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This Isn't Where We Intended to Be

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It's not like last time.

Last time he woke up hungry, cold, weak—and utterly, utterly alone.

This time, he wakes up to the aftermath: Metatron and Crowley both dead. Dean lying nearby, unconscious and a bit bloody but free of the Mark. Sam mother hen-ing back and forth between them, trying to make sure they're both alive, assessing them for injuries, shifting them into the recovery position.

He is hungry, cold, and weak. But he is not alone, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Once Dean is roused, he's basically fine. Castiel can tell that he's a little off-balance, that he's feeling the lack of the Mark, but he wears it like someone who has put down a heavy load and is stretching their sore muscles for the first time. His physical wounds are superficial.

Cas is clearly the more pressing concern for both brothers. They help him back to the Impala, produce a protein bar and bottle of water from who knows where, tell him to sleep in the back while they clean up the mess.

By the time he wakes up, they're nearly back to Lebanon.

As he slowly struggles to sit up (someone, probably Sam, has made a vague attempt at lashing him in with the seatbelts), Sam twists around from the passenger seat, carefully assessing him from top to bottom. Dean tries to turn, too, clearly undecided on whether driving safely is truly important enough to keep him facing forward.

"Look who's up!" Dean exclaims.

"Hey, how you feeling, Cas?" Sam asks, concern etching lines in his brow.

Castiel frowns, starts to assess himself from top to bottom. He's hungry still. Less tired now, but still tired in that way that humans seem to be all the time—or maybe it just feels like tiredness when you don't know what a human is supposed to feel like, what the default state is. He'd just been starting to adjust to how weak humans are last time before he stole a new grace.

His head hurts a little; he thinks it might be from dehydration. He drank the entire water bottle before he fell asleep, but he has no idea how much water he actually needed. Speaking of that water bottle, though…

"I need to pee," he finally reports. Dean laughs inexplicably, and even Sam smiles. Cas tilts his head and peers at Sam, unsure why his needing to urinate would be considered a positive rather than neutral thing.

Sam seems to understand his confusion. "If that's the first thing you can think of to say, there must not be anything much worse wrong with you," he explains.

Castiel nods. It's true, he seems to be in generally good condition. All things considered.

His first couple of weeks in the bunker, Castiel does not even think about trying to do anything other than recover. Last time, he didn't have this luxury, and now he will not take it for granted. He sleeps and eats as much as and whenever his body tells him to. 

On a trip into town, he buys a few blank notebooks with covers that catch his eye (one has green and gold stripes that remind him of Dean; another has a psychedelic unicorn on the cover, and he hits Dean with it when Dean calls it "girly"). He starts to fill them with first simple notes on his experiences, then longer narratives and stream-of-consciousness writing, then attempts at fiction and poetry. Having the whole of human literature in his head, he finds it incredible that despite those billions of words, he can still sit there and make new stories that don't yet exist.

He spends as much time outside in the spring weather as he can, his body instinctively rebelling against the stale air and windowless rooms belowground. Sometimes he goes for a walk or a run, sometimes he brings out something to read or write, sometimes he just sits outside soaking in the sun and the smells and the sounds being filtered through his limited human senses.

Neither Sam nor Dean seems eager to let him be alone outside for long. Sam runs with him. Dean walks with him, or reads with him, or sits with him. Even inside, when he's not in his bedroom usually one of them is in the same room. After the first week, he starts to get the feeling that while Sam is primarily doing it to keep an eye on how he's doing, Dean often does it simply because he wants to spend time with Cas. The thought is pleasing, even if it may not be true.

Sometime during his third week as a human, he comes into the war room to find Sam and Dean arguing.

"He'll be fine, Dean." Sam is in front of his laptop, arms crossed but face open.

"It's too soon, can't we wait like another week?" Dean paces next to the table.

"Wait another week for what?" Castiel asks. Both brothers jump.

"How the hell do you manage to sneak up as silently as a human as you did as an angel?" Dean snaps.

Castiel shrugs; he can tell he's not the true target of Dean's ire. "I'm barefoot most of the time. I can tell where you are almost anywhere in the bunker just from your heavy boots." He likes being barefoot. The weight of his body pressing his soles into the tile or concrete or grass is grounding. It helps him keep his bearings.

"I found a case," Sam starts.

"But you need another week or two to recover," Dean cuts in, "so it can wait."

"Dean." Sam is clearly getting annoyed now. "It's obviously a werewolf, and the full moon is in two days. If we wait any longer, it'll kill more people and we won't get another shot at it for a month."

"Go," Cas says, "I shouldn't go with you, but I'll be fine here."

"Cas—" Dean tries to plead with him, but Castiel cuts him off.

"Go, Dean," he insists. "Go save lives. I can survive for a few days without you."

Dean's face darkens. "You didn't survive all that long last time," he mutters.

Castiel narrows his eyes. He knows that Dean blames himself for April, but even Dean should be able to see that these are different circumstances.

"I promise I won't have sex with any strange women," he deadpans. "What exactly do you think is going to happen? If we make sure I have enough food, I'll basically sit around here reading and watching television until you come back."

Sam looks at his brother expectantly, eyebrows raised. Dean runs a hand through his hair, scowling.

"Fine." Dean speaks in that gruff voice he always uses when he wants to pretend like he didn't just lose the argument. "Let's go to the grocery store first and make sure the fridge is stocked. And no wandering around, okay? It'd be better if you don't go outside at all, but if you do, you stay within sight of the door, you got that?" Now he's pointing at Castiel as though he were instructing a rowdy teenager not to throw any parties while he's out of town.

Castiel does not point out that, as flat as the land around them is, he could likely still see the door from several miles away in the right direction.

"I will be fine, Dean," is all he says. Dean's concern is simultaneously annoying and heartwarming.

He won't be entirely fine, of course. The past two and a half weeks are the most time he's spent with Dean since Purgatory. Which means the most time he's ever spent with Dean that wasn't spent entirely in survival mode. He's quite sure that it would be overstatement to say that it's been the best two and a half weeks of his very long life—but he's tempted to say it anyhow. There has been so little time in that life to actually enjoy living, and that he should get so much now is wonderful. That he has been able to spend it with Dean is extraordinary. 

Dean does not relax and enjoy life, either, but he has already turned down two possible hunts since Castiel fell, insisting that Sam call other hunters to take care of them. And Dean is doing this for Cas, to take care of him. It's true that taking care of him involves more television-watching than actual caretaking, but Cas has to admit that this is what he has both needed and wanted. Knowing that Dean cares about him enough to devote so much time to his needs, and enjoys his company enough to stay by his side for this long, is as much as he's ever dared to hope for. 

He understands that his feelings for Dean long ago changed into something that Dean can never return, and he thinks that maybe that should bother him. And maybe someday it will, in this human life with fully human emotions. But for now, simply getting to spend two weeks enjoying life with Dean and knowing that Dean is enjoying life with him is all the bliss he can ask for.

So no, he won't be entirely fine while they're gone. He'll be lonely in a way he has never experienced before. He understands the loneliness of being cut off from his brothers and sisters, of losing their ever-present voices in his head. He understands the loneliness of being an outcast among his own kind, and of losing those you care about because of your own betrayal. This will be new: experiencing enough companionship and contentment to actually feel its loss. Not as painful as the others, of course, but one more new human thing to process, and one that he'll have to process by himself.

But he'll survive, and he knows that that is Dean's main concern at the moment, misplaced though it may be.

Castiel finds movies and television shows fascinating. Metatron has filled his mind with everything man has ever written—which means that he knows all of the the screenplays, but only the screenplays. Seeing how those screenplays have been translated into visual media is a constant source of wonder at the beauty of humanity's creativity.

When he is not outside, he spends much of his time watching all of the movies and shows that Dean enthusiastically puts in front of him. He learns quickly that Dean has a taste for what is commonly called "genre fiction," although Castiel does not understand why, given that every work of fiction is a part of some genre. But Dean does not show him the sweeping dramas or bland sitcoms that Castiel knows exist. Dean shows him science fiction, fantasy, horror, procedurals. Castiel enjoys them all.

More than that, he enjoys Dean enjoying them. They sit close together on the couch, usually only some sort of food in between them. Dean points out his favorite parts, occasionally quoting lines that he knows (Castiel refrains from doing so, as he knows every line of every one of these), constantly looking over at Cas to gauge his reaction. Sometimes Castiel has to remind himself to watch the movie and not just Dean's delight in it. For his part, he occasionally comments on things that surprise him or intrigue him or mystify him about the decisions made when interpreting the original text. When he does this, Dean looks at him in a way he does not quite understand, but which warms him anyhow.

When Sam joins them, he tends to sit in a chair off to one side or on the floor, despite the fact that there is plenty of room on the couch for three adults. Castiel thinks that this is likely because Dean is so focused on introducing Cas to his favorites, and Sam is not a part of that process, and so feels the need to physically separate himself from them to delineate this. Cas admits only to himself that he doesn't mind this, as he does not crave physical closeness to Sam in the way he does with Dean.

Dean also hooks up a video game system that Charlie once left with them and teaches Cas to use the frankly baffling set of little buttons on the controller. Castiel has less advance knowledge of the plot of these games, and what he does have is often completely useless to the task of actually playing them. He finds the task simultaneously frustrating and compelling, driving him to master complex fine motor skills and feats of hand-eye coordination for absolutely no reason other than to make a small cartoon person reach an arbitrary goal. It is utterly pointless, yet… fun. Especially, of course, when Dean plays with him, both of them seated on the floor between the couch and the television, their elbows and knees brushing in their enthusiasm. 

Castiel wonders how "sad" and "desperate" other humans (including Sam and Dean) would consider him if they knew how much those little touches mean to him. He thinks he is neither.

Two months in, Castiel is starting to feel unsettled. Sam and Dean have gone on several more hunts, and he has passed up every opportunity to accompany them. He does not consider himself to be in recovery anymore, but he does not believe he would be an asset. He sometimes assists by looking up information in the bunker's archives to relay to them over the phone, but that is only occasionally needed. He has gotten used to the feel of an empty bunker, though on those days he still feels the loss of Dean by his side as he putters through life.

He realizes one day, as he sits alone in his room, trying to decide what to do that day while they are gone, that that is the problem. He is doing little more than simply… puttering. He feels—he is—useless. He knows that it isn't fair to take up space in Dean's life when that is all that he does, all that he is. He is glad that the days when Dean viewed him as little more than a tool to be wielded in the fight against the Apocalypse are long gone, but he sorely misses the ability to help the Winchesters in ways that no one else could (or, at least, would).

He assumes that eventually Dean will realize this, too—or if he already has, whatever the grace period is during which he feels the need to ignore it will pass—and he will sit Castiel down for a talk about his moving out. Cas is not looking forward to that day, but he has accepted it and understands it. Until then, he will continue to soak up every moment of easy friendship that has become the hallmark of their time together.

A few more weeks pass, and Dean has made no indication that Cas is at all unwelcome. Neither has Sam. Castiel realizes that this is starting to make him anxious, that he is waiting for the other shoe to drop and for his cherished proximity to Dean to be pulled away. So he decides that he should at least bring it up, if only to, as they say, tear the bandage off quickly. (He has now learned, quite painfully, why humans use that phrase.)

He and Dean have gone into town to buy groceries, and while they're there they stop at a park to take a walk (Cas's body still craves time outdoors, but walking near the bunker has gotten a bit repetitive, given the scenery available). They sit down on a park bench for a moment, and Castiel can't help but remember another time, sitting on another bench in another park. He thinks he keeps his smile to himself, but he realizes that Dean is watching him, a grin on his face.

Dean doesn't ask what Cas is thinking about, and Cas doesn't have to ask to know that Dean is thinking about the same memory. Which is just as well, because Castiel wouldn't tell him the whole of what he's thinking even if asked. He's really thinking about how he couldn't have known it, not with his limited understanding of emotions at the time, but that was the day he fell a little bit in love with Dean Winchester. It would be months before he realized that something was growing inside of him, years before he knew what it was, but it was there that day.

What wasn't there yet was what he feels now. The way he wants to watch Dean smile for hours, the way he could spend days memorizing those green eyes despite the fact that he put them together himself and already knows every cell. The sometimes overwhelming desire to see what Dean looks like in the throes of ecstasy, what his face would resculpt itself into if Castiel could provide for him that type of very, very human bliss. 

He understood beauty then, but only abstractly. He didn't understand how it felt to look at the person you love more than heaven itself and see how beautiful they are. He certainly didn't understand the desire to touch that beauty, to kiss and hold and caress.

Nor the longing you feel when that desire isn't returned. He understands that now, very well. But Dean cares about him, views him as a close friend, and that's more than enough. He only wishes he could give Dean everything he deserves.

"Dean, do you want me to leave the bunker?"

"What?" Dean's eyes widen. "Whoa, whoa, where did that come from? Of course I don't want you to leave the—Jesus Christ, Cas, you know the only reason I made you leave last time was because Sam's life was in danger. Wait—wait, do you want to leave?"

"Not particularly. I just… don't understand what purpose my continued presence there serves for you." Castiel chooses his words carefully, but from the look on Dean's face he still managed to cause some sort of offense. In fact, Dean looks slightly panicky.

"Why the hell would your continued presence need to be serving some purpose for us?" Dean asks, almost angrily. "a) You've done enough for us to last a lifetime, so calm down about that, and b) as far as I'm concerned, you're there because you're family and family provides for each other. You need somewhere to live, we've got somewhere for you to live. Why do we need any more reason than that?"

Castiel shifts uncomfortably. "I suppose it's part of this adjustment," he finally says, "As an angel, even when my grace was weak, I was of use to you. I could assist you in ways no human could. Now… I am hardly assisting at all." He shoots Dean a glare. "In case you've forgotten, I can't even cook dinner." He has tried twice, and has since been barred from use of the stove or oven. He can use the microwave, but is required to stay in the kitchen while it is running in case anything catches fire within it.

"Look, I get it, you wanna help out. So why don't you come with us on hunts? You've got your sea legs now with the whole human thing, you don't have to stay at the bunker all the time."

Castiel sighs. "Dean, you have made it very obvious in the past that I am not cut out to be a hunter."

"Aw, c'mon, man, you just need some experience. You're getting better."

"You don't have to say these things just to spare my feelings. You clearly get annoyed with me when I come on hunts with you, and I do not wish to annoy you."

"Fine, fine," Dean says standing up from the bench to continue down the path through the park, "But forget all this serving a purpose crap, okay? You're there because we want you there, and you want you there, end of story."

This is not the way that Castiel expected this conversation to go. He thought that he was giving Dean an out, an opportunity to suggest he leave in a gentler way than Dean normally approaches these things. 

He follows Dean down the path, unsure how to feel. He would assume that Dean simply did not want him to feel pressured to leave, but the vehemence with which Dean defended his presence says otherwise. Even suggesting there might be reason for Cas to move out—or, rather, that perhaps he should move out if he has no solid reason to stay—angered him. Cas knew that Dean enjoyed spending time with him, but it hadn't occurred to him that Dean actually wanted him to live in the bunker. Not his abilities, but him, because he is their friend. Family, Dean had said, and not for the first time. Castiel smiles to himself as he catches up to Dean on the path.

Cas is padding down the hall, barefoot, toward his room, a shower and bed on his mind, when he hears Sam's voice floating out of Dean's bedroom. He doesn't think anything of it until he hears his own name, then he stops. He knows that eavesdropping is considered rude, but he thinks that if the people are talking about you behind your back, which is also considered rude, the two must surely balance out.

"You really think Cas should still be here, Dean?"

"What kind of a question is that? Of course he should still be here. Where else would he go?"

"It's just… I worry that maybe he's… uncomfortable. Here in, y'know, your space. Our space."

"It's his space too, now, Sammy. He knows that."

"If he doesn't want to hunt, why should he be cooped up in some underground lair instead of somewhere with, I dunno, windows and things? I mean—cooped up with us, specifically."

"Did you ever stop to think maybe he likes it here? With us? What the hell, Sam, are you trying to say something here? Do you want him gone?"

"No! No, Dean, not at all. I swear. But you don't worry that maybe he's, y'know, not getting the full human experience?"

"I think he got plenty of that last time around, when he couldn't fucking stay here. He's happy, we're happy, nobody's leaving, end of story. If you really don't think he's happy, go talk to him about it, not me."

"You're right. I just hope that if there were anything about being here that was making him uncomfortable, he knows he doesn't have to stay."

"Of course he knows that. Why wouldn't he know that?"

"Never mind. Forget I brought it up, okay? Good night."

Cas slips into his room before Sam can leave Dean's. He crawls into his bed, shower plans forgotten, to turn the conversation over in his head. Sam is worried that something about living here is making Cas uncomfortable, but that Cas isn't leaving because of it even though he should. He frowns. He's very comfortable living here. As comfortable as he can be as a human, anyhow. Much better than last time, Dean is right about that. He has a nice bed, food, water pressure, things to do, and… and Dean. He can be near Dean. And Dean seems to enjoy that. Dean is always the one defending his staying here. All in all, he's very happy. He feels he should let Sam know this.

The next day he finds Sam skimming through news sites, looking for a case. Cas sits down next to him, fixing him with a curious look.

"Do you think I should move out?" Cas asks.

Sam looks at him, startled. He opens his mouth to give what looks like it is probably a reflexive no, but stops himself, realizing.

"You heard me talking to Dean last night." It's not a question.

"Yes. And I wanted to reassure you that I am in no way uncomfortable here, due to the lack of windows or the fact that the two of you lived here first, or any other reason. But I am worried that perhaps there is another reason you think I should leave, one that you weren't comfortable sharing with Dean."

Sam sighs. He runs a hand through his hair and looks back at his computer, jaw clenching and unclenching. Cas knows that this means that yes, there is another reason, but Sam will likely not share it with him, either.

"Here is what I think, Cas," Sam says, slow and deliberate. "I think that you should think very hard about whether living here is helping you or hurting you. If you honestly think it's helping more than hurting, then you absolutely should stay. But if it's hurting you more than it's helping you—or if the balance tips that way anytime in the future—I hope you'll be honest enough with yourself to leave."

Castiel frowns. "How could staying here be hurting me?"

Sam bites his lip, his eyes scanning around as he clearly contemplates how to say this without actually saying what he wants to say to Cas.

"Sometimes having what you want nearby, but not quite within your reach, hurts a hell of a lot more than staying away from it entirely," he finally says.

Castiel might not always grasp the nuances of human language, but even he can infer what Sam means: Dean. He is entirely mistaken, of course. Having Dean nearby is wonderful. He can observe Dean's daily routines. He can be a part of Dean's daily routines. Dean smiles at him and talks to him and sits close to him. They play video games together and watch television together and go for walks together. These things are all so much more than he had before, so much more than he would have if he left. This is not an issue at all.

However, if Sam doesn't want to talk about this directly, Cas will not force him to. Even if this is one of his least favorite aspects of humanity.

"I understand your concerns, but I am fine, Sam," he says forcefully, "I promise."

"Perhaps I should get a job," Cas says. 

He and Dean are sitting on the couch, watching the DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that Dean had recently brought home. They're in the middle of an episode wherein the action follows Xander, the everyman side character, instead of Buffy, the superhero main character. Buffy, Giles, and the others are off saving the world as usual, but Xander is also off saving the world, completely separately from them. Every time they interact with him, he appears to be doing something mundane; if the episode were from Buffy's point of view, as most are, it would appear that Xander is not doing much. But in fact, his story is as exciting as that of the other characters.

The episode has made Castiel consider his own current position. For a long time, he and the Winchesters were like the two storylines in this episode—they were each pursuing their own agendas, each staying busy saving the world. Their plots crossed, sometimes quite a lot and sometimes only at intervals, but each side was living a full story within which they were the protagonist.

Now, Castiel is starting to feel like a side character in the Winchesters' story. He needed rest at first. He needed to reintegrate into human life. He needed to bum around the bunker, not doing much other than getting himself in order. But now he feels that he has come to a plateau in that effort, and it cannot keep him busy full time.

Dean is not privy to this train of thought, a fact that Cas forgets until Dean replies by pausing the DVD and asking, "Where the hell did that come from?"

"The episode made me think of it," Cas says, as though that explains everything.

"Is this about that whole serving a purpose thing? Cas, we don't need money from you, either—"

"I understand that you and Sam do not need me to contribute in order to stay here, but I do want to feel… useful. For myself." He pauses for a second, brow furrowing in thought. "I felt useful at the Gas n Sip."

"You want a job, come with us on hunts," Dean shrugs. "I told you that before."

Cas rolls his eyes and fixes Dean with a Look.

"Dean, we have been over this. I am not a good hunter. I don't wish to feel incompetent, which I often do when I try to help with hunts."

"Okay, so you're not a natural. You're still welcome to join us anytime. But look, if you don't want to hunt, you're still our research arm, right? We call you, you pull out the ancient tomes." Dean waves his hand vaguely toward the archives. "Hell, you could even try to add to the collection. That'd be useful. You could be the first Man of Letters in decades."

Castiel nods, considering this. "I have served this purpose on some hunts. And I agree, I might be able to spend some time tracking down additional resources. But I don't think that it can serve as a full-time occupation." He nods, decided. "I should get a job."

"Suit yourself." Dean shrugs, but he sounds hesitant. "If you really want to, go right ahead, man. I guess it wouldn't hurt to have someone bringing in honest money around here."

Getting a job is easier now that he has a mailing address (even if he has to use the PO Box they rent in town rather than the bunker), identification, and a social security number (even if those are entirely falsified). He spends a day driving around Lebanon and nearby towns, filling out applications anywhere that looks like it might be hiring. He decides that it would be prudent to look for part-time rather than full-time work at the moment, given that he still wants to be of use to the Winchesters as much as possible.

In the end, he is called back by two places: a fast food restaurant and a library. He goes to interviews at both.

The teenager who interviews him at the fast food place seems bored by everything, including Castiel.

The librarian who interviews him for a shelver position is impressed by his vast knowledge of literature and mythology, not to mention his incredibly detailed and exact knowledge of the Dewey decimal system.

Castiel is relieved when he is offered the shelver position and does not hear back from the fast food restaurant.

"So who was that? You get a job?" Dean asks as Cas hangs up his phone.

"You were applying for jobs?" Sam asks, looking confused. Castiel realizes that he has only discussed the idea of getting a job, or the fact that he has actually applied for them, with Dean. He finds it odd that the thought gives him butterflies in his stomach. Is it petty to enjoy having some things that are known only to himself and Dean, secrets from Sam? He isn't sure.

"That was the Smith Center Public Library," he tells them both. "They'd like me to start as a shelver on Monday."

The brothers both congratulate him, and both seem genuinely happy for him. If Dean had been hesitant about his applying for jobs at first, he doesn't show it now.

"How many hours a week?" Sam asks.

"Fifteen. 8:30-11:30AM, Monday to Friday," he says. He's smiling and hears a hint of pride in his own voice. He thinks it's okay to be proud. This is a noble job to be doing, serving a nonprofit organization whose aim is the dissemination of knowledge. He felt useful working at Gas 'n Sip, but he knows that this is a higher calling than either that or the fast food restaurant. Useful is good, but actively bettering society is… well, better.

Castiel has spent millennia serving God and heaven, fighting in His army and overseeing creation. He has rebelled and saved all mankind, overthrown heaven, been God, been brainwashed and hunted and revered by his brothers and sisters. No being was meant to live the life he has lived.

The thought that right now, and for the foreseeable future, his only responsibility is to arrive on time and help keep a repository of human knowledge organized is… a relief. He's done swaying the course of human and divine events. He would prefer to be an angel rather than a human. But even if he were, he thinks that he might choose this life, at least for now.

The job was a good idea. It isn't difficult, but it is interesting to see the many different books that go by. He is familiar with nearly all of them, but is often surprised to see what their covers look like, read what quotes have been chosen to advertise them, find out which wind up back on his shelving cart most often. And, of course, there are all of the books that have been published since Metatron's "download." Castiel gets his own library card and is soon checking out ten at a time.

Getting back to the bunker by noon each day is nice. He rarely feels like he's missed much, although a couple of times he gets a flurry of texts from Dean while he's working to say they're leaving on a hunt and will be gone by the time he gets back. Most days, though, they either had been gone when he left or he comes home to find them doing not much different than he would have seen if he'd been there all morning.

Dean takes to having lunch ready for him when he gets back. Dean downplays it as "if I'm gonna make a sandwich for myself, I might as well make two," but Castiel sees it as the thoughtful gesture that it is. He is surprised at first, but upon further reflection sees how the act fits into Dean's larger identity as a caretaker. Cas is taking on an additional responsibility, using his small paycheck to buy the groceries each week, and Dean must feel the need to see that he is cared for an extra measure for it. 

As they eat, Dean gets him up to speed on whatever he and Sam have been doing that morning, whether that's

"Sammy thinks he found a case, but I dunno. Three accidental deaths in a month in the same small town is suspicious, yeah, but they all seem like normal accidents, nothing spooky. We're poking around to see if there's any bigger pattern there."

or

"Dude, there's a Dr Sexy marathon on TV today. I've already watched like four episodes, but you promised you'd watch it with me next time."

Finally, Castiel feels truly at home. Both as a human, and in this particular place. He is helping society, he is helping their household, he is helping Sam and Dean with hunts in whatever ways he can. He has routines, and Dean is a part of those routines. He has hobbies and leisure activities that he enjoys, and Dean is often also a part of those—but Cas also enjoys them alone often enough to think that he is not being particularly "clingy." Their lives are intertwined in many of the ways he has always wished for. Not all of them, but many. 

He remembers, sometimes, what Sam said about having what you want just out of your reach, but he is convinced that a bit of unfulfilled yearning is a small price to pay for what he does have.

One Monday, Cas forgets that the library is closed for a holiday. He drives the 20 minutes there only to turn around and drive back to the bunker. He finds it odd that Americans observe a holiday that the majority don't even understand the origin or meaning of. He understands that humans have always craved ways to mark the changing of the seasons (he has watched it play out in so many cultures over the years), and has gathered that this has become true purpose of the holiday, but doesn't understand why they don't simply celebrate the actual autumnal equinox.

He's coming up the stairs from the garage when he hears Sam's voice.

"I think he's happier with a job, too, but I don't know. You really think he's still happy here? As happy as he would be on his own?"

"What the fuck is your problem, Sam? Has Cas said he's unhappy here?"

"No, but—look, I don't know if he would admit—he might not even realize—"

"He's a grown man. He knows whether he's happy or not, and he knows if he's not happy he can leave."

"Of course he knows if he's happy, but he might not realize that he could be happier. Some… feelings are more complicated than others, and he might not… know what he's missing. He's a grown man, but he hasn't been dealing with emotions for that long. He might not realize that… that he's hurting until it's too late."

"Okay, I give up. What the ever-loving fuck are you talking about?"

"Are you really gonna make me say it, Dean?"

"Say what?" Dean shouts.

"Fine. Cas is in love with you, and I don't think it's fair to him to let him stay here if you don't feel the same way."

"What?" Dean sputters. "Come on, he's not—Sam, you know he doesn't always… express things like we would—"

"Don't pretend you don't see the way he looks at you, Dean. Like you're his sun, moon, and stars."

Castiel considers this as he sits on the stairs. Dean is his sun, clearly. He soaks in Dean's warmth, orbiting at a respectful distance (well, ever since he figured out exactly how far Dean means when he refers to "personal space"). 

His moon, though? That would imply that Dean also orbits around him. Which is also true, in a way. He clearly wants Cas here. This is the second time Cas has heard him argue with Sam about it, in addition to being quite emphatic about it to Castiel himself. He has always been possessive of Castiel, in his own way. Even when he's pushed Cas away, it's as though there's a tether between them and when it's pulled taut Dean starts to get edgy and needs them to come back to each other. Which they always do. And Dean certainly affects Castiel's tides. So yes, perhaps Dean is his moon, as well. 

Stars? The sun is a star already. He is unsure how the other stars fit. Castiel thinks he has perhaps not yet mastered the human art of metaphor.

"Oh come on, he's always looked at me funny." Castiel can imagine the dismissive look at Dean's face as he tries his hardest to ignore the truth.

"He has, yeah," Sam huffs. "Doesn't change what it means. And anyhow, it's changed in the past couple years. I don't think he knew before. He knows now. When he looks at you now, he knows full well what he's feeling, you can see it."

"Give me a fucking break—"

"You weren't there, Dean," Sam hits something, a table, suddenly angry. "While you were off palling around with Crowley, I was watching him fall apart over you. He pushed his body beyond its limits trying to find you. I spent six months watching Cas kill himself for you. I listened to him talk about you when he thought he might never see you again, when he thought he might die before we found you. Don't you fucking tell me that I don't know how he feels about you."

Castiel swallows. Sam is right, of course, but he didn't realize that Sam had noticed all of that. It hurts even to remember.

"And now you need to sit down and think about how to respond to that," Sam continues. "I'm not saying you do or don't feel the same way, I'm just saying that you need to figure out whether you do or not, because if you don't, he needs to go. At least until he gets over you. If for no other reason than because I can't handle watching him torture himself for your sake all over again. I don't think he even realizes he's in any pain, but the longer this goes on, the worse it's going to hurt when you finally outright reject him."

Dean is quiet for long enough that it's clear that he believes Sam, but that doesn't stop him from finding something to argue about. 

"Why are you talking to me about this, anyhow? Have you even talked to Cas yet? Or are we just gonna plan his life for him?" Castiel appreciates the acknowledgement that he really shouldn't have to listen to this conversation in a stairwell, even if Dean doesn't know he's listening in the stairwell.

"Of course I have," Sam says with a sigh, "I mean, not in a while, I guess. And maybe not… the specifics. Obviously, I'll talk to him too, but like I said, some of this is on you. Just think about it, okay? I know you don't like to talk or even think about anyone's feelings, least of all your own, but please just sit down and decide how you feel. That's all I'm asking. I'm not saying kick him out, I'm just saying make an actual decision about yourself and then live with that decision for a while and see if you think I'm wrong."

"Whatever, Samantha."

Castiel can hear Dean leaving the room. A minute later, he hears Sam leave. 

He waits a few more minutes before going down the stairs and then coming back up them loudly, opening and closing the door from the garage loudly, and calling out "Library's closed today, I forgot" as soon as he gets in the door.

He lays in bed that night, wondering if Sam is right. Of course Sam is right about his being in love with Dean, that was never in question. And about him not really understanding his own feelings until the past few years.

But he wonders if it's really a problem. This is the second time in the past few months that Sam has implied that because of his feelings, Cas would be happier living elsewhere. Farther from Dean. Outside of the warm circle of his light, which seems like it can only be a bad thing. Since the moment Castiel first laid eyes on Dean's soul in hell, he has longed to stay near it. So many times, simply keeping Dean alive has kept him away. He tried getting over Dean, the last time he was human and for a while afterward. Once he really understood what he was feeling. He stayed away even when he didn't have to sometimes, just to try and let the feelings fade. It didn't work.

Would it work now? Maybe he hadn't been human for long enough last time. Maybe things work differently for angels in love. It's not like anyone would know, so few of them had ever fallen in love like this. Maybe if he'd stayed human longer he would have gotten over Dean eventually. Maybe now if he moves out he will.

Does he want to? Would it really make him happier? He's very happy right now. He doesn't think he's in pain. Yes, he wishes Dean felt the same way. But he accepted that Dean won't ever feel that way a long time ago. Yes, sometimes his bed feels cold and he wishes Dean would warm it. Sometimes he wishes Dean would touch him when instead he must touch himself. Sometimes he wants to lean his head on Dean's shoulder as they watch TV together, to bask in the casual touches of lovers. 

But those things don't hurt that much. Just a little bit, now and then. Hardly at all. Especially compared to how much it would hurt to not eat lunch with Dean, a lunch made by Dean, after his library shift every day. To not figure out new ways to make Dean laugh. To not bicker with him about the relative merits of the characters on Dr Sexy, to not end such a conversation having popcorn thrown at his head. There's so much to make him happy right now. It's not everything he wants, but the happiness is outweighing the pain.

Although, that's not what Sam said originally, is it? The last time, Sam talked about whether living there was helping or hurting him. Castiel rolls to his other side and huffs, trying to decide if the distinction is an important one or not. 

Being happy is not the same as being helped. Perhaps Sam means that staying near Dean is holding Cas back in some way, keeping him from growing as a human. Maybe Sam thinks he needs to fall in love with someone who will love him back, that he's denying himself that opportunity. Maybe Sam thinks that learning to get over Dean would be a more valuable experience in the long run than contenting himself with hovering just within Dean's circle of light, even if the latter is easier and feels better in the short term. Maybe Sam thinks that suffering a larger pain for a little while in order to heal the many small pains he feels now will result in him coming out the other side happier overall.

In the end, he doesn't know which of these things is what Sam means, and won't without asking Sam directly. But maybe he's come up with enough options that he has to admit that it's likely at least one of them is true.

The next day, he's conscious of Dean watching him more closely than usual. He keeps expecting Dean to look sad, because clearly Dean is trying to decide whether or when or how to explain to him why he should leave. But he never quite looks sad, just thoughtful. Maybe worried. He must still be stuck on whether, then. 

Deciding whether Sam is right, whether Castiel's unrequited feelings necessarily mean that he should leave. Whether he really needs to break Cas's heart explicitly rather than letting them both float along in the equilibrium they've found that isn't quite what either one wants but is close enough that neither one really wants to lose it.

It's not Dean's decision to make, though. It's Castiel's life, and he has to take control of this. He has to at least try, see if he can get over Dean, see if that will be better in the long run. If he can't, if being away really hurts too much, he knows the Winchesters will welcome him back.

So a bit before he usually starts getting ready for bed, he pulls out a duffel bag and backpack and fills them with the few things he owns. He goes to Dean's bedroom and knocks, bracing himself for what he knows will be an argument.

"Come in," Dean calls.

Cas enters the room a few steps, just enough to close the door behind him, puts his bags down. Dean is on the bed, reading.

"Where you off to? You find something to add to the archives?"

"No, Dean," Castiel suddenly finds it very difficult to look Dean in the eye, but manages. "I'm moving out. For now."

"You're what?" Dean jumps up, but doesn't approach him. Possibly worried that he'll chase Cas out faster if he does.

"I have enough money saved up that I'll be fine for a couple of weeks, until I can find a second job," Castiel reassures him, "And I'll stay in Lebanon, I won't be halfway across the country this time."

"What the fuck, Cas? Don't be stupid, you're not moving anywhere."

Castiel scowls at the implication that he doesn't know what's best for himself. "Sam is right. I need to at least give myself a chance to try to get past my feelings for you—"

"Aw, shit, you heard that? Cas, look, don't let Sam and his prissy need to label everything and—and blow all this emotional shit out of proportion convince you that you're feeling something you're not! You don't—"

"He was also correct," Castiel interrupts, trying to keep his voice level but not quite succeeding, "when he said that I have been more aware of my own emotional state since the last time I was human. Do you really think that Sam announcing that I'm in love with you" now Dean is the one that looks away "is news to me? Hell, Dean, I don't think it's news to you, you're just happy to live in denial because it means you get to 'hang out' with your best friend and pretend you're not doing any damage by it! That's selfish, Dean."

Dean sweeps his hand over his face, paces away from Cas and back, jaw clenching, nostrils flaring. Whatever he's about to say, it's not what he wants to say. 

"Yes, I'm selfish, okay? I want you here, Cas." He looks up, finally looks Castiel in the eye again, and there's more pain there than Cas expected. "I need you here. With me. Please stay, Cas. Please."

"This isn't necessarily forever," Cas says, quieter, his anger draining at Dean's pain. "I just need to figure out whether it hurts less being here or… not here. And to do that I have to try them both. And I'll be twenty minutes away, you have my phone number, we'll see each other. I'll come help with research."

As he's speaking, trying to be reassuring, trying to smooth this over, Dean just seems to be getting more upset. He's turned away again, shoulders slumping, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes. 

"God damn it, Cas!" Dean growls without turning around. "I don't want you here to do research, I want you here to just… to just be you! Here, with me, where you fucking belong."

Castiel can see Dean's body tensing up even more. He wishes he could say the right thing to defuse the bomb that seems to be setting itself to explode inside of Dean, but thinks that the best he can do is to be gone before it does. Dean will have some getting-over to do as well, even if it's not the same thing.

So with a sigh, Castiel picks up his bags in one hand and turns, opening the door with the other. But before he can get it more than a few inches open, there's a flurry of movement behind him. Suddenly Dean's right arm wraps around him and across his chest, shoulder to shoulder, as Dean's left arm reaches in front of him and pushes the door shut, out of his hand.

He's confused enough that he pauses, feels Dean's arm pull him back against Dean's body.

"Don't go, Cas." Although Dean's voice sounds broken, he is speaking right next to Castiel's ear, and it feels so good that it's irritating, galling that Dean would do this to him, use his attraction against him. 

He tenses up, is about to try to fight his way out of Dean's grip when suddenly Dean's left hand is sliding down his left arm. Dean's fingers thread through his, making him drop his bags. He begins to relax as Dean guides their joined hands across his body, wrapping their arms around his waist. He realizes that he can feel Dean's face buried in his hair.

Oh.

"Dean," he breathes, still worried he might be reading this wrong. This is… this is basically just a hug, still. From behind. With hand-holding and hair-smelling? Castiel is unsure where the boundaries of "hug" lie.

But then he feels Dean's nose against his ear—Dean is nuzzling against his ear, and Castiel is fairly sure that nuzzling is at least butting up against some kind of boundary if not crossing it outright.

"Cas," Dean's voice rumbles in his ear, and now he can feel Dean's lips brushing against it, and oh, if this isn't what he thinks it is will he be pissed. "There's no reason for you to go."

Dean's arms tighten around him, Dean's body is flush against his back, Dean's face burrows into his neck. Castiel leans his head against Dean's lightly, and for a moment, they just breathe together. He can hear everything that Dean isn't saying. 

And then Dean's head shifts, and Castiel gasps as he feels lips moving against his neck. Dean showers him with soft kisses, down the side of his neck, across the back, behind his ear and against his jaw.

He slides his hand out from beneath Dean's carefully, reaches up to thread his fingers through Dean's hair as the kisses continue. Without Cas's hand to hold onto, Dean slides his own hand down, catches the hem of Cas's shirt, slides it back up to his waist over bare skin. The touch makes Castiel's breath shudder, and he curls his fingers against the back of Dean's head, drags them down, digs his nails into the back of Dean's neck.

The small sound that escapes from Dean is the most wonderful thing Castiel has ever heard, and suddenly his only goal in life is to hear more.

He pulls at Dean's neck and twists and they both move and somehow manage to come around so they're facing each other. As he moves, worry flares in his stomach, a bright burning that is convinced that Dean can only handle this if he doesn't have to look Cas in the face. So he hurriedly grabs Dean's shoulders and pulls him in so that they're kissing before anyone can have any second thoughts.

But the way Dean kisses him, he knows finally, for certain, that he had and has nothing to worry about. There is nothing hesitant about it, nothing unsure. Dean is holding nothing back from him. Dean's hand is still under his shirt, pulling him close, sliding down his back to tease fingertips under the waistband of his jeans. The rough slide of Dean's tongue against his drowns out other sensations until he feels a tug at his hair, pulling his head back so that Dean can treat his throat more roughly than before. Now instead of soft kisses he feels teeth scraping, and he makes a sound not unlike the one Dean had made earlier.

They move, fumbling, toward the bed, neither one willing to break any point of contact in favor of crossing the few feet more smoothly. When they get there, Castiel pushes until Dean sits down, then pulls his t-shirt over his head.

As he climbs up to straddle Dean's lap, Dean leans back on his hands to watch. His eyes are filled with undisguised lust, and Castiel wonders how much collective energy the two of them have wasted trying not to look at each other like that.

"God damn, you look good," Dean murmurs, running a hand over Cas's chest.

Castiel pulls at Dean's henley. "You, on the other hand, look overdressed."

Dean grins and pulls his shirt off, and then they're kissing again, hands and lips and tongues roaming over bare skin. Cas's jeans are becoming uncomfortably tight. He grinds them down against Dean, his body instinctually seeking friction, and Dean moans into his shoulder. Dean's hands slide down to grab his ass and pull them against each other, and then Castiel feels like he's no longer in control of his own body, rutting against Dean like an animal.

"Fuck, Cas," Dean moans, then without warning Castiel finds himself on his back on the bed. Dean is working his own jeans open, and Cas does the same, and a minute later they're both stripped down to their boxers and Dean is on top of him and their legs are slotted between each other as they writhe together. 

Castiel has so much theoretical knowledge of sex paired with so little actual experience; he finds the sensations almost overwhelming but can't stop his mind from continually spinning out ideas and plans for what he wants to try next. Staying grounded in the present is a challenge—until Dean bites down on his bicep. It's like a circuit has been shorted in his brain, an explosion of white that narrows his focus down to one point. His body arches up and he cries out, but he is barely aware of any of this—all he cares about is the sharp pressure on his arm. His arm relaxes to take the bite, and as it gradually deepens, his mind swirls, filled with a single sensation. He gasps and pants and ruts against Dean and claws at Dean's back with his other hand—and then the pressure is gone, much too soon.

"Wow," Dean murmurs, "I think you might be one kinky fuck, Cas." He licks and soothes the teethmarks etched in Castiel's arm.

"What?" Cas is dizzy, barely coherent. "Why? What?"

"Uh, that's gonna bruise. Like, a lot. I think I stopped just short of breaking the skin. You enjoyed that?"

"Yes. Yes, do it again," Cas gasps. He is coherent again, but he doesn't want to be. He wants the blissful static back.

Dean chuckles and holds Cas's arm up so he has to look at the dark bruise forming. "You got yourself a masochistic streak there. Which I am more than happy to indulge, if you like it that much. Just tell me if I ever do it too hard, or in a place you don't like, okay? I don't wanna hurt you for real." His voice softens a little at the end.

Cas nods, a needy whine coming out of his mouth as he pulls Dean back down to him. They kiss some more, but after a minute or two Dean starts to move down his body, biting experimentally all over. His neck, his shoulders, his arms, his chest, his stomach—every nip is perfection, and Cas gasps and trembles and moans beneath them.

Until Dean moves his head around and lays his teeth on the side of Castiel's torso. The effect there is quite different—Castiel's body jerks and spasms, and the most undignified noise comes out of his mouth. He isn't even sure if the experience is pleasant or not, whether he would want it repeated, but he knows that if Dean were to start to do it again he would instinctively cringe away.

Dean looks up at him with a smile so wide that Cas would probably let him do it again just so he'll smile like that some more.

Dean does it again.

Cas's body reacts the same way, and he is still not sure if it was a good feeling or a bad feeling. Confused, he's about to try to describe it to Dean when—

"Dude, you are so ticklish." Dean is laughing now, and this time he merely pokes the spot instead of biting it. The effect is less pronounced, but Cas still lets out a yelp. He looks at Dean helplessly.

"I was under the impression that being tickled was supposed to feel inherently pleasant."

"If you don't like it, I won't do it again," Dean says, but then his grin turns devilish, "But I'll definitely file that info away."

"I don't even know if I liked it or not. That was possibly the strangest, most perplexing human sensation I have yet experienced." Castiel is completely distracted now. He barely notices Dean sliding back up his body until they're kissing again.

"No offense," Dean says between kisses, "That was definitely entertaining, but not exactly sexy. Some other time."

And just like that they're wrapped around each other again, mouths and hands wandering, bodies rocking.

Cas pushes Dean's shoulders and flips them so that he's on top. He's wanted this for far too long to be so passive a participant. 

He grabs Dean's wrists, pinning them to the bed near his shoulders, and feels Dean's mouth smile against his.

"Yeah," Dean breathes into him, "Fuck yeah, Cas, that's what I like."

Emboldened, Castiel moves Dean's hands above his head, where Cas can grasp both wrists with one hand while he moves his mouth down to suck bruises into Dean's throat. His free hand moves down to rub and pinch at Dean's nipples, and soon Dean is bucking up under him, hard sounds coming out of him like the broken-off remnants of moans he couldn't fully form. Castiel licks over the marks he's made, smooths his hand over Dean's chest, and the sounds change. Low, gutteral moans and groans reverberate into Cas's mouth and up his arm. He wonders how many more sounds he can pull out of Dean, wonders if there will ever be enough time to find them all.

He grunts in sudden frustration.

"I want to tie your hands where they are so that I can perform oral sex on you." He looks into Dean's eyes as he says it, the words coming out with more urgency than he expected. "May I do that?"

"Holy fuck, yes you may fucking do that!" 

Castiel is surprised at how much the enthusiastic response arouses him. He gives Dean's wrists a quick press to remind him not to move them, then pulls his hand back.

"I dunno what I've got for you to tie me up with, th—oh." Dean cuts himself off as Castiel has already grabbed his own t-shirt and started to wrap it around Dean's wrists in a figure-eight. Dean's headboard is annoyingly devoid of any openings the shirt could be threaded through, but reaching down he manages to find a bit of metal that connects it to the bedframe.

"This is less than ideal," he says as he ties the shirt, "Don't struggle too hard unless you actually want to get out."

"Noted," Dean rasps as he cranes his neck to look up at his own hands. He tugs lightly at the knot, testing it.

Castiel pulls back so that he can look down at the long line of Dean's body beneath him. It is far from the first time that he has thought that Dean is the most beautiful sight he's ever beheld, but it's the first time that he's ever thought Dean might not hate it if he said so. Unfortunately, he is at a complete loss for words.

Instead, he begins at Dean's bound hands and moves down, worshipping Dean's skin with his lips and his tongue and his teeth. At first he wants to memorize, to catalogue every inch and which sounds each produces. He quickly realizes, though, that his only-human brain cannot handle this task all at once. It will take many repetitions, over months, over years to memorize all of Dean's responses. The idea that he can have those now makes him pause and gasp into Dean's chest.

He continues his journey down Dean's body, letting himself simply drown in every taste and sound, until he is licking through the trail of hair just above Dean's boxers. As he pauses to pull the underwear off, he realizes that Dean is trembling. He looks up from where he is crouched between Dean's legs.

"Is this still okay?"

"Jesus christ, Cas, this is the definition of okay." Dean pauses as Castiel looks down at his hard, leaking cock, deciding what to do first. "You, uh. You haven't ever done this before, have you?"

Cas looks up. "No. I haven't been on the receiving end, either. I'm sure you have received oral sex before, but you haven't performed it on a man either, have you?"

"Nope." Dean huffs out a laugh. "Couple'a virgins figuring this shit out. It's like I'm thirteen again."

"Thirteen?" Castiel tilts his head, wondering exactly which sex act Dean first experienced at thirteen.

"Hey, no judging the guy you've got tied to the bed."

"I'm not judging you, but I am sure you're aware that that is a young enough age to elicit surprise." He shifts uncomfortably, looks down. "Please don't… judge me, either."

"Fuck, Cas, just seeing you down there is hot enough. I think you could give me the worst blow job possible and I'd come in about a minute. Don't bite and you're fine. Just fucking touch me, please." Dean's back arches as he tries to rub himself against any part of Castiel that's convenient. Castiel watches, stunned that he is the object of so much desire. That maybe he always has been.

He takes Dean in his hand, runs his thumb through the slick precome leaking from the tip. He relishes the strangled cry Dean makes, the way Dean presses up into him, tries to fuck his hand. A simple touch and Dean is desperate—vulnerable and unguarded in a way that Castiel doubts even most of the women he's had sex with have seen.

He bends down and finally licks up the precome. He's shocked by his own reaction. He'd wanted to give Dean pleasure, and this seemed like a good way to do it. But as soon as he tastes the salty wetness, feels his tongue slide over the smooth skin, suddenly, he wants this in a way he hadn't realized was possible. He wants Dean in his mouth, wants to lick and suck and taste him. 

The act is now more selfish than he thought it would be, about satisfying his own desires alongside Dean's. Part of him wants to feel guilty about this, but as he takes the head into his mouth, running his tongue all around it, it strikes him that this is exactly how it should be. That ideally, every act should be one of mutual pleasure. He would be more than willing to do many things purely for Dean's enjoyment, but the fact that they will enjoy this together, both wanting it so badly, makes it so much… hotter.

After that, he lets go a little, allows himself to revel in his own sensations while still paying attention to which movements Dean seems to like the best—and Dean is very vocal about what he likes. Luckily, the things that Cas enjoys seem to line up nicely with the things that Dean enjoys, and after only a few minutes Dean is gasping, "Fuck, Cas, I'm close, shit, I'm gonna—"

Castiel pulls back just enough that he won't choke on the thick, warm liquid that fills his mouth. He doubts the taste itself, devoid of context, would actually be all that pleasant, but at the moment he can't get enough of it. He moans through Dean's orgasm, swallowing enthusiastically and sucking out every drop until Dean whimpers from overstimulation.

He pulls off and nuzzles into Dean's pubic hair, breathing hard and trying to process what just happened. He just gave Dean an orgasm. He now knows what Dean's semen tastes like. In fact, he can still taste it. He had sex with Dean. He has been imagining this for so long, never under any illusion that it would ever happen, and now it has, and it was amazing, and what happens next?

What happens next is that he feels fingers carding through his hair. Dean has apparently pulled himself out of the jury-rigged bindings. 

"Hey, come back up here." Dean's voice is gentle, not what Castiel was expecting. He realizes that a part of him is still worried that this doesn't mean to Dean what it means to him. That all Dean is offering is sex. Dean's voice soothes that part of him. Somewhat.

Castiel moves back up Dean's body, a bit shy and unsure. But then he sees the way that Dean is looking at him, all softness and reverence. Dean pulls his face down and kisses him, and it's sweet and loving and melts the last of his lingering doubts.

Then Dean's hand slides down his side to tug at the waistband of his boxers.

"The fuck are those still doing there?" Dean mutters, and his kisses turn wicked and dirty as he holds Castiel's head in place with one hand and yanks at his underwear with the other.

They manage to fumble the boxers off, and then Dean is pushing Cas onto his back, still kissing him in ways that make Cas want to find out what else he can do with that tongue.

Dean's hand skims down Cas's side, and when it wraps around his dick they moan into each other's mouths.

At first, Dean keeps his strokes slow and gentle, teasing Cas more than anything. When Cas starts making frustrated whining sounds and trying to thrust into his hand, he moves his mouth down to Cas's neck. And then he simultaneously bites down—hard—and tightens his grip, giving Cas all the friction he needs.

Castiel is not sure he will survive having sex with Dean Winchester.

His mind tries to narrow everything down to the bite pressing into his skin, but the stimulation where he really craves it is giving it too much competition. In the end, he can only feel. He has no idea what sounds he is making or what his body is doing. All he knows is the flood of endorphins and oxytocin that blocks out everything else.

When his orgasm hits him like a freight train, he's vaguely aware of shouting Dean's name.

As he slowly comes back to himself, he feels Dean's tongue swipe across his torso. He looks down, and realizes that Dean is licking the white stripes of come, from where they start on his lower belly straight up to where some of it hit his chest. Cas moans at the sight, though he isn't sure why it's so hot. Then he thinks back to how much he enjoyed having Dean's come in his mouth, and thinks about Dean feeling that way right now, and he moans again, threading his fingers through Dean's hair.

When Dean finishes with that, he moves back up to examine Cas's neck.

"Fuck, Cas," he murmurs, tipping Cas's chin back, "Do you have any idea how hot that was?"

"From this end?" Castiel is still slightly out of breath. "Extremely."

Dean grins and nuzzles below his ear. "Do you even realize what you were doing? Look at your hands."

Cas frowns and raises the hand that's not trapped under Dean to his face. At first he doesn't understand what he's supposed to be looking at—but then he turns it over and sees his fingernails.

"Shit!" he exclaims, bolting upright to look at Dean's back. It's covered in red lines—some of which are just red, raised, irritated skin, but some of which are clearly seeping the blood that is underneath his fingernails. His first instinct is to apologize, but then his brain catches up and reminds him that Dean seems anything but upset about this. Instead he just sits there, looking from his fingers to Dean and back, horror that he drew blood warring with confusion that this seems to have been okay.

Dean is propped up on one elbow, grinning like he's just won a prize.

"Look," he says, seeing Cas's confusion, "unlike you—apparently, because holy shit—I don't exactly get off on this kind of thing in and of itself. But scratches like that are a definite sign that I'm doing something right, y'know? So they're always welcome."

Cas still stares down at his fingernails in confusion. "I wasn't even aware of scratching you, let alone this hard."

"What were you aware of?" There is a definite smirk in Dean's voice.

Castiel thinks. "Not much beyond your teeth and your hand," he finally says.

"And here I was worried I might not be as incredible in the sack with a guy as I am with girls." Dean settles onto his back, still smiling widely enough to break his face. Cas looks down at him and revels in the fact that he put that smile there.

"I'm so glad your ego has survived the encounter unscathed," Cas says drily, but he is quite sure that his face in no way matches his sarcasm. Dean apparently agrees, because he tugs on Cas's arm until he's lying down again, then reaches over and turns out the bedside lamp.

They share a few more slow, post-orgasmic kisses, but Castiel can already feel sleep pulling on him.

As he starts to doze off, Dean rolls over to face away from him. Cas is confused at first, and a little hurt, thinking that Dean wants to ignore or forget the fact that they're sleeping in the same bed. But he doesn't want to upset Dean, so he is careful not to touch him.

But after a moment, Dean huffs and reaches back, grabbing Cas's arm and pulling it around him. Cas gets the idea and scoots closer until his chest is pressed against Dean's back, tentatively slotting his leg between Dean's. Dean hums, and Cas smiles into Dean's back. He hopes he gets to get used to this.

Waking up, Castiel decided long ago, is clearly the worst part of being human. Falling asleep was terrifying at first, but once he got used to it he realized how wonderful it truly is. Waking up, though? A terrible idea. He doesn't know who came up with that one; he would suspect Gabriel but it seems like the kind of thing he'd abhor on principle.

Today, though, he discovers that there are some ways to wake up that are marginally less horrifying than others. In fact, he's quite sure he's found his new favorite way to wake up:

Having his shoulder shaken by Dean Winchester while Dean is saying, "C'mon, Cas, wake the fuck up, I'm not taking this shower alone."

It's a great way to wake up, but it doesn't actually make the act of waking up easier. Castiel blinks, rubs sleep out of his eyes, sits up halfway, and squints at Dean, unsure he heard correctly. He means to say "What?" but the sound that comes out is more of a grunt than a word.

"I'd take this as a compliment, but you're always a pain in the ass to wake up, so." Dean, wearing pajama bottoms and no shirt, smirks at him.

"Shower?" Cas finally manages.

"Yes," Dean explains slowly, "I want to go shower. But I'd be an idiot to leave you in here naked while I'm in there naked, so you," he pokes Cas in the shoulder, "are coming with me."

"Oh," Castiel says, slightly more coherent now, "Good idea."

He somehow manages to fumble his boxers on and follow Dean to the bathroom, still conscious in only the vaguest sense of the word. Getting into the shower wakes him up a bit, but he doesn't really come around until Dean crowds him up against the wall and uses a soapy hand to stroke them together.

He's pretty sure that Dean's main objective had been less about the shower and more about making sure they didn't talk about any of this (though the surprisingly intense simultaneous orgasms were surely a close second). Given that Dean has chosen to avoid talking by having more sex rather than running away, Castiel is happy to give him that for now. The fact that this time he gets to watch Dean's face while he comes may or may not make Cas feel more forgiving about this.

Back in Dean's room, Cas rummages around in his duffle bag for some clothes.

"You should stay here," Dean suddenly says from behind him.

Cas pulls on a shirt and turns to squint at Dean. He looks uncharacteristically nervous.

"I'm no longer planning to move out, Dean. I'm sorry, I thought you realized that."

"No, I mean—" Dean moves around him and pulls open a dresser drawer. It's empty. "There's plenty of space. Put your stuff away. Stay here, Cas."

"Oh." For a second, all he can do is blink at the empty drawer. He hadn't expected any of this, but he feels like this one gesture has knocked the wind out of him. It speaks not just of love, but commitment.

He finally manages to smile up at Dean. "You're full of good ideas this morning."

Dean returns his smile, but Cas pulls him close and kisses it off of him. Dean moans lightly into the kiss, and Cas has to pull back before it gets more heated. Dean's eyes stay closed for a moment after the kiss ends, and when he opens them and smiles again, Cas is pleased with the casual affection he sees in them.

Castiel goes ahead and puts his clothes in Dean's dresser. He doesn't have all that many (they made one trip to a thrift store soon after he fell, but he should probably go again now that fall is coming), and they fit easily into two drawers.

Dean is sitting down on the bed, lacing his boots when Cas finishes with his clothes.

"Uh, you can have that nightstand over there, too. If you need more space just let me know, we can move another shelf in here or something."

"I doubt that will be necessary," Cas says as he carries his backpack over to the nightstand. He puts his notebooks in it, along with a few books he currently has checked out from the library. He hesitates before closing the drawer.

"Are you sure you want this, Dean?" He says, not turning around.

"Well I sure as hell ain't gonna sleep on that piece of crap you call a mattress," Dean snorts behind him. Cas smiles, and is ready to take that as all the confirmation he'll get when he feels arms slide around his waist and a mouth against the back of his neck.

"I'm sure, Cas," Dean says softly. 

Cas realizes he's trembling as he pushes the drawer to the nightstand shut. He leans his head back against Dean's and breathes deeply. He knows that no matter how tender the moment may be, at this point crying would probably freak Dean out.

"Your mattress is far superior to mine," he finally says. Dean snorts.

"Damn right it is." He gives Cas's waist a squeeze and then moves away. "Let's go eat."

They wander into the kitchen to find Sam already there, eating toast and scrolling away on his laptop, and they all exchange good mornings. He doesn't seem to notice the fact that they're coming in together, nor does he seem at all put out or embarrassed in the way Cas would expect him to if he'd heard them having sex last night (or this morning). Apparently the soundproofing in the bunker is quite good.

"Coffee?" Cas asks as Dean sits down at the table with Sam.

"Yeah, thanks," Dean replies, and Cas heads over to the pot that Sam has already made.

As he goes about pulling out mugs, Dean clears his throat and tries to talk to Sam behind him.

"So, uh, just so you know," he starts, and Cas hears Sam grunt in such a way as to indicate he's listening, "Cas is staying."

Cas hears the laptop slam closed. He grabs the coffee pot and starts to fill their mugs.

"Uh, are you sure?" Sam sounds dubious, to say the least. "I mean, you guys have… talked this over?"

"He's not going anywhere," Dean says forcefully, "End of story."

Castiel rolls his eyes as he starts preparing the coffees with cream and sugar.

"Dean, I'm serious. Did you guys talk about—about what we talked about? For real?"

"What do you think?"

"I don't know, Dean!"

Cas sighs as he drops the mugs of coffee onto the table a bit more forcefully than necessary. He looks Sam in the eye, thoroughly unimpressed with this human bullshit.

"Dean and I had sex—twice—and I've moved my things into his room. Permanently." He sits down next to Dean to drink his coffee as Sam's eyes widen and his mouth hangs open (it may not help that he seems to have just seen the garish bruise on the side of Castiel's neck), while Dean sputters.

"Jesus, Cas! Tact!" Dean's eyes are as wide as his brother's.

Castiel glares at both of them.

"Somebody in this house has to be willing to use his grown-up words," he says forcefully and only slightly condescendingly, "and it certainly isn't going to be either of you."

"Okay, I get it, but you still don't have to tell—" Dean tries to protest, but Cas cuts him off with a scowl.

"You are perfectly aware that I prefer to be direct when it comes to any communication, and that I have no qualms about discussing issues such as sexuality with complete frankness. I have limited patience with the annoyingly human trait of talking around such topics. Therefore, I highly suggest that both of you learn to communicate more clearly if you don't want me to do it for you."

Dean sighs and looks his brother, and both manage to look slightly abashed. Then Dean hits Castiel lightly on the shoulder.

"Drink your damn coffee, you're grumpy in the morning," he grumbles, "You'd think you'd be in a better mood after that shower."

"Dean!" Sam finally finds his voice. "Not from you, too, okay? I am honestly super happy for you guys, but I do not ever want to hear another word about your sex life from either of you."

With that, Sam grabs the laptop and huffs out of the room. Dean watches him go with some amusement.

Castiel feels a hand above his knee. He glances up at Dean, who smiles mostly with his eyes and gives his leg a squeeze.

"I'm pretty hungry. You want some eggs?"

Cas checks his watch. He has a half an hour before he has to leave for the library, plenty of time for a real breakfast.

"Yes, thank you." He sets his coffee down, looking at Dean. After a moment of gentle eye contact, Dean leans forward to kiss him. Cas responds, sliding his hands up around the back of Dean's neck while Dean's hand finds his hip. The kiss is tender and fairly innocent, the tips of their tongues just teasing each other. They're both trying not to smile and failing, which, while it does interfere with the kiss somewhat, also makes it all the sweeter.

"Okay, I guess that's pretty cute." Sam startles them out of it, Dean pulling back reflexively. "But I swear to God, if I ever walk in on you two doing anything more involved than that anywhere other than your bedroom, you can find yourselves an apartment in town because you won't be living here anymore."

Dean rolls his eyes and makes mimicking faces as he stands up and starts in on the eggs. Castiel watches from behind his coffee as Sam refills his mug and goes back into the other room and Dean pulls out the frying pan and starts heating it up. 

Once Sam is gone, he fully turns around in his chair and stares openly at Dean, watching him pull out the butter and eggs and milk and cheese. As Dean starts mixing everything together, Cas lets his eyes travel all over his body, taking in his toned arms and muscular back and perfect ass. He can do this now. 

He's never been particularly good at hiding his feelings for Dean, obviously, but he's been trying to for a long time. It can be exhausting, constantly monitoring whether he's staring too much or standing too close or smiling too lovingly. Especially knowing that even after expending all that mental energy on it, he's obvious anyhow. He never has to worry about any of that again. He can stare, he can gaze, he can touch. 

When Dean glances back and catches him, he blushes a little and smiles shyly before getting back to his cooking. Dean likes that Castiel is staring. Dean loves him. Dean wants him. Dean thinks they should live together, sharing a bed every night.

Castiel is human, and that is not really what he wants. But. He has a home, and a job that helps people. And now he has a partner—the love of his very long life, which is no overstatement at all—to come home to and wake up with.

Good things do happen.