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Resisting Mr. Milton

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Winchester Manor, Winchester

April 1810

 

“Dean Michael Winchester!”

Only the thunderous voice of his grandfather Henry bellowing his name could make him so clumsy as to trip and fall on his backside.

He scrambled to stand up and look Henry in the face. “Take it like a man, Dean,” he muttered to himself as the new stable boy Aaron tried to hide behind Dean’s favourite horse, Baby, cringing away from the angry man advancing towards them.

“I did not do anything.” With Henry, it was best to be preemptive. He had the bad habit of firing people for the smallest infraction. It was already hard to pay people as it was since they could not pay them a competitive price. Most people went to the manors that paid them better than the Winchesters.

Maybe if he took the blame, Aaron would still have a job when this was over.

“What was that?” Henry bellowed into his face, chest heaving with the unaccustomed exertion of almost running towards them. Gentlemen, according to Henry, did not run. They walked in mincing steps that looked more like the rooster stepping in their hen house.

His younger brother, Sammy, and he had spent many an evening making fun of the way Henry walked. Hard to take a mincing dandy seriously. Even more hilarious was the fact that Henry was dressed at the height of fashion and mincing through a rough and tumble stable.

Henry thought stables and barns were beneath him and so, he rarely came out here. That did not mean he did not, on occasion, burden them with his presence.

“I did not do anything.” Dean repeated, hoping in vain that Henry would leave this alone.

“That…that…” Henry lost the thread of his anger. He stiffened, turned redder and shook a finger in Dean’s face. “The point is, you should not kiss boys!”

Dean shrugged. It did not matter to him if the person he kissed was a boy or a girl. He mostly stuck to maids after the first lad he approached nearly had an apoplexy when Dean tried to kiss him. Thank goodness Aaron had more backbone than that.

“Do not shrug, young man.” Henry admonished. According to Henry, gentlemen did not shrug. “And meet me in the study after you have cleaned up. This is a conversation we need to have in private.” And after giving him a significant look, Henry minced angrily out of the stable and back towards the house.

Dean suddenly realized that Henry had nearly shouted at him in front of not only Aaron but also their stable master and coachman Bobby, and Sammy. The latter two had not been in the stables a few minutes ago when Dean checked to make sure that he and Aaron would be alone for their tryst. Gentlemen, according to Henry, did not shout.

Bobby was more than their manservant. Bobby was the father neither John nor Henry had wanted to be. Dean was fine with discussing this in front of Bobby and Sammy. They knew his inclinations. They were probably the only two people in this whole place who knew him, the real him.

Dean nodded at Bobby and Sammy before he followed his grandfather. At the back of the house, he made a beeline for the kitchen to beg for some hot water from their head housekeeper, Mrs. Ellen Harvelle.

“What was Henry bellowing about?”

Dean gave her a sheepish smile. She and Missouri Moseley, the cook, had taken over the mantel of their mother after Mary died in a fire when Sammy was only six months old.

“He caught me kissing Aaron in the stable.”

“Why was he even in the stable?”

“I do not know. However, I am headed to his study as soon as I get cleaned up.”

Ellen pointed to a pail and a large cauldron sitting in the huge hearth that was Missouri’s domain. Used to Ellen’s ways, Dean did not take offense. Ellen, Missouri and Bobby continued to stay with them even as the house deteriorated and Henry wasted all the income from the land on new coats and horses Winchester Manor could barely afford.

Bobby, a man of few words, made their decision clear when he said, “Wouldn’t want to abandon Lady Mary’s sons.” And that had been the end of that discussion.

Ellen, Missouri and Bobby stayed for him and Sammy, and Dean was so grateful, he could not say it in words.

And so he said it with his actions.

He grabbed the pail, poured some hot water in it from the cauldron, carried it carefully up the servant’s stairs and to his room.

Gentlemen, according to Henry, did not do servants’ jobs. But with no servants in the house other than Bobby, Ellen and Missouri, who were run off their feet trying to cater to Henry’s every whim, Sam and Dean did for themselves as much as they could.

After he washed, he tied the laces on the clean shirt he pulled on. Bobby came into the room, helped him into his coat and made sure his cravat was tied right.

After passing muster, Dean descended to the lower level to Henry’s study. It did not show the wear and tear the other rooms in the house did. Henry’s study and rooms were updated nearly every year, regardless of the state of their finances. The rest of the house looked quite threadbare compared to Henry’s study.

“Come in,” Henry said, when he knocked on the door. He cautiously opened the door and peeked into the room.

Henry was alone, seated in his ornate chair near the window.

The huge desk where Dean did most of the manor’s business was cleaned off as he usually did when he was done with the daily accounting. He still needed to do today’s accounting.

“Read the letter on the blotter.”

There was a single sheet of paper on the blotter. Dean picked it up. This was a good weight paper and thus, from someone plump in the pocket.

“Read it out loud.”

“Dear Mr. Winchester, --”

“No, no. The last paragraph.”

“If you are amenable to the conditions detailed in the contract, it would be our honor to host your grandson for a month before the wedding. Wedding? What wedding?”

“I have been communicating with the merchant Zachariah Milton and his son, Castiel Milton. The older Mr. Milton is quite taken with your prospects and has finally sent a marriage contract.”

Dean looked up at his grandfather, shocked. “A marriage contract?” He parroted weakly. Dean knew he had to make an advantageous marriage. But to not even have given him an inkling of what was going on? Was typical Henry, now that he thought about it.

“Yes, a marriage contract. With Mr. Zachariah Milton no less.” Henry crowed. Henry had always had delusions of his own grandeur. And with the connection with the older Mr. Milton all kinds of doors to all kinds of places would open up to him. Dean just wished it had not come at the price of his own life.

“A wife will be just the thing to keep you from your …” Henry sputtered.

“My what?” This was about him kissing Aaron? He only kissed him the one time. Why was that important?

“From your deviant inclinations!” Henry stomped over to Dean. “Do you know what the penalty is, Dean, for deviancy? Death!” He jabbed Dean in the chest with his forefinger. “Do you want to die, Dean? Do you? Because all I have to do is report the incident I saw to the constable at Winchester and that would be the end of you.”

Yes. Dean knew the penalty for his inclinations. ‘Twas why he was so careful.

And yet, he could not let Henry report him to the constable. Henry would too. If he thought it would get him something he wanted, Henry would cut his nose off to spite his face.

If Henry reported him, and if the constable took Henry seriously, Dean would be a dead man.

And he could not do that to Sammy. He could not abandon Sammy like their father, John, had.

Sammy had known neither a mother nor a father. He had only known Dean, Bobby, Ellen, and Missouri who had banded together to raise the poor baby after their mother had died. Their father drowned his sorrows in drink after the death of his wife, who, he proclaimed on more than one occasion to be the love of his life.

Sammy turned out to be a well-adjusted young man, despite their father and grandfather. He wanted to read Law at Cambridge. And he was courting a girl from Winchester, one Jessica Moore.

If Henry reported Dean, and the constable came for Dean, Sammy would not only be unable to read Law, the Moore’s would not allow him to court Jessica due to the scandal that would surely follow Dean’s arrest.

That more than anything made his mind up. He would die for Sammy, if necessary. How hard would it be to live for him?

“I will do it.” He said, mouth firm as he straightened his posture until he was completely stiff.

Chapter Text

“Whoa!” Dean Winchester pulled back on the reins gently and dismounted when he arrived at the Milton's London house on the first Thursday of May. The skinnier of the two stoic footmen at the front door walked down the stairs and took the reins from Dean’s hands.

“Her name is Baby,” Dean said, “She has been a good girl. Will you make sure she gets an extra helping and a good rub down, please?”

“Aye, sir.” The footman began to move off to the side of the house.

“Dean.”

“Sir?”

“When we are alone, call me Dean.” Dean pulled out all the stops to make his command sting less. From the expression on the skinny footman’s face, he only confused the poor man. “What is your name?”

“Tom, S…Dean.”

Dean beamed at the man for allowing him to get his way. “Thank you, Tom.”

Tom nodded at Dean, then continued on his way to the stables at the back of the house.

“Right.” Dean muttered to himself, tugged at the lapels of his single-caped riding coat, then walked up the front stairs.

The remaining footman, bulkier than the first but just as stoic, opened the door for him. Before he stepped into the house Dean turned to him, and asked, “And what is your name, my good man?”

Icy blue eyes focused on him in a confused stare. “Tom, Sir.”

Dean nearly laughed out loud but stopped himself by biting down on his lower lip hard. “Call me Dean,” he offered. “Any relation to Tom there?” pointing in the direction the other footman named Tom had gone.

“No, S…Dean.”

Dean beamed at the man, receiving an even more perplexed look in return.

The footman followed him into the house and tugged at a bell pull.

“May I take your coat and gloves, S…Dean?”

Dean took off his hat, gloves, and coat, then handed them to the waiting footman.

“Your card, Dean?”

Another footman was coming towards them, probably to take the place of the ones who had left to take care of him and Baby. Dean pulled out his card case and handed one to Tom Too. Tom Too handed his card to the new footman who pivoted smartly on the heels of his polished boots and headed into the bowels of the house.

“Will you please follow me, Dean? Mr. Milton has asked that you rest in your room. I could have someone bring you some hot water and a repast to tide you over until dinner.” Tom Too walked up the stairs and turned left, Dean’s coat hanging off his left arm.

Curbing the desire to watch the footman’s backside, Dean distracted himself instead by taking in the elaborate furnishings and the elegant appointments of the house. After all, this beautiful abode was going to be his home for the next month.

Tom Too was not negligent in his duty as tour guide. As they moved through the second story, he pointed out doors and mentioned who was staying where.

“This will be your room for now, Dean.” Tom Too opened one of the elaborate doors and motioned Dean in.

Dean stepped in and walked a few paces before coming to a complete stop. So, this was what it meant to be plump in the pocket.

The sitting room had a fire merrily burning in the fireplace even though it was the middle of the afternoon. Two wing-back chairs embroidered in burgundy and hunter green sat facing the fireplace, a small table placed between them. The wallpaper had the same burgundy and hunter green colors as the chairs.

“The privy is through the bedroom, Dean.”

Distracted by Tom Too’s statement, Dean followed him into the bedroom. The burgundy and hunter green colors of his sitting room were prominent in here as well. The four poster bed was huge and when Dean flopped onto the mattress, he nearly sank to the bottom of the heavenly softness.

“I am never going to leave this bed.”

He heard something that sounded very much like a snort from the direction Tom Too had gone.

Dean reluctantly exited the bed and followed Tom Too into what had to be the largest privy in the known world.

Tom Too was pouring water into a large bowl. “Will you require the services of a valet, Dean?”

Dean began to shake his head, “No.” He would be son-in-law to a rich merchant and he would need to dress to certain standards. A valet would know how to dress him and take care of his things. A valet would be a very helpful thing indeed. “Maybe. What time is dinner?”

“Mr. Milton likes to have dinner at five sharp.”

“Would you have the valet come at three?” That would give him time to talk to the valet and figure out what all needed to be done before he met with his father-in-law.

“Yes, Dean.

Someone was knocking at the door to his rooms. Tom Too left the privy with a soft, “Excuse me, S…Dean.” to see to the new servant. Curious, Dean followed him.

Tom Too ushered in a footman bearing a silver tray. The last time he ate something was at noon and that too only half an apple as he had not the heart to say no to Baby when she softly snorted to him.

The new footman put the tray down on the small table between the two wing-back chairs in front of the fireplace.

“Thank you.” Dean said. “I am famished. What is your name?”

The new footman looked at Tom Too, who gave him an imperceptible nod.

“Tom, Sir.”

Dean laughed and laughed until tears were streaming down his face and he had to bend over, hands braced on his knees just to keep his balance.

“Dean. When it is just us, you may call me Dean.” The new footman gave a short bow but did not say anything else.

Tom Too ushered the footman out. Dean seated himself on one of the wing-back chairs and explored the tray of food. A platter of sliced roast beef, cheese, bread and apples slices shared the space with a bowl of almost hot soup.

Dean tucked in while Tom Too worked in the privy and bedroom.

Tom Too returned in a few minutes. “I have laid out a night shirt on the bed. And some linens in the washroom. If you would like to wash after you eat, I can help you with undressing.”

Dean had not had any help with undressing since he was four and his mother…To distract himself from the sad thought Dean motioned to the other wing-back chair. “Tom, will you sit?”

Tom stood to attention next to the chair but did not take it.

“Right. Probably some kind of protocol? Sorry. I will learn. I promise.”

Tom gave him a nod, signaling him to go on.

“Why are all the footmen called Tom?”

“’Tis the dowager Mrs. Milton, Dean. She forgets names now and to make it easier on her we all just tell her our name is Tom.”

Dean nodded. Kind servants. That would make his new life much easier. Horror stories about London servants was a staple of country on dits. “And me? You are all just messing with me, are you not?”

Tom just smiled and shrugged.

“So, what is your real name?”

“Benjamin Lafitte. But you may call me Benny.”

Dean laughed. “Nice to meet you, Benny.”

“If that is all, Dean, I will see you at three.”

“Why?”

“I also act as the valet to any guests,” Benny clarified.

“Very well.”

After Benny bowed and took his leave, Dean dedicated himself to his repast.

***

Dean followed Benny through the hallways and down the staircase to the sitting room where he would meet the family before dinner.

Benny stopped at yet another ornate door and glanced at him. Dean nervously wiped his hands on the superfine of his best breeches and nodded.

Benny opened the door and the murmuring inside abruptly stopped.

“Mr. Dean Winchester,” Benny announced to the room at large.

Dean strode into the room doing his best to project confidence and heard the small snick of sound that told him that Benny had closed the door behind him.

Dean smiled at the unsmiling man with hair graying at his temples standing at the mantle to his right.

“Welcome to our home, Mr. Winchester.”

So that is how it was going to be. Very well, he could do formal as well.

“Thank you for having me, Mr. Milton.” Dean followed that up with his deepest bow.

Mr. Milton gestured to the man at the window dressed elegantly in blue and silver, and said, “My son and heir, Castiel.”

Dean turned to bow to the merchant’s son and nearly swallowed his tongue. The light streaming through the window created a halo effect for a moment, dazzling Dean. Or maybe it was the bluest eyes he had ever seen. Whatever it was, he was having a hard time disconnecting from those eyes.

A small cough from one of the other occupants of the room made Dean realize he had forgotten to acknowledge the other man. “Mr. Milton,” he said, and gave the man a slightly shallower bow than he had his father. Dean would probably end up dealing with this man for much longer than he would the elder Mr. Milton and he did not want to start off on the wrong foot.

The younger Mr. Milton simply nodded to Dean but thankfully turned back to look out the window, releasing Dean from his magnetic gaze.

“My daughter-in-law, Charlotte.”

One of the two redheads on the sofa stood up and gave him an elegant curtsy and a bright smile. “Mr. Winchester, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Still in a daze from the eye contact with the younger Milton, it took a moment for the fact that this was Milton’s wife to sink into his befuddled mind.

Right. He needed to be careful about his inclinations.

In a society that placed emphasis on marriage, he could not let it be known that he found members of both the sexes appealing. His grandfather made it quite clear that he could do what he wanted with regards to lovers as long as he was discrete about it after the wedding. If the older Mr. Milton found out, this marriage could be jeopardized and that would simply not do.

Sam was in love with a girl in Winchester but her father was quite against the match. Sam’s happiness depended on the older Mr. Milton being satisfied with Dean. And so Dean would do everything in his power to make sure this wedding went through. Even ignore blue-eyed, breathtaking, beautiful brothers-in-law.

“Mrs. Milton.” Dean bowed to Mrs. Milton and gave her his best “I am completely harmless and adorable” smile that made young girls and older matrons alike swoon in Winchester.

He got a delighted laugh from her for his efforts.

“My daughter, Anna.”

Anna, the other red-head on the sofa, stood up and gave him an elegant curtsy but remained stoic, just the edges of her lips turning up in a slight smile. She had the same blue eyes as her brother but hers did not ensnare him.

Dean bowed and gave her another non-threatening smile.

“My daughter, Hael.”

Curtsy. Bow and non-threatening smile.

“My daughter, Isabel.”

Curtsy. Bow and non-threatening smile.

Once he was done with the introductions, the older Mr. Milton lost interest in him.

Mrs. Milton cleared her throat, and indicating the chair nearest her, said, “Will you tell us about your journey to London?”

After all the ladies sat back down, he took the chair she had indicated and smiled at Mrs. Milton to show his gratitude for making him feel so welcome. He then proceeded to regale them with a hilarious story about Baby and a stable boy at the inn they stopped at last night.

He did not hear anything from the two gentlemen, until Tom the butler arrived to announce in sepulchral tones that dinner was served.

The older Mr. Milton immediately walked across the room and held out his arm to Mrs. Milton, who with a mischievous smile at Dean, took it. “Anna, you may walk with Mr. Winchester,” he said, before leading the way out of the room.

The younger Mr. Milton held out his arms for his sisters and followed the older Mr. Milton.

“Miss Milton.” Dean offered his arm to Anna and they followed after the younger Mr. Milton. Probably not the best idea for his newly formed decision to ignore his brother-in-law. Just how much of Castiel’s form was padding and how much was real? Because that was one fine specimen.

***

Dean was almost used to the opulence of the house by now but somehow the dining room made the rest of the house look like a hovel. Just like the other rooms he had seen so far, the dining room was elegantly appointed. However, twice as much silver and gold as the other rooms combined was on display.

The older Mr. Milton was helped to his seat at the head of the exceedingly long and elaborately appointed table. Mrs. Milton and Miss Milton were seated to his right and left respectively. The younger Mr. Milton settled next to Mrs. Milton and so Dean assumed he would sit next to Miss Milton. One of the sisters settled next to the younger Mr. Milton and the other settled next to Dean.

The footmen, except for Tom the butler, all silently left the room through one of the doors that probably led to the kitchens.

The older Mr. Milton bowed his head and noting the bowed heads at the table, except for the younger Mr. Milton’s, Dean bowed his head as the older Mr. Milton began to say Grace.

After the older Mr. Milton was done, the ladies continued with the conversation the walk to the dining room had interrupted. Both the Misters Milton ignored them and Dean through five courses.

The younger Mr. Milton was gorgeous. This close, and without the glare from the windows to blind him, Dean could see soft, plush looking lips, their softness emphasized by the angular jut of his jaw. Dean could not wait to kiss that jaw, to feel the stubble against his own cheeks, to kiss those lips and test their softness for himself.

Dean dropped his eyes to his dinner. He did not need this kind of distraction.

What he needed to do was to focus on the woman at his elbow who was going to be his wife, not her brother’s physical attributes.

As the dinner drew to a close, the older Mr. Milton said, “Anna, the wedding will be on the third of June.”

“But, Father -”

“I am not done.” The older Mr. Milton reprimanded Miss Milton who ducked her head, embarrassed. “The banns will be read in our church for the next three Sundays.”

“Mr. Winchester, the tailors will be here at nine sharp tomorrow. They know what you need.” Dean nodded his head to indicate that he understood.

“Metatron, you will help Mr. Winchester find a valet among the footmen.” Tom the butler, who was apparently unfortunately named Metatron, bowed in the older Mr. Milton’s direction.

After Benny helped him dress for dinner, Dean decided that he would ask Benny to be his valet for his time here. Benny had a calm and steady demeanor that Dean appreciated.

The younger Mr. Milton rose from his seat. “If you will excuse me, Ladies.”

“Sit down, Castiel. I am not done.” The older Mr. Milton said in a thunderous voice.

“I am sorry, Father.” The younger Mr. Milton made a show of looking at his fob watch. “I am late for my appointment.” He nodded in the older Mr. Milton’s direction, then pushed off the table and headed to the door.

The older Mr. Milton’s “Come back here, Castiel,” did not slow his steady pace one bit.

Silence reigned for a while after the dining room door clicked shut as they focused on their dinners and not on the older Mr. Milton who looked angry enough to throw his dinner plate across the room.

The older Mr. Milton finally turned to Mrs. Milton, and said, “Charlotte, Mr. Winchester and I will take our port in the library.”

Mrs. Milton and the girls stood up, and so did Dean and Mr. Milton. After the ladies left the dining room, Dean followed Mr. Milton as he lead the way to the library.

The library was as elegantly appointed as the other rooms he had seen so far. Sammy would love the enormous space with books in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Here too was a fire lit and in front of the fireplace, two wing-back chairs that matched the gold, white and burgundy colors of the library wallpaper. Similar to his temporary sitting room, there was a small table between the two chairs.

Mr. Milton gestured to the chairs while he headed to an elaborate sideboard.

“What would you like to drink, Mr. Winchester?”

Dean would like a beer but the fancy cut glass decanters on the side board did not look like they contained anything as common as beer. “Whiskey, please, Mr. Milton.”

For the first time Mr. Milton gave him a small smile. “Whiskey it is.” He poured some into two cut glass tumblers, handed one to Dean, then settled into the other chair with the second.

Mr. Milton took a sip and savored it.

Dean copied his gesture.

“Your family will be here for the wedding?”

“Yes, sir. They will arrive a week before the wedding.” Why was Mr. Milton asking him? Had he not negotiated the marriage contract with Henry?

“Tell me about your younger brother. Samuel, is it?”

“Yes, sir. Sam is sixteen and would like to marry a girl from Winchester. He would also like to read Law at Cambridge.”

Mr. Milton nodded but did not continue with the questioning.

Suddenly Dean yawned, the filling dinner and the whiskey conspired with his tired body. “My apologies, Mr. Milton.”

Mr. Milton looked closely at him.

“You are dead on your feet, Mr. Winchester. Go to bed.”

Dean put down his tumbler and made his most elegant bow to Mr. Milton. “Thank you, sir. Good night.”

“Good night, Mr. Winchester.”

Thus dismissed, Dean turned and headed out the door, looking for one of the footmen.

***

Dean trudged up the stairs.

He had stopped by the sitting room where the ladies of the house were sipping on their after dinner sherry. After bidding them goodnight and promising to see them at breakfast, he was looking forward to his bed. Earlier than usual for him but he was exhausted with all the traveling he had done in the last three days.

He had nearly turned the corner when he bounced off of a hard chest. Definitely male.

“Forgive me, sir,” The apology left his lips the moment he realized he just literally bumped into the younger Mr. Milton.

“Call me Castiel.” Milton’s voice was deep and mesmerizing.

“Pardon?” Exhaustion suddenly pulled at him. He could not call this man Castiel. He could not get that familiar with him.

“When it is just the two of us, I would like you to call me Castiel.”

Dean needed to go to bed. To sleep. He needed to sleep because his mind was taking that as an invitation to intimacy. Sexual intimacy.

Milton — Dean was not going to call him Castiel, even in his own mind — moved to the side and gestured down the hallway. “Do you know which room you are in?”

Dean shook his head. He should have counted the doors when he had been shown his room this afternoon.

“Tom.” Milton shouted down the stairs. Dean heard at least two sets of footsteps hurrying to the staircase. “Which room has Mr. Winchester been assigned?”

Dean remembered the colors of the wallpaper and the bed clothes. “It has burgundy and hunter green bed clothes,” he murmured to no one in particular.

Milton smirked at him and gave him a definitely lascivious look. Or at least his tired mind saw the look as lascivious and tried to point out that Castiel was attracted to him. He had ignored Dean before and during dinner. His attention now was both gratifying and confusing.

“Dismissed.” Milton called down to the footmen. “I know which room they put you in. Come.” And he stepped off at a brisk pace down the mile long hallway.

How had he not realized how long the hallways in this place were? Dean was surprised by yet another jaw cracking yawn. Castiel laughed at him.

Castiel’s laugh was a thing of beauty. It softened the panes of his face and gave him lovely eye crinkles.

What else could Dean do to encourage Castiel to laugh more often?

Castiel opened the door to a room and invited Dean to step in with a flourish. Dean walked in and confirmed the burgundy and green wallpaper and chairs.

Dean turned around to thank Castiel, who had closed the door and was now standing no more than an inch away scrutinizing him with those bottomless blue eyes.

Dean gulped. “Thank you.”

“Anytime.” Castiel purred and this time there was no mistaking the gleam in his eyes. Castiel’s eyes flicked down for a second and then back up. Dean licked his lips in invitation.

Castiel smirked and Dean stumbled back in terror of what he had nearly given away. Thankfully Castiel did not follow him but gave him a questioning look.

Dean was suddenly wide awake. He could not do this. He could not jeopardize the wedding. If Castiel realized how attractive Dean found him, he would inform the older Mr. Milton. The merchant would not countenance Dean as his son-in-law anymore. Dean would have to go back to Winchester Manor in disgrace, at the least, and would be dead, at the most. And Sam would have to marry some heiress he did not love.

“Thank you, Mr. Milton.” Dean could not find the right words. How did one go about kicking out the son and heir of one’s father-in-law from a room in his father’s own house?

“My pleasure,” purred Castiel again and looked Dean over with a knowing gleam in his eye.

Before Castiel could follow through on what was going on in his head, the clock in the hallway chimed the half hour.

“Alas, I am late for my appointment.” Castiel gave Dean a polite smile, “Until tomorrow.”

“Until tomorrow,” Dean gave him a bow.

“Good night, Dean,” Castiel said before he opened the door behind him and walked out.

Dean hurried to the door but Castiel was already halfway down the hallway.

Dean made sure he bolted the door after he shut it. That had been a close one.

He hurried into his bedroom and stripped efficiently down to his drawers. He crawled into his bed and pulled the covers over his head.

Dean would not be the reason Sam had to marry for money. He would not.

Chapter Text

“Wha…?”

Dean was going to kill whomever had woken him up from a good dream. A fine dream that featured blue eyes, black tousled hair and a chiseled scruffy jaw, if the condition in his drawers was any indication.

A few more minutes and he would have been satisfactorily done with his dream.

The pounding on the door to his chambers began anew.

Right.

He dragged himself out of his warm bed and gingerly stepped onto the wooden floor. The cold wooden floor. A quick glance around the room helped him find his slippers under a chair and robe draped over its back under the window where Benny must have laid them out.

He made a quick dash for the chair, slid his cold feet into the cold slippers and shrugged on the cold robe.

“I am coming, I am coming.” He hurried to the door of his rooms and unbolted it. And made a note to himself not to bolt the doors in the future. Benny and a lanky boy were waiting out in the hallway, a scuttle of coal in the boy’s hand.

“I am sorry, sir.” Benny said. “The boy needed in to stoke the fire.”

“Not your fault, Benny,” Dean said. “I bolted the door last night before I went to bed. Come in.”

He left the door and headed back to the privy chamber. There was nothing he could do about the situation in his drawers right now but maybe he could relieve his bladder.

When he came back out a few minutes later, the boy with the coal scuttle was gone and Benny was tending to the fire.

“What time is breakfast, Benny?”

“Mr. Milton likes breakfast at seven sharp.” Once he had the fire going again, Benny headed back to bedroom, to check on the fire there.

Dean followed him, still cold in his slippers and robe. “I would like to get a ride in before breakfast.”

“I think that can be arranged.”

“And the tailor will be here at nine?”

“Yes. And Mrs. Milton asked if you would like to meet the children at lunch. The Misters Milton will be out for lunch, so it will just be the ladies and the children.”

“I have no objections to lunch with the ladies and the children.”

Benny helped him dress in his worn but comfortable riding clothes and then guided him through the back of the house.

“I would like to get an apple or carrot for Baby.” Dean said.

Benny changed directions and took him first to the kitchen where he was introduced to Donna, the cook and Jody, the housekeeper. Donna and Jody gave him intense motherly vibes, making him miss Sammy, Ellen, and Missouri. The two ladies were the closest thing to a mother Sammy and he had after their mother perished in a fire when Dean was four.

Four maids and three footmen were still taking their breakfasts at a long table when Dean walked in. They rose when they saw him, so he quickly said, “Please continue,” letting them settle back to their breakfasts.

Jody had one of the maids bring him an apple for Baby from the cellar. He gave the girl a polite nod in thanks.

Jody’s “Well, git.” gave him permission to remove himself from the room. The maids and footmen were fine but he did not want to be there when Metatron arrived.

Benny led him out the back door and to the stables which were separated from the house by a narrow alley just large enough for a carriage to drive through. Dean followed Benny into the bowels of the huge space. He heard scuffling and then a sudden “Stop!” split the air. Benny nodded towards the sound.

“Joshua,” Benny warned the man in the stall who had a cap pulled low over his forehead, graying hair sticking out its sides. “This here is Dean Winchester, the new son-in-law.”

Bright, intelligent brown eyes met his across the back of the horse he was tending to. “What do you want?” he asked, almost belligerent as though he were Mr. Milton’s son-in-law and not Dean.

Dean, however, was not angry. Here was someone who would tell him what was and not pander to him regardless of his position in the family. Between Benny and Joshua he should stay on the straight and narrow in this household.

“Just wanted to meet the man who is responsible for my Baby.” Dean smirked, making Joshua glower even more.

Baby snorted at him when she heard his voice.

“It was nice to meet you.” Dean doffed an imaginary hat at Joshua and walked down the row of stalls to look for Baby. Joshua was the kind of person who would not respect a man who flattered him.

When he found her, he opened Baby’s stall and entered it, talking to her all the time. “Did you miss me, Baby? I missed you terribly. Did you get enough to eat? To drink?” And on and on, he kept up a litany of soft, soothing words all the time checking on her to make sure she was well after the hard ride to get to London.

“She’s fine.” Joshua had followed him to Baby’s stall.

Dean knew she was fine. Baby was his and he took good care of what was his. The surprise in Joshua’s voice should not have hurt but it still stung. His grandfather and father had reputations that preceded his and he would be judged against them. That was not something he could help. All he could do was be himself and hopefully Joshua would one day realize that Dean was not cut from the same cloth as his grandfather and father.

“Yeah. She is a good girl, are you not, Baby?” Dean cooed to Baby, unwilling to turn and let Joshua see the disappointment in his eyes. He could control his tone and his face to a certain degree but according to Sammy his eyes always gave away every single thing he was feeling.

Once he made sure Baby was not suffering from the trip, he took the bridle from the wall and put the bit in her mouth. After fastening it around her head, he lead her out of the stall and towards the wall where the saddles and other riding equipment were kept. Saddling her did not take long.

Another man, younger and lanky with long brown hair followed and saddled the horse he was leading.

“Ash here will be your groom today,” Joshua said.

“I do not—”

“Yes, you do.” Joshua cut him off. “This here is London. In London, things are done a certain way.”

Dean nodded, contrite. Joshua was simply teaching him, same as Benny. He really did not need to make a spectacle of himself.

He swung into the saddle once he was outside the stable. He did not have to wait long for Ash.

“How about I show you the best places to go riding in London?” Ash said cheerfully as they walked their horses through the alley and out onto the road.

London traffic was tough to get used to. Thankfully, Mr. Milton had sent clear directions or he would have been lost the day before.

Ash turned out to be a good companion. He did not take anything seriously. He kept Dean in stitches all the way through the crowded streets as they slowly walked their horses by making perfect mimicry of the members of the household from the lowest maid to the older Mr. Milton himself.

“Hyde Park is the best place to go riding.” Ash said waving towards an open space that seemed to go on for miles. “Come.” All of a sudden Ash took off.

Baby was no slouch and kept up with the gelding Ash was riding. Dean lay as low across Baby’s back as he could and enjoyed the short sprint and the air rushing past him.

Once they were done with the sprint, Ash slowed his horse and so did Dean. Riding Baby was one of the best things in his life and he was glad he would not have to forfeit the pleasure when in London.

Ash pointed out different riding trails and gave him tips on how London society worked when it came to horses and riding. Some of the strictures were ridiculous and both of them got a hearty laugh out of them. But he needed to know these things. He had heard a lot of this before but it helped to have a native tell him the difference between fact and rumor.

“Another?” Ash barely finished speaking when they heard more hoof beats.

Surprising that not more Londoners took advantage of the horse riding trails in this gigantic park. The hoof beats turned the corner of the trail and then Ash gave a huff of surprise. Dean looked closer at the men approaching them, something familiar about one of them.

He recognized that dark, disheveled hair. What were the odds?

When they drew abreast, both parties came to a stop. Castiel’s eyes were bright and sparkling in the soft light of the dawn as he raked them over Dean’s form.

Dean’s attention was drawn to the collar bones on display since Castiel had discarded his neck cloth at some point during the night. The anger, when he noticed the bruise marks on Castiel’s throat and that the clothes he was wearing were from their encounter after dinner, came out of nowhere.

Dean knew that ton marriages were not what one would call monogamous. But for some reason he had expected better of Castiel and to know for a fact that Castiel had just spent the night with some woman while his wife and children were at home made him extremely angry. He nodded to Castiel and his friend in greeting but did not make eye contact. “Milton.”

“Winchester. Would you fancy a race to the end of the lane?”

“Sure.” Maybe a good race would ease some of the tightness in his chest.

Dean and Ash turned back the way they had come. Ash counted to three and they were off, Dean focused wholly on Baby and the unfamiliar trail. He did his best to ignore the man and beast at his side. When they came to a shuddering stop at the end of the lane he had to concede, even if only to himself, that Castiel was almost as good a rider as himself.

He glanced at Castiel only for a second before he turned his head, pretending to look at the road. Why had the good Lord seen fit to give him such perverse inclinations?

Castiel was radiant in the soft light of the morning sun, his face, throat, and collarbones covered in a becoming flush. Just how far down did the flush go? Dean tightened his hands into fists as he and Milton walked their horses down the road. A bead of sweat had trickled down to the hollow between Castiel’s collarbones, and Dean wanted to reach over and lick it off him.

In a haze of want and longing, Dean stayed with Milton until they reached the house. One of the footmen at the front door came down the stairs and held their horses while Ash and Castiel’s companion rode up behind them. The footman handed the reins over to the other two men after Dean and Castiel dismounted. Dean hung back to pat Baby and let her munch on the apple while his eyes wandered to Castiel. What did Castiel’s ass look like behind the tails of his coat?

Castiel strode up the stairs, looking back at Dean when he did not follow. Dean gave himself a mental shake. He had to stop being distracted by Castiel.

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***

Breakfast was a quiet affair with all the adults except the younger Milton present. The older Mr. Milton seemed resigned to his son’s absence. He directed Metatron to have someone help Dean to the tailor’s room. He agreed to Dean’s request that Benny act as his valet. And then he announced that Mrs. Milton and the Dowager Mrs. Milton would be arriving that afternoon and that he expected all of them to be at dinner to welcome them home. Once they had been given their marching orders, the older Mr. Milton dismissed them, to Dean’s immense gratitude. He was not sure how much longer he could have kept his anger at the younger Mr. Milton under wraps.

The fitting was as boring as it sounded. However, it helped to distance him from the younger Mrs. Milton and he hoped that he would be able to spend lunch in a more amiable frame of mind. He asked for and was promised two sets of clothing, one of which would be made available for tonight if he wanted to go out.

After Dean finished up with the fitting, he asked one of the footmen to direct him to the younger Mrs. Milton’s quarters.

When he walked into the younger Mrs. Milton’s sitting room, the younger Mr. Milton was ensconced in a large comfortable chair with his sons in his lap, reading to them. Dean took in the tranquil scene and favourably compared this man to the one he met at dawn, the wild, almost-feral being Castiel became after the race.

“Mr. Winchester.” The younger Mrs. Milton called. She was seated on an elegant divan near the windows and put down the needlepoint in her hands almost immediately with a relieved sigh. “How did the fitting go?”

Dean’s grimace made her laugh. Milton, who looked up just in time to see it, turned his lips up slightly.

Dean composed his face into a neutral facade and nodded a wordless greeting to Milton. He also bowed in Anna’s direction with a “Miss Milton”.

“Will you sit with me?” The younger Mrs. Milton moved her needle point supplies to the table behind her and followed up her question with a gesture to the divan.

Dean gingerly seated himself, not sure the spindly legs of the divan would hold a man of his size.

“Since we are to be brother and sister, you may call me Charlie,” the younger Mrs. Milton said.

Taken aback he could not help but reciprocate. “Dean,” he said. And Charlie laughed again.

Dean hated Milton in that moment. He forced himself to look calm but Charlie took one look at his eyes and he was sure she knew, especially when she asked him, “What is the matter?”

Dean did not know if he should tell her or not. He would deal the rest of his life with Charlie too. And he liked her. He did not want to be the bearer of bad news. “I would rather not say.”

Charlie was gracious enough to change the subject to the wedding itself.

She talked about the seamstresses that had apparently taken over one of the rooms, how many outfits she had to get fitted for and how much she hated standing still for hours on end. Her chatter reminded him so much of a younger Sam that he finally relaxed.

Dean reciprocated with humorous stories of his fitting. Charlie was in stitches and Anna kept giving him these looks that, if they had been daggers, he would be shredded to bits and bleeding to death by now.

Milton brought the boys over to Charlie. After giving them both a kiss on their cheeks, Milton promised to see them the next day for story time. He carefully arranged them in Charlie’s arms and after giving her a kiss on the cheek too, he excused himself from the room.

Dean did his best to keep his feelings off his face but the speculative looks Charlie sent him indicated that he had not been quite successful.

Charlie gave him a questioning look and Dean nodded to let her know he was fine.

Charlie proceeded to introduce him to the boys.

Samandriel was six, had Castiel’s unearthly blue eyes and porcelain skin, and Charlie’s red hair.

Inais was four, with Castiel’s eyes and wild brunette hair but with Charlie’s features.

An heir and a spare. The perfect little family. Dean would like to meet Milton in a dark alley someday and introduce him to his fists.

Dean got down on the floor and played horse racing with the boys, the mindlessness of the game helping him to calm down.

A knock on the door preceded two footmen carrying a tray each. Dean followed Charlie and Anna, who carried one child each, into a connecting room where a dining table was set for them.

Charlie and Anna helped the boys to seats at the round table leaving one seat vacant between them. The boys settled down when they realized that the food was on the table. Charlie sat between the boys and Anna sat on one side so Dean took the other side.

Anna was clearly not happy with him. She had not said a word to him unless she had to. Sammy was given to pouting when he was angry and so Dean was familiar with the treatment. What had he done to make Anna angry?

Anna also kept giving Charlie doe-eyed glances that he had seen on Sammy’s face when Sammy looked at Jess. He had never seen it in action before but because of his inclinations he had always wondered if there were men and women that had similar inclinations. Anna maybe one. Although Dean did not think she was aware of what she was doing.

Charlie was aware though. Charlie looked at Anna the same way Anna looked at Charlie. But while Anna may not know what she was doing, Charlie was fully aware. Which came first, Charlie’s feelings for Anna or her marriage with Castiel?

***

After lunch, Dean borrowed a book from the library and headed to his room to read. Charlie and Anna would be busy for the rest of the afternoon with preparations for the arrival of Mrs. Milton and the Dowager Mrs. Milton.

Sometime later a great clatter in the street announced their arrival.

Benny arrived an hour before dinner to help him dress. Thankfully, the new suit had arrived and he did look quite dapper if he said so himself.

Benny escorted him to the sitting room. Dean was again the last to arrive. He would ask Benny to help him dress for dinner half an hour earlier tomorrow.

With the exception of Mrs. Milton and the Dowager Mrs. Milton, the rest of the family were arrayed as they were yesterday before dinner.

The older Mr. Milton made the introductions again.

“Mr. Winchester, may I present my wife, Mrs. Naomi Milton?”

Dean made his prettiest leg but the woman was not impressed at all. Mrs. Milton simply nodded at him.

With the two parents he had, Dean was not surprised that Castiel was as solemn as he was. These two were even making Dean feel melancholy.

“And my mother, Rebecca, the Dowager Mrs. Milton.”

Dean gave her the famous Dean Winchester smile that made all the women in Winchester swoon, and she just smiled brightly up at him.

“Aren’t you a cute one? Come, sit next to me,” the Dowager said in a surprisingly girlish voice, patting the space on the sette next to her.

Dean had no choice but to acquiesce to her request.

“Now, Mother -” the older Mr. Milton tried to intervene but the Dowager Mrs. Milton had no qualms in shutting him down immediately.

“Stay out of this, Zac.” She told the older Mr. Milton roundly and Dean had to bite his lip to keep from laughing at the sour look on the older Mr. Milton’s face.

Charlie and the other girls were pretending to be working on their needle work under the watchful eye of Mrs. Milton but they all sported barely there smiles.

“Call me Becky,” the Dowager Mrs. Milton said and smirked at him. “Anna is one lucky gel. If I were about twenty years younger, she would have some competition.” She pinched his cheeks when he could not control his blush. “What a cutie pie!”

Dean nearly groaned out loud. The girls were going to make fun of him for the rest of his life.

“Chuck, that is my husband,” Becky added for Dean’s edification. “Chuck was a cutie. I had to beat the other gels off him, even after we were married.” She winked at Dean. “Anna,” she raised her voice slightly but it was not necessary. “Anna, you are going to have to learn how to beat the other gels off.”

Although the girls were pretending to be working on their needlework diligently, he knew everyone in the room could hear her. Including Castiel, who was still looking out the window but his superfine clad shoulders were slightly shaking.

“Yes, Grandmama,” Miss Milton said. Becky waved at her but kept her focus on Dean.

Dean could barely get a word in edgewise but he was quite entertained, nonetheless, until Metatron announced dinner.

Becky commandeered Dean to escort her into dinner and insisted on going out the door first, winking at Dean and making both the older Mr. Milton and Mrs. Milton glower when she said, “Age before beauty.”

Mrs. Milton and Becky took the seats to the right and the left of the older Mr. Milton. Castiel slid in next to his mother while Dean was pulled into the seat next to Becky. Charlie sat on his other side and Miss Milton slid next to her brother. The other two girls slid in the remaining seats.

Dinner was a raucous affair. Becky had Dean and the girls in stitches with almost risque anecdotes of the ton. Castiel tried his best to keep his stoic demeanor but could not keep up the charade in the face of his grandmother’s antics. The older Mr. Milton and Mrs. Milton became stiffer as the dinner moved on. Thankfully, the older Mrs. Milton, like the older Mr. Milton ignored the rest of them.

“So, what are we going to do for some fun?” Becky asked, once she had put a sizeable dent in her dinner.

“I was thinking, one of Mr. Shakespeare’s plays,” Charlie piped up from next to him.

“No,” boomed the older Mr. Milton, “No plays.”

“Oh, hush, Zac.” Becky shot the older Mr. Milton down immediately “A play sounds like the very thing.”

“But the wedding prepar -” the older Mrs. Milton tried to interject some sanity in the proceedings but it was clear to Dean that Becky had the upper hand.

“I am sure you have everything in hand, Naomi,” Becky said. “Let the young ones have some fun.”

The older Mrs. Milton glowered to rival the older Mr. Milton, but Becky ignored both completely and took off on another tangent of simply hilarious anecdotes of plays she had participated in when she was young.

After dinner, Becky lead the ladies of the house to the sitting room, with promises from the younger men to come join them after they were done with their brandy and cigars.

The men adjourned to the library. While the older Mr. Milton poured, Castiel pulled out a small, elaborate chest and trimmed the cigars. After handing them out, Castiel lounged in the sette under the window while the older Mr. Milton and Dean took their seats from yesterday. After a few moments of contemplating the brandy and the fire, the older Mr. Milton cleared his throat.

“Mr. Winchester,” the older Mr. Milton said, “Make a list of everything that needs to be repaired or renovated at Winchester Manor.”

“Castiel,” he continued, “I want you to help Mr. Winchester with this. I want a list of repairs and their estimated costs before Mr. Winchester’s father and grandfather arrive for the wedding.”

Dean did not look in Castiel’s direction but he definitely heard the inelegant snort Castiel made. Great, now he had to work in close proximity with Castiel. And he had only three weeks in which to prioritize what needed to be done at Winchester Manor.

Once their brandy and cigars were done, the older Mr. Milton excused the younger men. Castiel and Dean walked side by side to the sitting room.

“When would be a good time for you to work on the list?” Dean asked Castiel before he lost his nerve.

“Impatient?”

Dean was not impatient. He was used to working all day. Everyday. Most of it hard labor, since his grandfather Henry did not believe in wasting money on laborers when he had two healthy grandsons.

Reading a book today had been the first time he had nothing to do in the afternoon and while he savored the leisure activity, he did not think he could last much longer as a leisure seeking aristocrat.

“No.” Dean had to stop being flustered by Castiel. It gave the other man too much pleasure. “I just want to get it done as soon as possible.”

“Tomorrow morning. Meet me in my study after your morning ride,” Castiel said, just before he opened the door to the sitting room.

The ladies had taken to the idea of a play. They had decided on The Merchant of Venice by Mr. Shakespeare and were mostly decided on who would play what part. Dean was asked to inform Sammy of his part so that he would be ready when he arrived in London for the wedding.

***

After the ladies retired to their rooms, Castiel's "Would you like to accompany me tonight?" came as a complete surprise.

When they arrived at White’s, Dean tried not to let his awe show but from the small twitch of Castiel’s lips he could tell that he had been unsuccessful.

“What’s French for twelve?” said a dandy dressed in a shocking pink waistcoat.

Douze.” Castiel piped up with a barely there smile that surprised Dean. Dean had rarely seen the man smile in the last two days.

“Cassie!” The dandy waved while shouting as though Castiel was his long lost brother. The other men in the vicinity gave him angry looks for disrupting the quiet but he blithely ignored them. The dandy smiled wide as Castiel pulled out a chair at the table where he was sitting and motioned Dean to sit.

“Balthazar. Gabriel.” Castiel nodded at both men who were at the table. “My new brother-in-law, Mr. Dean Winchester. Dean, my friends, Mr. Balthazar Roche and Mr. Gabriel Newman.” Castiel indicated the man in the pink waistcoat first and then the second man who was wearing a white waistcoat embroidered in gold.

“Any friend of Cassie’s is a friend of ours, Mr. Winchester.” Gabriel offered his hand so Dean shook it.

Castiel pulled out the chair next to Dean and slouched into it.

Balthazar tried to give Dean an intimidating look but the effect was ruined by the pink waistcoat. Dean simply could not take a man wearing a pink waistcoat seriously.

Castiel took Balthazar’s attention away from him when he asked, “Did you forget your French numbers, Balthazar?”

“Do not remind him.” Gabriel laughed while Dean smiled slightly.

“No, mon ami!” Balthazar exclaimed with a dramatic air. “I was simply trying to entertain Gabriel with the merits of the menage.”

If Dean had been drinking something, he would surely have spewed it everywhere.

Castiel simply smiled a little bit wider and gestured to Balthazar with his hand. “Go on.”

“For gentlemen such as us,” Balthazar opened his arms as if to encompass the whole country, “are not encouraged to love. We must be practical in our marriages.”

Both Castiel and Gabriel nodded in the affirmative, so Dean nodded too.

“The heir and and spare,” Balthazar continued, “are our duty to our families, and as such, we cannot side-step the responsibility.”

Dean blinked at the dandy’s unexpected serious tone.

“But once we have seen to our duty,” Balthazar pointed to Castiel, “we are as free to love where we may as when we were single men, if not more so.”

Dean was suddenly angry again as he remembered Castiel coming home this morning with a bruise mark on his throat. Had he been out carousing with Balthazar and Gabriel last night?

“What do the merits of a menage have to do with that?” Castiel made the mistake of asking.

“While we were single men, it was our duty to find wives. Now that we have done our duty, we are free to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh. Why limit ourselves to just one partner?” Balthazar asked with another flourish of his hand.

Gabriel seemed to be seriously thinking about Balthazar’s idea. Dean was worried because Balthazar used the word partner and not woman.

These men had to know what it was like in the country. There was no safe place for people who liked people of the same sex. The outcry was for death at every level of society. From the lowly stable boy to the aristocrat, no one was safe. The only reason Dean was still alive was because Henry saw a way to use him to leverage more money and prestige.

“You would espouse “Greek Love”?” Castiel did not seem to understand that what he was talking about could get them all killed.

“Will you please not say that so loudly?” He asked Castiel, an uncharacteristic timidity in his tone, eyes darting around the room to make sure no one was listening to their conversation.

And suddenly Dean was the focus of all of Castiel’s attention. The blue eyes bore into him seeking the very soul of him and he was not sure how much he wanted to reveal to a man who could, with just a few words, unravel his whole purpose for still being alive.

“Mr. Winchester is correct, Cassie.” Gabriel’s voice gave Dean a break from Castiel’s intense eye contact. Dean took in a deep breath and then directed a thankful look towards Gabriel. “Such matters need to be discussed with great caution.”

Castiel nodded towards Gabriel and shot a look at Dean that said he definitely was going to bring this subject back up when they were in private.

“Of course, Mr. Winchester, you are not yet in our situation. You have the wooing of your espoused wife to conduct. How goes it?” Balthazar asked with a wink.

Dean looked to Castiel but Castiel was looking out the window, however, the slight curve of his lips the only visible sign of his humour.

“Miss Milton is all that is kind and courteous.” There was not much else Dean could say except praise Anna, not while her brother was present. And even if he were not present, he would not say anything to her detriment.

“Yes, yes! That is all well and good, but does she fan the flames of love in your heart?” Gabriel took over Balthazar’s mantle of dramatics and pretended to swoon, his right hand clutched to his heart.

“Um.” Dean was not sure what to say to that.

Castiel took pity on him and decided to enter the fray. “I thought “Gentlemen such as ourselves were not encouraged to love””. He did a decent enough imitation of Balthazar’s voice and hand movements that even Gabriel was induced to laugh.

“Good job, Cassie!” Gabriel pounded his back while Castiel full out grinned. Dean did not know if he was jealous or in awe. Seeing Castiel like this, open with his emotions, Dean was in awe that he got to see the real Castiel. At the same time, he was jealous that it was Gabriel and Balthazar who brought out Castiel’s playful side.

Balthazar was mock glaring at Castiel but even Dean could see that he was having a hard time keeping his lips from curling into a smile.

Dean was not sure he liked Castiel’s friends but for the new look they had given him into Castiel. Both Balthazar and Gabriel were loud and obnoxious and opinionated. How Castiel, who was almost stoic at times, liked them was a mystery to him.

Balthazar kept sending Castiel these looks, like Anna sent Charlie at lunch today. Castiel was oblivious but it was evident that Gabriel knew how Balthazar felt about Castiel but he was not going to be the one to tell Castiel.

As the night wore on, they drank and ate and talked about love in its many forms.

Neither Gabriel nor Balthazar took anything seriously. They talked about pranks they had played on previous lovers and Castiel did not contradict some of the more outlandish stories but smiled his enigmatic smile.

Chapter Text

The next day, Cas and Dean went riding at dawn. After breakfast in Cas’ study, they spent the morning working on the list of repairs and renovations for Winchester Manor. Cas left just before ten to read to his sons. Dean stayed in the study and wrote to Sam. Cas had agreed to frank any missives he might want to send to Winchester Manor.

After lunch with the ladies and the children, Cas invited Dean to accompany him to Gentleman Jackson’s Boxing Saloon. Needing something physical to work off his increasing restlessness, Dean agreed.

They met at the stable where Dean fed Baby a carrot he grabbed from the kitchen and then fastened the saddlebag that contained an extra set of clothes Benny gave him to his saddle.

When they rode up to Jackson’s Saloon, a couple of footmen took their horses away.

Dean followed Cas up the steps and into the famous boxing house, trying, yet again, to keep his awe from showing on his face. Even in the hinterlands of Winchester, he had heard of Gentleman Jackson.

Seated in a window alcove were Balthazar and Gabriel. As soon as he saw them, Balthazar waved at them with an exuberant “Cassie!”

A handsome muscular older gentleman with twinkling brown eyes and graying brown hair came up to their table and greeted them all with, “Good afternoon, Gentlemen.”

Cas introduced Dean to Gentleman Jackson. Dean hoped he came across as an intelligent man but the small uptick of Cas’ lips suggested that he had made the opposite impression. Meeting Gentleman Jackson was a dream come true. Cas could take his smirk and shove it in an unmentionable place.

“Nice to make your acquaintance, Mr. Winchester,” Gentleman Jackson said, “Call me Jack.”

Jack took them back to a room where Cas stripped to his drawers while Gabriel played his valet and carefully hung up his riding clothes.

Without the usual bulk of his clothes, Cas was sleek like a race horse, his body a true masterpiece of the good Lord’s creation. Dean did his best to keep his eyes off the firm muscles under the smooth skin. It would not do to have the others realize Dean’s inclinations at this point in time. However, one glance had not been enough. He wanted ample time to explore that chest, suck on those prominent hip bones, peel his drawers off with his teeth and worship the cock underneath.

Thankfully, before his imaginings could get him in trouble, Cas lead the way to another room. In the middle was an arena cordoned off by thick ropes. At a safe distance from, and around, the arena were tables and chairs, most of which were occupied with men from all walks. They found an empty table and sat down to watch the ongoing match.

Dean found it much harder to concentrate with a nearly naked Cas sitting at the table across from him.

Once the winner was announced, the tables erupted into settling the wagers. After the men in the arena departed, Gentleman Jack entered it and raised his arms into the air, bringing an expectant hush to the crowd.

“And now gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure, I give you Mr. Castiel Milton. He will take all comers. House rules. Three five minute sessions. Sign up with Cole there. Milton?”

Cas bounded up and out of his chair, jogging to the arena. Cheers and boos followed his slide under one of the ropes and into the arena. Gentleman Jack pounded him on his shoulder once then exited the arena. Gabriel followed Cas at a much more sedate pace and steered him into one of the corners where he began to rub his shoulders and talk to him while Castiel warmed up by practicing his footwork and jabs.

Dean’s focus narrowed on Gabriel hands where they touched Cas’ bare shoulders, jealousy surging through him at the sight. No other hands but his should touch Cas.

Meanwhile, a new man had entered the arena and announced a name. A huge man, also stripped down to his drawers, entered the arena. Dean, focused on Cas and Gabriel, did not catch the newcomer’s name. The man was built like a bull, bulky and large, with a shock of carrot red hair.

The referee called out, “Time,” and the two men met in the middle and shook hands.

“Go.”

Still at the table with him, Balthazar began screaming, “Go Cassie,” as the rest of the spectators began placing new wagers and shouting encouragements to the two combatants.

The sudden cacophony did not break Cas’ intense concentration. He dodged left and then right, always a hair’s breath away from Carrot Top’s huge hands.

Suddenly Cas was extremely close to the other man, surprising him, and before Dean could even begin to catalog what happened Carrot Top was on the ground and Balthazar was screaming again.

Three times Cas took Carrot Top down, they shook hands after the third time and then Carrot Top moved out of the arena.

Another hulk was introduced. Cas took him down three times too. They shook hands before and after the bouts.

A third man was introduced.

Cas continued on his rampage through the multitude.

“Milton is my best student,” Gentleman Jack, who sat down at their table when the bouts began, explained to Dean. “If he were not Mr. Milton’s heir, he would be the highest billed boxer in the country.”

Dean nodded, not sure what to say to that. There was a lot more behind the Cas he had seen so far and he could not wait to learn all there was to know about him.

Physically, Cas was no match for the sheer brute force of most of the boxers here. But he was a strategic thinker, most probably knew the weaknesses of most of these men and used them to their detriment.

“Would you like to fight Milton, Mr. Winchester?”

Gentleman Jack’s question confused Dean for a moment. What? Him fight Cas? He could not take his eyes off the man while his body was completely on board with the idea. After all, he had wanted to be close to Cas since he met him. Had he known him only two days?

He could not think and he was nowhere near Cas. If he were to get close to that much of Cas’ skin he did not think he would be able to keep his eyes, hands or mouth to himself.

Besides, right now he was not the focus of any eyes. He probably had already given away how he felt when he saw Cas almost naked for the first time in the changing rooms.

In the arena with Cas, and with the full the focus of the crowd on them, someone would notice how he could not take his eyes off Cas. How his hands twitched, wanted to touch all that skin. How his tongue wanted to lick up the sweat now trickling down his chest.

Cas was the apex predator right now. The gleam in his eyes as he looked at Dean helped him understand what a gazelle felt when she made eye contact with the lion that was stalking her.

Cas looked like a scrumptious feast laid before a starving man. He was grinning like a manic, even more at ease here than he was last night in the gentleman’s club. His hair was hanging in complete disarray and he periodically shook his head like a dog, sweat flying everywhere. His upper body too was completely covered in a thin sheen of sweat that gleamed under the warm light from the lamps.

Dean would like to lick the sweat off his chest and follow that trail of hair on his chest down to his cock.

In between bouts, Gabriel massaged his shoulders and Dean wished he were the one doing that and not Gabriel. All he wanted was to be closer to this new avatar of Cas.

His will finally broke when Cas turned around, pointed at him and then pointed to the arena in front of him. Dean knew he was going to regret this but he could not let the opportunity pass him by. What if he did not get the chance again? He nodded his acquiescence, making Balthazar whoop.

Balthazar took him back to the changing room and helped him out of his coat. Dean pulled on loose pants that Benny had packed for him in his saddle bag. He was not going to face a mostly naked Castiel in his drawers.

He slid into the arena just the way he saw Cas do only to have Cas give him his most predatory smile yet. Dean swallowed convulsively.

Balthazar pushed him gently when Gentleman Jim himself entered the arena and gestured for both of them to meet in the center of the arena.

Cas looked deep into his eyes as though he could see all the way to Dean’s soul and Dean had to work hard to suppress his instinctual shiver at the intense eye contact.

Gentleman Jack said, “Go.”

Dean knew from watching Cas that the only way he was going to beat Cas was if he was sneaky.

He broke eye contact with Cas and pretended to lunge right. Instead he went left and got a good hold of Cas’ waist, using his momentum to toss him over his head. And then Cas was on the ground laughing and Dean thought that surely he had died and gone to heaven because that was what the angel choirs must sound like.

Cas popped back up and made a come-and-get-me gesture at Dean, who managed some how to put Cas on his back three times. Each time Cas laughed, popped back up and smiled widely at Dean. If these were going to be his rewards, he was willing wrestle with Cas as long as he wanted to. Dean had nothing else he had to do.

After the third bout, Dean shook his hand and departed to the changing rooms, Balthazar leading him again, jabbering all the way about Dean’s technique and how he could not wait for a second bout between them.

Yes, Dean had the upper hand in that Cas had not fought him before and Cas was tired from all the other bouts he had participated in that afternoon. But since Cas had now fought him, Dean had the sneaking suspicion that any future bouts with Cas would end with him on his back, a position he would not mind at all. Cas was merely learning his tells while lulling Dean into a false sense of complacency.

Balthazar directed him to the wash room and Dean was grateful to see that the small room had a curtain for privacy. He hung his saddle bag on one of the pegs on the wall, then used the provided wash cloth and cold water to meticulously wash the sweat off. He removed the loose pants and his drawers and began dressing in the clean set of drawers that Benny had provided him with.

Balthazar had agreed to play valet again and so he made sure he was dressed in his breeches and his shirt before venturing out into the main changing room. Just as Balthazar was helping him into his superfine coat, Gabriel’s voice could be heard singing “Hail the conquering hero” and then Dean was face to face with Cas once again.

Cas never brought up their conversation about “Greek Love” from last night but Dean had a feeling that he knew how Dean really felt about seeing an almost naked Cas. His lips had a small curve that hinted at a smirk and Dean knew that he had given himself away. Gabriel gave him a wink and Dean realized that at least three people in this room know exactly where his inclinations lay.

He had the strongest urge to run away and never face any of them again. Cas was in front of him and making the same intense eye contact as before.

Cas clapped him on the shoulder, and said, “Good bout, Winchester. We should do it again,” before heading off for the wash room, Gabriel on his heels carrying his saddle bag.

Dean was just glad he had been able to control himself enough not to get visibly aroused in public.

***

Dean left Baby in the capable hands of one of the footmen at the front door and ignoring Cas, hurried to his rooms. The faster he moved, the faster he could get to his rooms. Visions of a mostly naked Cas were still dancing in his head and he knew that if he did not take care of the situation in his breeches, it would escalate beyond his control.

He still did not understand how he kept control in the saloon. Riding with a semi was excruciating enough. He was going to be expected to dance at the ball the older Mr. Milton said they would be attending tonight. He did not think the society mamas would be quite happy with him sporting a semi while dancing with their nubile young daughters.

“Bless you, Benny,” he said, when he noticed that Benny was putting the finishing touches to his bathwater. The footmen must have sent someone ahead to alert him of their arrival.

Benny just grinned at him and proceeded to help him out of his boots and coat. Dean was still a little shy about letting Benny help with more than that so Benny moved off to the wardrobe.

He needed to make a good impression tonight, and no, he was not thinking about Cas. He needed to make a good impression on the ladies of the ton.

Dean stripped off the rest of his clothes and left them on the bed for Benny to take care of. He headed to his bath in his drawers, where he stepped out of them and into the bathtub naked. He gave a sigh of relief as he sank into the hot water. If asked, he would definitely mention that one of the things he enjoyed the most about staying in a moneyed household was the hot baths. They were absolutely divine and helped relax him.

His mind wandered and so did his hand. Cas was breathtaking, all damp skin and hair in a disarray. He remembered the predatory look Cas gave him and imagined Cas giving him that look in the privacy of his bedchamber.

In his deepest voice, he would command, “Strip.” And Dean would be completely naked as soon as possible, and at his mercy.

“Kneel,” commanded the-Cas-of-his-imagination and he fell to his knees, Cas’ to command as he saw fit.

Dean imagined Cas untying his drawers and letting them fall to the floor. He imagined Cas’ cock just from what he could make out this afternoon. Cas looked bigger than Dean when he was flaccid and Dean imagined him engorged, the head an angry purple-red.

Dean licked his lips in anticipation and the-Cas-in-his-imagination laughed that glorious laugh that Dean brought out of him when he threw him on to his back this afternoon.

“What do you want, Dean?” Cas demanded.

Dean whimpered.

“Use your words.”

“May I…?” Dean swallowed. “Will you fuck my face please, Sir?” Dean was not above begging if it got him what he wanted. “Please?”

Cas looked pleased so Dean continued pleading until Cas moved forward and rubbed the pre-come glistening on his cock on Dean’s cheek. “You beg so well.”

Dean whimpered yet again. He pleased Cas and he hoped that a pleased Cas would give him what he wanted.

“You may kiss the tip.” Cas said, and Dean made sure to keep eye contact with Cas as he slowly crawled forward on his knees into Cas’ personal space and gently kissed the tip.

“Good Boy.” The words went through Dean like lightning, ratcheting his arousal higher and he jerked his cock quite harshly.

A hand threaded through his hair and pulled his head back, forcing him into eye contact yet again. “Hands behind your back.”

He whimpered but he knew that were Cas to command him to cum untouched, he would do so.

Just the thought of it was enough to make him cum. He had enough presence of mind to grab the head of his cock so that he was shooting cum into his palms and not his bath water.

He noticed a couple of thin bath cloths near his tub on a low stool when he entered his bath and carefully wiped his hands on the topmost one.

He lay back into his bath water that was still mostly hot, thankfully, and sighed.

Should he have imagined Cas like that? Probably not.

But with the afternoon he had there was no other recourse. If he did not take care of this situation, this evening would be hell.

And he did not think he would have been able to stop himself from thinking about Cas anyway. Today’s wrestling had given him quite a few good visuals for his future sessions of self-pleasure.

He did not know how long he lingered in his bath but a small noise from the bedroom reminded him that Benny was waiting on him.

He found soap and a small cloth in a small metal basket hung off the lip of the bath tub. He lathered the soap on the small cloth and used it to spread the soap all over his body. He used a small metal cup to wash off most of the soap. Then he soaped his hair and washed it as well.

He stepped out of the bath tub feeling refreshed. He used the second bath cloth to wipe himself mostly dry then pulled on the clean pair of drawers.

He padded back into the bedroom where Benny had all his clothes laid out. Dean dressed himself behind the wooden partition while Benny called the footmen to take away the bath water.

Their eyes met for a moment and Dean wondered if he should be embarrassed about what he did in the bath. But Benny was matter of fact about helping him into his blue superfine coat and boots. Besides, Benny was male too, and probably knew more secrets about this family than Dean could imagine.

Dean reached to pick up his great coat when Benny said, “Leave it, brother. I’ll have it and your gloves and hat waiting downstairs for you.”

Dean gave him a grateful, “Thank you, Benny,” and then walked out to the hallway, down the staircase, where he correctly picked out the door to the sitting room that the family met in before dinner.

Tugging at the bottom hem of his coat at his waist, he took a deep breath and was about to move forward towards the door when a small noise made him look up the staircase.

His breath caught in his throat and it was as though he never pleasured himself in his bathtub. These pants needed more room and he was going to talk with the tailor first thing in the morning.

Cas was poised at the top of the stairs, adjusting his cuffs. He was wearing a navy blue coat that accentuated the breadth of his shoulders while tan buckskin knee breeches that lovingly hugged his thick thighs (and emphasized his unmentionables) were tucked into knee high boots.

Dean swallowed and forced himself to turn back to the door, hoping no one, including Cas witnessed his behavior.

Taking another deep breath, he willed his semi to deflate and was about to reach for the door knob, when he heard a deep, familiar voice say close to his ear, “Hello, Dean.”

And there went his breath again. Someone needed to put a bell on Cas. For such a big man, he sure moved fast and silent when he wanted to.

This was ridiculous and had to stop.

Right. Now.

He did not turn around. From the line of heat at his back, he knew that Cas was standing quite close, probably close enough that if he were to turn around, his lips would graze Cas’.

And he really did not need that thought right at this moment.

He took another breath and then another but the tension kept winding tighter and tighter in his body.

Cas just stood there, probably gloating at how flustered he could get Dean with just his presence and a couple of words.

He was afraid that if Cas said anything else he would get down on his knees and try to enact the very vivid scene he imagined as he was pleasuring himself in his bath.

Thankfully, Charlie decided to come down the stairs just as Dean’s will was about to break.

Cas left him to walk to the foot of the stairs to wait for Charlie. Dean sucked in another breath as he turned his head slightly to watch them. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, Charlie smiled at Cas and took his arm.

Charlie. He had been thinking about Cas, who was married to Charlie, who had been nothing but kind to him. He thought about Charlie’s husband when he was pleasuring himself in his bath. As his grandfather Henry said, he truly was evil.

The mood whiplash was enough to help him calm down and make his best leg to her as the couple moved towards him and the door he was still standing in front of.

***

Dean did not consider himself to be one of those fellows that lacked self-control and yet this whole day had conspired to show him just how wrong he was about himself.

After opening the door to the sitting room for them, Dean followed Charlie and Cas into the room and spent most of his time conversing with the other members of the family while fighting to keep his eyes and thoughts away from Cas.

Dinner was an excruciating affair in which Dean tried his best to ignore Cas and Cas did his best to entice Dean. Dean did not know how he was going to arrange it but he was not going to sit across from Cas at dinner again if he could help it.

Dean did not know that food, of all things, could be so enticing. Cas had started out just sipping his soup but at some point he must have noticed how Dean could not keep his eyes off his lips. Cas, then, went from sipping his soup to making love to his soup, solely for Dean’s benefit. Thankfully they were at the family table and so Dean’s ears were spared. Dean had the feeling that the first time they were eating in private, moaning would be added to Cas’ repertoire.

Dean did not know what he had for dinner, or for that matter, what conversations flowed around him and Cas. All he remembered was Cas licking his lips after each slurp of his soup. Cas opening his mouth wide to accommodate the huge piece of beef that would surely have choked any other man.

And then after dinner, came the horrendous drive in the closed carriage with Charlie, and Anna, and Cas.

As polite gentlemen they sat with their backs to the horses. Just this once Dean wished that Cas had decided to not be polite and made Anna sit with Dean instead. Instead Dean has been subjected to Cas’ thigh cozied up to his thigh all the way to the ball.

How was he supposed to keep up with the conversation going on between the other three when all he could think of was Cas’ proximity and how the session in his bathtub did not help calm his libido at all.

Hoping to distance himself, Dean concentrated on the mansion they drove up to. He helped Anna alight. Then Castiel stepped out and pretended to need Dean’s help. Dean nearly stepped forward to help him out of the coach when he noticed the slight uptick of his lips.

Bastard.

Dean stepped away from the carriage. Once he was on the ground, Castiel helped Charlie out.

Charlie, animated at usual, looped her arm through Anna’s arm and walked off with her. And Dean was now stuck with Castiel once again. He followed after the ladies. Cas was in an interesting mood tonight and made Dean feel like a gazelle again with his intense scrutiny. It would be best for Dean to be as far away from a very enticing Cas as possible.

They handed over their overcoats to the footmen and receive a token which Cas hid in his waistcoat.

They politely waited for the older Mr. Milton, Mrs. Milton and the Dowager Mrs. Milton, who had taken the second carriage, in the foyer. Anna and Charlie conversed while Dean and Cas waited quietly. Dean tried his best not to look as awestruck as a country bumpkin but he was still in awe of the grandeur of the hallway.

Thankfully the older members of their party arrived and they then proceed to the reception line. Once they went through the line they were announced at the top of the steps of the ball room.

The ballroom was huge and ornately decorated. The walls were painted a creamy white and sported enormous floor to ceiling paintings and tapestries. The three chandeliers were huge as well and the yellow light from the numerous candles in the chandeliers and the scones on the walls created an inviting atmosphere.

There was a full orchestra on the balcony across from the staircase that provided the music.

The women were dressed in a kaleidoscope of colors while the men were mostly dressed in more sober colors.

Along the walls were chairs that were utilized by those not dancing.

After they descended to the ballroom, the older members of their party moved off to find their cronies leaving the younger set to fend for themselves.

Dean had asked Charlie to help him navigate the intricacies of his first London ball. He was used to the country manner of the cotillions and smaller affairs in Winchester. He did not want to put his future in-laws in the middle of a scandal on his very first outing in London.

Charlie told him that the ladies would be given small booklets and that he should sign no more than two dances for each of them and any other ladies that caught his fancy.

Dean really did not want to dance with anyone . However, he would not mind watching Cas dance. After seeing him box this afternoon, Dean had a fairly good idea of how graceful Cas would look whilst dancing.

However, Cas was nowhere in the vicinity.

Charlie was kind enough to point out the different rooms and activities contained therein to Dean.

When Charlie and Anna found their friends, Dean stood close enough to be part of their group but far enough away that he would not look like he was guarding the women. He wished Cas had stayed to keep him company and had not wandered off.

Dean dutifully signed both Anna’s and Charlie’s books for two dances each.

Castiel came back with Balthazar and Gabriel, and their wives. After Charlie introduced Dean to the ladies, Castiel asked the ladies what they would like to drink. He tugged Dean towards the room that contained the buffet tables.

The room, while not as ornately decorated as the ballroom, was quite splendid. The buffets tables in the middle of the room were groaning with the weight of all kinds of foods and drinks. Small tables and chairs for those who wanted to sit and take a break from the dancing in the ballroom were arranged close to the walls.

‘Twas quieter here than the ballroom. However, the music from the ballroom still flowed into the room as people talked and ate. As the other men grabbed glasses of lemonade for their ladies, Dean did the same for Anna. For the men there were stronger spirits but Dean did not think it was a good idea for him to start imbibing. He was old-fashioned that way. He preferred to do his drinking when alone with the men.

They returned back to the ladies with their drinks in hand and politely listened to the ladies as they gossiped while sipping on their lemonades.

After dancing with Anna and Charlie, Dean danced with Gabriel’s wife and Balthazar’s wife.

After the dances, the men headed to the rooms set aside for the gaming tables.

Dean walked around the rooms, looked at the different tables but came to the conclusion that he did not want to play.

As he idly wandered around he noticed lights out a window at the back of the room that looked out over the gardens behind the mansion. ‘Twas only on moving closer to the window that he realized that the lights were illuminating a gazebo.

Dean searched for a door and when he found it, he wandered out and towards the gazebo.

The gazebo was a white octagonal structure and had a padded seat on seven of its eight sides. The eighth side was open and had steps leading up into it. He blew out the candles that were on small scones affixed on the posts holding up the roof, plunging the gazebo into darkness.

He stepped onto the seat and then sat on the railing. The full moon was huge tonight in the eastern sky, bright enough to light up the gardens that surrounded the gazebo. He contemplated the moon, and if he wished that a certain blue-eyed messy-haired someone were with him at that moment, then that was between him and the moon.

He missed Sam. Sam would tease him but he would also talk to him about Cas and what was going on between the two of them. Dean had written Sam but there were somethings he could not say in a letter that could possibly fall into the wrong hands.

Cas was solemn and stoic most of the time, and Dean had not yet learned his tells. He had an intoxicating effect on Dean and Dean wanted more of it. That much he did know.

Dean wanted more than a teasing brotherly relationship with Cas. If his fantasy before his bath was any indication, he wanted a sexual relationship with Cas.

Would Cas want that too? Or was he as clueless as he seemed? Cas seemed to be just teasing him like a big brother would tease a younger, like Dean has teased Sam countless times.

But Dean wanted more and he was beginning to suspect that if all Cas felt towards him was brotherly love, then he was going to be quite disappointed.

The crunches he heard came to a stop. The person had not been quiet at all. Why had they stopped? Was it because they did not know who he was? Should he turn around and see if the person was someone he was introduced to earlier this evening?

Just as he was about to hop down and introduce himself, he heard Cas’ low greeting, “Hello Dean.”

He did not have to worry about introductions or anything of the sort, and he heaved a sigh of relief. These rules were beginning to get confused in his mind.

And also what happened to Cas’ stealth from earlier in the evening?

“I thought it prudent not to be quite so stealthy after what happened earlier this evening.”

Did he ask that out loud?

Cas was standing behind and to his right. Dean nodded to the railing at his right. And slightly turned as he heard the straw in the cushions creak and then Cas was gracefully joining him on the railing.

“Are you well?” Cas asked after he was settled on the railing next to him, a foot of space and one of the pillars between their bodies.

Now Cas remembered to keep a decent distance between them. Made sense. They were at a ball where anyone could come up on them in the dark.

Cas could be a confusing mix of naivete and decorum at times.

“Yes.” Why was he asking? “Just needed to get some fresh air.” When did he lose control of his tongue and why did he keep blurting things out to this particular man?

“The moon is fair tonight,” Cas said. Dean nearly swallowed his tongue and did not turn to look at Cas, incredulous that he was making polite conversation with him.

Cas did not do polite conversation. What was this all about?

Cas could speak his piece or not but Dean would not be indulging him in polite conversation.

The moon was beautiful and the stars were lovely but they all paled beside the beauty of the man next to him.

“My apologies,” Cas said as he hopped off the railing and into the bushes that surrounded the gazebo. “I will not monopolize your time further.”

“Wait. No.”

“No?” Cas tilted his head at that angle that should be officially adorable.

“You have nothing to apologize for.”

“I do not?”

“No.” Dean hopped down from the railing too. “Would you like to join me in a stroll about the gardens?” Dean gestured towards the gravel path.

“If you are positive.”

“I am.”

“Very well.”

They walked together following the meandering path through the gardens. They were probably beautiful in the daylight. But he was more concerned with the man walking by his side. This talk was long overdue but he was not sure where to begin. How did one ask one’s brother-in-law-to-be if he liked men sexually? And if he did, did he like Dean sexually, in particular?

What if Cas decided that Dean was not worthy of his sister? If Dean came clean and Cas was offended on his sister’s behalf, would he go to Zachariah with the information?

Dean was sure Zachariah would report him to the authorities.

Dean would like to be open about his sexuality but in this day and age that was not something he could do with impunity. But maybe he could ask about something more removed from his situation.

“I apologize as well for this afternoon.” Dean’s confusion must be apparent because Cas continued.“I am usually quite oblivious to nuances at times. Gabriel mentioned that you might have been afraid to refuse to fight me at the Saloon.”

“Again, no apology necessary. I would have refused if I had been uncomfortable.”

“Will you be candid with me, Dean?”

“I will, to the best of my ability.”

“If you do not wish to do something I propose, will you let me know?”

“Yes, I will.”

“Since we are to be brothers, I would that we understand each other well.”

“I would like that as well.”

“That is settled then. There is one other conversation that must be had. But not here, I think. Will you join me in a brandy in my study tonight after the ball?”

“Yes, I will. There is something I need to talk to you about as well. It too requires the privacy of your study.”

They continued to walk around the gardens although they did not converse verbally. Dean was finally at peace with spending time with Cas alone.

***

After they returned from the ball and said their good-nights to the other members of the family, Cas invited Dean into his study and poured them both a glass of brandy. Cas removed his coat, rolled up his shirt sleeves and nodded at Dean, who did the same. They settled in a couple of chairs in front of the fire.

Cas did not look at him or in any way indicate his comfort level. Dean took a sip of the brandy. He was both, eager to begin, and ready for this to be over.

“I do not only wish us to be brothers, Dean,” Cas said, continuing the conversation they started in the Manchester’s garden. “I wish for us to be friends as well.”

“I want that as well.” Dean said, and he did not lie. He wanted more than friendship but if that was all Cas was willing to give him then he would take it and be grateful for his friendship.

“Do you have any questions?”

He was not sure that he should bring this up again but he was curious.

“What is “Greek Love”?” Dean asked. “I am not much of a reader. I prefer to do things with my hands. Sammy is the reader in the family.”

Dean felt rather than saw Cas’ nod. He did not think he could have this conversation in a brightly lit room. One of the things he had learned was to hide this part of himself and while he wished that he could be completely honest at all times, the culture and society they lived in were such that he could not.

“I learned about the Greeks at school.” Dean’s incredulity must have been apparent because Cas’ gave a huff of a laugh. “No, it was not part of the official curriculum. Some boy had passed out a pamphlet and it intrigued me. So I looked for more information.”

Dean nodded. Dean could readily see that. Cas and Sammy had that much in common. They both liked to learn, to be informed.

“The Greeks,” Cas began, “had a cultural history of pederasty.” Dean was now picturing him with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, teaching a bunch of snot-nosed children about the history of the Greeks. Dean found the picture in his mind quite enticing but right now was not the time for his libido to be acting up.

“Pederasty?” Dean asked. He was not familiar with the word.

“A Greek citizen would take another Greek citizen, usually a teen, as his boon companion.”

“Ah.”

“Greek women were not allowed the freedoms of education and expression. The relationship between the two males was probably not only intellectual but also sexual.”

Dean was sure his face was flaming at this point.

“Gabriel was right to reprimand me. This is not a subject for public venues.”

“Is it true that London has people who engage in these acts?”

“Yes. While it has become popular to express disdain in public for such practices in recent years, you would no doubt be surprised to learn how many men and women in London do participate in them, in private.”

He was just glad he was not the only one with perverse inclinations in the city. Henry had made him sound so evil, satanic almost.

Sammy knew, as did Bobby, Ellen and Missouri. And they did not think him any less for it. Would Castiel think less of him if he knew of Dean’s inclinations? Would he still want him as his brother? Would he still want him as his friend?

He studied his brandy for a while longer. He wished that Cas would be his friend regardless of Dean’s proclivities. Besides, unlike Cas, Dean planned on being faithful to his wife once he was wed.

“I…” His voice broke on the word. He cleared his throat and started again. “I feel like I can trust you.”

Interestingly enough, although he had known Cas for only three days, yet he felt he could trust Cas more than some he had known for years. Dean never trusted people he had just met. Cas needed to know that.

“I do not trust people. And yet, when we met …has it only been three days? I knew that I could trust you.”

Dean took a deep breath. He had to say it now or he never would.

“I am one of them.” He said quietly.

Cas now had the means to destroy him completely.

“Thank you for trusting me, Dean. I am honored. And yes, you can trust me to keep your secret. And I hope you will keep mine as well. I am one of them, as well.”

“Wha…What?” Dean was not sure he heard that right.

“I am.” Cas repeated.

Dean had so many questions. Cas was married to a woman. Then was Cas like him, where he liked both men and women? Or did he only like men? But then how did he and Charlie go about making their children?

Cas huffed one of his barely there laughs. “I can hear you thinking, Dean.”

Right. “Would you care to elaborate what you mean?” Dean said, hoping that Castiel would explain what it was that he actually liked.

“I have always been interested in the intellectual and spiritual aspects of the person; their reproductive organs do not matter much to me. How about you?”

With Cas so candid, Dean could do no less. “I have always found both men and women pleasing to my eyes.”

“Fascinating.”

Dean heard the soft thunk of the snifter Cas placed on the small table between them.

“Gabriel will tell you, I am quite oblivious to social cues most of the time. I am afraid people have to be quite forthright with me. Tell me, Dean, do you find me pleasing?”

Dean studiously contemplated the fire. Now or never. He took a deep breath.

“Yes.”

“Intellectually?”

“Yes.”

“Sexually?”

“Yes.”

Cas leaned back in his chair and now Dean could not even see his profile. He gathered up his courage. Now was his turn to ask questions.

“Do you find me interesting, Cas?”

“Yes.”

“Intellectually?”

“Yes.”

“Sexually?”

“Yes.” There was the slightest huff of laugh in Cas’ reply and it made Dean so giddy that he laughed out loud.

Cas liked him. Cas really liked him. And not just as a brother or a friend but as a possible lover. He was overwhelmed. He did not know how long he just stared into the fire and enjoyed the feeling of having his feelings reciprocated.

He was not alone in this anymore.

Chapter Text

Since it was Sunday they skipped the dawn ride as had become their routine. Instead of the usual breakfast in Cas’ study, they had a light early breakfast in the dining room with the whole family. After breakfast, the family, including Dean, rode in two carriages to the Milton’s church where the banns of their wedding were read. Dean did his best to focus on the sermon and not on Cas who was sitting next to him and kept distracting him by pressing his thigh into his.

Knowing that Cas liked him just as much as he liked Cas made his libido calmer. He was sporting a semi most of the time around Cas but the tension was different now. He was not afraid or worried of the consequences of his body’s reactions to Cas’ proximity.

After church, they had lunch with Charlie, Anna and the boys as usual. After lunch, Cas lead him to another room off his study.

The room was bare of all furniture except for a few small stools scattered near the walls. The floor was spongy under foot and their boots barely make a sound as they crossed the floor.

“What is this place?” Dean asked.

“I thought we could spar here,” Cas said, as he studiously did not look at Dean.

This would be a good place to spar in private. At least here, if he sported an erection, he would not have to worry about other people noticing. Cas already knew, and since he told Dean about himself, Dean did not worry about Cas reporting him to the authorities.

He did not think he could control himself in private when Cas was that close and mostly undressed but he would definitely like to spar with Cas again.

“Very well.” Dean said.

Cas turned to him, eyes slightly wide in surprise.

He began to unbutton his bottle green coat. “They make your eyes pop, sir,” one of the tailor’s assistants had gushed when he had tried it on. And Cas had looked quite awed that morning when he came down the stairs for breakfast.

“Where can I hang this?”

“Let me help you.” Cas said as he moved behind Dean and smoothed his warm palms over Dean’s shoulders, his body heat a solid line at Dean’s back.

Dean smiled to himself. Two could play that game.

Dean allowed Cas to strip the coat from him. He waited until Cas hung up the coat on one of the pegs on the wall and turned back to him before he began to unbutton his waistcoat.

Cas watched his hands closely and brushed his fingers against Dean’s before he took the waistcoat from his fingers to hang it up on the peg next to his coat, giving him barely enough time to recover from the tingle that raced through him at the small skin-on-skin contact.

Cas stepped into his personal space and eyed his cravat. Dean swallowed convulsively. Cas took his time to undo the simple knot and removed it with careful hands, the backs of his fingers brushing a gentle heat over Dean’s throat. Cas hung that up as well while Dean gulped in some much needed air.

Dean unlaced his shirt, one lace at a time, his eyes on Cas who still looked quite stoic but could not hide the heat building in his eyes. When Dean moved his hands down to the hem of his shirt, Cas brushed his hands off and carefully pulled the shirt up and off his body. Dean closed his eyes and took in a deep breath.

Cas nodded to one of the stools, giving him a wordless instruction to sit. Dean sat immediately. Cas crouched before him and pointed to his right boot.

Seeing Cas kneeling at his feet, serving as his valet, made him hard. In this position, the fact was completely exposed to Cas’ eyes. Cas gazed deep into his eyes and Dean did not look away, instead letting Cas see not only how he physically affected him but also emotionally.

Cas nodded but did not touch him. Instead he turned around, straddling Dean’s boot between his thick thighs. Dean gripped the sides of the stool he was sitting on as tight as possible, afraid that if he let go he would put his hands on Cas’ enticing backside.

Cas, unaware of Dean’s rising tension, pulled off the boot he was working on and placed it to the side before he tapped on Dean’s other leg.

Cas straddled his other leg and proceeded to remove the second boot. Once he was done, Cas did not immediately move off as Dean had been praying for.

Instead, he carefully rolled down first one then the other stocking while Dean barely held onto his self-control.

Cas pushed the stockings into their respective boot, and then, finally, stood up and moved the boots closer to the wall, right under the pegs that held Dean’s coat and waistcoat.

Dean took in a deep breath, then another. How had Cas managed to turn the tables on him so fast?

Cas plucked off two long, loose sets of pants that hung on another set of pegs on the opposite wall and carried them to Dean who had removed his breeches and was now only sporting his drawers and a sizable erection.

Cas handed him one of the pants. Dean pulled it over his drawers. It did nothing to hide his erection but it was loose and comfortable.

Dean reciprocated by playing valet and in a mimicry of Cas’ earlier provocation, smoothed his palms over Cas’ shoulders and helped him remove his coat. They proceeded in silence with Cas’ waistcoat, shirt and cravat.

Cas’ Adam’s apple bobbed, enticing him to lick up Cas’ throat but Cas had not indicated yet through either word or deed how far he wanted this to go, so he refrained. Probably the most difficult thing he had done in a long time.

There was something else that was bothering him. In the three days that he had known her, Charlie had become a good friend. And while he knew that Cas had other paramours, he did not want to be the one to bring distress to Charlie. He wanted Cas but not at the expense of Charlie’s feelings.

“What about Charlie?” Dean broke the delicious tension between them. He had to know. He would hate to be the kind of man that stabbed his friends in the back.

“Charlotte knows how I feel about you. As a matter of fact, she is the one that pushed me to talk to you last night.” Huh. So at least Cas was honest with his wife. But Dean was still not sure they should go further than an acknowledgment of their feelings.

“And Anna? Does she know as well?”

“No. In all this, Anna has been innocent.”

“And will you be telling Anna about this?” He waved a hand between the two of them. They gravitated so close to each other that Dean could feel Cas’ hot breath on his lips, the solid heat of his body an enticement to close the minute distance between their bodies.

“I am not …”

“Do you see my dilemma, Cas?”

“I see.”

Sammy would say that Dean was emotionally constipated. He did feel. He just did not see why Sammy wanted to talk about feelings all the time.

However, this was a situation that was liable to come back and bite them in the backside at a later date. He wanted to avoid that as much as possible.

They did not live in a time and place where they could move in together and set up a household. They also had Charlie and Anna to consider. And Charlie and Anna’s feelings to take into account.

In a perfect world, Charlie and Anna would not be hurt by their actions. But this was not a perfect world. This was their regular, imperfect world. If they were to go any further other than the acknowledgment of their feelings, then both, Anna and Charlie, needed to be made aware of the consequences. Their decisions would have consequences not only for themselves but also for Anna, Charlie and their children.

However, they could consider all the disadvantages and bad consequences of their decision at a later date.

He had a nearly naked Cas again in front of him. Right now all he wanted was to bask in the heat of the man in front of him. If he was presented with the opportunity to put his hands all over Cas’ well defined musculature then he was not going to complain.

He shook his head to push away his thoughts and backed away from Cas, moved to the middle of the room and began a series of warm up exercises designed to loosen his limbs. Cas took up a similar stance about three feet away.

Being this close to a mostly naked Castiel was exhilarating. He did not think he could ever tire of watching how Cas’ muscles flexed and moved under his skin. Cas’ movements had a sensuality that fanned the flames of lust in him at all times, but more so now that he was mostly naked. Being able to look at him like this was a privilege and an honor. It also gave him more fodder for his imagination. What he could now see was so much better than what he had been imagining in his mind for the last three nights.

Sparring in private also had an intimacy to it that the big arena did not have. Why had he said yes to sparring in private with Cas again?

Oh, yes. He was thinking with his cock and not his brain. His cock has wanted to be closer to Castiel since he first saw him. Having him stripped down to his drawers did not help the situation in Dean’s drawers any. And now being so close, all Dean wanted to do was worship the cock he could see the outline of. Cas’ drawers were not loose and they did nothing to hide the fact that the man was hung like a stallion.

They took up stances facing each other with about three feet between them. One thing Dean learned yesterday was that Cas was good at tactics. Dean was more of a make-it-up-as-he-goes kind of a fighter.

Dean nodded and Cas nodded back and then they were on. Dean attacked in the same patterns he did at Gentleman Jackson’s place and feinted right while he moved left but Cas had learned his tactics well.

He moved with Dean and when Dean tried to grab his waist, Cas was quicker and grabbed his wrists, pulling him out of the movement.

Dean stalled for a moment and then Cas let go of his wrists.

Dean moved in close again, this time going straight for Cas’ waist but Cas was faster than him again. Cas grabbed him around the waist before Dean’s hands could get anywhere near him and held him in place. Knowing Cas was fast and strong had made him quite warm yesterday. But having all that speed and strength arrayed against him made him almost explode from the heat that washed through him now.

Cas released him and stepped back again.

“Who did you train with?” Cas said.

“Train with?” He tried to get in close again but Cas had him disarmed almost immediately. He knew he could not hope to best Cas once he learned his tells but the physical contact was still exhilarating.

Cas quirked an eyebrow at him.

He relaxed his stance and watched Cas for a moment.

“Mostly the stable hands and Sammy.”

Cas nodded. “I see. I trained under Gentleman Jackson.”

Dean nodded back. Gentleman Jackson had said something similar.

“Would you like me to teach you?” Cas said.

Yes, yes, he would. Spending more time alone, one-on-one with Cas? There could be no other answer.

“Sure.” He said, nonchalant.

“Very well,” Cas said. “First, your stance. Your right foot should be at about a forty-five degree angle and your left should be at about a twenty degree angle. Like this.” Cas demonstrated how to angle his shoulders and hips.

The lesson brought to mind the Professor Cas daydream he had last night when they were talking in Cas’ study. And, now concentration was har — even words were against him. Concentrating on the lesson was … difficult.

Cas stood before him, hands loose at his side, feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent forward.

“You want to be balanced in this stance,” he continued. “This is your basic stance.”

Dean shook his head to physically remind himself to focus on the here and now. Dean copied his stance. Cas walked around him a couple of times, making small adjustments. The scrutiny and attention to detail ratcheted the heat up another notch. The deep “Good” that rumbled out of Cas’ chest increased the heat even more. All his concentration was focused on suppressing the shiver that wanted to shudder through his body.

Next, Cas showed him how to form his hands into fists for maximum impact and minimum damage. Fingers folded in, thumb on top. Cas tapped on his thumbs gently before taking his position next to him to demonstrate where to place his hands, one fist near his chin to protect his face and the other fist about the same level as his shoulder.

Next he demonstrated how a jab and a right cross work together. “Jab with your left,” he said. “Cross with your right, move forward as you cross.”

Dean practiced a few hundred times until Cas was happy with his stance, his jab and his right cross.

After a short break to drink some water, Cas showed him upper cuts and hooks.

Cas had him practice them all again and again, first at slow speed, then medium, then fast. Then with distractions.

In the form of conversations, about, of all things, how he realized he found both men and women attractive. When they were done, Dean felt exhilarated as though they had just come back from a vigorous ride.

Benny knocked on the door to remind them that dinner would be served soon. Since they still needed to wash the sweat from their exercise and dress for dinner, they slipped into the dressing gowns Benny brought with him. Castiel lead him back to his room while Benny collected their clothes from the sparring room. They separated at Dean’s bedroom door with promises to see each other at dinner. Dean's bath, once again, included a session of self-pleasure.

After dinner with the whole family, Becky and the younger members including Dean and Cas adjourned to the library where the servants had moved the furniture to create enough of a “stage” where they could practice their play.

Charlie had deemed that Cas would play Antonio, a prominent merchant of Venice while Dean would play Bassino, his best friend. Anna would play Portia, who marries Bassino and Charlie would play Nerissa, Portia’s maid.

The rest of the evening was spent amid laughter as they memorized their lines.

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***

The days fell into a seamless routine of sorts. Each morning Dean rode with Cas before breakfast. They usually took their breakfast in Cas’ study together and then worked on their respective businesses. Cas left at about ten to read to his boys while Dean wrote to Sam about his day. When he was done, he joined Cas in Charlie’s sitting room.

Usually after lunch with Charlie, Anna and the boys, they either went to Gentleman Jackson’s or stayed at home and sparred in Castiel’s private sparring room. Evenings were alternately spent in the company of the rest of the family practicing the play or at the gentleman’s club with Gabriel and Balthazar.

According to Mrs. Milton, the wedding preparations were coming along.

Anna and he did not spend time together alone nor did they converse other than polite greetings. Dean tried to converse with Anna but any subject that he brought up was short-lived. Whenever the family got together, it was Anna who provided the musical accompaniment in the form of piano playing. From conversations with Charlie and Cas, he learned that Anna had wanted to become a professional piano player. However, Naomi had put her foot down and proclaimed that no daughter of hers would be working outside the home.

Cas and he were just stepping onto the first step of White’s one afternoon about three weeks into his stay in London when a small boy with unruly dark brown hair and blue eyes came up to them, and lisped, “A posy for your missus, sir?”

Dean crouched down to talk to the boy, giving him more money than he needed to for the flowers before he realized that Cas was no longer in his vicinity.

Instead, Cas was talking to a woman dressed in an elegant but worn brown cotton dress. They were arguing about something. He had not missed how much the little boy looked a lot like Cas and his sons.

The anger that returned when he realized what this meant was not a surprise anymore. The boy was about four or five years of age. That meant that while Charlie was busy with a baby Samandriel, Castiel had been busy with this woman.

The discussion between Castiel and the woman ended. Castiel then crouched next to him and began to talk to the boy.

Dean straightened up, walked up the steps, and into the club leaving Castiel behind. He could not be around him right now or he would hit him hard enough to deck him.

Inside, Dean settled into their usual table. Thankfully Gabriel and Balthazar were not here yet. He ordered a bottle of whiskey and proceeded to try to dull as much of his anger as he could before Castiel entered.

‘Twas difficult to reconcile this with the Castiel he had come to know in the last few weeks.

Castiel sat down at the table with him a little later but Dean had no idea how long it had been.

Castiel dragged the other glass toward himself and poured a good amount into it before he took a healthy swig of it. Drowning his sorrows? What did Castiel have to be sorry for? That Dean found out he was not the upstanding citizen he pretended to be?

They finished the bottle in silence before Gabriel and Balthazar got there.

Gabriel and Balthazar came in together, took one look at their solemn faces and their boisterous greetings transformed into confusion. Gabriel asked the waiter for a private room, more alcohol and food.

Once they were in the private room, Gabriel asked in an uncharacteristic somber voice, “What happened?”

Dean did not say anything. There was nothing he could say. This happened before he was in the picture.

Dean had always known that Londoners had a different view of fidelity anyway.

Castiel swallowed another mouthful before he raised his head, and answered Gabriel, “I saw Amelia.”

“Great. So why do you look like your favorite dog died?”

Castiel grimaced, guilt chased away the sorrow from his face.

“She and James were selling posies outside, at the bottom of the steps.”

Gabriela and Balthazar’s silence was unnerving. Dean was used to the two of them joking and carrying on.

“What are you going to do about her?”

Castiel struck his head on the table a few times.

“I offered her and James a place at Milton,” he sounded defeated.

“Perfect.”

“No. Not perfect. She declined what she called my charity.”

“Bollocks!”

“Indeed.”

They all drank and attended to the food when it arrived.

“Sic your wife on her.”

“Balthazar?”

“Yes. That’s the perfect solution. No one can refuse Mrs. Milton.”

Now Balthazar and Gabriel were talking about telling Charlie about Castiel’s mistress. And their bastard son.

Dean was sure he would not be able to keep the disgust out of his eyes and so he focused his eyes on his drink. He side-eyed Castiel but he was not looking at anyone either. He had his eyes glued to the drink in his hand as well.

He had not said anything yet but Dean was sure he was looking at all the possible ramifications of the decision to tell Charlie. After all, tactical strategy was one of his strengths.

Castiel suddenly stood with such force his chair skidded backwards. “I must talk to my wife.” He muttered an apology to Gabriel and Balthazar, who waved him off.

Dean followed in Castiel’s wake, still not sure telling Charlie about this was the right thing to do.

When they reached the townhouse, Castiel asked for Charlie the moment they entered. The footman who answered the door informed them that Mrs. Milton was in her sitting room.

“Castiel.” Dean put a hand on Castiel’s forearm and tried to stop his headlong rush towards Charlie’s sitting room. However, Castiel was blind to everything but the decision he had made and strode purposefully towards Charlie’s sitting room.

Castiel paused at the door to Charlie’s sitting room, and turned to Dean. “It might be best if I spoke with Charlotte alone,” he said.

Dean nodded. “Very well.”

In a way Castiel’s decision made sense. It would be best if this news came from Castiel himself instead of one of the toadying people that called themselves Charlie’s friends but were just jealous of her and would profit from seeing her discomfited in public.

Dean headed to his room to try and put this new information into perspective. On the one hand, he was angry on Charlie’s behalf. On the other, he felt proud of Castiel for not only owning his mistake but making amends for it by deciding to take his son and his son’s mother in. Life was hard and it was harder yet for a young woman who had a child out of wedlock.

Dean had questions but no answers, answers that he was clearly not owed. After he entered Castiel’s sparring room, he changed out of his suit and into his sparring pants. Then he proceeded to pummel the dummy Castiel had set up and worked through the anger that was coursing through his veins.

In the following days, Dean did not hear anything else about the flower seller and her son. He assumed Cas told Charlie the whole sordid story because the very next afternoon Cas and Charlie headed out together after the boys had been put down for their afternoon nap.

That night when Dean and Cas met up with Gabriel and Balthazar, all Cas said was, “Balthazar was right, my wife was successful. Amelia and James will be repairing to Milton House in the morning.”

Gabriel and Balthazar both gave Cas significant looks but Dean had no idea what the significance was. He was still in the dark about the whole issue. He was proud that Cas took care of his son and the mother of said son. Why did this take so long? Where had she been that Cas was only now taking care of her? And most important to him, would Cas take up with her again?

Dean was equally worried for Charlie and how she was coping with this issue. But Charlie was as closed mouthed as Cas. Dean found himself focusing on Charlie a whole lot more during their daily lunches. However, she seemed to have taken this in stride and Dean was awfully proud of her as well. Not only had she taken James in but she allowed Amelia to be made part of the family. That kind of integrity was admirable.

Dean did not question either of them but watched them carefully. Nothing seemed to be amiss between Cas and Charlie. Dean finally relaxed his vigilance. That went much better than he thought it would. Cas and Charlie seemed to be as close as ever, this incident but a blip in their married life.

Chapter Text

Dean looked out the front window, impatiently pushing the curtain aside so he could see unhindered.

Today was the day.

Three weeks was the longest Sammy and he had been separated. And now that the carriage carrying his brother was due, he was completely unable to sit still and focus on anything.

Last night he barely slept, fear of missing out on his brother’s arrival waking him up every hour.

This morning he rushed through his toilet. Benny directed a knowing smirk at him.

He rushed through his ride with Castiel who also smirked at him.

He rushed through his breakfast too.

He was ensconced in the front parlor that looked out over the street in front of the house ever since Cas kicked him out of his study as he had been unable to sit still long enough to work on his estate business.

He was excited. He had not been away from younger brother for this long in all of Sammy’s sixteen years. He missed his little brother. Not that he would ever tell him that.

The fact that Henry and John would be accompanying Sammy was mitigated by the fact that Bobby would be acting as their coachman.

There was a great clatter on the street in front of the house as Bobby brought the carriage to a halt.

Dean dropped the curtain, rushed through the doorway and would have run headlong into the front door if Benny had not opened it.

“Sammy!”

One of the footmen had already pulled down the carriage steps.

“It is Sam, Dean.” Sammy sighed as he alighted from the carriage.

As soon as both his feet were on the ground, Dean pulled him into a crushing hug that might have lasted a bit longer than appropriate. He had missed his brother.

Sammy thumped him on his shoulder blades twice, then pulled away.

“Did you get taller, Sammy?”

“Maybe.”

The footman helped John and Henry out of the coach. Henry favored him with a curt nod while John ignored him completely.

Shrugging off their attitude, Dean walked to the front of the carriage, and addressed Bobby, “Took you long enough, old man.”

“Who are you calling old, boy?” came the querulous rejoinder.

Dean grinned.

Leaving the footmen to unload the luggage, Dean led Sammy into the house as Sammy chattered away about their trip and what they had seen of London so far.

Benny nodded at him once before he escorted Henry and John to their rooms.

“This way.” Dean steered Sammy towards Cas’ study.

He knocked on the door to let Cas know that they were about to invade his sanctuary.

“Come.” At Cas’ invitation, he pushed the door open, waving Sammy into the study first. He closed the door behind them and proceeded towards Cas’ desk, Sammy right behind him.

“Castiel Milton, my younger brother Sam Winchester. Sammy, Cas.” Dean wiped his suddenly damp hands down his thighs.

Cas came around the desk, his hand extended to Sammy.

Once they were done with the pleasantries, Cas indicated the chairs in front of the fireplace.

After they were all seated, Sammy and Dean on one side, Cas on the other of the fireplace, Cas relaxed back into his chair.

“I require intelligence on Dean.” Cas’ lips were turned up into a small smirk. “Name your price.”

“Well…” Sammy began. “Do you have any law books here?”

Cas laughed. Dean was jealous that Sammy managed to delight Cas so soon. At the same time, he was scared of what the alliance between Sammy and Cas would mean for himself.

“That we do.”

“Information on Dean in exchange for full access to all your law books,” Sammy bargained.

“Agreed.”

And they both gave each other a conspiratorial nod.

“So, what did you want to know?” Sammy started.

“Well, …” Cas began.

“I am right here.” Dean tried to interject.

They both turned to him with identical looks on their faces that said he could shut up now or suffer the consequences. One of them he might be able to take on. But both of them against him? No. Not at all. He was not that dumb. He raised his hands in surrender. They both gave him identical nods that approved of his choice and then proceeded with their conversation.

That Sammy and Cas got along famously was not a surprise to him. In many ways, they were alike. They were both smart, intelligent, eager to learn and compassionate.

Dean watched them banter back and forth, touching on the varied subjects that fascinated them, finding subjects that they both found fascinating in common.

The clock in the study chimed the quarter hour.

Cas had a lot of books in his study. Books that he told Sammy he was welcome to borrow at any time.

Once Cas exhausted the books in the study, he led the way to the library. Dean trailed behind them, forgotten in the thrill of another person that understood their need for information.

Sammy tried his very best to pretend that the library did not overwhelm him but he failed. Dean just smirked at him and proceeded to settle into the comfiest chair as he watched Cas go into teaching mode.

He tuned out the conversation between Cas and Sammy as his mind wandered back to the daydream of Cas as his tutor and Dean as the disobedient student.

Cas departed at ten to read to the boys snapping Dean out of his daydream about Cas spanking him. Dean was deeply mortified. How could he think such things while his brother was still in the room?

Sammy pulled out a few books to read then they returned to the study. Sam sat in Cas’ chair and Dean took his own seat across the table from him.

Sammy and he talked about Winchester Manor for a while. Sammy had taken over Dean’s duties, in addition to his own, and looked quite haggard.

“I am sorry, Sammy.” Dean said.

But Sammy waved him off. “ I know it was not your idea.”

Dean left him to his books while he worked on the estate business he had been unable to concentrate on this morning in anticipation of Sammy’s arrival until it was time for lunch.

***

In Charlie’s sitting room, Cas was seated in the big comfortable chair as usual, both the boys in his lap, a book open between them as he read to them while Charlie and Anna worked on their needlepoint.

Charlie, as usual, put up her needlepoint the moment Dean poked his head through the door. Cas continued to read as he and Sammy entered the room and found seats. Once the boys noticed the new additions, the squirming began.

Cas nodded to them, closed the book and put it on the table next to him.

Castiel did the honors of introducing Sammy to the ladies and his sons, after which they all trooped to the table for lunch.

“Are you ready for the play then, Sam?” Charlie could not contain her enthusiasm.

“Yes, indeed.” Sammy said.

The lunch then devolved into Charlie and Sammy tossing lines at each other. Castiel and Anna chimed in with quiet comments and suggestions.

This was what a family should be. An exchange of ideas and fellowship. For once Dean was not mindlessly going on to the next thing on his to-do list. Instead he was content to watch as his brother and his future in-laws got acquainted with each other. Contentment. Not something he ever thought he would find.

As they were finishing lunch, a footman arrived to inform them that Mr. Milton requested the presence of the men. They took their leave of the ladies and the boys with promises to see them at lunch the next day.

***

Sam and Dean bickered among themselves as they accompanied Cas to the library where the older Mr. Milton had summoned them after lunch.

In addition to the older Mr. Milton, Dean’s grandfather Henry and father John were also in the library.

“Come in, Dean, Samuel.” Sam and Dean sat down on the unoccupied sette that was, unfortunately, across from the sette his grandfather and his father were seated on. Dean looked at Castiel but he had turned his back to the room and was looking out of the window.

The older Mr. Milton picked up some papers off a table at his elbow.

“I had Castiel and Dean working on the repair and maintenance plans.” He passed the papers to his right, to Dean’s grandfather. Henry looked at them and forwarded them to his right, to John, one at a time.

“Dean will be in charge of the day-to-day plans.”

Henry looked like he wanted to say something but one glance at the older Mr. Milton and he knew he was outmaneuvered.

“Castiel will approve the expenses, and only then, will Dean make the necessary arrangements.”

John passed the papers onto Sam without looking at them. It hurt to see how disconnected his father was but there was not much Dean could do about it. He had not been able to help John out of his melancholia. He had learned over the years to just shove his feelings into the darkest corners of his heart. Now was not the time to be concerned about John.

“Castiel will be coming to Winchester Manor at least once a month to personally look at the improvements being made.”

Dean looked at Cas but he was still turned away. Why was he only now hearing about this?

Henry looked up again but the older Mr. Milton’s glare kept him quiet.

“You may keep those,” the older Mr. Milton nodded at the papers in Sam’s hands. “Any questions?”

The older Mr. Milton looked at Henry who shook his head. “No.”

John did not even look at any of them but turned the wedding ring on his left hand round and round. He did that when he was craving a drink.

“Very well. You may discuss this among yourselves.” The older Mr. Milton said, then he stood and walked out of the room.

“That is gratitude for you.” Henry shouted in Dean’s face the moment the door closed behind the older Mr. Milton. “I raised you, boy. And this is the thanks I get for my kindness.”

The venom in Henry’s face and voice nearly killed Dean but he took the tongue lashing, excruciatingly aware that Cas was still at the window.

Sammy stood up as if he wanted to say something in Dean’s defense but with a small shake of his head Dean told him now was not the time.

“You decided what needs to be improved at Winchester Manor? You?”

Henry’s rage could not be contained and he suddenly heaved himself out of the sette he was sitting on and turned around, only to realize that Cas was still in the room.

“Mr. Milton.” Henry tried his best to ingratiate himself with Cas but he looked like a marble statue.

“Do you have a problem, Mr. Winchester?” The dangerous tone in Cas’ voice scared his grandfather so much Henry literally looked to the right and left as though looking for an escape.

“No, no.” Henry tried to tone down his voice to placate the feral being in front of him.

Dean would not want to make Cas this angry at him, ever. But his cock definitely liked the low, dangerous tone in Cas’ voice and was making a valiant effort to perk up at the most inconvenient time possible.

“Because if you do, I would be happy to look into it.” The threat was unconcealed.

However, Henry had never been one to stand up and fight against someone stronger than him. “’Tis all good. ‘Tis all good.” Henry babbled as he backed up, trying to get away from Cas and his merciless gaze.

At this moment, all Dean wanted was to get as close to Cas as possible and see if he could transform all that ferociousness into some enjoyable amorous moments.

Sam just smirked at Dean.

“Mr. Winchester. Mr. Winchester. Sam. Dean.” Castiel bowed to them in turn and left the room.

Before Henry could start in on him again, Sam intervened. “Dean, could you show me where the law books are?”

John wandered out of the room, no doubt in search of his next glass of whiskey.

Henry gave them both a disgusted look and walked out of the library as well. There was nothing Dean could do to change the situation. And Henry seemed to finally understand that.

Henry negotiated this marriage contract. If he did not take the time to make sure that he would get a say in how the funds for Winchester Manor would be administered then that was Henry’s fault and he had no right to get angry at Dean. But then, when had Henry ever been fair to Sammy or him?

Sammy was making sad, puppy dog eyes at Dean.

“Stop it.” Dean said.

“I did not do anything,” Sammy said, but he was unable to keep a straight face and they both dissolved into laughter, finally letting go of all the tension.

Dean did not think he would ever forget what Cas looked and sounded like. More fodder for his imagination. Especially since after the wedding, he would only see Cas once a month at best.

***

“Excuse me, Mrs. Milton. May I borrow my grandson for a moment?”

Dean nearly gasped out loud at how hard Henry seized his forearm. His face was serene but his eyes gave away how angry he really was.

“Indeed,” intoned Mrs. Milton.

Dean made his excuses to the rest of the ladies and followed his grandfather into a room under the stairs. A fire burning merrily in the grate was the only source of light in the room.

“Is it Sammy?”

“No. It is not Sam.” Henry’s voice was nearing a screech. He stomped away from the doors to the mantel, pounding the wooden floor with each step. Dean relaxed against the closed door. As long was Sammy was fine, he could handle anything.

“I told you to be discrete.” Henry was close to screeching again. “And then, on my very first outing in London that toady Crowley comes slithering by making insinuating remarks.”

Dean stiffened. Crowley was one of the worst people Henry owed money to. He was not someone Dean wanted knowing about him, especially not about his inclinations.

“What did he say?”

“It is not what he said, Dean. It is how he said it.”

Dean knew that. The ton thrived on gossip. Even the slightest insinuation could make life very difficult. He did not need the gossips of London paying attention to him. He needed to blend in, not stand out.

“You will be more careful, Dean. This gets out, and I will turn you in myself, are we clear?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I do not care what you do after we get the money from Zachariah. But before then, not a single misstep. Or else!” Henry slid a finger across his own throat to clearly get his message across.

“Yes, Sir.”

Dean’s sincerity evidently came through loud and clear because without another word Henry removed himself from the room.

Dean slumped down into the nearest chair. This was not good. This was not good at all.

He was going to have to be more careful around Cas in public. He was going to have to keep a more stoic facade.

Only until the wedding. Then they would be going back to Winchester Manor and Dean would not see Cas for at least a month.

He could do this. He could do this. It was just one week and then he would be safely out of Cas’ orbit and would not have to worry about insinuations or gossip or anything else.

“Dean?”

Hell, no. What was Cas doing here?

Dean dragged his hand down his face, weary.

“Cas.”

Cas slid into the chair across from him but did not say anything.

“I presume you heard everything?”

“Yes.”

Cas was quiet. It is one of the things he lo… liked about Cas. Unlike Sammy, who would be badgering him to express his feelings, Cas waited with him quietly. The choice up to him, as always. He could talk or he could remain quiet. Either way Cas made it quite clear that he was there for him. It was a quality he appreciated very much.

“Henry caught me kissing the new stable boy the day the marriage contract arrived,” Dean began.

***

“I am glad you decided to marry my sister, Dean,” was the only thing Cas said once Dean was done with his story. Dean hoped what he meant was that he was glad they got to meet each other. Dean was immensely glad they met. Even if he had to pretend that he had no more feelings for Cas than a brother. At least in front of other people.

Cas was the only person he had fully trusted since he came to town. And maybe Charlie, to a certain extent. Charlie was the one that urged Cas in his direction after all.

Which reminded him. When he asked her, Charlie said to talk to Cas about Amelia, that that was his story to tell, not hers. “Will you tell me about Amelia, please?” he said. Then, again, Cas might not want to talk about something so personal. He backtracked, “Or not. ‘Tis none of my business.”

“Dean.”

Dean shut his mouth.

“Did you know I had a twin brother?”

Dean shook his head but did not say anything. That was a rhetorical question. Cas had never spoken about a brother, let alone a twin. The sorrow in his tone indicated that this was not a story he would enjoy. No one in the household had mentioned a twin brother so far either.

“James.” Cas breathed. Dean wanted to hold him so badly but they were at a ball and that too at someone else’s house. And he could not lock the door because of Crowley and his stupid insinuations.

“He was everything I am not. Outgoing, gregarious, fun.”

Dean just nodded. Tightened his grip on the seat of the chair he was sitting on to keep his hands away from Cas. He did not like seeing people he cared for in pain. He hated it even more when it was Cas who was in pain. If only he could take the pain away from Cas, carry it so that Cas did not have to deal with it.

“Then, eight years ago, he met Amelia. He was so serious about her. I had never seen him serious about something, someone, before Amelia.”

“Father was in the process of arranging James’ wedding with Charlotte while James was spending every free moment he could with Amelia.”

“When James found out about Charlotte a month before the wedding, he was livid. He raced out of the house and that was the last we saw of him. His curricle was found on the road to Amelia’s parents house.”

“Father had the marriage contract rewritten with me as the groom. Charlotte’s father did not disagree. He simply wanted to have Charlotte and their shipping business in safe hands.”

“Charlotte came to me and told me she would be the best wife she could be but that she could never love me. After James, I was not sure I could open myself to love either. It hurt too much.”

“Charlotte and I were married by the end of the year when it became apparent her father would not live to see the new year.”

“And Amelia?” Dean asked gently.

“I tried my best to contact her. After all, she was the only other person who had loved him as much as I did. But her parents returned my letters saying she had gone north to stay with some relatives while she mourned. That was the last I heard about her until last week when we met her in front of White’s with James.”

“It is a good thing you did. To take them in.”

“As I said to my father, it is what James would have wanted. I could not in good conscience ignore her or the boy now that I know her family rejected her. They are my family. I will protect and provide for those that are mine.”

“As I must protect mine.”

“Dean?”

“I am sorry, Cas. You heard what my grandfather said. You need to forget about me. Just as I must distance myself from you.”

“Dean, you cannot —”

“Cas, Sammy is my responsibility. Not yours. And just as you will do anything for your family, so will I.”

“Even if it means —”

“Yes. What would you do not to feel the pain you do at losing James?” Dean knew it was a low blow but one he had to wield. He had to make Cas understand that as he hurt from losing James, Sam would hurt as much at losing Dean.

“I understand now, Dean.” But he did not sound too happy about it.

Neither was Dean. But if distancing himself from Cas would keep Henry happy then Dean would distance himself from Cas. There was no one more important than Sam. However, Cas was a close second.

Besides it was only for one more week. One week that was chock full of events and things they had to accomplish before the wedding.

He had lived most of his life without Cas. He could handle one measly week.

Chapter Text

He could not handle one measly week.

Even though they still spent most of the day with each other, Cas took his words to heart and reverted back to the man he first met.

Only now that it was missing, did he realize how much Cas’ behavior toward him had changed in the last three weeks.

Breakfasts in Cas’ study had been enjoyable. Cas would catch his eyes and keep his gaze locked on Dean’s. He would tease Dean about his eating habits with a fond tone and a small smirk at the corner of his mouth.

Breakfasts in Cas’ study were now excruciatingly polite and mostly consisted of a dearth of smirks, and teasing, and lingering gazes.

Lunch with the ladies and the boys would get boisterous still. Only now Cas kept his distance, so much so that Charlie noticed and raised an inquiring brow at Dean. Dean shrugged it away but he found it difficult to be truthful and tell her that Cas behaving this way was his fault. He had a feeling that Charlie would beat him to within an inch of his life for hurting Cas this way.

Sammy accompanied Cas and Dean to Gentleman Jackson’s one afternoon. Cas did an efficient job as usual and was jovial with Gabriel and Balthazar. However, he did not even look at Dean once as he was wont to do when he won.

In the last three weeks, when he won, he would look to Dean as though to say, “Did you see what I did? Do you approve of what I did?” He would sometimes look at Dean knowingly because he knew how much Dean liked watching him fight, how much Dean’s cock liked watching him win again and again.

Sparring was also a casualty of Dean’s decision. No more teasing removal of clothing. No more Cas straddling his thighs to remove his boots. Instead, Cas, Sam and he stripped themselves down in their own rooms. They wore loose shirts and pants to spar in. And walked to and from their rooms to the sparring room dressed in their dressing gowns.

In addition to the lack of lingering touches, was the lack of eye contact and lingering gazes. Sparring was now an efficient exercise, something that would be more suited to a military setting than in a private room in the home of a man who had once, not too long ago, professed to finding him sexually stimulating.

Practicing the play was also terribly formal. Cas lost some of his stiffness in the company of his wife and sisters. However, now, even when Cas was required to stand as close as possible, he stood at the right distance away from him.

Dean missed the lingering gazes and touches.

Dean missed Cas’ small smiles and smirks directed at him.

Dean missed Cas’ warmth when he stood a hair’s breadth away from him.

Dean missed Cas.

***

The foyer of the mansion was crowded with people arriving and departing the ball. For the hosts, the ball was a success. Dean, however, did not like the crush at all. Too many people jammed into too small a space. He swiveled his head constantly, making sure that they did not lose sight of each other in the crowd.

Anna was on his arm, Castiel had Charlie on his arm, and Sam was walking next to him but in the crush they lost the older members of their party.

Dean put his hand on Castiel’s shoulder to get Castiel’s attention when someone bumped into Castiel. After the appropriate apologies were exchanged, Castiel turned to him when he noticed Dean’s hand on his shoulder.

“Should we wait outside?” Dean was not sure if Castiel heard him as it was quite noisy in the small space. He gestured towards the front door and Castiel nodded before turning back around.

Dean could only watch in horror as Castiel slowly slid toward the floor.

Dean rushed forward to catch Castiel before his head made contact with the floor.

Cas was clutching his left side, pain evident in his eyes.

Dean carefully cradled Cas’ head in the crook of one arm and slowly pushed Cas’ hand from his side. Cas’ palm was covered with blood.

Sam squeezed his shoulder.

When did Sam, Charlie and Anna make a circle around him and Cas?

“I called for the carriage,” Sam informed him, his voice muffled as though he were a great distance away.

There was no telling how deep the wound was. Cas should not be moved until they could ascertain the extent of his injury.

“We need to get him out of this crowd and into a private room,” Dean said.

Sam nodded and rose up. Hopefully, he would be able to find a footman or two to help them.

Cas’ eyes were closed. Dean gently slapped his face. “Stay awake, Cas.”

Thankfully, Cas roused enough to open his eyes, “Dean? Where am I? Am I on the floor?”

“Yes.”

Finally, a flurry of activity near them distracted Dean enough to notice four footmen carrying a litter between them. Sam directed them into picking Cas gently and transferring him to it. Dean kept his hand on the wound in Cas’ side through it all.

The footmen took Castiel upstairs and into a room that had a long table cleared of any decorative items it may have sported. A coarse looking sheet was laid on the table to protect it from any bodily fluids.

The footmen laid the litter on the table gently.

Sam requested hot water, clean cloths, medical supplies, and whiskey.

Cas had fainted. Dean pushed his worry to the back of his mind.

Cas needed him.

He needed Dean to be strong now.

Dean could not focus on anything else other than what he could do to help Cas right now.

Dean unbuttoned Cas’ coat and waistcoat, then carefully pulled them away from his body. He also pulled Cas’ shirt tails out of his pants carefully. The left side of the shirt was completely soaked with blood. Cas’ clothes would be a complete loss.

But that was unimportant. What was important was how badly Cas had been knifed.

Charlie and Anna tumbled into the room. Dean had completely forgotten about Charlie and Anna.

And he was being quite inappropriate. It was not his place to take care of Cas, it was Charlie’s.

Dean moved away from Cas, making room for Charlie to examine him.

“Anna,” Charlie said, “We need to wash off the blood first with some hot water.”

Anna carried the hot water in a bowl, a cloth soaking in it already, more in her other hand. At some point, one of the footmen must have returned with the items Sam requested.

“Dean, wash your hands and sanitize them with the whiskey.” Charlie directed him. He quickly walked toward the table that the supplies were on. He washed the blood off his hands and wiped them off on a piece of cloth. Sam poured the whiskey while Dean made sure that it covered all the skin of his hands.

Across the room, Anna was cleaning up the blood on Cas’ side and abdomen. Dean took up another small bowl, added a clean cloth to it and poured some whiskey over it.

The wound was on the left side of Cas’ chest, just under his ribs. Any closer to his heart and he would have bled out before they even moved him.

Anna moved away from Cas’ side and Charlie peered at the wound, one hand holding a candle close enough so she could see the extent of the damage.

“I think you did a good job cleaning him up,” Charlie gave Anna a small smile.

Dean set the small bowl with the whiskey aside and and folded another cloth into a small square before he pressed it to Cas’ wound.

“Will he need stitches?” Sam asked.

Dean pulled off the cloth and and looked under it. Most of the blood seeping from the wound was doing so in quite a sluggish manner. “Yes, he will.”

The wound was not long, about an inch but there was no telling how deep the knife penetrated into his body cavity and what other organs it could have nicked on the way.

Dean replaced the blood-soaked cloth with the whiskey-soaked cloth and carefully wiped the wound with it.

“Good job, Dean.” Charlie said.

He would have done this for anyone. Charlie did not need to thank him for doing what he would have done for anyone. However, this was not just anyone. This was Cas. And Cas was important. Almost as important as Sam. He could not lose Cas. Not now. Not when he had just found him.

Dean looked at Charlie in gratitude and she just gave him a wan, knowing smile.

Charlie also knew how he felt. He was not sure how much Cas had discussed with her. But the fact that she had not removed him from Cas’ side and instead let him help, had him so overwhelmed with gratitude to her, he could cry.

Charlie moved Dean’s hand back to Cas’ side and returned to the other table where Anna had all the bottles and paraphernalia from the medicine chest laid out. They murmured to each other as they took stock of what they had to work with.

Dean knew when the whiskey soaked into the wound because that was when Cas began to fidget. Dean hated seeing him in such pain but whiskey was the best way to make sure that any impurities that were introduced by the knife into Cas’ body were cleansed.

Charlie added a length of thread and a needle to a small bowl, dousing them in the whiskey too. While that soaked, Anna slowly poured whiskey on Charlie’s hands carefully, making sure all her skin was washed by it.

When she was ready, Charlie, and Anna, carrying the bowl, approached Castiel. Dean moved away from Castiel’s side to give Charlie space.

Sam moved to Cas’ head and held down his shoulders while Dean moved to the opposite side from Charlie and held down his hips. Anna stood next to Charlie, holding a candle that would illuminate the wound better for Charlie.

This was going to hurt anyway they did this. There was still some whiskey left. Before Charlie could begin to stitch Cas’ wound, Dean walked to the other table and brought back a glass of whiskey to the table where Cas was laid out. He raised it in front of Charlie and she smiled at him. “Good idea.”

Castiel had a great tolerance for alcohol. He would sometimes get to the point where he was tipsy but he could usually drink Gabriel, Balthazar and himself under the table, and still remain lucid.

“Cas, Cas. Wake up.” Dean gently patted Cas’ cheek.

“Hurts, Dean.” Cas was delirious from the pain but he focused his intense eyes wholly on Dean’s.

“I know.” Dean said. “I need you to drink some of this whiskey. It will help with the pain.”

“Yes, Dean.” Cas said. Sam helped him up enough so that Dean could tip the glass with the whiskey. Cas drank until it was all gone, then he sighed as Sam laid him carefully back onto the table.

The whiskey helped calm him down but Cas did not go under this time. He simply turned his head and nodded at Charlie to get on with the sewing.

Dean was glad that he was not the one doing the sewing. Mind, he was not the squeamish type. He had sewn quite a few wounds in his day. But there was just something about Cas being hurt that was wreaking havoc with his usual calm. Sam gripped Cas’ shoulders again and Dean gripped Cas’ hips. Cas wrapped his right hand around Dean’s wrist, his cold palm a contrast to his usual warmth.

In the meantime, Charlie threaded the needle and was pinching the wound closed. Cas tightened his grip on Dean’s wrist. Charlie probably would do a neater job than he would have. His sewing was not as fine as Charlie’s probably was.

Cas tightened his grip on Dean’s wrist each time Charlie pushed the needle into his flesh but otherwise he did not make a sound. His eyes were tightly closed and his brow was flushed. His hair was a sweat-matted mess. His brow was etched with the pain he was concentrating so well on not feeling.

“There.” Charlie said finally, and Cas relaxed against the table, his hand on Dean’s wrist loosening. Charlie was done with the sewing and now instructed them to raise him a little. Dean released his hips and moved behind him just as Sam began to raise him up. Charlie pressed a piece of cloth with a salve on the wound, and then she and Anna carefully wrapped a long piece of cloth around Cas’ waist to keep it in place.

Sam and Dean carefully lowered him back to the table when they were done. He was not out of the woods yet but Dean was just glad that he was able to help in this small way.

Charlie and Anna went back to the other table so Dean busied himself with rearranging Cas’ clothes modestly. His shirt would have to remain out but Dean buttoned his waist coat and his superfine as gently as he could.

Cas was still awake and carefully squeezed his hand.

Charlie returned to Cas with a liquid in a teaspoon. “Laudanum.” She said as she offered it to Cas. Sam and Dean raised him up slightly this time. Just enough so that he did not choke but could instead swallow the medicine that should help with his pain and might even aid in helping him sleep.

“We can take him home now.” Charlie said.

Sam went for the footmen to help carry Cas’ litter and to request that their carriage be brought around.

The pain, whiskey, and laudanum helped make Cas drowsy as they waited. Hopefully he would be able to sleep through the next bit which was going to jostle him but in order to get him home they had to do this.

There was a knock on the door and then the footmen trooped in again. All four of them followed the footmen carrying Cas’ litter through the house and out the side door where the carriage was waiting for them.

The footmen placed Cas carefully on the floor of the carriage where someone had placed the seat cushions. Dean carefully entered the carriage while Sam informed Bobby of their passenger.

With Cas on the floor, there was no room for the other members of their group, so Sam agreed to wait with Anna and Charlie while Bobby conveyed Cas and Dean to the Milton’s home.

At Milton House, the footman who descended the stairs gestured to the other still at the top of the stairs to get help when Dean informed him that Cas was hurt.

The other footman entered the house for a few minutes and returned with two more footmen who helped carry Cas out of the carriage and to his bed chamber, Dean following them every step of the way.

While Dean directed the footmen in laying the litter on Cas’ bed, Benny and, Cas’ valet, Uriel arrived.

Uriel made his unhappiness with the state his master was in apparent quite vocally. He tried to politely shoo Dean out but Dean simply ignored him and gave both of them a rundown of what had happened while they undressed Cas.

Benny informed him that the older members of their party made it back safely. Dean nodded absently, interested only in making sure that Cas was comfortable.

Only once Cas was settled did Dean take a moment to change out of his formal clothes and into the night clothes Benny brought him.

By the time Anna, Charlie and Sam arrived, Cas had fallen into a restless sleep. Before she left for her rooms, Charlie informed him that she would have Benny bring him some more laudanum and patted him on the back.

Dean was distracted from Cas for a moment when he realized that Sammy was still hovering around. “Not now.” Dean said, and Sammy seemed to realize that Dean was unwilling to talk to him tonight. He said a quiet, “Good night, Dean.” And then left to seek his own bed.

Before Cas came into his life, Sam was Dean’s only confidant. He was going to tell Sam what had been going on for the last few days. But right now he just wanted to make sure that Cas would make it through the night. Later, when Cas was out of the woods, they could talk.

Before Dean dismissed the valets for the night, he asked Benny to help him drag the sette from Cas’ sitting room into his bedchamber, close to Cas’ bed, where Dean could rest while he watched over Cas. The first few nights could be crucial for a stabbing victim.

Throughout the night, Cas woke up delirious, and feverish. Dean dosed him with the laudanum, wiped him down with cool water and kept the fire going.

Cas had to survive this. He just had to.

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Chapter Text

The day before the wedding, Charlie took him aside after breakfast citing her need to talk with Dean about something important.

Dean had effectively commandeered Cas’ sitting room and that was where they settled in for their talk.

“Dean,” Charlie said solemnly. What was going on? Was someone else sick? Oh,God! Was Charlie sick?

“Is everyone well?” he asked, voice nearly breaking at the end.

“Yes, yes,” Charlie grabbed his hand, and he let out a sigh of relief.

“Then what is it?”

“I wanted to talk to you about Anna.”

“Anna? Is she well?” Dean had not seen any signs that she might be sick but then he knew he was not the most observant of fellows and as he had learned in the last month, women were quite unfathomable.

Charlie took a deep breath, and then began, “Castiel and I have had an understanding since I proposed to him eight years ago.”

Deann did not even know where to begin with that statement. He had noticed things about Charlie and Cas’ marriage but had not said anything. Charlie’s friendship meant too much to him.

“You proposed?” He took the coward’s way out.

The full grin on Charlie’s face was worth it.

“Yes, I proposed. I talked to him frankly just before I did.”

Dean’s “What about?” must have shown on his face because Charlie continued.

“I told him I would never be able to love him the way a woman is supposed to love her husband.”

Dean nodded, he had noticed and Cas had confirmed it less than a week ago.

“You are not surprised.”

Dean shook his head. No, he was not surprised.

“I love Anna, like a woman is supposed to love her husband.” Dean nodded, he knew that too.

“I fell in love with her.” Charlie continued.

Well, that answered one of the questions he had.

“Anna does not know.”

And that answered the other question.

“She just thinks we are the best of friends. When Mr. Milton tasked Castiel with finding Anna a husband, I had to make sure.”

Now that was surprising. Cas was the one who had recommended him? And Charlie had been the one to vet him?

“Which is why I asked for that clause of you coming here for a month before the wedding. I wanted to get to know you.”

Dean smirked.

Charlie punched his bicep closest to her, hard.

“Hurt her, and I will hurt you, Winchester,” she said, tone hard and face scrunched up in her sternest manner.

Dean immediately gave her his best hug. Now he understood a lot of things.

“Do not worry,” he said, “I will keep her safe.” At his words, Charlie finally put her arms around him and hugged him back.

He could not say the same about Cas to Charlie but understood where Charlie was coming from completely. They were both going to have to trust the other to keep their loved ones safe.

Finally Charlie said, “Thank you, Dean.”

***

After Charlie left to tend to her boys, Sammy arrived.

He locked the door to ensure Dean would not escape the room. Dean had once climbed out of a second story room when he had not wanted to talk to Sammy.

“So?”

Dean did not say anything. If Sammy wanted Dean to talk, he was going to have to ask direct questions.

“What did you do?”

“Who says I did anything?”

“Dean.” Exasperation and fondness both laced his voice in equal measures. “I have never seen you like this.”

“Like what?”

“Like you are with Cas.” Sammy waved a hand in the direction of Cas’ bedroom. “You were as giddy as a young girl with her first beau the day I arrived.”

“Was not!”

Sammy did not take the bait but continued. “And then the next day you gave him the cold shoulder. Why were you ignoring him, Dean?”

“Was not!”

Again Sammy did not take the bait. Sammy was like a dog with a bone when he wanted information. Dean knew the best way to get him off his scent was to switch the topic. He was trying Sammy’s patience but he could not talk about that night. He just could not.

“Stop it. If you do not want to talk about it, say so.”

“I do not want to talk about it.”

“Very well. Then you can listen.” Stupid smart younger brothers. “I came here expecting you to be, if not head over heels, then at least interested in your wife-to-be. Instead I noticed that you could not keep your eyes away from Cas.”

Sammy raised his hand and started ticking off his fingers. “And when he made eye contact you could not break it, instead gazing into his eyes for long minutes.”

Then he ticked off the next finger, “And the touching.”

“And how close you allow him to stand.”

Well, when he put it like that, it was quite damning.

How many people had realized what he had been doing?

“Do not panic.” It was only when Sammy said it did he realize that his breathing was choppy and fast, and he was feeling quite dizzy. Sammy pushed his head, so he obediently lowered it between his knees.

They sat there in silence while Dean took deep breaths in and out.

“Not many people would realize.” Sammy said, as though he just read Dean’s mind. “Probably.” He added, with a mischievous grin but this was not funny.

“I do not want to die,” Dean finally said.

“Dean?” Sammy said.

Dean had never been able to keep anything from Sammy. The only reason he had been able to keep it from him for so long was because he had not been in Sammy’s vicinity for the last three weeks.

“That is …” Sammy was sorting through his story.

“I know.” Dean watched as Sammy discarded everything that would distract him from the reason he wanted to talk to him on the day before the wedding.

“Tell me how you really feel about him, Dean,” he finally said.

There was no place for Dean to hide. There was no reason for him to hide from Sammy. Sammy had always known and loved him, inclinations and all, completely and wholly.

“I love him.” Dean said quietly. “And if something were to happen to him, Sam, I do not think I could go on.”

“Hey, Hey,” Sammy said, as he pulled him into a hug. It was awkward as they were both sitting on the sette but he needed a hug. “Nothing is going to happen to him. You will see. He will wake up, and then both of you can go on being inappropriate.” He pulled away slightly and gave Dean a mock glare. “Just not in front of me, young man.”

Dean laugh was more of a sob.

Cas’ fever broke last night. Dean was so relieved he might have shed a tear or two.

Cas was going to be fine. He would be weak for a few days but Charlie had been keeping an eye on his wound and said that it was healing nicely.

The only thing Charlie had been worried about had been the fever.

Charlie and Sam and Anna had taken turns during the day while Dean pretended to be sleeping on the sette in Cas’ room. They had washed him on a regular basis to keep the fever down but Charlie said that a fever was a good thing. That meant that whatever impurities the knife had introduced into Cas’ body, the body was doing it’s job and fighting them.

There was also a possibility for secondary infection, if the knife had touched any of his organs. They would never know if it had introduced any impurities into Cas’ body cavity.

What if the knife had cut his organs? What if it had introduced impurities into Cas’ body cavity? What if Cas never woke up?

***

In the afternoon, Dean was dozing on the sette that Benny and he had pulled closer to Cas’ bed so that Dean would have a place to sleep while he kept his vigil. Sam and Anna had tried but failed to get Dean to sleep in his own bed down the hall. Charlie was the only one who understood.

“Dean?” Cas’ hoarse voice woke him up. Dean looked at him closely. His eyes were clear and his brow dry to the touch. “What happened?”

Dean rang for Benny. “Want to sit up?” he asked, and when Cas nodded, he helped Cas sit up then arranged the pillows behind his back so that Cas could recline against them.

“What is the last thing you remember?” He said as Cas settled back into the pillows with a sigh. Dean took the chair that had been pulled close to Cas’ bed.

Cas looked off towards the right side of the room. “The Bolton’s ball. We were waiting for our coach?”

“Correct. Someone knifed you. We requested medical aid and then brought you home.” He gave a short version of the story. “That was two days ago.”

Castiel had a thoughtful look on his face. “The wedding is tomorrow?”

Both Benny and Uriel showed up so Dean sent Benny to let Anna and Charlie know that Cas was awake.

Uriel helped Cas with the bedpan while Dean waited in the sitting room. Dean did not mind this part. He would rather Cas be well when he saw his privates for the first time. Dean was so relieved that there actually might be a first time.

Charlie and Anna brought the boys to see Castiel. For the last two days, when they had been allowed in his room, they had to be quiet so as not to wake him from his feverish rest.

Castiel smiled wide when his boys were in his arms. He kissed the top of their heads and held them close while Samandriel and Inias babbled about their days.

Too soon Cas was tired and could barely keep his eyes open. Charlie gave Cas a kiss on his forehead before she took the boys back to her rooms.

Cas woke up every hour. Each time someone visited him when Dean sent Benny out with the news.

Charlie returned the next time he woke. Dean removed himself to the sitting room, closing the doors before he claimed the chair furthest from the bed, to give them some privacy. Charlie walked out about twenty minutes later, gently closed the door, and said, “He fell back asleep.”

Anna came in the next time and sat with Cas while Dean took a much needed bath in his own rooms. When Dean returned from his bath, she gave him his first real smile. He simply gave her a bow, unsure how to take this change in her demeanor.

Becky revealed all. “Do not injure yourself again, Castiel,” she said. “This one here was worried,” she said, as she pinched Dean’s cheek. “He has not left your side since you were brought home.” Castiel raised an eyebrow at Dean but did not say a word to contradict his grandmother.

The family had all departed to their dinner when Cas woke up again. Cas tried to send him off to dinner too, but Dean said, “I will have my dinner here.”

Benny brought him his dinner on a tray and some hot broth for Cas. After dinner, while Cas slept, Dean read the book Sammy had brought from the library downstairs.

Tomorrow he would wed Anna. Cas and he had talked about this before. The coolness between them since that day almost a week ago was something Dean did not want to return to. He was not going to hurt Cas anymore. He was not going to hurt himself.

A few hours later, when Cas woke again, Dean checked him for fever by laying his palm on his forehead. He was much cooler to the touch.

“Do you need the bed pan?”

“Yes.”

After he retrieved the bed pan from under the bed, he turned his back on Cas to give him the privacy he needed.

Cas coughed gently to indicate that he was done with his business. Dean took the bedpan from him and left it in the privy. Uriel would take care of it when he returned.

“Do you need anything else?”

He used the bell pull to inform Uriel that Cas was awake.

Uriel arrived with some more hot broth for Cas. Once Cas was done with his hot broth, Uriel departed but not before giving Dean an evil eye.

“What was that about?”

Dean laughed. “Uriel is just mad that I would not let him do anything for you.”

Cas smiled. Dean pulled up the chair closer to the bed. Should he wait until Cas was feeling better to tell him how he felt?

Dean started with, “Never do that again.”

Cas solemnly swore. “Never.”

Dean fidgeted, unable to keep the eye contact.

“What is it, Dean?”

Cas’ hair was sticking out in all directions and yet Dean was the one that felt like a bumbling fool. Unwilling to put it off any longer, he dragged his hand through his hair.

“I am sorry,” he said. He knew it might be too late but he had to try one last time.

Cas’ was wearing the same stoic face he had been privy to for the last few days. Dean hated that face because he knew he was the reason for that face.

“Iloveyou.” He pushed out.

Cas tilted his head, trying to parse Dean’s words and Dean hated himself for waiting so long.

“I love you.” He enunciated carefully.

Cas’ face took on an even more stoic expression. Dean did not know that was possible. As if what Dean said completely broke his brain’s synapses.

“I just wanted you to know.”

Cas did not say anything for so long, Dean resigned himself to the fact that he had lost the one person he loved the most in the world.

He rose to his feet but before he took a single step, Cas’ hand shot out and fastened itself to his wrist to hold him in place.

“Say it again,” Cas pleaded, eyes swimming with tears. Dean was nearly overwhelmed at the sight of the many emotions on his face.

“I just wanted you to know?”

Cas’ moved his head side to side, “No. The other thing you said. Say it again.”

“I love you?”

Cas pulled him closer.

“I love you.”

Cas’ face was now all smiles mingled in with the tears.

Cas released his hand and did his best to push himself into a sitting position but he had not regained his energy yet and thus was unable to complete the process.

Dean rushed in to help him. “Do not strain yourself.”

“Help me up.”

Dean helped him sit up and put a couple of pillows behind his back to recline against.

Cas grabbed his hand again when he was done.

When Dean locked gazes with him, he said, “May I kiss you, Dean?”

Dean only had to nod once and suddenly he was being kissed gently. Dean was crying as he kissed Cas back.

The kiss was nothing much, just Cas rubbing his lips against Dean’s but the pleasure that suffused his body at the contact nearly made Dean swoon from its headiness.

When they finally stopped to breathe, Cas looked into his eyes, and said in his gorgeous voice, “I love you too. I want you to know that.”

Things got out of hand because Dean had to kiss Cas again for that.

When they came up for air a second time, Cas pulled Dean towards the bed. “Come here.”

Dean was not sure that getting into bed with Cas was the thing to do.

“Cas?”

Something of his trepidation must have shown on his face because Cas released his hand. Before he could begin to understand the pain of rejection, Cas said, “Lock the door and then come to bed.”

He grinned, the mood whiplash from rejection to joy making him giddy.

“Truly?”

“Truly.” Cas smiled the widest smile yet and Dean sprinted to the door, latched it shut and then bounded back towards the bed. Cas slid over so that now there was a vacant space next to him on the bed on his uninjured right side. Dean slipped his house slippers off, slid into the bed and made himself comfortable in it with his back to the headboard and a couple of pillows behind his back.

Cas curled into him, Dean put one arm around his shoulders and sighed. Cas was a comforting heat all along his left side.

They talked between kisses until Cas fell asleep on his shoulder, his arms tight around Dean.

***

In the morning, Castiel requested Anna and Charlie to attend to him after breakfast.

“While Anna may not understand, she needs to have full disclosure from all concerned parties before the wedding, Dean.” Cas said.

Dean was terrified that being this frank with Anna might jeopardize the wedding and in turn, Henry’s goodwill. But he agreed that Anna needed to be informed.

“Anna, I would like to talk to you about the wedding,” Cas began once Anna and Charlie had made themselves comfortable in the chairs pulled up close to Cas’ bed.

“Very well.” Anna said.

“The point of Dean staying with us had been so that you and the family could get to know him.”

Anna nodded to indicate that she was listening.

Cas took Dean’s hand in his own. “Dean and I have fallen in love.”

How had he not noticed that Anna’s smirk was identical to Cas’?

“I implore you, Anna, keep Dean safe by marrying him and being his wife.”

Dean added, “I will be the best husband I can be but I would not be able to love you like a man should love his wife, Anna.”

Anna heard both Castiel and Dean through before she said, “I agree that while I did not expect to marry for love, I would like to go ahead with the wedding.”

Cas released a huge sigh of relief.

“As long as Dean treats me well,” Anna said, with a mischievous look.

“Yes.”

“And allows me to continue with the study of the piano.”

“Agreed.”

“I would be willing to bear his children and run his manor.”

“Thank you, Anna. Thank you.” Dean would make sure that Anna would be content with her life at Winchester Manor. It was the least he could do for her, since she agreed to continue with the wedding even after knowing the truth of how he felt about her brother.

***

The venue of the wedding ceremony was moved to Cas’ bedroom in the Milton’s London home. The priest agreed to officiate the ceremony there. Naomi had disagreed quite loudly. But since it would be easier on Cas to sit up in his own sitting room rather than to have him moved in a carriage to the church, she finally gave in when Anna quietly said that she would prefer to have her brother at her wedding.

Cas’ room was crowded with both the Winchester and the Milton families present to stand witness. Sam stood with him as his best man while Hael and Isabel stood with Anna as her bridesmaids.

Their “I do” were quiet but firm. Dean slid the ring onto Anna’s finger and she did the same for him.

When the priest said, “You may kiss the bride.”, Dean raised a questioning brow at Anna. At her slight nod, he gave her a chaste kiss on her lips.

When he turned around to present his bride, his eyes were snared immediately by Cas who had a small smile on his lips. However, his eyes were the saddest he had yet seen. He wished he could fly to Cas’ side and reassure him that he would always love him, no matter who he was married to.

***

The wedding reception was a small affair, just a luncheon with the families, The priest was the only addition to the table. Dean stayed as long as he could but he simply could not stay away from Cas any longer. So as soon as the priest made his adieus, he escaped to Cas’ rooms with the excuse of checking on him. Both Sam and Charlie gave him indulgent grins while Anna smiled at him.

Cas was sitting up in bed, eating his own lunch in solitary splendor.

The Winchester’s would be departing on the morrow. Dean and Anna had been scheduled to accompany them.

“I cannot go home, not unless I know that you are completely recovered, Cas,” Dean argued.

“But Dean, you cannot make such a drastic change in plans.” Cas was adamant. “It would put you in jeopardy.”

When Charlie arrived with the boys, Anna, and Sam in tow, Dean appealed to her.

Charlie smirked at him. “We could say that it would ease Anna’s mind if she saw her brother fully healed.” She suggested after a while.

With Charlie and Anna willing to convince the heads of the families, Cas finally gave in and allowed that he would enjoy Dean’s company while he was healing.

Dean spent the night in Cas’ bed again but they only kissed, and talked, and slept. Cas had stayed awake longer today but he was still recovering and fell asleep early, Dean watched over him as he slept.