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His shirt sticking to his back and his lips already chapped dry, Dean shields his eyes with his hands. The afternoon sun is blazing overhead, the heat wonderfully absorbed by the craggy basalt surrounding him. Dean thinks the temperature he’s experiencing might be acceptable for baking a tray of chocolate chip cookies, but it certainly isn’t acceptable for his continued well-being, and he reminds himself that if he manages to survive this one, he’s definitely going to give Sam hell about it.
 
A crunching sound behind him, tiny pebbles tumbling down to clatter to the dusty ground, and Dean’s already drawn his .45, whipping around and pointing it at the disturbance. He squints into the bright sunlight and blue, blue sky, and then lets out a breath, relaxing his grip as he recognizes the familiar silhouette standing on top of a pile of black, crumbling boulders.
 
“What are you doing here?”
 
Castiel steps lightly from the rocks he’s standing on, down closer to Dean’s level. His trench coat flutters in the slight breeze. “Sam seemed to believe you would need assistance.”
 
“He did, huh.” Dean holsters his gun. He grabs hold of the hem of his shirt and lifts it away from his sweaty stomach, flapping the fabric a little, reveling in the coolness. “And you just so happened to be in the neighborhood.” For once, he doesn’t add, but wishes he could. Instead, he lets go of his shirt and reaches for the water bottle on the ground.
 
Cas exhales through his nose, his lips pressing together. Dean gulps the water, then swipes at his mouth with his hand.
 
“How’s his leg?”
 
“I fixed it.”
 
“Oh, good.” Dean takes another swig. “And he’s not here and you are because…”
 
Cas looks at him. Dean can only hold his gaze for a moment before he’s forced to glance away.
 
“Right,” he mutters. He finds himself suddenly grateful for the dehydration—at least the hoarseness in his voice won’t draw any attention. He takes one last drink of water, screws the cap back on, and rakes his fingers through his hair. “Sammy give you the details, at least?”
 
“All he said was that you were on a hunt in New Mexico.” Cas hesitates, then adds, “Something killing hikers.”
 
Dean huffs. “Killing, yeah. More like—sucking ‘em dry and leaving their, ugh,” he grimaces, “husks.”
 
“Sam said you thought it might be a skinwalker.”
 
“Nah,” Dean says. He scratches the back of his neck, leaving faint white marks on the reddening skin. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re pretty much in skinwalker central down here, so that’s what I was thinking on the drive down, but. This? This ain’t their MO.”
 
“I see.” Cas is quiet for a moment. “What is your plan?”
 
“Uh,” says Dean. He gestures a little weakly towards the entrance of one of the lava tubes, flashlight in hands. “Take a look and shoot anything that moves?”
 
“Dean.” Cas’s face is very, very disproving. He’s standing stock still, holding his shoulders in the sort of way that Dean’s come to learn generally means Cas wants to slug him, and is just barely keeping himself in check. “That seems like a terrible plan.”
 
“Oh yeah?” Dean is not belligerent. He’s not.
 
Cas, as cool as cucumber and also very sincere and annoying, says, “Anything could be in there.”
 
“Yeah, exactly, Cas,” Dean snaps. “Which is why I’d like to get in there, and shoot it.”
 
Cas takes a step closer, his jaw tightening. “And what if it’s a wendigo, Dean?” he says. “Your bullets would do nothing.”
 
“Wendigos don’t suck their victims dry,” Dean replies scornfully. Everyone knows that. “They eat them.”
 
Cas fixes him with a look and says again, like Dean didn’t hear him the first time: “Dean, it could be anything.”
 
“Actually, I can think of about ten things off the top of my head that it’s definitely not. It’s not demons, it’s probably not vamps, not a wendigo—”
 
Dean.” Cas glowers at him. Dean realizes, belatedly, that they’re standing chest to chest, almost touching. He takes a hasty step back.
 
“Well, you got any better ideas?”
 
Cas lifts his chin. “Yes,” he says stiffly. “Let me go in first.”
 
“Oh, come on, Cas.” Dean rolls his eyes. “Seriously?”
 
“Dean—”
 
“Don’t ‘Dean’ me.” Dean brushes his hand away. “You know how many freaking caves there are out here, man? You want us to tip-toe through every one?”
 
“Well,” Cas considers, frowning like this is a totally logical suggestion and he doesn’t get why Dean’s not already on board with it. “Yes.”
 
Dean shoots him an exasperated look. “Cas, man, there’s two of us here. Let’s at least take advantage of it.”
 
The corners of Cas’s mouth grow pinched. “Dean,” he says, but Dean cocks an eyebrow at him.
 
“Promise you, I see a monster, I’ll shriek like a little girl and you can come rescue me.” He turns away, aware of Cas’s eyes still fixed on the back of his neck, an itch between his shoulder blades, but he doesn’t turn around. “Teamwork,” he says loudly, into the gathering dust as he marches towards what could, conceivably, be another lava tube and/or possibly some monster’s lair. When he hears Cas’s somewhat frustrated sigh behind him, he almost smiles.
 
 
#
 
 
They return, dusty and parched, to Dean’s motel in Grants. As soon as they’re inside, Dean flops down heavily onto his bed.
 
“Goddamn,” he says to the ceiling. Without looking, he can feel the mattress dip as Cas sits next to him. The bedsprings creak, and Dean misses his memory foam.
 
“We can continue the search tomorrow.”
 
Dean grunts. He kind of wants to roll away from Cas, the heat of him feels almost claustrophobic after the day they had. “I’m going to take a shower,” he says instead, and sits up. He struggles to the other side of the bed and lurches towards the shower, remembering at just the last moment to snag a clean shirt and boxers.
 
Cas says nothing.
 
He’s still sitting on the bed when Dean comes out, hosed down of dust and no longer quite feeling like his skin’s about to peel right off. He turns away to shove his dirty clothes into his duffle, and startles when he turns back to find Cas directly in front of him, his index finger just short of Dean’s forehead. Before Dean can figure out what the hell’s about to go down, Cas’s made contact and Dean feels a ripple of coolness down the back of his neck.
 
“You were sunburned,” Cas says, before Dean can even open his mouth. He drops his hand and steps away.
 
“Oh.” Dean clears his throat, swallows. “Thanks, Cas.”
 
Cas nods curtly, and takes another step back. They stand in silence for a moment, neither of them really looking at the other.
 
“I’m going to, uh,” Dean says, then stops. He thumbs toward the door. “Dinner,” he says.
 
Cas inclines his head. When Dean heads for the door, he follows, and Dean feels a rush of something—relief? Disappointment?—flood through him. He doesn’t say anything though, just grabs his jacket and opens the door, Cas still at his heels.
 
With the setting of the sun, the desert air has cooled significantly. Dean shrugs on his jacket. Cas’s tie flaps in the evening wind. His eyes are steady.
 
“Where would you like to eat?”
 
Dean jerks his head across the street from the motel, where the neon front of what looks like a tired diner flickers. “Front desk said it wouldn’t give me food poisoning,” he says. He hesitates, the words nearly dead on his tongue, before blurting, “They said the burgers were good.”
 
Cas glances at him. Dean pretends to be busy with his wristwatch. It’s almost eight o’clock.
 
“All right,” Cas agrees, and Dean carefully lets the knot in his chest relax just a little.
 
The diner is less dingy than it looked from the outside, but the seat benches are still ripped, and it’s practically empty except for what looks like a couple of teenagers on a date on the far side of the room. Cas gets coffee, black like tar because he might be an angel but he’s also an addict. Dean wonders if he can still taste it, or maybe just the memory of it. He doesn’t ask.
 
He orders a burger for himself and one for Cas, mostly out of habit, and maybe a little bit because it sucks to be the only one at the table actually eating. Cas surprises him by actually putting the burger in his mouth, and then again when he chews, blinks, and his eyes start to water.
 
Dean watches, holding in a smirk as Cas places the burger back down on the plate, then looks up to stare at Dean accusingly. “It’s spicy.”
 
Dean does let out a little bit of a chuckle, then. “It’s the green chile,” he advises, and doesn’t at all think about the first time they were in New Mexico, when he’d tried to get a stupid grilled cheese for Sammy, all of six years old, and even that had had green chile in it.
 
Sam had, of course, immediately burst into tears, and Dean is not entirely convinced that his brother’s most recent leg injury wasn’t just a ruse to get out of having to shamefully request that his food be served mild, no red, no green, no Christmas, please.
 
Across the table, Cas picks up the burger again, and takes another bite. Dean thinks that this means that he might like it.
 
He wonders about Cas sometimes, how much he can really taste, how much he can really feel. Cas’s been human, yeah, with all the misery and glory of sensation that comes with it, and he’s also been an angel in borrowed skin, like a shield between himself and the grasp of the world.
 
Now he’s, well. He’s somewhere in between. A bit of grace, memories of humanity, of skin. He doesn’t need to sweat, or worry about sunburn, but he drinks his coffee black and likes spicy food, apparently, and Dean—
 
Dean just wants to know how much Cas can actually feel. And how much is just a shade of a memory of touch.
 
After a serving of peach cobbler that Dean does not share, he pays for their meal. The credit card machine is broken, and he’s forced to fork over some of his actual cash, which he does grudgingly only after an insistent nudge from his dinner partner.
 
“I worked hard for that money,” he grumbles, as the door jingles. There’s a Dishwasher For Hire, Inquire Within sign pasted sloppily on the inside of the glass. Dean thinks, absently, that it’s the kind of job Cas—human Cas, that is—might’ve gone for, back in the day. He holds the door open for Cas, who notices neither the sign, nor the chivalry.
 
“You earned it from hustling pool,” Cas informs him, as he brushes on by.
 
“Yeah,” Dean repeats, crossing his arms. “I worked hard for it.”
 
Dean doesn’t know whether to be proud or ashamed that it takes such little effort on his part for Cas’s facade to crack and his true exasperation to shine through, but it is, at least, a little funny.
 
(It’s not funny when there’s something on the line, when Cas is actually mad at him, but Dean thinks he’s in the clear, here. At least for the moment.)
 
They make it back into the room and Dean’s halfway into bed before he quite realizes that, having assumed he would be going this hunt solo, he’d gone ahead and gotten a nice, big, king.
 
Cas doesn’t seem to mind though. While Dean snuggles under the covers and debates TV or sleep, Cas sits down on the rickety desk chair, and busies himself with a book he produces seemingly out of nowhere. It’s a brand new hard cover copy, and Dean can’t make out the title, but he does see what looks like a library barcode on the front.
 
“Watcha reading?” he asks, before he remembers that he was going to keep his mouth shut.
 
Cas holds it up. Dean squints, but still can’t see the title. “Sam recommended it to me. It was on the…New York Times bestseller list.”
 
“Oh.” For some reason, Dean has never thought of Cas reading—or rather, wanting to read—anything more current than the last, well, century. “That’s uh, recent,” he says, and then wants to smack himself.
 
Cas gives him the eyebrow. “It was published just last year,” he says. “It has been interesting to follow the story’s progression.”
 
It takes Dean a moment to get it, and when he does, he feels an ache in his stomach that he can’t entirely contribute to the hamburger. Cas had told him what Metatron had done, downloading all of the then-current pop culture into his noggin. But this book, this new, book, probably some chick lit shit or whatever—
 
Dean swallows. “You like reading?”
 
There is a pause, and then, “This is a terrible book,” Cas admits. Dean lets out a bark of laughter, and Cas grins at him a little before sobering. “But at least I was—permitted—to take the journey for myself.”
 
Dean’s laugh catches in his throat. “Yeah,” he says, a little roughly.
 
“I liked the Netflix, too.”
 
“Dude.”
 
“Sam has been tardy with the most recent season of Game of Thrones, however.” Cas sounds very disappointed. “I will have to remind him again.”
 
Dean snorts and fluffs his pillow. “Night, Cas.”
 
“Goodnight, Dean.”
 
Dean closes his eyes, listening to the sounds of fingers tracing paper, the occasional turn of the page. He supposes that angels don’t have to worry about reading in the dark.
 
He turns over and takes a deep breath, pushing out thoughts of the day, of Cas, of how he wasn’t supposed to be here, and then he was anyway. Of how, even with all the cracks between them, it’s just so easy to slide right back together.
 
 
#
 
 
Dean wakes up to an orange sky. Cas is still sitting in that chair, and Dean wonders if it might’ve been uncomfortable for him, but then shakes it off, reminding himself that angels don’t have to deal with shit like sore backs and numb asses.
 
“The Badlands,” Cas comments, when they drive past the sign for El Malpais and Dean turns off onto a dirt road, driving back to where the first body had been found.
 
“This whole damn area’s the freaking badlands,” Dean grumbles, because he’s never liked the desert. He lifts the to-go cup of coffee to his lips, scowling at the endless sea of rocks and dirt. Give him miles of rolling prairie, fireflies and a beer, and he’s content. The desert, though? The desert is just—goddamn. It’s hot, it’s dry, it’s brown, and there are rattlesnakes.
 
Dean does not like rattlesnakes.
 
So when Cas tells him that he likes the desert, Dean shoots him a look of deep distress.
 
However, he also adds it to the list of things that Cas apparently likes. He didn’t quite realize he’d been keeping a mental tally, but now there’s black coffee and burgers, green chile, and reading stupid human books even if he doesn’t actually like the book itself and, evidently (unfortunately), the desert.
 
“Why?”
 
“Why, what?”
 
Dean rolls his eyes. “Why do you like the desert?”
 
“Do I need a reason?”
 
“Hey man,” Dean says, “just making conversation.”
 
“Oh,” Cas says.
 
They drive in silence for a while, Dean careful over the rocks littering the road, because fuck getting a flat out here. Cas shifts in his seat, pulls the knot on his tie, and stares out the window.
 
“I like the quiet,” he says finally. “The vastness of it. It reminds me of Before.”
 
“Huh?”
 
“The desert, Dean.” Cas’s voice is patient. “Before my Father…” he trails off. “The world was very hostile. Yet life still thrived.”
 
“Oh.” Dean can’t think of anything else to say, nothing clever, certainly, nor profound. “The quiet, huh?”
 
Cas shrugs. “It is a nice place to think.”
 
Dean parks the car. He gets out, stepping precariously close to some low-lying cactus. “I guess that makes sense.”
 
Cas beams at him over the top of the impala, and Dean’s not quite sure how, but he’s glad he managed to stumble onto the correct response.
 
They’re in a slightly different part of the park this time, a bit further north, near the bigger, more popular caves. Dean really hopes that whatever is killing hikers isn’t chilling out in the big caves. He does not want to reenact the plot of The Descent, with himself and Cas in the starring roles.
 
They bumble around in the smaller lava tubes for a little bit, hands and knees, shining flashlights into the darkness and half-hoping not to see something staring back at them. When it all turns up as a bust however, they’re forced to turn to the big cave.
 
To be fair, the big cave isn’t really all that big, but Dean can stand up in it without hitting his head, and it goes back quite a ways, so that’s at least promising. They probably should’ve started there, actually, but it’s a half-mile walk over terrain that was just about the opposite of smooth, and also it’s hot out. So sue him.
 
“This seems like a likely place for a supernatural cave dweller to hide,” Cas observes as they stare down the entrance. He turns to Dean. “Why didn’t we start at this one?”
 
“Saving the best for last,” Dean sighs. He catches Cas’s doubtful, probing eyebrow, and exclaims, “What?”
 
Cas lifts a shoulder. “Are we still following your previous plan?”
 
“What?”
 
“Your ‘take a look and shoot anything that moves,’ plan.” He says it distastefully, but still looks to Dean for confirmation.
 
Dean grins. “Baby, you know me the best.”
 
Cas stares at him for a moment, then rubs at his temples. “Your sense of humor is…” his forehead wrinkles as he searches for the word.
 
“Spectacular?” Dean suggests. “Inappropriate yet hilarious?”
 
“Ill-timed and annoying.”
 
“Ouch, man.”
 
“Regardless,” Cas says, lifting his chin, “I’m going in first.”
 
“Cas,” Dean says. “Come on, man. Are you seriously still on that?”
 
“This is not negotiable, Dean—”
 
“Who are you, my dad now?”
 
“It makes sense that I go in front, I have better senses than you, my reflexes are faster—”
 
“Well aren’t you just a special snowflake.”
 
“Dean, you don’t know what’s in there.”
 
“Well, neither do you, Mikey Walsh—”
 
“What?”
 
“It’s from—never mind.”
 
“I know what The Goonies is, Dean,” Cas says irritably.
 
Dean is incredibly hard-put not to roll his eyes and stick out his tongue at him in response. Instead, he starts forward into the cave, ignoring the strangled sound Cas makes.
 
But, as it turns out, it wouldn’t have mattered whether he or Cas went in first, because whatever their quarry is, their ruckus has been enough to, apparently, ring the dinner bell.
 
As it is, Dean takes just about three satisfying stomps into the cave proper, before a long and hairy limb smashes into his chest, knocking him to the ground. Hands stinging, he has just about enough time to glance up and think, Holy shit, it’s actually Shelob, before Cas is launching past him, blade at the ready.
 
Dean tries to stand up, and realizes that his ass and legs are now mired in some nasty, sticky web trap from hell, because Dean is apparently the Frodo in this disaster.
 
He winces as he spots Cas go flying into a wall out of the corner of his eye. And the thing—Shelob—rears back on four of its legs, and lets out the creepiest hiss that Dean has ever heard in his life.
 
Impressive, considering.
 
He reaches for the knife in his coat, slashing at the webbing at his ankles. Cas meanwhile, has gotten to his feet, his blade gripped menacingly in his hand, glowing with fury as he skids back towards the monster. He ducks and weaves between its massive hairy legs, hacking and sawing while the monster dips its head down, trying to bite at him.
 
That’s odd, Dean thinks vaguely. One ankle is free. Don’t these giant evil spiders usually have something… He spots a gleam and motion from behind Cas, still underneath its belly, and his eyes widen. “Cas!” he shouts, “It’s—behind you!”
 
Cas turns just as the monster plunges its stinger towards him. Cas stumbles back, trips, and falls, just as Dean, in a panic, empties an entire round of bullets into the monster’s belly.
 
There is a very loud shriek. And Cas, seizing the opportunity, stabs his angel blade up at the monster’s comparatively soft underside just like Sam-Goddamn-Gamgee. The monster seizes, its legs spasming. It lets out one last defeated roar as Cas hurriedly scoots away, and then topples to the ground with a deafening crash, limbs still twitching.
 
Dean’s other ankle is finally free. He stands, wobbly, and hurries over to Cas. “Cas,” he says. “Cas!”
 
Cas turns his head to blink at him. There is a smear of spider-blood on the side of his cheek. His shoulders relax a little when he seems to realize that Dean is unharmed. Dean reaches out and hauls him to his feet.
 
“Dude,” he says, somehow unable to stop patting Cas down for injuries. He knows, he knows intellectually, that Cas should be fine, he’s an angel, he even has his own grace, but— “You okay?”
 
“I am,” Castiel says, swallows, “I’m fine.” He follows Dean’s gaze over to the spider’s corpse. “Jorogumo,” he says. “Unexpected.”
 
“What,” says Dean.
 
“It’s a spider monster.”
 
Dean rolls his eyes. “No kidding.”
 
“No.”
 
“Where the hell did it come from?” Dean has managed to convince himself to stop inspecting Cas for injuries. Instead, he toes at the body with his boot. It’s stopped twitching by now, but Dean still feels the need to shudder.
 
Cas shrugs. “Japan, perhaps.”
 
“Wonderful.”
 
“The Jorogumo can also take the form of a woman,” Cas says wearily. “She could’ve come here unnoticed.”
 
“But why?”
 
Cas begins to shake his head, but then his gaze sharpens. Dean realizes he’s staring at the web that Dean had been trapped in and, reluctantly, he turns to look. He lets out an audible groan when he realizes what, exactly, has caught Cas’s attention.
 
The web is moving a little. Snug within its confines are several white globs, each about the size of a baseball. Inside them, Dean can barely make out shadowy, pulsating, movement.
 
“It’s an egg sack,” says Captain Castiel of the good ship Obvious.
 
“Ew,” says Dean, because there’s hunting, and then there’s realizing that you were trapped in a giant spider monster’s egg sack for the better part of ten minutes.
 
“We should probably burn it.”
 
“Please,” Dean says fervently, wishing he could scrub himself all over. His legs itch, and so does the back of his neck. “In fact, we should just nuke it from orbit. It’s—”
 
“—The only way to be sure,” Cas finishes for him, and gives him a small, honest smile.
 
 
#
 
 
They do burn the spider, and her eggs, and Dean perches on a boulder next to Cas a little ways away as they watch the smoke curl up from the mouth of the cave to cover the sky in grey-white haze.
 
Dean’s almost enjoying himself, what with the satisfaction of a hunt well done and another monster vanquished so, naturally, that’s when Cas has to open his big fat mouth.
 
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
 
“What?” Dean squawks, nearly falling off the boulder. “No, I have not.”
 
“You have.” Cas’s voice is matter of fact, not even an accusation. He rubs at a stone between his fingers, looking off into the distance.
 
Dean swallows. “It’s been really busy, okay?” he says, but the words stick in his throat when Cas swings his head back around, blue eyes searching.
 
“Has it,” Cas replies dryly, cocking his head.
 
“I—”
 
Cas reaches out to grip Dean’s chin in his hand. Dean stills, then goes cross-eyed trying to look at Cas’s hand.
 
“Cas—”
 
Cas pulls him into a kiss. Dean’s eyes widen, but then something in his shoulders relaxes at the familiar taste, the familiar push-pull of their mouths, their breaths. He’s leaning in towards Cas, dangerously close, when Cas suddenly pulls back. Dean definitely does not whimper at the loss.
 
“I gave you space,” Cas says, rather calmly for someone who’s just kissed Dean within an inch of his life. “Like you asked. But we cannot continue like this, Dean. I—” for the first time, Cas looks uncertain. “I cannot continue like this.”
 
“I—” Dean’s throat is dry, his stomach tied in knots. He accidentally meets Cas’s gaze and is thrown, unwillingly, into memories of a darkened bunker, hands clasping hands, hot skin on his, touching, and Cas, desperate above him, hair wild, eyes so unnervingly tender.
 
He’s looking at the same eyes now. Dean turns away.
 
“It’s,” he tries, kicking his heels against the side of the boulder, “it’s different.”
 
“What’s different?”
 
Dean hates himself. “You’re different.”
 
“I don’t understand.”
 
“You’re…” Dean makes a useless gesture, tracing the air. “We can’t…”
 
He feels more than hears Cas take a deep breath. When he speaks, his voice sounds careful, like he’s trying not to spook an animal or a kid or something. “I understand with—the life we lead, the—the challenges we face, but, Dean. I thought…” he trails off, breathes again. “I don’t understand what—what changed your mind?”
 
What did I do wrong?
 
Dean’s knuckles are white where he’s twisting them in the pockets of his jeans. “Cas—”
 
Cas grips his shoulder so that Dean is forced to turn back around. He leans in. “I don’t want to go through this life without you, Dean,” he says.
 
“Cas,” Dean whispers. What do you even say to something like that? He bows his head. “I don’t—I—” It’s hard, he thinks. It’s hard to get the words to come. He substitutes them for something familiar, something he knows Cas will get. “You’re family, man.”
 
It does not have the reaction Dean was hoping for. Instead, Cas’s expression only grows more pinched. His whole body droops, his hand falling off of Dean’s shoulder to sit in his lap. “Then talk to me, Dean,” he says, soft and desperate. “Please. For once. Talk to me.”
 
“I am talking to you,” says Dean automatically, because his mouth is an asshole and his brain isn’t much better. He regrets it almost instantly, as a shuttered look enters Cas’s face.
 
“Yes,” Cas says quietly. “Yes, I suppose you are.” With one last disappointed swallow, he gets to his feet. He pulls out a cell phone. “I’m going to update Sam.”
 
Dean’s mouth tastes like dirt, and like bile. He feels like a child still sitting there, looking up at Cas. A stupid, useless, child. “Okay.”
 
“We should go back to town, now that the body’s burnt,” Cas continues.
 
“Okay.”
 
“You should eat something.”
 
Dean lets out a huff. “Just me, huh?” he mutters, but Cas hears him anyway. His face scrunches up in confusion.
 
“Dean, I’m an angel. You know I don’t need to eat.”
 
“Yeah, man.” Dean slides off the boulder as well and scuffs the toe of his boots in the dirt. “No food for you. It’s all just,” he kicks a pebble, “molecules for you.” He notices Cas giving him an assessing look, and his jaw tightens.
 
“Dean, I don't understand. Why are you angry about this?”
 
“Angry?” barks Dean. “I’m not angry.”
 
Cas gives him an exasperated frown. “You’re not making any sense.”
 
“Yeah, well,” Dean says shortly, not really sure where he was trying to go with that. He settles for snapping, “Molecules,” one more time, because it is simultaneously both the least and most offensive thing he can think of.
 
His phone dangling forgotten in his hand, Cas stares at him. “Dean,” he says slowly, realization dawning on his face, “are you upset with me because I can’t taste food?”
 
“No,” says Dean, too quickly. He then adds, “But you like coffee,” which totally doesn’t help his case at all.
 
Cas blinks at him. “Yes?”
 
“You ate all the spicy burger.”
 
Cas tilts his head. “They are…different molecules. Very interesting.”
 
“Interesting,” Dean echoes, and is surprised to realize that the corners of his eyes are burning a little. He grits his teeth.
 
Cas has put his phone back inside the pocket of his coat. Still frowning, he takes a step back towards Dean. “Dean?”
 
There is just so much concern in his face, and Dean can’t stand it.
 
“You—” Dean’s breath hitches. He feels like there’s something clawing at his throat, another monster in his stomach. There’s blood pounding in his ears. “I don’t want to be molecules,” he hears himself say, very quietly, and stares determinedly down at the ground.
 
He hears a sharp inhale, and then Cas’s feet are right next to his.
 
“You’re a foolish man, Dean Winchester,” Cas growls, and Dean just nods numbly because he knows this, has known it for years. “Why would you think that?”
 
Well now. That’s just unfair. Dean’s head pops up. “Why wouldn’t I?” he spits, and is surprised at the venom in his own voice. Cas is too, if the way his eyes widen is any indication. “I mean,” Dean continues, gesturing to Cas, “You’re—you’re you, and I’m me and I’m just—I’m just freakin’ molecules, Cas, and you’re a goddamn wavelength of light and why would you want that?
 
His voice has risen at the end of it, and Dean knows he probably sounds like Cas’s stupid, high maintenance girlfriend, all do you want me, am I sexy? But he can’t find it in himself to care because this is important, damn it. He can’t be in a freaking, whatever, with someone who doesn’t even seem to feel or need. And that’s not Cas’s fault, he knows, he’s just built like that, but Dean can’t, he just can’t—
 
“It was different when you were human,” Dean goes on, because now he’s screwed himself over, might as well go the whole way. “I knew you had, like, human needs and, and wants and stuff. So I…” he shakes his head. “But now you’re all juiced up again.” He grimaces. “You don’t have all that human baggage any more, so why would you…”
 
“Dean,” Cas says, and Dean knows he’s good and pissed just by the timbre of his voice, the way his eyes flash “Dean, you stupid—” he seems to struggle for a moment. He presses his lips together, nostrils flaring. “I didn’t love you because I fell,” he says harshly. “I fell because I loved you.”
 
Dean forgets to breathe. “What?” he says dumbly.
 
A moment of silence, and then, “You’re an idiot,” Cas groans, and hooks an arm behind Dean’s neck and smashes their mouths together.
 
“This body is mine,” Cas pants, when they separate. “Its wants, its needs—they are mine. There are limitations, Dean, some things are muted, but you, Dean.” He grabs Dean’s shoulders, nails digging in tightly to the flesh beneath the thin t-shirt Dean had stripped down to in deference to the heat. “You will never be muted.”
 
Dean stares at him. He opens his mouth again, but before he can even ask the question, Cas is shooting him a threatening scowl.
 
“Don’t.”
 
“But—”
 
“I’m serious, Dean.” Cas fixes him with a look. “The greatest evil in the universe could not change my love for you. What makes you think you’d have any success?”
 
“Uh,” Dean says weakly, and wills his mouth not to tremble like a little girl’s.
 
Cas’s gaze bores into him. “I’ve known your soul,” Cas says. “I’ve known your body.” He leans in. “Do not doubt that I love you." His voice is a low growl. "Do not doubt that I desire you.”
 
“Well,” Dean says, somewhat shakily. He runs his fingers through his hair, offers up a tremulous smile, “How can a girl say no to that?”
 
Cas narrows his eyes at him. Dean gulps.
 
“What?” he says, smoothing his hands down the sides of his jeans, over and over.
 
“You don’t believe me.”
 
Busted. “Cas…”
 
But Cas holds up a hand and Dean falls silent.
 
“I want to kiss you, Dean,” Cas says, and before Dean can do anything, Cas is demonstrating, softer than before, tugging Dean towards him, a balm on his mouth, hands gentle on his shoulders.
 
Despite himself, Dean closes his eyes. It feels good to be touched. It feels, damn it, good to be touched by Cas, handling him like something delicate, for once.
 
“I want to be with you, Dean,” Cas says, because subtlety was never exactly his strong suit. He draws his hands down from Dean’s shoulders, skimming over his arms, presses forward, khaki pants now flush with jeans.
 
Dean makes an indistinct noise in his throat as Cas nudges him backwards, back hitting up against the boulder as Cas sinks to his knees. He looks up at Dean through a curtain of sticky-up hair, bright eyes, sharp cheekbones. Cas looks wild like this, Dean thinks, dazedly, and he has to choke back the laugh that bubbles up, since Cas is wild, technically. He’s certainly no human. The thought sobers Dean.
 
“Cas,” he says, looking down at the head of black hair. It’s soft, he knows. He could touch it, he knows. Cas would allow it.
 
It’s humbling, Dean thinks, so great a creature would allow Dean to touch his hair.
 
“Dean,” Cas hums back, already working on the zipper of Dean’s pants, which—whoa, back the fuck up.
 
“Cas, what are you doing?”
 
“I don’t know, Dean,” Cas replies. He cocks an eyebrow at Dean. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
 
“You—”
 
Cas shoves a hand into Dean’s underwear. Dean squeaks. Cas looks amused, and Dean, after a moment of recovery, glares at him.
 
“You think you’re funny,” Dean says, like his dick isn’t half-hanging out of his pants, hard, and in the literal hands of an angel.
 
“Of course not,” Cas says. “I think I am very serious.” He leans in towards Dean’s crotch, inhales, and then licks. Dean makes a strangled noise.
 
“Cas…” Dean tries, and Cas straightens.
 
“Hush, Dean,” he commands. He lays a hand on Dean's knee, good and strong, and fixates his burning gaze on Dean's face. “I want to take you in my mouth," he says, quiet and intense, "because I love you and I desire you." His eyes drag across Dean's form. A small smile flickers at the corner of his mouth. "Your body," he says. "And your soul.”
 
“Hey now—”
 
Cas cocks his head. “Unless,” he says, and his voice is gentle now, gentler than before. Dean shuts up. “Unless,” Cas repeats, “you tell me you do not want this.”
 
Dean gulps.
 
“You tell me to leave, Dean,” Cas continues, his hand dropping from Dean's knee, “and I will go.”
 
They eye each other for a moment, Cas on his knees, Dean looking down at him. His fly is open, he’s exposed, out in the middle of nowhere right now and by all rights he should at least be nervous or something, but looking at Cas’s face, so open, intent on Dean, trusting—
 
With one word, Dean could break him, he realizes. And Cas knows it too, is half-expecting it, even.
 
And Dean can see it now, how Cas would just take it, just nod and accept his decision, stand up, brush off his hands and knees, and things could go on like they were…like they’ve always been…
 
Dean exhales shakily, chest tight. “You know I don’t,” he says, and squeezes his eyes shut at the admission. “You know I never did.”
 
He’s not looking, so he doesn’t notice when Cas rises to his feet until a hand cups his cheek. Dean dares to open his eyes.
 
“I know,” Cas says, and Dean doesn’t know how he could’ve ever thought Cas incapable of emotion, his feelings written all over his face and his eyes tender as Dean meets his gaze. “I know, Dean.”
 
“You’re everything,” Dean chokes out, and his face is on fire, he’s sure.
 
“No,” Cas says, and he’s smiling now, “you are.”
 
Dean blinks at him, then snorts out a laugh. “Jesus Christ, look at us,” he mutters, wiping at the corner of his eyes, while Cas sighs and the moment is broken. “We’re really—” He stops as Cas places a hand on his arm.
 
“Let me show you,” he says.
 
Dean takes a breath.
 
“Please,” Cas says. “You doubt my physical desire, I will show it to you.” He steps in closer. “Your body, Dean. Your soul. They are the same to me.” He squeezes Dean’s arm. “Let me show you?”
 
“Yeah.” Dean bites his lip, uncharacteristically nervous. “Okay.”
 
Again, Cas drops to his knees, this time Dean watching him. He reaches for Dean’s cock. Dean’s breath hisses between his teeth as Cas’s fingers curl around it.
 
He’s beginning to harden again. Without really thinking about it, Dean’s hand comes to rest on Cas’s head. At the touch, Cas looks up at him, and Dean has an ‘oh shit’ moment when he recognizes the glint in Cas’s eye, before Cas lets go, grabs hold of Dean’s hips, and takes him into his mouth.
 
Dean can’t help the sound that escapes him. It’s incredibly undignified, and he’s glad that they’re not back in the motel, with its paper-thin walls. He whines as Cas licks around the head, and lets go with a pop.
 
“These aren’t just molecules,” Cas murmurs, mouth wet and red. He licks his lips and Dean’s breath catches in his throat as Cas looks him in the eye and says, boldly, “They’re your molecules.”
 
Well, fuck.
 
“Cas,” Dean groans, tilting his head back, exposing his throat. The rock is rough beneath his elbows, but he doesn’t care. “Fuck.”
 
Dean, splayed out against a rock and cursing up a storm while his fingers clench in Cas’s hair, is apparently too much for Cas to resist. He slides off of Dean and surges to his feet. He kisses Dean hard on the mouth and pushes his pelvis into Dean’s in a slow rut. He’s clumsy, but eager, and Dean gasps, “Here, let me—let me—Cas,” as he forces his hand between their bodies, undoes Cas’s belt and then his slacks with trembling fingers.
 
“Dean,” Cas pants, as he’s released from the confines of his very sensible khakis. “Dean, I want—”
 
“Yeah,” Dean says. “Yeah, Cas, whatever you want.”
 
“Turn around,” Cas rasps, and fuck it all, Dean does exactly that. He doesn’t want to chafe against the rock, so he pushes his ass out a little, spreads his legs. He can’t find it in himself to regret it when Cas makes an appreciative noise. “You’re magnificent,” Cas tells him, and Dean swallows when he feels his jeans and underwear tugged down, fingers kneading his cheeks, pulling them apart.
 
“Cas,” Dean forces out, in front of the whine building in the back of his throat. “Cas, did you—tell me you have something.”
 
“Relax, Dean,” comes Cas’s voice, low against his ear. Dean shudders. There are advantages to fucking an angel, Dean thinks, Cas behind him, fingers strong and clenching on Dean's shoulders. One of them, apparently, is not having to remember the lube.
 
“Oh,” he groans, as something warm and blunt presses up against him. He widens his stance as best he can, jeans taut around his ankles. “Cas—”
 
“That’s it,” Cas soothes, as he pushes his way inside. His hands slip around to Dean’s front, rub up and down Dean’s chest. “Relax.”
 
“I am fucking relaxed,” Dean grinds out. Cas has done something to him, Dean can tell. There barely any pain, just an overwhelming feeling of fullness and heat. “Would you—uh—would you fucking move?”
 
“I could,” Cas agrees, as one of his sneaky hands finds Dean’s neglected cock. He grabs hold of it just as he pistons his hips, and Dean lets out a surprised shout.
 
“You son of a bitch,” Dean moans, as Cas thrusts again. “You—oh, right there, Cas—right—”
 
“I have you, Dean,” Cas tells him, voice hitching. “I have you.”
 
“You do, Cas, you do, you do,” Dean says frantically. He’s shoving back onto each movement now, using the boulder for leverage. His hands are going to be scraped to hell, he knows. “Cas, please.”
 
“I love you, Dean.” Cas’s left hand is on his hip, tight enough to bruise. “I have you.”
 
Dean’s eyelids flutter. “I know,” he whispers, then cries out as Cas rams inside, intent and still so warm, Dean's nerves teetering just south of too sensitive. Dean can feel sweat pooling at the small of his back, the rough catch of Cas's shirt as it teases his skin where his own shirt has been rucked up above his hipbone. “Cas!”
 
“You’re mine,” Cas growls, and bites down on Dean’s shoulder.
 
And that was all she wrote. Shuddering, Dean comes all over Cas’s hand and the rock he’s leaning against, while behind him, Cas continues to roll his hips into Dean.
 
“Come on,” Dean urges, even though he feels like his body’s about to collapse under the weight of Cas and his own orgasm. He is too sensitive now, but he wants it. He wants it. “C’mon, Cas. Come in me.”
 
“Dean,” Cas whines. He thrusts into Dean one last time, then stills, mouth open, eyes unseeing as he reaches his peak.
 
For a moment, they just breathe together, Cas’s front pressed up against Dean’s sweaty back, their sides heaving. After a few more seconds, Dean elbows Cas in the ribs.
 
“You’re heavy, man,” he grunts.
 
“Oh,” says Cas. “My apologies.” He straightens, pulling out of Dean, who makes a strangled noise. “Are you all right?”
 
Dean huffs out a laugh. He’s pretty sure there’s cum dripping down his thighs. “Yeah, Cas,” he says. He carefully turns around, reaching down to where his jeans and his boxers have fallen to his ankles, and hitching them up again.  He exhales, and catches eyes with Cas. “I would say that I am—definitely all right.”
 
Cas still looks a little concerned. He tilts his head. “You’re not sore? I didn’t mean to be rough.”
 
“Cas,” Dean says, zipping up his jeans, “I’m fine.”
 
“But it was good?” Cas persists, and now he looks worried. Like a magnet drawn to iron, his hand is still touching Dean's bicep.
 
Dean rolls his eyes. “It was good. It was,” he winces a little as he moves away from the rock. Cas follows. “I am very satisfied.”
 
Cas blinks. “Oh,” he says, and smiles. Dean’s heart definitely does not skip a beat at the sight. “Good.”
 
Dean gives in, nudges closer, and bumps his shoulder. “Good.”
 
“I love you,” Cas declares, but this time, Dean just shakes his head, smiling a little, looking down at the ground.His hand comes up and covers Cas's hand, still pressed against the skin of him like it's been glued there.
 
“Okay,” he says. “Okay, Cas.”
 
They grin at each other, foolish, wide grins that Dean will deny to his dying day. Cas leans closer him, and Dean thinks, fuck it and draws him in with a hand hooked around the back of his neck. There is a dry evening breeze rifling his hair, but the rest of the world around them is quiet, the calm of sand and stone. As he takes in the reddening sky, the rough boulder beneath him, and the steady warmth of Cas beside him, Dean decides that maybe the desert isn’t so bad after all.