Cas was in Hell.
“I think someone threw up on this plate,” Kevin said, offering it toward Cas as if there was some chance, in some universe somewhere, that he’d want to take it.
“I do the dishes,” Cas protested, throwing down the dish towel that he’d been holding when Kevin had summoned him from his quiet, calm, scullery with a yell. “Bodily fluids are a front-of-house issue! I am not touching that! You’re the one with the cloth and the mop, Kevin.”
“But, Cas,” Kevin whined. “It smells!”
“I’m aware.” Cas crinkled his nose but found himself extending his hand out for the younger man to give him the plate. Ugh, being a people-pleaser sucked sometimes. “Fine. I’ll get rid of it. But I’m not mopping.”
Kevin looked so relieved, Cas thought he might have been at risk of being hugged if it wasn’t for the throw-up plate he held as a shield.
“Thank you, Cas! You’re the best!”
Sighing, being careful not to spill the sloshy plate, Cas backed his way into the swinging double doors and eased his way cautiously into the kitchen annex where the dishes got washed. Heading for the large commercial sink—that he had just cleaned, damn it—he dropped the plate in and began to hose it off.
The last of the diners for the evening were finishing up, so he was hopeful that he’d be able to leave within half-an-hour or so. Spraying the plate clean, he gave it a critical once-over. In the end, deciding to err on the side of caution, he walked over to the trash can with it.
“Why are you throwing away a perfectly good plate?” Hannah asked, bumping through the service door at the back with her hip, arms piled high with paper.
“Someone threw up on it,” Cas said flatly. He hovered, holding the plain white restaurant plate above the open trash can.
“Eww,” Hannah said, wrinkling her nose. She gestured for him to drop the offending dish into the waiting black bag. “I trust your judgment. Just don’t tell Zach we’re throwing out the tableware now. He wouldn’t care how many different bodily fluids had been on it.”
Hannah was the owner and manager of Heavenly Bodies Café, but Zachariah Styne was, sadly, her co-partner and investor. While Hannah had a passion for food, coffee, and people, Zach was a stingy, cheap business mogul with the lease on the building. He was also a vile, lecherous ass, but until Hannah could afford to buy him out, they all coped.
“Are you heading out on time tonight?” Cas asked Hannah, pumping a generous amount of antibacterial soap onto his hands.
“Hoping to,” Hannah said. “We should be pretty quiet tomorrow, so I’m going to try and spend the day looking at the books, and you know I need a good night’s rest for that.”
Cas smiled gently across at Hannah, his best friend from college who’d hired him here when no one else would. “You know I can help you with the books, Hann.”
She sighed. “I know, Cassie. But we can’t afford to pay you what you’re worth, so that’s not fair. Just like every other time we’ve had this discussion.” She glared across at him as she moved toward the double doors, but there was no heat to her expression.
“Alright, Hannah. You know where I am when you get stuck,” he teased, knowing his friend didn’t have much of a head for numbers.
“Not all of us are fancy four-point-oh accounting graduates, Cas,” she said in mock offense. She paused for a moment, halfway through the door. “Your mother sent me an invite to Michael’s wedding, you know.”
Cas groaned. “I’m sorry. She’s terrible.”
“It’s okay. If you need me to do the fake girlfriend thing again,” Hannah said, raising her hand in a joking salute, “you know I’m here for you.”
“I appreciate it. But she’s onto us. It’s been eight years since we met so unless you want to be fake-married and fake-pregnant by this time next year, I need another option. I’ll tell her I can’t make it.”
Cas pretended not to notice Hannah’s face fall as she disappeared out into the café.
It wasn’t that Cas didn’t like Hannah; he liked her a lot. And it wasn’t that Hannah wasn’t attractive, or kind, or fun. It was just that somehow, for Cas, those traits had added up to a best friend, not a girlfriend. And there wasn’t anything he could do about that. Though, in hindsight, their ploy to have her pose as his girlfriend to keep his mother off his back had been a terrible idea.
Scrubbing his hands ferociously under the tap, Cas let out a small sigh. He felt trapped between his total failure to find a job in his field after college—or any job at all if it hadn’t been for Hannah—and Naomi’s constant breathing down his neck. He was, she claimed, her most disappointing child, which—given how unlikable his brothers were—was all the more heartbreaking. His rejection of the ‘family business,’ as she referred to it, was unforgivable.
Cas was at peace with his choice, but he doubted his mother ever would ever be. He was, however, stuck in a rut. Hannah fussed and told him that his anxiety meds weren’t working and that she thought he was depressed, but he couldn’t see how knowing that would help on his current salary—it wasn’t like he had insurance. Washing dishes at Heavenly Bodies, the café next to the Astronomy Museum, hadn’t exactly been his dream career.
Unfortunately for Cas, his social anxiety ratcheted up so high in interviews he could barely get a word out. So, dishes for Hannah it was. At least it paid the rent on his shitty apartment. The fact that he still had to rely on Naomi for the rest of his bills, though, left a nasty taste in his mouth.
He regularly thought about—and tried—getting a second job; but it all circled back to him being an anxious mess and flunking every interview he’d had. It was a disaster, his life was a disaster, and he spent rather a lot of time mad at himself about it.
Cas dried his hands off and checked to see if there were any more dishes to be cleaned before he could break down the kitchen and head out for the night. Poking his head out of the door, he saw a portly, dark-haired man rounding on Kevin, his crisp British accent doing nothing to soften his severe expression.
“And you—” The man stopped to poke at Kevin’s chest. “You think you should get a tip for that?”
“I—I didn’t ask for—” Kevin spluttered, seeking refuge behind the cash register, where he’d be out of reach of the poking finger.
Cas frowned. Kevin was their newest, and youngest, employee. He was a hard worker. A little grumpy perhaps, but Cas couldn’t fault him for that with all the crap he got from customers working out front.
“What’s going on out here?” Cas said, stepping up behind Kevin and placing a hand on his shoulder in support.
“Are you the manager?” The man turned to Cas, before looking him up and down. Seeing the damp apron that graced Cas's hips, he curled his lip derisively. “Obviously not. I wanted a manager!” He thumped his fist down on the counter.
“Yes, sir,” Kevin grumbled. “I asked you if you could just wait a moment while Hannah—”
“Do you think it’s appropriate for you to ask me to wait a minute?”
Kevin opened his mouth, but no sound came out.
“Why don’t you head in the back and start wiping down the food prep counters,” Cas said gently, ushering Kevin off toward the side doors before fixing the short, angry man with a flat glare. “What exactly is the issue? Hannah will be here shortly, I’m sure, but perhaps we can resolve it in the meantime.”
“My steak was overcooked.”
“Well, uh, let me just send someone over to your table to collect it, and we can cook—”
“I already ate the steak; I want it taken off my bill!”
Cas blinked. “B-but, you ate it? If you’d have just asked—”
“It wasn’t cooked right!”
Castiel sighed. “I’ll send out the cook, sir.” Benny was a huge, intimidating muscle-wall of a guy; this slimy creep would probably roll right over when he was confronted by Heavenly Bodies’ much-loved chef.
Breathing his way through his increased heart rate, Cas congratulated himself on standing up for Kevin and slinked back into the kitchen. Benny went out to deal with the rowdy Brit, and Cas finally headed back to his last load of dishes.
Which seemed to have doubled in number since he left. Dang it. So much for finishing soon.
Cas had a feeling it would be a long night; just another one of many.
Dean stretched his arms above his head, wincing at the cracking of his spine. He unfolded himself from the front seat of his beloved Impala, closing the door and giving her side an appreciative little pat as he locked her. He was tired after a busy day driving between the three locations of his businesses.
He’d worked at Singer Salvage on and off since he was a boy, and when the old man had passed, he’d left the yard to Dean. He lived there now, along with Sam since he’d returned from school in California, and Dean had slowly expanded his business beyond Singer Salvage, adding a mechanics shop in town and Singer Classics, a small classic car detailing business that Dean was building up on the side.
Trying to manage all three was exhausting, and he barely broke even some months, but he and Sam didn’t need to rely on anyone else. That was all Dean needed. Sam had been on at him to get some help for months, someone for the paperwork, but for now, Dean was happy being self-reliant.
Dean pushed open the front door. “Sam! You home?”
“In here!” his brother yelled from the kitchen, poking his head around the door at the end of the corridor. He was still wearing his suit jacket from his job at Mills and Hanscum Law in town, and he looked as worn out as Dean did.
It was late, the sun having set long ago, but running his own businesses often meant that Dean kept terrible hours. His days were long, but he enjoyed them. Sure, he’d often end up covered in grease, but he got to bring home honest money and look after his brother. It was more than he’d had for much of his life. His dad had been somewhat old fashioned and of the mind that Dean should stick to their family’s old traditions.
Dean would never utter the words to anyone, but a tiny part of him had been relieved when John had passed.
Now it was just him and Sam, and for the most part, they were content with life. A little lonely on occasion, but that went with the territory—at least they had each other.
Dean eased off his dirty boots and shucked down his brown overalls, revealing worn jeans and a Metallica shirt beneath. Tossing the work coverall over the banister of the stairs and leaving his boots near the door, he strolled up to the kitchen, sniffing the air suspiciously.
“You trying to cook something, Sam?”
“Trying?” Sam sounded offended, turning to waggle a dirty spatula at Dean. “Just because something isn’t ninety percent bacon fat, doesn’t mean it’s not food.”
“Oh, God, what is it?” Dean asked, wrinkling his nose.
“There’s no way you’d have said that if it was good!” Dean said, pressing into the kitchen and attempting to peer around Sam to look at the stove.
Sam danced from side-to-side, blocking his access to the oven. “It’s healthy!”
“Oh, God ,” Dean whined. “It’s one of your experimental things. Tell me there aren’t flax seeds. Or fuckin’ kale. I said no more kale!”
Sam flapped him away, spatula still in hand. “It’s gonna be an hour at least. Don’t you need to feed tonight? Go do that while I finish up.”
“Hey,” Dean said. “Who’s in charge around here?”
Sam laughed loudly. “Hell only knows, because you aren’t the boss of me. Go, hunt. I’ll chill some beer for when you get done.”
Dean slapped Sam affectionately on the shoulder as he passed and headed back out into the corridor of their slightly ramshackle but much-loved old house. Bobby hadn’t been one for fancy interiors, and both Dean and Sam were more about function than form—but even so, they tried to look after the place where they could. They’d spent much of their childhoods there whenever John had passed Sioux Falls for a visit, or just dumped them with Bobby while he disappeared off on mysterious, dangerous excursions. The memories in these walls, while sometimes bittersweet, were the closest thing to family the Winchester boys had.
Rolling his shoulders, Dean made his way back down the corridor toward the front door and then turned to pad his way up the staircase in socked feet.
His brother was right; he did need to feed. He’d been getting tired more easily, and today the sun had seemed far too bright. With a sigh of resignation, Dean climbed the rest of the stairs up to the second story of the old house.
Bobby’s old bedroom was the one with the biggest windows, so Sam and Dean had designated it to be the spare room, jokingly referring to the tall glass panes as “the bat flap.” They used it to get in and out without being seen by the neighbors. Not that anyone lived particularly close to the salvage yard, but they couldn’t be too careful.
The spare room was pretty bare—they couldn’t possibly have anyone visit anyway, after all—and it contained little more than a clothing rack, a laundry basket, and an old dresser. A shaggy brown rug covered most of the wood floor. The dresser contained old clothes and towels, just in case. Sometimes messes happened, though Dean and Sam were both exceedingly well-practiced at handling their transformations alone, after a lifetime of them.
Shedding his t-shirt, Dean shook it out and hung it on the waiting clothes rack. His jeans followed, and he dropped his boxer briefs into the waiting hamper. The window looked out across the salvage yard, quiet and dark for the night; Dean’s two employees, Mick and Arthur, had gone home hours ago. Dean opened it and let the chill breeze blow in and across his bare, freckled skin.
Cracking his neck in the way that always made Sam cringe, Dean made a gentle hum of satisfaction at the freeing sensation. He spread his arms, stretched out his muscles, and cracked his knuckles out of pure habit. His face split with a cocky grin that was for no one but himself, and he bent down into a runner’s starting position.
Three swift pumps of his thighs and he was airborne. He changed on the fly, his body shrinking, darkening, his teeth sharpening. The supple stretch of his fair, muscled form transformed into leathery skin and soft fur.
With a gleeful skree , Dean soared over the partly disassembled cars in the yard, spiraling up and flying dizzying loops just for the feel of the wind beneath his wings.
The kitchen window opened.
“Dean! Stop showing off and get out of here!” Sam yelled, unamused.
“SKREE!” Dean screeched sulkily, before turning his back to the building.
He zoomed off into the night, following the distant scent of warm blood.
It was nearly midnight by the time Cas closed his apartment door behind himself. He dawdled tiredly inside, dropping his jacket over the back of his threadbare couch. The evening was calm and cold, but his walk home from Heavenly Bodies had done little to refresh him. With a sigh, he shuffled the back of his knees against the arm of the couch and simply allowed himself to fall back until he flopped horizontally among the pillows. He let out a small “ oof ” as the motion knocked the air out of him.
He lay there for a few minutes, trying to work up the will to take off his work shoes. It never came, and he was still wearing them when the cat flap clattered ten minutes later.
“Hey, Miggles,” Cas cooed, turning his head in the direction of the pale orange fluffball that had squeezed itself through the flap in the door. The cat did not meow in response, which was somewhat suspicious. Cas craned his neck, trying to get a look at the animal. “Miggles?”
The feline darted into the room silently, sneaking behind the couch before Cas could sit up.
“Damned cat,” Cas muttered, pulling himself up off the comfy seat.
Cas had been Miggles’ owner for several years, so he knew exactly what the sneaky animal was doing. He knew the signs. Crouching down next the arm of the couch closest to where the cat had disappeared, he peered into the dark gap between the piece of furniture and the wall.
“What have you got there, Miggsy?” he said softly, before adding to himself, “Better not be another dang bird.”
The tiny flash of Miggles’ eyes reflecting at him confirmed that the cat was hiding from him. Cursing under his breath, he straightened up and rolled his shoulders, before bracing to push the couch out from the wall. Before he could complete the motion, Miggles darted out with something dark clasped in their mouth.
The pursuit began.
Miggles raced across to the other side of the room, bounding into the empty corner before shooting back across the top of the coffee table, deliberately trying to lose Cas as he dived after the speeding orange blur.
“Damn it, Miggles!”
Cas skidded on the floor and was momentarily glad he hadn’t gotten around to taking his shoes off, so he had enough grip not to crash into the wall. The cat leaped out of reach, scurrying down the short hallway to the bedroom, with something large and black grasped in its jaws.
“Oh, come on,” Cas grumbled softly, tiptoeing as carefully as he could down the hallway, though he knew that attempting to sneak up on Miggles was a lost cause. The hallway was empty, and Cas was silently placing his bets on which room the cat had disappeared into. His bedroom, guest room, or bathroom? He took a bet on his bedroom first; it was more Miggles’ domain than his, most days. It often felt like he had to ask permission just to use a corner of the bed.
A quick search did not reveal the feline, or its captive.
“Miggles, I’m tired. Can you just let it go so I can sleep…?” Cas said, stepping back out into the hallway. In return, he heard an indignant meow from the bathroom.
He stepped into the bathroom quickly and, of course, Miggles strolled nonchalantly past him, stopping to rub at his ankle on the way. No bird in sight.
“Great,” Cas muttered under his breath. Now there was an injured, or very likely dead, bird somewhere in his apartment. Hopefully, he wouldn’t find its head on his pillow tomorrow morning as he had with the mouse last week.
He was about to turn on his heel and head to his bedroom, when he heard a tiny scratch-scratch kind of noise. It seemed to be coming from the bathtub. Very slowly, he stepped up the edge and peered around the shower curtain.
In the tub was a bat.
Although still very small, it seemed a little larger than Cas remembered most bats being. The poor thing looked so pathetic scrambling to get ahold of the ceramic walls, tripping over its wings, that it was actually quite adorable.
“Hey, little guy,” Cas cooed soothingly, crouching down at the edge of the tub.
The bat froze… At least for a moment. As soon as Cas tried to reach for it, it freaked out entirely, making shrill little screeches and scrambling for the edge of the tub, only to slide back down every time.
“Okay, okay,” Cas said softly. He moved back, leaving just one hand dangling innocuously inside the tub. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to check if you’re hurt, and then we’ll get you back outside, okay?”
The bat watched him; its eyes sharper and far more intelligent looking than he would have expected.
Cas wasn’t overly familiar with bats, but this one, he decided, was pretty cute. It had a soft, fuzzy head and cool-looking leathery wings. One of the wings, he noticed sadly, seemed to be dragging along the bottom of the tub.
It crept slowly, suspiciously, toward his hand. Cas could have sworn it was glaring at him.
The bat left a small trail of blood in the bottom of the white bathtub, leading Cas to notice several deep scratches amongst its fur.
“That mean kitty really got you good, huh?” Cas said softly. “C’mon, buddy. Just trust me. I’ll get you cleaned up.”
Step-by-step, the bat came up to his hand. It gave him a fast, quivering sniff.
“There we go, that’s it,” Cas encouraged gently. “Not gonna hurt you, see?”
The bat nodded.
Wait—the bat nodded?
Cas shook his head. “I really must be tired,” he told himself.
Still moving very cautiously, he lay his hand out flat on the bottom of the tub. After another long, suspicious glare, the bat clambered onto his palm. His little claws were scratchy, but not particularly uncomfortable. Very slowly, Cas scooped it up, bringing it into his chest for support. Using the tiny clawed hands at the top of his wings, the bat clung desperately on to his shirt. The creature seemed uncomfortable with the movement as Cas stood up, making tiny peeping noises, but he clung on and didn’t move.
“There’s a good little bat.” Cas grinned down at it.
He could have sworn it glared even harder.
Up close, he could tell that the small mammal had a broken wing and some hefty wounds from Miggles attentions. He stepped out into the living room, moving back to the couch where his phone still lay, right where it had fallen out of his pocket while he lazed earlier.
Keeping one hand cupped over the bat to comfort it, he unlocked his phone with the other and thumbed through his contacts.
“Sioux Falls Veterinary Hospital,” a sleepy voice answered.
“Hey, Garth. It’s Castiel.”
“Hey Cas, what’s up? Miggles alright?”
“Yeah, they’re fine,” Cas said, carefully lowering himself down to the couch. “Dragged another little friend into the apartment, actually.”
“Oh no, another bird?”
“A bat this time.”
“A bat? Okay. Does it seem injured?” Garth asked, the sleepiness leaving his voice as he went into work mode.
“I’m fairly sure it has a broken wing and some nasty cuts from Migg’s claws and teeth.”
“Okay, well, first things first, Cas, don’t touch it.”
Cas looked down at the creature cradled to his chest. It appeared to be watching his phone call intently. “Little late for that, Garth.”
“Oh. Well, have you had a rabies shot recently?”
“Rabies?” Cas asked. “Yeah, I think I had the series when that huge rat Miggles found outside bit me, back in the summer.”
The bat, at Cas's chest, emitted a small, offended sounding squeak.
Cas looked down at it suspiciously. “No one’s saying that you have rabies, buddy,” he told it. “But better safe than sorry on my part.”
“Cas? Are you talking to the bat?” came Garth’s amused voice.
“Uh, I guess, yeah.”
“Alrighty. Well, grab yourself a pen, bud. I’ll give you some instructions for now that you can follow at home. I know you don’t have the money to keep bringing all these creatures into the clinic out of hours,” Garth offered kindly.
“Thank you.” Cas sighed, looking down at the tiny, grumpy being that clung to his chest.
He idly petted the bat’s head with this thumb while he wrote down the veterinarian’s instructions. After he’d thanked his longtime friend and hung up, Cas looked back down at the bat.
“Ready to get fixed up, little guy?”
In response, the bat hooked its little claws into Cas's work shirt once more, as if already anticipating that Cas was going to stand up.
“Smart little thing, aren’t you?” Cas observed, moving back to the bathroom. He opened the cabinet under the sink, rooting around for a shallow tray that he’d used for animal visitors before, some gauze pads, and a spare toothbrush. He found an old towel and the hot water bottle he used in winter when his feet got cold watching TV.
He managed to juggle all the items into the tray and lift it with one arm, constantly supporting the bat with his other hand. It was a struggle, and the gauze pads kept rolling off the top. After his second attempt, the bat gave a soft little squeak and began to climb its way up to Cas's shoulder. Freezing, with his breath caught in his throat, Cas waited until the small creature settled next to his collar. It had its feet gripping hard to the material of his shirt, and the hand of its good wing tangled in Cas's hair.
“ Skree ,” it peeped softly, next to his ear.
“Alright then.” Cas blinked, amazed. “Definitely smart.” He picked up the gauze pads, and made his way to the kitchen, careful to keep his steps even and soft.
With both hands free again it didn’t take long to get the tray half-filled with warm water. After testing it with his wrist to make sure it wouldn’t burn the tiny thing’s sensitive skin, Cas reached up to his shoulder and gently scooped up the bat, beginning to lower it toward the makeshift bath.
There was a lot of squeaking, and the bat speedily crawled out of his hand and halfway back up his arm.
“Hey!” Cas laughed. “I need to get the blood washed off you, and clean your wounds, okay? I’m not going to drown you or anything,” he said softly, ducking his head down to speak to the creature. He felt a little silly doing it, but the bat seemed to be soothed by his voice so far and appeared to be unexpectedly intelligent. So it just felt right to tell him what was going on.
The bat tilted his head, giving Cas a long, suspicious side-eye. Then, to Cas's utter surprise, the bat scuttered its way calmly down his arm and plopped itself into the little bath tray.
It sat calmly in the middle, looking up at Cas as if to say, “Well, get on with it then!”
Picking up the soft, new toothbrush that he’d kept on hand for guests, Cas dipped it into the warm water and gave the bat an experimental little rub on the head with it.
The bat sat perfectly still.
“Good boy! Or, uh, girl, I guess…” Cas shrugged. “I’m not even sure how I check with a bat.”
Cas could have sworn—if it wasn’t completely crazy, of course—that the bat squeaked and moved its little legs closer together.
He dipped the brush in the water again and began to methodically comb over the small creature’s blood-splattered fur, cupping his hand and using it to rinse over the bat at regular intervals. It was strangely calm; he’d expected splashing, clawing, ear-splitting noises. But instead, after its initial fright, the creature seemed to just decide to trust him, staying still and letting Cas gently brush the drying blood from its fur. At one point the fuzzy, dark-as-night little mammal started to push back against the brush, encouraging Cas to scratch its back, between its wings, with the toothbrush bristles.
Once he’d gotten the bat mostly clean, Cas picked up a few pads of gauze and dipped them into the warm water. “Okay buddy,” he said quietly, offering out a hand for the bat to climb back on to. “I just need to check those bites and scratches are all clean, okay?”
The bat climbed back onto his hand without a problem. The creature seemed to have decided they were friends, and the quirky little thing amused Cas.
“Sorry if this stings any, okay?”
Cas didn’t know why he kept talking to it, other than the bat always seemed like it was listening; it watched his face, and tilted its head, and seemed to focus on his words. So, he kept at it, thinking that at least the low timbre of his voice might be soothing to the injured animal.
Right then it glared at him again, as he raised the gauze to its chest. He dabbed as carefully as he could at the slashes that cut its soft, dark fur with angry, fleshy red. The bat lay back in his hand, trustingly. Its injured wing lolled by its side, the other tucked in tight. He could feel it wiggling the pulled-in wing very slightly, and Cas had the odd impression that the bat was attempting to be brave, almost as if it wanted to pretend that it didn’t hurt.
“I’m sorry,” Cas near-whispered, again. “Almost done.”
The bat flinched as Cas moved on to its side and back, ensuring it was as clean as he could get it. The creature clung onto his thumb with its claws. It was a little bigger than Cas's hand, large for a bat, he decided. It was a beautiful creature. As far as he recalled from pictures of bats, he’d always thought their eyes were beady and black; but these were green, a vivid forest green, with pupils just like a human’s. They stared at each other solemnly for a moment when Cas finished.
“Let’s get you dry,” Cas said after a minute. He picked up the old towel and gently bundled the bat in it, before setting the lump of fabric on the counter. A little black bat head poked out of the top, but otherwise, the creature remained cocooned within.
Cas boiled his electric tea kettle quickly and filled the hot water bottle, carefully making sure it wasn’t too warm. He then wrapped it in another towel. Looking over at the bat, snuggled up in his warm towel mountain, he ducked down so he was practically on eye-level with it.
“If I go to find a box to put this in, are you going to stay there, or am I going to come back and have to rescue you from the sink, or find you dangling from the blinds or something?”
The bat stared at him.
Cas laughed at himself, shaking his head. “Okay. I need to stop talking to you like you can understand me. Hannah already says I’m lonely and weird, anthropomorphizing a bat for company isn’t going to help.”
The bat fixed him with a strange, intelligent stare, but it didn’t move, staying warmly wrapped in the towel.
After a little rooting around in his closet, Cas found an old box big enough to tuck the hot water bottle into the bottom. He layered a towel on top and found a tiny jar lid in his recycling that he could put a few drops of fresh water in.
Satisfied with his makeshift bat heating pad, Cas gathered the last few supplies the veterinarian had recommended: some popsicle sticks and some of the medical tape Cas still had from previous running injuries. When he returned to the kitchen, the bat hadn’t moved.
“Are you going to bite me if I try and tape up your wing?” he asked it, very seriously. “I can take you to the veterinarian’s office tomorrow, but I can’t afford the extra after-hours fees right now, little buddy. So, let’s just try our best with Garth’s advice, huh?”
He carefully unwrapped the bat from its towel, and the fuzzy little lump of darkness immediately clung to his thumb again with one hand, as if uneasy.
“I’m not trying to hurt you, I promise. But if it stays dangling like this, it could get worse,” Cas said, gently lifting the wing with two fingers.
The bat froze. It clung on tight to Cas's thumb and made occasional skree- ing noises, but it didn’t try to escape as Cas very cautiously splinted the wing with two popsicle sticks and a couple of the little gauze pads, holding them all in place with the medical tape.
“It’s not perfect,” he said as he finished, “but it should hold you until tomorrow.”
The bat tilted it’s head, examining it’s stiff, awkwardly extended wing. Cas could have sworn that the creature looked sad. It turned back to him with a soft screech, which in Cas's mind was as good as a thank you.
“Now, Garth said that I should feed you goats milk concentrate and mealworms,” Cas said softly to the bat, gently lowering the creature down into its makeshift bed. “But I don’t have either of those, and I don’t want to give you anything that’ll make you sick. So, hopefully, you can wait until morning to eat something.”
The bat’s glare was reproachful.
“Well I’m sorry,” Cas grumbled. He paused to cover a yawn with his hand. “It’s late, the store is closed, and I have to get some rest. You probably can’t hang off anything with your wing like that, so just snooze on the heating pad, for now, I guess… if bats can even do that.” He picked up the box, carefully tucking it under his arm, and began to walk to his bedroom.
The bat didn’t seem bothered by the movement. It just clung onto the towel with its good wing and snuggled its still-damp little body down onto the warm hot water bottle with an appreciative sound, almost like a tiny purr.
“Feeling a bit better, little guy?” Cas asked, setting the box down on the nightstand and doing a quick Miggles-check under the bed.
The cat was nowhere in sight, but he locked the bedroom door as an extra precaution against feline intrusion. He didn’t want Miggs trying to play with—or worse, snack on—the bat again during the night.
“You should be safe enough in here with me until morning. I’m just praying I don’t wake up to you hiding behind a piece of furniture or having pooped all over everything.” Cas sighed.
The bat gave an indignant little skree .
“Well you are a bat,” Cas pointed out, stripping his work shirt and khakis off. He slumped down onto the mattress in his boxers, giving out a long, loud moan as he landed face first into the pillow.
The bat was silent and still.
All things considered, Dean had been in worse pickles.
The curious, dorky man that had rescued him was wonderful. (Dean would happily admit that he was mentally calling him “dorky” to avoid calling him “fucking gorgeous.”)
He was moderately humiliated that he’d been snuck up on by a giant, fluffy cat-beast while he was hunting, but it was no worse than the time an actual bat had propositioned Sam. Right at that moment, however, he was more concerned that his injuries were too severe for him to transform back to his normal human state safely.
Cas, his rescuer, had gently tucked him into his car—if this contraption could be called a car, Dean was more inclined to call it an abomination—and was taking him to the veterinarian in town. The vet was a quirky little man named Dr. Fitzgerald that Dean was rather familiar with, as he had done plenty of work on the man’s truck, which was often full of copious amounts of animal excrement and leftover kibble.
“Yes, Hannah, a bat.” Cas squinted at the red light, waiting for it to change. “Miggles left it alive this time, though.”
Cas had this Hannah person on speaker, his phone perched on the dashboard as he drove. Between driving and using one hand to protect the box next to him, he didn’t have a spare one to stop the phone sliding around. Dean was personally grateful that his safety ranked higher than the decrepit old cell.
“But aren’t bats, like, full of diseases?” Hannah sounded disgusted, her horrified voice projected from the dashboard.
Dean gave an indignant squeak. Diseases? He didn’t care if it seemed like this woman was Cas's boss or friend or whatever, that was still rude.
“She just doesn’t know you, Wingchester,” Cas looked over and told him as he drove over the intersection. “She doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“Did you name the bat after that hot guy that took over the salvage yard from Mister Singer?” Hannah sounded highly amused.
“You’re such a weirdo.”
Hannah may have been amused, but not half as much as Dean had been when Cas had started spit balling for a name for him during breakfast. The hot guy who took over the salvage yard, huh? Well. He was more than okay with that label. Dean settled back onto his freshly renewed heating pad, listening to the conversation.
Cas sighed. “I know. But I can’t stop talking to it; I swear it’s like it can understand me. It didn’t seem right to keep calling it ‘bat,’ you know?”
“I can’t say I do know, no,” said Hannah. “But you were always more of a bleeding-heart than I was, Cas.”
“It’s my cat’s fault it’s hurt. I feel responsible, is all.”
“I get it. I’ll give Kevin a call and see if he can switch shifts with you today. If not, we’ll manage. You can take your little bat friend to the veterinarian this morning, and then come in after lunch.”
“Thank you, Hann.”
“You owe me!”
“I always do.” Cas smiled fondly, letting go of the box very carefully so that he could hang up the phone.
In a couple more blocks, they made it to the veterinary office. Cas parked close to the door, and cautiously eased open the box to peer inside. His huge, startlingly blue eyes looked down at Dean.
“How’s it going, Wingchester?”
“Squeak!” Could be worse, buddy. At least you’re nice to look at, Dean thought.
“We’re at Garth’s office. Do you want to sit in the box, or ride on me?”
Dean looked at Cas for a moment, before taking a few steps toward the edge of the box. He craned his head up over the edge and gave out an impatient little squawk. Come on, like anyone would turn down the chance to ride you.
“Alright, alright, be patient.”
Cas quickly unclipped his seatbelt and shoved on his hat and scarf, gathered up his wallet and phone, then carefully reached into the box to pick up Dean—or “Wingchester”, in his own mind, Dean supposed. He clung to Cas's thumb as usual, and then scrabbled his way familiarly over to Cas’s shoulder when he held his hand up.
Dean’s tiny body shuddered in the cold wind as Castiel locked up the car.
“Here, buddy,” Cas said, lifting the edge of his scarf.
With a small shuffling adjustment, Dean snuggled in close to Cas's neck, with one of the loops of his scarf around him like a blanket. It’s cold, and the guy is cute and smells good, Dean thought. So, sue me.
Cas grinned down at him, showing perfect white teeth. He didn’t seem at all surprised anymore when Dean understood him and reacted to his conversation.
Should probably be grateful that the dude clearly knows nothing about bats, Dean considered.
Dean was a little concerned about how the trip to the veterinarian was going to go; but it wasn’t as if he could fly away with this stupid wing, and if he wanted to heal up faster and get back to Sammy, he was going to have to suck it up and pretend to be a bat.
A few minutes later found them checked in at Garth’s office, sitting in the waiting room while he finished up with what sounded like the world’s angriest dog. Dean didn’t mind dogs as a human, certainly not, but as something small and chaseable, he’d rather not. By the time they made it into the clinic itself, Dean had buried himself up against the side of Cas's neck, only his eyes poking out.
“Heya, Cas.” Garth grinned, reaching out to shake Cas's hand. “I thought you said you were bringing the bat in for a quick look over?”
Cas pointed up to his neck silently. Dean couldn’t see Cas's expression, but Garth certainly looked amused.
“Ahh,” the veterinarian said with a little laugh. “Bonding well with you, I see. Okay, if you can put it down on the table, I’ll give it a quick examination. I can give you some food and milk concentrate to take home with you once we’ve got its wing sorted, too.”
Forty-five minutes later, Dean and Cas were tucked back inside Cas's rattling Lincoln Continental.
“That wasn’t too bad, was it, little one?” Cas smiled, reaching down into the box to stroke at Dean’s head before he pulled out of the parking lot.
Dean gave a small skree , grumbling to himself. Quite frankly, that had been one of the most awkward, invasive, and humiliating experiences of his life, but Cas didn’t know that.
“So, you are a boy bat after all,” Cas said, rubbing his thumb softly behind Dean’s ear. “Good to know. Interesting that Garth didn’t recognize your species, though. Told him you were too smart to be a regular bat.”
Despite his amusement, Dean preened a little at Cas's touch. Not that Dean would have admitted to anyone that he kinda liked being petted, but Cas had large, strong hands and he was always gentle and warm.
A short journey and one swing through a drive-thru later, and they were heading back to Cas's home.
Cas was careful with his box as he carried Dean back to the apartment, and Dean was grateful. His wing hurt like a bitch, and the few stitches Garth had given one of the bigger cuts at his chest were itchy. He wanted a nap, and a beer, and a cheeseburger. His chances of getting those, he realized, were pretty slim. He’d seen the small tub of mealworms the veterinarian had kindly given to Cas, and he was not impressed.
Cas let Dean perch on the back of the couch, nestled between the swell of the cushioning that denoted the right-hand and middle seats. He snuggled down warmly; his injured wing spread out across the worn fabric.
Miggles was not pleased.
“Miggles!” Cas shouted, seeing the feline’s butt begin to wiggle tellingly as they fixed their eyes on the couch.
The cat glared.
“Don’t make me put you outside,” Cas threatened, finger-wiggle and all.
What is it with this dude, talking to animals like they understand him? Dean wondered, amused.
Miggles seemed quite put out that Dean was invading their home, what should have been dinner now becoming an official house guest. The cat snuck along the couch until they were half in Cas's lap, before rolling onto their back and flapping their feet around, nuzzling up into Cas's stomach adorably.
If Dean didn’t know better, he’d have sworn the beast was trying to stake a claim.
“Alright,” Cas said with a sigh. “Time to get ready for work.”
He sounded miserable at the idea, Dean noted. He left his drive-thru bag on the couch and pushed up off the seat with a low groan. Scooping Miggles up under one arm, Cas give the cat a stern look.
“You’re coming with me, Miggs. No being sneaky and snacking on Wingchester while I’m in the other room getting dressed.”
The cat gave a long, grumpy meow.
As soon as Cas was out of sight in the bedroom, Dean scrambled his way down the couch to the seat, his stiff, now professionally strapped-up wing jutting out to his side. It was uncomfortable and annoying, but better than when it flapped around, he decided.
The delicious smells emanating from the take-out bag were just too much. Who didn’t like a bit of comfort food after a rough night and terrible morning?
Mealworms be damned, Dean thought.
Carefully, shuffling around so as not to knock his sore wing or stretch his stitches, Dean eased his way into the bag as quietly as possible.
Double bacon cheeseburger, a man after my own heart! Dean rejoiced, tearing the wrapper aside with his sharp teeth and burrowing his face into the juicy, greasy meat. God, it was delicious. Perfectly grilled, pepper jack cheese, just the right amount of—
“Hey!” A hand suddenly grasped at Dean, hoisting him up to the height of Cas's eyes. “That’s mine, little guy!”
Fuck, this dude’s eyes were as blue as the sky up close.
Cas gently lowered him back to the couch, tutting to himself. He reached over to the coffee table where he’d abandoned the tub of mealworms he’d left the veterinarian’s office with.
“Guess you’re hungry, huh?” Cas said, wrinkling his nose slightly as he pulled out a worm. He placed it down on top of a paper napkin, in front of Dean on the couch.
Dean eyed it with horror. Oh, HELL no. With one clawed foot, he reached out and flicked it firmly off the seat.
“Oh, come on,” Cas grumbled, leaning over to pick it up off the carpet. “It can’t be that bad.”
With one hand, Cas scooped Dean up and brought the mealworm up to his mouth. Dean recoiled, scrabbling.
“Skree! Skreeeee!” he wailed, turning his head this way and that. Fuck this, Cas. You eat them if you like them so much.
Cas laughed, placing Dean carefully down into his lap. “Okay, okay, I was wrong. They look awful.”
Dean gave Cas his best glare-and-pout, which on a bat face was probably just a bit of narrowed eyes and a grimace.
“Alright,” Cas said, sticking a hand back into the drive-thru bag. “It’s not like I should eat this now you’ve had your little batty-hands all over it, anyway.”
Dean gave a delighted little screech as Cas put the cheeseburger down on the napkin in front of him. He dived into it, face first.
Above him, Cas chuckled softly and reached over to stroke his back between his wings. “Alright, slow down, fuzzball. If this makes you sick or something, it’s totally your own fault.”
Pulling back from his meat-guzzling for a moment, Dean did his best to wordlessly express his thanks to the guy, leaning into his hand and nuzzling his face into Cas's palm. Not exactly a conversation, but best I can do, he thought.
Cas smiled. “You’re a sweet little thing, Wingchester. Hopefully, you’ll be okay here while I go to work. I’ll shut Miggles outside for the day. Don’t want you getting chomped on again. I guess if it becomes a problem, I can always ask Garth if I can borrow a cage.”
Dean squinted. That better be a cage for the cat, buddy.
Pushing up off the couch, Cas gave Dean one last little rub between the ears before he headed off to work.
“Cas!” Hannah yelled through to the kitchen. “Your brother’s here to see you!”
Elbow deep in suds, Cas froze. The churning in his stomach was half-panic and half-hatred. “Which one?”
“Gabriel,” Hannah said, sticking her head through the swing door. “Do you really think I’d have mentioned any of the others? I’d have just told them you weren’t here. Come on, I’ll send Alfie to finish up, and you can get off early.”
Cas let out a slow sigh of relief, reaching for a rag to dry his arms. Somehow, he never seemed to be able to do his job without soaking himself from shoulder to knee. “Thanks, Hann. I’ll be right out.”
“Just keep him away from the front of the restaurant, he always causes problems teasing the patrons who think they recognize him but can’t remember where from.”
Smirking, Cas recalled the time Gabriel had stopped by and bluntly told a middle-aged woman that the reason her husband couldn’t stop staring was that he’d probably been watching Gabriel suck dicks the night before.
Gabriel, it turned out, had come to Heavenly Bodies to whine at Cas about Michael’s wedding. Their older brother wasn’t the worst member of their family, but as Gabriel had once said, when rabid rats are fleeing a sinking ship, you hardy stop to count the fleas.
Every family had a black sheep or two, but Cas and Gabriel were quite happy to be wooly rebels, given what ‘normal’ was for Novaks.
“You’ve got to come, Cas. If you aren’t there for Mom to focus on, I’ll be the biggest loser in the room! That means she’ll start paying attention to me. ”
Alright, so perhaps Gabriel wasn’t always that great either.
Castiel raised an eyebrow pointedly as he strolled out of the café alongside his much shorter, albeit older, brother. “Well, I’m sick of her paying attention to me, Gabe. We’re the only two that didn’t go into the family business, and she hates it, you know that. Maybe it’s your turn.”
“C’mon, Cas. You’re the only one in the family doing worse than me.”
“Gabriel!” Cas glared. “Now you're just being rude.”
“Well, I’m married and at least earn enough to pay my bills,” Gabriel defended himself, his tone and demeanor sulky in every way. “You can’t say either of those things.”
“Happy by myself and don’t fuck strangers for a living,” Cas countered. “I could say those things instead.”
“There’s nothing wrong with what I do.” Gabriel bristled, pulling up his scarf as they made their way up the street to where he had parked.
Cas sighed. “You know I agree, Gabriel. I’m happy that you’re successful and you love what you do. But you know Mom isn’t.”
They fell into a resigned silence for a couple of hundred yards, progressing across the parking lot at the end of the street, before Gabriel spoke again.
“What if I fix you up with someone from work again?”
“What, like that April girl? She asked how much I made a year before our appetizer arrived. No, thank you.”
“Mick liked you, the guy you met at my birthday.”
“I couldn’t even speak to him, Gabriel. He thought I was weird.”
“You are weird. Escort service?”
“No,” Cas snapped.
“They’ve made great advances in robotics—”
“Would you stop!” Cas turned to look at his older brother. “I don’t want to turn up to another family event alone, Gabe. But I don’t want to go with someone who doesn’t want to be there, either. We all know Michael doesn’t care one way or another if I go, so how about someone in this family, for a change, has enough respect for me to let me do things my way?”
Gabriel fell quiet for a moment, just looking at Cas before he began digging around in his pocket for his car keys, opening the door of his cherry-red Mazda before he said anything.
“I’m sorry, Cas. I know we don’t always get along… I guess we just don’t understand each other. But I’m not Mom, okay? I want you to be happy. I was just being a bitch about having to deal with Michael’s nasty ass and stand up to her on my own.”
“I know you were,” Cas grumbled.
“Lemme give you a ride home.” Gabriel gestured to the passenger door. “At least we can catch up for a few minutes.”
“Fine.” Not that there’s much to catch up on in my life, except an injured bat, Cas thought.
Cas nodded, and walked around to the other side of the car. Gabriel drove him up the wall, but he was ten times better than any of his other brothers. The older ones were vicious, nasty pieces of work—something their mother often seemed proud of rather than shamed by—and since childhood, Cas and Gabe had only had each other, despite their wildly different personalities. The fact that the two of them had rejected the family legacy and done their own thing at least gave them one small thing in common.
They kept to safe topics, and Cas was glad of the ride home. He persuaded Gabriel to swing through the local burger joint’s drive-thru, pointedly ignoring Gabriel’s raised eyebrow both at his food choices and the amount he ordered.
By the time Cas shuffled back through the door of his apartment, he was well and truly done with the entire day. Miggles squeezed their way through the door at his ankles, getting in the way as best they could.
“Wingchester?” Cas called out, before shaking his head at himself, amused. “Like a bat is going to answer.”
A happy “ Skree !” came from the living room.
Despite his exhaustion, Cas found himself grinning. “Hey, little buddy.”
Cas gave Miggles a good fussing and petting, before heading over to the couch, where the bat rested on a pillow. He blinked his huge green eyes slowly as if he was waking from a nap.
“Guess what?” Cas said, lowering himself to the couch. “I brought you another cheeseburger, as you tore through my lunch so fast.”
The bat seemed to perk up immediately, scrabbling across the couch toward him as fast as his jutting wing would allow him. Cas unwrapped the burger, chuckling, and placed it down on the worn-out seat of his old, battered couch.
He was fairly certain that bats should not be eating bacon doubles, but the mealworms had clearly not been a hit, and the creature homed in on the junk food like it knew exactly what it was going for.
It was a strange little thing, but Cas was already growing pretty fond of him.
“I guess you’re gonna stay here with me until you’re better, huh?” he said, reaching out to stroke a finger down between the bat’s wings. “Sorry you can’t fly, little guy. I’m sure you’re eager to get out of here and flap away to wherever home is. But if I let you out with a wing like that, you probably aren’t going to last very long.”
The bat watched him, ears twitching.
“Here’s hoping no one tries to commit me to an institution for chatting to you as if you can understand me,” Cas smirked, and reached overhead in a long stretch. “A little TV and then bed for me. Want to watch a movie?”
Snout buried between two burger patties, the bat barely looked up, but it did let out a pleased little peeping sound.
Cas flicked on the TV, browsing through what was on before settling on an old sci-fi movie.
He fell asleep on the couch not long after, his head on the arm and his bat curled sleepily on his chest.
Every day, Dean grew more and more concerned about Sam; worrying about Sam worrying about him. Each morning, when Cas shut Miggles in the bedroom so that the demon cat wouldn’t snack on him and then left for work, Dean tried to transform back to himself.
The pain was unbearable, and for almost two weeks, he was nowhere close.
Eventually though, the bones of his wing began to knit back together, and he knew that within a day or two, he’d be able to hold his weight and fly home to his brother.
Shamefully, he realized that a scarily big part of him didn’t want to.
Of course, he wanted Sam to know he was okay—he must be going out of his mind, thinking Dean was a whiskey-corpse in some ditch or captured by a hunter or Men of Letters type. But, despite being a bat, he’d grown very close to Cas over the last couple of weeks.
He didn’t want to leave him.
The guy needed someone, that much was clear. If he spent so much time with Dean—a bat, that could offer only the most basic of communication as a response—how lonely must he be, when it was just him and the cat?
It was clear that Cas had some fairly severe anxiety, which he took meds for but struggled with nonetheless. Dean was no expert, but he was sure that the guy’s horrendous family situation had something to do with that—sure, John Winchester hadn’t been a stellar parent, but Dean couldn’t recall ever doubting that his dad loved him and Sam, even if the ways he showed it were sometimes messed up. Cas, Dean knew from even a couple of weeks of interactions, doubted every day that anyone gave a shit about him at all.
It made Dean angry.
Cas talked to the girl, Hannah, on the phone almost every day, and Dean had wondered if maybe there was more between them than just a boss and employee, but he was proved wrong during one of Cas's late-night whispering sessions on his pillow.
He was embarrassed to admit it, but those had become the highlight of Dean’s day.
Too concerned that the cat would take a bite out of “Wingchester” while he slept, Cas took Dean to his bedroom every night. That led, on more than one occasion, to Dean having to avert his eyes very swiftly; despite that being, he would admit, the very last thing he wanted to do. The man was almost ungodly attractive—how he was single was absolutely beyond Dean—and obviously, knowing Dean as only a bat, he didn’t have any qualms about stripping in front of him. But Dean did try his best to be respectful, as much as he’d like to peek.
There had been a few awkward moments for Dean when Cas had indulged in activities that as a human, Dean would very much have liked to help him with. Instead, he settled in his box, turned his back, and thought about absolutely anything else. But damn, he sure had some spank-bank material for when he was human again.
Usually though, after the awkward getting-into-bed part, there came the best part of the day. Cas would settle down under his sheets, roll onto his side, and quietly talk to him. By the third night, Dean decided that if they were going to chat, even in a one-sided way, he didn’t want to stay in the box. Cas never sealed it, so he simply scrambled out of the top and onto Cas's pillow. The man had laughed at first and tucked him back inside, but after Dean scrambled out twice more, he got the message.
After Cas clicked off his lamp each evening, Dean would settle down on the pillow next to him. He’d reach across and pet Dean in that gentle, patient way he had, and he would talk about his day. He talked like he had no one else to listen, and that broke Dean’s heart in a shockingly unmanly way.
Dean wasn’t a cuddly person by nature, he’d object to the mere idea of something so… feelings-y .
But God, did he want to give Cas a hug, the more he learned about him.
Slowly, as the first week passed and then the second, Cas opened up. He talked about his family, the huge pressure he had on him to go into some unspecified family business that he never elaborated on. The fact that he believed he wasn’t cut out for it, so he’d gone to college and studied math instead, wanting to be a simple accountant. How he couldn’t get a job, never mind many friends or a partner (Dean noted the use of the gender-neutral term with quite some interest), because he was so socially awkward that he could sometimes barely speak around people he didn’t know.
Even so, Dean found that he didn’t pity him. He wanted to talk to him, sure, tell him how he was worth more than he thought, be close to him. But he discovered that despite everything, Cas didn’t waste a lot of time feeling sorry for himself. The dude was funny—unintentionally, hilariously funny—leading to curious looks thrown in Dean’s direction when he was unable to stop the odd squeak of mirth escaping at something Cas had said. He was smart, incredibly so, and passionate about a lot of things—he liked old movies, and yoga, and loved to read, and spent half an hour one Wednesday mournfully discussing the plight of bees.
It was only when Dean tried to transform—early the following Tuesday once Cas had left for Heavenly Bodies—and found that he could manage it by gritting his teeth and hissing, that Dean’s traitorous heart saw fit to announce that he had a full-fledged crush on the guy.
Because here he was, able to transform, able to get out of Cas's hair, back home to Sam, and away from Miggles (who, Dean had to admit, he was growing kind of fond of, when the fluffball wasn’t trying to chew parts of him) and he discovered that he didn’t want to.
He didn’t want to go and never see Cas again.
Pottering around Cas's apartment in his birthday suit, Dean carefully rolled his shoulder and massaged it with one hand while he looked for the phone. It turned out that a broken wing translated into all kinds of soreness and pain when he was human, though the gashes on his chest were healing well under Cas's constant, gentle care.
I know he has a landline around here somewhere… How the hell is one dude so messy? Dean thought fondly, lifting abandoned junk-mail and forgotten take-out bags to find the discarded, but still charged, handset.
He dialed Sam from memory while flopping back on the couch. He then realized that he felt a bit weird having his naked junk touching another dudes couch without permission, so he grabbed the soft, worn throw that Cas used to snuggle up in front of the TV and sat on it.
Thinking of it, that wasn’t much better, but he at least made an effort.
“Hello?” Sam answered, sounding quite suspicious, which threw Dean for just a moment until he realized that he was calling from an unknown number.
“Heya, Sammy,” Dean said, relief flooding him and releasing some of the gnawing tension in his gut simply from hearing his brother’s voice.
“Dean! Where have you been? Are you okay?” Sam’s concern was palpable through the phone.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Dean reassured. “I’m really sorry, dude. I had a run-in with a cat while I was out hunting.”
“Yeah, a fluffy monster of a thing. Got me good. Broke my wing, cut me up some.”
“Jesus, Dean, what the hell? It’s been over two weeks!”
Dean grimaced. “Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I got really lucky; the cat was a pet to this awesome guy who rescued me. Took me to a veterinarian, treated me damn well actually. Just couldn’t transform back until today, with the healing bones.”
“So, you spent a couple of weeks living as someone’s pet while I stressed out over you?” Sam sounded amused, rather than annoyed, much to Dean’s relief.
“Yeah. Sorry. I’d have flown home earlier, but I couldn’t carry my own weight. Probably can now though.”
“So, you’re coming back now?”
Dean swallowed hard. “Uh, yeah. I guess I am.”
“Okay… Why does it sound like you don’t want to?”
Dean leaned back into the couch, rubbing his hand over his face. Damn Sam and his perceptive bullshit. “I kinda feel bad about just running out on the guy. He’s… Well, I think he got pretty used to having me around, I—”
“Aww,” Sam’s voice rose mockingly. “That’s cute. You think he’ll be sad to lose his little bat buddy if you just disappear.”
“Well, yeah.” Dean frowned. “He’s a person with feelings, Sam. Christ.”
Sam laughed. “Oh my God, Dean. I can’t believe you just said that to me. Are you sure that cat only busted a wing? Did it hit your head too?”
“Asshole,” Dean muttered.
“Okay, okay. I’m sorry,” Sam tried again. “I’m not trying to be a dick. If you really don’t want to upset the dude, then… I guess just spend a day or two showing him you’re healing and shit, so he can get used to the idea of releasing you back into the wild or whatever.”
“Yeah. That’s a good idea.” Dean latched onto the suggestion immediately. “Now that you know I’m okay and stuff, I guess I could take another day or two.”
“Alright,” Sam said, and Dean could hear the amused lilt to his voice. “So, tell me about this guy, who you took the time to tell me was ‘awesome’ even when you were talking about his cat trying to eat you.”
“Damn you and your perceptive bullshit,” Dean said, aloud this time.
They spoke for another ten minutes or so. Sam listened intently while Dean told him about Cas, and his time healing up. Sam didn’t say much, mostly just reassuring him that the businesses were ticking along just fine without him—Mick and Arthur were keeping everything running at the salvage yard, Rufus was more than capable of overseeing the garage, and the only classic car Dean had to work on for the next few weeks was one of Mr. Crowley’s old Bentleys, and no one liked that guy anyway.
Dean had a feeling that Sam would have a lot more to say on the subject of Cas by the time he got home, but he let it go.
For now, he’d focus on easing Cas into releasing him over the next couple of days, and perhaps, he admitted to himself quietly, spend some time thinking about how he could orchestrate a non-awkward meet-cute with the guy when he didn’t have wings.
Relationships weren’t something Dean could do with ease. The whole, “I’m a vampire but don’t worry, I won’t eat you, I just fly around and drink animal blood and like my steak really rare” conversation wasn’t ever going to be a winner, so his love life tended to end at one-night stands.
But… Something was different about Cas.
Heavenly Bodies was busy during the week. Before four o’clock, it functioned mostly as a coffee shop and purveyor of Hannah’s excellent baking, and after that, it became a sit-down restaurant with one of the best reputations in town. They did a great trade during the day from people who were popping in and out of the Astronomy Museum, hence the name Heavenly Bodies. Even if, Gabriel joked frequently, it made the place sound like a strip club.
Cas was fairly sure it only sounded like a strip club to Gabriel, and that everyone else made the connection straight away, given the proliferation of hand-painted stars and planets across the front windows.
It was a lot quieter than usual, at least, when Hannah stuck her head into the kitchen.
“Cas, can you barista for a bit? Kevin had to run out.”
“Is he okay?” Cas asked, frowning, reaching across from the bubbly sink to grab himself one of the rough, white restaurant service towels.
“Yes, his girlfriend needed a ride to her cello performance because her car broke down, so I told him he could go and stay to see her play.”
“That was nice of you, Hannah,” Cas said. Nice to Kevin, at least. Not to me. Now I have to serve people, damn it.
He plastered his best customer service smile across his face and moved out through the double swing doors, relieved to see there was only one waiting customer as he slipped behind the counter. It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny day and most likely people were attempting some early spring outdoor activities, rather than wandering around the museum.
He breathed in and out carefully, telling himself over and over that he could do this. No problem. He hated serving coffee, but really, he’d do whatever Hannah needed. He knew he was just grumpy—he’d been grumpy for two days, ever since he’d taken Wingchester to the park and watched him fly off into the sunset.
Which, he was aware, was frankly ridiculous.
He tried to explain to Hannah how much he’d bonded with the little thing, but she still shuddered at the mention of it, so he’d stopped talking about the bat, and thrown himself into work.
As much as one could throw themselves into washing dishes, anyway.
“Vanilla latte, skim,” a bored-looking college student said without even looking at him.
Those were the kinds of customers that might bug some people, but were just fine for Cas. He smiled to himself and turned, packing coffee into the espresso machine and looking around to see where Kevin had left his employee ID badge so that Cas would be able to open the register.
He spotted it and threw the lanyard around his neck, as his was probably somewhere in the back tangled in his coat; he never needed to wear it, being in the kitchen almost all day.
The latte dripped through the coffeemaker quickly, and he ducked down into the refrigerator to get a new gallon of milk to froth. He heard footsteps approach the counter, so he quickly called up to the new customer while he tried to locate the right type of milk.
“Welcome to Heavenly Bodies, what can I get you?”
“Well,” came a deep voice that went straight to Cas’s chest, “I was hoping for a heavenly body, but I guess a black americano will do just fine.”
Cas tried to straighten up too quickly and hit his head on the lip of the refrigerator.
“Yikes,” the guy said, grimacing as Cas winced and turned to look at him. “Sorry. Was that me? Are you okay?”
Cas waved away the words with a hand. “Black americano, coming up.”
He quickly finished off the latte and passed it over to the college student in her oversized varsity hoodie, who still hadn’t so much as looked at him, and was relieved when she flounced away without waiting for change.
The new guy, though, seemed a lot chattier.
“Kevin?” he asked, frowning oddly, looking across the top of the counter and at the ID badge hanging around Cas’s neck. “Why are you wearing a badge that says Kevin?”
Cas blinked. “Well, my name could be Kevin,” he said, squinting at the sandy-haired stranger who, for some reason, appeared to be blushing a bit.
“Right. Of course it could. How would I know you’re not a Kevin?”
Very slowly, Cas reached to his left to grab a paper cup. “To go?” he said, almost hopefully, holding it up in front of the man.
“I think I’ll stay, actually.”
Dang it, of course, Cas thought, nodding and switching it out for one of the café’s heavy, pottery mugs. They were all made by a local artist and covered in swirling stars.
“Are you? A Kevin?” The deep voice came hopefully in Cas’s direction again, even though he’d turned his back to start running the americano through the machine.
“Uh, I—No, not Kevin,” he said awkwardly, clanking the mug into place against the metal backboard of the espresso maker.
“But your badge says Kevin.”
“But I’m not.”
Cas poured the hot water on top of the espresso and turned slowly, moving the mug over toward the counter. He set it down in front of the man.
“Well, I’m not a Kevin either. I’m Dean,” he said, with the kind of cocky grin that usually accompanied someone making fun of Cas for his awkwardness. Cas couldn’t quite work out whether that was what was happening this time, or not.
“Dean,” he repeated, nodding. Taking his first good look at the guy, his eyes widened. “You’re the guy from the salvage yard,” he said.
Y’know, the one I named my bat after. The bat that’s gone. Why the heck am I pining over a bat? I really need to—
“So, if you’re not Kevin, then who are you?”
“Uh.” Castiel blinked. What? Who was he? Oh—right. Cheeks bright red, he completely missed the card slot on the register as he stuttered out, “Cas. I—I’m Cas. My name, I mean.”
Dean looked uncomfortable.
Cas felt uncomfortable.
It was a bad time.
“That’ll be four twenty-five,” Cas squeaked after a minute.
Dean dug around in the back pocket of his jeans—worn, and covered with grease stains, Cas noticed—and pulled out a crisp ten dollar note. “Keep the change.”
Cas frowned gently. “No, no—that’s too much, I can get some change—”
“Hey.” Suddenly Dean’s hand was very gently over the top of his on the counter, a calming gesture, and topped off with a warm, cautious, smile. “It’s okay, keep it. I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to. I just wanted to say hi.”
Cas felt his cheeks heating again as he looked up, settling his gaze fully on Dean’s face for the first time. His eyes were green, so very, very green, just like… Well, that was a crazy thing to think.
“No, it wasn’t you, really,” Cas blurted out. “I’m always this awkward.”
Dean grinned at him over the top of the register. “It’s cute,” he said, smiling openly before he turned and carried his mug away to a table in the back.
Cas still had the ten-dollar bill in his hand, flushed and blinking, when the next college student barked their order in his direction.
Dean returned the next day.
Kevin was working out front, of course, and Cas would have missed Dean entirely if he hadn’t had to go out and bus some tables, picking up the slack after the lunch time rush. He was in a world of his own, seriously considering whether he should get another pet, or let Gabriel set him up with one of the robots he mentioned.
“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, his voice smooth and low as Cas passed his table.
Cas jolted in surprise at being spoken to and fumbled the mug he was reaching for. With lightning-fast reflexes, Dean grabbed it a split-second before it would have sloshed cold coffee all over the table.
“Oops,” he said, grinning as he slid the mug very carefully back toward Cas. “Well, at least I didn’t make you hit your head this time.”
Cas nodded awkwardly and began to turn away, but it seemed that Dean wasn’t done talking.
“Sorry for taking up your time, but you don’t come across something so beautiful every day,” Dean said, holding out his mug for Cas to take.
Cas stared, then flushed bright red—the mug. Of course, the mug.
“Uh, yes,” he quickly stammered. “They’re made locally; there’s a business card on the—”
Dean cut him off with a gentle chuckle as he rose, moving behind Cas to head toward the exit at the front of the restaurant. He leaned forward just a fraction; his voice low so that only Cas could hear him.
“I wasn’t talking about the pottery.”
Cas dropped the mug again, and this time there was no saving it.
The third day, Cas was prepared. He switched out with Kevin—to the kid’s complete amazement—right before the time Dean had arrived the previous two days.
He didn’t have to wait long, suffering his way through serving two awkward cappuccino moms that wanted to chat and three wordless suits who just wanted the highest amount of caffeine he could provide before Dean strolled through the door.
How is it, Cas thought, that a man eternally covered in grease has the gall to look so damn good?
It was really rather rude of him.
Cas crossed his arms across his chest, watching Dean approach.
Something in the man’s face lit up as he noticed Cas watching him. “Heya, Cas.”
“Look at that; you didn’t damage anything.”
Cas scowled. “If you want to make fun of me, I’m aware that I’m rather an easy target. We have plenty of other staff that can assist you.”
“Woah, woah,” Dean held up both of his hands defensively. “No, Cas. I was just teasing in a friendly way; I’m not going to make fun of you. I’d have thought it was pretty clear already that your awkwardness is kind of endearing.”
“Endearing?” Cas rolled the word around his tongue, fairly certain he’d never had it directed at him before.
Dean nodded slowly, and Cas was surprised to see something nervous flick past his sharp green eyes before he parted his lips again. “Do you, uh, get off work anytime soon, Cas? Or like, have a break or anything?”
The question took a very long minute to process in Castiel’s mind. “You—you want… You?”
Dean frowned, looking almost offended. “Yes, me.”
“No, no, I just meant—” Cas sighed, before giving up and shaking his head. “Never mind.”
He lowered his gaze, reaching for one of the pretty, hand-thrown mugs and holding it up in question.
“Yeah, the usual,” Dean said quietly.
When Cas turned back around with the coffee, he realized that Dean had a slightly sad, frustrated look on his face. Dredging up some bravery he didn’t know that he had, Cas pushed the mug across the glass counter to Dean. “I can take a break in twenty minutes,” he said, very softly.
Dean’s face illuminated immediately. “Yeah? Really?”
“Okay. Twenty minutes,” Dean agreed, tossing down some cash before he marched triumphantly away with his black americano.
Twenty minutes, Cas thought. That should be plenty of time to call Kevin up here and fit in a quick panic attack in the bathroom.
It had been a long day, but for a change, there was no way that Dean could say it had been a bad day. He grabbed the junk mail from the Winchester front porch and sorted through it as he made his way up the hallway to the kitchen. Thoughtfully, he tucked a business card for a local florist into his back pocket, before discarding the rest into the kitchen trash can.
“Heya, Sammy,” he called cheerfully, inhaling deeply. “Spaghetti? Awesome.”
Dean eased himself down to the kitchen table, his three-decade-old knees creaking almost as much as the chair legs; he’d spent two hours crawling under Mr. Crowley’s Bentley that afternoon, slowly cataloging and replacing parts. Even so, he smiled as he leaned one shoulder against the cool kitchen wall.
“You’re smiling too much,” Sam observed instantly, placing a bowl of pasta in front of Dean with a suspicious squint. “What’s that about?”
“I, uh, had a date today. Well kind of, it wasn’t actually a date, we just had coffee during his break and talked. But like, actually talked. And he didn’t break anything!”
Sam looked baffled. “Who? And why would he break anything?”
Dean looked up from the spaghetti, scowling at his brother. “What do you mean, who? Cas! Who else?”
“Oh my God, Dean, bat guy? You’re still on this?”
Dean huffed lightly, picking up his fork and stabbing it down into the noodles and sauce. He kept his eyes down as he twirled it, doing his best to try and make his brother understand. “I know you think it’s crazy, okay? I get that. How we met was kind of weird, not that he knows that. But Sam he’s…” Dean paused, shoveling a huge orb of wriggling pasta into his mouth. “…really great. He doesn’t know it, and that’s the worst thing, but I wanna change that. He’s got this really dry sense of humor and he—”
“And he’s human!” Sam interrupted sharply, his palm coming down on the table in an incredibly rare fit of temper. “What the hell are you thinking, seriously? That you can just persuade this guy to like you and then… What? Have some fairy tale life, Dean?”
Sam’s voice was bitter and heavy, and Dean knew he was talking more about Jess than Dean in that moment.
Jess had been the love of Sam’s young life. Human. But sweet, and kind, and open to the truth. And she’d been murdered for it, horrifically, by the same hunter family that had killed their father.
“You can’t,” Sam continued, angry. “What’s your plan, just pretend to be human all the time? What happens the first time he wakes up in the night and the window is open, and you’re gone, or you stumble back in naked and covered in blood, Dean? What then?”
Dean stared silently down at his food, watching a drip of sauce roll slowly down the length of rogue spaghetti strand and onto the table.
Sam’s eyes flashed furiously. “You know what happened to Jess. No humans. That was the only thing—the only freakin’ thing—that Dad was ever right about. Just stop it, Dean. You can’t do this to him, or us.”
Dean twirled the spaghetti slowly around his fork.
Slowly, Sam deflated with a long sigh. “You’re really hung up on this guy somehow, huh?”
Dean concentrated harder on not flicking sauce across his shirt. The grease stains were bad enough to wash out; he didn’t need to add thick, tomato-based ones to the problem. “Yeah,” he answered quietly. “I thought maybe it’d be different if we met when I was human, and yeah, he was super awkward at first. I mean, still is. But once you dig in and get him talking…” Dean shrugged. “You just gotta keep at it. Dig for the treasure.”
Sam stared at him for a couple of seconds before he began laughing. “You did not just call a guy you’ve had one not-date with a treasure, Dean. Jesus.”
Dean frowned, his eyes fixed on Sam’s hands as he moved some salad onto his plate from the bowl he’d left in the middle of the table, probably hoping to tempt Dean to eat something green that wasn’t directly in contact with a burger patty..
“It’s different for him; he doesn’t know me yet. But I know him, Sam.”
“Yeah, I get that,” Sam said, still sounding grumpy. “Salad?” He waved the tongs at Dean, the word not so much a question as a command.
Dean glowered as he begrudgingly eased a single leaf onto the edge of his plate.
“I was thinkin’ that maybe I could offer him a job.”
Sam dropped his fork, and it clattered across the tabletop, landing pointed accusingly at Dean. “What?! Dean, seriously, what the hell is wrong with you? This is verging on stalkerish. Stop.”
“Look,” Dean said, picking Sam’s fork up from the table and handing it back to him. “Even if he wants nothing to do with me, he’s a good guy, Sam. And I feel like I kinda owe him, y’know?”
Sam pursed his lips, looking like he wanted to argue that point as well, but found himself unable to.
“He’s ridiculously smart,” Dean continued. “He just hasn’t been able to get a job outside of Heavenly Bodies because his anxiety is too bad so he just messes up all his interviews—but he can do the work,okay? And aren’t you the one who keeps telling me I need to take on someone to handle the paperwork for the businesses? What was it you said the other week—that the IRS are gonna flip shit if they see my filing?”
“A bundle of parts receipts that you’ve accidentally washed in the back pocket of your jeans isn’t filing, Dean,” Sam said primly.
“So, you think it’s a good idea?”
“No, Dean. Or no to Cas, anyway. You want a bookkeeper, yes, please. God, hire one. But not him.”
The Winchester stare-down continued for a solid minute before Dean eventually dropped his eyes and sighed. “Alright,” he said quietly. “You win, for now. I’m not stupid Sam, and I know this is risky, okay? But…”
Dean reached up and smoothed his hands over his face, rubbing away his smile with them.
“You know what,” he continued quietly, “never mind. Let’s just eat. How was work? Sue anyone fun?”
Sam regarded Dean thoughtfully before he returned to his salad. “Work was work. Adam called though.”
“Yeah. Says he’s got a lead on a big Men of Letters thing that’ll be happening soon, some kind of event they’re hosting. Something personal, where they’ll have their guard down. He asked if you wanted in on it, but I told him no.”
Dean nodded slowly. “Yeah. Keep our noses clean, right? Live in the world. That’s what we said after Dad died, and that’s what I’m sticking to.”
Adam was an old friend, of sorts—their half-brother, technically, a fellow monster as Dean thought of it—who lived a couple of towns over with his mom. His small family had fought alongside John Winchester for years before the Men of Letters had swept through Lebanon, where they’d lived at the time, and driven them out.
The Men of Letters were an old, rich hunter organization. Elitist dicks, Dean often thought, not always well liked even within the hunting community, to his knowledge. But John had done something to piss them off, and they’d wanted retribution.
Dean had never worked out what they wanted revenge for, exactly, but his Dad had an abrasive personality and strong views on almost everything, so him pissing people off had been a regular part of their lives.
His ongoing feud with the Men of Letters, though, had been bloody. John Winchester wasn’t the only one lost to it. Sam and Dean had tried their best to live as humans ever since, stay under the radar, but occasionally old friends would come calling, still out for vengeance.
Dean shrugged it off. These days, he wanted a different kind of life.
Sam drifted off into conversation, chattering mildly about his current cases and his plans to visit the farmer’s market in the morning. Dean half-answered, doing his best not to be a dick when he knew that Sam was just looking out for them, for him.
Usually, Dean would have been right alongside Sam in his opinions about Cas. But Sam hasn’t met him, Dean thought. He doesn’t know, doesn’t understand.
Not that Dean knew for certain that Cas would want anything to do with him, should he ever learn the truth. All he knew for certain was that something in him was now powerless not to at least try.
He wasn’t sulking, wishing that Sam could have been more supportive, he told himself. He really wasn’t.
Once he’d cleared the dishes for Sam, Dean headed on out of the kitchen. Sam would probably work at the kitchen table for a few hours before he hunted and slept, so Dean left him to it and began to head up the stairs to Bobby’s old bedroom.
Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out the florist’s business card that had been tucked into the bundle of junk mail he’d sorted. Tapping it thoughtfully on his lip, Dean quickly saved the number in his phone before he shucked off his clothes and carefully rolled his healing, but not perfect, shoulder.
With a run and a delighted screech, he flew free to hunt.
It was three weeks after Dean had first appeared at Heavenly Bodies for coffee that the flowers arrived.
Cas had been taking coffee breaks with Dean every day that he’d worked since their first stilted encounter. The first few days of careful coffee-not-dates had been hellishly awkward, but for some reason, Dean seemed determined to wait Cas out, and give him time to get comfortable.
Dean had turned out to genuinely be as charming and funny as he presented himself, as well as being just as cocky as Cas had assumed. But that trait, Cas was discovering, was disguising a man with a lot more to him than merely jest and bravado. It had taken him a little while even to be brave enough to think it, but Cas, well—he liked Dean, for sure. He had a crush on him, that much was true, and with his sandy hair, brilliant green eyes, and broad shoulders, who wouldn’t? Cas had to distract himself sometimes so that he wouldn’t simply gaze overtop of his coffee mug and start counting Dean’s freckles. But much worse than finding him physically attractive, Cas found that he actually liked him.
Dean’s gentle, determined attention was slowly tearing down Cas's awkward, defensive exterior and he didn’t know what to think or do about it.
He wasn’t even sure what Dean intended; he’d met Cas for coffee every day and chatted to him resolutely, suffering through even Cas's most obdurate pauses, as if he was absolutely convinced there was something inside worth uncovering—but he’d never tried any further. He hadn’t asked to see Cas outside of work or attempted to do so much as hold his hand; he was just getting to know him with no further indication of intent.
Until the flowers arrived, at least—that had to be at least a moderate indicator of intent, Cas decided.
They were a beautiful bunch of multi-colored blooms, bright and cheerful with curling green fronds at the edges. The florist had, under instruction he assumed, inserted tiny picks topped with cute little bees in between the flowers. The small envelope attached to the side of the cellophane wrapper announced his name, and they had been left somewhat unceremoniously next to Kevin’s elbow while he served coffee.
By the time Kevin had called Cas in from the back room, Hannah, the part-time kid, Claire, and even a nosy customer had all come to take a peek.
“Who’s sending you flowers, Cas?” Hannah asked curiously, lifting the cellophane to peer more closely at a yellow gerbera daisy.
“ Dean , of course,” Kevin said with a grin before Cas had a chance of responding. “Cas's not-so-secret admirer.”
Cas's cheeks were burning. “It might not be like that, Kevin.”
Claire, the high schooler who helped out during the holidays and on weekends, snorted. “Yeah, sure, Cas. You don’t often see dudes as confident as that reduced to trailing around after mangy trench coats like a lost puppy, y’know.”
“I don’t wear my coat while I’m working—”
“Dude, you had it on while you were sat drinking coffee with him yesterday!”
“It was cold, Claire!”
“Oh, for goodness sake!” Hannah flapped her hands at the both of them and shoved Cas playfully to the side, reaching to pull the envelope off the side of the flowers. “Will you just shut up and read it?”
“Yeah, son,” piped up the random middle-aged woman at the counter. “Open it!”
Claire fixed her with a flat look. “Can we help you, lady?”
She blinked in shock at being challenged, then shuffled off back to her seat.
Cas took the card with shaking hands—Oh, God why were his hands shaking?—and eased a finger under the flap, before changing his mind.
“You know what, you guys are making me incredibly uncomfortable.” He glared around at them, grabbing the bouquet and shoving them under his arm as he turned. “So, I am taking my flowers back to the dishwasher.”
Kevin pouted. “Aww, come on, Cas. We took bets and everything.”
Ignoring him, Cas pushed his way through the swing doors back into the kitchen. With his back to the counter next to the sink, he took a few deep grounding breaths before he opened the envelope.
Inside was a small florist’s card with a little cartoon bee and the words, “Bee Mine!” in cheesy bubble-letters.
“Cas, I hope these brighten up your day, just like you always brighten mine. Dean.”
Cas's stomach gave a funny little swoop.
He wasn’t certain. How could he be certain? Dean could just be sending him flowers to make him smile as a friend. But, he argued with himself, the card did say “Bee Mine.”
But what if the florist chose the card? What if it wasn’t what Dean intended?
The “will-he-won’t-he, doesn’t-he-does-he” headspace was not a good place for Cas. Some people enjoyed that kind of anticipation, he was sure, but it turned him into even more of an anxious mess than usual.
Alright, he thought. I’m going to have to do something about this. If Dean does want more than friendship from me, clearly, he’s waiting for me. And if he doesn’t, well… That’s embarrassing, but at least I’ll know.
Cas proceeded to pace around in the kitchen in ever-increasing circles until Kevin banged the door open five minutes later.
“Hey Cas, your freckled stud muffin is here for his daily coffee. Shall I ask if he just wants a booth or a room?”
“Kevin!” Cas ran out of the kitchen before Kevin could say anything to Dean at all. Just in case.
He skidded to a halt in front of an amused looking Dean, pink and with his hair even wilder than usual from yanking at it while he paced the kitchen. Nervously, he patted it down.
Leaning a hip on the counter, Dean looked Cas over and smirked, the bastard. “I can tell from your pink cheeks that the flowers already got here—but why the running? You wanna put me in my place that fast?”
Dean placed a hand over his heart dramatically, pretending to stagger. “You wound me, Cas. You could’ve let a guy down gently.”
Despite himself, Cas shook his head and chuckled. He raised a hand to his face, feeling the heat from the red at his cheeks, and tilted his head over toward the booths at the back of the store.
“You dork. Why don’t you sit down? Coffee is on me today.”
Kevin gave a low wolf-whistle, which was swiftly silenced by—Cas quickly determined from the glares as he turned around—the sharp edge of Hannah’s elbow.
Claire sidled up suddenly, from nowhere. She smiled quite gently. “Go sit, Cas. I’ll bring the coffee.”
He moved around the edge of the counter obediently, untying his apron, but still squinted suspiciously in her direction. “You’re going to bring the coffee over?”
“Uh-huh.” She nodded sweetly.
“You want to spy on us, don’t you?”
“Uh-huh!” She grinned. “Now go, or I’ll let Kev bring ‘em, and that’s worse.”
Cas laughed, and he was suddenly grateful for his goofy daytime café crew, because the amusement took the edge of his nerves.
Dean was waiting in the furthest booth, and if he hadn’t known any better, Cas would’ve said Dean was nervous too; either that or he’d developed a hobby of meticulously organizing sugar packets.
“They pay me to do that stuff, you know,” Cas said quietly, gesturing to Dean’s nervy reorganization as he lowered himself into the booth opposite.
“Caught red-handed,” Dean confessed, moving to sit on his hands. “I’m actually kinda scared you’re gonna shoot me down here and tell me never to come back.”
Castiel blinked, blushing down at the table. “So—to clarify, because I’m someone who needs that kind of clarification—the flowers were…”
“Me, saying I like you,” Dean finished for him, quietly. “They don’t have to be any more than that if you don’t want them to be.”
Castiel bit his lip nervously, chewing on it.
“It seems to me,” Dean was continuing, quiet but determined, “that you haven’t dated that much, from what I can tell.”
Looking up to see Dean’s attention fully on him, Cas nodded. “Embarrassing at my age, right?” he said wryly.
“Nah,” Dean shrugged. “Not everybody does. And there are plenty of reasons why you might not have. You’re shy, and awkward around people, so I figure that’s most of it. But you could have been on the asexual or aromantic spectrum too, or completely inexperienced, or most importantly, you might… Well, maybe you just don’t like me. So I figured it was time to lay my cards out and check.”
Despite all his earlier inability to look at Dean, when he laid it out clearly like that, Cas suddenly found himself unable to look away. A slow smile began to pull at his face, beyond his control, and something that felt like a giggle was rising through the center of his ribcage behind his heart. He pushed it down, desperately, but it still surfaced in the form of an even bigger grin and a small laugh. “Me,” he said. “You like me. You. Dean Winchester. Town mystery man and resident cocky shit.”
“Well,” Dean said, looking for once about as awkward as Cas. “Yeah. So, would you, uh—"
Claire leaned straight over the table between them, depositing two hot mugs of coffee with a shit-eating grin. “Don’t let me interrupt, old dudes. It’s cute watching you two; it’s like when you hope the parents from Parent Trap are gonna get together.”
“I am literally paying you to leave,” Dean said, pulling out a crisp twenty. “This isn’t a tip. Let’s be clear here: you’re still a sucky waitress. This is a bribe. Now scram.”
Cas slowly lowered his face into his hands, laughing desperately through his embarrassment as Claire flounced away with her twenty. “She is unbelievable.”
Dean let out a low chuckle. “For sure.”
A long moment passed, and then Cas's attention was drawn up by Dean shuffling in his seat and laying out his hand on the table, palm upwards.
“Cas,” he said, smiling more bravely then. “You told me that you had an event this weekend, with your family, and that your mom was going to look down on you for being single and working here and stuff. It sounded like a drag. So...” Dean shrugged his cocky smile back in place. “How about a fake boyfriend for your party, huh? And then after, you let me take you on a date. A real one, just you and me.”
The giggle trapped in Cas's rib cage was back, and he felt the warmth of his soft flush as he nervously reached out his hand, placing it in Dean’s open one on the table. Dean squeezed his hand gently, pleased.
“Yes,” said Cas, nodding. “I would be very amenable to that.”
“Seriously, Cas? Amenable?” came a voice from the next booth over.
“Go away, Kevin!” Dean and Cas yelled in unison.
The night air was a little more chill than Dean would have liked, but as a bat, he wasn’t too concerned about shrinkage, so it didn’t stop him from going to see Cas.
It was stupid; he knew that.
But, Cas had mentioned to Dean a couple of times now, during their coffee not-dates, that he’d rescued a beautiful bat (he’d preened a little, he’d admit) and that he missed his company. That was one thing in Cas's life that Dean could fix.
He’d already hunted for the night, and he was feeling sated and cozy—and heck, a bit lonely, if he was going to admit to any of it. So, an hour or so later found him hovering nervously outside the living room window of Cas's apartment.
He took a quick look at his reflection—it’d just be bad manners to visit with blood around his mouth or something—and then carefully used his clawed feet to tap against the glass.
One good thing about being able to transform into a bat, as opposed to some other flying creature like a shitty pigeon or something, was that bats could not only fly and swoop elegantly but, unlike many species, bats could hover.
So, Dean stretched out his wings, buoyed up on a current of air outside of Cas's window, and waited. He took a moment, yet again, to be grateful for Cas's gentle care; his wing was almost totally healed, not bothering him much at all now when he flew.
After waiting a moment, he flapped up close to the window again.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Quick and deliberate.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
A moment later, the curtains pulled aside, and Dean was temporarily blinded by the light from inside.
“SKREE!” Dean called out, thinking that perhaps Cas might recognize his tone; he was a bat, after all, and there was a slight fear in his stomach that Cas might not recognize him from any other bat.
Though he didn’t think Cas got visited by that many bats. Particularly not big, green-eyed vampire bats.
The window slid up just a couple of inches to start.
“Wingchester?” Cas's incredulous voice came through the gap. He sounded confused, surprised, and—Dean happily noted—quite hopeful.
“Skree!” Dean called cheerfully.
The window pushed up all the way, and Dean could see Cas's grinning, amazed face on the other side. Not giving Cas any time for caution, Dean tucked his wings in and sailed smoothly inside.
“It really is you!” Cas exclaimed softly, before laughing.
Dean did a swift, familiar loop of the room before flying over to roost on the light fixture in the middle of the room, dangling upside down from one of the fan blades with a contented little squeak. He rotated his head and looked across at Cas.
Cas stepped up to him, looking at him closely. He smiled, and Dean thought that he looked a little teary.
“It’s gotta be you, with eyes like those,” Cas chuckled, peering at him closely. “Even Garth said he’d never seen a bat with eyes like yours.”
Cas paused for a second, moving to pull the curtain back across, but leaving the window open, Dean noticed.
“Your eyes remind me of Dean’s, actually,” Cas said, before shaking his head and laughing at himself. “It's stupid, but they do.”
Not so stupid at all, buddy, Dean thought to himself in amusement, before letting go of the fan blade. He beat his wings hard a couple of times to catch some air and right himself, then flew directly to Cas's shoulder.
He was careful not to dig his claws in, reaching across one winged hand for purchase in Cas's hair instead, just like he used to.
Cas looked at him out of the corner of his eye, chuckling softly, and made his way to the couch.
“I can’t believe you came back,” Cas said gently. He took care not to jostle Dean as he lowered himself to his favorite seat on the couch.
Once he settled, Dean let go of his hair and gave him a familiar little nuzzle into his neck, before dropping himself down onto Cas's lap. “Skree,” he said softly. I’d have come to visit earlier if I’d have known you’d have liked it.
“I missed you, little guy,” Cas admitted, grinning and reaching out to stroke at Dean’s head. “I hope I’ve not ruined you for the wild or anything, by feeding you cheeseburgers for a few weeks.”
Cheeseburgers? Dean’s ears perked up. “Skree?”
Cas laughed, reaching across to the coffee table and digging around in a trash-filled paper bag. “No cheeseburger today, but there’s half a steak sandwich.”
Dean hopped from foot-to-foot eagerly. Eating junk food that Sammy didn’t get to glare at him for was always a win.
Cas set the napkin right down right on his lap, placing a chunk of sandwich on top of it. Dean dove in with a grateful squeak, nibbling at the juicy meat with his sharp little teeth. He paused, as Cas's fingers came out to pet the top of his head, to nuzzle against his palm.
“Go ahead and eat, Wingchester. I was just gonna put the TV on and try to relax—I sort of agreed to a date with someone today and I’ve been a mess ever since,” he confessed quietly, in the easy, self-reflective kind of way that he always spoke to Dean in this form.
Dean took a second to give him an extra-long nuzzle. Hey, it’s okay Cas. Don’t be nervous. It’s just me.
Returning to his second—or technically third—dinner, Dean listened while Cas talked.
“Honestly, I don’t know what on Earth he’s doing with me. He’s way out of my league. He’s beautiful and funny, and confident, and basically everything I’m not.”
Cas kept up his gentle petting while Dean ate. Dean had to admit that he’d missed this too.
He knew he shouldn’t be here.
He really did. Sam would flip his shit if he knew that Dean had come back to visit Cas, or that he’d offered to be his “fake-boyfriend” for Michael’s wedding, and take him on a real date after. He’d have a conniption. He’d push his dumb floppy hair back and glare at Dean like he was an idiot.
Because he was, and Dean didn’t disagree with Sam on any of it.
But he’d just known, with utmost certainty, that Cas could use a little company, that asking him out would have spiked his anxiety.
Obviously, he’d rather have knocked on the door in his human form and offered the dude a hug and a TV-watching buddy. But that would have rather defeated the point.
So instead, once he’d devoured Cas's abandoned dinner, he crawled back up to Cas's shoulder. As Cas channel-surfed idly, avoiding going to bed, they snuggled quietly in the blanket on the couch.
A couple of hours passed before Miggles realized what was up.
“Usually Gabriel’s saving grace at family events is that I’m always doing worse than him,” Cas was musing idly as a rerun of Dr. Sexy played in the background. He often talked like this with Wingchester; it was the only way to talk, Dean supposed, as it wasn’t like he could reply. “We’re the only two that didn’t go into the family business, you know. Didn’t have the stomach for it, either of us, though Gabriel would say that he always had big porn ambitions. I think he just needed a way out, though. It’s not easy to shun your family’s ways when they’ve been doing it for decades, let me tell—”
Sixteen pounds of hefty, fluffy feline launched through the air toward Dean, and by association, Cas.
“AHHH!” Cas shrieked as Miggles’ claws found purchase in his shoulder, the feline doing its very best to eliminate the small, winged intruder that had dared return and share its owners’ affections.
“SKREE!!” Dean flapped wildly, beating the beast in the face with his wings.
Back off, furball! I’m not trying to steal your—
Dean was swatted firmly around the head before Cas managed to get a good grip on the cat, and he careened off into the arm of the couch.
“Miggles!” Cas chastised firmly. “You know better! You remember Wingchester!”
Yeah, fairly sure Miggs DOES remember me and that’s the problem, Dean grumbled to himself, scrambling upright on the couch pillow so he could lick his wounded pride.
Cas carried Miggles off to the bedroom, still telling the cat off despite the grumpy hissing it was busy throwing back in Dean’s direction.
The interruption, unfortunately, reminded Dean that it was getting very late and he probably needed to be going so that he could get a little sleep before work. For a brief moment the temptation to stay and sleep on Cas's pillow, how he used to, pulled at him.
But that wouldn’t be right, as much as he wanted to.
When Cas returned, he reached down and picked Dean up from the couch, carefully.
“Are you okay, little guy?” he pulled at Dean’s wings, stretching them out to check, but he was so gentle about it that Dean found he didn’t mind. “I’d feel terrible if Miggles hurt you again, silly jealous cat.”
Dude, jealousy is a step up from trying to eat me, which is how we first met, so I’m good.
Dean leaned into Cas's palm, nuzzling his head into Cas's thumb, the pad of it slightly rough from endless rounds of washing dishes. Hey. I’m okay, see? Just my pride, Cas. Promise.
After a few more minutes watching Dr. Sexy and Dr. Piccolo UST all over the screen, Dean sighed internally and, begrudgingly, crawled his way out from under of the edge of the blanket he’d snuggled under, perched on Cas's chest.
With a few flaps, he made his way over to the window, hovering next to it and picking at the curtain with one foot. Gonna need you to open this for me, dude. Not a fan of the whole flappy-fabric-obstacle thing in this form.
Cas stood and stepped up to the window. “You want to get back out, Wingchester?”
Dean thought that Cas sounded disappointed.
“Alright, there you go,” he said, pushing back the curtain. “I’m glad I got to see you again. Maybe I’ll just leave the window open now, huh? Just in case. I’ve already got a cat door; why not a bat door?”
You dork, Dean thought, amused. He flew back to Cas's shoulder, giving him one last bump to the cheek with the flat of his head before he kicked off to glide out the window.
“Bye, little guy,” Cas called quietly.
Don’t worry Cas, Dean thought. I’m gonna see you very soon.
As Dean pulled them into the huge old hotel outside Lebanon that the Novak family had descended upon for the occasion, it occurred to Cas that he was calmer than he’d ever been while walking into a family event. Michael’s wedding was a big one, too, and Cas knew that not only would his entire family be in attendance, but almost all of their colleagues from the family business. He should, by his own track record, be a bundle of nerves.
But instead, he felt a small swell of pride in his chest, which he knew had nothing to do with his family and everything to do with Dean.
Somehow, Dean had wormed his way in past Cas's defenses. He always knew exactly how to make Cas feel comfortable, and Cas rarely felt self-conscious around him anymore. Dean’d had the patience to work past Cas's awkward stage, and no one had taken the time to do that since Hannah and a few of his colleagues at Heavenly Bodies. No one else had even tried. Dean though, he strolled past the gates like he had some secret key. He made Cas feel calm.
Grinning like the cat who got the cream and being breathtakingly dashing in a hastily rented tux, Dean swung open the door of his vintage Chevy Impala and offered Cas his hand with a little flourish.
“Cas,” he said, bending low. “Would you do me the honor of being your fake boyfriend for the night?”
Cas laughed, adjusting his blue bow-tie in the rearview mirror before slipping his hand into Dean’s, and sliding out of the car.
Dean had been fairly adamant that he did not want to count this as a date. And honestly, Cas found that he was rather grateful. The crush he’d been nursing on the handsome mechanic had bloomed to epic proportions, and he didn’t want anything they had tainted by this. Turning up with Dean would smooth the waters quite a bit, but any evening spent in the presence of Naomi Novak and his brothers was bound to be awful.
Cas let out a soft puff of breath, looking across the parking lot at the enormous, old hotel. The Campbell House was where the majority of his family held their momentous occasions, so the solid sandstone walls already contained enough bad memories for him.
“Ready to do this?” Dean asked quietly, extending his hand out and waggling his fingers as he stood next to Cas.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Cas admitted, pushing down the small jolt of nerves and excitement that ran through him as he entwined his fingers with Dean’s. “I apologize in advance for pretty much everyone you will meet, except Gabriel. Wait, no—especially Gabriel.”
“You make it sound like your family is going to try to eat me alive,” Dean said, grinning. “Can’t be that bad.”
Oh, it really can, thought Cas as he laughed along with Dean.
As they approached the wide door, Dean gave his hand a little squeeze. “Hey, so, tell me something before we get in there. If Michael is your brother—oldest, right?”
Cas nodded, approving of the family knowledge he’d drilled Dean on in the car. It had been a nearly five-hour drive down to Lebanon from Sioux Falls, but Dean hadn’t seemed to mind.
“Then why aren’t you in the wedding?”
“In—oh, you mean, part of the wedding party?” Cas suddenly realized how odd that must seem. “Well, I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that I didn’t get along with my family. Gabriel and I, we both failed to meet their expectations.”
“Right, because you, what, wouldn’t join the family business? What do they do, anyway?”
Thankfully, Cas was spared from fabricating an answer by Gabriel’s sudden appearance in the doorway. Their invitations had clearly said black tie, and Cas was amused to note that Gabriel had obeyed, in his way—he wore a literal black tie, and paired it with an obnoxious lilac suit and floral vest. On his feet were pink snakeskin cowboy boots. He was scowling, but his expression melted into a delighted grin when he saw Cas and Dean.
“Cassie! Baby Bro!” He threw his arms out wide and came forward, crushing Cas into a reluctant hug. “Thank God you’re here, Cas. Mother is in rare form, and Luke and Michael have been trying to one-up each other all day.”
“Hello, Gabriel,” Cas said dryly as he was released. “Did you have to sit through the service? I didn’t even get an invitation.”
Gabriel snorted. “Be glad. It was atrocious. Now—this must be the boyfriend you procured to keep mother at bay, yes?”
If Dean was bothered by Gabriel’s ferociously waggling eyebrows or his viciously flamboyant suit, he didn’t let it show. Instead, he extended his hand smoothly, a calm smile on his features.
“Hello, I’m Dean. You must be Gabriel, second youngest, the uh—adult entertainer?”
“I do porn.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “You can say it, you know. In fact, when we’re around Naomi, I encourage saying it as much and as loudly as you can.”
Dean laughed as they shook hands, and Castiel watched them with a strange fondness. Gabriel was a handful, but he had a feeling that he might get on well with Dean, given half a chance.
“Shall we go in?” Cas offered, gesturing to the oak double door they stood before. “Hell awaits.”
Dean raised an amused, doubtful eyebrow, and offered his hand once more.
“So, am I supposed to believe that you’re really dating Cassie?” Gabriel asked bluntly, looking over at Dean as they progressed through the hotel foyer. “Because you look like you could make a living in front of a camera, and usually Cas can’t even speak to someone unless they look like a troll...or Hannah.”
“Hey,” Cas objected fruitlessly.
Dean merely dazzled Gabriel with a smile. “If you’re threatened by his game, Gabriel, perhaps you should up yours.”
Gabriel’s barking laughter was chased by a firm, lingering pat on Dean’s chest. “I like this one, Cas, I do. Make sure you parade him in front of Mom as much as you can.”
He flounced off out of sight, leaving Dean and Cas stood on the foyer’s tacky red carpet.
“Did he just slip a business card in your breast pocket?”
“Yup, yup, he did,” said Dean, tugging it out, his eyes going wide. “Birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs? What kind of Bar Mitzvahs has he been to? Christ…”
Stifling a laugh, Cas watched as Dean carefully deposited the business card into a nearby potted plant with two fingers.
“Do all of your family talk to you like that?” Dean asked suddenly.
Cas blinked. “Well, I mean—yes. Gabriel is the nicest.”
Dean’s lips pressed briefly into a thin line, and he moved closer to Cas's side. He slipped an arm around his back and led them both onward, toward the large ballroom that an A-frame sign identified as being privately booked for “ Novak & Sands, Wedding.”
“Well. Not tonight, they don’t,” Dean threatened quietly, squeezing Cas's hip.
Cas felt himself flush slightly as his stomach flipped.
The ballroom was decorated in rich swathes of burgundy and gold, velvet drapes drooped from the carved ceiling, and silk sashes held back ornate curtains around a huge semi-circle of floor-to-ceiling windows. The floor, made of oak planks laid in an ornate pattern, was polished to gleaming. The tables around the edges were heavy, dark wood, and the tablecloths that covered them were in a matching red with gold threads, cascading red-rose arrangements running down the middle of each of them. Wooden wall panels made the room feel oppressive, in Cas's opinion, and ridiculously overly-elaborate sconces of golden lions held aged-looking electric lights.
Dean let out a low whistle. “Who’s the rich Gryffindor?” he whispered under his breath.
“The Campbell family owns the entire building. Half is a hotel. Of course, the other half is for private use. They’re heavily involved in business with my parents,” Cas explained very quietly.
Right in the doorway, Dean leaned sideways, turning his head to whisper privately in Cas's ear. “Do you trust me?”
Cas tilted his head, turning in toward Dean. Their faces were close, as if somehow, within the most public of spaces, this had suddenly become a private moment. Dean’s eyes were so, so green. Cas found himself staring at them for a moment before he swallowed harshly, giving a jerky nod. “Yes, I think so.”
Dean’s smile was soft but pleased. “Good. So… Just let me lead, okay?”
Cas nodded slowly, wondering what he was getting himself into.
He found out soon enough.
They walked across the room together, Dean with his head held high, and Cas trying to avoid the looks from those who recognized him. The wooden flooring of the room was laid in such a way that it produced a large circular symbol with a hexagram in the middle, the sign of his family’s traditions. He started off looking at his feet as they walked over it, but then found that he didn’t want to look at that either; so, he looked at Dean. Stared, perhaps, but the man was utterly beautiful, in his defense.
“Castiel.” A small, slim man with scruffy blond hair and vicious blue eyes made a beeline for them across the room. “Or, Cas isn’t it, these days? Novak name not good enough for you, eh, little brother?”
“Like you can talk, Luke, ” Cas responded, already done with his brother’s presence after barely two sentences.
“Who is this?” Luke turned to Dean, running an eye up and down his suit critically. “Mother said you were bringing someone, but, of course, I assumed you were lying.”
“And you are?” Dean said flatly, bordering on rude.
“Lucifer Novak, of course.” Luke grinned, extending a hand. “Call me Luke, please. I didn’t think my little brother’s crappy job paid enough to hire escorts.”
“I wouldn’t know about the cost of escorts,” said Dean dryly. “I’d say you should ask yours, but as your arm is empty, I’m assuming you’ve been struck from their books. Let’s go get a drink, Cas.”
Cas felt a little dazed as Dean firmly turned them away from Luke, angling them toward the long, busy table where champagne was being doled out.
“So,” said Dean under his breath, “if I were to get the urge to actually kill any of your brothers, where’s the best place to stash a body around here?”
“Dean!” Cas nudged him with an elbow, but he couldn’t bring himself to be too chastising. He’d often thought the same.
Dean shrugged lightly. “Maybe they improve on acquaintance,” he said while reaching for two glasses and offering one to Cas. “But somehow I doubt it.”
“I’ve been well acquainted with them since birth,” Cas said wryly. “Believe me; it gets no better.”
Dean kept his hand on the small of Cas's back as they drifted from the table, and Cas found he rather liked the warmth of it there.
“So, shall we get your mother over and done with, so that we can attempt to have a good time after?” Dean gestured toward the dance floor. “I can dance, you know, and there’s gotta be some perks to me accompanying you.”
“Uh.” Cas warmed under his collar almost immediately. “No dancing for me.”
“Aww, you don’t want to be spun around in my arms, Cas?” Dean teased, his grin easy and warm. “It’s expected, you know, for couples at a wedding.”
Cas tugged at his bow tie, trying to release some of the sudden warmth around his neck. “You are a shameless flirt,” he mumbled, avoiding Dean’s gaze.
The hand that Dean wasn’t using to sip his champagne came up to Cas's bowtie, covering his fingers as he fussed with it. Without saying anything, Dean gently straightened it and tangled Cas's fingers back into his own.
“Sorry,” he said after a moment, low enough to be between the two of them. “It’s a habit. But I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. I just happen to believe you deserve to have been flirted with a lot more than you have been.”
“You’re still doing it,” Cas grumbled, feeling his cheeks go pink.
Dean winked. “Didn’t say I was gonna stop.”
Cas was still flushed from that one when Naomi practically pounced on them from behind.
“Castiel,” she said, without an ounce of warmth in her voice. Her burgundy mother-of-the-groom outfit did nothing to lift her harsh, sallow complexion or soften her severely cut, short blond hair.
Cas jumped a foot in the air, too focused on Dean to have ever wanted to hear his mother's voice so close. “Naomi!”
If Dean thought it was odd that Cas referred to her by her first name, he didn’t say anything, instead offering his hand to her promptly, and even affecting a tiny bow as she extended hers in turn.
“Ms. Novak, I presume.”
“Naomi, please. And you are?”
“Dean Winchester. Cas thought it was about time I came to meet you all.”
A tiny frown passed over Naomi’s face, her brow wrinkling, but it passed too quickly for Cas to question.
“Did he, now? He’s never mentioned you,” Naomi said, unblinking.
“We’ve been quite private about our relationship,” Dean smoothly responded.
“Oh, really? And why is that?” Naomi tilted her head, ignoring Cas entirely as she focused her icy gaze on Dean. “It’s not like he has any reputation to spoil or a career to worry about.”
Dean raised an eyebrow, and Cas thought he saw something of a challenge in it as he stood by Dean’s side. Dean’s arm rose to loop affectionately around his shoulders, looking exactly like the proud boyfriend he was supposed to be playing.
“Oh, has Cas not told you yet?” Dean simpered, devilishly. “He’s been working with me for a while now. All of the financial operations for three businesses—it’s a fair bit to manage, we truly struggled before Cas came along. But of course, one has to be careful, dating a coworker and all—but I just couldn’t resist his charms. Who could?”
Naomi opened her mouth, but no sound came out, clearly blindsided.
Dean’s tone was even and firm, his eyes never leaving Naomi for even a moment. “Luckily it doesn’t matter, as all of the businesses are mine, and I plan on announcing Cas as an equal partner, very soon. In fact,” Dean continued, smiling widely, “I’m sure you’ll join me in congratulating him on it, won’t you?”
Cas felt like he couldn’t breathe as Dean raised his glass in Naomi’s direction. What the hell was he doing?
“I—” Naomi held her glass up slowly, though didn’t bring it to Dean’s. “You didn’t tell me any of this, Castiel.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s been far too busy,” Dean supplied immediately. “People always want some of his time, you see. Someone like him, it's not surprising, with how smart and compassionate he is—everyone wants Cas!” Dean’s laugh was dark and dangerous. “Anyone who doesn’t, well, they probably don’t deserve him anyway.”
Naomi was frozen.
“So,” Dean said, his tone light once more as he winked at Naomi, clinking their glasses together. “To Cas. The best Novak there is—and an even better Winchester one day, I might hope.”
“To Cas.” Naomi looked like she was getting a lemon juice enema, but the words came out somehow.
“Now.” Dean looked down at Cas, smiling softly and adoringly, for all the world like Cas was his. “How about a dance, dearest?”
“I—” Goddamnit, Dean, I said I didn’t want to dance. Asshole. “—Yes, that would be lovely,” Cas said through gritted teeth.
Dean had the balls to waggle his fingers at Naomi like he was saying goodbye to a child. “Nice to meet you, Naomi! It’s been a pleasure!”
Cas practically dragged Dean to the middle of the dance floor. “Dearest?” he quoted, raising an eyebrow.
“What, everything I just said, and it’s the awful pet name you object to?”
“You sounded like a spare from Downton Abbey.” Cas was struggling to keep a straight face.
“I can tell her I was lying if you want, and that you haven’t been on a date with me yet, and you still peel dried pastries off dishes for a living.” Dean grinned wolfishly across at Cas as he tugged him close, placing a hand on his hip. “Or, you could just dance with me.”
Cas sighed, shaking his head in amusement, unable to deny the fond fluttering in his stomach as Dean’s other hand took his. “I suppose so. Dearest. ”
Dean wrinkled his nose. “Yeah, that was a bit too much.”
Despite himself, Cas laughed, ducking his head down so that his forehead almost came to Dean’s shoulder—but he caught himself just in time. They didn’t so much dance as sway, quietly talking under their breath in the private little space between them.
For a little while, Cas almost forgot where they were. Until a gentle swell of raised voices and clapping announced Michael Novak’s entrance with his new bride, Josie, on his arm. It was later in the evening, and the sun all but set, but Cas tilted his head toward a set of double doors that he knew led out onto an extensive balcony and down into the gardens.
“Maybe we can get some fresh air for a bit?” he suggested quietly to Dean. “I don’t feel up to trying to survive Michael just yet.”
“I’m sure he won’t kill you, Cas. But we’ll put off facing him as long as you need, okay?” He grinned softly as he turned, slipping his hand behind Cas's back again, the picture of a perfect gentleman. He guided them through the crowds, avoiding the wedding party, and on through the doors.
He won’t kill me, no, Cas mused. I’m just his pathetic little human brother. He’d save that for a monster who was worth his effort.
Cas noticed Naomi leaning in to whisper to Michael, both of them with their eyes fixed on Dean, but they managed to escape before any approach.
The cool air of the balcony was a relief, and Dean led them down to the end of it, where shallow stone steps led to the carefully manicured lawns and rose gardens below, the bushes lit with twinkling lights.
His hand had slipped into Cas's, and even if it didn’t need to be there with no one watching, Cas wasn’t going to say a word.
They walked around in the dim light for a few minutes, just lazily dawdling between the topiary, before finding a low stone bench that looked over a small fountain at the end of a grass concourse.
Dean let go of Cas's hand (to his slight disappointment, he admitted to himself) and they sat watching the water for a moment, the chilly stone seeping through the legs of their suits.
“Can I ask you a question?” Dean asked suddenly, though he wasn’t loud.
Cas turned to look at Dean and was suddenly aware that he was only inches away in the dark. They both leaned back onto the bench, resting on the heels of their hands, and Cas could feel the warmth of Dean’s fingers only a fraction away from his. Even though they’d been playing boyfriends all night, and they’d held hands, briefly embraced, and played the role as expected, now that they were alone somehow that subtle not-touch felt ten times as intimate.
“Of course. You can ask me anything,” Cas said, surprised to find that he meant it.
“Why do you still keep in touch with your family when they’re so awful? I haven’t seen a single drop of love between any of you tonight—honestly, they seem like a walking disaster for anyone’s mental health.” Dean stopped himself for a moment as if he was wondering if he’d gone too far, but then shrugged. “So, why? You already ran away to college and refused their way of life—so why keep in touch?”
“Well, I, uh—” Cas looked up, and he could feel Dean’s green eyes boring into his own in the night air. “Honestly, other than Hannah I don’t have anyone else. My life is dull and solitary, and I was never brave enough to cut out my family completely…because then I’d have to realize what a hermit I am and do something about it.”
He’d intended the last part to be something of a joke, but it fell flat and sounded horribly like the truth.
“Hey,” Dean said softly, and Cas could almost sense his frown. “That’s not entirely true. You have me.”
Their fingers on the bench brushed, and with his heart thudding wildly in his chest, Cas realized that he wanted nothing more than to kiss Dean, right then.
Would that be so bad? I could, he thought, leaning in fractionally.
He was pretty sure, despite Dean’s generally overall flirty nature with everybody, that Dean truly did like him. He wouldn’t have made all this effort, sent flowers, asked Cas for a date after this, if he didn’t—right?
So, what would be so wrong, if Cas was to kiss him then like he so badly wanted to?
Decision made, Cas held his breath, leaning in just fractionally, hoping that was enough to signal to Dean what he was thinking.
“Dean…” he breathed out slowly, nervously; his heart skipped a beat as he registered that Dean was leaning in too, close enough to share air.
In the twinkling lights from the garden around them and the starry sky above, Dean’s lower lip gleamed gently as his tongue darted out, moistening it.
He wants this, too, Cas realized, relief like a tidal wave closing his eyes for the briefest second.
But no meeting of lips came, and Cas sensed Dean pull away.
“I—” Dean’s breath caught in his throat so sharply that Cas heard it. “I need to tell you something, Cas.”
Cas was so stunning in the moonlight that Dean almost forgot himself, for just a moment. He wanted so much to comfort him, show him that he was wanted and liked just as he was—God, Dean wanted to kiss him. So bad. He couldn’t even feel that guilty about it; being close to Cas was like bungee jumping, just waiting for the second when there would suddenly be air beneath his feet.
When Cas moved in to kiss him, Dean’s heart sprouted wings.
Cas was everything he wanted.
Not unless Cas knew the truth and still wanted him after. He didn’t agree with Sam, that he should stay away from Cas—but he wouldn’t lie to him, either. Cas deserved the choice.
The embarrassment and hurt that flooded across Cas's face as Dean pulled back from their almost-kiss tore the wind from beneath Dean’s newly flying heart and he came down with a thump.
“Hey—no—” Dean immediately darted his hand forward, reaching to catch Cas's cheek as he pulled back, shaking his head frantically. Fuck, the last thing he wanted was for Cas to feel rejected.
Cas froze, looking unsure.
Dean sucked in a breath as he trailed his thumb along Cas's cheekbone. He wasn’t sure if the tiny shudder that ran through Cas was from the chill night air or perhaps, he hoped, from him.
Dean moistened his lips again. “I just want to—”
“Dean Winchester,” a smooth, deadly voice came from directly behind them. “Whatever are you doing here?”
That voice—memory hit Dean like a hammer to the gut.
“You,” he said, dazed. His hand slowly fell from Cas's cheek as he twisted to stand, his feet beginning to back up automatically but finding the fountain in his way.
“Me,” said Michael, with a smirk. Behind him, Naomi and Luke appeared, flanked by many more men and women Dean didn’t know. “You’ve grown a bit since I saw you last, vermin. Never should have allowed that.”
“You’re Men of Letters,” Dean choked out desperately, his eyes flicking back and forth between them all. “You—you killed my Dad, and Jess, and—I remember you.”
Dean had been younger then, but he’d never forget Michael’s voice as he stood over John Winchester, vowing to tear his sons apart. John had tried to keep his family one step ahead of Michael for years, but their long feud had ended with Dean’s father’s untimely death. Leaving Dean to raise Sam, to raise himself, almost, if not for Uncle Bobby.
“Did you think it was funny,” Michael asked, advancing on Dean with his eyes locked solid, “to seduce my brother? Was that your revenge? To find the least of us and worm your way in, to—”
“No!” Dean gasped, his eyes wide, turning down to look at Cas.
Cas was still sitting on the bench, unmoving, frowning in confusion, his mouth slightly agape as he looked at Michael.
Did this mean—Cas was—
“What are you talking about?” Cas said suddenly, standing, squaring up to his brother with a ferocity Dean had never seen in him. “Is that true? Did you kill his family? What even—”
Michael laughed, low and sickening. “Oh! This is even better! You don’t even know, do you, Cassie? Poor, stupid, naïve Cas. You haven’t got a clue.”
Distracted by Michael and Cas's confrontation, Dean cried out when Luke and another one of the Men of Letters’ that had accompanied Naomi circled him, and stepped in from the sides, grabbing his arms.
“Hey!” he twisted, snarling, jerking his elbows to try and get out of their grip. “Let me go! I didn’t come here for this! I didn’t know—”
Luke cuffed Dean on around the temple dismissively. “Oh, enough. No one cares what you have to say.”
Dean opened his mouth to call to Cas, to explain, to say something— but chaos erupted in around the garden.
In a surreal turn of events, the noise of wings, and howls, and gunshots suddenly streamed into the Campbell House gardens from their left, providing just enough distraction for Dean to jerk one arm free.
Seeing that Dean was escaping, Michael lunged. A blade was already settled in his palm—wooden, and blessed, Dean knew without even looking closely. He launched himself at Dean with the ferociousness of someone who truly believed they had God on their side, which made it even more terrifying.
Cas yelled out as Michael hurdled over the bench he still stood near, reaching after him as if his one unsure hand could somehow hold the enraged Lettersman back.
People poured into the garden from all sides, and Dean suddenly realized the terrible timing of his and Cas's little walk; this was the event Adam had called about. Somewhere in the increasing melee he was out there with his mother, Kate, and likely many more that Dean knew.
He had to get out of there; this wasn’t his life anymore. Never had been, by choice.
“We’ve stayed out of your way!” Dean found himself yelling as he kicked and flailed desperately against Luke, who still had him on one side. “Not a drop of human blood, not for years! Never even wanted to! Why can’t that be enough for you?”
Michael advanced on him more slowly then, his wild, dark eyes full of disgust. “Why would that be enough for me? It doesn’t change what you are, Winchester—the blond girl, she was human, but she still sided with you. If I didn’t spare her, why would I spare you?”
Dean’s mouth was dry, and he could feel panic rising through his chest—but he wasn’t John’s son for nothing. His survival instincts kicked in the moment Michael was close enough, and he kicked out, catching the shorter man square in the stomach.
“Back off! ” Dean hissed. “I don’t want to hurt you. I just want to leave.”
“Hurt me?” Michael laughed dismissively. “You won’t have the chance, I’m afraid.”
Michael swung the blade toward him, and Dean barely dodged it; Luke sidled up behind him and managed to grab both of Dean’s arms, pulling them up behind his back sharply, sending a loud, throbbing SNAP! of pain through Dean’s recently healed shoulder.
Dean moaned in discomfort, trying to pull himself together, to focus.
“Michael!” Cas yelled somewhere to Dean’s side, where more scuffling and shuffling was happening, but Dean couldn’t afford the second to look.
Instead, Dean attacked, his fangs dropping instinctively, a mouth full of them, long and sharp. He hadn’t had his teeth out in human form for many years, and his mouth felt strange, too full. Stronger then, he bucked against Luke, his vision homing in and reddening until all he could see was Michael.
He managed to twist out of Luke’s grasp and launched himself forward at Michael, frantic. He couldn’t hear anything but ringing, a coppery taste filling his mouth—
It was Cas's terrified shriek that brought Dean out of it, turning to Cas's horrified, frightened face.
The look in his beautiful, wide blue eyes made Dean want to throw up. He knew what Cas could see: a monster, nothing more. A monster who’d just torn into his brother’s throat, nonetheless.
Before Dean could say anything, more Men of Letters advanced, furious and screaming, and Luke was reaching for Michael’s blade. But it wasn’t needed; Michael was sprawled against the bench, one hand pressed to his profusely bleeding neck, the other splayed on the stone seat, pushing him up. Blood trickled from his mouth as he began to speak, his eyes never leaving Dean.
“Exorcizamus te, omnis immunde spiritus, omni satanica potestas…”
Dean recognized the all-purpose Latin exorcism as much by the pain it caused him as by the words themselves.
Falling to his knees, his body twisting and snapping against his will; he knew he had only one escape.
Coiling into himself, Dean reached inside his mind for the familiar switch that would free him of his human form. He was afraid; afraid if he turned now, with his shoulder damaged again, that he’d be stuck, that he would make his injury more permanent.
But neither time nor choice was on his side, so he let go.
It took only the swiftest of blinks, the space between seconds, for his body to morph and shrink, fur and wings where tan skin and sandy hair had been before. His rented tux shredded in the process, but Dean barely noticed, not able to think beyond the pain that was crushing not just his bones but his very self under the weight of the chant.
He had to flee.
Flapping wildly, Dean soared out of Luke’s reach.
Below him, it was all out warfare as Adam’s group besieged the Men of Letters. All Dean could see was Cas's upturned face as he took in Dean, now small, furred, and sharp of fang.
“Wingchester,” he breathed, sounding more broken than Dean could stand.
A new exhibit about Pluto had opened at the Astronomy Museum, and everyone at Heavenly Bodies Café had been run off their feet all week. Cas had been glad of the work to keep him busy and distracted, but it was finally quieter, and Hannah had decided to take her day off—her first in two weeks—and leave Kevin and Cas in charge for the day. Which meant, of course, that Kevin took charge of up front, and Cas did everything else: washing the dishes, clearing the tables, keeping the floors clean--whatever Kevin needed him to do, really, as long as it didn’t involve having to speak to anyone.
Cas had been even quieter than usual for the past couple of weeks. He was aware of it but also grateful that none of his coworkers had mentioned it. They’d noticed, of course, that Cas had no more daily coffee-not-dates. Things had pretty much gone back to how they’d been before Dean—before Wingchester—had arrived in his life, and even Kevin seemed hesitant to mention it. Cas, for his part, wished that people would stop tip-toeing around him. Obviously, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—tell them the truth about what happened with Michael’s wedding, it was better they all thought he was suffering from a broken heart and didn’t want to talk about it. But he wished they’d stop being so nice.
The fact that he was heartbroken was neither here nor there; he was also angry. And he was confused.
He’d tried to call Dean several times since the wedding, sent texts and left messages. But nothing. He wasn’t too surprised about it, but he was disappointed. If nothing else, he felt he deserved some kind of explanation.
But then--his thoughts eternally looped--Dean deserved an explanation from him, too. He hadn’t told Dean about his family. Of course he hadn’t; in all his life up until that day, no one would have believed him even if he had told. But by hiding his Men of Letters connections from Dean, he’d put him in danger.
And he felt terrible about that.
He just wanted to know if Dean was okay. Sure, he wanted to know if any of it had been real, too. Had Dean had ever had any feelings for him? Why had he spent time with Cas in both his forms? Why had any of it happened?
But none of his phone calls had been returned, and even though he’d left his living room window open every night in hope, it had gone unused.
So, Kevin’s quiet, kind pity on top of all that confusion was just too much.
“There’s a man here to see you,” Kevin said, frowning. “Tall guy. Suit. Stressed looking. Do you want me to tell him to go away? I can pretend you’re not here, or—”
“Kevin.” Cas smiled and tried not to look frustrated. “Thank you. I’m a big boy. I can mess up my own social interactions, thank you.”
Kevin grinned and gave Cas a little shrug. “Okay. But just let me know if I need to kung-fu someone off the premises, okay?”
Laughing at his dorky friend, Cas wiped the dish bubbles off his arms. He winced; his right hand was still shaded with fading bruises from Michael’s wedding. Cas wasn’t a violent person, but he’d been unable to stop himself from lashing out during the devastating argument that had ensued after Dean fled. He threw the towel at Kevin on the way past him.
“If I need you to go all Jackie Chan, I’ll let you know,” he replied.
Cas walked to the counter, where a man was waiting nervously, his fingers wrapped around a to-go cup of coffee that he wasn’t drinking. He was incredibly tall—Cas was on the bigger side of average, but this guy towered over him. He smiled, trying to make sure his expression was schooled into, “ Welcome to Heavenly Bodies!” rather than, “ Holy Christ, you’re tall.”
“Hello, you asked for me?” he tried, stepping to the side of the register so they didn’t block the line.
“Uh, yeah—you’re Cas, right?” the man asked, sounding hopeful and nervous.
“Yes, uh, that’s me.”
“Do you have time to have a cup of coffee with me?”
Cas squinted, unsure. Never in his life, before Dean two months ago, had someone wandered in off the street and wanted to spend time with him. “Is this just—is this what people do now?” Lost, he looked to Kevin, who was trying to straighten his laughing face behind his hand.
“Oh! Uh, no, no—” the man held up one hand. “I’m not—not that you’re not, I mean, you’re a handsome dude, I can definitely see what he—Never mind, I don’t swing that way.”
Cas blinked. “So…”
“I’m so sorry. My name is Sam. I’m Dean’s brother.”
Cas wasn’t sure what his face was doing, but both Kevin and Sam were looking at him with some concern. “I, uh—right,” he said eloquently.
“You wanna go, Cas?” Kevin asked, gesturing to the single customer who’d just wandered through the door. “It’s hardly busy; I’ll be fine. But y’know, if not—Jackie Chan.”
Sam’s brow raised slightly, but he didn’t say anything.
“No Jackie Chan for now,” Cas said, smiling gratefully. “I’ll just grab some tea and go see what he wants.”
He turned and gestured to one of the booths at the back, nodding to Sam. Once he had his tea made, he exhaled slowly, calming the surge of his nerves. He was always terrible at talking to strangers, but Sam might be his only chance to get answers.
Lowering himself into the opposite seat to the floppy-haired, nervously smiling guy, he cleared his throat. “So, uh, hi.”
Sam offered one giant hand to shake. “Sorry, we got a bit tangled there. I’m Sam Winchester. Dean probably mentioned me?”
Cas shook the offered hand lightly. “Yeah. You live together in the house at the back of the salvage yard, which you inherited from your Uncle Bobby,” he recited carefully from memory. “He raised you.”
“He sure did.” Sam smiled fondly. “My brother is… He’s a good guy, really. I’m sure you don’t believe that right now, but he is. I’m sorry about what happened with the, uh, wedding stuff.”
“I don’t know what I believe right now,” Cas said to his tea, before looking back up at Sam. “Why are you here? I mean, uh—sorry. That was blunt. I just meant—”
Sam held up a hand, stopping him. “No, that’s a fair question. I took Dean’s phone to charge it because he hasn’t touched it since the other weekend, and I noticed that you’d called and left a bunch of messages. I figured if you were willing to contact him, you deserve an explanation.”
“Well, he clearly doesn’t want to talk to me.”
“He isn’t talking to anyone, Cas. He hasn’t even gotten out of bed since the wedding. Michael, uh—he hurt him pretty bad, between your other brother restraining him, and fighting, and the attempted exorcism,” Sam explained.
“Is he okay?” Cas's disloyal stomach betrayed him with a flutter of panic. “I—no matter what his intentions were or what happened, I didn’t want him to get hurt. I should have told him about my family, but I never dreamed it would matter, I—”
“Hey, calm down—drink that,” Sam said soothingly, nudging Cas's tea mug toward him. “Dean is okay for the most part. He didn’t manage to fly far, and he was afraid of being stuck as a bat again, so he forced a change not far from the hotel and managed to have me come and get him.”
Cas nodded, letting Sam continue. “When he was restrained, I think your brother aggravated his shoulder again, the one that was still healing from before.”
At that, Cas tilted his head slightly. “Before?”
“The, uh, y’know.” Sam lowered his voice; apparently conscious they would be heard even in their private corner. “The wing you took care of.”
“Oh—oh, right.” Cas nodded slowly. It was still a little surreal to connect Wingchester and Dean so very literally.
I always did think their eyes were the same, he mused, before looking back to Sam.
“But you said he’s okay? For the most part?”
“Yeah, I mean—exorcisms like that hurt like a bitch even if they fail, and he was a bit banged up from the fight. His shoulder is suffering. We’re, uh—well we’re not sure if he’ll fly again. But honestly, given how everyone else that met your brother ended up—” Sam’s face was hard.
Cas frowned, and found that he couldn’t lift his eyes from the shimmering surface of his hot tea. “I don’t blame Dean for the fight—Michael attacked him first. All he was doing was defending himself. But I’m curious about the, uh, the stuff he said.”
Sam raised an eyebrow quizzically, gesturing for Cas to continue.
“He tried to tell Michael that he doesn’t hurt people. That he…” Cas trailed off, feeling ridiculous.
“Oh.” Sam smiled, but it was a sad, resigned expression. “Yeah, the animal blood thing. Just because we were born a certain way Cas, doesn’t mean we’re bad people. We’re not like our extended family—we haven’t drunk from a human for years. After your brother destroyed our family, we… Well. We don’t want that life, we never did. Dean’s been struggling with it a bit more since he got a mouthful of Michael, but—”
Sam shrugged, taking a long pull from his coffee cup before he continued.
“I’m not asking you to understand us, Cas. Honestly, I begged Dean to stay away from you. But he got to know you after you rescued him, even if it was one-sided, and there was nothing I could do. He was already crazy about you. But he’s not stupid; he knows what you must think of him now. Of me, and all of us. I was just—well, I was hoping that maybe I could convince you that we just want to be left alone. We don’t want any trouble.”
It took a moment for Sam’s words to sink in, and when they first did, Cas found himself flushing with offense and irritation. But he took a breath, sipped some tea, and tried to respond calmly. “Sam, I understand why you would be concerned about me knowing about you and Dean. I do. But I need you to listen to me and to understand when I tell you that as much as you are nothing like your family, I am nothing like mine. If Dean had just told me, I would never have let him near Michael. I would never have betrayed someone who chose a different path, and I’m sorry if it seems in any way that I did.”
“So, you’re not going to tell your family where we are?” Sam asked slowly.
Cas gave a dry laugh, holding up his still-bruised hand. “I don’t think my family is ever going to speak to me again, and I’m fine with that. I’m not very good at throwing a punch; I lack my family’s training, but an effort was made.”
“You…” A small smile began to grow over Sam’s face. “You punched one of your family members?”
Cas winced in embarrassment, but it turned into a grin despite himself. “Well, they did try to kill my fake-boyfriend. Michael was already pretty incapacitated by Dean, but as soon as Luke opened his mouth and started talking about me helping them find him, I couldn’t help myself.”
“Wow,” Sam said. “I’m impressed.”
“Don’t be. I’ve wanted to punch that devil in the face since I was six years old, it was entirely self-serving,” Cas joked quietly, still looking at his tea.
“I uh, I guess I should ask how Michael is.”
“About what you’d expect for someone who got their throat ripped out. He’s alive, but I doubt he’ll ever hunt again, he’s breathing through a tube last I heard. Honestly, it's no big loss for anyone.”
They fell into silence for a minute, both awkwardly picking at their cups and taking sips, until Cas decided to go ahead and get out what he wanted to say. It wasn’t like he could say it to anyone else, after all.
“I don’t understand why Dean is avoiding me. He never even gave me a chance to talk to him about it, or to tell him that I don’t care what he is as long as he’s a good person.”
“The thing you have to understand about Dean,” Sam began, smiling crookedly, “is that he can be his own worst enemy. He’s not as confident as he makes himself out to be, and right now he’s convinced that you think he’s a monster and you want nothing to do with him. Add on to that the fact that he might not be able to fly anymore, and that he got his ass kicked by a bunch of Lettersmen, well… Like I said, he’s barely left his bed for the past week-and-a-half.”
“Is he in a lot of discomfort? I mean, I don’t know how it works if he’s injured in one form or another—I really don’t know a lot about, uh, how you work at all.”
“He’s been better but again, he’ll be fine. He’s alive, and he’s pissy, and for Dean that’s kinda like measuring his pulse. It means he’ll get better.”
They lapsed into another slightly uncomfortable silence, and Cas was about to suggest he should get back to work when Sam spoke up again.
“Cas, if you really don’t want to run us out of town or anything, then—well, there is one more thing I want to ask you. It's super awkward and maybe kind of asshole-ish though, I dunno.”
“Hmm?” Cas raised an eyebrow, waiting.
“Dean was always talking about how smart you are. He even wanted to try and offer you a job working for the businesses he owns, but I pretty much ordered him not to—sorry about that.” Sam winced.
Huh, thought Cas. So all that stuff with Naomi… There was a slither of truth in there somewhere.
“Problem is,” Sam carried on, “with Dean laid up for the last couple of weeks, on top of the last time he disappeared just a few weeks back when he was with you, well—stuff is really falling really behind, with the paperwork and all, and I work late as an attorney so—”
“You want me to help you?” Cas interrupted, slightly incredulous.
Sam grimaced visibly. “Uh—yes? Maybe? I know that’s a lot to ask, given everything. But we’d pay you as best we could. It probably won’t be enough hours for you to quit here yet, but the way things are going, it could be, soon. And… Well, I get it if you don’t want to work with people like us. But we could use your help.”
Something like hope fluttered in Cas chest, and to Sam’s obvious surprise, he grinned.
“Okay. I’ll do it.”
“Come on, Piccolo, just go to the janitor’s closet and meet him!” Dean grumbled at the TV screen. “Go get what you want! Someone in life should, damn.”
He had always been a little too invested in Dr. Sexy, M.D. But it had gotten worse with the couple of weeks he’d spent watching old episodes while he healed, Dean realized. Not that it mattered; who was gonna care if he spent too much time in front of the TV, anyway?
The pillow behind him slipped down as he reached across to grab the remote and skip to the next episode. He’d never admit to owning all of the Dr. Sexy box sets. There were, after all, at least a couple he still didn’t have. Putting the remote back on the nightstand, Dean winced and hissed aloud, trying to grasp at the fallen pillow.
“Oh, this is one of my favorite episodes,” came a familiar voice from Dean’s bedroom doorway.
Dean’s head snapped around, his eyes widening, to see Cas stood nervously with one foot inside the room, a large file box under his arm. He gave Dean an awkward little smile.
“Hello, Dean,” he said.
Dean blinked slowly, unable to reconcile the image of Cas walking into his bedroom with reality.
“Is it okay if—Can I come in?” Cas asked quietly, before gesturing to the box under his arm. “I came to pick up the receipts for the classic car work, and I asked Sam if I could come in, and uh—Well, I just wanted to say hi. See how you were doing.”
“Uh.” Dean struggled for a minute but couldn’t find a good enough reason why not. “Sure, I guess.”
Cas moved surprisingly quietly across the creaky floor, putting his box of filing down at the foot of Dean’s bed before he moved to perch nervously on the end of it, turned toward Dean.
“How are you feeling?” he asked quietly after a moment, looking down at Dean’s crinkled navy comforter rather than up at Dean himself.
“Been better,” Dean admitted begrudgingly. “But I’m alive, so…can’t complain.”
“Dean, I…” Cas trailed off for a moment, watching his fingers nervously pick at Dean’s sheets. “I’m so sorry about what happened, I—”
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Dean snapped before he could help himself. “I’m the monster here.”
Cas's head jerked up then, his bright blue eyes wide and astonished as he looked across at Dean. “That’s what you think?”
“That’s the facts, Cas.” Dean tried to turn grumpily back to the TV, but his pillow was still slumped down uncomfortably behind his back, and he twisted painfully to try and grab it. His shoulder was healing slowly, but his left arm was still very limited in its range of movement.
He grimaced involuntarily at the pulling sensation in the muscle. Cas must have noticed, as he reached forward to grab the pillow.
“Here, let me—”
“I don’t need your help, Cas—”
“Please! Please, Dean. Let me help.” Cas sounded stricken and miserable, and Dean couldn’t make head nor tails of it.
As Cas fluffed the pillow, Dean noted the shading of healing bruises all across the back of Cas's hand and across his knuckles. Before he could catch himself, Dean’s hand darted out and gently grabbed Cas's arm. “What’s this?”
“I, uh.” Cas looked embarrassed. “I punched Luke. After you left, he thought I’d help them find you, but…he was wrong.”
Dean couldn’t help the low chuckle that built up in his chest. “You really don’t know how to land a punch, do you?” he asked, very carefully turning Cas's hand in his own before he released him.
“No.” Cas flushed a bit. “It probably hurt me a lot more than him, but I think my point was made. They won’t be coming to look for you, or contacting me either.”
In the quiet that fell between them, Dr. Piccolo could be heard rattling around in the broom closet.
Dean didn’t feel like talking anymore. Even looking at Cas was getting a bit much. How could something so wonderful, that he wanted so much, be so close and yet so impossible? He sighed, and rolled awkwardly onto his side, turning the volume of the TV up a little.
“I was hoping that maybe we could talk,” Cas said quietly, still sitting on the other side of the bed.
“Not feeling up to much talking, sorry,” Dean said, silently choking.
“Oh,” said Cas quietly. Another minute passed, and the mattress shifted.
“I—you could stay an’ watch for a bit if you wanted,” Dean whispered, the words coming out without any permission from him. He squeezed his eyes shut, cursing himself.
The mattress creaked again, slower, and there were some shuffling noises among the fabric of the empty half.
Dean wanted to roll over and look at Cas, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to see what he was reflected in Cas's eyes when he looked at Dean; how betrayed Cas must feel, how manipulated and lied to, no matter how Dean had meant it or what his intentions were.
The fact that Cas was even here was a miracle, and Dean could only imagine that it was from some misplaced sense of guilt since he was now too broken to even fly.
Cas should leave. Dean should release him; tell him he could go.
But he didn’t.
They didn’t talk during the couple of episodes that rolled by. The tense silence slowly evaporated, and with an aching throb in his chest, Dean was reminded of all the evenings they’d spent together on Cas's couch watching trashy TV. But that was probably just more betrayal now, to Cas.
When Dean’s painkillers fuzzily lulled him to sleep, he imagined a soft, “Goodnight, Dean,” from the other side of the bed. His cruel, self-flagellating dreams even provided him with the feeling of dry lips ghosting against his temple before the mattress relaxed back to empty.
Cas came back the next day.
He clattered into Dean’s bedroom with somewhat less caution this time, an oddly determined look on his face as he came through the open door with a paper take-out tray containing two coffee cups.
“Hello, Dean,” he said, sounding more nervous than he looked. He stepped up to the side of the bed closest to where Dean was sprawled and tugged one of the cups out of the holder with a papery squeak. He offered it to Dean with a shy smile, waiting for him to take it.
Dean was dazed. “You… Did you have more files to pick up?” he asked, taking the coffee from Cas's outstretched hand and sniffing at it longingly.
It was his usual; his favorite black americano that he ordered every time he went to Heavenly Bodies, or anywhere else. The perfect temperature and—
Cas tugged a paper bag out of a brown leather messenger bag that he had slung over his shoulder. Dean had hardly noticed against the backdrop of his eternal beige trench coat. That damn coat, Dean thought fondly. It’s not even that cold.
“No, no files today. Here,” Cas said, shaking the folded bag at Dean.
Curious, Dean carefully lifted his stiff arm and took it. The slightly greasy bakery paper was warm under his fingers. “What are you doing here then, Cas?” he asked, very quietly, unsure if he wanted to question it at all.
“This is what we do,” Cas answered softly. He spoke to the lid of his takeout cup as he lowered himself down to perch on the edge of the mattress, on the opposite side of the bed to Dean. “Every day. We’ve done it for weeks, had coffee during my breaks and just…talked. I don’t see why it should change, just because…”
Because you’re a monster, Dean’s brain supplied. Because you’re a liar.
Without saying anything, Dean carefully angled himself forward, putting his coffee down on the nightstand so that he could stiffly slide one of his Dr. Sexy DVDs into the old DVD player he had beneath the small TV. They’d be picking up from the last episode Dean could remember them watching the night before.
They sipped in silence, and when Dean dug into the paper bag, he found fresh apple pie cookies.
When Dr. Sexy dashed out of the operating theatre to chase down a sobbing young intern, Dean turned to Cas, biting his lip for a moment before he spoke.
“I’m really sorry, Cas. I hope you know that.”
“What for?” Cas asked him, staring right back. It wasn’t challenging, or dismissive; just a check of which particular thing Dean was referring to, it seemed.
Heh. Because there are so many things to apologize for, Dean realized.
“For everything,” he said, dropping his gaze back to his coffee, cooling between his hands. “For not telling you what I was. For not telling you that I kinda already knew you, in a weird way. For, y’know, trying to rip your brother's throat out.”
“Well,” said Cas--quite kindly, Dean thought, given everything, “I didn’t tell you what my family did either. And I never liked Michael anyway.”
Slowly, Dean looked up, and their eyes met across the mattress. A tiny smile pulled at the corner of Cas's lips, and Dean couldn’t help but mimic it.
“So.” Cas sat up a little straighter as if he was determined to ask his questions now the tension between them had broken. “Sam told me that after your dad died, you and he stopped, uh…”
“Biting people?” Dean supplied, his heart sinking even as he tried a joking smile. If Cas was going to run away, he figured, this was it.
“Yeah. The way we were raised, we didn’t know any different. But after Dad died, constantly feuding with hunters and Men of Letters and other creatures…” Dean sighed, taking a big, bracing gulp of coffee to get him through. “I didn’t see the point. I never wanted to hurt anybody. I just wanted to raise my little brother and live my life.”
Cas gave a long, low exhale. “Right.”
Not talking turned out to be easier, and Dean and Cas finished their coffees in a mostly comfortable silence before Cas had to leave.
Once he’d stepped out of the door, Dean slumped back onto his bed, covering his head with his pillow. I can’t do this, he thought into the comfort of fabric and down. I’ll never be good enough for you. I’m still a monster, and I can’t even do that right anymore.
But every day, Cas came back.
He brought coffee, and they’d sit together on Dean’s mattress, watching TV. Sometimes they’d talk, sometimes it seemed too difficult. After a few more days, Cas cautiously brought up the idea of physical therapy for Dean’s shoulder; that perhaps, if they could get it to heal right, he might fly again.
Dean rejected the idea outright, of course, but that night when Cas left, he cried.
“I don’t deserve this” silently trickled into the pillow, and he didn’t bother to wipe it away.
It turned out though that the only person more stubborn than Dean was Cas.
He’d stop by every day for their coffee-lunches, and every evening that he had work to do on the salvage yard books or needed to process invoices for the garage, he’d stay late with Dean, and they’d watch movies.
Day-by-day, Cas pushed Dean. Until eventually he gave in and got out of bed, until he started doing his exercises, until he let Cas help.
“I’m gonna go back to the garage tomorrow,” Dean said quietly one night as Dr. Sexy performed an emergency tracheotomy on a subway train. “People need me and I—Well, I need to get back into the swing of things. Life goes on, right? Even if I can’t fly.”
“You still might,” Cas reminded him gently, reclined familiarly on the pillows a safe foot-or-so away, still in his Heavenly Bodies uniform. “You just have to be patient and heal before you try. And hey, there’s always planes if you want to fly somewhere.”
“Planes!?” Dean looked horrified. “You’ll never get me in one of those death traps. The only time I’m leaving the ground is when I’m in control, thank you very much—”
Cas blinked, obviously biting back laughter. “Flying? You’re afraid of flying?”
“Yes.” Dean didn’t pout. He didn’t.
“You know how hilarious that is, right?”
“Yes.” He pouted a little.
Laughing at him openly, Cas nudged Dean with his elbow. “I guess we better keep working on your shoulder then, huh?”
“You aren’t going to stop until I get it back to normal, are you?” Dean said, not sure if he wanted to smile or cry. So of course, he shook his head and looked away.
“Of course not,” Cas said. He looked down to his cup. By the time Dean turned back to him, a moment had passed and it took Dean by surprise when Cas quietly added, “After all, you didn’t give up on me when I needed somebody. You turned up every day and kept trying even when I was just an awkward mess. You didn’t have to do that.”
There was a battering ram in Deans' chest. “Yeah, well. You deserved it,” he managed.
Cas angled slightly to Dean and opened his mouth, but before he could say whatever he had planned, something in Dean burst, and he had to know.
“Cas, do you—could you ever—forgive me? For making such a mess of everything, for not telling you the truth, for Michael, for—”
With one finger, Cas silenced Dean, pressing it firmly but gently to his lips. “Enough. I already have.”
Dean's eyes squeezed tight shut, and he let out a shaking huff of pure relief.
“And you know what?” came Cas's voice, pulling Dean’s eyes open once more. His words trembled with nerves as he spoke, and his hand went groping through the comforter they sat on to seek out Dean’s. “If I remember right, you still owe me a real date.”
Dean couldn’t stop the crooked smile that wanted to burst out of him, so he didn’t try.
“Yeah, Cas. Now you mention it; I think I do.”
“Take a breath,” Hannah reminded Cas as she sat crossed legged on the end of his bed, watching his pile of rejected shirts grow. “He hit on you in your Heavenly Bodies uniform, Cas; You were probably covered in bubbles and half-eaten food. I don’t think he cares what you wear.”
“I know, I know,” Cas grumbled, discarding an odd purple dog shirt and a t-shirt that said “I Wuv Hugs” on the front. That was the last time he would accept hand-me-downs from Gabriel, he decided. Beyond his Heavenly Bodies uniforms and his interview suit, Cas had very little that was worth going out in.
“Okay,” said Hannah, standing up to take matters into her own hands. “Where are you going? A nice restaurant or something?”
“Actually, we thought a picnic would be nice,” Cas confessed. “He knows I don’t do so well in loud, busy places.”
And while we’re out in the open with no one around, Dean can test out his wings, maybe , he added silently.
“A picnic?” Hannah blinked, before beginning to dig around in Cas's small closet. “Wow. That’s pretty romantic, and also adorable.”
“Yeah, I think so too. It was Dean’s idea. He likes to cook, so he’s going to make pie and treats for us.”
Cas knew that Hannah was a little jealous; it was all over her face sometimes, and she was still a little prickly with Dean when he came into the café. But, as always, she was his best friend first, and had been nothing but kind and encouraging. He briefly wished he could find someone for her, but as it had taken him all these years to find a date for himself, he was hardly qualified as a matchmaker.
A moment later, she came back with a soft, navy button-down and the only pair of clean jeans Cas seemed to have. “These should be fine for a picnic, and you look good in navy. Brings out your eyes.”
“Thank you, Hannah,” he said gratefully, before stepping off to the bathroom to change.
On his return, Hannah nodded approvingly. “Perfect. You must really like this guy, huh? I haven’t seen you go out on a date without Gabriel forcing you since…well, forever.”
“I do really like him,” Cas confessed shyly. Probably too much, given that he’s a vampire.
Hannah nodded and reached to tug Cas in for a quick hug. “Well, he’ll be here any minute, so I should get going. Good luck! I expect to hear all about it at work tomorrow.”
Cas appreciated the good luck, because even though he’d gotten up the courage to remind Dean about their date in a way that was kind-of-almost-ish like he’d asked Dean out himself, he was still incredibly nervous. He didn’t really need to be, he supposed, since they were already so at ease with each other and had spent so many weeks talking.
But Cas was definitely hoping for a little more than talking, if he was honest with himself.
Cas hadn’t explicitly stated to Dean that he was a virgin, but he figured it was pretty damn obvious. He’d barely even kissed anyone before, though in high school his friend Meg had done her best to make sure he wasn’t completely ignorant in that respect.
Dean, however,had been appearing in his fantasies of late, and he wouldn’t even pretend he wasn’t hoping to do something about it.
There was a sharp knock on the front door only minutes after Hannah departed, so Cas gave up attempting to tame his hair into something smart looking, and instead just ran his hands through it and let it do its own wild thing.
It’s not like Dean hasn’t seen me at one a.m. in sweat pants, covered in Cheetos. I don’t know why I’m even trying, he thought, remembering his late-night bedroom chats with Wingchester. He flushed, recalling other late-night bedroom activities that his bat friend would have been privy to.
“Hello, Dean,” he answered, his cheeks still feeling a little warm as he eased open his front door. “Let me just grab my boots, and I’m ready to go.”
Dean’s eyes were wide as he looked Cas up and down, a pleased grin settled over his face. “Take all the time you need. I’m enjoying the view.”
“Isn’t it a little early to turn on the charm? We haven’t even made it out onto the street yet.”
“Ahh, charm is best applied indoors, I’ve found. You never know where it’ll lead,” Dean teased, giving Cas a wink as he stepped aside to let him out.
Dean was dressed similarly, in faded jeans and a dark grey Henley shirt, and Cas made doubly sure that Dean spotted his appreciative, lingering looks.
Holding the car door open, Dean seemed determined to be a perfect gentleman. Which was made all the more amusing by Cas's knowledge that usually he cursed like a sailor and had a mind that operated only inches above the gutter.
The effort, Cas thought, was pretty cute.
Baby, Dean’s gleaming 1967 Chevy Impala, took them smoothly out of town and up to Palisades State Park, just outside Sioux Falls.
“Do you have a specific spot picked out?” Cas asked curiously, as Dean pulled Baby over to the side of the trail, cutting off her engine.
“Of course I do.” Dean grinned, reaching to rub at the back of his neck in a move that Cas now recognized as a moment of self-consciousness. “I’d kinda had this planned since, well, since back before Michael’s wedding. Would’ve been a bit colder then--a bonfire kinda deal, but now that the chill is mostly gone from the air, it’ll probably be nicer.”
“Well,” Cas said, dropping his eyes down to the grass as Dean pulled a large, stuffed backpack from the trunk, “maybe now it’ll be even better. Because we know each other better now.”
“Yeah,” was all Dean said, soft and earnest before he extended his hand for Cas to take, twining their fingers together.
Cas's heart jumped like a teenager’s, and he did his best not to blush as Dean led them along one of the flattest, easiest hiking trails. It didn’t take long before they came across a viewing point on the bluff overlooking the park, near the remains of an old flour mill. Cas had heard of the place from outdoorsier colleagues, but he’d never been there himself.
“Dean,” he gasped, amazed. “It’s beautiful up here.”
Dean grinned proudly. “Sure is. I remember my Dad telling me once that he used to bring my mom here on dates.”
Cas could see why. Split Rock Creek had, over the idly passing centuries, cut deep gorges into the red cliffs. Fifty feet below the water roared, and Cas could see shelves of quartzite rock formations jutting out from the beautifully uneven cliff faces, lit up by the early evening sunlight. They were surrounded by trees with grass beneath their feet. And they were completely alone.
Dean wasted no time unpacking. He winced as he flicked out a red and white checkered picnic blanket, like something from a movie. Cas stepped up to him immediately, reaching out slowly for his shoulder.
“How are you doing with your recovery? Are you still doing your physical therapy every day, even though you’re working again?”
“I promised, didn’t I?” Dean smiled crookedly. “Despite how it must seem to you, I try not to make a habit of lying to the people I care about.”
Cas couldn’t help but smile up at Dean from beneath his eyelashes, his hand still resting on Dean’s bicep, the little reminder of Dean’s earlier secrets smoothed easily by the tiny, perhaps even unintended, confession that to Dean, Cas was “people I care about.”
“Hey now,” Dean smiled across at Cas, allowing their eyes to catch for a moment. “Don’t go looking at a guy like that, Cas. You’ll get yourself in trouble.”
Despite the flush that he had no doubt lit up his cheeks, Cas deliberately gazed at Dean a little longer. He watched him as Dean slowly started to flush in turn at the very pointed attention, happy to be able to turn the tables even a little. Cas grinned as he pulled his eyes away from Dean and began to help pull the Tupperware containers of food from Dean’s backpack.
An hour later, they were utterly sated on thick, meaty sandwiches, cheese, pasta salads, and slices of Dean’s deliciously sweet homemade pies. They sat on the blanket, gazing out over the gorge at the final remains of the setting sun, admiring the last of the evening. They were shoulder-to-shoulder, with their knees pressed together as they watched the last slither of sun dip beyond the glowing red cliffs.
Dean lay back on the blanket before reaching up to Cas's shoulder, tugging him gently down in turn as he stretched out. “This is the best bit,” he said quietly, pointing directly above them to where a break in the canopy revealed every star South Dakota had to offer.
Cas's mouth parted in awe, and they lay for another hour easily, Dean lazily pointing out constellations with Cas snuggled into his side.
Cas turned his head as he settled back on the blanket, his face only a few tantalizing inches from Dean’s. “So,” he asked, unable to help his grin. “What do you have planned for future dates, Dean? Because I have to say you’ve set the bar pretty high with this one.”
Dean laughed, rolling onto his side so that he could prop himself on his good elbow, looking down at Cas stretched out next to him. “You sayin’ you want more dates with me, Cas?”
Dean’s green eyes shone even in the dim starlight, Cas noticed. They were unearthly, something about them distinctly other even in Dean’s most human form. They were breathtakingly green, the kind of green you only came across in stories, and for a moment he was too lost in them to reply.
Thinking that he should say something, Cas parted his lips to speak but found his hand drifting up to dance along Dean’s perfect cheekbone instead. It glided up into the sandy hair at Dean’s temple, and Cas's gaze followed his fingers, softly teasing his nails through his short hair as he cupped his face. Cas's heart leaped into his throat as Dean leaned in, instinctively responding to the invitation.
“This okay, Cas?” Dean breathed, close enough to be sharing a breath.
Cas let his lips answer, his fingers encouraging Dean to close the final inch.
The kiss was no less sweet for the long time that Cas had been waiting for it; the heartbreak in the middle only seemed to have made him crave it more. Dean appeared to want to savor every movement, bringing their mouths together delicately and dancing his gentle, undemanding lips around the edges of Cas's own. He pressed his way across the bow before swooping leisurely across the bottom, softly tugging Cas's lower lip between his own with a soft inhale. Dean’s warm tongue softly traced the seam of Cas’s lips, and when he finally requested admission, after a long, luxurious minute, it was with the same intense, soft care; exploring every corner as if he could collect Cas's taste to memorialize him with later when the night was done.
After nowhere near enough time, their lungs demanded that they pause. But they rallied valiantly, determined to fight for more.
When Dean’s hand came down to Cas's flank, slowly stroking down his side with just the gentle pressure of a thumb, it made Cas’s whole torso buzz, lightning under his skin. Dean’s hand rested at Cas's hip and he made no attempt to drift further. Just the tip of Dean’s finger slowly circled over Cas's exposed hipbone, his shirt rucking up that one important inch. The feel of Dean’s hands on him, in even that tiniest of ways, was agonizingly perfect.
“Dean,” Cas breathed, doing his best not to whimper but not sure that he’d succeeded.
Dean pulled back slightly, and Cas was pleased to notice his elevated breathing in the darkness above him. It was nice to think that Dean wasn’t unaffected, even if he was ten times the Casanova that Cas would ever be.
“Was that about what you were hoping for?” Dean asked breathlessly, still leaning above him.
“That was the best kiss of my life,” Cas admitted without an ounce of exaggeration. “My only complaint is that it ended.”
Cas could sense Dean’s grin in the dim light as much as he could see it, Dean’s skin lit by the huge moon that was beginning to progress overhead.
“Good to know we’re on the same page with that,” Dean said, before pressing more kisses into Cas's skin, across his cheek to his ear, and down his jaw.
Cas gave out a low moan, sparks flying from his skin to Dean’s mouth. He reached up, pressing the palm of his hand flat to Dean’s chest, distracted for a second by the play of Dean’s muscles beneath his Henley shirt. After a moment, Cas remembered himself and what he’d meant to say, through the onslaught of Dean’s welcome affection.
“You should try and stretch your wings before we have to pack up and head out of here.”
Dean slowed, trailing his lips back to Cas's own and depositing one longer, gentler kiss there. “Yeah. I should. I need to try at least.”
Cas tilted his head, taking in Dean above him; noticing his averted gaze and the way he was slowly pulling back.
“You’re frightened,” Cas observed quietly, as non-judgmentally as he could. “You’re afraid you won’t be able to hold your weight, or that it’ll be too painful to transform. Or that you’ll be stuck.”
His gaze still somewhere in the trees to their right, Dean didn’t answer, but he gave a small, sharp nod.
Pushing up from his position laying on the blanket, Cas tentatively reached out, wrapping his arms around Dean and pulled him into a hug. Dean was stiff and tense in his arms—and then he was soft, relaxing into Cas's shoulder.
“It’ll be okay,” was all that Cas said.
Dean nodded. “Yeah. Gotta try sometime, right? Sam can’t keep bringing me blood forever.”
Cas nodded, moving to stand and offering his hands to Dean, hauling him up alongside him. “Do you want me to go away, or anything? Would you rather do it alone?”
“No! No—please. Stay. I’ll just—” Dean jerked his thumb back to the trees. “—I’m just gonna step over there. Don’t wanna ruin my clothes, so…”
Cas flushed a little, briefly imagining Dean naked only a few feet to his left. “Yes, of course. I’ll wait here.”
It was a long wait, though Cas wasn’t sure if the length was from difficulty or uncertainty. When he was just about to call out and ask if he was okay, he heard a low, pained yell come from the trees—followed by a loud, glorious “ SKREEE!!”
Cas couldn’t help the huge grin that burst out of him. He knew that Dean wasn’t happy with his nature, and had done his best to work around it, to be the person he wanted to be—but this part of him, the part that could take flight and be free, Cas knew he would have been broken to lose.
A flurry of wings and happy squeaks bought a familiar, fuzzy little body to hover in front of Cas's face before he landed on Cas's outstretched wrist.
Aware that a goofy grin was spread across his face, Cas lifted his arm to his face so that he could take a good look at the bat—at Dean. “It really is you,” he said, softer than he intended, sounding somewhat awed.
“ Skree !” Dean leaned forward, balancing with his wings, and nuzzled into Cas's cheek.
Cas brought his other hand up to pet familiarly at the back of Dean’s head. “So, all that time we spent together, everything I told you…”
Dean ducked his head, his green eyes downturned.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Cas nudged under his chin with a single finger, bringing his eyes back up. “We’re okay.”
Dean’s tiny, fuzzy little body leaned into Cas's palm, and his green eyes rested contentedly on Cas's face, allowing him to study Dean even more closely.
“You’re amazing like this, Dean.” Cas smiled, meaning it. “My family might have been Men of Letters, but I think it’s pretty awesome—as you would say—to have a boyfriend who’s a vampire. That is, I mean, uh—” Cas felt his cheeks burn, and hoped for a moment that Dean wouldn’t see them in the dim light, but he knew that was unlikely. “—if you would want to be, well, that. Anyway. Just, in theory, you know. Not assuming—”
Tiny shudders vibrating through Dean’s wings seemed to indicate that the tiny bat was laughing at him.
Cas glared, before sudden embarrassment flooded him again, enough to draw his spare hand up to cover his face. “Oh God, and I just remembered I named you after you. ”
Yes, that movement was definitely tiny bat laughter.
“Stop laughing at me, you assbutt.”
Dean practically slumped against Cas's palm, his leathery wings shaking, before picking himself up to flap on over to his shoulder. With one little clawed hand tangled in Cas's hair, just like he used to, Dean butted his head into the side of Cas's face like an insistent cat and made a series of long squeaks.
Cas raised his hand once more, resuming his gentle petting and scratching between Dean’s ears. “You’re beautiful and lovely like this, Dean. I don’t know how you’re still you when you’re a bat, but somehow you are.”
Dean squeaked affectionately, before spreading out his wings and jumping from Cas's shoulder, gliding forward. He did a big loop in the moonlit sky above, letting out a joyful “SKREEEEE!” into the night air.
He flew off into the trees, and a few minutes later Dean bounded back out, fully human, his jeans and boots back in place but his shirt still in his hand.
“I did it, Cas! I can still fly!” he exclaimed, beaming as he rushed forward and threw his arms around Cas.
Cas emitted a squeak not unlike one of Dean’s, suddenly finding the expanse of Dean’s bare, freckled chest pressed up against him. Unable to keep his hands to himself at the sudden assault, Cas slid his hands up across Dean’s sides to his back, his breath shaky as his fingers trailed across the muscles beneath Dean’s shoulder blades.
“I’m so happy for you, Dean, really, but please put your shirt on before you give me a heart attack.”
“Oh, I see,” Dean teased, taking a little step back. “You can stroke me and touch me as much as you like when I have fur , but when I’m human, clothes on at all times. Cover up that horrible thing, right?”
“Dean,” Cas said, his voice low between them as he followed Dean’s step, closing the space between them once more. He leaned in, pressing his mouth to Dean’s jaw and leading a trail of wet, open-mouthed kisses down his neck. “Put your shirt on. Unless you want me to take everything else off, and it's much too cold out here for that.”
Cas felt Dean’s sharp swallow beneath his lips, and his stomach flipped over at the realization that he could do that to such a beautiful man.
“It is getting cold,” Dean noted breathlessly, tilting his head back toward Baby. “Car?”
Cas nodded, and they reluctantly slipped apart, Dean stealing a few more brief kisses even as they did so, before obediently tugging his Henley back over his head.
The picnic was quick to clean up, everything shoved easily back into Dean’s backpack before Dean used the flashlight on his phone to light their way down the increasingly darkening path back to the car, hand-in-hand.
For a brief, hopeful moment, Cas daydreamed that Dean might be up for more kissing—or more—in the car, but instead, Dean smiled serenely, taking his hand on the wide front bench, and drove them back to Sioux Falls.
Goddamnit, Dean wanted to straddle Cas's lap in the front seat and kiss him until he lost all sense.
He was quite proud of his restraint, keeping his hands to himself beyond simply tangling his fingers with Cas's while they drove.
It wasn’t, by any means, that Dean didn’t want to take things further. They both wanted to, that was clear, and it wasn’t like they’d only just met.
But even if they had known each other for several months, this was, technically, still their first date. And dammit, Dean was going to do this one right this time.
This one mattered.
Heck, he’d even thought it already, in the back of his mind and on the tip of his lips; he loved Cas. He was totally head-over-heels in love with this awkward, smart, dorky little man. Perhaps Cas wasn’t there yet, and that was fine; he’d had less time to get to know Dean than Dean had technically had to know him, after all. But Dean was a goner.
So, he couldn’t mess this up.
Besides, it had certainly occurred to Dean that given Cas's intense anxiety in social situations and previous eternal bachelor status, there was a pretty decent chance that Cas wouldn’t be ready, or perhaps hadn’t ever even had sex before. Dean wasn’t sure that Cas had mentioned dating anyone; just failed dates with hideously mismatched people that his brother kindly—in his way, anyway—tried to set him up with. And he certainly didn’t seem like the one-night stand type, as Dean had always been, more through necessity than choice.
Driving through town, a few blocks from Cas's apartment, Dean cleared his throat.
“Cas, I don’t want to make anything weird or make you uncomfortable, but I want to ask you something.”
Cas turned, his eyes resting on the side of Dean’s face as he drove. “We’ve already been through some pretty uncomfortable things,” he pointed out. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
Dean nodded. “I wanna know where you’re at with this, Cas. Have you ever been with a guy before? Not that I’m assuming you—”
“No, I haven’t,” Cas said, surprisingly blunt and easy. “But yes, I want to. With you.”
“Oh,” said Dean. Well, that was simpler than he thought. He kept his eyes firmly fixed on the road, trying to spot the right turning.
“You asked me once, back when we first met, if I was asexual, or anything like that.” Cas talked to the side of Dean’s face while he navigated. “Which was kind of you to ask, by the way. But I was so dazed that maybe you liked me, it didn’t even strike me how funny that was—given that you were one of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen, and I’d definitely thought about what it would be like to have sex with you since practically the day we met.”
Dean’s knuckles were white on the wheel of the Impala, and he cleared his throat desperately. “Ahh-uhm, right, yeah. Good to know. Definitely good to know.”
“Am I making you uncomfortable?”
Dean’s eyes flicked over to Castiel, reassuringly he hoped, and he squeezed his hand before releasing it so that he could pull Baby into the parking lot next to Cas's building. “No, not uncomfortable,” he clarified. “Quite the opposite actually.”
“Good.” Cas's grin was slightly wolfish, taking Dean by surprise. “Because it would be ridiculous for you to be uncomfortable with me simply talking about sex when you sat on my nightstand while I masturbated, Dean.”
Dean hit the brake of the Impala a little too sharply, and they jolted into the parking space. Cas stifled a laugh, and when Dean turned to look at him, raising an eyebrow, he covered his mouth with his hand, grinning. “Sorry.”
“No, you’re not,” Dean laughed. “I’ll have you know; I was the perfect little batty gentleman. Stayed in my box, didn’t even peek.”
Cas eyed him levelly, unflinching.
“Not saying I didn’t want to,” Dean huffed. “But that wouldn’t have been right.”
Next to Dean, in the middle of the bench seat with no sense of personal space whatsoever, Cas laughed.
Quietness fell between them, and there was a tension to it—not an uncomfortable one, by any means; something more like anticipation, thrumming around them while Baby’s engine ticked and cooled.
Dean didn’t want the night to end. It was clear that Cas didn’t either, but maybe—
“Would you like to come up?” Cas asked, cocking his head in the direction of his apartment above them. “You can see if my home feels smaller at human size.”
Dean gave a little chuckle. He turned in his seat, resting his elbow on top of the steering wheel as he faced Cas. “Make no mistake Cas; there is nothing I want more than to head up with you, but…” He paused for a breath and a gulp. “This is our first date. I like you, Cas. A lot. And I don’t want this to be—”
Cas's mouth was on his before he finished, wet and hot and soft in a way that only the best kisses can be. He opened up, and their tongues swirled, velvet and slick.
Their foreheads were pressed together, Cas not even pulling back all the way to talk, his lips still brushing against Dean’s. “Dean, you’ve spent three weeks in my bed already, and then I spent part of every day sitting on yours for weeks in turn. I feel the same way you do, so please just come upstairs with me.”
Dean cut him off with another kiss, needier, the weight of it pushing Cas back across the bench seat. Dean’s fingers tightened on the shoulder of his navy cotton shirt.
“Then let’s go.”
They parted clumsily and moved through the dark parking lot, into the building. They stood silently in the elevator, apart a few careful inches, the space like a held breath between them. They walked just close enough that the back of their knuckles brushed, and their sleeves met. They didn’t speak, keeping their eyes ahead, fully aware of each other’s smile in their peripherals. They made it through the door of Cas's apartment with a nervous fumbling of keys.
And as soon as the door closed, Dean’s patience was done.
He surged forward, tasting Cas's lips again, running his tongue along the bottom one just once before he suckled it into his mouth and tugged gently with his teeth. The moan that Cas released at the sensation filled Dean’s mouth like an echo chamber, cut off only by the dull thump of Cas's back hitting the inside of his front door. Dean practically had him pinned, kissing him into a frenzy, not even far enough into the apartment to have their boots off.
“ Dean …” Cas gasped out, his eyes slipping shut as his head tilted to the side to allow Dean to work his way down his neck.
“Mmm… Cas …” was all the response Dean could give, his lips muffled against Cas's pulse.
Cas reached down, tugging up at the bottom of Dean’s shirt.
Dean pulled back just enough to grin down at Cas as he slumped against the door, one of Dean’s hands boxing him in above his shoulder, the other at his hip. “I thought you wanted me to keep the shirt on,” Dean said.
Cas groaned deeply. “You’re a relentless tease. This is my first time you know; I’m not going to have the stamina to get through the full Dean Winchester joke repertoire.”
Dean laughed, pressing the sound into Cas's collarbone before he looked back at him, his eyes twinkling. “Speaking of your first time—” Dean paused, both hands sliding down Cas's sides and over the cheeks of his ass, gripping into his thighs and shamelessly hoisting Cas up to his waist. “—it’s going to happen in a bed, not against a door. Luckily, I know where one is.”
The delighted gasp that Cas let out as he wrapped his legs around Dean tumbled into laughter as Dean carried him across the apartment. He took Cas’s weight mostly with his good arm, stopping every few steps to rest Cas's back on whatever surface was closest and deposit a kiss somewhere on his face.
Cas made an appreciative noise as he held onto Dean’s biceps, squeezing them a little. Preening, Dean hoisted him a little higher to show off as they made their way across the kitchen.
“Yes, I get it, Dean, you’re strong.” Cas rolled his eyes playfully. “I guess there are more muscles to be made lifting car parts than dirty dishes.”
“Oh, it’s probably the flying,” said Dean.
Cas blinked, and for a minute Dean had him before they dissolved into laughter again and he dumped Cas down on the bed on his back. The mattress protested, but it made Cas giggle, and that was worth everything.
“Fine, it’s the cars,” Dean admitted, as he crawled above Cas on the bed. When he had one knee each side of Cas's thighs, he sat back and slid his fingers up to the lowest button of Cas's shirt.
His hands rested there, waiting, as his eyes caught on Cas's.
Bright, excited blue. Cas's intense gaze locked on Dean as he nodded. He didn’t look away for even a moment, just watching as Dean opened his shirt button-by-button, chasing the fabric with kisses across Cas's abs.
When Dean pushed the soft, navy fabric off Cas's shoulders, he gave a low whistle. “I don’t know what you were saying about dirty dishes Cas, but damn, keep doing it.”
Dean was enchanted to see that the frequent blushes which colored Cas's cheeks extended down onto his chest. Kissing at the heated skin, he took a moment to tease his tongue around Cas's left nipple, delighting in the lively hiss it earned him.
Being allowed to be this close to Cas, to have earned his trust enough to be with him so intimately, felt overwhelming in the very best way. Dean whispered as much into Cas's skin under his ribs, and Cas fingers anchored into his hair, stroking and humming contentedly.
“I already told you, Dean. We’re okay. And if you want me, I’m yours.”
Dean had no words to answer with, so he claimed him with his lips once again, unable to stop his smiles.
Sitting back once the feel of Cas beneath him became too much, Dean peeled off his Henley before leaning back down for more hot, eager kisses, now given the extra edge of them being chest to bare chest amongst the pillows.
Cas was the first to go for Dean’s belt, only breaking their make-out session long enough to see his jeans to the floor before resuming; his own followed shortly after.
For the most part, Dean tried to keep things slow and intimate. After already spending so much time in this bed, he was infinitely grateful to be there as himself.
But Cas had an agenda in mind, his thick erection rutting hard against Dean’s hip as they kissed, and Dean wasn’t about to discourage him. They pressed against each other through their underwear for a long, increasingly heated few minutes, before Dean slipped his hand between them, wrapping his fingers around Cas through his boxer briefs. He squeezed and rubbed slowly, temptingly, while his lips and teeth worked a possessive mark onto the base of Cas's neck.
Grabbing knots into the pillows with his fists, Cas pressed his hips up keenly into Dean’s hand, nodding breathlessly. “Dean…please.”
“Yes…for you, anything,” Dean murmured into Cas's shoulder, helpless to it.
He’d never seen eyes so beautiful, never seen a soul so bare. Once Cas had decided to let someone in, he just gave , and Dean felt like he’d be trying forever to earn everything he now had.
This feeling… It had been longer for him than for Cas; he knew that. He understood Cas better, in a way, the one-sided conversations they’d had falling in Dean’s favor. In time it wouldn’t matter, and right then it didn’t either. They were both finally on the same page, and that was all they needed.
They cast aside their underwear without further discussion or teasing. Cas pushed Dean back onto the bed and took his time exploring with his lips and teeth and tongue until Dean shivered against the mattress and rolled them back over.
Between Cas's thighs, Dean rocked against him with intensity, moaning his name as he brought them closer. When neither could wait any longer, Dean took them both in hand, soothing the friction with their mixed precome and sweat. He brought them the rest of the way to orgasm, pressed together, their stomachs sticking with the ample remains.
It was simple but close and perfect, and Dean knew he was totally, hopelessly in love with this man. But he kept it to himself, close to his heart, waiting for when Cas was ready.
It wasn’t going away. It’d keep.
Sighing, fucked out, and sleepy, they went to Cas's tiny bathroom one-by-one to clean up, then snuggled up back in the bed, wrapped in each other under the covers.
“Stay,” said Cas simply.
Dean nodded, and the small exchange was the last thing he remembered before their limbs tangled lazily, and they slept.
It was late by the time Dean woke. They’d ended up spooning, Dean cocooned within Cas’s arms, their legs entwined with the blanket cozily trapped around them. Cas's phone danced frantically across the nightstand, finally pulling Dean from his cozy, content slumber. Rubbing the heel of one hand over his eyes, he nudged Cas awake.
“Hey, Cas—your phone. Been going nuts for a few minutes, I think.”
Cas groped around for it silently, squinting like a mole. Mornings, Dean recalled, were not his favorite time of day.
Cas stared at the phone for a long moment, before turning it to show Dean the screen.
Missed Call from Naomi Novak (6).
Dean watched a slow, satisfied smile break over Cas's features as he ran his thumb along the screen to unlock it. Tapping into his mother’s contact information, Dean watched, quiet, as he selected further options, and then blocked the number.
Once done, Cas deleted her name entirely.
Tossing the phone back onto the nightstand, Cas rolled back over with a contented hum and settled himself into Dean’s arms.
Dean grinned into Cas's hair.
“What?” he asked sleepily against Dean’s shoulder, his words a warm puff of air.
“Nothing. Just glad I got to watch that,” Dean confessed. “Proud of you, Cas.”
He felt Cas's flushing smile in the crook of his neck as Cas nuzzled back in. Clinging onto the bedding, Dean wrapped his arms around Cas's shoulders, snuggling him into his chest. He arranged the blanket to cocoon them both, like gentle wings, and pressed a long kiss to Cas’s temple before they went back to sleep.