. "We've got a pool and a waterslide. Hot tub for the parents, cause you seem like you a handful sometimes." She winks at Dean.

Matthew giggles, gives her a smile that is outright flirty and buries his face in Cas's neck.

"Oh, yeah, he is," Dean laughs. He gives LaRhondha the registration information, noting the difference between Sioux Falls and Chicago when she doesn't so much as blink at their reservation for a king sized bed and a cot for two men and a child.

"Daddy? You know where is my house?" Dean hears Matthew ask Cas seriously.

"Don't worry, baby, we know where the house is from here," Cas says softly. "Your father used to drive everywhere. All over the whole country."

"Yeah," Dean replies, running his hand over Matthew's back. "I know where everything is."

Dean has actually enjoyed bringing Matthew on a long trip. He'd thought Cas was a little nuts for suggesting it at first, Chicago is a two day drive these days. Sam had unapologetically mocked him for the idea, but it's… nice to do the family car trip thing right. Dean's driven back and forth across the lower 48 at least a hundred times, and he's never been to Wall Drug.

I had turned out to be creepy as all Hell, but Matthew had gotten a kick out of it.

And the kid's… concern over getting lost is… it shouldn't be, and Dean knows it, but the fact that Matthew thinks of a car trip as being away from his home, away from his dog, away from Uncle Sam and Aunt Chelsea, away from Emily and Lizzie, away from his oldest cousin Sophie, who the younger three all adore… is nice. Dean's had a home for less than ten years. His son's growing up with a sense of what a home is and he's so grateful for that he can't really put it into words.

Even if the big family road trip had been put on the calendar because Dean had gotten screwed into going to another convention for work. His program director was under the impression that Dean's existence as a young man in the Hospice field was going to update Sioux Falls General's entire program. As the youngin', Dean had been sent to Chicago to gather the knowledge and bring it back to the people. This would have made perfect sense if Dean was a young, single, nurse, but it was really irritating to be chosen to sit in a hotel in Chicago for a week when everyone knew damn well that he had a husband and a three year old, and Sharon had five grandkids in Chicago.

Besides, the whole concept of going to some convention to learn more about their field was laughable. Nothing he brought back from Dr. Read It In A Book was going to change how they all did their jobs. Cheryl was still going to bring a hotdish. Cathleen was still going to make an extra trip before the last day she expected to visit a house. Dean was still going to sit on the corner of his patient's bed on the last day that they were mentally "there" and tell them about Reapers and Heaven and that everything was going to be all right.

But the fact that his program director was an ass was at least going to work out for Dean. It was a four day conference, he'd taken an extra couple days off so that he, Cas, and Matthew could drive out, and he knew exactly which three talks his director thought were important, which meant he could blow off most of this stupid crap and have a nearly all expense paid vacation with his family.

The first night in Chicago they just eat in the hotel. They're both wiped from the drive and from spending two hours in the pool with Matthew, and Dean has to get up and go to the stupid convention in the morning.

Cas is paging through a couple of the brochures from the concierge desk, looking for things to take Matthew to. Dean's going through his convention schedule with a penciling, circling the things that he absolutely has to go to and crossing out things that he'd rather suck rock salt than attend. Their waiter comes by to ask them if they want refills. It's not until Dean looks up to thank him that he notices her.

The girl staring at them.

She's young, seventeen, maybe nineteen at the outside. Blonde. Not that Dean never gets looks from girls too young to be giving him looks, but this one is different. She looks shocked to the core. He's gotten that in that past too. Every once in a while some kid that remembers him from when he stormed into their house and saved them, or sees him and stares for a while, trying to determine if they really do recognize his face.

Then her gaze shifts to Cas and turns to horror. Dean starts to stand up, go to her, find out what's wrong, but she sees him, startles, and bolts.

"Dean!" Cas's voice finally broke in.

"Yeah? Sorry. Just… planning. What's up?"

He can tell that Cas doesn't believe him, but indicates with a quick headshake that they'll discuss it later.

"We go swimming again?" Matthew asks.

"Not tonight, kiddo," Dean says. "Tomorrow?"

"Not tonight?" Matthew asks, with a little frown crinkling his slightly chubby cheeks. "Why not?"

"Because you can't swim after you eat. It makes you sink," Dean replied. Cas and Matthew both gave him the exact same look of slightly suspicious disbelief. It didn't quite push the girl to the back of his mind, but did make her something to worry about later.


 

Today was totally, completely, in every way worth getting up at six this morning to go to an hour long lecture on bullshit so that he could blow off the rest of his official day. Cas had found children's nature museum with a nationally renowned butterfly enclosure and Matthew had spent half an hour trying to stand still but giggling like a maniac every time a butterfly got anywhere near him and scaring them away. Cas had been covered in them. It looked like he was wearing a shirt and hat made out of wings. Everyone in the enclosure had been staring at him and it had taken them ten minutes to dislodge enough butterflies so that Cas could walk outside.

Matthew is heavy and asleep in Dean's arms as they walk back to the hotel. Cas's hand is warm, folded up in his own.

And his gasp as he walks into the hotel lobby is so loud and so harsh that it makes Dean jump.

And then he sees what Cas sees.

The blonde girl from last night, and the thing that makes her reaction to them make sense.

Her father.

Jimmy Novak.

Dean feels like his brain has just shut down. Like this is just too bizarre to digest and he's not totally sure how to even process it. The girl's name pops up though. Claire. He remembers the way Jimmy said it. The desperation in his voice.

Jimmy is looking back at Cas with the same brain-melted expression. From the same face.

But it's not exactly the same. Jimmy's hair is still short, and still brown. He's put on just a little bit of weight, not that he's gotten heavy, but he looks as though he's spent a few too many years behind a desk. His cheeks and jaw are soft where Cas's aren't. He's wearing slacks, a button up, and a tie. In comparison Cas looks like triple the hippie he actually is with his loose long hair, slightly ragged jeans, and just a little overlarge flannel shirt.

Claire's expression is even more of a mirror to her father's than Cas's is.

Jimmy gapes like a fish for a few moments before managing a breathless, "What the hell?"

His voice grates. It's lighter, less gravel in it. Just like it's not quite Cas's face, which Dean has spent more hours than he'd like to admit watching peacefully sleep, it's also not quite Cas's voice, which Dean has starting hearing scold him in his head when is deciding whether or not the garbage can will hold for another day, or telling him to take a breath when he is about to lose his temper with Matthew over an innocent thing.

"Hello, Jimmy," Cas answers.

Jimmy's eyes blow wide as understanding dawns. Claire grabs his wrist "Dad? What the hell is going on?"

Dean sees Jimmy's eyes travel down Cas's body, bug out as they see a reflection of his own hand wrapped in Dean's, and then jump up to Matthew.

"Are you serious with this?"

"Okay, come on, come one, let's take this freak show off the main drag, alright?" Dean says, walking away from the front door toward the corner of the lobby. Claire follows, and then her father after her.

"Yes, alright?" Dean tells Jimmy after they've planted in the corner of the lobby. "He's who you think he is." He waves his hand between himself and Cas. "This is what you think it is. This is our son. Our," Dean stresses, in case the whole "I'm in a serious relationship with someone in a carbon copy of your body" thing isn't coming across. Matthew stirs, just a little and Dean strokes his hand over his son's back, trying to soothe him back to sleep before he's awake enough to catch what's going on. He may not be psychic like his cousin, but he's a sensitive kid, he picks up on the emotion of a room nearly as quickly as Sophie does.

"I don't understand. Who are you?" Claire demands

Cas bites his lip, making a decision. "I'm Castiel," he extends his hand to her and Jimmy grabs her around the waist and pulls her back.

"Castiel. Castiel the Angel?" Claire gasps.

"No, not anymore. Just Castiel. Human."

Jimmy stares at Castiel. Claire stares at Castiel. Cas moves a little closer to Dean.

"So," Dean starts, trying to break the crazy weird tension. "How did you come back?"

"How long have you been walking around in my skin?" Jimmy counters.

Cas's hand tightens around Dean's and Jimmy purses his lips. It's something that Cas does all the time, but on Jimmy it's tight and wrathful. On Cas is usually slightly annoyed, undercut with pretending not to be amused. Dean's used to the way that the same expression on the same face can look so differently. Emily and Lizzie somehow managed to develop polar opposite personalities, so much so that even neighbors and acquaintances have no trouble telling them apart. But the difference between Cas and Jimmy just stabs him in the heart. He holds Matthew, still thankfully sleeping, a little bit tighter.

"For… um… about a year after the warehouse," Cas answers. "And then Lucifer killed me. And then a month later I came back."

Dean can see Jimmy doing the math in his head, and can see him come up with the figure. "Oh."

"Lucifer?" Claire asks.

Jimmy hushes her and pulls her a little further back.

"When did you come back?" Dean asks again.

"Just after that," Jimmy answers. He looks at them both for a moment, eyes lingering on Matthew, before clearing his throat. "Come on, baby, we're going to stay somewhere else. Let's go get our stuff."

Dean almost calls out to him, but what's he supposed to say? Sorry you got double minted? Sorry you made pawn status in a universal game of fuck-you-chess?

They both watch Jimmy storm off, dragging Claire behind him by the wrist until she wrenches her hand out of his grip. She shoots a quick look back at them.

Cas steps into Dean's body and plants a quick kiss on Matthew's forehead. "Well… I'm glad he's alive?" he manages.

"I guess," Dean replies.

Matthew naps for a couple hours. Cas does too. Dean watches them until Cas wakes up, and then pretends that he wasn't just staring at the two of them for the last hour. Cas reads until Matthew wakes up. They all go back down to the pool for a couple hours and then out for deep dish. Matthew declares it his favorite thing and Dean has to go wet a couple of napkins in the bathroom to get all the pizza sauce off his fingers. And his face. And some how, the back of his neck.

They go back to the hotel. Matthew refuses to put on his pajamas until his dads do too. They're all tucked into the bed reading him one of his books about trains and, Dean has to admit, doing their best impression of a sappy Hallmark card, when there is a knock on the door.

"Hello!" Matthew shouts in response. Dean stiffens. He shoots a look at Cas, who nods and pulls Matthew close to his chest.

"Let's play quiet, baby," he whispers. Mathew tucks his lips into his mouth, so there is just a line across the bottom of his face. "And close your eyes."

Dean slides out of bed, and grabs the demon knife that he packed alongside his toothbrush case and goes to the door. He peaks through the peephole.

"Shit," he whispers. It's Jimmy's daughter, wearing less shirt than he would prefer to have a teenage girl wearing near a hotel room. He goes back to his suitcase, grabs the flask of holy water that he didn't feel right about not packing and returns to the door, ducking out of it.

"I just wanted to talk to you," Claire says, holding up her hands placatingly.

"That's nice. Give me your arm," Dean replies.

Claire extends it and watches as he undoes the flask. "Holy water, right?" she asks as Dean pours it over her arm to absolutely no effect.

"Right. What are you doing here?"

"Dad and I are here looking at colleges. He wants me to stay close by, but I'm too brilliant for Chicago."

"That's nice. I meant in my hotel" Dean replies.

"I realize that," Claire huffs, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Where are you going to go?" Dean asks, when she doesn't offer any answer.

"MIT. Or maybe Stanford. Best computer science programs in the country and they're wooing me. If I snapped my fingers I could probably get Carnegie Mellon to give me an expense account and let me spend it all on clothes and caviar. I hacked into the hotel records and found your room. Took me a minute and a half and that was just because I was pretending that I was just IM'ing a friend so my Dad wouldn't get upset." She sets a hand on her hip. "He doesn't realize that no one IM's anymore."

"Good for you. What do you want from me?" Dean asks.

"Angels destroyed my family. Then Demons did. I'm not stupid. I started following all the weird news stories that crop up. Looking up what the explanation might really be. Noticing weird arrests for people impersonating FBI agents and homeland security."

Dean sets his hand to his forehead. "Do not tell me you became a Hunter. You are a little girl."

"I haven't been a little girl since your boyfriend took my father away when I was eleven," Claire snaps. "And I could boohoo about that and pummel my teeny fists into your chest and it wouldn't do any good. And I can walk into Google in a couple years, start raking it in and live in the company dorms with a bunch of nerds relieved by having the weight of the outside normal world lifted off their shoulders, and it won't do any good. Your supernatural shit ruins the lives of girls like the girl I used to be every day. That's what matters to me. Stopping that- that's what I actually want to do with my life."

"Well I don't know what to tell you, sweetheart," Dean tells her, backing against the door a little bit.

"Don't call me sweetheart," Claire responds, stepping right into his space again. "Your boyfriend was in me for a little while too. I know more than you think I do. I know Hunting is more than stabbing demons and stealing cars. I know how much seriously scary shit is out there. I know your big hulking brother thinks that being able to do a Google search and track an IP address is impressive- and that's cute, but I can actually do something. I can get access to things your motely crew doesn't know exist. Fuck your laminated badges, I can put you into the FBI employee records so if someone runs your badge numbers, something actually comes up. Every company in the world that uses those pass cards? I can open all those doors. I'm a goddamn prodigy, and I'm asking to be on your team."

"I'm not on a team," Dean responds immediately.

"Obviously, Daddy number one of two," she snarls. "But someone sure the hell is." She takes a deep breath, Dean notices the miniscule tremble in her bottom lip before she schools it and puts her hands back on her hips. Good. She's not as hard as he thought she was, there is some of that scared little girl from last night still in there. "I want to do something meaningful. This is what I can do."

Dean crosses his arms and looks at her. She stands her ground, and he can tell it's not just posturing.

"How is your father?" He asks.

"Right now? Pissed. How often do you run in to the jackass angel that high jacked your body throwing said body into the arms of his surprise gay lover?"

"Other than that. For the last few years. Since he got back. How has he been?"

Claire breathes deep, then huffs the whole breath back out. "Grateful. Sweet. Attentive- Over attentive, almost smothering. Every birthday's an event, every holiday is a major celebration. He and my mom renewed their vows and every once in a while he brings her flowers for no reason."

"That's great," Dean says.

"He lives like he expects to die," Claire answers, and there is an edge there.

"Well, what else is a man going to do?" Dean replies, even though he doesn't mean it. "Are you guys, the Novaks, are you happy?"

Claire chews her bottom lip. "Yes."

Dean nods. "Alright. Fine. You gotta pen?"

Claire rolls her eyes at him and pulls out her smartphone. Dean gives her Jo's "business" line and explains what it is. That she can call Jo in the morning and explain what she can do and that Jo might find a job for her.

Claire nods, turns, and stalks away. Dean goes back inside, where Matthew is still winning the quiet game. He gives Cas a tight smile, walks forward as quietly as he can and tickles the unsuspecting three year old. Matthew laughs and swats at his hands kicking backward into Castiel.

Dean drops back into bed, kisses his son's forehead quick and then kisses his husband.

"Everything alright?" Cas asks.

"Yeah, we'll do details in a little bit, okay?"

Cas nods and picks the book back up. The three of them settle back against the headboard again and finish the book. Cas carries Matthew to his cot and then tucks himself back into bed with Dean.

Dean tells him about Claire. Cas comments that it certainly won't make Jimmy any less angry with them, but Jo will be thrilled. Dean sets his head on Cas's shoulder while they plan their trip the Lincoln Park Zoo tomorrow and they drift off together.

Chapter Text

Dean's loops around the block twice with the windows down and the music a little too loud before he pulls into the driveway. He's a little ragged. Nothing major had happened today, it had just been a long one and he needs to unwind a little before he gets home to a four month old and Cas, who has been strung pretty tight lately.

The issue with God suddenly dropping a baby into your life is that you had no time to prepare. Cas had quit his part time bookstore job the morning after they'd found the baby. Dean had wound up putting in a few more weeks at work before he'd finagled some parental leave. And it wasn't just logistics like Cas staying home alone with the baby for most of the first day while Dean frantically ran around time gathering up baby stuff they didn't have- it was the fact that they had been totally mentally unprepared too.

Sam had been shocked and terrified when he found out that he was going to be a father, but he hadn't actually had a baby to deal with for a couple months after the initial shock. And Dean had wanted this so badly and Cas had wanted it too, but neither of them had been quite ready to just wake up fathers one morning.

Especially Cas. He'd been so good with his nieces that Dean hadn't expected the big difference between Cas's interaction with Sophie, Emily and Lizzie and his interaction with Matthew. But he could see it in Cas all the time. Matthew was literally a miracle for both of them, way beyond just a lucky shot, way beyond even immaculate conception. He was just made to exist, just for them. And for Cas, who only a few years ago hadn't even been a species that could reproduce, the pressure of his own child seemed to be a little too much for him.

Dean was being as supportive as he could muster, and at four months in, had yet to tell anyone, even Sam, that he thought Cas was being a psychotic perfectionist.

He washed everything all the time. He bought parenting magazines. He watched daytime TV shows about parenting. He googled everything that the baby did.

And the thing that Dean really really hated- he'd made Dean join an "Other People Stupid Enough to Be Gay Parents in South Dakota" group.

Well… made was a little strong. Dean had been playing with Matthew. Matthew had been making a sound that was almost a laugh. Cas had asked him for something. It had been about an hour before Dean realized what he had agreed to, but it had seemed really important to Cas, so Dean had just gone along with it.

It was just them and three lesbian couples. A couple of bug eyed professors, Cheryl and Shirley. Shirley was pregnant with their first child and they were always talking about organic food and cortex development and swaddling and how they were painting the nursery yellow to avoid enforcing gender expectations. They spent most of the meetings passive aggressively arguing with Bridget and Diane who lived on a farm a few miles out of town and had three elementary age kids, two girls and boy, who were all very well behaved and showed up to meetings looking like they had been playing outside. Pink cheeks and grubby fingers. And then there was Jackie and Isabelle, who had sons in high school, but still came to most meetings.

Dean genuinely likes Bridget and Diane. They're just sweet, solid people. They'd cooed over Matthew and tossed him up in a way that made Shirley shriek and Matthew burble happily. Jackie and Isabelle are fun too, Dean likes the "oh, if you only knew" way that they both smile at Cheryl and Shirley.

Cheryl and Shirley drive Dean out of his freaking mind. He feels bad for their poor kid, but mostly he feels bad for himself because Shirley and Cheryl get Cas all freaked out about pesticides and brain growth.

He doesn't get why Cas is so worried about the gay parent thing when the ex-Angel/ex-Hunter parent thing is just hanging there, but Dean thinks it's something that Cas will work out of his system. And he has to admit it's probably not a bad group for them to be involved in. Bridget and Diane are already running into problems with their kid's school, and Jackie and Isabelle have a lot of sage advice for them.

But if they have to go to every fucking meeting, Dean is going to get very sarcastic with Cheryl and Shirley. Cas stresses himself out about the baby too much already without the Super-Moms-To-Be making it worse.

Dean can hear Matthew screaming bloody murder before he even pulls the door open.

"Everybody okay?" he calls out as he kicks off his shoes. He says it lightly but feels an icy stab of fear when no one replies. He steps into the living room, looking around, ready for anything but what he finds.

Matthew is lying on the floor, kicking and waving his arms and wailing with his face red. Cas is sitting next to him on the floor, cross-legged with his palms pressed tight to his ears. He looks utterly defeated and after a moment Dean realizes that Cas is crying too.

Dean drops down next to him and Cas jumps when realizes that Dean's home. Dean scoops his son up off the floor and sets him on his shoulder, before grabbing Cas's hand as it falls away from his ears.

"Hey, what the hell is going on?"

Cas sputters and clenches his hand around Dean's. "He's been crying for hours… he just… and I can't… nothing is working."

Dean feels the way that hurts, like a stabbing in his heart. He hates it when Cas feels bad for something that Dean should have been able to prevent. He leans forward and kisses Cas's temple. "Alright. It's okay."

"No. No it's not. I can't… I think I'm making it worse," Cas sniffed grossly, snucking up snot in a way that made it clear he'd been crying for hours too. "I shouldn't be making it worse, but he's just been screaming. And I fed him, and I changed him and he's not running a fever and I just-"

Dean would be lying if he said he hasn't been waiting for this to happen. But there's no point in telling Cas (again) that he's putting way too much pressure on himself. Cas needs to get some fucking sleep, and then they'll talk about this. Besides. This is Dean's fault anyway. He shouldn't expect Cas to be as human as he does.

"Cas? You are exhausted. Go lie down. I'll take care of Matthew, scare up some dinner. I'll wake you up in a couple hours."

"Maybe we should take him to the doctor?" Cas replies, wiping his eyes on the back of his palm. "Maybe something is causing him pain?"

"Cas, I'm serious. You need rest. If I can't get him to calm down in half an hour I'll call Sam and Chelsea and see what they think. Please go to bed."

Cas lets out a little sob and runs his hand over the still crying baby's back. "I don't understand why I can't take care of my son. I don't-"

"Shhh…." Dean says, kissing him again. "This happens. It was just a bad day. And it's my fault that you got this far out of whack. I should be able to take care of you, right?"

He was hoping that would get a smile out of Cas. It doesn't, but Cas does work his way up to his feet and stagger upstairs.

Dean walks Matthew around the yard and only succeeds in getting him to cry more quietly. He grabs his cellphone and starts making calls to get his shifts moved around for the next few days. He made Cas cry, he can't just give the poor guy a nap and then tell him to start over in the morning.

He winds up cashing in a few favors, offering a few favors, and rounds it out with some light begging but he gets the next three days off. Then he calls Sam. When there's no answer he calls Chelsea, who suggests Matthew might be teething and turns out to be right. Dean asks where Sam is. Chelsea explains that Sam is having a similar night.

He wets a couple of washcloths and throws them in the freezer, then puts some cool water on another one and lets Matthew chew on it. By the time Dean's found the take out menus the kid has calmed down and by the time the delivery guy shows up, Matthew is sound asleep.

Dean sets out plates and forks and dumps salty, greasy comfort food all over them before he goes and gets Cas, who is even more miserable when he wakes up to find that in the hour and half he's been asleep Dean has stopped the screaming and gotten the baby down for the night.

"Teething," Cas sighs, dropping his forehead into his hand and stuffing a huge bite of sesame chicken into his mouth. "I didn't even think of that."

Cas shovels down easily double what he usually eats, and Dean forces him to go back upstairs.


 

"Hey, there. Ready for the park Mr. Stay at Home?" Sam asks the second he opens the door. He's got Lizzie in a football hold in one arm, what really looks like spit up in his hair, and a shit-eating grin on his face.

"You're hilarious," Dean says, bouncing Matthew a little bit and ignoring the drool slowly soaking through his t-shirt. They went Target this morning and bought a chew toy. It's shaped like a gorilla, and Dean can admit, in a totally manly way, that it's really cute. Though it is turning out, probably not the ideal chewing shape. "It's not like I'm some sort of workaholic who ignores Cas and Matthew, you know. I've been to the park. I can take care of my kid. I can take care of my boyfriend."

"I'm not making fun of you," Sam replies, still grinning as he waves Dean inside. "I'm actually looking forward to you at the park. Instead of just me and all the weird little Mom cliques. This is going to be good." He fiddles with the buckles. Emily throws up her hands and burbles at him, he grins at her and kisses her little fingers. "It's going to be so good, right girls? Yes it is."

"You are crazy chipper this morning. Like Mommy's Little Helper cheerful."

Sam shrugs and pulls out the stroller sunscreen. "This is all natural joy of a man who slept 12 hours last night and has been experiencing the sweet release of all day kindergarten for a whole week. I just need to get laid and I'll be freaking skipping."

"Dude, come on, little ears, we've talked about this," Dean sighs. Sam gives him the look that Sam always gives him for things like that. Lips-tucked-in smile with wide eyes. It's a sort of condescending "Oookay, whatever you say" smile that functions as a straightforward reminder that Dean is the older brother, but Sam is a father of three and Dean might have raised him, but he's only had a baby of his own for a couple months.

"Sorry," Sam says. "I'm gonna run up to the restroom, and we'll go park it up, and it won't just be me and that other Dad at the park who clearly just hates his life."

"Sam?" Dean calls after him as Sam starts up the steps. "As long as you're going up there, you've got puke in your hair."

"Yeah. I probably do. I have no memory of anything that happened past five last night."

"Alright," Dean sighs as Sam clomps the rest of the way upstairs.

"You and Cas don't take the kids to the park between hunting down vampire nests?" Dean asks when Sam reappears at the tops of the stairs.

Sam sighs and rolls his eyes as he hurries back down. "Cas thinks it's too cold out and the kids'll get pneumonia and die."

"It's September," Dean counters. "It's almost 70 degrees right now."

"I know," Sam says. "But I'm not going to push it yet. I remember Sophie at four months, I was still basically terrified that I would accidently break her somehow. And it's different for you guys."

"Does he seem that stressed out when he's over here?"

"Oh yeah." Sam says, grabbing the stroller and lifting the whole thing to carry it down the porch steps. "If anyone needs to be L-A-I-D it's Cas. I'm surprised he didn't snap weeks ago."

"And you don't bring this up?" Dean demands.

"Did you not bring a stroller?" Sam replies, looking around the driveway.

"I'm gonna carry him," Dean replies. He pulls Matthew a little tighter to his chest. Chelsea and Sam do make fun of him a little bit for this. He realizes that he can set Matthew down and that it's not like anything would happen. He doesn't need to have his sleeping son slung over his shoulder while he's doing dishes one handed, and he could break out the stroller… but he likes the warm weight, he likes the reassuring sound of Matthew breathing and making little baby sounds.

"Okay." Sam does the grin again and Dean hates him a little bit for it. "And I figured you knew that Cas was on edge. The sky's blue, monsters are real, and Cas is a mess. I mean… it's to be expected right? You're stressed out too."

"Yeah, man, but we have more experience than Cas does."

Sam starts down the street and Dean follows, adjusting the big diaper bag at his back.

"Cas has plenty of experience," Sam says. "He was always so good with Sophie when she was a baby. He's good with the Martha's kids, he's good with the twins. And he's good with Matthew too. He just needs to chill out a little bit. You both do, and I understand why you'd need more than just four months to chill out. You're doing fine."

"We may all need to just watch out for Cas a little more here. I mean he's not… you know altogether… human. And what do I need to chill out about?"

"You're being a little condescending don't you think?" Sam huffs. "Cas is a grown man, and a good father. He's protective, and worried, and he'll get over it. It's not like he's doing anything wrong. You're not going to help anything by making him feel like he's a burden you have to shoulder. Believe me. No one knows that like I do."

"Babbrrummmbah!" Matthew declares into Dean's ear. Dean kisses his head absentmindedly.

"That's not what I'm doing."

"Yes it is," Sam replies immediately. "Cas is wiped. He needs a couple days to recover, but you don't need to take him on as another charge. He's a grown up, he can deal with this, he just needs a full night's sleep and a little … you know. TLC. Otherwise you're just going to make him feel like crap and stress yourself out even more."

"I'm not that stressed out," Dean scoffs. "For a guy with a baby and a newly human husband and a full time job, I'm damn peachy."

Sam scoops his hair back and stops strolling and holds his hands out. "Okay. Then give me Matthew."

"Why?" Dean demands, turning away a little bit.

"Just come on, hand me the baby."

"No. Not when you're all Mary Poppins nuts."

"Alright," Sam says, shrugging and resuming their stroll. "But, seriously, Cas and I are friends too. He's been spending a lot of time over at my house over the last couple months. I know what I'm talking about. If you treat him like you need to take care of him too, you are going to make him feel even worse, all the time. And you're going to lose it next. You're a mess too."

"I'm fine," Dean snaps as they walk into the park. Matthew squawks and Dean shushes him. Sam raises his eyebrows at him.

"Yeah. You're totally fine. You think Cas getting upset is completely your fault, you won't even put your kid down, and you're ignoring a sensible solution in favor of something that's going to hurt your boyfriend and make your life way more stressful. But you're totally fine."

"I forgot what you're like when you're well rested," Dean tells him. "Didn't miss it."

"And I'd almost forgotten what you're like when you're all martyred," Sam bites back.

Dean flicks him off, earning an instant glare from one of the cliques of Moms that Sam was bitching about as the two of them start circling the little path around the park. They make it most of the way around the circle before, out of nowhere, Sam asks, "So, are you guys having any sex at all?"

"Oh my god. Are you serious?" Dean groans. "I'm not talking to you about this."

"I have seen you nailing twins," Sam counters.

"Little. Ears," Dean repeats, shifting Matthew to the shoulder away from Sam.

"Fine. I was trying for subtle, but this is just not worth it," Sam sighed. "Cas is around a lot and this is a subject that has come up. Unlike, as I hear it, either of you."

Dean hears the fact that his boyfriend has complained to his brother that they are not having enough sex, and instantly moves past it, avoiding having to digest or deal with this information. It's been a couple months, but they've been tired and busy and it's not that strange.

"Matthew sleeps in our room, he doesn't sleep through the night, you are starting to sound weirdly like Chelsea and according to all of Cas's magazines, a lot of new parents take longer than this to be… you know… intimate again. Are you seriously telling me that you are Chelsea are…" Dean waves vaguely.

"Chelsea just had twins," Sam says. "She physically needs a little more time before she wants to actually have sex. It took a little less time with Sophie, but this was harder on her. But we still fool around. Which for the two of you apparently counts as sex."

"Okay- if you want to go over an actual issue, fine, but I'm not going to do the 'it's not," –Dean huffed and patted Matthew's head– "S-E-X if you're not inside' discussion again."

"Fair enough. Still. Neither of you pushed little people out of your bodies recently and Sophie slept in our room for most of the first year and we were still having sex."

"With her ther-"

"No! No," Sam denied instantly. "Of course not. Come on. In the laundry room. Or the shower. While Sophie was napping. With the monitor on. Just in case. Couple quickies in the panic room while we were at your place. And once in your room. Wait- twice in your room."

"Jesus, Sam!"

"Dean, we are both grown ups. We've got, you know, partners. Can we just have the mature discussion about this that Cas has been nodding and nudging and subtly begging me to have with you for weeks or not? Cause if I can have the big gay sex conversation- you sure as hell should be able to."

Dean holds Matthew a little closer. "Cas put you up to this?"

"Not in so many words."

"Fine. Then in as few words as possible."

"You are in a huge life change and Cas doesn't feel close to you. It's not just the pressure, he's lonely." Sam says it fast and matter of fact, like he's just reporting on the weather.

"He's lonely?" Dean demands.

"You are so focused on the baby that you're alienating him."

"Sam-"

"I know, Dean. I know. I get it." Sam stops wheeling the stroller and turns to Dean. "You wanted this so badly for so long, and you got it and it is literally a miracle. I know how that feels. Look at my life- look at Chelsea- I get what it feels like to have a miracle. But I can feel that way about her and the kids, save the world, hang out with you and Cas. Sit upstairs with a book and a beer sometimes and let her take the wheel. You are too… single barrel on this. Are you hearing what I'm saying?"

Dean tucks his face a little closer to Matthew. He's making little grunting noises and apparently really going to town on his gorilla. "I should get him out of the sun."

"Dean," Sam starts.

"I'm not single barrel. I go to work. I'm still helping save the world here and there. I'm not ignoring Cas. I'm taking care of him right now."

"By leaving him home alone and taking the baby out with me."

"What are you telling me to do, just drop my kid off somewhere?

"How about you leave Matthew with us tonight? Take Cas out somewhere, have a grown up night. Dinner. Conversation that is not about puke and poop. Sex."

"Is there going to be a test on the conversation?" Dean snarks. "Do I get extra credit for 'real' sex, or will my grade on this be okay if it's just B-L-O-W jobs like usual?"

"I'm right about this and you'll thank me in the morning," Sam announces with finality, strolling off without looking back. Dean takes Matthew over to a big oak tree and drops down in the shade. He watches the clique moms watching him and tries to remember the last time that he and Cas really were intimate with each other.

They haven't had sex in a traditional sense since the night Sam and Chelsea had announced that they were pregnant again, but that was pretty typical. Dean had done some googling and some rationalizing and some researching before finally giving up and deciding that 'because we don't like it as much as everything else' was a good enough reason for them to hardly ever have anal sex. He wasn't going to say that to Sam for a couple reasons, one of course still being little ears, and the other being that Sam had gotten a little too… open about his love life since he and Chelsea had gotten married and Dean did not need to hear about the variety of ways that his little brother had nailed his good friend and the mother of his nieces.

But Dean can't remember the last time they'd done anything else either. He figured that they must have at least done some sleepy grinding while he was off work for adoption leave, but nothing's coming to mind.

He takes out the bottle he'd packed, tapping it until the bubbles pop. Matthew drops the gorilla and grabs the bottle as soon as it's in reach. He watches his son eat. Watches the content little expression of concentration and zones out a little. It takes Sam a couple tries to get Dean's attention. He spends another couple hours with Sam and the twins and the more time he spends with someone who is not Matthew's other father the more he realizes.

Maybe he is a little single barrel.

He and Sam spread a blanket out in the oak tree shade and let the cousins roll and kick for a little while. They lie on their stomachs on opposite sides of the blanket and pack everyone back up when Emily starts to get fussy. It starts to occur to Dean, as they head back to the house, that the day out with his baby and his baby brother is a little too similar to the last couple of days with his lover and his baby.

He and Cas don't pile together on the couch like they used to, because one of them is always holding Matthew. They don't hold hands walking around like they used too. Cas has been so tired lately that even their kiss goodbye in the morning has been getting cut. The only time he's really physically close to Cas is when they're putting the baby down for the night and when they climb in bed together before falling almost instantly into a dead sleep for the few hours they get.

Sam's solution of a night off really is the only one and Dean understands that… and still doesn't want his son to sleep somewhere else for the night.

Dean gets home around three. Matthew didn't quite fall asleep in the car, but he was getting there.

Cas is sitting on the front porch swing in his bathrobe with a book and a cup of tea. He's unshaven and messy, but the circles under his eyes are gone.

"Hey, how you feeling?" Dean calls out as he pulls Matthew out of the backseat of the Impala.

"Umm… embarrassed, mostly," Cas replies. "I didn't handle last night very well."

"Don't worry about it," Dean says. He leans down to kiss Cas, a real kiss on the lips. Cas has clearly not brushed his teeth, but Dean still kisses him like he has.

Matthew makes a happy quacking sort of noise and reaches out for Cas, which makes Cas just lighten. Dean hands him over.

"Hey, so, I took tomorrow off too, and Sam said that he and Chelsea could take on an extra kid tonight. So… what's say you let me take you out tonight?"

Cas smiles softly. "Yes. That would be lovely."

Matthew goes down for a nap, and while Dean feels like spending that time with Cas… it doesn't quite work out that way. They end up cleaning because the house has gone from "messy" to "gross" to "dangerous" and it has to be done. Dean winds up falling asleep on the couch for half and hour and feels bad about it when he's woken up by Chelsea knocking on the door. Apparently Sam sent her over to take Matthew by force if need be.

Chelsea seems to realize this. She gives Dean a mocking smile. "You know we're used to waking up. If you need to come get him tonight, just call."

Cas cleans up better than Dean remembers. He shaves and braids his hair and digs out his ridiculous suspenders that make him look so old-world. Dean scrubs up too, breaking out one of his fed suits.

They aren't quite able to follow Sam's directive about no baby talk. Matthew is what is happening in their lives and he dominates the conversation. But the restaurant owner is celebrating some sort of anniversary and starts sending the waiters around with free champagne. After Cas's first couple glasses conversation somehow swings around to the old days.

"It would've been intrestin, intreston…" Cas clears his throat and blushes even redder under his already pinked cheeks. "In-ter-est-ing. To have been human back then." He sighs. "Or to have been human enough to appreciate you, anyway."

"Appreciate me?" Dean laughs. Including that militia thing in Minnesota he can count the times he's seen Cas drunk on one hand, and Cas happy, flushed, laughing drunk is undeniably attractive. They're playing footsie under the table like teenagers and Sam has texted a couple times with little updates. It's obvious that he knows Dean too well, the last three were:

"Your kid is fine. Enjoy your night."

"He just ate. Don't worry about your kid."

"We're playing on the floor. You better be having a nice time."

"Mmmhmmm," Cas says. "In the fray. With your…" He laughs and takes another deep gulp from what Dean is pretty sure is his fifth glass. "With that rock salt gun, or the demon knife. I mean, I never really used to concern myself with it, but it umm… pops up, every now and then, and I just think… I wish I had realized how ridiculously… hot that was."

"Hot?" Dean asks.

"Mmm," Cas replies nodding and blushing even redder. Dean can feel the point of Cas's shoe nudging clumsily at his ankle. "I had a dream about you like that this morning."

"Yeah?" Dean says, every part of him perking up in interest at this.

Cas's voice drops even lower than usual. "You'd just come home from a hunt. I was on the porch and you walked out of the dark, all dirty and sweaty and," Cas clears his throat. "And I stripped your jeans right off of you."

Dean reaches out for his water glass and nearly knocks it over.

"Dropped you down on the swing and wrapped my hands around your thighs, and umm… went down on you until you screamed." Cas tipped back the rest of his champagne glass. "I liked the smell of you. Strong and… you know… virile."

Dean swallows heavily. "That uh, would've been a better end to a night of hunting than most of my actual cases."

"Pretty decent end to a date too," Cas says.

Dean blows out a breath. He's hard and only getting harder as Cas smiles at him and tucks his foot against Dean's under the table. He could sit here and try to calm down while the waiter brings them their check… but he's not going to.

He digs a couple bills out of his wallet and throws them on the table, then works his way out of his jacket.

"Yeah. Yeah it is," he agrees.

Cas stands. Dean folds his jacket discretely in front of himself and they book out of the restaurant, Cas giggling drunkenly all the way up to the point that he pushes Dean up against the passenger side of the Impala.

"I could suck you off here in the parking lot," Cas huffs into his ear, before he starts kissing down his neck. "I miss you."

Cas's hands settle at the small of his back and pull Dean in, hard and sudden. Dean gasps and almost pushes him back in surprise. Handsy Cas, he's used to, but Cas doesn't ever get forceful like this.

"I miss you too," Dean manages.

Cas rocks his hips against Dean and Dean swallows hard when he feels Cas's erection against him, then moans when Cas pulls him in for a kiss, deep and dirty.

Dean does push him away this time, a little too hard to be playful. "Come on, let's get you home where it's legal."

"Hurry," Cas huffs.

Dean is really grateful that he picked a restaurant near home. Cas decides to totally disregard traffic safety laws and spends the drive nearly in Dean's lap, running his tongue teasingly across the tendons in his neck, pulling all his buttons open and palming over Dean's rock hard dick. Dean clenches the steering wheel so hard that by the time he pulls into the drive way he can barely feel his fingers. He's considering just doing this here. Letting Cas blow him in the front seat because he's not sure he can take walking all the way upstairs to their bedroom. Even the couch is starting to seem like a tall order with Cas's lips on his neck and Cas's hands under his shirt.

"Come on, come on," Dean huffs out. "Bedroom."

"But then I have to stop touching you," Cas protests.

"We'll run," Dean replies.

"Mmnnmm," Cas moves forward and kisses him for real. "Dean… Dean…"

Dean digs his hands into Cas's hair and pulls him in even harder, kissing Cas almost as dirty as Cas had kissed him in the parking lot, and slowly giving up on the hope that he might make it upstairs with his boyfriend after all. "Tell me what you want, Cas."

"You."

"How drunk are you?"

"Pretty drunk," Cas replies. "I've been… thinking about you a lot lately. I think about you and I touch myself and I think about looking in your eyes while I'm getting you to climax."

Dean's hips jerk forward into nothing. It's just too hot to deal with when Cas puts it like that. He throws the door open and gulps in air. He's starting to feel like he's getting a contact drunk.

The cool air helps. He ducks away from Cas and steps out of the car, surprised at just how undressed he is. Cas had drunk plenty of champagne at the restaurant, and had certainly sounded drunk while he talked about his dirty dreams. But he had certainly been efficient enough at tugging Dean out of his clothes in the dark.

Fuck it.

Dean lets his pants drop in the driveway, steps out of them, then beckons Cas over. Cas grins and steps toward him. Dean steps back and Cas follows for a few steps before Dean turns and runs for the house. It's not really running. It's more of a gentle lope. He wants Cas to catch him, and he also doesn't want Cas to fall down and break his face.

Cas chases him up the stairs and tackles him down onto the bed, hitting him way harder than Dean had anticipated, nearly knocking the air out of him, then flipping him onto his back and dropping down to kiss his chest.

Dean's glad they've already agreed this is going to be a multi-round thing, because he's way, way more hard up for this than he thought he was and it's already too obvious that the first round is going to be short. His hands are shaking as he tugs Castiel out of his shirt. He was aware that it had been too long, but it hasn't felt like months until now. Cas throws his shirt and pants off, and Dean flips him onto his back, rutting down into him as slowly as he can manage, which is not particularly slow.

He's rabid for this-for Cas's sweat shined skin and hot breath and hard body and hard cock pressed tight against him. He dives down to kiss him and can tell that he hasn't been paying enough attention to Cas lately by the way that it feels like coming home. Dean hates admitting that Sam's right, but he had seriously had a point. The distance between him and Cas while they separately obsessed about the baby was all too obvious with the distance suddenly closed.

Cas's kissing gets distracted and Dean realizes that he is scrabbling in the nightstand, then belatedly, realizes why. Dean pulls out of the kiss, plucks the lube out of the drawer and sets it down by the pillows. Cas makes a noise that's half a chuckle, half a moan and pulls Dean back down on top of him, rocking up hard before pitching Dean over onto his back and grabbing both their cocks, stroking a little too hard and way too dry.

Cas is never like this, forceful and direct, just on the edge of rough. Dean's a little shocked with himself for enjoying it this much. He whines when Cas drops his cock to go for the lube, then takes advantage of Cas's precarious position while he's holding himself up with one arm and knocks him onto his back, just for the thrill of the feeling of Cas throwing him back down again.

Cas pops the lube open and pours a little into his hand. His eyelashes are dark against his pink flushed skin while he touches himself.

"Cas?" Dean asks, wondering where they are going with the lube.

Cas grins softly at him pours more liquid into his palm and runs his slick palm up Dean's length, rock hard and laying up against his stomach. He takes Dean in his fist and strokes back down.

"Sit up so I can kiss you," Cas instructs in a whisper, thumbing right under the head of Dean's cock, the same place where he usually works his tongue until Dean starts to sweat.

Dean doesn't need to be told twice. He pulls himself up immediately swinging himself backward on his arms while Cas knee walks forward. He drops back into the headboard with a crash so loud that Cas ducks out of the kiss to laugh at him. "We're out of practice"

"It's okay. It's just a warm up," Dean replies, rocking up into Cas's hand to get his focus back. Cas grasps their cocks together and strokes down. Dean's right on the edge from the first stroke of Cas's hand and thrust of Cas's cock, and Cas doesn't make it a whole five minutes before he's bursting all over Dean, and Dean's coming himself at the happy growl that Cas makes as he falls forward into an accomplished kiss.

They collapse like a house on fire, folding in on each other into an illogical naked heap of limbs.

"Fuuuckk…" Cas sighs. "I really needed that."

Dean laughs. "Yeah," he nuzzles into Cas's neck. "I'm sorry about yesterday."

"You're sorry?" Cas sighs. "I'm the one that 'freaked out' on you."

"But I'm sorry that I haven't been… you know around."

"You're here every night."

"I mean… for you. I'm sorry I haven't been… here for you."

Cas pulls himself closer, wrapping a hand around Dean's neck. "Dean, can I tell you a secret?"

"Yeah, baby," Dean says.

"Don't call me baby," Cas replies tonelessly before pulling back enough to meet Dean's eye. Experiments with pet names have not gone well. Matthew got to be baby on occasion, but Dean has a sneaking suspicion that it's a nickname that Cas is working his way around to being comfortable with because Matthew actually is a baby. But since it's the only pet name Cas ever uses, Dean finds himself falling into it more and more.

"Fine. What's the secret?" Dean asked, tucking his feet between Cas's.

"I've been expecting you to get like this."

"I know, I'm sorry. I'd stay here with you everyday, you know that."

"I do. But that's not what I meant. It's not just having the baby you wanted so badly that's making you like this."

"Then what is it?"

"Matthew looks like Sam," Cas whispers. "I'm not sure you've even consciously noticed it yet, but it's there."

"You think that I'm obsessive about our miracle baby because he looks like my little brother because they both have dark hair."

"And similar eyes and the same smile. And I think that you were always going to be obsessive about being a father, because as badly as you want this you're as scarred by your father as Sam was, just in very different ways. And I know that it's still ingrained in you to do anything it takes to take care of Sam. And that scares me."

"I don't think Matthew is Sam," Dean argues.

"No, not that," Cas says. "It scares me that I'm not like that. You're… mind and soul are devoted in a way that I'm just… not sure how to be. I'm afraid that you'll think I don't love him enough and I do."

Dean kisses Cas and sets their foreheads together. "Why on earth would I think something like that?"

"Because he makes me tired, and sometimes I can't get him to stop crying and sometimes… being responsible for him, and having him be… mine is so much and I can't quite fathom it. I worry that you'll think I'm unfeeling because I'm not sure I can get as manic as I've seen you get about Sam."

Dean searches out Cas's hand and squeezes it. "I'd never think that. And let's face t. You're right. I'm too obsessive. I'm dangerous. I know that. I can respect you being, you know, the rational half."

"The rational half," Cas sighs. "That's sexy."

Dean laughs out loud. Sometimes Cas is weirdly human in little bursts. "Give me five more minutes and I will show you exactly how sexy it is."

Cas makes a pleased humming noise and combs his hand through Dean's sweaty hair. "I love being in a family like this," he says seriously. "It's different to be a father and a brother in law than just a brother like I was. Different to be a boyfriend. I love you."

Dean almost teases him about how tipsy he still was, but Cas's eyes are so sincere and open that he can't do it. So he elbows himself a little closer to Cas and kisses him deeply, until all their embers go back to flames.

Chapter Text

Sam felt old.

He was staring at a map spread over the kitchen table, which divided the country into 13 sections of more or less 3 states per section. Texas and California were split up into more than one piece. New England was condensed.

His tablet was propped up against some lore books. He had his email open and was trying to ignore two gentle reminders from Jo Harvelle that made him feel guilty and one less-than-gentle reminder from Clare Novak that made him feel annoyed.

The other map, the one in the window hidden under his email, was of just Sioux Falls. There was one yellow balloon on it. Blinking but stationary. He minimized his email, checked the map quickly, made sure that the blinking balloon hadn't moved, then hid it again by maximizing his email.

Recently, Jo had recruited some kind of biology genius into what she now called the "Hunter's Resource Association". Her name was Rita and she and Clare were working on creating a way to the use the bio scanners that were becoming common on cellphones to identify the more human-seeming types of monsters, like Djinn and Shifters.

The scanners, as Apple had created them, could record blood pressure and heart rate from touch, and pregnancy and STI's from scanning a light beam over urine. The scanning technology had been around for years and after some kid in Detroit had figured out a way of building the materials that created the beam out of dirt-cheap materials, they had started being mass produced. They were handing the scanner attachments out like condoms on college campuses these days.

Sam had one on his phone. He used it at the gym. Dean had accidently turned the touch analysis feature on when Cas had gotten a new phone a few months ago, only to have the thing wail at him about his high blood pressure. Cas had been on him about his heart ever since.

Jo's goal was to use the ubiquitous tech to identify things that only looked like people. Rita's job was to isolate some kind of biological indicator of demonic possession or a genetic identifier for shifters or djinns. Clare's job was to write an app that hunters could use, as well find ways to hack into bank accounts and then hide the intrusion in order to subsidize the already under-the-table research grant Jo had found a way to capitalize on.

Sam had been assigned the task of working out a plan to implement the tech into the field so that it could be trouble shot.

It felt like an honorary assignment. Jo ran everything, Clare made her ideas work and together the two of them recruited whatever talent lay outside of their own considerable knowledge bases. Sam and Castiel had become little more than dispatchers, and while their experience was respected, neither of them had been hunting in 20 years, and any request for their opinions based on field experience were understood as requests to get the opinion of someone who was actually still in the field.

Sam could still shoot. If he'd needed to, he would still hunt. In fact, there had been a ghost issue down in Mitchell a few months ago and he'd tried to get Dean to go hunt it with him. Sort of a guy's weekend.

He had fought like hell to keep his body in peak condition. He was the only guy on the block without a paunch, but he was losing ground year by year. His hair wasn't really salt and pepper, but those salt strands were making themselves known. The rock hard muscles of his twenties had developed what Chelsea had affectionately referred to as a "protective layer". This would have made him feel older, but Dean had developed a ring of fat around his middle that he could not work off.

Dean had instantly shut down Sam's ghost hunting weekend idea. He had a husband and a son, and he needed hobbies that didn't challenge his ability to go home to them in one piece.

Cas was oddly unchanged. His hair was grayer. The creases around his eyes just a little deeper, but he was still slimly built.

None of them were Hunters anymore. Dean was out altogether. Sam assigned cases that he or Jo found to the guys who were still out there. He and Cas researched here and there, when Hunters couldn't find answers in the database of lore that they'd built. Sometimes he and Cas would be bent over lore books while Dean helped the kids with their homework. He'd put in his time, and he was done.

Sam was an administrator, now. A stay-at-home-Dad for daughters who had gotten old enough to watch themselves. An assignment-giver for the people who actually saved the world.

And on any other day he would have been perfectly happy- hell, thrilled- with that fact.

He would have just cherry picked a few of his most active and most intelligent hunters, set up a rendezvous for the tech to be delivered and mandated that a report be made to him once they had results so that Rita, Jo, and Clare had experiments to troubleshoot with. He would have cautioned Jo, again, about her dedication to finding proof that the government knew about monsters in the hope that she could work out some kind of deal that let them maintain the autonomy that they'd always worked under, while still being able to obtain funding to really make everything that Jo had worked so hard on for years blossom.

But right now- he just felt guilty. And annoyed.

And old .

Jo, Clare, and their whole group of prodigies were grown women now. Jo was married with toddlers of her own. Clare had an equally brilliant live in girlfriend who maintained and updated the Lore library that Sam and Cas had created.

And just in case Sam hadn't gone gray enough- Sophie: his first born, his baby, his little girl- was refusing to be any of those things in favor of being stubbornly sixteen years old, and adamantly out on her first day with her first boyfriend.

Which is why he was secretly monitoring her location on the tablet.

In his defense: he hadn't turned on the GPS in her phone.

He had promised Chelsea that he wouldn't. He had promised Bobby that he wouldn't. He had promised Cas that he wouldn't. He had lectured Dean about trust after Dean had turned it on because he had overheard Sophie telling Cas about this boy she really liked a couple weeks ago. And then Sam had promised himself that he would turn it back off.

But he hadn't.

So, while Chelsea was in Minneapolis helping her parents pack up the house because they were downsizing to a place with fewer stairs and things to trip over, and the twins were sleeping over at a friends, Sam was technically making the world safer from monsters, but mostly keeping a strict on eye on his daughter's location against the time.

Right now, she was in the movie theater, exactly where, sweating slightly, her date Timothy had said they were going.

The movie they were going to end at nine. Sophie had negotiated her curfew to 10:30.

Sam's argument that a teenager could get into a lot of trouble in an hour and a half had been thrown out of the impromptu mother-daughter court that had been set up in his living room after eleven year old Lizzie's rebuttal of "Oh my god, Dad, you can't make her come straight home," had swayed the judge, who unsurprisingly, had turned out to be just Chelsea, not Chelsea and himself. In retrospect, he might have had more ground to stand on if he had not started his curfew negotiation at 8:00 on the dot and made himself seem unreasonable.

He retuned to his papers.

Karlsbad was better with tech than anyone else was, but he worked mainly on the east coast, which was almost entirely ghost hunts. Clare and Rita's newest invention was not ghost tech, but Karlsbad's know-how with computers still made him useful and Jo had mentioned that she wanted someone to get Rita some ectoplasm to experiment with.

He put Karlsbad on the list. He had five prototypes to assign and he'd told Jo that he would get the list to her yesterday.

There was a knock at the front door. Sam leaned over so he could see the front door. Dean was standing there, holding up a brown paper sack that clearly sheathed a liquor bottle. Sam went over to unlock the door and let Dean in.

"Hey," Dean greeted him. Sam took the bag from Dean and pulled the bottle out, unsurprised to see Jack Daniel's.

He scoffed. "Really? How old are we?"

"Old enough to see the first born ride off with some pimply, scrawny little fucker with god knows what going through his head, Sammy."

"Sophie," Sam sighed. "Sophie knows what's going through his head."

"Right." Dean pulled a very fake smile. "Still.'

"Don't you have your own kid to worry about?"

"It's different with a boy," Dean sighed. "Besides, she might not be mine, but there were a lot of years in there where I thought she was the closest I'd ever get to a kid of my own. And this is just the beginning. First Sophie and this boy. Then the twins and Matthew. Sophie goes off to college and gets up to god knows what. Then the rest of them do and we're all sitting around adjusting out dentures and learning to play bridge. This is the end of the era of innocence. Cas sent me over to commiserate with you."

Dean grabbed the bottle back from Sam and pushed him toward the living room while he went into the kitchen.

"Cas doesn't want to commiserate with us?"

"Cas thinks that we're being unreasonable and that Sophie is perfectly capable of making good decisions and taking care of herself. I think he really sent me over here because I was driving him nuts."

"You are a mother hen," Sam shrugged.

"It's been said."

Sam cast a look at his table, sighed, grabbed the tablet, brought the map window back to the front and settled into the couch. In the kitchen, glasses clinked.

"So, what's his name?" Dean asked.

"Timothy."

"You meet him?"

"Yeah, he came to the door."

"Well. That's on the up-and-up," Dean said. "What did you think of him?"

"He was… polite. Shook my hand. Looked me in the eye. He called me Mr. Winchester."

Dean sucked in a breath through his teeth. "Ouch." He handed Sam a tumbler of whiskey.

"He brought her flowers," Sam sighed, remembering the tight clenched wad of tulips, dandelions and yard-violets that Timothy had nervously handed to Sophie on his arrival. "He seems like a decent kid."

"Still wanted to shoot him though, right?" Dean asked.

"Yep." It wasn't enlightened, or educated but it was true. Sam didn't need teenage boys anywhere near any of his daughters and he still had a lot of guns in the house.

"Apparently she told Cas all about him. Cas likes the sound of him."

"Well… Cas married you. That's not encouraging," Sam replied tonelessly.

Dean dropped into the big armchair, twisted the cap off his O'Doules and tossed it on the coffee table with a clatter. "You leave her GPS on?"

Sam sighed and dropped his head back onto the couch. "Yes."

Dean chuckled triumphantly. "Attaboy."

"I don't know how you managed to not just get a phone away from a teenager, but turn on a psychic one's GPS without her noticing."

"Distance. Timing. Cunning," Dean replied. "The rest of us have adapted."

Sam downed his whiskey and leaned forward to refill his glass. For reasons that he had theories about, but preferred not to dwell on, Sophie couldn't read his mind. She had gotten powerful. Scarypowerful, really. Most psychics could read intentions, feelings, Sophie could pick out words and plans. More than once, when she was little, she'd gotten frustrated with her younger sisters or her young cousin being loud and fussy, and had simply reached out grabbed their arm and calmed them. Missouri had hypothesized that she might actually have the ability to control other people's emotions, but a lot of discussions about privacy and autonomy and free will had stopped her from, as far as any of them knew, fully experimenting with that part of her abilities. She'd never been able to do it to anyone older than her.

She had trouble reading Cas's mind, because he thought so much differently than the rest of them and she couldn't read his thoughts because they weren't really in English in the way that everyone else's were. But she could still pick up his mood, images, and his generally what he was thinking about.

She couldn't even get that from Sam. Maybe it was the demon blood. Maybe it was Ruby's tutelage all those years ago. Sam tried not to think about it. Sophie obviously found this fact frustrating, which was understandable: she had been able to see into people's minds her whole life. It was as normal a sense to her as hearing or sight was to the rest of her family. Sam was, essentially, invisible to her. Which had its pros and cons, like anything else. She liked to study with him because she couldn't just pick the answer out of her head like she could with Chelsea or Dean. But as she became a teenager Sam found himself at odds with his oldest daughter more and more.

Chelsea kept assuring him that this was perfectly normal.

Dean reached out and plucked the tablet off the counter. "Still at the theater, huh?"

"Yep, movies out at nine, she's due home at ten thirty."

"What the hell are they going to do until ten thirty?"

"That's what I said."

Dean kicked back a little further in his chair and took another gulp from his non-alcoholic beer. He pulled the conversation back around to Sam's assignment from Jo. Nodded politely while Sam explained the idea behind the scanners. Agreed with Sam that Jo's plan to try and get conditional government funding for her organization was balls-to-the-wall crazy. They talked about how badly Dean wanted to take Matthew and Cas on a road trip. He especially wanted to take Cas back to Yellowstone.

Nine o'clock ticked closer and closer. Their conversation petered out as they both watched the little yellow balloon that indicated where Sophie and Timothy were. It was 9:15 before it left the theater, slowly moving out toward what must have been Timothy's car.

From the there the balloon moved quickly to the corner of 5th and Waterside.

"There's a Dairy Queen there," Sam said. Dean nodded.

The dot stayed at the dairy queen until nearly 9:35, and Sam was just about to turn it off and declare that he may have just possibly been wrong to freak out so much about his daughter's date when the dot began to move again.

He and Dean both watched it. It climbed onto the hallway back toward the house.

"Uh-oh. They're coming back early," Sam said, his feelings of protectiveness shifting into a completely different gear. "Do you think something's wrong?

Dean shrugged and ran his thumb over his bottom lip. "The only times I ever brought a girl home before curfew she had either thrown up or was planning to play responsible so she could sneak out with me again later."

Sam did not find this comforting and trained his eyes back on the tablet. The dot turned off the highway that headed back to the house onto a back road and slowed down.

"Oh, shit," Dean hissed.

"What?" Sam demanded. "Where are they going?"

"Inspiration point," Den huffed. "He's taking her up to Inspiration point."

"The hell he is," Sam replied. "Get your keys."

Sam grabbed the tablet and Dean grabbed his keys. They piled into Dean's red 2025 Chevrolet Imbue. The Impala had been put into semi-retirement when it had hit 55 years old. Gas was too expensive and too hard to get. They only used it now for joy riding and teaching the kids about machines.

The Imbue was practically the only car that anyone made anymore that wasn't fully electric. It's engine made a contented but throatless purring noise. It was an automatic and full of safety features. Dean had made it very clear that he resented the thing for even existing, but a few years ago had also needed to admit that he couldn't run the Impala the way he did and expect the poor girl to live forever.

They were all the way to the turn off before Sam's over protectiveness and fatherly rage, egged on by Dean's mother hen concern, finally cooled enough for Sam to realize what they were really doing.

He couldn't crash his daughter's first date.

"Pull off here and kill the engine," He sighed. Dean did exactly that.

"Good thinking," Dean sighed. "Cause you can't turn off the stupid day-time running lights. It's not safe." He scowled at the dash. "Let's walk the rest of the way up." He opened the door, huffing at it when it beeped at him.

"Wait," Sam said. He was suddenly aware that his mouth tasted like whisky and he'd sped all the way across town as though this was a hunt back in the old days.

Sophie was bright. She was responsible. She was honest. He hated to admit it sometimes, but she was very mature and he trusted her judgment.

But he'd also been a teenage boy back in the day.

"We can't just storm up there and ruin her date. She'll never forgive us."

Dean leaned back as far as the ergonomic bucket seat allowed. "Okay. Yeah."

They sat in silence for a moment. "We drove all the way here," Dean started. "We might as well… check on her. Make sure she's alright."

Well. At least if Chelsea found out that they had run off like maniacs after doing everything they had promised her they wouldn't do, now he could blame Dean with a clear conscious.

They locked the doors behind them and climbed up a steep, brush covered hill in the dark. They'd made it about 10 feet before they both paused, realizing, but refusing to admit, that they were just too fucking old for this.

At least, from the roadside, the distance wasn't much of an obstacle. It took them about fifteen minutes to crest the hill, Dean panting louder and louder as they approached the end of the brush line.

"Damn," Dean managed, falling to his knees. "Cas was right about the gym."

"Shhh," Sam said, ducking down in the bushes.

'Inspiration Point' was a scrubby meadow over looking a quarry. It had fallen out of popularity amongst teenagers after a couple of truly gruesome corpses had turned up in the middle of it. Sam had pegged ghost activity and sent a team on a salt and burn a couple years ago. The place wasn't popular anymore, but kids were, according to the scandalized report of the PTA Moms that thought Sam and Cas were just ever so cute fore being the only PTA Dads, starting to risk going up there again.

Sam recognized the only car in the scrubby grass as Timothy's painstakingly mainted but still crumbling elderly Toyota.

"That's them," he told Dean.

"Can you see anything?" Dean asked.

"Not from this angle," Sam said. "Let's shift north about twenty feet, see if we can get a visual on the shadow."

"Right," Dean agreed. "Make sure we don't get close enough for her to pick me up." He waved a hand around his head. Sam knew what he meant.

They may not have been hunting in decades, but these were still instincts that had been ground into them from childhood and once they'd caught their breath they moved silently across the dark meadow until, by the sliver of moonlight and far off glow of city lights, they could make out Sophie and Timothy's shadows.

"They're sitting on the hood," Sam reported.

"Really?" Dean asked, incredulous. "He actually brought her out here to stargaze? How much time before she's supposed to be home?"

Sam checked his phone. "Twenty minutes? If he's gonna make a move he'd have to hurry."

Dean relaxed next to him. "Huh. Alright. Well. She can pick them then, I guess. We better head out before she catches us."

And that's when Sam saw the light across the meadow. "Wait." He grabbed Dean's arm and pointed. The light, a cellphone light down in the bushes on the other side of the clearing, blinked again.

Some fucking perv was crouching in the bushes and watching his daughter on her date.

And Sam sure as hell wasn't too old to put a stop to that. He felt Dean get into position next to him, tensed and ready to spring. He held up his hand and swung it down decisively. They both burst across the meadow. Sam's longer legs putt him out ahead. He heard Timothy cry out as he crossed in front of the city lights. The cell phone light he'd been trained onto lifted as the bastard stood up. Sam leapt forward and bore the guy down to the ground with a "whumph" that came from him as much as the guy he'd taken down with him. He felt Dean fall next to him, pinning the guy's legs down.

"I'm gonna work you over, pal!" Dean bellowed.

"Dean, Sam, get off of me," a familiar voice growled.

Suddenly, Sam realized the body under him wasn't struggling. Dean was already letting him go.

"Cas? What the hell are you doing here?"

Sam pulled back, he and Dean helped Cas to his feet and Sam finally took in the full tableau.

He and Dean were holding Cas up by the elbows. Timothy had pushed Sophie behind him. She was facing the three of them, a switch blade ready in her hand.

His hunter's instincts saw the blade lower. His father's instincts heard Sophie's sharp intake of breath and was ready for the ear splitting "Oh my god! Did you all follow me out here? Have you all been stalking me all night?"

"Hey-" Dean replied, pointing an accusing finger at her. "You're the one out here in the dark with your boyfriend."

"And an illegal knife," Sam added.

"You have a knife?" Timothy managed.

"Uncle Cas gave me this!" Sophie protested.

Sam and Dean turned to Cas, who set his knuckles to his hips. "Oh, sure, I'm the crazy one. She is up here in the dark with a boy we don't know. I taught her how to use it."

"Your uncle gave you a knife?" Timothy asked clearly having trouble with the concept.

"What are you even doing out here then, if you thought she could take care of herself?" Dean challenged.

Cas huffed and held up his phone, which he'd managed to maintain his grip on. "I was following you. I figured you'd do this so I turned on your GPS and guessed what must be happening when you lit up here. I was trying to prevent this. It's not the middle-ages anymore. Trust me on this. Girls can go out without their father's worrying about their honor."

"Where's Matthew?" Dean asked.

"He's home."

"Alone?"

"He's eleven! He can be in his own locked house for half an hour," Cas answered.

Just as the three of them were ready to devolve into bicker, Sophie stepped out from behind Timothy and declared. "I'm calling Mom!"

"No!" All three of them cried out in answer. Sophie clicked the knife shut, stashed it in her pocket and stepped further forward into the clearing.

"Okay. Fine," She said, setting her hands on her hips in very much the same way that Cas had. "Mom never finds out about this, and my curfew is one AM."

Sam glanced at Dean and Cas, watching him with expressions torn between wary and amused.

Sam wanted to shut this right the hell down, but he'd raised bright resourceful daughters and he couldn't help but feel like Sophie was proving that point. She was up here with a guy who'd brought her flowers and apparently actually, innocently taken her stargazing, and now she was standing up to her entire family in an incredibly embarrassing moment for a teenage girl-and had realized she had enough leverage to cut a deal.

Besides- he had noticed that, when he had been afraid, Timothy had jumped in front of her. Even if Sophie was better equipped to deal with a threat, Sam could respect that protective urge.

"Eleven thirty, but only for three special occasions," Sam countered.

"Twelve thirty, eight special occasions, not including school dances."

"Midnight, five special occasions, dances negotiable on a case by case basis."

"Midnight, six special occasions, dances negotiable, no questions about prom."

"You can't even go to Prom until next year," Sam protested.

"Striking while the iron is hot," Sophie replied.

Sam sighed in defeat. "Midnight. Five special occasions. Dances negotiable. Prom dress under three hundred and fifty dollars."

"Deal," Sophie shook his hand, grinned and dug the switch blade back out of her pocket. She handed it to him.

Sam looked at Timothy for just a moment longer than necessary and folded Sophie's hand back over it the knife. "Keep it. I'll see you at home. Tonight is still 10:30."

"Good night, everyone," Sophie said pointedly.

A ragged chorus of "Night, sweet-heart" echoed back to her as three men who had once beat the Devil and stopped the Apocalypse trudged back to their cars after losing to a teenage girl.

It turned out that Cas had parked right behind them, and beaten them up the hill by jogging up the road instead of schlepping up through the bracken. Dean kissed Cas goodbye at the car and he and Sam piled back into the Imbue.

"So… the oldest child we were so worried about, picked a decent, respectful guy, and then handed all of our asses to us when we tried to protect her," Sam sighed.

"Pretty proud moment for us, huh?" Dean laughed.

"It really is," Sam replied.

And Dean drove.

Chapter Text

"It takes a village to raise a child" is a saying that Dean hasn't had much cause to reflect on until the last year or so. He could say that he and Sam were raised by a village of Hunters: Bobby. Pastor Jim. Fred Jones. Assorted babysitters. But that's not really true. Right now, they are definitely a village of Winchesters, and it's weird, but it works.

Sam and Cas have made child care into a currency with very strict rules of exchange that only they understand. Dean's usually surprised by which kids he comes home to, since he's equally likely to find Sophie reading to Matthew while Cas drinks tea and does his homework as he is to find Matthew, Lizzie and Cas playing "lava" in the yard. Sometimes Cas just has the twins. Sometimes Sam steals Matthew for 'guy time' and Dean comes home to Cas and the girls having a tea party. Sometimes Sam has earned a free day and Dean comes home to find all four kids and Cas in varying states of crying, laughing, sword fighting, and tea partying. Sometimes it's Cas's turn to cash in a favor and Dean comes home to just Cas, a candlelit dinner, and sex on the couch.

It's a good system, and it assuages almost all of Dean's guilt over Matthew being an only child.

It also makes Dean aware of just how different his son's life is than his own. And it's one of many.

Matthew has his own room. He gets sent up to it when he misbehaves, he's not allowed to have food in it, and he got to pick out the color that it's painted- a green so bright that Dean's surprised that it doesn't glow in the dark.

When he has a nightmare, or if there is a storm, he runs down the hall to their room and Dean fusses over his son the way he always wanted John to fuss over him, and the way that he used to fuss over Sam if John wasn't around. Sometimes that's enough for Matthew to go back to his own bed, sometimes Dodger is enlisted to guard his room. Usually he squishes down between Dean and Cas and falls right back to sleep.

When Dean was four he liked tossing the football around with his Dad, being allowed to play gently with baby Sammy, and he was excited out of his mind about preschool, which he'd only just started when the fire happened.

Matthew likes being read to. Dean and Cas are teaching him to recognize the smaller words by himself and he's picking it up really fast. Whenever Dean comes home to just Cas and Matthew, they're reading on the porch swing or the couch.

He likes animals. He's forever bringing home critters. He gave up on butterflies because he got sad when if they died before he let them go. He and Lizzie used to catch garden snakes in jars, but those weren't fun either because Cas made them leave the jars on the porch and then Dean brought them all to the park and made them let the snakes go because "Your Dad hates snakes"

Frogs were allowed in the house, and could be kept alive longer than butterflies before they had to be let go. Matthew loved his stuffed frog-which Sam had gotten him and had somehow acquired the name "Fred"-but real frogs were too hard to catch.

Dean and Cas had conspired a solution for Matthew's fourth birthday- a fish tank. It could be inside, and the fish were heartier than anything else that caught got and brought home. It had been a huge hit, and Dean supervised exactly one shake of fish flakes into the tank every morning.

Dean never realizes that- while he thinks they're all doing a damn good job of raising all of the kids- they are still a little isolated. Sophie has a few school friends, but there aren't a lot of kids her age in her neighborhood. There are no kids Emily and Lizzie's age, and Dean and Cas don't have neighbors at all.

Until suddenly construction starts. The road out front gets paved. A little less than a mile down someone starts digging a basement. Matthew is fascinated. It's always "Daddy, what are they doing?" and "Papa, can we go see?"

It's hardly anytime at all before the house starts to take shape- a nice Victorian style house, not rally all that different than their house, but bigger and nicer. Matthew's down for a nap on the day the moving van pulls up and Dean and Cas watch it from the hall window, trying to pick out any evidence that the new neighbors have kids.

There isn't anybody going in and out of the house but movers for most of the week. Matthew keeps asking if they can go see if anyone's there yet. Dean and Cas walk down the road with him, but show him how there aren't any cars in the driveway, or lights on in the house. They both promise that they'll come meet the neighbors when they move in.


It's a couple more days before there's any sign of life. Cas is inside, finishing a paper. Dean and Matthew are playing on the tire swing. Dean is sitting in the swing with Matthew on his lap, using his feet to twist the rope tight so the tire will spin when he lets go.

"Spin it more! Papa, spin it more!" Matthew slaps his hands on the rubber as he insists.

"You're not dizzy?"

"More!"

"Okay, little bit more."

Dean digs his toes in and twists the rope as far as he can get it to go. They're going to have to take a break after this. Dean is getting queasy.

"Ready?"

"Yeah!"

Dean tightens his arms around his son and lifts his feet.

"Wheee!"

It takes a while for the rope to twist back out and Dean's head is spinning pretty badly by the time the swing finally stops.

Matthew notices the people in the yard before Dean does. He gasps loudly. "They're here!"

Dean sets him down. Matthew takes a few steps forward and falls down. He slowly gets back up to his feet. Dean slips out of the swing, slings Matthew over his hip and heads over.

"Hi! You must be the new neighbors!"

It's a couple and their kids. The woman is petite, with dark hair. Her husband is tall and almost white blonde. There are two older boys standing in front of them, and one kid more hiding behind the Mom's legs. Dean can see a tutu and sparkly flats. The kid's head pokes out from behind her, then disappears immediately. Matthew catches the movement and wiggles to get down, but once Dean sets him down he just clings to Dean's jeans.

Dean reaches out and shakes hands. "I'm Dean. Dean Winchester." He sets his hand on Matthew's hair, it's dark like Cas's and Dean always forgets how hot it gets under the sun. "This is my son, Matthew."

Up close the woman is staggeringly beautiful and just round enough at the middle that Dean wonders if she's pregnant. Dean pushes Matthew forward, just a little. "Go ahead. Introduce yourself."

Matthew looks up at her and juts his hand out. "How do you do?"

The woman shakes his hand, and sets the other hand at her throat. Dean recognizes the look. It's "oh, you're so cute I could die". The very formal greeting surprises him. Cas must have taught him that. For all the things he's gotten used and as normal as he is most of the time now, his manners ground out in about 1915.

"You're so polite!" She says. "I'm Nadia. This is Luke, and our sons, Dagon and Arthur." She reaches behind herself and taps the other kid on the shoulder. "And maybe Max will come out and show his good manners too?"

Dean, who can see the edge of the tutu sticking out behind her legs is surprised at the 'his'. The last child finally sticks his torso out where it's visible. He has short blonde hair. He's tiny. Bony, really. His nails are painted purple.

Matthew does the little stamp in place thing he does when he's really excited. "Hello!"

Max steps to his mom's side and looks up. She pushes him forward the same way Dean had pushed Matthew. As the kid's clothes came into view she gives Dean a hard eyed grin that Dean also recognizes. It's "what are you going to do about it?" He gives that same look to people when they stare at him and Cas.

"Hello," Max whispers, looking down at the grass.

"I'm four!" Matthew announces.

"Me too."

"You're wearing a dance skirt," Matthew tells him. Dean feels the whole family tense. Max's two older brothers move forward just a little.

"I like it," Max says in a small voice.

"My cousin Sophie has those. She's nine."

Max slowly steps back toward his mother.

"Do you want to play with me?" Matthew asks. "We have a slide." He looks up at Nadia, a little nervous now. "You can go first."

Max seems ready to accept the hospitality now. The two little boys rush off the to the work-in-progress playground that Dean, Cas, Sam, Bobby and Chelsea are continually tinkering with.

Dean decides the best option here is to just pretend that it was all completely normal. He cleared his throat. "He's so excited about having neighbors. My brother and his wife and three girls live on the other side of town, but…" He shrugs. "It's a little empty out here. It's so nice you've got kids. I think he was going to be completely heart broken if it turned out you didn't."

"Dean?"

Dean sighs. Cas had finally noticed people in the yard.

One more difference between Matthew's upbringing and his, and really the only one that Dean worries about. Just because they aren't Hunters doesn't mean that there aren't still monsters. He could be neighborly, he could be normal, but he'd still like to have a little bit of back up with strangers in the yard.

"Cas, come meet the neighbors!"

Cas smiles and walks over to them. He glances at Max and Matthew taking turns on the slide and sets his hand to the small of Dean's back. Dean sees the flash of understanding in Nadia and Luke's eyes, and then, oddly, relief. Dean supposes that makes sense when you've just brought over a four year old boy in a skirt.

Cas shake everyone's hands, then gives Dean a somewhat reproachful look. "Dean, didn't you offer then anything to drink or a place to sit?"

Yeah. Matthew's manners were all Cas.

Dean and Cas bring the neighbors over to the patio. The older boys run for the jungle gym. Dean volunteers to get the ice tea, pouring a healthy tot of holy water into it just in case. Yes, it's paranoid, but that was life. They'd built the patio in the evenings because there was a Devil's Trap underneath it. There were things you never outgrew. He cuts a few lemon slices before he brings the tea out, just to show Cas that he can be civilized too.

It's a pleasant afternoon. Nadia and Luke are nice people. Dagon and Arthur are well behaved and good with Max and Matthew, even though they were much older. Max gets a little overwhelmed when Dodger, overexcited by all of the activity, knocks him over, but he recovers.

Neighbors. Another thing Dean never had that Matthew would.


Max becomes another kid in the swirl of revolving kids and Dean realizes that he hasn't moved as far past his father's training as he wishes he had. Max makes him uncomfortable.

Matthew has, by design, not been raised under the suffocating macho demands that had shaped Dean and Sam's childhoods and damn near ruined Dean's life. All of the kids have some basic self defense training (which surprises the hell out of Dagon the only time he gets too rough with the smaller boys and Matthew takes him down), but Matthew isn't rowdy or aggressive.

It's another thing that makes Dean different from his son. John was never proud of him, and Dean was proud of Sammy for things like grades and marksmanship, but he's proud that Matthew is just a good kid. He and Cas are raising a kid who cares about people and gets sad when butterflies die. Who is primarily complimented for being sweet, and is going to live a life where that's enough. Dean doesn't want to be proud of Matthew for being a good little soldier. He wants to stay proud of the way that Matthew wants to "make tea" for Cas when Cas gets sick (Dean actually heats up the water and carries the mug, but Matthew gets to put the tea bag in). Or the way that Matthew patiently takes turns with his cousins, even when he doesn't want to play the game that the girls have agreed on, but can still stick up for himself and point out when it is his turn.

The way that Matthew is kind to a little boy who is different than he is.

But Max's skirts and glitter and nail polish just… worry Dean.

Cas notices. Max shows up one day wearing bangles. Matthew grabs his hand and shakes his arm, laughing at the noise the boy's jewelry makes before they run out back to play. Dean is overly aware that his son's friends are all female except for one extremely effeminate little boy. Dean sits on the couch where he can keep an eye on them. After a while he feels fingers card through his hair and drops his head back. Cas smiles at him.

"Hi," Dean murmurs.

Cas comes around the couch and straddles Dean, settling into his lap and pulling him into what Matthew has, on the rare occasions he's caught them, referred to as "yucky grown up kisses".

Dean wraps his arm around Cas's waist but pulls back out of the kiss. "Hey… I've got an appointment soon and the kids are out back. You'll give me a rain check, right?"

Cas rubs his thumbs at the base of Dean's skull. Dean leans back into the touch.

"You're being weird about Matthew's little friend," Cas sighs. "His effeminacy makes you uncomfortable."

Sometimes Dean hates blunt Cas.

"I know. I'm working on it."

"Good," Cas kisses him again. "Because I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you're sort of in a glass house here."

"What?"

"Because you're gay, Dean."

Dean play shoves him, Cas shoves back and they wind up a tangled, laughing, breathless mess on the floor under their son's scrutiny as he puts his hands on his hips (exactly like Cas does) and announces "No wreslin' in the house!"


Dean tends to notice the ways that Matthew's life is different from his more than he realizes the ways that they are similar.

They've got rules about salt and iron being in all the rooms. Matthew's nightmares and things he might have seen are given more weight than another kid's fantasies might be. One night at dinner the wind picks up during dinner and Matthew wriggles down from his chair and quickly starts trying to close the windows. When Cas asks him why he replies "Papa always closes 'em in the wind." Cas looks at Dean who clears his throat and says "Stryga." Cas nods. The windows get closed.

Dean's truly struck when he realizes that he's never thought about one huge thing that he and Matthew have in common.

They're having dinner one night. Matthew had decided at some point in the last week that he no longer ate green things, so he is thoughtfully mushing the couple of scoops of peas that Cas had served him anyway into pulp.

"Baby?" Cas sighs. "You have to take three bites before you can be excused."

Matthew continues to mush.

"Do I have a mom?" he asks suddenly.

Dean freezes. He looks up at Cas, who is staring back at him, eyes wide.

"Uhmmm." Dean clears his throat.

They've talked about this. When the first kid in the village is psychic you embrace transparency pretty quickly. Sam has been feeling out Cas's opinion on telling Sophie the truth about her uncle for the last few months, because "He thinks differently because he just does" isn't working on a nine year old and Sophie is smart enough to realize that some of the rules she has that other kids don't, like "No face touching" and "Don't control your sister's emotions" are because she is different than other kids, therefore rules that Uncle Cas has like "Uncle Cas isn't allowed to help you with your history homework" and "Uncle Cas please don't write the grocery list in this weird script, you're scaring people" must mean that he isn't like other uncles. Cas hasn't made a decision yet, and Sam isn't exactly pushing.

But this is a different sort of question, and one that Dean remembers too well. And it's just as hard to answer this time. It would have been easy to tell him that he was adopted, that happened all the time. Even surrogacy could have been explained, though the details would take some fudging before they were presented to a four year old. But he and Cas have agreed not to lie.

The truth, though, is hard to explain, not just in a way that will make sense to Matthew, but in a way that might not be picked apart too badly by any adult who hears the story. And they hadn't been expecting this tonight. Though, really, they should have been. Part of having neighbors and people outside their family around is that the definition of 'normal' alters.

At least they don't have to tell him that his mother is dead, like Dean had had to tell Sam.

"Umm… no, baby, you don't have a mom," Cas says gently.

Dean sees Matthew's lip wobble. "Sophie has a mom. And Max has a mom. Why I don't have one?"

"Come here." Dean pulls Matthew's chair out and pulls his son into his lap. Cas moves into Matthew's chair and scoots closer.

"Because we're special," Dean says, forcing lightness into his tone. "And you are extra special."

"Why?" Matthew asks.

"Because most of the time," Cas sets his hands on Matthew's knees. "It's really hard for two dads to get a baby, but you came right to us."

"Why it's hard?" Matthew replies.

Cas stumbles. "Well…umm… because… okay- Max's mom is having a baby right? In her tummy?"

"Yeah?"

"Dad's can't do that," Cas says. "So they have to get babies as presents. Remember? How sometimes you get presents?"

"Yeah."

"We got you as a present," Cas says. "And then we were so happy."

Dean squeezes Matthew gently. "Because we love you so much."

"We love you very much," Cas says, letting one hand drift from Matthew's knee to Dean's.

Matthew is quiet for a little while. Cas rubs his palms over Matthew's knees. Dean kisses his hair.

"I don't want to eat peas," Matthew finally sighs.

Dean feels a rush of relief, and sees the same rush go through Cas.

Cas chuckles. "Two bites." He holds up two fingers with a tired grin. Matthew reaches out and pushes one finger down.

"One bite," he counters.

"One big bite and one little bite," Dean offers.

Matthew huffs out a very put upon sigh and rocks his head back into Dean's chest. "Okaaaay."

After the bite requirements are fulfilled they wind up watching a movie. Max has leant them a Disney movie where the main character can change into other people. It's not a premise Dean is thrilled with, but that's a worry from an old life.

He leans back on the couch. Cas tucks himself under his arm and Matthew settles on Cas's lap. He falls asleep about halfway through. Dean just turns the sound down.

"Well. That went better than I thought it would," Dean sighs, setting his head against Cas's.

"Mmm…" Cas replies. "He's not asking because he's missing anything. He's got parents. We're happy. He just noticed a difference. That shows deductive reasoning ability." He pats Matthew's side gently.

"We're not going to get off the hook so easy when they're all grown up. They're all going to want real answers. Or they're going to find "Supernatural" for themselves."

Cas yawns. "Maybe we'll promise them that we'll tell them the whole story, but only if they eat a whole can of peas."

Dean snorts, kisses Cas's temple and lies back, quietly enjoying a very different family from the one he'd grown up in.

 

Chapter Text

Sophie took the exit off the highway slowly. She wasn't in a hurry to get anywhere tonight. She rolled the windows down, letting the balmy June air sink into the car as she rolled through her Uncles' neighborhood. She turned her music down. It wasn't that late, but it was too late to have Led Zepplin cranked up as loud as she had it in a residential area.

The super old music drove her friends crazy, but it reminded her of summers helping Uncle Cas in the garden and of Uncle Dean teaching her to drive and her father complaining that he'd grown up listening to this album too many times a week and now that it's damn near sixty years old he would hope he didn't still have to hear it this often. She was in the mood for nostalgia tonight.

She looped around the block, keeping a careful eye on the street because she knew that kids set up street hockey games around here. After a couple laps she pulled up to her Uncles' house.

She grabbed her purse and dug out her hex bag. Her mom had sown a cute little blue case around it with a button to camouflage it. It looked like a little coin purse. Her dad had put together the spell for her. It helped her damp her powers so she could concentrate. She had an extra strength one for school and a couple less powerful ones for hanging out with her friend sand other occasions when she didn't need to know everything that everyone was thinking.

She ran her thumb over the fabric a few times, then tossed the hex bag in he back seat. She went up to the house. She counted three people inside- the peaceful blue hum of Uncle Cas. The sparkling, bubbling, glass green of Mathew and Max's spinning violet that sometimes sucked up into silence or exploded like a drum corps throwing grenades. If Max was sticking around she'd need to come back out for the hex bag. She liked her cousin and sisters' friend, but he thought so… intensely that it gave her a headache and the things he occasionally thought, particularly about Uncle Dean, just made her embarrassed for him.

Both boys were lying to Cas about something, and Cas knew it. Without even pulling it out of their minds she was pretty sure she knew what it was.

She walked inside. "It's me!"

"Hi, Sophie!" Matthew called back. She kicked off her shoes and walked into the living room. Cas waved at her, distracted.

"Okay," he was saying. "And you'll call for a ride home?"

"Arthur said he'd come get us," Max replied instantly.

"Okay. But you'll call if something changes?"

"Yeah, Dad, we'll call." Matthew said. He was a better liar than Max. His face was a picture of innocence.

"The movie's over at 11:00, right?" Sophie said. "I'll come get you."

Matthew didn't react to the fact that Sophie already knew about a movie that no one had told her about. Max glowered at her like she should realize she was screwing up their story.

"Yeah. Sophie can come get us. Come on, Dad, it's summer!"

Cas looked over at her. She nodded.

"Okay. Fine. Keep your phone on."

Matthew and Max high-fived and scurried for the door. Sophie winked at her little cousin as he hurried past. He had suddenly turned from a chubby-cheeked ball full of giggles to a streak of elbows, knees and adam's apple in the last few months. Max had gone from a bony little thing to a bony thing nearly as tall as she was.

They let the door slam behind them.

Cas sighed and waved her inside. "Where are they really going?"

"Luna and Hermione Candlemere's parents are out of town for the week. Luna's a grade below me. She's throwing a huge party and Matthew is madly in love with Hermione, who invited him because she likes him too, but they are both too afraid to say anything to each other about it."

Cas looked non-plussed. "Did you pull all of that out of their heads?"

Sophie grinned. "No. I just dropped Emily and Lizzie off there. They told me. They also gave Matthew and Max the idea of pretending that they're going to a movie. The Candlemere's only live a couple blocks from the mall. A lot of kids without cars are pretending to go to the movies and then walking over."

"They named their daughters Luna and Hermione?"

"Yeahhhhh."

"Is there going to be alcohol?" Cas asked warily.

"I heard nobody could get any. Emily thinks there'll be a keg. But Hermione's as much of a goody-two-shoes as Matthew is and he wants to impress her. Plus Arthur really is taking them and you know how protective he is. I'm going to go get my sisters at 10. I told them 11:00, but they'll just get themselves in trouble."

"So, Matthew has a little girlfriend? I wonder why he hasn't said anything."

Sophie shrugged. "He's thirteen. They aren't actually dating, just… circling around each other with this deeply terrified cuteness. It's sickening really. I am sickened."

"Do you want anything?" Cas asked, walking toward the kitchen. "There's some dinner left over. Eggplant parmigiana. We've got seven up. I'd turn a blind eye if you want one wine-cooler and are going to be in the house for a while."

Sophie laughed and followed him into the kitchen, settling down at the table. Maybe that's why she'd come to see Uncle Cas about this. He'd always been willing to 'turn a blind eye' on letting her have one more cookie than she was allowed or stay up fifteen minutes later than her parents let her. Apparently a wine-cooler was the grown up version of letting her harmlessly break the rules.

"Do you have the mojito ones?"

"Strawberry Daquiri."

Sophie stuck her tongue out. "Yuck. I'll take a seven up."

Cas gave her a quick side hug and went to the fridge. He handed her a can.

"I'm not interrupting anything am I?"

Cas shook his head. "No. Sweetheart. Dean's got a late shift. I'll take any excuse for some one-on-one with one of my girls. What's going on?" He grabbed a wine cooler for himself. Sophie listened to the buzz of Cas's contentment for a moment, digging her finger into the divot in the surface of the kitchen table that had always been there. It was probably a knife mark or from something taking a chunk out of the table after it exploded. A worm of worry worked its way into Cas's mind.

"Is everything alright?"

Sophie bit her lip. "Yeah. Everything's fine. I just… umm… I wanted to talk to you about something sort of… uncomfortable."

The thread of worry turned to confusion. "Alright."

Sophie cleared her throat. "Okay. So… all my friends are sort of..." she internally scolded herself for being childish. "I'm thinking about sleeping with Timothy and I don't think my friends are good sources of information and I wanted to talk to someone about this."

"To me?" Cas asked. The confusion opened wider.

"Well… Dad or Dean would just kill him first." She heard Cas's next thought clearly and just responded before he said it, though she tried not to do that. "And my mom has been getting really mopey about me going off to college in the fall. I think if I ask her about this now she'll just… cry because I'm grown up." Cas agreed. She could tell. "Plus… you're… you know… cool."

Cas huffed out a laugh. "I'm cool?"

"Yeah. You're the cool Uncle we'd all call if we… needed to have someone pick us up from a party we weren't supposed to be at, or help us clean up from a party we weren't supposed to have. Or ask about something we aren't supposed to ask about."

Cas busied himself with opening his wine-cooler. "Don't tell Dean I'm the cool Uncle. You'll break his heart."

Sophie laughed.

"So… alright. You want to talk about this because you're not absolutely sure it's a good idea."

"I'm supposed to be the psychic one. How do you know that?"

Cas took a deep gulp of his barely alcoholic drink. "Because you're an intelligent, confident, capable young woman and if you already knew what you wanted you would just go get it."

Sophie felt her throat tighten. God, she was going to miss her family when she moved. "Thanks. So I'm… I'm not sure because I'm moving away. I'm going to Stanford in the fall and I don't want to be one of those girls who never leaves home behind. I want to go experience everything there, not be on the phone every weekend because I couldn't move on from my high school boyfriend. And he's going to DC. We're… we're never going to see each other. It's way too impractical. And he doesn't want to miss out on his new life either."

"Have you discussed breaking up?"

Sophie shook her head, digging her pinking into the little wound on the table again. "Not really. But we don't talk about staying together, and I know he thinks we're going to just… not exactly break up, but sort of mutually agree that it's time to move on."

"That sounds reasonable enough," Cas said. "He is a very reasonable young man. And he cares about you."

"Right," Sophie replied. "And he's a good guy. And I do love him, and he makes me feel safe. And I trust him."

"But you think it's unwise to sleep with him and then break up and move to California?"

"Yeah. And Rana keeps telling me to get it over with and Stacey keeps telling me that I should wait until college and have some… big indie flick perfect moment about it…. But Rana's sort of…

"Loose?" Cas suggested.

"Sure. And Stacey is… not really participating in reality sometimes. And I just… I guess I'm worried that if I really loved him enough to want to do this for the first time with him, then I'd love him too much to be okay with breaking up with him just because it would be so inconvenient to stay with him."

"Alright. So you want to do this, but think you shouldn't because it's not exactly the story of how these things are supposed to happen?"

Sophie plucked the pull tab on her pop can. That made it sound way less than a reasonable decision and way more like she couldn't think for herself. "I think… I think it's an experience I'd like to have before I leave. And I think… I think Tim is great guy… who I'm not madly, insanely in love with, but who I'll miss and always remember." She took a sip of her pop. "What do you think?"

"I think I miss when you were five and we'd sit here talking about how hard it was to draw wings."

"Uncle Cas…" Sophie scolded lightly. He was supposed to be treating her like they were having an adult conversation. It was no fair pulling the 'when you were five' card.

"Okay. I think it would be okay to do this with a young man like Timothy, for all the reasons you listed. You trust him. He is a good man. I hate to admit this, but I think the fact that you came to me to have this discussion proves you're mature enough to make your own decision about this. I think if your hesitance is because you don't think you're supposed to feel this way then it's unimportant. I think if you're genuinely unsure about yourself or Timothy, or think that you would come to regret it, then you shouldn't. I think I'm going to give you some condoms before you leave my house."

The front door creaked open.

"I'm back early," Dean called, walking in. "Is Sophie here?"

"Does that help?" Cas asked her quietly.

"Yeah. Thank you," Sophie replied, before calling out to the living room. "Hi Uncle Dean!"

Her other uncle appeared in the doorway with a smile. "Hey, college girl. What are you doing here?"

"Just… out driving. Thought I'd drop by."

"Alright. Where's Matthew?"

"He and Max are going to an unsupervised party at a girl's house," Cas replied. "They are pretending to be at a movie."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Dammit, Cas. And you just let them go?"

"He's going to wholesomely flirt with a young woman. Arthur will keep an eye out for them and Sophie's going to pick them up at 10:00. He can't possibly get into anymore trouble than you would have at the same age."

"I'm not a great barometer for that sort of thing," Dean huffed.

"They'll be alright, Dean," Cas told him. "They're all very capable."

Dean sighed. "You're going to get them at 10?" he asked her. She nodded. "Make it nine-thirty and we'll take you out for ice cream."

Sophie laughed. It was a bribe she was way too old for, but she found that she didn't actually mind.

Chapter Text

Dean is pulling in deep breaths, but doesn't feel like they're reaching his lungs. His chest aches under Cas's patient, gentle kisses. He knows his hand is too tight around Cas's shoulder, but Cas hasn't said anything about it, and the feeling of Cas's skin fighting back against his fingers grounds him.

He shudders when Cas flicks his tongue over the crest of his rib bone, the line between his chest and his stomach. Cas chases it with a kiss and soothes his free hand over Deans hip.

Again.

At least he finally stopped asking if Dean was okay.

Dean wriggles his shoulders down against the pillows again, twisting his body just enough that it changes the angle of the two fingers Cas has buried inside him to the knuckle. He groans through his teeth. Cas's slowly pumping fingers still, the kissing at his ribs stops.

"De-"

"Felt good, Cas," Dean says through clenched teeth. "Don't stop. Please don't stop."

It takes a moment before the deliberate slide of fingers and peppering kisses returns. Dean lets his head drop back onto the pillows, trying to relax. He can't get the tension to loosen out of his neck and shoulders. That's probably why Cas is going so fucking slow.

One of the reasons.

Dean wants this. They don't have anal sex often. Once, maybe twice a year, when the mood strikes. It's not their go-to activity and Dean knows that Cas could give a damn about topping, but that isn't what it's about anymore.

At this point it's about Dean failing to bottom too many times.

It's about being hot and needy under the familiar feeling of Cas's firm muscle and coarse chest hair, with the arms he slips out of most mornings wrapped around him, kissing someone he loves and trusts and wants, and feeling that cold spike of fear through him when it shouldn't be there.

When they're together like this, naked, sweating, kissing, grinding, maybe even fingering, Dean should be able to do it. When he wants it and Cas wants it, he should be able to do it.

And he can't.

Earlier Tonight

Dean arranges himself on the couch, leaning back, legs spread, cock presented between them.

He feels stupid and awkward about this, but he is not above using cheap ploys to get Cas upstairs.

The last two weeks have been bad. Cas has been apologetic for everything, all of the time. Dean's been jumpy and having a hard time concentrating at work. They haven't had sex since Dean freaked out in bed and Cas has been skittish about even touching him in the ways that they always touched each other. Kissing at the door. Piling over each other on the couch. Sleeping in each other's arms.

Dean's angry. A decade old memory of a dead monster shouldn't be able to affect his life. His bedroom. His relationship. Nothing haunts Dean Winchester.

He tries laying back against the couch, supine and seductive… and looking sort of like he got naked and decided to take a nap. He grabs at the little bit of a pooch under his belly button. He's got to start jogging or something. He tries sitting up again, wondering if Cas would notice if he angled the couch a little more toward the door.

Two weeks ago, for no special reason, things had gotten more heated than usual. They'd gone upstairs, made out, undressed. Cas had gotten just a little bit rough with Dean in a way that he enjoyed. Pinning his hands at his sides, making him follow Cas upward to kiss him until Cas was just out of reach.

Then Cas's hands had slipped from his cock down to his perineum. Down to his hole. Teasing.

They didn't do that often, because Cas didn't like needing to wash up before he fell asleep. But once in a while Cas would tease Dean's hole while he sucked him. Dean might push a couple fingers inside of Cas while he sucked him.

And for some reason, Cas had asked to push inward instead of just tease. Dean agreed. Gasped. Encouraged. One finger became two, and because it had felt good, two turned into three, with Cas kissing his thighs and working his hand in and out and while Dean bit his lip and quaked and moaned. Cas panted out a request and Dean's assent had been instant.

Cas grabbed the lube and a condom (he hated it when Dean came inside of him, they had a three pack of year old condoms in the nightstand just to make everything cleaner). Dean had told him not to bother with the condom. Cas carefully pushed Dean's knees back toward the mattress, lined himself up, and pushed inward.

He'd barely gotten inside before Dean had frozen up. With the just the head of his horny lover's cock inside of him, after he had been aching for it for the last twenty minutes, he had suddenly… not been there anymore.

He'd freaked out. Dug his heels into the mattress. Pushed himself away so hard he'd cracked his skull on the headboard. Thrown Cas off of him. Rolled off to the other side of the bed, holding one arm out to keep Cas away.

And then he'd seen the expression on Cas's face go from bewildered to sad, and realized that Cas had understood why, this was the closest they had come to sex this way in years, and why Dean couldn't do it.

And then Dean had realized why he couldn't do it.

Alistair.

Hell.

Thirty years on the rack had been more than flaying and carving.

Poking and prodding.

Fuzzy and confused, he lurched off to the bathroom, and turned on the shower. He hadn't locked the door, hadn't even shut it all the way, but Cas had stood outside the bathroom asking Dean if he could come in until his voice had gotten so panicked that Dean had said yes on the condition that Cas didn't try to talk about what had just happened between them.

Cas had stepped into the shower with him, after asking, way too many times, if it was alright, and they had tried and totally failed to jerk each other off just to take the edge off of what had just happened. They'd fallen asleep on opposite sides of the bed, and hadn't spoken about it since.

Dean had been going over it again and again for the last two weeks. For the whole time they've been dating, Dean has suggested that he bottom once, and Cas had asked twice. The first time Dean had suggested it had been born out of obligation rather than desire and his hip had acted up like he was ninety goddamn years old before anything had happened, then he and Cas had gotten into a fight about something else.

The first time Cas had asked they hadn't gotten undressed. Libby and Sven had been in town and brought some, apparently primo, weed with them. Somehow, Libby, Sven, Cas and Dean had all wound up very stoned in the hotel, like teenagers with the house to themselves.

Dean and Cas, unable to drive home, had bummed their way into a very cozy room, and Dean had had a very baked Cas pawing at him, muttering, "I want to feel…It must be so nice inside you. Dean… Dean… you're so… Dean it must be so nice inside of you. I want to feel it. Dean… I… you feel so good inside of me… I want…" on a loop.

Dean, who had not been in an altered state of mind since he'd quit drinking, had been too upset by the idea of Cas fucking him when they weren't both in charge of their faculties, and, mostly dressed, they had reassured each other that they were safe and in love for about an hour before spending almost twenty dollars in the vending machine, and falling asleep in each other's arms, surrounded by tiny bags of Famous Amos and Cheez-its.

Then the disaster two weeks ago.

Dean considers laying on his stomach, ass up, to make it completely clear what he wants tonight, but decides against it. His shoulders are already too tight, and he's not sure exactly how long it's going to take Cas to get home. Besides, he spent forty five minutes in the bedroom already with his legs up, fingering himself open and psyching himself to do this, so he's sitting on a towel to keep the couch clean. He is now the sort of person who puts a towel down.

What is actually scaring Dean most is not that he had managed to block out … an experience like that. Living like a normal person these days is letting him paper over a lot of the trauma from his hunting years and his trip to Hell. Maybe that's not healthy, but he doesn't care. Sam had talked to that psychiatrist, and that had helped, but not as much as the magic tea had, and Sam couldn't remember Hell. He certainly hadn't been building up a wall between himself and forty years of blood and screaming and torture and death and… other things like Dean has.

Some things you don't get over by talking to a professional and Dean doesn't want to burden anyone who hasn't seen Hell with his experience of it.

But Cas has seen Hell.

Cas understands this so that Dean won't have to say the words. And what is scaring Dean more than anything, is that Cas isn't the one pushing to help him get through this block. Cas was the one who had asked him to stop drinking. Cas was the one who literally hand his hand through the rough beginning of the only real, serious, romantic relationship of his entire life.

And Cas has gone completely hands off in the last two weeks.

The door creaks open. Dean, in the middle of picking a position, is forced to drop back against the couch as though he had planned the position he wound up in, which is a passable male-modeling-son-of-a-bitch type thing in the corner of the couch.

"Cas?" Dean calls.

"Yeah, what's up?"

"Come in here."

In his mind, that call was supposed to be a come on. This was supposed to be sexy. An invitation Cas couldn't resist. Dean hadn't been above using any ploy it took to get Cas upstairs and inside of him to prove that he could.

But his voice shook.

Cas ducks his head in. He's holding a bag of groceries. He sees Dean naked on the couch. His eyes move over Dean's body. He doesn't look turned on. He doesn't look surprised. He doesn't look interested.

His arms tighten around the groceries. He takes a tiny step back and bites his lip.

He's nervous.

"Why don't you leave those in the kitchen and come upstairs with me?" Dean asks. Again, his attempt at playful lasciviousness fails. He sounds a little desperate in his own ears.

Cas looks down at his groceries, then back at Dean.

"Alright… I… I'll just stick this in the fridge. Wait for me."

He passes Dean by, sticks the entire bag in the fridge, fiddles with making it fit for too long and then closes the fridge behind him. He peels off his coat and hangs it carefully over one of the dining room chairs. He comes back into the living room, staying a couple body lengths distant before Dean holds out his hand. Cas takes it, Dean twines their fingers, and he pulls Cas upstairs.

He definitely feels desperate now. The sheen of lube on his ass cheeks, visible as Cas walks behind him on the stairs doesn't seem sexy. Being naked when Cas isn't doesn't feel good. Demanding sex in the middle of the day seems ridiculous and pushy.

Dean moves those thoughts away. That's exactly why he wants this. The incident last week is ruining everything. Sex with Cas hasn't been this complicated since those intimidating first couple of times. Dean shouldn't feel like this right now.

He pulls Cas into the bedroom. He left the lube on top of the nightstand, which had felt like a good direct indicator when he'd done it, but feels tawdry now.

"Dean," Cas finally says. "I… I don't…"

"You don't want to?" Dean demands.

Cas shakes his head, but starts unbuttoning his shirt. "I don't need you to prove anything to me. "

Dean drops onto the bed. After a moment of thought he reaches out for Cas's hand, pulls him closer and starts undoing his fly.

"That's not what this is about."

"I need you to tell me what this is about," Cas says.

Dean drops his forehead into Cas's stomach. Cas pets the back of his neck. He's surprised at how much better it makes him feel. A simple touch when he's felt so neglected.

"I need to be with you," Dean says honestly. "Two weeks is too long."

Cas cards his fingers through Dean's hair. "What else?"

Dean finishes with Cas's fly, tugs his pants down off his hips. "You know what else."

"Dean, I don't care if we ever… I don't need to top you. It's not important for me. And…" he grabs Dean's wrists before Dean can pull his pants down any further. "Look…what happened between us… that happened to me too. I don't like…" Cas's hand tightened around his. "I didn't like hurting you. Scaring you. Making you… remember things like that."

"You didn't hurt me," Dean answers. He pulls one hand free and goes back to tugging Cas's pants off. "I'm not afraid and I… Cas… If we never do it like this again, I don't care either, but I need to be able to do this at least once, okay?"

Cas hand pets slowly over the back of Dean's head. "Okay. Fine. But we are going to go really really slowly."

Dean leans forward so that his mouth is level with Cas's groin and speaks slowly, so the hot air from his lungs will roll through the cotton of Cas's briefs. "Take your clothes off first."

Cas presses his palm to the top of Dean's head gently, just enough to encourage him to lean back. "Lay back on the bed."

Dean nods, kisses his stomach quickly over his shirt and scoots backward toward the pillows. Cas undresses efficiently, leaving his clothes in a heap on the floor at the foot of the bed. He climbs up next to Dean. Dean pulls him into a languorous kiss.

It still doesn't feel quite right. The little creaks that the house just makes sometimes seem louder. The slippery, open feeling of his ass is unfamiliar. He feels a little bit too warm under Cas's kisses, despite how chilly the day had been.

Cas pulls away, and sets his forehead against Dean's. "Why was it different?"

"What?" Dean asks.

"I've… I already had my hand inside you. What changed?" Cas asks.

"Come on, Cas," Dean sighs, he tries to push forward into the kiss, but Cas turns his head to stop him.

"No. If we're doing this then we're doing it right," Cas almost snapped back. "Why is my penis different from my fingers?"

Dean almost wants to turn that into a joke, something about how if Cas doesn't know that then maybe they shouldn't be doing this anyway.

"Dean," Cas starts, after Dean hasn't replied for a few moments.

"Shh… I'm thinking." Dean replies. He breathes deeply and nudges his body a little closer to Cas's. He just wants to get this over with. He wants to take Cas to prove that he can, that he's getting over Hell and it can't fuck up his life anymore, he doesn't want to talk about it.

But if he uses the phrase 'get it over with' then Cas is going to be done, and he can't do another two weeks like this. He wonders if Cas realizes that he's asking Dean to mine the experience for details.

"I… don't want to talk about this that way," Dean finally answers. "I can't uh… can't give you a play by play. But it was… a very different feeling than just your fingers. Thicker. More… solid, all at once."

"Alright," Cas answers. He kisses Dean, cupping his hands around Dean's face. "That's not going to be different this time. This is how I'm shaped."

Dean leans into the kiss. Their hands rove over each other. Cas's broad strokes over his body are comforting. Grounding.

"And you were… far away. You weren't actually touching me anywhere else."

"Alright," Cas sighs. "It's a start." He leans into the kiss again, slowly rolling Dean over onto his back.

It is slow, but they've got nothing but time today and Dean's missed the feeling of Cas. It's a little chilly out. As the sun starts to set they slip under the covers together. Rolling back and forth, taking turns being on top. Nuzzling and nipping each other's necks. Rubbing together until they're both finally hard.

Dean's whole body still feels tense as he and Cas move together. No matter how sweet it is, or how good it is, it's still a lead up to what he couldn't get through last week. He could still, so easily, feel Cas push inside him and lose it again. Cas can obviously tell. He keeps asking Dean if he's alright, stroking his body comfortingly instead of groping him, or playing with him, or even holding him down the way he does sometimes. There's something almost geriatric about the way they're making out that Dean doesn't like.

But he's turned on. He has his arms looped around Cas's neck and they're panting against each other's mouths, as hot and normal as any other night.

"Are you ready?" Cas asks.

"What if I freak out again?" Dean asks before he can stop himself.

For a split second, Cas purses his lips. It's a clear cut 'that's what I've been saying' sort of expression, but he softens instantly. "We'll deal with it. And if you need to, we can start over. Or try another time."

"Don't pull away from me this time," Dean says. "I've missed you."

Cas reaches for the lube and kisses him. "I won't." He plants another kiss at Dean's forehead. "I'm sorry."

Dean closes his eyes. Listens for the click of the bottle and goes rigid when he hears it. He's not even remembering Hell, just the cold wash of horror he'd felt when Cas moved inside him last time.

"I'm going to finger you first," Cas whispers. His lips brush against Dean's cheek as he speaks, the stubble on his chin tickling against Dean's jaw. His hips snap up against Cas's body involuntarily.

"I did that already," Dean replies. "I got myself ready before you got home."

"I like it though," Cas says. "And I want to show you how good it feels. How good it feels when you do it to me."

Cas kisses his way down Dean's chest and over his hipbone before he works one wet finger into Dean, thrusting carefully back and forth despite how obvious it is that Dean doesn't need it. His body's absorbed a little bit of the lube, but all he needs is to be slicked up quick and he'd be ready to go.

Cas is careful though. Deliberate. Dean decides that he needs to just accept it. Because Cas had a point. What happened a couple weeks ago happened to Cas too. And one of the reasons that Cas has been so weird lately is because he's also been upset. Dean doesn't want to make Cas hurt him either.

He drops his head back against the pillow and lets Cas touch him. One finger moving back and forth in his ass, a bare tickle of a sensation, almost an irritation, though much less irritation than it had been when he'd been doing it to himself earlier. It feels fine, but the lack of Cas's body touching him reminds Dean why they barely ever do this.

Cas comes up to kiss him, and announces, "I'm going to use two now." Dean digs his fingers into Cas's hair and keeps hold of him for a little bit, missing the contact. Cas waits until Dean lets him go, then takes a nipple in his mouth, and, after a couple of failed attempts, works in a second finger without looking.

Dean breathes. He knows he can do this. He knows he can enjoy it. Cas is sucking at his chest, sending shivers of pleasure through him. His fingers are scissoring wider and wider inside Dean, twisting in a very deliberate way that skims across his prostate. It makes Dean gasp and twist and moan. He spreads his legs out further to give Cas room. Cas moves down, sloppily kissing his thighs with a husky announcement of "Another finger."

The heat is curling in Dean's stomach. He can feel the sweat beading on his chest and forehead. The tension in his back is still bad, but it's getting better. Cas pulls his hand out, grabs the lube from where he dropped it on the bedspread. Dean pushes his legs out again, curling his spine up a little, giving Cas better access.

He wishes he could take this the way Cas does. Totally relaxed, trusting, with his head lolled back, his eyes shut and his cheeks flushed. Dean wonders how blasphemous it is to think that's when Cas looks most angelic these days.

Cas moves slower than ever as he pushes three fingers into him. Dean gulps at the way he's finally starting to feel it. The way his body can't open up as easily around all three fingers. And Cas is thick.

"Tell me how you feel, Dean," Cas mutters against his thigh. His voice -grittier and deeper than ever- causes a wave of pure lust to rip through Dean, which shocks him and obliterates his vocabulary.

"Good," he manages.

Cas chuckles. "Good how?"

"Stretched," Dean replies. "Warm… good. Feels good, Cas."

Cas kisses his thighs again, then his mouth closes around the head of Dean's cock. The sudden warmth and pressure makes Dean cry out.

"Okay?"

"Yes."

"Ready?"

"Yes," Dean replies, just as instantly as last time, and surprised that he means it just as much.

Cas sits up, and Dean watches as he dabs more lube into his palm and slicks his turgid cock, harder than Dean's is, but not by much. He grabs a towel that Dean realizes is the same one he'd been using to cover the couch (great, they're both those people now) wipes his hands quickly, and tucks his hands under Dean's knees. He lifts them up a little, gently moving them out and up.

A little bit of the cold feeling from before creeps into the warm swirl in Dean's torso. It's just nerves. He tries to ignore it. Cas, kneeling, scoots closer. Dean watches him reach between his legs, grab his own cock and lean forward.

"I'm just going to touch you," he says.

Dean wants to roll his eyes, but the narration is helping him stay calm. Cas tips his hips forward, and just sets the tip of his cock to Dean's threshold. At first it feels weirdly like the sensation of wet dog nose pressing against the back of his knees, something that he still hasn't grown used to despite how insistent Dodger is about getting his bowl filled as soon as he sees Dean in the kitchen in the morning.

Then the tip slips a fraction of an inch into his well-prepped body and things get strange.

He feels a shudder rock through Cas, and realizes that it's Cas's first time too. And while that does help a little, the cold spot in his gut is widening. He knows it won't erupt the way it did last time, but he still can't stop it.

"Okay?" Cas groans.

Dean can't answer yes. It's okay enough, but he's teetering on the edge of 'not okay', and he can't let Cas push him over, it's not going to help anything. He swallows the lump in his throat. He hates this. This shouldn't be a big deal.

"I don't," he starts and growls in frustration. "I don't know why…"

Something about this just feels wrong, and he doesn't know why and he can't lie here with Cas shaking as he fights to hold himself back and calmly discuss what about this is too much like being ra- tortured in Hell.

"Just do it," he insists.

"No." Cas's voice is shuddering, but firm.

"Cas!" Dean argues.

"A little," Cas says through gritted teeth. "I'm going to move in a little."

Dean knows he shouldn't hold his breath, but he does. He knows he needs to relax, but he can't. Cas's miniscule movement doesn't hurt. Dean's muscles are too well worked open for it to hurt, but it feels like an invasion in a way that Cas's fingers didn't and not being able to figure out why is awful.

"Oka-"

"More," Dean demands.

Cas's hips follow the direction before he can stop himself, but he catches himself before he can move in much further. He's maybe an inch in, and it's not good anymore. The cold is sitting in Dean's stomach like a lead weight. It's not as bad as last time. He knows he's with Cas. He knows Cas isn't going to move without express permission, and probably a little bit of goading.

"Dean, I'm stopping," he gasps. Dean reaches out to grab him as Cas moves his hips away, pulling out completely.

When his arms lift he feels it, the phantom sensation of straps around his wrists. His chest. His waist. The metal of the rack digging into his spine. He grabs Cas's forearm. Cas's free hand soothes over his knee. The warmth of Cas's hand is shocking against how cold his legs feel. They kicked the covers off a long time ago. The slide of Cas's ring, still a new addition, is oddly soothing. Dean thumbs over his own.

"Dean, we don't have to do this now." Dean's not sure how Cas is managing to be reasonable right now. He's got one hand ringed around the base of his cock his cheeks are bright red. He hasn't been touched in two weeks either and he looks like he'll come if Dean breathes on him too hard. "We can try… try again, or we can just work our way up to it."

"I think…" Dean pants, reaches between his own legs and strokes himself, he's flagging and that's not going to help him convince Cas of anything. "I think I just…" He sucks in air like he's coming up to the surface. "I think being on my back is the problem. I don't think I can do this on my back."

Cas does not look convinced, but also looks like his ability to say 'no' is eroding fast. Dean is overcome with pity and gratitude. He sits up, loops his hands under Cas's armpits and pulls himself up into a kiss.

"You look like you need the edge taken off first."

"I really do," Cas breathes.

Dean kisses him again, grabs the pillow behind him and throws it down onto the ground. Cas groans as Dean slips down off the bed, kneeling on the pillow. His knees can't take the floor anymore and he feels less old when he admits it instead of trying anyway.

"I've got to clean up first," Cas protests weakly.

"I'm clean," Dean replies. That had all been part of his afternoon of preparation. He leans forward to grab Cas's legs and turn him around so he can reach. Cas stops him with a hand on his cheek.

"I'm not going to kiss you unless I clean up first."

Dean sighs and hauls himself back up to standing. "I'll get you a washcloth."

"Cool water on the washcloth," Cas sighs, shifting position on the bed, so that his legs hang over the side framing Dean's pillow.

"Love you," Dean says as he kisses Cas's temple. Cas manages a grunt in response.

Dean hurries with the washcloth. The sound of relief that Cas makes as Dean wipes the terrycloth over him makes him salivate. The desperate red flush of Cas's cock has calmed by the time Cas declares himself thoroughly cleansed, and Dean tosses the washcloth up onto the nightstand, figuring it'll still come in handy later.

Cas rubs his hands over Dean's shoulders as Dean takes him into his mouth and everything feels jarringly normal all of a sudden. Dean's done this a thousand times. This is something that used to scare him too. Something that used to be threatening and emasculating. And now it's part of being close to Cas. And he loves it. He likes the weight on his tongue. The feeling of the smooth skin sliding through his lips. The concentrated scent of Cas in his nose while he gets him off. Cas's hands against his neck and shoulders and his hair are all a regular part of this.

He likes it when Cas tugs at his hair, but he's not expecting it right now. This whole bottoming misadventure is going to result in him being treated a little bit like he's fragile for a few more days, but he knows how to get around that.

He can hear Cas huffing and moaning above him. He's rock hard in Dean's mouth, as hard as he gets right before he spurts, and he has been for a while. Dean's giving him some of his best stuff, and he can't believe that Cas hasn't come yet. He takes it as a challenge. He takes Cas as deep as he can and starts sucking gently, increasing the intensity as he pulls up. Cas's thighs start to shake under his hand. Dean's expecting the gentle knuckle to the cheek warning when he makes it up to the head and Cas lets out a sound Dean's never heard before when Dean pushes his hand back down and just keeps licking at the ridge under Cas's cock. Dean can't keep himself from chuckling when Cas still doesn't come, and the vibration of the laugh forces a sound sort of like a 'chirp" out of Cas, which just gives him an idea. He picks a low, random note, and hums loudly as he sinks his mouth down again.

Cas comes so hard Dean pulls off choking, which never happens anymore. Cas apologetically pets his hair and shoulders while Dean coughs. Dean lets Cas help him back up onto their be once he catches his breath, and as soon as he stops coughing, Cas is already on his knees, lips around him.

Dean doesn't last as long as he'd like. Cas blowing him is normal and comforting and uncomplicatedly hot, and two weeks with even less physical contact than they'd had back in the days when Cas was a dickwad Angel who dropped in just often enough to make Dean hate him had obliterated his stamina.

They climb back under the covers together, feeling heavy and warm and sated. Dean is surprised when he opens his eyes and the sun is still up.

Cas lifts his chest up like he does when the alarm goes off in the morning, then sighs and tucks himself more firmly against Dean's chest. "It's only six thirty," he laughs.

Dean kisses the only spot on Cas's head that he can reach, the very top. "Good. I'm not done yet."

Cas makes a sound like he's going to say something, but stops. Dean runs his hands over Cas's scalp, watching the sun sink lower in the sky.

"I have an idea," Cas says, just as Dean was starting to think that he was asleep. "For you not being on your back."

"On my stomach?" Dean asks.

"No, I don't think that's a good idea," Cas replies.

"Why not?"

Cas is quiet for much too long again. "Because I think I remember Hell better than you do."

Dean decides not to ask him to elaborate. He does not need to know. Tonight is hard enough, he doesn't need any big revelations about his psyche, he's still trying to deal with this one.

"I saw a video," Cas goes on. "Of two men making love on their sides. It seemed very intimate."

"A video?" Dean asks.

"Yes," Cas replies.

His tone is just defensive enough, and Dean's relieved when he can tease him with, "Was this a pornographic video?"

Cas huffs. "I like pornographic videos on occasion," he replies, poking Dean in the ribs to drive his point home. "And it's been two weeks." Poke. "And you're one to talk. 'Busty Asian Beauties' autofills on your computer." Poke-poke.

Dean feels just caught out enough that he sounds much more defensive than Cas when he replies. "Yeah… well… that's nostalgic." Cas snorts at him and Dean rolls onto his side, grabbing Cas's arm and pulling him along. "Show me."

Cas groans, in a decided unsexy way. "I need more time. And something to eat. And a glass of water, ideally."

"Yeah… okay," Dean replies. He tries to sit up, has every intention of doing so, but Cas's arms are heavy around him, and for the first time in two weeks this bizarre, awful tension isn't hanging over everything like a guillotine.

It's dark when Dean wakes up to Cas's stomach growling in his sleep. He shakes him awake gently and they pull on their bathrobes. Dodger is lying on the floor in front of their door, and Dean feels so bad about ignoring him that when Cas sets a salad, in front of him, Dean feeds Dodger a little piece of chicken from it, even though he never feeds Dodger from the table and scolds Cas about doing it all the time.

Salad is followed by the pumpkin pie that Cas had brought home, and then returning the two missed calls from Sam in a panic, worried that Chelsea's about to have the twins and they've been sleeping through it.

It turns out it was just Sam asking if they wanted to go out for dinner. Dean snaps at him to text next time, and he and Cas go back to eating pie in their bathrobes.

The tension from the day is still there as they eat, but it's better. Their feet are tucked together under the table. The conversation is easy. They're laughing and Dean feels better than he has since before this whole incident happened.

And they're still going to have sex. The light meal and the way that Cas is slowly drinking his water are proof of that. Dean wonders if it might be fun some time to watch porn with Cas and figure out once and for all where he finds this weird, fuzzy romantic porn that gives him these ideas that Dean always enjoys.

And then, as though the clock had struck and they both knew it was time, they're heading back up to the bedroom. And Dean can already tell that it's going to be okay this time.

He asks to leave the light on. Cas pulls the shades. They both drop their robes on the floor. Dean drops onto the bed while Cas fiddles with his i-pod speakers.

"What are you doing?"

"Sometimes, in nice pornographic videos, they have pleasant music," Cas replies. "I think it would be a helpful addition."

Dean can't think of a reply to or argument against that and so just patiently waits. When Cas finally picks a song its one of his mellow, guitar and voice albums, which Dean thinks sound soft and blank, but since that's perfect for what they're using it for, he doesn't argue.

"Let's get under the covers," Dean suggests. "It's cold."

The foreplay is much shorter this time. Dean is tired, not sleepy after an hour long nap in the early evening, but no matter how well Cas's plan goes, there is not going to be a round three. They lay on their sides, legs twined, kissing and rubbing together, hands running over each other's bodies, through each other's hair, down between each other's legs. Dean palms Cas until he's hard and short of breath, and after pulling him in for one more deep, languid kiss, rolls over.

Cas kisses the back of his neck, and slides his hand down Dean's spine, through his cheeks, and presses gently between them, testing. Dean's still open, but his skin pulls against Cas's fingers just enough that Dean grabs the lube back off the nightstand and hands it to Cas, who slides a perfunctory finger into him before clicking the bottle shut and dropping it in front of Dean.

Cas does exactly what he did before, without the narration this time, touching the tip against Dean's opening, then pressing in just a little bit, then a little bit more. Dean gulps and forces himself to keep breathing. It's alien, but not unpleasant. Cas' hand on his hip is good, the awkward pause while they figure out what to do with the tangle of their legs makes it all feel more real than the last couple tries have felt.

Cas moves in slow. The stretch of muscles not used to stretching like that is a lot to take in and Dean's not sure what he thinks about the burn that goes along with it, but he doesn't hate it.

But doing it like this means that every inch Cas moves further inside him brings him closer, and when Cas bottoms out, he's pressed to Dean's back, arms around him, lips at his neck.

Dean lets out the breath he's been holding for two weeks.

"You alright?" Cas pants.

"Yeah. I really am," Dean sighed. "Come on, I want to feel you."

Cas starts to move. Slow, careful. From that way that his arms tighten around Dean's stomach, he thinks it's more about the difficulty of moving faster in the position than about Cas being worried about Dean's reaction anymore, which makes it easier for Dean to enjoy it.

It feels good. The movement inside him is like the way that Cas moved his fingers inside him. The slow rocking motion is exactly how he needs this to happen, it's not calling up any images he has to force down, it's not hurting him or making him feel rushed to do anything more. The feeling of fullness is… neutral, but a lot. Not necessarily good or bad just… a lot.

He's not going to be able to come from this. It's too slow, it's too different, and he's still just not okay enough with being penetrated to move from "able to enjoy" to "getting off on". But he's warm and happy and Cas is panting against his neck, landing sloppy kisses at his nape and the crook of his shoulder. He can feel the sweat on Cas's chest sliding against his back and the way his body is jolting now and then. Cas is going to burst as hard as he did earlier, and Dean likes that too.

Cas's hand circles around Dean's only half-hard cock and Dean laughs when Cas whines. "Not good for you?" Cas manages.

Dean cranes his head back, he can almost kiss Cas from this angle. They'll have to practice that. "It's good, Cas, that's not what this is about."

Cas starts jerking him off, and Dean experiments with moving between Cas's hand and his cock as Cas starts snapping into him. He can feel the wetness starting at the corner of his eyes, and he tries to blink it away. It's getting to be too much. Cas is everywhere, inside him, wrapped around his body, hand around his cock. He can feel the empty place inside him where the cold fear had been starting to fill in with this moment, a moment of moving on where he hadn't expected it to be and it's all just too much to process. He grabs the wrist of the hand that Cas has wrapped around his stomach. Cas slots his fingers between Dean's and Dean grips them tight. With a little effort, he lets his body relax and his mind let go. The placid strumming of Cas's music washes over him. The slow glide and pull of Cas's cock is moving faster inside of him, barely pulling out, just a continuous inward thrusting. Cas is close and Dean can tell when he's fighting off the orgasm for Dean's sake.

"Come on, Cas," Dean whispers.

"Sure?"

"Yeah, come for me," Dean says.

Cas fights it for a little while longer, but comes hard, shuddering into Dean's body and holding their bodies tightly together as he keeps thrusting a little bit further inside. Dean's shocked at just how much he can feel the liquid sensation of Cas spurting inside his body. Cas keeps jerking Dean off as he comes down, and when he finally pulls away to finish Dean in his mouth, Dean probably doesn't make it for ten whole pumps up into Cas's mouth before he comes again and pulls Cas up to kiss him because he needs them to be touching everywhere again.

Cas thumbs wetness from the corner of Dean's eye. "Was that what you wanted?"

"Yeah," Dean replied. "That was exactly it."

Cas gives him a soft smile, kisses him again and grabs the washcloth off the nightstand. They wipe up quickly, flick of the light and Dean falls into a dreamless with Cas's arms around him.