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Satin and Sawdust

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The number of pops and cracks Castiel hears as he arches his back against his fists should be worrying if it didn’t feel good to have his spine realign itself.  The muscles twinge with the forerunners of the aches and pains he knows he’s going to suffer soon.  Really soon. 

Thank goodness the box he just added to the stack taking up most of the corner of his new living room is the last.  One more would be the proverbial straw to break his completely un-camel-like back. 

“Wow, Clarence,” Meg says from the entryway leading to the formal dining room.  “That sounds like you stepped on a pile of bubble wrap.” 

Castiel gives her an exaggerated wince.  “Not half as fun, though.” 

She grins, running her tongue over her bottom lip and giving him a once over that sends a twinge of interest through him.  “If you want to have a whole lotta fun, we can start christening rooms.” 

The invitation is more than tempting.  Meg’s dark hair is pulled up in a messy ponytail, and the black cami-tank she’s wearing above a set of sinfully short cut-off shorts is damp with sweat and clinging to every curve in the most enticing ways.  And at some point, while unpacking the boxes of dishes and putting things away in his new kitchen, she lost her bra.  He wonders where she stashed it for him to find later.  Sneaky woman. 

But the twinge in his hips when he stands up straight makes him shake his head.  “Sorry, Meg.  The christening is going to have to wait until my muscles don’t feel three minutes from liquefying.” 

Her bottom lips juts out in a pout.  “Aw, poor Clarence, did we break you today?”  Her hip cocks to one side, and the shift causes one of the straps of her tanktop to slide down over her shoulder.   

More temptation.   

His eyes track the deepening shadow between her breasts while he contemplates her offer.  “Well, it’s probably nothing that a few ibuprofen won’t fix.” 

In response, Meg saunters forward and Castiel’s mouth goes dry when the other strap of her tanktop slips down her arm.  Only the swell of her breasts holds the cloth up.  When she gets close enough, Castiel reaches out and tugs at the bottom hem, and the last vestiges of her modesty disappear.  It’s a good thing they’re not standing near a window, since he doesn’t have any curtains or blinds to put up yet.   

Although, she probably wouldn’t mind if his new neighbors get a show.  He, however, doesn’t want to make that kind of first impression.  He actually has to live with these people. 

He smirks when she licks her lips and thrusts her chest out.  Taking her invitation, he cups one breast.  Her nipple pebbles against his palm, sending a thrill through his core.  “I probably smell like a beast,” he murmurs as he slides his hand down so that he can feel the weight of her breast in his palm.  He leans down and flicks his tongue over the dusky peak. 

“Hm, yeah kinda, although it’s better than when you smell like wet dog after work.”  Her nails scratch his scalp as she grabs a handful of his hair to nudge him closer.  “I guess we’d better christen the shower first, huh?” 

Suddenly not so tired anymore, Cas bends down and grabs Meg around her thighs.  She giggles, wraps her arms around his shoulders and her legs around his waist.  He sucks her nipple into his mouth, and carries her toward the stairs which lead up to the bedrooms and the bathroom. 

“Cas!” She manages to squeak out between a gasp and another giggle.  “You’re gonna trip and drop us and if I break my neck falling down your stairs and you don’t, I’m going to fucking haunt your ass.” 

Since he’s not as familiar with the layout of his new house as he’d like to be, he releases her breast so he can watch where he’s going, but doesn’t put her down.  Taking the stairs with her weight in his arms, slight as it is, makes his thighs burn, but he’s got a destination in mind, and a singular determination.  “Then I won’t trip,” he growls. 

He keeps his promise, and makes it into the master bathroom where he sets her on the counter and stands between her knees.  Dropping his head back to her breasts so he can mouth at the taught nubs perking up for his attention, he runs his hands over the smooth skin of her thighs, digging his fingers up under the tattered hem of her shorts.  When his fingers encounter satin, he groans. 

“What color?” he mumbles as he switches his attention to her other breast.   

“You’re not even going to try and guess?” 

His imagination runs wild.  Are they black?  That’s Meg’s style.  Darker than her hair, to match her soul, as she likes to say.  But if she wants him to guess, then she must have switched it up just for him.  Blue, like his eyes?  Pink?  “Red,” he hazards. 

Her voice is low and throaty, and she pulls harder at his hair in a non-verbal request that get get back to what he was doing.  “Nope.” 

“White?”  A sharp tug at his hair makes him chuckle.  Of course not.  He only said that to get a rise out of her.  One of his favorite things about Meg is that she brings a little bit of her fiery temper to bed with her, and it makes her rough and bossy.  The slight sting in his scalp sends blood pumping straight to his cock.  “What about yellow polka dots?” 

“Seriously?” She huffs.  “Great, now I’m going to have that stupid bikini song stuck in my head.” 

“I’ll distract you from it if you’ll let me see them,” Cas promises. 

She lets out a long drawn out sigh, clearly feeling put upon, or at least wanting him to think so.  “Fine, you can look.” 

Giddiness nearly makes him light headed.  Or maybe it’s because he’s currently suffering from low blood sugar and he stands up too fast.  Maybe all of the above.  But he’s so excited his fingers tremble as they reach for the button and zipper at her waist.  Normally he likes to reveal his prize slowly and savor it, but he knows he probably doesn’t have much time before this sudden energy boost wears off and the day of moving boxes and furniture catches up to him. 

He sees a swatch of black lace, and below that, dark red satin.  He’d glare at her for lying, but then he’d have to tear his eyes away from the sinful sight.  “Meg, you are a liar.” 

“Duh, Clarence.  How long have you known me and you’re just figuring that out now?” 

She pushes at his shoulders just hard enough to get him to take a few steps back so she can drop to her feet in front of him.  She wiggles her hips and the shorts slide down her legs, leaving her standing in bikini style panties.   

He drops to his knees and nuzzles against the warmth between her legs.  “Beautiful,” he murmurs.  “Will you keep them on in the shower?” 

“What, and go home without any underwear on?” 

“Like you don’t go commando most of the time anyway,” he reminds her.  She usually only wears panties for him because she knows how much he loves them. 

Her dark eyes shine up at him, and she tilts her head in contemplation.  “Alright, I’ll keep ‘em on, but if they chafe, I’ll make you regret it.” 

Probably still worth it, he thinks.  But out loud he says “I understand.” 

“Start the shower up, Clarence,” she murmurs.  “Let’s get this party started.” 

He’s on his feet and turning the knob in the shower in less than a heartbeat.  The pipes squeal, and something clanks inside the wall, and for a moment he thinks he might not get anything more than that.  But finally water spurts from the showerhead.   

The spray goes in more directions than just down because of what looks like calcium buildup on the showerhead, but when he tests it with his hand, the pressure, while not great, is good.  It’ll do for now, anyway.  He adds that to his mental list of things that need to be fixed. 

Buying a house was only possible with his savings and salary by choosing one with a few… personality quirks.  Jimmy had protested, reminding him that he barely knows which end of the hammer is the business end, but Castiel had won the argument by pointing out that he was smart enough to become a veterinarian, he can figure out how to change out a few light fixtures and patch a hole in the wall. 

And eventually he’ll figure out how to replace a showerhead.  But for now this one will have to do.  He’s got a naked (well naked enough for him) and willing woman that he needs to lavish his attention on as a thank you for helping him move and for surprising him with such a pretty pair of panties. 

It’s not until he’s got her in his arms, his dick sliding deliciously against the soaking wet panties until he’s ready to pull them aside and thrust into her that he figures out that the showerhead is going to be a lower priority on his To Fix list.  Just as he hooks a finger under the wet satin, the water, which has been hot enough to relax the tension in his muscles and fill the room with steam, goes ice cold. 

Meg yelps, leaping away from the freezing spray, nearly knocking him down.   

He manages to catch himself on the shower curtain, but the weight he puts on it pops the bar holding it up free.  It’s pure chance, that he manages to keep them both upright, but there’s a painful pop and twinge in his back, making him gasp at the sharp protest of his nerves. 

Instant boner killer.  For both of them, even if Meg doesn’t have the right anatomy for the phrase. 

And to top off the misadventure, neither one of them thought to unpack towels. 

“Maybe you should have kept saving for something nicer,” Meg says later as she hands him a glass and a handful of ibuprofen. 

He doesn’t acknowledge the comment.  The house may be a fixer-upper, but it’s his and his alone.  He may be twenty-eight years old, but this is the first time he’ll have a home of his own.  It’s time for him to stop living with his twin. 

Time to stop envying Jimmy’s home and his family.   

He takes the ibuprofen and downs it with the water, then relaxes back onto his bare mattress.  It’s sitting directly on the floor since he hasn’t had time to put the frame together.  It makes the room feel huge since he’s so close to the ground.   

Or it could be that the room is rather large, and there’s nothing in it except the mattress.   

Besides the low price, the master bedroom was the deciding factor for purchasing the house.  Sure there is a patch of ceiling that looks like it’s ready to collapse in from water damage, and the wood floor has deep gouges from the previous owner’s bed frame, and there isn’t a closet so he’ll need to invest in a wardrobe.  But the space is huge, with vaulted ceilings and one wall taken up completely by windows.  A door to the side of the room opens into its own bathroom… 

Which he won’t be using very much until he figures out what’s wrong with the water heater.  That’s going to suck. 

But it’s his.  And it’ll be worth the work to get everything fixed up once he figures out how to fix it up.   

Meg shucks her wet panties (such a shame) and plops down on the bed with him.  She curls onto her side facing him, and grins at him.  “You’ve got your work cut out for you with this place, Clarence.” 

“I’m not afraid of hard work.” 

She chuckles.  “Don’t I know it.”   

Her eyes go languid, and she licks her bottom lip.  “And neither am I.”  She pushes herself up and straddles his lap.  “You just relax, and let me do all the work for now.” 

Well, how does a man argue with that? 

He doesn’t. 

Not if he’s smart.   

Castiel has a “Doctor” in front of his name.  He’s pretty fucking smart.

 

xxx

 

The moving truck parked outside the house across the street isn’t much of a surprise when Dean finally gets home.  He’d guessed he would probably have a new neighbor soon since the For Sale sign in the house’s yard had a big red SOLD sticker slapped over it the week before, although he hadn’t thought the new owner would move in so soon.  Not without sending in a horde of contractors to fix the place up first. 

No one has been living there for years, and the last owners hadn’t taken very good care of the place.  Dean constantly has to avert his eyes from the house because it’s obvious even from the outside that it needs more than a little TLC.   

The roof needs repairs, the rain gutters flat out need replacing, and he really hopes that whoever is moving heavy objects into the house is careful of the front porch because the wooden steps leading up to it are nearly rotted through.   

Dean cringes at the thought of one of the slats of wood busting under the weight of a mover carrying a couch.  That’s a broken leg, and possibly tetanus, waiting to happen. 

He’s slamming the door of his truck closed, and heading across the street to talk to the new owners before he really even thinks about it.  At the very least, he feels like he should introduce himself to the new neighbors.  Offer them his card.  Drum up a little business.   

Before he sets foot on the first of the rickety steps, the front door opens.  Dean looks up, then down slowly over a very impressive set of curves, very lovely legs in indecently short shorts.  It’s a kneejerk reaction, and when he catches himself he snaps his gaze back up, ready with an apology for the ogling. 

“Well hello, there,” the woman says with a wicked smile.  Her eyes drop slowly over his body, giving him the same treatment he gave her, and the tip of her tongue peeks out to trace her upper lip, as if what she sees looks as delectable as the finest pie. 

Or whatever her dessert of choice is.  Just because Dean thinks pie is God’s gift to mankind, doesn’t mean that everyone does.  Chicks usually dig chocolate though, right?  Chocolate silk pie counts. 

An apology dies on his tongue, and instead he pulls out the charm.  Two can play at this game, and he’s a grand champion.  “Hello, yourself.” 

The woman cocks her head and grins at him, causing waves of dark brown hair to spill over her shoulder.  It draws his gaze, and reveals that she’s not wearing a bra.  Hot. 

“I’m Dean,” he says, when he looks back up at her face.  She definitely noticed where his attention went, but if the sparkle in her dark eyes means anything, she’s already forgiven him.  He hooks a thumb over his shoulder.  “I live across the street.  Figured I’d come over and say hello, and see if you need any help moving.” 

She steps out of the house, pulling the door shut behind her before practically skipping across the porch to greet him.  “Nice to meet you, Dean.” She doesn’t bother to hold a hand out to shake.  Instead, she descends the stairs to stand near him and gestures at the moving truck.  “Thanks for the offer, but we managed to get everything in the house already.  Clarence doesn’t own much.” 

Clarence?  Her boyfriend maybe?  He didn’t catch the glint of a ring, but if she was helping move things, she could have taken it off.  But the fact that she only mentions Clarence’s belongings being moved into the house and not her own makes him think she’s not going to be living there herself. 

“And he’s sound asleep, so you’ll probably want to introduce yourself some other time,” she continues.  Then she finally holds out a hand.  “I’m Meg.” 

There’s a pair of red satin panties with black lace trim hanging from her wrist.  Dean’s heartbeat doubles at the sight, and he has to lick suddenly dry lips.  “Those are pretty,” he says as he takes her hand in a loose handshake. 

“Thank you.”  Her grin widens.  “So are you.” 

Dean throws his head back and laughs.  Damn, and people accuse him of being a shameless flirt.  His own grin makes his cheeks hurt when he finally calms his laughter.  “Nice to meet you, Meg.  Am I going to be seeing you around more often?” 

She shrugs, and he notices that both straps of her tanktop are hanging down her arms.  It wouldn’t take much jostling for the top to slide down. 

Nice.   

“I guess we’ll see,” she says.  “But I’m out of here for now.  I’m fucking exhausted.” 

Dean thinks it’s rather rude of Clarence to ask this woman to help him move, possibly fuck her if the panties around her wrist mean anything, and then kick her out.  “Your boyfriend must not appreciate you much if he’s not letting you crash at his place after all that work.” 

She snorts, and her nose wrinkles with disdain.  “Ew, not my boyfriend.”  Her expression smoothes back out into a playful grin and she runs a manicured nailed down his sternum.  “I like to keep my options open.” 

He raises his brows at the come on.  She looks freshly fucked, so obviously there’s something going on there, but it’s none of his business. 

“It was nice to meet you, Dean.”  Meg pats his cheek, and steps around him.  The sway of her hips holds his attention as she saunters to the little black Honda Accord parked in front of the next house over.  She doesn’t look back, but lifts the hand with the panties on the wrist to wave at him.  “Be nice to my bestie while I’m gone!” 

He waits until she’s pulling away from the curb, and lifts a hand in a farewell wave.  Once her taillights disappear around the corner, Dean turns back to look at the newly occupied house.  Through the large front window he can see a couch and a bunch of boxes, but all the lights are off.  If Clarence is sleeping, Dean doesn’t want to bother him.  He’ll introduce himself some other time. 

He crosses back over to his own house and lets himself in.  There’s a patter of paws, and two happy voices raised in greeting.  Crouching down, he picks up his boys Ford, a black longhair with copper eyes, and Hamill, an orange tabby with green eyes, and smiles as their meows turned to contented purring.  Hamill nudges his head up under Dean’s chin, rubbing against the stubble there while Ford kneads at his bicep and rumbles his pleasure loudly. 

“You guys hungry?” 

Those are the magic words.  Both cats struggle to get out of his arms, and he lets them down as gently as possible.  He follows them into the kitchen, and goes straight for the cupboard where he keeps their food.  The spoiled shits get dry food all day, but they whine as if they haven’t eaten for days while he splits the can chunky chicken and rice into two separate bowls for them. 

As soon as the treat is set before them, the house goes silent except for the wet smacking noises of their eager consumption.  “Not so fast, guys,” he murmurs as he strokes their backs.  Ford ignores him while Hamill arches into the touch.  “Make it last, yeesh.” 

Knowing that they won’t have any time for him until they’re finished, Dean gives them each one more stroke, then leaves the kitchen.  He heads upstairs and straight for the bathroom.  It was a drywall day, and he feels like he has dust in places that he didn’t know were places.  A shower is in order, then probably frozen pizza, maybe a beer, and whatever catches his attention on TV. 

By the time he’s clean, fed and watered - or beer’d in this case - and his mind is pleasantly numb from cuddling on the couch with his boys and watching an episode of Dancing With the Stars, it’s fully dark outside.  It’s not late, but Spring is still clinging to the sun, and the days are still somewhat short.   

It’s probably too early to hit the sack, but a yawn cracks his jaw and he decides it wouldn’t hurt to relocate to the bed.  The boys hop off his lap as soon as he moves, and he shuffles through the house, making sure lights are off and the coffee pot is ready to go in the morning.  He wanders to the door to make sure it’s locked and flip on the porch light.  A glance through the oval of glass at head height on the door shows him that the house across the street is completely dark, not even a porch light, and he wonders idly if there’s any problems with the electricity over there, or if Clarence really did just zonk out completely after Meg left.   

Probably the latter.  He hopes so, anyway.  Futzing with electricity issues in a new house is a pain in the ass for anyone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.   

Something soft and warm rubs against his ankle, and Dean bends down to pick up Hamill.  Ford is nowhere to be seen, but then again, he blends perfectly into the shadows.  He’ll come to bed when he’s ready, though.   

He makes his way upstairs to the master bedroom, and flops down on the bed, careful not to jostle his feline companion too much.  He intends to turn on the bedside lamp and get some reading in before bed, but a long day of work catches up with him and he yawns again.  So instead he plugs in his phone, sends off a text to his brother about his new neighbor, and rolls himself into his blankets with Hamill purring against his chest. 

His phone buzzes with Sam’s reply, but he ignores it.  His last thought before he falls asleep is that he really needs to make sure Clarence gets those front steps fixed.  

Chapter Text

“So how’s the new house, Cas?” 

Castiel looks up from the locker where he’s stowing his trench coat, and finds himself looking up into the smiling eyes of his new co-worker, Sam Winchester DVM.  The grouchiness that has been festering under his skin lessens, and he returns the smile.  It’s hard not to when a man who takes care of sick animals for a living looks like an overgrown puppy himself.   

“Good morning, Sam.”  He pulls his white overcoat out of his locker, and shrugs it on.  “The house is…” 

When he fiddles with his name badge and doesn’t continue, Sam’s smile fades.  “It’s habitable, right?” 

Castiel has been working at the Hunter Animal Clinic for a little over six months now, and during that time they’ve become what he likes to think of as pretty good friends.  They don’t hang out outside of work, and he thinks it’s a shame that they haven’t yet.  He’ll need to make time to invite Sam out for drinks sometime.  It’ll be nice to have friends outside of Jimmy and Amelia, and even Meg.   

Of course, now has a house with a laundry list of repairs that needs to be done.  He’s going to be spending a lot of time on YouTube to teach himself how to do them, so he’s not sure when he’ll be able to make the time. 

“It’s habitable,” Castiel responds with a wry smile.  “But there’s something wrong with the water heater, and I can’t get more than five minutes of hot water.  Morning showers are not very pleasant at the moment.”   

Sam’s nose wrinkles.  “Dude, that sucks.” 

Castiel laughs.  “Succinct and accurate.” 

“If you need a contractor, I can get you in touch with my brother.  His prices are reasonable, but if you tell him I referred you, he’ll probably do the work at not much above cost.” 

The offer is tempting, but Castiel’s savings took a hefty hit with the down payment he made.  He needs to start pinching his pennies again.  Hopefully with his new job at HAC, he’ll get back to where he was pretty quickly, since working as a Vet instead of a Vet Tech increased his pay quite a bit.  In the meantime though, he’ll get by doing what work he can by himself.  “I appreciate the offer, Sam, but I’m planning on doing the fixing.  I just have to figure out what’s wrong, first.” 

Sam reaches into the breast pocket of his white jacket and pulls out one of his own business cards and a pen.  He flips it over and scribbles a number on the back.  “Well even if you just need some advice, he’ll help you out.  He’s a great guy.” 

Castiel takes the card out of politeness and slips it into the deep hip pocket of his own jacket without looking at it.  “Thank you, Sam.  If I need anything, I’ll know who to call.” 

That’s enough for his giant co-worker.  Sam beams at him, and pounds him on the shoulder with a giant paw.  “Great!  So, you ready?” 

Looking toward the front of the clinic, Castiel can just barely see a corner of the waiting room.  Barking and the occasional unhappy hiss filter back to the staff locker room, and he can already tell it’s going to be a busy day.  He gives Sam a mock look of terror.  “Ready as I’ll ever be, I guess.” 

That seems to be the motto of his life.  He thinks it’s not a bad one, either.

His prediction that the day would be busy came true.  As it did for the rest of the week.  Working at a clinic that offers less expensive care than most other places in the city means that his days often end up lasting longer.   

Which is why he’s too exhausted every night to do much more than make himself dinner, and read up on new techniques for pet teeth care before crawling into bed with his laptop.  Every night he does so with the intention of googling water heater repairs, but instead he flips aimlessly through Hulu and Netflix looking for something mindless to watch, then ends up falling asleep to the glow of the menu. 

He considers giving up his morning jogging routine so that he’ll be more alert in the evenings, but he’s afraid if he does, he won’t be able to make it through the long days at all.  So every morning he gets up at stupid o’clock, puts on his sweats, and explores his new neighborhood. 

Because of the hours that he keeps, he hasn’t met any of his neighbors yet, although the man living across the street is usually leaving for work around the time Castiel is leaving his house.  They exchange friendly waves as the man throws what looks like lunchbox and a briefcase into the cab of his truck, but neither of them pause to say hello. 

It’s not until a Thursday morning when Castiel is on his porch doing his pre-run stretches that they finally get a chance to talk.  The man’s door opens, bringing Castiel’s attention up.  Smiling, he starts to lift his hand in greeting when he notices a flash of orange at the man’s ankles. 

It streaks off into the bushes next to the man’s porch.  The man throws his things back in the door, and jumps down to the grass.  “Dammit, Hamill, you damn ninja!  Get back here!” 

Castiel watches for a few moments, amused by the cat’s ability to avoid capture by moving around behind the bushes where the man can’t reach him.  When it becomes apparent that the man is not going to be successful any time soon, Castiel jogs across the street to offer his assistance. 

“If you can get behind the bushes,” Castiel says as he strides over dew-laden grass, “I’ll catch him when he tries to escape out this way.” 

His neighbor glances up, and his shoulders sag with relief.  “Thanks, man.  I can’t leave him out here.” 

Castiel nods, and takes his position.  The man scoots behind the bushes, muttering threats of no gooshy food for a week, mister and ok maybe not a week, but you’re grounded from the bed tonight.  He coughs lightly to cover a laugh, and turns his attention to the area the cat is most likely going to try and escape from.   

It doesn’t take long.  Years of practice catching pets that don’t want to be poked and prodded by a stranger in a room that smells like antiseptic and other animals gives him the agility he needs to bend down and scoop up the cat before it can shoot past him to find a better hiding spot.  He straightens, holding the struggling feline to his chest, and grins as the man disentangles himself from the bushes.  “Got him.” 

The man returns his smile and reaches out for his cat.  “This little shithead is always trying to escape.  Maybe one day I should leave his ass outside for a night to try and scare him out of it.” 

Castiel rubs the orange tabby between the ears.  “Or he might decide he’d rather be free and never come back.” 

The man shrugs.  “Hamill?  Naw, he’s such a cuddle slut, he’d be crying at the door for lovin’s after a few hours.  But he’s too curious for his own good, and one of these days I’m not going to notice he’s snuck out and then he’ll be sorry.”  The last words are spoken with a dark tone, and directed at the cat, but they’re softened by the way the man cuddles the cat close and rubs under his chin. 

The cat leans into the caress and starts to purr.  Well, at least Castiel knows this is one neighbor he can get along with.  It’s hard not to like a guy who openly loves cats, and doesn’t pull the macho Cats Aren’t Manly Pets bullshit.  “Now that I’m here, I’ll help keep an eye out for him in case he gives you the slip.” 

The man grins, and Castiel is struck by how perfect his teeth are.  White and straight, the canines pointy, yet not too long.   

What a weird thing to notice. 

“I appreciate, it Clarence.” 

Castiel blinks at the nickname, confused for a moment.  Only Meg calls him that, which means- He laughs and shakes his head.  “My name is Castiel.  I assume you’ve met Meg?” 

The man’s blush is revealed by the golden light of the rising sun, making his freckles stand out against his skin.  “Sorry.  Yeah, I met Meg the day you moved in.  I was going to come over to say hi, but she said you were asleep.  I'm Dean." 

Castiel is surprised Meg hasn’t mentioned Dean.  He’s handsome, bordering on pretty.  His green eyes flash behind long lashes that would make many women jealous, with pouty pink lips (which may just be because he is actually pouting at the moment, like he’s upset that he didn’t get to meet Castiel that first day), a strong jaw lined with a day or two worth of scruff, and only a slight bend in his nose where it looks like it may have broken once being the only thing that detracts from the perfect symmetry of his features.  He’s exactly the kind of guy that Meg would have put at the top of her To Do list. 

“It was a long day,” Castiel confirms.  “I don’t own a lot, so I didn’t think it would be so bad moving in with just one helper, but I guess I was wrong.” 

Dean nods his agreement.  “Yeah, I hear you.” 

That seems to be all they have to say for the moment, and silence stretches awkwardly between them.  At least it seems awkward on Castiel’s end.  Dean is studying him like he’s… Something.  Something special.   

Castiel is no stranger to being checked out, by women or men, although he honestly misses the cues most of the time.  But he’s mostly sure that he’s being checked out right now, even if Dean is polite enough to keep his eyes mostly on Castiel’s face.  The main clue is the way his eyes keep dropping to Castiel’s lips. 

Time to make a graceful retreat.  It’s not that Castiel doesn’t appreciate the compliment.  He just doesn’t swing that way.  So it’s best all around for him to cut the moment short. 

“Uh, well,” Castiel finally says as he hooks a thumb over his shoulder.  “I’m going to go do my thing.  You and Hamill have a good day.” 

Whatever spell Dean seems to be under breaks, and he blushes even deeper.  But he tilts his head at a jaunty angle, and grins again.  “You too, Cas.” 

Castiel doesn’t wait around to watch Dean take his cat inside.  He turns on a heel and takes off at a jog.  He’s not running away from Dean’s admiring looks, he’s completing his morning routine. 

His spine tingles, and he pretends he’s not wondering if Dean is watching him.

 

xxx

 

Dean really shouldn’t stare at Castiel’s ass, but hot fucking damn, it is such a nice ass to stare at.  And it’s not like Castiel is going to know he’s ogling, so Dean allows himself to do so until his new neighbor turns the corner at the end of the block. 

He looks down at Hamill who is purring against his chest, content to be held even if his escape attempt was a failure.  “I think I’m in trouble Ham.”

Green eyes blink lazily up at him, and Dean snorts.  He takes the cat inside and grabs his stuff, careful to make sure there are no more bids for freedom as he leaves.   

Once he’s inside his truck, and on his way to the work site, his mind wanders back to his new neighbor.  From across the street, he’d been able to tell Castiel was handsome, but up close? 

Dark blue eyes, full pink lips, beard stubble that Dean wants to rub his own face against.  Hair that looks like it’s been finger-fucked.  Damn.   

He can’t decide if he’d want to fuck that mouth with his tongue, or with his cock.  Then he realizes that the answer is both. 

Of course, he gets the feeling Castiel is straight.  The encounter with Meg, and the way Castiel’s eyes had narrowed nervously when Dean couldn’t keep his eyes off his lips are a definite giveaway.  Which is really a bummer.  It’s been a while since Dean has met someone so physically intriguing. 

He’s surrounded by hot guys all day at work, so he’s usually somewhat immune to the girly butterflies swirling around in his stomach.  Meg had peaked his interest a little, because he always appreciates a set of full lips, a nice rack, and legs long enough to wrap around his waist.  But he has a feeling that he might add a scene or two of Castiel to his spank bank, whereas he’s barely thought of Meg since they met. 

Maybe it’s the voice.  It was low and rough and Dean had felt it like a physical thing when Castiel first spoke to him.  He’d almost forgotten that his ninja cat was hiding in the bushes.  

He’s distracted for most of the day, and by the time he sends his crew home, he knows he’s gotta do something to get Castiel off of his mind.  A date would probably solve his issues - or a blowjob, the devil on his shoulder whispers - but since that isn’t likely to happen, he heads home with the plan to take the edge off his frustration the good old fashioned way. 

By locking the cats out of his room, loading up some porn on his laptop, and playing with a few of his favorite toys. 

That plan is derailed as he’s pulling into his driveway though.  His business phone rings, and while he’s tempted to ignore it, he’s also self employed and recovering from a somewhat lean winter in terms of work.   

He doesn’t recognize the number, which is no surprise.  But he swipes his thumb over the screen and answers.  “Winchester Contracting.” 

“Dean?” 

Even though he’d only spoken to the man once, Dean instantly recognizes the voice.  “Cas?”  He takes the phone away from his ear and looks at the screen, despite the fact that will tell him absolutely nothing, and then puts it back.  “How did you get this number?” 

He winces at the accusing tone of his voice.  He might as well have come right out and accused the guy of stalking him or something. 

Briefly his mind goes mmm sexy, and he shuts it down with a firm mental NO

“Uh… I got it from my co-worker Sam?  He said it was for his brother who could help me with my water heater… I’m sorry, maybe I have the wrong number.” 

Dean’s brows go up in surprise, and he twists around to look out of his truck’s back window.  He can just make out Castiel pacing back and forth in his living room, because there are still no curtains or blinds to hide the view.  “No, yeah!  Sam’s my little brother.”  He chuckles.  “Small world, huh?” 

There’s a huff of breath that might be a laugh.  “Yeah, I guess so.” 

“If you need help, I’m your guy.” 

After a beat of silence, Cas asks “Are you busy right now?” 

“I’ll be right over.  Give me five to feed the cats so they don’t try to eat me if I’m not home on time.” 

This time it’s definitely a laugh.  “Okay, thanks.” 

“No problem.” 

“Um.  Bye.” 

Dean grins.  “Bye, Cas.” 

He pockets his phone and hauls his briefcase into the house.  As normal, he has to be careful not to trip over the boys on his way to the kitchen, but he manages to hurry through getting them their evening meal.  They barely notice that he leaves again almost immediately. 

Stopping at the back of his truck, he unlocks the cover and pulls out his small toolbox.  He doubts there’s something seriously wrong.  Probably just a pilot light issue, or something.  But he prefers to be prepared, and besides, a toolbox will make him look like a professional and not a man eager for another up close look at his crush. 

Crush?  Really? 

When Castiel opens the door to his knock, Dean’s brain confirms yep, definitely a crush.  Damn. 

He can’t help the flirtiness of his grin when the door swings wide.  “Somebody call a plumber?” 

Castiel rolls his eyes, but his lips twitch up at the corners as he steps back and holds the door open for Dean to pass through.  “Is it plumbers who usually work on water heaters?” 

“Depends on the problem, I guess,” Dean answers as he moves further into the house.  He stops in the small hallway where there’s an arch to either direction, one leading to the living room and one leading to the dining room.  Directly in front of him are stairs, and he suppresses his curiosity over what Castiel’s bedroom will look like. 

Then the condition of the house sinks in.  The wood floors are warped and uneven, and he can see where there are boards lifting near the bottom step.  There’s a crack in the living room wall that’s visible from where he’s standing, and the paint all around him is stained and peeling.   

For a moment, he can’t believe Castiel bought it in this condition.  He better have gotten a really good price on the place.   

Castiel steps past him, moving towards the stairs.  The hallway leads past them, going all the way to the back of the house, but they stop at a door under the stairs.  It opens to reveal another set of stairs leading down.   

“I have no idea what’s wrong,” Castiel says as he flips on a light and leads the way down.  “I get hot water, but it lasts for about five minutes and then goes ice cold.” 

Distracted from his musings that at least the electricity in the place works, Dean eyes Castiel’s shoulders.  “Has it been that way the whole time you’ve been here, or did it just start?” 

At the bottom of the stairs, Castiel stops and gestures across the open space.  It’s just like most old basements.  All unfinished concrete walls and floors, bare lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling, spiderwebs everywhere.  The water heater, attendant plumbing, and furnace are against the far wall.  “It’s been like that the whole time,” he answers. 

“In that case, I know what’s probably wrong.”  Dean crosses to the water heater, and squats down, setting his toolbox at his feet but not opening it.  The panel with the heat controls is pretty standard, even for an older model and he sees immediately that he’s right.  He twists a knob halfway, then glances at Castiel over his shoulder.  “How much hot water do you think you’ll need?  You’re the only one living here, right?” 

Castiel cocks his head, obviously curious, but he saves his questions.  “I’d be happy with the ability to have at least a twenty minute shower.” 

“Do you think you’ll be doing laundry at the same time?  Do you have a dishwasher?” 

“Uh… maybe?  And yes, although it doesn’t seem to work very well either.” 

Dean cranks the dial up two more notches.  No need to turn the setting up all the way and waste energy.  Although Castiel might be better off upgrading if he really wants to see a difference in his energy bills.  He stands, dusting his hands off on his jeans.  “Well that should do it then.  If it still doesn’t seem like you’re getting enough hot water, let me know and I’ll take a closer look.” 

Blue eyes narrow at him.  “That’s it?  You just turned a knob?” 

Laughing, Dean beckons him closer.  He grabs Castiel’s shoulder, and hunkers back down, pulling the other man down with him.  Their position blocks the light, and Dean grabs the mini magnum flashlight he keeps in a holster on his belt and shines it on the heating controls.  “See that knob?” he pauses long enough for a nod of confirmation.  “It controls how much water gets heated up for use.  It was turned all the way down, which most people do - or at least should do - before they leave on extended vacations or if they’re moving out and no one else is moving in right away.  It saves power.” 

“So you just turned it up so it’ll heat up more water?” 

“Yep.” 

Castiel sighs and rubs a hand over his face.  “I can’t believe that’s all it was.” 

Dean laughs again, and squeezes his shoulder.  “This is your first house, isn’t it?” 

“Yes,” Castiel mutters.  “I lived with my twin’s family.  I don’t think Jimmy would have known either though.  He’s a numbers guy.  His wife probably would have just called a plumber.” 

It’s probably rude to be amused, but Dean can’t hold in a snicker over Castiel’s disgusted expression.  “Don’t worry about it, Cas.  It’s not like they teach classes on home ownership, right?” 

Castiel pushes himself to his feet, and surprisingly offers Dean a hand.  “Maybe they should.” 

Dean accepts the offer and tries not to think about how soft Castiel’s palms are.  No rough calluses like the ones covering Dean’s.  Not that being a vet is an easy job, but the different textures of their skin pressed together makes Dean painfully aware of the fact that he’s just a lowly construction worker while Castiel went through massive amounts of education in order to take care of people’s pets. 

Those palms would be so silky jacking Dean’s cock.   

Whoa, Cowboy.  Slow your roll.  Dude’s probably straight.  Keep your appointment with your porn and leave the poor guy out of your dirty fantasies. 

But he’s so pretty in them, his mind whines. 

Oh my god, shut up! he thinks back. 

“Yeah, maybe they should.”  Dean forces himself to pull his hand away.  His palm tingles with the slide of their skin together.  Oh god, that’s the hand he jacks off with.  And here come the fantasies again.   

The awkward silence drops between them again, and Dean wants to kick himself.  The last time he acted like such a tween with a crush was when he’d been a tween.  He opens his mouth to speak.  “So anyway if you need-” 

Castiel speaks at the same time.  “So do I owe you anyth-” 

They cut off and laugh at each other, which eases the tension, thank God.  Dean makes a gesture for Castiel to go first. 

“Do I owe you anything?” 

Dean shakes his head, waving away the question.  “No way, man.  It’s literally nothing.” 

“But still, I took up some of your time.”  Castiel shoves his hands in his pocket, and shrugs his shoulders.  “Seems like I should do something to thank you.” 

“You helped me catch my ninja cat this morning,” Dean points out.   

“That was nothing.” 

“Exactly.  So we’re even.” 

Castiel smiles.  It’s just a close-mouthed press of his lips, and most of it is in his eyes, but Dean’s crush intensifies a little at the sight.  “Alright.  Thank you, Dean.” 

Dean has to clear his throat, and he’s grateful that his voice comes out normal.  “No problem, Cas.”

Silence again.  Dammit, how do they keep falling into these staring contests?  Maybe Castiel isn’t straight? 

Don’t get your hopes up. 

Fuck you, Brain. 

But he takes its advice.  “Well, I better go.  It’s been a long day, and I’ve got a frozen dinner and a full DVR calling my name.”  You mean a vibrator with fresh batteries and a porno. 

Seriously, fuck you, Brain. 

Castiel frowns.  “A frozen dinner?  After all the hard work you’ve done today?” 

Dean’s not sure how Castiel knows how hard Dean has worked, but he hopes it isn’t because he stinks.  He hasn’t gotten a whiff of himself recently, so he’s mostly sure his deodorant is still doing it’s job.  He shrugs, sniffing cautiously.  Nothing funky reaches his nose.  “I’m not the cooking type.  And hard work requires a lot of calories, which there are plenty of in a frozen dinner.” 

A disgusted frown wrinkles Castiel’s nose.  “Well not tonight.  Come on.”  He jerks his head toward the stairs before turning and making his way up them. 

Confused, Dean follows.  It’s enough to almost keep him from ogling Castiel’s ass.  Damn, all that running he does sure makes him look- 

That thought is cut off by Castiel’s voice.  “Do you like vegetarian lasagna?” 

“As long as the cheese is real, and there’s lots of mushrooms and onions,” Dean answers as he follows Castiel down the hall, and into the formal dining room. 

Castiel smiles at him over his shoulder.  “It’s vegetarian, not vegan.  The cheese is definitely real.  There’s also spinach in it, but there’s enough sauce and cheese to hide the flavor.  Meg isn’t a fan of veggies, and I have to disguise them as something unhealthy when I cook for her.” 

Dean stops in the doorway to the kitchen, and watches Castiel open the to take out a casserole dish.  “You made this for Meg?”   

Why does that make him feel a little jealous? 

“She was supposed to come over tonight and help me put up curtains, but she cancelled at the last minute,” he explains.  “Which turns out to be a good thing, because I probably wouldn’t have called you and would have suffered through another cold shower in the morning.” 

Castiel pulls the tinfoil away from the dish, and the smell of tomatoes, cheese, and garlic fill the air.  Dean’s stomach rumbles loudly, bringing Castiel’s eyes in his direction.  They dance with humor.  “I guess that means you’ll let me say thank you with dinner?” 

He really shouldn’t stay.  He’s like a stray cat.  Feed him, and he’ll want to keep coming back.  Plus, Castiel made it for his girlfriend (not-girlfriend?).  It doesn’t seem right to eat a meal prepared for someone else.  But instead of making excuses to get out of there and back to his own home, he nods.  He really is starving, and it looks like Castiel made way too much for two people anyway.   

Castiel serves them both a huge helping, and they move to the living room to eat since he doesn’t have a dining room table yet.  Dean’s pretty sure his mouth has an orgasm when he takes the first bite, and he moans around the melty goodness.

“Oh my God, Cas,” he says after he’s savored the bite and finally swallowed.  “This is far too good.  We are no longer even.  You’re way ahead of me now.” 

Castiel’s cheeks are red, and Dean can’t tell if it’s because of the pornographic noise he made embarrassed him, or if it’s because of the compliment.  He’s hopes it’s the latter, because the noise was certainly meant to enhance the compliment.  “Are we in a competition to do each other favors?” he asks with an unselfconscious laugh. 

Dean grins.  “Maybe?  I feel like I need to do something to earn this kind of reward, anyway.” 

“You don’t have to.” 

“Of course not, Cas.”  Dean glances at the bare window.  He’s got a very clear view of the front of his house.  “But if you want, I could help you put up the curtains.  I mean, you were planning on feeding this to Meg for the same work, right?” 

Castiel chuckles.  “Well, I was also going to make sure our calories were up in case she wanted to fool around afterwards, but yes, I guess so.” 

Dean ignores the tiny stab of jealousy.  Castiel is obviously straight, has a girlfriend (or at least a bestie with benefits if he believes what Meg told him), and Dean is a grown-ass man who can deal with an unrequited crush.  He’ll settle for friendship, just like he has with many people in the past.  “So let me help you,” he insists. 

He has to wait while Castiel takes another bite of his dinner and chews slowly with an intense look of contemplation.  He doesn’t dig back into his own lasagna until Castiel finally nods. 

“Alright, yes.  Thank you, Dean.” 

Dean grins.  “It’s no problem, Cas.”  He scoops up a huge bite and talks around it.  “It’s the least I can do for dinner.” 

Castiel laughs, taking no offense at Dean’s horrible manners.  He takes a large bite of his own, and only chews twice before answering.  “I can’t argue with your logic.”  It sounds more like “I ant arg wif er logit”. 

Damn, this crush might be harder to ignore than Dean originally thought.   

Chapter Text

After reading the installation instructions on the new showerhead, Castiel feels pretty confident in his ability to complete the project.  He sets out all the pieces and matches them up with the numbered images in the instructions, and then opens his new toolbox.   

The tools shine under the dim light of the bathroom’s single light fixture, and he runs his fingers over them.  He’s never owned tools before, but Jimmy and Amelia had given them to him as a housewarming gift.  His twin always did know how much Castiel loves practical gifts. 

He grabs the largest wrench and stands in the tub to reach the current showerhead.  The metal piece attaching it to the tube is completely smooth, and no matter how tightly he clamps the wrench, it slips. 

“Son of a bitch.”  He wipes sweat from his brow with the back of his arm and glares first at the showerhead, then down at the wrench in his hand.  He steps out of the tub and bends over the tool set again.  Maybe there’s a better one to use? 

The others look too small the fit around the pipe.  So he gets back in the tub and tries again.  This time he gets a good grip, and he’s able to start twisting.  But as he starts to really put his strength in it, the pipe coming from the wall creaks dangerously and he stops because he doesn’t want to crack the tiles around it.  Not that it would make a huge difference.  There are already a few cracks in the tiles, and a few pieces are even missing in some places.   

He sighs and takes a step back to contemplate the stubborn showerhead.  Why is this so difficult? 

The only answer he receives is the ringing of his phone.  He pulls it out of his pocket and answers without looking to see who it is because his brother is the only contact in his phone with a personalized ringtone.  “Hello Jimmy.” 

“Hey little brother!” 

“It’s five minutes, Jim.” 

“It still counts.” 

Castiel scoffs.  “Well I’m still taller.” 

“It’s half an inch, Cas.” 

“It still counts.”  He grins into the phone, and knows his twin is mirroring the expression.  Rubbing each other’s noses in their slight differences has been a game they’ve played since they can both remember.  It never gets old.  “So what’s up, Jimmy?” 

“I actually called you to ask that.  We haven’t heard from you since the big move.” 

Guilt twists Castiel’s mouth when he hears the wistfulness in his brother’s tone.  It’s already been two weeks, and this is the first time they’ve spoken.  “I’m sorry, things have been hectic.” 

Mostly at the clinic.  Castiel was hired as a fourth vet to take the strain off the three that were already working there.  He’d always thought the place was really busy, but when Pamela went out on a long overdue vacation, he’d found out the hard way just what busy really means.   

And he’d been using what little free time he had this week to shop for new furniture.  He hasn’t bought anything yet though.  The selection at R.C. Willey is bland and overpriced, Ikea stuff just doesn’t fit the house very well, and finding consignment shops is like treasure hunting.  Mostly entertaining for the adventure, but hardly lucrative. 

“Too hectic to call and check in?” 

“You wouldn’t believe the week I’ve had,” Castiel tells his brother. 

Castiel moves to rub a hand over his face, but realizes it’s gotten grimy from his activities.  So he steps out of the tub, washes his hands at the sink, and goes downstairs to get dinner started.  Tonight he’s planning on making a cheesy spaghetti squash casserole.  He typically lives on sandwiches, yogurt, and fruit and veggie snacks throughout the week, but on weekends he ditches the healthy food and makes whatever he wants, no matter the calorie count.  Friday night is Drown Everything in Cheese night. 

“Well now is the perfect time to tell me about it.” 

He chats with his twin while he prepares the meal, telling him about the extra work he took on at the clinic, and about the local store he found that restores old furniture where he might finally buy a headboard and footboard for his bed.  He rolls his eyes at Jimmy’s teasing that it’s about time he get himself some grownup furniture. 

He knows Jimmy doesn’t mean to make him feel self conscious about the fact that he’s 28 and just barely moving out on his own.  Jimmy has been working and supporting his own family, including Castiel, since he was 18.  Castiel took a little longer to find his calling, and then when he did, he went big, which meant a lot of school and student loans.  Living with his brother while he went through the animal equivalent of med school is nothing to be ashamed of, but sometimes he feels like he should have looked at his brother’s example and started sooner. 

Maybe he would have been able to afford a nicer house.  He immediately feels guilty for that line of thought.  He likes this house, and once all the repairs are made and he actually gets some furniture besides his bed and his couch into the place, it’ll be a very nice place to live. 

Once Jimmy has satisfied his curiosity the subject changes to Claire, and her ballet lessons, her schooling, her everything.  Jimmy is a proud papa, and Castiel is a proud uncle so he doesn’t mind listening to his brother go on and on about their favorite little girl. 

The casserole is almost done by the time their conversation winds down.  Claire gets on the phone for a few minutes, and then Amelia.  And then the oven dings.  Jimmy takes it as a signal to get out of Castiel’s hair, and the call finally ends. 

And then Castiel is left with silence. 

It’s a little unnerving.  He’s never lived on his own.  There was always a roommate, and then recently his brother and sister-in-law and niece.  Having all this space to himself had sounded like a good idea, but now it just feels… empty. 

Maybe it’s time to finally get himself a pet.  Lord knows, it’s almost blasphemous to be a veterinarian without any pets.  But Claire has allergies, so he’s lived without.   

I’ll need a dog, he thinks as he eyes the casserole.  It’s far too much food for him, and it’s not the first time he’s accidentally made a family sized meal without thinking about it.  If he gets a dog, he’ll have someone to share the leftovers with when he gets sick of eating the same thing several days in a row. 

His eyes slide toward the front of the house.  He can’t see Dean’s place from where he’s standing, but he can picture the little red brick house with its white panelled garage, and big white truck with a fancy W.C. logo on the tailgate parked in the drive.   

Other than his cats, Dean also lives alone.  And from his own confession, he mostly eats frozen dinners and takeout.  Sure, he probably burns those calories off easily, but home cooking would be better for him. 

Castiel chews his bottom lip.  He likes Dean, even if his flirtatious smile sometimes makes Castiel’s stomach twist oddly.  The night Dean had helped him put up the curtain rods had been great.  He’d laughed at Dean’s wit, and his anecdotes about Hamill’s various escape attempts, and Ford’s disdain for the younger cat’s obsessive need for attention.  And he’d also learned a lot.   

Who knew there was so much to just drilling holes in the wall to hold up pieces of cloth? 

He glances at the clock.  It’s almost nine, and probably too late.  Dean has probably already had dinner, and is settling in for the night.  Bothering him right now would be rude. 

And yet Castiel turns the oven off, puts the casserole back in to keep warm in the residual heat, and is soon grabbing his coat on the way out of the house.  Less than a minute later, he’s rapping his knuckles on the wood of Dean’s door.

 

xxx

 

“Maybe I should take up jogging.” 

Ford’s purring doesn’t even hitch to show he’s paying attention, nor do his paws stop their relentless kneading against his feet.  Weird cat has a thing for socks.  Especially socks that are currently being worn.   

Hamill, on the other hand, immediately gives Dean his undivided attention.  He nudges his nose against Dean’s chin, and if possible, his rumbling purr intensifies. 

It’s nice to know someone likes to listen to him talk shit.  Because he’s never going to take up jogging.  But the news is covering some boring ass marathon, and seeing all the people running past behind the reporter makes him think of Castiel.  Not that it takes much to make Dean think of Castiel.   

“Maybe I could change my hours around a little and see if Cas wants a running buddy in the morning.” 

Hamill shifts around on Dean’s chest, his claws catching through the thin fabric.  It’s time to trim them, but Dean always feels guilty as fuck doing it.  Ford takes it like a trooper, but Hamill acts like Dean is trying to declaw him without anesthetic instead of just shaving off the sharp tips. 

Dean strokes a hand down Hamill’s back, grabs the end of his tail and holds it.  The tip flicks softly against his fingers, flip fwip flip, but the cat doesn’t try to pull away, or even act as if he notices the restriction.  “What do you think, Ham?  Will running shorts make my butt look too big?” 

He gets another nudge against his chin.  Taking the hint, he lets go of Hamill’s tail and continues to pet him.   

The news has changed over to a story about politics, and Dean looks longingly at the remote that he stupidly left on the opposite arm of the couch when he laid down.  Now he’s pinned by a cat on his chest and another draped over his shins, and there’s no way Ford’ll bring it to him, no matter how nicely he asks.  Hamill will play catch, but he’s too smart for his own good and refuses to fetch on demand. 

Just as he’s wondering if he should get himself a dog to take care of him and the cats, there’s  knock at the door.  Hamill immediately jumps down and runs for the front of the house, and Dean chuckles.  He’s got a dog in a cat body.   

Ford makes an unhappy sound when Dean wiggles his legs in a bid for freedom, but eventually also moves off the couch.  Instead of running for the door though, he saunters towards the stairs.  Probably heading for Dean’s pillow. 

By the time Dean gets to the door, Hamill is stretched up against it, his paws reaching for the knob.  Little bastard wants out, and even though Dean has never once given in during the entire two years of his life, Hamill never quits begging.  Dean scoops him up and makes sure he’s got him in a secure hold before he opens the door. 

His heartbeat stutters when he sees Castiel standing on his porch.  “Cas!  Hey, what’s up, man?” 

Castiel smiles sheepishly at him, then turns his attention to Hamill who is struggling to get out of Dean’s arms.  He reaches out to scratch the cat between the ears as he answers.  “So it turns out that I’m not capable of cooking meals in small portions.” 

Dean’s brows go up.  “Okay?” 

“And I was wondering if you were hungry and would like to help me eat the casserole I made?” 

Is this a date? 

No no no, why would you go there? 

Because it would be awesome? 

Rolling his eyes at himself would make him look crazy or like an asshole, so he refrains.  So of course his traitorous brain takes the reins and makes him grin like an idiot and say "If you keep feeding me, you won't be able to get rid of me." 

Fuck!  Too flirty!  Abort abort! 

But Castiel doesn't take offense.  He laughs - and oh no oh God he's so much hotter when he does that - and nods at Hamill who is leaning into the ear scratches and purring loudly.  "Now I know why you're a cat person.  They say pets resemble their owners.  Don't worry, I don't mind strays hanging around." 

Deciding that playing along with the cat jokes is a safe option, Dean narrows his eyes.  "I'm not a stray." 

"Of course not," Castiel teases.  "You've already got two furry owners.  I'm sure they take great care of you." 

The burst of Dean's surprised laughter startles Hamill, and he breaks free of Dean's arms.  Thankfully he heads further into the house - probably to find Ford to protect him from the crazy humans - and doesn't take advantage of the wide open door.   

Dean watches him go, then turns back to Castiel.  He really shouldn't accept the offer, because he needs to try and get over this crush.  But all he'd had for dinner was a couple of over-microwaved Hot Pockets.  Something home cooked sounds amazing, and he can almost always pack away more food.  The rumors that his mother started about one of his legs being hollow hold a seed of truth.  “Well Cas, I suppose for you I can make the sacrifice and help you avoid too many leftovers.”  He looks down at his feet and wiggles his toes.  “Give me five to put on some shoes, and I’ll be right over.” 

“I’ll leave the door unlocked,” Castiel says as he starts backing away.  “Just come on in.” 

They exchange a wave, and Dean watches as Castiel turns and hops down the three steps to the grass and then jogs slowly across the street.  

I really should take up jogging. 

He snorts at himself, and closes the door.  “Dude, I have got to get a grip,” he mutters as he grabs a pair of ratty tennis shoes and ties them on.   

A few minutes later he’s walking into Castiel’s house. “Hello?” 

Even though he was invited, it feels weird not to knock.  He hasn’t known Castiel for very long.  Doesn’t he know Dean could be a serial killer?  He’s not, of course.  But it’s not like that’s obvious, and Castiel is new to the neighborhood. 

“I’m in the kitchen.” 

Following his nose Dean finds Castiel dishing up what looks like cheesy potatoes.  “Cas, I thought you were into healthy food.” 

Castiel shoots him an amused glance as he digs through a drawer for forks.  “What gave you that idea?” 

Dean accepts the plate Castiel hands him, and follows him into the living room.  There’s no more furniture in the house than there was the last time Dean visited.  Maybe he should offer to build Castiel a table or something.  As a commission of course.  Only family gets free furniture.   

“Probably the vegetarian lasagna,” Dean says as they settle down on opposite ends of the couch.  The curtains they hung the weekend before are the only change Castiel has made to the room.  Even the boxes stacked in the corner don’t look like they’ve moved.  The pile certainly hasn’t shrunk, anyway. 

“Well this is spaghetti squash,” Castiel points out.  Then he laughs as he lifts his fork, and cheese stretches without breaking for several inches above his plate.  “But any health benefits are drowning in fat.” 

“Sounds perfect.”  Dean takes a bite, and his eyes roll up in his head.  He holds the melty goodness in his mouth, letting the sweetness of the squash and the onions battle for dominance with the saltiness of the cheese.  He barely has to chew it, it’s so soft.  “Damn, Cas,” he says after he finally swallows.  “I’m in cheese heaven.” 

They don’t speak for a moment while they each savor their meal.  That’s when Dean becomes aware of distant music.  He cocks his head, trying to catch the tune.  Finally the chorus comes around, and he smiles. 

 

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free.

Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me. 

 

Without realizing it, his head starts bopping.  He hums along with the next verse.

 

Go down, Miss Moses, there's nothin' you can say

It's just ol' Luke and Luke's waitin' on the Judgment Day

"Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?"

He said, "Do me a favor, son, won't you stay and keep Anna Lee company?"

 

He catches Cas staring at him, and he blushes, looking down at the plate in his hands.  “It’s a good song.” 

“I didn’t realize I’d left my iPod going upstairs.” 

“You listen to a lot of oldies, Cas?” 

Castiel nods.  “I listen to a little bit of everything, but this is what I was in the mood for today.” 

“I’m a classic rock kinda guy myself.” 

“Well then you have excellent taste,” Castiel says solemnly.  “There’s a reason it’s considered ‘Classic’.” 

Dean grins.  “Damn right.”   

They go quiet again, enjoying the barely audible music as they eat.  It's not an uncomfortable silence, which is nice.  But when the song changes over and Dean realizes he's almost done with his food, he scrambles for something to talk about so he has an excuse to stick around a little longer. 

Ugh, Winchester you are so pathetic. 

But my crush got us food. 

Okay, good point. 

"So, I'm assuming everything's okay with the water heater?"  He asks after a moment of thought.  "I mean, you haven't called again."  He just barely keeps from wincing.   

Once upon a time I was smooth.  Now I'm just a moron.   

There's silence from his subconscious.  There's no mental argument for that. 

Castiel smiles.  "You were right.  Changing the setting fixed the issue."  Then he sighs.  "Although it would be easier to enjoy my hot showers if I could get the showerhead replaced." 

Don't think about him in the shower. 

I'll bet he looks good with wet hair. 

I said don't do it. 

That tan would look great covered in water. 

DON'T- 

I wonder- 

-DO- 

-where his tan lines start. 

-IT!  GODDAMMIT!! 

Dean shifts in his seat and hopes the loose fit of his jeans and the length of his shirt are enough to hide his sudden boner.  At least he's not blushing yet.  Jesus.   

He's grateful his voice still sounds normal when he speaks.  "That shouldn't be too hard to do." 

Castiel rolls his eyes and leans back against the arm of the couch, balancing his empty plate on his knee.  "Yeah that's what I thought, but I can't remove the old one.  It’s stuck." 

Dean perks up, and that's not a euphemism this time.  He's never been able to resist a project.  That's how he got into construction and contracting in the first place.  "Want me to take a look at it?" 

"Dean, I didn't invite you over again so you could fix something else for me.  I just wanted some company." 

It's really difficult to ignore the pleasant warmth that blooms in his chest at those words.  Castiel could very easily have called a friend, but he'd invited Dean instead.   

Even if Cas isn't into Dean in a sexual or romantic way, he at least seems to be interested in friendship.  Dean takes care of his friends.  And Castiel's protest only increases his interest in the project.   

He rocks forward and snatches Castiel's empty plate before popping up from the couch to take the dishes into the kitchen.  "I know that," he calls over his shoulder.  "But I'm here now, and I'm offering my help.  Let's go fix your shower." 

"But Dean-" 

"I'll let you do most of the work if it'll make you feel better," Dean offers when he turns around to find Castiel had followed right on his heels.  He grabs Castiel's shoulders - mmm firm - and gives him a gentle shake.  "C'mon, Cas.  It'll be fun." 

He waits with baited breath while Castiel contemplates him with serious eyes for a long moment.   

Finally Castiel's shoulders relax under Dean's hands and he smiles crookedly.  "You have a strange idea of what constitutes fun." 

"You have no idea," Dean laughs.  He lets Castiel go and waves in the direction of the stairs in a lead the way gesture.  "Show me the problem." 

He shouldn't watch the sway of Castiel's ass when he follows him up the stairs, but Dean is a man of basic pleasures. He likes cold beer, classic American diner foods, frisky women, and boys graced with a firm ass.  Castiel falls directly into the last category, and Dean feels no guilt over enjoying it. 

The volume of Castiel's music increases as they ascend.  They follow the silky smooth voice of Sam Cooke into the master bedroom, and Dean is polite enough not to remark on the lack of furniture or the pile of laundry in the corner.  The source of the music is an iPod plugged into a Bose speaker set on the master bathroom's counter top. 

There is a basic tool set open on the floor, and the pieces of the new showerhead organized next to them.  Dean’s lips twitch at the sight.  He’s meticulous about organization, bordering on obsessive, and it’s nice to see he’s not the only one who enjoys a little order in his work space. 

The shower curtain is pulled to the side, and Dean can see that the tiles need work, if not outright replacing.  And the showerhead hangs low, almost as if ashamed of the calcium buildup coating its surface.  It can probably be saved with a CLR treatment, but the one Cas wants to replace it with is a fancy handheld version, and Dean can see why he’d rather switch.   

“Let me take a look at it,” Dean says as he steps over Castiel’s neatly organized showerhead pieces toward the shower.   

The bathroom is spacious for an older house like this one, but feels smaller when two six foot plus men occupy it.  Castiel moves back to give Dean room to pass, but they’re still close enough that Dean’s arm brushes his chest.  It sends a tingle down to his fingers and up to his shoulder, and Dean shakes a hand a little to try and dismiss the feeling.  He’s got a job to do, and lusting after his new neighbor (and hopefully friend), is only going to distract him. 

He has every intention of ignoring his body’s reaction to the other man, but in order to get a close look at the showerhead to see why it’s stuck, he has to step into the tub.  And all his earlier fantasies about warm water flowing over skin come back with a vengeance. 

Castiel has been naked in this tub. 

Dean blinks away the mental image.  Focus! 

“What were you using to try and remove this?” he asks. 

Castiel grabs something from the toolbox and holds it out to Dean.   

A glance at the crescent wrench tells Dean what he needs to know.  He gestures at the toolbox.  “Those probably won’t get a strong enough grip on a smooth surface.  Grab me those channellock pliers.” 

“I’m not sure what those are,” Castiel replies with a sheepish smile.  And he’s blushing.   

I like it when they blush for me. 

God, he is such a horndog.   

“The ones with the blue handles.”  His voice is hoarse, and he clears his throat. 

Castiel gives him an odd look but turns his attention back to the tools.  He finds the right one immediately and hands it over to Dean.  “I thought you said I could do most of the work?” 

“I did say that, didn’t I?  Well come here.”  Dean ticks his head to the side, beckoning Castiel closer.  Probably not the best idea since arousal is still simmering under his skin from stray dirty thoughts, but he’s still doing his damndest to ignore the signals his dick is sending to the rest of his body.  “There’s probably some rust or calcium buildup gumming up the works so it’s going to need a serious dose of elbow grease.” 

Dean moves aside, giving Castiel room to put one foot in the tub.  He waits until Castiel takes the pliers, and then steps toward the end of the tub to give them both more space.  Castiel gets all the way in the tub, and wraps one hand around the pipe coming from the wall, and the other hand around the pliers.  His muscles bunch and pull under his t-shirt as he tries to twist the showerhead free of its mooring. 

The damn thing doesn’t budge, but at least the pliers don’t slip.  “Here, let me help,” Dean says without thinking.  He gets up close behind Cas, practically caging the other man between his arms when he grabs the showerhead in one hand, and the hand Castiel is using to hold the pliers in the other. 

Cas’ broad shoulders and nicely rounded ass press back against him, and Dean concentrates very hard on keeping his breathing even and not poking Castiel with an overly eager part of his anatomy.  He doesn’t have his tool belt on, so he can’t blame it on a hammer, and the last thing he wants to do is freak Castiel out because suddenly Dean’s body has regressed fifteen years to adolescence and the accompanying concoction of raging hormones. 

He does lean forward enough to inhale Castiel’s scent, just once.  He smells like cooking herbs, and sweat, and maybe a hint of something sweet that may be whatever shampoo he uses.  It’s a bad idea because Dean’s heartbeat immediately kicks up in excitement, but at least he has something to distract himself. 

“Okay,” Dean murmurs.  “On the count of three, we’ll pull at the same time.” 

He counts off quickly, not wanting to prolong the torture of practically holding Castiel without doing anything about it.  On three, they both strain against the pliers while holding the pipe and showerhead still. 

Dean almost thinks it’s not going to come loose and that he’s going to have to teach Castiel the joys of pipe cutting when it finally gives way.  The sudden momentum startles Castiel, and he loses his balance, stumbling backwards.  Dean catches his weight easily, and holds him upright until he gets his bearings again.  Then he lets go of the pliers, the showerhead, and the man he wants so badly to bend over the counter and reenact a bad “I can’t pay the Plumber with cash, but I have something else to offer” porno. 

He gets out of the tub, and puts as much sincerity in his grin as he’s capable of when Castiel glances over a shoulder at him.  “You should be able to do the rest from here.” 

Castiel’s eyes, bright with triumph, dim.  “Are you leaving?” 

He should.  Going home and raiding his toybox again and leaving the straight man alone is really the right thing to do.  But as much as he loves his cats, Dean doesn’t want to go home yet.  Human company is what he craves at the moment. 

He makes a promise to himself to stop sitting at home on the weekends.  Sam has been trying to get him to go out for drinks and karaoke, and his Dad has been hinting that he’d like some company for a weekend fishing trip.  Even his mom has been pestering about staying in too much and threatening to sign him up on a dating website.  Maybe if he stopped being such a hermit, he wouldn’t be so strongly affected. 

But at the moment, Castiel seems to want him here, and Dean isn’t going to turn him down.  “No way,” he says with a more genuine smile.  “I’ll at least stick around and make sure you don’t botch installing the new one.” 

Castiel wrinkles his nose, but silent laughter make his eyes sparkle.  “I’m not useless Dean.  I can follow instructions.” 

Dean bends down to grab the instruction booklet.  “Oh yeah?  Well I guess we’ll see.” 

He walks Castiel through the process, refusing to relinquish the pamphlet when Castiel begins to suspect that Dean isn’t actually reading the steps to him.  It probably takes more time than it should for Castiel to get the showerhead installed because of Dean’s teasing - first he tries to convince him that plumber’s tape is unnecessary, and then he goes on a rant about why washers are a conspiracy - but Dean hasn’t had so much fun with a simple household repair in longer than he can remember.   

When Castiel finally turns on the shower to test out his work and he turns to Dean with a smile beaming with pride, Dean knows he’s in serious trouble, because his crush is here to stay.  And it’s probably only going to get worse. 

Chapter Text

When Castiel had decided to become a veterinarian he hadn't realized that he would end up studying so much after graduation.  He doesn’t begrudge Sam for asking him to read a new case study on the treatment of feline leukemia because he’s extremely interested in new ways to treat his patients, but tonight he's really not in the mood to sit still and read.   

He shifts restlessly, trying to find a position on the couch that won't leave a kink in his neck, but he's unsuccessful.  He could solve his discomfort by sitting up, but that seems like too much effort so he continues to read the same paragraph on his tablet over and over while trying to ignore the growing ache in his shoulders. 

Eventually his eyes unfocus and begin to wander around the room.  The stack of boxes in the corner mock him because he's only unpacked one of them.  Most of them are full of books though, and he has nowhere to put them yet because he doesn't have any book shelves. 

He really needs to go furniture shopping. 

He huffs at himself and settles deeper into the cushions with the intention of actually concentrating on his reading.  He'd been so distracted that his tablet's screen had timed out and locked itself.  Just as he swipes the screen to unlock it there is a knock at his door.   

He frowns as he sits up and sets the tablet aside.  He's not expecting company. 

When he opens the door to find Dean standing on his porch, his confusion melts into something far more pleasant that he doesn't bother to identify.  He smiles widely at his neighbor.  "Hello, Dean." 

"Heya, Cas."  Dean shifts from foot to foot and, despite his size, reminds Cas of the shy little boy who comes to Jimmy's house to ask if Claire can come out to play.  The impression only solidifies when he speaks.  "Are you busy?" 

Cas thinks of the case he should be reading up on, and instantly dismisses it.  "I should be, but if you want to distract me from studying, I'll be eternally grateful." 

Dean's shy smile turns into a pleased grin.  "Awesome."  He goes quiet for a moment, just staring at Castiel with a crooked smile.  When Castiel lifts a questioning brow at him, he jumps a little and a flush spreads across his cheeks.  He clears his throat and shoves his hands in his pockets.  "So, uh, I noticed how bad the tiles in your shower are-" 

Castiel winces.  One had fallen loose during his shower just that morning and shattered at his feet.  He'd been so startled, he'd almost fallen out of the tub.  He's lucky he didn't slice his foot open on one of the shards. 

"-and I know you didn't ask for help with it, but I've got a buddy that can hook you up with some good quality materials for dirt cheap.  We can go over to his place and pick up some stuff tonight."  He shifts his weight and looks down, hunching his shoulders a little inside his jacket  "I mean, if you want." 

It's not furniture, but it's definitely something Castiel needs.  And if Dean can get him a discount, then even better.  "Yes, let's go." 

"We don't have to do it tonight, but you should fix it fast before you end up with a mildew problem and have to-"  He cuts off and looks up, his eyes wide.  He must not have expected a quick agreement.  "Oh.  Okay.  Uh, are you ready to go now?" 

"Let me grab my coat and shoes."  Cas walks away from the door, beckoning at Dean to follow him in.  Grabbing what he needs and getting his sneakers tied on takes only a few minutes and then he's rejoining Dean in the entryway. 

Dean's eyes land on Castiel's trench coat and crinkle around the edges with amusement.  He reaches out and flicks the lapel.  You look like a tax accountant." 

Castiel laughs.  "It was a gift from my brother, who is a tax accountant." 

"Well that explains it," Dean responds through a warm chuckle.  He leads the way outside.  "We’ll take my truck so we have space to haul shit back."  He turns so that he's walking backwards, and grins at Castiel.  "I promise I'm not a scary driver." 

"I find the fact that you feel the need to make that promise rather disconcerting." 

"At least I'm not telling you it's safe to go with me 'cuz I'm not a serial killer."  Dean pulls his keys out and he points a fob at the truck, making the tail lights flash as it unlocks. 

Castiel pauses on his way to the passenger door and looks at Dean over the truck bed.  He tilts his head, giving Dean a considering look.  "No, you're not a serial killer.  You have cats." 

Dean laughs and they both climb into the cab.  He casts a sly glance at Castiel as he starts the engine.  "You trust me not to murder you just because I have cats?"

"Of course not.  You could be a psychopath murderer, but I don't think you're a serial killer.  Serial killers usually start out by killing small animals, right?" 

Leaning back in his seat, Dean gives him an incredulous look.  "You think you're safe because it matters what kind of murderer I am?" 

Castiel grins.  "Are you a murderer, Dean?" 

"No!" 

"Then it doesn't really matter, and I'm safe anyway." 

"Jesus Christ, Cas," Dean laughs.  "I'm not even gonna try and keep up with that kind of logic." 

He backs out of the drive and they're quiet for the time it takes to get to the highway.  The radio is playing classic rock at a low volume and Dean hums along, and taps his fingers to the beat.  He seems at home behind the wheel, and Castiel imagines that in another world he might make a great truck driver. 

"Your driving isn't as bad as you led me to believe." 

Dean snorts.  "Sammy would argue with that, but he drives like a granny.  He thinks I'm being reckless if I go five over." 

According to the speedometer they're going almost ten over.  Other than the extra speed, there is nothing alarming about his driving.  He doesn't take corners too fast, or follow other vehicles too closely.  So far he seems polite around the other cars on the road, using his signal and letting people into his lane.  “If he thinks this is bad, then I’d hate to see what he drives like.” 

“Dude, don’t ever let Sam drive you anywhere or he’ll drive you up the wall.” 

Having worked with Sam for a while now, Castiel can kind of see what Dean means.  “I like Sam.  He’s been really great to work with.” 

Dean grins.  “He’s a good kid.  So damn smart, too.” 

That seems to open the floodgates.  Dean has a lot to say about his brother, and it’s all good.  Except for his complaints about Sam’s driving.  And his constant attempts to get Dean to eat rabbit food.  And the fact that he needs to cut his hair. 

Actually Dean has a lot of complaints about Sam, but it’s very clear that Dean loves him a lot.   

He laughs loudly and freely over stories Castiel tells about Sam at the clinic.  Like the time that he didn’t shut an exam room all the way, and a half-grown dalmatian puppy wiggled free and managed to escape, causing all kinds of chaos with the leashed pets in the waiting room before they caught her.  Or the time Pamela managed to coordinate it so that every single one of his appointments that day was to clean canine rectal glands.  When Castiel tells him about the secret betting pool on how many times a cat will pee on Sam during a week, Dean asks how he can get in on the action. 

By the time they reach their destination, it feels like hardly any time has passed, although the sun is starting to go down as they get out of the truck.  They’re in a fairly nice neighborhood.  The kind where locking doors is probably considered optional.  The house they’re parked in front of is a medium sized rambler, with a fenced yard, and a huge attached garage.   

Dean leads the way through the fence’s gate, and up to the door where he rings the doorbell.  He gives Castiel a quick smile just before the door is opened by a large burly man with kind blue eyes, and a smile that is only partially hidden by his beard.   

“Hey, Dean.  Come on in, man.”  He steps back to let them in. 

Castiel follows Dean inside, and looks around.  The house is nice, with a lot of beautiful rustic furniture that looks like it might be hand made.  He makes a mental note to ask Dean’s friend where he got it before they leave, and turns to greet their host. 

“Benny, this is my new neighbor Castiel.  Cas, this is my buddy Benny.  He does custom tile work, and we’ve been working together for years.”  He winks at Benny.  “You might even call us friends.” 

“Y’know you’re like family, Dean,” Benny rumbles in a lazy southern drawl.  He holds out a hand to Castiel in greeting.  “Lucky for me, I didn’t actually have to grow up with him.” 

Castiel takes Benny’s offered hand.  “Hello, Benny.  Dean said you could help me out?” 

“You betcha.  Come on back to the workshop.” 

Benny leads them through the house, and Castiel salivates over all the furniture he sees.  Eventually they end up outside again, crossing the back yard to a shed that’s almost as big as the garage.  Inside Benny turns on a light, and Castiel sees that it is mostly a storage area.   

There are metal shelves along the walls, stacked with bags and boxes of what Castiel assumes are materials used in Benny’s trade.  In the center of the room is a haphazard mix of opened boxes.   

“Pick whatever you want from among that mess,” Benny says with a gesture toward the opened boxes.  “Those are all leftovers from jobs, or cancellations.  Most of ‘em are special orders so I can’t return ‘em.” 

Dean immediately goes to the closest box and opens the flaps.  “What color do you think you want, Cas?” 

Since he hasn’t even decided on how to furnish his house yet, the question flummoxes him.  “Uh… white?”  His answer gets a snort from both men, and he frowns.  “What’s wrong with white?” 

Benny claps a friendly hand on his shoulder.  “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with white, Cas.  But Dean here, he loves a little color in everything.” 

“It’s not his bathroom.” 

“Yeah, but he’s taken it on as his project, and he’s gonna think of it as his until it’s done.” 

Dean is no longer paying attention to them as he digs through the boxes, muttering to himself about patterns and footage and what Castiel assumes are tools that he’s never heard of before.  Castiel should go over and look through the options with him, but he’s reluctant to interrupt him.  Dean appears to be in his element.  If he picks something Castiel doesn’t like, it can always be vetoed.  So he stands with Benny and let’s Dean do his thing. 

“What do you think about blue, Cas?” 

Castiel looks at the six inch tile Dean holds up.  The shade is lovely, but he feels like the color would overpower the room.  “Maybe not that shade.  I think a lighter color would be better.” 

“Hmm… you’re right.  Or maybe a mix of blue and white?” 

“Maybe.”  Castiel finally moves to join Dean and opens a box nearby.  Inside are mustard yellow tiles, and he immediately lets the flaps fall closed, and moves to the next box.  These are a pastel pink that he thinks Claire would love, but aren’t quite right for his own bathroom.  “What about white and-” he cuts off, forgetting what color he was going to say.  The box he just opened is full of jade green tiles.  The shade is pale and soft without being pastel, and he loves it.  “Green?” 

Dean is immediately at his side.  “Green is a great idea, Cas.  These are large too, so we could do a checkered pattern with them and plain white tiles without making it look like a chess board.  Or just do a white border, since there looks like enough here to do the whole shower.” 

They’re standing close enough that Dean is pressed up against him, their shoulders leaned into each other, and their hips almost brushing.  Castiel feels like he should probably step away, to open up a little personal space between them, but the heat of Dean’s body radiates into him, and he finds himself enjoying the closeness.  “I like the idea of the white border.” 

“Yeah, I agree.  Okay, let’s make a list.” 

Dean steps away and pulls out his phone.  He pulls up an app, and goes over to Benny.  They start talking about measurements and materials and tools, and Castiel listens with half an ear since he doesn’t know what everything is they’re talking about.  Besides, he’s distracted by how close their standing.  Dean had practically been leaning on him, but with Benny he keeps a normal distance. 

He doesn’t know why he notices this, or why it makes him feel good that Dean is comfortable touching him.  He mentally handwaves the closeness with the excuse that Dean had to be close enough to look in the box too, but that doesn’t make the places where their bodies touched feel any less warm and sensitive. 

His thoughts are interrupted when Dean finally puts his phone away and pulls out his keys.  “Alright, I’ll be right back.  Gonna bring the truck around so we don’t have to carry this stuff very far.” 

And then he’s disappearing out the door, leaving Castiel and Benny alone in the shop. 

“I can see why Dean is always talkin’ about you,” Benny says as he shifts his weight and tucks his hands in his back pockets.   

The comment pulls Castiel’s attention from Dean’s retreat, and he faces the other man.  “He is?” 

“Oh yeah,” Benny says with a soft smile.  “It’s been a while since he’s dated, and you’re all he wants to talk about now.” 

Castiel blinks.  And then blinks again.  What does Dean’s dating habits have to do with Castiel? 

Something in his expression must make Benny come to a realization because he straightens up and holds his hands up, palms out in a calming gesture.  “Oh shit, man, I’m sorry.  I thought you two were a thing.” 

A thing? 

A dating thing? 

Oh. 

The burn of a blush rises up in Castiel’s cheeks, and he shakes his head.  “Oh, no.  No, we’re not- uh… we’re just friends.  He’s my neighbor and he’s helped me fix a few things at my house, and I’ve invited him over to dinner a few times.  But I’m straight, so, uh… no.” 

Benny grimaces.  “I really am sorry, Castiel.  I just assumed because of the way Dean talks about you.” 

It’s on the tip of Castiel’s tongue to ask what Dean has been saying about him, but he doesn’t want to get Benny in trouble with Dean for gossiping behind his back.  So he curbs his curiosity.

For all of three seconds. 

“How does he talk about me?” 

Benny chuckles.  “Well he doesn’t say anything inappropriate.  But he kinda gets this smile, and he looks like he’s off somewhere else when he talks about helping you fix up things at your house.  Last time I saw him like that, well… I won’t tell you all his secrets.  But I get the feeling that he might be a tad interested.” 

“Oh.”   

“I know it ain’t any of my business, but you might want to make sure he knows you don’t swing his way,” Benny says.  “He’s got a lot of love in him, and I’d hate to see him break his heart over a misunderstanding.” 

Castiel refrains from pointing out that just because someone is unavailable, that doesn’t mean you won’t develop feelings for them.  That’s a lesson he learned the hard way with Meg when they were teenagers.  He’s lucky that she cared enough for him to give him as much of herself as she could, and his romantic feelings eventually mellowed out into just friendship over the years.  But it still hurt for a long time that they couldn’t have more.  

He’d hate to do that to Dean.  Maybe he should stop letting Dean help him with all these house projects.   

The rumble of Dean’s truck prevents him from saying anything more.  Benny just gives him a look that Castiel interprets as think about it, and Castiel nods his understanding.   

The door swings open a few minutes later, and Dean comes back through, all smiles and energy.  “Alright, let’s load this shit up!” 

Between the three of them, it doesn’t take long to pack the three boxes of tiles, bags of grout and mortar mix, and a couple of large empty buckets.  When they’re finished, Castiel turns to Benny.  “How much do I owe you?” 

“Put it on my bill, Benny,” Dean calls as he heads for the cab of his truck.   

“But-” 

Benny cuts off Castiel’s protest with a pat on the shoulder.  “Don’t argue with him.  He’s a stubborn cuss, like you wouldn’t believe.” 

“I can pay for it though.” 

“Give me your number, and we’ll talk price when he’s not around to hear about it.” 

Castiel laughs, and nods.  “Deal.”   

They exchange numbers, and Castiel accepts Benny’s business card as well “just in case Dean fucks it up, even though he won’t”.   

On the ride home, Castiel let’s Dean ramble on about the project.  The picture he paints is a good one, and Castiel can’t argue with his design choices, but his attention is only partially on Dean’s words.  The rest of it is taken up by thoughts of what Benny said. 

Does Dean like him that way?  If so, he’s flattered.  Dean is the kind of man that anyone should be happy to be with.  He’s friendly, he’s handy, he runs his own contracting business.  If Castiel were sexually attracted to men, he’d jump right on that. 

Unfortunately, while he can recognize when a man is good looking, actually doing anything of a sexual nature with a man is something he’s never considered.  He doesn’t count the threesomes he and Meg have had with other men since he never actually touched those men, or allowed them to touch him.  Those little parties were all for Meg’s benefit, and not his own. 

His thoughts are interrupted when Dean pulls his truck into Castiel’s driveway.  “It’s too late to get started tonight,” he says as he turns off the engine.  “But I’ve gotta haul some stuff around tomorrow, so we should get this stuff unloaded.  Do you want to take it up to the bathroom now, or do you want to store it until you’re ready to start on the project?” 

It takes a moment for Castiel’s thoughts to reorient themselves in the direction Dean is leading him.  “Uh… the garage is probably best for now.” 

They get out of the truck together, and Castiel opens the garage door while Dean goes around to the back of his truck.  The garage is big enough for two cars, but since Castiel only has one, it is mostly empty.   

He hurries out to the back of the truck, passing Dean whose arms are full of two boxes of tiles, and Castiel boggles at how strong he must be to carry that much at once.  Castiel is no slouch, because picking up large dogs all day and going on a daily jog has kept him fit, but he struggles carrying just one of the boxes. 

Dean has set his burden down near the door connecting the garage to the house and is staring at Castiel’s car.  “Dude… you drive this thing?” 

Castiel sets his own box down on top of Dean’s two, and turns to contemplate his car.  It’s a cream colored Lincoln Continental, and it’s older than he is, but it gets him where he needs to go and drives smooth as butter.  “Well, it’s mine, so yes.” 

His answer is met with a sad headshake.  “When we’re done here, I’m going to show you my Baby.” 

They grab the rest of the supplies and deposit them in the garage, and then Dean drives his truck the short distance across the street.  He stops it in the driveway, and Castiel realizes that he’s never seen Dean pull it into his garage.   

He understands as soon as Dean pushes a button on a fob on his keychain and the garage door rises up, revealing the taillights of a shiny black car.  The overhead lights flick on, and Castiel follows Dean inside, speechless at the sight. 

“She’s a beauty, right?  ‘67 Chevy Impala.  My dad and I restored her together when I was fifteen, and then he gave her to me for my sixteenth birthday.” 

Castiel reaches out to touch the hood, and then hesitates at the last moment, unwilling to smudge the polished metal with his dirty fingers.  “Wow,” he breathes.  “I want to have sex in this car.”  He freezes, and looks up at Dean with wide eyes.  “Uh… I mean… with a woman.  If the car was mine.” 

For a split second something like hope shines in Dean’s eyes, but then it disappears behind a blank mask that for some reason makes Castiel’s chest ache.  Then he laughs, and it sounds genuine, but there’s something missing from his expression, making it fall a little flat.  “Yeah, I get it, man.  A sweet ride like this?  Everyone wants to get a little busy in the back seat.  I could tell you some stories.” 

Castiel plays along.  “I don’t know if I want to hear them.  They might make me change my mind about ever getting into the car.”  His heart is racing, and he hopes that this is enough to satisfy Benny’s request, and also that he hasn’t ruined his friendship with Dean.   

This time Dean’s laugh is more natural.  “Okay, yeah.  Good point.” 

“Do you drive her a lot?” Castiel asks, turning his attention back to the car.  With the florescent lights overhead he can see his reflection in the waxed surface.  He can see Dean’s reflection too, even though he’s standing on the other side of it.   

Dean doesn’t look upset, and Castiel nearly sags with relief.  They’re going to be okay.  He hasn’t lost a new friendship almost as soon as it’s begun. 

“Not as much as I used to,” Dean answers.  He lays a hand on the hood of the car, apparently okay with leaving palm prints.  “I don’t wanna ruin her by taking her to job sites, and most of the time it’s easier to just take the truck these days than to move it out of the way so I can take her anywhere.  But when the weather warms up I like to go on little weekend road trips.  Just me and a box of old cassette tapes, and a cooler in the back seat.” 

“By yourself?”  It sounds like a lot of fun.  Castiel can’t decide if he would enjoy doing something like that by himself, but sharing the experience with a friend is something he’d definitely love.   

“I can usually talk Sammy into going.”  Dean pats the car lovingly.  “But sometimes it’s just me and Baby.” 

His tone is wistful, and Castiel can’t tell if it’s because he likes being alone more or having company more.   

Dean seems to shake himself, and pats the car again.  “So, yeah.  Next to my Baby, most cars don’t seem like much.” 

Castiel laughs.  “You’re definitely right.”  He reaches out and runs the pads of his fingers over the smooth black metal.  “You have a right to be proud.” 

“Anyway,” Dean says.  “While we’re in here, let me grab the tools we’ll need to fix up your shower.” 

He steps away from the car, and walks to a wooden work bench that takes up the entire back wall of the garage.  There are several very large tool boxes underneath it, and on the wall behind it there’s a huge peg board with more tools than Castiel would even know what to do with.  He could probably name three things on the whole wall, and one of them is a hammer. 

Dean bends down to get into one of the lower drawers of the toolboxes under the bench, and Castiel’s eyes are caught by a flash of pink at Dean’s waist.  He blinks, but the color stays, and as Dean rummages through the drawer, he steps closer, and… 

Pink lace… and white satin. 

Dean is wearing… panties?   

Castiel doesn’t realize Dean is talking to him until the other man stands up and turns around holding a flat, rectangular tool with a handle on it, and a trowel.  He takes several steps back, and stumbles into the front of Dean’s Impala. 

“I’ll wait until we’re ready to use it before I mix up the mortar.  I’ve got a mixing attachment for my drill, but I think Sam borrowed it-” Dean stops, and reaches out to steady Castiel.  “Dude, are you okay?” 

“Yeah,” Castiel squeaks out.  It feels like a squeak.  He hopes it doesn’t sound like one.  “I’m fine.”  He clamps his lips shut on the need to babble an excuse.  He’ll come up with one if Dean asks, but since he thinks it would be inappropriate to bring up Dean’s underwear, he decides it’s best to keep his mouth shut until his brain can process this new information. 

Dean eyes him for a moment, but doesn’t ask anything else.  He holds out the tools to Castiel.  “Hang onto these for now.  And we can get together Saturday and start pulling out the old tiles if that works for you.” 

“I’ll be at the clinic until noon.”  Castiel manages to sound completely normal, for which he’s rather proud of himself.  He accepts the tools, and even manages to look Dean in the eye as if nothing is wrong.  “But then I’m free the rest of the weekend.” 

Dean grins.   “Sounds great.  Just text me, or come knock, or whatever.  I’ll just be chillin’ with Ford and Hamill, so I’ll be ready whenever you are.” 

“Sounds great,” Castiel parrots.  He starts backing away, careful to not run into the car again.  “Well I’m going to head home.  I’ve got some reading I need to get done before I go to bed.” 

Dean bids him goodnight with a cheerful wave, and Castiel turns to escape, breaking into a jog once he’s outside the garage.  He enters his house through his own garage, dropping the tools off with the rest of the tiling supplies on his way in. 

Then he finds himself standing in the hallway that leads to the front of the house and the stairs leading to the second floor.  He stares off into the distance, his mind focused on the flash of white and pink. 

White satin with pink lace.  Pink lace with white satin. 

What cut are they?  Bikini?  Briefs?  Boy shorts? 

He’s always had a thing for boy shorts panties.   

He fumbles his phone out of his pocket and is dialing before he even has a chance to think about who he’s going to call.  Meg picks up with a drawled “H’lo?” 

“Meg, do you own any white satin panties?”  He knows she has pink.  And every other color of the rainbow.  White is a stretch though.  It’s not her style. 

“I’ve got a pair of white lace panties,” she answers.  “Why?” 

Close enough.  “What are you doing right now?” 

She chuckles.  “I guess I’m putting them on and coming over.  See you in twenty, Clarence.” 

She hangs up without saying goodbye, and Castiel pockets his phone again.  While he waits for her to show up, he tries not to dwell on his disappointment that she doesn’t have white satin.  He distracts himself by grabbing his tablet and reading the case.  Or at least he attempts to.  His fingers itch to play with Meg’s panties, and when the doorbell finally rings the promised twenty minutes later, he hasn’t managed to read any further than where he’d left off when Dean knocked at his door earlier. 

He jerks open the door, and pulls Meg roughly into his arms, one hand sliding down the back of her pants.  The texture of the lace makes his fingertips tingle, and he groans.  “Thanks for coming, Meg.” 

“I’ll say you’re welcome after I’ve come a few times.” 

He grins and squeezes her ass, enjoying the way her eyelids go heavy and her lips part on an exhale.  “That sounds like something that can be arranged.” 

“Well, Clarence?  What are we waiting for?” 

Absolutely nothing.  He pulls her further into the house, letting the door swing shut behind her. 

Chapter Text

Despite being busy as hell, time seems to drag, until suddenly it doesn't.  Castiel is startled to see that the pile of patient folders has disappeared and the clock indicates that he really has managed to make it through the Saturday half shift.  There's still rounds to make with the animals being kenneled over the remainder of the weekend, but the vet techs take care of most of that work.  All he has left to do after that is a little bit of paperwork and then he's free for the day. 

Excitement makes his handwriting even messier than usual as he rushes to finish his paperwork.   Then he drops it off to be filed and hurries to the kennels.  They've got a few cats and a dog on IVs, and he checks each one carefully because no matter how eager he is to get home to start his project, he cares too much about the animals to half-ass their treatments. 

He's refilling a food bowl for a yellow lab who thumps her tail shyly from the corner of her kennel when Sam finds him. 

"I'm surprised you're still here, Cas." 

Castiel rubs the lab's ears before closing her kennel and facing his co-worker.  "What do you mean?" 

Sam grins at him and folds his arms around a clipboard.  "You spent all morning practically vibrating out of your shoes and glaring at the clock every five minutes.  I expected you to disappear as soon as the second hand hit noon." 

He didn't realize he'd been that obvious.  "I'm sorry.  I promise I didn't allow my distraction to affect my work." 

Sam dismisses his apology with a headshake and a laugh.  "Cas I'm not worried about your work ethic."  He glances at the lab who has started sniffing at her food bowl with more interest than she has for the first few days she had been at the clinic, and his smile softens.  They were all worried about her, but she seems to finally be improving.  Then he looks up at Castiel again and raises his eyebrows in question.  "I'm just curious about what has you so excited." 

"Your brother is going to help me re-tile my bathroom shower," Castiel explains. 

Sam laughs again, harder this time.  "Oh shit, here we go." 

Castiel frowns, confused about what Sam could find so amusing about a weekend home improvement project. 

When Sam catches Castiel's expression, he forces himself to stop laughing, but his hazel eyes sparkle and his lips keep twitching with a smile.  "You said your new house is a fixer-upper, right?" 

Castiel nods.  "Is it bad that I called your brother for help?  When you gave me his number-" 

"No no," Sam cuts in quickly.  "Dean's great.  He knows how to do just about everything, and he's really good at it.  He could probably build a house from the ground up if he didn't physically need at least one other person to help him carry things out hold them in place.  It's just that I probably should have warned you that he loves projects.  When Jody and I bought our first house, I mentioned that we wanted to paint the walls.  He wanted to help, and every time he came over, he found something new that needed to be done.  Six months later every room in the house was a new color, the carpets had been replaced, the bathroom remodeled, and new cabinets were installed in the kitchen." 

Castiel's eyes go wide.  "Are you serious?" 

"In his defense, they were all projects we were going to take care of eventually," Sam says with a grin.  "We just didn't expect to get them all done so quickly.  My wife is always worried that he'll come over and find something new that needs to be done, and he'll end up rebuilding the whole place." 

Castiel thinks of all the things that need to be done at his house.  The ceiling in his room needs to be repaired, and probably a leak in the roof as well although it hasn't rained since he moved in.  The front porch needs to be replaced, and the garbage disposal in the kitchen doesn't work.  And those are just the big things.  There are a million little things that aren't critical, but need to eventually be fixed, like cracked light switch covers and damaged walls. 

It hadn't seemed like a lot off work when he'd bought the house because he'd figured most of it could be fixed at his leisure.  A weekend project whenever he felt like it.  But faced with Sam's warning about Dean's enthusiasm, it all suddenly seems very overwhelming.

Realizing he may have freaked Castiel out, Sam steps forward and squeezes his shoulder.  "Hey, he'll back off if you tell him to.  Or if you need me to talk to him-" 

"No, Sam, it's alright."  At least he hopes it will be.  In fact maybe it would be good to have someone pushing him to get things done.  After all, Cas hasn't done anything on his To Do list since he moved in, except for the things Dean has helped him with.  He has no doubt his windows would still be bare and he'd probably still be suffering through cold showers at this point if it weren't for Dean.  "I just hope I don't run out of money before everything is fixed that needs to be." 

Although if he keeps getting prices like what Benny gave him on the tiling supplies, his money will stretch pretty far.  Benny had called him the day after Dean took him to pick up the supplies, and Castiel had worked out the payment.  Then out of curiosity he'd done a little research on what he would have paid without Benny's discounts.  He'd almost called Benny back and insisted that he should pay him more.   

"Well Dean will get you great discounts," Sam assured him, unconsciously following the path of Castiel’s thoughts.  "But don't hesitate to speak up if it becomes an issue.  Fixing houses is Dean's idea of a good time, but he's not an asshole and he's not going to try and rip you off." 

"Does he help everyone like this?" Castiel asks curiously. "How does he manage to make any money?" 

"He manages.  And he only does this for people he likes." 

Guilt makes Castiel look away.  After Benny had mentioned the way Dean appears to think about him, he hadn't been able to stop thinking about all their interactions and seeing them in a new light. 

He hadn't even suspected that Dean might see him as something more than a possible friend.  Dean hasn't said or done anything obvious, but then again, Castiel is usually oblivious to others' interest in him.  But when he'd seen that flash of something hopeful and hungry after Castiel had joked about having sex in his car, he'd known Benny was right. 

Will allowing Dean to continue to help him be taking advantage of him?  Will it make things uncomfortable between them when it becomes clear that Castiel's interest isn't returned?   

He likes Dean, and would hate to lose him as a friend.  Or worse, have to live across the street from him if their budding relationship is ruined by an unrequited crush. 

"Sam..." 

What exactly is he going to say?  How do I let your brother down without making him hate me?  He doesn't even know for sure that Dean likes him that way.  Benny just assumed based on the fact that Dean talks about him a lot.  Sam's words don't necessarily mean that Dean likes him as anything other than a friend either.  Hell, he doesn't even know if Sam is aware that Dean may be interested in men.  What if he mistakenly outs Dean by talking about his worries to Sam? 

He shakes his head and forces himself to meet Sam's eyes again and smile.  "I guess I'm pretty lucky then." 

Sam's expression says he knows that wasn't what Castiel intended to say, and worry brings his brows together.  But he returns Castiel's smile and doesn’t press the subject.  "Yeah, let me know if you still think that after Dean has put you to work for a whole day.  He forgets the rest of us don't do hard labor all day and can't keep up with him." 

Castiel laughs, and there is nothing forced about it.  He's gotten a glimpse of Dean's easy strength, and he's already intimidated.  "I'll be sure to keep stocked up on Aspirin." 

"Invest in a heating pad, too," Sam suggests.  "And remember to lift with your legs and not with your back." 

They both laugh, and the tension dissolves.  They say their goodbyes, and Castiel hurries to grab his stuff from his locker.  As he settles behind the wheel of his car, he remembers the awkward moment when he told Dean he's only into women.  Dean knows they can only be friends, and he still seemed eager to help Castiel re-tile his bathroom.  He may have changed his mind in the last few days, and if so, Castiel will be disappointed, but he'll understand.  He can always ask Benny for help with the project if he can't figure it out on his own. 

He turns the key in the ignition and sends up a little prayer that it doesn't come to that.

 

Xxx

 

Ford watches Dean with bored copper eyes from the top of the dresser that Dean had built for himself when he'd bought this house.  It stands at waist height and has six drawers decorated with hand carved designs and knobs.  A huge mirror hangs from the wall behind it, giving Dean an image of himself trying way too hard to look nice for a day spent working.  And for a man who won't even notice the effort he puts into his appearance. 

Dean sighs at his reflection and then looks down at Ford.  "I'm an idiot." 

The lazy flip of a black tail may or may not be agreement.  Ford has never been the kind of cat to express his opinion, even when asked. 

The fact that he actually thinks Ford will have an opinion at all convinces Dean that he really is an idiot.  He pulls off the nice button down shirt and the t-shirt under it since it’s new and doesn't have any stains or holes in it and he might as well not ruin it yet. 

He rummages through a drawer and pulls on a short sleeved Henley that has a hole in the collar and at least three shades of paint splatters that never come out in the wash.  Then he glares at his jeans.  They're also far too nice, so he shucks them as well. 

He pauses and eyes the blue and white plaid panties that he'd put on that morning after his shower.  They're boy shorts, but since they're made for women, they're tiny on him and don't look like the boxer shorts they're designed to resemble at all.  The cotton hugs his cock snugly, and he knows that half his ass hangs out in the back.   

They make him feel sexy and confident, and he loves the fact that when people look at him, they see a big manly guy (who admittedly has pretty eyes and lips), and have no idea that he’s wearing panties under his work clothes.  He’s playing a joke on the world, and he’s the only one who knows. 

But maybe he shouldn’t wear them today, since feeling sexy is the last thing he needs.  Castiel made it clear the other night that he’s straight, shooting down the tiny sliver of hope that Dean had been harboring that he might swing both ways.  He needs to stop fantasizing about Castiel’s lips and his stubble and his hands and his thighs and- 

“Jesus Christ, stop,” Dean hisses at himself.  Ford’s ears twitch back as if he thinks Dean is scolding him for something, and Dean apologizes by running a palm over the cat’s head a few times until he’s rewarded with a quiet purr.  “Sorry, buddy.  Wasn’t talking to you.” 

God, he’s so pathetic.  He’s been trying to get over his crush almost the entire time he’s had it, and yet it only seems to be intensifying.  Helping Castiel re-tile his bathroom is probably a bad idea.  They’re going to be working in close quarters, getting dirty and sweaty, breathing each other’s air.  The master bathroom is big, but they’ll both be working in the shower, which means zero personal space.  They’ll probably bump each other constantly.  Arms will brush.  Maybe their hips.  Or Castiel might bend over to pick something up, and Dean will turn around, not realizing how close they are, and his crotch will rub against Castiel’s ass and- 

Dammit!  Why? 

Because he’s forbidden fruit? 

That’s fucking stupid and you know it. 

Well you’ve already pointed out that you’re an idiot, what else do you want me to say? 

Dean growls at himself.   

His eyes fall on his reflection again, and he allows himself just a few more minutes to imagine.  To wonder what Castiel would think if he knew what Dean wears under his clothes.  Would he like the panties?  Would he rub Dean’s cock through them while scolding him for being a bad boy? 

Dean reaches down and rubs his hardening dick through the thin cotton.   

His mind supplies him with images of Castiel dropping to his knees at Dean’s feet.  Rubbing his face against the plaid panties.  Kissing along Dean’s dick, and nuzzling his balls.  The sensations would be intensified by the barrier of the cloth between them.  Castiel’s breath would be warm and damp, and the pressure of his lips would make Dean’s dick leak, leaving a damp spot at the head.   

Then Castiel would reach up through one of the leg holes and jack Dean’s dick.  The cloth would pull tight, wedging between Dean’s ass cheeks and pressing against his hole.  And he’d beg Castiel to suck him off, but all he’d get are kisses through the panties.  Teased until he’s coming in them.  And then Castiel would ask if he could keep them so he could jack off with them later… 

Dean comes with a groan, and a wet patch spreads across the cotton.  He rubs himself through it, spreading his cum and smearing it against his skin before the panties soak it up.   

Masturbating to dirty thoughts about his straight neighbor is creepy as fuck, but it makes him feel a little better.  Less nervous and keyed up about hanging out with Castiel all day, more centered and ready to get the job done as soon as possible.   

Really, masturbation should be a part of everyone’s pre-work routine.  It works fucking miracles. 

But now he can’t wear the panties because there is no way he’s going to wear crusty underwear while doing manual labor.  He glances at the clock on the dresser to see how much time he has until Cas comes over and grimaces when he realizes Ford is still sitting there watching him.   

“Damn cat,” he mutters.   

Ford flips his tail, thoroughly unimpressed with Dean’s actions. 

It’s just past noon, and Castiel will probably be home within an hour or so.  Dean knows not to expect him too soon since his experience with Sam working at the clinic on weekends tells him that sometimes appointments run late, and emergencies come up.   

He has enough time to get cleaned up and make some lunch.  This time, he’s going to be the one feeding Castiel.  If he keeps letting Castiel feed him, he’s never going to get over his crush. 

He hooks his thumbs in the waistband of his panties and sweeps them down over his legs, then tosses them in the laundry basket across the room.  Then he digs through his underwear drawer, hesitating over a pair of lacy yellow and orange briefs that he hasn’t worn for a while, but decides to forgo the pretty stuff for something more serviceable.   

He pulls out a pair of black boxer briefs, hesitates, puts them back and grabs the yellow and orange lacy briefs.  Fuck serviceable.  He can wear whatever he wants.  The feel of the lace catching on his leg hair as he pulls them on makes him grin.  They cup his junk perfectly after a few gentle adjustments, and hug his hips nicely when he turns left and right to get a good look at them.   

It’s almost a shame to cover them up, but he pulls on a ratty pair of jeans that look almost as beat up as the t-shirt he’s wearing.  He also grabs a pair of socks, and his shoes and heads downstairs to start lunch.  After a good hand washing, of course.  

The patter of feline feet follows him.  Ford has a sixth sense for when food is being prepared. 

By the time he’s got everything out on the counter he has an audience of two, but at least they’re staying out from under his feet.  Both cats have been stepped on more than once trying to get him to share his human food with them while he was trying to move around in the kitchen.  As a reward for their good behavior he tears up a piece of turkey and puts it in two small piles in front of them, grinning when they attack the treat.   

Ford is a dainty eater, but he growls with menace if Hamill gets too close.  The younger cat always gulps his down way too quickly and then tries to steal a bite of Ford’s meal.  Dean watches them closely for a moment to make sure a fight doesn’t break out, then goes back to assembling a couple of sandwiches. 

He wraps them in plastic, then slices up a couple of apples to go with them.  Ford and Hamill both decline with delicate sniffs when he offers them a piece.  “Your loss,” he says and then pops it in his own mouth. 

The doorbell rings just as he’s rinsing off the utensils he used for making lunch, and the cats split.  Ford goes running for the stairs, Hamill for the door.  Dean dries his hands on a paper towel and then follows Hamill. 

Dean opens the door, and his heart leaps up into his throat.  Castiel is still wearing scrubs.  Every single naughty doctor fantasy Dean has ever had flashes across his imagination and he has to swallow the sudden rush of saliva filling his mouth.   

Ignoring his traitorous brain, he swings the door wider to invite Castiel in.  There’s a flash of orange, and his “Hey Cas, come on in” morphs into “Hey, Cas- HAMILL NO!” 

But Castiel is quick, bending down and scooping the cat up in his arms.  He cradles Hamill and grins down at the surprised feline.  “Gotcha.” 

Hamill’s tail flicks wildly, and he starts to squirm in an attempt to free himself.  Dean steps back and beckons Castiel in, closing the door quickly behind him so that he can let Hamill down. 

Castiel sets him down, and Hamill glares up at him for a moment, tail lashing wildly.  Then he goes to the door and yowls up at the door knob. 

“I don’t know why he thinks I’ll change my mind,” Dean says with a laugh.  He’s grateful to the little monster for distracting him from his dirty thoughts, and also relieved he didn’t escape.  “I’ve only ever let him outside a few times when he was a kitten, and it was on a leash, so it’s not like he could run off and explore.” 

“Cats don’t understand the concept of giving up,” Castiel explains.  “And if you ever give in at any point, they’ll only get worse because they know the behaviors got them what they wanted eventually.” 

Dean sighs, braces his hands on his hips, and watches Hamill stretch his paws up toward the door knob.  “Well shit.” 

Castiel laughs, then changes the subject.  “I haven’t stopped at home yet.  You said to just come over and knock at any time.” 

“Yeah, I figured.”  Dean reaches out and tugs the collar of Castiel’s shirt.  “I don’t mind.  You look good in these.”  He winces and takes his own turn at changing the subject.  “So you’re probably hungry, right?  I made some lunch.  We should eat before we get to work.”

Castiel gives him an unreadable look, but then smiles and nods.  “I would like that, thank you.” 

Feeling awkward as fuck, Dean gestures in the direction of the kitchen and then leads the way.  Hamill gives up crying at the door, and follows along, probably hoping for more turkey. 

Castiel settles at the little table in the breakfast nook, and Dean brings him a sandwich and some sliced apples.   

“I’ve got beer and soda,” Dean offers.  “Or water.” 

“Do you have something caffeinated?” 

“You bet.” 

Dean grabs two Cokes (the good stuff, not the diet shit that Sam is always trying to talk him into drinking), and sets one in front of Castiel as he settles down opposite him at the table.  He gestures at the sandwiches.  “I didn’t know what you’d like, so they’ve both got a little bit of everything on it.” 

“I can see that.”  Castiel picks up one of the sandwiches and unwraps the plastic.  It’s so thick with layers of meat and cheese, pickles and tomatoes and lettuce, that it looks huge in his hands.  He grins at Dean.  “I’m going to need a bigger mouth.” 

Dean snorts a laugh, just barely managing not to spit out the soda he’d just taken a sip out of.  He wipes a palm across his lips, catching the few drops that had escaped anyway.  “That’s what she said.” 

The juvenile humor makes Castiel giggle and hide his face behind a hand.  “Wow, really, Dean?” he chokes out after a minute.   

“I could have said ‘that’s what I said’.”   

What are you doing?  Don’t flirt with him! 

I can’t help it, it just came out of my mouth!  Blame my mouth! 

It’s your mouth, dipshit! 

But his inner voice is silenced when Castiel only laughs harder.  Dean’s heart thumps erratically at the sight and sound of the other man’s humor.  Castiel’s eyes crinkle up, and his nose wrinkles.  He leans to the side, like he’s not sure he can spare the strength to sit upright. 

Dean watches him, unaware of the soft smile gracing his own lips. 

When Castiel’s laughter runs its course, he lets out out a long sigh and picks up an apple slice and pops it in his mouth.  He smiles widely at Dean as he crunches it between his teeth.  “You are twelve, Dean.” 

Thankful that Castiel isn’t offended by his flirting, Dean grabs his own apple slice.  “With an extra twenty years of experience.”  He waggles his brows suggestively and then sucks the apple between his lips. 

Something in Castiel’s expression shifts, and Dean thinks he may have gone too far.  But then Castiel looks down between himself and the table, and says “Well hello.” 

Thankful for the distraction, Dean leans over to look under the table and sees Ford winding around Castiel’s ankles.  He sits back up, and grins at the other man even though Castiel’s attention is completely centered on the cat.  “Cas, meet Ford.” 

“Can I hold him?” 

“Yeah, he probably won’t try to steal your lunch.  Hamill is the thief.”  An offended meow pulls Dean’s attention back to the floor where he finds Hamill looking up at him with pleading eyes.  Dean immediately pulls a piece of ham out of his sandwich and feeds it to the little beggar. 

Castiel straightens with Ford cradled in his arms.  Ford is purring loudly and rubbing his face against Castiel’s chin, and Dean feels a pang of jealousy.  He’s not sure if it’s for Castiel or for the cat.  Probably a little of both.  “Wow,” he says, “Ford’s not usually so friendly.” 

“Well he appears to like me,” Castiel replies.  He tilts his face down and allows Ford to rub their cheeks together.   

“Dude, no stealing my cat.” 

“Sorry, Dean.  He appears to be claiming me as his own.” 

Well now Dean knows who he’s jealous of.  He wishes he could rub his face all over Castiel’s and claim him.   

Oh well, if Dean can’t have him, at least Ford can enjoy him.  Dean’s man enough to accept living vicariously through his cat.   

Lucky fuckin’ cat. 

Chapter Text

By the time the supplies are brought upstairs and the tub is lined with a tarp to catch debris, Castiel is no longer certain that he wants to take on the project.  But he reasons with himself that all the heavy lifting is done, and the rest can't possibly be as bad as carrying heavy supplies up all those stairs. 

He's still trying to catch his breath when Dean pulls a chisel out of the tool belt he'd donned before leaving his house and holds it out to Castiel with a little grin.  He looks like a little kid inviting a friend to break some rules with him.  He takes the chisel, and has a flashback to Junior High when Meg handed him his first joint.  He never did turn into much of a stoner, although he does still partake on special occasions.  But he has a feeling that he might end up doing a lot more home improvement projects if Dean is is around to talk him into it. 

"Come on, Cas.  This is the fun part."   

Dean takes out a hammer and uses the thin curved end to pry away a tile near the top of the wall.  It falls to the bottom of the tub, the clatter it makes muted by the tarp.  Two more tiles fall in quick succession, and Dean looks over his shoulder at Castiel.  He lifts a brow, silently questioning if Castiel is going to join him. 

Castiel climbs into the tub next to Dean, and realizes for the first time what a small space they'll be working in.  Their elbows knock lightly together until Dean reaches up and starts removing tiles.  Castiel moves to the opposite end of the shower to avoid getting in the more experienced man's way and sets the chisel against the edge of one of the ceramic squares.  He digs it into the yellowing grout, but can't get enough purchase to pull it free. 

There's a nudge at his elbow to get his attention, and Dean offers him his hammer.  "Here.  I'll go grab another one.  Try not to chip through the wall." 

Castiel takes the proffered tool, and let's out a breath when Dean steps out of the tub and leaves the room.  The space suddenly feels much larger, although it's still full of the other man's scent - Old Spice, and an underlying hint of sweat.  He's never had a problem with having someone in his personal space, but for some reason Dean makes even large areas feel crowded. 

He goes to work removing old tiles while he waits for Dean to return.  He keeps Dean's warning in mind and is gentle with the tiles that won't come loose with just the chisel.  He's probably going much slower than Dean would, but after a few minutes he feels like he's finally getting the hang of it and he can see why this might be considered the fun part of the work.  There's something almost liberating about the small amount of destruction he's causing. 

"Hey Cas, think we can fire up some tunes?" 

He's absorbed in his work and doesn't hear Dean's return, so he  jumps and nearly drops the tools.  He turns to see Dean leaning in the door.  "Of course," Castiel replies.  He wipes an arm across his forehead, already warm from the exertion.  "My iPod is in the speaker base next to my bed." 

Dean grins and disappears.  A few minutes later the bouncing beat of Wooly Bully filters in from the other room.  The volume rises and Dean comes back in.  "Dude, I'm going to tell Sam he has to stop giving me shit for not having anything newer than 1990 in my music collection.  You're worse than I am." 

More tiles fall to the tarp, some of the ceramic breaking apart and bouncing against his shins. He's glad Dean suggested long pants despite the rising heat of the afternoon.  "Don’t knock the classics." 

"I'm not complaining, Cas," Dean says as he steps back in the tub and brandishes his hammer at the tiles.  His nose wrinkles.  "Although I can do without Elvis.  I've seen too many impersonators in Vegas and now I can't take him seriously." 

"I'm more of a Beatles fan anyway," Castiel replies as he digs at a particularly stubborn tile. 

"Dude, yes!"  Dean holds out a fist, grinning widely. 

Castiel eyes his fist, and Dean wiggles it in invitation until he reaches over and bumps knuckles with him.  "Who fist bumps anymore?" He teases. 

"Ugh you sound like my little sister." 

The tiles on Dean's side of the shower are definitely falling faster than Castiel's, but he's distracted by the comment.  "I didn't know you and Sam have a sister." 

"Keep workin', Cas."  Dean doesn't miss a beat or look away from his work, and Castiel quickly goes back to prying at the tiles.  "Krissy isn't really my sister.  She's just a kid I sponsor in the local Big Brothers program.  She thinks fist bumping is so last decade."  That last is spoken in a falsetto valley girl scent.  "She's really good at making me feel old." 

Castiel snorts a laugh.  "Sounds like my niece, Claire.  She's a sweet girl, but she's in middle school now and she's starting to get snarky.  She actually called me 'old man' when she discovered my collection of cassettes." 

"Damn kids," Dean grumbles.  There's a definite tone of fondness in the words though.  Then he turns curious.  "How old are you, anyway?" 

"I'm twenty-eight." 

"Pfft, you're practically a kid yourself." 

Castiel stops working and turns to give Dean's shoulders an incredulous look.  His eyes wander over the flexing expanse of muscle, and he feels a tiny rush of appreciation for the obvious strength but he ignores it in favor of arguing with Dean's statement.  "Excuse me?  I own a house and went to medical school.  I'm no kid." 

Dean looks over a shoulder at him.  His green eyes flick down, pausing on Castiel's lips before traveling all the way to his feet before sweeping back up to clash gazes with him again.  Castiel's breath catches.  That is a look that says Dean definitely does not think of him as anything but a full grown man, and he approves of what he sees. 

All doubts he had about Benny's impression that Dean likes him evaporate in the heat of that look.   

Fuck, he thinks to himself.  I don't want to hurt him. 

And... He doesn't want Dean to stop looking at him like that either.  He doesn't allow himself to think about what that means. 

Between one blink and the next, Dean's expression changes.  His eyes crinkle, and his teeth flash in a crooked grin.  "Sammy is the same age as you, and he's still my kid brother.  What do you think that makes you?" 

Goosebumps spread over Castiel's arms, and he only barely manages to suppress a shiver.  He's not sure what just happened, but now he feels antsy.  His clothing feels prickly against his skin, and the space they’re in feels far too small.  

Confused and uncomfortable in a way he doesn't understand, Castiel turns back to his work, and tiles begin to fall to the tarp under his feet again.  "It makes me an adult, Dean.  Maybe you're just an old man." 

"I'm only thirty-two!" 

Some of the tension in Castiel's chest eases at Dean's indignant protest, replaced by a bubbling laugh.  "Yeah," he teases without turning around.  "Definitely over the hill.  Practically ancient." 

"Asshole."   

There's fond amusement in the word, and Castiel grins in response.  "Get back to work, Old Man.  Or can you not keep up with the ‘kids’ anymore?" 

"Oh, dude.  It is on."  The steady clack of falling tiles increases. 

Castiel hadn't meant to start a race, but he focuses on working harder and quicker.  He's still careful not to damage the wall, certain that Dean will count it as an automatic lose in their unofficial competition. 

He still loses, although he's glad to see that he's only behind by five tiles. 

When Dean puts him to work sanding down the backer board, Castiel understands why removing tiles is considered the fun part.  It doesn't take long before his arms ache and his face is dripping with sweat behind the protective mask and goggles Dean insisted he wear.  His t-shirt sticks to his back, and he finds himself tempted to remove it despite the protection it provides against dust settling on his damp skin and sticking there. 

The bathroom grows muggy with their sweat, despite the open window on the other side of the room.  The occasional cool spring breeze wafts over them, but it's not quite enough.  It might be time to turn on the air conditioner, although he's been putting it off while the mid-April weather has been cool enough that it hasn't been needed. 

By the time they're done smoothing the walls, they've both sweat through their shirts, and their deodorant has given up the ghost, leaving them both rank with body odor.  Castiel would be self conscious, but they’re both disgusting at the moment, and it’s not like he hadn’t expected to get dirty today. 

He and Dean retreat from the bedroom and head downstairs to the kitchen after mutual agreement that they're going to need at least a snack if they're going to keep working.   

"You're lucky there's no water damage," Dean says as he accepts a bottle of cold water Castiel pulls out of the fridge for him.  He twists off the cap and tilts the bottle up to his lips.  His throat works as he takes several large swallows, drinking half the bottle in one go.  He gasps a little after he lowers the bottle.  “Those kind of repairs get expensive really fast.” 

Castiel resolutely does not watch Dean’s tongue as it slips out to catch a stray droplet of water.   

“Yes, I’m glad,” he says as he opens his own bottle of water, and turns to see what he has in the fridge that doesn’t require actual cooking.  Maybe he should order a pizza.  “I have some money set aside for home repairs, but I do have to budget it.” 

He’s startled when Dean leans over his shoulder to look in his fridge.  They’re close enough that he can feel heat radiating from the other man, and he can still smell a hint of Old Spice under the musk of his sweat.

“Well I should be able to help you with that,” Dean says as he eyes the mostly empty shelves over Castiel’s shoulder.  “Make a list of what needs doing, and I can make sure you get good deals on supplies.”  He finally steps away, allowing Castiel to shut the fridge.  He grins and takes another sip of his water before saying “and I’m cheap labor.  I work for pizza.” 

Castiel’s plans for fixing all the myriad issues with the house had mostly included learning to do it himself from watching copious amounts of DIY videos online.  But the idea of having someone there to help him, to watch over his work and make sure it gets done right, is very enticing.  Having Dean be that person is exciting. 

It’s obvious Dean is enjoying himself.  He sings along to the music while he works, sometimes swaying to the beat.  Despite looking just as hot and disheveled as Castiel feels, he doesn’t seem tired, and actually appears to be looking forward to helping with even more repairs. 

He finds it strange that Dean does this work for a living, and then comes home and wants to do even more of it in his free time.  For nothing but a meal.  It makes him feel guilty for taking advantage of him.  Especially since he suspects Dean might be doing it because he’s attracted to Castiel. 

No, that can’t be the only reason.  Sam said Dean loves projects and that doing this is a hobby for him.  Dean would probably help, no matter what.  After all, other than a few lingering looks, he hasn’t actually hit on Castiel.   

Still… “I appreciate the time you’re spending on this with me.  I can certainly provide pizza, but let me pay-” 

Dean reaches out and puts his hand over Castiel’s mouth to cut him off.  “Nuh uh, don’t even say it.  You’ll pay for all the supplies, but I don’t need your money.” 

Castiel has the childish urge to lick Dean’s palm, but after their argument about age and adulthood, he’s not in the mood to give the other man ammunition to win that battle.  Instead, he settles for glaring until Dean drops his hand.   

“Dean,” he says when he’s finally free to speak, “I know you make a living at this, and I don’t want or need any special treatment because-” he almost says because you like me, but decides that wording could potentially open a can of worms.  He stops and tilts his head, suddenly curious.  “Actually, why won’t you let me pay you?” 

A shadow passes over Dean’s eyes, and he looks away, chewing his bottom lip.  He shrugs and smiles, but it’s not as bright and toothy as usual.  “I’ve been itching to fix this house up for years.  I’m doing this for fun.” 

It sounds like the truth, although Castiel isn’t so sure it’s the whole truth.  But for now, he decides to accept it.  He sighs, and pulls out his smartphone.  He taps a few times on the screen, navigating to the website for his favorite pizza place.  “What toppings do you want?” 

Dean’s grin widens and the shadow disappears from behind his eyes.  “Meat lovers.”  When Castiel lifts an eyebrow at him, he laughs.  “We’ll need the calories!” 

It’s an excellent argument.  But Castiel special orders it with black olives and banana peppers.  The pizza won’t be anywhere close to healthy, but it’ll taste better with a little variety in the toppings.

 

xxx

 

Dean washes down his last piece of pizza crust with a few swallows of Coke and lets out a belch as he leans back into the couch cushions.  He responds to Castiel’s upraised eyebrow with an unrepentant grin because it’s not like he’s trying to impress the guy.  He knows that all he’ll be able to settle for is friendship.  And that’s cool.  Castiel is awesome, and Dean’s having a great time hanging out with him. 

Every time Castiel grumbles, or his energy seems to flag, all Dean has to do is tease him a little and turn it into a contest, and shit gets done faster than ever.  And Castiel is a quick learner, which doesn’t surprise Dean at all.  The dude is a veterinarian, and from what little Dean has gleaned from things Cas has said and other things Sam has mentioned, he started a bit late.  Unlike Sam who went straight to college and has had his degree for a few years already.  So Cas is obviously smart.  He probably doesn’t really need Dean’s help. 

But Dean really has been chomping at the bit to get inside this house and fix it up.  He hates to see a good house go to ruin, and it was even worse knowing the previous owners didn’t even care.  He’d given them his card, and he hadn’t received a call or even a friendly knock on the door.   

Castiel’s house is a good house.  Sure, it needs a little TLC - make that a lot of TLC, he thinks when his eyes catch on a crack that runs down the wall from the ceiling - but it only suffers from neglect.  The walls appear solid, the wood floors are made of actual wood and not laminate, and as far as he can tell, no one has tried to remodel the place.   

An ametuer remodelling job is the worst thing that can happen to a house.  He’s seen it too many times to count.  A young couple buys a house and decides to knock down a supporting wall to make a bigger master bedroom.  Or a father decides to finish the the basement and screws up the wiring, leaving the whole place one big bonfire waiting to happen.   

Fixing shit that shouldn’t have been fucked with in the first place is tricky work.  Dean is up to it, of course, but he likes having projects that just require a little elbow grease and maybe a few coats of paint. 

Although he’s going to talk Castiel into fixing those front porch steps asap.   

On the opposite end of the couch, Castiel finishes a slice of pizza and tosses the crust into the empty, grease stained box on the floor near their feet.  Dean thinks it’s funny that Cas doesn’t eat the crust.  He thought only kids did that.   

He refrains from teasing Castiel about his age again, and instead he nudges the box with the toe of his shoe.  “When you only ordered one pizza, I thought you were crazy.” 

Castiel smiles smugly as he wipes his fingers on a paper towel.  “I told you a large would be enough.” 

Fuck yeah it was.  The thing was huge.  Dean has never seen a pizza that thick before that wasn’t a Chicago-style deep dish.  Half of it now sits heavy in his stomach, and he almost regrets eating that last piece and not saving it for later, but damn it had been good.  He’s going to have to remember the place, because he knows he’ll be ordering from them in the future.   

Dean settles deeper into the cushions.  They don’t have much to do for at least another half hour while they wait for the waterproofing they’d painted on the shower back board to dry.  At least he’ll have a little time to digest before they go back to work. 

“Good call on the olives and the peppers.” 

“I’m glad you liked them.”  Castiel leans back against the arm of the couch and lays a hand over his slightly bulging belly.  “It didn’t occur to me until it got here that you might not like spicy foods though.” 

“Man, are you kidding?  I love spicy stuff.  Mexican, cajun, indian, you name it.”  Despite being stuffed to the gills, Dean’s mouth waters a little at the thought.  “Bring on the fire!” 

Castiel chuckles.  “Me too, although I have learned my limits.  Have you ever been to Wing Coop?” 

“The new hot wings place?  Not yet.” 

“You should try it sometimes.  They’ve got amazing sauces.”  He wiggles around, making himself more comfortable, completely unaware of how sexy he looks sprawled out on the soft brown couch cushions.  “They’ve got a sauce called 11.  I’d advise against trying it.  The secret ingredient is pepper spray.” 

Dean winces.  “Holy Jesus, really?” 

Castiel nods and rubs a palm over his stomach. 

That should not make Dean want to crawl across the couch and nuzzle up under his hand, and under his t-shirt to get to the belly underneath, but it does.  Because he’s a fucking loser who can’t seem to get the fuck over a stupid crush.   

“My brother and I did the 11 challenge.  Eat 11 wings drenched in 11 sauce in 11 minutes.” 

“Did you make it?” 

Castiel chuckles and shakes his head.  “We both ate one wing.  Beer and milk did not stop the pain.  And when my fingers started to burn I knew I was fucked.” 

“It burned your skin?  Dude, I want to try it.” 

“If you want to spend a whole night belching fire and shitting lava, go right ahead.” 

Dean laughs, and they settle into a comfortable silence.  He eyes the crack in the wall again, adding it to his growing mental list of things that need to be fixed.   

He really should let Castiel pay him.  Money isn’t an issue for him, but working for free is something he typically only does for family.  And even then, they usually insist on giving him something.  Sam had just bypassed him and deposited money directly into Dean’s bank account, the fucker.

But he’d already made the offer; labor for food. 

And company.  But Castiel doesn’t need to know that last part. 

So far, Dean feels like it’s been an even trade.  He’s looking forward to showing Castiel how to set the mortar and apply the tiles.  They’ve already talked about the design, and Castiel’s blue eyes had lit up like a sunny summer sky over the idea.  Dean can tell he’s enjoying the experience, even if he’s not exactly used to all the physical labor. 

It’s a feeling Dean understands.  And he’s just as excited as Castiel is to see the end product. 

Castiel groans suddenly from the other end of the couch, dragging Dean’s attention away from the crack in the wall.  “I just realized something.  I am going to need a shower when we’re done working on this.” 

Dean blinks, taking a moment to connect the dots.  Because he’ll have a shower when they’re done?  Then he realizes Castiel means standing under running water and getting clean.   

Tiling the shower won’t take more than a few hours, but the mortar and the grout is going to need to dry overnight.  No using the shower until it’s dry, or all their hard work will be for nothing.  “You don’t have an extra bathroom?” 

“I do, but it’s only a tub and the plug for the drain is missing.  I haven’t had a chance to get a new one yet.” 

Dean adds “upgrading spare bathroom to a shower” to his mental list.  It’s easy, and the equipment is cheap if Cas doesn’t mind running a handheld showerhead from the faucet to a stand over the tub.  That’s a project that can go pretty far down the list though since it’s not a critical repair.  And he has another solution in the meantime.  “You can borrow mine tonight,” he offers. 

“I feel like it would be the polite thing to decline since you’re already doing so much for me,” Castiel sighs, “but I am already disgusting, and I have a feeling we’re only going to get dirtier.” 

“Hell yeah, we are.”   

It hits him suddenly that Castiel is going to be naked.  In his house.  In his shower.  Using his soaps and his shampoo, and his washcloths and his towels.   

Add it to the spank bank, but don’t pop a boner right now you idiot. 

Taking his brain’s excellent advice, Dean shoves away the mental image of Castiel’s body covered in soap suds.  He takes a deep breath and forces himself to first sit up, then pushes himself to his feet.  His stomach still feels overly full, but he no longer feels like a beached walrus, so it’s time to get back to work so he can distract himself from his own imagination. 

“C’mon, Cas.  Let’s do this.” 

Castiel groans, but eventually makes it to his feet.  He trudges after Dean towards the stairs, but by the time they make it up to his room he looks energized and ready to work. 

They spend the next several hours finishing the shower.  Castiel laughs at him when he turns on the mixer too high and accidentally splatters them both with wet mortar.  He pays close attention while Dean shows him how to spread it over the walls, asking questions here and there.  And together they start placing new tiles. 

Castiel’s iPod still plays in the background, switching from the catchy bounce of the Temptations and the Monkees, to the soulful crooning of Carla Thomas and Solomon Burke.  They take a break so Dean can lip sync Aretha Franklin’s Respect into his trowel while dancing in place as if he were up on a stage.  They both sing along to Sweet Caroline, hamming it up and trying to outdo each other with groany Neil Diamond impressions. 

When Dean exclaims his excitement over a song from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, Castiel teases him.  “Really?  You like Dirty Dancing?” 

“What the hell is wrong with it?” 

“Isn’t it a chick flick?” 

Dean snorts and smears mortar over the wall in preparation for the next row of tiles.  “I am confident enough in my masculinity to enjoy a movie about dancing and falling in love.”  Without thinking, he waggles his eyebrows at Castiel.  “Besides, Patrick Swazye and Jennifer Grey swinging their asses around?  How am I supposed to ignore that much eye candy?” 

Castiel pauses in setting spacers between the tiles.  “You like both?” 

Well, Dean wasn’t planning on coming out to Castiel just yet, but it’s not like he’s in the closet.  And he’s certainly not ashamed of his tastes.  “Yeah, I’m bi as fuck, dude.” 

Castiel blinks owlishly, obviously not expecting Dean’s frankness.  But then he grins and turns back to his work.  “Interesting.” 

He obviously doesn’t have a problem with it, but Dean can’t figure out what interesting is supposed to mean.  “Why is it ‘interesting’?” 

“I thought you were gay.” 

It’s Dean’s turn to blink.  “What?”  He shakes his head and rolls his eyes.  “Nah, man, I dig the ladies too.” 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed.  It’s just the way you look at-” Castiel cuts off, and even though his face is in the shadows because of the angle of the overhead light they’d turned on once the sun had gone down, Dean can see a blush spread across his cheeks. 

Why is he blushing?  Unless he means… oh.  Now Dean’s cheeks burn and he pays an inordinate amount of attention to placing a new tile in the mortar, fiddling with it as if he’s trying to make sure it’s perfectly straight even though he got it almost perfect as soon as he set it against the wall.  “Sorry, Cas.” 

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Castiel’s head jerk up.  “Why are you sorry?” 

Dean shrugs and places another tile, settling it against one of the spacers that Castiel had put in place just a few minutes before.  “I know you’re straight, so I try not to be obvious when I check you out.  You’re just… y’know, really hot.” 

“I am straight,” Castiel says softly.  His cheeks are still flushed, but his lips are turned up in a shy smile.  “But I don’t mind.  It’s flattering, really.”  He pauses, and they both work silently for almost a few minutes.  “I really like you as a friend, Dean.” 

Dean lets out a huff of air, and lifts his head to smile at Castiel who is looking back at him with hopeful eyes.  “I don’t know if we can be friends if you keep bashing Dirty Dancing, Cas.” 

His words have the intended effect.  A burst of laughter escapes Castiel, and he shakes his head.  “It’s a great movie, and I love it.  I was just giving you shit.” 

The tension leaks out of Dean’s shoulders and he rolls his eyes.  “Can it, buster.  I’ve heard you sing, and I didn’t give you any shit.” 

“Hey, I was trying to sound bad!” 

“Riiight.” 

The teasing continues, and Dean doesn’t let up even a little, not even when Castiel sings along with Proud Mary and actually sounds pretty damn good. 

Yeah, he’d love to get in Castiel’s pants, but it doesn’t feel like settling by just accepting friendship.  In the end, he knows that it’ll be worth it. 

He’s never been great at romantic relationships.  And when they fall apart, he loses the friendships he could have had with those people.  But the people that he started out attracted to but only stayed friends with have become some of the best relationships he’s ever had.  Every one of them are as close as family now. 

He looks forward to having that kind of friendship with Castiel. 

Later that night, hours after they finish setting the tiles and applying the grout, after Castiel borrows Dean’s shower then stays to chat far past midnight because he’s so excited about finishing the project, Dean keeps telling himself that Castiel’s friendship is going to be worth getting a severe case of blueballs.  But sleep doesn’t claim him until after he gives in and strokes himself to orgasm with images of Castiel writhing behind his eyelids. 

Chapter Text

Dean sighs in relief as he finally turns his truck onto his street.  Being self employed has the benefit of setting his own hours, but more often than not, that means working late.  Most of his contracts are for working on home construction, which means leaving the job site with the rest of the crew at five, but over the years his business card had found its way into the pockets of homeowners in need of emergency repair. 

He doesn't have to take those calls.  There are plenty of other contractors that do private work that he can refer them to, and he does whenever possible.  But occasionally he'll accept the occasional job when he knows he's the only one available to do the work.  

Or sometimes he'll get a call from one of the contractors directly, asking for help on a job.  Today he'd left the job site with the intention of going straight home for a lazy evening spent on the couch with his cats and the newest episode of doctor sexy, but Aaron had called him for help with a flooded basement.  Aaron had a team of employees, but apparently they were all on other jobs and he'd needed a spare set of hands. 

Dean should have said no, but even though he and Aaron broke up more than three years ago, he's still got a soft spot for the guy. 

At least it wasn't a broken sewage line.  He isn't that close to Aaron anymore. 

So it's late enough that the sun is half sunk below the horizon by the time he pulls into his drive.  He's filthy, starving, and praying his DVR did its job when he slides out of the truck.  But he doesn't get more than a step from his truck before he notices a figure huddled on the porch across the street. 

His feet lead him in that direction before his brain catches up to what he's doing.   

Cas watches him approach, and he looks even more beat down than Dean feels.  He's hunched over with his arms braced on his knees with his hands dangling between them.  His shoulders slope down under an invisible weight, and even in the fading light of the evening, Dean can see that his eyes are bloodshot and rimmed with pink. 

"Heya, Cas," Dean calls softly as he crosses Castiel's lawn.  "You okay?" 

The answer is obvious, but asking gives Castiel the opportunity to turn away Dean's concerns with a shrug and a smile.  And Dean promises himself he won't push if that's the only response he gets.  Even if seeing Cas like this is revving up all his protective instincts.  Lord knows, Dean is a stubborn bastard when it comes to talking about his own problems, so it's only fair that he give Castiel the same out that he'd want under the same circumstances. 

Castiel sighs, and his shoulders sink even further for a moment.  Then he sits up straight and gives Dean a smile.  It's weak, but at least it reaches his eyes.  "Hello, Dean.  I will be okay." 

So not good, but he's not shutting Dean out completely.  Dean can work with that.  He settles down on the step next to Castiel, ignoring the dangerous creak of the rotted wood.  "Anything I can help with?" 

Castiel's smile warms, but he shakes his head.  "I had a rough day.  I just need a little time to get over it." 

"You know, I've heard it from a good source that talking about things can help."  Dean shrugs and grins.  "Not that I know from experience or anything.  I'm shit about sharing and caring." 

He receives another head shake.  "I appreciate the offer, but I'll be fine, really." 

A stab of disappointment makes Dean's chest ache, and he resists the urge to rub a hand over his sternum.  Their friendship is still new, so he can't expect Castiel to trust him enough to open up yet.   

But there's still something he can do for Castiel.  "Hey, have you eaten?" 

"No."  Castiel looks down at his hands, and Dean realizes he's holding his phone.  He unlocks and checks the screen as if he's hoping for a message, and his smile fades a little when he doesn't see one.  "I asked a friend..."  He trails off and shakes his head more firmly.  "Not yet." 

Dean doesn't ask about who he had reached out to.  It's none of his business.  And he has no right to feel angry at the person for ignoring Castiel.   

Or jealous. 

I'm not jealous. 

Liar, liar, pants on fire. 

"Well come on," he says, clapping Castiel on the shoulder.  "I’ll make you dinner." 

"You don't have to-" 

"'Course I do."  Dean shakes Castiel's shoulder a little, savoring the warmth under his palm a little more than he should.  He lets go reluctantly and stands.  "C'mon, Cas." 

His heart thumps with excitement when Castiel also stands, slipping his phone in his pocket without checking the screen again.  He turns to lead the way to his house, confident now that Castiel will follow. 

He opens his door to a chorus of meows.  He steps over the boys, nimble from years of avoiding being tripped by the pair twining themselves around his ankles.  Hamill is too focused on greeting him and doesn't bolt for the door, but Castiel hurries in behind him and shuts the door before the little orange monster remembers to try. 

Dean squats down to scoop both of them up anyway, and grins at Castiel.  "Gotta feed the furballs first." 

Castiel chuckles.  "Of course."  He trails behind Dean on the way to the kitchen and takes a seat at the breakfast nook.   

When Dean puts the boys down, they start crying for food again.   

"Alright, alright, geez." Dean flips on a light and rolls his eyes for Castiel's benefit.  "They act like they only get one meal a day.  Spoiled brats." 

Castiel grins at the cats.  "If you spoil them, they'll act spoiled." 

Dean opens a can of wet food, and the cats' volume increases.  "Oh so you think this is my fault?"  He looks down at his boys.  "Do you hear this guy?  Thinks he's some kind of expert or something." 

Neither of them are impressed with his delay.  Hamill actually stands on his hind legs and reaches his front paws high on Dean's thigh, then sinks his claws in. 

Dean ignores the sting, and continues filling their dishes.  Hamill let's go when he sees Dean lift the bowls, and runs over to the mat where Dean always feeds them.  The kitchen goes quiet as soon as he sets the food down.  He smiles at them as he strokes their fur. 

"Definitely spoiled." 

Dean looks up to find Castiel grinning fondly at him.  His cheeks flush, not because he's embarrassed about spoiling his cats, but because that toothy smile makes him feel warm all over.   

He stands, clearing his throat.  "I don't have anything fancy for dinner," he says as he goes to dig through his cupboards.  He pulls out two cans of chili and a large can of stew.  "I don't really cook much." 

He knows how, but he doesn't like only cooking for one.  Like Castiel, he usually ends up making too much.  He doesn't mind leftovers, but seeing all that uneaten food is a little depressing.  It reminds him that he has no one to share it with. 

"I don't need anything fancy."  Castiel is watching the cats with a little smile on his face.   

It's the same dopey smile Dean gets when he watches them.  "How come you don't have any pets?" 

The question brings those wide blue eyes up to Dean, who tries not to preen under their attention.  "I couldn't have any while living with my brother.  Claire is allergic." 

Dean wrinkles his nose.  "That sucks, dude."  He puts a soup pan on a burner, turning the flames on low, then grabs a can opener from a drawer to open the stew since it doesn’t have one of those pull tabs that Dean thinks are genius engineering.  "But you've got a place of your own now.  You should get at least one." 

“I will.  I just haven’t found one I’ve clicked with yet.” 

Ford finishes his food, and instead of sauntering out of the room, he crosses to the breakfast nook and hops in Castiel’s lap.  He settles himself down, licking his chops, making his whiskers flex back and forth. 

Dean pauses in stirring the chilli and the stew together in the soup pan, and points the spoon at Castiel in warning.  “You’re not taking my cat.” 

Castiel laughs, and strokes Ford’s silky black fur.  “Maybe he’s mine.” 

“Dude, not cool.”  But Dean’s smiling as he goes back to stirring the contents of the warming pot so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. 

The kitchen goes quiet other than Ford’s purr.  Hamill finishes his dinner, and what little bit Ford didn’t eat, and starts rubbing against Dean’s ankles again, probably hoping he’ll share whatever he’s cooking. 

Normally Dean would itch to fill the silence.  Having a guest means being entertaining, right?  But Castiel seems content to pet Ford and wait for Dean to finish dinner.  He looks comfortable and right at home in Dean’s kitchen. 

When the chilli-stew is steaming, Dean dishes it into two large bowls, adds spoons, and brings them to the table.  He takes a seat across from Castiel, and passes one across.  Disturbed by Castiel’s movements, Ford jumps down and flicks his tail irritably as he retreats from the kitchen. 

Despite the quiet, Dean really enjoys Castiel’s company.  Maybe he should start doing this more often.  He doesn’t invite Sammy over as often since he married Jody, and if he wants to hang out with his parents, he always goes over to their house.  Benny lives across town, and it’s easier for them to meet in the middle at The Roadhouse.  In fact, the same goes for all of his friends.  They get together for drinks and burgers, and then all go their separate ways at the end of the evening. 

He can’t actually remember the last time he had a guest for dinner, and that’s ridiculous.  If he doesn’t start being more sociable, he’s going to end up being that guy who dies by himself and gets eaten by his cats. 

The morbid thought doesn’t stop him from shoving a heaping spoonful of chilli-stew into his mouth.  After all, he’s gotta make sure that if his cats eat him, there’s enough for them to survive on until someone discovers what’s left of his corpse. 

“Where did you get this table set, Dean?” 

Dean blinks to dispel his thoughts and looks down at the table.  It’s a simple design made of dark walnut.  The chairs aren’t anything special either, more like stools with short backs.  Although they do spin, which makes them highly entertaining when he’s drunk.  “I, uh… know a guy that builds furniture.  Why?” 

Castiel rubs a palm across the polished surface of the table, and Dean can not believe that something so simple is making his dick sit up and pay attention.  What the hell is wrong with him? 

How long has it been since I’ve been laid?

Too long, obviously. 

“Did he make Benny’s furniture too?” 

“Yeah, some of it.”  Dean stirs his food around in his bowl, waiting to see where this line of questioning is going. 

“I’ll have to get this guy’s number.  I am in need of furniture-” 

Dean snorts.  No kidding.  He’s seen Castiel’s house.  It does not look lived in, at all.  A couch in the living room, a bed in the master bedroom with milk crates for bedside tables.  He doesn’t even have a place for his clothes yet.  Just three laundry baskets, two of which are filled with neatly folded clothing. 

“-and I’m finding very little that interests me.  This is beautifully made, though.  Something in a lighter color would look very nice in my dining room.” 

Dean agrees.  Something in a pale oak, or ash.  It would need to be larger than Dean’s.  Big enough to seat six, otherwise the room would dwarf it.  A leaf could be added if needed, but anything bigger than a six seater wouldn’t fit right in there.  It would probably be better off a few inches shorter, too.  Dean’s table is tall, and the chairs were specially made for it, with bars for foot rests.   

His thoughts are interrupted when Castiel continues.  “I’d like to fix the room up first though.  The chandelier is cheap and ugly and there’s a hole in the wall that looks like someone punched a fist through it.” 

Dean makes a sound of disgust.  “The previous owners were a couple of dickbags.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what happened.”  He shovels some food into his mouth and chews angrily.   

It’s bad enough the fuckers neglected the place, but deliberately damaging it?  Assholes. 

Castiel chuckles at his bad humor.  “I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to fix.” 

“Let’s do it tonight.”  Dean perks up, leaning over the table.  “You up for a Home Depot run?” 

He realizes he might be overstepping his boundaries.  Sam had called him Monday and warned him not to turn Castiel’s house into his own personal renovation project like he’d done with Sam’s house.  The most annoying part about the lecture is that Dean knows Sam is right.  But he can’t help himself.   

And Castiel doesn’t seem to mind.  In fact, his spine straightens, and he looks more lively than he has all evening.  His eyes no longer look haunted, and instead they sparkle with interest.  “Yes, let’s do it.” 

They both hurry to eat what’s left of their dinners, with Dean finishing one bite before Castiel does.  He takes Castiel’s bowl, spins in his nifty spinny chair (seriously, he has way too much fun with the chairs sometimes), and hurries the dishes to the sink.  He doesn’t bother to wash them.   

Time for a trip to his Happy Place! 

xxx

 

As soon as they step through the doors of Home Depot, Castiel is assaulted with the smell of plastic and chemicals and lumber.  Next to him Dean inhales deeply through his nose, and lets it out in a happy sigh.  He looks like he just walked into a house with cookies baking, and Castiel wonders if he’s going to start drooling soon. 

Dean glances at Castiel, probably unaware that his eyes are bright with childish delight.  He points to the back end of the store.  “We should head back there and pick out a new light fixture first, then we can head over there,” he gestures to the left side of the store, “to pick up what we need to repair the wall.  We’re going to need a basket.”  He grabs one and starts listing things that they’ll need as he makes a beeline for the back of the store. 

Following Dean forces Castiel to extend his stride.  Dean’s legs may be bowed, but they carry him quickly.  Castiel jogs a few steps to catch up and pace along beside him.   

“We should probably pick up some primer, and paint to cover the patch once it’s done,” Dean is saying.  He glances at Castiel, and grimaces a little.  “Your walls are just plain white, right?  Damn, we should have taken a picture to make sure we get the right match.” 

“I believe white will be fine,” Castiel says as they reach the lighting section. 

Dean doesn’t look convinced, but he doesn’t argue.  He turns his face up to the lit chandeliers spread out above them.  “Well, Cas?  You gonna pick one out?” 

Castiel looks up and is almost blinded by the display, despite the fact that the bulbs are probably low wattage.  There must be a hundred different light fixtures on display, ranging from plain white plastic covers that hug the ceiling to fancy multi-tiered chandeliers that look like they belong in a house with a grand double staircase in the foyer.   

Head turned up, he walks slowly down the first aisle, looking at all the options.  If he gets a table made by the guy that made Dean’s dining table and Benny’s furniture he’ll want something simple.  Maybe silver, with simple white glass shades for the bulbs.   

He doesn’t see anything on the first aisle, so he starts down the second.  Halfway down, he finds what he’s looking for.  The shades are frosted white with delicate floral patterns etched in the glass.   He looks over at Dean who is still at the far end of the aisle looking at the boxed items on the shelves below the light displays.  “Dean, what do you think about this one?” 

Abandoning whatever had his attention, Dean pushes the basket to Castiel and looks up at the chandelier Castiel indicates.  He nods a little.  “I think it looks great.  You sure you don’t want a ceiling fan, though?” 

It’s a good question and Castiel examines the chandelier again, tilting his head left then right to see it from different angles as he tries to imagine different light fixtures in the dining room.  Then he shakes his head, turning back to Dean.  “Not for the dining room.  Maybe I should get one for the living room.” 

Dean presses his lips together, and his eyes narrow as he contemplates Castiel’s suggestion.  His opinion shouldn’t matter since he doesn’t live in the house, but Castiel finds himself waiting eagerly for it anyway.  After a moment Dean nods.  “Good idea, Cas.  You wanna get the fan tonight?” 

He might as well grab one while he’s here.  They probably won’t have time to install it, but at least he’ll have it for another weekend project.  “Yeah, I’ll pick one out.” 

He ends up getting the chandelier and two ceiling fans, one of the living room and one for his bedroom.  And then he’s following Dean toward the drywall supplies.  He stands back and lets Dean pick out what he needs.  Spackle, joint compound, a few kinds of tape that he doesn’t pay attention to what they’re called.   

“Will I need tools?” he asks when he sees a rack of spackle knives. 

“Nah, you can use mine.” 

Castiel frowns at Dean.  “I can’t keep borrowing your tools.” 

“Dude, everyone borrows my tools,” Dean says vaguely as he looks back and forth along the shelves for something.  “As long as you bring ‘em back, we’re cool.  Besides, they’re expensive, and you’re on a budget, right?”  He looks up and smiles when he finds what he’s looking for.  Reaching up, he grabs a plastic tub from the top shelf.   

The movement makes his shirt ride up, and Castiel’s eyes are immediately drawn to the patch of newly bared skin.  They go wide when he sees blue lace peeking out where Dean’s jeans are riding low.  And right above the button fly, Castiel sees a tiny white bow. 

His mouth goes dry, and he takes half a step back, jerking his eyes away from the sight.  Dean is saying something about different brands of plaster, but Castiel barely hears him over the ringing in his ears. 

Dean is wearing panties.  Again.   

Under his work clothes.   

Castiel saw Dean leave for work while he was out jogging that morning, and he obviously saw him come home.  Dean didn’t change his clothes before they left for Home Depot.  He must have been wearing them all day. 

His feet work on auto-pilot as he follows Dean down the aisle.  He barely pays attention while Dean chatters about drywall patch kits versus slotting in new pieces of drywall for bigger holes.  The words only barely make sense because Castiel’s mind is buzzing. 

His brain won’t stop supplying images of Dean moving around a job site, bending over to grab tools, reaching high to hold a board while he nails it in place.  All the while, that lace would be shifting and rubbing against his skin. 

Blue lace.  With a hint of green.  Almost teal, but a dark shade.  The white bow is a stark contrast against the darker background. 

“You think you want to do blue instead of white?” 

Castiel blinks at the question, and his mind refocuses.  He’s standing in front of the paint colors display, holding a palette card in his hand.  It has several shades of teal, one of which matches Dean’s panties exactly.  He almost puts it back in the display, but Dean grabs it from him before he can make a move. 

“I think this would look good in your living room,” Dean says, rubbing his thumb over the lightest shade on the card.  He squints at it, and then looks at the display for a moment.  He grabs a card that has even lighter colors and points out the one in the middle of the card.  “Or this one.  With that big window and this color, it’ll probably make the room seem twice as big.  And then you could paint the ceiling with the darker color.  It’ll still work with that new ceiling fan, too.” 

Painting the living room had not been on Castiel’s agenda at all, but now he’s picturing what Dean is describing and he really likes the idea.  He takes the palette cards back from Dean and looks at the colors, forgetting for the moment what made him originally pick them up.  He agrees that a lighter color would be best, but he can’t decide between two of the shades. 

“I don’t know,” he says, tracing his finger over the rectangle that is one shade darker than what Dean had suggested.  “I like this one.  Do you think it’s too dark?” 

“Nah, I just like lighter colors.”  Dean leans close so he can look at the colors better.  “We could get a couple sample cans and see which one looks better.” 

This close, Castiel can smell the tang of Dean’s sweat and Old Spice mixing with the surrounding scents of lumber and paint.  The buzzing in his head comes back, and he’s unable to respond to Dean because something is short circuiting between his brain and his mouth. 

Luckily, Dean doesn’t seem to need an answer.  He snatches the cards from Castiel’s fingers, and turns their cart in the direction of the paint mixing counter.  “Come on, Cas.  Let’s grab the paint and get out of here before I buy half the store.” 

Castiel blinks away his confusion and hurries after Dean.  Then Dean’s last words sink in, and he’s confused again, but for a different reason.  “Why would you buy half the store?” 

There’s no one at the paint mixing counter, and Dean pushes a button that must alert someone in the building that a customer is waiting.  He braces an elbow on the counter, and grins cheerfully at Castiel.  “Dude, are you kidding?  This place is like a toy store for me.” 

Castiel looks around.  From where they’re standing he can see two aisles of shelves full of pre-mixed paint and painting supplies.  Behind Dean there is a whole section of power tools, most of which Castiel isn’t even sure what they would be used for.  As they’ve wandered through the store he only saw a few things that he understood.   

The things that he did recognize, such as the large appliances section, or the aisle with hundreds of doors were obvious, but he doesn’t see how Dean could randomly spend hundreds of dollars on those things.   

He lifts a brow at Dean.  “Really?” 

Dean shrugs one shoulder.  “When I was a kid, my grandpa Henry was always dragging me to the hardware store.  It always meant we were going to build something, and when you’re eight and you’re handed a hammer and a handful of nails and told to go at it, that’s fucking playtime, dude.” 

Fascinated with this glimpse of Dean’s childhood, Castiel steps closer, eager to hear more.  “He taught you what you know?” 

“Most of it, yeah.”  Dean’s eyes unfocus, and his smile warms as he relives old memories.  “Summers were always great.  Dad and Uncle Bobby didn’t want me underfoot at the garage, and Mom was usually busy with Sam, so Grandpa would take me with him to job sites.” He laughs, and focuses on Castiel again.  “At least until Mom found out.  He must have gotten the ear blistering of a lifetime, ‘cause that shit stopped.  But he’d still let me help him in his workshop.” 

Castiel wanted to ask what kind of workshop, but Dean’s attention is pulled away by a young woman in an orange apron finally coming to assist them.  Dean turns and leans both elbows on the counter and smirks at her, even as she gives him a glare that doesn’t actually contain very much heat.   

“Krissy!  I was hoping you’d be working tonight.” 

Castiel immediately looks closer at her when he realizes that this is the young woman that Dean spends time with as part of the Big Brother’s program.  She’s at least sixteen if she’s working here, but there’s knowledge in her eyes that make he seem much older.   

She stops behind the counter and braces her hands on her hips.  “Dean, I told you I don’t need you constantly checking up on me.” 

“Joke’s on you, kiddo.  I’m not here for you today.” Dean sticks his tongue out at her, and chuckles when she rolls her eyes.  He jerks his head in Castiel’s direction.  “My buddy here needs some paint samples.” 

Krissy’s dark eyes turn in Castiel’s direction and her lips twist into a knowing smirk.  “‘Buddy’, huh?  Is that what all the old dudes are calling it these days?” 

Castiel frowns.  “Calling what?” 

Dean straightens, and gives Castiel a worried look.  Then he moves, opening a little space between them.  “Nah, we’re just friends.” 

Castiel’s cheeks heat when he realizes how close they were standing, and how that would have looked to an outsider.  In his interest in Dean’s story, he’d moved close enough that any semblance of personal space was more passing imagination than anything.  He shuffles a half-step back as well.   

He forces himself to meet Krissy’s eyes and ignore the disbelief coloring her expression.  “Dean’s helping me with some house repairs.” 

Her whole body shifts when she rolls her eyes this time.  “Oh man, you let him start a project in your house?  You’ll never get rid of him now.” 

“Shut up,” Dean says gruffly, but his eyes twinkle with humor.  “You loved helping me install Sam’s cabinets, and you got an A in shop class that year.” 

“I did not love it.” She wrinkles her nose.  “I should have turned you in for child slavery or something.” 

Dean laughs and looks at Castiel.  He holds his hand to the side of his mouth so Krissy can’t see his lips and stage whispers.  “She is such a liar.” 

Krissy snorts, but it’s clear that she’s enjoying Dean’s teasing.  “Anyway, Old Man, are you here to buy some paint or do I need to call security to have them kick your loitering ass out?” 

“Gimme some samples of these.”  Dean slaps the palette cards down on the counter, and points out four of the colors.  “And hop to it, so I don’t have to report to your manager about your sass.” 

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get your damn samples,” she grumbles, and then walks away to start mixing colors. 

Dean smiles at her for a moment and then turns to Castiel.  This time when he speaks his voice is pitched low enough that it won’t carry.  “I got her the job here.  It’s been great for her, even if she bitches at me about it all the time.” 

“How did she end up in the program?” Castiel asks.  He just barely stops himself from shuffling closer again.  He doesn’t want to give Krissy any more fodder for teasing Dean.   

“Single dad.  Works a lot so she was home by herself most nights.”  Dean’s smile dims a little.  “For a while I was more of a babysitter than a mentor, but it was fun having her around all the time.  Her dad eventually got a better job, and he’s home more so I don’t see her as much.”   

“Is that why you keep checking on her?” 

Dean chuckles and shrugs sheepishly.  “I know, I’m obvious.  But I just want to make sure she’s doing alright, y’know?” 

Castiel smiles.  “She will be with people like you watching after her.” 

Dean’s smile flickers, and he searches Castiel’s eyes.  Castiel isn’t sure what he’s looking for, but he doesn’t look away, hoping Dean will find whatever it is and be happy with it.   

“Ugh, you two need to tone down the heart eyes,” Krissy says as she brings four small paint cans to set on the counter in front of them.  She smirks when Dean jumps, and pushes the cans closer to him.  “Anything else you need?” 

Dean scowls at her, and scoops up the paint cans to add to their cart.  “You need an attitude adjustment.” 

“Yeah, I’ll work on that.”  Her smirk fades, and she gives him a genuine smile.  “Dad’s going to get me a new bed for my birthday this year.  He said he’d call you about the bedframe?” 

“Already talked to him, kiddo.  Don’t you worry about it.”  Dean leans over the counter, and Krissy leans into him, letting him hug her around the shoulders.  “I’ll see you around.” 

“Later, Old Man,” she responds when Dean lets her go.   

She waves at Castiel, and he returns the gesture before following Dean toward the registers at the front of the store.  He can’t help but be impressed with how well Dean gets along with the prickly teen, and he wonders what Claire would think of him. 

Dean refuses to let Castiel pay for the supplies.  He hands his card over to the man running the register, and forestalls any argument with “I’ll give you the receipts, Cas.  You can pay me back later.  Take advantage of the discount, dude.” 

When he sees how much the discount is, Castiel decides not to argue.  But he may take a page out of Sam’s book and sneak payment to Dean in other ways to make up for it.  He’ll start by making Dean another home cooked meal.  The chilli-stew had been surprisingly delicious, but he’d be willing to bet that Dean would enjoy something that didn’t come out of a can even more. 

By the time they get back home, they only have enough time to patch the hole in the wall.  It goes slowly because Dean makes Castiel do most of the work, although he does step in now and then to demonstrate a few things.  Then he gives Castiel a list of instructions on how long to let it dry before he paints over it with primer, and offers to come over on the weekend to help install the new light fixtures. 

It’s an hour past when Castiel normally goes to bed when he walks Dean to the door. 

Dean pauses on his way out and turns to Castiel.  The porch light makes his dark blond hair glow, almost giving the impression of a halo.  “Hey, Cas, I know it’s none of my business,” he says softly, “but… what was it that had you so down earlier?” 

During the adventure of exploring Home Depot and learning to patch his walls, Castiel had actually been able to forget about the shitty day he’d had.  Being reminded of it stings, but the pain is muted now.  He knows he has Dean to thank for that.  The distraction he provided is exactly what Castiel needed. 

He leans against the doorframe, and looks out into the dark.  The neighborhood only has a few street lamps, and most of the light comes from porch lights on the houses up and down the street.  Dean’s house is completely dark; he forgot to turn his porch light on before they left for Home Depot.  “I had to euthanize a dog today, and I’m upset that the owners waited so long to do it.” 

Dean blinks at him.  “Why?  Wouldn’t you want to try everything possible to save it?” 

Castiel remembers Daisy’s sad eyes, rimmed with red.  Every time her owners brought her in for more treatments for her cancer she was thinner, bonier, more miserable.  It broke his heart to see the way she suffered.  “Of course I would, Dean.” He realizes how heated his words are, and he smiles to soften them.  “I knew most of the treatments we tried to save her wouldn’t work.  But the owners were doing their own research online and insisted we try more and more invasive procedures.  And we’re not really supposed to say no.  We’re not supposed to ever tell the owner when it’s time to stop trying and let go.” 

“Dude, that sucks.”   

Castiel nods, and looks back at Dean.  “They finally made the decision today, and I was so relieved.  And that makes me feel guilty.” 

Dean chews at his bottom lip, and then steps back up to the doorway.  With Castiel standing on the doorjamb, Dean is a few inches shorter than him, which feels a little odd since Dean seems so much larger than life most of the time.  He has to lean up and pull Castiel down in order to hug him.   

“I wish I could save them all,” Castiel says against Dean’s shoulder.   

“You can’t,” Dean murmurs.  “All you can do is try.” 

The hug only lasts for a few heartbeats, but it’s exactly what Castiel needs.  Even more than the distraction of home repairs.  “Thank you, Dean.” 

Dean squeezes him a little tighter, then lets him go.  “You gonna be okay?” 

Castiel smiles.  “I’m better already.” 

“Okay.  Goodnight then.” 

“‘Night, Dean.” 

Castiel watches Dean descend the creaking porch steps and stroll across the street.  He can’t help but smile a little and wonder if that swagger is because of his bowlegs, or if his bowlegs developed because of the swagger.  It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries, like the chicken or the egg. 

Once he sees Dean disappear into his own house, Castiel retreats inside.  He makes his way upstairs to his bedroom.  He’s too tired to shower, so he strips down and crawls into bed without bothering with pajamas.  He plugs his phone - which still has no reply messages from Meg - into the charger and flops down on his stomach.   

The stress of the day catches up with his body, and sleep overtakes him quicker than he would have expected.  If he were awake to think about it, he would probably thank Dean’s compassionate hug for that.  Instead, he dreams of lacy teal panties with white bows. 

Chapter Text

Meg lets out a sigh of relief when she makes it all the way to the locker room without anyone roping her into anymore work.  For once she is going to get out of there on time, and she's going to take advantage of it by picking up some pizza and dropping in on Clarence to see how he's doing living on his own.  She feels like shit that she missed his calls the night before, and she plans on making it up to him by ordering veggies on the pizza.   

She smiles to herself as she changes out of her scrubs and into a pair of soft jeans and a baggy t-shirt.  If it was anyone else she was going to spend time with, she'd do herself up a little nicer, but Castiel doesn't care what she wears.  They've known each other far too long for her to feel like she needs to impress him. 

Although she does have a pair of frilly panties tucked in her backpack just in case he's in the mood to fool around.  She's not sure she'll have the energy for a romp in the sheets after being at work all day, but she's nothing if not prepared. 

She waves at her friends as she strolls past the nurses station on the way to the exit.  She catches sight of old Mr. Devereaux making his slow way from his room to the nurses’ station, probably so he can flirt with whoever will put up with him.  He winks at her and she blows him a kiss before slipping out the door. 

Castiel's new house is further from the Morningstar Assisted Living facility than Jimmy’s, although she doesn't have to go too far out of her way to their favorite pizza place.  She does miss having him closer to home though. 

When she gets to his house, she doesn't bother to knock, and just walks in calling “Hey Clarence!  I brought the pizza!  Wanna move some furniture around?” 

There's a commotion from the living room and then Castiel is in the hall with her, grinning brightly and nearly knocking the pizza out of her hands when he wraps her in a hug.  “You're never going to let me live that down, are you?” 

She leans into his chest since she can't return the hug.  "Probably never.”  Catching him watching porn in high school hadn't been a surprise, but it was an opportunity to give him shit and it took years of teasing before the joke stopped making him blush.

When he lets her go, she looks him over carefully.  He looks happy, despite what his text messages had indicated.  “I'm sorry about last night.  Forgot my phone and I traded a shift with Ruby.” 

Castiel smiles and he takes the pizza box from her before leading the way through the still empty dining room to the kitchen.  “It's alright,” he calls over his shoulder.  “I had a bad day, but I'm fine now.” 

She winces sympathetically and leans against the kitchen counter while he gets out plates and napkins.  “That sucks, Clarence.” 

He shrugs.  “You know how it is.” 

She does.  She gives him shit all the time for going into veterinary medicine instead of medical, but she knows that he takes his job just as seriously as she does, and hurts just as badly over his patients.  That doesn't mean she's not going to keep giving him shit though.  “Naw… I treat real patients.” 

He glares at her.  “Be nice or you can't have any of this.” 

“Hey I brought that pizza,” she snaps without any real heat.  “I can leave with it, too.” 

He chuckles and hands her a plate with two slices of extra cheesy pepperoni, olive, and tomato on deep dish crust.  She grabs one and takes a huge bite and doesn't bother to swallow before speaking because manners are for chumps.  “So why didn't you come crash on my couch last night?” 

While he was living with Jimmy he was always coming over to hang out in order to get away from family.  He hasn't done it since he moved into his own place. 

Castiel chews for a moment, and she waits impatiently for him to speak.  “I probably would have, but Dean distracted me.” 

She wrinkles her nose in thought.  “That name rings a bell…” 

“You met him the day I moved in.” 

Her eyes widen, and she snaps her fingers.  Or she tries.  The pizza grease coating them interferes.  “The hottie neighbor!  Man, that is one pogo stick I'd like to take a turn bouncing on.” 

Castiel chokes, and grabs a paper towel to cover his mouth until he manages to clear his airways.  He glares at her, eyes watering and face flushed.   

She grins.  “What's the matter?  Too crude for your delicate sensibilities?” 

His eyeroll would be much more impressive if he weren't still recovering from trying to inhale his pizza.  "Of all people, you know me better than that." 

Boy, does she ever.  Granted, she's always been a bad influence on him, but people would be surprised to learn what kind of things he'd be down for if given the right motivation. 

Sometimes he makes her so proud.  

She reaches out to punch him in the shoulder.  "You know you're my favorite deviant, right?" 

"I'm not sure that's a good thing." 

"Sure it is, Clarence."  She winks at him and takes another bite of pizza.  "So what did you and hottie neighbor do?" 

She's not the type to use overly cliche phrases like "lights up", but that's exactly what Castiel does.  An excited smile tugs at his lips, and he straightens from his slouch against the counter.  He sets his pizza aside, then grabs her plate and sets it on the counter despite her protests.  The next thing she knows, she's being dragged by the wrist through the dining room, across the hall, and into the living room. 

It hasn't changed much since she helped him move in.  The squishy couch he's had since college is still there, and so is the lamp stand and the pile of boxes.  She eyes the pile, pretty sure it hasn't shrunk at all.  She'd assumed he'd at least have purchased some shelves and unpacked his precious books by now, but they haven't been touched yet. 

She shakes her head at his laziness and tunes in to his excited chatter.   

"-we ended up in the paint aisle when we went to get the primer, and I saw the color palettes, and-" 

"Whoa, back up."  She holds up a hand to slow the cascade of information.  "Why did you need primer?" 

He huffs and gives her an annoyed look for not paying attention.  She ignores it.  Fuck him, he took away her pizza. 

He repeats his story about going on a supply run to Home Depot, and this time she notices him blushing when he talks about choosing the paint colors.  What the hell would make him blush?  She tucks that thought away for now.   

"So what combination do you think I should go with?" He asks, gesturing at the wall where he's painted several patches of teal in different shades. 

Meg doesn't bother to look too closely.  She lifts an eyebrow.  "Why are you asking me?  I know fuck all about interior design." 

His mouth twists with disapproval.  "I'm just asking which ones you think looks best, Meg, not for advice on Feng Shui." 

"What's Feng Shui?"  She smiles innocently when he slants her a glare.  Pissing him off is truly one of life's greatest joys.  Just to twist the knife deeper, she shrugs and heads back to the kitchen and her rapidly cooling dinner.  "Why don't you ask Dean?" 

It was meant as a joke, but he answers her seriously.  "He's not home from work yet." 

She picks up her abandoned plate and braces her hips against the edge of the counter.  "You know his schedule?"  Thankfully her pizza is still warm.  She savors the next bite with her eyes half closed.  She can practically feel her arteries clogging and it's almost as good as sex.  Better, depending on the partner. 

Castiel picks up his own plate, staring down at it instead of meeting her eyes while picking at the crust that he's not even going to eat.  "He doesn't come home at the same time every day." 

Meg pauses mid-chew.  Castiel is always straightforward and confident.  It's fucking annoying sometimes.  But the blushing and the lack of eye contact, hell, even the fidgeting that he's doing right now is sending up all kinds of red flags.  Her eyes narrow, and she chews thoughtfully. 

Something is up.  And she's going to figure it out. 

"Are you really going to ask him to help you pick out paint?" 

Castiel shrugs and plucks a piece of pepperoni from his pizza and pops it between his teeth. 

"What's next? Picking out curtains?"  His face practically glows, he blushes so hard.  She stares at him but he doesn't look up, and her eyes go wide.  "Wait, has he helped you pick out curtains?" 

"No!" 

She waits. 

"He helped me hang the rods for them." 

She bursts with laughter, quickly setting her plate down before she drops it from shaking fingers.  His furious glare makes her laugh harder, until her stomach starts to ache.  She bends over, one hand over her belly, and the other slapping against the counter top.  "Oh- oh my god, Cas," she gasps.  "Moving pretty quickly, aren't you?  Are you at least going steady?  Wait, wait, he can't be your boyfriend yet.  He has to- has to- ask me permission first!" 

He waits, stone-faced, for her laughter to fade to snorting giggles, which takes a while because his unamused expression keeps setting her off into new fits.  When he speaks, his words are clipped and overly formal.  "You know I am heterosexual." 

Oooh, he's pissed enough to pull out the big words.  Which only increases her mirth, but she wrangles it down, forcing what she hopes is a serious expression.  Her lips keep twitching, so she knows she fails, but it's the effort that counts, right?  "Yes Castiel, I know you're straight." 

His blue eyes narrow dangerously.  "What's that supposed to mean?" 

"Wow, touchy."  Suddenly her amusement is tempered by confusion.  He's taking her teasing far more serious than he ever has before.  She's never seen him take offense to insults about his sexuality, but he's really, truly irritated this time.   

He shifts from one foot to another, and he drops his eyes to his dinner.  "Sorry." 

"Hey, I'm the one being a brat."  She kicks gently at one of his feet.  "We're cool, right?" 

He looks up at her through his lashes and he smiles a little.  "Yeah, we're cool." 

She grins at him, and his smile widens in response.  They eat in silence for a few minutes.   

When they've both finished their second slice, she finally speaks.  "So what else have you done with the place?" 

Castiel immediately perks up.  He talks about the new bathroom tile Dean helped him install, and the hole in the wall that Dean walked him through patching  He describes the new light fixtures and the fans Dean is going to help him install. 

Dean Dean Dean. 

Interesting. 

She lets him dominate the conversation while she finishes another slice of pizza, then she sets her plate aside, wipes her hands clean on a paper towel, and gives Castiel an expectant look.  "Well?  Show me the new bathroom tiles." 

A few minutes later, she's looking at the lovely diamond patterns in green and white tile while Castiel tells her about the process and everything Dean taught him.  She only listens with half an ear because she's far more interested in how animated he is.   

The question is, are his eyes so bright because he's having fun with the renovation projects, or because Dean is helping him do them? 

She's plans to find out.  She just doesn't know yet what she's going to do with the information.

 

Xxx

 

"You still here?" 

Dean looks up from the sketched design in his hands and grins up at his granddad.  "You kicking me out?" 

Henry chuckles and settles down on a stool next to Dean.  It squeals loudly, drowning out the soft music filling the workshop, when he turns it to face the workbench Dean has his furniture designs spread out over.  They both wince, and Dean refrains from suggesting WD40 since his sass will probably earn him a smack on the back of the head. 

"I'm not kicking you out yet," Henry says as he picks up a sketch of an armoire.  "I'm just curious about what's got you out here so late." 

Dean glances at the shop windows, surprised to find that it's completely dark outside.  "Oh shit." 

Henry doesn't look up from the sketch.  "I thought you were just making a bed frame." 

Dean tilts his head in the direction of a rack where he's got the headboard and footboard of Krissy's new bed frame hanging. They glisten with damp stain that he applied before he sat down to sketch out some ideas that have been itching at the back of his brain for nearly a week.  "It's almost done.  I'll apply one more coat tomorrow, then it should be ready for a clear coat." 

His grandfather nods his approval.  "Looks nice." 

"Thanks, grandpa."  Thanks to the dual influences of his dad and grandad, creating and building things is in his blood, and it's as natural as breathing to shape wood into useable furniture or piece together a car engine.  But Dean can't help swelling a little with pride at Henry's approval.   

"Who is it for?" 

Color burns under Dean's cheeks, and he coughs nervously while gathering up the rest of his sketches.  He wants to grab the one Henry is holding because it's the nicest thing he's ever designed, with scrollwork on the armoire doors and inlay designs on the drawers.  It's obvious that it's something special, and far more fancy than anything Dean would make for himself.   

He may like frills on his underwear, but he likes his furniture plain and serviceable. 

"It's, uh, just an idea." 

Henry looks up at him over the rim of his glasses.  "Mmhm." 

If possible, Dean's cheeks heat up even more.  He's going to boil out of his skin with embarrassment, but he doesn’t bother trying to cover anymore.  Henry is too smart for Dean's bullshit.  "It’s for my friend Castiel's house because it doesn’t have a closet in the master bedroom.” 

"So you're designing an armoire for her?"  Henry's eyes twinkle.  "Is she really ‘just a friend’?" 

"Him." Dean doesn't hesitate over the correction.  He’s rarely hesitates to confide in his granddad, and Henry has known since he was fifteen that he likes both men and women.  “And yeah, he’s just a friend.  He’s straight.”

He doesn’t realize how bummed about that fact that he sounds until Henry’s mouth twists down at the edges.   

Henry looks at the sketch again, rubbing a thumb over the edge of the paper.  “Well try not to give him too much of yourself if he’s not going to give you what you need in return.” 

Dean’s eyes burn a little, and he blinks a few times, glad that Henry isn’t looking at him so he has a chance to compose himself.  The fact is that he might be a little too late.  Dean’s crush doesn’t seem to be decreasing with time.  If anything it’s getting stronger, which is fucked up because he and Castiel have only hung out a few times. 

But dammit, he likes Castiel.  He’s funny, and gets excited about the things Dean likes, and he doesn’t tease Dean for liking cats.  Everyone teases Dean about liking cats, even Sam. 

And he’s gorgeous, his brain helpfully reminds him. 

When his imagination supplies him with an image of Castiel’s ass as he was bent over to patch up the hole in his dining room wall, Dean feels like his brain is being far less than helpful.  And then the memory of Castiel’s scent, sweat and coconut, surfaces and Dean thinks his brain is just being an asshole now.  When he remembers the sound of Castiel’s laugh, and the way his nose wrinkles when he smiles, and how bright his eyes shine when he’s listening to Dean, he knows for sure his brain is fucking with him. 

He shakes his head, trying to dispel the pleasant memories.  “I know, grandpa.” 

He does know.  He’s old enough to know better than to fall in love with someone he can’t have.  It’s a lesson he learned young when expressing his interest in the wrong boys left him with split lips and black eyes. 

Henry grunts, and hands the sketch to Dean.  He turns his stool with another ear splitting screech and stands up, arching his back in a stretch.  “Well you’re welcome to stay as late as you like, of course.  But lock up when you’re done, right?” 

“I’m done for the night,” Dean says, also standing.  He tucks his sketches into a folder so he can take them home with him.  There are a few he wants to show Castiel, and to get his opinion on.   

Making furniture is just a hobby, and something that he only does for close friends and family since it is time consuming and he doesn’t always have time to do it outside of his normal work hours.  The fact that he’s already designing something for Castiel sets off warning bells, but he drowns them out by repeating the mantra just friends, just friends, just friends. 

He helps Henry lock up the shop, and after hugging his granddad and promising to see him at John and Mary’s for Sunday dinner, gets in his truck and turns it toward home.  His mind drifts from one subject to the next.  Did Castiel settle on a color for his living room?  Would he prefer a chest of drawers to an armoire?  He wonders if Castiel had an easier day at work, and is tempted for the umpteenth time to text him and find out. 

I’m thinking about him too much. 

In an effort to drown out his thoughts, he turns on his stereo.  Unlike the Impala, his truck has a fancy satellite radio along with an iPod hookup.  Since he’s been hanging out with Castiel, it’s been set to an oldies playlist, and when Heat Wave by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas comes on, he turns it up.   

He doesn’t really pay attention to the lyrics at first, bopping his head to the beat.   But then he starts to sing along.

 

Whenever he calls my name

Soft, low, sweet and plain

 

Dean pauses, remembering the way Castiel’s gravely voice sounds when he says “Hello Dean”.  

 

I feel right there, I feel that burnin' flame

Has a high blood pressure got a hold on me

Or is this the way love's supposed to be?

 

He punches the next button.

 

Sugar pie honey bunch

You know that I love you

I can't help myself

I love you and nobody else

 

“Fuckin’ really?”   

Next.

 

A well, I bless my soul, what's wrong with me?

I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree

My friends say I'm actin' wild as a bug

I'm in love, I'm all shook up

 

“Betrayed by Elvis,” he grumbles as he hits next again.  “What an asshole.” 

He cycles through a few songs before he decides that he’s not in the mood for oldies anymore, and he switches it over to the radio and tunes it to a rock station.  Whitesnake’s Is This Love fills the truck’s cabin, and Dean hits the power button.   

He spends the rest of the drive in silence, which he’s not sure is any better than listening to every love song ever sung because he has nothing to distract himself from thoughts of his hot neighbor. 

His hot neighbor who is standing out on the curb next to a vaguely familiar black car, talking to someone, when Dean turns onto their road.  In the flash of his headlights, he sees Castiel and his companion look up. 

Dean recognizes Meg, and something twists painfully in his chest.  Is she there for a booty call? 

It’s none of my goddamn business. 

He can’t help wondering though. 

He parks in his driveway, and sits there for a moment with the engine running while he shores up the walls around his heart.  And it’s a good thing he does, because as soon as he turns off the truck and gets out, Castiel calls to him. 

“Dean!” 

The reinforced barriers holding his emotions in their proper place shiver at the sound of his name on Castiel’s tongue.   

He takes a bracing breath, and turns a friendly smile on his neighbor.  He strolls down his drive and across the street to stand next to Meg’s car.  “Hey, Cas.”  He turns to the small woman at Castiel’s side.  “Hey, Meg.” 

Her plump lips spread in a wide smile.  “Aw, you remember me.” 

Dean turns on the charm, because flirting with a pretty girl is second nature, even if he’s trying not to imagine her naked and entwined with the man that Dean wants for himself.  “I’ll bet you know exactly how memorable you are.”  He winks, and grins when she laughs at him.  Yeah, he’s jealous, but she really is easy on the eyes, and seems pretty cool.  She’s got a good sense of humor, anyway. 

Why can’t she be the one that makes his heartbeat speed up with anticipation?  It would be so much simpler, since he knows that she likes men.  She’s even a brunette, and he’s always had a thing for dark hair and pouty lips. 

“You bet your sweet ass I do,” she agrees.  “But it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thinks so.” 

“So what are you two crazy kids up to?” Dean asks.  He tries not to let his eyes linger when he glances at Castiel. 

Meg leans into Castiel’s side.  “I came to cheer up Mopey-pants, here.  But it turns out he doesn’t need me.” 

She eyes Dean, and he shifts under her gaze.  Her expression is calculating, and it makes him feel like she’s a scientist and he’s a lab rat that has done something interesting and unexpected. 

“I needed the pizza,” Castiel says with a serious expression.  He cracks a smile when Meg elbows him in the side, and wraps an arm around her shoulders.  “The company was good too.” 

She snorts, but doesn’t pull out of his embrace. 

Dean forces himself to breathe normally.   

Meg turns her attention back to Dean.  “Clarence was showing me the work you two did.  And he tried to get me to pick out paint for his living room, but blue is blue to me.” 

Dean’s internal interior decorator roars in protest, and he frowns.  “It’s teal, not blue.” 

Castiel’s eyes are blue.   

So is the sky.  Jesus, reign it in, Winchester. 

Meg shrugs, and brushes her hair back over her shoulder.  “Fine, teal, whatever.”  She finally moves away from Castiel’s side, and her smile is knowing when she lifts her chin in Dean’s direction.  “I’m sure you’ll help him pick the right color.  Since he apparently can’t decide on his own.” 

Something about the way she says the words confuses Dean.  She’s saying one thing, but he gets the feeling she means something else, and he’s not sure if she’s trying to give him a message or if she’s just the type of person to speak all cryptic-like for shits and giggles. 

“I am going to go with Dean’s suggestion,” Castiel says.  “He’s right, it looks good in there.” 

Dean looks away from Meg and gets snared by Castiel’s gaze.   

Blue. 

Quit. It. 

“That’s great, Cas,” he says, and he doesn’t even care if he sounds as dopey as he probably looks because he can’t stop the delighted grin that pulls at his lips.  “I’m free Saturday if you want to head over to Home Depot and pick up a few cans of paint and some rollers and shit.” 

Castiel looks as excited as Dean feels, and he leans forward a little.  “Yeah, this is my off weekend.  Do you think we could finish it?” 

Dean doesn’t even care that Castiel assumes that he’s going to help him paint his living room.  It’s true, after all.  “Oh yeah, man, definitely.” 

“Well, sounds like you two’ve got a date,” Meg cuts in.  She jingles her keys in her hands and opens her car door.  “I’m out of here before I get volunteered to help.” 

She leans up and pecks Castiel on the cheek, winks at Dean, and slides into her car too quickly for either of them to respond.  The engine starts, the headlights come on, and Dean steps up on the curb next to Castiel so he’s not in her way when she pulls away. 

Dean sneaks a look at Castiel, and his breath hitches when he sees the other man frowning at the taillights of Meg’s car dwindling in the distance.  Is he pissed about the date joke? 

It was a joke, right? 

The way Meg winked at him makes Dean wonder. 

“Don’t mind her,” Castiel says after a moment, turning to smile at Dean.  “She’s been teasing me about being gay all night.  I think she’s jealous of you.” 

“Jealous of me?  Why?”   

Castiel shrugs.  “Until I moved, I spent all my free time with her.  I don’t see her as much these days.” 

Dean curves his lips in a silent oh of understanding.  He felt very much the same way after he moved out of his parents house and didn’t get to see Sam as often.  “So, you two are pretty close, huh?” he asks. 

“She’s my best friend.” 

He shouldn’t ask.  He should not ask. 

“Just a friend?” 

Dammit! 

Castiel’s smile is wicked, and Dean’s dick perks up at the sight because it’s a fucking traitor.  “With occasional benefits.” 

Dean tries really hard not to ask his next question, but apparently his mouth is a fucking traitor too.  “You don’t think it’ll ever go anywhere past that?” 

Fuck fuck fuck, why am I doing this to myself? 

But Castiel shakes his head.  His smile fades into something wistful, and he turns to look toward the end of the street where Meg’s car disappeared several minutes before.  “I used to hope for something, but I’ve known since high school that it would never be anything more than friendship.”  He takes a deep breath and lets out a sigh.  “She doesn’t love me like that, and I don’t love her like that anymore.”   

He turns to Dean, and it’s too dark to see the blue of his eyes, but they shine in the light of Castiel’s porch light.  Dean can see utter honesty in his expression.  “She’s the closest person in my life aside from my brother.  I’m grateful to have her as my friend.” 

“What if you get a girlfriend?”  Dean hates himself for his morbid curiosity.  It’s not like knowing the answers will benefit him in any way.  “Still gonna have the benefits?” 

Castiel wrinkles his nose, and shakes his head.  “Of course not.  Meg and I fool around when I’m single, but she has never interfered with any of my romantic relationships.”  Then he surprises Dean by laughing.  “In fact, she’s always playing matchmaker and trying to find me the right girl.” 

Relief and frustration war inside of Dean.  It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, change the subject, you dumb fuck.  “I take it she has been unsuccessful.”   

“Dismally,” Castiel replies. 

Dean barks a laugh at Castiel’s hangdog expression.  He claps a hand on Castiel’s shoulder.  “Well, now you’ve got me.  Maybe I can find you a nice girl.” 

And eat a bullet, because that is the stupidest damn thing you have ever said in your life. 

Shit, he really is too far gone.  He’s passed Crushville and is barrelling full steam ahead into the City of Unrequited-Love.   

“No, thank you.”  Castiel shakes his head.  “I have a new career, and a house to renovate, and I promised Claire I’d help her study at least once a week.  My calendar is too full for dating right now.” 

Dean gives in to the feeling of relief that floods through him.  He hates himself for it, but at this point, he has the feeling he’s going to just have to buck up and deal with that.  Or stop hanging out with Castiel.  And he’s not quite ready to do that yet. 

“Hey, are you hungry?”  Castiel hooks a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the house.  “Meg brought pizza and there’s some left.” 

“Naw, man, you don’t have to feed me.” 

“It’ll just go to waste.  I’m stuffed, and I don’t like it as much microwaved.” 

Dean glances over at his house.  He’s starved because he didn’t each much for dinner before he stopped at Henry’s shop to work on Krissy’s bed frame; just a sandwich from the Gas-n-Sip where he filled his truck’s tank earlier.  But Ford and Hamill are probably feeling neglected, and he should at least check on them. 

“If you want, I can grab the pizza and bring it over for you.  I wouldn’t want Ford and Hamill to miss you,” Castiel says, correctly judging the reason for Dean’s hesitation.   

He doesn’t want Castiel to just drop off food and leave.  He wants to hang out with him a little longer, even if he really shouldn’t be staying up too late since he’s doing an early morning cabinet installation.   

“Hey, Cas?” He asks.  “Do you ever watch Dr. Sexy?” 

Castiel blinks.  “I do, although I’m behind a few episodes since I don’t have a t.v. yet.” 

“I’ve got the newest season on the DVR.  You grab the pizza, and I’ll provide t.v.  It’s a fair trade, right?” 

He can see Castiel considering his offer.  It’s getting late, and Dean knows that Castiel works early hours as well.  He’s preparing himself for a no, so he’s pleased when Castiel finally nods. 

“I’ll meet you over there?” 

“Awesome.” 

Later, after he’s learned how much he enjoys Castiel’s dry commentary on the unrealistic sex lives of fictional doctors, he almost regrets offering the invitation.  Seeing Castiel curled up in the corner of his couch, petting Ford and rolling his eyes every time there’s a dramatic swell in the music, makes Dean realize that the runaway train that his heart is riding is on a downhill slope, and he is so fucked. 

Chapter Text

"You need bookshelves," Dean grunts as he lifts one of the boxes stacked in the corner of Castiel's living room. 

Castiel winces, and eyes the pile before picking up one of the boxes himself.  He follows Dean into the dining room where they've decided to move everything until they're finished painting the living room.  "I need more than that." 

Dean puts down his box.  "Yeah, no shit.  This is a pretty big house for just one guy and two pieces of furniture." 

"I haven't found many things that I like."   

"It's not like it needs to be fancy, or anything."  Dean grins.  "You're a bachelor.  Your stuff isn't supposed to look nice until you've got a wife to decorate for you, right?"   

Castiel frowns at him.  "Don't let Meg hear you talk like that unless you want a lecture on the toxicity of forced gender rules." 

"She'd have to get in line," Dean says on the way to get another box.  "My mother would be the first one to rip me a new one." 

"Besides," Castiel points out.  "Your house is nicely decorated and you're a bachelor."  He tilts his head in thought.  Just because Dean lives alone and Cas hasn't seen anyone visit doesn't mean Dean isn't seeing anyone.  "Or are you seeing someone?  I shouldn't assume..." 

Dean passes him, carrying another box, his arms bulging with the strain.  He winks and his smile is crooked.  "Don't you worry, Cas.  I'm single and ready to mingle." 

He knows Dean doesn't mean anything by it, but the flirtation makes him blush anyway.  He hurries to move another box, and prays Dean thinks the flush in his cheeks is from exertion.   

He tries not to think about how pleased the news that Dean isn't seeing anyone makes him.  He rationalizes his feelings by telling himself he'd feel guilty for monopolizing all of Dean's time with his renovation projects.   

It’s the truth.  It’s… the truth. 

"Besides," Dean adds.  "I'm queer, so that automatically makes me good at decorating and fashion, right?" 

Castiel rolls his eyes at him.  "I doubt that stereotype is true." 

“This coming from the guy who’s taking all my decorating advice so far?” 

“Well I have yet to see any sign of fashion sense, anyway,” Castiel teases. 

Dean stops in the hallway and looks down at himself.  He's wearing ripped and stained jeans, and a faded t-shirt that looks like it's a few threads from ending up in the rag bin.  He glances up at Castiel with a sly grin.  "I may look pretty butch now, Cas, but I can give those Queer Eye guys a run for their money." 

Castiel's imagination supplies him with an image of Dean in nice clothes.  Slacks that hang perfectly over shined loafers.  A blazer over a button up shirt and tie.   

His mouth goes dry, and he's glad that Dean gets back to work moving boxes. 

They finish moving the rest of the books and the couch, and spread a drop cloth over the floor in preparation for painting the ceiling.  They'd already stopped at Home Depot for paint and supplies that morning, and Castiel had patched the small crack in the wall the night before so it’s dry and ready for primer. 

Kneeling on the floor amidst brand new paint brushes, rollers, and pans, Dean pops open a can of primer, and looks up at Castiel.  His eyes twinkle with anticipation, and Castiel can feel Dean's excitement infecting him.  "You ready to throw some paint around, Cas?" 

"As long as the majority of it ends up on the walls," Castiel responds as dryly as he can manage when his lips are twitching with the need to return Dean's smile. 

Dean laughs, and pours the contents of the bucket into a pan.  Castiel grabs one of the long handled rollers, and the work begins.   

The Temptations sing The Way You Do the Things You Do from Castiel’s iPod in its Bose speaker base out in the hall, and Dean sings along, his body bopping left and right in rhythm with the music.

 

Xxx

 

"Y'know," Dean says thoughtfully after he lowers his glass and licks the lingering droplets of water from his top lip, "you really need to fix that heat damage.  Maybe tile the area to prevent it from happening again." 

They're in the kitchen, taking a break after finishing the ceiling and two of the walls.  Castiel follows Dean's gaze to the wall behind the stove.  The paint is warped and stained just like the fan cover above the stove.  He's tried cleaning the area, but all he was able to do was remove a layer of grease that had been caked in the paint.  More than once he's wondered what exactly the previous owners were cooking to cause so much damage. 

Dean gestures at the fan cover with his half empty glass.  "You could replace that thing with a microwave and free up some counter space." 

Castiel tilts his head, examining the area and trying to picture what Dean has in mind.  The kitchen is currently painted an obnoxious shade of yellow that clashes with the pale wood of the cabinets and the pink countertops.  “The counters and cabinets have to go.” 

“Thank God,” Dean sighs.  “Seriously, if I had walked into this house and seen these colors, I would have walked right back out.” 

“It was a close thing.” 

Dean gives him a disbelieving look.  “What made you pick this place?  I mean, I know you saved some money, but was it enough to justify not buying a nicer house with less problems?” 

It's a good question, and Dean isn't the first one to ask.  Jimmy and Meg both expressed the same concern.  Especially Jimmy.  As an accountant, the thought of any lost capital on an investment practically gives him hives.  He'd tried for weeks to talk Castiel out of buying the house. 

But Castiel had felt a pull from this place.  He can see that the house itself is sturdy and just needs a little TLC.   

“It's a good house,” he answers.  “And I won't be the only one to see it when I'm done with it.”

Dean stares at him, his eyes wide with something close to awe.  It makes Castiel's skin go warm, and he shifts his weight from one foot to another to try and alleviate the pressure of Dean's gaze.  “What?” 

A slow, shy smile spreads over Dean's features.  “Nothing.  Just… you're right.  It's a good house.  I've always thought so.” 

The day started out cool and pleasant, with a nice breeze wafting in through the windows he had opened to keep the fumes from getting overwhelming, but suddenly he's sweating, and twice as thirsty as he was before they took a water break.  He works his tongue against the roof of his mouth for a moment before he remembers he's holding a glass.  He lifts it and takes a long swallow before he speaks. 

"I probably bit off more than I can chew," he admits.  He shrugs and looks around.  Just in the kitchen he can see several things that he wants to change or fix.  And every day he finds something new to add to his list of things that need to be done throughout the house.  "I didn't realize exactly how much work I'd be doing." 

Dean chuckles and slaps him on the shoulder.  "Don't worry, man.  We'll get this place in top shape and it'll be worth way more money than you put into it.  Let me know when you’re ready for new cabinets, and I’ll introduce you to the guy I get them from." 

He doesn't move his hand right away, and Castiel is hyper aware of its weight.  But instead of wanting to shrug away from the touch, he wants to lean into it.  To feel the brush of Dean's callused fingertips against the bare skin above the neckline of his t-shirt. 

The impulse confuses him, but Dean drops his hand before Castiel can react. 

"Come on, Cas.  We got more walls to primer before we can start with the fun colors." 

Castiel follows Dean back into the living room.  He's lost in thought, trying to understand his reaction to a friendly touch.  So much so that he doesn't realize he's watching Dean's ass the whole way.

 

Xxx

 

Dean does the ceiling himself since he's experienced enough to make less of a mess, although he does end up with sprinkles of white and teal in his hair and on his shoulders. 

When Castiel points it out, Dean grunts a laugh.  "Hazard of the job, man."  Just as he speaks a tiny glob of paint drips from the roller he’s using to spread teal paint across the ceiling onto the lens of his safety glasses.  He lowers the roller and pulls his glasses off, waving them in Castiel's direction.  "See?  Always use protection!” 

He waggles his eyebrows and flashes his teeth in a proud grin.   

Castiel laughs.  “I’m glad to know you’re so responsible.” 

“Hell yeah, Cas.  No glove, no love.”  Dean slides the safety glasses back on and winks at Castiel before turning back to his work. 

A tingle runs down Castiel’s spine, and his thoughts go fuzzy around the edges.  It takes a moment before he’s able to kick himself back in gear and get back to work.  He concentrates a little more than is probably necessary on painting perfectly even lines.

 

xxx

 

“I think I should replace these.” 

The first coat is drying, and Dean and Castiel have retreated to the dining room to relax on the relative comfort of the couch for a while.  Dean lifts his head from the back of the couch, and looks over at the other end to see Castiel holding the switch and outlet plates they’d removed from the living room walls before starting the project.  The plates are old and yellowed, and two are cracked.   

He barely sees them though.  Instead, he sees Castiel’s fingers.  Long and graceful, blunt at the ends with short nails that look like they’ve been properly clipped instead of chewed like Dean’s own.  It’s mesmerizing to watch them flip the plates over and over, and he wonders if there’s such a thing as a hand fetish.  He’ll have to check for porn later tonight.  Lord knows, he’s planning on jerking off to memories of Castiel’s muscles flexing under his sweat stained t-shirt anyway.  Might as well add fetish porn so he feels less guilty about ogling his neighbor. 

His straight neighbor. 

Life is so unfair. 

He forces himself to focus on what Castiel is saying instead of the way he’s playing with the crappy little pieces of plastic.  “Yeah,” he grunts.  “Those are fugly.  Need some white ones.”   

“What about the switches themselves?” Castiel asks, still examining the plates.  “They’re still kinda yellowy.  Won’t they look weird with white covers?” 

“You’re right.”  Dean hauls himself to his feet with a grunt.  “Let’s go get some new switches.  I can wire them in for you.” 

Castiel looks up, his eyes wide and startlingly blue in the sunlight coming in through the window.  “Now?” 

Dean shrugs.  “Got anything else planned?  We need to wait a little while for the paint to dry.  Might as well kill some time on other projects.” 

“I was thinking lunch would be a good idea.”  Despite his words, Castiel also stands, his body moving with an energy that indicates he’s ready for a field trip to the Home Depot again. 

“We’ll pick something up while we’re out.” 

Castiel nods.  “Let’s do this.” 

Before they leave, they go through the house and count all the outlets and switches since Castiel figures if they’re going to do one room, they might as well do them all.  Soon they’re in Dean’s truck and on their way to the store. 

“You know,” Castiel says as they pull out of the driveway.  “One of these days we should take the Impala.” 

Dean glances over at Castiel, and his heartbeat stutters.  Castiel is sprawled in the seat, one hand hanging from the Oh Shit Handle, his knees spread wide.  He seems to take up more than half the space in the truck’s cab, even though it has bucket seats and a console between them.   

On the Impala’s bench seat the only thing separating them would be air.  The tang of Castiel’s sweat would mingle with the old leather and hint of car oil, and Dean would get to see how his hair ruffles in the wind with the windows rolled down.   

He’s not sure if he can handle the experience, but now he really wants to try.   

“When we’re going somewhere other than the hardware store, we’ll take my car,” he finds himself promising.   

“Why not to the hardware store?” Castiel asks.   

“Need the truck to haul shit.” 

“We’re only getting light switches and covers.” 

Dean snorts.  “That’s what we plan on getting.  Always be prepared.” 

“Is this like no glove, no love, or were you a boyscout?”  Castiel flashes his teeth in a grin. 

“Wasn’t in the boyscouts, but my mama raised me right.”  Dean snickers.  “Although the condom lesson came from my Dad and that was awkward for all parties involved.” 

“At least it was your Dad.  My parents only believed in teaching abstinence, so I got the condom lesson from Meg.” 

Dean whips his head around to stare at Castiel.  Only years of experience and knowing the route to Home Depot so well that he could drive there in his sleep keeps him from swerving into another lane, but he quickly turns his attention back to the road because Safety First applies to more than sex and power tools.  “Please tell me this isn’t an accidental teen pregnancy story and you don’t have a kid wandering around out there that I haven’t met yet.” 

“Nothing like that.”  Castiel laughs and shakes his head.  “Her parents were better about the sex talk than mine, and gave her a couple condoms when they taught her about them.  She immediately came over to my house to show me the ‘weird penis balloons’.” 

“Oh my god,” Dean chokes on a laugh. 

“She insisted I put one on.” 

“Oh my god!  How old were you?” 

“Thirteen.” 

“You weren’t even old enough to get a boner!”  From the corner of his eye he sees Castiel give him a disbelieving look.  He laughs again.  “Okay, okay, I know that’s stupid.” 

“It was a very educational day.” 

“I’ll bet.” 

“I learned about condom use, and got my first handjob.” 

It’s stupid to be jealous of a teenaged grope and tug, but the little green-eyed demon of envy curls up right between his lungs anyway, making it hard for Dean to take a deep breath.  “Well weren’t you a lucky little bastard.” 

Castiel shrugs one shoulder.  “I was.  Too bad my brother didn’t get the same lesson.  He knocked his girlfriend up and Claire was born a few months before he turned eighteen.” 

Dean wrinkles his nose.  “Ouch.” 

“Jimmy and Amelia are still crazy in love, and we’ve got Claire to shower with love.  So it all worked out.” 

There’s so much affection in Castiel’s voice that Dean’s earlier jealousy turns into a burning craving.  He wants to know what it feels like to have someone besides family talk about him like that.  

You want Castiel to talk about you like that. 

Yeah. 

What?  No argument? 

 

He doesn’t let out the disappointed sigh trapped in his lungs, but he doesn’t think he manages to keep all the wistfulness out of his voice when he speaks.  “That’s awesome, Cas.” 

Thankfully, Castiel doesn’t seem to notice.

 

xxx

 

“Bringing your dates to Home Depot isn't very classy Dean-o.” 

Dean looks away from where Castiel is perusing the paint color palettes to find Krissy smirking at him from across the paint counter.  He wrinkles his nose at her.  “First of all, Cas isn’t into guys.  Second, I'd at least wear a clean shirt for a date.  And third, mind your own beeswax.” 

Krissy grins at him with malicious delight.  “So you do like him?” 

Boy that's an understatement.   

“Doesn't matter,” he grunts.  “Remember point number one?” 

She looks at Castiel, head tilted thoughtfully.  “You sure?” 

“Yeah, positive.”   

Someday he'll stop being disappointed about that.  Today is not that day.  But he's having such a great time hanging out with Castiel that the occasional pangs of heartache are worth it.  Even the night they had dinner and sat around with Dean's cats while watching the latest episodes of Dr. Sexy had been a lot of fun. 

That's probably the most dangerous part of his relationship with Castiel.  It's not just attraction, it's compatibility.  He feels like they click.  Their interests mesh.  Their enthusiasm for their jobs and hobbies and their love for their friends and family are on the same level.  Hell, they’re both cat people.  That should mean something, right? 

Dean can't remember feeling so well matched with any of his exes. 

But that's the thing.  He and Castiel don't match, because the physical attraction is one sided. 

And there he goes, depressing himself again. 

"I don't think you're right about that," Krissy says, interrupting his melancholy thoughts.  "I've seen you two wandering around this store a few times, and I've seen him looking at you with some pretty impressive heart eyes." 

Dean snorts and side-eyes her with a healthy dose of skepticism.  "Yeah I totally trust the gaydar of a kid half my age." 

She glares at him so hard that he knows she's imagining inflicting physical harm upon his person.  "He looks at you the same way you look at him, old man." 

"Don't you have work to do?" He immediately feels guilty for snapping at her when he sees a flash of hurt darken her expression.  He sighs and rubs a hand over his face.  "I'm sorry.  It's just..." 

Sympathy softens her eyes.  "A touchy subject.  I got it." 

"Thanks." 

She reaches out and pats his shoulder.  The gesture is awkward from lack of practice, but he leans into it, appreciating the sentiment. 

"You're a good kid." 

"Shhh, don't ruin the moment." 

Their laughter gets Castiel's attention, and Dean's heart swells a little at the sight of his curious smile.

 

Xxx

 

They grab Subway on the way home and eat it at Dean's house since he has a table and chairs.  Castiel smothers a smile every time Dean sneaks a pinch of tuna from his sandwich to Hamill even as he scolds the cat for begging.  His own feet are warm because Ford has decided to take a nap on them. 

They've got the color palette cards that Castiel picked out spread across the table between them.  Dean taps the jade greens with a finger.  "These would match the tiles in your bathroom if you want the same color scheme in both rooms." 

"I think I would like that," Castiel says around a mouthful of salami and banana peppers.  He'll need new bedding to bring it all together, but he's had his blankets since high school.  It's probably time to upgrade before they disintegrate from old age. 

Hamill goes quiet for a moment when Dean gives him a new pinch of tuna.  "You'll need to replace that water stained section above your bed before you paint.  It's warped, so slapping some color on it won't be enough to fix it." 

Castiel wrinkles his nose.  "How hard will that be?" 

"Not hard."  Dean shrugs and stuffs a few chips in his mouth.  "Jus’ gotta cut out the damaged bit and get some new drywall up there." 

"Drywall?  But it's a ceiling." 

The steady movement off Dean's chewing stops and he looks at Castiel with mild horror.  "Dude, really?" He mumbles. 

Castiel can't hold a straight face, and he cracks a laugh.  "I'm not that much of a newb.  I know what the ceiling is made of."  He doesn't admit that he only acquired the knowledge recently thanks to a Google search. 

Dean's body goes loose with relief, and he chuckles.  “For a minute I was afraid I was going to kick you out and pretend I don’t know you anymore.” 

“That would be a shame.”  Castiel pauses to sip at his Pepsi.  “You’re my only source of new Dr. Sexy episodes.” 

“I knew you were just using me for my DVR.” 

“And your fifty inch LED flatscreen.” 

“It’s 3D capable too.” 

“Even better.” 

“Well I’m glad your priorities are straight.” 

Hamill meows for more tuna, and Dean gives him some even as he rolls his eyes at the plaintive begging.

 

xxx

 

Castiel watches closely while Dean shows him how to wire in a new outlet.  It doesn’t look that hard, but he’s glad he has Dean to help him.  If he’d tried to do it on his own, he probably wouldn’t have thought to flip the breaker to the room and shut off the power.   

Wouldn’t that be a humiliating way to go?  Shocked to death because of a rookie mistake like leaving the power on while he pokes at live wires with a screwdriver.   

“You think you got it?” Dean asks even as he holds out the tools for Castiel. 

“Seems easy enough.”   

Dean grins.  “Alright, you do the other one and I’ll get the light switches.  Then we can put up the last coat of paint.” 

Castiel accepts the tools, and moves to crouch by the outlet under the front window.  Behind him he hears Dean’s footsteps rustle over the drop cloth out to the hallway.  When music starts back up, Castiel smiles.  Meg always gives him crap for listening to oldies.  It’s nice to find someone besides his father who enjoys it. 

Most of the playlist is fifties music, but he’s got some sixties and seventies on there too.  He usually keeps those eras together on a different playlist because there’s such a huge difference in the sound between the fifties and sixties.  It amazes him what the counterculture of the time did to change music.   

The Righteous Brothers ended up on this list, even if their sound is a little newer, and when a song by The Supremes trails off, the next to start is Unchained Melody.  It only takes a few notes before Castiel’s head is bouncing to the waltz beat.   

“Oh man, this is one of the best songs ever,” Dean says as he comes back in the room. 

He looks up to see Dean swaying in place, his eyes closed and his arms held out a little as if he’s waiting for a partner to join him.  He’s surprised when Dean’s eyes snap open and focus on him.   

“Dance with me, Cas.” 

Castiel blinks, and his brain function freezes in place.  Synapses stop firing, and all his cognitive centers go dark.  Dance?  With Dean?  Does not compute.

Dean holds out a hand.  “Come on.” 

“But-” Castiel looks out the window.  There’s no one on the street at the moment, and the only house he can see from here is Dean’s. 

“If you’re worried about dancing with a guy, no one is going to see, so it won’t be a blow to your masculinity.”  Dean sighs.  “I’m not gonna do anything inappropriate, I just want to dance.  It’s fun.” 

The first minute of the song is coming to an end, and Castiel can see Dean’s expression fall when he doesn’t accept right away.  Something under his ribcage twinges and it feels an awful lot like regret.  

Dean is his friend.  He flirts occasionally, but he’s never actually come on to Castiel.  And there’s nothing wrong with dancing with a friend.  He’s done it with Meg thousands of times.  Hundreds of times with his sister-in-law Amelia.  Hell, he’s even danced a few times with Jimmy when they were drunk and goofing off.   

Dancing with Dean won’t be any different than that.

Of course sometimes he and Meg landed naked in bed together after a night out dancing, but he shoves that thought roughly to the back of his mind. 

He pushes himself to his feet, and takes Dean’s hand. 

Dean’s smile is like watching the sun come out.  He pulls Castiel into his arms and starts swaying to the music again, leading them in small circles around the room.   

“It feels weird not to be leading,” Castiel says on a shaky laugh. 

“We can switch it up if it’ll make you feel better,” Dean offers playfully. 

“I think I can handle it.”   

Castiel doesn’t know where to look, so he drops his eyes to the hollow of Dean’s throat as he allows himself to be danced around the room.   

They’re not pressed against each other, but they are still very close.  Every once in a while their knees brush, and Dean’s hand is a warm weight on his hip.  Castiel silently prays for dry palms, and takes comfort in the fact that whatever God is listening to him is granting his wish.   

Dean’s shirt is soft under his hand.  His firm shoulder flexes as he moves, and Castiel finds himself fascinated with the play of muscles, even as he notices the way their other hands fit together so well that he can feel the calluses left by years of gripping tools. 

It’s not until he feels a little light headed that he realizes he’s holding his breath.  He inhales, and his chest brushes against Dean’s because they’ve gravitated closer to each other. 

Something makes him look up, and he finds himself staring into Dean’s eyes just as the music reaches it's climax.  Their movements slow throughout the last few seconds of the song until they come to a complete stop in the center of the room.   

This close, Castiel can see gold flecks in Dean’s irises.  And goodness, but he has very long eyelashes.  The kind of natural length that women threaten to sell their souls for.  And Castiel has always known that Dean has freckles, but now he notices the tiny ones along his eyelids, and the ones hiding in the laugh lines around the corners.   

He feels like he’ll start seeing constellations in them if he keeps looking long enough. 

The pause between songs is less than a few seconds, but it seems to stretch into eternity.  During those short eons, he hears Dean’s breath hitch, and for a heartbeat Castiel thinks that Dean is going to lean in and kiss him. 

And then the next song starts, and Dean’s expression brightens with excitement.  “Hey, Cas.  Do you know how to swing?” 

Castiel is confused by the question until he registers the lyrics.  

 

You broke my heart,

'Cause I couldn't dance.

You didn't even want me around,

And now I'm back, to let you know,

I can really shake 'em down.

 

He grins.  “I’m a bit rusty, but I can do it.” 

Dean returns his grin.  “Awesome.”  He steps back and takes both of Castiel’s hands in his own and pulls him into the faster paced dance.

 

Do you love me?

(I can really move)

Do you love me?

(I'm in the groove)

Now, Do you love me?

(Do you love me?)

Now that I can dance,

(Dance).

 

Watch me now!

 

It turns out that Dean is just as rusty as Castiel is, and they nearly trip over each other several times.  But the tension from the previous song is broken, and they’re both giggling like children by the time the song ends.

 

xxx

 

It’s after dinner by the time Dean makes it back to his house.  He’s got a couple slices of the pizza they ordered stacked on one of Castiel’s cheap white plates, and even though he’s stuffed to the gills from the pizza he's already packed away, he’s already looking forward to eating them cold for breakfast. 

Ford and Hamill greet him with their typical cries for attention and food, and he carefully steps through their figure eights to deposit his treasure in the fridge.  Then he picks them up and nuzzles each one for a moment before putting them back on the floor so he can get them their evening can of gooshy food. 

Once the feeding ritual is finished, he heads straight for the bathroom.  It got hot later in the afternoon, and between that and all the work they did - including painting the downstairs hall with the leftover primer and installing Castiel’s previously purchased ceiling fan in the living room - he worked up some major body funk.   

He doesn’t think about what happened after lunch.  He’s managed not to do so for hours, and he makes it all the way through showering and half of Pitch Black which had just barely started when he plopped down on the couch and started the t.v. 

He’s not sure what triggers the memory.  Maybe it’s when he sees the shift in the relationship between Fry and Riddick, or maybe there’s an expiration on denial and his time ran out before he could put some more quarters in his mental meter.  But suddenly instead of enjoying the terror on his screen and the crappy special effects, he’s seeing Castiel’s eyes come up and go wide with something like awe when they met Dean’s. 

For a the briefest moment Dean considered kissing him.  And that would have been amazing and life changing and fucked up because Castiel is straight. 

He lifts the hand he’s been using to rub between Hamill’s ears and rubs it over his face.  Behind his palm, his closed eyes sting with the threat of tears.  “God dammit,” he mutters. 

When he drops his hand, he sees Hamill looking up at him with half-lidded eyes, but his ears are turned forward and his whiskers are splayed like he’s paying ultra close attention to his human’s emotions.  Just in case he needs to up the purring volume or give him a comforting headbutt.   

“What am I gonna do, Hammy?” 

Hamill answers with a soft “mrrr?” 

Dean pets over Hamill’s face, running his fingers over his whiskers first on one side, then the other.  Hamill leans into each stroke, and sure enough the purr volume cranks up to eleven.   

Ford appears from whatever shadow he was hiding in, and jumps up on the couch next to Dean.  He braces his paws on one of Dean’s shoulders and gives him the headbutt Hamill is probably too lazy to provide.   

He’s probably just jealous of the attention Dean is giving Hamill, but at the moment it feels like he’s providing comfort.  Everything’ll be okay, Dad.  Hammy and I are here for you. 

It’s almost enough.  

Dean pretends that it is. 

Chapter Text

After the near miss kiss, Dean vows to be more careful to keep his hands to himself.  Thankfully Castiel either didn't notice his blunder or he's choosing to let it go.  They still exchange friendly greetings every morning as Castiel starts his daily run and Dean is packing his truck for work. 

Friday morning Castiel actually crosses the street to talk to him before he leaves, and Dean tries to keep his eyes from tracing the thick thighs revealed by Castiel's running shorts.  He leans on the side of the truck and waits for Castiel to approach.  "Mornin', Cas." 

Castiel's smile is as bright as the spring morning sunshine and Dean swears that the volume of the birdsong goes up.  If he starts hearing Disney music, he’s going to get his head checked.   

"Hello, Dean.  How are you?" 

"Ready to go back to bed," Dean responds with a smile of his own.  "But I have this whole adulthood thing with the bills and the job and all.  Kinda sucks ass." 

Castiel laughs softly.  "It could be worse.  You could hate your job." 

"There's days, Cas.  There's days."  Dean shakes his head ruefully, but softens his words with a wink.   

"I suppose that's true." Castiel pauses and just looks at him for a moment.  There's something warm in his gaze that Dean doesn't know how to interpret.  He speaks before Dean can ask him what's up.  "I was wondering if we can work on the ceiling in my room this weekend.  If you don't have any plans." 

His only plans had been to head over to his grandpa Henry's shop and fuck around on pet projects all day.  Maybe stop in to check on his mom and probably let his dad drag him out fishing.  But if Cas needs him, he is more than willing to clear his calendar.  Grandpa isn't expecting him, and he can still squeeze in dinner with his mom and dad Sunday night. 

He realizes that it's somewhat pathetic that he's so eager to spend time with Castiel that he'd blow off other plans, but with an internal sigh he accepts his weakness and goes with it.  "Sure, Cas.  When do you want to pick up the materials?" 

"Could we do it tonight?" 

Dean goes over his workload in his head.  As long as everything goes off without a hitch he should actually be able to get home at a decent hour.  He nods.  "I should be home by six." 

Castiel beams at him, and Dean really hates it when he does that because his pulse always goes wonky when Castiel looks at him like he's some kind of hero or something.  "Thank you, Dean.  I'll see you tonight then." 

"Yeah, Cas.  See you tonight." 

Now that he has something to look forward to, the day is going to drag ass.  

 

xxx

 

Sam scratches Trixie's chin, and grins when the office cat's green eyes close, and she purrs for him.  "Morning, sweetheart," he murmurs.  He's glad she's forgiven him for using her to demonstrate how to administer fluid shots the previous day.  He wasn't sure she would when she turned her nose up to the extra can of wet food he'd offered her. 

The food bowl is empty now though, so she obviously wasn't mad enough to forgo the treat completely. 

The door opens, and Sam looks up to see Castiel bustle through.  He's always seemed like a morning person, but today there's an extra bounce in his step and he's humming. 

He's also carrying a cardboard holder full of Starbucks, and Sam perks up at the scent of coffee.  "Morning, Cas." 

Castiel sets the holder down on the counter and picks out a large coffee that he holds out to Sam.  "Good morning." 

"Thanks."  Sam lifts the cup to his nose and the sweet scent makes him grin.  He takes a long sip and sighs happily at the rich flavor.  He eyes Castiel as he also greets Trixie with chin scritches.  "You seem like you're in an extra good mood today." 

Castiel practically beams.  "Dean is going to help me repair some water damage this weekend, and we’re probably going to do some more painting." 

Sam's eyebrows go up.  He's not surprised Dean is going to spend part of his weekend helping Cas with his house, but he didn't expect Castiel to be so excited about it.  He remembers how much work Dean had him doing on his house, and most of the time it left him exhausted. 

"I have already picked out colors for the master bedroom and the dining room.  I’m still waffling on what colors I should do in the kitchen," Castiel continues.  He is busy going over a chart he grabbed from the pile left out overnight for their kenneled guests, and doesn't notice the way Sam is staring at him.  "It’s in pretty bad shape.  Dean says it'll need an overhaul before it's ready for new paint, but we can at least plan out the color scheme now." 

It's difficult to refrain from pointing out that they sound like a married couple, but Sam doesn't want to offend Castiel.  He likes the guy, and would like to consider him as a friend, but he doesn’t know him well enough to tease him about his relationship with Dean.  He doesn't know enough about the relationship at all.  What if he's straight and takes offense?  What if he's carrying a torch for Dean, but isn't comfortable talking about it?   

He doesn't want to open that can of worms just yet so he settles on a safer topic.  "Just make sure he doesn't spend more than you can afford on all that stuff." 

Castiel nods, and flips through a second folder.  "We went over my budget.  With his contractor discounts I'll have enough money to do more than I originally planned."  He frowns over something on the chart.  "Has Bobo responded to this treatment at all?" 

Holy shit, Sam thinks.  Dean is really going all out for Castiel.   

He blinks and focuses on Castiel's question.  "Uh, yeah.  I checked on him, and he's definitely looking more alert." 

Castiel grins.  "That's great news.  I'll have Hael call his owners today." 

His words seem to summon the young vet tech because the bell over the door chimes and Hael comes in.  Castiel immediately turns his attention to her, offering her coffee and asking her about her weekend plans. 

Sam greets her with a smile and a nod and retreats into the back with the excuse that he’s going to check on the kennels again.  He pulls out his phone and taps out a message to his wife. 

I think Dean has met his soulmate. 

Jody’s message comes back quickly.  She’s probably still going through her morning emails.  A brunette with a large set of “power tools”? 

Sam snorts a laugh and his thumbs fly over the screen.  Well he IS a brunette. 

There’s a long pause as he waits for her reply.  He almost gives up, assuming work has stolen her attention, but his phone buzzes in his hand.  So he has the sexy kind of drill, huh? 

Even the most lethargic animal in the kennels lifts its head to look at Sam when he laughs this time.  He leans to the side just enough so he can see through to the front desk where Castiel and Hael have their heads bent over a file, and his humor fades a little.  He sends off another message.  I don’t know if they’re actually more than friends.  But Castiel is always talking about him like he hung the moon. 

Has Dean said anything about Castiel? 

Sam shakes his head, even though Jody can’t see him.  Honestly, I’ve barely heard from him since he met Cas. 

That may be your sign.  Anyway gotta go.  Conference call.  <3 

Sam responds with a kiss emoji and pockets his phone.  Footsteps announce Castiel’s presence as he enters the back room just as Sam’s phone buzzes again.  He pulls it out quickly and sees one more message from Jody. 

You should see if Castiel likes to sing. 

His wife is a genius.  “Hey Cas,” he says as he slides his phone back in the pocket of his smock.  “What are your thoughts on Karaoke?”

 

xxx

 

When Dean pulls into his drive after work, he finds Castiel already outside, but he's not alone.  Meg's little black Honda is parked at the curb in front of Castiel's house, and the two of them are sitting on Castiel's porch, shoulders leaned against each other. 

When he gets out of the truck, Dean sees Meg pass a cigarette to Castiel who takes a deep drag before passing it back. 

Dean wishes he didn't find it dead sexy to see Castiel blow out a long stream of smoke.   

"I didn't know you smoked," Dean says by way of greeting as he approaches them. 

"You're not one of those 'don't poison my air' types, are you?"  Meg doesn't wait for an answer before wrinkling her nose and looking at Castiel.  "If he is, you can't keep him, Clarence.  We'll have to abandon him out on a deserted country road so he can fend for himself in the wild." 

Castiel only rolls his eyes at her, and answers Dean instead.  "I've never bought a pack of cigarettes for myself, so technically I don't smoke." 

"I don't think that's how it works, Cas," Dean says on a laugh. 

"Don't let him fool you."  Meg smirks and flicks the cigarette butt at Dean's feet.  "He used to smoke like a chimney.  It just wasn't tobacco." 

"Meg!  Why would you tell him that?” 

Dean snuffs the burning cherry under his boot and laughs at the mix of fear and mortification on Castiel's face.  "Had a love affair with Mary Jane, huh, Cas?" 

Castiel flushes and looks down at his feet.  "It was a long time ago," he mutters. 

"Since college," Meg adds.  "Too long, if you ask me.  We should have a party if I can find a hook up." 

Castiel's shoulders hunch a little.  "I don't think that's a good idea, Meg."  He casts a quick glance up at Dean before focusing on his own shoes. 

Like he's worried about what Dean thinks.  Dean laughs and nudges Castiel's foot with his own until Cas looks up at him.  "I've got a guy.  Invite me to the party and I'll make the call." 

Castiel blinks up at him.  "You smoke weed?" 

Dean shrugs. "Once in a while.  Only if I've got a long weekend planned.  It's not a good idea to be stoned around all the power tools I use for work." 

"Awesome!"  Meg bumps against Castiel with her shoulder.  "Ok, you can keep him.  As long as he doesn't piddle on the carpet." 

"Hey, I'm house trained," Dean protests.  He gives her an exaggerated pout when she lifts a skeptical eyebrow in his direction. 

Castiel's blush finally fades and he shakes his head at them and pushes to his feet.  "I'll think about it.  But definitely not tonight.  Dean and I are going to pick up stuff to fix the ceiling in my room." 

Meg bounces up to her feet next to him.  Dean's eyes are drawn to her chest, enjoying the literal bounce.  "Great, let's go." 

Dean's eyes snap back up.  "You're coming?" 

He nearly winces when the words are out of his mouth.  He sounds like a little boy that doesn't want to invite a girl into his fort. 

It's because you want Cas to yourself. 

He ignores the thought. 

She smiles at him, and he swears he doesn’t believe in psychics, but he's almost afraid she might have read his mind.  "Don't worry, Dean-o.  I won't get in the way of all your manly fun."  The way her eyes twinkle makes 'manly fun' sound purely euphemistic.  She links an arm through Castiel's and leans into him.  "But I miss my bestie, so I'm tagging along." 

Dean feels a little bit guilty for monopolizing so much of Castiel's time lately.  Castiel has friends and family, and he still has to study sometimes.  And he probably has hobbies outside of fixing broken houses.  Dean's seen his collection of books.  Has he had any leisure time to just sit and enjoy reading lately? 

He runs a hand over the back of his neck.  "You know, Cas, if you wanna hang out with Meg we can wait-" 

"Hell no," Meg cuts in.  "I want to see what the big deal is about all this renovation stuff.  And I want to get to know Clarence's new boy toy." 

Castiel blushes, but doesn't scold her for calling Dean his boy toy, a fact that Dean squirrels away to ponder later when he's in the mood to torture himself.  He turns wide eyes to Dean.  He doesn't say anything but Dean can see the question in his expression.  You don't mind, do you? 

He's a little jealous of Meg's friendship with Castiel, but Dean truly doesn't mind.  If Meg is Castiel's best friend then Dean wants to get to know her too.  He turns until he can offer an arm to Meg as well.  "Well come on then.  Let's go to the toy store." 

Meg snorts a laugh but she slips a hand into the curve of his elbow  "Gonna buy me dinner first, big guy?" 

"Not those kind of toys, Meg," Castiel says with a laugh. 

Dean waggles his brows at Cas over Meg's head, easily done since she barely comes up to his shoulder.  "You'd be surprised what kind of stuff you can find in a Home Depot if you're creative enough." 

Castiel goes beet red and Meg laughs all the way to Dean’s truck.

 

Xxx

 

Meg is actually good company, and Dean is glad she tagged along.  Her sense of humor is sly and littered with innuendo, and it's easy to slip into flirting with her.  She teases Castiel just as much as she pokes at Dean, and it brings out a side of Castiel that Dean has only caught glimpses of. 

Castiel's mind is downright filthy, and he gleefully joins Meg in a game of How Can This Random Object Be Used As A Sex Toy.  By the time they have the cart loaded with the materials they need, Dean knows that he's either going to need a nice long session with his own set of toys or to drown himself in cold water after he goes home. 

Afterwards Meg suggests hot wings for dinner, and they stop at the Wing Coop. 

When they're standing in line to place their orders, Meg jabs Dean in the side with an elbow.  "Do you like it hot, Dean?" 

He looks down to find her watching him with barely suppressed glee, and he narrows his eyes at her.  "I'm not afraid of a little heat." 

She doesn't so much as bat an eye, but her whole body suddenly radiates anticipation.  "Yeah?  You think you're man enough to try the Eleven challenge?" 

Dean has done his share of stupid dares.  He's lost count of how many injuries he's received during his and Sam's childhood Dare Wars, and he's been stupid drunk enough to let Jo use him for knife throwing practice more than once.  But he is older now and he likes to think that means he's wiser, and he remembers Castiel's story about the Eleven sauce.  “Sweetheart, if you’re questioning my masculinity to get me to do something stupid, I’ll have to disappoint you.  I don’t fall for that shit.” 

She purses her lips in disappointment, but then her grin comes right back.  “Secure in your manly masculinity, huh?” 

Dean nods once.  “Hell yeah.” 

“I believe you.”  She shuffles a little closer, and he feels one of her fingers hook into the waistband of his pants.  “It takes a real man to wander around wearing these.” 

The lace against his skin shifts when she tugs at it, and Dean’s cheeks go up in flames.  “Uh…” 

“What cut are they?” Meg asks.   

Castiel is ahead of them in line, placing his order, so thankfully he doesn’t hear Meg’s words.

 Dean swallows, then licks his lips.  “Boyshorts,” he says after a moment of contemplating whether taking the Eleven challenge will be enough to kill him and put him out of his misery.   

“Really?  Holy shit, I think I’m wearing the exact same pair.”  Dean’s eyes swing down to Meg’s and she laughs at his expression.  “Cool your jets, Dean.  I think your little fetish is awesome.” 

Before he can respond, Castiel turns back to them.  “Have you decided what you want?” 

Meg steps up next to him and orders, and Dean follows suit.  They sit down at the table and Meg gets Castiel talking about his plans for the house.  Slowly Dean relaxes when he realizes she’s not going to tease him anymore, and he lets himself get pulled into the conversation.   

It’s hard not to when Castiel gets so excited.  Dean loves the way his eyes go wide, and he waves his hands around like he’s trying to paint a picture of the images in his head for everyone else to see.  Plus his enthusiasm is contagious, and by the time their wings come out to the table Dean is able to forget about Meg’s discovery.

 

xxx

 

“Well boys,” Meg says when Dean backs his truck into Castiel’s driveway so it’ll be easier to unload the drywall into his garage.  “It’s been fun, but I’m going to head out.” 

Castiel’s smile dims.  “Already?” 

She leans forward from the back seat and pats Castiel’s cheek.  “Dean here’ll keep you entertained.  I’m going to go see if I can find myself a some action tonight.” 

Dean expects Castiel to show a little jealousy since he and Meg obviously have a physical relationship.  But he just rolls his eyes and smiles at her fondly.  “Well, don’t let me keep you from the hunt.” 

“Never,” Meg responds with an imperious lift of her chin.  She reaches for the door and pushes it open, then slides down to land lightly on her feet.  “Hey Clarence?  Wanna walk a lady to her car?” 

Castiel looks at Dean.  “I’ll be right back.”  He gets out of the truck, and Dean loses sight of him when he closes the door.   

Dean gets out as well, and comes around the front of the truck to see that Castiel and Meg have almost reached her car.  They stop in the street next to the driver’s side door, and Castiel bends down to give her a hug.  She whispers something in his ear that makes him chuckle, and makes paranoia stab through Dean’s gut.  Is she telling him something about Dean? 

His legs feel stiff, and his fingers curl into fists.  He forces his fingers to relax.  Castiel isn’t whirling around to look at Dean in shock or horror, so she can’t possibly be talking about him. 

He hopes. 

Meg let’s Castiel go, and turns her attention to Dean.  She wiggles her fingers at him in a wave before disappearing into her car. 

Castiel strolls back towards Dean, and doesn’t look back as she pulls away from the curb.  “Well, it seems like you’ve passed the test.” 

“Test?” Dean’s eyebrows go up.  “What test?” 

“The IQ test,” Castiel replies with a grin that wrinkles his nose.  “You turned down her dare.” 

Dean snorts.  “You told me how hot those Eleven wings are.” 

“Did you tell Meg that?” 

“No.” 

Castiel shrugs and tucks his hands in his pockets.  “Then you still passed.  She doesn’t need to know that you were warned.  Besides, some people would be dumb enough to take the dare even with forewarning.” 

Confused, Dean folds his arms over his chest.  “So what does it mean that I passed?” 

Castiel’s grin widens.  “She says I can keep you.” 

Dean knows the words are meant as a joke.  Meg had been making puppy jokes about him all evening.  But that doesn’t stop his heartbeat from kicking up.  If only Castiel really did want to keep him.   

I’d roll over and let him rub my belly any time. 

Oh god, did I really just think that? 

Dean coughs and tries to ignore everything he’s ever learned about puppy play.  He didn’t know what that website was when Ash emailed him the link.  And he didn’t jerk off to the idea of wearing a collar and leash.  Nope. 

“Well, uh… that’s great, Cas.  I’m glad to know I’ve got her approval.” 

“You better watch out,” Castiel teases.  “She might try to seduce you.” 

Dean blinks.  “What?  Really?” 

“She says you’re ‘too pretty not to bang’,” Castiel responds with actual finger quotes, the dork. 

“Huh.  Well I’m flattered, I guess.”  He is.  Meg is damn hot herself, and it’s a nice ego boost to know that she’s into him.   

He’s also not interested.  If he didn’t know Castiel?  Hell yeah, he’d be all over that.  But if he’s being honest with himself-  Honesty?  With yourself?  Is it a blood moon?  Solar eclipse?  Have the planets aligned? -he hasn’t been interested in anyone since the day he met Castiel.  And that’s a problem he doesn’t know what to do about yet. 

No, he’s not interested in having sex with Meg.  Besides his infatuation with Castiel, there’s also the matter of her relationship with the man himself.  “Wouldn’t that be awkward?” Dean asks.  “I mean, you two, uh… have your thing, right?” 

Castiel shrugs.  “I told you before, Meg and I are just friends.  If you’re interested in her, you’re welcome to accept whatever she offers.  I don’t mind.” 

“Yeah, but you…” Dean trails off, unsure why he’s arguing. 

Scratch that, he knows exactly why.  He hates it that Castiel doesn’t seem jealous at all.   

Not jealous over me. 

And why should he be?  He’s not into guys.  He’s not into you. 

Okay, it is definitely time to change the subject because he’s starting to get depressed, and that never leads to anything good.  He shuffles his feet and hooks a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the truck.  “So, we should get that stuff unloaded.  Do you want to just stick it in the garage for the night?” 

Castiel’s head tilts and he stares hard at Dean for a moment, like Dean is a puzzle he’s trying to put together without a picture to guide him.  It makes Dean want to retreat and hide himself away, because he’s afraid that if Castiel looks too closely he’ll see something that Dean doesn’t want revealed.  Like the fact that he’s starting to suspect he might be head over heels for the guy. 

He’s about to break, to make an excuse to cut the evening short.  But Castiel finally shakes his head a little and looks away.  “Let’s take it upstairs to my room,” he says.  

Grateful that Castiel accepted the change in subject, Dean relaxes a little and smiles.  “Sounds good, let’s do it.” 

Castiel goes to unlock his front door while Dean opens the truck’s tailgate.  They picked up three large pieces of drywall in case there’s damage that needs to be repaired that they can’t see until they start cutting away the ceiling.  Dean can easily carry the weight of all three, but they’re unwieldy and he’s worried about getting them through the door and up the stairs without damaging them so he only grabs one for now. 

He follows Castiel to the door, stepping carefully up onto the porch.  The top stair creaks dangerously under his foot, and he makes a mental note that he’s going to make Castiel put the porch steps at the top of his to do list.  They can probably take a look at them the next day after they’re done repairing the bedroom ceiling.  Of course at some point he’s also got to get up on the roof and check the damage.  It won’t do much good to repair the bedroom ceiling if a rainstorm comes through and undoes all their hard work because the roof still leaks.  But the weather forecast doesn’t have any predictions of rain for at least the next ten days, so if the sun sticks around at least that long he can get the steps fixed first so no one risks their neck just walking into the house anymore. 

Castiel holds the door open for him, and Dean brushes against him as he passes.  He bites his lip when goosebumps raise up over his skin at the contact.   

Maybe he should take Meg up on the offer of sex if she makes it.  He’s been trying to take the edge off his hunger for Castiel with masturbation (a lot of masturbation; he’s lucky he hasn’t injured himself), but it’s obviously not working.  Maybe a warm body is what he needs to stave off the cravings. 

He makes it up the stairs and leans the piece of drywall against the wall in Castiel’s bedroom, and he hears steps behind him.  Castiel carefully maneuvers his piece of drywall through the door, and Dean backs out of his way so he can stack it with the other one. 

He’s been in Castiel’s room plenty of times before, so there shouldn’t be anything special about it.  But for some reason Meg’s flirting and Castiel’s assertion that she might try to get in his pants has made him a little more sensitive to his body’s needs, and even though the room is large, he feels claustrophobic in there.  

“I’ll get the last one,” Dean says before slipping out of the room.   

Putting space between himself and the object of his lust doesn’t help.  He still feels like he can’t quite breath.

 

xxx

 

The room feels empty after Dean walks out.  Empty of light, empty of air.  He takes it all with him as soon as he disappears through the doorway, and Castiel’s shoulders sag.  He rubs a palm over his chest, and tries to understand where the ache is coming from. 

It had been a pleasant surprise when Meg had shown up on his doorstep, and spending the evening with her and Dean and watching them tease each other about power tools and how they could be used as sex toys had been the highlight of his evening. 

Well, winning the How Can This Random Object Be Used As A Sex Toy game had really been the best part.  The way Dean’s eyes had widened when they passed through the plumbing aisle and Castiel had picked up a drain snake and asked Meg whether she thought there was enough lube in the store to make it a fun toy had made them all laugh so hard that a store employee had come to check and make sure someone wasn’t having some kind of seizure. 

But something in Dean’s mood had changed after Meg left, and Castiel can’t figure out what happened.  He’d seen Dean checking Meg out more than once, and they’d had their heads together whispering about something that made Dean blush when they were at the Wing Coop.  He thought that Dean would be glad to know that Meg is interested in him. 

Castiel can’t tell what he thought of Meg’s interest.  As soon as he mentioned it, Dean’s expression closed off.  His normally expressive features went blank, and his eyes had gone dull. 

And the ache that had started under his ribcage when Meg had grinned and said “he’s too pretty not to bang” had increased tenfold.   

Footsteps announce Dean’s return, and Castiel turns quickly to watch him enter the room, carrying the large piece of drywall far more gracefully than Castiel had managed.  His green eyes are focused as he concentrates on getting it through the door without damaging it, and his body bends easily under its weight. 

For some reason the ache in Castiel’s chest intensifies again, and he finds it hard to breath. 

He really is beautiful, he thinks.  It’s something that he wouldn’t admit out loud.  He has had the same thought about other men, but he always keeps it to himself because it would give people the wrong idea.  He’s not attracted to men, he just finds them aesthetically pleasing sometimes. 

Dean is definitely a divine work of art, and Castiel would have to be blind not to notice. 

“Alright, so I’d better get home and feed the boys before they start tearing up the house,” Dean says after he settles the drywall against the others.  He turns to grin at Castiel, a crooked twist of his lips that makes him look like he knows a naughty secret.  “What time do you want to get started in the morning?” 

It’s just after nine, and Castiel is disappointed that Dean won’t be staying later.  But they can’t really get started working on anything now or they’ll be up all night.  And he doesn’t really have any other ways to entertain a guest. 

He makes a mental note to go t.v. shopping sooner rather than later. 

“I’ll probably be up early,” he says.  “So whenever you want to get started.  I’ll make breakfast if you come over before nine.” 

Dean grins, and some of the brightness that had disappeared from his eyes shines through again.  “I’m not gonna say no to food.” 

Castiel chuckles, and it feels like relief.  “I’ll definitely make it worth your time.” 

“Deal.”  Dean stares at him for a moment, the crooked smile still playing about the edges of his lips.  He looks like he’s trying to memorize something, and Castiel can’t bring himself to break the moment and disturb Dean’s concentration. 

Finally, Dean blinks and seems to shake himself slightly.  “Alright, well I’ll head out then.” 

“I’ll walk you out,” Castiel says. 

Dean nods, and passes Castiel to make his way downstairs.   

Castiel catches the scent of sawdust and sweat, and his breath catches.  He forces himself to breathe normally, and then follows the other man out of the room and down the stairs. 

He isn’t ready to spend the rest of the night alone, so he decides to follow Dean out of the house to walk with him at least to the street in order to prolong the evening.  Dean is a few feet ahead of him, and Castiel hurries to follow him down. 

When his weight settles on the top step of the porch, the wood let’s out an ominous squeal, and before he can shift down to the next step it collapses underneath him with a loud crack.  Wood shards tear into his leg, and he barely hears Dean shout his name over his own agonized cry. 

Chapter Text

The sound of splintering wood has Dean turning even before he hears Castiel yell.  Time slows, and he watches with horror as the top step collapses under Castiel.  It's only a drop of a few feet, but he sees the shards of rotten wood dig into Castiel's leg before it disappears from view. 

And then everything speeds back up and Dean is running back to the porch.  "Cas!" 

Castiel looks up at him, his eyes squinted with pain.  He tries to lift himself up out of the debris, but he stops immediately.  He makes a small pained noise that Dean is afraid he'll never forget.  "I believe I'm stuck," he pants through clenched teeth. 

Panic tries to claw its way up Dean's throat.  He swallows it down and lays gentle hands on Castiel's upper arms.  "Don't move, Cas.  I'll get you out of there." 

It's too dark to see what he needs to do, so Dean squeezes his arms lightly before stepping away.  "I'm going to turn on the porch light, okay?"  He waits until Castiel nods his agreement before letting him go and hopping up onto the porch from next to the broken stairs.   

It only takes him a moment to find the light switch and then he comes back.  His breath freezes in his lungs when he sees a dark shadow on Castiel's leg that looks suspiciously like blood.  He forced himself to keep moving and to stay calm.  He's seen worse injuries on the job, but seeing Castiel hurt is hitting him a lot harder. 

It's because this is my fault. 

His fingers tremble as he slides a hand down around Castiel's ankle.  He has to bend over him, close enough to breathe in his scent, but he can't savor it because he's too focused on getting Castiel's foot worked free.  He pulls away one of the broken boards and Castiel lets out a relieved breath.   

Dean wants to share the sentiment but he can see the damage to Castiel's leg better.  The ragged edge of the board had scraped up under Castiel's pant leg and lacerated the skin.  "Put your arm over my shoulder and I'll lift you up," he says far more calmly than he feels. 

Castiel obeys, and Dean gets a hold around his chest with both arms.  He grunts as he flexes his thighs.  Castiel is not a small man, and the angle Dean is trying to lift him from is not ideal, but he is strong from years of working with heavy building materials and it's only a matter of seconds before he's got Castiel free of the broken steps and settled on the porch next to him. 

"We bought the wrong supplies." Castiel let's out a wheezy chuckle.  "Probably should have fixed those steps a while ago." 

"Fuck, Cas, I am so sorry."  The tremble in Dean's body is starting to affect his voice.   

Castiel had started pulling up the hem of his pants to assess his injuries, but he looks up at Dean.  "Why are you sorry?" 

"It's my fault." 

Castiel's eyes narrow in confusion.  "What?" 

"I've known for a while those steps were dangerous," Dean continues, not noticing Castiel's consternation because his eyes are glued to the bloody skin Castiel is revealing. "I should have fixed them already." 

"Dean." Castiel gets his attention with no more than a brush of his fingers against Dean's shoulder.  His features are pinched with pain, leaving the skin around his lips white and deepening the lines around his eyes.  "It's not your fault.  I knew those steps were bad, too." 

"But I should have said something," Dean insists.  

"I shouldn't have distracted us with paint colors," Castiel argues right back.  "It's not your fault."

"But-" 

Castiel cuts him off.  "How about you go get me a towel and the ice pack out of the freezer and we can hash this out on the way to the hospital?" 

The panic Dean has been holding at bay scrambles for freedom, digging at his ribs from the inside and making it hard to breathe.  "Fuck, should I call 911?" 

Castiel wraps long fingers around one of his wrists, his thumb rubs small circles over his pulse, and the band around Dean's lungs loosens.  "You don't need to call 911," he says soothingly.  "But I'm pretty sure my foot is sprained, so I need the ice pack.  I doubt I need stitches, but I definitely need a Tetanus shot so I need to go to the hospital." 

Dean looks into Castiel's eyes, and the placid blue helps him fight back the panic again.  He forces a smile.  "Sorry, Cas.  I'll be right back." 

It takes him a few minutes to find a towel in the upstairs linen closet, and he grabs an ice pack from the kitchen before he hurries back outside.  Castiel is still where he left him, but he's worked the shoe off his foot and is holding his palm tightly over the worst gash.  Dean flinched at the sight, but doesn't hesitate to kneel down next to him.  Castiel talks him through wrapping the towel, with the ice pack bundled inside it, around his ankle and foot so it's staunching the flow of blood while also applying cold to the swelling area. 

"Can you walk?" Dean asks when he's done. 

"I guess we'll find out." 

It turns out he can barely stand.  He cries out and stumbles against Dean as soon as he tries to put weight on his foot. 

That's easy enough to solve.  Dean makes Castiel sit back down then hops down to the grass and holds out his arms. 

"You can't carry me," Castiel protests. 

Dean grins at him.  "Wanna bet?" 

Castiel eyes him for a moment as if he's seriously considering it.  Then he chuckles and shakes his head.  "No, actually I don't.  I've seen you carry some heavy shit." 

"That's right."  He flicks his fingers, beckoning Castiel to come closer.  "Come on, princess." 

Castiel gives him an unamused look for the nickname but he scoots closer to the edge of the porch.  Dean hooks one arm under his knees and another around his back.  Castiel wraps both arms around Dean's neck, bringing their faces close.  His breath still smells faintly spicy from the hot wings he ate at dinner, and Dean shouldn't find that sexy, but he totally does.  If the situation wasn't so dire, he'd want to sneak a taste of Castiel's lips. 

Well, and if Castiel wasn't straight.   

He ignores his disappointment and lifts Castiel.  He's as heavy as Dean expects a six foot man to be, but nothing Dean can't manage.  However, Dean is probably not going to be able to lift him up into his truck.  So he turns and heads to his house across the street instead. 

"Where are we going?"  Castiel's breath is warm against Dean's cheek. 

"A princess needs a proper carriage," Dean teases. 

"I will bite your ear off, Dean." 

The thought of Castiel's teeth against his earlobe sends desire zinging through him, but Dean laughs through it and winks at Castiel before carefully settling him on his feet on the driveway, holding him carefully upright so he doesn't need to put any weight on his injured foot.  He pulls out his keys and thumbs the button to open his garage.  The door rises slowly, revealing his Baby's glossy black surface an inch at a time.  He glances at Castiel and grins at the other man's enthralled expression.  "It's going to be a bitch for you to get in and out of my truck, so we're taking my car." 

Castiel actually licks his lips. 

Dean understands the sentiment. 

He sweeps Castiel back into his arms, gently so he won't hurt his foot, and carries him into the garage.  He sets him down again next to Baby's passenger door, and opens it for him.  Castiel is able to seat himself, although he winces when he accidentally puts weight on his foot, and Dean rounds the car's hood to settle himself in the driver's seat. 

When the engine roars to life, he glances at Castiel and finds him grinning widely.  "I never would have pegged you for a car guy with the car you drive." 

"Shut up, I like my car."  There's no heat in Castiel's voice.  At least not the kind brought on by anger.  He sounds a little turned on though, and his hands caress the leather of the seat.  He inhales, and his eyelids drop to half mast.  "But a ride in this beauty is worth a broken foot." 

Dean swallows thickly.  The rough timbre of Castiel's voice rubs against him in all the right ways, and Dean wishes for the millionth time that fate were less cruel.   

Maybe I should sell my house and move away from this torture. 

He has the sneaking suspicion that it might be too late for such drastic measures to do him any good. 

Pushing the thought aside, he forces a grin and starts to back out of the garage.  "Alright, alright, keep it in your pants.  Baby is a lady." 

Castiel’s smile is still strained from pain, but it’s genuine.  It makes Dean breathe a little easier. 

The trip to the hospital is uneventful, and even the time they spend in the emergency room isn’t too bad.  It’s slow for a Friday night, for which Dean is grateful, although it still takes about an hour for a doctor to see Castiel. 

It turns out he does need a few stitches, but nothing is broken.  Castiel is released back into the wild with a Batman bandaid over where they gave him his Tetanus booster, four stitches, and a pair of crutches. 

He’s also loopy from whatever pain killers they gave him.  Back in the Impala, he punches buttons on the radio until he figures out how to turn it on.  He starts fiddling with the dial trying to find a station that he likes, but he’s turning it too fast to really catch more than a snatch of noise through the static between the frequencies.   

Dean could help him, but he’s too busy trying not to laugh at Castiel’s befuddled expression. 

“I think your radio is broken,” Castiel slurs after a few minutes. 

“I think you’re broken,” Dean counters with a chuckle.  He points to a box on the floor near Castiel’s feet.  “Why don’t you put in a tape?” 

Castiel grabs the box and his eyes go wide.  “Wow, Sam wasn’t kidding about your ancient music collection.”  He pulls out a tape and flips it over to read the hand printed label.  “Who even owns tapes anymore?”

“Shut up and pick one, Gimpy.” 

“Be nice to me,” Castiel says as he goes through the tapes, squinting at each label before putting it carefully back in its place.  He pulls out a mixtape and pops it into the stereo.  “I’m practically crippled.” 

Guilt dims Dean’s humor.  Dean had been so busy panting after him like a puppy that he hadn’t done his job and advised Castiel to get the porched steps fixed before working on anything else.  Castiel probably won’t be able to walk easily for several days at least because of his fuck up.   

He pulls his lip between his bottom teeth as the strains of a guitar solo spills from the Impala’s speaker.  “Cas, I’m really-” 

“Stop apologizing,” Castiel cuts in.  He turns up the volume a little bit.  “You’ll ruin the song.” 

He leans back in the seat and his head bobs along to the beat.  His lips move along with the lyrics of Simple Man, although he doesn’t really sing. 

Dean sighs and lets it go.  Castiel refuses to acknowledge that the accident was anyone’s fault, and Dean has other ways he can make it up to him.  One of which is playing nurse, at least for tonight.   

He waits until he’s pulling into his garage to broach the subject.  He turns off the car, and turns to Castiel, draping an arm over the back of the seat.  “It’s probably not a good idea for you to try and get up and down the stairs in your house tonight.” 

Castiel wrinkles his nose, and glares down at his bandaged foot.  “I guess I’ll be sleeping on the couch.” 

“Not your couch.” Dean smiles when Castiel looks up at him in confusion.  “Mine has a pull out bed, and I’ve got a bathroom on the main floor so you won’t have to deal with stairs if you need to take a leak in the middle of the night.” 

A single dark brow goes up, and Castiel tilts his head.  “Are you asking me to spend the night?” 

It sounds far less innocent than it is, and the little voice in Dean’s head is whispering all kinds of encouragement that he avidly ignores.  “It would make me feel better if you weren’t alone, at least for a night.” 

Castiel takes a deep breath, and lets it out in a long sigh.  “You’re probably right, but you don’t need to take care of me.  I could call Meg, or my brother.” 

Dean reaches out and rests his hand on Castiel’s shoulder.  “Please, Cas?  I feel guilty as fuck, and I want to make it up to you.” 

“It’s not your fault, Dean.” 

He knows Castiel isn’t going to let him shoulder the blame, no matter how much he deserves it, so he plays along.  “Okay, fine.  It’s not my fault.  But you’re already here, and I really don’t mind watching over you tonight.  Besides, I have cats, and they have magical healing properties.” 

Castiel laughs.  “That’s actually a very convincing argument.”  He looks at Dean for a moment, his eyes considering, but a smile still playing about his lips.  “Alright fine, I’ll stay.” 

“Awesome.”  Dean does a little fist pump which makes Castiel laugh again. 

He gets out of the car and helps Castiel out as well.  He refrains from offering to carry him again, but helps him get the crutches under himself, and he helps him up the two steps into the house.  He tries not to hover as Castiel makes his way to the couch, but isn’t sure he succeeds when Castiel gives him a wry look.   

Luckily Ford and Hamill are confused by the commotion and don’t try to wrap themselves around the humans’ ankles.  As soon as Castiel is seated though, Ford is up on the couch with him, and rubbing his forehead against Castiel’s arm. 

Hamill sniffs at the end of one of Castiel’s crutches, but then turns his attention to Dean with a wail that says feed me NOW, human! 

It’s a request he can’t refuse.  Mostly because he wonders sometimes if the cats will try to eat him if he doesn’t give them their daily dose of gooshy food.  He’s not willing to risk it. 

“Make yourself comfortable, Cas,” he says as he scoops up Hamill.  “I’m going to feed the boys, and then I’ll help you get settled in.”

 

xxx

 

Castiel nods and watches Dean stride out of the room, Hamill tucked in his arms like a baby.  Ford obviously wants to follow them, but he can’t seem to decide if food is more important than marking Castiel with his scent. 

“Go eat,” Castiel says softly.  “I’ll be here when you get back.” 

Ford seems to understand, but rubs his face against Castiel’s arm one more time before hopping lightly to the floor and trotting after Dean and Hamill.  Castiel sighs, envying his grace and agility.  Despite the painkillers currently making the edges of his vision fuzzy, his foot throbs and he knows that it’ll be a little while before he’ll be able to get around as easily.   

No morning runs for a while, showers are going to suck, and navigating the stairs is going to be torture.  He’s glad that Dean invited him to stay the night.  He’d been planning on calling Jimmy since Meg is probably still out painting the town, but his brother’s house has just as many stairs as his own.  At least at Dean’s house he can hobble around the first floor and have everything he needs.  And the company of his friend is an added bonus. 

He’s glad to have a chance to spend more time with Dean.  Lately he’s been looking for excuses to do so, which is maybe a little strange.  He’s never been the most sociable person, mostly because he’s been content spending his free time with Jimmy’s family or with Meg.  But he’s starting to think of Dean as one of his closest friends, despite the short time that they’ve known each other. 

Dean comes back into the living room, and slaps his hands together, rubbing his palms against each other.  “Alright, Cas.  What can I get for you?  I can loan you something to sleep in, or I can go over to your house and get anything you need.” 

“Pajamas would be nice,” Castiel replies.  He wrinkles his nose at his injured foot.  “A shower would be fantastic, but I’m not sure how I’ll manage it.” 

Holding up a finger, Dean grins.  “Easy, Cas.  Wait right here.” 

He disappears up the stairs before Castiel can counter that he’s not going anywhere.   

After a few minutes Ford comes out of the kitchen, licking his cheeks.  He trots over to the couch and hops into Castiel’s lap. 

“Did you enjoy your dinner?” Castiel asks. 

Ford makes a little mrrp sound and butts his head against Castiel’s chest.  Unable to deny the feline, Castiel begins stroking his silky fur.  He’s rewarded with an instant purr. 

“Man, he really likes you,” Dean says a few minutes later when he comes back down the stairs.  “I’d be jealous if I didn’t know how much he loves the smell of sweaty socks.” 

Castiel lifts a questioning brow.  “Are you saying I smell like sweaty socks?” 

Dean shrugs.  “Well there’s gotta be a reason he likes you so much.” 

“He’s an excellent judge of character.” 

“Can’t argue with that, Cas.  Can’t argue with that.”  Dean gives him a lopsided grin that makes something twist and tumble wildly in Castiel’s belly.  Then he’s all business.  “Alright, the shower is upstairs, so I’ll help you get up there.” 

“I can’t get my bandages wet,” Castiel protests.   

“Ain’t gonna be a problem.”  Dean picks up Ford and moves him to one of the unoccupied couch cushions.  “C’mon, Cas.” 

Castiel allows Dean to help him to his feet.  They make their way slowly towards the stairs where Dean bends his knees and picks Castiel up in a princess hold again.   

Heat suffuses Castiel’s cheeks and he keeps his head turned away to try and hide his blush.  Dean’s display of strength is awe inspiring, and for some reason it makes adrenaline pump through Castiel’s veins.   

He’s probably just nervous about being dropped, although he trusts Dean not to let that happen. 

Dean doesn’t set him down once he gets to the top of the stairs, despite the fact that he’s breathing a little harder.  Castiel supposes it’s one thing to carry him across a flat surface, but something entirely more strenuous to carry him up a flight of stairs.   

“I can walk the rest of the way, Dean.” 

“Nah, we’re almost there.” 

Dean carries him down the hall, past several closed doors, including the one that Castiel knows leads to the bathroom he used the night they tiled his own shower.  Castiel is confused when Dean takes him into what he assumes is the master bedroom based on its size.  There's a huge bed centered against the far wall under a set of windows.  The bed is actually made, which makes Castiel blink in surprise.  Dean doesn't strike him as the messy type, but seriously, who makes their bed? 

He only gets a short glimpse of the rest of the furniture, but even so, he can tell that the huge dresser with a mirror over it and the bedside tables are high quality.  Probably hand made since most of Dean's furniture seems to be.  He makes a mental note to ask about the furniture again as Dean carries him into the room's connected bathroom. 

When Castiel sees the bathroom, his eyes go wide.  The room is huge, almost as big as a small bedroom.  One end is taken up by a whirlpool tub with space enough for two to sit comfortably, and next to it is a walk in shower that looks like something from an episode of Cribs.  It has a tiled bench built into the wall and four shower heads, and now Castiel understands why Dean brought him here instead of the guest bathroom. 

Dean's house is not much bigger than Castiel's, and from the outside it looks like a typical suburban middle class home.  There's no way this bathroom was part of the original floor plans.  "Did you build this?" 

"Yeah, although I had help."  Dean sets Castiel down on the shower bench, then he squats on his haunches in front of him.  "My grandpa and Sam gave me a hand, so it didn't take too long to get done.  Do you need help getting your pants off?" 

Castiel had been staring at the tiled walls, marveling at the geometric designs laid out in white and cream, but now his eyes snap to Dean.  He becomes acutely aware of the fact that Dean is practically between his knees, and his hands are warm on the back of Castiel's calves.  The touch feels intimate, and heat flashes through Castiel.  It rises up in his cheeks and he looks away from Dean's upturned face.  "Uh, no.  I can manage." 

Dean pats his uninjured calf and then stands up.  Out of the corner of his eye he sees Dean gesture to the bench. "Wrap that around your foot and tape it on.  It'll keep things dry." 

Castiel follows the gesture and sees a plastic bag and a roll of duct tape on the bench next to him.  "Alright." 

"I left out some clothes on the edge of the tub for you, and there's clean towels on the rack there.  Holler if you need anything."  He steps out of the shower and then pauses and points to a laundry hamper under the towel rack.  "Just toss your clothes in there." 

It's easier to breathe without Dean taking up so much of his personal space and Castiel gives him a stern look.  "You don't have to do my laundry, Dean." 

"'Course not," Dean counters with a shrug.  "But it's not like I don't have to do a load anyway, and I can just bring your stuff over any time, right?" 

"It's not necessary." 

Dean opens his mouth as if to argue further, but then his shoulders slump and he shakes his head.  He turns for the door.  "Whatever you wanna do, Cas.  Yell if you need me." 

Castiel stares at the closed door, trying to understand what just happened.  He would have to be an idiot to miss that he just hurt Dean's feelings, but what he can't figure out is why.  He knows Dean feels guilty about the broken steps and Castiel's injuries, even though Castiel doesn't blame him at all.  But there's no reason for him to take so much of his time to help Castiel. 

But Dean likes to help.  He's been offering his assistance to Castiel constantly since they met, and this is the first time Castiel has outright refused to let him do something.  It leaves an unsatisfied ache in Castiel's chest when he remembers the brief glance he got of Dean's face before he left the room. 

With a sigh Castiel pulls his t-shirt off over his head.  He crumples it between his hands and starts to toss it toward the floor outside the shower, but pauses.  Instead, he sets it down on the bench next to him, then reaches for the fly of his pants.  It’s awkward trying to get his pants and underwear off while sitting, but with a few shimmies of his hips he’s able to pull them off.  Once he’s disrobed, he wraps his foot in plastic and tape.  It looks ridiculous, but he’s sure it’ll be effective anyway. 

Bracing himself against the wall with one hand and holding his dirty clothes in the other, he stands on one foot and hops toward the hamper.  Balance carefully so he doesn’t put any weight on his sprained foot, he lifts the hamper lid. 

And goes still. 

The hamper is almost full, so Dean wasn’t lying about needing to do a load of laundry.  But what catches his attention is the pair of green silk panties with black lace trim.  His own clothes drop from tingling fingers and he reaches out to pick the panties up. 

The lace is soft and stretchy and the cloth is smooth and cool between his thumb and fingers.  It’s the same shade of green as the new tiles in Castiel’s bathroom. 

The same jade green as Dean’s eyes. 

Castiel wills himself to drop the panties, but his fingers don’t obey.  Instead he lifts them to his nose, and rubs the silky fabric over his lips.  His eyes slip shut and he inhales.  The musky scent is unfamiliar, sharper than that of a woman.  He doesn’t know if that’s because of whatever soap Dean uses on his body and his clothing, or if it’s just something that’s inherently different about men. 

And he knows for sure these are not a woman’s.  Dean is single, and Castiel hasn’t seen him bring anyone home.  Plus, he’s seen Dean wearing panties.  He wasn’t sure the first time, but the second time he’d known exactly what he was seeing.  His mind just couldn’t wrap around it at the time. 

He isn’t sure he’s quite got a handle on it yet.  Dean wears panties. 

Castiel’s eyes pop open when he realizes that he’s practically rubbing Dean’s panties against his face.  He drops them back in the hamper, and stumbles back a step.  He gasps when his weight comes down on his injured foot and he just barely catches himself from falling. 

The pain clears some of the confusing haze from his mind, and he turns away from the hamper.  He catches sight of himself in the mirror and stares with mild horror.  He’s naked, so there’s nothing to hide the fact that he’s hard, his dick standing out eager from between his thighs. 

“Shit.”   He jerks his attention away from his reflection, and his eyes drop down to look at his body.  The mirror didn’t lie to him.  He’s fully aroused. 

“It’s nothing,” he mutters.  He forces himself to turn back and re-enter the shower.   

It’s nothing.  Nothing.  Just the panties.  He’s always had a kink for them.  Just walking past a mannequin in the mall will raise his heart beat if it’s wearing frilly panties.  Meg has teased him for years about the time he stole several pairs of her underwear when they were teenagers because it was easier than getting his hands on porn, and a whole lot more entertaining anyways. 

Castiel hobbles into the shower and examines the knobs.  They’re simple to understand since there are blue and red markings on them to indicate the temperature they control.  He reaches for the cold knob and cranks the water on. 

All four showerheads come on, and he gasps at the onslaught.  But the shock does its job, and his erection starts to flag.  He bows his head under the cold stream for as long as he can handle it before reaching for the hot water controls and twisting the knob. 

The change in temperature eases the tension in his body, and he breathes in the thickening steam for a moment before hobbling back to the bench to sit down.  He’s still within range of the spray of two showerheads, and he leans back against the cold tiles and lets the hot water pound against his chest for a moment.   

God, he can’t believe he got hard over the idea of Dean in panties.  Or did he?  Maybe it was just the panties themselves.  He rubs a hand over his face, clearing water out of his eyelashes.  Maybe it’s the drugs.  He’s always gotten a little horny when he’s high, and it’s been long enough since he’s taken anything stronger than Tylenol that the prescription meds the doctor gave him are definitely having a strong effect on his body. 

Yes, that’s it.  It’s definitely the pain pills. Relief washes through him, and he smiles.   

Feeling more centered now that he knows what happened, he looks around and finds a small inset shelf in the wall with bottles and a bar of soap.  And a loofah?  He chuckles as he picks up the sponge.  Dean seems so butch all the time, almost to the point of overcompensation, so Castiel kind of loves these little glimpses at his softer side. 

The soap is plain Irish Spring, and the shampoo and conditioner are just store brand.  Castiel puts the loofah back down and reaches for the shampoo first.  He washes his hair, and leans forward to let the spray rinse the suds away, then he puts in the conditioner before reaching for the bar of soap. 

The tangy scent fills the steamy enclosure, and Castiel realizes suddenly where the sharp edge of what he smelled when he pressed Dean’s panties to his nose comes from.  His fingers fumble and the bar drops with a loud clack at his feet. 

A few seconds later there’s a soft knock on the bathroom door, and Dean’s voice comes muffled from the other side.  “Cas?  You okay in there, buddy?” 

He should be okay.  He should be perfectly fine.  But his body is reacting to the scent of Irish Spring and the memory of the jade green panties sitting in the hamper.  And his mind is betraying him with thoughts of what other panties might be hidden in that pile of laundry.  Are the white and pink ones that he first glimpsed in there?  The teal ones?  What other colors and textures would he find if he looked? 

He groans when he feels his cock start to harden again. 

Another knock, a little louder.  “Cas?” 

“I’m-” he coughs a little when his voice breaks, and tries again.  “I’m fine!  Just dropped the soap.” 

Dean’s rich chuckle reaches him over the sound of water pounding against the tiles, and Castiel’s whole body goes through a cycle of hot and cold flashes when he realizes what his words may have accidentally conveyed.  “Well there are certainly worse places that could happen,” Dean jokes, because of course he would.  He laughed along with Meg and Castiel at the hardware store any time they found an object that was even slightly phallic.  “Do you need a hand?” 

Castiel groans at his wording, because a hand would actually be really nice right now, but that is not what Dean means.  “No, I’m fine.  I’ll be out in a few minutes.” 

“Alright, man.  Be careful, okay?” 

Castiel doesn’t answer, and Dean must not expect him to because there’s nothing but silence on the other side of the door now.  He drops his head and glares down at his dick which has perked back up.   

He could turn the water back to cold, but he suspects that won’t be the right solution to his problem since it only worked temporarily.  He just needs to take care of his issue properly, give his body the release it’s demanding, and hope that these strange ideas go away once it’s sated. 

With that thought in mind, he wraps a hand around his cock and starts to stroke.  Despite the water, the friction is wrong so he grabs the conditioner and squirts some onto his palm before starting up a rhythm again.  His head drops back against the tiled wall, and he thrusts his hips into his fist as much as he can manage with an injured foot. 

He tries to keep his mind blank, but his body stalls out.  His arousal doesn’t diminish, but he’s not getting any closer to the finish line either.  So he turns his imagination to safe fantasies of Meg modeling some of her panty collection for him.  It works, so he let’s his fantasies expand.  His mind wanders back through the girlfriends he’s had over the years.   

April in a black g-string bent over the edge of her bed and waiting for him to join her.  Anna in pink panties with ruffles across her bottom skipping across the room to join him on the couch.  Daphne’s shy smile as she spread her legs to reveal purple lace crotchless panties. 

Dean bent over with green satin and black lace peeking out over the edge of his jeans. 

Castiel gasps as pleasure coils low in his belly.  That last mental image brings him close to the edge, and he gives in and let’s his mind conjure an image of Dean in nothing but the green satin panties standing with him in the shower.  The cloth would probably be nearly translucent while wet.  It would cling to his skin, outlining every shadow and valley of his- 

His orgasm hits him out of the blue, and a low whine escapes him as he curls down over himself.  Water sluices through his hair and over his shoulders, warming the areas of his skin that had gone cold from being pressed against the tile, and he closes his eyes against the tiny rivulets that leak down from his temples.  His eyes sting when some of the conditioner rinses from his hair and seeps past his eyelids. 

He stays hunched over, just breathing in the steam and enjoying the empty fog his mind floats in for a few minutes while the endorphins mingle with the painkillers in his system.  The blissed out feeling overwhelms the slight anxiety he feels over the fact that he just got off to mental images of Dean wearing panties.   

It was just a fantasy.  It didn’t mean anything. 

After a few minutes he sits back up so the water can spray at his chest and stomach again.  The conditioner is washed from his hair, and so is the proof of what he just did, so he has no more reason to sit in the shower other than to enjoy the way his muscles relax in the heat.  But he has the feeling that if he stays in there much longer, Dean will want to check on him.  And even though he isn’t doing anything anymore that he wouldn’t want Dean to catch him doing, the idea of Dean seeing him right now make him antsy. 

He turns off the water, and pushes himself to his good foot.  His leg is wobbly, and he has to be careful not to slip as he makes his way out of the shower to the towel rack.  He makes quick work of drying himself off and lays the towel over his shoulders so he can grab the pile of clothes Dean left for him. 

He shakes out the sweat pants and t-shirt, and his attention is caught by a flash of black and yellow.  He bends down to pick up the cloth at his feet, and he laughs when he sees that it’s a pair of Batman boxers.  He’d removed his Batman bandaid when he got in the shower, and now he regrets its loss.  Leave it to Dean to match his underwear with his bandages. 

There’s an intimacy to pulling on underwear that he knows Dean has worn, especially now that he’s so acutely aware of exactly what other kinds of things Dean likes to wear under his clothing.  Heat stirs in his gut, but his session in the shower is exactly what he needed because despite a few twitches, his dick stays down. 

He removes the plastic and tape from his leg and finishes dressing.  While doing so, he carefully avoids looking at the laundry hamper, because the temptation to look through it and see what other surprises he can find is strong.  Stronger than it should be.  And he knows that he just needs to get out of there and get away from it and his mind will stop playing tricks on him and trying to convince him that he finds the idea of Dean wearing panties hot as fuck. 

Because he doesn’t. 

Because he’s straight. 

It was just the drugs, and his weird kink getting weirder while under the influence. 

He hobbles carefully to the door once he’s dressed, and when he opens it, he finds Dean in the center of his bed.  He’s changed into his own set of pajamas, a plain grey t-shirt and blue sweat pants, and Ford is curled up on his feet while Hamill is sitting on his chest trying to get Dean’s attention away from the book he’s reading. 

Dean looks up and Castiel is relieved to see that he no longer looks like he’s bothered by Castiel’s earlier rejection.  He smiles and sets his book aside.  “Y’alright there, Cas?” 

“I’ll live,” Castiel answers honestly.  He finds it hard to meet Dean’s eyes without blushing and he hopes that Dean assumes the color in his cheeks is leftover from the hot shower.  “I’m tired though.” 

Dean sits up and both cats jump off the bed when they’re dislodged from his body.  “I’m not surprised man.  Let’s get you in bed so you can sleep off the meds.” 

Castiel allows Dean to help him back down the stairs.  Dean doesn’t carry him this time, probably because he’s worn himself out despite his extraordinary strength.  It’s slow getting down the stairs, but Castiel doesn’t mind.  He’s already flustered from having his side pressed against Dean’s as they make their way carefully from step to step, and he thinks being lifted and carried again would be too much for his muddled brain to handle right now. 

When they make it to the bottom of the stairs, he smiles when he sees that Dean has already pulled out the couch bed and covered it with sheets and pillows and blankets.  It looks far more comfortable even than his own bed, and Castiel suddenly can’t wait to sink into the mattress. 

He’s half asleep before his head even hits the pillow, and he’s only vaguely aware of Dean carefully lifting his feet up onto the bed and then covering him with a quilt that smells like fabric softener.  A weight appears near his feet, and then begins moving up toward him.  Seconds later whiskers tickle his face. 

“Hey, Ford, let him sleep.” 

Castiel wraps an arm around the cat and smiles sleepily as Ford wiggles around until he’s comfortable.  Claws prick at his chest when Ford starts to knead through his shirt. 

“If he bothers you just toss him on the floor,” Dean says softly, as if he’s not sure Castiel is really awake.   

Castiel doesn’t answer.  Ford isn’t bothering him at all.  In fact his rumbling purr is soothing, and luring him closer to sleep.  He thinks he feels fingers brush against the curve of his cheek, but the sensation is lost amidst the fog in his brain. 

“G’night, Cas.” 

Castiel grunts softly in reply, and then slips into the peaceful arms of drug assisted slumber. 

Chapter Text

For the first time in a long time Dean wakes up without cat whiskers tickling his face.  He blinks his eyes lazily in the hazy light of predawn and wonders why he isn't still sleeping if the cats aren't demanding attention. 

His body feels heavy and warm, and he feels no need to move.  The remnants of a dream linger in his mind and he stares blankly at the ceiling as he tries to hold onto them.  Strong limbs entwined with his own, exploring hands and hungry lips against his skin.  Blue eyes watching him with desperation as Dean spreads Castiel's thighs and- 

He groans and closes his eyes to hide from those thoughts.  It's a mistake.  Against the backdrop of his eyelids the images become more clear.  Castiel spread out on the bed, begging with wordless gasps and whines for Dean to touch him.  Crying out when Dean bends down to take the leaking head of his cock between his lips.  Rasping his name when Dean presses a finger against his hole... 

Dean gives in to his body's need and slips a hand under the waistband of his pajama pants so he can palm his own hard dick.  He knows what he's about to do is wrong.  He's been doing it for weeks though, and even with the man in his fantasies sleeping right downstairs, he has no will power.  So he gives in to his imagination and strokes his cock to mental images of sliding it into Castiel's body and fucking him so hard the headboard slams against the wall, and they both ache from the strain. 

He muffles his own needy sounds by shoving the knuckles of his free hand between his teeth.  He's keenly aware that his door isn't shut all the way and any noises he makes could be heard downstairs if he's not careful, but that only adds to his arousal.  If Castiel hears him- 

He doesn’t finish the thought before he's coming all over his hand.  He chokes back a cry and squeezes his dick as it jerks and spasms in his grip. 

When the pulses of pleasure abate he loosens his fingers, but doesn't let go.  He lays there with his softening dick in his hand and silently berates himself. 

You suffered through his shower last night, but you couldn't keep it in your pants until he's no longer staying with you? 

Well technically, it's still in my pants. 

He snorts at himself, and decides he needs to get out of bed and find something else to occupy his mind.   

He tosses his blanket back and sits up, wiping his hand somewhat clean on his pajama pants before getting to his feet and shuffling into the bathroom.  A shower is high up on his priority list, and he shucks his pants and makes his way to the hamper where he sees Castiel's clothes in a crumpled pile on the floor.  He rolls his eyes and bends down to pick them up. Obviously Castiel isn't as neatly organized as Dean is.  Dean has seen the piles of laundry in Castiel's bedroom to prove it. 

When he lifts the hamper lid, he freezes.  Right on top of the pile of laundry is a pair of jade green panties.  Holy shit, Castiel could have seen those.  Thank god he didn't bother to put his clothes in the hamper.   

Dean doesn't really try to keep his underwear preferences a secret, but if Castiel had seen those it would have been like a huge neon sign flashing DEAN WEARS PANTIES accompanied by trumpets and confetti.  Both men and women have been scared off by his panty kink before, and Dean would hate to learn whether Castiel is that same kind of judgmental fuckhead. 

He doesn't think he is, but he doesn’t want to test it. 

Gathering up Castiel's clothes, he bundles them up and shoves them into the hamper along with his pajamas and the black lace boyshorts he'd fallen asleep in, and shuts the lid.  He can get a load started today after breakfast. 

He makes quick work of his shower, doing the bare minimum because he can't stop thinking of Castiel being naked in there last night.  If he hadn't already jerked off, he'd be sporting a boner that he definitely wouldn't be able to ignore.  As it is, he's afraid that he's not going to be able to shower without having to take care of a Hard Situation for a long long time. 

He almost regrets letting Castiel use it.  He could have put a stool in the guest bathroom's shower for him.  There's a handheld shower head in there.  Castiel would have managed, and Dean wouldn't be tortured by his own imagination every day. 

But part of him likes knowing that he and Castiel have been naked in the same place, even if it wasn't at the same time. 

Wow, creepy much? 

It's better than nothing. 

Okay true.  And boy, what kind of sad sack does that make me? 

Dean sighs at himself and gets out of the shower.  He dries himself and wraps the towel around his waist for the walk back to his room.  Normally he wouldn't bother, but his door is still open for the cats and while chances of Cas coming upstairs on his own are slim, he takes the small precaution anyway. 

In his room he sees he has company.  He grins and kneels down next to the bed, cupping Ford’s face between his hands.  He rubs the cat’s whiskers and ears, and when he gets a contented purr in return for the attention, he leans down and kisses Ford’s head right between his ears.  “Hey, buddy,” he says softly.  “I was beginning to think you didn’t love me anymore.” 

Ford nudges his head against Dean’s chin, but doesn’t move otherwise. 

“Yeah, I love you too.”  Dean kisses him again and then gets up to get dressed. 

He opens the top drawer of his dresser and looks down at the colorful collection.  His hand hovers over the neatly folded boxers on the right side.  There’s quite a few pairs of superhero patterns like the Batman shorts he loaned Castiel, and there are also a colorful array of boxer briefs - the bright orange ones are his favorite.  But he doesn’t wear them very often anymore.  He prefers the much more varied options on the left side of the drawer. 

Satin, cotton, lace.  All colors of the rainbow, with patterns and polka dots and stripes, some with ruffles, bows, or buttons.  He buys them online, and sometimes the sizing charts are off so they don’t all fit him right, but he keeps them anyway because he likes to rub them against his skin.  The boyshorts fit him best for everyday wear, so he has more of those than any other style, but he’s got thongs and bikini cut and high waist briefs.  There’s a little bit of everything in the drawer. 

His hand moves over to the panties, and he grabs a pair of pink, purple, and white plaid boyshorts trimmed with white lace.  They’re made of jersey, so they’ll be soft and comfortable.   

He drops the towel from his waist and steps into the panties, one foot at a time.  They catch on the hair on his legs as he pulls them up, and his skin tingles in their wake.  Once he has them on, he reaches down the front and adjusts himself because they certainly weren’t designed to contain a dick and balls.  But the snug fit is half the fun. 

His fingers brush over the fuzz of pubic hair that’s starting to grow back, and he winces.  It’s almost time to wax again.  Not his favorite thing, but it’s far better than shaving which leaves him itchy for days.  And the satin panties feel best when he’s completely smooth down south, so he keeps up with the manscaping on a regular basis.   

He catches sight of his reflection, with his hand down the front of his panties, and he grins.  “Sexy bastard,” he murmurs, and winks at himself.  Maybe he’s a cocky motherfucker, but he knows what he looks like.  He’s not blind to how other people look at him.  And he certainly doesn’t mind the attention. 

After finishing dressing, Dean picks up Ford and carries him downstairs.  He pauses in the living room on the way to the kitchen.  Castiel is a lump under the blanket, with only his wildly ruffled hair peeking out under the edge.  Hamill is curled up in the hollow behind his knees, and blinking lazily at Dean. 

Dean lifts an eyebrow at the cat.  Hamill is normally the energetic one in the morning, but apparently he’s decided he’d rather relax with Castiel.  Maybe he and Ford are taking turns watching over the injured man.  Dean wouldn’t put it past them.  Cats are cool that way. 

He’s sure to keep quiet as he passes through the living room into the kitchen where he sets Ford down.  He doesn’t want to wake Castiel because it’s still stupid o’clock early, so he decides to just have a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  He eats it in the breakfast nook, and doesn’t complain when Ford jumps up on the table next to him and laps at the extra milk in his bowl. 

Yeah, he knows that cats lick their butts.  He doesn’t care.  He’s put his tongue in interesting places too. 

Hamill joins them when Dean finishes his breakfast and jumps up next to Ford to finish off the last of the sugary milk in his bowl.  Dean gives each of them a stroke from ears to tail and goes back into the living room.  Castiel is still sound asleep, and Dean grins when he hears a soft snore coming from under the blanket. 

He knows that Castiel is usually up pretty early, so he’s not sure if he’s just sleeping in now because of last night’s adventure, or if this is his normal Saturday morning ritual.  But Dean’s not going to be the one to wake him up, so he’s careful to make as little noise as possible when he slips out the front door.   

He doesn't have the same reservations about waking his brother up, though.  It's the ass-crack of dawn, but Sammy has probably been up for at least an hour already because he's the kind of freak that likes to get up unreasonably early to go running. 

As he dials his brother's number on his smartphone, Dean wonders how well Sam and Castiel get along.  They have a lot in common.  If Castiel turns out to like karaoke, he'll probably be Sam's best friend. 

He can't help the dopey smile that thought brings out. 

He's sure his call is going to voicemail when it's picked up at the last second, but it's not his brother on the line. 

"Doctor Winchester can't come to the phone right now.  He's a bit tied up at the moment." 

Dean slaps a hand over his eyes as if he can protect himself from the mental image Jody just gave him.  "Jesus, Jody!  Really?  You couldn't have, I dunno, not answered and let him call me back later?" 

"Look, kiddo, you called us at ass o'clock.  Be prepared for a little punishment.  Besides, we're done.  I'm untying him now." 

Dean can hear Sam laughing in the background.  "I kind of hate you both right now." 

Jody chuckles.  "Love you too.  Here's your brother." 

There's murmuring as Jody passes the phone over, and then Sam's far too cheerful voice comes on the line.  "Hey, Dean.  What's up?" 

"Ugh, I don't know if I want to talk to you after your wife defiled me."   

"Actually she was defiling me." 

"Too much info, Sam!"  Despite his scandalized protest, pride for his little brother fills Dean.  Jody is a damn fine woman, and Sam is a lucky bastard. 

Sam laughs, but drops the subject.  "What do you want, Dean?" 

Dean lets out a relieved breath.  He may be proud of his brother's love life, but he doesn't need any more details of his sex life.  "Cas isn't scheduled to work this weekend is he?" 

"Not today although he did say he'd stop in tomorrow to check on the kennels.  Why?" 

Dean explains the accident.  "He's got crutches, but it's probably best if he stays off his feet today at least." 

"Yeah, no problem," Sam agrees quickly.  "I can check the kennels tomorrow.  I'll call him and let him know." 

"I can tell him," Dean says.  "He stayed at my place last night.  I'm just waiting for him to wake up." 

There's a long silence in the line, then "so are you two...?" 

Dean realizes how his words sounded and rubs at the heat creeping up the back of his neck.  "No!  It's not like that.  He slept on the couch.  I didn't want him to hurt himself trying to get up and down his stairs on his own." 

"Oh.  Okay." 

The flat tone makes Dean frown.  "What does that mean?" 

"Nothing, Dean.  I'm just saying okay." 

"Yeah, but why did you say it like that?" 

Sam huffs, and Dean can practically hear him roll his eyes.  "Say it like what?" 

"You know.  Like 'oh, okay'.  Like you don't believe me." 

"I believe you."  But he still sounds like he's just trying to placate Dean.  "Although..." 

Here it comes.  Dean braces himself. 

"...it's kinda strange that you're calling in sick for him, and taking care of him.  He probably could have stayed with his brother for the weekend.  He's pretty close with his family, you know." 

Dean knows.  Castiel loves talking about Jimmy and Amelia and Claire.  He's lived with them off and on since Claire was a baby, and most of his stories are told with a fondness that Dean wishes even a small portion of were directed at him.   

"I know," Dean mumbles. 

"And there's also his best friend Meg," Sam adds. 

"She went out last night," Dean argues. 

"Okay." 

Dean grinds his molars.  "Okay, what, Sam?" 

"Do you like him?" 

All the air rushes out of Dean's lungs, and his knees go loose.  He plops down on his porch step and jams his fingers through his hair, pulling until the roots ache with warning.  He's been trying so hard to deny his feelings, to stamp out his crush, but it hasn't been working.  And he had no intention of letting anyone know how deep he'd dug himself into his own personal Hell, but Sammy always sees past his bullshit.  It's almost a relief that Sam asked. 

"Yeah," he grits out.  "Yeah, I do.  But he's straight." 

"Are you sure?"  Sam's voice has that careful neutral quality that says he's trying to be sympathetic without spooking Dean by getting too touchy-feely. 

"He told me so," Dean says. 

"Oh." 

"Yeah, 'oh'." 

They're both silent for a moment, which Dean appreciates because it gives him a little time to compose himself. 

Because I'm about to cry like a fucking baby.  Jesus, what is happening to me? 

It's called 'love', jackass. 

And just like that, any progress he made on getting a fucking grip goes right out the proverbial window.  He gasps at the sudden pain in his chest.   

It's not love!  He screams inside his mind.  It can't be! 

Shit, shit, shitshitshit.  Breathe.  Breeeeathe. 

"Dean, are you alright?" 

"I'm fine, Sam."  Despite his inner turmoil, he actually sounds pretty normal.  Thank god.  Just keep breathing.   

"Do you want me to talk to him?" 

Dean takes the phone away from his ear and looks at the screen, like his utter surprise at the offer will transmit better that way.  He puts it back to his ear.  "Why?" 

"I dunno, maybe if he knew that you're interested in being more than friends-" 

"Whoa, pump the breaks, Sam."  Dean surges back to his feet and starts pacing up and down the walk leading from his porch to the street.  "Nobody said I was interested in more than friendship." 

"But-" 

"But nothin'.  Yeah he's hot, but I'm not some fucking psycho that can't be friends with someone I'm attracted to.  Leave it alone." 

Sam makes a frustrated noise, but he concedes.  "Alright, but you know the offer is there." 

"Thanks, Sammy." 

"Whatever, asshole." 

"Bite me, butt-munch." 

"Gross." 

Dean laughs, and there's a tinge of relief in it.  Teasing his brother feels normal even though nothing else does anymore.  "Turnabout is fair play, little brother." 

Sam snorts.  "So I invited Cas to karaoke tonight.  He probably won't be able to make it, huh?" 

"You did?"  Dean blinks in surprise.  "And you didn't invite me?" 

"Sure.  He's my friend.  I've known him longer than you have, remember?  And you always say no when I invite you." 

He wants to be offended, but he can’t because, as usual, Sam is right.  He’s still a little jealous, which is ridiculous.  Castiel doesn’t belong to him. 

It probably says something that you’re jealous of Castiel’s time, and not Sam’s. 

Yeah, it says I’m an idiot. 

Well okay, point.   

“Besides,” Sam continues.  “It’s always an open invite for you, dumbass.” 

“Yeah, yeah.  Maybe I’ll tag along with Cas one of these times.” 

Sam’s voice drips with smug satisfaction.  “Yeah, you do that.  Anyway, I gotta go.  I need a shower after the morning I had.” 

“Alright, I’m gonna go pour bleach in my ears.”  Dean hangs up, cutting off Sam’s laughter. 

He taps his phone against his lips and stares at his front door, suddenly nervous to go in there.  Yes, he’s afraid of looking Castiel in the eyes after the realization he just had. 

Chickenshit, Dean.  Completely chickenshit. 

Fuck, how could he have let himself get so deep?  He and Castiel are just friends.  They haven’t even done anything slightly romantic. 

Okay, well there was the dancing. 

And making each other dinner. 

Oh, and the time they dozed off against each other after a Doctor Sexy marathon. 

But those are all things that can be completely platonic.  They are for Cas, because there’s no way he could feel anything else for Dean. 

Dean shakes his head.  Just friends.  They’re just friends.  And he’s okay with that.  Hell, he loves that.   

Maybe don’t use the L-word, he thinks to himself. 

He lesbians that. 

Better. 

“Ugh, I am such a fuckup,” he mutters to himself.  He gathers himself by taking a deep breath, and pushing it out in a harsh sigh.  Then another, which actually makes him feel a little bit better.  And one more, just for good measure.  When he feels like he’s not going to fall to his knees and confess his love to Castiel the moment he sees him, and in fact can probably act like nothing is wrong because nothing is wrong, he goes back in the house, careful to keep quiet. 

Castiel is still asleep, and now Ford is sleeping on him too.  Dean’s lips quirk up at the sight.  It’s probably a good thing he keeps his house a little on the cool side.  Ford and Hamill put off quite a bit of body heat. 

Since he doesn’t want to sneak around his own home all morning, Dean makes sure that Castiel’s meds are set out on the table next to the couch, along with a glass of water and a note about where he’ll be.  Then he slips back out of the house. 

He stops for a few tools in his garage, slipping them into the loops and pouches of the toolbelt he fastens around his waist.  Then he grabs a pair of heavy duty gloves, and pulls them on as he leaves the garage and heads across the street. 

The broken porch steps look even more dangerous in the early morning sunlight.  The broken edges are sharp and jagged, and his stomach twists when he sees the one that dipped itself in Castiel’s blood.  He grabs that one first, and tosses it into the back of his truck, which is still parked in Castiel’s driveway.  Then he pulls out his claw hammer and starts taking out his frustration on what’s left of the rotting wood.  

 

xxx

 

Whiskers brushing against his nose and cheeks pull Castiel out of his dream, and he blinks his eyes open to see two slitted green eyes surrounded by orange fur only inches from his own.  He jerks back slightly, and he feels a weight shift on his hip as Ford tries to follow his movement without getting dislodged.   

Hamill immediately closes the space between their faces again, and his whiskers catch against Castiel’s beard stubble.  He mrrrs softly and snuffles at Castiel. 

It tickles, and Castiel pulls away again, laughing.  He works an arm out from under the blanket and pets Hamill, paying extra attention to his ears when the cat leans into his touch.  “Good morning, Hamill.” 

Jealous of the attention, Ford gets up from where he was balanced on Castiel’s hip and gets up in his face as well.  Castiel is forced to roll onto his back and sit up, pushing the blanket down to his waist so that both hands are free to pet the cats.   

“Needy little guys, aren’t you?” he murmurs. 

The only answer they give him is to arch their backs under his palms and they both purr a little louder.  Ford climbs into his lap and gets up in Castiel’s face, butting his forehead against Castiel’s chin.   

After a moment, they both settle down over his legs, and Castiel takes a moment to look around.  There’s a clock on the cable box under the tv, and even knowing that he fell asleep late and under the influence of painkillers, he’s surprised to see how late he slept.  Normally he would have been awake a few hours earlier.  He has difficulty sleeping after the sun comes up, and Dean’s curtains are a light cream color that doesn’t do much to filter out the daylight.   

The house is completely silent, and he wonders where Dean is.  Is he still sleeping?  Castiel is mostly certain that Dean is a morning person like himself, even if he does grumble about early hours sometimes when they say hello in the mornings.   

He looks around, and catches sight of the note on the table next to the couch.  It takes some yoga-like stretching to reach the note without dislodging his furry lap-warmers, but he manages to grab it with the tips of his fingers. 

Cas - I left your meds on the table.  The blue one is your antibiotic, so don’t skip it.  I’m outside working on your porch.  I’ve got my phone on me if you need anything. 

Castiel smiles.  That explains the faint banging noises he’s hearing from outside.  He’s not surprised that Dean is still taking care of him.  It’s maybe a little over the top, but somehow he knows that Dean would do the same for anyone he cared about. 

The idea that Dean cares about him makes something shift inside his chest, and he suddenly feels too warm.  He’d kick off the blanket, but he doesn’t want to disturb the cats. 

Except that as soon as he looks at the glass of water on the bedside table, his bladder decides to let him know rather fiercely that it is full and he should do something about it asap.  So he nudges Ford and Hamill until they move off his legs, and throws the blanket back.  He grimaces at the swollen toes of his injured foot.  At the moment it doesn’t hurt, other than a dull discomfort caused by the bandages, but he’s sure that won’t be the case as soon as he tries to put weight on it. 

He carefully lowers his legs over the side of the bed, and the dull discomfort turns into a not so dull ache.  He grabs the pills off the side table and downs them with half the glass of water.  He can’t bring himself to drink any more than that while his bladder is protesting its overly full condition.  Then he grabs his crutches and awkwardly pulls himself to a standing position with a hiss of pain as his ankle tries to shift inside its wrapping. 

The cats blink up at him with wide eyed curiosity that looks almost like concern, and he forces a smile.  “Could be worse,” he says. 

Ford meows at him, and it sounds like encouragement.  Castiel accepts it with a grin, and hobbles carefully to the bathroom behind the stairs leading up to the second floor.  After relieving himself and washing his hands, he hobbles back into the living room, and it’s a little easier now that he doesn’t feel the urgent need to pee. 

Curious, he bypasses the couch and goes to the window where he pulls the curtains aside.  His breath catches in his lungs when his eyes land on Dean.  His mind gets stuck on a single word. 

Skin

Golden skin, slick with sweat that glistens in the morning sunlight.  From here Castiel can’t see if Dean’s chest and shoulders are sprinkled with freckles the way his face and arms are, but his imagination isn’t deterred.  There are probably thousands of them, creating constellations all across his body. 

Skin covering muscles that flex and bulge with each move Dean makes.  Castiel’s mouth goes dry at the sight.  He knows exactly how strong Dean is.  He’s experienced it.  Those same powerful arms that are pulling boards and tossing them into a pile in the yard lifted him as if he were hardly a burden, and Castiel knows that he is not a small man.   

He doesn’t know how long he watches.  Long enough for Dean to demolish the rest of the porch and start hauling boards from the pile in the yard to the back of his truck.   

Not wanting to get caught staring, Castiel drops the curtains and backs away, feeling awkward and ungainly on his crutches.  He makes his way to the pull out bed and sits down on the edge.  His eyes unfocus, and he tries to figure out why he feels light headed. 

Is it the medication?  One of those pills must have been another pain killer.  He hasn’t had breakfast yet.  Maybe it’s going to his head. 

He places a hand over his pounding heart.  He’s never reacted like this to painkillers before.  What he is feeling right now is not the languid relaxation he normally experiences.  His blood is roaring through this veins, and he feels like he can’t get enough air. 

Fur against his arm startles him, and he jerks his head to the side to see Ford standing next to him on the mattress, watching him with curious copper eyes.  When he sees he has Castiel’s attention, Ford rubs against his arm again. 

Castiel lowers his hand from his chest and uses it to stroke Ford’s fur.  The cat instantly arches into his touch, and Castiel feels himself start to calm down, one breath at a time.  Hamill joins them a few moment’s later, wiggling his way onto Castiel’s lap and demanding equal attention. 

Whatever the strange attack was, it finally lets him go after a few minutes and he’s able to relax.  He’ll need to eat soon, because obviously he doesn’t react well to his medications while on an empty stomach. 

Both cats startle when the front door opens.  Ford only jumps slightly, but stays at Castiel’s side.  Hamill on the other hand takes off, his paws thudding across the floor as he flees the room.   

Dean pokes his head around the door, and his face lights up with a smile when he sees that Castiel is awake and sitting up.  “Mornin’, Cas.  How are you feeling?” 

Heat rushes to Castiel’s cheeks as the other man enters the room, still shirtless, which makes Castiel’s whole body feel strange and squirmy.  He manages to hold still, but just barely.  In the light of day it feels strange to be around Dean.  To act as if he didn’t jerk off to lurid fantasies of him in the shower last night.   

He clears his throat, and forces the memories to the back of his mind.  “I’m feeling alright, but I should probably eat something to go with my meds.” 

Dean winces in sympathy as he comes further into the room.  He stays several feet away from the bed though, hovering as if he’s not sure if he should offer some kind of assistance or not.  “Sorry, Cas.  I didn’t think of that.  Want some cereal?  It’s all sugary crap, but it’s probably better than nothing.” 

Castiel doesn’t answer right away.  Dean is close enough now that Castiel can see that he does have freckles, and they are all over, just like he thought they would be. 

“Cas?” 

Blinking, Castiel drags his eyes up from Dean’s chest.  “Uh, yes.  Cereal sounds good.” 

Dean grins, and it’s like the sun has come inside the house with him.  “Cool.  Can you make it to the kitchen, or do you want me to bring it out here to you?” 

Taking a deep breath, Castiel attempts to center his scattered thoughts.  This strange restlessness under his skin is only temporary.  It’ll probably fade once he’s had something to eat.  He eases himself up to stand on his good foot with the help of the crutches.  “I’ll come to the kitchen.” 

Dean nods, and leads the way, listing the different types of cereal he has for Castiel to choose from.  Castiel does his best not to stare at Dean’s bare back as he follows the other man into the kitchen.  He settles down at the table in the breakfast nook, and stares down at the swirling patterns in the wood instead.  He must agree to a type of cereal, because Dean goes about getting a bowl down and filling it for him. 

He brings it to the table and sets it down in front of Castiel, who manages a murmured thank you.  Thankfully Dean doesn’t seem to notice the strain in his voice.  Or he chalks it up to Castiel’s upset stomach. 

After delivering the bowl, Dean turns around.  He left the milk on the counter while he brought Castiel his breakfast, and when he reaches for the lid to put it back on the jug, he accidentally knocks it to the floor instead. 

“Shit,” Dean mutters as he squats down to pick it up. 

For a brief moment his pants slip down, revealing the edge of a pair of panties in white, pink, and purple.  Castiel’s fingers go numb, and he almost drops the spoon he had halfway to his mouth. 

“Can’t leave stuff like that on the floor, or the boys will claim it as their property,” Castiel hears Dean say.  It’s muffled, as if coming through a closed door.  Or maybe Castiel is just having a hard time hearing him through the sudden pounding of his heartbeat in his ears. 

“Cas?  You okay?” 

Castiel blinks, and looks up at Dean who is standing again, milk jug in one hand, and the cap in the other.  The pounding in his ears recedes, and his fingers tighten around his spoon, which he lowers back to the bowl since it no longer holds anything but a few drops of milk.  At least it all spilled back into the bowl and not all over the table or his lap.   

“I’m fine.”  He’s not sure if he sounds fine, but Dean seems to accept his words. 

Dean gestures at Castiel’s bowl.  “Eat up, man.  You’ll feel better.”  Then he turns to put away the milk. 

Castiel does as he’s told.  And as he eats, he does start to feel better. 

“I can probably get the porch finished today,” Dean says as he comes back to the table and sits down across from Castiel.  “Just gotta pick up some wood.  You can go with me if you want, but you should probably keep your foot up today." 

Castiel is relieved that Dean is giving him something to think about besides that flash of colorful cloth under his jeans and his freckled torso.  He makes a mental note to wean himself off the pain medications quickly, because he’s not sure he can handle the strange arousal he’s feeling in Dean’s presence for too long. 

His first reaction is to deny that he needs to rest, but he knows Dean is right.  He'll never heal if he overworks his injuries.  He's torn between disappointment that he won't be able to go with Dean, because he's also starting to see Home Depot as a toy store, and relief that he'll have some time to himself to come down from the weird high that's making him react so strongly to Dean's presence. 

"I'll stay behind," he says.  "I have some files I should be reading over anyway." 

Dean nods and then his attention is captured by Hamill hopping in his lap.  He catches him before the cat can crawl up onto the table and go for Castiel's bowl, and Castiel laughs a little at the longing look Hamill directs at his leftover milk.  Dean distracts him with chin scratches and looks back up at Castiel.  "You're welcome to stay here today.  I can grab anything you need from your house." 

Being surrounded by everything Dean all day isn't going to do anything to help him relax or concentrate.  This house even smells like Dean, with hints of leather and sawdust.  But it's still the smart decision to stay.  The idea of going up and down stairs on his own is daunting.  Besides, Dean will be outside most of the day anyway and he'll have a little breathing room, and time to let the painkiller work itself out of his system. 

He dips his head in agreement.  "Thank you, Dean." 

Dean's sunshine smile comes back in full force.  "Great." 

When Castiel's heartbeat kicks back up, he sends up a prayer to any deity that might be listening that the pills wear off sooner rather than later.   

Chapter Text

Castiel’s belief that his strange reaction to Dean is a result of altered blood chemistry slowly erodes over the rest of the weekend.  It’s not the painkillers.  It’s Dean. 

It probably has something to do with close proximity, since Dean insists Castiel stay one more night, and after finishing rebuilding the porch steps by the end of the day Saturday they spend quite a bit of time together.  Dean joins Castiel on the couch for movies and popcorn and cuddling with the cats who seem happy to not have to share a single lap.   

Up close, Dean smells like sawdust and sunshine, and Castiel is careful to stay tucked into the far end of the couch to give himself as much personal space as possible.  But his eyes keep wandering from the tv to Dean’s lazy sprawl on the other end of the couch.  He catches himself watching Dean laugh, or his eyes will get caught on Dean’s hand stroking Hamill’s fur.  He’ll force himself to look away, but the strange feeling crawling under his skin doesn’t abate.   

It gets even worse when he accepts Dean’s offer to change the bandages on the scrapes and cuts on his leg.  Feeling those long fingers brush over his skin, even in such an innocent location, makes his muscles jump and twitch and he has to clamp down on his body’s reaction so Dean won’t suspect anything strange is going on. 

By the time Dean helps him pull out the bed that evening, Castiel is starting to wonder if he’s caught a bug and maybe he’s running a low grade fever.  He tells himself that he’ll feel better after some sleep, and in the morning he believes his diagnosis was correct.  Right up until Dean stumbles down the stairs, wearing nothing but pajama pants, hair spiked wildly on one side and mashed flat on the other, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. 

Castiel has to roll onto his side to hide his body’s confusing reaction.   

While Dean makes oatmeal for both of them, Castiel tries to convince himself it’s just normal morning wood.  But he knows his own body, and he’d been awake long enough for that particular situation to have already resolved itself.  It had come back in full force at the sight of freckled shoulders and the barest hint of a happy trail peeking from the waistband of Dean’s Doctor Who pajama bottoms. 

Attempting not to think too hard about his reaction makes him acutely aware of it, as well as even more keenly aware of Dean’s presence.  Thankfully Dean doesn’t seem to notice his tension, or if he does, he must chalk it up to discomfort caused by Castiel’s injury.   

It’s a relief Sunday evening when Castiel finally convinces Dean that he’s ready to go back home.  He walks up his brand new porch steps under Dean’s critical eye just to prove that he’ll be fine on his own.   

It’s Monday morning when Castiel realizes he has no more excuses. 

He  wakes up hard and leaking against his sheets from a dream of Dean straddling his hips while wearing nothing but a pair of jade panties.  He rolls over onto his stomach and bites his pillow, grinds his hips into the mattress, and comes with Dean’s name trapped behind his teeth. 

As soon as the haze of sleep and lingering twinges of pleasure fade, his eyes pop open, and he scrambles off the bed.  Putting weight on his injured foot nearly topples him to the floor, and he just barely manages to stay upright.  He stares in horror at the damp mess on his sheets, and when the semen in his boxers starts to cool, his eyes drop to his crotch. 

Panic hits him like a sledgehammer to the solar plexus and he quickly hooks his thumbs in the waistband of his shorts and shoves them down over his hips.  Standing naked in the middle of his room makes him feel exposed even though he's alone and he goes over to the laundry baskets that hold his clean clothing.  He grabs the first pair of underwear his fingers come across, but he hesitates to pull them on when his groin is still damp with his own cum. 

"Shower," he mutters to himself as he makes his way haltingly to the bathroom.  Maybe he can wash away the jittery feeling under his skin along with the proof of what he just did. 

It's not until he pulls open the white shower curtain that he realizes why that may not solve his problems.  The jade green tile walls are the same color as the panties he'd found in Dean's bathroom.  The same panties Dean wore in Castiel's dream. 

The same jade green as Dean's eyes. 

He sucks in a breath, and nearly chokes on it.  How did he not notice it before? 

He almost turns around to use the other bathroom, but it still only has a bathtub and there's no way he can get in and out of a bath on his own until his foot heals a little more.  It's tempting to pass on the shower altogether, but that would be ridiculous and cowardly. 

So he sits down on the edge of the tub, keeping his back to the tiles as long as possible while he strips the bandages from his foot.  He takes his time examining the scrapes and the cut that needed stitches, and once he's determined that everything looks like it's healing normally, he swings his feet over the edge of the tub and stands on his good foot.   

Shutting the curtain makes him feel slightly claustrophobic, trapped against the wall of green, and he berates himself silently while twisting the knobs to turn on the water.  He closes his eyes and puts his face in the spray. 

It's not the drugs.  He hasn't taken anything stronger than ibuprofen since Saturday morning.  It's not just morning wood because he woke up from a sex dream about Dean Winchester and masturbated to the fading images in his mind. 

Just thinking about the dream now makes his cock twitch, despite the fact that he's wide awake and has already gotten off less than ten minutes earlier. 

"Oh god," Castiel whispers. 

What the Hell is going on with his body?  Castiel likes Dean, a lot, more than anyone outside of his family and Meg.  He looks forward to spending time with Dean, and not just because he wants help with renovation projects.  He is eager to say hello to him in the mornings, and gets excited when he sees him in the evenings when Dean returns home from a long day at the job site.  His heartbeat kicks up when Dean invites him over to watch the latest episode of Doctor Sexy, and now he wonders if it was always because of Dean instead of eagerness to see what kind of ridiculous drama the show would give them that week.  His body seems to be translating his enjoyment of Dean's company into something more.  Something he isn't ready to define. 

Because it can't be attraction.  Castiel isn't attracted to men. 

He doesn't know how long he stands there, but when the water begins to cool, he finally straightens and reaches for the soap.  He makes quick work of soaping his skin and rinsing, then turns off the water. 

His skin still feels strange, his good leg aches from holding all his weight, and he's no closer to feeling settled than he was when he first woke up.  He's tempted to crawl back under his blankets and hide from the confusion battering his brain but he resists, drying himself and pulling on boxers while avoiding looking at the damning evidence of exactly why his bed is no longer his refuge. 

Besides, working will take his mind off Dean.  He hopes. 

Stripping his sheets and getting them to the laundry room is tricky while hopping around on one foot, but he manages by tossing them down the stairs and following down carefully with the aid of one of his crutches.  He takes his time loading them into the washer and adding soap and softener and leaning against the unit until it fills with water and he has to close the lid so it can start doing its job. 

By the time he emerges from the laundry room, a glance at the clock on his oven tells him Dean should have left for work by now.  Even though Castiel couldn't possibly go for his normal run, and he wants to avoid Dean until he's gets a better handle on whatever the Hell is happening to him, he is disappointed that he missed seeing his neighbor. 

A knock at the door startles him, and he limps his way to the front of the house.  At first he's confused about who could be visiting so early in the morning, but he realizes who it is before he reaches the door. 

Unfortunately he's so distracted with thoughts of how exactly he's going to keep Dean from seeing his inner turmoil that he completely forgets that he's only in his underwear.  He's very pointedly reminded when Dean's eyes go wide at the sight of him, flicking down over his bare torso and limbs before darting back up to his face. 

Dean recovers quickly, coughing a little and shoving his hands in his pockets as he smiles.  "Well I see you’re up and around." 

Blushing, Castiel almost looks down at his crotch to make sure his body isn't betraying how good he thinks Dean looks gilded in early morning sunlight.  But he realizes Dean means up and around in the sense that he's awake and walking, not hard and horny, and he manages to keep his eyes up and focused on Dean.  "Y-yes," he stammers.  "I'm feeling much better." 

Dean nods, and his cheeks become a little more rosy, his smile a little less sure under Castiel's stare.  "Well, I just wanted to check up on you.  Make sure you didn't fall down the stairs or anything." 

"No falling," Castiel responds with a weak smile of his own.  His interactions with Dean have never been like this.  They've always fallen easily into conversation, but now everything feels awkward and stilted.  He knows why he's uncomfortable, but he isn't sure what is making Dean look like he regrets knocking on the door. 

But then Dean's eyes flick down and back up, and Castiel realizes he's struggling not to take a longer look. 

Dean is attracted to him.   

He's always known in that Dean finds him attractive.  He's made comments, and he's flirted, and Castiel has played along without giving it too much thought because Dean has never seemed serious about it.  Especially after Castiel made it clear that he’s straight.   

Now though, it feels like a really important fact that he should have considered before spending two nights at Dean’s house, or opening his door to greet him in his boxers.  He wonders if he’s been accidentally leading Dean on, and if the only reason they’re friends is because Dean likes him as more as a friend. 

Something that feels suspiciously like hope rises up in him at that last thought, quickly overwhelmed by panic.  He doesn’t want Dean to think of him as more than a friend.  He doesn’t. 

Does he? 

The same confusion that has been plaguing him all weekend resurfaces, and Castiel crosses an arm over his chest, rubbing at his shoulder in a self conscious gesture.  “I, um… should probably finish getting ready for work,” he says into the awkward silence. 

Dean clears his throat, and takes a step back from the door.  “Yeah, Cas.  You’re okay to drive, right?” 

“My car is an automatic so I only need one good foot.”  Castiel goes for a reassuring smile.  It feels too stiff, and Dean looks even more uncomfortable.  “I’ll be alright.  Really.” 

“Okay, Cas.”  Dean rocks back on his heels once, his expression clouded.  He starts to say something, pauses, and shakes his head, looking away.  “Well, be safe.  Let me know if you need anything.” 

“Thank you, Dean.”  Castiel manages not to slam the door shut.  He waits until Dean turns away and closes the door softly, as if his heart isn’t racing like a herd of spooked mustangs inside his ribcage. 

He leans his forehead against the wood and closes his eyes.  Dean obviously sensed something is wrong, and Castiel fights the urge to open the door and call out to him, to explain that he hasn’t done anything wrong.  That it’s Castiel making things awkward between them.  He truly doesn’t blame Dean for his dreams, and his new physical awareness of him.   

If anything, he blames whatever deity that created Dean with beautiful eyes and pretty lips, freckles and stubble, an infectious smile and a bowlegged swagger.   

Although, Castiel may have never noticed any of that if it hadn’t been for those damn panties.  They drew his eye, and made him see. 

“Oh god,” he mutters.  He needs to stop thinking about the panties.  For the sake of his sanity.   

He pushes himself away from the door and goes upstairs slowly, wincing any time he needs to put weight on his sprained foot.  Calling in sick to work is probably the best thing he can do for his injury, but it’s the worst thing he can do for his peace of mind.  So he dresses, and puts a new set of sheets on his bed.  By the time he manages to get back downstairs, the washer is finished so he moves the laundry into the dryer, then heads out to his car.   

He hopes it’s a busy day.

 

xxx

 

The week passes slowly, and Castiel is no closer to settling his emotions by the end of Friday than he was Monday morning.  He doesn’t see Dean after his morning visit, even on Doctor Sexy night, and instead of feeling relieved, Castiel is so disappointed that he curls up under his blankets and falls asleep trying to ignore the way his ribs feel like they are being pried apart.   

His co-workers seem to notice his dark mood and give him a wide berth.  Everyone except for Sam who makes a point of asking him how he’s doing several times a day.  At first Castiel thinks he’s checking to make sure he isn’t spending too much time standing on his injured foot, but after a few days he suspects that Sam is gathering information to report back to Dean. 

Which is so ridiculous that Castiel scoffs out loud at himself as soon as he thinks it.  The noise startles the cat in the nearest kennel and she hisses at him.  He immediately puts thoughts of Dean out of his mind and tries to soothe her ruffled fur, but the thoughts keep creeping back.  Especially when Sam asks him again if he wants to come to Karaoke night.  Castiel gives him a vague answer that basically equates to Maybe, but it seems to be enough for Sam since he eases off the constant check ups for the rest of the week. 

Friday he’s so relieved that the week is over that he doesn’t even wait until he’s all the way out to his car before he’s dialing Meg’s number.   

She picks up on the second ring.  “Hey, Clarence, how’s things?” 

“Are you working tonight?  I need you.” 

Her husky chuckle would normally be sexy to him, but his body doesn’t react to it like it usually would.  “Oh yeah?  What should I wear?” 

He flops down in the driver’s seat of his car, sighing slightly when the weight comes off his foot.  The sprain is mostly healed and he hasn’t been using his crutch for a few days now, but it still aches after spending all day working.  “I appreciate the offer, Meg, but I really just need someone to talk to.” 

She’s instantly serious.  “Of course, Cas.  I leave work in half an hour.  Your place or mine?” 

He needs space between himself and Dean to have this conversation.  “Your place.  I’ll meet you there.” 

They say their goodbyes, and Castiel makes the familiar trip to Meg’s apartment.  Until he moved out of Jimmy’s house, Meg’s place was his home away from home.  He let’s himself in with the key she gave him the day she moved into the place, and hangs his jacket and messenger bag on the hooks behind the door.  Then he heads straight for the kitchen and gets himself a beer out of the fridge. 

He’s on his second beer, sprawled on the couch and watching that week’s Doctor Sexy on the DVR when she gets home not too much later.  Meg eyes him warily as she hangs up her things.  “Hey, Clarence.” 

“Hello, Meg.”  He’d started to relax a little after the first beer, but now that she’s home and he realizes that he’s going to actually talk about all the things that have been going through his mind for the last five days, he tenses up again.  He finishes off the rest of his beer in three long swallows. 

Meg raises an eyebrow at him as she walks across the room to join him on the couch.  She settles down on the cushions next to him and leans into his side.  “So are we getting shitfaced for this talk?” 

He’s silent for a moment while he considers the question.  After a moment he shakes his head.  He’s waited too long to talk about this already, and with his high tolerance for alcohol it’ll take him too long to get drunk.  So he just says what’s been on his mind since Monday. 

“I’m attracted to Dean.” 

In the silence that follows his announcement he can feel Meg’s eyes burning into the side of his face.  When she doesn’t say anything for an eternity, which is probably only about ten seconds, he turns to look at her.  “What do I do?” 

Meg’s expression had been completely blank, but now her lips twist in a familiar smirk.  “Make out with him and take pics for me.” 

Castiel rolls his eyes and gets up from the couch.  He definitely needs another beer.  Maybe he should have gotten shitfaced before he said anything.  He comes back with two beers, hands one to Meg and starts to pace back and forth, only limping slightly.  “This is serious, Meg.” 

She grabs the remote and turns off the tv.  “Serious, huh?  Does that mean you’ll send me pics if you get to third base too?” 

Of course she doesn’t take him seriously.  Meg takes very little seriously.  It’s part of why he loves her so much.  He’s always been a little too serious.  He was a quiet little boy who took things literally, unlike his twin who was always all smiles and jokes and overflowing with energy.  Meg constantly challenges Castiel, making him see the humor in everything, and the silver lining on every storm cloud.  

That’s why he’s talking to her now, even if he does want to dump his beer over her head.  “Meg, I only like women!” 

She rolls her eyes and tilts her beer bottle at him.  “That is a lie, Clarence.  Angels aren’t supposed to lie, y’know.  That’s how they get kicked off their fluffy little clouds and sent to Hell with the big bad demons.” 

He freezes in the center of the room.  “What the hell do you mean, ‘that’s a lie’?  I’ve never been into guys.” 

“Cas, sweetheart, you’re my favorite Novak twin, and the light of my life, but you are so full of shit.  I have changed adult diapers that are less full of it than you are.” 

He stares at her, utterly unable to understand what she’s getting at. 

When he doesn’t say anything she sighs and shifts around on the couch, pulling her feet up and tucking them under her hips.  She takes a long swig of her beer and sets it on the end table before she speaks again.  Her eyes glitter maliciously, and he knows before she says a word that he’s not going to like what she has to say.   

“Clarence, you remember that time you kissed Balthazar back in high school?  Because I remember.” 

He shakes his head.  “We were drunk and goofing off.” 

She mimics the movement.  “You weren’t that drunk.  You’ve always had the tolerance of a sailor.”  She grins a little.  “Boy, you were so into it too.  I was almost jealous of him for a minute.” 

Castiel shifts his weight to his bad foot, winces at the dull throb of pain warning him against the action, and shifts back.  He wants to pace more, but he really shouldn’t be standing, much less walking around.  “That doesn’t mean anything, Meg.  It was just a kiss.” 

“It was half an hour of sucking face,” she corrects.  Her eyes flick down to his feet, and she beckons him back to the couch.  “Sit your ass down, Gimpy, before you hurt yourself again.”   

He obeys, but only perches on the edge of the cushion.  His muscles refuse to let him relax back into the couch.   

Meg continues as soon as he’s seated.  “There’s also the fact that you like assplay.” 

He scoffs.  “Enjoying prostate stimulation does not make a man gay.” 

“You’re right, it doesn’t make a man gay,” she agrees.  “But you’ve let me peg you until you’re a sloppy mess, and when it’s doggy style you can’t see my tits and remind yourself that you’re with a girl.  Face it, Clarence, you like having a cock up your ass.” 

The blood rushes to his cheeks so fast that he knows she sees it even though he turns away.  “It’s not the same as being attracted to men.  I knew who was fucking me.” 

“God, you are so fucking stubborn,” Meg moans.  She kicks him in the hip.  “Fine, what about all the threesomes we’ve had with other men?  Those weren’t always my idea, and you fucking know it so don’t even try to deny it.” 

He closes his mouth, because he had been planning on doing exactly that.   

“You think I didn’t see how you looked at those guys before you suggested sex with them?” she continues without an ounce of mercy.  “You were too chickenshit to touch them during playtime, but I saw the way you watched them.  You watched me suck them off like you wanted to take my place.  You whispered in my ear how sexy their cocks looked filling me up.  And you weren’t always looking at me when you got your rocks off.” 

She’s right.  Oh god, she’s right.  He buries his face in the hand that isn’t holding his beer as if he can hide from the memories, but of course it does no good.  He remembers plenty of times he watched those men fucking Meg and imagining himself taking their dicks, or licking the cum from their skin after an orgasm.  More than once he’d almost reached out to touch, because sometimes they would look at him like they wanted him to.  But he couldn’t do it because he was scared of what it would mean.  

He’s still a little bit scared.  “Meg… I… am I gay?” 

Gentle arms wrap around his shoulders, and Meg leans her head on his shoulder.  “Hell no, you enjoy pussy and tits just as much as a straight guy.” She chuckles warmly.  “I know from experience.” Her arms tighten, and he leans into the hug.  “You’re bisexual, Clarence.” 

He tries the word out in his mind.  Bisexual.   

It doesn’t feel as strange as he thinks it should.  It actually makes some of the tension leak out of his shoulders.  Bisexual.  Attraction to more than one gender.  Yes, it… feels right. 

If he’d been a little more drunk, he might have gone home with Balthazar that night when the handsome foreign exchange student had invited him.  Several times he almost did more than watch all those times he and Meg invited another man to join them in bed.  He kept some of the phone numbers given to him during college even though he’d told himself he had no intention of ever using them, because he was straight.  Or at least he thought he was. 

“You okay there, Castiel?” Meg says against his ear.  Her breath smells like apple beer and cigarettes. 

“I don’t want to be attracted to men,” he admits in a whisper. 

“Why not?” 

“I don’t want to date men.” 

Meg leans back, and her confusion is tangible.  “No one said you have to.  You don’t even have to have sex with them.” 

“No, I know.”  He sighs.  “I just don’t want this.” 

“Alright, time out.”  Meg disentangles herself and puts her hands in a T formation.  “I don’t understand what your problem is.  Last time I checked you’re not biphobic.  Unless you suddenly think I’m weird for being bi?” 

Castiel sets his beer on the floor near his feet and shifts to face her, grabbing her hands.  His stomach twists when he sees the downward turn of her plump lips, and he hates himself for hurting her feelings with his inability to deal with his own bullshit.  “Of course not, Meg.  It’s nothing like that.” 

“Then why are you so set on denying it?” 

He rubs his thumbs over her fingers while he gathers his thoughts.  Her nail polish is chipped, and her skin is chapped from being washed constantly, but her hands are still beautiful to him.  They always have been.  But he knows something has changed, because he used to want to hold them all the time.  To feel them on his body whenever possible.  Now he’s just holding them to give her comfort, instead of to make himself believe that she might have more than just platonic affection for him. 

And he knows it’s because of Dean.  As he fondles Meg’s fingers he wonders what it would like to hold Dean’s like this.  To run the pads of his thumbs over calluses and freckles instead. 

“I want what Jimmy has,” he says after a moment.  “I want a home, family, 2.5 kids, a dog, and to be married to my high school sweetheart.” 

Meg’s fingers clench against his.  “Oh, Cas.  I thought you were over that.” 

“I am.”   

It had taken years to get over the heartbreak of her rejecting his love, but his heart had healed eventually.  He still loves her, and maybe he has always harbored a tiny flame of hope that someday she might love him back the way he wanted when he was seventeen, but he’s happy with their friendship.  He wouldn’t give it up for anything, certainly not for a declaration for everlasting love.   

Looking back on their teenage years now, he understands that he probably wanted more from Meg because he was jealous of how happy Jimmy and Amelia were.   

How happy they still are.  He still wants that for himself. 

“I pictured my future a certain way for so long, but everything is so different from what I imagined it would be like.” 

“Not bad different though, right?”  She sounds hopeful. 

Castiel shakes his head and gives her a small smile.  “No, definitely not bad different.” 

Meg beams at him, then leans forward and kisses him on the cheek.  “Good.  I don’t want you to be unhappy.” 

“I’m not unhappy.”  Wistful sometimes, but definitely not unhappy.  His life is full of family and friends, including Dean.  He has a satisfying career, with co-workers whose company he enjoys.  And now he’s even got a hobby, which he’s grateful for since he no longer has school and being Claire’s built in babysitter keeping him busy all the time.   

Meg pulls her hands out of his and cups his face, squishing it tightly until he’s sure he looks like a deformed fish.  “Fantastic.  So is the existential crisis over?” 

He laughs, and his response is garbled since he can’t move his lips very well.  “Yush.  T’nk you.” 

“If you decide to bone Dean, I totally want deets.  He seems like the type that would be really good with his hands.”  Meg waggles her brows. 

Castiel laughs again and squirms free of her grip.  “Just because I think he’s attractive, that doesn’t mean I’m going to ‘bone him’.” He adds air quotes because he knows she thinks he’s ridiculous when he does it. 

She pouts.  “Why not?” 

“I don’t want it to ruin our friendship.” 

“It didn’t ruin ours.” 

She’s got a point, but Meg is different.  She doesn’t do romance.  She’s got aromantic pride stickers everywhere because she’s been collecting them since she learned that aromantic is a word.  She rarely goes on more than a few dates with people, and prefers one night stands just to avoid romantic entanglements.  Other than a girlfriend she saw steadily during their early years of college, Castiel is the only exception, and he’s sure that it’s only because they’ve known each other since they were kindergarteners. 

Castiel has the feeling that if he wanted to have sex with Dean, it would be more than just a fling or an experiment.  Not that he thinks Dean would turn down casual sex.  He just thinks that Dean would feel more emotionally invested in sex with a friend. 

And Castiel doesn’t want to get emotionally invested.  He likes their friendship the way it is, and he isn’t willing to alter it with his newfound curiosity.   

“I’m new to this bisexual thing and I need time to process it,” he says.  “I’m not ready to experiment.” 

Meg sighs dramatically.  “Fiiine, don’t bone him.  But I think we should totally get drunk to celebrate your new self awareness.” 

Getting drunk sounds like a really good idea, but it’s not going to happen with just beer.  And he checked her alcohol stash when he got there.  All she has is Jägermeister and cheap vodka, neither of which he’s willing to choke down tonight.  He wants rum.  “We need to pick up some good alcohol if we’re going to do that.” 

Her eyes go wide with excitement.  “Or we could go out and check out dudes’ asses all night.  I’ll pay for the cab.” 

Now that he’s talked to Meg, the stress he’s been feeling all week is gone, and he would love to go out with her.  He’s not sure how ready he is to play her game of checking out asses, but with enough alcohol, he’ll probably get there eventually.  “Sure, let’s do it.” 

She bounces a little, making the cheap couch’s springs squeak.  “Yes!  Where should we go?” 

There are a few places they consider regular haunts, but he remembers Sam’s invitation from a few days before.  He feels guilty for acting weird around Sam, and would like to make it up to him.  “How do you feel about Karaoke?” he asks. 

Meg goes completely stonefaced serious.  “Dude. Yes.” 

Then she gives him a critical look and waves a hand at him.  “We have to fix this though.” 

Castiel laughs.  “You gestured at all of me.” 

She bounds to her feet and grabs his hands, tugging until he too is standing and then following her back to her bedroom.  “Sure did, Hiccup.  C’mon, let’s get you out of those scrubs and into something sexy.  I’ve got a whole stash of clothes you’ve left over here, and I’m sure we can find something that’ll make you look like the sex god you are.” 

“I’m not a sex god,” he protests with a grin. 

“Lies.  I have had sex with you.  I know what I’m talking about.” 

He rolls his eyes, but doesn’t argue any further.  She wouldn’t let him get away with it, anyway.  Besides, he needs to save his arguing for the clothes, since they’re bound to disagree on what constitutes sexy.   

It feels good to stop worrying about Dean, and to worry about clothing instead.  Later, when they’re both dressed to Meg’s satisfaction, and they’re climbing into the cab that will take them to The Roadhouse, he actually feels great.  Buoyant even. 

“We’re going to have a good night, Clarence,” Meg says as she snuggles into his side. 

“Yes,” he agrees.  “Of course we are.” 

Chapter Text

"Okay, Mopey.  Talk to me." 

Dean looks up from the wet plate Jody is passing to him to be dried and does his best to school his face into something as close to cheerful as he can manage.  "Talk about what?" 

He can tell she sees straight through his facade by the way she grimaces at him.  In some ways she's worse than his mom about making him feel like an unruly teen even though she's only six years older than him.  "Don't play dumb with me, Winchester.  Tell me what's bothering you." 

He tries again to deflect.  "It bothers the hell out of me to think you use that Mom Voice on Sam when you're getting kinky, then turn around and use it to interrogate me." 

She slaps him in the arm, leaving a wet splotch on his sleeve.  "Don't be childish." 

"I'm not!" He ducks to the side and holds the plate up like a shield when she raises her hand at him again, but he's laughing at her fierce expression.  "Seriously, if that's you and Sam's thing, I'm not one to judge, but I'm not into that!" 

Jody manages to dart past his defenses and pinch him in the side, making him yelp even though it doesn't even hurt.  "Ass.  I'm being serious.  What's wrong?" 

Dean sighs and lowers the shield-plate.  "It's nothing, I'll get over it." 

"Well if you've gotta get over it, it ain't nothing, is it?" 

He glares at her, but there's not much heat behind it because she's right.  "Ok fine, there's something, but it's really not that big a deal."  He keeps his eyes on the plate in his hands as he swipes a towel over it and hopes she drops the subject. 

She doesn't.  Of course.  She's as bad as Sam about pestering him to talk, maybe even worse since Sam has enough of a little brother complex that he still doesn't push Dean past certain limits.  "Is it about a woman?" 

He winces, and hopes she doesn't notice.  "No." 

"Ah, so it's about a man." 

Dammit. 

Since she's not handing him any more dishes to dry he twists the towel between his fists.  "It's not... He's just... Seriously it's not a big deal, Jody." 

She turns to face him, one hip propped against the sink and arms crossed over her chest.  Her voice is sympathetic.  "That bad, huh?" 

The last of his resistance crumbles under the weight of her empathetic stare, and he slumps against the counter.  "He's just a friend." He pauses, and Jody nods her understanding.  "But I messed up something because he's been avoiding me and the last time I saw him things were weird." 

"Is it that Castiel guy?"  Jody shrugs in response to Dean's surprised stare.  "Sam's mentioned him.  Says you two have been renovating his house." 

"Well not exactly.  We tiled his shower and painted some walls.  Replaced a few light fixtures."  His mind starts racing through the list of future projects he and Cas have talked about.  "We were going to fix the ceiling in his room, but I really need to get up on the roof and see what needs to be done to fix it because there's gotta be a leak that caused the damage in his room.  He can't ignore that like we did the porch, 'cause that's how he ended up hurt and-"  He cuts off when he notices her smiling at him.  "What?" 

The humor sparkling in her dark eyes makes him nervous.  "Just a friend, huh?" 

He huffs in frustration.  "He's not the only person I help out with home improvements, you know." 

Jody gives him a significant look.  "Oh trust me, I know.  Sam's forbidden from telling you about anything that needs to be fixed for at least another year.  But it's not that.  It's the way you light up when you talk about him.  You like him, don't you?" 

He doesn't bother trying to pretend she means like in the platonic sense.  She'll probably dunk his head in the dirty dish water if he keeps trying to deflect.  He runs a hand through his hair, unknowingly leaving it spiked in several directions.  "Yeah, I do.  Doesn't matter though.  He's straight." 

Her smirk melts away, leaving behind compassion that makes his chest clench painfully.  "Oh, Dean.  I'm sorry, honey." 

He gives her a weak smile.  "I'm fine.  Or at least I was until he stopped talking to me." 

She reaches out, and he allows himself to be pulled into a hug.  She wouldn't let him shy away from it if he tried, but he doesn't.  Instead he leans into it, closing his eyes and accepting the comfort she offers.  She rubs his back lightly.  "I'm sure everything will work out." 

God, he hopes she's right.  This last week has been way more miserable than it should have.  It's not like he and Castiel spent every free minute together, but not seeing him at all has really brought it home to him just how much he’s gotten used to just saying hello to him every morning.  He'd had to fight every instinct to not go over and check on him constantly, and he couldn't even watch the new episode of Doctor Sexy after he decided it was probably best to give Castiel his space and not invite him over to watch it. 

Jody lets him go, and punches him lightly in the shoulder.  "You know what you need?" 

To get laid.  "A shrink?" 

She rolls her eyes.  "Actually that might be a good idea, but what I had in mind is a night out." 

"That's why I'm here," he points out.  "I'm out of the house, aren't I?" 

The sound of the back door opening and the jingle of collars announces Sam's return from taking the dogs out, and he smiles widely at them both as he follows Hunter and Scholar inside.  Hunter makes straight for Dean, always eager for his attention even though he's been glued to Dean's ankles the whole evening already.   

"Hey, buddy," Dean says with a laugh as he tries to fend off the mini dachshund's attempts to crawl up his leg.  Scholar, a creamy colored Shi Tzu, sits down nearby, content to wait his turn for ear scratches. 

Sam bends down and scoops up the wriggling weener dog and hugs him to his chest until he calms down.  He glances between Jody and Dean, but addresses his wife.  "So did you talk him into it?" 

Dean tenses.  Usually Sam only sics Jody on him when he's not going to like whatever plans they have for him.  "Talk me into what?" 

Jody grimaces at Sam for his bad timing, but turns to Dean with an inviting smile.  "We're doing karaoke at the Roadhouse tonight, and it would be great if you'd join us.  You know, for a real night out instead of just a boring dinner with family." 

No wonder Sam sent Jody after him.  "No thanks, Jodes.  Not a good night for it." 

She gives Sam an I told you so look, but doesn't give up.  "So you'd rather go home and be mopey by yourself?" 

Dean nods emphatically.  "Yes." 

"God, you are such a baby," Sam sighs.  "You're new friend won't come out to play so you sulk about it alone in the corner." 

"Hey!" 

He's got you pegged. 

I'm not alone at home.  I've got the boys to keep me company. 

Oh yeah, 'cause a grown ass man drinking beer at home with his cats is so much better than a grown ass man drinking beer at home alone. 

Sometimes he really hates his own brain. 

"You know I'm right," Sam says. 

Of course he does.  Sam is almost always right, and the word ‘almost’ only belongs in that sentence because he did break his arm jumping off a shed when he was a kid because he was dressed as Batman and thought he could fly, plus he somehow thinks that dogs are better than cats which is obviously not true.   

Under the combined weight of both of their stares, Dean sighs and gives in.  "Alright, I'll go."  When they both let out a pleased whoop, he swings a warning finger between them.  "But no giving me shit if I decide not to sing, alright?  I'm not in the mood." 

Singing is almost guaranteed to make sure he doesn't spend the evening alone, but the idea of picking up a random at the bar doesn't appeal. 

"Fine," Sam agrees.  "But that means you don't get to pick songs either." 

"Fair enough."  It won't be nearly as fun not being able to make Sam sing the most embarrassing pop songs ever made, but he can probably bribe someone to sneak at least one Ke$ha song into the list on his behalf.    

Satisfied with their success, Sam hands Hunter over to Dean and chases him out of the kitchen so he can finish the rest of the dishes.  Dean follows Jody, Scholar at her heels, into the living room to relax until it's time to go to the Roadhouse.  He tolerates Hunter's wriggling and licking until the dog finally settles down into his lap.  Scholar hops up in Dean's lap as well, and Dean pets one dog with each hand.  He loves these little guys, but he'll always prefer cats. 

"Man, you have Sam wrapped so tight around your little finger," he says to Jody. 

She just smiles.  "Yep.  Hey, you wanna borrow some of his clothes for tonight?" 

Dean looks down at himself.  His jeans are ripped at one knee, and the denim is thin and faded, but they're clean and fit him much better than any pants he might borrow from his giant little brother.  His green Mountain Dew t-shirt has a few tiny holes around the collar and hem, but he's had it for at least fifteen years so it’s in pretty good shape considering how tough his profession can be on his clothing.  “Nah, I’m good.” 

“What if you meet someone you want to make a good impression on?” Jody asks. 

He shrugs.  “Like I said, not in the mood.” 

He doesn’t like the way she looks at him like she knows exactly why he’s not in the mood.  She changes the subject though, and they talk about her work at the Sheriff’s office until Sam finishes in the kitchen and they’re ready to go. 

Dean follows them in his car because he wants to be able to leave at any time he feels like.  He stopped home after work just long enough to switch from his truck to the Impala because he missed his Baby, not because he wanted to see if Cas was home or not.  Dean refuses to acknowledge his disappointment that he wasn't.  But having his car means he won't be getting shitfaced tonight, because cabbing it home will mean leaving his Baby in the parking lot overnight.  He trusts Ellen, but he doesn't trust all the patrons of The Roadhouse, not when it comes to his car. 

The Roadhouse’s parking lot is almost full even though it isn’t very late yet.  The dinner crowd is probably still hanging around, but as soon as they leave the karaoke enthusiasts will start showing up.   

Despite his protests about singing, Dean actually enjoys karaoke a lot, and as he follows his brother and sister-in-law inside he considers changing his mind and putting his name on the list.  Maybe after he gets a few drinks in him, though.  He knows he sings well, but sometimes it still makes him nervous to get up in front of a crowd, and it’s even worse when he’s not in a good mood to start out with. 

His mood improves a little when he spies a familiar mullet at the bar.  He breaks off from Sam and Jody, signalling with a gesture that he’s going to get himself a drink, and weaves through the mostly full tables until he’s standing next to Ash.   

Ash notices him almost immediately.  His face lights up, and he swings his arms wide in an invitation for a hug.  “Dean, my man!  Long time no see!” 

Dean leans in and returns the embrace.  Ash smells like sweat, beer, and weed.  The latter is exactly why he’s glad Ash is there.  “Hey, Ash, how’s it hanging?” 

Ash releases him from the hug and smirks.  “To the left, Dean-o.  You know my right hand is for browsing the nudie sights.”  He pantomimes jacking off with one hand and clicking a computer mouse with the other.   

Dean laughs, and they fall into conversation that rambles from subject to subject.  He hasn’t seen Ash in a while, so they spend a while catching up.  But eventually he brings the subject around to something that Ash can do for him.  The transaction is easy, done swiftly and carefully with a shake of hands, and they hug again before Ash takes off to go dominate the pool tables.  After tucking the baggy of pot into his pocket, Dean finally waves down Jo and orders a pitcher of beer to be sent to Sam and Jody and a bottle of Guinness for himself. 

She brings him an open bottle, and gives him a stern look.  “You know he’s not nearly as subtle as he thinks he is.” 

He accepts the bottle and slides payment across the bar, along with a hefty tip so she’ll keep her mouth shut.  “Your mom hasn’t caught him yet.” 

Jo snorts.  “Says who?” 

“Well she hasn’t banned his ass yet.” 

“Only because she doesn’t want to lose her hookup” 

Dean tilts his head back and laughs.  He doesn’t know if Jo is telling the truth, but it’s amusing as fuck to imagine Ellen high.  He’d bet the entire contents of his wallet that she’d be the type of stoner to cook everything in her kitchen because she can’t find the right thing to sooth her munchies.   

Jo is called away by another patron and Dean tucks his beer and two clean glasses in the crook of his elbow, and grabs the pitcher of beer, then makes his careful way back to the table Sam and Jody managed to snag.  They both cheer when he sets down the pitcher, then go back to the karaoke book open on the table in front of them.  Dean leans over and squints at Sam’s sloppy handwriting on the napkin he’s writing on. 

“Dude, you can’t pick that song for Jody.  She always makes you sing with her and you can’t pick your own songs.” 

Sam knocks Dean’s hand away when he reaches for the napkin.  “The rules state you can’t pick your own song, but there’s not a rule against picking a duet if you suspect you’ll get invited to sing along.” 

Dean glares at his brother, because he can’t refute the argument.  Because their karaoke game only has one rule.  You can’t pick your own song.   

It devolves into a contest to try and find something that the other person doesn’t know the lyrics to, but Ellen hasn’t added anything new to the karaoke book for a while now and they’ve gone through the whole thing probably a hundred times.   

Sam jots down another song, and slides the napkin and the book over to Jody so she can select something for him.  Dean sips at his beer and occasionally throws out a suggestion, which she ignores.  A few minutes later the chair next to him scrapes back and Pamela plops down in it.  

“Hey guys!  You gonna pick one for me, too?”  She’s welcomed with hugs and the last half of Sam’s beer which she steals from him.   

When they’re joined by Benny and Andrea, they slide an empty table next to their own and start passing the karaoke book around, although Andrea declines to sing.  Ash eventually wanders over and he and Sam get into a heated (yet good natured) argument over some software update that Dean stops listening to almost immediately because it’s way above his head. 

The beer is sinking into his bones, and he’s just starting to think that maybe he will sing when he catches sight of someone he hasn’t seen in a while.  He pushes his chair back, startling everyone around him.  “Be right back, guys.” As an afterthought, he says “sign me up for something,” before making a bee-line to the figure at the bar. 

Cain watches him approach, and his smile is gentle and welcoming, and Dean is really glad to see him.  He knows his friends don’t really like Cain because they think he’s an older man taking advantage of Dean, but that’s because Dean has never disabused them of the notion that he and Cain are anything more than friends.  There was a time that Dean would have gladly hopped into Cain’s bed, but despite the fact that Cain’s wife Colette had died a long time ago, Dean’s offers were never accepted. 

It isn’t because Cain doesn’t find Dean attractive, though.  The way his electric blue eyes trace Dean from head to toe makes it obvious that he’s appreciative of what Dean has to offer.  But he’s never treated Dean as anything more than a friend, and eventually Dean accepted that. 

The friendship he has with Cain, despite the massive crush Dean harbored for years, is what made Dean think he could be just friends with Castiel.  But then again, he never thought he’d fall so hard for Cas. 

And he is almost completely sure now that what he feels for Castiel is love, and not just a crush.  Because looking at Cain now, he can’t even remember what his crush on the older man felt like.  Those feelings have been completely swept away by the torrent of emotion that wells up in him when he thinks about Castiel. 

Stop thinking about Castiel! he scolds himself, just as he reaches Cain. 

“Dean, my boy,” Cain says warmly.  “It’s good to see you.” 

Being called Cain’s boy used to give him full body shivers, but now the words trigger nothing more than exasperated fondness.  He leans in to hug the older man.  “Good to see you too, Cain.  How are the hives doing?” 

“Busy as ever,” Cain says against his ear.  He leans back, but keeps one arm looped around Dean’s waist, holding him closer than most people would consider appropriate for friends.  Dean doesn’t mind though, because he’s always been physically affectionate and it’s one of the things Dean likes best about him.  “You should come pick up some honey.  I’ve got far too much, as usual.” 

“I’ll do that,” Dean agrees.  “Maybe I’ll get some for my mom, too.  She loves it for her tea.” 

Cain’s eyes brighten with happiness.  “That would be wonderful.  But enough about my bees.  How is your little business doing.  Still thriving?” 

They talk about Dean’s work, and Cain listens intently as if he’s sharing the secret of life, the universe, and everything.  He asks occasional questions which change the direction of the conversation, and Dean eventually finds himself talking about Castiel and the projects he’s been helping him with.  Before he knows it, he’s sharing his frustration over the accident. 

“I don’t know what changed,” he says softly enough that Cain probably only hears him because they’re still standing so close.  “We were fine, all weekend.  I mean, he seemed kind of out of it, but I assumed it was the pain meds.  But Monday morning when I went to check on him…” He sighs and runs his fingers through his hair.  “I dunno, he just seemed closed off.  I haven’t seen him since.  I’m afraid I might have scared him off.” 

Cain makes a sympathetic noise.  “Well, you know some people don’t like to be taken care of when they’re unwell.  Maybe he just needed some space.” 

Dean nods his agreement.  “I hope that’s all it is.  I miss him.” 

“You like this boy, don’t you?” 

Hearing Castiel being referred to as a boy makes Dean smile.  He’s definitely a full grown man, which is exactly what Dean finds so sexy about him.  “Yeah, I do.  But he’s straight, so we’re just friends.” 

Cain reaches up and plays with Dean’s hair, probably smoothing down whatever mess Dean has made of it.  “That’s a shame.  He’s missing out on a wonderful man.” 

The compliment makes Dean blush because despite the fact that his feelings for Castiel have muted any interest he has in Cain, it still makes him a little giddy to receive his praise.  He glances away to try and hide the heat in his cheeks, and his eyes fall on the bar’s door which is swinging shut behind Meg and Castiel. 

Castiel is staring straight at him, and Dean goes still, a deer in headlights.   

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Cain twist to see what he's looking at.  "Well, he's a handsome devil, isn't he?" 

More like an angel.  "That's Cas." 

Cain's arm loosens around Dean's waist.  "Ah, I see.  Are you going to go say hello?" 

Before Dean can respond Meg loops a hand around Castiel's arm and tugs him in the direction of Sam's table.  The movement makes Castiel look away, and Dean sucks in a breath he hadn't realized he was holding.  He shakes his head a little and turns back to find Cain giving him a sympathetic look.  He smiles weakly.  “Yeah, looks like he’s here to hang out with my brother so I should go say hi.” 

Cain pulls him back into a hug.  “You know I’m here for you if you need me, right?” 

Dean nods against his shoulder.  “Thank you.”  He pulls away, and smiles a little brighter.  Two hugs in one night from people that he cares about are actually making him feel better about the situation with Castiel.  “Are you going to sing anything tonight?” 

“Hell no,” Cain responds firmly, but with a smile playing around his lips.  “I know the game, and I’m not about to let someone else pick a song for me.  But I’d love to hear you sing something before you leave.” 

“I told Sam to sign me up.” 

“Good.  I’ll stick around until then.” 

Dean hooks a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of his friends and family.  “You don’t want to come over and join us?” 

“I’ll stop by your table before I leave.  I only came in tonight to enjoy a few drinks and to bring Ellen a few cases of mead.” 

Cain’s mead is delicious, and it usually goes fast.  He’ll have to order some before the night is over.  “Alright, well I’m gonna go face the music.  Don’t leave without saying goodbye.” 

“I promise.”  Cain leans forward and busses him on the cheek and then waves him away.   

Dean lifts his beer bottle in a silent toast to Cain and makes his way back to the three tables that have been pushed together to accommodate everyone.  Meg hops up from her chair as soon as she sees him and greets him with an around-the-neck hug that nearly pulls him over on top of her because she’s so much shorter than him. 

“Hey, handsome,” she says against his ear, just loud enough to be heard over the jukebox music and the conversations going on around them.  “We’ve gotta talk at some point.” 

His heartbeat kicks up.  “Well that doesn’t sound ominous at all.”   

She loosens her grip enough that they can look at each other, but there’s only inches between their faces.  For a moment he thinks she’s going to kiss him, but she only grins.  “I promise it’s something you’ll like.” 

He raises an eyebrow at her, but she doesn’t say anything more.  She does kiss him on the edge of his mouth before she releases him.   

His eyes immediately zero in on Castiel whose wide eyed stare conveys nervousness.  “Hey, Cas.  I didn’t know you’d be here tonight.” 

“Sam invited me,” Castiel says, and his words are clipped and tense.  “I didn’t know you’d be here.” 

Shit, is he saying he wouldn’t have come if he’d known?  Dean’s stomach twists, and he looks away.  “Don’t worry, Cas, I won’t bug you-” 

He cuts off when strong fingers wrap around his wrist.  He looks down at them and marvels at how such delicate bones can look so strong and masculine.   

“I’m glad you’re here, Dean.” 

His head snaps up, and he stares into Castiel’s dark blue eyes.  There’s warmth there, and a tentative smile tilting his lips, and hope rises up in Dean’s chest.  Maybe Cain is right and Castiel just didn’t want Dean helicoptering over him while he recovered.  Maybe he didn’t mess up, and they’re still friends. 

No matter how much he’d like for them to be more, friends is enough.  Castiel is worth a little pining to have in his life. 

It’s more than a ‘little’. 

My point still stands. 

True. 

“I’m glad you’re here too, Cas.  You gonna sing?” 

Castiel’s smile widens, becomes less tentative and more like what Dean is accustomed to seeing.  “I’m considering it.” 

“Well,” Dean says as he grabs a nearby chair and swings it around so he can sit down next to Castiel, “If you’re going to sing, let me explain the rules.” 

Chapter Text

Jealousy is something Castiel is intimately familiar with.  When he was young and in love with his best friend, it used to twist him up inside.  Until his love for Meg matured and changed, allowing him to see the enjoyment she got out of dating anyone who struck her fancy, and wanting her to always be that happy, even if she wasn’t with him.  He’d been jealous of Amelia when Jimmy started dating her and she’d started to inch her way into all the spaces in his life that used to only be occupied by Castiel.  But then she’d become like a sister to him, and the jealousy and melted away like frost under a rising sun.   

After learning to cope with sharing the two most important people in his life, jealousy became a distant memory.  An emotion that belonged to the teen version of himself.  Something that he’s outgrown and left behind, a discarded chrysalis that he broke free of years ago. 

But when he walks into the Roadhouse and sees Dean pressed up against an older man at the bar, the white hot emotion shocks him still, and he watches, unable to turn away as the man reaches up to run his fingers through the spikes of Dean's hair.  Dean tilts his head into the touch, much like a cat enjoying an affectionate ear rub.  

He doesn’t understand why seeing Dean practically wrapped up in someone else’s arms bothers him so badly.  Dean doesn’t belong to him.  He didn’t even know he wanted Dean until less than a week ago. 

He is only vaguely aware of Sam calling his name and Meg slipping past him to join Sam at a trio of tables pushed together near the little stage set up for karaoke singers.  Sound is muffled by the erratic beat of his heart, which must be incredibly loud because it seems to get Dean's attention. 

Dean turns, and their eyes lock, and Castiel wants to retreat, to find a dark corner to hide and examine the tangle of emotions clogging his lungs.  Dean's lips move, and  he thinks it's his name until realizes that Dean is talking to the man whose knees he's still standing between.   

He's distracted from the tableau when Meg grabs his elbow.  "Come on, Clarence.  Let's go sit before all the tables are filled." 

The guiding hand on his arm is welcome because he's not a hundred percent sure he could have navigated the room on his own.  His brain is too preoccupied with replaying the way Dean leaned into the older man's touch and his own intense reaction to it.  He only snaps out of his thoughts when he's standing by Sam's group of friends.   

Sam greets him enthusiastically, and introduces him to everyone.  Castiel finds himself seated with a karaoke book shoved in front of him, and it’s exactly the distraction he needs.    

He doesn’t get a chance to look at the book before Meg is hopping back out of her chair.  When he turns in his seat to see who she's talking to his mouth goes dry because Dean is right there.  Within touching distance.  And Castiel's traitorous body really wants him to reach out and touch. 

When Meg releases Dean he turns to Castiel with a wary smile.  "Hey Cas.  I didn't know you'd be here tonight." 

Castiel's whole body tightens at the sound of Dean's voice.  Has it always been that deep?  Why is it that he’s only now hearing the rough edges around Dean’s words?  “Sam invited me,” he manages to squeeze out with the tiny bit of air still in his lungs.  “I didn’t know you’d be here.” 

He realizes how curt and standoffish he sounds when Dean’s wary expression closes off.  His eyes turn away, and he looks like he’s going to leave.  “Don’t worry, Cas, I won’t bug you-” 

That is not what Castiel wants.  At all.  Maybe he’s not sure of everything that he wants from Dean, but he knows without a doubt that he doesn’t want to drive Dean away, to alienate him from his brother’s impromptu karaoke party.  Or to think that Castiel doesn’t want him around.   

His hand snaps out without a conscious command from his brain and he grabs Dean’s wrist.  Dean stops without any struggle, although he does look down at Castiel’s hand curiously.   

“I’m glad you’re here, Dean.”   

Very glad.  He’s missed Dean, even more than he realized.  Having him standing in front of him, large as life, reminds him of how much Dean has inched his way into Castiel’s every day routine.  Going a week without seeing him has been hard on him, and not just because he’s been busy freaking out about his newfound awareness. 

He wonders when Dean became such a large presence in his life.  Most of his free hours were spent with Meg, or with Jimmy’s family, but he hasn’t even talked to his twin in weeks and this is the first time he’s been out with Meg for drinks since he bought his house.  And while he thinks about Meg and Jimmy and Amelia and Claire often, he doesn’t miss them the same way he’s missed Dean’s company this week. 

Dean looks back at him, curious and still wary.  But then he smiles, and it’s full of the same warm friendliness that originally drew Castiel to him.  “I’m glad you’re here too, Cas.  You gonna sing?” 

Relief makes Castiel’s smile bloom wider.  No matter how confused he is about his attraction to Dean, he’s grateful that he hasn’t royally screwed up their friendship with the distance he put between them for the last few days.  If he wasn’t up for singing before, the rush of happiness he feels right then definitely puts him in the mood now.  “I’m considering it.” 

And just like that, the last of the tension between them melts away.  Dean grabs an unoccupied chair from another table and brings it close to Castiel’s own.  There’s not really room for him at the table, and they end up closer than most of the other people sitting around them.  Castiel’s skin feels extra sensitive under his clothing where it is in closest proximity to Dean, but he does his best to ignore it. 

“Well, if you’re going to sing,” Dean says, his eyes sparkling with mischief, “let me explain the rules.” 

Meg, who is sitting on Castiel’s other side leans across the table so she can look at Dean.  The movement startles Castiel because he forgot she was there.  “This isn’t something like Fight Club, right?” 

Dean looks at Meg and grins, and a little bit of the acidic jealousy that had burned the back of Castiel’s throat when Dean was with that man at the bar comes back.  Which is ridiculous, because he has no reason to be jealous of Meg. 

Or is he jealous of Dean? 

Shit, he needs a drink. 

"First rule of karaoke club..." Dean trails off, lifting his brows and looking back at Castiel as if he expects him to know what's coming next. 

Meg snorts near Castiel’s ear.  “Oh god, do not try to get him to catch movie references.”  She ruffles his hair, ignoring the indignant noise he makes.  “Clarence is not a movie buff.” 

Dean laughs easily, and the sound distracts Castiel from Meg destroying his neatly combed hair.  “Yeah, I’ve noticed.  Although we’ve kinda got a movie night going on, right Cas?” 

When Dean looks at him there’s a question in his eyes.  As if he’s wondering if they’ll resume their unscheduled, yet frequent, evenings in front of the tv.  He nods and is rewarded with another flash of Dean's teeth before he turns to address Meg.  “We're working our way through the Fast and Furious movies.” 

Meg wrinkles her nose and gives Dean a disappointed look.  “Ugh, really?  At least pick a good Vin Diesel movie.  Make him watch Pitch Black.”  A mischievous glint in her eyes warns Castiel he's probably not going to like what she says next though.  “He's a total baby about horror flicks though, so you might have to hold him during the scary parts.” 

Castiel flushes, even though she’s not right about his ability to endure scary movies (everyone is scared by The Exorcist, okay?).  His discomfort stems from the idea of sitting that close to Dean and burying his face in the other man's neck while some scream queen flexes her lungs on the screen.   

Either Dean doesn't notice his reaction or he chooses to ignore it.  He nudges Castiel with an elbow.  “We'll move Fight Club up on the list, Cas.” 

Before Castiel can respond, the music that has been playing from an old fashioned juke box in the corner cuts off suddenly, and conversation around them falls in volume as people turn their attention to the karaoke stage.  An older woman with stern eyes and a beautiful smile taps the microphone to make sure it works before speaking into it.   

“Welcome to the Roadhouse folks!”  She pauses to let the cheers from the patrons to quiet down.  “Before we get started, I just want y'all to know I've got a new shipment of Cain's mead."  There's another cheer and she nods towards the bar, and when Castiel follows her gaze he sees the man Dean had been talking to earlier lift his glass in acknowledgment. 

“Fuck,” Dean mutters next to him, “I'd better order some before she sells out.” 

Castiel does his best to keep his expression neutral.  He has no right to the jealousy eating at him, and he’s getting pissed at himself for even feeling it since it’s not a normal reaction for him.   

The woman on the stage speaks again.  “Alright let's get this party started-” the room erupts in a roar, and she raises her voice to be heard even though her words are already amplified by the microphone.  “Get on up here, Ash.  You're first.” 

The man with a mullet and a sleeveless plaid shirt that Sam introduced Castiel to earlier throws his hands up with a happy yell then bounds up onto the stage amidst the whistles and cheers from his friends.  It's only big enough for two people and the mic stand, and he hugs the woman before she leaves him alone.  The screen behind him lights up with the title of the song.  Bad Romance by Lady Gaga.  The room erupts with laughter. 

Dean grins at Castiel's expression and nudges Castiel again.  “About the rules…” 

Ash laughs along with the audience and grabs the mic.  “Joke’s on you, fuckers.  This is my jam!” 

“There's only one.”  Dean has to lean close to Castiel's ear to be heard over the noise.  His breath is warm against Castiel's skin and smells like beer, and it sends chills across his shoulders and down his arms.  “You can't pick your own songs.” 

There's a lull in the crowd's noise as Ash begins to sing, and it's just enough for Meg to hear Dean's words.  “Holy shit, really?”  She pulls the song book closer and waggles a hand at the group around the tables until someone pass her a pen and paper.  “I'm picking your song, Clarence.” 

Castiel turns to meet Dean's eyes just as Ash starts the first stanza - I want your ugly, I want your disease - and their faces are only inches apart.  He doesn't pull away like he probably should, even though his heart flutters wildly at the proximity.  “Well fuck, now I'm in trouble.” 

 

You know I want you

And you know that I need you 

 

Dean tilts his hand back and laughs.  Castiel grins in response and let's his eyes trace the column of Dean's throat.  It's easier to allow himself that luxury now that he knows why he feels the need to do so. 

 

I want it bad, your bad romance. 

 

“Don't worry, Cas,” Dean finally responds, clapping Castiel on the shoulder.  You'll have fun, I promise.” 

“What if I don't know the words to the song?” He asks with a worried glance at Meg. 

“We'll sing with you,” Dean promises with a wink. 

Castiel's brain short circuits.  It's not the first time Dean has winked at him, but it's different up close.  He turns blind eyes to the stage, only vaguely aware of Ash’s antics.  He finally comes out of stupor when Ash yells “‘cause I'm a free bitch, baby!” and the crowd cheers. 

Amusement overwhelms his confusion when he refocuses on Ash.  The man is getting really into it, marching in place to the beat and waving his arms around.  People around him are enthusiastically singing along.   

Ash points out at the bar's patrons and belts out the next chorus. 

 

I want your love and

I want your revenge

I want your love

I don't wanna be friends 

 

Castiel glances at Dean, finding him totally absorbed in the performance.  It gives him a moment to watch the other man unobserved for a few seconds.  The bar is not very brightly lit, and most of the lights are colored and flashing from the stage where Ash is mangling the French lyrics of the song.  The blues and reds and greens slide over the angles of Dean's features, sometimes making him look fierce and dangerous, and other times making him look young and vulnerable.  

Always beautiful, though.   

In the past he would have squelched that thought immediately.  It's a relief to allow himself to admit it now, even if only in the privacy of his own mind. 

Next to him, Meg practically bounces in her seat when she comes across a song she likes.  She scribbles it down and rips the paper from the pad before he can fully turn to see what she’s doing.  He watches, mystified as she hurries over to the karaoke booth to put the paper in the plastic jar the DJ is pulling names from.   

When she comes back to him she looks so pleased with herself that Castiel squints at her in warning.   

“Uh oh,” Dean says near his ear, leaning close to be heard over the tail end of Ash’s performance.  “I’m pretty sure you’re fucked.” 

Castiel reaches out and pulls the song book closer to himself.  “Two can play at this game.” 

Dean laughs and leans against his shoulder so he can see the selection as well.  “See, Cas?  You’re getting it.” 

They flip through the book together while someone Castiel doesn’t know takes the stage.  She starts up a very tipsy rendition of Baby One More Time, and even though she can’t hold a tune, and the mic stand is doing most of the work holding her upright, the crowd goes wild and spurs her on.   

For the most part Dean doesn’t say much while Castiel searches for the perfect imperfect song for Meg, because he knows without a doubt he’s going to hate whatever she picked for him.  But every once in a while Dean will reach around him and point out a song.  It’s distracting and Castiel finds himself wanting to lean into Dean, but he manages to keep his mind on the hunt.   

When he finds it and his finger slides over the title Dean chuckles low and mean near his ear.  “That’s cold, Cas.” 

Meg tries to lean over and see what he selected, but he snaps the book closed before she gets a chance.  He grabs the pen and paper sitting on the table in front of him and hands it to Dean to fill out so Meg can’t see.  Dean snickers, and slinks away to put in the song. 

“Are we still going to be friends after tonight?” Meg asks Castiel. 

He gives her his sweetest smile.  “Best friends forever.” 

She narrows her eyes at him.  “You’re already testing the bond, Clarence.” 

Castiel laughs.  Their friendship has been through many tests throughout their lives.  He knows this one little thing won’t break it now.  Although he’s pretty sure she may not talk to him for a few days afterwards. 

Dean comes back to the table just as the announcer - who Castiel has learned is named Ellen because people keep shouting to her - calls Jody to the stage.  Jody hops up from her chair and grabs Sam by the collar, tugging until he follows her up onto the stage. 

“Oh boy, here we go,” Dean groans.  “Brace yourself, these two are disgusting.” 

Castiel frowns at Dean, not understanding what he could mean.  Sam and Jody seem to be a perfectly normal couple, and he’s known Sam long enough that he feels like he understands him.  

The song pops up on the screen behind the stage.  I’ve Got You, Babe by Sonny and Cher. 

Dean cups his hands around his mouth as the music starts and hollers “sappy bastards!” 

Sam leans down to speak in the mic which is set low for Jody’s smaller stature.  “Jealous asshole.” 

Dean flips him off with both hands, but he’s grinning so wide his cheeks must be starting to ache. 

The room quiets a little as the couple on the stage begins to sing.  Jody’s voice is sweet, with hidden depths.  Much more refined than Sam’s, although he carries the tune perfectly.  And it doesn’t take Castiel long to figure out what Dean means.  The two of them stare into each other’s eyes while they sing, completely oblivious of their audience.  It’s kind of gross in that overly sappy romantic way that makes Castiel feel homesick for something he’s never experienced.   

“Wow, did someone seriously pick this song for them on purpose?” Meg asks.   

“Sam cheated and picked it for Jody,” Dean answers.  Despite his earlier statement about his brother and sister-in-law being disgusting he’s smiling faintly at them.  “They always sing it together whenever we do karaoke, but no one calls them on it.” 

Castiel leans closer to Dean so he doesn’t have to raise his voice too much to be heard over the music.  “Does everyone here play your game?” 

“Nah, just us and our friends.”  Dean turns his head slightly and wink at Castiel. 

The wink makes Castiel breath hitch. 

Friends.  They’re just friends. 

But that doesn’t mean they can’t also have a physical relationship.  Castiel has that with Meg, after all.  However Castiel knows that Meg is different, and watching Dean now, he can tell that Dean is more inclined toward romance than Meg is.  Meg, while highly entertained by the performance, doesn’t have the same hint of longing in her expression that Dean does.  His eyes are soft, and a tiny smile plays about the corners of his lips.  He clearly enjoys seeing how happy Sam and Jody are together, and Castiel knows him well enough now to recognize wishfulness when he sees it. 

Castiel may be admitting to himself that he’s attracted to men, and Dean in particular, but he’s barely ready to act on his attraction, much less start a relationship.  That’s too much.  Too fast.   

Too far outside of what he’s always wanted for himself.   

He looks away from Dean, and stares into the middle distance while Sam and Jody finish their song.  A few seconds before the song ends, Meg nudges him in the side. 

“Hey, weren’t we planning on getting shitfaced?” 

Hell yes.  That is exactly what he needs.  He shifts and pulls his wallet out of his pocket.  He fishes out his credit card and passes it over to her.  “Go start us a tab.” 

Meg grins.  “The usual?” 

“Please.” 

When she leaves, Dean pokes him in the thigh.  “Why are you getting shitfaced?” 

Because I dream about you in nothing but silky women’s underwear and I don't know how to react to that other than to drown myself in the contents of an entire liquor store.  “It’s been a rough week.” 

Dean opens his mouth to say something, but pauses.  He rubs a hand over his lips, and looks down, like he can’t bring himself to meet Castiel’s eyes.  When he drops his hand and looks back up, there’s pain in his expression.  “I’m sorry, man.  I should have checked on you, but I kinda got the impression you didn’t want me to.” 

Guilt twists like a knife through Castiel’s stomach, and he glances at the bar where Meg is flirting with the blonde girl serving drinks.  He silently wills her to hurry up, because he really needs some liquid fortification.   

“I’m sorry, Dean.  I just…” What does he say, exactly?  I’m having a sexuality crisis, and you’re the reason?  He doubts that will go over well.   

Dean doesn’t seem to have a problem with his own sexuality, but Castiel has no idea what coming to terms with his attraction to both genders was like for him.  He seems so easy with it now, and Castiel almost resents him for it.  He's probably the perfect person to talk about it with aside from Meg, but Castiel has known her since childhood and he's only known Dean for a few months.  So he's not willing to open up about it just yet.   

“I just needed some space,” he finishes lamely.  It's at least partially true, but he can tell it doesn't completely satisfy Dean. 

Dean drops his eyes, but he smiles and nods.  “I understand, buddy.” 

That buddy grates on Castiel's nerves, but he doesn’t have long to think about it because Meg comes back with the blonde bartender in tow.  She sets a rum and coke on the table then turns to accept a tray of full shot glasses from the other woman.  She plunks it down in front of him, grabs one of the shots for herself and knocks it back.  Her face twists briefly at the burn, then she lifts an expectant brow at him.   

Well he did say “shit faced" was the evening’s goal. 

He reaches for the first shot glass and gives Meg a defiant smirk before swallowing the contents.  She brought him whiskey, which isn't his favorite, but she brought him the rum and coke to savor so he doesn't complain, or even flinch at when it stings the back of his throat.  In fact he doesn't even pause afterwards before moving on to the next glass. 

She brought him four, and he pounds them back one right after another.  Just as he finishes the last shot, Sam and Jody's song ends and the crowd cheers.  He looks up and finds Dean and the blonde bartender staring at him wide eyed with surprise. 

“Holy shit,” the blonde says as the noise around them dies down.  “It's like you were drinking water.” 

“Told you,” Meg says.  “And he'll be ready for more after he finishes his rum and coke.” 

Dean puts a hand on his shoulder.  “Cas, man, maybe you should take it easy.” 

The warmth of Dean's palm makes Castiel wish he had another four shots just so he can drum up the courage to lean into the touch.   

Meg scoffs.  “He'll be fine.  Besides, we're not driving.” 

Dean gives him a concerned look, but doesn't argue.  He drops his hand and Castiel misses it immediately.   

Dammit, he was hoping tonight would let him finally relax and get his mind off Dean.   Instead he's faced with spending time with the man which is frustrating because his body loves the proximity, while his brain keeps misfiring trying to process his new awareness. 

Thankfully Meg provides a distraction by introducing Jo who sticks around to chat for a few minutes.  Pamela is the next to go on stage and Castiel absolutely loves her rendition of Afternoon Delight.  The next few singers are not from the group he's sitting with so he doesn't pay them much attention as he gets to know Jo, who is apparently so close to the Winchesters that they consider her family. 

Jo eventually goes back to work after she gets a stern look from her mother, but is back a few minutes later with another tray of shots for him.  She's just in time for Dean to get called up to the stage.  Dean lets out a happy whoop and snags one of Castiel's shots for himself.  He grimaces at the burn, slams the glass down in the table, and stands.  Everyone in their party starts screaming and pounding their hands on the table as Dean struts up onto the stage like a rockstar. 

Castiel's eyes are drawn to his ass, and he thinks it's unfair that he's being subjected to this kind of torture. 

“Damn, his ass is pretty,” Meg says from beside him. 

Castiel drinks the rest of his shots in quick succession. 

“Are you feeling anything yet?” Meg asks.  “Burning lust, perhaps?” 

He casts her a look.  She only smirks and turns her attention to the stage as she sips at her own drink. 

The screen lights up.  All Shook Up, by Elvis.  Dean groans so hard his whole body moves with it.  He turns and glares at his brother and speaks into the mic.  “Was it you, Sam?” 

Sam’s shit eating grin is answer enough for everyone.  “You know the rules, Dean!”   

Dean points a finger at him as the music starts.  “I’ll get you back.” 

Castiel laughs along with everyone else, but when Dean starts to sing, his laughter fades.  He’s heard Dean sing before, but it still takes his breath away to listen to him.  His voice is deep and smooth and even though Castiel isn’t a huge fan of Elvis, he thinks he could learn to love this particular song if he had a cover of Dean singing it. 

 

A well I bless my soul

What's wrong with me?

I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree

My friends say I'm actin' wild as a bug

I'm in love

I'm all shook up

Mm mm oh, oh, yeah, yeah!

 

 

Then Dean starts to get into the performance, swinging his hips like a talented Elvis impersonator, and Castiel bursts into laughter again.  When Dean belts out “I’m in love - uh!” and thrusts his hips Castiel covers his eyes with his hands, but peeks through his fingers, because he can’t miss a second of the performance.   

It’s probably the most entertaining two minutes of his life. 

Dean jumps down from the stage amid cheers and laughter, his arms raised over his head in triumph.  His grin is wide and happy, and Castiel wants to kiss it off his face. 

The thought doesn’t make him flinch like it would have earlier in the week, or even earlier in the evening.  Either he’s coming to terms with his crush on his neighbor, or the alcohol is finally starting to soak into his brain. 

Dean swaggers to his seat and drops down in it, and turns his sunbeam smile in Castiel’s direction.  Castiel’s fingers twitch, a hairsbreadth from reaching out and grabbing the collar of his ratty green Mountain Dew t-shirt and pulling him closer. 

Yes, the alcohol is definitely kicking in. 

“Damn,” Meg says from his other side as Ellen calls the next singer to the stage.  “You’ve got hidden talent.” 

Dean winks at her, making Castiel’s heart go spastic.  “That ain’t the only one, sweetheart.” 

“Oh yeah?” Meg leans across Castiel and gives Dean the come-hither look that has seduced Castiel countless times since they were teenagers.  “Do they all involve that pretty mouth of yours?” 

The leer Dean responds with sends half the blood that runs Castiel’s brain south, and his jeans are suddenly uncomfortably tight.   

Dean opens his mouth to say something, but he’s interrupted by a hand on his shoulder.  He twists to look up, and Castiel follows his gaze to see Cain standing over him.  Cain is smiling fondly at Dean.  “Wonderful as always, Dean.” 

“Thanks, man,” Dean says, grinning ear to ear again.  Then his smile fades a little.  “Are you leaving?” 

Cain nods.  “It’s a long drive home.  Would you mind walking me out to my truck?” 

“Yeah, of course.” 

Castiel watches Dean trail after Cain until they both disappear out the door.  He stares hard at the portal, unconsciously willing Dean to reappear through it, until Meg pokes him in the side, startling him out of his concentration. 

“Green-eyed monster got ahold of you, Clarence?” 

He glares at her and reaches for the fresh rum and coke that Jo brought around while Dean was on the stage.  He wants to drain it, but that would be a sure sign to Meg that she’s right, so he takes a moderate sip and shrugs.  “Just curious.” 

She snorts, but thankfully lets the subject drop.  Instead she rests her chin on his shoulder.  “Well if you don’t want Dean, there’s plenty of fish in this ocean.  Anyone else in here whose ass you’d want to tap?” 

He’s completely forgotten her plan to ogle strangers.  With Dean in the room he doesn't notice anyone else, male or female.  He leans close so he can talk directly in her ear since the music will prevent anyone from overhearing.  She still smells like cigarette smoke and apples.  “I'd rather just enjoy the karaoke party.  I'm having fun.” 

She curls an arm around his shoulder so their faces are side by side and she can speak privately to him as well.  Across the table Castiel sees Sam’s expression twist from surprise to confusion, and Castiel assumes it's because their embrace looks very intimate.   

Meg has visited Castiel at the clinic several times since he started working there and he told Sam they were only friends when he asked about her.  It doesn't really matter what Sam thinks, but Castiel feels like he should at least explain his relationship with Meg in a little more detail.  But it's only a fleeting thought because Meg's words hold most of his attention. 

“You sure are having fun with Dean.  It's kinda cute watching you look at him like you want to crawl in his lap.”   

He frowns.  “I'm not looking at him like that.” 

“Yeah, you are.”  She chuckles.  “It's adorable.” 

He huffs out a frustrated breath.  “Meg, it's not like that-” 

She bites him on the ear to cut him off.  “Keep lying to yourself if you want, Clarence, but it’s pretty obvious.  Maybe no one else sees the stars in your eyes, but I know what your O Face looks like so you can't fool me.” 

“Meg-” 

“Hey.”  This time she leans back so she can look him in the eye.  She's still close enough that his eyes nearly cross looking at her.  “Look, I know this is new to you, but don't freak out if you like a pretty boy.  If all you wanna do is look, that's cool.”  She grins.  “But even I want to bounce on that, and I'd love to see my bestie get a piece of the action if I can't, so let me have my fantasies okay?” 

The tension drains out of his shoulders, and he tilts his head back on a laugh.  The motion sends his senses spinning.  The alcohol has definitely kicked in.  He should probably slow down before he moves from happily drunk to completely wasted.  Getting blitzed no longer has the same appeal it did when Meg first suggested it.   

Meg kisses his cheek and sits back in her chair.  Her eyes flick up to someone behind him, and she gives them a welcoming smile.  Castiel turns to find Dean coming back to his seat.  He wasn't gone very long and that improves Castiel's humor even more. 

Dean sits back down next to him, and Castiel can't resist leaning into him, bumping their shoulders together.  “Welcome back, Dean.” 

The motion seems to surprise Dean, but he recovers quickly and bumps Castiel back, his eyes warm.  “Glad to be back, Cas.” 

There's a lull in the music as the last singer leaves the stage, and Ellen calls the next name.  “Meg Masters, get on up here!” 

When Meg sees the song come up on the screen, her horror stricken expression is truly the best thing that's happened to Castiel all week. 

“No,” she says with an adamant shake of her head.  “It's not happening.” 

There's a round of wordless disappointment and a few awe come ons.   

“It's a duet,” she protests.  “I can't sing it by myself!”  

She looks pleased with herself, as if she's found a way out of the Hell Castiel just thrust her into, but he'd planned for this response.  He's not man enough to make her suffer on her own, so he opens his mouth to volunteer to sing with her. 

Dean beats him to it.  “Don’t you worry, sweetcheeks, I gotcha.”  He bounds out of his chair and holds out a hand to Meg. 

She looks from his hand, to him, to Castiel, then back to Dean who wiggles his fingers in encouragement.  She sighs and slaps her palm down into his, letting him pull her to her feet.  As he guides her to the stage she glares over her shoulder at Castiel and mouths “you are in so much trouble.” 

He’s aware.  And it’s totally going to be worth it. 

When Barbie Girl starts to play everyone with the Winchester party starts to cheer, and Castiel is grinning so hard it would probably hurt if his cheeks weren’t starting to go numb from alcohol consumption.  He’s lost track of how much he’s had to drink because Jo magically replaces his empty shot glasses every so often and he’s pretty sure she gave him a bespelled glass so his rum and coke never seems to get below half full.   

At least when it’s his turn to sing, he’ll be too drunk to be embarrassed by whatever song Meg picked for him.  

Unlike Meg, who looks like she just sucked a lemon.  She only half-heartedly sings her first few lines, but Dean’s enthusiasm for the song eventually infects her and she puts more effort into it while Dean does a ridiculous dance on the stage next to her.   

Castiel can’t decide who is more entertaining.  Meg, whose husky voice is not right at all for the song, and doesn’t know all the lyrics, or Dean whose mockingly serious expression when he sings into the mic makes Castiel fumble for his phone so he can take a video of the performance.   

At the end when Meg announces “Oh I love you, Ken!” In a sickeningly sweet voice, Dean laughs and leans down to kiss her, bending her down over his arm. 

There is no jealousy this time.  Maybe it’s because Meg is involved, and he’s not capable of feeling jealousy about her anymore, or maybe it’s because of the alcohol.  It’s probably the fact that it’s obviously staged for laughs.  No matter the reason, Castiel is glad the moment isn’t tainted by his own bitterness.  He cheers along with everyone else, raising his hands over his head and clapping till his palms sting when Dean finally straightens, bringing Meg up with him and coaxing her into bowing for their audience. 

When she makes it through the crowd back to her seat, she glares at Castiel.  “You’re going to pay for that.  The song I picked for you isn’t nearly that bad.  I am a way better friend than you are.” 

Castiel laughs, slapping his hands against his thighs.  “Yeah, probably.” 

“I helped him pick it, Meg,” Dean says from his other side.  “If you want revenge then you’ll have to include me in your plans.” 

She glares at him, and wags a finger back and forth between them. “There’s Disney music in that songbook.  I should sign you two up for A Whole New World.” 

Dean snorts.  “Bring it.” 

Ellen’s voice cuts through the loud rumble of voices around them.  “Alright folks, next up - Castiel!” 

Moment of truth.  This is where Castiel finds out exactly how drunk he is.   

He stands, and discovers the answer is very. 

Luckily, he’s not too drunk to navigate his way to the stage, and he takes his place behind the mic without any stumbling, and only a little bit of weaving.  His intoxication turns out to be a good thing when he sees the song Meg picked for him.  She’s right that it’s not nearly as mean as Barbie Girl, but it’s not exactly suited for his baritone and if he were sober, he might have balked.  But brimming with liquid courage, he grabs the mic and doesn’t even look at the words on the little screen in front of him. 

He stares out at Meg who takes his chair so she can sit right next to Dean, and as the drums start and the cheering from the audience roars around him, he gives her a defiant look.  She blows him a kiss, which makes Dean laugh. 

The action pulls Castiel’s eyes to him, and he’s watching Dean with inebriated fascination as he starts to sing. 

 

I want you to want me

I need you to need me

I'd love you to love me

I'm begging you to beg me

I want you to want me

I need you to need me

I'd love you to love me 

 

Dean stares straight back at him, grinning wildly and bopping his head to the beat. 

Castiel doesn’t look away, and even though his lips don’t seem completely on board with singing the second, much faster verse, he manages to get through it without stumbling over a word.

 

I'll shine up the old brown shoes

Put on a brand new shirt

I'll get home early from work

If you say that you love me

 

When the next verse starts, Dean starts singing along with him.  Or at least mouthing the words.  Castiel can’t tell which, since he’s not the only one singing along.  Half the crowd joins in.

 

Didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you crying?

Oh, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you crying?

Feeling all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dying

Oh, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I see you crying?

 

I want you to want me

I need you to need me

I'd love you to love me

I'm begging you to beg me

 

The lyrics have never meant much to Castiel before, but for the first time he understands the urgency behind them.  It’s a silly, bouncy song, with barely any substance, but with alcohol buzzing in his veins and stage lights flashing around the edges of his vision as he stares out at Dean they suddenly hold so much meaning.   

And maybe Dean senses it too.  His smile fades a little and he stops moving to the beat.  He stares up at Castiel as if he believes the words are meant solely for him. 

Like he hopes the words are meant solely for him. 

As the beat slows down and Castiel sings the last stanza, he stares straight into Dean’s eyes, and for a moment he means every last word.

 

I want you to want me

I want you to want me

I want you to want me

 

The roar of the crowd is deafening, but Castiel barely notices it.  He steps down off the stage and walks toward his chair, which Meg slides off of to let him sit down next to Dean. 

Dean stares at him, his eyes wide and uncertain.  Then his lips turn up in a tentative smile, which Castiel returns. 

Something shifts in the air between them.  He’s not sober enough to decipher what it is, only that it’s something important. 

“You did great, Cas,” Dean murmurs just loud enough to be heard over the bar’s general noise as Ellen sets up the next song. 

Their staring match is ended when Meg hugs Castiel around the shoulders.  “You rocked it, Clarence!” 

He leans into her embrace and laughs.  “That wasn’t so bad.  I am definitely going to have to make it up to you for the song I picked.” 

She gives him one more quick squeeze.  “You can always apologize with oral sex.” 

Dean, who is just lowering his beer bottle from his lips, chokes.  Meg watches him with amusement until he manages to clear his airways.  “You owe me too, Dean-o.” 

He grins at her.  “I’ll write you out an I.O.U.” 

“I’ll take it.  Those are always good for a rainy day.” 

Dean snorts a laugh, and Castiel’s glad to see that he isn’t offended by Meg’s forwardness.  Of course, he probably doesn’t realize that she’s serious.  Castiel will explain it to him later. 

“Sammy Winchester, get your butt up here, boy!” 

The three of them turn their attention to Sam as he takes the stage.  The screen behind him displays Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Dean throws a fist up in the air with a heartfelt “Hell yeah!” He leans into Castiel without looking away from his brother.  “Dude, wait till you see this.  He does the dance and everything.” 

When Castiel feels Dean’s shoulder brush against his, he leans into it, settling in for Sam’s performance, knowing that it’s probably going to give him fodder to tease the other man with at work for weeks to come.  He doesn’t notice the sly smile Meg gives him before also turning to the stage and starting to cheer along with everyone else when Sam starts to sing. 

Chapter Text

“The way you were putting away the drinks, I really thought you'd be the one I'd be carrying up the stairs at the end of the night, Cas,” Dean says as Castiel fumbles with the keys to Meg's apartment.

Meg snorts against his shoulder.  “Yeah right, like you c’d lift ‘im.”

The comment makes Castiel look over his shoulder, and he blushes when Dean meets his eyes with a smirk.  Dean doesn't correct Meg's assumption because he doesn't want to embarrass Castiel.  Unless Cas spills the beans, he'll let the night Castiel's porch collapsed stay their little secret.  

He shifts his grip on Meg, holding her closer to his chest.  “Good thing you're smaller, huh darlin’?”

The lock finally gives way and Castiel opens the door, reaching out of sight to flip on a light before leading them inside.  “She isn't really that drunk, Dean.  You can drop her on her ass any time now.”

“Shhhh, you're ruinin’ the moment, Clarence.”

Dean chuckles at Meg's hissed warning, but doesn't hurry to put her down.  She hardly strains his muscles, plus- “I'm trying to work off my debt for Barbie Girl.

Meg's arms tighten around his neck and she nuzzles against the bare skin under his ear.  “It'sa good start, but don' think you're getting off tha’ easy.”

He grins at her sleepy slurring.  “Because the only way to repay you is to get you off?”

Castiel snorts.  “She won't make that easy for you either.”

Laughing, Dean lets his arm slide out from beneath Meg's knees so he can set her feet on the floor.  “I guess you'd know, wouldn't you?”

He regrets the words immediately.  Not because he's jealous-

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

-but because now he's thinking of Castiel with his mouth between Meg's legs, and wow that is hot as fuck.  

Castiel's smirk does nothing good for the pending situation in Dean's pants.  

When Meg steps away from Dean, her knees wobble slightly and he steadies her with a hand on her elbow while she stumbles the few steps to Castiel and leans into his chest.  Luckily he's still steady on his feet despite the copious amounts of alcohol he consumed and he takes her weight without a hitch. “Clarence here knows all the bes’ tricks.” She gives Dean a wicked smile over her shoulder.  “If you ask nice, he might give ya a few pointers.”

Maybe if he were drunk, Dean would take her suggestion.  God knows he'd love to hear Castiel talk about licking pussy with that growly voice, but he's sober enough to know that it's better that he doesn't experience that particular conversation if he can't also experience how good Cas is with his mouth.

And now he's picturing Castiel between his own legs.  

Fuck, I should have drank more.

You didn't want to lose control and start hitting on Cas, remember?

Oh yeah.  Smart move.

Especially because Castiel is a cuddly drunk.  Over the course of the evening his chair had migrated closer to Dean's until eventually they'd been pressed shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh.  He probably should have put a stop to it as soon as he noticed it happening, but after the way Castiel stared right at him while singing, his body had started a very lively he wants me, he wants me not debate with his brain, and he'd been unable to resist every tiny bit of physical contact Castiel gave him.

So he'd stuck to beer, nursing a glass of Cain's mead that Jo eventually brought to him and keeping ironclad control over himself.  Control that slips now and allows his big mouth to open.  “Oh yeah?  You think he'd be up to giving a demonstration?”

Meg laughs, and there's a velvety edge to it that Dean's body reacts to even if his heart is hung up on Castiel.  “He might,” she says.  “It wouldn't be the firs’ time.”

His brain makes a high pitched nose as it screeches to a halt, and he's almost positive he smells burning rubber.  

Castiel has given head??

No, you moron, he's straight.  She probably means he's gone down on her in front of an audience.

THAT IS NOT MUCH BETTER.

Jesus, he's going to spontaneously self combust if he doesn't stop thinking about Castiel and oral sex at the same time.

His eyes find Castiel.  The other man is staring back at him, and Dean doesn't understand what he's seeing in those pretty blue eyes.  Castiel is blushing, but he's not looking away as if he's embarrassed.  He's never been shy about his relationship with Meg, and when she starts making dirty jokes he plays right along with her without missing a beat.

He gets the feeling this isn't a joke though.  And his traitorous brain throws caution to the wind and takes control of his mouth.  “That so, Cas?”

Castiel shrugs.  Fucking shrugs.  Like it's no big deal and he's not giving Dean fantasy fodder for the rest of the decade.  “A few times.”

Look away.  Look away you fucking idiot.  Don't stare at him.  He'll know you want him.  

You'll lose him if you scare him away.  

Dean forces a laugh and is pleased that it doesn't sound as fake as it feels, and turns his attention to Meg because she feels like the safer option at the moment.  “Kinky.  But I'm pretty confident in my own skills.”

The way Meg's gaze sharpens makes him rethink the assumption that she's the safer option, or that she's as drunk as she led him to believe.  “I'll keep that in mind.”  She quirks a smile at him, and the flash of stone cold lucidity disappears, making him wonder if he imagined it.  “You do owe me, after all.”

In another universe where Castiel doesn’t exist, Dean would be making it up to her right now.  But banging the best friend of the man he’s crushing on- understatement! - is never going to happen.

“Yeah, yeah,” he intones with a roll of his eyes.  “I’ll make it up to you, or you’ll pick something craptastic for me to sing next time.”

Meg giggles.  “Deal!”  Then she turns blurry eyes up to Castiel who is still mostly holding her upright.  “Tuck me in, Clarence, I’m sleepy.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay tonight?” Castiel asks.  On the drive from the Roadhouse they’d gotten into a small argument over whether Meg should be alone in her condition, but she insisted that she’d be fine.  Apparently Castiel still isn’t convinced.

“Ugh, yes.”  To prove herself, Meg pushes away from him and stands up straight, arms up in presentation.  “See?  I’m hunky-dory.”

Dean rubs a hand over his mouth to stifle a laugh when Castiel gives her a skeptical look.  He doesn’t know Meg well enough to gauge whether she really is okay to be on her own, although he’s kind of on Castiel’s side.  “Cas, why don’t you get her in bed?  I’ll stick around a bit in case you need a ride home, but she might be easier to reason with once she’s horizontal.”

“‘m not gonna change my mind,” Meg mumbles.  But she does start weaving her way toward her bedroom.  Castiel follows, throwing Dean a grateful glance over his shoulder before disappearing down a small hallway with Meg.  

Left to his own devices, Dean looks around.  The apartment is an open design with the kitchen and living room mostly sharing the same space.  The hallway mostly likely leads to Meg’s room and the bathroom.  The living area is decorated with mismatched furniture that has knitted blankets draped over it, and in the dim light of the single lamp Castiel turned on, it looks cozy and inviting.

Since he doesn’t know how long he’ll be staying he decides to make himself comfortable.  He sinks down in the surprisingly soft couch and leans into the cushions with a sigh.

He’s tired, but in the good way that comes from spending his energy on fun with his friends.  Karaoke is something he does often, but it’s been a while since he’s had so much fun with it.  Usually he sings a song or two, and then takes off after a few beers, but tonight he’d stayed until last call, even though he wasn’t drinking much.  He wanted to spend as much time as possible with Castiel.

And Meg.  He really does like her a lot, which is good because it’s obvious that she and Castiel are extremely close.  They may not be related, but watching them together reminds Dean of his relationship with Sam.  

Well except that you’re not banging your brother.

He rolls his eyes at himself.   Gross.  No thanks.

The soft murmur of voices from down the hall stops and a few minutes later Castiel appears.  

Dean sits up.  “Well?  What’s the verdict?”

“You can take me home,” Castiel answers with a disapproving frown in the direction of Meg’s room.  Then he turns back to Dean.  “She wants to talk to you before we leave though.”

Dean’s brows go up in surprise.  He’s not sure what she wants to talk to him about, although now he’s remembering her cryptic words when he’d first seen her at the Roadhouse.  “Okay, hang tight then,” he says as he stands and moves to walk past Castiel.  

Meg’s bedroom is dark, but he can see where he’s going by the light of a small blue lamp on her bedside table.  The way the light plays across her glossy curls and her pale skin makes him think of the tale of Sleeping Beauty, even though her eyes are open and she’s watching him as he enters the room.  

He stops just inside the door.  “You wanted me?”

Her lips part in a grin.  “You know it, handsome.”  She chuckles and pats the blanket near her hip.  “C’mere.”

He hesitates, unsure whether it’s a good idea.  If she decides to come on to him…

“I’m not gonna molest you or anything,” she says, apparently reading his mind.  “Just gotta talk to you about something.”

She sounds earnest, and a lot less drunk than before.  So he crosses the room and sits down on the bed next to her.  When she reaches for his hand, he allows her to tangle their fingers together and waits for her to speak.

Her smile is gentle, without a hint of teasing.  “You seem like a really nice guy, Dean.”

Okay, not exactly what he was expecting.  Not that he’s sure what he was expecting.  Nothing without an edge of sarcasm and innuendo, that’s for sure.  “Uh, thanks?”

The teasing tilt comes back to her expression.  “Not sure if I mean it?”

This is the Meg he’s used to, and he grins back at her.  “Not really, no.”

She pinches the back of his hand as punishment, but it’s not really hard enough to hurt.  “Well I do.  And I think you’re great for taking so much time to help Clarence out lately.”

One of these days he’s going to ask her about that nickname, but now doesn’t seem like the right time.  “I like helping.”

She hums thoughtfully.  “I think you also like Castiel.”

Heat suffuses his cheeks, and he looks down at their clasped hands.  “Yeah, he’s a great guy.  I’m glad he’s my friend.”

He winces internally.  God, could he sound any more like a twelve year old with a crush?

The night is still young.

Shut up, Brain.

“I mean you like like him,” Meg says with a grin.

Well at least Dean’s not the only preteen in the room.  He just lifts an eyebrow at her, refusing to argue the point because that is just the kind of thing that she’ll turn back on him.

“I got a secret for you, Dean,” she says when she realizes he’s not going to take the bait.  She pauses, and Dean is chagrined to find himself leaning forward in anticipation for whatever she’s going to tell him.  The seconds tick by, and he knows she’s deliberately trying to wind him up.  

It’s working.  “Oh yeah?” He finally prompts.

The smirk he’s accustomed to finally reappears.  “Yeah.”

When she still doesn’t say anything, he huffs out a breath.  “Well, you gonna tell me, or what?”

She chuckles, low and warm.  “I’m just letting you enjoy the anticipation.”

He’s not enjoying it.  She knows it, the little brat.  He glares at her.  “Spit it out Doctor Frank-n-Furter.”

Her laugh is louder this time, and he smiles along with her.  Yeah, he’s irritated, but her humor is still contagious.  He leans forward without argument when she crooks a finger at him.  Her breath is warm against his skin when she whispers.  “Castiel likes you too.”

Once again, Dean smells burning rubber as his brain functions slam the brakes.  “What?”

She means as a friend.  Right?  

Don’t get your hopes up.  Don’tgetyourhopesup.

She pats him on the cheek with her free hand.  “Go get him, tiger.”  

He only vaguely remembers letting Meg hug him before she rolls over and snuggles into her pillows.  His feet work on autopilot carrying him out to the living room where he finds Castiel curled up in the corner of the couch, his eyes closed and his breathing even.  

Dean doesn’t want to wake him if he’s passed out.  Meg won’t mind if Dean helps Cas get comfortable on the couch and then leaves, right?  Sure she said she’s fine alone, but-

As his mind rushes in three different directions trying to decide what to do, Castiel’s eyelids twitch, then blink open.  He smiles up at Dean, and it’s not the Oh hey, Buddy, Pal, Dudebro, you caught me sleeping haha , that he expects.  Instead his eyes are warm and sleepy, his smile a lazy curve of his lips.  He looks like he might reach out with both arms and invite Dean to snuggle with him.

Or maybe Dean’s imagination is in overdrive because of his conversation with Meg.  Yeah, that’s probably it.

“Hey.” Castiel’s voice is even grittier than usual.  He pushes himself up so he’s sitting and blinks at Dean expectantly.  “I’m ready to go if you are.”

Oh yeah, Dean is ready to go.  His motor has been revving for fucking hours, and seeing Castiel loose-limbed and drowsy, looking up at him like a lover waiting for him to join him puts the pedal to the metal.  If he doesn’t get a grip on himself that motor is going to throw a rod or something.

Dean just nods.  “Yeah, we can go.”

Castiel pushes to his feet, and for the first time he looks like the alcohol is affecting him.  He sways on his feet, making Dean quickly close the space between them to brace him with hands on his shoulders.  Castiel chuckles and pulls free.  “I’m fine.  A little wobbly, but fine.”

He’s not slurring, and he is standing easily on his own, so Dean accepts his words.  “I can’t believe you’re not blackout drunk,” he says as he pulls out his keys and leads the way to the door, Castiel close on his heels.  

“My tolerance for alcohol has always been relatively high,” Castiel says with a smile in his voice.  “My brother Jimmy has no tolerance at all.  Meg likes to joke that I was born with both our shares.”

Dean chuckles.  “Lucky you.”  

“I like to think so.  My liver probably hates me though.”

It’s only a short walk back to the Impala, and Castiel brightens when he sees it.  He slides a hand over the front fender on his way to the passenger door.  Dean can practically feel the touch like it’s his own skin under Castiel’s fingers.  

“God, I love this car,” Castiel murmurs as he opens the door and slides into the seat.

Dean, still standing next to his own door takes a deep breath.  Being in a small enclosed space with Castiel is hard enough, but now they don’t have Meg as a buffer between them.  Instead he has her words echoing in his ears.   Go get him, tiger.  

She can’t be serious.  It has to be a prank.  Getting him and Castiel both back for choosing a song she detests for karaoke.  

He isn’t going to let her pull his strings like that.  

With that thought in mind, he finally gets in the car.  Castiel looks over at him with a smile, and the demon voice in the back of Dean’s mind begins to whisper.

Okay, but what if Meg’s right?

Dude, Castiel said himself that he’s straight.

But if he really likes you, maybe he’s not?  

I don’t want to be his bicurious experiment.

Crickets from the peanut gallery.  Dean jams the key in the ignition and starts the car.

As he backs out of the parking space Castiel begins fiddling with the radio.  It had been on a classic rock station because it turns out Meg is also a lover of all the rock legends too.  They’d bonded over AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, making Castiel laugh until he had to rub tears from his eyes as they’d sung along.  Horribly.

But now Castiel sets the dial on an oldies station, and the car fills with the slow beat of Stand by Me by good old Ben E. King.  He settles back in his seat and sings along softly.  

Dean keeps his eyes on the road, but all of his attention is focused on the rough edges of Castiel’s voice.  Cas doesn’t have the greatest singing voice, but he can hit all the notes.  And there’s feeling behind the words, which reaches out to Dean and wraps around him, making him relax.  The demon voice in his mind goes quiet as if it too wants to listen to Castiel serenade him.

Maybe it’s a little sappy, but Dean loves that oldies music seems to be his and Castiel’s thing.  

His fingers drum out the beat, and about halfway through the song he starts to sing too.  He glances over to see Castiel smiling at him, and he grins back before turning his attention to the road again.  

“Maybe next time I should pick a song for you,” Castiel says as the song fades away.  The Supremes come on next and out of the corner of his eye Dean sees Castiel’s head start to bop along.  “I mean, you sound great singing Elvis, but I’d love to hear you sing something you actually like.”

“I liked the song Ash picked for me,” Dean points out.  And he knows he sounds damn good singing Simple Man.  His voice was made for it.

Castiel chuckles.  “I could tell.”

Okay so Dean had put on a rockstar performance, but that’s half the fun of karaoke, right?  

“What would you pick?” He asks curiously as he turns onto the highway.  

Meg’s place isn’t too far from home, which is nice because it’s getting late and Dean is starting to feel drained from a full day of work and staying up late partying at the Roadhouse, but it also sucks a little bit because he likes having Castiel’s company for a drive in his Baby.  

Maybe he can talk Cas into a little road trip someday.

Right, as if being in close quarters with him for hours and hours is a good idea.

It’d be fun though.

Assuming you survive the torture.

Castiel hums thoughtfully.  “Maybe something by Otis Redding.”

“I can do Otis,” Dean agrees with a grin.  

They fall silent other than singing along with the radio now and then as the mood strikes them.  Castiel’s voice trails off shortly before Dean exits the highway, and when Dean glances at him, he’s asleep with his forehead pressed up against the window.  

The way he curves into himself, with his arms curled in his lap and his chin sunk close to his chest, makes him look young and vulnerable.  Dean wants to sit and watch him sleep because apparently he’s creepy that way, but he makes himself turn away from Castiel and pay attention to the rest of the drive.  

With nothing but the radio to keep his mind occupied, it eventually drifts back to Meg’s words.  He wants to believe her.  If anyone would know Castiel well enough to make that kind of statement, it would be Meg.  But he can’t allow himself to get his hopes up.  He hasn’t had the worst luck in romance, but he’s had his share of heartache and he doesn’t want to put himself through that again.

The song changes again and he smiles when he recognizes Otis Redding.  As the song plays-

 

These arms of mine, they are lonely

Lonely and feeling blue

 

-he allows himself to imagine what things would be like if Meg were right about Castiel’s feelings.  What it would be like to date Castiel.

 

These arms of mine, they are yearning

Yearning from wanting you

 

Yeah, he’d want to do date stuff like nice dinners and walks in the park or whatever, but they’d still eat home cooked casseroles after long work days, or microwaved canned soup while cuddling with the cats on Dean’s couch.  

 

And if you would let them hold you

Oh, how grateful I will be

 

They’d still futz around with repairs on Castiel’s home.  They’d spend weekends going back and forth to Home Depot and pestering Krissy at the paint counter every time they come in.

 

These arms of mine, they are burning

Burning from wanting you

 

Really, not much about their relationship would change.  Except for the physical aspect.  Instead of keeping their distance, Dean would be free to touch Castiel whenever he wanted.

 

These arms of mine, they are wanting

Wanting to hold you

 

Making out on the couch during commercials, their bodies pressing closer and closer until the cats get frustrated that they keep moving around and eventually abandon them.

 

And if you would let them hold you

Oh how grateful I will be

 

Random groping while painting a room that turns into a slow, sultry lovemaking up against the wall.

 

And if you would let them hold you

Oh how grateful I will be

 

Dean reaches out and flips the radio off.  “That’s enough of that.”

The sudden lack of music startles Castiel awake.  His head jerks up and he blinks blearily at Dean.  “Are we home?”

If Meg’s right, maybe ‘home’ could be together.

For fuck’s sake, STOP.

“Nearly,” Dean murmurs.  “Just a few blocks away.”

“Why did you turn off the radio?”

Because it was torturing me.   “It was making me drowsy.”

Castiel makes a small noise of understanding, and then yawns wide.  At the end he shakes his head as if he’s trying to deny sleep’s power over him.  

It proves to be contagious, and Dean reaches out and lightly punches Castiel in the arm.  “Knock that off,” he manages to squeeze out through the tail end of his own yawn.

Castiel chuckles, and straightens in his seat, more awake now that he’s had a power nap.  Seriously, Dean has no idea how he’s still upright.  He’s never seen anyone put that much booze away without risking alcohol poisoning.

It’s only two more turns and then Dean is pulling into his driveway.  His truck is parked at the curb so he pushes the button to trigger the garage door, and pulls right in.  

When they get out of the car, Dean smiles at how gentle Castiel is about closing the door.  Baby can hold up to a slammed door with ease, but he loves Castiel a little more for treating her like a lady.

Weren’t we going to try and deny the “L” word?

Yeah, yeah, I’ll get back on the wagon first thing in the morning.

He tucks his keys in his pocket and falls in next to Castiel as he starts to trudge down the driveway toward his own house.  He grins when Castiel shoots him a curious look.  “Just making sure you get home safe.”

“My house is just across the street, Dean.”

“I watch out for my drunk friends, Cas.”

“I’m not that drunk.”

Dean snorts.  “‘Not that drunk’ is still a little drunk.”

Castiel’s teeth flash white in the half-dark.  The night had started out with clear skies but when they’d stumbled out of the Roadhouse at closing time, it had been overcast.  The clouds are heavy with the threat of rain and low enough to reflect the city’s light making everything seem to glow eerily.  It makes Castiel seem like some kind of supernatural creature until the friendly yellow of his porch light catches on his features.  “Well I am too drunk to drive, for sure.  But I can manage the walk to my house on my own.”

“Just humor me.”   Give me two more minutes before I have to walk away from you.   

Castiel shrugs, and starts digging into his pocket for his keys as they walk up the brand new stairs to his porch.  Dean experiences a flash of professional pride when the steps don’t even squeak under their combined weight.

“You could do something for me,” Castiel says as he slots his key into the lock and twists the knob.  

“Sure, Cas.”  He doesn’t add the anything hovering on the tip of his tongue.  

Castiel steps inside and turns to face Dean from the half-open doorway.  “Would you mind giving me a ride back to Meg’s tomorrow to pick up my car?”

“You mean you want that piece of junk back?  You should just abandon it, dude.”  Dean winks to take the edge off his teasing.  

It still earns him a glare, although Castiel’s lips are twitching with suppressed humor.  “It’s a perfectly good car, Dean.”

“It’s an old man car.”

“It’s two years newer than yours,” Castiel counters.  A grin blooms over his features.  “I guess that makes you the old man.”

Dean laughs, rocking back on his heels and tilting his head back.  “I’m thirty-two!”

“An old man, driving an old man’s car.”

“Asshole,” Dean says affectionately.  

They stare at each other for a long moment, and Dean feels that same spark of something between them that he’d sensed when Castiel was singing at the Roadhouse.  It feels like potential.  Like if he just reaches for it, maybe…

Dean shoves those thoughts away and clears his throat, looking away because if he doesn’t, he’s going to do something stupid and rom-com-y like grab the lapels of Castiel’s jacket and drag him into a kiss.  He’s not that kind of dick.  “Well, just send me a text or call or whatever when you’re ready to go pick it up.”

“Thank you, Dean.”

He nods without looking up.  “‘Night, Cas.”

“Good night.”

Turning on a heel, Dean hurries down the steps, still proud of his work when they don’t even sink a little bit under his feet.  His shoulders hunch when he hears Castiel’s door close behind him.

God, he is such a fuck up.  He’d thought he was doing a good job at keeping his emotions under wraps, but Meg’s words are bouncing around in his skull, and he wants nothing more than to turn around and knock on Castiel’s door and find out if she’s right.

Castiel likes you too.

Don’t get your hopes up.

Dean stops in the middle of the street and stares blindly at his car parked in the garage.  The overhead light has timed out, and the only illumination is from the neighborhood’s porch lights and the eery glow from the sky.  

The air feels heavy with possibility.

Castiel likes you too.

What if she’s right?

He turns and looks at Castiel’s house.  There’s a light on downstairs, and the upstairs is still dark, which means that Castiel hasn’t gone to bed yet.  He knows it’s possible that Cas may have flipped on a light and forgot to turn it off one the way upstairs, but the hope that’s been growing from the tiny seed Meg planted inside him whispers to him that Castiel really didn’t seem that drunk.  He’s probably raiding the fridge for a snack or something.

Before he really makes the conscious decision, his feet are carrying him back in the direction of Castiel’s house, up the walk dividing his yard into two neat squares of grass that desperately need a mow, and up the (really well made, if he does say so himself) steps.  

His knuckles are rapping on the door before it occurs to him that this is exactly the rom-com moment that he’s been trying to avoid, but it’s too late to retreat because he hears Castiel’s footsteps, and then the lock clicks open and the door is swinging inward to reveal the star of Dean’s sexy dreams for the last several weeks.  

Castiel frowns at him in confusion.  “Dean?” He swings the door open wider, his expression changing to worried when he gets a better look at Dean.  “Is everything alright?”

Not even close.  Adrenaline is flooding his senses, and his fight or flight instinct is trying to kick in, tensing his muscles and blaring alarms in his brain.  “Cas, do you like me?”

Blue eyes blink at him, once, twice.  “Of course I like you.”

Fuck, the adrenaline is also making him sound like a complete idiot.  He shakes his head.  “No, I mean, do you like me?”

Castiel stares at him, his eyes flicking back and forth between Dean’s as he tries to connect the dots of their conversation.  His jaw sags, and his eyes go wide when he finally understands.  Dean half expects him to step back and slam the door in his face, throw all the locks and call 911 to report the crazy man standing on his porch.

That doesn’t happen.

A hand shoots forward, curling around the collar of Dean’s leather jacket, and he is pulled forward with much more strength than he’d expect from a man who drank at least a bottle of whiskey all by himself over the course of the evening.  Warm lips mash up against his, hard enough that he feels a tiny spike of pain when they catch against his teeth.  Then his body responds, and he tilts his head to the side so their mouths are slotted together at the correct angle for a proper kiss.  

And fuck, what a kiss it is.  Castiel’s lips are soft and warm and a little dry at first until they become damp from Dean’s mouth on his.  His stubble teases the edges of Dean’s lips, making them tingle.  And Castiel is good at it, practically overwhelming Dean with slow slide of their mouths together.

His hands go to Castiel’s hips, responding to the dueling commands to push him away and pull him closer, settling on just touching him, and oh god, his hips are slim and firm and Dean wants to dig his fingers in and leave his mark.  Only a single functioning brain cell holds him back.  Although it starts failing too when Castiel’s free hand runs up over the back of Dean’s neck and into his hair, cupping the back of his head and pulling him even closer.

When they break apart, they’re both breathing like they ran a marathon.

Pfft, Castiel runs every day.  He’d probably barely be winded.

So not important right now.

Oh, right.  He just kissed me.

He just kissed me.

“Sooo,” Dean asks.  “Is that a yes?”

Castiel is staring up at him like he doesn’t understand English, but then the words sink in and he let’s out a short bark of laughter.

Dean is pretty sure that Castiel pulling him back in for a second kiss means “yes”.

Chapter Text

Do you like me? 

What a stupid question. 

He doesn't know how Dean guessed that Castiel's feelings for him have shifted, although he suspects Meg gave him at least a hint, if not outright telling him.  He should be angry at her, but with Dean's tongue tracing Castiel's upper lip, it's difficult to muster up even a spark of indignation. 

He opens his mouth, moaning when Dean accepts his invitation and delves deeper.  Dean tastes like mead, and his lips are plush and warm.  A hint of stubble around his lips distracts him, but only because he’s fascinated with the novelty. 

Digging his fingers harder against Dean's scalp, he encourages Dean to come closer, until their chests are pressed together.  And oh, that's new.  He's always loved the soft give of breasts, but now there is nothing but a wall of hard muscle, from chest to groin.  It’s different and strange, but it only makes his blood boil hotter than before. 

Dean's chest isn't the only thing that's hard.  Castiel can feel the evidence of Dean's excitement digging into his hip, and out of curiosity he shifts until their dicks align.  Between the spark of pleasure that sets off in his belly and Dean's low growl, his knees nearly give out. 

When Dean pulls away Castiel makes a wordless noise of protest, and he looks up at Dean with impatience. 

“This isn't just a drunk thing, right?” 

Castiel frowns.  “Of course not.” 

He could blame his actions on the alcohol, because the truth is that he's drunker than he seems, but the adrenaline is burning his blood clean and Castiel is clear headed enough to know that he's kissing Dean because he wants to.  If he's honest with himself, he thinks he might have wanted it for a while.  But he's not interested in pinpointing when exactly it started.  Right now, he wants to go back to kissing. 

Dean's expression says that isn't going to happen without a little more reassurance.  “Dean, I want this.  I want you.” 

His words don't clear away Dean's hesitation.  “But you said you're straight, and I don't wanna take advantage if you're under the influence.” 

Castiel curls his fingers against Dean's scalp, and he smiles at the way Dean's eyelids droop in response.  “You're not taking advantage, Dean.”  When Dean takes a breath to say something that will probably be another protest, Castiel hurries to continue.  “We can talk about this, if you want, but can we go inside?” 

Dean purses his lips and nods. 

Castiel lets his fingers slide free of Dean's hair and he immediately misses the silky texture.  Dean's hands are still squeezing his hips, and he grabs them instead.  Holding them there, he backs up and pulls Dean over the threshold with him.   

When Castiel won't let go of his hands, Dean catches the edge of the door with his heel and kicks it shut.  His eyes are dark, and when they flick down to Castiel's lips, he licks his own.  The pink flash of his tongue makes Castiel want to lean forward and chase it with his own. 

“I admit,” Castiel says as he watches Dean's mouth.  “This is new to me.” 

“Cas, we don't have to do anything tonight-” 

“It's not the alcohol,” Castiel says firmly.  “It's you.  I've been going crazy over you for days.” 

Dean's eyes widen.  “You have?” 

Castiel nods and closes the gap between their bodies again.  “It took me a little while to figure out what was going on.”  He lifts his chin, inching forward until there’s very little space between their mouths, holding Dean's gaze with his own so he understands Castiel is telling the truth.  “I want you to spend the night with me.” 

Dean’s breaths go quick and shallow.  He licks his lips again, and Castiel can feel the dampness because they’re so close.  Finally he mutters a hoarse “Fuck, Cas,” and mashes their mouths together again.  His wrists twist free of Castiel’s loosened grip, and his hands start to tug at Castiel’s clothing even as he starts backing Castiel toward the stairs. 

Relief and desire swirl together inside Castiel making him more lightheaded than the whiskey and rum he consumed during the evening.  He almost stumbles on the first step, but Dean's strength keeps him upright. 

He has always been the bigger, stronger partner and knowing that Dean could easily manhandle him up the stairs is both novel and heady.  Dean is only an inch or two taller, and maybe a little broader in the shoulders, but with all that bulk surrounding him Castiel feels the size difference very keenly. 

He doesn't want to stop kissing, but between the flick of Dean's tongue inside his mouth and the warmth of Dean's fingers, which have worked his shirt free of his pants and slipped underneath to spread over his skin, he can't concentrate on his own feet and he stumbles again. 

“I gotcha,” Dean says against his mouth just before he bends down and grabs the back of Castiel's thighs. 

Castiel gasps when Dean lifts him, and quickly wraps his legs around Dean's waist.   Over Dean's shoulder he sees how far they are from the floor and he's hit with a small wave of vertigo.  Now he knows how Meg felt that first night he moved in. 

He meets Dean's eyes and chuckles.  “If we fall and I break my neck, I'm going to haunt your ass.” 

“Ghost sex,” Dean says with a grin as he starts to ascend the stairs.  “That's hot.” 

Castiel drops his head against Dean's shoulder and snickers.  “Sounds like the plot of a bad B movie.” 

“I think we have the plot for the next Paranormal Activity.  I'll call Hollywood in the morning and pitch the idea.  We'll get rich off the royalties.” 

They've reached the top of the stairs, but Dean doesn't put him down.  He carries Castiel straight to his room, flipping the light on with his elbow and making Castiel gasp at the unexpected dip.  He finally lets Castiel's legs slide free of his grip when he reaches the foot of the bed.  His palms are hot through the denim of Castiel's pants, and once he's standing, they move up to cup his ass and begin to knead gently. 

“This okay, Cas?” 

“It would be better without pants,” Castiel answers honestly. 

“Can't argue with that.”  Dean lets go long enough to shove Castiel's jacket off his shoulders and pull his shirt over his head.  He flings it to the side and then goes for the fly of Castiel's jeans. 

When they're undone Dean pauses with his fingers tucked under the waistband and looks up at Castiel.  There's a question in his eyes that Castiel answers by guiding Dean's hands, dragging the denim down over his hips.  Dean sucks in a breath and looks down. 

Castiel is hard in his boxers, the head poking insistently at the opening at the front.  It would only take a twitch of his hips for it to part the fabric, but he doesn't get the chance because Dean drops to his knees and nuzzles against him.  He gasps when Dean's cheek brushes the bare head of his dick, and he grabs Dean's shoulders for leverage to keep himself standing.  His fingers dig into the leather jacket Dean still hasn't removed. 

“I really want to suck you off, Cas,” Dean murmurs, his breath warming Castiel's skin under the cotton. 

Want ripples through Castiel's body, making him shiver.  “Don't let me stop you.” 

Dean looks up at Castiel through his lashes, and even though his mouth is hidden where it is buried in the cloth of Castiel's boxers, so close to his dick, his smile is evident in the crinkles around his eyes.  He nuzzles Castiel again, using his nose to move fabric out of his way, and then his lips press against the head in a feather light kiss.   

He chuckles, low and dark, at Castiel's hiss.  “How do you like it, Cas?” 

Castiel almost responds that he'd like it now, please, but he's afraid Dean will take that as an excuse to tease him.  He likes being teased, but he's not sure he can handle it tonight.  What he wants is to watch his dick slide deep between Dean's swollen lips over and over, to see how much he can take.  He's not pornstar big, but he's long enough to please and thick enough to give some a challenge.  He's not sure what Dean is willing to do or even capable of, so he hesitates over his answer. 

When he doesn't answer right away Dean kisses him again, then flicks his tongue over the sensitive spot below the head.  “Cas?”  He tugs Castiel's boxers down, freeing him from them, but leaving them bunched around his calves along with his pants.  He looks down at Castiel's dick and licks his lips. 

Knees wobbling at the sight, Castiel puts even more weight on Dean's shoulders to keep himself upright.   

Dean's hands steady him, then nudge him until he plops down on the edge of the mattress.  “Lets get you comfortable first.”  He goes to work removing Castiel's shoes, then frees his feet from the rest of his clothing.  “Scoot up on the bed and lay down.” 

Castiel does as he's told, crawling backwards until he can lay back on his pillows.  The way Dean's eyes follow him makes his heartbeat stutter.  Dean watches his body like he's trying to decide which part is his favorite.  Castiel makes no move to hide himself even though he feels strange being the center of another man's attention.  Every time he’s been naked in front of another man, they were always focused on Meg, and Castiel never acknowledged the few wistful looks they sometimes cast his way.   

Nudity has never made him feel so completely on display before.  At least not since he and Meg had fumbled through losing their virginity together.  He briefly wishes she was here now to act as a buffer between him and Dean, but the thought is gone almost immediately because he doesn't want to share this with anyone.  He wants Dean for himself. 

Dean stands and braces a knee on the end of the mattress, making it shift under his weight, while he strips off his jacket, letting it fall at his feet.  He moves to crawl onto the bed, and Castiel lifts a brow at him. 

“One of us is over dressed, Dean.”  The idea of Dean being fully clothed while he is not definitely makes his dick perk up with interest, but he'd like their first time to be a little more traditional.  Especially since everything else about this experience is already pushing him outside his comfort zone. 

Pausing, Dean looks down at himself.  He pulls his t-shirt off, then blushes and bundles the green cloth in his hands, kneading at it with his fingers and holding it in front of himself almost like a shield.  “Uh, Cas, there's something I need to tell you…” 

Castiel sits up and tilts his head curiously.  Dean is nervous.  About removing his clothes?  This isn’t the first time Castiel has seen him shirtless, and he loved what he saw every time.  Loves it now.  Dean’s chest and arms are thick with muscle, but he isn’t chiseled like a gym-bound body builder.  His strength is the the natural unobtrusive kind that comes from long hours of hard work.  Castiel doesn’t think Dean should have any reason to be self conscious about his body.  “What is it, Dean?” 

“It's, uh…” Dean drops the t-shirt and his fingers move down to pluck at the button of his jeans.  “So I have this… I guess you could call it a fetish…” 

Understanding dawns, and Castiel groans.  Fuck, he's wearing them right now.  “What color are they?” 

Dean's head snaps up, his eyes wide.  “What?” 

Castiel scrambles to his knees and crawls to the edge of the bed.  He brushes Dean's hands away and starts working his jeans open.  “What color are your panties?” 

“Wha- y-you know?” Dean stutters. 

It's ridiculous that Dean is surprised considering how often his shirt rides up and his jeans slip low, but Castiel doesn't have the words to tell him so because he's got Dean's fly open and all the air rushes out of his lungs on a single syllable.   

“Pink.” 

He says it low and reverent because the sight of Dean's dick straining to be free of pale pink silk trimmed with peach colored lace is one of the most beautiful things he's ever seen.  He brushes his thumb over the head, spreading the tiny wet spot in the cloth. 

Dean makes a tiny noise in the back of his throat.  “Cas…” 

“Gorgeous,” Castiel whispers as he drags his thumb down the hard length.  Women are soft and slick.  They soak through the delicate cloth, their heady scent rising up and tempting him to bury his face between their legs.  Dean is hard iron trapped in silk, and the difference is stark, but no less tempting. 

Curiosity shifts his hand until Dean's dick is cupped in his palm.  The breathy sound he makes gives Castiel the courage to explore, sliding his hand down to measure the weight of Dean's balls before moving back up in a gentle stroke.   

He thought it would be strange fondling another man’s dick, but other than the angle, it’s much like touching himself.  Only so much sexier.  He spares a brief moment to be upset with himself for not giving this a try sooner, but doesn’t dwell on it much.  He’s here with Dean now, and he’s got all night to explore. 

Dean is large, probably bigger than Castiel, if not quite as thick.  But the panties barely contain him.  The only reason the cloth still fully covers him is because his dick is slanted to the side, held tight against his hip by pink silk. 

He hooks a finger under the lacy edge down between Dean's thighs and runs it along the curve of his balls.  He gasps at the smooth heat. 

“Cas…” 

Castiel ignores the plaintive whisper.  “You're shaved.” 

“Waxed,” Dean murmurs.  “Makes the silky ones feel better.” 

“Shit,” Castiel breathes softly.  He tugs the cloth aside just enough to reveal a little skin and he licks his lips at the sight.  “That is so sexy.” 

Dean shivers.  “Cas, I'm not complaining, but I thought we already had a game plan here.” 

In his fascination, Castiel had completely forgotten his own hard on.  It twitches at the reminder of Dean's plan to blow him, but he's far more interested in fondling Dean through his silk panties.  “Not yet.”

“You really like them?” 

Castiel's head snaps up when he hears the uncertainty in Dean's tone.  Dean’s freckles are hidden by the flush under his skin, and his chin is tilted down shyly.  It's  adorable, yet confusing, until he remembers that most men don't wear frilly pink underwear.  He wonders if Dean has been rejected for his proclivities before. 

A slow grin stretches across his lips.  “Panties are my fetish, Dean.  These…”  He wiggles his fingers under the cloth, enjoying the way Dean's lips part and his eyes drop half closed.  “...make me very happy.” 

“Awesome,” Dean responds gruffly. 

Castiel shifts until he’s sitting on the edge of the bed instead of kneeling.  Because he still hasn’t put his mattresses on a frame, this puts him at eye level with Dean’s very impressive, and beautifully wrapped, hardon.  Leaning forward, he lets his eyes drift closed and runs his nose along the hard ridge of flesh under the silk, breathing in.   

He recognizes the scent immediately, his mind flashing back to the pair of jade green panties that kickstarted his fantasies in the first place.  Musky sweat and a hint of something sharp and citrusy.  It makes his mouth water and he gives in to the urge to taste, opening his lips over the silk and mouthing at it just above Dean’s balls.   

The silk is a familiar texture against his tongue and quickly soaks up moisture from his mouth.  He works his way up, leaving a wet trail, all the way to the head of Dean’s dick which he sucks between his lips. 

“Fuck, Cas…” 

He can taste the salt of Dean’s precum, and he moans.  Everything about Dean is so different from what he’s experienced before, and he truly expected to be nervous about giving his first blowjob, but the only butterflies in his stomach are from eagerness to do more.   

Working his fingers under the silk, he slides his hands around until he’s gripping Dean’s ass.  The silk against the back of his hands combined with the almost velvety softness of Dean’s skin against his palms sends chills up his arms, and his fingers clench involuntarily.  Dean’s body responds by pressing closer to his face, and that is a very good reaction as far as Castiel is concerned. 

He can’t get much of Dean into his mouth with the silk blocking his way, and he’s vaguely aware that Dean might appreciate what he’s doing more if he actually freed his dick from his panties.  But he’s wrapped up in the sensation of soft silk and hard flesh, and if the noises Dean is making are any indication, he doesn’t seem to mind too much. 

Castiel sucks and licks, doing his best to keep the silk soaked with his saliva, working his way from head to base several times.  On one of his downward trips, he catches the edge of the silk with his teeth and pulls it aside until Dean’s balls begin to shift free of the cloth.  He doesn’t even hesitate to run his tongue over the taut skin, and he’s rewarded with the most filthy moan. 

Dean’s voice is deep and sometimes a little rough around the edges, and is made for sex.   

In an effort to get more noises from him, Castiel sucks at the newly exposed skin until it fills his mouth.  He rolls his tongue around the orb in his mouth, hoping Dean likes it as much as he does because he has no other experience with this other than his own.   

It seems to work because Dean’s thighs are trembling, and he’s whispering Castiel’s name. 

“Cas…” 

Gentle fingers brush against Castiel’s cheek, and he looks up without stopping what he’s doing.   

Dean looks absolutely wrecked.  His lips are swollen and red and damp as if he’s been chewing on them, and his pupils are blown wide.  His skin is still flushed, but the pretty pink spreads down from his cheeks and neck over his shoulders.  His stomach muscles bunch and twitch each time Castiel’s tongue slides to a new angle. 

“Cas, please,” Dean murmurs.  “I’m lovin’ this, but I’ve been dying to touch you.” 

Relenting, Castiel lets Dean’s balls slip free of his mouth.  He tilts his head back and flicks his tongue out to swipe across his bottom lip.  “Alright.” 

Dean groans, closing his eyes briefly, before looking down at Castiel with dark intent.  “Do you know how fucking sexy you are?” 

Castiel grins.  “As sexy as you are in these panties?” 

“I do look pretty fuckin’ hot, don’t I?”  Dean’s teeth flash with a grin of his own, and one eye drops shut in a wink.  Then he nudges a hand against Castiel’s shoulder.  “C’mon, lay back.  I want to taste you too, sweetheart.” 

The endearment makes something shift near Castiel’s heart, and warmth spreads outward from the area.  He nods, and leans back, once again shimmying towards the pillows.  Dean bends down to remove his shoes, socks, and pants, then follows, his powerful body prowling over the mattress like a big and powerful cat. 

Castiel sinks back against the pillows, and instinctively spreads his legs.  Dean looms over him, his eyes dark with intent.  He sinks down on top of Castiel, pressing their bare chests together, then kisses him, open-mouthed and almost rough.  Castiel whines through his nose and lets Dean’s weight push him deeper into the mattress. 

He whines again when the kiss ends and Dean’s weight disappears.  He immediately misses the hard wall of Dean’s chest against his, and his hands go to Dean’s biceps trying to urge him back. 

“I told you,” Dean says before pressing a kiss against the center of Castiel’s chest.  “I’m gonna suck you off, Cas.”  He places a few more kisses in a trail down over his stomach.  “You got a taste.”  He licks the patch of skin below Castiel’s navel.  “Now it’s my turn.”   

Castiel lets out a wordless shout when the head of his dick is engulfed. 

Dean’s mouth is hot, and wet, and skilled.  He seems to have no problem with Castiel’s girth, and he sucks gently at the head before sliding down until his gag reflex should be triggering before backing off and mouthing at the head again.  Castiel’s eyes roll back in his head when Dean sucks hard at the head and lets it slip free of his lips with an audible pop. 

And then Dean gentles again, just mouthing at the head and stroking the rest with his hand.  He brings Castiel slowly to the edge, squeezing, kissing, licking, repeating in no particular order.   

Castiel is close to coming when Dean stops, and he protests with a hissed “Dean!” 

“Don’t worry, Cas,” Dean says as he crawls back up over Castiel’s body.  “I gotcha.” 

And then he’s rubbing his silk covered dick against Castiel’s.   

Looking down between their bodies, Castiel is transfixed by the sight.  The panties no longer hold Dean’s dick captive.  The head is peeking free, so as he rubs their lengths together sometimes it’s skin to skin, and sometimes it’s skin to silk.  The alternating sensations make the muscles in Castiel’s belly clench in warning.  Without conscious thought, his hands go to Dean’s hips to guide him, speeding up the rhythm.   

“Fuck,” Castiel gasps as he feels the orgasm building inside of him. 

“Does it feel good, Cas?” 

There’s a definite smirk in Dean’s voice, but Castiel is too busy watching their dicks sliding together to look up and confirm if his expression matches his tone.  He sees the heads of their dicks catch against each other, the skin pulling tight even as the silky panties caress the rest of his length, and the tension inside him snaps.  His whole body seizes, and his head jerks back onto the pillows as his orgasm pumps come over his belly. 

Dean humps against him, riding him through his orgasm.  His hips begin to move faster, their rhythm faltering, and then there is more heat spreading across Castiel’s belly. 

“Cas… Castiel… oh fuck.” 

Hearing his full name on Dean’s lips makes Castiel’s whole body go hot all over. 

Dean collapses on him, smearing their combined fluids between their bellies, and for some reason Castiel loves that.  It’s messy and kind of gross, but some primitive part of his brain likes the idea that they’re marking each other. 

He has no idea why he’s suddenly feeling so possessive.  It’s probably a combination of a post-coital endorphin high, alcohol, and the late hour turning his brain to mush. 

It’s a nice feeling, so he allows himself to wallow in it for a few minutes, wrapping his arms around Dean’s shoulders and hugging him close.  Dean rests his face in the crook of Castiel’s neck and breathes heavily from the exertion.   

After a few minutes his breathing slows, but neither of them move.  Castiel traces random patterns between Dean’s shoulder blades as he feels himself slipping towards sleep.   

He must doze off because he wakes to find Dean pulling away.  His arms tighten, but when Dean murmurs an assurance that he’ll be right back he relaxes and lets the other man go.  It’s colder without him, and he frowns without opening his eyes. 

He hears water running in the bathroom, and the distinct sound of Dean relieving himself.  And then the pad of bare feet against the hardwood floor.  The light goes out, and after more footsteps, the bed sinks under Dean’s weight, and a warm washcloth rubbing against his stomach makes Castiel open his eyes.   

He can’t see Dean because his eyes are still adjusting to the change in light, and there’s no moonlight filtering in through the curtains.  He can hear rattling against the windows, and realizes that at some point while they were having sex it started to rain. 

There’s a flash, illuminating the room in white light, and Castiel’s lips part on an inhale at the brief glimpse he gets of Dean.  He looked like an otherworldly creature in the silvery light.  Like an Incubus come to claim him in the deepest dark of the night. 

Castiel wouldn’t be able to resist such a beautiful creature.  Especially not one in pink silky panties.   

Dean wipes him clean and then tosses the washcloth in the general direction of the bathroom just as thunder rumbles outside.  He starts tugging at the blankets that are bunched up near the end of the bed because Castiel never bothers to make it after he gets up in the morning, then he settles down next to Castiel, pulling the blanket over them both.   

He rolls to face Castiel, but doesn’t move to close the small space between them.  So Castiel does it instead, reaching out and pulling Dean against his side.  He smiles at the way Dean cuddles into him. 

“Did you like it, Cas?” Dean asks quietly after he’s made himself comfortable.  His voice is just barely audible over the rain clattering against the roof and windows. 

Castiel turns his head enough to press a kiss against Dean’s forehead.  “Don’t ask stupid questions.” 

There’s another flash of lightning, and the roll of thunder accompanies Dean’s soft chuckle.  

"Will your cats be okay without you tonight?" Castiel murmurs as he sleep starts to tug at him again.

"I gave 'em their can of food before I went out tonight," Dean responds against Castiel's shoulder.  "They'll barely notice I'm gone.  They only love me for the gooshy food I give 'em."

Castiel laughs.  "There's more about you to love than your ability to open cans."

There's a pause in which Castiel wonders if Dean has fallen asleep, but then he speaks, softly and with a smile in his tone.  "Thanks, Cas." 

They fall asleep, lulled by the heat of each other’s bodies and the soft song of the storm. 

Chapter Text

It's been so long since Dean has woken up with someone other than his cats in the bed that it takes him a moment to realize that he's not dreaming the arm draped over his waist, or the leg tucked between his own.  He keeps his eyes closed, savoring the feel of a warm body draped along his back.   

He'd fallen asleep cuddled against Castiel's side but at some point he must have rolled away and onto his stomach, and Castiel followed.  His breath is warm and damp against Dean's neck, just shy of a wheezing snore that makes Dean's lips twitch with humor.   

Through his closed eyelids he can tell that it's morning.  It's dim, but he doesn't think it's that early since he can still hear the soft patter of rain, and the morning sunlight is probably muted by storm clouds.  It's probably later than he usually sleeps in, but it was well past midnight by the time he and Castiel left the Roadhouse, and even later when they finally made it to bed. 

The memory of what led them to bed and what happened afterwards makes his small smile break into a cheeky grin.  He's going to have to do something really nice for Meg as a thank you for the talk they had.  He'd already planned on seeing if she and Castiel wanted to get high sometime, but he may actually wrap the baggy of weed he'd bought in a nice box with pretty paper and a bow and give it to her with a fancy Thank You card. 

Maybe he'll make her dinner, too.  He chuckles at the thought. 

The movement disturbs Castiel.  His face turns deeper into the back of Dean's neck, and he snuffles a little.  And then he stretches.  The sinuous motion of a naked body against Dean's bare back makes his breath hitch.   

Castiel’s skin sticks to his in places where they've sweat against each other, and his leg disentangles itself from Dean's, only to come back and tuck under Dean's thighs.  The arm around Dean's waist stretches out, hand rolling in a circular motion until Castiel's wrist pops, then shifts to wrap around his chest as much as possible with Dean half laying on his stomach. 

“Mmm… w’time is it?” Castiel rasps. 

As nice as Castiel feels against him, Dean suddenly tenses under him.  Fuck, now that he's awake, Cas is going to start thinking about who exactly he's spooning. 

Please don't freak out, please don't freak out, please. 

Castiel seemed completely in control last night, but Dean’s never seen him drunk before, and certainly hasn't ever seen him the morning after.  He has no idea if Castiel is going to feel the same way about gay sex this morning as he did last night. 

Bracing himself for a swift ejection from the bed, Dean clears his throat.  “I dunno.  Probably not early, though.” 

Castiel is quiet for a long moment, and Dean's heartbeat speeds up. 

Fuck, he's probably freaking out.  He's going to hate me for this. 

Please, Cas, don't hate me. 

“No wonder I'm starving,” Castiel murmurs.   

And then he nuzzles Dean again and goes still. 

Dean's eyes shoot open and he stares blankly across the room.  He doesn't know whether Castiel is still half asleep and hasn't realized who is sharing his bed, or… or he's okay with it?  Dean desperately wants to ask, but is frozen with fear that he won't get the answer he wants. 

Castiel's hand shifts under Dean's chest, his fingers tracing small circles on his skin.  Dean holds his breath.  If Cas is groping for a boob in his sleep, he's going to be disappointed.   

The hand slides down, stroking Dean's ribs and down to the hollow between his stomach and the mattress, pausing to dip the tip of a finger into his navel before continuing its journey south.  Dean gasps a tiny breath when fingers tease closer to his dick before slipping away at the last second to settle on Dean's hip. 

Dammit. 

He's probably asleep, you fucking perv. 

Mr. Happy gives less of a fuck than I do. 

God, he's such an asshole.  

He hears Castiel's stomach rumble even as he feels it against his back, and it's followed by a rusty chuckle before Castiel speaks.  “I should probably eat something.  Will you stay for breakfast?” 

He sounds like he’s awake, but Dean needs to see it to believe it.  He shifts, and Castiel takes the hint and moves just enough so that Dean can roll over and face him.  The bed bounces with his movements, and that has to be enough to wake Castiel if he isn’t already.   

Once Dean is resituated so that he’s facing Castiel, he gets his answer. 

He’s greeted with sleepy eyes, and a crooked smile.  “Good morning, Dean.” 

Dean opens his mouth, then shuts it, and frowns at Castiel.  This is not the reaction he was expecting, and he doesn’t know how to parse it. 

Castiel wiggles a little closer until their faces are only inches apart.  What little space there was between their bodies disappears as Castiel tangles their ankles together and snakes an arm around Dean’s waist again.  His dick is hard against Dean’s hip, and Dean gasps at the contact, making Castiel’s smile widen.   

“You’re awake,” Dean says stupidly.  Because it’s the only thing he can think to say besides, where do you keep the lube and condoms? 

It’s a valid question. 

Jesus, it can wait. 

Spoilsport. 

Dean’s pretty sure that last thought came from the head running his southern hemisphere.  Needy little bastard. 

“That generally happens at some point in the morning,” Castiel responds.  There is more gravel in his voice than usual, and it’s hot as fuck.   

Because Dean’s brain still can’t get with the program, he asks another stupid question.  “It’s okay that I’m here with you, right?” 

Castiel leans forward and presses a gentle kiss to Dean's lips.  “I asked you to stay, didn't I?” 

Normally Dean isn't a morning kisser because Morning Breath, but he allows Castiel to kiss him a second, and even a third time before he says what he's thinking.  “I'm just a little confused.  You said you're straight.” 

Castiel settles back and laughs softly.  “Trust me, that's a feeling I've been intimately acquainted with lately.  It appears that I'm not as straight as I thought I was.” 

“So… you're bi?”  Dean hopes he doesn't irritate Castiel with his questions.  He just needs to be sure. 

A bare shoulder hitches up in a shrug.  “That seems like the best description.” 

Dean wishes that he'd been as nonchalant about his sexuality when he first figured it out.  He'd agonized over it for a year before he felt brave enough to talk about it, and even longer before he acted on it.  Sure, he's completely comfortable with himself now, but as a teenager it had been harder to come to terms with.   

Between his grandpa Henry's gentle acceptance, and Cain's solid support, he'd gotten through the adolescent identity crisis mostly unscathed.  Coming out was a little rough, although not as bad as he feared.  There were a few fist fights with assholes at school, a few shouting matches with his dad, and then he was past it.   

He wants to ask more questions, but his curiosity is derailed when Castiel shifts against him, grinding their hips together.  The movement reminds Dean that not only did Castiel invite him to his bed, but apparently woke up extra happy to have him there, if the hardness pressing against his hip is any indication. 

And what kind of idiot would he be to keep pushing Castiel away just because of his own surprise over the newest development in their relationship? 

Is it a ‘relationship’? 

Whoa, pull up!  Now is not the time for that! 

Not when Castiel’s hands are starting to explore even as he continues dry humping against Dean.   

“Where are your panties?”  Castiel murmurs when his fingers cup Dean's ass cheek and uses the leverage to grind their hips together more firmly. 

Dean's morning wood had started to fade due to his anxiety over Castiel's possible reaction to waking up with a man in his bed, but between the steady friction against his dick and Castiel's early morning sex voice his libido shifts into high gear.  He starts moving counter to Castiel's thrusts, relishing the way his dick slides through the hair at Castiel's groin.   

“On the floor somewhere with the rest of my clothes.”  He grabs a handful of Castiel's hair and tilts his head up to bare his throat.  Between suckling kisses over Castiel's adam's apple, he continues.  “They were kind of a mess.” 

“Oh yeah?”  Castiel lets out a shuddering breath.  “What kind of a mess?” 

Dean bites at Castiel's jaw.  “They were soaked in cum.”  Castiel makes a low sound of pleasure and his thrusts speed up, and Dean is fucking thrilled to that Cas appreciates his panty kink.  “You like knowing we both jizzed all over my panties, Cas?” 

“They were so pretty,” Castiel rasps.  His fingers squeeze Dean's ass.  “I wish I could have seen them all wet.” 

Dean tilts Castiel's head down so he can look him in the eyes.  Pupils wide with lust, Castiel stares straight back at him.  There is no hesitation or shyness, and Dean feels the last traces of anxiety dissipate.  Castiel wants him. 

And his panties.  Jackpot. 

“That can be arranged, Cas.”  He grins at Castiel's moan, then brings their mouths together for an open-mouthed kiss, morning breath be damned.   

Their tongues slide together in the same rhythm as their hips, and Dean can feel his orgasm cresting.  From the way Castiel is bucking against him, Dean thinks he might be getting close too.  But he pulls away, soothing Castiel's wordless protest with a gentle scratch of his fingers through Castiel’s hair. 

“I've got a drawer full of panties,” he pants against Castiel's mouth.   

“Tell me,” Castiel gasps. 

“Lots of colors.  Pink, green, teal…” 

“White?” 

“Yeah, Cas.  I have white.”   

Castiel's eyes slip closed.  “What kind?” 

Damn.  Dean has had lovers that tolerated his panties, and some who even seemed to encourage it.  But he's never been with anyone that got off on just talking about them.  Castiel's obsession might actually match his own.   

“Satin,” he answers.  “A couple pairs in lace.  One has a little bow.” 

Castiel gasps. 

“My favorite are a pair of white cotton boyshorts with black lace trim.” 

Castiel's body locks up, and Dean feels warmth spread between them when he comes.  Dean's body is quick to follow, and he shudders, burying his face against Castiel's neck while he rides out the waves of pleasure. 

They both go still, breathing hard from the exertion, heating the air between them.  Dean watches Castiel’s face for signs of impending doom, but all he sees is a relaxed and lazy grin.   

“You’re really okay with this?” He asks when his breathing evens out a little more.  Neither of them have made a move to separate, despite the slick mess between them, and Castiel’s fingers are tracing little circles in the small of Dean’s back.  His fingers pause momentarily, and Dean braces himself for the worst. 

“I am,” Castiel finally answers.  His eyes track over Dean’s face, from his eyes to his lips, back and forth over his cheeks, like he’s counting the freckles.  There’s still only sated happiness in his expression though.  “I realized recently that I’ve been curious for a long time.  Years.  But I never gave any thought to acting on it.  But when I saw your panties, suddenly I couldn’t think of anything else.” 

Dean frowns.  “What do you mean?  When did you see them?” 

Castiel laughs, but then he stops and stares, incredulous, when he realizes Dean is serious.  “Really?” 

“What?” Dean demands. 

“Dean, you do realize that sometimes when you bend over, they’re visible, right?” 

Mortified heat rises up in Dean’s cheeks.  “Uh… yeah I guess I… I guess I forget.” 

He probably shouldn’t wear them so often.  If Castiel has caught a glimpse of them, the guys at the job sites probably have too.  No one ever says anything, but- 

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Castiel chides gently.  “They’re beautiful.  And anyone who thinks less of you for wearing them is an asshole.” 

That’s true.  Besides, Dean has been wearing them for so long now, he’s more comfortable in them than in the men’s underwear he keeps around in case he decides to go out trolling for a one-nighter.  He doesn’t wear panties for strangers.  Hell, he doesn’t even wear them for his lovers.  He wears them because they make him feel good.  They’re soft, and sexy, and sometimes during rough work days, he’ll move just right and be reminded that he’s wearing them and all his frustration ebbs away.   

He opens his mouth to agree with Castiel, but he’s interrupted by something wet and cold splatting on his cheek.  He flinches when another hits his shoulder.  He turns to look up at the ceiling just as Castiel is struck by the mystery object as well, causing him to swear and reach up to swipe at his cheek. 

Dean’s eyes go wide when he sees the ceiling.  The water stain that had only taken up a small corner of Castiel’s ceiling has spread to just above where they’re lying, and the paint is bulging dangerously. 

“Oh shit.” 

No sooner have the words left his mouth than there is a squelching sound as the drywall ceiling breaks under the weight of the rainwater that has been collecting in the attic overnight.  He has just enough time to throw an arm over Castiel’s head to protect him from any falling debris before gallons of water pour down on them, along with broken bits of soggy ceiling and insulation. 

When the torrent ends, Dean cautiously lifts his arm to free Castiel.  They both look back up at the ceiling which now sports a dripping teardrop shaped hole as wide as Dean’s shoulders. 

“Fuck,” Castiel grunts.  “That’s probably going to be expensive to fix, isn’t it?” 

Dean looks down at Castiel, and has to hold back a smile.  He’s braced on an elbow, drenched, his dark hair plastered to his forehead, and there are bits of broken ceiling clinging to it.  He looks utterly unimpressed with the situation.   

“Don’t worry, Cas, it won’t be that bad.”  Dean’s voice strains to hold back his laughter, and when Castiel looks down at him and narrows his eyes in warning, he loses control of his expression and grins widely.  “Hey, man, look on the bright side.  At least now we don’t need a shower.” 

Castiel’s expression darkens further, but then this lips twitch, and he chuckles.  He looks down at their bodies which were partially protected from the deluge by the blanket that had somehow remained draped around them despite their vigorous activities.  “It missed the places that need it the most,” he counters with a smirk. 

Dean laughs, and pulls Castiel into a quick hug.  He presses a kiss against his damp cheek, then let’s him go, rolling toward the edge of the bed.  “C’mon, Cas.  We gotta get this cleaned up and get a tarp over the roof before it gets worse.” 

He can still hear the rain outside.  He hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the forecast because he wasn’t working at any outdoor sites for the next week, so he’s not sure how long the storm is supposed to last.  It’s still spring though, so the rain could end in the next five minutes, or decide to stick around for a few days.   

Either way, Castiel’s house is going to need some emergency repairs. 

Luckily for him, Dean is around to help. 

He casts around on the floor for his clothes, and sees that the hardwood is wet.  The ceiling must have been leaking all night, but they’d both been too deeply asleep to hear it.  And then by the time they were awake, they’d been too occupied to notice it. 

Guilt immediately assails him.  Once again, he knew something was seriously wrong, but he let himself get distracted from fixing it.  He does his best to fight it down though.  He didn’t know how bad the roof was because he hasn’t gotten up there to check it yet.  There hasn’t been time.  And even if they hadn’t fooled around last night and this morning, they probably wouldn’t have been able to save the ceiling; it had to be replaced anyway, even without the storm.   

Might have saved the bed though. 

He looks back at the soaked bedding.  The mattress itself is probably wet as well, and will need to be dried out before it can be slept on again. 

Eh, the bed was a worthy sacrifice. 

The thought makes him laugh again, but he does his best to sober up when he sees Castiel's disgruntled expression.  Castiel is standing naked on the other side of the bed, stomach still smeared with cum, staring down at the wet mattress like he can smite it with his brain.  Dean takes a moment to look his fill, and even though he just got off and Castiel still looks like a drowned cat, the sight makes his mouth water.   

Damn, his morning jogging routine has done his body good. 

Maybe I should see if he wants a running buddy. 

The thought does not appeal.  But his belly is a little pudgy, not flat and sculpted like Castiel's, and he could probably do with cutting a few burgers out of his diet in addition to adding a little bit of cardio to his daily routine. 

Sex burns calories. 

Good point! 

He does his best to push thoughts of sex out of his mind.  He can practically see Castiel's stress emanating from his skin, and they need to hurry and get this mess cleaned up before it gets worse.  

“Come on, Cas.  It looks bad, but it's work that already needed to be done.”  And at least no one got injured this time.  A little water damage is much easier to deal with than a trip to the emergency room. 

Castiel looks up at him, and the frown marring his brow lightens.  He sighs and swipes a hand through his damp hair.  “You're right, although I was hoping the roof would last a little longer.” 

“Didn't you get the place inspected before you moved in?”  Dean bends down and grabs the mound of clothing at the foot of the bed.  It takes a moment to work out which pieces are his and which are Castiel's because they'd ended up piled together when they were taken off.  His panties are right on top because he’d tossed them there before getting into bed, and he uses them to wipe his stomach clean. 

“Of course, but the inspector didn't tell me anything was wrong.  The paperwork only said how old the current roof is.  It didn't mention any damage.” 

Dean shakes out his jeans and steps into them one leg at a time.  He doesn't usually like going commando, but he's not going to wear spunk-stained panties.  He shoves the pink silk into his back pocket.  “The inspector did a shit job.  Do you remember who it was?” 

“His name was Edgar-something.”  Castiel finally moves away from the edge of the bed, making his way to the bathroom.  “I’d have to look at the paperwork to remember.” 

Dean does his best to seem like he's not staring at Castiel.  He can't help following him with his eyes though.  He has a slight limp from his healing ankle, but he still moves with masculine grace that Dean doesn't have the willpower to ignore.  Not when he's wanted to see Castiel like this practically from the moment they met. 

“No need,” he murmurs distractedly.  “I know Edgar.  He's a dick.” 

Castiel disappears into the bathroom, but he leaves the door open.  Dean can just see the edge of his reflection in the mirror as he bends over the sink and turns it on.  “He was recommended by the company I bought the house from.” 

“Lemme guess,” Dean says as he goes back to pulling on his clothes.  “Roman Enterprises?” 

“That’s it.” 

“Yeah it’s a company of dicks run by a huge Dick.”  Now dressed, Dean turns his attention back to the bed.  The ceiling is still dripping, so he hunkers down and pushes the bed out from under the hole.  “Hey, you got any old towels to soak up this water?” 

“I don’t have any old towels.  I had to buy some new ones when I moved out of Jimmy’s house.”  Castiel comes out of the bathroom, still bare as the day he was born.   

Dean can’t decide if he likes the fact that Cas struts around naked so much, or that he hates it because he doesn’t have the ability to get it up again right now.   

Both? 

Both. 

“We can get some from my house,” Dean tells him.  He’s already making a mental list of what needs to be done.  It’s the only way he can think of to distract himself from Castiel’s nudity. 

Castiel eyes the ceiling, and then lets out a dejected sigh before turning to the baskets against the far wall where he keeps his laundry.  “Alright.  Thank you, Dean.” 

When Castiel bends over the baskets, Dean’s mouth goes dry and his dick valiantly twitches in his jeans.  Holy gods, what a beautiful sight.  He wants to drop to his knees behind that perfect ass and bury his tongue in it.  Deciding he needs a distraction, he spins away and starts stripping the bedding from Castiel’s mattress.   

“I’ve got some tarps big enough to cover your roof,” he says.  “So I’ll get them up there, and then we’ll clean up your room.” 

Castiel agrees, and by the time Dean turns back around, he’s fully dressed.  Together they head over to Dean’s house.  They run to avoid getting soaked in the rain, which isn’t quite pouring, but is definitely more than a drizzle.   

They’re greeted immediately by Ford and Hamill, and Dean leaves Castiel to give them the attention they very vocally beg for while he runs upstairs to the linen closet.  He grabs all his oldest, grungiest towels, of which there are many because his job isn’t exactly a clean one and he doesn’t believe in throwing towels away if they can be used for work projects like this one.  Then he heads downstairs to give them to Castiel. 

He pauses at the bottom of the steps when he sees Castiel squatted down just inside the door, petting his cats and murmuring to them about his house problems. 

Hamill meows as if he’s giving Castiel advice.  He’s pacing back and forth, going almost out of Castiel’s reach then coming back.  Ford, on the other hand, has made himself comfortable on the floor and is letting Castiel just scratch him under the chin.   

Castiel looks up at Dean, and then straightens to his full height, much to the boys’ disappointment.  He takes the pile of towels when Dean hands them over. 

“Go spread those out on your bedroom floor.  I’ll go get the tarps and my ladder.” 

“Isn’t it dangerous to go up on the roof in the rain?” 

Dean shrugs.  “Nah, it’s fine.”  It’s a flat out lie, and Castiel looks like he wants to argue.  But Dean takes him by the shoulders and turns him towards the door.  “Hurry up and get that done.  I’m going to need you to hold the ladder for me when I get up there.” 

It’s enough to get Castiel moving.  Hamill tries to sneak out the open door along with him, but he stops in his tracks when he sees the rain. 

Dean contemplates throwing him out into the downpour.  It might scare him from trying to get outside all the time.  But the thought is only brief.  He can be an asshole sometimes, but he’s not that much of an asshole.   

It doesn’t take him long to get his ladder and the tarps, and by the time he’s back across the street, Castiel is coming back outside to meet him.  They set up the ladder, and Dean climbs the slick rungs carefully while Castiel holds it steady for him.  When he gets a good look at the roof for the first time, Dean lets out a string of expletives, loud enough that Castiel can hear him from two stories below. 

“Dean?  Are you alright?” 

It will be once I wring Edgar’s neck.  “Yeah, I’m fine,” he calls down.   

He’s fine, but the roof is not.  He’s surprised that there aren’t more areas leaking into the house with as many places where the shingles are missing.  He gets the first tarp spread out over the worst of it, then goes back down for the second tarp, which is more than enough to cover the rest of the roof.   

“You’re going to need to replace more than just shingles,” he says when his feet are on the ground for good.  He wipes water out of his face, and thinks longingly of a hot shower.  The steady rain has soaked through his clothing, and he’s starting to shiver.   

Castiel sighs.  “I should have listened to my brother.  This place is a money pit.” 

“Hey,” Dean steps close to Castiel, who is just as soaked as he is.  He must have been standing at the base of the ladder the whole time Dean was up on the roof instead of taking shelter under the porch overhang while he was waiting for him to come down.  “It’s not a money pit.  It just needs some attention.” 

Castiel looks at him through water-spiked lashes, and a small smile curves his mouth.  “Thankfully I have a handyman for a neighbor.  I don’t know what I’d do without you.” 

Dean grins crookedly.  “Probably get overcharged for repairs and end up in massive debt.  Lucky for you, I work on trade.” 

Castiel snorts and rolls his eyes.  But he steps forward, narrowing the space between them.  “And what exactly do you want in trade for your assistance?” 

Flirting in the rain is such a cheesy chick flick cliche, but Dean can’t help himself.  “A kiss would be a good start.” 

“Just a kiss?” One of Castiel’s arms slips around Dean’s waist, and their chests press together.  Heat radiates from Castiel, and Dean leans into it.   

“Well, just for starters,” Dean murmurs.  “Y’know, like a down payment for my services.” 

Castiel stares at his lips.  “That sounds reasonable.”   

Less than twenty-four hours ago, Dean was convinced he’d done something to make Castiel hate him, and he almost can’t believe that they’re standing in the rain discussing kisses.  Everything seems to take on a dreamlike quality, and he desperately wants to hold onto the moment because he’s afraid that when it ends, he’ll wake up in his own bed, alone except for his cats.   

Please don’t let this be a dream. 

Just as he thinks it, Castiel leans forward and kisses him.  His lips are cold at first, but quickly heat up under Dean’s.  And when Dean wraps Castiel in his arms, he’s relieved to feel how solid and real he is. 

It’s not a dream. 

Thank God. 

Now don’t fuck it up, Winchester. 

Because of course he will.  He always does.

Chapter Text

The sound of boots clomping around upstairs pauses for a moment, and then a dull hum starts just on the edges of Castiel's awareness.  As he transfers his bedding from the washer to the dryer, the hum grows into a dull roar as more fans are turned on in his bedroom to combat the water damage caused by the leak in his roof. 

Castiel sets the timer on the dryer and turns it on just as he hears voices and footsteps coming from the stairs.  He hurries from the laundry room to the front of the house to meet Dean and his friend in the foyer. 

“-lucky there's no signs of mold, but we'll have to check again when you get up there to put in new insulation.” 

“I'll call you if we need to do a treatment,” Dean says to his friend as they reach the bottom of the stairs.  His green eyes come up to meet Castiel's, and he winks before turning to the man he'd introduced earlier as Aaron.  “Thanks for hauling your ass out here so fast, man.” 

Aaron shrugs and grins.  “You've done the same for me how many times?  I owe you.” 

Something about the slightly worshipful way Aaron looks at Dean makes Castiel want to step closer to Dean and stake his claim.  He ignores the urge.  They exchanged orgasms, not vows.  They're not even dating, so this odd possessive streak is completely unwarranted. 

“Speaking of which,” Castiel says.  “What do I owe you?” 

Aaron waves a dismissive hand.  “Don't worry about it.  This isn't even a drop in the bucket compared to what Dean has done for me and it doesn't cost me anything to set up the fans.” 

Despite his relief, Castiel tries one more time.  “But if you need them for another paying customer...” 

“It's cool, Cas.”  Aaron grins.  “I'll bill any real expenses to your home insurance anyway.” 

“Yeah they'll cover most of the damage,” Dean says.  “Aaron and I will write up invoices for the repairs to make it all official.” 

It hadn't occurred to him that the damage would be covered by his insurance, and the reminder makes him sigh with relief.  “Thank you.” 

Dean pats him on the shoulder.  “Told you it wouldn't be that bad.” 

“The worst of it is the fans,” Aaron adds.  “The damn things are loud, and we'll have to leave them overnight at least.  I hope you have some ear plugs, or a place to crash tonight or you won't get any sleep.” 

Castiel shifts from one foot to the other and forces himself not to look at Dean.  It's ridiculous to hope Dean will invite him to stay again.  They're just friends, and he's already monopolized Dean's charity far too much.  Just because they had sex - great sex, a voice whispers in the back of his mind - doesn't mean that their relationship has changed at all.  “Thank you for the warning.  I can definitely make arrangements.” 

“Great!  Well I'll just have you sign some paperwork and then I'll get out of your hair.” 

Castiel signs the forms and thanks Aaron again before he leaves.  He closes the door behind Aaron and turns to find Dean standing in the center of the foyer, rubbing the back of his neck and staring down at the toes of his boots.  He'd called his friend to get the fans set up before helping Castiel clean up more of the mess in his bedroom, and he'd never changed out of his wet clothes, only stripping down to his faded green t-shirt once they came in from the rain. 

It’s mostly dry now, and Castiel kind of misses the way it had clung to his skin. 

He smiles at the thought.  He'd only voiced his attraction out loud less than twenty-four hours ago, and now he can't ignore it.  Every time he looks at Dean, he sees a sweet smile that he wants to kiss, and a strong body he wants to explore. 

It feels strange, yet exhilarating.   

“I guess I'll get out of your hair,” Dean says without looking up at him. 

Castiel's smile drops.  “You said you'd stay for breakfast.” 

His words finally bring Dean's head up, green eyes wide.  He drops his hand to his side, and smiles shyly.  “I wasn't sure the offer was still open.”  He glances in the direction of the living room window.  “Especially since it's almost lunch time.” 

“Brunch then.  It's the least I can do for all your help.”  He winces internally when Dean's expression falls slightly.  He offered breakfast earlier because he wanted to spend more time with Dean, and he still wants that.  He's not quite ready to let Dean out of his sight.  Refusing to think about why that is, he steps close to Dean and clarifies his intentions.  “I need to help you replace all the calories we burned this morning before my house tried to collapse on us.” 

His words have the desired effect.  Dean’s eyes light up again, this time with mischief, and he chuckles.  “Oh that ain't nothin’, Cas.  We barely broke a sweat.” 

Laying a hand on Dean's waist, he squeezes the firm flesh and leans in closer, watching in satisfaction when Dean's pupils widen at the sudden lack of personal space.  “Well then I'd better load you up on calories for later.” 

Castiel has never been much of a flirt.  He's far too blunt, and usually too distracted to notice when it's aimed at him.  Honestly, he's sometimes surprised that he's ever ended up dating anyone at all.  But his words have the desired effect this time. 

Dean hooks a finger in the pocket of Castiel's jeans, not pulling him any closer, but definitely holding him in place.  His head tilts slightly as if he's going to come in for a kiss, but he only speaks instead.  “Those fans really are obnoxious as fuck.  How about we do breakfast at my place?” 

The loud hum from upstairs reregisters on Castiel's senses, and he readily agrees with a nod.  “As long as I get to cook it.” 

“Knock yourself out,” Dean replies.  “Just watch your step.  The boys will try to trip you while you're cooking.” 

Castiel laughs.  “Thanks for the warning.” 

Looking down at himself, Dean wrinkles his nose.  “I need a shower before breakfast, though.” 

A hot shower sounds like heaven.  Castiel had changed into a dry shirt after they came in from the rain, but he's still a little cold, and between having sex and then cleaning up the debris in his bedroom, he could definitely use a scrub down.  “I  should take one as well.” 

Dean's gaze sharpens, and he tugs gently at Castiel's pocket.  It's not enough to pull them together, but it focuses Castiel's attention on how close they're already standing.  “Hey, uh…” Dean trails off and his cheeks flush.  “My shower is big enough for two.” 

He looks like he's bracing himself for a shutdown, which Castiel doesn't understand.  Until he remembers how many times Dean asked him if he was sure about having sex.  The fact that Dean is worried about pushing him too far and too fast is endearing, and affection sparks deep in Castiel's chest.   

Maybe the reason he's always been able to ignore his interest in other men is simply because he's never met one like Dean.  He feels comfortable with Dean, and he trusts him.  In a way that he hasn't experienced outside of his friendship with Meg. 

“Showering together would certainly be more efficient.”  He smiles when Dean perks up.  “Let me just grab some clean clothes and we can go to your place.” 

Dean grins like he's been given an unexpected cookie.  “Awesome.” 

Leaving Dean to wait downstairs, Castiel hurries to his room as quick as his still tender ankle allows.  Up close, the fans are so loud they aggravate the mild headache he’d woken up with, even though they're up in the attic.  His mattress has been propped against the wall and another fan sits in front of it so it'll dry out quickly.  He passes the mini jet engine and grabs clothes to change into after his shower, and after a moment's thought grabs a pair of sweats as well, from the laundry baskets lined up against the wall near the bathroom.   

He really needs to find a dresser or an armoire to store his clothing in, but even with his insurance covering the water damage he can't justify the expense for new furniture.  It'll have to wait until he goes over his finances.  He makes a mental note to talk to Jimmy about it as he hurries back downstairs to meet Dean. 

The rain has lightened to a slow drizzle that barely dampens their hair on the way across the street, and Castiel hopes the storm breaks up soon.  He loves a gray rainy day, but not when it can cause so much damage to his house.  Dean assured him it would be fine under the tarps, but that only eased his anxiety slightly.  He won't be able to stop worrying about it until the roof is fixed. 

Ford and Hamill greet them just inside the door, and Castiel smiles at the way they weave between his ankles just as much as they do Dean's.  It chases some of the chill under his skin away to think that they trust him and consider him part of their lives. 

Dean picks them up and kisses each one between the ears before moving further into the house.  “One these days I'm going to break my neck tripping over one of these guys.” 

Following Dean to the stairs and up to his room, Castiel chuckles.  Dean is far too graceful for that to be a real danger.  He watches the masculine sway of Dean's hips on the way up, enjoying the view more than he ever thought he would.  Even in slightly ragged jeans, his ass is a thing of beauty.   

He sees a tiny slip of pink peeking from Dean's pocket, and his mouth goes dry.  That scrap of fabric barely makes a lump under the denim, but not only did it hold Dean's hard dick with ease, but it also covered his ass.  As beautiful as Dean's cock had been straining against the wet silk, Castiel is suddenly disappointed that he didn't have the chance to see the curve of Dean's ass through the pink fabric. 

Unable to resist, Castiel reaches out and pulls the panties from Dean's pocket.  He stops on the top step and holds the silk to his face, inhaling the intoxicating scent of sex.  His eyes slip closed, and he's instantly hard.  He has to reach down to adjust himself, and because the pressure of his palm feels so good, he strokes himself through the denim. 

“Dude, aren't those crunchy by now?” 

Castiel opens his eyes to see that Dean has stopped just outside his bedroom door.  He's looking at Castiel with a mixture of mild horror and amusement, but no actual judgement.   

The panties are a little bit stiff from dried semen, but that only makes them more alluring.  Castiel lowers them from his face, but continues to fondle the silk in his fingers.  “They're perfect the way they are.” 

Dean's eyebrows go up, but he only shakes his head with a rueful laugh.  “Whatever, Cas.  I have no room to judge.”  And then he grins, and there's a wicked glint in his eyes.  “But I've got a drawer full of clean ones, if you want to see ‘em.” 

Castiel's whole body perks up at the thought of going through Dean's panty collection.  He hurries to follow Dean into his room, practically humming with anticipation. 

After depositing the cats on the bed, Dean goes to his dresser and pulls open the top drawer.   

The rainbow of color makes Castiel gasp.  He moves to stand next to Dean in slow motion, and stares down at the frilly pile of cloth.  There’s satin and lace and cotton.  Ruffles and bows and printed designs. 

He can feel the weight of Dean's gaze, but he can't look away from the panties.  Without conscious direction, his hand reaches out, but stops without touching. 

“Go ahead, Cas.  Knock yourself out.” 

Now that he's been given permission, he lets his fingers sink into the softness.  Different textures brush against his skin, sending goosebumps up his arm, all the way to his shoulder.  He shifts the pile around, trying to decide which pair he wants to pick up. 

He settles on a pair of cotton bikini cut panties with string sides, lifting them free of the rest.  They're electric blue with white elastic at the waist and white hearts printed all over. 

“Those are comfy,” Dean says near his ear.  He's standing close enough that Castiel can feel the heat of his body.  “Although if I move around too much, I kind of fall out of them.” 

The low rumble of Dean's voice increases Castiel's heart rate.  He lays the panties on top of the dresser, and reaches for another pair.  These ones are black satin at the sides and a wide strip of lace running from front to back.  The lace would do barely anything to hide Dean's crotch. 

“It's hard to sit still when I wear those.  The contrast between the textures is awesome, and I get random boners when I move around.”  Dean's breath is warm against his neck. 

Castiel sets the black panties aside and digs through the bright colors until he finds what he's looking for.  The white stands out against the rest, and he uses one finger to lift the white jersey boyshorts with the black lace trim.  A tremble starts in his limbs at the idea of seeing Dean walking around in them.  White is the color of innocence, but the black adds a hint of the wicked.  It makes Castiel want to wrap the jersey around his dick and jack off until they're soaked in cum, and there's no hint of purity left in their appearance. 

“You like the white ones, huh?” 

Castiel turns his head and because Dean doesn't move away, they end up face to face with mere centimeters separating them.  “I like all of them,” he answers in barely a whisper.  “But I would very much like to see you in these.” 

The skin around Dean's eyes crinkles with his slow smile.  “You got it, Cas.” 

He plucks the panties from Castiel's grasp and moves away suddenly.  Castiel turns to watch him stripping out of his clothes.  With his back to Castiel, Dean whips off his t-shirt and tosses it on the bed next to Ford who blinks lazily at the green fabric.  Then Dean pushes his pants down over his hips and bends over to pull them off with his socks and boots, and Castiel gets the pleasure of watching the muscles in his beautiful ass flex and bunch without the barrier of denim between them. 

Once he's naked, Dean steps one foot at a time into the panties and straightens up to his full height.  He does something Castiel can't quite see from his vantage point, but when he turns around, his hand is still down the front of his panties as he adjusts his dick inside the soft cloth.  Then he pulls his hand free, leaving his dick tucked snugly in the panties. 

Castiel's whole world comes to a screeching halt.  Gravity is obviously affected, because he suddenly feels like he's floating. 

Or maybe his heart stopped, and he's having an out of body experience. 

“I am definitely not straight,” he announces, because those are the only words that come to mind. 

Dean’s laugh shakes his whole body, and it takes him a moment to recover.  He walks back to Castiel and grips his hips with firm hands, pulling their groins together.  The pressure of their dicks sliding together sends sparks radiating from the base of Castiel's spine despite the layers of cloth separating them.  “I gotta say, Cas, I'm pretty fucking glad to hear that.  You've been giving me blue balls for weeks now.” 

Castiel leans into him.  “I'm sorry it took me a while to figure it out.” 

Dean shakes his head.  “Don't do that.” 

“What?” 

“Don't apologize.”  Dean lifts one hand and brushes his knuckles against Castiel's beard stubble.  “I don't like you because of the sex.  You're a cool guy, Cas.  I just like you.” 

The touch, along with Dean's expression, is surprisingly tender.  It's difficult to meet that green-eyed gaze because Castiel likes what he sees there, but it also makes him nervous.  Dean's words allude to friendship, but it feels like there's something far more profound behind them. 

Thankfully, Dean doesn’t seem to notice his discomfort.  He looks down himself and huffs out another small laugh.  “I should have probably waited until after my shower to put these on.” 

“Probably,” Castiel replies, relieved that the tender moment has passed.  “But I would like it very much if you wore them in the shower.” 

“Kinky bastard.”  Dean rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t argue.  “Fine, whatever floats your boat.”  He grabs Castiel’s hand, that isn’t still fisted around the pink silk panties, and pulls him toward the bathroom. 

Castiel finally relinquishes the pink panties, dropping them in the laundry hamper with a regretful look.  He would have loved to keep them as a memento, but Dean had pointed a stern finger at the hamper, and had refused to budge from the center of the room until Castiel obeyed the silent order.  Then he removes his clothes while Dean fiddles with the shower temperature, and joins him under the spray.  His erection hasn’t gone down at all, especially when he can see the way the white jersey clings to Dean’s ass as the water cascades over him.   

It’s exactly like he imagined.  The wet cloth isn’t as translucent as satin or silk would be, but it’s still thin enough that Castiel can see the pink of Dean’s skin under it.  When Dean turns around, Castiel has to bite his lip to hold back a moan at the sight of his half-hard dick straining against the jersey.   

Suddenly he doesn’t miss the pink ones quite so much. 

“You can touch me if you want.” Dean grabs the shampoo bottle from one of the inset shelves under the shower heads.   

Castiel wants, so he accepts the invitation.  He cups Dean’s dick in his hand and just holds it, watching with wonder as it hardens and lengthens against his palm. 

“I still can’t quite believe how easily you’re just going with this whole dude on dude thing,” Dean says as he soaps up his hair.   

“Meg often tells me I’m ‘adventurous’.  She thinks I’m easy to talk into things, but it’s really only because she hasn’t suggested something I’m truly opposed to.”  Castiel strokes his palm up and down Dean’s length, and then finally let’s him go, smiling at the way Dean’s hips follow him.  He turns to the bottles of shampoo and soap on the shelf and picks up the body soap.   

After squirting a liberal amount in his palm and setting the bottle back on the shelf, he spreads it between his hands by rubbing them together, and then begins to stroke his hands over Dean’s chest and shoulders.  Dean’s head falls back, and he moans lightly, and Castiel continues to wash him as well as he can with the multiple showerheads spraying the suds away.  He pays special attention to his armpits, then watches with fascination as goosebumps break out in the wake of his hands as he runs them down Dean’s ribcage. 

Dean’s voice has dropped an octave when he speaks.  “So you’re cool with getting blowjobs… I’m assuming you’re okay with handjobs?” 

Castiel answers by slipping his hand under the lace edge of Dean’s panties and gripping him in a soapy fist, and pumping slowly.  “Definitely not opposed,” he teases.

Dean leans back into the spray and rinses his hair.  He wipes the water out of his eyes, and then blinks at Castiel through spikey lashes.  “Hand me the bodywash, Cas.” 

The dark edge to his tone makes Castiel’s dick twitch.  Reaching out with his free hand, he grabs the bottle again and passes it over to Dean, who copies Castiel’s earlier motions.  Filling his palm with soap, rubbing it between his hands, stroking them over Castiel’s body.  He even wraps sudsy fingers around Castiel’s aching cock and begins fisting him in the same slow motion Castiel has been using for the last few minutes.  All without ever looking away.   

Their bodies block the spray from the showerheads, and steam rises up between them.  Both literally and figuratively.  Castiel sways forward until their slick chests bump together, and he lifts his chin in an invitation, which Dean accepts.  The kiss is slow and deep, their tongues working against each other, their teeth nipping at lips.   

The heat soaks into Castiel, chasing away the last of the chill left from standing out in the rain for too long, and his muscles relax.  He can feel his climax building slowly and he humps lightly against Dean’s fist. 

Dean’s free hand continues to explore, spreading soap over his back and down his spine, only for it to be washed away under the shower.  The soap is almost completely gone by the time his hand traces down over Castiel’s tailbone, and his fingers dip teasingly between Castiel’s cheeks.   

His breath catches, and then his lungs begin to pump eagerly when he feels Dean’s finger circling his hole.  He carefully inches his feet apart, spreading himself open for Dean. 

“You like having your ass played with, Cas?” Dean murmurs into the miniscule space between their lips. 

Castiel answers with a tiny nod. 

“Do you ever finger yourself when you jack off?” 

Castiel nods again. 

“Fuck, I’d love to see that.” 

The idea of Dean watching him while he lies back and fucks himself on his fingers makes Castiel buck slightly against Dean’s touch. 

“Think you’d ever let me fuck you?” 

This time Castiel moans.  It’s almost a word, but it’s absolutely a confirmation.  It’s been a long time, but he’d definitely enjoyed having something inside him the few times Meg had fucked him with her strap on.  He’s even considered buying himself a few toys since then, but hasn’t gotten around to it. 

Dean makes a low noise, and buries his face against Castiel’s throat.  He bites at the tendon, just enough to sting, but not enough to hurt.  “God, Cas.  You make the prettiest noises when you’re horny.”  He lifts his head again, and looks down at Castiel with lust-dark eyes.  “Turn around for me, sweetheart.  Please?” 

The request will necessitate an end to the handjobs, but Castiel can’t say no.  Especially not with the endearment and the ‘please’ tacked on.  He let’s go of Dean, and turns to face the tiled wall.  

Dean’s body lines up against his back, and Dean takes his hands and places them up on the wall.  Then he reaches up and adjusts the showerheads so they’re not spraying Castiel in the face.  He leans in to whisper against Castiel’s ear.  “I’m gonna get you clean, and then I’ve got a surprise for you.” 

The heat of Dean’s body disappears, and Castiel strains to look over his shoulder to see that Dean has grabbed a washcloth and the bodywash again.  His panties are tucked down under his balls, and his dick is hard and arched up against his stomach.  Castiel has to close his eyes at the sight, or he’ll be tempted to turn around and drop to his knees and blowing Dean without the barrier of silk between them. 

But that would be bad for his knees, and he’s curious as hell to see what Dean has in store for him.  So he stays put for the moment. 

The washcloth is slightly rough against his skin, but Dean is gentle with it as he washes Castiel.  He’s more thorough this time, scrubbing areas he hadn’t touched before.  The washcloth swipes past his dick and down the outside of his legs, then back up the inside.  And then Dean is washing his dick and his balls, and between his ass cheeks, making Castiel moan despite the fact that the touch isn’t exactly sexual in nature.   

Then the washcloth is gone, and the angle of the water spray changes.  Peeking over his shoulder, Castiel sees that one of the showerheads is actually a handheld, and Dean is using it to rinse away all the suds.  He’s just as thorough as he was with the washing, and Castiel’s body shudders when the spray moves over his dick, and between his legs.   

Then the spray and Dean’s touch are both gone for a moment, and Castiel waits with baited breath, listening to Dean move around behind him.  Is Dean going to fuck him?  He’s a little worried about allowing it without liberal amounts of lube and preparation first, but- 

The thought cuts off when Dean’s palms spread his ass cheeks, and then something firm and wet and- 

“Holy fuck!” Castiel grunts even as he angles his hips back against Dean’s mouth.   

This is something new.  At least being on the receiving end.  Castiel has rimmed women before, but no one has ever done it for him.  He never even considered asking.  Part of him is mentally kicking himself for it now because he has definitely been missing out.  The other part of him is an incoherent babbling mess.   

Apparently that’s the part that has control of his mouth and his body.  The feel of Dean chuckling against his ass makes his knees goes weak and he swears again.  “Fuck!  Dean!” 

“I’m guessing,” Dean pauses and licks a long stripe from Castiel’s perineum, over his hole, and up to his tailbone, “that this isn’t too much adventure for you?” 

“Less talking please,” Castiel gasps.  And then he whimpers when Dean rubs his stubbled jaw against the tender flesh of his ass cheeks. 

“Touch yourself for me, Cas,” Dean says before working his tongue against Castiel’s hole once more.   

He doesn’t have to ask twice.  Castiel shifts one hand on the wall so that he has better leverage to hold himself upright, and reaches down with the other.  He doesn’t bother stroking himself gently or slowly, instead pumping himself fast and rough because he’s so close, and he wants to come with Dean’s tongue fucking him. 

It doesn’t take long.  The orgasm rolls up from deep within his belly, and he shouts wordlessly as the tension finally breaks.  It shakes his whole body, and he nearly slips.  Only Dean’s strong grip holds him upright. 

Castiel lets his chin drop to his chest, and struggles to catch his breath.  One of Dean’s hands disappears, and Castiel hears the faint slap of skin on skin and then a low moan when Dean comes as well.  It vibrates into the tender flesh of Castiel’s ass, making him shiver.  Dean goes still other than his mouth which continues to press barely there kisses against Castiel’s hole. 

After a few minutes it begins to tickle, and Castiel shifts away.  Dean lets him go, and when Castiel turns around to sit down on the bench, he smiles up at Castiel dopily.  He’s angled just right so that his face isn’t directly under the spray of any of the showerheads.   

“I’ve wanted to do that for a while,” Dean says. 

Castiel traces the lines and curves of Dean’s body, noting the freckles on his shoulders and the slight farmer’s tan which will probably become more pronounced over the course of the summer.  He takes a long look at Dean’s softened dick, which he’s still cradling in his palm.  The white and black panties framing his hand look completely lewd, and Castiel wishes he could take a picture to save for a lonely evening. 

Although, now that he and Dean’s friendship has become physical, he could probably just knock on Dean’s door and see if he’s up for company.

It’ll be nice to have a fuck buddy living so close again.  He hasn’t really had that kind of access to sex since he and Meg were roommates in the beginning of their college years.  Sure, he could visit Meg for sex whenever she was free, but with his busy school schedule and her hours at the nursing home, their sex lives had tapered off over the last few years. 

Castiel finally looks back up and finds Dean smirking at him.   

“You okay there, Cas?” 

He feels great.  The slight hangover he’s been ignoring all morning is still pulsing behind his temples, and his stomach feels like it might start to collapse in on itself if he doesn’t eat something soon, but he could happily sit there under the warm spray of water and stare at Dean for at least the rest of the day. 

At least he thinks so until his stomach rumbles.   

Dean laughs.  “Okay, time for breakfast.  I’m fucking starving.” 

Castiel forces his lethargic muscles to move, and he sits up.  “Yes, I think food is a good idea.” 

They both stand, steadying each other’s swaying bodies.  After making sure they’re both thoroughly rinsed, Dean shuts off the water which was still piping hot despite how long they’d been in there.  Then they help each other dry off. 

Castiel watches regretfully as the white and black panties get thrown into the hamper with the pink ones.   

“Cheer up, Cas,” Dean says from beneath the towel he’s ruffling over his hair.  “I’ll let you pick some clean ones for me to wear.” 

That instantly perks up Castiel’s mood, and he doesn’t even wait until he’s completely dry before leaving the bathroom and making a beeline for the dresser.  He’d left the drawer open, and when he gets there he finds Hamill cuddled up amid the rainbow frills.   

“Damn cat.”  Dean comes up behind him and nudges Hamill until he finally abandons his makeshift bed.  “I don’t know why he likes sleeping in drawers so much.  Gotta make sure I keep them closed or I end up with orange fur all over everything.” 

Castiel winces.  “Sorry, I left it open.” 

“No biggie, Cas.  I forgot too.”  Dean pulls out the top few pairs of panties and shakes them.  Orange fur poofs out, and they both laugh.  “Well, these are going in the wash.  Pick something else for me, Cas.” 

While Dean goes back in the bathroom to deposit the furry underwear in the laundry, Castiel looks through the rest of the collection.  He settles on a pair of satin bikini briefs in lavender.  The only decoration they have is a tiny pink flower made of ribbon in the center of the waistband.   

Dean accepts them with a smile when he comes back, and steps into them.  After he adjusts himself, he holds his hands out to his sides.  “Well?” 

Castiel smiles.  “They’re lovely.” 

Stroking a hand over his hip, Dean nods.  “Not very fancy, but sometimes simple is nice.” 

“Yes.” Castiel runs a finger along the elastic waistband.  “Very nice.” 

They share a sly smile, and then separate to finish dressing.  After making sure the dresser drawer is firmly shut, Castiel pulls on the boxer briefs he’d brought from home, and then when he sees Dean dress himself in simple blue lounge pants and a grey t-shirt, he forgoes the jeans he brought and puts on his sweatpants instead.  

The cats follow them downstairs, and Castiel learns that Dean wasn’t kidding about them getting underfoot as he roots around in the fridge for breakfast ingredients.  It’s definitely lunch time now, but he is craving breakfast food.  Luckily Dean has what he needs to make french toast. 

Dean makes them coffee, moving carefully to stay out of Castiel’s way, and then sits down at the table in the breakfast nook.  Eventually the cats figure out that Castiel isn’t making something for them, and they stop trying to trip him.  Ford disappears somewhere else in the house, and Hamill hops up into Dean’s lap and purrs loudly when Dean rubs him under the chin.   

They talk about what kind of repairs Castiel’s roof needs, and Dean scoffs at him when he talks about calling around for estimates.   

“Don’t bother, Cas.  I’ll charge you a third of what anyone else will.  Maybe less.” 

And it’s settled.  Castiel knows Dean does quality work, and if he can save that much on a roof replacement, he’s not going to bother checking anywhere else.  Jimmy will probably give him hell for it, but Castiel already has his arguments lined up for that conversation and he knows Jimmy will cave. 

When he finishes the large stack of french toast, Dean insists they take it into the living room.  They settle down on the couch together with a bowl of butter and a bottle of syrup on the coffee table between them, and Dean grabs the remote.  He queues up the episode of Doctor Sexy they missed, and then they dig into their breakfast. 

“Hey Cas?” Dean says a little later as he’s fast forwarding through a commercial break. 

Castiel swallows what he’d been chewing.  “Yes, Dean?” 

“So I was thinking… if you want to spend the night here while the fans are going… I got the spare bed, or you could, you know… sleep with me.”  His face goes red, and he stares fixedly at the screen  “We don’t have to have sex or anything, but my bed is much more comfortable than the couch, and-” 

“I’d like that, Dean,” Castiel cuts in. 

“Awesome.”  Dean grins, wide and happy, without looking at Castiel.  He hits play and the show resumes.   

Castiel lets himself get sucked into the show’s drama so he doesn’t have to think about how spending the day in his pajamas with Dean and then spending the night with him without the expectation of sex feels so very domestic.  He doesn’t allow himself to linger on how much he likes it when Dean sets his plate on the coffee table and leans into Castiel’s side.  And he absolutely refuses to acknowledge how natural it feels to set his own plate aside a few minutes later and shift around until Dean is draped over his chest and their arms are wrapped around each other in a way that can definitely be defined as cuddling. 

Because they’re not dating.  It’s just friendship with benefits. 

Cuddling counts as benefits. 

Right? 

Chapter Text

Dean curses softly when his fingers fumble around the wire nut and it slips free to clatter to the floor.  He reaches for another from his pocket, but pauses when he hears Castiel call him from downstairs.  Huffing a breath out through his nose, he gives up on the project for the moment because he's fucking starving.

He hops down from the rung of the short ladder he'd been standing on to reach Castiel's bedroom ceiling, and stoops over to pick up the wire nut, then tucks the slippery little bastard in his pocket before leaving the room.  He glances back over his shoulder and smiles in satisfaction at the progress they've made.

It's nice to see everything coming together.  Between fixing the roof, and then patching the ceiling, Dean has spent more of his free time at Castiel's house than his own for the last few weeks.  Not that he minds.  At all.  Because it's time that he's been spending with Castiel, and Dean just can't seem to get enough.

Not that that's anything new.  Despite the fact that he and Castiel now spend about half their nights sharing a bed, his desire to be close to his blue-eyed neighbor hasn't diminished in the slightest.  Just walking down the stairs to join Castiel for lunch makes a dopey grin spread across Dean's cheeks.

His smile widens when he sees the sandwich stacked high with meats and cheeses and veggies waiting for him on the counter.  Next to it is a newly opened bag of sour cream and onion chips, and a bottle of Coke.  And Castiel is standing at the counter, building a second sandwich for himself.

Since the rainstorm that collapsed Castiel's ceiling cleared out, the temperatures have been steadily rising, warning that summer is right around the corner.  The air conditioning in Castiel's house is sketchy at best, and the house is muggy and overly warm despite all the open windows.  So Castiel never bothered to put on a shirt that morning, and he's only clad in a baggy pair of running shorts.  

Dean stops just inside the kitchen and takes a moment to look his fill.  Now that they're sleeping together, he's allowed the luxury, and he’s shameless about taking advantage of any opportunity to watch.

Castiel grabs a chip from the open bag and pops it in his mouth before going back to putting together his own lunch.  Without turning, he gestures at the plate waiting for Dean and speaks around the food in his mouth.  “It's got extra mustard.”

When's the last time someone besides his mother paid attention to his condiment preferences?  He honestly can't remember, so the fact that Castiel remembers how much mustard he likes makes the warm ball of affection surrounding his heart pulse and expand.  

Just one more reason to love the guy.

Not that I need any more reasons than “he's awesome".

He's sexy, he's funny, he's sweet, he like cats and bad television dramas and panties and-

Yeah, yeah, he's awesome.

He saunters across the linoleum floor, but doesn't go straight for the food despite the hunger gnawing at his belly.  Instead he slips in behind Castiel, resting his hands on his hips and kissing the damp skin at his nape.  “Thanks, sweetheart.”

Smiling at the tiny shiver that shakes Castiel's shoulders, Dean steps away and leans against the counter top.  He grabs a small handful of chips and shoves a few into his mouth.  When Castiel turns to look at him, Dean winks.

The corner of Castiel's mouth pulls up in an indulgent smile and he turns back to his sandwich.  He puts the top piece of bread on the pile, and presses on it as if to shrink it down to a more manageable size.

Dean crunches another chip between his teeth as he speaks.  “Looks like you're gonna need a bigger mouth, Cas.”

“You don’t seem to have an issue with the size of my mouth.”  Castiel casts him a sideways look, his eyes twinkling with mischief.  

Dean chuckles and bounces his brows suggestively.  “Understatement.”

With a snort, Castiel rolls his eyes and turns his attention back to his lunch.  With deft fingers he lifts the oversized sandwich, somehow managing to not lose any of it as he lifts it to his mouth.  He opens wide and sinks his teeth in, and then groans happily as he chews and savors the mix of flavors.

Dammit, I even like the way he eats.

I am so whipped.

Dean watches for a moment, a fond smile twitching around his lips.  But eventually his own hunger overrides the entertainment value, and he picks up his own sandwich.  Pieces of lettuce and a whole slice of pickle escape the confines of the bread, but Dean manages to take a bite without the whole thing falling apart in his hands.  The mix of savory meats, tangy cheese, crunchy veggies, and spicy mustard is perfect and he lets out an appreciative noise of his own.

Since he and Castiel’s thing started-

Dating?  Are we dating?

I should ask him.

Right… and ruin everything by pushing too hard?  Just stick with ‘thing’ for now.

-he’s eaten far better than he has in a very long time.  He doesn’t get this many vegetables in his meals unless he’s at his parents or Sam and Jody’s.  When Castiel started cooking for him, Dean grumbled about the veggies on principle, but he actually really likes the new balance in his meals.  

And not everything Castiel makes is healthy.  The first bite Dean took of Castiel’s chicken enchiladas made him wonder if he’d make it through the whole meal without gaining five pounds.  He didn’t think it was possible to fit that much cream cheese, sour cream, and cheddar inside a single tortilla shell.  He would suspect some kind of magic was at work if he hadn’t witnessed Castiel making them.

They eat mostly in silence other than the music filtering downstairs from Castiel’s iPod.  The heat of the room, the food, the company, and the rocking beat of Proud Mary all combine together to fill Dean with a profound sense of contentment.  There’s less than a foot of space between him and Castiel, and he can smell his sweat mingled with the food.  

Everything feels perfect.

And that should worry him since he and Castiel haven’t really talked about what their relationship is yet.  But for now he just ignores the niggling questions in the back of his mind and lets himself soak up the feeling while he can.

His eyes wander around the kitchen.  It needs a shitload of work.  The linoleum is pulling up in one corner, and one of the cupboard doors came completely off its hinges a few days ago.  Not to mention the wall behind the stove.  When he looks at the damage, Dean wonders if the previous owners took a blowtorch to it. The whole room needs a massive overhaul, but at least it’s clean.

And barren.  Just like the dining room which Dean can see from where he’s standing.  And the living room which still only sports a couch and a standing lamp.  The boxes of books have been moved upstairs to one of the empty spare rooms, making the living room seem even more empty.

“Dude, you really need to get some furniture in here.  At least a table or something so we’re not always eating at the kitchen counter.”

Castiel grimaces, and takes a drink of his Coke to clear his mouth before he speaks.  “I know.  But I can’t seem to find anything that I like.  And there’s also the cost.”

“Use some of the insurance money.”  

Castiel’s insurance had paid out based on their estimate of the cost of repairs, and they probably thought they’d gotten away cheap.  But what they hadn’t taken into account was the fact that Dean, Castiel, and Sam had gotten together on a weekend and done all the work themselves.  Sam worked for Saturday shifts off that Castiel would be covering instead, and of course Dean worked for kisses and for the fun of teaching Castiel how to tear up boards and replace them before laying down the asphalt shingles.  Between the savings on labor and Dean’s discount on materials Castiel had come out on top with a little extra cash.

He’d used some of it for paint for his bedroom and a nicer light fixture than he’d originally planned on installing in there, but he still had plenty left over for at least a nice dinette set.  Or hell, even a bed frame with actual head and footboards.  

Not that Dean cares about Castiel’s bed since they are usually sharing Dean’s lately.  Castiel’s room has been habitable for at least a week, and his mattress was dry and usable after a couple days, but he ends up over at Dean's house more often than not.  And they usually fall asleep sweaty and exhausted after fooling around.  

Castiel tilts his head in thought.  “Yes, I supposed I could do that.”  He pulls a pickle out of his sandwich and eats it by itself.  “But there’s still the matter of finding something that I like.”

Dean looks down at his feet, wiggling his toes inside his sneakers.  He thinks he knows what kind of furniture Castiel would be interested in based on conversations they’ve had, but he hesitates to make a suggestion.  

Making furniture is something Dean does purely as a hobby.  A few people buy the things he builds, mostly because he doesn’t have room in his own house to keep everything, and Henry has channels where he can sell them easily.  Most of what he built for Benny was in trade for tile work, and there’s at least a few pieces of Dean’s handmade furniture in every member of his family’s homes.  

Every piece he creates holds a little of himself in it, and he’s not sure how Castiel will feel about that.  Dean already knows how he feels about it.  He’d fill this house to the brim with furniture if he thought it was what Castiel wanted.  

Creepy, much?

Dude, it’s not like I’m carving his face into every piece of wood I come across.

Dean doesn’t have to make the suggestion though, because Castiel brings it up himself.  He straightens from his lean against the countertop and looks at Dean eagerly.  “You know what I’d really like?  Something like the table in your breakfast nook.” His eyes unfocus, and Dean can almost hear the wheels turning in his head.  “And I would absolutely love to find where your friend Benny got some of his furniture.  The tables and shelves in his living room are gorgeous.”

Blood rushes to Dean’s cheeks and he becomes even more fascinated with the toes of his shoes.  He has received plenty of praise for his skills, but for some reason it seems more significant coming from Castiel.  

He licks his lips, and sets the last of his sandwich aside.  Grabbing a paper towel, he cleans the mustard from his fingers without looking up.  “I uh… could help you get something like that.”

Castiel practically vibrates with barely concealed excitement.  “Really?  You know where he got it?”

“Yeah,” Dean murmurs.  He clears his throat and forces himself to look up.  Castiel’s blue eyes are wide, and he’s leaning toward Dean as if he’s afraid to miss a single word he says.  “After I get that light installed in your room I can take you there.  We can take my truck so if there’s anything you like, we can bring it back today.”

“Yes, please,” Castiel says quickly.  “That would be wonderful.”

Well, there’s no taking it back now.  Dean nods, and picks up the last of his sandwich.  “I’m almost done up there.”

Castiel’s expression brightens even further, causing Dean’s heart to thump wildly and his mouth to go dry.  Fuck, he is so head over heels for this guy it’s ridiculous.  

“Finish eating first,” Castiel says as he reaches for the bag of chips and pulls out a handful.  He opens up his sandwich and tucks several of the crispy potatoes under the bread.  “If we’re going to be moving furniture around, we’ll need the calories.”

Dean snickers.  “Kinky.”

Castiel winks at him, and his voice drops an octave when he speaks.  “Eat up, Dean.”

A shiver of arousal sparks along Dean’s nerves.  Fuck, sometimes he thinks Castiel could just talk him into an orgasm.  He obeys the command, because if he has his way, he’ll need his strength later.

They finish eating quickly and Castiel stays in the kitchen to clean up while Dean goes back upstairs to finish installing the ceiling fan.  It doesn’t take him long to get the wiring finished, and by then Castiel has joined him and they get up on the ladder together.  It’s distracting to have their bodies pressed close while Castiel holds the fixture up and Dean screws it into place, but soon they’re finished.

Castiel dresses, and they go to Dean’s house together to check on the cats.  After making sure the boys are okay, they climb into the truck and Dean turns it in the direction of Henry’s workshop.

The workshop is not too far from the salvage yard Dean's dad runs with his best friend Bobby.  Both businesses are situated on the edge of town, and Castiel spends the drive talking about what he hopes to find.  He's too distracted by his ideas to notice how nervous he's making Dean whose fingers on the wheel when they pull into the empty parking lot.   

Beside him, Castiel sighs.  “I guess I won't be picking out new furniture today.”

The lights in the front sales office are off, and the closed sign hangs from the front door.  The shop hours displaying in the window show that it's about an hour after closing time.  But Dean knows that doesn't mean Henry isn't still around, and even if he's already left for the day, Dean still has access.  He turns off the truck and opens his door.  “Sure you will, Cas.  Come on.”

He flashes a quick grin at Castiel before getting out of the truck and making his way to the door.  He hears the thunk of the passenger door and the crunch of Castiel's sneakers against the asphalt behind him, and does his best to suppress his anxiety over showing off his work as he unlocks the shop.  He opens the glass door and stands back to let Castiel enter first.

Castiel hesitates just outside the door.  He lifts a questioning brow at Dean.  “You have a key?”

“Yup.”  Dean gestures at the logo decal on the door.  It's a stylized W inside a circle, similar to the logo for Dean's own company, but without the “Winchester Contracting” in smaller font below it.  “That stands for ‘Winchester’.  My grandpa owns the place.”

A bright smile spreads across Castiel's cheeks.  “Really?”

Dean nods and waves a hand at the open door to urge Castiel to enter.  “Yeah.  Learned most of what I know in this place.  C’mon, I'll show you around.”

Castiel finally enters the shop.  He looks around in wonder and runs a hand along the back of a handmade couch sitting just inside the door.  It's one Dean built  that Henry kept for guests to use while waiting to be assisted.  “Are you sure he'll be okay with us being here after hours?”

Dean doesn't have a chance to answer because Henry himself pokes his head out from a door that leads to his personal office.  “I haven't been able to keep that boy out of here since he was knee-high to a grasshopper.”  He smiles and comes out to greet them.  He holds out a hand to Castiel who clasps it in his own.  “I'm Henry.”

“This is Castiel Novak,”  Dean says by way of introduction.  

Henry tilts his head, his eyes narrowed at Castiel in thought.  “Castiel… I've heard your name before.”

Castiel sidles closer to Dean, casting him a glance.  “Maybe Sam mentioned me?  We work together.”

The revelation makes Henry brighten.  “Is that so?  Yes, he must have said something.”  He taps a finger callused from decades of working with his hands against his temple.  “Memory starts to go when you get to be my age, you know.”

Dean rolls his eyes at the blatant lie.  Henry is still sharp as a tack, and he knows damn well that he learned about Castiel from his eldest grandson.  But he appreciates that Henry is keeping Dean’s pathetic crushing a secret.

Henry catches Dean’s expression, but only gives him a fond smile in return before turning his attention back to Castiel.  “What brings you boys in here today?”

“I need furniture,” Castiel responds.  “I just bought my own house, and I didn’t realize when I moved out of my brother’s place that a couch and a bed are not enough, even for a bachelor living on his own.”

“Well you’re in luck.” Henry claps Castiel on the shoulder, and tilts his head in a silent request to follow him.  “We’ve got plenty of that here.”

Dean chews at his bottom lip as he follows Henry and Castiel into the showroom.  Castiel has seen plenty of Dean’s work, but he didn’t know what he was seeing.  But telling himself that doesn’t do a damn thing to lessen his nervousness.

I hope he likes it.

Of course he will, he’s complimented several things you’ve built.

But what if that was a fluke?

Maybe he can just get away with letting Castiel think that Henry built everything in the showroom.  Then it won’t be an issue.  

Inside the showroom, which is really just a large space with random furniture tucked in wherever it’ll fit in between pre-built cabinets and pantries, Henry gestures to the collection.  “Take a look around.  This is all stuff that doesn’t have a home yet, so it’s all for sale.  If you don’t find anything you like, we do custom orders as well.”

Dean slants a look at his grandfather at the “we” part.  Henry just winks at him.

Castiel’s eyes go wide and his mouth drops open as he looks around.  He walks through the narrow spaces between dining tables, end tables, rocking chairs, chests, and more, running his hands over the wood as if each piece is a delicate treasure.  “This is all so lovely.”

Despite the fact that ten seconds earlier he was feeling anxious about Castiel viewing his work, Dean’s chest swells with pride.  He catches Henry smiling at him, and heat rises in his cheeks.

When Castiel stops at a kitchen table on the far side of the room, his gasp is audible.  He pulls out one of the chairs and brushes the pads of his fingers over the carved scrollwork on the back.  “This is beautiful.” He looks back at Henry.  “Did you do this by hand?”

Oh shit.

“Actually,” Henry drawls.

OH SHIT.

Dean tries to catch his grandpa’s eye without actually moving.  He probably looks like he’s having a seizure.  

Henry ignores him, but the way his lips tilt up tells Dean that he knows exactly what he’s doing.  “That’s Dean’s handiwork.  I mostly build cabinetry these days, but my boy here-” he claps Dean on the shoulder, “-likes to come in and fiddle around with my tools, and that is the result.”

When Castiel turns an awed expression in his direction, Dean has the weirdest urge to hide and preen at the same time.  Instead he just stands rooted to the floor, and blushes harder.  “It’s just a hobby,” he mumbles.

This is just a hobby?” Castiel looks back down at the chair.  “Dean, this is gorgeous!”

The designs carved into the wood are not what Dean would consider very complicated.  Just some flowers and some scrolls.  It hadn’t taken him very long to do.  The chairs don’t even match each other because he didn’t bother creating a stencil for them.  

“It’s a hobby that pays the big bucks,” Henry says cheerfully.  The fucker knows he’s making Dean uncomfortable with the praise.  “I sell so much of this stuff for him that I keep worrying that he’s going to quit working for me and start his own shop.”

“Grandpa…” Dean says warningly.  

Castiel looks up at Dean in confusion.  “I thought you owned your own contracting company?”

“Oh, he does,” Henry interjects before Dean can answer.  “In fact, he handles most installations for me these days.  I’m getting too old to do the work myself, so I just build the cabinets, and he installs ‘em for the folks that don’t want to do the work themselves.”

The naked admiration in Castiel’s eyes makes Dean squirm, and he decides to change the subject.  “So do you see anything you like, Cas?”

Thankfully Castiel takes the hint, and turns to look at more of the furniture.  “Yes, but I don’t know where to start.  I’m still on a budget, even with the extra insurance money.”

“Well take all the time you need,” Henry says.  “I’ll let Dean help you out.  I was just getting ready to leave when you boys showed up.”  He grins widely at Dean.  “I’m going fishing with your dad.”

“Sounds fun,” Dean says as he turns to give his grandpa a goodbye hug.  “Catch a monster.”

Henry hugs him back, then waves at Castiel.  “You boys have a good day.”

Castiel calls his goodbyes, and Henry takes his leave, but not without giving Dean a mischievous smile on the way out of the showroom.  The fucker probably thinks he’s being subtle, but Dean sees exactly what he’s doing.  

No need, Gramps.  I’m already tapping that.

“Why didn’t you tell me you make furniture?”

Dean turns to find Castiel making his way back through the maze of wood.  He shrugs.  “I don’t really tell people about it.  It really is just a hobby.”

Castiel stops right in front of him, standing a little too close for most people’s comfort, but Dean happens to like it.  “Does Benny know that you built his furniture?”

Surprise that Castiel recognized his work makes Dean’s eyebrows go up.  “Yeah, we’ve been friends a long time.  He taught me how to tile, and in return I made him a few things.”

“And the table in your kitchen?  Did you make that too?”

Dean nods.  “I made most of the furniture in my house.”  He pauses to think, looking up as he mentally thumbs through the pages of his memory.  “Made a bunch of stuff for my parents.  Sam and Jody’s bedroom set was a wedding gift.  I think my ex girlfriend Lisa has a dresser I made, but her son helped me build it.”  He looks back at Castiel.  “I made Krissy a bedframe for her birthday.  Most of what I make sits in here until it sells, though.”

Castiel looks back at the collection in the room.  “I imagine it goes fast.”

“Yeah, I guess.  Most people are here for cabinets though.”  He perks up.  “Hey, if you’re planning on remodeling your kitchen, you should check out Henry’s work.”

Castiel laughs.  “I was just thinking the same thing.  Maybe I’ll wait and use the insurance money on the kitchen instead.”  He sobers and wrinkles his nose.  “Although I really do need furniture.”

“Hey, you’re welcome to keep using mine,” Dean teases with a wink.

It earns him another laugh, which makes something warm flutter around in Dean’s chest.  “Thank you, Dean.”

When Castiel goes back to looking through the furniture to see if there’s anything that he wants to get immediately, Dean watches him with what he’s sure is a dopey smile.  He’s not sure now why he was so nervous about Castiel learning about his hobby.  Every time Castiel stops to exclaim over something that Dean built with his own hands, it makes that little flutter happen in his chest again, and he kind of loves it.

I kind of love Cas.

Kind of a lot.

He could spend his energy trying not to fall in love, but in all honesty, it’s too late so why bother?  

“Hey,” he says suddenly.  “Wanna see the workshop?”

Castiel looks up from the rocking chair he’s sitting in, his eyes alight with curiosity.  “Yes, I’d love to.”

They leave the showroom through a door at the back which leads directly into the workshop.  The smell of sawdust and wood glue permeates the air and Dean takes a deep breath.  It's as familiar as his own home, but the smell always gets him every time he enters this space.  He smiles when he catches Castiel inhaling through his nose.

"It smells like you in here,"  Castiel says on a long exhale.  "You must spend a lot of time here."

The comment makes Dean rub at the heat rising up the back of his neck.  "Depends on how often Henry needs me.  I did an installation on Monday and Tuesday this week for a new house going up out in the ‘burbs, but I haven’t been here since.”

Castiel walks further into the shop, looking at all the work benches curiously, and giving the table saw a wide berth.  He passes the racks where Dean left parts of the armoire that he's been building to dry after he stained them.  Dean breathes a sigh of relief when Castiel's eyes flit past the pieces without any recognition.  It's bad enough he's revealing his work, but if Castiel figured out Dean was already making something for him?  He's not sure he could live down the embarrassment.  Besides, he's still not sure if he's going to give it to Castiel yet.  He doesn't even know if Cas will want it.  Better to keep it a secret for now.

“When do you have time to work on anything for fun?”  Castiel asks.

“Well, you know sometimes I come home later.  It’s because I stop here after work and kind of forget to go home until grandpa reminds me.”  Dean follows along behind Castiel, unable to let himself drift out of his orbit.  “It takes me forever to build things unless I dedicate the time to it.  And I don’t have much free since I’ve been helping you with your house.”

He nearly bumps into Castiel when he stops suddenly and spins around.  They’re so close that Dean’s eyes take a moment to focus on him.

“Dean, if I’m monopolizing too much of your time-”

“Hey, no.” Dean snakes an arm around Castiel’s waist and pulls him close.  He rubs his free hand up over Castiel’s shoulder, sliding it around the back of his neck and squeezing gently, and it has the desired effect of draining some of the tension from Castiel’s expression.  “I like working on your house.  Especially with you.  It’s fun, and I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty friggin’ satisfying to see things coming together.”

Castiel’s lips twitch up in a smile.  “Yes, I do enjoy it quite a bit.  It’s starting to feel like my hobby.”

Dean laughs.  “Uh oh, I’m rubbing off on you.”

The words were meant as a joke, but Castiel’s eyes go smokey and he leans into Dean’s chest.  “I enjoy that quite a bit as well.”

And just like that, Dean’s libido cranks up to eleven.  “You know what I’ve always wanted to do in here?”

One dark brow goes up over Castiel’s eyes.  “Does it involve rubbing?”

Dean tilts his hips forward, just a tiny bit, just enough to make Castiel suck in a breath.  “Yeah, it involves some rubbing.”

Castiel grins.  “Show me.”

Chapter Text

"Dude, we have got to fix your air conditioning." 

Castiel wipes an arm across his forehead in silent agreement.  Despite the thin fabric of his scrubs, he's already sweating profusely.  Spring had clung stubbornly to the weather, but now that June is approaching, the temperatures are steadily rising.  His house was cool and comfortable when he woke that morning before heading into the clinic for the Saturday shift he was covering for Sam.  But now the room feels like a sauna, and if he and Dean are going to paint in there it’s going to be miserable. 

"I was hoping it would stay cool a little longer so I wouldn't have to spend the money on repairing it yet."  He wrinkles his nose at Dean, even though the other man isn't looking at him because he's busy measuring the walls.  "Is it something you can look at?" 

Dean let's the measuring tape snap back into its casting and turns to him with a negative shake of his head.  His hair is already damp with sweat at the temples.  "Even if it was something as simple as needing the coolant topped off, you gotta have a certification to do that.  I never bothered to get that one because I don't do HVAC work." He pinches the front of his t-shirt and flutters it against his chest to generate a breeze.   

"And here I thought you knew how to do everything," Castiel teases. 

Dean slants him a mock glare.  "I know how.  I just don't specialize in it.  I mostly do repairs and carpentry work." 

"Is there anything you can't do?" 

Dean's teeth flash.  "I can't bear children." 

Rolling his eyes, Castiel turns to leave the room.  "Apparently you can't display humility, either." 

Behind him, Dean laughs at the dig and follows him from the spare room to his bedroom.  "Can't help it that I'm awesome, Cas!" 

It's cooler in the master bedroom because the ceiling fan Dean installed the weekend before is humming quietly above the bed, which is now up on a proper frame and flanked by matching tables.  Castiel had picked the set out from the finished furniture in Henry's showroom.  The pale oak practically glows despite the small amount of light filtering in through the blinds, and he pauses to admire the carved scrollwork on the headboard, just like he has every time he enters the room since he bought it. 

Dean's work is truly beautiful, but complimenting it makes Dean turn apple red despite his normally cocky attitude. 

While Castiel rummages through the clean clothes he still keeps in a laundry basket against the wall, Dean plops on his back on the bed and spreads his arms wide under the fan.  "Maybe you should get a ceiling fan for the library," he drawls lazily.  "We're going to be painting the room anyway.  Might as well put in a fancy light too." 

Castiel settles on a pair of khaki shorts and a thin navy blue t-shirt, and starts stripping out of his scrubs.  "That's a good idea." 

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Dean turn on his side to watch him strip.  Castiel deliberately slows his movements and winks at the other man.  He pulls his lower lip between his teeth and watches Dean closely as he slips his pants and underwear down over his hips. 

"Don't tease me like that." Dean's voice is husky, a low purr that gets under Castiel's skin and sends a shiver through his belly.  "Or we won't get anything done today." 

It's tempting to keep pushing Dean's willpower, but Castiel wants to get the room painted and ready for the new bookshelves he also bought from Henry.  They left them at the workshop until the room is ready for them, and even though Henry and Dean both assure him it isn’t a big deal, he feels guilty for leaving them there to take up valuable space.   

So he kicks his discarded clothing in the corner, and pulls on his “street clothes”.  His scrubs would probably be cooler, but they smell like wet dog and other unpleasant scents he brought home from the clinic, and he’d rather not stain a clean set with paint. 

Dean pouts at him, but once Castiel is finished dressing he pops up off the bed with a bounce and strides out of the room.  “C’mon, Cas.  Let’s get this show on the road.” 

Like usual, they take Dean’s truck so they can load it with supplies.  Although they only need a few buckets of paint and a new light fixture.  They’d fit in the trunk of Dean’s car, but he doesn’t want to risk the highly unlikely event of the paint cans getting knocked over and losing their lids.  Castiel thinks he’s being overly cautious, but then again, he probably would be too if he owned a beauty like the Impala. 

Inside Home Depot, Dean grabs a cart.  He winks mischievously at Castiel before he braces one foot on the metal bar at the bottom and pushes with his other.  He bends over the cart’s handlebar to keep his balance and rides the makeshift vehicle several feet down the aisle toward the paint section.   

Laughing and admiring the curve of Dean’s ass under the faded denim of his pants, Castiel follows at a more normal pace.  He catches up to Dean in front of the color cards, and rolls his eyes at Dean’s cheeky grin.   

Krissy is working, but she’s helping another customer so Castiel starts pulling out cards.  He’s already picked a creamy off-white for the library, but he has two more spare rooms to paint, and he’s still undecided on what he wants to do with the kitchen.   

As if reading his mind, Dean plucks two cards out of the display.  One with multiple shades of pale blue, and another with shades of slate gray.  “I read somewhere that if you decorate your kitchen in cool colors it’ll help you lose weight because you’ll be less likely to get the munchies.  But ‘delicious’ colors, like red and orange or green, make you hungrier.” 

“Do you believe it?” Castiel asks as he takes the slate card from Dean.  The darkest shade would be gorgeous with some lighter granite countertops, but he’s not sure if he wants to spend that much on the kitchen.  It only needs to be functional, not designer. 

“If the food smells good, I’m gonna be hungry no matter what color the walls are.”  Dean taps the shade Castiel was admiring.  “With the windows along the back wall of your kitchen lighting the place up, this would look really good.  You’d need some dark countertops and probably a reddish wood for the cupboards.” 

Spending so much time in the paint department with Dean is definitely teaching Castiel how to properly match color schemes because Castiel can imagine what Dean is describing exactly.  “I was thinking it would look nice with some lighter gray granite countertops.” 

Dean makes an appreciative noise.  “Hell yeah, that would look awesome.” 

“It would be expensive though.” 

Castiel had finally had a talk with Jimmy about his finances earlier in the week.  Thanks to his twin’s brilliant mind for money, the small savings account he had started out with before starting school had turned into a somewhat hefty nest egg.  Castiel used most of it to pay off his student loans, and what he'd managed to save up since he started working had gone to the down payment for his house.  But in the last several months, Jimmy’s investments had increased it again.  Castiel still wants to be careful with the money, but Jimmy had told him he should go ahead and invest more of it into the house since its value will only go up over time, especially with renovations. 

It is a very different song and tune than when Jimmy had tried to talk him out of buying the house in the first place.  But apparently now that Castiel has been moved out for several months, it’s finally sinking in for Jimmy that Castiel is really and truly living the independent life.   

Because his savings account is steadily growing again, Castiel knows he can afford to really go all out on the kitchen.  He could replace the cabinetry, the appliances, and even tear up the linoleum and lay down tile.  And he knows Dean would love to help him with it, which would save him on the cost of labor and materials.  But he’s spent so long being frugal with his money that it’s still difficult for him to look at the price tag on a project like that without flinching. 

Next to him, Dean shrugs.  “Well, if you decide to do it, I’ll make sure it fits your budget.  Hey, are you sure you want to do that cream color in the library?  This coral shell pink would look really nice with the new shelves.” 

Gratitude for Dean swells inside Castiel’s chest.  Sam had warned him that Dean might push him into doing projects that he wasn’t ready for, but Dean has never once tried to talk him into doing something to the house he doesn’t want to do.  He makes suggestions, accepts Castiel’s decisions, and moves on.  He’s perfectly content to just hang out on the days Castiel doesn’t feel like working on the house, even though Sam had told him that Dean could get pretty manic about wanting to fix things up. 

In fact, they’ve been spending nearly all their free time together.  Other than going to Jimmy’s house for dinner once a week, and spending his lunches with Meg (the whole time putting up with her teasing remarks about his newly active sex life), he spends nearly all the rest of his time with Dean.   

Part of him feels guilty for monopolizing Dean so much, but not enough to make him turn Dean down when he invites him over for dinner and movies.  Or to say no when Dean asked him to go to a carpentry expo.  And he certainly doesn’t complain when Dean knocks on his doors sometimes and asks him if he wants to go for an adventure drive. 

The first time they had done that, Castiel hadn’t understood why Dean would want to get in the car and just drive around randomly.  He does now though.  Sometimes they talk and talk and talk, until they’re yawning every few words, and sometimes they just listen to the radio and the rumble of the engine.  And a few times Dean has found a dark place to park and they’d necked like teenagers until the windows were fogged up and they were coming in their pants. 

Pushing away the memory of Dean going down on him in the Impala’s back seat, Castiel takes the card full of pale, almost white, pinks and tucks it into his pocket with the rest of them.  “I still want the cream.” His voice is a little bit husky to his own ears.  “But maybe this will work somewhere else.” 

Dean looks at him as if he might know why the timbre of his voice dropped, but before he can react, Krissy is calling to them from behind the counter.  “You two again?  Don’t you get tired of hanging out here?” 

“Shut up, all the cool kids are doing it,” Dean teases as he turns to the counter.   

Castiel let’s out a breath and wills his heartbeat to settle down.  Whenever Dean gives him that speculating look, Castiel’s libido goes haywire and all he wants to do is push Dean against the nearest surface and have his way with him. 

After leaving the paint counter with a cart full of primer and cream colored paint, Dean and Castiel make their way to the lighting section.  Castiel follows a few steps behind Dean, mostly because it gives him a spectacular view.  Idly he wonders what kind of panties Dean has hidden away under his jeans today.  By the time they reach the aisle that is brightly lit by hundreds of lightbulbs, Castiel is tempted to just reach out and pull at Dean’s waistband so he can check. 

His hand is lifting from his side when Dean stops and turns to him.  “So, you got anything in mind?”  Castiel jerks his hand back down to his side, but that only brings Dean’s attention to it.  His pink lips pull up in a smirk.  “Is the mood lighting getting to you already, Cas?” 

Castiel flushes.  “I was just wondering…” 

In a single step, Dean destroys the boundaries of his personal space bubble.  “Wanna know what color they are today?” 

Castiel swallows and nods.  Then looks around with wide eyes, hoping no one is around to see the exchange.  What is wrong with him?  They’re in public. 

Meg would point out that that hasn’t stopped him in the past.  And she’d be right, although he usually makes an effort to check his surroundings for witnesses before doing something inappropriate.  But sometimes when he’s with Dean, it’s hard to remember even that small sliver of precaution. 

Dean grins at him and tilts his head toward the far end of the aisle.  “Follow me.” 

There’s no question of whether he’ll obey or not.  His feet are already moving. 

They stop about halfway down the aisle underneath several slowly spinning fans.  Dean situates the cart between them and the front end of the aisle, probably because the back end is against the back wall of the store and someone is more likely to show up from that direction.  Castiel doesn’t really care. 

After looking around one more time to make sure they're alone, Dean reaches for the button of his fly and pops it open and lowers the zipper far slower than Castiel had the patience for.  When he pulls the denim side, Castiel's breath catches.  The panties he's wearing are a very dark red satin.  They're trimmed with lace at the waist and there's a tiny rosebud at the center, both the same rich red as the satin. 

He reaches out and touches the rosebud with the tip of his finger, but doesn't go any further.  In the light of all the hanging lamps he can see Dean's growing erection under the satin, and it sends a thrill of power through him.   

"You like 'em?" Dean whispers. 

Castiel nods, then looks up at Dean through his lashes as he slips the tip of his finger under the lace and lightly caresses the soft skin there.  "This color looks good on you." 

Dean's eyes are heavy lidded, and his tongue flicks out to dampen his lips.  Castiel takes the unspoken invitation and tilts his chin up to press a kiss to Dean's open mouth.  Their tongues slide together even as Castiel slips his hand down the front of Dean's pants to cup the hardening length of his cock.   

As they kiss, Castiel loses focus on their surroundings.  All he registers is the satin covered dick pressing eagerly against his palm and the bright light seeping through his closed eyelids.  He shoves his free hand under Dean's jeans and grabs his ass, squeezing gently and pulling their bodies closer. 

Dean breaks the kiss on a gasp and he braces his forehead against Castiel's.  "Fuck, Cas." 

The words aren't a request.  Dean probably doesn't even know exactly what he said, if the way he's grinding into Castiel's palm is any indication.  But suddenly it sounds like the best idea in the world. 

So far their activities have stayed within the boundaries of non-penetrative sex.  They've had their hands and mouths all over each other, but they haven't fucked yet.  And that has been more than enough for Castiel, but now, hearing the breathless entreaty slip from Dean's kiss swollen lips, it's all he can think about. 

"Is that what you want?" 

Dean's eyes go wide and he goes still.  "Do you?" 

Words don't seem to be coming to him, so Castiel nods. 

"Okay," Dean says on an exhale.  He clenches his eyes closed and ruts into Castiel's palm one more time before gently taking Castiel's wrists and removing his hands from Dean's pants.  When he opens his eyes again, he looks much more composed.  "Let's get what we need and get the Hell out of here." 

There is wisdom in Dean's suggestion, and Castiel agrees with a shaky nod.  He steps back, pulling his wrists out of Dean's grasp.  He feels a twinge of regret as Dean adjusts and refastens his clothing.  Turning away, he tries to concentrate on the labels of boxes on the shelf next to them.   

He doesn't quite manage.  All he can think about is that he and Dean are going to have sex, and it's short circuiting his brain. 

Luckily Dean has his shit together.  He nudges Castiel to get his attention and points up at one of the ceiling fans spinning slowly above them.  The blades are wood, and the four light bulbs are shaded by frosted glass.  "That one will match the color of the new shelves.” 

Castiel only nods, and Dean finds the box on the shelf and puts it in their cart along with the buckets of paint.  Then he leads the way up the aisle toward the front of the store.   

Somehow they manage to make their purchases without getting weird looks from the cashier.  They get out of the store, load up the back of the truck, and drive all the way back home in tense silence.  Castiel keeps shooting quick glances at Dean, sometimes finding him glancing back.  Each time their eyes meet, the anticipation rises up in Castiel until he feels like he’ll choke on it.   

He wants so badly to reach across the space between them and touch Dean, but he knows it would be a bad idea, so he keeps his hands clenched together in his lap, his thumb running over the smooth weave of the seatbelt around his hips.   

It feels like forever before Dean pulls the truck into his driveway.  He turns off the engine, and pulls the keys loose.  Then he looks over at Castiel.   

“You still wanna…?” 

“Yes.” 

Dean sucks in a breath and let’s it out in a huff.  “My place?  I’ve got… supplies.” 

Castiel laughs.  “You mean condoms and lube?” 

Color blooms over Dean’s cheeks, but he grins.  “Sorry.” 

“Don’t apologize.”  Castiel releases his seatbelt and opens his door before slipping down to the ground.  He turns to look back in the truck.  “You coming?” 

“I will be.”  Dean scrambles to undo his seatbelt and follow. 

They leave the painting supplies in the back of the truck and hurry inside.  Ford and Hamill greet them with plaintive meows, and Dean picks them up so they won’t get underfoot.   

“Why don’t you head upstairs while I distract these guys with food?” Dean suggests on his way to the kitchen. 

Castiel feels strange going up to Dean’s bedroom by himself.  He’s slept in it several times since they became more than just friends, but he’s never been in there alone.  He stops just inside the door and looks around.   

The room is spacious, like his own, but with more furniture and a walk in closet on one end.  It’s obvious to him now that the dresser and the bed frame and the end tables are made by Dean.  There’s a style to his work that Castiel recognizes easily now.   

He crosses to the dresser and runs his palm across the carved edge.  He tries to imagine Dean’s hands shaping the wood, but instead his mind conjures images of those hands smoothing over the planes of his own body.  Arousal has been simmering under his skin since their interlude at the Home Depot, but now it spikes, sending his heartbeat galloping. 

The creak of a floorboard behind him announces Dean’s presence.  “Cas?” 

Castiel turns and smiles.  Dean is hovering in the doorway as if he’s not sure he’s welcome in his own room.  “Dean.” 

Hearing his name prompts Dean to enter the room, and he kicks the door shut behind him to keep the cats out.  He approaches Castiel slowly, and when there is no more space between them he wraps his fingers over the curve of Castiel’ hipbones.  His green eyes are serious.   

“We didn’t talk about who’d be pitching or catching,” Dean murmurs.  “I’m good either way, but it’s up to you.” 

Castiel chews at his bottom lip.  He’s fantasized about both.  About the heat of Dean’s body squeezing his cock, and milking him.  About feeling his own body open to Dean, being filled until the ache becomes pleasure.  He wants to try both.  To try everything. 

Sensing his indecision, Dean drops his chin just enough that he can place a soft kiss against Castiel’s lips.  “How about you fuck me, Cas?  I’d love to have you inside me.” 

He almost opens his mouth to protest.  He’s only been fucked twice, both times by Meg’s rainbow colored strap on, and he’d very thoroughly enjoyed it.  But Meg has much more experience with his body than Dean.  It’s not that Castiel doesn’t trust Dean, but he’s not quite ready to take that step.   

When he nods, their noses brush, and he feels the rush of Dean’s sigh against his lips.   

Dean slides his hands up, hooking his thumbs under Castiel’s t-shirt and dragging it upward.  Castiel lifts his arms, and let’s Dean pull it off over his head.  He then pulls off his own t-shirt before reaching for Castiel’s fly.   

Wanting to keep up, Castiel returns the favor, and they separate slightly to remove their pants.  Castiel pulls his underwear off at the same time, but Dean leaves the red panties.  

They’re dark against Dean’s skin, and the contrast is beautiful.  “Will you leave these on for a few minutes?” 

“Sure thing, Cas.”  Dean steps back and turns towards the bed.  He crawls onto it, lowering his upper body slightly so that his hips are higher.  The panties stretch tight across his ass, and hold his balls tight against his body.   

Castiel follows and stands at the end of the bed between Dean’s spread feet.  He cups his hands over the cheeks of Dean’s ass, rubbing his palms over the satin in small circular motions.  He increases the pressure until the flesh underneath moves with his hands.  He kneads the firm muscles, and feels a thrill of pleasure when Dean moans and drops down to his elbows, arching his spine invitingly.   

“I’m barely doing anything.” Castiel’s voice is a rasp, but the words are laced with his amusement. 

“I have wanted you to fuck me since the day we met,” Dean mutters.  “I think I’m entitled to a little bit of excitement here.” 

Castiel slips his thumbs under the satin and digs them into Dean’s cheeks, spreading them wide.  He can’t see anything under the dark red, but his imagination supplies him with an image of Dean’s hole stretching, flexing against his hold.   

He’s played with Dean’s ass a few times.  No more than a finger just barely pushed in to the first knuckle while going down on him, but he still remembers the heat that awaits him inside Dean’s body.  “You said you had ‘supplies’?” 

“Top drawer, my side of the bed.” 

“Dean’s side” is the one closest to the door.  Castiel releases him and pats his ass through the satin.  “Stay like this.” 

“Ain’t going anywhere, Cas.” 

Castiel walks around the side of the bed and opens the drawer.  Inside he finds a strip of condoms, a bottle of lube, and a large electric blue dildo.  It’s big enough that Castiel knows Dean won’t have a problem taking his dick.  He raises an eyebrow at it, and turns to look at the other man. 

Dean gives him a defiant look.  “Don’t judge.” 

“I’m not judging.” Castiel grabs the bottle and tears off a condom from the strip before closing the drawer and going back to stand between Dean’s feet where they hang off the end of the bed.  “Just wondering if I’ll be an adequate replacement.” 

Dean snorts a laugh.  “It’s not that big.” 

Castiel chuckles, but doesn’t argue.  He tears open the condom wrapper, and sets it on the bed within reach, then pulls Dean’s panties to the side.  Dean’s skin is smooth and hairless, and Castiel can’t resist running his fingers over what he’s exposed.  He drags the tip of his thumb over Dean’s hole, eliciting a breathy moan from the other man.   

He likes that sound, so he does it again. 

“Cas…” 

“Yes, Dean?” 

“You gonna just tease me forever?” 

Castiel presses against Dean’s hole with his thumb, but doesn’t exert enough pressure to slip inside.  “The idea is tempting-” 

“Cas!” 

“-but you’ve already waited months for this, so that would be incredibly rude of me.”   

It’s weird to think that Dean has wanted him for so long, especially since this is all so new to Castiel.  But it also warms him, and makes his appreciation for their friendship increase by leaps and bounds.  Castiel is practically vibrating with the need to fuck Dean into the mattress, and he can’t imagine how difficult it was for Dean to suppress his own desires for so long.  But he did it because he respects Castiel.  Because he thought Castiel was straight, and he wasn’t going to do anything to make him uncomfortable. 

And now they’ve both waited long enough for this.   

Castiel flips the cap of the lube open with his thumb, and holds Dean’s panties out of the way while he drizzles the clear liquid over Dean’s hole.  Then he pops the cap back in place and tosses it on the bed next to Dean.  He smears the lube around with his thumb, and then presses until he breaches the tight ring of muscle.  

With a low keen, Dean pushes back against him, encouraging him to press deeper. 

“Is this okay?” Castiel asks. 

Dean turns his head until he can look over his shoulder with glazed eyes.  “It’s perfect, sweetheart.  Keep going.” 

With that encouragement, Castiel pushes his thumb deeper until the web of his hand halts his progress.  He pumps gently against the resistance, enjoying the breathy noises Dean makes.  Then he turns his hand and curves his thumb, searching for… there. 

Dean’s spine arches, and he surges up onto his hands.  “Oh fuck, right there, Cas, right there.” 

Castiel rubs the pad of his thumb in gentle circles over the spot, and watches with fascination as Dean begins to rock back against his hand.  He knows how sensitive his own prostate is, so he has some idea of what Dean is feeling.  

It’s certainly different than pleasuring a woman.  In theory there are parts of male and female anatomy that are similar, but being with a man takes the hypothetical out of play.  He knows how good a blowjob feels, so when he’s going down on Dean, he knows exactly what kind of pleasure he’s giving Dean.  He knows how pleasure arcs through him like electricity when he’s being fucked, even if his own experience was with a piece of silicon and not a flesh and blood cock. 

It’s such a turn on to give Dean the kind of pleasure he himself likes to receive.  So much so that he’s not sure he’s going to be able to give Dean as much prep as he needs.  “Dean... “ 

“Cas, that’s enough,” Dean snaps.  “You gotta fuck me now.” 

Castiel doesn’t wait to be told twice.  He trusts Dean to know when he’s ready.   

Leaving his thumb inside Dean’s heat, Castiel bends to the side and grabs the opened condom.  A flick of his wrist frees it from the torn wrapper, and he carefully slides it over his dick.  The process would most definitely go faster with both hands, but he doesn’t want to stop touching Dean. 

“Move forward,” Castiel commands. 

Dean crawls towards the pillows, and Castiel follows, getting on his knees on the mattress.  Once they’re situated, Castiel grabs the bottle of lube which rolled to rest against Dean’s knee, and still with only one hand pops it open.  He drizzles lube over the head of his dick, then tosses the bottle to the side.  He fists his dick, moaning as he thrusts into two or three strokes,  then guides himself to Dean’s hole, finally pulling his thumb free and using it to spread Dean open. 

The feel of Dean’s ass squeezing around his dick, nearly undoes Castiel.  He drops his chin to his chest and sucks in desperate breaths.  It doesn’t help though because he can see the dark red satin straining to the side of his dick which is sliding ever deeper into Dean’s ass. 

“Oh god.... Dean…” 

“Fuck me, sweetheart.  Come on.”  Dean rocks back, and Castiel slides in to the root. 

Castiel obeys.  His body takes over, and he rolls his hips forward before pulling back and doing it again.  And again.   

Eventually he picks up a rhythm and the steady slap of skin against skin is punctuated by Dean’s gasps and moans.  Each sound only serves to drive Castiel further out of his mind with lust, and he picks up speed.  When his muscles start to ache with the strain he slows back down, grinning at Dean’s needy whine.  He holds Dean’s hips, his thumbs caressing the red satin, and thrusts hard but slow just to see if Dean can take it.   

He can.  And he begs for more. 

Dean shifts his weight to one hand, and drops his head down between his shoulders, and Castiel realizes from the jerking movements of his body that he’s reached between his legs to stroke himself.  He feels like he should be doing that for Dean, but doesn’t think he has the coordination to try it. 

This time.  If Dean is willing, Castiel definitely wants to do this again. 

That’s his last coherent thought before the muscles in his belly tighten in warning.  Then he’s coming, filling the condom and Dean, and collapsing over his back. 

Dean takes his weight with a grunt, and grits out a curse.  And then his elbow unlocks and they both fall to the mattress. 

“Ugh…” Dean mutters into the pillows a few minutes later when their breath slows down.  “Should’a put down a towel.  Now I’ma have’ta do laundry.” 

Castiel rolls to the side, wincing as his softening dick slides free of Dean’s ass.  He misses the warmth immediately as the cool air of the room hits the damp condom.  No matter how good the sex is, there’s always the cleanup afterwards to remind him that it’s also messy and kinda gross. 

It’s totally worth it.   

Without Castiel’s weight on his back, Dean also turns onto his side so they’re facing each other.  His green eyes are lazy, his smile broadcasting satiation.  “I’m glad we finally got around to doing that.” 

Castiel’s lips pull up in a tired smile.  “Me too.  We should do it again sometime.” 

“I’m game whenever you are.” 

They lapse back into silence, and Castiel waits for Dean to bring up the topic of switching next time but he doesn’t.  He just yawns widely and scoots a little closer to Castiel.   

“I’m going to take a powernap, and then we can go paint your library,” Dean mumbles, even as his eyes slip closed.   

“Okay.”   

Castiel watches Dean as his muscles relax and his breathing evens out.  Once he’s sure Dean is asleep he reaches up with his clean hand and rubs his thumb over the freckled skin under his eye.  Then he leans forward and brushes his lips over the jut of Dean’s chin. 

It’s not a platonic kiss.  Maybe a bit on the tender side. 

Castiel frowns at himself, then very carefully extracts himself from the bed and goes into the bathroom to clean up.  Dean is still asleep when he comes back out, so he borrows a pair of boxers from him, and goes downstairs to check on the cats and poke through Dean’s fridge to make them something to snack on before they go back to his house to work on the library. 

He’s thankful for Ford and Hamill.  Their constant bid for his attention while he makes egg salad sandwiches helps him forget that kiss. 

Chapter Text

It's been years since Jimmy has been to a bar.  So long in fact that he doesn't have anything appropriate to wear.  His closet is full of slacks and plain white dress shirts, and his comfortable clothes are all dingy t-shirts and faded jeans. 

He stares at his lack of options with a disturbed frown until Amelia comes into the room.  She slides her arms around his waist and rests her chin on his shoulder.  "It's karaoke, not a date."  She pinches his belly, and her next words are spoken with mock-warning.  "It's not a date, right?" 

Squirming away from her fingers, he turns in her arms and envelops her in his.  "Oh yeah, it's a hot date with my twin." 

Amelia looks up thoughtfully.  "He's pretty sexy, so I guess I'm okay with it." 

Jimmy grins.  "You think my brother's sexy?" 

"I guess I have a type." 

He laughs and tilts his head to kiss her mischievous grin.  Fifteen years together, and ten years of marriage have done nothing to diminish how much he loves the feel of her lips beneath his.  People these day think it's quaint and a little backwards to marry your childhood sweetheart, but he's constantly grateful that he found his soulmate early.  A lifetime isn't nearly enough to spend with his Amelia, so he's going to squeeze every minute out of it that he can. 

She pulls away and smiles at him warmly, reaching up to brush her fingers against his cheek.  "I came in here to check on you before-"   

There's a knock and then Castiel is poking his head through the open door.  "It's not a date, Jimmy.  Just wear something comfortable." 

"-Cassie comes looking for you," Amelia finishes in a murmur.  She pats his face and pulls out of his arms.  She walks toward the door, addressing Castiel as he moves out of her way to let her leave.  "Help him pick something or you'll never get out of here." 

Castiel laughs.  "I kinda figured."  He kisses her forehead when she pauses next to him.  "You should come with us, Ames." 

She shudders and shakes her head emphatically.  "No thank you." 

"You don't have to sing." 

"I don't even want to watch.  The second hand embarrassment is too much for my delicate heart."  She pats his chest.  "Besides, you two don't have brother time nearly enough.  Go have fun without me, and Claire and I can have a girls night.  Win win."  When she sees Castiel doesn’t have an argument for her, she smiles at them each in turn and leaves the room. 

Jimmy sighs and turns back to his closet.  “Maybe I should stay home too.  I don’t have anything to wear.” 

“Oh my god,”  Castiel crosses the room to stand next to him, and glares at Jimmy’s collection of clothes.  “Just throw on a t-shirt and jeans, man.  The place isn’t fancy; most people are going to be wearing flannel shirts and trucker hats.” 

Eying his brother’s crisp black button up, the jeans that appear brand new, and probably the only pair of dress shoes Castiel owns, Jimmy calls bullshit.  “Uh huh, sure.  If that’s the case, then who are you dressing up for?” 

He didn’t expect his words to hit home, but Castiel’s cheeks flush and he looks away, and isn’t that interesting?   

“There’s nobody.” The denial is delivered calmly, and Jimmy would almost believe it if it came from anyone besides his own twin.  Castiel runs a palm over the buttons of his shirt, and fiddles with the bottom one.  “Besides, this isn’t ‘dressed up’.” 

Jimmy’s eyebrows go up.  “Really?  Because usually you’re in your scrubs, or in clothes that you should have gotten rid of before you started college.” 

“Meg bought me this shirt.” Castiel meets his eyes, and he really is a good liar because his gaze is steady and he doesn’t even sound like he’s arguing with Jimmy.  But the blush hasn’t quite faded from his cheeks, and that’s not a response anyone can control.  “I might as well use it, right?” 

Since it’s clear as daylight that Castiel doesn’t want him to know that there’s someone, Jimmy lets it go for the moment.  Whoever it is will probably be at the Roadhouse, and it won’t be a mystery for long who his brother is crushing on.  He hopes the mystery girl is better than Castiel’s last girlfriend, April.  By leaps and bounds.  Castiel deserves someone who will dedicate their whole heart to him, not just use him for sex and help with her homework until graduation. 

Jimmy has prayed for years that Castiel will find his own Amelia.  Someone he can share a profound bond with.  Friendship and love and lust and everything that entails.  For a while when they were teenagers, he thought it would be Meg.  But he hadn’t been very surprised when Castiel had come to him, devastated and heartbroken after Meg had refused his love.  As close as they always were, Meg never seemed to have the same feelings for Castiel as he had for her.   

Not that Jimmy doesn’t think Meg and Castiel’s friendship isn’t something strong and unique.  He absolutely believes that Meg loves Cas… just not in the way he wanted.   

And obviously she loves him the way he needs.  After their six month “break up” in high school, they made up, and their friendship was stronger than ever.  And Meg has been there for Castiel in ways that Jimmy never could be.  

They may be twins, but they only look the same.  In many ways they are like night and day.  Jimmy has always been content with his family and his home.  It had been rough learning to support a wife and a child before he’d even graduated highschool, but it had been fulfilling and rewarding, and he would never go back and change a thing.  Castiel on the other hand was the dreamer.  The partier.  The twin that needed more time to figure himself out.  Jimmy was always considered the most outgoing of the two of them, but Castiel was always more daring and adventurous.   

He knows that Castiel sometimes envies what he has.  He’s seen the way his twin looks at him and Amelia together.  The wistfulness in his expression when he spends time with Claire.  But he doubts that Castiel could have settled down and started a family so young and been content with it like Jimmy did.  He wouldn’t have gotten that with Meg anyway, which is probably why he loved her so much, and also why he accepted her friendship, which Jimmy thinks is what Castiel really needed from her. 

Meg gave him adventure and wacky hijinks (Jimmy will never forget the time he’d had to bail them out of jail because they’d gotten stoned on some bad weed and were knocking on doors at two in the morning to talk to people about the importance of bees).  And Castiel could never have gotten that from Jimmy, who was too much of a homebody to join them on their misadventures, even before Amelia got pregnant. 

Jimmy would still rather stay home tonight than go out to a bar to sing karaoke with strangers.  But Castiel wanted him to meet his friends, and even though he’s glad Castiel finally got a place of his own like a real actual grownup, he misses his twin being around constantly.  So he’d said yes to the invitation, much to everyone’s surprise.   

He’s glad now that he’s going, because maybe if he meets whoever seems to have caught Castiel’s interest he can judge whether or not she’s good for him, and if so, nudge Castiel into doing something about it if he hasn’t already.  In fact, he’s getting kind of excited.   

Not for the singing, though.  He’s in agreement with Amelia about the secondhand embarrassment.  His only consolation is that Castiel promised he wouldn’t have to sing. 

And apparently he doesn’t have to dress up either, which is a bonus.  He gives his twin an exaggerated nod.  “Oh yeah, definitely gotta wear it if it was a gift.  Can’t let a nice shirt like that go to waste.” 

Castiel gives him a dry look.  “Haha, fuck you.  Why don’t you just wear that?  You look fine.” 

Jimmy looks down at himself.  His t-shirt is a bit faded, but it’s clean and there are no holes.  His jeans are a bit baggy, and ragged around the heels, but they’re comfortable and unstained.  “Eh, you’re right.  This’ll do.” 

“Great.  Let’s go.”   

Castiel spins on a heel and hurries out of the bedroom, and Jimmy smiles at his eagerness to leave.  He cannot wait to meet Castiel’s mystery girl. 

He slips on some sneakers, and grabs his keys and wallet from his dresser.  His phone is already tucked in his pocket.  Despite the fact that it’s mid-June, he grabs a hoodie in case it’s too chilly outside for short sleeves - because he’s a parent and thinks of things like that on autopilot - and follows his brother out to the living room where Castiel is already saying goodbye to Amelia and Claire. 

“Why can’t I come?  I love to sing,” Claire mumbles against Castiel’s shirt. 

“The law says they can’t let you in the door for nine more years, kiddo,” Castiel responds with a laugh.  He ruffles her hair playfully.  “And by the time you’re twenty-one, you’re not going to want to be seen in public with your dad and your weird uncle.” 

“You’re not weird,” Claire protests.  “You’re awesome.” 

“I’ll remind you that you said that in a few years when you change your mind,” Castiel teases. 

Jimmy snorts a laugh, and kisses Amelia goodbye before stealing his daughter for a hug of his own.  After their goodbyes, Jimmy follows Castiel out to his car.   

“I can’t believe you’re still driving this old thing.” 

“It runs fine, it gets me from Point A to Point B, and I don’t have a car payment.” When Castiel turns on the engine, oldies music blares from the speakers.  He gives Jimmy a defiant look.  “And it’s got a sweet sound system.” 

Jimmy rolls his eyes and turns the music down to a manageable level.  “Yeah, yeah, I get your point.  And I suppose if you bought a new car, you wouldn’t have as much money to spend on your house.” 

That gets Castiel started on his new favorite subject, and he spends the rest of the drive detailing the progress he and his new friend Dean have made on the kitchen.  Jimmy has been to Castiel’s house a few times, and each time something new has been done.  Painted walls, tiled bathrooms.  The first time he’d seen the kitchen he’d been afraid for his brother’s safety if he actually cooked in there.  The last time he visited, it was torn apart.  The linoleum and cupboards and appliances were all removed, the room waiting for the repairs to start.  But according to Castiel, the floor has already been tiled and the damaged part of the wall repaired.  Castiel is only waiting for the cabinets and cupboards to be built so he and Dean can install them. 

He hasn’t met Dean yet.  Most of Jimmy’s visits to the house have been short ones during the week, and Castiel has talked about Dean’s unpredictable schedule several times.  Other than Castiel’s mystery girl, Dean is the main reason Jimmy decided to accept Castiel’s invitation to Karaoke Night with his friends.  He’s been wanting to meet the man that has turned his brother into Mister Fix-it for a while. 

Just as they pull into a parking space outside the Roadhouse, Castiel’s phone rings.  He pulls it out and grimaces at the screen.  “It’s the clinic.  I’m on call tonight.”  He taps the screen and brings the phone up to his ear.  “Hael, what’s up?”  His shoulders relax after a moment, and he smiles.  “That’s not a bad thing.  How are his vitals?”  He covers the phone with his palm and turns to Jimmy.  “This is going to take a few minutes.  Why don’t you go in without me?” 

“Is everything okay?” Jimmy won’t be completely disappointed if he gets to go home, but he will be a little put out that he’ll miss meeting Castiel’s friends. 

Castiel nods.  “It’s not an emergency.  I’ll be right behind you.” 

While the bar scene isn’t exactly Jimmy’s thing, he’s comfortable enough going in by himself, so he agrees with a nod and moves to open the door.  Castiel’s hand on his arm stops him.

“Ask for the Winchester party.” 

Inside, Jimmy is pretty sure the noisy group with tables shoved together near the stage is who he’s looking for, but he gets confirmation from the blonde waitress taking empty glasses back to the bar.  She gives him a weird look, and he realizes she probably knows his twin, but she nods in the group’s direction and asks him if he wants ‘his usual’.   

Castiel’s usual is probably rum and coke and a line of shots.  Jimmy shakes his head and orders a pitcher of whatever’s on tap and a soda.  She promises him she’ll get it to him soon, and then she disappears among the crowd.  Squaring his shoulders, Jimmy approaches the group near the stage.   

The first person to look up and see him is a man about his age with shaggy brown hair and a welcoming smile.  “Cas, you made it!”  He gets up from the table, and Jimmy has to look up to keep eye contact with him because the man is huge, and he envelops Jimmy in a hug. 

Luckily the man appears to be half-way drunk and he doesn’t notice that Jimmy doesn’t hug him back.  He pulls back and claps Jimmy on the shoulder, guiding him to an empty seat next to a stunningly beautiful man with light hair and eyes who is frowning at him in consternation.   

The man’s frown clears and he rolls his eyes.  “Sam, you moron, that ain’t Cas.” He stands, and holds a hand out to shake, and a friendly smile making his whole demeanor change from vaguely intimidating to sweet and welcoming.  “Jimmy, right?  I’m Dean.” 

Jimmy’s eyes go wide.  No has ever been able to tell Jimmy and Castiel apart on the first meeting except for Meg and Amelia.  He takes Dean’s hand, and receives a short, firm squeeze before he’s released.  “Dean, it’s good to finally meet you.” 

“You too, man.” 

The larger man who greeted Jimmy as Cas slaps a palm against his forehead.  “Holy shit, man, I’m sorry!  I knew you were twins, but it’s dark in here, and you are probably the most identical twins I’ve ever met.” 

Jimmy laughs at the man’s embarrassment, and offers his hand.  “Sam, I presume?”  Castiel has also talked quite a bit about Sam.   

Sam takes his hand, and then starts introducing him around the table.  He’s speaking with Castiel’s other co-worker Pamela when he sees Castiel approach the group from the corner of his eye.   

Castiel grins at him, but instead of joining him, he goes straight over to Dean.  He leans in close, whispering something that makes Dean smile and then laugh.  Their bodies move closer together, and Jimmy notices that Dean has wrapped a hand around Castiel’s waist. 

When they separate, Dean sits back down in his chair and Castiel comes over to greet Pamela.  She wraps her arms around his neck and plays with his hair, and Jimmy’s eyebrows go up.  She reminds him a little bit of Meg, with the way she’s forward and flirty, so he can see that she might be Castiel’s type.  Maybe she’s his mystery girl.   

But when all the introductions are finished, Pamela goes towards the end of the table to sit down, and Castiel ends up right next to Dean at the other end.  Castiel and Dean have the book of karaoke songs open in front of them.   

“You gonna sing?” Sam asks him. 

Jimmy shakes his head adamantly.  “Not unless I get a lot more alcohol in me.” 

Sam grins and claps him on the shoulder.  “Well since you’re new to this, if you decide to sing, we’ll go easy on you.” 

“Easy on me?” 

Castiel looks up at him and beckons him to take a seat next to him.  “The rule is that you can’t pick your own song.” 

Jimmy stares at his brother in horror.  “Is that really the rule?” 

Dean laughs.  “Naw, it’s not official.  But it’s how we Winchesters roll.” 

It seems silly to point out that not everyone in the group is a Winchester, so Jimmy doesn’t bother.  “Does that mean I can pick a song for Cassie?” 

Castiel shifts the song book away from him.  “Hell no.” 

Dean swipes it out from under Castiel’s grip.  “It’s okay, I’ve got one for you.”  With a boyish giggle, he jumps up from the table and scurries away with it. 

“Don’t make me pick and Elvis song for you, Dean!” Castiel shouts after the other man who only flashes a grin over his shoulder on the way to the podium where a huge glass jar full of slips of folded paper sits.   

“He’s not a fan of Elvis, huh?” Jimmy asks when Castiel leans back in his seat.   

“No, he’s more of a classic rock kind of guy,” Castiel says with a fond smile at his friend.  “Although he likes old fifties and sixties stuff too.” 

Jimmy laughs.  “No wonder you’re friends.” 

They’re interrupted when the blonde waitress from earlier brings them the beer and soda Jimmy ordered.  Her dark eyes go wide, flicking back and forth between them.  “Wow, okay I didn’t know you were twins.”  She sets the pitcher down on the table between them with two glasses and the soda Jimmy asked for.  She gives them both a critical look, probably searching for differences. 

Castiel smiles up at the waitress as she sets the pitcher in front of him.  “Thank you, Jo.” 

She snaps her fingers.  “Your voices are different!” 

“I’m also taller,” Castiel adds. 

She rolls her eyes at him.  “Yeah, totally noticeable when you’re not standing together.  Not sure why I missed it.” 

Jimmy watches Castiel and Jo closely, wondering if she’s his mystery girl.  But while they banter back and forth like buddies, there doesn’t seem to be any spark between them.  It’s disappointing, but Jimmy’s not ready to give up just yet. 

Eventually Dean comes back to the table, but he doesn’t bring the book with him.  He drops it off to Sam’s wife before plopping down in the chair next to Castiel.  He leans around him, and address Jimmy.  “I’m glad you came out tonight, man.  I’ve been wanting to meet you for a while.” 

“I’m sorry it’s taken so long,” Jimmy responds with a smile.  “It seems like we always keep missing each other when I come to visit.” 

Dean grimaces.  “Yeah, summer is my busy season.  Keeps me out late.” 

“You still seem to have plenty of time to help Cassie with his house.” 

Dean wraps an arm around Castiel and rocks him a little.  “Cas here is a quick learner, and he’s doing a lot of the work himself now.” 

“Only the tiling.” Castiel’s expression is a cross between embarrassment and pride.  “That’s pretty easy.  But I nearly ruined the wall trying to pry the cabinets down.” 

“Eh, we had to replace half of it anyway.” Dean leans in to whisper something in Castiel’s ear, making him laugh, and cover his face. 

Curiosity over whatever the joke is eats at Jimmy, but when he lifts a questioning brow, Castiel denies him with a shake of his head.  It doesn’t bother him too much, though.  Castiel and Meg have had private jokes for years that Jimmy has never been in on.  And there’s plenty of secret in-jokes between him and Amelia that Jimmy hopes Castiel never learns.  He’s not sure he could handle the mortification if Castiel ever learns why Amelia giggles every time someone mentions “bubblegum”. 

They talk some more about the kitchen renovations, with Dean adding details that Castiel hadn’t mentioned before.  It’s obvious he’s a professional, which Jimmy had worried about when he first found out that Castiel was getting all this work done with a friend and not hiring someone.  He’d looked up Winchester Contracting online though, and most of the reviews were stunningly positive.  It was a relief considering how much money renovations could cost.   

Talking to Dean about his work in person lays the last of Jimmy’s concerns to rest.  Dean is obviously very good at what he does, and on top of that it’s clear that he is passionate about it. 

“You’re lucky you can get paid for doing something you love,” Jimmy says.   

Dean shrugs.  “Yeah, I guess.”  He nudges Castiel in the shoulder.  “It’s not as cool as being a veterinarian though.” 

“That’s crap, and you know it,” Castiel argues. 

This is apparently an old argument.  Dean and Castiel go back and forth for several minutes, each trying to convince the other that their job is amazing.  Jimmy just sits back and watches, amused at the way Dean uses illogical statements to get Castiel fired up.  He’s obviously not fighting to win, and is just enjoying Castiel’s increasing frustration. 

The debate is interrupted when the music that has been playing faintly in the background starts and the lights over the little stage nearby turn on.  The whole bar goes quiet, and everyone’s heads turn towards the stage. 

A very handsome woman with a stern demeanor taps on the microphone, then smiles out at the audience.  “Y’all ready to sing?” 

Jimmy is almost deafened by the roar of approval. 

“Alright folks, let’s get this show on the road.  Benny, get on up here!” 

What follows is about an hour of hilarity.  Jimmy couldn’t understand why anyone would want to follow the Winchester’s One Rule of Karaoke when he first heard it, but after watching everyone’s reactions - both the audience’s and the singers’ - he gets it.  He laughs so hard during Castiel’s performance of Turning Japanese that he’s sure his stomach muscles will be sore in the morning.  And Dean looks so proud of himself when Castiel glares at him, that it’s obvious who picked the song. 

After Sam and Jody finish singing I Got You Babe for what Dean claims is the millionth time, Jody sits down next to Jimmy and leans close so he can hear her over Ellen calling up the next singer.  “You gonna give it a shot?” 

Jimmy sips at the beer Castiel had poured for him before answering.  “Not tonight.  But I’m going to bring my wife next time.  Maybe we’ll beat you and Sam at being the sappiest couple.” 

Jody laughs, bumping shoulders with him.  “I think that’s a great idea!  I am looking forward to the competition.”  Then she tilts her head in the direction of the bar.  “Although those two are pretty gross together, so we might both lose that game.” 

Turning in his chair, Jimmy looks toward the bar.  The only people he sees there that he knows are Castiel and Dean, so he assumes she must be talking about them.  He opens his mouth to tell her that they’re not a couple, but he pauses and watches them together.   

They’ve been practically attached at the hip most of the evening.  So much so that Jimmy would almost feel like a third wheel if it weren’t for the fact that everyone else in the group has made sure to include him in all the conversation.  A few times he’s felt like he was ignoring his brother, but whenever he looked over, Castiel and Dean had their heads together and were engrossed in conversation.  

And now they’re standing at the bar, not just shoulder to shoulder, but practically leaning into each other.  Dean’s hand rests lightly at the small of Castiel’s back, and their heads are tilted so close their foreheads brush.  Whatever Dean is saying to Castiel must be funny, because Castiel’s shoulders are shaking with laughter.   

Jimmy blinks.  It looks… intimate.   

Huh. 

His brain gets stuck there. 

Ellen announces the next song, and Castiel and Dean’s heads come up when she calls Dean’s name.  They say something to each other, and then Dean is weaving through the crowded tables to the stage, and Castiel is right on his heels. 

They each grab a microphone, but while the DJ sets up the song they start whispering to each other again.  Leaning in close, and laughing at what each other are saying.  There’s no one close enough to hear them talking over the din of the crowd, so there’s no need to be so furtive about their conversation.   

Dean says something that makes Castiel laugh and shake his head emphatically in the negative.  He waves his finger back and forth as if scolding Dean for something, but Dean only grins widely, obviously happy with Castiel’s reaction. 

Something is niggling at the back of Jimmy’s mind, and he gropes for it, trying to pull it to the surface.  But all he’s coming up with confusion flanked by multiple question marks and exclamation points. 

The song that finally starts is Take Me Home Tonight, by Eddie Money.  Jimmy isn’t sure why Castiel is up on stage with Dean since it’s not really a duet.  But he forgets about that little detail when Dean starts to sing. 

Dean’s voice is gorgeous.  Of everyone who has gotten up on stage so far, Jimmy thinks he’s the most talented.  His voice is a lovely gruff baritone, and it works wonders for the song.  

And he’s singing to Castiel.  

 

I feel a hunger - it's a hunger

That tries to keep a man awake at night

Are you the answer? I shouldn't wonder

When I feel you whet my appetite

 

Every once in a while he glances out at the audience, but most of his attention is focused on Castiel, as he’s actually issuing an invitation.

 

With all the power you're releasing

It isn't safe to walk the city streets alone

Anticipation is running through me

Let's find the key and turn this engine on

 

I can feel you breathe

I can feel your heart beat faster

 

And Castiel is staring right back at him.  He’s laughing and smiling, but he’s not shying away from the heat in Dean’s eyes.  And it is heat.  

 

Take me home tonight

I don't want to let you go 'til you see the light

Take me home tonight

Listen honey, just like Ronnie sang

 

Finally Castiel raises the microphone and sings.

 

"Be my little baby, oh-oh-oh"

 

The rest of the crowd bursts into laughter at the way Castiel’s voice cracks on the oh-oh-oh because he’s trying to put as much power behind it as Dean is with the rest of the song, and he doesn’t have the same skill.  Castiel isn’t embarrassed though, and he breaks into laughter as soon as Dean takes over singing again. 

Jimmy doesn’t laugh though.  There’s a loud clicking in his brain as several things click into place.

 

I get frightened in all this darkness

I get nightmares I hate to sleep alone

I need some company a guardian angel

To keep me warm when the cold winds blow

 

Castiel did dress up for someone.  And he was right about most people dressing in casual clothing, but Dean appears to be dressed up nicely too.  Like, date nice.

 

I can feel you breathe

I can feel your heart beat faster (Faster)

 

Take me home tonight

I don't want to let you go 'til you see the light

Take me home tonight

Listen, honey , just like Ronnie sang

Be my little baby

Be my little baby, uh-huh

 

All the whispering and giggling.  The lack of personal space.  The constant eye contact during an entire song full of suggestive lyrics…

 

I feel a hunger

It's a hunger

 

“Oh my god,” he whispers. 

The last chorus starts, and the crowd starts clapping to the beat and singing along.  Jimmy sits still, shocked when the last piece falls into place.

 

Take me home tonight

I don't want to let you go 'til you see the light

Take me home tonight

Listen, honey, just like Ronnie sang

Be my little baby, oh, ho, oh

 

There is no ‘mystery girl’ in Castiel’s life. 

He manages to pull himself together enough to join in the cheering when the song comes to an end.  And he even thinks he’s mostly successful at not staring at them like they’ve got two noses as they come back to the table.  But now that he’s seen the connection, he can’t unsee it. 

They move together like lovers.  Their bodies so familiar with each other that they’re synced.  And the way they exist in their own little bubble is exactly like the other couples in the group.  Exactly like Jimmy and Amelia. 

He wants very badly to drag Castiel to a private corner and demand to know when he changed, but he immediately feels guilty.  Castiel is still the same man he’s known since conception.  And apparently he’s found someone who makes him happy, which is all Jimmy has ever wanted of him.  Gender be damned. 

Although it’s probably going to take a while to wrap his mind around it since Castiel has never expressed attraction to a man before.  At least not to Jimmy.  Does Meg know?  How could she not if she hangs out with them regularly?  A person would have to be blind not to see it.   

It hurts a little that Castiel never talked to him about this.  That he hasn’t told Jimmy he’s seeing someone.   

He spends the next hour trying to figure out what he must have done wrong to make Castiel hold something like this back from him.  He flat out denied it when Jimmy teased him about having someone special waiting for him tonight. 

But eventually the feeling of betrayal fades away.  Watching his brother laugh and smile and radiate genuine happiness fills Jimmy with joy.  This is exactly what Jimmy wants for him, and he’s not going to mess it up by being a bitter asshole just because he wasn’t the first to know.  And since they grew up in a somewhat conservative family, he assumes that Castiel just isn’t ready to come out yet.  And that’s fine with Jimmy.  When Cassie is ready, Jimmy will make sure to show his support. 

It’s midnight when they finally leave.  Dean walks with them out to Castiel’s car even though he plans on staying longer since he’s offered to be designated driver for a few friends.  If their closeness wasn’t already in Jimmy’s mind, the hug they share before Dean goes back inside would have cemented his certainty.   

On the surface it seems like a simple hug between two friends.  A squeeze and a slap on the back.  But the squeeze is held a breath longer than would be considered friendly, and Dean tilts his face into Castiel’s shoulder for a heartbeat before they release each other.   

A blink, and Jimmy would have missed it.  But he does see, and he approves.  He grins widely when Dean shakes his hand again before going back inside to rejoin the party.  And the grin won’t seem to go away. 

“What’s got you so happy?” Castiel asks as they pull out of the parking lot. 

Jimmy shrugs.  “I had a lot of fun.” 

“Does that mean you’d want to do it again?” 

“Absolutely.  And next time I’ll talk Amelia into coming too.” 

They spend the rest of the drive talking and laughing about everyone’s performances and speculating on what songs they should sign Amelia up for if she ever agrees to sing.  And before long they’re pulling into Jimmy’s driveway.   

The lights are off except for the Jimmy and Amelia’s bedroom.  He’d told her not to wait up, but he’s not surprised that she did anyway.  If she managed to actually stay awake, that is. 

“Tell the girls I love them,” Castiel says once the car is stopped. 

On impulse Jimmy leans across the seat and hugs his twin.  “I will,” he says softly.  “You know we all love you too, right?” 

Castiel pulls back from the hug and blinks at him, confused.  “Of course I know.” 

Jimmy pats him on the shoulder and opens the door.  “Good,” he says before he gets out.  Castiel’s baffled expression makes him chuckle, but he doesn’t say anything else.  It would serve Castiel right if he spends at least part of the night as confused as Jimmy was. 

He waves before heading into the house.  Castiel’s headlights flash through the living room window as he pulls out of the driveway, and Jimmy goes upstairs to get ready for bed. 

He finds Amelia sound asleep on top of the cover, a book draped over her lap.  He wakes her with a kiss to the forehead.  “Hey, sweetheart.  Let’s get you tucked in.” 

As he helps her under the blankets, she wakes up enough to talk to him while he changes into his pajamas. “Did you have fun tonight?” 

“Oh man, Ames, you missed out.  I didn’t think it was possible to have so much fun at karaoke.” 

“Did you sing?” 

He barks a laugh.  “Hell no.  Maybe next time though.  You should come.” 

She snorts.  “No way.” 

He’s not worried about the flat out denial.  He’ll talk her around to it eventually.   

“You haven’t stopped grinning since you got home,” she points out when he gets under the covers.   

He flips off the bedside lamp and rolls toward her, cuddling close so their knees are pressed together and their faces are only inches apart.  “Castiel is dating someone.” 

“He is?”  She sits straight up in the bed.  “Since when?” 

“I don’t know.”  He pulls her back down next to him, this time wrapping her in his arms so that she’ll stay put.  She’s warm and soft, and smells like the expensive lemon scented sugar scrub she likes to use when she wants to pamper herself.  She and Claire must have had a “spa night” while he and Castiel were out.  “But it’s a secret, so you can’t mention it until Cassie does.” 

“Should you be telling me this?” 

As if he doesn’t tell her everything.  “Probably not,” he answers with a chuckle. 

She snorts a laugh too.  “Okay, so give me the deets.” 

“So you know how Castiel is always talking about Dean…?” 

Chapter Text

Grunting with the effort of tightening the new garbage disposal into place while the bottom edge of the cupboard digs into his back where he's lying on it, Dean wishes he'd thought to grab a board to lie on before he'd crawled in there.  But he's almost done.   

There's a knock on the front door, and then the doorbell rings.  Above him, Castiel makes an irritated noise.  "I hate when people do that."  His feet shift near Dean's hip, and he raises his voice.  "I'll be there in a moment!" 

"I got this, Cas,"  Dean says.  "You don't have to hold it for me anymore." 

"You sure?" 

"Yeah, I've got it attached.  Just gotta plug in the hoses and power." 

Despite his reassurance, Castiel is slow to pull his hand out of the sink where he'd been holding the new garbage disposal in place while Dean did all the work underneath.  He doesn't go anywhere for a moment, and when nothing collapses he finally leaves the kitchen to answer the door. 

Twisting his wrist and holding it in a shaft of light, Dean checks his watch.  He hadn't expected the delivery this early, but other than a little cleanup, the kitchen is ready for its new appliances.  

Castiel had intended to only replace the stove and the ugly avocado green monstrosity of a fridge, because they were both fire hazards and probably as old as Castiel and Dean combined.  But when they'd pulled the dishwasher out of its place under the old cupboards, they'd found that it was also an electrical accident waiting to happen.   

He'd special ordered a matching set of stainless steel appliances that would complete the renovation once they're installed.  It had taken a big chunk out of his budget, and he'd grumbled about it because he has to put off buying more furniture, but with the slate, silver, and grey colors of the rest of the kitchen, the room would have looked weird with the old dishwasher and Cas would have hated it. 

Dean can hear Castiel speaking to the delivery men, and although he can't make out the words, he can hear the underlying excitement.  They're going to be finished with this project today, and Dean is just as excited as Castiel to see the finished product. 

By the time the delivery guys are bringing in the new fridge, Dean is finished hooking up the garbage disposal.  He shimmies out from under the sink and climbs to his feet, wincing as his spine cracks and pops when he straightens. 

I'm getting too old for this shit.  No wonder grandpa pays other people to do it for him. 

He did it for twenty years longer than you have, whiner. 

Dean grimaces and rolls his shoulders.  He's had worse, but the muscles are tight as fuck.  He's glad he'll be able to relax once the appliances are put in. 

He gets out of the way when the fridge is rolled in a few seconds later.  He goes out in the hall to join Castiel while the installers do their work. 

Castiel's smile of greeting dims when he sees how stiffly Dean is moving.  When they're in touching distance he reaches up to gently squeeze one of Dean's shoulder which feels fucking divine.  "Are you alright?" 

Leaning into the mini massage, Dean lets his eyes slip shut and he makes a low noise of pleasure.  "I'm okay, just a little sore.  I think I slept wrong or something because I was fine yesterday."   

"You sure you didn't do anything to hurt yourself at work?"  Castiel's fingers have moved to the base of Dean's neck, and are rubbing circles against the stiff muscles. 

Dean drops his chin to his chest to give Castiel better access.  "Dunno.  Maybe." 

A warm chuckle near his cheek sends goosebumps racing down his arms.  "If you were a cat, I think you'd be purring." 

A smile twitches at the corners of Dean's lips.  "Prob'ly." 

Castiel tugs him closer and kisses his cheek.  "If you want, we can finish this later." 

"No way."  Dean straightens, pulling away and giving Castiel a stern look.  "We're practically done.  I wanna see the finished product." 

Castiel's smile is relieved.  "I do too." 

He would have put it off for my sake. 

Idiot. 

Fuck, I love him for it though.  

Not for the first time, the words crowd eagerly behind his teeth.  He swallows them back and gives Castiel a playful grin.  "C'mon, Cas, do you really think I'd make you wait any longer?  I'm as excited as you are." 

It takes an hour to get everything installed and all the paperwork signed and then they stand shoulder to shoulder taking in the newly finished kitchen.  The brushed steel appliances look good nestled amongst the dark cabinets and the granite countertops.  The old linoleum had been replaced with tile, and the wall behind the sink and the stove was lined with smaller tiles of the same pale gray.  They look bright against the slate blue Castiel had chosen to paint the walls.  With all the dark colors most rooms would seem dim and closed in, but the wall of windows opposite the fridge and stove light the place up wonderfully. 

Dean bumps his shoulder against Castiel's.  "Turned out good, didn't it?"   

"It's like this room doesn’t even belong with the rest of the house,"  Castiel responds with a chuckle. 

"Give it time.  We'll get the whole place upgraded eventually."  Dean grimaces at himself.  Sam's right, I really am pushy. "I mean, if you want to." 

Castiel nods thoughtfully.  "Well I've gotten this far.  Might as well keep going."  He turns slightly to look at Dean through his lashes.  "You don't mind helping?" 

With a snort, Dean wraps an arm around Castiel's hips, pulling him into his side.  "It'd hurt my feelings if you don't let me help." 

Castiel chuckles and shakes his head at Dean.  "You're probably going to change your mind when I ask you to help me put everything back in the cupboards." 

Closing his eyes in mock suffering, Dean groans.  "Now you're just taking advantage of me." 

Castiel turns into his arms and kisses Dean's chin.  "I'll make it up to you." 

"Yeah?"  Dean bounces his eyebrows and pulls Castiel closer, grinding their hips together.   

He's rewarded with a poke in the side that makes him yelp and try to escape Castiel's wiggling fingers.  He laughs, even as he curses himself for letting Castiel find out that he's ticklish. 

"I meant lunch, you perv."  The glint of humor in Castiel's eyes belies his words.  Then he glances back at all his new counter space and sighs, his fingers going still and giving Dean a reprieve.  "Although it's almost a shame to mess anything up by cooking in here." 

"Kitchens are made to be cooked in, Cas." 

"You're right."  Blue eyes turn back to Dean and this time they're wide with anticipation.  "Let's go grocery shopping.  I've got a new fridge to fill." 

"I'm driving,"  Dean announces as he digs for his keys in his pocket.  Castiel doesn't bother to argue, following when Dean turns for the front of the house. 

This isn't their first grocery shopping trip together.  When they'd taken the old appliances out of the kitchen to replace the floor, Castiel had moved his perishables to Dean's fridge.  They've shared so many meals together in the intervening weeks that it's no longer possible to tell what belongs to who.  And they've had to restock several times, so now they've got a routine. 

Dean grabs a cart, because he has to be in control of the driving even when they're not in the car, and follows Castiel to the produce section.  They argue good naturedly over the quality of the apples, and Castiel doesn't bother to ask Dean for his opinion a few minutes later when he selects several cucumbers because he knows Dean won't eat them.  They pick out a head of lettuce and Dean teases Castiel about the bean sprouts he adds to the cart.  Dean bags up several tomatoes while Castiel runs his fingers over the bright green shell of a seedless watermelon. 

"Dude, don't waste your money on those," Dean says when he comes back to the cart.  He winks when Castiel lifts a curious brow at him.  "Spitting out seeds is half the fun.” 

“You are a child,” Castiel murmurs with a roll of his eyes.  But he selects a regular watermelon from the bin next to the seedless ones and puts it in the cart. 

They get bread and pasta.  Sandwich meats and cheeses.  A case of beer and a couple two-liters of soda.  By the time they finally make it to the cash registers, Dean is laughing at how full the cart is. 

“Dude, you’re never going to be able to eat all of this before it goes bad.” 

Castiel shrugs as he slides his debit card through the reader, and his words are punctuated by the beep beep beep of the items the cashier slides across the scanner.  “Maybe I’ll throw a party so I can show off my new kitchen.” 

Dean leans into Castiel’s personal space, ignoring the way the young cashier blushes and looks away from them.  “Yeah, you need a table and chairs first, buddy.” 

“I’ll do it like a banquet.  I’ll put out a folding table, and tell everyone to bring lawn chairs.” 

It’s actually a good idea and Dean nods, impressed.  “I’ve got a couple card tables you can use.  We can pull out the barbeque and have a big holiday party.  Fourth of July is just around the corner.” 

The cashier finishes ringing up and bagging their purchases, and he smiles shyly at Dean and Castiel when he hands over the receipt.  Dean winks at him as they leave, making the boy go scarlet, but he’s smiling like he enjoys the attention.  He’s way too young for Dean’s taste, but he figured out a long time ago that a little harmless flirting can go a long way to help a young man’s confidence if he’s shy about his sexuality.   

Got a man of my own now.  Probably ought to keep it mild. 

The thought makes him smile all the way out to the car. 

Back at the house, Dean brings in the groceries while Castiel starts putting them away.  And then he starts bringing in the boxes of stuff Castiel packed away in his garage while the cabinets were being replaced.  Castiel starts lunch - just sandwiches and watermelon slices, but Dean's stomach growls in anticipation - and instructs Dean where to put dishes and pots and pans.   

There are still a few boxes to empty by the time lunch is ready, but they take a break to eat, sitting on the floor with their backs against the new cabinets and their plates balanced on their laps.  It's not exactly comfortable, but there's nowhere else Dean would rather be. 

Well, maybe in a chair. 

I should build him a dining set now that I'm done with the armoire. 

If he ever gets around to giving it to Cas.  Every time he starts to bring it up, the words get stuck in his throat.  He doesn't know why he's nervous about the gift since Castiel has bought a few things Dean made already. 

Gifts are different.  They mean something. 

If Cas rejects it- 

Dean cuts the thought off.  He doesn't want to ruin the moment with his insecurities. 

"It's almost a shame that we're done," Castiel says through a mouthful of turkey on rye.  He's picking up some of Dean's bad habits.   

"Why's that?" Dean prompts when Castiel doesn't continue right away. 

This time Castiel swallows before speaking.  Despite Dean's influence, he still usually displays better manners.  "I'm going to miss doing the work.  I enjoy it." 

"There's other parts of the house that need work."   

Upstairs bathroom, for sure. 

I bet I can talk Cas into finishing the basement too. 

Oh, and maybe a deck out back.   

Castiel smiles down at the plate in his lap.  "True, although eventually there won't be anything left to do."  He pokes at his watermelon, flicking seeds out of the juicy flesh with a thumbnail.  "Maybe I should quit my job and go into your line of work." 

Dean snorts.  "Keep your day job, Cas.  Renovating your own place is way more fun than doing repairs for other people.  I get to deal with assholes who want things done their way, even though they don't know what the fuck they're talking about.  And some of the gross shit I come across-"  He breaks off with a shudder. 

"Yeah, but have you ever had to clean a dog's rectal glands?"  Castiel retorts. 

"Dude if you want to compare nasty stories and ruin our appetites, suit yourself, but I will win this contest." 

Castiel tilts his head back against the cabinet door and laughs.  "How about I keep the job I spent exorbitant tuition fees to obtain, and we call it a tie." 

"Deal." 

After they're done eating Dean teases Castiel for being excited about loading his new dishwasher while he starts unpacking the last few boxes.  Castiel helps him with the last box, and soon they're finished. 

Standing in the middle of the kitchen with his hands on his hips, Castiel looks around.  "I feel like we should celebrate." 

"What do you have in mind?"  It's Saturday, late in the afternoon.  Still too early to hit the bar, and they just ate so a fancy restaurant is out of the question. 

Castiel tilts his head and his eyes rove over the new surfaces for a moment before they settle on Dean.  His expression turns slightly wicked. 

Sex? 

Please say sex. 

"Do you still have that bag of weed?" 

A slow grin spreads across Dean's lips.  "You wanna get high, Cas?" 

"Neither of us has to work with power tools tomorrow.  Why not?" 

"Hell yeah, let's do it." 

They decide to have their party at Dean's since he’s got a TV and Castiel insists he needs one if he’s going to get baked.  They set out snacks while Ford watches indifferently and Hamill tries to trip them by walking between their feet until Dean picks him up and carries him under his arm like a football. 

“Before we light this up, we should put the boys upstairs in my room.” Dean says when he comes downstairs with the baggie of weed, an old ashtray that’s big enough to brain someone with, a glass pipe he’s had since highschool, and a lighter.   

Castiel is relaxed on the couch, his bare feet up on the coffee table, remote in hand.  He flips idly through channels on the muted TV while he rubs between Ford’s ears.  The black furball has made himself comfortable on Castiel’s chest, and when the petting pauses he nudges his nose up under Castiel’s chin.  “That’s probably a good idea.” 

Dean sets Hamill down on the couch, and the cat immediately turns around and starts loudly demanding to be picked back up.  Ignoring him, Dean settles on the cushion next to him and sets down his paraphernalia.  “They’ll be pissy about it, but I don’t want them to get sick.” 

“It’s not like we’re going to blow it in their faces,” Castiel points out.  Then he frowns.  “You’re not going to do that, right?” 

“‘Course not.”  Dean opens the baggie and brings it up to his nose, inhaling the pungent scent.  It’s a good batch, and it still smells fresh even though it’s been tucked away in his underwear drawer for a couple months.  “But Ford there is a stoner, and might try to get more than a contact high if we let him stay in the room.” 

Castiel chuckles and runs his hand in a long stroke from Ford’s ears to the tip of his fluffy tail.  He pecks Ford on the nose and smiles fondly at the cat when copper eyes narrow at him.  “Why am I not surprised?” 

“He’ll just chill out on your lap,” Dean says as he plucks a bud out of the baggie and starts packing it into his pipe.  As the leaves are crushed under the edge of his lighter, the scent rises up even thicker.  “Hamill hasn’t been around it though, so I’m not sure how he’ll react.” 

Once he’s got the pipe packed, he hands it over to Castiel with the lighter.  “Trade ya for the cat.”  Ford whines when Castiel hands him over to Dean, but Hamill is happy to be picked up again.  “C’mon boys, I’ve got some catnip toys upstairs for you to get high on.” 

He sets them down next to a pile of tiny felt mice that have been dipped in catnip, and once they’re distracted, he backs out of the room and shuts the door.  Back downstairs, he joins Castiel on the couch and lifts an eyebrow at him.  “You gonna light up or what, dude?” 

“Just waiting for you.”  Castiel lifts the pipe to his lips, and flicks the lighter on.   

Watching Castiel take the first hit feels almost like a high in itself.  Castiel’s eyes slip half shut and he inhales slowly.  When he lowers the pipe, he lets his head fall back on the couch cushions.  Dean holds his breath with him, exhaling only when Castiel does.   

The slow exhale of smoke doesn’t even end with a cough, and Dean is impressed.  “I think you may have lied about how often you smoked in college, Cas.” 

Castiel gives him a lazy smile.  His movements are already becoming slower, and he holds the pipe out for Dean.  “What happens in college stays in college.” 

“That’s Vegas, you dork.”  Dean takes the pipe and takes a hit of his own.  The smoke is hot and sweet and he can feel it soaking into him almost immediately.   

“Meg is going to be pissed we did this without her,” Castiel says softly. 

Dean coughs a little on the exhale.  His eyes water and he blinks through it.  “I won’t tell her if you won’t.” 

It’s really not that funny, but Castiel cracks up, dropping his feet to the floor and leaning over his knees as he laughs.  Dean grins at him.  Apparently Castiel is a giggly stoner, which is cute as fuck.  

They both take a few more hits before Dean sets the pipe in the ashtray and settles back into the couch cushions with his shoulder pressed tight against Castiel’s.  They argue good naturedly over what they should watch before they both agree on old reruns of M.A.S.H. 

“Y’know,” Castiel mumbles after a few minutes.  “This show is way better with the sound on.” 

It takes several minutes for their laughter to calm down enough for either of them to remember to turn on the sound, which sets them off again.  They manage it eventually though, and cuddle into each other’s sides.   

The marathon goes on for several hours, but when it’s over Dean steals the remote and turns off the TV.  They’ve smoked about a quarter of the weed, and he’s not completely steady on his feet so he crawls across the floor to the entertainment center where he’s got an iPhone speaker base similar to Castiel’s set up.  He pulls out his phone and fumbles through the menus until he finds the playlist he wants.  He pushes play and plugs the phone into the speakers. 

“I like this song,” Castiel murmurs over the gentle strains of Landslide. 

“Y’better,” Dean says as he crosses his legs under himself and rocks to the melody.  He’d very much love to get back to cuddling with Castiel, but he’s just so far away.  “Fleetwood Mac is the shit.” 

He let’s his eyes slip closed and hums along with the music.  Every muscle in his body is relaxed, and he’s not even sure how he’s still upright.  It would be so easy to sink into the floor and let himself float.   

Would be more fun if Castiel was over here with me. 

Or I could go over there. 

The couch is comfier. 

That last thought gets him moving, and as the song changes to Ventura Highway by America, he crawls back to the couch.  Castiel watches him with a dopey smile, chuckling when Dean bumps his shoulder against the coffee table.  It takes an effort to pull himself up on the couch, but it’s totally worth it when he gets there. 

He lays in the space between the back and the arm, and lifts his feet up onto Castiel’s lap.  He wiggles his toes just because he can, but Castiel takes it as an invitation.  His long beautiful fingers slip around the arch of Dean’s left foot and begin to massage. 

“Oh fuck, Cas,” Dean murmurs.  “You probably shouldn’t do that.” 

Castiel doesn’t respond, and he doesn’t stop.  His talented fingers dig into muscles Dean didn’t even know were sore, paying special attention to areas that cause Dean to groan.   

“You’re not falling asleep are you?” Castiel asks an indeterminate amount of time later. 

“Nope.” 

“You look like you’re asleep.” 

“Nope.” 

Castiel chuckles, and Dean smiles in response. 

The massage finally stops and Dean pries his eyes open.  At the other end of the couch, Castiel is packing the pipe again.  Watching him wrap his lips around the end and inhale is so fucking sexy that Dean’s dick stirs under the loose cloth of the sweatpants he’d changed into earlier.   

Castiel notices.  His eyes are dark and heavy lidded as they flick from the tent in Dean’s pants to Dean’s face.  He doesn’t say anything about it though.  Instead he lifts the pipe.  “Want some more?” 

Unable to find the motivation to form words, Dean nods.   

Instead of handing the pipe over like Dean expects, Castiel moves Dean’s feet from his lap and moves until he’s straddling Dean’s thighs.  Dean stares up at him, watching silently as Castiel takes another hit, filling his lungs with smoke.   

Castiel holds the pipe to the side and leans down to press his lips to Dean’s.  When Dean opens under the pressure of his lips and tongue, Castiel exhales slowly. 

Dean pulls the smoke in.  It’s smooth and cool and he’s not sure if the rush of lightheadedness he experiences is from the pot, or the idea that he and Castiel are sharing a breath, or from all the blood draining from his brain to take up residence in his dick.  He holds his breath for a few heartbeats, then lets it out, directly into Castiel’s mouth. 

They separate long enough to each take a breath of actual air, and then Dean buries his tingling fingertips in Castiel’s hair and pulls him down for a kiss.  His mouth feels dry and his tongue doesn’t seem to obey the orders from his brain, but the kiss is still sweet.  Castiel’s tongue against his is slick and his lips are soft and Dean thinks he could easily kiss Castiel forever. 

Castiel shifts over him, blindly setting the pipe and the lighter in the ashtray, and then he drapes himself over Dean’s chest.  They make out slow and gentle.  They’re both hard in their pants, and they occasionally hump against each other, but there’s no urgency in their movements. 

Dean’s lips feel swollen when Castiel finally lifts his head and looks at him with lust-blown eyes.  He realizes his fingers are still gripped in Castiel’s hair, and he loosens them, letting them slide down over the tendons of Castiel’s neck instead.  He rests one hand on Castiel’s collarbone, thumbing gently at the hollow of his throat. 

“How’s your back, Dean?” 

Dean blinks, confused by the question until he remembers how tight his muscles had been earlier in the day.  He’s so relaxed now that he didn’t even remember the pain until Castiel brought it up.  “I’m good now.” 

Castiel rolls his hips, rubbing their dicks together through several layers of cotton.  “Good enough to fuck me?” 

The words make some of the hazy fog in Dean’s brain clear away. 

Did he just…? 

He did. 

He did. 

“You… want me to fuck you?”   

They haven’t done that yet.  Castiel hasn’t asked, and Dean hasn’t suggested it because he doesn’t want to rush him into anything he’s not ready for.  But god, he’s wanted to.  He’s fantasized for so long about bending Castiel over the nearest surface and shoving roughly into him.  Or laying back and letting Castiel ride him.  Or bending him practically in half and drilling him slow and deep and making him beg for more.   

Castiel pulls his bottom lip between his teeth and nods. 

“Jesus,” Dean breathes.  “Yeah, sweetheart.  I’ll fuck you.  We should...”  He grinds his hips up against Castiel and has to close his eyes at the jolts of pleasure the movement sends through his belly.  “... we should go upstairs.  We’ll need…” he does it again and this time Castiel makes a small noise of encouragement.  “... you know, stuff.” 

“Yes.” Castiel’s voice is gruff, and his breathing is shallow.  He disentangles himself from Dean, and stands next to the couch, holding out a hand for Dean. 

The trip up the stairs is quick despite the fact that neither of them is completely steady on their feet.  But other than their hands gripped together, they don’t touch.  It’s unspoken between them that they don’t want to get distracted from their purpose by groping and kissing until they get to their destination. 

Ford and Hamill are curled up in the center of Dean’s bed, and he almost feels guilty when he picks them up and sets them outside the door.  “I’ll make it up to you guys with extra gooshy food,” he murmurs.  “But I need the bed right now.” 

Castiel giggles behind him.   

When Dean turns around, Castiel is already stripping out of his clothes, leaving them in a pile at his feet next to the bed.  The sight makes Dean’s lungs malfunction and he has to force himself to breathe.  He forgets again when Castiel turns and crawls onto the bed, his perfect ass swaying with his movements. 

Castiel lays down on his stomach, and looks over his shoulder at Dean expectantly.  “Dean…” 

“Yeah, Cas.”  Dean’s feet unstick from the floor, and he crosses the room, discarding his own clothing on the way.  His fingers play with the edge of the blue cotton boyshorts he’s wearing, and he hesitates.  “Want me to keep these on?” 

“Yes, please.” 

Dean drops his hands, and crawls onto the bed and over Castiel’s body.  He leans down and mouths at the knob of Castiel’s shoulder.  “Fuck, Cas… I’ve wanted this for so long.” 

“I have too.”  The words are a breathy whisper. 

“Should’a said something.”  Dean trails kisses across Castiel’s shoulder blade to his spine.  He slowly works his way down.  When he reaches the cleft of Castiel’s ass, he flicks at it with his tongue.  “We could have done this a while ago.” 

Castiel wiggles his hips, spreading his legs as far as he can with them trapped between Dean’s knees.  “We’re doing it now, though.” 

“Yes, we are.”  Dean wraps his hand around the curve of Castiel’s hip and urges him to roll onto his back.  “And I wanna see you.  Make sure that you’re loving it as much as I’m going to.” 

There’s a flush riding high in Castiel’s cheeks, which could be from the weed or it could be embarrassment.  But his gaze is steady when it meets Dean’s.  He slowly pulls his knees up, spreading them in invitation. 

Dean looks down, and he’s sure if he wasn’t baked as fuck his mouth would fill with saliva at the sight of Castiel’s beautiful cock and balls, and below that the tight hole that he wants so badly to bury his own dick in. 

But first things first.  He leans over, straining muscles that are too relaxed to notice, and grabs lube and a condom from the bedside table.  He tears open the condom packet and sets it next to Castiel’s hip, then pops open the bottle and pours a trickle of lube over his fingers.   

This part is familiar.  He’s had his tongue and his fingers inside Castiel already.  But that doesn’t make it any less exciting when he circles Castiel’s hole with two slick fingers.  He looks up at Castiel, watching his expression for any signs of discomfort as he pushes his index finger inside. 

Castiel’s lips part on a gasp, and he stares back at Dean without blinking.  Probably not good since his eyes are bloodshot, and probably dry, but Dean has no room to protest since he’s staring back just as intently.   

“More.” 

Dean obeys the whispered command and slips in a second finger.  Castiel’s stomach flexes, and he whimpers.  Dean finger fucks him slow and gentle and when he feels Castiel’s muscles relax he carefully adds a third finger.  Castiel hisses in a breath, and pushes his hips against the press of Dean’s fingers. 

“Okay?” Dean asks. 

“More, Dean.  Please.” 

“You’re so tight, Cas.  I don’t want to hurt you.” 

Castiel reaches for the condom and pulls it from it’s wrapper.  “You won’t.” 

Dean isn’t completely sure, but Castiel huffs and gives him an annoyed look when he doesn’t move right away.   

Fuck it, Castiel is a big boy.  He knows what he wants and what his limits are.  Dean isn’t going to argue. 

He pulls his fingers out and rises up on his knees, hooking his thumbs in the waistband of his panties, and pulling them down to tuck under his balls.  It makes his dick curve up toward his belly, and he can tell by the intent stare he’s receiving that Castiel thinks it’s sexy.   

Pervy fucker.   

So goddamn perfect for me. 

When he reaches for the condom, Castiel bats his hand away and sits up.  Castiel’s fingers are warm against Dean’s dick as he rolls the condom on.  Then he presses a kiss against Dean’s stomach before lying back and spreading his legs again. 

Dean strokes himself with his lube-slick hand, and then guides the head of his dick to press against Castiel’s hole.  He moves carefully, but deliberately.  His eyes flick back and forth between what he’s doing and Castiel’s face, watching for signs of distress, but Castiel looks back at him hungrily, breathing deep and even.   

When Dean finally pushes past the tight ring, they both groan and go still.  After a few moments Castiel nudges Dean’s side with his foot, encouraging him to continue. 

Castiel is tight and hot around Dean’s dick, and his flushed skin and heavy-lidded eyes are beautiful, and when he’s buried to the root, Dean knows that he’s fucked - in the figurative sense - because he’s so fucking in love that it’s a physical ache in his chest.  It almost overpowers the sensation of having his dick squeezed tight inside his lover’s body. 

But then he starts to move, and the pleasure rides up his spine and down his legs, and Castiel is moaning and whispering his name and pulling him closer, and it’s better than Dean ever imagined. 

Castiel moves against him, rolling his hips up into each of Dean’s thrusts.  His strong hands grip first at Dean’s sides, then his hips, then up to his shoulders.  His fingers slide up into Dean’s hair and pull him down into an open-mouthed almost-kiss.  Neither one of them are able to concentrate enough to do more than breathe into each other and gasp each other’s names. 

The pressure builds up in Dean’s groin and he’s close, but it’s too soon.  It will always be too soon.  He wants this heat, this closeness forever. 

“Cas." 

The fingers in his hair loosen, and Dean lifts his head enough to look down at Castiel.  God, what a beautiful sight he is.  His eyes are wide, his mouth lax.  The muscles and tendons i his neck strain each time Dean thrusts into him.   

“Cas…” 

“Dean." It’s barely a word, maybe a trick of Dean’s imagination that Castiel gasped his name. 

“Come for me, Cas…”  He braces his weight on his elbow and reaches between them, wrapping his fingers around Castiel’s leaking dick, swiping his thumb over the head and smearing precome before stroking the length in time with his thrusts.  “Please, Cas… come for me.” 

Castiel’s hips thrust up, and his mouth opens wide in a wordless shout.  His inner muscles start to flex, and his dick kicks against Dean’s palm, and then he’s coming, spilling hot and slick between their bellies. 

“Oh god, Cas, look at you,” Dean grunts.  He thrusts harder, chasing his own pleasure.  “Fuck, Cas, fuck, I… I love you… so-” he gasps as the pressure inside him finally releases, “-so fucking much… god I love you…” 

He buries his face against Castiel’s neck and rides his orgasm through several long deep thrusts.  His whole body goes lax, and he’s probably crushing Castiel, but between the pot and the mindblowing orgasm he doesn’t have the strength to hold himself up.   

He doesn’t notice right away how tense Castiel is beneath him.   

“Dean…” 

“Yeah, Cas?” Dean murmurs against sweat damp skin. 

Every last wisp of pleasure drains away when Dean hear’s Castiel’s next words, spoken in a flat tone that he’s never used with Dean before. 

“I think I should leave.” 

Chapter Text

Pleasure sings through Castiel's veins, and every breath causes Dean to shift inside him, lighting his over sensitized nerves up.  His body is begging him for more, to move, to milk every drop of ecstasy from the moment. 

But panic is fighting for dominance, pumping adrenaline into his blood and wiping away everything good that Dean just gave him.  He pushes at Dean's shoulders, wincing when the movement causes delicious pressure inside him. 

"Dean, please," he rasps between tingling lips.  "I should... I need to leave." 

His words finally sink in and Dean lifts his head from Castiel's neck.  His stricken expression goes through Castiel like a burning blade tearing into his chest to destroy the rapidly beating muscle beneath.  "What's... Why?"  Horror twists his features.  "Oh my God, did I hurt you?" 

Castiel clenches his eyes shut, unable to bear the pain in Dean's eyes.  "No, you didn't," he grits out through his teeth.  The endorphins are starting to recede, and Dean's weight is no longer a warm blanket of strength above him.  He's beginning to feel trapped, and he needs to get away now before he lashes out.  He tries pushing the weight off him again.  "Dean..." 

This time Dean gets the message and lifts himself up on his arms.  Castiel whimpers when Dean's dick pulls out of him, leaving him aching and empty.  Dean's hands stroke the insides of his thighs in a way that is probably meant to soothe, but it's a tenderness that Castiel doesn't -can't- want.  He scrambles back on his elbows, and Dean lifts his hands away, holding them up cautiously. 

"Cas, talk to me, sweetheart.  Tell me what's wrong so I-" 

"Don't call me that," Castiel snarls.  He curls his knees into his chest and swings them to the side so he can escape the bed without touching Dean.  The movement causes a twinge of discomfort.  Dean was gentle, but Castiel is going to feel him for a few days. 

There is a part of him, deep down inside, that is thrilled by that idea.  It wants him to return to the bed and- 

No.  No. 

That's not what he wants.  It's not

Once his feet are on the floor he crouches down to gather up his clothing.  The lube smeared between his ass cheeks is slimy and uncomfortable, but he can't stop to clean himself up.  He needs to get out of there before- 

"Cas, please," Dean says, soft like he's afraid he'll startle Castiel.  "Tell me what's wrong." 

Unable to resist the pleading in Dean's voice, Castiel reluctantly looks at him.  He's still kneeling in the center of the bed, his cock still cupped above the waistband of his panties, the condom clinging to his softening length.  Everything about him is beautiful, from the varying shades of his skin showing where the sun has kissed it golden and where it has been protected by his clothes, to the bulge of muscles in his limbs, to the delicate features of his face that somehow still manage to exude masculinity.  The only thing marring his beauty is the fear and hurt contorting his features. 

Castiel did that.  He put the uncertainty there.  Dean told him that he loved him, and he... 

Pain lances through his chest, and he presses a palm over his heart.  It's fluttering erratically, a physical representation of his confusion and panic.  He forces himself to take a deep breath.  It doesn't help, but he tries again.  The third time is the charm, and he feels something ease inside him enough to let him speak. 

"You said you love me." 

Dean's face scrunches up, his confusion increasing.  His response comes slow and halting.  "I did... i-is that bad?" 

"Yes!  No... I mean-"  Castiel huffs, irritated with his tumbling thoughts.  He wishes the high would fade faster so he can concentrate.  He wishes Dean would let him leave so he can stop and think without any distractions.  He's going to say something wrong.  He already has.  Fuck.  He jams his fingers through his hair and fists the strands until his scalp aches.  It helps.  A little.  "I don't want you to love me, Dean." 

Dean’s head jerks back as if from a blow, and his expression is dazed.  His eyes bounce around the room, looking anywhere but at Castiel.  “You don’t… Cas have I-?” he cuts off, shaking his head as if to clear it, and his gaze settles back on Castiel.  “What did I do wrong, Cas?  I thought we had something… something good?” 

Castiel’s fingers clench into his wadded clothing.  He wants to step back from the pain in Dean’s eyes.  “It’s just sex, Dean.” 

Sex, and laughter, and companionship, and cuddling, and arguing over plot holes in Doctor Sexy, and talking about their days after work, and singing, and dancing… 

It was more than sex, and he can see that Dean comes to the same conclusion. 

“You’re telling me that this whole time, we’ve just been fuck-buddies?” Dean asks, low and quiet.  There’s an underlying edge of anger in his words.  “Would have been nice if I’d gotten the memo up front.  Buddy.” 

Castiel flinches.  “Why would you think it was anything else?” 

A muscle in Dean’s cheek bunches and Castiel braces himself for an explosion.  But instead, a mask comes down over Dean’s expression.  An icy calm, that twists the knife in Castiel’s chest.  “Yeah, you’re right.  That was stupid of me.” 

Castiel steps back from the bed.  “I should leave.” 

“No, Cas.  Stay.”  Dean finally moves, pulling the condom off and tucking himself back into his panties.  He won’t meet Castiel’s eyes as he crawls off the bed.  “You’re high as balls and probably having a bad trip-” 

“I’m not having a bad trip.” 

The mask slips a little, revealing a flash of cold anger, but it’s back in place so quickly that Castiel isn’t sure if he really saw it.  “Well if you won’t stay, will you at least call someone?  I don’t think you should be alone.” 

“I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”   

“Fine, whatever.”  Dean drops his eyes to the floor and moves to walk past Castiel to the bathroom. 

Something makes Castiel reach out for him, stopping him with a touch.  “Dean… please don’t be angry.” 

Burning green eyes come up to meet his.  Dean’s voice is flat when he parrots Castiel's words.  “Don’t be angry.” 

Curling his fingers around Dean’s bicep, Castiel steps closer.  “I’m sorry… I’m an asshole, and I’m sorry.  But I can’t be in that kind of relationship with you.” 

The mask slips again, only this time it reveals confusion.  “Why not?” 

“Because you’re a man.” 

Dean snorts.  “No kidding.  That was my dick in your ass.” 

Castiel flinches, but he tries again.  “I just… I have plans for what I want my life to be like.” 

“And my dick interferes with that?”   

Goddammit, this is not going the way he wants.  Not that he knows how it could have gone better.  Now that his initial panic is starting to wear off Castiel wishes he could turn the clock back ten minutes and not freak out on Dean while their bodies were still entwined and their heartbeats hadn’t even started to slow down yet. 

He takes another steadying breath and tries again.  “Dean, I’m having fun exploring this thing between us but I never thought it was going anywhere.  I want to get married someday.  Have kids.  With the dog, the white picket fence, and the whole nine yards.” 

Dean stares at him blankly for a moment and then he laughs.  There’s a bitter edge to it that makes nausea swirl dangerously in Castiel’s belly.  “Are you fucking serious?” he says through his laughter.  “That’s why you don’t want to be with me?  You’re just fooling around with me until you find your dream girl?” 

“No!  You’re my friend-” 

“No.” Dean swipes a hand through the air, cutting him off.  “That ship has sailed, Cas.  I can’t be your friend.  Maybe if whatever this is-” he flicks his finger back and forth between them, “-hadn’t happened, I could be your friend.  But I fucked up and went and fell in love with you, and I thought you had a thing for me too.  I can’t come back from that.” 

“Dean-” 

“I said no, Cas.” Dean lets out another bitter laugh.  He steps close to Castiel and jabs at his chest with a finger, but doesn’t actually make contact.  Maybe he can’t stand to touch him now.  And Castiel can’t blame him.  “You’ve obviously got a problem with my dick.  I’m good enough for fucking around with, but that’s it.  Well I’ve got a newsflash for you, Cas.  I’m not a sex toy.  And you should have thought about that before you decided to make me your gay experiment.” 

The pain in Castiel’s chest increases.  Dean isn’t just a toy.  He’s kind, and brave, and funny, and smart, and helpful, and everything good. 

“Dean-” 

“I thought you were leaving.” 

Castiel drops his eyes to the floor.  He stares at Dean’s bare feet until they move, carrying Dean to the bathroom.  The door shuts behind him, and Castiel hears the shower turn on.  He closes his eyes against the memory of all the times they’ve shared that shower, but that’s no way to escape.  Images of wet skin sliding together, hands stroking limbs, stroking cocks, play against the inside of his eyelids.   

He opens his eyes again, and starts to dress himself.  His mind is buzzing, from the weed and from the lingering adrenaline.  Thoughts jumble together so badly that he gives up on trying to organize them.  Instead he puts his mental capacity towards pulling on his clothing.  First his boxers, and then the sweatpants and t-shirt.   

His feet manage to carry him to the bedroom door, and when he opens it he finds Ford and Hamill curled up outside.  They both lift their heads at him, blinking and yawning.  He steps over them before they get up and start trying to get him to give them attention, and he hurries down the stairs. 

He doesn’t know where he left his shoes and socks, so he doesn’t bother to find them.  He hurries out of the house and runs across the street to his own home, letting himself in through the unlocked door and going straight up to his bedroom.   

Where he stops just inside the door.  The whole room is full of Dean’s presence.  From the hand carved bed frame and matching end tables, to the mattress that they’ve shared together.  If he flips on the light, the ceiling fan that Dean installed will turn on.  And going into the bathroom with jade tiles the same shade as Dean’s eyes is completely out of the question. 

He nearly stumbles over his own feet when he tries to turn and leave the room, but he catches himself on the door frame.  He leaves his bedroom, and goes straight for the second bathroom.  It’s mostly unused so there are no towels hanging from the rack and no rug on the floor.  He still hasn’t gotten around to upgrading it from just a bathtub to a shower, but at least he finally bought a proper plug for it a few weeks ago. 

He cranks the knobs until the water is blasting into the bottom of the tub, and puts in the plug.  Without bothering to check the temperature first, he strips his clothes off and gets in.  The water is just slightly above lukewarm, but he doesn’t reach for the knobs to change anything.  He pulls his knees up to his chest and rests his head on them and tries to get a grip on the emotions roiling inside him. 

Tears drip warm and steady down his cheeks and onto his thighs, and he wonders how long he’s been crying.

 

Xxx

 

The house is quiet when Dean gets out of the shower, and he knows that Castiel is gone before he re-enters his room.  The tiny spark of hope in his chest that Cas would snap out of whatever freakout he was having and would stay blinks out, and his shoulders sag.   

The pile of black and orange fur on his bed shifts, and two pairs of eyes blink at him for a moment before Hamill disentangles himself from Ford and jumps down to cross over to Dean.  He meows plaintively, weaving around Dean’s damp ankles and leaving orange tufts of fur on his skin.   

Dean steps over him and crosses to his dresser.  He opens the top drawer and stops with his hand hovering over the rainbow of panties.  He’d shoved the blue pair he’d been wearing deep into the hamper, burying it under jeans and towels because the color reminded him of Castiel.  But seeing all the other colors - teal like Castiel’s living room, green like the tiles they’d put up together, white which always drive Castiel to mindless lust - makes his stomach churn. 

His hand moves to the far corner of the drawer, and he pulls out a pair of black boxer briefs.  He slams the drawer shut and bends down to put the underwear on, one foot at a time.  His balance wavers slightly because he’s still high and it doesn’t help that Hamill is still trying to get his attention and Dean has to step around him in order to step into the boxer briefs.  His voice is shrill, and as Dean ignores him he becomes more urgent.  More insistent. 

“Jesus, Hamill,” Dean finally mumbles.  He bends down and picks up the cat and goes to sit on the edge of his bed.  Fur against his side brings his gaze around to Ford who has decided that Dean needs his attention as well.   

He flops down on his back, holding Hamill cradled against his chest.  Ford gets in his face, and starts kneading at his shoulder.  They’re both purring, their engines revved to the maximum as they try to comfort him. 

At least someone loves me. 

Melodramatic much? 

I’m alone with my cats, and stoned as fuck.  I’m entitled. 

He’s actually coming down from his high.  Between the fight with Castiel and the shower, his head is beginning to feel dangerously clear.  He rolls his head to the side until he catches sight of the clock next to his bed.  It’s just a little after nine on a Saturday night, and he knows for sure he’s not going to get any sleep any time soon.  God, how is it still so early?   

It’s tempting to go back downstairs and smoke the rest of the weed and maybe add a little (or a lot) of whiskey on top just to knock his ass out, but there’s a restlessness under his skin that he can’t ignore. 

Ford curls into his armpit and continues to knead at Dean’s side.  His claws prick uncomfortably, but Dean doesn’t do anything to stop him.  The physical pain is nothing compared to the dull ache growing in his chest. 

He’d only experienced shock when Castiel had first pushed him away.  And then he’d been terrified that he’d hurt Cas, that he should have ignored his begging and prepped him better.  And then confusion and eventually anger had overwhelmed him. 

At some point while he stood under the spray of water, everything had gone silent inside him.  The apparent calm before the storm if the rapidly growing pain is anything to judge by. 

“How could I have been so stupid?” he whispers.  Hamill responds with a mrrp, and Dean strokes his hand over the orange cat’s soft fur.   

He’d let himself be lulled by Castiel’s quick acceptance of his newfound sexuality.  He’d got caught up in the physical, and hadn’t been looking for warning signs. 

He scours his memory, trying to find them now, but it only leaves him more confused.  Castiel hadn’t displayed any strange behavior.  He’d never pulled away from Dean, or acted sketchy when they were in public.  But then again, Dean had been careful to keep it mostly platonic in front of others since he didn’t know if Cas was ready to be Out.  He’d kept the endearments to a minimum- 

He winces at the memory of Castiel’s barked command to not call him “sweetheart”.  Fuck, that one hurts.  If Castiel hadn’t liked it, why didn’t he say something sooner?  Why hadn’t he fucking talked to Dean before… everything? 

“You know what the biggest fucking joke about this whole thing is?” Dean says out loud, and is gratified when both cats prick their ears at him.  “Same sex marriage is legal now.  Adoption is a thing.  And yeah, I may be more of a cat guy than a dog guy, but I can build a goddamn white picket fence.” 

There’s no answer from the boys, but he likes to think their continued purring and cuddling is their way of agreeing with him. 

The restlessness bubbles up inside him again, and he sits up.  The cats bound away, their tails held in such a way to show that they’re miffed, and he feels sorry for that because they were obviously trying to make him feel better.  But he needs to get out of there.  He needs to get away from the rumbled blankets that still smell like sex, and the memories of everything they’ve done together in this house. 

It only takes him a few minutes to dress, his movements becoming less sluggish as he moves around.  Mercifully, Ford and Hamill stay out from under his feet.  Ford watches him from his perch on Dean’s pillow, and Hamill has apparently decided that he’s going to give Dean the cold shoulder and is busy bathing himself in the middle of the floor.  He barely pauses when Dean walks past him. 

The living room still smells sweet with lingering smoke, so he opens a few windows and turns on some lights so that if anyone notices the poor security they’ll think someone’s home and then heads out to the garage.  He hesitates when the overhead light comes on and reflects off the Impala’s curves and edges.  The itch under his skin that’s forcing him to move is begging him to take her out for a drive, but when he looks through he windows all he can see is Castiel.   

Spread out on the back seat and gasping as Dean sucks him down.  Or laughing in the front seat as he reaches across the space between them to grope Dean’s dick through his jeans.   

It’s not just the sexy times that he remembers though.  In his mind's eye he sees Castiel sleeping against the passenger side window.  Talking about their plans to fix this thing or that thing while the Righteous Brothers croon through the speakers.  Even arguing about wheat bread versus white bread on the way to the grocery store. 

He steps back from the car with the intention of taking his truck instead.  There are still memories there, but not as many.  But then he stops and squeezes his keys in his palm until the edges dig deep into his skin.   

I will not let him take my Baby away from me. 

He mashes his thumb against the fob that controls the garage door, and it begins to roll up while Dean opens the driver side door.  He stops before getting in and looks across the street.  Castiel’s windows are all completely dark giving no sign that Castiel is even home, and a pang of worry has him stepping away from the car.  He stops near her trunk and stares at the house. 

You’re my friend- 

No.  That ship’s sailed. 

Spinning on a heel, he turns back to climb behind the steering wheel.  Baby’s engine starts up with a satisfying roar, and some of the anger inside him eases.  Leaning over, he pulls a box out from under the passenger side of the seat, and digs around through his old cassette tapes until he finds one that has sufficiently raucous music for his mood and pops it into the tape deck.  He cranks up the volume, and pulls out of the garage.   

Driving while stoned is stupid, and he knows it, but the rumble of the engine and the feel of the road under the tires is exactly what he needs right now.  He let’s his mind go blank except for what he needs to concentrate on driving and let’s the wind from the open window and the rocking beat of Metallica’s Black Album flow over and around him.   

He gets on a freeway, picks a direction and as soon as he’s out of the city traffic, he guns it.  Despite the fact that it’s summer, and the day was broiling, the night air is cool against his skin. He doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going exactly, just following the freeway until he decides to exit.  He takes random turns, doing his best to get himself lost, even though he’s never been able to do it before.  Even with the slight buzz he’s still feeling, he knows exactly where he is. 

Gravel crunches under the Impala’s tires when he pulls into the parking lot of Henry’s shop.  He turns off the engine and stares at the darkened windows of the front sales office for a few minutes before he gets out and walks around the side of the building to the door that leads straight into the workshop. 

The door opens to his key, and he punches in the security code on the keypad just inside before the alarm goes off.  Then he flips a few switches and one by one the florescent lights hanging from the ceiling blink on.  With the power tools all turned off and the old stereo at the back silent he can hear the lights buzzing.  His footsteps are loud on the concrete as he crosses to the drafting table where he keeps his designs. 

He’s practically grown up in this shop, and has been there not only by himself, but also after hours plenty of times.  But for some reason the shop seems eery and foreign.  Like a giant beast with many hidden eyes is watching him walk through its lair.   

He stops next to his drafting table and flips on the stereo.  It’s set on an oldies station because it’s something he and Henry can both agree on.  He catches it right at the end of a commercial for a local used car lot. 

“Welcome back folks!  You’re listening to 99.5 FM KUTQ!  Hope you’re all having a great Saturday night swinging to the oldies with us.  Here’s Wilson Pickett with Something You Got.” 

Breathing a sigh out through his nose, Dean resists the urge to turn the stereo back off and sits down on his stool.  Technically the stool and the drafting table are Henry’s but he never uses them anymore.  He’s got a newer and nicer setup in his office, and he’s let Dean take over this one.   

Dean picks up a folder of sketches and flips idly through the papers.  His only artistic talent lies in drawing furniture, but he doesn’t mind the limitation since he also has the ability to take the two dimensional images that he so carefully sketches out and turn them into three dimensional objects that are far more beautiful than anything he’s ever been able to draw.   

Henry has been threatening to retire and leave Dean the shop for years now.  Maybe when the old man finally makes good on his threat Dean will give up contracting and take up carpentry full time.  Cabinets and cupboards bore him to fucking tears, but he could always get himself a website set up and start selling all the random furniture he makes. 

The song switches over to Baby Come On Home by Solomon Burke and Dean lifts his head to listen to the lyrics.  He smiles because he knew the Led Zeppelin version was a cover, but it’s been so long since he’s heard the original, that he’d mostly forgotten.  He’s a hardcore Zep fan, but there’s no beating Solomon Burke’s rough croon. 

He sets down the designs and looks around the shop.  There’s still an itch under his skin, and he’s tempted to work on something.  But he’s never been stupid enough to work with power tools while stoned, and he has no intention of starting now.   

His eyes land on the finished armoire standing near the rack where he and Henry put stained pieces to dry.  It’s rich red cedar gleams under the ugly florescent light.  Designs of lighter wood are inlaid in the doors in a floral pattern.  Cas had seemed to like the flowers he carved into the other furniture he’d made, so Dean had kind of gone all out with the design.   

Dean gets up from his stool and crosses the shop to stand in front of the finished piece.  It hadn’t been moved to the showroom because it wasn’t going to be sold.  But he guesses he might as well sell it now.  There’s no question that he’s going to give it to its intended recipient.  Not now that he and Cas are no longer together. 

You’re my friend- 

No.  That ship’s sailed. 

He clenches his eyes shut.  Those words echo over and over in his mind, and he wants to dig through his own skull and scrape them out.  To forget the argument.  But he can’t because then he’ll go crawling back to Castiel, begging for something the other man isn’t ready to give.  He needs those words as a reminder that he needs to protect his heart. 

Maybe it was cruel to shut Castiel down on the friend thing, but there’s no way Dean can go back to the way things were.   

He slides his hand over the inlaid flowers.  He’d been so anal about getting everything just right that it’s probably the best work he’s ever done.  Below the clear coat protecting the wood, there’s no hint of ridges at the edges when he runs the pads of his fingers over them.  He could get a pretty penny for the armoire just for the inlay work alone. 

He drops his hand to the side and opens his eyes.  Even though he speaks in barely more than a whisper, his voice echoes strangely in the room even with the music filling the space.  “I’m not going to sell you to anyone.” 

His footsteps are loud as he moves around the workshop and gathers the tools he needs.  Still no power tools, of course.  But he comes back with a hammer, a couple screwdrivers, and some woodworking tools.

The music switches over to something slow and bluesy, and his head bops to the rhythm as he removes the brass door handles and drops them at his feet.  He opens the left door of the armoire, and starts unscrewing the hinges.  He’s careful not to let the door fall to the floor once it comes free of the hinges.  He sets it down next to the drying rack and goes back to working on the hinges until he can remove them from the body of the armoire. 

He tosses the hinges down with the door handles, and then goes to work repeating the actions on the second door.  After both are removed and the second set of hinges join the pile of metal near his feet, he starts pulling out the drawers.  He removes their knobs and then uses the wood tools to pry the pieces apart; front, back, left, right, and bottom are all stacked neatly.  The pieces can probably be reused for another project. 

He continues taking the armoire apart, as carefully as he put it together.  A few times his eyes blur with tears, and he wipes them away on the back of his arm and goes back to work.  It had taken him months to design and create, but it takes less than an hour to disassemble.   

He find the parallel to his love life rather poetic. 

When he finishes he stands among the piled pieces and stares at the doors.  Because of the inlaid designs the pieces can’t be reused for something else without showing how much of his heart he put in the work.  There’s no way he can allow that now. 

He stacks one on top of the other and carries them outside.  They’re not very heavy, but carrying them both is awkward and they try to slip from his hands.  It doesn’t help that the tears are still inhibiting his vision, and now he can’t wipe them away since his hands are full.  But he manages to get outside with his burden.  He carries the doors to the dumpster that Henry uses for scraps that can’t be used and need to be discarded, and he tosses them inside.  

Without a backward glance he goes back inside and starts cleaning up the mess he made.  He straightens his designs and puts them away, turns off the stereo, and turns off the lights before re-arming the alarm.  He locks the door behind him, and looks up at the stars.  This far out from the city, there are quite a lot of them visible although they just look like watery lights since the waterworks still won’t fucking stop. 

He takes in a deep breath of the cool midnight air, and let’s it out.  He runs a hand over his face, wiping away the tears again, and this time his vision stays mostly clear.   

The weight that has been sitting on his chest since Castiel walked out of his house doesn’t ease in the slightest though, but he’s not surprised.  He expects that’ll stick around for a while. 

His feet start carrying him around the side of the shop towards his car.  On the way he pulls out his keys and his phone.  Before he unlocks the Impala he lights up his phone screen and pulls up his contacts.  He scrolls past Castiel’s number without pause, and doesn’t stop until he reaches the M section.  He taps on a contact and puts the phone up to his ear. 

After a few rings Meg answers.  “Hey, Dean-o, if this is a midnight bootycall, you dialed the wrong number.” 

“I need you to go over and to Cas’ place and check on him.” 

The playful flirtiness is gone from her tone when she speaks again.  “Why?  What’s wrong?” 

“I just… will you do it?” 

“Yeah, of course.”  There’s a long pause, and then “Are you alright?” 

“I will be,” he answers softly.  “Have a good night, Meg.” 

He taps the screen to hang up and then puts it in his pocket.  Then he gets into his car, and pulls away.  There’s no way he’s going home tonight.  Not if Meg is at Castiel’s place.  He doesn’t want to talk to her, and he knows for a fact she’s going to want to know what the Hell is going on.  He’ll let her find out from Cas. 

Sam’s place is out of the question.  He’ll be worse than Meg because he won’t have anyone else to assuage his curiosity.  Can’t go to mom and dad’s because he’s a fucking grownup and he’s not going to cry to his parents about his fucked up love life.  But there is one person he can turn to that won’t pry. 

He pulls his phone back up and dials the number from memory.  He feels a little guilty for calling so late, but he knows that he won’t get in trouble for it.  When the call is answered, he sighs and some of the weight lifts from his chest.  “Hey… is it okay if I come crash at your place?” 

Cain’s voice is warm and welcoming as always.  “Yes, Dean, of course.  I’ll leave the door unlocked and you can come right in when you get here.” 

“Thanks, man.”  He hangs up and turns the power off on his phone before tucking it back in his pocket.  Then he backs out of the parking lot and turns Baby in the direction of Cain’s farm. 

Chapter Text

When Castiel’s back begins to ache, he let’s go of his knees and slumps back against the rim of the tub, sending a small tidal wave over the edge.  He spares a vague thought to the safety of his phone where it’s tucked into the pocket of his sweatpants on the floor, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not important and he quickly forgets about it.   

Despite the heavy feeling the pot left in his limbs, his brain seems to be working in overdrive.  Repeating the events that led to him soaking in a lukewarm bath, alone and confused and hurting. 

His lungs don’t seem to want to work right, straining to contract and expand, and it only gets worse as the memories of the night replay in his mind.  And it’s not just the memories of the fight.  He keeps seeing Dean giggling at the t.v., or the way he’d closed his eyes and swayed to the music before rejoining Castiel on the couch.  The way his eyes lit up when Castiel asked to be fucked. 

The intensity in his gaze when he said… 

Castiel squeezes his eyes shut, although it doesn’t protect him the warmth in Dean’s eyes.  It doesn’t even change his view since he never bothered to turn the lights on.  He doesn’t want to think about Dean looking at him with so much… too much… He whimpers at the memory and digs the heels of his palms against his eyes until the jade green is replaced by sparks of white and red.   

The image fades, but the pain does not.  And then his brain switches gears and supplies him with the image of Dean’s face at the end - I thought you were leaving.  His eyes snap back open and he stares into the darkness above him and wishing that some of it would leak into his brain so he could just stop thinking. 

Tears tickle their way down the sides of his face, and he would wipe them away, but it would be an exercise in futility.  Instead he forces his malfunctioning lungs to pull in a deep breath and he let’s himself sink down, under the surface of the water.  It closes over his face, immediately washing away the salty trails on his cheeks.  He doesn’t come back up right away though.  He focuses on the crystalline tinkle of water droplets falling from the spout, and the dull thud of his heart.  It slows his mind, allows him to focus on the darkness instead of the memories. 

Eventually he has to come back up, and that first breath of cool air goes straight to his brain, energizing the neurons and sending them blinking with more memories he’d much rather forget.  So he huffs a few shallow breaths, takes one last deep one and slips under the surface again. 

He repeats the action, over and over until the lukewarm water starts to take on a chill, and yet he still keeps doing it.  He wishes that he didn’t have to come back up for air, considers briefly whether he could just… not… and a thrill of fear goes through him at the dark thought.  It brings him surging up out of the water, coughing and sputtering, and grasping blindly for the edges of the tub to hold himself up. 

“Clarence, you home?” 

Meg’s voice startles Castiel, and his body jerks in the tub, sending even more water splashing over the side.  “Meg?” 

The sound of the front door closing, makes him blink into the darkness.  He must have missed it opening while he was under water.  What is she doing here? 

God, what if he’d followed that urge and she’d found him?  The thought makes him shudder. 

“Clarence?”  His mind follows her progress up the stairs and down the hall by the muffled thud thud thud of her footsteps on the carpet. 

“In here.”  The words come out barely above a whisper, so he fills his lungs and tries again.  “In here!” 

There's still not much volume, but Meg still manages to find him.  The thud of her feet changes to a sharp clack on the linoleum when she enters the bathroom.   

He doesn't like the linoleum.  He should replace it with tile. 

Or maybe he'll just leave it.  There's really no reason to bother with the work. 

She flips on the light, blinding him.  He throws a wet arm up over his face to protect his eyes, and grunts his annoyance. 

“What the hell are you doing in here, Clarence?” 

For some reason the nickname grates on his nerves.  She's used it since kindergarten, but it's never bothered him before.  Now, though, he wishes he'd never let her get in the habit.  “That's not my name.” 

There’s a long pause, and then “Okay, Castiel.  You wanna tell me why Dean called me in the middle of the night - ruining my chances to get laid by a really hot redhead, by the way - and told me to come over here to check on your cranky ass?” 

So that’s why she’s here instead of out painting the town red; Dean called her.  Of course he did.  Castiel isn’t sure why he doubted it would happen.  Even pissed off he takes care of his friends- 

No, that ship has sailed. 

Before he can answer, her eyes narrow at him.  “What is wrong?  You look like shit.” 

So Dean didn’t tell her anything.  Gratitude for the other man makes him sigh out a relieved breath.  “I’m stoned.” 

A crinkle appears between her brows.  “Seriously?  That's it?” 

It's a sign of how shitty he must look that she doesn't scold him for not calling her to join the party.  He kind of wishes that he had.  If she'd been there he probably wouldn't have crawled into Dean's lap.  He wouldn't have kissed him until they were both hard and needy.  He wouldn't have asked Dean to fuck him.  Dean wouldn’t have made love to him instead.  Wouldn’t have said- 

He shoves away the memory of Dean’s eyes boring into him with heat and emotion, forcing the walls Castiel thought he’d built up around his heart to crumble to ash.  He doesn’t want to remember how good it felt.  How right. 

It’s the opposite of right.  He shouldn’t want that.   

She crosses the room and crouches down next to the tub.  Water tinkles against the sides when Meg dips her fingers in it.  She hisses and reaches for the plug, pulling it free.  “Jesus, Castiel, this water is ice cold.  What the hell are you doing?” 

“It feels good.”  It’s a lie.  He hasn’t even felt the temperature for a while.  Now that she brings his attention to it a shiver wracks his body, but he makes no move to get out of the tub.   

“Do you have any towels in here?” 

There are no towels hanging from the rack near the tub, and the cupboard under the sink only holds a few bottles of cleaning supplies.  The only cloth in the room is the pile of clothing he’d left near the door.  Luckily it seems to have survived his splashing around and is still dry.  

Meg huffs an annoyed breath when she answers her own question by looking around.  “I’ll go grab some.  I’ll be right back.” 

Knowing that she’s going to browbeat him out of the tub anyway, Castiel sighs and braces his hands on the sides of the tub to push himself up.  The bottom is slippery under his feet, and he’s still high enough that it’s a struggle to stand, but he manages it by the time Meg comes back. 

Even though she’s seen him naked hundreds of times, he suddenly feels the need to hide himself from her view.  He snaps a towel out of her hands and wraps it around himself. 

She lifts an eyebrow at him, but doesn’t comment.  She doesn’t need to.  The look is enough to make him feel stupid. 

He sighs and gives up trying to be irritated with her.  It’s never worked. 

Stepping out of the tub takes more concentration than he’s capable of, and he doesn’t complain when she reaches out to help him keep his balance.  That’s Meg.  Always there for him when he needs her. 

“Do you remember when we first met?” he mumbles as she starts swiping a second towel over his exposed skin.  He stands still and lets her because he doesn’t have the energy to do it himself.  It’s taking everything he has not to sink to the floor.  Only the thought of how uncomfortable it would be, and the fact that Meg might very well leave him there keeps him upright. 

Meg snorts a quiet laugh.  “How can I forget?  You were so pathetic.” 

That earns a glare, but she doesn’t even acknowledge it.  “My dog died the day before.  I was upset.” 

He still remembers the day his dog Manny died as clearly as if it were only a few days ago even though he and Jimmy were only five when their mother explained that the chubby little beagle wouldn't be coming home from the vet's office.  It was the first time he'd had to understand the concept of mortality, and that animals could get sick just like people.  If asked why he decided to study veterinary medicine, he'd be able to point at the memory as the touchstone of his interest even though it took him such a long time to decide to make a career out of it. 

Meg hums and rubs the towel over his hair.  “Yeah, I remember.  And you were sniveling under that tree all by yourself.  You know I think that’s the first time I ever saw you without Jimmy attached to your hip?” 

Castiel and Jimmy had been practically conjoined as kids.  Their interests weren’t always the same, but they still preferred to share them with each other than anyone else.  But that day Jimmy had told Castiel he wanted to be alone, and that had hurt worse than finding out that he’d never get to see Manny again.   

While he was alone and hurting, Meg found him sniffling back tears during recess, and had decided to pick on him to take his mind off whatever was making him cry.  She'd asked his name, even though she knew it already since they were in class together.  She pretended she couldn't pronounce it and started calling him all kinds of weird names before settling on Clarence.  He'd been so angry that he’d yelled and called her stupid.  She'd grinned at him and told him she liked him better mad than sad, and told him she was claiming him as her best friend. 

“I’m sorry I snapped at you for calling me Clarence,” he mutters into the shadows under the towel.   

Meg lifts the edge and looks at him.  Really looks at him like she did that day so long ago on the playground.  He knows that she can see past his lie about being stoned, and he braces himself to answer her questions, even though he desperately doesn’t want to talk about what happened earlier with Dean. 

She doesn’t ask though.  Instead she just nudges the towel off his head until it lays around his shoulders and she tugs at the ends.  “It’s alright, Castiel.”  She brushes gentle fingers against his cheek.  “How about we get you into bed?” 

He doesn’t want to sleep in his bed.  He doesn’t want to go into his room at all.  But unless he wants to dress himself in the pile of dirty clothes he’d left on the bathroom floor, he needs to at least go in there to put on some clothes.   

When he finally nods, Meg gently nudges him out of the room.  He wonders if this is the way she treats the patients at the retirement home she works in.  If so, he’s glad that those people have someone so gentle and kind taking care of them.   

It doesn’t take Meg long to get him into some underwear and a pair of clean scrub bottoms to sleep in.  Despite his earlier aversion to his bed it feels good to sink into the mattress when she pushes him down on it.  He curls onto his side, tucking his arms against his chest and pulling his knees up.  His pillow still smells a little bit like sweat and sawdust from the last time Dean spent the night with him, and tears well up in his eyes. 

“Meg?” 

“Yeah?” 

“Will you stay with me tonight?” 

He shouldn’t ask her to stay.  She’s dressed for a night on the town, with her hair done up and wearing makeup and the whole shebang.  He should just let her leave, and go back out to enjoy the rest of the evening. 

“You bet, Clarence.  Just give me a few minutes, okay?” 

He sighs in relief.  “Okay.”  

It takes her a little longer than him to get ready for bed.  He’s got his back to the master bathroom, but he can hear her moving around in there.  The water runs in the sink, and he imagines her removing her makeup and brushing her teeth.  When she finishes, there’s a rustle of cloth against skin, and she must be digging through his basket of clean laundry because he can hear it creak against the floor. 

Soon she’s climbing into bed with him, and pressing her body against his back.  Her arm snakes around his waist, and she nuzzles against the back of his neck.  She’s warm and soft, and it’s comforting to be held. 

But she’s not who he wants to be with him right now. 

It should be Dean in his bed.  Dean’s arm around him.  Dean’s breath against his skin. 

But he fucked up, and he’ll never get to experience that again. 

He tries to tell himself that it’s for the best.  Dean doesn’t fit into his Life Plan, and it’s better to break things off now before they got too serious. 

Although apparently he should have given Dean that talk a lot sooner.   

A sob catches in his throat.  And then another.  He folds deeper into himself, trying to hold the pain inside.   

Meg’s fingers are soft against his temple as she brushes them through his hair.  “Wanna talk about it?” 

He shakes his head, and he’s not sure if he’s glad or upset that she doesn’t push further.   

It takes a very long time to fall asleep that night.  

 

Xxx

 

It's jarring to realize the world keeps spinning and people continue to live their lives as if nothing has changed.  Although Castiel knows on an intellectual level that his fight with Dean counts for nothing in the grand scheme of things, it still hurts to see that no one else acts as if anything is different. 

That might change if he were to actually talk to anyone about it, but he keeps his silence.  And apparently Dean does as well since Sam doesn't act like anything is different at work on Monday morning.  He only takes a close look at Castiel and asks if he's feeling alright, and he doesn't seem to think twice about Castiel's mumbled excuse that he just needs a little more time for his coffee to kick in. 

At random times Castiel will look up from examining a pregnant poodle, or from cleaning an old tabby's teeth and he'll realize that he's the only person in the room that knows he and Dean are no longer friends.  When he goes out to lunch and the cashier wishes him a good afternoon with a bright smile, he wonders how she doesn't see that he has nothing to look forward to.  And after work he drives past a playground and sees children playing together, he envies their easy friendships. 

The worst part is seeing how Dean acts about the change.  Castiel doesn't see Dean at all until Wednesday morning, when he's leaving for work.  Between walking out his front door, and all the way to climbing into his truck Dean doesn't even look across the street.  Meanwhile Castiel stands frozen on the top step of his porch - the steps Dean built - and watches every move the other man makes. 

After Dean's truck disappears around the corner, Castiel goes back inside, no longer motivated to run.  Instead he leans back against his closed door and wonders why his vision blurs with tears.  He feels numb.  Disconnected. 

Lonely. 

Homesick. 

The week passes slowly, and it feels like he's going a little bit crazy.  The weekend is torture, even when he tries to distract himself by hanging out with Meg, or taking Claire to the movies. 

The second week is worse because Sam figures out something is wrong.  He corners Castiel in the locker room at the end of the day, standing in the doorway and using his bulk to block the only means of escape. 

"Did something happen between you and Dean?" 

Castiel gapes up at the taller man, trying to figure out first how Sam clued in, and second how he can just talk about it like Castiel has been unable to do. 

Seeing his confusion, Sam sighs and runs a hand through his hair, pushing the fringe out of his eyes.  It flops right back down when he drops his hand.  "I'm sorry, I just can't figure out what's going on with Dean.  He's been acting dodgy as Hell, and Jody has seen him out with Cain a few times, and and that's weird because I thought he was dating you." 

Castiel blinks at the rush of words.  When they sink in, his stomach twists unpleasantly.  He's only met Cain the one time, but the familiar way he touched Dean and the way Dean reacted to it is crystal clear in his memory.  His first instinct is to ask Sam for more details about what Jody saw, but Dean doesn't belong to him.  He isn't even Castiel's friend anymore.   

And he wasn't anything more than that in the first place. "Dean and I are not dating." 

Sam's brow wrinkles, and he steps further into the room.  He places a gentle hand on Castiel's shoulder, squeezing as if to provide comfort.  "Oh my God, Cas, I didn't know.  I'm sorry."  His eyes are as kind as his words.  "Dean can be a dick, but I can't imagine he would do anything on purpose to screw things up with you.  He was so far gone on you, I can't believe-" 

Castiel cuts him off.  "Dean didn't do anyth-" he stops and takes a deep breath.  That's not the right direction to take this conversation.  "Sam, your brother and I were never dating." 

The way Sam tilts his head in his confusion reminds Castiel of Dean so strongly that it's almost painful to look at him.  "You weren't?  You two always looked so happy together.  I thought…” he trails off, and his shoulders sink.  “Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t have assumed.” 

Sam looks so disappointed that Castiel feels like he should get him a treat and rub him behind his ears to make him feel better.  It’s such a silly thought that he’s able to smile a little.  It fades almost immediately though.  “You’re not the only one who assumed,” he says softly. 

It takes a moment for Sam to catch on to what he’s saying, but when he does his eyes go wide before he winces.  “Oh god.  It was Dean, wasn’t it?  He thought there was something going on between you?  Fuck, Cas, he’s not an asshole, really.  If he did something inappropriate, I’m sure he thought he had a chance for some reason.” 

Castiel puts a hand on Sam’s arm.  “He didn’t do anything inappropriate.  And… he did have a reason to assume there was something more between us than friendship.” 

Knowing now that Sam saw something between them makes certain things come to light in Castiel’s own mind.  The endearments.  The cuddling on the couch.  All the times Dean wrapped himself around Castiel and pressed chaste kisses against his skin. 

Those aren’t exactly the actions of a friend.  But Castiel hadn’t thought about it because he and Meg have always been very physically affectionate as well. 

The thought resonates wrong, and he stops to really think about it.  He and Meg do cuddle sometimes.  But there has always been more to Dean’s actions.  There was always a warmth in his eyes that was closer to adoration.  The way his voice would go low and gruff when he called Castiel “sweetheart” was definitely not just a friend using a nickname.  And while Meg liked to make out during sex, she’d never just kissed him in a non-sexual way.  On the mouth, or elsewhere.  Dean liked to kiss Castiel just because he was within reach, and he could. 

And Castiel knows it’s different.  Knew it all along.  But he hadn’t wanted it to stop, so he’d pretended it was nothing.  That it was just friendship with a side of sex and flirting.   

As if reading Castiel’s mind, Sam asks “Is that really all it was?  Just friendship?” 

No. 

Castiel takes a deep breath and lifts his chin so he can meet Sam’s eyes.  “It doesn’t matter now.  Dean and I are not… we’re not…”  He can’t say it.  But he also can’t let Sam think it’s Dean’s fault.  “But he didn’t do anything wrong, Sam.  If anyone is to blame here, it’s me.  And I would understand if you choose to support your brother and end our friendship as well.” 

Sam presses his lips together, and shifts his weight.  Then he shakes his head.  “I’m not going to do that, Cas.  You and Dean might have to work out how you want to handle custody after the split, but I’m still going to be there for both of you.” 

Castiel barks a short laugh.  It’s slightly bitter, but there’s real humor behind it.  “Thank you, Sam.” 

At least his mistake didn’t cost him this friendship as well.

 

Xxx

 

By the third week, Castiel is considering selling his house.  He’s rarely home anyway.  Most of the time he’s at Meg’s place, and when she gets tired of having his “mopey ass” around, he spends his time at Jimmy’s.  It’s almost as if he’s living there again, only he drives himself home to his empty house every evening after dinner and sleeps on the couch because otherwise he’ll just toss and turn all night in his bed which feels too empty without Dean beside him. 

And there’s something in almost every room that reminds him of Dean.  Either there’s something that they fixed together, or there’s something that needs to be fixed.  Castiel plays at making plans to do the repairs himself, but he never does. 

And if he sells, he wouldn’t have to look across the street and be reminded of how Dean’s house had felt so much like home.  But he doesn’t really want to sell it.  He doesn’t want to go crawling back to Jimmy’s house after failing so badly at home ownership.   

So instead, he just stays out for as long as he can before the need for sleep and clean clothing drives him back home. 

He’s at Jimmy’s house on a Thursday night helping Claire with her homework while Jimmy and Amelia clean up after dinner when he hears a loud grinding noise from the kitchen.  He and Claire look up from the math worksheet at each other and then as one turn toward the kitchen where Jimmy is cursing.   

Castiel raises a brow at his brother’s language and then side-eyes Claire, a silent warning not to parrot those words.  Her nose wrinkles with the effort it takes not to laugh. 

“Everything okay in there?” Castiel calls when the grinding noise stops. 

There’s a loud clank.  “Not exactly,” Jimmy calls back. 

Amelia pokes her head around the edge of the doorway leading to the kitchen and silently beckons Castiel.  He pushes himself away from the table and gets up to see what’s going on.  Claire takes the opportunity to throw down her pencil and follow. 

In the kitchen, Jimmy has his hand down in the garbage disposal with a look of concentration on his face.  When he pulls it free, he’s got chunks of glass between his fingers. 

A look at the windowsill over the sink tells Castiel what happened.  Even though Jimmy and Amelia don’t drink, Meg started gifting them shot glasses years ago as a joke.  Meg never expected her gifts to end up anywhere other than the trashcan, but Amelia kept them and put them in the kitchen window where the light will catch on them and brighten up the room.  Somehow one of them must have fallen down into the sink and found its way into the garbage disposal, and it wasn’t discovered until the disposal was turned on. 

“Oh crap,” Claire grunts when she sees what happened.  “That’s going to suck to clean up.” 

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to,” Jimmy sighs as he tosses the shard into the trashcan Amelia brings to him.  “I might have to replace the whole thing.” 

“It’s better than sticking your hand down in there will all the broken bits and the blades,” Amelia points out.  When Jimmy goes to fish out more glass she slaps his arm.  “Don’t!  Just leave it alone and let’s get a new one.  I can call the insurance company and get someone here to replace it.” 

“I can do it,” Castiel says.  “A new one is probably cheaper than your deductible, and it’s not very hard to install.” 

Jimmy gives him a wide grin.  “Hey, that’s right.  You’re a handyman now, aren’t you?” 

Castiel shrugs.  He’ll probably never be at Dean’s level, but he certainly knows a lot more than he used to.  “Maybe not a handyman, but I can fix this.” 

“Great!  Let’s head to the hardware store.”  Jimmy grabs a towel and dries his hands.  After a kiss for Amelia and Claire he leads the way out to the cars.   

They take Castiel’s car, despite Jimmy’s protests.  Mostly because it was parked behind Jimmy’s, blocking him from getting out, but also because Castiel thinks his brother’s reaction to the old Lincoln is entertaining.   

Walking into Home Depot for the first time without Dean at his side is a shock to his system.  He stops just inside the automatic doors, and takes a deep breath of the miasma of lumber and chemicals that reminds him so viscerally of Dean that the dull ache that has been living inside his chest for the last few weeks blooms into something sharp and jagged, digging its thorns into his ribcage. 

“You okay?”  Jimmy asks. 

“I’m fine,” Castiel murmurs.  He forces his feet to move again, and tries to ignore the urge to look around and see if Dean is there.   

God, he hopes like Hell that Dean isn’t there.  Running into him and receiving the cold shoulder in front of his brother is more than he thinks he’s ready to handle right now.   

Luckily he knows right where the garbage disposals are, so he makes a beeline through the store.  He doesn’t let Jimmy hem and haw too long over the choices, telling him what he’ll need and assuring him that he’s already done all his research on the brands.  That’s enough for his brother, and soon they’re leaving.  Without running into Dean, passing the paint department, or going anywhere near the lighting section.  If Jimmy notices his relief when they walk back out of the store, he doesn’t say anything, and Castiel is grateful. 

At least he is until Jimmy does finally say something.  He waits until Castiel is under the sink hooking up the hoses and the power to the newly installed garbage disposal.  He nudges his toe against Castiel’s thigh, and says “I’m surprised you didn’t call Dean to help with this.” 

Castiel’s hands go still, and the air gets stuck in his lungs.  It takes a few heartbeats before he unfreezes, and he plugs in the power to the new disposal.  “It’s not something I couldn’t handle without his help,” he grumbles. 

Jimmy squats down and looks at him in the darkness under the sink.  “Yeah, but it would have been a great chance for him to meet Ames and Claire.” 

Instead of responding to that, Castiel turns on the power to the disposal.  “Go ahead and turn on the water, and the disposal.  Let’s make sure it works.” 

With a huff that says he knows Castiel is evading, Jimmy stands.  A few seconds later the water turns on.  No water comes spilling down on Castiel, so that’s a good sign.  And when Jimmy turns on the disposal it runs without a hitch.  It’s a fairly quiet model, but since Castiel is perched right underneath it, he claps his hands over his ears and scoots out from under the sink. 

Jimmy smirks down at him and flips off the switch.  “Looks like it works.” 

Castiel flips him off, but accepts his help getting to his feet.  “Yeah, you’re all set.” 

“Maybe we should have a special dinner to celebrate,” Jimmy says with a grin.  “You can invite Dean.” 

“Why would I do that?”  Castiel tries for nonchalant, but knows he falls short. 

Jimmy’s good cheer drops, and he throws his hands up in frustration.  “Maybe because I’d like your boyfriend to meet my family?” 

Castiel’s eyes snap to Jimmy’s.  “What?” 

His brother rubs his hands together in front of him even though they’re still clean, since Castiel did all the work.  “I’m tired of waiting for you to tell me.” 

“Tell you what?” 

Jimmy stares back at him, his jaw tilted stubbornly.  “Please don’t try to hide it, Cassie.  I’ve seen the way you two act around each other.  I’m kind of pissed that you think I wouldn’t notice you’re dating him.” 

Castiel’s jaw drops open, and then he sputters, “But I’m not!” 

“You were all over each other that night at the Roadhouse.  And by the way, I’m also pissed at you for not telling me that you’re into guys.  You didn’t think I’d judge you for it, did you?” 

That thought hadn’t really occurred to him.  Jimmy is very spiritual, and he takes his family to church every week, but he’s always been very supportive of the LGBT community.  He believes that love is love, and isn’t afraid to let people know about it.  He’s gotten into a few Facebook arguments with people about it over the years, much to Meg’s endless amusement. 

“No,” Castiel murmurs distractedly.  “I just hadn’t figured it out myself until just recently.”   

His mind races back to the night Jimmy’s talking about.  It’s the only time Dean and Jimmy have met, and he has no idea how his brother got the idea that he and Dean… 

But then he remembers Dean’s hands on his hips.  His breath on Castiel’s cheek as they leaned close to speak.  The look in Dean’s eyes as he sang the song that Castiel had picked for him. 

Was he the only one not paying attention to what was happening? 

His shoulders slump.  It doesn’t matter now.  It’s over, and there’s no reason for Dean to meet Amelia and Claire.  “Dean and I aren’t dating.  Not anymore.” 

Jimmy’s eyes widen, and he steps closer to Castiel.  “What happened?” 

Castiel laughs bitterly.  He goes to wipe his hands over his face, but stops when he notices the dirt streaked on his palms.  Instead he moves to the sink and turns on the water.  He pours a little bit of Dawn in his palms, and then begins to scrub them under the faucet.  “I broke it off,” he grits out between his teeth.   

“I’m sorry, Cassie,” Jimmy says softly.  “You two seemed really happy together.” 

Castiel tilts his face in his brother’s direction, but can’t quite look at him.  “We did?” 

Jimmy reaches out and turns off the water, because Castiel is just standing there with his hands under it the stream even though they’re clean and the soap is rinsed away.  Then he lays a hand on Castiel’s shoulder.  Softly, as if he’s afraid of startling a jittery animal.  Castiel knows the move, since it’s one he uses at work on a daily basis.   

“Yeah,” Jimmy says.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so happy with someone before.” 

That makes Castiel look up at his brother, finally meeting his eyes.  “Really?” 

Jimmy reaches behind him to grab a towel and hands it to Castiel.  “Tell me what happened.” 

Castiel takes the towel and twists it between his hands instead of properly drying them.  He turns and braces his hips against the edge of the sink and stares down at the small collection of tools near his feet.  Jimmy didn’t have everything Castiel needed for the job, and there’s a shiny new wrench that Castiel insisted he buy before they left Home Depot.  Castiel’s toolbox has one, along with a lot of other tools that it didn’t originally come with, because Dean had helped him beef up his collection.   

“Cassie?” 

“It was never going to work out,” Castiel finally says.  “Dean can’t give me what I want.” 

“I find that kind of hard to believe.  You guys seemed kind of perfect for each other, and I don’t even know him very well.” 

“I don’t know about that.” 

Jimmy snorts, and settles his weight against the sink next to Castiel.  He’s close enough that their shoulders are pressed together, and Castiel can’t help leaning into him.  “Please, Cassie.  You were always spending time with him.  There must be something about him you liked.  And the way you two were talking and laughing with each other that night?  I kind of get the impression that you didn’t have many communication problems.” 

It’s Castiel’s turn to snort.  “Oh, Jimmy.  You have no idea.” 

“So tell me, then.” 

Castiel twists the towel in his hands until his fingers begin to ache.  “It’s my fault.  I didn’t tell him that I didn’t want to be more than friends.  I didn’t think… I didn’t know he’d… that he’d…” 

“Oh god, Cas, look at you.  Fuck, Cas, fuck, I… I love you… s-so fucking much… god I love you…” 

Fuck, Dean had been so beautiful in that moment.  His eyes so intense, and boring into Castiel with utter conviction and love.  And in that moment, Castiel had felt it.  His heart had opened up to Dean and responded, and Castiel knew that he loved Dean just as intensely as Dean loved him.  Until the panic overtook everything and drove him to make the biggest mistake of his life. 

“And I didn’t think I’d fall in love with him,” Castiel finishes in a rush.  “I thought we would just be friends, and eventually the novelty of having sex with him would wear off, and we’d move on.  But I did fall for him.  I do love him.  But I can’t… I can’t…” 

“Hey, hey, calm down.”   

Castiel doesn’t realize he’s crying until Jimmy pulls him into a hug and he realizes that his tears are leaving a wet patch against Jimmy’s shoulder.  Something inside him cracks, and his knees go weak.  He leans into Jimmy, fisting his fingers in Jimmy’s shirt, and soaks up every soft platitude his brother whispers against his ear. 

He doesn’t remember Jimmy leading him into the living room.  He doesn’t see Amelia and Claire look up in surprise, and vacate the room when Jimmy gives them a wordless signal.  He just let’s the memories of everything he had with Dean spill out from behind the wall he’d built up around them.  He let’s the pain of knowing that he messed up so badly that he can’t even have Dean’s friendship anymore overwhelm him, and he cries it all out against Jimmy’s chest. 

When he finally comes back to himself, he’s stretched out on his side on the couch with his head in Jimmy’s lap.  His brother’s fingers are brushing through his hair, and it feels far better than he thinks he deserves.   

“You okay, little brother?” 

“It’s five minutes, Jimmy,” Castiel protests through a throat still thick with the aftereffects of his crying fit. 

Jimmy chuckles, but his fingers don’t stop combing through Castiel’s hair. 

They’re both quiet for a long time, before Castiel speaks.  “I was so jealous, when we were kids,” he says softly, barely above a whisper.  “You met Amelia, and I feel like I lost you.  And then when Claire was born, and I saw the three of you together, I loved all of you so much right then, but I was so sad.  I felt like I could never be part of your little family unit.” 

“Cassie, you know that’s not true.” 

“I know.  But that’s how I felt at the time.  And I just wanted to have that for myself.  To have a soulmate, and a baby, and a family that would always be mine, no matter what.” 

There’s another long minute of silence.   

“You know that we wouldn’t be as happy without you, right?” Jimmy asks quietly.  “I mean, I can’t even think about not having you-” he cuts off when his voice breaks, and he sniffs loudly. 

Castiel squeezes Jimmy’s knee in an attempt to return a little bit of the comfort he’s been giving out.  “I know.” 

“I think it’s funny that you were jealous of me and Ames,” Jimmy says after a few more sniffles.  “I used to be so jealous of you and Meg.” 

Castiel twists so he can look up at his brother.  “Seriously?  Why?” 

“You two were attached at the hip, Cas.  I felt like a third wheel.” 

“That’s ridiculous.” 

“It’s how I felt at the time,” Jimmy parrots back at him.  “And then I met Amelia, and I realized I had room in my heart for more than one person.  I finally got to have what you had with Meg, and it was awesome.  I finally understood why you two were so close.” 

“I didn’t love Meg the way you love Amelia.” Castiel rolls onto his back so that he’s not straining to see his brother.  They haven’t cuddled up like this since they were kids, and he thinks he should probably feel weird about it, but the truth is that he missed it and it feels good to have that closeness back, even if it’s just for a little while. 

“You thought you did,” Jimmy points out with a laugh. 

Castiel grins.  “Yeah, I did.  But I wasn’t in love with her.  I just really really wanted to be.” 

Jimmy laughs again and shakes his head.  He shifts so he’s a little more comfortable, and rests his hand on Castiel’s chest, right over his heart.  His smile fades, and he taps his fingers on Castiel’s sternum.  “But you’re definitely in love with Dean, aren’t you.” 

It’s not a question, and Castiel isn’t surprised.  Jimmy already had an idea of what kind of relationship Castiel had with Dean, so it’s no great leap of logic for him to know that what Castiel feels for Dean is far and away more intense than just friendship.   

“Yes, I am in love with him.” 

It feels good to say it out loud, although he wishes that he’d said it to Dean instead.  Maybe if he hadn’t been high, and over sensitized, and surprised by Dean’s confession he would have handled the whole situation better.   

“Why did you break up with him?” 

Shame burns under Castiel’s cheeks, and he looks away from his brother’s curious stare.  “I didn’t think that he was what I wanted in my life.  And I said some things I regret.” 

The soft tapping of Jimmy’s fingers on Castiel’s chest stops.  “Oh my god, Castiel, what did you do?” 

“I told him I wanted a wife, and kids, and a dog, and a fucking picket fence.” 

“Wow.” 

“And then I told him I still wanted to be friends.” 

The world spins on its axis as Jimmy dumps him on the floor.  Castiel pushes himself up on his elbows and blinks up at his brother in surprise. 

“You,” Jimmy says with a finger hovering right above Castiel’s nose, “are an asshole.” 

Castiel falls back on the floor, letting his head thump against the carpet.  “I know.” 

“You know you can have all those things with a man, right?” 

Castiel winces at his brother’s sharp tone.  “Well, not the dog.  Dean’s more of a cat lover.” 

He yelps when Jimmy kicks him in the side, even though it doesn’t really hurt because it’s more just a frustrated nudge.  “You know what I mean.” 

He’s right.  Castiel and Dean could get married if they wanted to, thanks to the new Supreme Court rulings.  They could adopt, or find a surrogate mother for their children.  Castiel loves Dean’s cats, and in the grand scheme of things a white picket fence isn’t really all that practical anyway. 

“I fucked up, Jimmy.” 

“Yeah you did.” 

“What do I do?” 

Jimmy reaches down and grabs his hand, tugging until Castiel crawls back up to sit next to him on the couch.  “You could talk to him.  Apologize.  I hear groveling works.” 

“How much money would it take to bribe you to take my place and do it for me?” Castiel says with a small grin.  He’s terrified that it’s too late to do anything other than apologize, but hope blossoms in his chest, making him feel giddy. 

Maybe, if nothing else, he can get his friend back.   

It doesn’t feel like it’s enough, but he made it work with Meg.  If that’s all he can have with Dean, it’s worth a shot.  And if he can have more... 

“You know he can tell us apart, right?” 

Castiel blinks.  “How do you know?” 

“He knew I wasn’t you when I met him at the Roadhouse.”  Jimmy laughs at Castiel’s stupefied expression.  “Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction too.  If you can fix this, he’s totally a keeper.” 

He really is.  And Castiel is going to do his best to make Dean understand that he thinks so.   

“Is everything alright down here?” 

They look up to see Amelia standing in the entrance to the hall that leads upstairs to the bedrooms.  She’s looking back and forth between them as if she’s afraid to interrupt.   

Castiel gives her what he hopes is a reassuring smile.  He’s not sure how well it comes across because he probably looks like Hell after crying all over Jimmy for who knows how long.  But she smiles timidly back at him, so he must be somewhat convincing.  “Yeah, Ames.  We’re good.” 

Her smile widens.  “I’m glad.” 

He gets up from the couch and crosses the room to stand in front of her.  He gathers her into a hug and kisses her crown of light brown hair.  “I’m going to get out of here and stop invading your space.” 

She punches him lightly in the side.  “This is your space, too.” 

It’s not, really.  Not anymore.  But he knows he’s always welcome.   

He squeezes her again in silent agreement.  When he lets her go, he turns to find Jimmy right behind him.  The hug his brother gives him is tight, and full of strength that Castiel needs right now.  When he pulls away, he sniffs back another impending wave of tears.  “Tell Claire-bear I said goodnight?” 

They agree, and together they walk him to the door.  The drive home is quick, and for the first time in several weeks, he’s looking forward to getting there. 

He wants to go straight over to Dean’s, but when he sees that Dean’s truck isn’t there, he knows he’ll have to postpone his visit.  He’s disappointed, but also relieved that he has a little more time to think of what he exactly he should say.  He pulls into the garage, shuts off the car, and goes inside.  He flips on lights, and walks through the rooms.  It still makes his chest ache to think about Dean, but it’s tempered by hope. 

He’s in the kitchen running his fingers over the granite countertops and considering making himself a late snack when he’s startled by a fist pounding on the door.  He glances at the clock on the microwave, and his eyebrows go up when he sees that it’s almost midnight.  He hadn’t realized he’d been at Jimmy’s place so late.   

There’s another loud bang, and he frowns.  Why would anyone be pounding on his door this late at night?  Even though he lives in a nice neighborhood, he grabs a knife from the wood block next to the stove - just in case - and stalks toward the front of the house. 

He pulls the door open in the middle of the third round of knocking.  His mouth drops open, and his fingers go loose on the handle of the knife.  “Dean?” 

Dean’s hair is spiked in all different directions as if he’s been running his fingers through it, and his eyes are wild and full of fear.  “Cas, I need your help.” 

Chapter Text

After working all day in the blazing summer heat, it's a relief to leave the job site and head to Cain’s where he can escape the sunlight by slipping into the cool interior of the old farmhouse.  Dean spares a thought for his cats as he walks through the front room to the dining room in search of his friend.   At least they're cool and comfortable at home although Hamill still tries to escape to the great outdoors whenever he can, the little bastard. 

The house is silent other than the light clomp of Dean's work boots against the hardwood floors.   When he doesn't find Cain in the kitchen, he sighs and makes his way to the back door.   A blast of heat hits him in the face when he opens it, and he slips outside quickly and shuts the door to prevent too much cool air from escaping. 

He isn't surprised to see a hooded figure in white crouched among the white beehive boxes lining the back yard.  Leaning against the porch rail, he waits for Cain to notice him.    

It doesn't take long.  Cain straightens and turns, and when he catches sight of Dean he lifts a gloved hand in greeting.  He starts weaving through the beehives, and as soon as it's safe to do so he removes the netting shielding his face to reveal a welcoming smile.   "Hello, my boy.  It's good to see you again." 

Dean snorts.  "You mean you're not sick of me yet?" 

Cain chuckles as he comes up the steps.  "Of course not.  I always welcome your company."  He pauses next to Dean and leans in to peck him on the cheek.  "Besides, it's always easier to make dinner for two.  Come inside out of the heat." 

Dean doesn't need to be told twice.  He leads the way back inside and goes to the fridge to pull out the pitcher of water Cain keeps full all summer long.  While Cain removes his protective gear and hangs it near the back door, Dean pours than each a brimming glass full.  He holds out Cain's when the older man approaches him.  Cain takes it, and they click the rims together before they each take a deep drink. 

"I probably shouldn't go out until it starts to cool off," Cain says on a sigh when he lowers his glass, "but I'm worried about a few of the hives.  This heat wave isn't pleasant for them either." 

It always amuses Dean to hear Cain speak about his hives as if they are his children, but he keeps his reaction to just a fond smile.  "They'll be fine with you looking out for them." 

Cain grunts and gives Dean a sideways look that says he knows he's being humored, but he lets it go.  "I hope you don't mind sandwiches and salad for dinner.  I don't want to headtup the kitchen by cooking." 

"Dude I've been inviting myself for dinner for weeks now.  I'm not gonna complain."  Even if he isn't all that into salad, he'll eat it if Cain puts it in front of him.  Besides, Cain makes some damn good ranch dressing, and Dean can drown the veggies in it. 

While Cain washes his hands at the sink, Dean follows his directions and starts taking things out of the fridge.  Soon they're standing shoulder to shoulder while they prepare the meal and Dean does his best not to think of how often he's done the same things with Castiel. 

Unfortunately it's a futile endeavor.  When Cain's shoulder brushes against his, Dean is assailed by memories.  Castiel leaning into him while slicing tomatoes.  Dean bumping against Castiel when he's measuring out spices for chili in an attempt to get him to accidentally add a little more than he intended.  Castiel humming along to oldies as he opens cans of tuna while Dean chops pickles, and the cats are weaving around both their ankles while begging loudly for a share. 

He doesn't realize that the he's gone completely still until he feels Cain's strong fingers laying gently against his wrist.  He blinks away the memories and the sting in his eyes and looks at Cain.  "Sorry, spaced out there for a minute.  What were you saying?" 

"I wasn't saying anything," Cain says.  "But you were obviously thinking about something important." 

When Dean had shown up at Cain's door in the middle of the night several weeks before, Cain hadn't asked him a single question.  He'd invited Dean in and had set him up in the guest bedroom for the night.  He'd said nothing the next morning when he served Dean oatmeal with fresh honey and berries.  And he hasn't brought up Dean's suddenly frequent visits.  This is the first time he's mentioned Dean's strange behavior at all. 

Guilt stabs through Dean, and he sighs.   

Cain's been pampering me through all my life crises since I was a damn kid and I can't fucking talk to him about Cas? 

I'm such an asshole. 

And an ungrateful prick.  And a coward. 

Alright alright I get it. 

"Yeah," he says after another long pause.  "Although I wish I could stop thinking about it." 

Cain hums.  "We'll that would explain why you keep showing up looking for me to put you to work.  Has it been helping at all?" 

After the first night Dean had spent in Cain's spare room he'd tried to bury his heartache under a pile of chores around Cain's farm.  He'd fixed a damaged storm door, and replaced rusted hinges on the barn door.  Then he'd given Cain's old-as-dirt tractor an oil change and checked the spark plugs.  He probably would have kept looking for projects if Cain hadn't insisted he stop for the day and rest.  Since then Dean has taken odd jobs from anyone who will give them to him - helping Benny with a fancy tile job, repairing some busted cabinet doors at the Roadhouse for Ellen, and seeing if Aaron needed an extra pair of hands even if it meant a sewage leak cleanup.  And if he couldn't find a way to keep himself busy until he was ready to faceplant in his bed, he'd end up at Cain's. 

But no matter how exhausted he is, he still dreams of blue eyes and messy brown hair.  A joyful laugh haunts him in his sleep, and on really bad nights he can hear the breathy noises Castiel made when Dean touched him. 

He could deal with the dreams, if that were the only side effect of this whole cluster fuck but when the memories begin invading his waking hours, it brings his world crashing down.   

He rubs a hand over his sternum, digging in with the heel of his palm.  It doesn't ease the ache at all.  His voice is an unsteady croak when he speaks.  "I'll get over it." 

"Mhmm."   

Dean shoots the older man a glance.  His expression is blank as he slices fresh cucumbers to add to the salad, and his tone was neutral, but Dean still feels a spike of irritation. "I will.

Without looking up, Cain scoops the cucumbers into a waiting bowl and reaches for a tomato.  "Is there a way to fix the issue instead of just getting over it?" 

"Fix it?"  Dan slams down the butter knife he was using to spread mayonnaise on the hearty brown bread that Cain makes himself, and turns to glare at him.  "I didn't fucking break anything.  I was used.  And that asshole-"  He cuts off and inhales deeply through his nose.  He closes his eyes and counts to ten before letting the air seep back out of his lungs.  "It doesn't matter, it's over." 

He wants to be relieved when Cain only nods in silent acceptance, but his heart sinks. 

I don't want to talk about it. 

You sure 'bout that, champ? 

They finish preparing dinner in silence and settle down at the rough hewn table in the kitchen instead of going into the fancier dining room.  Dean runs his palm over the edge, smiling slightly at the memory of making it.   

He was seventeen the year Cain commissioned Henry to build and install new cabinets for the kitchen.  Cain had come into the shop to discuss his order, and Henry had brought him through the workshop to show off his work space.  Dean had been there working on the table, and when he'd looked up he'd gotten snared by Cain's icy blue gaze.  He'd gone hot and cold, then hot again, and to his chagrin he'd started to get hard.   

At the time he'd known he was attracted to boys, but he'd never had such a visceral reaction before.   

Cain had smiled warmly, which transformed him from a somewhat terrifying figure to someone kind but still intimidating as fuck because now Dean wasn't just aroused, he was crushing hardcore.  Despite - or maybe because of - Dean's deer-in-the-headlights reaction to his presence, Cain had approached him and spent several minutes talking to Dean about his work.  At the time Dean was just kind of fucking around in the shop and didn't really think the table was worth much, so he'd been shocked to his toes when Cain requested to purchase it. 

Dean was too dumbstruck to say no.   

It had taken him a month of helping Henry install things at Cain's farm before Dean's crush had eased enough to let him get to know the older man, but eventually he was going to the farm on his own to do odd jobs for the rest of the summer.  Cain had clued in to his infatuation fairly quickly, and although he didn't encourage it, he still talked to Dean about his sexuality and gave Dean the courage he needed to finally come out.  It wasn't exactly easy, but he thinks it would have been a helluva lot scarier if he didn't have Cain as backup.   

The downside was that John had accused Cain of corrupting Dean and taking advantage of a minor.  It sucked balls because it nearly got Cain in a shit load of trouble.  But Dean had stood up for him and told John where he could shove his prejudice and his accusations.  Things had been tense at home for a while until Henry stepped in and set his son straight. 

Despite that lovely little drama-fest, things had gone pretty damn smooth, and John eventually pulled his head out of his ass and apologized.  Dean may not have come out at all without Cain's support, and he's glad he did it young because it made dating and just being himself so much easier. 

Fifteen years later he still gets a minor case of the warm fuzzies when he sits down at this table. 

"I can't believe you still have this piece of shit,"  he says when Cain sets a bottle of mead in front of him.  Beads of condensation slip down the glass sides, and it’s cold against Dean’s palm when he picks it up.  "I could make you a new one." 

It's an old conversation they have been having for more than a decade, so Dean isn't surprised when Cain clicks his tongue and shakes his head.  "Nonsense.  This one is perfect for my needs."  He pats the pitted and scarred surface fondly.  "Besides, it's not often you can find such superior craftsmanship." 

Dean rolls his eyes because he's fucking improved, ok?  But he lets it go, like always, because the table means a lot to him as well.  "Sure, whatever." 

Cain chuckles.  "Yes, I know how lovely your newer work is, but it's not necessary to carve flowers into a table I'm just going to scuff up." 

"Fuck you, not everything I make is fancy." An image of the armoire he'd made for Castiel rises up from the shadows of his mind, and suddenly his chest aches so badly he can't breathe.  His eyes sting with the threat of tears and he clenches them tight. 

"Dean?"

Fuck Cas.  He's not worth it. 

A much quieter voice in his head responds He's worth everything. 

He's been trying to ignore that second voice for weeks, but it doesn't change tone or volume or frequency.  It's been whispering insidiously in his ear since the morning after Castiel left his house.  Left his life. 

He wants so badly to listen to it. 

I can't.  I fucking can't. 

A warm hand on his wrist brings his attention back to Cain, whose icy blue eyes are wide with concern.  In that moment he reminds Dean so much of Castiel that the pain caging his heart tightens dangerously.  A bitter laugh threatens to bubble up when he realizes he definitely has a type.  Cain's hair is mostly gray now, but Dean still remembers the older man's dark hair from years past. 

He's always had a thing for blue eyed brunettes. 

"Dean, I know you don't want to talk, but I think maybe you should." 

He's right, although Dean's knee-jerk reaction is to deny deny deny.  But it's been weeks, and the pain is festering inside him, getting worse instead of better.  He sighs and leans back in his chair, but he doesn't pull away from Cain's touch.  He craves the contact from someone that cares, even if he secretly wishes it were Castiel sitting with him instead, as stupid as that is. 

Cain must sense his need because he doesn't remove his hand.  When Dean is still silent for a long moment, he rubs his thumb over the back of Dean's hand. 

The gesture makes Dean smile sadly.  "How come we never ended up together?" 

"You were just a boy when we met."  Cain's teeth flash through his beard when he grins.  "And despite your father's accusations, I wasn't going to take advantage of a minor.  No matter how prettily he flirted with me." 

Dean chuckles and shakes his head at the memory of John confronting Cain.  It had been horrible at the time, but with fifteen years of distance from the event he can laugh at the absurdity of John's actions.  He slants a look at Cain through his lashes.  "I'm not a boy anymore." 

"I've noticed."  Cain winks at him, but then his expression turns serious.  "But I suspect if you really wanted something to happen between us, you would have done something about it by now." 

Nodding, Dean concedes to his point.  He harbored a crush for many years, but he loves Cain as a mentor and a friend and doesn't regret that their relationship went no further than that.  He can't help teasing Cain though.  "Still… I would have liked to see you naked at least once." 

Cain tilts his head back on a hearty laugh.  "I'm sure I would no longer live up to your youthful fantasies." 

"Whatever, dude," Dean argues with a grin.  "You are hot as fuck." 

"And old enough to be your father," Cain points out.  "Do you want to see your dad naked?" 

Dean recoils in horror, but he's also laughing.  "No, because he's my dad.  That's fucking gross!" 

"Trust me, you'll think I'm fucking gross too when you see how much of my pubic hair has turned gray.  The carpet definitely matches the drapes." 

Tears sting at the corners of Dean's eyes because he's laughing so hard.  He covers his face with his hands and moans into them.  "Oh god, you're right.  The fantasy is so dead." 

They laugh together for a long moment, and Dean feels a large chunk of the anger and heartache that had been building up inside him ease.  He's still fucking pissed at Castiel, but he feels better for the first time in weeks. 

Which is why he's finally able to talk.  Once he catches his breath and wipes the moisture from his eyes, he looks at Cain who is watching him with no expectations, but clear curiosity. 

"Well, even if you weren't a rickety old man, I'm not really available at the moment." 

Cain nods his understanding.  "Because of your young man.  Castiel, was it?" 

"Yeah." Dean winces.  "I mean... We're not together.  Never were, and that's the problem." 

"You're not?"  Apparently deciding that the conversation no longer requires him to refrain, he picks up his fork and starts poking at his salad.  "That's unexpected.  I've seen you two together, and you certainly looked like a couple." 

"Yeah, no shit."  Dean picks a cucumber out of his salad and crunches it between his teeth.  He'll never admit it to Sam, but he does actually like vegetables when they're fresh.  And dripping in ranch dressing.  "I thought we were together too.  Forgot to verify it with him though." 

Cain winces at Dean's bitter words.  "I see." 

"Apparently we were just fuck buddies," Dean sneers as he plucks a tomato from his plate.  He bites down on it a little too hard, making his teeth ache, but the splash of juice inside his mouth is oddly satisfying. 

With a thoughtful hum, Cain begins eating his salad in the more traditional fashion - using a fork and displaying honest-to-God table manners by chewing with his mouth closed.  Dean continues to pick through his with his fingers, but Cain doesn't notice his poor manners.  After a few minutes Cain sets down his fork and wipes his mouth with a cloth napkin.  He lifts his bottle of mead but only rests the rim against his bottom lip and watches Dean thoughtfully. 

"Do you really think that's all it was on his end?" 

Dean scoffs.  "Yeah.  He made it pretty clear." 

"I thought you said you hadn't talked to him about it." 

Dean's stomach clenches at the memory of that night.  "I didn't.  Like a fucking dumbass I told him I loved him."  He leaves out the fact that it was during sex, or that his dick was still twitching inside Castiel's ass when things went to Hell.  “Turns out he thought we were just fooling around.  Told me he still wanted to be friends though.” 

“Ouch.” 

“Yeah, ouch.” 

Dean’s appetite is gone, but he picks up his sandwich and bites into it anyway.  It tastes like sawdust, but with his mouth full he won’t have to speak anymore.  He won’t say the things that he’s been thinking on repeat since the “break up”. 

Friendship is better than nothing.   

I miss him. 

He’s worth it. 

But he can’t do it.  He’s too far gone on the guy, and if he tries to be just friends with him, chances are he’ll crack and chick out on the guy and do something stupid like beg him to give Dean a chance to change his mind about the whole Apple Pie Life thing. 

I can give him that. 

But he doesn’t want it from me. 

Cain doesn’t ask him any more questions, and Dean tries to feel relieved when he changes the topic to something lighter that doesn’t require much thought.  But now that he’s opened the floodgates, he feels even more words surging up in his throat.  He swallows them back, unwilling to break the fragile peace he finds in Cain’s presence. 

After dinner they spend the rest of the evening lounging in the sitting room, talking about Cain’s latest batch of mead, and Dean’s current workload.  It isn’t until Dean has apologized for yawning for the fifth time in a row that Cain chuckles and tells him he should either head upstairs to sleep, or drive home before he can’t. 

It’s tempting to stay again, but Dean misses his cats.  The little furballs are probably missing him too, even though he’s started giving them their daily can of wet food in the morning before he leaves since he doesn’t know when he’ll be home in the evenings anymore. 

Cain walks him to the door, and they’re greeted by a cool breeze when he opens it for Dean.  The heat of the day has bled off into the night, and Dean’s glad he won’t have to deal with the cab of his truck baking him, or burning his hands on the steering wheel until the air conditioning cools things down.   

He accepts Cain’s hug just before he goes outside, but when he goes to pull away, Cain doesn’t let him go far.  The older man cups his cheek, rubbing a callused thumb over his skin.  Dean goes still, waiting for him to speak. 

“You really love him, don’t you?” 

Dean doesn’t need to ask who Cain is talking about, even though it’s a continuation of a conversation several hours old.  He fills his lungs slowly, and lets out a long breath.  Then he nods.  “Yeah,” he admits quietly. 

“And you really don’t think he’ll ever think of you as more than a friend?” 

“I don’t know,” Dean says.  “I’m not sure I want to put the effort into it.” 

“What if he’s worth the effort?” 

He is.  He is worth the effort. 

Cain doesn’t wait for an answer.  He kisses Dean on the other cheek, and then lets him go.  “Just think about it.” 

As if he’s been thinking about anything else for weeks.  Dean doesn’t argue though.  Cain means well, and Dean loves him for it.  So he just smiles weakly and nods, and turns away. 

He thinks about it on the walk to his truck.  And he thinks about it on the long drive home, because Cain lives miles outside of town, and no matter how loud he blasts his music, Dean can’t drown out the thoughts. 

What if he tried? 

What if he got past his emotions and could eventually settle for friendship? 

What if Castiel eventually learned to love him back? 

“Fucking stop,” Dean growls at himself, and turns up the volume on the radio.   

It’s nearly midnight by the time he pulls up in front of his house, and what little peace he’d found with Cain has been shaken apart by the storm of what ifs swirling through his head.  He turns off the engine, and gets out of the truck, and tells himself not to look across the street, but his body betrays him.  His head turns, and he stares at the light pooling outwards from Castiel’s front windows. 

Despite himself, he begins to imagine what Castiel might be doing.  It’s late, and it’s a weeknight so Castiel should be asleep by now.   

Maybe he’s having a midnight snack.  His hair is sleep-tousled and a pair of soft scrub bottoms cling to his hips as he pads barefoot over the kitchen floor tiles that they put in together.  Or he fell asleep reading on the couch with the lights on.  In nothing but a pair of boxer briefs, his feet propped up on the arm of the couch, and his tablet resting on his chest, the battery slowly draining because he set the screen to stay on unless he manually locked it.   

Maybe he’s still awake, and wishing he wasn’t alone… 

Dean growls at himself again, and turns away from the house across the street.  He stomps up the walk to his door, and jams the key against the doorknob.  In his frustration, he misses.  On the other side of the door he hears plaintive meowing, and he tries again to unlock his door.  

“Alright, alright, gimme a sec,” he mutters when the meowing intensifies. 

Finally the door swings open, and Ford rushes forward to twine around Dean’s ankles. 

“Hey, buddy.” Dean crouches down to pick up the cat shaped shadow and nuzzles against Ford’s head.  He looks around, frowning when he realizes Hamill isn’t there to greet him also.  “Where’s your little brother, huh?” 

He slips inside the house and shuts the door behind him.  A sense of foreboding fills him, and he keeps Ford tight against his chest, suddenly very much in need of the comfort of the furry little body purring against him.   

“Hamill?” 

Silence, other than Ford’s purring. 

Dean flips on the light and calls out again.  “Ham?  Where are you, buddy?” 

There’s no patter of paws running to greet him.  No yowl from somewhere in the house to indicate that Hamill got himself shut in a room or something.   

Still holding Ford, Dean begins searching the house.  There’s no sign of Hamill in the living room, or the kitchen.  He checks the spare bathroom under the stairs, and the laundry room where the litter boxes are kept.  He finally puts Ford down and grabs a flashlight from the cupboard above the washer and dryer.  He flips it on and points the beam behind the appliances, straining to see behind them.  There’s no hint of orange fur there, so he heads upstairs, Ford on his heels. 

The doors are shut on both spare bedrooms, but he checks them both.  He looks in the closets and under the beds.  Nothing.  No Hamill in his office, or hiding in the linen closet shelves, nad there’s no sign of him in the guest bathroom.  And he’s not in Dean’s bedroom.  Not in the closet, under the bed or the dresser, or in the bathroom. 

Dean goes back downstairs and searches again. 

On the third sweep he stops and looks down at Ford who has been following him through the house this whole time.  The cat blinks up at him with copper eyes, and Dean can see that Ford is upset about something by the way his tail twitches with agitation. 

“Where’s Hamill, Ford?” Dean whispers. 

Ford meows and starts rubbing against Dean’s ankles again. 

He picks Ford up and cuddles him against his chest again while he racks his brain trying to remember the last time he saw the younger cat.  Hamill had definitely had his share of gooshy food that morning.  Dean had needed to nudge him away from Ford’s bowl, because the greedy little brat wolfed his down so fast.  Hamill had followed him around like a copper colored shadow all morning while Dean had blearily gone through his morning routine, exhausted from working too many long hours.  He’d been so clingy that Dean had nearly stepped on him as he was trying to leave for work. 

“Fuck,” he mutters.  “He got out, didn’t he?” 

Ford mrrps his agreement. 

And that’s when the panic sets in. 

Hamill has been out all fucking day.  By himself.  With no food and no water.  The idea that Hamill had to suffer through the thickest heat of the day without a single drink to cool him down makes Dean sick to his stomach. 

He puts Ford on the bed, and rushes out of the room and back downstairs.  Careful to make sure his other cat doesn’t escape, although Ford has never really been curious about going outside, he slams out the door and starts searching the shadows of his yard. 

“Hamill?”  he calls.  “Hammy, you out here?” 

There’s nothing behind the bushes.  Nothing near the back shed.  No flash of eyes no matter what direction he points the flashlight’s beam. 

It’s not a conscious decision to turn his feet in the direction of the street.  To run across it and up the steps to Castiel’s porch.  He doesn’t even realize he intends to knock until his fist is pounding against the door.   

This is a bad idea. 

Don’t fucking do it. 

Too late. 

He pounds on the door again, when there’s not an answer.  Maybe Castiel saw something.  If Hamill was outside and Cas went for his morning run… well, they’re not friends anymore, but Castiel wouldn’t leave Hamill out in the heat if he found him, right? 

The door jerks open when Dean lifts his fist to knock again for the third time.  Castiel stands framed in the doorway, the light behind him giving his dark hair a halo, and briefly Dean prays for a miracle. 

Castiel stares at him like he’s seeing a ghost.  His beautiful blue eyes are wide, yet wary.  “Dean?” 

Fuck, Dean has missed hearing Castiel say his name.  He wants to hear it over and over, in greeting, in laughter, in passion.   

But he also wants his cat back asap, so he shoves the yearning down, deep.  “Cas, I need your help.” 

For a long moment, Castiel stares at him and Dean is terrified that he’s about to be turned away.  But instead, Castiel nods and steps back, inviting him in. 

Chapter Text

Despite Castiel's silent invitation to come inside, Dean stops just inside the door, standing a little too close, but Castiel can't make himself open the gap.  It's been weeks since they've spoken, much less occupied the same space, and now that Dean is here, in his home, Castiel is struck by how much he truly missed him.  

He knows it's completely inappropriate to notice, but the scent of sawdust and Dean fills Castiel's head. His Pavlovian response is to lean closer, but he doesn't have that right anymore so he keeps his feet firmly planted and grips the doorknob tightly to keep himself anchored.

Instead, he focuses on Dean's needs.  "What is it, Dean?"

Dean's eyes are wild, bouncing around and looking anywhere but at Castiel.  "Have you seen Hamill today?"

Castiel blinks.  Why would he have seen...?

"I know he was inside this morning." Dean is speaking quickly, almost babbling.  He jams his fingers through his hair, rearranging the mussed spikes into a new configuration.  "I don't know if he got out when I left and I just didn't notice, or if something was left open, or-" he cuts off and finally looks directly at Castiel.  "He's gone, Cas.  He's just... gone."

Tears brim up in his eyes, and Castiel's first instinct is to hug him and reassure him that everything will be all right.  His arms shift forward before he manage to restrain himself.  He no longer has a right to offer that kind of comfort.  He's not sure he even had a right to touch Dean anymore, but he allows himself to lay a hand on Dean's arm.  The gesture isn't rebuffed, but he feels little relief because Dean's fear is not unfounded and Castiel feels it as well.  He loves Hamill and Ford and doesn't want anything bad to happen to them, no matter what his relationship - or lack thereof - is with Dean.

"What can I do to help?"

Dean huffs out a breath, and his shoulders sag.  "I'm not sure.  I already looked all over the house.  I don't know what else to do."

There really isn't much else either of them can do, but Castiel can't cause Dean more disappointment by telling him that.  He squeezes Dean's arm gently, then let's him go.  "Let me go get a flashlight.  I'll help you look outside."

"I already looked around my yard," Dean protests.  But there is very little conviction in his tone, and his eyes spark with hope.

"An extra set of eyes and another flashlight can't hurt."  Castiel doesn't wait for a response.  He walks quickly to the kitchen and hands the flashlight he keeps under the sink.

When he returns, Dean is still standing just inside the door, fidgeting with his own flashlight and staring out into the darkness.  He startles slightly when Castiel touches his arm again, but his expression is relieved when he looks at Castiel.

"Let's go," Castiel murmurs.

He follows Dean back outside and across the street.  They split up, searching different sections of the yard, calling Hamill's name softly so they won't disturb Dean's neighbors.  

Castiel has never met them other than a hello wave across the street if he happens to see them while he's outside.  Most of the people in the neighborhood keep to themselves, although Castiel does see children visiting each other's houses.  He wonders if he and Dean would ever have spoken if Castiel had figured out how to fix his water heater on his own instead of calling the number Sam gave him.

They might have met eventually through Sam, but Castiel doesn't know that they would have ever really gotten to know each other.  In an alternate universe where Sam convinced Castiel to go to karaoke, or invited him to dinner while Dean was present, or if Dean brought one of his cats into the clinic for a check up, Castiel would have been friendly to Dean, but he is usually too introverted to make new friends.  

In this hypothetical alternate reality, Dean might have flirted with him.  Maybe Castiel would have clued in and given Dean a gentle let down, or maybe he would have remained oblivious as he usually does.  But either way, Dean would back off because he's kind and considerate, and they would have remained casual acquaintances.

He wouldn't have learned that Dean randomly dances to the music in his head, or that he loves chick flicks just as much as he loves westerns.  He wouldn't know that Dean has a weakness for kids that Krissy totally exploits.  He would never have witnessed Dean falling asleep reading Vonnegut, or heard him grumble expletives at his alarm clock in the morning.  He wouldn't know that Dean has a special smile for his family, and another special smile for his cats, and another one specifically for Castiel himself.

He never would have known what he was missing, and that thought leaves a hollow ache in his chest.

Sure he wouldn't experience this pain, and the uncertainty of whether he could ever fix what he broke, but he deserves it for what he did, and he's grateful he got to know Dean anyway.

Shaking away his dark thoughts, he refocuses on watching for a flash of eyes or a hint of orange in the beam of his flashlight.  Dean's yard is large, but only the back is fenced.  Although a fence isn't likely to stop a cat from escaping.

The longer they search, the more his heart sinks.  He doesn't want to give up the search any more than Dean does, but he knows the chances of Hamill being found at this point are slim.  He sighs and crosses the yard to where Dean is searching through the bushes for the third time.  

"Dean..."

"You find him?"  Dean's head comes up, and it's painful to see the spark of hope in his eyes fizzle out when he gets a look at Castiel.

"I don't think we're going to find him like this," Castiel says gently.  "He's probably found himself a snug burrow somewhere to spend the night.  You should try to get some sleep too, and we can try again tomorrow."  It's Friday, and Castiel is supposed to work, but he'll call out if Dean asks him to.

Dean scoffs.  "Yeah, like I'm going to be able to sleep tonight."

"I know."  Castiel wants to touch Dean.  To give him some kind of comfort.  But he doesn't want to push his luck, and shake up their fragile truce so he keeps his distance.  "But you should at least try."

His words take a moment to sink in, but eventually Dean blows out a breath and nods reluctantly.  "Alright."  He rubs a shaky hand over his eyes.  "Fuck, Cas.  I gotta do an install tomorrow.  I can't cancel it or my grandpa will lose a shitload of money.  What if he tries to come home while I'm gone?"

Unable to resist offering physical comfort anymore, Castiel lays a hand on Dean's shoulder again.  "He'll be alright."  God, he really hopes he's not getting Dean's hopes up for nothing.  "You can leave your garage door open a few inches so he can get in.  Put out some food and water to lure him in."

Dean snorts and drops his hand.  He looks around the yard, his eyes bouncing between potential hiding places even though they've all been thoroughly searched more than once.  "Along with all the strays.  I'll be the neighborhood's crazy cat lady."

Castiel gives him a tentative smile.  "As long as he comes home, I think it'll be worth the reputation."

Dean smiles a little and finally meets Castiel's eyes.  "Yeah, totally."

For several long seconds they stare at each other.  Castiel desperately wants to talk to Dean about the revelation he had earlier when he was talking to Jimmy, but the timing is inappropriate.  Dean is scared, and Castiel doesn't want to dump an emotional conversation on him while he's so vulnerable.  And Castiel doesn't deserve forgiveness from Dean yet.

It can wait.  

Castiel clears his throat and looks away.  "I should get to bed too.  Friday's are usually pretty busy."

From the corner of his eye he see Dean acknowledge him with a jerky nod.  "Yeah, well, uh... Thanks for your help tonight."

They didn't accomplish anything, but Castiel hopes that Dean can at least rest knowing he did as much as possible for now.  "You're welcome, Dean."

Walking away, leaving Dean alone and dejected in the middle of his yard, is difficult.  He glances back several times hoping Dean will give him some kind of sign that he wants him to stay.  He's not surprised that he doesn't receive that sign.

He doesn't sleep well that night, either.

 

xxx

 

"You okay man?" Sam asks the next morning when Castiel drags himself into the clinic.

Castiel puts effort into a smile of greeting, but he can feel that it falls flat.  "I didn't get much sleep last night."

Sam grimaces.  "Dude, you look like you haven't slept in days."  He grabs a coffee from a holder sitting on the reception desk, holding it out to Castiel.  

Someone must have done a Starbucks run for the office, and Castiel vows to thank them very profusely as soon as the caffeine wakes him up enough to figure out who it was.  He lifts the cup to his lips and takes a long swallow before even finding out whether it's too hot to do so or not.  Luckily it is in the or not category and he doesn't scald himself.

He takes another long swallow, and then a third, draining half the cup before he lowers it.  He ignores the amused lift of Sam's eyebrows.  He's seen the other man chug a whole one without taking a breath so he has no room to judge.

“You gonna survive today?” Sam asks with a smirk.

“I’ll have to,” Castiel responds on a sigh.  “Although I’m glad you’re doing surgeries today.  I don’t think I’d have a steady enough hand.”

“Not if you’re chugging coffee like that.” Sam takes a sip of his own coffee, and when he lowers the cup, he asks “what kept you up all night?”

“Your brother.”

Sam chokes and it’s probably a good thing he hadn’t taken another drink or it would have taken him much longer to get his breath back.  He blinks owlishly at Castiel when the coughing fit passes.  “I’m sorry?”

Castiel shakes his head when he realizes what his words implied.  “No, I mean… I’m just worried about him.  Hamill got out, and Dean’s really upset.”

“Oh shit.” Sam sets his coffee aside and stands, as if he can run out and do something about the situation.  He catches himself, and sits back down.  Then he frowns.  “Wait.  How do you know?”

“He came over to my house and asked me for help looking for him.”  Castiel swallows down the rest of his coffee and looks down at the cup mournfully, partially because it’s empty, and partly because he can’t think of Dean’s disappointment without feeling it very keenly himself.  “We weren’t successful.”

“God, that sucks,” Sam says.  “Dean’s probably beating himself up over it pretty bad.”

Castiel nods.  “I wish there was something I could do, but at this point we have to wait for Hamill to come back, I guess.”

“Well, maybe there is something.”  Sam turns to the computer at the reception desk and pulls up a blank Word document.  “Let’s print out some fliers.  You and Dean can put them up around the neighborhood.”  

His fingers start clicking at the keys as he starts typing MISSING CAT in bold letters across the top of the page.  Then he pauses and starts patting at his pockets.  “Where’s my- damn, I must have left my phone at home.”  He looks up at Castiel.  “Hey, text Dean and ask him to send you a picture of Hamill if he has one.”

Caught up in the momentum of having a plan, Castiel nods and pulls his smartphone out of his pocket.  It’s not until he unlocks it and pulls up the last messages between him and Dean that his enthusiasm ebbs.  He looks down at the last conversation they had and his heart aches.

Dean:  hey doc bring beer tonight

Dean:  and condoms

Me:  You’re just using me for beer and sex, aren’t you?

Dean:  aw come on it’s also your mad cuddle skilz

Me:  Of course.  Be there in an hour.

Dean:  lace or satin?

Me:  Surprise me :D

Dean:  look at u with the emojis <3

He wonders if Dean still has the conversation saved in his messages or if he’s deleted it.  It feels weird to add something to it now that they’re not really… whatever they were.  He briefly considers deleting the message chain, but as he scrolls up and sees the silly little conversations they had he knows that he can’t.  In fact, he locks the message chain before tapping out a new message.

Me:  Do you have a picture of Hamill you can send me?

He doesn’t expect Dean to respond right away because at this point he’s probably working.  Castiel rarely notices his phone going off in his pocket when he’s busy, and there have been times that his messages to Dean have gone hours without an answer for the same reason.  So he’s surprised when something comes back rather quickly.

Dean:  what 4

Castiel’s lips twitch into a small smile.  His own phone has auto correct, and it capitalizes and punctuates mostly on its own.  He has no idea how Dean manages to still type messages like he’s on a 15 year old flip phone that doesn’t even have T9word on it.  

Me:  I’m going to make fliers to hang up in the neighborhood.  

About a minute later his phone notifies him of a picture message.  When it loads the image, Castiel’s breath hitches.  It’s a picture of Dean holding Hamill, with their faces pressed together.  Dean is grinning, and the light is hitting his eyes just right so they look like the same shade of green as Hamill’s.

Dean:  thats the best 1 i have of his face

Dean:  fucker doesnt like 2 hold still 4 the camera

That makes Castiel chuckle.  In his experience most animals don’t like to look at the camera.  

Me:  Thank you, Dean.  I’ll bring the fliers to you after work if that’s okay with you.

Dean:  yah thanks cas

When he looks up from his phone, Sam is giving him a strange look.  Castiel blinks.  “What?”

Sam shrugs.  “You just, uh… looked really happy.”

Heat suffuses Castiel’s cheeks, and he looks back down at his phone.  He taps at the screen, pulling up an email and sending Dean’s picture to the work email address so Sam can download it to the computer.  “It’s a cute picture.”

The computer pings, and Castiel hears Sam clicking the mouse.  Then there’s a huff of laughter from the other man.  “Yeah, I can see what you mean.”

There’s something in his tone that makes Castiel blush even harder.  

Sam doesn’t say anything for a few minutes as he clicks away at the computer.  While he’s working, Hael comes from the back rooms and greets him cheerfully.  He allows himself to be distracted by the information she always gives him every morning before she goes to unlock the front door.  He takes the folders she hands him, and watches her move around Sam getting things at the desk ready to start her day.

She pauses, looking over Sam’s shoulders and her teeth flash in a cheery smile.  “What a cute picture.”

Sam’s grin is slightly wicked and he slants a look at Castiel.  “That’s what Cas said.”

And the blush is back.  

Hael doesn’t notice the exchange.  She leans closer, giving the picture a speculative look.  “He’s really good looking… is he single?”

Castiel’s embarrassment turns to annoyance in a heartbeat.  “Hael, why don’t you go unlock the front doors?  There are already cars out in the parking lot.”

She blinks at his sharp tone, but shrugs and straightens to do as she’s told.  

“Are you sure you only think of him as a friend?” Sam asks.  He clicks something, and the printer hums to life on the other end of the desk.

Castiel shifts his weight from one foot to the other and then forces himself to look at Sam.  He doesn’t know what he’s expecting.  A smirk?  A glare?  He’s sure he wasn’t expecting the serious look Sam is giving him.  

Behind him he can hear Hael welcoming someone in and he knows that he doesn’t have time to speak with Sam at any length about the subject of Dean Winchester.  Not that he’s sure what to say.  So he settles on something simple.  “I thought so before.”

Sam raises an eyebrow but doesn’t say anything else.

Castiel smiles sadly.  “I figured out too late that I was wrong.”

With a sigh, Sam stands up and takes the folders from Castiel.  He gives him an encouraging smile.  “Maybe it’s not too late.”

That’s all he says before he’s turning to their guest and greeting them just as cheerfully as Hael did.  He bends down to greet the old bulldog who is getting a few teeth pulled that morning.

Castiel also smiles warmly at the dog’s owner, and then walks over to the printer to pick up the fliers Sam printed.  He runs a thumb over Dean’s cheek on the still warm paper, and sends up a prayer to whatever may be listening that Sam is right.

 

xxx

 

Sam made two types of flyers.  There are several that have the little tear off sections at the bottom with Dean’s name and number printed on them.  And then there is a large stack that can just be passed out door to door.  

After work, Dean isn’t home yet so Castiel cuts the flyers so that the strips can be torn off the bottom.  He grabs some duct tape and the stack of papers and then heads outside to start finding places to hang them around the neighborhood.  He walks outside just in time to see Dean’s truck pulling into the driveway.  

He stops on the sidewalk in front of his own house and waits.  Dean is out of the truck and crossing the street to meet him almost immediately.  His green eyes lock onto Castiel, and it’s a strange feeling to be the center of his attention after going just a few weeks without it.  He feels the weight of Dean’s stare like a physical weight, and it makes him wish that he felt comfortable touching Dean, pulling him into a hug and pressing a kiss against his lips in greeting.

He pushes the urge down.  Now is definitely not the time.

“You got the fliers, Cas?”

Castiel nods and lifts a roll of duct tape.  Another one slides down his wrist like a loose bracelet.  “I’ve got some to hang on light poles.”  Then he gestures around the neighborhood silvery roll.  “And I’ve got some that we can go around to the neighbor’s houses and pass out.”

Dean is all business when he takes the roll of tape Castiel offered him.  "Where do you think we should put them up?"

They lay out a plan to go knocking on doors, taking opposite sides of the street.  At houses that don't answer, they can roll up one of the fliers and tuck it between the doorknob and door frame.  If they see any likely light poles they can tape up one of the fliers with the tear away numbers at the bottom.

Plan set, they split up.  Dean heads back to his house first to check on Ford, so Castiel gets a bit of a head start, but he's slowed down by one neighbor who is extra chatty and is glad to finally meet him.  They make their way around the block, and then start spreading out further until they eventually lose sight of each other.

The sun is resting on the horizon when Castiel runs out of fliers.  He tucks the last one in a door and tries to suppress his disappointment that he was unsuccessful in getting any news about the missing cat.  He pulls his phone out of his pocket and thumbs across the screen to light it up.  No new messages, which means Dean has also been unsuccessful.  With a sigh, he pockets the phone and heads for home.  

Halfway home he comes across Dean.  Without a word, he crosses the street and falls in next to him.

He can see Dean's dejection in the slump of his shoulders, and he wants desperately to narrow the space between them and tangle their fingers together.  Instead, he shoves his hands in his pockets to resist the urge.

There's still two blocks left when Castiel can't handle the silence anymore.  "I'm sorry, Dean."

Dean's shoulders jerk in a shrug.  "Not your fault, man.  You know Hamill is a damn ninja."

"No, that's not-" Castiel shakes his head.  "I mean, yes I'm sorry about Hamill.  I'm very worried about him.  But I'm trying to say-"

Dean doesn't look at him, keeping his eyes straight ahead.  His voice is flat, with an edge of warning when he cuts Castiel off.  "Do you really want to do this right now?"

No, he wishes he didn't have to do it at all.  That he could go back in time before he so cruelly broke Dean's heart, and could respond to Dan's confession of love with tender words of his own.  But he doesn't have the ability to travel through time, and all he can do now is try to make Dean understand that he regrets everything he said with every molecule in his body.  

"I know that this isn't a good time-"

"No shit?"

"-but I can't let you go on thinking that I don't care about you."

Dean huffs a bitter laugh.  "You're really fucking doing this.  Jesus."

"Dean, please."  Castiel grabs Dean's shoulder and pulls him to a stop.  They turn to face each other, and Castiel swallows at the burning rage in Dean's expression, but he doesn't let his fear stop him from speaking.  “I said I’m sorry, and I meant it.”

“Thanks, Cas.” Dean drawls.  “I wish that changed anything.”

"I would like to talk about what happened."

"Well I don't, so just drop it already."

Castiel flinches when Dean jerks away from his touch.  He blinks back tears as he watches Dean's long strides carry him away.

 

xxx

 

Dean has been doing a good job at not drinking himself under the table every night since Castiel broke his fucking heart, but that's because he's been distracting himself by visiting Cain.  But now that Hamill is missing, Dean feels guilty about not being home in the evenings.  So instead of going out and getting in the Impala to get the hell away from Castiel and everything Dean still feels about him, he slams through his front door and stalks straight to the kitchen.  He jerks the cupboard where he keeps the booze open so hard that he nearly pulls one of the hinges free.  

That pisses him off even further, and after he grabs a bottle he slams the door shut hard enough to finish the job.  He curses long and loud when he sees the way the door hangs crooked off the remaining hinge, but he doesn't bother trying to fix it.

He turns to find Ford watching him warily from the kitchen entrance, and some of his anger drains away.  He crouches down and holds his fingers out as if he had a treat pinched between them.  It's a dirty trick, but he'll make it up to Ford later.

Ford's tail switches back and forth in agitation, and he meows loudly, his voice piercing.   He takes a few steps forward but stops and yowls again.

"Come on, buddy," Dean cajoles softly, but Ford only takes off in the other direction, disappearing deeper into the house.

Generally Ford ignores Hamill.  At most he’ll look down his nose at the younger cat, or bat a paw at him if Hamill tries to get playful.  Dean knows it’s an act though.  He’s caught them playing, and he’s found them cuddled up asleep more often than not.  Ford just likes to pretend he’s Big Cat On Campus when Dean might witness his behavior.  

Since Hamill has been missing Ford has been testy and whiney and Dean can’t even be mad at him because he feels the same way.  And honestly, he’s been acting the same way since he and Castiel broke up.

Can I really call it a “break up”?  We weren’t even dating.

It felt like dating.

But does it count as dating if I’m the only one who had feelings?

He shakes the thoughts away.  He and Castiel are not together.  Hamill is gone.  Ford is being ornery.  And Dean wants to drink until he can pretend it doesn’t matter.

From the back of the house, Ford wails mournfully, making tears prick at Dean’s eyes.  He twists the cap off of the whiskey in his hand and takes a swallow straight from the bottle.  He hisses at the burn, and then takes another swig.

 

xxx

 

On the third day that Hamill doesn’t come home, Dean goes around knocking on doors again.  He ignores the pitying looks, and asks people to look at the flier he brings with him.  One little girl is so sad that his cat is missing that she insists he pet hers.  It’s a big gray and white ragdoll that looks totally unimpressed with the heat when she brings him outside, but who definitely appreciates having his chin scratched.  

He appreciates the gesture, even if it does make his heart ache a little harder.

On the fifth day, he almost breaks down and texts Castiel to come over.  He’s frustrated, he’s depressed, and he doesn’t want to leave Ford alone.  The black cat has become extra clingy lately, and Dean isn’t sure if it’s because he misses Hamill, or if it’s because he’s trying to offer Dean comfort.  He suspects it’s a little bit of both.

He deletes the message without sending it and goes to bed early, too exhausted to deal with himself.

The ninth day that Hamill doesn’t come home, Dean cries.  His tears splash on the phone in his hand, blurring the picture of Castiel asleep on the couch with Hamill curled up on his chest and Ford draped over his feet.

By the eleventh day that Hamill is gone, Dean thinks for the first time that his cat may not come home.  But he goes out to the garage and checks the food and water he’s been putting out every day anyway.

 

xxx

 

When Castiel turns onto his street, he’s surprised to see that Dean’s truck isn’t out in front of his house.  He’s been home fairly early ever since Hamill disappeared, and Castiel wonders if the fact that he’s not home now is a good sign.

The tiny spark of hope in his chest fizzles out when he gets closer and sees that the garage door is still open a few inches.  If Dean had found Hamill, he wouldn’t-

A streak of orange fur makes him slam on his breaks, and he curses when the tires squeal slightly.  But instead of running, Hamill freezes in the middle of the yard and stares warily at Castiel’s car.

Castiel hurriedly puts his car in park and opens the door as gently as possible.  He holds his breath, watching Hamill just as closely as the cat is watching him, silently praying that he doesn’t spook the cat into running.

“Hamill,” Castiel says gently as he steps away from the still-running car.  “Here kitty kitty.”

The cat’s body is poised to run, his tail low, and his ears twitching in all directions.  When Castiel steps up on the sidewalk Hamill hunches down like he’s going to run, and Castiel freezes.

“Don’t run, Hammy,” Castiel coos.  He crouches down and holds out his hand like he’s offering a treat.  Hamill’s ears twitch toward him.  “Come here, buddy.”

A yowl from inside Dean’s garage get’s Hamill’s attention, and Castiel uses the brief distraction to lunge forward.  Hamill starts to spring away when he realizes he’s about to be caught, but Castiel manages to catch him by the tail.

Ignoring the guilt he feels over causing Hamill any pain, Castiel scoops up the cat and cradles him against his chest.  His knees go weak with relief and he sags down onto Dean’s lawn.

“Oh my god, Hamill,” he murmurs against the cat’s ears.  “Your daddy is going to be so happy to see you.”

Castiel is happy to see the cat too.  He’d been suffering nightmares about all the reasons Hamill hadn’t come home yet, and a general buzz of anxiety had been crawling under his skin for the last two weeks.  Not only has he been worried about Hamill, but every time he caught a glimpse of Dean, the other man looked more and more haggard.  

And according to Sam, he wasn’t talking to anyone.  The relief Castiel saw in Sam whenever he reported that Dean had been staying in at night was almost painful to witness.  Castiel didn’t ask, but he has the feeling that Dean’s normal coping mechanisms are far from healthy if Sam’s reactions are any indication.

Hamill starts purring against Castiel’s chest, and he smiles down at the cat.  His fur is dirty and matted in places, and Castiel can tell that he’s thinner, but he seems healthy overall.  He wants to do a full exam, but he needs to call Dean and let him know that Hamill is home and okay first.

That thought is interrupted when he hears another wailing meow from Dean’s garage.  Hamill starts struggling to get free, and Castiel tightens his grip, careful not to hurt him.

“Did you bring home a friend?” Castiel asks as he climbs awkwardly to his feet without the use of his hands.  He’s going to end up with grass stains on the knees of this pair of scrubs, but he couldn’t care less.

Hamill makes a noise and tries harder to escape.  

“I’m not letting you go now, Hammy,” Castiel mutters as he walks over to his car.  He opens the door and gently tosses Hamill to the passenger seat then closes the door before he can try to escape.  

Once Hamill is secure in the air conditioned car, Castiel walks back up onto Dean’s yard, crossing the grass to the garage where he hears another long meow.  He’s only been a veterinarian for about a year, but he worked as a vet tech for a long time while he was finishing school, and he definitely recognizes that sound.  That’s a female in heat.

He crouches down on the driveway and ducks his head down so he can look into the garage.  Not too far from where Dean has been putting the food and water he sees movement.  

It’s hard to tell exactly what color the cat is because she keeps rolling around, but he thinks she might be a short haired tortoiseshell.  That could just be a trick of the light though since the only illumination in the garage is coming from a single dusty window at the side of the building, and the gap under the garage door.

“Here kitty kitty kitty,” he calls softly.

The cat rolls again, flipping her legs around until she’s facing him.  With a jerk she sits up halfway and watches him like she’s afraid he’ll attack.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he says.  “Come here pretty girl.”

At the sound of his voice she starts rolling around again, yowling.  Yes, he thinks, she’s definitely in heat.  He wonders if she’s what drew Hamill back home, or if she followed him.  Too bad for her Hamill is fixed and can’t give her what she needs.

He calls out to her again, and she starts to slither-crawl towards him.  If she’s a stray, she’s desperate for attention.  If she’s not a stray, he hopes she’s got a collar or she’s chipped so he can help her find a home.  

It takes a few minutes of coaxing to get her to come within reach.  She stops too far away for him to grab comfortably, but he’s determined.  He lays down on his side and wriggles as far under the door as he can get.  Just as she realizes she’s not safe, he manages to grab her by a hind foot and drag her across the cement and out of the garage.

She doesn’t seem to mind in the least.  She wriggles happily in his arms, making the most pathetic whining noises.  He laughs at her and cradles her close to his chest.  “Sorry, Missy.  I’m not going to be able to help you out with your heat.”

She’s not wearing a collar, which is disappointing.  She also looks very underfed which leads him to think she’s a stray. She seems friendly, which he admits is probably just her heat, but could be because she’s used to being around humans.  

“Why don’t you come home with me?” he says as he carries her to his car which is still running in the middle of the street.  “I’ll take you in to the clinic tomorrow and make sure you’re healthy and then we’ll see if you’ve got a chip so we can find your humans, okay?”

She just meows in response and wriggles around in his arms again.

He doesn’t want to risk accidentally losing her or Hammill by trying to get her into his car, so he leaves it where it is and goes to his garage.  It has a keypad lock so he doesn’t need the keys which are still in the car’s ignition.  He punches in the code and after the door rises, he goes in and enters his house through the connecting door.  

He takes the tortie upstairs and puts her in the spare bathroom.  It feels rude to leave her in there by herself, but he doesn’t have a litter box , plus he needs to make sure she doesn’t escape while he’s bringing Hamill in.

“I know it’s not the most comfortable room in the house,” he tells her before he shuts her in.  “But I promise it won’t be for long.”

If the wailing cry he hears through the door after he closes it is any indication, she doesn’t believe him.  

Outside, he’s glad to find that no one has absconded with his car in his short absence.  Hamill is up on the dash, squished under the glass, when Castiel approaches.  He tries to jump out when Castiel opens the door, but Castiel is ready for such a move and easily blocks him.  He gets in the car with Hamill and pulls it into his garage.  Just to be safe, he waits until the garage door comes back down before he gets out of the car with Hamill tucked under one arm.  

He let’s Hamill go as soon as he’s inside, and pulls out his phone.  After tapping out a text message, he grins down at his orange guest.  “Let’s see if I can scrounge up some food for you and your lady friend.”

Hamill meows loudly in agreement.

 

xxx

 

Dean is out of the truck as soon as it comes to a stop, and jogging across the street.  After two weeks, he’d started to really think that there was no way Hamill would come back, and he’d stopped at a liquor store to stock up for a long weekend of moping around the house.  But when he’d gotten Castiel’s text message, he’d left the bottles of whiskey on the counter and left without paying.  

He’d been careful not to bend the traffic laws on the way home.  Getting pulled over by the cops would only delay him, and that would be unacceptable.

His knock is answered almost immediately, and when the door swings open Dean’s eyes are immediately pulled to the orange furball curled in Castiel’s arms.  “Oh my god, Hammy,” he chokes out, reaching forward.  “Where have you been?”

Castiel hands Hamill over with a fond smile.  “Wherever it was, it was dirty.”

Dean’s vision is blurred with tears, and so he can’t really see the dirt matting Hamill’s fur, but he can feel it under his palm as he strokes the cat from ears to tail.  Hamill’s loud and familiar purr rumbles against Dean’s chest, and his wet nose nudges up under Dean’s chin.  

He may have been a stubborn little shit about coming home, but he seems to have missed Dean.

“I missed you so much, Ham,” Dean mutters.  Despite the dirt, and the fact that Hamill smells like he’s been rolling around in garbage, Dean buries his face in Hamill’s neck and just breathes in the smell of cat.

“He’ll probably be fine after a bath,” Castiel says softly.  “But you should probably bring him into the clinic for a checkup.  We’ll want to get him some booster shots.”

Dean nods.

“I found him coming out of your garage,” Castiel continues.  “He was probably there for the food-” a faint high pitched meow from upstairs brings Dean’s head up, and Castiel turns towards the sound with a smile for a moment before turning back to Dean, “-and I suspect he was bringing his girlfriend with him for a dinner date.”

Dean’s eyebrows go up.  “There was another cat with him?”

Castiel nods.  “A female in heat.”

A laugh bubbles up from deep inside of Dean, and it releases all the tension and fear that had been filling up the cavern of his chest.  It feels so good to laugh and to smile again.  He was beginning to think he’d forgotten how.  “Too bad for her, Hamill’s snipped.”

His heartbeat flutters when Castiel grins back at him.  “Yes well, at least he was kind enough to feed her anyway.”

Dean has to fight the sudden urge to lean forward and taste Castiel’s smile.  It dampens his joy, and he feels his own smile dim.  “Thanks for catching him for me, Cas.”

The dip in Dean’s mood must be noticeable, because Castiel’s grin also get’s smaller.  “You’re very welcome, Dean.”

Dean clears his throat and looks away.  It shouldn’t hurt so much to see Castiel’s disappointment.  He should be over trying to make him happy.  

“Well, uh… I suppose I should get him home.  Give him a bath.”

“Yeah,” Castiel murmurs.  “You should probably trim his claws first.”

That pulls a puff of laughter from Dean, and despite the tension between them, he meets Castiel’s eyes again and nods.  “Good idea.”

They stand there for a long moment, staring each other down, neither of them willing to say goodbye yet.  Until Hamill wiggles in his arms, reminding him that he shouldn’t stay.  That he doesn’t really want to.

You are such a fucking liar.

No, it’s the power of positive thinking.  

Repeating a lie till you believe it?  That’s healthy.

Dude, right now it’s all I got.

He shakes off the internal monologue and holds Hamill a little closer so he doesn’t wriggle free and try to make another escape.  “G’night, Cas.”

When he turns to leave, Castiel’s hand shoots out and grips his shoulder.  Dean’s whole body freezes under the touch, but while he turns his head back in Castiel’s direction, he refuses to look at him.

“Dean… I…”

Oh god, he’s going to apologize again.  Dean does not want to hear it again.  He doesn’t want to believe it.  He’s not going to open his heart up to the risk.

After a long enough pause that Dean thinks Castiel isn’t going to say anything, he finally speaks.  “Would you like to celebrate with dinner?  Tomorrow night after work?”

Dean looks down at Hamill.  Getting him back is definitely worth a celebration.  But he can’t do it with Castiel.  “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Cas.”

The hand on his shoulder slips away, and Dean immediately misses it.  The ache that had faded from his heart when he’d found out Hamill had been found comes back with a vengeance, and Hamill wiggles in protest when he involuntarily tightens his grip on the cat.  

“Okay,” Castiel breathes quietly.  “Have a good night.”

Dean nods jerkily and hastily retreats.  Every step that takes him further away from Castiel makes the ache in his chest grow.  He ignores it and focuses on the cat in his arms.

“Dude, you stink,” he grumbles.

The volume of Hamill’s purr increases.  Despite his shit with Castiel, the sound makes Dean feel better than he has in weeks.

Chapter Text

When Sam scratches the stray's brown and black flecked ears she hunches down, hindquarters up and makes a pathetic noise.  Even though he knows she's suffering, it still makes him chuckle.  "Sorry, darlin', that's not exactly what you're here for."

On the other side of the exam table, Castiel shakes his head ruefully.  He's filling a syringe while Sam keeps the little tortie from escaping this last round of shots.  "Mating for cats is awful.  Females have horrible, painful heats and they have to deal with a male's barbed penis."  He sets the vial aside and bends down to look the tortie in the eyes.  "I'll bet you females weren't even consulted on that, were you?"

The tortie yowls, and Sam huffs another laugh when Castiel nods solemnly in response.  He gets a good grip on her and holds her still as Castiel administers the last shot.  A vet tech could easily do the job, but Sam wants to make sure Castiel is doing alright, and he's almost more slippery than Dean is.  

"There you go, sweetheart," Castiel murmurs.  For some reason his cheeks flush and he casts Sam an unreadable look.

The cat squirms in Sam's grip and he loosens up enough for her to scramble toward Castiel.  Despite the fact that he's been poking her with needles, she seems to think of him as the safe option.

"Are you going to keep her?"  Sam asks.

Castiel gathers the cat in his arms and scratches her chin.  "If I can't find her owners, I think I will."  He smiles fondly at her.  "I've been wanting a pet for a while."

"You should name her."  Sam points out.  "Let her get used to it now in case no one claims her."

"I'll think about it," Castiel says without looking up.

Sam smiles at the picture they make.  He loves seeing pets and people discover each other, and he hopes Castiel gets to keep her.  

The door opens and Hael pokes her head through.  "Hey Sam, your brother is here asking for you."

"He's probably bringing Hamill in for a checkup," Castiel says softly.

Hael nods, confirming his words.  Then she grins, bright with excitement.  "Hot and a cat lover.  Seriously, Doc, is he single?"

"No!"

Sam and Hael both turn surprised looks at Castiel, who blushes and occupies himself with checking his stray's claws.  Sam turns back to Hael with a smile that he hopes isn't smug.  "It's complicated," he tells her.

She sighs.  "Of course it is.  Well anyway, do you want me to set him up in room four?"

"Yes, please.  Thank you, Hael."

After she leaves them alone, Sam turns back to Castiel.  "So are you and Dean working it out?"

"No," Castiel murmurs without looking up.  "I tried to apologise, but..." he trails off with sad shake of his head.  "I shouldn't have snapped at Hael.  I guess I owe her an apology as well.  Hopefully that one will go better."

So things are still rocky.  Sam isn't completely surprised, but he is torn on what to do about it.  On the one hand, he really thinks they worked well together.  But on the other, they've got some serious communication issues if Sam is understanding the situation correctly.  And he can't really blame only one or the other of them since he's only heard Castiel's side of the story.

Dean has been avoiding Sam since the "break up" with Castiel, but now he's at the clinic, and Sam's not going to let him get away without a talk.  He'll hold Hamill hostage if he has to.

"I'm sure she'll be fine," Sam assures Castiel as he steps over to the door.  "But you know she takes bribes in the form of donuts."

That brings a tiny spark back to Castiel's eyes.  "We all take bribes in the form of donuts."

"Get me a chocolate bacon donut from that new bakery down the road and I'll put in a good word for you with her."  Sam winks at Castiel before he leaves the room.

Dean is waiting for him in room four when he gets there.  The pet carrier is open and Hamill is sniffing around the floor with typical feline curiosity.  

Sam stops for a heartbeat when he gets a good look at his brother.  Dean's hair has grown out a little bit, and it lays limp over his forehead.  He isn't the kind of guy that goes all out on his appearance, but Sam's used to seeing him with at least a little hair product holding his typical spikes up off his forehead.  In addition to lack of grooming, his clothes hang off his frame a little too loosely, and his hollow cheeks indicate that he's not eating well.  Dark circles underscore bloodshot eyes, and even though he smiles at Sam in greeting, his expression is wan, like he barely has the energy to maintain it.

"Heya, Sammy."

Sam quickly shuts the door behind him when he notices Hamill eyeing it like he wants to make an escape.  "Hey, Dean.  It's good to see you."  He gives his brother a pointed stare.  "It's been a while."

With a grimace, Dean wipes a hand over his face.  "Yeah, sorry.  Been busy."

It's bullshit, but Sam doesn't call him on it yet.  Dean requires a more delicate touch.  "You shouldn't be so hard on yourself."

Dean drops his hand and eyes Sam like he suspects a double meaning.  "You know summer is always busy for me."

Sam crouches down and scoops Hamill up in his arms and sets him on the exam table.  The cat immediately tries to escape and Dean positions himself on the other side of the table to help keep him where he is.

"Castiel mentioned you've been staying out late," Sam says as he starts examining Hamill, checking his teeth and his ears.  Despite the conversation with Dean, he pays close attention to the cat, looking for hidden injuries.  “I thought you weren’t taking side jobs in the evenings anymore.”

"He talks about me?"

Gotcha, Sam thinks.  "Yeah we've talked a little."

Dean is quiet for a long moment, and when Sam shoots a glance at him he's chewing at his bottom lip.  A sure sign that his mind had shifted into overdrive, and he's trying to talk himself out of saying any of his thoughts out loud.  Sam gives him about three seconds to crack.

Three.. Two....

"He say anything else about me?"

God, it's just like high school all over again.  Sam was a gangly freshman who wanted his brother to stop interfering in his social life, but was constantly giving Dean advice on his own.  He can't even remember every "do you think she'd say yes?" conversation they had, although he very clearly remembers the time Dean slipped and said "he" instead.  Sam's probably the only one who wasn't surprised when Dean stuttered through announcing to the family that he liked boys.

"Not a lot lately," Sam says causally.  "Just that you broke up with each other."

Dean's head snaps up, and his voice is sharp.  "We weren't ‘together’."

Sam gives up the pretense that he's just making casual conversation.  He looks up from Hamill, letting the cat squirm free since the exam didn't reveal anything seriously wrong with him.  "Maybe not officially, but he still acts like someone who just experienced a break up.  He's been really torn up over it."

"He's been torn up?" Dean realizes he's almost yelling and abruptly drops his voice to a hiss.  “Do you even know what he did to me?”

Sam grimaces.  “He told me.”

“He told you,” Dean repeats flatly.  “So you know that I admitted I loved him during sex, and we were still-” he makes a weird gesture with his hands, and Sam blushes when he realizes what it means, “-and he shut me down?”

“Not in so many words,” Sam admits.  “But he told me that he regrets what he did and that he lost your friendship because of it.”

"He only lost a friend.  I lost-" He cuts off with a choked sound, and swallows a few times before he continues.  "I don't feel sorry for him at all."

Sam doesn't blame Dean for that, but he's not trying to commiserate with him, so he doesn't say so.  "I do."

"Why?" Dean bites out.  "Oh, poor Cas.  Now he doesn't have dumbass Dean to use for sex and home improvement tips anymore.  Such a fucking loss for him."

"Dean," Sam admonishes softly.  "You have to know you were more to him than that."

"Not as much as he was to me."

"Was?"

Sam feels a little sorry for the question when Dean finches, but he doesn't give up.  That flinch tells him that there's still a chance for these two idiots to fix things.  "You still love him."

"So what."  Dean crosses his arms over his chest and examines his boots.  "I can't do the friend thing, Sam.  I can't."

"I get that.  But what if-"

"No."  Dean looks up and pins him with a glare that tells Sam he's pushed too far too fast.  "No 'what if'.  Maybe if I'd known going in that- but I didn't, and I'm not going to open myself up again."

Sam sighs.  "Alright.  But he's still my friend, and I have to work with the guy.  He's still going to be around.  Can you handle that?"

Dean's glare intensifies briefly, but then he looks away with a shrug.  "Whatever, man.  I'm not a fucking child."

It takes an effort not to refute that, but Sam concedes with a nod.  The idea that the relationship can be salvaged has been planted, and really that's the most he can do with a stubborn bastard like Dean.

"Well, Hamill seems fine," he says, changing the subject to Dean's reason for being there.

Tension visibly drains from Dean's shoulders, and he smiles.  He bends down to coax the cat from under the exam table and comes back up with the orange tabby cradled in his arms.  "Uh, Cas said we should probably do booster shots?"

"Definitely.  And you should probably get Ford in here for them too, just in case."

Dean nods.  "I can bring him in this week."

"Good.  Give me a few minutes to get what I need, and then we'll get him taken care of."

He leaves Dean whispering encouragement and admonishment in Hamill's ears.  He didn't make as much progress with Dean as he wanted to, but he'll take baby steps.  He catches Castiel's curious look when they cross paths in the hallway and gives him an encouraging smile and a wink.  He laughs at Castiel's confused frown, but doesn't explain.

xxx

For the next several days Dean tries not to think about his conversation with Sam.  Which means that he either drowns himself in work or in booze.  He tries not to go all out on the second option though.  He’s seen guys really fuck themselves up while working under the influence of a nasty hangover, and the last thing he wants is to lose a finger or break a limb because he’s a pathetic loser that can’t get over his not-really-an-ex boyfriend.

He only visits Cain once after Hamill comes home.  Cain enjoys Dean’s company, and has said many times that he’s always welcome, but Dean is beginning to feel guilty for using Cain as an emotional crutch.  So he comes home after work, and tries not to stare at the house across the street.  He catches up on shows piling up in his DVR, and tries not to wish that Castiel were there with him commenting around a mouthful of popcorn on the lack of reality in the reality shows, or teasing Dean for getting choked up over emotional speeches on Doctor Sexy.  He goes to bed on time and tries not to let dreams of Castiel drive him from his bed.

For the weekend, he plans on going fishing with his dad and uncle Bobby.  They have been pestering him to do so for months now, but he’d been spending so much time with Castiel that he’s turned them down every time.  Saturday morning he's up before the sun, packing a cooler with beer, soda, and sandwiches.  Ford and Hamill beg at his feet for scraps of turkey and ham, and he gives in easily.  He's spoiled them rotten since Hamill came home, mostly because Hamill needs to fatten back up after his two week stint in the great outdoors.  But he can't spoil one without spoiling the other, so he just has to hope that Ford doesn't get too round from all the extra treats.

Once the cooler is packed, he heads outside to load it into the truck, being extra careful not to let Hamill sneak past his feet.  He stops just outside the door when he sees movement across the street.

Castiel is out on his front yard wearing a sinfully short set of cut-offs that show off his thickly muscled runner's thighs, and that's it.  His mouth goes dry as his eyes wander over the lean planes of Castiel's back, and his fingers tingle with the phantom memory of how smooth all that golden skin is.

He's so hungry for a glimpse of Castiel that it takes a moment to register that he's digging a hole in his front yard.  Dean’s feet start moving before he realizes what he's doing.  He sets the cooler down next to his truck and strides across the street.

"I hope you called someone to check that there aren't power lines or pipes under there before you started digging," Dean says by way of greeting.

Castiel's head comes up, and his welcoming smile quickly disappears behind a wary mask.  "I did.  And I'm going for the pipes."

Dean wishes it didn't hurt to see Castiel's smile disappear.  He wishes he didn't miss seeing Castiel's eyes and nose crinkle up with his happiness.  He wants to stay angry.  He wants to nurse the hurt bundled tightly around his own heart.

Love is stupid that way.

And I’m the idiot that’s still in love with him.

He really wishes he didn't still love Castiel.  But like his uncle Bobby always said when Dean whined about wishing for something he couldn't have - wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up first.

His eyes drop to the dead grass around Castiel's feet.  Now that July is almost over it's probably too late to bring it back this summer, but maybe with enough water, he’ll at least save the roots so he won't have to re-sod the yard. "Finally gonna fix the sprinklers, huh?"

Castiel shrugs and shifts the handle of his shovel back and forth between his hands.  "I'm going to try.  YouTube has quite a few helpful videos on the subject."

Oh god, YouTube?  Castiel is going to either fuck things up beyond repair, or he's going to end up working twice as long as necessary to get everything up and running.

Walk away.  You don’t owe him shit.

But maybe I just want to help him.

“Do you want a hand?”

BAD IDEA ABORT ABORT.

Castiel goes still, and stares at him like he’s got two heads.  It takes so long for him to respond that Dean is about to rescind the offer, but finally after a moment he nods slowly.  “I’d like that,” he murmurs.

Well, there’s no turning back now.  “Great,” Dean says with probably too much enthusiasm.  He coughs, and hooks a thumb over his shoulder.  “I just gotta go put that away, and I’ll come out and help.”

“Okay.”

Dean doesn’t move right away.  His eyes search Castiel’s for… something.  He’s not sure.  After a moment, he blinks, breaking the staring match and his eyes drop to Castiel’s mostly bare body.  

Not better!  

‘The fuck do you mean?  So much better.

You’re not fucking him anymore, quit treating him like a piece of meat.

A piece of meat that makes his mouth water.  Which is one of many reasons bailing on his fishing plans and helping Castiel fix his sprinklers is a bad idea.  But he’s committed now.  As he turns away to go put his cooler back inside, his mind whispers a singular truth.

I’m looking forward to this.

xxx

Castiel let's out a puff of air when Dean turns away and crosses the street to his house.  Distantly he's aware of the fact that Dean is canceling other plans to help him with his sprinklers, and he thinks maybe he should feel guilty about that.  But his skin is buzzing with hope and arousal - because he would have to be blind not to notice the way Dean's eyes raked over him - and anxiety.

He wants Dean.  Not just as a friend.  He wants his body, and his heart and his time and his trust.  He wants the love that Dean offered and that Castiel so cruelly rejected.  

But he doesn't know if he deserves any of that after what he did.  And he's confused about why Dean offered to help.  Is he just eager for a project, or does the offer mean something more?

He doesn't want to get his hopes up, which is why his fingers tremble with nerves when he runs them through his hair.  

It's already damp with sweat even though the sun is just barely up.  The heat from the previous day didn't completely fade overnight, which is why Castiel decided to get started so early, before the sun could bake him.  It's also why his t-shirt is crumpled in a pile on his porch.  He glances at it, wondering if he should put it back on.

Several minutes pass while he waits for Dean to come back, and he's about to set the shovel aside and go get his shirt when Dean's garage door slides up and Dean emerges with his own shovel gripped in his hand and a bundle of cloth in the other.  Castiel freezes and watches him approach.  Dean changed his clothes, and Castiel's jaw sags when he sees how little he's wearing.  He's wearing a light blue muscle tank, which shows off his beefy shoulders and arms and his bowed legs are bare from the knees down because he's wearing a pair of cargo shorts.  Castiel hasn't seen that much of Dean's bare skin in weeks.

Castiel licks his lips, catching a hint of salt from his own sweat.  It's hot, and Dean has seen him in far less than a pair of shorts.  And if Dean isn't going to cover himself up, neither is Castiel.

If he's lucky, Dean will lose the tank.

Or unlucky.  He's not completely sure if that would be a reward or torture.

Maybe both.

He doesn't realize he's spaced out considering the possible state of Dean's clothing until fingers snap in front of Castiel's face.  He blinks and focuses on Dean.  "I'm sorry?"

An amused smile flirts with the edges of Dean's lips.  "I asked if you have a game plan, or if you're just digging there for shits and giggles."

"Oh. Yes.  I mean both.  Kind of."  Castiel blushes over his stumbling words, and turns to gesture at the end of the yard where the grass is green and overgrown.  The move partially hides his face although he's sure it's too late and Dean already knows how flustered he is.  "I think there's a leak somewhere between there and here.  I just have to find it."

"Yeah you're probably right."  Dean makes a soft noise of disgust.  "Finding it should be so much fun."  He shakes his head and sighs, then he holds something out to Castiel.  "Put these on so you don't fuck up your hands, dude."

Castiel looks down to see that Dean is offering him a pair of stained gloves.  They look like gardening gloves, but they're covered in splatters of paint and grease as well as dirt.  

It hasn't even occurred to him that digging in the yard all day might hurt his hands, but Dean immediately noticed his lack of protection.  It's such a tiny thing, but it means Dean still cares.  He reaches out and takes the gloves, suppressing a shiver when their fingers brush.  

Dean must notice something because his cheeks flush and he clears his throat.  He doesn't quite jerk his hand away, but Castiel sees him flex his fingers in reaction to the frisson of awareness between them.  But then the moment is over and he's pulling another pair of gloves from his back pocket and pulling them on.  "Alright, let's get started."

They dig up a trench all along the edge of the yard, baring the pipe leading from the top of the yard to the bottom.  They find two breaks, one of which is a foot long crack.  Castiel had purchased some PVC glue to seal small leaks, but it's obvious that he's going to need to replace the whole thing.   Which means a trip to Home Depot since he wasn't prepared for so much damage.

Before they leave, Dean goes around the yard and figures out how many sprinkler heads need to be replaced while Castiel retrieves his t-shirt and pulls it on.  He thinks he sees Dean cast him a disappointed look, but it could be his imagination.  

Dean waits for him at the edge of the driveway, and when he's close enough Dean reaches up and taps the end of his nose.  "You're turning pink, Cas.  Did you put on any sunscreen?"

Maybe if he’s sunburned Dean won’t notice him blushing over every little thing he does that reminds Castiel of the times when they were ‘together’.  “Yes, but I should probably put on some more if we’re going to be outside for the rest of the day.”

Dean squints up at the sky.  It’s midmorning and the temperature is already inching up into intolerable levels.  “We better hurry up and get this fixed.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be out in this heat all day.”

They take Dean’s truck.  Of course.  Castiel smiles a little as he settles into the passenger seat and buckles his seatbelt.  It feels a little bit like coming home.  He’s lost count of how many times he and Dean have taken a trip in this truck to Home Depot.

Thinking about how this may be the last time kills his smile, and he stares out the passenger side window as Dean backs out of the drive.  Other than the radio, which is set on a classic rock station, the ride is quiet.

The trip to Home Depot is quick.  Dean doesn’t detour into other departments, and Castiel follows him to the area where they pick up the sprinkler heads and the valve that they need to finish the work.  He agrees easily when Dean suggests getting several lengths of pipe to keep as spares in case he needs to do any more repairs.  

Some of the awkwardness between them fades on the drive home as Dean explains in detail what they’ll need to to repair the pipe.  For the twenty minutes it takes to get from Home Depot to Dean’s driveway, it almost feels as if they never fought.  Like Castiel never made the biggest mistake of his life, and lost something that he didn’t understand the value of until it was gone.

Before they start the final repairs, Castiel invites Dean inside for drinks and something to eat.  Dean looks like he wants to say no, and Castiel braces himself for the disappointment, but to his relief, Dean agrees.

“Hello, who’s this?” Dean asks a few minutes later while Castiel is setting out crackers and some left over cheese dip on the counter.  

Castiel looks over his shoulder and smiles at the sight of Dean crouched down and petting the tortie cat that he still hasn’t named yet.  She’s standing just a little too far away, and Dean is stretching his arm out as far as he can without tilting over, but she doesn’t look like she wants to bolt.  Which is a good thing because she’s still recovering from being spayed and she’s still moving around slowly.

“I haven’t named her yet,” Castiel says.  He opens the fridge and pulls out a couple cans of fruit punch to go with the salty snack.  “She’s the stray I found when Hamill came home.”

When he spoke, Dean had looked up at Castiel, but now he turns his attention back to the tortie.  “You gonna keep her?”

“I’ve put a few messages online to see if I can find her owners.” Castiel turns and leans his hips against the counter, and watches Dean try to coax the cat closer.  “But I admit, I’m hoping no one claims her.  She’s very sweet.”

“Stubborn, too,” Dean says when he tries to inch closer and she backs up a little.

“She probably doesn’t feel very good,” Castiel points out.  “She’s recovering from being fixed.”

Dean’s expression goes soft, and he stops trying to close the gap.  “Aw, poor girl.”

Castiel chuckles.  “I’m sure she’ll be glad not to go through heats anymore, though.”

“Yeah, no shit.”  Dean straightens and joins Castiel at the counter.  He grabs a can of soda and pops the tab, then takes several long swallows.  When he lowers the can, he smiles down at the cat who has decided to check him out and is sniffing at the toe of his shoes.  “I know what I’d name her,” he says.

“Oh?” Castiel asks.

“Fisher.”

It takes a moment for Castiel to make the connection, but then he laughs.  “I should have guessed.”

Dean’s eyes twinkle merrily when he looks over at Castiel.  “Do you have a better idea?”

“Not really.  I’ve just been calling her ‘tortie’.”

“Dude.” Dean gives him an exaggerated look of disappointment.  

“Give me a few days.”  Castiel bends down and runs a hand along the tortie’s back.  She leans into his touch.  “We’re still getting to know each other.”

“Well I’m calling her Fisher.”

Castiel looks up at Dean with a mock glare.  “You can’t name my cat.”

Dean ignores his protest and turns his attention to the cat in question.  “What do you say, sweetie?  Should we call you ‘Fisher’?”

She meows in response, and Castiel realizes that the name has stuck.  He sighs, although he’s not really put out at all.  “Fisher it is, I guess.”

Now that she has a name, Fisher loses interest in them, and wanders back out of the kitchen.  Dean wears a smug smile while they finish the rest of their snack.

A few hours later, the sprinkler heads are replaced, the broken valve that wasn’t letting water through to the east half the yard is swapped out, and the PVC pipe is installed and buried.  Castiel turns the system on, and the sprinklers all spring to life with a hiss of water.

“Thank you for helping me with this,” Castiel murmurs as he joins Dean on the driveway.  

“Anytime, Cas.”

Castiel turns to look at Dean.  “Do you mean that?”

Dean’s eyes flick to him and back to the lawn so quickly that Castiel isn’t sure how to interpret the look.  “Well, I mean… you know.”

No, he doesn’t know.  And that’s half the problem.

The other half is that he’s afraid to ask Dean what exactly he means.  Does he still care for Castiel?  Would he give him a second chance?  Is that what is happening right now?

“What’ve you got planned next after you get the sprinklers fixed?” Dean asks after another long stretch of silence broken only the clatter of impact sprinklers.  

“Mostly cosmetic things,” Castiel answers softly.  “I don’t want to invest too much more in the house because I’m thinking of selling it.”

Dean’s head jerks around, hard, causing Castiel to startle slightly.  “You’re going to sell it?” he demands gruffly.

Castiel had only been vaguely considering selling, but he’d looked into it enough to know that he could sell the house for enough to refill his savings account to just slightly more than what he’d started with before he bought the house.  It would give him a nice little nest egg that he could have Jimmy re-invest for him, or he could try home ownership again, only this time with one that doesn’t need so many repairs.  “Well now would be a good time.  The market is good, and I could get back everything I put into it and maybe a little extra.”  

Plus, he could get away from a house full of wonderful memories that make him regret ever having bought it in the first place.

Dean’s voice is acidic when he speaks.  “Sorry, Cas.  I didn’t mean to drive you out of your home.”

Castiel turns to look at Dean.  His eyes trace over Dean’s profile, and it makes his heart ache to see how beautiful he is, even now with his jaw clenched tight and his brow furrowed with anger.  

He didn’t mean to anger Dean.  In fact, he’s not even sure why he’s so pissed that Castiel might want to move.  “I thought it would be a relief to you if I moved,” he says softly.  

“You know what?” Dean bends down and picks up the shovel he’d left on the driveway while they patted the sod back in place over the newly buried pipe.  “You’re probably right.”

Without a backward glance, he stalks away.  Castiel watches him go, hating himself for saying anything about selling the house.  Why did he have to push Dean’s buttons?  They were getting along, and for a few hours it felt like they were rebuilding the connection between them.

And then Castiel had to open his mouth and destroy everything.  Again.

Castiel flinches when Dean slams his shovel into the corner of his garage.  He doesn’t look in Castiel’s direction as he slaps his palm over the door control, making it sink down.  The last glimpse of Dean that Castiel gets is his feet going up the short steps leading into his house.

For a long time Castiel stands in his driveway staring at Dean’s house.  Beads of sweat drip down his temples as the sun beats down on him, and the thin t-shirt he’d put on for the trip to Home Depot and never took off again so he’d have some protection from the sun begins to stick uncomfortably to his back.  

Although his body is still, his mind is racing.

Dean said they couldn’t be friends anymore, but as soon as he saw Castiel working out in the yard, he offered to help.  Dean had looked at him with hunger and yearning.  Dean is angry with him because he’s considering moving.  

Dean still wants him.  Probably still loves him.

But will he accept Castiel, or will he push him away?

There’s only one way to find out.

Castiel doesn’t spare a thought for the sprinklers that are still running as he walks across the street.  His mind is mostly blank, the only thought swirling around in his head is please.  

Please let it not be too late.

Chapter Text

When Dean slams into the house through the garage door, he catches a flash of orange out of the corner of his eye when Hamill takes off running.  He’d feel guilty for startling the cat, but the little shit still thinks he wants to go outside every time Dean goes near a door.  

A shiver runs through him as the air conditioned air surrounds him, and finds all the damp places on his shirt.  It feels good after being outside in the heat all day, but he whips the tank off over his head and stalks towards the stairs with the intention of taking a shower.  

His feet drag to a halt about halfway there as the enormity of what just happened hits him.  Right in the chest.

Jesus Christ, Castiel wants to move.

The thought of watching Castiel’s belongings get loaded into a U-haul and never seeing him again makes acid burn in the back of his throat.  He’d decided to listen to Sam and give friendship a shot, because he was going to have to deal with Castiel being in his life no matter what.  He might as well make the best of it, right?  Help out a friend with his sprinklers.  Easy.

Except that wasn’t what happened.  Dean’s resolution to just be buddies had started crumbling almost immediately.  Working next to Castiel, wandering through Home Depot with him, laughing at him when he tripped on a hole he dug himself and ended up sprawled over the mostly dead grass… it had brought everything back home in a rush.  

I can’t be friends with him.

I’m still in love with him.

And he’s fucking moving to get away from me.

Dean wads up his tank top and throws it across the room.  It’s a completely unsatisfying gesture because it only flutters open and falls to the floor.  Ford who has been curled up on the couch, lifts his head and blinks at Dean, unimpressed with his show of temper.

“Shut up,” Dean grumbles at the cat.

Ford only blinks again and then yawns, his pink tongue curling up between his very impressive fangs.

And great, now he’s taking out his temper on his cats.  

He’s about to stomp over and pick up his shirt when there’s a knock at his door.  

xxx

Castiel pounds the side of his fist against Dean’s door and waits, shifting from one foot to another.  He has no idea what he’s going to say to Dean when - if - he answers it though.  

The door jerks open, and Castiel takes a step back from the thunderous glare on Dean’s face.  “What?” Dean snarls.

“We need to talk.”  Castiel holds his breath, waiting for Dean to let him in or turn him away or punch him in the face.  He hopes it’s not the third option, although the way Dean’s expression darkens, he half expects it.

Before Dean can make the decision though, Hamill darts for freedom.  Out of pure reflex Castiel manages to bend down and catch him.  Barely.  And he almost loses his grip when Hamill starts to wriggle in earnest.  But he manages to get both hands around the cat’s belly and pick him up.

He cuddles Hamill close to his chest, and looks up at Dean.

“Fucking Christ, Hamill,” Dean mutters.  Then he jerks his head in invitation and walks away from the door, leaving it open for Castiel to follow him in.

Castiel steps into the cool interior, and shuts the door with the heel of his foot.  He lets Hamill down when he starts wiggling for freedom again, and then shoves his hands in his pockets.

Dean stops in the center of the living room with his back to Castiel, and crosses his arms over his chest.  “What do you want?”

Ideally, Castiel wants to stand there and stare at Dean’s bare back.  Or even better, close the space between them and run his hands over the muscles.  But there’s more than just physical space separating them, and he has no idea how he can mend the gap.

So he starts with an apology.  “I’m sorry, Dean.”

Dean’s broad shoulders tense, but he doesn’t turn around.  “Good for you.”

Well, he didn’t expect that this would be easy, did he?  Hoped, yes.  Expected?  No.

“I said somethings that I regret-”

Dean’s head drops forward and he lets out a high pitched laugh.

“-things that I didn’t mean.”

That brings Dean around to pin Castiel with a dark glare.  “So you’re not selling your house?  I dunno, Cas.  Maybe you should.”

Castiel flinches at the venom in Dean’s words.  He wants to turn around and leave Dean in peace and forget about this whole conversation.  But he can’t stop now that he’s started.  “I don’t want to move, Dean.”

“Fine, then don’t.  It’s none of my business.  If that’s why you came over, message received, you can go now.”

“Dean.”  Castiel takes a few steps further into the house, but stops when Dean’s eyes narrow in warning.  “That’s not the only thing I regret saying.”

Dean lifts an eyebrow and waits.

Swallowing against the sudden dryness of his mouth, Castiel continues.  “I reacted… badly… when you told me that you loved me.”

“Reacted ‘badly’?” Dean cuts in, voice flat.  “Really.”

Frustration overwhelms Castiel and he throws his hands out to his sides in a helpless gesture.  “Dean, I was scared!” Dean opens his mouth, but Castiel hurries to continue.  “I was scared that you didn’t mean it.  Or worse, that you did and I didn’t know how to handle that.  The only time I’ve ever given my heart to someone, it was handed right back to me with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’.  

Dean is staring at him, expression unreadable.  But at least he’s listening.  

“I’m still scared,” Castiel murmurs.  He rubs a hand over his face, then drops it to his side, and looks back at Dean.  Beautiful, sweet, kind, caring Dean.  How could he have ever thought friendship was all he wanted from this man?  “Of a lot of things, really.  But most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling - the rest of my whole life - the way I feel when I'm with you.”

Dean blinks and then a small smile twitches the corners of his lips.  "Dude, did you seriously just quote Dirty Dancing to me?"

Now it's Castiel's turn to blink.  He runs back over his words in his mind, but isn't sure what Dean is talking about.  It's been years since he's seen the movie.  "No? Not on purpose anyway."

That makes Dean laugh, and shake his head.  He's smiling fondly when he looks back at Castiel.  "I'm going to have to sit you down to watch it, Cas."

Hope makes Castiel's heart kick into overdrive.  He can feel his pulse in his chest, his temples, his fingertips.  He takes a step closer to Dean.  "Does that mean we can try again?"

"Try what?" Dean asks warily, smile fading.  "I'm gonna need you to spell it out for me this time, Cas."

Castiel closes another few feet between them. He's almost close enough now that he can reach out and touch Dean if he wants to.  Which he does want, very much, but he's not sure yet that he's allowed.  "Dating," he says softly.  "Being together."

"Not just friends?"  Dean's words come out bitter, low and shaky, and Castiel experiences a flash of intense self hatred for putting that fear in Dean's heart.

He shakes his head.  "We've gone way past friendship.  And I'm sorry that I got stuck there."  

He's still inching forward, and now he's closer than what would be considered polite for mere acquaintances.  He's close enough that he has to tilt his chin up to look in Dean's eyes.  He takes it as a good sign that Dean doesn't back away.  He lifts trembling fingers and cups them around Dean's stubbled cheek.  "Please give me another chance, Dean."

Dean's eyes close and he tilts his face into the touch until his lips brush Castiel's thumb.  His expression is as pained as his voice when he speaks.  "I want to, Cas.  I do.  But I'm scared too, man.  I really-" he chokes, and opens damp eyes to look down at Castiel.  He takes a shuddering breath, and doesn't continue.

Castiel doesn't need him to.  The naked pain in Dean's eyes brings tears to his own.  He brings his other hand up and cups Dean's face.  "I know.  I'm sorry."  He brushes a light kiss over Dean's lips.  "I'm so sorry, Dean."  The kiss isn't rebuffed so he does it again.  "I'll spend every day making it up to you if you'll let me."

Dean doesn't answer, but his eyes slip closed again.  The tears pooling in his eyes spill over, a single track of liquid sliding down his cheeks before catching against Castiel's hands.  He lets Castiel kiss him again and again, butterfly soft.  With a tiny groan, his hands come up and clutch at Castiel's sides.  

Instead of deepening the kiss, Castiel leans back enough that he can look at Dean without going cross eyed.  "Dean?"

"Okay, Cas."  Dean whispers.  His eyes open again, and this time there's yearning there behind the fear.  "Okay."

Castiel pulls Dean to him in a tight hug, burying his face against Dean's neck.  "Thank you."

The weight of Dean's arms come around his waist.  "God, I missed you, Cas."

"I've missed you too."  Castiel lifts his head, and returns Dean's watery smile with one of his own.  "I really fucked up, didn't I?"

Dean snorts a laugh.  "Yeah, you really did."

It suddenly registers that Dean is shirtless and pressed full length against Castiel.  A frisson of arousal streaks through Castiel, and his voice is husky when he speaks.  "Let me make it up to you."

Dean catches the shift in mood and his eyelids drop to half mast.  "You have something in mind?"

Running his fingers up the back of Dean's neck and into the short hairs, Castiel brings him down for a kiss.  This one isn't chaste at all.  He runs the tip of his tongue over the seam of Dean's lips until they part, and then he savors the wet heat the welcomes him inside.  They both make a tiny pleased noise when their tongues slide together.

For a long moment they re-explore each other, mapping each other's tongues and lips, reacquainting themselves through only the touch of their mouths.  When they separate, they're both breathing a little heavier, and Castiel is pleased to see that Dean's eyes are dark with want.

“That’s a good start, Cas.” Dean’s breath is warm against Castiel’s lips.

“It’s not nearly enough, though.” Castiel slides his fingers down from Dean’s face over his neck and down his chest.  His palms slide over Dean’s nipples, and he smiles a little when they harden at the touch.  “Can we go upstairs?”

He waits, breath held, as Dean considers his question.  Maybe it’s too soon to jump right back into sex.  He doesn’t want Dean to think he’s using him.

Dean’s fingers slip up under Castiel’s sweat-damp t-shirt and play lightly against the skin at the base of his spine.  “Yeah, Cas.  We can do that.”

It’s Dean’s house, but Castiel reaches behind himself and takes one of Dean’s hands in his, and then leads him up the stairs.  He glances back every few seconds, gauging whether Dean is still comfortable with what they’re doing, but he doesn’t see any sign of discomfort or hesitation.

He doesn’t stop until they’re standing near Dean’s bed, and Castiel maneuvers him until his knees hit the back of the mattress.  It only takes a gentle pressure against Dean’s chest to get him to sit on the bed.

Dean looks up at him with lustful eyes, chewing at his bottom lip as he watches Castiel strip off his shirt and toss it in the direction of the bathroom.  It’s presumptuous - Dean shouldn’t have to wash anything of Castiel’s - but it’s habit.  And Dean doesn’t protest, so Castiel continues undressing.  He kicks off his sandals, and then grimaces down at his feet which are dirty and sweaty from working in the yard.

“Maybe we should shower first,” he suggests.

With a chuckle, Dean stands back up.  He grabs Castiel by the hips so he can’t move away, and allows their bare chests to slide against each other.  “That’s actually a really good idea.”

He doesn’t let go of Castiel, and starts backing him across the room and into the bathroom.  Somewhere between the bed and the bathroom counter they start kissing again, and this time they get handsy.  

Dean slides his hands down the back of Castiel’s shorts and squeezes his ass cheeks, spreading them apart and then pressing them together.  “Fuck,” he mutters against Castiel’s lips.  “These damn shorts nearly killed me when I saw them.”

“Is something wrong with them?” Castiel asks, confused.  “They’re a little short, but they’re comfortable.”

“Hell no.” Dean squeezes again, making Castiel gasp.  “Wear ‘em all you want.”

Except he needs to take them off if he’s going to shower.  With a nudge, Castiel opens enough space between them that he’s able to pop the button free and slide the zipper down.  Dean does the rest of the work, shoving them down over his hips, along with his bright red briefs.

“What the hell are these?” Dean plucks at the white waistband.

“Functional, yet stylish?” Castiel quirks a brow and is pleased when Dean laughs.  God, he’s missed that bassy rumble.  “You’re not the only one who owns fun underwear, Dean.”

The comment sobers Dean and he looks away, a flush rising in his cheeks.  

“Dean?”

“I, uh… I’m not wearing anything special.”

Castiel’s eyebrows go up at Dean’s nervous announcement.  “You know I won’t judge you for going commando, right?”

Dean grimaces.  “No, I mean-” he cuts off with a sigh and steps back, running a hand through his hair before dropping it to his side.  He doesn’t look at Castiel, instead focusing just to the right of his shoulder.  “Since we… broke up… I haven’t felt much like wearing them.”

“Wearing what?”

Green eyes flick up to his and then away.  “You know… panties?  You were really into them, but they just made me…”

He doesn’t finish the sentence, but Castiel can guess.  Dean looks sad, and it makes Castiel hate himself all over again.  He makes a promise to himself that he’s going to do everything in his power to make Dean never feel like that because of something stupid Castiel did ever again.  

Reaching out, Castiel slips a finger in the waistband of Dean’s shorts and pulls it out slightly.  He waits until Dean looks up at him, before deliberately looking down the front of Dean’s pants.  He’s wearing black cotton briefs with gray elastic around the waist.  Of course Dean’s collection of panties are pretty, and he looks amazing in them, but the sight of Dean’s cock straining against the black cotton still makes Castiel’s stomach flip flop.

There’s no way Dean can miss his reaction either, because Castiel is hard as a fucking hammer.  Narrowing the space between them again, Castiel rubs his dick in the groove of Dean’s thigh, relishing the rough drag of Dean’s shorts over the aching head.  

He tilts his head up, and breathes against Dean’s ear “Your cock is beautiful.”  He slips his free hand down the front of Dean’s shorts and cups his dick through the cotton.  It’s only half hard, but gets firmer against Castiel’s palm.  “You’re beautiful.  The panties are just frills.”

Dean relaxes into his touch.  “I thought maybe… it was just the panty kink that you were into, not-”

Castiel captures Dean’s lips with his own, cutting him off.  When he releases Dean from the kiss, he stares hard at him, willing him to believe every word he’s about to say as the absolute truth.  “I want you, Dean.  You could start wearing tighty-whities every day and I’d still want you.”

The hurt fades from Dean’s eyes and his teeth flash in a grin.  “Tighty-whities can be hot, too, y’know.”

If it was Dean wearing them?  Hell yes.  But right now he'd prefer to have Dean completely naked.  "We'll test that theory later."

Dean allows Castiel to finish stripping him down, and then they get into the shower together.  The water is shockingly cold at first until Dean fiddles with the controls.  

Castiel pulls Dean against him again, but just holds him.  They've both softened due to the cold splash, but Castiel isn't in a hurry to move things along yet so he doesn't mind.  This isn't just about sex, it's about intimacy.  Something he realizes now that he's had with Dean for a while, but didn't recognize how much he loved it until he lost it.

After a few moments of letting the water wash over them, Castiel pulls back and reaches for the bottle of shampoo.  He pours a little in his palm and sets the bottle aside, then lifts his hands to Dean's head and starts massaging the soap into his hair.  Dean makes a content sound and his eyes slip closed.  Castiel spends longer than necessary running his fingers over Dean's scalp and down the back of his neck, until Dean leans into him, relaxed and trusting.

xxx

Dean thinks he should probably be resisting.  As good as it felt to hear Castiel's apology, and to have him back again, there's still a tiny siren going off in the back of his brain.  But as Castiel works magic fingers through his hair, the volume goes down and instead all he hears is the susurration of water on skin and the sound of Castiel's breathing.

"Let's rinse this out," Castiel murmurs.  

With a nod, Dean allows Castiel to pull his head under the spray.  He keeps his eyes closed tight until Castiel moves him back and brushes the water clinging to his lashes away with gentle thumbs.

When he opens his eyes again, he watches Castiel.  His blue eyes are serious, his attention fully occupied with what he's doing, which is apparently washing Dean from head to toe.  He goes for the body wash, but forgoes a sponge, instead spreading soap over Dean's body with his bare hands.

They're warm against Dean's skin, gentle and thorough.  And his body responds, his muscles relaxing even as his dick starts to perk up.

Despite his arousal, he's in no hurry to get to the sex.  Not even when Castiel's hands come up the insides of his thighs and spread soap over his most intimate places.

He bites his lip when Castiel's fingers trail through his pubic hair.  He hasn't waxed since they broke up.  It didn't matter much since he hadn't been wearing panties.  "Sorry I'm not... I haven't really had time for grooming, you know?"

Castiel looks up at him curiously.  "What do you mean?"

"Haven't been waxing," Dean mutters, looking away.

"You mean this?"  Castiel's fingers cup Dean's balls, rolling them between his fingers in a way that makes Dean's breath hitch.  When Dean nods, he chuckles.  "I don't know, I kind of like it."

Dean's eyes snap back to Castiel's.  "Really?  But..."

Castiel's smile dims.  "Dean, I'm not attracted to you because you have a few feminine habits."  His fingers squeeze Dean's sack gently before sliding away and wrapping around his dick instead and giving it a slow stroke.  "You're very much a man in my eyes and that's part of why I want you."

Something in Dean's chest loosens.  He hadn't realized what he was worried about until Castiel said it out loud.  He doesn't want Castiel to feel like Dean is a substitute for some faceless woman who could give him that ideal apple pie life he said he wants.  

A smile tugs at his lips.  "Just part?"

He gasps when Castiel's fingers tighten.  

Castiel smirks.  "Well it's a very nice part."

Much to Dean's disappointment, Castiel releases him.  He grabs the handheld showerhead and very thoroughly rinses the soap from Dean's body.  When he's done, he goes for the soap again and starts washing himself, hair first.

"Hey, not fair," Dean protests, taking the bottle from him and soaping up his hands.  "I want a turn."

Castiel rinses his hair, then lets Dean explore without protest, and Dean revels in each hitch of his breath and tiny moan as he rediscovers all of Castiel's most sensitive places.  He plays lightly with Castiel's nipples, wanting to suck and bite at them, but refraining because a mouthful of soap would definitely ruin the mood.  He pulls Castiel flush against him, letting their dicks slide against each other while he uses the position to run his hands all over the planes of Castiel's back before moving them down to get a grip on his ass.  Or he tries to get a grip.  The soap makes Castiel's ass cheeks slide free of his of his grasp.  

But it sure is fun to keep trying.

His fingers dip into the cleft of Castiel's ass and press against his hole.  He doesn't try to go any further because getting soap inside him would be a very bad thing, but he plays with the furled skin and buries his face against Castiel's throat, biting at the tendons there.

“Dean?”

“Hm?”

“We should finish this in your bed.”

Dean runs his nose up the side of Castiel’s neck and nuzzles his ear.  “We’ll just get dirty and have to take another shower.”

“But it will be more comfortable.”

That is logic Dean can’t argue with.  He gives Castiel some space to rinse off, helping by spraying away suds with the handheld shower head.  He grins at Castiel’s quiet yelp when he runs the spray up between his ass cheeks.  

Someday he might get over teasing Castiel’s ass, but today is not that day.

After they finish rinsing and turn off the water, they hurry to dry themselves, watching each other from across the bathroom because if they do anything more than that, they’ll never make it to the bed.  Dean isn’t even completely dry when Castiel drops his towel to the floor - a bad habit that Dean hasn’t been able to break him of - and grabs Dean around the waist.  Dean manages to at least toss his towel in the vicinity of the clothes hamper, but then Castiel is dragging him into the bedroom and toward the bed.

A laugh bubbles up in his chest as they do a strange dance across the room.  And when Castiel shoves him down on the mattress, he grins up at him.  “Eager much?”

“Yes,” Castiel answers simply before following Dean onto the bed and straddling his hips.  He plants his hands to either side of Dean’s shoulders, caging him in with his body, and bends down to kiss him.

The kiss is filthy.  A combination of sucking and licking and biting that leaves Dean’s mind a whirlwind of yes more want please.  His hips buck up when Castiel shifts enough to slide their dicks together, and he wiggles a hand between them to grip their cocks together.  Skin drags a little roughly without the aid of soap or lube, but Dean doesn’t care.  He wants to rut against Castiel until they’re both a sticky mess.

He doesn’t get a chance though.  Suddenly Castiel is pulling away, leaving Dean chilled and confused until he sees that Castiel is digging through the drawer next to his bed.

“Oh hell yeah,” he groans when he sees Castiel pull out the lube and a strip of condoms.  “You gonna fuck me, Cas?”

Blue eyes, dark with lust and intent, spear Dean to the pillows.  “No.”

Well then what are the condoms for?

Someone’s getting fucked.

If it’s not me...

Waves of hot and cold rush through Dean’s body, trailing goosebumps in their wake.  “Cas… you don’t have to.”

Castiel pops open the bottle of lube and pours some over his fingertips, rubbing them together.  “I want this, Dean.”

So does Dean, but… “Cas, I don’t think…”

Castiel goes still.  “Do you not want to?”

Chewing at his bottom lip, Dean stares up at Castiel.  The joy that has filled him since Castiel admitted that he has feelings for Dean is being edged out by fear.  “Cas, the last time we did this, you uh-” his throat closes around the words and he clamps his teeth over his bottom lip again.

Castiel’s expression softens, and he leans down, bracing one hand on Dean’s chest.  When he’s close enough to brush noses with Dean, he whispers, “I won’t hurt you like that again.  Never again, Dean.”

Letting out a shuddering breath, Dean nods.  When Castiel kisses him, he whimpers into it, digging his fingers into Castiel’s hair and holding him in place.  He feels Castiel reach between his legs, and realizes that Castiel is fingering himself open, which is all kinds of hot, but is probably awkward in this position, so he lets Castiel go.

Castiel sits up and shifts his weight to one knee and lifts the other so that his foot is flat on the bed next to Dean’s hip.  Dean watches his middle finger dip into his hole, and wonders if it’s possible to come just from just watching someone finger fuck themselves.  

“Add another one, Cas,” Dean murmurs after a few minutes.  

Castiel does as he’s told, pulling his finger out then pressing back in with two.  

“Yeah, sweetheart, that’s it.”  When he realizes what he said, Dean’s eyes go wide and shoot up to Castiel’s.

He’s greeted by a beautiful smile.  Castiel’s eyes shine with joy, and something else that Dean doesn’t want to name but makes him feel all kinds of melty on the inside.  

Neither of them say anything for a long moment, but Castiel apparently decides that he’s ready because he slips his fingers free and drops back down so he’s on both knees again.  He reaches for a condom and rips it open with his teeth before tugging it out of the wrapper and sliding it down over Dean’s dick.

“Cas, are you sure you’re ready?”

“Absolutely.”

xxx

Probably not as prepped as he should be, but Castiel is done waiting.  Despite Dean’s arousal it’s obvious that he’s nervous, and Castiel doesn’t want to give him another chance to back out.  Castiel won’t continue without Dean’s consent, but he really hopes Dean doesn’t decide to say no.

Not only because Castiel aches with the need to be filled.  He also wants desperately to right a wrong that he committed.  

He slicks up Dean’s dick and then shuffles up on his knees so that he can line it up with his hole.  He’s done this before, with Meg and her rainbow strap-on, but it’s been a very long time.  It’s one thing to let someone shove something up his ass, but to do it himself from this angle is a little more challenging.

Dean is breathing hard, and his eyes are wide, and Castiel can see that he’s thinking of calling things off.  So as soon as he feels the head of Dean’s cock spreading his hole open, he sinks down on it.

They both groan as he’s breached.  Dean’s hands scrabble at Castiel’s thighs, as if he wants to pull him down faster and harder, but is holding himself back.  Which Castiel appreciates because he really is pushing is body a little faster than he should.  

But the stretching ache of being filled with Dean’s cock is also doing it for him.  A lot.  Especially when he shifts his hips in an attempt to get more inside him and Dean presses against his prostate.  

Dean’s hands tighten over his thighs when Castiel gasps.  “Cas?”

Castiel’s muscles loosen, and he sinks down until he’s sitting flush on Dean’s lap.  He looks down into wide green eyes, and smiles reassuringly.  “You feel really fucking good inside me, Dean.”

“Feels pretty damn good on this side of things, too.”  Dean’s fingers flex, and he licks his lips, but he holds perfectly still, waiting for Castiel to adjust.

When Castiel rolls his hips experimentally pleasure zings through him so he does it again.  Dean makes a beautiful sound, low in his throat, and Castiel rewards him by moving again.  This time Dean nudges his hips up, making Castiel gasp.

By silent agreement, they both start to move.  Castiel rocking down on Dean’s dick, and Dean thrusting gently to meet him.  Their movements are slow and deliberate, the journey to orgasm a leisurely one.  

Castiel watches the fear bleed out of Dean’s expression, and he wants to shout with triumph.  Instead he flexes his thighs - and oh boy, is he going to feel that in the morning - and lifts himself up several inches before dropping back down.

Fuck, Cas,” Dean hisses.

So Castiel does.  He speeds his movements, alternating rocking back and forth with fucking up and down until his thighs burn and his stomach muscles twitch with fatigue.  He rides Dean hard, driving them both closer and closer to the edge.

His fingers are still slick with lube when he grabs his cock and starts stroking.  Dean’s encouraging praise makes him smile and he strips his cock faster.  He’s so close-

With a gasp he’s coming, spilling over his fist and Dean’s belly.  The sight of it dripping across Dean’s sun-kissed skin makes his mouth water, and he wants to lick it all up.  But he’s not going to stop fucking himself on Dean yet.  Not until he comes as well.

Dean is guiding his hips, grinding up against him, biting his lip until it turns as white as his teeth.  But something is wrong.  Castiel can see a strain around his eyes, something dark and uncertain.

And he knows that Dean is still scared of this.  Scared of what happened the last time he was inside Castiel.

It makes Castiel’s heart break all over, and his vision blurs with tears that he blinks away quickly.  He bends his body down over Dean’s, but doesn’t stop rocking down on his dick.

“Dean, look at me.”

Green eyes come up to meet his, and Castiel cups his cheek with his clean hand.  “Come for me, Dean.”

“Cas… I-”

Castiel knocks their foreheads together gently.  “It’s okay, Dean.  I’m not going to hurt you again.”

Dean’s breath escapes him in a harsh sob, and his hands come up from Castiel’s hips and wrap around his shoulders instead.  They don’t stop moving against each other, but Castiel cradles Dean’s head against his neck and whispers against his ear.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you, Dean.  I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me.”

The litany goes on for a full minute as Dean fucks into him, deep and rough.  It would probably be easier if they flipped over, but Castiel blanket’s Dean’s body with his own and let’s him set the pace.  And then with one more lunge, Dean finally goes still, his dick twitching and throbbing inside Castiel.  

Dean’s breathing is hitching and gasping, and Castiel feels tears against his throat.  He lets his own tears spill over, and keeps telling Dean how sorry he is and promising over and over that he’ll stay with him this time.  Promises that he’ll stay as long as Dean will have him.

Eventually they both go quiet, and Castiel shifts his hips enough so that Dean’s softening dick slips out of him.  But they don’t move otherwise.  

The chill of the ceiling fan against Castiel’s back is a stark contrast to the heat of Dean’s body, and it makes him shiver.  That seems to trigger Dean to finally move.  He lets his head fall back on the mattress, and looks up at Castiel with damp and redenned eyes.

“Sorry,” he croaks with a self-deprecating smile.  “Crying during sex is not hot.”

Castiel plays with the hair at Dean’s temple.  “I don’t know, there’s probably someone out there that has a kink for it.”

Dean snorts a laugh, and even though his smile is a little wobbly, it’s wider and more genuine than before.  Then his expression smoothes out and becomes serious.  “So what now, Cas?”

“What do you want to happen now?” Castiel counters.

“I’m kind of hungry.”  Dean drags his fingers up and down Castiel’s spine.  “I was supposed to go fishing with my dad and grandpa today, but since I didn’t, I’ve got some sandwiches down in the fridge.”

Castiel frowns.  “You didn’t have to cancel your plans to help me.”

“Are you kidding?  I got one look at you in those shorts, and I wasn’t going anywhere.” Dean scowls at him, suddenly suspicious.  “You did that on purpose, didn’t you.”

“I didn’t actually.  But I think those are my new favorite shorts.”

Dean chuckles.  “Mine, too.”

“So,” Castiel prompts, “clean up, and then food?”

“Sounds like a good plan.”

It’s not exactly what Castiel meant when he asked what Dean wanted now, but it’s a good start.  With a groan at how tired his legs are from their activities, Castiel rolls off Dean.  He grumps at Dean for laughing at him, but it’s good natured.

They clean up in the bathroom, including picking up the towels and hanging them up - “like civilized folk, Cas” - and putting their clothes in the hamper.  Castiel borrows some of Dean’s clothes until he can go home and get some clean ones of his own, and he smiles when Dean pulls on a simple pair of blue cotton boyshorts.  He also graciously ignores Dean’s blushing and bashful looks as he finishes dressing.

They’re about to go downstairs when Dean’s phone rings.  He pulls the smartphone out and his face lights up when he looks at the screen.  With a tap, he answers it and puts it up to his ear.  “Hey, mom.”

Castiel waits patiently while Dean nods and hums agreement to whatever his mother is saying.  

“Yeah, maybe.  Can you hold on a sec?” Dean puts a hand over the phone and looks up at Castiel.  “Hey, uh… how would you feel about dinner at my parents’ place instead?”

Castiel’s heart kicks up its pace.  He’s knows some of Dean’s family, but has never met his parents.  And the fact that Dean is inviting him over now, after everything Castiel put him through over the past few weeks means that Dean really, truly intends to give him the second chance he asked for.

“I’d like that,” Castiel murmurs.

Dean’s smile is shy, but so happy that Castiel can’t help but smile in return.  He uncovers the phone.  “Mom?  Can I bring someone over?” He pauses for her to respond, then “yeah, he’s my-”

When Dean looks to him, Castiel mouths ‘boyfriend’.

Now Dean’s smile could give the sun a run for its money.  “-my boyfriend.”

He laughs at whatever she has to say on the other end.  Castiel can’t make out the words, but he can hear her excitement coming from the speaker.  “Alright, mom, we’ll be over in half an hour or so.”  After he says goodbye and hangs up, he turns his sunbeam smile back on Castiel.  “I hope you like trout.  Apparently Dad and Uncle Bobby brought home quite the haul.  More than the legal limit, according to my mom.”

“I love trout.” Castiel closes the space between them and hooks his arms around Dean’s neck and pulls him down into a kiss.  When they separate, he catches Dean’s eyes with his own.  “I love you.”

Dean goes still, his eyes widening.  “Cas… you don’t have to-”

“Dean,” Castiel cuts in, “I love you.  And I’m telling you now, outside of the heat of the moment, because it’s important that you understand that I’m serious.”

For several heartbeats Dean stares at him, searching for the truth in his words.  He must find it because he melts forward into Castiel, hugging him tightly.  “Oh god, Cas.  I love you too.”

They hold each other tight for several minutes.  Then Dean breaks the silence.  “I hope there’s enough fish to bring some home for Ford and Hamill.”

“And Fisher,” Castiel adds.

Dean’s body shakes with laughter against his.  “Yeah, and Fisher.”  He lifts his head.  “You ready to go?”

Castiel pulls away and looks down at himself.  Dean’s jeans are a little loose on him, but the t-shirt fits okay.  It’s stained with paint, and the jeans have holes at the knees though.  “Should I change first?”

“Naw.  They’ll be impressed enough when I introduce you as Doctor Novak.”  Dean hooks an arm around his shoulders and starts leading him out of the room and down the stairs.  “Damn, I’m dating a doctor.  That’s hot.”

“I’m a veterinarian,” Castiel points out. “Just to be clear.”

“Even better.”  Dean winks at him, and Castiel’s heart melts.  “You cure sick puppies and kittens.  I’m pretty sure I have the best boyfriend ever.”

“I don’t know, I think the fact mine can build houses is pretty damn amazing,” Castiel argues.

“Yeah, but mine can cook.”

“Mine has a really nice car.”

Dean tsks.  “Okay, you’ve got me beat there.”

At the bottom of the stairs Dean stops and pulls him into another long hug.  Neither of them say anything, because they don’t need to.  There’s love and forgiveness in the embrace.  And the promise for more happiness to come.  

“I’m driving,” Dean announces when he pulls away.  “We’re taking my Baby.”

Castiel grins.  Like he’s going to argue about going for a ride in that car.  “I call shotgun.”

Dean snorts a laugh, and drags him towards the garage.

Chapter Text

A little over two years later...

 

Cursing under his breath, Dean flexes his thighs and braces himself against the stubborn piece of furniture trying to crush him.  

"You got it?"  Cesar calls from the steps above him.

Maybe?  Dean adjusts his grip.  "Yep, got it.  Go ahead."

The other man grunts and Dean feels the weight shift.  And then he's able to follow it up the last few steps.  The rest of the trip to Castiel's old bedroom is easy once they're at the top.  Dean and Cesar maneuver the armoire down the hall and through the door.  

"That thing is much heavier than it looks," Cesar comments once the new piece of furniture is settled against the wall opposite the bed he and his husband set under the windows.

"It's real wood," Dean responds through his laboured breathing.  "I don't work with that particle board shit."

Looking around the room makes Dean smile.  He hasn't been in it since he helped Castiel move his stuff out, and it's interesting to see how Cesar and Jesse have put their personal touch on the space.  The curtains are pulled to the side to reveal blinds covering the windows, and there's lovely art decorating the walls that Castiel had left bare the entire time he owned the house.  Obviously the furniture is different, more sleek and definitely store bought, and shabby looking next to the armoire the couple commissioned Dean to build for them when the doors fell off the cheap Ikea junk they'd been using before.

The pieces of that armoire were currently in the back of Dean's truck, waiting for disposal.  He's pretty sure that the rest of the bedroom set he's looking at will end up with the same fate if the way Cesar is running his palm over the carved patterns of the new armoire is any indication.  

"It's beautiful," Cesar says.  "Truly a piece of art."

Dean blushes and stammers out a thank you.  It's not the most complicated thing he's ever made, but Castiel has told him a million times that he needs to accept the compliments he receives because no one else sees the flaws that bug him.  It's not always easy, which is why he's glad he sells most of his work online where he can just ignore the reviews.

"I'm glad you like it, man."

Cesar smiles at him, amused because he can sense Dean's discomfort.  He doesn't call him out though, or draw out dean's suffering by continuing to gush about it.  Which is why he's awesome.

"Anyway, I gotta get out of here," Dean says briskly, clapping his hands together lightly.  "You gonna be there tonight?"

Cesar nods.  "We'll be there as soon as Jesse gets home from work."

"Awesome!  I'll see you guys later then.  Bring your appetites and your dancing shoes."  

That makes Cesar laugh.  "Of course.  And in case I don't get a chance to tell you later, congratulations."

Warmth suffuses Dean's whole body, and his grin makes his cheeks ache.  "Thanks."

Cesar walks him out, and they say brief goodbyes since they'll be seeing each other later in the day.  Dean glances at his watch, and is pleased to see he still has plenty of time to get back to the shop with his haul and swap vehicles.  He left Baby there, and he'd prefer to bring her home for the weekend.

He's almost to his truck when a commotion across the street gets his attention.  He looks up to see the door swing open and a spritely redhead in a vintage Super Mario Brothers t-shirt and rainbow tie dyed shorts bound out and across the street toward him.

"What are you doing here?"  Charlie demands before she even reaches him.  She flings her arms around his waist for a hug, which he gladly returns.  Then she glares up at him in stern disapproval.  "You better not be late or Cas will have your hide."

He almost wishes he hadn't introduced her to Castiel.  Okay that's a lie; he doesn't regret it at all.  Charlie started out as the geeky chick that Dean hired to build a website for his budding furniture company after Henry retired and left Dean his workshop, but within days of knowing her she became one of his best friends, and now she's practically family.  But she sides with Castiel on the stupidest shit.

He narrows his eyes at her.  "Don't make me evict you."

She doesn't back down, which is a large portion of her charm.  "I bought that house fair and square.  You're not my landlord anymore."

He sighs with mock frustration.  "Dammit, you got me there."

He glances up at the old homestead.  When Charlie started renting it Dean had given her permission to change some things, but she didn't start adding personal touches until after she bought it.  The door and shutters have been repainted a bright green, which he thought would clash with the red brick but actually looks really cute, and all the bushes in the yard have been torn out and replaced with flower beds.  Wind chimes of differing sizes and materials hang from several eaves, and the yard has at least six bird feeders set up, some for hummingbirds, and some with traditional seeds.

It no longer looks like home, but he still feels a pang of nostalgia.  Lots of happy memories there.

“Why are you even working today?” Charlie asks, bringing his attention back to her.

“I’m not working,” he grumbles.  “I’m just delivering something.”

“Sounds like work to me.”

He snorts.  “That’s because you get paid to sit around in your pajamas and play on your computer.”

She lifts an eyebrow at him.  “Did you get up early and go into the shop?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t even- I mean, I had to check the finish on that table that I- and, you know what it’s none of your business.”  He crosses his arms over his chest and gives her a dark look.

It doesn’t matter, she knows she’s won.  She sighs at him, but her eyes sparkle with amusement.  “You are a workaholic, Dean.”

“It’s a hobby, Charlie.”

“Right.”

“I can disinvite you.”

The threat doesn’t faze her in the slightest.  “I’m Castiel’s guest, not yours.”  She pokes him in the chest with a finger.  “Go home and get ready, already!”

That was the plan until she delayed him, but he’s not going to give her the satisfaction of knowing that.  She’s not the boss of him.  “It doesn’t even matter, Amelia and my mom are handling most of the preparation.”

“Well just don’t be late, okay?”  She wriggles under his arms for another hug, and then flounces back across the street, calling over her shoulder “catch you later, jerk!”

He grins.  Apparently Charlie has been hanging out with Sam lately.

Another glance at his watch tells him he better hightail it out of there, or Charlie will really have a reason to lecture him later.  He gets in his truck, and turns it toward the shop.

Xxx

“What the hell are you doing here?”

Castiel looks up from the Shar Pei he’s examining to see Sam leaning in the door.  He lifts an eyebrow at the taller man.  “I could ask you the same thing.  Isn’t it supposed to be your day off?”

“I’m covering for Pam for a few hours.”  Sam comes in the room and shuts the door behind him.  “But it’s your special day, not mine.  And you’re definitely not on the schedule.  You should be home getting ready.”

Castiel sighs and turns back to the dog.  The poor thing has a yeast infection in both ears and the owner didn’t realize it for a long time.  “Dean and I were kicked out of the house and told to stay out of the way,” he explains as he lifts the dog’s ear again and starts swabbing gently at the puffy skin.  “I’m almost afraid of what your mother and my sister are doing alone in there.”

“Whipping up a fantastic party,” Sam says with a grin.  When the Shar Pei tries to struggle against Castiel, he comes over to help hold her.  “I’m pretty excited for it actually.”

Giddiness makes Castiel’s heart pound a little harder and he grins.  “Me too.”

“So why are you here instead of spending the day with Dean?”  

“He had something he wanted to take care of at the shop, and I wanted to come in and check on a few of the overnight patients.”  He thinks he’s gotten the dog’s ears as clean as he can.  At this point he just needs to apply some ointments and try not to snap at her owners for ignoring the signs that she was in pain.  “And Hael asked me to take care of a walk-in case.”

Sam glances up at the clock on the wall.  “How long have you been here?”

Castiel shifts his weight from foot to foot and avoids Sam’s eyes.  “A few hours.”

“Uh huh.  How many walk ins have you done so far?”

“All of them.”

“Castiel!” Sam laughs.  “Get out of here!  Go home and get ready!”

“Alright, alright.”  Castiel rubs the Shar Pei’s neck gently, avoiding her ears.  “I’ll finish up with Karma here, and then I’ll go home.”

Sam nods decisively.  “Good.”

By the time Castiel gives Karma her medications and talks with the owners about how to care for her ears properly, it’s nearly noon and the clinic is winding down for the day since it closes early on Saturday.  And Castiel is going to be very late if he doesn’t get out of there right now.  Guests are supposed to start showing up in a little over an hour.

He hurries home, and isn’t surprised to see more cars parked in front of his house than were there when he left.  Luckily no one is blocking the driveway, so he pulls into the garage.  The Impala’s space is empty, and he has a sudden pang of worry that Dean isn’t going to be there in time.  He taps out a message on his phone before he gets out of the car.

Me:  If you’re late your mother will kill you and I won’t try to stop her.

Without waiting for a response, he hurries inside.  The garage door leads into the kitchen, and he walks into what seems to him like chaos.

Mary and Amelia are at the kitchen island that Dean built.  Amelia is filling dishes with chopped vegetables, while Mary is making deviled eggs.  Krissy and an unfamiliar teenage boy are at the sink washing dishes, and Claire is taking something out of the oven.  

It’s the middle of summer, and he has no idea what made them think it was okay to bake something.  Luckily the shiney new air conditioning unit Dean had installed when they bought this house seems to be doing a good job of running the central air and keeping the place cool.  

The commotion doesn’t even pause when he walks in the door, although Claire whips around and yells “don’t let Hamill out!”

Castiel hurries to close the garage door.  Even though the cat would still technically be in the house, there’s things that could potentially hurt him and Dean and Castiel are very careful not to let him escape out there.  

“You’re supposed to leave the cats in the bedroom,” he points out as he crosses the kitchen.  He kisses Mary on the cheek and let’s Amelia give him a one-armed hug.  

Claire sets the pan of what looks like stuffed mushrooms on the stove - it’s the one he bought for his old house, but they brought here when they moved in - and turns to fling her arms around his neck in a hug.  She’s barely fourteen, and she already comes up to his chin, and when did she get so big all of a sudden?  

“I know,” she says when she lets him go.  “But they sounded so sad I had to let them out.”

“What about your allergies?” he reminds her.

“Benadryl is awesome,” she says with a grin.

“Well just make sure you change your clothes and shower when you get home tonight so you don’t end up all itchy and swollen in the morning.”

Claire rolls her eyes.  “Sure, dad, whatever.”

“Wait,” the unfamiliar boy says in a loud whisper to Krissy, “I thought her dad was out back setting up the tables and chairs?”

Everyone laughs, and the boy turns beet red, unsure of what the joke is exactly.  Krissy introduces him as Aiden, her friend from school, and then wrinkles her nose at Castiel.  “You smell like wet dog, Cas.”

He looks down at his scrubs, which are not stained, but he has definitely held enough animals that day that he’s sure he probably does smell.  Plus there’s fur all over the dark green fabric.  It’s a good thing Claire took her benadryl before she hugged him, or she’d be sneezing up a storm.  “I guess I’d better go shower and get ready then.”

“Wear something nice!” Amelia calls after him.  “It’s a special day!”

Xxx

Castiel’s car is already in the garage when Dean gets home, and even though he hates that ugly thing, a grin lights up his face when he sees it.  He hurries out of the Impala and into the house.  Unlike Castiel, Dean doesn’t really think his mother will kill him for being late, but he hurried home as soon as he got the text from Cas, just in case.

His grin widens when he sees the women working in the kitchen, but it immediately fades when his eyes land on the unknown boy standing far too close to Krissy.  “Who the hell are you?” he snaps, getting everyone’s attention.

“Shut the door!” Claire cries.  

The jingle of the bell on Hamill’s collar snaps Dean out of his focus on the boy, and he shuts the garage door.  Hamill trots into the kitchen and immediately comes to Dean and starts rubbing around his ankles in figure eights.  Dean pick him up and hugs him until he squeaks.  “Hey, mister, shouldn’t you be locked up somewhere safe?”

“Claire let him out because he was whining,” Amelia explains.  “Ford and Fisher are around here somewhere too.”

“I suppose we can let them stay out a little longer,” Dean says.  “But when people start showing up, we’ve gotta put them in their room again so they don’t sneak out.”

It’s just a spare room, but Dean filled it with a bunch of randomly shaped cat trees he built himself, and ratty little cloth mice, and catnip toys.  Really, it’s become the cats’ room, but both he and Castiel refuse to admit it.

Still holding a purring Hamill in the crook of his elbow, Dean makes his way around the kitchen, kissing cheeks and giving one armed hugs.  He stops before Krissy who is glaring at him in a way he knows means please don’t embarrass me, but too bad for her because she’s family.  His Little Sister, even though she hasn’t been in the program for a few years now, and she’s also a legal adult.  But he’s claimed her as his own.

Which means this little shithead with her better not get any ideas.

“So,” he says flatly as he looks the boy over.  “You’re new around here.”

“Dean, this is my friend Aiden.”  There’s warning in Krissy’s voice.

Of course he ignores it.  “Aiden, huh?  Just a friend?”

The boy turns beet red, and stammers over an answer, and Dean knows without a doubt that this boy likes Krissy as way more than a friend.  He feels a tinge of empathy for him, and even though he only wants what’s best for Krissy, he also hopes she doesn’t stomp Aiden’s heart if he’s not what she wants.  But that doesn’t stop him from being the obnoxious older brother Krissy never wanted.  

Hooking an arm around Aiden’s shoulders, he guides him away from the women.  “C’mon, Aiden, we need to have a talk.”

“Dean!” Krissy shouts after him as he drags the boy from the kitchen to the family room.

He pretends not to hear her.  

Aiden looks sufficiently terrified once they’re alone, and Dean smirks at him.  From where he’s standing he can see Krissy straining to see them from the kitchen without leaving her spot next to the sink.  She’s got a washcloth in one hand and a plastic mixing bowl in the other, but she’s not actually doing anything with them.

I’m such an asshole.

But man, this is so damn fun.

“Alright, Aiden, there’s a few things you gotta know.”

Aiden swallows, but doesn’t interrupt.

Holding a purring cat in one arm probably ruins his badass image, but Dean puts on a scowl anyway and holds up a finger a few inches from Aiden’s nose.  “One.  No, means no.”

“Sir, I-”

Oooh, Aiden is already calling him ‘sir’.  Nice.  “Two.  Maybe means no until you get a definite yes.”

“But we’re not even-”

“Three.  If you ever hurt her-”

Apparently deciding that he does actually have a little bit of a backbone, Aiden cuts in.  “Yeah, yeah, I get it.  If I hurt her, you’ll hurt me.”

This kid might actually have a chance with Krissy if he can stand up to Dean like that.  Even if he does look a little green around the gills for having done so.  He’s got potential anyway, and that’s all that matters.  Dean smiles, but it’s not very friendly.  “I won’t have to.” He points to the kitchen where Krissy is still watching them.  “She’ll do it.”

Aiden follows his finger, and swallows nervously.  Then he nods.

“Good.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way,” Dean slaps Aiden on the shoulder.  “Welcome to my home, and stay out of the booze.”

He nudges Aiden until he heads back for the kitchen.

“Wow, that was impressive.  I’m going to have to remember that performance for when Claire starts dating.”

Dean turns and grins at Jimmy.  “Hey, Not-Cas, I didn’t see you there.  How are you doing, buddy?”  He frowns when he notices that Jimmy is lounging on the couch with a book open on his lap.  Fisher is curled against his thigh, blinking up at Dean.  “How the hell did you get out of helping out?”

“Same way you did.  They told me to stay the hell out of their way.  Although I did set up the tables outside.”  Jimmy holds up the book.  “Then I raided Cassie’s collection and have been hiding in here in case they change their mind.”

“And Aiden couldn’t get out of kitchen duty?”  Dean turns a sympathetic look towards the other room.  “Dude, poor kid.”

“He seems happy to be within three feet of Krissy, so I’m sure he doesn’t mind.”

Dean snorts a laugh.  “You’re probably right.”  He turns back to Jimmy.  “Hey, where’s your brother?”

“He went to take a shower.”  Something in Dean’s expression makes Jimmy laugh.  He waves a hand at Dean.  “Go be gross, but remember that you have guests arriving soon.”

“It’s not gross,” Dean says even as he heads for the hallway leading back to the bedrooms.  “It’s beautiful and amazing and you should try it someday.”

“He’s my brother, and also I’m happily married, you heathen!”

Dean laughs all the way to his room.  When he opens the door, he finds Ford sleeping in the middle of his bed.  He wakes up, and immediately gets up to greet Dean, pausing at the edge of the bed to stretch before dropping lightly to the floor and giving him the same ankle-hugging-figure-eights that Hamill had.  Dean picks him up, and nuzzles him, but then deposits both cats on the bed.  

The sound of running water pulls him toward the en suite bathroom that he and Castiel had spent two weeks putting together.  The house had been a complete shithole when they bought it, and the first thing they’d done was overhaul the master bedroom and bathroom.  Then they’d moved in and remodeled the rest of the house in their free time.  The basement was still unfinished, but the upstairs looked like something out of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  

The bathroom is even nicer than the one in Dean’s old house.  It’s almost the size of a small bedroom, with a huge framed mirror hanging on the wall above a double sink, a whirlpool tub taking up one corner, and a walk in shower the other.  The shower has bench seats, like the old one did, but it only has two showerheads instead of four.  They’d decided to make the shower slightly smaller since the tub takes up so much space, and they still had to fit a functioning toilet in there somewhere.

Considering all the sex they had in that tub, it was a good compromise.

Castiel is currently in the shower.  The glass door isn’t frosted, but it is fogged up so Dean can’t see him very well.  Mostly he can make out a dark man-shaped figure against the pale tile background.  As much as Dean claims to dislike plain white tiles, he keeps using them for his own bathroom, but he makes up for it by adding patterns in the tile layouts.  

Not that he cares about how pretty the tile is when he opens the shower door and sees Castiel in all his naked glory.  

Castiel turns to him, blinking water out of his eyes and looking like a startled - and wet - cat.  Then a grin stretches his lips and wrinkles his nose.  “Dean, you’re home.”

“So are you,” Dean quips.  

Fantastic comeback.  

Genuis.

Castiel totally loves you for your brain.

“Get naked and get in here.”

If Castiel doesn’t love him for his sparkling wit, he at least loves Dean for his ability to follow a direct order.  Dean immediately starts stripping.  Once he’s naked, he steps into the shower and crowds Castiel against the wall, greeting him with a deep kiss that leaves them both gasping when he lifts his head.  

Castiel is grinning again.  “Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, sweetheart.  Missed you.”

Castiel runs wet fingers up into Dean’s hair, getting a grip and gently tilting his head back into the spray of water.  “It’s only been a few hours.”

“I know, but it’s our day.  We probably shouldn’t have gone to work.”  He moans a little when Castiel starts massaging his scalp.

“You were itching to get that armoire delivered.  And I wasn’t going to be able to relax until I checked on Kinley’s progress.”  Kinley being a tabby cat suffering from renal failure that had spent the last few nights in the clinic.  Castiel sometimes gets a little too emotionally involved with his patients, but Dean admires that about him.  Loves that about him.

Castiel presses a kiss against Dean’s throat, nibbling at his adam’s apple.  “And now we’re together.”

“With a house full of guests,” Dean counters.

Not nearly as full as it’s going to be.  Everyone they know is going to be there, which is why Mary and Amelia have been working their asses off in the kitchens all day.  Dean feels guilty for not helping, especially since the party is for him and Cas.  But his mother’s argument was that is exactly why he shouldn’t help.  And besides, Ellen and Jo were also bringing quite a bit of food and refreshments from the Roadhouse later, and Jody was planning on bringing desert from that bakery near the clinic that Sam and Castiel were always raving about.

If anyone left this party hungry it would be their own damn fault.

“Not quite full yet,” Castiel says low and gruff against Dean’s throat.  He lays a path of suckling kisses down the side of Dean’s neck to his shoulder where he bites softly.  “We’ve got a little time before anyone comes looking for us.”

Well then.

“What are we gonna do with that time, Cas?”

Castiel lifts his head and stares at Dean consideringly.  “We probably don’t have enough time for you to fuck me, do we?”

Oh man, Dean would love to make the time.  But - “Even if we did, you get pretty loud and there are impressionable youngsters in the house.”

After a brief grimace of disappointment, Castiel laughs.  “You met Aiden.”

“Punk kid,” Dean growls.

Castiel laughs harder, and when he calms down he smiles fondly at Dean and runs a thumb across his jaw.  “You’re going to make a wonderful father.”

“Dude, our kids are going to be so messed up.  Two dads, and Meg for a mom?” Dean snorts.  “Talk about a recipe for disaster.”  He yelps when Castiel pinches his earlobe and tugs sharply.  “I’m kidding, I’m kidding!  Our children will be spoiled rotten precious little angels.”

“I am going to sic Meg on you.” Laughter ruins Castiel’s warning.

“Wait until we find out if the turkey baster worked,” Dean says, more serious than his words imply.  “Stressing her out could make it hard for her to conceive.”

They’ve all joked for years about a possible threesome, and it was brought up again when Meg offered to be their surrogate.  But it hasn’t happened yet.  Meg says their sappy heart eyes ruin the mood for her.  Dean just thinks they’re all too chickenshit to try it, and if they all get enough alcohol or pot in their systems at the same time, it’ll happen.  

But not while she’s trying to have my baby.

Wow, that’s a weird sentence to think with my own brain.

Castiel leans in to kiss him again.  “I’m so excited.”

Dean nibbles at Castiel’s bottom lip.  “Me too,” he murmurs when he let’s it slip free of his teeth.

“I can tell.”  Castiel nudges their hips together.  Dean has been half hard since he got in the shower.

“That’s all for you, sweetheart.”

Castiel’s bright blue eyes go dark with lust.  “I think I’m the one who’s spoiled.”  He drops one of his hands from Dean’s hair, and wraps it around his dick instead.  “I want this inside me tonight.”

“You got it,” Dean promises, even as he thrusts into Castiel’s fist.

They trade hurried handjobs, aware that they’ve already been sequestered away long enough to make their guests wonder where they are.  Then they get out and dry off.  

Castiel flicks the ring hanging from the chain around Dean’s neck before they start getting dressed.  “You should put that back on now that you’re not around the heavy machinery.”

Without argument, Dean unlatches the chain and slides the simple gold ring free.  He puts the ring on, and then fastens the chain around his neck again.  When Castiel catches his hand and kisses his ring finger, Dean’s heart melts.  He pulls Castiel into his arms and kisses him chastely but with all the love he has in him.  He reaches down and entwines his fingers with Castiel’s left hand, and rubs his thumb over the matching ring there.

“I love you,” he murmurs against Castiel’s lips.

“I love you, too.”

One more kiss, and then they separate and get dressed.

Castiel leaves the room first, carrying Ford and Hamill with the intention of putting them back in “their” room.  Dean starts to follow him, then stops and turns back to the armoire they’d pulled their clothes from.  Castiel always forgets to shut the doors, which used to drive Dean nuts, but now he’s resigned to doing it for him.  He shuts the armoire and runs his palm over the floral pattern he’d inlaid in the wood way back when he and Castiel were still just friends with benefits.

He’d thought the doors were gone forever, but Henry had found them in the dumpster and kept them.  Dean eventually rebuilt the armoire and gifted it to Castiel as a housewarming gift when they moved into their new house.  

That was the night Castiel proposed to Dean.  

He has a bit of a soft spot for the big chunk of wood now.

Dean blinks away the memories and follows in Castiel’s footsteps.  He enters the family room to find Jimmy has been joined by Meg on the couch.  Castiel is sitting on the other side of her, holding Fisher, and she looks pretty smug sitting between the two hot-ass twins.  

Meg jumps up to hug him when she sees him, and halfway through the greeting there’s a knock on the door.  Jimmy answers it while Castiel takes Fisher to the cat room to join her brothers.

A steady stream of people arrive, including Benny and Andrea and their daughter Chloe.  Charlie shows up with Cesar and Jesse - apparently they carpooled - and immediately heads over to chat with Meg.  Sam and Jody show up, and Ash comes with Ellen and Jo.  Uncle Bobby appears out of nowhere with a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label from his buddy Rufus who refuses to come to such a huge shindig.

Eventually Dean loses track of people arriving, and he starts seeing them in various places in the house and the backyard which has been filled with tables and chairs.  He sees his dad and grandpa Henry and Cain talking at one point, and goes over to say hello.  Later he spends half an hour listening to Hael go on and on about her landscape paintings that she’s been trying to sell.  He introduces her to Charlie, because that girl definitely needs a website if she wants to sell her stuff.

Pamela surprises him with a hug from behind, and surprises him again later when he sees her sitting in Aaron’s lap.  He thinks about warning her that Aaron is totally gay, but figures she’s a big girl and will figure it out eventually.  Either that or Aaron will figure out that he’s a little bit straight and have a really fantastic time of it, too.  

His house and his yard are a chaotic whirlwind of family and friends, laughter and friendly shouting matches.  And when it gets dark, Sam helps him set up a sheet over a frame made of PVC pipe to make a screen and they bring out the karaoke machine and the projector.  There’s no stage, just a patch of grass free of chairs and people, but it’s enough space to set up some speakers and a microphone.

Sam is the first one to test it.  “Hey, everyone, thank you for coming!”

There’s a chorus of shouts and cheers.  

“So we’re setting up the karaoke machine.  Sign up slips are over there,and you all know The Rule.” He laughs at everyone’s groans, and gestures to a folding card table that’s been set up near the “stage”.  “Before we get started though, let’s give a warm thank you to our hosts, Dean and Cas!”

Dean and Castiel are standing off to the side, hand in hand.  When the cheering crescendos, Dean’s cheeks flush, but they also ache from how hard he’s grinning.  He casts a glance at Castiel and sees that he’s smiling to match.  Castiel squeezes his hand, and Dean wonders how he got so lucky.

“Happy anniversary, guys!” Sam calls into the microphone.  

The crowd of their friends and family starts echoing the sentiment.  Shout’s of Happy Anniversary and Here’s to many more! fill the air.

Castiel leans in to kiss him, which leads to hoots and hollers, and Dean’s pretty sure he hears Krissy groan.  When they separate, Castiel says just loud enough for Dean to hear “One year down, and the rest of our lives to go.”

Dean pulls him back into a kiss.  It goes on so long that Sam decides to ignore them, and call up the first singer of the evening.  

Mr. and Mr. Winchester-Novak (“Novak comes first in the alphabet, Dean” - “Age before beauty, Cas” - “Good point” - “Hey!”) use the distraction to find a dark corner to make out in for the first five songs.  They don’t come out until Sam calls their name and announces their song.  

“Come on you guys, get up here!”

Dean looks up at the screen and grins.  

Castiel groans.  “That stupid rule.”  

“Best rule, ever.”  Dean grabs his hand and drags him to the makeshift stage.  He grabs the microphone, and when the lyrics pop up on the screen, he starts to sing.

Now I’ve… had the time of my life….