It’s approximately four hours after Dean Winchester crawls out of his own grave that he realizes something is wrong.
He’s already shoplifted some Doritos and two bottles of Gatorade from the nearest Circle-K, and is crouched hidden in the leeward side of a dumpster. He’s consuming everything with the same fervor of a stray dog who hasn’t been fed in four months, on account of being dead, when he is struck by the sudden, overwhelming urge of one of humankind’s second most visceral instincts.
He really has to take a piss.
After coming to the conclusion that the possibility of being arrested and charged as a sex offender can hardly make this day worse , Dean sets the remaining bottle of Gatorade out of the splash zone and fumbles for his fly.
It takes him a minute, because death and fine motor control apparently do not mix, and also because he’s wearing these stupid dress pants with one of those invisible zippers instead of a pair of jeans. He manages to slip the button easily enough, but then the fabric gets snagged in the zipper and he spends what feels like an eternity prying it loose.
There’s not even a fly on the boxers underneath. He wonders if Sam or the undertaker is to blame for this oversight and hastily diverts from this thought on the basis of not wanting to go completely mad.
He shoves the boxers down, grabs his dick, and his brain grinds to a screeching halt.
At the risk of sounding mental, Dean could say he knows his own penis pretty well. He obviously couldn’t pick the sucker out of a lineup, since admitting to such intimate visual knowledge of a phallus delves into some things that he’d prefer not to think about, and would probably— definitely— make his dad disappointed in him. But regardless, he still knows what the damn thing looks like.
It’s dark behind the dumpster, so Dean could perhaps be forgiven for thinking he’s suddenly gained some bizarre, penile deformity, but as his newly resurrected brain slowly gets with the program, he realizes.
He has a foreskin now.
He tries to process this, because again, he doesn’t exactly fixate on the way his junk looks but he knows, with absolute certainty, he did not have one before he went in the ground.
What does it mean? Whatever horrendous dark sorcery which resurrected him also decided to tack on a foreskin? In God’s name, why?
Dean’s standing there, next to a dumpster, an empty Doritos bag at his feet, newly resurrected dick in hand, trying to puzzle out this mystery of the universe, when the angel finds him.
In his defense, Dean doesn’t immediately recognize the guy for what he is. The way the man is dressed, he could be forgiven for mistaking him for a CPA with terrible fashion sense. Or a flasher because who the fuck still wears a trenchcoat in this day and age?
The man gets as far as “Be not afraid—” before Dean’s bottle of Gatorade bounces off his head.
The full bottle. He doesn’t even flinch.
He does however let loose with a colorful lightning show, and flare for a split second what looks for all the world like a pair of big, feathered wings, in a display that does not so much strike Dean dumb as it does remind him of a disgruntled swan.
“Who the hell are you?” Dean says.
“I’m the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition,” says the man-swan. “I am Castiel, Angel of the Lord. I brought you back to this plane and rebuilt your body to be a weapon in the coming war.”
“Okay,” says Dean, because really what the fuck do you say to that?
“You must have many questions.”
Questions like, is Heaven real? Or, can we revisit this ‘coming war’ deal, because that sounds very bad? Or, if you’re an angel, can you help me find some new pants and a bus ride to Lawrence? Or, when you say ‘rebuilt’ do you mean literally and does that mean you’re the one who decided to do the downstairs remodeling? Does this mean an angel touched my junk? Is that sacreligious?
“Not really,” says Dean.
It turns out Angels of the Lord don’t carry fake IDs or much cash, so they end up taking public transportation. Castiel offers to “fly” them to Sam, but Dean pumps the brakes on that concept, even when his excuse that he gets airsick provokes an expression like the guy’s experiencing a computer error.
The local bus gets them to a business district, and eventually a pay phone. Dean doesn’t have the first clue how to call Sam, but he remembers Bobby’s landline number, so after twenty minutes of scrounging the gutters for spare change, they manage to obtain thirty-five cents.
“Hello?” says Bobby, when he picks up. “If you’re calling about the timeshare offer again, you can fuck right off.”
“Bobby,” says Dean. “This is going to sound insane, but I really need you not to hang up on me.”
“Who is this?”
“It’s Dean. Dean Winchester.”
There’s an ominous silence over the line.
“Kid,” says Bobby. “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t stop fucking with me you’re going to get a shotgun shell where the sun don’t shine.”
“It’s me, Bobby, I swear. Also I only have thirty-five cents so I can’t call you back. Can you get to the corner of Fifth and Forsyth in Lawrence? Near the laundromat and the Churches Chicken?”
“Is this some kind of haunted phone deal?”
“I’m alive, Bobby.”
“Some kind of zombie or vampire deal?”
Dean actually pauses before answering and looks at Castiel, who shakes his head. “No. It’s uh, listen, can we all talk it over at your place?”
“I’ve uh, got a guy with me. He’s a, just, can we talk about this later?”
Bobby’s silent so long that Dean worries that the phone is going to ask for more change to continue the call. “Fine,” he says. “See you in thirty.”
“Thanks, Bobby. I mean it.”
Dean hangs up the phone. He looks at Castiel, Angel of the Lord, and tries to think of a topic that will occupy the next thirty minutes of standing on a freezing nighttime streetcorner and looking like they’re about to conduct the world’s most inept drug deal.
“So,” he says, because his brain is apparently still dead even if the rest of him is alive. “When you say you ‘rebuilt’ me, do you mean that in the metaphorical sense?”
Castiel blinks at him. “No? The literal sense.”
“Bones and guts and blood? The whole nine yards?”
“Of course? You could hardly be alive now if I had skipped some crucial component.”
“Right, right. So you just...put everything back the way it was?”
“Didn’t...add anything that wasn’t there before?”
Castiel looks faintly bewildered, and then his eyes widen fractionally in what might be, on a normal person, an expression of mild alarm. “Not as far as I’m aware. I used your genetic material as a blueprint. But such miracles are not my typical domain, so it’s possible I could have made an error. Have you noticed any extraneous body parts?”
“No,” says Dean, certain that his face is completely red. “No, nothing like that.”
They stand in awkward silence. A crisp February wind blows across the Kansas hills. It cuts through Dean’s funeral clothing as a hot knife through butter, and he finds himself shivering like he’s got St. Vitus Dance.
“You’re shaking,” Castiel observes.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s kind of cold.”
“Ah, the human body attempting to maintain homeostasis. I admit I’m not that familiar with the process. My presence keeps my vessel within optimal physiological parameters at all times.”
“Bully for you.”
They stand in silence again. Castiel has got this thousand-yard stare going like he’s listening to something Dean can’t hear. Dean rubs his hands on his arms.
He leans forward to scan the empty streets for Bobby’s truck, and shifts back just in time to catch Castiel’s trenchcoat settling over his shoulders. In spite of the fact—or perhaps because of—that Castiel isn’t human, the fabric appears to have absorbed plenty of body heat. It’s not exactly the warmest fabric, but it cuts the wind and Dean can’t stop a faint sigh of relief.
He looks at Castiel, who if possible looks even weirder in shirtsleeves and a blue tie that—if Dean’s resurrected eyeballs are functioning—looks to be the exact same electric shade as his eyes.
“I am not actually a man.”
Castiel seems to interpret this noise as an opening, and by the time Bobby pulls up in his green Ford pickup, Dean has been treated to a full fifteen minute explanation of angelic gender, which seems to involve at least fifteen “resonances” and words that Dean’s high school physics class did not equip him to understand. Bobby rolls down the window, levels a shotgun, and nods to them both.
“Evening, gentlemen,” he says, his gaze lingering on Dean, still wrapped in the coat of his not-actually-a-man companion. “Let’s get the fuck back indoors, because something tells me I need to not be sober for this conversation.”
An hour later, thoroughly thawed with copious amounts of hot coffee and wearing a pair of Bobby’s jeans that are at least two sizes too big, Dean holds Bobby’s plastic landline phone away from his head to reduce the volume of Sam’s shouting. He’s in California apparently, again, and it’ll be a day or two before he can catch a flight to MCI.
“I could fly you there,” says Castiel, who’s sitting on the edge of the couch in this eerily still manner that makes him look just a hair like a wax dummy. “It would take us only moments.”
“Who the fuck suggested flying?” says Sam. “You were dead , Dean! You are going to sit on your ass and recover until I get there or I am going to duct tape you to the hood of the goddamn Impala. Give Bobby the phone.”
Dean complies, because his head is starting to hurt, and also Sam yelling brings up uncomfortable recollections of his father when it’s unilateral. Bobby takes the phone with the hand in which he’s not holding a beer, and tugs the line over the couch so he can step far enough away that Sam’s voice is inaudible. Dean stares at the dregs of his coffee. He’s still draped under Castiel’s coat, because Bobby apparently put all of Karen’s afghans in the attic when she died and he couldn’t bear to look at them anymore.
“So,” he says to Castiel, because this is surely an improvement over anything that Sam has in store for him. “What was that you said about a ‘coming war’?”
He doesn’t bring it up again, the downstairs remodel. In the grand scheme of things, it’s so small—okay not that small, he’s got perfectly respectably sized junk—and thoughts of the bizarre night Dean met the angel who restored his foreskin tend to get relegated behind the conga line of cosmic bullshit they have to contend with. They graduate from witches and vampires to demons and God. It ends up not even being the last time Dean, or Sam, or even Castiel wind up dead. But it’s still there, the remodel, and it’s still noticeable.
He’s more sensitive for one thing, and just wouldn’t dad have had a field day with that sentence? So sue him, Dean wasn’t prepared for when he decided to check the plumbing for functionality and nearly hit the roof when he went for it with the same gusto he always had. Now he’s more cautious, and he rarely pulls the curtains back. It’s safer that way, more muted. It’s stupid, but when he slides down the skin and exposes the head, he feels likewise exposed. His own callused fingers suddenly feel like someone else’s, and he can’t pretend that hand belongs to a dainty lady or some shit.
It also doesn’t help that every time Dean plays with his foreskin, Dean’s brain helpfully reminds him just why he has one to begin with.
Or rather because of whom .
And Castiel is...Castiel. Strange and alien and weirdly beloved, after all this time and all this pain, with eyes that do uncomfortable and exciting things to Dean’s stomach, and peculiarly warm spaces just to the left and right of him. Spaces in which Dean could sometimes swear the air has a soft quality and smells just a bit like feather dust. Spaces that Dean finds himself occupying with increasing frequency, and while Dean never sees much of anything after that night, he thinks that sometimes, out of the corner of his eye, he’ll glimpse the iridescent shimmer of giant wings.
And it feels sacreligious, and frightening, but above all dangerous, to rub one out while thinking of Castiel.
But Dean’s only human, and he finally cracks.
It’s another night, and another close call. They’re safe, gone to ground in the Bunker, and Sam’s in bed, but Dean finds himself unable to sleep. He could look for a beer, or a distraction, but instead he goes up to the conservatory, and that’s where he finds Castiel.
The lights are off, and Dean could almost miss him in the dark. He’s sitting cross-legged on the floor, his torso canted forward at a forty-five degree angle, and his head tipped back to observe the stars. At first Dean doesn’t recognize what he’s seeing, but then his brain fills in the shapes of shadows from so long ago, and he realizes.
Castiel is sitting positioned to accommodate his wings. His body—vessel, Dean reminds himself, because as much as he forgets sometimes, Castiel isn’t human—shaped around something huge and invisible. He’s never asked to see Castiel’s wings, and he wonders if Castiel would show him again, maybe with a little less in the way of dramatics, but let Dean take in the fullness of the sight.
“I can hear you breathing,” says Castiel.
“Couldn’t sleep,” says Dean. “Can I join you?”
Castiel glances over his shoulder at him, and Dean has the split second impression of a raptorial beak and a multitude of eyes. He’d taken Sammy to a nature center in the Missouri woods once, an underfunded shack with a small outdoor run and a series of perches upon which roosted predatory birds of various sizes. They’d had an injured red-tail, and she’d looked at him like that.
“Yes of course,” says Castiel.
Dean circles and approaches from the side, fully aware that he’s avoiding treading on nothing, but Castiel notices, and he smiles very slightly. Dean squats and lets himself slump back onto his ass. “Anything interesting in the stars tonight?”
“No,” says Castiel. “Not in particular. Just the arm of the Milky Way. It’s particularly clear this far from the cities.”
Dean hums some half-remembered bars of music. “ But it was lonely too in the country, it’s so empty out there in the dark. ”
“I haven’t heard that one.”
“Joy of Cooking. My mom used to play the record.” Dean watches the stars through the glass. “I’d help her bake and we’d sing the lines when they all sang together: ‘Keep your back to the wind, where the cypress trees stand’ and—”
Castiel frowns. “And what?”
Dean remembers the line, how could he forget it? The plaintive calling of a woman’s voice: There’s too much love for leaving. Too much love for leaving.
He shrugs. “Anyway, just music.”
The conservatory isn’t insulated, and though it’s already February, Dean feels a shiver work down his spine. Castiel watches him with solemn eyes and shifts his shoulders, a light shrug, almost unnoticeable.
But a blanket of warmth drapes around Dean’s shoulders, impossibly soft and light, invisible to his eyes but there, truly there. His throat aches. In his memories, Terry and Toni sing in chorus: home’s a place, to keep yourself warm.
“They once burned cypress resin in Solomon’s temple,” says Castiel. “To guide the souls to eternity.”
“How can you bear it?” says Dean. “Being here, being limited, when you’ve seen so much of creation?”
“‘Seen’ is the operative word, Dean,” says Castiel. “A billion years of witnessing, never being part of creation. We could never share in that. Angels kill, and serve, we do not create.”
“Well,” says Dean. “I mean, you did. A little bit.”
“What do you mean?”
“You created me. My body. When you pulled me out of Hell.”
Castiel shakes his head. “I restored what was already there. That is not creation.”
And, because Dean suffers from a terminal inability to shut up, he says, “I mean, what was already there, and a little bit more.”
Castiel’s brow wrinkles in consternation. “Are you implying I did give you an extraneous body part?”
“Uh, not extraneous exactly. It just wasn’t there before.” Castiel stares blankly at him. “Because, you know, I had it removed.”
“Are you referring to your appendix?”
Thrown, Dean says, “No man I—wait, did you put back my appendix?”
“No, with what I knew of how you ate, it seemed inadvisable to spin that particular roulette wheel. I left it be. Though I did clean up some pre-cancerous cells in your lungs. You really should reduce your secondhand smoke exposure.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“If you were not referring to your appendix, what body part did you mean?”
And suddenly, Dean is very, very interested in the stars. His cheeks are baking, and Castiel is looking at him with that expression that indicates he’s willing to wait quite a long time for Dean to explain what he’s missed.
“It’s uh,” he says. “In a private area.”
“More private than your digestive tract?”
“It’s on my junk, okay, Jesus.”
“I did something to your genitals?”
“You put back —look, I was circumcised before, okay?”
Castiel’s expression clears. “Oh, you’re referring to the fact I restored your foreskin. Did that distress you?”
“No—no, it’s fine. Everything is just peachy down there.” And now he’s giving Castiel an update on the status of his work. Dean is rapidly regretting the direction this conversation is taking. “But—look, my point is, I was circumcised as a baby, right?”
“Yes,” says Castiel, in that way that says he’s not certain where Dean is going with this.
“Well, the shape of— that , isn’t just genes. It’s environmental factors too. Puberty and shit. And mine got lopped off way too early for any of that. So what you ‘restored’ wasn’t something that was already there. It didn’t exist. Ergo, you created it.”
The silence after this statement is deafening. Dean wonders if telling an angel of the Lord they created part of his junk counts as blasphemy, and also if he can ditch the Bunker and spend the next three weeks hiding in Reno.
But when he finally dares look at Castiel, Castiel is staring at him in rapt wonder. It’s the same way he looks at that tiny beehive they got him.
“May I see?” he says, and Dean discovers it is possible to inhale your own tongue.
Once Dean stops choking, Castiel asks again. And because Dean is an idiot and also a sucker, he says “Sure”, and unzips his fly.
He keeps his eyes on the ceiling of the conservatory, one, because having Castiel looking at his dick is deeply weird, and two, he doesn’t entirely trust himself not to pop a boner in spite of that. He reminds himself that this is just a weird angel thing, that Castiel is just basking in the beauty of what he’s created, even if what he’s created is a scrap of skin on the end of Dean’s dick.
Then Castiel says “May I touch?”, in a hushed voice that would be more suited to a church service, and Dean discovers that he cannot be trusted not to pop a boner.
“Oh,” says Castiel, in a way that does nothing at all to kill Dean’s erection. “Is this...is this alright?”
Dean swallows hard. “Is it alright with you?”
“Very much so. Dean—” Here Castiel reaches and turns Dean’s face towards him with a hand on his cheek. “I care for you beyond all reason and measure. It would make me unspeakably happy to make you feel good.”
It’s nothing like any proposition Dean’s ever received, but the way Castiel smiles at him, soft and secret and his eyes glowing with what Dean’s terrified brain wonders might actually be love, yanks the rug out from under him.
“Please touch me,” he says, and Castiel loops his arm around his waist. That intangible warm softness envelopes him, and Dean knows, in a way he can’t articulate, that he’s being cradled in Castiel’s wings.
His initial touch is almost too delicate, but then he curls his other hand around Dean’s shaft and just holds him there, as if feeling his heartbeat. Slight movements, up and down, keeping him hard but not driving him mad. They tip over onto the floor of the conservatory, falling together. Then Castiel slides his hand down, and touches him, underneath his foreskin, callused fingers exploring the head, and Dean dissolves.
Dean learns quite a bit that night. He learns the sensation of endless feathers on naked skin. He learns that Castiel wants to taste his creation as well as touch, and what it’s like to come noisily in Castiel’s mouth, with his tongue probing into the pocket of skin. He learns that he likes the taste of cock, and that he likes the sounds Castiel makes when he comes even more. He learns that he actually is the kind of weirdo who gasps out ‘I love you’ when he’s about to orgasm, but that it doesn’t matter because it’s safe and Castiel feels the same way. He learns he doesn’t have a problem sleeping well and deep in a bed with someone else, and that Castiel’s contented expression makes his heart so warm it feels like it will burst.
“I’m gonna get you a macrame kit,” he mumbles into Castiel’s shoulder.
“What for?” says Castiel.
“So you can start making stuff. Some hanging holders for your plants or something. Contribute a little bit to creation and all.”
“Oh.” Castiel’s arms tighten around him. “I—thank you, Dean. I think I’d like that.”
And Dean smiles into a wall of invisible feathers, and fires off a quick prayer of thanks for angels who make their own decisions.