“Chef, where are we on the protein, all day?”
“Three salmon, two porterhouse medium, two number two’s, all day. Keepin’ up?” Dean teases.
Vic flips him the bird and a grin. “Oh fuck you, pretty boy. I’m the best there is.”
Dean grins at their perfect storm. A git-’er-done attitude has been bred into him, but much of the efficiency of the restaurant is thanks to Cas. The guy has high expectations and a low tolerance for bullshit, and it makes for a fucking excellent work environment.
It had better, Dean thinks begrudgingly, seeing as this is the only environment he gets with Cas.
They’d fucked that night Dean came in to ask for a job. Cas had bent him over the prep table and taken him apart with his hands and mouth and stupidly distracting voice, then cleaned them up and run apologetic palms over the finger shaped bruises on Dean’s hips.
Cas had hired him, but he didn’t touch Dean after that.
They work well together, effortless banter, compatible work ethic, but the mutual attraction has become uncomfortably one sided. Cas is friendly and incredibly helpful - it’s only been a few months and Dean is already a hundred times the chef he was under Roman. But he’s never going to forget the sob Cas had gasped into his back as he came, and he’s never going to feel so perfectly full again, so he’s not quite sure if that’s enough of a consolation prize.
“Chef, dude at the desk wants to talk to you,” Charlie calls, then disappears back into the front of house. Dean shrugs his apron off and raises a brow at Vic who nods and checks the tickets on the board.
Dick Roman is leaning casually on the hostess station.
“What in the ever-loving fuck do you want.” Dean’s so pissed he can’t even make it a question. Roman has no right being here, a parasite in a host Dean is working himself to the bone to keep healthy.
“Just admiring the decor.”
“You made sure to drop by when Cas wouldn’t be here. So what the fuck do you want?”
“I have an offer, ” Dick begins smoothly, a charming snake, and Dean’s already turned away.
“We need a new executive chef.”
Dean freezes, but he repeats, “Not. Interested.”
“Heard that brother of yours is in need of some college funds.”
“You stay the fuck away from my family.”
“I’m just -“
“You’re just fucking leaving. Now,” he adds at Dick’s hesitation, and grits his teeth at the silhouette leaving quickly enough that the door slams behind him.
By two a.m. the staff has finished their closing duties and Dean is sitting on the prep table, legs swinging, surrounded by paperwork, various highlighters and pens jammed between his knuckles. He’s tapping numbers into the calculator with the one finger that's not holding a beer bottle or writing utensils, and trying to shake the mood Roman left in his chest.
He perks up at the rumble of a motorcycle cutting off. The back door gives its trademark pop-and-creak as someone slides through, bag in one hand and boxes balanced in the other.
Cas’s hair is a goddamn mess - it’s been a weirdly windy spring - but his slacks are still pressed, his jacket sits crisp on his shoulders, and the top button of his shirt is undone, casual and purposeful in a way that has Dean crossing his legs, though the hard surface he’s perched on makes that less than comfortable.
“Did you know that Deco only uses ghee?” Cas says to the door, kicking it closed. “Nothing but clarified.”
“That just sounds douchy. Worth it?”
“Delicious but I’m unconvinced the same results couldn’t be achieved using different methodology. I mean… who has time for that?”
“Says the man who makes his guys change the setup of the mise en place every other day.”
“It’s not about the mise, it’s about the chef. Vic is left handed, Ash is right handed, Kev is not tall enough to reach the -“
“Shut up Cas. I’m giving you a hard time.”
Cas frowns darkly. “See if I ever bring you leftovers again.”
“You brought me leftovers?” Dean hops down from the prep table, catching Cas’s begrudging smile as he turns away to set his armful down.
“What’d ya bring me?”
Cas rolls his eyes and leaves the pile of take out boxes for Dean to riffle through, trading places to look through the reports from tonight’s shift. “Forage for yourself, you animal.”
The first box is strips of different cuts of meat separated by neatly folded squares of foil, obviously Cas’s doing. “You obsessive motherfucker,” Dean mutters through a bite of Kobe that melts on his tongue.
“Wow. You did well tonight.”
Dean beams through a mouthful of garlic potatoes he’s just discovered. “We did. There was that article in the paper last weekend, best people on staff tonight…series of fortunate events. How was the opening?”
“Fine,” Cas says with a pen cap dangling from his lip as he scratches some notes in the margins of the inventory. “Everyone was tolerable, food was good - if unoriginal, and hey, the pie’s not bad.”
“Yes, Dean.” Cas is laughing at him. “Pie.”
“Figure it out, Sherlock. I have to finish these emails before -“
“Oh no you don’t,” Dean grumbles, looping an arm through his boss’s and dragging the guy over to the counter where the boxes are sprawled out. “I haven’t seen you in days. Have some pie with me.”
“Dean -” Sam is the best at puppy eyes, but Dean’s no slouch, and Cas’s protests crumble in an instant. “Fine. Get me a damn beer.”
He leans against the counter ignoring Dean’s obnoxious victory dance, absently plucking morsels of food from the various containers and popping them into his mouth. Dean tries, and again fails, not to watch.
“Anything eventful tonight?” Cas murmurs, and Roman flits into Dean’s head
“Nah, pretty smooth. Holy shit, this is amazing.”
“I told you.”
“That would be you, my friend.”
Cas sips his beer, bemused. “Or maybe dumbass….?
Dean laughs and pokes him in the ribs, but he can’t really argue, so he shrugs. “Maybe.”
The mood stills with an alacrity he hadn’t been expecting.
“Dean. I was joking.”
“I know,” he replies slowly, confused.
“Oh.” Heat brands his cheekbones. “Nah. But thanks.”
“Sure, Cas. Tell me about the opening.”
Dean finds himself pressed to the wall with hands on his shoulders, and Cas snarls, “I only hire the best. Are you questioning my judgement?”
They’re close enough that Cas’s breath is warm on Dean’s mouth, cinnamon from the pie and hops from the beer. His eyes are indigo in the low light, and there’s a small scar on his top lip, white against the pink of a mouth Dean spends hours a day trying not to look at, and now he’s burning from the inside out.
And then the hands are gone, the support is gone, and Dean slides just a little down the wall before he catches himself. “Good.”
He’s not sure how he managed to fuck things up so royally just by sleeping with his boss. That usually helps things along - he knows he’s an excellent lay - but in conversations like this one, shit gets confusing. Cas likes him, respects him, enjoys his company, just…doesn’t want him?
Lying in bed that night (morning) Dean reflects on it, and decides it makes sense. Cas is the manager of one of the best restaurants in the city, graduate of the acclaimed Institute of Culinary Education in NYC, well on his way to earning a Michelin star, and Dean is a high school dropout line cook who talked his way up to sous chef. Dating down wouldn’t even begin to cover it.
It’s completely logical reasoning but Dean still finds himself curled in over his knees, breathing through pain and shame and the loss of something that was never his to begin with.
“I think we should put the apple slaw on the menu.”
“Mangos are in season,” Dean murmurs, still glancing through the spread of options. “Can we do a twist on slaw with that?”
“Something with vinegar to temper the sweetness,” Cas agrees, and Vic grunts as he adds it to the list, “Aw c’mon, Chef. Can't you indulge my sugar addiction?”
Cas laughs. “Sorry Henricksen.”
These meetings are always interesting, unlike anything Dean’s experienced at his other jobs. As no one is allowed at Cas’s ever, under any circumstances, they sprawl over Vic’s floor with coffee or beer, brainstorming and arguing until the next menu is planned. And then they eat until they can’t breathe anymore.
Vic and Gabe are hogging the couch, but Dean prefers the carpet, where he can wriggle to his heart’s content. Plus, he’s closer to the fridge.
“Hey, get me another beer while you’re up?” Gabe calls and Dean flicks him off as he goes, stretching the kinks from being hunched on the floor for forty five minutes.
“Get me one, too,” Vic calls, then adds, “The fuck did Dick Roman want?”
“Uh - ” Dean pauses halfway in the fridge, avoiding. “Nothing. Just talking shit. You know.”
“Fucker,” Gabe adds, and he and Vic dissolve into stories about their own experiences with the douche, freeing up Cas to stalk into the kitchen.
Dean wrenches the caps off the bottles, enjoying the sting in his palms. “Uh huh…”
“Last night? Look, it’s not that big of deal, Cas, I sent him away, and -“
“What did he want?”
“Nothing,” he protests.
“He wanted me back.”
The silence is enough for Dean to look up into blazing blue. Cas has his fists clenched firmly at his sides. “At Gallant?”
“I’m assuming.” The competitive jealousy feels good, even if it’s for his talent and not his heart.
“What did you say to him?
“No! Of course I said no, Cas, what the -? Why the fuck -? I work for you. On purpose.”
Cas nods sharply, body language relaxing, though something resembling guilt crosses his face. “I…of course. You know, though,” and he looks profoundly pained as he bites out, “You’re not beholden to me. If it seems like a good opportunity-”
Dean stares, mouth agape until the words can bubble onto his tongue. “Do you want me to leave?”
Maybe it would be easier going back to Dick, if Cas doesn’t want him here. Or maybe he could move to Palo Alto. Find a job closer to Sammy.
He doesn’t want to work for Roman. Roman’s an asshole and a bigot against everything Dean stands for. But working under him would probably hurt less.
“But if it’s a ‘good opportunity’…” The words drip with bitterness, and Cas jerks forward.
“Dean,” he breathes.
“Right.” His shoes are by the door, coat hanging over a chair. Easy exit. He doesn’t bother saying goodnight to the guys. It’s shitty, but he’s not sure his voice works anymore.
The next day Cas acts like it never happened. And the next.
Dean should be grateful. He’s the king of avoidance. It just hurts.
It doesn’t fade, but it settles, and after a few shifts of unnatural tact Dean finally caves, mostly because he misses his best friend.
“Are you cooking?” Cas yawns, stumbling from the office. “It’s two a.m.”
“It’s a surprise.”
“...Can I help with anything?”
“Make some coffee. And keep me company. And quit asking so many goddamn questions.”
He hears Cas huff but the bubble of brewing coffee follows not long after, then he settles at the prep station to roll napkins while Dean scrapes mushed peanut butter and banana from the side of the bowl.
“Ridiculous. He wants to take overload again next semester.”
“He’s a smart man, and a hard worker. Like his brother.”
“Or we’re both just great at faking it,” Dean jokes, then notices the forlorn fondness on his boss’s face. “What?”
Cas shakes his head and changes the subject. “I think I may have found an acceptable hamburger in this godforsaken city.”
“Some hole in the wall chicken place down on Clark and Peterson, but Dean, the burgers -”
“You had one with out me?”
“- Looked incredible,” Cas finishes with a huff.
Chastised, Dean replies, “Oh,” as he plates the pancakes and turns off the griddle.
“Yeah, ‘oh’,” he sasses. “You’re so - oh my god. Are you making -?”
“No!” Dean assures Cas quickly. “Not exactly. I know I could never compete with your dad’s but this is...an affectionate bastardization. Bacon’s in the batter… I dunno. You'll have to tell me how I did,” he jokes nervously, ripping off a piece of pancake and holding it out.
Cas takes it between his teeth, and the heat of his mouth on Dean's fingers is almost too distracting, but then Cas makes this noise, like pain but not quite, uncharacteristic emotion washing his expression.
Someone knocks on the back door, not five feet from where Dean is standing, startling the shit out of both of them.
“Who the hell…?” he mutters. “Hello?” He opens the door to see Dick Roman with one foot on the stoop.
“Winchester,” he beams. “So glad to find you here!”
“I told you I wasn't interested,” Dean growls trying to stay calm as a smile slithers onto Roman’s mouth.
“Look, I can pay you twice what -”
“Listen here you two-faced, self-serving, bigoted, asshole on legs. I work for Cas. My intellectual property is his. My time is his. I am his. I don't give a fuck if you buy me a new car and cover Sammy's tuition in full. I'm never going with you.”
Cas shifts behind him, hand finding his wrist, and Dean freezes. Maybe Cas’ll be pissed, but worst case scenario is the opposite, that he'll calmly and coolly give Dean away, grant him polite permission to disappear from his life and restaurant. The very thought makes Dean’s stomach roil.
“What do you want, Dick?”
Dean quirks a brow, not that he’s surprised Cas is making dick references already, just that he’s doing it with so little chill.
“Just giving Dean some options,” Roman soothes, slick as oil, and both men glare. “What? I trained him, Castiel. Technically, he’s mine.”
The air shifts tangibly. Every tendon in Cas’s neck is completely taut and he’s biting his bottom lip scarlet. He's certainly not breathing as he stares daggers into Dean's ex-boss.
“If you ever set foot on my property again I’ll have you arrested for trespassing,” Cas growls. “Now get out.”
“He’s not interested!” Cas shouts. “Get the fuck out!”
Cas socks him in the jaw.
Lunging forward, Dean prepares to restrain...someone, but it doesn’t seem to matter because Cas uses strength Dean wasn’t aware he possessed to throw Dick clear across the alley where he lands against the dumpster, and slam the door.
“Holy shit, Cas. What the fuck was that?”
He’s still facing the door, shoulders heaving. “Nothing.”
Dark hair spills over his forehead as Cas whirls around, eyes dark and cheeks red to bite out, “You. Are. Mine.”
Dean gasps at the rush of relief and lust so strong it knocks the filter clean out of his mouth. “Prove it.”
Cas’s jaw hits the floor, and then he’s pining Dean to the wall with his hips, sweeping his hands up the back of Dean’s shirt, crushing their mouths together.
Immediately Dean has his fingers fisted at the waistband of Cas’s slacks, scrambling for something to anchor him. Cas is solid, a brick house, immovable muscle, and Dean collapses into his arms. Sandpaper stubble and silk lips is a combination Dean hasn't allowed himself in years, but it's irrelevant, there's no preparation for Cas Novak, and Dean’s known it since the day he clapped eyes on him.
He'd been at a tasting with Charlie, and Cas had been seated a few tables down, wearing slacks and a sweater with a wide neck and it was immediately a problem.
“What the fuck are you staring at?” Charlie had hissed after the third time Dean had grunted a response instead of speaking it.
He'd obviously not dignified her question with a response but she figured it out anyway.
Dean grunted again, but this one was less affirmation and more longing.
“You know that's my boss right?”
“What the fuck?” he’d coughed.
Her grin, smug and affectionate, had made Dean briefly homesick for Sam.
“He's cute, yeah?”
Dean shrugs. “Yeah, I guess.”
Instead of calling him on his bullshit Charlie just makes it a million times worse.
“He's a good guy,” she says softly. “Good heart.”
He falls for it, hook, line and sinker. “Yeah? How?”
“Selfless, you know? The kind who'd break his own heart to save someone else's.”
Cas pulls back, searching Dean’s face, then disappears into his office, but the cold barely has a chance to flit in before he's back, twining their fingers together and pulling Dean out the back door. Without letting go they scramble onto the back of Cas’s bike and Dean grins at the roar as Cas coaxes it to life.
Their route takes them from an area Dean knows like the back of his hand to one less familiar - bigger houses with more character, but not quite as safe as Dean's neighborhood. It’s not until they pull up to the curb and Cas kills the motor that Dean realizes. Cas is taking him home.
No one goes to Cas’s. Gabriel’s barely allowed, and they’re family for Christ sake, but Cas pulls Dean up a flight of stairs, through a battered old door, and up another landing where he unlocks the tarnished brass with one hand. Dean wants to ogle, to soak up Cas’s natural habitat, but his boss is yanking their shirts off so he can embrace him, skin on skin.
“Christ,” Dean groans. “Where did this come from?”
Cas bites the shit out of his shoulder and growls, “Shut up, Dean.”
Dean obeys, stumbling as Cas tugs him down the hall, too busy staring at impossibly muscled shoulders, and hips jutting from the plane of his stomach, and the tan of his skin -
He whimpers and Cas’s irises explode, but instead of tearing him apart, Cas pushes him back across the bed slowly, crawling over him as he goes, and sliding his palms up Dean’s arms until he’s pinned, held, safe.
“You,” Cas whispers against his mouth. “Are the most infuriating, talented, stubborn, beautiful human being I have ever witnessed.
Dean huffs. “I thought you didn’t want me.”
“How could you possibly think that?”
“What was I supposed to think, you fuck me once and then never touch me again?”
“Dean,” he breathes, eyes dancing manically across Dean’s face, too fond and profoundly guilty. “I didn’t - That wasn’t -” The sentiment gets stuck half a dozen more times before Cas gives up, and instead leans in, sliding their lips together and Dean arches up into him, desperate for more.
They fall apart.
Turns out Cas is meticulous in everything. Meticulous in nipping every inch of Dean’s neck, meticulous about sucking marks along his collarbones, meticulous in categorizing every groan and grunt and plea that falls from Dean’s lips until he’s boneless and flying. With his hair fucked up from Dean’s hands and his mouth kissed bruised he’s almost unbearably beautiful Dean thinks as Cas slips away to pull lube and a condom from the table next to the bed.
Slacks hung low on his lips, showing off the broad expanse of back with a few pink lines from fingernails draw Dean up from the bed. Cas turns around to find his employee kneeling at his feet.
“Dean -” His voice is gone. “What are you doing?”
“You want me to tell you, or am I allowed to show instead?”
Cas raises an amused eyebrow but says, “This is supposed to be about you.”
It’s more than Dean’s ever been given, by anyone. It makes it hard to breathe, and his eyes sting, and his hands shake a little, but he tells the truth, because it’s what they both want.
“Good. Then let me choke on your cock.”
Cas’s knees buckle but he catches Dean’s shoulder and rights himself. They strip quickly and for once in his goddamn life, Dean stops overthinking everything and just does what he wants.
He nuzzles the crease of Cas’s thigh then dips down to take Cas’s cock in his mouth, sliding slowly down salty silk, shaky with wanting. Spit and precum make it easy to slick his hand near the base, wringing more noises from that gravely throat. It’s like music, or a feast, and Dean’s drooling for more. He shoves himself down as far as he can, but when the head of Cas’s dick hits a point in his throat, he gags. He works Cas’s over with his hands for a minute more before trying again. A little further this time, but still, not far enough. Cas is absolutely gone, cheeks almost youthfully rosy, mouth hanging open, and it feels so fucking good, but it’s frustrating.
Dean’s never been patient.
He scrambles to his feet and lies down on his back, head canted over the edge, guiding Cas towards him.
“Are you sure?” Cas gasps, cock smearing precum across Dean’s lips, and Dean licks it off, nodding.
Cas’s hips jerk forward of their own accord, ramming himself down Dean’s throat and the whole world goes white.
It works. Whenever Cas starts to get hesitant at the occasional gag, Dean grabs him by the ass and pulls him in deeper.
It’s exquisite, hearing Cas’s breath come out ragged because of him. His mouth stretched around Cas’s cock is perfect, foreshadowing of another stretch that can’t possibly be as good as he’s remembering, but if this is anything to go by, maybe it’s not far off.
Cas as a boss is stoic, as a friend, snarky and funny and strange, but Dean’s never seen him like this, riding the line of control, rough and desperate - he knows Dean can take it, but sweet, too, and serious, like he means it. The thought has Dean digging his fingers into Cas’s ass he fucks in and traces gentle fingers over a blazingly sensitive area of Dean’s neck. At first Dean thinks he’s teasing, rough and gentle to get Dean riled up, and then he realizes it’s not about him at all. Cas is feeling his cock where it’s stretching Dean’s throat.
Dean’s hand shoots down to squeeze the base of his dick so he doesn’t cum right then and there and he arches back to free his mouth, gasping, “Fuck me. Cas. You gotta -”
That inhuman strength returns with a vengeance, manhandling a lightheaded but fully grown man onto his stomach, and before Dean can contend with what the fuck is going on, he’s got a finger in his ass all the way to the first knuckle and he shouts into the mattress.
“Alright?” Cas grunts. Full sentences are a no-go for either of them apparently, because instead of responding, Dean just fucks back and relaxes, taking in even more.
By the time Dean’s sufficiently stretched he’s drenched in sweat and bordering on overstimulation in every aspect. He’s wanted this for so long, thought about it every time Cas would taste something he made and give that proud fucking smile, that “this one is mine” smile that made Dean feel like he belonged to someone even when he didn’t (even when, it turns out, he did). His skin feels too small and everything is too good, too much, and Cas is so fucking Cas that Dean can’t fucking breathe. He’s shaking by time the condom wrapper crinkles open and jumps when Cas’s cockhead nudges his ass.
He doesn’t trust himself to respond. Cas flips him over.
Dean shakes his head and Cas pulls back. Without thought Dean’s hands shoot out, gripping his biceps desperately. “Scared.”
“Of what?” Concern echoes so poignantly through Cas’s voice that Dean feels bad.
“I don’t know! That you’re going to take me apart and hate what you see and leave me in pieces?”
"That's very poetic," Cas frowns. “And I would never.”
“I know! I mean - I...I know but...Jesus, Cas. There are easier people to deal with. And you’re...God - perfect… and I’m -”
“You drink too much.”
Dean balks. “What?”
“You drink too much,” Cas repeats, assessing him with a glint in his eye. "Coffee, beer, all of it. You’re metabolism is a miracle, but you are an avoidance tactic embodied. You and Sam are codependent, perhaps unhealthily so -”
“Please don’t bring up my brother in bed,” Dean grunts, diverting the hurt to sarcasm. “And where are you going with this?”
“You miss your mother, you wish you hated your father, and you think you don’t deserve to be sous chef, or any chef at all. You see yourself as a lowly line cook as if there were such a thing, or as if you’ve ever been one.” Brick by brick, it weighs him down.
“I - what? I was for years -”
“It’s how you love, because you’re too scared to do it with your words, or your actions, because you’ve been hurt so many times you’d rather not try anymore.”
“Jesus, Cas,” Dean says angrily, wriggling out from beneath him, but finds himself immobilized by an iron grip and kind eyes.
“I know already, Dean, and I still love you. Because of, not in spite of, those things, incidentally.”
Dean gasps a tearless sob and rolls their bodies, kissing them breathless as he impales himself on Cas’s cock.
Cas cries out, gripping Dean by the hips, not to control him, but as an anchor, frantic and overwhelmed. His veins stand out against his neck as he presses his head back into the pillow, arching into the pleasure, gorgeous.
A handful of gentle rocks is all Dean grants them before he’s riding Cas hard enough that their skin slapping in the quiet would be startling if he were paying any attention. But his only focus is the man beneath him and the bliss in his body. Soon they’re both trembling.
Cas sits up to embrace Dean as he rolls his hips, and it’s strange because the shift in angle hits his prostate perfectly, but the arms wrapped around him provide such a feeling of safety that he’s not ready to cum yet. He wants this moment forever, to feel Cas’s face pressed into his chest and the roll of muscle beneath his hands. He wants to hover on that horizon of ecstasy and comfort for ever, and he might’ve been able to hold out if Cas hadn’t phrased it, “Dean, you’re going to make me cum,” but he does, and that’s it, knockout, and they curl into each other riding it out.
It’s so fucking late that when Cas collapses back and pulls Dean with him, their eyelids are heavy, but Cas doesn’t let them close yet. “I meant it, you know. That I -”
“I believe you.”
“You don’t have to say it back if -”
“Please stay,” he whispers, cupping Dean’s face in his hand to run his thumb sweetly down the bolt of Dean’s jaw.
He’s perfect, messy hair and crinkles at the corners of his eyes, a man of few words that mean more than most, and Dean does love him, even though he can’t say it yet, so he nods.
They wake up at noon. Dean shoots up, panicked. “Shit! The restaurant -”
"No, Cas, we gotta -"
“Texted last night,” Cas grunts into his pillow. “All set.”
Dean flops back down, breathing hard. “What did you say to them?”
“It’s Vic’s day off, Gabe hates -”
“Dean,” he rumbles, rolling over.
“I own the restaurant.”
“Anyone ever tell you you’re a cocky bastard?”
“Never to my face,” Cas says, and his eyes are still closed, but he’s grinning.
“Oh yeah?” Dean finds himself absolutely disarmed and painfully aroused by Morning Cas.
He continues speaking softly as he throws a leg over Cas but keeps them covered by the blanket. “Bet your employees talk a lot of shit.”
“Like what?” Cas gasps, eyes flying open as Dean sinks down on him, still prepped from the night before.
“I dunno,” Dean shrugs, aiming for casual but he’s sure his eyes are rolling back in his head. “That you’re too strict.”
“That you can’t make pie crust to save your life…”
“Hey!” Cas chuckles, throwing Dean off and climbing over him. “I can, too.”
“Not like mine,” Dean challenges and Cas concedes with a sigh.
“You’re lucky you’re cute.”
“You know you are,” Cas snarks with a smile, which Dean returns shyly.
“Tell me again.”
Cas wraps his arms beneath Dean and lies down, pushing into his body and an embrace simultaneously.
“You’re gorgeous,” he whispers, kissing Dean slowly, deeply. “Distractingly so.”
The sensation ricochets up his spine and Dean groans. Cas echoes in kind, burying his face in Dean’s neck.
After, they shower, moving languidly until Dean’s stomach growls so loudly they both crack up and Cas proposes lunch.
They press ground beef into patties hip to hip at the counter and challenge one another’s knife skills, slicing onions and tomatoes. Cas lends Dean a sweatshirt which he has absolutely no intention of returning, and in no time at all they’re standing on Castiel’s balcony with cups of coffee, the spring breeze pulling the smell of charcoal and perfectly seasoned meat around them like a scarf.
Dean’s no good at waiting, and the question’s been eating at him even in this morning's delirious happiness, so as the fat sizzles against the grate he murmurs, “Why didn’t you say something?”
Cas side eyes him, the first sign of apprehension he's shown this whole time.
“It took a lot of courage for you to come ask for that job, but by the end of the first day I knew I was the one getting the good end of the deal. You’re...extraordinary, Dean. People have already noticed. That article in the paper was for you, you know.” Dean’s noise of protest is waved away. “I know it’s my restaurant. And if it came down to it, I could kick your ass at pure skill, but - don’t look at me like that, we both know it’s true - but creativity? You’re remarkable. Visionary And I knew it was just a matter of time before...I didn’t want you to feel like you owed me, like you had to stay. I didn’t want to be an anchor that kept you from climbing to the level you deserve.”
“And you didn’t think I should’ve had some say in that?”
The eye contact disappears completely as Cas pokes the burgers around unnecessarily. “It wasn’t entirely about you. I knew…” He sighs. “I knew I could love you, that very first night. I wanted you so badly I couldn’t think. I didn’t think, if you’ll remember. I absolutely lost control.
Dean grins at the memory. “Yeah. Feel free to do that anytime.”
“Shut up,” Cas grunts amiably. “It was amazing, but not particularly professional.”
“Ah yes. Consummate professional, you are.”
“Unless you’re fucking your employee over the prep table.”
“You're scared, too,” Dean realizes.
Cas nods. Whispers, “Terrified.”
Dean plucks the spatula from his hand and hangs it on the hook before turning Cas to face him. “I’m not saying things’ll never change.” Cas nods, eyes flicking down. “But I’m pretty sure this isn’t going anywhere.”
Blue comes back up to meet him. “Us?”
“Yeah. I…” He doesn’t say it, can’t, hasn’t in over a decade, but he will someday, to this man, as a vow. For now, he says what he can. “I need you.”
Surprise, relieve, hope erases years from Cas’s face, and suddenly they’re on even footing. “Alright.”
Dean kisses him gently. “Alright. Now can we eat these fucking burgers?”
They eat on the balcony, bare feet kicked up on the railing, and share a beer.
"They're gonna know, you know. Tomorrow. When we show up covered in hickies."
Cas laughs around a mouthful of burger. "You're probably right."
Carefully, Dean asks, "Can I bring some stuff over here? Just...if we're working the same shift...we could...go together..."
"Yes," Cas says emphatically, with a smile far too large to be appropriate for a question about clothing and toiletries.
It's about convenience, the commute simplified. It's certainly not the full-body awareness that he's going to spend his life with this man, so they might as well move in together. They just fucked. Quit looking at him like that.