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Sam Winchester knows his brother well. It’s clear there’s something on Dean’s mind. Any day now, he will spill the beans. Until then, Sam will have to be patient.

It finally happens one evening when they’re sitting in the library, tables strewn with beer bottles and books.

“Uhm, here’s the thing, I–“

Sam looks up and puts on his I’m listening face.

Dean sighs and starts again. “Since Cas got his wings back–“

Silence.

“He must be very happy about that,” Sam tries, carefully.

Dean laughs, a short gush of air, but he’s smiling with a fondness that tugs on Sam’s heart. “Yeah. Yeah, he is.” A deep inhale. “But you know, since he can’t go to heaven anymore, he needs – uhm – help with—“

The light is dim, but Sam’s almost sure Dean is blushing. What on earth is Dean trying to tell him here?

Dean’s next words are spoken so fast he almost doesn’t catch them. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I said he asked me to help him groom his wings.”

“Oh,” Sam answers slowly. “I see.” He decidedly does not see. At least not the whole picture. “And you don’t want to do that?”

“No, no, it’s fine, it’s okay I mean, he needs help, I help him out.” Dean is rambling, and Sam deduces from that fact alone that Dean is deeply shaken by whatever Cas and him are doing behind closed doors. That doesn’t come as a surprise to Sam becaue Dean and Cas and intimacy … well, let’s just say those three don’t have the best track record. 

“Okay.” Sam worries his bottom lip between his teeth. He’s got to tread carefully. “But you don’t feel comfortable doing it?”

“This is not about me, Sam, it’s about Cas. I—he seems to like it. A lot.” He shoots Sam a glowering look as if he could make Sam decipher what’s Dean’s trying to say. Sam comes up blank.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

“Jesus Christ, Sammy. Cas likes his wings petted, like in, he really likes it. He moans and wriggles and sighs whenever I touch him. And I,” Dean doesn’t meet his eyes and his voice is barely a whisper, “– I just don’t know if it’s a sexual thing or not.”

Oh. Ooooh-kay.

Sam bites his lip again to keep himself from smiling. Schooling his features, using his most neutral voice, he asks, “And do you want it to be sexual?”

Dean’s head shoots up, eyes wide, mouth opening and closing around nothing. Sam waits.

“I guess—I just wanna know what’s up, Sam. He can’t keep making those noises when I don’t know what’s happening.”

Sam made it his habit long ago to state the obvious when nobody else seems inclined to. In these matters, Dean tends to be a little dense. “Have you considered asking him?”

Dean looks down on his hands, spread out on the table as if he wants to feel something solid under them. “It’s not that simple, Sam. I can’t go to him and ask about stuff like that. That’s not how we work.”

Don’t I know that, Sam thinks, it’s been ten years of this. The lingering stares, the wistful sighs, enough pining to plant a forest. But he knows Cas and he knows his brother, and pushing them won’t get them anywhere. So he resists the urge to lock them in a room together until they figure stuff out.

Dean clears his throat. “I thought maybe you could dig something up? We’ve got to have intel here somewhere about wing grooming.”

“I’m sure we have lore on that, but I can’t guarantee it’s accurate. And there’s another point you have to consider.”

Dean looks at him as if he’s waiting for a revelation, as if he’s desperate for Sam to figure this out.

Sam feels like a schoolteacher who tries to hammer a very basic concept into the heads of his pupils. “You should consider that Cas likes being touched by you so much – because it’s you that does the touching.”

Dean’s shoulders, tensed for finally getting an answer to his most pressing concern, slump down in disappointment.

Sam stands and claps his brother on the back. “You should talk to him, Dean.”

 

///

 

That night, Sam’s on his way to the bathroom when he hears it. Low, deep moans reverberating along the hall from Cas’ room.

He stops in his tracks.

Okay, Dean has a point. That sounds a lot like a sexual thing. Feeling like a creeper, he starts walking again, intent to find his headphones just in case. When he passes Cas’ door, he tries not to listen, but—

There’s a second set of moans now. And a broken Fuck, Cas, just like that that will haunt him for the rest of his life. He’s nearly running when he reaches the library, but smiling nonetheless. The leather-bound book is still open where he left it. He marks the page and puts it in his backpack.

Sam supposes he’ll need a more lasting solution than headphones, at least for a few days. A motel, preferably a good distance away. The floor vibrates when he leaves a note on the kitchen table. A lightbulb shatters when he grabs his keys and heads for the garage.

In his motel room, he gets out the book. It falls open on the marked page.

“Angels will manifest their wings and have them tended to as an act of courtship, signaling and deepening the mutual devotion between mates. As an appendix that exists for the most part in a non-corporeal plane, angel wings don’t need grooming.”

Sam smiles at the words.

Ten years.

Apparently Sam wasn’t the only one who got tired of waiting.