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Service and Other Acts of Disobedience

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When he’s sentenced with forty-eight days of servitude to the king of Winchester, Castiel isn’t surprised, but he is annoyed.

When he joined the his country’s army and climbed the ranks, he took into account the possibility that someday he might be a prisoner of war, and as the judge uses a vial of the king’s blood to seal Castiel’s contract tattoo over his forearm, the only thing he can think of is how fast he can get it off of him without amputating it.

He can’t judge time well in the dungeons, but when they get him out of there, the war is over and the bath water they throw him into is filthy when he exits the tub. There isn’t much they can do with his clothes, so they burn them, give him a set a servant would wear, and lead him to the king’s chambers while he contemplates the merits of killing him.

It probably will bring more trouble than it’s worth, so he settles on the king’s bed and tries to recall everything the prostitutes in the dungeon mentioned about sex.

The king storms in about an hour after Castiel is brought to the room, completely ignoring Castiel in favor of throwing himself down on the couch and groaning. Shifting on the covers, Castiel wonders if he should say something, but King Winchester seems too preoccupied with sighing and bemoaning. His tattoo‘s countdown is supposed to be activated the moment King Winchester touches him, but since it doesn’t seem like he’s about to get up from the couch any time soon, Castiel looks up at the ceiling and counts down from one hundred.

He must fall asleep at some point, because when he blinks awake, he finds the king staring at him with wide eyes.

“Is it time for sex now?” Castiel asks, and the king blanches, even though he thinks it’s a reasonable thing to ask.

King Winchester stares at him. “What?”

“Should I undress?” Castiel reaches for the drawstring on his pants.

“Wait, pause.” King Winchester is still staring at him. “Who are you?”

“Castiel.”

“Oh, okay, yeah. That explains everything.” The crease between the king’s eyebrows deepens and he looks to the side then back at Castiel. “Why are you in my bed? Did Sam put you up to this? Knew he’d get me back for the chicken thing.”

Castiel tilts his head. “Are chickens usually involved in sex?”

The king’s face loses even more color. “Alright, not funny anymore. What the hell are you doing here?”

Of all the things Castiel expected of the night, explaining why he was there wasn't one of them. “I’m your servant.” He pauses, then adds, “Your Majesty.”

“Call me Dean,” he says distractedly. “And I’ve never seen you before in my life, pal.”

“No, I mean,” pushing his sleeve back, Castiel shows him the contract tattoo, “I was sentenced to service you until my time is done.”

“Is that why they needed my blood?” Dean starts to pace in front of the bed, and Castiel is still confused about why they’re not having sex yet. “I didn’t know they’d — goddammit. What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Are we going to have sex?”

“Would you quit that?” Dean turns to him abruptly, stopping his pacing. “No one is having sex with anyone, capische?”

Peculiar, and a bit of a disappointment, seeing how the prostitutes were very helpful with their advice and knowledge. “Why?”

“Because I don’t have sex with people who can’t actually consent,” Dean says, rolling his eyes. “And also, I never agreed to this service thing.”

“Oh.” Castiel looks down at his arm. “I need you to activate the tattoo.”

“Buddy, I just told you I ain’t interested. The hell would I do that for?”

“Because if I want to no longer be a war prisoner, I have to finish my sentence.”

The king looks at him and his tattoo, letting his hands drop on his thighs with a clap. Dean’s handsome, with a sharp, stubbled jaw line and a fit physique. He rubs a hand over his face and sighs deeply, then captures Castiel’s eyes. “I don’t actually need another servant, dude. I got plenty.”

“Do I need to do something to be taken seriously?” Castiel looks up at him. “Is it about the sex? I’ve heard appearance has something to do with appeal.”

“You’re too hung up on the sex thing.” Dean licks his lips and shifts. “Not everything’s about that, you know.”

“Then what is it? I’m here for a purpose. I don’t enjoy being prevented from working for it.”

“Look, you’re clearly a nice guy—”

Castiel has had enough, so he grabs Dean by the shoulder and flips them so he’s kneeling above him on the bed. The tattoo settles into his skin in a warm hum as the countdown starts, and he glares at the startled king under him. “The countdown has started. Cooperate.”

Dean licks his lips again, pupils widening. “Or what? Can’t exactly murder the king, Cas.”

Castiel thinks hard. “Cooperate, or I’ll have sex with you.”

Dean stares at him slack-jawed, then his chest rumbles and he’s laughing so hard it shakes Castiel’s whole body. With his head thrown back, Castiel is treated to a very nice view of his neck, as well as the realization of how comfortable leaning over him he is. When the laughter finally dies down, Dean looks up at him and grins. “Welp, guess we’re stuck together now.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

“Before or after you propositioned me for sex for the third time?”

Castiel pulls away from Dean and sits up straight, brushing his clothes back in place. “I will see you tomorrow for our first day together, Dean.”

“Can’t wait.” Dean winks at him, and Castiel leaves wondering if he should’ve just killed him like he initially considered, just to save him the trouble.

On the first day of his service, Castiel sorts gardening files, reads political books, watches Dean take four naps throughout the day, and wonders how the kingdom functions. The conclusion is that there’s magic involved.

Dean seems far more interested in heading into the kitchens and chatting with the cooks or spending time with the knights than looking over the towering papers that threaten to overtake his desk. When he voices his concerns to Dean that evening, all the king has to say is, “If it ain’t broke, Cas.”

It’s not as comforting as he might’ve tried to make it sound. Castiel goes to sleep wondering if the kingdom is doomed.

On the fifth day of his service, Castiel notices that Dean can’t focus on more than one thing for too long. He gets distracted and practically vibrates in his seat after an hour or two, tapping his fingers on the desk or pacing around the room.

“That’s annoying,” Castiel comments from where he’s copying a response from a noble in the south onto an official document. The noble is even more annoying than whatever sound Dean is making with his mouth currently, but the noise doesn’t help. He flips a page, staring at lines of written complaints so long they could rival Zachariah’s, and flexes his fingers. Years of battle aren’t much help in bureaucracy, he learns.

Dean throws him a glare but doesn’t stop his tapping on the wooden desk. “Not supposed to be back talking to your king, Cas.”

“That’s annoying, Your Majesty,” he amends and looks down at the paper. Only half of it is written, and the letter has four pages (maybe Dean should pass a conciseness-in-letters law).

Dean paces some more and moves a paper weight from the table where Castiel is sitting to his desk and then back. There’s a moment where he stands still, allowing Castiel to finish writing the page, before he’s back in motion. “That’s it. I’m going crazy here.”

“I can see that.”

“Don’t be a smartass.”

Castiel looks up at him and squints against the glare of the sun from the windows. “How do you normally stay sane?”

Dean huffs. “I don’t stay here, for starters.”

“Well, where do you stay?” Assuming he means the work room of the king, they’ve been staying in here for almost a week.

“I don’t know, man. I usually hang out with the knights, go into town, all that stuff.”

Castiel frowns. There’s a very easy way to fix that problem. “Then why don’t you?”

“Because—” Dean starts, then his frown disappears, forehead smoothing out. “Huh.”

“What?”

“I just figured you’d prefer doing actual work. Papers and shit, the nine yards.”

“Dean, I’m a soldier. I prefer being in the field and training, or strategizing. Reading this noble claim their land is holier than their neighbor’s will never be my preference.” Castiel lets the letter fall to the desk and stands up, straightening his clothes. “We’ve been here for too long. If we leave now, we can catch a few more hours of the sun.”

When he looks up, Dean is staring at him with a weird expression. “What?”

“Nothing.” Dean clears his throat. “Forget it. Let’s go ride some horses.”

Castiel stops. “I don’t have a horse.”

“We’ll get you one.”

Castiel’s horse ends up hating him, and he gets shaken off into the mud. Dean spends a full minute laughing at his predicament before Castiel swipes at his feet and makes him fall down into the mud puddle with him. They wrestle in it for half an hour until the early fall weather makes it too cold and uncomfortable to go on.

It doesn’t escape Castiel that he shouldn’t be feeling as comfortable with Dean as he is, both as his current ‘owner’ and a stranger he only just met. He just doesn’t know what to do with that feeling. He doesn’t know what to do with a lot of feelings being around Dean evokes.

On the twelfth day of his service, Castiel brings Dean a pie from the kitchens because Dean declared it ‘the best food’ and when he was there for his tea, he saw a baker just taking it out of the oven.

Dean looks between him and the pie. “You got me pie?”

“You mentioned you liked it.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Dean is still, and Castiel isn’t sure he blinked in the last two minutes. “Did you want something?”

“I don’t like sweets that much.” Castiel takes a seat at the couch in front of what he’s come to call his table and picks up a quill. “I had tea.”

“I mean, did you want anything in general?”

Dean is toying with the fork on the plate, not looking at him, so it’s harder than normal to understand what he means. “I don’t want anything, Dean.”

“Everybody wants something from me.”

Castiel tips his head to the side and considers. “No, I don’t need anything.”

“Need and want are different.”

“This conversation feels like it’s going in circles.” Castiel dips his quill in ink. “Eat your pie, Dean.”

Dean is quiet for a moment. “Thanks, Cas.”

“For what?”

“Nothing.” Dean finally picks up a fork and looks at his slice of pie. “Nothing at all.”

Dean enjoys the dessert, judging by the noises he makes. And assuming the good mood he’s in for the rest of the day is an indication of how happy pie makes him, Castiel makes a mental note to bring him another one tomorrow.

On the twentieth day of his service, Dean tells Castiel about the harvest festival. “It’s this big thing, booths and everything. We should go.”

“Does the king usually visit the town during the festival?”

“Dude, who cares about the king stuff? I’m going as I am, casual. We’ll get some food and watch the shows; it’ll be awesome.”

“Alright,” Castiel says, looking out of the window. “It’ll be my first time out of the castle since I was brought here.”

Dean grins. “I’ll show you all the best spots. I know this place like the back of my hand.”

“I should hope so, since you’re the one responsible for it.”

“Quit being a smartass and come on.

The festival is already in full swing by the time they get to town, with live music and booth owners competing to see who can be heard loudest over the sea of people. Dean’s dressed even more casually than usual, and the joy exuding from him makes him seem younger than he is, tousled hair and all. “We gotta get candied apples. There’s this lady here that makes them so good, I swear it’s the only reason I come here.”

“I thought you came here for the atmosphere and shows.”

“Sure, but these are the apples of the gods, man — you’ll understand it when you try.”

He grabs Castiel’s wrist and leads them through the crowd, weaving his way like an oar cutting through the waves, and no one gives them a second look. No one seems to recognize their king, or care if they do.

The candied apples, when they get them, are very good. Castiel makes sure to tell Dean he thinks so, just because he knows it’ll make Dean grin at him with that natural charm of his. He’s not sure that Dean even realizes the effect he has on people. He has witnessed most of the servants of the castle fluster under his eyes, regardless of gender. Unburdened by the weight of having to run a kingdom, a relaxed Dean is fascinating to watch. He jokes with booth owners and tries his hand at various festival games like throwing darts and guessing which cup has the ball under it.

They notice a commotion a few booths down, where a crowd has gathered around two men trying to arm wrestle. Dean elbows him. “My money’s on short-and-muscled guy.”

Castiel takes a moment to consider both men and shakes his head. “He won’t make it.”

True to Castiel’s prediction, the arm of Dean’s supposed champion hits the table, and he crumbles to the cheers and jeering of the crowd around them. The booth owner laughs, loud and obnoxious, and surveys the people surrounding them. “Who has the balls to take me on?”

Before he understands it, Castiel has his hand in the air.

“Yeah?” The man scans him and smirks. “Come on then, pretty boy! Maybe if you last longer than two seconds, your boyfriend over there will actually put out!”

Beside him, Dean twitches, but Castiel ignores both and takes his seat in front of the table, offering his arm. The man is insolent and rude, and too loud. A part of his mind argues that so is Dean, but for some reason, the comparison irks him. He tightens his hold around the other man’s hand.

The booth owner’s smirk widens annoyingly. “Squeeze a little harder, pretty boy, and I’ll start thinking you’re flirting with me.” He even throws in a wink. Being called pretty doesn’t bother him, Castiel decides, but the way this man uses the word boy, like an insult that should be taken as a compliment, is annoying him.

Castiel flattens his opponent’s arm to the table in two seconds and cracks the table surface with it. The crowd of people around them nearly deafens him with their cheering and laughing at the man, but no one is laughing harder than Dean.

Later, after they get their fairly won money from the ego-bruised booth owner, Dean throws a hand around Castiel’s shoulder. “That was fucking awesome, Cas. It's been a long time since I've laughed that hard.”

Castiel looks down at his bag of coins and lets a pleased smile spread on his face. “He was annoying me.”

“Well, shit, if that’s what you do to people who annoy you, maybe I gotta start watching my back around you.”

Looking at Dean’s easy smile, Castiel decides to be honest. “You’re annoying in a different way. I don’t mind you.”

“Snap, dude.”

“You’re noisy, loud, and rude in a way I don’t think a king should be. You make a mess when you eat and care concerningly little about matters pertaining to your kingdom.” Dean’s smile crumbles, so he hurriedly adds, “but those are some of your most endearing qualities to me.”

He’s not sure why his heart is hammering so fast in his chest, or why his head feels so light — the only thing he’s sure of completely is that he wants to see the smile Dean sends his way from that moment to the day he dies.

The noise around them grows from murmurs to cheers and yelling as the fireworks explode in the sky to signify the end of the festival and midnight, and Dean is staring at him like none of it matters.

On the twenty-first day of his service, Castiel realizes he’s falling in love.

It’s inconvenient, to say the least, and the logistics escape him, but he finds he doesn’t really care.

On the thirtieth day of his service, Castiel asks Dean if he’s ever thought of marriage or a romantic relationship beyond a casual encounter, and Dean stares at him, wordless for a second before getting mad and storming out.

When he later recounts the story to Sam, who came to talk to Dean about something, Sam bursts out laughing and pats Castiel on the back, telling him not to worry about it. Sam’s advice turns out to be the right course of action, as Dean shows up later with a cup of Castiel’s favorite tea and an apology, though he provides no explanation for his sudden moodiness. It must be the blindness of love, Castiel muses, that makes him accept the cup and thank Dean without asking anything further.

“Say, Cas, you ever been married?” Dean asks, holding his own cup of tea, something he claims to hate but forces himself to drink because he doesn’t want Castiel to feel alone. Castiel thinks he’s lying, but won’t argue with him on that if it means spending more time with Dean.

“I’ve never had the time, no.”

“Gotcha,” Dean stares down at his tea. “And uh, ever think about tying the knot? Finding yourself someone and settling down, popping out a couple of kids and whatnot?”

If he and Dean were together, neither of them would be able to have kids. That is, if they were even able to get together in the first place. Marriage seems unlikely when Castiel has so little to offer in return for the hand of the king, so he shakes his head and says, “Not really. I can’t say I’ve thought of it much. What about you?”

Dean drains the last of his cup. “Same goes for me, I guess.”

Dean’s mood sours further from there on, to Castiel’s eternal confusion.

On the thirty-fourth day of his service, Castiel wakes up to Dean standing over him and holding flowers. "Hello, Dean," he says.

"So, I got you flowers," Dean says, and shoves them in his face.

The flowers are aesthetically pleasing and smell nice, but no matter how he tries, they don’t reveal anything that’ll help him understand what is happening. "Thank you?"

“You’re welcome.” Dean waits until he places the bouquet on his bedside table. “Wanna go horseback riding?”

“Dean, you have a meeting today.”

“I could skip it. Been feeling a bit cooped up in here lately.”

Castiel frowns. “You can’t skip important meetings just because you feel a bit inconvenienced.”

“It’s fine.” Dean grabs his tattooed arm and pulls him up. “I’m the king — I can do whatever I want. And I want to go riding,” he pauses before adding, “with you.”

Castiel sighs. “Can I at least get dressed first?”

Dean lets go of his arm and raises his eyebrows. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Castiel stares at him. “Is this a test?”

“What?”

“A test. Are you testing me?”

Dean’s grin falls. “What the hell kind of test would that be? I’m not some weirdo.” Castiel purses his lips. “Shut up, you have no room to talk, Mr. I-Tried-To-Have-Sex-With-A-Stranger.

“It made sense at the time. I didn’t know you’d be so…” There are both too many and too few adjectives to describe Dean. Stubborn, annoying, opinionated, loving, caring, funny.

Dean crosses his arms, challenging. “So what?”

“So kind.” Castiel watches as Dean’s guard comes up like a bridge over a moat.

“I’m not kind.”

“You brought me flowers.”

“You don’t want them? I’ll take them back right fucking now.”

“I want my flowers, Dean.”

“Good, then. Great. I’m gonna go. Find me when you finish getting dressed.”

And with that, Dean storms out, leaving Castiel even more confused than he was when he woke up.

On the thirty-eighth day of his service, with ten more to go, Castiel decides he’d like to marry Dean or, at the very least, kiss him. The order isn’t as important. To achieve that, he has to make himself a viable option to Dean, and that’s a problem.

Castiel has it on good authority (servants at the castle frequently showing up at his door at night and offering to warm his bed, which he politely declines) that he’s attractive. He’s in good shape, trained in combat, possesses medical skills, and can read. Those all play in his favor, objectively.

Subjectively, however, is where the problem lies — people are fickle and very specific about who they chose to love, and the semantics of those specifications and how to notice them were never taught to him, so how in the world is he supposed to know if Dean might be interested in him? And assuming that Dean is inclined toward Castiel’s appearance, Castiel would expect seduction to be in order if his eyes hadn’t already been opened to the fact that Dean just doesn’t find him seductive.

Being direct might be his best choice, and it is his preferred choice in this case. If he were to approach Dean, tell him how he feels, and ask to start some sort of a relationship together, it could work. Dean appreciates honesty and likes Castiel’s company. It would work.

“Cas?”

Castiel blinks and looks up at Dean.

“You’ve been staring at that table like it owes you money,” Dean says. “Everything okay?”

“How can a table owe me money?” Castiel asks, noticing how the light from the windows has shifted since he last looked up. “If anything, I’d be the one who bought it, hypothetically, so—”

“Figure of speech, dude. You good?”

Castiel looks at Dean and thinks, yes, it would work. Dean cares about him, and affection is the gateway to love, and Dean is a very loving person. It would work.

Castiel nods. “I’m good.”

On the last day of his service, Castiel wakes up to see the contract tattoo still on his arm.

He feels no remorse over the flinch and groan that Dean makes when he slams open his bedroom doors and snatches the covers from him. Dean squirms around, realizes he’s not getting his covers back, and squints up at Castiel. “What?”

“My tattoo is still active.”

Dean stares at him, then rolls over and buries his face in his pillow. “Not my problem.”

Castiel pulls the pillow from under Dean and holds it out of his reach. “You’re the only one who can release me, and my service is over as of today. Undo the tattoo.”

“It’s not over.”

“What?”

Dean has his face firmly planted on his mattress now, so his words are muffled. “It’s not over. I stretched it.”

Castiel hits him over the head with the pillow. “Why?”

“I can do whatever I want.”

Castiel hits him again. A dark, downy feather is ejected from the pillow on impact and makes a stuttering descent to the floor.

Dean glares up at him and grabs the pillow back from Castiel, though the cover remains in the other man’s grasp. “I can have you arrested for that, you know.”

“You can’t, actually, because apparently I’m still a prisoner.

Dean winces. “Do you have to talk so loud? Be considerate to hungover people.”

“Considerate? Dean, you prolonged my sentence for no reason!”

Rubbing at his forehead, Dean looks down. “Course there’s a reason.”

“What is it?”

“...I didn’t account for weekends.”

Castiel drops the pillow. “You what?”

“Jesus, Cas… Just let it go, will you?”

Castiel leaves.

On the fifty-fifth day of his service, or maybe the fifty-seventh, Castiel isn’t talking to Dean. It’s frustrating to love someone he’s angry with, because his feelings keep pleading Dean’s case with him, while his more logical side is fighting for him to keep being mad. None of it is helpful, and at the end of the day, it just makes his frustration with Dean grow stronger.

Dean, for his part, hasn’t attempted to talk to Castiel after realizing he won’t answer. Again, the logical part of Castiel says that of course Dean isn’t talking to him, since Castiel showed he doesn’t want him to, but then he gets mad at Dean for not even trying to talk to him after seven days of silence.

Sam isn’t happy about the development. He walks into the office, notes the tension in the air, and sighs.

“Can’t you guys talk about it?”

“Ask him,” Dean says, his eyes boring into the side of Castiel’s face.

“Ask him?” Sam repeats incredulously. “Dean, this is so childish.”

It is childish, but Dean started it. Castiel is only playing his game.

“Your face is childish.” Dean retorts.

Sam’s eye twitches. “I have a beard, Dean.”

“You should shave that.”

Castiel throws a look toward Sam’s beard. It’s hideous. But what he says is, “You look nice with the beard, Sam.”

Sam smiles at him. “Thanks, man.”

“He’s just saying that to get back at me,” Dean protests. “He thinks it looks like you glued a bunch of fur on your face.”

While Castiel does think that—exactly in those words, actually—he’s not about to give Dean the satisfaction of knowing he guessed right. “It looks very distinguished on you, very… distinguished.”

Dean looks triumphant, and Sam just looks tired. “You don’t have to do this, Cas.”

“I’m afraid I do,” Castiel says. “After all, I’m contractually obligated.”

And just like that, Dean’s triumphant smirk drops and he’s back to glaring at him. Sam sighs, rubs a hand over his face, and looks between them. “That. That needs to stop. Come on, guys. You’re like best friends.”

“I don’t know how you can be friends with the one who owns you, Sam. I’m more of a slave.”

Dean pushes up from his desk abruptly and stalks out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Sam looks at it and then at Castiel. “That was kinda harsh.”

“Was it?” Castiel looks down at his hands, tattoo peeking under his sleeve. “I had plans for after I’m free — plans I’d have liked him to be involved in. And he did this even though he had no grounds to. I’m supposed to be a free man,” Castiel emphasizes, “and he barely even gave me a reason why I’m not.”

“Yeah, Dean’s…” Sam struggles, “difficult. He was never really good at articulating what he wants.”

“I disagree. Dean knows what words to use to get what he wants. He just never says what it is.”

Sam hums. “Well, I should go find him and patch his ego, or something.”

“You should tell him to stop being a…” Castiel searches his mind. “An assbutt.”

Sam snorts. “I’ll make sure to let him know.”

On the sixtieth day of his service, Castiel finds Dean in his room when he wakes up. Again.

“I’m sorry,” Dean says, eyes fixed at a point above Castiel’s head.

Castiel raises an eyebrow. “About what?”

“What do you mean, ‘about wh—’” Dean huffs, looking down. “About the whole extended thing. Was a dick move.”

Pulling off his covers, Castiel sits up at the side of his bed. “It was. And I’m angry at you.”

“Had that coming.”

“And I also forgive you.”

That gets Dean to finally look him in the eye again. “Why?”

“Because you’re not a bad person,” Castiel says, standing up. “You never were. You might be… endlessly frustrating, and stubborn, and sometimes I would love nothing more than to commit regicide—”

“Okay, we get it,” Dean says.

“I also enjoy your company,” Castiel finishes. “You’re my best friend. Possibly my only friend; I don’t know if Sam counts.”

“He doesn’t,” Dean says quickly. “I’m your best friend?”

Castiel rolls his eyes. “Yes. And as long as you don’t try to further my sentence again…”

Dean raises his hands in defense. “Hey, no. That was a dumb fucking move. I was drunk off my ass, if it helps. Not doing that again, cross my heart.”

Castiel smiles. “Then I forgive you.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“So, we’re cool?”

“Yes, Dean,” Castiel says. “We’re ‘cool’.”

“I told you to quit it with the air quotes.”

“I will take my forgiveness back.”

“Asshole.”

On the seventy-fourth day of his service, Castiel notices that Dean is staring at him. Constantly. Whenever he thinks Castiel isn’t watching, he’ll be looking at him like he’s a puzzle that he can’t solve. Castiel didn’t mind at first. Still doesn’t. But it does get increasingly hard to ignore when combined with the staring comes the incessant tapping. A constant rhythm of Dean and his fingers drumming on his desk, or his quill on every page of the book he’s reading. It’s distracting, and it’s annoying, and Castiel is going crazy.

“Dean,” he says, interrupting the fifth time Dean’s drumming his fingers and his quill on the desk, “do you want to go outside?”

“Yeah?” Dean looks out the window. “I could go outside. Sure.”

So they go outside. Dean picks up two wooden swords and throws one to Castiel, and they spar. It’s been a while, but luckily his skills with a weapon haven’t atrophied as much as his muscles have. There isn’t much time for a regular workout regime when working as the assistant of the king. Dean, on the other hand, always seems fit — a fact that helps him to win the first three matches between them and yet another thing Castiel finds pleasing about his aesthetic. He tells him so, too.

“Are you kidding me?” Dean wipes his brow. “You’re barely even breaking a sweat, man. You’re taking it easy on me, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes, but that’s not the point. I’m not as fit as I used to be before my service here.”

Dean pauses and looks him over slowly, something in his expression making Castiel feel nervous. “You look great.”

“That’s, um—” Castiel clears his throat. “That’s nice of you to say.”

“I’m serious. You look devastatingly handsome.” Dean winks at him. Castiel blinks slowly and swallows.

He picks up his sword and strikes at him. Dean, unprepared, falls flat on his back.

“Oh, you dick.” He swipes at Castiel’s feet, toppling him down over him, and Castiel collapses with an audible oof. “That’s what you get for playing dirty. Fucking underhanded, attacking while I’m taking a break.”

“All is fair in war.” And love, he remembers.

“Don’t you get philosophical on me, asshat.” Dean grins up at him, and Castiel becomes very aware that they’re very close. Flushed together, faces inches apart. Dean seems to get that too, only he looks very comfortable with where he is, staring right into Castiel’s eyes, and then… downwards.

Castiel pushes up. “I’ll win the next round.”

“Sure you will.” Dean sits up, legs sprawled in front of him in a very elegant manner for someone covered in dust. “Help me up, would you? I’m not as young and agile anymore.”

Castiel offers him a hand, relishing in the warmth of Dean’s palm in his. It’s a callous one, that speaks of Dean’s character more than any poet in the kingdom could ever. “You’re twenty-nine, Dean.”

“Exactly, practically a relic.”

“What does that make me then, if I’m thirty-two?”

Dean grins, and it’s beautiful. “Older than dirt.”

Castiel beats him in the next four rounds just to prove he can.

On the ninety-second day of his service, which is also his last day of service (again), Castiel wakes up with a purpose. He takes the box from his nightstand and goes out to look for Dean. He tries the obvious places — office, kitchen, dining hall, his room — but he’s not there, and no one he asks has seen Dean.

There are two possibilities that Castiel comes up with. Either Dean has been kidnapped (unlikely, doesn’t make much sense) or he’s avoiding Castiel (likely, has previous proof of possibility). So, Castiel does the sensible thing and goes to find Sam. He finds him in the library, reading over a large tome and glaring at every page like it personally spit on his mother’s grave.

“Sam,” Castiel says, watching him flinch. “Have you seen Dean?”

Sam… Sam groans, then sighs deeply and buries his face in his hand.

“Sam?”

“I hate him.” Sam sounds like he’s in pain. “I hate him so much.”

At the risk of soon becoming an accomplice by knowledge of fratricide, Castiel sits down next to him. “Did you kill Dean?”

Sam snorts. “Nah. I just meant that he’s driving me insane with his running-away-from-his-feelings shtick!”

“His what?”

Sam goes back to glaring at his book. “Officially, no. I don’t know where Dean is.”

Castiel thinks he gets it. “And unofficially?”

“He’s hiding in the stables.”

“Why is Dean hiding in the stables?” Castiel frowns.

Sam sighs. “Because he’s an idiot.”

“And the real reason?”

“That is the real reason. He’s an idiot. He’s so scared of you saying goodbye, and then him doing something stupid like extending your sentence again, that he just decided to remove himself from the equation.”

Castiel closes his eyes. “So, what you’re saying is—”

“He’s a fucking moron.”

“I see.”

Getting up, Castiel makes sure the box is in his pocket and nods at Sam. “I’ll get going, then.”

“Where are you going?”

“Officially? To pack in my room.”

The corners of Sam’s mouth start twitching. “And unofficially?”

“Wherever Dean is.”

Sam nods. “Well, good luck. Feel free to punch him if he’s being extra annoying.”

Castiel smiles. He likes Sam. “I find that quality of his endearing.”

“Then you’re both insane.”

Getting to the stables isn’t a problem; he’s there in what feels like a blink of an eye. But the stables are big, and filled with hay and noisy horses. Castiel wanders the stalls of each horse and peers inside — to the great annoyance of some of them, he’s sure. One of the horses even huffs in his face because of it. At long last, he reaches the stall sheltering Chevy, Dean’s beloved horse, and is honestly surprised he didn’t guess that’s exactly where Dean would be, standing and brushing her.

“Dean.”

Dean startles and hurls the horsebrush across the stall, turning to look at him. “Don’t do that!”

“You’re avoiding me.”

Huffing, Dean looks down at the hay under his feet. “Dunno how you figured that. We’re talking right now, aren’t we?”

Castiel feels a barrier between them greater than the stall door. “Dean, this is the last day of my sentence. In a few hours, I’ll be a free man.”

“Yeah? Good for you, buddy.”

“But,” Castiel continues, ignoring Dean’s sullen expression, “I’m a very impatient man as well.”

Dean turns back to Chevy and pets her nose. “I think you can last just a few more hours, Cas. Don’t be a baby.”

Castiel takes a deep breath. “Dean, I’d like to marry you.”

Dean’s hand freezes on Chevy’s forehead, and he turns slowly to look at him. Castiel doesn’t think he’s breathing. “What?”

Pulling out the box he purchased months ago, Castiel opens it and presents Dean with the simple golden band he bought. “I want to share my life with you and stay at the castle. But as soon as I’m free and no longer a prisoner, which will happen in a few hours.”

Dean steps closer to the door, staring at the ring like it could burn him. “Slow your roll, man. You know you can stay here without marrying me, right?”

“Obviously I know that,” Castiel huffs. “But I want to be in a committed relationship with you, preferably long-term. Or until one of us dies.”

“Uh-huh.” Dean’s blinking really fast. Again, he blurts, “What?”

“I…” This is getting frustrating. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here. Am I meant to kneel?”

“Door’s kinda in the way of that,” Dean mutters, “but forget about the fucking kneeling — my brain is gonna explode. Are you asking me to marry you for real?”

Yes,” Castiel scowls. “I love you very much. Are you gonna answer the question?”

Dean starts grinning. “I don’t think I heard a question in your speech.”

“Fine. Dear Dean, will you do me the honor of marrying mhfm—” Castiel’s words are muffled by Dean grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and bringing their lips together. It’s… It’s wonderful, really, and Castiel’s entire world focuses on the single point of contact between their mouths. Days could pass. His sentence might be over and renewed a thousand times and he wouldn’t notice. All he can focus on is Dean, until his lungs remind him that oxygen is a necessity for the rest of his plans, and he draws back to take a breath.

Dean’s grinning at him, leaning over the door and looking very kissable. “Yeah.”

“Hm?” Castiel’s distracted by the tingling feeling of his lips.

“Yeah, I’ll marry you.”

“Oh.” Well, that’s nice to know. “Good, then.”

Dean’s smirking now. It’s also very kissable-looking. “You’re totally thinking about kissing me again.”

“You’re a very good kisser.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

To prove his declaration, Castiel kisses Dean again. And he’s right.

On the hundredth day, Castiel has a new tattoo on his arm. It’s a marriage tattoo, a soul-bond, and it has Dean and his names on it. Unlike the previous one, he has no plans to get rid of it. He also decides to stop counting down his days by Dean’s side like they’re gonna run out.

There’s no need for that anymore.