“Ugh! This is gonna take forever to grow back!” Sam looked like he was about to cry as he bent down to stare in the side mirror of the Impala. A good portion of his hair had been burned off by Castiel as they finished off a Wendigo.
Said angel shuffled his feet and lowered his eyes in shame. “I’m sorry Sam. That creature threw you right through the path of the flames. I never would have done that intentionally.”
Sam stood up straight and sighed. “I know Cas. It’s ok.”
Dean finished loading the flamethrower into the trunk before circling around to clap Sam on the back. “Well I for one, couldn’t be happier. I’ve been wanting to get rid of that mane for years.”
Sam pursed his lips and huffed. “Nice, Dean. Real nice.”
“Heh! Sorry Sammy. You looked like a hippy. You did him a favor Cas. I’m sure he’ll thank you some day.” Dean chuckled again before sliding behind the wheel.
“Don’t hold your breath,” Sam muttered. Castiel’s shoulders drooped even more at that. Sam gave him a pained smile. “Sorry Cas. I’m really not upset with you. Come on, let’s get outta here.”
As they entered town after leaving the forest behind, Sam pulled out his phone. He cleared his throat and pointed to an upcoming street, “Turn here Dean.”
“Why? Thought we were going back to the hotel.”
“There’s a hair stylist down that way.”
Dean scoffed, “A hair stylist? Really? I have some clippers in my bag. Just gimme five minutes and I can fix it. It’ll be fun. Just like when we were kids.”
Sam looked offended at the suggestion. “Uh-uh. No. No way. There is no way I’m trusting you with my hair.”
Rolling his eyes, Dean sighed. “Fine! Let’s go to the beauty parlor, Princess.”
They pulled up outside of a small but professional-looking salon. The brothers got out, but Sam stopped Dean before he opened the door. “Why don’t you stay with Cas?”
“Why? I kinda want to see your face when they have to chop the rest off.” He huffed a laugh, “may film it to watch whenever I need a pick me up.”
“And that’s one reason I don’t want you coming in. The other is… I think Cas feels really bad about what happened. I mean- just look at him.”
Dean turned to see Castiel still in the back seat. He sat with his shoulders hunched and a deep frown on his face. His own shoulders slumped on seeing his best friend act like that. He hated when Cas was sad. “Alright. You got a point. I’ll- I’ll take him for ice cream or somethin.”
“Good. Ok, I’ll call you when I’m done.”
Dean waved him off and walked back to the car. He knocked on the window and waved the angel out. “Come on. Let’s walk around while Sam’s getting pampered.”
Castiel stepped out of the car and the pair started down the street. Dean nudged Cas with his elbow. “Come on man, cheer up. Sam’s not upset with you.”
“I know. But I still feel guilty. It’s my fault.”
“No, it’s not. It was an accident.”
The side of Castiel’s mouth lifted in a small smile. “You mean to tell me that you, Dean Winchester, have never blamed yourself for an accident?” Dean paused in shock as the truth of that statement struck home. Cas knew him too well. “That’s what I thought,” he quipped.
“Yea, yea. Point taken.” Dean grabbed the sleeve of Castiel’s trench coat and pulled him off the sidewalk. “Let’s cross here. We can get some ice cream and hang out at the park over there.”
They entered the little ice cream shop together. Dean took one look at the menu and immediately knew he wanted the apple pie flavor. Castiel sat staring at the menu with narrowed eyes for several moments. God, he was cute when he was confused. “Cas, what’s up? Can’t decide?”
The other man tilted his head. “There are so many choices. Is it necessary to have this many flavors of ice cream?”
Dean chuckled and threw his arm around Castiel’s shoulder. “People like variety man, what can I say? Ok, let’s see…. Oh! They have a peanut butter and jelly.”
“As much as I enjoy the sandwich, I don’t think I would find that flavor very appealing.”
“Maybe you’re right. Ha! Angel food cake!”
Castiel turned to pin Dean with an exasperated look. “Is that supposed to be funny?”
“Geez someone’s touchy. Uh… Aha! Honey! You like bees right? And there’s less ingredients to make it taste all, ya know… moleculey.”
Nodding, Castiel hummed in approval. “I think that’s an excellent choice. Thank you Dean.”
Dean perked up, pleased with the praise, and waved to get the employee’s attention. “Heya. I’d like a triple scoop of the apple pie and a triple scoop of honey for my angel, here.” He grinned at Cas and squeezed his shoulder.
The teenage girl behind the counter, Sadie according to her nametag, shot them a wide smile and cooed at them as she rung up their order. “You two are so cute together!”
Dean realized the impression he was giving her and he lowered his arm from around Cas’s shoulder. “Um… we’re not together.”
“Oh! Don’t worry. We accept everyone here.” She pointed to the rainbow sticker on the register. “This is a safe space.”
“Uh, cool. That’s great.” He paid for their cones and stood fidgeting on the spot. He could feel Cas looking at him, but he refused to make eye contact.
Sadie finally handed them their treats with another giggle and a wave before Dean practically ran out of the shop. He turned to say something before he noticed Castiel wasn’t beside him. He saw him through the door chatting with the girl. He had no idea what they were saying, but he wasn’t about to go back in to find out. After a few minutes, Cas emerged from the shop with a serene expression on his face.
Dean pointed towards the park and they started to walk. “So, what was that about?”
“You and the ice cream chick. What were y’all chatting about?” Dean finally bit into his treat. Damn, that was good.
“I was explaining to her that we were not romantically involved, but it was kind of her to be so accepting of other people’s choices.”
“Oh. Uh… good. Anything else?”
Castiel nibbled on his ice cream. “Yes. She encouraged me to ask you out anyway. She said you looked at me with,” he raised his fingers to quote, “‘heart eyes’. What are heart eyes?”
Dean could feel the blush on his cheeks. “Uh… well… they’re, um.” He waved his hand in a vague gesture and coughed. “It’s an emoji. It’s a little smiley face with hearts for eyes. Hey let’s go sit by the lake and watch the ducks!” They had reached the park and Dean pointed to some benches before picking up the pace in an attempt to escape this conversation.
Castiel kept pace easily. “What does the symbol mean?”
“Nothin. It’s just a stupid symbol. Hell, they have one for poop.”
“Yes, but that one seems to be pretty self-explanatory.”
Dean huffed. “I think it mostly means you love what you’re looking at. It could be anything; food, cars, cat videos…”
They reached the benches and sat down. “But she said you had them when looking at me.”
Dean rubbed the back of his neck and focused on his ice cream. “Well, yea man. We’re best friends. Of course I care about you.”
“But do you love me?”
Dean’s eyes snapped up to Castiel’s face. He sat there with a curious look on his face. “What, uh, what d’ya mean?”
“It’s not a complicated question Dean. Do you love me?”
“That’s not somethin I really say to people man. I mean I love Sam, but we never really say it, ya know?”
“So, you love me in the same way you love Sam? In a familial way?”
“Well, kind of.” Dean was so confused. How did this topic come up?
“I see.” Castiel stared at the ducks and ate some more. “Why do people always assume we’re a couple?”
Dean almost choked on his ice cream. “What?!”
“I know why the angels do, and to an extent I know why demons do, but why do other humans?”
Dean sat frozen in shock. What the hell did he say to that? “I don’t… people see two guys and just assume they can’t have a close friendship without somethin else going on, I guess.”
“What about you and Sam? Do people assume that about you two? I mean, before they know you’re related.”
“Oh yea,” Dean laughed, “people used to think that all the time. Hasn’t happened in a while though.”
“If it stopped with you and Sam, then why are we different? This type of thing happens frequently.”
Crap, back to that. “I don’t know. You said you understood why the angels and demons think that. Maybe humans are similar.”
“Doubtful. The demons, I suspect, just enjoy trying to rattle us. They use any trick possible to try and break up a friendly alliance. The angels though, they know my feelings for you so they just assume they’re reciprocated given our loyalty to each other.”
Dean froze. Feelings? What feelings? Reciprocated how? “What are you talkin about Cas? What exactly do they think is going on?”
Castiel made an exasperated sound. “They assume we are in a relationship because I love you.”
All the air left Dean’s lungs. “What? Love me? Like- Like a friendship kind of love, right?” This was not happening. He had to be dreaming.
“In whatever way you need. You made it clear years ago that you needed me as a friend. So that is how I choose to show my love for you.” Castiel squinted his eyes. “You act like you didn’t know this.”
“How the hell was I supposed to know that?!”
The angel tilted his head. “I fell for you Dean. I gave up Heaven for you. I opened Purgatory to keep you out of the fight in Heaven. I broke through Naomi’s control because of the depth of my feelings for you. Do I need to go on? How could I have made my feelings for you clearer?”
Dean opened and closed his mouth twice before asking quietly, “I thought you did all that for the good of humanity.”
Castiel gave him a soft smile. “And you are the best of humanity.”
Dean couldn’t speak. He sat starting at Castiel while the angel sat staring back. He looked so damn peaceful. This confession hadn’t made him nervous or embarrassed. He appeared as relaxed as if he had been discussing any other subject. Finally, Dean cleared his throat and steeling himself he asked, “When you say you choose to show love as a friend, what other way would you?”
“Well if you were amenable, I would have wanted to express myself in a romantic way. However, since I am in a male vessel and you are not open to that type of relationship, I chose to behave in a way you would be most comfortable with.”
Again, Dean was struck speechless. All this time, Cas has been in love with him? And he chose to never say anything just to make things easier? And all of Heaven knew?! “But, I didn’t think angels could fall in love that way.”
“I’ll admit, it’s not common. Usually, an angel needs to fall from grace first or spend a great deal of time on Earth before those feelings develop. But as always Dean, you seem to be able to break the rules. You managed you make me love you before either of those things happened.”
He couldn’t believe it. All these years he had assumed that Cas had fallen because he was trying to follow God’s original mission; to protect humanity. Never once did he assume that Castiel felt this way. He had loved the angel since their first apocalypse. How could he not? They were so alike. They both were willing to sacrifice whatever it took to get the job done. They were both unwilling to be selfless. But the thing that really made Dean fall, was Castiel pulling him from Hell. Forty years he had spent there. Forty years of torture, both receiving and giving. How could he not love the creature that rescued him?
Dean had spent his entire life saving people. He was a soldier for his father and he practically raised Sam. He never got to be weak himself; not with so many people depending on him. When Castiel rescued him the first time and then several more times after that, it was a relief. He felt like he didn’t have to be so strong. He could fall and Castiel would catch him and never once judge him for it. They made each other better; they always had.
“Cas? What if I told you that… that I…” Dean took a deep breath, “I love you too.”
Castiel just smiled. “I know. Like how you love Sam.”
“No, Cas. Not like Sam.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What if I wanted to have a romantic relationship with you?” Dean nervously chewed his lip.
For the first time since they started talking, Castiel looked shocked. “But, I was under the impression you did not view men in a sexual manner.”
Dean blushed. “Um, I don’t. Not really. There have been a few guys that caught my eye, but not enough to take it further. That’s not really the point though. I don’t really care what vessel you’re in. It’s you I care about Cas.”
“Are you serious? Why did you not say anything?”
“Same as you, I guess.” Dean shrugged, “Didn’t think you’d feel the same. You’re an angel and I’m just a human.”
Castiel tentatively reached over to grab his hand. “Dean. You have never been just a human.”
Dean chuckled, “Man, when did you get to be so smooth?”
“You make it easy. Can I kiss you Dean?”
Dean gulped. “Uh, I’ve never kissed a guy before.”
“Technically, I’m not male.” Castiel smirked.
That got Dean laughing. He took a few breathes to calm down and stared down at their joined hands. There was no going back after this. He looked up to Castiel’s face. There was so much love in the angel’s eyes. Just like that, his fears vanished. Like always, Cas would be there to catch him. “Yea. Yea, go ahead.”
Castiel leaned in and caught him in a soft kiss. There were no fireworks. His heart didn’t start racing. He wasn’t overwhelmed with excitement. The exact opposite happened. It felt like cranking the key when he started his Baby. Like slipping into a hot shower and feeling his muscles relax. Like the first sip of coffee in the morning. He felt relieved. Castiel felt like home.
They pulled away. Castiel looked nervous. “Was that ok? Did I do that correctly?”
Reaching up to cup his cheek, Dean gave Cas a smile. “That was perfect,” he said before pulling him back in for another kiss.
They were interrupted by Dean’s phone chiming. Pulling it out of his pocket, he checked the message from Sam letting him know he was finished. Sending a reply, he turned back to Cas. “Sam’s done. Come on, we’ll meet him at the car.”
Castiel reached out to stop Dean from standing. “What happens now Dean? Between us?”
“What do you want to happen?”
“Well, I was hoping we would enter into a romantic relationship. However, I would understand if you would not want to pursue that.”
“And if I didn’t?”
Castiel’s expression crumpled. He hung his head before mumbling, “Then, I would accept that. Nothing has to change with our friendship.”
Lifting Cas’s chin with a knuckle Dean caught his eye, “And if I did?”
He received a radiant smile in response. “That would make me very happy.”
Dean mirrored his grin. “Then that’s what we’ll do.” He stood and reached out a hand. Castiel linked their fingers together and walked next to Dean as they left the park.
Passing the ice cream shop, they opened the door and ducked their heads in. Catching Sadie’s eye, they held up their joined hands before Dean pecked Cas on the cheek. Sadie cheered before they nodded their thanks and left to meet Sam. His poor brother was about to have another big change to deal with.