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Bring It On Home

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A/N: Wow, I can't believe how long it's been. I thought I would take a break for a few months and it turned into almost a year. I guess these things happen when one of the characters you're shipping goes BATSHIT CRAZY AND THEN DISAPPEARS FOREVER! *sob* I just kept waiting and waiting for things between Dean and Cas to turn around, for an episode to inspire me to write something absolutely silly and... it never happened.

SO! Like any good damsel in distress waiting on a Prince Charming who never arrives, I have decided to take my fate into my own hands and manufacture scenarios which bring Dean and Cas together. That's right, folks - for the first time ever I'm going FULL AU.

Of course, this AU is heavily influenced by the season 4 episode "It's a Terrible Life" and the season 5 episode "The End". Basically, I'm taking Dean Smith from Terrible Life (with a little more normal Dean and Lisa's Dean sprinkled in), putting him next door to a Cas who is closer to Hippie Cas from The End than Cas the Holy Tax Accountant, and letting the magic happen. It's a world where the Winchesters were never hunters and Cas was never an angel, but they're still so far from normal that it's not even funny.

It's been awhile, so I hope you like it. It's short, because... yeah. But more is coming! Please comment because I love you and I need you to prove you love me too.

Enjoy!


Dean's neighbor is a photographer.

Dean learned this because of the mail. Most people get to know their neighbors because they see a moving van and they peek furtively between the blinds, and it's only civil to mosey toward the fence and introduce yourself and say hey, how you doin', what brings you to our neck of the woods, I'm having a barbecue, bring macaroni salad, grab a Bud and stay awhile. And this was the case with most of Dean's neighbors when he moved in.

But the house to the left of Dean's? At first, he wasn't even sure anybody lived there. It looked dark, empty. No car in the driveway. The blue exterior was clean and new, and the lawn was neat and green, but still – something about the house was… hollow. He couldn't put his finger on it, but somehow Dean felt as though the house had been recently sold, and the realtor had just yesterday stopped by to yank the wooden sign from the front lawn.

He asked Jeff about it at the barbecue. Jeff just scratched his sandy beard and looked towards the blue house. "No, somebody lives there. I've only met him once," he said. "I don't even know his name. He keeps to himself. But I see him sometimes. Mostly at night."

Laura leaned in, her mouth drawn tight like a lemon pucker. "I think he might be a drug dealer," she whispered. "There are men that drive out here, and… they look shady."

Jeff laughed. "Right, or maybe he's a vampire. I've heard they're popular these days."

Dean just drank his beer and catalogued the information. It wasn't his business, anyways, so long as this guy didn't blow up his meth lab and take Dean's house with him. In fact, he didn't even think about the guy for another week, until one cloudy gray day when he checked his mailbox and discovered a letter that was not addressed to him.

James Novak, the envelope said, followed by the address next door. The return address was from Sacramento.

Dean took the letter, walked up the flagstones to his neighbor's house, and rang the doorbell. He stood and waited, noting - not for the first time - just how nondescript the place was. He chewed his lip and rocked on his heels.

Finally, the door opened, swinging inward into the darkness.

A man stepped forward. He was a little shorter than Dean, with short black hair and clear blue eyes that squinted in the gray sunlight. He had a thin look about him; wiry, with pronounced cheekbones. He was in sweatpants and a stained cotton t-shirt and barefoot. He stared at Dean.

Dean held up the letter. "I got your mail."

The man peered harder at him, not even looking at the letter. When he spoke, his voice was surprisingly gravelly and rough. "I have a mailbox."

Dean flushed. Stupid. Why hadn't he thought of that? Then he did what he always did when he felt nervous: he grinned and chuckled. "Well, aren't you just a ball of sunshine!" he remarked brightly. "My bad, just trying to be neighborly…"

The man started then, blinking and pressing his mouth flat. "You are my neighbor?"

Dean couldn't help but huff a breathy laugh and say, "Well jeez, don't sound so disappointed about it." He extended his right hand. "I'm Dean. I work in sales. I'm your new neighbor."

The man looked at his hand for a moment, and then shook it. He took the letter from Dean. "I'm Castiel. I'm a photographer. I've lived here for two years."

Dean stopped, feeling the heat rise to his face again. "Wait, your name isn't James Novak?"

Castiel slid his thumb under the sealed lip of the envelope. "Legally speaking, it is," he explained. "But a person's true name is more powerful than any government document. My name is Castiel."

Dean very nearly rolled his eyes before he caught himself. "Right."

Castiel took out the papers and scanned the contents of the letter. "You can go now."

"You're welcome," Dean retorted, turning and walking off the porch.

"Dean!" Castiel called after him.

Dean turned around.

Castiel stood with one foot out the door, one hand gripping the frame and the letter crumpled in the other. "Your aura is very orange," he said. Then he stepped inside and closed the door.

Dean stood there for several seconds, trying to puzzle out what the fuck that meant.

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A/N: Hello, my delicious readers! How is the Christmas season treating you?

Oh, really. That's awful. And your mother, how is she taking - oh, not well, you say. And little Timmy? The mines, you say? Oh, that's... just terrible. My apologies. I shouldn't have asked.

Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed. I know I didn't give you much to review, but you reviewed anyway, and you made my day. My sincerest thanks. Every person who reviews this chapter will receive my utmost gratitude AND *gasp* A BRAND NEW CAR!

AN IMPALA, SPECIFICALLY!

Are they reviewing yet?

THE SELFSAME IMPALA WHERE LUCIFER-POSSESSED SAM BEAT DEAN INTO A BLOODY PULP BEFORE TRIGGERING AN ADORABLE MONTAGE OF THEIR BROTHERHOOD!

They're writing? Okay! Somebody get me a Honda and a bucket of black paint! They'll never know the difference.

...

And on with the show.


Dean wouldn't call himself a lonely man.

Sure, he played his cards close to the chest. Coworkers often said of him that he was "hard to get to know." It wasn't that he was standoffish, though in a subtle way he was. He smiled and joked and flirted and absolutely didn't delve into his personal life. He was the sort of man that everyone in the office knew and liked, but if you asked any one of them what town he was born in, they'd admit they didn't know.

He was born in Kansas. Not that it was important.

But though he didn't have many close friends, he didn't think he needed many. The few he had were so important to him that it compensated for any shortage in quantity. He had Bobby, and his brother Sam, and… okay, that was it. So what?

Dean was on the phone with Sam the night after he met Castiel, regaling him with the tale as he put his groceries in the refrigerator. "So then he says, 'Your aura is orange,' and goes back inside. That's it. Can you believe that?" He put a tomato in the crisper.

Sam laughed. "Maybe he's warning you to stop tanning."

"Very funny, jerkwad," Dean retorted, sandwiching the phone between his shoulder and his ear and folding his paper bags. "I have no frickin' clue. For all I know, he just told me to go fuck myself in hippie-speak." He paused for a moment, remembering Castiel's face. "But I don't know. It seemed kind of like a peace offering. Like a weird, New Agey apology."

"Maybe," Sam said. "You should get him to give you a full aura reading. You can clean out your chakras and line up your chi."

"Right."

After he hung up with Sam and heated up dinner, he stood over the sink and ate his lasagna off of a paper plate. He still hadn't unpacked the dishes. From this vantage point, he could see out the sliding glass door and into the backyard, where it was just starting to get dark, the sky turning a brilliant purple and the garden falling into shadow. Feeling inspired, Dean set down his food and walked outside.

He wandered over to the flowerbed, running his fingertips along the petals of a pink hydrangea blossom. The air was chilly, and a thin breeze brushed the back of his neck and made him shiver.

"It's a good yard."

Dean spun around.

Castiel was standing at the fence, staring at him, a lit cigarette dangling from his hand. He took a deep drag and then looked away, blowing the smoke back towards his house. "It's nice and big. The wife and kids will love it," he commented.

"I'm not married," Dean said.

Castiel chuckled, a dry rough sound. "Oh, I know that." He flicked the ashes off the butt, and fixed Dean with a piercing gaze. "You're a very lonely man."

"I'm not lonely," Dean shot back, suddenly angry at this complete goddamn stranger. "If anybody's lonely, it should be you. You've lived here for two years and I'm the only person on the block who even knows your name!"

Castiel didn't even blink. He just gazed back dispassionately. "You're interesting," he said. "My other neighbors bore me." He wrinkled his nose. "They like sandwiches."

"I like sandwiches," Dean replied, feeling incredibly confused.

"No," Castiel corrected, "you love them." He smiled slowly. "You fucking love sandwiches, Dean Winchester, and that's why you're interesting."

Dean felt torn between his desire to beat this guy to a pulp and his extreme curiosity as to how he could know this stuff just from looking at him. "Is that what an orange aura is about?" he demanded. "Is it about sandwiches, you nutbar?"

Castiel out and out laughed, tilting his head back and laughing to the sky. "Oh, Dean," he sighed. "Your aura has nothing to do with it."

Dean clenched his fists. "How do you keep coming up with this stuff? How do you know all this shit?"

Castiel's eyes seemed brighter than ever before. "You're an easy mark, Dean. You're a single man, buying a house big enough for a family. I make a comment against sandwiches and you valiantly rise to their defense. You guard your emotions very well until I hit close to home, and then you're putty in my hands." He took another drag of the cigarette. "And you want to fuck me so badly that you're about to jump the fence and take me on the lawn."

"What? No I'm not!" Dean exclaimed, stumbling back from the fence.

Castiel grinned and let the smoke drift out his nose. "Just messing with you." He shook his head. "Easy, easy mark, Dean."

"You said you're a photographer?" Dean asked incredulously.

Castiel shrugged. "I have free time."

Dean snorted and crossed his arms. "Ah, I see. In your free time you practice a little –" he wiggled his fingers – "spooooky amateur psychology."

Castiel looked at him more intently then. The sun was setting behind him and it cast him in silhouette, making his face hard to read. "You do have an orange aura, Dean. I meant that."

"You meant what, exactly?" Dean probed. "I'm not into the aura thing. I don't know what orange means."

Castiel was silent for a moment. "I'm not sure if I should tell you."

Dean glared. "Dude."

"It means…" He paused again. "It means that you have the capacity for great love. Soul-altering love. You give fully of yourself and you expect nothing back." He lowered his voice. "It is a very rare color."

Dean swallowed, unsure of what to say. He settled on, "Oh. Well, thanks."

Castiel tossed his cigarette butt in the grass and ground it out with the heel of his moccasin. "Don't thank me. I'm only saying that which is inherently true." And he walked back towards his house.

Dean stood among the hydrangeas awhile, trying to decide if Castiel was about to become his good friend or the worst neighbor he'd ever had.

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A/N: You know how sometimes characters start to get away from you and begin doing whatever the hell they want, regardless of your wishes? Welp, folks, these guys are already doing that, and I love it. Get ready. I'm not drivin' this van anymore.

In other news, I have some awesome, awesome readers! You'll all be receiving Impalas, right in time for Christmas. Those of you who comment on this chapter will get a once-in-a-lifetime offer - an exclusive, one of a kind hugging session with Castiel! Up to one hour of hugging, at ALL levels of intesity! But remember ladies, nothing handsy - that's called sexual harassment! *cue laugh track*

Seriously though, I love you guys. You're the reason I try and produce these chapters so quickly. Please keep reading, and my fingers will fly at the keyboard.

And now, without further ado, the frickin' story already!


Dean didn't see Castiel again for two weeks.

Like Jeff and Laura had said, he didn't come out much. Whatever "photography" he did, he either didn't do it very often or he did it all inside the house. Like Jeff and Laura had also noted, occasionally men with suitcases or messenger bags would drive up to Castiel's house and knock on the door, looking around coolly. The front door would swing open and they'd step inside. A few hours later, they'd emerge again.

Maybe he really was a drug dealer.

It didn't matter to Dean. Okay, it did a little, but didn't want it to. He was making a good impression at the new office and putting in extra hours, coming in on the weekends and staying late. He didn't have time to spy on the neighbor. When he came home, he collapsed in his aesthetically bare living room and watched bad horror movies on Netflix. He was glad it was fall and the grass wasn't growing very fast, since he hadn't had a chance to buy a mower yet. He called Sam regularly, and Bobby called once or twice. Jeff had him over to watch a game, and Laura turned out to be a passionate football fan. Life was good. Quiet, but good.

Then, one Sunday evening after dusk, Dean took his trash to the curb and saw Castiel at work in his garden.

It was a comical sight, really. Castiel had a child's headlamp on, the purple elastic band around his head decorated with green dinosaurs. The beam illuminated his busy hands, bare and scrabbling in the earth as he dug out weeds and shook the dirt out of their roots.

Dean couldn't help but walk over. "Gardening," he commented.

Castiel didn't look up, didn't pause for a moment. "I find…" He yanked a root from the ground and grunted with the effort. "… physical contact with nature to be deeply fulfilling."

"You know, I've heard about this wacky new thing called 'daytime'," Dean said. "It's this period of about eight to ten hours where the sky is all bright and you can see dandelions without a flashlight strapped to your head. Maybe you've heard of it?"

Castiel stopped and clambered to his feet, brushing the dirt off of his knees. "Heard of it," he replied. "Tried it. I don't care for it." He turned to Dean and the corners of his mouth turned up just slightly. "Or perhaps I just feel small in the sunlight. Exposed. In the darkness, I can imagine…" Slowly he lifted his arms, stretched wide from his body. "I can imagine that I am as large as my consciousness. That the parts of me you cannot see are merely obscured in shadow. That my body is merely the instrument wielded by a far greater and more incredible creature." He stood there a moment, spread eagle, his head tilted back, light beaming from his forehead into the night sky, and his eyes flashing electric blue.

Dean stared at him.

The guy was crazy. Crazy and high as kite. That went without saying. But for a moment…

For a moment it seemed true.

And then Castiel blinked. "I should turn this off." He reached up and turned off the headlamp, plunging them both into darkness.

It took a minute for Dean's eyes to adjust, and for a minute he couldn't see Castiel's face, just his black figure, and maybe that's why in that minute he suddenly blurted out, "Are you gay?"

Castiel stood silent. After a long pause he answered, "Does that matter to you?"

"No," Dean answered, speaking mostly the truth. "But I – I think you should know that I'm straight." He was thankful that Castiel couldn't see the embarrassed flush on his face.

Slowly, Dean's eyes were acclimating, and Castiel's face became slightly more distinguishable. He looked amused. "You think I'm interested."

Shit. Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Just – forget I said anything, alright?"

"It's fair, Dean." Castiel stepped forward. "You're an attractive man, and I do like you. And I like the look of you, but not in the way that you're thinking."

Dean's cheeks were absolutely on fire now. He rubbed his mouth and fought the urge to bail and run.

"You look trustworthy. You look capable. You look… " Castiel stepped even closer now, his face completely clear in the dim yellow of the streetlight down the way, and suddenly, his expression changed. Something lonely in his eyes, something earnest in his eyebrows, something hopeful in his mouth. "Can we be friends, Dean? I would very much like to have a friend."

Dean had no idea what to say, so he said, "Sure." And then he said, apropos of nothing, "You seem different tonight."

Castiel smiled softly, and he said, "I'm less cynical when I drink."

And apparently tonight they were playing Truth or Dare, so Dean asked, "Do you deal drugs?"

"No," he answered. "But I partake."

"I don't," Dean said, "and my house is clean. I really don't care, your business is your business, and you do what you want, but that is the one hard and fast rule. Alright?"

Castiel's gaze sharpened, and he asked, "Why?"

"Drug screenings. Can't risk it."

Castiel tilted his head slightly. "Try again."

Dean almost thought he misheard him. "What?"

"This is personal to you." Castiel tucked his hands into his pockets. "So tell me why you keep a clean house."

And before it, Dean found himself saying, "My brother," before he could wisely shut his trap.

And then Castiel seemed to know it all, nodding like he had unlocked the great mystery of Dean and suddenly it all made sense. "Of course, of course," he murmured, his deep voice dropping even lower. "The pieces interlock, the plot thickens, the tumblers fall into place. A younger brother."

Dean frowned. "That's not what I said."

"You didn't need to." Castiel's gaze cut right through him. "How old were you when your mother left?"

And suddenly Dean couldn't breathe, and he stumbled backwards, and he kept going, kept walking backwards. "No," he choked. "Don't. No."

Castiel's eyes went wide, and his mouth went small and tight. "Dean," he said, "I'm sorry."

Dean turned and walked back to his house, walked faster and faster until he was jogging up the porch and slamming the front door behind him, locking the deadbolt and squeezing his eyes shut as hard as he could.

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A/N: Sorry for the delay in getting this chapter out, my lovelies! The holidays are catching up with me. Expect more delays in the future, but never fear - I will not abandon this story before it is finished. I will prevail!

Thanks a million to everyone who read. You guys are so sweet! You all get hugging sessions. Yes, you are allowed to throw your legs upon Castiel and straddle him. Those who read this chapter will get my eternal thanks and gratitude and ALSO a hugging session with Dean Winchester! Up to one hour of hugging, AND, in a holiday special, NOW ALLOWING UNLIMITED ASS SQUEEZES! Grab away, ladies, grab away!

I hope you like this next bit. If not, just... after every instance of the word "said", add "lustfully." For example: "I am an angel of the Lord," Castiel said lustfully. Instant improvement! Enjoy.


The next day, Dean found a letter in his mailbox.

Well, it wasn't a letter, really. It was actually just a piece of printer paper with a drawing in ballpoint pen. It featured a figure that Dean decided was either a badly-drawn horse or a dog with large buck teeth, and a speech bubble coming out of his mouth that read, "neighbor" in slanted handwriting. Underneath the picture, in the same handwriting: "It's a pun."

In spite of himself, Dean chuckled. Then he reminded himself he was pissed and he crumpled up the picture. Then he changed his mind and flattened it out and put it in his desk drawer.

It was only half Castiel's fault. He couldn't have known, but then did he have to go around, butting into Dean's business? This was why you didn't too close. Jeff and Laura never asked about his mother, didn't know he had a sibling, could tell you all about Dean's portfolio and how he liked his burgers but had absolutely no clue that his childhood had been the worst period of his life.

So yeah, it was a little on Cas.

Cas? Where did that come from? Castiel.

Two days later when Dean came home from work, there was something waiting for him on the doorstep. A round, smooth rock that fit neatly in his hand, and a scrap of paper that said, "Meditation stone."

Dean rolled the stone in his hand, and it nestled in his palm. It wasn't polished, just worn smooth by the tumbling currents of some river or ocean. It was heavy, a solid weight, and cool to the touch. He closed his hand around it and closed his eyes.

He felt very, very calm.

"Huh," Dean murmured. He pocketed the stone and stepped inside, fighting the urge to glance around and see if Castiel was watching.

Finally, three days after that, Dean woke up from where he had fallen asleep in front of the TV. Someone was knocking at the front door. He blearily checked the time – just after 12:00 am. He considered ignoring it.

They knocked again.

"Coming!" Dean groaned.

When he opened the door, Castiel was standing there. Out of breath, eyes bloodshot, hair wildly mussed, wearing nothing but a parka, snow boots, and pair of jean shorts.

"… Castiel?" Dean said. "It's midnight."

Castiel swallowed. "When I was twenty, my sister committed suicide," he blurted out. "At least, that's what the police say. I personally consider it homicide."

Dean blinked.

Castiel stuffed his hands into his parka and looked down. "I hope this makes us even."

Dean wished Castiel would start making sense. "Even?"

"Reciprocity, eye for an eye..." He was mumbling into his parka now, so low Dean almost couldn't hear him. "I didn't mean to find out what I did about your mother, so now I'm letting you found out about me."

Dean couldn't help but stare at Castiel incredulously. "So you think we're square now?" he asked. "Tell me, Cas old buddy, what exactly did you 'find out' about my mother?"

Castiel looked up, and his eyes – they normally turned down at the corners, he always looked a little wistful, but right now he looked really fucking sad. "She died," he said quietly. "You were there. You were very young, but old enough to remember. You still remember. Her face is in your mind, a composite of all the family photographs you've seen but in your memories – you remember her hands. Her soft touch. The way she smelled. Her voice, and her laugh. And even now, as a grown man, you often think of her in the quiet moments and wonder what she would think of you. You still miss her." Castiel looked straight into Dean's eyes. "You will always miss her."

Dean felt something warm on his cheek and realized that he was crying. He hastily wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "Fuck you," he said, his voice cracking.

"Dean…" Castiel reached out a hand for his shoulder.

Dean backed away.

Castiel swallowed heavily. "Can I come inside? I'm cold."

That's when Dean realized that they were still standing on the porch. "No. Go home."

But like a stray dog, Castiel just cowered there with big eyes and his tail between his legs. "Can I use your bathroom?"

"What's wrong with your bathroom?" Dean demanded.

Castiel glanced back at his house. "It's far."

Dean dragged a hand down his face. "It's midnight! Go back to your own house!"

"I like your hair," Castiel said. "And you have a great ass. Can I please come inside?"

"Flattery?" Dean gave his most disbelieving look. "That's really where you're going with this? You just made me fucking cry and you're trying to compliment your way into my house?"

Castiel just stared at him.

Dean waited.

Castiel tilted his head. "You look like you work out."

"Jesus Christ FINE, you can come in, just be fucking quick about it!"

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A/N: Hello, my one and only true loves! I wrote you an extra long update, so hopefully you will enjoy it. Two things about this chapter:

1) Several artists are mentioned. It might behoove you to look them up ahead of time. Rene Magritte, Andrew Wyeth, and Ivan Albright. You've probably seen the work of the first two before, because they painted some extremely iconic images, but the third is lesser known. It'll just help if you already know what I'm talking about.

2) I think the end of this might be a little... M-rated? So be warned. I'm sorry if I offend anyone. I have no idea where the line is for these things, but I may have crossed it.

Enjoy!


After emerging from the bathroom, Castiel studied the living room wall art for a considerable length of time. Then he picked up Dean's four coasters one by one and inspected them carefully.

Dean just watched him from his comfortable position on the sofa. "Castiel," he said, "has anyone ever told you that you're really freakin' weird?"

Castiel peered more closely at the coaster. "They're usually too polite." He chuckled. "But not you."

Dean frowned and sat up straighter. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Castiel set down the coaster on the coffee table and turned to him, a very concerned expression on his face. "Dean, please – tell me someone has introduced you to the work of Rene Magritte."

Dean squinted. "Ma-who?"

Castiel looked to the ceiling and shook his head in disappointment. "Travesty," he muttered.

Dean sighed and rubbed his temple, resting his other hand on his knee. "Look, it's been a really long night. Can you please go now?"

Castiel looked him up and down, his gaze judging and considering. "You've never slept with a prostitute, have you?"

"What the– I don't pay for sex," Dean retorted.

Castiel clicked his tongue. "One doesn't pay a whore for the sex, Dean. One pays her to leave the next morning. Which, to the casual observer, seems right up your alley. Given your lifestyle."

"My lifestyle?" Dean stood up in indignation.

"But you don't like prostitutes," Castiel continued, "so instead you're inclined to one-night stands. Your coasters make that clear." He glanced around the living room. "And yes, you can call me Cas."

"Well listen, Cas," Dean growled, stepping towards him, "I am going to brain you with your own damn meditation stone if you don't cut it out and leave."

And suddenly, Castiel grinned. "Excellent. I'm glad you like it."

"That's not what I said!" Dean snapped.

Castiel walked to the door. "I collect rocks. The one I gave you is a basalt river rock from the Andes. Its spiritual frequency tunes well with yours."

"Awesome, thank you, goodnight." Dean wearily waved his hands in 'let's go' circles towards the door.

Castiel opened the door, then stopped and looked back at Dean. "You can tell your brother I'm strange. I don't mind. But you should also tell him that we're friends now." And with that he was out the door.

…..

"The Andes," Sam said. "That's pretty cool."

Dean snorted. "If it's even true. And then he says to me, 'You can tell people I'm strange, that's okay. But also tell them that we're friends.' Seriously. And then he just leaves." He opened up a bag of chips. "Oh, and he seemed all offended that I'd never heard of some Renee 'Mah-greet' chick."

Sam laughed. "Magritte? Really? That's… actually pretty perfect."

Dean popped a few chips in his mouth and turned on the television. "Who the hell is she?"

"He, Dean," Sam corrected. "Surrealist painter. You know, 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe'?"

"Not a clue."

"You've seen some of his stuff, you just don't realize it. He painted the man in the bowler hat with the apple in front of his face, the naked woman who's becoming the sky… Google him. His stuff is all just… very odd and symbolic, usually pretty clever, realistic elements arranged in a nonsensical way."

"So how is that perfect?" Dean asked.

Sam chuckled. "It's just, from your description of this guy, it sounds like he's the same kind of non sequitur as a Magritte painting. It sounds like exactly the kind of thing he'd be into. If I had to choose any artist to represent him, it'd be Magritte."

"Really?" Dean flipped through the channels. "What about me?"

"What about you?"

"What artist would I be?"

Sam considered for a moment. "Andrew Wyeth."

Dean sighed. "Yeah, I don't know him either. But I'll look him up. And what about you, Jumbotron? Who would you be?"

Sam chuckled again, but it was darker this time, a little bitter. "Oh, I don't know. Probably Ivan Albright."

Dean turned to a sports channel, and the time in the corner of the screen caught his eye. "Hey, I'm supposed to go over to Jeff and Laura's for dinner, so I oughta go."

"Yeah, me too," Sam agreed.

"I can't wait for you to get out here, Sam." Dean knew he shouldn't say that, but it was true. "If it weren't for my crazy neighbor, I'd be bored outta my skull without you."

Sam paused. "I'm hoping I can come up soon. Things are going well." He sighed. "And you know, for all that he's crazy, he sounds like he's pretty lonely. Maybe he really needs a friend."

"Yeah, but why me?" Dean snorted. "He's lived here for two years and never said boo to anybody, and suddenly he's desperate to get to know me."

"Face it, Dean." He could practically hear Sam's shit-eating grin. "You're too sexy for your own good. He flutters to you like a moth flutters to a flame that uses too much hair product."

"Shut up, geekballs," Dean retorted.

"Geekballs? Really?"

"GoodBYE, Sam."

Sam's laughter. "Bye, Dean."

...

It became a thing. Somehow, it became a thing.

Every Friday, shortly after midnight, Cas would knock on Dean's door. He always had some pretense for being there.

The first time, he was standing there with a full platter of bacon. "I made too much," he told Dean matter-of-factly.

The second time, he was holding a measuring cup of sugar. "I think I borrowed this from you," he claimed.

The third time, he stood there by himself in a bathrobe, looking terrified. "There's a turtle in my house, Dean. Somehow a turtle got in. It'll start burrowing, and nesting, and breeding… We'll have to fumigate."

After that, he stopped making up excuses, but he would still bring things. Quartz crystals, a "spare" lamp, a head of lettuce… He wouldn't stay very long, only about an hour or so, just long enough to come inside and be weird and ask Dean about his opinion on the Orion constellation or hard cheeses. Dean got the feeling somehow that Castiel was training him, training him to become acclimated to Castiel's presence in his house, like this was just the first phase of an extended subversive Friendship Plan that he had all plotted out. And weirdly enough… it was working. After about the fifth time, he told Cas, "You know, you could come over earlier. And stay longer. If you want." It wasn't out of charity that he said it, either. Despite Cas's tendency to read Dean like a picture book and bulldoze through any notions of tact, Dean… liked him, in a way. He liked how blunt he could be with Cas, and all the interesting shit he came up with. He was never boring.

And… okay. Let's be completely honest. He liked that Cas liked him. There was something about the way Castiel could hone in and really listen, give you his undivided attention, and sometimes he looked at Dean in a way… He couldn't really describe it, but it was this sorta warm look Cas gave him when Dean got baffled, an older look, not condescending but almost like, "You keep me young." Which was weird, because Dean figured he was at most five years older, and besides, Dean should be offended, right? He should be indignant.

And he acted indignant. But inside… he liked that look.

He still didn't know what Cas really did for a living, though. Men with bags would drive up and enter the house like always. Dean never asked Cas about it, but he was damn curious. One night he sat behind the blinds and waited for an hour, his eyes on Cas's front door, just to watch the man walk out looking exactly the way he arrived.

One doesn't pay a whore for the sex, Dean.

The man got in his car and drove away.

It wasn't the first time the thought had crossed Dean's mind. It was possible that Castiel was some kind of male escort, working out of his home. It would explain why he wanted an entire house to himself. For some reason, the idea both disgusted Dean and morbidly fascinated him.

Dean stopped spying and got in the shower. He scrubbed his hair, trying to rinse the concept out of his mind.

It was so easy to picture, was the thing. Castiel was all hippie-dippie and free love and probably most certainly gay, so why not make some cash off of it? Dean could just see it. Some man would knock at the door. Castiel would answer it, and ask if the man had the money. The man would nod to his messenger bag and come inside, and as soon as the door shut Cas would say Put down your bag, take off your jacket and they wouldn't go to the bedroom, no, the curtains were always drawn, they'd just peel out of their shirts on the sofa, and the man would kiss Cass hard because they were here to fuck, weren't they, but Cas's eyes wouldn't close, not ever, they would just go black and dark and his nostrils would flare, and he would grind his hips against the man savagely and squeeze his ass, and the man would moan into Cas's mouth, he would be so hungry and hard already and he would bite Cas's lip and Cas would groan at the pleasure of it, would writhe and gyrate hot and tight, so hot, would unbutton the man's jeans and yank them down, panting, Fuck me, fuck me, and the man would hastily get his jeans off and Cas would get on all fours and the man, oh the man would almost come just at that sight, the beads of sweat just forming between Cas's shoulder blades and his perfect, muscular ass and he would grab Cas by the hips, he would thrust into him hard and Cas would mooooaaan and slide against him, slow at first and then faster and faster and faster and he'd yank a handful of that thick black hair and he'd gasp Harder, fuck, harder and their slick, heated bodies would slam together again and again Cas would just keep moaning Fuck me, fuck me Dean, Fuck me, Jesus fuck Dean and Dean would come -

Dean stopped.

Dean stood in the shower, panting, hard as all hell.

What.

The fuck.

He turned the handle to Cold.

Chapter Text

A/N: MERRY CHRISTMAS, DEAR READERS! AND A HAPPY FESTIVUS TO THE REST OF YOU!

I hope you all had fabulous holidaytimes. I know I very much enjoyed all of your comments. :) So, for this chapter, everyone who reviews gets an EXCLUSIVE patented Moment Under the Mistletoe with Dean and Cas! That's right, I said Dean AND Cas! Two for the price of one! Heck, you can just step out of the way and let THEM kiss under the mistletoe if you like! WHAT A GREAT BARGAIN.*

Aaaaand here's your chapter!

*Seller not responsible if parties under the patented Moment Under the Mistletoe mistletoe begin engaging in acts of public indecency. Seller not liable if Dean and Cas rudely exclude purchaser of this product from frivolities and engage in extended acts of public indecency vigorously and enthusiastically. All rights reserved by Smoochytimes Incorporated.


Dean was worried about Cas.

It was a cold Saturday afternoon and Castiel had been sitting on his front step for about two hours. Gray sweatshirt, hood drawn tight around his face, aviator sunglasses, raggedy jeans and flip flops, hunched over with a pack of cigarettes and chain smoking. Fidgeting. Shivering.

It wasn't any of Dean's business.

But then, it kind of was his business, right? Because Cas was a certified fruit loop, and the ground was crunchy-frozen and every now and then a snowflake would drift down out of the heavy white sky and no one else was going to go up and say Cas, hey, come inside before your skin turns blue and your toes fall off. Dean was the only one.

So finally he took out his half-full trash bag, and pretended to casually notice Cas. He moseyed over.

Cas didn't seem to notice, but then it was hard to tell behind the sunglasses. He just kept sucking on his cigarette.

"Hey, Kaczynski," Dean greeted him. "Psyching up for a full day of unabombing?"

Cas exhaled a cloud of smoke and shivered.

"Hello?" Dean waved a hand in front of him. "Earth to space cadet? Anybody home?"

Cas shook his head.

Dread prickled at the back of Dean's neck, and he was starting the think something might be seriously wrong. "Castiel," he said, "is there a reason you're sitting out here?"

Cas flicked the ashes off his cigarette butt. "I was going to be a priest, you know. I don't think I told you that before." He took another drag. "Went to seminary and everything."

Dean tried to imagine Cas as a man of the cloth, and failed. "Catholic? Really?"

Cas nodded.

"A priest?" Dean couldn't wrap his head around it. "The celibate kind?"

Cas smiled to himself.

Dean rubbed his jaw. "I'll be damned. What changed your mind?"

Castiel's smile shrank, and he took a moment to inhale another lungful of nicotine. He exhaled with a groan and ground out the butt on his doormat. "The problem of evil."

"What do you mean?" Dean asked.

Cas didn't answer. He just huddled further into himself.

"Well, regardless…" Dean glanced up at the sky. "It's looking like snow, Cas. You should go inside."

Cas shivered, but gave no sign of hearing.

Dean sighed and crouched down to Castiel's level. "You alright, Cas?"

Cas's mouth went small and tight, and he shook his head just barely.

"Cas." Dean spoke a little quieter. "What's wrong?"

He was silent for a long moment, and then finally he whispered, "I'm cold, Dean."

And that was all it took, apparently. Dean couldn't stand it anymore, couldn't just let him wither and die out here. "Alright," he said, taking Cas by the elbow and standing them both up, "up and at 'em. You're coming over and I'm making you coffee."

Cas didn't protest, but mutely allowed Dean to lead him inside.

….

"How do you take your coffee?" Dean asked, pouring him a full mug.

Cas sat at the kitchen table, tapping his fingers softly on the Formica. The bright overhead light made him look even smaller, more tired, the shadows and lines in his face darker than ever.

"I'm guessing… seven sugars, eight creams." Dean grabbed the bowl of sugar out of the cupboard and brought it to the table. "I'll let you make the call."

"Dean." Castiel slipped off his sunglasses. His eyes were red-rimmed and heavy, the blue irises somehow pale and washed out. "I'd like to have a drink."

Dean smiled and carried over Castiel's mug, setting it in front of him. "That's what the coffee's for."

"No." Cas's mouth quivered, and his hands clenched. "I need to drink until I can't hear her anymore."

Dean froze where he stood, and for a second he was completely incapacitated. He had no fucking clue how to process that, how to act, or what to say, or even what emotion to feel. For a second, he just stood.

But then he pulled his chair out from under the table, and he sat down next to Cas and asked, "Who?"

"Please," Cas said, his eyes shining and desperate. "I just need a drink. I just need to not feel."

Dean shook his head. "No chance in hell. Not from me, anyway. Who is it, Cas?"

Cas stood up from the table, his coffee untouched. He stumbled into the living room and collapsed on the couch, curling up into himself in a tight ball and squeezing his eyes shut.

"Cas," Dean said, frightened. "Castiel!"

He stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.

"I don't know what's wrong with him," Dean whispered into the phone, his fingers clenched around the receiver. He was in his bedroom, but the door was open. "I – I think he's asleep now, but I'm just worried… I mean, who knows what the hell he's been smoking, or popping, or snorting…"

"How's his breathing?" Sam asked.

"I don't know, normal?" Dean glanced toward the door. "What's normal?"

"If he's breathing any slower than 12 breaths a minute, you need to call 911. Are his fingers or his lips blue at all?"

"I don't think so." Dean chewed his lip. "I can check."

"Honestly…" Sam sighed. "I don't think he's ODing, Dean. I think this is something psychological. What exactly did he say to you?"

"I don't know, it was all pretty random…" Dean rubbed the back of his neck and tried to remember. "I asked him what was wrong, and he didn't answer me. He told me he was going to be a priest once."

Sam laughed. "A priest? No shit."

Dean chuckled. "I know, right? So I asked him what turned him off it, and all he would say was, 'the problem of evil.' Whatever the hell that means."

"Huh," Sam said. "That's interesting."

"What?"

"The problem of evil," he said. "It's a classic philosophical-slash-theological dilemma. Basically, if God is all knowing, all powerful, and benevolent, how can evil exist? Either he can't stop it – making him less than omnipotent – or he doesn't want to, making him… well, less than benevolent."

"Okay," Dean said, "so Cas didn't take the collar because he can't follow a God who lets bad things happen to good people." And, like the sun cresting over a hilltop, it began to dawn on Dean. "I know. I know what this is about."

"What is it?" Sam asked eagerly.

"He told me he wanted to drink until he 'couldn't hear her anymore,'" Dean explained. "Well, a while ago he told me that his sister committed suicide when he was twenty, but he considers it a homicide."

"Christ," Sam murmured. "That'd do it. Sister dies, crisis of faith, life of debauchery…"

"… and something triggered the events of today," Dean finished. "Maybe he found an old picture, or smoked some bad shit and hallucinated her…"

"Or." Sam paused. "Maybe it's an anniversary."

Dean closed his eyes and pinched his nose. "Jesus fuck."

"Look, Dean…" Sam exhaled heavily. "For me, personally. When it's… when it's the day Jess died… it's pretty bad. And I can only imagine, losing a sister, it would be a thousand times worse. So don't pressure him to talk about it, but if he does want to, then… be there for him."

Dean sighed. "I'll try." And he wasn't sure what prompted it, but then he said, "I was thinking about visiting you, Sam."

For a second, there was just silence on the other end. "You could," Sam said slowly.

"I have vacation time," Dean said, "I might as well use it –"

"But –" Sam took a long pause, then blurted, "I'm coming up there in two weeks."

"Really?" Dean exclaimed. "You're kidding! For real? You're just fucking with me, Sammy!"

Sam laughed. "Nah, I got the green light today. All I have to do is get my affairs in order, pack up my shit…"

Dean grinned and laughed. "Awesome. I'm looking forward to it, Sam."

When they hung up, he still couldn't shake the smile off his face. He left the bedroom and walked back to the living room, walking as quietly as possible.

Cas was still curled up on the couch, but he had relaxed a little. His face had smoothed out in sleep, and his knees had slid out from the fetal position so that his feet dangled off of the cushion.

Dean crept up and, after a minute of consideration, slipped the flip flops off of his feet and set them under the coffee table.

Cas didn't stir.

Dean got down on his knees and peered at Cas's face, trying to determine if his lips looked at all bluish.

The didn't seem blue. Just normal pink. They were a little chapped, maybe.

And then, suddenly, Cas's eyes fluttered open, and looked straight into Dean's.

Dean was instantly aware of how close he had been hovering, and how intently he'd been looking at Castiel's face, and how he should definitely right now look away and stop staring in his goddamn eyes but instead he just froze there and flushed bright red and said, "Hey."

Cas smiled a little and reached up and patted Dean's cheek, and he said softly, "Don't worry." And then he closed his eyes and fell back asleep.

Chapter Text

A/N: Dear Readers! I heart you all. Your gifts are coming in the mail.

In other news, this chapter was a SONOFABITCH to write. It was one of those time when I got halfway through it, changed my mind, erased everything I had and started from scratch. GAH. I made the classic mistake of having lines in my head that I wanted to use, and trying to force them into the chapter, and it made everything be filled with suck. I started over and just let the characters do the talking.

They were good lines though. *pout*

ANYways, here's the chapter, sorry for the delay, please enjoy, and please please PLEASE review and let me know what you think.


Sometime around ten o'clock, Dean woke Castiel up. "I'm heading to bed," he told him, "and if you're digging the couch, that's fine, but… there's a spare room upstairs, if you want an actual bed to sleep on."

Castiel nodded groggily and followed Dean upstairs.

"Here you go." Dean flicked on the lights and gestured to the bed, which he'd made up some weeks ago. "I'm right across the hall, if you need anything."

…..

Two hours later, Dean was still lying in his bed wide awake. No matter which way he turned, he couldn't get comfortable; he rolled and tossed and thumped around and folded his pillow aggressively but nothing was exactly right.

Maybe he should check on Cas. Make sure he hadn't climbed out the window or something like that.

He laid flat on his back and stared at the ceiling, willing his body to relax. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe in...

Aaaand nope. Nope, it wasn't happening. Dean finally gave up, climbed out bed, threw on his robe, walked across the hall, and very gingerly opened the door to the spare room.

Castiel wasn't in bed. He was perched in the window seat, staring out into the night beyond, his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his legs. The snow was falling thick and fast outside the window, and the blanketed white ground reflected the streetlights and filled the room with an unnatural orange glow.

"I guess you got enough sleep this afternoon," Dean said.

Cas nodded, still looking out the window. "I'm feeling better now."

Dean hesitated, and then stepped forward, resting a hand on the bedpost. "Do you… want to talk about it?"

Cas turned his face, the light capturing his profile. "This room is for Sam, isn't it?"

Dean chuckled wryly and scratched his forehead. "Well, I'm hoping so. We'll see how he likes it."

"And he's the real reason you moved, not your job," Castiel said, his voice gravelly and low. "You wanted to give him a fresh start."

Dean rubbed the round top of the bedpost and looked down at it and didn't answer. It hadn't really been a question, anyway.

"The problem of evil…" Cas let out a sigh. "We addicts are fond of it. If God created everything, then God created crystal meth. And if God created crystal meth…" He chuckled bitterly. "Then God wants me to smoke it. Or maybe there is no God, and then it doesn't matter what the fuck I do." He picked at his fingernails. "But it's strange, Dean. I still believe in God. I've just lost all respect for him." He grinned, a sharp and cutting smile. "He's a deadbeat dad. 'Our Father, who art behind on thy child support…'"

Dean walked closer, stopping just a few inches away. "What happened, Cas?" he asked.

Cas turned his face up to Dean, and the orange light hit it just so that half was illuminated and half remained in shadow, and for a moment the way his eyes shone in the darkness, Dean could feel, he could physically feel that Cas wanted to say, he wanted to tell him everything, that he would tell Dean anything and everything he ever wanted to know, and Dean didn't even dare breathe because he could feel them teetering on the precipice of some great dark chasm and they were about to tumble together into the abyss.

But then Cas looked away, and closed his eyes.

Dean wanted to say I'm sorry, you don't have to talk, I understand but he didn't. Instead he just reached out and put his hand on Cas's shoulder.

Cas's adam's apple bobbed, and he slid his hand up and took Dean's hand from his shoulder, clasped it between his two hands and rested them on his knees.

Which, okay, was a little more than Dean was prepared for, but he tried not to freak and went with it.

Then Cas mumbled something to himself.

"What was that?" Dean asked.

Cas cleared his throat. "You and I are very similar."

Dean chuckled. "Right."

Cas rubbed his thumb along the inside of Dean's palm. "We're the same bug. But you're larva, and I'm in the cocoon."

"Any time you wanna start making sense," Dean said, "go right ahead."

"Obedient sons. Strict fathers. Doing what was expected, what was asked of them." Cas peered closely at Dean's fingers. "You never wanted to go into advertising, Dean. It just never occurred to you to do anything else."

Dean felt a strange twisting in his chest. "That's how it was for you?"

Castiel nodded. "I was raised into it, and I thought I was called. Not because of a great spiritual stirring, but because I felt no desire towards women." He laughed softly. "I was very sheltered." He turned Dean's hand over and interlaced their fingers. "The difference between you and me is that you're still obedient, whereas I am now batshit crazy."

Dean smiled. "Naw, I wouldn't say that. Weird as fuck, sure, but you're not crazy."

Castiel smiled slowly, the smile becoming a wide grin, and he released Dean's hand. "You think I'm not crazy?"

"Nope." Dean shook his head. "Your eggs are scrambled but you still got a full carton."

Cas stood up, and that's when Dean saw the gleam in his eye, the firm set to his jaw. "I can prove it."

"Hey, hey, no jumping out of windows," Dean warned. "That's stupid, not crazy. And while we're discussing it, how about nothing involving property damage at all, because the last thing I need –"

And that's when Cas grabbed him by the shoulders and kissed him.

Dean froze.

Dean closed his eyes.

Dean kissed back.

And then suddenly Cas pulled back and smiled cheerily and said, "Goodnight, Dean," and walked out of the room, down the hall, out the front door and back to his own house.

Dean stood there for a long time.

Chapter Text

A/N: I apologize in advance: this one is extra short.

I know, I know, I'm a terrible excuse for a human being. BUT! At least the turnaround was quick, right?

Those of you who reviewed last time, you get my eternal gratitude and thanks. I thought it was funny that some of you mentioned that you expected Cas to go to Dean and snuggle with him, because that had been an earlier idea of mine, but I ultimately decided against it. Cas was just so catatonic and closed off that I thought Dean needed to go to him, and everything kind of flowed from that idea - that this was the episode that makes Dean reach out.

Anyways, I loved all your thoughtful and kind reviews and so YOU ALL GET PONIES!

PONIES OF MAGIC AND WONDER!

WITH... GUNS!

And those of you who read this chapter will get horses. So get to it! :)


Dean spent most of Saturday night concentrating on not screaming hysterically and booking the next flight to Barbados.

Okay. Okay. He'd kissed worse. That one chick at the Pi Chi party with the lazy eye and the sore on her mouth, for example. That hadn't meant anything, and this didn't mean anything, and you know, it was like a stage kiss really, just for show, and Cas only did it to fuck with him and freak him out and by God it was working.

It was just… all those questionable girls had been girls. And he'd always kissed girls. This was a dude. A gay dude. A possibly gay dude prostitute and dear Jesus he was going to have to get tested, wasn't he?

Dean mentally kicked himself. Of course he didn't need to get tested. It was just a kiss.

Just a kiss.

Not even that much tongue.

He laid in bed and tried to forget.

….

Dean couldn't forget.

It should have been easy. Barring one exceptionally graphic daydream, he didn't think about Cas that way. Didn't think about any men that way.

Okay, there had been a couple of – but that was besides the point!

He just wasn't attracted to Cas. That was the cold hard truth. It was an instinctive-response kiss, not a real one. And the thing actually freaking him out, he decided, was that he wasn't sure how real the kiss had been to Cas.

He looked at the clock.

7 am. Good a time as any to get up.

He sat in front of the TV for an hour, watching the anchors fret about and blather. Two feet of snow had fallen in the night. They were calling it "Snowpocalyse '09". Lots of interviews with beleaguered citizens unable to get to the grocery store or refill Nana's prescription. Correspondents in supermarkets gesturing to empty shelves where the flashlights and gas stoves should be. Cars stranded diagonally along the highway. Dean rolled his eyes and let them panic. Maybe if he was lucky, he wouldn't be able to make it in to the office tomorrow.

And then he heard a knock on the door.

Castiel was standing there, bundled up in bulk like the younger brother from A Christmas Story, with the entire ensemble crowned by a knit monkey hat. "Do you have electricity?"

Dean sighed. "Come on in."

Cas barged his way inside and waddled into the kitchen, where he began to laboriously strip off the layers one by one, starting with a series of brightly colored scarves. "I don't even have a fireplace," he explained. "I was seriously contemplating eating cold hot dogs when I remembered that we're friends." He reached inside his puffy blue overcoat and pulled out a handful of brown paper packets. "I brought oatmeal."

Dean sat down at the kitchen table and steeled himself. "Listen, Cas…"

Castiel draped his coat across a chair and began unbuttoning his snow pants. "Listening, Captain."

"About last night." He swallowed thickly, his mouth suddenly dry. "When you kissed me. Let's not… well, I'd like it if you didn't do that anymore."

Castiel stepped out of his pants and unzipped his parka. "You want to upgrade to blowjobs already? Don't you think that's a little greedy, Dean, considering that you're less than likely to return the favor?"

"What? No!" Dean exclaimed indignantly.

Castiel gave him a doubtful look. "Are you sure? Because… I give excellent blowjobs." He pouted his lips just slightly.

"No!" Dean stood up and crossed and uncrossed his hands violently in a vehement "no" gesture. "There will be absolutely no – blowing! None!"

And Castiel grinned, and shucked off his parka and said, "Easy mark, Dean, you're so incredibly easy."

Dean fumed silently for a second, and then noticed what Cas was left wearing. "Cas, I think you're the last person in America who still owns long underwear."

Castiel took Dean's kettle from the stove and filled it with water. "Want any oatmeal?"

Dean sat back down, elbows on the table, and rested his cheek on the heel of his palm. "Sure."

Chapter Text

A/N: My children! My delightful, gay-man-erotica loving children! I have prepared another chapter for you. I hope it is to your liking. I worked tirelessly on it.

I just have to say - I love you. I know, I know, it's so soon in our relationship to be popping the L-word but I can't help it. I love you, I love you, I love you! Life is short, and I refuse to mask my true feelings! Your horses are in the mail. Ammo sold separately.

Commence the chapter!


Dean and Castiel spent the first few hours of the Snowpocalypse slouching on the sofa eating oatmeal and watching The Fast and the Furious series.

"What I think is weird," Dean said, "is that I still have power. We live on the same side of the street and everything. You'd think we'd be on the same line…"

"Oh, my outage has nothing to do with the power lines," Cas said nonchalantly. "I blew a fuse and didn't have a replacement."

Dean stopped mid-slurp. "What? How?"

Cas swallowed another bite. "I was running several machines, and I think there was power surge. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back."

"Machines?" Dean asked.

Castiel nodded.

Dean waited for a second, set down his oatmeal on the coffee table. "Care to elaborate on that?" he asked incredulously.

Cas stared at him as though Dean were the weird one. "Rock polishers. Grinders. I was running them at the same time."

Dean paused the movie and turned his full attention on his sofa-mate. "Cas, what do you actually do for a living?"

Cas blinked. "I told you. I'm a photographer." He pointed at the frozen TV screen. "Turn it back on. I haven't figured out yet which one's Fast and which one's Furious."

Dean gave him a long look.

Cas pointed insistently.

Dean sighed, and pushed play. "Well, at least you're the only one without electricity."

And then the room plunged into darkness.

"You jinxed it, Dean," Cas said. "You just had to jinx it."

"It's not my fault!" Dean snapped. "It's the fucking Snowpocalypse!"

So they built a fire, and watched it for a few minutes.

"Welp." Dean gazed morosely at his empty bowl. "What do we do now?"

Cas shrugged. "Have a drink?"

Dean pursed his lips. "Maybe just one."

….

"An', an' lemme tell you something," Dean slurred, "I don't care what anybody says. Gazelles are fucking majestic, a'right? Fucking goddamn majestic. An' if that makes me a pussy, then I'm a pussy."

"No, you're right, you're exactly right," Cas said, his eyes wide and insistent. "They're graceful, they just – bound everywhere –" He illustrated with an expansive hand gesture. "And their spirits are so swift and free… They're beautiful." The firelight danced on his face and his skin glowed, alive, alive with the flame like some kinda fuckin' phoenix skin or some shit like that.

Dean snuggled down in the nest of blankets and gazed up at Cas said, "Castiel, I am havin' some poetical thoughts about you." He cradled the bottle of Jack. "Time for another swig!"

Cas reached over him and tugged the bottle out of his hands. "I'm cutting you off."

Dean frowned and pouted and tried to look pathetic. "Heeyyyy. Give it back. Who made you boss of Drunktown?"

Cas laughed and exuded absolutely no sympathy. "I'm the mayor of Drunktown. And the chief of police. A warrant has been issued for your arrest."

Dean chuckled and laid back and closed his eyes, folding his hands behind his head. "What're the charges?"

Cas licked his finger and turned the page of an imaginary notebook. "Excessive drunkenness. Gazelle speeches. Public indecency."

Dean's eyes snapped open. "What indecency?"

Cas gave him a thorough looking-over. "You're only wearing boxers. High scandal."

"Huh?" Dean craned his neck and looked down and sure enough, nothing but shorty-shorts. "When did that happen?"

Cas shrugged. "I dunno. You had a robe but you said it was stifling your innovation."

"Huh." Dean had no clue what he'd meant by that but he didn't care, technically Cas was just in his underwear too even if it was long underwear, it was still his undies so they were equal. He just settled back into the blankets and looked up at Cas, who was propped up by his arm, with his palm flat on the blanket and his elbow locked and his head resting against his shoulder and his back sort of curvy slouched, and his body made this lithe silhouette, like some kinda fucking sexy jungle cat but not in furry-sexy way. He was staring down at Dean with this – this look – his mouth was just curling up the tiniest bit at the corners and his eyes were kinda bright and his whole face just sorta… burned, like a smoldering coal just for Dean and it made Dean warm in his chest and his flushed face and his hands tingled.

"Hey," Dean said, "Hey. I'm gonna ask you something really gayballs, okay? But I'm still straight."

Cas chuckled, and it was a low, dry husky noise. "Okay. What is it?"

Dean swallowed. "Would you… quit for me?"

The corners of his mouth shrank. "Quit what?"

Dean could knew that he shouldn't do this but he plowed on ahead. "The hard stuff. Whatever stuff you do. Not alcohol, or cigarettes, but the other stuff. Cuz I worry about you, and I want Sam to come live here, and he can't be around… you know… people like that."

Cas was quiet for a while, and his face was very blank, and Dean got worried because fuck, he'd blown it, now Cas was gonna get all pissed and tell Dean to go die in a fire and he'd deserve it, wouldn't it he, for getting in Castiel's business.

But then he met Dean's eyes again, and he didn't look pissed. "Okay," he said. "But only because I like you."

Dean huffed in relief. "Thanks. 'Preciate it." Then he reached up and tugged on Cas's arm and said, "Get on down here, c'mon, hug it out, it's the Gayballs Hour so get down here and cuddle 'fore I get sober."

So Cas laid down next to Dean and Dean pulled the blankets around them and rolled over onto his side, so he could lay his head on Cas's shoulder and play with the buttons along the collar of Cas's long underwear and gingerly touch the roughness of the stubble on his neck.

"Sometimes I forget," Dean said softly. "I forget what it's like to not be alone."

"Me too," Cas admitted. "But sometimes being not-alone makes the aloneness more real, so you have to… forget sometimes."

"Don't tell anyone about this," Dean whispered. "I don't want anyone to know."

Cas reached up the arm that was pinned under Dean, jostling his head, and readjusted so he could gently stroke his fingers through Dean's hair. "It's okay, Dean. I won't tell. And even if I did…" He chuckled. "I'm the neighborhood crazy. No one would believe me."

Dean laughed. "That's so true." He closed his eyes and let Cas stroke his hair.

And then the gears started turning in his drunken mind.

Cas wouldn't tell, would he? He didn't know anybody except Dean. And if he did call up Jeff and say Jeff guess what I snuggled with Dean Winchester and he didn't even try and stop me, well then Jeff would call up Dean and say Dean, I ran into your nutso neighbor and you won't believe the outrageous lies he told me, you should be careful of that guy. As long as Dean kept his trap shut, nobody had to know anything.

Dean could do anything he wanted and nobody would find out.

He could do anything he wanted.

So Dean sat up a little.

Cas smiled up at him. "What?"

And Dean bent down and kissed him there was no fucking tomorrow.

Chapter Text

A/N: Hugs and cookies to all of you. The cookies are chocolate chip, and they're in the mail! Your reviews made me all snuggly cozy inside and it made me write this next bit reeeeaal fast. It's a short chapter, but I hope you will enjoy it regardless. Many of you reported mixed feelings about Dean's thoughts and actions, which is as I intended, so don't worry. I won't let these guys completely crash and burn, I promise.

So here you go! Have at it!


Stop, Dean. No.

Dean woke up with a massive headache throbbing in his temples. He was in a pile of blankets in his living room and the fire had died so it was goddamn freezing and he was alone.

And he couldn't remember what had happened.

No. You're just drunk.

He could hear Cas's voice saying that phrase in his mind. He tried to replay the events in his mind; they'd gotten really fucking drunk, played card games, talked about the Nature channel, then Cas was the mayor of Drunktown, and then… he'd asked Cas to quit whatever drugs he took, and then… then…

It matters to me, Dean!

He couldn't remember. But he'd done something, because he could remember Cas stopping him, or at least his voice…. And now Cas was gone. Fuck. Dean groaned and buried himself back in the blankets and tried to ignore the knot in his stomach.

And then he heard a clanking noise from the kitchen.

Dean wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and walked to the kitchen.

Cas was fiddling with the stove, where he'd set a saucepan; next to him on the counter was a box of spaghetti noodles. He was still in his long underwear, but he had also donned his parka and his monkey hat, and Dean's robe was draped over a kitchen chair. "Thank God you have a gas range," he said.

"Good morning to you too," Dean remarked groggily, rubbing his fist in his eye. "What happened last night?"

Cas dumped the spaghetti noodles in the pot and began rummaging in the fridge. "It snowed another eight inches. I assume you won't be driving to work."

Dean shucked off his blanket and put on his robe, and then set down to the table with a groan. The smell of food was making him queasy. "No, I mean, after we got drunk. I can't remember much, but… I remember…" He closed his eyes. "I think you were upset about something."

Cas stopped his rummaging, and slowly closed the fridge door. "Well," he said. "I don't remember that."

"Really?" Dean asked. "Nothing? Cuz you seemed… less drunk than I was, anyways."

Castiel shook his head and didn't quite look at Dean.

"Oh." Dean chuckled hoarsely. "I guess it doesn't matter then, if we both forgot…"

Cas returned to the stove and stirred the spaghetti. "I recall a lengthy discussion about gazelles."

Dean groaned and put his head in his hands. "Yeah, I remember that. To be fair, you completely agreed with me."

"You also sold me your car in exchange for my half of the blanket."

Dean started and sat straight up. "No! I did not!"

Cas looked over his shoulder and jumped his eyebrows up and down. "I got your signature. Legally binding."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Haha, very funny. I'm not giving you the car."

"If you violate the terms of the contract..." Cas sighed heavily. "I have the right to institute a Gayballs Hour whenever I so chose, and you cannot object."

Dean felt his whole face get warm. "Oh, Christ, I remember that. I said that, didn't I? The Gayballs Hour? Jesus, I was drunk."

Cas turned up the stove. "Christmas is this Friday."

Dean rubbed his temple. "I know. My uncle Bobby is flying up to visit, but he can't make it until Saturday."

Cas turned around and leaned against the oven, and he looked at Dean and pressed his lips together and tugged on the dangling ties of his monkey hat. Then finally he took a deep breath and asked, "Would you like to come to my house for Christmas?"

For a second, Dean was speechless. "S-sure!" he stammered. "Yes!"

And in that moment he realized that this whole time he'd been sitting at his windows and wondering what the hell Cas was doing in that house, never actually going over and finding out for himself, he'd just been waiting to be invited.

Cas grinned and turned back to the spaghetti. "Bring some rolls," he said. "And gummy bears."

Chapter Text

A/N: Good day, my glorious chickadees! Happy New Year to all of you!

I know, I've been away a whole two days, and you're probably wasting away in my absence, pining for my beloved presence. It's difficult to survive without me. Right?

Right, guys?

*crickets*

Aaaaaanyways, I wrote you this chapter and it was fairly tricky. To give you some insight to the writing process, in general I visualize each scene as if it were the television show. I picture the actors and imagine the way they would sound, the faces they would make, the gestures they always do. Then I personalize it to whichever POV I'm using, imagining their own perceptions and employing the other senses - touch, smell, taste. Then I try and translate that into the written word in a concise, semi-eloquent manner. Some days, the words come easily. Other days, I canNOT for the life of me figure out a way to describe stupid little things like the squinty-scrunchy incredulous face Dean makes when he absolutely cannot believe the ridiculousness that you are saying to him. Or how to avoid saying the word "incredulous" every other sentence.

So, that's my process. And this chapter, wellll... let's just say the translation was a little harder. I'm playing with reveals that would be extremely clear in a visual medium, but might not read as well here. I hope it's understandable what's going on.

And on with the show!


"So I've stocked up on gummy bears," Dean told Sam. "I figure three jumbo bags should do it. It isn't Christmas without the risk of diabetes."

Sam laughed. "Man, I wish I could be there, but… I didn't know I was coming until last week, the ticket prices would be insane –"

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Dean reassured him. "I know you tried. It's okay. This time next week, I'll have more of your company than I can stand."

"Besides, I wouldn't want to miss out on turkey dinner here. There's nothing that says 'Christmas' quite like mashed potatoes served up on a cafeteria tray, you know?"

"Hey, no brother of mine is gonna stay in a facility that doesn't make good food," Dean said emphatically. "I checked it out. Betty Ford's got nothing on you guys. Besides, Cas is probably making halibut and stroganoff."

Sam chuckled, and then paused a moment. "Wait, I just realized - you've never been to Cas's house before, have you?"

"I haven't," Dean admitted. "I'm putting five dollars on incense being involved."

"You know he's got at least one bead curtain."

"Oh, most definitely."

"Wait – " Sam stopped. "Hang on, I guess I've got a visitor… I gotta go, Dean. I don't know who the hell it is…"

"Dude, it's probably Bobby!" he suggested. "About time he got out west."

Sam barked a laugh. "Right. Because spontaneity is Bobby's middle name. Anyways, bye, Dean."

"Talk to you soon," he said.

Then Dean closed his cell phone and handed it to the attendant. "Thanks for bending the rules," he said. "I won't be any more trouble."

She smiled. "He'll be out shortly. Happy holidays."

"You too," Dean replied warmly. He sat down in one of the beige chairs to wait and thought to himself – not untruthfully – that it was because of his devilishly charming smile that she'd let him temporarily break the "no cellphone" policy.

A couple of minutes later, Sam pushed open the door to the visiting lounge and glanced around the room.

Dean stood up quickly, his hands shoved in his jeans pockets. "Hey, Sammy."

Sam whirled and saw him. His jaw dropped. His mouth flopped open and closed like a beached fish.

Dean grinned. "I said I'd talk to you soon."

And Sam's entire face lit up and he broke into a smile so wide Dean's cheeks hurt just looking at him. "Dean! Jesus, Dean! What the fuck are you doing here?" he exclaimed, striding over and grabbing him into a tight hug.

Dean clapped him on the back and laughed. "It's two days to Christmas, Sam. I had to make a showing or else the staff would think I'm a terrible brother. I'm only staying for a few hours, and then it's back to the airport." Then he reached to the chair behind him and picked up his gift.

Sam groaned and chuckled at the same time. "Ohhhh no, you shouldn't have. Dean, I don't have anything for you."

"Relax, you can bring me something for New Year's." Dean handed him the rectangular box. "Open it."

Sam eagerly tore off the wrapping paper and laughed when he realized what it was. "The Star Wars original trilogy VHS box set!"

"Well, I knew that you're a huge geek, and you like Star Wars," Dean explained, "and the geeks on the internet assure me that this is the version least likely to bad-touch your childhood memories. No CGI Hayden Christiansen, Greedo shoots second, all that jazz."

"Thanks Dean." Sam smirked. "And now, if I ever get time-warped back to 1993, I'll be the coolest kid on the block."

"Shut up." Dean punched him playfully in the shoulder. "Your little nerd heart is palpitating with joy and you know it."

Sam grinned at him, and then his eyes got a little shiny and he sucked in between his teeth and he said, "Thanks for coming down here, Dean. It means a lot to me." He smiled. "Even if you are a jerk."

Dean smiled back and tried to keep the warm fuzzy feeling in his chest from overflowing into his eyes and making them blurry. "Bitch."

Then Sam crumpled up the wrapping paper and tried to shove it in Dean's pocket so Dean dutifully did his best to make Sam eat the paper ball and he had him in a pretty excellent chokehold until the attendant coughed and gave them a disapproving look.

They sheepishly let go of each other and clasped their hands respectfully.

"C'mon," Sam urged, "let's take a walk outside. Enjoy the sunshine before you go back to the Arctic Circle. California Christmas is balmy."

They wandered around the place for a few hours, and when Dean had to go, he hugged Sam and realized how much he'd missed his brother.

…..

Cas smiles up at Dean, the flickering firelight reflected in his eyes, liquor flushing his cheeks lightly pink. "What?"

I can do whatever I want.

Dean bends down and puts his mouth on Cas's and kisses him fiercely. He's rewarded by the deeply gratified noise that rumbles in Cas's chest and hums into Dean and he presses down harder, the warm sting of whiskey in Cas's mouth urging on his tongue, desperate for something he can't yet taste but he's sure he can reach it if he can only climb completely into Cas's skin and twine their bodies together, and so his left hand snakes up through Cas's hair and along the side of his jaw while his right hand is pawing at his buttons –

And then suddenly Cas's hands are at his shoulders, pushing him back, parting their mouths. "Stop, Dean. No."

Dean woke up with a start.

He blinked his eyes and took in his surroundings: plastic tray table, cramped seat, small oval window, clouds. He was on the plane home. Dream – that was a dream. He blearily righted the dinky plastic cup his hand had knocked over in his sleep and smiled apologetically at his fellow passenger, who seemed wholly disinterested.

What a freaky dream, and in a semi-public place…. Belatedly he realized that the tray table covering his lap had perhaps saved him from some embarrassment. Jesus.

Only it didn't exactly seem like a dream. It sort of seemed like… a memory.

Stop, Dean. No.

Dean felt his entire face go red hot.

He had kissed Cas. That drunken night he had kissed him, and Cas – the same crazy neighbor who had kissed him as a dare and offered him a blowjob – Cas had stopped him.

Awesome.

Dean put his hand to his forehead, closed his eyes, and tried not to die of shame.

Chapter Text

A/N: You know, being a fanfiction author does weird things to you. You find yourself on at 2 in the morning, looking for synonyms of "oddball", finding none that please you and believing fervently that you can finagle something out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. "A one-flew short of a cuckoo's nest? A few eggs short of a cuckoo's nest? A few nests short of a one-flew-over-the-cuckoo-dear LORD why is this so HARD?"

But you know what makes it all worthwhile? You readers. Your reviews give me the strength to continue belaboring metaphors and recycling pop culture tidbits. That's why each person who reads this chapter gets a Supernatural character of their choice, made of chocolate, WITH a complimentary Colt revolver. Now you can literally eat Cas up, and if anybody tries to horn in on the action - "GET BACK! *nom nom nom* I GOT A GUN! *cocks Colt, continues nomming* HE'S MINE, BIOTCH!"

Because I love you.

Allons-y!


Dean was nervous about Christmas.

He laid in bed on Christmas Eve night, turning it over and over in his head. There was no way that Cas remembered the kiss, or else he wouldn't have invited Dean over, but even still. He knew that the moment he looked Cas in the eyes it would be written all over his face, and the man could read him so easily…

And besides, he shouldn't feel like such a shithead because it all made sense, Dean decided. He'd been drunk, and lonely, and snuggled up next to a guy who had locked lips with him only a day before. God knew he hadn't seen any action in – in – well, so long he couldn't even remember! No one could blame him for making a mistake. It didn't mean anything; it could have been literally anyone in the world and Dean would have done the same thing.

But it wasn't anyone in the world. It was Cas. And deep down…

Deep down Dean knew.

He knew that –

No, no, no, no! Dean squeezed his eyes shut and screwed his fists into his head and tried to physically block his mind from touching on the dark little thought that had been huddling in the back of his skull since the first moment he'd seen Cas with his ruffled black hair and his bare feet, when Cas had looked at him with those sharp blue eyes and looked right through him and ever since that moment he had diligently ignored that tiny unkillable whispered greedy thought of I want him.

Shit.

Dean buried his face in his pillow and made a violent noise of frustration.

And then, suddenly, he remembered: the meditation stone. He reached over to his nightstand drawer and pulled it out, resting it in the palm of his hand and gripping it tight.

It was strange to find a stone calming, wasn't it? And yet laying in bed, breathing slowly in and out, he felt its solid weight in his hand and it somehow felt right. He concentrated on its smooth texture, the slight grain that ran through it near his thumb, and soon he was drifting to sleep with the parting thought that this was yet another debt he owed to Cas.

Christmas Day and Dean's stomach was all clenched tight with anxiety, but whatever. No big deal. He stuffed the rolls and the gummy bears in a plastic bag and made his way to Castiel's doorstep and rang the bell.

A minute later, Cas opened the door, wearing the ugliest Christmas sweater Dean had seen in years. There were quilted trees, reindeer, an elf or two, and two strands of little plastic colored lights knitted into the brick red abomination.

And even still, Dean thought – he looked handsome.

Fuckdamn.

"Hello," Cas said. "You're looking green today."

Dean glanced down at his gray wool coat and black slacks. "What do you mean?"

Cas squinted. "Your aura. You're all…" He made a vague gesture in the air with his hand. "Conflicted. Tangled up. Green."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Don't tell me you got high on Christmas, Castiel."

Cas sighed and shook his head grimly. "I'm depressingly sober. Now come inside before you notice the mistletoe."

"What?" Dean glanced up above his head and sure enough, a little sprig of mistletoe dangled above the doorway, fastened with silver duct tape. But by the time he looked back down to protest, Cas had disappeared into the house. Dean pushed down his mingled relief and disappointment, wiped his feet on the doormat and walked inside, past a stairway and into the main room.

The first thing that Dean noticed was the rocks. There were polished rocks everywhere, in every color, shape and size. Every bookshelf, end table and cabinet had at least one rock feature on it. Some were carved into little statues, some were merely smooth and round, some were angular crystals that jutted out from their mother stone just the way they'd first formed. They all gleamed or glittered.

This was just the living room, but Dean had a feeling the rest of the house would be similar. He whistled.

The room was painted a cozy shade of yellow, and the vintage stained glass lamps made the room look warm. The furniture, though – the furniture. The sofa and matching easy chairs were all upholstered with a disgustingly garish blue-and-green floral print from the seventies. He supposed it went with the olive green shag carpeting. Surprisingly enough, he didn't smell incense, although he saw a few unlit sticks on the windowsill. He smelled – chicken? Dean took off his coat and laid it on the couch, and then wandered towards what he hoped was the kitchen.

Instead, he found the dining room, where Cas was setting two places at one end of a long oak table. The two china cabinets in the room also had various rocks on them. "Where do you want the rolls and gummy bears?" he asked.

Cas started, and then swallowed. "Yes, the kitchen," he said, fidgeting with a cloth napkin. "I'm sorry, I'm not used to having guests."

Dean snorted and approached him. "What about all the people that come here?"

"I bring them directly upstairs." Cas folded the napkin some more and blinked quickly. "I don't let them in here."

Dean peered at the napkin in Cas's hands. "Are you making a swan?"

Cas exhaled through his nose and set down his napkin swan. "To be honest, Dean, I… I'm a little nervous having you here."

"Why?" Dean asked, unable to keep a disbelieving chuckle out of his voice. "Cas, I already know you're a few french fries short of a Happy Meal, alright? You don't have worry."

Cas took up the next napkin and began to fold it. "I bought this house with inheritance money I received from my great aunt. But ever since I bought it, I have been self-conscious about the number of rooms."

Dean frowned. "How many rooms are there?"

"I can't tell you," Cas answered. "I'm self-conscious."

A timer dinged in the other room.

Cas grabbed Dean's bag and pointed to his half-folded napkin. "Finish this swan!" he commanded. Then he ran to the kitchen, shouting along the way, "I can't let the macaroni burn!"

Chapter Text

Castiel's Christmas spread was enough food for seven linebackers. A roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni, mini corndogs, baked beans, white rice, rolls, lime jello, M&Ms, and of course gummy bears. It all tasted damn frickin' good.

"I have to admit," Dean said between bites, "this is all way more normal than I was anticipating. I was expecting tofu tacos and falafel."

Cas speared a gummy bear with his fork. "That would be selfish of me, wouldn't it?" he asked. "To prepare food only I would like?" He gingerly bit the head off of the bear.

Dean chewed his mini corndog slowly and swallowed. "I didn't think of it that way."

Cas nibbled at the bear's stubby legs, then grabbed the whole thing in his teeth and ate it. He smiled at Dean. "Besides, Christmas is a time to embrace one's traditionalist roots, to recreate one's fondest memories and wallow in nostalgia. I didn't know what was traditional in Kansas, so I assembled a variety of comfort foods from my own upbringing…"

Dean set down his silverware and stared. "How did you know I'm from Kansas?"

Cas blinked. "I thought it was obvious." He lifted the pitcher next to him. "More lemonade?"

"I'm fine, thanks," Dean answered, still unable to stop staring. "How is it obvious?"

Cas poured himself some lemonade and shrugged. "It's just… clear to me. You probably mentioned it once."

Dean nodded, only he didn't think he had mentioned it, and he couldn't help but feel somehow naked, somehow cornered, somehow exposed because Cas could see just by looking what everybody else never bothered to ask. He took another scoop of macaroni, and felt an uncontrollable urge to somehow dig back at Cas. "And by the way, why are you celebrating Christmas?" he asked, a little too sharply. "I thought you were agnostic. Shouldn't we be eating Winter Solstice dinner or something?"

The corner of Castiel's mouth turned up softly, and he picked at his beans. "Yes, Dean," he answered. "I do remember."

Dean frowned. "Remember what?"

"Last weekend. When you kissed me." Cas sighed and gazed down at his plate in resignation, and said in a low voice, "I wanted to give you a good Christmas because I'm afraid that our friendship won't last much longer. And I wanted you to have a good memory of me, later."

Dean flashed hot and cold all at once but mostly he just felt stunned, and he said, "Cas. What the fuck are you talking about. We're friends. Are you – are you saying you don't want to be friends?"

"I bought three pies," Cas blurted, still looking at his plate, his cheeks a growing a little pink. "There was apple, and cherry, and pumpkin, and I didn't know which one you wanted so I bought all three."

Dean felt extremely confused. "Cas," he said, a pleading note leaking into his voice, "I have no idea what you mean by that."

Cas closed his eyes tightly. "I apologize, Dean, I… Fuck. Shit. I need a smoke." He stood up from the table and walked quickly to the hallway.

Dean sat for a moment in his chair, alone in the dining room.

Then he stood up, and went after Cas.

Down the dark hallway, yellow light spilled out of the open bedroom door. Dean walked to the door and saw Cas sitting on a mattress on the floor, fumbling with a lighter and a cigarette. The room was sparse, with just one lamp near the head of the mattress, an ashtray, and a large black pentagram made of electrical tape spanning the hardwood floor.

"You left dinner for devil worship?" Dean clicked his tongue. "Hardly in the holiday spirit, Cas."

Cas started at his voice, then slumped. "It's a protection symbol," he muttered around the cigarette. "I do my meditation here."

Dean walked over to Cas and sat on the edge of the mattress and willed himself to be as collected as possible. "Look. Cas. I'm sorry if I – if I offended you when I kissed you. I know, you probably felt like… Like I was using you, because I was lonely and drunk. And you'd be right." He scratched the back of his head and accepted the fact that he was just going to blush forever for the rest of his life. "But if you can forgive me, I still want to be friends with you."

Cas chuckled and shook his head and blew out a stream of smoke. "My sister Anna, she once said to me, 'Jimmy, you know what your problem is? You see something you can't have, and you know it. You tell yourself you don't need it anyway. But you look at it real long and hard, and go by the display every day, sigh a little and put your nose to the window, go inside and look at the price sometimes, and you go on wanting it just the same. You don't know how to let go.'" He took a drag and blew it out. "Well, I really did it this time. I screwed us both over. So I'm sorry, Dean. I swear I didn't mean to."

Dean had this strange twisting feeling in his gut and an odd light feeling in his head and a tingling in his hands, and he said, "Cas, whatever you're apologizing for, it's probably not that bad."

Cas turned his head and gave Dean a hard look. "You know exactly what I'm apologizing for."

Dean swallowed and found his throat suddenly rusty and he croaked, "From what I can tell, you're saying you're into me but I'm off-limits."

Cas looked away and put his cigarette to his mouth.

Everything in Dean trembled softly and he stammered, "Wh-what if I'm not. Off-limits."

Cas froze.

He stubbed his cigarette in the ashtray.

He put his hands on his knees.

"Well." He cleared his throat. "That's." He cleared it again. "I see."

And in spite of himself, Dean grinned and laughed and said, "Wait a minute, did I just surprise you? Did I just say something that Castiel the Psychic did not see coming?"

Castiel glared indignantly. "I've known this whole fucking time you're hot for me, Dean Winchester, I just never thought you'd admit it! You've told me about seven times how 'straight' you are!" He made air quotes with his fingers.

"Oh puh-lease." Dean rolled his eyes. "You had no idea! You went completely catatonic just then."

Cas snorted. "I went catatonic because I instantly pictured this –" and suddenly he put his hands to Dean's face and kissed him like a goddamn motherfucking sex god.

Dean was only stunned for a second.

The next second he was kissing back and dragging his hands through Cas's hair and biting his lip and oh God the way Cas moaned and Dean was pushing him down on the bed, shoving his tongue down his throat and gasping, they were both gasping for breath and panting and grinding and oh fuck it was good, and Dean's legs were scissored between his and he kept kissing and thrusting and shoving his hand up Cas's sweater and shit, that was what you did with a chick, fuck it Cas liked it anyways and biting and groaning and licking Cas's neck and kissing and rubbing and friction and Cas's fingers digging into his back and faster and harder and fuck, fuck, more and again and again and again and Cas gasping Dean, Dean, I'm gonna, I'm gonna co- and FUUUUCK.

They collapsed there for a moment, panting, and then Dean rolled off of him and laid flat on the mattress.

"Merry Christmas," Dean rasped.

Chapter Text

After a couple of minutes, Dean sat up. "Well," he said. "I guess I should be going."

Cas sat up, his hair sticking up in odd patches and a newly blossomed hickey on his neck. "Take a pie, won't you?"

"Sure," Dean said.

So they went to the kitchen and got Dean a pie, and Cas wrapped up some leftovers.

"The mini corndogs reheat well," Dean commented.

Cas nodded and sealed the gladware tub. "Oh, yes. They'll keep for a long time, too."

Dean thanked Cas for having him, and Cas thanked him likewise, and he got Dean's coat, and they shook hands and wished each other a Happy New Year in advance. Dean waved goodbye and walked out the door.

He made it all the way to his front door before he stopped and blinked.

Was he mental?

He made a 180, sprinted back to Cas's, and raised his fist to pound on the door -

The door swung open. A surprised Cas stood there, wearing a big khaki trenchcoat with a cloth belt tied around the middle. "Dean. You're back."

"I just realized - " Dean caught his breath - "that we could be having sex right now."

Cas nodded. "So did I. I was just on my way over."

"Are you naked under that trenchcoat?" Dean asked.

"I'm naked under this trenchcoat," Cas answered.

Dean stepped inside, closed the door, grabbed Cas by the lapels and shoved him up against the wall and kissed him so hard their teeth knocked. Then he stepped back and yanked off his jacket as quickly as possible.

Cas grinned. "Hot damn. You're good at this."

"Good at - what?" Dean tore off his shirt and was surprised to find he still hadn't caught his breath, somehow.

"Seduction." Cas's eyes were dark and hungry and even a little savage, and he grabbed Dean by the waist and kissed him roughly and pushed him against the door, and said, "I think you should know that I don't normally come that fast."

And that's when Dean, in one swift movement, jerked the belt from Cas's trenchcoat so fast it zipped. Cas's eyes widened and his nostrils flared and his whole body went rigid.

Dean smirked. "Wanna bet?"

….

So, it was pretty much no-contest the Best Christmas Ever. The next 24 hours were basically nonstop sex interrupted only by food and fatigue. And honestly – Dean surprised himself with how easy it was. After all the denial and bullshit he'd put himself through about being attracted to Cas, he never would have predicted that he could jump into bed so nonchalantly. Maybe it was because it was sex, and sex was something that came naturally to Dean. Whatever the case, he wasn't going to second-guess it because holy. Fucking. Shit. It was good.

"So how many guys have you slept with?" Dean asked, his arm draped around Cas's middle and his cheek resting on Cas's chest. "Because I'm not gonna lie, you seem like you've had a lot of practice."

Cas chuckled and his ribs bucked gently under Dean's head. "Trust me, Dean. You don't want to know."

"Also, why am I in the chick position?" Dean asked indignantly, making no move to change his location.

Cas ran his fingers through Dean's hair. "Because you like me to rub your head."

Dean opened his mouth to protest because he had no such preference and then Cas's fingertips stroked his scalp again and all could say was "Huh."

Cas chuckled again and then exhaled deeply. He kissed the top of Dean's head. "Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally," he murmured.

Dean's eyelids were getting really, really heavy so instead of getting properly baffled, he just mumbled, "English, Cas."

"Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally." Cas's fingers carded through his hair again, soft and slow. "Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction. The order of operations."

Dean let his eyes drift closed because Cas probably couldn't see them anyways and asked, "Algebra? That's your pillow talk?"

"We didn't follow the order of operations." Cas's voice was low and husky and it rumbled into Dean through his body. "This isn't how I normally do things."

And that's when, with great effort, Dean mustered all of the sarcasm he was capable of producing and said, "Gee, really? This is different for you?"

Cas laughed, and Dean turned his face up to him and scowled. "It's not funny."

"It's hilarious," Cas corrected, grinning from ear to ear.

Dean hrumphed and disentangled himself from Cas and pulled the sheets tight around his body. "And by the way, just because we're having sex doesn't mean I'm gay, alright?"

"I know that." Cas turned on his side and propped his head up on his arm, watching Dean and smiling. "You have such bilateral conceptions of sexuality."

"As opposed to you, who approaches it unilaterally?" Dean retorted.

Cas closed his eyes and shook his head. "Dean, Dean, Dean. Your problem is that you think of sexuality as a discrete attribute – straight or gay. Yes or no. When in reality…" He smoothed his pillow with his hand. "It's like politics. We have a two party system. People identify as Republican or Democrat, based on where the majority of their values lie, and there are vocal extremists in each camp: pure liberals, and pure conservatives..." Cas slid his hand along Dean's upper arm. "But most fall somewhere closer to the middle. Maybe your Republican aunt is against the death penalty. Maybe your Democrat uncle supports gun rights." His hand made its way to his collarbone, and he traced the ridge there with his fingers. "Regardless of party loyalties, political beliefs are really a spectrum ranging from fascist to communist, and the majority of the public is fairly moderate."

Dean sighed and looked up at the ceiling. "So, following this metaphor, what does that make you? A Nazi or the Red Menace?"

Cas moved closer to Dean, and his hand slid further down his chest, resting lightly on his sternum. "I'm a Marxist, sexually speaking. 'From each according to his abilities…'" He dragged his hand lower, and then murmured right in Dean's ear, "… to each according to his need.'"

Dean's heart started beating a little faster, and the room got a little warmer, and he quipped, "That's what I like about you, Cas. You make history fun."

Cas smiled and kissed the side of Dean's jaw, and as he slid his hand down along the v of his hipbone, he began reciting, "Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…"

"Fuck you," Dean groaned. "I'm going to end up with the weirdest fucking fetishes."

"… conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition – mmm, you like that, huh –"

"Unnnghhhh yeah uhn oh God now I'm picturing him –"

"– the proposition that all men are created equal –"

"Fuck you ohhhh fuck Lincoln!"

Chapter Text

A/N: Wow. Just - wow. You guys are incredible, you know that? Your reviews make me so happy. :) I'm so sorry for the wait - today was my first day back at school from Christmas break, so the weekend was full of packing and traveling and general business.

The good news is, this chapter is extra long. I won't say much, but I will say this: this one got away from me. Characters just started doin' their own thing and not giving a crap what I thought. As in, I was literally typing along and thinking, "What am I typing? I have no idea. This is not how things are supposed to go at all." It could have something to do with the fact that I finished it at 3:30 in the morning, but I doubt it. :P

If you read, I'll... Oh, I don't even know. I'm so tired. I'm up this late for you, my chickadees. I have class tomorrow and I care not. The external validation you provide is that invigorating. So please, please review and I will give you... my kingdom. Everything the light touches will one day be yours. Except that dark, shadowy place. That's beyond our borders. You must never go there, Simba.

The Wincest lives there.

Hooookay that's enough early-morning insanity for now. Enjoy the chapter!


Bobby's flight arrived late Saturday afternoon, and Dean picked him up from the airport. Thankfully, the snow had abated since last weekend and the roads were clear.

"So how's work?" Bobby asked.

Dean shrugged. "Boring, but what else is new. How're things in your neck of the woods?"

Bobby took off his trucker hat and smoothed his hair down before replacing the cap. "Business is alright. It ain't much, but I bring in enough. Makin' more money from selling scrap metal these days than I do from repairs. Times are tough; people make do with a dent here or a ding there." He shot Dean a sidelong glance. "I heard you went to visit Sam."

"Yup."

Bobby chuckled. "So how is the idjit? And be honest – I know he lies through his teeth to me on the phone. Said he liked cafeteria meatloaf."

"He's doing alright." Dean checked his side mirror and changed lanes. "Better than alright, actually. He's coming up here next week."

Bobby gave Dean a long look. "For a visit?"

Dean nodded. "For now."

"… But you're hoping it'll end up being more permanent," Bobby finished for him.

Dean didn't correct him. He just kept his eyes on the road.

Bobby sighed. "Do you really think that's such a good idea, Dean?"

"What are you talking about?" Dean demanded. "It's the best thing for him! I'm his brother. It's a new town. A clean slate. It's exactly what he needs."

"It's just…" Bobby scratched his beard. "You two know how to bring out the worst in each other. And I know he's making amends, but everything that happened, I'm sure it's still a little raw… Every little thing he does that annoys you is gonna drive you up the wall. And the same for him. I'm just not entirely convinced that living together is the right move."

Dean exhaled through his nose and adjusted his grip on the wheel. "Bobby, the fact of the matter is, there's not a whole lot of other options. He's got no job, no clean friends, I'm sure his credit rating is shit… And I will not – I will not let him fall back into the same patterns that got him where he is now."

"You know, he's always welcome with me." Bobby cleared his throat. "I'd give him an honest job, place to stay…"

After a quiet moment, Dean said, "Thank you, Bobby. I appreciate it. But Sam's my brother, and it's my job to take care of him."

"It's Sam's job to take care of Sam," Bobby said quietly, a dark knowing look in his eye. "It's your job to help him if he asks. But you can't give him anything he don't want for himself."

"I know, Bobby." Dean drove up the ramp onto the freeway. "I know that."

….

The weekend passed quickly and comfortably. That evening they ate breakfast platters at Denny's and traded anecdotes about what exactly was wrong with teenagers these days. On Sunday, they went to Jeff and Laura's for brunch and Bobby was a clean-cut angel of a man, more genteel than Dean had ever seen him, and once they got in the car to leave they both turned and looked at each other and guffawed. Bobby admitted, laughing so hard he was almost crying, "When you were in the bathroom – hahahahah – I said the nativity had 'striking verisimilitude!'"

So yeah, it was a good weekend. Dean was glad Bobby was staying until Tuesday.

The entire time, he saw neither hide nor hair of Cas. It wasn't unusual, since barring the previous weekend, they only hung out on Fridays. And it made sense, considering Dean had company and it wouldn't be polite to barge in. And it… well, it made Dean feel weird. Part of him was relieved to have dodged that particular hurricane of awkward, but part of him – his dick, specifically – was disappointed. Not like anything could happen with Bobby around, but… fuck, he didn't know. He just wanted to know that Cas wasn't specifically avoiding him.

Dean and Bobby spent Monday drinking beer and channel surfing. They somehow ended up watching Titanic and bitching out Kate Winslet for not sharing her big-ass freakin' door raft with Leo. Then It's A Wonderful Life came on and Christ, what a sap fest but they were both too lazy to reach the remote and whaddya know, sometime around towards the end they both spontaneously developed allergies and surreptitiously used their fists to wipe out whatever crap had just got in both their eyes.

It really was a wonderful life.

Until Monday night.

Because on Monday night, sometime after midnight, after hours of restlessness and frustrated mental replaying of his Christmas festivities, Dean's eyes snapped open and he finally understood what the fuck Cas had been talking about with the order of operations.

See, Dean had two kinds of sexual relations – casual, and semi-casual. Both had a specific set of steps with a specific order. With casual, the script was easy. Go to a bar, pick up a chick, go back to her place or get a room, sex, leave in the morning and don't exchange numbers. With semi-casual, the steps were a little more intricate to execute, but just as well known: Meet a girl, charm her, get her number, call a few days later, go on an appropriate number of outings, sex, and the sex could be renewed multiple times thereafter by instigating another outing; repeat as long as desired.

Cas was neither of these things. Cas was another animal entirely. The order was all jumbled up. Friends, then sex, no dates at all. They were way too… something… for it to be a love 'em and leave 'em, but Dean had sorta left in the morning/afternoon – but he had said goodbye – but then did he even have Cas's phone number? And if they didn't go on outings, how was Dean supposed to instigate? Was he supposed to instigate? They hadn't really talked…

God, what if it had been some kind of Christmas miracle that Cas had no intention of repeating? What if he wanted to go back to being just friends? Sure, the sex had been good for Dean. It had been…

Really good.

So… so good…

No! Remember! Crisis! Sure, it had been good for Dean. But what if it hadn't been for Cas? What if he'd just been putting on a good face? Dean was like a fucking virgin when it came to dude stuff. If that was the case, what right did he have to proposition Cas? Shit. Hey dude, remember that time when I nervously fellated you and kept accidentally grazing your junk with my teeth? Wanna do that again?

Christ.

To be fair, blowjobs were a lot harder than all those women made it seem. Especially the part about keeping the teeth out of the way. Dean just needed some practice.

Jesus fucking Christ, blowjob practice? His dry spell these past few months had seriously messed with his head. And you know what, he had no business being this freaked about it. It wasn't like Cas was picky! If he went and knocked on Cas's door right now and said, I need to practice my blowjobs, there was no way Cas would turn him down.

Heh. The look that would be on Cas's face. Dean could just see it. I need to practice my blowjobs. First he'd be all stunned, and then his eyes would go dark and he'd smirk and nostrils would flare and he'd say in that gravelly voice, I know an excellent tutor.

It was funny, really.

Ha ha.

Ha.

So that was how Dean ended up slipping on his boots and jacket at 2 a.m. and creeping out of the house as quietly as possible. It was absolutely freezing outside, and combined with the fatigue it made him more than a little dazed, and as he tromped over to Cas's door he very much hoped he would get to come inside before tromping back. He knocked.

Cas opened the door. He was wearing wool socks, blue-and-orange striped boxer briefs, and a narrow blue tie. That was all.

Dean knew the words he wanted to say. I need to practice my blowjobs. Instead, what came out was, "Wool socks?"

Cas tilted his head slightly. "I was cold."

Dean sighed and stepped inside, closed the door behind him, walked into the living room, and Cas followed. Before he even knew what he was doing he turned around, pulled Cas in by his tie and slowly kissed him, soft and easy and dizzying and totally different from everything he'd had in mind.

Cas, for his part, sort of melted against him like warm chocolate in your hand and let out a little sigh.

Then Dean stopped for a moment and rested his forehead against Cas's and mumbled, "Shit, Cas. Where've you been?"

Cas reached up and pushed the coat off of Dean's shoulders, and Dean leaned into him and kissed along the side of his neck. Cas sucked in a breath. "Your uncle is here, Dean."

"Not here. At my place, asleep." Dean shucked the coat off and then slid his hands back up Cas's warm skin and up to his face and kissed him again, because he had forgotten what it was like to be this soft and even Christmas had been needier, faster, rougher and now - now he just wanted his hands running over Cas's skin for miles and miles and miles. "Were you expecting me?"

And Cas turned his face down and pressed himself into Dean and said in a very quiet voice, "No. But I was hoping."

And something about the way he said it, Dean just… couldn't bear. So he took Cas by the hips and guided him back onto the couch, and he worked the knot of the tie down and slipped it off, and said, "Me too."

Chapter Text

A/N: Oh! My starlings! Oh! I realized after I published last chapter that I forgot to work in your words like I promised I would! I'm a terrible person, reneging on my word! So then I firmly resolved to do it this chapter.

... Aaaand then that turned out to be really hard.

So, my new plan is to work them in sometime throughout the story. BUT. Rest assured, I will get them all in. Even the weird ones. Somehow. I might have an epilogue that consists solely of Cas rambling on nonsensically. We'll see.

In other news, this is officially the most chapters I've ever written for a fanfiction! However, the chapters here are shorter than some of my other stories, so it's not the most in word count. It's definitely longer than I intended, though; I'm nowhere near finished and originally I thought it was going to be, oh, five chapters or so. But it just keeps on goin'. It's because of your unfailing support that this is all possible, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Heh. Bottom. It's kinda like butt. Do you think that's ever been mistranslated? "Dear sirs, I thank you from my heart's butt." Heh heh.

Aaaand that's enough from me. Everyone who reads this chapter will get a pack of kittens trained to lick you until you burst from cuteness! Onward!


Dean woke up slowly.

It was a gradual drift into consciousness, starting with an awareness of the cocoon of warmth wrapped around him, the soft weight of blankets on his back, and the cushioning pillow under his face. Then the nagging tickle in his muscles urging him to clench and stretch, flex and unflex. Memory slid back into his mind, and another center of warmth glowed in his chest and he opened his eyes.

Cas was staring at him. He was lying like a mirror image, his head on the pillow a reflection of Dean's, and he was just staring.

"Morning." Dean smiled groggily. "Whatcha thinkin'?"

The corner of Cas's mouth turned up. "You won't like it." He reached up and slid his hand on Dean's shoulder and rubbed it gently.

"What, Cas?" Dean snuggled closer and chuckled. "Trying to figure out where to dump the body?"

"I was just thinking…" Cas's hand wandered up Dean's neck, and he ran his fingertips very softly along the line of his jaw, and the smile faded a little as his eyes went large and serious.

Dean felt his own smile fade a little, and he repeated, "What?"

Cas's adam's apple bobbed. "I can't tell you yet."

"Cas." Dean chuckled nervously and slipped his arm over Cas's waist. "You can't just say shit like that and not tell me."

Cas thought for a moment. "Close your eyes and I'll mouth it to you," he said.

Dean frowned. "If my eyes are closed, how can I see what you're mouthing?"

"You won't," Cas said. "But your heart will hear it."

It was Dean's turn to stare.

Cas stared back, completely serious.

"Did I ever tell you that you're incredibly weird?" Dean asked.

Close your eyes, Cas mouthed.

Dean sighed a long-suffering sigh and closed his eyes.

And Cas reached both his hands up and cupped the sides of Dean's face, and he held them there for a silent moment. And then he leaned forward and and pressed his lips to Dean's forehead.

"There," Cas said. "Now you know."

"Don't know shit," Dean grumbled, dragging Cas closer until their bodies were flush together. "Such a weirdo, you know that?"

Cas chuckled into his neck and wrapped his arms around him. "Would you like me to apologize with sex?"

Dean made a mock-growling noise and rolled them over so Cas was on his back and pinned beneath him. "If I knew it was that easy…" He bent down to kiss him–

And then he caught a glimpse of the clock.

8:07 am.

"Fuck!" Dean swore.

"That was the idea," Cas replied.

"Bobby!" Dean explained, rolling off and clambering out of bed. "I gotta go!" He ran to the living room yanked on his pants and shirt, snatched up his coat and tugged on his boots. It wasn't until he was out the door and throwing on his coat in the freezing cold air that he realized he'd forgotten his boxers.

Screw it. He'd get them later!

He dashed across the icy way as fast as he dared to dash and then stopped at his door. Slowly, carefully, he turned the knob and opened it as quietly as possible. He tiptoed inside.

Safe. The entrance and the living room were empty. Dean breathed a sigh of relief and headed for the stairs.

"Mornin', Dean."

Dean froze.

Bobby stood in the doorway to the kitchen, his arms crossed.

"Hey, Bobby!" Dean said weakly. "You're up! I was just… getting the mail."

Bobby raised a single eyebrow. "Your shirt's inside out."

Shit.

Dean sighed and hung his head. "Bobby –"

Bobby threw up a hand to stop him. "Look, Dean, I don't care. What you do is your business. You don't even have to tell me her name. Just –" He grimaced. "Promise me that she isn't married."

"Of course not!" Dean exclaimed, his entire body unclenching in relief. "Bobby, you know me! Do I seem like a homewrecker?"

Bobby shrugged. "It seemed like the only logical explanation. Aren't you a little old to be sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night for nookie?"

Dean ran a hand through his hair. "It's – complicated."

Bobby gave him a look. "Should I ask what complicated means?"

"I'd rather you didn't," Dean admitted.

And then someone knocked on the door.

"I'll get it!" Dean volunteered hastily and a little too loudly.

Bobby rolled his eyes. "I'll be in the kitchen."

Dean ran to the door.

Cas was standing there, fully dressed thank God, boxers in hand. "You forgot this."

Dean stepped outside, snatched the boxers and shoved them in his pocket. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he hissed. "Waving 'em like a goddamn flag! What if someone saw?"

Castiel blinked, and took a step back.

Dean's mouth dried up, and he stammered, "I, I, I mean Bobby's here, Cas. He's like a father to me."

And then Cas nodded, and said, "Okay," and stepped back again and walked away. As he walked he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, tapped one out and put it in his mouth. When he reached his mailbox he stopped.

Dean watched him from the doorstep, for some reason unable to move.

Cas pulled out a lighter and cupped his hand around the cigarette, and just as it lit, he glanced back at Dean; a long, hard glance. Then he blew out a cloud of smoke and walked back to his house.

Chapter Text

 


Tuesday evening Dean dropped Bobby off at the airport and thanked him for coming out. The old man hesitated before closing the car door, and said, "Be good, Dean."

Dean nodded, and his stomach twisted. "I'll try."

….

He wasn't more than twenty minutes on the highway when he noticed the fuel gauge. Nearly running on empty. He took the nearest exit and pulled into a Texaco.

He hooked up the pump to his car, then cupped his hands and blew into them as he waited for the tank to fill and watched the price scramble higher. Jesus, it was cold out, and dark now too. And Jesus, the price. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. After filling up, Dean walked over to the minimart and pushed open the door, a small tinkling bell announcing his arrival.

The woman at the register looked up. She was older, maybe in her fifties, kind lines in her face, with pale blonde hair that hung in soft waves. She smiled.

Dean smiled back politely and set to work scouring the shelves for what he wanted. A pine-scented air freshener shaped like a tree and a couple packs of gum, the kind that tasted like abrasive toothpaste but were guaranteed to make your smile whiter. He brought his items to the counter, and as the woman rang him up, Dean caught sight of the nametag on her vest. Linda. It seemed an appropriate name, a motherly sort of name.

"Have a good night," she said, handing him a receipt.

"You too." Dean grabbed his gum and his pine tree and headed to his car, the little bell over the door tinkling on his way out.

Just as he stepped outside, he noticed a skinny man lurking there, pacing nervously under the awning. His baggy black shirt went almost to the knees of his sagging jeans, and he wasn't wearing any coat. With bloodshot eyes and a slightly awkward gait, he loped past Dean and into the minimart.

Dean speed-walked to his car, and was very relieved to find it was still locked and the stereo was still installed. Obviously this wasn't the best neighborhood, although it could hardly be considered "inner city" considering it was in the middle of nowhere a half hour from the –

BANG!

Dean jumped.

Dean froze.

Dean turned.

He could see through the large windows the man hopping over the counter, taking the money out of the register and shoving it in his pockets, and the very crown of a blonde head slumped behind the counter.

And that's when time slowed down, and every muscle in his body came alive.

Dean knew the smart thing to do. He should get into his car, crouch out of sight, call 911, try and give a good description of the assailant, stay on the line until the police arrived. That was the smart thing.

Instead, he dropped his bag.

He walked to the door, every step pounding in his ears.

The man had his back to the door, too busy rummaging through the register.

Dean knew this was his only chance.

He whipped the door open and charged for the counter, that damn fucking bell ringing all the way.

The man looked up but thank fucking God he was slow on the uptake and the entire world was moving in slow motion now so when he pointed his pistol at Dean and screamed, "Freeze, fucker!" Dean didn't stop, couldn't stop, just plowed on ahead and watched as the man's finger squeezed on the trigger and –

Dean's hand caught his wrist and shoved his arm upwards and the shot fired into the ceiling, blasting in Dean's ears and ringing, ringing, plaster dust sprinkling down and Dean wrestled with him and punched him in the face and slammed him into the cigarette case and wrenched the gun out of his hand, and the man's eyes were wide and terrified and he was yelping like a scared dog and Dean grabbed his collar and heaved him over the counter, headfirst onto the linoleum floor, and leapt over it and stomped him right in the gut and the man buckled comically, his face bugging out, and he tried to punch Dean in the leg, so Dean kicked him and dropped his knee into the man's chest and

I'm fucking alive

raised the butt of the gun in his fist

I'm fucking alive

and brought it down with a sickening crack on the man's skull

how the fuck am I alive

and the man stopped moving and his head lolled to the side.

Dean panted, the blood coursing through his veins like swift water rapids and he stood up and walked behind the counter and said, "Linda?"

She was slumped on the floor, a pool of blood dribbling out of the gaping wound on her leg. "Help," she croaked. "Help me."

Dean crouched down to her and shrugged off his jacket, laid it on her, pulled off his overshirt and bunched it up and pressed over the wound. She made a whimpering noise. "It's okay," he said, "hang on." And he pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed.

"911, what's your emergency?"

"She's been shot," Dean said, his voice higher and shakier than he had expected. He realized his hands were shaking too. "We need help. A woman is shot in the leg. What do I do?"

The operator spoke rapidly and smoothly. "Okay, sir, first I need to know where you are."

"I'm at a Texaco," Dean answered, "Exit 16 off the Interstate, we need an ambulance quick, she's bleeding a lot, my – my – my shirt is already soaked through –"

"They're on their way," the operator said. "Now, you're going to need to make a tourniquet. I can talk you through it. Please stay on the line."

The man on the floor groaned.

"Hang on," Dean said, "I'm here, but just one second."

He put Linda's hand where his had been and set the phone down and quickly went to a nearby shelf, grabbed two zip ties, and walked over to the man. The man still had his eyes closed, but his face was scrunched up in pain. Dean rolled him over onto his stomach and zipped his wrists together, then scrambled back to Linda.

He picked up the phone. "Okay. Tell me what to do."

….

They wanted to take him to the hospital. Dean didn't want to go.

"Is Linda going to be alright?" he asked.

The two officers looked at each other. "She'll probably pull through."

"Then I want to go home." Dean put his head in his hands. "I told you what happened, I gave you my statement. Please, let me go home."

One of the officers took pity on him. "Alright, but we're taking you. You're in no condition to drive."

So they drove him home in a patrol car, and walked him to the door, and gave him a pat on the shoulder with the promise that they'd "be in touch tomorrow."

Dean staggered inside, every bone in his body filled with concrete. Immediately he stripped off his bloody clothes and trudged upstairs and turned on the shower as hot as he could stand.

He stood there for a few seconds, just rinsing, and then felt his knees tremble and got out. He wearily pulled on his robe and laid flat on his bed and closed his eyes.

"Dean?"

Dean opened his eyes.

"Dean!" Cas called again, this accompanied by quick footsteps on the stairs.

Dean sat up.

Cas burst into the room, his face white as a sheet. "Dean! Are you alright? I saw the police – the blood –"

And for some reason everything strong inside of Dean crumbled all at once and welled up in his eyes and he said in a pleading, creaky voice, "Cas…"

Without another word, Cas walked to the edge of the bed and put his arms around him tightly. Dean pulled him onto the bed and hugged him close and buried his face in Cas's shoulder and twined their legs together because for some reason, he was still fucking alive and all he wanted was Cas all around him.

And after awhile, Dean fell asleep.

 

Chapter Text

A/N: My readers! My fantastic fantastic readers! I have a little anecdote to tell you.

Some time ago, I listened to the song "F.N.T." (Fascinating New Thing) by Semisonic, and I realized it was the perfect Dean/Cas song. I asked for someone to please make a fan video of Dean/Cas to the song and send me a link. No one did.

Until yesterday.

The beautiful, glorious, magnificent, delicious marvelchick made a video: youtube.com/watch?v=tORX1mt1ZvY . It's the best thing since sliced pie.

Speaking of pie slices, thaaaat's your reward for reading the chapter! Pie! FREE pie! Internet pie! Ain't no pie like internet pie!*

Also, I'm still trying to work in the words you guys gave me. I didn't get any more in this chapter, but I have plans for the others. Oh yes, plans... But anyways, read on and I will fax you your internet pie ASAP!

*Warning: Rabid mongeese are extremely averse to internet pie.


Early morning light bled through the gap between the curtains, a weak beam across the burgundy comforter. Dean and Cas laid next to each other, gazing up at the ceiling in silence. They'd been awake for awhile.

"I used to get in fights," Dean said, apropos of nothing. "Right after my dad died, I would go into bars and start fights. I was good at it, too. Dad was a former Marine, and he taught Sam and I some 'self defense' techniques…" He trailed off.

Cas shifted and turned so that he could see Dean. "Last night. Tell me about what happened."

Dean chuckled sarcastically. "Oh come on, can't you read it in my aura, oh psychic one?"

"I could," Cas answered seriously, "but I think you'll feel better if you tell me about it."

Dean paused and licked his lips, trying to collect the images in his mind, trying to unravel the start. "I went to a gas station to fill up. Right as I was leaving, I mean, I was in the parking lot next to my car – this guy – he shot the cashier and started taking the money. So…" Dean took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. "I went back in."

Cas watched him, waiting patiently, his face blank.

"I charged him." Dean swallowed. "Beat his ass into the ground. Then I called 911 and made a tourniquet for Linda's leg. I – I stopped to tie him up so he didn't get away. The police and the ambulance came, and I told them everything. The security cameras backed me up." Dean looked at Cas, and a heavy guilty knot tangled in his stomach. "But there's something I didn't tell them."

Cas reached his hand over and twined his fingers with Dean's. "What?"

Dean closed his eyes again. "Cas," he whispered, forcing himself to continue, "Part of me… When I was hitting him… Part of me just wanted to keep going. I wanted to keep hitting him until he died."

Cas was silent for a long moment, and he rubbed his thumb in slow circles on Dean's hand.

Dean just breathed in and out, the admission hanging in the air above his head.

"Your mother," Cas said. "She was shot."

Dean's breath hitched in his throat and stuck there. "Home invasion," he croaked. "Burglary gone wrong."

Cas nodded. Then he sat up and looked toward the window, maybe just an excuse to turn away from Dean. "It took me by surprise, too."

Dean furrowed his eyebrows. "What are you talking about?"

Cas just stared out the gap in the curtains. "In the courtroom, they were reading his statement, and I looked over… and he was crying." He slid one knee up and propped his arm on it. "They were reading his words saying how much he had loved her and he was fucking crying. Like he had a right to any kind of pain." He turned his head back to Dean, and his eyes slid over, heavy and bitter. "I knew then that I wanted to kill him. That I was…capable of killing him. I knew wouldn't bring her back. I wanted it anyway. And that's when I left the church."

Dean just stared back at him, their eyes locked together, locked in this same knowledge of the things in the dark you never knew were inside of you, the electric current channeling between them powerful and alien and familiar.

And then Cas sighed. "But enough of that. We're wasting a perfectly good bed."

Dean only had time to quirk his head and ask "What?" before Cas had artfully rolled over and knelt over Dean on all fours, his knees on either side of Dean's thighs and his hands on either side of his arms, and he bent down and kissed Dean smooth and deep like he was born knowing how.

Dean gave in to the kiss instantly because hell, who wouldn't, but restrained his urge to throw his legs around Cas's hips because that would be way too fucking girly. Instead he just kissed back with everything he had and gave Cas the full Talented Winchester Mouth Experience and maybe groaned a little, but it was a fucking manly groan.

Then Cas pushed Dean's robe back and reached his hand down and danced his fingers along his abdomen, making the muscles flutter lightly under his touch and then all of the sudden BAM he slid his hand down over Dean's boxers and squeezed and Dean arched into his hand and moaned and didn't even care how it sounded because fuck.

Well, two can play that game. Dean kissed Cas fiercely for maximum distraction and then slipped his hand under the waistband of Cas's sweatpants and shit that was hot, the strained desperate noise Cas made into his mouth and the way he moved so hungrily and his warm hand against Dean through the cotton, a few heated minutes of that and Dean had to break away from the kiss just to catch his breath. But Cas wasn't stopping, oh no, he just moved his mouth along Dean's neck and to his shoulder and then he bit him.

"Fuck, Cas!" Dean gasped, bucking upward, feeling himself start to lose it, trying to hang on a little longer, he could tell Cas was close too and he had to hang on–

And then Cas growled – he fucking growled and bit Dean again and Dean moaned "Cas!" and they both fell over the edge and tumbled into the dark.

Chapter Text

A/N: My wonderful, splendiferous readers! I worked in two more of your words today, so hopefully the people who suggested them are still reading this story! *crosses fingers*

In other news, I didn't get very many reviews last chapter, so I assume that internet pie was less enticing than I had hoped. I THEREFORE offer you ten buckets of snow for reading! Fresh, pristine, pure clean snow harvested directly from the snow surplus in Eastern Washington. You can dump it on your friends! Dump it on your mom! Dump it on your significant other! Fashion a significant other OUT of the snow and cuddle until it melts and you sob uncontrollably at the barren loneliness of your life! Whatever you do, just have fun.

And now, Chapter!


Sam didn't know it yet, but he was about to tip over the dominoes in Dean's life.

New Year's Eve, and he was waiting in the airport for his flight, taking advantage of the free wi-fi and looking at stupid shit on YouTube. He'd had access to his computer for the past three months but no internet, and it was like – like being Rip Van Winkle. He had a lot to catch up on.

Dean called, inquiring about his flight. "Everything's on schedule," Sam assured him. "No heavy precipitation on your end, just lightly snowflake-y, so I should be coming in at about six pm your time. If you leave your place at five you should be golden."

Dean cleared his throat and paused awkwardly. "About that. Sammy, I was thinking… it might be easier if you just caught a taxi out here. Don't worry, I'll pay the fare."

"What?" Sam asked. "It's an hour drive. That's going to be expensive as shit, Dean. What have you got going on that's so important?"

"Nothing, I just…" He sighed. "Okay, I'll be straight with you. The reason is… because the last time I drove out there… When I was dropping off Bobby, I stopped to fill up on gas, and – this guy was holding up the place –"

"Holy shit, are you alright?" Sam exclaimed.

Several others in plastic chairs turned to look at him.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Dean answered. "I actually… I kicked his ass. But he shot this woman, and she's okay too but – afterward I felt like shit and I don't think I can handle that happening again so I really don't want to come out there and I know that doesn't make sense but I'm sorry." The last bit came out in a rushed stream.

Sam got a strange hollow sensation in his stomach and he asked Dean, "Was it in a Texaco?"

Silence. "How did you know that?"

An uncontrollable laugh bubbled out of Sam. "Dude, you're internet famous. You've gone viral."

"What?" Dean's voice jumped an octave. "I specifically asked Officer Mills not to release my name –"

"No no, your face is blurred out," Sam interrupted, "but some local news channel aired a segment on the 'Texaco Hero' with footage of some badass 'who has requested to remain anonymous' beating the shit out of a wannabe thug and you've got, like, 2 million hits on YouTube."

"Shit."

"I thought I recognized Dad's moves. Thought maybe the guy was a former Marine or something, that they all fought the same way." Sam chuckled and ran a hand through his hair. "Freakin' A, Dean, I go to rehab for 3 months and my brother becomes Batman! The – the fucking zipties, Dean!"

"This is bad, Sammy." Sam could practically hear him pacing. "What if somebody at work sees this video? I can't let this get out."

"What, that you're a hero?" Sam asked incredulously. "Besides, I'm your brother, and even I didn't recognize you."

"No, but once I told you, you knew it was me." Dean sighed. "And whether or not I was justified – which frankly, I'm not sure that I was – it makes me look [at best] like a violent vigilante, and at worst some kind of thrill seeker…"

"Look, Dean, you're freaking out over nothing. And take it from a college dropout lawyer-wannabe: yes, you were justified." Sam snorted. "He fucking shot someone, Dean. Anything is justified. See you in a few hours."

….

The flight came in a half-hour early, thanks to a tailwind or something like that. Sam considered calling Dean and letting him know, but decided against it. It was his turn to show up unannounced.

It wasn't until the taxi pulled up in front of the beige house with dark windows and no car in the driveway that Sam began to consider the folly of his decision. But hey, couldn't be more than half an hour before Dean came home, so he just dragged his suitcase up to the door and plopped down on top of it to wait.

He tucked his hands into his pockets and shivered. Miserable weather out here. California was better.

The door of the house to the left of Dean's opened, and a man stepped out. His thick black hair ruffled in the wind, a five o'clock shadow dark on his face, and he had buttoned farmer's overalls over a Christmas sweater. Also, he had cowboy boots. He stared at Sam and put a cigarette to his mouth.

Sam waved.

The man wandered over, stopping every so often to dislodge the snow from his boots. As he came closer, Sam could see that the cigarette was unlit.

"Hi," Sam said, smiling. "I'm Dean's brother, Sam." He stood up and put his hand out.

The man ignored the offered shake and squinted. "He's out of milk."

Sam slowly lowered his hand. "And I'm guessing you're Castiel."

"James Novak," the man said. "But I'll allow it."

"What's this about milk?" Sam asked.

Castiel or James Novak or whoever he was tucked one hand into his overalls and looked Sam over carefully. "Who was she?"

Sam frowned. "Who was who?"

Castiel stared at him, not blinking at all. "The girl who died."

Sam started, gulped, and stopped breathing all at once.

Castiel just kept staring.

And Sam chuckled painfully, the kind of chuckle you make when someone socks you in the shoulder, and admitted, "You're going to have to be more specific."

Then Castiel smiled, not a mean or mocking smile but a sympathetic one, almost camaraderie, and he said, "I'd like to show you my photography, Sam."

"Wh-what?" Sam stammered.

"There's candy in my house," Castiel offered. "Lollipops."

"Lollipops," Sam repeated disbelievingly.

Castiel snapped his fingers and shook his head. "That only works on Dean and small children. I keep forgetting." Then he smirked and pocketed his cigarette. "Oh, come on, Sam. You're dying to know. Come have a look." And then he turned and walked back toward his house.

Sam blinked, watched him go for a second, and then followed.

Chapter Text

A/N: MY WONDERFUL READERS. HOW I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU LIKE BOBBY LOVES HIM SOME WHISKEY. I LOVE YOU LIKE WE ALL LOVE BOBBY.

Aw, now I'm sad cuz I brought up Bobby. :( BUT I STILL LOVE YOU VERY MUCH.

You guys reviewed a ton and I was hella mad at myself that I wasn't able to bring you a speedier update, but this chapter was - how do I say it? A bitch. That's the word. This chapter was a bitch. I've taken a few writing classes in the interim I wasn't writing fanfiction, and I am no longer satisfied with the same quality level as I was in my previous works. Sooo this one took longer and I'm still not satisified completely with it but it'll do.

Did I mention that this story is taking longer than I expected? Because this is the 20th chapter, folks. TWENTY CHAPTERS. Dear LORD.

If you read, I will send you twenty bottles of Johnny Walker Blue aaaaand shortly thereafter I will declare bankruptcy. Please read anyways, as I have always wanted to be homeless so that I could turn the experience into a poignant memoir and make millions. ALSO I STILL LOVE YOU.

I'll shut up now.

P.S. It occurs to me that most of you are probably not Catholic. For this chapter, you should know that the rosary is prayed with different Biblical passages in mind, depending on what time of year it is/ what purpose you are praying for. These sets of Biblical themes are put into groups called "mysteries" - the Joyful Mysteries, the Glorious Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Luminous Mysteries. If you don't know what a rosary is, go Google it.

Actually, you might want to google it anyways, if you've never prayed one. Google "how to pray the rosary" and click on the first link. It might be helpful.

Okay, let's get crackin'!


The upstairs of Castiel's house was – white. Pristine, bare white. White walls, white tile, a few white ottomans, a white desk, and a white door, all reflecting the bright daylight streaming in the French windows. Not at all how Dean had described the rest of the place.

"Welcome to my office," Castiel said. He turned the doorknob and opened the door. "And here is my studio."

It was huge. Sam thought he must have knocked down a few walls. High ceiling, hardwood flooring, light blue walls, framed photographs hung artfully every foot or so. Most that Sam could see were landscapes, sunsets, beautiful outdoor scenes.

He really was a photographer.

Castiel walked ahead of him, the clack of his cowboy boots echoing off the hardwood. "And here is my latest project. It's not finished."

Sam stared.

It was a giant blown-up photo of a rosary against a white background– about ten feet across – with pieces cut out and replaced. Like all rosaries, it had a sequence of beads repeated five times – ten beads, extra chain, then a single bead (which Sam somehow remembered was called a decade) – and then the loop closed in a medallion of Mary, and the last bit dangled off – single bead, chain, three beads, chain, single bead – and then culminated in a crucifix.

Almost each of the beads in the ten bead sets had been pasted over with a photo of the back of a man's head, heads of every color and shape and hairstyle, slightly bowed, the nape exposed. The single beads that stood alone were replaced with five photos of clasped hands, as in prayer. The Mary medallion was still intact. But at the end, the crucifix had been cut out, and underneath were two arms crossed over each other, the hands stiffly flat.

Above the rosary, in a simple typeface, large black lowercase letters read:

oh my jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell

and then below,

lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.

Castiel watched him, watched his face, waited for his reaction. "I'm calling it, 'The Sorrowful Mysteries.'"

"I…" Sam blinked, feeling some – some indescribable expanding emotion in his chest. "It's incredible, but I don't know if I understand it."

Castiel turned to his creation, eyeing it warily. "Each of these heads – these are photos of gay Catholics. Some are closeted, some not. But the strange thing about the church is that it almost doesn't matter. Being gay in the church is like a conspiracy; you keep quiet, keep your head down, and everyone silently agrees to look the other way."

He paused a moment, then pointed at the crossed arms. "This is how people used to pray, you know. Arms crossed over the chest."

"Are those your arms?" Sam asked.

Castiel nodded.

Sam ran a hand through his hair. "How long have you been working on this? You've gotta have, like – forty-five men in this picture."

"I don't know." Castiel shrugged. "Several months. It's been slow. They don't like to take risks. I have to snowball sample – I find one, he tells me of another man he knows of, and that man tells me someone he knows, and so on. I have to assure them of their anonymity. I have to convince them to come out here."

Sam felt – overwhelmed, just standing in the presence of this project. "This means a lot to you, doesn't it? Why haven't you shown this to Dean?"

Castiel gazed at the photo of the crossed arms. "The women who died. You were going to tell me about them."

"No I wasn't!" Sam balked.

Castiel turned his gaze to Sam.

And for a minute there, Sam could palpably feel his gaze, those focused blue eyes boring into him so bluntly, saying, I showed you mine, now show me yours. An order. Sam's palms started to sweat.

He exhaled, and gave in. "It started with Jess. My college girlfriend. It was one of those terrible freak things; an aneurysm. I didn't know how to handle it, but Dean was there for me. I quit school and he took family leave and we went on a road trip across America." Sam smiled to himself. "It was awful and perfect at the same time. It held me together, you know? But then…" He swallowed. "Dad had a heart attack. And we were both blindsided. Dean wasn't there to hold me together, and we both just… fell to pieces…"

Then Sam shook his head, a shiver running up his spine. "I don't know why I'm telling you this."

Castiel just watched him, never looking away.

"Anyway…" Sam shoved his hands in his pockets, uncomfortable. "It was too much. Dean was gone, lost in his own world. I had nobody. And then this girl Ruby comes along, and she was – edgy. Dangerous. Alive. And I thought, if maybe I just – stop caring so much, I could live again –"

Castiel smiled slowly. "Sounds so easy, doesn't it? And it was, for me anyway. But then, I started on easy stuff. A little Oxycontin never hurt anyone."

Sam snorted. "I was strictly into stimulants. They made me feel like I could control things, like I could do anything. Coke, speed, ecstasy, even a little meth there at the end when things got desperate…" He grimaced and rubbed his elbow. "Fuck, I was at rock bottom. I was – I was stealing from Bobby and Dean, doing… favors, doing Ruby…"

"So you quit." Castiel said it so matter-of-factly, like quitting your job. You just quit.

Sam laughed hollowly. "Not even then. I did more than ever. It's crazy, but it was the only thing I had left. No, it was when the second woman died. Ruby. She overdosed, and…" Sam shut his eyes, felt the weight in his gut. "I was the one who shot her up."

When he opened his eyes, Castiel finally, finally looked surprised.

"I want to say that I loved her. I didn't," Sam admitted. "I did need her, but that's something different. She wasn't my girlfriend anymore, she was my dealer. She had made sure of that. So her dying, it wasn't like Jess, but – up until that point, I had kind of thought that dying would be okay. Going out on a high – I had accepted that idea. But when she was choking in my arms in a piece of shit motel room, I suddenly realized… she had started dying along time ago, and so had I. And it wasn't okay." He shrugged. "So I called Dean."

Castiel nodded slowly, then walked away from Sam, casting his eye about the studio. "When I was looking to buy a house, I wasn't looking for a place to live. I bought the one I wanted to die in. We all die someday, so why not plan ahead?" The corner of his mouth turned up.

He walked along his photographs, and his voice undulated up and down in an absent way, as though he were speaking to himself, as if he had forgotten Sam were there. "Not up here, downstairs. Someplace comfortable, warm, nostalgic, that's where I wanted to die. Someplace where the neighbors would be sad to hear I was dead, but they wouldn't cry. They would go on with their lives, and it would be just another turn of the cosmic wheel, another shift in existence, another revolution in the cycle."

He stopped at a photo of a fireplace and looked at it thoughtfully. "Then Dean moved in. And I don't want to die around him."

And the strange part was, Sam wasn't sure if Castiel was saying Dean made him not want to die, or if he just didn't want Dean to be there when he did.

Maybe that's why he blurted, "I'm three months clean and I've never been happier."

Castiel chuckled softly and put a hand to the frame. "Thank you for trying, but I already quit. The illicit substances, anyway."

Something tight in Sam relaxed. "How long has it been?"

Castiel glanced upward, calculating. "Two weeks."

Sam's eyebrows jumped upward. "Really? That recent? Why?"

And then Castiel looked at him, and smile hovered on the edge of his lips, and he said, "Because Dean asked me to."

Something entirely different knotted up inside of Sam. But before he could think of the right words, Castiel interrupted his thoughts. "How do you feel about turtles?"

"They're kinda weird," Sam answered. "I'm not into reptiles."

Castiel nodded and rubbed his hands together. "Good, good. I'm going to flush them out and I don't need PETA on my ass."

"Flush them out?" Sam asked, trying not to sound too bewildered.

Castiel opened the door to the office and motioned for Sam to follow. "I can hear them tunneling in the walls. Can't get anything done."

Sam followed him downstairs, and was about to ask Castiel to elaborate when his prepaid phone buzzed in his pocket. He flipped it open.

"Sam? Where are you?" Dean asked, his voice tinny in the receiver. "Why is your suitcase on my doorstep?"

"My flight came in early, and you weren't home. I'm with Castiel."

Dean paused. "He let you in his house?"

Without asking, Castiel reached out and took the phone from Sam. "Hello, Dean. Sam's on his way over. He's going to help me with the turtle problem later." Then he flipped the phone shut and handed it back to Sam.

Sam chuckled. "Pretty ballsy of you to hang up on Dean. He'll really give it to you later."

Castiel grinned. "I'm counting on it."

Sam didn't know quite what to say to that, so he opened the door and said, "I better go before he starts searching my bags for paraphernalia."

Castiel saluted him. "May the force be with you."

Sam stepped out the door and waved, but then something – at the last second, he hesitated. "Castiel."

Castiel raised his eyebrows.

"Dean says you see auras." Sam swallowed thickly. "Do you – what do you see in me?"

Castiel's face softened, his eyes sincere and his mouth making a small line, and he looked at Sam for a moment. Then he said, "You're indigo, Sam. The color of guilt and shame. It wraps around you like a shroud. But then, you don't have to be able see auras to see that."

Sam nodded, inhaled deeply and clenched his jaw.

Castiel put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "Nothing is fixed. The spirit of penance is not punishment, but redemption. You won't find it inside of yourself; you must turn outward and find it in others. If you want to be good, do good. You are capable of goodness." Castiel looked straight into his eyes. "Know that, Sam. You are capable of goodness."

Sam blinked quickly and croaked, "Thank you."

Then he walked quickly back to Dean's house, and as he walked, he remembered Castiel's project.

Oh my jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell

Heads bowed. Hands clasped. "The Sorrowful Mysteries."

lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.

And he wondered what colors Castiel saw in himself.

Chapter Text

A/N: My sweet, succulent starlings! Thank you, thank you, thank you for the reviews. They keep me going, they really do. They are the specific reason this chapter is done today - I felt like I just had to get it finished for you, my chirping charming cherubs. Everyone who reviews today gets ALL OF THE HUGS IN THE WOOOOOOORLD!

Also, I'm in the process of applying to law school, and due to procrastination/anxiety I'm cutting things really close to the deadline. If you all could think good thoughts for me and send your positive mind waves through the ether, I would really appreciate it.

Enjoy!


"I can't believe he asked you into his house," Dean said, leading Sam up to the guest room. "I didn't see the inside of that place for weeks."

"Well, I didn't see the whole place, he just took me upstairs." Sam heaved his suitcase off of its tiny plastic wheels and dragged it up the steps.

Dean paused, his hand on the newel post. "Upstairs?"

"Get out of the way," Sam grunted, pushing past Dean. Finally he wrangled the heavy thing safely onto the hallway carpeting.

"He didn't…" Dean looked a little green, almost grave. "Nothing weird happened, did it?"

Sam rolled his eyes. "He didn't crack open the hypodermic needles and load me up on heroin, if that's what you're asking. And I didn't steal any of his shit. Like I could fit a framed photograph under my shirt…"

Dean walked slowly down the hall. "He's really a photographer?"

"Yup." Sam rolled his suitcase to the guest room and unzipped it. "You should really go see for yourself. By the way, where were you?"

"I was out of milk, I had to go pick some up," Dean answered absently, picking his fingernails. "What does he photograph?"

"Landscapes, mostly. But he's working on a big project…" Sam sighed. "Like I said, you should really go see it. I can't really do it justice." He pulled a fresh shirt out of his suitcase and paused. "He's a cool guy. I can see why you like him."

Dean gazed at Sam, his face guarded and unreadable. "What did you guys talk about?"

Sam shrugged and yanked off his shirt. "Stuff."

Dean just kept gazing. "What kind of stuff?"

Sam stared back at Dean. "I don't know, Dean. Stuff! We talked about his psychic aura mumbo jumbo."

Dean made a sarcastic huff. "Uh huh. What color did he say you are?"

Sam pulled on the clean shirt and mumbled, "Purple or indigo or something like that. Whatever that means."

Dean smirked bitterly. "Right. Well, I'm glad you two are such great BBFs. Now you can have yoga parties and pick out china together."

Sam rolled his eyes. "For the love of – Dean, cut it out."

"Cut what out?" he asked innocently.

"The jealous boyfriend routine," Sam shot back. "You're acting like we're ten years old and I just took your spot in Cas's treehouse. I was sitting outside in the cold, alright? He invited me in. What else was he supposed to do? Break into your house? He probably only did it because he's such good friends with you! So stop being so freaking possessive. Christ."

Dean flushed red and shook his head and rolled his eyes, like Sam was saying nonsense. "Not possessive," he muttered.

It was Sam's turn to roll his eyes. "Please. Dean. I know you don't have very many friends, but seriously. It's okay if your friend is nice to someone other than you. You're not dating."

Dean turned and walked out of the room, saying as he left, "Thank God for that. There aren't enough healing energy crystals in the world to make that one sane."

For some reason, that struck something inside of Sam, and he poked his head out into the hall. "Dean."

Dean stopped and looked at him.

"I… I don't think he's actually crazy," he said, feeling a soft twisting in his chest like a cloth napkin being wrung by anxious hands. "I think he just wants to be. And – I think maybe you should have a talk with him."

Dean frowned. "About what?"

Sam sighed and rested his head against the door frame. "You're not gonna like this, or… maybe you won't believe me… but frankly, Dean? It seems like he has feelings for you. I know you said he was kind of flirty when you first met, but. It's more than that."

Dean didn't say anything. He just folded his mouth inward and looked away at the wall.

"I'm not trying to freak you out!" Sam added hastily. "And I'm not trying to come between you! It doesn't have to ruin your friendship. Trust me, you can still be friends. It's just – you need to make sure that he knows how you feel, before it gets awkward. Because I'm not sure he does know. And you owe it to him to – you know – sort of break it to him before it goes too far."

Dean inhaled deeply. "Believe me, Sam. Cas and I have already had that conversation. Don't worry about it, alright? This isn't junior high. He's an adult. I'm an adult. We can be adults about these things. So just – leave it."

Sam furrowed his eyebrows. "But Dean –"

"I said leave it!" Dean snapped, his nostrils flaring.

Sam froze for a moment, then slowly pivoted and went back into his room. "Asshole," he muttered.

"I heard that!"

"Douche-canoe! Did you hear that one?"

"You're the douche-canoe, Sam! You are!"

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over all the rampaging bullshit. What were you saying?"

"You know what? I'm too old for this. This right here? This is juvenile."

"Your face is juvenile."

"I'm serious, Sam. I'm not stooping to your level anymore." Dean walked down the stairs.

"I'd be the one doing the stooping!" Sam called after him.

Silence.

Sam sighed inwardly. He guessed that Dean really was right, they were too old to –

"Just because I'm shorter than YOU doesn't make me SHORT!" Dean shouted. "You have some kinda fuckin' GLANDULAR problem, alright? You're a freak of nature!"

"I'm the freak? I'm the freak! Says the guy who spent SEVEN DOLLARS on the Magic Fingers in ONE NIGHT in that shitty motel in Missouri –"

"Oh, don't even START with the Magic Fingers!"

Chapter Text

In hindsight, Dean definitely knew better than to invite them all over at once.

They were adults though, right? Was it too much to ask that the four or so people Dean was on a first name basis with all be in the same room together and get along nicely?

Apparently, it was.

Jeff and Laura were the first to show up, bearing Caesar salad and a sixpack of beer. "Get ready to party like it's 1999!" Jeff joked. Dean laughed and introduced them to Sam. Sam, for his part, was the perfect blend of polite and casual, reserved but relaxed. Jeff and Laura melted like butter. Sam had always been good at that.

Dean hadn't told Jeff and Laura about Sam's addiction. He didn't want any bad blood. It was in the past. Besides, it was Sam's story to tell. Jeff helped Dean set the table and Sam put the beer in the fridge and joked with Laura about Dean's taste for Miller Lite, and the pizza came out of the oven perfectly golden crisped and everything was going swimmingly.

And then Cas showed up, and it all went to hell.

It started the moment he knocked and immediately swung open the door to let himself in. Jeff and Laura exchanged a glance, mild terror frozen on their faces, and Dean could almost hear their backs stiffening, their throats clenching, their knuckles going white.

Maybe it was because of Cas's kilt. But then, it was probably his black feather boa.

"Hello," Cas said, thrusting forth a foil-wrapped plate in one hand.

Jeff and Laura regarded the plate with further stifled terror.

"Jeff, Laura." Dean chuckled nervously and clapped his hands together. "Have you met my neighbor Castiel?"

To Laura's credit, she stepped forward bravely and offered her hand. "I don't think we've been formally introduced. I'm Laura, and this is my husband Jeff."

Cas shook her hand firmly. "I'm Castiel, and this is my husband Omar." He looked down at his plate. "No, wait – my mistake. These are just breadsticks."

Laura giggled with wide eyes and a plastered smile, a hysterical edge to sound. Jeff stared.

"It was a joke," Cas reassured them. "Don't worry, I know the difference between breadsticks and a husband. For one, our state allows me to have breadsticks."

"HOOookay, what a kidder." Dean stepped forward and took the plate, which he handed to Sam. "Sam, why don't you take these to the kitchen?" He turned back to Cas. "And I'll just help you hang up your… scarf here–"

"It's a boa, Dean," Cas corrected.

Dean glared.

Cas swished the feathery end of the thing. "See? Boa."

Thank God Sam finally stepped back in and said, "Hey, Jeff and Laura, want to help me–" Before he could even finish his sentence, a grateful Jeff and Laura were scurrying into the other room and away from the junkie in drag.

Dean yanked open the hall closet. "You couldn't leave it alone, could you, had to make sure they knew it was a fucking boa," he hissed, scowling at Cas.

Cas slid off the boa and lackadaisically hung it up. "It is what it is, Dean. I don't see the problem."

"The problem is that I ask you to make nice and be normal once – just once –" Dean pointed one finger for emphasis – "and you show up in a skirt, Cas! You couldn't even wear pants?"

Cas looked down, as though he hadn't really noticed what he'd put on. "It's a kilt. Cultural heritage, Dean."

Dean dragged his hand down his face. "Just – dial it down tonight, will you? Pretend like you're a human being. Can you do that?"

Cas frowned. "I am a human being. And if I'm going to continue associating with you, and you're going to continue associating with them, I don't see the point in hiding who I am. They'll find out sooner or later."

Dean sighed and briefly closed his eyes. "Please, Cas. For me."

Cas's breath ghosted across his ear, sending a shiver up Dean's neck, and in a low, rough voice he said, "I agreed not to tell them about us. But I didn't agree to make it easy on you."

When Dean opened his eyes, Cas was halfway to the kitchen.

Dean closed the hall closet door. Fine. If Cas wanted to fight dirty, well. Two could play that game.

Chapter Text

A/N: I want you guys to know that it's almost 5 am where I am. You know why I'm up so late?

Because you guys are so damn fantastic, that's why. You are stellar. And I'll be damned if you guys don't get rewarded for doing the right thing and constantly stroking my ego. So, I stayed up all night finishing this extra long chapter for you.

Oh, and in unrelated facts, this is officially the longest fanfic I've ever written! Did you know that at one time, I expected this story to be done by the end of December? A HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH HA HA HA HA HA. HA.

Please review. It keeps the flayed fragments of my sanity somewhat intact. Thank you, and enjoy.


Laura and Jeff sat down on one side of the table, Dean and Cas sat across from them, and Sam sat at the end.

"You know, I can't believe how long we've lived in the same neighborhood without knowing each other," Laura said, smiling forcibly over the pizza. "I'm glad we finally met." She was trying, by God. Dean appreciated that.

"That's my fault." Cas scooped Caesar salad onto his plate. "I was avoiding you."

Laura's smile faltered.

Cas looked up, and paused. "I'm… shy," he said slowly. "That's why. I hope you understand."

A lie, an out and out lie, and Dean appreciated that too.

Laura's face relaxed into sympathy. "Of course."

"So, Castiel…" The name rolled off of Jeff's tongue like a foreign name, syllables from another language. "What do you do for a living?"

Cas used his knife and fork to cut his slice of pizza into little pieces. "I'm a photographer."

Jeff looked intrigued. "Oh? What do you photograph?"

Castiel chewed his bite, and swallowed. "Naked men."

Dean choked.

Sam coughed and laughed too loudly. "Ha ha ha! Very funny, Cas. He does landscapes mostly. Don't you."

Cas looked down at his plate, clearly disappointed at being thwarted. "Yes," he sighed.

Dean tried to remain bright and cheerful and not frustrated. "Jeff, why don't you tell Cas about your job?"

"He's a physical education teacher," Cas said in a monotone, not even looking up from his plate. "High school. He played football in college and he coaches the team."

Jeff's eyes bugged out. "Oh, you googled me, huh?"

Cas didn't answer. He just took another bite of pizza. Then he looked around the table and asked, "Are any of you fans of Abraham Lincoln?"

Dean flushed red. Okay. Time to step up the game.

Sam cocked his head, and Jeff and Laura nodded tentatively. "I think everyone likes Honest Abe," Sam answered, smiling a little. "Except the Confederates."

Cas grinned. "Yes, yes. What's not to like? Dean was just telling me the other day about how much he likes the Emancipation Proclamation."

"Really?" Laura laughed. "That's what you do in your spare time, Dean? Talk about the Emancipation Proclamation?"

Dean knew he was roughly the color of a beet, and there was no way of hiding it. He just chuckled and said, "I'm a bit of a history buff." Then he surreptitiously slid his hand under the table and waited for the right moment.

"Is he ever," Cas agreed, scooping a big helping of salad onto his fork. "He really gets into it."

Dean slid his hand under the kilt.

"He's extremely enthusiaaaAAAahhh!" Cas froze in mid word, his mouth hanging open, his fingers digging into the tablecloth.

Everyone else stared.

Dean leaned in closer, his face the picture of shocked concern. "What is it, Cas?"

"I – I apologize," Cas stammered, resolutely not looking at Dean, the tablecloth twisting in his hands. "I think there was a – a – a – spider in my shoe, and it – ahhh – it just bit me." He bit the inside of his cheek and his nostrils flared.

Come on, Dean mentally dared him. Push me away. Say uncle.

Sam stood up, alert and concerned. "Really, Cas? Are you okay? Do you need –"

And Dean pulled away and used both hands to stop Sam and push him back towards his seat and he said, "Relax, Sammy, he's a grown man, and you're not a doctor."

Cas bent down and slid off his shoe, rubbing his foot and groaning deeply.

And luckily Jeff and Laura weren't watching Dean to witness the way his mouth twitched into a momentary smirk.

"I'm okay," Cas said. "It just surprised me. I hate spiders."

The others eyed him warily, as though terrified he might fall over dead.

He sat up and took another forkful of pizza. "Tarantulas can live for up to 25 years."

Laura picked up her slice of pizza, looked at it, then set it down again.

Dean sighed.

It was gonna be a long dinner.

…..

11:30 pm.

They all sat in the living room, the TV turned up full volume to mask the uncomfortable silence. Castiel excused himself to use the restroom.

"So." Dean turned to his guests. "Only a half hour left in this old year. Time flies, huh?"

Jeff sipped his beer. "You sure he's not a dealer, Dean?"

"What, Cas?" Dean shook his head. "No, man, he's a space cadet but he's not dealing."

Laura glanced toward the back hall to the bathroom. "Do you really think he makes enough money off of photography?"

"He probably sells prints on the internet," Sam suggested. "And he has some kind of inheritance."

Jeff snorted. "Or he's got you fleeced. And there's a pot farm in his basement."

"He's in shape, though, for a pothead," Laura commented. "He's got nice legs. Good cheekbones, too."

They all looked at her.

"What?" she asked exasperatedly. "I'm married, not blind! I'm allowed to look."

"Aaaand that's enough for you," Jeff cut in, taking the beer out of her hand.

That's when Cas's voice floated in from down the hall. "Dean!" he called. "There's something wrong with your sink! The faucet won't turn on!"

Dean groaned and stood up stretching his arms. "Alright, I'll come check it out!"

Jeff shook his head and sipped his beer.

Dean jogged down the hall, already running through possible scenarios. If the toilet worked, the faucet should work, unless theoretically someone had unscrewed the pipe under the sink, but it would have to be deliberate –

And suddenly Cas yanked him into the bathroom and shut the door.

Before Dean realized what was happening, Cas had him shoved up against the door, his lips parted and his eyes wild. "Finally," Cas breathed in relief. He pressed his mouth into Dean's and kissed him desperately and his hands scrabbled frantically at Dean's belt, his breathing noisy against Dean's skin and his touch hot on his stomach.

Dean jerked his head away and pushed Cas back. "Now?" he panted, already feeling his body getting ahead of him. "You want do this now? Are you crazy? They're right out there!"

"Exactly." Cas's eyes were black and hungry and kept darting to Dean's mouth. "They're right out there. Don't act like that doesn't make your pants tight, because I can clearly tell that it does."

Shit. It did, didn't it? Their voices just outside the door, so close to exposing them… it was exhilarating. Forbidden. His pulse was already racing, his heart pounding in his chest and his blood rushing in his veins.

"We've got twenty five minutes to midnight, Dean." Cas's voice was so solid, so dark and deep and ragged. He slid his leg between Dean's and slowly dragged his body against Dean's, pressing their hips together and rocking slightly. "So we can do this the easy way, or the hard way."

"What –" Dean struggled to keep his voice steady. "What's the easy way?"

Cas bent his head and murmured along Dean's neck, his lips brushing against Dean's skin. "You let me into your pants and we jerk each other off very quietly." He licked a stripe up Dean's neck and nibbled at his earlobe.

Dean stifled a moan into a shuddering pant and managed, "And the hard way?"

Cas ground his hips against him, his hand sliding along Dean's waistband. "I keep rubbing on you like this, and you come in your pants anyways."

Dean had to chuckle. "You son of a bitch." He reached down and squeezed Cas's ass, which he was doing for Cas's benefit and it did elicit a nice little noise but fuck it was a nice ass, Jesus fuck. "But you're forgetting the third option."

Cas tilted his head slightly.

Dean pushed him back, turned them so that Cas's back was to the door, and dropped to his knees.

…..

"And I said, that's the last time we go to Cancun," Jeff concluded, laughing at his own anecdote. Sam and Laura laughed along, but it was clearly Jeff's favorite story of all time.

After the frivolity died down, Sam noticed the time. "Man, Dean's taking forever. There's only ten minutes to midnight."

Jeff nodded. "Maybe you should go let 'em know. The sink can wait until next year."

So Sam got up and strolled down the hallway to the bathroom. What could it even be, really? If the water in the kitchen was working, it probably wasn't a burst pipe – but then, maybe the handle had gotten unscrewed, but would they have fixed it by now? Huh, they'd closed the door, too, which was weird, but then it opened inward so they probably needed it that way to get under the sink. He raised his hand to knock on the door –

And that's when he heard it.

A soft, grunting noise, a sort of pleading noise, and someone breathing heavily.

Another grunt. The breathing got faster.

No.

There was no way.

There was some kind of logical explanation.

And then, a muttered "Fuck."

Sam wanted to move away, he really did, but he couldn't. He was just glued to the spot, frozen, his brain completely and utterly broken.

Maybe, maybe it was just Cas in there –

A quiet gasp. "Dean. Dean."

And then a short, harsh groan, and the breathing slowed down, and everything went silent.

The squeak of the faucet handle, and running water.

Please, please, please. If there was a God, could that God please strike him dead where he stood, and Sam would be forever grateful.

But, instead, because that was never going to happen and because Sam was nothing if not a complete idiot, he knocked on the door and turned the knob. "Guys? It's almost midnight."

The two jumped. Dean had his hands under the faucet, and Cas was adjusting his kilt. They were both flushed and mussed and obviously, obviously post-coital.

"Hey, Sammy, just got the faucet working!" Dean said weakly, a little faint. "We'll be out in a second."

Cas stepped forward. "He's an adult, Dean. I think he can handle the concept of a quickie." He shot Sam an apologetic glance. "These things happen."

And Dean went scarlet and muttered, "Cas. Shut up."

He didn't deny it.

Just, Cas. Shut up.

And for some reason, that blatant bald-faced acknowledgement was just too much, and Sam just stared at them, and said, "How?"

Cas stared back at him, just as confused.

Then his face darkened, and his brows bent inward and deepened the lines in his face. "He doesn't know."

Dean wiped his hand across his jaw. "Cas…"

Cas spun to him, his eyes flashing. "You didn't tell him. You didn't tell Sam."

Dean's mouth tightened. "Cas."

But Cas wasn't listening anymore. He was barging past Sam and saying, "I have to go," striding to the hall closet and yanking out his boa and slamming the front door. And Dean was running after him saying, "Cas! Wait!" and slamming the door again.

And Sam trailed after them, dazed, and found himself facing a pair of extremely confused neighbors in the living room.

"Sam?" Laura clutched Jeff's arm. "What's going on?"

Sam wished he knew.

But he put on his best everything's under control face and answered, "I'm really sorry, you guys. You have to understand, Dean's been dealing with a lot of stress lately – the Texaco robbery, and all of that stuff –"

Jeff frowned. "The robbery?"

"Yeah, you know." Sam waved his hand around, trying to jog his memory. "That guy holding up the Texaco, and Dean kicked his ass. The Texaco Hero."

Laura's eyes went wide as silver dollars. "Dean is the Texaco Hero?"

Shit.

Sam pinched his nose. "I thought he'd told you. He's trying to keep it under wraps, so… mum's the word, alright?"

They nodded at each other. "Well," Laura said, "I guess this is a bad time, so we'll just head on home."

And so a few minutes later, Sam was sitting on the couch alone, the smiling people on the television counting down the seconds. The throngs of New Yorkers undulated in colorful waves, and camera zoomed in on the glittering ball, neon animated displays flashing the numbers. "Three! Two! One! HAPPY NEW YEAAAAAAAAAR!" And the world erupted into kisses and embraces and twined arms singing Auld Lang Syne.

Sam toasted the empty room with his beer bottle. "Happy fuckin' New Year."

Chapter Text

"Cas!"

Dean chased him out into the snow, under the orange streetlights and onto black icy pavement. The road was dead silent, empty; everyone was huddled indoors getting ready to count down. He slid and wobbled, regained his balance. "Cas! Wait!"

Cas finally spun around. "Why, Dean?" he shouted. "So you can tell me what I already know you're going to say?"

Dean clenched his hands. "What am I gonna say then, huh? Go ahead! Tell me!"

Cas sucked in a deep breath and exhaled a billow of fog. His eyes were hard and accusing. "You're going to lie."

"Hey!" Dean stepped forward, and he found himself jabbing a finger at Cas. "I have never lied to you! Not ever!"

"Then answer me honestly." Cas bared his teeth as he spoke, his words clipped and sharp. "Did you keep this a secret because you don't want them to know you're with a man, or because you don't want them to know you're with me?"

Dean opened his mouth, and faltered.

Cas rotated his jaw and blinked several times quickly and said, "Well. Okay. I'm glad that's clear then." He turned and began to walk away.

"Cas, I didn't tell Sam because it's none of his business!" Dean said. "I'm serious! You don't need to get so worked up about this. I don't send him a bulletin every time I get laid! It's none of his business who I'm fucking, and nobody else's business either!"

"Is that what we're doing then?" Cas shot back over his shoulder, still walking away. "Fucking?"

"Yes!" Dean exclaimed. "Isn't that the point?"

Cas stopped.

Dean's throat squeezed tight. "Isn't it?"

Cas just stood there, his back to Dean.

"Oh come on!" Dean shouted, hot anger twisting in his gut. "Don't act like – like you didn't – I didn't ask anything from you, Cas! I didn't ask for any promises! You lead a, a parade of men through your house and you expect me to think we're more? I've known you for how long now? For months, and I've never seen a single one of your photographs. I let you into my house, Cas, and you shut me out at every turn."

Slowly, Cas turned around. And his face – Shit. Dean couldn't handle that face. His eyes were red and bright and his mouth was a tight line and he wouldn't even look, wouldn't even look Dean in the eye so he looked to the side of the street and said quietly, hoarsely, haltingly: "I knew how you felt at first, but I thought you'd… well, it doesn't matter anymore. But I'll explain things so you can understand." Cas took a deep breath. "Just because I'm a loner doesn't mean I want to be your dirty little secret. Just because we're fucking doesn't mean – doesn't mean that I don't feel. And just because you didn't ask anything from me…" He closed his eyes and his voice cracked as he said, "doesn't mean I didn't give it anyways."

Dean didn't say anything, just stood numbly, just stuck to the spot, unable to stop looking at Cas and say anything, fucking anything.

Cas wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and looked up at Dean. "It's my fault. But I don't think I can see you anymore."

"Cas," Dean whispered. "I thought we were friends."

And Cas smiled bitterly and close-mouthed, his lip trembling inward, and he rasped, "So did I."

Something stabbed in Dean's chest.

Cas gave him one last painful look. "Goodbye, Dean." And he walked back to his house and closed the door.

Dean stood there in the middle of the road. Just stood.

Somewhere far in the distance, a crowd cheered for the new year, echoing in the night sky.

And then Dean stumbled back to his house, ignoring Sam's questions, oblivious to the muffled fireworks, trudging upstairs and kicking off his shoes and collapsing onto his bed, and he just laid on his back and stared at the ceiling in the dark. And out of nowhere he remembered a moment, flashing vividly in his mind.

"What?"

Cas's adam's apple bobbed. "I can't tell you yet."

"Cas. You can't just say shit like that and not tell me."

Cas thought for a moment. "Close your eyes and I'll mouth it to you," he said.

Dean frowned. "If my eyes are closed, how can I see what you're mouthing?"

"You won't," Cas said. "But your heart will hear it."

It was Dean's turn to stare.

Cas stared back, completely serious.

"Did I ever tell you that you're incredibly weird?" Dean asked.

Close your eyes, Cas mouthed.

Dean sighed and closed his eyes.

And Cas reached both his hands up and cupped the sides of Dean's face, and he held them there for a silent moment. And then he leaned forward and and pressed his lips to Dean's forehead.

"There," Cas said. "Now you know."

And Dean realized he knew with absolute certainty the three words Cas had said, because his heart had heard it and hidden it away and kept it secret even from himself.

And suddenly his eyes were leaking and his body was shaking and he curled into a ball on his side and cried like a stupid idiot because some fucking hippie had fucking loved him and he had been stupid enough to fuck it all up.

Chapter Text

A/N: GUESS WHAT, MY GOSLINGS?

I got a ton of excellent reviews for the last chapter and I appreciate you guys all so, so much. You are the bestest ever and I want to marry each of you and the good news is, if you are also girl THIS JUST BECAME LEGAL IN WASHINGTON STATE TONIGHT! WOOO! Gay marriage was just legalized in our state and it's a good night for Destiel fans in the Northwest, because this means if Dean and Cas ever want to get married they can move here and stay on my couch or in my bed or whatever it's all good, please can I touch your abs no sorry okay well then I will just watch you spoon in your sleep (please can I touch them).

Anyways.

I shall not tarry you any longer. Enjoy the chapter!


When Sam woke up the next morning, the first thing he did was go to Dean's room. It was empty.

Not a good sign.

Then he went downstairs and followed the wafting smell of cooking meat to the kitchen, where Dean had three different pans of food going on the stove and a fifth of Jack in his hand.

An even worse sign.

"Sammy!" Dean greeted him, smiling widely. "You're finally up, lazybones!"

Sam gave him an uneasy half-smile. "Whiskey at ten in the morning, Dean? Is that such a good idea?"

Dean took a long swig and sighed. "Well, the mayor of Drunktown has left his post, an' somebody's gotta fill the position. And lookit here!" He used bottle to point at his various dishes. "I'm makin' eggs, bacon, hashbrowns. This is homestyle shit, Sammy."

"Are you alright?" Sam asked, sitting down at the kitchen table.

Dean grinned. "I feel great! Everything's fuckin' great." He tilted his head and frowned at Sam. "You know, sometimes I look at you and I can still see when you were really little. And I'd make you breakfast. You remember that?"

Sam chuckled and rubbed his forehead. "Yeah, but you weren't allowed to use the stove back then."

Dean grinned again. "Yeah, you loved you some strawberry poptarts. You were so little, Sammy." He turned back to the stove and stirred the eggs. "You were little back then." His stirring slowed. "It was easy to take care of you back then."

For some reason the way he said it caught in Sam's throat, and every way he'd ever betrayed Dean clamored to the front of his mind and he stood up and walked to the stove and said, "Hey, why don't you let me take over for awhile."

"Nah, this shit's done anyway, siddown Sammy." And Dean shooed him away and very carefully pulled the pans off the stove and turned off the range, and dumped the food onto two plates he'd set out. "Here. Take one of these."

So they sat down to the table and ate their breakfast, which was pretty good considering a drunk man prepared it.

"Dean," Sam said, "why is there a rock on the table?"

Dean looked at the plain rock, which was sitting smack dab in the middle of the table like some sort of centerpiece. "Oh. That. I have to get rid of it. Cas gave it to me. Do you want it? It's a meditation stone."

Sam set down his fork. He'd been hoping to let Dean sober up, but it occurred to him that maybe it was better this way. "Dean. We need to talk about last night."

Dean flushed red and he grimaced and smacked his forehead. "Shiiiiiit. That's right. You were – fuck."

"So, first off." Sam clasped his hands. "Does this mean you're gay?" Not a sentence he'd ever planned on asking, but there it was.

Dean scowled at him, then ground his palm against his temple and sighed. "I wish."

Not the answer Sam was expecting.

"Do you know how easy things would be if I were gay?" Dean asked. "This isn't some redneck backwater, you know. My boss is a lesbian. If I was gay, I could come out of the closet, and everyone would be so fucking supportive, and they'd all tell me how brave I was and shit like that." He exhaled through his nose. "But I'm into chicks. I checked. I still like their equipment."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "You checked?"

Dean rolled his eyes. "Porn, Sam. Jesus. You are too old for me to have to explain these things to you."

Sam gave him an unamused look. "Anyways. So you think you're bisexual?" This was all so much easier with him inebriated.

Dean shrugged. "I guess. But if I say I'm bi…. Suddenly it's a whole other story. People'll think I'm denial. Even gays'll think I'm in denial. Everyone'll assume I'm lying. People don't think you're brave to be bi, they think you're confused." He shook his head sorrowfully. "Cas doesn't get it. You date one guy, and you can kiss the women goodbye. They don't want you to turn gay on them."

"Why does it matter what other women think, if you're already in a relationship?" Sam asked.

Dean looked at him like he was an idiot. "For when it ends. And they all end. You have to prepare for that."

Sam pursed his lips and pressed his clasped hands to his mouth. "So what you're telling me is that you kept your relationship with Cas a secret because you wanted to keep your options open."

Dean squinted and opened his mouth, shut it again, pointed accusingly at Sam and said, "Shut up." He reached for the bottle.

Sam slid it away to his side of the table. "No, you've had enough. Eat."

Dean glared and shoveled scrambled eggs into his mouth.

"Is that what you told Cas last night?" Sam asked. "Is that why you're giving back his rock?"

"We canf have dif conversafion," Dean garbled around a mouthful. "You took muh boozh."

"Dean." Sam sat back and crossed his arms. "I've been constant therapy for the past ninety days. The only thing I know how to do anymore is talk about feelings. So you can start spilling now, or start spilling later, but I'm going to get it out of you either way."

Dean chewed thoughtfully for awhile.

Sam ate a piece of bacon.

Dean swallowed. "Cas and me. So. We've been. Bangin'."

Sam put on his most nonchalant face. "So I've noticed."

"And. I thought that was all." Dean wiped his mouth with his napkin. "There were a lot of things… I don't know. He just seemed like that guy, you know? Sleeps around. Free spirit. Free love. No strings."

Sam nodded attentively. Group sessions had made him really good at active listening.

"But last night I say that, and he freaks out." Dean blinked and took a deep breath. "And I guess all this time he – he – he –" He reached out for the booze, and found empty air. He glowered at Sam, and then lowered his arm. "So he said it's over. And I believe him. I fucking believe him, Sammy." His mouth twitched downward, and he looked up with pitiful eyes and said in a small voice, "Can I have my booze back? I'm starting to feel feelings again."

"No." Finally, they were getting somewhere. Sam leaned in. "So what happens now, Dean?"

Dean poked sullenly at his hashbrowns. "Fuck if I know. Drink some more. Take a roofie. Try and forget. Maybe I'll move."

"That's it?" Sam asked incredulously. "You're just going to give up?"

Dean's eyebrows snapped inward and he jerked his head up at Sam. "There's nothing to give up!" he snapped. "Weren't you listening? Cas and I fucked and now we're done and it's back to the one-handed tango!"

"Give me a break!" Sam retorted, his voice rising. "Do you even see what you're doing? Cas was your best friend, and it seems like maybe even your best everything, and you are so afraid of commitment that you're going to flush it all down the drain!"

Dean scowled. "You think I'm afraid? Sammy, I charged a man with a loaded gun in an empty gas station. I'm not afraid of goddamn emotions."

Sam looked him square in the eye. "You're right. You're not afraid. You're terrified."

Dean stared back, and then looked at his plate, and his adam's apple bobbed.

"If you tell me honestly it doesn't mean anything to you, I'll take your word for it," Sam continued. "But I. I will tell you, Dean. These past couple months, you have seemed happier to me than you've been in a long time. And right now, you're absolutely miserable. You do the math."

Dean picked up his fork, and squeezed it in his hand, and closed his eyes. "I can't," he gritted out softly through clenched teeth. "I treated him like… How could he ever take me back?"

Sam took a deep breath. "Sometimes, when people care about you, they can forgive the unforgivable." His eyes stung a little and he added quietly, "You should know that."

Dean opened his eyes again, and they were watery and pink as he looked at Sam and said, "You're my brother, Sammy. And I got it back."

Sam nodded quickly and blinked as fast as he could but his voice still cracked when he admitted, "But I pawned it." He sucked in a quavering breath. "I mean, it was Mom's."

Dean's chin trembled, and he reached out and put his hand on Sam's arm. "That's in the past now," he said roughly. "I know it won't happen again."

Sam smiled shakily. "So see? It is possible. To forgive. And I don't think you did anything as bad as that. So there's only one thing that matters now, Dean."

Dean cleared his throat. "What's that?"

"You need to ask yourself: Do I want to be with him?" Sam fixed him with a steely gaze. "And if the answer is yes?"

Dean gazed back at him, hanging on his words.

Sam narrowed his eyes. "You don't let anything get in your way."

Chapter Text

A/N:

Question: Who is the awesomest?

Answer: My readers.

Thank you so much for reading. You make me extremely happy. As a reward, you get - INTERNET HUGS! YAAAAAAY!

Also, Dean's bisexuality speech struck a chord with some of you, so I'll make up some memorabilia. Maybe some pins, with slogans... "Kiss me, I'm Bi-rish"? "Equal Opportunity Lover"? "It's Like Being Ambidextrous, But With Your Junk." "Seriously Though Guys, I Am No Longer In Junior High So You Can Stop Acting Like This Is a Phase or a Fad Like My Obsession with Backstreet Boys; I Am Not Going To Wake Up One Morning and Realize I Was Only Attracted to Both Genders Because All My Friends Were. Also The Backstreet Boys Are Still Awesome."

That last one miiiiight not fit on the pin.

In all seriousness, I firmly stand by what Castiel said some several chapters ago, in that the waters of sexuality are a murky and ill-defined place. You don't have to identify as bi or gay to occasionally see a person of your same gender and find them attractive, but these experiences can be confusing for a straight person. I think that's why people have a hard time accepting bisexuality; we all want to say, "Yeah, well I had a weird dream about Natalie Portman once, and I'm not bi. Sure, I was worried there for a minute, but then I came to my senses." And then there are bisexual people who will later come out as gay, cementing the idea that it's a "transition" orientation. Like little gay training wheels. *facepalm*

ANYWAYS. That's enough of that. I'm glad you guys liked the chapter, and my treatment of Sam. I firmly believe that Sam has an important place in any Destiel. Remember how when Dean and Lisa broke up, and Dean kept not calling and ignoring Lisa's calls? At the time, Sam had no soul. But the MINUTE he got his soul back - like, I think within the same episode, he was like, "Dean. Call her. Talk to her. Dean. DEAN." It's just who Sam is. And Dean really needs that.

Here's the new chapter, and I hope you enjoy it. Sorry about the delay in getting it to you. Please review, and I will send you hugs straightaway.


Dean stepped out into the bright winter sunlight, surging with purpose and bravado. He marched to Castiel's house, each footstep a forceful affirmation of his newfound resolution. He knocked on the door, the every thump of his heart sending adrenaline coursing through his body. He braced himself, his eyes on the doorknob.

No one answered.

Dean knocked again. "Cas," he called, "it's Dean."

No answer.

"Cas," he said louder, "it's Dean. I wanna talk to you. Please open up."

Nothing.

He tried the knob. It was locked.

Dean waited there for a few minutes longer, then trudged back to his house.

Every day for the next week and a half, Dean did the same thing. First he did it in the mornings; then after he went back to work on the third, he knocked as soon as he came home. Cas never answered. His house was always dark, too – Dean would look out the window at night, and none of the lights were ever on. He was starting to wonder if maybe Cas really wasn't home, if he had somehow spirited away in the night, if maybe he was knocking on the door of an empty, vacant, dead house and on the inside his pleas echoed through the stillborn silence and fell on cold floorboards.

But he kept knocking. Every day. Sam never had to ask if Cas was there; Dean knew it was written on his face.

"Cas, it's Dean. Again."

"Cas. Cas, open up, dammit!"

"Please, I just want to talk. You don't have to let me in."

"Cas?"

"Hey, it's me again. You there?"

"Cas, I'm sorry. I mean it."

"Cas."

"Castiel."

"… Cas?"

"Cas, I don't know if you're there, but… if you are, just… answer the door."

Then one day, as Dean walked up to the door, he saw a white paper taped to it, fluttering in the wind. He ran to the door pressed it flat, reading the words scrawled there in Cas's handwriting.

Please stop

That was it.

Please

stop

And just like that, something inside Dean crumbled like ash and disintegrated into dust.

He walked home and told Sam he didn't feel well and he went into the bathroom and knelt down, and gripped the toilet seat, and hung his head over the bowl, and he stayed there for a long time. Every time he started to think he was alright and moved to get up, his stomach twisted and churned painfully and nausea forced him down again, white knuckled, and squeezed his vision gray at the edges and he grimaced and panted and shuddered.

So he stayed where he was.

…..

At work the next day, Dean tried to focus. But every time he looked down at his papers, the letters just stared back at him blankly, like another language. He found himself having to read entire paragraphs three or four times before actually registering what they said. And his hands felt heavy, like his bones had filled with lead in the night and he was dragging around his metal skeleton, struggling to turn pages and open drawers.

Please stop

Fuck. That was all he had to say?

Please stop

He wasn't - he wasn't ever going to open the door, was he?

Please stop

He was in his house. Every time, he had been there and he had just sat there, waiting for Dean to leave.

Please stop

Dean pinched the bridge of his nose, and sucked in a breath between his teeth.

Around three o'clock, Dean got a call from HR. They wanted to see him; they wouldn't say what for.

Dean slowly stood up from his chair, and left his office.

…..

When Dean went to work everyday, Sam amused himself around the house, mostly on the TV and the internet. At around noon, he'd go for a jog around the neighborhood. The icy air cut into his lungs and numbed his face but it was a good kind of pain, the kind that makes you feel alive, and the sunshine brightened him in a way he couldn't explain. He liked his jogs.

Then, the day after Dean locked himself in the bathroom for two hours, Sam was jogging back to the house when he saw –

Castiel, sitting on his doorstep. Smoking. In sweats and a t-shirt.

And suddenly Sam was shooting right past the drive and running straight to him. "Hey! Hey! Castiel!" He reached the step and stopped to catch his breath.

Castiel looked up nonchalantly. "Hello."

Before Sam could check himself, he blurted, "What the hell is your problem?"

Cas took a drag. "Deeply rooted misanthropy. What's your problem?"

"Dean has been trying to get ahold of you for days!" he exclaimed. Sam knew it wasn't his business, and he didn't care. "Where have you been?"

Cas squinted at the sky. "Something bad is about to happen. I can feel it. Not here, somewhere else."

The well of anger that Sam kept deep inside himself bubbled up, boiling hot and overflowing. "Who the fuck cares?" he shouted. He snapped his fingers in Cas's face. "Look at me! I'm talking to you right now, asshole! Dean has been on your doorstep every day and you won't even give him the chance to apologize! What the hell did he do that was so terrible that you can't even open your goddamn door?"

Castiel's eyes flashed, and he stood up slowly, glowering at Sam. "I'm not mad at Dean," he muttered around his cigarette. "And you'd better watch it."

Sam threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. "You're not mad! You're not mad? Then why won't you talk to him? It's killing him, Cas!"

Cas tapped the ashes from the cigarette butt and looked past Sam, to the road. "I'm doing both of us a favor."

"Well, you don't get to decide that!" Sam said irritably. "Let Dean decide what's best for Dean!"

Castiel took another drag, and exhaled it, and mumbled, "He was right about me."

"What does that mean?" Sam asked.

Castiel just looked away, sucking away on his cigarette.

Sam balled his hands into fists. "You know what?" he snapped. "I get it. I don't know why I didn't get it before, but I get it. You like to screw with people, don't you? You like to mess with their heads, you like to be unpredictable. So that's what you did with Dean. You're just screwing with him. You fucked him and now you're done with him."

Cas's eyes turned pale and livid, and his brow furrowed darkly. "Shut up," he said sharply.

Sam pointed accusingly. "And you know what else? I think you're glad Dean fucked up. I think it's what you wanted all along. I think you were just looking for an excuse to get rid of him, and now that he said the wrong thing you get to watch him kick himself over and over and while you just sit back and fucking bask in it, you sick son of a bi-"

Cas slapped him hard across the face.

Sam's entire head snapped to the right, and his eyes stung.

"I said shut. Up," Cas growled, black and deep. "You don't know shit about me and you don't know shit about me and Dean. You think this is easy for me? This is the hardest thing I've ever fucking done."

Sam rubbed his smarting cheek and rasped, "So you do care."

Castiel went rigid, wide-eyed.

"Look, I don't know your reasons." Sam rubbed his jaw and rotated it to make sure it still worked. "I don't even really know you. But if you care about Dean at all, the least you owe him is an explanation. Because right now, he's blaming himself. That's the only explanation he's got. He thinks it's all his fault." Sam looked him in the eye. "And in my personal experience, that's rarely true."

Cas met his eyes for a moment, not saying anything, his hands hanging limply at his sides, his cigarette forgotten.

"I'm leaving in a few days." Sam shoved his hands in his pockets. "So maybe that's why I'm doing this. But I think the real reason is that I liked you, Cas." He shrugged. "I thought you were better than this. I know Dean deserves better than this."

Cas pressed his lips together, and his nostrils flared. "Yes," he whispered.

"So give him a chance." Sam sighed. "Or at least give him closure."

And he walked away from Castiel and didn't look back, but he could feel the man's eyes burning on his back the entire walk to the house.

Chapter Text

A/N: My delightful, scrumptious readers! I have a new chapter for you! And it's longer than usual! HOORAH HOORAH. It's because of all your lovely comments that it's so long. Actually, this story in general is so long because of you readers. If nobody was reading this, I probably would've given up on it because BAH, like I have time to craft a homoerotic love-epic! But you guys make it all worth my while, and I truly appreciate you.

In related happenings, I'm hoping that we're going to finish up here within the next week or so - but then, I thought that around January. :S The week of Valentine's Day, I'm going to the American College Theater Festival because I wrote a short, one-act comedic play that won the local competition and is now competing in the regional competition. If it wins, it'll go on to nationals! But it probably won't. But it might! But let's not get our hopes up. But let's cross our fingers! But SERIOUSLY DON'T GET OUR HOPES UP.

So, if the story isn't done before then, I probably will have to take a week hiatus. I'll have limited internet access and absolutely no privacy, so chances of updating will be nil. However, like I said, I'm hoping we'll get done before that point. But I thought I'd give you a heads-up.

Anyhow, here's the chapter. I hope you enjoy it!


Sam was on the couch watching Say Yes to the Dress when Dean got home.

He heard Dean pull up and kill the engine outside and he snatched up the remote and switched to NCIS. Then he hastily adopted a casual pose, tossing the remote to the opposite end of the couch.

The doorknob clicked and the hinges squeaked. "Hey Dean," Sam called, without looking away from the TV. "I was thinking of making macaroni for dinner, but we're out of butter, the stick kind anyway, so I vote Chinese."

No reply, just the soft sound of his briefcase being set down.

"Dean?" Sam glanced over the couch.

He was just standing there, in his winter coat, his face blank. Empty.

Sam stood up. "Dean, are you alright? What happened?"

And Dean started to chuckle, slowly at first, but growing louder. "I've been –" He stopped to chuckle some more. "I've been let go, Sam."

"Let go?" Sam walked towards him carefully, like Dean was a deer in a field. "You mean from your job? Why?"

He chuckled louder, and it grew into a full, unhinged laugh. "A reporter – ahahaha – a reporter called my boss, wanting to know about me because I'm – ahahahahaha –" he raised his hands and pantomimed a large marquee – "the Texaco Hero!"

Sam's mouth went dry.

Dean walked to the couch, laughing all the way, his breaths in between growing quicker and sharper until he sat down and put his hands on his knees and just wheezed, his face contorted in a smile that wasn't quite a smile anymore, and the laughter shaking in his shoulders wasn't quite laughter, and he gripped his knees and gasped, "I've been fired! TWICE! This week!"

Sam cautiously sat down next to him. "What do you mean, twice?"

Dean doubled over and fell into the cushions and laughed silently, his eyes squeezed shut, until he finally choked out breathlessly, "Cas. Cas fired me too!" And then he buried his face into a pillow and clenched it tight with his hands, no noise coming from him but his whole body quaking.

Sam put his hand on Dean's shoulder. "Dean," he said softly.

Dean's hands tightened on the pillow, and his shoulders shook harder.

Sam knew he wasn't laughing anymore.

"It's okay," he told Dean. "Dinner's on me."

…...

"So I told Chris to cut the bullshit, and he admitted that it was really about the Texaco thing, and that the guys upstairs didn't want that kind of shit associated with the company. They didn't give my number or address to the reporter, which is what she wanted, but it's only a matter of time. So, they decided to downsize."

Sam sighed. "That blows."

"Yup," Dean agreed.

They sat on the living room floor and scooped food directly from the cardboard boxes into their mouths. Dean had kicked off his shoes and taken off his tie and eschewed his chopsticks for a fork. Sam had turned the TV to the Cartoon Network.

"Pass the Hunan chicken," Dean said.

Sam dutifully passed it to him. "Hunan chicken and sweet and sour pork. This is truly the high life."

Dean snorted. "Our lives suck. Majorly. You do realize that, right?" He shook his head. "Both our parents are dead. You just got out of rehab, and I'm about to become an unemployed media spectacle. Whose only friend hates him. I'm telling you, we did some horrible shit in a past life, and now we're being punished."

Sam shrugged. "It could be worse."

"How?" Dean demanded. "How could it be worse?"

Sam took a big bite of rice and swallowed. "AIDS."

Dean sat back, and blinked. "Touché."

"And for what it's worth…" Sam sighed. He hadn't wanted to tell Dean this, but there wasn't any way around it. "He doesn't hate you."

"Trust me, Sammy," Dean muttered, digging his fork into the chow mein, "he does."

Sam braced himself. "That's not what he told me this morning."

Dean froze, and his eyes snapped to Sam. "You saw him? You talked to him?"

"He was just sitting there," Sam said. "In front of his door. Almost like… he was waiting for me."

"What happened?" Dean's eyes were as wide as saucers. "What did he say?"

"Well, uh…" Sam flushed and looked down at his rice. "We had some words. And he told me that he wasn't mad at you, and I could tell he still cares. You still have a chance. I think he's just acting like a dick because he doesn't know how not to act like a dick, you know?"

Dean rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in the air. "Well, that makes sense, Sam. Thank God I have my Stanford-educated brother here to tell me that."

"What I mean," Sam interjected, "is that he's trying to do the right thing, and he's afraid of being hurt. He's afraid to give you a chance, and I'm guessing he probably has personal reasons for it. What you have to do is show him that you really want things to be different, that you're not just bullshitting."

"I don't want to talk about this anymore," Dean said tersely.

"Why not?" Sam asked.

"Because I'm tired of it!" Dean snapped, grabbing his food. "I'm tired of headbutting a brick wall, okay? So just stop. Talking. About it."

Sam nodded. "Okay. I understand where you're coming from. And I won't bring it up again. I'm just saying… you've got nothing to lose, Dean. Worst thing that could happen is you end up right where you started. Make a big gesture, and you could get it all back."

Dean chewed silently, ignoring Sam, watching the TV screen.

Sam sighed and watched the cartoon. It was a classic Road Runner cartoon, and the coyote was strapping himself to a rocket.

"You know," Dean commented, looking down at his chow mein, "this reminds me a lot of our road trip. You remember that? I didn't eat takeout for months after that."

Sam smiled to himself. "Yeah. I still can't look at burgers the same way."

Dean scraped the bottom of the box with his fork, and smiled wryly. "That road trip. That was the shittiest time in our lives, and I didn't want it to ever end."

Sam laughed. "Christ, that's fucked up. But I know what you mean."

"It was so hard to go back to work." Dean kept scraping at the bottom of the box, never actually taking anything out. "I felt so – so liberated, just driving around not giving a fuck, and the idea of sitting down at a desk all day and doing paperwork – I suddenly realized I hated it. I loathed it. I thought I would rather work in a garage and make minimum wage than stand one more day of it."

Sam hadn't heard any of this before. He watched Dean intently. "So what made you go back?"

Dean stopped scraping. "Dad," he admitted. "When he died, I felt like – like I owed it to him to make something of myself. Be successful. So I went back to work." He looked at Sam. "And I hated every second of it. Up until today."

They sat in contemplative silence for a few moments.

"I think I'm gonna be a firefighter," Dean said.

Sam raised his eyebrows. "Or, you could just, you know. Get another job somewhere else."

Dean shook his head. "Nope. Once this Texaco thing gets out, no self-respecting company will want me as a sales rep. But maybe the fire department will take me. I always wanted to be a firefighter." He glanced around the living room. "But I'm going to have to rent out this place, probably, or sell it. I can't afford the mortgage without my former salary."

Sam took another bite of rice. "Firefighter. Certainly no hero complex there."

"Shut up." Dean shoved him and reached over him for the fortune cookies. "You're just jealous that I'm awesome."

…...

Later that evening, after Sam went to bed, Dean put an envelope in Castiel's mailbox addressed to James Novak. Inside was a piece of printer paper, on which he'd written:

Please

Excuse

My

Dumb-

Ass

Shitstorm of emotional issues.

I'm sorry, Cas. I just want to talk. Please.

And at the last second, he paused, his hand hovering over the page, and he added

I need you.

The most frightening true thing he'd ever written.

Nothing left to lose.

He closed the lid of the mailbox and walked home and fell asleep in front of the TV, watching reruns of Family Matters.

…...

At midnight, Dean woke up with a start.

Someone was knocking at the door.

His heart pounding heavily in his chest, battering against his ribs, Dean walked to the door, feeling as though time itself was slowing down like syrup. He watched his own hand turn the knob and open the door.

Cas was standing there.

And time stopped completely.

Dean stared at him, and Cas stared back.

He realized that he'd already forgotten how vividly black Cas's hair was, the impossible bright blueness of his eyes and the slight pink tinge of his cheeks in the cold, and it was a shock to the system, like his sepia-toned world had just burst colorfully alive, and Dean could only stand there dumbly and take it all in with his mouth slightly agape and his hand frozen on the door.

Finally Cas said, "I got your letter."

Because he didn't know what else to say, Dean just said, "The order of operations."

And Cas took a deep breath, and exhaled shakily and smiled weakly and said, "Would you like to see my photography?"

Chapter Text

A/N:This chapter was hard to write, because I'm trying to say things without being explicit. I don't want to spell things out; you guys are intelligent, thoughtful readers and you never miss a beat when it comes to unspoken undercurrents and implications. But it's always hard to gauge the balance, from my standpoint, because I know exactly what my characters are thinking and feeling. I usually end up erring on the side of "less is more." So, I hope this chapter makes sense to you, and I hope you enjoy it. What you guys think of my work matters a lot to me, and I can't tell you how much your reviews make my day.

So here's the chapter - and as always, enjoy.


"Wow," Dean said.

Castiel just gazed at his photographic creation.

Dean swallowed. "So this is why… all those…"

Castiel nodded.

"I'm sorry. For assuming…" Dean reached out to Cas's shoulder.

And Cas ducked his shoulder away, shying from Dean's touch. He turned and walked a little farther down along the giant project.

"Cas." Dean could feel his mouth drying up, all the right words fluttering from his mind like brittle dead leaves in the wind. "I – I know it was my mistake, but – why didn't you tell me, or show me, or – say something – I mean, why did you show Sam? Why didn't you want me to see?"

Cas lightly touched the photo of two arms crossed in the shape of a crucifix. "I hate the English language," he muttered.

Dean squinted. "What?"

"Words. They're so limited, so imprecise." Cas walked a little farther, stopping at another photograph hanging on the wall. He ran his fingers along the frame. "I can't say things the way I see them. I'm better with pictures than words." He paused, and his head bowed a little.

Dean walked slowly towards him. "Yeah, well. I'm not exactly Shakespeare either."

He glanced back up at Dean, and pushed his hands into his pockets. "Sam is afraid he can't be forgiven for what he did." His eyes turned to his rosary project. "These men are afraid they can't be forgiven for who they are." He smiled softly, a bittersweet smile. "Sometimes we draw courage from knowing others are also afraid. Do you understand?"

Dean nodded, and followed his gaze. "But. Why keep it from me?"

Cas didn't answer. He just turned and lifted the smaller framed photo off the wall, and handed it to Dean. "I have a companion piece."

It was a picture of a much younger Castiel in a sunlit park, a bright grin on his face, his hand gripping the shoulder of a girl who looked a little older. She had bright red hair and pale skin; a soft, quiet smile and just the slightest shadows under her eyes. On Cas's side of the picture, he had written in plain black letters,

I have sinned through my own fault

in my thoughts and in my words

in what I have done

And then, just to the side of the girl's face,

and in what I have failed to do.

Cas said quietly, "No one else has seen that yet. You're the only one."

Dean felt the weight of the picture in his hands, the frame pressing into his palms. "Is this your sister? Anna?"

Cas looked at the floor. "A week before she died." He closed his eyes and pressed a hand to his chin. "She didn't tell us, but I should have known. I'm the one who sees everything. I should have seen the signs. I should have noticed how quiet she was when they were together. I shouldn't have believed her when she told me everything was fine."

"It's not your fault," Dean said.

Cas shook his head and chuckled bitterly. "It is, a little. You can say it's not but it is. She was just so… devoted to him. Totally reliant on him. I could never understand it, why she clung to him that way. And no one else thought anything was wrong. But apparently, behind closed doors, he…" He stopped, and carefully took the picture from Dean and hung it back on the wall.

Dean couldn't tear his eyes away from it. Cas: so young, thin, bright; and this woman who was still so present in his life, who Dean would never meet. The sister.

He couldn't even fathom losing Sam.

"So she killed herself." Cas's voice went flat and emotionless. "She couldn't imagine life away from him, and she couldn't stand to live one more minute with him, so she killed herself. And I have always wondered how, howshe tolerated it for so long. Why she didn't leave him." He turned his back to the picture and exhaled. "I didn't understand."

Dean felt like he was balancing on a taut wire, wobbling ever so slightly, the great gaping void below him. There was something here, something Cas was leading towards –

And then Cas said quietly, "I do it on purpose."

Dean blinked. "What?"

He rubbed his elbow. "The kilt. The boa. All the clothes. I do it on purpose. I like to make people uncomfortable because it makes me less uncomfortable. I tip the scales. One pair of sequined suspenders and everyone realizes that you're playing by your own rules. You're in my court."

"Oh." Dean crossed his arms. "Wow, that actually makes sense."

Cas walked closer to him, and slowly, carefully, put his hand to Dean's arm. He moved his thumb slightly back and forth and gazed at it, as though he were memorizing the texture of his jacket. "Need. It's a strange word, isn't it? Something that surpasses desirable and becomes necessary. The connotation of discomfort. Entrapment. Dependence."

Dean was hypnotized by Cas's hand on his arm, the closeness of his body, the way the Dean's shadow fell across his feet, but he could still feel that taut wire, that wavering balance. "If you don't like that word I won't say it, but it won't make it less true. Ever since you called it off…" Dean cleared his throat. "Man, ever since then it's like I'm thirsty and there's nothing to drink. Alright? When you're not there I feel the loss. I lost my job today and I barely even care! I can't think about anything else but you. And..." He swallowed. "And you know, it's not like… like I didn't feel that way before."

And Cas looked up, up at Dean's eyes, his face so carefully blank, his hand immobile.

Dean chuckled nervously. "I'm not good at this, Cas. I haven't had a real relationship since college. And it's never been like – the way we are. I've never been this close. I didn't know the rules. When I said… when I said I thought we were just fucking. I didn't say it because that's how I wanted it." Dean's voice scraped rough in his throat. "I said it because I thought that's all I was allowed to have."

Cas's grip tightened on his arm.

Dean struggled to stay balanced, but he could feel the wobbling, he could hear it in his voice. "You never told me I was allowed to have more."

And something in Cas's face shifted, the barest change but there it was, in his eyes, something turned inward, like a confession, a collapse, a cave-in, and he slid his hand down to Dean's arm and took him by the hand and said, "I want to show you something."

Wordlessly he led Dean downstairs, by the hand. Dean felt strange holding his hand, the childlike gesture somehow simple and heavy at the same time. He followed Cas down the hallway, past the bedroom, to a door that he had assumed was a linen closet, and through a thick black curtain into pitch dark.

Cas flicked a switch, and bathed the room in deep red.

It was a darkroom. He had clothesline strung above the tubs of solution, large photographs hanging along it. Dean looked along the line. Most were of the backs of heads, men's heads, more for the rosary project.

And then there was one that was different.

It was a bed, or the corner of a bed, the crumpled comforter hanging down the side, the sheets tangled at the foot, and then on the floor –

Two pairs of pants, the legs intertwined haphazardly. A stray sock. The waistband of a striped pair of boxers peeking from under the bed. And to the side, two shirts – the long right sleeve of the bottom one had somehow tossed diagonally across the other, curved across the waist, as though it were cradling it.

Before he realized what he was doing, Dean gingerly reached up and pulled the photo off the line, and looked on the back.

Cas had written, Together.

Cas slipped the photo from his hands, and set it on the table, his profile a silhouette in the dim red light. "One week," he said quietly. "We were only together one week." He leaned against the table and pushed the photo away and Dean could see his fingers trembling. "And so soon, you carved a hollow inside of me that no one else – no one else can –" He pressed his palm flat on the table. "I thought if I kept a part of myself from you, for myself, that I could stay my own person but I can't. I need you too much. There is so little I could ever deny you." He looked back at Dean, and his eyes caught the light, the brightest points in the room. "Even behind a locked door. I could barely restrain myself."

"Then don't," Dean said, his pulse quickening. "Just tell me what you want and I'll do it. Look –" he stepped forward, an inch away, chest tight – "You said you're a Marxist, right? 'From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need.'" He took a deep breath. "Well, that's what I want. To the best of my abilities, I want to be what you need. And that's a two-way street, Cas. We'll rely on each other. Let's just start from there, and we'll figure out the rest."

And Cas's eyes glistened. "But Dean." His mouth quivered, and he croaked in a broken voice, "I'm so afraid."

Dean reached up and slid his hand along Cas's neck, and admitted, "Me too."

Cas put his hand on Dean's, and looked at him for a long time, and then closed his eyes and pushed Dean's hand up to his cheek.

"Does that mean yes?" Dean whispered. "You have to tell me."

Cas pressed his cheek into the hollow of Dean's hand. "Yes."

So Dean bent his head down and kissed him, slowly, softly.

Cas kissed back quietly, and then he wrapped his arms around Dean and buried his face in Dean's neck and just hugged him tightly.

They stayed like that for awhile, holding each other.

Dean could have stayed like that all night, every night, forever, or at least until his legs got tired or he fell asleep. But then after a few minutes, he couldn't help but ask -

"So." Dean cleared his throat. "Is this officially another Gayballs Hour?"

"This isn't nearly gay enough," Cas answered, his reply muffled in Dean's shirt.

Dean snorted. "How does it get any gayer?"

Cas pulled back, and gave Dean a very serious look.

And that's how they ended up in Cas's bedroom, naked and flushed and desperate with Dean's back flat on Cas's mattress and Cas's palms pressing hard into his chest like he was going to leave handprints behind and Cas panting Dean oh fuck I need you Dean harder and Dean moaning Cas's name over and over and over until it lost all meaning and became a guttural begging noise dragging out of him Cas, Cas, Caaas, until fireworks burst behind his eyes and the rest of the world fell down around them.

Chapter Text

A/N: BECAUSE I love you. And BECAUSE it was Valentine's Day. And BECAUSE I figured out how to hack into the hotel's wifi in the lobby. I wrote you this short chapter for you all. I don't have time to make this a super long note but remember that 1) I love you all dearly, 2) this chapter is short so maybe... read it slowly? But it is not the last, 3) For you non-Americans, it references the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr., and 4) please review. Happy Valentine's Day! (Late.)


"FREE AT LAST!"

"YESYESYESYESYES –"

"FREE AT LAST!"

"RIGHTTHERE RIGHTTHERE RIGHTTHERE PLEAAAASE FUCKIN' RIGHT THERE DON'T STOP –"

"THANK FUCKING GOD ALMIGHTY WE ARE FREE! AT! LAST!"

"JESUS CAS JESUS YES! CAS! CAS! ANNNNNGGGHnnnnnghhhhhooooh my GOD Cas you're so fucking amazing I fucking love you so fucking amazing Cas, fuck, so good, so good…"

"Nnngh… beautiful, Dean, beautiful…."

"Jesus."

"Mmm."

"… Fuck, that was good."

"Mmmm."

"You gotta quit doing this to me, though."

"Hnn?"

"The speeches. These are American heroes you're debasing, Cas."

"Ohhhhh. They don't fuckin' care, Dean."

"Yeah, maybe not, but you're gonna permanently scar me."

"Hm. Naturally."

"I'm serious."

"You don't appreciate the inherent artistic merit of climaxing to civil rights speeches?"

"All I heard come out of your mouth just now was 'hippie hippie hippie.'"

"But surely you can at least appreciate my incredible timing."

"… Cas. I've wanted to come since the 'Let freedom ring' sequence. Your 'timing' is the most frustrating thing I've ever experienced."

"Mmmm. You were pretty desperate."

"…."

"What?"

"Is that it?"

"What do you mean?"

"You get off on it, don't you? You like to make me beg!"

"… Maybe. Just a little."

"A little?"

"Well. No. Actually, a lot."

"So you use the speeches as an excuse for why you can't let me – oh, that's sadistic. That's just… inhumane. Gotta be a violation of the Geneva convention or something."

"You're being melodramatic."

"I'm just stating the truth, Cas!"

"You like it."

"What?"

"You like begging."

"… I do not."

"Maybe not all the time. I know that. But sometimes. Sometimes you like it when I have control."

"…"

"You like it when I hold you back, when I hold you down. You like yanking at the restraints. You like the struggle. You like losing the struggle."

"Cas."

"You like to beg, Dean, because you like it when I say no. When I slam you against the wall and press my teeth into your skin. You like me to play rough because you like to be roughly handled because you live for that frustration and that desperation and the moment when I finally, finally, finally give you what you want."

"Cas. You should stop talking."

"Why?"

"Because if you don't, I'm going to get ideas."

"So soon after I fucked you into the mattress?"

"Yes. Yes. You're making it worse."

"That might be on purpose."

"You bastard."

"So what are you going to do about it?"

"First I'm going to do this."

"Tame, Dean. This is practically missionary."

"And then I'm going to do this."

"Oh. Oh."

"Now who's doing the begging?"

"Me. Me. Ohhh, more. Christ. Dean."

"You're so easy, Cas. Kind of a slut."

"Not as much as – fuck!"

"Heh heh heh. Shut you up."

"Oh, oh, yes, whatever, just more –"

"What's the magic word?"

"Oh shit Deaaaaaan."

"Christ you're so fucking hot. Ahhhhh. No, the other one."

"Unh, unh, God, more, please!"

"Bingo."

"Fuck Bingo, just please ohhh more Dean please oh Jesus Dean!"

Later they laid in bed and looked at their hands.

"Fingernails are made of keratin," Cas explained. "The same protein as claws, hooves, and horns." He traced his finger along Dean's thumb. "Isn't it strange to think that our hands, the most human part of us, still maintains this vestigial animal structure?"

"You're so weird." Dean caught Cas's hand between his own. "Other people don't say shit like this after sex."

Cas wiggled his fingers. "Other people are boring."

Dean smiled. "Fair enough." He gazed at Cas's trapped hand. "Okay, so I've got a confession."

Cas sunk back into his pillow and waited.

Dean played with Cas's fingers, toying with them idly. "I don't know what it is, but I think you have really nice hands. Like… I like to look at them. You have these long, thin fingers and… I don't know. They look nice."

Cas stretched his fingers and smiled softly. "Thank you."

Dean toyed with Cas's hand for a few moments more, lacing and unlacing their fingers, tracing the lines along his palm. Then their eyes accidentally met and they stayed trapped there for a moment, locked together, stuck in a long still second of looking farther into each other than they ever had.

Then Dean sat up. "Wanna take a shower?"

It wasn't until after the shower that they spotted the paparazzi.

Chapter Text

A/N: I am sorry to announce that this is the last chapter.

I know, I know, commence the weeping and flailing and gnashing of teeth. But it had to end sometime, didn't it?

I won't stand in your way. I won't delay you any longer. Read the chapter, and enjoy.


Dean bent down and rummaged through the fridge. "Got any eggs in here?"

Cas walked up behind him and rested his hand along Dean's back. "Lower shelf."

Dean bent down further, peering past the Tupperware containers.

Cas's hand drifted downward.

Dean stopped. "There aren't any eggs on the lower shelf, are there?"

Cas drummed his fingers. "No."

Dean sighed. "You just wanted me to stick my ass out, didn't you?"

Cas slid his hand down and squeezed his butt. "Yes."

Dean stood up and closed the fridge and fixed Cas with a reproachful look. "Here I am trying to make you a nice breakfast, and you're just objectifying me."

Cas smiled, and patted his cheek. "Yes, and what a lovely object you are."

Dean narrowed his eyes. "I'm not lovely. Knitted tea cozies are lovely."

"Hmmm." Cas trailed his hand down Dean's chest, following it with his eyes. "Would you prefer 'fuckable'?"

So they ended up making out against the fridge for several minutes.

"Seriously though," Dean finally interjected. "I'm hungry. Let's find some food."

Cas groaned and extracted himself from Dean. "Fine. I do have eggs, they're just on the door." He walked to the table.

Dean opened the fridge again and spotted them. "Aha. Perfect." He took out the carton and turned to Cas. "You like 'em scrambled?"

Cas was standing at the window, the curtain pushed aside with his hand, staring. "Dean," he said. "Come look."

Dean went to the window.

Across the fence, outside of his house, an entire flock of newscasters had assembled. Several vans, cameras of all kinds, men and women with microphones, all clustered on his front lawn around the doorstep like a gaggle of schoolchildren circling an impending fight.

"Shit," Dean uttered.

"Someone told," Cas said.

Dean looked at him. "What do you mean?"

Cas kept staring at the crowd, his brows knotting. "The new phone book isn't out. You're not listed yet. You said your company didn't release your information. So someone who knows told someone else, and they told others where you live. That's probably how your name got out in the first place."

Dean exhaled heavily. "It was bound to be discovered sooner or later. I knew this was coming, I just didn't know it would happen so fast."

Breakfast was forgotten, and Dean reluctantly groomed himself, combing his hair and shaving. He looked at himself in the mirror and winced at the large hickey on his neck. He momentarily considered borrowing one of Cas's scarves, but then –

Fuck it.

He turned down his collar, and popped a button so the second one farther down was visible as well.

Meanwhile, Sam had appeared on Dean's front step, no doubt in response to all the knocking. Cameras began flashing; reporters jammed microphones in his face. He appeared apologetic, probably explaining to them all that Dean was not in at the moment. They pushed their mikes insistently, prodding him for information.

Dean and Cas walked to the door and stepped outside. No one noticed. They were all so intent on Sam.

"Well." Dean scratched his chin. "Time to face the music."

Cas started to reach toward him, then caught himself. He pressed his lips together. "I should be more careful," he commented. "You're a celebrity now."

Dean's chest twisted tight.

Suddenly Sam noticed the two of them, and he looked right at them. The reporters followed his gaze.

A collective cry of excitement rose from the crowd.

They swarmed toward Cas's house, and Cas said, "That's my cue," and turned and reached for the doorknob to go inside –

And Dean grabbed his arm. "Wait."

Cas gazed at him with wide blue eyes, confused. The reporters descended on the lawn, chattering and jostling and yelling questions.

And Dean pulled Cas close and swept him into a long, deep kiss like a black-and-white film star from the 1940s.

For a moment, there was complete silence.

And then the crowd burst into exploding camera flashes and frantic shouting and noise, circling tight around them and closing in.

Dean released Cas. "You can go inside now, if you want," he shouted over the commotion.

Cas just nodded dumbly, completely bowled over, and he fumbled at the doorknob. Once he got it to turn he looked back at Dean and said, "Someday I'm going to marry you."

Dean grinned stupidly and replied, "You can take it up with the governor."

Cas nodded sagely and slipped inside. The flock of paparazzi finally crashed upon Dean and jammed their foam-covered mikes in his face, the cameramen hoisting their camcorders higher, until he raised his hand and shouted, "Quiet down! Quiet down!"

They settled and quieted, a few last calls echoing in the air.

He smiled charmingly. "To answer your questions: Hello. I'm Dean Winchester, and yes, I'm the guy from the Texaco."

Cameras flashed.

…..

"Well, this sucks," Dean told Sam.

They were on the couch watching Cartoon Network again, neither bothering to pretend they had better things to do.

"What?" Sam asked. "Robot Chicken? You picked the channel, dude."

"I'm back together with Cas, but now I have to move," Dean explained.

Sam rolled his eyes. "The paparazzi isn't that bad, Dean. It'll die down in the next couple days, and by next week it'll be forgotten."

Dean snorted. "No, not because of that. Because I lost my job. I can't afford this house." He sighed. "And it's really way, way, way too soon to move in with Cas."

"I told you you should get a roommate," Sam said.

"I don't want to live with some stranger," Dean replied grumpily. "I'm too old for that."

Sam pursed his lips. "What about me?"

Dean twiddled his thumbs. "Actually, that was… that was my idea in the beginning, but it doesn't really help me right now with the 'can't afford it' angle."

"Well, it just so happens…" Sam cleared his throat. "I got a job."

Dean stared.

Sam smiled guiltily. "I just found out today."

"You got a job? Here?" Dean asked. "How?"

Sam laughed. "You really think I was just sitting around all day while you went to work? You're such an idiot. I was looking the whole time, and a position opened up at St. Vincent DePaul."

Dean blinked. "The thrift store chain?"

Sam nodded. "It's not just a thrift store, though, it's a charity organization, and… The pay won't be great, and neither will the hours, but I'll be able to work my way up. And I feel like I'll be doing something worthwhile."

"That's great, Sam." Dean was… more than impressed. "That's awesome."

"So I can pay my rent." Sam smirked. "Help out my deadbeat brother."

Dean punched him in the arm and then asked, "So you always knew I wanted you to stay here?"

Sam chuckled and rubbed his hands together, admitting, "No. But I knew I wanted to be – around you, you know? In the same town, at least. You're my family, Dean."

Dean smiled and swallowed thickly and said, "Yeah. Winchesters gotta stick together."

Sam smiled back, his eyes a little shiny.

Then Cas burst in the front door, kicking his boots off into the hallway. Under his arm he was carrying a big translucent plastic tub. "Dean!" he gasped, "I found the queen! The queen turtle!"

Dean and Sam craned their bodies around to see.

Still catching his breath, Cas carried the tub into the living room, setting it gingerly on the coffee table. He lifted off the lid, and Dean and Sam peered into it. "Careful," Cas warned. "They're devious."

Inside was a bed of dirt, a heat lamp, a hollow half of a log, a slice of watermelon, and small box turtle who was diligently working on a lettuce leaf.

"I have to keep her separated from the rest of the hive," Cas explained. "Eventually, they'll leave my house in search of a new queen."

Dean narrowed his eyes. "Wait, are you saying you want to keep it here?"

Sam petted the turtle's head. "It's kinda cute. What's its name?"

"Don't give it a name!" Dean protested. "Then we have to keep it!"

"Ornata," Cas answered. "After her species, the ornate box turtle."

Sam looked at Cas strangely. "That's the state reptile of Kansas."

"I don't care where it's from," Dean interjected. "We don't need a turtle."

"I explained it already," Cas said. "This is the only way to keep turtles from chewing off my toes in the night, Dean. The queen must be isolated."

Dean groaned and rubbed his forehead. "Fine. But it better not escape that tub."

"Right," Cas affirmed emphatically. "I made sure her containment center is turtle-proof. We don't need a second infestation."

Dean's cell phone buzzed, Bobby's name on the screen. He stepped away from the other two and flipped it open. "Hello?"

"Why am I watching you on TV locking lips with another man?" Bobby demanded.

Dean froze. "Oh."

"It's a hell of a stunt, Dean, but you can't pull that kind of crap for attention," Bobby continued to rant. "Of all the childish – I can't believe you'd charge a man with a loaded gun, of all the damn fool things to do – and then when the cameras show up, you're draggin' in some man for a tonsil hockey session! Are you making a statement, is that it? Did some political civil rights bug crawl up your ass? Well, maybe you should've considered that perhaps your pal there didn't want his face plastered across the national news! You can't just –"

"Bobby." Dean took a deep breath. "It wasn't just some guy. And it wasn't just some statement. That was my neighbor, Castiel, and we're – together."

A long silence.

"Dammit, boy," Bobby said. "Why am I always the last to know about these things?"

Dean laughed in relief. "Remember when I snuck out of the house at night?"

"Jesus Christ, it all makes sense. And this shooting? Why the hell didn't you call? That was the night I flew home!"

"I just – I didn't know what to say. It all happened so fast. And I was fine."

"Well, you idjit, next time you better get on the a goddamn phone, alright?" Bobby demanded.

"Alright," Dean agreed. "But I'm hoping there won't be a next time. And… Sam got a job up here. He's moving in with me."

Bobby paused, and when he spoke again, his voice was softer. "I'm glad to hear it, Dean. I'm glad you boys are doin' good."

Dean cleared his throat. "Thanks, Bobby. I… I oughta go now."

"Take care, Dean."

"You too."

Dean went back to the living room, where Sam and Cas were still playing with the turtle.

"It really likes the watermelon," Sam noted.

"It's best to please her," Cas said. "So she doesn't try to burrow out."

"Alright, alright, stop getting attached," Dean interrupted. "This is just temporary. Eventually this – this Ornata thing is going to go back to live with Cas."

Cas and Sam looked at each other. "No one's getting attached, Dean," Sam said.

"I loathe turtles," Cas chimed in.

"You're the one using its name," Sam added pointedly. "Ornata."

Cas leaned in and said in an exaggerated whisper, "I think Dean likes her."

Dean pursed his lips, and turned to walk to the kitchen. "You guys are children."

"You're children!" Sam called after him.

"A child," Cas corrected. "He's a child. What's for dinner, Dean?"

"I don't know," Dean shot back. "What are you making?"

Cas nodded. "Soup. Soup is a good idea. Let's all make soup."

So they piled into the kitchen and made soup, and somewhere between Sam chopping onions and pretending to weep inconsolably, and Cas threatening to put tofu in the pot unless Dean consented to green beans, Dean realized that he was about to have a very good year.

...


A/N: Thank you all so very much for reading. I love you all dearly, and I appreciate you more than you will ever know. If you smiled even once during this story, please review and make my day. Thank you.