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Chapter 1:  Notes of Citrus
 
 
 
Dean swept a rough hand across the finished joist.  It was plumb.  He dusted both hands on his jean-clad thighs as he straddled a beam two stories off the ground, smiling down at the foreman below.  “Looks good!”
 
Chuck, the foreman in charge of the housing project saluted him with a grin.  “Looks perfect, Dean!  Come on down!  We better pack it in for now.  Rain’s coming.”
 
Dean nodded, swinging his leg over the beam to climb to his feet.  He walked several steps, stepping onto a ladder to climb down.  Garth, another worker, braced the bottom of the ladder.  He climbed down quickly, heading to the work tent with Garth and a few of the others.
 
“It’s amazing how quickly these houses can go up!” Garth marveled, taking a few steps backwards as they neared the tent to look at the skeleton of the new house.  
 
“Yeah.  These guys have everything so organized,” Dean nodded.  “Makes the work go really fast.”
 
“Your accurate measurements make the work go fast,” Chuck grinned, adding to the conversation.
 
Dean ducked his head at the compliment.  Accuracy was a must when he was being taught by his dad.  To measure incorrectly was to incur the wrath of John Winchester.  He mentally shook off the notion of the hell he would pay for poor measurements and focused on the coffee station inside the work tent.  It was a rickety table with a huge black and silver coffee pot.  It was his beacon of hope here in the wilderness.  He grabbed his mug off the table, a silver travel mug with a raised logo on it from Game of Thrones.  He twisted the lid off and pressed the lever, blowing a sigh of relief that there was a steady flow of brown liquid to fill his cup.  He bypassed the packs of sugar and the small fridge that held half and half.  He sat down at one of the tables, taking a few long swallows.
 
The work tent was rather full right now.  Most of the construction workers were here and some of the other workers too.  He itched with the instinct to leave the crowded space, hearing the rain already start to pelt the canvas stretched above his head.
 
It rained a lot here.  Like twice a day.
 
When it wasn’t raining, it was muggy as hell.
 
Sammy would smirk and say, ‘that’s why they call it a jungle’.  Dean grinned just thinking about his smartassed little brother.  Man.  He missed Sam.
 
“Hey guys!” Chuck called weakly over the crowd, only gaining attention from half of them.  The other half still jabbered away at each other.
 
Chuck gave him a hesitant smile and Dean knew the guy was struggling.  He sat back and whistled loudly, conversations stopping instantly.  “Take it away, Chuck,” he grinned back.
 
“Thank you.”  Chuck cleared his throat.  “Since so many of you are here, I might as well give an update.”  He put a pair of glasses on and opened a piece of notebook paper.  “Seven houses are completed as far as construction, five of those are painted and furnished.  We are right on schedule.  The eighth house is well under way.  I wanted to give a special thanks to Meg, for her hard work keeping us all coordinated, and to our host families for keeping us well fed.”
 
They all clapped.  Dean watched as Meg waved off Chuck’s praise with a shake of her head and a roll of her eyes.  He wondered, not for the first time, how she had gotten herself into such a position in life to find areas in need and say, ‘okay, I’ll bring a bus load of people here and build you a neighborhood’.  He grinned, thinking about the first time he met her.  He was helping Benny work on a house in town through Habitat For Humanity.  Meg had moved up in the company, working for the head office several states away from where they had met.  But he and Benny continued to volunteer.  And here he was, in Brazil, in the midst of a week-long workout from Hell, and loving it.  
 
The work tent they were all crowded into now, was one of a few that had sprouted up in the area as Habitat For Humanity converged on the outskirts of Recife, Brazil.  Chuck’s team was in charge of ten new builds.  This was an add-on from the original plan to only complete repairs through the town.  Other teams were handling those.  In the last four days, they had built seven and a half houses.  It really was crazy how quickly things could progress when there were so many hands to help and everything was organized.  Dean had taken four local men under his wing to teach them carpentry and housebuilding, giving four men the skills to do this on their own more effectively.  
 
Brazil was beautiful.  He was so glad he had done it.  He felt good.  Giving felt good.  He hadn’t felt this complete since before Sam left home for college.  Now Sam was working his first year as a real lawyer, not just an underpaid grunt on an internship.  Sam was happy.  It was the craziest thing that had brought about this entire ordeal.  Sam had butt-dialed him.  As Dean listened, he heard Sam laugh and talk with some of his friends and then they left his house.  Still unaware of Dean listening, Sam proceeded to clean up (he assumed from intermittent running water and the sounds of things being gathered up) and all the while, he was humming and singing to himself.
 
Humming.
 
Singing.
 
Happy.  
 
Sam was happy.  Content.  He was doing what he had set out to do.  And yes, he had debt.  And he was single.  But alone and on a random evening with nothing to celebrate, he was happy.
 
Dean’s soul had lit up with a warm glow.  He had finally dropped the phone from his ear, staring at the screen.  “Love you, Sammy.  Good talk.”  He had ended the call and sat at his kitchen table for over an hour after that, staring at nothing.
 
He wasn’t singing.
 
And he wasn’t happy.
 
Dean’s life had been a series of tragedies that culminated into a long streak of growing up way too quickly.  His mom had died when he was four.  House fire.  His dad spiraled into a depression festively decorated in alcoholism.
 
John was an angry man.
 
Angry at life.
 
Angry at Mary.
 
Angry at himself.
 
He raised his sons on the road between odd jobs.  They often lived in motels and shitty apartments.  And that was when things were good.  Dean and Sam had surfed the foster system periodically throughout their childhoods.  Sometimes together, but usually apart.  Some of those were good.  Some of those were bad.
 
When Dean turned seventeen, he became an emancipated adult.  A year later, he took custody of Sam.  Most of the time, Dean didn’t know if Sam would have been better off left in the care of strangers or not.  But deep down, they both knew Dean was doing the best he could.
 
Dean’s ‘best’ meant he worked a lot.  And yes, they were back in a crappy apartment in subsidized living for a few years, then in an apartment on their own.  But Dean’s ‘best’ also meant meals every day, clothes, steady school, and love.  Dean never once made a bone about it.  He loved his little brother.  From the time he was four, which pretty much meant forever in Dean’s world, he was in charge of Sam.  That baby had called him dad long before he called John dad.  His first roll, his first steps, his first bike ride, had all been under the hovering hands of Dean.  His joys, his hopes, his fears, his bloody noses, and broken bones had all been given over to Dean.  Not John.
 
The pair were inseparable for years.  And nothing had prepared Dean for Sam’s departure to college.  Dean only lasted one semester until he uprooted himself and moved just outside of Stanford, where Sam was attending school.  When Sam moved, he moved with him.  Why the hell not.  And when Sam relocated to work internships, Dean went with him.  There was need for construction workers everywhere.  He always had work.  
 
So, of course, when Sam moved to Pennsylvania, Dean packed up and moved along too.  It never crossed his mind that every step he took, was for Sam.  It never occurred to him that he needed to take some steps for himself.  He did finally move out, leaving Sam with the nice little apartment they had shared.  He got one of his own.  And at age 30, he lived by himself for the first time in his life.  Most of the time, he loved it.  He did what he wanted, when he wanted.  When money was low, he ate ramen noodles.  When money was flowing, he spent it on whatever he wanted.  And so he floundered for a year.  Sam was thriving as a lawyer.  His responsibility had been met.  So...now what?
 
His friend Benny was working overtime one weekend (shortly after the butt-dial episode) and called him at 6am on a Saturday.  One of Benny’s coworkers had a family emergency and couldn’t work, leaving his weekend obligation short one carpenter.  Dean, ever the giver, showed up to the work site in his stead and took home way more than he put into that house that day.  He became a regular volunteer with Habitat For Humanity with Benny.  A few months later, they took their first international trip to Mexico.
 
Now, he was a continent away from home, on his second international trip.  It was a week of an insane amount of work.  He was dog-tired when he was done.  But he felt really good about it.  
 
“So,” Chuck continued, drawing Dean’s attention back again, “let’s gather back here in forty-five minutes to start again.  The rain should be gone by then.”
 
“Thanks, Chuck!” A few people called amongst a smattering of claps.  Dean stood up, taking his coffee with him.  He ambled out of the tent, following the crowd as they dispersed for a break.  Outside, the rain came down in a drenching pour.  Dean ran along the row of tents, finding the supply tent he was looking for.
 
He pushed the flap open, greeted with the smell of fresh cut wood, grass, and rain.  He slowed his steps, taking a deep breath.  This might possibly be his favorite smell in the world.  He pulled his Habitat T-shirt off, shaking the damp material out.  He spread it out on a nearby stack of lumber and sat down, leaning back to enjoy his coffee.
 
He looked up at the pattering rain on the canvas roof overhead and felt weariness creep in.  He settled against the pile and drank the last of his coffee.
 
 
 
**********************************
 
 
 
Cas followed Gabriel into a tent, dodging out of the downpour.
 
“What do you mean, she canceled?” Cas asked.
 
Gabriel shrugged his shoulders, freezing in his step  Castiel followed his gaze.  There, stretched out like a centerfold, was Dean, one of the lead carpenters.  His jeans stretched long and tight to his thighs and calves, slightly damp from the rain.  He was leaned back, one arm propped on a slightly higher stack of lumber from the stack he sat on.  His other hand held a coffee mug precariously in his lap.  Moisture from the rain or humidity clung to his skin as his chest raised and lowered evenly.  His tan, handsome face was relaxed in pure ease as he slept.
 
Castiel could not stop his wandering gaze as he took in Dean’s long, firm lines and his always perfect hair.  His breathing hitched as he spotted freckles dusting his arms, shoulders and even his abs.  His breath caught totally as he spied a pale trail of hair leading into the waistband of his jeans.  Before he could even stop himself, he eyed the bulge to the left of his zipper.
 
Fuck.
 
He glanced at Gabriel quickly.  Gabe was staring at the man with a bit of a sly smile.  Cas whacked his shoulder, interrupting...whatever was going through his head.  
 
‘What?’ Gabe mouthed.
 
Cas shook his head no.  No, to whatever was brewing behind that devilish grin.
 
“Isn’t that the -”
 
“Yes!” Cas hissed quietly.  
 
Gabe turned back to the Adonis stretched before them, with an even more wicked grin.
 
Castiel gripped his brother’s shoulder tight, making Gabe wince and sink slightly to evade the grasp.
 
They both stepped closer to the tent flap, but it was still pouring outside.
 
“So,” Gabe went on in a hushed voice, “Kali said we need a break before the wedding.  She says a commitment like marriage is an archaic practice, set and kept by men to keep women down.”
 
“What are you going to do?” Cas asked.  He never particularly liked Kali.  The physical chemistry between Gabe and Kali was undeniable, but she was difficult in every way.  She constantly drove Gabe crazy.  They fought a lot.  Gabe said it was a ploy to have make-up sex, but Cas doubted that very much.  He was convinced she strung his brother along for the money and promise of stability.  But Gabe denied any of that.  
 
“I’m calling the whole damn thing off!” Gabe yelled, making Cas jump slightly and send a worried look to their napping companion.  Dean jolted awake, his coffee cup tumbling from his lap.
 
“She’s not worth the damage!”  Gabe went on, forgetting about the man entirely as Dean stared at the pair of them.
 
“I don’t know what I was thinking!  She’s got her hooks in me for the money.  You were right.”  Gabe paced away from him, frowning down at the grass the tent covered.  “You were right, Cassie.  She’s using me.  She sees dollar signs.  She only treats me well when she wants something.”  He flailed his hands with each statement.  “I hate when you’re right!”
 
Cas huffed a laugh at that.  He glanced at Dean again with an apologetic lift of one shoulder.  Dean slid forward, getting to his feet slowly, still watching both men warily.
 
“Ya know what she said?” Gabe ranted.  “Oh.”  Gabe froze, staring at Dean with his mouth open.  “Shit.  Sorry.”
 
“S okay,” Dean said, clearing the sleep from his low, scratchy, sexy, sleepy voice.  “I’ll...give you guys some privacy.”  Dean leaned down to pick up his shirt and coffee cup.
 
“No, man,” Gabe sighed.  “I’m sorry.  You were here first.  Please...stay.”
 
Dean grinned with a squint to his expression.  “That’s okay.”
 
“You ever been married?” Gabe asked, running a hand through his floppy, damp hair.  
 
“No,” Dean huffed with a bewildered grin.
 
“Good for you, man.  Stay single.  Or not married.  Whatever.”  Gabe turned back to Cas sharply.  “So, Kali has the audacity to say that I’VE been sleeping around!  ME!  Like her fucking women or men when she goes home to India is just expected!”
 
Cas raised his eyebrows in mild surprise.  Mild only because Kali was a crazy bitch in his book.
 
“I told her she was nuts!  That she was the one sleeping around!  Shit.  I’m too fucking busy to keep up with her, let alone have flings on the side!”  Gabe began pacing again.  “She said we should look at next summer as a possible date to get married.”
 
“Gabe,” Cas interrupted.
 
“Never fear, little bro.  I told her I was done.  Told her to keep the fucking ring and just forget my name and number.”
 
Now Cas was truly surprised.  “You told her that?”
 
“Yep,” Gabe snapped, popping the p and pacing away, shoving his hands into his jean’s pockets.  “Told her to keep whatever I gave her and stay the fuck out of my life.”
 
Cas frowned with worry.
 
“I’m done!” Gabe yelled, hands flying out in a show of enthusiasm.  “I’m a free man!”
 
Cas watched Gabe carefully, searching for the tiny cracks sure to show through his cavalier wall of indifference.  The tiniest twitch of the corner of his mouth gave him away.
 
“Gabe, I’m so sorry.”
 
“No you’re not.  And neither am I.  I dodged a big fucking bullet with that one, Cassie.  She can stay in India for all I care.  And I don’t.  Care.” Gabe insisted vehemently.
 
Cas nodded slowly, worried Gabe would change his song the next time he spoke to her.  She had a way of flipping Gabe off and on like a switch.
 
“Don’t you think if you’re about to get married, your significant other should be, oh, I don’t know...excited?” Gabe blurted, aiming the question at Dean.
 
Dean’s eyebrows raised in mild surprise as his hands moved slowly to sit his mug on the stacked lumber.  “I would hope so,” Dean offered.
 
“See? I’m not nuts!” Gabe went on, pacing again.  “She acts like our wedding is some kind of strategy between me and her parents to cage her in!”
 
“She’s not right for you, Gabe,” Cas insisted, not for the first time.  “Getting married should be a joy.  Not a problem.”
 
“Agreed,” Gabe said forcefully.
 
Dean watched the pair of them as he pulled his damp t-shirt back on.
 
“Dude,” Gabe changed gears, addressing Dean again, “you don’t have to get dressed on my account.  Or his.” He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder, pointing at Cas.
 
Dean half smiled, perching on the stack of lumber to untie his boot.  “Sounds like this chick is doing you dirty, man.”
 
Gabe sighed.  “Doing me dirty isn’t the problem.  She can DO me dirty any day of the week, if ya know what I’m sayin’.  But I’m not sharing my wife-to-be with the seedy, rich fuckers she parties with when she goes home!”
 
Dean snorted a laugh, focusing on retying his boot.
 
“So, the wedding is off?” Castiel clarified.  “Do you need me to do anything?”
 
Gabe plopped down next to Dean on the stack of boards.  “Yeah.  I need you to punch me if I even consider going back to her.”
 
Cas took a few steps further into the tent, closer to the men.  “That sounds easy enough.  What about notifying your guests?”
 
Gabe wilted.  “That’ll be fun.”
 
“If you have the guest list, I can try to start making calls when we get home,” Cas offered.
 
Gabe leaned forward, his elbows drilling down into his knees as his hands covered his face.  “I can’t believe I fucked this up so bad,” he muttered through his hands.  His shoulders gave a tell-tale buck.
 
And then came the tears.
 
Dean, watching him with a slightly shocked frown, turned to Cas.
 
Cas wanted to say something to make the situation less awkward, but what the hell?  His brother, who never cried about anything, was breaking down.  His heart broke as a sob slipped from Gabe.
 
Dean’s attention was back on Gabe.  “It’s better you know now, man.  At least she didn’t take half your money.”
 
Gabe’s hands dropped as his head shook side to side.  “What good is money if you don’t have anyone to share it with?”
 
Cas stepped closer, kneeling in front of his brother.  “She never shared anything, Gabe.  All she did was take.”  He looked up, realizing Dean had turned, sat down, and had his arm around Gabe, rubbing his shoulder.  Only Gabe would assume all his problems onto a total stranger like this.  His eyes moved back to Gabe as he reached forward, squeezing his knee gently.  “You are better off without her, Gabriel.  Trust me,” he said softly.
 
Gabe nodded, swatting tears off his cheeks.  “You’re right.”
 
“I’m sure it doesn’t feel very good right now, but trust me, Gabe, you will find love again.”
 
Gabe nodded pitifully, tipping toward Dean and letting his head drop on the stranger’s shoulder.  “Sorry, Dean.  We don’t even know each other.”
 
Dean patted his shoulder only looking mildly awkward.  “Get it out, man.  You can do better.”
 
Gabe sat up, meeting Castiel’s eyes for the first time since he had sat down.  “Why aren’t I enough?”
 
“Aw, Gabe,” Castiel sighed, letting his brother tip forward and fall into a hug.  “You are many amazing things.”  He rubbed circles into his back.  “You are going to make someone very happy someday.  You have so much love to give.”
 
Gabe sat back up.  He sighed, wiped his face and sat up straighter.  “Thanks for the pity party guys.  I’m gonna...take a walk.”  He gave Cas a shaky grin.
 
Cas got to his feet as Gabe did, hugging him briefly before he walked out of the tent.
 
Cas stood there, watching the flap sway back inward.  The rain poured down and thunder rolled.
 
“He gonna be okay?” Dean asked, still sitting on the lumber, eyes on the flap as well.
 
Castiel sighed.  Gabe was always okay.  Right?  The man was born lucky.  He played harder than any kid and always seemed to smell like roses no matter what kind of shit he rolled in.  “He’ll be fine.”  Castiel was sure of it.  Pretty much.  “He might not see it right now, but he’s better off.”
 
He turned to Dean with a nervous rub to the back of his neck.  “Sorry for the...”
 
“Man-drama?” Dean grinned.  “No problem.”  He got to his feet, taking his empty mug in his hands.  “How’d he know who I was?” Dean frowned, looking over at him.
 
Castiel blushed slightly.  Everyone knew who Dean was.  He was beautiful.  He was an amazing carpenter.  And he was quiet and steady.  “I, uh...everyone knows everyone here, I guess,” Cas shrugged.
 
Dean gave Cas a hesitant nod.
 
Castiel grinned.  Dean had no idea who he was.  It did not surprise him.  Dean pretty much stuck to his work and the local men he was training.  He licked his dry lips, stepping forward with his hand out-stretched.  “I’m Cas.”
 
Dean’s green eyes warmed as he took his hand in a firm handshake.  “Dean.”
 
Castiel could feel the rough skin of his fingers.  He had a notion to turn the hand palm up and marvel at the callouses, tracing his lifeline with his index finger.  He quickly shoved the notion aside, knowing he had already lingered a few seconds too long.  He released the hand, ducking his head shyly.  “Hello, Dean.”
 
He looked back up as Dean chuckled slightly, gripping the mug in both hands.
 
“That was my brother, Gabriel,” he added nervously, not wanting the quiet encounter to end.
 
Dean nodded, looking toward the flap of the tent.  “Guy seems pretty torn up.  I take it he was going to marry that lady?”
 
Cas sighed, slipping his hands into his pockets.  “Thankfully, it looks like the wedding is off.  I hope it stays that way.  He has a tendency to...stray back to Kali.  I hope this time he stays strong.”
 
Dean nodded.  “It’s pretty cool you did this with your brother.  Wish I could talk mine into coming with me on one of these trips.”
 
Castiel smiled warmly.  “Is your brother a carpenter as well?”
 
Dean beamed.  “He’s got the skills.  We grew up doing this kind of work.  But no.  He’s a lawyer.”
 
Castiel gave him an impressed nod, seeing how proud of him Dean was.
 
“He’s only been working for a year.  The schooling takes forever.”
 
Castiel nodded.
 
“Who knows, maybe in a few years I can rope him into coming along with me.”  Dean shrugged, tapping his palm to the bottom of the mug.
 
Thunder rumbled louder and the rain fell even harder, hitting the tent so hard they had to raise their voices to hear each other.
 
“How many trips have you done with HFH?” Castiel asked, enjoying every second of watching the man in front of him.
 
Dean pulled his clinging t-shirt away from his chest in an attempt to dry it more.  “This is my second international trip.  Went to Mexico last year.  I’d go more but...” he grimaced at the cup in his hand, “I really hate flying.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “Gabe talked me into coming.  This is my first international trip.  I don’t mind flying...I just mind...” he hesitated, not wanting to sound rude, “people.”
 
Dean laughed.  It was a chuckle that bloomed into a rich laugh, easing the tension in his face and allowing crinkles to form by his eyes.  “Me too!”
 
Castiel found himself grinning.
 
Dean sighed from the laugh.  “So...what do you do?  Around here, I mean.”
 
Castiel licked his dry lips again, feeling a warmth spread through his chest.  “I’m an interpreter.  I speak Portuguese.  Among other things.”
 
Dean gave him an impressed grin.  “Huh.  Portuguese.”
 
Castiel shrugged.  “Seven different dialects of Spanish.”
 
“Wow.  I mostly stick to ‘here’, ‘get the...whatever tool I need,’ and ‘thank you’.”  Dean grinned.
 
Castiel grinned, knowing a slight blush crept up his cheeks.  Dean was ridiculously handsome.  There wasn’t a single gay vibe about him though, and Castiel would never have the nerve to broach such a sensitive topic.  He still bore the physical scars of making that mistake once before in his younger years.
 
“Where are you from?” Dean asked, sitting down on the stack of lumber again.  He fanned his shirt away from his abs and back, giving Castiel tiny, fleeting peeks of his smooth skin.
 
“Um...Chicago,” he managed, clearing his throat.
 
“Yeah?  I lived there for a few months when I was a kid.”  He laughed short and bitter.  “I lived damn near everywhere for a few months when I was a kid.”
 
Castiel wondered about that.  But he didn’t want to dig or make Dean rethink talking to him.
 
“It’s a beautiful city, but I’ll be glad to leave it.”
 
Dean looked up at him with a perceptive smirk.  “People?”
 
“Mm,” Cas nodded, blushing again and looking down at his own sneakers.  “It’s very crowded.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Yeah.  And cold in the winter.”
 
Castiel looked back up at Dean.  “I hate the cold.  I prefer warm.  Maybe not quite this warm,” he added, glancing at the wall of the tent.
 
“Right?  Something between frigid and jungle?”
 
“Yes,” Castiel laughed.
 
“I’m living in Pennsylvania now.  It has all four seasons and no major natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes.  It’s a pretty good spot.”
 
Castiel felt his warm, fuzzy mood spread all the way to his fingertips.  “I’ve never been there.  I’ll have to visit the state some time.”
 
“Yeah.  Skip Philadelphia and Pittsburgh go for the pretty spots.  Like Gettysburg, Amish country around Lancaster.  No beaches.  Plenty of lakes and mountains though.”
 
Castiel nodded.  He never wanted to go somewhere so badly before.  With Dean by his side.  “Long road trip,” he mumbled.
 
“What?” Dean asked.
 
“I just mean...” Castiel frowned at the slip.  He pulled himself back in, checking himself for sharing too much.  “Sounds like a good road trip.”
 
Dean slouched back against the stacks of wood, giving up on the damp shirt.  “That’s my favorite way to spend a long weekend.  Road trip.  Sometimes me and Sam just head out.  No destination.  Just the road.”  His thumb ran a smooth stroke down the shiny metal cup.  Castiel swallowed hard, adjusting for the twitch of interest his dick had taken in the simple movement.  He hoped to god Sam was a dog.  His luck, it was short for his gorgeous wife, Samantha. Wait, he had said he was never married.
 
He cleared his throat.  “Sam?”
 
“My brother,” Dean grinned, his entire face lighting up again.  
 
“Ah,” Castiel grinned back.  He couldn’t help himself.  Dean’s grins were contagious.  Dashing.  The sun of someone’s universe.
 
Dean stood up.  “Hope Gabe makes out okay.”
 
Castiel nodded.  A cold rush dropped through him, realizing Dean was leaving.  “Thank you, Dean,” he said quietly, wishing with all his might that Dean would sit back down.
 
“See ya around, Cas.”
 
“Bye, Dean,” Castiel waved lamely.  He watched, helpless to move or say anything, as Dean ducked out of the tent.  A breath whooshed out of his chest.  Fuck.  He was hot.  Like centerfold of the year, scintillatingly hot.
 
Castiel ran a hand through his hair, the other hand landing on his hip.  He should have said something!  Done something!  He flopped onto the stack of lumber, staring up at the tent ceiling.  
 
There was no more pounding from the rain.
 
He stood up and headed for the door.  He pushed the flap back, stepping outside.  Humidity hung in the air so thick that it pulled through his lungs like a weight.
 
There was no sign of Dean.
 
He headed back to the tent where Chuck had said to meet.  He stepped inside, searching the crowd for Gabriel.  He was not surprised to see he was not there.  Gabe was not one to get down for long, but his almost-marriage had ended.  The reality of it tugged at Castiel’s heart.  He stepped to the side, taking a seat at one of the tables.  Chuck was already at the front of the little room, ready to give out directions for the remainder of the day.  
 
He jumped, practically yelping, when a hand landed on his shoulder with a solid pat.  His eyes lit up with delight as Dean squeezed close to him to take the empty chair by his side.
 
“Hello, Dean!”
 
“Hey!  Long time, no see,” he grinned.  His eyes twinkled with a light that Castiel was mesmerized by.  The smell of coffee jerked his senses into action.  And yeah.  That was why his mouth was watering...
 
Dean looked at his mug of coffee.  “You want some?” Dean asked.
 
“I, I have a mug.  Yes,” Castiel nodded, getting to his feet swiftly.  He looked at the coffee station with trepidation.  It was a wild happenstance that Dean would sit next to him.  If he left, he might lose his seat.
 
He glanced down, seeing Dean watching him with curiosity.  He gave him what was probably a nervous grin as he stepped around his chair and headed for the small table.  An assortment of mugs hung from a pegboard of hooks.  He reached for his, high on the top row, and waited his turn at the giant coffee altar.  As he finally stepped up to fill his mug, he watched as Jo, a pretty, young blonde pulled HIS chair out.
 
Dean looked up at the girl and smiled.  “Cas is sitting here,” he said simply.
 
She smiled down at him, moving away easily enough.
 
Scalding heat seared his hand and he jerked it away, hissing at the offending coffee pot.  “Dammit,” he muttered, sloshing a bit more and wincing.  He turned away, pointedly not looking to see if Dean saw his fumble.  He sat the cup down, looking at his hand.  Two red welts rose.  One on his thumb and one along his index finger.
 
Way to go, assbutt.
 
He poured some coffee out to make room for all the creamer and sugar he required.
 
Finally done, he walked back over to Dean as Chuck began talking.
 
He got into his seat quietly, keeping his burnt hand under the table.  Dean turned to him, his eyes darting down to the hidden hand.  Castiel ignored it, staring at Chuck, trying to pay attention.  
 
Chuck listed the main events for the rest of the day, making sure everyone knew their parts.  They had been doing this for days now, and the group functioned like a well-oiled machine.
 
Chuck told them all again how wonderful they were doing and ended the meeting.  As the room broke out into loud chatter, Dean leaned over to him, making Castiel’s breath catch.  
 
“I bet that hurt like a sonofabitch.”
 
Cas grinned slightly.  Caught.
 
“You okay?” Dean asked, watching him closely.
 
“Yes.  I’m fine,” Castiel murmured.
 
“You uh, busy?” Dean asked.
 
Castiel met his green eyes, trying not to show how desperately he wanted to stay in the man’s orbit.  “Wh- what do you mean?”
 
“So, I been workin with these four guys, and I can barely say shit to them.  It might help if you were there to do some translating.  If you have time.”
 
Castiel tried not to grin as much as he felt it erupt from his soul.  “Yes.  I can do that.”
 
Dean grinned back mildly.  “Okay.  You know where we’ll be.”  He got up, heading out of the tent.
 
Castiel deflated back into his chair.  He couldn’t believe his luck today.
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2:  Food For Thought
 
 
 
Dean marveled at the ease with which Cas spoke Portuguese.  The minute the guy came over and started talking to the four men that had been his shadow for days, they opened up like babbling fountains.  It was good to see Cas relax too.  The guy seemed so uptight sometimes.  He had seen him around before.  But he had thought he was one of the head honchos.  Seeing him now, he realized how necessary it was to have translators around.
 
Dean taught the men more that day than he had the past several days.  With Castiel explaining everything, letting them ask questions, everything flowed even smoother.
 
By evening, the house was enclosed with drywall and flooring.  It was insane to see how fast they could move.  Tomorrow it, and several others, would be wired with electricity and some of the finishing touches like doors and windows installed.
 
Before he got in the van to go back to his host family’s house, Dean made sure to find Cas in the dwindling crowd.  As he spotted him, it occurred to him that he loved the way Cas smelled.  He made a mental note to ask him what he uses that smells so damn good.  There was a sweet orange trace to something that smelled...well, he couldn’t really place what it was.  Delicious came to mind.  But that wasn’t quite right either.  Warm?  Comfortable?  He couldn’t put his finger on what the smell was, but it was good.
 
“Cas!”
 
Cas turned around, his blue eyes lighting up as they always did.  “Dean.”
 
“Hey man, thanks for all the help today!”  He patted the guy on the shoulder, watching as he ducked shyly.  He took another whiff of the smell that was becoming something he craved being around.  Okay...awkward.  Stick to the job, ya weirdo, he scolded himself.  “I think those guys learned a lot today!”
 
“They did,” he nodded, grinning up at him.  “You are a very good teacher.”
 
Dean stepped back, shoving his hands in his pockets.  “Eh, I don’t know about that.  But they sure understood a lot more with you there.”
 
Cas took the kindness with a shy grin.
 
He chuckled at how awkward the guy was.  He turned to head toward his van, but stopped, taking two steps back to him.  “How’s your hand?”
 
“Fine,” Cas shrugged.
 
Dean narrowed his eyes, snagging the man’s hand to look at it.  His hands weren’t as smooth as he expected them to be.  The red blisters had drained already and all that was left was two red rough patches of skin.  “Guess you’ll live,” he grinned, letting his hand go.  He looked back up, seeing Cas gape at him slightly.  “You seen Gabe yet?”
 
“Uh...who?” He stammered.
 
Dean chuckled.  The guy must be fried.  “Your brother?”
 
“Oh!  Uh, yes.  Yes.  He’s uh...he’s going to be fine.  I’ll check on him more tonight.”
 
Dean nodded.  “See ya tomorrow!”  He left, jogging over to the awaiting van, sliding the door shut.
 
Rick, his host and one of the men he was teaching every day, gave him a big grin.  “Hongry?” Rick asked.
 
“Yeah!” Dean nodded.  “Starving.  Yes.  Sim.”  His Portuguese sucked, but he had at least learned yes (sim), no (não), and thank you (obrigado).  Everything else he pretty much just pointed, modeled, or gave the international look of non-understanding distress.
 
His host family was fantastic.  He ate like a king every night and slept like a rock.  The bed was awful, but it didn’t matter.  He was too tired to care.  And he knew it was the best they had.  He was thankful for all the help they gave, even though he was the one there giving them help.
 
 
The next day was a repeat.  Work.  Break during the morning rain. Work. Lunch. Work.  Break during the evening rain. Work.  Eat.  Shower.  Pass out.
 
The only thing different was how well he was getting to know people.  Claire and Jo had been hanging around him all day.  Cas and Gabe were around more too.  He let his trainees do more of the work today, taking more of a supervisor role.  His aching knee thanked him.
 
The last big day of work went pretty much the same.  The major carpentry projects were all done.  He helped install windows and doors and then got roped into moving some appliances.
 
He was absolutely exhausted when he dropped into bed that night.
 
Friday was spent moving more appliances and even some furniture.  The houses were presented in a ceremony and he was only a little surprised to see Cas up on the platform translating the speeches Meg and Chuck gave.
 
He could not help but grin at how happy Cas looked for all the people receiving houses.
 
They attended a huge dinner that night with more food than he could even fathom eating.  He sat with Jo and Claire.  They were a pair of blonde smartasses with hearts of gold.  Cas and Gabe were milling about with the big wigs, making sure everybody was fed and lavishing praise on everyone.  He did not want nor need praise.  Giving his tools to his four new friends today had been all the thanks he needed.  Knowing those four guys could do a lot more on their own now than they could before he got here, was more than enough.
 
Dean jumped slightly as a hand landed gently on his shoulder.  He turned, seeing Cas standing behind him, still talking to Gabe and one of the Brazilian workers.
 
Without really thinking, he reached up, covering Cas’ hand with his.
 
Cas, mid spiel to the Brazilian man, stopped, grinning down at him.  Dean dropped his hand, feeling odd about it somehow.  It was a weird gesture, and not really like him.  He blamed it on the now familiar, and still alluring scent the man had.
 
Cas picked up in his speech, pointing to Dean.
 
“Hey, no fair!  You’re probably saying terrible things about me!” Dean laughed, still looking up at the them.
 
“I’m telling him how amazing you were here,” Cas grinned down, squeezing his shoulder gently.
 
“This guy!” Gabe yelled, pointing at Dean as well, “This guy worked like an energizer bunny!”
 
Dean shook his head.  Gabe was always over the top when he talked about any of the volunteers.
 
“We never would have pumped out ten houses without Dean!” Gabe went on, Cas translating effortlessly.  “HFH needs to just hire him so he’s working full time with us!”  Gabe looked directly at Dean now.  “Speaking of which, you are signing up for another trip, right?”
 
Dean flushed with all the ridiculous attention.
 
“Probably,” he admitted.
 
“Definitely!” Gabe argued, grinning and moving on with the little group.
 
Cas grinned down at him again.  “You should definitely sign up for more trips.”  He gave him one last squeeze and moved on with the group.
 
Dean shook his head, grinning.  He turned back to the mirthful grins of Jo and Claire.
 
“What?”
 
Jo shrugged, still grinning.  Claire narrowed her eyes, still staring at him.
 
“What!” He demanded.  “Are you going to do more trips?”
 
“I don’t know.” Jo shrugged, a slight pout pulling her lips.    “I wasn’t personally invited,” she grinned, popping another bite of food in her mouth.  
 
“Shuddup.”  Dean shook his head.  “Better yet, you, young ladies, should definitely sign up for more trips.  There.  Personally invited.”
 
Jo laughed as Claire went back to her dinner, taking a drink and going back to her food.  “I probably will.”
 
“Good.  We should coordinate.  At least I would know someone when I got there.”
 
Jo raised an eyebrow.  “Are you flirting with me, Dean Winchester?”
 
“God, no!” He scoffed.  “You can find someone your own age, I’m sure.”  He lowered his voice, leaning closer conspiratorially, “how ‘bout Ronnie?”  Both their eyes moved over to Ron Reznick.  He was a chipper, energetic guy.  He would tell anyone that would listen that Brazil was known for its shapeshifter population.  Dean was sure he was full of other outlandish conspiracy theories and believed aliens probed him at night as well.
 
They both cracked up laughing.
 
“He’s a good guy,” Dean laughed.
 
“I know,” she laughed back, “but there’s two problems with that.  One, he’d turn me into some kind of monster hunter.  And two, he dates dudes.  Wrong equipment here.  You on the other hand...”
 
“I don’t think so,” Dean chuckled.  “I’m not...no.”
 
“What’s so funny?” Gabe piped in, shoving his way into the table between Jo and Claire.  “I’m freakin’ starved!  All this talking and I missed dinner!”
 
“Where’s Cas?” Dean asked, wondering if he missed dinner as well.
 
Gabe grinned, watching Dean for a few seconds.  “He’s coming.  He couldn’t wait to get over here.  And eat.”
 
Jo grinned down at her plate.
 
Dean frowned at all of them.  
 
“Hello, Dean.”
 
“Hey!”  Dean moved over, making as much room for him as he could in the crowded hall.  “Did you eat?”
 
“No,” Cas shook his head, twisting open a bottle of water to take a long drink.
 
“Here,” Dean shoved his own plate in front of Cas, spooning more food onto it.  He had already had seconds himself.  At least he could feed him.
 
Gabe glanced over at Jo.
 
“Don’t even think about it, slugger.”
 
He eyed Claire’s plate, meeting her eyes.
 
“I will stab you.”
 
“I see how it is,” Gabe laughed, stealing a slice of potato from Cas’ plate.
 
“Tha iso gud,” Gabe groaned.
 
Cas pulled what was now his plate closer to himself.  “Get your own, Gabriel.”
 
“Yeah, yeah.  I see how this is working out.”  He stuck his tongue out at Dean and Claire and got up to find a plate.
 
They all laughed as Gabe sweet-talked their hosts into a clean plate and silverware.
 
Dean grinned, stealing a piece of sausage from Cas’ plate with no retaliation from Cas.  He merely grinned and pushed the plate between them.
 
“Dude, you took my fork too?” Dean laughed.
 
“I was really hungry,” Cas grinned impishly.
 
Dean shook his head.  Cas was...cute.  In a brotherly sort of way.  He had shared food with Sam plenty of times.  If Cas didn’t care about swapping spit, then why should he?
 
He plucked a carrot from the plate and popped it into his mouth with a grin, making Cas smile all the harder.
 
“You guys should ride with us tomorrow, don’t you think, Cassie?” Gabe said, once his plate was full and he was happily eating.
 
Tomorrow was their one day to go sightseeing while they were here.  There were two different excursions to choose from.  One was a day at the beach, the other was a day in Old Town.  Then they would fly home on Sunday.

“Yes!”  Cas nodded emphatically.  Eyes wide and startlingly blue, he dabbed at his mouth with the back of his hand, mouth full.  “What excursion are you going on?”
 
“I don’t know,” Dean admitted.  “I wanna see the beach.  But there’s no way I wanna be there all day.  Old Town, I guess.”
 
“I’m goin’ to the beach,” Gabe grinned, shoveling another bite in.  “Come hang out with me, Dean-O.  Cassie is gonna try to talk you into going to Old Town and do all his super nerdy shit.  Trust me, Dean.  Beach.”
 
Dean grinned.  Up until two days ago, he figured he would be at the beach or downtown alone.  He knew he wasn’t always the most approachable guy.  Somehow, Gabe had steam-rolled right past that and suddenly Dean had a little group of friends.  He absolutely felt like a high schooler.  
 
“I’m all about the beach,” Jo sighed, sitting back to look at Claire.
 
“Definitely beach,” Claire nodded.
 
Chuck happened to be walking by and stopped to smile down at the group.
 
“Where ya goin’ tomorrow, Chuck?” Gabe asked, shoving another potato in his mouth.  
 
“Where are you going, Gabe?” Chuck rebuffed.
 
“Beach!”
 
“Guess I’m goin’ to the beach,” Chuck grinned.  He waved, heading toward another table.
 
“See, Dean, it’s gonna be fun.  You gotta talk Cas into coming to the beach too.”
 
Dean flicked his gaze to Cas, who sat quietly chewing, a chunk of meat.  His grin jumped at one corner of his mouth, their eyes meeting patiently.
 
Neither said anything, but Dean could tell Cas wanted to go to Old Town and he didn’t care what anyone thought.  
 
Gabe leaned forward.  “Scantily clad bodies as far as the eye can see,” he waggled his brows, “surf, beach volleyball, they bring the drinks TO YOU.”
 
Dean grinned wider.  The beach was sounding more appealing.  He took the loaded fork off Cas’ plate, stealing his bite.  He gave Cas an expectant look.
 
Cas cleared his throat subtly, picking up the fork again to get another bite of the grilled meat.  “There are lots of places to eat in town.”
 
Dean chuckled short.  “Sold.”
 
“Oh come on!” Jo laughed.  “You’re going to ditch us for food?!”
 
Dean and Cas exchanged a grin.
 
“What can I say.  I love food.”
 
“Whatever,” Gabe snorted.  “Well, good for you, Cassie.  But I’ll warn you, Dean, that food comes with a lot of walking, at least three museums, and probably long conversations with strangers in another language about the history of whatever.”
 
Cas frowned.
 
Dean chuckled.  Cas was by far the nerdiest friend he had ever had.  “You promise good food, Cas?”
 
Cas’ face lit up again as their eyes met.  “Promise,” he managed around a bite.
 
“Have fun at the beach ya bums.”  Decided, and knowing he wouldn’t spend the day totally by himself in a strange country, Dean felt quite happy with his decision.
 
“We’ll have fun,” Cas assured him quietly.
 
“I won’t have sand in my shorts, so I’m already ahead of them,” Dean grinned, stealing a chunk of onion.  “You plan the day.  I don’t really care what we do.”
 
Cas nodded, taking another bite.
 
 
 
********************************************************
 
 
 
Castiel came out of the bedroom he was sharing with Gabriel in their host house.  He grinned at the host family’s youngest daughter, who frequently shadowed him as much as her mother would allow.  She was shy and had barely said ten words to him the whole time he was here, but she always found a way to be near him when he was at the house.
 
In Portuguese, he thanked Mary for another wonderful breakfast.  His host family was not in a tiny house outside a village, like he had expected.  It was an apartment in a large building midway into town.  The family took in HFH members as charity through their church.  Recife was a booming city.  The poor were destitute, while a city grew and thrived around them.  The gap to help the poorest population was too wide.  Their poor neighborhoods were slums.  They had given quite a bit on this trip.  And maybe they had improved three neighborhoods and built some lucky families new homes, he knew they were far from fixing the social issues here.  But a drop in the bucket was better than nothing.
 
Gabe came to the table, hugging Mary and kissing her cheek, speaking fluent Portuguese as well.  “Ready for your date?” He asked, sitting down with his bowl and cup of juice.
 
Castiel frowned.  “It is not a date.”
 
“Dude, you were eating out of the same plate last night.”
 
Castiel blushed at the memory.  And yes, the fork was packed in his suitcase.  He was not a thief.  He was sentimental.  “I am quite sure Dean is straight,” Cas said quietly.  He hated to admit it.  But as flattered as he was that Dean had chosen him over the others, he was sure it had more to do with food and quieter company than any kind of romantic feelings.
 
Gabe studied him quietly.  “You might be right.  He’s damn fine to look at though.”  He grinned, winking at Cas, making him chuckle.
 
“Yes, he is,” Cas admitted shyly.
 
 
They met up with the rest of the HFH members early in the morning to take the proper bus to their excursion.
 
His breath caught, as it always seemed to, when he saw Dean weave through the crowd.  The moment their eyes met, Castiel grinned, waved, and chided himself to calm down.
 
Before Dean could reach him, Gabe swooped in, throwing an arm around him.  “Dean-o!  Last chance!  Wanna join the fun people at the beach???”
 
Dean shook his head, patting Gabe’s back.  “Nope.  Watch out for the sharks.  I hear the water is infested.”
 
Gabe laughed, letting go.  “Have fuuuun,” he taunted.  “Take care of my baby brother,” Gabe said more sternly.
 
Dean stepped over to Castiel, putting an arm around his shoulders.  Castiel tried not to shudder at the incredibly close touch.  “I’ll take good care of him.”  Dean slid his sunglasses on suavely, looking at Cas.  “You still promise to feed me, right?”
 
“Yes,” Castiel answered automatically.  They were so close, he could smell peppermint on his breath.
 
Dean jostled him in his arm.  “We’re gonna geek the shit outta Brazil,” Dean laughed.
 
Gabe shook his head.  “The sexiest bodyscaping has the word ‘brazil’ in it.  They have their own TINY cut swimsuits!  Brazil is KNOWN for the world’s hottest chicks and kinky sex.  And you’re going to museums.”
 
Dean grinned.  Cas could spy crinkles from the corners of his eyes behind the sunglasses.
 
“You do you, Gabe.”
 
“Yeah, yeah.  You do my brother then.”
 
Dean laughed, not fazed by the comment that had Cas wanting to strangle his brother.
 
“Smile guys!” Meg yelled, holding a camera up.
 
Castiel turned slightly, grinning at Meg as she snapped a picture.  Dean pulled his sunglasses off, hugging Cas tighter to him for another picture.  It wasn’t until Meg walked away that Cas realized he had his arm around Dean as well.  He made a mental note to contact Meg for that picture.
 
Dean stepped back quickly, clapping him on the shoulder as he slid his glasses back on.  “Let’s roll.”
 
Castiel threw a last look at Gabe, conveying his look of ‘Oh my god, did you see that?’
 
Gabe smirked back.  “Good luck,” he said quietly, only so Cas could hear.
 
Castiel boarded the bus behind Dean, not letting them get separated for even a moment.  Had he been wrong?  Was Dean bi or gay?  He should know better than to try to make assumptions about people, but damn it, it would answer a lot of questions!
 
He followed Dean into a seat, sitting snuggly against him, as the seats only allowed so much room.  For the first time, it occurred to him that he was alone with Dean.  All day.  He would have to think of things to say.  Know what to do if Dean got bored.  He would be all alone to read the situations he and Dean got into.  These were all the little things Gabe usually smoothed over for him.
 
Dear God.  This is why he didn’t date.
 
He sucked at it.
 
But...this was NOT a date.
 
“You forget somethin’?” Dean asked quietly.  “You look worried.”
 
Cas schooled his face into a grin as he turned to Dean.  “No.  I’m good.  I just...”
 
“People?” Dean asked, grinning.
 
Cas blew a breath out.  “Yes.”  Oh how well Dean already read him.  This was bound to end in disaster.
 
“We got this,” Dean grinned, letting his head tip back against his seat, eyes closing with a peaceful grin.
 
We.  Cas bit his lip.  He wanted to ask him if he was into men!  Pleeeeeease be into guys...
 
The bus started moving and a tour guide told them lots of fascinating information about Recife and how it had become a booming city, host of many sporting events, and a technology-industry hub.  The beautiful beaches and convenient port brought a lot of travelers long ago.  Brilliant artists and thinkers who left their stamp on the city.
 
The bus dropped them off in Recife Antigo, the historic neighborhood.  Dean had appeared to listen to little of the tour guides interesting facts, perking up at the mention of battles and places to eat only, but he seemed quite settled to watch the scenery, pointing several interesting buildings out along their route.
 
They stepped away from the crowd, Dean following him with an easy grin, hands tucked in his jean pockets.  “Where to?”
 
“Well,” Castiel pulled out his map and list.
 
Dean chuckled.
 
“I like to be organized,” Castiel admitted.
 
“Good thing one of us is,” Dean smiled.  “You just remind me of being with Sam.  He always has our route all marked out.”
 
Cas relaxed a bit.  If he reminded Dean of Sam, that had to be a good thing.  “I thought we’d start with a walk heading south toward Recife’s museum of Art.”
 
Dean nodded, looking neither thrilled nor horrified.  The wind shifted, ruffling his hair into a crazy mess.  Dean got that curious, interested look he sometimes got from him.
 
“Hey, Cas, I been meaning to ask you somethin’.”
 
Cas braced himself for sharing pretty much anything about himself for fear Dean would find him no longer interested in hanging out with him for the day.  
 
“What cologne or body wash do you use?  You always smell so damn good.”
 
Bombs like that should come with warning labels.  Jesus.  Cas did his best to not trip over himself, stare or blush.  But he was definitely blushing.  Dean thought he smelled good!
 
“Uh, it’s my own mix of essential oils.  And whatever body wash is on sale.”  He tried for a nonchalant look but when he glanced over at Dean, his brow was furrowed.
 
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.  Oils.  But if you could bottle that shit and sell it, you’d be rich.”
 
Cas did have to grin at that.  “I’ll get right on that when I get home.”
 
They walked several strides in silence before Cas had the brain function to say as nonchalantly as possible, “Thank you, by the way.”
 
“I’m a smell kinda guy,” Dean declared, easy grin still in place.  “If my nose likes it, I’m usually on board.”
 
Fucking hell already!  On board for what exactly!?
 
“The cobblestone streets are awesome,” he remarked, his eyes skirting all over the street and nearby buildings.
 
Cas grasped onto the change in subject.  “I take it you like architecture,” he remarked, seeing how Dean’s eyes lingered on building facades.
 
“Yeah.”
 
They walked quietly side by side down the busy street, both watching the day to day life of Brazil go on around them.  
 
“I had no idea this place was so urban when I signed up to come,” Dean said as a string of taxis and cars passed them.
 
“Me either.  Well, not until I researched it.  I’m hoping my next trip is somewhere more rural.”
 
“Yeah?  Me too.”
 
They spent almost an hour at the museum, Castiel getting some souvenirs of art postcards.
 
“I love this one,” Dean said, pointing to a sunset landscape, the ocean water captured to look like a slick jewel spread out like icing along the sand.
 
“The colors or the medium?” Castiel asked, intrigued by what Dean found pleasing about it.
 
“Um...the colors.  The moment.  Ya know?  Just...bliss caught in nature.”
 
Castiel grinned.  Was it possible to fall in love with someone you hardly knew?
 
“And this.  This is my favorite.  I saw this back in the gallery and it just...got me.”  Dean pointed to a black and white painting that had been featured by a newer artist in a much bigger format in the gallery.  It was a close-up shot of a man’s hand holding another hand.  The gesture behind it was vague enough to leave the interpretation to the viewer.
 
“What does it make you think of?” Castiel asked, quite curious.
 
Dean shrugged.  “I don’t know.”
 
It was clear that the piece immediately took him somewhere.  A lover, friend, his brother, a loved one...it was impossible to tell.  But the look was tender.
 
“Ya can’t tell anything else about them except that they love each other.”  Dean said quietly.  “See how their wrists stay together.  Total trust.  Equals.”  The look of awe flitted away quickly.  He glanced at Cas, a look of embarrassment flushing his face.  “I don’t know.  It’s cool.”
 
Castiel grinned, looking away to save Dean further embarrassment from an apparently rare moment of introspection and sharing.
 
Castiel tucked a small copy of the print along with the beach one amongst his own favorites.  Dean moved out to the less crowded lobby while he paid for his things.  He grinned to himself the entire time.  
 
Joining his new friend in the lobby, Castiel could not help but grin.
 
“What?” Dean asked.
 
He shrugged.  “I’m having fun.  Who knew the big, tough carpenter would be such a good nerd partner?”  He immediately ducked his head shyly at his use of the word ‘partner’, not having meant it like that.
 
“Ha!  Guess I’m used to being the cool one stuck with the nerdy one.  You gotta meet Sam someday.  You’ll see.  He would love this shit.  If he had come, no doubt you two would hit it off.”
 
They stopped next for a malted chocolate shake, sharing one to save room for trying more things to eat and drink along their travels.  Castiel tried not to let his heart attach to this man.  But as the day went on, it became a lost cause.
 
 
 
*****************************************
 
 
 
The third museum toured, their fourth stop at a food establishment, and they were wandering down a riverside walk.  The weather was hot, but not terrible.  Cas rambled on to a woman who had shared a taxi with them. Dean had no idea what the two were talking about, but every now and then, Cas would blush and shake his head no, explaining away in Portuguese.  Gabe’s words had apparently been very accurate.  He smirked at the thought.  There was probably a quite scenic volleyball game going on.  Sam would roll in a fit of laughter when he heard he had passed up the beach for art.  Okay, the food was definitely helping.  They snacked and sampled their way all over Recife.  
 
“Hey, there’re boats,” Dean pointed.  “Is that our next stop?”
 
Castiel shook his head, pulling his tattered list out of his cargo shorts.  “There’s a synagogue I’d like to see a few blocks from here.”
 
Dean stopped, Cas stopping with him to peer up at him.
 
“Let me see this,” Dean grinned, taking the list.  “Man, you have neat handwriting.”  The small letters were so even and uniform that it almost looked typed.  They had done almost everything on the list, only three more places left to see.  “Where’s the map?”
 
Castiel handed him the map, watching him shyly.
 
Dean scoured the map.  “Okay, tour director, we’ll do ONE synagogue and the rest of the day is on me.”
 
Dean flashed him what he hoped was a winning smile, handing him back the list and map.
 
“Okay,” Cas agreed, his own smile growing as he looked a little more relaxed.  “Deal.”  He pointed to the map.  “This one.”
 
“Okay!  First stop, whatever this joint is right here.  That smells so good!”  The heavy scent of beefy goodness lured Dean right off the street, Cas laughing behind him.  The restaurant was tiny, tucked in the basement of a building, with dim lights, carpet and cloth tablecloths.  They were early for dinner and took two seats at the bar.
 
“Order whatever it is that smells like that!” He waved a hand in the air, taking a deep breath.  
 
Cas relayed his message to the waiter, who ginned and nodded.  He turned to Dean, amusement light in his eyes.  “One order of whatever smells so damn good, coming up.”
 
Dean nodded with a grin.  “We’re goin’ on the boat next.”
 
“It’s ten euros just to ride across.  Each,” Cas warned him.
 
“I don’t care,” Dean shrugged.  “Then we’re going to that place with a star on the map.  Eat.  Then boat back across, see your synagogue, hit a pub.  Eat.  Then back to the bus.  Sound good?”
 
Cas grinned, his eyes watching him with such curiosity as they always seemed to.  “That sounds perfect.”
 
“I wanna get Sam something for his office too.”
 
“Are you regretting not going to the beach?” Cas asked, sipping his Sprite.
 
“Nope.  You?”
 
“No,” Cas grinned down at the glossy bar.  The dim lighting reflected along strands in Cas’ messy hair.  He ran a hand through it, looking a little tired.  Dean was starting to feel all the wear and tear on his feet from all their walking as well.  Especially after days scaling beams and ladders and basically working his ass off.
 
“If I had one more day, I wouldn’t mind swimming in the ocean.”
 
The quiet thought bothered Dean.  He was not sure why he liked this guy so much.  But he did.  He was so good to people.  Caring, without being a bleeding heart about it.  And he was very smart, about a lot of cultural things.  He was quiet, but funny.  And he seemed to watch life around him the same way he did.  Like life was pretty damn interesting when you looked around at it.
 
A plate of beefy smelling meat over noodles arrived.  It was lined in snap peas and topped with a sauce that made Dean’s mouth water instantly.
 
“Man, that smells so good.”  He got his fork out, stabbing a cube of meat.  The burst of flavor was strange and good.  “Mm.  Try it,” he coaxed Cas.
 
Cas took another fork getting some noodles with sauce.  “Mm.  That sauce is good.”
 
“Try the meat!” Dean insisted.
 
“No thank you,” Cas laughed.
 
“You aren’t a vegetarian.  Try it!”
 
“I don’t eat goat.”
 
Dean looked down at the plate.  Goat?  Okay, he had never eaten goat before.  He looked back up at Cas, who was smirking.  “You ordered me goat?”
 
“You wanted it,” Cas laughed.  “You were quite adamant.”
 
Dean considered his thoughts.  “It’s good.  You have to try it.”
 
“No,” Cas laughed, backing up slightly.
 
Dean took three more bites of noodles and goat before he couldn’t take it anymore.  “Try it,” he laughed, stabbing gently at Cas’ fork.
 
“Uh, no.”
 
“Caaaas!”  Dean stabbed a bite and aimed for Cas’ mouth.
 
“No!” Cas laughed, grabbing his wrist.
 
“Eat it!  I swear you’re gonna like it!”  Dean laughed as he pushed harder, making Cas laugh even more.  Finally, he took the bite, his eyes squeezing shut.  Dean watched as his face changed from ‘ew’ to ‘okay, I’m not dying’, to ‘mm’.  “Uh huh!” Dean laughed sitting back.  “It’s good.  Isn’t it?”
 
“It’s okay,” Cas begrudgingly admitted.
 
Dean leaned in, still licking sauce off his own mouth.  “Are you saying if I made this, you wouldn’t love it?”
 
Cas’ blue eyes went a little wide.  “I would,” he said quietly.  “It’s...delicious.”
 
Dean quirked his brow.  Cas was an odd duck sometimes.  
 
He sat back triumphant in his win.
 
“Try the snap peas,” Cas said, looking down at the plate again.  “They are so good.  I bet they’re fresh.”
 
“Pass,” Dean said, taking another big bite of the meat, growing more and more used to the different taste.  When he had swallowed it, he noticed Cas patiently waiting with a forkful of snap peas.  “Dude, no!”
 
The most adorable mischievous look swept over Cas’ face before he launched at him with the fork.  “I tried yours!”
 
Dean laughed, not fighting him off hard at all, taking the forkful of green...yum!  “That is good!”
 
Cas backed up to his stool again with a triumphant little grin, taking a bite of noodles, peas, and meat.
 
They finished their meal more sedately after that.  Dean was feeling odd about his new friend.  He kept watching him out of the corner of his eye, noticing a slight flush to his face for the rest of the meal.
 
Back outside, they made their way to the boat launch, where small gondolas took you across the river to a different section of town.  This section seemed busier and much more urban than the historic architecture of Old Town.  
 
An interesting tile mosaic piece in a shop window stopped them.  It was at least six feet tall, made of some of the most interesting and beautiful tiles Dean had ever seen.  The image in the center was a mermaid with white, flowing hair and crystal blue eyes.  Her scaly body was made of a multitude of colors and patterns, giving the impression that she was under water.
 
Cas got a quirk of a grin on his face.  Dean was lost in his own thoughts.
 
“I have a love/hate relationship with mermaids,” Dean said sedately, still staring at her solemn face.
 
“Do tell,” Cas grinned.
 
“Ugh.”  Dean steered him away from the window with a hand to the small of his back, fending a way into the crowded pedestrian traffic for them both.  “So, when I was six, I wanted to be a mermaid for Halloween.  I may or may not have been going through a pirate phase at the time.”  He gave Cas a side grin.  “My dad flipped the fuck out when I told him.  I didn’t know there was anything wrong with it.  I mean, I was six!”
 
“There is nothing wrong with that,” Cas insisted steadily.
 
“Well my dad thought it was stupid or childish or who knows.  Beat my ass bad that time.”  They walked a few steps before he went on.  “I rebelled in my own six-year-old way and got a mermaid toy anytime I could find one.”
 
“Your father sounds like mine.”
 
Dean looked over at him.  “I hope not.  Did you grow up in and out of foster care?”
 
“Foster care?  No.”  His brow drew down.  “I used to pray I would go into foster care.  Be adopted by someone who actually wanted children.”
 
Dean did not respond to that.  That was a rather personal and way too touchy subject to get into.  So they both had parent issues.  Noted.  Move on.
 
Except now he kinda couldn’t seem to move on.  A woman pushing a stroller walked past them, forcing them closer for several strides.  “When Sam was seven, I bought him a whole bunch of mermaid toys just to piss my dad off.  We dug a hole, filled it with water and had mermaid battles.”  Dean thought back to the beating he took for that.  Not only had he been playing with girl toys, he had taught Sammy to play with them too.  And then they tracked mud all through the motel room they were staying in.  Plus, the motel manager said something to him about them digging a hole on the side of the parking lot.  “My dad tried to make us grow up way too fast.  I fought hard to teach Sam to be a kid for as long as he could be.  Dad would get on his ass about playing with toys and I’d come right behind him and tell him to keep playing.”  Dean watched the people coming and going about their day as they walked.  “Life is a lot of work.  Never stop playing.  I still harp on him about it sometimes.  He’ll get all wound up with lawyer shit and I’ll make him go bat some balls or go to the park and throw a frisbee.  You always feel better after you play.”  He glanced over, seeing Cas was listening and nodding.
 
“I like it.  Keep playing.”  He nodded like he was adding it to a to-do list.  “I too have a love/hate relationship with mermaids.  And all things magical for that matter.”
 
“Really?” Dean frowned.  How was it that he had stumbled onto someone who he had so much to talk about with?
 
“My parents were very strict.  And religious.  Gabriel and I were not allowed to celebrate any holidays, except what our church deemed worth celebrating, which was always just more charity work.  Don’t get me wrong, I love charity work.  But when all your other friends talk about what Santa brought them, and all you’re taught is Santa is Satan and anyone who believes in him is going to hell, it skews your childhood.  Anyway, we weren’t ever allowed to read or watch or even talk about anything magical or mythical.  Therefore, as I got older and began to question all the insanity they preached, I loved anything mythical.  Still to this day, I feel like I have to justify that it’s okay if I like mermaids.  Or unicorns.  Or wizards.  So...when I saw that back there, I still had to tell myself it was okay.  Believe in something magical.”  He shrugged his shoulders.  “Just...enjoy the tales for fairytale sake.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Guess you weren’t into Harry Potter then.”
 
“I was VERY much into Harry Potter.  Gabriel or I would buy whatever book had come out and read them in secret.  We thought we were such rebels.”  He chuckled the same way Dean would chuckle at his own childhood stories.  Laughing on the outside and rocking a crying child on the inside.
 
“So, keep playing and believe in a little magic.”
 
Cas beamed a grin at him.  It might have been the strangest thing he ever connected with a person about, but there it was.
 
They stopped at a few shops, buying some gifts.  Cas steered them toward the ‘thing with a star on the map’, which turned out to be a grotto where they were playing live music.
 
They found a table, getting beer from a stand that had set up for the event.  They watched as locals danced to the Frevo style music.  A woman wearing a bright colored skirt and a skimpy white top pulled Cas onto the dance floor that had been set up.  Cas shyly tried to comply with her teaching but pulled it off only minimally.  Dean laughed as Cas blushed and attempted her moves.  He was starting to get some of the steps when the tempo changed to something slow and he stopped, telling her something.  She hugged him with a kiss to his cheek before he made it back to the table.
 
“That was entertaining!” Dean laughed.
 
“I’m sure,” Cas huffed, siting heavily and chugging the rest of his beer.
 
“I got some good pictures!”  Dean slid his phone over, showing him a few good shots he had gotten.  “I’m sending this one to Meg!  Bet you end up on an advertisement somewhere!”
 
Cas laughed, sliding the phone back over.  “Dean, we spent way more time here than we meant to.”
 
Dean checked his watch.  “Yeah we did.  We better head back so we don’t miss the bus.”
 
They gathered their bags and headed back to the small boats.  The gondolas were quiet, especially after the loud festival they had stumbled into.  The seat sat low in the boat and felt like a couch.
 
The man paddling with the long oar turned and said something.
 
“No, no,” Cas said sadly, looking out over the water.
 
“What did he say?” Dean asked for what seemed like the millionth time that day.
 
Cas hesitated, glancing at him.  “He asked if we were dating.”
 
“Oh,” Dean frowned.  “Two dudes can’t spend a day together?  Wait...was that what the waiter asked too?”
 
Cas blushed, “He did, yes.”
 
Dean frowned harder.  “Do I look gay?  People can’t just hang out anymore!”
 
“Dean,” Cas laughed.
 
“Must be my long lashes.”  Dean dropped his head onto Cas’ shoulder batting his eyes up at him.
 
They both laughed, Dean righting himself.  As Dean watched the sunset on the river, he wondered why people were so damn nosy anyway.  He settled into the seat, watching the nearing shoreline.  The soothing smell of Cas’ miracle oil blend filled him with a sense of peace and happiness.  He really needed to figure out what exactly that smell was.  He wanted to take it home with him.
 
“Look,” he said softly, pointing to the sunset.
 
Cas looked at the purplish sky and smiled.  “It’s beautiful.”
 
Dean nodded, sighing.  He felt so content in that moment.  He tried to bottle it in his mind.  Savor it and store it for cold, lonely moments.  It really had been an amazing day.
 
 
 
************************************
 
 
 
Once ashore, back in Old Town, Castiel felt exhaustion creep over him.  It had been such a wonderful day with Dean.  Attraction aside, he really enjoyed Dean’s sense of humor and his perspective on life in general.  But the week prior to this one had been hectic.  This week had been a whole new level of work.  He was having such a good time and his body was giving in.
 
“You look tired, man,” Dean said as they headed toward the bus stop.
 
“I am.”  He gave Dean a smile he hoped was a more energetic than he felt.
 
“It was the gondola,” they both said, laughing.
 
“Fuck this.  I’m gettin’ a taxi.”  Dean stopped and looked behind him on the busy street.
 
“I’ll be fine!” Castiel insisted.  It was too late though.  Dean let out a loud whistle, waving down a taxi.
 
“Come on, Cas!”  He jogged a few steps, opening the taxi door.
 
Castiel rushed to join him, sliding across the seat.  He sighed as the taxi pulled away from the curb and Dean gave him the address of the bus stop.
 
“My feet thank you,” Castiel grinned, melting into the wide, deep seat.
 
Not hearing any answer from Dean, he opened his eyes to find the man staring at him.  Dean quickly grinned and looked out the window beside him.  Their hands were a mere inch apart on the seat and Castiel’s hand itched to move over and take his.
 
If only.
 
They got to the bus stop with twenty minutes to spare.  They sat on a nearby bench to wait for their ride.  Dean stood up, Castiel watching him.
 
“Watch my bags, would ya?  I’ll be back.”  He started away from the bench, turning back to him.  “Don’t let the bus leave without me!”
 
Castiel gave him a thumbs-up, watching him walk away.  He grinned, noting his bow-legged stride and just how good his ass looked in those jeans.  He sighed as Dean disappeared in the crowd.
 
Some people he recognized as HFH volunteers started to gather near the bus stop.  He sighed, feeling almost sad to be going back home tomorrow.  He was glad he had tacked three days onto his leave, giving him some recovery time at home before going back to work.  He hoped Dean had done the same.
 
As the bus arrived ten minutes later, he gathered his and Dean’s bags and stood at the end of the line to board the bus, watching nervously for Dean.
 
When there were only two people ahead of him in line, he spotted Dean weaving through the crowd with two cups and a bag in his hands.
 
He got on the bus, getting them a seat, stowing their bags at his feet.  Dean, last one on, sat next to him.
 
“Man.  I didn’t think I was gonna make it.  Here.”  He handed him a cup, the unmistakable, blissful aroma of coffee clinging to it.
 
“Thank you, Dean!”  He smelled it.  It smelled like strong coffee with traces of vanilla and caramel.  “That smells amazing.”
 
Dean grinned, settling into his seat.  “So...I had an idea.”
 
Castiel looked at Dean again as the man slunk down in his seat slightly and leaned so close their shoulders were pressed tight together.  
 
“What?” Castiel asked, grinning.
 
“I say we sneak out tonight and hit the beach.”
 
Castiel knew his eyes went wide.  Sneak away?  Go to the beach?
 
“What are they gonna do?  Arrest us?” Dean chuckled.
 
Castiel laughed at the ridiculous notion and from his nerves at Dean’s close proximity.  “No...I suppose they won’t arrest us...”
 
“Come on!” Dean teased, rocking his shoulder into him.
 
“You are a bad influence.”  Castiel steadied his coffee.
 
“Come on, Cassie!”
 
That just felt wrong and Castiel furrowed his brow at him.
 
Dean frowned.  “Cassidy?”
 
Castiel shook his head no.
 
“Casper.  Caaaaassssanova.”
 
“No and no,” he grinned.
 
“Castor.”
 
“No.”
 
“Hm.”  Dean took a drink of his coffee.  “Casiger.”
 
“That’s not a real name,” Cas laughed, loving this game.  Because even when Dean said his name wrong, it still elicited a tiny thrill inside him.
 
“Marcas.”
 
“Now you’re way off,” he chuckled, taking a drink of his coffee, savoring the rich blend of flavors.
 
“JaCass,” Dean grinned.
 
“No.”
 
“How do I not know your name?” He laughed.  “Shit.  I don’t even know your last name.”
 
Castiel smiled.  “Dean Winchester, you should really know who you spend a day with.”
 
Dean arched an eyebrow.  “How is it everyone knows my name and I don’t know anyone’s names!  I need to pay more attention.”
 
“Would you like me to tell you?”
 
“No.”  Dean took another drink, moving over to his own side of the seat a bit.  “Okay.  A hint.  Does it start or end with Cas?”
 
“It starts with Cas,” he yawned, taking a long drink.
 
“Cas, Cas...” Dean muttered quietly, making Castiel grin.  Tiny waves of swirling joy bounded around inside him every time Dean said his name.  “Casporilla.  Casican.  Casitopia.”
 
 
 
Castiel woke up to the bus brakes hissing and squealing to a gentle halt.  Dean was talking to the guy across the aisle.  As he talked, he nonchalantly had one hand on Castiel’s cup, steadying it.  Dean’s hand partially covered his.  His gaze swung up to Dean nodding and saying something, laughing.  All the while, his hand steadily held his cup.  He grinned, unable to stop himself.  
 
The door to the bus opened and people began standing.  With his empty hand, he touched Dean’s hand, one, to let him know he was awake, and two, because it was the perfect excuse to touch him.
 
Dean turned to him, grinning.  He let go of the cup.  Castiel’s sigh of happiness turned into a great yawn as he woke up more fully.
 
Dean seemed in no rush to move, and neither was he.  He drank more, willing the caffeine to take effect.
 
Finally off the bus, Dean stepped out of the crowd as Chuck began talking about when and where to meet in the morning.  
 
“Guess we’ll have to hit a beach another time,” Dean offered.
 
“No!  I’m good.  I got a nap.”
 
“You’re good?”
 
“I’m good!”
 
“Okay...” Dean looked around the crowd.  “How are we gonna do this?”
 
“I have an idea,” Cas grinned, nudging Dean’s elbow.
 
The pair left the crowd.  Castiel made a point to finish his coffee, knowing he needed the energy boost.  He found Miguel, one of the Brazilian contacts, and waved him over.  He explained what he and Dean wanted and that he would pay him to take them, give them half an hour beach time and deliver them both to their host houses.  He promised they would not try to surf or go out into the ocean very far.
 
He turned to Dean with more excitement than he had felt in quite some time.  “We got a ride.”
 
“YES!  You are the man, Cas!” Dean hugged him, stepping back quickly.  “Are we leaving now?”
 
“Right now!” Cas laughed.
 
Miguel snickered at the pair of them.  Castiel hated sitting up front, but he felt rude if they both sat in the backseat.  The drive took half an hour.  He kept glancing back as he and Miguel chatted.  Every time he turned around, Dean stuck his tongue out at him.  Miguel never caught it, and every time he managed to evade the man’s gaze in the rearview mirror, it became funnier.
 
The car finally pulled over along a stretch of road.  Castiel turned back to Dean, just glimpsing the pink tongue slip back in and they both laughed.  “Miguel is picking up some supplies for his shop while he’s here, so we have to meet him right here in forty-five minutes.”
 
“Awesome.”  Dean got out of the back of the car, Castiel getting out his door.  He thanked Miguel and had to race to catch up with Dean, who had taken off running.
 
They had left all their bags in Miguel’s car.  All they had was the clothes they wore.  He caught up to Dean, who had come to a stop on the sand. The ocean sounded peaceful.  The moon was full and gave them enough light to see each other in pale gray hues.  Light reflected off the peaks of waves in the water.
 
“We don’t have swimsuits,” Castiel said, the thought just now occurring to him.
 
Dean laughed, pulling his shirt off.
 
“Come on, Cas!”
 
Castiel pulled his t-shirt off, suddenly very glad for every mundane workout he had ever put himself through.
 
“Can’t ride back in Miguel’s car wet,” Dean muttered, pulling his pants and boxers off with one swift move.
 
Castiel’s mouth went dry immediately.  He watched in a dumb-founded trance as Dean stepped into the tide buck naked.  
 
Oh fuck.
 
He hesitated, knowing there would be no hiding his interest in Dean.  And what the hell?  Who really skinny-dipped?  Was he actually going to do this?  Was it even legal?
 
Who gave a fuck?!
 
He tugged his shorts and boxers down, pushing his shoes and socks off.  He had a majorly stern discussion with his dick to stay put and waded out farther.
 
“It’s cold!” Dean hissed as a larger waved washed over their calves.
 
“We gotta go all in or bail out now,” Castiel reasoned.
 
“Fuck!” Dean exclaimed, higher pitched than normal.
 
Castiel laughed as he watched Dean dive in.  The water hid him completely, looking inky black in the night.  He ran a few steps and dove in.
 
Cold swirled and tugged him, shocking his system.  He burst above the water, gasping more from the cold than holding his breath.
 
“So fucking cold!” Dean laughed a few feet away from him.
 
“Yes!” Castiel agreed.  “Where are you, Dean?”
 
“Right here,” he said, closer to him.  “I can’t see shit out here.”
 
“Me either,” Cas gasped, taking a wave to the face.  He spluttered the salty water, feeling Dean reach out and grab his arm.
 
“You good?”
 
“Ya,” he coughed, laughing. “This is much harder in the dark.”
 
Dean’s hand changed to more of a hold than a tight grip.  They bobbed there for quite some time, listening to the night and the ocean around them.
 
“This is crazy,” Castiel laughed.
 
Dean’s grip slipped as an unseen wave pushed him off balance.  From the sputtering, he too had taken a wave to the face.
 
Castiel swung an arm out, grabbing his forearm tight to secure him to the spot.  Dean coughed and laughed as they took a few steps closer to shore.
 
“I’m good,” he coughed.
 
“You sound terrific,” Cas joked, pulling him toward shore one more step.  An errant tide shoved Castiel in front of Dean, the pair steadying each other.
 
“Okay,” Dean sighed with a laugh, “we should -”
 
Before Cas could warn him, a fairly big wave crashed over Dean’s shoulders, pushing him forward onto Cas, the pair falling and rolling with the wave.
 
More concerned with each other’s safety, they groped and struggled as waves pushed them toward shore.
 
Castiel managed to get to his feet, lifting Dean out of the water to get to his own feet.  They both gasped, gripping each other just above the elbows.
 
Dean’s hair stood in spiky points, swirled on one side and sand clung to one side of his face.
 
“Are you okay?” Castiel asked, wiping the sand off his own face, still holding onto him tightly.
 
“Yeah.  You?” He asked,
 
“I’m fine.  I think we better stay ankle deep.”
 
“No kidding!”
 
The pair stepped apart.  
 
“Dude,” Dean started laughing, “Your hair is insane!”
 
“So is yours, as short as it is!”  The pair laughed, wading back in just deep enough to rinse sand off.            
 
“Dean!” Castiel yelled, standing up and grabbing Dean’s arm, pulling him to his feet.
 
“Shit!” Dean gasped, both men running up to the shore from another big wave.  “Ugh!  This was a bad idea!”
 
“It was YOUR idea!”  Castiel was hit with a fit of laughter.  Dean looked like a cat that fell in a tub of water.
 
“What’s so -” Dean sputtered into a laughing fit as well.
 
The pair staggered onto shore, leaving the water behind.
 
“I have sand...everywhere!” Dean heaved out through fits of laughter.  “Everywhere!”
 
Castiel laughed so hard he tripped in the thick sand, tumbling down onto it.  “It’s everywhere!”
 
Nakedness forgotten, barely knowing each other forgotten, Dean pulled Cas to his feet again.  It was a good few minutes before either of them could manage to say anything without slipping into another fit of laughter.
 
Catching his breath, Castiel ran a hand through his hair.  “We...I have to rinse off before I get dressed.”
 
“Fuck,” Dean sighed, voice high with laughter still only a thought away.  “Okay...let’s do this.”
 
“Just in and out,” Cas warned.  A loud waved crashed onto the shore.
 
“I’ll go when you go,” Dean said, still catching his breath from all the hard laughing.
 
“Come on.”  Castiel took Dean by the hand.  “I’m not losing you just so our clothes don’t have sand in.”
 
“Dude,” Dean started to pull away, but another wave crashed loudly before their feet, rushing over their shins.  His hand gripped his tighter.  “Alright.”
 
Castiel watched as best he could, timing their entry just right.  He pulled Dean with him as they stepped further in.  “Now!” He yelled.  They ducked into a gentler swell, letting the water wash away some of the sand.  Standing quickly, they went back up to shore semi rinsed.  Castiel had let go of Dean’s hand as soon as they turned to head back up.
 
They both pulled their boxers on and stood, letting the breeze off the ocean dry them.  Castiel’s heart was racing.  It had nothing to do with surviving the sea.  It had everything to do with Dean Winchester.
 
Maybe he had been wrong.  Maybe Gabe was right.  Maybe this had been a date of sorts.  Maybe...just maybe Dean was as interested in him as he was in Dean.
 
There had been so many touches today.  Simple, easy touches, like a hand to his back or arm to keep them together in a crowd.  A few accidental brushes of hands as they walked or sat.  And then there was the moment with the goat meat.  He could swear Dean hesitated, their eyes locked, both their mouths parted in the moment of tussling.  The grabs in the ocean.  Then there had been a total body brush in the ocean.  Skin on skin.  Chest to chest.  Groin to groin.  And yes, it had been totally by accident and really scary for a second...but it had happened.
 
They were dressed.  Gritty from the remaining sand sticking to them, but it was the best they could do for now.
 
They stood there silent, watching the waves break and rumble in the dark.  The moon looked pearly white and the stars were so clear he could pick out four constellations easily.
 
“There’s the southern cross,” Castiel pointed, breaking the silence.
 
“Huh.  I’ve never seen that before.  In real life.”  Dean swayed a little closer to him as his head tipped back, looking up.
 
“Dean?” Cas whispered.
 
“Yeah?” Dean answered just as softly, looking at him.
 
Castiel froze, not knowing what to say, but wanting badly to say something.  “Are you...if I...” he frowned, trying to find the right words.  
 
Dean narrowed his eyes a fraction and leaned a little closer.
 
No words were coming, and he was going to lose the moment if he didn’t just...
 
Castiel leaned over and kissed him.  The swift press of mouths was followed by a look of shock from Dean.  Castiel searched Dean’s startled face with a sinking feeling in his stomach.
 
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3:  Salty
 
 
 
Salty.
 
That was his first thought.
 
His eyes closed in a natural response to being kissed.
 
Cas was kissing him.
 
That was his second thought.
 
His eyes opened and he stared at Cas in shock.  The man had just...kissed him!
 
“What the hell, Cas?” He stammered, his brain unable to put together what had just happened.
 
Cas’ eyes went wide. He stepped back looking terrified.
 
Dean took a step back, so baffled by the man’s action that he couldn’t even register another thought.
 
“I’m sorry,” Cas said just loud enough to hear.  “I...I thought maybe...”
 
“You thought I wanted to kiss you?” Dean asked.  How had that happened?  What would make the guy think such a thing?
 
Cas’ head dropped, his hands going to his already crazy hair.  “I am...so sorry if I misread the situation!”  His arms crossed over his chest and the easy friendship between them seemed to shatter.  Cas actually looked scared of him.
 
Dean, frozen to the sand, just watched in a total daze as Cas turned away, heading for where Miguel would come pick them up.
 
Dean looked back out at the ocean, as if the answer were bobbing in the waves or written in the stars.
 
Maybe they were.
 
For the first time, he realized just how romantic this was.  A beautiful summer night, skinny-dipping, the moonlight.  “Oh shit.”
 
Cas was already at the edge of the road where Miguel would come.  He looked hunched in on himself and still had his arms crossed tightly across his chest.
 
Did Cas think he would hit him?  Maybe he did.  It was a pretty big friggin’ mistake to think he could just kiss him!  Plenty of guys would deck someone for such a brazen move.
 
But Dean had no inclination to hit him.  Or anyone.  His feet finally kicked into motion, leading him straight to Cas.
 
Cas immediately faced him, watching him warily and stepping back.  The movement reminded him of how he and Sam used to be around their dad.  There was some history of abuse with this man.
 
Knowing better than to reach for him, Dean stayed a few steps back, putting his hands in his pockets.  “Cas, I’m sorry if I made it seem like there was something going on between us.  I didn’t, I mean...I wasn’t...ugh.  I didn’t know you were gay, for starters.  And I didn’t mean to be flirting if you thought that’s what I was doing today.”
 
Dean cringed inwardly.  Everything he said felt wrong and not good enough.
 
“Cas,” he said gently, “it’s okay.  I mean...I didn’t want to kiss you but...no harm no foul.  Ya know?”  He tried to smile but felt more like running from the awkwardness than actually dealing with this.
 
But it was Cas.  And he really liked him.
 
Cas nodded.  “Okay,” he said quietly.  “I apologize-”
 
Dean held a hand up slowly, shaking his head with more of a real smile.  “It’s okay, man.  I’m good.  Are you good?  It’s no big deal.  Let’s...let’s not make this a big deal.  Alright?”
 
Cas nodded.  His shoulders relaxed a bit, but he kept his arms hugged tight across his chest and watched him very carefully.
 
How had their awesome day turned into this?  
 
Before he could articulate anything else, headlights swept across them both, highlighting the worried blue eyes and fear that the gentle moonlight had been hiding.
 
No more was said as they got in the car.  Dean felt shell-shocked from the event.  He didn’t know how to feel, or what to do with any of his thoughts.  More than anything, he was worried about Cas.
 
There were no peeks to the backseat as they drove.  No joking around.  His conversation with Miguel was much more professional than the playful guy he had been on the way to the beach.
 
Dean felt like he had handled the entire thing wrong.  Like he had missed something blatantly obvious all day.  What exactly had given Cas the idea that he liked him like that?
 
Dean stared out the window, replaying the day in his mind.  They had talked plenty.  Easily too.  He had told him about the art he liked and teased him about being nerdy.  Like Sam.  Like friends.
 
Then he thought about the goat meat dish at the restaurant.  Okay...maybe...
 
He watched Cas’ silhouette up front.  He had put his arm around him today.  Held doors for him.  Put his hand on Cas’ back.  His leg.  Shared some tight spaces.
 
Shit.
 
Why had he touched the guy so much?  That wasn’t even like him.
 
And then he had invited him to sneak away and skinny-dip.  His head dropped back with a sigh.
 
Okay.  So maybe he could see where Cas had gotten the wrong idea.
 
Cas’ stop was first.
 
“He’s taking you home next,” Cas said, barely glancing at him over the seat.  “Have a good flight home.”
 
Dean frowned.  That was it?
 
Cas got out of the car.  Dean got out two seconds behind him.  He ran around the back of the car, grabbing Cas’ arm.  He let go immediately.  Dammit!  Why did he keep touching him?
 
“I’m sorry for the mix up, Cas,” Dean spoke quietly.  Urgently.  “I can see why you thought that.  I just...didn’t know.  Please...don’t hate me for not knowing.”
 
It wasn’t quite the message he wanted to get across, but it had enough of an effect.  Cas’ face softened and his arms relaxed.  “No, it was me.  I should have asked before I did such a thing.”
 
Dean grinned.  “Okay.  So...are we good?” He asked slowly, smiling and hoping Cas could move past it.
 
Cas grinned and nodded, only traces of embarrassment left.
 
“Good.”  It came out in a relieved whoosh and Dean hugged him.
 
Startled, it took Cas a second to catch on, and he hugged him back, his hands curling around him so warmly that it almost hurt Dean somewhere inside.  Somewhere in his chest, an ache formed.  It knotted and he hugged Cas a little tighter.
 
It didn’t make sense.
 
None of it.
 
They parted.  Dean stepping back quickly with an awkward wave.  “See you tomorrow!”
 
“Okay,” Cas said quietly, a shy grin crossing his face as he watched him get in the car and pull away.
 
“What the hell did I just do?” He muttered.  Miguel just smiled at him with a happy nod.
 
He felt...so confused.
 
Miguel said something to him.  Dean, now sitting where Cas had been, looked over to the man.  “I understand you about as well as I understood Cas.”
 
Miguel said something and smiled with a nod.
 
Dean smiled weakly back at him.  Ooohhh damn.  He could feel it.  Like an ominous wet blanket draped over his shoulders.  He was doing something really wrong.
 
He took a deep breath, smelling the faint trace of citrus and that mysterious essence that was Cas.  Why did he love that smell so much?
 
What the hell was happening?!
 
 
He thanked Miguel when they got to his host-family’s house.
 
He came in quietly to not wake their children, and after a quick thank you to Rick and Marta, he had a shower and went to bed.  Everything he did, he did in a daze.  He replayed the day a hundred times in his head.  Cas had danced with that lady!  But...neither of them had talked about whether or not they were married or dating or who they had dated in the past!  Because...you don’t have to talk about that shit when you’re just hanging out!
 
Dean tossed in the bed.
 
Did Cas think the whole day out was a date?  If so, Dean had to consider himself a lousy date.  
 
Why hadn’t Cas just said something?!
 
Dean moaned aloud, thinking about all the times he had touched Cas.  And even when he had yelled at himself about it, he had hugged Cas goodbye!  Why??  Talk about mixed signals!
 
He should apologize for that and tell Cas that they were just friends.  They could be friends!  
 
Over and over in his mind, he ran through the past week.  Maybe Cas wasn’t as awkward of a guy as he had thought.  He handled himself just fine while he was translating in front of crowds and while working with the four guys, translating while building the last house.  It was when he was around him.  All the flustered looks, the blushing, the stammering.  
 
Dean rolled over again.
 
And why was he so freakin’ worried about it anyway?  The guy screwed up.  He had set him straight.  It was over!  They would be fine and if they worked another trip together, they could still work together.  Hang out together.
 
Yes, they would be fine.
 
 
 
**************************************
 
 
Dean hated flying.  He hated everything about it.  He hated handing over his luggage, wondering when or if he would see it again.  He hated airports with their crowds and strange little shops.  He hated the paperwork that went with flying.  Tickets.  Checking apps to sign in.  He hated the big windows that looked out onto the planes as they pulled up to their terminal.  He hated sitting in a seat, crammed next to someone he didn’t know.  He hated the way they drove around the runways like giant buses.  He hated taking off, changing pressure, the whoosh the air made throughout the cabin.  The speeches about what to do if you were falling into the ocean.  
 
All of it.
 
On top of his hatred for flying, he had barely slept after the miscommunication with Cas.  He was really worried that Cas would never speak to him again.  The longer he worried, the more he wondered why he was SO worried about it.  Normally, he couldn’t give two shits if someone liked or disliked him.  But Cas...well...it mattered, damn it!
 
He had already been through security.  His suitcase was who knows where in the mysterious workings of airport life, and he pulled Chuck aside at the terminal.
 
“Hey Chuck,” he grinned politely.
 
“Morn-”
 
“Do you know where Cas is?  Gabe’s brother Cas.”
 
“Oh, he must be on another flight.”  Chuck read down through his list.  “Uh, yeah, he’s with another group.  Yeah, their flight leaves in ten minutes from gate A4.”  Chuck looked up at him.  “Why?”
 
“I, uh, I forgot to give him something and I probably won’t ever see him again,” he explained, already in route to the A gates.  Never again?  What if he didn’t ever see Cas again?
 
Panic rose in his chest at the sickening thought of never seeing him again.  And he was too tired to worry about what that meant!
 
He dodged around families and lost-looking travelers. He swerved through streams of people, tripping twice on pull-behind carry-on bags.  Finding the A gates, he dodged into the waiting area, seeing people moving in a slow line to board a plane at A4.  
 
“Cas!”  
 
Did he miss him?  He missed him!  Oh no, no, no!
 
A mop of messy hair turned, and people stepped back to give him room.
 
He was still here!
 
As Cas turned around, his sad blue eyes lit up at the sight of Dean.  “Dean!” He stepped out of line, leaving Gabe’s side.  
 
“I just...” the words died in his mouth as Cas came to a stop in front of him.  Eyes all for him, bright, wide, so fucking blue it made you stare.  It hit Dean like a ton of bricks.  A wave of recognition swept over him.  He did not want to say goodbye to Cas.  He liked him.  His chest damn near seized up at the thought of kissing him again.  Why did he want to kiss him again?  His eyes dropped to his mouth, flicking back to his eyes.
 
Cas’ smile brightened a bit.  “Dean, are you okay?”
 
“I’m...yeah.  Yes.  I wanted to give this to you.  I bought it yesterday and forgot to give it to you.”  He felt himself blush profusely as he handed the small bag over.  
 
Castiel took the little brown paper bag, looking down into it with a boyish grin.  
 
An announcement over the speaker called Cas’ flight for final boarding.
 
Cas pulled a pewter mermaid figurine out of the bag.  A soft look covered his face.  “You bought this for me?”
 
“Yeah,” Dean nodded shyly.  “I...I got myself one too.  To remind me of what you said.”
 
Cas blushed a little, holding his up to chin height, “Keep playing.”
 
Dean grinned.  Cas had remembered.  He had been listening.  His chest felt tight.  He couldn’t believe he might never see him again.  “Believe in something magical.”
 
The look in Cas’ eyes warmed.  “Thank you, Dean.”
 
“I...I wish you were on my flight.  I wanted to talk more.”
 
Dean almost laughed at the statement.  He was glad Sam was not here to hear that.  
 
Cas grinned, looking to the gate as people filed in.  He put the mermaid in the bag and looked at Dean a bit more confidently than he had since the kiss.
 
“I just wanted to give you that.”  Dean saw that the line was disappearing quickly.  Cas needed to go.
 
“I will always remember you when I see mermaids,” Cas grinned, a hitch to his soft laugh.
 
Remember you?  Cas was leaving!  Dean shook himself, but felt absolutely lost on what to do next.  He wanted to hug him, but he didn’t want to send the wrong message and confuse the guy.  He wanted to get on the plane with him, knowing he could survive the flight so much better with him by his side.
 
Not knowing what else to do, his chest near to bursting, he put his hand out for a handshake.
 
Before Cas could reach it, his smile taking on a sad tilt, Dean stepped into him instead, kissing him.
 
Startled, Cas gasped, pulling back only a fraction.
 
Dean thought his heart would race right through his chest as he stared straight into those blue eyes.
 
Cas looked so shocked.  But it only lasted a second.  He quickly met his lips again with his, pressing more firmly.
 
Still in a bit of shock that he had initiated this, today’s shock factor was not as harsh as the first time.
 
Stubble.
 
That was different.
 
His lips felt strong, soft, warm, and like they were made for his mouth.
 
The final boarding call was announced again.  Cas gasped and Dean opened his mouth to him.  His hands slid up Cas’ shoulders and into the back of his hair.  He felt one of Cas’ hands do the same to him, the other, holding his bag and ticket, circled around his waist.
 
The kiss ripped everything away that he had thought he knew about himself.  He pulled back with a small gasp.
 
They announced another final call with a note of irritation in the attendant’s voice.  Dean felt Cas grip him a bit tighter.  “Goodbye, Dean.”
 
Dean stared as the man took a step back, searching his face with a mixture of as many emotions as Dean had rampantly swirling in his head.
 
“Bye, Cas.”
 
Dean watched helplessly as Cas handed the flight attendant his ticket.  He turned to give Dean one last look.  He waved, stepping into the tunnel.
 
Dean’s chest immediately deflated.  He turned, sitting on a bench along a large window, staring at the plane standing there waiting.  Taking Cas away.
 
What the hell was happening to him?  He just kissed a guy!  A guy!
 
The ramp was taken away from the plane and the door closed and locked.  He looked back at the gate, hoping for one wild moment that Cas had come back.  That this...whatever it was, wasn’t over.
 
Cas did not come.
 
The plane left.
 
He made his way back over to his group at his own gate.  Chuck gave him his carry-on back.  He had not even realized he had left it.  He thanked him and sat down to wait, feeling oddly empty and yet so full.
 
He took one of the empty seats, staring blankly at his own shoes.  His knee bounced with his racing thoughts.
 
 
 
***********************************
 
 
 
Castiel stowed his bag quickly in the overhead and took the seat next to Gabriel.
 
“What the hell?  What did Dean want?” Gabe asked.  
 
Castiel sighed.  He buckled his seatbelt and at least pretended to listen to the busy flight attendants.  
 
After the flight attendant’s spiel, he sat back in his seat.  His mind was buzzing.  
 
“Earth to Cas!” Gabe snapped his fingers beside him.
 
“He...he kissed me,” Castiel stammered, a smile growing on his face.
 
“Shut the front door!” Gabe stared at him.  “Did you just...make Dean Winchester switch teams?”
 
Castiel laughed in amazement.  “I think I did...”
 
Gabe whistled low.  “You hear that, Cassie?  Women all around the world just broke out in tears!”
 
Castiel rolled his eyes, his smile slipping slightly.  “He seemed pretty shocked with himself.  He might get home and change his mind.”
 
“Not if he knows what’s good for him, little bro.”
 
Castiel smiled weakly.  He stared out at the airport.  He wished he could run back and talk to him. The airplane doors were all closed by now. He stared sadly at the shiny reflection of the sun on the huge airport windows. Dean was in there somewhere.

“Oh my God.”
 
“What?” Gabe asked.
 
“I never...I never gave him my phone number!  He has no way to contact me.”  His head dropped back against the seat.
 
“So you call Meg, get his number and call him,” Gabe shrugged.
 
Castiel thought about that.  “I don’t know if I can handle taking another first step.  I really went out on a limb and...”
 
“And won!  He fucking chased you down in an airport to say goodbye to you!  Isn’t that like...epic romance 101?”
 
A flush bloomed on every square inch of his skin as Castiel sighed.  His dopey grin was back, and a million butterflies erupted inside him.  “Yeah.”
 
Gabe laughed.  “You can’t drag your feet on this one, Cassie.  You promise me right now you are going to call him.”
 
Castiel turned, seeing the determination in his brother’s honey-brown eyes.  “I will.”
 
“If you don’t, I swear to God I will do it my way.  You talk about epic?  I will grand-gesture for you!”
 
“No, Gabriel. I will handle this on my own.  I will.”
 
Satisfied, Gabe sat back with a shitty grin.  “At least one of us has a promising future.”  
 
Cas patted his brother’s arm.  “You do too.  You’re going to find someone.”  Gabe did not look nearly so sure.
 
Castiel stared at the airport as long as he could.  Maybe Dean kissed him because he never thought he’d see him again.  Or maybe he was panicked thinking he would never see him again.  Or...maybe Dean regretted it.  Maybe he hoped Cas would disappear.  A shameful secret thing that happened in another country.  He had looked totally uncertain of what he had done.
 
Just what he had done was fill Castiel with a hope he had not felt in a long time.  The kiss was so hesitant.  And then it wasn’t. There was promise of so much more.  An intense heat sprung up inside him just remembering it.  He pressed his lips together as the plane took off.  He would find Dean and finish that conversation.
 
And that kiss.
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Ao Meu Lado, Sempre
 
 
 
 
Dean got back to his apartment around midnight.  It had been a long, stressful day of traveling. Claire had kept him fairly distracted on the last flight, making the time pass somewhat better.

Now, back to his own apartment, surrounded by his own things, everything felt surreal.  And everything felt empty.  He dropped his bags and headed straight for a shower.  
 
A long shower later, Dean passed the bags, heading to bed.  Flying stressed him out so bad.  He had been a ball of nerves now for over 24 hours.  Not all of it had to do with travel.  He had come to terms with what he had done in the airport.
 
He kissed Cas.  He encouraged a situation that he had absolutely no idea what to do with.  He had already worried and wondered about a million things on his flights.  Now, he was just plain tired.
 
As he got in his own bed with a sigh, he wondered where Cas was.  What his life was like.  And what exactly he thought of their goodbye.
 
 
 
He had taken an extra day off between his trip and going back to work.  He slept until 1:00 in the afternoon before his bladder wouldn’t allow him there any longer.  He unpacked and took his laundry down to the laundry room.  
 
As he climbed the three flights of stairs back to his place, his phone chimed.  He pulled it out.
 
Sam: you home yet?
Sam: Dude, where are you?
Sam: If you ever want to see your pride and joy again, you have to call me.
 
Dean grinned.  Damn straight he would be calling.  He wanted his baby back!
 
He scrolled to see a few more.
 
Jo: Did you make it home ok?
 
Meg: check in when you can, please.  Just making sure everyone makes it back home!
 
Pam:  Hope I get to see your sorry ass tonight.
 
Dean grinned at Pam’s.  Instead of texting her back, he headed down to the first floor again to see her.  On the way, he texted Meg and Jo, telling them he made it home fine.  Jo was home too.  He texted Sam, asking him to come get him after work.
 
He went out the back of the building, waking around to the front.  He went through the door to the tattoo shop that took up the bottom floor of his apartment building.
 
“Hot damn!  There he is!” Pam laughed, totally ignoring a customer to come around the counter and hug him.
 
He hugged her back, kissing her cheek.  “Did I miss anything?”
 
“Everything!  No more vacationing for you!  Unless I’m with you, then it’s all the nude beaches and alcohol you can find!”
 
Dean laughed, nodding to the two women looking at tattoos.
 
“So how was Brazil?” She pressed, watching him like a hawk, as she always did.
 
“Amazing,” he sighed, sitting on a stool behind the counter as the women continued to look through samples. “It was beautiful. And the people there are so friendly.”
 
“Yeah?  Bet you were a sight.  And damn!  You’re tan!  Were you working without a shirt on?”
 
“Sometimes,” he laughed, used to her brand of conversation.  “It was really fucking hot there.”
 
“Fuck!  I bet that was a sight.  Sign me up for the next trip.”
 
Dean shook his head with a smirk.  “You woulda had all the men running wild, Pam.”
 
“Of course I would have!  How ‘bout you?  Find any tree-hugging girlfriends out there?”
 
“No,” he said easily enough.  “And we weren’t tree hugging.  In fact a lot of trees fell to add a whole row of houses.”
 
She laughed again.  Dean waited while she answered a few questions for the girls, set an appointment, and the pair left.
 
Now that the shop was empty, he let his truer feelings out a bit more.
 
“So...something really crazy happened.”
 
Pam sat down on the other stool, her eyes on him.  “What happened?”
 
Dean rubbed a hand across his mouth nervously.  Did he really want to tell someone what happened?  
 
Pam sat back, watching him even more closely.
 
“Well, we work in these big groups of people to pump these houses out as fast as possible,” he began.  “One of the guys and I went to tour the historic shit one day.”
 
“Okay?” She encouraged, listening carefully.
 
“We had a lot of fun.  I mean, he’s nerdy, but we just really had a lot of fun, ya know?”
 
She nodded, one eyebrow raising.
 
Dean clammed up.
 
“Dean?” She asked, narrowing her eyes at him.
 
He sighed, licking his lip and then biting his lower one.
 
Both Pam’s brows were raised now.  “You’re killin’ me Winchester.  What the fuck happened with nerd guy in Brazil?”
 
He licked his lips again.  “Cas.”
 
“Is that nerd guy’s name?” She pulled out of him.
 
Dean nodded.
 
A Cheshire grin spread across her face.  She leaned in, propping one elbow on the counter.  “Deeeean?  Did you bang a guy?”
 
Dean froze, so tempted to lie his way out.  But that would never work with Pam.  And he needed to talk about it.  “No.  But I did kiss him.  Twice.”
 
She laughed, slapping the counter with her hand.  “Hot damn.  I don’t believe it.  I knew something happened.  I knew it.  You were makin’ my Spidey senses tingle!”  She grinned impossibly wider, propping her jaw on her palm.  “So.  How was it?”
 
Dean blinked, baffled slightly.  “Wait...am I having one of those I’m gay and everyone knew but me moments?”
 
She shrugged a shoulder.  “I didn’t know.  Had no idea, handsome.  So, you’re gay now?”
 
Dean sputtered.  “I don’t know!  I don’t think so!  But...maybe?  I mean...I really liked him.  Like one of those things where your body knows before your brain does things.  He’s not even my type!  I mean, if I had a guy type.”
 
“Oh sugar.  You fell so damn hard you knocked yourself silly.”
 
“What?” Dean scoffed.  “So, is this something a lot of people do?  Am I just experimenting or whatever?”
 
She gave him a more serious look.  “Did you look at the guy and think, ‘huh.  I wonder what it would be like to kiss a guy?’  Or did you look and him and think -”
 
“Now,” Dean blurted, eyes seeing the moment at the airport all over again.  “I thought, ‘kiss him. Now.  Because I...I just really, really wanted to.”
 
She nodded.  “I would not classify that as experimenting, I would classify that as pretty damn serious.”
 
“Serious?” Dean repeated it like a medical disorder.  “I have no idea how to find him!  Or what the fuck to say or do if I do find him!”
 
She patted his thigh.   “I’ll rent you some DVD’s.”
 
“Shut up,” he laughed, finally able to find some humor from his friend.  He slumped onto the counter.  “I don’t even know his last name.”
 
“Now that could be a problem, handsome.  Where’s he from?”
 
“Chicago,” Dean remembered.  “And he has a brother named Gabe.  Met him too.  How was I so stupid, Pam?  I think I really fucked up this time.  Why the hell didn’t I get his phone number?”
 
She put an arm around him.  “We’ll figure something out.”
 
 
 
Dean was so happy to have his car back.  He hugged the steering wheel, kissing it.
 
“You seriously have problems,” Sam laughed.  He had picked Dean up at 5:30 to bring him over to his apartment, where he had Dean’s car parked to keep an eye on it.
 
“You have no idea,” Dean muttered, resting his head on the steering wheel.  Sam came around the passenger side, getting in.  
 
“So, tell me about your trip!  How much did you guys get done?”
 
Dean sat back, running his finger along the trim of the dashboard.  “We got ten houses built.  That was the group I was in.  I know the other groups were out making repairs through the whole ghetto section.  We got a lot done.”
 
“That’s awesome!  I’ll have to come along sometime.”
 
“Yeah?  I know it’s hard for you to take off.”  Dean knew he was going to tell Sam about Cas.  He had to.  He could hardly think of anything else.
 
“It’ll get easier.  If I stay with this firm, I get three weeks of vacation a year once I’ve been there two years.”  
 
“Sweet.”  They sat there another moment.  “You wanna go for a drive?  Get a sundae at the Milky Way?”
 
Sam hesitated, letting something go and sat back.  “Yeah.  Let’s do it.”
 
Dean grinned.  He knew Sam probably had more important things to do for work, but he was glad his brother was easily willing to make time for him.  He had not driven in a week.  It felt really good to be behind the wheel again.
 
“So, what was this trip like?” Sam asked, probably noticing that the radio wasn’t on and no tapes were playing.
 
“First five days were a freakin’ blur.  We worked until it rained, ate lunch, worked until it rained, ate dinner and went to bed.”
 
“How was your host family?”
 
“They were awesome.”  He pulled his phone out of his pocket, handing it to Sam.  They’re the man, woman, and two kids in a kitchen.  It’s one of the first pictures I took.  They were so nice.”
 
Sam was scrolling through his pictures.  Dean didn’t realize he had taken so many.  “Dean, you took a picture of Baby before you left?  You are so ridiculous.”
 
“I missed you, Baby,” Dean cooed, stroking the dashboard.  “You hear that?  I had a picture of you.”
 
Dean turned onto Route 30, taking him out of town, through another small town and into the hills of the Appalachian mountains.  It was a beautiful evening toward the end of March, and the trees were just barely starting to bloom.  There wouldn’t be blooms on the trees in Chicago yet.  Dean frowned at the intrusive thought.
 
“Is this your host family?”  Sam showed him a picture.
 
“Yeah.”  He grinned.  “Their kids were really good.  And man, Marta can cook!  Oooohhh, Sammy...the food.  They eat a lot of beans and rice.  But the meat!  So freakin’ good.  I ate goat!”
 
“Goat!” Sam made a horrified face.  “Why?”
 
“It smelled good.  I didn’t know what the hell it was.  Cas did!  He ordered it anyway.  What a brat.  He figured I wouldn’t like it, but he was wrong!  It was so good.”
 
“Who’s Cas?” Sam asked, grinning.
 
“Oh...” he hadn’t meant to go there yet.  “One of the other HFH people.”
 
“Who are these guys?” Sam asked, holding the phone up again.
 
“Okay, so, part of the HFH deal is teaching people skills.  So those four guys were with me every day.  I wish Cas woulda been there from day one.  He’s an interpreter.  The day he spent with us, I taught them so much more.  But anyway, they knew a little about building, but I managed to teach them a lot in just a few days.  By the last day of work, they were doing it and I was pretty much supervising.”
 
Dean went on to tell him what kinds of construction jobs he was doing and what he taught them.  It was fun to think back on how much they had learned.
 
“So...who’s this?” Sam asked, holding the phone up again.
 
“That’s Cas,” Dean grinned.  Just seeing his face caused a reaction of pyrotechnics in his body.  He felt like a live wire.
 
“Huh.  And he’s an interpreter?” Sam asked, frowning.
 
“Yeah.  Dude spoke Portuguese like he was born there.  He said he speaks seven different dialects of Spanish and a couple other languages.  People like that blow my mind.  How do they store so much information in their heads!”
 
“I don’t know,” Sam mused, still looking through the pictures.  “So it rained every day?”
 
“Twice a day.  I guess it’s pretty much like clockwork.  They have a ‘rain season’ there.”
 
“What is this?” Sam asked, all interested suddenly.
 
Dean glanced at his phone.  “Oh, yeah.  I told Cas you were gonna geek out over that.  He was super excited to see it.  It’s some church that...I don’t remember.  Maybe the first church there?  I don’t know.  I took pictures of the plaques so you could geek out over it.”
 
“The plaques are in Portuguese,” Sam laughed.
 
“Shit!  Really?  I wasn’t paying that much attention.  I shoulda known better, Cas was going on about stuff, reading stuff like it was nothing.  I just assumed...man, that guy.”
 
They pulled into the restaurant.  It was a small old diner tucked just off the highway.  His and Sam’s favorites were the ice cream sundaes made in frosted mason jar mugs, covered in hot fudge, whipped cream, peanuts, with a cherry on top.  Once they were seated in a small booth, mugs in hands, spoons scooping away, Dean went on more about Old Town.  “So, I took this excursion.  You had a choice of going to the beach or to historic Recife.”
 
“You went to do historic touristy stuff instead of going to the beach?” Sam clarified, his spoon freezing in its tracks.
 
Dean laughed.  “I told Cas you would say that.”
 
Sam pulled Dean’s phone over, unlocked it and went to a picture of him and Cas on the gondola.  “Lotta pictures of this guy.”
 
“Yeah.  We hung out all day on Saturday.”  His grin faded as a curious look flitted across Sam’s face.  Dean stared at his half-eaten sundae.  His voice dropped a good bit lower.  “Can I...talk to you...about something?”
 
Sam looked up at him with wide eyes.  “Yeah Dean.  Anytime.  What’s goin’ on?”
 
Dean poked at his sundae.  “While I was in Brazil...I kinda...I kissed a guy there.”
 
Hearing nothing, he looked up at his brother.  He didn’t want to hear something negative from him, even though he already knew better.  Sam would never judge him.  But still...it felt monumental.
 
“Cas?” Sam asked.
 
Dean blinked, frowning.  “Uh...I wasn’t going to say who it was...but yeah.  How’d you know?”
 
“You’ve been talkin’ about him since you called me this afternoon.  You...kissed him?  Why?  I mean...” Sam looked lost for words.  And no wonder.
 
“Yeah, I know.  I was pretty thrown off when he kissed me.  I kinda reacted pretty much like you did just now.  I was kinda freaked out.”
 
“But...not too freaked out,” Sam supplied.
 
“No.  It’s just so...nuts.  I have never liked a guy before.  It’s kinda freakin’ me out.”
 
“That’s not true,” Sam grinned.
 
“Name one,” Dean snapped, smirking.
 
“Aaron Bass.”
 
“Oh, come on!  I was so trashed!  We shouldn’t have been in a Biggerson’s at 1am!”
 
Sam lifted his hands in surrender.  “You were flirting with him so bad, we had to leave.  The guy was nice, but not into you and you just kept finding a way over to his table.”
 
Dean rolled his eyes.  “So, you never hit on a guy when you were trashed?”
 
“Never,” Sam grinned.
 
“Huh.”  Dean’s nerves were churning his stomach.
 
Sam nodded.
 
Dean frowned.
 
“Dude, I can’t be gay.  That’s so...”
 
“If you say gay,” Sam threatened, “I’m going to kick your ass in the parking lot.”
 
Dean looked mortified.  “Last time we got in a fight in the parking lot here, I wasn’t allowed back for three months!  I can’t have that, Sammy!”
 
“Then don’t say stupid things.”  He scraped the fudgy goodness from his frosted mug, grinning.  He stuck the spoon in his mouth and laughed as he slid it out.  “I can’t believe you made out with a guy.”
 
Dean sat back.  “We didn’t really make out.  It was just a simple kiss.  Twice.  Or three times.”
 
Sam stuck his spoon in his empty mug and grinned at his brother.  “I always knew this day would come.”
 
Dean stared at Sam with shock.  “You did?”
 
“I did.  I knew eventually someone would really catch your attention.  I never dreamed it would be a guy.  I’m happy for you that it happened.”
 
“What the hell are ya talkin’ about Sammy?  I barely told you anything about him!”
 
“Tell me something about your trip that doesn’t have to do with Cas.”
 
Dean frowned.  “I didn’t even meet him until day four!”
 
Sam’s eyebrows climbed with surprise.  “Wow.  And when did you develop a crush?”
 
“Crushes are for middle schoolers.  I’m a grown-ass man.”  He took another bite of ice cream.  “I feel like an eighty-year-old man today.  I’m so sore.”
 
Sam waited patiently.
 
Dean took another bite.  He didn’t want to talk about it.  But he did.  He finally dropped the pretense of eating the sundae, leaning forward in earnest.  “So, day four, I took a nap in the supply tent when it was raining.  I woke up to Cas and his brother Gabe talking.  Gabe broke up with his fiancée.  She was cheating on him and the guy was kinda a mess.  Anyway,” Dean went on about the time they spent together, including his bright idea to go skinny-dipping.
 
“Oh my God,” Sam cringed.  “You took him skinny-dipping?  Are you nuts?”
 
Dean hiked his shoulders.  “I didn’t know he was gay!”
 
Sam shook his head slowly.  “So him being straight makes that any less of a weird thing to do with someone you barely know?”
 
Dean shrugged.  “Well, the water was rough.  And we could hardly see.  Swimming was impossible, so we got out and got dressed.  We were just standing there waiting for Miguel and he freakin’ kissed me!”
 
“And you...”
 
“Freakin’ freaked out!  I mean...what the hell!”  He frowned.  “Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s what I said when he did it.”
 
“Nice.”
 
“Come on.  I was shocked!  Anyway, I made sure he knew I wasn’t pissed or freaked out.  Just that I wasn’t interested.”
 
“And then?” Sam prodded.
 
“At the airport the next day, I wanted to say goodbye to him.  I wasn’t sure what to say or do so I ran to find him before he left.  I just barely caught him before he boarded and...I kissed him.”
 
“You meant to?  I mean, was that why you went to find him?”
 
“No!  I was just gonna say goodbye.  Make sure he was okay, ya know?  And then...I just...kissed him.”
 
Sam grinned.  “Damn.”  In a true test of seeing just how distracted Dean was, he took his sundae and finished it.  Dean never once said a word about it.  Instead, he sat there deep in thought.
 
“I really liked him.”
 
Sam looked up, licking the last of the fudge from the spoon.  “Liked?”
 
Dean’s shoulders slumped.  “I never got his phone number.  Or his last name.  Shit, I don’t even know his whole first name.”  He looked at Sam knowing he looked utterly lost.  “I might never see him again.”
 
Sam looked unsure of what to say.  He pushed the empty mug aside.  “I can tell you’re really serious about this.  What can we do?”
 
Dean sat back, sliding down in the seat.  He felt totally defeated.  “No idea.”
 
 
 
************************************
 
 
 
Dean had scoured the HFH website.  He had no idea who to contact to ask if they knew ‘Cas’.  He had sent an email to Meg a week ago and heard nothing in reply.  
 
He had been back to work.  He had been out with his friends.  But every day there was an empty space that had not been there before.
 
Dean had been having one of the worst days he could remember having in a long time.  He got a speeding ticket on his way to work, he only had half a day in when rain came, shutting the site down for the rest of the day.  That meant going without half a day of pay.  On the way home, he remembered he needed coffee and bread.  At the register, he realized his wallet was in the car.  He had to run out and get it (in the rain) and go through the long check-out line again.  He stepped in a mud puddle and got mud all over his driver’s side mat.  When he finally got home, he stopped to check his mail.  Two bills, a pile of junk mail, and a slip from the post office.  Apparently, they had ‘attempted to deliver a package’ but he wasn’t home.  The note said he had to go pick it up from the post office.
 
“Fucking perfect,” he muttered, slamming the little mailbox door closed.  He trudged up the steps, dropped off his groceries and sighed at the note.  He could go get it now.  Or he could wait until tomorrow.
 
He sighed angrily.  Might as well go get it and stay home the rest of this crappy day, hiding from the world.
 
Back into the rain, he drove across town to the post office.  He waited in line in the tiny building for twenty minutes before he finally got to the counter.
 
“The pick-up window for packages is over there,” the man pointed.
 
Fucking perfect.
 
Five minutes later, he handed the crinkled, slightly soggy paper to a friendly lady at a small counter.  She took the slip, scanning it.  
 
“Be right back,” she grinned.
 
Dean sighed with a patient half grin.
 
She struggled out a side door with a large rectangular box.  “Here you go, Mr. Winchester.”
 
Dean took the box with a puzzled look.  What the fuck was this?  He couldn’t remember ordering anything.  He checked the delivery label to be sure it was really for him.  Yep, his name, his address.
 
He groaned as the rain poured down.
 
“Would you like a plastic cover to protect it?” The lady asked.
 
“Yeah...I guess.  I don’t even know what the hell it is.”
 
She came back, handing him a thin plastic sheet.  “Must be something good, right?  It says fragile.”
 
“No idea,” he muttered.  The word ‘Fragile’ was on every surface, along with ‘do not bend’, ‘do not stack’, ‘Top’ with arrows.  He unfolded the plastic sheet and covered the huge box.  A word caught his eye, stopping him immediately.  Recife.  Brazil.  What the hell had someone from Brazil sent him?  His host family had been kind, along with the men he had worked with, but none of them were in good enough financial positions to be sending him a huge package.
 
He wrestled the mystery box into his trunk and drove home.  He hauled the huge beast up both flights of stairs and leaned it against his kitchen table, dropping into a chair to catch his breath.
 
His free afternoon was turning into more work than he wanted.  Begrudgingly, he got up, pulling his pocket knife out to open the strange package.
 
He cut the thick plastic ties, cut all the taped seams on the sides and front. He lifted the flaps away, seeing a broad, white, plastic wrapped, flat something cushioned on the sides by Styrofoam.  He pulled the whole thing out, working the Styrofoam edges off.  He unpeeled the tape, lifting the white plastic cover off the thing and stepped back in shock.
 
As the plastic fluttered to the floor, he was completely shocked to see the painting he had seen at the museum in Brazil.  Two hands holding each other in black and white.
 
“What the fuck?!” He gasped.  He lifted the canvas from the mess as delicately as a newborn baby.  He sat it in front of his TV, staring at it in awe.  The texture of the paint on the canvas was rich and beautiful.  “Is this the fucking original?”
 
He went back to the mess of packing material, digging for a packing receipt.  He found a slip of paper with the museum letterhead.  It was a gift receipt with no amount, just the painting titled, ‘Ao Meu Lado, Sempre’.
 
Further down, was a message.  
‘For Dean,
Thank you for one of the best days I have had in a very long time.
Cas’.
 
“Oh my God!”  He gaped at the painting again.  It was nicer than anything else in his apartment.  It was worth more than all the contents of his apartment.  He thought back to their time at the museum.  He had waited outside for a good while as Cas paid for the things he had bought.  It could have been the only time he would have had to pull off such a crazy thing.  But how had he gotten his address?  And why had he only signed the note as Cas!  He read over the paper again, finding nothing.
 
“Son of a bitch!”
 
He rooted through the packing material again, finding a thick envelope.  The paper was so thick and fine that it felt like stiff silk under his fingers.  He pulled out a card.  It was the card that had been on the display with the painter and title.  All of it was in Portuguese.  He huffed, feeling desperate.  He turned the card over, and tears sprang to his eyes.
 
Amount Paid- R$58,000
Purchaser- Castiel Novak
 
“Cas!”  His hands flew to his head as he paced a circle in the living room.  “What were you doing?”  He looked at the card again.  “Castiel?  I NEVER would’ve guessed THAT name!”  He laughed, short with a manic note to it.  “What were you thinking, Cas?!”
 
He stopped, staring at the painting.  HIS painting.  He was filled with nervous jitters inside.  Cas had spent a TON of money as a thank you gift?  He used a money calculator to see that the total came out to around $17,000. No one had EVER spent that much money on him! He couldn’t make sense of any of it.  Why did that always seem to happen when Cas was involved!
 
He tapped the envelope to his palm.  He had a name.  Castiel.  Novak.  He had to find him.
 
He got his laptop out, sitting cross-legged in front of the painting as if it were a live thing he could watch.  “I’m gonna find you.”
 
After searching the internet, he found Cas.  Castiel Novak, Vice President of a company that sold essential oils, called Heaven Scent.
 
When he went to the company’s website, he was greeted with a world of information he knew nothing about.  The company talked about farms all over the world where different crops were grown to harvest and produce the purest of essential oils.  He found a staff link and grinned when he saw a picture of the executives sitting in office furniture in a field of vividly blooming lavender.  President of the company? Gabriel Novak.
 
Again, Dean was shocked.  “Oh shit.”
 
Cas was sitting in a leather office chair, leaning back with an easy grin.  Gabe was sitting on the desk with an engaging smile, holding a clipboard with lavender sprigs clipped in it.  A red-head woman was sitting at a second desk in a wooden chair with a gutted computer from the 90’s with lavender in the monitor instead of a screen in it.  An older black man with a gentle grin and the dusting of a beard held a bushel basket full of lavender branches.  And a shorter man with a mischievous grin stood to the side, lavender sticking out of his briefcase.  He was the only one in a suit, while the others were in jeans and soft colored shirts.
 
Dean took a screenshot, then zoomed in on Cas and took another screen shot.
 
Cas.  Castiel was the Vice President of this company.  As he nosed around the site, he could see that it was a very grassroots company, very international, with farms all over the world that they contracted to.  They gave back to several charities, none of which were Habitat For Humanity.  Cas and Gabe’s involvement in HFH must have been non-work related.
 
“These people are freaking angels.”  Dean read every bit he could on the people that worked for the company.  How the Novak brothers had started it six years ago with Joshua (Dean was guessing the man with the bushel basket).  How quickly it grew and how diligent they were to provide only the purest of oils in only the most environmentally friendly ways.  Charlie Bradbury, he was guessing, was the red-head in charge of website and tech.  Fergus Crowley, he was guessing the guy in the suit, was head of finance.
 
He thought back to how good Cas always smelled.  How earthy, and how he had almost leaned in to smell him several times.
 
It was no wonder.  The oils sounded amazing.
 
And then he saw it.  An email.  He could email him through the site.  He frowned at that though.  He stared up at the painting.  He wanted to talk to him.
 
He pulled his cell phone out and texted Sam to stop over before he went home.  He wanted to show him everything.
 
He went back to the website, scrolling through the oils.  He had no idea what diffusing meant, or what a carrier oil was, but he wanted some.  He wanted a piece of this life that was Cas’.  Something to help him understand him more.  And which one of these oils smelled like Cas?
 
Sam texted back that he would be there around seven with Chinese.  
 
Dean left the website, going back out to the internet.  He got on a people-finding site and finally hit pay dirt.
 
“Got ya.”
 
He grinned as he typed the number into his phone.  He stopped, his thumb hovering over the little green phone icon.  What was he going to say?  Maybe the gift was just a friend thing.  Maybe the kiss was just -.  No.  The kiss at the airport was more than a friend thing.  He was calling.  He hit it before he could change his mind.
 
It rang.
 
It rang again.  He got up, pacing his small living room.  What if he was totally off base?
 
It rang again.
 
“Hello?”
 
Dean froze.  It was him!  He’d know that voice anywhere!  He literally felt weak in the knees.  “Is this Cas?”
 
He heard something shuffle in the background suddenly.  “Yes, this is Cas.”
 
“Hey, Cas,” Dean went on, breaking out into a slight sweat, rubbing the back of his neck nervously, continuing his pacing.  “This is Dean.  Dean Winchester.”
 
“Dean!”  His rich voice resonated with joy.
 
“Hey, um...I found your number on the internet.  I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to thank you for the gift.”
 
“Dean!  I’m so glad you called!  I...I was going to call you a thousand times, but...” he laughed a little nervous laugh, “I kept chickening out.”
 
Dean grinned.  “Yeah?  I almost did too, but...”
 
A nervous, pregnant silence stretched for a moment.
 
“You got the painting?”
 
“I did!  Cas...I don’t even know what to say.  Dude, it’s...” he stared at the painting with a warm feeling growing in his chest, “it’s amazing!”
 
“I’m so glad you like it.  You looked so intrigued with it.  I wanted you to have it.”
 
“Well, I have it!”  He laughed nervously, wishing he had Cas here with it.  “Only thing that woulda made it better, was if you were here to see it.”  He blushed instantly, knowing it was forward of him, but really, what the hell?
 
He could picture the adorable grin that infused his voice as he chuckled.  “I wish I had done that too.  I just wasn’t too sure...”
 
Dean nodded, biting his lip.  “Um...yeah...about that...I wish I could sorta get a do-over...but...”
 
“Oh, I don’t know, the airport was pretty impressive.”
 
Impressive?  Dean grinned, blushing hard.  He had no idea what to say.  “I was worried I’d never hear from you again.  I was just having the shittiest day...and then this came,” he waved a hand at the painting.  “It, uh, really made my day better.”
 
“I’m glad,” Cas said, slipping into a more intimate voice, like these words were for them alone, which was silly, it wasn’t like anyone else was on the call.
 
“Wh-where are you?” Dean asked.
 
Cas sighed.  “I’m sitting in my car on the side of the highway.  I couldn’t believe it was you!  I had to pull over.”
 
“Oh, well, I can let you go.  I don’t want you to get hit!”
 
“No!  I’m fine!  I’m in Utah, for work.  I’m safe.”  He chuckled lightly.  “There isn’t much traffic in this area.”
 
“Oh.  Okay.”  Dean relaxed a bit, sensing Cas really did want this call.  He felt a little more emboldened by the notion.  “Are you visiting one of the farms for your oils?”
 
“I am!  How did you know that?”
 
“I found your company when I was looking for you online.  I didn’t really understand any of it...so I read the bios and background on Heaven Scent.”
 
“So, you’re a stalker,” Cas laughed.
 
Dean relaxed even further, laughing.  He sat on his couch, his eyes lingering on the painting.  “You left me no options, Castiel.  You wouldn’t even tell me your full name!”
 
“You were guessing!  I didn’t want to ruin your fun!”
 
“Whatever,” Dean teased back,  “king of mixed signals.  Nothing like kissing a guy and then ditching him.  No name and no contact info!”  Dean could feel heat from how hard his cheeks were blushing.  He didn’t know how to flirt with a guy!  But apparently, yes, in fact, he did!
 
“I think my signals were pretty clear.”
 
Dean wiped a hand down his face.  “Yeah, they probably were.  You were just preaching to a deaf audience there for a while.”
 
“Had I known, I would have signed,” Cas teased.
 
“You know sign language?”
 
“I do.  One of my friends and coworkers is deaf.  But I’m not surprised you were confused. My flirting skills are rusty. But in case you hadn’t noticed, my people skills are generally pretty rusty.  Hence, undoubtedly, our miscommunication.”
 
Dean grinned.  “I think we cleared that up.  So...”
 
A silent pause baited the air.
 
“I would love to see you again, Dean.”
 
Dean’s heart nearly flew up into his throat so hard it actually hurt.  He put a hand on his chest.  “Y-you do?  I mean, I, I think I would like that too.”
 
“I can make that happen.  If you really mean it.”  Cas stopped for only a second.  “I get the feeling maybe this is new for you?”
 
Dean frowned, never liking to be the one behind the eight ball.  “Um...yeah.  I’ve never been with a guy.  I don’t have any hang-ups about it.  I’ve just never...I guess I just didn’t know.  Ya know?”
 
“Well, I don’t want to push you into anything.  But...I could stop by for a visit some time.  If you like.”
 
Dean nodded, kicking himself for what probably seemed like hesitation on the other end of the line.  “Yeah.  Yes.  That would be great!”
 
“Great, huh?”  Cas chuckled.  “I thought for sure I had scared you off, Dean.  It’s why I was so hesitant to call.  I’m not always the best with taking the first step in things.”
 
“You coulda fooled me,” Dean grinned, sobering quickly.  “I called you, so...we can say that was the first step.  Right?”
 
“Right,” Cas said softly.  “I wish...I wish I was there right now.”  The dip in his voice gave Dean chills.
 
“Me too,” Dean answered just as softly.  “I really do love this painting.  It’s incredible.  It’s slightly terrifying, actually.  I’m scared to death I’m going to mess it up!”
 
“It’s yours to ‘mess up’.  But I’m sure it fits perfectly.  I hope it does, anyway.”
 
Dean’s warm, fuzzy feelings returned.  “It does.”
 
“So, what are your plans for the night?” Cas asked, moving into more neutral territory.  Dean sighed with a bit of relief and a bit of remorse for losing the thread of such warm words.
 
“I’m going to have a beer, sit here on my couch, and stare at this painting.”
 
Cas sighed in return.  “That sounds lovely.”
 
“What kind of farm are you going to see?”
 
“One of our lavender farms.  I can smell it already, and I’m still five miles away.”
 
“Wow.  Is it the one from your executive board picture?  That was pretty cute, by the way.”
 
Cas chuckled, making Dean grin.  It was blowing his mind just HOW into Cas he really was.  For liking a guy for the first time, he was liking him pretty damn hard.  He wanted to be with him.  He wanted to see him.  It was like he had missed out on something the whole time they had been together, and all he could think about was being with him again.  And this time he would pay attention to everything.
 
“It is!  It’s our biggest farm.  Lavender is our top seller because of its popularity and versatility.”
 
Dean grinned.  Cas was friggin’ cute.
 
“Are you familiar with essential oils?”
 
“No.  I mean, I read about them a little bit today.”
 
“I’ll have to send you another package with some of our things.”
 
“You don’t have to do that Cas.  Seventeen thousand dollars seems like more than enough.  At least for the calendar year.”
 
Cas made a sound of disappointment.  “How do you know how much it cost?  They were supposed to send a gift receipt!”
 
“They did,” Dean smiled smugly at the painting.  “They sent the purchase card and some other paperwork, but, ya know, it’s all in Portuguese.  And I don’t read or speak that, ya know.  But I do know a dollar sign when I see it.”
 
Cas sighed with a soft chuckle.  
 
“Seriously, Cas, I woulda been friggin’ thrilled to have gotten a postcard.  A blank one with your name and number on it woulda made me a happy guy.”  He bit his lip at the admission.
 
“I’ll be sure to remember that,” Cas said in low, rumbling voice.  Dean could picture just how he’d be grinning.  And just how good he probably smelled.  And damn.  He really wanted to kiss him again.  Fuck.
 
“It’s too much, Cas,” Dean said softly, looking up at the painting again.
 
“It’s perfect.  And non-returnable.  I wanted you to have it.”  Cas sighed.  “Is it too much?  Is it going to make things...awkward?”
 
Dean bit back a laugh.  “Dude, I’m gonna awkward the shit outta this, this, whatever it is.”  He wiped a hand down his face, blushing again.  “But I’ll do my best.”  Oh god.  He might as well be virgin on prom night right now.  He was so out of his element, yet wanted so, so much more.  It was baffling.  And made all the sense in the world at the same time.
 
Cas laughed.  “Dean, I’m so glad you called.  I can’t tell you how worried about this whole situation I have been.”
 
Dean remembered the look of fear, the way he stood so closed off before Miguel came to get them.  “No worries, man.  I would really like to see you again.”  He blushed, but not as bad as earlier.  The thought was really growing on him.  “I don’t have much here.  Just an apartment in nowhere, Pennsylvania.  But...you’re welcome anytime.”
 
“I’d like that.  I have my calendar packed in my backpack in the trunk.  But...I could call you later.  To make plans.”
 
Dean swallowed.  This was really happening.  A man he barely knew was going to fly here just to see him.  This was nuts.  “Sounds good, Cas.”
 
A comfortable silence passed.
 
“I should go,” Cas said quietly.  “Dean, thank you for calling me.”
 
“No problem.  Ya know, just took me several hours of research to track you down.”  He grinned.  He felt like he was a friggin’ middle schooler.  Damn it.  Sam had pegged him quite accurately.  He did have a crush!  A really bad crush.
 
“Sorry about that.  It occurred to me when I was on the plane.  Like I said, I was going to call.  I just kept chickening out.”
 
“It’s okay,” Dean glanced to his laptop.  “Now I know about you, your brother, your company, farms and oils and...” he laughed.  “I haven’t done this much homework since Sam had mono his junior year in college!”
 
“You are a very dedicated brother,” Cas said.
 
“Yeah.  How’s Gabe?  He didn’t get back together with his fiancée, did he?”
 
“No,” Cas said firmly.  “I’m working diligently to keep it that way.”
 
Dean nodded again, then realized Cas couldn’t see him, though he felt completely transparent.  “That’s good.  Being a brother has its trying moments, that’s for sure.  Well, I better let you go.  Thanks for the painting.”
 
“You’re welcome.  Talk to you soon.”
 
“Bye, Cas.”
 
“Goodbye, Dean.”
 
Dean’s hand dropped to his lap as he stared at the painting.  The phone felt hot in his hand and he sat it down to let it cool.
 
He had done it!  He grinned hard, not even seeing the painting as he stared at it.  What filled his mind was seeing Cas smiling.  Laughing.  Every accidental touch.  All three kisses.  The whole feeling of being attracted to a guy excited him.  Was it possible he only wanted to be friends with Cas?  No.  A surge of wishing the man were here hit him square in the chest.  The thought of Cas being in his apartment sent a surge lower.  He could feel his dick thicken in response to what he would do if Cas were here right now.  He would definitely want his hands on him.  Feeling him.  He wanted to kiss him again.  More.  Deeper.  Explore the man’s body.  The thought of Cas touching him left his skin feeling hot and tight.  Craving more.  He got to his feet, gripping himself through his jeans.
 
Time for a shower.
 
He stripped, running the shower and stepping inside.  He washed his hair slowly, still thinking about Cas.  As the shampoo rinsed down his chest, he slid his hands down his skin.
 
Firm and bobbing against the spray of warm water, his dick jolted slightly as he took ahold of it.  He leaned against the cool tile wall, his head dropping back against it as his eyes slid closed.  He had already seen Cas naked.  He hadn’t really been looking at the time, but now...he pictured his long, lean lines.  His thick hair.  His mouth.
 
He groaned softly, stroking long and slow, twisting his hand at the tip as his whole body sizzled with exhilaration.  He pictured Cas, standing in the shower in front of him, water sliding down his smooth skin.  He stuck with what he was most familiar with, picturing Cas dropping to his knees, taking his dick into his mouth to suck it slow and hard.  His hand squeezed tighter, moving faster.  The thought of his thick hair, sopping wet with shower water, bobbing in and out...Dean’s hands running through it, clinging to it in fistfuls to pull him in and out faster, just like he wanted.  He wanted it.  He wanted him.  His dick in his mouth...or on his hands and knees in front of him, fucking him from behind.
 
He gasped, coming hard, trembling as he stroked through it.
 
His hand dropped to his side, his chest heaving.  Hooooly shit.  Shitshitshit.
 
He washed himself off, a new wave of excitement coursing through him.
 
He dried off and got dressed.  He wandered around his simple apartment, wondering where he should hang the painting.  It had to be in the living room.  He wanted to be able to see it all the time.  He paced into his bedroom.  Or maybe he wanted to wake up to it.  He looked back to the living room.  He grinned.  He wanted to wear the damn thing like a fucking class ring.  Cas was coming to see him.  
 
 
 
Sam showed up around 7:30, food in hand.  He barely had a foot in the door before the painting caught his eye.
 
“What’s that?” Sam asked, staring at it.
 
“Yeah.  I got a little gift in the mail today,” Dean grinned, staring at his pride and joy, now gracing the living room wall.  It took center stage, nicely accented by his black leather couch.  
 
Sam approached it with nerdy curiosity.  “Dean, is this an original?”
 
“Yep.”
 
“You bought this?” He asked, giving Dean a look like he had lost his mind.  “It’s beautiful...but...”
 
“It was a gift, dude.”
 
Sam gave the painting a skeptical look.  
 
“It’s from Cas.”
 
Sam’s look of shock was worth waiting every second until he had gotten here.  “He sent this to you?”
 
“He had it sent from Brazil.”
 
“What?!  That had to cost a fortune!”  Sam’s eyes roved over the painting again.
 
“I’m sure it wasn’t cheap.  And then there’s the fact that he dropped fourteen thousand euros to buy it.  It was on the little slip that came with it.”
 
Sam looked as shocked as Dean imagined he must have.  “Um...Dean...you gotta -”
 
“Call ‘im?” Dean grinned, shoving his hands in his pockets.  “I did.”
 
Sam looked like he might pass out if he didn’t start breathing soon.  Dean had to chuckle at the state he was in.  
 
“I called him,” he answered the unspoken need to repeat himself.
 
Sam sat the food down on the coffee table, running a hand back through his hair.  “Dean...who is this guy?”
 
Dean laughed, digging his Kung Pao Chicken out of the bag.  “He’s coming to visit.”
 
“Dean!”  Sam stepped back, both hands in his hair.  “What the hell is happening?  First...you want to ‘talk’.  You NEVER want to talk.  Then, you tell me you...I don’t know what you want to call it, fell for someone?  Had a fling?  And it’s a guy!”
 
“Sam!” Dean glared.
 
“Now you have artwork?  Dean!  What the hell happened to you?  If I didn’t know you better, I’d swear you were an imposter!”
 
“Dude.”  Dean snapped, getting annoyed.
 
“I’m sorry, but...” Sam stared at the painting again.  “Did you say he’s coming to visit?”  Sam actually sounded worried.
 
“Yeah.  He’s calling tonight and we’re gonna schedule something.”
 
“Something?  What?  A hook up?  A relationship?  Who is this guy?”
 
“Damn, Sammy.  How about you get happy for me.  How about, ‘that’s awesome’.  ‘Good luck with the really awesome guy that might be the one’.”  Dean froze, food in his hands and snapped his jaw shut.
 
Oh shit.
 
Sam looked positively thunderstruck.
 
Dean figured he probably looked the same.
 
He swallowed, sitting his food down and frowned down at it.  “What the hell is happening to me?”
 
Sam came to sit next to him.  “Dean...I’m sorry.  I just...I’ve never seen you like this before.  What do you know about him?”
 
Not much.  That was the truth.  So why had he said that?  The one?  That was totally insane.
 
“I know he’s a good guy.  I know there’s a lot more to him than the little bit I know.  And I know I want to get to know him a lot more.”  Even that answer shocked him.  How was he this wrapped up in a guy whose name he didn’t know four hours ago?
 
“Okay,” Sam nodded.  “Dean...tell me everything.  From the beginning.”
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5:  A Slice of Chicago
 
 
 
Castiel took a deep breath, letting the calming scent of ylang ylang, orange, patchouli, and Blue Tansy fill him with a calm, peaceful happiness.  He hoped Dean enjoyed the package he had sent him.  Hearing Dean had no idea what essential oils were all about, he had put together a package for him with a diffuser, ten of his favorite scents (and ones he thought Dean would enjoy), several of his most useful combinations in rollerball bottles (for headache, stuffy nose, relaxation, and one for pain and swelling), and a spray bottle of cleaner.  It might be an odd gift, but it was Castiel’s living.  
 
He had talked to or texted Dean every day since his first phone call two weeks ago.  They had spent an hour on the phone that first night, figuring out a time for him to come visit.
 
Dean was due to call him soon, so he walked back the hallway as quietly as he could, peeking into Jack’s room.  He had put his nephew to bed an hour ago and was pleased to see he was still sleeping.
 
He slipped into the room quietly, picking up his beloved and very battered stuffed snake, Felix.  He tucked it into Jack’s arms, kissing his forehead.  He combed several strands of his sandy brown hair back with a feather-light touch.  
 
Jack was the product of a very messy situation that had spilled over into Castiel’s life.  His brother, Lucifer, had gotten Kelly pregnant.  Lucifer had barely had anything to do with the pregnancy or Jack’s first six months of life.  Then, deciding he was going to be ‘a wonderful father’, inserted himself back into Kelly’s life.  The pair were volatile at best.  Cas often found himself taking care of Jack.  Gabe and Anna helped too, but Castiel kept constant tabs on the boy.  
 
Over a year ago, Kelly had died.  The circumstances were unclear.  She had an unexpected heart attack.  But he, Gabe, and Anna thought it was more likely drug use.  How much their brother had to do with it, none of them wanted to know.
 
Lucifer, currently nearing the end of his latest prison sentence (this one for a hit and run), was doing everything he could to get custody of Jack again.
 
Jack had spent the majority of his little life so far, under Castiel’s roof.  While temporary custody had been enough during Lucifer’s first two prison stays, Castiel had had enough.  He loved Jack.  And Jack was certainly better off with him than with his real father.
 
Somewhere, in hazy old memories, Castiel still loved his eldest brother.  But not enough to watch him destroy Jack’s life.  Lucifer was a menace.  He was headed down a certain path toward a terrible end and he felt helpless to stop him.  But Jack, he could save.
 
He walked out of the room, leaving the door open a crack.  A wave of nervousness swept through him when he looked at his watch.  Dean knew nothing about Jack.  It was not the sort of information he wanted to talk about over the phone.  Everything with Dean felt simultaneously fragile and absolutely perfect.  He feared the rejection he could be dealt when Dean found out he came as a package deal.  And then there was the terrifying possibility that he would lose his temporary custody of Jack altogether.  Or, at least until Lucifer ended up in jail for good.
 
He settled into his most comfortable chair, a pile of paperwork in his lap.  His phone rang, making him sit the pile aside with a grin.
 
He answered the phone.  “Hello, Dean.”
 
“Hey!  I got a package from you today.”
 
“I know,” he grinned.  “What did you think?”
 
“Um...I don’t really know what to do with this stuff.  Other than sniff it.  Some of them smell real good.”
 
“Oh?  Which ones do you like?”  
 
“Uh...peppermint, this calming peace blend, the orange scent smells pretty good.”
 
Castiel grinned, picturing Dean’s frown of confusion as he rifled through the box.  “Plug the diffuser in and fill it with water.  Bottled, if you have it.”
 
Dean huffed a laugh.  “Tap, Cas.  No bottles of what I get for free in this place.”
 
Castiel grinned.
 
He listened as Dean went about unpackaging and setting it up.  “How was work today?”
 
“Good.  Busy.  I’m glad it’s getting warmer out.”
 
Castiel got up to fix himself a cup of coffee.  “Will you be able to take time off when I come visit?”
 
“Yep.  Got it approved today.  I gotta warn you though.  There isn’t much to do here.”
 
“I’m easily entertained,” Castiel assured him, not wanting him to stress unneeded.  “I’m just glad I get to come see you.”
 
“Me too.  So, dump the bottle in?”
 
“No!” Castiel laughed.  “Pick a scent and put six to eight drops in the water.”
 
“Drops?” Dean repeated.
 
“Yes, drops.  It’s very potent.”
 
“Okay.  Now what?”
 
“Turn it on.”
 
“I see steam coming out the top.”
 
Castiel grinned.  “Good.  Now just let it run.  It will shut off automatically when it’s done.”  He listened as Dean took a deep breath.
 
“Smells good.  Calming Peace.  Maybe I can calm the hell down.”
 
Castiel’s brow crinkled as he stirred his coffee.  “What has you stressed?”
 
“Well, in case you didn’t hear, I invited this really hot guy to come stay with me.  And I’m new to this...guy thing.”
 
Castiel blushed with a grin wide enough that it shifted the phone, making him reposition it.  “Oh, I did hear about that on the news last night.”
 
“Funny.”
 
Castiel sat at his kitchen table.  “Please don’t stress.  I promise we are just getting to know each other better.”
 
Castiel listened as Dean seemed to think that over.
 
“Would you like me to wait a bit?  We could -”
 
“No!” Dean assured him.  “No way.  I want you to come.  I do.  I’m just...really...rusty?”
 
“I like rusty.”  He grinned at the giggle he elicited from Dean.  The man did things to him that he had not felt in years.  If ever.  “I talked to Meg the other day.  She said you had emailed her to try to find me.”
 
“Yeah.  She never got back to me. Guess she isn’t allowed to do that kind of thing.”
 
“No, she isn’t.  I assured her we were in contact and she could ignore it.”
 
“Huh.  She ignored it anyway.  What a co-...uh...professional.”
 
Castiel’s eyebrows jumped with surprise.  Was Dean going to say ‘cockblocker’?  He laughed, adjusting his legs at the very thought that Dean would even be there already.
 
“So!  What kind of food do you like?” Dean said, obviously changing the subject.  “Do I gotta buy organic or...”
 
Castiel laughed.  “I had a hamburger and fries from McDonalds for lunch today.  Dinner was a banana and a can of Ravioli.  I’m not picky.”  He did not add that that happened to be Jack’s current favorite meal.
 
“Oookay!  I can deal with that.  In fact, I can do waaay better than that!”
 
Castiel grinned at the relief in Dean’s voice.  “I eat good when I can.  But I’m down for beer and pizza any time.”
 
“You just jumped like fifty points in my ‘like’ meter,” Dean said.
 
Castiel grinned, picturing the warmth in his green eyes.  “I assume the same can be said for you?”
 
“You saw me eat.  My dad used to say I’d eat shit off a rusty spoon if I had to.”
 
“I think we can manage better than that,” Castiel assured.  “Will I be meeting Sam or...”
 
“Or am I keeping you hidden?” Dean asked, chuckling.  “Yeah, you get to meet my brother.  He’s like a giant puppy.  A nerdy, giant puppy.”
 
Castiel grinned.  “I’ve heard so much about him.  It will be good to meet him.”  He looked up as a car pulled into his driveway.  “Speaking of brothers, mine is here. I guess I should go.”
 
They said their farewells and he had just hung up as Gabe walked through the front door.  “Hey, Cassie.  Brought the midget with me.”
 
Anna scoffed.  “Could you BE any more annoying?  I’m taller than you, shorty.”
 
“Same height,” Gabe called, passing through the kitchen to plop onto the sofa.
 
Castiel got up, tucking his phone in his back pocket.  He hugged his sister and they followed Gabe into the small living room.
 
“I am taller,” Anna insisted.
 
“We are the exact same height,” Gabe frowned, waving her comment off.
 
“Cas?”
 
“You are both shorter than me.  That’s all I have to say.”  He sat on the chair, sipping his coffee.  “There’s coffee if you want any.”
 
Anna got up to make herself a cup.  Gabe sighed.  “So how’s Dean?”
 
Castiel felt his cheeks warm.  “Good.”
 
“Still going to see him next week?”
 
“I am.”
 
Gabe nodded.  “Where’s Jackpot?”
 
“In bed.”  Cas pinned his brother with a steady look.  “If you wake him up, you’re staying the night to entertain him.”
 
Gabe grinned, obviously weighing his choices.
 
Cas relented a grin as he took a drink of his coffee.
 
They waited for Anna to join them.  Once she was sitting on the couch, coffee in hand, there was no more procrastinating.
 
“So...how did it go?”
 
Gabe sighed.  He did that a lot these days.  “The product manager says the delays are temporary because of our change in shipping companies.  It should smooth out over the next two weeks.”
 
Castiel blew a breath out.  “Two weeks is a lot of orders.  We better get an email out explaining things.”
 
“Charlie is already on it.”
 
Anna, though she was a partner in their company, was not on the executive board.  She was happy on her farm with her husband, Abner, growing peppermint and lemongrass.  While her farm was one of their company’s first sources of cultivating quality oils, she was far from their largest supplier.  He often envied her simple life, compared to what he and Gabe had been through the past six years, building and maintaining their company.
 
“They said things will pick up soon.  I think they’re really trying,” Gabe added.
 
Castiel nodded.  Farming was not always a reliable market.  Weather effects on crops, natural disasters, plights, none of those things could be truly planned for.  Their customers seemed to tolerate it most of the time.  So when there were problems in production, it tended to be less forgivable.
 
“When are you going to Panama?” Gabe asked, pulling his phone out.
 
“When I leave Pennsylvania.  From Panama I’ll be headed to Holland.  Again.”
 
“I hope they have that farm up and running to code,” Gabe muttered.
 
“What’s in Pennsylvania?” Anna asked.
 
Castiel glanced over at her.  “Dean.”
 
“So...is this serious?” She asked, a slow grin spreading on her pale skin.
 
“Perhaps.”  Castiel busied himself taking a sip of coffee.
 
“You shoulda seen it,” Gabe raved, “we were almost boarded on the plane when this guy comes running through the airport, professes his love, and sweeps our baby brother right off his sensible shoes!”
 
Anna grinned, eyes sparkling.
 
Castiel scoffed.  “Okay, he did run.  But there were no professions of love.  And I stayed on my feet.”
 
“Whatever!”  Gabe waved him off, his phone forgotten so he could win his tale of events.  “The guy ran through the crowd like a rom com.  They kissed right there in the terminal while Cas held up boarding for the plane.  The whole airport could see!”
 
“YOU didn’t even see!” Castiel laughed.  “It was a pretty stellar kiss though.”
 
Anna’s shoulders hunched in excitement.  “That is SO romantic!”
 
Castiel blushed.  “Yes.  It was.  It was...” spectacular.  A moment he would never forget. Magical.  He looked at the mermaid figurine on his coffee table.  “It was magical.”
 
“Aaaawww!” Anna beamed.
 
Even Gabe had a dopey grin.   “That’s not the best part.  Dean was straight as an arrow until he met Cas.”
 
“Really?” Anna frowned with worry.  
 
Castiel understood why she was worried.  He did not have the greatest track record with dating.  “This one’s different, Anna.  I’m sure of it.”
 
She looked at Gabe.
 
Gabe nodded.  “But hey, what do I know.  I was supposed to be getting married in a month.  And now I’m not.”  He shrugged, still weighed down by the failure of his relationship with Kali.
 
Anna stretched a leg out, nudging Gabe’s thigh.  He looked at her, pouted, and tipped over to lay his head on her lap as she made room for him.  She ran her fingers through his hair, giving Cas another worried look.
 
Castiel brooded.  Why did the Novak men have such difficult relationships?
 
“I can’t adult anymore today,” Gabe said plaintively.  “Can we just watch a movie?”
 
Anna bent over, kissing his temple.
 
“Sounds good to me,” Castiel agreed.
 
Anna held up a hand.  “Wait a minute.  What happened in court today?”
 
“Oh yeah,” Gabe tipped his head to look at Cas.  “You have five adult minutes.  Go.”
 
Castiel sighed.  “The judge would like to see how Lucifer would do with supervised visitation.  She was quite rude about my ‘vacation’ too.”
 
Gabe sat up, he and Anna both looking pissed.
 
“Vacation!” Gabe snapped.
 
Cas smirked.  His thoughts exactly.
 
“Did ya tell her you were only away 7 days, providing people with HOMES, job skills, a leg up in this world!”
 
Cas shook his head.  “She didn’t want to hear it.  She said if I was serious about taking permanent custody of Jack, then I needed to act like a responsible parent.  She also reviewed my work calendar.  She read every trip I’ve taken in the last three months for work.  She says that is not a stable parent figure.  Apparently, I work too much.”
 
Gabe flopped back.  “Bullshit.”
 
“But...did you explain that when you’re out of town, Jack stays with me?” Anna asked.  “I’m family too!”
 
Cas stared down at his cup of coffee.  He hated to say this out loud.  He had no idea what it would do to them.  All of them.  “The judge said Jack would already be placed if you were the one filing for custody.”
 
“Me?” Anna asked, flabbergasted.  “Why?”
 
Cas shrugged.  “You work from home.  You’re married.  You’re straight.  You’re...stable.  Apparently, I am not.”
 
Anna looked horrified.  “Castiel.  I...”
 
Cas could not even meet her eyes. If Anna wanted to, she could take Jack.  It broke his heart.  But maybe the judge knew better.  Maybe he would be better off with Anna and her husband and farm.  It sounded so perfect when you compared it to him.  A single parent who worked all over the world.
 
Gabe watched them like a tennis match, no longer jumping in.  
 
Anna scooted to the edge of the sofa.  “Cassie, I would never take Jack from you.  He calls you ‘dad’.”
 
Cas tried to guard how deeply that simultaneously hurt and filled his heart with love.
 
“I love watching him when you go out of town, Cas.  But he’s five.  He’ll start kindergarten in the fall.”  Silence filled the room for a moment.  “Do you have a plan?”
 
Castiel’s eyes dropped to the floor.  “Not really.”
 
“So we make a plan!” Gabe scoffed, both hands flying out to the sides.  “We’re capable of managing 67 farms all over the world, processing warehouses, shipping debacles, customer service, for crying out loud!  We can manage one, tiny five-year-old!”
 
Anna grinned, looking from Gabe to Cas.  “Yes, we can.”
 
Cas leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs.  “Okay, what do we do?”
 
 
 
*****************************************
 
 
 
Castiel woke to the quiet noise of Jack getting himself breakfast.  He sat up, glaring at Gabriel.  His brother had decided to stay the night.  The last he had seen him, he was sleeping on the couch.  Now, he was sprawled across his bed.
 
If Gabriel were a plant, he would be ivy.  Lovely, stately at times.  Weathered all sorts of weather.  Hardy.  Very invasive and spread all over.  When set upon something, he could systematically pervade it until the entire structure crumbled, like ivy on a brick wall.  Luckily, ivy, and Gabe, were relatively trainable with boundaries.
 
He deposited Gabe’s arm back to himself and sat up on the edge of the bed to wake up.  He rubbed his face and yawned.  His chin settled onto his fisted hand with a grin.  If Dean were a plant, he would be a field of Lavender.  Beautiful.  Versatile.  Calming.  Much like when he approached a field of Lavender, he wished he could roll inside him, understand all his hidden charms, gather him and have him in every room of his house.
 
Another yawn had him stretching and on his feet.  He rubbed at one eye as he sleepily shuffled into the kitchen.
 
Jack looked up at him, cheeks puffed full of cereal.  He sat perched on the edge of a wooden chair, feet dangling.
 
He chewed, blinking his brown eyes.
 
“Good morning,” Castiel grinned, shuffling over to kiss the top of his head and move on to the coffee pot.
 
“Uncle Gabe’s here.”
 
Cas narrowed his eyes as he poured coffee into the filter.  “Yes, he is.  How did you know?”
 
Jack was turned, kneeling in the chair to watch him over the back of it.  “He fell asleep on the couch.”
 
Cas filled the pot with water, grinning at him.  “Did you find him?”
 
Jack nodded eagerly.
 
“Did you tell him to come sleep with me?”
 
Jack grinned, showing all his tiny, perfect teeth.  “Yeah!”
 
Castiel fought the grin that tugged at his very heart.  “Why?”
 
Jack giggled.  “Cause you said Uncle Gabe is sad.  So I told him to have a sleepover with you.”
 
Castiel finally let the grin show.  “Well, next time, he can sleep with you!”
 
Jack laughed, standing on the chair now.  “Did he sleep like an octopus?”  He waved his little arms out, making a quite accurate sleep face with mouth hanging wide open.
 
Castiel stepped over to him, scooping him off his feet to hold him under his arm like one would tuck a newspaper.  He poured the water into the coffee pot.  “So...you knowingly woke your uncle up, sent him to sleep with me...”
 
Cas pressed start on the coffee pot and walked into the living room, paying the squirming child little heed.  “Knowingly ruined MY sleep because,” he tossed Jack onto the couch, immediately tickling his stomach to watch him laugh and squeal, “because you thought it was funny I had to sleep with an octopus!”
 
“Yes!” Jack laughed, making Castiel laugh.  “Next time I’ll be sure to send him to YOUR room!”
 
He stood, turning to walk away to the kitchen.  Jack scrambled off the couch and wrapped himself around his right leg.  
 
Castiel looked down at him.  “Another octopus?” He walked back into the kitchen, swinging his right leg wide with each step.  “I must have an infestation.”
 
“Don’t be silly!” Gabe boomed from the kitchen doorway.  “Anyone can see that’s a spider-monkey!”
 
Jack giggled, springing from Castiel’s leg to run and hug Gabe.  Gabe picked him up, hugging him and holding him easily on his hip.  Jack sat back, one hand fanning out a section of Gabe’s hair.  “Are you sad?”
 
“Jack,” Cas said softly, reminding him just how unpredictable he could be.
 
Gabe stared at his nephew with a sad grin.  “I am.  That mean Kali went and broke my heart.”
 
“No,” Jack shook his head, putting his palm on Gabe’s chest.  “Your heart is thumping.  I feel it.”
 
“Really?”  Gabe put a hand on his chest.  “Huh!  It is thumping!”
 
“I sleep with daddy when my heart thumping hurts too,” Jack said.  “He’s a good thumper fixer.”
 
Gabe tried to mask the hurt he had for his nephew.  It killed all of them a little to know how Lucifer hurt his son.  How his inability to change his temper, behavior, nature, whatever it was that made Lucifer who he was, hurt not only himself and whoever his impatience or wrath was aimed at, but also his family.
 
“Well then, thank you,” Gabe said, hugging him once more and sitting him back in the chair at his cereal bowl.
 
Castiel exchanged a look with Gabe as he did the same morning shuffle to lean against the counter next to him.  “Thanks for fixing my thumper.”
 
Cas grinned.  “Any time.”
 
“Love the family breakfast, but I gotta jet.  I have a conference call at 10:00.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “I’ll be at the office by then.  Jack’s appointment ends at 9:45.”
 
Gabe nodded, pulling his coat on.  “Jack in the box!”  Jack stood on his chair, jumping up to give Gabe a high five.  “Love ya, kid.” He hugged and kissed Jack goodbye, giving Cas a tired wave.
 
Jack sat down in his seat, watching as Gabe left.  He turned, looking at Cas.  “Don’t tell Uncle Gabe, but I’m glad he’s not marrying her.”
 
Cas already knew as much.  Jack was as easy to read as a billboard.  He only spoke to Kali when directed to.  And that was minimal at best.  It was interesting to see how well Jack could read people.
 
“Why?” Cas asked, curious to how he would respond.
 
Jack frowned, looking thoughtful with a little tilt to his head.  “She makes him grumpy.  And she’s pretend.”
 
“Pretend?” Cas asked, coming to sit at the table with him.
 
“Yeah.”  Jack toyed with the spoon in his bowl.  “Like people on TV pretend.”
 
Castiel grinned, then gave Jack a more serious head nod.  “I think I know exactly what you mean.”
 
Jack went on eating his cereal as Cas got lost in thought.  While his nephew was having a good morning, seeming like any other five-year-old, he was wise beyond his years and had seen more than any child should.  Outside the sanctuary of their house and Anna’s house, Jack was extremely introverted and untrusting.  Around Lucifer, he was silent and still, as if any wrong move would make his father snap.

His appointment this morning was with the child psychologist assigned to his case.  Castiel had mixed feelings on what was said in her playroom.  She seemed to encourage Jack to forgive his father and accept him.  But Castiel knew better.  Lucifer would never change his ways.  He would spiral until something happened to cage him forever.  But if he bucked the system too hard, Jack would pay the price.
 
He took the opportunity of their quiet moment at the table to summon up the courage to talk to Jack some more.
 
“So, I was talking to Gabe and Anna last night.”
 
“Anna was here?” Jack asked.
 
“She was.  She said to tell you hello and she loves you.”
 
Jack grinned, chewing away.
 
“So, we were talking.  And I think I’m going to take less trips for work.  So I can be here with you.”
 
Jack nodded with another grin.  After swallowing, he said, “Are you still going to Panimal?”
 
Cas grinned.  “Yes.  Panama.”
 
Jack slumped in his seat with a sad nod.
 
“Then I will be going to Holland, then back home.  I’ll only be gone for six days.”  Just saying that out loud made him feel guilty.  It was a lot.  Especially to a very sensitive five-year-old.
 
“How do you talk there?” Jack asked, watching him closely.
 
“Well, in Panama, they speak Spanish.”
 
Jack looked confused.  “Like at Javier’s?”
 
Cas grinned.  Javier’s was a local small grocery store.  The owner was Venezuelan.  And he spoke Spanish.  “Yes.  You are very smart.”
 
Jack was still thinking, so Cas waited for more.
 
“Do they speak Spanish in Holland?”
 
“No,” Cas grinned.  “They speak Dutch.  And English.”
 
Jack looked thoroughly confused.  No wonder.
 
“Would you like it if I travel less?”
 
Jack nodded.
 
Cas smiled sadly.
 
“Can I come along?”
 
Cas had not thought of that.  He certainly was not ready to have him along on this trip.  But he could certainly check the legality of his next trips.
 
“I’ll look into it.”
 
Jack nodded with a grin.  “I’ll be good.”
 
Cas’ heart squeezed.  “You are always good.  I just don’t know if I’m allowed to take you or not.  But I will find out.”
 
Jack finished his cereal as Cas got a cup of coffee.  When he turned around, Jack was right behind him, almost making him trip.  He looked up at him with confusion.  “Are you gonna see Dean?”
 
Castiel was shocked.  He thought he had been quiet about all that.  He sat his coffee on the counter with a frown.  “I am.  How did you know that?”
 
Jack shrugged.  “You talk to him on the phone at night.  He’s your new friend from Basil.”
 
Cas bit his lip.  “Brazil.  And...he might be more than a friend.”
 
Jack nodded one slow nod.  He already looked worried.
 
Castiel worried he had said the wrong thing.  
 
“Like her?”
 
Castiel knew he meant Kali.  He only used names of people he liked.  Everyone else was him/her, that lady/that man.  But his train of thought was easy enough for Cas to follow.  “Yes, like Kali.  But he is nothing like Kali.”
 
Jack gave him the tiniest grin.  “He makes you laugh.”
 
Castiel watched as Jack went to his room to get dressed.  It was incredible what you could learn from a five-year-old.
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 6:  Dinner and a Confession
 
 
 
 
Now that he was in the airport in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cas worried about every detail.  Were they rushing things?  Okay, they were definitely rushing things.  But he didn’t want to wait.  It had been three weeks since he had seen Dean in person.  Although they had certainly gotten to know each other better over the phone, it still was not the same as being together in person.  He didn’t even know how to greet him.  A hug?  A kiss?  A handshake?  Forgo touching him until he had a better gauge on the situation?
 
And then there was Jack.  He sighed heavily.  That could be a deal breaker.  And he would have to walk away, if that were the case, knowing Dean was not the one for him.
 
He took his suitcase from the carousel and headed for the rental cars.  He had a three-hour drive ahead of him before he got to Dean’s hometown.  The weather was a bit warmer here.  He tossed his coat into the trunk of the small rental, along with his suitcase.  He put his carry-on in the passenger seat and programmed the GPS.  
 
He rolled a mix of essential oils on the inside of his wrists and forearms that helped calm his nerves.  He breathed in the familiar, calming blend and headed out of the airport.
 
He called Anna’s to check on Jack, spoke to Jack too, then tried to figure out exactly what he was going to say to Dean.
 
 
 
********************************************
 
 
 
“Damn.  You smell good,” Pam frowned, leaning close and smelling him.  “What are you wearing?”
 
Dean smelled his own wrist.  “Calming Peace.  It’s these essential oils Cas’ company makes.  They really do calm me down.”
 
“Huh.  I need some of that.”
 
Dean grinned, pulling the glass bottle out of his pocket.  He took her arm, rolling it on her wrist.  She smelled it, grinning back at him.  “Am I gonna get to meet this potion maker of yours?”
 
“Yeah.” Dean tucked the bottle away.  “He should be here soon.  In fact, I really should go.”
 
She grinned wide, her smile not just flirtatious for once.  “I got a good feeling about this guy already.”
 
Dean blushed.  “Yeah.  Me too.  Wish me luck.  Ya know I’m bound to fuck this up somehow.”
 
Her smile disappeared.  “Are you allowed to talk shit about my best friend?”
 
Dean scoffed.  “If the shoe fits.”
 
Her glare intensified.  “Dean!”
 
“Alright, alright.”  He dropped his smirk and let his nervousness show.  “I just...feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
 
“Told you to watch those DVDs!”
 
They both laughed.  “I did.  And you know what I mean.  I’ve never really tried to...” he waved his hand in a circle, frowning.
 
“Date?” She supplied.  “Like an adult.”
 
He sighed heavily.  “Yeah.  That.”
 
“Hook ups are fine, Dean.  They have their moments.  Literally.  But life is too short to go through it alone.  I know you got it in you to ride this through to the end.”
 
He stared at her confident expression, leeching it into his system until he felt strong enough to get up and leave.  Getting to his feet, he hugged her, kissing the top of her head.
 
“Good luck.”
 
He grinned, heading out of the tattoo shop to wait out back.  Cas should be here any minute.
 
He sat on the back porch of the old building, listening to the kids down the alley playing basketball.  He was only there for a few minutes when a black car pulled into the strip of parking spots behind their yard.  
 
He stood up, watching the car nervously.  The second he saw Cas’ face, he broke out into a huge grin.  Cas!  Here!  He strode down the steps and along the narrow sidewalk that divided the yard in two leading to the parking area.
 
Castiel had a small bag hanging from his shoulder and a big grin.  “Hello, Dean,” he called.
 
Dean was a bit shocked at how overwhelming it was to see him again.  As Cas shut the car door, stepping toward him, Dean jogged the remaining distance, hugging Cas as soon as he reached him.
 
The familiar scent of Calming Peace made him inhale deeply.  Amongst the calming scent was the familiar citrus and something else that he absolutely associated with Cas.  He realized this was why he was so drawn to this smell.  Cas had smelled like this in Brazil.  Like all was right with the world.  His hands had only felt this once before and he could not stop himself from sliding his hands along Cas’ back.  He was so muscular.  His own skin tingled with the unfamiliar feeling of hands slowly rubbing his own back.  The only man he had ever hugged this close was Sam.  And that had felt totally different.
 
“You feel so good.”  His eyes popped open and his hands froze.  He hadn’t even said hello yet!  That had to be weird!  “I mean...” he backed up, leaving the hug to look at him. “Hey!  Good to see you!  You look great!  You always look great.  I just mean...um...”
 
He stammered as Cas smiled at his sudden nervousness.  If hugging him was bad, looking at him was worse.  All he wanted to do was kiss him.  His insides were jumping like crazy.  “Yeah...you...it’s so good to see you.”
 
Cas laughed gently, nodding his head.  His grin was so wide he could see his gums and the laugh lines at the corners of his eyes crinkled and made him even cuter.  “It’s good to see you too.”
 
Dean’s insides buzzed again.  Had his voice always sounded so damn good?  It was deep, warm, and rich.  As his face settled into a more subdued grin, Dean realized he was just staring at him and how weird it was.  He stepped back, not wanting to overwhelm him.  “Man...your eyes really are as blue as I remember them.”  He stared in amazement and blushed, seeming to be unable to shut himself up.
 
Cas grinned anew, shifting the bag on his shoulder as a blush started to stain his cheeks pinker.
 
Reality snapped back in and Dean took a quick breath, rubbing his hands together.  “You have more bags?  I can carry them.”
 
“Oh...” Cas’ eyes lost a bit of their wide-eyed staring as he blinked and looked back at the car as if he needed it to jolt his memory.  “I do have a suitcase.  I can grab it.”
 
Their initial hug and stare session over, they moved more normally, taking the suitcase toward his apartment, which was an old house converted into the tattoo shop on the bottom floor, an apartment on the second floor where Pam lived, and his apartment on the third floor.
 
Dean had spent the past several weeks doing projects around his apartment for Cas’ arrival.  If he could drop 14,000 euros for a ‘thank you’ gift, the guy had to be used to better things than he was.  So, he fixed his crappy shower head, painted the living room, cleaned his windows, bought new bedding, made Pam help him improve his decorating scheme, and even spent an entire weekend improving the yard.  He had never gone to such lengths to impress someone before.
 
“This is a nice little town,” Cas said, following him through the yard, grinning up at the large oak tree.
 
“Yeah.  I like it.”
 
“You told me Sam found a job here, right?  That’s what brought you both here?”
 
They went up the outside steps and into the door that lead right into his small, dated kitchen.  “Yep.  Sam likes the firm he works with.  Neither of us wanted to live in a city, so I was pretty glad he hit a job in this kind of town.”
 
He pulled Cas’ suitcase through the kitchen, down the hall and into his bedroom.  Again, hitting an awkward moment so soon.  “I, uh, figured you could stay in here.  I can sleep on the couch or whatever we, you, we decide.”
 
Cas’ grin wobbled with amusement again at his stammering.  Dean sighed at his own inability to shake off his nerves.  He was in so much new territory here, he might as well be a teenager again.
 
“Uh...” he left the suitcase and stepped back into the hall.  “Bathroom is right there, and the living room is -”
 
“Oh, Dean!” Cas’ face lit up, seeing the painting.  “It looks fantastic in here!”  Cas’ eyes moved around the room, Dean fretted every imperfection in the hardwood, the small stain on his rug, the suddenly too-simple style of his black furniture.  His anxiety was climbing as he noticed his one window blind was lower than the other one and his betta fish tank was slightly off center on its shelf.  He worried his bottom lip, glancing at Cas.  But he had an easy grin and seemed quite comfortable.
 
“It’s like the room was decorated just for this painting!”
 
Dean shrugged.  “I may have...decorated around it,” he admitted.  “It’s the focal point, so I just did what I could to accentuate it.”  He shrugged.  “My friend Pam helped me decorate a little better in here, so it at least hung somewhere decent.  I mean...it could be in a museum.”
 
Cas grinned, blushing lightly again.  “I just...bought it on a whim.”  He bit his lip, his eyes studying him slowly, the way they did sometimes.  “The look on your face when you were thinking about it...it belongs to you.”
 
Dean blushed.  “Good thing you weren’t with me when I saw the Statue of Liberty.”  They shared a shy chuckle.  Cas said things sometimes that made him feel like Cas might have the wrong guy.  Like Cas might have higher expectations of him than he was capable of achieving.  Like Cas thought he was...special or smart or something more than he was.  He was just Dean.  A carpenter.  Not great at anything in particular.  Just a boring guy from nowhere.  He rubbed the back of his neck nervously.  
 
“Your apartment is so nice!  Man.  I really need to work on my house.  I should have you decorate for me.”
 
Some of Dean’s apprehension abated.  “I figured you for the immaculate house kind of guy.”
 
Cas glanced back at him and laughed, making Dean grin instantly.  He had heard that laugh on the phone.  But the joy he exuded was lost a bit without the adorable smile and the way his shoulders relaxed.  “My house is...it needs so much work.”
 
“I just kinda assumed your place was...” he glanced up at the painting, “perfect.”
 
“Far from it.  I bought a house, which was quite an accomplishment after sharing an apartment with Gabriel or living in my sister’s house.  Our company start-up was slow and expensive.  Everything we made went right back into the company for the first three years.  And the five before that, when we were trying to start the company.  It’s only been the past two years that Gabe and Charlie and I could actually enjoy the money we were making.”  He tilted his head with a small wince.  “And I have to admit...I buy things from time to time, but they just collect in my upstairs storage room.  I haven’t taken the time to actually decorate.  I really should.”
 
Dean grinned, relaxing even more.  But no matter how he defended himself, Cas was dressed in clothes that were expensive, even if they were understated.  Chances were, his house was probably really freakin’ nice.  “Well, the painting, and you coming kinda prompted me to spruce the place up.”
 
Cas turned to him with a softening grin.  “You didn’t have to do that!”
 
Dean shrugged, sliding his hands into his pockets.  “I wanted to.”  He smiled shyly and he could see how it melted Cas.  Their eyes held in a stare, but neither one crossed the foot of space between them to act on it.  They had talked on the phone about plenty of things, but there was something about being face to face that took him right back to where they had left each other at the airport.  The connection he felt as he searched those blue eyes.  The way his presence made his entire body light up.  He may have had fleeting moments of this throughout his life, but nothing that continued each time he saw the person.
 
Needing to lighten the mood before he wound himself around this guy and stared at him endlessly, he cleared his throat and looked away.  “Can I get you a drink?  Something to eat?”
 
“Water would be great,” Cas grinned, a tiny flitter of nervousness showing in the way his lips pressed and unpressed.
 
Dean grinned.  He had bought bottled water just for this sort of moment.  He tipped his head, encouraging Cas to follow him back to the kitchen.  
 
At least he had the drink handled.  Now if he could just rein in his nerves.
 
 
********************************
 
 
Castiel liked the feel of this small town.  It had access to major highways yet had a quaint downtown with shops and pretty sidewalks with little trees lining the main streets.  There was a fountain in the square that made him grin as he drove by it.  The library had huge granite steps and columns, giving it a stately appeal, making Cas want to explore it.  But he continued on, more and more anxious to get to Dean.  The GPS said he arrived when he passed a large, brick home, a three-story house that looked like it was out of a novel.  The only downside to it was that it sat only two feet apart from either of its neighbors, common for downtown living.  He followed Dean’s directions to turn into the alley and onto another alley, pulling into a row of parking spaces that were exactly as Dean had described.  He looked up at the back of the house, seeing a small but neat back yard with a huge, lovely oak tree shading it.  As soon as he spotted Dean sitting on the back porch, his breath caught in his chest.
 
He was actually here!
 
He flew two hours and drove three hours and carved out a hole in his travels to make this happen.  His face lit up with a grin.  He wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans as he got out of the car.  He could tell the second Dean realized it was him.  His whole body seemed to react.  His grin was more than endearing and he headed toward him like a damn runway model.
 
“Hello, Dean,” he called, unable to restrain some of his nervous energy.
 
He headed toward him and Dean began to jog the remaining distance.  Castiel’s heart felt near to bursting.  He opened his arms and had to stifle a sound of pure pleasure as Dean hugged him, filling his arms and holding him tight.  He smelled like Calming Peace and it made him grin, knowing he had some of that oil blend on too.  He felt his broad shoulders and strong back, so thankful he had enough nerve to come here.  It was absolutely the right thing to do.  Nothing had ever felt so perfectly right.
 
“You feel so good,” Dean said, his voice rumbling where their chests pressed together. He wanted to kiss him for saying such a true statement.  This felt good.  Dean felt so good.  They had talked and heard each other, but this...this was nirvana.
 
Dean started stammering nervously and Castiel leaned back to see him.  He was beautiful.  His hair, his green eyes, the shape of his lips, the hint of freckles across his cheeks.  They were lighter now than they had been in Brazil.
 
Dean had said something about it being nice to see him.  And all Castiel could think was, this is real.  He really is kind of an adorable mess right now, stammering and nervous.  His hands still clung to his biceps as if Castiel might run.  “It’s good to see you too.”  And it was.  Dean’s face was mesmerizing to watch.
 
They seemed to freeze in a moment of bewilderment.
 
“Man...your eyes really are as blue as I remember them.”
 
Castiel had never had someone study him quite the way Dean did.  As if he were amazed to see him.  It was flattering and overwhelming.  And he truly felt the same way about the man still holding onto his upper arms.  The heat in his hands made him really want to hug him again.  He realized with a start that Dean had said something about a bag.  He managed to say, as Dean let him go, that he had a suitcase in the trunk.  
 
He tried to shake off his cloud of awe and focus.  Dean seemed to have moved on from the moment and he followed him into the beautiful house.  An external stairway lead to a balcony that gave an excellent view of the oak tree.  He followed Dean inside, walking into a classic 50’s era kitchen.  The huge ceramic sink and speckled, metal trimmed counters gave it an adorable diner vibe.  He could smell spices and meat, noticing a roast in the oven.  His stomach growled as they went down a short hall.  The doorways were all arched.  The wood trim was wide and painted but had a history to it that made Castiel smile.  The hardwood floors were beautiful.
 
He walked into Dean’s bedroom and would have argued that he take the couch, but Dean’s bashfulness about the entire situation had him wanting to kiss him more than ever.  The bedroom was small, but fresh and clean with a wholesome appeal with its metal framed queen size bed, quilt of blues, whites, and grays.  He wanted to take his hand and press him down into that fluffy bed and-
 
He tamed his thoughts down, having sworn to himself that he would wait for Dean to make the first move when it came to anything intimate.
 
“Oh Dean!”  All his thoughts clattered to a halt when he saw the painting he had bought for him hanging like the beautiful art it was.  The charcoal furniture in the room and splashes of red throughout the décor gave the living room an energy that made him feel excited and thrilled.  Thrilled to be here.  Thrilled at what he and Dean had.  The way the artwork took center stage was so moving.
 
“It’s like the room was decorated just for this painting!”
 
Dean shrugged.  “I may have...decorated around it,” he admitted.  “It’s the focal point, so I just did what I could to accentuate it.”  He shrugged.  “My friend Pam helped me decorate a little better in here, so it at least hung somewhere decent.  I mean...it could be in a museum.”
 
Cas grinned, blushing lightly again.  “I just...bought it on a whim.”  He bit his lip, his eyes studying him.  Dean had what his friend Chuck would have called an ‘old soul’.  There was so much more than male swagger behind his movements.  There were shadows and thoughts in those green eyes that he would give anything to hear.  He thought about the first time he realized there was a lot more to Dean Winchester than his ridiculously hot body and sweet demeanor.  In quiet moments when he thought no one was looking, there was so much more.  “The look on your face when you were thinking about it...it belongs to you.”
 
Dean gave him a doubtful look.  And he knew if he didn’t change the subject and lighten up, things were going to go too deep too fast.
 
He complimented the apartment and realized with some of Dean’s nervousness and a few things he said, that Dean had the impression he was more uppity than he knew himself to be.  
 
He took the bottle of water Dean handed him and took a long drink.  “It smells delicious in here.  What are you cooking?”
 
“Figured you needed a good meal, since you eat out so much.  I made a beef roast, with potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Should be done in an hour.”
 
Castiel’s stomach growled again.  “That sounds amazing!”  He caught Dean’s wrist as he stepped toward the stove.  “Dean, I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble for my visit.  I wouldn’t care if we were staying at a rundown motel.  I just wanted...needed, to see you.”
 
Dean grinned, his eyes going wide.  “I didn’t...well, I figured being a Vice President and all, you were used to things being pretty nice.  I just wanted you to...ya know...come back.”
 
Castiel shook his head in disbelief.  “Dean...I do have a house, but our company isn’t Nabisco.  We don’t live in mansions or have our own planes.”  He chuckled just picturing it.  “We dumped all we had and more to build it.  We’re only just now MAKING money.”
 
“Huh.”  Dean stood there in surprise.
 
“I can see how you might think so.  I did send you a rather expensive...gift.”
 
“On a whim,” Dean said gently, searching his face.
 
Castiel grinned.  “On a whim.  But Dean, it was a really good whim.”  He let go of Dean’s wrist only to have his hand caught by Dean’s hand.  
 
He took Dean’s hand, watching him stare down at their hands.  “I’m not trying to overwhelm you...but I am VERY interested in...pursuing you.”
 
Dean looked up at him, his nervous look ticking up into a grin.  “Pursuing huh.  Is that like...dating?”
 
Castiel took a deep breath.  Everything seemed awkward when it came to more than simple conversation with Dean.  But the chemistry seemed to be there, nonetheless.    “Would courting you be too...odd?”
 
Dean laughed.  “Courting?  I feel like that requires marriage contracts or handwritten letters asking my parents for permission to stroll around downtown.”
 
Castiel laughed, gripping Dean’s hand a bit more comfortably.
 
“Seeing as how my parents are gone and yeah, that’s just weird, let’s stick with dating.  I guess it’s long-distance dating.”
 
Castiel nodded, he knew he was blushing and grinning like a fool, but Dean made him feel things he had not felt in a long time.  “Dating then,” he said quietly.
 
Dean’s grin softened.  “Okay.  So, we’re dating.”  He blushed and took a half step back.  “You make me feel like I’m a teenager again.  Did you bring a class ring for me to wear around my neck?”
 
Castiel blushed again.  “I wish I had one to give you.”
 
Dean’s amusement dipped into something deeper.  His thumb swept across the back of Castiel’s hand with a tender touch.  
 
Castiel had taken the lead exactly two times in his life.  The first time had been disastrous.  The second time had been at the beach with Dean.  To say he was gun-shy was an understatement.  The mere thought of it had him releasing Dean’s hand with a shy grin.  This was what he had been the most nervous about.  Taking the first steps.  Even though Dean had kissed him at the airport, everything felt brand new.
 
“I would love to see that painting again,” he suggested shyly.
 
Dean relaxed his shoulders and grinned more like Castiel was used to.  Easy and comfortable.
 
They went back to the living room and he took several moments to appreciate the piece of art.  Dean had hung it with such care.  “I knew this belonged to you.  It’s perfect.”
 
Dean was next to him, staring at it as well.  A slow grin softened his features.  “I never dreamed I would own it.  But I do love it.”
 
“Good.”
 
“I uh,” Dean stepped away, walking over to the couch, “I have lots of movies.  And we can rent one too.”
 
“I believe you promised to watch Doctor Who with me,” Castiel grinned, turning to him.  “I brought series 1.  It’s as good a place as any to start it.”
 
Dean grinned, shaking his head.  “I believe you promised to watch Dr. Sexy with me.”  Dean’s voice had dipped down a bit and there was a spark in his eyes that drew Castiel closer to him.  Now that they were together again, he could not seem to tolerate being out of arm’s length.  “We could watch one episode before dinner,” Dean added, not really seeming to be thinking about the TV.  Not from the way his eyes searched Castiel’s face.
 
“We could,” Castiel agreed, staring at Dean’s mouth.  He had thought about the kiss in the airport every day since it had happened.  Ten times a day even.  He licked his own lips, biting his lower one.  If he were only brave enough to bridge the gap...
 
A knock on the door broke the spell they seemed to be under.  Dean blinked a few times, rubbing the back of his neck.  “That must be Sam.”
 
Castiel smiled, shaking off the gravity that had been pulling him closer to Dean.
 
“I’ll just...get the door,” Dean stammered, turning away from him.  “Make yourself comfortable.”  He waved a hand toward the couch.
 
Castiel sat down, glancing around the room again.  He had hoped to talk about Jack before going too much further with Dean.  But it would have to wait until Sam left.  He knew he should have talked about it already.  Days ago.  Hell, he should have mentioned it in Recife. He had talked about Jack but called him his nephew.  While that was true, there was so much more to it.  And he knew damn well he had not mentioned it because IF there was a chance of something with Dean, adding a child would make it so much more complicated.  Let alone a nasty court struggle and a violent brother with ideation of his own ability to father a child.  
 
He looked up when Dean returned with a man even taller than Dean with shoulder-length, brown hair.  His grin was warm, putting Castiel at ease as he stood up to greet him.
 
“Sam, this is Cas.  Cas, my brother, Sam.”
 
“It’s so nice to meet you,” both men said, laughing as they shook hands.
 
“I’ve heard so much about you,” Sam went on.
 
“You as well,” Castiel agreed, glancing at Dean.
 
“You gonna stay for dinner?” Dean asked.
 
Sam seemed to take a few seconds to read his brother for a cue on whether to stay or not.  “I can.  But I have to get home soon after.”
 
“You want a drink?” Dean asked, heading to the kitchen.
 
“Yeah,” Sam called.  “Got beer?”
 
“Yeah,” Dean answered, like Sam was ridiculous for even asking.
 
Sam grinned and they both sat down.  Sam took the recliner, looking quite comfortable in his brother’s home.  Something about it put Castiel at ease even more.  His own siblings treated his house like a second home, and he liked it that way.
 
“So, you two met in Brazil,” Sam commented, studying him.
 
“Yes.  He’s an amazing carpenter.  His work was so good that we easily stayed on the insane timetable they set.”
 
Sam nodded.  “I heard you’re an interpreter.”
 
“Yes.  I love languages.  I seem to pick them up rather easily.”
 
Dean came back with two beers.  “Cas, you want one?”
 
“I’ll wait until dinner, but yes.”  He returned Dean’s smile as he sat down on the couch with him, not right next to him, but not all the way over either.
 
“How many languages do you speak?” Sam asked.
 
“Well, including sign, um...11 conversationally.  I know some Mandarin as well, but not enough to be fluent.”
 
“Wow,” both brothers said, staring at him a bit.
 
“How do you like being a lawyer?” Castiel asked.
 
Sam sagged into the chair, sipping his beer.  “It’s a loooot of paperwork.  Like, a lot.  But, it’s good.”
 
Castiel nodded.  Conversation went easily from there.  They both talked about their work.  When Dean got up to put dinner on the table, they followed him to the kitchen, helping to set the table and talk about Recife, history, sight-seeing in general, and Habitat For Humanity, insisting Sam needed to join them on their next venture.  Being with the brothers was easy.  He liked the way they bantered with each other.  Sam seemed like a very nice guy and he seemed to enjoy many things that Castiel enjoyed himself.  Dean was quiet but piped in with his opinion or an added story.  The food was fantastic, and the evening passed quickly.
 
When the table was cleared and the dishes done, Dean excused himself to go to the bathroom.  As soon as the bathroom door shut, Sam leaned forward.  Castiel braced himself for a possible threat or lecture.
 
“Cas, I don’t know how open Dean has been with you, but you do know this is his first time being with a guy, right?” Sam said in a rushed whisper.
 
Castiel had to grin at his level of concern.  “I am aware.  I’m sure he told you that I completely misread the situation and...”
 
Sam nodded, smirking.
 
“We both have been better about communicating since then.  So, yes, I know.”
 
Sam nodded.  He huffed an amused laugh.  “Just so ya know, he’s crazy about you.”  
 
Castiel bit his lips together.  His blush was not worth mentioning when compared to Dean’s, who had just stepped into the doorway.
 
“Sam, what the hell?”
 
Sam laughed, standing up.  “Guess I should head out.”
 
“Yeah,” Dean snapped.  “I don’t need you passing notes for me, genius.”
 
“Yeah,” Sam laughed.  “Just...helping my brother out.”
 
Dean tossed his coat at him, shoving him toward the door.  Sam laughed.  “Bye, Cas!”
 
“Bye, Sam!” Castiel had to chuckle at the scuffle the brothers made.  He picked up the three glasses from the table and brought them to the sink.
 
He was still grinning when he heard the door shut, marking Sam’s exit and the long sigh from Dean in the following quiet.
 
“Sorry,” Dean said flatly.
 
Castiel turned to face him, leaning against the sink.  “He means well.  He’s just worried about you.”
 
“Hm,” Dean turned from the door, taking a slow step toward him.
 
Castiel rested his hands back onto the sink edge, watching as Dean continued to come toward him slowly.  “I’m sure he meant well.”  Castiel could not help but grin at Dean’s nearing proximity.
 
“He thinks I can’t figure this out for myself.”  Dean stopped close enough to him that he could see the striations of gold in his green eyes.  He fought the urge to look away in shyness, holding the gaze that seemed to map his face.  
 
“I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” Castiel said rather breathlessly.  
 
Dean stepped closer into Castiel’s space.  As their shoes met, Cas straightened up slightly.  Dean leaned forward, putting his hands on the counter, just inside of Castiel’s.
 
Oh, his heart beat wildly as he stared at Dean’s mouth, then back to his eyes.  He waited, wanting to lean in the last bit, but was terrified it would go horribly wrong.
 
Before he could worry or debate or marvel another second, Dean grinned gently and kissed him.
 
It was solid and warm, hardly moving for the first heartbeat.  Castiel lifted both hands, framing Dean’s face as he tilted his head and the kiss softened, their mouths working together.
 
He felt Dean’s hands land gently on his hips as he closed the distance completely, pressing them together.  Dean made the tiniest sound of pleasure and suddenly their tongues were meeting, tasting, and dipping to find each other.
 
He tasted like roast beef and smelled good enough to eat.  He slid one hand to the back of his head and the other slid down his neck, over his shoulder, and to his back.  Dean tilted his head and the kiss moved from exploratory to downright dirty.
 
With his rear end pressed into the counter, he could feel Dean’s body pressed against his.  
 
His mind was exploding with thoughts of want and a bit of shock that Dean was so damn good at this.  There was no hesitation or stumbling.  It was raw and pure and Castiel’s heart soared at just how great this was.
 
Dean’s hands gripped a little tighter as he pulled away, licking his lips and opening his eyes.  A grin climbed higher than Castiel thought possible on his own face.
 
“Damn.”
 
A chuckle burst from Dean, his eyes dropping to Castiel’s mouth again.  “Yeah.”
 
Castiel pulled in a slow, steady breath as he moved one foot, so both Dean’s feet were between his.  Feeling the shift at their groins, Dean glanced down, blowing out a steadying breath.
 
The hand at the back of Dean’s head slid down to his shoulder.  But all their attention was on the press of their bodies.  He could feel Dean’s hardening length pressing against his own.  Dean’s lips parted and his cheeks pinked as he watched and shifted his hips again.
 
Castiel stifled a gasp, not wanting to break the spell Dean seemed to be in, but that one shift caused a cascade of sparks to run rampant through his body.
 
Dean’s eyes flicked up to his, meeting eyes hot and much more lustful than Castiel could have even dreamt for.  “I can feel you,” he whispered, shifting again.
 
Castiel stifled another gasp, fighting his eyes to stay open.  “I can feel you too.”
 
Dean grinned like a thief who had just gotten away with a million dollars.  That devilish grin was melting all his already-weak defenses.  He closed his lips together, staring, and shifted his hips again.  They both groaned softly.  “Dean,” Castiel whispered roughly.
 
Dean leaned in to kiss him again.  This kiss was much more playful.  He nipped and teased and had Castiel leaning after him to chase the sweet temptation that was his mouth.  Castiel gripped his hair, eliciting a little gasp from Dean that had Castiel pressing forward, tilting his head to deepen the kiss.
 
 
****************************************
 
 
Dean knew he had gasped when Cas’ hand tightened its grip in his hair.  Fuck...that felt good in a thrilling way he had never known before.  Kissing Cas was tearing down any walls he had up.  By now, he was all lust and curiosity.  Every move was new and exhilarating.  He felt Cas come up to his full height and press him back a step.  He clung to Cas’ hips, letting them, along with his insanely hot mouth and firm hands, steer him until he was vaguely aware of a counter edge pressing into his own butt.  
 
He gasped again when Cas’ mouth left his and tracked its way from the corner of his mouth, to his jaw, to his neck.  His body raced with a thrill that made his head spin.  His hands skipped up Cas’ body until one clung to his sleeve and the other slid over his back.
 
Cas was firm and muscular, broader in the shoulders and more defined in his arms than he had remembered.  Cas’ hand that wasn’t crawling through his hair, tipped his chin even further, making him shudder when his impossibly skillful tongue drove a line up his neck that had him literally weak in the knees.
 
“You smell so good,” Cas growled rough and low.
 
“You too,” he managed, weak as a kitten and wondering why the fuck this had taken him so long to find.
 
Cas pulled back, his blue eyes mostly black now, his lips swollen, and his hand slid down his arms, gripping his wrists gently.
 
“Dean, I don’t want to overstep or ruin what we have so far.”
 
“Then you tell me where and when to stop, okay?” Dean panted.  “I’ll stop whenever you say...but I got some things I’m dying to try.”
 
Cas’ face broke into a smile and fought back a chuckle.  “I had no idea you would be so adventurous!”
 
Dean grinned, cocky, pushing Castiel back a step.  He took him by the hand, leading him to the living room.  They sat on the couch, Dean turning to him immediately to kiss him.  Cas caught him easily, giving as good Dean gave.  There was no thought.  Just mouth and tongue.  Hands and hair.  Skin and muscle.
 
After pulling apart, Cas combed his fingers through Dean’s hair, searching his eyes.  He looked happy.  But as little as Dean knew him, he could tell something was worrying him.
 
He licked his lips, still tingling with Castiel’s touch.  He was half lying on top of Cas.  “What’s worrying you?” He asked quietly.  “Me?  I know I’m new at this, Cas, but I’m good with it.  I...am I doing something wrong?”
 
Cas’ face lit up with surprise.  “Wrong? No!  Dean, you’re...” he shook his head, seeming to be unable to find the word he wanted.  Instead, he was met with another kiss.  This one was so thorough, Dean thought he would surely lose his mind.  Cas pulled back with a grin, making Dean relax.  Yeah.  There was something magical here.
 
Dean bit his lip, still grinning.  If he didn’t slow things down, he was going to be in Cas’ pants within minutes.  “You wanna watch something?”
 
Cas ran a hand down the side of his face with that look of worry creeping back in.  “Before we do that, can we talk?”
 
“Yeah!”  Dean sat back, feeling like maybe he had been acting like a sex-crazed ass.  “Sorry, Cas.  I didn’t mean to...get so physical.”
 
Cas sat up, adjusting his pants and looking down, the look of worry fully surfacing now.
 
“I need to tell you more about me before we go any further.”
 
Dean’s insides clenched.  Oh god.  He could feel the blood drain from his face as he pulled back.  “Are you freaking married?”  It would make sense!  Road trips, perfect guy ‘available’.
 
“No!” Castiel sat forward, shocked.  “Dean, no!  I have never been married.  I am quite single.”
 
Dean relaxed, panic fluttering to a calm flap.  “Girlfriends?  Boyfriends?  Fiancé?”
 
“No,” Cas assured him, taking his hand with a quick squeeze before letting it go.
 
All the panic subsided, and his thoughts shifted back into line.  “Jeez.  I thought you were gonna say you had a wife and kids!  I was gonna lose my shit!” Dean admitted.  He studied the nervous look on Castiel’s face.  “What is it?”
 
Cas took a deep breath.  “I have two brothers and a sister.”
 
Dean narrowed his eyes.  He knew Gabe and he had heard about Anna and her husband.  So what was with the mystery brother?
 
“I have an older brother, older than Gabe, named Lucifer.  He has been in and out of jail a lot.”
 
Dean sat back, listening.  
 
“Lucifer has a son named Jack.  My nephew.”
 
Dean nodded.  “I remember.  You bought him that game when we were in Recife.”
 
Cas nodded.  He licked his lips, going on, still looking nervous.  “Currently, I have custody of Jack.”
 
So, rocky problems with the brother and he was keeping his nephew.
 
“I’m currently in the process of filing for permanent custody of Jack.  Lucifer is a cruel father.  He’s currently in jail for a hit and run.  He was incarcerated before this for robbery, assault, theft, and drugs.”
 
Oh.  Cas was going to be a dad.  No wonder this was so serious.
 
“I felt the need to tell you, because I really hope this turns to something more.  And...Jack, I hope, is going to be a part of my life.  Forever.”
 
Dean nodded.  “How old is he?”
 
“Jack?  He’s five.”  Cas grinned, meeting his eye for the briefest moment before looking back down.  “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but...”
 
Dean grinned, taking Castiel’s hand back.  “Don’t worry about it.  I mean, it’s a big deal.  But I get it.”
 
“I wanted to tell you in person.  I didn’t want to chase you away either.”
 
Dean grinned harder.  “Uh huh.  Lure me in with some kissing, knowing I’m hooked for good, theeeeen let me in on the crazy stuff.”
 
Cas’ mouth dropped.  “I didn’t lure you in!”
 
Dean sat back, crossing his arms over his chest.  “Oh just wait ‘til you hear about all my spicier details.”
 
Cas’ mouth snapped shut, his eyes widening.  “Do you have children?”
 
Dean laughed.  “Just Sam.  He called me dad for years before he’d finally quit and call our dad, dad.”  Dean shook his head at the memory.
 
Cas gave him a curious look.
 
“I don’t have any kids,” Dean clarified.  “Or husbands, wives, girlfriends, etc.”
 
Cas nodded in understanding.
 
Dean sat back a bit, really watching Cas.  No matter how he laughed the information off, it honestly changed everything.  “I gotta say, Cas, I’ve never dated anyone with kids before.  Makes everything...”
 
Cas pressed his lips together again, worry creeping back onto his face.
 
Dean fidgeted with his hands.  “Makes things more serious.”
 
Cas nodded slowly.  “It does.”
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7:  Something New
 
 
 
Dean propped one arm on the back of the couch, leaning his head onto his fist.  Kids.  Cas had a kid.  It should scare him away, right?  He’d never even managed a pet before.  He did have a few healthy plants.  That counted for something, right?  He watched Cas carefully.  He was nervous.  Because if Dean wasn’t on board with Jack, this was over.
 
Two years ago, this would be over.  Whatever this was.
 
Two years ago he probably never would have gone to Brazil.  Or rebounded so quickly after a guy kissed him.
 
Two years ago, his life was still all about Sam.  Sam had wanted him to get a more serious girlfriend.  To get his own life.  To find happiness.  But he had not.  The first step he took was still about helping others.  That had been the only way into something new for him.  But this...this was all for him.  Cas, until two minutes ago, had been all for him.  Adding a child to the potential future of this relationship did make him stop and think.
 
And two minutes was long enough.  Cas was something more.  More than he had ever wanted for himself.  He had to know right now if this was going to work.  Foundation was everything.  A sketched-out idea was exciting, but until you knew the foundation was solid and the supports were sure, it was little more than a dream.  He needed to know more before he was willing to start laying his heart on the line.  

“Anymore big surprises?” He asked quietly.
 
Castiel blew a breath out.  “Um...Just some dad issues.  I work too much.  Travel too much.  I hate managing my bills.  Seriously, Anna and Charlie still manage my finances.  It’s ridiculous, I know.” His head tipped in an adorable self-admonishing tilt.  “I’ve had seven speeding tickets, four parking tickets, and did spend two nights in jail in Costa Rica.  But that was completely Gabriel’s fault.”  They exchanged a grin.  “I am doing everything I can to keep Jack. If that means I need to change my lifestyle in some ways, like work, I’m willing to do that.”  
 
Dean grinned.  Yeah, he could handle all of that.  Even Jack.
 
“Tell me about him.”
 
Cas exhaled, grinning. “He’s been with me off and on from the time he was nine months old until last year.  Last year he moved in again when Lucifer went to jail.  This time seemed different.  I feel like he needs the stability before he is permanently scarred.  This time I filed for permanent custody.  I’m trying to adopt him.”  He pulled his phone out, showing Dean pictures.
 
Dean took the phone, studying the boy.  He seemed shy.  There were a few pictures of him really laughing.  “Is that Gabe?”  A mostly covered body was mid-attack after Jack, who was laughing so hard it made Dean grin.
 
“Yes,” Cas answered, sliding to another picture.
 
“He’s so little,” Dean said softly, thinking of how tiny Sam was at that age.
 
“Yes.  He has his mother’s brown eyes,” Cas said quietly.  “And thankfully, her personality.  Lucifer has blue eyes like Anna and me.”
 
Dean handed the phone back.  “He’s cute.”
 
“He’s very shy.  Has difficulty being around new people.  His mother died when he was four.  He...he was taken by child services three times.”
 
 
“I bet he hates that you travel,” Dean frowned.
 
Cas nodded.  “Yes.  The judge too.  In fact, this might be my last trip for a while.”
 
Dean could understand that.  And with that, every moment they had, had a new kind of weight.  He was going to have to figure out very quickly whether this was serious between him and Cas, or not.
 
“I’m sorry,” Cas said quietly.  “I know this complicates things.  But it is my reality.”
 
Dean had to grin.  He had said that to the few women he even considered getting serious with.  He had been a package deal with Sam almost his whole life.  And somewhere deep inside, Dean recognized that little four-year-old boy who lost his mom.
 
Cas talked about Lucifer, Jack, Gabe, and Anna more over the next half hour.  Dean listened, picturing Cas’ life in Illinois.  From some of the pictures, he had a better idea of just what Cas’ house looked like.  Story by story, Cas became more real and less of a fantasy.
 
With his rose-colored glasses adjusted, Dean only felt more and more drawn to Cas.  
 
After a brief lull in conversation, Dean suggested they watch Doctor Who.  They settled in, easily, side by side on his black leather couch.
 
“Freakin’ mannequins,” Dean mused, watching Rose run from them.  “They always have freaked me out.”
 
Cas chuckled, taking his hand in the small space between them.  Dean squeezed his hand back.  He kept up with the show easily enough, no stranger to Sci-Fi.  What kept him more preoccupied was the presence of Cas.  Their make-out session had been mind-blowing.  He wanted more.  And then thoughts of Jack crept in.  He felt guilty for pulling Cas away from a little boy who needed him.  It made him wonder how his life could have been different with a kind father figure.  
 
When the episode ended, Cas gave him a shy grin.  “Well?”
 
“It’s funny,” Dean grinned, swiping his thumb over Cas’ hand, “and kinda creepy.  I like it.”
 
Cas tipped his head back against the couch, grinning more confidently.  
 
“I like the company even more,” he said lower, pulling Cas’ hand to his mouth, kissing it.
 
The grin that graced Castiel’s face made him warm all over.  “I’m sorry I pulled you away from home, Cas.  But I’m really glad you’re here.”
 
Cas’ grin sobered.  “I need to be here, Dean.  Jack is very important.  But I...really want to figure this out.”
 
The next episode began, but neither of them were watching.  Dean leaned forward, kissing him.  He scooted closer, reaching around him to slide his fingers into his thick hair.  
 
Dean pulled back, getting to his feet.  He held a hand out to Cas, who took it, pulling to a stand.
 
“Cas,” Dean asked, kissing him again, “I...”
 
Cas seemed to understand what he could not put into words.  He took his hand and led him into the bedroom.
 
Dean hesitated at the edge of the bed.  “Cas,” he said in a rush, “I’m not ready for a dick in my ass, but I swear to God I’m ready for everything else.  I’m just...”
 
Cas chuckled, pulling him close, kissing his cheek and neck.  “I can do many things without doing that.”
 
“Okay,” Dean panted.  “Anything else.  Everything else.”
 
Cas stopped, looking at him with wide, hungry eyes.  He nodded almost imperceptibly.  He cradled Dean’s face in his hands, sweeping both thumbs over his cheeks.  It was so caring.  Loving.  
 
It made his breath catch.  Their eyes met.  A surge of want hit Dean hard.  His breathing picked up as his heart thudded hard in his chest.
 
 
 
*****************************************
 
 
 
Castiel wanted this to work more than he had ever wanted anything for himself.  Dean was so handsome it made him want to stare at him forever.  He was so accepting, handling this new type of relationship in stride.  He kissed sinfully well, and his body was more alluring than anything he had encountered in his life.
 
He held Dean, showing his vulnerability for the first time today as he had hesitated at the bed.  Sex was so much more than penetration.  And he was determined to teach Dean a thing or two about the many advantages of two men together.
 
He had said everything.  Everything was a lot of permission.  He pulled out of the kiss that was making him so hard his balls ached.  Looking him in the eye, he slid his hands under Dean’s t-shirt, sliding up his sides and back until both palms were completely touching his skin.  Dean puffed out a breath, his eyes fluttering closed.   
“Take your shirt off,” Cas whispered, feeling Dean’s skin prickle with goosebumps.  Dean’s eyes opened again, a grin skirting across his mouth.  He grabbed the bottom hem and pulled it up, exposing the chest Cas had seen several times.  His hands swept from his back to his pecs, skimming over his nipples, eliciting a hiss.
 
“God.  That feels so good,” Dean muttered, eyes closed again, head tipped in open reverence and standing stock still.
 
“You are beautiful,” Cas murmured, stroking back down and around to his back again.
 
Dean smirked.  “I’m not beautiful.”
 
Oh but he was.  Like a fine masterpiece.  Raw and perfect.  “You are.”
 
Dean’s smile relaxed as Cas continued to touch him.  “Take your shirt off, Cas,” he frowned ever so softly, tugging at the bottom of his t-shirt.  
 
Cas had to grin.  Dean was like putty in his hands.  He slid both hands down to grip him gently by the waist, his thumbs toying at the edge of denim and skin.  He turned him, pressing gently to sit him on the edge of the bed.
 
Dean’s eyes were open and watchful now.  He sat and leaned back onto his palms, watching him openly.  Cas, knees pressed into the side of the mattress between Dean’s legs, pulled his own shirt off.
 
Dean started to move, but waited, his eyes tracing every square inch of exposed skin.
 
“I hate myself for not being aware of what the hell I had that day we spent in Recife.  The beach.  I fucking had you.  Naked.  Touched you.  It’s like...seeing you in color.  Like when Dorothy lands in Oz and it all goes to vibrant color.”  His eyes jumped up to Cas’.  “Don’t hold back, Cas.  I want you.  I just...want to do it right.”
 
Don’t hold back?  Cas huffed a strangled laugh.  If he didn’t hold back, he would flip Dean over, stretch him open and fuck him for hours.  Over and over.  
 
He bit his lip, understanding what Dean meant.  He would wait for that kind of moment.  For now, he just wanted to explore and let Dean do the same.  But if Dean did not want him to hold back, he would not.  He would show him just how badly he craved him day and night.  
 
“I’m clean,” Dean said, sitting up, reaching for Castiel’s waistband.  “I was tested for everything before I went to Brazil.  I just wanted you to know.”  He pulled Cas closer to his face, kissing his abs, making Castiel moan.
 
“Me too.  And me too.”  Castiel almost pulled away when he felt the unmistakable feel of Dean’s tongue drag against his skin, ending in a nipping kiss near his hip.  “Dean,” he warned, fighting the flood of want that had him gasping.
 
Dean pulled back, looking up at him.  He grinned with that cocky tilt, making Cas return it.  He crawled backwards on the bed, turning himself to lie with his head on the pillow.  He patted the bed next to him and Cas was beyond capable of doing anything other than follow on his knees.  He straddled him, leaning down to kiss him eagerly.
 
Dean’s chest rose, tiny gasps slipping between the long, deep kisses.  Cas enjoyed every plunder.  Every stroke.  The chills that ran rampant when Dean’s hands slid up and over his back, squeezing to a harder rub down his sides until his fingers slid beneath his waistband, stroking the skin beneath.
 
Cas kissed him harder, pressing down into him with a need that made Dean moan back, encircling him to hold him tight.  Cas relaxed his hips, letting their hips meet.
 
Dean whimpered, rocking up into him, his kissing stuttering to an open mouth as his head tipped back.  All that did was remind Cas where else he could be exploring.  He dropped his open mouth onto Dean’s neck, eliciting another, harder, rock of his hips, his hands flying to Castiel’s ass to grip and rub, making Castiel moan into the wet skin already marked from his zealousness.
 
He moaned, biting harder with every firm grip.  Dean turned toward him, pushing his mouth away from his neck, only to latch onto him in a kiss so filthy Cas had to fight off an orgasm.
 
He pulled away, panting and sitting up to look down at him and count to ten.  He blew out a breath, counting to ten again.  “Damn.”
 
Dean, panting just as hard, grinned with a knowing chuckle.  His hands slid to Castiel’s thighs and came so close to his dick that Cas captured them by the wrists and pinned them above his head with a chuckle of his own.
 
Dean’s grin sobered as his eyes widened.  “Oh shit,” he whispered, tugging a tiny pull and grinning anew.  
 
They stared, lost in a wordless wonder, at each other.  
 
Cas slid his hands up, interlacing their fingers as he delved in for another kiss.  This was so much more than he had ever felt before.  His heart raced and he turned, taking Dean’s mouth from a new angle.
 
He pulled up, his lips hovering just above Dean’s.  “Ready for more?”
 
Dean huffed a laugh, craning his neck to kiss him.  “Yes,” he growled.  
 
Cas released his hold on Dean’s hands and slid down his thighs.  He landed both hands on Dean’s waistband, giving him a questioning look.
 
Dean nodded, grinning.
 
Cas unbuttoned him and slid the zipper down slow, his knuckle purposefully rubbing along the edge to run down the length of swollen, hard cock beneath.
 
Dean’s hands gripped the outer seams of Cas’ jeans near his knees.  Castiel grinned.  He could hold on as tight as he wanted.  But nothing would prepare him for this.
 
Cas parted his zipper and tugged to loosen the jeans around his waist.  He watched Dean’s face as he took Dean’s length into his hand for the first time.
 
His jaw dropped and his chest heaved.  His eyes went wide, meeting his when he slid his thumb over the tip, spreading precome over the head.  Neither of them were grinning now.  The need was so strong, it was only a matter of who did what to satisfy the situation heating to a boil.
 
Cas leaned down, purposely dragging his still denim covered groin over Dean’s softly, eliciting another hiss and hip rocking.
 
Cas kissed him hard, swinging one knee over.  He gasped at Dean’s hands gripping his own waistband, unbuttoning, unzippering and fishing out his hard cock.
 
Both men moaned louder as Dean took him in hand and stroked.
 
“Cas!” Dean dropped down, staring down at his own hand stroking him.  Cas panted harder.  He straightened up, pushing his pants and boxers down as Dean stared and stroked him again.
 
He sucked in another breath, fighting the feeling of being touched.  He dropped to his back, Dean letting go as they both discarded any remaining clothes.  Castiel took the opportunity to get up and get lube from his bag.
 
As he got back on the bed, walking on his knees, he noted how open and ready Dean looked.
 
Cas studied how Dean remained lying flat, watching him so closely for what would happen next.  Castiel grinned, straddling him again.  Dean’s hands landed on his thighs immediately.
 
“What are you going to do?” Dean whispered.
 
Cas smirked.  “I’m going to try something to see if you like it.  If you do not, I’m going to suck your dick.”
 
Dean’s jaw dropped.  “O-o-okay.”  He stared at Cas’ hands and their dicks.  
 
“Do you want me to use a condom?”
 
“No,” Dean answered automatically.  His hands slid higher onto Cas’ hips.
 
Cas traced his thumb and index finger up Dean’s length again, staring down at it.  He slid down, cradling Dean’s balls into his palm, making Dean let out a long moan of anticipation.
 
Castiel lifted one leg, nudging Dean to put his on the outside, then the other.
 
Dean licked his lips, biting on the lower one as he watched.
 
Cas pulled one leg into a bent position and lined up their cocks.
 
Dean puffed out a hard breath as their skin touched.  “Oh shit,” he muttered, reaching to feel them together.
 
Cas craned his head back, soaking in the feel of Dean’s hand exploring the sensation of their dicks together.  He stroked them together and his eyes shot up to Cas.
 
“Can I?” Dean asked, breathless.
 
Cas grinned, leaning down to kiss him.  “You can do whatever you want,” he whispered back.
 
Dean took the lube, squirting some into his palm.  He kissed him back as he rubbed his hands together and gathered the two dicks into his cupped hands.
 
Cas pulled away from the kiss, rocking his hips.
 
“Oh my god,” Dean moaned.
 
Cas did it again, feeling Dean join him.
 
“Ohhh, fuck,” Dean whined, rocking together again.
 
He could feel the muscles in Dean’s thighs quiver with want as they rocked again.  His legs spread wider and Cas moved even easier, propped on both his hands to move smoothly.
 
“Fuck,” Dean panted.  He took each dick in each hand, groaning as each fucked into the tighter fist.  He then put them back together and adjusted his grip until he must have found what he wanted, both men fucking in rhythm.
 
“Cas,” Dean muttered, looking up, meeting his eyes.  Cas leaned down, kissing him.  He felt Dean’s grip tighten, lifting his mouth away when Dean lost control of his lips.  He kept pace as Dean shook harder and fucked harder.  He felt his body freeze, then buck with less coordination.
 
He cried out, his head tipping back.  Cas felt wet heat and heard the squelch of cum in Dean’s hands against their frenzy.  He fisted the pillow beneath his hands, fucking into the tighter grip until he too came.
 
“OHH,” Dean moaned, stroking him.  Cas knew he was moaning as well, his head lost to the heat and feel surrounding his dick.  His hips stopped thrusting and he panted, his eyes opening again to find Dean watching him.
 
Cas, barely finished panting, kissed him slow and deep.  Dean grabbed a pillow, wiping his hands off before hugging him to his chest tight.
 
“Never thought I’d pass up a blow-job,” Dean laughed, his head dropping back again.  Cas slid to Dean’s side, collapsing into one of his arms, half wrapped around Dean’s body.  
 
“Next time.”
 
Dean sighed, shaking his head with a bemused grin.  “I can’t wait a month.”
 
“A month?” Cas chuckled.  “Give me an hour.  I’ll be ready and so will you.”
 
Dean chuckled low.  “Oh yeah?”
 
“Oh yeah,” Castiel insisted, running his hand over Dean’s chest.
 
Dean caught it, pulling it up to kiss his knuckles and drop it back with their fingers laced together.  He tucked his other hand behind his head and took a deep breath.  “Wish I woulda figured this all out sooner.”
 
Cas grinned against Dean’s shoulder, kissing the skin at his lips.  “I’m just glad we did.”
 
“Me too.”
 
 
**************************************
 
 
Dean stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom.  A small part of him was still reeling in shock of what they had just done.  Nothing had felt weird or wrong.  It all felt so fucking good he could hardly make sense of it.
 
He turned onto his side, staring at the man in his bed.  All he wanted was more.  A lot more.  Though he was momentarily satiated, he knew already that there was so much more he wanted.  It wasn’t even dark outside yet.  They had a long night ahead of them if Dean had his way, which seemed to be exactly how Cas wanted it too.
 
Cas ran a finger over the edge of his lips, staring at them.  “Are you okay with what we did?”
 
Dean grinned, poking his tongue through his lips to catch the tip of his finger.  Cas grinned in response, meeting his eyes.
 
“Yes.”  It was true.  And it was wild.
 
Cas’ head dropped back down to the pillow and he adjusted his leg to fit between Dean’s.  “Tell me something I don’t know about you.”
 
Dean grinned.  “Well, that’s not hard.  I played football in high school.”
 
Cas grinned harder.  “I bet your ass looked reeeeally good in those tight pants.”
 
Dean laughed.  “I only played one season.  My freshman year.  I was in a foster home I really liked, and the guy encouraged me to join.  Let me use his truck to get to practices.  Came to see my games.”  He grinned, circling Cas’ nipple with one finger, watching the smooth skin pucker to attention.  “He used to take Sam to the library all the time too.  Jody would make dinner almost every night.  It was...one of my favorite places.”
 
“This was a foster family?” Cas asked.
 
“Yeah.  Bobby and Jody Singer.  We were with them for almost a whole school year.”  His grin slid away, and his hand dropped to lie between them, where Cas quickly took it.
 
“What happened that you were there?”
 
“My dad got sent to jail with a DUI.  We were pretty freaked out when we got there.  We had been in foster care before, but none of them were that great.  But Bobby and Jody were different.  Jody was the one that first met us.  She was the sheriff.  Came to our motel room to tell us our dad was in jail and that we had to go with her.”  He chuckled.  “Bobby rolled with it.  Anything to make his wife happy.  But he actually turned out to be a really great guy.”
 
“Are you still in touch?”
 
“No.  I’ve thought about callin’ him or writing.  I just...I don’t know.  Never know what to say.”
 
“I bet they would love to hear how wonderful you both turned out.”  Cas kissed his hand, making Dean grin.
 
“I don’t know.  I guess I was waiting until I did something with my life.  I’m just...living.”
 
Cas frowned.  “You’re a construction worker.  A very skilled one.  You raised Sam and helped him through law school.  Those are very honorable things.”
 
Dean smirked.  “You just need to get to know me more.”  He sprang up, kissing him, then turned to get out of bed.  He pulled his boxers on and said he’d be back with some ice water.
 
As he fished ice cubes from the ice tray, putting them into two glasses, his thoughts shifted.  Maybe instead of wondering if he really wanted to get invested in Cas’ life, he should be more concerned about why the hell a vice president of a company would seriously want anything to do with him.  Maybe Cas was here to satiate his hormones and then seek out a real partner.
 
He filled the glasses with water and headed into the bedroom with a new outlook.  Cas was sitting in the middle of the bed, looking at his phone.  He looked up with a grin, taking the glass he offered.  “I’m going to call Jack and say goodnight.”
 
Dean nodded.  “I’ll be in the living room.”  He left Cas to talk privately.  He sat on the couch, picking up his own phone.
 
Sam: Cas is great!  I have never seen a guy check you out so hard before!  It’s so crazy!
 
Sam:  not crazy in a bad way.  Like...in an awesome way!
 
Sam:  sorry.  I just want you to know I’m totally in support of you being with guys.  It’s just so new.  But in a good way!  It’s a good thing!
 
Dean shook his head with how royally Sam was back-pedaling.  But he had to laugh too.
 
Sam:  Cas seems like a nice guy.  Hope you two have a great weekend!  Let me know how it goes!
 
Dean:  crazy, huh?  I better kick him out.
 
He smirked, knowing this would send Sam into a tailspin.
 
Sam:  Dean!  No!  I just meant it’s so new!  A GOOD new!  You looked really happy!  Please don’t kick him out.  Just give it a try.
 
Dean:  okay.  The sex was pretty good.  So I’ll let him at least sleep here.
 
He laughed, taking another long drink.  He watched with a grin as the bubble with three bouncing dots went on and off and on and off and finally back on.
 
Sam:  Quit being a dick.
 
Dean:  why?  I’m into them now.
 
Sam:  omg
 
Dean:  seriously, we had a good night.  And I think this might get serious.
 
Sam:  Really?!  I’m really happy for you!
 
Dean stared at the screen.  He might as well drop this bomb on the phone.
 
Dean:  he has a son.  Kind of.
 
Sam:  Define kind of.
 
Dean:  Long story.  I’ll explain Sunday when I call you.
 
He put the phone down, ignoring any further vibrating from it.  He had to figure this one out on his own.  No influence from anyone.
 
 
**************************************
 
 
Castiel leaned in the doorway to the living room, watching Dean.  He was sprawled out, his head dropped back, chin jutting straight up in the air.  He’d look sexy as hell like that if he were fully dressed.  But here he was, only wearing gray boxer briefs on his plushy, black leather sofa.
 
His dick gave an interested twitch.
 
He wondered just what Dean was thinking about.  Was he worrying?  Was he regretting what they had just done?  Was he excited?  Was he figuring out how to get rid of him?
 
Dean’s head came up, their eyes meeting.
 
“Hey,” Dean grinned, getting to his feet.  “Damn.  You look like a friggin’ model standing there.”
 
Cas blushed, fighting a notion to duck away.  
 
Dean approached him, reaching out to take him by the hand to pull him back to the couch.  “Come lie with me.  You got me hooked on this wacky Doctor Who and totally interrupted my nerd binge.”
 
Cas grinned as he let Dean pull him toward the couch.
 
“Unless you want to go to bed?”  Dean let go of his hand, looking almost shy.
 
“No, I’m quite awake,” Cas grinned, sitting on the couch.
 
Cas lay on the couch, waving Dean to lay in front of him.
 
Dean lay down with a smirk.  “I’ve never been the little spoon.”
 
Cas nestled into a comfortable position, lifting his arm to let Dean do the same.  Dean slid down, the top of his head resting just above his chin.  He wasted no time, kissing Dean’s neck chastely, then sliding his mouth over to his ear.  “Just let me spoon you.  I promise you’ll enjoy it.”
 
Dean chuckled.  “There’s a blanket on the back of the couch.”
 
Cas turned, pulling it off the back, spreading it out to cover them both.
 
Dean restarted episode two as Cas began a slow, mapping stroke to explore Dean’s body.  As he ran his hands slow and steady down Dean’s shoulder, arm, and side, he enjoyed every shift Dean made under his touch.
 
Halfway through the episode, Dean was pressed snuggly against him.  Cas was sure Dean could feel his half-hard penis against his left cheek.  
 
He inhaled the delightful scent of him.  A trace of Calming Peace mixed with Dean’s own smell.  “I wish I could bottle the scent of you,” he mused, his lips brushing against Dean’s neck as he said it.
 
Dean turned semi onto his back.  “Speaking of smells, why didn’t you give me what you wear?  You always smell so damn good.”
 
Cas grinned down at him as his hand ran up his chest, stopping to gently toy with one nipple.  “I did.  It’s the one with no label.  It’s a blend of,” with each oil he kissed Dean’s neck and tugged or tweaked the nipple in his fingers, “ylang ylang, lavender, orange, a drop of frankincense, pine, jasmine, sandalwood,” he slid to the other nipple, watching Dean’s eyes dilate, “lemongrass, spruce, chamomile, and bergamot.”
 
“Sounds complicated,” Dean whispered.
 
Cas kissed him on the lips.  “It is.”
 
Dean blinked a few times, his hips grinding up and then back slowly.  “I love that smell.  But it’s not the same in the bottle.  Or on me.  It’s good, but not quite...you.”
 
Cas grinned.  “Then I suppose the final ingredient is me.”
 
“It’s my favorite.”  Dean grinned, sucking in a breath as Cas tweaked his nipple again.  “You, I mean.”
 
Cas kissed him deep and slow until Dean had turned to line their bodies up, then had Cas flat on his back, lying on top of him.  He was hard.  The blanket had fallen off long ago, not that either of them cared.  Cas felt hot, tight, and like he would never be done getting enough of Dean.
 
Dean began working his way down Castiel’s body, kissing, running his tongue to leave wet trails that blazed, igniting him inside.  Kneeling between his legs, he looked up when his hands gripped his stretchy waistband.
 
Cas grinned back, lifting so Dean could slide the boxers off easily.  Once Dean had them off (and his own) he sat there staring down at Cas’ erection.  He touched it with one finger, letting it trail down the length until he cupped his balls in his hand.  Cas licked his lips, watching Dean explore him so openly.
 
“So...” Dean said quietly, one finger sweeping across the bit of skin between his balls and his hole.  “What’s your favorite way to...have sex?”
 
Cas blew out the breath he was holding as Dean lit up every fiber of want in his body with his hands.  “You mean, do I prefer to top or bottom?”
 
He grinned at the blush that spread over Dean’s cheeks.  He nodded.
 
He stifled a moan as Dean swept his finger a little firmer.  Dean’s head popped up, eyes wide.  “Does that feel good?”
 
Cas tipped his head to the side, staring at Dean’s muscular form.  “Yes.  Very.”
 
Dean grinned, with just a trace of curiosity.  “Like this?”  Two fingers swept the length of his perineum, just barely sweeping over his hole.
 
“Yes,” Cas said low.  Dean was enjoying himself.  Enjoying watching him struggle with need and want.  Cas spread his leg even wider, allowing Dean all the access he wanted.
 
Dean bit his bottom lip, grinning.  He put two fingers in his own mouth and returned to massage, creeping closer and closer to his hole.  When Dean used his free hand to stroke Cas’ cock, his head dropped back in bliss.  He was so turned on by everything Dean did.  From the stroking to the exploring, to the look of eagerness on his face, to little ‘mmm’ noises he made when Cas moved his hips, seeking more.  It was all so erotic.
 
Castiel’s hands searched for Dean’s skin, but he was too far away.  He gripped the cushion of the couch with one hand and the back of it with the other.
 
His world spun out when Dean’s hands abruptly stopped.  His eyes flew open just in time to see Dean come up for a filthy kiss.  It didn’t last long.  Dean was up on his feet and to Castiel’s shock, he scooped him off the couch and carried him back to the bedroom, laying him down.
 
His heart raced as Dean laid him down.  If Dean asked, he knew he would have sex right now.  He craved the sensation of his prostate being rubbed and pummeled until he came.  
 
“Just...let me...” Dean panted moving Cas into the same positions they had been in when they were on the couch.  “Can I just try more of this?” Dean asked, eyes more on his dick than the fleeting glance of permission.
 
“Yes.  Whatever you want,” Cas said, meaning it.  Watching Dean explore him was incredibly arousing.
 
Dean leaned over, grabbing the lube.  He settled back between Castiel’s knees.  “Can I try...ya know...”
 
Cas grinned.  “Fingering me?”
 
Dean’s eyes dilated another notch.  “Yeah.”
 
“Do what you want.  I promise I’ll let you know if I don’t like it or it’s too much.”
 
Dean nodded, looking like he just opened a new project to delve into.  He was excited.  Not just to seek a climax, but to understand what he was doing and how it affected Cas.
 
Cas, knowing what Dean was going to try, grabbed a pillow and lifted his rear end to put it beneath.
 
“That’s perfect,” Dean grinned, like he had just focused a camera lens, seeing clearly.
 
Cas bit his lips together, enjoying every bit of attention Dean lavished him with.
 
“I wanna know what you like,” Dean murmured, putting lube on his hands.  He stroked his dick two, long, slow strokes.
 
“I like that,” Cas sighed.
 
Dean grinned.  He lightly toyed with his balls, tugging the skin.
 
Cas huffed as they exchanged a stare.
 
Dean slid his fingers down, massaging his perineum again, making Cas drop his head back and start gripping the sheets.  “Mm, you like that,” Dean noted, sliding down to circle his hole.
 
Cas moaned softly, unable to stop his hips from moving.
 
“You like that more,” Dean grinned, sliding past the hole to his tailbone and back.  He bent one finger, just tipping into the ring of muscles.
 
Cas could feel himself break out into a sweat.  He wanted two, three, four fingers and at a much faster rate, but he bit his lip, letting Dean take his time.
 
His fingertip disappeared and Cas deflated.  He heard the lube bottle and tried not to squirm at the next cold touch.
 
Dean giggled.  “Sorry.”
 
Cas grinned, looking down at him again.  “It all feels good.  Even the cold -.”  His eyes went wider as Dean locked onto his stare and slid one finger inside.  Cas’ jaw dropped and his breath caught.
 
Dean slid out slowly and back in.
 
“N-not so straight,” Cas directed.  He felt Dean’s finger relax into the natural curve and he sighed, letting his eyes shut as he worked in and out slowly.
 
“Better?” Dean whispered.
 
“Better,” Cas managed.
 
Dean slid as deep as he could go and began probing around.  Cas felt the familiar zing of sensation he got when his prostate was hit.
 
He had no idea what Dean’s plans were.  Was he prepping him?  Just exploring?  He let go of the anticipation and just enjoyed the attention his body so rarely received.  
 
He slid around, pulling to the left.
 
Cas shook his head no with a frown.
 
Dean went back to the center, still sweeping in a circle.  “Can I add another?”
 
“Yes,” Cas answered, almost in a dream-like trance.  His hips were working subtly, rhythmically, and his mouth went slack as a second finger was added and he continued to circle.  He crooked his fingers, stroking his prostate and Cas’ body sparked to attention.
 
“Oh, you liked that for sure,” Dean said low and smooth.
 
Cas felt Dean’s mouth land on the inside of his thigh as he stroked again.
 
“Dean, it feels so good.”  His searching hand finally landed on his head.  He curled his fingers into the short strands, curling and kneading harder into his scalp.  Dean scooted a little closer, matching his speed to Cas’.
 
Dean’s mouth slid further down his thigh, making Cas moan and move his hips harder.
 
His eyes popped open and he watched incredulously as Dean crept even closer, his speed picking up.  Cas could feel the hot coil of an orgasm building.
 
“Keep going,” he panted.  “It’s so good!”
 
Dean groaned against the skin of his thigh and his mouth leapt from his thigh to his cock with no warning at all.
 
Castiel’s eyes bulged at the sight of Dean licking a stripe up his cock and over his head, circling it.
 
His hand speed and angle faltered as he picked up his cock with his other hand and circled his head with his tongue.
 
Cas groaned in spiraling want, Dean’s hand picking up speed and moving with more skill.
 
Castiel could feel his thighs shake and he clenched on Dean’s fingers as his mouth closed over the head of his penis for the first time.
 
Cas panted, his hips fucking onto Dean’s hand now.  He curled forward, lifting his pelvis and came down harder onto Dean’s fingers.
 
“Mm hm,” Dean groaned around his cock.
 
“Dean,” he panted, staring at the sight of him inching down his cock little by little, sliding up each time to swipe over the head of his dick.
 
His eyes flicked up to Cas, a predatory grin as he slid down, not even halfway down the length of his hard shaft, swiping his tongue again and meeting Cas’ hips with a harder thrust, over and over and over until Castiel’s mind was void of anything except a white-hot bliss and he shouted, “I’m going to come!”
 
Either not quick enough, experienced enough, or trying to do something new, Dean’s mouth engulfed him one last time as his orgasm erupted.  He heard Dean splutter and cough, but his hand quickly took over, stroking him through each wave, thrusting deep with the other.
 
Castiel was in a writhing ball of ecstasy until he collapsed back onto the bed.
 
He panted and gasped, going limp all over.  “So good, holy shit, I’m so good,” he babbled.  He felt Dean pull his fingers out and he shifted with a slight wince.  His head teetered up, still bleary eyed as he looked at Dean, who was pawing cum off his mouth and nose.
 
“Dude.  In my nose.”
 
Cas grinned deliriously, starting to chuckle.  “I’m sorry!”
 
Dean laughed, rubbing one eye and made a face when his hand hit wet hair.  “My hair?”
 
Cas slapped a hand over his mouth to stop the laugh that threatened.  “I tried to warn you!”
 
Dean laughed at his own state, finding more cum on his neck and over his shoulder.  He stopped searching for more, turning to stare at Cas.  “That was fuckin’ hot.  I could feel you...with my mouth.  Feel you swell up at the very end...”
 
“And you stayed just little too long,” Cas grinned.
 
Dean nodded.  “Yeah, I don’t know how chicks do it.  It shoots out all hot and fast and...”
 
Cas was up on his knees now, pushing Dean to his back.  “I’ll show you something chicks can’t do,” he teased with a smirk.  Dean fell easily onto the bed, watching him eagerly.  “They can’t suck a dick like I can.”
 
Dean’s jaw dropped as Cas licked and grazed his teeth in the sweet spot where his shoulder and neck meet. He slid quickly to lave and suck on each nipple, noting how this made Dean moan and his hips rock up.  He kissed a skipping path down until he devoured Dean’s cock down to the hilt, making Dean arch up and moan loud.
 
“Fffffuck!” Dean panted, his hands already in Cas’ hair.
 
Castiel went to work, licking, sucking, and moaning with every bit of reverence he felt for Dean and his body.
 
He set a steady rhythm coaxed one of Dean’s legs up.  No penetration was all he had asked for.  Though he would give anything to teach Dean the thrill and pleasure of stimulating his prostate, he kept the boundary.  He gripped Dean’s thigh, scratching lightly down toward his ass, which he fondled, letting his thumbs slide teasing close to his crack, but never breached inward.
 
“Cas!” Dean panted, tugging softly at his hair.  “Cas, I’m gonna come!”
 
Cas cradled Dean’s ass with both hands, gripping as he felt the swell and tasted semen.  He worked his cock faster, swallowing around his head until Dean bucked, shoving back even further, blowing semen in hot wave after wave until he shuttered and melted.
 
Castiel swirled his tongue once more, sliding off to let the softening dick flop onto his stomach.
 
He crawled over Dean’s limp body, kissing him just under his ear.  “How was that?”
 
“Life changing,” he mumbled, completely relaxed.
 
Castiel chuckled low, smelling him and kissing along his jaw until he lay down, pulling Dean into his chest.
 
They both lay there for quite some time.  There was no exploring this time, he simply wanted to hold him tight, feel him breathe, and be with him.
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8:  Family
 
 
 
Dean woke Saturday morning to the birds chirping outside his bedroom window.  He was warm and comfortable, Cas wrapped in his arms.
 
A slow, happy grin edged onto his face.  When they both could speak coherently again last night, they had a shower together.  Dean had never had a better shower in his life.  It had been like a steamy dance mingling laughing, washing, kissing, talking, whispering, ending in the pair of them naked in bed and sleeping.
 
Castiel’s skin was so smooth.  Dean could not stop touching him.  He began kissing the back of his neck.  When he felt him wake up in his arms, his hips giving the first sign of alertness, he nipped at the skin.  Cas leaned back into him groaning with a sleepy, sexy rumble.  He loved Cas’ body.  It was so new and different.  He was amazed at just what turned him on.  
 
“Good morning,” Cas chuckled, fighting Dean away as his kisses became too ticklish.
 
Dean caged him in easily with a roguish grin.  “Breakfast?”
 
“Then what?” Cas asked.
 
Dean laid on top of him, knowing he was semi-squishing him.  “I had this plan to take you around town, introduce you to Pam, take you for lunch, dinner...” he grinned more sappy this time, “but I think I’m going to keep you right here, dressed just like this, and order delivery.”
 
Cas grinned, lightly trailing his nails up Dean’s bare back.  “I’m not dressed.”
 
“I think you look good wearing me,” Dean smirked.
 
Cas wrapped his arms around him, leaning up to kiss him.  “What if we go out for a few hours, I meet Pam, we pick up an early dinner and bring it back here?”
 
Dean got up onto his hands and knees.  “Close enough.”  He dipped down for another kiss and got off the bed, pulling fresh boxers and jeans on.
 
“Please,” Cas held a hand up, “that’s plenty of clothes.”
 
Dean laughed, closing the drawer with his t-shirts in.  “Fine!  Same for you.”
 
Cas grinned, running a hand over a circular scar high on his ribs, just under his left pec.  “Fair enough.”  He pulled boxers and jeans on, forgoing the shirt he laid on the bed.
 
Dean blushed at the look on Cas’ face as he walked out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.  Cas followed him, his eyes so blatantly checking him out.
 
“Those jeans are a problem.”
 
Dean pulled bread out of a bag for the toaster, glancing over his shoulder with a smirk.  “Oh yeah?”
 
“Yes.  They make me want to unbutton them.”
 
Dean turned, not even watching as he put bread in the toaster.  He didn’t say anything, but it was moments like that, and every other since his arrival, that had Dean marveling at just what he had.  He tore his eyes away and went to work making eggs and bacon.
 
“May I?” Cas asked, pointing at the coffee pot.
 
“Please!” Dean grinned.
 
They ate at his small table, talking about Dean’s latest construction job on a house heading out of town toward Gettysburg.
 
“The home owners are very lucky to have you,” Cas said.
 
Dean shrugged a shoulder.  “Lots of people can do what I do.”
 
“I bet you aren’t overcharging them or ripping them off.”
 
Dean frowned.  “No.  I like that about working for Mr. Murphy.  He’s honest.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “See?”
 
Dean shrugged, not comfortable with taking compliments.  His eyes dropped down to Cas’ chest, noting a pale red bruise peeking over his shoulder.  “I think I gave you a hickey.”
 
Cas glanced down, absently covering his scar again as he searched his skin.  
 
“Should be gone in a day or two.  Sorry about that.”
 
Cas looked up at him with wide blue eyes.  “Are we apologizing for those?  Because you have four that I can see right now.”
 
Dean closed his eyes.  He was not the type to advertise, well, anything, about his personal life.  But he had to grin.  He opened his eyes up to see Cas giving him a bashful, worried grin that was absolutely adorable.
 
Dean shook his head with a chuckle.  “You’re forgiven.”
 
They finished eating and sipped their coffee.
 
“Cas,” Dean asked, watching him pour his second cup, “how did you get that scar?”
 
He could see Cas’ muscles tense immediately.  His entire back stiffened and he almost missed aligning the coffee pot into the coffee machine.
 
Cas turned, coming back to the table, his mouth a grim line.
 
“I have always been very shy.  And gay.”  He thought before continuing, nervously running his thumb along the lip of his mug.  “I had a friend at the beginning of my junior year.  We met in homeroom.  We started spending all our time together.  I developed quite a crush on him.  By spring, he was gaining other friends.  Friends I did not really enjoy being around.”  He cleared his throat, obviously trying to make light of something traumatic.  “I was so in love with him.  Or so I thought.  One Friday night, we ended up being the only two in his car.  When he dropped me off at home, I leaned over and kissed him.”
 
Dean felt a chill run over his body.  Oh no.
 
“He hit me,” Cas went on.  “I suppose I had it coming.”  His eyes lifted to Dean’s.  “I seem to have a real problem initiating a relationship.”
 
Dean licked his lip slowly.  “Cas...”
 
Cas went on, looking down at the table.  “I apologized and ran into my house.  I lied to my dad, said we had just gotten into a fight, not that I had kissed him.  Had I told the entire story, things would have been much worse.”
 
Dean wanted to interrupt, but he gripped his mug a little tighter, letting Cas go on.
 
“I expected blow-back.  He had been so angry.  I went to school the next week and...nothing.  He no longer spoke to me or looked at me, but nothing else happened.”  He swallowed harder, still lost in a far-off look.  “Then, the following Friday, he asked me to meet him at a convenience store where we often hung out and played video games.  I thought he was going to tell me we could only be friends.”  His eyes lifted, meeting his.  “I should have known better.  I got there, seeing him waiting for me out back.  I kept my distance, assuring him I would never make the same mistake again.  He laughed so cruelly.”  Cas shook his head with a look of disgust.  “His new friends jumped me from behind.  One of them had a broken beer bottle.”
 
Dean’s eyes dropped to the scar.  It was the jagged circle of a broken beer bottle.
 
“He stabbed me,” Cas made the hand motion of holding a bottle and stabbing with it.
 
Dean felt sick.  Castiel’s precious body, hated, attacked!
 
“How bad was it?”
 
Cas tipped his head.  “Forty-six stitches, two broken fingers.”  He shrugged.  “I looked like shit for weeks after.”
 
Dean rubbed a hand over his mouth, trying to compartmentalize his anger at the assholes.  “How did you make it out of there?”
 
“The fight?” Castiel asked, his demeanor shifting slightly.  “Violently.  I beat them all up.”
 
Dean’s thoughts and face froze.  “You...”
 
Cas nodded.  “I kicked the shit out of them all.”
 
Dean sat back in total shock.  “After you were stabbed?”
 
Cas narrowed his eyes as he thought back.  “I was grabbed by two of them, while three others, counting the boy I kissed, proceeded to beat me up.  But I fought them off.  One of them, when they saw how badly they were losing, grabbed the broken beer bottle and stabbed me.”  He nodded, in no way bragging or mincing words.  “Then I beat up the rest of them.”
 
Dean hesitated before even allowing himself to react.  “You fought off five guys.”
 
Cas nodded.
 
“Damn.”
 
“I don’t like to talk about it.  I am not a violent person unless I’m driven to it.”
 
Dean licked his lips, leaning forward.  “That just makes you the sexiest fucking person in this whole damn world.”
 
Cas’ eyes went wide.  Then he broke out into a laugh.  “I’m not too sure what that says about you!”
 
Dean got to his feet quickly rounding the table.  “I don’t really care.  It says a whole lot about you.”
 
Cas stood, meeting him with a voracious kiss.  He pulled back.  “I do not condone violence.”
 
“Okay,” Dean gulped, kissing him again.  Something about Castiel’s subdued strength gripped him inside.  A man that defended himself against so many odds, fighting for his own right, was carnal.  Something he could support and fight for himself.  This man was a lion among men.  Kind, wise, giving.  And bad-ass.
 
Cas pulled back again, eyes wide and ocean blue.  “I’ve always felt so horrible for that day.  The things they said.  Hurting people.  Getting stabbed.  It was all so...brutal.”
 
Dean chuckled, backing Cas right into the wall.  “No, no, no.  You were attacked and fought them off.  That just makes you so. Fucking. Sexy.”
 
A short laugh escaped Castiel’s lips.  “You make it sound like a good thing.”
 
Dean grinned, ghosting a teasing kiss over his lips.  “It is.  You didn’t start the fight.  You just finished it.  Don’t feel bad for that.  Not for another second.”
 
A knock on the door interrupted what was sure to be a hot make-out session.  Dean growled at the door.
 
Cas turned his chin, kissing him.  “Guess people really do dig scars.”
 
Dean chuckled, kissed him, bent to kiss his scar.  “I’m so sorry that happened, Cas.”  He bit his lip, giving Cas a more serious look.  “I’m sorry for how I reacted the first time we kissed.”
 
Cas shook his head.  “I just get so nervous to ask and...well, I certainly never thought I would make that mistake again.”
 
Dean waited for Cas to meet his eye.  “It was NOT a mistake.”
 
Another knock sounded at the door.  Dean caught himself before he yelled at whoever it was.
 
Cas grinned.  “I’m very glad it worked out this time.”
 
“Me too.”
 
Dean kissed him once more and went to the door.  He waited for just a minute as Cas ducked into the bedroom  probably to grab a shirt.  Or run away because he was acting like a hormonal weirdo.  He couldn’t help himself though, Cas was so damn hot it was warping his mind.
 
He opened his door, wearing a ridiculous grin.
 
“Hey.  Thought I’d see if you could come up for air.”
 
“Hi, Pam,” Dean grinned.  He pushed the door open to let her in.  She came in, glanced at the two breakfast plates and grinned.
 
“Weekend going well?”
 
“Yeah!  Really good!  Really good.”  The last one came out sultry, making Pam crack up laughing.
 
Cas came into the kitchen doorway, t-shirt added to his wardrobe, but his hair totally gave him away.  He looked like he’d been fucked.
 
Pam grinned so hard Cas glanced at Dean nervously.
 
“Pam, this is Cas.  Cas, this is Pam, my landlord/friend/Yoda/life coach.”
 
Pam sauntered up to Cas, eating him up with her eyes.  “Nice ta meet ya.”
 
“Nice to meet you too,” Cas answered back, not quite sure how to take her confidence and teasing grin.  (Like the rest of the world.)
 
She reached a hand out and he shook it.
 
“Mmm,” she grinned wider, holding onto his hand and moving his arm so she could check him out.  “Nice hand shake.  Firm, non-threatening.  And look at all that virgin skin.”
 
Cas frowned slightly, extracting his hand.
 
Dean leaned against the counter, knowing he should save Cas, but tempted to see him handle it on his own.  “She’ll wanna tattoo you.  So...be careful what you agree to.”
 
Cas nodded with some understanding.  “I was hoping to come down to your shop.  I am actually interested in getting a tattoo, I’ve just never done it.”
 
“Oh I like him,” Pam announced.  “He’s a keeper.”
 
Dean smirked.  “I know.”
 
Cas gave him a warm look that Dean could only hold the gaze to.
 
“Oooohhhh, you two are dripping in looooove.  And lust.  And...that’s right, you’re the oil guy.  I want some of that stress reliving stuff.”
 
Cas blushed into a grin.  “I’ll be sure to send you some.”
 
Pam turned to Dean, hands going to her hips.  “I actually did have a reason to come up here.”
 
“No you didn’t,” Dean smirked.
 
“Well I thought of one, so, can you cover the shop for me Tuesday night?”
 
“Yeah,” Dean agreed easily.  He had done it many times.
 
“Good.”  She gave Cas another long look.  “Better come see my shop.”
 
Cas nodded.  “I will.”
 
She turned to Dean with a wink and left.
 
Cas blew a breath out.  “She’s your friend?”
 
Dean chuckled.  “For some damn reason, yes.”
 
He gave the door a considering look.  “She reminds me of a female Gabriel.”
 
Dean frowned.  “He can’t possibly be that bad.”
 
“Flirts with anyone,” Cas noted.
 
“True,” Dean nodded.
 
“Life of the party?”
 
“Always,” Dean smirked.
 
“She doesn’t play pranks on people does she?”
 
Dean stopped short.  “Yes.  Last year her and Sam ganged up on me, damn near drove me nuts!”
 
“Wow,” they both said, looking at the door.
 
“Question is,” Dean wondered aloud, “do we introduce them?  Or keep them in opposite hemispheres?”
 
“I don’t know,” Cas said with absolute sincerity, making them both laugh.  
 
“Let’s get out of here before any more of my friends come scare you off.”
 
 
 
*******************************************
 
 
 
Castiel felt slightly bad as he put four books on the counter of the huge used-book store.  He had browsed the shelves for over half an hour.  Dean had stuck with him through the Sci-Fi section and the travel section but let him wander on his own for the rest.  
 
It was a peaceful, quaint shop with a friendly schnauzer that checked on him from time to time, and a woman at the desk that was telling Dean about her problems with a leaking pipe.
 
The shop was downtown, where Dean lived.  They had walked there, stopping in at several other shops that had eclectic wares.
 
“Your shop is beautiful,” Castiel said, handing her a twenty.  
 
“Thank you.  We’re a dying breed with all the online stores out there.”  He nodded, understanding her plight as a small business, though his own survived purely online.
 
Local artists had drawings and paintings hung here and there.  There were old chairs to sit and read.  And it just seemed so warm and inviting.
 
She handed him his change and they left with his small pile of books.  As the bell at the door chimed when they left, Dean took his hand.  He had not been sure how Dean would be in public, being new to having a boyfriend.  He grinned happily, not missing the amount of bravery and acceptance Dean was capable of.
 
“Let’s head back to my place and get the car.  I wanna take you to this great ice cream place we have.”
 
Cas gave the library (only a block away) a wistful look.
 
Dean chuckled, squeezing his hand.  “Next time, ya book worm.  And if you bring Jack, there’s a really cool children’s section on the bottom floor.”
 
Castiel stared at the sidewalk as they walked, but the statement struck him quite solid in the chest.  “You would want me to bring Jack here?”
 
Dean frowned, seeming to take his statement just as heavily.  “Well...yeah.  Unless...you don’t want me to meet him.”
 
He felt Dean’s hand go weak in his and saw a solemn look cross his face.  Castiel stopped, looking at him.  Dean gave him a worried attempt at a frown.  
 
“I understand if you don’t want me to -”
 
“I do!” Castiel grinned, not believing how wonderful this all felt.  “I do want you to meet him!  I just didn’t know you would be so willing!”
 
Dean put one hand on his shoulder, stroking his cheek with his thumb.  “I would do just about anything for you, Cas.  I don’t wanna chase you away if I’m moving too fast, but...”
 
Castiel kissed him, then again, grinning like a fool.  “I did not want to presume or...”
 
Dean grinned, taking his hand again.  They started walking and Dean held the gaze of a man standing on the sidewalk staring at them.  It was an entirely unfriendly look between the pair of them, but Cas did not comment.  His heart was too high at the moment to let a stranger’s scorn bother him in the least.
 
“Has he ever flown?” Dean asked.
 
“Uh, no.  But maybe you could visit us.  That way he could at least be home.  At my house.  He can be quite uncertain about strangers and strange places.  Though, he is so well behaved, he would go anywhere.”
 
Dean nodded.  “He doesn’t cry or throw temper tantrums?”
 
They crossed the street at the fountain.  Water bubbled and splashed over the six layers of it and there were flowers planted in six pots around its border.  Flags stuck out of each pot, giving the fountain a very patriotic feel.  
 
As they continued on, Cas thought about that.  “I have not seen him cry since he was two.  He’s a very stoic child, good at hiding, and listens to everything.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Sounds like he needs some friends.”
 
Cas sighed.  “Yes.  That would probably do him wonders.”
 
They went through the narrow walkway between his house and the next, waving to Pam through the big windows to her shop.  
 
“You get to meet my baby today,” Dean grinned.
 
“Ah yes.  The Impala.  You spoke of her often in Recife.”
 
“Did I?”  Dean chuckled guiltily.
 
“Pictures and everything.”
 
“Ah, what can I say.  She’s my pride and joy.”
 
They got inside and Castiel nodded.  It was like getting another puzzle piece that formed the full picture of Dean.  “She smells like you.”
 
Dean took a deep breath.  “Damn.  I smell good!  You find a way to bottle the smell of my baby, and you’ll be a millionaire!”
 
Castiel laughed.  Dean was an adorable man with an air of  James Dean and a heart of gold.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sunday morning arrived so quickly, Cas could not believe it.  They had spent Saturday in such a happy cloud of their own.  Other than meeting Pam and Sam, four brief phone calls home to Jack and Anna, they had been in a world of their own and it had been heavenly.
 
He felt Dean wake up behind him.  His eyes closed as Dean’s mouth began kissing a line down his neck and over his shoulder.  
 
Cas wanted to smile, but he could already feel an ache growing in his chest.  He gripped Dean’s forearm, kissing his arm that was next to his mouth.  
 
They both stopped, holding onto each other tight.
 
“I don’t want you to go,” Dean said quietly.
 
“Me either,” Cas said back.  He turned over, facing Dean.  “My god, you’re beautiful.”
 
“I am not,” Dean scoffed.
 
“Would you come see me?” Cas asked softly.  
 
“Yeah.  Next month.  If you think that’s okay.  I mean...I don’t wanna freak out Jack.”
 
Castiel grinned, running his fingers through Dean’s hair.  “I’ll work on it.  I’ll talk to Jack about you and see how it goes.”
 
“You better sell it good.  I’m not sure I can stay away at this point.”  
 
Castiel grinned at that, leaning forward to kiss him.  Dean fell back, easily letting him climb over him to settle atop and do almost anything he pleased.  As he combed his fingers down Dean’s chest, he grinned playfully.  “I never did answer your question.”
 
“What question,” Dean grinned, sliding his hands around Castiel’s hips.
 
“I usually bottom.  I can do both.  I enjoy both.  But usually I want to bottom.”
 
Dean’s eyes lit up.  He slid up, putting his back against the headboard, pulling Cas along on his lap.  He tried to temper his enthusiasm, but his heart was already racing with the thought.  He got some lube, never breaking eye contact with Cas.  He began stroking Castiel’s cock gently.  “Why?”
 
Cas kissed him with a slow, lusty kiss.  “Because it feels so good.”  Cas rocked into Dean’s hand.
 
Dean kissed him hard.  He shoved himself upward, letting them both fall back onto the bed with Cas pinned beneath him.  “Is that what you want next time you see me?” Dean growled, biting his way down Castiel’s neck, still stroking him.
 
“Yes!” Cas gasped.  Dean reached between Castiel’s legs, spreading him wide.
 
He slid one finger inside, letting his cock go to hold Castiel’s thigh tight to Dean’s side, using the leverage to pull him.  “Right here?” Dean groaned, pushing two fingers inside.  “Like that?”
 
“Yes!” Castiel’s head dropped back with a gasp.  
 
Dean, hazy in lust, grabbed his own cock and ran it teasingly up and down Castiel’s ass, teasing, taunting, and watching how badly Cas craved it.  His eyes watched him, slitted and heavy, lips swollen and parted, brow furrowed.  Dean nudged his head against the opening.
 
“Dean,” Cas whimpered.
 
Hearing their own words about slowing this down in his head, Dean managed to keep some semblance of what they had talked about.  He couldn’t understand why the fuck it mattered right now, but he was sure there was merit to it at some other juncture in his life.
 
“I want to,” Dean swore with all the sincerity he meant.  He slid the head of his cock past his hole, over his perineum, around his balls and slid alongside Castiel’s cock.
 
Cas nodded with a pout.
 
Oh.  How could he deny this man anything?  His fingers returned, eyes still locked.  Castiel took both their dicks and began stroking as Dean rocked into him, hips, dick, and fingers.
 
He could read the desperation on Cas’ face, see the want and need.  He leaned in, kissing him hard, rocking steadily harder, building speed.
 
“Dean!” Cas pulled his mouth away, gasping for air.  “I want you!  Come, come stay with me!  Uh,” he battled for words as his body battled for a climax.
 
“I’m comin’,” Dean panted, “comin’ to stay with you.  And when I do,” he fucked harder, jiggling his hand, his fingers fluttering so hard and quick, Cas started keening, “and I’m gonna fuck you ten times a day.”
 
Cas shook all over, his body arching back.  
 
“I wanna be inside you,” Dean managed.
 
“Pleeease,” Cas begged, his hand letting go of their dicks to grip Dean’s upper arm.  His eyes searched Dean’s, bright and near to tears.
 
Dean found the lube, slicked his dick and nudged at Cas’ entrance again.
 
Castiel’s heart was racing.  Dean could feel it.  He could see how badly he wanted him.  And there was nothing to stop them.  He pressed forward, feeling the resistance and give of the first ring of muscles.  They both gasped and panted, eyes locked.
 
“Go, go,” Cas whispered.
 
Dean, worried about hurting him, leaned into him slow and steady.
 
“Dean,” Cas puffed, frustration edging into his frown.
 
“Okay,” he grinned.  He pulled back and plunged in.  He watched, mesmerized at how Cas fell apart beneath him.  His head was back, eyes closed, and hands jumped back to work, stroking himself.
 
He built up speed quickly, fighting the insane heat and squeeze enveloping his cock.  He gripped Castiel’s hips, pounding harder as Cas’ face contorted again to a wild, frenzied need.
 
The slap of their skin met his ears like a warning.  He was fucking him hard and Cas was taking it with greed and desperation.  He marveled at Castiel’s legs wrapping around him, spurring him on and suddenly, he was locking up, crying out as cum surged from him and his muscles gripped him tighter.  Dean came in a haze, pumping hard and fast until they both slowed and finally rocked to a gentle stop.
 
Dean waited until Cas was blinking.  Tears stung his eyes as he leaned down and kissed him deep, cradling him into his chest.
 
Cas, deliriously kissing him back, softened weakly and dropped back to the bed with a whoosh of air.  Dean slid out, kissing his neck, chest, chin, and mouth.
 
In a daze, they settled into a cuddle.
 
“Cas,” Dean said softly.
 
“Mm.”
 
“Was that okay?”
 
Cas chuckled, one arm flopping over.  “Yes,” he managed.  “God, yes.  Fuck, yes.”
 
Dean chuckled against his shoulder, pulling him in tighter.  “That was...”
 
Castiel blinked into better focus, turning to look at Dean with a trace of worry.
 
“My life is over.  I’m so fucked.  You ruined me.  I’m ruined.”  Dean chortled a drunken giggle.
 
Dean rolled on top of him, kissing him.  “That was amazing.”
 
Reassured, Cas hugged him close, kissing him deep and slow.
 
Brushing Cas’ hair back as he stared down into his eyes, he frowned.  “Can’t you conference call Panama?  I forbid you to leave.”  He grinned but did not mean it.  In fact, he was starting to feel nauseous at the thought of Cas leaving.
 
“I wish,” Cas smiled back sadly.  “And...” he tipped his head, looking at the clock.  “If I don’t get ready, I’m going to miss my flight.”
 
“I’m going to tie you down and keep you here,” Dean mumbled into his neck.
 
Cas chuckled, grinding his hips upward.  “Sounds tempting.”
 
Dean lifted his head, staring down at him one last time to memorize his face.  Hold the moment forever.  He sighed into a chaste kiss and got up, pulling Cas to his feet.
 
 
*******************************************
 
 
When Cas’ car pulled away, Dean felt an empty hole tear into his heart.
 
How in the hell was he supposed to move on from this weekend?
 
“Damn.”
 
Dean turned around, seeing Pam leaning against the side of the building at the threshold of the walkway.  She inhaled her cigarette and blew a puff of smoke out.  “I’m gonna learn to hate that man, aren’t I?”
 
Dean frowned at that.  How could anyone hate Cas?  He stuffed as much of his emotions into the new hole in his heart as possible and turned to face her.  “What?”
 
She gave him a sad, sly grin.  “He’s gonna steal you away.”  She took another drag of her cigarette, grinding the lit filter with the heel of her leather boot.  “That boy came here and stole your heart.  And I know you Dean.  You’ll follow your heart anywhere.”
 
Dean scoffed.  “Since when have I ever been a bleeding heart, following someone...” his words died in his mouth as she grinned.  He had followed Sam all over the country.  But that was different.
 
Or was it?
 
“Shit,” he mumbled.
 
She leaned away from the brick wall, tucking her hands in her pockets.  “Come on.  You can tell me all about your new life while I work on a tattoo.”
 
Dean followed her, looking over his shoulder once, just in case Cas decided he couldn’t leave.  Just in case he came rushing back in a frenzy of promises to never leave him.
 
The alley was quiet.  No Cas.
 
He followed Pam along the old brick house and into the front door of the tattoo shop.  He sat on his favorite stool behind the counter while she pulled out paper and a set of notes to start working on a drawing.
 
“So, this guy the angel you profess him to be?”
 
Dean sighed heavily, leaning on the counter to stare out the big windows, watching traffic go by.  “Yep.”
 
“And where does angel-boy live?”
 
“Outside of Chicago.”
 
She frowned at him.  “That’s a long fuckin’ drive.  You’re gonna make me get on a fuckin’ plane to visit you?”  She shook her head, adding sweeping lines to the paper.  “You’re a real dick, Dean Winchester.”
 
Dean half laughed.  “I’m not moving.”
 
“Yet.”
 
“I have no idea if this will actually work out.”
 
She switched pencils, adding to the lines.  “It’ll work.”
 
Dean stared at her with disbelief.  “I know you think you can read people pretty well, but there’s a lot more to him.  This isn’t just...easy.”
 
“He got a kid?”
 
Dean stared at her again.  “Did Sam call you?”
 
“Nope.  I can see it in the way his shoulders are set.  Like he has responsibility elsewhere.  Love.  He’s...” she stopped sketching to look up in thought.  “He’s torn between you and the kid.”  She turned to Dean with a calm certainty.  “He’s a man of action.  He won’t stay torn long, Dean.  He’ll take you to Chicago and I will have to...find someone else to rent that stupid apartment.”
 
Dean’s eyes widened.  “Are you...hey!”  Dean put a hand on her forearm, pulling her over a step.  “Are you actually getting worked up about this?”  He had to chase her eyes with his, but he finally caught her.  
 
“It sucks.  You know I don’t like people.  I finally found one I like and now...”
 
Dean hugged her.  She pushed away for only a second before hugging him back.
 
“I’m not going anywhere,” Dean insisted.
 
“You dumb boy,” Pam laughed, stifling tears.  “You are already gone.”  She stepped out of the hug, fighting to give him a confident grin.  “And I get one day to be pissed about it.”
 
Dean shook his head with a defeated grin.  “Okay.”
 
“Jackass.”
 
He bit his lip before grinning hard.  “Clingy bitch.”
 
“Damn straight!  I’ll kick that blue-eyed bastard’s ass.”
 
Dean laughed.  “You can try.  I hear he’s actually pretty scrappy in a throw-down.”
 
She blew a breath out, going back to work on the drawing.  “Guess I’ll catch him from behind.”
 
Dean settled back onto the stool.  Maybe Pam was right Cas being enough for him to move away.  He just didn’t see how he could ever leave Sam.  And he did not relish the thought of losing Pam or Benny either.
 
He felt disjointed and off balance.
 
“So, tell me about that dirty, thieving angel,” Pam smirked, kicking his foot.
 
Dean smirked back at her.  She was right.  He was a thief.  The bastard had just left the country with his heart.
 
“He’s trying to adopt his nephew, who is five, and severely shy.  His brother, the kid’s dad, is in jail but gets out soon.”
 
“Huh.  Didn’t peg him for a criminal family.”
 
“I think it’s just the brother.  His other brother, Gabriel, and his sister, Anna, are good people.  He rarely talks about his parents.  I think they were super judgey holy rollers.”
 
“Give me criminals any day over a holy roller.”
 
Dean watched as her sketched lines turned into an outline of a bird with long, flowing tail feathers and wings.
 
“He has a house but doesn’t seem too attached to it.  His sister has a lavender farm near him.”
 
She sketched on, consulting her notes as Dean prattled on and on about the many little things he had come to know about Castiel James Novak.  He found himself eventually just staring out the window, daydreaming.
 
“Sex was good, huh?”
 
Dean’s head whipped around, seeing her naughty grin.  The bird was done, shaded, and colored in.
 
His eyes darted back to hers.  “The sex was fucking awesome.”
 
She laughed loud and hard, making him chuckle along.  “I knew it!  Men always boast about two chicks being hot.  They got it all wrong!  Two men is fucking hot as hell!”
 
Dean could only shake his head.  Yeah, she and Gabriel could NEVER meet.  If they did, he certainly couldn’t be witness to it!  The vulgarity would be HBO worthy.
 
A man parked his Harley in front of the shop, coming in with a slow, heavy stride.
 
“Pamela.”
 
“Hey, Tiny!”  She went around the counter, hugging him and kissing his cheek.  He was covered with tattoos.  A red bandana was all he had on his head and a long reddish-brown beard hung halfway down his chest.  His hands were meaty paws.  There was nothing ‘tiny’ about the man.
 
“You ready?” She asked more gently than Dean had expected.
 
“Let’s see if it’s any good,” he grumbled.
 
Dean raised an eyebrow as Pam showed him the bird.
 
His face crumpled slightly.  “Looks jus like ‘er!”  
 
Pam patted his shoulder as Tiny proceeded to get choked up and head in back to the tattoo chair.
 
She stepped behind the counter to get her drink.  Dean gave her a questioning look.
 
“His cockatoo died last week.”
 
Dean frowned.  “A cockatoo?”
 
Pam leveled him with a look.  “A seventeen-year-old cockatoo.”
 
They both glanced over at Tiny, who had pulled his vest and shirt off and was laying back in the chair.  “It’s perfect, Pamela.”
 
Pam crossed over to him, sitting on the stool she used when working.  “She’s flyin’ free, Tiny.”
 
Her words were absolutely sincere.  She handed him a Kleenex when he started sniffling.
 
Damn.  Dean shook his head.  He’d been told to never judge a book by its cover before.  But lately, he felt like he couldn’t even read!
 
His phone rang and he reached for it slowly.  He swiped the screen with a frown.  “Sammy, are you listening to disco music?”
 
“What?  No!  Why?”
 
“Just checkin’ how totally off balance the world is right now.  Apparently we’re okay.”
 
A moment of silence passed, and Dean knew Sam was thoroughly confused and deciding to ignore him.
 
“So, get this, I did some research,”
 
Dean rolled his eyes.  If he had a nickel for every time Sam started a call this way, he could buy Chicago and have it delivered here for dinner.
 
“And I KNOW Cas’ sister.”
 
Dean frowned.  “How do you know Anna?”
 
“She was in my pre-law class at Stanford.  We were in classes together!  Small world, right?”
 
Dean sighed.  “Not small enough.”  It was like he could feel every mile grow between him and Cas.
 
“We used to study together!  Her dorm room was across the hall from mine!”
 
“That’s crazy,” Dean admitted.  “Did you like her?”
 
“Yeah!  She was nice.  Dated an ag. engineer, also a friend of mine, Abner.”
 
“Abner?  Brown hair?  Beard?”
 
“Yep!”
 
Dean shook his head.  “I probably met her then too.”
 
“Yeah!  She came over to our apartment for study groups when you moved there!”
 
Dean searched his memory of the thin red-head.  He was pretty sure he remembered her.  “Ohhh...shit.”
 
“Yeah.”
 
Dean’s head dropped into his hand.  Anna.  Hot little red-head.  They’d had sex in the backseat of his car.  She and Abner had broken up and...well, hot college chicks had been his thing for a while back then.
 
“It can’t be the same Anna,” Dean groaned.
 
“It is, Dean.  I looked her up.”
 
Dean’s head started to spin.  “Sam.  That was in California.”
 
“Yep.  And now she lives near Chicago on a farm.  With her husband, Abner.”
 
“She married him?”
 
“Yep.”
 
“Oh god.”
 
“Yeah.  Hope that doesn’t cause a problem.  It’s not like you two went out long.”
 
“No.  Just the once.”  He groaned.
 
“Think Cas will care?”
 
“I don’t know!”
 
“Well, if you two get more serious, you might wanna mention it.”
 
More serious?  If he got any more serious, he’d be buying a fucking ring and proposing.
 
“Fuck my life,” Dean sighed heavily.
 
Sam chuckled.  “I told you to quit sleeping with all those college chicks!”
 
“This so isn’t funny, Sam.”
 
Sam laughed again.  “It’s hilarious, Dean!”
 
Dean hung the phone up.  Cas wasn’t even out of the state yet and Dean felt like he just cheated on him!  He was going to have to talk about it!  And if he met Anna?  Uuuuggghhh!  And her husband!
 
“Fuck.”
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9:  Unrelated
 
 
The seatbelt signal went on again.  The storm below them was causing a good deal of turbulence.
 
“Thank you, love,” Crowley grinned, taking the drink the airline attendant brought him.
 
Castiel and Crowley were on their way home from Holland.  After leaving Dean in Pennsylvania, Castiel had traveled with an odd feeling dragging at his heels.  He loved traveling.  He loved being with people at their international farms.  But if the judge had her way, this would be the last of his travels for the foreseeable future.
 
And most of him was okay with that.  Jack was worth it.  And then there was Dean.  Too far away.  And though he had told Jack about Dean, he had kept it very light.  They were nowhere near ready for Dean to be coming for a visit.  His non-stop flight was long and grueling.  He never slept well on a plane.  
 
He thought back to the day he and Dean had toured Recife.  How he had been so comfortable with Dean.  How they did not have to work at conversation.  How Dean had looked when he found out he was eating goat.  It made him grin just at the memory of them making each other try the food.  How they had shared food so many times.  
 
“If I had a dollar for every time I look at you and you have that dopey grin on your face, our trip could have been paid for,” Crowley said.
 
Castiel smoothed his grin.  “And how is Meg these days?”
 
Crowley grinned.  “She’s feisty.  Seems to be how I like them.”
 
Cas chuckled.  Gabe had coordinated a meeting for HFH while visiting a farm with Crowley two weeks ago.  The two had met and apparently hit it off.  Crowley certainly had a type.  His ex-wife, Abaddon, was a feisty red-head as well.  He complained about her frequently.  How she had taken half his money and their house.  Crowley had been divorced for three years now, but one mention of his ex brought the man into a ranting tirade just as easily today as it did three years ago.  He had dated a woman named Lilith too.  But he and Gabriel had helped him see just how similar to Abaddon she had been.  They broke up and Crowley had not dated since.
 
“Meg is wonderful.  Her charitable nature will be good for you.”
 
Crowley grinned.  “I suppose.  She’s coming to visit next week.  Mind if I give her the tour?”
 
“Of course!” Cas smiled genuinely.  Crowley was a strait-laced businessman most of the time.  But numbers were not all the man was.  Gabe had managed to get him to loosen up over the years.  He could be a lot of fun.  Sometimes veering into the ‘too much fun’ category for him, but suitable to keep up with Gabe.  The two often had jam sessions at Crowley’s house.  He played drums and Gabe played the guitar.  Meg was bound to be a good influence on his moody friend.  Hopefully she would cheer him up.  He was often grumpy.
 
He was glad to see that Crowley’s pride in their company had grown over the years.  Meg would love touring the oil labs and their closest farms.
 
“So, how is Dean?” Crowley asked, flipping the page of a magazine in the plane seat next to him.
 
“Good.”
 
“He on board for the whole Jack thing?”
 
Crowley had not looked at him, but he knew when someone was checking on him.  “He is.”
 
“Any kids or problematic exes in his past?”
 
Cas stopped himself from rolling his eyes.  “No.  How about Meg?”
 
Crowley closed the magazine, turning to look at him.  “Meg isn’t trying to get custody of any children.  Neither am I.  You, on the other hand, have taken Lucifer’s toy.  He’ll be tearing apart everything and anything near you.”
 
Cas frowned.  “His toy.  I would hardly -”
 
“Refer to Jack as a toy?  I know.  Lucifer, however, is not the bleeding heart you are.  I’m not even convinced he’s human.”
 
Castiel sighed.
 
“He uses Jack when it suits him.  And currently he thinks Jack is his ‘toy’ and you are fucking with it.”
 
“Crowley.”
 
Crowley raised one pert eyebrow.
 
He wasn’t wrong.  His son was little more than one of his brother’s possessions that he played with when the mood struck him.  It was revolting.
 
“What’s your point, Crowley?”
 
“My point is, now is NOT the ideal time for a long-distance relationship.  Or a relationship at all.  Lucifer has an attorney too.  And while I have close watch on the company, I won’t be in the courtroom when all this plays out.”
 
“I know.  My attorney is working hard to keep the custody in my favor.  Anna says he is doing all he can.”
 
Cas thought about the whole daunting mess he had awaiting him at home.  No wonder he wanted to run away to Pennsylvania.  Used book stores, fountains, quaint shops, small diners...it was heaven compared to the constant scrutiny of Judge Billie, Lucifer, his attorney, Dick Roman, and his own family constantly worrying.  No wonder Jack was stressed.  If everyone would just leave them alone, they would be fine.
 
He pictured walking down Main Street, holding Jack’s hand as Dean showed him the incredible toy store downtown.  It had a huge animatronic dinosaur in the shop window that Jack would love.
 
“Earth to Castiel!” Crowley snapped, literally, yanking him from his peaceful moment.
 
“Please, Crowley, I know you are just looking out for me, but I’m already doing the best I can.  I will not put Dean on the back burner.  It could be months of this dragging out in court.  I...”
 
Crowley’s furrowed look morphed into one of more amusement.  “You have it bad for this one.”
 
Cas wanted to jump up and shout Yes!  Yes I do!  I love him and want him to move in with me!  But he bottled all that up and pleaded with his eyes for Crowley to understand.  “Yes,” he said simply.
 
Crowley studied him with half a grin.  “Bollox.”
 
 
 
************************************************
 
 
 
Dean walked back to his car, wiping grime and sweat from his forehead as he opened the door to the back seat and pulled a bag out.  Over the past three days, Cas had been in Panama and then flew to Holland.  He had flown home yesterday.  Dean reasoned that he could fess up to what he and Anna had done when Cas was home.  It would be wrong to throw something out there while the guy was out of the country working.  Right?  Yeah.  They had talked every day.  It had bothered him and made him feel like he was harboring a lie.
 
He pulled his shirt off and put it in the bag.  His boots went next.  He shoved his feet into his every-day boots and pulled a white t-shirt on.  Doing this might seem ridiculous, so Sam had told him so, but it kept Baby clean.
 
He tossed the bag into the back seat and shut the door.  His phone started ringing.  He leaned against the side of his pride and joy and looked at the screen.
 
Franklin County Jail.
 
“What the fuck?” He mumbled.
 
Dean swiped the screen to answer the call.  “Hello?”
 
“Dean?  Dean, this is Claire.  Do you remember me from Habitat For Humanity?”
 
“Yeah,” Dean answered slowly.  Claire’s voice sounded strained.
 
“Um, I’m in some trouble.  I know you don’t know me that well,” her voice trembled, “but I...”
 
“Claire, what do you need?” Dean asked, already pacing alongside his car, ready to scoop her up from whatever was scaring her.
 
“God, I hate to ask you this.  Can you bail me out?  I SWEAR I will pay you back!  I have money!”
 
“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
 
“Dean?”
 
“Yeah?”
 
“I’m sorry to ask you.  I didn’t know who else to call.”
 
Dean’s eyes closed.  “I’ll be there in ten minutes, Claire.  Don’t worry about it.”
 
“Okay,” she answered in a tiny voice.  The line went dead and Dean jumped in his car, taking off.  Luckily he was finished with work for the day anyway.
 
He sped toward the jail, not even sure where exactly it was located.  He called Sam.
 
“Hey Dean,” Sam answered.
 
“How do I get to the jail?”
 
“The jail?  Why?”
 
“Sam!”
 
“Franklin Street.  Then turn left on Opportunity Way.”
 
Dean glared at his phone.  “Are you joking?”
 
“No!  It’s at the end of Opportunity Way!”
 
“People and their fucking senses of humor.  Why would you put a jail on a road called Opportunity Way?”
 
“Well...jail is an opportunity to stop and change your life for a lot of people, Dean.  Why the hell are you going to the jail?”
 
Dean sighed.  “I’m picking up a friend of mine.”
 
“Benny?”
 
“No.”
 
“Who?”
 
“I gotta go, Sammy.  Talk to ya tonight.”  He ended the call.  He would fill his nosy brother in later when he knew what the hell he was dealing with.
 
Claire was 19 years old.  She was actually the first person Dean had kind of made a connection with.  He had seen her at local Habitat For Humanity projects but had never actually spoken to her.  Dean tended to stay focused on his particular job when they were building.  And Benny was usually there as well.  Realizing he would be around these people for a week, he figured he might as well socialize.  A little.  He recognized the look that haunted Claire’s eyes.  He could spot a foster kid, one who had surfed the skeezier parts of the system, a mile away.  All he had done was sit with her at breakfast one morning.  And gave her a piece of his bacon.  So, yeah, that was kind of a big deal.  He wouldn’t just give his bacon to anyone.  But she looked down.  And alone.  And she was a pretty good worker.  So, he sat with her to see if he could cheer her up a little.
 
It had worked.  Her smiles were seldom, and she was sarcastic as hell, but she did come out of her shell.  At dinner that night, she came to sit with him again.  She teased him about his achy knees, and he teased her about her oddly located braids.  She had three little braids on one side and hair hung in her face all the time!
 
“Get a hair tie, Daeanaryus.”
 
“Get an oil can for those knees, Tin Man!”
 
That had been on day two.  By day three, she had another friend.  Jo.  The two were...well, if he had a remote he would have muted them frequently.  They were young, a bit mouthy, snarky as hell, and honestly, kept him laughing more often than not.
 
They certainly weren’t the friends he thought he might make while away.  It did occur to him at one point that they reminded him of young, blonde versions of Pam.
 
Okay, so he might have a type when it came to friends.  He needed sarcasm or you just weren’t going to make it long in his book.
 
He pulled up to the jail and followed the signs to go into the office.  The corrections officer at the desk eyed him with interest as she sat forward.
 
He was thankful for the glass between them.  “You’re new here.”
 
“Uh...yeah.  I’m here to pick someone up.”
 
“Name,” the woman said, slipping into a more professional demeanor.
 
“Claire...” shit.  Why was he such shit with names?  “Blonde, 19-years-old...bitchy?”
 
The CO stared at him unamused.  “That narrows it down.”
 
Dean rubbed a hand across his mouth, racking his brain.  “Claire...N...Newton!”  Ha!
 
She wrote something down, pushing a clipboard toward him.  “Fill out the three sheets and make the check out to Franklin County.”
 
Dean took the board and sat down to write.
 
An hour and five hundred dollars later, he waited outside by his baby.
 
A loud buzz at the side door sounded and the knob turned.  A CO walked Claire to a gate.  It buzzed and she walked through, thanking the CO quietly.
 
She approached Dean warily.  Apology, fear, worry, relief, all washed over her face as she shifted from foot to foot, fidgeting with the jacket in her hands.
 
Dean pulled away from where he leaned against his car, closing the distance between them.
 
“Sorry,” she barely managed, fighting back tears.
 
He hugged her tight.  She hugged him back, one armed, the other still clutching her jacket between them.
 
He let go, not even asking.  “Come on.”
 
She exhaled in relief as they got in the car and drove away.
 
Dean drove back into town, parking in front of a diner that specialized in chicken and waffles.
 
They sat in a booth, Claire still looking dazed and miserable.
 
“What are ya getting?” Dean asked, not needing a menu.
 
“I’m not hungry.”
 
The waitress, Molly, smiled with an expectant look.
 
“Two chicken and waffles with mashed potatoes and gravy,” Dean said confidently, grinning up at her.
 
“You got it, hon.”
 
Claire made a disgusted face.  “Are you for real?  Mashed potatoes on a waffle?”
 
“Shut up.  You’ll like it,” he smirked.
 
Her eyes widened with an unconvinced look.
 
Dean leaned forward on the table.  “Claire.  What’s goin’ on?”
 
Claire sighed, looking down at her hands as she picked at a nail.  “I was...”
 
“Don’t lie.  I don’t care what mess you’re in.  Just...be honest.”
 
She frowned harder, still not meeting his eye.  “I live not too far from here.  The guy I live with, Rodney, he, uh...he, we...I was...”
 
Dean bit his lip, waiting for her to muddle her way through.
 
She sighed heavily.  “I got hauled into jail for getting in a fight with Rodney.  By the time the police got there, I had punched him in his stupid face.  He was bleeding and...I got taken to jail.”
 
Dean narrowed his eyes.  While he could see she was hardened by the life she had so far, sarcastic, and even tough, he had not pegged her for a domestic violence type person.  He had not wanted to pry into her personal life when they were in Recife.  But now he needed to know a little more.
 
“What did Rodney do?” Dean asked quietly, knowing the douchebag must have deserved it.
 
Her eyes flashed angrily at him.  “I don’t want to talk about it.  Thanks for bailing me out.  I will pay you back.”  She started to get up, but Dean held both hands up.
 
“Whoah!  Don’t leave.  Especially not all pissy at me.  I didn’t do shit to you.  And if you don’t wanna talk about it, we won’t talk about it!”
 
She hesitated, her anger slipping back to guilt.  “Sorry.”
 
“Here comes our food anyway,” Dean said, grinning at Molly.
 
Claire inched back into the booth, still looking ready to split at any second.
 
“Here you are, hon,” Molly grinned, sitting two heaping plates on the table.  “Who’s your friend?”
 
Dean and Claire exchanged fleeting glances.  “This is Claire.  We...work together.”
 
“Oh!  Thought Benny was the only one you dragged around for waffles.”
 
“Well,” Dean laughed, it dying in his throat.  He was sure it looked odd.  They were so far apart in age.  It made him feel awkward.  
 
Claire gave Molly a tentative grin.
 
“Well, I’m glad to see you with more friends, Dean.  Any friend of Dean’s is good my book,” she stated as she walked away.
 
“A fan?” Claire smirked.
 
Dean chuckled back, salting and peppering his pile of food.
 
“What the hell is this?” She said slowly, staring at the mound.
 
Dean picked up his knife and fork.  “A golden-brown Belgian waffle,” he said, circling the waffle’s perimeter with his cutlery for effect.  “With mashed potatoes, tender chicken, and covered in gravy.”
 
Claire leaned in.  “This gravy is yellow.  Like, Homer Simpson yellow.”
 
“Add salt,” Dean grinned, cutting into his.
 
She tucked hair behind one ear, poking at it with her fork.
 
Dean was shoveling his in by now.  “I see you’re still sporting the Daenerys do.”
 
She smirked at him, her shoulders relaxing.  “I see you’re even more James Dean than you were in Recife.”
 
Dean smirked.  “James Dean is hot.  And badass.”
 
“Daenerys is hotter.  And her dragons will eat you.”
 
Dean tipped his head in truce.  “So, breaker of chains and douchebag’s noses, what’s the plan?”
 
Claire took a bite of her waffle, chewing it slowly.  “Get my shit.  Get a motel room.”  She sighed, taking another bite, this one with all the toppings on.  “Get a life.”  She stared out the window behind Dean.  “I really thought I had my shit together there for a minute.”
 
Dean kept shoveling food in, noting with a grin how she was picking up speed, eating more quickly.
 
“So...who’s Rodney?”
 
Claire sighed, poking at her waffle again.  “He’s...my friend.  I’ve been with him for a few years.”  She made a face of regret.  “He helped me out, ya know?  He helped me finish high school and...”
 
She put her fork down altogether and sat back.
 
“How ‘bout I take you to his place so you can get your stuff.  Then I’ll take you...wherever.”
 
She nodded, starting to eat again.  “I know this is weird.  We hardly know each other.  If I had anyone else to call, I would’ve.”
 
Dean nodded.  “It’s fine.”  He knew what it was like to be in a tight spot and have no support system.  “How’s Jo?”
 
Claire shrugged, smiling a bit.  “Wait until I tell her I had to call you to bail me out.  She was already calling you Dad when all we did was grab a meal together.”
 
Dean took a drink and sat the glass down.  “Where does she live?”
 
“Iowa.  In the middle of nowhere, apparently.”
 
Dean nodded, lost in thought.  Iowa was even further away than Illinois, where Cas lived.
 
 
 
 
 
Dean pulled up in front of a small, shabby house in another small town forty-five minutes away.  “You want me to come in?”
 
“Yeah.  Sorry.  But I don’t want him starting any bullshit and getting me tossed back in jail.”
 
Dean followed her to the door.  She unlocked it, walking in.
 
“You can wait here,” Claire said quietly.  
 
Dean waited at the foot of the stairs, just inside the door as Claire went up the stairs in a hurry.
 
He could hear her on the floor above, walking around, drawers opening and closing, doors opening and shutting.
 
He looked over as a man came out of the kitchen.
 
“Who are you?”
 
“I’m with Claire.”
 
The man looked shocked, then pissed.  Dean noted the shadow of a bruise under and to the side of his nose.  This was Rodney?  He looked at least Dean’s age, maybe older, and screamed douchebag.
 
“You her...” he hesitated, attempting to look cocky but unable to pull it off.  “She’s way more trouble than she’s worth!”
 
Dean just stared at him coldly.  He was not getting into this mess.
 
Rodney ducked back into the kitchen.  Less than a minute later, he heard arguing upstairs.  The house must have two sets of stairs because he could hear the guy’s voice arguing with Claire.
 
He heard something fall to the floor.
 
He sighed.  Apparently he was getting into this.
 
He marched up the stairs, giving fair warning he was coming up.
 
“Let go of me!” Claire snarled, yanking her arm, but doucheboy held on tight, talking quick in her ear as she hunched away from him.
 
“You think you can leave me?  You just gonna let your brothers and sisters starve?  You owe me money!  I’ll have you thrown in prison for good!”
 
“Get your fucking hands off of her.”  Dean stared at the man hard enough that he flinched, releasing Claire’s wrist and backed away.
 
“Get out of my house!” Rodney said, half demanding and the other half scared shitless.
 
Claire moved around them, throwing things into her bag.
 
“You’re pretty tough with little girls,” Dean pointed out.  “How about someone your own age.  And gender.”
 
“I...” Rodney glared at Claire, edging toward the door of the bedroom to get out.  “I’m calling the cops!”
 
Dean smirked.  “Go ahead.  Claire, did he leave a mark on your arm?”
 
Claire didn’t answer, but the threat was enough to shut the scrawny bastard up.
 
“How ‘bout you go buy a spine and get back to me when you get it installed.”
 
Rodney ducked out of the room.
 
Claire slung the duffle bag over her shoulder, grabbing a backpack, putting some things in it.
 
Dean had a bad feeling about what he was looking at.  There were two beds in Claire’s room.  He stepped into the hall, looking in the other room.  Two twin size beds in there as well.  Douchebag’s room was shut and locked, making him half nauseous.  He knocked on the door.
 
“Anyone in there?” He yelled.
 
Claire came out of her room, giving him a scathing look.  “What are you doing?”
 
“It’s locked.  Why.”
 
She shrugged.  “It’s always locked.  His computer’s in there.  And his money.  He keeps it locked so no one steals from him.”
 
Yeah.  Not douchey at all.
 
Dean pulled his wallet out, taking two pins from the fold.
 
“What are you doing?” Claire asked, tugging his sleeve to leave.
 
“Making sure there’s no little boys or missing persons chained in here.”
 
“What?  He’s a jerk but not a pedophile!  He’s not a bad person, he’s just...”
 
Dean picked the lock easily, opening the door.
 
He stared at Claire, willing her to understand what the hell she was in the middle of.  “He is a bad person.”
 
She shook her head but followed him into the room.  Dean looked under the bed and in the closet, making sure there was no hidden bodies in the room.
 
She was right.  He had a computer and a box of what Dean recognized as betting notes.  The asshole was a gambler.
 
“Take that,” he said, handing her the box, taking pictures of the computer and then its serial number.  She shoved the box in her backpack.
 
“What the hell?  Who are you?  Are you a freakin’ cop?”  Claire hissed, pulling him from the room.
 
“No.  But that’s exactly where we’re going.”
 
Claire moaned in frustration, pulling him down the steps.  Rodney glared at both of them as he stood in the hallway.  “She won’t put out for you.”
 
Dean stopped in his tracks, a cold so chilling even his heart froze for a second.  He turned to Rodney.  “What did you say?”
 
Rodney shrugged a shoulder, his eyes darting to Claire.
 
Dean pulled his phone out of his pocket, staring with absolute fury as he swiped the screen, he dialed 9-1-1.
 
“Wh-who are you calling?” Rodney asked, his eyes bouncing from phone, to Dean, to Claire.
 
The operator answered.
 
“This is Dean Winchester.  I need police at 2233 Queen Street.”  His eyes lifted to Rodney.  “What for?  Domestic dispute.”
 
Rodney backed up a step, looking panicked.
 
“Dean!  Stop!” Claire begged.
 
Dean ended the call, turning to her.  “You and I are waiting on the front porch.”
 
“Dean!” She yelled.
 
“Now!” He yelled back, pointing to the front door.
 
She gave Rodney a last look of regret, then went out the front door pissed as hell.
 
Dean stared at Rodney again.  “I don’t know what all you had runnin’ here,” Dean said coldly, “but you’re done.”
 
Rodney backed up a step.
 
“If you run,” Dean grinned, “the second you step out of this house, I’m going to beat the shit out of you.”
 
Rodney’s mouth gaped.  He was trapped.  
 
Dean licked his lip, nodding at the man.  He stepped onto the porch, sitting on the railing beside Claire.
 
She got up, pacing on the small porch.  “What did you do?” She yelled.  “I just needed a ride here!  I was going to leave!  Now the police are coming!”
 
Dean did not let her ranting ruffle him one bit.  “He’s a predator, Claire.  I don’t know what all he’s into, but he’s taking in kids, young adults, and using you guys for something.  What, Claire?  What does he make you do? Cause I bet it ain’t gettin’ a job at Walmart”
 
Her face looked stricken.  “I would have -”
 
“What?” Dean snapped, “not graduated?  Went into the foster system?  Starved?  What other bullshit did he hold over your head, making you feel like you owed him?  And for how long do you owe someone like that?  What do the other kids here do?  What have they had to do for him?”
 
Claire sagged onto the railing, crying.
 
Dean sighed, wishing the fucker would just run out the back door so he could beat him to a pulp.  Pretty sure the fucker was still inside, he sat next to Claire.
 
He could hear sirens nearing them.
 
 
*****************************************
 
 
Sam frowned at his ringing phone.
 
Franklin County Jail.
 
He’d been calling Dean all day.  What the hell had he gotten tied up in?
 
“Hello?”
 
“Hey Sammy.  Care ta come pick me up?”
 
Sam stared at nothing, trying to fill in the blanks.  “Dean, what the hell happened?”
 
He sighed.  “Long story.  Bring five hundred bucks to bail me out, would ya?”
 
“Yeah,” Sam said.  He ended the call, grabbing his keys.
 
When he got to the jail, Dean was already in the lobby, not in an orange jumpsuit, and talking to the cops like he was one of the guys.
 
He held his hands up in total confusion at his brother.  
 
“Hey!” One of the cops said to Sam, recognizing him from court.  “This your brother?” He jabbed his thumb toward Dean.
 
“Yeah,” he said, totally lost in all the confusion.
 
Dean gave Sam a friendly grin, not seeming to be concerned with all the talking going on around him.
 
“See you tomorrow,” Dean said to the cop in front of him.  “I’ll come to the station when I get off work around four o’clock.”
 
“Sounds good,” the cop nodded.
 
Dean waved to a young blonde sitting in a row of chairs.  She looked vaguely familiar.  And awfully young.
 
They left the jail, getting into Sam’s car.
 
“What the hell is going on?” Sam demanded as he pulled out of the parking lot.
 
Dean sighed.  “Long story.  I’ll tell ya later,” he said quietly, glancing over his shoulder at the girl.  “This is Claire.  I know her through Habitat For Humanity.”
 
Sam nodded, saying hi to her as he glanced at her in his rearview mirror.  She gave him a half-hearted wave back with a grimace.
 
That’s where he recognized her from.  She was one of the volunteers that worked with Dean.  He gripped the steering wheel a little tighter, wondering just what the hell Dean had gotten himself into.  She looked like trouble.
 
 
 
********************************
 
 
 
Dean got back in his car looking pissed.  “This place looks like a dump.  Ya know who names their motel ‘The Right Spot?’  Creeps, that’s who.”
 
Sam looked at the rundown frontage of the motel.  “Yeah.  Reminds me of some shitty place Dad woulda had us staying in.”
 
“I tried to talk some sense into her.  Said she could crash at my place, but she insists on staying here.  She better not skip town and lose my bail money.”
 
Sam stared at his brother.  “She’s the reason you went to jail?”
 
“The first time, yeah.  The second time, no.”
 
“If you don’t start explaining, I’m reporting your car as abandoned and they’ll tow it away.”
 
Dean gaped at him.  “Calm down, Samantha!  Jeez.  Take me to my car and I’ll explain everything.”
 
Sam hesitated and Dean knew he was good for his threat.
 
“I know Claire from my trip to Recife.  She volunteers with Habitat For Humanity.  She’s a good kid, Sam.”
 
He backed out of the parking space, turning out of the dump.  “She looks like jail bait.”
 
“She’s 19!  And ew!  No!”
 
Sam relaxed a little.
 
He explained the whole story.  Claire was taken in by Rodney Douchebag just as she turned seventeen.  She was almost homeless and floundering to survive.  He took her in like a saint (in Claire’s eyes) and got her back in school.  She finished her last year and half and had at least a meal every day.  She wasn’t under his care long before he had her pulling off small robberies for him to help make money.  The other kids in the house were her age or younger and they ‘needed fed’.  
 
Claire went to jail on her first attempted robbery, earning her probation with mandatory community service.  Habitat For Humanity.
 
Though she had worked off that probation and mandated service long ago, she still loved volunteering with them.  She had gotten to Recife on a Habitat scholarship.
 
When she got back, apparently Rodney Douchebag was pissed at her absence and had crossed the line at pushing her to prostitute herself for money.  That was what the fight was about that landed her in jail today.
 
“This is a mess,” Sam sighed.  “You sure you want to be dragged into all this?”
 
Dean shook his head, staring out the windshield as they pulled up behind his car, still parked in front of douchebag’s house.
 
“Claire did some seedy shit for that guy because he guilted her into it, Sam.  All she wanted was a safe place to sleep and to finish school.  He used her.  God only knows what the other kids have done for him!”
 
“And he’s in jail?” Sam clarified, looking at the dark house.
 
“He’s in jail because I found evidence of gambling.  The guy owes people money.  He’s not ‘feeding the kids’.  He’s feeding his addiction.”
 
Sam shook his head, staring at the house in disgust.  “Let me know if you need anything.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Once the cops put enough information together, they dropped my charges.  I’m pretty sure they’ll drop Claire’s too.  I just hope she shows up for the court date.”
 
“Be careful, Dean.  She liked that guy for a long time.  Loyalty like that doesn’t always die off.  She sees him as family.  You know the crazy lengths people will go to for their family.”
 
The brothers exchanged a brief, dark look.  
 
“Hey,” Dean shrugged, “I couldn’t walk away.  There was shady shit goin’ on in there.  They just needed someone not sucked into his abusive snare to see it.”
 
Sam nodded.  “Like I said, whatever you need, let me know.  I’m there.”
 
Dean gave his little brother a proud look.  “I know, Sammy.  Talk to ya tomorrow.”
 
He got out of the car and into his own, heading home.  He wished Claire would have come to his place.  But he could see how going from the help of one older guy to the help of another older guy, could really mess with your head.  He gave her space, hoping she understood that he was nothing like Rodney Douchebag.
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10:  At a Distance
 
 
Out of the shower, Dean flopped into his bed.  His phone had been dead.  Now, semi-charged and still charging, he frowned at the 15 missed calls and four texts.
 
Fourteen of the calls were Sam.  One was Cas.  Two texts were Sam, looking for him when he had been with Claire.  The other two were from Cas.
 
It was really late.
 
He bit his lip and texted Cas.
 
Dean:  Hey!  Sorry I missed you today.  And I really miss you.  What a fucking day.  Call me when you can.
 
He grinned as his phone rang before he could even put it down.  “Hey there, handsome!”
 
“Hello, Dean!”
 
“Are you home?”
 
“I am.”
 
“That’s good.  Bet Jack was glad to see you!”
 
“He was.  I brought him chocolate and some rocks.  He has a rock collection, one from everywhere I’ve been.”
 
Dean grinned.  “That’s cute.”
 
Cas chuckled.  “What happened today?  Sounds like it was a rough day.”
 
Dean sighed a long, exhausted sigh.  He turned onto his side.  “It started out super shitty.  Cause, ya know, I woke up alone.”
 
Cas huffed a little laugh.  “Oh!  Like mine!”
 
“Really?  Well, I gotta say I’m glad to hear that, but sorry for your shitty morning.”
 
“Mm hm,” Cas teased back.
 
“I worked my ass off and then...” he sighed, launching into the whole long story about Claire and Doucheboy.
 
“She seemed like a troubled, yet sweet girl when I met her,” Cas said, yawning.
 
“Yeah.  I recognize my own kind when I see them.”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
Dean frowned.  “Just...foster kids.  You can tell when someone has had a fucked-up childhood.”
 
Cas was quiet for a moment.  “I hope things work out.”
 
“They will.  I’m going to talk to the police tomorrow.  They were pretty happy with finally getting to nail the guy down for something.  Apparently he’s been on their radar for a while now.”
 
Dean listened as the line was quiet.
 
“You okay, Cas?”
 
“Yes.  Yes, I’m fine.  Just tired.  I should go.”
 
Dean sat up, listening carefully.  “I miss you.”
 
“I miss you too.  Very much.”
 
Dean grinned a little.  “Cas, we can do this, ya know.  We can figure this out.  We’re gonna be okay.”
 
Cas was quiet again, but sounded a fraction happier when he said,  “You’re right.  It is just very hard to not be there.”
 
Dean lay back down, feeling reassured.  “I’ll...talk to you tomorrow,” he said softly.
 
“Yes!  Let me know how it goes with the police.”
 
They said goodnight and hung up.
 
Dean felt guilty about leaving two very important things out of that conversation.  One, his history with Anna.  And two, that he loved him.  Because he did.  He already knew it.  It was already there, like the knowledge of his first and last name.  It was a fact that he now knew and accepted.  Somehow, Cas had gone from a fascinating crush to a love so strong he was entertaining the thought of moving.  But if he was going to take huge steps, he better man-up and clear the slate and be honest about his past.
 
It was only fair.
 
 
 
********************************************************
 
 
 
Castiel sighed after sending his twenty-third email that morning.
 
“What’s wrong Grumpykins?” Charlie pouted, breezing by his desk to put the day’s mail in his bin.
 
Castiel frowned.  “I do not like emailing.”
 
“Bite your tongue!” Charlie gasped.  “Email is the best invention since sliced bread!”  She frowned, cocking her head to the side, making her red ponytail swing.  “Actually, who gives a frak if your bread is sliced?  Rip off a chunk and eat it!  It’s still bread!”
 
Castiel sat back with a grin.  He loved Charlie’s energy.  “That would make an interesting looking sandwich.”
 
She waved him off with a roll of her eyes.  “Email makes the world go round, bossman.  Learn it, live it, love it!”
 
Castiel smiled half-heartedly.  “I will use it.  That is all.  I would much rather call someone or better yet, call no one and walk through my fields in peace.”
 
“Ugh!  I can tell you were on the farm this week.  You always get mopey when you have to come back and sit at your desk.”
 
He tipped his head, staring at Charlie.  She was more than his coworker/computer wiz/web master/friend.  She was his person.  His rock of consistency and straight tap to a better attitude and boost of energy.  They were nothing alike, had few similar interests, and yet...there it was.  She could handle Gabriel, which, was a must to be in his inner circle of people.  She loved Jack.  And she knew exactly how to push everyone’s buttons for improving morale.
 
She tipped her head to match his.  “You missed me last week.”
 
“I did,” he grinned.
 
“I missed you too.  Now perk the hell up and get moving!”  She whacked the top of his ‘to do’ stack with a thump and walked away.
 
He motivated himself to get to work.  The more he handled today, the more time he could spend in the lab at the end of the week.
 
“Thank you, Charlie!” He yelled as she left.
 
“Love you too, Castiel!” She yelled back, making him grin.  
He opened his next email with more enthusiasm.  
 
 
 
**************************************
 
 
 
Dean stood up from his inclined, kneeling position on the roof of the house he and Benny were working on.  It was warming up, but a stiff breeze still had his hands cramping after twenty minutes of pulling shingles.  Benny dropped the last section they’d done over the side of the roof and into a refuse container.
 
“S cold,” Benny complained, shoving his hands in his coat pockets and tucking his nose into the collar.  They were on a two-story house, the pitch of the roof fairly steep.
 
“It’s that Cajun blood,” Dean laughed, putting his hands in his pockets as well.  If the sun would come out and the damn wind would stop blowing, they would be a lot warmer.
 
Dean had told Benny all about his day with Claire yesterday.  Benny had been surprised the ‘pretty little girl’ had such a past.  
 
“You comin’ to the HFH project house in two weeks?” Benny asked, immediately sticking his nose back into his coat.
 
“Yeah, I read about it.  The one on Washington Street?”
 
“That’s the one.”
 
Dean nodded.
 
“Maybe Claire can come work on that.  I had her doing secondary framing on the last one.”
 
“Yeah, she was right in the mix when we went to Brazil too.  She’s down-right handy with a nail gun.”
 
Benny grinned.  “So, you gonna stop by the police after work?”
 
“Yeah.”  Dean walked back over to where they had stopped, picking up his tools to start again.
 
“You wanna go out after work tomorrow?  Grab a beer?”
 
“Sure,” Dean nodded.  He had vowed to himself that he would clear his conscience today.  It was proving a little harder than he thought it would be.
 
Benny, walking by him, must have picked up on the fact that he was wanting to say something.  “You alright, Dean?”
 
Dean took a few steps and sat on the peak of the roof.  Benny followed, sitting on the peak of one of the dormers so they were semi-facing each other.
 
“I need to tell you about my trip to Brazil.”
 
Benny hunkered down in the wind, but his eyes were sharp on Dean.
 
“I met a guy there.  His name is Castiel.  He...uh...we went on the excursion together.”
 
“Yeah.  You’ve mentioned him.”
 
Dean tucked his own mouth in his coat for a moment.  “Well, him and I are...dating.”
 
Benny’s blue eyes went wide.  He slowly straightened so his mouth came out from its hiding.  “You ain’t kiddin’,” he said in disbelief.
 
Dean shook his head no.
 
Benny started to laugh but stopped, staring so hard at Dean that it made him squirm.
 
“Man, don’t make this weird,” Dean muttered.
 
“Sorry,” Benny said, holding a hand up in apology as he shook his head slowly.  “I just can’t fuckin’ believe it.  I’ve known you for a few years!”  He leaned forward in total open query.  “You ever check out my ass?”
 
Dean wanted to disappear.  “No!”
 
“How ‘bout when we went camping?”
 
“Dude!  No!” Dean gave him a mortified stare.
 
Benny laughed, bracing his hands on the peak of the roof he sat on.  “I just can’t fuckin’ believe it!”
 
Dean was starting to get pissed.
 
Benny stared at him, mouth hanging open.  “I neva met a real gay person before.”
 
Dean rolled his eyes.  “Well, you suck at it, just so ya know.”
 
Benny bit his lip, Dean already seeing the folly of his words.  He wanted to be pissed, but a ridiculous, childish chuckle slipped out.  Benny laughed harder.  “Guess sucking is yo new thing?”
 
Dean blushed, shaking his head at his asshole of a friend, but still had to laugh.
 
Benny sobered momentarily.  “You have...sex with him?”
 
“Benny,” Dean warned.
 
Benny tipped his head in absolute fascination.  “I jus neva saw that comin’.  What...why do you like him?”
 
Dean hesitated, wanting to shut Benny up, but knowing they had to work through this.  “He’s...a sweet guy.  Smart.”  He searched for words.
 
“And he’s attractive?”
 
Dean flicked a gaze at him, his blush resurging, making the cold breeze even colder on his skin.  “Yeah.  He’s...gorgeous.”
 
Benny shook his head, trying to put something together in his mind.  “Show me a picture.”
 
Dean gave him a warning look.  He could take whatever Benny had to say about himself.  But if he said anything dickish about Cas, Benny might go skidding off the roof.
 
He pulled his phone out, sliding to a picture he had taken of Cas sitting on the couch.  He had a small grin, but his eyes were alight with amusement at something or other Dean had said.  He handed his phone to Benny.
 
Benny studied the picture, several looks crossing his face.  He handed it back.  His laughing had stopped, finally taking all this more seriously.  “He’s...a...”
 
Dean met his eyes.
 
Benny shrugged his shoulders.  “He’s a nice lookin’ guy.  If you’re inta that.  Which you are and that’s...”
 
Dean groaned, dropping his head into his hands.
 
“Hey!”  Benny got his attention, tapping his boot.  “Took me by surprise.  But you know I don’t care about that.  If you’re inta guys, you don’t gotta hide it.”
 
“I wasn’t hiding it.  It just sorta...happened.”
 
Benny grinned.  “Hope he knows what he’s doin’ then, cause you look lost.”
 
“Shut up,” Dean huffed a laugh.  “I am totally lost.  But he just...rolls with it.  He’s a good guy, Benny.  I’m sure you’ll meet him.”
 
“Don’t he live in Ohio?”
 
“Illinois.”
 
Benny nodded.  “So, seriously, has it gotten physical?”
 
Dean gave him another warning look.  Benny just raised his eyebrows further.
 
“Yeah.  Very.”
 
Benny gave him another incredulous look tinged with a laugh.  “Now that’s just...did it hurt?”
 
Dean knew he looked shocked, he willed the very ether to swallow him whole.  “I really hate you right now.”
 
Benny rolled his eyes.  “Oh, come on!  I neva could actually talk to someone about this stuff!”
 
Dean made a face at him for the idiot he was being.  “No, you dick, it doesn’t hurt.  I mean, I haven’t...bottomed.”
 
“Bottomed?” Benny, the annoying fucker, looked fascinated.
 
“The bottom!  Taking the dick in the ass,” Dean clarified harshly.
 
Benny nodded in understanding.  “So, am I gonna meet this guy?”
 
“Not if you ask him questions like that.”
 
Benny gave him an apologetic grin.  “Sorry, brotha.  Guess I’m butcherin’ this.”
 
“Badly,” Dean shook his head with a grin.
 
Benny stood up, holding a hand out to Dean to pull him to his feet.  Dean grabbed his forearm, standing.  Benny held on, looking him right in the eye.  “It ain’t no different.  You and me.  I hope he’s a good guy.  At least if I don’t like this one I can kick his ass.”
 
Dean nodded with a grin.  “Thanks Benny.”
 
They let go of each other’s arms, walking along the pitch of the roof to start pulling the rest of the shingles.  
 
He spent the remainder of the morning wondering just what bizarre question Benny would toss at him.  “You want pickles on yo burger?” He had asked at lunch, followed with, “He like burgers?  Who pays?”  The hilarity was that he truly wanted to know.  Dean patiently answered all his questions.  Even the awkward ones about anal sex, because Benny had no fucking filter and wanted to know.  Dean, after Benny’s second anal question, launched into a graphic, lustful description of everything from the sex he and Cas had, to the difference in blow jobs.  By the time he was done, he was half hard and Benny looked a bit hot around the collar.
 
“Damn,” Benny mumbled.
 
Dean ate the last of his fries while watching his friend stare down at his remaining sandwich, lost in thought.
 
Finally, rousting himself from whatever little daydream he’d been having, Benny cleared his throat and took a long drink of his soda.
 
Dean quirked a grin at him.  “Any more questions?”
 
“Naw, man.  Next time I’ll just rent a DVD.”
 
Dean laughed, watching a blush spread across his cheeks.  “Am I freakin’ you out?”
 
“No!  No.  I just...had questions.”
 
“We good?” Dean grinned.
 
“We’re good!” Benny held both hands up.
 
By the end of lunch, they were back to their usual brand of comradery.  Dean could check off one more item on his list of things to clear up with the people in his life.
 
Well, that thought just made him grin all over.  Cas was in his life.  God, he was getting so sappy.  He threw all his focus into laying shingles, working easily and efficiently with Benny and all the others.
 
 
 
*****************************
 
 
 
Castiel had been productive all day.  Even Charlie was impressed.  To show his appreciation for his cheerleader of a friend, he talked her into going out for ice cream with Jack and himself.
 
It was the first decently warm day they had for some time.  The perfect excuse to splurge on ice cream.  Cones in hand, they walked along the path of the little park behind the ice cream shop.  
 
Charlie chatted on about her latest conquest in Moondoor, of which he understood little about.  Jack showed her his latest new skill, skipping, which turned into a skipping tag game, which resulted in some running, which had them all worn out and sitting on a bench to recover.
 
“Can I play Moondoor?” Jack asked, climbing his way onto Castiel’s lap to lean against his chest and look up at Charlie.
 
“Mmm,” she squinted at him, leaning her chin onto her hand.  “You could help me on Friday when I have to go hunting for magic beans in the cabbage patches of the trooooooollls!”
 
“Yeah!” Jack clapped, sitting up.  “Can we do that, Dad?”
 
Castiel’s heart hitched every time Jack slipped and called him ‘Dad’.  “Sure, Jack.  We can do that.”
 
Charlie gave him a knowing grin.  “You can’t really play until you can read really fast,” she warned.  “So, when you get that all figured out, and Cas says you can play video games, we’ll raise you to be a powerful mage!  Or maybe a King!  Ooooh, or my own personal squire!”
 
Jack looked excited and Cas had to laugh.  He leaned close to Jack and said in an easily heard whisper, “Squire is your aunt Charlie’s nice way of saying her personal slave.”
 
“Hey!” Jack laughed.
 
Charlie shot Cas a pout.  “Every good queen needs a faithful squire!”
 
Cas grinned at Jack.  He stroked his hand through his floppy, sandy-brown hair.  At moments like this, Jack felt every bit like his son.  “She tried to pull the same crap on me.”
 
Jack covered his mouth, giggling.  “You said crap!”
 
Cas dropped his head back in a laugh.  “Yes, I did.  Sorry.  I should have said codswallop,” he tickled Jack, getting the laugh he too rarely heard, “or malarkey!”
 
 
 
************************************
 
 
 
Dean knocked on the scuffed red door to room six.
 
Claire wrenched the door open with a glare.  “What are YOU doing here.”
 
Dean gave her a less than enthusiastic smirk in return.  “Evening Princess.”
 
She rolled her eyes, leaning in the doorway.  She had too much mascara on and her hair was in a bun a pack of wild six-year olds must have assembled.
 
Dean ducked his way inside, earning an annoyed snort from Claire.  “Come on in then.”
 
“Yeah,” he barely addressed her.  Instead, he studied the interior of the nasty motel room.  The carpet probably looked tired when it was installed in 1950.  Dark panel walls made the dingy room look gloomy.  Thick curtains that were a shade somewhere in the yellow-brown palette, kept out any real chance of light.  The two weak lights that were on only seemed to add to the despair of the room’s sickly gloom.  The bed was so old there were two sunken depressions in it from years of bodies lying there.                                    
 
“Nice,” Dean said sarcastically.  There was a TV as big and lunky as he remembered them to be from his childhood.
 
“Yeah.  It’s the Ritz.  What are you doing here?”
 
Claire shoved the door closed, sitting on a chair that made Dean cringe just wondering what was on it.  Or in it.
 
“You can’t stay here.”
 
Claire looked around unenthused.  “Well, what do you suggest.  I can’t go home.  This is...what do you want, Dean?”
 
Dean wished he’d stayed out on the doorstep for starters.  “Come stay at my place.  This place is disgusting.”
 
Claire rolled her eyes.  Man, she was an expert in that.  “I can’t go to your place.”
 
“Why?” Dean asked.
 
She made a face, like he was an idiot.  “Dean.  You’re a nice guy and all, but I can’t just stay at your house.”
 
Dean’s eyes were still crawling around the room, taking in the carpet stains, dirty TV screen, mold on the ceiling, and suspicious splatter marks on the wall.
 
“I have an apartment.  And this place is gross.  Just crash with me for a while.  You know I’m a decent guy.  I don’t feel right that you’re here.  If it makes you feel better, I’ll stay with Sam while you stay at my place.”
 
Claire shuffled her feet with a look of apprehension.
 
“Claire,” Dean said with a bit more diplomacy, “I know we hardly know each other.  And maybe I’m comin’ off like a creep.”
 
“Ya think?” She smirked, not meaning it.
 
“Yeah, well, I’ve been young and struggling to make my own way before.”
 
She lost all her jaded facade, sighing as she sat back in the chair.
 
“I’ll pack some things and stay at Sam’s.  You can stay at my place until you get more on your feet.”
 
“I’m not kicking you out of your own apartment, Dean.”
 
He nodded.  He could understand that.  “Okay...maybe you could stay with my friend Pam.”
 
Claire gave him a skeptical look.  “I’ll be fine here.”
 
Dean blew a breath out.
 
She stood, pacing past him with a worried look.  “I know I called you, but you don’t need to feel responsible for me.”
 
“You’re an adult.  I get it.  I also get that I made things worse.  I’m not sorry.  But...if I can help...I’d like to.”
 
She turned to look at him.  She looked so young.  So trapped.  “You swear you aren’t expecting...anything from me?”
 
Anything?  Dean took a step back, a horrified look crossing his face.  “No!”  
 
Her worry simultaneously relented and kicked up a notch.  “I didn’t mean to insult you.”
 
“No,” he sighed, taking another step back.  “Claire, you’re a nice kid.  You’ve been in some shitty situations that I can relate to.  That’s all.  I am in no way interested in -”
 
“I get it!” She held a hand up, both of them blushing by now.  “I just wanted to be sure.”
 
“That’s...smart,” Dean assured her.  “Totally smart.”  He shivered at the mere thought of anything sexual being implied.  “You’re totally safe with me.  I am happily dating or whatever.”
 
A curious look edged onto her face.  “Well, that’s new.”
 
Dean relaxed a bit.  “Yeah.  It is.”
 
She grinned a little, crossing her arms over her chest.  “Have I ever met this person you are happily dating or whatever?”
 
Dean scratched his eyebrow.  This was still new to talk about.  “Um, yeah.  Cas.  He -”
 
She laughed.
 
Dean frowned.
 
“I knew it!  God, he was sooo following you around like a puppy in Recife!”
 
“He was not,” Dean scoffed, warming at the idea.
 
“He totally was!  And then you two eating dinner together!  God, so Lady and the Tramp!”
 
Dean had no argument for that one.  As he had thought back over things as he struggled with the kiss he had not expected, it was one of the moments he wondered just how much his subconscious had been hiding from itself.
 
“Then you totally ditched coed-almost-naked-volleyball to follow HIM around like a puppy!”  She laughed again, making Dean roll his eyes with a disgusted smirk.
 
“We had fun.”
 
“I bet!  Man, I gotta text Jo and tell her how right I was.  She owes me twenty bucks for that!”
 
“Shuddup,” Dean sighed.  “Just...come on.  Before I change my mind.”
 
Giggling, she started texting, Jo he assumed.
 
She rolled her eyes, tucking the phone in her back pocket.  “She wants proof.”
 
All Dean’s thoughts reverted immediately to his initial point in being here when he spotted a roach crawling along the baseboard near the sink.  “You have five minutes to get your shit if you want to stay with me.  I just saw a roach.  I’m gonna consider you contaminated if you stay any longer.”
 
She followed his stare, side-stepping away from it.  “Yeah.  On it.”
 
 
 
 
Claire sat her two bags inside the door to his apartment.  She had been quiet on the way over as he filled her in on his talk with the police.  The two kids at the house that were under 18 were placed in another foster home.  The remaining people were still at the house.  Claire made no inclination to return to see them.  He got the impression the kids there were not close.  He couldn’t imagine what kept Claire under the douchebag’s roof when she could have left long ago.  But abusive relationships could be hard to explain that way.
 
“Nice,” she said, looking around like something might bite her.
 
“It’s not the Ritz,” he smirked.  “But it’s better than The Right Spot.”
 
She nodded, stepping into the hall tentatively to peek down it.  She was drawn instantly to the painting in the living room.
 
Dean followed her, keeping several feet between them for her comfort.  “Cas sent me that.”
 
She gave him an incredulous look.
 
Dean shrugged with a shy grin.  “He...had a good day when we went out.”
 
She looked back at it.  “Whose hand were you hoping to hold?”
 
Dean grinned at the painting.  To him, it was a tiny flash of what some people had so naturally.  Trust.  Love.  Someone they enjoyed so much that walking next to them was not enough.  Craving touch and receiving it so generously would be so...amazing.  It had been so amazing when he was with Cas last weekend. He swallowed, biting his lip as he wondered where Cas was.  Could he be someone like that someday?  He certainly craved the man’s touch.  Even the simplest touches.  Intimate touches.  Touches like this that lasted as long as the two wanted.
 
“Um.  Just...liked how beautiful it is.”
 
“Aw.  Such a softie.”
 
Dean glared at her playfully.
 
She grinned, seeming much more relaxed.  “It’s really awesome.”
 
“Thanks.”  He turned, flipping lights on as he went.  Evening was just starting to set in, giving his apartment a gloomy look.  “My room is in here.  I’ll strip the bed and put fresh sheets on.  You can stay in here.”
 
She nodded, not stepping into the room.
 
He went back to the kitchen.  “Did you eat?”
 
“Yeah.  Vending Machine buffet special.”
 
“Gross,” he laughed.
 
She shrugged a shoulder, not looking like it was much of an odd occurrence for her.  She did take a soda when he held one out for her.  
 
He leaned against the counter.  “Is there anywhere you want me to take you?  Ya know, after your court date next week.”
 
She frowned, looking down at her soda.  “No.”
 
“No family?”
 
“No.  My mom died when I was twelve.  My dad had left us years before that.  I heard he died too.  I have an aunt...but...no.  I just need to save some money and I’ll be out of here.  I stock shelves at the grocery store.  The money sucks but I don’t have to work with people. So...”
 
Dean grinned.  “I’ve seen you working on construction.”
 
She nodded.  “I like doing that.  It’s why I stayed on at HFH.  It’s fun.”
 
“Well, let me know if you need work.  I’ll put in a good word for ya.”
 
She nodded.  
 
“Come on.  Let’s go see Pam.  Her tattoo shop is downstairs.  I told her I’d cover the counter tonight.”
 
“Wait, Pam from Jesse Forever?”
 
Dean nodded.
 
“She’s amazing!  I’ve been in her shop before.  I didn’t get a tattoo.”
 
“Well, let’s go.”
 
They went out his door, down the outside steps and around the building to the front door of Pam’s shop.  Claire glanced at all the tattoos in the windows and the sign above that read, ‘Jesse Forever’.  The bell chimed as they walked in and Pam came out of her back room, which served as an office/break room for herself.
 
“Hey there handsome,” Pam grinned.
 
“Hey Pam.  This is Claire.  Claire, the one and only, Pam.”
 
“Hey,” Claire waved, tucking her hand in her pocket and letting the hair hanging half over her face hide her slightly.
 
“Well hi there.  What’s goin’ on, Dean.  You trolling local high schools now?”
 
“Gross, Pam.”   He leaned against the counter as Claire started looking through a catalog of tattoos on the counter.  “Claire’s an adult, believe it or not.  We met through HFH.  She went on the Brazil trip.”
 
“Oh yeah,” Pam studied her for a second or two.  “I remember you from Dean’s pictures.”
 
Claire looked up from the book, smirking at Dean.  “You have pictures of me?”
 
He rolled his eyes.  “The ones you and Jo took.”
 
Claire grinned at him.  “Creeper.”
 
Dean sighed, waving her off.  “Claire’s gonna stay at my place for a while.  She’s...between residences.”
 
Pam nodded.  “This got to do with the police thing?”
 
“Yeah.  Figured you two could meet.  Prove I’m not some nut job.”
 
Pam smirked as Claire glanced up at her.
 
“So, he have a habit of handling charity cases?”
 
Pam shook her head slowly.  “No.  Not really.”
 
“Well, he’s a total softie.  Don’t let the James Dean look fool ya,” Claire said.
 
Pam laughed.  “Well, she’s got you pegged, Pookie-bear.”
 
Dean came around the counter to sit on his stool.  
 
“These are awesome,” Claire said, flipping the page to look at more.
 
“You got any ink?” Pam asked.
 
“No.  Someday.”  She glanced around the shop.  “I always wanted to ask what the name of your store means.”  
 
Dean grinned facetiously.  “Yeah, Pam.  Who is Jesse?”  Dean knew the story too well.  He’d heard it many times and was witness to the tornado that was Pamela when he first moved to town, which happened to be right after she and Jesse had broken up.
 
Pam glared at him.  She turned back to Claire with a more civil look.  She turned around, pulling up her black tank top and shifted her jeans down, revealing her tattoo that ran across the small of her back in cursive writing.  Jesse Forever.
 
She turned around with a smirk.  “It wasn’t forever.”
 
Claire frowned.  “So, don’t you hate having that tattooed on you?”
 
“Mm, I sure did.  Hated it real bad.  But when I opened my shop I thought, ya know what?  I don’t wanna be that lame tattoo shop doling out lame tattoos.  It’s a warning.  Tattoos are forever.  So, ya better really want my work on your body forever.  And I don’t do names.  Not unless I know it’s for sure.”
 
Claire nodded.  “Isn’t that bad for business?”
 
“What’s bad for business, is some girl comin’ in here cryin’ cause her man left her and freakin’ out about how ta get her tattoo removed.”
 
Claire glanced at Dean.  He shrugged.  He was not stepping anywhere near a scorned woman and her beliefs.
 
“So...think twice before you do something permanent,” Claire surmised.
 
Pam grinned.
 
“I like it,” Claire grinned back.  “It’s smart.”
 
Dean could see that the two of them were going to get along just fine.  
 
 
 
**************************************
 
 
 
Castiel sat his laptop on his kitchen table and called Dean.  Now that Jack knew about him, Cas figured this was a good way to get the two more familiar with each other.  
 
Dean answered the call, leaning close to his screen with a grin.
 
“Hi.”
 
Cas grinned immediately.  “Hello, Dean.”
 
“How are you?”
 
“Good!”  He could see Dean was sitting at his kitchen table as well.  “Jack!”  He called, looking toward the doorway to the living room.  “Want to meet Dean?”
 
Dean took a drink of coffee and grinned anew, waiting.
 
Jack came to the doorway, peeking around the door jam.
 
Dean waved.  “Hi!”
 
Jack scurried away.
 
Cas and Dean chuckled.  Both were prepared for his shyness.
 
Cas turned his attention back to the screen with a shrug.  “How are you?”
 
Dean sighed.  “Good.  I need to tell ya a couple things.”
 
Cas settled into his chair.
 
“So...I have a house guest.”
 
“You do?”
 
Dean leaned closer to his screen again.  “Yeah.  You remember I told you about Claire and all that?”
 
“Yes,” Cas nodded.
 
“Well, she’s staying at my place for a while.”
 
Cas nodded.  He was not too sure what to think about that.
 
Dean gave him a reluctant grin.  “Looks like I get the couch for a while.”
 
Cas nodded.  Well, that answered one question.  “How is she?”
 
Dean sat back.  “Claire!  Come say hi to Cas!”
 
He watched as Dean shifted his laptop and Claire came into the kitchen.
 
“Oh.  Hi, Cas.”
 
“Hello, Claire.”
 
A short, awkward silence passed between them.
 
“Nice painting.  Dean can’t quit gushing over it.”
 
Cas grinned, looking at Dean, who was rolling his eyes with a shy grin.  “Thank you,” he chuckled.
 
Claire waved, not looking at him, but past him.  He turned, catching Jack’s fleeting form darting away again.  She grinned.  “Bye, Cas.”
 
“Bye, Claire.”  He watched as she asked Dean something and he pointed to a cabinet.  Dean shifted the laptop back to put him in the center.
 
Cas watched him for a moment.  He could stare at the man endlessly.  He did his very best to squash any jealous worries about the new house guest.  
 
Dean gave him a flirty grin.  “So, what did you do today?”
 
“Work.  Nothing too exciting.  So, what was the second thing you wanted to tell me?”
 
Dean’s easy grin fell.  “I’ll, uh, tell you when it’s just you and me.”
 
Cas tried not to worry.  He nodded his understanding.  They continued talking about little things until Dean toted his laptop down two flights of steps to let Cas watch while he changed over his load of laundry.
 
Cas excused himself for several minutes while he put Jack to bed.  He had already let him stay up late to say hi to Dean, and he was yawning.
 
Jack crawled into his bed and lay down, pulling Felix the snake snuggly against him.  “I saw him,” Jack said as Cas  straightened up his nightstand.
 
“You did?”
 
Jack nodded.
 
“He saw you too.”
 
Jack sunk down in his covers a little.
 
“He’s very nice,” Cas assured him.
 
Jack nodded.  “Is that his daughter?”
 
Cas grinned.  “No.  Just a friend of ours.  She was in Brazil on our trip.  Her name is Claire.”
 
Cas leaned down to kiss his cheek.  “Goodnight, Jack.  I’ll be back in a few minutes.  If you’re still awake I’ll read you a story.”
 
Jack grinned.
 
He flipped the bedroom light off, leaving the door ajar.  He sat in front of the laptop again.  “Sorry.”
 
Dean was still in the laundry room.  He seemed to be waiting there, perhaps for some privacy since Claire was in his room.
 
“You alone?” Dean asked, more to the point than usual.
 
Cas glanced at the doorway.  “Yes.”
 
Dean angled the laptop better, then looked down nervously.  “Um.  So...I have to tell you something.  And I don’t think you’re gonna like it.  And I’m really kinda freaked out about it because I don’t want anything to mess up what you and I have.”
 
Cas sat back a bit, watching Dean carefully.
 
“It’s hard enough doing the long-distance thing.  I...”
 
Castiel’s concern grew at how nervous Dean was.  “Just tell me, Dean.”
 
Dean looked at him, nodded, and began.  “So, I told you I’ve been all over with Sam.  When he moved for college, I went with him.”
 
“Yes?”
 
“Well, he went to Stanford.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “Okay?”
 
Dean cleared his throat.  “Cas, I know Anna.  She was a friend of Sam’s.”
 
Worry niggled in his mind.  “You...know Anna?”
 
“I mean, not well.  I didn’t even put it together.  Sam told me.  Sam was pretty popular.  He had plenty of friends that I met, ya know?”
 
Castiel was so confused.  “Why would I be upset that you have met my sister?”
 
Dean stared at him, obviously hoping he had put something together on his own, but Cas was lost.
 
“Anna and Abner broke up at one point.”
 
A low buzzing noise sounded in Castiel’s head.  Yes, they broke up several times.  But they were happily married now.  Castiel sat back even further, staring at Dean.  Please don’t say it.
 
“Um,” Dean went on, “so, she was at the apartment, studying, and all fired up about Abner and...”
 
Castiel wanted to vomit.
 
Dean swallowed, looking guilty as hell.
 
Castiel was disgusted.  “You slept with my sister?”
 
“Um.  Yes.  But I hardly knew her!  And it didn’t mean anything!  I mean, we weren’t dating or anything!  It was just the one time! It just -”
 
“That does NOT make it better, Dean!”  Cas looked away.  He was furious that his bubble of perfection had been so violated.  Dean!  HIS Dean!  Fucking Anna!
 
“Cas,” Dean said, his voice strained with worry.  “I’m so sorry!  I was...a pig back then!  A skirt chaser.  I...I’m so sorry.”
 
Castiel wanted the last five minutes of his life to not have happened.  And to make matters worse, this was certainly not the end of it.  Anna would know, if she had not figured it out already.
 
Damn it!
 
“Cas?  Please, don’t hate me for it.  It was so long ago!  I was...I wish I had never done it!”
 
Castiel glared at him.
 
Dean shrunk back from the screen, looking very worried.
 
Castiel had no idea what to say.  His mind was reeling.  Dean slept with Anna.  They’d had sex.  They’d...he slammed closed the cruel wonderings of his mind.  “I have to go.”
 
Dean’s mouth dropped.  “Cas!  I really am sorry!  I didn’t know!  How could I have known?!”
 
Castiel shook his head.  “I understand.”  But he didn’t.  “I...I will talk to you tomorrow.”  He couldn’t even look Dean in the eye.
 
“I shoulda just lied,” Dean said bitterly.  “I shoulda just acted like it never happened.  Because it didn’t matter to her Cas.  Or me.  It was just...sex.”  Dean looked down, looking hurt and frustrated and really worried.  “Sorry, Cas.”
 
Castiel shut his laptop with a bitter snap.  He didn’t even know what to do with all the anger, hurt, disgust, and resentment flooding his system.
 
He put a lid on all of that as he checked on Jack.  He was fast asleep.  Castiel was relieved.  He was not sure he could fake his way through a bedtime story.
 
Dean.
 
Dean and Anna.
 
The thoughts swarmed angrily.  He wanted to destroy something as his life felt like it was being destroyed.  Pacing, he knew he would never sleep tonight.  Dean had slept with his goddam sister.  He grabbed his cellphone and prepared to blast music while he ran on his treadmill.  It was the only way he could manage his anger without destroying something.
 
 
 
******************************************
 
 
 
Dean’s mind was halting and blanking out.  What had he just done?  His biggest fear was coming true!  He could see the look of disgust and anger on Cas’ face.  The way his eyes avoided him now.
 
He knew he’d screw this up somehow.  And what a long con the universe had played on him.  It had been years ago that he had slept with her.
 
And it hurt Cas as if he’d just done it.
 
“I shoulda just lied,” Dean said bitterly.  “I shoulda just acted like it never happened.  Because it didn’t matter to her Cas.  Or me.  It was just...sex.”  Dean looked down.  Why was THIS happening?  He wanted to take it back.  To make it all better.  Erase his past.  “Sorry, Cas.”
The call ended, leaving a crossed-out microphone icon on the screen.
 
Oh god.  Cas hung up on him.
 
Dean slumped onto his keyboard in total defeat.
 
“The third thing I wanted to tell you was that I love you.”
 
He blinked slowly, feeling all his happiness drain.
 
Eventually, he sat up, closing the laptop softly.  He got his sheets and pillow cases out of the dryer, carrying the bundle upstairs.
 
He walked into the living room, finding Claire sitting on the couch with it made like a bed.  She looked up at him, her words dying in her mouth before she looked at him more curiously.
 
“You okay?” She asked.
 
“Yeah.”  No.  Definitely not.
 
“I made my bed out here.  I just...can’t take your room from you.  I’ll stay on the couch.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Night.”
 
He went into his room and closed the door.  He stared at the bare mattress on his bed.  The place he and Cas had sex.  A wave of guilt washed over him.  He tossed his sheets to the floor, sat his laptop on his dresser, and wrapped himself up in his quilt, lying on the bare bed.
 
Why had he been such an idiot all those years ago? Why? Because he had been lonely and hurting. Seeking a good time where he could find it. Anything to shut out the hard life he was carving out for him and Sam. It wasn’t fair. He curled in tighter on himself. His life had never been fair. Why had he ever thought something as bright and shiny as Cas could be his?

A familiar self-hatred settled bitterly into his chest.  He was so screwed.
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11:  The Funko Pop
 
 
 
Gabriel’s office looked like a music store.  The longest wall was covered with shelves that held rows of CD’s, tapes, records, and DVD’s.  A stereo took up the shorter wall, which also housed an expansive display of Funko Pops and other toys.  And of course, none of them were in boxes.  
 
Music played at all times.  Today, it only soured Castiel’s mood more.
 
“Hey,” Gabe said distractedly from his computer.  “Guess I’ll be going to Utah next week since you’re tied to the house.”  He clicked on several things while Castiel seated himself in a chair.
 
Gabe glanced up at him, typed something quickly, clicked and turned to him with full attention.
 
“What?  What happened?  This about Jack?”
 
Castiel would like to think he could move on and be a professional, act like nothing was wrong, but he was easy to read, and he knew it.
 
“No.  Jack is the one good thing in my life.”
 
Gabe sat back with even more concern dipping his brow.  “This...is not work related...”
 
Castiel sighed.  He didn’t want to talk about it.
 
Gabe looked up suddenly.  “Oh!  Hey, Anna!”
 
Castiel tempered the rage that spiked inside him.
 
“Hi,” she said, coming to stand next to Castiel, looking down at him.  “I’ve been looking all over for you!  What happened?  You said Jack was coming over today and I get this crap?”  She held her phone out.
 
“Wwwwhat crap?” Gabe asked, looking between the two.
 
Anna turned to him.  “Do you know what his problem is?”
 
“Not yet,” Gabe said, still glancing between them.
 
Anna looked at Castiel again, one hand propped on her hip.  “What’s going on?”
 
Castiel’s jaw felt locked in place.  He was concerned what hell would be unleashed if he opened it. While he hated Anna at the moment, he didn’t REALLY hate her.  At least, he was pretty sure.
 
Getting no response, she clicked with annoyance.  “I got this text this morning.”  She handed her phone to Gabe.
 
He took it.  “Jack will not be over today.  I do not plan on him staying with you any longer.”  Gabe gave Cas a startled look.  “Dude.  What the hell?”
 
So many angry thoughts were jumbled in his head at the moment that he could not spit any of them out.
 
“Cas?” Gabe prompted, both siblings staring at him now.
 
Castiel pulled his phone out, finding a picture of Dean.  He laid the phone on the desk as they both moved to see it better.
 
Anna stared at it, still looking confused.  She did a double take, looked questioningly at it, then turned to Cas, truly confused.  “I think I know him.”
 
“You know Dean?” Gabe asked.  “That’s weird.”
 
Anna’s face flushed beet red.  “That’s Dean!  YOUR Dean?  From Pennsylvania?”  She took a shocked step backwards.
 
“It is,” Castiel snarled.
 
Gabe narrowed his eyes at the phone and them.  “What am I missing?”
 
Anna shook her head no, taking another step back.
 
“Soooo confuzzled,” Gabe sang, his gaze hopping like he was watching a tennis match.
 
Castiel met his brother’s eyes.  “Anna slept with him.”
 
Anna’s sharp intake of breath was almost lost at Gabe’s rather loud “WHAT?!”
 
“Cas!” Anna yelled.  “I...I slept with him ONE time!”
 
“Sooomutherfuckingconfused!” Gabe yelled.
 
Anna turned to him, a pleading look on her face.  “When I was at Stanford!  I used to have this study group.  One of the guys, Sam, had this ridiculously hot brother that was around sometimes!”
 
Gabe’s eyebrows jumped at the increasingly angry look on Castiel’s face.
 
“Abner and I had a huge fight about getting a cat!  We broke up.  Remember that?”
 
Gabe’s eyes were held onto Cas, as if he might explode if he looked away from him.  “Okay, yeah, I kinda remember.  You guys broke up a couple times.”
 
Anna nodded.  “Well, I was so pissed at him and Dean was so nice to me...”
 
“Anna,” Gabe warned.
 
“What?  I had sex with him.  It was...I mean...”
 
Unsuccessfully under his breath, Gabe mumbled, “He isn’t, ‘best night of my life Dean’ is he?”
 
“No!”  She shook her head, looking scandalized.  “That was Lisa who said that.”  She clamped her mouth shut, eyes bulging as she stared down at Castiel’s murderous expression.
 
“Exactly how many people that you know, yourself included, slept with Dean Winchester?” Castiel’s words landed like whip lashes even in his own ears.
 
“Just the two of us,” she said weakly.
 
Castiel nodded once.
 
Gabe sat back in shock.  “Okay...so...you slept with Dean.  A loooong time ago.”
 
Anna stared at the picture again.  Castiel snatched his phone off the desk and powered the screen off.
 
“Castiel.  You cannot possibly be this angry because I slept with him!  He didn’t know you then!  He was single!  I was single!”
 
“Does Abner know?” Gabe asked.
 
“Yes!  I told him years ago, when we got back together.  He knows everything!”
 
Castiel nodded slowly.
 
Anna threw her hands up and walked in a tight circle.  “This is...I’m sorry this happened, Cas, but you can’t be pissed at me for something I did years ago that had NOTHING to do with you!”
 
Her eyes filled with tears.  “You’re gonna take Jack away?  For that!”
 
The look of hurt flooding his sister’s face was the first thing that had broken through his wall of anger since last night.
 
“You have no right to do that!”  Her voice shook and she stormed from the room.
 
“What the fuck?” Gabe said in a tiny voice.
 
Castiel inched over slightly as she came back in the room, stopping to stoop and look him in the eyes.  “Maybe that judge is right.  Because you don’t use children as weapons.”
 
“Okay!” Gabe jumped up, ushering Anna from the room.
 
Castiel stood up, shocked by the statement.  How dare she say such a thing!  He paced around the office like a caged animal.  His eyes dragged over all the big-eyed Funko Pops staring at him.
 
He wanted to pop all their heads off and throw them.
 
The door closed.  Castiel turned to see a concerned looking Gabe standing there.  “Okay.  One, this is nuts!  Two, Anna’s right.  And three, well, I have like ten more things, really, but, what the fuck, Cassie?  Dean had sex with Anna?  Did he tell you that?”
 
“Yes.  Last night.”
 
Gabe glanced at his Funko Pops, seeming to read Castiel’s thoughts.
 
“So, Anna was single, had sex with a guy in his car,”
 
Castiel’s mind shorted out.  “She had sex with Dean in his car?!”
 
Gabe’s mouth snapped shut, not realizing this was added salt to the wound.  CAS wanted to have sex in Dean’s car!
 
“Uh, her car?  I dunno!  I wasn’t paying that much attention to the setting of her little tale.”
 
Castiel grabbed the nearest Funko Pop and threw it at the door so hard its head popped off.  Gabe jumped aside, yelping.
 
“NOT LOKI!  HE’S MY FAVORITE!”
 
Castiel was seething.
 
“How ‘bout you settle the fuck down!” Gabe yelled.  He picked up his stupid toy, glaring at him hatefully.  “Too much, Cas!  Time to reel it the fuck in and get a grip!”
 
Castiel wanted to storm out of the office.  He wanted to undo it all.  He was frozen.  Unable to stop his anger and unable to take back what he had done and said.
 
Gabe collected the pieces of Loki.  He went back to his desk and thumped into his chair.  
 
Castiel returned to his seat as well, feeling oddly despondent over his brother trying to fit the head back onto his toy.
 
“Sorry,” he muttered.
 
“Jerk,” Gabe muttered back.
 
Castiel sighed.  He watched as Gabe fumbled with the figure, balancing the large head onto its small body precariously.  
 
“Tell me what happened.”
 
Castiel cleared his throat.  “We were talking over our laptops so he could meet Jack.”
 
Gabe looked up at him sharply.  “He said that in front of Jack?”
 
“No.  Jack had gone to bed.”
 
Gabe looked relieved, pulling out his tape dispenser, he pulled out a long strip.  “And?”
 
“And he told me that Sam realized Anna was my sister.  He kindly reminded Dean, who let me know.”
 
Gabe wrapped the tape around the tiny neck, then onto the head of the figurine, the head flopping off twice before staying put.
 
“He apologized.  He said it meant nothing.  That it was years ago, and he wished he had never done it.”
 
Gabe slid the fragile Loki to the side, staring at it.  “And you said?”
 
Castiel thought back.  “I don’t remember.  I yelled about it.  I...I may have hung up on him.”
 
Gabe looked up at him with another scowl.  “Well, that’s constructive.”
 
Castiel flipped his hands up in irritation.  “What was I supposed to do?!  ‘Oh, you fucked my sister?  Oh, you didn’t mean it?  Oh, it meant nothing’!”
 
Gabe tilted his head with some retraction.  “Yeah, the ‘it meant nothing’ bit doesn’t help his case much.  Makes him sound like a dick.  But just to clarify, Anna said the same thing.  Sounds like it was a hook-up on both their parts.”
 
Castiel slumped in the chair, staring at nothing.
 
Gabe sat back in his, watching him.  “Is this the end of Dean Winchester?”
 
Castiel’s eyes flicked up to Gabe’s.  “I don’t know.”
 
“Well, Anna is...you really hurt her feelings.”
 
Castiel grit his jaw.  “Yes.  Well.”
 
Gabe smirked at him condescendingly.  
 
Castiel rolled his eyes, staring at the wall of CD’s.
 
His office door came open with a rapid knock.  “Finally!  I’ve been looking for you!” Charlie said, her quick steps slowing as she neared the brothers.  “Oops!  Sorry!  I didn’t mean to interrupt a bro moment!”  
 
She sat a stack of papers on Gabe’s desk with an apologetic bob until her eyes got as big a saucers at the sight of Loki.  Mouth agape in horror, she looked at Gabe who shook his head no.  She looked at Castiel, who stared back at her, completely unimpressed.
 
She clamped her mouth shut, biting her lips together with a tiny whimper as she high-tailed it out of the office.
 
“Well, clean slate for you then,” Gabe smirked.  “You are systematically wiping out ALL your friends.”
 
Castiel rested his chin on his fist.  “Have I made too much out of this?”
 
Gabe, smirk still affixed, held his hand up, his thumb and index finger an inch apart.
 
Castiel sighed.  “I was so shocked.  I’m so...disappointed.”
 
Gabe nodded, losing the smirk.  He looked down at his hands, jutting his lower lip out in thought.  “How many people have you slept with?”
 
Castiel frowned.
 
Gabe leaned forward with a lewd grin.  “Remember that time at the toga party?  Wheeeew.”
 
Castiel winced.  “I was high.”
 
“Weren’t we all,” Gabe laughed, still thinking back.
 
Castiel could see where his brother was going with this.  “But it wasn’t Sam.  So it isn’t the same.”
 
Gabe gave him an incredulous stare.  “You had sex with three people in a fountain!”
 
Castiel blushed hard.
 
“How about that concert in Denver?  What was that guy’s name?”
 
Castiel’s lips pressed into a thin line.  He had no idea what that guy’s name was.
 
“We were consenting adults!”
 
“So was Anna!”
 
The pair stared at each other.  Castiel understood his brother’s point, but it was not making him feel any better.  “I’ve had three, four promiscuous events in my life!”
 
“And so did Dean.  And so did Anna.”
 
Stalemate.
 
Castiel shook his head.  “I don’t know if I can get past it.”
 
Gabe shrugged.  “Then dump him.”
 
Castiel winced.  “You aren’t helping.”
 
Gabe turned in his chair, going back to his emails.  “I think you should dump him.”
 
Castiel gaped.
 
“He’s defiled our sister and brought shame to our family.”
 
Castiel rolled his eyes.  Gabriel could be such a pain in the ass.  He stood up, heading out.
 
“Cassie.”
 
Castiel turned back to him.  “Fix that shit with Anna.”
 
Castiel nodded and left.
 
 
************************************
 
 
Gabriel stared at his broken Loki.  Of all the insane circumstances...
 
He hoped his reverse psychology worked.  He actually liked Dean a whole lot more than anyone else Cas had ever dated.  But sometimes Cassie could be like a light switch.  All on, or all off.
 
He tried to put himself in Cassie’s situation.  Had Kali slept with Cas... he snorted a laugh.  She would have eaten him alive.  But if they had?  Yeah, he didn’t envy his brother.  It wasn’t the end of the world.  But it certainly was not cool.
 
“Damn it, Dean,” he muttered.
 
 
 
*********************************************
 
 
 
“You gonna eat that?” Claire asked, staring at Dean’s cold dinner in front of him.
 
“No.”  He got up, scraping it into the trash.
 
“So, I can tell something’s wrong,” Claire began, watching carefully.  “Is it Cas?”
 
Dean froze at the sink, staring at the water rinsing his plate.
 
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
 
“Yeah.”  Dean washed his dishes.
 
“So, I wanted to stay with this girl I know, but her boyfriend moved back in...so...”
 
“You can just stay here,” Dean said quietly.  He felt defeated.  Like all his life choices had led him right here to this.
 
Nothing.
 
Empty.
 
Claire nodded with a frown.  “I’m gonna...go hang out with Pam for a little bit.”
 
Dean nodded, shutting the water off.
 
He went into his living room, sitting in the recliner.  He stared at the painting.  It would forever be his hand and Cas’.  No matter what.  He still had his painting and the memories of a weekend of paradise.
 
He looked up, shocked to see Pam standing next to his chair.  He would have jumped, but...he just couldn’t muster it.
 
Pam sat on the arm of his chair, leaning to rest her hand on the other arm, bridging over his lap.
 
“Hi.”
 
“Hi.”
 
“Did Claire send you up?” He asked flatly.
 
Pam nodded.  “What happened?”
 
Dean sighed, feeling so, so tired.  “I slept with Cas’ sister.”
 
Pam gave him a shocked look.  “When?”
 
Dean stared vacantly at her jeans.  “Six years ago.”
 
“What?  You...”
 
“She went to school with Sam in California.  She was havin’ a bad night and...I had sex with her.”
 
“But...you didn’t know Cas then.”
 
Dean nodded, cursing the universe again.
 
“I take it angel-boy is pissed.”
 
Dean shrugged.  “Must be.  I haven’t heard from him since.”
 
“How long?” Pam asked.
 
“Three days.”
 
Pam nodded.
 
“Go away, Pam,” Dean whispered.
 
She smirked at him.  “I don’t think so, handsome.”
 
Dean had no energy to move.  No desire to do anything.  And no gumption to argue with Pam.  “Okay.”
 
She got off the recliner and disappeared.  Belatedly, he figured out she was in his kitchen.  He groaned.  She was going to make him eat.  Yay.  
 
He could smell grilled cheese before she came to the living room.  To her credit, his stomach gave a forlorn grumble when she dragged him to the kitchen for a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
 
They ate in silence for the first ten minutes.
 
“So, what are you gonna do about Cas?”
 
Dean’s appetite disappeared.  His mind blanked.  “I don’t know.”
 
“Well, you better figure something out.  He sent you a painting worth thousands of dollars.  And you said the guy isn’t made of money, so...it meant something.”
 
Dean dunked his remaining triangle of sandwich in his soup.  “I don’t know what to do.  I’m the one that screwed up.”
 
“Honey, people screw up.  It’s life.  If he can’t move past it or forgive you, then he doesn’t deserve you.  You know that, right?”
 
“No, I don’t know that!  I had...he’s...it was perfect.  For a whole fucking minute of my life.  And now it’s gone.”
 
“Ooohhh, what a load a bullshit.”
 
Dean stared at his friend.  Why was she his friend again?
 
“For starters, NO relationship is perfect.  I might call him angel-boy, but he’s no angel.  He is not perfect.  And neither are you.  AND, it was unintentional!  Don’t let him make you out to be the bad guy.”
 
The right corner of Dean’s mouth tipped up in a small grin.  That’s why she was his friend.  Because she was always in his corner, no matter what.
 
“Thanks, Pam.”
 
“Always, handsome.”
 
Dean started eating.  “I’m gonna call him.”
 
“That’s my boy.”
 
 
********************************************
 
 
Castiel stood in Anna’s living room, head bowed, mouth closed, and pride in shreds.
 
Anna’s eyes were puffy and red.  Abner was pacing back and forth in front of their fireplace.  Abner was a gentle man.  Kind.  His worst quality was that he could be too laid back sometimes.  But not tonight.  Tonight, he was mad as hell at Castiel.
 
“If I’M not mad about this fucked up situation, then YOU shouldn’t be either!” Abner yelled.  “Okay!  I AM mad.  But she’s my wife and you might bring this guy around!  It sucks.  It’s...honestly, it’s nothing compared to this messed up shit with Jack.”
 
Castiel nodded.  It was all he could do.
 
“Anna has been SICK over this!”  Abner balled up his fists again.  “Ya know what?”  He stopped pacing, facing Castiel.  “You’re no better than Lucifer.”
 
Castiel met his brother-in-law’s brown eyes with a challenging scowl.  He would only take so much heat over all this.
 
“He uses Jack as a toy.  Now you’re using him as a weapon.”
 
That stung.  What stung even worse was how right he was.
 
“Abner,” Anna said weakly, trying to temper her husband’s rage.
 
“May I please tell you why I’m here?” Castiel said tightly, speaking for the first time since he arrived fifteen minutes ago.
 
Abner shook his head slowly.  “I’m warning you now, if I don’t like what you have to say -”
 
“Abner!” Anna yelled, fresh tears tracking down her pale cheeks.
 
He crossed his arms over his chest, biting his tongue.
 
Castiel swallowed hard, turning toward his sister.  “Anna, I came to apologize.  I never should have said Jack could no longer come here.  It was rash and cruel.”
 
Anna stared up at him, still hurt.  Still angry.
 
“I reacted terribly.  I...I will never make that mistake again.”
 
Anna stood up, her mouth still tightly holding back another volley of crying.  “I would never do anything to hurt you.  Or Abner.  Or Jack!  I’m sorry I’ve ruined things with Dean.  But -”
 
“Please,” Castiel stopped her, unable to hear her sorrow any longer.  “You didn’t do anything wrong.  I did.”
 
Anna’s frame deflated, her eyes widening.
 
“I overreacted and created...quite a mess.”
 
Anna wiped her cheeks off.
 
“To involve Jack was...” his eyes met Abner’s, “cruel.”  He looked back at Anna.  “I am so sorry.”
 
Tears wet her cheeks again.
 
“I do not want to be at odds with you, Anna.  With either of you.  I hope we can...put this behind us.”
 
Anna hugged him, her thin frame shuddering with what he hoped was relief.
 
He hugged her tight, petting a hand down her long, red hair.  “I’m so sorry, Anna.”
 
“I’m sorry!” She cried.  “I don’t want this to ruin anything!”
 
“I don’t ever want to hear about it again,” Abner added, less angry, but still quite annoyed.
 
Anna stepped back, wiping her cheeks dry again.  “Yeah, me either.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “I deserve every word that was said here, and I’m going to do my best to move past it.  If I’m even given the opportunity.”
 
“What do you mean?” Anna asked.
 
Castiel sighed.  “I haven’t spoken to him since he told me.”
 
Anna shook her head in dismay.
 
Abner sighed.  “Well, I gotta say, I won’t be sorry if I never see him again.”
 
“Abner,” Anna sighed.
 
“What?  He was a player.  People don’t change their stripes.”
 
“He was straight,” Anna argued.  “So...kinda changes his stripes.”
 
Abner shrugged.  “Can’t say I’ll ever be a fan.”
 
Anna sighed tiredly.  “I’m so tired of thinking about it.  It is a mistake that has come back to haunt me.”
 
Abner relented his stance, shoving his hands in his pockets.
 
Castiel nodded.  “I’m sorry I handled it so poorly.  I’ll, uh, let you know what happens.  And, if you want, Jack can come over for a bit tomorrow while I’m in the meeting with the farmers from Holland.”
 
Anna nodded.  “I would like that.”
 
Castiel turned to go.  “He knows nothing about all this.  I told him you were not available.  That you were working with Abner.  In case he asks.”
 
Anna nodded.
 
“Goodnight.  And...I truly am sorry.”
 
Anna squeezed his shoulder.  “It’s okay.  Let’s just...move on.”
 
Castiel nodded.  He left, hoping if Dean was still willing to speak to him, that they could all move past this.
 
 
 
He arrived home to Gabe and Jack sleeping on the couch, the TV playing the end of a Barbie movie.  He turned the TV off and carried Jack back to bed, tucking him in.
 
“Night, Daddy,” Jack murmured.
 
“Night, buddy.  I love you.”  
 
He went back to the living room.  Gabe was sitting at the end of the couch, yawning.  
 
Castiel slumped onto the couch, exchanging a wordless look with his brother.
 
Gabe reached for him as he tipped over, laying his head on Gabe’s leg.  No words were needed.  Gabe knew he was struggling to be okay with Dean and his past.  Cas knew Gabe, like Anna, wanted him to move on and let it go.  He hoped he could.  More bothersome than all that, was how he had hurt Anna.  His only saving grace at this point was that Jack was none the wiser.
 
“Do you think Dean will be angry?” He murmured.
 
Gabe’s hand rested on his shoulder.  “Sure.”
 
Castiel moaned plaintively.
 
 
********************************************
 
 
Dean was trying to gain some perspective on his situation.  At least, that’s how his search began.  Now, he was sucked into a line of videos about siblings and sex.
 
He jerked back from his screen when the call sound went off on his laptop.  His eyes bulged when he saw it was Cas.
 
He slid his mouse as quickly as possible, clicking the ‘Accept’ button.
 
The screen opened the video call, revealing a haggard-looking Cas.  And he never looked more beautiful.  Ha.  He got it now.  Cas had called him beautiful before and Dean had thought it so odd.  Now, he could understand it.  He had never thought of a man as beautiful before.  
 
Castiel was beautiful.
 
“Hello, Dean.”
 
His voice jolted Dean again.  “H-hey, Cas!”  He smiled but couldn’t hold it.  
 
Cas gave him a soft grin.  “You look tired.”
 
Tired?  More like wrecked.  “Yeah.  You too.”
 
Cas nodded, the screen glitching then jumping to him staring at him.
 
“It’s, uh, been a while.”
 
Cas nodded.  “Yeah.  Dean, I’m really sorry for how I reacted.”
 
Hope soared so sharp that Dean’s breath hitched.  “I-I’m sorry for being such a dirtbag!”
 
Cas shook his head gently.  “It’s all in the past.  I...really overreacted.”
 
It was Dean’s turn to nod.  Yeah.  Maybe he had.  “Well, the whole thing really sucks.  I just hate that it happened.”
 
“Me too.  Anna feels the same way.”
 
Dean covered his face.  So, Anna knew too.  He groaned, rubbing his face.  “I feel like such a jerk.”
 
“Me too.”  Cas leaned onto one hand looking exhausted.
 
Dean reeeeally did not want to talk about it anymore, he never wanted to think about it again, but they might as well be out with everything and move on.  Like ripping off a Band-Aid.  
 
“So, I really need to get some things straight,” Dean said in a rush.  “I said it meant nothing, it really didn’t, but I don’t want you to think I disrespected her, because I didn’t.  I just walked her out to her car because we lived in a pretty sketchy neighborhood.  She ended up crying, I got in with her, we went for a drive, we...” his eyes flashed up guiltily to Cas.  “She took me home and I think she quit coming around after that.  But she was good with it, it’s what she wanted and I...” Dean wanted to puke.  “I am so fucking sorry.”
 
Cas, looking repulsed, managed to also look curious.  “So...it was Anna’s car?”
 
Dean, head bent in self-hating misery, looked up at the screen.  “What?  Yeah.  Some dumb little red Honda.”
 
Something in Cas’ face relaxed.
 
“So...is Anna freaking out about this?”
 
Cas stared at the screen, making Dean grow nervous again.  Cas’ 5 o’clock shadow was thickening into a beard.  Dean wanted to touch it so bad.
 
Cas sat up, stretched his neck, then dropped his head into both hands, his fingers seeming to prop him up to peer down into his screen.  “I really made a mess.”
 
Dean wanted to hug him so bad it hurt.  His face must have given some of that away, because Cas really looked at him and sat up more fully.
 
“I am rather ashamed of how I behaved,” Cas admitted.
 
“Look, I caused this whole thing, Cas,” Dean jumped in, unable to hear the pain in Castiel’s voice.
 
Cas held a hand up.  “Dean.  I’m sorry for hanging up on you.  I was...shocked.”
 
Dean nodded.
 
“I’m sorry it took me several days to call you back.”
 
Yeah, that was what hurt so bad.  Dean nodded, feeling much more emotional than he preferred.  
 
Cas leaned into the screen, his eyes searching Dean’s face.
 
Dean looked down at his keyboard.  He meant it as a statement, but it came out much more sad than he intended.  “I don’t like the silent treatment.”
 
“Oh, Dean.  I am so sorry!”  Cas looked near to tears.
 
“It’s okay,” Dean shrugged quickly.  “It was just a fight.  Right?  Or...did I ruin everything?”  He was desperate to know.  He needed to know if this was a mountain or the wall at the North.
 
“It was just a fight,” Cas stated.  It was enough to clue Dean in that there had been a choice here.  Cas had been wavering on breaking up.  “An awful one,” Cas went on, looking down with a little shake of his head.  “God, I wish I could hug you.”
 
Dean sagged forward.  God, he wished for that too.  Just him saying it almost made it palpable.  And he needed the reassurance.
 
“Dean, can we move past this?  I promise not to neglect calling you.  I’ve never hurt so many people in one bout of anger before.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Yeah, Cas!”  Dean’s heart was filling again.  Real air filled his lungs.  The world tilted back on its axis.
 
Crisis averted.
 
“I should tell you how deplorable I have been,” Cas admitted with a shameful look on his face.
 
Dean listened as he told him what he had said to Anna about not seeing Jack any more, trashing Gabe’s prized Loki, and his general dickish behavior to everyone in the world except Jack.  And Jack was being really quiet, so he was not too sure how well he had sheltered his rage from him either.
 
Dean had to wonder.  It’s not like they were teenagers.  If Cas was going to be a punisher, withholding phone calls, family, destroying things...what would he be like in the future?
 
They were sitting in silence, Cas wrung out from admitting to so many poor decisions, Dean worrying about just what Cas was like and where this was going.
 
Dean sat back, still thinking.
 
“What are you thinking about?” Cas asked.
 
Dean met his eyes.  He was thankful at that moment that he had not told Cas he loved him.  There was more to him than Dean knew.  Was he sweet, hippie, peace-loving Cas?  Was he doler of punishments?  Cut people out of his life with the snap of his fingers Cas?  A fighter?  Just a guy trying to be a dad?  
 
Dean had lived under the regime of an unstable man for far too long.  There was more than one way to be abusive, not that Cas had gone there, but just the mere scent of it had him backing up slowly.
 
Maybe Castiel Novak was not who he thought he was.
 
“Dean?” Cas said softly, staring right into his friggin’ soul.
 
Dean licked his lips.  “Yeah.”
 
“I promise I’ve learned something here.  I...” his voice broke and he looked near to tears again.  “I don’t want to be like Lucifer!  I don’t want to be like my father!”
 
Dean nodded slowly.  Maybe Cas just really didn’t know how to deal with things.  After all, they were in this very predicament because he had sex with a young college girl, and it came back to bite him in the ass.
 
Apparently condoms don’t protect you from everything.
 
“Cas,” Dean finally broke out of all the snares in his head.  “It’s over.  Unless Abner or Anna have something to say to me about it, let’s consider this whole fiasco a huge...fiasco.”
 
Cas nodded.
 
Dean sighed in relief.  “Man, I gotta go to bed.  It’s two in the morning and I gotta be on a four-story roof in four hours.”
 
Cas looked like he wanted to say a lot more, but he nodded with a sad grin.  “Wish I was there to lie with you.”
 
Dean quirked a tired grin.  “Wish I was there.”
 
They said goodnight, ending the call.  Dean slid down into bed.  He felt better in many ways...and not nearly as good as he had hoped.
 
 
 
*************************************************
 
 
 
Castiel woke up the next morning with a heavy heart.  He also woke with a new determination.  His words of apology only meant so much.  He needed to take some actions to right his wrongs.  He threw the covers back, got a shower and had Jack’s breakfast ready when he got to the table.
 
“Morning, Jack!”
 
Jack sat down with a worried frown.  “I had a bad dream.”
 
“Oh no!  About what?”
 
He shoved Felix onto the table.  “I dreamt Felix was sick.”
 
Cas picked up the stuffed snake, inspecting it gently.  “Well, maybe we should help him feel better.”
 
Jack nodded, getting to his knees.
 
The snake looked, well, it looked like a toy that went everywhere with a five-year-old.
 
“I see the problem,” Cas nodded knowingly.  “And I know just who can help us take care of him.”
 
Jack grinned, looking much relieved.
 
“I had a rough night too.  In fact, maybe you can help me take care of a few things today.  I need to buy Uncle Gabe a new toy because I broke one of his.”
 
Jack looked shocked.
 
Cas nodded with a guilty tilt to his mouth.  “I was not very nice and lost my temper this week.”
 
Jack toyed with the spoon in his cereal bowl.  “Daddy does that.”
 
That stung.  It was exactly what he was avoiding.  But it was true.  “Well, I said I was sorry and I’m going to fix his toy.  And get him a new one.”
 
Jack nodded.  “That’s nice.”
 
Cas sighed.  “Everyone loses their temper sometimes.  And everyone makes mistakes.  It’s learning to not repeat those mistakes that matters most.”
 
Jack nodded.  “I understand.”
 
Cas studied his nephew with all the love of a father.  “You are so smart.  I hope I can be like you when I grow up.”
 
Jack laughed.  “You are growed up!”
 
“Nooo, I don’t think so!” Cas laughed.
 
“Yes!  You have a car.  And go to work.”
 
“True.”  Cas grinned at his yogurt.  He might be grown up.  But he felt like he had a lot to learn.
 
“Who’s gonna help Felix?”
 
Cas arched a brow like he had super-secret information.  “Team effort, Jack.  You and me are going to get the supplies, and I bet, if we ask nice, Eileen will help him.”
 
Jack perked up.  “Are we going to see her?!”
 
Cas grinned with a nod.  “Do you remember how to ask her nicely?”
 
Jack put his spoon down, put his hand on his chest and moved it in a circle.  “Please.”
 
“I am so proud of you,” Cas grinned.  
 
 
 
**********************************************
 
 
 
Eileen worked in the essential oil lab.  She had an insanely accurate sense of smell and was profoundly deaf.
 
After their shopping trip and a brief meeting, Cas picked up their bags, took Jack by the hand and headed to the top floor of their building to the scent lab.
 
He saw Eileen through the windowed room she was working in.  Her white lab coat and gloves would surely sell the doctor bit.  He also knew she could sew.  And had a soft spot for soft pretzels.
 
He flicked an office lamp, getting her attention through the window.
 
She waved, her face lighting even more when she saw Jack.
 
She put her clipboard down and came through the door.
 
“You smell like...rose and...blue tansy,” Cas said and signed.
 
‘Very accurate,’ she signed back.  She smiled down at Jack.  ‘Hello, Jack!’
 
He waved, biting his lips together shyly.
 
“We brought you a very special patient today, doctor Eileen.”
 
Eileen beamed a grin.
 
“And payment.”  Cas held up the pretzel bag with a charming grin.
 
Eileen rolled her eyes, tossing her head back and arms wide.  “I love pretzels!”
 
Jack giggled.
 
She pulled her gloves off and moved to the sink to wash her hands.  The counters and floors and walls were all white in this section of the building.  The only color that seemed to break the whiteness was stainless steel.
 
Felix looked like something scrounged out of a dumpster when Jack nervously laid him on the stark white counter.
 
“I see.”  She turned Felix in every direction.
 
“I brought stuffing, thread, needles, and felt for that nasty right eye,” Cas said and signed.
 
She took the bag, turning to Jack.  “I will take good care of him.  You can pick him up in two hours.”
 
Jack looked at Cas with worry.  “She’s a professional,” Cas assured him.
 
He nodded at her and signed ‘thank you’.
 
Cas signed to her quickly without verbalizing.  ‘Thank you! That is his favorite toy and besides repairs, he needs to learn to leave it sometimes.’
 
“Okay!” She nodded.
 
‘I know you have better things to do,’ he began.
 
She shook her head, shooing them both out with a grin.
 
Cas took Jack by the hand and led him to Gabe’s office next.   No luck there, so they returned to Castiel’s office.
 
“Charlie,” he said, stopping at her desk, “if Gabe comes by, send him in, please.”
 
Charlie pursed her lips.  “Are you going to throw things at him?”
 
“No,” he assured her.
 
Charlie nodded, giving Jack a wink.  “Come get some Twizzlers if you want.  But he can’t have any.”  She pointed an accusing finger at Cas.
 
“Why not?” Jack asked in hushed wonder.
 
“Because HE was a doo-doo head this week and he lost his candy privileges.”
 
Jack’s eyes got big.  Jack looked up at him with true worry on his face.  “You shoulda got her a pretzel.”
 
Charlie snickered, giving Jack a relaxed grin.  “Don’t worry, he’s still my favorite man in the world.”
 
Cas nudged Jack toward his office where he had a stash of toys to play with, including a Lego table.  He and Charlie had patched things up yesterday, but he still felt like a heel for being a grouch all week long.
 
She handed him a stack of mail with a grin.  “Love ya, Thanos.”
 
“Love you more, Charlie.”  He took his stack to his desk and sat down.  Jack was busy at his Lego table while he buckled down to get some work done.
 
Two hours later, Jack was lying on an office chair watching a video on his tablet when he sprung up.  “Anna!  Gabe!”
 
Anna scooped him up with a big hug.  “I missed you this week!  Sorry I was so busy!”
 
Castiel felt a pang of guilt.
 
“Gabriel,” he went on as Jack gave him some kind of complicated fist bump.
 
Jack went back to his tablet as Anna and Gabe came to his desk.
 
He handed Gabriel a bag.
 
Gabe dug into the bag pulling out two boxes.  “Loki!”
 
Castiel nodded, smiling at his brother’s delight.  “I got the bobble head one and the blue one.  And a keychain.”
 
Gabe grinned.  “They will be proudly displayed.  And my other one put to rest.  Thank you, Cassie.”
 
“No, thank you.  I acted like an ass this week.”  His eyes met Anna’s.  “I can’t replace what I took from you.”
 
Her eyes met his.  “Neither can I.  Can we just forget this week ever happened?”
 
They both nodded.
 
“Are you guys fighting?” Jack asked.
 
Anna and Cas hesitated.
 
“Yep,” Gabe answered.
 
“Why?”
 
Well, there was a good one.
 
“Um,” Gabe scrunched his mouth in thought.
 
“Because brothers and sisters fight sometimes,” Anna said.  “But we’re over it.  See?”
 
Jack nodded, resting his chin on the ledge of Castiel’s desk.  “You guys fight with my daddy too.”
 
They all stared at him for a moment, each nodding slowly.
 
“He is our brother,” Cas added carefully.
 
Jack’s eyes traveled to each of them.  “Daddy says...” dark shadows too nefarious for a five-year-old, traveled just behind his eyes.
 
“Hey -” Gabe picked him up, sitting him on Castiel’s desk to look right at him.  “We don’t fight like your dad.  You know that.  Arguments happen.”  He shrugged.  “We get over it, apologize, and move on.  Problem solved.  I still love these mutton-heads, and they love me.”
 
Jack nodded.  He turned, looking at Cas over his shoulder.  “I wanna go get Felix now.  Please.”
 
Anna looked heart broken.  Cas would too, but he was putting on a good front, like Gabriel.
 
“You bet.  Then you can go home with Anna and I will pick you AND Felix up at six.”
 
“What happened to Felix,” Anna asked, taking his hand to lead the way out of the office.
 
Gabe grabbed Castiel’s sleeve.  “You alright?”
 
“Yeah.  Yes.  I just...I seem to have fucked up every aspect in my life just by getting mad one time!”  He ran a hand back through his hair.
 
“Jack is gonna be fine.  We’re all taking good care of him.  You most of all.  Don’t freak out, little bro.  You got this.”
 
“Barely,” Cas said desperately.
 
Gabe nodded.  “Well, you’re not alone.  Whatever you drop, we’ll do our damnedest to pick up.”
 
Cas hugged his brother, getting a chuckle and back pat back.  “He’s gonna be fine.”
 
They followed Anna down the hall to the elevator.
 
“Did you call Dean?” Gabe asked under his breath.
 
“I did.”
 
Gabe sized him up.  “And?”
 
“And...I told him everything.  I think it’s safe to say I’ve damaged things.”
 
Gabe nodded.  “Wait until he meets Abner.”
 
Castiel sighed at the thought.  Yeah, that would go well.
 
 
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: Chicago Style
 
 
 
Dean was sitting at his kitchen table paying bills when Cas called.  They had talked both nights since his initial call back and things seemed to be getting back to normal. With each smile and every conversation, he felt better about Cas. His trust grew in the blue eyed man that still had the ability to melt him instantly at the sound of his deep voice.
 
He grinned as Cas’ face popped up in front of him.  “Hey.”
 
“Hello, Dean.”
 
“I’m just finishing my bills.”
 
“We are having a snack before bed.”  Cas popped a piece of popcorn in his mouth.
 
“Hi Jack,” Dean said, not getting an answer.  He grinned at Cas anyway.  The little guy was staying in the same room as the call now, so they were improving.
 
Dean looked up as the door opened.  Claire came in toting six plastic bags full of groceries.  “Hey, what’s all this?”
 
“Food.  Shampoo.  Crap,” Claire clarified.  
 
“Be nice,” he warned.
 
Claire glanced at the screen as she hefted the bags onto the counter.  “Oh, hey, Cas.  Hi Jack.”
 
“Hello, Claire.”
 
“Hello, Claire,” she mocked, grinning.  “You should be a voice actor.  It’s so gruuuummmbblllyyy.”
 
Dean could hear Jack giggle.
 
“I do not grumble,” Cas said, very grumbly.
 
“Yes you do!” Jack’s voice could be heard off screen, making Dean and Claire laugh.
 
Cas stuck his tongue at the screen, Dean returning it.
 
Cas turned, listening to a now whispering Jack.  
 
“Okay,” Cas grinned, taking a stuffed animal of some sort and holding it up.  “Jack would like me to introduce you to Felix.”
 
“Hello, Felix,” Dean grinned.
 
“I will,” Cas chuckled, talking to Jack again.  He turned to the screen.  “This is Jack’s very best friend and he had surgery this week.”
 
“And got a bath!” Jack chimed in.
 
“And yes, got a bath.  He smells much better, got some new stuffing to fill him out.”
 
“And look,” Jack scooted into the screen for the first time ever, “his eye got fixed.  See?”
 
“I see,” Dean nodded.  “He looks great!”
 
Jack looked at the screen, realizing where he was and paused to really check Dean out.  “He’s fat again.”
 
“Mmm,” Dean nodded.  “Fat and happy.”
 
Jack nodded, sitting on Cas’ lap to stare between the camera and the screen.
 
“When Sam was little, that’s my brother, he had a teddy bear named Sully.  Sully went everywhere with us.”
 
More shyly, fully in Dean’s attention, Jack said quietly, “Does he still have him?”
 
“Of course!” Dean grinned.  He could hear Claire giggle as she put groceries away.
 
“But...isn’t he old?  Does he hafta go to the doctor a lot?” Jack asked.
 
Dean grinned at the look of pride on Cas’ face as he watched Jack being so brave.
 
“Um, he does.  But, luckily, I’m a teddy bear doctor, so, I take care of him.”
 
Cas met his eyes, fighting off a laugh as Claire muttered ‘omigod’ behind him.
 
Jack studied him hard.  “You’re a teddy bear doctor?”
 
“On Thursdays, yes,” Dean deadpanned.
 
Cas fought his laugh even harder and Claire started laughing.
 
Jack grinned.  “I thought you made houses.”
 
“Yeah, well, winters get slow and I needed a hobby...”
 
Jack giggled, looking somewhere over Dean’s head.
 
Dean turned, Claire pulling two stalks of celery back from his head.  Dean turned back to Jack, squinting.  “What?”
 
Jack giggled, Cas joining him.
 
“I don’t know what’s so funny,” Dean sighed, knowing Claire was making celery stalks look like two huge horns coming out of his head.
 
“Something in my teeth?” Dean went on, making faces, making Jack laugh even harder.
 
Dean and Cas’ eyes met, both full of laughter.
 
Yeah, whatever problems they had, if they could find five minutes of this, it was all worth it.
 
Claire went back to the groceries and Jack just sat there in Cas’ lap.
 
“Guess what I did today,” Dean grinned.
 
“Do tell,” Cas smiled back.
 
“I went fishing.”
 
“You did?”
 
“Me, Sammy, Benny, we all went trout fishing.  It was fun!”
 
“Sounds fun,” Cas nodded.  “You would love to go out on Lake Michigan, I bet.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Never been to the Great Lakes.”
 
Jack whispered something in Cas’ ear, making him laugh.  “Um, you could come fish here sometime and,” Jack whispered again.  “And then we could eat at Long John Silvers.”
 
Dean laughed.  “If I go fishing there, I’ll cook the fish I catch and serve it for dinner!”
 
Jack made a gag face.
 
Dean grinned easily.  “Bet Felix will like it.  Aaaalll my bears love my fish.”
 
Cas laughed, making Dean chuckle.
 
“Night,” Claire said.
 
Dean turned to her.  “Hey, you didn’t have to get groceries.”
 
She shrugged.  “I eat.  I can help.”
 
They exchanged an understanding grin and she headed back the hall.
 
He turned back to the screen.  
 
“Give me a few minutes, would you,” Cas smiled.  “Somebody needs to get to bed.”
 
Dean nodded, waving to Jack as he waved goodbye.
 
The pair disappeared from the screen, leaving the sight of Cas’ kitchen.  He studied the countertops and cabinets and appliances, what he could see of them, and wondered what the rest of his house looked like.  He knew the kitchen was huge.  Cas had said as much.
 
He went back to his checkbook, finishing his bills.  He had the two letters addressed and stamped before he looked at the screen again.  He was a little surprised to see Cas sitting there just watching him.
 
“Are you watchin’ me?” Dean blushed, tidying up his papers.

“I am,” Cas sighed.
 
“Creeper.”

Cas shrugged.  “It’s the best show on.”
 
Dean gave him a flirty grin, pulling a pen from his mouth.  “Doctor Sexy, teddy bear MD.”

Castiel grinned so wide, Dean started laughing.  Their grins slowly receded, leaving them to talk again.
 
“Jack says he thinks he likes you.”
 
Dean nodded, impressed.  “He really came out of his shell tonight.”
 
“He did.  Thank you.”
 
Dean nodded.  He sat up, another thought crossing his mind.  “I told Claire she could move in.”  He frowned.  “I feel like maybe I shoulda okayed it with you first.”
 
“No, whatever you want, Dean,” Cas said.
 
Dean nodded, reassured by Cas’ easy grin.
 
Cas looked thoughtful.  “For how long?”
 
“I don’t know.  Her charges were dropped.  And it sounds like they got Rodney on a couple things.”
 
Cas nodded.  “I’m glad you can help her. She’s a sweet girl.” Dean nodded again, just wishing he could feel Cas’ arms around him. Ever since the Anna debacle and their make-up over it, he craved Cas’ touch more than ever.

“Dean, is there any way you can come see me?”
 
Dean grinned.  “Yeah.  In two weeks I earn another sick day.  Thought I’d burn it on a three-day weekend.”
 
Cas perked up at that.  “That would be wonderful!”
 
“Sooo,” Dean ventured, watching Cas’ expressive face, “Do I need to book a hotel?”
 
Cas bit his lip.  “I want to say no.  But...I’ll have to feel that one out.”
 
Dean nodded.  
 
“I’m sorry,” Cas said softly, a look of longing setting in on his handsome face. “I’m just not sure how Jack will handle it.”
 
“No, I get it.  That’s why I asked.”
 
Cas sighed.
 
Dean sighed.
 
“Man.  This long-distance shit sucks.”
 
“Agreed,” Cas mumbled.
 
 
 
************************************************
 
 
                                                                                                                                                     
Dean flew into Chicago feeling only mildly like a caged animal.  He cleaned up in the bathroom, shaking the last of his nerves off before heading to the luggage claim.
 
Since the three-day silent treatment weeks ago, he and Cas had talked about everything. He told him more about his dad and how crushing the memories of how he and Sam had been treated could take him down a dark hole of feeling useless. Castiel had shared more about his own father and how belittling he could be. They understood each other better than ever. Cas apologized so many times for having lost his temper that Dean forgave him heart and soul and they had put it in the past. There was still a lot to learn about each other, they learned something new every day. But Dean knew enough already. Cas was gentle, kind, caring, good, and made Dean feel whole and safe. Like the rest of the world was slightly off-kilter until he was talking to him. His hands itched at his sides to actually touch him again.

As he watched the suitcases pass on the giant conveyor belt, a dopey grin settled on his face. He was so in love with Castiel Novak that he could hardly think straight. No one in the world had ever bothered to get to know him so well. See him so clearly. He was ready to tell him. Ready, for the first time in his life, to actually love someone other than Sam.

He was relieved to see his suitcase on the carrousel.  He barely had it in hand when he turned and almost stumbled right into Cas.
 
“Cas!”
 
“Oh my god!” He sighed, hugging him so tight.  They stood there for some time just feeling each other, smelling that familiar scent that made his heart do fucking backflips.
 
Cas pulled back first, kissing him.  Dean kissed him back just as excitedly.
 
They hugged again and laughed at their desperate neediness.
 
“Was your flight okay?” Cas asked, picking up Dean’s fallen suitcase.
 
“No.  It sucked.  All flights suck.”
 
Cas gave him a surprised look, staring at him.  “Do you not like to fly?”
 
“Yeah, I kinda hate it.  Like, real bad.”
 
Cas gave him a pitying look.  “I’m so sorry.”
 
Dean shrugged, taking a deep breath.  “It’s all good.”  He kissed him.  “I’m here!”
 
They walked to the parking garage and got into Cas’ car.
 
“Remember back when I thought you were rich?” Dean laughed, eyeing his gold Lincoln Continental with disdain.  “All ya had to do was tell me you drove this!”
 
“Hey!  I like my car!”
 
Dean laughed.  “Why?”
 
His ass had no sooner hit the front seat when Cas had him pulled over and kissed him.  In a few swift moves, Dean was on his back across the front seat, tangled in a full-on make-out session.
 
Dean panted, laughing as Cas sat up, pulling him up as well.  Cas was radiant and grinning hard.  “I love this car.” His blue eyes danced with pure joy. “I love you.”
 
Dean’s eyes widened.
 
Cas bit his lip.
 
“I love you too.”
 
Castiel broke into the widest grin he had ever seen on him.  
 
“Okay,” Dean grinned back slowly, his insides soaring on cloud nine, “we just did that.”
 
Castiel laughed like Dean had never seen him before, totally carefree and in all his nerdy splendor.  He leaned back over, kissing the silliness out of his mood.  Dean was more on top this time, and he was wasting no time.
 
“You gonna take me somewhere, or are we gonna have sex right here in the garage?”
 
Cas sat up, pressing him back with a kiss that had his dick thumping.
 
Cas sat back in his own seat and started the car.  “Buckle up.”
 
Dean chuckled as he got himself sorted out, then buckled up.  He was impressed at the ease with which Cas handled major city traffic.
 
“Do you ever drive when you’re overseas?” Dean asked, marveling at his ability to navigate freeway fly-away exits.
 
“Not usually.  I did have to drive a carload of us home after a party in Amsterdam one time.”  He glanced over at Dean.  “I guess it’s time we share all the stupid shit we’ve done, right?”
 
Dean winced.  “I thought you didn’t do that until you were married for five years.  Or was it six months?”
 
Cas nodded, cutting over two lanes to catch an exit Dean had not even noticed.  “Sounds good to me!”
 
Dean sat back, watching Cas in his element.  “Alright.  Tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.”
 
Cas glanced at him, biting his lip.  “Alright, but please give me some leeway.  90% of anything questionable I’ve ever done was directly a result of Gabriel.”
 
Dean shook his head no.  “No way.  In my family, I’m the Gabe.  And whatever Sam got dragged into because of me, was his own fault.”
 
Cas grimaced.  “Okay!”
 
“So?”  Dean prompted, rubbing a finger along his bicep.
 
“Dean, I strongly suggest you keep your hands to yourself.  Distractions kill around this beltway.”
 
Dean giggled. “We should definitely wait until we’re married to play this game.”
 
Cas’ jaw dropped.  “Wow.  I’m not sure if you’re that scared to tell me things, or if you’re that anxious to get in my pants.”
 
“Definitely both.”
 
Cas licked his lips, glancing at Dean, still grinning.  “So, here’s the plan.  We’re stopping at your hotel first to -”
 
“I know EXACTLY what we’re doing in my hotel room, thanks.”
 
Cas chuckled low, cutting over a lane to move out of a  way of a truck that was not paying attention.
 
“THEN, we’re going to my house.  Gabe is bringing Jack over.  We can hang out.” Cas passed a dump truck, settling into a center lane.  “Jack and I will take you to your hotel and I will pick you up in the morning.”
 
“Sounds like a plan.”  Dean knew going into this that he would not be sleeping at Cas’ house.  It was going to be insanely hard, but it was worth it.  He could not stop grinning with every second he was with him.
 
Any hesitations or worries he’d had, evaporated instantly the moment he saw him.  However this worked, he was willing to work for it.
 
“Saturday we have lunch plans for you to meet the family.”
 
“Everyone?”
 
Cas gave Dean an encouraging smile.  “Yes.  Gabe, Anna, and Abner.  Plus some people who are as good as family to me.  Crowley and Charlie.”
 
“That’s a lot of people,” Dean sighed.
 
Cas reached over and took his hand.  “It’ll be fine.  I promise.”
 
Dean nodded.  He jerked as a car cut in front of Cas, but he easily went around them, not letting any of it stress him out in the least.
 
“You drive like this every day?”
 
“God, no.  I did when Gabe and I were in school.  But not usually out on this crazy beltway.  In the city though, it’s just as bad, swimming in taxis.”
 
He let go of Dean’s hand, cutting across two lanes to exit.  Two highways later, they were on more normal roads.
 
“We like access to the city, not living in the city,” Cas said, exiting onto a two-lane road.
 
Dean was excited when he realized they were at the hotel.
 
He checked in and they carried his bags to the room.
 
Dean dropped his bag by the door.  “How long do we have?”
 
Cas looked at his phone.  “An hour and a half.”
 
Dean nodded, pulling his shirt off, throwing it to the floor.
 
Cas grinned, pushing his shoes off.  
 
They had talked about this.  Planned for it.  Arranged their schedule to eke out time alone.  They needed it.  They both admitted over their laptops how badly they craved the other’s touch.  
 
Dean took a few steps, pushing his own shoes off, kissing Cas, and pulling Cas’ shirt off all in one rush.
 
Little noises of elation, need, appreciation, want, and lust was the only language spoken as the pair tumbled onto the bed, fighting the rest of their clothes off.
 
They talked every day.  So many words.  What they needed was touch.  Physical heat.  They kissed every stretch of skin and ran their hands over each other like this could be their final moment together.
 
Huddled in their rooms at night, whispering over hundreds of miles to each other, they had even discussed this very moment.
 
There had been so many teasing words.  Enough that they ended calls hard as granite and tortured.
 
Dean had been experimenting with a plug.  He had one he liked, and Cas was excited for him.
 
The plan, so beautifully unfolding now, was like being in a hazy dream.  He opened Cas while mouthing and sucking his cock.  Cas, in turn, opened him enough for the plug, pushing it in.  It was almost enough to make Dean lose it.  But he rallied, returning his focus to Cas.  
 
As he slid inside, Cas gripped the remote to Dean’s toy.  
 
“God, I wanna last forever,” Dean almost cried, fucking Cas with deep, steady pounding.
 
“Faster,” Cas panted, clinging to Dean, moaning, and watching, and kissing him.
 
Dean pulled out, making Cas gasp.  He rolled Cas over, eliciting a needy moan from him, making him grip Cas’ legs, hoist his hips higher and plunge inside.  It didn’t matter if Cas never touched a button on the plug, it was there, solidly parked in his ass, rubbing, jutting against his prostate, making him mad with lust as he fucked harder into Cas.
 
“Now,” Cas begged, one hand gripping the headboard while the other braced against the mattress, remote gripped tight.  “Now, Dean!”
 
Dean knew what he wanted, but he took his time about getting there, sliding his hands over Cas’ ass, gripping as he went.  His hands swept up Cas’ back, feeling his straining muscles beneath his hot skin.
 
“Deeeean,” Cas gasped.
 
Dean chuckled dark and low as one hand gripped Cas’ hip and the other slid around to grip his cock, stroking.  He worked abs he didn’t know he had to keep fucking into him and stroke at the same time.
 
He felt Cas buck beneath him, buck again and suddenly a world of blissful madness gripped his entire body, mind, and soul.
 
Cas came, he could feel hot, wet come, hear Cas’ broken cry.  The plug kicked into vibration and Dean, already on the verge of coming, came in a frenzy so blinding that all he could do was fuck and hold on.
 
Cas had enough wherewithal to turn it off shortly after and they both wilted onto the bed.
 
Weak as a rag doll, Dean pulled Cas into his arms, kissing the top of his head.  “I love you.  I miss you so bad, Cas.”
 
“I love you too.”  He looked up at Dean, eyes desperate.  “Dean, stay here with me.  Please.  Move here with me.  I hate being apart.”
 
Dean smiled, kissing him again.  “Let’s...let’s see how this weekend goes.  Then we’ll talk about it again, okay?”
 
Cas pushed up onto one elbow, kissing him.  “You’ll think about it?  Moving here?”
 
Dean grinned.  How could he possibly love someone so much?  It was overwhelming.  “I’ll think about it, Cas.”
 
Cas nodded.  “We could live at my house or I’ll sell it and we’ll buy something we both like.  You could do construction here.  You could not work at all and help me with Jack.”
 
Dean chuckled.  “Ooohh, a kept man.  I like it.”  He chuckled again, kissing Cas to shut him up.
 
Cas pulled back.  “I might be able to move to Pennsylvania too.  I just -”
 
“Cas,” Dean cut him off with a kiss.  “Let’s just enjoy this weekend.  “No more worrying about it until Sunday.”
 
Cas nodded.  “Think about it,” he whispered.
 
“I will.  I am,” Dean assured him.
 
They exchanged soft ‘I love you’s, kissing and holding each other.
 
 
*******************************************
 
 
Cleaned up and souls buoyed by their stop at the hotel, Dean and Cas arrived at Cas’ house.
 
“This house is nice!” Dean grinned, getting out of the car to look at the two-story cape cod style house.  It was brick and wood sided with dormers that looked like they could use a little attention.
 
“Thank you,” Cas grinned, coming around his car.  It had a one car garage and a sleek, banana-yellow sports car in the driveway next to Cas’ pimp mobile.
 
Dean followed him along the narrow sidewalk to the front door.  He adjusted his shirt again, nervous about meeting Jack.  And a little terrified of just what Gabe might say since he knew about the whole Anna debacle.
 
He followed Cas through the front door and into a small foyer that was open to the staircase, a small living room, and an office.  The living room looked more like a play room.
 
“Hello!” Cas called, walking straight ahead and into the familiar kitchen Dean often saw while on video calls.
 
The kitchen took up the entire back of the house.  It was white and dark gray with tile floors.  All the cabinet, counters, and appliances were on the left.  A table and chairs were right in front of him, and to the right was a family room, open completely to the kitchen.
 
“Hey!” Gabe called back, getting up from the couch.  
 
“Hi, Gabe,” Dean greeted with a wave.
 
Gabe came right up to him, giving him a hug.
 
“Oh,” Dean chuckled, hugging him back with a pat.
 
“Good to finally see you here,” Gabe went on, sitting at the table.
 
Dean’s attention was all on Jack now.  He stood next to a recliner, hugging the side of it as he watched him.  A snake almost the length of Jack’s height was tucked into his elbow, peeking out at him.
 
“Hi, Jack,” Dean grinned.
 
Jack bit his lips together, studying him shyly.
 
“Hello, Felix,” he added for good measure.
 
“Come on, kid.  He won’t bite,” Gabe waved.
 
“That’s okay,” Dean smiled.  “But I did bring you some presents.”
 
Jack leaned forward but did not take a step.
 
Dean turned to Cas with a grin.  “Nice place.”
 
Cas shook his head.  “I had intended on having it show ready.  But it was a crazy week.  Gabe just got back from Mexico.”
 
“Yeah, and not the fun resort spots.  These farm trips are killin’ me.”
 
“What do you grow in Mexico?” Dean asked.
 
“Limes, oranges, grapefruit, lemon,” Gabe listed.
 
Dean nodded.  “It sounds fun to me.  Except the flying part.”
 
“Dean hates flying,” Cas said.
 
“Huh.  And until lately, I can’t keep Cas off planes.  Every time I’d turn around, Cas is off here or there.”
 
Dean nodded.  He could care less if Cas wanted to live on a plane.  He was so in love at the moment that he’d agree to anything.
 
“Oh!”  Dean put his duffle bag on the floor, opening the zipper.  “Claire wanted me to give you this.”  He pulled a sock monkey hat out of his bag.  He had been giggling at Claire wearing one last week. From where he knelt next to the bag, he held it out to Jack.
 
Jack glanced at Cas and Gabe before coming slowly into the kitchen.  He studied Dean, holding his snake up to almost cover his face.
 
He came closer, lowering Felix.  Dean leaned a little further, letting Jack take the hat.
 
He watched as Jack grinned at it and then up at Gabe.  “Claire is my friend.”
 
Gabe arched an eyebrow.  “I know Claire too.”
 
Jack shook his head no.
 
“I do too!” Gabe laughed.
 
Jack looked at Dean for confirmation.  “They’ve met.  But he doesn’t know her as well as you do.”
 
Jack grinned, dropped Felix and put the hat on his head with a grin.
 
“Aww!  Wait until Claire sees you in that!” Dean laughed.
 
Jack grabbed Felix and ran back to the family room with a grin.
 
Dean stood up and grinned at Cas.  “I have made first contact,” he said quietly, giving Cas a wink.
 
Cas laughed, sitting at the table.  “Nicely done.”
 
“Well, I’m gonna go,” Gabe sighed.  “I gotta call Eileen and let her know the citrus line is a go for her latest concoction.”
 
“See you tomorrow,” Cas nodded.  “Thanks for watching Jack.”
 
Gabe turned to Dean as he stood up.  “Dean-O, see ya tomorrow.  And just so ya know, Abner is a southpaw.  So watch out for that left hook.”
 
Dean closed his eyes.  Freaking Gabriel.  When he opened them, Cas was giving his brother a smiting glare.
 
“Later peeps.”  He turned to the family room.  “John Jacob Jingleheimer Jack!”
 
Jack came running to him for a hug.  Gabe yanked his hat over his eyes before scooping him up.  “Aw!  What a cute monkey!”
 
Jack laughed, shoving the hat back.  They hugged and Gabe set him on his feet again, heading out the front door.
 
Dean sighed as Jack ran back to the family room.  He was hopeful that this could work.  But he’d never really been around kids before.  Not since Sam and him were kids themselves.
 
 
***********************************************
 
 
Castiel slid his hand into Dean’s as they sat side by side on the couch.  His heart had never felt so full.  Dean was an absolute natural with kids.  He hoped Dean realized just how remarkable it was that Jack was even willingly staying in the same room as him.  Though Jack entertained himself most of the evening, playing with his Lego bricks and dinosaurs, he noticed Jack giving Dean looks of curiosity.
 
Dean took his hand, his head dropping onto his shoulder before righting it quickly.  They were trying to be careful to not touch too much in front of Jack.  
 
Holding his hand was pushing it, but Cas just couldn’t care.  He was here!  Flesh and blood, here, in his house!
 
Dean put a foot up on the coffee table, squeezing Cas’ hand snugly.  “What’s the plan for dinner?”
 
“Well, Jack thought you would want fish, but I insisted on burgers.”
 
“Good call,” Dean grinned.  “I only eat fish on Thursdays.”  He winked at Jack, who looked back at his dinosaurs.
 
“Hungry?” Cas asked quieter.
 
Their eyes met and Dean swept a thumb over Cas’ hand.  Intimately, he said, “so, so hungry.”
 
Castiel’s cheeks flushed as heat coiled inside him.  The hotel had been...amazing.  He wasn’t sure how much more amazed he could get by Dean.  But he was so head over heels it was gag worthy.  “Come on.”
 
They went into the kitchen where Cas began pulling food out.  He put fries on a baking sheet and put them in the oven.
 
“Want me to do the burgers?” Dean asked.
 
Cas turned, about to say yes, when he saw Jack standing next to Dean, looking up at him.  Dean followed his gaze, grinning down at Jack.
 
“You ready for some presents?” Dean asked.
 
Jack nodded.
 
Dean rubbed his hands together, sitting on the floor in excitement as he opened his bag.  
 
Castiel’s heart just might burst.
 
He worked slowly, watching as Dean pulled five new matchbox cars out of his bag, giving them to Jack, who had sat on the floor with him.
 
“Wow!” Jack looked at each one carefully.  “It’s an ice cream truck!” He pointed, looking at Dean in shock.
 
“Right?!  How cool is that?!” Dean answered, making Castiel chuckle at how adorable he was.
 
Castiel flipped the burgers and pulled the fries out.
 
“Okay,” Dean said excitedly.  “Those are cool,” he pointed to the now unpackaged cars, “but this is the coolest of all.  Are you ready?”
 
Jack nodded as Dean put his hand in the duffle bag.
 
“Nooo, I don’t think you’re ready.”
 
“I am!” Jack jumped up, looking like it was Christmas.
 
“Are you sure?”
 
“What is it?” Jack jumped up and sat down again, scooting right up to the bag, watching Dean with wide, excited eyes.
 
“So, I was shopping...and I saw this...and I thought, man, Jack HAS to have this.”
 
“You did?” Jack asked.
 
Dean nodded.
 
Cas jumped, pulling the burgers off the skillet before burning them, anxious to see just what Dean had brought.  He had not said a word about it before coming.
 
He pulled a medium size plastic bag out of his bag.  It was bulging with something.  He sat it on the floor in front of Jack.
 
“Go ahead,” Dean grinned.
 
Jack studied the bag that was tied shut at the top.  He scooted an inch closer to it and ripped the bag open.  His gasp of wonderment had Cas stepping closer to peek.
 
As the plastic bag tore, a pile of old matchbox cars spilled out.
 
“WOW!”
 
“These are cooler because they’re from way back when I was kid,” Dean said, picking up a few.
 
“Daddy, look!” Jack said, already shifting over to start lining them up.
 
Cas almost felt bad that dinner was ready.  “Very cool!”
 
He set the table while Jack and Dean set the cars in lines and began rolling them down a cutting board Dean had swiped from the countertop.  
 
“Come on you two,” Cas grinned.  
 
Jack got to his seat, Dean just behind him.  They enjoyed their meal together, Jack saying little, but looking comfortable, which was a minor miracle in itself.
 
After dinner, Jack busied himself making elaborate roads and ramps all over the kitchen.
 
“Want the tour?” Cas asked with a flirty grin.
 
“Yeah,” Dean grinned back just as flirty.  Off the family room was a short hall with three doors.  “This isn’t going to take long enough,” Dean teased.
 
Cas opened the first door.  “This is Jack’s room.”
 
“Nice!”  Dean marveled at all the little guy had.  “Man, he’s a lucky kid, Cas.  I always wanted a room like this.  This was something I only saw at friend’s houses when I was a kid.  Rooms cluttered with toys and games.  Pictures on the walls.  A bed.”  Jack’s was tan and blue with several Marvel character pillows.  Dean tapped the top helicopter blades of a toy on Jack’s dresser.
 
“We do tend to spoil him a bit,” Cas admitted.  
 
They stepped out and Cas opened the next door.  It was a tiny bathroom.
 
They stepped out and Cas opened the last door.  His bedroom.  Dean walked in.  As he looked around, Cas wondered just what he thought.
 
“I like this room.”
 
Cas shut the door, catching Dean’s wrist.  Dean turned, letting himself be easily pulled into a warm kiss that quickly escalated when Cas backed him into the door.
 
He ran his hands under Dean’s shirt, claiming, to the best of his ability, the warm skin he wanted so badly.
 
Dean leaned away from the door, giving him more room, more skin.  With one hand, he slid down, gripping the edge of Dean’s jeans until he let go, sliding further to cup one cheek of his ass.  Dean groaned, making Cas chuckle.  He gripped his hips and pulled out of the kiss.
 
“Did I mention that I like this room?” Dean panted, grinning with his eyes still closed.
 
“You did.”
 
They stood apart, straightening their clothes quickly to leave the cozy room.
 
Back in the hall, Cas cleared his throat.  “The stairs go to the second floor that is still only roughed in.”
 
Dean, sobering his dreamy grin, asked, ”Why haven’t you finished it?”
 
Cas began going upstairs.  “Mm, lack of time, money, and know-how.”
 
At the top, the stairs led to a landing with three doors.  Two on the left and one on the right. He opened the door to the left.  “This would be a great fourth bedroom or a nice walk-in closet.” One room was smaller than the other.
 
Dean nodded, eyeing the studs framing the room. The third door, the one on the right, was opened last.
 
“Okay,” Dean grinned, looking around seeming to see much more than Cas could.  “This is the master bedroom.”
 
Cas nodded.  “Yes, I thought it would make a nice master suite someday.  Access to a bathroom and then the closets or a spare room.”
 
Dean nodded, studying the wood framing as he slowly circled the room.  “I could picture the bedroom with a bathroom over here.” He stopped in front of Cas, speaking quietly.  “I think my cars were a hit.”
 
Castiel grinned, kissing him chastely.  “They were a huge hit.  What made you think of it?”
 
Dean shrugged.  “Kids love cars.  And the old metal ones are the best.”
 
Cas settled his hands-on Dean’s hips.  “I meant what I said, Dean.  Move here with me.  Help me make this house a home.”
 
Dean’s green eyes shaded with worry.  “I said I’d think about it, Cas.  And I am.  Promise.”
 
It was all he could ask for.  Asking Dean to move was a lot.  But he was so tied to Heaven Scent that he could not just move.  He and Charlie had sat down at lunch yesterday and seriously strategized it.  He would have to fly back to Chicago once a month at least to handle things.  And while he would do it if he had to, he really preferred to stay in Illinois.
 
But he would move if Dean wouldn’t.  And he would have to be patient and let Dean come to terms with just how serious this relationship was.
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 13:  Lemongrass Farm
 
 
 
Dean took a deep breath, breathing in the cleansing scent of lemongrass.  Fields of it stretched out on either side of the lane Cas drove on.  A white farmhouse sat dead ahead with a huge porch and brick patio in front.  It was all so peaceful.  But his insides buzzed with nerves.
 
He pulled his Calming Peace roll-on out of his pocket and rolled some on his wrists and over his heart.  
 
Cas reached over and gave his hand a squeeze.  They exchanged a quick glance, Dean’s nervous, Cas’ encouraging.
 
They pulled up to the house.  Dean could see Gabe and another man sitting at a large table on the brick patio in front of the house.  Fields stretched out almost as far as Dean could see.  He got out of the car, getting a wave from Gabe.
 
Cas helped Jack get out and he took off for the porch, running inside, waving his hello as he ran.  Cas came around the car, taking Dean by the hand.  “Come on.  It’ll be fine.”
 
Dean swallowed nervously as they neared the table.  
 
“Hey, Dean!” Gabe grinned.  “This is Crowley, Crowley, this is Castiel’s boyfriend, Dean.”
 
“Hello,” Crowley said smoothly in a British accent.  “Heard loads about you.”
 
Crowley gave him a mischievous grin.  Gabe scoffing behind him.
 
Before Dean could even begin to stress about it, Cas whacked Crowley on the shoulder, making him wince and chuckle.
 
Dean nodded.  So, it was gonna be like that, huh.
 
Jack came out the screen door carrying a basket full of utensils and napkins to put on the table.
 
“Hey, Jackpot,” Gabe grinned, groaning with a laugh when Jack climbed up to his lap.  “Whatsa matter?  Is it nap time?”
 
“No,” Jack said quietly, his head resting easily on Gabe’s chest.
 
Dean noticed how comfortable Gabe was with him.  And how Jack said nothing to Crowley.
 
“Did you have fun last night?” Gabe asked Jack quietly.
 
Jack looked up at him with a grin.  “He gave me lots of cars.”
 
Gabe’s eyes met Dean’s.  “He did?  Like, real cars?  Where are you gonna park all those cars?  You can’t even drive!”
 
“No, silly!” Jack sat up, pulling two matchbox cars out of his little pockets.  “These cars!”
 
“Oooh,” Gabe grinned, looking at them.
 
Dean looked up when the screen door opened again.
 
A red-head came out, grin wide and friendly looking.  Dean narrowed his eyes.  That was not the Anna he remembered.  Could it have all been a big misunderstanding?  His hopes began to climb as she came down the porch steps.
 
Cas, still beside him, said, “Dean, this is Charlie Bradbury.  Charlie, this is Dean.”
 
Damn.
 
Dean grinned, shaking her tiny hand.  “Hi.”
 
“So glad to meet you!” Charlie said, moving on to the table.  “Cas talks about you all the time!”
 
Dean grinned as Cas rolled his eyes, motioning for Dean to have a seat at the table next to him.
 
“Really?” Dean teased, bumping Cas’ knee with his.  
 
They chatted easily for several minutes before the screen door opened again and Anna and Abner came out carrying a huge platter of barbecue chicken and a large salad.
 
Dean and Cas stood as they sat the dishes on the table.
 
“Anna, Abner, this is Dean,” Cas introduced with just a trace of tightness to his voice.
 
“Hi, Dean,” Anna grinned, shaking his hand.
 
“Hey,” he managed.  Yep, that was her.
 
Abner gave him a nod to which Dean just nodded back.
 
Ugh.
 
“How’s Sam?” Anna asked.
 
“Good!  Real good.  Practicing law finally.”
 
“Oh, that’s great!”
 
If Anna was nervous, she hid it very well.  Abner, on the other hand, kept tight to her side, even putting his arm around her.
 
Dean kept his comments light and brief, hoping to blend into the background at some point.
 
Jack moved to his own seat next to Cas and they began eating.  The weather was warm enough that they were comfortable, but the season was new enough that the bugs were sparse, making it a perfect day to eat outside.
 
Dean listened and smiled as the family ate and talked around him. He answered all questions easily enough.
 
“So, are you thinking about moving here?” Charlie asked, her eyes bouncing between him and Cas.
 
“Uh, yeah.  We’re...talking about it.”
 
Charlie nodded.
 
“You gonna work?” Abner asked coolly.
 
“Uh,” Dean glanced at Cas, wondering where a question like that came from.  “Yeah.  I always do.  Good thing about construction.  People have houses everywhere.”
 
Abner tore his chicken apart, still staring at Dean.  “Figured you might be counting on living off Cas.”
 
Dean stared back coldly.  “I’ve never lived off anyone.  Wouldn’t start now.”
 
The conversations had died, everyone either staring or averting their gaze.
 
“I heard you work on roofs,” Charlie piped in.  “I lost a bunch of shingles on my place this winter.  Is that a bad sign?”
 
Dean tore his gaze from Abner to glance at her more kindly.  “Could be.  When was it replaced last?”
 
She shrugged.  “I’ve lived there for three years now.  Not sure how old they are.”
 
Dean pushed salad around on his plate again.  “I can look at it for you, if you want.”
 
“That would be great!”  She glanced around, going back to her own meal as the rest ate quietly.
 
He almost jumped at the feel of Cas’ hand on his back, rubbing gently.  He gave Cas a small grin.
 
“He played cars with me,” Jack said, looking like he sensed the strain on the adults.
 
Abner, catching Jack’s pointed look, grinned.  “Good.”
 
“And he’s a teddy bear doctor.”
 
Dean blushed.  Cas chuckled.  Gabe looked like he was all over this one.  Charlie and Anna ‘awwed’.  Crowley outright laughed.
 
“On Thursdays,” Jack said quietly, going back to his dinner.
 
“That is adorbs!” Gabe smirked.  “Tell me, do you repair Funko Pops?”
 
Dean chuckled.  “I don’t, but I could show you where to put one.”
 
Gabe, Crowley, Cas, Charlie, and Anna laughed at that.
 
When dinner was finished, they all took their plates and dishes inside, congregating in the kitchen to pack up leftovers.
 
Dean had just handed his plate to Anna when Jack tugged on his sleeve.  Dean looked down, more thankful than Jack could have known.
 
“Wanna see my birdhouse?”
 
“Yes, I do!” Dean grinned.
 
Jack took his hand, pulling him from the crowd.  They went out to the large porch, down the steps, and a quarter of a mile to a grove of trees.
 
“That one!” Jack pointed.
 
“Wow,” Dean said.  It was wooden and completely homemade.  He peeked in the small circle in the front.  “Somebody is living in there.”
 
Jack nodded proudly.  “Abner made it with me.”
 
“Nice,” Dean remarked.  He glanced around at the trees and farm land around them.  He looked down, seeing Jack standing there with a very thoughtful expression.
 
“Whatcha thinkin’ about?” Dean asked, heading back to the house slowly, Jack joining him.
 
“Are you gonna move here?”
 
Dean blew a breath out.  “I don’t know yet.  Why?”
 
“Are you gonna move upstairs?”
 
Dean grinned.  He could finish that master suite and sleep with Cas every night.  Man, that sounded so good.
 
“That sounds like fun.  But I don’t know.  I have a brother at home.  Friends.  A job.”
 
Jack nodded.  “Wanna see where the tadpoles are?”
 
Dean chuckled.  Oh, to be five.  “Yeah!”
 
 
***************************************
 
 
Cas stared across the yard at Dean moving from puddle to puddle as Jack showed him the tadpoles.  He leaned against the porch railing and sipped his iced tea.  
 
Abner came out the screen door, Anna on his heels.  She quit saying whatever she was talking about when they caught sight of Dean.
 
Abner sat on the porch swing, Anna joining him.  Charlie was perched on the railing, watching Jack and Dean with a grin.
 
Crowley came out, surveying them all.  “Well, this was lovely.”
 
Anna smiled up at him.  “How’s Meg?”
 
Crowley looked up in thought.  “Feisty.”
 
Gabe came up the porch steps from wiping the table off.  “Cassie?”
 
Cas turned to look at him.
 
“He’s a good guy.”
 
Cas nodded.  “I know.”
 
Gabe gave Abner a warning look.  His brother-in-law looked away with a smile but didn’t argue.
 
“Is he really thinking about moving here?” Anna asked.
 
“Yes,” Castiel answered more confidently than he actually felt.
 
“Jack seems to approve,” Crowley noted.
 
“Yeah, I heard all about ‘him’ through dinner,” Gabe chuckled.
 
“It’s quite remarkable, really,” Cas murmured.  “Last night when I tucked him in, he asked if ‘he’ could come to Anna’s today.”
 
“Does he know you two are dating?” Charlie asked.
 
“Yes.  I’ve talked about it a lot since we made plans for Dean to visit.  So far, he seems fine with it.”
 
“That might not be what the judge thinks,” Crowley interjected.
 
Cas turned to him with a steely gaze.
 
Crowley glanced around.  “What?  That’s what you keep me around for, right?  To say the juicy bits you think won’t come to light.”
 
Cas rolled his eyes, turning back to see Dean and Jack nearing the porch.
 
Jack veered to the right, heading to the shed where his bike was kept, while Dean mounted the steps.  He sat on the porch, feet on the steps.
 
Cas came to join him.
 
“Showed me his birdhouse,” Dean said, stealing a drink of his tea.
 
“We’ll leave soon.”  Cas did not elaborate, and he was thankful Dean did not press him.  Why did his family have to make everything so complicated?
 
“Come on, let’s play horseshoes,” Gabe announced, passing them on the steps.  “Charlie?”
 
“Team Gabriel, here I come!”  She hopped off the railing to join him alongside the house.
 
“Come on, Cassie, you and Dean can play against us!” Gabe yelled.
 
Cas looked at Dean.
 
Dean gave him a wink, pecked him on the lips and hopped up.  He got up, letting some space grow between him and Dean before he turned to Crowley.
 
“Do you really think it will be a problem?  To the judge?”
 
Crowley shrugged slowly, watching Dean join the others.  “I’ll look into some things.”  He met Castiel’s worried look.  “If it is a problem, I’ll see what I can do.”
 
Cas relaxed a bit.  “Thank you.”
 
“Anytime, Castiel.  What are henchmen for?”
 
Cas climbed up onto the porch.  “You are not a henchman.”
 
Crowley evaded his probing look.  He’d had a questionable past before joining Heaven Scent.  But he had fought hard to leave that life behind him.  Castiel wished his friend would forgive himself and enjoy his new lifestyle out of his mother’s grasp.
 
“You are my friend and I value your opinion.”
 
Crowley grinned shyly, nodding.  “I’ll look into this judge and see what her deal is.”
 
“Thank you.”  Castiel gave his arm a squeeze and left him to join the others playing horseshoes.
 
 
**********************************
 
 
Dean tossed his third horseshoe, wincing as it hit the spike and bounced several inches away.
 
“Jack seems to really like you,” Gabe said, lining himself up to take his turn.
 
“Yeah, I think so.  He’s a good kid.”
 
Gabe tossed one, landing it perfectly.  “He’s a good judge of character.”
 
“What’s the deal with Crowley?”
 
“Family friend.  Went to boarding school with our cousin Balthazar.  He’d bring him here on holiday because Crowley would do anything to avoid going home.  Apparently his mom is quite a witch.”
 
Dean nodded.
 
Gabe turned to him.  “You serious about my brother?”
 
Dean met his gaze easily. “Yeah.  Dude.  I was straight until I met him.”
 
“Yeah,” Gabe grinned wryly.  “We know.”
 
Dean sighed.  “It’s never gonna go away, is it?”
 
Gabe snickered.  “Not to me!  But hey, my fiancée slept with plenty of people I know.  We got past it.”  He frowned.  “That might have been a bad example.”
 
Dean shook his head.  “You aren’t dating her again, are you?”
 
“Hells no.  I finally learned my lesson.  Besides, poor Cassie had to call 54 people on her side of the family to tell them the wedding was off.  And another 50 on my side.”
 
They both gave Cas a pitying look.
 
“The shit you do for your family.”
 
Dean chuckled.  “I’d do it for Sam in a heartbeat.  It’s just part of being a brother.”
 
Gabe nodded. “When do I get to meet the elusive Sam?”
 
Dean shrugged.  “At the wedding.”
 
“Whoa!” Gabe half laughed, half choked, making Dean laugh.
 
“Come on, you two!” Charlie yelled.
 
“Keep your Wonder Woman briefs on!” Gabe yelled back.
 
Gabe stared at him for a moment.  “Ya know, when I met you in Recife, I never would’ve guessed we would be here today.”
 
Dean stared down the yard at Cas who sent him a wink.  “Me either.  But...much to Abner’s disapproval, I’m pretty sure it’s where I belong.”
 
Gabe scrunched his mouth up.  “You asking for my blessing, Winchester?”
 
“No,” Dean laughed.
 
“Alright.”  He lined himself up again, tossing his horseshoe.  “Better not fuck this up though.”  His horseshoe landed perfectly.
 
“Yeah, I’m tryin’ not to.”
 
 
 
********************************************
 
 
 
Dean spent the rest of the day touring the small town Cas lived in.  They went to an ice cream parlor at one of the strip malls and, in general, enjoyed a relaxing day together.
 
They went to Castiel’s before it got dark.  Jack was quiet everywhere they went, always watching people and studying everything.  He was curious and asked a lot of good questions, usually to Cas, but even Dean got a few questions.
 
When they got home, Cas set Jack up for a bath, giving them a solid ten-minute make-out session in the living room.
 
They settled in to watch a movie.  Dean sat in the corner seat of the couch with Cas next to him.  Jack snuggled into Castiel’s side.  
 
Before the movie was half over, Jack was sound asleep.
 
“I’m gonna put him to bed,” Cas said.
 
Dean nodded, watching Cas pick him up and carry him to his room.
 
Dean glanced over, seeing Felix laying there.  He grinned, picking up the toy and taking it back to Jack’s room.
 
“Forgot somebody,” he whispered, taking it in quietly.
 
Cas grinned, taking the toy and tucking it into Jack’s embrace.
 
They left quietly, going back into the living room.  Not interested in the movie, they moved into the kitchen to sit at the table and have a beer.
 
“You’re a good dad, Cas.”
 
Cas sat two bottles on the table with a soft grin.  “Thank you.  It isn’t always this pleasant.”
 
Dean grinned hard imagining Cas rushing in the morning or getting flustered with some other aspect of parenting.  “I feel like I’m parenting a teenager again,” Dean admitted.  “Don’t get me wrong, Claire’s great, and I’m certainly not her dad, but I had to give her a lecture about cleaning up after herself in the bathroom.”
 
Cas chuckled.
 
“Girls shed.  Did you know that?  She leaves hamster size hairballs in the drain!”
 
Cas laughed.
 
“I’m serious!  Like,” he caged his hands in demonstration.
 
“She is very lucky to have befriended you.”
 
Dean shrugged.  “Honestly, it beats living alone.  I don’t like that as much as I thought I would.”
 
Cas gave him a warm grin.
 
Dean took a long drink of his beer.  He looked around the kitchen.  It felt really good here.  He let himself daydream about living here in Illinois.  Pictured his things meshing with Cas’.
 
“Do you want more kids?” Dean asked.
 
Cas stared at his beer thoughtfully.  “I’m still working hard to get Jack.  But yes.  I would not be opposed to it.  I liked having brothers and a sister.”  He looked at Dean.  “What about you?”
 
“Yeah.  I mean, not too many.  Two.  Three tops.”
 
Cas nodded with a grin.
 
A muffled noise came from the direction of Jack’s room.  Cas got up, immediately looking worried.
 
“I’ll be back.  Jack has nightmares sometimes.”
 
Dean listened as he heard Cas talking softly and Jack cry a little before his little voice could be heard too.  He busied himself cleaning up the living room until Cas returned with an apologetic grin and a pink-faced Jack on his hip.
 
Dean put the last of the toys in a bin beside the TV.
 
“See?” Cas said, “he’s still here.”
 
“Hey, buddy,” Dean said, surprised over the little boy’s concern.
 
“He had a dream a monster was after you,” Cas explained.
 
“I’m good, little man,” Dean said, tugging Felix’s tail gently.
 
“It was chasing you,” Jack whimpered.
 
Cas looked stunned when Jack leaned forward, reaching for Dean.  Dean took him easily, rocking him slightly.  He and Cas exchanged a shared look of surprise and then pity.
 
Dean turned, walking just a few steps away as Jack clung to him in a hug.
 
“Hey,” he whispered, still feeling how scared his little body felt.  Jack turned his head, looking at him.  “I gotta tell ya, kiddo, I wouldn’t be running from any monsters.  They might run from me.”
 
Jack swallowed with a sniffle, staring at him.
 
“See, I know how to beat ALL the monsters.  You name it and I know just how to stop them.”
 
Jack sat up, wiping his cheek off, repositioning Felix.
 
“Go ahead,” he grinned.  “What kind of monster?”
 
“A vampire.”
 
“Holy water,” Dean said with absolute certainty.  “Throw holy water on them and they run away scared.”
 
Jack studied him.  “Wh-what about werewolves?”
 
“Iron.  I’d shoo it away with an iron crowbar.”  He jousted with one hand in demonstration.
 
Jack looked intrigued.  “Well, what about witches?”
 
“Ew!  Witches.  They don’t like fire.”
 
Jack nodded like there was going to be a test.

“Ghosts?”

Dean glanced around. What the hell could hurt a ghost? “Salt,” he spat, catching sight of the salt and pepper shakers on the table. “Yep, they hate salt. They disappear or run away moaning.”
 
“Demons?”
 
Dean frowned.  How did a five-year-old know about demons?  “They don’t like holy water either.”  
 
Jack looked at him tensely, like this information might actually save his life one day.
 
“And,” he added, “Cas has super powers that if he just touches them,” he put his hand on Jack’s head, “poof!  They get zapped away.”
 
Jack looked at him doubtfully.
 
Dean leaned in whispering, “It’s part of why I like him so much.”
 
Jack grinned.
 
Dean’s heart skipped a beat.
 
“He is powerful.”
 
Dean nodded as they both looked at Cas.
 
Cas lifted his hands with a serious look.
 
“So, no more bad dreams for you,” Dean said.
 
Jack wilted onto him, hugging him.
 
Dean exchanged a smile with Cas that projected his thanks and love, making Dean’s heart soar all the higher.
 
They sat down on the couch again, Jack nestled between them.
 
Cas turned the TV on low to watch a home improvement show.  Only moments into it, Jack was fast asleep, clutching the open row of buttons on his flannel shirt.
 
His eyes drifted closed several times with the warm feeling of Jack and Cas.
 
He yawned, tipping his head back to look at Cas.  “I better go,” he whispered.
 
The joy in Cas’ blue eyes dialed down to sad resignation.  He slid his hand over, taking Dean’s and lay his head on Dean’s shoulder, making Dean REALLY not want to leave.
 
He only had a few hours with Cas tomorrow.  The thought made him squeeze Cas’ hand even tighter.
 
An hour later, waking with a sore neck, Dean knew if he didn’t leave, he would end up staying all night.  It was important to him to do this right.  
 
He got up slowly, waking Cas as he moved.  Cas sat up blinking adorably.  Dean stood, turning Jack to carry him better and put him to bed.  When he stepped out of Jack’s room, Cas led him into his own room, closing the door.
 
His kiss was warm and slow, opening only a little, teasing him into arousal.
 
“Don’t go,” Cas whispered against his lips.
 
“I gotta,” he whispered back, opening further as Cas deepened the kiss.
 
They stopped, their foreheads leaning together, breathing each other in.
 
“Dean, what you did for Jack...”
 
Dean grinned, threading all his fingers through Cas’ thick hair.  
 
“I love you,” Cas said softly.
 
“I love you too,” Dean said back just as gently.
 
He kissed Cas one more time.  “How ‘bout I take your car and I’ll be back in the morning.  Early.”
 
“Really early,” Cas pouted, making Dean want to crawl in bed with him even more.
 
“Really early.”
 
 
 
**********************************
 
 
 
Castiel woke up to Jack pushing on him.  “Daddy!  He’s at the door!”
 
He lifted his head groggily.  “Who’s at the door?”  He got up, following Jack down the hall.
 
“Deeeeean!”
 
Castiel laughed.  His heart felt lighter than it had in a long time.  He unlocked the door, letting Dean in.
 
“Morning Sunshine!” He kissed Cas, one simple peck and bit his lip.  “Oops.”  He looked down at Jack guiltily.
 
“I’m having cereal,” Jack said, the gesture not affecting him in the slightest.  He ran back to the kitchen.
 
“Sorry,” Dean chuckled.
 
Cas grinned.  “I don’t care.”  He kissed Dean again and closed the door.
 
“You said early,” Dean reminded him.
 
“I did.”
 
“I brought reinforcements.”  He lifted a cardboard tray holding two coffees and a bag, by the smell, promising something with bacon.
 
“You are amazing,” Castiel sighed, taking a coffee.
 
They had breakfast and enjoyed a lazy morning around the house.  Jack was quiet but at ease around Dean the way he was with their family.  It was a really good sign.  This could absolutely work.
 
“Dean,” Cas said, sitting next to him on the couch when Jack had disappeared to his room to play, “I would love for you to move here.  Or...I can try to make it work moving there.”
 
Dean put his arm around Cas, pulling him snuggly against him.  “I promise I’m seriously considering it.  I just need to...I don’t know...check my lease and...”
 
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pressure you.”  He hoped he was not coming across as desperate, but the thought of Dean leaving today made his stomach clench miserably.
 
“What about Jack?  What about the custody stuff?  I don’t want to mess anything up for him.”
 
Cas shook his head no.  “I’ll talk to him about it.  But Dean...I love you.  I’ve waited my whole life for someone like you.  I don’t want to wait anymore.”
 
Dean’s grin grew as he kissed him.  “I think I want to, Cas.  I just need to...it’s a big decision.  I need to be sure it’s best for all of us.”
 
Cas sighed with a happy grin, resting his head on Dean’s shoulder.
 
“I had a really good time this weekend,” Dean said, lacing his fingers with Castiel’s.
 
“Me too.”  Castiel took every moment, savoring every touch.
 
“Cas, how does Jack know about demons?”
 
Cas sighed, sitting up to prop his elbow on the back of the couch so he could turn to Dean more.  “Lucifer lets him watch horror movies.  He has been exposed to so much.  When he’s with him, he has no structure.  No rules.  No protection from whatever Lucifer is doing.”
 
“How did he turn out so differently than the rest of you?” Dean asked, truly looking baffled.
 
Cas sighed.  “Well, Father was...more cruel to him.  Much harder on him.  There was nothing we could do about it, but he has a lot of resentment towards us for it.  He’s a very angry, jaded person.”
 
Dean nodded.  “I hope I didn’t give Jack false hope about fighting off monsters.”
 
Cas could not believe how wonderful Dean was.  “You gave him ways to fight without being violent about it.  It was perfect.”
 
Dean’s eyes flicked down to his mouth with a grin.  “I’d like to see you demon hunting.”
 
Castiel grinned.  “I think you have a thing for me getting physical.”
 
“Mmm.  Maybe I do.”
 
Their stare was electric.
 
“When will Gabe be here?”
 
Cas glanced at the clock.  “One hour.”
 
Dean settled back, quite obviously stowing all the lust that had bloomed so quickly.
 
 
 
********************************************
 
 
 
Dean had not anticipated how hard it would be to say goodbye to Jack.  The little guy looked truly sad when he left.  What had gotten him most was when he ran after him in the driveway as he was getting ready to get in the car.
 
“Are you coming back?” Jack asked, lip wobbling.
 
“Yeah!  As soon as I can.  I have things to take care of at home first.”
 
Jack shifted on his feet, moving Felix to his other arm.  “You could have my room!”
 
Dean’s heart just about burst.  He knelt down.  “You keep your room, Jack.  I’ll...uh...I’ll make some plans with Cas about where I’ll be staying, okay?”
 
“You could stay here,” Jack said in a tiny voice, a tear trickling down his cheek.
 
“Aw, come on, man!”  Dean opened his arms for a hug, getting one.  “No tears!  I’m coming back.”
 
Jack stood up, wiping his tears off with his snake.
 
“I’ll call when I get home tonight, okay?”
 
Jack nodded.  He ran back inside, leaving a baffled Gabriel in the driveway.
 
“Damn, Winchester.”
 
Dean shook his head.  “Who knew kids liked me?”
 
“You got some big shoes to fill.”  Gabe glanced back at the house then turned back.  “You better be planning on sticking to what you said.”
 
“Yeah.  Who could lie to a face like that?”
 
Gabe’s look darkened.  “His dad.  All the time.  He’s used to people disappointing him.”
 
Dean took it for the warning it was.  “I’ll be back, Gabe.”
 
Gabe nodded with a tight grin.  “Let me know if you need anything.”  He glanced over the car at Cas.  “You too, Cassie.”
 
Cas nodded, getting in the car.  Dean got in, watching Gabe go inside.  “Damn.  Your whole family is intense.”
 
Cas gave him a worried look.  “I am sorry.  I really did not think he would get so attached so fast.”
 
“Me either.”  Dean hoped he could figure out a way to keep so many people happy.
 
“And my family thinks you’re great. Gabe most of all. He has threatened me not to screw this up as many times as he has warned you.”

Dean smirked.

“Charlie loves you. Crowley thinks you’re hilarious.”

Dean nodded, grinning. “Yeah. They’re nice.”

Castiel headed toward the airport.

“What did Abner have to say?” Dean asked.

It was Castiel’s turn to smirk. “Nothing. Not that I care. Most of that is my fault for upsetting Anna so much. It’s just easier for him to take it out on you. I am sorry about that.”

Dean kissed his hand. “It’s okay. And I don’t really care what he has to say. Jack is a fan, and frankly, you and Jack are what’s important.”

“Agreed,” Cas nodded. “And I’m sorry if I was pressuring you to move here. It’s so soon. It’s a lot to ask. I have no right. I just...want you to know the door is open.”

Dean grinned as he watched the small town disappear in the mirror. He had always followed his heart. The problem was, how could he possibly leave Sam behind? He didn’t blame Cas for feeling desperate about it. His stomach was in knots as they moved closer to the airport. He did not want to go. And he couldn’t stay. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14:  In Motion
 
 
 
Sam stared at him incredulously.  “You’re moving?”
 
Dean shifted the file box in his arms.  Sam stood at his door, key in hand, frozen.  
 
“Can you hurry up?”  Dean shifted the box again.  “What the hell kinda files do ya have in here anyway?  This box weighs a ton.”
 
Sam’s eyes dropped to the box then bounced back to him.
 
“Sam!  Key!  Door!”
 
Sam frowned, slid the key in and turned the lock.  He opened the door to his apartment, going inside so Dean could fit through the door with the huge box.  He sat it on the table with a thud.
 
“You doing an investigation on concrete, or what?”
 
“Uh, granite.  It’s a granite sample.  And files.”
 
Dean gave him an irritated look before slumping into a chair.
 
He’d been home for three days now.
 
It was not going well.
 
He missed Cas.
 
He missed Jack.
 
They talked every night, but it was not enough.  Not by a long shot.  And all the little things he worried about, his apartment, his job, Benny, Pam, Claire, seemed trivial in comparison.  He didn’t belong here anymore.
 
His only concern left was Sam.
 
Sam sat on the edge of the couch.  “You’re gonna move?”
 
Dean licked his lips.  “I’m thinkin’ about it.”
 
Sam nodded, trying to understand.  “This is...fast.  Are you sure?  I mean...do you...love him?”
 
Dean bit his lips together slowly.  He nodded his head.
 
Sam sat back a bit.  “I know you said this was serious, but, Dean, he gave you radio silence for three days over the Anna thing.”

Dean nodded. “Can’t say I woulda been too understanding if you had slept with him either.”

“What? Alright,” Sam waved off. “But he isn’t giving you any more shit about it, is he?”

Dean half smiled. His brother could be so protective. “No, Sammy. He apologized a hundred times and he’s been an angel since.”
 
Sam nodded, not looking totally convinced. Worry crinkled his brow. “It’s a lot. A kid. A guy. Moving to a new state.”

Dean nodded, feeling a lot less certain about it suddenly.  How could he leave Sam?
 
Sam stared at the floor looking lost.  “I just...always thought we’d...be close, ya know?”
 
“Me too,” Dean said quietly.  “I don’t know what to do, Sammy.  His business is there.  He has a house.  Family.  Jack’s family.  If he moves here, he’ll have to be in Chicago a week out of every month.  He’s willing to do it, but...”
 
“Yeah.  That’s...no.  That won’t work,” Sam mumbled.
 
“I’m sorry, Sam.  I don’t know what else to do.”
 
Sam nodded, sporting a good try at a smile.  “Well, how soon?”
 
It killed Dean a little.  But Sam’s life was attached here.  There was just no way to bring it all together.
 
“Um.  I’m thinkin’ early fall.  September.  Maybe.”  He was not sure if he could wait until September.  He’d leave today if it weren’t for Sam.
 
“You could come with me,” Dean tried.  
 
Sam smiled, fighting back a lot more emotions.  “I can’t.  Not with just getting started at this firm.”
 
“Yeah!  Yeah.  I get it.  That’s what I figured, but...it’d be awesome if you could come too.”
 
Sam nodded sadly.  “We’ll just have to...get good about really long road trips!”
 
They both forced a little laugh.
 
Sam stood up, pacing over to the kitchen area.  “Shit.”
 
Dean questioned his choices.  He was really not sure he could do this.  Then again, it was kinda ridiculous that he would give Cas and Jack up, just to keep his brother happy.  He looked up at Sam who was leaning against the counter.  Oh no.  Not the puppy-dog look!
 
Fuck.
 
Sam schooled his face into a lying grin.  “It’s gonna be cold there.  Remember that winter we spent up that way?  We better get you some snow boots!”
 
Dean’s heart cracked a little.  “You...you think I should do it?”
 
Sam’s smile was more real this time.  “You deserve the best Dean.  And if that’s Cas, then hell yeah.  You should do it.”
 
Dean stood up, his eyes blurring dangerously with tears.  He crossed the small space, hugging his brother.
 
Sam hugged him tight.
 
 
 
****************************************
 
 
 
“Can I show him my new ramp?” Jack asked, hovering near the laptop on the kitchen counter.
 
“Dean?  Sure.  He should be calling soon,” Cas answered him.
 
Jack nodded.
 
Cas pulled his ringing phone out of his pocket.  Seeing Gabe’s number, he answered it.  “Hello, Gabe.”
 
“Hey.  How’d it go?”
 
Cas wiggled the mouse.  “If Dean calls, can you answer it?  Just click right there.”
 
Jack nodded.
 
Cas left the kitchen, Jack watching the laptop like a hawk.
 
He went into his bedroom and closed the door.  “Lucifer is getting out next week.  And the judge ruled in favor of supervised visitations, twice a week.”
 
“Fuck.”  Gabe sighed.  “What the fuck is wrong with our judicial system?!”
 
“Everything,” Cas said angrily.
 
“This is bullshit.”
 
“I told Jack.  He took it okay, but I’m not sure he even knows what it means.”
 
Gabe sighed heavily.
 
He heard Jack talking in the kitchen and the sound of his little cars going down the ramp he had made.  “I gotta go.  Let Anna know, would you?”
 
“Yeah.  When is the first visit?”
 
Cas bit back the bitter bile in his stomach.  “He gets out on Monday.  His first visitation is on Wednesday.”
 
“I’ll be there.”
 
Cas sighed in relief.  “Thank you.”
 
He hung up the phone, trying to let all the stress from the custody situation go as he came back into the kitchen with a smile.
 
“Hey there, handsome,” Dean grinned.
 
“Hello, Dean.”
 
“Are you seeing this kid’s ramp?  He’s gonna be a civil engineer!”
 
“What’s that?” Jack asked, propping his chin on the counter in front of the keyboard.
 
“They build roads,” Dean grinned.  “Bet you could build some really cool roads.”
 
“Yeah!” Jack ran over to his ramp to set it up again.
 
Cas carried the laptop into the family room and sat on the couch.
 
“How’d it go?” Dean asked quietly.
 
“As I feared.”
 
Dean swore.  “I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”
 
Cas shrugged that off.  “It makes me very nervous.”
 
Dean nodded, knowing better than to say much when Jack could hear.  “Me too.”
 
“So, I put in my resignation letter.  Old Murphy is a good guy, says he’ll give me good recommendations.  And I picked up this today!”  He held up a change of address card from the post office.
 
All Castiel’s worries drained away momentarily.  Dean was coming.  It was mid-June and he was not leaving until September first, but at least they had a plan.
 
“Pam says she’ll forward anything that comes after I leave, but it might come in shreds.”
 
Cas bit his lip.  “Does she still hate me for stealing you away?”
 
“Eh, no.”  Dean looked down, breaking into a grin.  “Yeah, pretty much.”
 
Cas tipped his head.  He felt bad for uprooting Dean, but every single day that passed was just more proof he wanted him here.
 
“I miss you.”
 
“Miss you too.”  Dean grinned into the screen.  “Am I getting a late-night call tonight?”
 
Cas blushed.  “I shouldn’t.”
 
“No video,” Dean said, his voice dropping to a seductive rumble.  “Just your voice.”
 
Cas blew a breath out.
 
Dean leaned even closer.  “I’ll do all the talking.  You just...moan a little.”
 
Castiel felt lightheaded from how fast the blood all left his head and traveled south.
 
“Say yes,” Dean chuckled, sitting back.
 
Cas nodded, glancing to be sure Jack was still occupied.  “Yes.”
 
“Dean!” He heard Claire call from somewhere in the apartment.
 
Dean sighed.  “I’m on the phone.”
 
“Where’s the blow dryer?”
 
Dean smirked.  “I threw it away!”
 
Claire’s voice got closer as she came into the living room.
 
“Hilarious.  Now where is it?”
 
“Look, Cas!  Wet Claire looks remarkably like wet cat!”  The laptop angle turned, showing an irritated Claire with wet hair.
 
He laughed.  “Strikingly similar!”
 
“Hey, Cas.”
 
“Hello, Claire.”  
 
Jack came running over, Cas lifting an arm to allow him partially on his lap to look in the screen.  “Hi!”
 
“Hi Claire!”
 
“Hey!”  Cas grinned as Claire’s cranky demeanor immediately warmed to Jack.  “Jack, tell Dean to give me my blow dryer!”
 
Jack grinned as Dean frowned and shook his head no.
 
“He should give it back,” Jack grinned.
 
Dean covered his ears and shook his head no.
 
Jack leaned into the camera.  “Dean!  You should give Claire her dryer!”
 
Dean dropped his hands with a sigh.  “Fine.  It’s under the sink.”  He turned to Claire, “You know, where it BELONGS!”
 
Jack giggled, running off to play again.
 
Cas and Dean exchanged a grin.
 
“Ya know it’s not good that they work together.  You and I aren’t going to stand a chance if they keep ganging up on us.”
 
Cas chuckled.  “Is Claire still thinking about moving with you?”
 
“Yeah.  Pretty sure she’s gonna come too.  If anything stopped her, it would be Pam.”
 
Cas sighed.  That was two strikes against him, in Pam’s eyes.  “I sent her another package yesterday.”
 
Dean laughed.  “She rolls that tranquility blend on, takes a big long whiff, smiles, and says, ‘I really hate that guy’.”
 
Cas laughed.  “Poor Pam.”
 
“She refers to you as ‘the thief’,” Dean smirked.
 
Cas shook his head.  Many of their family and friends were hesitant to be on board with their plans.  Charlie and Gabe were on board.  Most importantly, Jack was on board.
 
“I don’t even want to know what kind of names Abner and Anna have for me,” Dean said with a sigh.
 
“They think I’m rushing things.  But I don’t care what they think.”
 
Dean gave him a soft grin.  “Me either.”
 
 
 
*********************************************
 
 
 
Castiel held his tongue as he had been doing for the past hour.  The family room they were in at the welfare office was equipped with toys and books conducive to host family meetings and supervised visitations.
 
Jack was sitting at the small table coloring a picture as Lucifer continued to scroll through his phone.  Finally, he put the phone in his pocket, smiling down at Jack.
 
“What are you drawing?”
 
Jack did not answer but did stop coloring.
 
“Boy we’re going to have to work on your manners,” Lucifer said in a sing-song voice that had Jack’s spine going straight.
 
“It’s a ghost,” he said quietly.
 
“Cool!  And what’s this?”
 
“Salt.  It protects you from ghosts,” Jack answered timidly.
 
“Ooohh.  Interesting.”
 
The psychologist assigned to Jack’s case came in the room with a wide grin.  “Hi, guys!”
 
“Hi!” Lucifer answered cheerfully.
 
Cas did his best to give her a non-threatening look.
 
“I’m afraid your time is up for today.  But good news!  Since the supervised visits are going so well, next week you have been given a day pass to spend with Jack!”
 
Lucifer grinned.  He put his hand on Jack’s shoulder.  “You hear that?  Where should we go?  Oh!  We could go see a movie!  Go to my place and decorate your new room!”
 
Jack looked up at his father, but Cas could not see his face.  Cas was on his feet.  “What does that mean?” He asked the psychologist.
 
“You can meet your brother here as early as 8am and turn over Jack until an agreed upon return time, as late as 9pm.”
 
“And if I don’t agree?” Cas asked quietly, trying to not upset Jack.
 
“Mr. Novak,” she pulled him out of the room.  “If you care about your nephew, you will do all you can to make this successful.  Time to bond with his father is critical.  And that happens best when they can have time alone.”
 
“I DO care about Jack!” Castiel hissed.  “That’s why I think this is a terrible idea!”
 
She nodded patronizingly.
 
He turned away from her, furious with the state of things.  
 
When he turned around, the psychologist was back in the room and Lucifer was stepping out.  He stepped up to Cas, tight grin in place.  “Looks like I’m back on top!”
 
Castiel’s fists were balled up tight.
 
“Hey, Luci.”  
 
Castiel and Lucifer both turned to see Gabriel standing there.
 
“Gabriel.  I suppose you’re here to cheer me on!  Right?”
 
“Yeah.  Hardly.”
 
It was enough of a distraction that Castiel could breathe and re-think things.  He went back into the room, ignoring Lucifer’s baiting.
 
“I’d like to spend about fifteen minutes visiting with Jack,” the psychologist said, smiling.
 
“Is that court ordered?” Cas bit off bitterly.
 
“Well, no, but -”
 
“Jack, would you like to speak with her?”
 
Jack shook his head no, jumping from the table to hug Castiel’s thigh, hiding his face.
 
The psychologist gave him a frustrated look.
 
Castiel picked Jack up, leaving the welfare office.  Gabe had Lucifer sufficiently distracted so he could slip right past them. He buckled Jack into his booster seat and left.
 
Jack did not say another word for the rest of the day.  That night, when Cas was putting him to bed, Jack gave him the picture he had drawn.
 
“This is very good,” Cas said quietly, kissing the top of his head.  “That ghost looks pretty scary.”
 
Jack just stared at the picture.
 
Standing in the circle of salt was a figure.  “Is that you?”
 
Jack shook his head no.
 
“Is it me?”
 
Jack shook his head no.
 
“Is it...your dad?”
 
Jack shook his head no.  “It’s him.”
 
Cas frowned at the picture.  Green eyes.  “Is this Dean?”
 
Jack nodded his head.
 
“Ah, I see.”  They both stared at the picture for several moments.
 
Cas looked down at his tight face.  “You and Felix want to sleep with me tonight?”
 
Jack nodded yes.
 
Cas tucked the picture in his pocket and carried Jack to his room.  His heart was heavy.  Jack was scheduled to go with Lucifer on Thursday.  He had no idea how to make Jack feel better about going with his father for the day.  He refused to lie or sugarcoat the situation.
 
He read Jack a story and they fell asleep.
 
 
 
************************************
 
 
 
“Is this legal?” Anna whispered, staring at the radiating dot on the map displayed on Charlie’s computer.
 
“Who cares,” Gabriel and Castiel snapped.
 
Anna pulled back, glancing at both of them.
 
“It all traces back to me,” Charlie said distractedly.  “It was my idea to begin with.”
 
The map minimized to show a second map.
 
“You have two trackers?” Anna asked.
 
“One in his backpack,” Charlie pointed to the top map.  “And one in Felix,” she tapped the bottom map.
 
“This is crazy,” Anna said, wiping a nervous hand across her forehead.
 
“It’s necessary!” Gabe snapped.  “You didn’t see his smarmy face last week.  He reeks of bad behavior.”
 
Anna chewed on her thumb nail.  “Was Jack okay when you left?”
 
Cas glared at the blinking dot.  “He said nothing and acted like he was leaving for war.  My salt shakers are gone.”
 
Gabe, Charlie, and Anna exchanged confused looks, but no one asked.  So, he kept his story to himself.  He had left the welfare office when Lucifer pulled away with Jack.  He had a sinking feeling in his stomach that would not budge and a fear so palpable no oils could even begin to soothe him.
 
His phone chimed Dean’s text sound.  He pulled it out, thankful to look at something else.
 
Dean:  Hey!  How are you doing?  Bet you’re still going nuts.  Gotta say I’ve been distracted all day.  Any word yet?
 
Cas had told Dean about the tracking devices he and Charlie had come up with.
 
Cas:  Not yet.
 
Dean:  Wish I was there.
 
Cas:  Me too.
 
Those few words were enough to calm Cas a little bit.
 
Castiel, unable to stare at the screen any more, left for the scent lab.  Eileen looked up from the tray of vials in front of her.
 
“Hi!”  Her face fell as soon as she saw him.  “What’s wrong?” She signed.
 
“Jack is with his dad today.  I’m nervous.  And worried.”
 
She nodded.  ‘Sorry,’ she signed.
 
Cas tried to smile.  “New smells to try?”
 
She waved him over and for three blessed hours, they were lost in working on a new combination specifically for children with attention issues.  Something to diffuse while kids need to focus while doing homework.
 
When he left the lab, he felt better.  If nothing else, he felt more clear of mind.  
 
 
That evening, just before 9pm, Lucifer pulled up and dropped Jack off.  He gave his dad a wave goodbye and hugged Castiel tight.
 
Cas knelt down.  “Did you have a good day?”
 
Jack nodded yes while biting his lip.
 
Castiel smiled.  “I’m really glad you had a good day.  I missed you.”
 
Jack nodded, hugging him again.  Castiel felt so relieved.  All he wanted to do was hold him tight forever.
 
He took Jack home and called Dean on the laptop.
 
As soon as the call connected, Dean said, “Hey, buddy!  How was your day?”
 
“Okay,” Jack said quietly.  Behind him Cas shrugged with half a grin, communicating that as far as he knew, it went well enough.
 
Cas frowned at Dean. “What are you wearing?”
 
Dean laughed, obviously taking that in a dirty way, but not addressing it.  “This?”  He plucked at his white collar.  “This is my doctor coat.”
 
Castiel’s eyes grew wide.  Jack leaned forward.  “Were you working on teddy bears today?”
 
Dean shrugged.  “It is Thursday.”
 
Dean and Jack talked about teddy bears for a solid five minutes.  Every time Jack smiled or laughed, it made Castiel’s heart swell with love.
 
Cas leaned forward.  “I need to put Jack to bed, but I’ll call you a bit later, Dr. Winchester.”
 
The grin they exchanged was rather promising.
 
 
 
********************************************
 
 
 
Dean had a busy day.  Work was full swing during the summer months.  He’d had dinner with Sam and hung out with Pam and Claire for several hours. Claire was staying at Pam’s so they could finish their epi-binging of Hell On Wheels.
 
As he climbed the stairs to his apartment, his phone rang.
 
“Hello?”
 
“Hello, Dean,” came his favorite voice.
 
“Hey!  How was your day?”
 
“Good.  Yours?”
 
“Ugh.  Busy.  I’m beat.  I’m getting a shower and going to bed.”
 
“I’m already ahead of you.  I’m in bed.”
 
“Mmm.  Wish I was there.”
 
“Me too.”
 
Dean grinned, hearing a sexy drag to his voice.  He locked his door and headed for the shower.  He stopped, looking at Claire’s bag sitting on the table.  She had started drawing with Pam and some of her supplies were spread out on the kitchen table.
 
As Cas talked about his day, an idea occurred to Dean.  He grinned, taking a page protector from Claire’s supplies.  She’d never miss one page protector!  He went into the bathroom, locking the door.  Claire wasn’t coming home tonight, but he preferred to be doubly safe.  He threaded shower hooks through the three holes and grinned.
 
“I’m gonna video call you.”
 
“You are?” Cas asked, caught off guard.
 
Dean ended the call and video called him.
 
Cas answered it with a grin.  “What are you doing?  Are you in the bathroom?”
 
“I am,” Dean winked.  “You better put your headphones on.”
 
Cas’ eyebrow arched.  Dean chuckled as his boyfriend knew better than to ask, and followed his lead.
 
Headphones on, Cas licked his lips.  “What are you doing?”
 
“I’m getting a shower with you.”
 
Cas grinned, adjusting himself in his bed.
 
He sat the phone on the sink as he took his clothes off.  
 
“I think I like this show,” Cas chuckled.
 
Dean swung his t-shirt around, rocking his hips back and forth.  “Splish, splash, I was takin’ a bath!” He sang, “Long about a Saturday night!”
 
Cas laughed, watching his every move.
 
He pulled his pants and boxers down in a swift slide.  “Rub, dub I was soakin’ in the tub,” he stood up, stroking his half-hard dick, “I was strokin’ my chub for the man that I love,”
 
Cas laughed.  “I don’t think those are the lyrics!”
 
“I’m pretty sure they are!”  Dean kicked his shoes and socks off, laughing as he tripped around the small bathroom.
 
“Let’s see how this goes.”  He put the phone in the page protector and turned the water on.  “Can you hear me?”
 
“Loud and clear, Chubby Checker.”
 
Dean grinned, adjusting the phone to get the widest angle.  “Can you see me?”
 
“I see everything from the knees up.  God, you look good.”
 
Dean licked his lips, stepping into the water to rinse his hair.  Now that dumb song was stuck in his head.  “Splish splash I was takin’ a bath, Long about a Saturday night!”
 
He turned, seeing a lot more of Cas on camera than he was used to.  “Oooohhh.  I’d like to rub, rub that chub.”
 
Cas grinned, watching him.
 
Dean lathered shampoo into his hair and washed slowly, letting out every groan he felt like groaning.
 
Clean, he leaned one arm on the wall of the shower and stroked himself slowly as he looked at the screen.
 
“You look good enough to eat,” Cas mumbled.
 
Dean dropped his head back with a grin.  “Uuuhhh, I wish you would come eat me.”
 
He stroked himself more firmly, groaning.
 
Dean looked at the phone, watching Cas stroke himself.  “Wish I had you here.”
 
“How?” Cas asked, already getting breathless.
 
Dean chuckled low.  “On your knees, sucking my dick.  You are so fucking good at that.”
 
Cas bit his lip with a little growl that went tingling down Dean’s spine.  Dean stared at him hard as his face flushed and his dick disappeared over and over into his fist.
 
Dean could feel himself coiling in bliss already.  “Now I’d yank you up to your feet, turn you and push you up against the wall.”
 
“Yeah?” Cas moaned.
 
“Yeah.  You’d be moaning a lot louder than that as I stretched you open.”  He stared at Cas, meeting his eyes with so much want.  “I’d get on my knees and eat you out.”  He groaned loud and needy.  “Yeah!  I wanna try that!  Lick you...”
 
Cas gasped, his head dropping back as his fist worked faster.
 
“Yeah!  You want me to, don’t you?!”  He knew he was going to lose it.  “Then I’d jump up and shove my dick deep inside you!”
 
He listened, watching as Cas came with a loud groan. The sound was enough to push Dean over the edge, making him come so hard his knees got weak.
 
He blinked as water ran warmly down his chest.  “I can’t wait until September.”
 
“Me either,” Cas murmured.
 
Dean blinked into more awareness.  “No, really.  I can’t wait that long, Cas.  What if I come sooner?”
 
Cas looked up from cleaning himself up.  “You...really?”
 
Dean stepped up to the phone screen.  “I mean it, Cas.  What if I just quit and come sooner?”
 
Cas broke into an elated grin.  “Yes!  Any time, Dean!  Jack knows you’re coming!  And...” He covered himself up again, “I miss you so, so much!”
 
Dean shut the shower off and grabbed his towel.  “Pam said I can get out of my lease any time.  I was just trying to save up as much money as possible to hold me over until I get a job out there.”
 
“I have money!” Cas said in a rush, sitting up.  “Money is not a problem.”
 
Dean scrubbed his hair dry and wrapped the towel around him, gathering his clothes.
 
“I’m not putting strain on you and Jack -”
 
“Dean, I make a lot of money.  More than I’ve put to much use.  I just...I want you here so bad.”
 
Dean grinned at him as he moved quickly from the bathroom to the bedroom, closing the door.  “Let’s plan on moving the timeline up to August,” Dean offered.
 
Cas flopped back with a grin so happy Dean had to chuckle.
 
“I love you!” Cas laughed.
 
“I know you do,” Dean chuckled.
 
“You’re supposed to say you love me too, you ass!”
 
“Soooo mouthy!” Dean teased, getting into bed.  “Hey, that shower trick worked!”
 
“Yes, it did.  I’ll have to try that.”
 
Dean snuggled down into his covers.  “I love you.”
 
“I know.”  Cas smirked.
 
“Night, smarty pants.”
 
“I am wearing no pants,” Cas said dryly.
 
Dean dropped his head into his pillow, laughing.  “Goodnight, Cas.”
 
“Goodnight, Dean.”
 
 
 
**********************************************
 
 
 
“Charlie?”  Cas did his best to keep the tremor out of his voice.  “Where’s Jack?  His tracker?”
 
“Oh!  I’ll check,” she said, jumping into action.
 
Castiel paced along the sidewalk of the welfare office.  He was trying desperately to not over-react.  
 
“It, uh, it says he’s still at Lucifer’s place.  The other one too.”
 
Cas relaxed a bit.  The unsupervised visits had been going well enough, according to the psychologist.  Today was the fifth one.  It was late June and Lucifer had been meeting all his parole obligations for the past three weeks.  But it was 9:15.  He should have been here by 9:00.  
 
Cas looked at his phone again.  They were just running late.  
 
“Call me if they move,” he said, hanging up and going inside the welfare office.
 
“I called Mr. Novak, Mr. Novak,” the social worker at the desk said.  “He didn’t answer, so I’m sure he’s on his way.”
 
Cas gritted his jaw, jamming the door open again so he could pace and watch the street.  
 
9:17pm.
 
Was his brother just being a dick and not paying attention to the time?  His stomach clenched so hard his mouth began to water.
 
9:18pm.
 
His phone rang, making him jump.  He groaned, seeing it was only Dean.
 
“Dean?  I can’t talk.  Lucifer isn’t back with Jack yet and -”
 
“What?” Dean snapped.  “Well, where the hell is he?”
 
“Still at home.  Probably just being an asshole!”
 
“Call him!”  Dean said.
 
“I will.  I gotta go.”
 
“Call me when you know something,” he said quickly.
 
“I will.”  Cas ended the call, calling Lucifer again.  It went to voicemail.  “Lucifer, you are late!  Where are you?”  He ended that call and called Gabriel.
 
“Yello,” Gabe answered.
 
“He’s not here!  I told them this was a bad idea!  I knew something would happen!” Cas yelled.
 
“Who’s -shit.  Where are you?”
 
“At the fucking welfare office!  It’s 9:20!  He’s not here!”
 
“Where does his tracker say he is,” Gabe interrupted.
 
“At his shitty apartment,” Cas snapped.
 
“I’ll go there.  Call ya when I get there.”
 
Castiel’s arm dropped limply to his side.  His entire body trembled with fear and rage.  He paced, seething.
 
9:30 pm.
 
His hands shook as he called Charlie.
 
“Hey.”
 
“Anything?” He demanded.
 
“No.  Still at the apartment.”
 
Cas hung up.  “FUCK.”
 
He continued to pace.  He ran his hand through his hair, gripping it in frustration.
 
Something was wrong.
 
9:40pm.
 
Cas almost dropped his phone when Gabe called.  “Hello!”
 
“Cassie, no one is here.”
 
“But the tracker -”
 
“His backpack is here.  And Felix.  And Felix is ripped up.  He knows we had a tracker in it.  It’s laying on the floor.”
 
Cas crumpled to his knees.  “No, no, no!”
 
“I’m calling the cops.”
 
Cas’ hands dropped to his knees as he choked out a desperate cry.
 
He could be anywhere.
 
Castiel’s mind raced with horrible thoughts.  Where was Jack?!
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15:  Missing
 
 
It was 6:30 am.  Jack had been missing for nine and a half hours.  No one knew anything.
 
“Cassie, breathe,” Gabe said, not a whole lot better than Cas.
 
“Mr. Novak,” the police officer said, “the Amber Alert is out.  All we can do is wait to hear something.  You should go home.  They could come to your house.”
 
Castiel wanted to kill him.  Him, and everyone that didn’t know where Jack was.
 
“My sister is at my house.  Jack isn’t there!  I need to know where he is! Are officers searching for him?!”
 
“Cassie,” Gabe said, putting a calming hand on his arm.
 
“How long will this take!” Castiel demanded, yelling.
 
“Cas.”
 
Castiel whipped around, stunned at the voice he heard.  Shocked fully when he saw him standing there.
 
“Dean!”
 
Cas tripped over the chair he had been in, plowing into Dean with a desperate hug.  “He’s gone!  They can’t find him!”  The tears, anguish, and fear came flooding in as Dean wrapped his arms around him.  “Where is he?!  Where is he?!”
 
Dean held him tight, rocking him, kissing his head.  “We’re gonna find him.  I promise.  It’s gonna be okay.”
 
Cas heaved with another cry.
 
“Holy shit,” he heard Gabe say from beside him.
 
Cas pulled out of Dean’s hug, wiping his eyes to follow Gabe’s gaze.
 
Behind Dean stood Sam, Claire, Pam, Benny, Abner, Crowley, Meg, and Charlie.
 
“Wh-what are you all doing here?” Cas stammered.
 
Their grim faces told the tale.  They came to help him find his missing son.
 
Missing.
 
Cas turned, falling into Dean’s chest again.  “You came.”
 
“We drove all night,” Dean whispered.
 
Cas clenched Dean’s flannel shirt in his fist.  “I don’t know what to do!”
 
“We’re gonna help you,” Dean said gently, hugging him again.
 
“Where is he?!” Cas asked, desperate.
 
“I don’t know, Cas.  But we’re gonna find him.  Promise.”
 
 
********************************************
 
 
9:45 am
 
Dean swallowed the last of the coffee in his travel mug.  He needed more.  A lot more.
 
Claire yawned from the passenger seat beside him.  The pair of them were headed to the apartment with Gabe, who had just fallen asleep in the back seat.
 
Cas was at his house.  Charlie was attempting to make him lay down for a little bit.  Dean did not envy her.
 
Pam, Abner, and Benny were walking Cas’ neighborhood, looking for any sign of Jack trying to find his way home.
 
Dean pulled into a convenience store to fill up on gas and coffee.  When he got back to the car, Claire was leaning against the trunk.
 
“Can you open the trunk?  I want my jacket.”
 
Dean pulled out his keys, unlocking the trunk.   It was full of duffle bags.  She rifled through all of them, searching for hers.  “Why did you bring so many clothes?” She griped, pulling hers out.  
 
Dean didn’t answer her, instead, he scanned the surrounding businesses for any signs of Jack.
 
“Hey,” she said, bumping his elbow with hers as she pulled her jacket on.
 
“I’m staying.”
 
“You’re what?” She said, shocked.
 
He looked at her, feeling bad for the abruptness of this.  “I can’t leave, Claire.  Cas is...if we can’t find him...”
 
“We’re gonna find him!” Claire insisted.
 
“And if we do...Jack is still going to need a lot of support.  Cas too.  I...I don’t want to leave.”
 
Claire nodded.
 
“I’m sorry, Claire.  I just...can’t be away any more.”
 
“I understand,” she said quietly.
 
“You could move here too, ya know.  It would be good for you to get away from that mess back home.”
 
“You aren’t responsible for me,” Claire said, trying to look adult about it.
 
“I know.  But I do care.”
 
She gave him a crooked grin.
 
“I mean, I haven’t said anything to Cas.  Not with all this going on.  He might not be ready for me to be here.”
 
“Yeah, right,” she scoffed.  “He’s so in love with you it’s gross.”
 
Dean huffed a laugh.
 
“Like gag-worthy, Winchester,” she grinned.
 
“Shut up,” he laughed.  “Get in the car.”
 
They got back in, Gabe still sound asleep.  Dean drove to the apartment building in question.
 
“Wait in the car,” Dean said to Claire.  “Watch the exits.”
 
Claire gave him an incredulous look.  “I am NOT waiting in the car.  Let Sleeping Beauty babysit the doors!”
 
Dean slapped his hand on the back of the front seat, startling Gabe awake.  “Come on, Gabe, wake up.”
 
“M up!” Gabe gasped, wide eyes searching the surrounding area.  “What happened?  What -”
 
“Ya fell asleep for like twenty whole minutes,” Dean explained.  “We’re here.”
 
Gabe looked up at the apartment.  “Fuck.”
 
“You wait here while Claire and I go check things out,” Dean suggested.
 
Gabe unfastened his seatbelt.  “Uh, no.”
 
Dean stared at Claire.
 
“Guess all three of us are going, then,” Claire grinned, getting out.
 
Dean groaned, getting out to join them.  The neighborhood was sketchy, making him more nervous than usual to leave his baby.
 
The painted brick building was six stories high with a cement stoop and five wide steps.
 
Dean stopped at the group of kids sitting there.  He pulled his phone out.  “You seen this guy today?”
 
The kids all looked at his phone and shook their heads no.
 
“Yesterday, maybe?” Dean asked.
 
Gabe was already headed inside, but Claire stood beside him.
 
“No,” two of them said.
 
“I saw him yesterday,” one of the boys said.  “You a cop?”
 
“No,” Dean frowned.  He could see none of the kids were too willing to talk. Especially if they thought he was a cop.  And what they said might be unreliable, so he went on up the steps without further questioning.  

He went through the grimy front door and up the steps, careful not to touch anything.  He had lived in a few places like this, back when his dad was dragging him and Sam all over the country.  People slept in the hallways and sat on the stairs.  A skinny guy stepped out of his apartment and tried to sell Claire drugs.  Gabe chased the guy back into his apartment with flapping hands and several frantic ‘back the fuck up!’s.
 
Dean found the door he was looking for.  Police tape flopped in a broken X across the door.  Gabe snatched the yellow tape, pulling it off and throwing it to the floor.  Dean banged on the door twice before turning the knob.  He was surprised when it opened.  
 
He, Gabe, and Claire filed inside the apartment.  No one was there.
 
Dean stopped in the kitchen area, not missing the roaches that scurried out of sight.  He went back to the bedrooms.
 
“Looks like Jack was hanging out here,” Claire said, lifting a piece of Felix.
 
Dean’s stomach rolled at the mattresses on the floors of the bedrooms, dirty sheets and blankets strewn about.  He went into the living room where Claire stood, looking behind a recliner.
 
Gabe was squatted on the floor, not touching anything.  “How the hell could a psychologist think he would be better off here?  Don’t they check where a kid is going before they send them there?”
 
“No,” Dean and Claire answered.
 
Dean squatted down next to Gabe, pulling Cas’ salt shaker from under the recliner.  He gripped the glass bottle in his hand.  His heart hurt.  His stomach twisted.  Where the hell was Jack?  
 
 
 ***************************
 
 
3:20pm
 
Sam came into Cas’ living room, ending a call.  “So, get this.”
 
Dean looked up at him.  He’d been driving all over the streets between Cas’ house and Lucifer’s crappy apartment building for hours.
 
“The cops -” Sam’s phone rang.  He answered it.  “Yeah?  Where?  Thanks Jody.”
 
Castiel’s phone rang.  He answered it hastily.  “Hello?  Where?!”  Cas started crying.
 
Dean snatched the phone.  “Who is this?”
 
“This is Officer Hanscum, Chicago PD, I just told Castiel that we found his son.  I mean, his nephew.”
 
“Where is he?!” Dean hugged Cas to him.
 
“I’m just getting ready to drive him to you from Chicago.”
 
Dean put her on speaker as those that were at the house, not out scouting, gathered around.  
 
“He was found by some homeless people in Fuller Park.”
 
“Fuller Park!” Cas turned, pacing away.
 
“Where are you taking him?” Dean asked.
 
“First, I’ll take him to the nearest police station to you.  They’ll probably want him to go to the hospital to get checked out.  But he looks okay.”
 
“You saw him?” Cas asked shakily.
 
“You bet.  He’s right here with me and I’m driving him to you myself.  He’s quite a nice young man.”
 
“Is he hurt?” Dean asked, trying his damnedest to hold his shit together.
 
“Not that I’m aware of.  I’ll see you at the station in about forty-five minutes.”
 
“Yes. Thank you,” Sam answered when Dean and Cas both seemed too choked up to manage it.
 
Dean wanted to crumple to the floor in a heap.  He could not imagine what Jack had been through.
 
Everyone else began to relax, wilting where they stood or sat.
 
“Sam,” Dean said, stepping away from Cas so Gabe could hug him in relief.  “Who called you before the cops called?”
 
“So, yeah, that’s what I was gonna tell you.  While I was walking the neighborhood last night, or this morning, whatever, I figured I might as well reach out to any cops I know.  See if they could tell me how to work the system the best to find Jack.  And I called Jody.”
 
“Jody?  As in Jody Singer?” Dean asked, a little shocked.
 
“Yeah!  She says hi, by the way.  So, it turns out Jody is good friends with a cop in Chicago.  So, I figured maybe it would speed things up or, I don’t know, help somehow.”
 
Dean hugged his giant little brother.  “Man...thank you for dropping everything like you did and coming here.  Means a lot.”
 
“Of course,” Sam said, hugging him back.  “I’m just glad he’s safe.”
 
As they broke apart, they were bombarded with many other hugs.
 
“Sam,” Cas said, hugging him, “thank you!”
 
“Yeah, man,” Sam hugged him back.  “You two head to the station, I’ll, uh, have something ready for you guys to eat when you get back.”
 
Cas nodded, still tearful.
 
“I got room for some of you to crash at my place,” Gabe said to the group.
 
“Me too,” Anna added.
 
Giving his brother a second glance, Sam thought better of letting Dean or Cas drive.  “I’ll drive you,” Sam offered.  Dean and Cas nodded, pretty much in a daze from the last 18 hours of worry.
 
“I’ll handle breakfast,” Benny offered.
 
“It’s waaaay past breakfast,” Gabe yawned.
 
“Dinna then,” Benny grinned.
 
 
 
*****************************************
 
 
 
Dean and Castiel waited in a holding room, pacing, jittery, and stressed.  It had been an hour since they spoke to the officer on the phone.
 
Castiel thought he might lose his mind if it weren’t for Dean calming him down.
 
The door opened, like it had ten times before, making them both jump in eagerness.
 
“Dad!”  Jack ran in the room, Castiel dropped to his knees to hug him tight.
 
“I was so worried!” Cas cried, holding his tiny frame tightly.  “I’m so sorry!”
 
Jack pulled back, staring up at Dean.  “Dean!”
 
Dean picked him up in a hug, muttering the same litany of “I’m so sorry. You’re okay, you’re safe, we were so worried.”
 
Castiel took him again, holding him tight.  “You NEVER have to go with him again!  Never.”
 
Jack nodded, sagging in his arms.  He was dirty and his face had never looked so tight with fear as when he came through the holding room door.
 
Castiel took a deep breath, pulling himself together as he realized a cop was standing there waiting to talk to them.
 
“Thank you!” He said to her.
 
“You betcha.  It’s a good day when I get to bring someone home to such good parents.”
 
Dean reached out to shake her hand.  “Thank you.  Are you the one we talked to?”
 
“I am!  Are you Dean, then?”  She grinned, resting her hands on her hips easily.
 
“I am.”
 
“Oh!  I’m a good friend of Jody and Bobby Singer!  Jodes and I went through the academy together!”
 
Dean still looked baffled by the connection.
 
“Heard the call on the radio and went rushin’ down to Fuller to just butt my way right in!  Any friend of Jodes is a friend of mine!”
 
Castiel grinned as Dean, lost for words, hugged her.
 
“Oh, you’re welcome!”  She patted his back with a sweet nod.  “Jack’s a good little guy.  Doesn’t say much, but, ya know.”
 
“I have a few forms for ya to sign,” she added, clearing her throat.
 
Castiel nodded, handing Jack over to Dean.  Castiel’s hands still shook as he signed whatever she put in front of him, praying it was all good because he barely knew his own name at this point.
 
As they got ready to leave, Donna followed them out to the waiting room where Sam was pacing.  “Wow!  You both grew up so tall and handsome!”
 
“Donna Hanscum?” Sam asked, hugging her.  
 
“I am!” She laughed.  “As they stepped apart, she gave the brothers a sterner look.  “Jody and Bobby would love to hear from you.  You should call ‘em.”
 
“We will,” Dean nodded.
 
 
 
*******************************************
 
 
 
Jack was quiet and watchful of Sam, who he had heard about but never met before.
 
Dean was relieved to find only Gabe, Claire, and Anna were at the house when they got back.
 
After hugging him a million times and telling him how much they loved him and how worried they had been, Gabe and Anna left, giving them time to calm down.
 
Benny had a pot of soup on the stove and sandwiches wrapped on a plate on the kitchen table.
 
Dean set up dinner for them, thankful all the real work had been done.  He couldn’t think straight.  His mind reeled from relief that Jack was home safe and anger that Lucifer had done this and was still MIA.
 
“Sit down,” Claire said, nudging him toward the table.  “I’ll get the drinks.  You’re on zombie mode.”
 
Dean sat, staring at the plate in front of him.
 
Cas came out of the bedroom area with a clean and sleepy-looking Jack in pajamas.
 
Jack sat at the table, staring at the food.
 
“I got water,” Claire said, sitting down two glasses, “anyone want iced tea?”  She squatted down to Jack.  “What do you want to drink?”
 
He stared at her, then reached out a hand to touch her long, blonde hair.  
 
She smiled at him.  “I know.  It’s really weird that I’m here, right?”
 
Jack almost grinned.
 
“I came along so Dean didn’t cry too much.”
 
Dean gave her an exhausted look.
 
“I’m kidding,” she grinned, poking his shoulder softly.  “I was worried.”  The two studied each other.  “I’ve been there.”
 
Jack nodded, leaned forward and hugged her.
 
Dean and Cas exchanged exhausted, happy looks.
 
“Now eat, or the grown-ups will get all, wawawawa!” She made a face, rolling her eyes, making Jack giggle.
 
She brought two more waters to the table and they sat down to have their first meal together as a family.  As Dean chewed slowly, watching everyone, he realized that was what was happening.  
 
After their meal, Dean and Cas got showers.  The three of them got into Cas’ bed, Claire sleeping in Jack’s room.
 
Jack settled in between them.  As they lay there, Jack turned to look at Dean.  “I told him you would come.”
 
Dean pushed his silky hair off his forehead.  “You did?”
 
“Yes.  I told him you would save Felix and you would come for me.  Because you know how to chase monsters.  You and Daddy aren’t scared of monsters.”
 
“I promise we were looking everywhere,” Cas said softly, pulling Jack against his chest to wrap an arm around him.
 
“Told him so,” Jack went on.  “Told him you and Dean would find me.”
 
Dean took his small hand, holding it.  “You were pretty brave yourself.”
 
Jack nodded.
 
They fell asleep, exhausted with heavy but happy hearts.
 
 
 
******************************************
 
 
 
Castiel watched Jack very closely the next day.  The details of his time missing were still a mystery.  At some point, Lucifer had ridden into the city with his friends, taking Jack along.  When enough of them, including Lucifer, were ‘sleepy from their drinks and medicine’ Jack made a break for it.  He’d wandered around Fuller Park, a bad section of Chicago, until some homeless women took him to the police station and left him there.
 
“Jack-Jack!” Gabe yelled, stepping out of his car.  “I brought you something!”
 
Jack jumped from beside Dean on Anna’s porch steps and ran to Gabe.  Around Gabe’s neck, like a boa, was Felix, stitched and plump again.
 
“I take it that’s his favorite toy,” Sam said from the porch as Jack cheered and danced in a circle with the snake.
 
“Yes,” Dean and Cas answered.  
 
Castiel stood when Eileen got out of Gabe’s car.  He crossed the large parking area but started signing before he got to her.  “Did you fix F-E-L-I-X?”
 
She beamed a smile.  “Yes, I did!”
 
He hugged her and thanked her.  Jack signed ‘thank you’, beaming a smile of his own.  
 
“I have some people to introduce you to,” Cas signed, walking with her to the porch.  “Everyone,” he signed and said, “this is Eileen Leahy, she works with us at Heaven Scent.  She is deaf but reads lips very well.  Eileen, this is Dean, his brother, Sam, this is Benny, Pam, and this is Claire.”
 
“Nice to meet you all,” she signed and said.
 
“I met Sam, Benny and Claire,” Gabe smirked, stepping onto the porch, “but we have not been properly introduced.”  Gabe stepped up in front of Pam.  
 
Dean and Cas exchanged a nervous look.
 
“Pamela Barnes,” Pam said with a flirty wink.
 
“Well, hello there, gorgeous,” Gabe winked back.
 
“They musta been keepin’ you hidden,” Pam smirked back.
 
Gabe bounced on the balls of his feet, hands clasped behind his back, and lowered his chin.  “Savin’ the best for last.”
 
“They sure did.”  Pam stepped past him, smacking his ass as she sauntered by.
 
Gabe’s face snapped to shock as he rubbed a hand over his ass cheek.  “Damn, where you been all my life?”  He followed her off the porch and the pair ambled down the driveway.
 
“Oh god,” Dean said in a small voice.  “What just happened?”
 
“She hits on everyone!” Sam laughed.
 
“So does Gabe,” Castiel assured him.
 
“They make-out with everybody they just meet?” Claire asked, looking away from the pair and covering Jack’s eyes.
 
“Oh shit!” Dean laughed, staring as Pam backed Gabe up against his car.
 
“Damn!” Cas swore.
 
Everyone averted their eyes, though the last Cas saw, they were coming up for air.
 
“Who meets somebody and makes out with them after knowing them for less than two minutes?”  Claire scoffed.
 
“Gabe,” Cas said, at the same time Dean said, “Pam.”
 
“They’ve been eyeing each other up since you pulled in,” Anna said, changing the conversation to ask Benny where he was from.
 
Dean was chuckling.
 
“What?” Cas asked.
 
“Uh, my dorky brother trying to sign to Eileen.”
 
Cas smiled.  Eileen’s face lit up as she smiled up at Sam, who towered over her.  Dean was right, Sam was trying very hard, but his signing was rudimentary.  He and Dean both stifled chuckles when Eileen put her hand on top of his to stop him, Sam blushed and bobbed his head in apology.
 
Pam and Gabe rejoined the group, each looking like nothing had just happened until Anna whacked Gabe on the arm.  Getting a sheepish grin in return.
 
Jack went with Abner and Claire to feed the chickens and collect eggs.  The moment they were out of earshot, the entire group began to speak quickly.
 
“What’s happening with Lucifer?” Charlie asked.
 
“We are hunting him down, right?” Pam said.
 
“The judge will HAVE to give you custody now!” Anna added to Castiel.
 
“But Lucifer needs dealt with,” Gabe said.
 
“I know people,” Benny added, shady as shit.
 
“I AM people,” Pam and Crowley swore, exchanging a dark nod.
 
“Shit!!” Benny held a hand up, “alright!”
 
“He’s going to jail!” Charlie assured.
 
“If he lives that long,” Dean said, bumping fists with Benny and Pam.
 
“No one is killing anyone!” Anna said, growing more alarmed.
 
“The system will keep him locked up,” Sam said.
 
“The same system that made Jack go with him?” Gabe snapped.  “I don’t think so.”
 
“Where is he?” Eileen asked.
 
“On the run,” Castiel answered.  “The police went to the apartment and he was long gone.”
 
“You can’t have custody of any kind when you’re in jail, can you?” Gabe asked.
 
“No,” Sam and Crowley answered.
 
“Give him bad drugs,” Eileen signed.
 
Gabe snapped his fingers, instantly silencing the crowd.
 
Claire, Jack, and Abner came around the porch and up the steps.
 
Abner and Jack took handfuls of fresh eggs inside.
 
“You guys are so not slick,” Claire smirked at all of them.
 
“Listen here, Biker Barbie -” Gabe said.
 
“Whoah there, Chicken Little,” Pam interrupted him.
 
“Chicken Little!” Gabe scoffed.
 
Raucous laughter and arguing broke out again until Jack came onto the porch.  He glanced around at the others, coming to sit on Castiel’s lap.
 
“I mean there’s no WAY the Steelers are losing to the Bears!” Dean said, the others jumping in on the argument to cover their other bantering.  
 
Castiel looked down at Jack as the others laughed and argued.  
 
He looked tired.  Felix was wound in his arms and his tiny frame lay heavily against him.
 
“Hey,” Sam said, getting his attention.  “We really do have to get going.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “Thank you for coming.  I will never forget turning around and seeing you all there for us.  Every one of you.  Benny, we never even met until then.  Pam, you hardly know us.  It truly meant the world to me.”
 
Jack sat up, shoving Felix off himself and squirming into Dean’s space.  “I don’t want you to go!”  He started crying and Dean picked him up easily, hugging him.
 
“I’m not going!  I’m staying here!”  Dean soothed him, rubbing his back and rocking him slightly.  “I’m staying here with you and Cas.”
 
Castiel’s heart felt near to bursting.  He stood up, looking at Dean in amazement.  “But, August?”
 
“Fu- the hell with August.  I’m staying.  I can’t leave,” Dean stammered looking confident yet apologetic.
 
Cas hugged him.  Both of them.
 
He could hear the others ‘awing’ around them, but all he cared about in that moment was the two people he held in his arms.  “Thank you,” he whispered.
 
Dean kissed him, shuffling Jack onto his hip better.  “I mean, I was gonna ask if I -”
 
“Yes!  Stay!” Castiel cut him off.  “I don’t want you to leave either!  Ever!”
 
Dean chuckled, grinned at Jack, who was watching him in a bit of awe, and said, “Okay, guess I’m moving in!”
 
“Claire and I can pack your place up,” Sam added, his grin a little forced.  Claire, not looking much happier, nodded.
 
“Sorry, Sam,” Dean said quietly.  “I just...can’t.”
 
“Yeah,” Sam assured him.  “Do what you need to do, man.”  He grinned at Jack.  “I get it.”
 
Dean looked at Jack.  “You sure you don’t mind me staying?”
 
Jack hugged him tight.  “I want you to stay.  I love you, Dean.”
 
Dean’s eyes closed as he hugged Jack tighter.  “I love you too, buddy.”
 
Sam, smiling more sincerely this time, patted his brother on the shoulder.
 
Jack sat up, looking at Sam shyly.
 
“Nice to meet you, Jack.  I’m really glad you’re home.”
 
Jack bit his lip, smiling at him shyly.
 
“I know he’s big,” Dean said, “but I remember when he was smaller than you.”
 
Jack looked at Dean like that could not be possible.
 
“Oh yeah,” Dean assured him, Sam chuckling.  “Sam was so little in Kindergarten that he still wore toddler size clothes!”
 
Jack giggled.
 
Sam shrugged.
 
“I could get tall like him,” Jack said.
 
“Maybe,” Dean grinned, looking up at his little brother.  “Thanks, Sammy.”
 
“Always.”  Sam stepped over to Castiel, hugging him.
 
“Thank you, Sam,” he managed, trying not to get choked up about how amazing it was that Sam had come, and the dark reason why.
 
“Any time,” he said, meaning it.
 
Castiel felt a surge of confidence as every one of them hugged him goodbye.  These people who barely knew him, had driven all night, walked the streets, shook down any and all of Lucifer’s known associates, questioned neighbors, drove around and around, searching.
 
They were heroes.
 
“Claire,” Cas said, stopping her from leaving the porch.  He turned to Dean, wishing he could convey how much he wanted Claire to stay.  She had become entwined with Dean’s life, and his too.  He worried about her returning to Pennsylvania with little support.
 
Dean grinned and gave him a nod, seeming to read his mind.
 
Castiel turned back to her.  Her face was tense, obviously fighting to not be too emotionally affected by all that was going on.  “Claire, you can stay too.  I, we, would love it if you stayed.”
 
She huffed a laugh, suspicious as she often was of other’s kindness.  Knowing her better now, he understood why.  Her eyes darted from Dean, to him, to Jack, and back to him with that hesitant, crooked grin she sported so well.  The hair hanging in her face hid her only so much.
 
Dean gave her a grin that had her grinning back.  “Um...well, I was riding back with the others.  Besides, somebody has to bring Dean his precious artwork.”
 
“Okay,” Dean said dismissively.
 
“I can handle that,” Pam grinned.
 
“Sam and I will help pack up yo stuff,” Benny added.
 
“It’s...okay,” Claire cut him off.  “I have a lot to think about before I go moving to Illinois.”  
 
Dean and Cas nodded, understanding.
 
She gave Jack a crooked smile.  “I promise I’ll be back though.”
 
He grinned, dropping his head onto Dean’s shoulder, waving goodbye to her.
 
She waved as she headed to the car.
 
“So, you gonna come back too?” Gabe asked Pam as the pair stood just past the stairs.
 
“Maybe,” Pam smirked.  “If it’s worth my while.”
 
Gabe grinned, full of naughty mischief.  “Oh, I’ll make it VERY worth your while.”
 
Pam slid her sunglasses on.  “We’ll see.”  She sauntered over to the car, getting in.
 
“What?  No goodbye kiss?” Gabe scoffed.
 
She kissed the air, tipping her chin at him.
 
“Oooohhhh,” Gabe shook his head with a laugh.  “She’s gonna be the death of me.”
 
 
 
************************************
 
 
 
Dean sat on the porch swing, looking around Anna and Abner’s farm.  Cas had taken Jack inside for a snack after Crowley and Charlie left.  Gabe and Eileen were inside as well, probably eating.  Anna always seemed prepared to host a meal.  
 
The day was warm and beautiful, and even though his brother, Pam, Claire, and Benny had left an hour ago, he felt really good about what he was doing.
 
With everyone taking off, Anna and Abner were the only two on the porch with him.  He tried not to feel awkward about it.
 
“So, you just walked out on your job?” Abner asked.  He was kicked back in a rocking chair.  The persistent tapping of his index finger was the only thing that gave away how tense he truly seemed to be. Even his trim beard could not hide the muscles that clenched his jaw.
 
“Yeah,” Dean answered, staring right at him.  “Mr. Murphy knew I was leaving.  When I told him about Jack, he said go.  I went.”
 
The jaw muscle stopped clenching quite so hard.
 
“You never seemed like the family type,” Abner added, meeting his eyes again, still hard and deep brown like his hair.
 
“Abner,” Anna sighed from the railing, looking off into the field.
 
Dean sighed.  “You don’t know me then.”  He stopped swinging, leaning forward to prop his elbows on his knees to really stare at the man.  “We mighta passed each other a few times around Stanford.  We mighta been at a few parties together.  But you don’t know me.  I have spent my entire life caring about my family.  Sam.  He was my family.  And I know what happened in California was messed up, but it is the past, man.”
 
The jaw muscle started twitching again.
 
“Abner, just drop it,” Anna said impatiently.  “We broke up.  It was a rebound move on my part!  Ya know, like you sleeping with that girl, whatever her name was.”
 
“Look,” Dean cut her off, “I don’t want to cause problems.  I’m here for Cas.  And Jack.  If me being here is too much, I won’t come over anymore.”  He stood up, walking past the pair of them.  “But I’m not leaving Cas and Jack.  They’re the best thing that EVER happened to me, next to Sam.”  He left the couple, walking down the steps and along the path that led to the chicken coop, shed, and fields beyond.  He hated that he was causing problems with actions he thought never meant anything.  He had been so unattached to people back then.  Hooking up with a chick (whether Sam knew them or not) meant little to him.  He regretted it now.  If he would have bothered to talk to Anna instead of being so damn physical, things might have been different.  But thinking back on it, she had been the one flirting first.  They had been quite clear with each other that it was a one-time thing.
 
It all seemed fine back then.  Who knew almost ten years and thousands of miles difference, it could come back to bite them both.
 
He leaned on the fence to the big yard around the chicken coop.  He hoped he was doing the right thing by leaving Sam behind.  He still found it hard to believe it had come to this.
 
He jumped slightly as Abner leaned on the fence next to him.  
 
The two stood there for several moments, watching the plump, feathery chickens peck at the ground and make their soft, happy noises.
 
“Sorry,” Abner said, gripping the top board of the fence.  
 
“No, man,” Dean shook his head, so frustrated with the situation.  “I’m sorry.  I wish I could take it back.  I wish it never happened.  I really don’t want it to be a thing.  But it is.”  Dean slumped onto his crossed forearms.  
 
Abner stood there a long time, watching his flock.  “I’m the only one making it a thing. I’m sorry. You remind me of who I was back then.” He sighed. “I’m not a wise man, Dean.  But I know this.  The key to happiness?  It’s getting the one thing you want most and never letting go.”
 
Dean turned to look at him.
 
“I learned that when I left Anna back then.  I was a jerk.  I didn’t treat her well.  I drank too much.  Partied too much.  But...when we broke up that time and I realized I might lose her, well, I couldn’t imagine life without her.”  Abner turned to meet his eye.  “I learned a lot.  I changed my ways.  I became a better man.  A man who worships the love of his life and never lets go.”  He smiled.  His jaw was still and his hands relaxed, making Dean relax more.  “The Novak family is pretty remarkable.  Anna,” he shook his head with a dreamy grin, “she’s the love of my life.  Castiel, Gabe, Jack, they make us all happier.  The farm.  Heaven Scent...it’s a damn good life here.”
 
Dean nodded, really listening.
 
“I’ve never seen Castiel so happy.  Jack either, this mess with Lucifer aside.  I would really like to move past our...past.”
 
“Me too,” Dean said.
 
Abner smiled.  He offered his hand.
 
Dean shook it, smiling back.  “Thanks, man.  For the second chance.  I won’t let you down.”
 
“Likewise,” Abner nodded.  “Please, come have some lunch.  And,” he lowered his voice with a guilty smile, “if possible, let Anna know I’m not a total asshole.”
 
Dean laughed.  “Sure.  I don’t blame you one bit.  It’s...fucked up.”
 
“It’s in the past,” Abner assured.  “And trust me, Castiel and Jack are worth never letting go.”
 
“Man,” Dean shook his head, turning to walk toward the house with a grin that reached his soul, “I’m never letting go.”
 
 
 
************************************
 
 
 
Castiel sat the fresh eggs from Anna’s on the table.  He watched as Dean dropped his duffle bag by the door and Jack ran back to his room.  His life was suddenly together.  Almost.
 
“What is it?” Dean asked, stopping to stand in front of him, his green eyes taking in every worry Castiel was forming in his mind.
 
“What if Claire feels left out?” He asked.
 
“She won’t.  We can call her tomorrow,” Dean said.
 
“What if the police can’t hold Lucifer?”
 
“Then we will deal with it.  I will deal with it.”
 
“But...what if...” Castiel’s mind was spinning.  “What if the judge wants Jack to go with him again?”
 
Dean gripped his shoulders.  “Cas.”  He slid his hands up to cup his face.  “I am never letting that happen.  No matter what.”
 
“But -”
 
“Jack was right about one thing.  I am not afraid of monsters.  And that’s all Lucifer is.  I just need to find the right weapon to take him down.”
 
Castiel searched his face.  He was so self-assured.  So confident.
 
“I got this.”
 
Castiel nodded.  His body deflated of worry and he leaned forward, kissing him.  “I’m so glad you’re here,” he said for the millionth time.  “Thank you.”
 
Dean hugged him tight.  Castiel melted into his chest, wrapping his arms more tightly.  Dean was here.  He was his.  And he was no longer alone.
 
“Dad?”
 
Cas sucked in a breath, schooling his face to curb some of the raw emotions he was having.  He and Dean let go of each other, turning to look down at Jack.
 
“Yes, Jack?”
 
Jack fidgeted with Felix’s tail.  “Is Dean staying at a hotel?”
 
Castiel gave Dean a quick glance, Dean glancing away.
 
“No.  No, Dean will be staying here with us from now on.  At least, that’s what I would like.”
 
Dean turned to him with a renewed smile.  He then looked at Jack.  “I don’t know.  What do you think?”
 
Jack grinned.  “I think yes.  You can move in with us.  And...I don’t want any more rooms.  He said he was getting us a place in Tennessee.  That I could have my own room.  But I don’t ever want to go there.”
 
Castiel pulled a kitchen chair out and sat down, feeling weak in the knees.  “Lucifer talked about moving with you to Tennessee?”
 
Jack nodded.  “He says he can come get me any time he wants and just take me.”
 
“Well, he can’t,” Dean quickly argued.  “In fact, if you ever see him, you go to the nearest adult and tell them you need help.”
 
Jack stared at both of them.  “He got real mad at me.”
 
Castiel’s heart clenched.
 
“He hates Dean.  And you, and Uncle Gabe.”  His voice dropped to a tremulous whisper.  “He says he’ll hurt all of you.”
 
Castiel pulled Jack onto his lap.  “He says a lot of things.  He has said that many times to me.  I am not afraid of Lucifer.  What I am afraid of is losing you.”
 
Jack nodded.  “He says you have work and don’t have time for me.”
 
Castiel wanted to kill his manipulative, lying, brother.  “I think Lucifer said lots of things to try and confuse you.  Do you think I would rather be at work than with you?”
 
“No,” Jack whispered, but looked just a tad unsure.
 
“Ya know what I want to do?” Castiel grinned at him.  “I want to take you all over the world and teach you about plants and oils and farming and animals and speaking other languages!  I want to live with you and Dean and Claire and be happy.  That’s what I want most.  How about you?”
 
Jack nodded.  “I want to do that too.  And collect my own rocks.”
 
Castiel hugged him tight, sighing heavily.  “He was trying to make you scared of us and want to stay with him.  But you are so smart.  You saw right through all of that, didn’t you?”
 
Jack nodded.  “I don’t want Dean to leave.”
 
“I’m not going anywhere, buddy.  And hopefully we can talk Claire into coming back too.”
 
 
 
*****************************************
 
 
 
Dean felt exhausted.  It reminded him of the stress that often ensued when he and Sam were little, and their dad was around long enough to mess things up.
 
For the most part, Jack seemed okay.  He had gone to bed fine in his room.  Though they had all slept together the night before, it had been pure exhaustion that had them asleep on top of the covers, Jack safely protected between them.  He felt bad giving the kid one more thing to adjust to, but he knew very well that Jack wanted him around.
 
Regardless, Dean was sleeping on the couch to prevent any upset during the night.  Cas was worried Jack would come into his room for help or with bad dreams.
 
It had taken Dean a while to fall asleep.  He must have finally dozed off because he woke to Jack patting his arm gently.
 
“Dean.”
 
Dean blinked groggily and sat up.  “Hey, buddy.  What are you doing up?”
 
Jack bit the tip of Felix’s tail, something he only did when he was really anxious.
 
Dean grinned.  He tugged Felix gently.  “Don’t bite your friend.”
 
Jack stopped, shifting on his feet with a look of worry.
 
“You wanna go sleep with Cas?” Dean asked, trying to figure the little guy out.
 
Jack glanced toward the hall, then back to him.  “I don’t want him to hurt my dad.”
 
Dean frowned.  “Cas won’t hurt your dad.  He just wants to keep you here and safe, that’s all.”
 
“No,” Jack said, his voice trembling with worry.  “I don’t want him to hurt my dad.  Cas.”
 
“Oh,” Dean nodded, understanding.  “Nobody is gonna hurt Cas.  Not on my watch.”
 
Jack glanced around the living room.  “Is that why you’re sleeping out here?  Are you guarding the door?”
 
Dean yawned.  “Yep.”
 
Jack climbed onto the couch, plopping down next to him.  “Then I’ll guard you.”
 
Dean stared down at Jack’s determined face.  Wow.  How could something so precious come from someone so lousy?  He sat back, staring at the dark living room until his eyes grew heavy again.
 
“Can we both go sleep with daddy?” Jack asked, making Dean’s head jerk up to alertness again.
 
“That sounds like the best idea yet.”  He stood up, scooping Jack up and headed to Castiel’s room.  Fuck whatever the judge would think, or anyone else for that matter.
 
Cas sat up as soon as Dean came into the room.  Without a word, he laid Jack down next to Cas, who scooted over to make room for him.
 
“Hi, Daddy.”
 
“Hello, Jack.”
 
Dean got in the other side, under the covers and pulled Cas tight against him.  All three of them sighed, happier than they were before.
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 16:  Finding Perfection
 
 
 
July rolled by quickly.  Dean could not remember a happier time in his life.  He’d been happy enough for several years when it was him and Sam, Sam in college.  But this was different.  He had a life of his own.  It was not always easy.  The court system was dragging Jack’s custody hearing date.  Castiel’s custody was still labeled as temporary.  
 
Lucifer had been arrested in Chicago three days after Jack was found.  Having him locked away made them all breathe a lot easier.  Jack seemed to relax tremendously, knowing his father was not going to snatch him away.
 
The day before Lucifer was arrested, Dean saw a side of Jack he had never seen before.  They had stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things when Jack saw someone that looked similar to his father.  One second he had been holding Dean’s hand, walking through the dairy section, the next second he was screaming, crying, and climbing Dean like a tree.
 
Several shoppers cleared out of their way as Dean and Cas assured him he was fine, his father was not there, and no one was getting hurt.
 
Dean had to leave the store, Cas rushing to pay for their few items.  He’d spent the rest of the day clinging to him or Cas.  None of them slept much that night either.  And Dean was now more versed in Barbie movies than he ever would have believed.  For some reason, the colors, the stories, the music, whatever it was, Barbie movies seemed to relax Jack more than anything.
 
The following day was not a lot better.  It wasn’t until Mr. Cain also reported Lucifer’s imprisonment, that Jack believed it to be true.
 
Taking him out was still a struggle.  He didn’t want to leave the house unless it was to go to Anna’s or Gabe’s.  Even those trips were under sworn promises that either Dean or Cas would stay as well.  
 
It was hard on all of them.  Dean seemed to be able to push him harder than Cas, who generally folded under his puppy-dog eyes.  Dean would hold him when Cas left for work, telling him they had to move on, that Cas would be fine, and he would be home.  Meanwhile, Cas would leave in tears and only work half a day, worrying that Jack was worrying.  Dean, at one point, sat Jack and Cas down, writing out a schedule for the week, showing where he and Cas could leave and where Jack would be.  After three successful days of the schedule and an extra visit with Mr. Cain, Jack began accepting their regular routines once more.
 
Jack had nightmares about his father getting out and taking him again.  He was always with a family member and spent most nights asleep with him and Cas.
 
It wasn’t perfect.  But it was damn near perfect.
 
Dean tossed the cap to his beer into the trashcan in the kitchen.  He was working odd jobs doing roofing and home repairs.  But in his spare time, he was finishing the upstairs to Cas’ cape cod house.  Today he had finished drywalling.  He was still covered in drywall dust and sweat.  He had just enough time to drink a beer before he got a shower.
 
Scrolling through his phone, he stopped on Sam’s number.  It was too early to call.  He’d probably be still at work.  
 
He missed his brother.  A lot.  It seemed so weird that they were leading such separate lives now.  
 
He tucked his phone away, taking another long drink.  He opted to finish his beer in the shower.  That done, he opened the fridge to see what he could pull out for dinner.  Humming and half singing, he sat a pound of burger on the counter.  As he turned to the fridge again, he stopped to look at a list of short notes Cas had written on a post-it note.  He grinned at his neat writing, but it slid away when a name caught his eye.  Robert.  He was a farmer in Utah that Cas dealt with frequently.  But the name was enough to jog a memory of Bobby Singer.
 
Bobby and Jody sitting in the stands at his football game.  They were bundled up in the cold fall weather, Bobby with his blue and white hat on and that damn vest he wore everywhere.
 
Dean had been pulled from the game and replaced for a near fumble on a play when he saw Bobby was out of his seat and yelling at the coach.
 
Dean started jogging down the sideline to see what was being said when the coach blew his whistle and called a time-out.
 
All Dean heard Bobby say was, “You know you’re wrong, Harvey!  You put my boy back in right now!”
 
His coach, not looking like he was paying Bobby any attention, pointed at Dean.
 
“Winchester, get back in there!”
 
Dean buckled his helmet as he ran onto the field.  He was not the greatest player on the field.  He certainly wasn’t being scouted for a college.  But he suddenly felt like he had all the support in the world.
 
He could see Jody fussing Bobby when he sat back in the stands, but he waved her off with a grin.  Dean gave him a thumbs-up from the field, Bobby grinning back with a nod.
 
“Your dad’s a badass,” the kid next to him laughed.
 
Dean smirked, not correcting him.  “Yes, he is.”
 
Dean chuckled at the memory.  Bobby had done so much for him.  More than provide him and Sam a safe place.  He gave them guidance.  Attention.  A stern warning and re-direction when they were going off the rails, like when he kept getting into fights with a dipshit at school named Roy, and his idiot friend Walt.
 
Dean pulled his phone out again, going to the internet.  He owed Bobby and Jody a phone call.  And for the first time, he felt emboldened enough to do it.
 
It took him twenty minutes to track down a phone number.  Without letting himself back out, he dialed the number while he mixed beef for a meatloaf.
 
“Yeah?”
 
Dean grinned.  Gruff bastard.  “Hey, Bobby.  This is Dean Winchester.”
 
“Dean?”  Bobby’s voice changed from gruff to shocked.
 
“Hey!  How’ve you been?” Dean asked, not quite sure where to begin.
 
“Me?  I’ve been fine.  How are you?”
 
“I’m really good,” Dean said, adding the last of the ingredients for the meatloaf into the bowl.  “I guess Jody told you about the scare we had with Cas’ son, Jack.”
 
“Yeah.  So...guess you’ve been busy.”
 
“Yeah.  He’s been doing a lot better this week.  Getting back to normal here.”
 
“That’s good.  So...what’s been goin’ on?  Haven’t seen ya since just after ya got yer driver’s license.”
 
“Yeah.  It’s been too long.  So, after Sam and I left you and Jody, we were with Dad for a year before we ended up in a foster home in Colorado.  We bounced around a few times.  But, none of them were as good as when we were with you and Jody.”
 
Bobby laughed short.  “I’m sure there’s better joints than this old place.”
 
“Man, I loved that place.  All those cars.  Workin’ in the garage.  Playin’ ball in the yard.”  Dean could picture a lot of happy memories packed into the few months they lived there.  “Sam is a lawyer now.”
 
“I heard.  Donna mentioned it when she called,” Bobby said.
 
“We had some fun times while he was in school.  Can’t say California is my cup of tea.  I’m more of a mountain man than a beach boy.”
 
“Sounds about right.  So, you and Sam still close?” Bobby asked.
 
“Oh yeah.  Thick as thieves, like always.  He’s living in Pennsylvania.  Nice little town, doing his lawyer thing.  And I just moved near Chicago to be with Cas.”  He formed the beef into a loaf and moved it to a baking dish.  “Um, Cas is a guy.  Not sure if you knew that.”
 
“I heard.  Donna kinda spills everything all quick and peppy.”
 
Dean snorted a laugh.  “Yeah, she’s pretty awesome.  She really took good care of Jack.”
 
“So, she didn’t go into the details of the situation regarding the boy.  Is he yours?”
 
“No.  He’s actually Cas’ brother’s son.  But he’s in and out of jail all the time.  Cas is fighting for custody.  The judge is being a real bitch about him being single and working too much.  But he cut back on work and doesn’t travel anymore.”
 
“Huh.  So, you two meet at work?”
 
“No.”  He went into the whole story of working with Habitat For Humanity, how they met, their first kiss, their second, probably way more than the man wanted to know, how he moved away from Sam to be with them, his work in construction.  Throughout the whole conversation Bobby asked questions, laughed, consoled.  It was like he had never left.

Cas and Jack were home, Cas taking over dinner preparations as Dean slipped outside to keep talking.  Right in the middle of telling Bobby about Sam’s first and only roommate, Jack came out the back door, wrapping his arms around Dean’s waist.
 
“Hang on a minute, Bobby,” Dean said, picking Jack up.  “Hey.  How was your day?”
 
“Good,” Jack said quietly.  “Anna invited me to spend the night.  She wants to watch the new Barbie movie with me.”
 
“She does?” Dean grinned.  “That sounds fun.”
 
“Wanna go with me?” Jack hugged him tight.
 
“No, buddy.  I’m talking to my old friend Bobby.  I gotta call Sam too.  Besides, I’ll stay here and take care of your dad.”
 
“Okay,” Jack said.  “Abner’s gonna make pie.”
 
Dean gasped.  “Pie?”  He looked at the door uncertainly and heard Bobby chuckling in his ear.  “Maaaan.”
 
Jack giggled.  “If you don’t go, I’m gonna eat it ALL!”
 
“You better bring me a piece!” Dean tickled him, steadying him, and almost dropping the phone.  
 
He sat Jack on his feet.  “Hey!  Bring me some pie!”
 
Jack giggled, running inside.
 
“Hey!  PIE!” He yelled in the door.
 
Dean slid the phone back to his ear and mouth.
 
“Sounds like you ain’t gettin’ any pie,” Bobby laughed.
 
“Guaranteed I’m gettin’ some.  He’s my hook-up,” Dean laughed.
 
“Usin’ children.  You should be ashamed,” Bobby teased.
 
“Oh yeah,” Dean laughed, “like you used to use Sam to get Jody to make peach pie?”
 
Bobby laughed.  “That was you!”
 
Dean chuckled, knocking on the back door to get Jack’s attention.  He dropped his backpack, heading to Dean with a big grin.  Dean opened the door.
 
“I’ll see you in the morning,” Dean said, hugging him.
 
“Early!” Jack grinned back, kissing his cheek.  “I love you.”
 
“I love you 75% more,” Dean said, standing up tall again.
 
“Nu uh,” Jack frowned.  “100%!”
 
Dean arched an eyebrow.  “Pie.”
 
Jack rolled his eyes, looking remarkably like Cas.  “I’ll bring you pie.”
 
Dean grinned, giving him a wink.  “100% more.”
 
Jack ran back in the house and Dean gave Anna a wave.  She waved back, taking Jack by the hand.
 
“Sorry about that,” he said, back into the phone.
 
“Sounds like a cute kid,” Bobby answered.
 
“He is.  He’s...well, he’s our whole world, pretty much.”
 
“Always knew you’d be a good dad.  You were always good with Sam,” Bobby said.
 
Dean shrugged a shoulder.  “Not always.  We, I had my moments.  But he turned out good, so I guess I did enough right.”
 
“He’s a lucky boy.  Sam too.  Cas too, for that matter.”
 
“So,” Dean hesitated, “I’m sure you were shocked to hear I’m with a guy.”
 
Bobby made a noncommittal noise.  “Never really thought about it.  Whatever floats yer boat.”
 
Dean grinned.  “Bet that’s not what my dad would say.”
 
“Well, I never much cared what that man had ta say.”
 
Dean had to agree.  “Me either.”  It felt good to tell Bobby and get support.  It felt like another solid brick in his foundation with Cas.  “I shoulda called you a long time ago,” Dean admitted.  “I’ve thought about it a million times.  I just...wanted to have something more impressive to report than I’m still following Sam around the country.”
 
“Well, that is impressive.  Most people never leave the state they were born in.  You’re a good brother.  Always have been.  I’m real proud of you two boys.”
 
Dean closed his eyes, willing himself to not get choked up.  “Thanks, Bobby.”
 
“You two were the closest thing Jody and I ever had to having kids.  We hated to see you two go.”
 
Dean regretted not calling Bobby sooner.  “I really shoulda kept in touch.  Sorry, Bobby.  You and Jody were the closest thing we ever had to parents.”
 
“Well, it ain’t too late to keep in touch better.”
 
Something sad threaded through Bobby’s voice.  It made Dean wonder.  “So, enough about me and Sam.  How have you and Jody been?  What did we miss?”
 
“Oh, not a whole lot.  Just...doin’ our thing.  Jody retired in March and I’m still runnin’ the salvage yard.”
 
“Retired?” Dean grinned.  “Man, she’s too young to retire!  But I’m glad she did.  I’m sure you are too.”
 
“I am.  Just wish it were for a better reason.”
 
Dean’s smile disappeared.  “What do you mean?  What’s going on, Bobby?”
 
The line went silent for several painful minutes.
 
“Jody’s been havin’ heart trouble.  The docs can’t seem to quite figure out what’s wrong.  She’s...”
 
Dean felt a chill spread down his spine.
 
“She’s just...fading away.”
 
Dean closed his eyes.  “Damn, Bobby.  I’m so sorry.”
 
“Yeah, life’s a real bitch sometimes.”  Bobby sighed.  “I hate to be that old goat that asks for stuff...but...maybe you and Sam could cheer her up.  Maybe come see her before...”
 
Tears stung Dean’s eyes.  Why had he not called them sooner?  “Yeah, Bobby.  I’ll come visit.  I’m not sure about Sam, but I’ll be there.  Soon.”
 
“It’d be real good to see you again.”
 
“Yeah!”  Dean fought off sounding sad.  “I’ll, uh, I’ll call you in a day or two and let you know the plan.”
 
“Dean...thanks.  I know it would do her good to see you boys.”
 
“Yeah!  Let’s do it!  Save me a car to tinker with.”
 
Bobby chuckled.  “You can have your pick of the lot.”
 
They ended the call, Dean standing in Cas’ yard for quite some time.  He should have contacted Bobby and Jody a long time ago.  Now it was almost too late.
 
He called Sam.
 
“Hey, Jerk,” he answered.
 
“Hey, Bitch.  How was your day?”
 
“Good.  Slow.  You?”
 
Dean recognized the familiar sounds of Sam researching, typing, shuffling papers, semi-distracted.
 
“Sam.”
 
“Yeah?”
 
“I called Bobby.”
 
The noises stopped.  “You did?  How is he?  How’s Jody?”
 
Dean sighed.  “Bobby sounds like he’s holding up pretty well, but...Jody’s not doing so good.”
 
“What?  What do you mean?”
 
“He said she has heart problems.  He...Sam, he asked us to come see her.”
 
The line went silent.  He could picture his brother sitting back, rubbing a hand over his mouth, probably fighting off the waterworks.
 
“Shit.”
 
“Yeah.  Man, I feel like a real asshat not calling them a long time ago.”
 
“Yeah, but, Dean...look, don’t beat yourself up over this.  Let’s...let’s just go see them.”
 
“He made it sound pretty urgent, Sammy.”
 
“Okay.  I’ll, uh, I can do a lot of my work on the road.  I’ll head your way tomorrow.”
 
Dean was surprised Sam could adjust his schedule so quickly.  “You sure?  I don’t want you goin’ and losin’ your job or anything.  I mean, I can go alone.”
 
“No!  No way.  I want to see her too.  She was...”
 
“I know,” Dean said softly.
 
“I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know when I’ll be there.  I can crash at Gabe’s, right?  Or Anna’s?”
 
“Yeah.  You can stay here.  We do have a couch.”
 
Sam chuckled.  “Right.  I’ll bring some of your things.”
 
Dean grinned.  “Sorry to have you on the road so soon.  If I thought it could wait -”
 
“Dude.  It’s Jody.  I’m there.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Okay.  Talk to you tomorrow.”
 
He ended the call and went inside.  Cas was sitting at the table, scrolling through something on his phone.  He looked up at Dean with that adorable smile he got every time Cas came home from work.  “Hello.”
 
“Hi.”  He kissed him and sat down.  “Just you and me?”
 
“Yes.”  Cas grinned with an extra twinkle in his eye.  “He’s spending the night.”
 
“I heard.”  Dean leaned forward.  “I could use some you time.”
 
“I know.”  He got up, bringing the cooked meatloaf to the table.
 
“You better eat up,” Dean grinned.  “Cause I’m gonna help you work off your dinner.”
 
Cas chuckled, cutting a slice for Dean and then himself.  “Sounds like the perfect plan.”
 
“Speaking of plans...Sam’s coming.  I talked to Bobby.  Jody’s not doing too well.  We’re gonna go visit.”
 
Cas nodded.  “I’m sorry to hear that.  How long will you be gone?”
 
“Not sure.  A few days?”
 
Cas gave his hand a squeeze.  “You want me to come along?”
 
“Yes.”  Dean squeezed his hand back, smiling at him.  “But no.  You better stay here.  I don’t want that freakin’ judge to have any excuses.”
 
Cas nodded.  “Tell me about them. Bobby and Jody.”
 
They spent their meal with Dean rehashing a lot of good memories, Cas enjoying all of it.
 
They cleaned up dinner quickly.  As Cas put the last container of leftovers in the fridge, he turned, running into Dean.
 
“Why are you still wearing clothes?” Dean asked, as if it made no sense at all.
 
Cas laughed.  “I have no idea.  Why are you?”
 
Dean grinned, kissing him.  They made their way to the bedroom, losing clothes as they went.
 
Finally naked, Dean followed Cas into bed.  “I wanna try that thing we did at the hotel when I came to visit.”
 
Cas nodded.  “And this time, I can take my time.”
 
Dean peppered him with slow kisses.  “You have all night.”
 
Half an hour later, Dean knew he wouldn’t make it all night.  Cas had taken his time, opening him slowly, lavishing attention on his cock and licking his entrance as he worked the plug inside him.  His body was electric with the new sensation of Cas’ tongue being somewhere no one else’s had ever been.  Cas finally sunk the plug in deep and left it there.  He crawled back over Dean, staring into his eyes.  
 
“My turn.”
 
Dean grinned up at him, watching as he collapsed beside him onto the bed.
 
Dean was so aroused that his hips seemed to have a mind of their own, rocking up into nothing as he came back down, the plug bumping against the bundle of nerves so rarely touched.
 
Dean groaned, rocking again.  He hefted himself up, crawling on top of Cas, who ran his hands down Dean’s sides until each hand was full of ass cheek.  He squeezed, circling his cheeks, grinding the plug in deeper.
 
“Cas.”  Dean’s breath hitched, barely holding on.  He gripped his cock at the base, eyes closed and fighting the surge that threatened.
 
Cas let go of him with a devilish grin, propping his hands behind his head.  “You like that an awful lot.”
 
“I know,” Dean muttered, counting to ten.
 
“I think you should try -”
 
“I will,” Dean said tightly, counting to ten again.  “I want to.  Just...maybe next time.”
 
Cas grinned, just watching him.
 
Dean opened his eyes and let go of his own dick, back in control.  “I want to.”
 
Cas nodded, running a heel over Dean’s ass, wrapping the leg around him.
 
Dean grinned back down at him, pushing Cas’ leg back to the bed with a smirk.  He crept down Cas’ body, nipping at his nipples and kissing a trail down his chest and abdomen until his mouth bumped into the plump head of Cas’ cock.  He took him into his mouth, sliding down the smooth skin with practiced ease.
 
“You are getting so damn good at this,” Cas said dreamily.
 
Dean continued to suck his long cock, still distracted with the huge plug in his ass.  He worked Cas open, grinning down at him squirming and lost in pleasure.
 
“Roll over,” Dean said, his voice ragged with lust.
 
Cas’ eyes opened and he sat up, staring at him.  They almost always had sex face to face.  He loved making love to Cas.  But tonight, tonight he wanted a bit more than that.
 
“What are you gonna do to me?” Cas whispered, his eyes slipping shut as Dean kissed his neck.
 
Dean chuckled low, biting gently, making Cas moan and squirm.  “I’m gonna make sure you’re good and ready for me.”
 
“Yeah,” Cas whispered, starting to turn over.
 
“And I don’t want you to be quiet,” Dean pushed Cas the rest of the way onto his stomach, Cas’ dreamy intoxication ramping up to a more needy lust.  He knew what Cas liked.  It wasn’t often they could be as loud or active as they wanted to be, making tonight even more magical.  “I wanna hear you,” Dean went on, nipping his earlobe and the back of his neck.
 
“Okay,” Cas said a touch louder than he had been.
 
“Mm mm,” Dean scolded.  “That isn’t nearly loud enough.”
 
Cas, head turned to the side on his pillow, grinned.
 
Dean swept his hands up Cas’ back, right into his hair, scraping his nails gently, eliciting a long moan and a wiggle from his ass.
 
Dean grinned, sliding his hands back down, slapping his ass cheek.
 
Cas moaned loud.
 
“Up on your knees,” Dean ordered, his hands never stopping their exploration of Cas’ skin.
 
Cas lifted to his knees, spreading them automatically in anticipation.
 
Dean drizzled lube, making Cas’ breath catch at the chill.  He had been thinking about what he was going to do for weeks now.  Cas had done it to him, and he had no idea how he’d gone his whole life without it.  He stretched Cas’ hole, massaging his cheeks as Cas moaned softly.
 
Getting into position, Dean wiggled his fingers inside Cas.  “You gonna be noisy for me?”
 
“Yes,” Cas huffed loud and clear, his ass bobbing in search of something more to fill it.
 
Dean grinned, sliding his fingers out and spreading his cheeks wide to lick inside him.
 
Cas clamped up, shuddering with a moan.
 
Dean eased him open again with a dark chuckle, darting his tongue in again.
 
“Oh fuck,” Cas swore, his muscles trembling.
 
“Mm hmm,” Dean delved deeper, groaning as Cas panted and moaned.
 
Surprisingly eager, Dean flicked his tongue, gripping Castiel’s penis, sliding down as it hung heavy and pointing toward the bed.
 
“Dean!  Fuck.”
 
He wiggled his tongue, groaning as he stroked.  Cas hollowed his back, his ass jutting up and forward.  He was trying to fuck Dean’s tongue.
 
High on how wrecked Cas was, he jolted when the plug in his ass buzzed to life, making him see stars.  “Fuck!” He pulled back, gasping.  “Cas!”
 
The buzzing stopped, Cas panting with his head still buried in the pillow and his ass so beggingly presented.
 
“I can’t wait,” Cas moaned, rocking his hips so beautifully.
 
“I got the message,” Dean laughed.  “But I gotta say, this is fucking hot.”  He delved in again, Cas crying out, rocking against Dean’s mouth for more.
 
Dean had finally had enough as well.  Without a word, he sat up and plunged deep inside.
 
“So good,” Dean babbled, pulling out and plunging deep again.
 
Cas braced his hand against the headboard, crying out with every slam of hips.
 
Dean gripped his hips tight, taking all he wanted, knowing Cas wanted him hard and rough.  Cas went up on his hands, dropped again, gripped the sheets, braced against the headboard again, all the while, moaning and crying out for more.
 
Something changed in his tight moves, Cas moaned on a new level, his knees spreading further, his ass clenching harder.  Dean gripped him tighter, slamming into him impossibly faster, watching as Castiel fell to pieces and cried out so loud it made Dean come from the rawness of it all.
 
“Stop,” Cas croaked as Dean’s head spun and his hips slowed.  Dean froze, falling forward on him.  
 
“Sorry,” Dean mumbled.  “I’ll take care of you.  I just lost it.  You’re so fucking sexy, Cas.”
 
Cas gently shoved his way out from under Dean, looking down at his dick in surprise.  “I came.  Hard.  So fucking hard.”  His head dropped back on the bed in exhaustion.
 
Dean propped up onto one elbow, his head still foggy.  “Oh.  Wait, without being touched?”
 
“Yeah,” Cas laughed.
 
“Holy fuck.”  Dean laughed, dropping back down.  “I am the man!”
 
“Shut up,” Cas laughed, whacking him gently, making Dean giggle.
 
Dean turned on his side, taking the hand that had whacked him, kissing it.  “You didn’t sneak in a few strokes there at the end?”
 
“No,” Cas chuckled.  “I was too busy holding on.  That has never happened to me before.  It was...Earth-shattering.”
 
“Earth-shattering,” Dean beamed.  “I am awesome.”
 
Cas groaned, chuckling again.  “You are incredible, indeed.”
 
Dean chuckled back, snuggling into Cas.  “I love you.”
 
“You loved me very well,” Cas grinned, his voice cracking.  “And I love you too.”
 
They dozed off until Cas roused him to take a shower.  They washed, sluggish and tender.  After brushing their teeth and Dean getting in a quick shave, they headed to the kitchen for a late evening beer.  Dean flicked his cap into the kitchen sink from where he sat, smirking.
 
Cas grinned, shaking his head slowly.  “You are impossible.”
 
“Uh, incredible,” Dean smirked anew.
 
Cas sat down gingerly.  “I didn’t even get to turn that plug on again.”
 
Dean laughed.  “I didn’t need it.  Not with a front row ticket to watching you.”
 
They exchanged a steamy look.
 
Cas turned his beer bottle in a slow circled on the table, his eyes heavily lidded.  “Round two?”
 
“God, I love you,” Dean grinned.
 
Dean wanted to savor every moment with Cas.  Bottle it up and keep it tight.  He hit every button, met every wish, filled every hole he’d had in his life.  He stood up, took Cas by the hand and led him to the bedroom again.  Their nights alone were few and far between.  He intended on waking up sore and tired, milking every minute from this night he could get.
 
He’d never been in love like this before.  So completely.  So one hundred percent sure.
 
They got under the covers, kissing for a long time.
 
“Dean,” Cas said, sliding over top of him.   “I want to...”
 
Dean searched his eyes in the weak light coming through the window.  Cas had a look of longing with a touch of apprehension.
 
“You name it, Cas.  I’m on board.”
 
“I want to top.”
 
Dean blinked with surprise.  “Like...always?”
 
“No,” he grinned, a wave of shyness making him look so young.  “Not often.  But I would like to try it.”
 
Dean ran his fingers through Cas’ hair.  “Yeah.  Okay.”
 
“You want to try?” Cas grinned, kissing him.
 
“Yeah, I mean...you like it.  I like the plug.”
 
Cas’ grin grew.
 
“Have you ever topped before?” Dean asked, wondering.
 
“Yes.”
 
Dean nodded, licking his lips.  “I’m all yours.”
 
Cas moved his legs slowly, nudging Dean’s to the outside as he kissed him.
 
As Cas pulled away, getting lube, Dean watched him, biting his lip.  If it felt like the plug, he was going to like it.
 
Cas, lube tossed to the middle of the bed, began a slow, sinfully arousing trail of kisses from the palm of his right hand, up his arm, over his chest, then down the other arm, continuing over his abdomen with three stops, one at each nipple and the third at his dick.
 
Dean melted into a state of bliss, his only move was to softly curl his fingers into Cas’ hair from time to time.  All the soft, beautiful words Cas said seemed to sink into his skin, infusing his soul with love.
 
Dean was loose and happy.  Floating on a cloud of Castiel.  His first real moan of pleasure was when Cas’ mouth sunk down wet and warm over his cock while his fingers slid inside him.  Two fingers and his little plug were as far as he had ever gone, but he was ready for more.  Initially, he clenched, quickly relaxing as Cas’ tongue swirled around his cock with such skill it made Dean melt even more.
 
Cas’ fingers suddenly seemed thicker, stretching him further.
 
His eyes were difficult to keep open as Cas worked him so smoothly.  He rocked his hips tentatively, hearing a happy little moan that he felt vibrate up his cock.  He ground against Cas’ fingers again and again, his heart beating more quickly.  A spark of hot desire jolted him when Cas began nudging at the nub of nerves.  His head tossed back and forth, his fingers clawing softly at Cas’ shoulders as the intensity grew.  The fullness made him gasp softly, seeking more.
 
His eyes fluttered open when Cas’ fingers slid out.  “Wh -” why had he stopped?
 
Cas knelt over him, a look of love, lust, and adoration gracing his face as he moved Dean’s legs.  He couldn’t possibly be ready yet.
 
Cas glanced down and Dean felt the unmistakable head of his penis.
 
His mouth dropped open.  He couldn’t possibly be ready!  Cas was not small!  Maybe he -.  Dean’s eyes widened as he felt himself stretch, felt the press and push filling him so full.  Too full.  So full.  And he just kept going, slow and so fucking huge.
 
“C-Cas,” Dean panted.
 
Cas paused, watching him closely.  “Does it hurt?”
 
“N-no,” Dean’s breath hitched, “you’re just so, so fucking big.”
 
Cas smirked, pressing forward again.
 
Dean panted, adjusting his hips.  Cas made a low grumble in his voice, his eyes closing, and he stopped.
 
Dean breathed.  Full.  He was so fucking full.
 
Cas opened his eyes.  “You feel so good.”
 
Dean huffed a grin, feeling mostly just fucking full.
 
Cas leaned down, kissing him lightly, teasing.  Dean chased him up for more, groaning at the movement.  He panted, watching as Cas reached between them to stroke his cock.  Oh...yeah...that...that felt really good.
 
Dean angled his hips a little more and Cas began moving in and out.  Holy shit.  He was being fucked.  Cas sat up better, letting go of his cock to move more.  Bigger.  Faster.  Dean wanted to climb the walls from the sensation.  In a good fucking way.  Every time he thrust in, he hit that spot that jolted him with desire.
 
“Feels so different,” Dean panted, relaxing his body to take more.  It was worlds different than a plug.  The plug was solid and unmoving.  Cas’ cock was warm, thick, formed to fit him, and moving.  Moving in and out with a pressure building inside him that filled him to near bursting with a craving want.
 
“You feel so good, Dean.  So good,” Cas said through gritted teeth, gripping one leg and one hip, thrusting harder.
 
“Oh god, Cas!” Dean gasped.  The sensation built so quickly he felt himself losing any composure he had.  
 
Cas grinned down at him with a knowing look.  “Tell me when you want me to touch you.”
 
Oh god, Cas wanted words!  Thoughts!  Thinking?  He was losing his mind.  “M-more,” he was shocked to hear himself say.
 
Cas fucking growled, increasing the pressure of each pump, increasing the speed with each thrust.
 
Dean’s hands searched for purchase.  He tried holding onto Cas’ shoulders, the bed, the headboard, finally gripping the sheet tight to anchor himself and fuck back.  “Ohmygod,” he panted,  “Cas...touch me!  My dick!”
 
Cas stroked like the magic bullet, sending Dean careening into an orgasm so hard he knew he was hollering.  On his second wave he heard Cas groan and an insane hot, wetness flooded him inside, making him gasp and cry out again.  Cas’ hand fumbled and he took over, stroking himself several more times until the waves ceased and his body stuttered to a ragged halt.
 
Cas, teetering over him, slid out and kissed him.
 
Dean tried to kiss back, mostly just closing his lips to catch Cas’ kisses.  He panted while Cas kissed down his neck, then collapsed next to him.
 
A hazy, dreamy silence engulfed them for several minutes.
 
Eventually, Dean groped next to him, finding Cas’ hand and held it.  Cas laced his fingers, squeezing gently.  
 
Dean shifted his hips experimentally.  He felt...messy.  A laugh bubbled up from his chest.
 
“What?” Cas asked softly, leaning onto an elbow, letting go of his hand.
 
“My ass is squishy.”
 
Cas bit his lip, then laughed.  “So...did you like that?”
 
Dean let out a long sigh.  “Yeah.  Yes.  It’s...crazy how good that feels.”  He looked up at Cas with a grin.  “Now I know why your face looks like it does when I’m goin’ to town on you.”
 
Cas shook his head.  “Dean.”
 
Dean laughed, leaning up to kiss him.  “It was pretty freakin’ great.”
 
Cas nodded with a sly grin.  “You felt amazing.”
 
Dean’s grin sobered.  “It felt really good.”
 
Cas nodded with a grin, biting his lip.  “It’s not my usual thing.  But every now and then...I get the urge.”
 
Dean smiled up at him, running the pad of his thumb along his cheek.  “I can do that.  I like it.  But...I think I’m more of a pitcher.”
 
Cas sighed, snuggling into him.  “You’re perfect.”
 
“Wow.  Incredible, amazing, perfect?  Wait until I tell Sam.  And Pam.  And oooohhhh the details I can now share with Benny.”
 
Cas laughed, snuggling in tighter.  “Give me five minutes to hold you, then I’ll bring you a nice warm washcloth.”
 
Dean grinned, closed his eyes, and ran his fingers through Cas’ hair.  “You are perfect, Cas.  Amazing.  Incredible.  Fantastic.  Perfect.”
 
Cas chuckled warm puffs of breath into his neck and kissed him.
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 17:  Mine
 
 
Dean watched as Cas wandered around what would someday be their suite.  
 
“This is incredible,” Cas said excitedly.  “It feels much bigger up here than I thought it would!”
 
“It’s gonna be nice,” Dean nodded.  “I put sound proofing insulation in the floors and walls.”
 
Cas turned, his blue eyes bright with eagerness.  “Why?”
 
Dean smirked at him.  “Cause I like when you’re loud.”
 
Cas bit his lip, shaking his head.
 
“Helps with insulating for heating and cooling too,” Dean added, crossing his arms over his chest, his tool belt still hanging on his hips.
 
“Well, there’s that,” Cas snickered.
 
Dean gave him a flirty wink as he unbuckled his tool belt, laying it on the floor in the corner.
 
Cas watched every move he made, not at all hiding the lust he felt.
 
He had built a storage bin and place for a window seat in one of the deep dormers.  Cas sat on it, looking out the window.  “Should we stay here or buy something else?”
 
Dean, much more used to these types of conversations than he used to be, walked around the room again.  “Well, I’m building it for us, but...it’s your house, Cas.”
 
Cas turned, looking at him.  “Dean, what’s mine is yours.  You know that.”
 
Dean swallowed hard.  There was a ring in his pocket.  It felt like he was carrying a meteor.  He didn’t understand how everyone in the world couldn’t see it radiating through the denim of his jeans.  He had picked it up yesterday and wasn’t quite sure when to pop the question.  It was killing him.  He could propose right here.  Just the two of them.
 
He heard clomping footsteps on the stairs.  He turned with a grin.  It wasn’t just the two of them.  He needed to have a few conversations before the ring saw the blue of Cas’ eyes.
 
“Hey, Jack,” Dean picked him up, wiping drywall dust from Felix.
 
“He’s here.”
 
Dean knew by the little pout on Jack’s face that Sam must have arrived.  He scooted Jack around to face him.  “I’ll be home by Wednesday.  If I could take you with me, I would, but you and Cas can’t travel yet.”
 
Jack nodded.
 
“I promise I’ll be home in just a few days,” he said again, kissing Jack’s forehead.
 
“Pinky swear?”
 
Dean grinned.  “I swear.”
 
“You gotta use your pinky,” Jack protested.
 
Dean stood him on his feet and held out a pinky, Jack hooking it with his pinky finger.
 
“And kiss your thumb.”  
 
“What?” Dean laughed.  “I don’t know what kinda pinky promises they do in Illinois.  I never heard of that.”
 
“Like this.”  Jack pulled their linked fingers, kissing his thumb.
 
Dean shook his head with half a laugh.  “I think you’re pullin’ my leg.”
 
“No!  It’s real!”  Jack grinned at him, shaking his fist a little.
 
Dean leaned down and kissed his own thumb.
 
“At the same time!” Jack giggled.
 
“Oh my god, you’re gonna get it,” Dean laughed.  “Ready?”
 
Jack nodded and they kissed their thumbs, pinky promise sealed.  Dean let go of his hand, sweeping Jack off his feet to blow raspberries on his stomach, making him squeal and laugh.
 
“I love that sound,” Dean laughed, looking at Cas.  “Listen!”  He did it again, sending Jack into a peal of squealing laughter.
 
“My favorite sound,” Cas grinned, joining them.  
 
Dean put Jack across his shoulders, hands caught in one of his, ankles in the other.  “Now, let’s go answer the door before Sam runs away.”
 
They went downstairs, Cas answering the door.  Sam stepped in, grinning at Jack.
 
“Nice scarf,” Sam chuckled.
 
“I don’t know,” Dean frowned, “it wiggles sometimes.  Say hi, Jack.”
 
“Hi,” he said in a tiny voice.
 
“Hi, Jack,” Sam grinned.
 
Dean sat him down and he ran off to his room.
 
“He spoke to me,” Sam grinned harder.
 
“At night I tell him Sam stories,” Dean smirked.  “The adventures of Sam the nerd.”
 
“Nice,” Sam scoffed.  “Did ya tell him the one when I broke my arm?”
 
“You know it!”  Dean hugged Sam.  “Damn.  Miss you, man.”
 
“Yeah.  Miss you too.”
 
Sam turned to Cas, “Good to see you too, Cas.”
 
Cas hugged him, grinning up at him.  “Just so you know, you are officially the bad guy, taking Dean away.”
 
“Great.  Do I get brownie points if I bring him back?”
 
“I’m sure.”
 
“You can leave your crap car here.  I’ll drive mine,” Dean said.
 
Cas frowned, squinting his eyes.  “Do you hate everyone else’s car, or just ours?”
 
Dean shrugged.  “All other cars are crap compared to mine.”
 
“Yeah,” Sam scoffed, “it’s the awesome gas mileage.”
 
“Whatever,” Dean yelled over him, heading to the kitchen.
 
“And the lack of air conditioning,” Cas added.
 
Dean pointed at him.  “You just watch it, mister.  That’s my baby you’re talking about.”
 
Cas held up both hands in surrender, Sam laughing.
 
“You made good time,” Dean commented, pulling three beers from the fridge, handing them around.
 
“Yeah, took just under eight to get here.”
 
“You can have Jack’s room.  He’ll probably sleep with us,” Cas said, joining them at the table.
 
“Yeah.  Sounds good,” Sam nodded.  
 
 
 
*******************************************
 
 
 
Dean started noticing familiar landmarks as they got close to Sioux Falls.  He glanced over at Sam, seeing his head was still buried in his laptop.
 
“Time to unplug, Sammy-boy.  Look, there’s where we went to school.”
 
Sam closed the laptop, squinting out the windshield.  “Oh yeah.  I liked that school.”
 
“You liked every school.”
 
“No, not all of them,” Sam said, his voice dropping.
 
Not wanting to dredge up bad memories, Dean opted for a good one.  “Remember that time Bobby shot a hole in Rufus’ truck?”
 
Sam laughed.  “Yeah!  Rufus was so pissed!  And Jody!  Oh, she went all mama-cop on him!”
 
“Look, sun gleamin’ off the old junkers.”  Dean pointed as Bobby’s salvage yard came up on the right.
 
“The VW bus is still there!  Man, I loved that thing,” Sam grinned.
 
“Yeah, whenever Jody couldn’t find you, she’d head to the bus.”
 
“On the weekend, she’d bring me lunch and we’d eat in there and talk about the sixties.”
 
Dean laughed.  “You’re so weird.”
 
He turned onto the lane that led through the fenced-off salvage yard, passing under the iron archway that read ‘Singer Salvage’.
 
“Jody said she arrested Bobby so many times she decided to date him and save them both some time and save her the paperwork.”
 
Dean grinned.  “Sounds about right.”
 
“Wow,” Sam said in a hushed voice.  “Place hasn’t changed much at all.”
 
They pulled to a stop in front of the little blue house that the boys had considered home.
 
Bobby came out on the porch, boots, stained jeans, flannel, and ball cap.
 
Dean turned the car off, grinning hard.  He opened baby’s squeaky door and stood up.  “Bobby!”
 
Bobby came down the porch step, grinning wide.  “Dean!”  He stopped in his tracks as Sam stood up.  “Sam?  Damn, you got tall!”
 
Sam laughed.  “Hey, Bobby!”
 
After some hugs and back pats, they followed Bobby inside.  Dean took a deep breath.  Home.  Mountain air, oil, fresh baked bread, and - “Oh my god, Jody made pie.”
 
Bobby chuckled.  “You got a nose like a bloodhound.  I actually made it.  She talked me through it.”
 
The house looked the same.  Red wallpaper with flowers, books stacked everywhere, kitchen spotless.  Then things changed.  The living room had a bed in it with a pale, thin Jody lying in it, propped up on a pile of pillows.
 
“Hey boys,” she smiled.
 
“Jody,” Sam said, his voice catching.  He made a beeline for her, hugging her gently.  Her skin was pale, her lips had a grey-blue tinge to them.  
 
“Oh, wow.”  She beamed up at him, still holding onto his hand.  He sat on the edge of the bed.  “I knew you would grow up to be so handsome, but...wow.”
 
Sam grinned, blushing.
 
Her eyes left him, catching sight of Dean.  “Dean!”
 
He crossed the small room where their couch and two recliners used to be.  Now there was one recliner.  Bobby’s desk still took up the back half of the room.  Dean knelt, hugging Jody.  “Hey there, Jody.”  She felt frail like a tiny bird.
 
She let go of him, beaming up at him with pride tearing in her eyes.  “You’re so tall and handsome too!  How the hell are you two not married?!”
 
“I think Bobby got the last good one,” Sam grinned, his eyes glistening with tears.
 
She waved him off with a chuckle.  “It’s really good to see you both.”
 
“Yeah, I’m sorry it took us so long to get back in touch with you guys,” Dean said, sitting on the arm of the recliner, Bobby perching on the other one.
 
She shook her head with a grin.  “Don’t be silly.  I’m sure we were a blip on your radar.”
 
Dean and Sam exchanged a look.  “No,” Sam assured her.  “Dean and I always said this place was like home to us, Jody.  You and Bobby were the closest thing we ever had to good parents.”
 
“Aw,” she took his hand again, holding it.  “You boys were real special to us too.”
 
They spent the evening talking and catching up on their lives since they parted ways.  Dean watched with a heavy heart as Bobby tended to her.  He checked her oxygen, handing her the plastic tubing to put on.  After some pie and several hours talking, Jody fell asleep.  They all headed outside to let her rest.
 
“Bobby, what’s going on with Jody?” Sam asked.
 
Bobby fidgeted with rusty truck hitch that was lying on the hood of a rusted-out 56 Ford truck that Dean was sure had been parked in the very spot it sat in since the 70’s.
 
They all leaned on the rounded hood of the truck, watching as the sun set and fireflies came out.
 
“She started having some heart trouble five years ago,” Bobby began quietly.  “She needs a valve replacement and some kinda treatment they don’t do ‘round here.  I tried to talk her inta goin’ somewhere else, but she wanted to keep workin’. By the time she had to retire, the doc says she’s got more damage than before, making it even trickier to work on her heart.”
 
Dean and Sam exchanged a quick glance.  Bobby looked tired.  Worn out.  His hair was grayer and there was a weight that sat on his shoulders that Dean wanted to fix.
 
“I’m...I’m afraid I’m just gonna sit around here and watch her die.”  Bobby stared at the hitch in his hands, too torn up over his wife to even look at either of them.  “She gets a little worse every day.”
 
“Maybe it’s time to take her somewhere better,” Sam said gently.
 
“You don’t think I’ve tried?” Bobby snapped.  “That woman is the love of my life!  I don’t want her wasting away to nothing!”
 
Sam looked down, nodding.  “I just meant -”
 
“I know what ya meant,” Bobby said apologetically.  “I’ve tried.”
 
Sam hesitated but went on gently.  “What if I try.  And Dean.  Maybe...maybe we can talk her into something more.”
 
“You can try,” Bobby said, obviously not convinced.  “She’s a stubborn one.”
 
They all stood quietly for several moments.  Another niggling thought worried Dean’s lips.  Deciding a change in topic was for the best anyway, he cleared his throat.
 
“While I, uh, have you both here...” Dean bit the inside of his cheek, pulled the ring out of his pocket, and placed it on the center of the hood with a little clink.
 
“Holy shit!” Sam’s eyes shot up to meet his, mouth agape and eyes wide.
 
“That a wedding ring?” Bobby asked, a little shock in his voice as well.
 
“Yeah,” Dean said, pressing his lips tight, watching both men for reactions.
 
“Dean!”  Sam’s face lit up.  “What has gotten into you?!  You’re gonna ask Cas to marry you?”
 
“No, the check-out guy at the Gas-n-Sip.  Yes Cas!” Dean exclaimed.
 
Sam rolled his eyes.  “I think it’s great.”
 
Dean’s nerves crept back in slowly.  “You don’t think I’m nuts for jumping on this?”
 
“When did you and Cas meet?” Bobby asked.
 
“March.”
 
“THIS March?” Bobby asked, surprised.
 
“Yeah.  Four months ago,” Dean nodded.
 
Bobby stared at the ring like it might bite.  “You sure about this?”
 
Dean put both his hands on the hood of the truck, staring at the ring and sucking his bottom lip in, letting it slide out slowly. “Yeah.”
 
Bobby looked at Sam then back at Dean.  Dean met his gaze, waiting.
 
Bobby shrugged with a startled look.  “You want my opinion?”
 
“Yeah, Bobby,” Dean grinned.  “Yer the best thing I got to an old man, so...”
 
Bobby looked at the ring again, blowing a breath out slow.  “Jody and I knew each other for ten years before we got married.  I often wish I had those ten years back.  Somethin’ to be said about knowing what you want.  Also somethin’ to be said about knowing exactly what you’re doin’.”
 
Dean nodded, propping his elbows on the truck again.  
 
“You know this guy, Sam?”
 
“A little,” Sam admitted.
 
“You like him?”
 
“Yeah!  Cas is...he’s a great guy.”
 
Bobby nodded thoughtfully.  “You like who Dean is when he’s with him?”
 
Both men looked at Dean, making him stand up straight and tuck his hands in his pockets.
 
“Definitely,” Sam said with more assurance than Dean had expected.
 
“What does that mean?” He asked, wondering if he should be insulted or happy.
 
Sam grinned.  “You’re happy, Dean.  You’re so much happier with him than you’ve ever been with anyone.  Ever.  And,” Sam huffed a laugh, “you’re an amazing dad.”
 
Dean wasn’t convinced of all that, but he was glad Sam saw good things in him.
 
“He always was a good dad,” Sam huffed again, looking at Bobby with a sad smile.  “I always thought of you and Jody as the best parental figures we had, but honestly, Dean was like my dad my whole life.  Even now.”  Sam looked back at Dean with so much sincerity Dean’s chest tightened.  “Dean, I’m so proud of you.  You have always put me first.”
 
“Sam,” Dean started shaking his head.
 
“You have!  Always!”  He turned back to Bobby.  “You’ll love Cas.  He’s a good guy.  And Jack...he lights up every time Dean walks into a room.”
 
“Damn,” Dean scoffed.  “I didn’t mean to start a chick flick.”
 
“Shut up and listen anyway,” Sam laughed.  “You deserve to be happy.  Cas is good for you.  You’re good for him.  The two of you are fantastic with Jack.”  He grinned wide, picking up the ring to look at it.  “Yes.  Do it.”  He handed the ring to Bobby.
 
Bobby took it, turning it in his fingers.  “Only thing about marriage I gotta say, Dean, is do it once.  Do it right.  If you aren’t sure -”
 
“I’m sure,” Dean said confidently.
 
Bobby grinned, handing him back the ring.  “Congratulations, son.”
 
Son.
 
Damn.
 
That hit a nerve that had Dean fighting off tears.  He pushed the ring deep in his pocket with a nod.  “Thanks, Bobby.  Thanks, Sam.”
 
 
 
********************************************
 
 
 
Castiel got out of his car, slamming the door.  He couldn’t fucking believe he was doing this again.  He could hear yelling as he climbed the steps to Gabriel’s house.  He walked in, unannounced and uninvited.
 
Kali stopped whatever she was ranting about, staring at him in irritation.  Gabriel, sitting on his sofa, looked down miserably.
 
Four other women sat at the island that was open to the living room, some watching the pair openly, others on their phones paying them no attention.  It was so typical of Kali to show up at Gabriel’s, posse in tow, and wreck him.
 
Castiel stopped just inside the door.  “I heard you were in town.”  He glared at Kali, forsaking any niceties.
 
“So?” She snapped.  “Are you here for a particular reason?”
 
“I am,” Castiel grinned, fuming.  “Fifty-four of them, to be exact.”  He stepped closer to her, unimpressed as she pulled herself up to her full height.  “The fifty-four phone calls I had to make to cancel the wedding.  That was how many guests you invited.  Then I called all of Gabriel’s guests and canceled them too.  So, yes, Kali.  What the hell are you doing here?”
 
She looked revolted by his intrusion, giving Gabriel an incredulous look.  Pulling herself up again in a haughty pose, she said, “Your brother and I have things to discuss.  Leave us alone.”
 
“There is nothing to discuss,” Gabe said, exhausted.
 
She whirled back on him.  “Gabriel, I told you I should not have been so hasty.  I came to give you another chance.”
 
“Another chance?!” Gabe laughed bitterly.  “No thank you.”
 
She huffed, pouting, her shoulders slumping as she came closer to him.  “I know you’ve missed me.”
 
Gabe held a hand up, shaking his head no with a look of pain on his face.
 
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, sitting next to him.
 
“You need to leave,” Castiel snapped.
 
“Gabriel,” she cooed.  “We had too much to let one slip-up ruin everything.”
 
Gabriel stared at her, a look of hurt confusion on his face.  “You slept with another guy.  You said marriage is man’s way of tying a woman down, or some such bullshit.”
 
She tipped her head, running her hand up his arm.  “It was wrong.  I’ve missed you so much, my Loki, my little god of mischief.”
 
Gabe leaned away, looking alarmed.
 
Castiel had heard the pet name before, usually right before Gabe handed her one of his credit cards with a grin of adoration.  He rushed forward, wishing he could grab ahold of Kali.  Instead, he yanked Gabriel from the couch.
 
“You’ve done enough damage around here for a lifetime.  Get out,” Cas said firmly.  “All of you.”
 
The two blondes inched to the edge of their stools, the other two merely looked up.  If he was not mistaken, those two were cousins of Kali’s.  Their thick, silky black hair styled expensively, like Kali.
 
“I am not leaving!” Kali yelled, springing to her feet.  “You leave!  Gabriel and I are working things out!”
 
Gabriel shook his head looking utterly lost.  “I wanted things to work, Kali!  I went with every whim and obstacle you put in my way!  You had me jumping through hoops like a circus monkey!  You make ME feel like the bad guy when YOU are the one cheating on me!”
 
“One time!” She yelled back.
 
Gabriel seemed to swallow all his anger, a wave of angry stillness taking over his demeanor.  It was enough to make Kali and Castiel both take a step back.  
 
“Get out.”
 
Kali sat on the couch.  “We should talk.  Alone.”
 
Castiel looked between the two.  He sat on the nearest chair.  “I cleared my schedule when I heard you were here to bother Gabriel.”
 
She gave him a withering stare.  Gabriel paced away from them, heading into the kitchen area of his pristine, open floor plan style rancher.  Everyone moved around the silent women as if they were merely plants sitting there.
 
A knock sounded at the door.  Gabe gave Castiel a tired look, so he got up to answer it.  He was only mildly surprised to see Charlie and Anna at the door.  He grinned crookedly, letting them in.
 
“Hey, bitches,” Charlie said tightly, already staring at Kali.
 
“How dare you come back here,” Anna said acidly, forgoing any introductions.
 
Kali stood up looking offended.  “Are you bringing your whole family here?”
 
“Apparently,” Gabe sighed, leaning on the large island, sipping some water.
 
Castiel was relieved there were women here, because if Kali needed to be physically removed, he wanted witnesses.
 
“Time to go,” Charlie said firmly.
 
Kali darted around Charlie and Anna, heading straight for Gabriel, who stood up, glaring at her.  “We can move on.  Don’t you miss me?”
 
A fleeting look of pain crossed Gabe’s face before he schooled it into another scowl.  “No.  I don’t miss being yelled at, accused of sleeping around when YOU are the one running off to India to fuck some rich guy!  What happened?” He laughed bitterly.  “Did he see through your shit and kick you to the curb?  You couldn’t find anyone more wealthy than me, gullible me, so you figured you’d come back for round twelve?”
 
Kali glared.
 
Gabe turned to the two blondes.  “Pretty much sum it up?”
 
One of the blondes looked back at her phone, but the other nodded with a grin, clueless to what she was giving away.
 
“Amber!” The cousin hissed.
 
She ducked, frowning at the girl, “But Baldur -” She clamped her mouth shut at the fierce looks on the other three girls faces.  Turning to see the look of satisfaction on Gabe’s and the deadly glare from Kali, she looked back at her sparkly phone.  “Sorry.”
 
Gabe turned to Kali with a bitter grin.  “So, Baldur.  Should have known you’d suck up to that schmoozer.  Let me guess, things fell apart two weeks ago?”  Gabe crossed his arms over his chest, facing her fully.
 
The look of shock, laced with anger, gave her away.
 
“Yeah, I ran into him.  I was sure to give him detailed timelines of our wedding date, which he knew nothing about, and when we broke up.  Seems you were fishing to see which one of us you could manipulate more.  I’m still not too sure which one of us fared worse.”
 
Stunned, Kali’s mouth moved to protest, but she stammered instead.
 
The three girls that had smartly kept quiet, exchanged worried glances.
 
“What’s the matter ladies?” Charlie piped in, hand on her hip, “Running out of cash cows?”
 
The cousins began getting up, picking up their purses.  “Get a manicure,” one said snidely.
 
“Get a job,” Charlie snapped back.
 
Castiel jumped, wrapping Charlie in his arm, taking the punch the woman threw.  Charlie scrambled out of his arms.
 
“Oh you fucked up now!” Charlie yelled, coming after the woman in a red blur.
 
Castiel stumbled back as Anna jumped in, the other cousin jumped in, one of the blondes started to cry, the other yelling.  None of them were skilled fighters, though Charlie did pull several decent moves.
 
“ENOUGH!” Castiel roared.
 
There were multiple slurs exchanged as the women separated, glaring, and rubbing sore spots or scratches.
 
“Get the hell out, Kali,” Gabriel said with disgust.  “I’m over the whole thing.  Don’t ever come here again.  Ever.”
 
“Bu -”
 
“Ah!” He cut her off, holding a hand up.  “Just get out and take your spice girls with you.  Even Chatty Spice.”  The blonde who had blabbed about Baldur pouted with a whimper.
 
“Out!” Anna said, opening the door.
 
The two blondes, the cousins, and Kali filed out.
 
Castiel turned a worried look on his brother.  He had truly mourned the loss of the dysfunctional relationship, no matter how they had rallied around him, assuring him he was better off without her.
 
Gabe leaned onto his open palms on the counter, head hanging heavily.
 
Castiel watched him, approaching slowly.  Gabe’s chest heaved slow and deep.
 
They all jumped when Gabe suddenly grabbed a fruit bowl and winged it into the kitchen, shattering the bowl, fruit flying, and cracking four tiles of his backsplash.  “FUCK!” He yelled, hands in his hair, circling like a lion.  “Why do I even care?!”
 
Castiel stepped through the shards of the bowl, gripping Gabe’s sleeve slow and gently.  “I’m so sorry, Gabe.”
 
Gabe jerked his arm away, looking miserable.  “I loved her.”
 
“I know,” Castiel whispered.
 
“She didn’t love you back,” Anna said softly from his other side.  “She’s a piranha, Gabe.  A monster.”
 
Gabe glanced at her, did a double take and huffed miserably at the scratch on her cheek.  “Anna.”
 
She grinned, shaking her head gently.  “It’s nothing.  You should see her hair.”
 
Charlie held up a cascade of black hair.  “Yeah, it kinda freaked me out when I pulled this out.  Who knew they had extensions?!”
 
They all chuckled.
 
Gabe turned, hugging Cas heavily.  Castiel closed his eyes and took a deep breath, rubbing his back.  “You don’t need her.  You deserve so much better.”
 
Gabe nodded against his chest.  
 
Anna hugged him, Charlie awwing, came around the island to pile onto the hug.
 
Gabe chuckled as they all stepped apart.  “I don’t need that scheming bitch in my life.  Man, she wasted years of my life.  Years I could have been having my own family.  Meeting the right people.  Instead I just followed her around like a puppy pissing money.”
 
“You live and learn,” Anna said sweetly, rubbing his back.
 
“Well, I’m a slow fuckin’ learner,” Gabe admitted.
 
“Gabriel,” Castiel insisted, “You have been doing so well these past few months.  Don’t let one brush with her tear you down.”
 
Gabe nodded.  Then he nodded again, more self-assured.  “I’m glad you all showed up.  I never would have taken her back, but the back-up was much appreciated.”
 
“Anytime,” Charlie beamed.
 
“I can’t believe I got into a fight,” Anna half laughed.
 
“It was awesome, right?!” Charlie grinned, pumping a fist.
 
“What happened to my Zen Charlie?” Castiel laughed.
 
“Zen is great.  Until you fuck with my people.  Then shit gets chaotic,” she said confidently.  “Besides, I feel great!  So, there!  Back to zippy Zen!”
 
Gabe made a tiny whimper.  “I really fucked up my wall.”
 
 
 
**********************************************
 
 
 
Dean bit his fist, fighting a grin poorly.  “Four chicks in one pile-up?  I miss all the good shit!”
 
“It was epic,” Charlie beamed, tiny, feisty, and so frickin’ happy Dean wanted to squish her in a hug.
 
“You get ‘em, red!” He high-fived her, fighting an outright hug.
 
“And then, I hacked all their social media accounts and changed their status from single to money grubbing hoe.”
 
Dean laughed, hugging her tight.  “You are the fucking bomb!”
 
She danced a victory step.
 
“One of these days Charlie, that hacking is going to get you in trouble,” Anna warned, worried for their friend.
 
“Please, that’s what I’m for,” Crowley grinned, winking at Charlie.
 
Dean stepped up onto the porch, amusement with Charlie aside, he was a bundle of nerves.  He had just returned from Sioux Falls with Sam and arrived to an empty house.  He called Cas who said he was at Anna’s, so he headed to the lemongrass farm, Sam in tow.
 
Crowley’s glance read his body language immediately.  “Trip not go well?” He asked.
 
Dean hesitated.  “It went as well as it can when you’re visiting someone who is lookin’ like there is a reaper waiting out in the hall for them.”
 
Crowley nodded slowly, one eye squinting a little harder.  “There’s more.  You look like a squirrel with a nut.”
 
Dean subconsciously put his hand in his pocket, feeling the ring with his fingertips.  “No idea what you’re talkin’ about.”
 
“Mm,” Crowley took a sip of his lemonade.  “Keep your little secrets then.”
 
Dean smirked, heading inside.
 
“Dean!” Jack yelled, running to him, thumping into him with a hug.
 
“Hey!  Man, I missed you!”  He picked Jack up, hugging him.  “I brought you the coolest rock from Bobby’s place.”
 
“You did?!”  His face lit up before crushing him with another hug.  “Thank you!”
 
“You’re welcome.”
 
Jack sat up, staring openly at him, like only children can do.  “I missed you.”
 
“I missed you too.”
 
“Daddy missed you.”
 
“I know.  I missed him too.”
 
Jack grinned, draping onto him again.  Dean took a deep breath, enjoying the now familiar weight and feel of Jack.  His nerves calmed immediately and he was glad to be home.
 
“Hey, Jack!” Sam waved, coming in behind him.
 
Dean gave Jack a little squeeze.
 
“Hi,” he said shyly.
 
Dean chuckled.  Every step of bravery Jack took was more evidence that he was doing all the right things for him.
 
“Dean!”
 
Dean looked up, seeing Cas coming toward him with a happy grin and a drink he quickly put on a table.
 
Dean shifted Jack, hugging Cas and kissing him chastely.
 
“I’m so glad you’re home!”  Cas said, squeezing his shoulder as he stepped back.
 
“Me too.”
 
“Did you have any luck talking Jody into coming here?” Cas asked quietly as Anna and Gabe passed him, saying hello.
 
“Yeah.  She really wants to meet Jack.”  He grinned down at Jack who gave him a worried look back.  “And you,” Dean smiled up at Cas.
 
Cas nodded.  “I’d really like to meet them both too.”
 
Dean hefted Jack up higher on his hip, used to holding him like this, as he walked out on the porch to join the others.
 
Sam found him, giving him a sheepish look.  “So, I’m gonna stay the night and...I have a date this evening.”
 
“A date?” Dean spat.  “With who?  What are you doing?  Surfing a Tinder account while you’re in town?”
 
“No!  It’s...Eileen.”
 
Dean gave him an incredulous look.  “Eileen who works with Cas?”
 
“Yeah,” Sam blushed. “We’ve been talking since we met.  I’m in town, so, I figured we could try going out.  Like on a date.”
 
Dean chuckled at how his baby brother still blushed when talking about girls.  Sam had plenty of girlfriends along the way, but he never seemed able to connect with them for long.  Sam too, had a short reserve for bullshit.  They’d had enough bad drama while they were growing up.  Then law school was pretty daunting when you’re trying to work to pay some bills.
 
“You sly dog, you,” Dean winked.
 
“It’s JUST a date, Dean.”
 
Jack sat up, looking at Dean.  “Eileen is my friend.”
 
“I know.  And now, apparently, she’s Sam’s friend too.”
 
Jack gave Sam a shy look.  “She loves soft pretzels.  That’s her favorite.”
 
Sam broke into a wide grin.  “Thank you, Jack!  Now I know just where to take her.”
 
Dean laughed.  “This kid’s got moves!”
 
Jack laughed, not quite understanding just what Dean meant, but happy Dean was so happy.  “Like you!”
 
Sam laughed.  “I’ll take your advice over Dean’s any day!”
 
Jack tucked himself back against Dean with a grin.
 
“Guess you’ve been studying sign language,” Dean said, knowing his brother all too well.
 
“Yes, I have,” Sam signed and said.
 
“Impressive,” Dean smirked.
 
“This is please,” Jack added, showing him.
 
“Thank you!” Sam signed.  “Now I can be a gentleman too.”
 
 
 
*********************************************
 
 
 
That night, Sam still out on his date, Dean prayed Jack would stay asleep for at least an hour and a half before wanting in their room.
 
He undressed, getting into bed.  Only a few minutes later, Cas came into the room.  His face slid from happy to sultry as he closed the door and locked it.
 
“If you aren’t naked, you better get that way,” Cas said, pulling his own shirt off, tossing it.
 
Dean flipped the covers back with a huge grin.
 
Cas growled softly as he undressed and got on the bed.  He straddled Dean’s lap, kissing him.
 
Dean’s chest filled with a warm balloon of happiness.  He cradled Cas, rolling them both over so Cas was on his back.  By now, he knew Cas’ body so well that opening him was as familiar as his mouth, his hands, his little noises.  Within minutes, he was sliding deep inside, reveling in the wonder that was Cas’ body.  He thought about the ring, now hidden in his drawer.  
 
Soon.  
 
And it would only be even better.  
 
He stopped, staring down at Cas, who met his eyes.  Buried deep inside him, he kissed him hard.  “I love you,” he whispered, their lips still touching.
 
“Love you too,” Cas said back, clinging harder to him.
 
Dean went straight for Cas’ prostate with each grind, stroking him in time.  It was not hard and fast.  It was deep, steady, and so heady Cas gasped and came.  Dean watched him.  Watched his face flush, eyes close, and head tilt.  Watched as he gasped and how his mouth stayed open in a silent cry as Dean stroked him.  Only then did he completely allow himself to have all he wanted.  He ground inside Cas, loving how his heels pressed him in tighter, his legs spread so perfectly, and his hands held on desperately.  His eyes opened, deep blue and so in love it radiated.
 
Dean shook, teetering on the brink.  Cas was his.  Forever.  He ground in again and groaned as he came, rocking through wave after wave of pleasure until his arms were trembling.
 
He stayed tucked inside Cas, leaning down to kiss him.
 
Cas reached up, sliding his thumb along Dean’s cheek.  “You are so beautiful.”
 
“So are you.”
 
Cas smiled and pulled him down to kiss him.  It was a long time before he moved to get them both cleaned up.
 
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18:  Judgement Call
 
 
August began with the weather hot enough to make Dean’s days long and sweaty.  He had enough jobs lined up to get him through the end of the month.  Work was going well.  Apparently, there was quite a need for a man of his skillset in the area to make a good living here.
 
Claire had arrived from Pennsylvania a week ago with the rest of his things.  There was a tower of boxes on the second floor of Cas’ house that he continually moved to work around.  Cas’ garage was full of furniture.  And Claire was staying at Charlie’s temporarily.
 
The suite was nearing completion.  The plumbing, electricity, and duct work had been tackled first, then the insulating and drywall.  Now, he was enjoying the more fun part, flooring, trim, paint color, and installing all the necessary parts for a bathroom.  He and Cas made all the choices together, their styles meshing quite complimentarily.  They had gone with carpet in the bedroom and other room, which was laid out to have two big closets and a small office that Dean could run his business from.  He didn’t need much.  Room for a desk and computer and some storage for product samples and he would be set.
 
He had arrived home after 7pm every day this week to finish an addition he had put on a couple’s house down the road.  He pressed the garage door opener, frowning at all his things crammed inside like a furniture version of Tetris.  He went in the door that accessed the laundry room.  He stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt at the washing machine, throwing his clothes in a basket and leaving his work boots under the bench there.
 
The kitchen lights were on, but all was quiet.  He went into the bedroom.  Lights off and equally quiet.  He got a quick shower and headed back to the kitchen, grabbing some leftovers from the fridge.  The front door opened, and he stepped into the living room to see Cas, Jack, and Claire coming in.
 
“Hi,” Claire and Cas called.
 
Dean, container of cold lasagna still in hand, returned the hello, watching as Jack went straight to his room.  His head had been bowed and it was an unusual sight these days.
 
Dean let Claire take the container from his hands when she approached him with a tight look on her face.  “Cas needs to talk to you.  I’ll heat this up.”
 
Dean sucked a trace of marinara sauce from his thumb as he followed Cas upstairs.
 
Cas sat on the window seat that was yet to be painted, curtains hung, or a seat cushion made.  The sinking feeling in Dean’s stomach pulled him down to the floor as he sat right in front of Cas.
 
“What’s goin’ on?” Dean asked.
 
“Jack had an appointment with Cain today.”
  
“Yeah?” Dean pressed.  Neither of them were too sure how they felt about the man yet. Cain was the psychologist assigned to work with Jack after Cas had demanded the first one was unfit to handle Jack’s case.
 
“He says Jack needs more stability.  That a single parent is not going to be enough with how socially behind he is.  He is going to recommend that Jack be placed with Anna and Abner.”
 
Dean was up on his feet.  “He knows I’m here, right?!  I’ve talked to that prick like five times!”
 
Cas nodded.  “Crowley is working on arguing the case, but this really isn’t his field. He says Cain is biased but he has all this researched data and statistical bullshit that says two parents provide more stability.”
 
“This is bullshit!” Dean yelled.
 
Cas nodded, a bitter set to his jaw and eyes close to spilling tears.  “Why am I not enough?”
 
Dean pulled Cas up to his feet, hugging him.  “You are more than enough.  Jack knows that.  We’re gonna make that stupid judge see that too.”
 
Cas slumped out of the hug, walking over to stare out the window at the end of the room.  Dean went over to his toolbox.
 
“I’m going to lose him, aren’t I?”
 
“Nope.” Dean said with a snap.  “If they want you married, then you’ll be married.”  Dean gently pulled Cas by the elbow so they were facing each other at the window.  He took Cas’ hand and slid the ring on.  “If they want you married right this minute, then that’s what we’ll do.”
 
Cas stared down at his hand with a gaping jaw.  His eyes lifted to stare at Dean.  “What is this?”
 
“It’s,” Dean got on one knee, sliding the ring off to sit in the palm of his hand.  “Cas, Castiel Novak, will you marry me?  Will you fight this stupid judge, and be a dad with me?”
 
Cas pulled him up, taking the ring with a startled look in his wide, blue eyes.  “Where did you get this?”
 
Dean licked his lips.  “I’ve had it.  I bought it right after I moved here.  I...Cas, I love you.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’m committed to you already.  I love Jack.  I love our lives together.”
 
“I...” Cas swallowed hard.  “I don’t want to be a problem you are fixing.  Another repair in your life.”
 
It was Dean’s turn to look shocked.  “You...Cas.  I bought that ring because I love you so much it makes me...happy.  Shit, it makes me crazy!  Stupid!  Content!  All the Hallmark shit, Cas!  I was waiting for Sam to come back next week and I was gonna ask you at dinner with everyone there.”  He swallowed hard, still seeing the ring caught in Cas’ fingertips.  “Right now I’m really glad I did it in private.”
 
Cas stepped back.  “Dean...I love you too.  I do!  So, so much...”  he shook his head slightly.  “What if the judge thinks this is rash and irresponsible?”
 
Dean’s heart broke.  “Irresponsible?  Cas, I will drive to the courthouse and marry you tomorrow.  We didn’t meet on Tinder five minutes ago!  We’re adults!  I moved -”
 
“You’re right,” Cas gulped, cradling the ring to his chest.  “I’m so sorry.  I -I’m so scared of the hold this court system has over me.  I’m afraid for every bruise Jack gets, that I’ll be considered unfit, that every visit at that place will reveal some reason Jack would be better elsewhere.  I’m...I’m afraid I’m not good enough!  If I’m not better than my druggie, abusive brother, then how could I possibly be good enough to be a husband to someone as remarkable as you!”
 
Dean wanted to be angry, but he was too shocked.  “I had no idea you thought that.”
 
“How could I not?” Cas cried, looking desperate.  “I’m doing everything I can for Jack!  So are you!  And they say -”
 
Dean stepped into Castiel’s space, grabbing his shoulders.  “I don’t care what THEY say.”  He held Cas’ gaze.  He watched as the fear in his eyes slowly drained.  Dean leaned in, kissing him.  “No one can possibly tell me that this isn’t right.  Jack has more support than 90% of kids out there.  He certainly has more than I ever had.  Jack is going to be fine.  No one is taking him from us, Cas.  Us.”
 
Cas’ eyes turned red around the edges, threatening tears again.  He nodded.
 
“We can do this,” Dean whispered, fighting an urge to run away from the ring still in the palm of Cas’ hand.  “If you want me and Claire to leave -”
 
“No!” Cas shook his head, a tear falling.  “No, Dean.  You’re right.  Together...”
 
Dean’s panic abated, allowing him to get a breath of air.  His hands a bit shaky, he took Cas’ hands in his.  “How ever you think we should do this, that’s what we’ll do, Cas.  But you deserve to be happy.  You are a good father.  The best I’ve ever seen.”
 
“And you,” Cas whispered, blinking quickly.  “Dean, are you sure you want to -”
 
“Marry you?” Dean choked a laugh.  “Yeah, Cas.  I’m here.  I’m yours.  I love this house, this life, this...this!”  He squeezed Cas’ hands.
 
“I do too.  I...” his fear drained away as he took a deep breath.  “I love you more than I ever knew possible.  I knew it in Brazil.  I love how laid-back you are.  How you are with Jack.  How ridiculously gorgeous you are.”  He grinned, opening his hands to stare down at the ring.  “I had hoped...but...” he looked back up at Dean, eyes wide with hope.
 
Dean licked his lips again.  “Cas...marry me.  Let’s show those bastards how fucking serious we are.  We’ll show the whole world what they’re missing out on.  You and me?  We got this Cas.”
 
Cas, still smiling so big, gulped a laugh.  “Yes.  A million yeses, Dean.”
 
Dean hugged him, holding him tight, gripping his hair and his back.  “I love you.”
 
“I love you too!  No matter what happens, Dean, I know this; you and I belong together.”
 
Dean loosened his hug, kissing him.  “Believe in a little magic, Cas.”  He kissed him again, feeling Cas’ chest fill with emotion.  He leaned back again, staring at the man who would be his partner for the rest of his life.  His husband.  “You are magic to me.”
 
Cas laughed, a light of pure joy in his eyes.  “And you remind me to play.  Keep playing.  You make me so happy, Dean!”
 
Dean picked him up in a hug, swinging him around in a circle, letting a laugh out before sitting him on his feet again, Cas laughing as well.
 
“God, this feels so good!” Cas opened his hand again, staring at the ring.
 
Dean picked it up.  “I carried this in my pocket for two weeks after I bought it.  I just put it in my toolbox the other day when I had a scare that I lost it.”  He slid it onto Cas’ finger again, kissing his hand.  “Ya know what I was thinking when I was staring at the painting you bought me in Recife?”
 
Cas shook his head, wrapping his arms around Dean’s neck.  “Tell me.”
 
“I was thinking that was something I would never have.  Trust like that.  Love like that.  Closeness.  Someone who got me.  Not just fun me, but tired me.  Scared, grouchy, boring, mediocre me.”
 
“You are anything but mediocre,” Cas said firmly.
 
“I just mean, happy with a ham sandwich and watching re-runs on a Friday night me.  I wanna give you the world, Cas.  But it makes me kinda crazy-happy that you like just plain me.”
 
“I love every bit of you, Dean.”  Cas’ smile sobered.  “Thank you...for coming after me in the airport.  No one ever made me feel so special before.”
 
Dean chuckled, backing him into the wall.  “Better believe I’ll hunt you down wherever you go.”
 
“Oh, I believe it,” Cas grinned, kissing him.  
 
After a hot make-out session that promised more for later, they cooled off, Dean sitting on the window seat, Cas in his lap, head tipped to rest on his.
 
“Do you think getting engaged will impress the judge?” Dean asked, rubbing his finger over the gold of Castiel’s new ring.  Studying the tanned skin of his hand and grinning at how warm the metal was, now at home on Cas’ finger.
 
“Maybe.  When do you want to get married?” Cas asked.
 
“Now.”
 
Cas kissed his head.  “Sam is coming next weekend?”
 
“Yeah,” Dean answered, looking up at him, thoughts starting to domino in his mind.
 
“Next Saturday then?” Cas grinned down at him, biting his lip from the boldness of his suggestion.
 
“Seriously?” Dean laughed.
 
“So, so serious.”
 
“Can we pull it together?”  Dean said excitedly.
 
“With Charlie and Crowley, anything is possible,” Cas grinned back, kissing him.
 
Dean laughed.  “Let’s do it!  We can have a little get together at Anna’s maybe, or here.  Or...” Dean froze.  “Cas, we gotta talk to Jack first.”
 
Cas nodded.  “I know.”
 
“Can I...can I do it?  Can I talk to him about it?”
 
Cas smiled down at him with all the trust in the world.  “Yes.  Of course.”
 
“I’m gonna need to borrow this,” Dean pointed at the ring.
 
Cas closed his hand with a look of apprehension, making Dean grin.  He was already attached to it and all the meaning behind it.
 
Cas opened his hand, removing the ring.  Dean kissed him and they stood up to go downstairs.
 
 
 
********************************************
 
 
 
Castiel followed Dean through the living room.  Claire was leaning against the table, texting, Dean’s food ready and waiting.  
 
“Come on, Claire,” Castiel said.  “Family meeting.”
 
Claire laid her phone down, giving him a skeptical look.  “We do those?”
 
“We do today,” Dean grinned, heading into the hall, where he stopped to knock on Jack’s door, opening it.
 
“Hey,” Dean said quietly.
 
Jack, sitting at the little table in his room, Felix on the bed, crayons and paper strewn across the table, looked up at him.
 
Dean went in, sitting on the bed, moving Felix over.  “You didn’t come say hi when you got home.”
 
Castiel pulled out one of the small chairs and sat on it, knowing he must look ridiculous.
 
Claire sat on the bed.  She had been at work with him when he and Crowley had a quick meeting about what Cain had said.  She knew the gist of what was going on.
 
Jack got up, going to hug Dean.
 
Dean hugged him for a moment before pulling him up to sit on one of his legs.  “Did you hear some things from Mr. Cain that you didn’t like?”
 
Jack nodded.  “And he says daddy needs to catch you.”
 
Dean thought about that, trying to puzzle out exactly what that meant.  “Mr. Cain said that?”
 
“No,” Jack whispered.
 
Castiel tried to work out the same thing.  He thought about the conversations he’d had since Jack’s appointment.  “Do you mean Crowley?” Castiel asked.
 
Jack nodded.
 
Castiel met Dean’s eyes.  “Crowley said I needed to ‘tie up all my loose ends, prioritize my focus’.”
 
Dean nodded, looking back at Jack.  “Do you think your dad is going to tie me up?  Catch me?”
 
Jack shrugged, looking so worried.
 
Dean laughed a little, making Castiel smile.  He could only imagine the adult humor swirling in Dean’s head.
 
“Turns out, I got just the thing to catch Cas instead of him catching me.”
 
Jack stared at him, his mouth hanging open a fraction in wonder.
 
“You wanna see it?”
 
Jack nodded.
 
Dean dug into his pocket, keeping his hand closed.  “Here’s the thing,” Dean went on.  “This only works if you and I do it together.”
 
“Okay,” Jack said softly, looking at Dean’s hand in anticipation.  Dean opened it, waiting for Jack’s reaction.  He looked back up at Dean.  “It’s a ring.”
 
Claire shot Castiel a look of shock, to which he grinned.
 
“Mm hm,” Dean nodded, handing it to Jack.
 
“Anna has a ring.  And Abner.”
 
“Yep.  Now your Daddy has a ring from me.”
 
Jack looked at Castiel, getting off Dean’s lap to stand in front of him.  “Are you gonna marry Dean?”
 
Castiel’s chest filled with hope, worry, and love.  “Yes, I am.”
 
Claire whacked Dean’s arm, mouthing ‘Oh my god!’.  Dean shoved her back gently, both turning to watch Jack again.
 
Jack grinned.  “That’s way better than a pinky promise!”
 
Cas and Dean laughed, Dean joining Jack on the floor in front of Cas.  
 
“Here’s how it works,” Dean said, taking the ring, “we all have to kiss it.  Then Cas puts it on and never takes it off and poof!  We never get taken apart.”
 
Castiel marveled at the look of relief and joy on Jack’s face.  A small part of him filled with concern at the thought that if something fell through, Jack would be so scarred from these promises Dean made.
 
“And me?” Jack asked.
 
Dean scrunched his lips together in thought.  “Guess I’ll have to get you your own ring.”
 
Jack hugged him hard then hugged Castiel.  “It’s a good promise, Daddy!  Please!”
 
Castiel gave Dean a worried look.
 
Dean winked at him.  “Believe in a little magic, Cas.”
 
Castiel broke into a grin.  Who the hell could argue with that?  Coupled with Dean’s look of triumph and Jack’s happiness, he was ready to promise, and fight for, everything.
 
“What do you say, Cas?” Dean grinned, coming up onto one knee, ring in hand.
 
Castiel’s heart was healed of any misgivings or worries.  Dean had asked him to marry him, three times today.  At least he could do it right on the third time.
 
“Yes!” He said, holding his hand out.
 
Dean held a finger up, waving Claire to join them in their little circle.  Claire came, sitting cross-legged, watching them all with a hesitant smile.  Dean held the ring up.  “Better than a pinky promise.”
 
Claire looked at them all again, for once not mocking anyone.  “Got it,” she nodded.
 
Dean handed the ring to Jack.  Jack kissed it and handed it to Claire, who glanced around, a smile dancing across her lips as she kissed it and handed it to Dean.  Holding Castiel’s gaze, he kissed it, holding it out for Cas.  Cas, smiling from his very soul, kissed it.  Dean slid it onto his finger.  “I love you.”
 
“I love you!”
 
They kissed, Jack jumping up and cheering.  “I’m gonna have TWO dads!”
 
He ran around Dean, plowing into Claire with a hug.  “AND a sister!”
 
Claire laughed, hugging him.  “When’s the wedding?”
 
Castiel sat back, still grinning at every freckle on Dean’s handsome face.  “Next week.  Saturday.”
 
Claire guffawed.  “Are you serious?”
 
“Very,” they both answered.
 
“Next week!” Jack jumped up.
 
“You two are ridiculous,” Claire laughed.
 
“We’re awesome,” Dean beamed.
 
Castiel laughed.  It was insane how Dean could raise his spirits from so low to so high in a matter of moments.  He stood up from the tiny chair.  Claire stood, hugging him, surprising him slightly.
 
“Congratulations!” Claire grinned, kissing his cheek.  “You deserve the best.”
 
He chuckled as Dean stood up, Jack on his back.  “Thank you, Claire!”
 
“Family meetings are pretty awesome here,” Claire grinned, hugging Dean and Jack.  
 
 
 
*****************************************************
 
 
 
With wedding planning in full swing, since everyone had their own opinions about what should happen that coming Saturday, the days were ticking by quickly.
 
Dean wished today would hurry the hell up.  It was Thursday.  They would be married in two days.  If Dean had his way, they would have walked in here as a married couple today, but apparently there was paperwork to getting a marriage.  He should have known better.  And besides, Sam wouldn’t have made it.  He was glad Sam was on board, even though the date of the wedding had shocked the conditioner right out of his highly styled locks of hair.  Bobby had bitched him out as well.  His gripes were personal, he had to have Jody packed up to come for the wedding, ‘cuz god knows I’ll never hear the end of it if we miss it!’ he had groused.  Dean knew damn well that Bobby wouldn’t want to miss his wedding either.  
 
Right now, everyone’s concerns were piled into the office of Judge Billie for Jack’s latest court date.  All of them were on edge and Dean knew whatever was said today could affect the wedding.  It could affect everything.
 
This was his first time coming here with Cas.  They both thought it a good idea for the judge to understand how serious they were on providing a good home for Jack.  Cas had assured him all he needed to do was sit still and act respectable.  To which Dean had made a face and Cas said he couldn’t make that face.  So, here he sat, wearing a carefully neutral expression.
 
The proceeding had hardly begun when Billie’s voice rang out like a tolling bell of doom.
 
“Dean Winchester.”
 
Dean fought not to gulp.  Billie was a powerful woman.  Beautiful and regal in her judge’s robes.  The fact that she was basically staring straight down to his very soul made him fidget under the weight.  Today he was wearing a suit.  Okay, so it was from a local department store, not as sleek as Castiel’s, but still, he looked respectable.  But being stared at by Billie was like being in front of a school principal, a police officer, and his father all wrapped into one.  He could NOT screw this up for Cas and Jack.  He had come along to the custody hearing for moral support for Cas.  He was stunned she knew his name at all.
 
“Y-Yes, ma’am,” he managed, adjusting his tie, and clearing his throat.
 
She pursed her lips.  “I’ve had plenty to read about you.”
 
“Me?” He squeaked.  Fucking squeaked.
 
“Mm hm,” she said, her brown eyes never leaving him.  “I received a letter regarding your connection to Castiel.  You are also mentioned in the police report when Jack was returned.  Your name just seems to keep popping up around here.”
 
He stared back at her, still horrified he would breathe wrong and fuck everything up.
 
Dick Roman, Castiel’s douchey lawyer, merely stared back at her with that little grin that gave Dean the friggin’ creeps.
 
“Mr. Adler also provided me a neat, and very thick, file on your own history with the judicial system.”
 
Dean and Castiel turned to glare at Zachariah Adler, the douchier lawyer representing Lucifer.
 
Great.
 
Billie flipped a file open.  “You lived in seven foster homes over your youth.  You were arrested at age ten for breaking and entering.”  She looked up at him, her face a mask too unreadable to guess what she was thinking. “It says you stole food from your neighbor.” She looked down at the file.  “Bread.  A pack of hotdogs.  A box of crackers.”  She stared back up at him.  “Record is pretty clean after that.  A few speeding tickets.”  She turned to Zachariah.  “Why did you present this information for review, Mr. Adler?”
 
Zachariah grinned.  “Well, your honor, to demonstrate that Castiel associates with other adults who are criminals.  It’s no different than Lucifer, only Lucifer is ACTUALLY Jack’s father.”  He nodded with a smug grin.
 
Dean could feel panic burn his throat and squeeze at his chest.
 
Billie closed the file.  “Dean Winchester was ten when his crime was committed.  And he was not stealing a car.  He stole food.  And from what I gathered on the reasons he went into the foster care system, he was most likely neglected by his own father and was trying to eat.”
 
Dean began to breathe again.  Maybe this would not be all bad.
 
“I also have here,” she held up a paper, “a letter from retired Sheriff Jody Singer.”
 
Dean was shocked.
 
“It was quite enlightening as well,” Billie added.
 
Dean was sure he was going to receive a life sentence for something.  Anything.  Jaywalking.  All the library books he had checked out over the years for Sam and never returned.
 
Castiel took his hand under the table, squeezing it gently.
 
Dean glanced at him, only slightly reassured by the distraction.
 
“She painted me quite a thorough picture of who you are, Mr. Dean Winchester.  And I have to admit, I am pleased you have entered Jack’s life.”
 
“Wait...what?” He muttered, looking between Billie, Dick, and Cas for explanation.
 
“I have been trying to convey to Mr. Castiel Novak the importance of a stable home.”  Her eyes finally left Dean, moving over to Cas.  “Work less.  Travel less.  Parent more.”
 
None of them said a word, but inside Dean was screaming for Billie to see just how wonderful Cas was.  
 
“And now,” her voice continued, suave and almost terrifyingly hypnotic, “I see you have filed for a marriage certificate.”
 
Castiel, Dean had just noticed, was staring back at Billie with damn near the same grade badassery as Billie herself.
 
“Yes, I have.”
 
“To Dean Winchester,” she stated.
 
“Yes.”
 
“I assume you are quite familiar with Mr. Winchester.”
 
Cas frowned.  Dean prayed this was all heading in the right direction.
 
“Quite,” Cas said firmly.  “And Jack is thrilled.  He looks forward to having two dads.  His words.”
 
Dean marveled at his fiancé’s tenacity.
 
“It seems rushed.  Would you consider yourself a spontaneous man, Mr. Novak?”
 
“Hardly,” he answered dryly.  “Especially concerning a matter so important.”
 
“I’d like a review from the child’s psychologist concerning this matter.  This is hardly the time for such an upheaval in his life!” Adler interrupted.
 
“I already have a report from yesterday’s session,” Dick Roman noted, handing the letter across the table to Judge Billie.  “Mr. Cain clearly states Jack’s excitement over the event.  And I would also counter that it is not an event of upheaval, but an event to solidify a home, bringing unity to his, thus far, chaotic life.”  Dick smiled, his eyes dead of humor or warmth when he turned to the opposing lawyer.
 
Dean didn’t like the guy, but at least he wasn’t useless.
 
Billie read over the letter as Adler and Lucifer began whispering.  She handed the letter to Adler, for him and Lucifer to review.
 
“Very well.  I also see you have not left home since April, Castiel.”
 
“That is true,” Castiel nodded.
 
“And you followed through on the visitations I recommended.”
 
Billie sat back, her Eye of Sauron gaze sliding over to Lucifer.  “I see you abused those recommendations, Lucifer.”
 
“My client,” Zachariah jumped in, “was not notified properly that he couldn’t leave town -”
 
“Save it, Mr. Adler,” Billie cut him off completely, totally uninterested in his input.  “According to the pile of police statements, Lucifer was anything but parental on this visitation, which he swore to me he was prepared to be.”  
 
She stared at Lucifer again.  “Enjoy prison, Lucifer.  You seem to want back inside it at every turn.”

Castiel squeezed Dean’s hand again.  This time it was in his own hopes rising at the turn of attitude from the judge.
 
“Mr. Castiel Novak,” Billie said authoritatively, “I hereby grant you full custody of Jack Novak.  He is to remain under your care for all matters until he becomes an adult.”
 
“This isn’t over!” Lucifer snarled, pointing a stabbing finger across the table at Cas.
 
“Oh, this is over,” Billie declared, cracking her gavel.  “Guards, remove him.”
 
Two officers lifted Lucifer to a standing position and walked him out of the chamber room without another word.
 
“Congratulations, Castiel,” Billie said more kindly.  “And...I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you and Jack.  The visitation was a mistake.”
 
Castiel nodded grimly.
 
“Case 2342, Novak vs. Novak is closed,” the bailiff stated.
 
Billie leaned forward, lacing her fingers together.  “I also took the liberty of signing your marriage certificate and putting in a good word to speed up your adoption paperwork.”
 
“Thank you,” Cas said, finally breathing again, even relaxing his smiting glare into a look of relief.
 
“I included Dean on the adoption paperwork,” she said smoothly.  “Your friend and colleague, Mr. Crowley, was kind enough to pay me a visit.”  She almost smiled.  “He assures me Castiel will make a very fit father.  And that Dean will as well.”
 
“Uh, thank you,” Dean stammered, trying to keep up.
 
“I was wrong about you, Castiel,” she said, standing.  “I do not like being wrong about people.  Jack is a lucky young man.”
 
Dean and Cas stood as Dick Roman stood.  Zachariah practically ran out of the chamber while Billie exited through her own special door.
 
Dean and Cas stared at each other for two full seconds before they hugged one another.
 
“You did it!” Dean cheered, hugging and kissing him.
 
“WE did it!” Castiel beamed back.
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 19: Calming Peace
 
 
Castiel and Dean left the courthouse in a state of dazed excitement.  Dean pulled into the driveway, shutting the engine off.  
 
“It’s over,” Castiel said, staring blankly at the house.
 
“It is,” Dean grinned, looking at him.  “You handled yourself like a badass.”
 
Castiel narrowed his eyes, thinking back on the ordeal.  “Billie needed standing up to.  She was wrong.  For so long.  She drug this out for,” he sighed, shaking his head, “for so long.”
 
Dean reached over, taking his hand.  Castiel tore his eyes from blankly staring at the garage door to look at Dean.  So handsome.  So sure of them.  “You handled yourself very well too.”
 
“Shit,” Dean laughed.  “She scares the shit outta me.”
 
Castiel laughed.  “She is rather intimidating.”
 
Dean’s laugh died as he stared at their hands.  “I hope she learned something.  I hope she stops putting kids back with their parents when they clearly have a better option.  It’s judges like her that kept putting me and Sam back with my dad.”  His face took on a haunted faraway look.  “Over and over.  You know how different Sam and I coulda turned out if we had been able to stay with people like Bobby and Jody?  People like you?”  He shook his head.  “Things coulda been so much better.”
 
Castiel pulled Dean’s hand to his mouth, kissing his rough knuckles.  “I’m sorry it wasn’t better.”
 
Dean smiled at him.  Smiled at him like he was someone great.  Dean always had a way of looking at him like he was someone remarkable.  Like he had swept in and saved the day.  In truth, he had let Jack’s custody drag on far too long.  Let him be returned to a father that was more harmful than good.  Over and over.  With and without a judge.  At first, he had thought it was not his place to tell Lucifer how to raise a child.  Who was he to tell Lucifer anything?  Then, as time went on and more and more things happened, he did step in.  He did speak his mind.  Then Jack was gone for months.  Off who knows where with Lucifer, until he ended up in jail, or just stopped in and dropped Jack off for a few days.
 
“I’m proud of you,” Dean said, interrupting Castiel’s thoughts.
 
Castiel shook his head, frowning.  “This took so long.”
 
“It took as long as it took,” Dean insisted.  “You stepped up, Cas.  And you’re a good dad.”
 
Castiel’s heart squeezed.  “Thank you, Dean.  So are you.”
 
An adorable grin tugged at Dean’s mouth, delving into that boyish charm he possessed so well.  “Cas...”
 
Castiel waited.  He grinned, watching Dean struggle for words.
 
“Billie said she put my name on Jack’s adoption paperwork.  Are...are you okay with that?”
 
Ah.  Yes.  Castiel had expected this conversation.  “In all the struggle to gain custody, I had not even bothered to press further with the adoption request.  I was quite shocked when she brought that up.  And...yes, Dean.  I would certainly hope my husband would adopt the same child I’m adopting.”  It was a tease and he grinned, squeezing Dean’s hand to reinforce it.
 
Dean blushed, his adorable grin growing.  “I’m gonna be a dad,” he said, his words catching and tears coming to his eyes.
 
Castiel had been fighting this battle for so long, that he had not taken into consideration how quickly this had all developed for Dean.  “You stepped into Jack’s life effortlessly, Dean.  You...you are already a dad.”
 
Dean rubbed his other hand across his mouth, fighting off tears.
 
“And you’re so good at it.”
 
Dean gave him a questioning look, eyes glassy with unshed tears.  Castiel scooted across the seat, closing the gap between them.  “I am proud of you, Dean.”
 
Dean rolled his eyes, smiling, laughing, and choking back tears.
 
“I am,” Castiel grinned, kissing his cheek.  “I am so proud of you.  You stepped up when you didn’t need to.  Jack wasn’t your responsibility.  You did that because you are a good man.  A good person.”
 
“Alright,” Dean laughed, brushing away a tear.
 
Castiel stopped, knowing Dean would only allow so much sappy talk.  “I love you.”
 
Dean put his arm around him, kissing him.  “I love you too.”
 
“Let’s go tell Jack the good news,” Castiel said.
 
They went inside, finding Gabe changing channels as Jack lay next to him on the couch.  “Hey there kiddies,” Gabe said.  “I’m bored and Jack is pretending to nap.”
 
Jack’s eyes opened, his head popping up to look up at Gabe.  “I was pretending good!”
 
“You were peekin’ at the TV, Jack the nap brat.”
 
“Hey!”
 
Gabe chuckled as Jack got up, hugging him and Dean.  “Did you have fun on your lunch date?” Jack asked.
 
He and Dean exchanged a guilty look.  Now? He did his best to ask Dean without words.  Dean nodded and they both sat down.
 
“We didn’t go for lunch,” Castiel explained.
 
Jack immediately looked worried, sliding back against Gabe.  “Where did you go?”
 
“We had an appointment with Judge Billie.”
 
Jack’s bottom lip started to tremble.
 
“She made a final decision Jack,” Castiel explained quickly.  “She says you are staying with me and Dean from now on!  No more trips with your dad.  I am legally,” he licked his lips, trying to reword it so Jack understood.  “This is your house now.  Dean and I will be your parents.”
 
Jack’s eyes grew large.  His fingers toyed with the hem of his shirt nervously.  Castiel could see him working out what all this meant in his mind.  
 
“I’m staying here?  For always?” Jack asked, still looking as if he were afraid to say it out loud.
 
“Always,” Castiel assured him.  “With me.  And Dean.”
 
Castiel looked up, catching the look of shock on Gabe’s face as well.
 
“This is like...final decision?” Gabe asked.
 
“Yes,” Castiel grinned, enjoying the relief he felt every time he said it.
 
“Oh, thank God,” Gabe’s face said it all.  The relief.  The long struggle over.  The knowledge that Lucifer was out of the picture.  The utter relief.
 
“Are you excited?” Castiel asked, still watching Jack process everything.
 
Jack nodded his head yes.  “So...I don’t have to go to that apartment anymore?”
 
“Nope,” Castiel grinned.  “Never.”
 
Jack worried the hem on his shirt more.  “So...do I keep my room?”
 
Dean chuckled.
 
“Yes,” Castiel laughed, wondering just what Jack did think about all this.  He could not even imagine how strange this all must be for him.  “It’s your room.”
 
Jack grinned.  “And you’ll both be my daddies?”
 
“Yeah,” Castiel nodded, Dean nodding along.
 
“Am I gonna be Jack Winchester?”
 
“Yes,” Castiel laughed.  “And I will be Castiel Winchester.”
 
Jack was grinning, studying them both anxiously.  “I don’t know how to spell it.”
 
Dean laughed.  “I’ll teach you.  Don’t worry about it.”
 
Jack got off the couch, coming to hug him.  Castiel hugged him tight.  “I love you so much!  So much, Jack!”
 
“Love you too, Daddy.”
 
He hugged Dean as Gabe got up, holding both hands out.  “What the hell?” He whispered.
 
“I wasn’t expecting it either,” Castiel admitted.  “I have full custody until he’s an adult.  She signed our marriage certificate, she has the adoption paperwork all set up too!”
 
Gabe’s hands parked onto his own hips.  “Congratulations, little bro!”
 
Castiel hugged him.  “Thank you.  You’ve done so much.”
 
Dean, holding Jack on his hip, went into the kitchen.  “This deserves a celebration!”  He sat Jack on the counter, opening the fridge to pull out four Capri Sun bags of juice.
 
“Always did peg you for a partier,” Gabe chuckled, coming into the kitchen with Cas.
 
Dean tossed the brothers each a bag, put the straw in Jack’s and his own and held up his bag.  “To Jack!”
 
Jack giggled, taking a drink as the other three did the same.
 
“Can I tell Anna?” Jack asked, perking up again.
 
“Yes.  You remember how to call her?”
 
Jack nodded, hopping down to run to the living room.
 
“Crowley took Billie to lunch the other day,” Gabe said quietly.
 
Castiel gave him a curious look.
 
Gabe tipped his head.  “I wasn’t sure if it was gonna go well, so I didn’t mention it.”
 
“It must have helped.  She was so much more agreeable toward me this time.”
 
“I’d hate to see her not agreeable,” Dean added with a frown.
 
“Adler tried to prove Dean as a criminal like Lucifer’s friends.  What a scumbag.”
 
Gabe nodded, a grin toying at his mouth.
 
“Did you have my record cleaned up?” Dean asked.
 
Gabe closed his eyes.  “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
 
Castiel turned to Dean with a curious look.  “What do you mean?”
 
Dean hedged slightly, laughed nervously, took another sip of juice, and cleared his throat.
 
“Urinating in public?” Gabe smirked.  “Public drunkenness, and illegally carrying a firearm.”
 
“That was all in the same night,” Dean tried to explain.  “And the gun was my dad’s in his car, which I was sleeping in.”
 
Castiel shook his head.  “Sounds like a bad night.”
 
“It was a reeeeally bad night,” Dean said, shuttering.  “And I didn’t pee.  I puked on the cop, because I was drunk, and that was the best he could charge me with.”
 
Gabe laughed.  “I woulda called it assault!”
 
Dean nodded.  “Man, that cop hated my guts.”
 
“Any other blemishes removed by my friends?” Cas asked.
 
Gabe and Dean’s grins sobered.  “Yeah.  I was arrested for assault when I was 17.”
 
Gabe winced.  “Who was that guy?  You beat the shit outta him.  There was a photo in the report, but I didn’t read it.”
 
Dean nodded slow.  “That was my dad.”
 
Castiel was shocked.  “Why?  What happened?”
 
Dean’s eyes stayed fixed to the kitchen floor.  “That was what I was really worried about Billie finding.  I tracked my dad down in a bar.  He had left me in Michigan and taken Sam and was treating him...really bad.”  Dean leaned back against the counter slightly, crossing his feet at the ankle.  “Sam had talked back to him in front of some guy near their motel room.”
 
Gabe and Cas exchanged a pained look.
 
“Sam was bruised up pretty bad and called me.”
 
“Is that how you became an emancipated adult?” Gabe asked.  “I did read that.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Yeah.  I had to get me and Sam the hell away from him.  He was a mean son of a bitch.”
 
“Dean, I’m so sorry,” Castiel said quietly.
 
Dean shrugged.  “He’s dead now.  Got electrocuted on the job, I heard.  He was probably drunk.”
 
“No wonder you’re so good with Jack and Claire,” Castiel said, wishing he could take away every bad day Dean had endured.
 
“And us,” Gabe added.
 
Dean huffed a laugh.  “Well, it sounds like your parents weren’t much different.”
 
“Ah,” Gabe nodded.  “Psychological warfare is a whole other beast.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “If Gabe had not protected me so many times, I could have turned out so differently.”
 
Gabe smirked.  “You were a piece of cake.  Easily distracted.  All I had to do was put a book in front of you, and you’d miss most of what was being said.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “I’m so thankful we were able to stop Lucifer from repeating the cycle with Jack.”
 
Gabe’s mouth twisted and he cocked his head.  “Subject change?”
 
“Please,” Dean grinned.
 
“The wedding.”
 
Castiel grinned.  “Yes?”  Castiel tossed his empty bag into the trash can.
 
“Anna is insisting Bobby and Jody stay at her place in the cottage.”
 
Castiel nodded.
 
“The cottage?” Dean asked.
 
“It’s the little, white house just before you turn down the lane into their property.  It came with the farm.  She had renters in there until last fall.  The place is small, but it’s furnished.  She’s been cleaning it all day.  She insists it will be better for Jody than having her squeezed in here or stay at a hotel.”
 
Castiel nodded.  “That sounds nice.  Bobby and Jody should be fine with that, right?”
 
Dean shrugged.  “I’ll call him.  They will be here tomorrow afternoon.  Is it wheelchair accessible?”
 
“Uh, yes,” Castiel thought.  “I haven’t been in the place since she bought it, but everything is on one level.  The bathroom is fairly big.  It should work perfectly.”
 
“Great,” Dean grinned.  “Tell Anna thank you for me.”
 
Gabe nodded.  “Tuxes?”
 
“The appointment is at 3:00 tomorrow so Sam will be here.”
 
Gabe shook his head no.  “Sam got his own.”
 
“Oh,” Castiel and Dean said.
 
“Sam and I talk now,” Gabe grinned with a hint of a smirk.  “Since our brothers do crazy, spur of the moment shit, we need help keeping up.”
 
Castiel rolled his eyes.
 
“He’s bringing Pam,” Dean added, biting his lip, obviously baiting Gabriel.
 
Gabe rocked onto his heels.  “Is he now?”  He nodded.  “She’s frisky, that Pamela.”
 
Dean laughed.  “She says your ass is so tight she could bounce a quarter off of it.”
 
Gabe’s face lit up.  “Does she now?”  A mischievous grin lit his face as he headed toward the door, mumbling to himself.
 
Castiel chuckled.  “I’m not sure that’s a wise move, Dean.”
 
“Hey, the pair of them are like two peas...no...like two tornadoes.  Together, they could really tear some shit up.”
 
Castiel shook his head.  “Kali was like that too.  He seems to thrive on very strong women.”
 
“A, don’t ever compare Kali to Pam in Pam’s presence.  She refers to her as The Kali-bitch.  B, Pam is a very independent, self-made woman who never had anything handed to her in life.  There is no way she’ll be a mooch like Kali.  And three, she definitely has a thing for Gabe.  She asks about him EVERY time I talk to her.”
 
“Well, it sounds like they can get to know each other better at the wedding.”
 
“Yeah,” Dean chuckled.  
 
Claire came into the kitchen, sitting her keys on the counter.  “Hey.”
 
“Hi,” they both grinned at her.
 
“I am stopping in to get Jack and take him to Charlie’s before we all go to Anna’s.”
 
Dean and Cas both arched an eyebrow at her.  She shrugged.  “Wedding crap?”
 
Dean filled Claire in on the court details, while Cas went into Jack’s room, where he was playing with his Paw Patrol figures.
 
“Hey, Jack.”
 
“Hi!”  Jack sprung up from his place on the floor to reach up for a hug.
 
Castiel scooped him up, hugging him.  Jack was already five.  Who knew how long all the hugs would last?  But at least he knew they had the rest of their lives to fit them in.
 
Jack sat back, looking at him.  
 
“Claire is here.  She wants to take you over to Charlie’s and then Anna’s.”
 
Jack nodded with a grin.
 
“You knew about this?”
 
“Yep.  I have a surprise for you and Dean.”
 
Castiel grinned.  “What kind of surprise?”
 
“Shhh!  I’m not supposed ta tell!”
 
“Hmm...for the wedding?”
 
Jack grinned so hard he arched backward slightly.
 
“I am so curious,” Castiel said honestly.
 
“It’s a present.  For both my dads,” he said proudly.
 
“Wow,” Castiel marveled.  Jack knew how to make him grin from the inside out.  “I can hardly wait.”
 
“Hey, after the wedding, Anna said I could spend the night.”
 
Castiel grinned.  His sister was an angel.  “That sounds fun!  Are you going to help her clean up?”
 
Jack nodded.  “I’m on trash patrol!” He raised both arms up in victory, making Cas laugh.
 
“Well, I guess it’s time to head out with Claire, if you’re okay with that.”
 
Jack nodded and Castiel put him down.  The fact that he was comfortable enough with Claire to go with her was a big deal.  They headed back to the kitchen.
 
“I guess he’s all ready,” Cas added, getting a smile from Claire.  
 
“We have plans, don’t we?” She asked him, taking his hand.
 
Jack slipped her hand, running to hug Dean.  “Bye!  Love you!”  
 
Dean gave him a quick kiss.  “Love you 100% more.”
 
He kissed Cas goodbye next.  “Love you!”
 
“Love you more.  Be good.” He put Jack’s backpack on.  “Claire, call if you need anything.”
 
“I need a booster seat.”
 
“I got it,” Dean said, going to the garage.
 
Castiel watched through the front door as Dean put the booster seat in Charlie’s backseat.  Dean was explaining the seatbelt and Claire was shushing him, already knowing how it fit over him.
 
He chuckled at the pair of them fussing each other.
 
“Don’t speed,” he heard Dean saying.
 
“Okay, Dad,” she laughed, getting in the car.  As Dean walked back toward him, he shook his head with half a smile.  
 
They waved as she pulled away.
 
“I never dreamed we’d have some time alone,” Cas grinned.
 
“I wish we did.  I have to work,” Dean said with obvious disappointment.
 
Cas sighed.  “I’ll go into the office too, then.”
 
They stared at each other for a few seconds before Dean stepped forward, kissing him.  “I can’t wait to marry you.”
 
Castiel felt the same.  “Come on Saturday.”
 
 
 
**********************************************
 
 
 
Dean heard the front door close, running feet, and Jack.
 
“Dad!” He yelled, thumping up the stairs.
 
Since little work would get done over the weekend, Dean was cramming in as much as he could.  After finishing his shortened workday from being at court, he came home and dove immediately into work in the upstairs suite.  He was on the last section of paint for the bedroom.  Hearing Jack on the stairs, Dean glanced around.  Just as he got to the doorway, Dean yelled, “Freeze!”
 
Jack halted immediately, eyes wide.
 
Dean put the paint roller down and stepped around the landmine of a room until he got to Jack.
 
“Hi,” he grinned down at him.
 
Jack broke into a wide grin, reaching up.  Dean picked him up.  
 
“You smell like lemongrass.”
 
“Wait til you see all the flowers!” Jack said excitedly.
 
Dean headed down the steps, stopping halfway, just to be out of the wet paint area of the master bedroom.
 
“Flowers?  Ugh.  Is Anna making it all girly?”
 
Jack giggled, kneeling on the step beside him.  “No!  Flowers are for everybody.”
 
“Okay,” Dean half grinned, not buying it.
 
Jack moved up a step.  “I made gift bags.”
 
“Gift bags?!”  Dean shook his head.  Anna was going overboard!
 
“I put roller bottles, two kinds, in each bag.”
 
“Essential oil roller bottles?” Dean asked.  “I guess that makes sense.”
 
“The green ones smell like you and the blue ones smell like Dad.”
 
“What do I smell like?” He asked, wiping a trace of chocolate off Jack’s chin.
 
Jack leaned forward, laying on his shoulder.  “Like Baby and...”
 
“Paint?” Dean grinned.
 
“Noooo.  I don’t know.  Ask Daddy and Eileen.  They made it.”
 
Dean shook his head.  “When did they do that?”
 
Jack shrugged his shoulders real big.  
 
“What does the blue one smell like?” Dean asked.
 
“Like Daddy!” Jack laughed.
 
“Mmm.  Citrus and -”
 
“Cimonon, and lang ylang, and cardomom,” Jack finished.
 
“I don’t even know what that is,” Dean laughed, “but if you say it smells like Cas, then I like it!”
 
Dean stood, Jack hopping up.  “I don’t know where Cas is,” he said, heading down the steps.
 
“He’s outside talking to Anna.”
 
“Oh.”  Dean frowned, wondering if Jack knew where he was then why had he come upstairs looking for him.
 
“Oh,” he said aloud again.  Jack was looking for him.  Jack had called him Dad.  Dean stopped at the front door, looking down at Jack.  “Did you want something?”
 
This was kinda huge.
 
Jack hung on the doorknob of the open door, looking up at him with an easy grin.  “Anna wants to ask you stuff.”
 
Dean squatted down, looking at him.  What did you say to a step like that?  What was he supposed to do?  What did you say back to a gesture so grand?
 
“I love you.”
 
Jack grinned.  “100%?”
 
“100%.”
 
Jack’s grin slid to something more serious.  “I’m real glad you’re gonna be my dad.”
 
Dean hugged him tight.  “You have no idea how happy I am, Jack.  I am one very lucky guy.”  He wiped the tears off his cheeks before he loosened the hug enough for Jack to look at him.
 
“Gabe says you guys are endgame.”
 
Dean laughed.  “He does?”
 
“Yeah...” Jack nodded.  “I don’t know what that means.”
 
“It means, we’re gonna be married forever.”
 
“Oh!  I knew that!”  Jack beamed a grin.  “I’m gonna go play now.”
 
Dean watched as Jack ran back to his room.  He stared at the empty living room for a moment.  “He called me Dad,” Dean said softly.  He cleared his throat, glancing around.  “Aaand now I’m mumbling to myself like Cas.”  
 
He went outside where Anna and Cas were standing at her car talking.  “Hi!” She called as he neared them.
 
“Hey, Anna.  What’s all this I hear about flowers?”  He shook his head.  “Are you makin’ it looks like a fairy garden?”
 
“No!” She laughed.  “It’s very simple.  Just...adding some floral touches.”
 
“Because acres of lemongrass aren’t floral enough?” Dean smirked.
 
“OH!” She waved her hands, almost flapping like a bird.  “The programs are printed!  I picked those up today.”
 
“There’s a program?” Cas asked, looking bewildered.
 
“Of course!  It matches the theme!”
 
“Theme?” He and Cas asked.
 
“UGH!  You two are impossible!”  She shooed them away from her car door.  “Just show up and look gorgeous and I’ll work everything around you.  It’s good you two have friends.  And me!  If I had left it up to you two, we’d be sitting around eating hotdogs at my picnic table!”
 
“I like hotdogs,” Dean deadpanned, looking at Cas.
 
“What’s wrong with your picnic table?” Cas asked.
 
Anna wilted, laughing.  “It’s good you didn’t have to plan Gabe’s wedding.”  The words and the humor died a little.
 
“He would have been getting married in three weeks,” Cas said quietly.  “But he seems to have handled all of this very well.”
 
“Of course he seems that way,” Anna said sadly.  “He would never rain on your parade.”
 
Dean felt bad for not handling that aspect of things a bit better.  “Ah, man.  I didn’t realize we were getting married so close to when he would have been.  But he’s over her, right?”
 
“Yes,” Anna nodded.  “And he’s been busy, so that helps.”
 
A look of concern grew on Cas’ face.  “Busy doing what exactly?”
 
Anna bit her lip.  “I think he’s planning on launching a new oil blend.”
 
“At the wedding?” Cas asked.
 
“Um...maybe?”
 
Cas shook his head.
 
Dean had to laugh.  “What is it?  Bromance?  Strictly dickly?”
 
Anna laughed and Cas whacked his arm.
 
“Dean-Cas, Das?  Castean?  Deanstiel?  Destiel?”
 
“Shut up,” Cas laughed.
 
“Brazilian love,” Dean went on.  “Just Dean, maybe.  The new fragrance of lusty romance...Dean.”
 
“I’m leaving!” Anna laughed, getting in her car.
 
“Oh, oh! I got it!  Winchester!”  He made a growling noise that had Cas laughing and Anna waving him off as she pulled away.
 
“Ode to two men,” Dean couldn’t stop himself at this point.
 
“Dean,” Cas laughed, pushing him toward the house.
 
Dean went up the step of the porch.  “Scent of -”
 
“Sam!”
 
Dean stopped.  “Why would Gabe launch a scent after Sam at our wedding?  It would smell like a library.”  As he turned around, he saw a car pulling in the driveway.  He could barely make out the car through the glare of the headlights, but he knew the front end of Sam’s Charger anywhere.  “Sam!”
 
Sam got out of the car, standing with his arms raised in a V.  “Anybody need a best man here?”
 
Dean ran the few steps, hugging Sam.  “What the hell?  I thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow!”
 
“Dude!  My brother’s getting married!” Sam laughed.  “I got shit to do!”
 
Dean hugged him again, smacking his broad shoulders as he let go.  “You’re here!”
 
“I’m here!” Sam laughed.
 
“Me too.”
 
Dean stepped back, looking over the hood of the car at Pam standing there like a Harley Davidson runway-model.
 
“Pam!”
 
“You didn’t think I’d let Stretch drive here without me, did ya?”
 
He rounded the car, hugging her too.  “Thank you for coming!”
 
She straightened her hair with a flip of her hand.  “Brought the vampire too.”
 
Dean looked past her.  “Benny!”
 
“Hey, brotha!”
 
Dean hugged his friend too, feeling nostalgic as hell.  “Hot damn, got the whole band together!”
 
“Couldn’t miss the wedding,” Benny grinned.
 
They all looked as the front door opened and Jack ran out, stopping just short of hugging Sam.
 
“Sam!”
 
Sam grinned and waved like a ten-foot-tall toddler.  “Hi!”
 
Jack quickly ran to Cas, who picked him up, but he was clearly excited to see that Sam was here.
 
“I heard you were short on time gettin’ that bedroom done,” Benny grinned with a wink.
 
Dean had been bitching over the phone to him yesterday about that very thing.  He waved it off.  “It’ll wait.”
 
“Wait, hell,” Pam smirked.  “The crew has arrived.  Let’s knock this room into romantic overdrive.”
 
Cas gave him a wide-eyed look.
 
“Guys,” Dean laughed, “you aren’t working -”
 
Sam palmed Dean’s face, effectively cutting him off.  “Let’s do this!”
 
Dean swatted at him, but of course he couldn’t freakin’ reach him.
 
“Are we having a party?” Jack asked Cas.
 
“I think this is considered more of an invasion,” Cas said back, carrying him inside with the rest of the herd.
 
Dean was overwhelmed for a whole minute as Benny, Pam, and Sam crowded into the bedroom, looking around.  Then he went right into work mode, like the foreman he could have been if he had been able to run his own company.  “You guys serious?”
 
“I’m always serious, handsome,” Pam said suavely.
 
Dean shook his head.  “Alright.  You finish painting in here, then the wall into the office and closets.  I’ll tape off the windows for you.”
 
Pam smirked.  “Honey, I’m an artist.  You don’t need to tape.”
 
Dean held his hands up.  “Okay Bob Ross.”
 
He turned to Benny and Sam.  “I’ve been putting off the bathroom...but if you two are serous...”
 
“We talked about this the whole way here,” Sam said.  “Let’s do this.”
 
 
*******************************************
 
 
Cas settled into a comfortable position with Jack, ready to tuck him in.
 
“Think they need help?” Jack asked.
 
“No,” Castiel grinned, picking up a book on snakes.
 
“Maybe they need water,” Jack said.
 
Cas closed the book in his hands.  “I know it sounds fun, but we get Dean all the time.  Let’s share him with his friends for a while.”
 
Jack nodded, snuggling in tighter.  “They might want pizza.”
 
Castiel laughed.  “They might.  Would you like to go ask them?”
 
Jack shook his head no, biting his lip.
 
When he was almost done with a second book, Dean came in.
 
“There you are!”  He sat on the edge of the bed.  “I wanted to say goodnight.”
 
“Night,” Jack grinned sleepily.
 
“Love you,” Dean said, kissing his floppy, sandy-brown hair.
 
“Love you,” Jack yawned.
 
Dean leaned into Cas, kissing him.  “Don’t wait up.  We might be a while.”
 
Castiel nodded, figuring as much.  “Are you trying to have that bedroom finished before the weekend?”
 
Dean held a hand up.  “I don’t know yet.  We’ll see.”
 
“Don’t worry about it,” Castiel said, trying to decrease his level of stress.
 
“You just...enjoy reading,” Dean glanced at the cover of the book, ‘Who’s Making That Smell?’  And I’ll just work on the room for a while.”  He kissed him again, ruffled Jack’s hair, and left.
 
Cas looked down at Jack.  “I think he’s having fun.”
 
Jack nodded up at him.  
 
 
 
****************************************************
  

 
Castiel woke to Dean getting in bed.  He moved, knowing Dean would lay flat and he would wind himself around him like the roots of a tree taking hold.  He had just showered and smelled of sandalwood, geranium, and Dean.  He breathed deep, sighing with all the contentment in the world.
 
He smiled as Dean ran his fingers through his hair and kissed his cheek.  He kissed him back softly, barely awake enough to reciprocate.  But he was awake enough to appreciate the long stretch of silky, warm skin under his hands, Dean’s warm, soft breath against his forehead, and the curve of his muscular arms wrapped around him.
 
This was heaven.
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 20:  Essential
 
 
 
Dean squashed the urge to douse Sammy with a bucket of water.  His brother lay stretched across the bedroom floor with a clean drop cloth wadded up for a pillow.  In fact, he felt bad waking him up at all.  They had worked until 4:30 in the morning.  Pam and Benny had gone to a hotel around 2am, but he and Sam just kept chugging away on the renovations.
 
He squat down next to Sam’s head, hair covering his eyes and a soft snore came from his gaping mouth.
 
Sam was the best brother a guy could ask for.  A barrage of memories about places Sam had slept in flew through Dean’s mind.  Shitty motels, floors, Baby, camping, a house they broke into during the winter blizzard of ‘96, the apartments they’d had, the table while draped over stacks of books and papers, over his laptop, shared rooms, his own room, their room at Bobby and Jody’s, and this.  He stood up again, pulling out his phone to take a picture.  They had worked their asses off last night and had a good time doing it.  He liked working with Sam. They grew up around construction sites and began working there together, each working with the other so easily. As well as he and Benny worked together there was still nothing like working with someone who knew what you needed before you asked.
 
Pam had painted everything.  The master bedroom was a dusky blue, while the bathroom, closets, and office were gray. They had spent the night fitting curtains and blinds, plumbing the toilet, sink, and shower. They hung new towels and washcloths, and there were rugs of blue and grey on the new tile floor.
 
Dean had gone way out on a limb and called Lee Chambers, the home improvement store owner, at 10:30 at night and begged him to open his store for him to pick up his order early.
 
The shop was just three blocks away and the poor guy had drug his little girl out of bed to let them in.
 
Dean had been getting to know Lee well, doing a lot of business with him since he started working in town.  Normally, he would never even entertain the idea of dragging a man and his daughter out of bed.  But it was for Cas.  And the things he would do for that man were limitless.  He did have to kick himself when Lee’s little girl was following them around in her kitty-cat pajamas and sneakers.  When he had apologized, not realizing he would be dragging a little girl from bed, Lee only waved him off.  “She never stays in bed for long anyway.  She’s a night owl, like me.”
 
Dean nodded.  “Ours ends up in bed with us half the time.”
 
They shared a parental grin of woe and Dean had to admit, it felt damn good.
 
“Didn’t know you had a kid,” Lee said, heading to the back room with him, Sam, Benny, and Pam in tow.
 
“Yeah.  Jack.  He’s five.  How old is your daughter?”
 
“I’m five,” she piped in, weaving past Sam to walk beside him.
 
Dean looked down at her with a grin.  She had long, dark brown hair caught back in an off-center ponytail and freckles speckling her cheeks.  “You’ll have to meet Jack.  He’s kinda shy though.”
 
“My name’s Krissy.  I’m not shy.”
 
Lee chuckled, opening the back-bay door.  “She’ll talk enough for the pair of them.”
 
They loaded up the shower door, toilet, cabinet, and sink that he had ordered.  He was supposed to pick it all up on Monday, but wouldn’t Cas be surprised if they could spend their one-night honeymoon in their fully equipped suite?!
 
As Benny closed the tailgate of the truck, Dean turned to Lee.  “Thank you for opening the place for me.”
 
Lee grinned.  “No problem.  You’ve done a lot of business with me lately.”
 
Dean shook his hand.  “Hey, if you want, you and Krissy are welcome to come to the wedding on Saturday.  You can meet Cas and Jack and all the rest of our crazy friends and family.”
 
Lee nodded, his brown eyes warming even more.  “I don’t want to intrude.”
 
“At least I’ll know somebody to talk to,” Benny offered.  “Pam and Sam are likely gonna be busy.”
 
Pam smirked but did not argue.
 
“It’s gonna be laid back,” Dean went on.  “It’s at my sister-in-law-to-be’s farm not far from here.  You don’t even need a suit, man.”
 
Lee nodded.  “Alright.  We’ll see you then.”
 
Dean clapped him on the back and gave Krissy a wave.  “I’ll text you the details.”
 
“Sounds good.  See you then.”
 
They had worked quickly since everything else was ready.  Cas slept through it all, even with furniture moving from the garage to the office and bedroom upstairs.
 
The closets had shelves, rods, and drawers for all their clothing needs.  Dean found it funny that he had such a nice place to keep all his ratty jeans and flannels.  
 
They moved his desk, file cabinet, and computer into the office.  He had a window that looked out on the neighborhood, giving him a birds-eye view of the whole street.
 
All the upstairs needed was the rest of their furniture and clothing.  
 
Sam had said he was crashing on the couch for the night, but he never made it there.  Next to where Sam sprawled on the floor lay an old cigar box that had been in with Dean’s things.  He knew the contents very well.  A whopping five pictures from their childhood.  Sam’s legal guardianship papers, their birth certificates, his first driver’s license, and Sam’s first college ID badge.  
 
He knelt, shaking Sam’s shoulder gently.  He woke as he always did when roused by someone, with great gasp, eyes popping wide open, and sitting up.
 
“What?  Hey!” Sam stammered, blinking, and wincing at his neck, rubbing it.
 
“Morning.  Bobby and Jody will be here soon.  Figured I’d wake you up.”
 
Sam glanced around, his shoulders relaxing slowly.  “Yeah!  Shit.  I fell asleep.  It’s nice up here!”
 
Dean glanced around the room.  “Yeah.  I can’t believe how quick we knocked this out.”
 
Sam slumped back to the floor with a mighty yawn, rubbing his eyes.
 
Dean slapped a hand down onto his stomach, getting a groan in return.  “Uff.  Get off.”
 
Sam shoved his hand away with a grin, sitting up again.  “I can’t believe you’re getting married tomorrow.”
 
“Yeah.  It’s pretty crazy,” Dean admitted.  
 
Sam stared down at the cigar box, making Dean do the same.
 
“Dean, would it be weird if...I mean, I got my own life going on but...” he cleared his throat, wiping a hand over his mouth nervously.  “Would it be weird if I moved here?”
 
Dean’s eyes leapt up to Sam’s.  “What?  No!  Yeah!  You should definitely move here!”
 
Sam grinned, nodding his head.  “I just...it’s not the same without you, ya know, there.”  He shrugged, huffing an amused laugh.  “You’ve moved all over the place for me.  I figure it’s my turn to follow you.”
 
If Dean were five, he’d bear-hug his brother and roll around on the floor in a fit of joy.  “That would be awesome, Sam.  It kinda sucks not having you around.”
 
Their eyes met briefly.
 
Dean frowned down at the floor.  “Pam is gonna kick my ass.”
 
 
 
*****************************************************
 
 
 
Dean kept the door to the upstairs locked with express demands Cas not see it.  Cas obliged him, knowing it would be worth the reward tomorrow night after the wedding.
 
It was just after noon when Bobby and Jody pulled into the driveway.  Dean and Sam met them at the car, helping Jody into a wheelchair.
 
“I can walk!” She said faintly, a glimmer of the spirit she still had shining through her pale, thin figure.  Her skin had a grayish hue and even with make-up he could see the circles under her eyes.
 
“You have a lot to do today and tomorrow,” Dean insisted, carrying the front of her chair while Sam lifted from the back to carry her over the porch step and the threshold of the front door.  They sat her down gently in the living room, where Sam wheeled her inside.
 
“Takes a lot of energy to keep up with me, Jody,” Sam teased, pushing her chair next to the couch.
 
Bobby came in next, carrying her oxygen tank and a large bag.
 
Her face lit up when she spotted him.  “You must be Cas.”
 
“I am,” Cas said, coming forward to shake her hand.  “It is so good to meet you.  Dean has told me a lot of good stories about when he lived with you.”
 
She turned a proud smile up at Dean and Sam.  “Yeah.  We had a lot of fun with these boys.”
 
Cas stepped forward again, holding a hand out to Bobby.  “It’s really nice to meet you, sir.”  Suddenly Castiel’s chest filled with the nervous energy one felt when meeting one’s partner’s parents for the first time.
 
“You too,” Bobby nodded, giving him a firm shake.
 
They all sat down, talking about how the drive went, Jody ribbing Bobby for his driving.  “He drives like an old man.”
 
“I am an old man,” Bobby groused back.
 
“Can I get you anything to drink or eat?” Cas asked.
 
“Ice water would be great,” Jody nodded, giving Bobby a look.  He hopped up, reading something in her expression, and began uncoiling the oxygen tubing, handing her the cannula.
 
Cas made them both a glass of ice water, returning to the living room quickly.  They were talking about football, so he went to Jack’s room to bring him out to meet them.
 
He tapped on the door and stepped in.  “Jack, Bobby and Jody are here.  I want you to come meet them.”
 
Jack stood up from the action figures he was playing with and grabbed Felix.  Cas had done his best to prepare Jack for being around a lot of people for the next two days.
 
He came along silently, already worrying his bottom lip.
 
They returned to the living room.  Jody’s face lit up again at the sight of him.
 
“Bobby, Jody, this is Jack,” Cas introduced.
 
“Hello,” Jack said in a tiny voice.
 
“Well, hi,” Bobby grinned.
 
“It’s nice to meet you,” Jody said, leaning forward in her chair.
 
Dean pulled Jack over to sit on his lap.  “This guy,” he pointed at Bobby, “looks like a bear, but he’s really a big softie.”
 
Jack nodded, smiling shyly.
 
“I like your snake,” Jody said.  “What’s his name?”
 
Jack sat up a bit.  “Felix.”
 
“Felix?  That’s a great name.”  She sat back with a sweet smile.  “Sam used to have a teddy bear.”
 
“Oh wow,” Sam laughed.  “I haven’t seen that thing in years!”
 
“Sully is in a box in the garage,” Dean said.
 
“You still have Sully?” Sam asked, looking surprised.
 
“Of course,” Dean smirked.  “That bear survived a lot.”
 
“Is that why you became a teddy bear doctor?” Jack asked Dean quietly.
 
“A teddy bear doctor?” Bobby smirked.
 
“I am,” Dean said proudly.  “And yes, Sully was my first patient.”
 
“Dean fights monsters,” Jack went on, like he had something to prove.  “He’s brave.”
 
Dean blushed slightly.
 
“He is very brave,” Jody nodded, just as matter-of-fact as Jack.  “Just like you!”
 
Jack bit his lip, leaning into Dean’s chest snuggly, still watching Jody.  “Are you Dean’s mom?”
 
“No,” she said softly.  “Just -”
 
“She took care of us when we needed a mom,” Sam explained, giving Jody a warm grin.  “And Bobby was there when we needed a dad.”
 
Jack sat up, looking at Dean.  “I don’t have a mom either.”
 
Dean smiled sadly, rubbing a hand over his head.  “And look how good I turned out.”
 
Jack nodded, tugging Felix a little higher to grip him better.
 
Castiel considered their first meeting to have gone very well.  They seemed very happy for Dean.  And Jack had even told Jody that her chair was ‘cool’.
 
They all loaded into two vehicles to head to Anna’s to get them settled in.
 
 
 
***********************************************
 
 
 
Dean had noticed the small, white cottage that sat at the corner of Anna’s lane.  It was what he had used as a landmark to find the dirt path that led to Anna and Abner’s farmhouse amongst the fields of lemongrass on either side of the road.
 
The gravel pull-off was long enough to park three cars in front of, Bobby took the center spot with a sidewalk that led up to the porch.  Lavender bushes grew on both sides of the porch, giving it a charming country feel.
 
“We can make ramps to get up the porch steps,” Dean said, carrying Jody in her chair with Sam’s help.
 
“I’ll only be here a few days,” she said faintly, looking like she needed to lie down very soon.  
 
“We’ll see about that,” Dean mumbled, winking at her as they sat her down gently in the living room.
 
“Hi, Jody!  I’m Anna!” Anna said, shaking her hand.  She had been flitting around the living room fluffing couch pillows and straightening already straightened vases and knick-knacks.  
 
“Anna, you went too much trouble!” Jody said faintly.
 
“No!  I’m so excited to have you here!”
 
Bobby stopped in front of her.  “Bobby Singer, good ta meet ya,” he said, shaking her hand.
 
“Bobby!”  Anna took his hand but hugged him instead.  “I’m so excited to have you both here!  If there is anything Abner or I can do, PLEASE let us know.”
 
“You’ve done too much already,” Bobby said, looking around a little flustered.
 
Dean had to admit, Anna had out-done herself.  The cottage was a simple but pretty home with a large living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom, and a bedroom.  Anna had cleaned it and set the air conditioner running so it was cool inside.
 
Bobby went to work getting Jody settled into the bedroom to lay down.
 
He could see in the doorway as he fussed around her, covering her with two thick quilts.
 
Dean brought her ice water, seeing the kitchen was perfect for two people and noticed food in the refrigerator.  He sat the glass of water on her bedside table and sat on the edge of the bed as Bobby lay pill bottle after pill bottle on the stand.
 
“You okay?” He asked gently, tugging the covers up a bit.
 
“I’m fine,” she smiled, extracting a hand from the bedding to take ahold of his.  Her skin felt cold to the touch and her veins looked lacey, showing blue lines spidering through her gray skin.  “I’m so glad to be here.  Please tell Anna I’m comfortable and I promise not to die on her watch.”
 
The joke felt like a stab to his chest.  “You’re not dyin’ anytime soon, Jody.”
 
Her eyes drifted closed as Bobby fitted the oxygen cannula into her nose and looped it over her ears as gentle as a practiced nurse.
 
“I love you boys.  So proud of you,” she whispered.
 
Dean closed his eyes, lifting her thin hand to his mouth to kiss it.  “Love you too, Jody.”  As his eyes opened, he tucked her arm back under the covers.  She was asleep before he even got up.
 
Bobby followed him out to the living room, closing the bedroom door partially.  “The ride really took it out of her,” Bobby said quietly.
 
Dean nodded, knowing that was only partially true.  Jody was in bad shape.
 
“How long are you planning on staying?” Dean asked, sitting in one of the living room chairs.  Sam and Cas sat the rest of their bags down in the living room as Anna took a seat on the sofa.
 
“We’ll probably head back on Monday.  Tuesday at the latest.”
 
Cas shifted on his feet, his mouth twisting as his brow crinkled in thought.  “Bobby, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but while you’re here, so close to Chicago, why don’t you get a second opinion on her condition?”
 
Bobby sat on the arm of the sofa, pulling his hat off to fumble with its bill before slapping it back onto his head.  “It can take months to get into specialists.”
 
“There’s no rush to leave,” Anna interjected.  Abner and I have no plans on anyone moving in here.  You are welcome to stay as long as you like.”
 
Bobby tilted his head.  “Naw, we couldn’t -”
 
“You can stay with us,” Cas offered, surprising Dean a little.
 
“Yeah, Bobby,” Dean backed him up.  “Whatever it takes.”
 
Bobby shook his head slowly.
 
“There is a world renowned cardiac center here,” Cas encouraged.
 
“But -” Bobby stammered.
 
“Just think about it,” Dean cut him off before he could refuse again.  “We’ll talk about it more on Sunday.”
 
“Alright,” Bobby relented as they all nodded along with Dean.
 
 
 
******************************************************
 
 
 
“Damn, Winchester,” Gabe grinned, straightening his own tie in the mirror, “we make these suits look good!”
 
Dean frowned, moving his arms around, feeling the shoulders of the suit ride up.  “How do people move in these things?”
 
“They don’t.”  Gabe shooed his hands away from gripping the lapels, smoothing the flaps into place before adjusting his tie.  “Gentleman work with their heads and wallets, unlike the rest of us who gotta actually move at our jobs.”
 
“Huh,” Dean grumped.  “I can change after the ceremony, right?”  
 
“You’ll live for one night,” Sam jested, closing Dean’s right cuff link.
 
“I feel like a Ken doll,” Dean frowned, tugging his sleeve, Sam swatting him and taking it back.  
 
“Death by suit,” Dean pouted.
 
“Better pull that lip in!” Gabe laughed, poking Dean’s bottom lip.
 
Dean swatted him away.  “Go see what Cas is wearing.”
 
“Right!” Gabe lit up, pointing a finger skyward.  “Samwise!  I leave Dean-O to your capable hands!”
 
Sam grinned as Gabe ducked out of the fitting room.
 
“Is Pam still into him?” Dean asked, watching Gabe leave.
 
“Oh yeah.  She acts like she’s not, but she is.”  Sam moved to the left cuff link.  “He is pretty cute.”
 
Dean laughed.  “You gonna fight Pam for him?”
 
“No,” Sam blushed.  “I’m just sayin’, I can see the appeal, ya know?  He’s funny and energetic.”
 
Dean smirked.  “Well, well.”
 
“No, no,” Sam laughed.  “I have a date for the wedding.  And the foreseeable future.”
 
Dean looked up at his brother in surprise.  “Wait.  What?”
 
Sam grinned, blushing harder.  “Eileen and I have been talking...a lot.  She’s...” his grin only grew dopier.
 
“Wow.  Is that what I looked like when I got home from Brazil?”  
 
Sam rolled his eyes.  “There’s no way I look THAT dopey.”
 
“Ooohhh, I don’t know, ya look pretty ridiculous.”
 
“Then I must be in the ballpark of what you looked like,” Sam sneered.
 
 
 
*********************************************************
 
 
 
Castiel turned when the curtain parted.  “Gabriel?”
 
“Just checkin’ in,” he said, lollipop protruding from his mouth.
 
Castiel turned back to his reflection.  “I’m good.  And Jack looks a handsome young man.”
 
Gabe looked down at Jack, who stood stiffly to the side with a puzzled look on his face.  He was wearing a very dapper black suit.  “Whatsa matter?” Gabe laughed.
 
“It’s itchy.  And my arms don’t move right.”
 
“Wow.  The resemblance is striking,” Gabe said flatly.  He looked up at Cas.  “I used to think he acted just like you, but he takes after Dean more every day.”
 
Castiel peered down at his son.  “It is itchy.”
 
Jack grinned, arms still stiffly sticking out slightly.  “It’s okay.  You look handsome.”
 
Castiel’s heart melted.  “You too.”
 
“Alright, ya babies,” Gabe smirked, running his eyes over Castiel’s frontage critically.  “Ya look good, so get out of them.  You’ll be wearing them most of the day tomorrow.”
 
“You look handsome too, Uncle Gabe.”
 
“Why, thank you!” Gabe guffawed in a silly voice, making Jack giggle.
 
“C’mon, Jack Sprat, let’s get you back in your -” Gabe’s attention snagged upward as the curtain pulled back again.
 
“Hey bi-” Charlie cut herself off.  “Studs!  Look at you three!  Oh!  Cas!  You look so handsome!”
 
Castiel held his arms out with a crooked grin.  “Thank you.  You look beautiful!”  Truly, she did.  The ladies in the wedding, Claire, Pam, Anna, and Charlie, were wearing cornflower blue, princess cut, knee-length dresses that made the four of them look elegantly whimsical.
 
“Claire, Charlie, Anna, Pam, you all look absolutely beautiful!” Castiel breathed out, suddenly feeling his part.  His suit wasn’t so bad.  It was a wedding, after all!
 
“Mama-Mia,” Gabe whimpered, eyes all for Pam.
 
“Eat your heart out, lollipop boy,” she smirked, parking a hand on her hip with a teasing smile.
 
“I am certainly a sucker for you,” Gabe breathed out.
 
“Gabriel,” Castiel chuckled, “please take Jack over so Dean can see him.”
 
Gabe turned to him with an utterly betrayed look on his face.
 
Castiel gave him a firm look back.  This was not the time or place for his flirtatious games.
 
Gabe huffed.  “Come along, Jackson-five.  Let’s leave these stunning ladies to waste their efforts on your dad.”
 
He winked at Pam as he left with Jack in hand.
 
Pam chuckled low as the curtain dropped behind their exit.  
 
“Sooo,” Claire cut in, only semi rolling her eyes, “movie night at Charlie’s tonight.  Since you can’t sleep with Dean, you might as well join us.”
 
Castiel stammered.  “What?”
 
“Oh,” Charlie laughed, “he’s so cute.  You didn’t think you got to sleep with Dean tonight, did you?”
 
“Well, I hadn’t really thought about it,” Castiel admitted.
 
“Trust me,” Anna said, tugging him toward the changing room, “It’ll make tomorrow night all the sweeter.”
 
“But -”
 
“No buts,” Pam winked.  “In fact, you can text Mr. Handsome when we leave.  Next time you see him, he’ll be walking down the aisle toward you.”
 
“But -” Castiel stammered, not liking the idea of not seeing Dean until tomorrow.  “What about Jack?”
 
“Jack is hanging out with the guys.  Tonight,” Charlie grinned impishly, “you are just one of the girls!”
 
“Great,” he said flatly, as Anna and Charlie whacked him.
 
 
 
****************************************************
 
 
 
Claire smirked.  “Wow.  He really is THAT ridiculous.”
 
“Who?” Charlie asked, squished next to her on the couch, Pam on her other side.
 
“Dean.  He actually tried to go ‘dad’ on me, threatening to ground me if I didn’t give Cas my phone!”
 
The girls all awed and laughed, but Castiel took the opportunity to snatch Claire’s phone.  He dodged around Anna, heading to the bathroom at top speed.
 
“Hey!” Claire yelled.  “Get ‘im!”
 
“No!” Castiel shouted, lunging for the bathroom doorway, caught by Anna, who had always been scrappier than she appeared.
 
“You give that back!” Anna laughed.
 
“No!”
 
Charlie pounced next, wrenching him back into the hallway.  It was unfair how strong these women were!
 
“Give me that!” Claire yelled, taking the phone out of his hand.  “Have some restraint man!”
 
“I want to say goodnight!” Castiel said pitifully.
 
“Awwww,” they all mocked.
 
“Claire,” Castiel said sternly, still wearing Anna and Charlie.  “You give me that phone right now.”
 
Claire laughed.  “Listen here, bossy-pants.  You aren’t my dad.”
 
“Well, I’ll do ‘til you get one.  Give me that phone!”
 
All four women laughed at that and he finally sagged under their weight.  “Fine,” he pouted.
 
 
 
*********************************************
 
 
 
“Only MY buddy would insist on workin’ the night before he gets hitched,” Benny said, shaking his head as he placed the desk in Claire’s new room.
 
“I know,” Dean said, only disappointed in himself.  “I should be gettin’ drunk.”  He stuffed his hammer into his tool belt and hung a mirror above the dresser he had bought for Claire.
 
“Can you adopt me too?” Gabe mumbled, three nails sticking out of his mouth as he set about hanging some framed posters he had bought for her.  “This is sweet set-up.”
 
Dean laughed.  “I don’t think I could be held responsible for you, Gabe,” Dean admitted.
 
“Me?  I’m an angel!”
 
“Yeah,” Sam laughed.  “I bet.”
 
“Ask anyone!” Gabe insisted. “The angel Gabriel, patron saint of sex appeal and pixie sticks?”
 
“What do you think, Jack?  Is Gabe as good as an angel?” Sam asked.
 
Jack, busy wrestling a pillow into a pillowcase, turned to the pair of them.  “Yep.  He is.”
 
“Ha!” Gabe laughed.  “Nuf said, Samboat.  Jack’s got my back!”
 
“I think we’re done here,” Dean said, stepping back to look around the room.  What had been Cas’ bedroom, was now a trendy looking bedroom for Claire, with a dresser, desk, queen size bed, and the recliner from Dean’s apartment that she liked so much.
 
Jack slumped against the bed.  “I can’t get it.”  He frowned at the pillow he had been struggling with for the past ten minutes.  “Sam?”
 
Sam turned, trying to hide his surprise that Jack just called him by name.  “You bet.”  Sam took the pillow, shuffling it around a bit until the pillow shimmied inside.
 
“There we go.”  Sam grinned, handing it back to him.
 
“Claire’s gonna love this room!”  Jack said, putting the pillow on the bed.  “But she needs a toy.”  He ran out as Gabe finished hanging the posters with Sam’s help.  He ran back in, putting a cat plushie on the pillows.
 
“Perfect,” Dean said, picking Jack up to hold him.  “Just remember, this is her surprise present for Sunday.”
 
Jack pulled an imaginary zipper across his lips, turned an invisible lock, and tucked the key into Dean’s flannel pocket.  Dean kissed him on the head and left for the living room, the others following.
 
Dean whispered in Jack’s ear, “Get your phone, I wanna call Cas.”
 
Jack nodded, getting down and running to his room.  Dean’s earlier attempt to get Claire to fold had not worked.  He thought she might play along, but no dice.  This was a much better plan.  
 
He cut Jack off in the hallway, taking the phone and Jack into the bathroom, locking the door.
 
Like a nervous high schooler trying to smoke in the bathroom, he dialed Cas’ number.  No answer. He sighed.
 
“Try again,” Jack whispered, so excited.
 
Dean licked his lips, biting his lower one, nodding his head as he tried again.
 
“Hello?” Anna answered.
 
Dean handed the phone to Jack with an encouraging smile, mouthing “ask to talk to your dad.”
 
Jack took the phone.  “Hello?”
 
“Hi, Jack,” he heard Anna say.  “You doing okay?”
 
“Yeah.  I just wanna talk to daddy.”
 
“Okay, one second.”
 
Dean pumped his fist, Jack grinning excitedly from where he sat on the counter.
 
“Hello, Jack.”
 
Dean’s chest filled with joy.  It was ridiculous and he knew it, but it did not stop the huge grin on his face.  The mere sound of Cas’ voice elicited a full body response in him every time.
 
“Hi!” Jack giggled.  “Are you having fun?”
 
“Yes, I am.  I miss you.  How is it going there?”
 
“Miss you too.  Yeah, we’re having fun.  Here.”  Jack handed the phone to Dean’s anxious hands.
 
“Hey there, handsome,” he grinned.
 
The intake of Cas’ breath gave away that he was just as excited.  “De - I mean, yeah, yes, that’s...wonderful!”
 
Dean chuckled.  “They’re listening to you, aren’t they?”
 
“Yep,” Cas answered, trying to tame the excitement in his voice.
 
“Okay, so this keeping us apart shit -sorry,” he frowned at Jack, who held up a finger, signaling one swear word and one quarter in the swear jar in the kitchen, “stuff, is gonna require some payback.”
 
“Yes, definitely,” Cas agreed, his voice dipping to a low rumble.  “I can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”
 
“Who are you talking to?” Dean heard one of the girls asking.  “That better not be Dean!”
 
Alerted, Dean stood up straighter.  “I love you!  I miss you!  I can’t wait to see you tomorrow too!”
 
“I love you!” He heard Cas yell as banging noises came from the line, the distinct sounds of a scuffle and the phone falling until he heard Pam’s voice on the line.
 
“Dean Winchester.”
 
Dean bit his lip.  “Busted.”
 
“Damn right you’re busted.”
 
A pounding knock rang out on the bathroom door, making Jack and Dean’s eyes go wide.  “Dean!” Sam shouted, the knob turning with a jangle.
 
“Give it up, sugar.  I do gotta say, usin’ the kid?  That might be an all-time low for you.”
 
Dean huffed a laugh.  “Please.  I thought you knew me.  I can stoop so much lower.”
 
“Dean!” Sam yelled, pounding again.
 
“Jack?” Gabe called.  “Unlock the door, buddy.”
 
Jack gulped, looking at Dean.
 
“Alright, alright,” Dean gave in.  “I surrender.”
 
He hiked Jack onto his back, unlocked the door and charged the pounding pair, yelling, “I’M NOT SORRY!”
 
They spent the rest of the evening at the park until the lights came on and they were all worn out from playing soccer.
 
As they walked back to their cars, Sam slung an arm around Dean’s shoulder.  “You sure this was as good as a real bachelor party?”
 
“My twenties were a bachelor party.  This is what I’m ready for,” Dean swore.  “Tomorrow, I’m gonna be a married man.  And I’m so good with it, Sam.”
 
“Yeah.  It looks good on you, Dean.”
 
Dean wrapped his arm around his brother, hugging him to his side.  
 
 
 
********************************************************
 
 
 
The sky was cornflower blue, cloudless, endless, and full of as much expectation as Dean’s pounding heart.  He chewed on his lower lip, pacing back and forth behind the shed, where he, Sam, and Claire waited.  He looked at his watch again.  It was five minutes past 2:00.  The ceremony was supposed to start five minutes ago.  He peeked around the corner of the shed, glancing at the crowd of friends, family, and some people he had never met, sitting in seats in a section of the dirt road that ran through the center of Anna and Abner’s farm.  Fields of thigh-high lemongrass swayed gently in a sea of green on either side of the dirt road.  
 
He stepped back, turning to Sam.  “Where the hell is she?” He tugged at his tie in annoyance.
 
Jack came jogging around the corner of the shed in his little suit, running straight to Dean.  Felix, freshly washed, was sporting a bow tie.
 
Dean stopped, squatting down to look at him expectantly.
 
“Daddy’s stressed,” Jack said, worry crinkling his brow.  “He can’t find Gabe.”
 
Dean stood up, locking eyes with Sam.  Pam AND Gabe were missing?  There was no way in seven hells that was a coincidence.
 
“I’m on it,” Sam said tightly, heading for the house.
 
Jack turned to follow Sam when Claire cut him off.  “You stay with me.  Sam knows where to find them.”
 
Dean stared at the back of the shed coldly.  Of all the times and places for Pam to score a hook-up.
 
“I’m gonna kill ‘er,” he muttered.
 
Claire rubbed his shoulder.  “Sam will get them moving.”
 
Dean squatted down to Jack again, shaking off his frustration to plaster a smile on his face.  “Tell Cas I’ll see him in just a minute.”
 
Jack nodded with all the duty and seriousness of a soldier.
 
“Got the rings?” Dean asked.
 
Jack touched his jacket pocket, nodding gravely.
 
“Good man.  Go hang out with Cas until it’s time.”
 
Jack nodded again, turning.  Dean snagged his sleeve, pulling him in, kissing his forehead.  “I’ll be right there with you.”
 
Jack nodded with less surety.  He ran back toward the other shed, where Cas, Anna, and Charlie waited, just out of sight.
 
He had assured Dean and Cas that he could handle being part of the wedding ceremony.  By the look of mild terror and the tight set to his shoulders, Dean wondered if he would be able to go through with it.  His heart was so torn.  Jack was nervous, Cas was nervous, HE was nervous, and freaking Pam and freaking Gabe were choosing NOW of all moments to -
 
“There they are,” Claire said.  “Quit spazzing.”
 
Claire was suddenly in his face.  “Dean.  Breathe.”
 
Dean took a deep breath, rubbing a hand over his mouth as he spotted his brother doing the same damn thing.  He was behind Gabe and Pam, marching them out from behind the chicken coop with a tight expression.
 
Fucking Gabe.
 
Fucking Pamela.
 
Fuck.
 
“Hey.”
 
Dean’s eyes snapped back to Claire, who was standing right in front of him.  “What are you getting freaked out about?  It’s Cas.”
 
“I know,” Dean stammered, tugging his tie again.  “I don’t like crowds.  Or being the center of them.  And Jack is stressed.”
 
“Jack is fine,” she shook her head with a crooked smile.  
 
Her hair was pulled back in a style similar to Pam, Anna, and Charlie.  Correction, Pam’s hair was now loose.  Thanks to Gabe, by the look of it.  Dean settled his eyes back on Claire.  “You look really nice with all that hair out of your face.”
 
She smirked.  “Thanks, Dad.  And you look great, as always.”
 
He rolled his eyes with a grin.
 
Pam joined them with a challenging smirk, saying, go ahead, ask me what I was doing.  Gabe continued by with a wink as he straightened his own tie and smoothed his hair.
 
Dean glared at Pam.  “At my wedding?  You are holding up the whole freaking ceremony!”
 
Her smirk tilted to a sweeter smile.  “Sorry, handsome.”
 
Sam stepped between them, straightening Dean’s tie.  “She’s sorry and we’re ready.”  Sam tipped his head, Dean following the nod to see Chuck standing at the head of the crowd, waiting to officiate the ceremony.
 
Dean’s thoughts swept away, realizing it was time.  The four of them lined up as Kevin, the son of Crowley’s friend, began playing a cello, signaling the start of the ceremony.
 
Dean looked at Sam, his stomach abuzz with nerves.
 
Sam gave him a steady look, his mouth tipping into a small smile.  “Love you, Dean.  Let’s kick it in the ass.”
 
Dean gulped, not having heard that phrase in quite some time.  Not since their wilder days when it was the two of them against the world.  “Love you too, man.”
 
Claire went first, meeting Anna at the back of the crowd, linking arms and walking between the rows of seats that faced Chuck and an endless landscape of green lemongrass and blue sky.  Pam and Charlie met, following the girls.  Sam stepped away from him with one last grin, joining Gabe to walk up the aisle.
 
The cello music changed and everyone stood, turning back to see who would come first.
 
Dean took a deep breath as Jack came out next, holding Cas’ hand to walk him down the aisle.
 
He watched as they stopped in front of Chuck and Jack gave Cas a ring.  Cas bent down to hug him.  Jack turned, walking back the aisle dutifully doing his part so well that Dean’s chest ached at his bravery.
 
He stepped out from the shed as Jack came to him, taking him by the hand.
 
Dean squeezed his hand, hoping he knew just how proud he was of him.
 
Dean grinned nervously at all the faces watching him until he stopped on the face that meant the world to him.
 
Cas.
 
Jack led him to Cas, stopping when they stood side by side.
 
“Hi,” Dean grinned, feeling giddy for the first time.
 
Castiel fought a laugh.  “Hello, Dean.”
 
Dean looked down, taking the ring Jack offered him.
 
“Good job, buddy,” Dean grinned, bending down to hug him.  Jack hugged him back, then passed Dean’s hand to Cas, eliciting an ‘aww’ from the attendees.
 
Jack ran straight to Gabe, who picked him up, whispering in his ear while Jack grinned big and nodded.
 
Chuck cleared his throat, smiling as he often did with a nervous little bob.
 
The cello music came to a quiet stop and everyone sat down.
 
“Ladies and gentlemen, Cas and Dean, it is with a privileged heart that I stand here today.”
 
Dean squeezed Cas’ hand, getting a squeeze back.
 
“I’ve met a lot of remarkable people in my life,” Chuck went on, a glimmer of true happiness in his eyes as he smiled at both of them, “but I gotta say, these two men are some of the finest I have had the pleasure to work with.”
 
“I’ve known Castiel for quite some time.  We met through Habitat For Humanity.  And I knew we really had something special when I met these brothers.  Castiel can speak a LOT of languages, making communication so much easier.  Really, he’s like a walking, talking Google Translate!”
 
The crowd laughed, making Dean glance back, seeing Bobby and Jody sitting at the very front, looking so proud.  He had to smile at Jody holding Felix all curled up on her lap.
 
“Gabe is one of a kind, always making people laugh and feel at ease.  The two have been an amazing team for HFH,” Chuck went on.  “And then,” he laughed slightly, “then we got this ridiculously handsome carpenter that could hammer out houses like the Energizer Bunny!”
 
Dean blushed, finding stillness to his racing heart in the calm blue of Cas’ eyes.
 
“I know Castiel well enough to know when something is up.  So, it wasn’t until I saw these two, sharing dinner at our banquet that I thought, ‘ooohhh, yeah, there might be something there’.”
 
Dean remembered the meal like it was yesterday.  He remembered Cas putting his hand on his shoulder while talking to a group of people from Recife.  He remembered putting his hand over Cas’, holding it to his shoulder.  It was so brief.  So natural.  Instinctual.  He rubbed his thumb over the back of Cas’ hand.
 
“But!” Chuck said brightly, grinning at the crowd, “It wasn’t until Dean frantically sought Castiel out at the airport that I thought our shy Cas even had a chance.”
 
Dean and Cas exchanged a very knowing grin, remembering the airport scene well.
 
“And then I went through the pictures of our trip in Brazil with Meg.”  Chuck shook his head with a big grin, exuding joy.  “Every picture of them before they met, they look determined.  Hard working.  Diligently helping to make change for the people there.  Then, after they met, well, for one, they were never apart after that.  But more than that is the look of excitement, happiness, friendship, and, dare I say, love.”
 
Chuck grinned at both in turn.  “It has been a pleasure knowing you each as individuals.  It is with absolute joy that I unite the two of you together in marriage today.”
 
Dean and Cas smiled back at him, holding onto each other tight.
 
“Like all good things, a favorite book, a perfect Sunday afternoon, an open road, the magic of the moment happens effortlessly, like it did with you two.”  Chuck gave them a knowing nod.  “Some men are essentially blessed with a partner that fits them so completely.  That, gentlemen, is the pair of you.  Castiel, being a man of many words, will appreciate the word I would like to use to describe the two of you.  Essential.  Defined, the word essential means - absolutely necessary, crucial, key, vital, fundamental, elemental.  The essence of the purest part of a whole.  The chemistry and the love you two share is essential.  Nurture that.  Stoke the fire that burns so bright between you.”  
 
Dean nodded, unable to imagine what he and Cas had could ever dim.
 
“Essential also describes Heaven Scent, a company started by a family who understands that pure and wholesome is not just a way of life for them, but they found a way to bottle that from farm to people’s homes.  But it isn’t just the essential oils that touch our lives and infuse our senses.  It is the essential joy and love that the pair of you share.”
 
Chuck began going through the vow part of the ceremony, each of them saying, ‘I do’.
 
As Cas slid the ring onto Dean’s finger, a piece deep inside him slid home.
 
Cas’ hand was his.  His heart and his soul.
 
“Dean, Cas,” Chuck said, “you may kiss your husband.”
 
Dean sighed with relief, this was what it was all about.  They kissed, hugging each other tight.  The crowd clapped, hooting, and hollering in celebration.
 
“I love you,” Cas grinned, tears in his eyes.
 
“I love you more,” Dean whispered back.
 
“Ladies and gentlemen!” Chuck yelled, “Mr. and Mr. Winchester!’
 
Cas waved Jack over.  He ran with a wide grin, Cas scooping him up to go back down the aisle with them as people threw lavender petals, creating a fragrant shower that drifted around them like purple snow.
 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 21:  Beautiful
 
 
 
Castiel could not stop smiling. The air smelled clean and earthy, as it always did in summer on Anna’s farm. Round tables and chairs covered Anna’s front yard.  In the center of each table was a wreath of forget-me-not flowers, the stems and flowers carrying on the blue and green theme Anna had done so beautifully.  In the center of the wreaths were three mason jar candles.  And each seat had a gift bag of essential oils.
 
Castiel spotted his dear friend and co-worker across the crowd.  He took Dean’s hand.  “There are some people here I want you to meet.”
 
“Yay, mingling,” Dean fake smiled.
 
Castiel turned to him, smiling even wider.  “You are so cute when you get all flustered.”
 
Dean gave him a flat look.  “I am not cute.  Handsome, maybe.”
 
“Easily,” Castiel insisted, kissing Dean chastely but with a promise of more to come.  Dean’s hands crept inside his suit jacket to slide around his back.  Cas pulled back, ever amused with his partner.  “You are very cute.”
 
Dean fought a grin.  “Fine.”
 
“And beautiful.”
 
Dean’s head tipped down.  That compliment was always so difficult for Dean to take.  Castiel’s heart soared when he saw a pink blush on Dean’s cheeks before he lifted his chin again, met his eyes and said, “Thank you.  So are you.”
 
Castiel kissed him again.  “Thank you.”  He stepped back, taking Dean’s hand to lead him across the yard.  Jack took Dean’s other hand, dragging Felix along for the walk.
 
“Joshua,” Castiel grinned.  The older man stood up, hugging him.  
 
“Congratulations my dear friend.”
 
“Thank you!  Joshua, this is Dean, Dean, Joshua.”
 
“I recognize you from the Heaven Scent picture online,” Dean smiled, shaking his hand.
 
Joshua gave Castiel’s shoulder a kind squeeze.  “I have known Castiel and Gabriel for quite some time.”
 
“Joshua was a friend of my father’s,” Castiel added.  “When we started Heaven Scent, Joshua gave us the first steps we needed to get it off the ground.”
 
“He means money,” Joshua laughed.
 
“Ah,” Dean nodded, understanding.  
 
“I knew these boys would build a company to be proud of.  They’re smart like their father that way.”  Joshua met his eyes with all the warmth they always held.  “The greatest difference is they have so much heart, where their father had none.”  Joshua lifted his hands, taking a deep breath.  “You can feel the love!  Breathe it in!”
 
Castiel had to laugh at his old friend’s ways.
 
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Joshua,” Dean smiled genuinely.
 
Jules, Joshua’s daughter stood up as well, hugging him.  “Dean this is Joshua’s daughter, Jules.  She lives just a few houses down from us.”
 
Dean shook her hand.
 
“So good to meet you.  This,” she said, encouraging a little girl to stand up, “is Lora.  After all I saw you go through with Jack, I decided to start fostering.  Lora has been staying with me for about a month now.”
 
The little girl waved at all of them, her friendly eyes settling on Jack.  
 
“Jack,” Dean said quietly, crouching down, “maybe you could show Lora the chickens.”
 
Lora looked at him excitedly.  
 
Jack nodded.  “Would you like to see the chickens?”
 
“Yeah,” she smiled.
 
Jack handed Felix to Dean.  “Will you take care of Felix for me?”
 
Dean ruffled his hair, then took the snake.
 
They watched as the pair ran off.  Castiel was so impressed with how well Jack was doing today.
 
“Congratulations,” Jules smiled.  “It was beautiful wedding.”
 
“Congratulations on fostering.  It is...difficult and wonderful,” Cas said in way of assuring he understood the challenges involved.
 
“Come visit me in Key West this winter, Castiel.” Joshua added.  “We’ll take Jack to the Sunset Celebration and sing Jimmy Buffet songs as the sun dips into the ocean.”
 
“We’ll do that,” Castiel grinned, hugging him again.  He took Dean’s hand as they walked back toward their table.
 
“So, Joshua is the money man,” Dean commented.  “Guy sounds like a hippie.”
 
Castiel chuckled.  “I definitely may have had some real hippie tendencies while I lived with him.”
 
“You lived with him?” Dean asked, heading toward Bobby and Jody.
 
“I did.  Several times.  One summer between 11th and 12th grade, then again for a year when I was in college.  He understood the difficulties we had with our father.  He was a bit of a safe harbor for the three of us.”
 
Dean squeezed his hand gently.  “Seems like a great guy.  And look, Jack is actually playing with other kids.”
 
Castiel stopped to watch Jack at the fence to the chicken coop.  He was laughing and playing with Lora and Krissy.  It warmed his heart to see.
 
“Well, there’s two proud looking parents,” Meg grinned from her seat next to Crowley.
 
“Meg!” Castiel hugged her, kissing her cheek.  “Thank you for coming!”
 
“Congratulations,” she beamed.  “I always thought the two of you looked damn good together!”
 
“I hope you can talk Crowley into coming on our next trip,” Castiel grinned.
 
“Not my cup of tea,” Crowley said, shaking his head.
 
Meg leaned forward, lightly gripping his chin in the palm of her hand.  “Oh isn’t he so cute when he gets grumpy?!”
 
“Adorable,” Dean smirked.
 
Crowley chuckled, losing his tough bravado.  “I suppose I could at least drop you at the airport.”
 
“Oh,” Meg laughed, pushing his thigh.  “I’ll talk him into it.”
 
“Balthazar!” Castiel said in surprise.  “Dean, this is Crowley’s cousin.  Gabe would bring the pair of them home on short holidays to avoid flying back to England.”
 
“To avoid Mother,” Crowley corrected.
 
“Ah, yes, Aunt Rowena.  How is the witch?”
 
“I wouldn’t know,” Crowley frowned at his cousin.
 
“Rather a tart, that one,” Balthazar explained to Dean.  “Pleasure to meet you, Dean.  Cassie, always a pleasure to see you.”
 
Castiel introduced Dean to a table full of farmers he worked with through Heaven Scent.  Jesse and Cesar from their farm in New Mexico, and Isaac and Max, brother and sister, at a farm in Michigan.  
 
He hoped to get back to making the rounds at the farms.  Gabriel did a fine job, but Castiel enjoyed that part of his job immensely.
 
They made their way to Bobby and Jody.  Castiel brought Balthazar along with them, since he was a doctor at the hospital with the cardiac unit.  Jody was looking slightly better today than she had yesterday.
 
“Donna!” Dean exclaimed.  “I didn’t see you!”  He leaned down to hug her.
 
“I got the invite and figured Jodes and I could catch up too.”  She hugged Castiel next.  “I see Jack is doing just great!”
 
“He really is,” Castiel admitted.  “Every day he seems to grow and blossom.”
 
“He’s a lucky boy.”  
 
“Thank you,” he and Dean said, glancing over to see Jack playing ball with the two girls.
 
They made their way back to the head table, sitting to enjoy the food the caterers had put out.  Dean leaned over to him, speaking quietly.  “I think you might have to teach me some sign language.”
 
Castiel scanned the around the table, seeing Sam had pulled up another chair for Eileen to join them.  Sam was a complete gentleman to her, and Eileen was beaming.  His sign seemed to be improving as well.
 
“Yes, it would seem they are quite happy together.”
 
Claire and Charlie sat close, talking about something.  Charlie got up, putting on her brave face as she walked across the yard to the buffet line.
 
“What is Charlie doing?” Castiel asked Claire.
 
Claire grinned, watching her.  “She’s fishing for information on Jo’s cousin Kara.”
 
Castiel followed her line of vision.  He needed to go talk to Jo when they finished eating.  She had come from out of state, bringing her cousin as her plus one.
 
Charlie made contact by cutting in line to grab an extra fork.  From way Kara followed her form with her eyes as she walked away, he guessed his friend was in luck.  Kara seemed quite interested.
 
Jack came back to the table, sitting on his feet to eat.
 
“Can I go play when I’m done?” He asked.
 
“Yes,” Castiel answered.  “Meg wanted to get a few pictures of the wedding party when we’re done.”  He glanced around the table, leaning over to Dean.  “Where is Gabe?”
 
Dean looked around.  He sighed.  “I’m assuming with the missing Pam.”
 
Castiel sat back in his chair, shaking his head.  “I already yelled at him for making the ceremony start late.”
 
Chuck stopped behind his chair, putting a hand on his shoulder and one on Dean’s.  “Where’s Gabe?  I figured we could do the speeches as dinner wraps up.”
 
“I’d check the house,” Dean grinned.  “By the way,” he held up one of the little gift bags of essential oils, “I hope that ceremony was more than a marketing tool.”
 
Chuck’s jaw dropped.  “Of course it was!  Hey, you and Castiel were the inspiration for the oils.  Three new oils!”  He opened the proffered bag, plucking out the blue one.  “Cas!  But Eileen named it Angel.  The green is you, but she called this one Hunter.”
 
Dean gave Eileen a skeptical look.
 
“What?” She said and signed.  “It’s very masculine and rugged.  Men will like it, women will love it.  It’s a win-win.”  Her smile only managed to make Dean grin.
 
Sam grinned at her with absolute pride as well, even though he barely understood the work she was talking about.
 
“Right?  She’s onto a whole line of scents we are going to trial.  And this one,” he plucked out the clear one, “is the two of your together.  It’s goodness and grace.  Intelligence and power.  It’s...essential, hence the name, Essential.  Clever, right?” He grinned, his blue eyes sparkling.
 
Dean nodded, Castiel smelling the clear oil.  “Mmm, that is...wholesome and pure.  Everything from notes of citrus to cardamom, to...is that Angelica?”
 
Eileen nodded with an excited grin.  “Lemongrass, sandalwood, and even a touch of rose.”  She smiled proudly.  “Cinnamon and pine,” she added, Cas nodding as he smelled it again.
 
“It really is lovely.”
 
“Thank you.  We thought we’d hand it out and get some feedback from the crowd.”
 
Dean smelled the oil, quirked a brow and smelled it again.  “How do you do that?  Capture a...relationship...a life, or time, whatever that is, it’s...us.”  He looked at Cas with a serious face.
 
Cas grinned, loving that Dean could appreciate the work his family and friends did.  He leaned in and kissed him, just a peck.
 
Dean grinned, looking directly at Eileen.  “It’s amazing.  Thank you.”
 
She nodded, Sam looking pleased as punch.
 
“So...” Chuck glanced around again, a slight nervous tremble to his tone.  “Guess I’ll go look for Gabe.  And Pam.”  He gave the house a daunting look as he headed toward it.
 
“I’d look upstairs!” Dean yelled.  “Check the closets!”
 
Castiel wanted to reprimand Dean for setting Chuck on such a course of action, but his brother deserved it at this point.
 
“Is Pam always so -”
 
“Yes.”  Dean shoved a large bite of food in his mouth.
 
Castiel took another bite of chicken.  He had to wonder how wise of a relationship this was.  
 
“Gabriel can be extremely spontaneous,” Castiel mused.
 
“Pam can be extremely inappropriate,” Dean added around his food.
 
“Spontaneously inappropriate.”  Castiel sighed.  “She is moving back to Pennsylvania, right?”
 
Dean smiled crookedly.  “I’m pretty sure.  But I don’t try to guess what Pam is going to do.  Did I ever tell you how Pam got her shop?”
 
“No.”
 
Dean cleared his throat, Sam telling Eileen to watch Dean, he was about to tell a funny story.  “So, she dated this idiot, Jesse, who wanted to rent the shop she owns now, but she didn’t own it then.  Dude wanted to start a comic shop.  He tried to get in good with the owner, ended up sleeping with the owner’s daughter.  Pam found out and she waltzed into the meeting, laid 50K on the table in cash and bought the whole damn building.  The owner gave her the keys and Pam immediately went there and started throwing that girl’s shit out the windows, right onto Main Street.”  Dean grinned wide.  “That’s how we met.  I was walkin’ down the street and a Beetles album came flying out the window.  I jumped right into traffic and caught it like a frisbee.  And then another.  And another.  Just as I sat them on the ground, I looked up to yell at the idiot throwing shit out the window, when an entire armload of underwear and bras rained down on me.  There I stood, decorated like a friggin’ Victoria’s Secret Christmas tree.  Her head popped out the window and she said -”
 
“I said, ‘Hey handsome’,” Pam butt in, jumping into the story, surprising he and Dean.  “Want an apartment?  First month is free if you’ll kick Jesse’s ass for me.”  Pam sat down at the table, smile wide and unabashed.  “He had to kick that damn idiot’s ass three times, help me get rid of that tramp’s furniture, and helped me start my shop.”
 
“Impressive,” Gabe grinned, taking the seat next to her.
 
“I didn’t pay rent for the first six months I lived there,” Dean added.
 
“Tellin’ stories about me?” Pam said smoothly.
 
“Only the PG ones,” Castiel assured.  Not that she would care otherwise.
 
“I heard I’m doing a speech,” Gabe said.
 
Castiel did not miss his tie done wrong, the state of his hair, the flush of his cheeks, or the edges of a hickey under his collar.  Pamela took a long drink of the beer in front of her.  She was gorgeous but did have a flush about her face as well.  Castiel glanced at Dean.
 
Dean only grinned back.  “We called it.”
 
“We did,” Cas sighed.  “I’m not sure WHAT to call it.”
 
 
***************************************************
 
 
It was dark by the time they got back to the house after the reception.  They opened the door, surprised to find rose pedals piled inside the doorway.  Dean stopped Cas from crossing the threshold.  He stepped back, pulling Cas into his chest as pedals swirled from the air rushing in.  “You gonna let me do the honors?”
 
“What?” Cas asked, yelping slightly when Dean swept him up off his feet to carry him through, making Dean laugh.  He kicked the door shut behind them and they both stared around.
 
Lit Candles were on the mantle, one on each side of the painting Cas had bought him in Recife.  Red rose pedals led in a trail up the steps.
 
“Oh wow,” Dean muttered.
 
“Who did all this?” Cas asked, voice quiet in awe.
 
“I guess when Pam and Gabe snuck out that last time, they actually came here.”
 
Dean sat Cas gently on his feet.  “Maybe I like Gabe being  spontaneous.”
 
Cas chuckled.  “Maybe I’ll like Pam being inappropriate.”
 
Dean took his hand, locked the door, and led him upstairs.  He smiled at all the pictures he had bought over the years from his travels, now framed and hanging on the walls of the stairway.
 
“Dean, these are beautiful!”  
 
“You bought them,” Dean laughed.
 
“I did,” Cas admitted.  “I just never quite knew what to do with them.  This is perfect.”
 
Dean opened the door to the bedroom, his jaw dropping.  Anything he had not finished, had been perfected.  Candles glowed on the dresser, nightstands, windowsills, and two large free-standing pillar candles. There were rose petals scattered on the floor and in a heart on the bed.
 
“Oh, Dean,” Cas whispered from beside him.
 
On the floor, in front of the bed, was a large box with a note taped to it.  ‘Bachelor Party/Honeymoon in a box’.
 
Dean was almost afraid to look inside.  That was Pam’s beautiful, scrolling handwriting.  It was almost terrifying.
 
“This is...amazing!  I was expecting, hoping really, that our bed was up here.  I had no idea you did all this!”
 
“Well, I didn’t do the candles and roses.  But it’s definitely workin’ for me.”
 
Cas grinned, kissed him, and moved into the room.  As he turned, seeing the wall behind him, he covered his mouth as his eyes widened.
 
“I thought you’d like that.”
 
A canvas print of a beautiful mermaid hung on the wall.  It was no whimsical mermaid.  It was strong and swimming, determined and flowing with beautiful hues of blue and green.
 
“It’s beautiful.  And perfect.”
 
Painted above it in gray cursive letters, ‘Remember to play and believe in a little magic’.
 
“That’s -”
 
Dean had to grin at the astounded look on Cas’ face.  “I had Pam paint it the night we worked up here.”
 
Cas turned to him with the softest look of joy.  “God, I love you.”
 
“I know,” he shrugged.
 
Cas’ chin lowered.  “This is not the time for Han Solo quoting.”
 
“Oh yeah?”  Dean started taking his jacket off.  “What’s it time for?”
 
Cas was watching him with a growing look of greed in his eyes.  He went to step toward him but his foot hit the large box.
 
“Bachelor party?”
 
Dean waved his hand.  “I’d leave that for tomorrow.  I know that writing.  Pam put together something.  It’s probably raunchy as hell.”
 
Cas looked up at him with one cocked brow before kneeling on the floor to open it.  Dean came to stand over his shoulder to see.
 
He opened the box.  It was full to the top with everything from DVD’s to vibrating dildos to lube to games.  As Cas rummaged, he lifted a costume.
 
“Is that a toga costume?” Dean laughed, taking it.
 
“Yes.  That has Gabriel written all over it.  They must have worked on this together.”
 
“Huh.  Maybe they weren’t sneaking off and having sex.”
 
“Nah,” they both said, laughing.  “They were having sex.”
 
Cas pulled a bottle of Hershey syrup out of the box, giving it a chuckle.  “That’s Gabe too.”
 
Dean took the bottle.  “I’ll just save that for later.”
 
Cas looked at the fresh bedroom with worry.  “We can’t ruin our brand-new bedding!”
 
“Okay.  I’ll do it in the shower.”  Dean walked into the bathroom, sitting it on the shelf next to the shampoo.  “Wow.  They lit up the bathroom too.”
 
Cas nudged him aside, coming into the bathroom in a state of awe.  “We have a bathroom!”
 
“Oh yeah!” Dean said excitedly.  Last Cas had heard or seen, there was a bathroom framed in and a few discussions about what they wished they could have in it.  “Ta da!”
 
“This is beautiful!  The tile!  The counters are fantastic, and they’re high!”
 
“Yeah, well, we’re tall guys.  Figured we’re building it for us, so I made them higher.”
 
“Dean!  This is incredible!  The lights!” He flipped the lights on and off.  “Is this...” he twisted the knob on the light switch panel.
 
“Heated floors.  The winters are cold here, right?”
 
Castiel turned in a slow circle, looking at everything, running his hand on the counter, turning the faucet on and off, and all of it with a grin that made Dean feel so good inside.  Like he had provided him with something meaningful.
 
Candles burned in clusters of votives on the counter, back of the toilet, in the shower, and along the tub.  It all looked incredibly romantic.
 
“We have a jacuzzi tub?!”
 
“We do.”  Dean stepped up behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist and planting a slow kiss on his neck.  “I’ve had a lot of time to think about what exactly I can do to you in here.”
 
Cas melted in his arms, his head tipping to give him more skin.  “I thought we didn’t have room for a tub,” he said breathily.
 
Dean chuckled.  “I just said that so I could surprise you.”
 
Cas turned in his arms, kissing him.  “Thank you.  This is amazing.”
 
Dean stepped back, taking him by the hand.  “Come on, I wanna show you the closets and office before you can’t walk anymore.”
 
Cas bit his lip at the promise, coming along still looking at everything.
 
They went through the bedroom door, passing the door at the top of the stairs, which was lockable, and went into the door opposite of their bedroom.  “This is our closet.”
 
Cas laughed.  “This is insane!”  Dean let his hand go as he wandered down the narrow room, touching his clothes that hung neatly and those folded on shelves.  “Who moved all this?”
 
Dean leaned against the door frame.  “We did it last night.”
 
Cas glanced out the window at the middle of Dean’s side of the closet.  The dormer was a sitting area for dressing.
 
“Watch this,” Dean said with a grin.  He reached up into a slipper at the top of his shoe cubby and pulled out a key.  He unlocked the bench seat, lifting the lid.
 
Cas peered inside, his grin growing.  “I see you found somewhere to hide our toys.”
 
“Yep.  The bedroom one locks too.  Figured better safe than sorry.”
 
He closed it, locking it, and putting the key back in the slipper he had never worn.  He stood, catching Cas around the waist.  “Now, if I say it’s slipper time, you know what I mean.”
 
Cas let something between a growl and a moan loose as his eyes slid down Dean’s face.  “I love slipper time.”
 
Dean licked his lips, ready for this tour to be over.  He stepped back, taking Cas’ hand again to lead him out of the closet and into the office.
 
“Oh, this is wonderful,” Cas smiled, taking in the desk at the end of the room, filing cabinets and boxes Dean had not finished yet.
 
“Yeah, it turned out really great.”
 
“Dean, this all fantastic.  I can’t thank you enough for doing all this for us.”
 
“Well, I can tell you how to start thanking me,” Dean smirked, grinning wider as Cas’ face flushed.
 
“Gladly,” he growled.
 
“I love when you get all rumbly.  Come on.”
 
They went into the bedroom, kicking off their shoes and pulling off their belts.
 
Dean looked at the bed, the heart of rose pedals looking so perfect.  He sat back in the chair next to the dresser, catching Cas’ eye.  Cas dropped his belt and came to him as if Dean had commanded it.
 
Dean reached up, taking him by the waistband and began unbuttoning and unzipping the suit pants.  Before he let them fall, he ran his hand firmly over Cas’ hard length.
 
“Feels silky in this suit,” he murmured, loving the little gasp that escaped Cas’ mouth.
 
He let the pants fall with a devilish grin, nodding as Cas stepped out of them and kicked them aside.  His socks were off and boxers came next.  With Cas standing between his knees, Dean lightly ran his hand up and down his length.
 
Cas reached for the buttons of his shirt, desire so scorching hot in his eyes that Dean could feel the heat.  He shook his head no, making Cas’ hands hesitate at the next button.  Dean put his hands on Cas’ hips, directing him down.  Cas dropped to his knees eagerly, his chest heaving and his eyes bright and ready for anything Dean wanted.
 
Dean sat up, taking Cas’ hands in his.  His kissed each one before putting them on the arms of his chair in silent command to stay there.  He marveled at Cas’ jawline, the hint of stubble, his parted lips, swollen, and waiting.  It was too much.  Dean leaned forward, kissing him.  Cas leaned in hard, wanting more.
 
Dean pulled back, wanting to give in, but wanting to do this slowly even more.  Cas’ eyes took on a pleading look.  
 
“Be patient,” Dean said softly, going back to his buttons, working them open slow but steady.  The fabric felt rich between his fingers, silky with a luxurious heft.  He unbuttoned the cuffs and sat back with a satisfied grin.
 
He held Cas’ stare.  This man, this beautiful, magical creature poised to jump into action, awaiting his word for what to do.  This was all new.  Most of the time, they were rushing, ravaging each other, or working quietly to get to the climax.  Such was the life of parents, he supposed.  But tonight was for lavishing sensual pleasure.  And Cas on his knees, awaiting his direction went to his head like a high.  Desire beat like a drum inside him, pulsing through every beat of his heart.  He gripped himself, steadying the throb in his cock.
 
“I want that,” Cas said hungrily, his eyes dipping, chin lowering.  His eyes lifted to him again, waiting for direction.
 
“Take your clothes off,” Dean said, commanding his voice to stay steady, gripping himself again.
 
Castiel licked his lips, his eyes staying riveted to him and his chin tucked.  Ohh, the way he began submissively removing his shirt, slow and deliberate made Dean’s smile spread.
 
Naked and still on his knees, his cock hung red and heavy.  Dean took a deep breath, the essence of Cas filling all his senses.
 
“Dean,” Cas whispered, his hands returning to the arms of the chair.
 
“I could stare at you forever.”
 
Cas’ mouth rippled into more of a smile.  “Then you might as well watch me do something while you’re staring.”
 
Dean grinned, reaching to stroke the underside of Cas’ chin.  “I’m all yours.”
 
Castiel’s hands slid from the arms of the chair to Dean’s thighs, his nails raking upward until he was opening Dean’s pants.  “You like making me beg?” Cas whispered,  spreading the pants, and pulling his boxers down to release him to cool air of the room.
 
“Mmm, maybe.”
 
Castiel’s eyes flicked up to his as the tip of his pink tongue swept across his lips.  “I’ll beg,” he said, a hint of excitement glinting in his eyes.
 
Dean grinned like a cat stalking its prey.
 
“Please,” Cas breathed, his breath taunting the tight, hot skin on his cock.  “I want to suck your cock so bad.”
 
Dean pulled Cas the last inch, his mouth opening to take him inside, sheathing him in hot, wet nirvana.  His fingers clenched in his thick, silky hair, riding along as Cas’ head began the rise and fall of a seductive blow job.  He let his fingers relax, sliding through his hair, dragging his nails lightly along his scalp.  Cas moaned, adjusting his position and slid his hands under his t-shirt, desperate for more skin.
 
Dean was more than willing to oblige.  He leaned forward carefully and unbuttoned his shirt, pulling it off as Cas continued slow and sensual, his tongue sweeping and sliding in a glorious dance.
 
Cas hummed happily as Dean tossed his shirt aside.  He ran both hands through Cas’ hair before pulling his t-shirt off, dropping it weakly to the floor as the sensation of Cas’ mouth dragging and pulling, milking him with exquisite finesse made him coil his muscles tightly, while simultaneously making him weak as a kitten.
 
“You are so good at that, Cas.  So good.  The best.”
 
His patience snapped.  He pulled Cas back abruptly.  Cas backed up, eyes wide and eager, reading him like only a lover could.  They worked together to pull Dean’s pants and boxers off, chucking the offensive barrier away.
 
Dean stood, Cas started to stand, and Dean scooped him off his feet again, making him gasp and blush.  He kissed him deep and quick.
 
“I love you.”
 
“I love you,” Cas said back, breathy.
 
Dean turned and laid him on the bed, marveling at how goddamn gorgeous he was.  Rose pedals scattered and settled like wisps of kisses on his shoulders.
 
Dean, at a loss for words or coherent thought, drowning in the love that surged between them, climbed over his body.
 
Cas was beautiful.  He was everything.  And in the moment, with their bodies touching, the candles glowing, the look of equal love shining back at him, he felt beautiful too.
 
“Kiss me,” Cas whispered, pleading with eyes.
 
Dean leaned down, his eyes closing.  He kissed Cas, his husband, like it was the first time.  Like it could be the last.  He explored and plundered, swept softly across his lips, and nipped his skin.
 
Their hands slid, feeling each other, savoring every touch, pulling each other closer, holding on tight.  Dean slid his hands down Cas’ arms, lacing their fingers as he their mouths came together again.  Every noise Cas made was music to his ears.  Every rut of his hips and hold with his legs an endless invitation for more.
 
Dean pulled his mouth away, hands still entwined and pinning Cas’ to the bed.  He grinned as Cas chased him for more, nipping at his chin and whining.  He found it hard to believe there was ever a time in his life that he had not had this.  He thanked the universe for putting Castiel in his path.  As if Cas heard him, he grinned, watching him.  Dean could only grin back, caught up in an emotion he was not all that familiar with.  
 
Unconditional love.
 
He moved Cas higher on the bed, getting lube from the drawer.
 
Cas relaxed, taut with want and need, knowing he was about to get everything he craved.
 
“You looked awfully good on your knees.”
 
Castiel grinned, his hair a tousled mess, cheeks flushed.  “I’ll get on my knees for you any day of the week.”  He slid his hands up Dean’s thighs until he reached his cock, beginning to stroke him slowly.  “That where you want me?”
 
Dean chuckled, interrupting the stroking to lift Cas’ ass to where he wanted it, sliding two fingers deep inside, watching Cas arch back and press onto him.  “I want you on your knees, spread out on your stomach, up against the wall,” he spread his fingers, kneading one ass cheek with the other hand, “my dick down your throat,” Cas moaned loud, pumping onto his hand, “flat on your back,” Dean went on.  “I want your legs wrapped around me and I want you bent over that new bathtub.”
 
“Yes,” Cas gasped.
 
Dean added another finger, stretching and flicking his prostate with practiced perfection, making Cas gasp every time as his eyes squeezed shut and hands grappled the bed for purchase.
 
God, he was perfect.
 
“Dean,” Cas called, shuttering, legs spreading wider with invite as he rode Dean’s fingers.
 
Dean withdrew his hand, leaned down and captured Castiel’s mouth with a filthy kiss as he pressed deep inside him.
 
Cas cried out in need, gripping Dean’s shoulders and back to brace himself as he began long, pounding strokes inside him.
 
“I want you every day,” Dean gasped, watching as Cas lost himself in the climb.  “Ten times a day,” he babbled, bucking harder, faster.
 
Unintelligible babbling oozed from Cas’ lips.  He met every pound, skin slapping as the heat in the room climbed to an inferno.  Rose petals hopped away in little puffs of wind their bodies created.  Others stuck to their skin, the aroma filling their nostrils.
 
“I’m gonna take you every day,” Dean swore, angling just right to watch his lover gasp and give over everything beneath him.
 
“De -,” Cas gasped, cried out, fought to open wider, wanting every centimeter, every pounding bit of force.  Dean groaned with effort, gripped Cas’ hips, and slammed inside until he cried out again, stroked himself once, twice and exploded into a writhing animal.  Dean watched it all.  Every gasp and jerk and sigh until he lay panting for breath, arms splayed wide, eyes closed.
 
“Every day,” he murmured, a dreamy grin gracing his beautiful mouth.
 
Dean, still planted to the hilt inside him, leaned down to pepper him with kisses.  Cas gasped softly, shifting his hips.  “Oh god, you’re still so fucking hard.”  He gasped again as his hips rocked gently and he turned to look at him.  Dean stared down, knowing he could never stare long enough to get his fill.
 
Cas licked his lips, biting on his lower lip as another moan slipped out.  He rocked again, grinding onto Dean’s cock.  His hands slid over Dean’s hips, squeezing his ass before sliding up his back and around to gently claw at his chest and tweak each nipple.  The spark made Dean rock into him again, making Cas’ jaw drop and head crane up to kiss him.
 
His eyes drifted shut as he fucked into him gently and Cas’ mouth devoured the skin of his neck.
 
“Get on your knees, Cas,” Dean croaked, half beg, half command.
 
Cas dropped back onto the bed, eyes wide with a want to please him in any way.  It was heady and Dean only wanted him more.  He pulled out, making them both moan.
 
Cas rolled over with teasing grin, coming up on his knees with a taunting sway of his ass.
 
Dean ran his hands hungrily over his ass, up his back and moved his knees just as wide as he wanted him.  He added more lube, impressed with his own ability to wait.  
 
Cas tipped his head down to lie on his forearms.  “Take me, Dean.  I want you to come.”
 
Dean let a measured breath out slowly as he lubed himself and pressed inside again.  So perfect.  So ready.  His orgasm hung caged by his own determination.  “I’ll come when I want to,” he growled, leaning over Cas to feel every bit of him fit to his chest.  “Right now I just want to fuck you.”
 
Cas’ body tremored.  “That’s awful dirty talk for a teddy bear doctor.”
 
Dean smirked, pistoning in and out slow and steady, watching the muscles on Castiel’s back bunch and release, working with him.  For him.  He ran his hands up Cas’ sides, clawing his way back to his hips, gripping them tight.
 
“It isn’t Thursday.  I’m off duty and can be just as dirty with my husband as I want to be.”  He ran his cock inside just a bit harder, hearing the first slap of skin in this position.
 
Cas moaned, gripping the sheets under his hands.  “Deeean, it feels so good,” Cas panted.
 
“Yeah?”  Dean wiped his forehead, his hand returning to Cas’ hip.  “Wish you could come again.”  He stared openly at how Cas’ body gave all it had, taking him fully, hard, over, and over.  His hand slid around to grip Cas’ hard cock.  “You’re still hard.  Jesus, Cas.”
 
Slammed with an arousal that beat at the bars of his cage of determination, he stroked Cas’ cock, feeling Cas buck beneath him, Cas was whining, edging, panting.  Dean, knowing his cage would burst, gripped the back of Cas’ neck with one hand, fucking harder and faster, no care for finesse at this point.  He heard Cas’ muffled cries with every slam.  He groaned, stroking, fucking, holding on for dear life before his world shattered.
 
“Come for me, Cas,” he cried.   “Wanna feel you dripping in my hand, baby, I’m gonna fill you so full!”
 
Cas lurched, locked up and cried out as wetness filled Dean’s hand, squelching as he stroked.  The cage burst. Dean roared, gripping Cas’ hips tight to frantically reach his climax, vision whiting out and cum erupting over and over until he stopped.  
 
He sank back onto his heels, pulling out of Cas, who crumpled to his stomach on the bed.  His head hung back and his chest heaved as he basked in the euphoria no one had ever been able to create with him.  His head swam with memories of what had just happened, sweat glistened on his body and he soaked it all in, knowing this was his for the rest of time.
 
Coming back to his senses, his head tipped down, looking at the wrecked man in front of him.  His body froze as he heard a sniffle.
 
“Cas?  Oh shit!  Did I hurt you?” Dean panicked, leaning over him, and moving a leg so Cas could pull his together.  He pawed at Cas’ hand that was wiping his cheek to see that yes, tears were falling.
 
“Sorry,” Cas croaked.
 
“Are you okay?  What did I do?” He asked, checking Cas’ body for signs of being too rough.
 
Cas caught one of his hands, shaking his head no.  “I...how did you do that?”
 
“Do what?  What did I do?” Dean whispered, turning Cas until he was on his back.
 
“I didn’t even know you could have two orgasms like that,” Cas muttered deliriously.  “I...exploded.  I was...nothing but a burst of...fuuuuck.”
 
Dean relaxed, kissing his tear stained cheeks.  “Well don’t cry and scare me!”
 
“M sorry,” Cas grinned, eyes still shut with a dazed look.  “I have never in my life experienced something as powerful as that.”  His dazed expression lifted to a high sort of chuckle.  “And then it hit me...I can have this every day.”  His eyes opened, finding Dean’s.  
 
Dean smirked, relieved more than anything.  “Well, I’m not sure about EVERY day.”  He chuckled, Cas doing the same as his head tipped back to face the ceiling.
 
“But I know what ya mean.  It’s kinda wild that this is it.  I have no idea how I got so lucky, Cas.”
 
Cas met his eyes with dialed in seriousness for the first time.  “I just had TWO orgasms.  How did I get so fucking lucky?”
 
Dean grinned, kissing him soundly.  “Get some sleep,” he murmured against Cas’ lips.  “I plan on ravishing you whenever I damn well please over the next 12 hours.”

Cas laughed into the next kiss.  “I’m all yours.”
 
Dean pulled him into his arms, kissing him deeper.  “I’m all yours.”
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 22:  Lavender
 
 
Castiel pulled into the driveway in front of Bobby and Jody’s cottage.  If he had one word to describe this phase of his life, it would be lavender.  Lavender was soft and beautiful, relaxing and versatile in its properties.  He had never been more relaxed and happy with his life.  He got out of the car, smiling easily as he strode around the hood to the lovely sight in front of him.
 
Lemongrass sprouted about ankle-high in the fields surrounding it.  At this stage, it smelled like just grass.  Spring was nearing its end with a promise of summer warmth on the breeze.  
 
Jack stood from his spot next to Jody, who was clipping lavender sprigs from the huge bushes along the porch.
 
“Hi Dad!” He called, jogging over to the car to hug him.
 
“Hello, Jack!”
 
Jody stood, sitting her fresh cuttings on the porch before meeting him by the car.  “Hi!”
 
“Hello, Jody,” he grinned, kissing her cheek, and getting a quick hug.  “You look fantastic!”  Since her heart operation in January, Jody had made steady progress.  Her skin was a healthy peach-kissed tan with being out in the sun.  Her hair was still short but had a healthy shine to it.
 
“Another great day!” She shrugged.  “I’m kinda likin’ this retired thing now.”
 
Cas chuckled, knowing how grateful Jody was to even be alive.  As her health steadily improved, she was able to do more and more, driving Bobby crazy (in a good way, whether he admitted it or not).
 
“How was your day?” He asked, listening as the pair told him all they had gotten into today.  Everything from weeding to shopping to making a pie.
 
“Dean will be thrilled,” Cas grinned, smelling the apple pie as they walked inside their small home.
 
“Dean already loved it,” Dean said from the kitchen, sitting at the table with a plate of crumbs and a smile.
 
Cas went to him, kissing him.  “I didn’t know you would be here already.  I didn’t see the car.”
 
“It’s parked up at Anna’s.  I walked down.”
 
Cas took a seat at the table, thanking Jody when she sat a plate of pie in front of him.  “How is Anna today?”
 
“Huge,” Dean grinned.  “Cranky.”
 
“Mm,” Cas took a bite of pie, savoring the flavor before going on.  “How did the doctor appointment go?”
 
Jody sat across from them as Jack went to the living room to play.  “Not well.  They scheduled a C-section.  They’re hoping to keep her blood pressure controlled until the end of the month but...I don’t know.  With summer coming, it’s only going to get harder.”
 
Dean and Cas exchanged a worried look.
 
“Bobby and I decided we’re staying,” she said, preempting their planned discussion.  She smiled as both their faces lit up.  “I know we were planning to return to South Dakota when I was cleared at the doctor, but we’re...too attached.”  She shrugged with a helpless, happy grin.
 
Dean slid his chair back, getting up to hug her and kiss the top of her head.  “I’m so relieved.  I told you we wanted you to stay!”
 
“I know!” She laughed, patting his forearm, giving it a squeeze as Dean sat back down.  “I just...I’m not used to feeling like such a burden -”
 
“Jody!” Both men began to argue.
 
“I know!” She held up a hand, shaking her head, “but you all spent so much time taking care of me.  Taking care of Bobby.  Just sitting by my bed so many days.  And Anna and Abner...they took such good care of the both of us.”
 
The winter had been long.  Jack had started school a few weeks after the wedding in August.  Between his bumpy introduction to public school and Jody’s declining health, they had all come even closer as a family.  Jody had given them all a huge scare in October.  It had seemed an endless wait until she was healthy enough for surgery in January.  
 
Jody and Bobby had a difficult time handling all the “handouts” but after Jody’s heart attack in October, Bobby was fully onboard for family support.
 
Jody glanced toward the living room.  “It would break my freshly mended heart to leave Jack and you all.”  She schooled her face into something more light-hearted and cheerful.  “I swear I’m fueled by lemongrass and lavender now.  Keeps my blood pressure down and the doctors happy!  I might clog up and keel over in that dust ball of a salvage yard at this point.”
 
“We want you both here,” Dean said emphatically.
 
“I know,” she smiled more softly.  “I feel like the adopted mom.  Bobby feels the same way.  We gained Dean, Sam, Cas, Gabe, Anna, Abner all in one swoop.  Jack, Claire, and now the baby coming...it just seems like we really don’t belong in South Dakota anymore.  Not with so much family here.”
 
Dean sighed with relief and Cas could not stop smiling.  “I cannot tell you how relieved I am that you’ll be right here while Anna is finishing this pregnancy.  I’m very worried about her.”
 
Jody nodded.  “I am too.  She’s pale.  She’s struggling to eat.  I know she has a great doctor, but it just seems like they should be doing something more.  And Abner’s terrified she’ll go into labor.  That poor boy is worried out of his mind.”
 
“Hey, Mama Jay!”
 
They all turned to see Gabe come into the kitchen.
 
“Oh hi, honey.  I was just telling the boys Bobby and I are staying.”
 
Gabe gave the room two thumbs-up with a huge grin.  “Awesome, right?!”
 
“I just told him this morning when he came to pick up Bobby.  They were all working the field on the hill while Jack and I made Anna some lunch she didn’t eat.”
 
“Anna-banana is gonna split,” Gabe said, sitting at the table.  “Her arms are like tree trunks.”
 
“Gabe,” Jody scolded.  She relented a sad grin.  “Her dear little face is so puffy today.”
 
“Gabriel!”  Bobby yelled from outside.
 
“Shit!”  Gabe jumped up.  “I was supposed to get him the scissors!”  He grabbed the scissors from the knife block, running out of the kitchen.
 
“That boy,” Jody shook her head with a wry grin.
 
“Oh, you know he’s your favorite,” Dean teased.
 
She rolled her eyes.  “He certainly tries the patience of a saint.”
 
“He’s an angel,” Dean and Cas both mocked back, referring to a time when Jody had been very ill, was up most of the night, Gabe sitting bedside so Bobby would sleep, and she swore he was an angel with huge wings and all.
 
She shook her head.  “Like his head needed to be any bigger than it already was.”
 
All three of them chuckled as Gabe came back in.  
 
“Don’t run with scissors, Uncle Gabe,” they heard Jack say.
 
“Did you say, run over here and cut my hair?!”  They heard a scuffle, Jack squeal with a laugh and Gabe’s playful chuckle.  Jack must have run out the front door, leaving Gabe to head into the kitchen again.
 
“Daddy B is right bear-like today,” he huffed, sitting down again.  “Abner told him to stop drinking caffeine.  It didn’t go over too well.”
 
“Huh.  Shoulda known him when he lived on rot-gut whiskey and the occasional casserole from a neighbor,” Jody said.  “Our dating pretty much consisted of me sobering him up and setting him straight.”
 
“I can’t even imagine,” Cas admitted, eating the last of his pie.
 
“Ooohh, he had his moments.  His father was an abusive bastard.  It’s a wonder he turned out as well as he did.”
 
“Well, he still grumbles a lot,” Gabe added, slapping the table.  “I gotta go.  Pam is due in town in an hour and DO NOT keep that woman waiting.  She’s very...creative when she has free time to think shit up.”  He waggled his brows as he stood.
 
Jack came into the kitchen, leaning into Jody for a hug.  “Pam’s coming?”
 
“She sure is,” Gabe grinned, picking him up.  “My god, you’re getting heavy.”
 
“I’m getting tall!  I want to be tall like Sam.”
 
“I like you short,” Gabe smiled back, sitting him down.  “I’ll have to change you from Jackpot to Jolly Green Jack!”
 
Jack laughed, running back into the living room.
 
“See ya when I see ya!” He saluted, turning to Jody to kiss and hug her.  “Bye Mama Jay.  Love you oodles.”
 
“Love you too,” she smiled.  “Be here by four on Sunday for dinner.  And bring Pam.”
 
“Will do,” Gabe called from the living room.
 
“And be dressed,” Dean added, getting whacks as Jack giggled from the living room.
 
“No promises!” Gabe yelled from the door.
 
“Honestly,” Jody scolded.  “The stuff you say in front of Jack!”
 
Dean held his hands up in defense.  “Hey!  We already had the birds and bees talk thanks to Krissy asking why Jack stands up to pee.”
 
“Yes,” Cas frowned.  “Lee was thrilled as well.”
 
“Oh, trust me, that won’t be your last conversation,” Jody added.  “Kids always have questions.”
 
Dean shrugged.  “He’s an inquisitive kid.  And any time he asks, I point him right to Cas.”
 
Cas stared at him with an open mouth.  “You are quite capable of fielding uncomfortable questions.”
 
“Yeah but it’s a whole lot easier to say, go ask your dad.”
 
Cas narrowed his eyes.  He knew Dean was partially kidding, but he was also fessing up to sending Jack his way with some off-the-wall questions.
 
“Dean Winchester,” Jody said, voice thick with disappointment.
 
Bobby walked in, heading straight to the fridge.
 
“Bobby,” Dean said quickly, “in all the time you were keeping foster kids, did they ever ask you weird questions or ask about sex?”
 
Bobby gave him a bewildered look, not having been in the prior conversation.  “I suppose.  Yeah.”
 
“And?” Dean prompted.
 
“And I sent ‘em to Jody.”
 
“Ha!” Dean slapped the table.
 
“Bobby Singer!” Jody said in shock.
 
Castiel shook his head.  “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
 
They bantered on good naturedly, but Cas could see this was going to be a sign of things to come.  He knew Dean would handle anything Jack asked him when push came to shove.  Dean was always wonderful with him.  But it was comical to note just how much Dean had turned out like Bobby, even if their time as a family had been short during his formative years.
 
 
**************************************************
 
 
Dean bit his lip as he watched Jack explain his family tree project from school.  The shit they expected Kindergarteners to do was insane.
 
“I get extra points if I have pictures of everyone!” Jack said excitedly.
 
“And when is this due?” Dean asked, looking at all the blanks on the poster size drawing of a tree that Jack was busily coloring green.
 
“Tomorrow.”
 
“Tomorrow,” Dean grinned at Cas in irritation as he started pulling things out to start dinner.  Cas rolled his eyes.
 
“When did you get this poster?” Dean asked, scratching his head, starting to worry about all the blanks.
 
“Last week.  I kept forgetting to bring mine home.”  Jack sat back, narrowing his eyes in thought, as he often did before dropping some nugget of information or asking a whopper of a question.  
 
Dean waited as a crease formed between Jack’s brows.  Oh, this was going to be a good one.
 
“Krissy tore hers up and had to get a new one.”
 
Dean glanced at Cas, who met his gaze with a pitying look.
 
“Why?” Dean asked.
 
“She got mad.”  Jack looked up at him.  “She says she can’t have a tree because she doesn’t have a mom.”
 
Dean stared right back.  He made a mental note to give Jack’s teacher a piece of his mind.  “I hope she makes a tree with her dad.”
 
“She is,” he nodded.  “But she got real sad about it.  I told her she could be on my tree.”
 
Dean grinned, combing Jack’s hair back.  “That was nice.”
 
Jack smiled.  So innocent.
 
“Ya know, Jack,” Cas said slowly, coming over to the table to sit down.  “Some of the kids might think your tree looks different too.  Some kids aren’t used to families having two dads.”
 
“I know,” Jack grinned again.  “I tell them stories about you.”
 
Dean frowned.  Cas looked nervously curious.
 
“What sort of stories?”
 
Jack looked at the partially colored tree.  “I tell them how you rescued me from a monster.  How you can fight off anything.  How you got married and saved me from going back.”
 
Dean covered his mouth with his hand.  Jack had a skewed way of remembering his past.  Cain said it was a coping mechanism and that it gave him a sense of separation and safety from Lucifer.  Jack never said his name.  The closest he came to talking about him was with Cain, where he referred to him as “the monster-man” or the occasional nightmare when he called him “that man”.  Cain said there was a time and place to get back to his past, but for now, Jack was blossoming, and he said it was best to go with it.
 
“I told Krissy to fill up the missing spaces with pictures.  She’s had a lot of fish for pets, so I guess they count for something.”
 
Dean almost hated to ask, but he did.  “Was Lora upset?”
 
Jack frowned, pursing his lips.  “Lora is very dramatic.  She’s always upset about something.  I think the teacher said she didn’t have to do it.”
 
Lora was still in foster care with Jules, Joshua’s daughter.  She and Jack rode the bus together.
 
Jack’s general outlook on life was innocent and good.  What trauma he had been through with Lucifer was there in the depths.  And surely, they would deal with it sooner or later.  But for now, he was a very happy little boy. Dean had been so proud of him for leaving Felix at home while he went to school. Now that the school year was wrapping up, Felix pretty much stayed on Jack’s bed. He was so much more outgoing than the shy, scared boy Dean had first met. His two besties, Krissy and Lora, had also helped to bring him out of his shell, while also understanding more than the average five-year-old, just how shy he could be.
 
Dean picked up a pen and crossed out “mom” and wrote “dad”.  He wrote Cas on one line and Dean on the other.  He filled Jody and Bobby in for grandparents on his side.
 
Castiel frowned at the grandparent lines above his name.  Dean crossed them out.  “We gotta make room for all the aunts and uncles on here.”
 
Jack nodded, coming up on his knees to lean across the table and peer at the paper.  “Don’t forget Gabe!”
 
“How could I forget Gabe?” Dean asked him, as if he’d lost his mind.
 
Jack sat back in his chair.  “He would lose his shit if we forgot him.”
 
“Hey!” He and Cas scolded, Jack looking back at them in surprise.
 
“You can’t say shit,” Dean said sternly.
 
“Dean,” Cas chided.
 
Dean shrugged.  “Sorry.”  He looked back at Jack.  “You can’t say bad words.”
 
Jack nodded, making a mental note, it seemed.
 
Cas’ stern facade cracked a little and he got up to keep making dinner.
 
“My friend Marla has two moms.  And lots of kids only have a mom or a dad. Or stepmoms and stepdads.  Some kids took two posters so they could get everybody. Our teacher says no two trees look alike.  The more different they are, the more divorce the forest will be.“
 
“Diverse,” Cas corrected.
 
“The more diverse our forest will be.  And that is good.”
 
“Your tree is gonna be awesome.”  Dean assured him, already sending pictures to the printer.
 
“Can I put Claire on it?” Jack asked.
 
“Absolutely.”  Dean scrolled for one of his favorite pictures he had of Jack and Claire shucking corn the past summer at Anna’s.
 
 
********************************************************
 
 
“Anna,” Dean said, coming back into her living room with a cup of tea, “I don’t see how peppermint tea is gonna help.”  She had been miserable all evening.  Abner, Bobby, Gabe, and Cas were out in the infusing shed, preparing the latest batch of lemongrass, Jody was at baseball practice with Jack, and Claire was at work.  Dean was spending several hours hanging out with Anna since she was having a particularly miserable day.  Her C-section was a week away and being with her was akin to sitting next to a ticking time bomb.
 
“My stomach is just so...queasy,” she said, shifting into a sitting position on the recliner.  She sighed heavily, taking the tea.  Rather than sipping it, she stared at it, her face crumpling into another look of pain.
 
Dean took a nervous step backwards.  “Are you having a contraction?”  He had asked her this several times.
 
She groaned, the cup tipping dangerously.
 
Dean took the cup, sitting it on the table beside her.  Her hands splayed over her swollen belly as she steadied an exhale.  
 
“No,” she said, sounding less sure than the last time he had asked.  “I just feel so...dizzy.”
 
“Dizzy?”  He pulled his phone out again, wondering if he should be calling the crew back to the house.
 
Tears threatened to fall as she relaxed and breathed more evenly.  “I’m so tired of feeling like this!”
 
Alarm bells were blaring in Dean’s head.  He didn’t want to be an alarmist, but she had him feeling entirely out of his element and nervous as hell.
 
She took a deep breath, pushing herself into a lying position again.
 
“Anna,” Dean said quietly.
 
A tear slid down her cheek.  Her double chin wobbled again.
 
She held a hand out and Dean took it, squatting next to her.  “I’m so afraid.”
 
Dean’s heart broke for her.  Her normally tiny frame was swollen at every joint.  “Anna, I know you’re scared, but I think it’s time.”
 
Her already cherry cheeks blushed hotter as she shook her head no.
 
Dean knelt beside her, feeling her hand tremble in his.
 
“I never really told you,” she began in a tiny voice, “how much you did for me all those years ago.  At Stanford.  The things you said about deserving to be with a good man.”
 
Dean cringed inwardly, remembering their talk in the tiny red Honda, rain pouring down, right before they climbed into the backseat.  Dean took her pulse.
 
“You said I was beautiful and deserve a good man.  You said you weren’t a good man.”  She grinned faintly.  “I said I deserved whatever I wanted, and you said I should have that too.”  She took another labored breath, her eyes closed.
 
Her pulse was thready.
 
He dialed 9-1-1.
 
“I thought you were such a bad boy.  A way to...revolt against my family.  My father.  My know-it-all brothers,” she babbled.
 
Dean never stopped stroking her hand as he told the operator the address and that he had a woman in labor with preeclampsia. They wanted him to stay on the phone, but he had to call the others.
 
“We were fighting about a cat,” she said weakly, her words slightly slurred.  Dean’s heart pounded as his left hand shook while he called Abner.
 
No answer.
 
He called Cas.
 
No answer.
 
He called Gabe.
 
“Yello?” Gabe answered on the fourth ring.
 
“Yeah, you all need to get up here.  An ambulance is on the way.”
 
Silence met his ears for a full ten seconds.  “Are you fuckin’ around Winchester?” Gabe said tightly.  “Cause -”
 
“Now,” Dean said deadly serious, hanging up.
 
Anna gave no sign of being aware of any of the calls, which Dean was thankful for, trying to keep her calm.
 
“You made me feel special,” Anna sighed, frowning.  “But I knew you weren’t the one.  You were so...wild.  So...different than Sam...or Abner.”
 
“I was an idiot,” Dean said, trying to laugh as he smoothed hair back from her sweaty forehead.  “Shoulda told you to go back to Abner.  He’s a good guy.”
 
She moaned softly, eyes squeezing shut even harder as her hand squeezed his.  He was sure this was a contraction.  And all the others she had denied today.
 
“I wanted to be bad.  I felt...reckless.  I wanted to tell you...I’m glad I was reckless with you.  You made me feel good.  Not ashamed.  Not...bad.  Just a little wild.”
 
Dean squirmed at the words.  He wished she’d change the subject.  “It all worked out in the end.”
 
“So glad,” she whispered.  “So glad you were as wild as I got.  Made Abner wake up and realize what he could be missing.”
 
Her eyes blinked open as her hand relaxed.  “Abner quit drinking after that.  He really stepped up.  He’s...he’s gonna be such a good dad.”
 
“Yes, he is,” Dean encouraged.  “And you’re going to be a perfect mom.”
 
“I don’t feel good,” she whimpered.  “Will you call him?”
 
“I already did,” he said softly, terrified inside.
 
She turned to look at him.  “I’m so glad you and Cas met.  I know our past is awkward...but when I found out it was you...I knew Castiel was getting a good man.”
 
Dean forced a smile.  “So, you gonna tell me what you’re going to name this baby?”
 
“Should name it Dean.  If it wasn’t for you, Abner and I woulda never made it.”
 
“Yes, you would have.  He was just being stupid.  Us guys, we learn stuff real slow sometimes.”  He wondered just how with-it Anna actually was.  She was crazy if she thought Abner would ever name a kid Dean.
 
“So glad you love my Cassie,” she said faintly.  “And Jack.”  Her eyes closed.  “So glad.”
 
Dean was sure he was going to have a friggin’ heart attack.  Where the hell was everybody?!
 
“Where’s Abner?”  She asked, frowning in pain.
 
“He’s coming.  Just relax and hang on.”
 
“Where’s Jody?” Her voice was high and starting to tremble.
 
“She’ll be here,” Dean coaxed.  He texted Jody to go to the hospital.
 
Tears streamed down Anna’s cheeks.  “I’m not gonna make it, Dean.  I wanted to be a mom so bad!”
 
“Hey!” He soothed, brushing her hair back again, squeezing her hand, anything to comfort her.
 
“I love Jody like a mom.  She’s the mom I never had!” Anna was starting to sob, fighting weakly to take a breath and move.
 
“Anna,” Dean said sternly, getting her wild eyes to meet his.  “Jody’s coming.  You’re okay.  You’re strong.”
 
She shook her head no, shaking with a cry.
 
Someone knocked on the front door.
 
“Come in!” Dean yelled, cursing everyone for not being here to be doing this better than he was!
 
Anna gave the door a terrified look as three medics came in, heading straight for her.
 
Dean tried to get up, but Anna held his hand tight.  “Tell Abner I love him!  Tell the baby!  Tell him I tried!”
 
“You can tell the baby yourself,” Dean said steadily, refusing to panic.  
 
The medics asked her several questions, one of them turning to him.  “Are you her husband?”
 
“No!  He’s on the way!”
 
The four of them quickly loaded her onto a gurney, making her cry out in pain and squeeze Dean’s hand so tight he was sure bones broke.
 
“I can’t deliver yet!” She cried, unable to answer any of their questions.  “Dean!  I’m -”
 
“You are relaxing for the baby,” he coached, calming her down.  “Breathe, Anna.  Relax.  You are one of the strongest women I know.  And I know some strong women.”  He walked along as they headed out the front door.
 
The sound of flying gravel grabbed his attention as the farm truck lurched to a stop beside the ambulance.  Abner and Gabe jumped out, followed by Cas and Bobby.
 
“Abner’s here,” Dean told her.  “You’re doing so good, Anna.”
 
“Anna!” Abner called, taking Dean’s place, taking Anna’s hand.  “I’m here!  I’m sorry!  I came as fast as I could!”
 
The medics asked him questions, getting the answers Anna couldn’t manage and Dean didn’t know.
 
In a flurry of activity, they loaded Anna in, and Abner got in the truck, following the ambulance out of the driveway.
 
Dean, shaken from the entire event, turned to Cas, hugging him.
 
“What happened?” Cas asked, hugging him tight and raking his fingers through Dean’s hair.
 
“She just kept complaining about her stomach and having pain and I took her pulse and...”
 
Cas rocked him gently.  “Thank you, Dean.”
 
“She’s so scared,” Dean admitted, not wanting to upset the others but too broken hearted to keep it to himself.  “She was saying a lot of stuff, like saying goodbye!”
 
“Come on,” Gabe said, rubbing a hand up and down Dean’s back.  “Let’s get to the hospital.”
 
They piled into the Impala, Dean insisting he was fine to drive.  He retold the events of the evening, minus the gem about naming the baby Dean.  No one needed to hear that.  Ever.
 
Cas handled Dean’s phone, telling Jody what all had happened, relaying that Anna had been asking for her.
 
 
**************************************************
 
 
Grace was born a month before Anna’s original due date.  She was tiny.  A fighter.  She came lightning fast and lived in the NICU for six weeks before she could come home.
 
Castiel had thought he was going to lose his sister.  She was touch and go during the emergency C-section.  Abner had been there by her side.  He told them how she met her daughter for the first time.  A nurse had brought Grace to her, Anna holding her weakly.  He said she stared at her in awe and said, “I thought I lost my Grace.  But here you are.”  She kissed her tiny head and the nurse took her back to the incubator.  She coded just after she said, “I found my Grace.”
 
It had taken five days to fully stabilize Anna.  By that time, they were all calling the baby Grace.
 
When Anna and Grace finally came home, she never stopped doting on her frail daughter.  And Jody never stopped doting on Anna.  Castiel was thrilled they were both as healthy as they were.
 
He washed his hands and forearms thoroughly and put on a fresh shirt as he sat on the couch in Anna’s living room to hold his niece.
 
“She’s ten pounds today!” Anna said proudly, folding premie-size onesies and tiny sleepers and dresses.
 
“Ten pounds!” Cas whispered, smiling at the baby watching him quietly.  Her skin was still mottled and her hands were so tiny that they barely made it all the way around just one of his fingers.  “So big!” He cooed.
 
“They said this might not happen next time, but that I’ll have to be monitored very carefully,” Anna said, not looking at him.
 
Castiel stared at his sister in horror.  “Anna...you’re thinking about having another baby?”
 
“Someday,” she shrugged, smiling dreamily as she folded a pink blanket.
 
“She wants me to go completely gray,” Jody said, giving Anna a look.
 
Anna smiled up at her.  “It wasn’t all that bad.  It was certainly worth it all.”
 
Castiel frowned at his sister.  “I don’t think it wise.”
 
She dropped the bath towel, still holding onto it as she looked over at him.  “Sometimes, Castiel, you have to do risky things to get the greatest gifts.”
 
Castiel, brow furrowed, looked down at the tiny baby.  “And Abner agrees?”
 
“He says he wants as many children as I do.  So...we’ll wait for a little while.  But I know we’ll have more.”
 
Dean came into the living room, freshly scrubbed.  He sat on the couch next to Cas.  “I am NOT babysitting.”
 
Anna’s jaw dropped and she threw a tiny sock at him.  
 
He plucked the sock off his chest, tossing it back.  “I’ll keep the kids any time, but I am never being left alone with you again!”
 
Anna scoffed.  “You handled it like a pro!”
 
“He was shaking in his boots!” Gabe teased.  “And for the record, I’m with Dean.  If you had been babbling your farewells with me, I woulda been just as shook up as he was.”
 
“He was nothing but calm,” Anna insisted, getting up to sit on the arm of the couch and gaze down at Grace.  “He knew just what to do, didn’t he,” she said to Grace, getting a smile from the tiny baby.
 
“Aww,” they all preened.
 
Jack came into the living holding his clean arms up like a surgeon scrubbed in for surgery, Abner steering him with a big grin.  “Would you please talk some sense into your sister.  She is never allowed to scare us all like that again.”
 
Jack sat on Dean’s lap, Dean hoisting him up, so his hands stayed airborne.  “I think Anna should have more babies.”
 
“Thank you, Jack,” Anna said, giving him an endearing grin.
 
“I think my dads should have more babies too.”
 
Castiel and Dean exchanged a shocked look.  
 
Gabe laughed uproariously, causing Abner, Bobby, and Jody to laugh just as hard.
 
“I’ll see what I can do,” Dean said quietly to Jack, sneaking a wink to Cas.
 
“I’ll be sure to hold your hand and talk you through it,” Anna added, chuckling.
 
Abner came to stand next to Anna, kissing her.  “Who knows.  Time will tell.  I just know I’m happier than I have ever been.  I had no idea I could love something so much.”  He beamed down at his daughter.
 
“Aw, thanks,” Dean sniffled, acting like the words were directed at him.
 
Abner grinned, his brown eyes lifting to meet Dean’s.  “I guess I love you too.  Even though I had to hear about what a ‘good man’ you are.”  He nudged Anna teasingly.
 
She waved him off.  “I was on pain meds!” She defended.  “But it is true.  You and Cas should have more kids.”
 
Castiel turned to Dean.  “Why has this become about us?”
 
Dean shrugged one shoulder.  “I guess people just can’t get enough Destiel.”
 
“What’s that?” Anna laughed.
 
Castiel rolled his eyes.  “Dean says it’s our ship name.  And he calls Essential, Destiel.”  He shook his head.  
 
“Numbers don’t lie!” Gabe laughed.  “We can’t keep our shelves stocked fast enough.  Everybody wants more Destiel!”
 
“Stop calling it that!” Castiel laughed.  “Like Dean Winchester’s head isn’t big enough!”
 
Dean smirked.  “Give me that baby.”
 
There was a knock on the door and Sam and Eileen came in.  “Hey!” Sam called, waving to the group.
 
Castiel put Grace in Jack’s arms so he and Dean could hold her.  Anna took pictures quickly.  “That’s going on the mantle!”
 
Grace’s tiny face scrunched with a frown, her wee fists balling up.  Jack looked up nervously.  “I think she is unhappy.”
 
Anna took her just as she started to cry.  “You want a turn, Gabe?”
 
Gabe backed up a step, shoving his hands in his pockets.  “Nooo!  I break things!  You’re,” he waved a hand, stepping back again, “you’re doing just fine!’”
 
“You better practice!” Eileen signed and said.  “Pam is due when?”
 
Gabe blushed, his shoulders raising.  “Too soon.”
 
“March!” Jody put in helpfully, giving Gabe a knowing look.
 
“It’s all that sneaking around and having sex!” Eileen signed only.  Castiel was glad Jack didn’t know enough sign to understand what Gabe signed back, though Sam caught it just fine, signing back equally as vulgar.
 
“You’re next, Sammy,” Dean added, taking the heat off Gabe.
 
Eileen laughed.  “No way.  Not yet.  We want to be married at least two years before we have children.”
 
“Slow pokes,” Gabe sneered, crossing his arms.
 
“Guess you lot do every damn thing as a family, huh?” Bobby said, sitting in the recliner.
 
“Oooo, grandpa’s getting grumpy,” Anna pouted at Grace.
 
“Getting?” Gabe teased.
 
Bobby gave him a sign all of them could read, since Jack busied himself opening the door to let Claire in, taking two bags from her full arms.
 
Dean got up as soon as Grace settled down, taking the baby.  She started to fuss, but he quickly did a bouncing walk that settled her down again.
 
Anna, Jody, and Abner followed Claire into the kitchen to unload all the Chinese food she just carried in.
 
“Looks like Dean’s ready before me,” Sam added.
 
Dean came to stand next to Sam so they both could peer down at Grace’s tiny face.  “I remember when you were this small.”
 
Sam gave his brother a doubtful look.
 
Dean grinned up at him.  “Mom would let me hold you while she did laundry or made dinner.”    
 
Sam grinned warmly.  “You’re a good brother.”  Dean chuckled as Sam kissed head.
 
Eileen signed something that made both brothers roll their eyes.  Something about how cute they were, since Sam signed back that he was the cutest.
 
“Dean?” Claire called from the kitchen.
 
“Just a sec”. He turned, handing Grace to Bobby.  Bobby took her with practiced hands, parking her in the crook of his arm.
 
“She likes ta watch fishing shows with me,” he said.  “We say, ‘get ‘em!’, don’t we!”  Grace smiled up at him.  “Then we say, ‘oh no! He caught a boot!”  Grace giggled a high pitched giggle.  “Another old boot!” Bobby said animatedly.  Grace giggled a tiny peel of laughter.
 
Castiel laughed at the exchange, noticing Gabe coming closer inch by inch.
 
“Not another old boot!” Bobby repeated, Grace giggling again.  Gabe sat on the arm of the chair, watching with more than idle curiosity.
 
“She loves the word ‘boot’!” Bobby grinned.  He tipped his head back and up, looking at Gabe.  “Don’t worry, son.  You’ll figure it out jus’ fine.  If this sweet little thing can like an old goat like me, your baby will love you jus’ fine.”
 
Gabe grinned shyly.  “I’m flying to PA next week to pack up Pam’s place.  She finally sold the tattoo shop.”
 
A twang of sadness hit Castiel’s gut.  Dean had not lived in his apartment over the shop in quite a while now, but he remembered his first and only trip there like it was yesterday.  
 
“She moving in with you, then?” Bobby asked.
 
Gabe nodded.  “I asked her to marry me.”
 
Castiel knew that was coming, he had spent many long nights with Gabe recently as he and Pam tried to figure out how to handle their unexpected surprise.
 
“Yeah?” Bobby grinned slowly.
 
“She said, ‘like hell, I’m not marrying you, you can marry me.’”
 
Bobby chuckled.  “That Pamela.  She’s a fire cracker.”
 
“I think it means yes,” Gabe frowned.
 
“I know it means yes,” Eileen interjected.  “She called me last night to talk about when and where to do it.”
 
Castiel made a mental note to bang Dean in the nearest closet five minutes before the ceremony.  He owed his brother AND Pam that.  
 
Gabe had felt completely responsible, and even excited, about Pam’s confession that she was pregnant.  One of their many quickies had caught up with them.  He was nervous as hell that Pam was going to bail and not let him be a part of the baby’s life.  Dean had assured him that Pam would never do that.  Castiel suspected it had a lot to do with how belligerent Kali had become when it came time for marriage.
 
“She’s excited,” Eileen grinned with a knowing smile.  “She says your baby is going to be gorgeous and probably give her gray hair.”
 
Gabe chuckled, but looked relived to know Pam was so on board.
 
“It’s gonna be a hell of a ride,” Gabe sighed.
 
Bobby reached over, patting Gabe’s knee.  “Congratulations.  I know she teases you somethin’ awful, but she’s completely smitten with you, Gabe.”
 
Gabe smirked, staring down at Grace.  “Think we can be as happy as you and Mama Jay?”
 
“Takes work,” Bobby warned.  “Takes patience and love and a lotta just doin’ whatever she says.”  He gave Gabe a devilish grin.
 
Gabe nodded, grinning more like his old self.
 
Claire passed through the living room again, quieter than usual.  Castiel got up to follow her outside.  She went to her car, pulling out another bag of food.
 
Cas stood next to the car, stopping her from going back inside.
 
“What?” She asked, eyes darting to the ground.
 
“Are you alright?” Cas asked, knowing full well that she was not.
 
She shrugged, hair half covering her face.
 
Cas took the bag of food, sitting it on the hood of the car.  “What’s going on?”
 
“Nothing.”  She shrugged again, looking down the driveway, still avoiding his eye.
 
Cas leaned against the car.  She sighed, tilting her head in a silent plea to ignore her and pretend she was fine, or to just go away.
 
One eyebrow raised in challenge at the look, making Claire shift on her feet and drop her gaze again.  “I had a shitty day, okay?”
 
“What happened?” Cas asked.
 
Claire shrugged again, crossing her arms over her chest.  “I hate my job.  It sucks.”
 
Cas nodded slowly.  “I used to work at a Gas-N-Sip when I was your age.  It was...difficult.  Unappreciative customers.  A very cantankerous slushie machine.  Late nights.  Little pay.”
 
Claire tucked her hair behind her ear.  “Why’d you stay?”
 
Castiel sighed, thinking back to what seemed like another life.  “To make money to start our company.  I knew it would pay off someday.”
 
Claire chewed her lip.  “I think I want to work with Meg.  She offered me that internship with HFH.”
 
Castiel grinned, standing up taller.  “That’s wonderful!”
 
“I know,” Claire said defeatedly, her hands flopping to her sides.  “I want to do it but...”
 
“But what?” Castiel asked.
 
“But I’ll be gone for like six months!  And...”
 
Castiel knew Claire.  He could read all the worries that flitted through her expressive eyes.  “Claire.  If you want to do it, you should.  If it’s too long to be away from home, then tell her that.  She’ll understand.”
 
“But Crowley helped hook me up with it and...I don’t want to let people down!”
 
Castiel narrowed his eyes.  There was more to the excuses she was giving.
 
She gave him a desperate look before shaking her head.  “I don’t...”
 
“You don’t want to lose your place here?  Your family?  Your friends?”
 
Claire crossed her arms over her chest again, her face flushing.
 
“Oh, Claire.”  He hugged her to him, waiting until she hugged him back.  “You always have a place here with us.  You’re one of us!”
 
“I know you’re not my dad,” she said quietly, hugging him tight, fear in her grip, “but if I leave, can I still come back home?”
 
Castiel hugged her even tighter.  “Always, Claire!  Always!  I don’t care if I’m not your dad.  Dean and I love you very much!  All we want is for you to be happy.”
 
“I am happy,” she sniffled.  They hugged for another full minute before she pulled away, wiping at her face, and fanning herself with an annoyed laugh.  “I never do this!  Get all girly!”
 
Castiel tucked her hair behind her ear.  “You, me, Jack, and Dean will always be family.”  He gave her an encouraging grin.
 
She rolled her eyes at the mushy moment, smiling.  “Thanks, Dad.”
 
“You are welcome.  Now come on, let’s go eat.”
 
“Are you gonna tell Dean I was whining like a five-year-old?”
 
“Of course I’m going to tell your father you’re having second thoughts for fear of being homesick.”
 
Catching her off guard, her grin froze before she laughed.  “Just for that, I’m taking the internship.”
 
“We’ll see,” Castiel said parentally, winking at her.  “Maybe we won’t let you go.”
 
She laughed, knowing better.  “Think I’ll get to hold the baby?”
 
“You’ll have to fight Bobby and Dean for her, but yes.”
 
They went inside.  Gabe was sitting in the recliner where Bobby had been.  He was holding Grace in his arms for the first time, Anna perched on the arm of the chair talking quietly to him.  He was not sure why Gabe was so worried about being a father.  He had pretty much raised him and Anna.  He was going to be just fine.  Raising a child with Pam might be interesting.  He shook his head with a grin at the thought of a tiny being created by Pam and Gabe.  It was bound to be entertaining!
 
He stood back as Jody explained to Jack what dumplings tasted like.  Bobby went on to tell him about ones he’d eaten in Vietnam.
 
Claire put an arm around him, leaning her head on his shoulder.  He put his arm around her, savoring the sweet moment.  He chuckled as Jack politely (and somewhat fearfully) declined the dumplings.
 
Dean came over, half an egg roll in hand, putting an arm around Claire too, his fingers sweeping over Cas’ arm with a loving rub.
 
Claire grinned, tipping her head to lean on Dean’s shoulder.  He leaned down, kissing the top of her head and chuckling.
 
“What’s so funny?” Claire smirked, still shy at showing affection.
 
Dean licked his lips, swallowing his bite of egg roll.  “I mighta got cabbage in your hair.”
 
Claire elbowed him gently, feeling the top of her head.
 
Dean laughed, his eyes lifting to catch Castiel’s.  Cas had to laugh, hugging Claire to him a little tighter.
 
 

Chapter Text

Dean grabbed his t-shirt from the beam next to him, mopping sweat off his face and neck.  Cambodia was hot and humid.  His jeans stuck to him uncomfortably and his boots felt like hotboxes.  
 
“Cas!” Dean called across the skeletal frame of the house to the newly constructed house next to it.
 
Cas turned to him, acknowledging him with a wave and a smile.
 
He scaled his way down the ladder, tucking part of his shirt in his back pocket.
 
Jack jogged up to him with a grin and a water bottle.
 
“Thanks, Jack.”
 
“Saum arkoun, Jack,” Jack repeated in Khmer, the language spoken in Cambodia.
 
Dean sighed, unable to get any kind of grip on the language at all.  Even Cas stumbled frequently, though he had picked it up extremely fast.  Jack, on the other hand, seemed to be soaking it in effortlessly.  Dean chugged half the bottle before sighing again and looking down at Jack.  “Let Chuck know we’re ready for the walls to start going up.”
 
“Min ei te.  That means, ‘alright’.”
 
Dean grinned as Jack ran across the building site to find Chuck.  He was getting so tall, swearing he would be as tall as Sam someday.  Dean had his doubts, but he never dreamed Sam would be taller than him either.  It was the summer between his second and third grade year of school and the whole family was spending the week on their latest Habitat For Humanity trip.  Instead of heading home afterwards, they were traveling to Cardamom Mountain in southwest Cambodia for Heaven Scent, then to a jasmine farm in Thailand.  For now, Dean was on day four of building houses.
 
Cas met him in front of the framed house, speaking to two men, frowning as he stumbled over a word, one of the men correcting him.  Cas grinned, repeating it.  The men spoke again to Cas as Dean waited.
 
Castiel nodded.  “Saum arkoun!”  He turned to Dean as the two men walked inside the house he had just come out of.  His eyes ran up and down Dean’s body twice, his mouth tugging into a grin.  “Yes?”
 
Dean arched a brow, knowing no one was in ear shot.  “See something you like?”
 
“Very much,” Cas said with enthusiasm.  
 
Dean gave him a knowing grin.  Shirtless, sweaty, freshly flexed from hammering for the past hour, he knew damn well he looked good.  He knew because Cas never let him forget it.  “Come find me later, sanghea.”
 
Cas grinned even wider.  “I will, srasa saat.”  Cas winked.  “Is that why you called me over here?  To call me handsome?”
 
Dean chuckled.  “Maybe.  What’s a srasa saat?”
 
Cas stepped closer, kissing him.  “Beautiful,” he said softly.
 
Dean smirked.  “See ya ‘round, sanghea.”
 
Cas laughed softly as he walked back to the other house.  Dean tugged his shirt out of his back pocket again, wiping off his face, neck, and chest.  He drank the rest of his water as Chuck headed toward him with a crew of workers, including Claire, Jo, Benny, and Sam.   They would have this house fully walled before dinner.
 
He was proud of the work he did.  Proud that his son and Claire were world travelers.  Proud that he too had become more familiar with the world, Cas by his side.  While Jack was doing great in school socially and academically, they had decided to pull him out for the upcoming school year and travel almost nonstop for Heaven Scent.  He would cyber-school and return to regular school for fourth grade.  The company was growing steadily, and they wanted to be sure their farms around the world were truly operating as greenly as advertised.
 
Their grand tour would start in August, traveling with Meg and Crowley for much of it.  Dean had never lived in one place for very long and Cas had helped him learn to tolerate flying quite well.  Oils and Cas’ ever-steady presence had helped him learn to relax.
 
Meg interrupted his thoughts as she sauntered up to him with a cute grin, four kids from the village following her like little ducklings.
 
“Hey,” Dean chuckled.
 
“Hey.  I wanted to show you the pictures I took from arrival day.”
 
Dean took her camera, shading the screen so he could see the images.  Villagers surrounded volunteers as they all got to know each other in photo after photo.
 
Dean swiped to a photo that brought an adoring grin to his face.  It was a picture of him and Cas walking, taken from behind them.  They were hand in hand, both looking at each other.  They were mid conversation and so comfortable in each other’s presence.
 
“Look,” Meg said, zooming in on their hands.
 
Dean nodded.  It had caught his eye as well.
 
“It’s just like your painting!”  Meg grinned, zooming in more.  “The one Cas sent you that still makes you all dewy.”
 
Dean admired how their wrists touched, Cas’ thumb curled snugly over the back of his hand and their fingers touched so comfortably that the moment had passed them by without even noticing it.  But Meg had caught it so beautifully.
 
“Send me those,” Dean grinned.  “That’s awesome, Meg.”
 
She grinned, turning the camera off.  “You two are so cute it makes me want to vomit a little bit.”  She grinned down at all the kids, three more joining the original four, none of them understood a lick of English as they beamed up her sweet, smiling face.  “Dean makes us want to vomit, huh?”
 
The children all smiled harder at her.  She beamed back at him.  “Shame on you making the children vomit!”
 
Dean laughed.  “Shut up, Meg!  They think I’m awesome.  Watch!”  He made a muscle, pursing his lips then waved at the kids to do the same.  They made muscles with their thin arms and he fist bumped them for playing along.
 
Crowley came over, looking like he had just stepped in poo.  “Where is the water?”
 
Dean jumped in before Meg could answer.  “Tuk!” Dean said, taking one kid’s hand and putting it in Crowley’s.
 
“Tuk!” The kids all repeated like seagulls, taking Crowley to the water supply.  
 
Crowley grumbled as two more kids took his other hand and the rest hovered around like a cloud.
 
Dean and Meg both laughed.  This was Crowley’s first Habitat For Humanity trip and might very well be his last.  He was a man of material luxury and found the living and working conditions unbearable.  Though he bitched and complained, the kids were fascinated with him.  And even though Crowley acted like he wanted little to do with them, he was often sitting with a group of them, reading or explaining something, prattling on in English as they stared at him in wonder.  They had watched him take a phone call one afternoon, Crowley ranting to someone on the phone.  The kids thought it was hilarious, laughing and following him about.
 
“He smiles when he thinks no one is looking,” Meg said with a sappy grin, watching her fiancé cross the work site.
 
“I know.  But you’re definitely good for him.  Keep on him, Meg.”
 
“I am.  When we get home after all our travels next year, we’re getting a dog.”
 
Dean frowned.  “Crowley doesn’t seem like the dog type.”
 
“Crowley is a lot of things most people wouldn’t think.”  She winked at him, sauntering off.  “I’ll send you those pictures.”
 
Dean smiled sweetly at the thought.  He had found that person to hold his hand.  That person that was so comfortable, so perfectly matched to you that you took simple moments and gestures for granted.  He was so glad Meg had caught it for him.
 
 
***************************************
 
 
Castiel pushed the flap of the supply tent aside as he stepped in.  Gabe was hot on his heels, insisting he was completely innocent in the fact that Pam was pregnant again.
 
Castiel stopped abruptly, Gabe running into him with a ‘harrumph’.  Cas held a finger over his lips, quieting his incessantly chatty brother.  Gabe mirrored the gesture, frowning at him.  Cas pointed at Dean, who was sitting on a stack of boards, sleeping.
 
“Sleepin’ like a baby,” Gabe whispered.  “Why do they say that?  Babies don’t sleep!  Trust me.  Robbie never sleeps.”
 
Castiel gave his brother a sympathetic smile.  Rob was a year and half old and every bit the feisty firecracker they all figured Gabe and Pam would produce.  Pam was at home with their son and had found out she was pregnant two days before they left for this trip.  Castiel turned back to his brother, his brows knitting as he spoke quietly.
 
“How can you say you are innocent?  It takes two to make a baby, Gabriel.”
 
Gabe rolled his eyes.  “We’ve been so careful!  And then there was one night Jody offered to watch Robbie while Pam and I went grocery shopping...and we never went grocery shopping.”  Gabe gave him a look like he should be filling in the blanks.  Castiel blinked at him.  “I was out of condoms and never went grocery shopping.”
 
“So, my niece or nephew was conceived...”
 
“In the grocery store parking lot,” Gabe supplied sheepishly.
 
“I hope you come up with a better story than the fact that you were too lazy to walk into the grocery store to buy condoms, then we just had sex right there next to the quick pick-up spaces in the parking lot.”
 
Gabe pursed his lips.  “I’d have ten babies with Pam.  She’s the best mother in the world.”
 
Castiel grinned.  “So come up with a nicer conception story since the two of you can’t seem to keep your pants on in public.”
 
Gabe stared toward the tent flaps longingly.  “I miss her.  I shouldn’t have come on this trip.  I shoulda cancelled when we found out she was pregnant.”
 
Cas rubbed his brother’s shoulder.  “She insisted you come.  And you know Charlie and Kara are helping her out, plus Bobby and Jody.”
 
Gabe crossed his arms, close to a pout on his lips.  “You’re the traveler Cassie.  I always came along because of you.  But this might be my last international trip for a long time.  I just want to be home with Rob and Pam.”  He gave Cas a sad smile.  “I know we used to do this shit together, little bro, but...I think I’m home sick.”
 
Castiel knew his brother was madly in love with his wife.  He worshiped her, doted on her, fussed over her, and drove her crazy sometimes, but what they had was unique.  They bickered all the time in a teasing fashion and fucked like rabbits.  They were both incredible with Robert James Novak, named for Cas and Bobby (Daddy B as Gabe still called him).  Abner and Anna were on their second child as well, but their relationship was more like Eileen and Sam’s.  Sweet, loving, amazing.  He realized just how much had changed since the last time he stood just like this with a sad Gabriel in a supply tent, happening onto a sleeping, shirtless Dean Winchester.  His heart caught in his throat at how drastically life had changed.  How much his family had grown.  How truly full his life was.  
 
He turned back to Gabe, putting a hand on his shoulder.  “Go home, Gabe.  I’ll see you in a few weeks when we get back.”
 
Gabe gave him a worried look.  “I’m being ridiculous, right?”
 
“No,” Castiel assured him.  “Give Pam and Rob a kiss from me.”
 
Gabe hugged him hard.  “You sure you don’t care?  This was kind of our thing.  I don’t mean to be a jerk and bail.”
 
Cas backed up a step.  “Gabriel, if Dean couldn’t be here, I would never have come.”
 
“Right,” Gabe said as if it were hard fact.  “Right!”  His face lit up.  “I’m gonna have another baby!”
 
Castiel grinned.  “You’re going to go insane.”
 
“Ha!”  He clapped a hand over his mouth, throwing a worried look at Dean, grinning as a soft snore continued.  “I can’t wait!  I gotta go home, Cassie!  Love you!”  He planted a kiss on Castiel’s cheek, making him laugh.
 
“I love you too.  See you in a few weeks.”
 
He darted out of the tent.  Castiel’s attention drifted to his husband laying on the stack of boards, shirt for a pillow, naked to the waist, trail of reddish-brown hair leading right to the button of his dirty, torn jeans.  He licked his lips, sitting next to Dean, trailing a finger lightly down the faint line of hair.
 
Dean woke, gripping Castiel’s wrist hard in surprise.  Their eyes met and Dean’s face flushed as his head dropped back down with a relieved grin and his grip loosened.
 
Castiel glanced at the tent entrance, still empty.  He slid his hand over the bulge the trail had led him to, making Dean take a deep breath and let out a moan, his hips responding immediately to the palm of his hand.
 
“Please tell me Jack is staying in Claire’s room tonight.”
 
Castiel smiled.  The volunteers stayed at a hotel at this location in Cambodia.  Sam and Gabe had been sharing a room, so if Claire was busy with Jo, Jack could sleep in Sam’s room where Gabe had been.
 
“We have the room to ourselves tonight,” Castiel said, grinning as he bent down to kiss him.  “I’m gonna take good care of my hard-working carpenter tonight.”
 
“Yeah?” Dean grinned, looking eager.  He sat up, kissing him.  “What are you gonna do to me?” He whispered, making the skin down Castiel’s ear, neck, and back erupt in goosebumps.  
 
He turned, nosing him out of the crook of his neck to take another kiss.  “After you get a shower, I’m going to rub your feet.”
 
“With oils?” Dean grinned dreamily.
 
“With oils.”
 
“Mmmm.”
 
“Then I’m going to rub your back.”
 
“Oh god, I love you,” Dean murmured, kissing him.
 
“Then,” Castiel waited until Dean met his eyes, “when you’re completely relaxed, stretched out on my bed, I’m going to fuck you from behind.”
 
Dean Winchester fucking purred.  “I wanna go now.”
 
Castiel chuckled.  He was usually the one getting railed.  But not tonight.  And Dean was on board with it, that was obvious in the bulge of his jeans, which he was adjusting.
 
“Will you tell me dirty stuff in another language?” Dean grinned, biting his lower lip.
 
“Khmer?” Castiel chuckled.  “I’m not sure I know enough.”
 
Dean shook his head no.  “Spanish.  I wanna go back to Brazil with you.”  He kissed Cas again with just a tease of tongue.  “I wanna go back to Recife and spend the day with you the way we should have.  Hand in hand.  In love.  Kissing you on the gondola.  Dancing with you.”
 
Castiel cupped Dean’s cheek in his hand.  “We never got a honeymoon.  Maybe we should do that.”
 
Dean nodded, looking like he had just won a prize.  “We could go to the beach during the day and actually swim in the ocean!”
 
Castiel chuckled.  “We could go to the beach at night and actually make-out.”
 
“Oh, you’re gettin’ fucked,” Dean nodded most assuredly, making them both laugh.
 
“Tonight, I’ll be doing the fucking,” Cas whispered in his ear, getting up.  He slipped Dean’s gripping hand with a teasing smile, loving the pout on Dean’s face.  Dean got up, adjusting his hard dick again in his jeans.  
 
“Come on, Cas!  Nobody comes in here!”  Dean’s whisper was challenging.  And while he wanted to take Dean right here and now, he wouldn’t dare.
 
The tent flap burst open, Chuck, Benny, Gabe, and Sam coming in, talking about how much wood to start moving.
 
Dean had snatched his shirt, fumbling with it in front of his crotch to hide his erection.  Castiel winked at him, Dean pursing his lips as he looked down, shaking his head.
 
Gabe turned to Cas.  “Sam’s gonna get me to the airport as soon as we move this lumber.”
 
Sam ruffled his hair.  “Gabey-baby misses his Pamela!”
 
Gabe attempted to get Sam back, but Sam put his huge palm on Gabe’s forehead, straightening his arm so Gabe couldn’t reach him at all, though he tried.
 
“Hey!” Chuck snapped, grinning at the pair.  
 
Sam relented, Gabe swatting pointlessly at his hand before fixing his hair.
 
“Thank you, Sam,” Cas added, about taking care of Gabe.
 
Sam shrugged good-naturedly.  “It’s no problem.”
 
Castiel slipped behind Chuck, seeing Dean pull on his wrinkled t-shirt, having settled down his tenting jeans.
 
“Jack’s staying with you tonight,” Dean added, slapping his brother on the shoulder.
 
Sam nodded with a knowing laugh.  “Alright.”
 
“Come on, brotha,” Benny laughed, sliding two boards out to carry out of the tent.  Sam grabbed the other ends, everyone backing out of their way.
 
Chuck got the next two as Gabe got the other ends, looking much happier than he had the past two days.
 
Dean and Cas exchanged a look as the tent emptied again.
 
Dean ambled up to him, putting his hands on Castiel’s waist, kissing him.  “Love you.”
 
“Love you more,” Castiel said softly, kissing him again.  “Let’s finish this house so I can put you to bed.”
 
Dean chuckled low, moving to grab two boards, Cas getting the other ends.  “That’s my favorite time of day.”
 
 
The End. <3