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When you have a future.

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Sam slams the gates on Hell, Cas slams the pearly gates of Heaven, and he'd like to slam a half a dozen shots of whiskey and sleep for a few years. But he can't because Sam's bleeding out of his eyes in the passenger seat of the impala and the nearest hospital is twenty minutes away and that's twenty minutes too many.

He floors it. What else can he do?

---

They make the hospital in fifteen.

He spins a tale about workplace accidents. Which is true. Technically. No one believes him because the two of them look like they've walked in off the street from a biker gang war.

Of course they take Sam in anyway. Maybe the hospital staff will phone the cops later, maybe they won't. Bridges and crossing. He'll deal with it if he has to.

They take Sam which means he's stuck in the waiting room drinking vending machine coffee until his whole body is vibrating and he's run out of change. Then he's stuck waiting as he crashes from all the caffeine and it finally hits him. If Sam dies that's it. He's the last man standing. He'll be alone.

He leans forward and puts his head in his hands. Cas is gone, Sam is dying, and he's waiting. The heroes got the job done now he has to sit and wait.

He can't help but laugh. Even if he wanted to, a demon deal is out of the question because they finally did something right for a change. Hell's closed for business. They finally came out on top and he's waiting alone.

He phones Kevin.

Kevin sounds drunk. He mutters something that sounds like sorry and starts talking about ancient cuneiform and Dean can't really deal with that right now so he hangs up on Kevin.

He phones Charlie and doesn't get an answer. 

The lady beside him asks if he has change for the vending machine. He tells her if he had change for the vending machine he'd be pounding back watery coffee with the best of them.

A doctor comes out into the waiting room. Dean's heart clenches. The doctor heads over to a man, a boy, and a baby. Dean can't take his eyes off them. The whole scene is both familiar and foreign. He knows this. He knows waiting with Dad and holding a baby and hoping that Mom is okay even as the house burns down in front of his eyes. He knows waiting. He knows waiting and getting bad news.

He can't hear the doctor and he can't tell if the tears and hugging are from relief or pain. He watches the family leave through a different set of doors.

Then it's back to waiting.

---

He phones Jody. She tells him she's coming. Dean doesn't know what to think about that.

---

Four hours later Sam is still in surgery.

He phones Cas.

Which is probably a bad idea because he knows Cas won't be picking up any time soon— ever again.  

He makes a sound like a wounded animal when the call goes to voice mail and Cas tries to understand why he needs to explain the concept of leaving a message when everyone knows that's the purpose of voice mail. It's Cas's voice stuck in an eternal effort to understand the intricacies of humans.

"Hey, Cas, you probably won't get this but, uh, if you do...." Dean rubs his knuckles into his eyes to force back tears. "...I dunno...just...thanks."

He hangs up. Maybe the cell reception is good in Heaven.

---

Jody shows up. She brings coffee, water, sandwiches, and a blanket. Dean grabs the coffee. If he eats right now he'll probably puke. He's been waiting all day ‒ his whole life ‒ and that's too damn long.

Jody makes him eat anyway. He doesn't puke but the exhaustion finally hits him.

---

"Dean...Dean, the doctor is here."

Dean blinks awake. He sits up. A blanket falls off him. He looks around. Jody is sitting beside him. She has a gentle hand on his arm. She gives him a supportive squeeze and looks up at the doctor.

He stands because this isn't the kind of thing he likes taking siting down.

"Mr. Bond, your brother is stable for the time being," the doctor says.

This is the part where people breathe easier but Dean knows better. If the doctor had good news he'd be a lot more forthcoming.

"But."

And there it fucking is.

"He's not out of the woods yet. We've done all we could. It's up to your brother now to fight," the doctor says as if it's a rehearsed speech- maybe it is. "All we can do now is wait."

He fucking hates waiting.

"Yeah," Dean says, nodding and keeping it together which is a fucking miracle as far as he's concerned. "Can I see him?"

"Not yet," the doctor says. "A nurse will tell you when he's ready for visitors."

The doctor says something about praying - which Dean snorts at - before he leaves.

Jody touches his arm again. "This is good, Dean. We both know Sam's a fighter."

"Yeah," Dean says mechanically.

Jody sits him down and tosses the blanket around him again. She puts a bottle of water in one hand and a sandwich in the other and if he didn't move them to his mouth on his own she probably would have done that for him too.

It's strange. He doesn't really remember someone taking care of him anymore. He tells himself he does but the last time someone took care of him he was four and now he's thirty four. He knows Mom used to make him soup and Dad used to check his closet for monsters ‒ the irony is not lost on him ‒ but they feel more like remembering something he read in a book than like something that happened to him.

"It's gonna be fine, Dean," Jody says. "Sam will pull through."

Dean takes a bite of the sandwich and keeps his eyes on the floor. He doesn't really remember being taken care of but he's lost count of the times people have lied to him. It's never fine. That's what people tell other people when shit hits the fan.

---

They finally let him see Sam. They try to warn him and he tries to steel himself but it's still a shock to see Sam laid out on a hospital bed with more tubes in him than the internet. For her credit Jody barely flinches.

Dean plunks down in a chair beside Sam's bed.

He waits.

---

He waits for three days and then he gets a phone call that makes him turn white.

"...Cas?" Dean says for the third time.

"Yes, Dean. It continues to be me," Cas says in a voice that sounds too tired to be Cas. "Dean, please just listen to me. I need—"

"You said you were closing the pearly gates!" Dean almost yells into the phone. "Sam's been in a coma for days and you could have—"

"Dean!" Cas shouts into the phone. "Would you listen?"

Dean snaps his mouth shut. Maybe Cas is still in Heaven. Maybe the cell reception actually is that good there.

"Closing up Heaven required a sacrifice," Cas says calmly. "An angel had to close and bar the door from the outside using their grace as the lock."

Dean lets the information filter into his brain. "...are you saying you used up your grace to close Heaven up?"

"Yes," Cas says. He sighs long and loud and wheezy. "I used my grace to lock up the angels in Heaven. I'm human now."

Dean asks the only logical question. "Where are you?"

"I don't know," Cas says in defeat. "I tried to land close to you when I Fell. I'm in the same state, I know that much. The payphone I'm—"

"You're on a payphone? What happened to yours?" Dean interrupts.

"Broken," Cas says. "The payphone I'm using is in a town called Newcomb but...I don't actually know where that is. I can't...locate myself in relation to the planet anymore. I don't...is Newcomb close to you? Could I walk there?"

Dean shakes his head. He rubs the bridge of his nose. "No, Cas. You can't walk here from Newcomb."

"I'll find a ride then," Cas says, determined.

"No," Dean says and before Cas can argue he tells him why, "Jody is gonna come get you."

He doesn't need to ask. He knows Jody is good for it. When she gets back with lunch he'll send her out.

"Jody...? She is the Sheriff Mills you talk about frequently?" Cas asks. He coughs into the phone. "She sounds nice from what you've told me."

"Yeah. Jody Mills," Dean says. "She's a real doll."

He keeps Cas on the phone until his change runs out then he waits for Jody to get back. Waiting wouldn't be so bad if he could do something about it.

---

It takes Jody all of a day to get Cas. She phones once to say she found him. She phones again to say Cas is sick. She phones a third time from the emergency room.

Dean makes it downstairs in time to see Cas being hauled off the floor and onto a stretcher. Dean can hear the wheezing sound coming from Cas's chest. It's the only thing he can hear.

The doctors take Cas away.

And then it's more waiting.

---

"Pneumonia?" Dean says in disgusted disbelief. "Tiny Tim in the workhouse, please sir can I have some more pneumonia?"

"Tiny Tim didn't have pneumonia and Cas was wandering in the woods for five days.," Jody says in a defensive tone. She's had that tone since she got Cas to the hospital. Dean isn't sure if she's just worried for the guy or if it's partly because she told the doctors Cas is her husband and she's really good at playing the part of concerned wife. He's probably just overthinking things.

"I stabbed Cas in the heart with a knife the first time I saw him and the guy didn't even flinch. He can't just get pneumonia," Dean insists. He can't make the words make sense in his head. Cas can't have pneumonia. Cas is a badass. Even if he's not an angel anymore. Cas can't just have pneumonia. It doesn't work like that.

"Well, I'll be sure to tell the doctors your new theory on healthcare," Jody says. She shoves a donut at him. "Just don't get sick."

Dean scowls at her and stuffs half the donut into his mouth. He mumbles through it that he's going to visit Cas.

Cas is in quarantine but fuck it. He can't just sit around and wait anymore.

The nurses make him put on a hospital gown over his clothes and wear a mask and nitrile gloves. They don't want him spreading pneumonia around and making the already sick people even sicker. He isn't sure if Cas is even awake at first but as soon as he sits down in the chair beside the bed Cas's head rolls over to look at him.

"How's Sam?" Cas asks.

"Same old. Sleeping in while everyone else does the work," Dean jokes because if he doesn't he might start screaming or bawling his eyes out. It's a toss up. He grabs Cas's hand and gives it a squeeze. "And how're you doing, Mr. Mills?"

Cas laughs, it's weak and breathy. "Tired." He squeezes Dean's hand back and a barely there smile plays on his face. "But Jody is a very attentive spouse. She makes sure I eat and get enough sleep. I'm lucky to have her."

Dean throws his head back and laughs. Cas watches him and squeezes his hand tighter then falls asleep. The dude wasn't kidding about being tired.

Dean doesn't let go of his hand even if it looks a little weird that some strange guy is holding Jody's 'husband's' hand.

He sits with Cas. At least if he waits in here he knows Cas will eventually wake up.

---

Sam wakes up.

He has to keep prodding him and keeping him awake even though he knows Sam needs to rest but he can't get it out of his head that if Sam falls asleep again he might not ever wake back up.

Jody kicks him out of Sam's room when he's woken Sam up for the third time in as many hours.

The nurses agree.

Dean wants to tell them all off, that they don't understand how many times he's waited then had it all ripped away, but he knows he's being unreasonable. Sam's awake and he needs to rest up. As long as he sits quietly and doesn't bother him he can stay, otherwise he better get used to sitting around in the waiting room again.

---

He hides out with Cas a lot because he can't keep still in Sam's room. He can't do anything for Sam that he's not already doing but he can hang out with Cas and make sure he doesn't go through any nasty human surprises alone, like the hiccups and involuntary eye twitching.

Cas gets downgraded from quarantine, so that's a point in their favour. Half a point. Maybe. Dean isn't sure what the point system is on being stuck in the hospital. It seems more like a pass-fail scenario. No letter grades for them.

At least Cas doesn't look as pale as he first had. He stills gets exhausted from doing anything more than walking across the room to the bathroom but it's an improvement.

Cas puts up with him fussing over him and only rolls his eyes a couple of times— okay, maybe a few dozen times because Dean can't take, I can do it on my own. I'm sick, not dying, as a good excuse to get up and walk all over the damn place.

If it wasn't for the look of angelic displeasure that passed over Cas's face when he reached for Cas's plate of hospital food he would have been cutting Cas's food up and making airplane noises. Cas at least humours him and lets him open up anything that's prepackaged.

He's opening up a fruit cup when Cas lets out a long sigh.

Cas pokes at his mac and cheese. "I didn't think food would be so..."

"Awesome?" Dean offers. He sets the fruit cup down on the tray.

"Disgusting," Cas says and sticks the fork into the mac and cheese. The fork slowly falls over. A noodle goes up with it. The 'cheese' drips off it. "I don't understand why humans are so preoccupied with food beyond basic survival." He nudges the fork through the puddle of 'cheese' and frowns at it. "I suppose my grace removed the bulk of the sensation but from the intense pleasure food seemed to give you so often I always assumed...." Cas looks up at him finally.

Dean's got his hand over his mouth biting at one of his fingers to stop himself from laughing.

"What?" Cas asks far too seriously.

Dean bursts out laughing. Cas scowls at him and demands to know what's so funny. Dean laughs harder. He should feel kind of bad that Cas's first human experience with food is hospital food but he can't help it.

"Dude..." He shakes his head still laughing. "It's hospital food. It tastes like ass."

Cas eyes the mac and cheese. He looks like he's going to ask him how he knows what ass tastes like and knowing Cas he could either mean something filthy or he could mean a long-eared farm animal and either way it would come out sounding just as serious.

Dean shakes his head again. He takes the tray away and sets it down on the window ledge. He stands up and points a strict finger down at Cas. "You wait here and rest. I'm gonna head down to the cafeteria and get you something good."

Cas looks at him puzzled. "The cafeteria is in the hospital?"

"Yeah," Dean says. "It's downstairs."

"Then would it not also be hospital food?" Cas asks because sometimes Cas is too smart for his own good.

"Yeah..." Dean resolves that Cas needs a real experience with food. There's a restaurant across the street Jody's been going to. It's decent which means it's miles better than what's been put in front of Cas the last few days. "Okay. I'll see what I can swing." Dean grabs the fruit cup and the spoon and holds it out to Cas. "You eat your fruit cup while I'm gone. It's not that bad."

Cas makes a face that implies it's probably worse than bad but he takes it anyway. Dean watches him until he sticks the spoon into the cup and takes a bite.

Cas's face scrunches up. "It's slimy."

"It'll put hair on your chest," Dean says grinning.

Cas looks down at his chest then back to Dean. He squints at him. He opens his mouth as if to ask something but he closes it again and shakes his head. He eats another spoonful of fruit and grimaces.

Dean brings him back chicken noodle soup and a carrot muffin because that seemed healthy and as much as he thinks the healthy shit Sam goes for is ridiculous Sam's probably right— at least when it comes to sick people.

The soup gets a few wide-eyed looks of awe and then disappears with happy little sighs and content noises.

Dean doesn't mind waiting for Cas to finish the soup.

---

There's a lot more waiting to be done. Just when the doctors are ready to let Cas out into the real world his temperature shoots through the roof and no one knows why. Cas starts talking about angels, which isn't his fever making him delirious but the doctors don't know that. Dean plays along because a 104°F fever and climbing is terrifying and he wants the doctors just as worried as he is.

He remembers this too. Waiting for Sam's fever to go down. Waiting just a few more hours and hoping until he can't wait anymore. He remembers phoning Dad and asking what to do and getting Sam to the emergency room but this time there isn't anyone to phone and no one knows what to do and they're already in a hospital and it isn't helping.

So he waits with Sam and Jody.

The doctors call Jody away to make some decisions since she's Cas's wife.

So he waits with Sam.

Sam wakes up for a few minutes, grabs his shoulder, and squeezes it. He tells him it'll be fine. Cas will pull through. He's a fighter. Dean doesn't want to hear that anymore. He shakes his head. Time drags on as it has a tendency to do and Sam's hand falls from Dean's shoulder. Dean plants a hand on Sam's chest and makes sure he's only sleeping. He is.

So he waits.

---

The fever goes down. No one knows what it was about but Cas guesses it was his body acclimatizing to being fully human again after 6 years.

"So, what?" Dean says spreading his hands. "You just went through a backlog of every flu and cold you missed out on the last half a decade?"

Cas shrugs, "Something like that." He eats a mouthful of slimy fruit cup and wrinkles his nose. "Has the hospital staff ever eaten the food they serve patients?"

"This isn't a day spa," Dean retorts.

"That isn't an excuse for this exceptionally horrible food," Cas says. He puts down the spoon and lays back. His eyes drift close. If he was tired before he's exhausted now. He keeps his eyes closed while he talks, "The doctors say I can go home tomorrow."

"Yeah. Sam's raring for the same ticket out of here," Dean says. He'd rather Sam stay in the hospital for another week but their funds are running low and he doesn't think he could stop him from leaving if he tried.

"I don't have a home to go to," Cas says softly on the edge of sleep.

The words feel like a kick to the chest.

"Yeah, you do," Dean says but Cas is already snoring.

---

"You keep my husband good and warm while he's recovering," Jody says, smiling. "Don't want him catching pneumonia again."

"I'm sure Dean will look out for me," Cas says from the backseat where he's bundled up in blankets.

"Don't encourage him, Cas," Sam says. He's got his own blanket wrapped around him. "He likes to tell people he makes soup and brings them aspirin but half the time it's peanut butter cups and beer because we forgot to go shopping."

"It's a Winchester family cure," Dean retorts. "I haven't heard you complain about the beer before." And before Sam can say that he does complain he shuts the door on him. He looks at Jody. He rubs his hand over the back of his neck and shuffles on his feet.

This part he doesn't really know how to do. He's never really had people turn up and help him and wait with him through all the bullshit until the doubts lift and they can go home.

"Uh...thanks, Jody," Dean says because he's a master of words.

"No problem, Dean," Jody says. "Anytime you need me."

Jody gives a him a hug. He thinks it's probably a mom hug and he thinks he remembers getting those from his mom but it's blurred with that djinn dream.

She pounds him on the back at the end of it. It's definitely not a mom hug anymore. She points a finger in his face, "You take care of those two"

Dean gives her his best soldier salute, "Will do, ma'am."

Jody narrows her eyes at him for a moment before she bends down to wave at Cas and Sam in the backseat. She blows Cas a kiss. Cas stares at her confused. Sam laughs and blows one back to her.

His brother is a huge dork.

---

Dean drives the recovering and exhausted portion of the family home. He watches them both nod off in the backseat eventually slumping against each other, snuggled into the blankets, and drooling. Dean takes a few pictures for blackmail and a few more because he knows Charlie will get a kick out of it. He sends her one when he stops for gas with the caption, big bad hunters.

When he gets back in the car Cas has shifted to lean on the door and Sam's fallen down so he's resting his head on Cas's knee. The two of them look so worn out by the first leg of their trip that it really drives home how sick they both were.

He makes sure Sam's not getting his circulation cut off from the seat belt.

Sam's fine.

He tosses another blanket over him anyway and moves his head to Cas's leg so he doesn't wake up with a wicked headache.

He shoves some blankets under Cas's head so it won't bang off the door when they hit bumps. He throws another blanket over Cas too. Cas nuzzles into it and sighs out his name. Dean's heart skips a beat.

He resolves to quit waiting.

Chapter Text

"Nuhg?" Sam says.

"Come on. Move your butt. You're not a chubby five year old anymore."

Sam works his eyes own. They feel like he hasn't used them for months but he's pretty sure the car ride was only a day long. His right eye peels open, his left eye thinks about it and gets half way there. Dean comes into view. Except there's three Deans and two of them are spinning around the middle one. He looks at the middle Dean because he's pretty sure Dean doesn't spin like the other two.

"I wasn't a chubby five year old," Sam says. He finally gets his left eye open all the way. He hadn't felt this tired at the hospital. He won't say it out loud but he wonders if maybe Dean was right and he should have stayed at the hospital longer.

Dean snorts. "Right. And I wasn't a funny looking nine year old with too many freckles." He worms his hands under Sam's arms and starts heaving him out of the car.

Sam shuffles along with him. Dean pushes him back. Sam grunts in surprise when his ass lands in a wheelchair.

"Found it collecting dust in one of the storage rooms," Dean answers the unasked question. He starts wheeling Sam from the garage.

"Where's Cas?" Sam asks. He almost asks, he take off again? but catches himself. Cas won't be taking off on them ever again. Not like an angel anyway.

"In the car still," Dean says. "He's fine. Still sleeping."

Sam squints at the blurry hall in front of him. "You should've taken him in first. He's only been human for a couple of days. He's got to be feeling this worse than I am."

"Cas is fine. Dude used to burn demons alive," Dean says. He stops the wheel chair in front of Sam's door. "I think he can deal with sleeping in a car for a few more minutes."

"So you want to teach him about back pain?" Sam mutters.

"Well, he's gotta learn some time," Dean laughs. He shoves Sam's door open. He spins the wheelchair around and backs them in.

They stop. Dean's hands shove into his armpits and heave. Sam pushes up. His legs wobble under his own weight. Dean shuffles them two feet to the right then drops him onto the bed. Sam doesn't care he's half off the bed. He decides that's perfectly fine. He can learn about back pain too. He lets his eyelids sink close. He doesn't really need to see anyway. He's perfectly fine just lying here forever.

"Come on," Dean says, giving Sam's leg a gentle smack.

Sam grumbles and can't work up the effort to open his eyes to see what Dean wants. Dean sighs then tugs at his feet. Sam's remotely aware of his boots coming off. Dean grabs his legs and moments later they're swung up on the bed. A blanket falls over him.

"Thanks," Sam mumbles.

"No problem," Dean says. He makes a noise that Sam knows means he's standing next to the bed shaking his head. "Wasn't like I was just gonna leave you in the car after you've been in a coma for week."

"I meant thanks for letting me do it," Sam tells him. He thinks that over then clarifies. "The trials. Thanks for letting me go through the trials even though we didn't know how it would end."

Dean doesn't say anything. If Sam couldn't hear him breathing he'd think he might have left. Sam tries to make his eyelids work but they're stubbornly not opening.

"Yeah..." Dean finally says. He sniffs. It's his too many things going on in his head sniff. Sam knows it well. "Yeah," Dean says again. "...I gotta go make up a bed for Cas."

Sam hears hunter-quiet footsteps leave his bedside. The lamp switches off. A moment later the door closes.

Sam wonders if Dean tried to stop him but couldn't.

---

He feels like he was hit by a train. He decides there isn't anything in the world worth getting up for. Lucifer himself could rise from the pit and he wouldn't move an inch.

Breathing feels like too much effort. He keeps doing it anyway because if he dies now he's sure Dean would rip open Heaven to bring him back.

---

The second time he wakes he feels better. He feels better than he has in years. Maybe ever. He feels lighter. Like all the demon blood and bad choices are finally gone. Like maybe he's finally clean of what Azazel did to him.

He sits up and turns the lamp on. It's horrible and burns his eyes like a million suns. Or an angel.

His chest does a funny squirmy squeeze. There's an angel in the bunker that closed up Heaven. Heaven's closed. Hell's closed. There's no one left to play games with Earth. They're free.

He laughs. They're free.

He falls back on his bed and laughs more. They're free.

He really hasn't ever felt this good before.

He sits up again and pushes himself up from the bed. He wobbles. He's dizzy. His limbs don't quite work the way they should. He's never felt better.

Changing out of the clothes he's been sleeping in for a day or two takes forever. He doesn't care. He has forever. There's no demon plan or angel plot he has to worry about. He can pull on his pajamas and crawl out to the kitchen and drink an entire pot of coffee and no one will suddenly appear beside the kitchen table and tell him the world is ending or try to threaten him into a deal.

Sam stumbles down the hall with the goofiest smile on his face and he doesn't care who sees it. He makes it to the kitchen and groans at the smell of coffee. He takes out the biggest mug they have and pours himself a cup.

Maybe tomorrow he'll go into town and buy one of those soup bowls shaped like coffee mugs. He could. He doesn't have anywhere to be except right here. 

His chest squirms again. He could build a home here and there won't be any demons or angels to tear it down.

He drinks his cup of coffee then pours himself another one and goes to the library. They need to make a living room now that they're free. They need somewhere to live that isn't where they work.

Kevin looks at him like he's a ghost. Dean jumps up and takes his cup of coffee and puts it on the table. Sam doesn't know what they're so worked up about, they're free. No more Heaven and Hell trying to drag them down. Or up. He isn't sure how to phrase that for Heaven.

"You look like a bag of smashed dicks," Dean says succinctly. "What're you doing up? It's after midnight."

Sam looks between them. He looks at the books and papers spread out on the tables. What are they doing staying up into the night researching? They're free. There's no more end of the world to research.

"Sammy?" Dean snaps a finger in front of his face. "You high or something?"

Sam turns and opens his mouth to tell him that no, he's not high, he's clean. He's alive.

Dean glares over at Kevin. "You give him something?"

"No!" Kevin squeaks.

Dean squints at Kevin. It's so like Castiel that Sam can't help but laugh. Dean snaps his head around and stares at Sam like he's dying in front of him.

---

He's in bed. He's definitely in bed. Everything is soft and warm. He doesn't remember how he got to bed but it's a nice place to be. Nicer still because no one is about to tell him or Dean they have to die for some cosmic scheme.

Someone presses a thumb to his eyelid and pulls it open. It's Cas. He chuckles. Cas is wearing one of Dean's frowny face expressions. He wonders if Cas learned all his facial expresses from hunters. Cas lets his eyelid go.

"I'm not a doctor," Castiel says. "If there's something medically wrong with him I won't be able to tell now."

"I know," Dean says. "But you still got all that angel stuff in your head."

Castiel sighs. "My best guess, without being able to see into his soul, is that it's...I guess you could call it divine euphoria."

"Divine euphoria?" Dean says incredulously.

"He was touched by God when he closed the gates of Hell," Castiel says solemnly. "Humans aren't built to receive that kind of revelation. But he survived. It should wear off eventually." 

Dean grumbles something about God being a dick and ruining everything.

Cas sighs again. "Kevin is fine, isn't he?"

There's a surprised noise. Kevin's somewhere close by. Sam turns his head towards the noise but doesn't quite open his eyes.

"I wasn't— loopy," Kevin squeaks.

"You stole your mother's vehicle and drove across the country," Cas says dryly. "I doubt many would consider that sane."

"What's he saying?" Dean asks.

Sam can feel Castiel lean in close to him.

"He's talking about a living room again," Castiel announces.

Sam chuckles. They really do need a living room. He's glad he's got someone else on board with the idea.

---

Sam rolls out of bed and yawns. He scratches at his head and gets a whiff of his armpits. He yanks his head away and grimaces. He needs a shower as of yesterday.

He gets up, still yawning. He grabs clean clothes and gets his toiletries out of his bag. He ambles down the hall yawning and half asleep. He's a little tired but in a good way. Like he's been exercising hard for a few days. His arms and legs feel loose and relaxed.

There's no one else in the shower when he gets there. He looks around the open concept bathroom. The Men of Letters weren't really big on privacy. They're going to have to figure out some kind of a schedule now that there's four of them in the bunker on a more permanent basis. He's lived in close quarters with Dean most of his life. He's walked in on him naked and being gross more times than he'd like to admit but he doubts Kevin or Cas want to be scarred for life.

He washes his hair and thinks about magnets.

Sometimes on cases when he's combing through people's homes for signs of ghosts, monsters, and demons he's seen magnets on dishwashers that say clean or dirty depending on which way the magnet is. He wonders if someone has made an occupied/unoccupied magnet. He could get one for the shower.

Hell, he could get a dishwasher and a clean/dirty magnet like a regular normal person.

There's a squirmy feeling in his chest that feels a lot like freedom.

He finishes his shower, dresses in clean clothes, then goes back to his room and gets his laptop.

They're free and clear. Heaven and Hell are closed. They'll still have the occasional monster or ghost to deal with but the world isn't going to end next week. They need a living room, a way to not walk in on Dean being gross in the shower, and a dishwasher with a clean/dirty magnet.

They need to make the bunker a place to live.

Chapter Text

It's two weeks of living in the bunker - utterly and completely human - before Kevin teaches him to shave because Dean is busy taking care of Sam. Shaving is a human activity that he has no love for. Once he learns how to do it Castiel finds he has to do it once every three days or the itching becomes unbearable.

The act of shaving isn't particularly pleasant either. He cuts himself. The scent of the shaving cream is overwhelming. He can't stand the sound of the razor scraping over his skin. No amount of force of will stops the hair from growing back.

The loss of his grace has never seemed more poignant until he's staring into the mirror; face streaked in blood and shaving cream.

Hate is a strong word but being human is not what he thought it would be.

---

Dean stops him in the hall one afternoon after his latest attempt at shaving. Castiel explains his woes since giving up his grace.

Dean smiles and laughs. The sounds ring in Castiel's ears making him shiver. He can barely hear Dean over the roar of his blood and breathing.

"Mind over matter don't work that way for humans," Dean says.

"It should," Castiel insists. "For me at least."

He knows the mechanics of human souls and why their function is limited in humans. In theory his knowledge should let him circumvent the problem. He should be able to harness the energy of his soul - with a great deal of effort - just as he did his grace.

Dean's face flickers with sadness. He pats Castiel's shoulder. He leans closer. Castiel can smell the beer Dean had with lunch on his breath.

"What if we got you an electric razor?" Dean asks. He rubs his jaw. The sound of his fingers over his stubble grates on Castiel's ears. Dean's eyes flick up and down Castiel's face, lingering over the tiny cuts. "It might help stop..." He reaches out and strokes his thumb over a cut on Castiel's face.

Castiel freezes. The drag of Dean's thumb over his skin feels like an electric shock. He feels his face heat up, his already noisy heart becomes a hurricane in his chest, and there's an ache in his groin that doesn't hurt at all.

Dean frowns. "You okay?"

Castiel opens his mouth to answer but an odd strangled noise comes out instead.

Dean gives him an amused look and chuckles. He pats Castiel's cheek then lets his hand drop. Castiel wants to grab it and put it back.

"Okay." Dean slides his hand over the small of Castiel's back and sweeps it up. He pats Castiel on the shoulder. "I'll read some reviews online and see about the razor the next time I'm out."

Castiel nods. He doesn't trust himself to speak. He doesn't know if he could if he tried.

"Great." Dean smiles again. He gives Castiel's back another pat and smiles. "Dinner will be served shortly." Dean chuckles then bustles down the hall. He turns the corner and is out of sight.

Castiel stares at the corner in the hallway where Dean disappeared. He knows Dean didn't mean anything by what he just did. He's seen Dean touch Sam in a similar manner, gentle touches to his face and pats on the shoulder while he was sick and recovering. They're meant to be friendly and reassuring. These simple touches shouldn't make his face flush and his blood run hot.

He wishes he could tell Dean the truth but he doesn't know how.

---

He doesn't know how to explain that as an angel his feelings were selfish. They stood alone with no need for validation from others; unrequited and pure.

He did not need thanks to enjoy doing right. He did not need reprimands to feel shame. He did not need another's love to feel love for them.

He doesn't know how to tell Dean that as an angel he didn't need him.

He seeks revelation in his room for four days and doesn't come out except to maintain his body.

He doesn't gain any insight into the matter.

---

He doesn't know how to explain that as a human he needs others. He needs their validation. He needs their acceptance. He needs their recognition.

He doesn't know how to explain it to himself.

He doesn't know why it's upsetting when he puts away the books or finds an answer and receives no thanks. Whether or not the action was acknowledged a good deed was still done but it's not enough anymore to simply do good. There's a drive for praise that he can't put aside.

A good deed can turn twisted and angry hot or slithery cold if he doesn't receive some seemingly arbitrary allotment of praise for what should be an altruistic action.

He comforts himself with the knowledge that the others are no better. He watches Sam and Dean bicker about who cleans and cooks and Kevin rant about receiving little thanks for his research. He adds to the commotion by angrily refusing to put the books away anymore.

After, they eat dinner together and watch movies about a demi-god that wears a cape.

Human social bonding is strange and confusing and stressful.

---

He keeps careful watch on Sam. He's almost certain Sam's bout of euphoria was divine in nature but he can't dismiss the fear that it was actually Lucifer laughing at them that he had escaped Hell.

It's hard to focus and keep track of Sam's movements. He's not an angel anymore. He can't focus for more than an hour at a time before losing interest despite being deeply invested in Sam's safety. He can't slide between particles and waves and hide his body so he can follow Sam unnoticed.

More than once Sam asks him why he's following him. Castiel can say he's lost only so many times.

---

He has toenails.

He knew that before, obviously. He's always been aware that humans have toenails. He can recite the exact chemical make up of human toenails, he knows the average speed at which they grow, and he can list every evolutionary ancestor of humans that have ever had toenails. He always academically knew that as a human he'd have toenails.

It isn't until he stubs his toes and splits three toenails that he knows in a practical sense that he has them.

He learns about hangnails shortly after. He is not enamoured by this new knowledge of humanity.

---

Sam's been missing all day, much to his distress, when Dean looks up and stares into the war room with a bewildered expression on his face. The expression makes Castiel's heart beat faster. It's like thunder in his ears.

"What the hell is that?" Dean asks. He gets up and jogs into the war room. He stares at the door.

Castiel follows. He's shocked to hear something thumping and banging. He couldn't hear it until Dean drew his attention to the noise. He had been lost in the thump of his own heart and the shuffling of papers on the desk.

Sam huffs through the door at the top of the stairs. He's dragging a large box.

"Dude, that better not be a body!" Dean calls up to him.

Sam grunts.

"Should we help him?" Castiel asks.

Dean snorts and smirks. "Naw. Big strong guy like Sam? Totally recovered from getting his ass kicked?" Dean leans back onto the war room table and crosses his arms. "I think he can handle it himself."

Castiel suspects Dean and Sam have had far more arguments about Sam's recovery than either let on.

Sam grunts and huffs but manages to lower the oversized box down the steps with the help of a trolley. He wipes sweat from his brow and pants at Dean.

"So, what is it?" Dean asks.

Sam throws his head back and pants more. He breathes in deep and lets it out. "A dishwasher."

Dean arches an eyebrow. "A dishwasher?"

"Yeah," Sam says. He smirks at Dean. "To wash dishes. Because someone has to."

Dean's lips pull into a tight line. "Yeah? Well, if someone didn't hoard all the dishes in their room."

Castiel sighs. He leans back against the table beside Dean. He can repeat every point of this argument.

Dean gestures at the dishwasher box and shifts his feet, leaning closer to Castiel. Castiel swallows hard when Dean lets his hands fall and the left one brushes up against Castiel's side and nearly slots into Castiel's hand.

Their fingers touch for one fleeting moment then Sam says something and Dean's hands are moving wildly in front of him again. Castiel can still feel the ghost of Dean's touch.

Castiel turns and watches Dean. It's strange to see only Dean's physical shape and not his soul. The argument washes over him until all he can hear is the rhythm of their voices.

He wishes he could tell Dean the truth about closing the gates of Heaven.

---

Breakfast is a time Castiel appreciates. The conversation is simple and straightforward. No one is willing to complicate things until well after the second pot of coffee has been finished.

Sam is the first up from the table. He grabs a yellow handled knife from the counter and approaches the empty dishwasher box that's sat in the corner for most of the week. Kevin makes a surprised desperate sound that stops Sam in his tracks. Sam and Dean both look over at Kevin as if he's something strange and foreign in the kitchen. Castiel isn't sure what's going on.

"Shouldn't we...give it to some kids or something?" Kevin says, eyeing the box the dishwasher came in.

Castiel turns his attention to the box. It's large, brown, and otherwise unremarkable. He doesn't know why human children would want an empty dishwasher box. He's missing something. He sighs. It's yet another basic human thing he doesn't understand.

"What?" Sam and Dean say.

Kevin stares at them like they should know the answer.

Sam and Dean look between themselves then shrug at Kevin. They don't know why human children would want an empty dishwasher box either. Castiel feels a tight coil of nerves relax in his chest. This isn't something he doesn't understand because he's not really human, Sam and Dean don't understand it either. He waits for the explanation.

"Seriously?" Kevin looks aghast. "Didn't you two ever make forts and stuff out of big boxes when you were kids?"

Castiel looks back to the box. The explanation slides into place; humans and their capacity to learn through imaginative play. He should have guessed. It seems so obvious now that he knows the answer.

"Oh. Right," Sam says, sounding wounded. Castiel glances over in time to see Sam's lip twitching into the barest of frowns.

"We don't know any kids," Dean grunts, turning his focus back to his breakfast.

Kevin grimaces as if he's realized he's mistranslated several paragraphs of an ancient text. "Oh. Yeah. Yeah, good point."

Silence falls over the kitchen. There is no more early morning breakfast chatter. Sam cuts up the dishwasher box, Dean finishes his breakfast, Kevin stares down at his coffee. Everyone is careful not to look at each other. Castiel doesn't know what happened.

The sound of metal tearing through cardboard is horrendous.   

---

The door to his bedroom opens.

"You alright?"

Castiel can't bring himself to throw the blanket off his head to greet Dean. He tugs it tighter around his head. "Yes."

Dean steps into his room. "So, this your new hobby? Hiding out in a cave with the lights off?"

"It's too much," Castiel says. He can hear the scratchy noise of Dean running his hand over his stubble. It makes Castiel's ears ache.

"What's too much?" Dean asks. He creeps closer to the bed. The shuffle of his socked feet over the floor makes Castiel grate his teeth.

"It's too bright and too loud," Castiel explains. He can't cope with all the sensations forever competing for his attention. He doesn't know how humans do it. "I breathe now, Dean. I can hear my heart beating. I can hear the blood rushing through my veins. It's always there. I can't stop it."

Dean sounds worried when he speaks, "Ah yeah. Don't stop it. That's a heart attack. Means we need to make a trip to the hospital."

"I'm aware," Castiel says dryly. "I meant, as you talk to me, it's there. You're talking and there's the beat of my heart, the rush of blood, the air moving through the ducts, the buzz of the light in the hall, the shuffle of fabric, you keep running your hand through your stubble." Castiel presses one blanket covered hand to his ear. "I can hear that. Everything, Dean. And I can't turn it off. It's too much. How do you sort it out when all you have are human ears?"

Dean makes a soft noise. He sits down on the bed. Castiel is acutely aware of the shifts and sounds of the springs in the mattress. Dean's weight settles. He lays a hand on Castiel's knee and rubs small circles into it.

Castiel's senses focus down to the single point of contact. He can still hear his heart and his breathing - Dean's breathing too - but the sound of Dean's hand moving over his knee drowns much of it out.

"That too much?" Dean asks.

Castiel nudges his knee closer.

Chapter Text

Sam flips the magnet over to dirty and smiles. It's so normal. They've got a dishwasher and a clean/dirty magnet in a kitchen that they won't find any gross monster leftovers in. He looks up to find Cas watching him.

"What do you think about dogs?" Sam blurts. Dogs are normal. Maybe they can get a dog. He could build a yard for the dog outside the bunker. They could have a dog and a yard and take the dog for walks and meet their neighbours, like nice normal people who don't worry about demons and angels.

"Dogs?" Cas looks between him and the dishwasher. "...I don't think a dog would appreciate a dishwasher."

Sam blinks in surprise then laughs. "No, I mean in general."

"Oh." Castiel nods. He squints at some invisible point between them. "They're very social. And kind, if a little wry in their kindness." He tilts his head to the side and shrugs. "And astoundingly bad poets but I wouldn't hold that against them."

Sam's never sure if Cas is joking when he says things like that. Dean's usually got a better idea when Cas is joking and when he's being serious.

"...dogs write poetry?" Sam asks slowly.

"Well, they don't write it. But they do have a rich oral history," Castiel says. He goes to the fridge and takes out the jug of orange juice. He clears his throat as he gets a glass out. "Sharp. An itch. In my thigh. Crawling like bugs. I can not eat them."

It takes Sam a minute to understand what he just heard. "...was that...a dog poem?"

Cas nods and pours his orange juice. "One of the better ones."

Sam spends the rest of the morning getting a lecture on historical and contemporary dog poetry from an ex-angel. It's a little weird— a lot weird. But it's not angels coming to kill them or demons trying to cut deals with them.

He isn't sure why he thought freedom was going to be normal.

---

Dean's been unbearable since he got back on his feet. He knows Dean is just worried but there's only so much mother henning he can take before he's smothered to death.

The sad part is that Cas doesn't know any better.

"If you keep letting him fuss over you he'll never stop," Sam warns him as soon as Dean is out of ear shot. Dean's practically on a mission to fatten Cas up since he lost weight in the hospital.

"I don't mind," Cas says. He turns the page in the book he's reading, grimacing like it bit him.

"You're just enabling his twisted mother hen fetish," Sam says. Kevin nods in agreement from the other side of the table.

"Don't start filling Cas's head with your lies!" Dean shouts from down the hall. "And the acoustics are better in here than you think they are, Sammy!"

Kevin snorts and ducks his head back to his book, smirking. Traitor.

---

The bunker door opens. There's the rustle of plastic bags and Dean's excited ramble about a song.

Dean's been taking Cas out on day trips, getting him used to interacting with humans while being human. Well, that's how Castiel explains it but Sam knows the truth, Dean wants a captive audience and slave labour. He can't trick Kevin into going grocery shopping with him anymore and Sam learned how to avoid the four hour discussions about classic rock years ago.

"I don't understand," Cas says. "Where do hobbits come in?"

Sam can hear the quotations around hobbits.

Dean starts explaining a Led Zeppelin song and Lord of the Rings as they walk down the stairs. He falls silent just as they reach the library. Castiel is squinting at him. Dean gasps like he's been shot.

"That's it," Dean says firmly. "We're marathoning Lord of the Rings tomorrow."

Kevin groans. "But I've got four more pages to translate."

"Theatrical cut or extended edition?" Sam asks.

Dean looks at him like he's an idiot.

"Extended edition." Sam answers his own question.

Kevin groans again. "That's like...ten hours of movie."

Sam grimaces. Ten hours of sitting. He might as well be driving to a hunt.

Dean makes a disgruntled noise and turns his nose up at them. "Fine, you're not invited anyway." He starts for the kitchen. "Come on, Cas. We gotta make some snacks for tomorrow."

Cas shrugs at them and turns to follow Dean into the kitchen.

Sam waits until he's sure Dean and Cas are far enough away before turning to Kevin. "You think we should save Cas?"

"If we do then we'll be the one doing dishes." Kevin points out.

Sam sighs. He hadn't thought about sixty year old dishes not being dishwasher safe and now they have a drawer full of rusty cutlery and a garbage bag full of broken plates and cups.

---

Sam is sure he pulled a muscle in his back. Kevin is sure his brain is going to explode if he reads one more line of ancient text. They both need to rest up. They might as well do it watching ten hours of Lord of the Rings.

It has absolutely nothing to do with all the food Dean made yesterday.

---

Freedom turns out to be free time.

He buys dishwasher safe plates and cutlery.

He researches options for a new microwave and a new stove because he might as well since they have a nice new dishwasher.

He gets a new mattress and bed frame.

He organizes storage closets and workrooms they never had time for.

He comes up with a new cross-reference system for all their books and phones Charlie for help on creating a library database.

He writes dog poetry and gets Castiel to critique it.

He practically runs out the door when Kevin says he found a case.

---

It's a low key case. A string of unusual accidents but no deaths. It's the perfect hunt to introduce Cas and Kevin to the field work of hunting. It turns out to be a ghost hunt.

"Does Dean find men attractive?" Castiel asks.

Sam looks up from his phone. He glances over to the front desk. Dean is chatting up the records attendant guy. Sam shakes his head, amused expression on his face. "Dean will flirt with anyone if it's for a case. It's just what he does."

Cas squints over at Dean. He nods. "I see."

Sam shrugs. He holds his phone out to Cas. "What do you think?"

Cas looks down at the profile of a shelter dog; she's a husky mix. "Is this about the poetry?"

Sam chuckles. "No. I—"

He stops to wonder if maybe it should be. Maybe a good dog owner reads their dog poetry. Would the dog even understand English poetry? What it rather listen to his dog poetry? He's pretty sure his dog poetry is worse than the poems Cas tells him.

"Would a dog want to listen to poetry?" Sam asks. He takes the phone back from Cas. "I was thinking of getting a dog."

"I think it would depend on the dog," Cas says.

Before Sam can start quizzing Cas on what kind of human poetry dogs might like Dean comes back with Kevin and a folder stuffed full of photocopies of old newspapers.

---

He tries to talk to Dean about the trials but every time he corners Dean alone Dean suddenly remembers he has to go help Cas 'learn more human stuff'.

Sam doesn't know why he expected his brother to miraculously know how to talk about things other than hunting, classic rock, movies, and food. He gives up. For now. Pushing Dean into the conversation will only make it an argument.

---

Charlie shows up and suddenly he wishes he had free time.

She drops a pile of books in front of him, Dean, and Cas and tells them to start scanning. She points over to a box full of cables and equipment. He doesn't ask how she got them.

Kevin is enlisted to make cross-reference notes while Charlie setups a functioning database.

Cas is rescued from scanning when he explains why Dene mythology needs to be cross-referenced with Pericúes mythology because of whale and bird migration routes.

Dean squints at Cas just like Cas would. Sam cracks up. It gets him two Dean scowls, one from Dean and one from Cas. It only makes Sam laugh harder.

---

He escapes data entry hell with Dean when a vampire hunt comes up. They leave Kevin, Charlie, and Cas to fend for themselves.

They drive across three states, listen to Dean's crappy tapes and Dean's terrible singing, they sleep in shitty motel beds, and eat bad food.

It's perfect.

It feels like the years of crap that have been building up have finally shed off. He feels like he's twenty-two again but without the death and the demons.

---

The vampire nest is tiny and unorganized. They sweep through in one afternoon and get them all. Dean tears out of town before anyone finds four decapitated bodies and calls the cops.

They don't stop until they're in the next state. Dean pulls the car off onto a dirt road that twists through a forest. He stops the car and declares the side of the road home for the night. They bunk down in the car like they did a thousand times before and will do a thousand times in the future because they have futures now.

It's the perfect opportunity. Dean can't escape.

"I didn't want to die," Sam says from the backseat.

Dean makes a startled noise in the front but doesn't sit up and glare over the seat at him. There's no lecture about not talking like this. There's no argument about the trials.

"I knew I might. Actually I thought I probably would," Sam confesses as he stares up at the roof of the car. "But I didn't want to die. I didn't want it to be over, as craptacular as our lives have been."

There's shifting and rustling in the front seat. Sam can imagine the thoughts going over Dean's face. He's not as good as hiding what he's thinking as he thinks he is.

The rustling and shifting stops.

"Good," Dean says.

And that's the end of that.

---

Charlie phones in the morning and tells them to pick up some books for them.

By pick up she means steal.

She swears she just wants to scan them. Afterwards they can put them back.

Sam holds no illusions on who they is going to be. Dean just grins and asks if Charlie wants to borrow the hope diamond while she's at it.

---

There are guard dogs at one of the private homes they borrow books from. They still get the books but afterwards Dean goes to a bar and drinks himself into a coma.

Dean screams about Hellhounds in his sleep that night.

Sam reconsiders getting a dog.

---

"What about rabbits?" Charlie says, typing up Kevin's notes for the database.

Sam rubs his eyes and tries to make sense of the words. Endless hours of scanning is turning his brain to mush. "Rabbits?"

"Instead of a cat or a dog." Charlie squints at her laptop. It's just like Cas. Sam wonders if they're all slowly turning into each other. "You can housebreak rabbits.

"I dunno." Sam frowns down at the book he's scanning like it'll know the answer. "Rabbits?"

Cas clears his throat from the other side of the table. "Dig. My friend. Safe and deep. Let me help you. I could share my teeth."

Charlie stares, bewildered. "What...?"

"Dog poetry," Sam explains. He can tell by the look that Charlie gives him that his explanation only makes it more confusing.

"It's not a classic," Cas says, not looking up from what he's typing. "I think it would be the equivalent of human dirty joke. It hints at twisting kindness, helping the rabbit, into something vulgar, betraying the rabbit by eating it."

Charlie blinks rapidly. "I think you guys need a break."

---

They're an hour out from the bunker after a cross country trip to return the books they borrowed. Kevin texted a few minutes ago to say that dinner was going to be a horror show; Cas and Charlie had decided to cook. Dean had laughed but Sam had frowned down at the text.

Kevin, Charlie, and Cas are waiting for them at the bunker. It feels like going home to a family. He has a family and he's going home and there's no cosmic forces trying to stop him.

"Have you ever heard of something called family of choice?" Sam asks while Dean is ripping down the highway breaking speed limits. "Or chosen family?"

"What?" Dean shoots him a confused look. "You don't get to choose your family."

"I mean family like Bobby. He wasn't related to us but he was still family, right?" Sam explains. It still hurts to put Bobby in the past tense.

"Yeah," Dean says. He stares straight ahead. Sam is sure he's not use to Bobby in the past tense either. He licks his lips and shakes his head. "But we didn't choose him. You don't choose family. They choose you. That's why you can't get rid of them. It's not your choice."

Sam stares in surprise. He huffs a laugh. "Yeah, alright. But they're still family."

"Even if they're," Dean scowls over at him, "A bunch of idjits."

They both crack up at Dean's terrible Bobby impression. It's not even that funny.

Chapter Text

He hadn't thought about it.

He hadn't thought about the gender of his vessel, of the body he'd have. He had only thought, I'll be human. Now Castiel is coming to understand it's not so simple. He might not be the right kind of human Dean would want.

He's never spent this much time with Dean except that brief time when he had been Falling during the Apocalypse and they had been two soldiers preparing to die and during their time in Purgatory when they had always been on the run.

Now he isn't sure what they are. There is no Hell or Heaven to battle; they aren't soldiers. This isn't Purgatory; they aren't running.

---

Dean remembers what he takes in his coffee.

Dean asks him what he'd like to watch tonight while they all argue over television.

Dean stops to explain what he and Charlie are talking about.

Dean makes sure he knows what a toothbrush is despite his assurances that he was an angel not blind, he's seen how to use a toothbrush.

All these small things seem so much more now that he's human. He wants to call himself content with these things. And he is. For the most part. He's content to orbit Dean like a moon, keeping close but always just out of reach.

---

A box drops down on the table in front of him. He looks up to Dean. "What is it?"

"Earmuffs," Dean says.

Castiel stares at the box perplexed. He looks back up to Dean. "It's not that cold in here."

Dean chuckles. "Not for the cold. They're for sound. You said you were having problems with all the sound." He brushes his fingers along the shell of Castiel's ear. "Now that you don't have your hearing control superpowers anymore."

Castiel can feel a blush spread across his face, neck, and chest. Whatever happened to the vast distances between a moon and its planet?

"Why didn't you ever buy me ear protection?" Sam grouses. "I could have done with some when you finally figured out how to pick up at bars."

Dean grins. "Because you kept on eating spicy bean burritos, Sammy. I had to get revenge some way." Dean looks back down and gives Castiel a slap on the back. "Anyway, buddy, thought you could use'em instead of hiding out in your room like a depressed teenager." He makes for the fridge and starts pulling things out for lunch. "I'm making a sandwich. Anyone want one?"

"I'm thinking about eating that leftover burrito," Sam threatens.

Dean turns around and glares. "Yeah, well." He reaches in and grabs the leftover burrito. He takes a too big bite, stuffing half of it in his mouth. "pphh-uphh yepff ew." He makes a show of chewing and glaring at Sam. He swallows and clears his throat. "Fuck you too, Sammy." He tosses the half eaten burrito to the table in front of Sam.

Sam laughs and gestures with his middle finger at Dean. Castiel looks between them. He's missing something here.

Kevin sighs. "He should have bought us gas masks. Neither of them can digest a bean to save their lives."

Castiel finds out what Kevin means fifteen minutes later. Charlie suggests they go out for ice cream. Sam and Dean are explicitly not invited.

---

Sam brings home two rabbits to equal amounts of dismay and excitement. One is white with dark brown mottling and is quickly dubbed Chocolate Chips, or Chip for ease of use. The second one is grey with a white collar of fur around its neck. Dean and Charlie try to talk Sam into calling it Dales.

Sam is adamant that the second rabbit is not going to be called Dales.

Kevin refuses to take sides. Castiel thinks that's a prudent choice in actions though he's not sure why Dales is a bad name.  

---

Sam calls the grey rabbit Jemma. Dean and Charlie call it Dales anyway.

---

"Come on, Cas," Dean says. "We're going shopping." He throws a jacket at him. It's one of Dean's.

"For what?" Castiel asks. He pulls the jacket on.

"You need some fancy new duds." Dean winks at him. He tugs at the front of Castiel's shirt. "Can't go walking around in my hand-me-downs forever."

Castiel looks down at his shirt. In all the commotion of becoming human he hadn't questioned where his clothes were coming from. New clothes simply appeared in his dresser and the laundry hamper seemingly emptied on its own. It's not until now that he realizes that all his clothes are too big for him because they're Dean's clothes.

"Oh." Castiel hopes the flush he feels in his cheeks isn't as obvious as it feels. He's wearing Dean's clothes. Ridiculously, it feels important. As though it means something that Dean would prefer he not wander the bunker naked.

"Come on, Henry Jimson is buying." Dean holds up a credit card and grins. "But I'm gonna take all the credit for it."

---

Dean shows him how to use a gun.

There's a surprising amount of bodily contact and Castiel has to excuse himself twice before he embarrasses himself.

When he finally manages to get his body under control he finds the earmuffs enormously useful. The bang of the gun barely bothers his ears at all.

They do not, however, help to do anything about the way his blood rushes in his ears when Dean squeezes his arm to get his attention or leans in closer to help Castiel with his stance.

He ends up having to ask Sam every night to review everything Dean taught him because all Castiel can focus on during the day are Dean's brief touches.

All the progress he makes each night gets waylaid the moment Dean smiles and gives him a thumbs up.

---

He is not content.

Having Dean just out of reach is not enough. It's frustrating.

"You and Dean fighting or something?" Sam asks.

"What?" Castiel looks over surprised. "No." His heart starts to pound. Has he upset Dean? "Why? Did Dean say something?"

Sam stares at him for a moment before chuckling and shaking his head. "No. It's just, the last few days whenever he leaves the room you give him the stink-eye."

Castiel cocks his head to the side. He's been getting better at slang and he's sure he knows what Sam means but he doesn't know why Sam thinks he's mad. "No, I haven't."

Sam makes a strange face at him. "Okay." He says it like he doesn't believe him. He bends back to his book.

They sit in silence for five minutes before Castiel decides that if Sam thinks he's upset with Dean then Dean might think that too. He has to tell Dean that he isn't upset with him. He has to stop lingering in indecision and tell Dean the truth.

He suddenly finds that scanning books for Charlie seems like a more attractive option than telling Dean the truth about the spell to close Heaven.

---

After a few days of scanning for Charlie he decides that he needs to stop avoiding his issue and that the best way to approach it is to gather intelligence on the matter. If he knows more he can prepare himself for how Dean might react to the truth about closing up Heaven. There isn't anyone that knows Dean better than Sam. He waits until they're alone in the library to ask.

"Sam?"

Sam looks up, concerned.

"I lied about closing the gates of Heaven," Castiel says. He lets out a long breath. It feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

Sam's eyes go wide and round. "Heaven is still open for business?"

Castiel realizes how that must have sounded. "No. Heaven is closed," Castiel assures him. He takes a steadying breath. "I mean I lied about how I closed it."

"Did you make a deal?" Sam asks nervously. His fingers curl around the edges of the book he's reading.

"No. No deal. It's...the ingredients for the spell..." Castiel doesn't understand why it's so hard to say this part. Honesty should be easier than lies. "The ingredients were a nephilim's heart, a cupid's bow, and....I told your brother the last ingredient was an angel's grace."

"...but that's not true?" Sam ventures. The book's pages start to twist up as Sam digs his fingers in.

"Not completely," Castiel says. Why can't he just say it? He takes in two steadying breaths. "...it did require an angel's grace but specifically the grace of an angel in love with a human."

Sam's eyebrows furrow. "But how would you get‒ oh. Oh."

"Yes. Oh," Castiel agrees. The weight that had left his shoulders feels like it's back with more added. "So, you see, I'm not upset with Dean. I just don't..." He gives a forlorn sigh. "How do I tell him?"

"Oh," Sam says again. "Uh..."

Before Sam can say more Dean comes back with Charlie in tow. Dean slings himself into the chair beside Castiel. Castiel knows his face has gone red again. Sam coughs and starts a loud conversation about urban legends in Maine.

---

Sam avoids him.

Castiel tries not to let all the reasons why that might be torment him.

---

Castiel decides to approach the problem like a soldier; with a well thought out plan and several strategies for retreat.

He waits for Dean to be alone. Equal numbers won't give either of them an advantage.

He stops in Dean's doorway. He's terrified. But bravery is not confidence when one knows that they'll succeed. Bravery is facing an unknown and going forward anyway.

Dean waves him into his bedroom. Familiar ground for Dean but unfamiliar ground to him. It gives Dean an advantage.

"Would—" Castiel's voice catches in his throat when Dean looks up. He swallows and keeps going. He can barely get the words out. "You like—" What if Dean says no? "To go out—" What if he's asking the wrong way? "To dinner with..." He grips the door frame and forces himself not to give up and run.

Dean stares at him. He waves his hand. "So what's the last line?"

"The last line?" Castiel blurts out before he can stop to think.

Dean holds his fingers out and counts off. "One, two, three, four...?" He sits up on his bed and wiggles his thumb. "What's the five syllable line?"

Castiel feels like he's tripped and fallen but he's still clutching the door frame. Dean thinks he was reciting a dog poem.

"Do rabbits have their own poetry?" Dean asks.

"Well, yes." Castiel finds himself saying for some unfathomable reason. "But I would say culturally they're more inclined towards puns."

"Huh." Dean shrugs. "Who woulda guessed?"

Castiel clears his throat. "But that wasn't a poem. I was asking if you wanted to go out for dinner."

Dean checks his watch and nods. "Sure."

Castiel breathes in relief. Dean said yes.

His relief is short lived. He realizes he didn't actually ask Dean to dinner with him.

"With me," Castiel quickly says. "I meant with me."

Dean looks up at him and chuckles. "What? You wanna come too?"

Castiel freezes. Is Dean joking? Is Dean serious?

"Yes?" Castiel tries.

Dean laughs. "Well since you asked." He grabs his jacket and his keys.

---

They talk about the things they normally talk about when they go into town without Sam, Charlie, or Kevin. It's not any different from any of the other times they've eaten together. It's the same friendly atmosphere between them. He wonders if Dean understood that when he asked him out to dinner he meant on a date.

Castiel grimaces down at his dinner. "Dean...do you...are you..." Castiel clenches his jaw and looks up. He tries to look confident and not terrified. "This is a date. I asked you on a date."

Dean stares at him, clearly confused.

Castiel drops his fork to his plate and puts his head in his hands. Dean hadn't realized. Castiel stares down at his plate and speaks to his dinner. He can't look Dean in the eye. "I lied about how I closed the gates of Heaven."

Dean makes a strangled noise. Castiel looks up to see Dean's face pale.

"Wh‒ what?" Dean sputters.

Castiel sighs to himself. He needs to work on his explanations or risk giving his new family heart attacks every time he speaks without thinking.

"Don't worry. The gates are still closed. No one is in danger. No deals were made," Castiel explains. He looks down at the table again. He presses his hands flat on the white tablecloth. "But...the last ingredient of the spell wasn't just an angel's grace. It was the grace of an angel in love. And I was the only angel that could do it."

Castiel keeps his head down. He doesn't want to see the look on Dean's face he knows must be there.

"...which is why I asked you on a date. Because..." Castiel takes a deep breath. "Because I'm in love with you."

Castiel shivers. He said it. Aloud. To Dean. Why does it feel so terrible?

Dean doesn't say anything. He doesn't even try to make it a joke.

"I'm sorry for asking you on a date without your knowledge," Castiel mutters to the table. "We can go if now if you want."

"What're you—" Dean makes a disgruntled noise. "Okay, back up to the part about angel grace."

Castiel feels his cheeks go red. "I didn't realize at first. Metatron didn't tell me until the end but by then I knew why Metatron had picked me for the trials, I was the only angel who could complete them. I...I didn't stop to think....what matters is that the gates are closed."

"Jesus Christ," Dean whispers. Castiel glances up. Dean looks angry. "That is a shitty fucking spell. Fuck. God is such an asshole." He shoves his plate away. "Close the gates of Heaven? Sure. No problem. Just find a guy in love and tell him to rip his grace out." He snorts angrily. "Asshole." He pushes away from the table. "You care if we go? I don't think I can eat anymore."

"No." Castiel pushes his chair back too. "Let's go."

They walk back to the car. Castiel can't tell if the tension is mutual or only his.

Dean is turning the key in the ignition when he stops. "Wait a second. What did you mean, you asked me on a date without my knowledge?"

Castiel sighs. "Dinner. It was supposed to be a date."

Dean nods.

Castiel feels his mouth drop open. "....you knew?"

"Uh, yeah," Dean says. He chuckles as if they're sharing some joke.

Castiel works his jaw but nothing comes out. He finally blurts out, "But you didn't—" He doesn't know what he's going to say. "Act any differently from all the other times we've been out!"

Dean stares at him confused.

Castiel tenses.

Dean lets out a laugh and slouches down in his seat to bounce his head off the steering wheel. Dean doesn't stop laughing.

"Dean?"

"Sorry. Sorry." Dean waves his hand. He leans back in his seat. A handful of stray laughs escape him as his outburst winds down. He turns his head slightly and opens one eye to study Castiel.

Dean sits up. He wraps his hands around the steering wheel and twists them. He stares out the windshield. "I hunt monsters for a living. I'm wanted across the country for theft, arson, and murder. Hell, I'm a serial killer as far as the FBI is concerned." He laughs at his own joke. "I'm not exactly an epic romance kind of guy."

Castiel braces himself for rejection. He didn't need reciprocation before, he shouldn't need it now. His love for Dean doesn't hinge on Dean loving him back.

He knows it's going to hurt when Dean tells him no.

"But this makes a lot more sense than most of the stuff in my life," Dean says.

Castiel doesn't have anything more intelligent to say than a confused, "What?"

"I'm saying those other times we went out were supposed to be dates and that—" Dean reaches over and grabs Castiel's hand. "And that, I guess I'm kinda shitty at, uh, romancing people but I love you too. You know that, right?"

Castiel stares, sure he heard wrong. He hasn't been on any dates with Dean.

Dean puts his free hand to his face and shakes his head. "Jesus, we're a pair."

"But this isn't how you act with your other dates," Castiel protests. If they had been on dates before things would have been different. Dean expects certain...activities from his dates.

"My other dates?" Dean echoes.

"When you go out after a hunt," Castiel explains.

Dean snorts in amusement. "That's not dating. That's picking up." He squeezes Castiel's hand. "And I haven't picked up since before you and Sam saved the day."

Castiel stares at him. He doesn't quite understand what point Dean is trying to make.

"Cas, you're a million year old virgin," Dean says. "It's kinda crass even for me to just take you out to a bar, get drunk with you, then hike your skirt up to your ears."

Castiel's face flushes a furious red. He wishes he had better control over the way his body reacts. He looks away. It's the best he can do.

"I mean, if you really had your heart set on it," Dean says. He sounds uncomfortable. "I guess...if that's...what you want."

"I don't know what I want," Castiel says. Love has always been an emotion he feels for others. He doesn't know what to do when someone loves him back.

Chapter Text

He knows that he buries his feelings six feet under but he really thought he had done a good job at digging them up and laying them all out for Cas. There's just no way that he's gotten that bad at dating. It has to be a case of lost in translation.

"You seriously didn't know?" Dean asks again as he pulls into the bunker's garage.

Cas shakes his head. "I thought you were just trying to help me adjust to being human."

"Well, yeah. That too," Dean says. He parks the car but doesn't get out. If his dating skills are really that bad there's no way he's having this conversation anywhere near where Sam could hear. He'd never hear the end of it. "But you don't really get that handsy while practicing with a gun."

Cas squints at him. "You don't?"

"No." Dean eases back into his seat when he sees the confusion all over Cas's face. This isn't about his dating skills. This is about him assuming dating makes sense to a fallen angel. "You didn't think it was funny that I had my hands everywhere and Sam didn't touch you?"

"Sam t—" Cas stops himself. His eyes flick over Dean. He squints at him harder. "I didn't realize."

Dean blinks. Sam what?

"Thank you for coming on a date with me," Cas says. He raises his hand like he's going to touch Dean then aborts mission. He gives an awkward nod instead then gets out of the car.

Dean stays glued to his seat and wonders what kind of conversation he needs to have with his brother.

---

There's a conspiracy going on in the bunker.

Sam ducks out on him every time they're alone. Cas and Charlie keep squinting at him like he's a bug. Kevin coughs and mutters about needing to be somewhere else then makes a run for it.

The only people in the bunker that aren't acting weird are the damn rabbits.

---

He walks in on Sam getting all emotional and pulling Cas into a hug. Cas is stiff at first, then his arms come up and he leans into it with a sigh.

They don't notice him.

Dean backs out of the kitchen without a word and ignores the twisty sick feeling in his stomach. Cas doesn't hug people. Why is Cas hugging Sam?

Why is Sam hugging Cas?

Dean stares at the doorway to the kitchen. He really doesn't know how to have this kind of conversation with Sam. They haven't both been after the same person in years and even when they did it was usually just casual sex they were interested in. There hadn't ever been a time where anything real was at stake.

And, hell, he didn't even know Sam swung that way.

---

His life is a goddamned sitcom.

"What?" Dean can't get his mouth to spit out more than that one confused word. He shakes his head and tries again. "W- what?"

"You can talk to me," Sam repeats. "If you think you're going to...to bug-out on Cas because it's too different being with a guy." He gives Dean the puppy eyes. "I'm really glad you're willing to give it a chance with him."

Sam grabs his shoulder and stares meaningfully into Dean's eyes like he's practiced this conversation in front of the mirror a few hundred times before. He probably has, the big nerd.

"And, uh, fair warning, Cas kind of...well, he kind of outed you to everyone," Sam tells him, all soulful and worried. "But you've got to know none of us would ever think it's wrong, right? I mean, we all support Charlie, right? We can support you too. You don't have to hide who you are."

Dean stares, mystified by whatever alternate reality he's fallen into.

He has to have heard it all wrong. He got the part where Sam wasn't actually into Cas - he was just glad to see the poor guy get a chance at a real human life - but the part where things went sideways was all the coming out is hard and overcoming his upbringing stuff. Did Sam seriously think he was straight this whole time?

"You okay?" Sam asks gently. He squeezes Dean's shoulder in his gigantor hands.

Dean can't stop staring. Sam thought he was straight this whole time. His mouth drops open, trying to form literally any word other than another confused, what?

"Dean?"

"...how?" Dean's proud of himself for knowing a grand total of two words.

Sam pats his shoulder. "It's going to be fine."

Dean knocks his hand from his shoulder and gets his brain working again. "How did you not know? We lived out of the same car for years!"

Sam looks at him like he's the one that just missed out on the last three decades.

Dean snorts. Maybe he made some assumptions about Cas and dating but this is ridiculous. Sam should know. Sam's his touchy feely brother. Sam sticks his nose into everything. He can't even think about mushy stuff without Sam knowing about it and wanting to talk it out.

Sam keeps staring at him like he was speaking in tongues. Sam doesn't know. Sam. Sam, doesn't know.

"Really? I flirt with guys right in front of you," Dean says. "Hell, I've flirted with half the cops and practically every FBI agent we've ever run into. And let me tell you, equal hiring practices? Still not a thing on the force. Those were definitely dudes."

Now it's Sam's turned to be mystified. "But...but you never said anything."

"Said anything?" Dean thinks this might be what it's like to go crazy. "You met Benny."

Sam shakes his head like a wet dog. "What?"

Dean wipes his hand over his face. This can't be happening. He can't really be having this conversation now. Sam had to know about Benny. It's not like he'd let just anyone ride his meat suit out of Purgatory.

"So...you...what? Did you think that I just thought Benny was a really cool guy?" Dean watches for the tell that means Sam is joking. It doesn't come.

Dean shakes his head and laughs to himself. This really is ridiculous. How could Sam not know?

Sure, he might have a preference for women but Sam can't have missed all the times he's blatantly checked guys out. Sam can't really think he'd just let any damn monster that he came across in for a ride along. Sam can't really think he'd trust some guy he knew with bringing Sam out of Purgatory.

Sam pulls himself together and opens his mouth like he's going to say something but the sasquatch has nothing. Instead he goes beet red for the first time in years.

It's like Christmas and his birthday rolled into one. He's never going to let Sam live this down.

---

Nobody knew. Nobody. Not one person.

He looks to Charlie. "Come on, you had to know."

Charlie spreads her hands defensively and shrugs.

He turns to Cas. Cas has to know. Cas put him back together after Hell. "You could read minds."

Cas turns pink and shakes his head.

Dean looks at Kevin in the off chance that God was giving him front row seats to his sex life.

"I don't even know your birthday," Kevin says.

Dean stares at the people he calls family. He doesn't know what to say.

---

It takes Cas three days and two conversations about social norms to figure out what he wants to try first as official boyfriends who know they're dating each other.

And just as long to explain that there was never anything going on between Cas and Sam, Sam was just happy for him and Cas is trying to get better at not taking things literally.

They end up watching a movie curled up together on the new couch Sam bought. The rabbits take advantage of their newly granted freedom and tuck themselves in beside them for a nap. It's disgustingly domestic. He kinda loves it.

Cas is awkward. But then when isn't Cas awkward if he's not on the warpath?

"You're sure this is enough?" Cas asks, nervously. He's got one arm slotted in behind Dean and one knee gently leaning into Dean's leg.

"Yep." Dean squirms his arm behind Cas, bouncing Chip on the couch. Chip gives him a dirty look for disturbing her nap. Dean isn't about to let a rabbit shame him for PDA. He pulls Cas closer. "Better now."

There's a cough by the door. Dean looks over to find Sam lingering like the world's most apologetic giant.

Dean slaps on a grin. He isn't going to sit through another pity party thrown in his honour. He scoops Chip up with his free hand and plunks her down into his lap. He pets her forehead the way she likes. "Hey, Sam? You remember that time I named your rabbits after male strippers? Pretty straight, right?"

Sam looks torn between being mad that he can't stop everyone from calling his rabbits Chip and Dales and being so embarrassed he's contemplating living in a hole in the floor for the rest of his life.

Cas turns a squint on him. "Male strippers?"

Dean flashes a smile at Sam then launches into a story about Chippendales.

---

The rabbits use their newly granted freedom to chew the legs of Sam's new couch.

Sam gets all grouchy about it so Dean tells him the good news, "One of your fur babies pooped in the corner."

"Why are they only my rabbits when they shit on things?" Sam grumbles.

---

A week goes by and Cas decides that sitting really close together on the couch is nice but that he'd like to try cuddling— in bed.

That pause is all Cas. Dean's not sure whether Cas has been talking to Charlie too much and is trying to make an in bed joke, if he's trying to hint at doing more, or if he literally just wants to cuddle in a bed.

Dean makes him think it over and explain again.

Castiel gets that far off look that means he's thinking. He blinks and comes back to Earth.

"I like it when you hold me," Cas says.

Dean takes that to mean he just wants to up their cuddle game.

Then Cas gets weird about whose room they're going to do all this cuddling in.

Dean tries to tease out a reason for it but gets a lesson about the strategic advantages of familiar territory instead. He thinks maybe Cas falls back onto his angelic soldier habits when he's stressed.

Dean decides he'll let Cas figure this one out in his own time.

"You just tell me where and when and I'll be there," Dean tells him.

Cas nods like he's formulating a battle plan.

---

Charlie is sitting on the other side of the couch and won't stop staring at him.

"What? Do I have something stuck in my teeth?" Dean swipes his tongue over his teeth but doesn't feel anything.

She flashes a smile that means she's up to no good. "I've got a gay best friendbi best friend." She bursts out laughing.

"Right. Yeah. Hilarious." Dean shakes his head. He'd thought that out of everyone Charlie would have known he likes dudes too. He helped her flirt her way past a security guy and now they fantasize about Princess Leia together. That has to count for something, doesn't it?

"Come on. That's funny," Charlie chuckles.

He chucks one of Sam's scratchy throw pillows at her head.

Charlie ducks then turns a disapproving look on him. "You'd throw things at your Queen?"

Dean throws another one. It hits her square in the face. Dean chokes back a laugh; those things could take out an eye. "You okay?"

Charlie grabs the pillows and launches herself at him. "For Moondor!"

---

Dean gets a note to meet in a bedroom down the hall from his own at 8pm sharp. He gets there to find the room has been cleaned and the bed made up. Cas isn't there.

Dean shrugs and plunks down on the bed. He'll just wait here.

Ten minutes later Cas appears in the doorway clutching his earmuffs to his chest like Dean will tell him he can't ever wear them again.

"I'm sorry I'm late," Cas says. He shuffles on the spot and stares down at his earmuffs.

"No problem." Dean pats the bed beside them.

Cas edges his way over and sits down beside him. He looks like the exact opposite of that Warrior of God that strutted his stuff in the barn; small, nervous, and fragile.

Dean takes the earmuffs from Cas. Cas makes a soft noise of disappointment and slumps down. Dean stretches them out and slides them onto Cas. Cas's face flares up bright and surprised. Dean can't help but laugh. He's never seen anyone this happy to look like a nerd.

He pulls Cas down to the bed. Cas makes himself as small as possible. Dean warps himself around him. Cas squirms against him, pressing himself as close as possible before falling still with a sigh.

Dean counts their first upgraded cuddle session a success.

---

Cas shakes his head. "But you touch Sam like that."

Dean gags. "I do not touch Sam like I touch you."

"You do," Cas insists. He reaches out and gently touches Dean's forehead. "Like that."

Dean snickers. Cas has a whole lot to learn about younger siblings.

He reaches up and touches Cas's forehead like he's going to check Sam's temperature then grins and gives Cas's hair an annoying ruffle until Cas ducks away. "Not so nice now, is it?"

Cas pouts at him; hair everywhere. "I see why Sam doesn't like it when you pay attention to him."

Dean throws his head back and laughs.

---

Cas finally understands that it's okay to touch outside of designated cuddle sessions.

The first time Cas shyly rests a hand on his knee in the library Dean's sure his heart is going to jackhammer out of his chest. He settles his own hand on top of Cas's and gives Cas's fingers a friendly squeeze. Cas smiles at him and Charlie ruins the moment by taking a picture.

He definitely doesn't steal her phone later and email it to himself.

Sometimes Cas will reach over when Dean's driving to stroke his fingers down Dean's arm like he can't believe they're so close or trail a hand along his side when they're going in opposite directions in the hall.

Other times Cas slips into the kitchen like he's stalking the enemy and comes to loom at his side while he cooks. Cas will rest his hand on Dean's shoulder, lean into his side, and watch intently as the meal takes shape.

It warms him up like whiskey.

---

Kevin and Charlie decide that Cas needs to experience the finer things in life.

The finer things turn out to be mixing three different kinds of cereal together and eating it in a giant pillow fort that takes up one whole room while Charlie and Kevin argue over cartoons to watch on the laptop.

Kevin awkwardly invites him in when he passes by. Dean is about to shrug him off, he's got better things to do then sit on the floor and eat cereal, but Cas pokes his head out and tells him he made a space for him and offers to share his cereal.

Dean can't say no to that. He crawls in and makes himself comfortable beside Cas. It's stuffy and cramped and smells a little bit like sweaty feet.

They have to make an addition when Sam's invited.

---

Sam gets it in his head that they should go on a vacation.

Dean waves a hand at the bunker and says this is a vacation. They've barely had a job since Heaven and Hell were closed up.

Sam sighs at him and tells him that the bunker doesn't count.

---

He's on his knees picking up beads blessed by some kind of ancient priest ‒ the name sounds like Kevin is hacking up a hairball ‒ when Cas walks into the library.

It's stupid really. He knew Cas was there. It wasn't like it was a surprise. Cas crouched down beside him to help him pick up the beads and left a trail of soft touches down his back. Dean knew he was there.

But Cas stands up first and lets his hand trail up Dean's side as he straightens himself out then Dean's on his knees with Cas above him and Dean's heart jackhammers in his chest and it's not love making it thump.

He flings himself backwards, knocking over a chair. Charlie and Kevin yelp at the sudden crash. Cas jumps away like he's been bitten. Sam leaps to his feet, looking for the threat.

Dean tries to say something but he can't get the words out through the vivid flash of memory; snapping bones and the meaty sound of a fist hitting his face.

"Dean, what hap—" Cas's face pales. He looks down at his hands. Dean can see the tremors start. Cas turns on his heel and strides out of the room like an angel on a mission.

"Dean?" Sam asks. "What was that about?"

Dean pushes himself to his feet. "You know what it was," he grunts at Sam then takes off after Cas.

---

It takes him an hour to find Cas in the bunker. They really need to make a fully detailed map.

Cas is sitting at a desk in one of the file storage rooms, a giant dusty book and notebook open in front of him.

He grabs another chair and sits down beside Cas. Cas stops writing but doesn't look at him. He leans over to read Cas's notes. They're in Enochian. He recognizes a handful of words but not enough to understand.

"You find it easier to write your notes in Enochian?" Dean asks. He wants to kick himself for never asking before.

"...yes." Cas runs his finger down the crease in the notebook. "But no one else is fluent."

"We'll make an Enochian to English dictionary," Dean says.

That gets a sad smile from Cas.

Dean reaches out and takes Cas's hands in his own.

Cas shivers but doesn't pull away. He stares down at their hands. "I beat you until your face was unrecognizable. How can I ever earn your forgiveness for that?"

"It wasn't you." Dean squeezes Cas's fingers. "You don't have to earn my forgiveness because you didn't do it. Naomi did it. You stopped it."

Cas heaves a sigh. Dean knows he doesn't believe him. He slides out of his chair and drops to his knees.

"Dean?" Cas's eyes flick back and forth with nervous tension.

Dean takes one of Cas's hands and puts it to his face. "Look. I'm not flailing around, am I?"

"No, but—"

"No buts," Dean says. He pushes himself back up and sits down in the chair. His knees aren't what they used to be. He isn't going to ruin them kneeling on a concrete floor unless Cas is about to have a good time.

He opens his mouth to tell Cas that nightmares and flashbacks are things that just happen sometimes ‒ he's never known a hunter to not have them ‒ but stops himself. Maybe that kind of stuff doesn't happen to angels.

Dean wipes a hand over his face. "Cas, we gotta talk about some of the crappy stuff that goes with being human."

---

Sam doesn't know what it was all about. He has an awkward conversation with Sam about the finer details of Cas being mind-controlled to beat him bloody. Dean swears him to secrecy unless Cas comes to him to talk about it.

---

Cas is a soldier for the next four days. There's no cuddling and no touching.

Dean gives him space. He's pretty sure Cas is just trying to process their serious human stuff conversation but he can't help but worry that Cas is beating himself up over what Naomi made him do.

Sam bugs him to go talk to Cas. Dean tells him to stuff it.

---

He's just about to turn his lamp off and hit the sack when Cas shows up in his doorway with his earmuffs and a pillow.

"Hey, buddy," Dean says. He sits up and debates on whether he should be wearing more than a t-shirt and boxers for whatever conversation they're about to have.

Cas nods at him and strides across the room. Dean's brain plays tricks on his ears, he's sure he can hear a trench coat flapping in the wind. Cas stops in front of the bed.

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize the full extent human experiences effect their—" Cas scrunches up his nose. "Our brains."

"Uh, thanks." Dean isn't sure what else to say to that.

"I'd like to cuddle here tonight," Cas declares.

Dean slides over, making room for Cas. Cas throws his pillow down and pops his earmuffs on. Dean turns the light off. He lies back down and throws an arm over Cas. Cas snuggles back against his chest.

Dean wonders if this is just another cuddle upgrade or if Cas is trying to make a romantic gesture by giving him a tactical advantage. He smiles and chuckles into the back of Cas's neck.

Cas squirms against his chest. Dean can feel him slide an earmuff off his ear. "What're you laughing about?"

He doesn't bother beating around the bushes. It never gets anywhere with Cas. "Are you trying to be romantic?"

"Yes," Cas says with all the seriousness of a going into battle speech. "Is it working?" He turns in Dean's arms so they're facing. "It's not, is it? You're laughing."

Dean's glad that Cas doesn't have angel vision anymore because he can't hide the amused smile on his face. "No, Cas, it's working."

Cas huffs. Dean gets a face full of minty fresh breath.

"Can I kiss you?" Dean blurts out.

"Oh..." Cas goes quiet. Dean's sure he's got his far off look. "...can we turn the lamp back on first?"

"Sure."

Their first kiss is awkward, dry, and too minty. He wishes Charlie was there to sneak a picture that he could covertly send to himself when she isn't looking.

---

"You want to go on a road trip? That's your great vacation plan? All we do is road trip." Dean doesn't understand where Sam got his weird ideas about vacations. He thought he raised him to have more sense.

"No, we drive to jobs," Sam says like there's a difference. "It's not the same thing."

"What're you going to do with the rabbits?" Dean asks. He's sure he's got him now.

Sam shoots him a smug little smile. "I found a pet sitter in town." He starts doing the sad puppy eyes. "Come on, it'll be fun." He looks over at Kevin. "Right? It'll be fun. Relaxing."

"I'm supposed to be coming?" Kevin looks surprised.

"Family road trip." Sam makes a sweeping motion with his arm that includes everyone. Apparently no one is getting out of Sam's family road trip.

Kevin looks worried. He should be. There's only five seats in the impala and three six foot guys. Kevin is going to be stuck in the back if this road trip fantasy of Sam's comes true.

"It sounds like fun," Charlie muses. "I've never seen a giant redwood before."

"Giant redwoods were always a favourite of Tzaphkiel's," Cas says quietly.

"Gesundheit," Charlie says.

Cas looks at her confused. "No. Tzaphkiel."

Charlie writes down sneezing on a sticky note. "We're adding that to the human lessons."

Cas narrows his eyes at the sticky note and mutters something that sounds a lot like, how complicated can humans have made sneezing? Dean wants to feel bad for Cas, he really does, but he also wants to fill up his top secret folder on his laptop that's mostly pictures of Cas being adorably annoyed by human stuff.

Sam gives Dean a pointed look. "I've got a list of places that all claim to have the best pie in the state."

Dean turns his nose up. "You can't bribe me with pie."

---

He blames it on Cas and Sam. Cas played dirty, talking up how he wanted to experience human traditions and how family road trips were important, and he just doesn't trust Sam with his car for a month, the last time Sam had his car without supervision there were dogs and ipod jacks.

So he's been blackmailed into going but he isn't going to have fun. He'll put up with it. He's going as chaperone and chauffeur.

"Everyone got everything? Because once we leave I'm not turning around," Dean informs them before he starts the car.

Cas takes out a list from his pocket and reads it out loud. Everyone shouts out check for each item‒ there's some confusion about who brought sun screen but Kevin is sure he packed some.

"It seems we have everything," Cas says. He slips the paper back in his pocket. Dean's pretty sure they're going to end up going through that list every morning.

"Great." Dean turns in his seat. He's got to lay down the law before they head out on this disaster. "Now, there's some rules for the newbies. The impala is not a democracy. There's no voting on radio stations."

Sam rolls his eyes.

"You don't complain about my singing." Dean ignores the way Charlie and Sam share a look. "And I don't care if you're best friends with it, there's no dogs in the car." He points at his eyes then points at Sam.

Charlie and Kevin look at Sam expecting an explanation but Sam just pouts at him.

"What about other animals?" Cas asks. Leave it to Cas to find the loop holes.

"No. No animals in the car." Dean waits to see if there's going to be an argument about how he drove the rabbits to the pet sitter in the impala but nobody wises up. "Any other questions?"

He gets some shrugs and a no. Dean turns back around and starts the car. Country music blasts out from the radio. Sam, Charlie, and Kevin burst out in laughter. Dean turns it off and glares at them.

"You think that's funny? Just wait," Dean threatens. "I've got a whole month to get you back."

Charlie and Kevin look worried. Cas looks confused. Sam just sets his jaw and smirks.

He definitely isn't going to have fun.