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Castiel wakes up, stretches, and as he adjusts to being awake, he slowly comes to realise that he is not in his bedroom.

He sits straight up, his breath snagging in his chest as he is struck with a wave of panic, and he is frantically looking about for anything familiar – or for an escape route – when he sees the bedside table. Just beside the lamp that he has had since he was twenty-one, there is a curling post-it note that reads, GOOD MORNING CASTIEL, as well as a notebook, emblazoned with the words READ ME FIRST on the front – both in what appears to be Castiel’s handwriting, albeit less tidy. He frowns and picks it up. Almost every page is covered with his writing, but Castiel starts from the first page.

Dear Castiel,

Hello – it’s Castiel. This must all seem very confusing, and I’m sorry for that. Dean says to tell you that this isn’t some kind of ‘time-travel stunt’, although I’m sure that won’t be your first thought. I know it wasn’t mine. I’ve told Dean to leave now, as this is my notebook and I want everything in it to come from me – or rather, from you.

I know you think it's the fifteenth of January, 2010, but it isn't. At the time of my writing this, the date is the fourth of October, 2013. Dean Winchester is your boyfriend of a year and a half, and you no longer work at the library, and in early 2010 you were hit by a car and hospitalised. I’m sorry.

This is insane. Castiel doesn’t bother to finish the letter, but continues to flip through his notebook, with ever increasing incredulity.

Just after his letter, there are several pages featuring newspaper clippings, doctor’s reports, small notes from friends and family, and as he looks through, he comes to realise that the name on every slip of paper is Castiel Novak.

YOUNG LIBRARIAN HIT BY CAR, LEFT COMATOSE: Castiel Novak, aged twenty-nine – COMATOSE LIBRARIAN SHOWING NO SIGNS OF RECOVERY: Castiel Novak, victim of a hit-and-run last week, is still – GOOD NEWS FOR NOVAK: the twenty-nine-year-old librarian injured in a hit-and-run accident last month has woken up with – JOYRIDING TEENAGERS DESTROY LIBRARIAN’S LIFE: Castiel Novak, twenty-nine, has awoken from his five-week coma, but test results declare that he now suffers from severe short-term memory loss as a result of –

Castiel closes the notebook. This is insane. What kind of sick lengths would someone go to in order to so disorient and upset him, he wonders, and he tries to think if he has done something to anger one of his sisters, or perhaps someone from college. Maybe Naomi. It wouldn’t fall beyond Naomi’s skills to create something like this. It’s elaborate though, and this is where his incredulity falls short. This is not his bedroom. This is not his bed.

He looks around once more and in the thin grey light of an early morning, he comes to see that drawers and cupboard doors are marked with small post-it notes. Pants, on one. Pyjamas, on another. There is a small shoebox labelled electrics/chargers, and another marked sex toys, which brings up a hot flush of embarrassment on his neck. He opens the top drawer of his bedside table, which is labelled, T-shirts, and they are definitely his shirts, if not in his bedroom. He picks one up and pulls it over his head, and at that moment he catches sight of his reflection in a small, circular mirror mounted on the opposite wall.

He is older than he remembers, with the beginnings of crows’ feet at the corners of his eyes. He has a small scar at his hairline, and he thinks, three years lost for that? until his fingers come up to follow it. The scar leads into another scar, this one thicker and raised, and when he twists his head to follow it, he finds a hard pink line cut through his hair, sweeping up along one side of his head and then curving back down to stop behind his ear. Castiel feels sick to his stomach.

He turns back to the notebook – he doesn’t know what to do but keep reading – but the next pages after the details of his accident are not what he expected.

Dean Winchester: born January 24th, 1985. Three years younger than you. He’s a mechanic at Singer’s Auto Shop – you remember him. You met him before the accident. He fixed your car over Christmas the year before, and he flirted with you. He gave you his number, but you lost it at the laundrette. You met again after the accident. You got into a fight with the library because you thought you still worked there, and security got called, and it was somewhat complicated but Dean was passing by and he helped you out. You were friends, and then I suppose you fell in love with him at some point on the way. I haven’t pinpointed when.

Castiel sits back. He does remember Dean, if vaguely. Green eyes. Freckles. Neat teeth. Smeared with grease and petroleum. He was funny.

There are pages upon pages about Dean – in different pens, from different days, and Castiel realises he must write in this fairly regularly. Every time he learns something new.

Has a younger brother called Sam, who is another five years younger, and they’re very close – you like Sam a lot.

Favourite movies are The Fifth Element, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Inception.

Had four romantic partners before you. Rhonda, Cassie, Lisa, Benny. Had a few more sexual partners. He doesn’t remember all their names.

Played baseball in high school, thought he might good enough for a scholarship somewhere but not quite.

Has sensitive nipples. Doesn’t like things touching his ears.

Favourite food is cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, apple pie, hot wings, mashed potatoes, pecan pie – he likes food a lot. He has listed more but my hand is tired.

Castiel finds himself smiling, and as soon as he realises, he makes a concerted effort to stop. He doesn’t know Dean. He met him once in a garage, and they got along well, but he doesn’t know Dean and he certainly isn’t ready to be in a long-term relationship with him.

He flips absently to the last page, just to see how long the notes go on, and is surprised by what he finds there. In the ink of several different pens, there is line after line of the same point: he loves you. Castiel shuts the notebook.

With a deep breath, Castiel stands, and he steels himself before he pushes out through the bedroom door. He is greeted by the sight of a nice apartment decked out in neutral colours – a small living room with a disproportionately large TV; a coat-rack by the front door, from which hangs a leather jacket; a tidy kitchenette with a breakfast bar. Something like nerves start up in the pit of Castiel’s stomach as he looks across, because on the other side of the breakfast bar, there is a man with his back turned as he prepares something on the stove.

Castiel doesn’t know what to do, so he simply observes. The man is tall – perhaps taller than Castiel is – and more heavily built, with wide shoulders and brown hair cropped short. He shifts impatiently from one foot to the other, and he mutters under his breath, swearing at one point as he burns his fingers. He twists to move his cooking from pan to plate, and as he does so he must catch sight of Castiel, because he stops, and he turns.

Instinctively, Castiel takes a step backwards. He stares at the man at the kitchen, who now looks at him with an unfamiliar softness to his expression, and somehow against all better judgement, Castiel feels comforted by him being here. It unsettles him, the extent to which he does feel better with this man in the kitchenette, and so he curls his arms defensively around himself.

“Hey, Cas,” the man says. He has a handsome face and a voice that is low and soothing, and one side of his mouth tilts up in a smile.

Castiel hesitates. “Dean?” he asks.

“Yup – you want coffee?”

God, Castiel would love a coffee right about now. He usually wouldn’t even be awake without at least an espresso in his system, but that seemed somewhat insignificant against the discovery of having lost three years of his life. “Please,” he says. “Black, two sug—”

“Don’t worry, I got it.”

Castiel stops talking. Right. Dean knows this.

He continues to stand in the space between the bedroom and the breakfast bar for a long time, and he watches as Dean makes coffee. Sure enough, he dumps in two heaped teaspoons of sugar, and he doesn’t stir – the way Castiel likes it, but always feels is too strange to request.

Dean sets the mug down on the bar and gives Castiel a quick glance before he turns back to make his own drink.

Castiel moves slowly across the living room to the breakfast bar, and he eyes the stools lined up there, considering whether or not to sit down. He picks the stool nearest the window.

Several minutes of silence pass in which Castiel merely sips at his coffee – which, incidentally, is perfect, and warms him to Dean – and Dean continues cooking. Castiel watches him, and then he asks, “What are you making?”

“Pancakes,” Dean says, shifting his weight as he clumsily moves something from pan to plate.“Is that okay?”

Castiel feels his face split into a slow-starting smile. “I love pancakes.”

He realises too late that Dean knows this, that Dean, it seems, knows everything, and must be bored to tears of Castiel stating the obvious. However, Dean just looks over his shoulder at Castiel with a grin, and the sight of gets under Castiel's skin in a way that is fizzy and confusing, a way he doesn't recognise. “Me too,” Dean says. He fiddles with a dial on the side of the stove. “They'll be ready in a minute or two, we can get a couple more out of this batter, and then I'll serve up.”

“That sounds great,” Castiel says, and is surprised at his own sincerity.

Dean's smile spreads wider. “Cool.”

He fusses at the stove for longer, while Castiel lets his cup of coffee transform him into something more closely resembling a human being. Then Dean is ready, and comes over to the breakfast bar bearing a plate of pancakes stacked at least fifteen high, and sets it in front of Castiel. “Hope you're hungry!”

For a moment, Castiel can only stare at him in horror before he realises that Dean is joking. He looks away, and focuses instead of helping himself to pancakes. His hand is shaky on the fork, and it takes a few attempts, but he doesn't want Dean to help him, and, somewhat conveniently, Dean doesn't offer.

After Castiel is finished, Dean forks two pancakes off the top of the stack onto another plate, and as he starts to smother them in maple syrup, he says, “So where do you want to start?”

Castiel looks over. Dean meets his eyes, raises his eyebrows a little, and Castiel realises this must be a routine of theirs.

When Castiel doesn't answer, Dean shoves a forkful of pancake into his mouth and says around it, “I can give you my qualifications if you want. I'm Dean Winchester. I'd show you my ID and stuff but, honestly, I dunno where I put my wallet.” He swallows, and shrugs. “What else? I'm really good at making cheeseburgers. You told me once that I have a great sense of humour. Uhh. Once I deadlifted a hundred pounds but I'm pretty sure I was possessed by the ghostly spirit of Schwarzanegger at the time 'cause it's never happened since. Last anniversary I got you a boxset of Charlie Chaplin movies--”

“What happened to me?” Castiel interrupts.

Dean looks over at Castiel, and seems completely unsurprised. Castiel wonders how often he has asked this question.

“You left the library,” Dean says. “You stepped out from behind a truck. You got hit.”

Castiel frowns. “I wasn’t looking where I was going?” he says in disbelief.

Dean tilts his shoulders. “Yes and no? According to passers-by, you glanced at the road—”

“Oh, I glanced. That’s fine, then. That’s a legitimate safety precaution.”

“Cas, they were speeding. They stole the car, they were trying to get away down a quiet road –r they came out of nowhere.”

“And hit me,” Castiel says dully. He doesn't question the nickname in Dean's mouth: Cas. The sound of it is comforting.

“And hit you.” Dean lets out a short breath and then reels off the medical side of it: “You got your hippocampus all fucked up – both of them – so you've got anterograde amnesia, plus some other shit.”

“Other shit?” Castiel echoes.

Dean shrugs. “Small shit. Your spatial awareness is a little fucked up, you're kinda clumsy now – uh, what else? You got an attention span like a goldfish sometimes, which is great.” His mouth twists in a kind of rueful sympathy. “You want another pancake?”

Castiel nods.

Dean forks a few pancakes onto Castiel's plate, and then takes one for himself – off Castiel's plate, rather than the plate in the middle. “What else do you wanna know?”

Castiel considers this. “What do I usually want to know?”

“Uhh.” Dean scrunches his face up, thinking. “Where we live – still in Lawrence, with Anna only a few blocks away. How Anna is doing – she's fine, but she has a boyfriend at the moment that you don't like very much. If I like cats – I'm allergic, sorry.”

Castiel's expression sours. So much for getting a cat, then. He catches himself at the tail-end of that thought, and reminds himself that he doesn't know Dean. He's not planning his domestic life with a man he's only known for ten minutes – even if Dean has known him for years.

“You sometimes ask if we have sex, which is a little awkward, but for your information, we do sometimes. Not regularly, since you feel weird about it some days, understandably. You like asking how we met--”

Castiel squints. “But that's in my book.”

“Yeah, you usually want to hear me say it.”

Castiel tilts his head over to one side. It does sound like something he would say. “Tell me.”

Dean explains: the way he was walking back from Costco and went past the library just as two security guards were hauling Castiel out. There was shouting, and someone on the phone, and a general air of chaos, and Castiel was trying to fight them and yelling, so naturally, Dean got involved. He broke the fight up, got the security guards to leave Castiel alone, and ended up sitting with Castiel on the library steps, sharing snacks from his grocery bags, while they waited for the library to call Anna. Dean realised he recognised Castiel, complained that Castiel was the asshole who had never called him back, and then made the mistake of mentioning the fact that after two years, he got over it. Castiel didn't know about the two years. He panicked, and then Anna arrived, and Castiel had some kind of meltdown, and Anna took him home.

“You dropped your wallet, though, while you were flailing all over the place,” Dean said. “I took it back a few days later, and I realised what was up when you came to the door saying that you didn't remember dropping it but it must have happened on the way to work, and what a crazy coincidence it was that I would have found it on the street, yadda-yadda-yadda - and all the same I'm sorry I never called as you'd been saying the last time.”

Castiel stares down at his pancakes. He stabs a piece and eats it without saying anything.

There's a moment where he and Dean sit in silence. Castiel guesses that Dean is trying to decide whether or not to keep telling the story – presumably there is more, about how Dean came to be dating Castiel, about how they came to live in the same apartment and not with Anna, with drawers and cupboards meticulously labelled, and a fat notebook of the truth about Dean. Castiel doesn't want to hear it. If Dean wants to talk about how difficult it is to date a man with no memory, then he can do it somewhere else.

Castiel eats until he feels sick, and then there are still pancakes on his plate, and he toys with his leftovers. He pushes it around on his plate, pulling the pancakes apart with his fork. The silence has gone on for too long now, sitting heavily between them, and Castiel wants to ask another question. He wants to know Dean.

“What's your favourite book?” Castiel asks, eventually. It's weak, and doesn't tell him much, but he can't think of a better question, aside from why the hell are you spending your time looking after me?

“Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut,” Dean replies easily.

“Favourite music?”

“Led Zeppelin.”

“Favourite shirt.”

“It's in the wash right now. It's red.”

Castiel thinks. “Favourite sexual position.”

Dean's mouth opens, but no words come out. A hot flush spreads up from his jawline to his ears. “Uhh,” he says. He clears his throat. “I like – everything.”

Castiel stares at him. “Bullshit.”

“Dude, it's like nine in the morning. Do I have to – fine. Fine.” Dean huffs out his breath over his cup of coffee. “I like you sitting on my fucking dick. You happy?” He's red in the face, which is somewhat sweet, and Castiel considers this information as he continues to eat.

“You're gay?” he asks next.

“Bi.”

“Out?”

“Mostly.”

“What else are you allergic to?”

“Dumb questions.”

Castiel narrows his eyes.

“Also, pollen.”

“You have hay-fever?”

Dean shrugs. “Mild. It just hurts my eyes a little.”

“Do you always make me coffee and pancakes?”

“Coffee, yes. Pancakes...” Dean hesitates. “Pancakes are for special occasions.”

Castiel frowns. “What's the occasion?”

Dean scratches at the back of his head. He tries for a smile that looks more than slightly uncomfortable. “Uh. I'll tell you later. How about you eat up your pancakes?”

“How about you answer my question?” Castiel cuts over him.

If Dean is put off by Castiel's belligerence, he doesn't show it, and this, more than anything, is the first real sign that he and Dean are in this for the long run. “It's a little weird,” is all Dean says, in a tone that is as patient as it is infuriating.

“Tell me.”

“Cas--”

“Dean, so help me God, I will throw this plateful of pancakes onto the floor and waste them.”

“Jesus – don't do that, fuck. Okay.” Dean takes a deep breath, and he scrubs both hands down over his face. Then he turns to Castiel fully, twisting on his stool, and he puts a hand on each knee in a gesture that is open and earnest – endearingly so. He takes a moment longer, seemingly to compose himself, and then he holds Castiel's eyes and says, “Cas, I'd really like you to marry me.”

Castiel freezes up.

Dean doesn't say anything further. He just sits there, with his hands on his knees, and he watches Castiel's face with an expression that is equal parts anxious and calm. His eyes are green, and his gaze is soft and patient, and Castiel feels as though he is going to panic himself into hyperventilation. He puts a hand on the counter-top to steady himself.

“I don't know you,” is the first thing he says, and his voice is strained.

“I know that, and I'm sorry,” Dean says. He does sound sorry. Castiel notices for the first time that there is a groove of pale skin around Dean's ring finger, as though it is missing something. Castiel isn't wearing a ring.

Castiel exhales through his nose, long and slow. “So - is this a proposal?”

“Kind of?” Dean pulls a face, and that flicker of nervousness that Castiel can see in his face is growing stronger by the second. He rubs at the back of his neck, pulls at the short hair there. “I mean - I already asked you a few times.”

Castiel nods slowly. He can deal with this. He is not going to panic. “When?”

“Last spring, we were walking around Overland Park and I asked you. I asked again when we were getting coffee in town – that was in June. And when we were renting Gravity in October, I think I asked you while Sandra Bullock was trying to get into the second space station. Not that first one that gets all fucked up, the second one? After George Clooney dies.”

Automatically, a flash of irritation makes itself known in Castiel's gut – he hasn't seen that movie; there's no need for Dean to spoil part of it – and then he remembers.

“We went around Amelia Earhardt's house in January and I asked you again then,” Dean says, and Castiel recognises that Dean's shifting fingers on the counter-top are him ticking off a list. He's asked a lot of times. “And, uh, I asked you about a week ago over Chinese food.”

Castiel swallows. “And I said yes?”

Dean's nose screws up at the end. “Uhh. Honestly, you did say no once. That sucked.”

“Why?”

“Why did it suck? Dude, you threw a newspaper at me and also kind of stomped on my heart a little--”

“Why did I say no?” Castiel clarifies.

“Oh.” Dean flushes pink again, and the degree to which Castiel is endeared by it takes him by surprise. Dean waves a hand vaguely in the air between them. “I don't know. I figure I probably didn't give you enough time – you know, to get your head around everything and to get used to me and to decide whether I was cool. I mean, I was an idiot, and it was only like one in the afternoon or something when I asked---”

“So now you're asking at breakfast, instead,” Castiel says, but he doesn't mean it cruelly. He's not rebuffing Dean; he's just curious. He is coming to terms with this, albeit slowly.

Dean lets out a long breath and drops his head forwards. “Yeah, yeah, I know. It's just that time's – uh .” He doesn't finish. Castiel can see his throat working. Dean's eyes flash nervously to Castiel's face and away again. “I mean. It's just that – well.”

“Dean,” Castiel says. “When are we getting married?”

Dean winces. “In nine hours?”

Castiel sets his cup of his coffee down before he drops it.

“Maybe!” Dean says hurriedly, his hands held up in front of him as a kind of surrender. “Maybe. If you want to. If you don't, we can reschedule, or we can cancel, or whatever – that's fine, it's up to you. Whatever you're comfortable with, you know? But that's – that's why I wanted to tell you about all this so early. So that you've got time to... I don't know, to think.”

“You didn't want to tell me so early,” Castiel points out. “You wanted to tell me later.”

“Not much later,” Dean objects. “Just – after breakfast. So you had time to digest everything, metaphorically and, you know, literally.”

Castiel breathes in deep. He fights with himself for a moment, his head spinning, and then he just says quietly, “You want to marry me.”

Dean's face lights up, and he has this grin spreading across his face which is wide and sunny and a little embarrassed. “Cas, I wanna marry you really bad.”

He means it to be sweet, Castiel knows this, but it turns Castiel's stomach over and he can feel panic crawling underneath his skin. There is Cas in Dean's mouth, the obvious nickname, but one that he's never had before, and the gentle affection in Dean's gaze is too much for Castiel to stand. His chest is ratcheting tighter and tighter until he feels like he can't breathe, and his brain is pounding with the desire to escape, and Dean is so in love with him that it seems to fill the whole room, and Castiel has barely said ten words to him.

It comes out in a burst. “I can't do this,” Castiel says abruptly, and then, “I can't – I don't know you, I don't know who are you, I can't.” He pushes his stool back hard, and it falls over – he almost falls over it – and he takes quick steps backwards away from Dean, who looks disappointed, but not surprised.

Castiel has nowhere to go. This is his house – a house that he shares with Dean Winchester,a total stranger who, admittedly, is warm and genuine and funny and absurdly handsome , and who makes him pancakes and perfect cups of black coffee, but a stranger nonetheless. He walks into his bedroom and shuts the door.

He stands with his back pressed against the wood, and he breathes, in and out. In and out. With his eyes closed, his mind is filled with the first time he met Dean – when his cheap little Toyota gave out on a street corner and had to be towed, and he went into the garage to find long legs sticking out from underneath his poor car with somebody underneath tunelessly humming a rock and roll tune that Castiel recognises from bad radio stations that he always immediately turned over. He remembers his mechanic: tall, solid, and painfully charming, when he shimmied out from underneath Castiel's car, with freckles cut up by a smear of grease one side of his nose. Castiel had wanted to have sex with him, which was one thing, and also to take him out for dinner, which is another, and Castiel had been so busy looking at the way the afternoon light caught the thin hair of Dean's forearms that he'd forgotten to pay attention to where he put his phone number.

Even now, with Dean in the other room asking to marry him, Castiel is convinced he put it in his jeans, and not in the trench-coat that he had to get dry-cleaned, but he can't be sure. He lost the phone number, and then Dean found him arguing with a librarian on the side of the road, and calmed him down, and took him to find Anna, and apparently – apparently – reminded him three-hundred-and-sixty-five times a year that hi, I'm Dean, and you were in an accident, and I like you.

Castiel opens his eyes, and finds himself looking across the room at his notebook, still open on on the coverlet. He can't read it from here, but he can see the lines of untidy writing in different colours. He loves you, he loves you, he loves you.

Castiel is agnostic, much to the disappointment of his heavily religious family, and so he doesn't believe in things like fate – but Castiel lost the phone number, and Dean Winchester came back to him, and that's not nothing.

He takes several long minutes to himself – twenty-seven, by the count of the wall-clock – in which he goes slowly through his notebook and tries to come to terms with what is apparently his life now. He learns all that he can about Dean, and about himself, and he runs unsteady fingers over the lines of his old writing.

The Castiel that he is supposed to be cares about Dean – that much is obvious. Castiel doesn't know if he can force himself to care too.

It's okay, though. Dean said that they didn't have to get married. Castiel could say no, and everything would be fine. There is nothing wrong with Castiel saying no.

After a few more minutes, he summons courage, and he puts the notebook down. He opens his bedroom door – hits himself in the shoulder with it, flinches – and stands for several seconds in the doorway looking out. The TV is flickering faintly, and Dean is sprawled out on the couch in front of it. He knows to give Castiel space when he's upset, which is something that even Castiel's sisters still need to work on.

The floorboards creak underneath Castiel's feet as he approaches, and Dean glances up. He pauses the TV at the remote.

“Hey,” he says. “You wanna watch Game of Thrones?”

Castiel eyes the screen. “I haven't seen it at all.”

“I know, but I can explain what you missed.” Dean shrugs. “I don't mind.”

Castiel sits down next to Dean – with two feet or so of space between them – and pulls his feet up in front of him. “Don't you get tired of explaining it all? Of re-watching things?”

“Nah – usually I just catch you up with what happened last week and then we watch the latest episode together,” Dean says. “Besides, I like talking about Game of Thrones.”

Castiel looks at the screen, which is frozen on the image of a man being beheaded. He has nothing better to do – except perhaps to prepare for his imminent wedding. He glances over at where Dean has a jumbo bag of Skittles propped up next to his leg, and Dean, without being prompted, pushes a hand into the bag and fishes out a couple green ones.

“So we're just about to go into the fall-out of the Red Wedding,” Dean says, and he passes the green Skittles over. Castiel is getting used to not asking how Dean knows his favourites, and instead he just eats them as he listens to Dean.

Dean is passionate, and he explains things in great detail, which is helpful when it seems that there are at least five hundred new characters that Castiel's never heard of, and sometimes when he gets really into describing a certain scene, he slips into doing different little voices and sound-effects. Castiel realises belatedly that he has a soft smile on his face, and isn't able to pinpoint when that started.

“--and then, right, Cat looks over at Roose Bolton – their ally – and she realises he's wearing chain-mail? And so, of course, she's like, fuck, because why do you need to wear chain-mail at an event like this? Right? And so she stands up to warn Robb but it's too fuckin' late, man, there are Lannisters coming out of the fuckin' walls, with swords and crossbows and knives and they're like, pew-pew, stab-stab, fucking everybody up--”

“How do you feel about this?” Castiel interrupts.

Dean blinks at him. “Dude – I was right in the most dramatic part of the Red Wedding.” When he sees Castiel just continuing to stare at him , Dean relents. He lowers the hands that he was waving about in dramatic re-enactment. “About you? Dude, I love you.”

Castiel ignores the way his stomach flips over at the words in Dean's move, the incredulous way he says it like it's the most obvious thing in the world. “No,” Castiel says, and he raises a hand to tap two fingers at the scar that runs thick and ragged through the hair. “About this.”

Dean jerks one shoulder in a non-committal shrug. “Hey, I get to make the same jokes every day and you never get bored of them.”

Castiel squints at him. “I'm serious.”

“So am I.” Dean studies him, his eyes moving over Castiel's face, flitting down to where Castiel's hands are loose in his lap. Castiel sees Dean's own fingers curl and flex uncertainly on the couch, and Castiel realises that Dean wants to hold his hand. Castiel isn't sure how to feel about it. Dean clears his throat, and Castiel lifts his eyes to meet Dean's. “I'm into you, and I don't care how often I gotta remind you.”

Castiel wants to look away, but there is something about the way Dean is looking at him that renders him incapable of anything except being exactly what Dean wants him to be. He swallows. “So tell me a joke, then.”

Dean's mouth splits into a smile. “What do you call a dog who does magic tricks?”

“I don't know, Dean. What do you call a dog who does magic tricks?”

Dean smiles grows wider. “A labracadabrador.”

Castiel snorts with laughter, and he rolls his eyes. “And how often do I hear that one?”

“That's a new one, actually. Sam texted it to me this morning.”

Castiel raises his eyebrows. “Really?”

“It is! I swear to God, why would I lie about it? You literally don't remember anyway.”

Castiel scowls at him – he's not sure he's ready for amnesia humour – but Dean has a point. “Fine. I believe you.”

“You sure?”

“No, but I don't have my polygraph handy to test you, so--”

“Oh, shit,” Dean laughs. “Well, fuck, now I'm screwed. The truth is gonna come out – all the jokes I've already told you, all the episodes of Game of Thrones I've already told you about. All of it, out in the open.”

Castiel can feel a smile creeping up on him; he scrunches his nose up and looks away towards the TV set before he starts doing something stupid like getting invested in Dean, who he barely knows. “Do you lie a lot?”

In his peripheral vision, Castiel sees Dean look over – surprised. There's a beat where Dean just looks at him, and then he says, “I used to.”

“About what?”

Dean jerks one shoulder in a loose, non-committal shrug. “Liking dudes. Not liking sports – things that would disappoint my dad. I lied to him a lot. Plus, I was kind of a dirtbag when I was younger, so I guess I lied to a lot of girls.”

Castiel turns his head back over, curiosity piqued now. “What sort of lies?”

“Oh, you know. That I had more money, that I had a better job. That I'd slept with more girls, or less, depending on who I was talking to.”

Castiel studies him – the laugh-lines, the curve of his smile, the bridge of freckles across his nose and cheekbones, the way his eyelashes lighten at the ends. He says, “Have you ever lied to me?”

Dean's eyes move over Castiel's face. His expression is careful, hesitant. He licks his lips, a mechanical gesture, and Castiel finds himself tracking the movement without meaning to. “A few times.”

Castiel doesn't ask. He can imagine, and he doesn't mind. It is gradually becoming apparent that Dean would do anything for him – Castiel won't begrudge him this. “Tell me a secret,” he says instead.

Dean smiles – a small thing, almost secretive in itself.

“I've asked this before,” Castiel says.

“You think it's a good judge of character – what a person figures is an acceptable secret to tell, how much I trust you, all that jazz.” Dean raises his eyebrows. “I mean, you're not wrong.”

“What secret do you usually tell me?”

“I try to do a different one each time. Mix it up a little.”

Castiel rests his cheek on top of his pulled-up knees. “Tell me them all.”

Dean looks at him for a second, thoughtful, and then he twists around, sits cross-legged on the couch next to Castiel, and tells him everything. Dean tells him about the pink underwear, the time he left Sammy alone and almost got him killed, the way he really wanted to win a spelling bee when he was kid. He tells him about time he pissed on a girl by accident while they were fucking. He tells him that he cheated on a math test in the ninth grade and did so well he got recommended to join the school math team. He tells him that sometimes he's glad his dad is dead, and that he wishes he could've done engineering at college somewhere, and that he worries someone from school will pull into the garage and recognise him and laugh because he never did anything with his life.

Castiel sees Dean's hand clenched into the fabric of the couch, Dean keeping his distance, and on an impulse, Castiel reaches out. He slips his hand underneath Dean's wrist, curls his fingers against Dean's palm, has a thumb brushing gentle over Dean's knuckles – and Dean tries to hide it, but he lights up.

They do get around to watching Game of Thrones, eventually, and they watch two episodes because Castiel loves it, even though he drifts in and out, and sometimes needs Dean to remind him what just happened. Dean tells Castiel about his brother, and his friends, and then Dean makes lunch, and Castiel has a shower in a wash-room where everything is labelled in his own writing. They talk more over lunch, and Dean talks with his hands, so it takes him three times as long to get through his food, but Castiel takes a long time too, with his hands unsteady on his cutlery, so he figures it works out fine.

Castiel is watching him re-enact an argument he had with someone at the garage – so I was like, that's not how a fuckin' carburettor works and you know it, and this kid, I swear to god, he actually tries to argue with me, like he knows a goddamn thing about engines – when he realises that he likes Dean. He trusts him.

That Dean is attractive, Castiel already knew - he has no trouble with that, when the man is six foot tall and built like a brick wall, with green eyes on top of everything else – but that he actually enjoys his company is something Castiel couldn't be sure about. Castiel isn't thinking about the way that something inside him stutters at Dean's smile, or that holding Dean's hand felt somehow momentous, but he likes Dean.

Castiel says, “I'll do it.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Dude, you have got to stop interrupting me,” he complains around a mouthful of food. “What are you even talking about? You'll--” Dean trails off. He gulps his food down and stares at Castiel.

“The wedding,” Castiel says, and even as he says it, there is a moment where he doubts himself, but he keeps going. Dean is a good man, Castiel can tell. He could do a lot worse – and if the person he has been in the countless forgotten days before thought that agreeing to marry Dean was a good idea, then it must be worth doing. “I'll do it. I'll marry you.”

Dean almost falls over himself scrambling to get around to face Castiel fully. “Seriously? Are you serious?” he asks, his words coming out fast and jumbled with excitement. “You don't have to – you know that, right? If you're sure, we can--”

“Dean,” Castiel cuts over him. “I'll do it.”

In a moment of inspired boldness, Castiel takes Dean's hand again. Dean's palm is sweaty against Castiel's as they weave their fingers together, and Castiel squeezes. The tip of Dean's thumb skitters across Castiel's palm, and something about the contact sparks up something underneath Castiel's skin that fizzes and trembles. Castiel takes a deep breath. “What do I have to do?”

---

Dean has a nice black car that he treats with amusing reverence, and he takes Castiel in the passenger seat to a hotel off the turnpike, where they meet a handful of strangers who embrace Castiel with excitement and affection – a tall man with Dean's wide shoulders, the same smile, the same rolling, slightly Southern-tinged pronunciation of Castiel's name, who can only be the Sammy he's heard so much about; a sun-kissed blonde with long legs and a barking laugh that makes Castiel's ears hurt; a grouchy bearded man in a cap and a wheelchair.

More strange still, however, is the emergence of Castiel's own family, immediate and extended, and Castiel realises that this is really happening. Here are all three of his sisters, and all his friends from college, and here is his uncle with a new baby girl. Here are the nannies who raised him and his siblings after his mother died, when their father was too busy working; here is his best friend from prep school.

Castiel turns to Dean. “Everyone I know is here,” he says, his voice hoarse.

Dean laughs. “Well, yeah, dude, they weren't gonna miss this for anything.”

“Inias and Hannah came from Seattle,” Castiel says. He's still trying to wrap his head around it. “Naomi was in Paris.”

“Naomi's in London now, so it's not so bad – are you okay though?” Dean's smile fades, and he steps up closer to Castiel. There is a tilt to his shoulders that blocks out the crowd behind him, Dean setting himself up as a wall, and a wave of gratitude and relief washes over Castiel. He breathes more easily now. Dean touches Castiel's elbow. “Is it too much? Do you need some time?”

Castiel opens his mouth, but can't get the words out. He fixes his eyes on a button at the front of Dean's plaid shirt and stares at it while he tries to figure everything out. “Dean, I don't--”

“Don't what?”

“I don't – I don't know how to do this,” Castiel says. “Do they know? Have I already told them? What am I supposed to say? Should I ask them how they are? Is there any point to it if I'm not going to remember any of this?”

And there is the real fear – that Castiel is going to forget this. By the end of the day, he will be married, and he will have the love of his family and friends, and then he'll wake up tomorrow and all of this, the vivid realness of it now, will be gone. He can feel his breath coming short with panic, his chest tightening, and even with Dean as a barricade between him and the rest of the world, he can feel their presence bearing down on him until he feels as though he's being crushed against the wall.

“Hey – hey, look at me. Cas?”

Castiel comes back to himself, and there is Dean, tilting his head down to catch Castiel's eye – and Castiel looks at him, and then he is caught there.

He realises he has Dean's hands wrapped around his upper arms, his thumbs rubbing slow circles that make Castiel feel less as though he's vibrating out of his skin. He takes a deep breath. “Is it like this every day?”

“What do you mean?”

“Immediate. And real.” Castiel's voice is quiet. “Does it always feel so permanent?”

Dean is hesitant. His eyes flicker away. “Yeah.”

Castiel swallows. “Okay.”

“Do you wanna get out of here for a while?” Dean asks. “There's a coffee house on the next block – we could go get a drink, you could have some time to figure it all out--”

“No, I'm alright,” Castiel says. In all honesty, he could do with a coffee, but he doesn't need it. He has more important things to prioritise. He has family and friends here, and he doesn't know the last time he saw them, or when he'll see them next, and he wants to hang onto this while he can. He meets Dean's eyes again, gives a short nod. “I'm fine. Thank you.”

Dean surprises him then. He brings up a hand, bumps the back of it along Castiel's jaw, and then, just lightly, he touches his thumb to the corner of Castiel's mouth – and in spite of everything, in spite of his panic and his fear, the intimacy of it makes Castiel's breath snag in his chest. He thinks of kissing Dean.

They return to the guests, speaking of long journeys and how traffic was hell, and Castiel summons the courage to ask about his accident. Anna's perspective is we love you, we're here for you, we're not going to leave you in some hospital to rot. Hester and Naomi are supportive, although distant, but they're no longer openly hostile as they are in Castiel's memory – so perhaps he can be thankful that his severe brain trauma has been bringing people together. And there is Dean in the background, always, glancing regularly over to check on Castiel as he comes to terms with what is happening. Dean comes past with a light touch to the small of Castiel's back, and he is grounded.

There are papers to sign for the hotel's admin, and there are caterers to speak to, and much of the late afternoon is a rush of business as the wedding ticks ever closer. For want of anything better to do, Castiel helps to arrange flowers – poorly, since his fingers are clumsy and don't entirely do what he wants them to sometimes, but he thinks the caterers might be allowing him to help on account of his traumatic head injury, which is nice. He thinks, as he uses the flat edge of a pair of scissors to curl ribbon for the base of the vase, that maybe he should start using this get what he wants. Make me waffles, I have brain damage.

He looks up as he works to see Dean talking to his friends – Inias, Hannah, Balthazar – and he watches the comfortable way they are with each other and he wonders how many times they have met. He wonders if they came to visit, if they went on a day-trip or out to dinner. He wonders if Balthazar gets on Dean's nerves, or if Dean likes his perverse sense of humour.

Inias says something to Dean, and Dean rocks back on his heels with a full-body laugh as ugly as it is infectious, and Castiel finds himself smiling even from across the room. At that moment, Inias says something, and Dean turns his head to look over at where Castiel is, and their eyes meet.

Embarrassed to be caught, Castiel wants to look away, but Dean holds him still. Dean is still talking to the others even with his eyes on Castiel, and Castiel doesn't know or care what he's saying. Dean's hair is unruly from having his car windows down on the drive over, and he has his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans, and Castiel feels impossibly light looking at him.

Dean twists his head over, says something to Balthazar that makes Hannah cringe and Balthazar loudly exclaim, “You're a fucking travesty, Winchester,” and then Dean is walking over to the table where Castiel is working.

Castiel quickly drops his gaze back to the ribbons he is working on, and determinedly doesn't pay Dean any mind as he approaches.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean says as he comes near. “You alright?”

“Fine, thank you.” Castiel holds up his tangled handful of ribbon. “Keeping busy.”

“Yeah, I see that. You know, it doesn't have to be a masterpiece.”

“I'm not trying to make it a masterpiece.”

“That so? Because from over there, it sure looked like you've been on the same vase for like, an hour.”

“It has not been an hour,” Castiel tells him.

“Forty minutes.”

“Ten, Dean, and I'm only being thorough.”

“Thorough,” Dean repeats, teasing, and he arches his eyebrows. “Okay, Michaelangelo. So what were you smirking about?”

Castiel squints at him. “I was not smirking.”

“Sure you were. You were sitting over here with your ribbons and your scissors and you were like--” Dean contorts his face into something hideous and ridiculous, pulling his lips back against his teeth, and Castiel all at once wants to laugh and wants to tell Dean to fuck off.

“Just wait for the wind to change,” Castiel says.

“Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you? Your handsome husband stuck like this.” Dean blinks, his expression settling back into its usual cocky grin, and he pushes at Castiel's shoulder.

“You certainly think highly of yourself.”

“I have eyes,” Dean says smugly. “I'm a catch.”

Castiel takes a risk, and he says, “You can't be that attractive, or I'd remember you.”

Dean's mouth drops open. “Asshole.”

“Is it too early for amnesia humour?” Castiel asks, only half-teasing.

“It's not the worst you've done,” Dean says. “There was this one time we were out in Lawrence and we bumped into this guy you knew from the library, some guy you said you never liked. And you were talking about how things were, so eventually the memory loss thing came up. And this guy, he just started pissing you off with all these questions – you know, how many fingers am I holding up type deal – and you started--” Dean breaks out with a laugh and has to take a second to compose himself. “You started up pretending you'd like forgotten everything all over again, like saying to him, excuse me, who are you? - and god, it was such a fucking dick move, you had me so worried for a second, but then you were giving me this look like you were gonna push me under a bus if I didn't play along.”

“No. I didn't,” Castiel says, mortified.

“I swear to God, I don't know what came over you but you were, like, committed.” Dean lets out a long breath, and he looks over at Castiel with a grin. “There was another time we were having sex and you told me you wanted me to fuck you so hard you forgot your own name, which was awkward.”

Castiel's eyes widen in horror.

Dean leans in. “I'm kidding,” he whispers conspiratorially.

Castiel glares up at him. “I knew that didn't sound like me – and you're not supposed to be lying to me, remember?”

“Only a teeny, tiny lie, in the name of comedy,” Dean says, and he props his hands on the top of the table, leaning over in Castiel's place. “A tiny lie – and to be fair, your face was fucking priceless, you should have seen yourself--”

“It's not funny,” Castiel tells him, but with Dean up this close to him, he keeps accidentally dropping his gaze to Dean's mouth.

One corner of Dean's lips turn up into a lopsided smile. “It's hilarious.”

“It is not,” Castiel says, and then, voice low and solemn, “If you keep this up, I won't marry you.”

Dean's grin spreads wider. “Oh yeah?”

“I'm sure I can find a suitable replacement.” Castiel tips his head over to one side, and that brings his face closer to Dean's. There are inches between them. “Sam looks willing, and I'm sure he's able.”

Dean scoffs at that. “You don't wanna marry Sam, he snores.”

“I don't know that you don't snore.”

“I don't!” Dean says indignantly. “You snore - I don't.”

Castiel raises his eyebrows, and he opens his mouth to complain at that – because he most certainly does not snore – but he is distracted by the sight of Dean's eyes flicking down to his lips, and Castiel forgets what he was going to say. His every thought is on Dean and the way that Castiel can feel his own pulse skittering at the proximity. He has to say something. He goes for, “Sam is handsome.”

“I'm handsome,” Dean says. His eyes are on Castiel's mouth.

“Castiel?”

Anna's voice drifts through from the hallway outside, and then Anna comes walking in as Dean straightens up.

“There you are,” Anna says, and she smiles warmly. “You need to leave your ribbons and flowers alone, the caterers can finish that – I've been told I have to escort you away to get ready.” She stands beside Dean, and lightly touches his arm with a pointed look. “You, too. Stop trying to seduce my baby brother.”

“I wasn't seducing him,” Dean objects. He glances back at Castiel, eyebrows raised. “Unless it was working--?”

“It wasn't,” Castiel tells him, which isn't true. Anna laughs. Castiel clears his throat, then,and he looks up at her. “Where am I going?”

She holds a hand out to him. “Come on.”

Castiel gets out of his seat, takes her hand, and he's just about to follow her out of the room when Dean catches a handful of his sleeve.

“I'll see you later,” Dean says, and Castiel realises that he is not just leaving to get dressed; he is leaving now to get married, and the next time he sees Dean will be with rings and a crowd of weeping family and the phrase 'til death do us part in the air between them. Dean hesitates, his hand still curled into the fabric of Castiel's sweater, and then he ducks forwards quickly and presses a quick kiss to the outside edge of Castiel's eyebrow.

Castiel leans into the touch without thinking, and he turns his face towards Dean, but Dean steps back before Castiel can do anything – not that Castiel knows what he would have done anyway.

Dean raises a hand in an awkward miniature wave. “There you go. You can take him away now.”

“Thanks,” Castiel says sarcastically.

“Yeah, yeah, get him out of my sight, Anna.”

Castiel shakes his head, and he heads after Anna into the hallway. She manhandles Castiel into a nice suit, and to comb his hair so viciously that his scalp hurts – thankfully she allows him to shave himself, or else Castiel isn't confident that he would have come out in one piece.

She has to leave him eventually, in order to finish getting ready – as the maid-of-honour it seems there are a lot of layers of make-up and jewellery and elaborate hair ornamentation to be organised – and Castiel is left on his own to worry about his hair and to struggle with his cuff-links. There's just under a half hour until the wedding is actually happening, and Castiel would lying if he said he wasn't mildly terrified.

However, as Castiel fumbles with his cuffs, he decides it's an appropriate level of fear. It's not the crushing panic he felt earlier; he's not here feeling overwhelmed by the sense that over the past day he has been rushed into something he barely understands with somebody he barely knows. He has butterflies – Christ, butterflies – and a nervousness that makes his fingers shaky, but it feels more like anticipation rather than anything else, and that's when he thinks for the first time that he wants to marry Dean Winchester.

Castiel drops his cuff-link.

He hears it clink as it hits the floor, and even as he scrambles to retrieve it, it rolls away under a cabinet, and so Castiel is left on his knees on the floor, feebly holding onto the cuff of one sleeve, and considering the fact that, effectively, he met Dean ten hours ago, and now he might be perfectly happy to spend the rest of his life with him.

Castiel decides not to think about it too much. He crouches lower and peers under the cabinet. He can see his cuff-link, just glinting out of reach, and he is just reaching for it when there is the sound of the door opening behind Castiel, and he glances back over his shoulder to see who it is, and finds none other than Dean quietly closing the door after him.

Castiel sits back on his heels. “What are you doing here?” he says, and he means to say more, but he loses the words before he can get them out, because Dean looks good.

He's been in layers of flannel over a band shirt and worn jeans all day, which suited him fine, but here he is in a crisp white button-up with a peach-coloured tie pulled close up to his collar, and he looks all at once to be soft and solid and so awkwardly handsome that Castiel doesn't know where to look. His eyes move from the line of Dean's throat above his collar, to the close fit of the cotton over his broad shoulders, to the way his neatly pressed pants sit on his hips.

“Hi,” Dean says. “What are you doing?”

Castiel swallows. “I thought it was bad luck to look before the ceremony.”

“Yeah, well.” Dean rolls his eyes. “Neither of us are blushing white brides, so. Do you need a hand, there?”

“I dropped a cuff-link.”

“Shit. Hang on, let me--” Dean comes across, and with a grunt, he pulls the cabinet towards him, rocking it up onto two legs so that Castiel can get a hand underneath and retrieve his cuff-link. “If I rip my tux doing this, Ellen's gonna have my ass.”

“Thank you,” Castiel says, and gets out of the way as Dean drops the cabinet back down with a crash. Dean steps closer, then, and takes the cuff-link out of Castiel's hand, and Castiel doesn't think about it – he instinctively holds his arm out.

Dean tugs on his sleeve, pins the edge of the cuff together, and threads the cuff-link through, and Castiel watches him. His hands are quick and steady, hands practiced at carefully taking apart delicate engine mechanisms, hands gentle after twenty years as Sam's sole caretaker. Castiel likes his hands.

“Is everything alright?” Castiel asks as Dean works.

“Hmm?”

“I assume you came in here wanting to speak to me.”

“Oh.” Now finished, Dean lowers his hands. “Yeah. Yeah, I just--” He hesitates, and scratches at the back of his head. “Uhh.”

Castiel scrutinises him, concerned. “What is it?”

“It's just – I wanted to check up with you one last time before we do this, is all,” Dean says, and he ducks his head. “You know, that you're okay with this.”

Castiel sighs. “Dean, I told you--”

“No, wait, okay?” Dean bursts out, and for once, Castiel lets himself be interrupted, instead of the other way around. “Because – because I know you, even if you feel like you don't know me that well right now, and I know sometimes you just agree to things because you feel like it's a decision that some past version of you has already made, and you just don't remember, and that you're making up for lost because there's some other person who wanted these things and you owe it to them to say yes.”

Castiel is speechless. He has not thought of it in so many words, but it's true.

Dean takes a deep breath, and goes on. “But, Cas, that's not what this is, here. You're not some shadow of a person who had their memory once, and you shouldn't be doing whatever you think that other person wants. You're the same person you've always been, and I've been doing this day by day as long as I've known you, persuading you that I'm worth being in love with a thousand times over, and we've made it this far. I gotta be sure that you're doing this for you, and not just because you think you're supposed to do.”

Castiel opens his mouth. “Dean.”

“Please. I just--” Dean lets out a rough breath, and he rubs a hand over his mouth. “Look. I don't want you waking up every morning after this with husband in your notebook or some shit, and you thinking – Jesus, how did that happen? I want this to be what you want – what you want for yourself.”

“You love me,” Castiel says, and he doesn't mean the flat way his voice comes out, but he knows that he hates himself for the way Dean flinches at the sound of it. “You look after me. What else is there?”

“Whatever else you want. But it doesn't have to be this.”

Castiel thinks about it. He takes a step closer, and then another, and unconsciously he lifts a hand to Dean's chest. He runs his finger along Dean's shirt seam at his shoulder, grazes over his collarbone underneath. Dean is watching him, and his mouth is open.

“I recognise you,” Castiel says, and he plucks at Dean's collar with finger and thumb.

Dean exhales, long and slow. “We met before the accident.”

“No.” Castiel knows that Dean is technically correct, but that isn't what he's saying. He repeats himself: “No.” He skims his hand down along the line of white buttons, tucks the tip of his finger under the crease between button and button-hole. He smoothes the front of Dean's shirt. “Not your appearance, or the simple fact of who you were before I was hit. I recognise you. You made me pancakes, and you smiled at me, and I--”

Castiel can't finish the sentence. He doesn't know how to say what he means – that his stomach felt as though it were doing things that were reserved for works of fiction, that he found himself smiling at Dean and couldn't stop for anything, that Dean touched the corner of Castiel's mouth with his thumb and Castiel forgot to keep breathing. He doesn't say anything. He runs his hands down Dean's sides, his fingers light over the cotton. His hands are shaky.

“You what?” Dean asks, and his voice is a little hoarse.

“When I woke up this morning and I saw you making breakfast, I knew you,” Castiel says quietly. His hands come to stop on Dean's hips. “I didn't know your middle name, or what food you don't like, or whether you snore, but I saw you in your bare feet cooking breakfast and I knew you. Bodily, I knew you.”

“I don't have a middle name,” Dean says, and then Castiel pulls him forwards by the belt-loops and kisses him.

Dean makes a startled noise against Castiel's mouth, and then he is with the programme. He lifts one hand to cup around the back of Castiel's neck, the other sliding over Castiel's waist to press into the small of his back.

Castiel moves without thinking – tips his head over to avoid the bump of noses, steps closer until he and Dean are pressed flush from chest to pelvis, opens his mouth over Dean's – and it's the easiest thing in the world, this instinctive move into touching Dean. It's muscle memory; it feels like Castiel should have been doing this all along, and then he recognises that he has.

He holds onto Dean's hips and he kisses him until at last Dean pulls back, using his grip on Castiel's neck to hold him out at arm's length. His mouth is open and kiss-flushed, and Castiel aches for him.

“Sorry, man. I mean, this is great, but I gotta go,” Dean says apologetically, even as his eyes track over Castiel's lips. “I'm supposed to go out there and marry some asshole.”

Forget about him, Castiel wants to say. Stay with me. Instead, he takes a deep breath and smoothes both hands over the front of Dean's shirt. He fixes his tie. “Better not keep him waiting.”

Dean laughs a little at that, and there is a moment in which Castiel feels dizzy, up against Dean's green eyes and his lopsided smile. “Yeah,” Dean says, “I hear he's real dangerous.”

Castiel nods, his own smile creeping up on him, and he shifts his weight, glances away. “You should go, then,” he tells Dean. “He might come looking in here for you.”

Dean grins. “Yeah, he might.” He reaches up, bumps a knuckle against the edge of Castiel's jaw. “You sure you're okay?”

Castiel exhales sharply. “Dean, get out,” he says, but he is smiling. “I'll see you on the other side.”

---

The ceremony is a nice one, without too many flowers, as per Dean's specifications, and in a building with large windows looking out over the country, as per Castiel's. Anna even steers Castiel gently by the arm as he walks up the aisle to keep him from veering off path and bumping into the pews, which is nice.

They say their vows, Castiel glancing over notes that he doesn't remember writing with an uncomfortable scepticism, before saying I don't remember writing this but it makes some good points, I must have been drunk – cue laughter – and going on, I respect you and I like you and I trust you, and I think that's as good a start as any. Dean's is longer, and he cries, although he scrubs at his eyes with the heel of his hand and firmly denies it when Sam laughs at him later.

Afterwards, there is food, in abundance, and there are speeches. Sam's, as the best man, is funny and warm and affectionately teasing, until Dean is red-faced with his head in his hands and faintly muttering, “It happened once. It happened once.”

Anna's speech has fewer jokes, but it is so genuine and straightforwardly loving that Castiel's chest hurts. She says that they thought they lost him after the accident, and then he woke up and they thought they lost him all over again, that he would be stuck reliving the fifteenth of January, 2010, every day for the rest of his life, and that he'd never be happy – and that Dean changed everything.

Castiel watches her, not feeling entirely real as he listens to a speech that just hours ago he would've thought to be the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard – and then, under the table, a hand slips through Castiel's and holds on tight.

There are old rock and roll songs that Castiel faintly recognises blaring out overhead, interspersed with a few of Castiel's own favourites, and an old Sinatra tune is just starting up when Dean grabs him. He pulls him around the room to meet a thousand faces he already knows but doesn't remember, and Dean gives each person a name and a point of interest so that Castiel knows what they usually talk about, what they have in common.

“This is Jody, she's a cop, and I think she's convinced she's my mom. She likes plying you with cheap beer until you agree to arm-wrestle her.”

“Charlie, Cas. Charlie's into nerdy shit like Lord of the Rings but she disagrees with your interpretation of Boromir.”

“Meet Kevin. He's super smart and can get intense about Shakespeare with you.”

“This is Jo, she draws web comics, and likes to flirt with you to make you nervous. She's okay, though, aside from being an asshole.”

There are members of Castiel's distant family who wish him well ,and offer annoying little phrases like it's so good to see you better, it was such a shame when you lost your memory. Castiel tries to politely explain that no, actually, he does still have memory loss, and how it works – inability to process short-term memory into long-term while he sleeps – and he hears himself as though from far away, and he thinks he's come a long way in twelve hours.

Sam comes over and hugs him so tight his bones pop, and Castiel doesn't need Dean to have told him that he likes Sam, because he can feel it in his gut. They go to the buffet table together to steal some finger-food, and Castiel gently chastises Sam for making fun of Dean's weepiness until Jess comes to whisk him away for a spin on the dance-floor.

Castiel watches Sam and Jess twirl in lazy circles, and he glances between the ease of their movements and his own hands where it trembles slightly on the stem of his wine glass as he lifts it to his mouth. He knows that he's never going to be what he was, but he thinks he's done alright, considering everything.

He isn't alone for long. Within a few moments, Anna comes to stand beside him with a handful of buffet food.

“Hello, Castiel,” she says. “Bread stick?”

Castiel looks over. “No, thank you.”

“Suit yourself. How are you doing?”

Castiel hesitates. “I'm doing well,” he says at last, and it isn't a lie. “I'm having fun.”

Anna smiles. “Of course, you always are the life of the party.”

“There are a lot of people here that want to talk to me. I'm trying to maintain an illusion of being busy so that I can't be spoken to,” Castiel explains, and he lifts his wine to drink.

“You know, most of them are very nice – you like them, even if you don't remember--”

“I was talking about Naomi.”

“Oh.” Anna considers this. “Stay busy.”

Castiel lets out a small laugh. “We seem to be on hospitable terms at the moment... but you seem even worse with her than you were before.”

Anna hums disapprovingly under her breath. “Naomi and I have had – disagreements in the past few years. We aren't really on speaking terms, anymore.”

Castiel looks over, surprised. He and Anna have always been set apart from Hester and Naomi – differences in religious belief, in opinions of what constituted duty, the desire to get out of the family business – but they have never not been on speaking terms for longer than a few months. “What happened?” he asks.

Anna glances at him, eyebrows slightly raised, and Castiel realises the obvious. She sighs, then. “You know, when we first got you back from the hospital, it was – I'll be honest with you, it was hard.” Her tone is perfectly conversational, but Castiel can hear the regret lying underneath her words. “We didn't really know what we were doing, and you were much worse, then. I mean, you have no idea, but your memory has improved a lot. You used to be shot for short-term memory, as well, so it was every ten or fifteen minutes we had to explain what had happened, where you were...” She takes a deep breath. “Naomi didn't want to do it.”

Castiel swallows a mouthful of wine.

“She... she wanted you to stay in hospital – you know, until you got better, like that was ever going to happen the way she was pretending it would – and when I said no, we would only do that if you wanted to, and we're not just abandoning him for no reason, she just. Went back to France. Never visited, never called – except sometimes to ask how hard I was finding it, and didn't I wish I'd got you institutionalised yet...” Anna lets out a long, slow breath, and she bites another bread stick with a hard snap. “Hester was better, she was only in Nebraska at the time, so she came most weekends at first, but she was on Naomi's side. Used every visit to say we should blow Dad's money on putting you in some home.”

Castiel can hear that she's upset, and he doesn't know how to make it better. He sets down his wine glass and puts an arm awkwardly around her. “You couldn't all give up everything for me.”

“If they'd stayed, none of us would have needed to,” Anna says. “You were improving – slowly, but you were improving – and you're still the same person, but they just got it into their heads that you were a lost cause somehow – and Dean--” She cuts herself off.

Castiel looks over. He asks, for the first time, a question that had never come to him before. “How bad was I? When Dean arrived.”

Anna pats his arm. “Better, I suppose. Not good. But you know... he read the leaflets, he did the research. He kept showing up when I was saying it didn't make a difference to you, that you didn't know any better – and I'm sorry for that, because I didn't know any better, then – and I couldn't turn him away because you were always so happy to see him, some boy you met at a gas-station once.”

“A garage,” Castiel corrects absently.

“A garage. And you know... you were humming on the days you met him. Softly, As I Leave You. Sinatra. And then you were only choosing to listen to Sinatra on the days he didn't come and you were just – I don't know.” Anna looks out across the dance-floor, and Castiel is staring at her, and he doesn't know what to say. She keeps talking, softer and softer. “You remembered him. I mean, the doctors explained it all – episodic memory versus non-declarative, I know how it all works in theory – but the way you were with him was different. The way you are.”

“Anna,” Castiel says, and his voice is strained.

He doesn't know what he's trying to say, except that he loves his sister so much it hurts, and sometimes when he looks at Dean it feels almost the same, and he doesn't know how to say thank you and I'm sorry all at once.

As it happens, he doesn't get the opportunity, because at that moment, Dean comes up with a mouthful of food and a bright smile.

“Sorry, Anna, but I'm gonna need to borrow my husband here,” Dean says, his voice loud and bratty – especially obnoxious on the word husband – and he's grinning ear to ear as he reaches for Castiel's hand.

They lace fingers, and Castiel follows willingly as Dean extracts him from the crowds and leads him onto the dance-floor. He does glance over his shoulder at Anna to mouth an apology, but she doesn't look too aggrieved; she smiles at him and mouths back something that looks a lot like he makes you happy. Castiel's chest feels tight.

He can feel Dean's pulse fluttering through his palm, and his own heart is beating fast as Dean turns to face him on the dance-floor, all green eyes, cocky smile, and bravado. “I get you for this part,” Dean tells him. “Sorry, I don't make the rules.”

“I was having an important conversation,” Castiel tells him, his tone chastising, but only slightly.

It's a relatively fast song playing overhead, something with pop overtones, but Dean goes for Castiel's hand and his waist like they're getting ready to waltz, and Castiel barely has time to grab hold of him before Dean is off dancing around like a fool. “Oh yeah? What about?”

Castiel is silent for a beat, not sure whether to tell him. “About you.”

“Not all bad things, I hope.”

“Good things,” Castiel says. He is quiet, and then he says, “About the way I used to be.”

Dean looks at him as they dance, slowing. “At the start?”

“Was it not – hard? For you?”

Dean shrugs. “It wasn't too bad. When we met, you already recognised me from the garage, so every time you saw me you wanted to apologise for losing my number, you wanted to invite me in for lunch, or take me out to dinner or to a movie, and, uh.” Dean laughs. “Well, it was hard to say no to you.”

“Because I have memory loss,” Castiel finishes.

Dean blinks. “What? Dude, no! Jesus, Cas.” He rubs a hand down over his face. “Because – I don't know, because you were smart and nice and super unfunny, and also really, really hot, and if you were desperate to tell me about books you'd read and feed me chicken soup, then I sure as shit wasn't gonna complain.”

Castiel looks at him. He doesn't know what to say, so he decides on simply commenting, “You're bad at dancing,” as Dean moves them inelegantly back and forth – and Castiel isn't even sure that they're in time with the rhythm, but he doesn't have a good ear for music.

Dean scoffs and reels back in a pretence of being offended. “I am really good at dancing.”

Castiel tries not to smile. “You're really, really bad at dancing.”

At that moment, Castiel steps on his foot, and Dean winces. “Well, at least we're both shitty dancers,” he says.

Castiel gives him a withering look. “I have brain damage, Dean. What's your excuse?” Then, just to highlight the issue, Castiel steps on his foot again – deliberately.

“Ow!” Dean bumps him with his hip as payback, but he overestimates Castiel's balance, and the two of them end up stumbling backwards.

It's Dean's hand slipping around to the small of Castiel's back that steadies him, and when Castiel feels stable on two feet, he realises that they are pressed up against each other, chests touching, close enough that if he were to tilt his head over, their noses would bump. Castiel exhales slowly, looking up to meet Dean's eyes, and together they straighten. Distantly, Castiel notices that Dean doesn't make any attempt to put space between them.

“You look really good, by the way,” Dean says, so quiet that Castiel can barely hear him.

“Thank you,” Castiel says. “Anna brushed my hair for me.”

Dean laughs, a soft huffing thing, and his breath is warm over Castiel's mouth. “You let her know she did good work then.”

“You want me to pass on your regards?” Castiel asks. He slides his hand up into the sleeve of Dean's jacket, wraps careful fingers around his wrist, and turns his hand over. “You're not wearing chain-mail, at least.”

Dean realises what he's talking about and he tips his head back with a long groan. “I shouldn't have introduced you to that.”

They're no longer dancing, not really – just standing close together, moving very slightly to the beat as one song draws to a close and another begins. They make a pair, Castiel with his poor motor skills, Dean with his general lack of coordination, but for once Castiel isn't thinking about it. He is glad to have Dean here, with his hands steady on Castiel's back.

---

The party goes on late into the night, and it is close to two in the morning by the time things start to wrap up. Sam, Jess, and some of the others that Castiel met help to carry all the various wedding presents to Dean's car – toasters and sets of plates and artful vases beyond counting – and then Dean and Castiel say goodbye.

They're not going off on their honeymoon until the morning – in case Castiel falls asleep in the car and then wakes up, panicked, with a blank slate – so instead they have a room booked in a nearby hotel, and it seems that Florida is going to have to wait until tomorrow.

Sam embraces Dean in a hug so enormous and aggressive that Castiel feels somewhat intimidated even looking at them, and when Sam comes his way, Castiel prepares himself for a painful experience, but Sam is gentler now.

“Don't worry, Dean's the only one who gets me actively trying to break him,” Sam jokes, and his hug is warm and careful. He makes Castiel feel small at five-eleven, but Sam also makes him feel safe, and that is something he's learning to value. Sam holds him at arms' length, then, and slaps a hand to his shoulder. “You take care, okay? And make sure Dean wears his sunscreen, or I swear to God, he'll come back as one giant freckle. It'll be ugly, trust me.”

Castiel smiles.

There is Anna, who presses her mouth into a thin line as she hugs him, and makes a stoic demonstration of the way she is not crying. Even Naomi and Hester come forwards to wish him well, which is nice if slightly awkward, and once Castiel steps back from them, he looks over to see Anna with Dean.

As Castiel watches, Anna touches a hand to Dean's cheek, and her mouth is moving quietly with words that make Dean duck his head and flush pink.

There is Charlie, Kevin, Jess, Victor, Benny, Jody, Ellen, Bobby – earlier there had a been a flow of guests leaving the party early and wanting to say goodbye, but now there is almost an orderly queue of people wanting to wish Dean and Castiel their best, and Castiel is more than a little overwhelmed by it.

He has a large family, of course, but with the exception of Anna, they have always been distant and unemotional, and somehow here he has been swallowed into a large family of total strangers who love him enormously. He is hugged and kissed and hugged again, and he tries to process how this all happened, and over the head of a woman named Tamara, he sees Dean laughing uproariously at something Sam has said, and Castiel is startled by the strength of the rush he feels of affection at the sight of him.

They pack up the last of their stuff, and they hug and hug again, and then Dean swings into the drivers' seat and Castiel into the passenger seat.

Their case is in the back of Dean's car, and Castiel carries it up the hotel stairs for him, because he's clumsy, but he's stronger than Dean is, and apparently their combined bathing suits and sunscreen weigh a ton. Dean unlocks the door, props it open with his foot.

“You want me to carry you over the threshold?” he asks.

Castiel looks down at the suitcase. “If you think you can carry us both.”

“Okay, fuck you. Get in.”

Castiel walks through the doorway and sets down their case by the wall. They have a large en-suite room with a king-size bed, and on the far side of the room, Castiel can see a door which he supposes to mean that Dean has a separate room for himself, just in case.

Dean kicks his shoes unceremoniously off and away into a corner with a sigh of relief. He shrugs out of his suit jacket, slings over the back of the nearby chair, and he heads towards the dresser for his pyjamas. Castiel follows him. Dean has a hand at his neck, loosening his tie, when Castiel steps up close to him, forces him back a step, and crowds him up against the dresser.

“Hey, Cas--” Dean starts, and then he falls silent because Castiel brings up both hands to cup his jaw and he kisses him.

Dean leans back against the dresser, leaving some distance between them, and Castiel steps forwards to close it, presses his body up against Dean's and kisses him open-mouthed and slow. Somehow, in spite of everything, Castiel knows Dean like he knows his own body – without a distinct recollection of ever having touched it, mapped it out with his hands, but so that instinctively his fingers slide to the places where Dean is sensitive, to the ticklish spots where he jerks against Castiel and huffs his little laugh.

Castiel toes off his shoes, and presses forwards again, his hips against Dean's so that Dean can feel the slow half-hardness of him through his pants, and Castiel slides one hand down to Dean's hips, to his ass. As he moves his other hand down between them to rub over the line of Dean's cock in his pants, Dean jerks, and he pulls back with a gasp. “Cas,” he says. “You--”

“Come on, husband,” Castiel says against Dean's mouth, low and suggestive, and he hooks two fingers through Dean's belt buckle and uses it to pull him backwards towards the bed. They move clumsily, in slow staggering steps, and Castiel never stops kissing Dean for a second – until the backs of Castiel's knees hit the mattress and he drops to sit on the edge of the bed.

Dean stands over him, mouth open and face flushed, and as Castiel pushes both hands up over Dean's stomach, untucking his nice crisp shirt, Dean worries. “Shit,” he says – although his breath is coming a little short already. “You sure?”

Castiel exhales sharply, frustrated. “Dean.” He takes hold of the end of Dean's nice peach tie, twists it around his hand, and gently tugs on it to pull Dean down to his level. They're eye-to-eye, then, and Castiel looks straight at Dean, eyes narrowed. “Stop being so careful with me. I have brain damage, I'm not a two-year old.”

Dean's mouth turns up in a small smile. “You know, you say that every time.”

“Then maybe,” Castiel says, and he slips a hand around the back of Dean's head, flops back onto the bed – bringing Dean with him in the process, until Dean is leaning over Castiel with his hands braced either side of Castiel's head – “you should start listening to me.” He pulls his head down to kiss him.

Dean starts to laugh, and the shape of his grin against Castiel's mouth set Castiel off smiling too, but that is almost too overly sentimental for words, so Castiel busies himself with hands at the buttons of Dean's shirt.

Together they shimmy back up the bed until Dean has the space to kneel up and wrestle out of his shirt sleeves – one arm getting caught at the cuff-link, and Castiel props himself up on his elbows, watching with amusement as Dean wriggles and flaps his arms to get free, until finally there is the plink of the his cuff-link flying free and hitting something on the other side of the room.

Dean looks back to Castiel, pink-cheeked with embarrassment, but he cocks his eyebrows as he leans back over, and he says, “Yeah, you like a sexy strip-tease, dontcha?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Castiel says, dead-pan.

His hands are already moving to Dean's undershirt, pushing it up over his ribs so that he can skate his fingers over the warmth of Dean's bare skirt, bluntly drag fingernails up his sides, thumb at the crest of his hipbones. Dean breathes ragged, kisses Castiel over and over as Castiel works at Dean's belt, and he makes a low noise in the back of his throat when Castiel pushes a hand in past his underwear and grinds his palm over Dean's cock.

“Jesus,” Dean says, and he sits back to start wriggling out of his pants. He stops halfway to pluck at the fabric of Castiel's shirt, and slaps his thigh as well. “Come on, you need to get some off these off too.”

Castiel is happy to oblige. He undoes the top two buttons of his shirt and yanks it over his head, then pushes his shoulders back into the mattress to arch his hips up and get his pants down – a movement that presses his pelvis up against the curve of Dean's ass. That gets Dean's attention, making him stall midway. Castiel is greedy for more contact, his hands grabbing at Dean's hips to pull him back down, and Dean and he both squirm together to kick off their pants from around their ankles before they fall back into kissing.

Dean licks into Castiel's mouth, bites at his bottom lip, and there is a flash of heat through Castiel's gut that has him gasping. Castiel wiggles against Dean, working his body down underneath Dean's so that their hips fit together, one of Dean's legs between Castiel's thighs. Then Dean rolls against him, and in their underwear the contact is almost as good as skin-on-skin; Castiel settles his hands on Dean's waist, pulls Dean harder against him until Dean is grinding breathlessly against his leg.

Castiel recalls, if dimly, going home after meeting Dean at the garage, of showering away the dust and sweat from two hours at the roadside waiting for a tow-truck, of the way his mind had wandered back to handsome grease-smeared mechanics. Castiel can't remember whether he imagined Dean like this, whether he touched himself, but this he remembers wanting it. Now, with Dean pressing kisses along his collarbone, his throat, the hinge of his jaw, Castiel is breathing hard and desperate for friction, and he thinks that in spite of everything, he's a lucky man.

Dean licks a line up the length of Castiel's throat, sucks a mark into the hollow of his jaw, bites – and Castiel's hips snap up unconsciously. Their cocks drag together in their underwear, and Castiel feels want sparking hotter and hotter underneath his skin. He drifts one hand up Dean's side, pushes underneath his undershirt, and skates up over his chest, and as his fingers graze over a nipple, Dean makes this punched-out, ragged sound that has Castiel hot all over.

He wants to hear it again, wants to remember it, and so he keeps his fingers moving steadily over Dean's nipple, and he pushes the other hand down under the waistband of Dean's briefs. He grabs a handful of his ass, and he rocks against him, fast and steady. Dean is making these low noises that seem to come from his chest, dark groans, and as they move his mouth grows sloppy on Castiel's, his kisses wet and slow. Castiel slips his tongue over Dean's, captures his bottom lip, and then Dean is gone from him.

Leaning back to sit on his heels, Dean moves away to kiss down Castiel's chest, over his abdomen, and Castiel can feel his stomach muscles tremble with the effort of not moving, of keeping his hips still, as Dean kisses below his belly-button, sucks a bruise over his hipbone. Dean has a hand brushing up the inside of Castiel's thigh, his touch light enough that it almost tickles, and Castiel wants more. He shifts impatiently, says, “Dean,” and pitches his hips up slightly, but Dean pays no attention.

Dean has dropped his head now, his mouth on the soft skin inside Castiel's thigh, and he is so close that Castiel can feel Dean's breath on his balls, but Dean isn't fucking doing anything. He just presses light kisses to Castiel's skin, sucks and nips, and Castiel wants so badly for Dean to touch him, to do something.

Castiel makes a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. His hands move to Dean's head, curling his fingers through Dean's hair. “Dean,” he says again, louder. “Come on, you're--”

Dean palms over Castiel's cock through his underwear, and Castiel shuts up immediately. His head falls back against the mattress with a gasp, and he balls his hands into fists on Dean's head as he struggles to hold himself together, and then all efforts at self-composure are lost, because Dean pulls Castiel's boxers down and sucks the tip of Castiel's cock into his mouth.

Castiel can't remember how to breathe normally. He is flat on his back and helpless against the heat of Dean's mouth, the pressure of his tongue, the way he hollows his cheeks as he takes Castiel further into his mouth, and Castiel is trembling. He can hear, as though from far away, that his every inhale is turning into a shallow noise he can't control, something that whines in the back of his throat, something that groans as he breathes out, and his hips are rolling restlessly now.

Just as Castiel is getting into it, fucking steadily into Dean's mouth, Dean pulls off with a wet noise.

Castiel props himself up on his elbows with a frown, and he looks at Dean to ask what he thinks he's doing, but then Dean pulls off Castiel's underwear. He lowers his head again, and there is his tongue along the juncture where Castiel's thigh meets his groin, down and behind to his balls, and then lower still. That's the only warning that Castiel gets before Dean's tongue is flickering between Castiel's legs.

Castiel gasps, and his hands fly to Dean's head, clinging desperately to his temples, his hair, as Dean licks and kisses over Castiel's asshole, the space behind his balls. Castiel tries to keep still but every touch is a fire-starter and he can feel himself writhing on the hotel's nice bedsheets as Dean starts to slowly fuck him with his tongue.

Then there is the blunt touch of a finger, and then Dean is gone again. Castiel lifts his head, scowling again, but before he can complain about Dean disappearing on him, Dean is back, and he has a small bottle of lube in his hands.

Castiel forgets what he was going to say.

Dean sees his expression change, and he stops halfway through the act of crawling back between Castiel's legs. “Is this okay?” he asks.

Castiel raises his eyebrows. “If by okay you mean I'd like you to get in me sometime today and not next week, then, yes, it's okay.”

Dean smacks his leg. “Hey, fuck you.”

“I wish,” Castiel tells him, and Dean moves up to lean over him and kiss him quiet.

Castiel pushes his hands down underneath the waistband of Dean's briefs and starts trying to shimmy them down over his ass, and Dean breaks away to laugh. “You fuckin' pushy asshole. Okay!”

Dean gets down between Castiel's thighs again, and Castiel can hear the snap of a bottle lid opening and closing, and then there is Dean's cold touch. Dean pushes slowly inside, and Castiel's breath hitches. It's uncomfortable at first, Castiel's body tensing, but then as Dean pulls away, Castiel misses it, and he angles his hips for Dean to come back.

Dean fucks him to the first knuckle, and then deeper, and Castiel digs his shoulders back into the mattress so that he can lift his hips for Dean, breathless and desperate for more. He can feel his body moving in slow rolls against Dean's hand, and Dean adds another finger to the sweet stretching ache of it just as Castiel is hoarsely demanding, “Faster, faster--”

His head drops back against the mattress and he exhales shakily as Dean works him more quickly, more roughly, and Castiel's hands curl into the bed's coverlet. His hips are pitching up out of his control, his chest heaving, and when Dean ducks his head to lick alongside his finger, to kiss up around Castiel's balls and the base of his cock, Castiel actually moans.

“Fuck, Cas,” Dean says, pressing his face into the inside of Castiel's thigh.

“Come on, faster,” Castiel gasps. He reaches for Dean's shoulders, tries to pull him upwards so that Dean can get up here and kiss him or fuck him properly.

Dean dodges his hands, drops his head to drag his tongue up along the shaft of Castiel's cock, then pressing hot kisses to Castiel's thighs, his hips, and he pushes another finger inside Castiel. His touch is rougher now, less careful, but it's still not enough. Castiel clutches at Dean's head, his hands sliding across what he can reach of Dean. He grazes his fingers underneath Dean's ear, drags his hands backwards through his hair.

Castiel can feel Dean's fingers curl inside him, heat spiking in his gut, and Castiel thinks he's going to lose his mind if Dean doesn't hurry up. He tugs on Dean's hair. “Dean, - Dean, come on, I'm ready--”

He succeeds in pulling Dean up to eye-level, and Castiel kisses him, rough and wet, hitching broken gasps into his mouth. As they kiss, Dean wriggles out of his briefs, and Castiel lets out a sigh of relief as he sees Dean reaching for the lube again.

“Shit, Cas, you look – fuck,” Dean says as he slicks up his cock, tilting his head back with a low noise as he jerks himself a few times – and all the time, his fingers keep up this infuriating, steady pace inside Castiel.

Frustrated, Castiel lets his breath out in one short burst. “Dean, I love you, but you're taking too long,” he says, and he presses a hand to Dean's shoulder, pushes him over, and straddles his hips.

Below him, Dean looks starstruck. His chest is heaving, a pink flush spread down from his jawline all across his freckled shoulders, and he is open-mouthed with want, but when he finally speaks, his voice rough, all he says is, “What did you say?”

Castiel stops. “I don't know,” he says, and then he lies. “I don't remember.”

Dean looks at him. He doesn't say anything, he just looks up at Castiel with an expression so soft and awestruck that Castiel doesn't know what to do. He just kneels over Dean, his heart in his throat, and thinking, it's true, it's true.

“Cas--” Dean starts eventually, his voice hoarse.

Castiel doesn't know what Dean is about to say, but he stops him. “I love you,” he says again, unflinching as he stares back at Dean, but quieter now. “I think.”

Dean laughs a little, the sound incredulous and almost breathless with something like relief. “You think?”

Castiel holds his eyes – tilts his chin up, almost defiantly – and then, slowly, sinks down onto Dean's cock. It's incredible, the stretch and burn, the feeling of being so full that his stomach muscles are tight and trembling, and to Castiel's memory, it's been a long time since he did anything like this, but his body knows Dean. He lets out his breath in one long sigh, and even as he closes his eyes, he can feel Dean's eyes on him.

Dean settles his hand on Castiel's hip, his thumb tucked against his hipbone, fingers digging in just a little into the flesh of Castiel's waist, and without thinking, Castiel sets a hand over Dean's. He opens his eyes, and Dean is still watching him.

He starts to move.

Castiel goes slowly at first, adjusting, getting back into the rhythm of doing this – moves his body in a slow roll that pulls a groan from Dean's mouth. Dean is watching him, his eyes dark with want, his lips parted, and he breathes roughly as Castiel rocks back onto his cock in incrementally faster movements. He angles himself at he comes down, snaps his hips forwards hard, and all the air is punched out of Dean's lungs. Dean inhales on a groan, his eyes fluttering closed for a moment, but then he's back to watching Castiel, and something about it – that Dean won't look away – sets off a fresh, fierce spike of arousal low in Castiel's gut.

He rocks back, and there is heat building underneath his skin as he fucks himself down on Dean's cock, and Dean is snapping his hips up to meet him now, hard and fast, and Castiel is losing it. There is a pressure where Dean's cock is filling him that grows more intense with every movement, until every time Castiel thrusts, every time he rolls back onto Dean's cock, there is sharp white heat in his belly. He wants to keep going, wants to keep pushing back into it, let it take him over, and he has to bite his bottom lip because he can hear these broken little noises spilling out of his mouth. He gasps and he lets out this shaky little breaths, and he tips his head back to say, fuck, Dean, fuck.

Dean's mouth falls further open, breathing roughly as Castiel moves, and then Castiel reaches down. He takes Dean's hand, presses it back against the mattress beside his head, laces their fingers together. He has his eyes on Dean, and he has this thing in his chest that aches looking at him and he's full to bursting with how badly he wants to keep this moment, but he's so close it hurts.

He rolls down onto Dean's cock, faster now than he can keep steady, his hips moving in these aborted little jerks, and Dean is making these breathy groans underneath him as he rocks up to meet him – and Castiel knows he should slow down to let Dean come first, but he can't. He has this heat rising through him, his thigh muscles tensing, stomach tightening, and Castiel should stop, he should really slow down and let Dean come first, but as he goes to squeeze the base of his cock and hold himself back, Dean takes his hand off Castiel's waist to stop him.

“It's okay, Cas, I got you,” Dean says, his voice low and rough, and he wraps his hand around Castiel's cock. “Come on, Cas.”

Castiel makes a noise he's never heard before as Dean starts jerking him, something high and breathless that cracks at the end, and he only knows that he is moving his hips in short, useless pulses, and then he comes.

Castiel comes back to himself with the tail-end of a long groan spilling out of his mouth, and he has his one hand clutching Dean's hand against the mattress so hard that his knuckles are white. He is still moving, although without urgency – grinding down onto Dean's cock in slow rolls – and as he tries to catch his breath, he looks down at Dean.

Dean is pink, chest heaving, and Castiel can see him trembling, but when Castiel meets his eyes, he just smiles.

“You okay?” Dean asks breathlessly.

Castiel nods, every bone is his body feeling warm and loose. “Mm-hm.” He keeps lazily moving his hips, determined to get Dean to finish but too wiped out to do it with any really emphasis.

Dean laughs, and he slaps Castiel's thigh. “Come on, budge over.”

“I've got this,” Castiel says.

“No, you don't.” Dean eases his other hand away from Castiel's clinging fingers and takes hold of his hips and then, carefully, he rolls them over.

Castiel flops down onto his back with a small grunt, his hands reaching up to thread through Dean's hair as Dean adjusts himself between Castiel's legs. Then, slowly, Dean pushes back into Castiel.

A sigh pulls itself from Castiel's mouth as Dean starts to move steadily against him, and Castiel slides a hand down to the nape of Dean's neck, and pulls him down for a kiss. He can feel come smearing across his stomach where Dean leans over him, but he doesn't even care; he just tightens his hold on Dean.

He opens his mouth over Dean's, kisses him slow and sweet until Dean is breaking away to pant against Castiel's jaw. Castiel can feel a fine tremor through the muscles of Dean's back, a shiver that traces the length of his spine, and Dean is gasping out as he fucks into Castiel.

Castiel angles his hips up, moves to meet Dean on every thrust, and Dean is starting to come apart.

“Jesus – fuck, Cas, I'm gonna--” Dean mutters, and he pushes his forehead against Castiel's in between messy kisses. He breathes ragged, open-mouthed. “Cas, fuck, I'm – I'm--”

Castiel pulls his head down, kisses him hard, and as he slips his tongue over Dean's, he feels him slip out, and then a moment later Dean is groaning against Castiel's mouth, long and loud, and he comes across Castiel's stomach.

Afterwards, Dean slumps onto Castiel's chest, which is a terrible idea – Castiel can feel come slick and sticky between them – but Castiel lets him. He strokes gentle hands over his hair, the back of his neck, his shoulders, but then Dean is heavy and slowly but surely squashing Castiel.

Castiel pats Dean on the arm. “You're crushing me. Get up.”

With an overly theatrical sigh of complaint, Dean gets off Castiel and drops down to lie on his back beside him. Then he drops his head back against the mattress, and then he starts laughing.

Castiel looks over with a frown. “What?”

“I can't believe it,” Dean says, and he drapes an arm melodramatically over his face.

“What are you talking about it?”

Dean lifts one foot into the air, and Castiel looks down to see that it is still clad in a worn grey sock. “I can't believe I kept my socks on,” he says. “Well, we're officially married now.”

Castiel almost rolls his eyes – trust that to be Dean's major concern – but then he realises that there is nothing else to be concerned about. They have their hands still loosely tangled together, and they are side-by-side with wedding bands on their fingers, and with the exception of the cooling puddles of come on their stomachs, everything is wonderful.

He turns his head over towards Dean. “Are you going to clean this up then?” he asks, flicking his eyes pointedly at the mess on his abdomen.

“Why do I have to do it?” Dean complains.

“Because it's your fault.”

“I'm sorry, how it this my fault?”

“You seduced me.”

Dean bursts out with a laugh. “So it did work!”

“In part,” Castiel admits.

“Oh yeah?”

“Your intentions weren't always entirely clear - I had to extrapolate.”

Dean scoffs, and he shoves lightly at Castiel's shoulder. “Extrapo-- fuck off.”

Castiel wipes a finger through the come on his stomach and pushes his finger at Dean, who yelps and flinches away. “You need to clean up,” Castiel tells him, following.

“Get that fuckin' dirty-ass finger away from me,” Dean tells him. He bats away Castiel's hand, once, and again. “I mean it. Hey. Hey!”

“Dean, I have memory loss,” Castiel says.

“I don't fucking care what you have, get that thing away from me--” Dean rolls away out of the bed, stumbling as he gets to his feet, and he flips Castiel off as he heads towards the bathroom. Castiel merely gives him a smug smile and admires the view.

When Dean comes back, he throws the wet wash-cloth at Castiel so that it hits him in the face, but Castiel can't say he expected any less. He just takes the cloth off his face and starts to wipe himself down.

Dean flops down onto the mattress, on his side, and props himself up on his elbow. “Aww, baby, you're so hot, scooping spunk out of your belly-button.”

Castiel flicks it at him.

Dean flinches away with a squawk of protest, and then he takes the cloth away and tosses it to the other side of the room. “Okay, that's good enough,” he says, and moves in closer. “Get in here.”

Castiel obediently rolls over and fits himself against Dean's side. He leans his head up on Dean's shoulder, throws an arm over Dean's stomach, and he settles there. He can feel the faint lift of Dean's chest as he breathes; he can feel the flutter of his pulse underneath his skin.

They come down together, legs tangled, and they don't speak. They just lie on top of the coverlet, both stark naked and slowly growing cold; Dean's hand is gentle through Castiel's hair, and Castiel traces slow, lazy patterns on Dean's abdomen with his index finger until his hand grows heavy and his mind drifts towards sleep.

The next thing Castiel knows, he is being disturbed by Dean trying to carefully extricate himself. He presses a kiss to Castiel's temple and rolls away.

Dean reaches for his briefs where they were thrown haphazardly to the end of the bed, and, much to Castiel's annoyance, starts to get dressed again.

Castiel sits up, frowning. “What are you doing?”

Dean steps into his briefs and pulls them up. “Sorry, buddy. It’s no good if you wake up next to me.”

Castiel watches as Dean wiggles into his briefs, adjusting himself inelegantly. “What happens?” Castiel asks.

“You panic.”

It's the matter-of-fact way that Dean says it that hurts the most, but Castiel knows it to be true. He was terrified enough first thing this morning without a strange body asleep next to him.

The thought of this brings it all back, and he realises that, in a way, this is the end. Dean is going to go out to sleep in his separate room, and then Dean will come back tomorrow morning, and Castiel won't remember him. He won't remember any of this.

“I don't want to forget,” Castiel says. He has his eyes fixed on the bed's coverlet, and he won't look up at Dean for anything.

Dean pauses mid-step as he goes to retrieve his undershirt from the floor. Out of his peripheral vision, Castiel can see Dean look over, and then he is walking quickly over, and he sits on the edge of the bed at Castiel's knee. He doesn't say anything; he just picks one of Castiel's hands from the bed and holds it in both of his own. His thumb rubs over the back of Castiel's wrist, his fingers curling against Castiel's palm.

Into the hush between them, Castiel says, “This feels like death.”

Dean nudges him with his shoulder. “Hey, quit being so dramatic.”

Castiel ignores him. He doesn't care if he's being morbid, it's true. “The person I am today will be gone by the time I wake up, and will never come back.”

“That's not true and you know it,” Dean says. “You're the same person who always are, you just get a little lost.”

Castiel drops his forehead onto Dean's shoulder, presses his nose into the side of Dean's neck. “Do you never wish it wasn't like this?” he asks quietly.

Dean lifts a hand, and the tips of his fingers play over Castiel's, brush back through his hair and follow it as it curves down behind his ear. “You know,” he starts up , his voice and touch gentle, “without that hole in your melon, I might not have ever found you again.”

Castiel looks up at him.

Dean's hand curls into Castiel's hair behind the scar. His thumb grazes over Castiel's ear. He says, “I dunno about you, but to me that's worth anything.”

Castiel swallows. Dean is so earnest and sincere that Castiel can do nothing but believe him, and he feels a small smile start up on his lips. Dean, seeing it, breaks out into own ridiculous, wide, sunny, grin, and Castiel knows that things that are going to be fine. He's going to forget, and it's terrifying, but he knows Dean.

He puts a hesitant hand on Dean's leg, rubs circles over his thigh with his thumb. “Will you at least stay until I fall asleep?”

Dean passes the hand in Castiel's hair around the nape of his neck, and pulls him gently forwards to kiss him – first his forehead, then on the mouth. Castiel wants to memorise the taste and feel of his lips, the touch of his hands. He wants this imprinted somewhere inside his skull where it can never slip away from him.

“Sure thing,” Dean says, when he breaks away far enough to speak. “Hang on – you get into your pyjamas or whatever. I'm gonna take my stuff through.” He kisses Castiel again, and then he stands up. He picks up a handful of stuff from inside the open suitcase and, with a smile over his shoulder, he heads through the door into the adjoining room.

Castiel feels somewhat lost in his absence, and he looks away from the door – and as his eyes pass over the suitcase by the wall, his gaze is caught by a notebook. It's half buried by socks and folded up T-shirts, but nonetheless Castiel recognises it as the one he was reading this morning.

He gets and he retrieves it. He sits on the edge of the bed. He opens the first page. It all seems a thousand years ago that he was reading this information and learning who he was all over again.

Castiel reaches over for the bedside table, pulls the shitty little pen of the hotel-imprinted pad of the paper. He crosses out boyfriend. He writes husband, and he likes the way it looks.

Castiel wants to write somewhere that he will definitely see his own notes. He knows that he will be too lazy to read the entire notebook; he will read the beginning, and he will read the end. Castiel flips to the back of his notebook, and he writes in the new, unsteady handwriting that he now recognises as his own.

You married Dean today, on the sixth of May. Anna was the maid-of-honour, Sam the best man. All your friends were there.

Robb and Catelyn Stark die in the Red Wedding.

Dean is a really bad dancer.

Anna and Naomi are no longer on speaking terms. Inias is divorced now, but he still lives in Seattle.

Dean makes good pancakes, and good coffee, and he makes you smile.

Castiel hesitates. He wants to write something else, but he isn't sure if it's appropriate, even if it is his own notebook. As he considers his options, he turns back a few pages through the notebook to say what else he has said, and he sees it: Dean is good in bed. At least Castiel has always had his priorities right.

He drums his fingers against the page, and he thinks. Then, at last, he writes the one truth that matters: he loves you.

As he finishes the last letter, he pauses. There is one more important thing that Castiel should write, but as Dean comes back into the room in a black T-shirt and clean briefs – tunelessly singing Metallica, no less – Castiel decides not to. He doesn't write you love him; he wants himself to figure that out on his own.

Dean flops down onto the bed and bounces Castiel in the process, who frowns over his shoulder at him.

“What're you writing there?” Dean asks, folding his arms behind his head.

“That you're nosey and like to ask questions that aren't your business,” Castiel tells him. He puts the notebook on the bedside table – ensuring that the stickers that declare GOOD MORNING, READ ME FIRST face upwards.

“Ooh. Ice cold.”

Castiel gets under the covers and turns back to Dean. He moves up close, pressing at Dean with his hands and his knees until Dean flips over onto his side, and then Castiel curls around his back. He folds an arm over Dean's stomach, fits them close together, and then presses his face into the hollow between Dean's shoulder-blades.

“Just that you love me,” Castiel says eventually, in answer to Dean's question.

Dean shifts against him, tilts his head over sideways a little. "True," he says. He sets his hand over Castiel's where it lies against his stomach, weaves their fingers together, and holds on tight.

Castiel takes deep, slow breaths. “Be patient with me tomorrow,” he says quietly into the fabric of Dean's shirt. “I just need to catch up.”

Dean nods. He lifts Castiel's hand from his stomach, presses his palm just briefly to his lips. The kiss is gentle, and then Dean puts their hands back down together. “I can wait.”

Castiel kisses the slope of Dean's shoulder, and he stays stays curled against him until he falls asleep.

---