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“Hey.” Sam tilts his chin in the direction over Dean’s shoulder. “2 o’clock.” 

Dean glances over his shoulder. Cas, who is sitting next to him in the booth, likewise cranes his head, albeit a little more obviously because the newly human ex-angel still has no sense of manners. 

He knows what Sam is gesturing to immediately: brunette, leggy, skirt on the northside of too short. He distinctly remembers the predatory face she made when he asked her back to his hotel room. 

“Didn’t you hook up with her last time we were in town?” Sam asks in a hushed voice.

Dean pokes a fork at his scrambled eggs. “Uh, yeah. I think so.” 

“Well, go talk to her!” 

“Why the hell would I do that?” 

Sam scoffs, giving him the Younger Sibling Incredulous Look. “Didn’t you say you liked her?” 

“You’re right, Sam. I did like her. So naturally, the next step is me getting down on one knee and saying I want to have her babies.” 

Cas scrunches his forehead. “I have two questions.” 

“Colloquialisms, Cas,” Dean says shortly. He stabs a sausage link and savagely chews it, pointing his fork in Sam’s direction. “I got a rule and you know that. I don’t double-dip. Comes with the job.” 

To Cas’s confused expression, Sam explains, “He means he never sleeps with someone twice, or he might catch feelings.” Cas continues to stare. Sam adds, “Fall in love.” 

“Why would that be bad?” Cas asks.

“Have you seen our profession?” Dean scoffs. “Ain’t for me, that whole thing. But sex is good,” he adds with an especially leering grin. 

Sam groans into his coffee. “You’re gross.” 

“Love is bad,” Cas says musingly. He takes a bite of his waffle drenched in syrup. “I think I understand.” 

“No, just—” Dean sighs. “Forget it. Maybe when you’re more human it’ll click.”

Cas looks at him curiously as he chews. Dean needs to look away. 


 

“There’s too much of your mother in you,” John used to say. 

Too much empathy. 

Too much love. 

It’s what got her killed, after all. 


 

“You know, you need to define it. Whatever it is.” 

There’s movement by the barn door that catches Dean’s eye; it’s only a flash of bird’s wings glinting in the dark. He makes a noncommittal sound and sinks further into his seat, the leather creaking. 

“Seriously, Dean,” Sam continues, “it’s not healthy. For either of you.” 

If that creepy farmer guy comes back, that’s their man, Dean decides. He’s never trusted anyone with a limp, anyway. 

Dean .” 

“I heard ya,” Dean barks. “Are you going to focus on this case or not?” 

“We need to talk about this.” 

“See, that’s where you’re wrong. We don’t.” Dean squints in the dark, sees a hobbling figure approaching the barn, a familiar and stolen spell book in his hands. “Knew it was him.” 

“I just worry about you.” Sam loads and cocks a gun. “Both of you.” 

“It’s our business, Sam. Drop it.” Dean opens the Impala’s door, the hinges protesting. “You take his right, I’ll take the left.” 


 

Kissing Cas is second nature now. It’s not like the awkward fumbling when they first slammed together, stuffing themselves into a supply closet so Sam wouldn’t find them, hands shaking and Dean’s ass being poked by a broom as Cas pressed desperately against him. 

Kissing him, in fact, is easy: Dean’s gotten used to the texture of Cas’s lips (soft but unyielding), the way that he can make Cas hitch a surprised breath (biting his lower lip with a soft graze of his teeth), the feeling of Cas’s warm hands pressing against Dean’s back. 

Even the sex has gotten easy.

But then there’s the after: where Cas sits on the edge of Dean’s bed, adjusting his tie against his open collar, frowning at the ground. The pause has become longer and longer, before he finally stands and leaves the room with a soft, “Goodnight, Dean.” 

And Dean’s eyes are beginning to linger on the closed door longer than they should.


 

“What do you want to do as a human, Cas? Anything. Name one thing.” 

Cas looks up from his cereal, hair sticking up in impossible ways and squinting at Sam. “More sleep sounds amenable.” 

Sam’s laugh bounces across the kitchen’s tiles. “No, something fun that you couldn’t do as an angel. It’s time to get out and find something you like.” 

“Like eating crappy diner food,” Dean suggests across the table.

“Or starting a garden,” Sam adds. 

“Or eating crappy pizza.” 

“Or biking.” 

“Or setting the record for eating the biggest cheeseburger.”

Sam flicks a spoon at Dean’s arm. Dean leans back in his chair and grins.

Looking between them, Cas frowns. “I’m not sure what activities there are to do as a human.” 

Dean says, “No wrong choice.” He considers for a moment. “Well, except all of Sam’s suggestions.” 

Sam huffs a frustrated breath.

“Maybe biking?” Cas says, tentatively. “I’ve seen that activity before, and it looks enjoyable.” 

“We don’t have bikes, Cas,” Dean says.

“But we can rent some!” Sam says, pulling out his phone and waving it wildly. “Wichita has a bike sharing program now! You can go anywhere in the city!” 

“Oh, goody,” Dean says. 

The drive to Wichita is mind-numbing, teaching Cas how to even balance on a bike is time-consuming. But finally, after the hundred or so time of Dean lightly pushing Cas’s back to give him a pedaling start, Cas stays upright rather than collapsing to the ground. 

Dean feels stupid for being in a flannel and boots on a bicycle. Sam keeps reaching over and pinching Dean’s cheek while they’re riding. But then they get to a tall hill overlooking the city skyline, sun setting on the backdrop, and Cas turns around to smile all sweaty and bright-eyed at Dean, the happiest Dean’s seen him in well, ever, and Dean can’t suppress an answering smile. 

Looking back, maybe that’s the moment he knew. 

But maybe his heart rate was only fast from the exercise, and his lightheaded, dizzy feeling was him not having enough to eat or the heat getting to him.

Maybe.


 

Dean didn’t mean to overhear it. Cas and the old guy they were interviewing was in the next room, and Dean was in the tiny corner kitchen. The old man’s house was dated, sure, but Dean didn’t expect the walls to be practically paper.

“You know what’s most important in the world, son?” asks the man’s fuzzy baritone.

Cas falters, says, “Uh… no. What’s most important?” 

“Love. That’s what.” 

Dean rolls his eyes. They weren’t going to get anything about the neighborhood poltergeist out of this guy. His brain obviously flew into the cuckoo’s nest a long time ago.

“Oh,” Cas replies. “I see.” 

“When you have something to hold onto that you love, or someone, then it makes life that much more worth it. If a dying old man like me can tell you anything, let it be that. You know what I’m saying?” 

Dean’s not sure why he’s holding his breath; especially not sure why his chest constricts to a painful pitch when Cas replies, softly, “I don’t have much experience with what you’re describing.” 

“Maybe you will one day,” the old man says.

Dean stares down at the countertop, chipped and broken at the edges. 

“Maybe,” Cas tonelessly replies. 

*

He didn’t mean for it to happen.

It just kind of snuck up on him and happened. 

Over time, Cas’s smiles began chain-reacted a fuzzy feeling in his throat. Cas’s rarely-heard laugh made his skin feel like it was on fire. Cas’s hands simply skimming over Dean’s bare skin made him feel like every cell and molecule that made up Dean was reaching for Cas, begging for more. 

Even Cas’s eyes holding his made his stomach do flip-flops.

He didn’t mean for it to happen. 

He didn’t mean to break his own rule.


 

“What is this?” Dean asks between kisses. It’s dark but he can imagine the stunned look on Cas’s face. 

Cas was never one to bullshit. He says, plainly, “I don’t know.” 

Dean threads his hand through Cas’s thick hair, tugs a little tighter so he’ll forget Dean’s moment of weakness. They fall back onto the bed. 


 

“You’re a lot like Mom, you know,” Sam just comes out and says one day. Over reading a book, while sipping his coffee, like it’s no big deal.

Dean puts down his phone. Asks in a steady voice, “What?” 

“She didn’t want the job either. Wanted different things.” Sam pauses. “Like a family.” 

“Why the hell are you telling me this?” 

Sam looks at him with way too much meaning in his eyes. “You know why.” 

Too much of your mother in you. 

Dean pushes against the table to stand and leaves the room. 


 

I love you. 

It’d be so easy to let it tumble out of him; to recklessly plunge headfirst off that cliff without knowing if anything would catch him. 

Instead he presses it soundlessly into Cas’s skin with his lips, his hands, his fingers— I love you, I love you. 

He’s worried he’s being too loud when Cas looks at him with endlessly blue eyes, seeming to respond, I know. 


 

There’s too much blood on the floor, and Cas’s eyes are too glassy. Dean tears out of his shirt, pressing it against Cas’s wound, but there’s not enough to hold it in, not enough to stop the very essence of Cas leaking out of him—

“It’s fine.” Cas’s voice is raspy. He holds Dean’s wrist in a weak fist. “Stop, Dean.” 

Dean presses the shirt harder against the wound. Cas’s eyes grab his and hold them there.

“You knew this would happen eventually.”

“No I didn’t,” Dean whispers. “I didn’t.” 

“It’s the profession, Dean. You said it yourself.” 

No ,” Dean says.

“Let me go.” 

Dean wakes up with a harsh gasp. It takes endless moments of harsh breathing against his pillow to get his heart rate to slow. 

He walks down the hall to the room where Cas sleeps. He puts a hand on the knob; hears Cas roll over on the bed inside, the bedsprings groaning. 

It’s unclear how long he stands there, forehead pressed against the cool wood of the door, counting Cas’s breaths. 

Cas isn’t in danger, Dean tells himself.

Not right now.


 

He takes Cas to a lake, because he remembers Cas saying that he misses the ocean. It’s close enough. 

It’s a cold fall day, the nearby trees drooping with golden leaves, so it makes no sense to be at a beach. But Cas seems to love it. Dean opts to sit on the sand and watch Cas dip his bare toes into the gentle lapping water.

When Cas gets too cold they huddle under a blanket, shoulder to shoulder, and watch the sun sleepily dip in the horizon.

“What do you think is the most important thing in the world?” Cas asks. 

“Pie,” Dean automatically replies. “Maybe burgers.” 

“Be serious,” Cas demands.

Dean sighs, his breath dancing in front of him. The sun is nearly gone; they’ll have to drive back soon or Sam will have a hissy fit. He gets bitchy when Dean’s not there to make him dinner after his afternoon run.

“Dean.” Cas pokes a gentle finger into Dean’s side.

“Uh.” Dean blows into one of his hands to make it warmer. “People. Family. Love, I guess.” 

Cas nods. He squints into the dying sunlight. “Falling in love can be bad, though,” he says quietly, so soft that if Dean weren’t centimeters away, he’d miss it.

“Sometimes,” Dean agrees.

They stand, brushing the sand off their jeans, and walk back to the Impala. 


 

That night, Dean drags out every moment: every kiss, every caress, every push and pull of his hips against Cas’s. 

Cas gasps, and Dean swallows the sound with his lips. Every nerve in him feels like a firecracker ready to burst. In all his life, he’s never been so focused one one human being, on one beautiful, devastating, terrifying ex-angel sprawled underneath him. 

 

Too much empathy.

Too much goddamn love.

 

When Cas leaves his bedroom, like he always does, Dean decides he needs to keep liquor in his room.


 

“You don’t look like you’re getting a lot of sleep. Neither does Cas.”

Dean knows. Doesn’t need the reminder.

“Have you guys talked it out yet? Whatever is going on between you?” 

If they did, maybe there’d be more sleeping.


 

So it goes, Vonnegut wrote. Dean remembers dissecting that line in high school English, reading way more analyses than what was required for the assignment. 

A nod to the existential. At death that inevitably comes. 

Dean wonders if it could apply to love, too.

“I’m going to stop coming to your room,” Cas says to Dean. 

Jesus Christ, Sam is sitting right there, Dean wants to say. Instead he stares, forkful of spaghetti halfway to his mouth.

“I’m gonna go… research,” Sam says, fumbling with his chair and vacating the kitchen. 

Cas and Dean stare at each other. 

“I’m going to stop coming to your room,” Cas says again.

“No, I—I heard you.” Dean puts down his fork. “I just. Why?” 

Cas laces his hands in front of him. “When we began our physical relationship, I thought it was of benefit to you. You seemed happier and more relaxed. However, the past few weeks have taken the opposite toll. You seem anxious and the circles under your eyes are a clear indication you’re not getting a good rest. So I think it’s best if we stop.” 

There’s a simmering in Dean’s gut. “You. You want to.” He clenches his fist against his knee. “You want to end this because I look tired ?” 

“No. I want to end this because you look like someone died every time after we have sex.” 

“So fucking dramatic,” Dean scoffs. He stands and grabs his plate roughly off the table. “Well, if you wanna end it, fine by me. Just stop coming to my room.” 

“All right,” Dean hears Cas say behind him.

Dean stands at the sink for a moment. The simmering pitches to a full-blown boil. He throws the plate in the sink, ceramic shattering. He whirls around to see Cas staring wide-eyed. “Seriously, Cas? Seriously ?” 

“Seriously what ?” Cas volleys. 

“How can you act like it’s nothing? Over and over—Jesus.” Dean pinches the bridge of his nose. “I should have known better, I really should have but I—every fucking time, it’s the same.” 

Cas stands. “I’m not acting like it’s nothing.” 

“Yes you goddamn are. Every night, you leave. Every morning, you act like nothing happened. Even now you’re just calmly ending the thing like it was a business transaction. Even as a human you’re as emotionless as a goddamn rock.” 

“That’s not fair,” Cas says, his face contorting. 

“Then tell me I’m wrong,” Dean shouts. “Tell me this all meant something to you.” 

Cas is still like stone, just staring, so Dean scoffs, “That’s what I thought,” and makes his quick exit. 

He’s halfway down the hallway when something grabs his shoulders, pushes him into the wall. Cas leans in close.

“You don’t understand,” he says. “You never did. I feel—I do feel.” 

Dean whispers, on the precipice of something he doesn’t want to name, “Then why did you leave every goddamn time?” 

Cas tilts his head. “Falling in love is bad,” he says. “I understand. Now that I’m more human, I understand.” 

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Dean chokes out.

Too much of your mother in you.

“How did you mean it?” 

He can’t do this now. Not with Cas staring at him like this. Like he’s the singular most important person in the world. “I’m scared,” he says. “I could lose you.”

“I could lose you .” Cas holds Dean’s shoulders tight. “But I love you all the same.” 

Dean shakes his head. Says softly in the space between them, “That’s too much love.” 

“No such thing,” Cas insists, capturing Dean’s mouth with his, not letting him give anymore excuses. 


 

They lie in Dean’s bed, simply holding each other. It’s warm. Dean likes the way that Cas is playing with his hair, likes the feeling of Cas’s breath on his cheek.

“What is this?” Dean asks. Afraid to, but does it anyway.

“Whatever you want it to be.” 

Dean frowns. Grabs Cas’s hand and winds his fingers tight around him. “Don’t leave tonight.” 

Cas presses a kiss into Dean’s hair. “I never will.”