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the reach of human sense

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“You’re gorgeous,” Dean says, and his heart is hammering so hard it feels like a static buzz in his chest, but it’s truer than at least half the things he’s said in his life.

Cas stills. His fingers twitch minutely against the edge of their bed, formerly Dean’s, but that’s the only movement he makes.

“I mean,” Dean starts, but he’s already said exactly what he meant. Yeah, he’s a little—okay, a lot—embarrassed, but he thought maybe Cas would appreciate the honesty.

There’s a weird little pause. You could almost write it off as a glitch in the Matrix. Then it’s like Cas reboots, and he gives Dean a small, earnest smile. “Thank you.”

Could just be that Cas is self-conscious. Dean gets it. He’ll have to try again.

 

Human and inhuman in almost exactly equal measure, Cas is mostly an open book now that he and Dean are—whatever. Together for real. The first time they kissed, in the aftermath of the last scrappy shit-show of a fight against the Darkness, Cas had been stern and broad-shouldered, his eyes sparking blue. Dean had expected ferocity and steel.

He’d gotten Cas practically melting into his touch. Lips parted, eyes closed, hands in loose curls against Dean’s chest. Their mouths slid open and easy together, and the knot of terror that had been stuck somewhere in Dean’s ribcage for years had finally rattled loose and scattered into ashes.

“Thank you,” Cas had said, tucking the murmur into the corner of Dean’s mouth. “I’ve wanted that for longer than I can say.”

He’s like that most of the time. Earnest.

“I’ve wanted you for longer than I’ve known what it meant,” he told Dean the first time they tumbled onto Dean’s bed together, fumbling with zippers and laughing as the new angles made their teeth clack together and their hands slip on the sheets.

Cas sleeps some nights, but not all of them. His grace comes and goes. Ebbs and flows, as he puts it. He never leaves, though; even if he’s awake, he indulges Dean, wraps around him from behind and breathes steadily against the spot under Dean’s ear.

Dean’s the emotionally stunted one; that’s always been his shtick. He’s better at the physical stuff, at kissing Cas into breathlessness and succumbing to incoherence as Cas learns and then expertly pushes his buttons. He just wanted to make Cas feel as good as Cas makes him feel. Like something worth changing for.

 

“Don’t,” Cas gasps, and Dean’s the one who freezes this time, until Cas finishes with a shiver: “Don’t stop.”

Dean grins and sucks Cas’ nipple back between his teeth. It’s stiff and yielding and so fucking pink, irresistible, especially when all the skin down Cas’ sides breaks into goosebumps that Dean can feel under the pads of his fingertips.

They’re still working this shit out. All the spots that make each other squirm and pant and ask for more. During the day, they hang out with Sam and take little hunts and skirt around talking about the future, but nights are expansive and totally theirs.

Cas’ features are stark and distinct in the buttery half-light of Dean’s bedroom. His eyes are wide, their lashes dark and their lids heavy. His mouth is the same shining pink as his nipples, and Dean feels good, bold. “You look,” he says, nosing at the pulse point in Cas’ neck, “so good like this.”

It happens again almost instantly. Cas’ hands slow and then stop where they had been stroking Dean’s hair. His breathing goes from harsh to barely-there.

“Hey.” Dean frowns, pushes back.

Cas won’t meet his eye. He’s looking into the middle distance, amazingly stoic for a guy with his shirt shoved open and bite marks cooling on his chest.

“Cas,” Dean prompts.

Cas’ jaw works. He lifts his chin a fraction of an inch. “That’s kind of you,” he says. Like a salesman writing a letter to a potential client or something. Not like the guy who drops hot kisses to the back of Dean’s neck in the middle of the night.

“Oh, dude.” Dean scowls, taken aback and maybe kind of offended. It’s been a long day running boring-ass errands and all he wants is for this to be easy. For Cas to smile and soak up his praise; maybe he’d get that small shiver like Cas’ feathers, if they were corporeal, would be rifling with pleasure.

Another inexplicable beat of silence. Cas licks his lips.

Dean feels his own expression soften. He brushes his knuckles against the warm skin of Cas’ side, the occasional bumps of his ribs. “Just tell me what I’m doing wrong,” he says, “because I don’t get it. And I want to get it.”

Cas hesitates.

Dean’s so damn close. Cas is here, answering him.

“Say it again,” Cas says. His throat works. “What you just said. Before.”

It’s weirder, different, with Cas staring at him. But Dean rallies, and he musters up a smile to boot, and he says, “You look fucking incredible. Pretty much all the time, but right now, well, shit. I’d be jealous of me if I weren’t me.”

Cas’ mouth twitches. Dean hopes it’s a smile. “I appreciate that,” he says.

The but looms so ominously Dean can’t help but prompt it. “Okay, but what? Angels can’t take compliments?”

“You don’t know what I look like,” Cas says. A quick tumble of words, his gaze fixed on Dean’s face. “Not really.”

“What?” Dean says stupidly.

Cas’ breath huffs warm and gentle against Dean’s mouth and neck. “You know what Jimmy Novak looked like. You think he was beautiful—gorgeous, hot, all of it. It’s him. Not me. This isn’t my face.”

“But,” Dean says. He doesn’t know where he’s going with it. Just that Cas’ face is right there, brows drawn together and cheekbones gleaming in the lamplight. It’s a face that’s made his heart skip probably a couple hundred beats collectively since they met.

And it used to belong to someone else.

“Fuck.”

“I know,” Cas agrees soberly.

“Dammit,” Dean adds. He squeezes his eyes shut. “I don’t know how to—I mean, Jimmy was a really good-looking—fuck.”

Cas chuckles, low. He sounds tired, arousal gone. “I didn’t want you to worry about it.”

“I thought you were just self-conscious!”

“I am.” Cas pushes himself up, busying his fingers with doing the buttons of his shirt. “When you compliment me—I know you mean well. I’m not so distracted with this that I can’t see how good your intentions are. But I remember that you don’t know how I really look. And I remember what happened to Jimmy.”

“I gotta, uh.” Thankfully, Dean’s T-shirt is still on. He grabs his discarded button-down for good measure. Cas’ vulnerability is catching.

Cas’ mouth curves, but Dean’s not sure it’s a smile this time either. “I understand.”

Dean sleeps on the couch, feeling exactly like an oafish and unobservant sitcom husband.

 

Dean didn’t know how much of a sap he was until he started trying to bite his tongue. Since it’s not like they really had a fight, they come back together the next morning and Dean curls into Cas’ side, hooking his fingers around the solid angle of Cas’ hip, and just barely stops himself from saying, Mornin’, handsome.

He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do with liking Cas’ stupid, beautiful face so much. The tilting smiles, the fond wrinkles around Cas’ eyes, everything. He’s spent more time staring at Cas than maybe anything else except the open road.

“Look,” Dean tries four days later, pulling away from their kiss with a soft, wet noise, “it’s like—bear with me for a sec?”

Always patient for Dean except mid-fuck, Cas adopts a placid expression and inclines his head.

“You look down at yourself and it’s like, what, a jacket? A T-shirt? It’s a human body, but you’re not human. You’re just wearing it.”

“You could put it that way,” Cas says, sounding wary.

“Yeah, okay.” Dean shifts back, off of Cas’ lap, so he can reach for Cas’ hand. He traps Cas’ palm between his fingers, rubs his thumb across the just-forming calluses. They’re evidence of Cas’ half-powered grace, evidence of the hours he’s spent shoveling and planting out back of the bunker. “I’ve only ever seen you like this, y’know. I’m lookin’ at you and I’m seeing, hey, here’s the hand that pulled me out of Hell.

“Here’s the hand that touched me—” He stops for a second and cocks his head toward his own shoulder. “Right here in Purgatory, when you were saying goodbye and I didn’t even know it. This mouth,” he says, tripping over the words for a second because he came so damn close to adding gorgeous again, “I mean, how many times have I heard it say something fucking life-changing to me?”

“Life-changing,” Cas echoes, eyebrows flicking upward.

“Hello, Dean,” Dean rumbles in his best Cas impression.

Color skitters across Cas’ cheeks and the bridge of his nose. “Dean.”

“I’m serious, Cas. It’s not like I’m into you just ’cause you’re kind of a stud. I met Jimmy. Nice guy, but…”

Cas’ tongue wets his lips, and Dean’s horny and frustrated and anxious as he tracks the motion with his eyes.

“Thank you,” Cas says. He’s quiet, his pupils wide and black. “That helps.”

“Is it—” Dean swallows back the rest of the question, Is it enough? It’s selfish of him, acting like Cas’ hangups are some kind of obstacle he has to overcome. If he’s good enough and if he tells Cas exactly what he needs to hear. Good enough isn’t exactly how Dean would describe himself.

Cas pulls him into a kiss, long and slow. He sucks on Dean’s tongue, bites at Dean’s lower lip, breathes hot, heavy air into Dean’s mouth. They don’t talk much the rest of the night.

 

“Describe it to me,” Dean suggests.

Cas frowns. “It?”

Ah, shit, bad word choice. Manfully not cringing, Dean says, “I mean, you. You know. What you look like. The dude that would sear my eyes out of my head or whatever.”

Cas chuckles lowly, then claps his canvas gloves together to shake some dirt free. It’s late spring, or maybe early summer, and Dean likes to sprawl outside with a beer and watch as Cas works in the garden. He figures Cas has done so much Dean-watching that Dean’s got an infinite amount of the reverse owed him. “I had hoped you would be able to see me,” Cas says.

“Yeah,” Dean says, “I know. Certain people, special people, blah blah blah.”

“I guess you were special in too many other ways,” Cas says. He drops his gloves and trowel into their little storage box, a shoddy unpolished thing Dean put together for him a couple months back.

“So?” Dean knocks back a long swig of beer without looking away from Cas.

“Large.” Cas wipes his hands on the thighs of his jeans before dropping down next to Dean, legs crossed. There’s some dirt on his nose, but Dean’s not planning to tell him about it. “Very large. I’m not sure if you could fathom it.”

“Sexy,” Dean says dryly.

That earns him another muffled laugh. “Not like that. Our true forms don’t really have genitals.”

“Okay, don’t lead with that! Anyway, now I really am glad you wound up living in a human with human junk.”

“It has its uses,” Cas concedes. He shuffles closer, their knees knocking lightly. “I have wings, of course.”

“I’ve seen those,” Dean says, feeling like a student trying to impress his hot teacher.

Cas gives him a split-second smile and rubs his thumb against Dean’s kneecap. “Sort of. Not all of them.”

“Dude.”

“Yes,” Cas says before Dean can ask, “there are more than two.”

Something mournful coils tight and fresh in Dean’s chest. Up until now, this weird exploration has been an exercise in trying to make Cas feel better. The thing, though, is it kinda sucks that he’s never gotten to see the real Castiel. That he probably never will. “Cool,” he says, his voice dropping low.

“I like to think so.” Maybe today’s a good one for Cas feeling Dean’s soul the way he claims he can do sometimes, because he squeezes Dean’s thigh, a gesture of reassurance. “You know me. That matters more than seeing me.”

Dean drains his beer bottle and grunts unconvinced acquiescence.

 

Cas’ mouth features in Dean’s dreams pretty often. Maybe three nights out of ten. So he doesn’t actually notice he’s awake for a couple solid minutes. He’s busy sinking back into the suck, bite, hot-hot-hot press of teeth and lips against the hollow under his ear.

“Mm,” he groans, awareness starting to jostle at the edges of his consciousness.

“You dream about me,” Cas says.

If that ain’t an ice bucket over the head. Dean scowls, scrubbing his face into his pillow. “You readin’ my mind again, ’cause, babe—”

“No.”

“Well—okay, yeah, I do. Sometimes.” He’d dreamed about Cas for years before he even got what their deal was. Before he made himself understand the terrifying swell of warmth in his throat when Cas looked at him.

Cas’ smile curls against the skin of Dean’s neck, getting his dick to perk right back up. “I have an idea.”

“Mmph?” Sleep-fogged, Dean’s even easier for Cas than usual. Cas, whose big, broad hand is gripping Dean’s hip, almost close enough to brush his growing half-erection. He shifts his hips unsubtly.

Indulgent but unyielding, Cas kisses the top of Dean’s spine through his T-shirt. His hand stays where it is. “Go back to sleep.”

When Cas’ voice turns into that steady rasp, Dean goes all malleable in an instant no matter how turned on he is. He sighs, and he sleeps.

 

All the photos are missing. It’s weird. Dean couldn’t forget a detail of the Lawrence house as that djinn made him see it if he tried, and he has tried. But the photographs, all the mundane evidence of the Winchesters’ boring suburban life, are gone, frames and all.

“You’re dreaming,” Cas says from behind him.

As soon as Cas points it out, it’s obvious. Dean thinks he knew it all along. He turns anyway, and smiles, because dreams with Cas in them are usually good dreams. They used to be nightmares or, barring that, humiliating secrets. He’s okay with how the tide has shifted.

“Hi,” Cas says. He’s suited up, trenchcoat and rumpled hair and crooked tie and all. The sight makes Dean feel so disgustingly fond his teeth itch with it.

“Hi. I hope you’re not about to tell me something important about the apocalypse.”

Cas laughs. Good sign. Apocalypse Cas didn’t really do that. “No, I just wanted to be recognizable to start off.”

“Babe, I’d recognize you anywhere, no matter what,” Dean says. If he hadn’t known this was a dream, that would’ve given it away. How easy it was to say that despite how much he means it.

Cas’ smile dials up a couple notches. “Do you remember when you woke up earlier tonight?”

“Yeah,” Dean says. He pulls a face. “You tease.”

Cas shrugs slightly, apparently unapologetic. “Would you like to see me?”

Dean gets it right away. He hesitates, and steps closer. Cas looks real, feels real as Dean brushes the sleeve of his coat, and he doesn’t blur or melt into another scene the way it happens when the whole damn thing is a dream. The house is fake, but Cas isn’t. “I won’t explode or die?”

His expression serious again, Cas touches two fingers to Dean’s jaw. “Not here. It won’t be—this will need to be an approximation. I can’t wholly show you myself without consequences. But your mind is more open here, and I can alter your perceptions. If you’ll let me.”

“Yeah,” Dean says, “yeah, Cas. Please.”

“Okay.” Cas kisses his forehead. “Close your eyes.”

 

Time is funky as hell in dreams. A couple seconds might’ve passed, or maybe it was a handful of days, but the scene’s changed and Dean’s sprawled on Baby’s hood, beer in hand and sun sinking low in the sky. He could be anywhere in the Midwest, any remote highway winding its way through cornfields and dilapidated barns.

Wings rustle and flap. Dean looks up, but the sky is empty.

“Over here.”

Thank fuck Cas kept the voice, ’cause nothing else is the same. And god, Dean wants to keep cool. He’s not gonna be the asshole who drives Cas away by freaking out over, well. Over six wings and four faces and a couple dozen spinning fiery wheels in place of a body.

“Hey,” Dean croaks.

One of the wheels spins, and so does Cas’ neck, or whatever it is that’s holding those heads up. The one facing him looks like a panther: dark fur, golden eyes, bristling whiskers. “Hello, Dean.”

Life-changing is right. Tension slides out of Dean’s shoulders, and he leans forward.

There’re a million places he wants to look. Stare, really. The rifling feathers of the dark wings arching over Castiel’s head, the leathery stretch of the wings that look like they belong to a huge bat or a fucking dragon or something. Something glitters, and as Cas shifts one more time, Dean glimpses the wings tucked closest to the ground: gossamer, blue so dark it shines, patterned like a butterfly’s.

He’d look closer at the flickering flames that seem to make up Cas’ core, but he gets the feeling he wouldn’t have the power to look away.

“I’m larger,” Cas says. There’s a distant click, and now Cas is talking out of the head of an osprey. “In reality. Much larger.”

“This size is okay.” Dean hears himself laughing. The beer’s gone; in real life, it would have spilled, but here it probably just vanished once he stopped thinking about it. “God. This is badass.”

“Badass,” Cas repeats. The osprey’s head—Cas’ head—cocks to one side. Exactly like Cas, which, okay, makes sense, because it is Cas.

Familiarity suffuses Dean head to toe. He’s pretty sure he’s grinning. “Yeah. Badass. You looked at yourself lately?”

All six wings rustle in one long wave, sinuous motion. Cas’ flames bank, then roar back to life higher and brighter than before. Another click, and a snake is staring at Dean, unblinking. His veins buzz with a moment of fear, but Cas’ voice comes out, slightly sibilant: “We were never encouraged to indulge in vanity. And then, well. Your opinion started mattering to me, and you had never seen me like this.”

Dean’s grin broadens. “You wanted me to think you were hot?”

Cas’ tongue darts out, tasting the air. He’s holding his angel blade, Dean notices, in a hand that almost looks human if you ignore the close-patterned scales, their blue sheen. The other hand is drumming fingertips against the car’s hood; it’s a comfortingly human gesture, actually.

Dreams smooth edges, make weird things normal. Dean wanted to take this like it was no big deal, and so he is. He’d buy his subconscious a drink if he could, because Cas’ voice holds a smile when he answers.

“Yes,” Cas says, “if you want to put it that way.”

“Well.” Dean waggles his eyebrows, daring to set his hand atop Cas’ gleaming alien hand. His fingers are still long and, Dean suspects, dangerously capable. “Not to get overly literal, but it looks like you were always gonna be hot whether you were in a vessel or not. Think we could roast marshmallows on you?”

There’s an edge to Cas’ laugh. Maybe it’s an angel thing or maybe it’s the switch to the fourth face, something almost human if not for the deep, dark, bottomless pits of eyes, the cheekbones even sharper than Cas’ real-world face.

“Thank you,” he says, turning his hand over to lace his fingers through Dean’s. There’s a smile on Cas’ too-smooth, alien face. Dean wants to kiss it. He wants to know what it would taste like.

He lets himself tip forward, and the dream scatters with the taste of a campfire lingering in the back of Dean’s throat.

 

“Thank you.” Cas, whispering. “Thank you, Dean.”

“Hey.” Dean’s head is about ninety percent cotton, bogged down with traces of sleep and with hanging onto the details of his dream, but he fumbles for Cas’ hands. There they are, soft and warm and human again.

“Oh,” Cas says. He actually sounds sheepish. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Yeah, you did.” Dean squeezes Cas’ hands. “You’re welcome, y’know.”

It’s pitch-black in Dean’s room at night, nothing but the barest sliver of light coming under the door from the hallway. He hauls himself up long enough to switch on the bedside lamp and notice that it’s still early as fuck, way before dawn.

“You remember, then,” Cas says.

“Dude,” Dean says, “I hope you’d deck me if I forgot.” He’s still hanging onto one of Cas’ hands, and he strokes the back of Cas’ palm with his thumb.

In the sudden brightness, Cas’ eyes are unreasonably blue. “You weren’t scared.”

“Nah.” Nervous, for a sec. Instinctively freaked that Cas is part snake. But not scared. “Hey, lemme try something.”

“I do think it’s your turn,” Cas says.

His chest light like the bones of a bird, Dean slides back under the covers, gathers Cas up to him, and kisses the mussed curls of dark hair around his ear and the side of his neck. “G’morning, hot stuff. You’re gorgeous.”

“Dean,” Cas says faintly.

But Dean’s on some kind of roll, unstoppable and way too in love with a junkless nerd who’s permanently on fire. “I’m not kidding, babe.” He palms at the back of Cas’ thigh, the corded muscle heavy through the thin cotton of Wal-Mart boxers. There’s a nagging of unsatisfied arousal pooled at the base of Dean’s spine, thwarted desire from before that whirlwind of a dream.

Cas shudders, and Dean stills, ready to stop if Cas really doesn’t want to do this right now. But then Cas sighs, a soft noise, and relaxes so their foreheads touch, so that Dean feels Cas’ eyelashes flutter against his cheek. “I’m tired,” Cas admits. “That took more of my grace’s power than I thought it would.”

“We don’t gotta do anything fancy.” Dean works his hand up under Cas’ underwear, hungry for the bare skin. He’s not even remotely cured of wanting Cas’ human form, there’s just—it’s a bigger kind of desire now. One that knows more and wants even more fiercely for that.

Cas turns into him, opening up. He curls a hand around the back of Dean’s neck, kisses him and doesn’t say a word about Dean’s morning breath. Careful, drawn-out slides of mouth against mouth that have Dean hard again in what feels like less than sixty seconds.

“’m dead serious,” Dean manages. He wants to say his piece, wants it even more as Cas rocks their hips together and he feels that Cas is getting hard right here under the covers with him.

“Hm?” Cas noses at the junction of Dean’s jaw and ear, walking his fingertips up under the hem of Dean’s shirt until he hits the spot around Dean’s nipple that makes him gasp and squirm.

“Hold still?”

Cas growls some kind of protest, but he does as Dean asks.

With Cas’ hand in his own as leverage, Dean swings his knee over Cas’ hip until he’s straddling Cas’ middle. Cas is wide enough that it’ll make his thighs burn in a couple minutes, but it’s worth it.

“You’re seriously one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” Dean says. He could fuck this up so easy if his self-consciousness catches up with him, and his blood is rushing heavy in his ears to remind him of that. He’s not, not gonna let that happen. “I’m no angel, but I’ve seen a lot of pretty cool shit. Perks of the job. And you?”

Cas’ eyes are wide, his lips parted. “Me,” he says as if in automatic response. Always there to give something back to Dean.

Dean rolls his hips down, bearing his weight down so their erections brush and another breathless noise punches out of Cas’ throat. “Fucking incredible.” Alight with the memory of how luminous Cas had burned, does burn even when Dean can’t see it, Dean slithers down, down until he’s yanking at Cas’ boxers and kissing the hot tip of Cas’ dick.

“Dean.” Cas practically whines his name, hips twitching.

“God, those wings,” Dean says, urging Cas to lift up so he can get all that fabric out of the way and suck Cas’ dick further, deeper into his mouth. One long moment, cheeks hollow and Cas panting under him. He’s always loved this too much, always gotten hard even thinking about sucking Cas off. “Gotta tell you,” he murmurs as he pulls free and Cas’ dick slips out with a faint but obscene sound, “I don’t know much about art, but those are works of fuckin’ art.”

For as many times as Dean has heard Cas moan, he’s not sure he’s ever heard him moan like this: high-pitched, wavering, something desperate and needy.

“Should’ve figured you’d be burning like that.” Dean kisses the sweat-slick crease of Cas’ thigh, nuzzles right above his leaking dick. “You did such a number on me, a goddamn forest fire clearing out all the bad, dead crap in the back of my head. I guess I always kind of knew you’d be made of fire, all gold and gorgeous and out of this world.”

Cas actually sobs, his hips canting up in a plea.

Dean’s really, really bad at saying no to Cas. He frames the lines of Cas’ hips with his hands, kisses the soft weight of balls, and sinks down with his jaw slack and his throat ready to be filled.

This usually takes longer. Cas doesn’t get off as fast as Dean; he makes Dean work for it, strokes his hair and the backs of his ears and the fuzz at the nape of his neck. He rides out pleasure like something strange, an undiscovered country to be taken slowly.

Not tonight. He shudders again, clutches Dean’s shoulder so hard it hurts, and comes into Dean’s waiting mouth.

Dean’s erection throbs. He comes too damn close to rutting against the sheets to get his relief.

“Told you,” he says as he wipes his mouth on the inside of his wrist. Cas looks shocked, his mouth ruby-red and his cheeks flushed so pink. “Always knew you were one good-looking angel.”

Cas smiles slowly, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “You are a miracle sometimes,” he says, then pauses, adds: “Always. My apologies.”

Dean ducks his head. They’re a real pair, falling all over themselves to compliment each other and totally flustered by the whole exchange. “Whatever.”

Cas hums, thoughtful. “Come here,” he says after a beat. “I think you’re due one stellar orgasm.”

And like a moth to a flame, Dean goes to him.