The first time Castiel tells him, Benny doesn't really pay attention.
Castiel is resting, a fine sheen of sweat on their skin still, his chin on Benny's stomach, looking at him smiling, adoring almost.
He knows things always get magnified after sex, and he appreciated the sentiment, of course.
Castiel's voice sounds like gravel, they're both spent, happy, smiling like idiots. His fingers create small locks in the black hair, almost completely drenched with sweat, and Castiel traces the lines of hair on his belly.
“I don't think I knew what love was, before you, my dear Benjamin.”
Benny doesn't drag him up to kiss him. Considers it, but Castiel closes his eyes, and kisses his belly button, and rests his head on him.
He's too happy, too blissful to gently tease.
Dean moves back into his old room, at Bobby's house. No more Sunday lunch, or dinner. No nights spent over there, drinking a little too much and laughing at the TV.
It's not bad, per say. Castiel drags him into the small library close to the market, and they learn a new routine, something safe from prying eyes.
And yes, there's a small part of him rolling his eyes at how domestic this is, but when they're both on the couch watching a movie they both were too busy to catch when it was the rage, or when they're both reading outside in a small patch of sun, he knows even that small part of him realizes how truly and utterly content he is.
Slowly, instead of Castiel moving back to the cottage alone, they just move together, from the little house to the silence of the forest. From the restaurant to the buzzing market stands.
He doesn't miss Dean, because he doesn't belong to their life. Castiel tells him, hands in the soapy water, steam on his glasses.
“It was never easy. Never comfortable like it is between us. It was fun, yes, and I was in love with him, but it doesn't compare.”
Benny thinks about Andrea, her voice is the morning, the way she would laugh and make him smile.
Castiel giggles when Benny wipes the steam from his glasses, and thanks him with a kiss.
Yes, he understand. Whatever they had before, this doesn't compare.
So Dean moves back, but no matter what Sam predicted, Castiel doesn't change.
It's not exactly true.
Castiel, the new Castiel, with a beard and a perpetual beanie, with his new body, thanks to their amazing cooking skills combined and their long walks back and forth on the little path, the new Castiel doesn't go back to the man he was before.
There's a new ease in his bones, Benny notices one day. This is not the shy man, polite and unfairly handsome he met when they were young. No, this Castiel is a man, and he fits right into his small restaurant. The other guys see him as one of them. They're both asked to help cleaning up pathways, shoveling snow. This Castiel, wearing thrifted sweaters and ugly working boots is bigger, harder.
And Benny knows he's not the only one who notices.
Dean looks at him with something like awe, respect. Maybe even fear. That first time at the Roadhouse, Benny was too tired and too focused on Castiel to watch Dean but now... now it's easier.
They talk, or at least they try to.
Dean is not a bad man, he's not an idiot. He apologizes, because that's what he is, always a sucker for punishment, for things being his fault. Between the two of them, Benny thinks he's the one carrying most of the blame, and a small part of him cares, but it is what it is.
They shake hands, and share an awkward hug. It's done.
But between Dean and Castiel, it's different. While the man trying his best to make amend is still more or less the same, this Castiel is a new man he doesn't really know how to interact with.
Dean is a little amused, at first, and then his face turns soft, and almost sad, when they enter Bobby's kitchen. Castiel hugs Bobby, Sam, but only offers a hand on his shoulder, before sitting down and opening his laptop.
Sam grabs the coffee, Benny a few napkins and Bobby guides them to the porch. They're close, but not close enough to hear anything unless it turns nasty. They share the leftovers from breakfast, they chat a little about the weather, the new road that will make things easy for the families who were thinking about moving closer to the schools.
Sam tries, he tries really hard to be friendly, to erase the hurt feelings between them. Whatever talk he had with Dean, or with Bobby, has settle something in him, and Benny enjoys having his friend back. He knows for Sam, Dean will always be Dean. It doesn't change their friendship, or the limit this friendship has.
When the kitchen door opens, Castiel is smiling, and he opens his hand for the donut he knows Benny saved for him.
He asks Sam something about work, and eats his donut, sugar on his beard, one hand in his big jacket's pocket.
Dean is looking at him like he's a stranger, like he doesn't know who the man in front of him is.
Benny catches Bobby's eyes, and they both go back to their cups.
On their way home, Castiel parks somewhere safe, and after a few heated kisses, Benny takes him in his mouth.
He could try to compare, again, try to think about old hook-ups, relationships. Male or female, humans are the same, they shake and moan and tremble.
But this is different, it's not dirty, or wrong or any of the things that used to fuel his want. This is not a fuck.
Castiel giggles, when they're finally able to breathe, and returns the favor. They smile all the way to the ice cream shop, and then curl up on the couch, taking times in the shower, and sharing the tub of half vanilla half chocolate.
“He told me I gained weight.” Castiel smiles and almost closes his eyes in delight when the vanilla burst onto his tongue, Benny assumes. “That I looked less tired and stressed. That I looked happy.”
“Are you ? Happy ?”
Castiel nods and goes back to his ice cream. There's a tiny drop of chocolate on his glasses, and Benny loves him even more.
They don't really fight, even if there's a sea of misunderstandings between them. But no matter what it is, no matter how difficult it feels, they both hold on to each other and talk, trying to explain with words and fingers just what they mean, just why it hurts.
They share everything. Not because they feel like they have to, or at least Benny doesn't think it is, it's just that he knows Castiel doesn't judge him, and so it's easy to tell someone about how much it hurt when Andrea left, about the years after, not being able to see the kids, not being able to fight against the lies.
And Castiel understands, he understands the anger, the rage Benny kept suppressed for years, too afraid of someone, anyone going to the court with new evidences about his temper, about his bad decisions.
In turn, Castiel shares things about his parents, about his brothers, about the Winchesters. He stops, his glass halfway to his mouth, and smiles, a little incredulous “Wow. It's the first time I ever said that out loud.”
Benny kisses him, soft. Gentle.
“Did you ever watch this ?”
They're at the market, again, and Benny doesn't find in himself to be bored yet, because everything here is good, with Castiel holding his hand. They're rummaging through boxes of old tapes, vinyls, and Castiel shows him a DVD case, something he remembers from way back.
“I didn't. I wanted to, but well...”
Castiel puts it carefully next to them and adds a few more to the pile. Castiel knows about Andrea's temper. The way she could just bat her eyes at him, and Benny had given her everything, really. She had picked the movies, the friends, the house, their whole life. At first, he had believed it was what marriage was about, compromising and making the other happy. And he didn't mind. Sure, he didn't particularly like horror movies, and hated the gory crime shows she seemed to love, but at least they were together, and she was so happy, boasting to her friends about how sweet Benny was, always letting her pick.
It had taken a lot of time for him to lose himself into what she wanted.
“I need you to do something for me,” Castiel is massaging his back, always a little sore after closing up. It's good, it's good in a way he never thought possible. “Think about all the movies you wanted to see. Think about the places you wanted to visit. Think about everything you want. And make a list.”
“I can do that. But why ?”
Castiel whispers right into his ear, and it makes his whole body shiver “Because we're doing it.”
Gabriel is not what Benny expected.
Physically, the brothers are nothing alike, but there's something there, the way he makes fun of Castiel, and then brushes something off of his little brother's jacket, the way they bicker, but he puts his warming pad into Castiel's pocket.
Benny likes him. He likes him a lot.
Gabriel seems to like him to, they talk about their shops, about the food industry, and of course, about Castiel's weird taste in candies.
It's weird, suddenly, someone new in his small domain, Gabriel very much a city guy, but apparently happy to sleep on the couch and drink black tea for breakfast. He doesn't moan about the hike to the cottage, he doesn't complain about having to wait for the stove, or the lack of signal because of the rain, up in the mountain.
No, just like his brother, Gabriel looks completely home in the restaurant, inspecting the menu and laughing with Castiel.
Family. Benny thinks. In a different way than the Winchesters, Gabriel is now part of his family. The word is almost foreign, to him.
Benny starts to notice after one of their dates. A real, socially acceptable date, involving twinkling lights and wine glasses.
He's wearing a shirt he likes, and Castiel looks amazing in his charcoal sweater, smooth skin, freshly shaved. Benny loves him even more, here, with the buzz of the wine, and the light in the blue eyes.
It's fancy for them, a small pub, close enough from the house, but even closer to the few tourists adventurous enough to come to their parts of the mountain. They eat a pretty amazing meal of roasted meat and vegetables, and they talk about Castiel's new book, and Gabriel's not so subtle stop to the main street before catching his flight back home.
“Sam ? You're sure ?” Benny tries, but he can't picture them together. No matter what people might see, Gabriel looks far too adult for Sam.
“They had a thing. An almost thing, a while ago.” Castiel's fingers are long, and his nails perfectly filed and cleanly cut. Benny loves the way Castiel teases him about the state of his hands, and then cuts and files his nails for him, massaging coconut oil onto his skin. It's silly, but it makes him feel good, cared for.
They're walking to the truck when Castiel whispers.
“This is my first real date, you know ?”
It's all bravado, the shrug and the little self deprecating smile, the eyes now fixed to a point in front of them.
“No one ever took you out, to treat you how you should be ?”
Another shrug, a tiny shake around his mouth, and the voice answering is a little more gravel than usual. “We were young, Dean and I. Dean was still hiding at first. I learned to be happy with Bobby and Sam knowing, not to ask for too much. And then we were an old couple, what was the point ?”
Benny doesn't know what to say, so he drags him to his arms. Castiel tries to turn it into something hot, dirty, but after a few seconds he just hides his face into Benny's neck.
“There's something I want to ask you.”
They're cleaning up the branches and rocks on the little path going from the old Mac's house to the restaurant. People, slowly, are starting to follow their example, and walk the little paths, instead of taking their cars. It's nice, quaint almost, drinking coffee in the morning and seeing kids with their dogs, or people slowly walking to the small bakery.
Castiel stops trying to push the massive rock he's been working on for a few minutes and smiles.
“Remember the list you asked me to make ? Stuff I want to do ?”
“Of course !” He stands up and brushes his gloved hands on the back of his jeans. “Something in mind ?”
“Not what you think. I need you to do one for me,” Castiel smiles, a little puzzled, ready to protest, when Benny insists : “I need you to think about all the romantic, date things you want to do. If something comes to mind, tell me ?”
Castiel doesn't smile, not his usual smile, but a small, tight thing. He nods and crouches back, leaving Benny a little surprised.
Dean comes right before closing time, and starts to help with the tables outside.
Benny doesn't mind, Dean used to do that, a long time ago, to help him finish quicker. He knows what he's doing. Benny would actually trust him with the restaurant. Would have. Before.
“Yeah, sorry about that, I knew Sam and Cas were nerding out together, so I came to see you. Don't mind ?”
Benny smiles and shrugs, and pushes a bottle his way.
A Coke. He's not a fool.
They sit at the bar, drinking their Cokes and chatting. Bobby's yard, needing a clean, Dean doing hours at the shop, easy things. Until Dean sighs, and say :
“Okay, I'm sure you don't want me to snoop into your stuff, but... You and Cas. You're serious, right ? He's it ?”
Benny puts his bottle down and nods. A small pinch of hurt in his chest, because it had been a nice time, if a little awkward.
“I'm doing therapy now. Trying to get rid of the mess in my head. Trying to grow up,” Dean smiles, a nice smile, genuine. “And we spent a lot of time talking about my parents, about childhood stuff. You know.”
“Nah, man. It's not what you think,” Dean finishes his drink, and breathes out. “You need to fight for your kids, man.”
It's so surprising Benny starts to cough. Dean hesitates and then slaps his back gently.
“I know. I know it's not my business, but you guys are good together. We can all see it. And these kids are missing out on two amazing dads,” Dean looks almost scared. He hurries. “But I know it would've made all the difference in the world, knowing my dad fucking cared, you know ? So even if it hurts you now, you have to, okay ? You have to show them how much you care.”
“How do you know I care.” Benny can hear how rough his voice sounds.
“Come on, man. You're my brother. Of course I know.”
Castiel is resting next to him, a hand on his chest, when Benny asks :
“You thought about things you would want ?” He kisses Castiel's forehead, brushes the few strands of hair still stuck with sweat.
Castiel closes his eyes, and huffs. Benny kisses him again, and again, waiting.
“It's silly. I'm too old. You're too old for things like that. It's alright, I missed my chance for a teenage romance.”
“We're not too old.” Benny brushes his thumb on Castiel's temple, wishing to see the blue eyes, to read what is actually going on. “It's not too late. Just because I did things already, doesn't mean I don't want to do them with you.”
“I don't know.” Castiel's voice is shaking a little, and he suddenly burst into tears. It's not pretty, it's a mess of snot, and tears, and he sobs like a little kid, in Benny's arms. He cries, and cries, and Benny holds him, skin against skin, and whispers sweet nothing into his ears.
Gabriel calls him when he's on his way back, on Saturday. It's strange, but what's even stranger is finding him there, in the now deserted shop that used to be their barber shop. Horace is now too old, and people are now going to the next town, or making do with what they have home. It's not the same.
“You and I, Benjamin, I think we could do good things. Great things, even.”
Gabriel looks tired, and Benny suddenly starts to worry.
“What's going on, here ?”
“Well, you see,” Gabriel stands up, slowly, with a small wince at the sounds his back makes, “your town needs a new bakery. The Yangs are old, they want to sell, and move back. While me, I have nothing left in the city. My brother's here. You're here. Even Sam's here.” Gabriel is shaking his head, incredulous almost. “And I'm tired, you know ? Buying here would mean living upstairs. I'm tired. I'm very tired of being alone.”
“Ok. So come. We'll help. You know that.”
“And you see, Baz, our friend Baz, is probably going to be enchanted with this little town. This shop, it's going to be his dream, I know, because we talk.”
“Ok...” Benny looks around, and now the show makes sense. Sure, it's a bet, but he's sure people would love a new barber, a new bakery, something to attract more people, to maybe revive their little town. Maybe a few families with kids, during the day, a few couples strolling by in the evening.
“I want us to be partner, Benji. I want you to leave that place you rent a small fortune, and to come work with me. We can drive each other nuts, and then annoy the Hell out of my brother. Come on, Lafitte and Novak, people are always going to ask if I'm the husband or the brother in law, so beautifully soap opera of us !”
Benny turns again, and looks through the window. He can almost see it, the tables, the better kitchen. Not having to drag boxes of delivery, but using the delivery deck Mr Yang got especially for his wife.
Gabriel, anxious, is trying to woo him.
“Think about the fabulous kitchen we'll get. Your food and my desserts, we could be the king and king of this town. I come my my staff, so it would be less hours for you. Think about it, you could pop a few ducklings with my brother. Be a very happy family, smelling like Daddy's books and Papa's food ? What do you think, Benji-bean ?”
“One thing.” Benny smiles, and Gabriel starts to laugh even before the joke. “Don't you ever, ever call me Benji ever again.”