“What are you laughing about?” Cas’ voice asked, much closer than Dean expected. Dean’s eyes fluttered open as he realized the suspiciously firm surface under his cheek was not his pillow but, in fact, Castiel’s thigh, swathed in a pair of Dean’s old sweatpants. He hadn’t thought he’d chuckled aloud.
“Nothin’, angel pie,” he slurred, curling further into Cas’ lap and wrapping an arm around the closest knee. He wondered how long Cas had been sitting up against the headboard, letting Dean sleep practically in his crotch. Ah, well. Happy accident.
“I’ve never heard of angel pie,” Cas mused. “Angel food cake, yes, but not pie. What is it?”
“You. It’s you.”
“But if there is no such thing—”
“I’ll invent some, okay? Something with… blueberries. And whipped cream. Right after I learn to bake.”
TWO YEARS LATER:
Pie dough, as it turned out, was a real bitch to make.
Dean had never given a second thought to the evenly crimped crusts ringing all those showcase diner pies. He’d asked no questions. He’d just scarfed them down—cherry, pecan, peach, what-have-you. But now, disillusioned by experience, he realized the greasy spoons of America likely used frozen pre-formed crust to achieve their cookie-cutter results. Because real pie was kicking his amateur ass.
The first several times he’d overworked the dough. It had come out leathery and dense, the filling the only part worth eating. Dean had picked at these failures in sullen solitude, having intentionally waited for an empty bunker to start his experiment. He didn’t need Sam looking over his shoulder or Gabriel trying to cheat some obscene masterpiece into his dented yard sale pie plate the moment his back was turned. They ate so damn well with Gabe around that sometimes nothing tasted special anymore. And Dean wanted this to be special.
He’d used canned pumpkin and some cheap bags of apples for those first attempts. No sense in going all out before he knew what the hell he was doing, after all. But he’d finally churned out a pretty fine result late one night when Sam, Gabe, and Cas had all gone catatonic watching Netflix. So, three weeks later when he passed a roadside farm stand advertising fresh berries, he’d felt justified in pulling over.
By some miracle, Dean encountered no resistance as he smuggled two cartons of blueberries and a third of blackberries into the kitchen under his arm. They’d marinated in the Kansas summer sun for half the afternoon and a dark, tangy scent rose from their unwashed skins. Another twenty-four hours and they’d be overripe. In short, Dean was throwing down this pie today.
The dough cooperated, and he was just draping it off the rolling pin into the plate when potential disaster struck.
“What’s cookin’, funny-lookin’?”
Dean thumped the rolling pin down on the counter, taking three deep breaths before trusting himself to answer. “Gabe, can you not be in here right now?”
“Aw, right in the feels. You wound me, Deano.” Gabriel crossed the kitchen to plant one hip against the counter, arms folded. His thin lips curled in a sporting, fox-like smile before he plucked a dusky berry from the colander in the sink and tossed it aloft to catch it in his mouth. “Mm, tart little suckers, aren’t they? How much sugar you figuring on adding?”
“It’s not for you.”
“Pssh. Cas won’t have but a piece and even you can’t eat the other seven-eighths of a pie in one sitting.”
“Never said it was for Cas,” Dean grunted, moving away to grab the flour.
“But it is,” Gabe chirped dismissively. “And on such an auspicious day, too!”
“What d’you mean ‘auspicious’?”
“‘Well-timed,’ ‘promising,’ ‘favorable’—”
“I know what the word means, you ass. I’m asking why you’re saying it.”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” Gabe teased, ticking one finger back and forth in a scolding motion as he backed out of the room. “Carry on, Martha Stewart!”
Dean waited for the seemingly inevitable consequences of Gabriel discovering his project, but they never came. Not when he added the lemon butter crumble to the top of the black-and-blueberry mix, not while the pie worked up to a heavenly scent in the bunker’s mammoth old oven, not even when he set it out to cool. The filling bubbled around the edges, looking better than he ever could’ve hoped. Dean’s mouth watered.
Fetching his phone from his hip pocket, he shot Cas a text.
Got something to show you, meet me on the pier?
A minute later it vibrated on the table.
I have something to share with you too. See you there.
Huh. Not the response he’d expected, but Dean gave a mental shrug and chocked it up to Cas’ current bout of research with Sam. A series of incomprehensible scrolls had been turning up in the hands of slaughtered demons all spring, and Castiel had more patience for symbolism and translation than Dean or Gabriel (who tended to know either everything or nothing about any given situation but rarely showed a great deal of interest either way until it directly threatened Sam). Dean figured they’d probably made some breakthrough.
When the WPA had built the power plant under which the Men of Letters had commissioned space for their state-of-the-art hideaway, they’d wisely chosen a riverbank. From 1935 to 1966, thousands of barges of coal had had the advantage of arriving directly at the plant’s dock—a structure which endured into the 21st century with more or less integrity.
It had taken Sam a good month of sniffing in and around their new home to determine how the abandoned facility still appeared to generate power for the bunker. Turned out the forward-thinking (and deeply paranoid) Men of Letters had preferred the nearly timeless viability of their own hydroelectricity to the vagaries of fossil fuel. For his part, Dean didn’t much care. He’d been perfectly content to credit magic for the gift of a hot shower.
What those Men of Letters eggheads might’ve considered were some damn stairs, Dean grumbled to himself as he struggled up the heavily wooded embankment that separated the road—and the bunker’s steel door—from the pier. Sure, they had probably seen no reason to venture topside where the workers who had then still populated the plant and dock would’ve had a chance to start asking questions… but that did nothing to ease the frustration of climbing a root-infested hill with his arms precariously full of pie, forks, and whipped cream.
Squishing through a final stretch of mud, Dean stepped onto the splintered wood of the pier and headed toward the most intact of its concrete pilings.
The river lapped slow and gray-green against the fractured old dock, the opposite shore near enough to cast wavering shadows nearly across its span. But plenty of daylight still spattered over the scene, the evenings stretching long this time of year. Nearby, bees made the small blossoms of weeds and wildflowers nod under their weight and a scruffy heron stood still as a royal guard in the shallows. It reminded Dean just a little of Elk Lake.
He spread out the still softly steaming pie with two plates and settled down next to it to wait.
It didn’t take long.
“Hello, Dean,” Castiel’s familiar voice greeted him over the faint flap of the heron taking flight.
“Hey, man, I didn’t even hear you coming,” Dean admitted, turning around to look at the suddenly present angel.
“No? Huh,” Cas observed with an odd little smile, coming to meet him. “What’s all this?”
Cas blinked at him. “I can see it’s pie, Dean. You made it?”
“I can cook,” he returned with a twinge of defensiveness.
“I know you can,” Cas said calmly, taking a seat on the concrete block and inspecting the dish more closely. “This looks skillfully prepared.”
Dean sighed to himself. Cas didn’t remember. Maybe it had been dumb to expect he would. Two busy years had passed since then. And food didn’t usually fall very high on Cas’ priority list.
“It’s… it’s angel pie,” he muttered, suddenly embarrassed. He so rarely felt embarrassed with Cas these days that it caught him off-guard.
Cas stared for a drawn-out moment. “Blueberries,” he said finally, squinting up at Dean. “And whipped cream.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Dean laughed, more relieved than he cared to admit even to himself. “What d’you think?”
“I think it’s perfect,” Cas replied. “The fact that you did this is… perfect.”
Dean rubbed his hands together. “Well, let’s put this puppy’s perfection to the test,” he declared, levering two cuts of pie from the pan. He dispensed a dollop of cream on each and handed one off to Cas. “Dig in, babe.”
He watched Cas take the first bite. The angel chewed thoughtfully at first but then went for a second forkful almost immediately. “It has good… contrast,” he said a few moments later. “The citric acid with the sugar. The cool cream with the warm pie.”
Dean grinned. He tucked into his own portion with gusto, finding it just as Cas said. Damn right he could cook. The crust was as flaky as a layered biscuit. He couldn’t imagine a restaurant that would be ashamed to serve it.
They ate in relative silence for awhile, nothing but the clinking of silverware disturbing the quiet of the dock. When they’d both finished and Cas had taken to throwing crumbs to a nearby sparrow, Dean slipped his phone from his pocket.
An unread text from Sam greeted him.
Seeing Wonder Woman at 7:10. You in?
Dean chewed his lip. Going to movies with Gabriel always proved an… interesting… experience. When he hadn’t liked the last 15 minutes of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, he’d just gone and changed it. A whole theater full of fans in Dodge City had gone home bursting with talk of the alternate ending only to hear later that no such thing had ever appeared elsewhere. Internet conspiracies theories still ran rampant on that one.
Nah. Have fun, he tapped back.
But just scrolling through his texts reminded Dean of Cas’ earlier message. “Hey, didn’t you say you had something to show me?” he asked, looking up.
Castiel was now observing a fat, fuzzy bumblebee gathering sugared berry juice from the tines his fork. He met Dean’s gaze, raising his eyebrows slightly. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
Except Dean already knew. All at once, everything came together, and he knew. Gabriel’s cryptic attitude, Cas’ unannounced appearance, the distinctive take-off rustle of a heron that was still standing in exactly the same place—
“Son of a bitch!” Dean barked, lighting up. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You haven’t let me yet,” Cas replied, as privately amused as Dean had ever seen him. His face stayed steady, but his eyes practically danced.
“Aw, you know what I mean! Why didn’t you tell me you were getting close?”
“I wanted to be sure. And, as of today… I’m sure. My wings are back, Dean.”
Dean doubled over into his palms for a moment, chuckling and shaking his head in gleeful disbelief. “Well, you’ve had some poker face!” he accused, straightening back up. “And you let Gabe in on it before me?”
“He can see them all the time, remember? It would be impossible to keep from him. Besides, he helped confirm it for me. I wasn’t sure these last couple days whether it was a good idea to try teleporting yet.”
“Yeah, yeah. So you gonna get ‘em out or what?” Dean prodded with a grin.
“Dean, we’re outdoors. And it’s still daylight.”
“Nobody comes down this river but about twice a week anymore and you know it,” Dean protested, gesturing and happening to catch sight of a swipe of whipped cream on the inside of his wrist. He licked it off distractedly. “Put up or shut up.”
Cas was having a hard time keeping his smile to himself by this time. “Very well…” he sighed indulgently, glancing this way and that before taking a deep breath and unfurling a vast cloak of black feathers.
Dean stared as though he’d never seen them before. As a matter of fact, he’d only seen them twice in anything resembling their full splendor, and that felt like a damn lifetime ago. Castiel’s wings curved around him, elegant and Spartan as a seabird’s, their dark sheen as strangely hot and cold as volcanic glass. Cas had always maintained they were mere “standard issue,” as unremarkable as a blue uniform on a police officer, but Dean couldn’t give any fewer shits about that if he tried. The wings were Cas’, and he felt sure he’d always know them from any other angel’s.
Since that hellish day two summers ago when an agent of Metatron had ripped away Cas' wings, Dean had seen only scars and shimmers. He’d touched and appraised the knotted pink furrows in the seraph’s back on many a night while keeping the both of them safe under a blanket of his own stolen feathers—and Cas claimed it helped—but Dean knew it wasn’t the same. Touching the place where wings used to live might call faintly to the same pleasure centers in both of them, but it could never reduce Cas to ecstatic tears like a true wing-to-wing caress could.
Yet whenever he’d asked to see the new growth they both knew lay out of sight, Cas had either declined or quietly revealed the glinting gray shadows of something barely perceivable to Dean. They’d had a certain heartbreaking vitality to them—like green spring shoots uncurling from the earth with great purpose but little protection. Dean could never make out details or even much of their size, and he could only pet tentatively at what he supposed was their surface. After several months, he’d stopped asking and Cas had stopped offering. They found their intimacy in other ways and the subject went to rest.
But now Dean had re-awoken to the prospect of Cas’ wings with a vengeance.
“Bring those over here,” he said.
“They’re still very sensitive, Dean.”
“Oh, no. That sounds just awful.”
Cas actually laughed for once, his nose scrunching and lip lifting high to show his gums. It was a weird smile. Dean loved it.
“C’mon, Cas,” Dean chided more gently now. “You know I’ll be careful. Hands or wings?”
Cas mulled it over for only a second or two. “Wings,” he replied. “Definitely wings.”
“You got it.” With that, Dean pulled his still flour-dusted t-shirt over his head and let it drop on the boards of the pier. The sultry June air slid over his skin and the drag of the fabric set a couple of mosquito bites he hadn’t realized he’d acquired to itching, but Dean hardly noticed. As easily as he might stretch his arms, he manifested two heavy, muscular wings, their insides sandy cream and their backs greener than the water that rushed by below. It had been a couple days since he’d had them out, and though both he and Sam had grown very adept at keeping them locked away for even a week at a time, it always felt good to shake them free.
Castiel reached out with one hand and stroked the edge of Dean’s right wing. “Still the prettiest,” he observed only because he knew how much it killed Dean to hear it.
“I hate you.”
“No you don’t.” And, with that, Cas shifted around the remains of the pie, coming to sit with his knees casually interlocked with Dean’s, and leaned forward.
Dean caught him up in his arms, their mirrored canopies of wings meeting far to either side of them. For only the third time ever, Dean shuddered under that perfect contact, quills and under-down splicing together and creating a lightning storm of sensation.
“Dean,” Cas rasped, his gravelly voice breaking at the end.
“I know. I know,” Dean gasped back, barely verbal under a long-lost cascade of feeling. He hauled Cas closer, gruffly kissing his neck and then the rising base of his wing beyond it.
The feathers felt silky and warm against his lips. He didn’t think he’d ever gotten to do that before. No, definitely not judging by the sound Cas made. Dean smiled against his shoulder. He saw a lot more wing kisses in his future.
“Take it easy,” Dean murmured. “Just take it easy. I’ve got this, angel pie.”