The first Dean knows about it, he’s stood in the middle of a huge crowd of people. He has no idea how he got there, but that takes backseat to the fact that Cas is on the other side of the crowd, looking as beat up as Dean’s ever seen him, being held upright by two Native American guys in full-on tribal gear and seriously, whatever this screwed up ritual is it is so over.
He’s already running when they force Cas to his knees, shove his head against a rock, and that’s when he notices one of the guys has an axe.
That son of a bitch is going down.
Or he would be, if Dean hadn’t just tripped over his own feet and sprawled out on the ground, catching himself just short of smashing into Cas and the rock. Not exactly his best work, but the guy is shocked enough to lower the axe.
Dean rights himself, goes for his gun. It isn’t there.
Okay, time for plan B.
“What the Hell?” he yells. It’s an apt summary of his feelings on the entire situation. “You can’t just kill this guy!”
“Why not, Pocahontas?” the axe-wielder asks, and, what?
“Seriously, what the Hell?” Dean repeats.
The potential murderer shakes his head, and morphs into a familiar face.
“Wrong answer, Deano!”
Fingers snap, and everything disappears.
Dean finds himself scrubbing a tiled floor. He would really like not to be doing that, but his hand seems to be stuck to the cloth, and the cloth refuses to be lifted from the tiles. So he goes for the next best thing.
“Gabriel! Get your crazy ass down here now or I am going to rip your lungs out!”
“I take it someone’s eager to go to the ball?”
Dean’s suddenly free, and he throws the cloth down and gets to his feet.
“You’re playing tricks again?” he demands. “I knew I should have ganked you when I had the chance. Where’s Cas, you son of a –”
“Woah, slow down there,” Gabriel tells him. “Relax! Baby bro is perfectly safe. This is a kids’ movie!”
A distant memory prompts Dean. “Cinderella?”
“Remember to be back before midnight!” Gabriel tells him.
“Forget back before midnight, let us out of here!”
Gabriel wags a finger. “No can do. Not until you finish the story properly. Now, don’t keep Prince Charming waiting – bibbidi bobbidi boo!”
One finger snap, and Dean’s in his best suit and the least comfortable pair of shoes he’s ever worn. A second, and he’s in the middle of a crowded ballroom, and Cas is before him.
“Dean,” he says. “I think Gabriel is playing a trick on us.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Dean mutters. “Listen – is there any way you can zap us out of here?”
“Not while Gabriel wills us to remain.”
Dean sighs. “Awesome.”
“Ahem.” A man approaches with a bow. “Does the prince wish to dance with the mysterious stranger?”
The steward or whatever he’s supposed to be shoots them a filthy look, and Dean’s considering decking him when Cas takes a step towards him.
“We should consider doing as Gabriel wishes us to.”
“Why?” Dean asks.
“There is generally some deeper meaning to his tricks. If we cooperate, he will release us.”
“He’s being a dick, Cas,” Dean objects, but he knows they’re going to have to play along sooner or later. Freaking archangels.
“Come on,” he says. “Let’s dance. That’s how the story goes!”
Cas raises his arms in an awkward imitation of the dancers around them, and Dean steps into them after one last glare at Gabe’s puppet.
It doesn’t go well. Dean hasn’t danced like this since prom, and they spend most of their time stepping on each other’s toes. Dean’s sure that Gabriel is tucked away in a corner somewhere having a good laugh at their expense.
It’s almost a relief when the clock strikes midnight and the world dissolves.
“Do you trust me?”
Dean’s disorientated for a moment, and he doesn’t answer – he’s too busy taking in the balcony and the garden below and the – why is there a flying carpet?
“Do you trust me?” Cas repeats, holding out a hand.
“Yes,” Dean tells him. It’s the truth, after all.
But that doesn’t mean he’s happy when the carpet shoots out and nearly sends him falling to his death.
Shouldn’t there be a freaking handrail on this thing?
It’s only when Cas turns his head to give a somewhat weary look that Dean realises he’s grabbed the angel’s arm, probably tight enough to hurt a human. Well, screw it. Gabriel can laugh away, Dean doesn’t trust this death trap to keep him airborne.
Cas opens his mouth, and for a moment Dean is certain he’s going to do something dumb like apologise for this, but what comes out is the last thing Dean expects.
“I can show you the world.”
Oh, Gabe is getting his ass kicked so hard for this.
First of all, Disney isn’t real music. Not if you’re over the age of seven.
But more importantly, how is that Cas’s line? Dean is totally Aladdin in this story. Only with burgers and AC/DC instead of the pyramids.
But hey, Cas sings better than Dean would have thought. When they get out of here, Dean will have to try and get him singing a decent tune.
It’s too late when Dean remembers that this song isn’t a solo. He tries to clamp his mouth shut, but –
“A whole new world, a dazzling place I never knew.”
Gabriel is dead to him.
Still, it’s hard to stay totally angry when the heart-stopping fear rubs off a little and he can actually take a look around. The view is good from up here, although occasionally the carpet will plummet alarmingly and –
“Don’t you dare close your eyes.”
Okay, that was hot.
Dean regrets thinking it almost immediately, because Gabriel is putting words in Cas’s mouth and it’s not like he meant it like that and seriously, this is a freaking kids’ movie.
But he can’t pretend it’s the first time he’s thought about it. Cas is – well, he’s pretty much gorgeous, but he’s also Castiel, angel of the Lord. Angels don’t do that kind of thing – well, some might, but not Cas. And Cas is too important for Dean to screw up.
Still, as the last notes fade and they’re drifting over some pond, almost back on solid earth again, Dean realises he still has a light grip on Cas’s wrist, and he doesn’t release it right away. Instead, he looks up at the sky above them.
“I apologise for all of this,” Cas says beside him. “I don’t know what Gabriel is thinking.”
Dean just smiles at the colours raining down on them.
“At least he can put on a decent fireworks show.”
Dean blinks himself slowly into consciousness, and finds Cas is sitting by his bedside. He looks like he just went ten rounds with a monster truck.
“What happened?” he asks, sitting up.
“The victory of this story was not easily won,” Cas answers. “The villainess transformed herself into a fire breathing beast.”
“You fought a dragon to get in here?”
Dean’s brain takes a second to process. The giant dragon thing was... Sleeping Beauty?
“Wait, did you just k–?”
They’re in a garden covered with snow, and Dean knows this one, he remembers it from babysitting back in Cicero. But that’s really not the issue.
“I did what was necessary to advance the story,” Cas informs him.
“I was freaking unconscious!” Dean is aware that there are other things he should probably care about here, but that seems to be the main one.
“The sleeping maiden is a part of your species’ cultural history, Dean, not mine.”
“I am not a maiden.”
Cas glares at him. “I assure you it won’t happen again unless absolutely necessary.”
Right. Of course not.
“You know what?” Dean says to no-one in particular. “Screw Gabriel for putting us in this mess.”
“The process might go faster if I understood the cultural relevance of these scenes.”
Really? “Fairy tales, Cas!”
Cas gives him an unimpressed ‘I’m an angel, not an idiot’ look.
“I don’t know, it’s Disney. A bunch of kiddie crap.”
“Gabriel seems to place some stock in it,” Cas reminds him.
“Yeah, well I don’t!” Dean says back, louder than he intended to. “Life doesn’t work this way Cas! Woodland creatures don’t sing backing vocals, you don’t know you love someone the second you meet them, and fairy godmothers are evil bitches! There’s no true love’s kiss, and no happily ever after, not in the real world.”
There’s a moment of echoing silence. Then: “What movie are we currently in?”
“Beauty and the Beast.”
Castiel nods. “I’m not familiar with this scene.”
Dean sighs. “They have a snowball fight or something.”
“What purpose does that serve?” Dean’s about to explain how a snowball fight works when Cas adds: “Narratively.”
“Nothing much, just cute stuff in the middle.” Dean shrugs. Narrative structures are above his pay grade. “It’s a movie with talking teacups. You’re probably over thinking it.”
Cas nods, then bends down and scoops up a handful of snow. The resulting missile is thrown with grim concentration, yet it goes wide and sails right past Dean, which can only have been on purpose.
“Dude, that’s not how you throw a snowball,” Dean tells him, and begins working on his counterexample.
When they get cold and walk through the door of the castle, they find themselves in the middle of a jungle.
“Lion King?” Dean guesses. “I am not singing an Elton John song.”
The music kicks in, but it seems to be a voiceover. Hearing his own voice on loudspeaker is weird enough.
“What do we do?” Cas asks, and Dean –
Dean can’t actually remember.
“I think they just – frolic?” He can’t believe he just said that word, but it’s true. Nothing happens in this part.
Cas looks confused.
“Just – relax, would you?” He’s not even sure Cas knows what the word means. Hell, he’s all but forgotten himself.
They wander along, pushing through the trees, until Dean stumbles out onto a ledge and topples into a shallow pool of water.
He’s soaked through. He struggles back to the bank, shaking water out of his hair. And Cas –
Cas looks like he’s trying not to smile.
So it’s only natural for Dean to snag his ankle and pull him in too.
He doesn’t know if Gabe’s turned off angel mojo for the time being or if he just takes Cas by surprise, but the sight of him waterlogged and faintly shocked is priceless. Dean can’t remember the last time he laughed this hard.
Only a moment later, Cas has this look on his face like retribution and the wrath of wounded dignity, and Dean knows he’s getting paid back for that.
He runs, taking off through the trees at full pelt, only to barrel into Cas already in front of him.
The momentum knocks them both off their feet, and they tumble down a long slope, until Dean is flat on his back in the grass, pinned underneath Cas.
Dean is soaked to the skin and covered in bruises and his heart is racing in his chest, but he can’t keep the grin off his face, and when Cas doesn’t move for a moment he has this crazy idea that he’s about to get kissed and right now, he really can’t think of a good reason why that shouldn’t happen.
But then Cas gets to his feet, offers Dean a hand up and places two solemn fingers against his forehead. He’s dry, and the ache against his skin is gone, if not the pounding of his pulse.
“Dean,” Castiel says, and then the world changes again.
They’re in a boat.
“I realise this is frustrating, but Gabriel’s heart may be in the right place.”
Dean opens his mouth to disagree with that, but no sound comes out. Right, he remembers Sammy dragging him to this one when they were kids. He’s Ariel.
“I enjoy the opportunity to spend time with you, even if the circumstances are less than desirable.”
Dean nods, but he doesn’t think that’s Gabriel’s game plan. If he wanted to give them time off, he could have just dropped them both in Tahiti and been done with it.
Still, he doesn’t know why they’re been put here. This isn’t the good bit of the movie with the ship and the octopus chick. It’s not even the happy ending. This is the boring part in the middle with the singing lobster – it’s before the monster has even been fought.
The part where the two of them fall in love.
Look, he isn’t in love with Cas. Yeah, he cares about the guy and he’s not going to let anyone hurt him, but the same is true of Sam and – okay, bad example, cause Sam is his brother and Cas is smoking hot, but that still doesn’t mean –
It’s not like it was with Lisa. He knows Cas can take care of himself, he just wishes the guy didn’t have to all the time. That for once, he would stick around where Dean can watch his back and help him out and play him Zeppelin... It’s different, right?
He wouldn’t want it any other way.
Damn it, when did he turn into such a girl?
“Dean?” Cas looks concerned, and Dean smiles at him as best he can.
Even if he was – you know – what difference would it make? Cas is never going to stay. He doesn’t feel the same way. Although, he did fight a dragon for Dean...
But they’re never going to get to ride off into the sunset together. There are always going to be more monsters to fight, and sooner or later, it’ll end bloody. There is no happily ever after.
It’s blissfully silent across the lake, and Dean is locked into Castiel’s gaze. He can’t make some smart comment, can’t tell Cas not to stare – and he can’t bring himself to look away. He’s stuck, with nothing to do but think: what if...?
You know what? Screw it. He’s been wanting this for years, and he’s sick of Cas disappearing without ever knowing the truth. Dean wants Cas to stay – and even if he isn’t going to, he needs to understand that it’s true.
Dean leans forwards, and the boat overbalances and tips them into the water.
Archangelic dicks and their freaking Disney movies.
“Want to buy an apple?”
Gabriel is standing in the middle of a small room, holding out a bright red apple. But when Dean grabs for it – he needs to get back to Cas, dammit – Gabe snatches it away.
“You getting the message yet, Snow White?” he asks.
“Yes!” Dean tells him. “I’ll do it, okay?”
Gabriel smiles and tosses him the fruit, and the second Dean takes a bite, he’s unconscious.
The next thing he knows, Cas is leaning over him.
“Again?” Dean asks, because seriously?
Cas leans back. “It is not the circumstances I would prefer, either.”
“Yeah, I know,” Dean says, sitting up. It’s just, if he’s going to get a kiss, he’d rather be able to remember it afterwards.
“This story is unusual,” Cas observes. “I have not had to do anything. The villainess was defeated before my arrival.”
Dean shrugs. “Sometimes I guess the prince just needs to be there. Well, and –”
He stops himself before he can complete the thought, but Cas stares at him and asks: “And what?”
“Be in love.” Dean really wishes the ground would open up and swallow him right about now.
But Cas just keeps staring at him. “In that case, I suppose I qualify.”
Huh, Dean thinks. Well, what do you know?
Then Cas’s lips are on his, and the story is finally over.
(In a motel room in Wisconsin, an archangel appears with a grin, and a hunter hands over ten dollars.
“I can’t believe that worked.”
“Never bet against the house, kiddo!”)