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Dean has been up for the day for a while, but he's managed to avoid his housemate so far. Now that he knows Cas is out, he ventures downstairs for the first time to get some coffee that he normally would have drunk two hours ago.

The living room is a punch to the gut. So many of the books are gone from the shelves, a lamp is missing, blank spaces where most of the art had been on the walls. In their stead is a pile of cardboard boxes, neatly sealed and labeled and ready to go. Probably the last load.

Dean gets his coffee, and sits down at the kitchen table facing away from the living room. At least in the kitchen, most of the evidence of his life falling apart is hidden behind cabinet doors—the empty shelves where there used to be dishes and mixing bowls and baking pans.

Dean has tried to be fucking mature about this. He's still trying to be fucking mature about it. Being mature doesn't make it hurt less, but at least it gives him a mantra of facts to review in his head every time he looks around and wants to cry.

Fact: He is twenty-eight years old. Cas is twenty-seven. Mature fucking adults.

Fact: They have actual careers that they are seeing some success in. Castiel was hired by a major architecture firm over a year ago, after freelancing his way through meager paychecks for several years after college. Dean, who at age eighteen had thought he'd be fixing cars for the rest of his life, is now a mechanical engineer who helps design them. 

He has Bobby and Sam to thank for that; Dean got his GED and left high school behind at sixteen to help support himself and Sam when his father was too drunk to bother. That went all right for a couple years, but when dad's old friend Bobby realized what was actually going on in their house, he flipped his shit. Sam went to live with him, and as soon as Dean wasn't paying for his groceries anymore Sammy made it his life's mission to push Dean into college. At first Dean insisted he'd missed his chance, but Sam insisted right back that he was only a year older than if he'd finished high school and gone straight after. And that tons of people take time off and there'd probably be a lot of students older than him. He eventually mostly applied just to shut Sam up. Nobody was more surprised than Dean himself when he not only got into KU's School of Engineering, but scored high enough on the ACT to get a scholarship on top of his need-based financial aid.

And now look at him, designing safety systems for minivans. Not the coolest cars he could be working on, but he's still working his way up the ladder. He does good work and gets good reviews, and he's pretty sure it'll only be a few more years before he gets on a team doing some piece of a sweet concept car. In the meantime, he's doing stuff that actually helps save lives, so that's pretty cool in its own way. And anyhow, it's not like he wouldn't be fixing minivans if he were still working at the garage.

Point being—they both have solid, well-paying careers.

Inference from these two facts: They're too old and too well-paid to need a roomie in a bachelor pad anymore.

If Dean could just focus on that, he might be fine. But no, he has to move on to the other relevant facts.

Fact: Cas has been dating Balthazar for nearly nine months. Dean hadn't really thought they were all that serious, but he doesn't know what goes on between them behind closed doors, does he?

Fact: This is the longest relationship either of them has had in the five years since they moved in together immediately after graduating college.

They'd barely known each other then. They had a few acquaintances in common, so Dean had seen Cas around at parties or whatever. Dean had hooked up a couple times with this girl, Anna, who was a Master's student in his department. They weren't really dating or anything, just hanging out mostly with the occasional booty call thrown in. Not even enough to be considered "friends with benefits." One day they were eating lunch together in the department lounge, and Anna asked him about his post-graduation plans. He was pretty happy to report that he'd been hired by a company in Kansas City, and realized out loud that he probably needed to get on finding a place to live. Anna mentioned that her little brother, who was also graduating, was also looking to move to KC. He'd found a house he liked, but needed a housemate to afford it. She gave him Cas's number, they met the next day, and moved in two months later. And now they've lived here for five freaking years.

Nostalgia aside, Dean also has to make an inference from these facts: It only makes sense for Cas to move in with Balthazar. Hell, if Dean had ever been with someone for that long, he'd probably be moving in with them, right? Sure. Right. Of course.

Except for one thing. The thing that is 90% of why Dean has never been with someone for that long. The thing that gives him the feeling that even if he were, he might not be able to convince himself to move out. The thing that causes the previous two facts to punch a hole in Dean's gut every time he thinks about them.

Fact: Dean is so in love with Castiel it hurts.

As soon as they met, he'd been attracted to Cas. Obviously; the dude is ridiculously hot. All bedhead and scruff and intense, blue-eyed stares. And the voice, of course. If Dean can never fuck Cas, he'd settle for fucking Cas's voice. But by the end of their first meeting over lunch at some sandwich shop they'd agreed to move in together, and obviously sleeping with your new housemate is just asking for trouble. So Dean had put the brakes on any thoughts in that direction.

Cas is odd and awkward at first glance, but it didn't take very long for Dean to get below that surface appearance to see the intelligent and driven guy with a quirky but awesome sense of humor underneath. He is fiercely loyal, always ready to support his family or close friends and not hesitating for an instant to rid his life of anyone who insults or disrespects them. 

They'd barely lived together two months before Dean found himself firmly within the circle of Castiel's loyalty. 

Cas had asked a couple of people he'd met on a project he was working on as a freelancer to come over for beers and a movie one night. For some reason—who even knew—the fact that Dean had a GED instead of a regular diploma came up. One of the dudes—Dean hadn't liked him from the start, some smarmy, oily British guy—took this as an opportunity to start shit. Something about how he'd be sure not to buy a car Dean had worked on, the company must have been hard up and couldn't afford real engineers, blah-dee-fucking-blah. 

Before Dean could even respond, Cas fixed the guy with a stare that would melt steel. All he said was "You are no longer welcome in this house," and pointed toward the front door, but the rage in his voice gave even Dean the chills. The guy tried briefly to laugh his way out of it, he was just joking of course, whatever, but Cas just stared at him. Everyone else was quiet; nobody was going to defend the guy, obviously, but also nobody was about to interrupt whatever the hell it was Castiel was doing, because that seemed… dangerous.

Dude eventually got the idea and showed himself to the door, and hasn't been back since. 

Later that night, after the other two guys had gone home, Dean had paused while they were straightening up the living room.

"Hey, thanks, man. For earlier. That was kinda fuckin' badass, honestly, but I mean—it was also really nice of you. I know you still have to work with that guy, but you stuck your neck out for me anyhow. Thanks."

Castiel had blushed a little, aiming a small smile at the pile of beer bottles in his hands like he didn't quite know what to do with the compliments, but then he turned that gaze of his onto Dean, like he wanted to deposit his next words directly into Dean's soul.

"I've only known you a few months, Dean, and I've only known Crowley a few weeks. But I know with absolute certainty that you are both a better person and a better friend than he is. If there is any awkwardness between us when we work together next, that is entirely on his shoulders and is not my problem." And then he went and deposited a pile of beer bottles in the recycling bin as if he hadn't just casually doubled his own badassery.

That was the night Dean's attraction turned into an honest-to-god crush on his housemate.

Crush or no crush, sleeping with one's housemate still seemed like it would be pretty high on a list of bad ideas. That didn't stop Dean from flirting with Castiel a few times, just to test the waters. Every time, Cas would tense up and look mildly confused, then pretend it hadn't happened. After the third time getting the same reaction over the course of a month, Dean took the hint and stopped trying.

It was probably for the best though; in hindsight, Dean can see that if they'd started hooking up, they probably would never have become best friends. Which was exactly what they had done, over the next few months.

It wasn't that they had the same tastes. They very much didn't, in fact. But they both found the other's tastes interesting, and so each had always been willing to let the other introduce him to new things. Dean let Cas talk him into watching Orange is the New Black, while Cas submitted to Battlestar Galactica, and while neither one discovered his new favorite show they both enjoyed themselves immensely. Dean agreed to let Cas pick the music in his car occasionally—but only if Cas could find music he wanted on cassette. And no recording CDs onto tapes, either; the deal was only stuff that had actually been released on cassette. Dean was shocked to learn that occasionally some bands still release new albums on tape, but a deal was a deal. And thus Dean was subjected to a strange selection of '90s alternative and current indie bands, and maybe didn't even hate all of it. At some point, Dean realized that broadening each others' horizons had sort of become a shared hobby for them. And it was kind of awesome.

Dean also soon discovered that Cas was easier to talk to than anyone he's ever been friends with. It's his directness, his almost complete inability to sugarcoat or weasel around the truth. Every once in a while that means that Dean's feelings get stepped on, but it's worth it to know that when Cas does say something positive, he absolutely means it. Dean can ask him for advice and know that he'll hear what Cas honestly thinks he should do, not what Cas thinks he wants to hear. He's always tried to give back the same honesty that he gets, although he definitely hasn't ever been as good at it (especially when under all of it, he's trying to conceal his growing feelings for his friend). But he's pretty sure Cas can tell when he's trying.

On top of those things, neither of them has ever exactly been a social butterfly. Certainly, they each found a few friends in Kansas City. Castiel took a college freshman named Alfie, who was interning with a firm Cas had done some work for, under his wing. Dean started hanging out with his coworker Benny. Their neighbor Charlie became a regular fixture, and they went to her monthly game nights. And they each went on sporadic dates. But in the end, their social lives wound up revolving mostly around each other, and they were both pretty happy with it.

So by the time they'd lived together for a full year, Castiel was, and still is, the best friend Dean has ever had. And right about at that one-year mark, one night while he was sitting on his bed listening to some vinyl, Dean sighed and put his head in his hands and admitted to himself that he was entirely up shit creek… because he was absolutely in love with his best friend.

That was four years ago.

As Dean gets up to refill his coffee mug, he reminds himself that it's his own fault that this is destroying him. His own fault that he let himself fall so hard. His own fault that he still feels like this after four freaking years. Especially his own fault that he let himself drift into a comfortable zone where he's been able to pretend that their cozy domesticity means more than it really does.

The domesticity thing is certainly real. Most of their friends would probably find it strange if they knew how much they've intertwined their lives. There's the normal stuff, like sharing groceries and meals. They maybe cook together more than most housemates, but not to an odd degree. There's the fact that they sometimes fold and even put away each others' laundry, or just throw their loads together. Still not a big thing. But then there are other things… like the fact that at some point, they'd realized that it was silly to have two nearly-identical bottles of shampoo taking up space in the shower and just started sharing shampoo. And toothpaste. For a while they shared aftershave, until a girl Dean had gone out on a couple of dates with met Cas, noticed they smelled the same, and became suspicious. Dean's never told Cas about that, but he went back to buying separate aftershave and Cas has never mentioned it.

Dean learned that other than Anna, Cas's family is a great big bag of dicks—so Cas and Anna started joining him at Bobby's for Thanksgiving. Then Cas started coming for Christmas. They pretty much do all holidays together by now. They go on road trips every few months, and a couple of those have turned into what could actually be called full-fledged vacations. And it's always just the two of them. Once, Benny had suggested the three of them go somewhere together. It never happened. Dean isn't actually sure when was the last time he went on a trip that wasn't just him and Cas. Probably visiting Sam at Stanford, but Cas had even come along the last couple times he'd gone there.

Dean knows that all of this stretches the boundaries of normal housemates, but he also knows that it's just a product of close friendship. Not romance. If he's let himself pretend sometimes that it's more than that, instead of facing facts and getting over Cas, it's his own damn fault.

Because, fact: Castiel is not in love with Dean. Castiel has no romantic interest in Dean whatsoever.

Obviously, the fact that Cas has been dating Balthazar for so long and is now moving in with him proves that. But it isn't like that's the first sign Dean has ever had. It's just the cherry on top of his unrequited love sundae.

Of course, there were those few early attempts at flirtation that made Cas uncomfortable. But that had been when they hardly even knew each other.

The final confirmation came just over a year ago. They'd gotten pretty drunk at Charlie's game night (never again would Dean agree to any drinking game Charlie had written herself), and stumbled home at 1AM hanging onto each other to stay upright. As they were struggling up the stairs to their bedrooms, still leaning on each other, for some reason (alcohol, that was the reason) Dean decided that he was so tired that he should save time by starting to take his clothes off now so that when he got to his room he could just throw on his pajamas.

So he pulled his shirt off while Cas was pressed against his side, halfway up the stairs. Cas stopped and ran a hand over Dean's bicep, looking inebriatedly thoughtful. He finally looked up into Dean's eyes, shaking his head.

"You are unfairly attractive," he said, and Dean's heart sort of stopped. 

Dean saw an opening, and thought he should say something meaningful or some shit, but instead he blurted out, "Yeah, you too. Totally unfair."

And then they were kissing, sloppy and drunken and perfect. Cas's hands were sliding over Dean's bare skin, and Dean's hands were tangled in that thick, dark bedhead.

Dean will never know how, but somehow some piece of his brain managed to cling to some tiny bit of coherency despite the alcohol and the even more intoxicating thrill of finally, finally kissing his best friend. And that little piece of his brain screamed out STOP! If your first time with Cas is while you're both drunk off your asses, you'll regret it. Worse yet, Cas might regret the whole thing.

So after a minute or two, Dean managed to pull back, although the whine this drew from Cas nearly made him give in and drag the man right up the stairs.

"This is such a bad idea," he slurred.

"No, no, such a good idea," Cas whined.

"We're drunk, Cas," he managed to say, and how suddenly he was the mature one was beyond him. "We can't do this. Look, I want to, trust me, I super, super want to. Okay? But we're also both, like, super, super drunk. And if we do… whatever we were just about to do… just 'cause we're drunk. That's bad."

"Since when do you logic?" Cas had the look on his face that always reminds Dean of Grumpy Cat. Grumpy Cas.

"I don't know, man, but I'm right, right?"

Cas sighed and scrubbed his hands over his face. "Yes, Dean. Of course you're right. This is a bad idea. Now you better get your stupid sexy torso and those stupid eyes and lips and everything into your room, or I am going to go back to not caring if it's a bad idea."

Dean felt himself blush and ran up the stairs (well, as close to running as he was capable of without falling down them) before either of them could change their minds.

But obviously, that all wasn't the part that put the nail in the coffin of Dean's hope that maybe Cas would ever return his feelings. That came the next morning.

Dean was pouring his coffee, wondering where the aspirin was, when Castiel wandered into the kitchen. Before he'd left his bedroom, Dean had thought a lot about what to say, gone over a dozen versions in his head. Look, about last night—I dunno if I made this clear, 'cause I figure I was probably barely making sense, but I just wanted to make sure you know that the only reason I stopped us was because we were drunk. I've wanted that since forever, and if I'd realized you did, too, I woulda gone for it a long time ago, stone cold sober. And I don't just want that, Cas. I wanna try, y'know, being together. Like, dating. I dunno, maybe you're not interested in that, but last night made me think that maybe it was at least worth throwing out there.

Yeah, that would all be great, if he could get up the courage to say any of it. Instead he mumbled hello and sat down at the table with his coffee. Cas sat down across from him, and for a couple of minutes they just awkwardly fumbled with their coffee mugs.

"Look—" Dean started, but Castiel cut him off.

"I'm sorry." Cas's brow was knit with worry, but he also had his mouth and eyes set in determination. "I was completely out of line last night, Dean."

"No, it's—"

"You were right. Obviously, we're both good-looking men who are sexually interested other men, so it's no surprise if we're attracted to each other. It would be a mistake to allow something as base as acting on that physical attraction to undermine several years of friendship. You're my best friend, and I am sincerely sorry that lowered inhibitions led me to put that at all at risk for the sake of one night of sex."

And there it was. Cas wasn't thinking in terms of love, or romance, or dating, or—well, anything other than physical attraction and one night of sex. Not even, like, a friends with benefits thing. All the potential Cas saw in it was a drunken one night stand. Dean valiantly kept the pain from his face as he thanked any gods or fates available that Cas had interrupted him before he made a total idiot of himself.

"Cas, c'mon, it clearly wasn't all you, right? It takes two to… make out drunkenly on the stairs." Castiel at least looked amused at that, and watching the worry melt off his friend's face did make Dean feel a bit lighter. "I'm sorry, too. I mean, if I hadn't tempted you with this sculpted physique, none of this would've happened, right?"

Cas snorted into his coffee, and Dean felt relief flood through him. Even if he'd never have more, at least their friendship was back on solid ground.

So, yeah. Sure, Cas is attracted to Dean. Cas would totally fuck Dean if there were no consequences or feelings involved. Cas's non-friendship-related feelings for Dean are stuck back where Dean's were right after they met, whereas Dean's have, like, grown up and gone to college and got a job. 

And Dean has done nothing to stop that; no, he just let those feelings go right on growing. Well, okay, he has occasionally made the odd attempt to get over Cas, because he's not a complete idiot, but he can admit to himself that almost all of those attempts were halfhearted. And this is where it's gotten him—sitting alone in the kitchen that's about to be only his, to be sat in alone for the foreseeable future, hoping he can hold it together long enough to say what he needs to to Cas before he starts crying. Fuck Dean's life right to hell.

Dean hears the growl of the pickup truck Cas borrowed from their neighbor Ash for the day outside. He takes a deep breath and one last gulp of coffee. Five years of friendship, all boiled down to this.

He briefly considers not saying a word. He'll just plaster a smile on his face, help Cas load up the last few boxes, wave as he drives off, and then totally get together with him next week for, like, beers or something. Act like he's not dying, both because it's less embarrassing and because it will keep Cas happy. Because what Dean's about to say? Ain't gonna make Cas happy.

He hears the key in the lock and knows he has to do this, because even if it won't make anyone happy for now, in the long run it'll be way better. It will. It will. He steels himself and stands up, turning around just as Cas comes in the door.

"Hello, Dean," Cas says, looking tentative as he steps into the middle of the room. "You're finally up. I think these boxes are the last load, do you want to help me get them into the truck?"

Yeah, Dean's a total dick for avoiding Cas all morning instead of helping with the move. But Cas should really be used to Dean being a total dick by now, shouldn't he?

"Um," Dean says intelligently as he scrubs a hand through his hair. He sort of moves toward Cas, but then sort of walks in a circle around him, keeping several feet between them, hand restlessly mussing his hair the entire way. He winds up where he can grab at the bannister leading upstairs for support. Close to the stairs means he can make a quick getaway when this is over, and something to grab means if he starts to pass out he can save himself. "No, I—I can't, Cas. I gotta—look, I've got something I need to say to you, and I don't think I can help you move boxes once I've said it."

Cas frowns, concerned. He steps closer to Dean, but the alarmed look that Dean is pretty sure crosses his face keeps Cas from getting less than a few feet away. "What's going on? Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm—just—fuck. Okay, look. What I'm about to say, I wanna make it clear that I wouldn't normally tell you. Because it wouldn't be fair to unload this shit on you—"

"Dean, you can tell me anyth—"

"Damn it, Cas, just let me talk. This is different. Normally it wouldn't be fair for me to say something like this, but I have to, because otherwise you're gonna have no explanation for my behavior and you're gonna think I hate you or something, and I don't." He laughs a little manically at that, rubbing his eyes before he continues. 

"Fuck. Okay. Cas, I—" he glances up into Cas's eyes for a second, but can't hold it. "The thing is, I'm in love with you. I've been in love with you for, for fuckin' years. And I'm not telling you this because I've watched one too many romantic comedies and I'm expecting anything from you, or shit like that. I'm only telling you because I gotta—I'm getting my heart broken right now, and I know you never meant to do that, but you gotta understand that that's what's happening. And I need to get past that, and I sure as hell have got to fucking finally get over you so I don't completely screw over our friendship. So I know you've been saying how, like, nothing'll change and we'll still hang out all the time and we'll still have movie nights every week and all that shit, but. I can't. I can't do any of that for a while. Like, I dunno, a few weeks, maybe a few months. I can't see you, I shouldn't even talk to you. I need, like, a clean break, because I'm an idiot and now I have to finally deal with my fucking shit like an adult and that's the only way I'm gonna be able to."

He finally risks a peek up at Cas, who, as expected, is blinking owlishly at him, mouth slightly open and generally looking stunned. The peek doesn't last long, though he manages to glance up a few more times as he finishes.

"I am so freaking sorry, Cas. This was not your fault, and there's nothing you coulda done to change it. Except, like, I dunno, not be so completely fuckin' awesome or something, but you definitely should not do that. Anyhow, I seriously am happy for you, you're still my best friend and I want you to be happy and go build a life with somebody. I'll call you when I get my head outta my ass and I promise we'll be fine, okay? Right. Um. I'm gonna go hide now, 'cause this is, hands down, the single most mortifying thing I've ever had to do in my life." He manages one more apologetic look at Cas before he heads up the stairs, mumbling, "See ya later, buddy." Cas's face hasn't changed a bit.

He gets up the stairs as quickly as he can, feeling tears trying to prick at his eyes as he does. Once he's safe in his room, leaning against his closed door, he lets himself indulge in the fantasy that has been trying to push its way into his mind: heavy steps following him up the stairs, a knock at his door, a gravelly voice pleading for him to open it, and sweet promises pouring out of that same voice once he does.

But he is under no illusions that it's anything but a fantasy, and so he's not even disappointed when he hears none of that. Just his own shuddering breath as he wipes away the stupid god damn tears falling down his face.

When something does finally break the silence—the sound of boxes being shifted around downstairs—he puts on a record to block it out and tries to concentrate on some video game on his laptop.

It takes longer than Dean expected for Cas to get his boxes into the truck. He figures he probably freaked the poor guy out. He was probably all distracted, trying to figure out if he should make sure Dean was okay before he goes or something like that. Or maybe he was feeling nostalgic and, like, took his time looking around the place one last time or some shit. Or both. Who knows. At any rate, it's a good hour later when Dean finally hears the rumble of the truck's engine over his music. When he looks out his window a minute or two later, it's no longer in the driveway.

Cas is gone.

Dean flops down on his bed and lets himself actually cry as much as he wants to for once in his fucking life. Which isn't really all that much, now that he actually does it. It turns out maybe crying is like rain—if all you do is let little trickles (or less) come out, it can keep nagging at you for hours, but if you really turn on the waterworks the storm blows through pretty quickly. It only takes about ten minutes for him to cry himself out, and then he feels… well, better is not the word. Tired. Spent. But he no longer feels like crying, so he'll take the small victory.

He goes and washes his face in an attempt to not look like he just finished bawling his eyes out. He may not have any plans for the rest of the day, but he has enough self-respect to not even want to putter around his own house looking all red and puffy and gross. He manages to improve things marginally, at least.

Then he finally takes a deep breath and heads downstairs. He can see the pile of boxes is gone before he even gets to the bottom of the steps, and he doesn't let himself think about it. He keeps his eyes on the floor as he slumps into the kitchen, so he doesn't have to see all the holes left by Cas's missing shit again.

Well, here we go, he thinks as he opens the refrigerator and digs around for sandwich supplies, first day of the rest of your life. Time to move the fuck on. As he slams his meat and mayo and pickles down on the counter, he considers adding the bottle of whiskey he knows is hiding in the cabinet, but decides that he has enough self-respect to wait 'til five. Then he'll get fucking blackout drunk. Yep. Awesome.

He opens a cabinet to pull out a plate, and pauses. Weird. Dean thought Cas had taken his blue plates with him. But that was stupid, of course Balthazar has his own plates. Cas wouldn't need to take any plates from here with him. Still, for some reason Dean totally thought he was going to. Huh.

Dean stares at the plates for a minute. He's always liked the plates because they match Cas's eyes, although obviously he's never admitted such a thing to another soul. Now they just kind of grate at him—hey, look at us! We look like the pretty eyes of the guy you don't have, who found some other guy with better plates to live with! Boy, are Balthazar's plates nicer than yours.

"Mother fucker," Dean mutters to himself, and pulls out one of the white plates lower on the stack. Maybe he'll give Cas's plates to Goodwill or something. Part of him wants to smash them, but the rest of him can't bring himself to. Yeah, he'll go through tomorrow or something and round up anything Cas left behind and take it to Goodwill. It'll be cathartic or some shit like that.

He makes his sandwich on his white plate that never belonged to Cas, that Dean bought himself while he was in college. He takes the sandwich, on his white fucking plate, over to the kitchen table. He eats it. It's quiet. So fucking quiet. It's not like Cas was ever there 24/7 or anything, Dean has spent plenty of time alone in the house, but he doesn't remember it being this quiet. He picks up the rest of his sandwich, white plate and all, and heads into the living room to put on some TV while he eats.

As he flops down on the couch, he does a double-take. The bookcase over against the wall to the left. It's full. He knows for a fact that it was like half-empty this morning, that Cas had packed up all his books. What the fuck? Did Cas, like, feel some kind of weird misplaced guilt over Dean's confession and, like… leave Dean his books to make up for it? Cas is a weird guy, but that's pretty out there even for him.

Dean sets down his sandwich and walks over to the bookcase. Maybe Cas just left certain books? Ones he thought Dean would like? But as he runs his fingers over the spines on one shelf after another, Dean is pretty damn sure that Cas put all his books back. Yep, even the stupid crime paperbacks that are his guilty pleasure, that Dean wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole.

What. The fuck.

Dean swings around to look for his phone when his attention is pulled to the end table near the TV. How had he not noticed that before? He'd looked right at the TV when he went to sit on the couch.

It's not the end table that has Dean feeling like he's going crazy. It's the lamp that's on it that definitely was not there this morning. The lamp that is totally Castiel's, because Dean remembers him bringing it home from IKEA.

Did Cas put his dishes back on purpose, too?

What is he even playing at?

Does he think Dean will be, what, comforted by his shit? Or that he owes Dean something for the pain he's causing and somehow this stuff will pay his debt? Cas isn't stupid, he can't possibly think that giving Dean stuff fixes heartbreak. Or makes it easier to get over him.

Dean is actually pretty pissed by the time he finds his phone. Yeah, yeah, he said he doesn't want any contact with Cas at all for a while, but then he had to go and pull this shit. But when Dean calls, it gets rejected right to voice mail. He tries again, and it happens again. Great. Either Cas is determined to keep to Dean's no-call rule, even if Dean is the one to break it, or he's like fucking Balthazar or something to celebrate the move. Now there's a thought that makes Dean even more pissed. Oh, Dean, I'm so sorry you're heartbroken and depressed, here have some books while I go fuck the guy I'm leaving you for.

He sends a text. Actually, he sends several texts. He waits like a minute in between them just in case he gets a response, but he doesn't.

To: Cas
I know I said I wanted no contact but seriously, Cas, you gotta tell me wtf is up here.

When he doesn't get a response to any of them, he flops back down on the couch to eat his sandwich and watch some fucking TV like he was going to. His anger has kind of managed to drain while writing all the texts. The all caps helped, although it was no substitute for actually getting to yell at his weirdo of a fucking best friend.

He finishes his sandwich, but he's still mindlessly channel surfing, seemingly incapable of settling on anything to watch, fifteen minutes later when his phone finally dings.

From: Cas
Give me ten minutes. I'll explain.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you further.
Go drink some tea.

"Tea?" Dean yells at the phone. "I am not gonna drink your fucking tea, Cas. Why is your tea even here? You seriously left me your stupid fucking herbal tea because I was sad?"

Dean throws the phone back down on the couch. Cas and his stupid fucking bullshit tea. He shoves a mug of it at Dean every time Dean is pissed off about something. And Dean always drinks it grudgingly, just to make Cas happy. It tastes nowhere near as good as coffee or beer, but it's, like, edible. He will never, ever, ever admit to Cas that it actually is kinda calming.

But of course Cas probably already knows. Or else he wouldn't keep pushing it.

And he left it for Dean when Dean was upset.

Fuck the books and the lamp and the dishes; the tea actually is kinda thoughtful of him. Dean still has no clue what is going on, but he sighs and heads to the kitchen. The tea is exactly where it always is, so he grabs a mug and microwaves himself some hot water.

He drinks the tea, watching his phone for further texts that never come. He gets halfway through the mug before he starts grumbling at the phone again.

"Jesus, Cas. This is why I didn't want to talk to you. Because your stupid ass is always so nice to me and so thoughtful and you actually know how to make me feel better and what part of needing to get over you did you not understand? Fuck."

Dean is not even sure what he's feeling anymore. He's confused, he's pissed, he's sad, he misses Cas already, he's drained. He's even got a tiny little bit of happy about Cas trying to help him, although he's doing his best to stomp that one out.

He drains the mug and takes it over to the sink, but before he can turn on the water he hears a key turning the lock on the front door. He groans and puts his head in his hands. This is the opposite of what he needs.

He leaves the mug in the sink and drifts back toward the living room as Castiel comes in. Dean leans on archway between the two rooms, suddenly not even having the energy to keep himself upright.

"What the hell is going on?" he asks as Cas closes the front door and leans back on it. Dean can't manage anger or even a little indignation in his voice—he just sounds worn out, and he knows it. "Why are you here? Why is your shit here?"

He wants to go on, he wants to rant, but he can't even think of what else to say.

Cas at least has the decency to look abashed. He looks down at the keys in his hand, fiddling with them as he answers.

"I unpacked my boxes and put my things away. I've brought back another load, although there are obviously some more things I'll need to go back and get. And I… I broke up with Balthazar."

"What?" The entire room tilts on its axis. Dean can't process this. He still has no idea why Cas is saying the things he is saying or doing the things he is doing. Nothing makes sense anymore. "What—I don't—what?" He finally gives up, shaking his head.

"I was never in love with Balthazar, Dean." Cas is looking at him now, that intense gaze that Dean can't look away from. He speaks slowly, methodically, like he knows that Dean needs some extra help wrapping his head around each word. "And he does not love me. Neither of us ever claimed to. I was not moving in with him as some… next step in our relationship, or a trial run or prelude to marriage. He simply wanted me there out of convenience. He never hid that, he never made me think it was anything more. And I agreed because—" he pauses, and his eyes flit around the room before settling back on Dean's. "Because I thought it would help me to finally get over you."

Dean feels the room tilt again. He's gonna throw up if it keeps doing that.

"Obviously, I didn't tell him that at the time. And yet he was not particularly surprised today, when I admitted to him that I am in love with someone else. So maybe I didn't do a very good job of hiding it, either. Although in nine months he never asked or said anything… Balthazar is an odd man. I'm not sure it would actually bother him to know that his boyfriend was in love with another man, as long as he could keep having his fun. I may not have broken his heart today, but he wasn't exactly happy that I was taking his fun away."

This is good, this is a good thing, but Dean doesn't trust it. It doesn't make any sense. Maybe he should point out to Cas why it doesn't make any sense, because surely then Cas will agree.

"But the—" Dean waves toward the staircase, trying to gather enough words for a sentence. "We made out on the fucking stairs, Cas. We were drunk."

Castiel squints at him, head tilting, the expression so familiar it makes Dean want to cry because maybe this is not the result of body snatchers, maybe this is really Cas, really saying this stuff.

"Yes. I remember."

"I mean, the making out isn't the important part. The next morning—dude, I laid there in my bed for like a freaking hour before I finally got up, psyching myself up to actually, like, say something to you. I was ready, man, I was all set to tell you hey, let's try that again, only sober and with, like, going out on some dates and shit." Cas's face sort of crumbles a little at that, but Dean plows on. "And then you—with your whole, let's not fuck up our friendship over physical attraction, and one night of sex, and I think you even called it fuckin' base, as if that's a word people actually use? And I was like, welp, so much for that. Game over. Cas thinks I'm hot but that's about it, guess I don't have to wonder anymore. Why'd you just put the brakes on everything like that if you wanted more, too?"

Castiel groans, his head tipping back so it hits the door with a soft thud as he runs a hand over his face.

"Because I'm a coward and an idiot, that's why. I thought—" he sighs, eyes closed. "When we were drunk, you were the one who stopped us. You said we can't do this, because we're drunk, and it's a bad idea to do it just because we're drunk. And I thought you meant that clearly, neither of us would want to do this while we're sober, so we'll regret doing something while drunk that we would not want to do sober. I thought you meant that you would never want to have sex with me when you're sober, so of course I gave up hope of your wanting more than sex."

"Well, that's not what I—"

"Yes, I know." He finally opens his eyes and looks at Dean again. "After I apologized and unintentionally rejected you, just for a second you looked disappointed. You covered it so quickly, I wasn't sure if I'd really seen it or if I just saw what I wanted to see. But I kept thinking about it, and in hindsight I realized that I could have mistaken your meaning that night. That it was possible that you just meant that we shouldn't have sex, at least not for the first time, while drunk specifically. That we'd regret that, and it would be better sober. But while it took you only an hour to get up the nerve to talk to me, I spent the next week trying to talk myself into talking to you about it. And before I could, you came home one day gushing about this 'awesome chick' named Lisa you'd met. And that was the end of that. I gave up. I assumed I'd been right the first time." 

Cas looks almost distraught by this point, which of course makes Dean feel like shit. Until he realizes—this is stupid. The whole point is that everything's… okay now, right? Isn't it? And why are they still all the way across the room from each other? That's stupid, too.

So he takes a few tentative steps into the living room as he gives Cas a shy smile. "Yeah, Lisa was, uh. She was my big attempt at getting over you. After, y'know, that whole drunk thing. And she's cool and everything, she's great, but I was trying way too hard to feel things that I just… didn't feel for her. I dunno, I think maybe in different circumstances we mighta had something, but honestly I'm surprised she put up with me for three months. And by the time we broke up—"

"I'd started dating Balthazar," Cas finishes for him. Then he pushes off the door with his own shy smile—and that really hits Dean. It's not a look he's ever seen on Cas. Shy isn't something Cas usually does. Sure, he can be quiet and reserved sometimes, but… he's always those things because he chooses to be. Because he's observing, or playing something close to the vest, or waiting until he has all the facts to open his mouth. Not because he's shy. Dean realizes that Cas really must feel the same way he does, like a fifteen-year-old who heard a rumor his crush has a crush back but is still kinda scared to talk to them anyhow just in case the rumors were wrong. 

"I feel like I owe everyone I've dated for the past five years an apology. The truth is, none of them ever had a chance. I know that the only reason I managed to stay with Balthazar for so long is that he never really expected anything from me emotionally, and I never had to worry about his feelings growing deeper than mine." 

Cas has reached the couch by now, and leans against the back of it, maybe three feet in front of Dean. Dean chews his lip. This still feels fucking unreal. They can't actually be standing here, talking about this shit, laying it all out, five years of rejection torn down in a couple of minutes.

"So you really—" he runs a hand through his hair. "You seriously—you were gonna fucking move in with him, Cas. And you're telling me you never—you didn't feel anything?"

"I didn't say I felt nothing for him." Castiel shrugs. "I like Balthazar. I have fun with him. I even care about him; I like seeing him happy and I enjoy making him happy. But we have never been… emotional support for each other. I can't talk to him about things that matter. I've never been able to go to him when I'm in pain, or tell him about my hopes and dreams, or even how my day went." 

He steps away from the couch, and when his hand touches Dean's cheek, Dean melts into it. "You're the only one who's ever held that place for me, Dean. You are the only person I have ever loved like this." The smile that breaks out across his face makes Dean smile into his palm. "And now you're the only one I ever will. This simplifies things greatly."

Dean snorts into the fucking dork's hand. Then he finally, finally does exactly what he wants to do, wrapping his arms around Cas's waist and burying his face in Cas's neck. He feels a sharp little intake of breath, then hands sliding around his back.

"So glad I'm simplifying your life, asshole," he mumbles into warm skin, grinning like an idiot.

"You have to admit, it's easier this way."

"You're easier this way." The insult comes out automatically. If he were thinking harder about what he'd just said, he probably wouldn't be so surprised when he feels fingernails suddenly digging into his back.

His surprised gasp is interrupted by a low voice his ear. "I guess now you can find out."

Dean is suddenly very aware of all the places where their bodies are touching, how closely together they're pressed. He starts to lift his head, but can't bring himself to break the contact. So he slowly nuzzles his way up Cas's neck, along his jaw and across his cheekbone, until they're sharing breaths. Despite everything that's been said, this is where it feels like they're truly standing on a precipice. Once they close the tiny gap that remains between their mouths, the world will be a different place. But the tension is delicious, because Dean already knows where this is going, knows they're going to drive off that cliff together. So they can stand here for a moment, teasing, relishing the last few seconds of before.

When they do finally close the gap, it's nothing like that first drunken kiss. It's not desperate or messy. It's the firm press of soft mouths, slowly, over and over, tilting their heads to see just how many ways their lips fit together. Their hands move, sliding over backs and chests, up into hair and down over the pockets of their jeans. At some point their tongues join in the slow exploration, and around then is when it really starts to settle into Dean's consciousness. This is Cas. This is how he and Cas kiss, this is how they get to know each other's bodies, and he thought he wanted this but he wasn't remotely prepared for how great it actually is. Suddenly giddy, he has to pull back because he's smiling too hard to keep kissing.

"Dude!" he murmurs ever so eloquently. He squeezes Cas in his arms for emphasis. "Look at this. Look at us, Cas! We're doing this."

Castiel returns his smile, leaning his forehead on Dean's. "Yes. Despite our best efforts to the contrary… We made it. Here. Together." But as he runs his thumb over Dean's lips, his smile fades. "I feel like such a fool," he says, almost a whisper. "All this time, wasted, when we could have been building a home, a life together."

Dean kisses him before he can get too far with his regrets. "Cas, come on. Don't act like the past five years don't count at all. We've made a home. We have a life together. It's just, y'know. About to get way, way better. In a sexy way."

He wiggles his eyebrows and his ass at that last bit, prompting Cas to roll his eyes. But then Cas drags him in and they're kissing again, so apparently he's forgiven. And oh—the mood has turned on a dime. The careful, inquisitive touches, the quiet wonder at being allowed to map out each others' bodies, all give way to hunger and need. Their hearts may have been waiting a long time for this, but damn, their bodies have wanted it for just as long and are done waiting their turn.

Their shirts are gone in minutes, and then Dean is crowding Cas back against the couch so it's easier to press their hips together. Everything is skin and teeth and tongue, the harsh drag of their unshaven faces and the sharp dig of fingernails. Dean moans and reaches down to paw at Cas through his jeans, but although Cas gasps at the contact, he then pulls away. He's panting, but also almost laughing.

"I never told you why Inias broke up with me."

Dean has to pull himself out of a haze of lust to even process the sentence. He's not super-thrilled at the mention of Castiel's ex-boyfriend when they're about to get down to business, but there's something mischievous in Cas's eyes that piques his curiosity.

"Yeah. I mean, no. I thought you guys were actually pretty solid, then he just, like, stormed outta here one day and I never saw him again." Dean had actually seen Inias as far more of a threat than he'd ever thought Balthazar could be (right up until the day Cas announced he was moving out). Inias and Cas had been together for maybe three months or so, a good two years ago now. If Dean had ever thought he'd lose Castiel to someone permanently, it had been Inias. But then it just ended, very suddenly and way sooner than Dean had ever predicted.

Cas pulls Dean in, nuzzling against his face but keeping his mouth just out of reach. If he's trying to drive Dean crazy with want, it's working.

"I may have said your name at an inopportune moment." Fuck, Castiel knows exactly what he is doing. His voice is even lower than usual, his eyes hooded, and now Dean is picturing him, all the guys he's been with over the years, every time imagining it was Dean.

"What kind of moment was that?" Dean can't help asking as Cas nuzzles at the corner of his jaw. Cas moves his face up toward Dean's ear, lips barely brushing his skin.

"I had my dick down his throat," his voice rumbles against Dean, and Dean's eyelashes flutter, "but my eyes were closed so I could imagine it was your mouth wrapped around me. Exactly like I did every. Single. Time. But I'd never lost control like that before." His fingertips dig into Dean's skin, and Dean can't keep still anymore. He nips at Cas's throat, grinding against him. Cas moans, and Dean gives a satisfied grunt at the sound.

"Fuck, Dean, I can't wait to scream your name. I've spent years holding it back, and now I want to make sure the whole fucking neighborhood knows." So quickly it catches Dean completely off guard, Cas turns them around so that Dean is the one pinned against the couch, with Cas wrapped around him from the back. He feels a hand in his hair and then his head is being pulled back while Cas grinds slowly against his ass, his free hand reaching down to rub Dean through his jeans. Any shred of self-consciousness that Dean might have still been harboring is now long gone; he moans Cas's name while humping his hand shamelessly.

"That's right," Castiel growls into his ear, "I want to make sure that everyone knows that you are finally. Mine."

And oh, this possessive streak he's apparently found is more than okay with Dean. He lets out a whimper, but then manages to pull himself together long enough to say, "We should really get upstairs. To the bed. Now."

"Or I could just bend you over our couch," Cas replies, thrusting his hips for emphasis. "Do you have any idea how many times I've imagined that?"

Dean moves the hand on his crotch away with a whine. "Full disclosure, whatever we do, it ain't gonna take very long."

Then he twists, sliding to one side out of Cas's hands. For as rough as Cas has been, he lets Dean out of his grasp easily.

"Okay, here's the deal," Dean pants, "We start out in the bed, like civilized horndogs. Then later today, after we've gotten a couple rounds out of our system, we sit down, and we write out an actual fucking list of every fantasy either of us has ever had about the other for the past five years. And then we do all that shit. Obviously."

Castiel barely hesitates before he says "Acceptable," and starts pushing Dean toward the staircase. They stumble their way up the stairs, laughing as they trip each other up with their groping.

The moment they hit Dean's room they're wrapped around each other again, scrabbling at each other's pants and not really giving a shit that it would be easier if they'd just stop making out for a minute. Though eventually, Cas has to stop to get his shoes off.

"Jesus, Cas, you're the one who's always grouching at me about takin' our shoes off at the front door."

"Sorry, I was a little distracted by the whole confessing-my-love thing. I'll be sure to plan ahead for imminent sexual encounters the next time I tell someone I just left my boyfriend for them."

"The fuck you will!"

"Go lie down on the bed and wait for me." The commanding growl in Castiel's voice sends a shiver down Dean's spine. He jumps to obey, but not without grumbling something about "bossypants" under his breath.

Dean props himself up on his elbows so he doesn't have to take his eyes off Cas. He has a lovely ass view from the bed, and he reaches down to stroke himself lightly as he waits. When Cas finally turns around, the look in his eyes is downright predatory. As he climbs onto the foot of the bed and crawls over Dean, Dean wants to smirk, to act cocky and confident and of course you want me. Instead, he lets out what he is not ashamed to admit is an entirely unmanly whine. Because dear god, of course I want you.

At first, they just rut against each other as they kiss, hands wandering, enjoying the feel of so much skin on skin. But after a few minutes, Castiel lets out a snarl as he grabs Dean's wrists and pins them over his head with one hand, then takes both their dicks in his other hand to stroke them together.

"Fuck, Cas," Dean moans, pressing with his wrists just hard enough to feel it but not enough to make Cas stop.

Cas licks and bites his way across Dean's jaw and down his neck. Then he latches his mouth to a spot near the base of Dean's throat and starts to suck, hard. Dean lets out a strangled sort of sound as he starts fucking Cas's hand. As much as he doesn't want this to end, his hips are chasing his orgasm of their own accord.

"Fuck yeah, Cas. Gonna give me something nice and dark, make sure everyone knows I'm yours? Fuckin' mark me up, Cas, bruise me, come all over me, make me yours."

Cas groans into Dean's skin, and when he pulls off Dean can feel his hot breath panting against the wet place where his mouth had been. When he speaks, his voice is even rougher than usual, broken by gasps and tiny noises that tell Dean that Cas is getting as close as he is.

"It's crude, but it will have to do until I can get a ring on your finger so there's absolutely no confusion."

Somehow it's that, the idea of having a permanent and visible reminder that he belongs to Cas, that pushes him over the edge, and he's coming all over both of them with a shout.

As soon as he's finished, Cas is pressing harder into his wrists for leverage as he pushes up to straddle Dean's waist. He only has to give himself a few more strokes before he's moaning Dean's name and spilling warm white stripes onto his chest and neck.

They both pause for a few seconds, panting while their brains wake back up enough to even move. Then Dean wriggles his wrists out of Cas's grip so he can thread his fingers through dark hair and pull him down for a slow, deep kiss. They stay there for a minute, kissing and grinning and catching their breath.

"God damn, Cas," Dean finally says, "I'd tell you to just get it over with and piss on me but I'm afraid you'd do it."

Cas laughs, and might be blushing just a tiny bit. Which Dean, of course, finds fucking adorable.

"I'm not normally this possessive," he says, "but I think that may only be because I don't normally have you to be possessive over. I promise I'm not going to turn into some jealous asshole."

"I know you won't. And look, do you see me complaining? I mean, as long as you don't piss on me. Then I'll fucking complain." Dean smiles like a fucking idiot. "And hey—now you do normally have me to be possessive over."

Cas grins and kisses him again, then pushes up onto his knees. "I'll be right back."

Dean grumbles a little at the loss, but is too loose and relaxed to do anything but lie there. Cas returns a couple of minutes later with a warm washcloth and starts wiping Dean off. It feels nice; Dean hums and closes his eyes.

"By the way," he says, eyes still closed, "you are totally not allowed to propose to me during sex."

Cas snorts. "I think I just did. And got a very enthusiastic yes."

Dean laughs as Cas flops down next to him. He slides his arms around Cas, and Cas burrows into him, looking happier than Dean's ever seen him. Dean's pretty sure he looks the same way, not least because he is highly amused at the fact that his sex god seems to have transformed into a wriggling puppy.

"Guess we're not exactly doing the taking it slow thing," he says into Cas's hair. Cas pulls his head back enough to raise an eyebrow at him.

"Dean, really. We couldn't have taken this any slower if we tried."


"There are actual married couples who haven't been married half as long as we have."

"Okay, okay—"

"And anyhow, when we make that list of fantasies it's going to take us at least another five years to get through my half alone, so you're stuck with me for—"

"Dude!" Dean kisses him. It's his new favorite way to shut Cas up, and he's gonna use it as often as possible. "Calm down, it was just an observation. Not a complaint. Really. I love you. Hell, I can't wait to see what the rest of our life together is gonna look like. It's gonna be awesome."

"It is. I love you, too." As they kiss some more, Dean realizes it's the first time they've really said it to each other, other than their original awkward confessions.

He knows this conversation should be freaking him out. This morning he thought he wouldn't see Cas again for at least a couple months, and that he was about to start the painful and possibly impossible process of getting over the only person he's ever really been in love with. Now they're talking about marriage?  It should scare the shit out of him. Anyone else he's ever dated, even a joke about rings or spending their lives together or hell, even commitment beyond the next few months would have had him running. 

But this is just so obvious. Of course they're going to spend the rest of their lives together, this is Castiel. Everything with him is so easy. Even the few times they've fought, they don't stay mad for long. Hell, their arguments usually turn out to be better conversations than Dean has ever had with anyone he's actually dated. There's no god damned way that Dean is letting go of this if he doesn't have to, ever. Like he said, this is gonna be awesome. Duh.

They've been kissing and cuddling for several minutes when Cas pulls back and looks at Dean with that probing gaze of his.

"What are your thoughts on children?"

Fuck. Immediately, images flood Dean's mind: Castiel dozing on the couch with a baby curled up on his chest. Cas handing a little girl off to him in order to go pull their dinner out of the oven. Dean coaching a little league team while Cas reads on the bleachers. Shit shit shit. Something inside of Dean is reaching overload.

"Okay, no," Dean blurts out, eyes wide.

"Oh." The disappointment that flashes through Cas's face could kill Dean.

"I mean, not no to kids. No to, like, this conversation. Talkin' about it. Right now. I just—man, it's barely noon and I have had more feelings today than I usually do in a month. And like, thinking about a family? For us? Jesus, that's like a whole other level of feelings and I cannot deal with that right now." He pulls a relieved-looking Cas close. "The only feeling I'm willing to deal with for the rest of the day is lust."

"I don't think that's quite how human emotions actually work, but I take your point. It has been an emotionally taxing day." He pushes Dean down onto his back with a smug grin. "We should focus on celebrating. And I think I'd like to celebrate with your dick in my mouth."

All Dean can really do is nod, his mind more than happy to take a break from heavier shit and just get his dick sucked. And probably suck one in return. Yeah, he can do that, all right.

But before Cas can even make it all the way down his body, there's a buzzing sound from Cas's pants. Cas grumbles something about making sure it's not someone from work and goes to fish his phone out of the pants pocket. Dean isn't even particularly bothered by the interruption, as long as he can stare at his boyfriend's ass. Because Cas is his boyfriend now. And that ass? At some point, hopefully very soon, he's gonna get to stick things in it. Definitely his dick, but maybe also other things. Other things can be fun, too.

Cas reads the text and rolls his eyes. He holds it up for Dean to read, and Dean is mildly annoyed that he has to pause his consideration of which "other things" he will be writing on the list later.

From: Balthazar
Just a reminder that if you and Dean can stop fucking for ten minutes, you still have several boxes and a nightstand to pick up.
You should really take a break at some point for hydration anyhow.

"Blow jobs first, then we'll deal with your stuff," Dean says with a grin, pushing the phone away. "You're right, he doesn't exactly sound heartbroken."

"The most interesting thing about this," Cas says as he puts the phone on Dean's dresser, "is that I never actually told him who it was. I literally only said 'in love with someone else,' not you."

Dean snorts. "Come on, he's not stupid. Who else would it be? Alfie? Someone from work, freaking Raphael? Or maybe that Hannah chick you said has a crush on you managed to turn you straight? 'Course it was me."

Cas laughs as he climbs back onto Dean. "Of course it was."  The smile on his face is wide and beautiful as he takes Dean's hands and pins them to the bed near his shoulders. "I have no idea how we ever thought otherwise."