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You and I Know the Way

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Castiel is in the Empty, and then he isn’t. He is an angel, and then he isn’t. But neither the insufferable chaos he found the Empty thrown into, nor the sudden lack of his angelic grace, compares remotely to his elation when Dean comes to drag him from the darkness like – well, like an avenging angel. And even still, neither compares to the deep dive his heart takes when it becomes clear his rescue had nothing at all to do with what he’d confessed to Dean the last time they’d seen each other. In these first few weeks back, as Castiel learns all over again the small joys and annoyances of being human, Dean is – not distant, but not entirely warm, either. Castiel comes to realize he and Dean are never in a room alone together. Sam is always there. He’s certain Dean is orchestrating this.

He supposes he shouldn’t be surprised Dean is hiding from him in this manner, but still the rejection stings.

Sometimes, though, Castiel catches Dean giving him this look, serious and contemplative, a warmth in his gaze fixed on Castiel’s face. It makes his insides melt. He also notices Dean being a little kinder to himself: going to bed at a regular time, letting Sam sneak in a vegetable or two when he makes burgers (with fewer and fewer grumblings). Drinking more water. Asking for what he needs. As the days go on Castiel catches Dean smiling more easily.

He’s not smiling now, though; hunt gone slightly sideways, they’d had to fight their way out more vigorously than he thinks either of them had anticipated. They both came away with cuts and scrapes, but Castiel caught the brunt of it, and is bleeding all over the motel’s cheap carpeting at three in the morning. He kind of wants a drink, and is reasonably sure Dean wouldn’t decline one, either. Castiel is also sure Dean is busy silently berating himself, but it wasn’t anyone’s fault Sam came down with an epic bout of the flu and is back at the bunker, no doubt being clucked over by a no-nonsense Eileen, who had looked like she’d murder anyone who even suggested Sam was well enough to go out on a hunt. Neither Castiel nor Dean had wanted to test her, and so here they are, alone for the first time in weeks.

“It figures the first time I need stitches Sam isn’t here,” Castiel pants, gripping the edge of the bed, jeans ruched up and rolled to the knees. He’s incredibly busy bleeding everywhere; he’s allowed to complain about the quality of care he knows he’s about to receive, thank you very much. He loves Dean, but they all know Sam has the best bedside manner when it comes to first aid.

“Quit your bitchin’,” Dean grumbles, diligently cleaning blood and grime from Castiel’s calf with a wet washcloth. “I’ll be careful, okay?” He glances at Castiel for a heartbeat, and the look goes straight to Castiel’s groin like a lightning rod, powerful and bright, before he hisses in pain as Dean begins his work.

His knuckles blanch white in the sheets as Dean takes a needle to the gash on his leg. He chews on his bloody lip, caging the raw sound threatening to tear from his lungs. His leg throbs, and the needle stings, and the cottony pull of the thread through the meat of his calf sets his teeth to grinding. What Castiel wouldn’t give, in these moments, to be able to fix this with barely a thought, as he once was able. There are times when Castiel wonders how he could have let himself become so small. But then Dean will say or do something to make his space in Castiel’s heart even bigger, and Castiel thinks about how his love for this man turned out to be the most powerful force in all of creation.

He grits his teeth on a groan, holds onto the sheets for dear life, and bears it.

The cut on Castiel’s lip stings and he probes it with his tongue, a distraction from the silence just as much as the fiery pain in his leg. He looks at Dean as he works, slow and methodical but still tender. His tongue is caught between his teeth. It makes him look younger, less careworn. He’s so beautiful it makes Castiel’s heart ache, bands around his ribs like an embrace. He inhales to the top of his lungs and something loosens in his chest. He lets out a slow exhale. He’s gotten much better at this whole emotions thing: feeling them. Inviting them in as living guests, clearing himself out for the next delight.

“Doin’ alright up there, Cas?” Dean asks after he pulls a stitch too tight and they’ve both been silent long enough for it to be awkward. “Didn’t pass out on me, didja?”

“No,” Castiel answers, gritting his teeth. “No, I’m alright.”

“Good,” Dean says. “Okay.”

They fall silent again and Castiel continues to worry at the cut on his lip. He draws it between his teeth, squeezes it against his tongue, tastes the blood flooding his mouth. Swipes it clean, pushes it out with a puff of air. Repeats this. Gets lost in it, lets it become a meditation. Loses enough time to it that when the room snaps back into focus Dean is pouring alcohol over his finished work, capping the bottle. Turning slightly on his knees to put the bottle on the floor. He pats Castiel’s leg dry, drapes a piece of gauze over the wound and secures it, smoothing his thumbs slowly over the tape. Ostensibly, he’s making sure it sticks, but something lingering in his touch screams affection to Castiel and hope crackles to life inside him.

Dean looks up and his eyes roam over every inch of Castiel’s face, as they often do, now. Like he’s making sure Cas is actually, physically here. Like he’s hoping this isn’t all some fucking fever dream. Castiel isn’t sure himself, sometimes. Right now, he can’t be sure he isn’t imagining the quiet hitch in Dean’s breathing, the hesitant look when their gazes clash, the way his jaw flexes as he swallows nervously.

But, he watches Dean’s uncertainty transform into determination from one blink to the next as his eyes land on Castiel’s mouth, and he reaches red-tipped fingers to touch, pressing feather-light on either side of the cut on his lip. Castiel can’t help the gasp that leaves him when Dean flicks his gaze up, blindsided by the sudden heat there.

Dean comes slowly to the tops of his knees, a barely noticeable pause making Castiel’s stomach twist pleasantly, charmed by how carefully Dean approaches him. He gives Castiel an unreadable look before he digs a hand into Castiel’s sweaty hair, plants the other on his thigh and kisses into him as though he’s done it a thousand times before and he knows exactly how much Cas will resist him, which is to say: not at all. Dean licks along Castiel’s lower lip, gets caught on the raw patch there, sucks it into his mouth and draws it between his teeth. He drags his hand from Castiel’s leg to his hip to his chest, lingering over Castiel’s runaway heartbeat, gliding it gingerly along his throat and into his hair. He bites down, careful, and pulls back, eyes open and on Castiel, sultry.

With a groan Castiel releases his grip on the sheets and reaches for Dean, needing to touch him, to know his touch is welcome. It dawns on Castiel that he can have – that Dean has taken his time to come to a decision, and his decision appears to be: he wants what Castiel wants, too. The realization takes his breath away.

Castiel wraps his arms around Dean and pulls him in, shifts forward on the edge of the bed to press against him. Dean radiates heat wedged between Castiel’s legs, warm hands landing on Castiel’s hips and pinning him for a moment. Then Dean inches up Castiel’s body, guiding him to lie back on the bed. He settles between Castiel’s thighs and gives a languorous dip of his tongue into Castiel’s mouth before kissing all along his throat.

A tiny kernel of disbelief whispers to Castiel, but he refuses to listen to it. He never expected to see Dean again after he summoned the Empty; coming back, seeing their friendship perhaps dinged but not damaged, watching Dean incrementally start to see himself as Castiel has always seen him – all of these things were so far above and beyond his expectations Castiel could only be profoundly grateful for every step forward.

And this – Dean’s hands sneaking under his shirt, seeking bare skin; breath hot in his ear as Dean does his best to keep control of himself – makes Castiel push against his physical boundaries, endless, timeless, himself. He knows he is more than this flesh he’s confined to, limited and small. Dean tucks himself under Castiel’s chin and sucks a mark into his throat, and a supernova goes off in Castiel’s gut, a riot of heat and color. He rides it like a wave, soaring and crashing through sine and peaks and troughs, taking time to realize the surprised gasping he can hear is him.

“Are you… is it… is this okay?” he stammers, words tumbling out without checking in with him first. “Do you want to do this, Dean, are you…”

“Cas,” Dean interrupts him, exhaling against the dip under Castiel’s throat. “Shut up.” Castiel can feel the smile Dean’s hiding against his skin and decides he is going to take whatever Dean is offering.

He laughs, agrees. “Okay,” he says, framing Dean’s face in his hands. He pulls Dean into a kiss, savors the softness of his mouth. Castiel’s heard terrible things fall from Dean’s lips, words capable of cutting straight to the bone. So often held in a firm line, frowning. If he didn’t know Dean as well as he did, he’d be surprised at how tenderly he used his mouth, and his hands, and his whole self to tell Castiel how important he is to him.

Dean sits back and starts undoing the buttons of Castiel’s overshirt. They’re both zeroed in on his hands, watching as he starts to unlayer Castiel, unwrap him, a gift. Dean’s weight as he sits back on Castiel’s thighs bleeds warm and solid into Cas. He drops his head back for the barest moment before leaning on his elbows and pushing Dean’s hands away, impatient with his pace.

“I’ll do it–” he gets out before Dean is at his mouth again, demanding, and Castiel fumbles with the buttons before giving up and rolling his shoulders out of the shirt, Dean eagerly helping to push the garment off and out of the way. A button pops and goes skittering into a corner somewhere as Dean yanks the shirt from Castiel, tossing it over his shoulder and out of sight.

Castiel reaches for the hem of his t-shirt and struggles to take it off, breaking away from Dean’s mouth only long enough to get it over his head. He can feel the static prickle of electricity in his hair as the cloth tangles in it before coming off with a poof. He can feel Dean pulling away and he chases after him, taking his turn to battle impatiently with buttons and now, Dean’s wandering mouth, currently setting up shop, with teeth, at Castiel’s thundering pulse.

The motel’s ancient AC kicks on, a clunking sound preceding the low electric hum of the compressor. It drags Castiel from his daze, endorphins stirring a wild exhilaration inside him.

He’s got Dean’s shirt open, and when he looks Castiel is surprised to see his own hands unbuckling Dean’s belt, like they don’t even belong to him, like they are allowed do what he wants in his most private thoughts without consulting his conscious brain first. He hooks a finger into the loop in the buckle and tugs, and the belt spills open with a musical jangle. He’s undone the button of Dean’s jeans and is dragging on the zipper before it occurs to him that this could be a Step Too Far.

Castiel pulls away, slow, and is caught by the look on Dean’s face. It’s an expression Castiel has never seen on him before, but it certainly mirrors everything Castiel himself is feeling: surprise, disbelief. Desire. Connection. Love. Perhaps clearest of all, love. Castiel is glad he’s already on the bed. He can feel his knees trembling, weak with relief.

He brings a hand to the side of Dean’s face, cradles his cheek. Dean turns into the touch, doesn’t look away as he kisses the center of Castiel’s palm. The space inside Castiel’s heart swells against the confines of his ribs.

“I’ve never told you how beautiful you are,” he murmurs, dragging his thumb through the constellation of freckles under Dean’s eye. He watches the barest flush come over Dean’s cheeks as he instinctively shies away from the compliment.

“You can’t just–” Dean protests, but Castiel cuts him off with a kiss.

“Yes, I can,” he says against Dean’s mouth. “We can do whatever we want,” he whispers, feeling so much more than the form he is bound in. “Love whoever and however we want.” He catches Dean’s gaze, watches him as he kisses him deep. Dean relaxes against him, braced above him, pressing him into the mattress, an anchor. Castiel tips his head back to see Dean’s face. “And I love you. I choose to love you, Dean Winchester.”

Dean swallows visibly, his jaw working as he searches for a response. Castiel waits. Pets a tentative hand down Dean’s side, takes root at his hip. Can’t ignore the pang of lust that shoots through him when Dean darts his tongue over his lips, unconsciously tantalizing.

“I…” He flashes a heated look at Castiel before pressing his forehead to Cas’ sternum, hiding. He mutters, muffled into Castiel’s chest: “Let me show you, Cas.” He drops a kiss between Castiel’s ribs. “Please just lemme…”

“Yes,” Castiel says, breathless. He doesn’t care about the words, only the feelings behind them, what actions those feelings might elicit. Greedy for it, he drops his head onto the bed with a sigh and closed eyes. “Yes.”

It’s a lot like receiving prayer, Castiel thinks, opening himself to Dean’s supplication. He leaves open-mouthed kisses all across Castiel’s chest and belly, nosing along the waistband of his pants, painting his love onto Castiel’s body with his tongue. Each kiss is an act of worship, every sigh from Castiel’s lips met with a pleased hum from Dean, the call-and-response of those seeking salvation.

Dean’s fingers tug at his belt and Castiel doesn’t resist, only leans on his elbows again to watch as Dean carefully undoes the button and zipper. As he wets his lips again, nervous. As he flicks a glance Castiel’s way before reaching a warm hand in and pulling Castiel out, flushed and thick, aching in the strong fingers gripping him.

A desperate sound escapes Castiel, and he rolls his hips up into Dean’s loose fist, marveling that he’s even allowed. Liquid heat pools low in his belly, making him gasp and shake, louder and more fervently when Dean takes himself out as well and slides against Castiel, scorching hot, solid, slick.

Dean leans over him, biting at his neck and jaw, soothing the bites with damp kisses, and for a moment, Castiel lets all the feelings in at once: a house-party, a rave, where everyone present is screaming at the top of their lungs and he is just. going. to let them.

Castiel is met with a wide, hungry look when he reaches and covers Dean’s hand with his own. He pants, mouth open and dripping soft little “oh”s, warm, into the space between them, and Dean drops his head heavy onto Castiel’s shoulder with a groan. It vibrates through Castiel, another sensation crashing over him and making his brain feel soupy. He knows down to the atoms what is happening to his tangible self, which chemicals and their receptors are producing this euphoria, but Castiel is still at a total loss to explain how Dean’s hands, stroking him firm and sure, can make him feel holy again.

Castiel moans, muffled behind lips pressed tight together, and arches hard against Dean, hips rocking off the bed, chasing the pressure of the other man’s grip.

“Yeah,” Dean murmurs against his throat, the sound sending a jolt through Castiel, hot and urgent. “C’mon, sunshine, I got you,” he says with a kiss to the corner of Castiel’s mouth.

“I – oh – o-ohh–”

“Just like that, Cas,” Dean says, encouraging, and the wave of sensation crashes in on Castiel, tipping him over and spilling him open, hot splashes of come landing on his already-too-warm skin. He’s gripping Dean’s biceps, stunned by the force of his orgasm, stunned by the sensation that only a fraction of his essence is crammed into this vessel and the rest of him is flung out into world somewhere, walking on some adjacent plane. He gulps in air, smaller and smaller gasps as he calms himself. Glances at his stomach and runs a curious thumb through the fluid cooling there, brings his thumb to his mouth. Dean’s face goes violently red.

“Holy shit,” Dean mutters, pressing his forehead to Castiel’s and rolling against him. “You are somethin’ else, man,” he adds with a little laugh. A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth, his eyes. He seems genuinely pleased. Castiel’s heart swells at the sight. Dean’s tender smile calms every restless thing inside Castiel. He drinks it all in, impossibly happy.

Dean adjusts himself and Castiel can feel him hard against the juncture of his thigh; Castiel goes from feeling like he’s floating to grounded and predatory in an instant. He looks at Dean, whose shy, contented smile vanishes when Castiel rolls and pushes him onto his back. He’s surprised to see the look on Dean’s face, open and vulnerable, his brows pinched and eyes slightly crossed, mouth open, cheeks flushed. Looking at Castiel with a hint of nervousness, but with even more trust. Castiel plants a hand on Dean’s chest, pinning him. He wants to look his fill, he wants to touch and kiss and lick and stroke and he’s wanted so many things for so long he does not even know where to begin with Dean at his mercy beneath him.

But now is not the time to tease or torment; Dean’s cock, flushed and leaking, cries for attention, and Castiel can’t ignore it, can’t ignore how his mouth waters at the thought of doing to Dean what he’s imagined doing, oh, so many times he couldn’t possibly count. It doesn’t matter that he’s never done any of it outside his own mind, before. All that matters is now he can do it, he can have what he wants. And what he wants right now is to make Dean feel good, too.

He wraps his hand around Dean and gives him a long, slow stroke, and the needy huff of sound that falls from his mouth goes straight through Castiel, making him shudder, an aftershock of pleasure on its heels. He pushes into Dean’s pants, sliding his palm around his sac, rolling it in his fingers. He watches Dean twitch and draws his hand out, dragging light fingertips up his length. Castiel looks at Dean and sees need written all over his face.

“Cas–” Dean whimpers, and it almost sounds like begging.

“Tell me what you want,” Castiel whispers, watching the impulse to hide himself crawl across Dean’s face. He wants to hide. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t. Instead he touches two fingers to Castiel’s mouth. Studies it, wets his own lips. The touch makes Cas’ cut sting, sticking to the pads of Dean’s fingers.

“Tell me,” he insists, gentle, when Dean doesn’t respond.

“I – I don’t know,” Dean stammers. He looks at Castiel, intense. He takes a deep breath. “I – you. You, Cas,” he says firmly.

Castiel hums, thoughtful, before leaning over to press a kiss to the tender stretch of belly under Dean’s navel. Keeps kissing. Yanks Dean’s jeans open wide and tugs on them only enough to be out of his way. Mouths all along Dean’s cock, tasting, learning what spots elicit the most delicious sounds. Uses his tongue flat and wide to lick up the underside and then takes Dean into his mouth. He takes in what he can in a slow slick slide, fingers wrapped around what he can’t fit inside. Already on edge, it doesn’t take long before Dean’s arching off the bed, spilling into Castiel, fingers tangled in his hair.

A groan rumbles in Dean’s throat as he empties out, and not even witnessing the birth of galaxies compares to the awe suffusing Castiel in this moment, so completely in love and thoroughly proud of himself for pulling such a sound from Dean. Some things can make Castiel feel insignificantly small, while others – the contented, pleased smile Dean gives him as he tugs gently on Castiel’s hair, for instance – make him feel enormous, as though there is no way this body can reasonably contain him.

“Was that…” Castiel searches for the right word and draws a blank. He looks to Dean, who only gives his hair another gentle tug and pulls Castiel close and into a chaste kiss.

“Yeah, Cas,” Dean says against his mouth, eyes closed and still smiling. “Was perfect.” He leans in and kisses Castiel on the nose, the forehead. He wraps his arms around Castiel’s shoulders and holds him against his chest. “You’re perfect,” he adds, barely audible. Castiel’s heart skips a beat.

“I’m far from perfect,” he grumbles, and to his surprise Dean smacks his bare asscheek hard enough to sting. He yelps and Dean laughs underneath him.

“Okay, you’re right,” Dean says, smile turning impish. “But I… uh, love you, anyway.”

Castiel rests on his elbows. The wound on his leg is throbbing and semen is drying all crunchy on his belly, and it’s too cold in the room now, but looking at Dean’s face, hearing many things left unsaid, Castiel wouldn’t trade where he is for the entire universe.

He kisses Dean slow and savoring before laying his head on his chest, listening to his heart as it slows. They lie together, sweat cooling in the air-conditioned room, making Castiel itch. Eventually Dean gets up and shucks his pants and underwear, heads for the bathroom. Castiel listens to the tap turn on, the splash of water. He drifts, relaxed and sleepy, and comes back to himself when his own pants are being pulled off. Dean sits on the edge of the bed and reaches out to gently clean Castiel’s belly with a warm washcloth, peeking at Castiel’s face through his lashes as he does so, almost shy. When he’s satisfied, he chucks the washcloth somewhere near the bathroom and climbs onto the bed, dragging the comforter over them. The AC clicks off and leaves a vacuum of sound in its wake.

Castiel keeps waiting for the silence to turn awkward, for Dean to realize where he is and what they’ve done and then panic. He’s not so certain he’ll keep from panicking, himself. There’s no going backwards, from this. He’d thought telling Dean how he felt would change things, and it did – but not this dramatically. They can’t uncross this line. No matter what happens next, this will always exist between them.

“Well,” Dean says, breaking the silence with a thoughtful hum, walking fingertips along the knobs of Castiel’s spine. “Guess I’d better let Sam know.”

Castiel flinches. “You’re going to tell your brother we had sex,” he says in flat disbelief. They’re skipping right over the panic, then?

“Wha– no! No, dude, gross!” Dean protests, half laughing and half horrified. “I just mean…” He goes quiet, chews his lip. Castiel curls his hand over Dean’s shoulder, draws him closer, waits.

“I mean,” he says at last, “I want to tell Sam. About you. I mean, about us.”

“Us?” Castiel asks, surprised at how powerful his doubts are, even now.

“Yeah, Cas, us,” Dean says, dropping a kiss to his hair, easy affection at odds with how difficult it clearly is for Dean to say these things. Castiel smiles fondly. He thinks about Dean’s prayer to him in Purgatory and how even a year or two ago he would never have been able to say any of it to Castiel, prayer or no. He’s made progress. He’ll keep making progress, of that Castiel is quite certain.

Another moment passes with them lost in thought before Dean adds, “I, uh, kinda suck at this, buddy.” Castiel huffs a laugh. “But maybe… maybe I sucked at it because it was expected of me.” Castiel hears the unspoken fear: maybe I sucked at this because God was pulling all the strings.

Dean is gazing at him, the ghosts of sadness and regret on his face. Dean lifts a hand and drags his thumb over Castiel’s lower lip, rests it over the split. “I wanna get it right with you,” he says, earnest and open. “I wanna do this right.”

“I think we’re off to a good start,” Castiel tells him with a smile. “Though I have little experience with these things, myself,” he adds, smile morphing into a small frown.

Dean laughs. “Yup. Nothin’ new here, really. We’re still a couple’a dumbasses. Now there’s just sex involved, too.”

“I’m sure we’ll manage,” Castiel says, snuggling under the scratchy motel comforter, wriggling closer to Dean.

“Uh, also. In case I’m somehow not being clear, here…” Dean murmurs, sleepy. “Stay, Cas. Want you to stay.”

“Of course, Dean,” Castiel murmurs back, trying to calm his suddenly racing heart, butterflies let loose in his stomach. He’s spent twelve years thinking about every possible reason not to, but…

“I don’t want to be anywhere else,” he whispers, and it’s the truth, it’s always been the truth.

Content, safe, Castiel lets himself drift off to sleep in Dean’s arms.