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Complication

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I wake up smiling.

 

This is partially because my dreams were all highly pleasant replays of the gym floor incident. It's difficult not to linger on those memories too much, still so fresh and thrilling. But it's also partially because Dean and I kissed and he's not 'freaking out', as he terms it. He's not feverishly building back up his walls or shoving me away. He's not rejecting me.

 

For the first time ever, I can dare to hope that my future might play out the way I’ve yearned for it to since I rebelled against Heaven. Probably since before that, although I had little comprehension of it at the time.

 

Of course, I tell myself sternly as I stroll up the hallway to the bathroom, Dean is still thinking about it. He could still decide that he wants nothing to change between us and that could be it, forever. But even though that would be legitimately heartbreaking, at least things would be clear and at least we’d both know for sure that the relationship we have is an honest one built on trust. I’d rather have a firm and lasting friendship with Dean than the tense, unsure one we’ve been skirting around for the past week.

 

I really want to kiss him again, though.

 

After I brush my teeth and drag damp fingers through my unruly hair, I change into the grey shirt and green plaid. I’m just contemplating whether I want to attempt cooking eggs for breakfast, walking towards the kitchen, when Dean hisses my name from his doorway ten feet behind me.

 

I turn slowly, unable to keep my face from warming. “Dean?”

 

He glances up towards Sam’s room and then looks back at me, green eyes wide. “C’mere.”

 

Heart fluttering, wondering if this could be the moment when my future is reshaped forever, I half-stumble back to his door. Dean reaches out and yanks me into the room by the sleeve, pulling me straight past him and shutting the door quietly. I peer at him, a little suspicious now of his stealthy behaviour.

 

“Dean, what’s-”

 

“I need to talk to you,” Dean interrupts me, looking serious. He’s still in boxers and the same Metallica shirt I wore on my first night here. My eyes snag on a stain on the hem from where I dripped toothpaste foam on it and I raise my eyebrows in surprise. Dean hasn’t washed it since I wore it.

 

“I know I’m supposed to be avoiding you until I’ve sorted myself out or whatever,” Dean is saying in a low, urgent voice, and I re-focus on his words. “But this could be real important, and it’s about Sam.”

 

I straighten up, alert. “Ezekiel?”

 

Dean nods, eyes anxious. I fold my arms, frowning at the door behind him.

 

“I knew that something was wrong there,” I mutter. I glance back up at Dean. “What is it?”

 

“I don’t know, but Zeke is up to something, that’s for damn sure,” Dean says, stabbing a finger downwards for emphasis. “I went to talk to Sammy last night and I was, well, I was stalling, and I ended up rambling about the trip to see Charlie instead. And Sam said-”

 

“Stalling?” I cut in, confused. Dean snaps his mouth shut, looking oddly sheepish.

 

“Well, yeah,” he mumbles, looking away, cheeks pink. One of his hands plucks at the hem of his shirt, right over the toothpaste stain, and my mouth twitches upwards at how endearing the small action is. He clears his throat and continues reluctantly: “I went to talk to him about you. And about, um, you know, stuff.”

 

“Stuff?” I repeat, my mind seeming to process this information very slowly. Dean shoots me a flat, unimpressed look.

 

“Yes, OK? I do in fact talk about my feelings sometimes. And Sam is smart about that crap. Well, compared to me anyway. Look, that’s not-”

 

“You were asking Sam for advice about me?” I smile, flattered and touched that Dean is giving so much thought to the developments occurring in his relationship with me. Dean rolls his eyes, throwing his hands dramatically in the air and turning to the side, a sure sign that he’s deeply uncomfortable.

 

“Can we get back on topic?” he asks loudly. I shove my hands into my pockets and nod, still smirking at him. He turns back to me, bright red but looking determined to pretend otherwise.

 

“Right, well, I was talking to Sam and I mentioned this bar we went to because Charlie insisted that Sam and me drink cocktails with her, like a goddamn girl’s night out. And Sam started talking about how the cocktails were real strong, which I thought was weird because he only had two and I sure didn’t think they were that lethal. He told me that he went to use the bathroom soon before we left and he just... blacked out. Stepped into the hallway and suddenly he was outside the bar and twenty minutes had gone by according to his phone.”

 

I’m frowning in concentration. “Ezekiel must have taken over during that time.”

 

“Yep. But why?”

 

“I don’t know. How did you not notice Sam being gone for that long?”

 

The colour that’s faded from Dean’s cheeks returns as he glances at the floor, fidgeting with his shirt again. “Ah. Well, I may have done some shots with Charlie as soon as he left and we were, uh, we were on the dancefloor after that. I figured Sam lost us. He didn’t say anything.”

 

I raise my eyebrows in amusement. “I didn’t know you danced.”

 

“Believe me, I don’t,” Dean snaps, scowling at his feet. “Charlie is a bad influence.”

 

I’m grinning now. “I’d like to meet her.”

 

Dean glances up at me and relaxes, smiling fondly. “Yeah, she’d like to meet you too.”

 

We smile at each other for several seconds before Dean blinks. “So. Um. Sam. Zeke. What do you think?”

 

I blink too, a little chagrined at how easily distracted I am by this man. I focus with some difficulty. “I think that it’s concerning that Ezekiel took over for so long and took Sam outside the bar. Something clearly occurred there. However, it could be that Sam was in some kind of danger, which Ezekiel averted. We can’t really know unless Ezekiel tells us, or someone else who was there.”

 

Dean nods slowly, frowning, and then his eyes widen. “Shit, I’m an idiot. The cameras! The bar’s gotta have cameras.”

 

“That would be incredibly helpful. How can we check the footage though?”

 

Dean shrugs. “Charlie can probably get hold of it, she lives there and I think she still has her fake badge.”

 

I nod seriously. “That works. You’d better call her and ask. The sooner we see that footage, the sooner we can work out what Ezekiel may or may not be up to. Do you think he might have noticed Sam telling you about his black out? How did you react?”

 

Dean is already shaking his head. “Nope. I almost talked right over him and then we were talking about... other stuff. So I didn’t really register what he said until afterwards.”

 

Despite myself, I smirk again. “Oh, other stuff?”

 

“Shut up,” Dean mumbles as he ducks past me to retrieve his phone from the bedside table. I wrap my arms around my stomach, squeezing lightly, and try to suppress my grin with difficulty. Turning, I see that Dean has dialled Charlie and is peering at me as it rings, although he turns away quickly when I meet his eyes. I hear Charlie answer and the volume is loud enough in the quiet room that I can make out what she’s saying.

 

“Hey, Deano!”

 

“Hey, Charlie, how’s the new place?” I can hear the affection in Dean’s voice and I’m glad that I know how things really are, because it causes me no envy.

 

“Seems pretty awesome so far but, ya know, early days. What’s up?”

 

Dean rolls his shoulders before launching into an explanation.

 

“OK, just bear with me. There’s something I didn’t tell you about Sam. He’s not well right now, and it’s hard to explain but... OK, don’t freak out but he’s kinda possessed. Not fully, but an angel is sort of... in him, right now, helping him. He doesn’t know about it.”

 

There’s a silence and I stick my hands nervously back into my pockets. Dean fidgets, spinning slightly so that I can see his profile, one hand resting on his lower back with the elbow stuck out and fingers curled in.

 

“You want me to not freak out?”

 

“Yeah, that’d be great.”

 

“O-kay... How about I just pretend like I’m not freaking out?”

 

Dean snorts, shaking his head and visibly relaxing, and I grin. I like Charlie.

 

“Yeah, that works. Look, the angel’s name is Ezekiel and until now I’ve mostly trusted him. But Sam says he blacked out when we were at that bar the other night. You remember our night out? With the cocktails and that chick with the tattoos?”

 

“Oh, hell yeah I remember her.”

 

“Yeah, thought you might. Well d’you remember Sam disappeared for a while when we did those tequila shots?”

 

“Dean, I literally don’t remember anything after those tequila shots.”

 

“You said you remembered tattoo chick!”

 

“I remember her from the next morning?”

 

Dean laughs again. “Fair enough. Well, Sammy was gone for like twenty minutes and he doesn’t remember what happened and it must have been Ezekiel. So what we need to do is get the CCTV footage from that bar. You reckon you can use your badge and get hold of that?”

 

“On it. I’ll email you the footage, OK?”

 

“Yeah. Thanks, Charlie. I owe you one.”

 

“Nah, it’s for Sam, I want to help. Besides, we both know what you can do to repay me.”

 

There’s a pause before I see Dean’s eyes go wide and flicker inexplicably towards me, not quite meeting my eyes. His free hand fists at his side.

 

“Charlie-”

 

“Oh, come on, Dean, let’s not pretend that Sam’s the only Winchester who could do with an angel inside him.”

 

Dean closes his eyes, a small horrified sound escaping him, face contorting into a grimace. It takes me a second or two, but then-

 

“Oh,” I say out loud, shock jolting me into speech. Dean winces at the sound but keep his eyes closed. I blink several times, my face steadily getting warmer, trying not to think too much about the implications of what Charlie just said. She speaks again, having not heard my voice.

 

“Dean, don’t get all mad, I’m just kidding. Well, I’m actually not, but-”

 

“Cas is here,” Dean cuts across her, eyes still shut. His voice is a little strangled. “Just in case you wanna, I don’t know, shut up at any point.”

 

I feel a ridiculous urge to laugh. There’s another pause before Charlie responds.

 

“Well, fuck. I am super sorry. Um, hey, Cas! Just, uh, ignore what I said, it’s this stupid joke that Dean and I-”

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Dean interrupts her loudly, finally opening his eyes and staring at the opposite wall, fist still clenched by his side. The silence that follows this is unbearably awkward and I step forward, ignoring Dean’s flinch.

 

“Hello, Charlie,” I call out cautiously, hoping that my voice will carry through the phone that’s still several feet away. Her response is far too enthusiastic.

 

Oh, hey! Cas! I mean Castiel! It’s you! I have heard so much about you, I mean not relating to what I said, that’s another thing but anyway-”

 

“Oh my God, Charlie,” Dean says flatly, closing his eyes again in apparent pain. “Please, please stop talking.”

 

“Yeah, sorry, good plan. Bad Charlie.”

 

I can’t really stop the chuckle that bubbles out of my throat and Dean’s eyes flash back open, meeting mine in disbelief. I tighten my lips together but it's mere moments before I’m pressing a fist to my grin to muffle my laughter, eyes screwed shut, leaning forward a little. I’ve never laughed properly before. It feels good in an odd, pure way. I regain control quickly, still smiling as I open my eyes. Dean is staring at me, his own lips quirked even as he clearly tries to keep a straight face.

 

“Well, I’m real glad you two get along,” he says dryly. I give one last huff of mirth as I regard him warmly and he flushes, rolling his eyes and looking away. “Look, Charlie, I have to go but please, get hold of that footage ASAP, yeah? It’s important.”

 

I sober immediately, a little ashamed that I’ve been laughing carelessly while Sam could be in danger. Charlie is serious again on the phone too, promising to go straight to the bar and send us the footage within a day or two. She calls a goodbye to me and I respond immediately, already attached to the young woman. Dean sighs and shakes his head as he hangs up.

 

“Well, that’s Charlie,” he tells me unnecessarily as he puts the phone back on his bedside table. I watch him, hands back in my pockets.

 

“I like her,” I say quietly. Dean hesitates, still not facing me. When he speaks his voice is barely a mumble.

 

“About, um, what she said...”

 

I fight back a smirk. “It’s alright. It was quite an amusing situation.”

 

Dean sighs. “I just don’t want things to be awkward.”

 

“You mean like this is awkward right now? Dean, you can look at me, I’m not offended.”

 

Another sigh. Dean slowly swings around to face me, arms folded and face flushed, raising worried green eyes to mine. “I just don’t want you to feel like we have to think about that stuff yet, you know?”

 

I cock my head in confusion, my heart rate hastening. We? Yet? What?

 

“I mean,” Dean continues, oblivious to my hitched breathing, “There doesn’t need to be any pressure on us, about anything.”

 

Us?

 

“Wait,” I say, drawing my hands out of my pockets to hold them up in a halting gesture. “Wait, Dean, I think I may have missed a crucial point in a conversation somewhere. I’m not really sure how human relationship boundaries work. Have we become... a couple?”

 

Dean stares at me, mouth snapping shut and breathing suspended. The silence stretches out and my pulse only picks up speed.

 

Finally, Dean opens his mouth to reply.

Chapter Text

“Um,” Dean says hoarsely. I keep my wide, unblinking eyes fixed on him, feeling increasingly impatient. “Uh, well, I don’t... I mean, I...”

 

“Dean,” I say sharply, urgently. He startles and the word seems to fall from his lips almost by accident, shocking him as much as me.

 

“Yes.”

 

His reply echoes in the air loudly for several long seconds, wrapping around me and thrumming in my ears. I stare wide-eyed at Dean, who looks fairly terrified and very much like he’s lost control of the situation and is searching for a lifeline. Still, he’s not scrambling to retract his pronouncement and he’s staring straight back at me, no avoidance in his anxious gaze.

 

Oddly, I feel no overwhelming desire to throw myself into his arms or crow with triumph. I mostly feel reeling shock, overlaying a distant sense of excitement and a fond sort of sympathy for poor Dean, who has utterly surpassed himself in the last twenty four hours. I’ve never seen him this emotionally exposed for so long, in all the years I’ve known him. I should probably be the one to stay calm here.

 

“That’s good,” I eventually say very quietly, my gaze steady and my smile small but sure. “Dean, that’s... I’m very happy to hear it.”

 

Another drawn out silence makes it difficult for me not to fidget, but I’m getting better and better at controlling my human tics. Dean swallows, blinks, swallows again before managing a reply: “Uh huh.”

 

“I know that this is no small matter, ever, but especially for... us,” I venture, attempting to prompt a slightly more eloquent response from him. He twitches and I stop, trying to gauge his panic level. I continue cautiously. “I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed.”

 

Dean gives a small, incredulous, high pitched huff that might be laughter, finally shutting his wide eyes. “Overwhelmed. Yeah.”

 

“Well, I often find human emotion overwhelming,” I shrug. “Anyway, Dean, what I said last night is still the most relevant thing for you to keep in mind. I’m still here for you just as I always was. We will only change as and how you want us to.”

 

“Yep.”

 

“And-”

 

“Cas,” Dean interrupts, eyes opening and fixing me with a pleading stare. “I know you like to talk about stuff. But I’m sorta freaking out a bit. No offence, and please don’t think that I’m trying to take anything back or push you away or whatever, but could you just leave me alone for a few hours? I need to, I dunno, go for a drive or something.”

 

I narrow my eyes at him. “Don’t get drunk.”

 

Dean frowns back at me. “I can if I want.”

 

“Yes, but it’s not a healthy way of dealing with stress and it’s dangerous if you’re planning on driving so-”

 

“Oh my God,” Dean groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You are already nagging me.”

 

“I say this as your concerned friend, Dean.”

 

“Yeah, whatever, fine. I’ll stick to the root beer. Happy?”

 

Smiling widely, I nod. “Very. I’ll see you at dinner?”

 

Dean relaxes a little. “Yeah, unless Charlie sends the footage through today, which is unlikely. I’ll text you if she does.”

 

“OK.”

 

There’s a pause as I briefly wonder if I should just leave the room or if there’s some etiquette to follow once a romantic relationship has been established. Dean looks anxious too, rocking back and forth on his feet, scratching awkwardly at the back of his neck. Shrugging, I make to walk past him, quite content to allow him the time and space he clearly needs to process the situation. My eyes are trained on the door so I don’t notice his hand shoot out until it’s wrapped around my wrist, tugging me to a halt. I glance down at it in confusion and then look up at Dean, who’s gazing at me with enormous eyes.

 

“Um,” he says as though it’s an explanation for his action. I furrow my brow at him.

 

“Yes?”

 

He licks his lips nervously and his darting green eyes fixate on my own mouth. I tilt my head as I step backwards a pace and turn to face him, trying to work out what he’s trying to communicate.

 

“Dean-”

 

All at once, he surges forward and kisses me slightly clumsily, his free hand cupping my jaw and his other fingers squeezing my wrist tightly. I make an odd squeaking noise, staying very still. Dean pauses too, lips pressed to mine for several warm seconds before he breaks away. He’s blushing fiercely. He gives a defensive sort of shrug, dropping his hands hastily. I gaze at him, mouth slightly open, until he scowls at me.

 

“Well, are you leaving or not?”

 

Startled, I chuckle breathlessly. “Yes. Yes, sorry.”

 

Giving him one last smile, I go to the door and pull it open. I don’t look back as I close it but I call back over my shoulder: “See you later!”

 

Dean’s muttered reply is cut off by the door closing. I stand in the empty hallway for a good ten seconds, eyes locked dazedly onto the opposite wall.

 

Dean Winchester and I are a couple.

 

I blink and turn to walk towards the kitchen. I repeat the words in my head, over and over, fingers twitching at my sides, skin buzzing. I don’t realise that I’m grinning until my jaw starts to ache from the strain. I turn into the kitchen and come to an abrupt halt as I see Sam seated at the table, reading the newspaper. He glances up at me and I know that I should be thinking about the angel possessing him and the danger that he could be in, but I’m entirely distracted by the fact that I’m romantically involved with his brother... and he doesn’t know. Should he know? I want him to know. Sam is my friend, my family. But what if Dean wants to be the one to tell him? I should just not mention it yet.

 

“Cas,” says Sam slowly, eyes speculative. “Hey, man.”

 

“Hey,” I manage to croak, sidling into the room. Sam smirks.

 

“So... are you dating my brother yet?”

 

Shit. My mouth drops open and I gape stupidly before snapping it shut with a feeling of defeat. I tried.

 

“Oh. Well, actually, since you mention it... yes.”

 

Sam’s eyebrows shoot up but his smile only grows. “Really?”

 

I nod enthusiastically. “I think so. Perhaps ‘dating’ isn’t the right term but he did confirm that he and I are a romantic couple now, although I’m not sure what the parameters of that definition are in this case.”

 

Sam chuckles, leaning back in his chair, tossing the newspaper onto the table. “Good for him! I told him to stop dicking around and just be with you, but he seemed pretty unsure last night. Must’ve slept on it and come to his senses.”

 

I laugh breathlessly. “Yeah, yeah, he must have done. It’s just... Sam, things have changed so fast. Is it normal to feel this odd after a relationship shifts suddenly? I feel very odd.”

 

Sam gestures for me to sit down and I do so, interlocking my fingers on the table in front of me and staring blankly at them. The younger Winchester gets up, moves around the room for half a minute and then a tumbler of amber liquid is placed in front of me.

 

“Drink this, calm down.”

 

I eye the whiskey doubtfully. “I told Dean not to get drunk.”

 

“Of course you did. This won’t get you drunk, it’ll just mellow you out a little. Come on, trust me. I don’t usually prescribe alcohol but you look like you might actually pass out.”

 

I hesitate before shrugging and picking up the whiskey, gulping down a large mouthful and promptly spluttering on the harsh drink. Sam pounds me painfully on the back, laughing merrily as though this is some awful rite of passage. I scowl at him.

 

“Did you make Dean drink this last night too? It’s revolting.”

 

Sam snorts, shaking his shaggy head. “I’d never have to ‘make’ Dean drink this, he breathes the stuff. And no, although he probably could have used it. He told you he came and spoke to me?”

 

I nod. “He wanted advice from you. About emotions and relationships and such.”

 

“Yeah. I have no idea why, my track record with this stuff is even worse than his.”

 

“He deeply values your opinion, Sam. As do I.”

 

Sam smiles, shrugging in a characteristically modest way, and gestures for me to have some more of my drink. I take a tiny, cautious sip and it’s far better this time, a liquid heat warming my tongue and throat. I tilt the glass, watching the light filter through the whiskey. When I speak my voice is hushed and helpless.

 

“What do I do now?”

 

The man beside me sighs. “Honestly? All bets are off. I can normally predict Dean’s actions pretty well but this is new for him. You’re changing him, Cas.”

 

I shake my head, sitting up straighter and frowning. “I don’t want to change Dean.”

 

“These are good changes. Ones that need to happen. Ones that happen for most people in like, their twenties. But Dean isn’t most people.”

 

I nod slowly as I take another sip of drink. Sam pauses before speaking again.

 

“I guess my advice would be not to give Dean too much space. I assume he told you to give him space? Yeah. Problem is, he’ll get scared if he’s left to think it through too much. Don’t push him hard, but for sure keep pushing. He won’t get there on his own.”

 

“But I don’t know how to push. I don’t know how humans do this whole relationship thing. What am I even supposed to be doing? Wooing him? Seducing him?”

 

Sam grimaces. “Ugh. I guess so? Be gentle, but yeah, that stuff.”

 

I gulp down the remainder of my alcohol, grateful for the pleasant numbing edge it gives my mind. “I have no idea where to start. The only thing that occurs to me is your story about Jess and the jukebox.”

 

With a surprised chuckle, Sam shrugs and nods. “OK, so do that.”

 

“Just play a song he likes?” I say doubtfully. “It’s that simple?”

 

“No, it’s not that simple, Cas. This shit never is. But it’s a fair start. Grab some beers or whatever, invite Dean to your room for a drink and a chat, put his music on, flirt a bit and even Dean will catch on that it’s a date.”

 

I nod reluctantly. “I suppose that does sound quite straightforward, and not too potentially embarrassing. Alright, I can do this. Which songs should I pick?”

 

“Anything from his favourite mix tape he always has in the Impala,” says Sam promptly. “Give me your phone and I’ll download the songs, I know the track listing by heart since I’ve been listening to the damn thing for centuries.”

 

I screw up my face in puzzlement as I take out my phone. “Sam, that’s not-”

 

“Hyperbole,” Sam cuts me off with an eye roll. I nod sheepishly.

 

“Ah, of course. Well, thank you. That will be very helpful.” I pause, emotion welling up unexpectedly and prompting me to continue speaking. “I’d like to express my gratitude for a lot of things, actually. For taking me in after I fell, helping me to adjust and teaching me so much. And for accepting and supporting the changes to my relationship with Dean. It would have been quite understandable for you to be doubtful and protective, especially given your own closeness with him.”

 

Sam is blushing a little, shrugging bashfully as he peers down at my phone. “Nah, come on, I’m not an idiot. I can see how good you are for Dean. How well you fit together. I just want my brother to be happy, Cas, and you’re a pretty big part of that. And I want it for you too.”

 

He stops at this point, eyes widening in alarm as he looks up and sees the tears threatening to spill down my cheeks.

 

“Thank you, Sam,” I whisper, my voice choked. He looks me up and down before snorting in disbelief.

 

“Holy crap, you are actually a little bit drunk,” he chuckles. “Who knew you’d be a total lightweight? I guess Jimmy Novak couldn’t hold his whiskey either.”

 

“I do feel somewhat affected by that drink, yes.”

 

“Oh, man. You’re even worse than Kevin, and he’s barely past puberty.”

 

I frown into my empty glass. “I suppose this is preferable to needing an entire liquor store to get inebriated.”

 

“Yeah, true. Oh, hey, this is done. Just play any of these.”

 

Sam hands me back my phone and I glance into his eyes as I thank him, wondering briefly what Ezekiel makes of all this. In the past I’ve been mostly unaffected by the scorn and sometimes disgust with which many of my kin have regarded my love for Dean. They simply didn’t understand. But Ezekiel has been living with us, watching every move that Sam makes, seeing humanity up close. Maybe he can learn something, as I did.

 

I decide abruptly that if Ezekiel really was protecting or helping Sam that night at the bar, rather than betraying our trust, then I will try my hardest to build a friendship with him. He’s a fallen angel and I know better than anyone how hard that is. But more than that, despite everything, he is still my brother. I need to believe that I can still mend what’s broken between myself and my angelic family.

 

“You gonna be OK?” Sam asks lightly, unaware of my thoughts. I smile warmly at him.

 

“I hope so.”

Chapter Text

The day ticks by at an irritating pace. Dean, true to his word, slips out while I’m talking to Sam and goes for a long drive, texting Sam that he’ll be back in time for dinner. I sit in my room and listen to the songs that Sam placed onto my phone, enjoying some and feeling ambivalent about others. I vaguely recognise all of them from trips in the Impala. The Aerosmith song that Sam and Jess first kissed to is included and I’m unsure whether it’s part of the mix tape listing or if Sam just added it as a message of encouragement to me.

 

I decide on a particular track which I feel suits Dean and me, making a deal with myself that I’ll kiss him by the end of that song. I have no idea why I feel nervous at the thought; Dean has made it perfectly clear that he’s physically attracted to me. I seem to have fallen into the illogical human habit of regarding a kiss as an affirmation of romantic feelings, when really it’s just an expression of physical and not necessarily emotional intimacy. What I actually want from Dean is assurance that he won’t change his mind about our relationship and close himself off from me. In the meantime, kissing him again seems like a proactive option.

 

Feeling impatient with my own moping, I go back to the kitchen and find Kevin cooking instant ramen for a late lunch. I haven’t eaten yet and I decide that ramen is easy enough for me to attempt. Kevin kindly guides me through the process while he eats his own food leaning against the counter, an amused grin lighting up his face as he watches me struggle. Finally, I serve the noodles into a bowl and sit down at the table with an annoyed huff. Kevin washes his dish and then settles opposite me with a glass of juice, eyeing me with quiet curiosity.

 

“So,” he ventures as I begin to eat. “I’ve been pretty confused for a while now about what’s going on between you and Dean.”

 

I pause with a noodle dangling from my lips. Slurping it up hastily, I put my fork down. “You have?”

 

Kevin nods. “I mean, you guys are together, right?”

 

I confirm this with a smile, pleased that I can answer in this way rather than wistfully explaining that we’re just friends. Kevin sits up straighter.

 

“I knew it!” he exclaims excitedly. He shakes his head, snorting. “Man, you guys should really tell Sam. I asked him after you arrived and he told me you and Dean weren’t a couple. I was like, are you blind? I mean-”

 

“Sam wasn’t wrong,” I interrupt, frowning. “Dean and I were not romantically involved with each other at that point. Our relationship only reached that stage yesterday. Well, technically today, I suppose...”

 

Kevin raises his eyebrows in clear disbelief. “Dude. Come on. The staring? The sexting? The checking each other out all the time? Something must have been going on before now.”

 

Flushing, I shake my head with a shrug. Kevin sits back in his chair, sipping thoughtfully at his juice.

 

“Wow,” he finally says. “That is some serious build-up. I’m glad you guys have finally gotten a clue, then.”

 

“So am I,” I say mildly. Kevin grins at me. I smile back at him before a thought occurs to me.

 

“Kevin, you spend a lot of time with Sam.”

 

The young prophet blinks before his eyes widen in apparent horror. “Oh, man, no. I mean, Sam’s great, but I am not interested and I really don’t think he-”

 

“No, you misunderstand me,” I interrupt, amused. “I just wanted to know if you’ve noticed anything odd about his behaviour since the angels fell. After he recovered from the trials.”

 

Kevin frowns. “Oh. Not really. Although the other day he had a weird freak out, but it’s like he didn’t even remember it afterwards.”

 

I sit up straight, alert. “Tell me what happened.”

 

“I don’t know, it was so random. I was picking out stuff I’d translated which I found interesting and Sam was really into it, asking me all these questions like a total nerd. And that’s a lot coming from me. Anyway, I was relaying some kind of angelic historical reference. I looked up and Sam was glaring at me, like total death glare, it was kind of scary. I was like, dude, what’s up? And he told me in this really angry voice that I should stay out of affairs that don’t concern me and that there’s so much I don’t understand, could never understand.”

 

I’m listening intently. “Then what?”

 

“Then he just got up and walked out of the room. Came back five minutes later acting all normal again. Then - this is the weirdest bit - he sat down and wanted to know more about what I’d been talking about. I was like, um, I thought you said I should stay out of that stuff? He seemed really confused so I dropped it and changed the subject.”

 

“Good,” I murmur. “That’s good, Kevin.”

 

“Why?” the boy asks suspiciously. “What’s up with Sam?”

 

“Nothing,” I say perfunctorily, not even bothering to make the lie convincing. Kevin narrows his eyes and I continue before he can protest. “What was the historical reference that angered him?”

 

“It was... I don’t know, it was talking about failure and punishment and as an example, it mentioned the angel who let down his guard when Eve ate the apple.”

 

“Gadreel?”

 

“Yeah, that’s the one. Why would Sam be all defensive of this Gadreel guy?”

 

I stare at the table surface, thinking hard. Sam isn’t defensive of Gadreel, but Ezekiel clearly is. Why? I can’t recall any angel I knew ever having made contact with the infamously shamed and imprisoned Gadreel, least of all Ezekiel.

 

“I have no idea,” I mumble, more to myself than to Kevin. He sighs impatiently.

 

“Castiel, something is clearly up. Is Sam OK?”

 

I glance up at him. “For now, yes. I can’t share everything with you, Kevin. Just keep working on your translations and if you need to know something, we’ll tell you. But, please, this is important: do not mention this to Sam. Any of it. It’s for his own safety.”

 

Kevin’s eyes are wide and concerned. He nods slowly, reluctantly. I breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank you. You will know more once we do. Just don’t worry too much about it for now.”

 

He snorts. “Yeah, right. Like I do anything but worry, living this batshit crazy life.”

 

I regard him sadly. “You had very different plans for your future.”

 

“Yeah, I did,” says the prophet bitterly. The anger in his eyes fades after a moment, leaving a dull weariness. “Whatever. This is how things are now. I suppose I should just be grateful that my Mom and I are still alive.”

 

I feel a surge of sympathy and protectiveness. It’s so unfair that Kevin is living in fear, shackled by the whims of misfortune, his bright human dreams destroyed. I’ve seen it so many times, but this hits me harder than usual. “I’m sorry, Kevin. I really am. We’ll keep you both safe, though, I promise.”

 

Rolling his eyes, Kevin downs the last of his juice and stands up. “Sure you will. You’ll smite anyone who threatens me, right? Oh, wait, you can’t.”

 

I stare up at him, hurt and lost for words. He blinks at me and remorse is clear on his face. “OK... that was douchey of me. I’m sorry. I’m just so mad all the time, and so fucking tired.”

 

I shrug and nod, still feeling a little winded. Kevin sighs.

 

“I’m happy for you and Dean,” he mutters flatly. I open my mouth to reply but he turns and leaves the room, dumping his glass in the sink on the way. I push my cold ramen aside and sit for a while in the silence, trying to shake the melancholy feeling that Kevin’s words left me with. We’ve all had to deal with loss and pain that we could do nothing to change.

 

Instead, I think about the link between Ezekiel and Gadreel. Perhaps they met after the fall, since Gadreel would have been freed from his chains by Metatron’s spell. But no, they can’t have had time. They must have formed a relationship before the fall, in Heaven. Perhaps Gadreel was freed after I rebelled and I just never heard about it. It seems highly unlikely though-

 

“Jeez, I can hear your brain whirring from here.”

 

I jump and look up, heart thudding. Dean is standing in the doorway, a full glass of whiskey in his hand, eyeing me with a familiar look of false confidence on his face. It doesn’t mask the uncertainty in his eyes or the way he hovers, ready to run.

 

“Dean,” I breathe, half rising from my chair before I remember that humans like to ‘play it cool’ and I should probably attempt to do so too. Smiling at him, I sit back down and gesture to the seat opposite me. “Did you have a good drive?”

 

He hesitates before crossing to the table and sitting down, fixing watchful green eyes on me. “Yeah. Yeah, I did a lot of thinking.”

 

I nod, unsure of how to respond. “That’s... good.”

 

“I always say that thinking too much is a dangerous thing,” he says in a pensive tone, swirling his drink absently. “But yeah, good. It’s good.”

 

I raise my eyebrows. “Is that your first drink?”

 

Dean rolls his eyes, his gaze sharpening. “Yes! I waited till I’d put Baby away for the day before I so much as sniffed any booze. Don’t worry.”

 

“No, I just meant that you’re acting a little odd.”

 

“Am I?” Dean says with a wry grimace. I chuckle and then, quite suddenly, remember that I have information to share regarding Ezekiel. I do so quickly and Dean seems to lose his awkwardness as he listens and asks questions, falling back into his default mode of protective big brother.

 

“So this is something to do with this Gadreel guy,” Dean muses, sipping at his drink. “OK, OK, how about this: some kind of cult group. I mean, the angels have been splitting into factions and shit since the civil war up there, right? Maybe some of those factions were more out there than others. Maybe one of them had Gadreel as their poster boy instead of you or Raphael! Ezekiel could just see this Gadreel dude as a symbol...”

 

I stare at him and he falters, losing the excited sparkle in his eyes.

 

“I mean, that’s probably not it,” he mutters, glancing away.

 

“What? No, Dean, that’s smart!” I protest, leaning forward. “I never thought of that. I assumed Ezekiel must know Gadreel personally, but you’re right, he may just know of him and have some kind of regard for him. That’s probably it, actually.”

 

A smile tugs at Dean’s mouth and he shrugs, flushing a little. “Guess I can’t be a dumbass all the time.”

 

I frown in disapproval. “One day, I’d like to see you acknowledge your own intelligence and actually mean it.”

 

Dean makes a face at me but then pauses, his eyes holding mine. When he speaks his voice is very quiet and serious. “You really would, wouldn’t you?”

 

I tilt my head at him. “What do you mean?”

 

“I just... I was thinking about that today. About the way you see me, and what a load of crap it is, but how amazing it is too. And I-” He pauses, swallows, visibly pushes past fear and reluctance. “I think I need that. You. I think you’re good for me.”

 

I bite my lip to stop my grin from looking too idiotically happy, but I feel uncharacteristically like whooping out loud. “Sam said the same thing to me.”

 

“Yeah, look, obviously I didn’t reach these oh so wise and thoughtful conclusions without some help.”

 

I chuckle, crossing my arms loosely on the table and leaning forward. “And what are some of your other wise and thoughtful conclusions?”

 

Dean downs the rest of his drink smoothly, his confidence appearing more genuine now. “I reckon I’m pretty lucky to have you, and I probably never say that to you, but I just did. So, um, yeah.”

 

“I think that I’m the lucky one.”

 

“Yeah, you would. I also realised today that this thing, unlike every other time I’ve tried it, could actually work. I mean, that’s kinda awesome. And terrifying, but hey, let’s focus on the positives.”

 

I’m actually dizzy with joy at this point. “Yes, let’s.”

 

Fiddling with his glass with nervous fingers, Dean’s smiles fades a little and mine echoes it. I watch him closely as he continues, his eyes fixed on the table top.

 

“Cas, I do want this to work out. I know I’ve spent a lot of time - years - acting like this thing between us wasn’t there, or was something different. But I do get that we’re past that point now. I can’t promise that this won’t turn to shit, but I can promise that I won’t be pretending any more. OK?”

 

I take a moment to respond. “Honesty is all I’m asking of you, Dean. Anything else you give me is up to you. I just want us to be together, in whatever form suits you best.”

 

Dean glances up at me and shakes his head, looking oddly upset. “That’s... ridiculously unselfish.”

 

“Do you want me to be selfish?”

 

“I want you to be happy,” Dean says without hesitating, and his hands go still on the glass. He looks as surprised by his words as I feel. “Yeah, fuck, I really do. I want you to be happy. Maybe that’s the problem. I don’t make people happy, Cas. I can’t even make me happy.”

 

I shut my eyes and shake my head, my fingers digging in where they’re wrapped around my upper arms. “That’s the opposite of the truth. My experience of happiness is exclusively centred around you.”

 

I hear Dean sigh. “You need to get out more, then.”

 

I laugh a little breathlessly, opening my eyes and regarding him with unabashed adoration. He peers back at me, looking puzzled more than anything else.

 

“Dean,” I say softly. “I would like to ask you to attend a date with me.”

 

Dean’s eyes go wide, and then narrow again with suspicion. “Sam put you up to this, didn’t he?”

 

“Yes. It’s just some beers in my room.”

 

To my surprise, Dean blushes and sits back in his chair, crossing his arms. “That is a classic high school technique for getting someone alone and reaching third base.”

 

“I don’t know what-”

 

“Fine,” Dean says loudly, talking over me. “I’ll bring the beers. This is stupid though.”

 

“If you don’t want to, we don’t-”

 

“Eight o’clock OK?”

 

I huff in irritation but Dean’s eyes are twinkling with mirth. He’s clearly making fun of me. I should really be used to it by now.

 

I can work on that.

Chapter Text

Dinner is awkward, there’s no ignoring it.

 

Before Sam and Kevin arrive, it’s fine. Dean and I sit at the kitchen table for at least an hour after arranging our ‘date’, discussing Ezekiel and Gadreel and most importantly, Sam. We haven’t really reached any conclusions - other than reiterating to each other several times that we really need that footage from Charlie - when Sam himself wanders in, stopping dead when he sees us.

 

Dean glances up at him, blushes furiously and then glares down at the table top, fists tensing where they rest there. His brother hovers in the doorway, lips twitching, doing a terrible job of hiding his clear amusement and excitement. I sigh audibly.

 

“Hello, Sam.”

 

Sam grins widely at me. “Oh, hi, Cas! How are you this fine evening?”

 

“I’m well, thank you. And you?”

 

Sam strides into the room, heading to the fridge, smiling down at Dean as he passes. The older man shoots him a sideways scowl, which Sam ignores as he replies to me.

 

“Yeah, thanks, I’m pretty good. It’s been a good day, huh?” Pulling three pizzas out of the freezer as he speaks, Sam tosses another toothy grin over his shoulder at Dean. “Wouldn’t you say so, Dean?”

 

I glance at Dean, who’s covered his eyes with one hand. “Yep.”

 

“Aww, Dean, you not feeling well?” pipes up Kevin’s voice from the doorway. Dean flinches but doesn’t look up as the prophet practically saunters into the room, smirking between the two of us at the table.

 

“Headache,” Dean grunts, rubbing his forehead. At this point it’s probably the truth. I decide to distract Kevin from prodding Dean any further.

 

“Kevin,” I say calmly, gaining the young man’s attention. “Am I mistaken in thinking that you know how to play the cello?”

 

“Um. Yeah, I play. Why?”

 

“I would like to learn,” I reply. Dean looks up, eyeing me doubtfully.

 

“Really?” he says in a sceptical tone. I frown reproachfully at him.

 

“Yes, really. I’ve always admired human music. Angelic song is very different and I was never much good at it. Perhaps I’ll be better at making music through an instrument.”

 

“Yeah, Dean,” chimes in Kevin, eyes twinkling. “And the cello is a good choice. Cas is probably great with his fingers, don’t you think?”

 

By the time I fully process the innuendo, Dean is an impressive shade of red and has again covered his eyes, swearing under his breath. I can hear Sam snuffling with laughter in the background as my own face heats up.

 

“Kevin,” I say weakly, a pointless reprimand. The boy only blinks innocently at me and I shake my head, failing to keep from smiling despite Dean’s clear mortification. There’s a prolonged silence before Sam speaks, his voice calm.

 

“Let’s talk about something else. The pizzas should be ready in another ten minutes or so, but in the meantime we have chicken in the fridge that needs using by tomorrow night. Dean, you wanna mix up that spicy BBQ marinade for it?”

 

Taking a deep breath, Dean opens his eyes and nods, standing up from the table. “Sure thing.”

 

After that Sam and Dean bustle about in the kitchen while Kevin discusses the finer points of the cello with me, seeming genuinely pleased by my interest. It’s the most engaged I’ve seen him regarding anything other than prophet-related business and I’m glad to see his enthusiasm as we lay the table. I really would like to attempt learning to play at some point.

 

“I’m just saying, being a hipster brunch food doesn’t make poached eggs any less delicious,” Sam’s voice breaks into our conversation as he carries two of the steaming pizzas to the table. Dean harrumphs as he divides the third one between all of us, eyeing his brother doubtfully.

 

“I still don’t get what’s wrong with fried,” he shrugs, putting the empty tray on the bench and settling in the chair next to me.

 

“Poached eggs taste better,” Sam insists, picking up a pizza slice that appears to have over a dozen different types of topping on it.

 

“And they’re a healthier option,” I add. Sam slumps with a defeated look and Dean points at me with his slice as though I’ve revealed a sinister secret.

 

“I fucking knew it,” he says grimly. “Healthier option, huh? I’ll stick with fried. Maybe scrambled for special occasions.”

 

Sam mouths an obviously sarcastic ‘thanks’ at me and I grimace apologetically, remembering too late that ‘healthy’ is not a word that Dean likes associated with food.

 

“Poached eggs are probably really good, though” I venture after swallowing a mouthful of reasonably pleasant pizza. “We should try making them, Dean. I was meaning to learn more about cooking anyway, you could teach me.”

 

Glancing at me with an unimpressed look, Dean opens his mouth to reply when Kevin speaks instead, smirking at us.

 

“Aawww, cute...”

 

Sam nudges him but Dean has already snapped his mouth shut and is frowning at his food. I shoot Kevin an exasperated look, but there’s nothing to be done until Dean gets over his discomfort and self-consciousness. At least the prophet has the decency to look repentant.

 

After several more minutes of stilted small talk mostly between Sam and me, Dean pushes back from the table, having eaten most of the second pizza by himself.

 

“I’m gonna go take a shower,” he announces to the room at large. “It’s quarter past seven.”

 

Those last words make me sit up straighter and I observe Dean cleaning his plate with a new nervousness stirring in my stomach.

 

“Uh, thanks, Mr Wolf,” Sam replies in a confused tone. “You got somewhere to be?”

 

“Not going anywhere, no,” Dean says evasively without looking up. He stacks the cleaned items on the draining board and wipes his hands on his jeans as he walks past us, meeting my eyes briefly and offering a small smile. “See ya.”

 

“See you,” I murmur, lips curving up as I watch him leave the room. Sam looks at me and his face lights up with understanding.

 

“Oh!” he whispers excitedly. “You asked him?”

 

I nod slowly and Kevin frowns between us.

 

“Asked him what?” he enquires after swallowing his mouthful. I shrug awkwardly.

 

“I’m just spending some time with Dean tonight,” I explain. Kevin raises his eyebrows.

 

“I see. Well, have fun and all, but keep it down, OK? Some us have study to do.”

 

“Wow,” mutters Sam, rolling his eyes. Kevin scowls at him.

 

“I’m sure we won’t disturb you,” I assure the young man. “It’s just some quiet drinks and conversation, I think. Oh, and Dean mentioned something about ‘third base’.”

 

Both Sam and Kevin startle at this, with Sam almost choking on the last slice of pizza. I eye them with concern.

 

“Oh, wow, I did not need to know that,” Sam gasps out. Kevin’s shocked expression has morphed into mirth, eyes gleaming with laughter as he thumps Sam on the back.

 

“Hey, I assumed they’d be all out having sex,” he says cheerfully, which only causes Sam to look more pained. I feel myself flush and squirm in my seat a little.

 

“I - I don’t think - I mean, as far as I can tell, that is not what Dean has planned, but I suppose I don’t know-”

 

“Hey, relax,” Kevin cuts across me. “I’m sure Dean won’t push you into anything you’re not comfortable with. Right, Sam?”

 

“Right,” confirms Sam, having recovered from his coughing fit. “And I’m equally sure that I don’t want to keep talking about my brother and sex. Cas, you oughtta go get ready, huh?”

 

I nod seriously. “I suppose I should shower too.”

 

“Go hop in with Dean,” Kevin snickers, earning an eye roll from Sam. My eyes widen at the thought, skin warming considerably.

 

“I don’t think-”

 

“He’s joking,” Sam sighs. “Go use the little one attached to the gym. Takes longer to heat up and the water pressure isn’t as good, but it’ll do.”

 

“OK. Thank you, Sam.”

 

“No problem,” Sam grins up at me as I stand, picking up my plate. I wash them as quickly as possible, suddenly aware of time ticking away. Waving goodnight to the two men at the table, I head to my room, casting a longing look at the closed bathroom door. I can faintly hear Dean whistling in there.

 

I accidentally flew in on one of Dean’s showers, years ago when we were first friends. At the time I was unable to understand his mortified yelping and grabbing at the curtain. Nudity has always struck me as an odd issue for humans to be so deeply concerned about, although admittedly it’s a seemingly instinctive one; even Adam and Eve had a complex about it. However, I took note of his expletive-laden orders to never, ever do that again and I haven’t seen him in the shower since. Which is a shame, because I’m now far more appreciative of how visually pleasing Dean is without clothes on. Perhaps, in time, I can enjoy the sight again.

 

But the first step will be tonight’s date. I need to make sure that I don’t somehow put Dean off. Being clean and nicely dressed will be a good start.

 

The gym shower is as disappointing as Sam indicated but I wash my hair and skin quickly, using the one faded bottle of shampoo in there for everything. It doesn’t smell as pleasing as the one I’ve been using in the main shower, which I’ve identified as Dean’s because his hair has the same citrus scent. Towelling off, I make my way back to my room, shivering lightly in the cool air. The bathroom is open now, tendrils of steam still dissipating into the hallway. Dean’s bedroom door is closed.

 

I check my phone before dressing. It’s twenty minutes to eight. I put on a blue t-shirt and the blue-purple plaid that Dean picked for me, along with a fresh pair of jeans. Quickly, I make a trip to the bathroom and brush my teeth, wiping steam from the mirror to examine my reflection. I attempt to finger-comb my damp hair into some semblance of order. There’s a slight tuft at the crown of my head that won’t lie flat and so I try running my fingers aggressively through the rest of my hair too, deciding that it’s better to have slightly wild-looking locks all over rather than neatness ruined by one stubborn piece of hair. The messed up hair actually looks sort of good, and the ever-present stubble is at a pleasing level too. Smiling a little more confidently at my reflection, I carefully dab a few drops of the pleasant aftershave onto my neck and return to my bedroom.

 

Ten minutes to eight. I tidy the room nervously, hanging up my towel and straightening the blankets on the bed. I start playing the songs that Sam put onto my phone, adjusting the volume to fairly quiet but still clearly audible. I leave the phone on the bedside table and pace the floor in time with the beat, wringing my hands with mounting anxiety. This is bizarre. How do humans do this? More to the point, how should I do this? I wonder what Dean is expecting of me. Should I treat him any differently? Does applying the word ‘date’ to time spent together change how that time should be spent?

 

Abruptly, my mind goes to Kevin’s assumption that Dean and I are going to have sex. I haven’t really considered whether sex will be included in this change to mine and Dean’s relationship. It does seem like an inevitable realisation of the attraction between us, but I wouldn’t be more than mildly disappointed if Dean wasn’t interested in exploring that. It doesn’t matter much to me. I’ll leave that up to Dean.

 

What I’m less sure about leaving to Dean is maintaining the emotional closeness that we’ve hesitantly established. Sam was probably right in advising me not to give Dean too much space lest he talk himself out of the whole thing. But that’s why tonight is a good idea. Explicitly calling this a ‘date’ doesn’t have to change the way I interact with Dean, but it does provide a clear definition of that interaction as a romantic one. I nod firmly to myself.

 

There’s a knock at the door.

Chapter Text

It takes me several seconds to move, or even breathe, but after a slight panicked pause I move across to my bedroom door and pull it open with a determined smile.

 

Sure enough it’s Dean, holding a six-pack of the beer I usually see him drinking with dinner or during research. He’s wearing just one shirt, a moss green one that actually appears to fit him well enough to wear buttoned up. It looks unfairly good on him, which is no surprise since everything does as far as I’ve seen. It matches his eyes, which upon meeting mine immediately move up to my damp, wildly mussed hair. Perhaps messing it up was a mistake, but it’s too late to fix it now and besides, Dean has seen me looking much worse and apparently still wants to be here. I take a calming breath.

 

“Hello, Dean,” I greet him quietly. “Come in.”

 

Stepping aside, I gesture vaguely behind me at the room. Dean looks into my eyes as he passes, almost smiling but not quite managing it. I shut the door and stare at him as he halts next to the bed, placing the beers on my nightstand next to my phone. He pauses and gazes down at it, obviously listening to the song playing.

 

“Huh,” he says, the first sound he’s made since arriving. “Bon Jovi. ‘Livin’ on a prayer’.”

 

I murmur agreement, walking up to him until I reach his side. He swallows and glances aslant at me, eyes again catching on my hair. It seems to be really bothering him. Dean’s hair is too short to ever really be messy. Maybe he hates messy hair. I drag my fingers through it self-consciously and Dean flushes a little as he watches, which is an odd response.

 

“You look great,” he blurts out, staring back down at the nightstand. His face gets redder. I grin, surprised and gratified by the compliment.

 

“Thank you, Dean. So do you.”

 

Dean makes a dismissive sort of gesture with his head, a kind of half-shrug.

 

“If you say so. I didn’t know you had this music.”

 

“Sam gave it to me,” I admit, moving to open the pack of beers. “It’s the songs on your mix tape in the Impala.”

 

“Huh,” Dean says again. I glance at him and he’s already looking so I smile gently, trying to put him at ease. Pulling a can of beer out of the packaging, I open it and offer it to him. He half-smiles as he takes it from me.

 

“Tryna get me drunk, Cas?”

 

His voice has that light, teasing quality that it sometimes gets around me and I recognise it with a flash of realisation. It’s flirtation. This is how Dean sounds when he talks to women who he finds attractive. How could I have only realised since becoming human that Dean flirts with me? He’s been doing it almost since we met. It occurs to me that if I’d only paid better attention, I could have worked out Dean’s feelings for me all along. This minor epiphany is both frustrating and oddly comforting. It leaves little room for doubt in my mind, which is good because doubt would be a crippling thing in this situation. I grin at Dean as I reply, standing up straighter.

 

“I think that this is more likely to affect me than you. Sam and I discovered today that my alcohol tolerance as a human is almost non-existent.”

 

Dean snorts, seeming to relax a little as he watches me open my own beer and take a sip. “That ain’t something you tell a date.”

 

“Why not?”

 

He shrugs, smiling coyly against the lip of his can, eyes twinkling. I stare rather stupidly at him until he rolls his eyes, shaking his head. “Never mind. You, uh, wanna sit down?”

 

I nod and Dean looks around the room as though expecting chairs to have materialised since he arrived. I wait patiently for him to arrive at the obvious conclusion but he still hesitates when he looks down at the bed.

 

“I guess we’ll just...”

 

It’s my turn to roll my eyes and I do so as I walk around to the other side of the bed and climb on, settling on the covers cross-legged and taking another swig of beer. Dean eyes me with pursed lips before shrugging and joining me, although he sits with his back to the headboard and his outer knee drawn up for his elbow to rest on. He’s in the spot I usually sleep in and he drums his free fingers on his thigh, looking nervous again. I cast around for something to say but he beats me to it.

 

“AC/DC. ‘Highway to Hell’. Classic track. Sam always says it’s a bit close to home for us, though.”

 

It takes me a moment to understand but then I realise that he’s again talking about the song playing. I laugh softly.

 

“’Highway to Hell’. Yes. That is a little too fitting.”

 

Dean grins at me and takes another drink of beer, eyes drifting off and around the room. I watch him closely, utterly uninterested in my surroundings. Dean is frowning, though, so I glance at my bedroom too even as he speaks.

 

“This room is so bare, man. You should get some stuff in here. I could take you into town, get you a TV and a... I dunno, a bookshelf? You like books.”

 

I look back at him, shrugging. “It doesn’t bother me. It’s only a room.”

 

Dean looks a little pained at this, shifting on the bed and fixing me with his full attention. “Yeah, but it’s your room. Your space. You should like it in here, it should be somewhere you want to be.”

 

“I want to be here now,” I point out, sipping thoughtfully at my drink. This gives Dean pause and he sits back again, flushing a little and looking away.

 

“Yeah, but that’s...”

 

He trails off and I finish the sentence for him, quietly but firmly. “Because you’re here.”

 

Dean doesn’t reply but his cheeks stay pink. I resist the urge to chuckle at him. “I’d like a bookshelf, Dean. I don’t need a TV, though. Maybe a laptop?”

 

Dean relaxes again and smiles at me. “Sure, a laptop. There’s a decent electronics place about twenty minutes drive from here. We’ll go soon.”

 

“After we’ve sorted all of this out with Sam,” I say seriously. He sighs and nods, looking worried, and I regret saying anything about the situation with Ezekiel. I shift closer to Dean on the bed, my knee nudging against his hip. He meets my eyes, looking a little startled at my sudden closeness.

 

“Sam will be alright, Dean. I remember Ezekiel well and even if he’s been changed since then, he was a brave and intelligent angel when I knew him. From what I’ve experienced, brave and intelligent beings can nearly always be reasoned with. If he intends to harm Sam, we will stop him.”

 

I inject as much conviction into my voice as I can, holding Dean’s verdant gaze with earnest determination. He stares at me for a moment before exhaling slowly, blinking, his lips twitching in an echo of a smile.

 

“I never thank you,” he almost mumbles. I cock my head in confusion and he elaborates, voice still very quiet, eyes still locked onto mine. “For always wanting to help. Always being ready to save us.”

 

I’m taken aback by his words but I merely shrug, finally tearing my gaze away and sipping at my beer before speaking. “You don’t need to thank me.”

 

I hear Dean snort lightly. “Come on, I owe you a million times over. You deserve way more than just a ‘thank you’, but still, I mean it. Thank you, Cas.”

 

I can feel my face warming, although I have no idea why I should feel embarrassed by his praise or flustered by his gratitude. There’s a moment of silence and I listen to the song playing in the background, realising that it’s just coming to an end. I glance back at the man in front of me, opening my mouth to ask something inane about laptops, when I recognise the next song that’s starting. It’s the one that reminded me of my relationship with Dean, the one during which I planned to kiss him. All at once, I feel illogically terrified.

 

“Huh, this song,” Dean is saying, looking sideways at my phone, obviously unaware of the way I’ve frozen in place with wide eyes and tense shoulders. “Man, this brings back memories. Haven’t actually played this tape in a while, dunno why.”

 

“Memories?” I repeat, hoping that Dean doesn’t notice my stiff voice or how I can’t seem to relax. He barely glances at me before taking a deep swig of his beer, eyes cast up at the ceiling as he thinks before replying.

 

“You remember Jo?”

 

I nod, glad of my rising curiosity because it distracts me from my fear and nerves. “Jo Harvelle. Ellen’s daughter.”

 

“Yeah,” Dean says, his eyes sad, still staring upwards. His head is tilted back slightly, the column of his throat dusted with light stubble, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows. I scold myself for wanting to kiss the exposed skin when Dean is clearly having a melancholy moment, remembering his fallen friend who was my ally too. Desire is so insensitive, and makes me feel shallow. I refocus as he continues speaking after a moment.

 

“This song always makes me think of her. Back when I first knew her. Man, she was a slap in the face. So gorgeous and so badass. And so untouchable. I fell for her damn fast, not that she seemed to know it. Guess she had better things to think about, but I wasn’t used to that.”

 

I’m not remotely surprised to feel the sharp pinpricks of jealousy spreading through me as I listen to Dean reminisce. I ignore the emotions, watching blankly as Dean smiles into the distance, lost in memory. He seems to be mostly talking to himself.

 

“She played this track one night when I was hanging around at the bar. Had this song stuck in my head for ages, but really I just had Jo stuck in my head, I guess.”

 

The jealousy is getting harder to push aside as I watch Dean take a sip of his drink, eyes fluttering shut, expression soft. I never knew that he’d had feelings for Jo. It makes sense, though. My memories of Jo are fairly vague but I remember that she was beautiful and brave and her soul shone like starlight. She was worth falling in love with, although I’m not sure if that’s what Dean is describing. He may have merely experienced an attraction to the young woman, one which faded into this gentle fondness I’m seeing on his face. I’m staring so intently at Dean that I jump slightly as he looks directly into my eyes, his expression almost shy.

 

“I thought that could be it for me, you know? Well, no, you don’t know. See, until Jo I thought I could never make a relationship work, not even in the short term. Then I met her and it was like, wow, this chick gets it, she can hold her own, she can survive the shitstorm that’s my life. Obviously, that didn’t work out...”

 

He pauses, looking away, the sadness back in his eyes. I barely have time to carefully process what he’s said before he recaptures my gaze and speaks again, an odd determination in his voice.

 

“Then there was Lisa, and I did something stupid there. I thought I could leave it all behind and be normal. Ha, yeah, right. No way. She almost died, Ben too, and I thought I’d learned my lesson. It’s not for me, that stuff. Domestic bliss or whatever. I can’t have that. That’s what I thought.”

 

Another pause and this time, Dean doesn’t look away. He holds my entire attention effortlessly and I lean forward, enraptured. He’s speaking far more than usual, as though there’s something he wants to impart, something he’s working up to. The jealousy fades rapidly in my gut, forgotten and unimportant. Dean’s eyes shine with something bright and hopeful as he says the next words.

 

“But you...” I tilt my head at him, my lips parted in silent question, and he smiles minutely before explaining. “You were there the whole time and it was so fucking obvious, wasn’t it? You must have thought I was some kind of moron. I mean, I was. I am. I knew what you meant to me and I knew what I wanted and I couldn’t... I couldn’t reconcile it all in my head. I couldn’t work it out, because I thought it was all tangled up in stuff that’s off limits. But Jesus Christ, everything we’ve been through, all the shit I’ve seen. What limits? It’s crazy.”

 

Dean stops abruptly, catching his breath, eyes wide and fervent. He’s sitting up from the headboard, his face inches away from mine, hands raised where he’s been gesticulating passionately during his speech. He blinks at me and looks mildly shocked; his words were clearly unplanned. I feel dizzy and I’m pulsing with emotions, too many to catalogue. I’ve half-crushed my mostly empty beer can in my lap. I swallow heavily.

 

“Dean,” I breathe, at a loss as to how to respond. He draws up his other knee so that both are raised in front of him, then rests his wrists almost wearily on them, hands dangling down. His gaze releases mine after what feels like a very long time and he sighs, eyes closed.

 

“This honesty thing is kinda exhausting,” he remarks, his voice wry. I huff a rushed breath of laughter, shutting my own eyes and bowing my head.

 

“I like it,” I murmur. There’s a still silence and I realise that a new song is playing and I didn’t kiss Dean. I don’t care very much. Hearing Dean’s perspective on his capacity to sustain a romantic relationship was far more worthwhile. Even more importantly, his conviction that he’s incapable of being with someone appears to have fallen apart where I’m concerned. It’s incredible and astonishing to think that I could be some kind of exception for Dean, that he might achieve something he wants purely because I love him. I’ve never felt necessary and needed in this way. It’s something that I don’t want to let go of. My smile grows as I almost sway to the song that’s playing, feeling content and warm.

 

“Cas?” Dean’s voice is gentle and I open my eyes to find that he’s peering at me. He gestures to the beer can in my hand; his own empty one is sitting on the bedside table. “You want another one?”

 

It’s clear from his light tone and guarded eyes that he doesn’t want to discuss what he’s just shared with me. I’m alright with that. I shake my head, still smiling, although I pass him the can to put on the table with the other one. The song that’s playing ends as he turns to do so and a moment later, I recognise the introduction of that Aerosmith song of Sam’s. Dean pauses, staring at the phone, before settling back against the headboard and meeting my eyes with a somewhat mischievous grin.

 

“Sam ever tell you how he and Jess first kissed?”

Chapter Text

I let Dean tell me the story of Sam and Jess’s first kiss as though I haven’t heard it before, chuckling quietly at the faint pride in his voice as he describes Sam’s ‘smooth’ maneuvering.

 

“Oh, man, I remember when he first told me about her on the phone, before they started dating” Dean is saying, eyes crinkled in a fond grin. “Talk about lovesick puppy! Couldn’t stop raving about this smart, gorgeous, amazing girl he’d met and how she actually talked to him and how she liked the same nerdy-ass books and shit. It took me months of phone calls to convince him that he was in with a chance if he asked her out. Thought he was never gonna get it together.”

 

I raise my eyebrows. “We’ve known each other for over five years.”

 

Dean flushes, glancing away. “OK, point taken. But come on, who can resist Sam?”

 

“Are you implying that in contrast with Sam, you are easy to resist?” I furrow my brow at him. “I can assure you that’s not the case.”

 

Dean is blushing more than ever but to his credit, he meets my eyes directly, his voice full of false confidence. “Oh yeah? So all I’ve ever had to do was play a few songs and it would’ve been in the bag? Now you tell me, huh?”

 

My grasp of human phrases and sayings is growing by the day. “I believe it was ‘in the bag’ from the moment I raised you from perdition, Dean.”

 

That breaks his resolve and he huffs and scoffs as he looks away again, practically glowing bright red. I grin affectionately at him as I continue. “But to tell you the truth, I already knew that story about Sam and Jess. He told me. I was actually planning to emulate his cunning strategy tonight.”

 

Dean frowns at me for a moment before understanding dawns on his face. “My songs. That’s why you had my songs?”

 

I nod sheepishly, feeling mildly embarrassed but certain that Dean will be amused by my admission. “Yes.”

 

“Which one?” he asks me, sitting forward and crossing his own legs as he shifts to face me fully, mirroring me. The pose is so unlike Dean that I pause before replying, staring at him.

 

“Uh, ‘Can’t fight this feeling’. By-”

 

“REO Speedwagon?” he interrupts, raising an eyebrow sceptically at me. “Really?”

 

Before I can respond, Dean’s face freezes in apparent horror. “Oh, shit. That’s the song I ruined with my rambling, isn’t it? You picked it out and then I started going on about how I used to have a thing for Jo... ah, fuck. I’m sorry, Cas, I’m crap at this stuff-”

 

“It’s fine,” I cut across him, shaking my head and smiling. “That song already has meaning for you. It’s good that you told me those things and I’m glad that you have a nice way to remember Jo. It’s better that I didn’t, um, kiss you. During that song, I mean...”

 

I trail off, a little breathless because he’s so close and he’s staring at me, examining my face as though it’s utterly fascinating, biting his lip enough to draw my eyes. He releases the full, pink flesh slowly from between white teeth and my own lips part as I watch intently, momentarily forgetting that I’m being observed in return. I see Dean’s throat bob as he gulps and I raise my eyes to find him watching me, his irises turned a deep forest colour by abruptly dilated pupils.

 

“Well,” he murmurs almost huskily, and I shiver. “I do have an alternative song in mind.”

 

“Alternative song...?” I repeat in almost a whisper, feeling a now-familiar light-headedness wash over me. Dean smirks and breaks our stare as he twists around to pick up my phone, still playing music in the background. A few swipes and taps later a different song plays, the first track on the listing. I was too nervous to pay much attention to it when it played as I was waiting for Dean so I’m not entirely sure how it goes. Dean puts the phone back down and turns back to me.

 

“This has made me think of you a couple of times,” he explains in a mutter, eyes darting across the bed instead of looking at me. I nod slowly, torn between trying to work out which song it is and trying to catch Dean’s eye again. As the singing begins on the track Dean finally looks up, his gaze slightly anxious.

 

“So...”

 

I squint at him, confused. “So?”

 

He sighs impatiently. “I put a song on for you.”

 

My squint deepens. “Yes, you did.”

 

“Cas.” Dean closes his eyes, shaking his head in apparent disbelief. “You had a plan for during a song, remember?”

 

I think about it and suck in my breath as I realise what he’s saying. The track plays on, chosen by Dean because he claims it reminds him of me. As I hesitate, the lyrics from the song fill the silence between us:

 

I need you by my side
To tell me it’s alright
‘Cause I don’t think I can take anymore
Is this love?
That I’m feeling?

 

A feeling of total adoration spreads through me, reaching unprecedented levels. Swooping forward, I press my lips to Dean’s.

 

He jerks back slightly as we make contact but I follow him insistently, our mouths fitting together smoothly as I tilt my head to make sure our noses don’t bump. I break away just because I’m not sure what else to do and Dean is the one to follow this time, sinking plush lips against mine and pursing them slightly. He pulls back only to reclaim me a second later, his movements increasingly eager and ardent. His hands settle comfortably on my knees, which are almost touching his own. I instinctively cover them with my own palms and Dean’s fingers twitch lightly under my touch. My eyes flutter closed.

 

Inhaling deeply through my nose, I quickly decide that for now I ought to just copy whatever Dean does with his mouth because it feels very pleasant to me. Dean opens his lips slowly and gradually, the sensation imbued with the mild taste of beer and the same gentle teasing that I often hear in his voice. I make a happy sort of humming noise without meaning to and Dean pulls back to huff with laughter before kissing me again, harder this time. He pulls one hand free from under mine and then I feel his touch on my neck, hesitant and warm. I’m not sure how to encourage him with my verbal abilities limited as they are so I lace my fingers through those on his other hand, still resting on my right knee.

 

This seems to work well; a moment later the light brushes on my neck have become a firm palm cupping the skin, fingertips massaging the hair at my nape. I groan a little breathlessly, taken aback by how good it feels. For the first time since initiating the encounter I push back against Dean, kissing him rather than being kissed. Dean makes an indistinct noise and I’m rewarded for my efforts by his fingers running deliberately and firmly up through my hair, fisting at the crown to tilt my head back slightly. This time, I moan loudly and I’m up on my knees before I can think about it, both my hands coming up to frame Dean’s face as I lean down into the kiss.

 

“Cas-” Dean gasps against my parted lips, but a moment later my tongue swipes against his and his hands settle on my hips, grip tight. His mouth breaks from mine and he scrambles to his knees as well, kissing messily down my neck as he moves, tugging harshly at my belt loops. I let my head tip back, my mind utterly focused on physical sensation because it’s all that’s worth thinking about right now. Dean is so close, so open, so beautiful and everything feels so overwhelmingly amazing. Even this blurred train of thought stutters to a halt as Dean shifts forward on his knees, pressing us together from chest to thigh as his lips brush softly just below my ear. My hands slip numbly down his back, clutching fistfuls of his shirt.

 

It’s no surprise that we’re both half-hard, although I didn’t even register my developing erection until now. It abruptly has most of my attention as Dean pushes his hips forward, his hands slipping around and down to ghost over my backside. He retreats quickly back up, though, resting one hand on the small of my back and moving the other to run through my hair again. I make a sound close to a whimper and twist my head to reclaim his mouth, trying not to grind against him although it’s extremely difficult to control my impulses at this point. I bring my hands to his waist, partly to steady myself and partly to pull him impossibly closer, mumbling a mindless plea for more into Dean’s mouth as his fingers attempt to untangle from my hair.

 

Quite suddenly, I’m pushed both sideways and back, landing with a thump in the centre of the bed. I blink up at Dean, who leans over me with wild, gleaming eyes and a heaving chest, arms bracketing my shoulders. I’m panting too, skin heated and thoughts muddled.

 

“Cas...” Dean breathes, staring down at me with something like disbelief or possibly even wonder in his gaze. I furrow my brow at him.

 

“Yes?” I ask. Dean’s expression transforms into amusement and he drops down to kiss me again, smiling against my lips, the touch light and affectionate. I smile too, running my hands up and down his sides, trying not to squirm with the sheer exhilarating joy bubbling up inside me. This is really happening to me. Dean wants me. Dean needs me. Dean-

 

“Fuck,” I exclaim indistinctly against Dean’s mouth as, with no warning, he settles down with a thigh between my legs and surges enthusiastically against me. My hips buck and I toss my head to the side, momentarily overwhelmed. Dean seems far less affected, chuckling in a deep, distracting way as he kisses down my throat. The sound reverberates through me and I think dazedly that this is definitely how I want to spend the majority of my time from now on, underneath Dean with his warmth wrapping around me and his breath on my skin.

 

“Relax, this is only second base,” he murmurs in my ear before biting gently at the lobe. I suck in an unsteady breath.

 

“I still don’t know what that - oh -”

 

The light nipping at my earlobe turns into gentle sucking, which is not something that would have occurred to me to do but is quite delightful. Dean moves down to my pulse point and re-applies the technique there, getting a little more aggressive. I tip my head back, eagerly offering Dean more skin to which to attach his mouth. I breathe his name in a pleading tone and he bites down where my neck meets my shoulder, drawing a startled groan from me. I’m not sure why what should be a painful shock is pleasurable for me right now, but I am certain that I have never been so aroused in my entire existence, even when touching myself.

 

Dean is rolling his hips in a slow, steady rhythm, making a wordless mumbling sound which is swallowed up when he kisses me deeply. I draw one knee up and dig my heel into the bed, arching my back to press against the man above me. Quite by accident, my hands slip to the hem of Dean’s shirt and I tug it up without thinking about it, concentrating as I am on breathing through my nose to avoid breaking contact with Dean’s tongue.

 

The sound that Dean makes when I run my hands up his bare back is muffled but very encouraging. I relish the sensation of smooth, warm skin under my palms, firmly dragging my touch from the edge of his belt all the way up to his shoulder blades, flexing against my fingers. As I rub one hand against the dip in his lower back and trace his spine with the other, Dean’s movements against me become a little more frantic, muscles bunching and clenching. He tears his mouth from mine to moan in my ear and I press desperate kisses to his jaw, stubble scratching and burning against my lips. It feels good. It all feels so incredibly good.

 

Without warning, Dean backs off, leaving the space between us cold and empty.

Chapter Text

Dean scrambles up onto his knees above me with my hands still tucked under his shirt. He looks gorgeous, flushed and dazed and vibrant, but I can’t really appreciate that with the disappointment coursing through me at his withdrawal from our activities. I squirm a little, frustrated and confused at his sheepish expression.

 

“Sorry,” he breathes. “Just think we oughta slow things down a bit before, um, we get too excited.”

 

“Excited?” I repeat, panting, my voice sounding wrecked. Dean gulps as he stares down at me, still hovering over me on knees and fingertips. I pull my hands out from under his shirt and place them on his thighs, trying to think past the instinct to tug him back down and satisfy my own desire. “Are you alright?”

 

“Yeah,” Dean says hastily. “Yeah, I am so OK. Are you?”

 

“I feel fantastic,” I smile up at him. He grins and leans down to kiss me, the touch light and sweet. It takes a lot of effort not to grab him and roll us over to resume our previous level of contact. Instead, I wait until he sits back on his haunches and then I ask him a question, since he seems to want to talk now.

 

“Dean, what are these bases that you’ve been referring to?”

 

He blinks down at me for a moment before understanding dawns on his face. Blushing, he shuts his eyes and shakes his head.

 

“It’s dumb, Cas, just a dumb human thing.”

 

“Well, I’m human,” I remind him patiently. “Tell me.”

 

“I was only joking,” he mumbles. I raise my eyebrows at him and he sighs. “Fine. It’s just a stupid set of... I dunno, stages I guess? Stages of a physical relationship.”

 

“Stages,” I echo, still a little confused. Dean nods.

 

“Yeah, so like first base is hand holding and kissing and shit. Kid’s stuff. Second base is, uh, well. Kinda what we were just doing. Making out.”

 

“Making out,” I repeat with an amused smile. “I like making out.”

 

“Yeah, you’re not alone, it’s pretty popular,” he snorts, rolling his eyes but looking pleased. I stroke my thumbs absently against the taut material of his jeans, enjoying being able to touch him freely.

 

“What’s third base?” I prompt gently. Dean flushes brightly, shifting uncomfortably, avoiding putting much weight on my thighs.

 

“Look, I was kidding about reaching third base tonight. Second is fine. More than fine.”

 

“Dean-”

 

“It’s getting off,” he almost snaps, sitting further back, radiating tension. I struggle to sit up too, trying to catch his eye as he avoids my gaze and continues. “Or clothes off, that can count too. Third base is basically everything but, you know, full on sex. If someone gets naked or comes, woohoo, third base unlocked.”

 

I nod slowly, considering. I think about the very few orgasms I’ve had. I would certainly not be averse to having another one with Dean present.

 

Then I think about Dean having one. Watching him. Making it happen. Suppressing a weak whimper, I manage to croak out: “Third base sounds good.”

 

Dean glances up at me, looking stunned. “Are you... I mean, I don’t wanna rush things.”

 

I stare at him. “Five years, Dean.”

 

He rolls his eyes. “OK, OK. I get that. Still. You, um. You haven’t done this stuff before, right?”

 

I shake my head. “Only with you.”

 

“Good,” he answers. I blink at him and he flushes once more. “I didn’t mean to say that. Just ignore that.”

 

“Alright,” I shrug with a smile. Dean watches me for a moment before speaking, the words slow and weighted as though he’s reluctant to say them.

 

“Thing is, I haven’t either. I mean, obviously I have, but only with women. I never, uh, explored other options. Even when I...”

 

He stops and swallows, staring blankly at a spot on my chest. I reach up and cup his cheek to meet his eyes, concerned. His gaze latches onto mine and he continues in a rush, voice trembling slightly.

 

“Even when I kinda wanted to. Even when I really wanted to. I just never let myself think about it too much. Obviously that’s all gone to shit now.”

 

He laughs without much humour, dropping his eyes again. I stroke his cheekbone with my thumb, searching for a response to an issue I simply don’t have any understanding of.

 

“Dean, I’m aware that humans attach a lot of importance to their own desires and preferences. I’m also aware that some desires and preferences are not well received by a lot of social and cultural circles. Humans always seem to want to judge and control each other, which confuses and troubles me. I’m sorry that it’s affected you like this. You should never have felt any pressure to hide or ignore any part of yourself.”

 

I pause and peer at Dean, who has gone very still but is leaning his cheek slightly into my hand. His eyes are closed but I’m certain he’s listening intently.

 

“I don’t think you need me to tell you that there is nothing wrong with desiring a person who is or isn’t a particular gender. I know that you know that. And I may be biased on the subject, but I would argue that there’s nothing wrong with attraction to a person of a separate species too.”

 

At this, Dean snorts and shakes his head, opening his eyes and smirking at me. “Yeah, you might be a tad biased there.”

 

“Perhaps,” I allow with a smile, slipping my hand down to squeeze his shoulder. “But it does put the gender issue into perspective.”

 

“I never made a move on you until after you became human, so the species thing doesn’t technically count,” Dean points out, settling more comfortably in my lap. My dampened interest in resuming ‘making out’ sparks but I ignore it, focusing on the conversation. I drop my hand and lace our fingers together.

 

“So you never experienced any desire for me when I was an angel?” I ask sceptically. Dean drops his eyes again and rubs a little nervously at his neck, opening his mouth but then closing it without answering. I pause, unsure now.

 

“Dean?”

 

“Yes, OK, like all the time, like way too much,” he huffs almost angrily, snapping his eyes back up and scowling at me. I tilt my head at him, amused and rather smug.

 

“All the time?”

 

Dean groans. “Yes. All that shit you said about the way you feel being worse once you’re human? Yeah, well, now you know my pain.”

 

“But you never showed it. I never even suspected that you were attracted to me.”

 

“Huh. You’re kind of an idiot, then,” Dean replies dryly. I give a low chuckle, squeezing his fingers. He breaks into a smile then, the kind of purely happy smile that should look wrong on his face because it’s so far removed from how he usually looks. It doesn’t, though. It looks entirely right.

 

“Ah, well,” he says softly. “All good now.”

 

I echo both the smile and the words, calm and content, before spontaneously tugging my hand free and slipping my arms around his middle. Pulling him closer, I press my mouth to his shoulder and just sit quietly, enjoying the feeling of completeness that washes over me with Dean in my arms. He hesitates for a moment before mirroring my actions, wrapping me up in a hug and resting his chin lightly on my shoulder. There’s a silence before he speaks, his voice quiet and a little thick.

 

“Cas, would it be OK... I’m not trying to, uh, get to third base or anything ‘cause I don’t think either of us are ready tonight. But d’you think I might, um, stay the night anyway?”

 

“Of course,” I reply without hesitation, lifting my head slightly. “There’s nothing I want more.”

 

I feel Dean relax a little against me. “OK.”

 

“Do you want to lie down?” I offer gently. He pauses and then I feel him nod. He shuffles back and I can see how much it’s taking him to keep his guard down and accept comfort and affection without resistance or pretense. His shoulders keep stiffening and he won’t meet my eyes.

 

I sigh quietly, trying to decide how to approach this. Dean quite clearly wants to be held; I sensed that in the way he sank into my arms when I pulled him in, as well as the fact that he wants to sleep in my bed without any sexual motive. But he can’t yet relax while he’s letting himself be totally vulnerable. He’s still too wrapped up in insecurity to just give himself over to me, no matter how much he might want to. He needs to preserve his self-image, at least for now.

 

Pulling the covers back, I gesture for Dean to get into the bed. He glances at me but does so, settling down against the pillows and shifting to get comfortable, eyes on the ceiling. I slide in next to him and stretch out to switch off both the music, still playing quietly, and the bedside lamp. The room turns black and silent and I feel a new sense of peace and comfort in the darkness, one that isn’t there when I face it alone. Turning, I firmly settle myself against Dean’s side, resting my head on his shoulder and draping an arm across his waist. He makes an odd, pleased sort of sound and tugs his arm from under me, folding it against my shoulders and back. I feel his fingers run lightly through my hair and I grin into the material of Dean’s shirt.

 

“This is kind of an early night for me,” he comments after a while, voice soft. I nod, trying not to yawn, lulled by the gentle tugging against my scalp as Dean continues to comb through my hair with his hand.

 

“You’re not tired?”

 

“Nah, not really. You can sleep if you like though.”

 

“I feel like that might be sort of boring for you.”

 

“No,” he mumbles, a smile in his voice. “It’s fine with me.”

 

I sigh, smiling too. “More thinking? You said it was dangerous in excessive amounts.”

 

“Yeah, well, I’m a dangerous sorta guy.”

 

“Yeah,” I mutter, pressing a kiss to his shirt and hoping that he won’t notice because I should probably not become too ‘sappy’ or whatever it is Dean complains about all the time. He moves his hand down to squeeze my shoulder and I close my eyes, allowing myself a small yawn. Dean gives a faint huff of laughter, felt more than heard, as I drift into sleep. I almost don’t hear his voice, murmured into my hair.

 

“Goodnight, Cas.”

 

I don’t really dream of anything in particular, but Sam’s face and my memories of Ezekiel’s angelic form make several appearances, muddled and troubling. I’m awoken in a confusing manner, partly because it’s still the middle of the night but mostly because I’m brought to consciousness by an insistent vibration against my thigh.

 

Squirming sleepily, I take a moment to register that I’m in Dean’s arms and that he’s trying to slide out from underneath me, fumbling one hand between us to reach his jeans. I wonder vaguely if he’s attempting to undress without waking me, but then the vibration thrums against my leg again and I understand. Without quite lifting my face from Dean’s chest - it smells good and I’m still hoping to go back to sleep very soon - I slide my own hand down to Dean’s pocket and tug out his phone, bringing it up and nudging it blindly at where I assume his face is. He tenses a little as I fumble near his crotch but I ignore that, too tired to care.

 

“Your phone’s ringing,” I inform him in a barely coherent mumble, speaking mostly into his shirt. He snorts as he takes it from my hand.

 

“Thanks,” he says in a hoarse voice, indicating that he was asleep too. Shifting to get more comfortable, I nuzzle a little at Dean’s shoulder, feeling a wave of lazy euphoria wash over me. He runs his hand down my back as he answers the phone in a murmur, shifting his grip to my waist.

 

“Charlie?”

 

I can just about hear her reply: Hey, Dean, sorry for the late call but I figured you’d still be up.”

 

Dean groans a little. “Ugh, what time is it?”

 

“It’s only one AM, loser. Were you asleep?”

 

“Yeah, actually. Some of us need our beauty sleep. Awake now though, so what’s up?”

 

“I saw the footage.”

 

I feel Dean’s fingers dig into my waist, his pectoral tensing under my cheek. “You sent it?”

 

“I told the bar owner to send me a copy and I’ll forward it straight to you; that’ll probably be tomorrow. I saw it, though. Sam’s eyes went all glowy and then he went outside and met up with some older dude. Talked for a bit, that’s it. No audio on the footage, sorry.”

 

“An older dude?” Dean repeats. I’m more awake now but still feeling somewhat detached from the situation, listening quietly with my eyes closed.

 

“Yep. No idea who he was, sorry. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know what was hip and happening, but I’m sorry I woke you up.”

 

“That’s OK,” Dean replies, voice distorted by the beginnings of an enormous yawn. I make a sleepy, commiserating sort of sound and he chuckles tiredly. “Actually, you barely woke Cas up at all.”

 

There’s a short pause. Cas?”

 

I feel Dean suddenly seize up against me and my eyes flutter open in the near-darkness. His voice is thick with dread when he responds.

 

“Ah.”

Chapter Text

“Oh my God. Oh my GOD! Dean!”

 

My smile grows against Dean’s shoulder as he stammers a response, his incoherent fumbling quickly eclipsed by Charlie’s shrill voice.

 

“I FUCKING KNEW IT!”

 

“Look, Charlie-”

 

“Don’t even try to deny it now, Dean Winchester. You are totally banging the angel. You are such a liar.”

 

“Does she know that I can hear her?” I whisper as I shift to lie on my stomach next to Dean, folding my arms comfortably beneath my head. He rolls to face me, his pained expression lit up dimly by his phone screen.

 

“Yet again, you are broadcasting every dumbass thing you say directly to Cas himself,” he informs Charlie tersely. She swears and I grin, amused.

 

“Sorry, Castiel. No disrespect meant! I’m just really happy for you both.”

 

I nod calmly as Dean shakes his head, scowling. “Please give Charlie my thanks, Dean.”

 

“Write her a damn letter if you want to thank her so bad,” he snaps. I smile at him and he rolls onto his back, expression grumpy and voice sharp. “Well, Charlie, not that I ain’t real glad that you’re pleased or whatever, but I reckon I’m gonna hang up now.”

 

“Can I be maid of honour?”

 

Dean ends the call with an aggressive jab of his thumb at the screen, glaring up at the phone where he holds it above his face.

 

“I was really hoping to put that off for a while longer,” he mutters sourly after a pause. I stretch out on my stomach, still smiling. I know Dean well, and he’s not really angry or upset. Just threatened and embarrassed, for no good reason.

 

“It’s nice that she cares about you like that,” I tell him gently. “She’s like a sister to you, isn’t she?”

 

Dean rolls his eyes, turning to face me again and mirroring my position with an arm pillowing his head. “Yeah, and I’m pretty sure little sisters are supposed to be the most annoying assholes on the planet.”

 

“Well, then, Charlie is simply being a good little sister.”

 

Dean pauses, eyeing me with mild irritation. He huffs as he switches his phone off and I hear him putting it on the bedside table and shifting back to face me again. “Stop using logic on me.”

 

I shrug tiredly, eyelids drooping. Dean scoots closer to me, reaching out to rub tentatively at my lower back. I close my eyes and hum with contentment. When he speaks his voice is barely more than a murmur.

 

“I actually mind a hell of a lot less than I thought.”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“People being all happy and shit. About us. I thought it’d bother me but what’s bothering me is that it doesn’t really bother me.”

 

I struggle to follow along with Dean’s low voice, my mind a sleepy haze. I crack my eyes back open, peering into the darkness at where I think his face probably is. My voice is a perplexed mumble when I reply. “What?”

 

Dean sighs as though I’m being exasperating. “Don’t worry about it. Go to sleep.”

 

“OK.” I shut my eyes again, wriggling a little to get more comfortable. I feel Dean inch closer again, almost touching me although our only point of contact is still his warm hand on my back. With a last surge of effort, I roll towards him, letting his hand slide around my waist to rest on my stomach as my back settles against his chest. He tenses in surprise but I mumble his name happily, my blurry thoughts turning as smug as my smile when he relaxes and exhales against my neck.

 

I have found the best sleeping spot in the universe.

 

I awaken once more in the darkness to find that Dean has moved in his sleep and has snaked an arm beneath me to hug my waist from behind, squeezing his arms around my middle, snoring faintly into my shoulder. I try to shift and go back to sleep but it’s impossible to get comfortable on my side with the bulk of Dean’s arm underneath me, digging into my ribs and forcing my spine to curve oddly no matter how I wriggle. After re-positioning myself half a dozen times, I accept defeat and turn onto my stomach, breaking Dean’s hold. He mumbles groggily, one hand fisting in the side of my shirt. I wait but he appears to sink back into sleep quickly and it doesn’t take long for me to follow.

 

When morning comes, I open my eyes to find that I’m on the wrong side of the bed and at first, that’s all that my sleepy mind can register. I stretch with a sigh, slowly easing my eyes open, further confused that my light is on. Didn’t I switch it off last night? Or did Dean?

 

At that thought, my eyes open fully and I scramble up onto my elbows, looking around wildly. My dismay at Dean’s absence is short-lived, however. The man in question is perched on the edge of the bed with a steaming mug, sipping calmly at it and eyeing me with fond amusement. I blink at him, relief making me smile even as I wonder aloud how long he’s been awake.

 

“About two hours,” he replies easily. I groan, dropping my head back down. Dean chuckles. “It’s not even nine AM, don’t worry. You’re not that lazy.”

 

“Hmm,” I croak. I stretch again - I really enjoy stretching - and drag myself over to his side of the bed, which is actually my side. Dean nods seriously, although his eyes are twinkling.

 

“Yeah, I know. Sleeping on the left was weird for me. I won’t steal your spot next time.”

 

I don’t answer but I nudge him with my hip, feeling lazy and happy, smiling into my folded arms. Dean snorts and waves the mug of coffee slowly near my face, tantalising me with its faint aroma.

 

“I added sugar.”

 

I twist my head to peer up at him. “But you don’t like sugar in your coffee.”

 

He shrugs. “Ain’t that bad. You want some?”

 

I stare at him for a moment before nodding and heaving myself up to sit cross-legged, grimacing at my lopsided and rumpled clothes. I feel too warm, now that I’m awake enough to think about it.

 

“We shouldn’t have slept in our clothes,” I huff, tugging my plaid shirt off rather clumsily as my motor skills are still arranging themselves. Dean makes a speculative humming sound in response and I look up as I finally rid myself of the garment, dropping it in a heap beside me and straightening my t shirt.

 

“What?” I ask as I accept the coffee he’s holding out. He grins and glances away.

 

“Maybe next time there should be less clothes,” he agrees. I roll my eyes as I gulp down some coffee. It’s sweet, which I like and which I know for a fact Dean doesn’t like. He clearly made this coffee for me, which is equally sweet.

 

“I have no problem with that idea,” I assure him. “It’s you who wants to... what is the phrase? Take things slow?”

 

It’s Dean’s turn to roll his eyes, leaning back on one hand and turning slightly to face me better. “Just trying to be a gentleman, jeez.”

 

I shrug and offer the coffee back to him. He shakes his head and I drink the rest of it in one, tipping my head back and draining the mug. I wipe my hand carelessly across my mouth as I lean back and set the mug down on the bedside table, misjudging the distance and hitting it harder than I meant to. I swear under my breath and Dean snorts.

 

“You were way less messy as an angel, you know that?”

 

I pause, thinking about it. He’s right. At no point in my angelic existence was I rumpled and uncoordinated from just waking up, and the absence of food or drink meant that I never had to wipe my mouth clean. I shrug again, trying not to feel mournful that I’m lacking grace in more ways than one.

 

“Being human is not overly dignified,” I comment, stretching my arms up above my head. Dean’s gaze darts obviously across my body and I suppress a satisfied smile, holding the pose for a moment longer before dropping my hands back to my lap. Dean blinks and glances away again.

 

“Has Charlie emailed?” I ask him. He shakes his head.

 

“Well, she hadn’t emailed when I checked again ten minutes ago,” he amends, looking worried. I reach out and lay a hand on his knee, squeezing slightly.

 

“I’m sure she’ll send it soon. And once she does, we’ll have a significant clue as to what Ezekiel is doing.”

 

Dean nods in an automatic sort of way, clearly barely listening to me. I sigh and withdraw my hand but he catches it suddenly, turning properly towards me and drawing one knee up onto the bed. He grins at me, lacing our fingers together.

 

“Your hair is a disaster, man,” he informs me, quite obviously changing the subject from his concern over his brother. I raise my eyebrows at him coolly but bring my free hand up to verify his statement. He’s right again; I can feel the wild tufts going in all directions.

 

“I think that ‘disaster’ is a strong term, but you may have a point.”

 

“I like it,” he admits, eyes fixed on the so-called disaster. I smile and Dean bites his lip slightly as he raises a hand, lightly combing his fingers from my temple back over my ear. I decide quickly that I won’t be cutting it shorter any time soon. Dean’s hand comes to rest curled around the back of my head and his eyes hold mine, commanding my attention as he tugs slightly and I lean forward. He looks strangely nervous, as though I might reject him or pull away. What a ludicrous notion.

 

My eyes flutter closed a moment after his and he kisses me slowly, thoroughly. The taste of coffee is sweet on my lips and I can’t tell who the flavour is coming from, which I like. Leaning into the contact, I find it all too easy to lose all thought and exist purely in the moment, dissolving into sensation, like falling asleep but infinitely more pleasurable.

 

It feels like we kiss for a long time and I’m startled when Dean slides his other hand up my thigh. I almost forgot that there was anything else to do, anything else in the world. I jerk back a little and we break apart.

 

“Sorry,” breathes Dean, withdrawing his hands, cheeks flushed and lips a little swollen. I shake my head, feeling relaxed and restless at the same time.

 

“No, don’t be.”

 

He stares at me and I wait, not sure what’s going on in his mind. He looks flustered, distracted, excited. He has a familiarly reckless air to him, one I’ve seen before when he unwisely mocks a powerful creature or charges into a dangerous situation. Dean has never been a patient or cautious man. I tilt my head at him, raising my eyebrows, still breathing a little fast and feeling twitchier the longer he pauses. I can clearly see that he’s trying to talk himself out of something and I find myself hoping that he doesn’t, because I’m fairly sure that ‘something’ is kissing me again. The seconds drag on and I wonder whether I should make the decision for him. But I can’t, he needs to be in control of this side of our relationship because he’s the one who has issues with it. But-

 

“Fuck it.”  

 

The words are muttered so quietly that I almost don’t hear them and I barely blink at him before he all but tackles me, tumbling me back onto the bed with a slightly jarring kiss. I make a startled sound, hands coming instinctively up to grip his shoulders and knees falling apart as Dean settles between them. He wastes no time, dropping half his weight on me and pushing my shirt up to my ribs, fingertips warm and firm against my sides. His mouth is demanding, tongue slipping past my lips without the hesitancy and gentleness that he’s shown before. I don’t have time to decide whether I like this better because both his hands are on my ribs now and he’s pushing my t shirt up to my shoulders, for what purpose I’m not sure but I don’t care because the more bare skin he touches, the less coherent thought I’m capable of.

 

Dean’s fingers skate across my chest and I hiss into his mouth as he runs them roughly across my nipples, shocked at the sensation. A few seconds later, his lips leave mine and I don’t have time to wonder why, because he’s promptly dropped them to my sternum, mouthing wetly at the skin there. I hold my breath and my suspicions are delightfully confirmed as he runs his tongue boldly across one nipple, drawing it into his mouth and then biting lightly at it. I whimper, pressing my nails desperately into the back of his head, my other hand straying unconsciously to the other side of my chest. Dean clearly notices because he catches it and pins my wrist to the bed even as he licks and sucks enthusiastically at where I was trying to touch. I’m making sounds I’ve never heard before, writhing beneath Dean, rapidly losing the ability to reason and apply thought to the situation.

 

Dean grabs my free arm and catches hold of my wrist, pinning it to match my other one. As he does this he kisses his way up my chest to where my shirt is and the cloth barrier makes him pause. The brief hesitation is enough to spark my impatience; it feels like I’m burning, consumed by a frantic, rising need for more and I can’t handle even a moment of less. I wrench my hands free, eyes opening and chest heaving.

 

I don’t even register what I’m doing until I’ve already flipped Dean onto his back, my own surprise matched in the wide green gaze below me.

Chapter Text

I freeze for long enough for Dean to catch his breath and speak, amusement and arousal warring in his expression.

 

“Deja vu, Cas...”

 

I blink down at him, nonplussed until the familiar scenario sparks recognition within me. I’m straddling Dean, a little lopsided, leaning forward onto hands that frame Dean’s head on the mattress.

 

Just like when we first kissed.

 

I break into a breathless chuckle, feeling my cheeks heat up as Dean smirks up at me, settling his hands comfortably on my hips. “Ah. Sorry. I didn’t mean to, I just... I like being on top of you.”

 

I’ve developed enough human propriety to know that the words are odd even as they’re leaving my mouth. I’m expecting Dean to grimace or laugh at me but instead he shuts his eyes, jaw clenching as he makes a small, indecipherable sound in his throat. Fingers dig into my sides and his voice is husky when he speaks.

 

“Cas-”

 

“I like being underneath you too,” I hasten to assure him, squirming a little because Dean holding me so tightly feels really fucking good and if I just shift forward another millimetre...

 

“Fuck,” he grits out, eyes flying open as I push my hips forward into both his grip and his growing erection. I bite my lip, pleased.

 

“Is that a request?” I quip, leaning lower and smirking slightly. Dean huffs in apparent disbelief.

 

“Shut up,” he half-laughs, craning his neck up to press a demanding kiss against my lips. His hands slip back where they rest, hesitate and then keep going, sliding boldly around to cup my backside. What does Dean call it, muttering approval at the lingerie-clad buttocks in his magazines? ‘Ass’? I hum with pleasure and Dean laughs again into my mouth, squeezing and kneading my ass a little with his hands, tugging me closer and lifting his own hips to grind up against me. He breaks away again, dropping his head back to stare at me, panting slightly.

 

“This is bizarre,” he comments, but he’s grinning, glowing with giddy excitement. I brush another kiss against his smile, warm all over.

 

“I love it,” I murmur, dragging my lips across his cheek and down to his ear, sliding my fingers into his hair. I whisper there, my voice coming out more fervent than I planned. “I love you.”

 

Dean’s breath hitches and he winds his arms around my waist. He squeezes me lightly and then returns his hands to my hips as I sit up a little, enough to meet his eyes. They’re soft and dark, wandering slowly over my face as I watch him. I feel a shiver across my skin.

 

“Didn’t you say something about less clothes next time?” I say in a rush, heart rate picking up with nervous excitement. Sex is usually low on my list of general interests and even regarding Dean, it’s not something that strikes me as very important. But every time I’m close to him like this it quickly demands my whole attention and I struggle to keep up with my own intense reactions and desires. Right now, the totally reasonable prospect of Dean not wanting to take off his clothes is a disproportionately glum one for me.

 

But Dean’s eyes light up at my spurious question. Warm fingers slide underneath my shirt, lifting it halfway and then pausing. Enthusiastically, I grasp it and yank the t shirt off, flinging it carelessly onto the floor.

 

“Your turn?” I prompt hopefully, eyeing the green button-down that looks fantastic on but is currently too opaque for my liking. Dean snorts with amusement even as his eyes trail over my naked torso. He nods, slowly and absent-mindedly, clearly distracted. I take that as permission and begin unbuttoning his shirt, ignoring his flinch of surprise. He looks down at my fingers and then glances back up at me, flushing a little.

 

“Eager?” he teases, eyebrows raised. I nod seriously and he gives a pleased grin.

 

“Can’t say I blame you,” he says airily, scrambling up onto his elbows and winking at me. I roll my eyes but focus sharply as I reach the last button and carefully push the material off of strong, freckled shoulders. I take a deep breath as I survey all of the gorgeous bare flesh I’m unveiling, giddy that it’s mine to explore.

 

I look at Dean to tell him that he has nice skin - nice everything - but he’s staring again at my chest, lips parted. I remember how they felt touching me there and the urge for contact rises insistently. Leaning forward with one hand braced behind Dean, I fit the other to his jaw and kiss him slowly. He kisses me back with a now-familiar passion, tracing my lips with his tongue and nipping at them with his teeth. I writhe in his lap, bringing our groins briefly together again.

 

Dean bucks his hips without warning, gasping against my lips. I deepen the kiss, head spinning as he does it again, insistently. I whimper, fingers fisting in his hair as I begin to move with purpose, rutting against him. He mirrors the movements and I feel how hard we both are, heat burning through two layers of denim. It feels amazing, but it’s not enough.

 

“Dean…” I groan, hurriedly withdrawing my tongue from his mouth and shifting back to peer at him. “If you aren’t willing to do third base, I think we should stop.”

 

I’m unhappy that I’m suggesting such a thing, but the thought of pushing this any further and then stopping is a little horrifying. Dean’s eyes are all but black, fully blown as he stares up at me. He gulps and my eyes catch on his throat.

 

“I was probably a bit hasty with the whole third base thing,” he rasps after a pause. I close my eyes at the sound of his voice like this, low and rough. “Third base is probably absolutely fine. And we waited a whole night. That’s pretty damn-”

 

He doesn’t get any further as I knock him back down to the mattress with an enthusiastic kiss. Groaning, he winds his fingers through my hair and responds enthusiastically for several seconds, before he pushes me back and struggles to sit up too. His breathing is ragged and the look in his eyes makes me feel light-headed, but as I watch he seems to calm down again, smiling wryly at me.

 

“You’re one hell of an ego boost, you know that?”

 

I nod firmly. “Good. You need to improve your self-confidence.”

 

Dean snorts but my eyes and mind are straying, down to the obvious tent in Dean’s jeans from his penis… no, he calls it a dick, he made enough jokes about Dick Roman for me to know that. But what’s the other word he uses sometimes? Cock? His cock is clearly as uncomfortably confined as mine. Shifting back a little, I reach down to unbuckle his belt where it digs into a slight roll in his stomach, soft and padded over the hard muscles underneath. I decide that I want to kiss that roll. Having pulled the belt open, I push lightly at Dean’s shoulder to lay him back down and achieve my goal. Instead, he catches my wrist, breathing fast again.

 

“Cas, no. I wanna take care of you.”

 

I meet Dean’s eyes with some surprise, not quite sure what he means. He looks almost shy but is holding my gaze, cheeks flushed prettily. I blink in confusion.

 

“You do take care of me. You let me into your home-”

 

“No,” he interrupts with a chuckle, shoulders relaxing slightly. “First off, it’s your home too now. And secondly, I meant more as in…”

 

Instead of continuing his sentence, Dean takes me by the waist and eases me off of his lap, eyes locked onto mine. He gently maneuvers me to lie on my back and then he straddles me lightly, in a mirror image of how we were before. I exhale unsteadily as I gaze up at him, feeling suddenly more vulnerable like this. I trust Dean though. And he looks wonderful from this angle, chest and shoulders broad and solid, jawline a natural work of art. When I saw Dean primarily as his soul, it wouldn’t have mattered either way what he looked like physically. It still doesn’t, really. But now that I’m seeing him through human eyes, it seems that the exterior definitely matches the interior in his case. He’s beautiful.

 

My eyelids flutter as Dean runs his fingertips down across my chest and stomach, gaze following in apparent fascination. He reaches my belt and unbuckles it faster than I did, followed promptly by the button and zipper. I hold my breath as he tugs at both my jeans and my boxers, lifting my hips to help him pull them down my thighs. My cock springs free and bobs a little, curving back up towards my stomach, pink and swollen but still a contrast to the rough, dark curls beneath it. I watch Dean closely and I see the way he freezes, staring at it with wide eyes.

 

“Are you alright?” I whisper. He jumps slightly and looks up at me, swallowing nervously.

 

“Yeah,” he answers automatically. I frown at him and he takes a deep breath, eyes straying back down to my erection, conspicuous and demanding before him. He pauses before speaking again. “It’s weird for me. I’ve never touched another dude’s dick before. And now I’m sitting here and it’s like, I want to. I want you. But I don’t really know how to stop caring that it’s a dick. But it’s just a dick. I have one. It shouldn’t matter. Maybe it won’t, in a moment, maybe I’ll just get over it. It just gave me a shock. Which is dumb.”

 

He finishes this speech with a false, tense laugh, trailing off into an uncertain glance back up at my face. I shake my head hastily. “It’s not dumb.”

 

Dean stares at me, looking unconvinced.

 

“It’s just a dick,” he repeats, a touch of frustration in his voice. I smile fondly.

 

“Yes, it is,” I agree placidly. “Just like yours. And you don’t have to do anything at all, Dean. There’s nothing wrong wi- oh, fuck-”

 

I stutter into silence as Dean, apparently no longer interested in reassurances, reaches out and firmly wraps a hand around my cock, squeezing lightly and pulling upwards a little. It feels indescribably different from my own touch, in a very good way. He watches me, lips quirking in the ghost of a smirk, before returning his attention to his handiwork.

 

“Just like mine,” he mutters to himself. “OK. I’ll just do the stuff that I like. Easy.”

 

“Yeah,” I gasp, dropping my head back and squeezing my eyes shut. Dean drags his fisted hand up to the tip and swirls the pad of his thumb around, firm against the unbelievably sensitive skin there. I groan helplessly as he loosens his grip and drops his hand back down, only to do it all again, a little faster.

 

“That is so good,” I murmur, my voice slurred, on the edge of a moan. Dean squeezes a little more and picks up his pace, fingers tightening and twisting and tugging noises of pleasure out of me. I begin to lift my hips in an involuntary attempt to match his movements and then, as Dean settles into a brisk speed, I realise that I’m trying to thrust into his hand. Clenching my fists and my jaw, I fight to keep still. It’s ludicrously difficult.

 

“Dean, Dean…” I pant, forcing my eyes open to check on him. He’s leaning forward on his spare hand, hovering over me, gaze focused on the sight of my now red and tumid cock as it slides through his loose fist. His mouth is hanging open, breath coming fast. I grab hold of his thighs, fingers digging in harshly. He looks up and meets my eyes and I’m not able to form coherent words or alter my facial expression much but I try to communicate that I’m concerned about him, mostly through further tightening my grip on his legs either side of me. He winces and the pace of his hand on me falters; I whimper weakly, eyes closing involuntarily.

 

“Cas,” I hear Dean murmur. Then he’s kissing me, squeezing and pumping faster between us and it’s too much. I can’t work out if the sensations overwhelming me are physical or emotional or both but everything falls apart at once.

 

It feels like flying.

 

When I become aware of my physical existence again it’s clear that less time has passed than I’d have thought, if I’d been considering such things. I can feel sweat cooling on my skin, which is oddly soothing. The exception to this is the mess on my stomach, which is still at an unpleasantly tepid temperature level. My limbs are heavy and my head is swimming. I tip my head back, stretching my neck, and open my eyes blearily. I meet Dean’s wide green gaze immediately. He’s still straddling me, leaning directly over me on both hands, peering at me in what looks like fascination. I blink up at him and he blinks back.

 

“Hey,” he whispers. I blink again.

 

“Hey,” I attempt, wincing at the wrecked sound of my own voice. I clear my throat, frowning. “Sorry. Hello, Dean.”

 

Dean grins faintly. “You seemed to enjoy that.”

 

I break into a pleased but embarrassed smile, glancing away. “Yes. I did.”

 

Quite suddenly, it occurs to me that Dean did not experience what I just experienced. I look back up at him, brow furrowing. “Dean, you’re still sexually unsatisfied. I should return the favour, as I believe the saying goes.”

 

He blushes, finally sitting back on his haunches. I sit up too, grimacing at the bodily fluids all over my torso. Dean is rambling about me not being obliged to do anything for him and I’m about to interrupt him when I catch sight of his abdomen. It’s barely a drop, clearly a result of him hovering so low over me when I came. But it’s there, conspicuous against his smooth skin. My semen got splashed onto Dean’s stomach and I can’t seem to stop staring at it.

 

“What is it?” Dean is saying, following my gaze down at himself. “What are you…”

 

He falls quiet as he sees it too and I watch his expression turn to alarm, which quickly intensifies as I reach out towards him. I’m not even aware that I’m wiping it off with my thumb until I’ve done it and then I freeze, thumb hovering between us in mid air, panic building in my mind. It’s surely too much for Dean, me ejaculating onto him and then attempting to remove it with my bare hands. And what am I supposed to do now? I meet his eyes, a slightly scared look on my face. He stares at me blankly for several seconds before, without any warning, grabbing my hand and closing his lips around my thumb.

 

It’s over before I can react. Dean pulls away, releases my hand and fixes me with an almost defiant look, despite his face steadily turning scarlet. My mouth has dropped open.

 

“Seemed like the practical thing to do,” Dean explains defensively. I snap my mouth shut and nod dazedly.

 

“Of course. It was.”

 

“It’s not weird.”

 

“It’s not at all weird.”

 

“Right. So, you know, stop looking at me like it’s weird!”

 

I survey him critically. “Dean, my perspective doesn’t really provide parameters for me to judge what is weird and what is not. But what you just did was not what I would assume is considered ‘weird’. I am looking at you in an unusual way because I am surprised and fairly aroused by your actions.”

 

Dean raises his eyebrows at me, relaxing slightly. “Aroused?”

 

“Well, not physically,” I allow, glancing downwards. “I’m not currently capable of that. Which reminds me: you have not been, as you say, ‘looked after’. Can I look after you?”

 

Dean chuckles but shakes his head. “That’s one hell of an offer, Cas. But… I’m actually alright for now. I mean, I’m still… I could probably do with it. Some, uh, looking after. But I kind of feel like I’ve done a lot and it’s a lot, you know? And it’s not like I didn’t, uh, enjoy myself. Because I did. But that, in itself… I kinda need a break. From all this. Just for now?”

 

I’m already nodding, trying to cut off Dean’s anxious dialogue. “It’s fine. I completely understand. Maybe I can go and clean myself up while you check to see if Charlie’s emailed you?”

 

“Are you sure everything’s OK?”

 

I smile and lean forward, brushing a light kiss against his lips. “Far more than that. But you need space and time. I don’t begrudge you those things.”

 

Dean is peering uncertainly at me. “I just don’t know if I’m handling this right.”

 

I shrug, my mouth quirking. “You handled me fine.”

 

Dean shuts his eyes. “I wasn’t being literal, Cas.”

 

I smile widely. “I know.”

Chapter Text

I stand in the shower for a long time, grinning vaguely at the wall. I wonder a few times if I might have somehow hallucinated everything that’s happened over the past several days. Some kind of djinn, maybe? But eventually, I conclude that it’s real. Dean and I are really, actually a couple. I’m going to stay here and we’re going to be together and I can be close to him without feeling like I’m breaking a rule.

 

Now we just need to sort out the situation with Sam and Ezekiel and somehow, everything might actually be alright. It’s an intoxicating thought.

 

I ruminate on that as I lather myself up with soap, meticulously cleaning every inch of my skin. Now that Dean is going to be coming into close contact with my body, I have to be very vigilant about personal hygiene. I would never have needed to consider such things as an angel. I sigh wistfully, longing yet again for the convenience and security that came with having grace.

 

But then again, as an angel I was never able to overcome the barriers between myself and Dean. I always hovered on the edges of his life, a regular presence who knew him to the core in some ways but was a total stranger in others. Our friendship before I lost my grace was strong and complicated and always developing, but there was so much hidden there that I wasn’t equipped to uncover. Without becoming human, the gap between us might have always remained unbridged and I might still be feeling that sad frustration, knowing that my power to help and heal Dean is limited and ever met with resistance.

 

And I’m sure that neither of us would be smiling the way I am now.

 

Finally turning the water off, I step out of the shower and rub my hair vigorously with my towel, remembering the way that Dean wound his fingers into it and tugged as we kissed. I feel the echo of the sensation low in my stomach and I sigh appreciatively as I wrap the towel around my waist. I brush my teeth quickly. It must be lunchtime already, but I still want to make sure that I’m keeping up with a good dental hygiene routine. Yet another dragging weight attached to mortal existence.

 

I return to my bedroom. As I shut the door behind me I realise that there’s music playing. It’s my phone, lying on a pillow, volume low. I pause and listen.

 

It’s my playlist from last night. Dean must have put it on and left it for me. He also seems to have straightened the sheets on the bed and taken the beer and the coffee mug away. I smile softly and hum along to the music as I get dressed. Picking up my phone to turn the music off, I see that it’s almost one o’clock in the afternoon. My stomach growls. Definitely lunchtime.

 

Of course, everyone has had the same thought at the same time. I pause in the kitchen doorway, watching as both Sam and Kevin smirk in unison at me before turning the expression onto Dean. He’s eating, so he salutes vaguely at me and then scowls at his brother and housemate.

 

“Oh, fuck off,” he says around a mouthful of some sort of bread. I grin as I go to pour myself a glass of water. Sam gave me a speech soon after I fell about the importance of staying hydrated as a human. Grabbing a plate and cutlery, I settle at the table and peer into the large pot sitting in the middle. Some sort of pasta with a greenish sauce. It smells quite good but I’m more intrigued by the crumpled, half-full package of aluminium foil sitting on a plate. Kevin, opposite me, takes a round piece of bread out of it as I watch. It’s toasted and oozing what looks like butter with something green in it.

 

“Garlic bread,” he tells me, eyeing it almost reverently. “Food of the gods. Or, you know, angels. Try some!”

 

I take a piece and then serve some of the pasta onto my plate too. Dean is quick to inform me that Sam did the cooking today, not him.

 

“S’why there’s so much green,” he explains with a slight grimace, glancing at Sam who raises cool eyebrows at him.

 

“Green food is good for you,” Sam says with an air of having repeated this many times. “Don’t you want Cas to look after himself? Be healthy?”

 

“Yeah,” chimes in Kevin, and I pause with the garlic bread halfway to my mouth, watching him with growing dread. “Don’t you want Cas to keep his strength up, Dean?”

 

His tone of voice makes it very clear that his words carry some level of innuendo, although it seems vague to me. Dean glares at the prophet, cheeks predictably heating up. “Said it before and I’ll say it again, Kevin: fuck off.”

 

I bite into the garlic bread as he speaks, assessing the crunchy texture and the way the warm butter soaks onto my tongue. It’s a satisfying flavour. I nod approvingly and lift a forkful of pasta with my fork. It’s pleasant to eat, if a little plain.

 

“Thank you for lunch, Sam. It’s very good.”

 

Dean rolls his eyes but then looks at me again, fingers drumming on the table. He’s finished his lunch, while Sam and Kevin are still eating. I hold Dean’s gaze for a moment and he widens his eyes at me, clearly trying to convey some sort of meaning, glancing down to my meal and then back up at me, giving an infinitesimal but urging nod. I can only assume that he wants me to eat faster. Slightly confused, I do so, chewing and swallowing in haste.

 

“So Cas,” Sam says, turning in his seat to face me, pasta-piled fork in mid-air. “After lunch I was thinking we could have another look at all the info we have so far on the angels post-fall? We’re starting to build up a pretty good picture of the situation.”

 

I open my mouth to accept this offer but Dean beats me to it, speaking fast.

 

“Uh, no, Cas, we had that thing, remember?”

 

I blink at him, trying to remember if we made plans for this afternoon. I’m sure we didn’t. Dean’s eyes are boring into mine and he raises his eyebrows meaningfully. Beside me, Sam mutters under his breath before raising his voice.

 

“Dean, seriously? I’m glad you’re comfortable and things are going well, but can you try to keep it in your pants at least some of the time?”

 

My mouth drops open a little. Was Dean trying to draw me into another sexual encounter? It seems unlikely, as he’s glaring at Sam in clear outrage.

 

“What the fuck?!” he splutters indignantly. “You think I… we… “

 

“It does totally seem like you’re trying to get Cas back to the bedroom, yeah,” supplies Kevin, taking another piece of garlic bread. Dean flushes. My own cheeks feel very warm.

 

“That is not what I was trying to do,” snaps Dean. He finally looks at me, eyes wide. “I swear that’s not what I was trying to do.”

 

I shrug and nod at him, ignoring the thought that I wouldn’t have minded if that had been exactly what Dean was trying to do. Beside me, Sam snorts.

 

“Yeah, right. So what is this ‘thing’ that you and Cas have planned?”

 

Dean looks oddly caught out, slightly panicked gaze fixed on his brother as he opens his mouth but doesn’t speak for several long seconds. I frown at his odd behaviour, turning it over in my head until suddenly, I realise.

 

“Oh!” I exclaim, drawing everyone’s eyes to me. I push back from the table, picking up my mostly-cleared plate and empty glass. “Yes, sorry, we have to go. Dean and I have already arranged what we’re going to do after lunch.”

 

“Yeah, each other,” mutters Kevin, sprawled back in his chair and smirking at the table top. Dean whacks him in the arm before grabbing his own plate.

 

“So yeah, sorry Sammy, gotta go,” he says firmly, standing up. I rise with him, but Sam looks between us with a growing frustration.

 

“OK, what the hell? If you’re not going to get naked, why can’t you tell me what you’re up to?”

 

Dean looks blank. “Well… it’s just…”

 

“We’re getting naked,” I interrupt him impatiently. “You were right all along. Well done.”

 

Dean shoots me a look of utter fury as Sam eyes me with satisfaction. “I knew it!”

 

“God damn it,” Dean grits out, closing his eyes. “Yep. Guessed it, Sam. OK, we’re going now.”

 

“Have fun,” Sam smirks as I leave my dish and glass in the sink to be washed later. Dean is close behind me and I can feel his glare, so I avoid his eyes. Kevin grimaces at us as we both hurry out, Sam’s chuckles fading behind us.

 

“Fuck’s sake, Cas,” whispers Dean as soon as we’re ten feet up the hallway. “You couldn’t come up with a different reason for us to disappear together?”

 

“Sorry,” I mumble back, my apology genuine. “But the most important thing to ensure was that Ezekiel doesn’t suspect our… suspicions.”

 

“Whatever,” he huffs, grabbing my arm and pulling me hurriedly into his bedroom. His grip is strong and warm and I briefly wish that ‘getting naked’ was more than just a cover story. But a cover story it nonetheless is.

 

“Charlie emailed?” I ask without preamble as soon as Dean pulls the door shut. He nods tensely.

 

“You aren’t gonna believe this.”

 

He’s moved over to the bed and is opening his laptop as he speaks. I hover beside him, feeling anxious but eager to discover what secrets are being kept by the angel who is supposedly protecting Sam.

 

“I’m sure I’ll believe it, Charlie seems very honest,” I assure Dean as he signs in to his email account.

 

“It’s just an expression,” he murmurs absently, clicking on an email. He opens the attached video file and stands back, brow low over his focused gaze. I follow it to the screen and watch.

 

Sam steps out of the bar into the parking lot, everything about his posture telling me that Ezekiel is in control. He turns his head and walks stiffly to where a figure skulks in the shadow of a vending machine, shorter and wider than Sam. Dean leans down and fast forwards through over ten minutes of footage. When he plays it normally again both Ezekiel and the hidden figure have barely moved, but have clearly spoken in detail about something. Ezekiel inclines his head coldly and gestures towards the parking lot, obviously telling his companion to leave. The shadow pauses and then holds out a hand to shake. Ezekiel stares at it for a long moment before shaking firmly. I lean forward, holding my breath as the shadowy figure steps forward to walk past Ezekiel…

 

“No,” I whisper as Dean pauses the grainy image.

 

Metatron looks tired and messy and the video quality is terrible, but there’s no mistaking it. It’s him.

 

“Looks like Ezekiel and Metadouche are buddying up,” Dean’s grim voice echoes in my ears. “Whatever they were talking about, I don’t like it. I especially don’t like that handshake at the end.”

 

I’m still gazing at the screen, horror and anger building up inside me. I thought that Metatron was done. He ruined me, took the core of my very being, destroyed the lives of our entire species. Why can’t he settle for that and crawl away somewhere instead of following my family around like a plague?

 

“... some kind of deal,” Dean is saying beside me. “I mean, we already know he’s got a talent for manipulation.”

 

I flinch, although Dean clearly wasn’t trying to bring up my mistakes to shame or hurt me. The reminder still does both, though. I shut my eyes, fists clenching at my sides. Dean touches my elbow, gentle and hesitant.

 

“Hey, sorry. Cas, I know you’re angry-”

 

“I hate him,” I hiss, eyes opening. I wrench away from Dean, shoulders tight, almost snarling as I speak. “He needs to be stopped. I don’t care what he’s attempting with Ezekiel, whatever it is needs to stop.”

 

“OK, well, no disagreements here-”

 

“We have to go after him,” I interrupt, my voice harsh. Dean frowns at me.

 

“Ezekiel’s gonna suspect something if we just disappear. And I don’t want to leave Sam alone with him.”

 

I turn away in frustration, pacing towards the door and then halting. “Alright, so we need to remove Ezekiel from Sam and trap him. Then we need to find out what is happening with Metatron, where he is and what he’s planning, and-”

 

“Let’s stick to one thing at a time,” Dean cuts in, having followed behind me. I turn to him, irritated, and see him looking oddly troubled as he watches me.

 

“You don’t think that bringing Metatron to justice is important?” I ask sharply.

 

“Obviously, yeah, it’s important,” Dean snaps, his worried expression turning annoyed. “Clearly it’s the most important thing to you. Excuse me if I’m a little more concerned about my brother, whose life might be in danger, y’know?”

 

Fury flashes through me, shockingly potent. I feel almost like an angel again, but not the angel I became over the years following my rebellion. I feel like the Castiel who chafed against Heaven’s command, who was drowning in frustration and directionless anger, who fought viciously in battles purely to feel some level of power and control, who took lives without mercy because my own life was empty and infuriating. I feel bitter and burning, fists curled at my sides. “I know full well what your priorities are, Dean. But Metatron stole my grace and turned me into the angel who closed off Heaven. My kin have no home and it’s my fault, and Metatron did that to me. To all of us. Except now, there is no us, just them, because I’m a fucking human-”

 

“So that’s what this is about,” Dean practically sneers, not backing down despite the unpleasant tension growing in the few inches between us. “Your wounded ego?”

 

My mouth drops open, the rage and hurt bubbling up within me, filling me up, pushing through my skin, no room for anything else as I glare into Dean’s eyes. He glares right back, jaw set.

 

In the hallway, I hear footsteps.

Chapter Text

The footsteps moving towards the door barely register underneath the new and horribly negative response I’m having towards Dean, a hostility that I never imagined I could feel towards him, that I wouldn’t have been capable of before turning human. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that I should be paying attention to the sound coming from outside the room. Instead, I open my mouth furiously, overtaken for possibly the first time ever with a wish to hurt Dean back, to retaliate.

 

Quite without warning, he kisses me.

 

I make a muffled noise of shock and vehement protest, my anger at him creating a reflex reaction of shoving him away, hard. He steps back into my space immediately, much to my blistering indignation.

 

“Shut up, Sam’s coming past,” he hisses, resentment at me clear in his expression even as he tugs me towards him again. The footsteps I heard are growing louder in the hallway and I understand belatedly: Ezekiel is probably already alert to our odd behaviour at lunch. He’ll only be more suspicious if he hears us fighting when we’re supposed to be an untroubled couple. Sam must not be allowed to think that anything is amiss either. And we are currently supposed to be tearing each other’s clothes off, not arguing.

 

I grit my teeth and grab Dean by the arms, pushing him a little too roughly against the door with an audible thump. The footsteps pause. I scowl at Dean, who scowls back. I nod shortly at him.

 

He seizes me by the shirtfront and kisses me again, mouth clashing painfully against mine. I grunt at the impact and, feeling a pettiness that was unknown to me as an angel, I reach up and grip his hair, pulling more than necessary. He makes a low, irritated noise into my mouth, catching my bottom lip between his teeth and biting down harshly. I try to jerk back but he swiftly mirrors me with a hand tight in my hair, stopping me from moving away. Sam hasn’t resumed walking yet, probably because the sounds we’ve been making are more violent than passionate. Ironically, since Dean and I are both too enraged by each other to actually make out properly, the only option open is to fight Dean harder in an effort to produce sounds that might convince both Sam and Ezekiel that we’re not fighting at all.

 

Shoving my tongue into Dean’s mouth, past caring if he bites it - I’ll just bite him back - I dig my fingers into his back under his shirt, nails almost breaking the skin. He flinches and I tighten my other fist in his hair, tugging sharply, the subliminal message clear: I am in control, not him. He jerks against me, groaning hoarsely, and I make a surprised sound as he winds his free arm around my waist and hauls me up against him, forcing me to shuffle my feet forward between his own. He keeps his arm locked around me, kissing me so aggressively that I’m made to bend slightly backwards, my punishing grip on his hair tightening impossibly. His fingers are still tangled at the nape of my neck and he responds in kind, flexing them so that my scalp is tested to its limits.

 

“Dean-” I grit out as I tear my mouth from his. Dean opens his eyes and smirks cockily at me from an inch away, the expression intensely aggravating. He clearly thinks that he’s won. Unwilling to concede but trapped in his hold, I yank his head back and sink my teeth into his neck where it meets his shoulder, triumphant at his shocked gasp.

 

“Cas,” he chokes, and I realise two things at once. Sam has already walked away, because I can hear his bedroom door closing, a distinctive squeak that only his hinges make. And Dean, pressed so tightly against me that I can’t tell whose heartbeat is which, is getting hard.

 

I open my eyes, mouth still parted and wet against Dean’s throat, our pulses thrumming in my ears. Shit. I didn’t think that this was sexual, but abruptly, it very much is. I also didn’t think that Dean was aroused by physical aggression, but it certainly makes sense. After all, we first kissed in the aftermath of a fight, albeit a staged one for practice. I shift a little against Dean’s now unmistakable erection and heat pools quickly in my stomach at his poorly suppressed moan, his fingers bruising my waist where his arm is still wound around me, keeping me flush against him. I huff in disbelief, utterly confused. I was furious. I still am. I think I am.

 

The thought fragments as Dean pulls harshly at my hair and kisses me again, with less biting this time but no gentleness. I’m confused and a little annoyed to find that I reciprocate without giving myself permission to do so, rising up onto the balls of my feet to equal his height and press him back against the door.

 

Our tongues twist and thrust together and I can feel so much of Dean, we’re so close, so firm and warm and alive. My anger at him pulses faintly in my head but it’s rapidly being outstripped by passion and excitement, a new sort of lust that seems to have taken hold of me with no warning. I rub and rut my own growing arousal against his and he drops his hands to my ass, roughly squeezing through my jeans, anchoring me to him, sucking on my lower lip as hard as he bit it mere minutes beforehand. I moan, feeling frenzied and wild, both my hands fisted in his hair now.

 

It occurs to me abruptly that I’ve never touched Dean’s cock. I realise at almost the same time that I want to, far more than I thought I did.

 

Shoving my hands down between us before I can consider my actions, I fumble with the button on Dean’s jeans. He inhales sharply, drawing the air from my mouth, running his hands up my sides and allowing me to shift back a little and yank his zipper down. I push his jeans down with my fingertips but there’s only so much I can do standing upright, still kissing Dean.

 

So I drop promptly to my knees. It’s practical. Dean whimpers above me but I’m busy tugging his jeans down around his thighs and then hooking my fingertips into the waistband of his boxer briefs, running my teeth over my swollen lips and eyeing the straining outline of his erection against the dark material. It’s only then that I pause, coherent thought finally catching up to me. I raise my eyes to Dean’s face and see that he’s flattened himself against the door, holding his breath, green eyes enormous and fixed on me.

 

“Is this alright?” I ask him breathlessly, feeling guilty for forgetting that Dean is supposed to be the one steering our sexual relationship. He blinks at me and swallows visibly before replying.

 

“If I say no?”

 

I immediately drop my hands, leaning away from him. “I’m sorry-”

 

“I’m not saying no,” Dean interrupts my apology hastily, reddening. “You can, uh- I mean, if you want to-”

 

I give a sigh of relief that he’s OK with this and nod silently, reaching up and gently pulling Dean’s briefs down. He exhales in a rush as his cock bobs free, hanging heavy between his legs and lifted slightly away from his testes, stiff and flushed. I tilt my head, staring for a moment. Dean huffs impatiently and I glance up to see him looking endearingly flustered.

 

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer,” he mutters, not meeting my eyes, but then he snaps his mouth shut, looking horrified. “Not that I won’t- I mean, I’ll last, I-”

 

“Dean,” I cut across him loudly and he falters, anxious gaze focusing on mine. I smile softly up at him, squeezing lightly at his thighs. “You’re very attractive.”

 

He gulps but rolls his eyes, his disgusted face so false that it doesn’t worry me for a second. “Dude, you don’t compliment other dudes when they’ve got their dicks out. It’s just awkward.”

 

“I don’t intend to compliment anyone else’s dick,” I remark, looking back at the dick in front of me. Dean huffs again, this time in surprised laughter, but I forestall whatever he might have said in response by wrapping my hand around the base, squeezing lightly. Dean swears quietly, the tone of his voice remarkably similar to that of his prayers. I gaze up at him again as I draw my hand up his cock and then push back down, my movements slow and careful. He’s watching my hand with an open mouth and I part my own lips, my heartbeat quickening at the rapt expression on his face.

 

Dean seems to regain some level of confidence as he meets my eyes and my breath hitches at the way his gaze settles and sharpens, dark and smouldering. I realise that unlike when he touched me like this, Dean has experienced having people on their knees for him before. He knows how to navigate this and it’s magnetic to watch. He’s sure of himself.

 

At least, he is until I lean forward and tilt his cock up to lick broadly from base to tip, peering up at him to gauge his reaction.

 

“Shit,” Dean bites off, eyes popping, hands flattening against the door again. I smile and drag my tongue across the tip, tasting something faintly different there mingling with the mild salt of his skin. I glance back up at him but he only blinks at me, apparently speechless. I decide to stop testing and hesitating, since Dean hasn’t protested but seems incapable of vocalising his explicit approval. He’ll stop me if I do something he doesn’t like, hopefully.

 

Leaning back in, I close my mouth around Dean’s cock, slurping a little before I think to tighten the seal of my lips. Dean is groaning in a low voice as I slide forward as far as possible before the tip bumps my throat and I pull back hastily with a popping noise, coughing a little.

 

“I can’t go any further,” I say, annoyed. I look up questioningly at Dean. “But on the pornographic film I saw the woman was able to go much further. Is it different for men and women?”

 

Dean is pink and slack-looking, staring down at me. “Huh?”

 

His gaze is distracted, unfocused, and I quickly realise that he’s probably not in a state of mind to be answering my curious questions. I shake my head hastily. “Apologies. I’ll google it.”

 

“Jesus, Cas…”

 

But he’s laughing, massaging his forehead with his fingers, eyes crinkling in mirth. I smile sheepishly and slip my mouth back over the head of his cock again, hearing his breath catch. I think about what feels good with fingers and try to apply that with my tongue and lips, sucking hard and then swirling my tongue, keeping one hand wrapped around as well.

 

It feels a bit messy. Wet, slimy really, and I’m worried about my teeth hurting him, and my jaw is starting to ache. But it’s worth it to hear the sounds that Dean is making. Small moans and wrecked gasps, bitten off groans, stuttered curses. And best of all, my name, breathed out like worship, like I’m all he can think about. I have my free hand on his hip trailing absently across the bare skin there, thumb rubbing against his hipbone, palm mapping the slope down to his thigh. But every time Dean says my name I can feel my own arousal spike and I’m starting to wonder if it would be OK to touch myself, if that’s considered rude somehow.

 

Dean’s hips are canting further forward a little as I work at him, the movement clearly suppressed, tiny abortive jerks and thrusts that are getting more obvious as the minutes tick by. I’m settling into what I’m doing, applying more pressure, keeping to a rhythm and it’s gratifying to feel the effects. Dean shudders, hot and heavy and pulsing in my mouth, a mildly bitter and salty flavour growing against my tongue. Quite suddenly, his hand is on my hair, touching hesitantly, hovering awkwardly, the gesture tense and strange. I open my eyes, having closed them to concentrate. Is he alright?

 

I tilt my head up a little to check on him, not wanting to interrupt myself completely. He’s staring down at me, mouth agape, chest heaving. As I meet his eyes he seems to fall apart somehow. His stiff, open hand becomes a fist woven into my hair and his heavy breath dissolves into a broken gasp.

 

“Fuck, fuck, Cas, fuck-”

 

I swallow reflexively against him, dizzy with my own desire. His response is like a burst of repressed energy; he almost shouts, the cry wordless and rough, eyes finally squeezing shut and head tossing back against the door with a painful thump. I go to pull back, concerned, but his hand is tight in my hair and his hips are undulating against my mouth, cock sliding back and forth through my loose fist and tight lips with a sense of purpose. I decide that he seems unhurt and reapply myself to my task with determination. I can sense that he’s close. His movements are losing control, becoming frantic and aggressive, his flesh impossibly hard on my tongue, the odd bitterness stronger than ever.

 

It’s too much for me to just passively observe. I’m painfully hard in my jeans, breathless not just with exertion and limited air supply but also with lust. Just glancing up at Dean is overwhelming. His expression, his eyes, the sheen of his skin, the shape of his throat as he leans his head back. The knowledge that I can do this to him. Whimpering a little around my mouthful, I drop my free hand to my crotch, adjusting my cock through the denim and then keeping my hand pressed there, just trying to relieve some of the tension building within me. I give a soft moan, eyelids fluttering, circling my tongue almost lazily underneath the ridge of Dean’s foreskin.

 

I can tell when he notices. His voice breaks as he splutters my name, the syllable barely recognisable. His other hand joins the first in my hair and I almost yelp at the tightness of the grip, squeaking in wide-eyed shock as he pushes forward, almost enough to make me gag. I drop my hand from his cock even as I rub the heel of my palm against my own, the surprise and discomfort of the moment doing nothing to dampen my arousal. With a twitching and throbbing sensation against the back of my tongue, Dean comes and I’m so busy listening in wonder to the half-sobbing way he cries out my name that I almost don’t notice the taste or the fact that I’m about to start choking.

 

It quickly becomes too much, though. I wrench away, wincing as I yank my hair out of Dean’s grip. I get splashed across the chin and neck as I lean back but I’m too busy coughing to notice, my face hot and my eyes watering.

 

“Ugh,” I almost wheeze, even as Dean is panting above me, spent. I’m still hard but I ignore that for now, frowning and blinking rapidly as I try to swallow away the strange taste.

 

“Fuck,” Dean slurs, the sound almost a groan. I take a deep, steadying breath and stagger to my feet, feeling a little dizzy, a little surreal. I pause and gaze at Dean for a moment, struck with how gorgeous he looks like this. He’s flushed and soft-edged, lips pink and bitten, jaw slack, chest heaving. His eyes are closed and his head tilts back. He looks like he might collapse at any moment. He looks like he’s already asleep, dreaming.

 

I’m still staring at him when he opens his eyes, locking onto mine and staring right back.

Chapter Text

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” are the first words out of Dean’s mouth, breathless and bothered. He immediately shuts his eyes again, squeezing them tightly. I furrow my brow in consternation.

 

“What is it? Are you alright?”

 

My voice is rough and I clear my throat. Dean winces slightly. He’s silent for a moment before he replies.

 

“You have come on your face.”

 

I nod slowly. “Yes.”

 

Dean opens his eyes again, peering at me, pained. “It’s just… fuck. How the hell am I supposed to concentrate from now on with that mental image? Jesus…”

 

I watch him, puzzled, as he raises a shaky hand and runs it through his hair, exhaling heavily, shutting his eyes again. I glance around Dean’s bedroom to see if he has any tissues, since apparently having semen on my face is somehow confronting for him. Spotting some, I walk over and hastily wipe off my jaw and neck before returning to Dean. He opens his eyes again as I halt in front of him and he gives a tremulous laugh, still leaning on the door as though unable to support his own weight.

 

“You didn’t have to-” he starts, eyes warm, but then he stops and sighs. “Never mind. Thanks.”

 

I shrug. He rolls his eyes and then slowly straightens up, swallowing nervously as he pulls up his briefs and jeans. “And, uh, thanks for that too. For the, um…”

 

“Blowjob?” I supply helpfully. Dean winces again.

 

“Yeah. Yeah, that was- that was really good. Really, um, good.”

 

I nod my head, pleased, lips twitching. “I’m glad, Dean.”

 

“Right,” says Dean a little blankly. He’s holding his belt without actually doing it up and just staring at me, his expression hard to read. I tilt my head at him.

 

“Are you-” I begin once more, but I’m cut off as Dean steps forward and kisses me, hands cupping my jaw, mouth soft and tender on mine. I’m too surprised to kiss him back for a moment but I raise my hands to his waist, holding him to me. The kiss stays closed-mouthed and gentle for a long time and I feel myself warming, glowing at the contrast to the attack-like aggression of our earlier exchange. That was all anger and sex, which I enjoyed in an intense sort of way, but this is something totally different. This feels precious.

 

Thumbs stroking at my cheekbones, Dean slips his tongue almost shyly between my lips. Almost immediately he draws back with a muffled chuckle.

 

“Ah,” he says apologetically. I raise my eyebrows at him. “Forgot about the taste.”

 

I nod, suppressing a smile. “Yes. It’s… it’s-”

 

“It’s kinda bitter,” he grimaces. “You hate bitter stuff. I mean, yours wasn’t exactly strawberry milkshake either, just so you know.”

 

I roll my eyes, shaking my head. “I believe you. It must just be how it tastes. It’s fine, really.”

 

Dean hums agreement, ducking his head and brushing his lips against my jaw, dropping his hands to squeeze my upper arms. “I’ll buy some pineapple juice.”

 

“What?” I mumble, confused by his statement but distracted by his breath on my ear. He ghosts his mouth over my skin and I shiver, hands tightening on his sides.

 

“Helps with the taste.”

 

“Oh. That- that’d be good.”

 

He pulls back and peers at me, biting his lip. “I mean, I guess I-”

 

He stops, looking away, flushing. I tilt my head to catch his eye again, intrigued. “What is it?”

 

Dean is definitely turning scarlet. He squeezes my arms again, nervously this time. “I guess I can’t really know for sure. What yours is like. I mean, I hardly…”

 

He trails off, glancing up into my eyes and then down again, worrying at his lower lip. I’ve never seen him this shy before and it’s quite fascinating. “I don’t know what you’re-”

 

“It’s just,” he cuts across me louder, pushing me back towards the bed, “I haven’t really had the chance to- to find out-”

 

“Dean,” I almost laugh, thoroughly bemused now. The backs of my knees hit the end of the bed and I grab firmly onto Dean’s elbows, stopping him from toppling me over. “What are you talking about? Find out what?”

 

Dean huffs frustratedly, green eyes dark and wanting but expression curled into a defensive scowl. “Shit, Cas, I’m tryin’ to return the favour, OK?”

 

It takes me a moment but then I gulp with understanding, eyes popping wide. I can’t deny that I want it, especially looking at Dean with his teeth still catching at his lip almost coyly and his eyes heating up as he gains confidence, dropping a hand to cup at where I’m still half-hard.

 

“No, no,” I breathe in a rush, grabbing at his wrist. He blinks at me and the fact that he actually looks disappointed is almost enough to change my mind. The thought that Dean Winchester wants to put his mouth on me…

 

“No,” I say a little louder, a little clearer. “Dean, we need to talk.”

 

Immediately, he lets go of me, frowning. “Great. You do know that’s like, my least favourite sentence, right?”

 

I ignore him. “I didn’t mean to imply that my issues with Metatron are more important than Sam’s safety. You know that I could never think that.”

 

He shuts his mouth, eyebrows raising. After a moment, he nods. I nod too and then take a deep breath, holding his gaze and speaking very clearly. “I’m sorry.”

 

Dean’s mouth tilts up at the corner slightly. “That looked difficult. You sure you didn’t strain something?”

 

“Dean.”

 

“I’m joking,” he laughs, glancing down as he finally starts to do up his belt properly. “And, uh…”

 

I eye him impatiently as he pauses, tugging the worn leather through the buckle. Finally he looks up and speaks.

 

“I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have dismissed how you’re feeling about Metatron. And yeah, I want to teach the son of a bitch a lesson too, he screwed you over. But Cas, Sam’s life might be on the line, he’s gotta come first in this.”

 

“Sam always has to come first,” I agree solemnly. To my surprise, Dean steps back, looking frustrated.

 

“Look, it’s not like I don’t care about you, but fuck, he’s my brother-”

 

“No, Dean, I understand that,” I say hastily, realising that he misinterpreted my statement as a complaint. “I wouldn’t want you to put anything before Sam. Well, your own wellbeing would be nice, but I’ll keep my expectations realistic there for now.”

 

Dean blinks at me. “Oh. Yeah, well… yeah. And that’s OK? Because me putting Sammy first… it hasn’t always been OK with girls I’ve dated. And now that we’re… whatever we are, I dunno if you’re expecting things to change.”

 

I shrug. “It’s always been OK with me and it still is; it’s part of who you are. And it's not as though things haven't changed. We’re spending more time together, we have a sexual relationship and we’re being far more communicative with each other. All fantastic changes, I think.”

 

Dean nods, grinning. “True. OK, well, all good then. Right?”

 

“I hope so,” I smile, pleased that our conflict has been resolved. It was disturbing to get so angry at Dean so quickly. Angelic emotion was always far more reasoned and slow to build. It’s no wonder that humans are so volatile and unpredictable.

 

“So what do we do?” Dean asks after a moment of smiling vaguely at each other. I blink, scrambling mentally to guess what he’s referring to. Dean clarifies for me a moment later, to my relief. “About Metatron.”

 

“Ah.” I’m not sure what to say. Now that my initial, furious reaction has died down, I just feel bitter and weak. What can we possibly do to thwart two angels? I immediately berate myself for the pessimism, remembering that Sam and Dean have thwarted many angels, myself included. I am not useless because I am human. To think so is an insult to the extremely capable humans that I call my family. Dean is watching me expectantly, so I clear my throat and try to sound determined. “Is Sam well enough to survive Ezekiel leaving him?”

 

Dean shakes his head sadly. “I don’t think so. I mean, it’s hard to tell. He might be.”

 

I weigh it up for a moment in my mind before slumping. “It’s not worth the risk, then. We can’t exorcise Ezekiel.”

 

“Much as I’d like to, probably not a great idea.”

 

“Alright… but we can’t leave him with Ezekiel if Ezekiel has hostile intentions.”

 

Dean grimaces, rubbing tiredly at his forehead. “Yep.”

 

I think about it for a moment, quickly coming to a conclusion but having no idea how to make it a reality. Still, I give voice to my thoughts. “What if we could convince another angel to step in immediately and keep Sam safe?”

 

Dean frowns at me. “Well, yeah, that’d be ideal. But we don’t know any other angels.”

 

I nod miserably, turning and pacing away. When I speak I’m almost embarrassed by the sad yearning in my own voice. “I wish I had my grace.”

 

Dean doesn’t answer. Of course he doesn’t. He probably wishes I had my grace as much as I do. If I hadn’t stupidly allowed myself to be manipulated by Metatron, I wouldn’t be human right now and it would be me healing Sam instead of a traitorous stranger who’s holding secret meetings with our enemy. Everything would be fine. Passing a hand over my face and pushing it back through my hair, I inhale slowly and then put on a falsely cheerful voice, still not turning around.

 

“Right, well, that will just have to be my job then. Find an angel willing to help us in exchange for a promise that, once Sam is recovered, we will be taking down Metatron. I’m sure most angels would jump at such an opportunity after what he’s done to us. Them, I mean.”

 

“Cas, that’s a good plan, but how the hell are you planning to find an angel? And how are you supposed to know that they’re trustworthy? This Ezekiel turned out to be shady as fuck.”

 

I frown as I turn around. “I know. That still troubles me deeply. My memories of Ezekiel do not match with the way he is now at all. Something has altered him profoundly.”

 

“Yeah, war’ll do that,” Dean shrugs. His arms are folded, his posture defensive, prickly. I wonder if he’s still annoyed at me, but when he next speaks his eyes are full of worry rather than irritation. “You didn’t answer me. How are you gonna find an angel?”

 

The plan is unfolding in my mind even as I open my mouth to reply, haphazard but plausible. “I’ll use the technology that Sam and Charlie have been working on. They have already mapped out a rough list of locations across the country where groups of angels appear to have gathered. I will approach one of these areas and just… pray. Angels will come to me, out of concern or curiosity or a lingering sense of duty. I will simply have to attempt to judge who might be trustworthy and willing to help us.”

 

Dean is looking understandably sceptical. “That’s pretty damn vague, Cas. And dangerous. You might not be so popular with the angels right now.”

 

I keep my face expressionless with some difficulty, although the blunt statement stings. He’s entirely correct. “Possibly. Probably. But angels are generally not impulsive; they will stop to listen to what I have to say before they harm me. And they might not even recognise me now that I’m human.”

 

“Right… OK, it sounds worth a try. How are we going to keep this from Zeke, though?”

 

I take a deep breath. “We’re not. I’m doing this on my own.”

 

Dean’s response is immediate and predictable. He even throws in a derisive snort, shaking his head in disbelief. “Like hell you are.”

 

“Dean-”

 

“No way!”

 

I pause, narrowing my eyes at him. He uncrosses his arms and points at me, his own eyes flashing angrily. “You are not just swanning off to reveal yourself to a bunch of probably hostile angels who can smite you with a single thought. Nope. Whatever we do to fix this, we do together.”

 

I swallow, touched by this declaration. It doesn’t change the facts, though. “Dean, this is the best plan we have to get Sam out of danger. In fact, it’s the only plan. You know that I am not helpless. And you can’t come because Sam can’t come, because Ezekiel can’t come. And we both know that you’re not going to leave Sam and Kevin here alone with him.”

 

Dean opens his mouth, glares at me for several seconds, and then shuts it again with a deflated sigh. “Fuck. Fuck, this is risky.”

 

“Most things we do are risky,” I shrug, a genuine smile breaking across my face. “So, it’s decided then. You will stay here and try not to give Ezekiel an opportunity to sneak away and meet with Metatron again. We will have an exorcism plan prepared for my return, hopefully with a new angel ally. I will go and recruit this new angel ally and let you know when I am coming back.”

 

Dean shuts his eyes and nods reluctantly, looking pained, mouthing a curse. Then he opens them again, frowning. “How the hell are we gonna explain you going off on a trip by yourself?”

 

I’ve thought of this. I draw myself up firmly, looking Dean directly in the eye, my voice confident when I speak:

 

“Dean, we have to break up.”

Chapter Text

It’s been three days since Cas and I agreed on our dumbass plan, and it’s another two days before the scheduled ‘break up’. A morning quarrel, he thinks, with him storming out and me telling the cover story to Sam and Kevin over breakfast. He can sneak a bag into the Impala the night before. For a guy who pretty much flips between the same three facial expressions, Cas has a real dramatic streak.

 

The whole thing is insane. Like, even more insane than our usual crap.

 

And yeah, obviously even a fake break up is not ideal at this point. For fuck’s sake, I’m still working on not being terrified of how utterly non-platonic my feelings for Cas are. I’m still a way off from being actually comfortable that Castiel, former angel of the Lord, is my boyfriend - wow, OK, nope, never using that word again - but I’m getting there. I’ve been doing great. If Ezekiel could have just stowed his villainous crap for a bit longer and given Cas and me some time… but no. This is my life.

 

I’m wondering, as I watch Cas sleeping soundly on my chest - looking ironically angelic - whether this has all been as big of a mistake as I always suspected it would be. Because, look, I’m not a total moron. I’ve been painfully aware of my not-so-little crush on Cas for years, but I’ve always stayed wrapped up in reasons not to do anything about it. The most obvious one being that Cas might not have felt the same way. Yeah, in hindsight it’s been pretty clear from the start that he does, but still. Secondly, having spent most of my life steadfastly denying any attraction to dudes, suddenly giving in and jumping Cas was a lot for my pride to take. Still is, dumb as it seems. But the most important reason to keep my silence was the one that still causes doubt in me now.

 

It could all go wrong, and I could lose him.

 

Losing Cas has always been an especially shitty experience, which is saying something considering my list of shitty experiences includes several decades in actual Hell. When Cas isn’t around nothing is OK, and seeing him happy makes me happy. Properly happy, like normal people get to be. But there’s the catch. My goodie bag of issues or my curse or my karmic debt, or whatever the fuck is so deeply wrong with me, is always lurking in the background and it’s hard to believe that I could have this. That I could shrug and accept how I feel about Cas and casually admit that we make each other happy and just expect nothing to go sour. It seems real unlikely, and ruining whatever tense friendship I had with Cas was never a risk I was brave enough to take. Because it would go wrong. It always does.

 

Things would have carried on that way, too. I was all set to just keep on needing more from Cas - more time and more contact and more fleeting glimpses of real contentment - but to stay comfortably in my tried-and-true denial. But then he fell and became human and suddenly he was everywhere, all the time, so soft and new and fucking tempting. In the end, I had to admit to myself that it was obviously gonna happen and I was doing more harm than good by pretending otherwise; I was no longer preserving or protecting anything with my stubbornness. Plus, literally everything he does is insanely attractive. It’s not natural.

 

So here we are, finally having stumbled into loving each other without lying about it, and I’m working so fucking hard on accepting the situation as a good thing rather than a slippery slope to catastrophe. And now we have to break up. It doesn’t matter how fake it is, part of me still wants to punch something at the predictable unfairness. It’s such bullshit, though. Cas is rushing off to play the hero, putting his newly vulnerable self into clear danger, and there’s not a part of me that can really consider going with him because Sam really does always come first. And Cas actually is fine with that, because he’s so damn perfect. Angels really are dicks. Metatron for being the biggest douche to ever douche, Ezekiel for lying through my brother’s teeth and Cas for making it impossible to stay legitimately angry at him because he’s the best person in the universe. Although actually, I need to stop thinking of Cas as still being an angel. He’s not.

 

And there’s another problem, like I have some sort of fucking quota to fill, of bullshit to stay awake at night fretting over. Cas is human, and he doesn’t want to be. Of course he doesn’t want to be, it’s miserable. But what’s really shit, what really pinches at me in the back of my mind when I’m quiet like this… is that I do want him to be. I’m glad he fell. Not glad that it hurt him, but glad that it tethered him. He’s stuck down here, and it’s a new low that I want to keep him that way, caged up with me, but I fucking well do. I might not have ripped off his wings and taken his grace away but I’m reaping the rewards just as surely as if I had. I might as well send Metatron a damn gift hamper.

 

And now he wants to go after Metatron, because of course being human sucks and he misses his angel freedom and he’s determined and badass enough that he’ll probably end up getting his grace back, or finding another way to reverse the fall. And then he’ll leave, because Cas always leaves. He’s getting all domestic now, thinking that he’s trapped in a mortal existence, but once he gets his wings back he can fly away and what’s to stop him? Me? What right do I have? Why should he have to stay with me?

 

Cas snuffles a little in his sleep and I tighten my arms around him, petulant. He loves me, weirdo that he is. If I wasn’t such a fuck-up I could just trust in that and not be so selfish.

 

The bleak, anxious thoughts fade into grey dreams at some point and I wake up a few hours later, just as tired as when I fell asleep. I switch on the lamp and check the time; almost eight in the morning. Cas is snoring softly beside me, on his back, inelegant and kinda cute. It’s still pretty funny to see him like this. I lean over him, amused as he exhales and I wrinkle my nose at his sleep-sour breath. It might be mean of me but watching Cas have to deal with the ugly reality of mortal life has turned out to be both hilarious and oddly comforting. It makes me feel close to him. Finally, I understand how he’s experiencing the world. When he was an angel it was all mysterious celestial crap that made me feel like a glorified ape.

 

“I love you,” I murmur, eyes trailing over his face. He slumbers on and I grin, rolling away to get out of bed and stretch. I’ve formed a bad habit of admitting it to him in his sleep, like the emotionally stunted creep that I am. I get a weird kick out of finally saying it out loud but the idea of him hearing it is still a bit too much to contemplate. I’ll screw up at some point and he’ll catch me. It doesn’t matter anyway, he knows by now how I feel about him. I hope.

 

Throwing on my robe - Cas and I slept in just our underpants last night and I’m thinking that should become a regular thing, or maybe we could lose the underwear too - I leave Cas to his ‘healthy amount of sleep’ and wander to the kitchen, blearily imagining how great my coffee is going to taste. Sam is already up, of course, freshly showered after his six o’clock run, sipping at his home-made smoothie. Fucking freak. I ruffle his damp hair as I walk past and smile serenely at his pissy swearing. We chat aimlessly about guns or something as I make my coffee and cereal but he’s eyeing me speculatively as I settle at the table.

 

“So how are things with Cas?” he ventures after I’ve taken a nice deep gulp of caffeine. I roll my eyes at him.

 

“You asked me that yesterday, dude. Answer’s still the same. Things are good.”

I heave a slow sigh. “Can you get some flashcards or something? So you don’t lose your voice repeating yourself every time we have a damn conversation.”

 

“Piss off, jerk.”

 

I grin at him over the rim of my mug. “Bitch.”

 

Cas wanders in at that moment, a vision in pinstriped boxers and the old Metallica shirt, hair absolutely insane and eyes unfocused. I always got a bit preoccupied with his hair even when it was relatively constant and neat, presumably kept in check by his grace. But since he’s been human I’ve formed some kind of fixation on it. I can’t keep my hands out of it when we’re alone. It just looks really, really good messed up. Plus, there are some fun ways to get it looking that way.

 

“Is there coffee?” Cas yawns, running his fingers through the sex hair in an annoyingly sexy way. I scowl at him, which is unfair but he doesn’t seem bothered.

I must scowl a lot. Figures.

 

“Yeah, in the pot,” I mumble, turning my attention back to Sam, who’s checking his phone. “Sammy, any plans today?”

 

Sam glances up. “Not really, why?”

 

I shrug, wondering how long I can keep tabs on Sam’s every movement before he or Ezekiel suspect something. “Just hanging out in the bunker?”

 

“Yeah,” he replies. “Probably gonna help Kevin with his translations today. You?”

 

“Not too much, got some more training planned with Cas.” I’ve been throwing all sorts of training at Cas, mostly drilling him on incantations and creature lore, although he’s already pretty clued in. But it’s past time to work on his shooting. He’s not too experienced with guns. “Is the firing range unlocked?”

 

“Yeah, I think so.”

 

Cas sits heavily beside me, eyes closed as he sips at his sweetened black coffee and bites at a piece of toast with peanut butter and jelly. My gaze catches on where his boxers have bunched up a bit on one leg, exposing a lot of gold-skinned thigh. I’ve only very recently started to appreciate Cas’s legs. I knew he had a decent sort of body from early on, from way too much ‘casual’ observation and that time he made me carve a banishing sigil onto his chest like the lunatic he is. But the ever-present layers of clothes left me with the impression that he was, if not skinny, certainly quite slim and rangy. And I’m tall, so I never really noticed that Cas is tall too, because he’s still shorter than me. I always thought he was cute. A cute little guy.

 

But Kevin was right, Cas is kinda buff. He’s a couple of abs short of being a damn underwear model. He’s actually about the same size and build as me, except hotter. It’s been a nice surprise, because I was already totally hung up on the slender little Cas in my head. Real Cas has eye-catching biceps and a defined chest and edible hipbones and thickly muscled thighs that look way better in jeans than they ever did in business slacks. I haven’t really had a chance to check out his bare ass properly yet, but I’m willing to bet I’ll like it.

 

I realise that I’ve been staring, not quite drooling but damn close, and I look up to see that Sam is smirking at me. I mouth at him to fuck off and the smirk deepens. Right, time to go then. I spoon up the last of my cereal and gulp it down quickly.

 

“OK Cas, meet me at the firing range in twenty minutes, alright?” I say loudly, pushing back from the table. Cas smiles and nods, looking more awake. I wash my breakfast things before leaving the room, not bothering to say anything more as Sam and Cas are already exchanging small talk about the weather. Losers.

 

I get changed and brush my teeth, examining my shadowed eyes in the bathroom mirror. I look tired. I feel tired. This entire situation with Ezekiel is so damn tiring. I just want Sam to be safe and Cas to be staying, but until we get another angel into Sam neither of those things can happen.

 

I go to the firing range and set up, laying out guns and ammo, whistling tunelessly. Chances are Cas will be awesome at this too. For someone who’s constantly lamenting the loss of his angel superpowers, the guy is freakishly good at everything he attempts. Sam taught him to make pancakes and within fifteen minutes Cas had produced a neat pile of perfect crepes. I am definitely training him up to make pie.

 

“Hello, Dean.”

 

I wheel around, grinning at the familiar greeting. “Hey, Cas. Ready to shoot?”

 

He comes to a halt beside me, peering at the targets with keen interest. He’s fully dressed and seems to have combed his hair, which is a shame really. “I think so.”

 

“OK,” I say, picking up a nice little easily concealed handgun, probably the exact one that I’ll be sending Cas off on his trip with. “Here’s your weapon. We need to load it first…”

 

I take Cas through the basics, droning on, paraphrasing the same speech that Dad gave me in elementary school. He nods seriously and frowns in concentration and handles the gun with care, those long fingers steady and gentle. Shit, Cas has nice hands. I clap him on the shoulder, point at the target and cheerfully tell him to go ahead and blow its brains out. He hesitates before lifting the gun one-handed and pointing it vaguely at the target’s head, frowning. I snort. What a dork.

 

“Wow, OK, I clearly need to spend more time talking about a little thing called ‘aim’. Although it’s kinda hard to explain it, you do have to sorta work it out for yourself. Here-”

 

And yeah, it’s a cliche and I probably should have realised that, but I’m honestly just trying to be a good teacher when I step up close behind him. He freezes and then relaxes as I lightly guide his arms so that he’s holding the gun with two hands, shaping my own fingers around them. My chin is almost on his shoulder, my cheek pressed to his ear as I line up the target and then adjust the angle slightly for Cas. It’s tricky to concentrate much draped all over Cas with his hair smelling like my own fucking shampoo but I’m a professional, god damn it.

 

“Exhale as you squeeze the trigger,” I murmur in his ear, feeling a bit light-headed and a lot like I’ve slipped into some cheesy novel or TV show. Shit, there actually was a scene like this in Dr Sexy, just with a scalpel instead of a gun.

 

“OK,” he breathes, and I’m so distracted by how close my lips are to his skin and how well the curve of his ass fits against me that I jump badly when the gun goes off. I look to the target, heart hammering, and see that there’s a neat new bullet hole right next to the dummy’s nose. Of course. Perfect.

 

“Nice,” I say dryly, softening my tone by squeezing Cas’s hands where they’re still cradled in mine. I nose affectionately at his cheek and I can feel him smiling, the smug bastard.

 

“I don’t know, I’m a little too far to the right.”

 

“Shoot again then,” I mumble, trailing my fingertips up his sleeves and then dropping my hands from his elbows to his waist, pulling him more securely against me and watching his hands tremble slightly around the gun. This time I don’t flinch when it goes off, although he does. The shot whizzes over the top of the target’s head and I tut in Cas’s ear, amused.

 

“First one might have been a fluke,” I say softly. “Concentrate, don’t get cocky.”

 

He sighs in an irritated sort of way and I hide my smile against his neck, hearing the gun go off again a moment later. I know before I look that he’s aimed well again, purely from his triumphant little sound and the way he leans lazily back against me. I need to keep an eye on his damn ego.

 

“Still a bit skewed to the right,” I mutter pettily. Cas has shot the target directly through the right eye. He snorts lightly and I rub absently at his taut sides, thumbing at his ribcage through the double layer of his shirts. It’s still so good to see him in relaxed and familiar clothes, like he’s donned the Winchester uniform. It suits him, although I do still daydream about that tie sometimes. He takes a deep breath, clearly about to shoot again, and I grin to myself.

 

“Go on,” I breathe encouragingly in his ear, following it up with an open-mouthed kiss to the skin beneath. He shivers and shoots and when I glance up, he’s shot the target in the shoulder. I try not to laugh. Cas huffs in annoyance.

 

“Dean, would you mind-”

 

“Gotta be able to shoot in all sorts of circumstances, Cas,” I interrupt innocently. His jaw twitches and I kiss it happily, wondering if I can get him to properly miss the target again. It’d do him good to have to work hard at this. I’m doing him a favour, really.

 

“Fine,” he sighs, adjusting his feet a little and inhaling slowly. I slip my hands under his shirt, running my fingertips across his hipbones, subtly tugging him back so he can feel beyond doubt that I’m sporting a semi. For good measure, I lick along the shell of his ear, breathing hotly against the skin. Cas makes a wounded little sound just before he shoots that I am instantly fucking interested in hearing again. When I check a moment later, he’s completely missed. I actually do chuckle this time.

 

“Oh, dear,” I purr between kisses to his neck. I’ve pushed my hands up under his shirt properly now and I stroke just below his nipples, not quite getting there. He tips his head back onto my shoulder, breathing heavily, lowering the gun. I’m flattered that he’s more interested in me than in winning whatever game we’re playing, but I’m also not done having fun with this because I’m clearly an absolute little shit. I whip my hands out from under his shirt, guiding his grip on the gun back up at the target, resting my chin on his shoulder.

 

“Come on, Cas,” I whisper. “You can do better than that.”

 

He’s still and silent for a moment but then he exhales through his nose and lifts his hands from mine, settling back into a ready stance.

 

“I really doubt you’ve ever had to shoot anything under quite these circumstances,” he says snippily, eyes fixed ahead when I turn my head to look at him. His eyelashes are longer than I realised up close, the line of his nose weirdly pretty. Ah, shit, I’m calling another person’s nose pretty in my head. This must be what a mid life crisis feels like. I snake my hands under Cas’s shirt again, splaying them across the barely-there curve of his stomach, feeling it flex at my touch. If this is a mid life crisis then I kinda love it.

 

“You don’t know that,” I argue softly, watching him lick his lips nervously. Suddenly I’m not all that interested in target practice either, but I’m a stickler for finishing things I start, even if it disadvantages my dick. I’m heroic like that. “Might’ve had to shoot stuff while I was being attacked by something especially horny. I might’ve been in this exact situation.”

 

Cas rolls his eyes and then visibly tries to focus, squinting along the top of the gun. I decide to give him a hickey and I’m busy applying myself to my task when he determinedly shoots, immediately swearing under his breath. I detach from Cas’s neck to check how he went. He missed again. I hum in entirely false sympathy.

 

“Bad luck, dude.”

 

“It is not ‘bad luck’,” Cas replies through gritted teeth, hands tight around the gun. I grin into his shoulder, feeling the bunched muscles there. He’s pissed off and it’s pretty damn hilarious. “You are sabotaging me.”

 

“Me?” I ask incredulously, peering at his scowling profile. I start to unbutton his jeans. “Cas, man, I am hurt that you’d accuse me of something like that. Really, I am. Wow.”

 

“Dean.”

 

“Isn’t it time for you to miss again?” I suggest smugly, running a finger underneath the waistband of his underwear. He shakes his head slightly but takes aim again and I decide to let him off the hook for this one, because I’m charitable. I go utterly still and a few seconds later, Cas shoots the target directly through the forehead. He relaxes back against me and I laugh in his ear.

 

“Well done,” I whisper, kissing down his neck to brush my lips against the mark I made. I start to slide my hand into his boxer briefs, slow but purposeful. He shudders and presses back against me and shit, it won’t take long for things to fully develop down there if he keeps on rolling his hips like that-

 

“Only eight more to go,” I murmur hoarsely, real regret in my voice, withdrawing my hand. Cas scoffs and steps abruptly forward and away, drawing an undignified whine out of my mouth that I will never admit came from me. Dropping one hand, he angles his body to shoot single-handedly, his stance strong and effortless, almost arrogant and seriously badass. He empties the rest of the magazine in quick succession, the sound deafening, the target’s face ripped apart as each and every shot hits its mark. He tosses the gun carelessly aside onto the table next to us as he turns to face me, his eyes dark and his jaw set. My own jaw is totally slack. Fuck.

 

“Fuck,” I say stupidly. Cas raises an eyebrow. Fuck.

 

“Are we done?” he asks lowly, stepping towards me. I swallow with difficulty.

 

“That was really hot,” I manage to get out, only slurring a little bit, my voice utterly sincere. Jesus, that might have been the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Cas looks kinda like he wants to smile, but instead he takes a final step forward and grabs me by my open plaid shirt, yanking me towards him for a bruising kiss. I moan into his mouth in a way that is horrifically wanton but I can’t care very much. I don’t even register that Cas has been pushing me backwards until my ass hits the wall, followed none too gently my my head. The fact that I don’t notice the pain is probably as much a sign of way too many head injuries as it is of mindless lust, but I’m pretty sure the mindless lust thing is playing a hefty role too.

 

“Cas,” I gasp pathetically as he breaks away to nip and suck down my throat. He’s getting more and more comfortable with being rough with me. We’ve never actually sat down and discussed this shit but I guess I make it pretty obvious what I’m into, by turning into a whimpering slutty mess whenever Cas so much as lightly shoves me where he wants me to go. It’s shameful, but nothing I didn’t already know about myself. Plus, Cas seems to be pretty into it too. At least, I think so. We haven’t done more than make out since he sucked me off - which was amazing but kinda terrifying at the same time - except for last night when making out turned into dry humping which turned into my first pants-on orgasm since my early twenties. And hey, I’d be embarrassed, but watching Cas come is kinda my new favourite thing so I don’t care all that much.

 

Right now I’m actually weirdly preoccupied with the memory of how I, for a brief mad moment, wanted to suck Cas off in return. I’ve never let myself think about sucking dick in much detail before and it’s never seemed all that appealing anyway, but everything seems appealing when Cas is in the mix. And right now I’m having another mad moment.

 

“Cas,” I choke out again, pushing at his shoulders to unlatch him from my neck. Was he giving me a hickey to match his? I can’t work out if that’s weirdly romantic or just a dick move designed to annoy me later. Probably both. I heave a breath, staring at him with wide eyes. He looks pretty wrecked in the best possible way, eyes bright and hungry. Yeah, I’m doing this, I can freak out about it later.

 

I shove him further back and he stumbles a little, blinking in surprise. I can see the worry stealing onto his face, the thought that he’s done something wrong. Better nip that in the bud. I fall to my knees, holding his gaze, thinking that this is kinda blasphemous since I’m kneeling like I’m in church and he used to be an angel. My dick twitches and I feel myself blush. I knew I was a kinky little sinner but I really do have issues. Oh well.

 

He just blinks down at me as I start undoing his jeans, mouth slack. It isn’t until I tug them down to his knees and then reach for his boxer briefs - so glad I bought him those because they look very, very good- that he seems to catch on.

 

“Oh, Dean,” he breathes. I smirk up at his awestruck expression, feeling a bit more confident - Cas, after all, is pretty easy to please so I probably won’t stuff this up badly - and then drop my gaze as I pull his underwear down. He’s hard and leaking and I can’t say that I don’t feel the old panic and guilt for liking the way it looks, because I do and there’s a part of me that wants to get up and walk out of the room, get drunk and jerk off to Busty Asian Beauties like I’m supposed to.

 

But those days are gone. At least, I really want them to be, because they were sad and lonely days.

 

I’ve had enough blowjobs to know the dos and don’ts and the panic is still there, threatening to overtake me if I stop and think too much, so I decide to just go for it. Throwing myself into action and reflecting upon my mistakes in the aftermath is generally how I roll, and this is no exception. I watch Cas bite his lip and blink slowly down at me as I close my mouth around him and suck, resigning myself to every moment of this feeling really fucking weird. He exhales shakily and reaches one hand up to touch his fingertips to the side of my face, reverent.

 

I keep doing what I’m doing for a little longer, because it’s a good basic but dependable way to make a guy feel good and I’m busy trying to think of other fail-safe things to do with my mouth. I try a few ideas out, getting my hands involved and testing out my gag reflex. Its a damn good thing I didn’t attempt this with my eyes closed because staring up at Cas is doing wonders for both my confidence and my enjoyment. Watching him flush and groan and twist his face up with pleasure is actually way more addictive than I anticipated. It’s weird, because I’m finding it predictably hot that he’s in a position of dominance, gazing down at me with one hand almost casually cupping my jaw. But I’ve also never felt more in control of the sexual stuff between us. I own every fibre of Cas’s attention right now. He isn’t thinking about anything but me, doesn’t want anything else. He can’t look away. Maybe it’s a bit douchey of me and I’m really not normally a power-hungry sort of guy, but the way Cas’s blown eyes are locked on mine over his slack features is intoxicating.

 

He rumbles my name a lot and moans now and then, voice and eyes increasingly tense, hand trembling against my face. His hips are starting to shake too and I realise he’s been holding back from moving. I don’t want him to hold back. I grab his hips, tighten my mouth around him and pull him crudely in and then back out again, concentrating on breathing through my nose. He makes that wounded noise from earlier, which I count as a victory. Suddenly, his other hand is in my hair and his eyes are a little wild now, dark yet alight, combusting as he picks up the rhythm that I’ve started and begins to fuck my mouth in earnest.

 

“Dean-” he says brokenly, both hands gripping my short hair to keep me still for him. I hum a wordless response and he chokes off a noise, his breathing loud and distressed-sounding as he nears the edge. Fuck, he looks incredible. I thought I wouldn’t like sucking dick much but the view is so worth it. I begin to knead his thighs as he draws close to coming, relishing the warm skin and the satisfying thickness of the firm flesh, moaning around his cock because I am actually enjoying this, all of it, and I never expected that.

 

Cas comes, hard. He almost sobs my name, his voice cracked and breathless. As I swallow it down and stare up at his transcendent, adoring face, I think that I’m going to miss him more than even I thought possible.

Chapter Text

“No, no, I’m not sayin’ you should blame me for anything, just make sure you got a reason in your head as to why you’re angry. You gotta be real angry, Cas. You’re storming out, remember? That is not like you, you need a reason.”

 

I sigh, running a hand through my hair, clenching my other fist around the Impala keys. They dig into my palm, biting. Dean’s right, storming out is not like me at all, but it’s a major part of the plan.

 

“We should have figured out a reason before now,” I hiss, panic starting to creep up on me. This isn’t going to work. I don’t want it to work. I don’t want to leave. But I have to.

 

Dean rolls his eyes, but his posture is tense. I know he doesn’t like this either. “There are a dozen things you could pick that are one hundred per cent believable. Come on, man, I’m not exactly Prince Charming.”

 

“I find you charming, although no, I’m not aware of you having any royal-”

 

“Cas,” Dean cuts across me firmly, stepping closer. His eyes are very serious. “You need to lie, OK? I know you think I’m great, somehow. And that’s awesome, it really is. But you need to pretend otherwise.”

 

“I should have snuck out overnight and left a note, like you suggested. You were right.”

 

Dean is kind enough to merely shrug impassively, pretending not to be annoyed at me for insisting that it will be less suspicious if Sam and Ezekiel actually see me leave. Why must I always make everything difficult and painful? I could be well on my way by now with no scene caused.

 

“Yeah, perhaps, but it doesn’t matter. We’re doing it this way. Now, you might be able to leave without being stopped but I can’t guarantee it and Sam will definitely try to call you and fix things. He’s gonna think this is his business, because it involves you and me and we’re both his family. This is going to require acting. So make something up and stick with it.”

 

I swallow, staring at him. I try to think of reasons I might walk out on him. To be fair, he has sometimes treated me badly over the years, in various situations and for various reasons. It’s never been enough for me not to want to be near him, though. The few times I did abandon him, the situation was far more drastic than just an argument. “You think of something. I can’t.”

 

Dean groans and half-turns away, rubbing at his furrowed brow. “OK. OK, maybe it’s a gay panic thing, yeah? Maybe I just can’t deal with you being a dude and I’m refusing to let you touch me and you’re over it.”

 

I scoff a little. “Sex? But sex doesn’t matter. I like it and I would be sad to not be able to touch you again, but it’s hardly important enough to end a relationship over, is it?”

 

Dean throws me a look of mingled disbelief and indignation. “Way to boost a guy’s confidence. You wouldn’t care if I actually decided to go all chastity vows on you?”

 

“Of course not. I love you, you mean far more to me than sexual gratification.”

 

“Well… OK, that’s…” Dean struggles for a moment before slumping and sighing, eyes soft despite his annoyed expression. “Thank you. Fine, something else. Uh, you tried to get me to give up drinking and I refused.”

 

“Sam knows that I wouldn’t police you like that. Although it is true that I would prefer you found a healthier coping mechanism for stress, especially as I’m no longer able to regularly heal you of any ill health.”

 

“Yeah, but… wait, what? What d’you mean, regularly heal me?”

 

I shift uncomfortably. I didn’t mean to tell him that. “I just used to give your health a little boost now and then. Your diet has never been ideal, you don’t get enough sleep and you drink too much. I just fixed up any issues with your cardiovascular system and internal organs, as well as aching joints, that sort of thing. I did the same for Sam too. Not very often. Perhaps a few times a year.”

 

His mouth has dropped open. “Oh, is that all?”

 

“Yes.” I pause and then grimace. “No. I drop in and help with your nightmares sometimes. Well, I did.”

 

“For fuck’s sake, Cas!”

 

“I’m sorry,” I snap, then rethink my response. “Actually, I’m not sorry at all. I saved you some suffering and I’m pleased with that.”

 

Dean frowns at me but then seems to deflate, shaking his head and glancing away. “Whatever. I guess I owe you a thank you. Again.”

 

“Yes, probably.”

 

Green eyes meet mine, caught between affectionate and irritated. “Right, well, thank you. So, anyway. You reckon the drinking thing isn’t believable?”

 

“It’s not like I’ve never tried to deal with my problems through alcohol. As a short term solution, it’s actually quite effe-”

 

“Fine! What about that crap Ezekiel was saying about you being here putting us in danger? No, wait, we can’t mention Ezekiel to Sam, duh. OK, well, it made you pretty angry the other day, what I said about you wanting to go after Metatron for your ego…”

 

“We can’t mention Metatron to Ezekiel, Dean.”

 

“Shit, shit, you’re right. Fuck. Seriously, Cas, you must have something?”

 

I hesitate, because something has occurred to me. It wouldn’t be enough to make me leave for good - I have an uncomfortable suspicion that nothing would - but it’s a buried fear of mine when it comes to mine and Dean’s relationship. That’s why I don’t want to voice it, though. What if it’s true? But we need a believable reason for me to be upset enough to storm out, and this feels like it fits that. I take a deep breath and speak to the floor, horrified to hear my voice trembling.

 

“Maybe you told me that you preferred me as an angel. That I’m not enough as a human. Too different, too weak.”

 

To my shock, Dean actually laughs. I look up, hurt, but he’s shaking his head as he speaks, amused. “Like anyone’s gonna believe that, come on…”

 

I blink at him. “I think it’s very believable.”

 

Dean’s smile fades as he looks at me. I try to keep my expression blank, but I must do a pretty bad job because his face falls into dismay.

 

“Oh, Cas. Are you really worried I’d think that?”

 

I swallow heavily, hating how vulnerable I feel. “It would just make sense if you did. I used to be so much more than I am now.”

 

Dean shakes his head, eyes sad, before abruptly stepping forward and wrapping me in a hug. I squeeze my eyes shut against his shoulder, slipping my arms around his waist. I can feel tears stinging, but I’m determined not to let them fall. I’ve worked hard to gain control of my human emotions.

 

“You’re more than enough,” Dean murmurs into my hair, pressing a kiss there. He sighs, his breath warm across the tip of my ear. “You’re still the same person, Cas. Your grace wasn’t who you are. Being an angel wasn’t who you are.”

 

“How do you know?” I ask, my voice barely understandable, muffled.

 

He scuffs his nose against my temple. “Because I know you.”

 

I squeeze him tightly, wanting to believe it. “I’m no use to you as a human. I can’t protect you, I have no powers-”

 

“Stop it,” he orders gruffly, fingers digging into my shoulder and back. “You ain’t some weapon, Cas. Remember why you left Heaven in the first place? You aren’t just a tool. You’re a person. You know I always cared about more than your powers, right?”

 

I shrug in his arms, unwilling to speak, sure that my voice will break the way it never would have as an angel.

 

He pulls back and frowns at me, close enough that I can see the patterns his freckles make across his skin. His hands settle on my shoulders, squeezing slightly. When he speaks his voice is mildly frustrated, like he’s explaining the obvious. “Look, I felt the same way about you when you were an angel as I do now. And the way I feel about you… I…”

 

We stare at each other for several long seconds, my heart thumping, before Dean exhales softly and glances away. “Well, my feelings haven’t changed. So, basically, neither have you. Not in any way that really matters. Make sense?”

 

“Yeah,” I say hoarsely after a pause, a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. “That makes sense. Thank you, Dean.”

 

He nods too, relief clear on his face, then steps back and clears his throat. “Look, despite being absolute bullshit because I don’t wish you were still an angel at all, I guess it does make a pretty viable story. So we can go with that.”

 

“OK,” I agree, still smiling. Dean eyes me, suddenly nervous.

 

“You ready?”

 

The smile drops. I sigh. “Not really. But I have to go. I want to be in Fort Collins well before evening falls.”

 

Dean nods, then steps back forward and kisses me soundly, hands warm on my waist. He pulls away. “Text me on the spare phone, remember? Keep me updated. Let me know if you need anything. And Jesus, Cas, be careful. Real careful.”

 

“Yes,” I say automatically, the panicky feeling in my chest matching the fear and worry in Dean’s eyes. He stares at me for a moment before taking a deep breath and gently shoving me towards the door. I lay my trembling fingers on the handle, listening to his tense instructions behind me.

 

“Keep it simple. Yell at me to fuck off and then just get on outta here. I’ll go to the kitchen, try to stop them from following you and then make a bit of a fuss about you stealing the Impala.”

 

“I have a feeling you won’t need to do much acting for that,” I comment wryly, pressing my ear to the door and listening hard to ensure that no one is outside.

 

“Yeah, no, I really won’t. You’d better take care of Baby, Cas.”

 

I turn back, smiling at his threatening tone, but my smile fades as our eyes hold.

 

“Alright,” I whisper. “Here we go.”

 

Dean inhales deeply. “Christ, this is ridiculous. OK. Let’s go.”

 

I pull the door open and stride down the hallway, eyes peeled for movement. I’m fairly sure that Sam and Kevin are in the kitchen, though. As we near the shared area of the bunker, Dean clears his throat about fifteen feet behind me. I speed up.

 

“Come on, Cas, don’t be stupid,” he snaps, voice carrying. I blur past the kitchen without even looking inside.

 

“Fuck off, Dean,” I snarl just as loudly, imagining Metatron for extra authenticity. I’m reasonably pleased with how furious I sound. I wheel into the war room and stumble to a halt.

 

Sam and Kevin are sitting at the table, leaning over an enormous book, both staring at me in clear alarm. I’m frozen to the spot for several crucial moments, mouth hanging open, but I can hear Dean catching up so I rush past the table towards the stairs, heart thundering-

 

“Cas, what the-” Sam calls out, but I’m already starting up the stairs. I hear Dean enter the war room behind me and swear under his breath.

 

“Let him go,” he says loudly and wildly, sounding more desperate than angry. I clatter up the stairs. “Like- like I fucking care. No, Sam, don’t-”

 

Shit, Sam is actually coming after me. I sprint up the last few steps and heave the door open, glancing back once to see that Dean has grabbed hold of Sam’s arm on the bottom step, both of them glaring at each other. Kevin has risen from his chair too, eyebrows raised comically high.

 

I slam the door, breathing hard, and scramble up the few steps towards the Impala. I almost drop the keys trying to unlock it but I manage it quickly, sliding in behind the wheel and sighing with relief when it only takes one go to start the engine. I take off in a rush, seeing the bunker door burst open, seeing Sam race up the steps shouting my name, looking frustrated and confused. Dean is on his heels and his eyes meet mine as he grabs his brother’s elbow again, his expression hard and unreadable. Then I’m past them, roaring up the road, refusing to look in the rear view mirror.

 

My breathing doesn’t slow for about ten minutes and it’s only five minutes after that when my phone starts buzzing in my pocket. I grimace and fish it out, throwing it onto the passenger seat. I wonder just how dedicated Sam is going to be to fixing this false situation. He’s going to give Dean such a hard time. I feel a little ill at the thought. At least my acting role is mostly over, although I’ll have to respond to Sam at some point.

 

I take a deep breath and settle into the seat, hands loosening slightly on the steering wheel. This is awful, all of it, but we’re on our way to finding a solution. We will save Sam and we will stop Metatron and Ezekiel. And Dean and I will be together again, soon.

 

But for now, I’m on my own.

Chapter Text

Sam, 8:53am: Cas, pick up, Dean is a dick but he didn’t mean it

 

Sam, 9:12am: Come on, you know he cares about you, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an angel or not. He needs you.

 

Dean spare, 9:13am: Drive safe. Sorry it went a bit pear shaped there, things OK ish now. Sam chewing my ear off, having 2 send this from the bathroom. Be grateful ur not here to listen 2 it. U OK?

 

Kevin, 9:21am: Hey man, just hoping you’re OK? This is all really unexpected. Take all the time you need but be careful out there. Here if you need to talk. PS: wow, you have serious balls to steal the Impala haha

 

Dean spare, 9:25am: Ah yeah ur probably not looking at ur phone right now. Fair enough, Sam must be texting u some annoying shit. He’s rly mad. This sucks

 

Sam, 9:33am: Don’t do this, it’s dangerous out there. You don’t even have to talk to Dean right now, I know you’re angry, but just come home.

 

Sam, 9:44am: This is Ezekiel. I will delete this message from Sam’s device after sending it. I am proud of you, brother. You have made the right decision in leaving. I wish you good luck. Take care of yourself.

 

Sam, 9:49am: Damn it Cas pick up, now you’re the one being a dick. Dean isn’t the only person in the world who worries about you.

 

Sam, 9:58am: OK sorry about the last message I’m just really not OK with this whole thing. Whatever Dean said, he didn’t mean it. He’s nuts about you! I promise. OK?

 

Dean spare, 10:10am: Damn, Sams rly upset about this. Just came 2 my room and gave me this whole serious speech about u. Evrything he said was true though. Tell him ur coming back once uv cleared ur head or something yeah?Text me soon OK xxx

 

Sam, 10:17am: Right I’m clearly not getting anywhere with either of you right now. If you need time, take it, but call me soon OK? This is crazy, you two have been through way too much for one little fight to matter this much. Hope you’re safe.

 

It’s over half past ten before I stop for fuel and food, grimacing at the awful takeaway coffee but moderately pleased with the jelly doughnut. I eat outside of the car, mindful of the pristine interior, and wash my hands thoroughly in the bathroom before sliding back into the Impala and gathering the courage to read all of my texts.

 

My chest tightens as I read. As well as his many text messages, Sam has tried to call me six times. I scowl at Ezekiel’s message and then try to put it from my mind. Returning to Sam’s litany of entreaties to come back, I sigh and compose a text to him, stumbling over the dishonesty that sits heavy in my gut. Like Dean, I didn’t anticipate that this false break up would distress Sam so much. His pleas for me to come home and his assurances of Dean’s attachment are almost worse than if he’d been angry with me for leaving his brother. I type haltingly, throat tight.

 

Hello Sam. Thank you for your concern and I’m so sorry to have worried you. Please don’t call me, I need my own space right now. I think things will be OK but I just can’t be around Dean for a while. Don’t be angry with him, we are both at fault. I will be careful on my own and I will contact you soon and return when things are calmer. Everything will be alright.

 

I send it with a sharp stab of guilt, but I’m doing all this for Sam, after all. At the end of it, Dean and I will explain it to him and he’ll understand. I send a shorter text to Kevin, touched by his worry and amused by his admiration for my ‘theft’ of the Impala.

 

Kevin, thank you and I’m sorry about all this. Don’t worry, I’ll look after the car. I will be back at some point when I’ve cleared my mind. See you then.

 

With a sense of relief, I turn to the texts from Dean. I miss him already and it hurts to think of him silently accepting Sam’s accusations. I slump back in my seat, smiling a little as I notice the ‘xxx’ at the end of his last text. I know enough about human written communication to recognise the shorthand for bestowing virtual kisses upon a correspondent.

 

I’m fine, I’ve just stopped for a break. Making good time and the Impala is unharmed. I have received quite a few messages from Sam. He’s very worried and upset, yes. I’m so sorry, Dean. This was my idea and it’s already caused so much pain and distress. I have texted Sam to reassure him that I will be coming back soon and to dissuade him from trying to contact me any further. Hopefully he calms down and decides to leave us to deal with the ‘situation’. I estimate that I will arrive in Fort Collins between 3:00 and 3:30 pm; I will text you again then. I hope you’re alright xxxxxxxxxxxx

 

I add the loveheart emoticon without hesitating, my lips curving up as I press ‘send’. Sam has texted me back in the time it’s taken me to compose my message to Dean. I check Sam’s reply and I’m relieved by what I find:

 

I know I kinda blew up there but I really care about our family and you’re part of it, Cas. Hope you know that. Just come home soon and take care. Not safe for you out there right now.

 

I sort of want to send Sam the loveheart emoticon too, although I know it’s not appropriate. Still, I realise abruptly that I do love Sam. He is my family, in a different way from Dean. All of the brotherly affection that I’ve tried to feel for Dean comes naturally for Sam. I type back, glad that he’s less upset now.

 

That means a lot to me. Thank you. Of course I’ll come home soon, and of course I’ll be careful. I’ll text you every day to let you know I’m safe. Be kind to Dean.

 

I’m about to toss the phone back onto the passenger seat and start the engine when I get a reply from Dean.

 

It’s alright Cas. Go get ‘em. Just try not 2 die OK?

 

I chuckle and lay the phone aside, starting up the Impala and pulling out of the gas station. I put the radio on after some slight fiddling and I find that I recognise a few of the songs, since it’s on the same classic rock station that Dean always plays. It loses reception after half an hour and I switch to an unfamiliar, more modern station. I don’t mind what music is on; it’s better than listening to my own anxious thoughts. The scenery remains flat and vast as I cut across the corner of Nebraska into Colorado but as the day wears on and I zoom across the state, hills begin to break up the monotony. I don’t stop for lunch and by the time I turn north towards Fort Collins I’m surrounded by mountainous scenery. If Dean was with me, if this was just a hunt or even a simple trip for the enjoyment of it, I’d be pleased to encounter a landscape different from the stretched out farmland of Kansas.

 

But I’m alone and scared and I barely register the mountains or the beautiful fall colours. I drive into the centre of town and after making some blind turns and starting to feel lost and incompetent, I spot a Best Western motel. I feel odd purchasing a room by myself, like I’m playing a role. Once I’ve parked and securely locked the car, I check the time. Barely three o’clock. I’m hungry and there’s an IHOP nearby. I text Dean as I make my way there.

 

Arrived in Fort Collins, checked into the the Best Western University Inn on S College Avenue. Having some food. Will start praying afterwards. Do you think the motel is a good place to do that or should I choose a particular location?

 

Entering the IHOP, I order strawberry banana pancakes and sit carefully at a window table, eyeing the other customers suspiciously. My phone buzzes within a minute.

 

Good, thanks 4 letting me know. Yeah the motel is fine, just make sure u put a few banishing sigils around ready for any trouble. Have ur angel blade on u and a gun as well. Leave the car open and stay near the door to get away quick. U put angel warding on the car?

 

I blink down at the text. I hadn’t thought of warding the Impala, but it seems obvious now. I reply in haste.

 

I will definitely be sure to do all of those things. Thank you. How are you doing?

 

A waitress brings my pancakes at that moment, giving me a half-smile and a nod. I recall how Dean often speaks to wait staff, which I assume is the standard protocol.

 

“Thanks, sugar,” I say with a wink. She pauses and shoots me a quelling look, somewhere between disdainful and disgusted. I watch her walk away, my shoulders slumping. I thought that becoming human might improve my social skills, but if anything I’m even worse at interacting with people now. I eat my pancakes glumly, adding too much maple syrup because it tastes good but then finding that even for me, sweetness has a limit. I still finish the overly sugary meal, not wanting to waste it. Dean texts back just as I’m finishing.

 

Sorry, Sam came by with a coffee. He’s stopped yelling at me which is great but he’s started with the whole mother hen routine, swear he’s gonna paint my toenails and put on a fuckin rom com next. What did u get 4 food?

 

I snort as I read the message, thinking of how much Sam must be relishing the chance to look after Dean. I have no idea what a ‘rom com’ is but I decide not to bother asking.

 

Let him do it, he loves to care for you. I had strawberry banana pancakes at IHOP.

 

Why would u do that when they have stuffed french toast, holy shit dude. Fruit? Ur just as bad as Sam wow

 

I like fruit!

 

I add a barrage of strawberry and banana emoticons, grinning widely down at the screen. Dean’s response is swift and free from any emoticons, as usual.

 

There’s a time and a place 4 fruit Cas, IHOP is not it. U didn’t even have any bacon as part of ur meal did u?

 

No, I’m not fond of bacon. I already apologised twice for that, Dean.

 

It’s a major food group, ur missing out. Love of bacon is an American value.

 

I’m not American. I don’t recall you bemoaning the lack of bacon or any other meat in that sweet and sour seitan that Sam made three nights ago.

 

WHAT THE FUCK NO THAT WAS CHICKEN

 

I laugh out loud, earning myself a slightly concerned look from the waitress who’s been avoiding my table since I accidentally offended her. Biting my lip, I put a laughing emoticon at the beginning of my reply.

 

Was it? Maybe you should check with Sam. Although I suppose you can’t, because this conversation is a secret. That must be frustrating.

 

Fuck u nope no way, that was chicken

 

Chortling, I simply send back a winking face. It was definitely seitan, because Sam gloated about his subterfuge for a full fifteen minutes while Dean was in the shower that night. He swore me to secrecy, but Dean’s outrage is too amusing to resist. Even more amusing is imagining him trying to casually ask Sam about the meal without betraying the fact that he’s been talking to me.

 

Feeling much more cheerful, I scoop up the last forkful of syrup-drenched pancake with a smile on my face, despite the danger and difficulty that lies ahead.

Chapter Text

By the time I find a store to purchase the specific easily washed off paint that Dean insists is the only kind I’m allowed to apply to the Impala, it’s sunset. I paint the warding on from memory, shining the light of my phone from an angle to see the black markings. I notice that my phone needs charging and I plug it in as I carefully begin daubing banishing sigils in my blood on either side of the motel room. It’s an unpleasant process; I have to slice into my forearm three times to get it done, as my blood keeps clotting too fast. It’s frustrating how hard it is to cut into my own flesh as a human. The instincts and the pain are almost insurmountable at first.

 

I bandage up my arm with a sigh of relief when I complete two banishing sigils on either side of the room, dutifully taking two painkillers with water. I’m not used to dealing with human sensation under stress and I don’t want to be compromised because I’m slightly wounded. I place a gun under my pillow and a spare angel blade from the Impala’s trunk in the bathroom drawer, keeping my own blade tucked into the back of my jeans under my shirts. I stand in the centre of the room, eyes darting around, trying to remember if I’ve forgotten anything. I scroll back through the texts from Dean listing what I need to do. Everything is accounted for.

 

Taking a slow and shaky breath, I stand between the door and one of the banishing sigils and I begin to pray.

 

It’s a bizarre feeling. I prayed to God as an angel, but praying to my father felt different from praying to the entire angelic host as a human. I keep my prayer vague, not mentioning my identity. I speak out loud to strengthen it.

 

“I am calling on the fallen angels of Heaven. I need help. I am under threat and I need the assistance of an angel. I know you exist, I know you have been hurt, but I also know that you can hear me. Please, come to my aid. Please help me.”

 

I pause and wonder if that will be enough. Leaning against the wall, I watch as the digital bedside clock flickers its way through ten minutes before I decide to repeat the prayer.

 

“I require assistance. Br- angels of Heaven who now walk the Earth, please, hear me and come to my aid.”

 

Swallowing, I hope fervently that no one listening realised that I was about to say ‘brothers and sisters’. I wait just five minutes this time, fiddling with my sleeve, before launching into my spiel again.

 

“I call upon any angel who can hear me to come and help me. I am praying directly to those who fell from Heaven. I know you exist. I know what… Metatron did. I need the help of a real angel, not just spiritual guidance. I need whoever is hearing this to come and aid me in person.”

 

Hopefully mentioning Metatron will pique the curiosity of anyone listening. I’m painfully aware that many angels must have heard at least rumours that I’ve become human, meaning that I’ve all but revealed my identity for anyone looking to join the clues together. I can only hope that I’m not as hated as I suspect.

 

Another ten minutes creeps by.

 

“Angels of Heaven-”

 

There is a firm knock at the door.

 

My voice dies in my throat as I freeze, gazing unblinking at the opposite wall. The angel sigil there is hidden behind the sliding bathroom door. The one beside me, however, will be plainly seen if I close the door once my visitor is in the room. I suddenly wonder if this was a wise way to set it up. Visibly treating whoever answers my prayer as a threat isn’t conducive to establishing an alliance. How can this have only occurred to me now?

 

The person at the door knocks again.

 

I push off from the wall and grip the door handle, heart jumping uncomfortably. Blinking hard, I pull the door halfway open, peering out warily.

 

A nondescript middle-aged, paunchy man of vague, possibly Indian ethnicity stands outside, eyes narrowed in what looks like suspicion. We stare at each other for several seconds and I hate the fact that I can’t tell in the slightest whether he’s human or angel. He quickly solves the mystery for me, though, in a cold and detached voice.

 

“Hello. I’ve come to answer your prayer.”

 

I swallow and nod. “Yes. Thank you for coming.”

 

The angel nods once and steps forward, clearly expecting me to move aside. I do so, feeling deeply uneasy. How could I have expected to just know whether to trust the angel who answered my prayer? I have no way to tell at all. The newcomer halts in the centre of my room, casting a glance around before swinging back to face me. Taking a deep breath, I shut the door, revealing the banishing sigil. The angel’s eyebrows raise in surprise.

 

“You know a lot about us, for a human,” he comments mildly, assessing me with bright brown eyes. I shrug.

 

“I know that I need help, and only an angel can do what I need.”

 

“Which is?”

 

I shake my head silently. “Who are you, first of all? Tell me your name, tell me how things have been for you since the fall, who you were before the fall.”

 

He frowns at me. “None of that would mean much to a human.”

 

“Humour me.”

 

“I came here to offer you help, and I find that you have set up defences as though I am your enemy. Now you demand that I prove myself to you. Why should I help you?”

 

My stomach clenches. Everything he’s saying is perfectly reasonable, and I don’t want to jeopardise this chance at securing help for Sam, but this angel’s reluctance to be open with me is putting me even more on edge than I already was. I shuffle a step away from the banishing sigil and my companion’s eyes zero in on the movement, a sharp spark of interest showing. My stomach clenches harder. I abruptly decide that I will not share who I am with this angel. I don’t wish to lie outright if it can be helped, though. I choose my next words carefully.

 

“I know enough about angels to be cautious. But I do not wish to be your enemy. Now, please… your name?”

 

He pauses before answering. “Ezekiel.”

 

My eyes narrow. “Impossible.”

 

For an instant, his mouth tightens, but he only looks amused a moment later. “Oh? How so?”

 

I can’t say that I know Ezekiel already; I don’t want to give anything of myself away to this stranger now that he’s lied. Inching back towards the banishing sigil, I shake my head. “Never mind how I know that you’re lying. The fact remains, you are not Ezekiel.”

 

He nods slowly. “Impressive. You’ve been keeping tabs on us since the fall, then. Very well, my true name is Raziel. How did you learn of Ezekiel’s death?”

 

“Raziel,” I repeat, trying to remember whether I knew him in Heaven-

 

Death.

 

Ezekiel’s death?

 

“Ezekiel’s death,” I repeat hollowly. Raziel nods. I shake my head but then pause. He could be lying again. Or he could be telling the truth, and we may have been living with an impostor all this time. With a growing sense of horror, I realise that I’ve always felt that Ezekiel has become a stranger since I last knew him. What if I’ve felt that way because he really has been a stranger all along? I gather myself and decide that clinging to murky honesty is pointless and foolish. I’m going to have to admit who I am and risk attack, or lie outright. I opt for the latter.

 

“I was once possessed by an angel. They were banished from me and I memorised the sigil, which is how I knew to recreate it tonight. They left some sort of channel open when they left, a link. I hear things. Snatches of angelic communication. I heard the fall. I heard reports of Ezekiel’s death too.”

 

It’s not something that I’m aware of as possible, but even angels know very little about what can occur during possession since it never used to be a common thing for many of us to do. It sounds believable enough to me. Raziel nods, a furrow between his brows, watching me closely.

 

“Fascinating. Alright. I will help you, in whatever you require. Come, sit with me. Tell me what I can do for you.”

 

He settles calmly on the end of my bed, hands clasped in his lap. He looks entirely non-threatening, but I feel ill with anxiety at the thought of moving away from my banishing sigil. Still, vague recollections of Raziel are coming back to me. He was a friend of Bartholomew’s and Bartholomew followed me during the civil war. I didn’t necessarily like Bartholomew, but he was a good soldier and leader and if Raziel is one of his, I can probably trust him. I trusted Bartholomew, after all. I step away from the banishing sigil and begin to make my way across the room in front of Raziel, eyes fixed on him, trying to look more relaxed than I feel as I settle into leaning against the counter opposite him, hands resting by my hips.

 

“Raziel,” I begin, then pause, deciding to give him one last test. “I’ve heard tell of the civil war up in Heaven, the fall of Raphael. Did you fight for him?”

 

“For Raphael?” Raziel says, looking amused once more. “Of course not. I served under my leader and good friend Bartholomew, and together we fought for the rebel angel Castiel.”

 

I swallow and nod thoughtfully, as though this is new information. “I see. And Castiel… is he dead too?”

 

Raziel stands smoothly, still smiling faintly, the expression almost warm. I tense up as he steps towards me and in the corner of my eye, I see his fingers twitch.

 

“Not yet,” he says, and then he lunges forward, angel blade appearing in his out-thrust fist. I throw myself sideways and cry out as the blade slices shallowly through my side, hot blood immediately soaking my shirt at my waist, equally hot pain coursing through me. I stagger to the bathroom door and turn to see Raziel advancing on me with his teeth bared, feral and furious, blade gleaming red in the lamplight. Breathing hard with tears stinging my eyes, I step back beside the door, leaning against the wall. Raziel is stalking me, clearly not seeing this as a fight so much as an execution.

 

“Why?” I snarl, feeling the pain of betrayal and anger just as keenly as the pain of a knife wound. Raziel sneers.

 

“Why? Try to guess why. I imagine you are more than capable of understanding how it feels to have fallen from Heaven, Castiel. No one has fallen further than you. But you couldn’t do it alone, hmm? You had to drag the rest of us into your mistakes too. Now all of Heaven is suffering, because we are not Heaven any more. You’ve made refugees of us all. You used to be a hero! I used to think I had honour fighting under your name, back when it was worth something, but this will be the greatest honour. Giving you the fate you deserve. If you had any honour yourself, you’d have done the job already.”

 

I press my lips together, aching, and for a moment I wonder why the hell I haven’t done as Raziel is suggesting and finished myself off already. I deserve it. Raziel deserves to do it. I should be dead anyway.

 

But then he lunges again, and Dean’s face flashes across my mind, and I realise why I’m still alive. It’s simple. I don’t want to die.

 

I duck sideways, slamming the bathroom door closed as I move, gritting my teeth against the protesting wound in my side. I can hear Raziel close behind me and I’m amazed that I don’t feel the angel blade sinking into my back even as I flatten my palm against the dried banishing sigil on the wall, watching it glow and ignite, hearing Raziel’s shout of fury and frustration close enough to turn my stomach. But he’s gone even as I squint back over my shoulder, the blinding light dimming and leaving nothing but an empty room in its wake.

 

I turn my face back to the wall and try to take a deep breath but my knees buckle, to my shock and dismay. I scrabble weakly at the wall as I sink to the floor, finding it harder and harder to draw breath until I hear myself let out a ragged sob. Bunching my ruined shirt at my cut waist, I press my forehead to the wall and screw my eyes shut, trying to keep the low sound from bubbling up in my throat again. It doesn’t work.

 

Between the distressing pain in my side and the tears streaming down my face as I fight for control against a scuffed motel room wall, I barely notice my phone vibrate in my pocket as it receives a text message. What I have far more trouble overlooking, though, is the firm knock at the door, followed by a voice speaking words that I now wish I’d never heard this evening:

 

“Hello? I’ve come to answer your prayer.”

Chapter Text

It takes me several seconds to really understand what’s happening as the person knocking at my door repeats themselves. Inhaling wetly, I blink away the tears as quickly as they came, wincing as I struggle to my feet. Still holding my hand to the wound in my side that’s emitting a concerning amount of blood, I hobble to the door, breathing harshly and sniffing a little. I feel like a wreck. I’m pulling my phone out even as I reach the door, fumbling one-handed to open the new text. It’s from Dean.

 

Ah shit I know uve probably got it all under control but could u just send a quick text confirming ur alive? Bored as fuck and worrying a bit here

 

I’m still staring down at my phone as I let go of my side to pull the door open, smearing fresh blood all over the handle. I’m feeling light-headed so it takes me a moment to look up and focus on the angel standing outside. She’s pretty in a serious sort of way, peering at me with intense blue eyes overshadowed by a thick, dark brown fringe. I think a little blearily that she sort of reminds me of my own reflection.

 

“Hello,” I say dumbly, still holding my phone, pressing my other hand back to my wound. She looks down at my bloodied side and raises her eyebrows.

 

“Well, I can see why you were praying.”

 

I just gaze at her and she eyes me suspiciously for a moment before sighing and stepping forward into my space. I tense up belatedly and she ignores it, hovering her hand just above mine over my gore-soaked shirt. I can half-see the glow in my peripheral vision as she heals me but she stares thoughtfully into my eyes the entire time and I can’t quite look away. The pain goes, the horribly stretched, torn feeling of the damaged skin fades away, even the blood disappears and my light-headedness does too. I blink at the angel in surprised gratitude. She continues to survey me from inches away, looking reluctantly fascinated.

 

“Thank you,” I say haltingly. She nods almost absently, still staring into my eyes. I almost feel like I’m getting in the way of whatever she’s looking for, so I fall silent and look right back. After too many seconds, she purses her lips and steps back again, folding her arms.

 

“Castiel,” she states. I jump, immediately wary. “You are Castiel, aren’t you?”

 

I open my mouth to lie but instead I nod. Furious with myself, I snap my mouth back closed, frowning. She continues with a grimace.

 

“I see. Well, I hate to say this, but I don’t want to kill you. I thought I might get here and feel all this righteous fury but… I suppose I was never very good at that. Can I come in?”

 

I swallow. “Who are you?”

 

She cocks her head at me before answering. “My name is Hannah.”

 

I nod slowly as though I’ve heard of her. I haven’t. I step aside to let her in, reasoning with myself that if this Hannah wanted me dead she had every opportunity to smite me instead of healing me.

 

Hannah walks in with an air of curiosity, peering about the room. She halts, nodding at the burned out sigil by the bathroom door. “I see I’m not the first to have answered your prayer.”

 

“I’m afraid not,” I say sourly, shutting the door. I hesitate before crossing past her to get to the bathroom, but she doesn’t move. Once I have the bathroom door open I watch Hannah over my shoulder in the mirror. As before, she stares back as though something about me deeply interests her. It makes me uneasy, but somehow I already feel that I trust her. I wash my blood from my hands quickly before grabbing my phone again and composing a reply to Dean.

 

I’m OK. Discovered that there are definitely angels out there who are not friendly to me, to say the least. Talking to a less hostile angel now. Have more to tell you but will update later xxx

 

Tucking my phone back into my pocket, I look back up to see that Hannah is frowning at the floor. I wonder what exactly troubles her. It could be anything about this situation, really. She clearly knows who I am and understands, correctly, that she should loathe me. Yet something is staying her hand, and unless I’m indulging in some serious wishful thinking, she is considering aiding me. I feel exhausted, but relieved that this angel seems to at least want to talk rather than destroy me. I step back into the bedroom and push a hand awkwardly through my hair.

 

“So, Hannah-” I begin hesitantly. She interrupts quickly.

 

“Look, Castiel, a lot of us are extremely angry at you, but a lot of us also understand that you were fooled by Metatron. He’s the one who’s really to blame. So whilst I am doubtful of you, I am not here to harm you. I answered your prayer out of curiosity more than anything, but also because once not so long ago, you were Heaven’s only hope. At least, it seemed that way for those of us who opposed Raphael. With the way things are, it’s hard to ignore a prayer from someone who used to be the hero of Heaven.”

 

I wince at the slight bitterness in her tone, but I realise to my own surprise that I actually like Hannah. It’s been some time since I’ve met one of my kin - ex-kin - whom I’ve genuinely liked. My phone buzzes again in my pocket but I ignore it for now, watching Hannah closely. She eyes me unhappily before sighing and gesturing at the now-spotless tear in my shirt where the angel blade ripped through it into my flesh.

 

“Who attacked you?”

 

I frown, touching my healed side. “His name was Raziel. I don’t… I wouldn’t have thought that he would be an enemy of mine, even now. He fought for me in the war. He was under Bartholomew-”

 

“Exactly,” Hannah interrupts, as though I’m missing a point. I blink at her and she elaborates a little impatiently. “Bartholomew wants you dead. You didn’t know that? He hasn’t been subtle about it, he’s got angels all over the country looking for you.”

 

I step back and lean heavily against the counter again, feeling sick. “Bartholomew?”

 

Hannah nods slowly, a look of distaste on her serious face. “He wants power and he seems to think that running a hate campaign is how to get it. So he’s made you into a scapegoat for all of Heaven’s problems, because you’re an easier target than Metatron I guess, and he’s going to kill you and make himself into the hero who avenged Heaven. At least, that’s what those of us who oppose him can make out from his propaganda. It’s all very human. I barely recognise some of my own species any more.”

 

I give a hollow laugh, staring at the floor. “Yeah. I barely am my own species any more. In fact, I’m not. I make a terrible human, though. I’m not sure what that makes me.”

 

“Does it matter?” Hannah says sharply. I look up at her, startled. She looks frustrated, annoyed, saddened… I realise, with a jolt, that she looks disappointed.

 

“It matters to me…” I say somewhat weakly. Hannah purses her lips, glancing away. She pauses before she next speaks, her voice quiet but raising as she talks.

 

“Castiel, you used to serve Heaven. Not like the rest of us did, mindlessly following the orders of the angels at the top of the hierarchy. No, you rebelled and turned it all upside down and betrayed your own biology… yet you still served Heaven, you served all of us. You were a true revolutionary. For millennia we’ve been drones, no will, no wonder, no love or pride for who we are and what our home means to us. Now you’ve shown us those things. What does that make you? I think it makes you a leader.”

 

I feel a little dazed as she finishes speaking, eyes flashing with conviction. I was vaguely aware that whilst many angels have despised me since I rebelled, many others hold me up as some kind of hero. It’s flattering, but inaccurate. The sad truth is that I really did do it all for Dean. I didn’t just fall in love with him, I reshaped my entire purpose and existence around him. Only afterwards did I scramble together some sense of freedom and defiance, only once I’d thrown Heaven aside for Dean did I look back and realise that I could still fight for it and be of some use to my brethren. I was trying to fix my mistakes more than I was crusading for a cause I deeply believed it.

 

But Hannah is looking at me with shining blue eyes and a sense of hope in a bleak new world. How can I deny her that? I shift uncomfortably, clearing my throat.

 

“Hannah,” I begin carefully, “I think it’s amazing that you and others see me that way. And you’re right; you’re not just drones, you’re not just… hammers, tools to be used. I was shown that, and my life has been a mess ever since, but I don’t regret it. But Hannah… this is where that path has led me. I’m not even an angel any more. I’m only a human, I can’t help you. I’m the one who needs your help.”

 

Hannah is shaking her head, jaw set stubbornly. “You can get your grace back.”

 

I freeze, heart thumping. Because I haven’t been letting myself think about that possibility. I don’t even know if it’s what I want. I don’t know if it’s what Dean wants, which feels like the more important question, although it shouldn’t be. I clear my throat again, rougher.

 

“Maybe. Regardless, I have no intention of letting Metatron escape punishment, whether he still has my grace or not. But right now I cannot focus on that. I am just a human and like I keep saying: it’s your help that I need.”

 

I trust Hannah, I realise suddenly. I trust her with Sam, with my family. She looks unhappy, brow furrowed beneath her bangs, but after a pause she nods.

 

“What can I do?”

 

I sag with relief and then stand up straight, stepping towards her. “Thank you. What I need you to do will sound strange, but hopefully it won’t take a great deal more time now. I have a human friend who was gravely hurt, and in order to-”

 

“Wait,” she hisses, holding a hand up to halt me. I fall silent, tensing. Hannah flicks her gaze towards the door, eyes narrowed. I’m about to ask what it is when she looks back up at me, mouth set and grim.

 

“Reaper,” she whispers, barely audible. “Bartholomew’s not going to stop hunting you, Castiel.”

 

I swallow. Rogue reapers are definitely something to be feared. But they are also basically as susceptible to banishing sigils as any other angel. Unfortunately, so is Hannah. I grimace and touch her arm then nod towards the remaining sigil, raising my hand to mime pressing it. She hesitates and then nods.

 

“Damage it first, so that I’m not sent far” she whispers, “and then get out of here. I’ll find you quicker than anyone else now that I’m familiar with your soul. Others will be chasing you too though. Be alert.”

 

I nod shortly and then stride over to the sigil. A knock comes at the door. With a calmness I don’t feel, I lick my thumb and then scrub a break in the main circle, damaging the power of the sigil. Hopefully it’s not rendered powerless.

 

“Hello?” comes a smooth female voice from behind the door. I take a deep breath and pull the door open, staying behind it with my hand hovering over the sigil. My eyes meet Hannah’s as the reaper steps into the room.

 

“Who are y-”

 

I slam my hand down onto the sigil and watch it flare weakly but angrily under my palm, hear the cut-off shout as the reaper and Hannah are sent away. The light fades and I’m left alone, heart hammering.

 

It barely takes me a few seconds to leap into action, gathering my belongings and rushing out to the Impala with them, thankful that I’ll be undetectable to angels as long as I’m inside it. Jumping in, I start the engine and roar out of the parking lot, picking a direction at random.

 

I just hope that Hannah wasn’t sent too far.

Chapter Text

All I want 2 know then is who the fuck is in my brother?

 

I don’t know. Clearly not Ezekiel, if Raziel was speaking the truth.

 

Might not’ve been, sounds like a dick

 

He was quite unpleasant. So was his blade.

 

Yeah remind me 2 send this Hannah chick flowers. U were on ur way 2 hospital when she showd up right?

 

If you wish to give her flowers then have them waiting at the bunker, posting them will not work. And whether I was going to hospital doesn’t matter now. What matters is I’ve found a suitable angel to help us and as soon as I find her again I’ll bring her to you. Are you prepared?

 

Dude, it fucking matters, ur human and u can’t just heal up without help. If u get hurt there won’t always b a nice angel around 2 help ok?

 

OK, I understand that. But are you prepared for me to bring Hannah to replace the angel inside Sam?

 

Yeah got the spells. What’s she like then?

 

Hannah is an unusual angel. She is something of an idealist, perhaps even a romanticist, or as close as an angel can get. She’s kind and passionate.

 

Huh, sounds just like u… I like her already. Good work Cas, thanks.

 

I blink tiredly down at the bright little screen of my cellphone, my eyes aching. It’s the early hours of the morning and I’m no longer mentally equipped to process new ideas. Is Hannah like me? I suppose she is. It’s a comforting thought, because I like and respect her. I feel bad about leaving her to wonder where I’ve disappeared to overnight, because she has no way of knowing about the warded Impala protecting me. Hopefully she won’t assume that I’ve been killed.

 

Yawning, I decide reluctantly that it’s time for sleep. I don’t want to cut off the conversation with Dean, though. He called me soon after I drove away from my motel room and I ignored road safety by holding a phone call with him for almost half an hour whilst driving the car. But then he had to return to the bunker from the walk he’d taken to be able to call me, and we were restricted to texting. I was on the far outskirts of Fort Collins by then, up on a hill overlooking the small city, and I parked up for the night. Now, an hour later, I’m finally too tired to text Dean.

 

You’re very welcome, Dean. I have to sleep now. I’ll text you in the morning. Goodnight xxx

 

He replies quickly and I curl around the phone with a fond smile, trying to get comfortable in the partially reclined front seat, tucked into a musty blanket.

 

OK, get some sleep. Miss u. Stay safe.

 

I fall asleep thinking that I miss Dean too, more than even I expected to.

 

I wake up before dawn, after just over four hours of sleep. I’m chilly and aching and lonely as I stretch and feel around for my bottle of water. I wonder blearily how Dean’s coped living most of his life on minimal sleep. In the short time that we’ve been sharing a bed, Dean’s told me - with his endearing shy smile that indicates he means more than he’s saying - that he’s been sleeping for longer than he used to, despite always falling asleep after me and getting up well before me.

 

Rolling my aching neck and shoulders, I open the door and shiver at the cool breeze that hits me. At least I’m more awake now. It’s time to get out of the Impala and hope that Hannah shows up before anyone else.

 

Clambering out and stretching in the cold air, I jump as my phone vibrates in my jeans pocket. I pull it out to see a text from Dean.

 

Mornin sunshine! Sorry if this wakes u up but u should b up early anyway to find this Hannah chick and get back here. Got a plan 2 stick 2. Hope ur all good.

 

I smile wearily as I type back. Obviously Dean has reverted back to his previous sleeping habits.

 

I just woke up. Good morning. She should be able to find me now, I’m waiting for her. I am still unharmed, if not very well rested.

 

How was sleeping in Baby? Ha ha a night with her’ll leave u sore…

 

I narrow my eyes. Dean has added a winking emoticon to his text, which is unusual for him and makes it clear that his comment is probably some form of euphemism or innuendo. I think about it for a moment and then chuckle as I understand the joke. Predictably, it’s sexual innuendo. I add a laughing emoticon to my response.

 

I have discovered that for myself, unfortunately.

 

Ha ha yep. Look I have 2 go, Sam wants 2 talk again now I’ve slept on it or whatever. Should b fun… good luck with Hannah and txt me later with an update. Stay alert xxx

 

My mouth twitches at the ‘x’ kisses. The dull ache to be back at the bunker intensifies raggedly and I heave a deep sigh, typing back sadly.

 

Alright. I’ll be back as soon as possible xxx

 

I gulp down some water, rub unhappily at my neck and watch the beginnings of sunrise light up Fort Collins below. It’s a pretty view, and I try to muster up some positivity as I ponder it. It might not take long for Hannah to find me at all, and I’ve already decided that once I’ve reunited with her I’m going to ward myself. It’s imperative that none of Bartholomew’s assassins, or any other angel or stranger at all, follow me back to the bunker. I need to get a tattoo to prevent that from happening.

 

I start to make a list in my mind of possible tattoo locations on my body. The first one that comes to mind is my chest, in the same place that Sam and Dean have their demon warding. I get slightly sidetracked thinking that Dean’s tattoo suits him and remembering the way he always huffs an odd, almost embarrassed laugh when I kiss him there. The embarrassment transfers to me as I contemplate getting a tattoo in a matching location to Dean. No, I won’t get it on my chest.

 

I look down at my arms. Arms are a common tattoo location. I could get the necessary Enochian script wrapping around my upper arm. But Enochian generally needs to be written on a flat surface to work at full capacity for warding; some of the symbols are too similar to each other and have to be very carefully shaped. My arm would be unwise.

 

I think of the flat stretches of flesh on my body. My torso would be best. I consider my back but dismiss it; I want to watch it being done to be sure that no mistakes are made.

 

Stomach and ribs are left, then. I decide quickly that a stomach tattoo would simply look strange, so ribs it is. I pause to wonder at my developing sense of vanity. Prior to falling, the aesthetics of a tattoo - of anything in the physical realm - wouldn’t have even occurred to me. Now, the thought of looking unattractive or foolish worries me, and not even entirely because of my relationship with Dean. I’ve changed through becoming human.

 

The thought comes to me that even if I do recover my grace, I might never be a true angel after this. I might always be caught halfway to humanity. I remember Anna’s sad eyes after becoming an angel again, and I shiver.

 

I’m startled out of my reverie by the sound of a car turning onto the gravel road leading to my little lookout carpark. Tensing, I pull my angel blade out from the back of my jeans once more. It’s a small car and the sun is reflecting on the windows in a way that makes it impossible to see inside. I imagine Bartholomew’s face through the glaring glass, although I know that he was always the sort to delegate tasks like killing. Raziel’s cold eyes flash in my mind and I start to sweat even in the cool air; what if the sigil didn’t send him as far as it should have? Even a small scratch or a hastily daubed sigil-

 

The car stops a dozen yards away, and Hannah climbs out.

 

“Hello, Castiel,” she says solemnly. I collapse sideways against the Impala in a rush of relief, weak with dissipating fear. Rolling to lean back, I tip my face towards the pale blue sky and thank my absent Father.

 

“Hello, Hannah,” I reply hoarsely, still staring upwards. I take a few deep breaths and then straighten up, stowing my blade back in my jeans. She hasn’t moved from standing in her open car door, her mildly puzzled expression half-obscured by her dark tresses wafting in the hilltop breeze.

 

“Weren’t you expecting me?” she asks slowly. I nod hastily.

 

“I was. I just wasn’t sure if you’d still come, or who else might show up first. But you’re here. Thank you.”

 

She nods in a way that would probably be accompanied by a shrug if she were a little more fluent in human body language. “I was confused by your disappearance all night, but I assumed you had found a way to ward yourself while you slept.”

 

“The car is warded. I think it would be a good idea for me to ward myself more permanently though. Before I take you back to where I live - where my friend needs your help - would it be alright if we stopped for me to get a warding tattoo?”

 

Hannah gives that disinterested nod again and I wonder if I was this distant when I first interacted with humans, with Dean and Sam and Bobby. No wonder they were wary around me. Laboriously, I open up the maps application on my phone. I used it to reach Fort Collins and I was hoping not to use it again despite its helpfulness, but it would be rude to lead Hannah in a meandering search for a tattoo parlour. Finding a place back down in the city, I wince as the strange robotic voice begins to direct me there. I ask Hannah to follow me and she gives me an enigmatic look as she slides back into her seat.

 

I dig a granola bar out from my bag before I settle into the driver’s seat and set off. I feel too anxious and elated and terrified to be hungry, but I’m aware that I need to eat to keep my energy levels up. My eyes keep flitting to Hannah’s - undoubtedly stolen using what Dean has referred to in the past as ‘Jedi powers’ - little car in the rear view mirror, both comforted and discomfited by her presence. I have no doubt that I’ve found the right angel to help Sam, but I already care about Hannah to some extent and I’m probably leading her into a fight. I dismiss the thought forcefully. Sam is in more danger than Hannah, and he has to come first.

 

Hannah is a clumsy driver, but she probably taught herself the skill very recently so I can’t judge her. It’s a sad reminder that all angels have lost the use of their wings, not just me.

 

We reach the little strip of shops containing my chosen tattoo parlour and park. I detain Hannah for probably too long in the parking lot, enlisting her second opinion as to what wording to use and how much it can be condensed and simplified whilst still being effective. After around fifteen minutes of discussion, we finalise the design and I stride almost excitedly to the tattoo shop door.

 

They’re closed. The sign says that they open at ten o’clock. I check my phone to see that it’s just past nine.

 

“Damn it,” I hiss, causing Hannah to shoot me a look that’s mingled amusement and reproach. I sigh, shaking my head. “I’m sorry. We’ll have to wait in the Impala. Is that OK?”

 

Hannah gives what is becoming a very familiar nod, calm and quiet, and turns on her heel to go to the Impala. I follow after her, but as I slide into the Impala Hannah reaches out to touch my knee, stilling me. I look at her, alert, to see her eyes wide and concerned.

 

“The reaper’s back,” she whispers through barely parted lips. “Other side of the shops but getting closer. Drive, Castiel, now!”

 

I scramble to start the engine and reverse out of the space, heart thumping. Speeding across the small but semi-crowded parking lot as safely as possible, I glance back just as we turn out of view to see the nose of a car cruising slowly around the corner of the furthest store. I release a shaky breath as we tear up the street and I take a series of random turns until, a few minutes later, Hannah lays a cool and gentle hand over mine on the wheel.

 

“I’m confident that she’s not following us.”

 

I give Hannah a look that I’m sure is wild-eyed and frightened. “I was only outside the car for fifteen minutes, Hannah!”

 

She grimaces. “Yes, the reaper must have been nearby. It’s lucky they’re so loud when they communicate using the telepathic network. They seem to have no concept of a private message. I hear them coming before they can sense me, but not long before. I-”

 

“Hannah,” I interrupt harshly. “I don’t wish to be rude, but please be quiet for a few minutes.”

 

She falls silent immediately and I’m grateful for the fact that most angels are not easily offended. My mind is racing as I drive until I merge into a main road heading south and I make a decision.

 

“Alright,” I begin, a little nervous. “What I propose is that we drive down to Denver, which is further than we need to go to be en route back to where my family live-”

 

I pause, catching my breath as I realise that I’ve referred to Dean, Sam and Kevin as my family without thinking about it. Another glance at Hannah shows her frowning at her knees as though troubled. I decide to keep talking.

 

“So that will already mislead Bartholomew. In Denver, we will go to a tattoo parlour and get me warded.”

 

“Bartholomew has angels looking for you in Denver too.”

 

“I know. But warding drawn onto me will work until the tattoo is complete. You can apply the warding to me with pen. It will protect me as the work is carried out and you can stay in the car outside, ready to intervene if you sense any angels. They aren’t looking for you, it’s me they’re sensing. But they won’t sense you anyway as long as you’re inside the Impala, and they will sense nothing of me if I’m warded.”

 

Hannah is looking at me now, but I keep my eyes on the road, feeling nervous. It’s not a bad plan, but strangely I want Hannah’s approval. Finally, she speaks.

 

“Alright. Do you have a pen? I don’t.”

 

I relax and smile, relieved. “Yes, I have a pen. When we locate a tattoo parlour in Denver we’ll park and you can draw the warding onto me according to the design we finalised back there.”

 

Hannah agrees quietly. I think idly of her little car back at the small shopping strip. I hope that she wasn’t very attached to it.

 

The rest of the drive to Denver is spent in companionable silence and I think, yet again, that I really do very much like Hannah.

Chapter Text

The needle hurts.

 

They warn me as soon as I lie down on the recliner in the tattoo parlour, but I’m still shocked by the first few jabs and then the building pain as it goes on. The tattooist glances at my face from time to time, dark eyes sceptical beneath arched pink eyebrows. She’s chewing gum and I try to focus on the sweet, cold scent of it instead of wincing and clenching my teeth and fists, but my eyes are stinging and my throat aches from holding back any sound.

 

I dare to glance down to see how much has been done. Only three and a half symbols have been inked onto my lower ribcage. I flop my head back with a low groan. The tattooist hums in a vaguely sympathetic way.

 

“Yeah, it’s not much fun gettin’ it put on. But man, this is gonna look awesome. These symbols are really different from stuff I’ve seen. You say you made this language up?”

 

I take a deep breath and try to keep my voice calm and relaxed instead of taut and pained when I reply. “Sort of. You could say that.”

 

“Huh,” she says, peering down her pierced nose as she moves onto another symbol, focused on her work. “So what does it say then?”

 

I panic, confused and distracted by my discomfort. I say the first thing on my mind, the first thing that is always on my mind. “Uh, Dean.”

 

She looks up at me. “Dean? This whole thing just says… Dean?”

 

Shit. I’m not a good liar when I’m in pain, as I’m discovering quickly. “No, I mean, it’s, uh… it’s about Dean. A man named Dean.”

 

A knowing look forms upon her elven features. “OK. So is this Dean family or is he special in another way?”

 

I can feel my face warming. Why did I even feel the need to lie? I could have spoken honestly and said that the tattoo is for protection. I’m too defensive and secretive about the angelic world, especially as it’s no longer my world. The tattooist has paused in her work, staring at me expectantly. I frantically try to recall her question, my ribs burning.

 

“Special. I mean, yes, he’s… Dean is special in every way.”

 

She smiles gently at me and then bends her head to her task once more, making me grunt with suppressed pain. “Well, you gotta tell me what it says now.”

 

Damn it. “Uh…”

 

“Jules, stop with the damn nosiness!” cuts in the man lounging at the cash register. I’d almost forgotten that he was there. He’s small and stocky with a beard and a lot of tattoos and he appears to run the shop with Jules, who’s tall and skinny with very few visible tattoos except a lot of inked rings and bracelets on her hands. I’m relieved at his interjection until Jules sticks out her tongue at him and looks back at me, undeterred.

 

“Come on, at least tell me about this Dean guy. Is he cute?”

 

I blink at her and nod slowly. My understanding of the word ‘cute’ is unclear but Dean fits all possible definitions. He is good-looking and he also has a number of endearing traits and habits, such as mumbling into my hair whilst asleep or looking disproportionately proud of himself for stealing food from my plate. Jules grins, winks and then goes back to work, finishing off another symbol with a flourish.

 

“Knew it. So you’re not with the chick out in that sweet ride then?”

 

I glance out the window at where Hannah is sitting motionless in the Impala across the street, staring straight ahead. I grimace through the pain of the needle and manage to choke out a response as Jules pauses again. “No. I’m romantically involved with Dean.”

 

Jules nods and the man at the cash register snorts.

 

“Big shocker,” he mutters. I screw my eyes up through another, longer round of jabbing and when I look down again through unshed tears, another symbol lies starkly black against my reddened skin. I’m breathing heavily and Jules tuts.

 

“You ain’t a natural with this, gotta say. This Dean better be worth it.”

 

“He is,” I reply automatically. I think for a moment before adding: “The sweet ride is actually his.”

 

Jules brightens. “Well, damn, he’s a keeper! That thing is hot.”

 

I nod seriously. “On warm days it can be. Dean says the air conditioning is ‘gentle’, but I think a more accurate term is ‘ineffective’.”

 

Jules stares at me for a moment before twisting to look at her colleague. They both burst out laughing simultaneously. Jules turns back to me, grinning widely.

 

“I like you, Jimmy. Alright, let’s get on with this…”

 

I startle at her use of the name I gave her, but then she’s resuming her work and I’m too caught up in stabbing pain to dwell on the original inhabitant of my body. The body I’m now permanently marking to cut myself off from my brethren, even more completely than I was cut off previously.

 

I clench my fists and hiss through my teeth, determined not to cry out or let tears fall until it’s over. I need to become accustomed to pain through human senses.

 

It feels like many hours later when Jules finally proclaims my tattoo complete. I examine the finished warding carefully and then, satisfied with the accuracy of the symbols, I listen carefully to the instructions for care and hygiene. Jules puts a dressing patch over it and is kind enough to wash the pen off of my back from where Hannah carefully drew the design onto me.

 

“Don’t know why you had to do a practice one on yourself anyway,” she mutters to herself. “Weird. OK, you’re all done, Jimmy! Thanks for coming in.”

 

“Thank you!” I say earnestly, pulling my shirt back on and wincing slightly as I stretch my tender flesh. I paid in advance so I make my way straight back to the car, gingerly and with clenched teeth. Hannah watches me impassively but as I reach the Impala, she suddenly opens her door and climbs gracefully out.

 

“You look like you’re in pain. I should drive.”

 

I pause, feeling reluctant to put Dean’s beloved Baby under control of an angel who almost merged into the side of another car twice whilst driving through Fort Collins. But I am in a lot of pain and I feel exhausted. I nod my thanks and drop the keys into her outstretched palm.

 

“Just drive very carefully,” I tell her as I dig some more painkillers out from the bag in the back seat. I swallow them down with some water and start eating another granola bar as I settle in the passenger seat, reclining it a little. Hannah is meticulous in checking her mirrors and over her shoulder as she pulls out of the space and I smile tiredly.

 

I’m asleep before we’re twenty miles out of Denver.

 

I awaken to Hannah’s fingers on my forehead, jolting upright and then crying out hoarsely as my new tattoo burns and flashes with pain. She recoils, eyes huge in the golden afternoon light.

 

“Castiel,” she says a little dubiously. I slump back and nod at her, heart racing. Being awoken by an angel is not pleasant or peaceful. “I’m sorry to wake you. We’ve just crossed the border into Kansas. I’m not sure where to go from here. Are you feeling well enough to resume driving?”

 

I twist slowly, wincing, to look behind us. Sure enough, the ‘Welcome to Colorado’ sign is barely fifteen feet to the rear of the Impala, which has been neatly pulled over to the side of the road. I turn back to Hannah.

 

“I can drive from here, yes. Thank you, Hannah.”

 

She inclines her head calmly. I get out of the car and stretch as carefully as possible. It’s only a superficial sort of pain. I’m already getting used to it. I pull my phone from my pocket and frown regretfully as I see a text from Dean, received over an hour previously.

 

Hey, all OK?

 

I hasten to reply, realising that I should be giving Dean enough warning to set everything up anyway. I hope the few hours it will take to reach Lebanon will be enough for him. I feel a strange mixture of excitement at reuniting safely with Dean and terror that our haphazard plan will go wrong.

 

Absolutely fine. We’ve just entered Kansas. Will you be ready for when we arrive?

 

His reply is swift, luckily.

 

U bet. Kevin’s in on it 2, told him this morning. Gonna double check the Enochian.

 

My brow furrows at this news. I don’t want Kevin to get hurt. His bitterness about the danger he’s in and the life he’s missing out on is still vivid in my mind.

 

That’s fine, but keep him away from the altercation. Kevin is not a trained fighter.

 

Yeah I know. When u get here, text me then wait a good 15 mins before u come in. Should defntly have Zeke trapped in the warding by then. C u soon!

 

I send back a text confirming my understanding as I walk back to the car from where I’ve wandered. Hannah is sitting like a mannequin in the passenger seat, steady blue gaze directed forward. I slide in behind the steering wheel and pull out, stepping firmly on the gas.

 

“Everything is looking ready,” I announce. I glance across to Hannah but she doesn’t respond, still staring ahead. She looks deep in thought. “Hannah?”

 

She startles and blinks at me. “Castiel. I’m sorry, my thoughts were occupied elsewhere.”

 

“That’s alright…” I say slowly. She looks away and I watch the road for a moment until my curiosity overcomes resistance. “What were you thinking about?”

 

Hannah doesn’t reply for so long that I’ve already sheepishly accepted her silence and resumed thinking about the plan when she next speaks. Her voice is quiet and hesitant, more human than she’s sounded before.

 

“I’m not sure if I should be asking you personal questions. You are my leader.”

 

I wince. “Hannah, I’m not-”

 

“Yes, you are,” she cuts across me sharply. “But you are also… different. Special.”

 

I glance at her in consternation, but she’s studying her knees, frowning. “How am I special?”

 

She gives me a withering look and I smile slightly, nodding. “Alright. Extraordinary things have happened to me, around me. I have been at the centre of world-changing events, but-”

 

“No. The things that you have seen and done are unimaginable. But I was speaking of you personally. You are unique. You are a miracle.”

 

I shift uncomfortably, hands beginning to sweat on the wheel. “I don’t… I don’t think that’s… Hannah, you barely know me.”

 

She sighs deeply. “I know that you were like this before you turned human. You rebelled against Heaven, you befriended humans, you became a legend. Now you are human, but your soul sings like grace. It is incandescent. You encompass both angel and human. You are something new, and I cannot speak for all angels but I think that you are the way forward. That is why you are my leader.”

 

I open and then close my mouth, stunned and speechless. Hannah is sitting up straight, eyes shining, passionate and convinced. Before I can attempt to form a response, though, she speaks again, sounding suddenly very unsure.

 

“I wish to ask you something irrelevant. I apologise if this is impolite. You can refuse to answer.”

 

I swallow. Hannah seemed so detached earlier, but she clearly feels strongly about this. About me. I have no idea how to respond to that. “Go on.”

 

“Alright. The human, Dean. Dean Winchester. You care for him. Is it… do you feel love for him? As humans do?”

 

I look at her again. She looks confused and frustrated, as though she’s trying to work out a flaw in logic. Dean said that she and I were alike; I’m beginning to see how right he was. I can feel an aching, sad fondness growing as I stare at Hannah.

 

“Yes,” I say gently. “I love Dean. I love Sam and Kevin too. But I love Dean in a more… profound way, and I felt this as an angel too. It’s thought that angels can’t really love. I don’t believe that. We love our Father, do we not? If we can feel that, we can feel other things too.”

 

Hannah shakes her head, eyes closing. “I don’t know. I don’t know what I can feel. It’s been difficult. Falling.”

 

I nod tiredly. “It is difficult. Emotions are very difficult.”

 

She’s silent for several seconds before speaking once more, voice very serious. “Perhaps angels follow an emotionless existence because it is easier. Because feeling nothing is more bearable than feeling everything. Perhaps we angels choose to stay focused and detached up in Heaven rather than entering into pain and chaos down here. Perhaps we are right to do so.”

 

I lean my head back against the seat, tired eyes fixed on the road stretching ahead of me. My tattoo throbs and my soul aches and for a moment, all the pain and guilt and confusion I’ve earned for myself since rebelling seems like countless claws in my skin, dragging me down. But then I think of Dean, the way he lights up a little when I tell him I love him, the way it seems to make more sense to him each time, the way saying it out loud feels like a triumph. I smile.

 

“Perhaps not,” I murmur.