Cas couldn't sleep alone, so Dean let the fallen angel share his bed.
It was just sleeping. Dean was used to irregular hours, but Cas was still adapting to being human. Dean hadn't noticed at first that Cas wasn't sleeping well, until one night when he wandered out to the kitchen for a midnight snack and found Cas staring bleakly at the staticky television screen. Only then the former angel confessed to bad dreams and an inability to relax, and Dean had sighed with resigned affection and concern, before telling Cas to go into Dean's room.
"I'm not trying anything," said Dean with a quick smile. "But I've got the best mattress in the bunker, and I'll be ready to listen if and when you wanna talk about your nightmares."
The next morning was the start of a long period of brotherly teasing. Sam took one look at Cas and Dean walking out of the bedroom together and grinned.
“About time,” he said.
Dean halted. “Whoa, what? No, man, we didn’t do anything.”
“I just slept in his bed with him next to me,” Cas clarified, which of course made the smile on Sam’s face grow.
"Ah," Kevin said with a broad grin and looked down at the iPad that Charlie got him. "Right."
Though his cheeks were pink, Dean still managed a decent glower. “Don't. Nothing happened, okay?”
“Sure.” Sam shrugged and turned to the stove. “Pancakes?”
But one night grew into two, then five, and then many nights. Initially it was only when Cas was unable to sleep and Dean happened to see him out of his room at odd hours. After that, whenever Cas couldn't sleep, he'd knock timidly on Dean's bedroom door and Dean would let him in, no questions asked.
Finally Dean made Cas sleep in Dean’s bed for good.
Cas apparently tossed and turned in his sleep, and talked sometimes, pleading for forgiveness or for an end, and when he woke his face was often streaked with tears. It was less hard than it could have been, Cas admitted, to know that Dean was here with him in the dark, and that he didn't have to alarm Kevin or Sam should they come across him in the corridors. It made Dean worry that Cas might start bottling up his fears just because Cas didn't want to make Dean get up from his bed. At least this way, all Cas has to do is roll over and realize that he was safe.
Dean was used to sharing a bed anyway. Back when Sam wasn’t the huge lumbering moose he was right now, they sometimes had to share to keep warm. Cas was warm too, and it wasn't unpleasant, even if Dean had to fend off the smirks that Kevin and Sam threw his way, and the occasional eyebrow raised by Charlie. He and Cas were close, maybe as close as he had ever been with anyone, even Sam, and for some reason Dean was okay with that.
Soon they found that he slept best when he was holding on to something of Dean’s. They found that out when the brothers returned late from a supply run in the middle of a hunt and Cas had fallen asleep in the main room clutching Dean’s bathrobe and a book of lore on pontianak; they were trying to dispel the bloodsucking spirit from an Indonesian household.
From the way Sam had smirked, Dean knew Cas had given his baby brother teasing arsenal for a lifetime. The brothers left Cas asleep - the man had been researching non-stop the past three days - and went out exorcising. It was fairly easy to locate the banana plant the spirit resided in and burn it, even though the smell was terrible and would cling to their clothes for days. Cas had sulked a little that he hadn't been invited on that hunt, but Dean had set targets for Cas before Cas was to go hunting with them.
Everyone knew Cas was good at hand-to-hand combat - he thrashed both Sam and Dean easily, even without angel strength - but he had no idea how to use a firearm. Dean taught him the basics and, until Cas was able to shoot straight, he was not to hunt with the Winchesters.
Even so, Cas got used to being human fairly fast. Bodily functions, basic motor skills, essential daily tasks... These were not difficult. He had been observing humanity, after all, for millennia; it was only the intimately, emotionally personal aspects of it that was troubling. He found it problematic how he quickly formed emotional attachment to things.
He hated the smell of scrambled eggs, but loved french toast. He adored the feel of warm water over his skin and loathed cold water. In the morning, his entire being craved coffee; in the evenings, even the sound of someone in the kitchen made his stomach growl with longing. And Dean's burgers... even thinking about those burgers made him smile instinctively. He enjoyed cartoons and documentaries, and hated news and talk shows. There was no logical reason why he had such preferences, but he did. He would feel awed by sunsets and sunrises, charmed by little old ladies calling him 'adorable', and wistful whenever he came across feathers. On a whim, he began collecting them. Kevin had been very sweet, helping him sort out the feathers and classifying them by their Latin names.
Then there was the attachment to people. The dreams never quite left him. Nightmares he could still deal with, because it was about facing up to his sins, and he was more than willing to do penance for them. But the dreams... In his dreams, he was connected to all the other angels, his siblings; he was part of and apart from Heaven, viewing it in all its blinding glory; God was there, loving and caring for each of them because he made them and they served him. In those dreams, he had a family, a home of thousands upon thousands, all aware of and linked to one another.
Now he was all alone in his head barring the occasional bursts from angel radio. His family had dwindled to Kevin Tran, Sam Winchester and Dean Winchester. Though these young men were inspiring and strong, they were not like Cas' brothers. They didn't know his mind, they couldn't read his thoughts like the other angels used to. It was both good and bad. The worst bit was the loneliness whenever he remembered that he was forever cut off from his kind.
Cas couldn't will away the nagging sense of being adrift unless he had one of the brothers or the prophet in his sight. Kevin was studying when he could; he couldn't go to Yale or Harvard or any of the colleges, but there were open university lectures and Kevin was keenly intelligent and fiercely determined. Sam Winchester had got Charlie Bradbury to set up a database of supernatural creatures, and the younger Winchester spent time configuring the program. Cas would be with them in the same room, reading up on modern culture or recent history, while the boys did their own things. Sometimes they had Cas learning how to use the computer and navigating the internet - Kevin had given Cas a gold star sticker one afternoon when Cas located the online cache of the Supernatural series all by himself but usually they were content to co-oexist in the same space.
When he was in Dean's vicinity, however, he always just watched. He didn't know why. Dean was capable and protective and smart; he didn't need to be supervised. But Cas found himself worrying sometimes when Dean disappeared from his view, an irrational and consuming fear that subsided once the older Winchester returned.
Thankfully that illogical need to remain with one of the three young men dissipated after almost a month. He was always glad to see them, of course, but the urge to stay close was no longer as demanding as it had been. Still, at night, he would retire to his side of Dean's bed, and hug Dean's bathrobe as he drifted into unwanted dreams, reassured that Dean was right behind him if Cas needed to talk about the ache of homesickness or just to let Cas hold onto a warm, calloused hand.
Sam saw the light returning to Cas' blue eyes and the stress lines of Dean's face slowly fading. He was happy for his older brother; there was so little in Dean's life that was Dean's. Sam's older brother had always put others before himself - Mom, Dad, Sam, the world... it was nice to see that Dean was learning to hoard something. Dean might not have realized it, but Sam had noticed the way Dean's gaze would linger a little longer on Cas, the praise that came easily for the fallen angel, the occasional shared smile between the two that ought to have been nauseatingly cute but wasn't. Sam remembered such moments with Jess. He could recall each moment with startling clarity, even now, and sometimes he wondered if Dean really couldn't see what was happening, and thought if he should alert his older brother. But Cas would look at Dean and Dean would return the look, and Sam delighted in how much he truly enjoyed seeing his older brother falling irrevocably in love.
Sure, Sam had his own worries that he knew Dean would want to know. He had a headache that wouldn't go away, and a nagging concern that something was wrong with his sense of balance, but they were minor details at this moment. Right now he just wanted Dean to bask in his deepening relationship with Cas. If the headaches get worse, Sam would tell Dean. Then they would deal with it, and Sam could then tell Dean how much of an idiot his older brother was.
Kevin Tran liked the Winchesters, but they were abrasive and callous sometimes. Perhaps hunting dulled their empathy. Or maybe they'd died too often to even care that death was usually not something regular people come back from.
"I'm her son," he said evenly. "I must do this."
"C'mon, Kevin, ain't like we know where she's buried," Dean said as he turned a page of his pervy magazine, which strangely (to Kevin) was bought by Castiel.
"That's a problem I can solve." Kevin breathed in and told himself to remain level-headed. "I must at least pay my respects."
Dean did not look up from his magazine. "Then pay your respects outside the bunker."
"Dammit, Dean! I don't ask for a lot, okay? I need to do this-" Kevin cut himself off before a sob could escape. "It's my mother. I didn't... I didn't even get to try to protect her. I didn't get a chance to..."
Castiel, who as usual was hovering nearby, straightened. "Dean."
"Yeah, Cas?" Dean lowered the magazine.
"I believe what Kevin needs is some form of closure. I can accompany him to Neighbor, Michigan. I'm sure it'll be a short trip." He glanced at Kevin, who sniffed and smiled weakly at the former angel.
"I get that, I do," said Dean. "But there are other angels out there who want you dead, Cas, and Kevin is a great bargaining chip. If he gets captured, or you, Sam and me wouldn't know what to do to rescue you guys."
"Then come with us," Castiel replied quietly. "There are other hunters, and Garth can allocate hunts to them for now. It's only a few days' drive, Dean. And you liked Mrs Tran, I remember you saying."
Dean sighed heavily. "I did. She was a classy lady." Then he looked over at Kevin. "I'm sorry for your loss, kid. What'll you need to pay your respects properly?"
When Dean went to get the Impala ready and to leave a note for Sam, Kevin walked up to Castiel and said, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," said Castiel. He looked at the floor. "I know how it is to not have family any more. He still has Sam."
Kevin shrugged and stared at his shoes. Then he looked up and his mouth curled at one corner. "But we're doing okay with our new family."
Castiel smiled and nodded. "We are."
It was one morning when epiphany dawned.
There was nothing special about that morning. The alarm rang, Dean reached over and slapped it silent, flicked on the bedside lamp, and when he rolled over he saw Cas' sleepy eyes blinking at him.
"Morning," Dean murmured, his voice gravelly.
Then Cas smiled. "Good morning."
It should have been some earth-shaking moment of realization, accompanied with lightning and thunder the way Cas first strode into his life. But it was only a sudden burst of tender affection that threatened to close Dean's throat that alerted him to what he truly felt about this strange man sleeping in the bed with him.
Eight months of sleeping together, just sleeping, and listening, and offering his presence when the former angel needed comfort. Of watching Cas learn about being human. Of teasing his predilection for Nat Geo documentaries, and his strange fondness for french toast, and marveling at his collection of feathers. Of teaching Cas to brush his teeth the proper way, of frying up a perfect hash, of the finer points of marksmanship.
Dean couldn't breathe for a long moment. Cas frowned and leaned forward, not caring about his morning breath. "Dean? Are you okay?"
"I-I..." And Dean Winchester smiled, before he laughed. "I'm happy. I'm actually happy."
Cas touched his face, resting a rough hand against a stubbled cheek. "But you're crying."
"I'm happy, you... you assbutt." Dean was chuckling and he knew tears were running down his face. It didn't matter. He reached up and curled his hand around Cas' neck. "I want to stay with you forever."
"I want to stay with you," Dean repeated. "I need you. And this? You, in my bed, letting me see you at your most vulnerable? You allowing me to know your worst fears, your deepest pain? Do you have any idea how amazing this is? How awesome?"
Cas was confused, and he felt warm. A strange weakness was stealing over him and he blushed. "Wh-why would I know? Is it really?"
"And you've seen me at my absolute worst," Dean went on, a wide grin threatening to split his face. He tugged Cas down and wrapped his arms about Cas. "I was a wreck, I was a monster, and you saved me. You cared for me. You know me almost as well as I know myself. Why didn't I see this before? Why didn't I-" Dean suddenly let go and scrambled to a sitting position.
Cas followed suit, mirroring Dean's posture. They gazed at each other for a long beat, the golden light burnishing their features. Dean thought it all looked quite unreal. Cas cocked his head. "Dean?"
"I'm sorry. But, I, um. We." He inhaled deeply and braced himself. "I need you. You're family, more than family. And I need you. And you need... you need me. I just wanted to say that. And, and Cas?"
"I..." The next few words were mumbled.
Cas frowned. "I didn't catch that."
"I want you." The phrase snapped out. Dean's face was darkening; he was probably blushing. Then his gaze flickered up. "Cas. I just... I'm happy. I'm actually happy that you're in my life like this. That you're a part of it. I need to know if... if you feel the same."
Now it was Cas' turn to blush, but he raised his chin. "I do. I have felt this for some time, but you've never indicated, and so I had-"
"Now I'm indicating, okay?" Dean grinned. "A huge blinking sign for you." He pulled Cas in for a kiss, ignoring the sour morning breath, and murmured, "A more profound bond, huh?"
"Yes." Cas relaxed into the embrace, and forgot about his wings.