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There’s a lot in life that Dean is unsure of, and always has been.

There’s the standard gambit of existential doubt, of course, on a personal level (Why did his mom have to die?  Why was he born an omega?) as well as a universal level (Why is the world such a terrible place? What made their dickhead of a God decide that the Winchesters should be responsible for keeping it spinning?), but there’s also the regular old, everyday uncertainties that weigh on him. The kind of things that normal people deal with.

For example: How does he keep his brother alive and happy? How does he keep the world from ending? How does he keep his feelings for his crush in check and under wraps?

Things like that.

But when he looks up and sees angels pouring out of the sky by the thousands… He’s suddenly unsure of some very different things, and the fear attached to his uncertainties becomes a hell of a lot stronger. Because as he props a broken, barely-conscious Sam up against the side of the Impala and struggles to keep himself breathing in the wake of it all, there’s only one thought on his mind, all-consuming in its intensity.

Where the hell is Cas?

He asks this question to the sky, and gets no answer.

He takes to praying as he loads his brother into the passenger seat of the car, both to Castiel, and every other entity with a degree of authority he can think to name.

The silence that answers his desperation is deafening.

 

x x x

 

A few days pass. A week, then two.

News of Heaven’s forced exodus reaches them, but for the most part, it doesn’t do more than graze them. They stay in the bunker, and as long as they’re there, rumors of angry angels remain just that—rumors. Inside the safety of their bubble, Sam slowly begins to heal, and as Dean fusses over him and nurses him back to health, life returns to normal. An altered sort of normal, sure, but normal nonetheless. And thankfully, Dean keeps busy enough with his brother that most of his other stresses can remain safely on the back-burner.

Well. All stresses except for the biggest one. But so long as he can ignore it while he’s dealing with Sam, he doesn’t mind confining his misery over his missing angel to the multitude of sleepless nights.

And then out of the blue, there’s a knock on the bunker’s door in the middle of one of those very same sleepless nights.

Even though they’ve been safe for two weeks, Dean knows better than to open a door without being prepared to face whatever may be waiting on the other side. He checks on Sam on his way down the hall—he’s still asleep and the damp rag draped across his forehead is still cool enough to be combating his fever, thank god—grabs a gun on his way through the library, and storms up to the front door.

There’s a growl ready on his lips as he pulls the heavy door open, and his gun is raised to chest-level. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but I can tell you that I am not in the mood for—”

He cuts off as soon as he processes what he’s seeing.

Who he’s seeing.

He barely manages to get his gun tucked away into his waistband before giving into the overwhelming urge to throw himself forward. “Cas.”

At first, the angel stiffens in Dean’s grasp. Hugs aren’t a degree of physical contact Dean has frequently allowed them, after all, so Dean shouldn’t be surprised. Once Cas gets the hang of it, though, he all but melts into Dean, and the two of them are left clinging to each other in the doorway.

Cas is dirty. His clothes aren’t his own. He’s spent the last two weeks somewhere (Dean can’t even begin to fathom where) and the issue with heaven that Dean has been so adamantly ignoring is suddenly being pushed into the foreground, but none of it matters in the slightest.

Because as Dean tucks his nose in against Cas’ neck, basking in the relief that is washing over them both, he’s hit with the overwhelming scents of safety and alpha and home.

And for the first time since they met, Dean doesn’t have it in himself to mind those observations.

Eventually, their hug has to end, and Dean draws away to give Cas space. He grips the angel’s shoulder to satisfy his need for some degree of contact, and gives him a watery smile. “I’m really glad to see you, Cas.”

Despite the exhaustion lining his face, Cas’ returning smile manages to be bright enough to warm Dean to his core.

Then Cas asks the most unexpected question Dean has ever heard.

“May I use the shower?”

 

x x x

 

As it turns out, angel is no longer an accurate descriptor.

Cas is nervous as he tells Dean what happened. He describes how things went with Naomi, how he eventually found her, Metatron’s betrayal at the center of it all. Dean can’t say he’s surprised to learn that Metatron turned out to be a dick, but regardless, he has plenty of sympathy for Cas’ situation. It’s not his fault that things ended up like they did. Not directly, at least.

But the loss of Cas’ grace certainly explains a few things. His need for a shower, for one, and also the slight change in his scent. Dean hadn’t noticed it while Cas was still covered in road grime, but it’s impossible to miss after he has showered and changed into (Dean’s, because there was nothing else on-hand) clean clothes; where he had previously smelled like ozone and fresh rainfall, Cas’ scent is now more earthy, like freshly-tilled dirt and thyme.

The alpha qualities to him are a bit more pronounced, too, shining through in his scent and even the way he carries himself more prominently than ever before. Now that he’s graceless, it’s as if his secondary gender is no longer being muted. It’s an odd change, and plucks at Dean’s senses in a new, weird way, but it also fits Cas remarkably well, so Dean doesn’t let himself overthink it.

The two of them sit in silence once Cas is done with his recounting, Dean picking at the damp label of a bottle of beer with his thumb nail while the new human opposite him fidgets with the final square of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that rests on his plate. It’s been squished beyond recognition, and there’s strawberry jelly staining Cas’ fingertips. He doesn’t seem to notice or care.

It’s so human.

Dean sighs. “I’ll make you up a bed,” he announces. He sees Cas’ head snap up, blue eyes locking onto him, but his soggy beer label is suddenly far too interesting to look up from. “It’s good you’re here. I could use the extra help with Sam.”

There’s another pause, this one more weighted than the last. Dean sees Cas wet his lips out of the corner of his eye. “Dean, without my grace, there isn’t much that I can…”

Dean scoffs before he can think better of it. “I don’t exactly have grace either, buddy, and it doesn’t stop me from helping, does it?” He finally glances up; he needs Cas to see how serious he is about this. “I’m not asking for mojo, Cas. I’ve been running myself ragged trying to keep this kid from dying on me, and I could use another set of hands. Being an angel isn’t what makes you family.”

Cas’ eyes go wide, suddenly making him look more like a kid than the millennia-old warrior of god that he is (was?). Dean, knowing exactly what it was that put so much surprise in his friend’s eyes, feels his heart fracture.

“That means more to me than you could ever know, Dean,” Cas says, except, Dean absolutely knows. If anything, it’s probably the reverse that isn’t true. After spending as much time as he has thinking Cas was gone for good, having him within reach is more of a relief than Dean would have thought possible.

But that’s not something he can say aloud, so he nods, downs the rest of his beer, and heads off down the hall to start setting Cas up a room.

 

x x x

 

It takes some time, but Cas gradually settles into being human.

All things considered, his adjustment actually goes better than Dean would have expected. He doesn’t always remember to eat when he needs to, and he frequently wanders the halls of the bunker instead of sleeping at night, but he never once seems upset about his new state-of-being, and Dean thinks that that may be what matters most. Cas has the capacity to be a whiny son of a bitch when he wants to be (Dean will never forget the time the angel went on a bender as a method of coping with his disappointment in God), yet he seems… okay with this.

He doesn’t complain about his sleepless nights, or about being stuck in the bunker with only Dean and an unconscious Sam, day in and day out. He doesn’t object when Dean forces him to sit down at the kitchen table and eat full meals, either, though he does sometimes grumble about having to eat more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

(That, though, is something that Dean eases Cas past by teaching him to cook; it turns out that he likes the simplicity of sandwiches because he understands them, so once he also learns the basics of more substantial foods, he takes to them eagerly. It’s kind of adorable, and Dean likes the sight of Cas working in the kitchen more than he cares to admit.)

Most importantly, Cas also doesn’t complain about having to help with Sam. His initial concern about not having his grace sticks, but as Dean shows him the basics of medical care in the human way, even that becomes less relevant. They trade off in rotating the cool rags on Sam’s forehead, and do what they can to force water and medication down his throat when he’s at his most cognizant. It’s not easy work, and it’s far from fun, but Dean is grateful not to have to do it alone.  

And eventually, their efforts pay off. After just over a week of bumping elbows with Cas in Sam’s room, Sam finally opens his eyes and actually sees. He makes an effort to struggle upwards—which Cas thankfully stops with a firm hand on his shoulder—and takes a deep breath in through his nose. “Dean?”

Dean sags with relief. “Sammy. You with us?”

Sam looks a bit dazed, but his eyes shift from Dean to Cas and back again, which is answer enough. “Are we—” His voice is rough from disuse, and he breaks into a coughing fit. Cas, still holding his shoulder, awkwardly rubs his hand in reassuring circles. When Sam recovers, he manages to ask, “What’s going on? What happened?”

“You’ve been sick,” Dean tells him. “You tried to close Hell, you remember that? That was almost a month ago.”

Sam sags back against the bed as he processes that. “Shit.”

“You should stay hydrated,” Cas cuts in. He takes the glass of water from the nightstand and raises it to Sam’s lips, helping him drink. “Your temperature hasn’t been quite as high today, I would imagine you’re going to need more medication now that you’re awake, as well. An online article I read about recovering from severe injuries and illnesses emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant with the recovery process even when you begin to feel better. The fact that you are conscious right now does not mean you are better.”

Sam doesn’t seem to know what to do with that information, but Dean raises an eyebrow. He has to fight the urge to smile. “You’ve been looking shit up on the internet? When the hell did you do that?”

Cas, at least, has the grace to look embarrassed. It clouds into his scent, making for the first time Dean has ever smelled the emotion on him. “I only sleep for a few hours each night, at most. I may have used your laptop a few times to keep myself occupied.”

That revelation sends a jolt through Dean. How the hell did he not notice Cas using his laptop? Which is kept in his room? Has he been coming in while Dean’s asleep to snag it, and also returning it? Or has he just been sitting in Dean’s room?

Dean has noticed the fact that Cas’ scent is everywhere now, constantly, but he didn’t think that was one of the reasons for it.

He shifts his weight from one foot to the other, fighting back the urge to fidget as he recalls angel Cas’ penchant to watch him sleep. But that’s surely not related to this. Right?

“You sleep?” Sam asks, sparing Dean from having to figure out an actual response to the subject of his borrowed laptop. Once Cas’ eyes are off of Dean, shifting back to Sam, it feels like an iron bar has released from around the omega’s chest.

Sam goes on, “I know you said it’s been a month, but… What the hell happened?”

This time when Cas tells his story, he seems far less awkward about it than he had the first time around. He keeps it succinct, too, giving Sam only the basic outline so that he understands, but Dean can still read his growing ease with his new reality, and it makes it easy for him to let go of his budding, laptop-induced paranoia.

Focus on the positive, Winchester.

Cas was betrayed by Metatron, and his grace was stolen so that Heaven could be closed. That isn’t positive, but Cas is also alive and safe, now that he’s in the bunker, and adding in the fact that Sam is finally awake and on the mend—what could be better? Who cares what Cas does in the night. He’s got his family around him, everything else is just details.

Sam accepts the news of Cas’ new humanity with a somber nod. “Well, if nothing else, I’m glad to have you with us, Cas,” he says. He looks ready to say more after that, but he’s hit by a coughing fit before he can manage it; Dean and Cas both jump forward at the same time in the hope of finding some way to help, but even through his coughing, Sam waves them off.

Once the coughing has passed, Sam slumps back down to his pillows, his muscles seemingly gone limp while his chest heaves in his struggle to regain his breath. Dean and Cas’ eyes meet for a fraction of a second; Cas looks vaguely scared, but Dean just clenches his jaw.

He blows out a sharp breath and glances back to his bed-ridden brother. “Try to get some more sleep, alright, Sammy? We’re not out of the woods yet, so there’s no use acting like it.” He steps around Cas, and picks through their at-home pharmacy (conveniently spread across Sam’s bedside table) until he has a small handful of pills. He grabs Sam’s hand and pours them into his palm. “Here. Iron supplement, vitamins, and NyQuil. Should be enough to keep you alive for a little while longer.”

Sam dumps the pills directly into his mouth, then grabs his water to wash them down. After, he closes his eyes and says on a sigh, “Thanks, Dean.”

Dean swallows thickly. “Don’t mention it. Cas and I will come back and check on you in a couple hours, okay?”

Sam nods, but otherwise doesn’t respond. Despite his words, Dean almost doesn’t want to leave; he’s tempted to just sit and watch, to count Sam’s breaths while he sleeps like he used to when they were young and had nothing but each other, but he knows there isn’t much to gain from that.

As if he knows what Dean is warring with, Cas presses his palm to the center of his back and guides him from the room. Dean, grateful to have the decision taken away from him, goes along easily. It’s better than the alternative. They don’t stop moving until they’re in the hall in front of Dean’s room. Cas’ hand slides up to Dean’s shoulder—on the opposite side of the imprint he left on Dean’s skin so long ago—and squeezes gently.

“I’ll make us dinner,” Cas says. Dean blinks, slow to comprehend the change of pace. The alpha’s fingers flex, warm through his t-shirt. “Sam is okay, and will continue to be. You should take a chance to rest. You’ve earned it.”

Dean’s answering sigh trails into a whine. He instantly resents the fact that it comes out and grinds his teeth against it, but once it’s happened, it’s happened. Cas practically radiates comfort and understanding, his grip is firm and reassuring, and just for a moment, Dean allows himself to think—

Yeah.

Maybe he has earned it.

Dean sways forward, barely enough to be noticeable, but of course Cas reacts anyway; the alpha shifts his stance ever so slightly, broadcasting his invitation, and Dean doesn’t have the strength to resist it. It’s just so easy to step forward and pull Cas into a hug, and the contact helps him to regain the sense of relief he had felt when Sam first woke up. It helps him to feel whole.

He doesn’t put his nose in Cas’ neck, but their proximity is such that he doesn’t need to. Cas’ scent is just as soothing as it had been when he first arrived, the last time they were this close to one another, but it’s so, so much better now that Cas is clean and untainted.

Or, well.

Untainted except for the fact that he also smells distinctly like Dean. Whether that’s from all the time he’s been spending in the bunker (and Dean’s room, apparently) or the fact that he’s wearing Dean’s clothes, Dean has no idea, but once he notices, the fact sticks in his mind.

Cas smells like him.

Dean instinctively loves it, and a bolt of possessiveness races through him, because damnit, it feels right.

But of course, as soon as Dean realizes what’s going through his head, he also realizes that it can’t continue. The hug ends just as quickly as it began, and Dean retreats toward his bedroom door. He meets Dean’s eyes for just an instant, and—do they look red around the edges, or is that just the lighting?

Dean clears his throat, resolutely ignoring the warmth in his cheeks. “Thanks, Cas. For everything. Just, uh—let me know if you need help with anything, alright? Otherwise, I’ll probably…”

Even without looking at him directly, Dean can see Cas’ smile. “Rest,” he reiterates. “I can handle this.”

Dean believes that.

He nods one more time, then goes into his room, and promptly falls face-first into his bed. He waits and listens for Cas’ footsteps to take him down the hall, and though it takes longer than he might have expected, it does happen. Once he’s gone, Dean’s shoulders sag.

He pushes his face into his pillow and tries to forget that the rest of the world exists.

 

x x x

 

Sam’s condition improves more quickly, after that. He doesn’t spend very much time awake, at first, and when he is awake he isn’t always fully aware of his surroundings, but he gets there, and that’s what’s important. He sits up to take his medicines, drinks water on his own, starts eating real food again. He also takes to chatting with Dean and Cas whenever one of them is in his room, catching up on all that he’s missed, and reacquainting himself with the world of the living. He gets better every time Dean sees him. It’s absolutely great.

But of course, as Sam steadily gets back to being himself, he also starts being himself, which means that he regains his uncanny ability to ruin every situation ever. How he always manages to figure out exactly which subject Dean wants to avoid most, Dean will never know, but god, does he hate it.

It happens on the first day Sam has the strength to leave his room. Dean was already sitting in the library with his laptop when his brother hobbled in, and though he was surprised to see him up and about, he didn’t bother to object. A change of scenery is probably good for him, as Dean figures.

The problem, then, comes when Cas enters the library a few moments later. He comes in with two mugs of coffee in-hand, and blinks at Sam in surprise. “Oh. Sam. I didn’t know you were up. I would have brought you a coffee. I can go get you some, if you’d like?”

Dean glances across the table in time to see his brother shake his head, the corner of his mouth turned up in a smile. “I’m okay, but thanks, Cas. I probably don’t need caffeine in my system right now.”

“If you’re sure,” Cas says, smiling in return. He approaches the table and takes the seat beside Dean’s, and passes over the second of his two mugs. Dean accepts it with a grunt of thanks; Sam watches them both, looking far too amused.

“Seems like you got used to being human pretty quickly,” he comments. Sam props his elbow on the edge of the table and rests his chin on his palm. “Cooking, drinking coffee, not just having everything done with a snap of your fingers. It’s kind of weird to see.”

Dean picks up his coffee, using the rim of the mug to hide his smile. It is weird to see, Sam isn’t wrong about that, but Dean is also becoming increasingly used to all that is human Cas. He’s always liked Cas—obviously, he earned himself the label of family for a reason—and there were plenty of benefits to his best friend’s angelic nature, sure, but this version of Cas is still the same Cas in all the ways that matter.

And that’s probably what Dean likes most about it.

Cas hums. “It has been a learning experience. Dean has been a great help to me, though. He is exceedingly patient.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Sam grins, eyes dancing between the two of them. “Pretty generous of him to lend you his wardrobe, too. I guess you like wearing his clothes?”

“Actually—”

Dean inhales a mouthful of coffee and promptly begins to choke. He coughs hard against it, his face going even redder than it would have anyway. Cas reaches out a hand to smooth across his shoulder blades, like that might somehow help his coughing, but that only makes Dean’s situation worse, so he swats him away.

When he finally recovers, he glares at his brother.

“We haven’t exactly had time to go shopping, Sam. We’ve kind of been busy keeping you alive, remember? And I wasn’t gonna let him wander around naked, or in the damn rags he showed up in. So he’ll get his own shit as soon as I trust you not to kick the bucket the second I let you out of my sight.”

Sam raises his hands in a show of innocence, although the smug son of a bitch still looks far too amused for Dean’s liking. If the alpha were in-reach, Dean wouldn’t hesitate to deck him.

“You can’t tell me you don’t know how it looks—”

Sam,” Cas says, sharp and chastising. “This is unnecessary. Dean has been doing far more for us both than you can possibly realize. He is the only reason either of us is alive right now. Don’t harass him for having such a caring soul.”

Dean shoves away from the table and stands, the sound of his chair scraping across the floor loud enough to make both Sam and Cas flinch in surprise. Dean doesn’t look at either alpha—he already didn’t want to be sitting around as target practice for Sam, but he’s definitely not going to stay here and listen to Cas say such sickeningly sweet things about him—and gives a quick, stumbling excuse as he scoops up his laptop and beelines for the hallway. “I gotta, uh—go. Do something else.”

Neither Sam nor Cas attempt to stop him. Dean is glad for it.

Maybe he’s being dramatic, maybe he’s drawing undue attention to his own reaction by letting there be a reaction in the first place, but once he’s in his room and the door has been shut and locked behind him, Dean can’t bring himself to care.

Sam knew exactly what he was doing when he brought up the matter of his and Cas’ currently-shared wardrobe, and he’s a dick for it, but Cas… Cas says kind things because he means them. No matter what he means, though, the image he has of Dean isn’t who Dean is. Dean doesn’t have a caring soul.

He’s just doing his best.

Plus, hearing Cas talk about him like that, and for the purpose of speaking up to defend him—it’s the kind of thing that makes Dean want more. More kind words, more having each other’s backs, more ease. And yet, even just thinking that makes Dean feel guilty, because what right does he have to want something like that from Cas? What right does he have to even pretend that they could ever be—

Dean switches on his stereo and then cranks up the volume for good measure, dissuading anyone from coming to his door. There’s no better do not disturb sign imaginable, and no better way to drown his own toxic thoughts. He drops onto his bed and lets the familiar notes of his favorite Zeppelin playlist wash over him. Each song bleeds right into the next, endlessly, making for one of the few instances when Dean is grateful to have an mp3 player at his disposal.

It’s only when a headache makes itself at home between his temples a couple hours later that he realizes he never drank the coffee Cas made him.

 

x x x

 

It’s nearly midnight when someone knocks on his door.

At first, Dean sees no reason to do anything but ignore it. No matter who’s standing in the hall—what is there to come of it? Maybe it’s Sam, and he apologizes for being such a menace? Or maybe it’s Cas, and he asks for an explanation of why Dean acted like he did. That would be even worse.

Dean had let his music fade out as night fell (partly to give the illusion that he went to sleep, and partly because even while sulking, he’s not such a dick as to keep blasting rock through the bunker’s halls all night), but now, he absolutely regrets that decision.

He waits, listens. For several long moments, the only sound is the distant rumble of the bunker’s air circulation system. Then, just when he thinks that his visitor has to be gone—

“Dean?” Cas knocks again, and Dean sighs heavily. “Are you still awake?”

No, he wants to say. And yet, against his better judgement, he goes to the door. The lighting in the hallway is far brighter than the single lamp currently illuminating Dean’s bedroom, which means that Dean ends up squinting against it, but he can still see the mild look of surprise that crosses Cas’ face.

The alpha wets his lips. “May I come in?”

Dean shifts to lean his shoulder against the doorframe, his arms folded across his chest and one of his feet planted behind the door, to keep it from opening more than the few inches he needs to look out. He glances down the hall over Cas’ shoulder. “How’s Sam?”

“He’s sleeping. He stayed up for most of the day, but then began complaining of a headache, so I gave him another dose of NyQuil and assorted vitamins. I would imagine that we won’t see him again until at least midday tomorrow.”

Dean nods as he takes that in. Only a one-person ambush, then. At least that’s something.

He still doesn’t give Cas an immediate answer, which prompts the alpha to nervously shuffle his feet. “Dean,” he says, even more softly than before, “please?”

Dean pushes away from the door frame and moves further into his room, leaving the door to drift open to admit Cas.  He hears Cas let out a breath of relief, and then the alpha is stepping after Dean into the room and closing the door behind him.

A silence settles over the dim room, taut, and stretching on for longer than Dean knows what to do with. He isn’t going to be the one to break, though; he leaves that to Cas.

And eventually, Cas gives in.

“You seemed distressed, earlier today,” he begins. “Are you alright?”

Dean barely resists the urge to scoff. “Fine.”

“You say that as if you’re not.”

“Oh, shut up.” Dean turns to Cas with a glare. “Don’t try to psychoanalyze me, man. I’m fine. Sam’s just a bitch sometimes, and I could really do without it. Now, if that’s all—”

“Does it bother you that I have been wearing your clothes?”

The interruption has Dean’s jaw snapping shut. His lips part a moment later, but when he realizes he doesn’t actually have an answer at the ready, he presses them back together.

Is it even possible to have a good answer to that question?

Dean looks at Cas—actually looks at him—and takes in every detail of his attire. 

Dean’s flannel. Dean’s undershirt. Dean’s jeans. Hell, even the no-longer-white socks that he’s wearing are Dean’s. Anyone who knows either of them would know that on sight, and anyone with a functioning nose would know that every article smells too much like omega to be normal.

Dean swallows hard against the lump rising in his throat and averts his gaze. 

“The sooner we can get you some clothes of your own, the better. That’s all.”

Cas hesitates for a brief moment. Then, “And why is that?”

This time, Dean does scoff. “Cas, come on. Don’t act like you can’t figure this one out.”

Cas sighs, and between one heartbeat and the next, relocates himself to be standing directly in front of Dean. It forces Dean to actually meet his eyes, and Dean, weak as he is, doesn’t try to turn away again. The push for a real answer is unspoken, but unavoidable.

Dean chooses his next words carefully. “It’s just… weird, for you to wear my clothes. It had to happen, obviously, because you didn’t have anything else, but generally speaking, it’s… it’s not something alphas do.”

Cas cocks his head to the side, brow pinching with confusion. “What is something alphas don’t do? Alphas should never have to wear clothes that are not their own, regardless of any circumstances?”

“No, Cas, that’s not—” Shit. Dean scrubs a palm across his face and tries again. “Alphas don’t wear omegas’ clothes, okay? And they don’t go around smelling like random omegas, either. That’s why Sam was being a jackass.”

Cas’ posture doesn’t change. “I don’t understand. I like having your scent with me. It’s very pleasant.”

Dean’s face heats, and his throat feels tight once again. “No,” he says, sharper than he intended, “you’re not hearing what I’m saying. It’s not what alphas do. And it’s the kind of thing that makes people assume shit, too. Shit that you don’t want people to be assuming.”

That, at least, finally gets Cas’ confusion to dissipate, if only so that surprise may take its place. His eyebrows rise toward his hairline. “I am an alpha and it is something that I am doing, so clearly, Dean, it is something that alphas do. And what is it that I wouldn’t want people to be assuming? That I prefer your scent to any other? Or that I care for you on a deeply emotional level? Even if someone might assume that we are in a relationship, that is not something I would actively seek to avoid for any reason.”

Dean blinks.

Cas continues to stare at him, unrelenting.

But he—What?

“What?”

The way Cas sighs reminds Dean far too much of an exasperated school teacher—like this is something that should be simple, if only Dean had the awareness to grasp it. “I know you tell yourself that you are not deserving of love, yet I always hope that you will realize that isn’t true.”

Dean’s face flushes. “Cas, I don’t—”

Cas gives him a sharp look, and Dean’s denial dies on his tongue. He waits a moment, ensuring that Dean isn’t going to interrupt him again before going on.

“I had also hoped that wearing your scent would help you to be more aware of how open I am to the concept, but I see now that the method was not blunt enough. I’ve spent a lot of time researching how to show someone that you’re interested in them, but apparently Cosmopolitan-dot-com did not account for the target of one’s affections being as stubborn as you are.”

Dean just about chokes on his tongue, and god, he’s getting real tired of being surprised by everything that comes out of Cas’ mouth. But the angel who pulled him out of hell has been reading Cosmopolitan? When has he even—

The laptop.

Everything clicks into place so easily.

Jesus Christ, how is this what Dean’s life has come to.

“So you—you mean all that? You really…” He lets the sentence get away from him, unsure of how to finish it. Despite the turn this conversation has taken, despite the importance of what they’re establishing, he can’t just say it.

Thankfully, Cas doesn’t prolong his suffering. “Yes, Dean. Is there another way you wish for me to say it?”

Dean steels himself, puffing up his chest with every bit of resolve he can muster. He takes a cautious step forward, closing the already-limited distance between them. “So what you’re saying is… If I were to…”

Cas doesn’t move, doesn’t answer. Dean grabs the loose material of his open flannel to steady himself, and still very nearly changes his mind—damnit, he has reasons to not do this, plenty of them, reasons that he’s spent countless nights reciting to himself and then drunk far too much whiskey to suppress—but while Cas is looking at him like he is, so open and willing, it’s so damn hard to convince himself to resist.

So he doesn’t.

Dean leans in, and when his lips meet Cas’, everything about it feels right. Cas’ lips are soft and warm, plush beneath Dean’s own, and it’s so much better than Dean ever could have dreamed it would be—which is saying something, considering how many times he’s literally dreamed about it over the years.

God, he’s so pathetic.

When they part, Cas chases after him to press their foreheads together, the alpha’s grin brightening every line of his face. “I knew I could get you to act on your feelings. You certainly made it a trial for me, though, didn’t you?”

“My—?” Dean blinks, a bolt of inane panic bolting through him. He sways back from Cas, but only just enough to be able to see him more easily; he doesn’t dare give up the warmth he can feel radiating from the alpha’s body. “How the hell could you know I had feelings for you?”

Again, Cas’ expression says that the answer should be obvious. Dean is halfway tempted to be annoyed, but the way that Cas scratches his fingers through the short hair at the back of Dean’s neck makes the omega melt far too much to bother.

“I know you know how to pray to me,” Cas says—Dean bites his tongue to keep from correcting that he knew how to pray to him, past tense. “But what you might not know is that the process is simpler than you think. It’s… rather easy to do.”

“What are you saying?”

Cas chuckles. “I’m saying that I’ve known, Dean. Any time you have ever longed for me, I could feel it.”

Dean blanches. “Any time? As in…”

Though his confidence doesn’t waver, Cas turns sheepish. “Yes, any time. I only answered the summons a handful of times while you were in a, ah… compromising position, and I quickly left again, I promise. It was not my intention to interfere with your privacy.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Dean tugs on Cas’ shirt and then drops his forehead to the alpha’s shoulder in a vain attempt to hide his mortification. He thought he was doing so well, too. All the time he’s spent thinking his dumb crush has been under control, and Cas was two steps ahead of him for all of it. Betrayed by his own mind.

And he doesn’t even want to think about what ‘compromising positions’ Cas has possibly caught him in. There’s no way it hasn’t happened while he was in heat, right?

Fuck his life.

A low, purr-like hum rumbles through Cas’ chest in answer (and it may or may not be one of the best sounds Dean has ever heard in his life, but that’s beside the point). “If it helps, my own affections for you were not influenced by your prayers, intentional or otherwise. I began to care for you for my own reasons. The goodness of your heart, the brightness of your soul, your resilience in keeping the world safe from danger. I love everything about you, Dean Winchester, and I always will.”

He hooks a knuckle beneath Dean’s chin and gently guides his face back upward, giving Dean a clear look at his returning grin, and the way his blue eyes look nearly molten in the lamplight. “But of course, knowing that you wanted me helped tremendously. Thank you for helping us to get here as quickly as we did.”

“Alright, alright, just—” Dean pushes his palms against Cas’ chest, grounding himself. There’s a lot to it—for god’s sake, Cas said the L word—and Dean isn’t even remotely sure of what to do with it all, so he does what he does best and improvises. He pushes on Cas again, but this time to move him toward the bed. “Don’t give me hell for this, and I won’t give you hell for scheming. Now, it’s late and I’m tired, so get in the damn bed, will you?”

Cas seems to be surprised by the demand, but the emotion only lasts for a brief moment before he hurries to comply. He keeps a hold on Dean, clearly not willing to let him go now that he has him, and backs up until they tumble together onto the mattress. Cas, natural gentleman that he is, positions them so that they’re side-by-side instead of on top of each other; Dean appreciates it, but it’s also not really what he wants, so he’s quick to tuck himself up into Cas’ side and tangle their legs together.

Cas—bless his heart—merely wraps an arm around Dean’s shoulders in response and tucks his nose into his hair. They fit together easily, like they were made to, and that makes it oh-so-easy for Dean to turn into a puddle of content omega.

There’s still a hell of a lot for them to talk through and figure out, especially concerning where they might now be standing relationship-wise, but at the moment, that’s the least of Dean’s concerns. Once they’re on the bed, Cas doesn’t try to ease them back into any more conversation, and Dean, more than happy to follow that lead, simply turns his nose into Cas’ neck and closes his eyes.

All the time he’s spent wishing he could have Cas, all the time thinking he couldn’t—this is without a doubt the best way all of that misery could have been resolved. This makes it worth it.

After having spent the last several hours sulking to himself, though (and not to mention all of the effort he has put into Sam lately), curling up with Cas soothes Dean in more ways than he realized he needed. Drifting off is easy. Natural.

Before he gives in completely, Dean shifts just enough to glance up at Cas, blinking heavy eyelids. “Will you be here in the morning?”

It’s a soft question, but an important one. Dean assumes that the meaning behind it is implicit.

Is this real? Is it going to hold, or am I dreaming?

Cas cards gentle fingers through his hair and assures, “I’ll be here. You can sleep.”

Dean believes it. He falls asleep easily, and beneath him, he can feel Cas doing the same. When Dean wakes up next, some number of hours later, they’re pressed even closer than they were before, and Cas is sound asleep. Dean watches him for a few moments, tired and content, then curls back into the space he had previously occupied against Cas’ upper body. It’s remarkably easy to do, and as Dean starts to drift again, he realizes that it feels like a conclusion they were always meant to reach.

It feels like home.