"You sure you did the ritual right?" Dean said in what most definitely was not a whiny voice. Bobby gave him one of his Looks. "Sorry. Touchy, touchy, huh?"
He almost regretted his words when, as if on cue, the roof began to rattle loudly and the warehouse they had prepared for the summoning began to shake. They'd had no sign of action for the past half hour and now, faced with the arrival of the unknown creature that had raised him from Hell, Dean was beginning to wish that it had stayed that way. But at the same time, he wanted to know. He had to know what this creature was.
"Wishful thinking but maybe it's just the wind," he said as he hefted his shotgun, covering up any sign of nerves.
The next moment, the warehouse doors burst open and a figure strode in, hidden by the sparks from the lightbulbs that blew up as it walked past. Dean swallowed nervously. The only creatures he knew that could affect lights like that with their presence were high-level demons, and even they didn't actually explode lights.
As the creature approached, Dean and Bobby raised their guns and began to open fire. The creature wasn't even fazed, which made Dean's stomach began to churn; these bullets were salt and iron rounds and the creature hadn't even been affected! Was it really a demon? It had to be! What else had the juice to drag his ass out of the pit? But demons couldn't burn people's eyes out like it had done to Pamela…
Finally, Dean could get a clear look at the creature. It looked pretty harmless: in the shape of a handsome man with messy black hair and a beige trench coat over a suit. But Dean knew by now that appearances could be deceiving. And when he looked over the man's shoulders and saw a pair of black wings neatly folded behind him, Dean's jaw dropped.
"What is it?" Bobby hissed to him. "Ya look like you've seen a ghost."
"He – Bobby, he's got wings!" Dean croaked, pulling the demon knife out. Bobby frowned.
"What are ya talkin' about?"
"Yes," the man said, drawing level with them. "I do have wings."
Dean whirled around, holding the knife out.
"Who are you?" he demanded. The winged man regarded him for a moment with piercing blue eyes.
"I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from Perdition."
"Yeah. Thanks for that."
He couldn't be a demon. Demons didn't have wings. But Dean had to be sure. He raised the knife and plunged it into the winged man's chest. When the man just looked down apathetically and pulled the knife out without a care in the world, Dean gulped and took a careful step away. Was this thing going to attack them now? And how the hell were they supposed to fight it?
Bobby was the next one to attack the man. This time, the winged man was a little more proactive; he easily caught hold of Bobby's iron weapon, using its momentum to swing himself around, and when his fingers tapped Bobby on the forehead, the older man crumpled to the ground. Dean made a shocked sound.
"We need to talk, Dean," the winged man said. "Alone. Don't worry about your friend. He's alive."
"Who are you?" Dean demanded.
"Yeah, I figured that much. What are you?"
Castiel gave him another piercing look.
"I'm an angel of the Lord."
Dean's first instinct was to immediately deny it. Angels didn't exist. They just didn't. But if Castiel wasn't a demon…and he had wings…
"You're having trouble accepting this," Castiel concluded, studying him intently. "Despite the fact that you can see my wings. This is your problem, Dean. You have no faith."
In a flash of lightning, Castiel's ebony wings spread wide, showing their true glory. Dean was struck with the sudden, overwhelming urge to kneel down, to give this creature – angel – the respect he deserved. But that urge passed when Castiel folded his wings back up against his back.
Dear God, he was fucked.
After a little while – ever since Castiel's little encounter with Raphael that had ended in him being blown to chunks and then put back together – Dean had noticed something. Whenever Castiel was near him, his wings would spread wide and quiver and he might have brushed this off as some weird 'angel-human reaction' if this happened near Sam or Bobby as well. But nope. Only Dean.
"How should I know?" Sam said, also being able to see Castiel's wings. Castiel theorised that it was due to them being the true vessels of Michael and Lucifer and therefore being far more sensitive than the average human. "It's not like I've spent enough time around them to pick up any information. And Bobby's books are limited."
Dean just shrugged it off but all the same, the question burned deep inside him…
"Can I ask you something?" he said to Castiel one day. It was a rare lazy day, where they had absolutely nothing to do and therefore could afford to just sit around outside and drink beer.
"Of course, Dean."
"Your wings. Whenever I'm around, they – they spread out. Why?"
To his utter surprise, he'd rendered Castiel, angel of the Lord, completely speechless.
"Cas?" he said when Castiel looked away. Castiel reluctantly turned to face him, his cheeks stained pink.
"I – it's nothing, Dean," he stammered.
"Really? You spread 'em when we first met. Is it like an intimidation thing? You trying to scare me into submission?"
"Ah – no – that was different. This – don't worry, Dean. It's none of your concern."
He was interrupted by the sound of fluttering wings and the disappearance of the angel. He swore under his breath.
Dean might have forgotten about it if it hadn't happened again and again over the next few years. Without fail, every time Castiel was around him, his wings would spread. It never happened with Sam – Dean had done a little experiment and hidden to watch Castiel talk to Sam and his wings remained comfortably folded and relaxed. But as soon as the angel became aware of Dean's presence – whumph. Out came the wings.
"I don't get it," Dean complained to Sam, who was browsing one of the books in the bunker for information for a case. "I think Cas hates me."
"I highly doubt that, Dean," Sam said, not even looking up from his book. "You're his little favourite. 'More profound bond' and all that crap."
"Then why does he keep spreading his wings around me? Huh? He never does it with you or anyone else. You know the first time he did it? It was in that warehouse when Bobby and I summoned him. He was trying to impress me."
"Not like that, you bitch! He was trying to intimidate me. Now they keep spreading and – I dunno…"
"Have you tried talking to him?" Sam said in a voice usually used for talking to a small child. Dean glared at him.
"I tried once. He blushed and made some half-assed excuse, then flew off. I keep trying to ask him but he always avoids the topic. Sam, I think he hates me."
"And why are you so concerned about that?"
"Because he's my best fucking friend," Dean snarled. Sam made a placating gesture.
"Right. Sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
"Then how did you mean it?"
"Why are you so hung up on whether or not he hates you when you know for a fact that he doesn't?"
Dean opened his mouth but no sound came out. Sam smiled understandingly at him, making him wish he could rip that smile right off his younger brother's face.
"You're scared that he's gonna leave, aren't you? He's one of the only people whose opinion of you matters and you're terrified that he doesn't like you and is gonna leave you."
"If you say so, Dr Phil."
"You know I'm right, Dean. Why are you so scared of him leaving? You're not nearly as scared about me as you are of him."
Why couldn't Sam just leave it well alone? Dean wanted to just terminate this conversation but he'd fucking started it and Sam wouldn't let up until he answered. So for the purpose of just ripping the band aid off, he took a moment to think before giving his answer.
"Because…you always come back," he said slowly. "Stanford, Ruby, the Cage…you always came back, even if it caused more shit than it was worth."
"I didn't come for you when you were in Purgatory."
"I know. But every other time, Sam. I've always been able to count on you coming back for me."
"Cas always comes back too. He's left, he's died, but he always comes back."
He broke off. Sam latched on to this.
"But he can fly, so he can leave at any time. And you can't find him like you can find me. So if he really wants to abandon ship, you're helpless."
Dean glared at Sam but with no heat.
"When'd you become a shrink?"
Sam rolled his eyes with a smile.
"Trust me, Dean. Cas won't leave you."
"He did now. He's off God knows where with the angel tablet. He didn't trust me enough to help him, Sam. Me. And you're the one who said that we're the ones with the profound bond."
Sam reached out and patted Dean on the shoulder.
"He'll come back. You love him too much for him to be able to stay away."
Dean jerked back.
"Dean, I'm not blind. The staring at each other, the 'profound bond', the personal space, the way you look at him when you think nobody can see you…sure, you can tell yourself that he's your best friend and practically your brother but face it: you don't treat him like you treat me."
"I treat you pretty crappily."
"So do I. But that's not the point. You never just stare at me and if I ever got in your personal space, you'd slap me. But Cas is different."
Dean remained stiff in his seat.
"It's not a bad thing, Dean. You've told me since – since Lisa that if you do settle down with someone, they have to be in the life. They have to understand. And Cas does understand. He can hold his own. Hell, he's saved your ass before. What are you so scared of?"
"Let's say that he does feel the same way – which I really don't think he does, Sam. And I'm not gonna go and have a chick flick moment with him and fuck it all up when he doesn't feel the same way. But let's say he does. I – I just can't."
Dean's mouth worked for a few moments.
"Because…everyone I get close to leaves or dies," he admitted quietly. "Heck, he has died. So have you."
He didn't think he could bear it if Sam opened his big mouth and spouted some more 'profound wisdom' bullshit. So when Sam just patted him on the shoulder again and offered to go on a pie run, he didn't think he'd loved his little brother more than he had in that moment.
"By the way, while we're doing this cheesy chick flick stuff," he called. "I…I forgive you for Purgatory."
Sam froze, staring at him.
"Shitty thing to do and yeah, I was pissed. But…it's okay, Sammy."
And that was all he was going to say, so Sam had better be freaking grateful. Judging by the soft smile that spread across his face, he was.
"Dude, go easy on Cas," Sam said as they explored room 7B. "He's one of the good guys."
Dean glowered at him.
"Dude, if anybody else – I mean anybody – pulled that kind of crap, I would stab them in the neck on principle. Why should I give him a free pass?"
"Because it's Cas," was all Sam said.
"Right, because that makes everything better."
"Dean, remember what we talked about? He came back. He didn't leave you."
"Oh, good, I'll go and give him a cookie."
"Dean, can you just stop it?"
"I trusted him, Sam! I would've trusted him enough to help me if I was in his shoes! But he didn't trust me because he just flapped off outta there!"
"Think of it from his perspective. He just spent months being brainwashed and having his head messed around with. He had to kill his younger brother just because they made him. And then he beat the crap out of you because Naomi was forcing him to, even though he didn't want to."
"He broke free. He chose us over them."
"He chose you over them. And you said yourself that he still wasn't fully right after throwing Naomi out. Maybe…I dunno, the tablet was messing with him? Screwing up his head, telling him that he couldn't trust anyone? We hardly know anything about what these tablets can do, Dean. Maybe it affected him, him being an angel and that being the angel tablet."
"Quit making excuses for him!" Dean barked. "He made his choice! He ignored us when we could've helped! He didn't trust us!"
"I'm not saying he's blameless, Dean," Sam said patiently. He held up a finger, then had a coughing fit and splattered blood on the floor. Dean winced. "I'm just saying…cut him some slack? He's been through a lot."
"So, what, forgive him and that's that? No harm done?"
"Talking to him would be a start."
Okay, Dean had had enough. Time to change the subject.
"What are we supposed to be looking for down here?"
"Well, that was weird," Dean remarked after they watched the two priests and Abaddon's host Josie try and fail to cure a demon. "With three exclamation points."
"That wasn't a normal exorcism," Sam said. "They changed the words."
"I believe 'lustra' is Latin for wash or cleanse," Castiel put in.
"Oh yeah, 'cause the most freaky thing was the vocabulary," Dean said darkly. "What about the bloody high five or the chest burster? Anything else on the film, like director's commentary, sequel maybe?"
"Yeah, listen to this," Sam said. "The older priest, Max Thompson, bit the dust in '58, but the younger one is still alive and still in St Louis."
"Think this kind of weird is worth the drive?"
"Dean, everything in those folders – the possessions, the deals, all of it – we've seen that before but that – that was all new. Yeah, it's worth the drive."
"Alright. Let's roll."
As if on cue, Castiel stood up.
"Not you," Dean snapped.
"Sam is more damaged than I am," Castiel argued.
"Yeah, well, you know, even banged up, Sammy comes through."
Dean knew that was a low blow. So did Cas, by the way he visibly wilted.
"Dean, I just want to help," he insisted.
Dean was about to make a snarky retort but Sam got in first.
"I forgot something in my room. I'm just – gonna go get it."
'Thanks, Sam,' Dean thought angrily. 'Now I gotta talk to him.'
When Sam left, heavy silence fell on the room.
"I'm sorry," Cas said miserably. "I really am."
"Sorry doesn't cut it." Dean crossed his arms. "You didn't trust me. You ignored us. You made your choice."
"And it was the wrong decision. I wish I had chosen otherwise. But I can't change the choice I made, so all I can do is ask for your forgiveness."
Dean stubbornly looked away.
"You left me, Cas," he mumbled. "You left me in Purgatory and you left me here."
His insides fluttered when Cas approached him, stopping right in front of him.
"Dean. Look at me."
Reluctantly, Dean met Cas' eyes and he nearly broke and forgave Cas then from the hurt and remorse in the angel's eyes. But he wasn't going to make this easy – not after being fucked over again – so he kept the scowl on his face.
"I'm sorry, Dean. I'm so sorry. I was selfish and I made all the wrong decisions and I hurt you. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness."
"You do." Dean looked down. "But I dunno if I can give it to you. What if you zap off again, Cas? What if you decide that you can do better than me and leave for good?"
"I won't," Cas said firmly. "Do you know why? Because there is nobody better than you. Nobody. There is nobody I would rather fight alongside, or spend my time with. I was vulnerable and I allowed the angel tablet to manipulate me but that's still no excuse."
They were silent again, Dean's mind going at a million miles an hour.
"I – whatever," he finally said. "Okay."
Cas perked up hopefully.
"Do you forgive me?"
"Yeah, yeah. You're still on probation."
Dean knew that the angel had no idea what probation was but Castiel looked so damn happy anyway.
"And seriously, while we're having a nice little chat show session here, what's with your wings?" Dean said. "Every time you're near me, they spread out. They don't do that with anyone else. What's going on?"
And there it was: Castiel's cheeks flushed and he looked away.
"Oh, that," a voice said. Sam was back from his room. "You still haven't figured it out?"
"We can't all be nerds, Samantha," Dean said snarkily. He blinked. "Wait, you know why his wings do this?"
Castiel blushed even harder and looked at the floor.
"I did some reading about angels a few days ago," Sam said. "So get this: apparently, they have no control over their wings when it comes to expressing their emotions. Like, if they're happy then their feathers will fluff up. If they're sad, their wings will droop. They can't help it."
"Yes," Castiel mumbled, still looking at the floor. "It's instinctive. It's how we express the emotions that we feel. Many people think of us as emotionless but that's because they can't see our wings – only our vessel."
"So what does it mean when his wings do that?" Dean gestured to Castiel's wings, which were spread wide. Sam smirked at him.
"You know peacocks, right?"
"'Course I know what a freaking peacock is."
"Right. Well, you know how the males have those bright, huge tails? Those tails are a mating display. They spread their tail wide when trying to attract a mate."
A bad feeling started to niggle at Dean's gut.
"So…you're saying that Cas is a peacock?"
Sam rolled his eyes.
"Angel wings are the same as peacock tails. Angels call each other brother and sister but they're not technically siblings. So if an angel wants to mate with another angel – or a human – their wings spread wide instinctively. It's their way of seducing their prospective mate."
Sam then lapsed into a coughing fit, which was the only sound in the otherwise deathly silent room. Dean tried to meet Castiel's eye but the angel was pointedly looking anywhere but him.
"So…angel boner?" Dean croaked. Sam nodded, somehow looking smug even while coughing madly and hacking up blood.
"I'm gonna – go wait in the car," Sam wheezed when he finally stopped coughing, wiping his bloody hand on his shirt. But his disappearance only served to heighten the awkward silence.
"So…that's true?" Dean said awkwardly, making a vague gesture in the direction Sam had gone. Though as embarrassing as this was, a small sliver of hope was also starting to grow in him. "That whole…peacock thing?"
Castiel nodded mutely.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I'd have preferred that you never find out?"
"Why? You ashamed or something?" Yeah, that one hurt.
"No. Rather, I didn't want our friendship to be compromised. I wouldn't have wanted you to feel awkward whenever you were forced to be around me. I know that you are only attracted to females. I often thought that I should take a female vessel but…I'm happy in this one. I didn't want to give that up either."
Dean snorted. Then he took a step closer to Castiel.
"This is why we humans talk," he said, gently raising Castiel's chin with a finger. "The whole tablet mess. This. If you'd just talk to me, none of this crap would happen."
"See, if you'd have just talked to me, I'd have told you about the bunker. The safest place on Earth. Nobody would have found the tablet. And if you'd just told me what the wings meant, I'd've told you that I kinda like you too. And I like your vessel. Actually, no, I probably wouldn't've talked. Sam would've had to drag me out. But we'd have gotten there."
"But…you're attracted to females," Cas said, looking utterly confused and maybe a little hopeful.
"Gee, really?" Dean said sarcastically. "I'd never have figured that one out myself. Actually, I…sorta like guys too. Not like I like chicks – it's only been two, maybe three guys in my life. That's why I thought that I was just curious and it was gonna pass. But then I started to like you and it didn't pass and I had a big gay panic and then realised that I could like both. And that it was okay that I liked way, way more girls than guys. Didn't mean I just accepted that I liked you, though. I kept fighting it, kicking and screaming."
Castiel just stared at him.
"When did you –?"
"– figure out I liked you? I think after the – the lake thing. When I kept the coat. That's when I realised…whenever you left me…"
"I always came back if I could help it."
"I know. But…look at me, Cas. Nobody ever stays with me. Everyone I love dies or leaves me. So the fact that you kept leaving and coming back…it annoyed me in a way. If you were gonna leave…I just wanted you to get it over with and leave. But every time, you came back. And every time, I got my hopes up."
"I'm sorry," Castiel said sadly. "If I'd known just how much pain I was causing you, I wouldn't have left as often as I did. But I will stay now…if you'll have me."
Dean grinned at him.
"You're such an idiot sometimes."
And then he kissed Castiel. The angel froze, not doing anything for a moment, before tentatively kissing back.
"Awesome," Dean said dizzily when they broke apart.
"Indeed," Castiel agreed. The next moment, Dean found himself pinned to the wall with Castiel's lips on his again, kissing harder and more forcefully than before. All Dean could do was grab Castiel's trench coat and kiss back, wondering if he'd died again and gone to Heaven because this was freaking awesome.
"Wha –?" he slurred as Castiel pulled away. Castiel smiled hesitantly at him.
"I learned that from the pizza man."
"Did you just – did you just pull a freaking porno move on me?"
Castiel just smiled mischievously. Dean rolled his eyes.
"Right. Well…wanna show me what else you learned from the pizza man?"
Castiel's smile widened and he leaned in to press a deep kiss to Dean's lips.
"Maybe later," he murmured. "We have a case."
He backed away, leaving Dean frustrated and blinking in confusion.
"You little shit," he growled. "You can't do that to me!"
But he still reached out to take Castiel's hand, threading their fingers together, and pulled him in the direction of the garage.
"Thank you, Dean," Castiel said. "For forgiving me and giving me another chance."
Dean rolled his eyes but ruined his grumpy image by kissing Castiel on the cheek.
"You better not blow this one," he warned, stealing a quick kiss from the angel. Castiel nodded seriously.
"Oh my God," Sam muttered later as Dean kept pressing kisses to Castiel's lips, unable to keep his hands off the angel, while Castiel in turn kept his arm around Dean's waist and planted small kisses along Dean's jaw. "If I'd known I'd have to put up with this, I wouldn't've said anything."