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I'm Gonna Get You Back

Chapter Text

June, 2008

The bell rang, signaling the end of the period. Dean was as anxious as anyone to be done with the final, as the bell also signaled his freedom from another year of school.

“Have a good summer, Mr. Winchester,” one of the students said as she passed his desk.

“You, too, Krissy,” Dean smiled. “I’ll see you next Fall.”

“Not if I see you first, old man.”

Dean laughed in spite of himself. “Get to your next final, kid.”

“Hey, I’m done for the day,” she replied with a smirk. “Me, Aidan, and Josephine are heading out to Geno’s for lunch.” Dean grimaced at the name of the restaurant, which did not escape the girl’s notice. “Don’t tell me you’re a Pat’s man—Mr. Winchester! It’s like I don’t even know you.”

“Go get your inferior cheesesteak,” Dean teased. “I’ll keep this in mind when I grade your final tonight. Minus fifteen points for terrible taste in sandwiches.”

That earned him an eye roll, but she gave him a small wave and a smile as she took off to meet her friends. Dean had barely gotten his things packed up when another student wanted his attention.

“What can I do for you, Kevin?” Dean asked.

“I was wondering whether you’d had a chance to grade my final yet,” Kevin stammered. He had a folder of sheet music in his hands that he was rolling and unrolling nervously.

“I haven’t gotten to it yet,” Dean replied. The final had been that morning; Dean had barely gotten a third through the pile during the math final he had just proctored.

“Yeah, of course. When will you get to it?”

Dean sighed. “Kev, I’m sure it’s great.”

“You know, my grades this year are key if I want to get into Princeton, and I’m not sure my comparison of Edna and Hester Prynn really got into the meat of the subject.”

“I’m sure it’s great,” Dean reassured him.

“Great doesn’t get you into Princeton!” Kevin lamented, his eyes wild.

“You need a seventy on the final to get an A, Kevin. You haven’t turned in anything this year under a ninety-eight. Relax. I’ll get to it tonight.”

“Okay.” Kevin wandered away, downtrodden. Dean was forcibly reminded of his own little brother, and his manic, desperate attempts to get into Stanford—which he did—and the stupid shit his girlfriend, Ruby, had gotten him involved in to get there. Maybe he’d send Kevin an email reassuring him after he graded the soon-to-be Senior’s final.

Dean finally got his things together so he could head to the teacher’s lounge and collect the rest of it and get out of there. On the way, however, he ran into another obstacle.

“Hey, Brother!” Benny said enthusiastically, grabbing Dean’s arm and pulling him into a classroom.

“Hey, man. I’ve gotta go.”

Benny shook his head. “Are you coming out with us tonight?”

“I can’t,” Dean sighed. “I’ve got all my grading to do, then I’ve got to submit final grades tomorrow night. I’m off to LA for Sam’s graduation ceremony. He’s having a big party and everything.”

Benny huffed. “Didn’t he already graduate from college?”

“Yeah. He’s getting his Master’s. It’s a big deal, man. Plus, I haven’t visited him in years.”

“Come on, chief,” Benny insisted. “This is the last time my wife is going to let me drink for years.”

“Is she coming tonight?” Dean asked, hiding a grin. “Not drinking, of course.”

“Naw, man,” Benny grimaced. “The smell of fried foods doesn’t agree with the baby. Anyway, she’s in your wheelhouse—she’s done today, too, and wants to get her grading finished so she can begin nesting.”

Dean clapped a hand on Benny’s shoulder. “She’s going to be missed in the Fall, man. Jody still hasn’t found a substitute Drama teacher.”

“I’ll tell Andrea that while she’s grading those student portfolios she hates. A semester’s worth of work all done in the last week of classes.”

“Students,” Dean lamented, shaking his head and laughing. “See you, Benny.”

“If you finish your grading, we’ll be at Missouri’s, getting wasted. See you, brother.” Benny slapped him on the arm and headed out of the classroom.

“Don’t forget to call a cab,” Dean called after him. Benny waved in assent, and Dean forced himself not to worry about his friends’ and coworkers’ night out. As a History teacher, Benny had as much terrible student writing to get through, but he still had another two days of finals week, so his grading was more spread out. It had been very kind of Jody to let Dean out of graduation ceremonies and to put all his finals on Monday and Tuesday. It helped that he was pretty easy going and was a popular and well-respected teacher.

If only they knew the truth.

At a private Catholic school, parents cared about what kind of people taught their children. It was fucking 2008, and Dean had to hide his sexuality from his boss. It wasn’t as if he even lived in Oklahoma or Kansas anymore; Philadelphia was pretty LGBT friendly (even if the state often wasn’t). For fuck’s sake, just last year they put rainbow flag symbols on street signs in the Gayborhood. Maybe, if he did finish his grading in time to have some fun, he’d call Jesse and Cesar and see if they wanted to hang out at one of the gay bars there. Not that Benny didn’t know Dean was bi. As Dean’s best friend, he was well aware of Dean’s sexuality, but that didn’t mean he got it.

One time, he, Benny, Benny’s wife Andrea, Charlie, and Jesse and Cesar had been hanging out, not long after Jesse and Cesar’s wedding, and Dean had wistfully turned to the two of them and said, “Man, I wish I had what you guys have.”

Benny sputtered and coughed. “What they have? Not what me and Andrea have?”

“Yeah, man, is that a problem?” Dean asked, with more vitriol than his best friend deserved.

Andrea had put a hand on her husband’s arm, trying to contain him, but to no avail. “What wrong with my relationship that you don’t want it.”

“Uh, Benny,” Charlie had chimed in helpfully. “Your wife isn’t a dude. No offense,” she said to Andrea. “I mean, I’ve got no interest in dudes, myself, so you’ve got my vote, at least.”

Dean nodded in assent, but Benny was still unsatisfied. “I thought you were bi?”

“I am,” Dean frowned, confused.

“Then why don’t you want to settle down with a woman?” Benny asked, as if being attracted to women automatically made them a default for Dean. Dean loved women; his longest monogamous relationship had been with his ex-girlfriend, Lisa, and it had been great—until it wasn’t. Sure, their breakup was mostly due to the incident, but it had been inevitable nonetheless. There’d been sexual attraction and he had truly loved her, but not in the way that he was supposed to. He’d never been in love with a woman, and he was pretty sure he never would be. It was just the way he was wired. Both men and women got his dick hard, but only men got his palms sweaty and created butterflies in his stomach.

Instead of explaining, he shrugged. “I don’t know; I’ve always pictured myself settling down with a guy.”

“Why?” Benny asked.

Why? Why? Those painful words echoed in Dean’s head. Because that was how he had wanted his life to be since he was probably eight years old.

“Don’t worry, Benny, someday we’ll sit down with a bottle of tequila, and I’ll explain all the things Dean Winchester won’t talk about,” Charlie had promised, letting Dean off the hook from those things that were still too painful to remember. Still, after all these years, there was a gaping hole in his life that only one person could ever fill.

Even remembering the conversation hurt. He had a lot of good things in his life: great friends, his mom and Sam, a job he truly loved, and students whose minds he got to shape. He successfully shook the dark thoughts from his head, and continued towards the teacher’s lounge to collect the rest of his things and go home.

Dean lived in a gorgeous, well-maintained rowhouse in the suburbs that he rented from the family of a woman who had lived there for fifty years. They hadn’t wanted to sell the family home after the matriarch had passed away, but none of them lived in the city, so Dean got the deal of a lifetime.

He settled onto his worn, comfy couch, the pile of papers waiting to be graded on the coffee table and a cold beer in hand, and turned on the TV for some background noise. It was a crappy episode of some spooky show Dean didn’t care about, so he channel-surfed until something caught his eye. A rerun of Dr. Sexy was starting, so Dean let it run, despite knowing that his favorite show would distract him from the task at hand.

It was a good one, too, from the season before the one that had just ended, when Dr. Sexy and Dr. Piccolo had broken up, and she had a brief rebound fling with a hot guest star. This was the one where she met him, and not his last episode, the one with the infamous shower scene. It was a good thing, too, because at the sight of the hot guest star’s bare ass in the controversial episode, Dean wouldn’t have been able to control himself. That scene was so hot it had gotten them a fine from the FCC, but the major ratings boost had probably been worth it. The hot guest star hadn’t made another appearance afterwards, though, which was extremely unfortunate. In the episode that was on, he was making his first entrance; he brought his bandmate to the ER where he would meet Dr. Piccolo and sparks would fly. He wasn’t even Dean’s type, covered in eyeliner, piercings, and tattoos, with blue in his hair and a general air of anarchy and anti-establishment. It suited his punk-rock character, but Dean desperately wanted to know what was underneath all the layers—other than a perfect ass and a strong, muscular back. He was fucking gorgeous, so Dean’s attraction was pretty easy to explain despite him defying Dean’s regular type.

Of course, a niggling little voice at the back of his head said that his interest in the character had little to do with him being a perfect specimen and more to do with his blue eyes and dark hair, not that Dean ever admitted why those traits would attract him. He’d tried to figure out more the actor had done after the episode had originally aired, but Dr. Sexy was his only real credit aside from a few short films and local commercials. His IMDB bio only said he was from Illinois, had two siblings, and graduated with a BFA from DePaul University. There was a rumor on the Dr. Sexy message board that he’d gone full frontal in one of the short films he’d done, but Dean hadn’t been able to track it down. He was still prime spank bank fodder, though, and Dean had probably worn out the DVDs rewatching that shower scene, imagining himself in Dr. Piccolo’s place.

Maybe if he finished all his grading early enough, he’d reward himself with that episode and jerk off in his bed. It would probably only remind him how desperately single he was and had been for two years. Two horrifically bad breakups in a row had left him skittish, but one night stands left him feeling empty. It had been months since he’d gotten laid with anything but his right hand or his favorite vibrator, which he would probably bring out for a special treat later. He didn’t want just sex anymore; he wanted a partner. He wanted to wake up every morning next to someone he loved. He wanted kids. He wanted to fill the hole in his heart he’d been living with since he was fifteen years old.

Dean tried to focus on his grading, but high school English students weren’t exactly known for their dazzling insight into books that had been analyzed to death for a hundred years. Thank god for the Mythology and Monsters senior elective that he taught. There was one response comparing the hero’s journey in Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings that he was going to email to Charlie for her enjoyment.

Speak of the devil—Dean’s phone rang with Charlie’s name on the screen.

“Hey,” he said as he answered. “I’ve got an essay answer that’s right up your alley.”

Charlie laughed on the other end of the line. “Is it better than the one where a student described the tragedy of Hester Prynn dying when a giant letter A fell off the top of a building?”

“No, this one is actually good,” Dean replied. “I’ll email you later.”

“Great!” Dean could hear her smile through the phone. He was lucky Charlie lived close enough that they could get together on weekends and for special occasions. She may have only been an honorary member of his family, but he got to see her more than he saw his brother out in California, his mom in Oklahoma, or Bobby who still lived in Sioux Falls. “I just called to remind you not to forget my present for Sam.”

“You know, Charlie, there’s this newfangled thing called the Internet, and they’ll ship things directly to the recipient.”

“Shut up!” Charlie admonished him playfully. “Have you packed it or not?”

“Yes, your mysteriously heavy present is already in my suitcase. Airport security isn’t going to go after me for it, are they? You know I already have enough trouble with flying.”

“It’s fine. It’s totally legal,” she said with a mysterious laugh. Dean was probably going to have to open it before he left to make sure Charlie hadn’t given Sam contraband. Whatever she did as her job was top secret, and given her proximity to both Washington DC and a bunch of government agencies, Dean never asked questions.

The episode of Dr. Sexy caught his eye again because his favorite guest star was back onscreen; his drunk bandmate had attacked him and he needed stitches on his shoulder. The sexual tension was off the charts as Dr. Piccolo blatantly checked him out as he removed his shirt. He had well developed shoulders, nice biceps, and a flat, firm stomach, and Dean totally missed whatever Charlie had been saying.

“Hey, Charlie,” he said, probably interrupting her. “You ever watch those Dr. Sexy DVDs I gave you?”

“You mean the ones you gave me for my birthday for the sole reason that they’d be readily available to you when you spent the weekend? Your Dr. Sexy crush has gone too far, my friend.”

“No,” Dean argued. “I mean, yes, Dr. Sexy is most of the appeal. But there’s this guest star in the episode I’m watching. He’s…”

“Uh, Dean? Spacing out there for a second? You do remember I’m not into guys, right?”

“Yeah, uh, nevermind,” he stammered. “When I get back from Sam’s we’ll marathon, okay? You can give me your opinion.”

“Sure,” she said. “You can show me your big gay crush.”

They chatted for a few more minutes, but Dean had to hang up and get back to work—after sending off the promised email to Charlie. He had a few emails in his inbox, a forward from his mom with pictures of cats in boxes, the graduation schedule from Sam, and a link to an article on custom painted classic cars from Sam’s girlfriend, Sarah. By the time he finished reading it, the episode of Dr. Sexy was about to end, and he couldn’t help but watch Dr. Piccolo kiss the hot guest star in the rain juxtaposed against Dr. Sexy trying to save the life of a kid in the ER. It was all dramatic and shit and Dean fought the urge to pull out the DVDs and get on with the next one, but he resisted. He grabbed another paper from the stack as the news came on. Dean dutifully graded as they droned on about the upcoming presidential election and other news of the day. Eventually, the meteorologist started talking about the weather.

“And we have a storm front moving across the Midwest. We’ll be seeing tornados in Oklahoma and southern Kansas,” the pretty blonde weather reporter said.

“Shit.” Dean dropped his pen to grab his phone and dial the familiar number. “Mom?” he said.

“Hi, honey.”

“How’s the weather?”

“I guess you heard. Nothing yet. Mike’s trying to get us on an earlier flight out to California, but I’m afraid we might not make it.”

“Have you told Sammy yet?”

“I’ll call him once we know something,” she said. “I’ve got to go, Dean. I’ll keep you posted. Love you.”

She hung up, leaving Dean with the sinking feeling that his mom and stepdad weren’t going to make it to Sam’s graduation. They weren’t in any danger, except of airports closing, so Dean returned to his grading, where he fell asleep drooling on Kevin’s A+ comparison of Edna and Hester.

Chapter Text

Dean could only kiss the ground as he stepped onto the curb where Sam was waiting in his shitty hybrid to pick him up. God, he hated flying. He was reminded exactly why he hadn’t visited Sam since he had first moved to Southern California. However, Sam’s grinning face when he pulled him into a huge hug definitely made him regret that fact. They didn’t see each nearly as often as he’d have liked.

“How ya doin’, Sammy?” he said as they embraced.

“It’s Sam,” Sam laughed. “But I’m good.”

“Did you get taller?”

“Very funny. Come on, let’s get your bag in the trunk and get out of here.”

Dean hoisted his suitcase into the tiny, useless trunk and sat in the front seat next to his six-foot-four brother who couldn’t possibly fit in the stupid car. When Dean said as much, Sam launched into a long rant about the environmental benefits of his hybrid.

“Don’t bring Baby into this,” Dean growled.

“I don’t know how you can drive that thing,” Sam said.

“The accident wasn’t her fault, Sammy. She shouldn’t be punished for what dad did. She’s a good car.”

“She’s a gas guzzler.”

“You shut your mouth,” Dean barked. The traffic had come to a standstill around them, and Dean nearly understood the popularity of practical cars. Baby would not do well in LA. “So, how’s space?”

“I’m not an astronaut, Dean.”

“No shit,” Dean chuckled. “Do they even let giants become astronauts?”

“I’m right on the upper limit”—he shook the thought Dean had planted out of his head—“Dean, I don’t want to be an astronaut.”

“Well, you did when you were thirteen,” Dean frowned. Once they’d upgraded to a two-bedroom apartment in Tulsa, their shared bedroom was papered with space posters. Dean used to remove them when Sam wasn’t home and hide them in the closet. They’d had that apartment until after Dean moved away for college, so it was the last place he’d lived in Tulsa. They had only lasted a year in the crowded apartment where Dean had spent his summers, but that place with its tiny, illegal nook of a bedroom was still what he thought of as home—before Sam joined them, when Cas lived down the hall, and everything was easy and good. Dean half figured he became a teacher for the summer’s off, given how they had become nearly sacred to him between the ages of eight and fifteen.

“The lab is good,” Sam was saying. “I mean, they hired me for real, now, so no more tiny stipend, and I can really get into the meat of the project.”

“No more off-campus housing,” Dean quipped.

“Yeah, we have to find a new place, and Southern California is not cheap, but I’ll be pulling in a salary. I get to do my dream job, and I’m getting paid for it!”

There was that thirteen-year-old again, with his unbridled passion and enthusiasm, before that bitch, Ruby, had turned it dark and twisted. Sammy had come out the other side, though, and here he was achieving all his dreams. He may not be the one going into space, but he was helping to design and build robots that were.

They pulled up to the off-campus graduate student housing where Sam and Sarah had a studio apartment, and Sarah was standing out front to welcome them, greeting him with a genuine hug as soon as he got out of the car. She smelled like paint thinner, but Dean didn’t mind. Sarah and Sam had met his last year at Stanford. He’d had a steady girlfriend at the time, but, when he met Sarah, it was love at first sight. When Sam came down here for grad school and the lure of the Jet Propulsion Lab, Sarah left her father’s art gallery to join him and to pursue her own art. It had been a spontaneous decision, but after three years they were still deliriously happy together.

“Any word on Mom?” Sam asked her as they headed into the building.

“All the airports in Oklahoma are closed, and they’ve already missed their connecting flight in Denver. There’s no way they can make it before the ceremony tomorrow.”

“Sorry, Sammy,” Dean said.

“Hey, at least Mom’s come out here more than once in the past three years.”

“Are you trying to suggest you did not like spending last summer in Philadelphia with me?”

Sarah scrunched up her nose in distaste. “It stunk, and my hair got so big it couldn’t even fit in your giant muscle car. It was awful.”

“But I took you to see the Liberty Bell,” Dean pouted.

She gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder. “You were not awful.”

Their studio apartment was tiny, so it was no surprise that Dean had to get a hotel room. They didn’t even have a couch Dean could have crashed on, just a couple armchairs in front of the TV. There was a counter with stools where they probably ate most their meals, but no room for a table.

Sam had graduation exercises starting immediately, so there was no time to rest after his redeye. At least the school was going to feed them, even if the name luncheon implied tiny finger sandwiches and tea rather than burgers and beer.

Sam glowed in the attention of classmates and friends stopping by their table to offer congratulations, so Dean didn’t mind that the food was even worse than he’d expected. They’d paid for this shit, and Dean couldn’t even bite through the rubbery chicken. He was still chewing when a very cute doctoral candidate stopped by to give Sam a hug. Dean swallowed and turned on the charm, but when he tried to get her number, Sam shut him down.

“No, Dean.”

"Come on, Sammy. She’s cute,” Dean grinned as he watched her walk away.

“She’s a nice girl.”

“And I’m a nice guy,” Dean shrugged.

“Not her.”

That pulled Dean’s attention away from the pretty girl, and something dark settled in his stomach. “Sam, you’re not planning to set me up with anyone, are you?”

“No, of course not,” Sam said with little conviction. “But I know your type, and she would bore you.”

Dean sulked through the photographs, only smiling at the last minute because Sarah elbowed him in the side. It wasn’t like he was opposed to being set up, but it wasn’t the first time Sam had tried to fix him up with someone and it had always gone badly. There was the older sister of his Space Camp friend who was also attending Penn State, and she spent their entire date talking about her Chihuahua’s incontinence problems. Then there was a girl during a visit at Stanford who switched her and Dean’s plates while Dean was in the men’s room and then lied about it like Dean wouldn’t have noticed her eating his burger and leaving him nothing but a sad, wilted salad. Last time he saw Sam, Sam set him up with a girl he had sat next to on the plane to Philadelphia. During their date, she proceeded to get wasted and shoplift a cactus from a store. She tried to get Dean to hide it under his shirt. The date ended at the hospital where Dean had to get twenty cactus spines removed from his stomach.

He wasn’t going to let Sam do it again.

Dean eyed every possible candidate as Sam led him around the campus. Every pretty girl Sam greeted with a hug or bragged to Dean about how she was the smartest student in his applied mathematics course, made Dean tense up, certain that she was the one. He was less stressed about the guys; Sam hadn’t ever set him up with a guy. He was totally cool with the whole bisexual thing, but it wasn’t like he felt comfortable essentially hitting on other men for the benefit of his brother.

They stopped in front of a building, and Sam started rattling off its architectural significance like a docent at a museum.

“He took a tour,” Sarah whispered with a suppressed giggle.

“Nerd,” Dean shook his head bemusedly, letting out a snicker of his own.

Sam ignored them and kept droning on about the importance of the columns or something, and Dean’s mind started to wander. He had a pebble in his shoe that pressed up against his heel painfully, and he was still hungry after the crappy food at the luncheon. He was pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of his name, but it wasn’t Sam or Sarah calling him. Someone behind him was shouting:

“Mr. Winchester!”

Dean whipped around only to see a familiar face smiling at him.

"Tracy,” he smiled through his confusion.

“Mom, Dad,” Tracy said to her parents who had rushed to follow her towards Dean. “This is Mr. Winchester, my English teacher from OLG.”

Dean held out a hand to Tracy’s identical-faced mother and her stern father. “Nice to meet you again, Mr. and Mrs. Bell.”

“Dean was my favorite teacher,” Tracy explained to her parents. “What are you doing here?” she asked in surprise. “Aren’t you on the wrong coast?”

“Uh, yeah,” Dean stammered. “Visiting family. This is my brother Sam, and his girlfriend, Sarah Blake.” He gestured to his brother and Sarah, and they shook everyone’s hands, too.

“I’m graduating tomorrow,” Sam offered as explanation.

“I’m graduating tomorrow, too!” Tracy replied enthusiastically.

“Wow, make me feel old,” Dean lamented. “You were in one of my first classes, back when I was young and idealistic.”

Tracy laughed like Dean’s joke was actually hilarious, but her parents were obviously growing impatient and ready to move on, tugging slightly on their daughter’s arms.

“Are you guys going to the concert tonight?” Tracy asked, a little too pointedly, and Dean suddenly remembered that Tracy had had a pretty big crush on him when she was his student. Even Sam noticed, as he shifted uncomfortably next to Dean.

“There’s a concert?” Dean asked, glaring at Sam. “You didn’t say anything about a concert.”

“Because I don’t want to go any more than you do,” Sam shrugged. “I thought we’d go to dinner.”

Dean breathed a sigh of relief. “Good, because I’m starving.”

As if on cue, Dean’s stomach let out a loud growl.

Tracy’s parents looked grateful as they pulled their daughter away. As soon as they were out of earshot, Sam and Sarah erupted.

You were my favorite teacher,” Sarah mocked, while Sam tossed his head back in girlish laughter, flipping his over-long hair for effect.

“Shut up,” Dean groaned. “Do you know how many times a year I have to deal with that shit?”

Sarah punched his arm. “The dark side to being extremely handsome, huh?”

“You have no idea,” Dean lamented. “Yes, I realize how conceited that sounds. Just feed me.”

“Okay, yeah, let’s head back to the parking lot,” Sam chuckled. “I can definitely eat.”

“Do you want to go to Revelation?” Sarah asked Sam, as they crossed back the way they had come.

“Nah, they’re going to be busy enough with the party prep,” Sam answered. He turned to Dean. “That’s my friend’s restaurant,” he explained. “He gave me a great deal on the rental for tomorrow, and the restaurant is catering. You’re going to love the food.”

“Well, I do love food,” Dean shrugged.

“They make a cherry pie that is as good as mom’s, I swear. And they’re making their special burgers for the party, even though it’s not Thursday. They’re even better than yours.”

“Okay, wow, Sam. Do you want me to marry this guy?” Dean joked, before remembering that Sam did have someone he wanted to set him up with—at least a guy was something new. He looked between Sam and Sarah, who were sharing a dark expression, and he thought perhaps being married off to this restauranteur friend of Sam’s was the least frightening option. Maybe they were going to fatten him up as a human sacrifice. Just what was in those special burgers, anyway?

“Let’s get Japanese. Sushi sounds good.”

Sam drove them to a strip mall, where they parked in front of a glass-walled Japanese restaurant. They had to walk through the bar to get to a table, so Dean was grateful that, although he’d have to eat raw fish, he’d at least have a good beer to go with it.

As they sat down, Sam’s phone rang. “Hello?” Dean perked up in case it was their mom with an update on her travel plans. “Hey, man.”

So not mom. Sam talked with whoever it was for a few minutes. “No, it’s cool. Whenever you can get there, okay? Hey, are you busy tonight? We’re at Izakaya.” There was a pause as the caller answered. “Nah, don’t worry about it. See you tomorrow. Thanks, man.”

“Who was that?” Dean asked, once Sam had hung up.

“That’s my friend—different friend. He’s going to be late to the party tomorrow because of work. His schedule changed.”

“Oh no,” Sarah lamented, like this random dude missing the party was some sort of tragedy. “I hope he can make it.” It wasn’t like Dean wasn’t curious about what made this guy so special, but he feared hearing his entire life story if he asked Sam about it.

It turned out that Dean didn’t have to eat raw fish. He ordered a plate of marinated pork; it was fatty, juicy, and salty, going perfectly with his bitter beer, the bland rice, and the slightly sweet miso soup. It turned out he really liked Japanese food. The company was good, too, so conversation flowed easily. Sam talked about his coworkers and how happy he was that the full-time job he had lined up at JPL was on the same team that he’d been with during his fellowship. Friends from school and his coworkers were going to make up the bulk of his guests at the party, plus the mysterious friend who was going to be late. Since their mom obviously couldn’t make it, it was only going to be Sarah and Dean at the ceremony in the morning, but they’d be sure to cheer louder than anyone.

After dinner, Sam dropped Dean off at his overpriced, over-decorated hotel. The bed was ridiculously low to the ground, with some sort of dark wood base that Dean was guaranteed to stub a toe on. Sam was forbidden from ever booking a hotel for Dean again. Whatever made him think Dean would like this?!

Anyway, he showered, changed, and sank into bed to read one of the books he brought. He sorted through the pile he’d grabbed from his suitcase, made up of a portion of the previous year’s best that he never had time during the school year to read. He passed on a collection of dark and surreal short stories, intending to bring those to Sam’s graduation and the subsequent party in case he got bored. He also passed on the psychological thriller about a psychiatrist’s missing wife, which he’d probably save for the flight home. Also, tossed aside for the moment were the paramedic novel he read on the plane, a book about a man from Sarajevo and his interest in a century old murder, one about a woman trying to understand her brother’s suicide, and a book about immigrant cricket players in New York. After discarding a few more options, including Murakami’s latest, he finally decided on a biography of Nureyev, and settled in to learn more about the legendary dancer.

He had to get up at 7:00 am the next morning to get to the commencement ceremony. Sam had to be there early, but, since he and Sarah only had the one car, they all had to be there long before it started. There was Sarah to chat with before the ceremony began, but they were expected to be silent once the graduates processed in. Dean was immensely grateful for both the biography he hadn’t finished the night before and the book of short stories. He was so engrossed in one of the stories, he nearly missed Sam receiving his degree, but a gentle nudge from Sarah saved him. After the long, unbearably hot ceremony, there was yet another luncheon in the heat, and, while the Southern California weather lacked the humidity of a Philadelphia summer, it made up for it with a blaring sun. Thankfully, Sam dropped him off at his hotel so he could shower and change before the party.

Stepping into the shower stall, Dean was immensely glad for the hotel’s great water pressure. It felt great, so great, in fact, that Dean couldn’t help but get turned on. It had been a long day, and Dean let out all his tension in each sloppy stroke over his cock. He wished he had time for more; he remembered his last session with his vibrator, how good it had felt inside him. Fuck, he hated being alone! His last two relationships had both ended in such spectacular failures that he was starting to think it was just him. Such dark thoughts were doing nothing to get him off, so he started imagining his perfect partner: tall, with broad shoulders, a muscled back, and soft, warm eyes, but a hot, sinful mouth. The fantasy was good enough to have him spraying the walls in no time.

After his orgasm, Dean felt boneless and sleepy, so he dried off, but didn’t bother to dress. He draped himself on his bed with the Nureyev biography, only to drift off before he finished the chapter. He woke up suddenly to the sound of knocking a few hours later, dazed and not remembering where he was. He pulled on a pair of jeans and found Sarah at his door.

“Why, Dean, I had no idea you felt this way,” she joked when she saw his bare torso as he opened the door.

“Ha ha,” he replied mirthlessly. He let her past him into the room, then grabbed his T-shirt from the bed. “Sorry, I took a nap.”

“I guess that’s why you didn’t reply to any of my texts.”

He pulled on the shirt. “Yeah, just let me finish getting dressed real quick.”

She looked at him appraisingly. “That’s what you’re wearing?”

“Yeah,” Dean shrugged. “Sam said this was a casual thing.”

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Sam is an idiot.”

“Hey, an accredited university disagrees with that assessment.” He found his shoes under the bed’s toe-stubbing ledge, and sat down to put them on.

“Do you have any tighter jeans,” she huffed.

Dean looked up from his task in surprise, raising his eyebrows. “Tighter jeans? Uh, yeah, but Sam said the food was good at this place.”

“The food is fantastic, but so is your butt, and it deserves a pair of flattering jeans,” she said, heaving him to his unevenly clad feet. “Do you have a nicer T-shirt? Or maybe a sexy button down.”

Dean could only look on in bewilderment as Sarah started rifling through his luggage, tossing jeans and shirts and underwear onto his bed, throwing all of Dean’s careful packing out the window. She thoughtfully paused at Charlie’s wrapped present before placing it carefully among the discarded clothes.

“Sarah, stop,” Dean said, catching his sweatpants in midair. “I’ll change my jeans, but I like this T-shirt. Sam won’t care what I’m wearing.”

“But, Dean, it’s important,” Sarah whined.

Suddenly, a lightbulb went on in Dean’s head. “I am being set up. I fucking knew it!”

“No,” she said, too quickly to be innocent. “It’s not like that.” Sarah sat down on Dean’s bed among the scattered clothes. She patted the bed next to her, and, when Dean shook his head stubbornly, she reached out, grabbed his arm, and pulled him down. “He’s a friend of Sam’s. This isn’t like some you like guys, he likes guys let’s get those two crazy kids together sort of thing. He’s top shelf. You’re going to meet him, and you’re going to like him.”

“So I’m the one not good enough for him?” Dean asked, feeling hurt despite not actually wanting to be set up. Sam setting him with a guy kind of changed things, mostly because Dean actually wanted to meet a guy he could settle down with.

“Not at all. You’re top shelf, too—especially when you show off those assets—” she gave him a playful nudge “—but he’s even less interested in being set up than you are.”

“Great,” Dean growled. The only thing worse than being set up was being set up with someone who also didn’t want to get set up. “I’m going to kill Sam!”

“No, please don’t tell him you know. This means so much to him.” She placed a hand on Dean’s and gave him puppy eyes that she must have learned from Sam. “This guy is pretty much Sam’s best friend, you’re his beloved brother. We thought…if you two just met, the inevitable would happen, and we wouldn’t have to set you up.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Dean lamented, but he grabbed his most flattering pair of jeans and headed to the bathroom anyway. “This guy better be as amazing as you say.”

Chapter Text

Dean’s overly tight jeans dug in at his waist, but Sarah kept checking out his ass and giving him enthusiastic thumbs up as they walked into the restaurant. They passed through the foyer and into the dining room, where most of the tables and chairs had clearly been removed. For a restaurant so close to Downtown L.A., Dean would have expected more pretention, but, while everything was clean lines and dark wood, the walls were painted a warm white and there were huge, blown up black and white pictures of birds’ wings. The bar area was intact, and a bunch of people he recognized from the ceremony were sitting on the upholstered cubes and sofas around Sam, who looked like he was born to be the center of attention.

Sarah slid right through the crowd around Sam, and took a seat on his knee. Through the quickly closing hole she’d left, Sam gave Dean a friendly wave, and Dean indicated he was heading to the bar for a drink.

“What can I get you?” the bartender asked, as Dean admired the rows of jewel toned glass bottles. “Beer in a bottle and wine by the glass are free, anything from the wall or the tap are regular price.”

“I’ll take a beer, thanks.”

She popped the lid off a bottle and handed it over the marble counter. It was some ridiculous microbrew, but it was cold and eased Dean’s discomfort. The restaurant was crowded, but Sam had said they’d closed it for the party, so everyone was there for Sam. A surge of pride coursed through him as he drank his beer.

Sure, beer wasn’t the lightest drink on the stomach, but Dean hadn’t eaten in hours, so he tried to navigate the crowd and find the food, but soon found himself face to face with a petite woman with striped blond highlights.

“Are you Sam’s brother? I recognize your picture from his desk. I’m Becky. Becky Rosen.” She said all of this in one breath, leaving no time for Dean to answer her question.

“Uh, yeah. I’m Dean.”

She was bouncing on her feet in enthusiasm and grabbed at Dean’s arm, even as he was attempting to take another sip.

“It’s so wonderful that Sam will be sticking around. He’s such a great member of the team. So smart, and handsome, and such a hard worker—and so tall.”

“Heh,” Dean breathed, amused at the mention of his brother’s immense height, even as he was frightened of the woman’s eagerness. “Well, I was going to get some food,” he said, hoping to shake her off.

“Ooh, Sam always talks about how good the food is here,” Becky exclaimed. “It’s not even close to work, but he still comes here a few times a week. I think he’s friends with the owner.”

“Uh huh,” Dean said, as he squeezed through the crowd, Becky at his heels. He got a few appreciative looks, too, in the tight jeans Sarah had convinced him to wear. Whoever Mr. Perfect was, Dean hoped he was enjoying the view.

Finally, he reached the back, where a long buffet was set up where the cooks would normally pass the food to the servers. There were platters of the kind of rabbit food Sam loved, lettuce wraps and fresh fruit skewers, but he soon found the burgers. Dean read the description on the card in front of them, “A proprietary grind of seventy-thirty ground beef, basted with garlic butter, roasted tomatoes, garlic aioli, avocado, greens, and onion strings on a brioche bun.”

“Sam says they’re the best burgers he’s ever eaten,” Becky offered.

“Yeah, he mentioned that,” Dean huffed. He put garlic butter on his burgers, too; he’d been doing it for more than a decade. He didn’t need to top it with a bunch of crap, either, just meat and bun—which, Dean’s inner twelve-year-old sniggered, was kind of how he liked his sex life. There was no way this pretentious LA burger was going to beat his—Dean held back another snigger.

“…and I suppose it wouldn’t be appropriate to invite me along because of his girlfriend,” she was rattling on. “Do you think they’re serious?”

“Sam and Sarah? Solid as a rock,” Dean said. It was obviously a good idea to discourage Becky, but Dean didn’t need to lie. “I hope Sammy marries that girl.”

“Oh,” Becky grunted, her annoyance obvious in even that one syllable.

“Sorry, Becky,” Dean shrugged. “But there are more fish in the—hey!” Dean was knocked off balance by some asshole trying to reach past him.

“Excuse me,” the guy said, and—oh, he was kind of cute. “Hey, are these the burgers Sam won’t stop talking about?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess,” Dean stammered. “I’m Sam’s brother, Dean.”

The other guy smiled broadly—was he flirting? “I’m Andy. I work with Sam at JPL.” He nodded at the woman still standing next to Dean. “Hey, Becky.”

“Hey.” She started collecting food, and Dean was grateful that she had stopped paying attention to him.

Andy, on the other hand, kept his focus on Dean. “I wonder if the burgers are as good as he says they are,” he said, taking one of them onto a plate.

Dean couldn’t help but mimic the gesture, and served himself a burger. He and Andy went along the table, taking food and making conversation. Andy was definitely awesome. He was funny and made his job working on communication systems seem cool and interesting. If this was the guy Sam wanted to set him up with, Dean was all in.

“Hey,” Andy asked, as Dean took a handful of sweet potato fries. “You’re Dean’s brother, so you should know. Are he and Becky a thing?”

That was not the sort of question Dean had expected.

“Uh, no,” he answered. “Sam has a girlfriend.”

Andy’s face brightened. “Great! I’m gonna go for it!” He clasped Dean on the shoulder and gave him a friendly shake. “Thanks, man.”

Dean was left alone with his stupid burger, while Andy successfully hit on Becky. Dean hoped she turned Fatal Attraction on him—better him than Sam, anyway. There was nothing to do but find a seat and give the burger a try.

“Oh God,” he all but moaned around the first bite. All thoughts of what’s-his-name were wiped out of his mind as he shoved more of the burger in his mouth.

“Good burger?” a voice asked with a wry twist.

Dean looked up, meat juices dripping down his face. It was just his luck that the real guy he was supposed to meet would find him eating like a glutton. But when he looked up, the man’s face was wide with shock.

“Dean Campbell!?” he said.

Dean knew that face, but he couldn’t believe his own eyes. “Gabe?”

“Holy shit!” Gabe exclaimed. He was obviously as stunned as Dean felt. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here for the party,” Dean answered dumbly. “What are you doing here?”

“This is my restaurant,” Gabe said. Dean could see the pride in the crinkles around his former neighbor’s eyes, which had not been there fifteen—fourteen—years earlier. He spread his arms wide, showing off the room, and Dean looked at it with new eyes. The wings on the wall weren’t birds, they were supposed to be angel wings because Gabriel and his siblings were named after angels. Fuck, no wonder the burger had been fantastic; even as a teenager, Gabe had been the best cook Dean had ever known.

“Garlic butter,” Dean mumbled to himself.

“Huh?” Gabe smirked. “You okay, Dean-o?” His face softened, but Dean didn’t want to see that expression on his old friend. It only reminded him of everything that had happened all those years ago, of everything that he’d lost. He wasn’t ready to face that Gabe, or what it could mean to see him again.

“I put garlic butter on my burgers, too. I learned it from you.”

The smirk came back in full force. “I can’t believe Dean Campbell is stuffing his face in my restaurant.”

Dean wanted to ask about the elephant in the room, but he didn’t get a chance because Sam sidled up next to him. He’d had a few drinks and was flush with wine and happiness. “Dean! You met Gabriel! You should ask him for his pie recipe.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Sammy, we’ve already met” Gabe said impatiently. “How the fuck do you know Dean Campbell?”

“Winchester,” Dean managed to croak out. “It’s Winchester.”

“What? Did you two get married and not tell me?” Gabe joked.

“It was always Winchester,” Dean explained. “Mom was the Campbell.”

Gabe looked between the two, and Dean could see the wheels turning. It wasn’t like he and Sam looked that much alike, and, without knowing they were brothers, many people didn’t realize. They’d been confused for a couple more times than Dean wanted to think about.

“Dean is my brother, Gabriel,” Sam said. He appeared to be sobering up in the face of such an unexpected turn of events. “How do you know—”

“Gabe lived down the hall from mom, Sammy,” Dean interrupted.

“Fuck yeah!” Gabe added. “We pretty much grew up together. Fuck—it’s been years.”

“I thought…” Sam began.

“Gabe is Cas’s brother,” Dean said, the impossibility of the words nearly making him choke on them.

“That’s not possible,” Sam sputtered, his eyes wide. “I know—I know your brother, Gabriel.”

“What?” Dean breathed.

“We go running together,” Sam continued. “I talked to him on the phone yesterday—he’s been at my apartment. But…but his name isn’t Cas.”

Sam was right; this wasn’t possible. How could Sam know Cas? How could Cas have been out here all this time, hanging out with Sam like he wasn’t the great tragedy of Dean’s life?

“You’ve never heard me call him Cas, huh?” Gabe laughed. “Well, that’s his name; I never call him Jamie.”

“Jaime?” Dean managed to ask.

“Yeah, that’s Cas’s stage name,” Gabe continued lightly. “He uses it all the time, now, like his weird Angel name isn’t good enough for his sorry ass.”

There was so much to take in that Dean just let the whole stage name thing pass him by. Only one thing mattered. “Is he here?”

“Not yet,” Gabe answered. “He’s working late tonight, but he’ll be here soon. God, he is going to freak”—he examined Dean more closely—“kinda like you are right now.”

“Geez, Dean, are you okay?” Sam asked, putting a fortifying hand on Dean’s arm. Dean leaned into the contact, letting his little brother hold him up as his world crashed around him.

“Cas is going to be here tonight?”

“Yeah, Dean,” Sam reassured him. “Jamie—Cas—is going to be here, and if he can’t make it because work runs late, we can call him.”

“We can?”

“And you can see him tomorrow,” Sam said, his voice soft and gentle, but it couldn’t stem the emotions overwhelming Dean.

“I can?” Rational Dean knew that Cas wouldn’t disappear again, that the internet made it easy to find people, but rational Dean wasn’t in control at the moment. All Dean could think about was how Cas would slip through his fingers, just when Dean was about to find him again. He was overcome with it.

“Hey, Dean, I need you to breathe for me, okay. Just in and out like you practiced.” Both of Sam’s hands were on Dean’s arms now, and he concentrated on those small points of contact as he tried to focus his breathing.

“Is he okay?” Dean distantly heard Gabe ask, as a glass of water appeared from somewhere and was forced into Dean’s hand. He took a sip, and the cool water down his constricting throat helped regulate his labored breathing.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Sam answered, then, to Dean, “You’re fine, Dean. Just breathe.”

“I’m gonna call him, make sure he can make it,” Gabe said.

“Don’t tell him—don’t tell him I’m here,” Dean said, gasping for air.

“And ruin the surprise?! Fuck no, Dean-0! I want to see the look on his face.”

“Gabriel,” Sam scolded, as Gabriel removed his phone and dialed.

“Hey, bro!” he paused as Cas must have answered. “Just wanted to see if you were gonna make it to Sam’s party?” Another pause. “Great! I’ll save you a burger; see you soon.” He turned back to Dean, whose breath was finally returning to normal. “We’re gonna have a reunion!”

Dean could only look at his brother, stricken and silent. Sam gave a nod to Gabe and he drifted away, to refill platters or whatever.

“It’s okay, Dean. He’s a great guy. I mean, he’s—”

“Don’t tell me about him,” Dean pleaded. It hurt enough to learn that Sam and Cas were friends; the last thing Dean could bear was hearing about how much Cas had changed over the time apart. “How long have you known him?”

“About a year and a half,” Sam shrugged.

“A year and a half?” Dean repeated. “You’ve known Cas for a year and a half and you never told me?”

“I didn’t know!”

“You didn’t know?” Dean challenged angrily. “Sammy, this is Cas.”

“Who I met once when I was a kid, Dean!” Sam replied with the same vitriol. “Who you haven’t talked about in fifteen years.”

“Fourteen years! It’s been fourteen years. And only thirteen since I last talked about him because we opened his box of books your first summer at mom’s.”

Sam’s face softened. “I remember. That was the day you trusted me enough to come out to me.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, good memories,” Dean chuckled; Sam was still staring at him nervously. “I’m good,” he reassured his brother.

“Yeah, Dean, I mean, this is a good thing. You found Cas,” Sam smiled. This was so simple for him; he didn’t have the history with Cas. When Cas left, Sam didn’t lose his best friend, the love of his life. Sam didn’t even fucking know Cas back then; how could he possibly understand?

“I’m going to go splash some water on my face or something,” Dean said.

“Yeah, you need company?”

“I’m not a chick, Sammy. Let’s not go to the bathroom in pairs.”

A long hallway took him from the dining room to the men’s room. In the dark, he almost ran into Andy and Becky making out in the corner, but he kept walking past them. The men’s room was fortunately empty, though he figured Andy and Becky would end up there eventually. He locked the door and leaned against it, letting deep breaths calm and center him until he felt he could face himself.

In the mirror above the sink, his face was drawn and pale from the panic attack. There was no pep talk he could give himself to make this any easier. He ran water into his hands and splashed it on his face, but it made no difference.

“Get it together, man,” he muttered to his reflection. “Is this how you want Cas to see you?”

He could see the fifteen-year-old Cas had known somewhere in the reflection of the twenty-nine-year-old staring back at him. Would Cas? They could be strangers, both closer to Sam than to each other. The dream that had lived in the back of Dean’s mind that he’d find Cas again was both coming true and being destroyed. It couldn’t possibly be everything Dean hoped it would be; he wasn’t that lucky.

A knock at the door brought him out of his reverie.

“Occupied,” he shouted.

“Dean, it’s Sam.”

Dean rushed to the door and unlocked it, coming face to face with his brother.

Sam could barely hide a pleased smile. “He’s here.”

Chapter Text

That morning.

The alarm let out a godawful screech. Castiel pressed snooze for the third time and rolled over, only to find a warm body next to him. He squinted into the light—he really needed to get curtains—and took in the naked figure of a beautiful young woman.

She stirred awake like a princess in a fairy tale, blinking her long lashes to full awareness. “You ready for round three, big boy,” she smirked.

Jesus,” Castiel growled, rolling his eyes. “Do you use that line on your boyfriend?”

Speaking of which—the studio apartment was empty except for the two of them.

“He’s in the shower,” she explained.

He glanced at the closed door, the sound of running water coming from behind it.

“Fuck,” he swore. “Loverboy better not be using my honey body wash. That shit’s expensive.”

“I bet he wouldn’t mind if we both joined him.”

Castiel ignored her and rolled out of bed. He didn’t bother to pull on underwear, so he could feel her hot eyes on his body as he crossed to the kitchen to pour himself coffee. Thank God for automatic coffee machines and for older brothers who gave them as Christmas presents. Blessed caffeine pumping through his system, he popped open a can of food for the cat, who was probably still sleeping in the dirty laundry pile in the closet, and made his way back to the bed, stopping to pick up a used condom and tossing it in the waste basket. It was his own fault, as he’d done most of the penetrating the night before, fucking the both of them in turn. His dick stirred at the memory of her wetness when he’d been inside her and the sounds her boyfriend had made when Castiel was the first person to find his prostate. He lay down on the bed again, setting his coffee on the nightstand.

A wanton moan came from next to him. There was a fake quality to it, and Castiel had the briefest of thoughts that she’d never make it past background acting. He didn’t care much, though. It did the trick, and his dick continued to fill. He lazily fondled an offered breast, running his thumb over an erect nipple. “Oh, Jamie,” she moaned again, the use of his stage name reminding Castiel that he too was playing a part. She straddled him, her vulva tantalizingly close to where he was hard.

“Round three it is.” She grinned seductively and leaned down to lick at his chest while her arm reached across him for a condom from the box on the nightstand.

Castiel gently pushed her off him. “No time. I want to get a run in before my call time. When your boyfriend gets out of my shower, you two should go.”

She was nonplussed and circled her hand around his erection. “Or I could blow you first.”

“Okay,” Castiel assented in a groan, spreading his legs enough so she could fit between them. Her hot mouth closed over the head of his cock, but he wanted more pressure, so he entwined his hand in her hair and gently pushed her head down, just enough to indicate what he wanted. She complied, taking him in until his cock bumped into her throat. As she bobbed her head, Castiel heard the door to the bathroom open, and her sexy boyfriend stepped out, his slender hips wrapped in a towel and water droplets still clinging to his chest and abs. Castiel recognized the spark of jealousy in his hot gaze, so he patted the empty spot next to him with his free hand. As the man climbed onto the bed, Castiel maneuvered him so that his ass was presented, and pulled the guy’s girlfriend off his cock. Rolling onto his side for better access, Castiel kitten licked over the exposed asshole, loving the shudder he received in response. The woman began to suck his cock again, her vibrating moans adding another sensory sensation as her boyfriend ate her out at the same time.

When Castiel reached his climax, he pushed her off his cock so he could come on her face, neck, and breasts. Leaving the happy couple to finish each other off, he went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and gargle, since his breath literally smelled—and tasted—like ass. He poured himself another cup of coffee at the kitchen table and watched as they came.

Castiel still stunk of sex as he pulled on his cat-hair covered running shorts and T-shirt. A fluffy gray puffball shook herself off indignantly and flounced out of the closet.

“Hey, you,” Castiel called to the cat as she pointedly ignored him and continued into the kitchenette to eat her breakfast. “You’re welcome, Gracie!” he finished in annoyance. Damn cat didn’t know how good she had it.

Most post-sex mornings, he would have taken a shower before setting off, but his morning activities—and his guests’ reticence to leave—had left him with little time, and a distinct lack of honey body wash thanks to Loverboy. His usual running partner was unavailable, as Sam had his graduation exercises to attend, so Castiel was going on a solo run. There would be no one to care if he smelled like a whorehouse.

His favorite trails in Griffith Park were too long for his abbreviated morning, so he planned a route that would end at the gym. He’d make up the mileage on a treadmill. It wasn’t ideal, but he had no other options if he was going to accomplish everything he needed to before call time. The rhythm of his feet on the pavement calmed him and soothed his sore muscles from the previous evening’s activities. It was a lonely run, however. He was used to having a friend by his side, teaching him about the future of robotic space exploration and stopping to greet every dog they came across; his iPod playlist provided the only company. Still, he reached his destination far too soon for his mind and body. The familiar sounds and scents of the gym greeted him as he made his way past the swimming pool to the weight room. He was back to his maintenance workout routine now that no one was looking at his naked body except for his sexual partners, so he was going to save time there, but he couldn’t afford to fall behind.

Hollywood had no interest in body building types anymore, and Castiel was certain his runner’s physique couldn’t get that big anyway, so he didn’t bother with using much weight. Repeated reps with thirty-pound weights would get him where he needed to be—that and bicycle crunches. Fuck, he hated bicycle crunches! He’d do his bodyweight routine before bed with his exercise ball after work and Sam’s party. He’d be leaving the party alone, since he’d gone home with the couple after work the night before. Picking up sex partners two days in a row was a bad idea; he needed his uninterrupted sleep at least a few times a week. Of course, it hadn’t been him doing the picking up; the couple had approached him. Gabriel loved to tease him about his lack of people skills, but it never affected his sex life. People had liked the way he looked since he first hit puberty; what was left of his career was built around that fact.

After his run home, he reclaimed his shower from Loverboy’s body wash stealing antics and washed off the stench and sweat. Sam had asked him to dress up for the party, probably since he usually saw Castiel in sweaty running shorts or his server’s uniform. He pulled on a nice pair of dark jeans, a black button down, his black boots, and he’d throw his leather jacket in the trunk. LA summer nights were cool enough for leather, even when the days were hot. He took the time to style his hair. He had twelve hours of work before he could get to the party, but at least he could put in the effort.

There was only an hour before he had to leave to make it to his call time. He was familiar with the studio, as they’d been filming there for a few weeks, so he wouldn’t need too much extra time to get acclimated, only a half an hour or so to get his voucher and breakfast and to head to wardrobe. That left him just enough time to complete his chores, and he could run by the library on his way to the studio. He’d already stripped the bed, but it still needed fresh, unsoiled sheets, so he replaced them and settled onto the clean bed with his crappy laptop. He had ten new emails.

Hannah had sent him an update on their new kittens in Seattle, complete with enough pictures of the little furballs that he was never going to get them loaded on his shitty wifi. Grace hopped up onto the bed and meowed plaintively at the screen.

“Jealous much,” he teased as he scratched her head. She gazed up at him with her huge green eyes and meowed again before settling comfortably on his lap while he continued checking his mail. There was a form letter from his agency that didn’t pertain to him, and two pieces of spam he deleted. He had a notification from that there was a new picture from the group Lawrence High Class of ’97. A spark of hope he couldn’t suppress compelled him to follow the link and check out the old photo. He recognized Tessa in the group of cheerleaders who took up the foreground, but no one in the bleachers or on the field looked familiar. He closed the site in disappointment and moved on to the rest of his email.

Tossing the books he’d finished into a tote bag emblazoned with the logo of a 5K run for charity he’d done a few months before, he grabbed the tote, his already packed set bag, and his leather jacket, said goodbye to the cat, who ignored him, and headed for the parking lot where he spent more money than he could afford for a spot to park his beloved Continental. Sure, the car was crappy, not unlike his neighborhood, but he loved that fucking thing. He’d been high as a kite when he’d bought it, sobbing over its perfect resemblance to his favorite childhood toy, but it was one of the few things from that time that he didn’t regret.

He swung by the Wilshire Library to drop off the books he’d finished and to pick up the ones he’d put on hold. It was always a good idea to have a good book on hand on a movie set, even if you never got a chance to look at it. Even better to have was another script, of course, but those were few and far between these days. He didn’t begrudge his reading material, however, as he was especially excited about the book of short stories the librarian had recommended; they were supposed to be dark, surreal, and bleak. He checked it out along with a few friends, and headed back to his car. He had just gotten them into the trunk when his phone rang.

“Hello?” he said.

“Cas,” Amelia’s voice said coldly. “You were supposed to call last night.”

“Shit, sorry, Ames,” Castiel replied, fumbling his way into the car, phone in hand. “Filming ran late yesterday, and the time difference always gets me.”

“Bullshit. Are the people you fuck really more important than your daughter?”

Castiel started the car and balanced the phone against his ear—it was still legal for another month—so he could get to work on time. “You wanted me to call you at 2am, Ames? Can you put her on now?”

“She’s at school,” Amelia barked.

“Then why the fuck did you call me? Shouldn’t she be on summer vacation or something?” Castiel was stopped at Melrose, waiting for traffic to let him make a left turn. It was going to be a while, so he had no excuse to hang up yet.

“It’s her last day,” she said impatiently. “I’m calling to remind you that you have to call her tonight since you missed yesterday.”

“I can’t call tonight. That’s why I was going to call last night. I have a friend’s party.”

“Oh, well, you go to your glamorous Hollywood party and Claire and I will just sit here and wait for you to remember us.”

This was going to give Castiel a migraine. “It’s just a friend’s graduation party. He’s a robotics engineer or something, and he’s getting his Master’s degree. He has pictures of space on his walls, Ames. It’s not glamorous; it’s just at Gabe’s.”

Traffic cleared enough for Castiel to turn onto Melrose, but then he was stuck in the sea of cars instead of waiting for it, still forced to listen to Amelia’s ranting.

“But you don’t think your daughter is more important?”

“Of course Claire is important. And if I thought for a second that this was about her feeling slighted, I’d definitely feel like shit. But she probably doesn’t even know I missed last night because she doesn’t know me.”

“And whose fault is that?”

“Amelia, I can’t call every person I’ve ever fucked to make sure I didn’t leave a baby behind.”

“Well, if you learned the right way to use a condom it wouldn’t have been a problem.”

He pulled the car into the studio lot and found a parking place.

“It was a first week of school party. I was drunk. I was probably high. We’ve been over this a hundred times. What do you want me to say—I’ve always remembered our fifteen minutes together, and I wondered where you went and what happened to you, and whether our love-making made a baby?” he mocked. He didn’t have time for this. “I’ve got to go; you wanted money from me, I’ve got to earn it.”

Castiel frowned at the pristine uniform wardrobe handed him instead of his usual baggy, unflattering color cover.

“You have wardrobe today,” she explained, understanding the question written on his face.

“What? Why?” He shoved the costume back towards her.

She shoved it back. “You’re doing background work.”

“No, I’m not.” He took the costume and hung it back on the rack, while wardrobe glared at him.

“It’s featured,” she said, picking up the uniform and shoving it at him even harder.

“Then I’m definitely not.” He took the costume, however. It was worn at the edges like someone had actually been wearing it for a few months in the trenches. He’d worn costumes this intricate before, but only on the stage. He played Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice last summer in Oregon, and his costume had been intricate, beautiful, and perfectly fitted to his measurements.

“Look, Jamie,” she sighed. “I’m not in charge of anything other than handling your wardrobe, and I was told to issue you a nice, screen ready uniform so that you can be featured background.”

“I know,” he sighed. “Thank you.”

Castiel took his wardrobe with him to find the background PA, who had given him his voucher not ten minutes earlier and said nothing about him doing background work.

“Didn’t I already give you your voucher?” Ephraim asked, checking his clipboard.

“Yes, but there seems to be a mistake. I’m not doing background work.”

“Then what are you doing here?” The PA had no interest in talking to him, handing out vouchers to other people as they arrived for work. Castiel traded nods with his fellow stand-in, Inias, as he picked up his.

“I’m a stand-in.”

“Who isn’t a background actor?” The derisiveness in his voice was obvious.

“Yes. It was negotiated at the start.”

He looked Castiel up and down appraisingly. It was something you got used to as an actor, being treated like a piece of meat. “Casting must have fucked up.”

“No shit,” Castiel replied, with little heat.

“I, uh, have to make a call, figure this out. You sure you won’t do background? You were probably counted in our SAG quotient.”

Castiel leveled a glare at the PA and watched, with a pleasant buzz in his stomach, as he was kowtowed by its intensity. “If I appear on camera, it’s as a principle.”

“Okay,” he conceded, but he mumbled what an ego under his breath as he walked away.

Castiel was already risking future acting jobs by standing-in, but he needed the money and auditions were mysteriously few and far between. He’d only taken this job because of the required NDA he had to sign, making sure that no one in the industry would know he was standing in. The money was very good. Claire needed new shoes and school supplies and Amelia needed money to buy groceries and pay her rent. It was almost enough to overwhelm him. He pulled out his two talismans, his brand new five year token and a photo taken last spring when the whole family had been in Illinois. His mother had hired him a lawyer and Hannah and Gabriel had gone back for moral support when he had received the notice informing him of a court ordered paternity test. He hadn’t needed the paternity test when he’d seen the girl, though. Her big blue eyes and quiet disposition had proven his fatherhood before the test had come back with a 99.97% likelihood. They had all spent an afternoon together afteward, Gabriel making the almost-seven-year-old giggle, and his mother had gone overboard on the photos. He kept this one nearby when things got tough and his weekly meetings didn’t feel like enough.

Castiel grabbed some breakfast at crafty, downing another two cups of coffee to make up for his late night. He forewent the bacon, since he couldn’t excuse it as extra protein for weight training, in favor of a plain yogurt and a fruit cup. He’d have his weekly splurge at Sam’s party anyway—one of Gabriel’s burgers. He’d invented them to Castiel’s particular tastes when he first came out to Los Angeles to take care of his little brother. Every week the impossibly rich sandwich reminded Castiel of everything good he had in his life.

Perhaps he had three talismans.

First team was starting their private rehearsal in just a few minutes, so Castiel needed to know if he was still expected to act in the background. He needed to be ready for marking rehearsal so he could watch the terrible sitcom star who was improbably cast in a big romantic drama try to act. He tracked down the 2nd 2nd AD, so he could straighten this shit out himself.

“The DP likes your face—asked me to put you in his shot,” she shrugged. “If you don’t want to be onscreen, I get it. Trade in wardrobe for your color cover. And get back here ASAP!”

Their day was half done, so Castiel was grateful for lunch. Technically, stand-ins were members of the crew, so Castiel and the other two stand-ins got to eat before the extras, even though both Inias and Muriel weren’t opposed to acting background. They’d given the featured extra roll to Inias, so he got to die dramatically while the female lead, playing a nurse, tried desperately to save him. As featured roles went, it wasn’t a bad one to have, and Castiel was a bit dismayed he’d passed it up, even knowing that it could have cost him a principle roll in the future.

“And I photo doubled her, too,” Muriel was saying as they found a table and dropped their trays on it. “So, that’s my hand opening the door when she first sees the ghost.”

“It’s a small bump, yeah,” Inias added. “But it’s worth it. What do you think, Jamie?”

The smirk he gave Castiel earned him a displeased glare. “I have no idea, Inias,” Castiel growled. “I have no idea why, when movie audiences see the much talked about nude scene in this movie, they won’t be seeing a pale beer belly, a tiny cock, and a flat, flabby ass. I definitely did not walk out of a pond naked in the middle of nowhere a couple dozen times while a small crew filmed me from every angle except my face. But, if I had, I probably signed a non-disclosure agreement and got paid extra to keep my fucking mouth shut.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Muriel said, slack jawed with her eyes wide. “Aren’t you pissed about not getting the credit?”

“When a well-known and popular actor does a nude scene, it’s showing his range and breaking out of a box. When a nobody does a nude scene, it’s titillating and you’ve got nothing to offer but your body.”

“That’s right,” Muriel realized. “I guess you would know.”

“I guess I would.”

He dug into his salad to avoid talking about the subject any further. It was topped with a grilled chicken breast, slivered almonds, and an avocado, and he had dressing on the side. The other foods available from catering were much more appetizing: fettucine alfredo, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, rib-eye steaks, baked potatoes with all the fixings, buttery shrimp scampi, and platters of brownies, cookies, and cupcakes. Castiel had steamed cauliflower and roasted beets with his salad, but he had to eschew the richer foods that Inias and Muriel had filled their plates with. The burger he was eagerly anticipating was lightyears better than anything the film set had to offer, so he wasn’t suffering for his depravation too badly.

While they ate, Castiel and his coworkers chatted about other film sets and the weird aspects of the job. This was Castiel’s first time standing-in, and he had no intention of repeating it, but he found their information useful nonetheless. His acting career would get back on track soon. He’d recently auditioned for OSF’s next season, and, while they hadn’t cast him for the current season, he had played leads for them before. He was confident there was a place for him on their stage.

Suddenly, Inias and Muriel stopped speaking, though perhaps they’d noticed that Castiel hadn’t really been listening. Castiel looked up to see that his partners from the previous night had joined them at the table, eyes eager and hungry for more than food. Castiel looked up at them and slowly shook his head. “No.”

They sheepishly took their trays and left.

“God, Jamie, keep your dick out of the extras,” Inias scoffed, watching the pair leave.

“No,” Castiel repeated, which caused both his companions to laugh easily.

“Both of them?” Muriel asked. She didn’t appear to be judging him, but Castiel couldn’t be too careful.

“Jamie is not particular about the gender or number of his sex partners,” Inias explained with a smirk.

Oh,” she exclaimed, in surprise rather than disgust. “And you’re out?”

“Professionally? No. I’m queer, not stupid. Personally? I have to be,” he shrugged.

She looked at him quizzically, but he didn’t elaborate. He could count on one hand the number of people who knew his story, what he’d been through, how hard it had been for him to come to terms with his sexuality, and why. It wasn’t something he shared with anybody. For instance, Sam was his best friend, and he knew nothing of Castiel’s life before college. He knew how fucked up Castiel had been in college and afterwards and how every day clean was a victory, but Castiel kept the rest of the story secret. Plenty of people suffered from addiction without a tragic backstory, and Sam had never questioned it.

“Second team!”

They were setting up the last shot of the day; the actors had just finished marking rehearsal. Castiel had been paying attention to all his actor’s blocking, including a clumsy dramatic performance. He had less experience as a stand-in than Inias or Muriel, but he had more experience as an actor, having earned his SAG card with a speaking roll on a TV series. Inias had been kind enough to lead him through the process on his first day. It mostly consisted of standing on your mark while the Director of Photography and the camera and lighting crews set up the shot. Castiel had gotten the job because of his olive skin and dark hair that matched the lead actor. Most importantly, however, they’d wanted someone who could double the nude scenes the movie required. Castiel knew he had a good body and that no one wanted anything from him except how he looked; he might as well exploit it. Fortunately, they hadn’t cared about his tattoos, since they were easy enough to cover. He was foolish to even have them, but each one held great personal meaning and was placed in a location usually hidden by clothes. His biggest acting role had, of course, made use of them, even adding more to enhance his rough and tumble character.

“Why weren’t you acting background today?” the DP asked as he measured light levels.

Castiel was surprised the DP was talking to him about something other than his actor’s blocking or the way he wanted Castiel to turn.

“Uh,” he stammered. “I only took this job because of the non-disclosure agreement required for the photo doubling. I’m trying to pursue a legit acting career.”

“Hmm,” he hummed thoughtfully. “A profile like yours belongs in front of the camera—no, bring the key light to the left!” he shouted at a member of the crew. “I set up each shot, and I gotta remind myself that Chuckles doesn’t have your bone structure.”

“I’m sorry I’m not a very good stand-in, uh, sir,” Cas said demurely. He knew that the actor he was standing in for didn’t have a good reputation among the crew, but he also knew that bad mouthing a principle actor was a terrible idea.

“You may call me Joshua. You’re a fine stand-in, Jamie, but I wouldn’t hire you again.”

“Should I be insulted?” Castiel asked; it didn’t feel that way.

“Maybe” Joshua shrugged. “Your features are too memorable, too sharp. It’s not often a stand-in is better looking than the actor—can you move to your next mark?”

Castiel walked to his mark as directed, recreating the erratic hand movements of the actor, earning a laugh from some of the crew, though he hadn’t meant to. “I’m not sure I’d go for it again, honestly. But the pay is good, I need the money, and I learned the hard way that Hollywood is only interested in my ass.”

Joshua chuckled. “This business is not for everyone. Sometimes talent and a pretty face just aren’t enough.”

Shooting finished just in time for Castiel to make it to Sam’s party. It had already started, but the studio was close enough to Revelation that Castiel didn’t have to worry about traffic, even downtown.

He pulled into the crowded parking lot, circling a few times before he parked his Lincoln between Sam’s hybrid and a Lexus. He checked his hair in the rear-view mirror and ran a hand through it to leave it artfully mussed. Grabbing his leather jacket from the trunk, he headed through the front door of the restaurant.

“Hello, handsome!” Sarah greeted him as he passed by the bar.

He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “How was the ceremony?”

“Great!” she said brightly. “I cried, I got a sunburn on the back of my neck. Sam’s brother came out from back East to visit, so I had someone to sit with.”

“That’s great,” Castiel answered, but he was distracted because there was a burger with his name on it waiting for him.

“Make sure you meet him before the night is over, okay.”

“Sure,” Castiel said. Sarah didn’t seem to notice his distraction. “I’m going to grab a club soda, then go eat.”

“Of course,” Sarah replied, indicating the cocktail in her hand. “Sam’s around here somewhere. Don’t be a stranger.”

He gave her another peck on the cheek, and headed to the bar to get his drink.

“Hey, Cassie.” Gabriel clapped him on the shoulder before he could order. “Sam’ll be real glad you made it, little bro.”

“Yes, I was afraid filming would run long, but I’m glad to have made it.”

“Great, great. You getting a drink?”

“Yes.” Castiel turned to the bartender. “A club soda with lime, please.”

“Sure, Cas.” The bartender smiled. She’d been flirting with him for months, but he tried not to shit where he ate. Background actors were one thing; unless they were SAG, he’d probably never see them again. He stayed away from costars, coworkers, and anyone who seemed like they’d get pissed when he didn’t call. He never called.

“That’s gonna cost you seven dollars, Cas,” Gabriel warned.

Castiel narrowed his eyes dangerously, but Gabriel didn’t back down the way most people would. “I’m your brother.”

“My brother who left me in the lurch when he quit. You were the best server I had. A real draw for the ladies…and the guys.”

“I took a leave of absence, Gabe.” He took his drink from the bartender and took a long gulp of it.

“To take a job that’s beneath you.”

“You know why. What good is an out-of-work actor to an eight-year-old girl?”

“Claire doesn’t care what job you do, or how much money you make,” Gabe reminded him.

“Her mother does. The court does, too. Child support was determined when I took in an income of 25,000 dollars in a few months,” he barked, rolling his eyes. “Unless you’ve forgotten, I’m not exactly taking the acting world by storm.”

He tried to get past Gabe, but his brother was hard to shake. “You need to renegotiate the terms, and you can work for me again.”

“Claire deserves everything I can give her.”

“A dad is worth more than the money he can provide, little brother. You should know that.”

“And you should know what it’s like to watch a single mother struggle with making ends meet.” He faked left, and managed to push past his brother. “I’m getting a burger, Gabe; I haven’t eaten in hours.”

He left his brother fuming at the bar. It wasn’t as if Gabe wanted him to give up his acting career. He always wanted what was best for Castiel. After all, he had moved to LA to take care of his wayward little brother.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by a quick shove from the side. A couple had been holding hands through the crowd, and had bumped into him in their maneuvers.

“Sorry,” the young woman said. She was one of Sam’s coworkers, and Castiel regretted seeing her again, as she had been unfortunately memorable from a post-run visit to the lab. “You’re Jamie, right?”

“Yes, I’m sorry I don’t remember your name,” he answered distractedly.

“Becky,” she answered with a beaming smile, though her companion crossed his arms sulkily. “Sam has such gorgeous friends, wow.”

“Thank you,” Castiel demurred.

She started rattling on about something or other, ignoring her date, but Cas’s level of distraction had grown exponentially. There was a man approaching from the back of the restaurant. He was extremely good-looking—large green eyes, full lips, high cheekbones—but that wasn’t why he caught Castiel’s attention. He pushed past the young woman, shoving the remains of his drink at her and probably leaving her upset and confused, but he couldn’t be minded.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to stare,” he said to the man as he approached, though the other man was staring as well. “It’s only that you…you remind me so much of someone that I knew a long time ago. I…”

Up close, the illusion wasn’t ruined. Before the man spoke, Castiel felt like he was poised at the top of a roller coaster as the world became tiny beneath him.

When the man finally spoke, his voice was rough and deep. “Hey, Cas,” he whispered.

The roller coaster in his stomach swooped downwards, barreling towards the ground at a hundred miles an hour.


Chapter Text

Dean threw his arms around Cas. He didn’t want to let go; he never wanted to let go. Cas smelled good, like something sweet and a little bit musky, and Dean buried his face in his neck to get more of it. He had probably held on too long, but when he tried to pull away, Cas pulled him back and squeezed him closer.

When they finally separated, Dean’s eyes stung and Cas’s blue eyes were also a little wet. Dean hadn’t seen those eyes in so long, and they didn’t disappoint. Cas’s face was angular, with high cheekbones and a strong jaw, and his lips were full and bowed. He still had great hair, which was dark and tousled and perfect.

Dean could only stare in wonder at his old friend, but Cas didn’t seem to mind because he was staring right back. Without anything to say, Dean pulled him back into a hug, his hands flat on Cas’s back, which flexed underneath the thickness of his leather jacket. Dean wished he could make closer contact; Cas’s body was sturdy and muscular.

The promises that had been made in a cute fifteen-year-old boy had been delivered in full because Cas was gorgeous.

“What are you doing here?” Cas asked, breaking the spell. Fuck, his voice was so deep and rough, like he smoked 3 packs a day.

“I flew out for Sammy’s graduation,” Dean explained.

“But that would mean…” Cas squinted and tilted his head as he put the pieces together. Dean had forgotten he used to do that. “Sam Winchester is your brother Sam.”

“Yeah.” Dean had to laugh; it was ridiculous.

“Did he change his name? Your mother’s name was Campbell.”

Dean shook his head. “Her maiden name. Uh, dad was a Winchester, so is Sam, so am I. Mom never let us change it, even when I wanted to. You, on the other hand—Jamie?”

Cas smiled; it was a small thing, but it felt like the world to Dean. “My agent was afraid no one would be able to pronounce Castiel.”

“Your agent? Uh, are you what, an actor?” Dean remembered what Gabriel had said about Cas having a stage name, but it still seemed so strange to think of Cas being an actor. It pinged something in the back of Dean’s head, like warning bells were going off, but he ignored the feeling. Cas was far too distracting.

“Yes. A rather unsuccessful one, I’m afraid,” he said darkly. “What do you do?”

He asked it like Dean could possibly provide an answer as interesting as being an actor in Hollywood. “I teach high school English.”

Dean. That’s wonderful.” He really sounded like he meant it, too, though maybe he was just that good of an actor. “I’m sure your students love you.”

Dean shrugged. “They’re teenagers.”

“We were teenagers once,” Cas said wistfully, running a hand through his tousled hair. “You’ve been on my mind a lot these last few years. I’ve been trying to find you.”

“You—you have?” Dean sputtered.

“I suppose…” Cas continued. “…the confusion over your name may have hampered things. You’re not Dean Campbell.”

“But you still found me.”

Cas looked at him softly, and Dean was suddenly fifteen again, navigating the ups and downs of adolescence with his best friend. Cas had given him that same look a hundred times before. The years apart suddenly didn’t matter anymore. The moment became weighted as they continued to stare; Cas’s handsome face was entrancing. The shock of seeing him for the first time was starting to wear off, and Dean was left with the needling thought in the back of his head that he had seen the man Cas had become before. It was weird. He hadn’t seen Cas in more than a decade, when he’d still had baby fat on him, but the cut of his jaw was familiar, like Dean knew how sharp and defined it would be. He knew that was impossible, so he shook off the sensation.

“Technically, Sam found you,” Cas said. “No wonder I have become so fond of him this last year. He’s your brother.”

“Yeah,” Dean laughed ruefully. “I can’t believe that nerd stole my best friend!”

“Never,” Cas said. “You’re irreplaceable, Dean.”

“Well, okay, then,” Dean stammered. Cas had always had a way of making Dean feel like the most important thing in the universe. That appeared not to have changed. “I’ve really missed you, man.”

“I’ve missed you, too.” Cas’s eyes were wide; he looked like he wanted to say something more. “I…”

Cas,” Dean breathed.

“I’m sorry,” Cas said. “I’ve imagined this happening a hundred times, and, in my head, I’m much more eloquent.”

“Yeah, I can’t believe people pay you to act,” Dean smirked.

“Not recently,” he said ruefully. “I had a role on a TV series last year, but it didn’t lead to anything. It ended up being sort of controversial—there was a scene...” He shook his head darkly. “Gabriel will probably tell you all about it if you ask.”

The pieces fell into place, and the bottom fell out of his stomach. It was impossible. There was no conceivable way that the things Dean was thinking were possible. He would have realized it. Sam would have mentioned it. It was Dean’s favorite show!

“Uh, Cas,” Dean stammered, eyes wide. “What show were you on?”

Oh no,” Cas muttered, his own eyes gone wide, too. “Oh no. Please tell me you don’t watch Dr. Sexy.”

“Yeah,” Dean breathed. “I didn’t recognize you…” He was going to pass out.

“Well, you hadn’t exactly seen that angle before,” Cas quipped dryly, but, past the panic coursing through him, Dean could see the dark glint in Cas’s eyes.

“I…I…er…have to, uh, pee. You’ll, uh, still be here when I…I get back, right?” Dean managed to stutter before he stopped breathing.

He didn’t give Cas a chance to answer before he ran straight back to the men’s room and locked the door. He tried to calm himself, but all he could do was numbly stare at his reflection. All the times he’d watched those episodes and fantasized about the hot guest star, and he hadn’t realized it was Cas. He felt like an idiot. Cas hadn’t been comfortable with Dean’s feelings for him when they were teenagers; he had let Dean down easy with the classic let’s just be friends spiel. He probably wouldn’t be too happy to know that Dean had jacked off repeatedly to the sight of his naked ass.

Dean’s fingers dialed his phone before he realized what he was doing.

“Hey,” Charlie’s voice said through the phone. “Shouldn’t you be partying the night away with your nerdy little brother?”

“Charlie,” Dean croaked out. “Something unbelievable happened.”

Her manner changed immediately. “What?”

Dean hopped up onto the counter next to the sink where it was dry. “Cas is here,” Dean said, his own words sounding impossible to his ears.

“I’m sorry. I thought you said Cas was there, but I’m pretty sure you and I have only ever known one Cas.”

“And he’s here.”

“What? How?” Charlie sputtered.

“Nerdy little brother’s been holding out on me.” He told Charlie the story as he knew it, which turned out only to be the basics. There were so many questions and blank spots, but Dean had run away before getting any answers. He didn’t even know how Sam knew Cas, or what Cas had been doing all those long years apart. Cas could be married or an asshole or something.

“What’s he like?” she asked, when Dean had finished telling her about the evening.

Dean traced the edge of the counter with his finger; there was a jagged chip missing which Dean ran his nail over to soothe himself. He had no idea what to say or how to convey the reality of having a grown up—and hot—Cas standing in front of him. He let his focus go to a water stain on the wall that looked like a dick. It managed to amuse him for a second, but Charlie was waiting for an answer.

“Fuck, Charlie, he’s beautiful,” Dean blurted out.

“Well, yeah, I mean, he’s Cas.”

“No, you don’t understand—wait, give me a second!” Someone had started knocking on the bathroom door. “Occupied,” he shouted. “Use the ladies’ room!” He heard retreating footsteps, so he assumed he was safely alone again. Every guy was probably regretting the free beer by that point, but Dean didn’t care. He put the phone up to his ear again. “No, Charlie, you don’t understand. Uh, you should probably grab that Dr. Sexy DVD we were going to watch.”


“Just do it,” he ordered. “Put in episode ten, eleven, or thirteen. No, wait, put on eleven.” That one began with a scene of Cas and Dr. Piccolo, so she wouldn’t have to wait long—or be shocked by the sight of Cas’s bare ass.

There was a long pause while Charlie did as he asked. He heard a muted holy shit and a muffled thump through the line as she dropped her phone on the floor in shock. There was silence for a moment before the shuffling and scratching that meant she was scrambling to pick it up; her voice came through the line loud and clear. “That’s Cas on TV!”

“Yeah…apparently, he’s an actor.”

There was a suspiciously long pause on the other end of the phone. “Dean,” Charlie said finally. “Is this the episode you wanted me to see? You know the one with the, uh…”

“Big gay crush?” Dean finished, hanging his head in his hands. “What am I supposed to do, Charlie?”

“Congratulate him on his bone structure and run off to Vegas together?”

“Charlie!” Dean scolded.

“Come on. I know you don’t like to talk about it, but this is Cas. This is your second chance.”

“Well, my first chance ended when Cas let me down nice and easy at fifteen years old, so I don’t think this is ending with happily ever after.”

“What?” Charlie asked softly. Dean had never told her about what had happened the morning after Cas’s birthday. They’d had too much to drink, and Dean’s girlfriend, Tessa, had found them sharing a bed in the morning and dumped him. She’d accused Dean of a lot of things, most of them involving him being in love with Cas. He’d made a few pathetic attempts at denial, but the damage was already done. That was when Cas had made it clear that they were only friends, and Dean had pined in silence—for the rest of his life. “I always assumed….”

“That I never told him? You assumed wrong. Cas is probably straight. I mean, he was when he was fifteen.”

“I don’t believe that. None of our friends from high school turned out straight—you, me, Bart, Ed, Rebecca, Gilda. We were the walking, talking pride flag of Memorial High. I mean, once we all got out of Oklahoma,” she finished darkly.

“Harry was straight. So was Rachel.”

“Okay, okay,” Charlie conceded in clear frustration. “You win. Cas was probably straight and definitely not in love with you. Happy?”

Dean frowned into the phone. No, he wasn’t fucking happy. There was another knock on the door, and he shouted at them, but they kept knocking. “Hey, Charlie, some asshole won’t take a hint and use the ladies’ room.” He jumped off the counter and walked to the door, phone still pressed to his ear.

“Wait, did you steal the men’s room to call your BFF and complain about a boy? You are such a chick,” Charlie cackled into the phone.

Dean ignored her teasing to unlock and open the door. “I said it was occupied. Take a hint.”

Cas was standing in the doorway, looking perplexed and gorgeous in the green light from the florescent bulbs above their heads. Had he grown more perfect in the fifteen minutes Dean had been away from him?

“You were gone a long time,” he said. “I didn’t want to ask Sam if you had some sort of bladder issue; I thought that might cross a line.” He pouted at the phone trapped between Dean’s head and shoulders. “You’re on the phone. I’ll leave you.”

“No, wait,” Dean called after him, letting the phone drop into his hand.

“Oh, my God, is that him?” Charlie gasped.

Dean dumbly held the phone out for Cas, wiggling it a little so Cas would get the hint and take it.

“Hello,” Cas tentatively said.

“I cried for two fucking weeks after you left! Clearly you learned how to use a phone in the last fifteen years!” Charlie’s voice was loud enough that Dean could hear it from several feet away.

“Who is this?” Cas said into the phone.

Charlie,,” Dean scolded, without realizing that he was answering Cas’s question as he asked it.

“Charlie?” Cas repeated. “My Charlie?” His voice got small and young, and it wasn’t the fifteen-year-old Cas he resembled, but three years younger than that, when he’d first introduced the bubbly redhead to Dean with raves and praise about her awesomeness.

“The one and only, bucko.” Charlie’s voice had grown soft, too, making Dean realize he wasn’t the only one who had lost Cas those many years before.

“You and Dean are still friends?”

“Charlie, be nice,” Dean warned.

“I am the nicest person in this conversation,” Charlie said, as Cas pressed a button on the phone, making her voice echo through the restroom. “Friends for life. We get together on weekends and do geeky shit.”

“I thought Sam was the geeky brother,” Cas smirked.

“Sam’s a nerd,” Dean countered. “He likes space and science and stuff.”

“I like science,” Charlie chimed in. “Does that make me a nerd and a geek?”

Cas looked dramatically from the phone to Dean. “How the fuck did I end up the coolest out of the three of us?”

“My students think I’m cool,” Dean said in a small voice. He pouted his lower lip out dramatically, and they all laughed. It was amazing how the years so easily faded away again. It was also a very bad thing because those years were the only thing that kept Dean from still being in love with his best friend. Here was Cas, real for the first time in almost fifteen years, and Dean was distracted by the desperate crush of a teenage boy.

As they stood in the doorway, a tall, black man shoved between them, muttering and swearing, and headed towards the urinal. He kept glaring at them while he peed, which was weird and disconcerting, but Dean supposed he deserved it for having stolen the men’s room for so long. He was followed by another three men, pushing through them to get to the stalls and other urinals. Dean was shoved against the wall with the water stain, and realized it wasn’t a water stain.

“Hey, that is a dick on the wall,” Dean remarked.

“Gabriel,” Cas explained with a smirk and raised his brows suggestively. “You should see the women’s restroom.”

“I’m in,” Charlie’s voice added.

That was how, five minutes later, Sam found Dean and his childhood best friend describing pornographic wallpaper to his other childhood best friend while a line of angry women stood outside the door.

Chapter Text

Earlier that evening.

Revelation wasn’t conveniently located near Sam’s work, school, or apartment, and the traffic downtown made it a pain to get to. It had only been through a series of unfortunate coincidences he ended up in the neighborhood that first time, anyway, but he regularly thanked the fates that had brought him there. Not only was the food the best in LA, but Sam had made two great friends in Gabriel and Jamie Milton.

The brothers couldn’t have been more different; Jamie was quiet, dry-witted, smart, intense, and athletic, while Gabriel was boisterous, loud, obscene, but no less intense in his own way. Sam was reminded of how the extreme right and left of politics almost seemed to come around and meet each other. Extremism: bringing people together, even the Milton brothers. Actually, Jamie and Gabriel were extremely close. Given all of Jamie’s difficulties and the fact that Gabriel had moved out to Los Angeles to help him get through the hard times, Sam had always assumed childhood had been pretty rough for them. Jamie never talked about it, though, and Sam never asked.

That was how their friendship worked best—don’t talk about the bad times, just celebrate the good ones. Even with that dynamic, however, they still had a connection that was lacking in most of Sam’s other relationships. Somehow, there was already a Jamie-sized hole in Sam’s life just waiting for him to fill. It was that effortless connection, like they were already family, that made Sam want to introduce him to Dean. Sarah called Jamie one of the hottest pieces of ass in Los Angeles, and that would draw Dean in instantly, of course. Once he got past the inevitable physical attraction, though, the well-read, sardonic, intelligent guy underneath would capture his heart; Sam was certain. If Dean was still recalcitrant, however, he’d be unable to resist asking Jamie about Dr. Sexy once he—finally—found out Jamie had been a guest star on it. Dean might even recognize him when they finally met, which would get them to talking. If the sparks flew the way Sam expected they would, he would have the push he needed to get Dean to relocate nearby.

Even if Jamie couldn’t make it to the party, Sam would get Dean and Jamie together somehow. He’d been waiting a year and a half to introduce them, after all, and it had been long enough.

“You gonna stand there all night and look handsome?” Sarah came up beside him and nudged him with her hip.

“Sorry,” Sam said, dropping the streamer he hadn’t been hanging. “I was just thinking about Dean and Jamie.”

She took the streamer end he’d let go of and affixed it to the wall with a bit of blue tape. “You have to stop obsessing. First of all, it’s a no brainer they’ll like each other. But, this isn’t your only chance to lure your brother out to California. If it doesn’t work out—mostly because Dean is looking for a relationship and Jamie is not—then you can just lure Dean with Langer’s, taco trucks, and hot beachgoers.”

“It’s not that…” Sam hesitated.

She leaned against his chest and wrapped her arms around him. “I know you think Jamie shits ice cream, but there are other guys Dean could date.”

“Look, Jamie fulfills a particular thing Dean has. It’s complicated.”

“It’s not complicated, Sam,” Sarah said. “It’s six-feet of piercing blue eyes, pouty lips, and an ass I could bounce a quarter off.” When Sam frowned at her, she lowered her hands to give his ass a healthy squeeze. “Don’t worry, honey, I bounce coins off your ass all the time,” she joked.

“Kinky,” a voice from behind them said.

“Hey, Gabriel,” Sam said, releasing his hold on Sarah.

“Are we ready to part-ay?!” Gabriel asked with a flourish. Sometimes it struck Sam as weird that the quiet, unassuming Milton was the actor rather than the flamboyant one, but then he’d remember how he and Sarah had gone up to Ashland the previous summer to see Jamie in a couple of shows, and, once he was on stage, it was impossible to look away. He was electric.

“Is Jamie going to make it?” he asked Gabriel.

“Beats me. The little brother abandoned me in my time of need. He’s not even in the fucking movie; he just stands behinds the scenes. Literally.”

Sarah grabbed another streamer and expertly taped it to the wall. “At least he’s working in his field.”

“Says the girl who sells other people’s art instead of her own,” Gabriel countered. “It’s the equivalent of me working as a dishwasher.” He wandered off to finish up the food in the kitchen; even though he was majority owner of his own restaurant, he was still head chef.

Sam gave his girlfriend’s shoulder a quick squeeze. She’d left her father’s gallery to come down here, and she was stuck working in someone else’s gallery to support them. Their apartment didn’t have room for a studio, so she rented one at an art collective she belonged to. It was open twenty-four hours a day, so she came home at all hours smelling of paint. Hopefully she’d be able to quit her job and work on her art full time, now that Sam was going to be working full time. Sam hated a cold, empty bed.

Maybe that was why he sympathized with Dean so much. His brother was lonely. He didn’t approve of how Dean handled the breakup with Lisa, but he couldn’t blame him for the gradual breakdown of their relationship. That was all on Lisa and her issues. Then Nick did a number on him. Finally introducing Dean to Jamie was like giving him an early Christmas present. He couldn’t be more Dean’s type if he’d been created in a lab strictly for the purpose.

“Hey, lazy bones,” Sarah poked him in the side. “Decorations are finished. I’ll go and pick up your brother at the hotel.”

Sam gave her a lingering kiss. “See you soon.”

“Are we still going ahead with operation Get Dean a Hot Boyfriend?”

“Yeah,” Sam assured her. “Trust me.”

“Alright,” she shrugged. “I’ll make sure he looks presentable.”

“Gabe is Cas’s brother,” Dean said, the emotions of it roughening his voice.

Sam tried to make Dean’s words make sense. Gabe and Jamie had another sibling living in Seattle, but their name was Hannah. Sam understood that they were biologically female, but fluid when it came to a gender identity. The family used they as a pronoun when speaking about them unless Hannah specified a preference at the time. Either way, Hannah wasn’t Cas. That only left one option, however.

“That’s not possible,” he sputtered. “I know—I know your brother, Gabriel.”

“What?” Dean asked, going pale.

“We go running together,” Sam continued. “I talked to him on the phone yesterday—he’s been at my apartment. But his name isn’t Cas.”

His name was Jamie. He liked burgers, he had a cat, he ran faster and longer than anyone Sam knew, but he couldn’t be Dean’s long lost best friend. Sam hadn’t known Cas, but his picture had been tacked to the bulletin board in their shared room in Lawrence for years—a picture of a lanky kid with dark hair done up in spikes or something weird. He could have grown up to be Jamie, sure, but he could have just as easily grown up to any other dark haired guy.

Gabe seemed to be confirming it, though, like Sam was supposed to have realized that all along. It wasn’t as if Jamie—Cas—had recognized him as Dean’s brother, either.

God, Jamie was Dean’s missing best friend. Jamie was that kid who disappeared under mysterious circumstances and left Dean sobbing on the floor in the hallway—who had left Dean pining and longing for more than just a best friend. Dean had been in love with Cas; he’d admitted it the first time he’d told Sam he was bi. Jamie was also into men, but Dean had thought that he wasn’t back when they were teenagers.

And Sam, not knowing any of this, wanted to set them up. He was the best fucking brother, ever.

Dean didn’t seem to recognize Sam’s greatness, though, as he was having trouble breathing normally. Shit, he was having a panic attack.

“Dean, are you okay?” Sam asked him, trying to hold his brother steady.

“Cas is going to be here tonight?”

Sam reassured Dean, promising him that he was going to get to see his old friend even if Jamie couldn’t make it to the party. God, Sam had Cas’s phone number in his contacts; he had pictures of Cas’s cat on his computer because Sam had given Cas cat toys as a Christmas present. He’d drunk smoothies in Cas’s tiny apartment after a run in Griffith Park, borrowed his shower and changed in his bathroom before heading off to class. He’d had Cas over for game nights and lost at Trivial Pursuit to him. Dean’s long lost best friend was now Sam’s best friend. It was almost too unbelievable to be real.

More than a dozen years after he’d first tried to find Cas for Dean, he’d finally succeeded.

“Is he okay?” Gabriel asked. Sam assured his friend that Dean was fine, even though he probably wasn’t.

“I’m going to call him,” Gabriel offered, and before Sam could tell him what a terrible idea that was, Gabriel was typing in the number. He seemed to find the potential reunion a good thing, which meant that he thought Jamie would react well to seeing Dean again. Unless he was looking forward to the fireworks. Would Gabriel do that to his little brother?

Nah. Gabriel loved a practical joke, like the time he replaced Jamie’s favorite leather jacket with an identical one in hot pink, but he was the most overprotective older brother Sam knew of other than his own. If he didn’t think Jamie wanted to see Dean again, he would have done everything in his power to shield him from it.

If only Dean were handling it well. The moment they knew Jamie-Cas was coming, he reamed into Sam like he’d purposely kept it from him. Sam felt horrible, of course, knowing that he’d held the answers to Dean’s greatest mystery and never realizing it.

As quickly as Dean had gotten angry, he calmed down. It was par for the course, so Sam was used to it. Like the anxiety and panic attacks, Dean’s emotional outbursts had come after the accident when he was sixteen. They’d been so lucky that his head injury hadn’t affected his personality, and, since he’d been through so much, his emotional issues seemed normal. It wasn’t until after his two bad breakups two years ago, when he’d had so much trouble shaking the depression and feelings of worthlessness, that a shrink suggested that there were lingering after-effects of his traumatic brain injury. Sam could still remember that terrible week in the hospital, when Dean had been in a medically-induced coma, as they waited to see if he’d recover. Sam would hate his father for the rest of his life for what he’d done to Dean.

Dean had run away to the men’s room to calm himself down, and Sam had been rejoined by Gabriel.

“Man, can you believe it?” Gabriel mused.

“Gabriel, what happened to your brother?”

Gabriel’s golden eyes narrowed dangerously. “What do you mean, Sammy?”

“The guy Dean described in detail for years should not have ended up coked-up on the streets.”

“People change,” Gabriel replied curtly. “That one”—he pointed to where Dean was in the restroom—“didn’t help. It was rough enough for him being a queer teenager in the nineties, imagine being in love with your straight best friend.”

“I thought Dean was his best friend,” Sam asked, perplexed by Gabriel’s derision towards Dean. As far as Sam knew, Dean and Cas were untroubled until Cas left Tulsa.

Yeah. I’m sure he’s grown up since he was a douchey teenager, but Dean broke my brother’s heart.”

The bottom fell out of Sam’s stomach. That was not the story Dean told, and Sam was sure that Dean hadn’t lied to him about something so important. “Gabriel, listen to me. Dean isn’t straight.”

Gabriel shrugged. “Okay, that’s not especially surprising, but being closeted doesn’t excuse his behavior years ago.”

Sam looked down on his friend with as much seriousness as he could muster through the gentle buzz of alcohol. “No, Gabriel, you don’t understand. Dean was a bisexual teenager in love with his straight best friend.”

Sam watched as realization dawned on Gabriel’s face. “Holy shit,” he muttered. “Those idiots.”

“I was hoping to set Dean and Jamie up tonight. I thought Jamie was Dean’s type; I had no idea that was because he was the originator.”

“This is the best night ever!” Gabriel said gleefully, rubbing his hands together.

“When is Jamie getting here?” Sam asked.

A wicked grin spread over Gabriel’s face. “He was leaving the studio when I called him. He’s probably parking now.”

Dean had run away again. It had looked like it was going well. Dean and Jamie had hugged like the old friends they were, and they were talking, then, suddenly, Dean took off.

“What happened to Dean?” he asked as he rushed to his friend’s side.

A dark look crossed Jamie’s face, as he realized that Sam knew who he was. “Your brother was in urgent need of the restroom.” He looked towards the restroom with longing and sadness on his usually placid face. “It’s my fault—I should—”

Sam stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Hey, he just needs to catch his breath. This is a lot for him.” Gabe was nearby, having watched the reunited pair with the same interest as Sam had, so Sam waved him over.

“Bro, have you eaten yet?” Gabriel asked gently.

Jamie looked dazed. “No, I…”

“Zao is finishing up another tray of burgers in the back. I’ll have him make one special for you—extra avocado, just like I used to make.”

Cas’s eyes brightened through his misery like a kid getting a second ice cream cone after his fell. “With garlic butter on the bun before he toasts it?”

“And on the patty, you glutton,” Gabriel laughed. He led his brother away, throwing Sam a significant glance over his shoulder.

He needed another drink.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Sarah asked, when she found him at the bar, downing a couple of shots. “You’re supposed to be happy! This is your party.”

Sam offered her one of the last shots and watched her chug it like they were back in college. “I found Dean and Gabriel—“

“Dean and Gabriel?!” she exclaimed, settling onto the stool next to him. “I did not see that coming—wow. I thought Gabriel wasn’t into guys.”

“No, no, no,” Sam squealed; he wished she hadn’t put the thought into his head. “God, no. I’d need a quart of bleach for my eyes if I’d had to see that.”

“Then are you bummed because we hoped Dean would be into the other Novak brother?”

Sam was about to down the last shot when her comment registered. “Wait—you knew their last name wasn’t Milton?”

“Yeah,” she said matter-of-factly. “Milton is their mom’s maiden name, I think, and Jamie uses it because there was already a James Novak in SAG or Equity or whatever. Jamie isn’t even his real first name, either. Gabriel calls him Cas; it’s short for some weird obscure name—sounds like it should be for a girl—Cassielle maybe.”

“Castiel,” Sam corrected, and waved the bartender over to refill the shots.

“Sure,” she shrugged. The bartender drew her attention away from Sam as she ordered a cocktail.

“Castiel Novak.” Sam drank his first shot. “Jamie is Cas Novak.”

“Okay, is that supposed to mean something?” She took a nonchalant sip of the drink the bartender placed in front of her.

“Uh, yeah. You know Dean lived with mom before I did.”

“You said he used to spend summers with her, but I don’t see—.”

“I used to hate summers,” Sam interrupted. “Dean would go off to mom’s, to where he had this great life away from dad. Mom would let him stay out late, he didn’t have to mow the lawn, and he had a best friend who lived down the hall. They were inseparable; the kind of friends you’d only see in movies or on TV. Even during the school year, they’d write letters and make phone calls, then pick right back up when Dean got to Tulsa. Until Dean was fifteen. It was just before Thanksgiving, and mom called as we were getting ready for school, to tell Dean that his best friend’s family had up and moved in the middle of the night. Dean never heard from him again. It was under suspicious circumstances, too. His mom was engaged, but she called it off the night they left town. A few years later, her ex-fiancé was on the news because he’d been murdered in an apparent mob hit.”

“That’s awful!” Sarah exclaimed. Her drink sat there, forgotten, ice melting and watering it down. “But I don’t understand what it has to do with—”

“Sarah, Dean’s best friend was named Cas—Castiel—Novak.”

Realization dawned on her pretty face, and she consequently slapped him on the arm. “Why didn’t you recognize your brother’s best friend?!”

“I never knew him! I met him once when I was ten.”

“Wow,” she mused, finally taking another sip of her drink. “I guess it would be pretty weird to try and set them up now.”

“Yeah,” Sam said, holding a straight face. “Except when they were teenagers, Dean was in love with him, and Gabe tells me Cas felt the same way.”

She spit out her drink all over him, leaving him drenched and sticky. “Great,” he groaned. “Dean’s holed up in the bathroom again.”

“With Jamie?” She waggled her eyebrows suggestively and handed him a couple cocktail napkins to clean up.

“No, he freaked out—again. I should probably go check on him.”

He headed towards the restroom after giving his girlfriend a sloppy kiss on the cheek. As he was about to turn down the hallway, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

It was Jamie. “Sam, I feel like I’ve lied to you,” he said in a serious voice. His face was pale and he seemed more closed off than ever. “Believe me—that was not my intention. Most of my friends and associates also know me by my professional name. I—fuck—I prefer to keep my past private.”

Sam felt a surge of sympathy through him. Jamie had never talked about his life before college, only telling Sam about the accidental conception of his daughter, his decent into drugs and recovery from them, and his life as a struggling actor, but it was clear that something traumatic had happened to lead him on that path. “It’s okay, uh…do you want me to still call you Jamie?” he asked.

“I think I’d like you to call me Cas, if that’s alright,” he smiled faintly. “Only family calls me Cas, and I think you qualify.”

Sam couldn’t quite let go of the hope that Cas could end up actually family. The plan had been for Dean and Jamie to like each other enough to…well, he didn’t want to think about what they’d be up to. He thought the inevitable physical attraction would fuel whatever might come later, but now that seemed redundant. They were in love before; it would happen again.

“We met once,” Sam mused, as he remembered the meeting. Cas had come with Mary to Lawrence for the weekend when he and Dean were about fourteen.

“I remember. You were much shorter then.”

“Yeah, Dean hasn’t forgiven me for the day he came home from college and I was taller than him.”

“Gabe feels the same way, except I was taller than him since I was thirteen.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Can I go see Dean now?”

“Yeah, Cas. Go.” He all but shoved his friend towards the men’s room.

When he turned around, Gabriel was standing in front of him. “So,” he drawled. “My brother and your brother have been pining for each other all these years. I have a plan to get these crazy kids together like they should be.”

Sam narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What do you have in mind?”

Chapter Text

The look on Sam’s face when he found them in the women’s bathroom was worth any anger from the women who were put out.

Children,” Sam muttered, which led to another laughing fit from Dean, Cas, and Charlie on the phone. Cas was especially beautiful when he laughed; his eyes crinkled and his gums showed. Dean had to look away or he’d be in dangerous territory.

“Sammy,” he clasped his brother on the shoulder. “We haven’t seen each other since we were fifteen, I think we’re allowed a bit of immaturity.”

“Yeah,” Sam answered derisively. “On that note, the party’s thinning down and we thought we’d play a drinking game.”

Dean shared a perplexed look with his old friend. Talk about being immature! Dean hadn’t played a drinking game since college. Still, Sam insisted, and they followed him back through the hallway to the dining room. He hadn’t been lying about the party thinning out. What was left of his friends were congregated around the bar to order drinks for the game. Dean got in line behind a thin girl who hardly seemed old enough to drink, but the bartender gave her a glass of white wine anyway.

“A bottle of beer, please,” he told the bartender once he reached the bar. “Cas?” He turned to the man standing next to him. “What can I get you?”

“Uh,” he hesitated. “A club soda with lime.”

Dean raised his brows. “You do know the point of a drinking game, right, Cas?”

“I don’t drink,” he replied stoically. He then dug through his pockets and produced a shiny coin with a sigh. Wordlessly, he handed it to Dean, who examined it in the dim light of the bar. It was emblazoned on one side with a winged phoenix in gold rising out of enameled flames and on the other side with a diamond surrounded by the words Out of the ashes of addiction. God, Gratitude, Healing and Hope. In the center of the diamond was a V, the roman numeral for five. “I just got that,” he mumbled. “Five years clean.”

“You’re an alcoholic?” Dean asked, thinking of his dad. Something tight clenched in his stomach. He’d managed to avoid his dad’s vice, having what he considered a healthy relationship with alcohol. He and Cas had used to drink for fun, like Cas’s fifteenth birthday, when they’d gotten drunk on the roof with Charlie and Tessa, who had memorably become Dean’s ex-girlfriend the next morning, but that was kid stuff.

“No, I…” Cas looked down like he was ashamed. Dean wanted to lift his chin and make him talk about it, but they really didn’t know each other well enough yet. “Not alcohol. Though, I could put that away like a professional when it suited me. I preferred things you could snort and smoke, though I wasn’t especially picky.”

Snort and smoke? Did he mean drugs?

Cas,” Dean murmured, placing a hand on Cas’s shoulder. His drink was on the bar waiting for him, and Sam’s friends were impatiently waiting their turns behind him, but Dean didn’t care. He turned the token over in his other hand, feeling its weight. It was so hard to imagine the Cas he’d known as a kid growing up to be a drug addict. Cas had always been so together: the smartest, brightest, most beautiful guy Dean had ever known. What could have happened to him?

“I don’t take any addictive substances anymore”—Cas looked up with a tiny smirk—“except caffeine.”

“Amen, man,” Dean laughed, the tension breaking. “I’m a teacher. Coffee runs through my veins instead of blood.” He turned back to the bar, where his drink sat unattended. “Can you make it two club sodas?”

“You don’t need to, Dean,” Cas argued. “I’m used to people drinking around me. It’s not a problem.”

“You sure? I don’t…I don’t drink a lot,” Dean stammered. He handed Cas back his medallion; it was warmed from Dean’s touch. “I mean, my dad…”

“Get your drink, Dean,” Cas all but growled. “All the good seats will be taken.”

He was right—of course—and Dean got the last spot on one of the sofas, leaving Cas to pull a cube up next to it. Sam and Sarah were also stuck on a couple ottomans, but they didn’t seem to mind so much. Sarah was seated comfortably between Sam’s long legs. Dean was jealous until he remembered that grown men probably couldn’t sit like that. It still took him several more minutes to realize that sitting on Cas’s lap—or vice versa—wasn’t ever in the cards for him anyway.

Once they’d all settled in with their drinks, Dean’s phone chirped. He looked down at the screen:

You hung up on me!

Sorry, Charlie.

I want to play.

“Is that Charlie?” Cas asked, leaning towards him. He smelled so good; Dean wished he didn’t have the bitter scent of beer competing.

“Yeah,” Dean said. He was trying not to obviously sniff Cas. He’d get another hug before the night was through and get his fill of Cas’s intoxicating, masculine scent.

“Put her on speaker phone,” Cas shrugged. “I’d like to get to know her again, too.”

Dean could only shake his head as he dialed Charlie. “You’re paying my phone bill” he said without greeting. He could hear Charlie’s gleeful laughter even over the sounds of everyone settling down.

“Alright, children,” Gabe announced. “We’re going to play a game we used to play in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Cas, I know you know this; Dean, I think you probably do, too. Each person asks a question in turn. If you don’t want to answer, you have to take a drink. If someone says you’re lying, you have to take a drink—unless they’re wrong of course—and if someone asks for deets, and you refuse, you take a drink. Any questions?”

“Do you have to answer your own question?” one of the women asked.

“I have played it both ways,” Gabriel admitted. “Any opinions?”

His question was met with a chorus of nos. Dean thought that wise; his memories of playing this game certainly did not make him willing to ask any question he’d want to answer.

Gabriel chose the pretty, waifish blonde sitting on the other side of Cas to start.

“When was the last time you had sex?” she asked and turned expectedly to Cas.

He seemed to hesitate on his drink before speaking. “Define sex.”

“Hmm,” she hummed thoughtfully. “Got off with another person.”

“This morning,” he intoned to shrieks and titters from the rest of the group. Dean, meanwhile, was short circuiting. This morning. Cas had had sex just that morning? Did he have a girlfriend? Dean couldn’t help imagining him sweaty from exertion, pounding into a busty blonde from behind. It was a quick jump to replacing the busty blonde with himself.

It was a good thing Charlie had to answer before him because he needed to contain himself. She’d hooked up the last time they’d gone to the bars, so it was no surprise to hear her answer.

When it came to his turn, Dean longed to drink instead of answer. Charlie had dragged him to their high school reunion the previous Fall, and Dean had ended up in bed with one of his old friends, Bart. The sex had been pretty good, even though he’d actually topped for once—seriously, he was going to have to stop calling himself versatile one of these days.

“Months,” he croaked. “It’s been months.” Yeah, more than six months that dark little voice inside him said. Cas had been having sex like twelve hours before.

They continued around the room. Sam refused to answer on account of his brother being in the room, but then Sarah dramatically admitted she’d had sex just the night before. Gabriel gleefully asked for more details, and Dean tried to plug his ears as she explained the mechanics of shower sex with a giant.

When it was Gabriel’s turn, he shrugged and asked if Skype sex counted, and, when informed it did, he answered with a respectable week before.

Cas’s turn to ask was next, and he looked thoughtful as he decided on his question. “Are you religious?” he finally asked.

No,” Dean answered, jumping the gun on Charlie. “Why? Are you?”

Gabriel groaned before Cas could answer. “Here we go.”

“Yes,” Cas answered with a frown. “I attend a Catholic church.”

“I teach at a Catholic school,” Dean answered, his surprise turning into curiosity. “Our Lady of Grace in Philly.”

“Philadelphia,” Cas murmured to himself thoughtfully. “But you don’t practice the religion?”

“I’m an English teacher, not a religious studies teacher,” Dean shrugged. “It’s not like they make you convert. I’ve probably been to as many Catholic masses as you have, though. I’m an expert on receiving blessings.”

“Uh,” the girl sitting next to Dean stammered. “Can I go? Not really, but my parents were.”

“Yeah, okay,” Gabriel agreed, still taking the role of leader. “Enough chit chat, boys. Cas was brainwashed by the grandparents, blah blah blah. Trust me, there are a lot more interesting things about him than that he prays the rosary every Sunday.”

“Thank you, Gabriel,” Cas deadpanned, and they moved around the room, answering the question. Things were going to need to get a lot racier before anyone was going to drink much.

Fortunately, Charlie offered the question Have you ever stolen anything? and half of the responders—including Dean—refused to answer, instead choosing to drink. It wasn’t like Dean was a bank robber or anything, but between the time Cas left Oklahoma and Dean arrived there, some of his acting out involved shoplifting—nothing major, just dumb shit from the drugstore like candy bars and packs of cigarettes. He didn’t even smoke them—after one eventful experience behind the gym in which he threw up his chili con carne. It wasn’t something he was proud of though, so he didn’t exactly want Cas to know about it.

Next to him, however, Cas took a drink, too, though, so maybe it shouldn’t have been such a big deal.

When it was Dean’s turn to ask a question, he copped out and asked, “Do you play any sports?”

Sam admitted to running, but had never played any team sports. Gabriel played golf, and a few of Sam’s coworkers seemed to be on a softball team together.

Cas answered, “I was on the track team and swimming team when I was young, and I still run daily.”

“You don’t swim anymore?!” Dean asked in surprise. “Man, you were going to be a champion.”

“No,” Cas said sternly. “That part of my life ended a long time ago.”

“Oh,” Dean replied, gathering from Cas’s tone that this was not something to push. “I played baseball until I got injured, and I haven’t played since, so I get where you’re at, man.”

“There are other people playing, you know,” someone interrupted. Dean was grateful, as he didn’t really want to explain how and why he got injured. He didn’t exactly want to announce his sexuality to Cas like that. It required tact and sensitivity and not just jumping in with hey, remember how in love with you I was when we were young? When my dad found out I was into guys, he nearly killed me. He only just got Cas back; he didn’t want to risk losing him again.

The woman sitting on the couch with Dean, Ava, asked about tattoos, and Dean sat there, listening to the stupid stories of every ill-conceived tramp stamp and misspelled lover’s name. Cas, however, had a surprise for him.

“I have four,” he answered when it was his turn.

“Wait,” Dean sputtered. “Were the tattoos on the show yours?”

“Yes and no,” Cas shrugged. “They didn’t like the one here”—he indicated a place low on his ribcage—“so they covered it with a fake, and they modified my backpiece.”

“What did they change?” Dean asked. On the show, he’d had an elaborate tattoo on his back of a skull wrapped in smoke. It had been cool—and extremely sexy—but it was hard to imagine Cas with that imagery on his body.

“They added a skull, and darkened everything. I only have a small piece on my back, but they wanted something elaborate and hardcore.”

“I’d like to see it,” Dean blurted out.

“Yeah, Cas,” Gabe shouted. “Take it off—show everyone your tats!”

There was a chorus of assent in mostly feminine voices, but Dean noticed no one was cheering more than Sam and Sarah. Cas stood up and made a great show of beginning to unbutton his shirt, giving Dean a quick glimpse of sculpted collarbone before stopping at the third button. “Sorry, no show tonight,” he growled, glaring at Gabe.

A group of disappointed sighs met his pronouncement. It was kind of uncomfortable, seeing otherwise normal people fawn all over him. He felt sick at himself for longing to see any glimpse of Cas’s beautiful skin. Worse, Sam and Sarah were glancing at him, badly hiding knowing grins. Cas, on the other hand, refused to look at him.

“Uh, Charlie,” Dean finally stammered, holding the phone up so that Charlie could hear him over the tittering of Sam’s guests. “Why don’t you tell everyone about your tattoo?”

“It was Comic Con,” she barked defensively. “I was drunk.”

When it was Andy’s turn to ask a question, he asked, “Does size matter?”

The girl next to him, obviously the youngest of the group, despite her white wine, scrunched her nose and very diplomatically said that it did not.

Dean shoved his fingers in his ears for whatever Sam’s answer was, remembering to keep them in place for Sarah’s answer. He did not need to know anything more about his brother’s sex life. After him, the tall black man who had burst into the men’s room gave a long explanation of how penis size did not matter as long as partners were creative. It was a relief to have Gabriel going next, as at least he’d be entertaining.

“That is definitely a question for my brother,” he laughed. “But I have never had a complaint from the wife.”

Dean was so surprised by Gabriel even having a wife, that he didn’t register the first half of his comment until Becky chimed in with, “How do you know about your brother’s penis size?”

“Excellent question, Sam’s overzealous coworker. Story time, ladies and gentlemen.” He cracked his knuckles dramatically. “When my little brother was first going through the time we know as puberty, he came to me, his wise older brother for advice. You see, my brother spent a lot of time in the boys’ locker room, where he was faced with the penises of other young men such as himself.”

A round of snickers went around the room, and Cas reddened adorably.

“He was very concerned about how his size compared to the other boys his age. I very gently gave him the explanation that some boys develop faster than others, and he shouldn’t be concerned if he was on the slow side of things. He turned white as a sheet, and bashfully informed me that he was not the one developing slowly, and was, in fact, the biggest boy in his class.

“After puking a little in my mouth, I suggested he was comparing himself to guys who were lacking foreskin and asked him if he’d ever measured himself. My—again, bashful—little brother gave me a number in the realm of normal, and I shrugged and agreed that he was just developing faster and not to worry. Then, I puked in my mouth again and explained to my brother that I hadn’t wanted him to measure his woody. He looked down at me—he was also taller than me already, the fucker—with those big blue eyes and swore that he hadn’t. ‘When it gets hard,’ he explained”—Gabriel switched to a perfect impression of Cas—“it gets much bigger.’ He said this with a straight face! And that’s how I learned my little brother was hung like a horse.”

Gabriel did a little bow and curtsy routine, looking like the smuggest son of a bitch ever for having embarrassed his brother like that. Every eye in the room was on Cas’s crotch; he crossed his legs in mortification. “I’m going to kill you, Gabe. I’m going to wait until you’re asleep, and then I’m going to slit your throat.”

“Nah,” Gabriel smirked. “You’re going to tell me I’m the best brother ever. I make you the burgers you love.”

Cas looked thoughtful for a moment. “True,” he conceded. “You may live.”

Dean couldn’t really breathe. All those time he’d thought about Cas’s dick when puberty was kicking his ass, he’d imagined so many things, but never that. Dean wasn’t exactly lacking in that department himself, but it sounded like Cas was porn-star big.

Dean was choking on this revelation, which—great—renewed his teenage obsession with giving Cas head. After all those years apart, Dean should have been focusing on reconnecting with an old friend, not on how hot Cas was or how well-endowed he probably was. Dean was only going to get himself frustrated if he thought of Cas like a possible date or something. Cas was off limits like that and Dean was just going to have to get used to it.

Chapter Text

Castiel was actually going to kill his brother. Gabe kept volunteering information for the express purpose of humiliating him in front of Dean. He assumed that was the function of this silly drinking game. Castiel was fortunate that everyone had misunderstood Gabe’s crack about him knowing more about dick size than Gabe. The next question asked, he half expected his brother to talk about how Castiel had cried for three days, listening to Dean’s mixtape, after Dean had broken his heart. That would get the room laughing at his misery!

It was no help that Dean grown up was just like he was as a kid, only times a thousand: bright, charismatic, thoughtful, kind, and…freckled. Castiel had forgotten about Dean’s freckles. Even now, they made him look young and innocent, and, paradoxically, that made the years seem even greater. You didn’t live on the street with freckles like that. You didn’t get on your knees in an alley—on a good day—with freckles like that. You didn’t get into a knife fight with your dealer with freckles like that. You didn’t throw away a shit ton of potential and an expensive college education with freckles like that. You didn’t do a few lines then end up getting fucked in the ass for the first time bareback by a guy you didn’t know when you had freckles like that.

At least Castiel got clean for a few long months afterwards, as he waited for his test results. He was fucked up—he wasn’t stupid. He was also lucky, but he’d already figured that out. He came out on the other side clean and healthy.

Dean, though—Dean was everything Castiel’s grandparents had wanted him to be, a teacher at a Catholic school. He probably had a pretty girlfriend with nice tits back home in Philadelphia—who the fuck lived in Philadelphia, anyway? Yes, he said he hadn’t had sex in months, but that was the sort of thing that probably happened when you were in a long term relationship, not that Castiel would know.

Either way, there was at least one more surprise in store for Castiel. After Gabe’s little story, things managed to get back on track, and he had the pleasure to learn what they all thought about dick size. He really did not like the way that Becky girl was looking at him, either, especially since she admitted that it did matter to her. Castiel didn’t have any real opinion on the matter. He liked a pretty dick, sure, the same way he liked a nice pair of boobs, and the only difference between sucking a small dick or a big one was the choking hazard. Castiel never bottomed anymore, of course; it wasn’t something he enjoyed, and his experiences with it were not under the best circumstances. Besides, there was almost nothing better than the rush of power when he got his fingers inside another man—especially when the other man expected things to go the other direction—except perhaps that hot tightness around Castiel’s cock. Not that he said any of this out loud; a simple no had sufficed.

Charlie’s answer, however, surprised the shit out of him. Though perhaps it shouldn’t have.

“I really don’t have an opinion on dick size,” she said. “As I’ve got a gold star.”

“What does a gold star mean?” a male voice asked; Castiel didn’t know who.

The woman to Castiel’s right responds. “She’s never slept with a man; only with women. She’s a gold star lesbian.”

This was met with a chorus of understanding and they moved on to Dean, who chose to drink, a smug look on his face, instead of answer. Castiel was more interested, however, in Charlie’s revelation. He should have realized she was queer like him; it had certainly occurred to him when they were teenagers. He remembered the vehemence with which she had defended herself to Tessa that memorable night on the roof about how she hadn’t ever kissed a boy. Castiel hadn’t kissed a boy until that night, either. He wished more than anything that it could have been a good memory, but Dean’s behavior the next morning had ruined everything. If Charlie was still his good friend, Castiel doubted that Dean was still plagued by such immaturity and homophobia.

He wanted to hug her through the phone. He wanted to hug her and tell her how proud he was of her. He hoped she’d had an easier time of things, that she’d not hated herself for years—hated people like herself. He hoped Dean had been a good friend and a support system for her through the rough times.

The questions went on while Castiel’s mind was reeling. He didn’t pay much attention to anyone’s answers for the next question, nor, in fact, his own. Sam’s turn was next, however, so he forced himself to forget the issues on his mind and focus on his friend’s question.

“What inspired you to pursue your career?”

“Aww,” Sarah said. “That’s a sweet question, honey. I grew up in an art gallery, and I looked at the beautiful paintings and decided that was what I wanted to do, too.”

The next answerer told a story of how he entered the military right out of high school because he couldn’t afford college, and how in the military he’d been fascinated by satellites. It was a good story, but nothing could beat Gabe’s story about stealing food from the school cafeteria and being forced by their mother to work there for a month as punishment.

Soon it was Castiel’s turn to answer. “I had this teacher in high school. He saw through the angry fuck up I was, and thought I might have a bit of talent. He put me on stage, where I learned to work out my problems through fictional people’s problems. I probably would have never graduated high school without him, and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten into college. He’s still a friend, actually.”

He was. When Castiel’s family had all come to Los Angeles to help him get clean, Gadreel and his partner, Abner, had come as well. Castiel had gone to LA to pursue an acting career after graduation, but that had all fallen aside when his addiction took over his life. Gadreel had helped to remind him that theatre had been good for him once, and, a year later, once Castiel was clean, had gotten him into a summer program in England. There were other things, as well—things that were coming to the forefront again in the returned presence of Dean. Gadreel was the first person Castiel knew who was both openly gay and okay with it. Seeing Gadreel and Abner’s relationship, full of love, respect, and true partnership, gave him the first indication that his feelings for Dean weren’t sick and wrong, even though Dean hadn’t returned them. It was the first time he’d had hope after his trauma, but he was too messed up for it to make any difference. He still hadn’t experienced that kind of relationship—or any kind of relationship—no matter what gender.

“I was super into computers since I was young,” Charlie explained as they moved on. “When I was in college, a dare to hack a government computer led to a job offer—I’m not kidding!” she added when met with scoffs.

Dean caught his eye and grinned, nodding. It was clear from the glint of pride in his eyes that he and Charlie were as close as they had indicated. He kept Castiel’s eye contact as he gave his own answer. “My…my…uh…best friend and I used to share books,” he stammered and finally looked away, hiding his face in embarrassment. “After he left, I knew I’d never be happy if I didn’t pass that on.”

“Dean,” Castiel uttered, incredulous.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Dean said, blushing through his freckles. “Moving on.”

“No, Dean, that’s not…I couldn’t have…you wouldn’t make a decision like that just because…just because of me,” Castiel said, unable to keep the emotion out of his voice.

Cas,” Dean breathed. “You were everything. When you were gone, all I had left of you was…books.”

He’d made eye contact again, and it was overwhelming in its intensity. In the spotlight of his gaze, Castiel almost remembered things the opposite way around, that Dean had been the one pining away for years rather than himself. He shook away the thoughts like they were flies; that wasn’t the way things had happened. Castiel had been alone—alone in his feelings, alone in his queerness, alone when Crowley had done terrible things to him. He fingered the medallion in his pocket; he imagined it was still warm from Dean’s touch rather than his own body heat. Somehow, that comforted him more than the token itself.

“You okay, man?” Dean whispered as the game continued around them. “You’ve got that thousand-yard stare.”

“Yes, I’m fine,” Castiel lied. “A lot has happened since we were young.”

“I know,” Dean agreed, his voice dropping dramatically. “You missed some of my most awkward years. Freshmen fifteen, man.”

“I suppose you got a bit of a view of my awkward years since you watch Dr. Sexy,” Castiel laughed.

“What? You actually looked like that?”

“Yes, blue hair and all. They used my old piercings, even my helix, though the eyebrow was fake. I did have one of those, too, but it closed up a long time ago. It was very much like traveling back in time when they were done with me.”

“When was this?” Dean asked, eyes wide and jaw dropped.

“Immediately after I left Oklahoma. We moved to Illinois where my grandparents took us in, and where my mother still lives.”

“Shit, how is your mom?”

“She is well,” Castiel answered simply.


The question burned in the depth of Castiel’s gut. He didn’t know whether what Crowley had done to him was the reason his mother had never married again, but he often felt responsible for her loneliness over the years. “No,” he replied. “She has been seeing a widower for the last few years, however. They live in sin; my grandparents pretend he doesn’t exist.”

Dean let out a pleased guffaw. “My mom’s remarried,” he said.

“Yes, Sam has mentioned his step-father.” He had heard much about Sam’s mother and stepfather, but had never connected that person to the Mary Campbell who had been like a second mother to him.

“Right,” Dean said, his jocular manner hardening instantly. “You’re friends with Sam—”

Charlie’s voice yelling from his phone distracted Dean from his point. “Let’s move on without them! Drink up, boys!”

Castiel and Dean both looked around in confusion. They had been so caught up in their discussion, that they had ignored the game. The rest of the group was looking at them with death stares, except for their brothers and Sarah, who understood the importance of reconnecting.

“Sam!” Charlie’s voice continued shouting. “Rescue me from these losers!”

Sam crossed the room and grabbed the phone from where it sat between Castiel and Dean. “Sorry, guys. We, uh, skipped you twice, so you probably want to take two drinks to be fair.”

“Sorry,” Dean answered sheepishly.

“Who’s turn is it to ask a question?” Castiel added.

“That would be mine, little brother,” Gabriel smirked. “How did you lose your virginity?”

Everyone in the circle, which had shrunk by Becky—but not her spurned date—and the young intern who had been sitting next to Sam, laughed and wolf whistled, the results of their various unanswered questions lubricating their reactions. Castiel envied them; without the help of cocaine, alcohol, and the other drugs he’d take when they were convenient, he was left with nothing to ameliorate his stiff and awkward manner.

Castiel paid little attention to anyone’s answers, but it was soon his turn. The event was not an especially pleasant memory for him, and he hesitated with how much to admit. “It was, uh…” he began. “A house party when I was fifteen. Her name was April, and, we had both been drinking quite a bit and started making out in one of the upstairs bedrooms. I…it…it was a surprise, to be honest. I don’t look back on the experience with fondness, but, at the time, I didn’t mind so much.”

That had quieted the group down. Castiel felt his face go red at his admission. It made his stomach churn thinking about how she had taken advantage of his drunkenness and his state of arousal. The swirling emotions in his head must have made him crazy because he did not stop there, despite the eery silence in the room. “When it happened, I…I was more concerned with proving how straight I was than my ability to consent.”

It wasn’t exactly an admission of his queerness, but it was all he was up for at the moment. Either Dean didn’t catch his meaning or he really had changed and didn’t care, because he didn’t even flinch. “High school girlfriend,” he answered, nonplussed. “Robin—really sweet girl. Senior skip day, we drove up to Grand Lake, found a secluded spot, and, uh, christened the backseat.”

“Ew, gross Dean,” Sam groaned. “I hope you cleaned the leather.”

Everyone laughed, and whatever tension Castiel had created was gone. They continued around the circle, Sam blushing when he admitted losing his virginity to his college girlfriend and Sarah taking a drink instead of answering.

Charlie admitted that she lost her virginity to Gilda, a mutual friend of theirs in high school. That meant that at least two of their little gang had been queer like him. He fervently wished that he had been more open about his sexuality then.

The next question was asked by an old college friend of Sam’s who had flown down from the Bay Area for the party. “Have you ever done anything terrible that you don’t feel at all guilty about?”

There was a round of nervous laughter and the blond to Castiel’s right took a drink instead of answering.

Castiel had no problem answering however. “No. I feel guilty about everything I’ve done, even things I haven’t done.”

“Dude,” Dean laughed. “High five for the guilt complex set over here. ‘Course, you’re Catholic; I don’t have the excuse.”

That little thing they had in common brought a warmth blooming through Castiel’s chest. It was silly to feel so much closer to Dean because they both put an unreasonable burden of guilt on themselves, but it felt wonderful to know he was not alone in that, at least.

Gabriel did not drink, but proudly proclaimed. “Yes. I don’t feel one bit guilty about it, either.”

“So what was it?” Dean asked, his body tilted towards Gabriel in blatant eagerness.

Gabriel’s eyes flicked for a second to meet Castiel’s own, and he took a large gulp of his fruity cocktail, downing what was remaining in a blatant refusal to answer. The bartender was on break in the back, so Gabriel went behind the bar and mixed himself another drink. Those who had nearly finished their drinks joined him, and the game paused while everyone’s drinks were refreshed.

“Where did you go to college?” Castiel asked, once his club soda and Dean’s beer had been refreshed and the rest of the guests were still waiting.

“Penn State,” Dean replied proudly. “Through graduate school.”

“And you’ve lived in Pennsylvania ever since?”

“Uh, yeah. I settled in Philly right away and started my teaching career.”

“I went to DePaul,” Castiel volunteered. “It has a very prestigious theatre school that I was very lucky to get into. My grandparents were willing to pay my tuition since it is a Catholic university. There was a lot of family pressure to stay nearby, but I very nearly went to Carnegie Mellon instead. As it is in Pennsylvania as well, we would have gone to school closer than we were when we lived in Kansas and Oklahoma.”

Dean looked as wistful as Castiel felt. “I would have liked that a lot, Cas.”

He looked as though he wanted to say something more, but the rest of the guests seemed eager to restart the game and they settled back into their seats.

The questions flew by quickly after that. When asked about cheating, Castiel admitted that he had never been in a relationship, so that he could have never cheated. Dean seemed surprised by that admission, but he drank instead of answering, which surprisingly meant that he was likely guilty of the sin. Nearly everyone drank for Castiel’s question about group sex, Dean nearly choking on his beer. Dean continued the streak by asking, red-faced, whether people enjoyed performing oral sex on a partner. Questions about strippers, sex positions, and role playing continued the raunchier theme, until Gabe declared the game nearly done.

The last question brought the game back to a tamer subject, as Sarah asked, “What was your first grown up kiss—tongue, hickeys, the works?”

When it was his turn, Castiel wracked his brain to remember his own first kiss. “Meg Masters,” he answered, the memories flooding back.

“No, no, no, little bro,” Gabriel countered. “Not your first innocent little peck, but a real make out session.”

Castiel glared at his brother. “Still Meg Masters,” he insisted. “At a makeout party at the end of seventh grade.”

“Okay,” Gabe conceded, but he sounded like he wanted to push the matter. Castiel had kissed a lot of girls before that night he kissed Dean, but he supposed his brother was only trying to push him into getting it out in the open.

Dean was so busy staring between Castiel and Gabe that he hadn’t noticed it was his turn. “Oh, shit,” he growled. “Uh, Meg Masters.”

Both Castiel and Sam whipped their heads towards him, while the rest of the group oohed and aahed. “When did you kiss Meg?” Castiel asked.

“Uh, she, uh, she dragged me into the girls’ room when you took me to Bart’s party that one summer; when I met your friends for the first time. So, you kissed her before me, if you were worried about that.”

“I wasn’t,” Castiel growled.

“Meg—like Ruby’s sister?” Sam asked, distracting Castiel from the bizarre and unsettling fact that he and Dean had both had their first kisses with the same girl, and that Dean had never told him.

Dean answered his brother with a shrug.

“I thought you two hated each other?” Sam continued.

“Uh, we had a complicated relationship, but we were cool. Who do you think told me about the shit you and Ruby were getting into?”

Wheels were turning in Castiel’s head. Meg had been his classmate, his friend; Dean had, of course, known her through Castiel, but Sam… If Sam also knew Meg and her sister…

“When did you move to Oklahoma?” he asked, unable to keep the emotion out of his voice.

Dean’s attention instantly turned towards Castiel, who thought he may have seen the beginning of tears in his old friend’s eyes. “Mom got full custody of us the Spring after you left.”

“What? How?” Castiel sputtered.

“Long story,” Sam chimed in unhelpfully.

“Dean and I graduated high school together,” Charlie added.

Dean didn’t say anything; he just stared at Castiel with wet eyes. All those years they could have spent together—going to the same school, living next door—were lost. It shook Castiel to the core.

Chapter Text

Dean steadied his hands. Dean had to get his reactions under control for Cas’s sake. Cas looked like his world had collapsed around him, and the fact that Dean was still reeling from Cas’s earlier admission was irrelevant.

What did he mean by trying to prove how straight he was?

Cas said he was fifteen when he lost his virginity; that meant it was less than a year after he found out how Dean felt about him. He could have been attempting to prove his masculinity after finding out another boy had a crush on him.

Why mention it now, though?

It was hard to imagine Cas—thoughtful, sensitive, open-minded Cas—turning out homophobic. Especially after all these years. He couldn’t possibly suspect that Dean’s feelings had never gone away.

The other option was something he couldn’t let himself think about.

He wasn’t sure what option hurt more. Either Cas was so bothered by Dean’s feelings for him that he let some girl use him, or he realized he liked boys, just not Dean.

Okay, Dean knew exactly which one was worse.

He had to focus, and stop thinking about long ago crushes. Cas was obviously devastated by learning that Dean had moved in with his mom right after Cas left. Forget having gone to college together—he just learned they could have gone to high school together. Dean had had a long time to get used to Oklahoma without Cas—to the strangers in the apartment down the hall, to the friends asking him where Cas went, to the memories he couldn’t shake—but Cas had never had the opportunity. Gabriel tersely declared the game over and pulled his brother into the employees only area so Dean couldn’t talk to him. He got that Cas needed some processing time and a shoulder to lean on, but he could be that shoulder. Everything Cas was feeling now, Dean had felt for the last fifteen years.

“Hey, no,” Sam grabbed him by the arm, as he tried to follow Cas and Gabe. “Give him a few minutes.”

“Not a chance, Sammy,” Dean barked and tried to get loose from his brother’s grip. “That’s Cas.”

The giant must have been eating his Wheaties because Sam’s grip was too tight and Dean remained where he was. “Yeah, but I know him better right now, and let Gabriel handle it.”

Dean wanted to punch him for that comment, but he forced his emotions into something more practical. “Okay, you know Cas so well—what did he mean by proving how straight he was?”

“You’re going to have to ask him about that,” Sam answered with an infuriating smirk. “I’ve got to go say goodbye to my friends—and call cabs for the ones who lost the game.”

He walked away, linking arms with Sarah, who glanced over her shoulder and gave Dean a sympathetic look. Dean felt like he’d drank more than nursing a few beers. His head was spinning just from reuniting with Cas, let alone what Cas had let slip.

He headed to the bar, where the bartender had returned to clean up. “Uh, could I get a glass of water or something?”

She smiled at him knowingly. “Too many tough questions, huh? You need a cab?”

“Nah, I’m not driving, anyway.”

She handed him the drink, its ice cubes clicking against the glass. “That’s on the house. Don’t tell the boss.”

“Yeah,” Dean chuckled, taking a fortifying gulp. He’d never much liked club soda; its bitter sparkle lacked the dimension of beer and the sweetness of soda. It helped to clear his head, however, so he took another long draught.

“Hey,” the bartender said suddenly. “You’re friends with Cas, right?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“I’ve been trying to hit that for years. Put in a good word for me—Adina?”

“Sure,” Dean lied as his brain was processing the new information. Okay, she thought Cas was into women, but he hadn’t shown any interest in her, so maybe she was wrong and that was her problem.

A little voice in the back of his head pointed out that he was shitty representation for bisexuals everywhere if he denied the possibility that Cas could like both. It was a pretty big coincidence, however, for two kids to meet as eight-year-olds and both end up bi. Dean just couldn’t believe he was that lucky.

“He wouldn’t get with this”—she gestured up and down her body for emphasis—“when we were both working here, but now that he quit—game on.”

“Cas used to work here?” Dean asked, ignoring her crassness.

“Yes, but he quit to be in a movie.” She smirked, like Cas being an actor somehow cast her in better light. “Only he’s not in the movie. He’s a fucking stand in.”

“I thought he was an actor.” Dean had heard of stand ins before, but he didn’t think he knew what they were.

“Oh, god. By the way he talks, you’d think he was God’s gift to acting. If you get him started, he’ll tell you about how method acting is a perversion of Stanislavski’s system and an insult to his work. Then he’ll get started on how the very meaning of method acting has been twisted in the mind of the public, so that American actors have no hope. He says that’s why British actors have taken over Hollywood—they’re not fucked from the beginning by Strasberg and the Adlers. When the new unabridged translation came out earlier this year, he read aloud from it during breaks. I mean, we’re all trying to get into the industry, but he takes it way too seriously.”

“That sounds like Cas,” Dean chuckled.

She smirked. “But that ass.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed, earning a shrewd look from the woman.

“You see his guest star on Dr. Sexy?” she asked with a smirk.

“God, yes,” Dean practically moaned. “I must have worn out my DVD watching that shower scene.”

She laughed warmly. “You know, everybody here got together at Gabe’s house to watch, thinking we’d make fun of him, have a laugh, you know. That scene comes on and everyone’s jaws drop. We all wanted to fuck him.”

“Charming,” Dean quipped.

“For someone so famously easy, it’s pretty hard to get in his pants.”

“Okay, okay, okay,” Dean barked. “That’s enough of that. Cas is the best friend I ever had; he’s not a piece of meat.”

“Sorry,” she shrugged. She definitely didn’t look sorry, however. Sure, Cas was gorgeous, with a great ass, and a reportedly big dick, but he was so much more than that. He was even more beautiful on the inside than he was on the outside. Well, he was at least, when they were kids, and he didn’t think that sort of thing changed. Sammy’s approval was, of course, a pretty big indicator that it hadn’t. He didn’t deserve to be ogled and gossiped about like she was doing. He filed her away as a desperate bitch who wasn’t good enough for Cas and finished his drink as far away from the bar as he could get without hiding in the bathroom again.

All of Sam’s guests had gone, and Sam and Sarah were cleaning up the streamers and shit they’d put up, so Dean’s time to talk to Cas was running out. He didn’t have a car—why hadn’t he gotten a rental!—so he’d have to go with them when they left, and he wouldn’t get a chance to see Cas again. He couldn’t shake the fear that Cas would disappear like he had all those years before.

Dean’s heartbeat sped up when he spotted a gray-faced Cas and a concerned looking Gabe come out of the back. He’d just have to play it cool.

“Hey, Cas,” he stuttered. “I think Sam is going to take off soon, and he’s my ride, so, uh…”

Cas thrust his hand out, holding his palm open like he was waiting for something. When he was met with Dean’s confused stare, he raised his eyebrows. “Your phone, Dean. I’m not letting you leave here without giving you my number. It’s safer that way, since I’m terrible about calling.”

He laughed at his own joke, but it didn’t reach his expressive blue eyes.

“Yeah,” Dean breathed, handing over his phone so that Cas could enter his number. Dean would probably sleep with that fucking thing next to his pillow for the next three weeks. Cas entered his information into it, the phone buttons playing a melody as he pressed them that Dean wished he could memorize. As Cas gave the phone back, a chirp sounded from his leather jacket. He pulled his own phone out of a pocket—he had one of those fancy smart phones—and showed the screen to Dean. It showed a new text from his number: Dean!

“Now, I have your information, too.”

“Nice phone,” Dean quipped.

Cas examined his phone as if he was seeing if for the first time. “It’s a necessity for my line of work. I don’t have any idea how to use it; I have to get Gabe to check my email half the time.” His handsome face darkened into a perplexed frown as he continued to scrutinize the device in his hand. “It’s a very ornery piece of technology.”

He looked so frustrated and consternated that Dean had to let out a laugh. “Sure, buddy.”

Cas turned that frown towards Dean, and his face instantly softened. “I have missed you. I…I know that you probably have plans with Sam while you’re in town, but perhaps you might have some time—“

“Yes!” Dean cut him off in his eagerness to answer.

Cas’s face brightened into a genuine smile. “Excellent. Perhaps you’d like to accompany your brother and me on one of our morning runs.”

“Yeah, I don’t run, so…” The picture in his mind of Cas in a sweaty T-shirt was almost enough to change his mind, which was reason enough not to. “Hey, Cas, can we go talk in the bathroom or something.”

Cas’s eyebrows shot up. “There’s a break room in the back for staff—Gabriel won’t mind—no need to steal the bathroom again.”

Dean followed him through the kitchen, where staff was still cleaning up, to a small room lined with lockers along one wall and a table in the center. Dean was too wired to sit down, so he’d just have to do this standing up. “What you said earlier…” he began.

“About what?”

“About how…you know…you lost your, uh, virginity. That was shitty of that girl; you didn’t deserve to get used by her. No one deserves that.”

Cas’s eyes blinked shut for a second longer than normal, and Dean knew the memory must have been painful for him. “Thank you,” he said. He looked as if he wanted to say more, but he seemed to stop himself.

“So, uh, about the other part,” Dean continued, unable to help himself. “When you said you were trying to prove how straight you were. Does that, uh…shit, man…does that mean you’re not straight?”

Cas’s expression, already guarded, darkened ominously. “Yes, Dean, in a shocking turn of events that no one could have predicted, I turned out queer.”

“Wait, what?” Dean stuttered. He wasn’t sure if he was thrown off by Cas’s use of the word queer, his uncharacteristic anger, or his assumption that everyone would already know he was.

“I fuck men,” Cas clarified coldly. “Women, too, if you care.”

The weight of Cas’s admission turned Dean speechless. Cas was bi; they were both bi. Everything Dean had ever thought was true crumbled into nothingness, his world limited to that one fact.

Cas, however, seemed to misunderstand Dean’s sputtering silence. “I thought you’d changed,” he said accusingly. “I thought that you’d grown the fuck up.”

“What are you talking about?” Dean asked.

“You know what the fuck I’m talking about! I know your dad was homophobic shit, but I thought you were better than that!”

“Don’t talk about my dad,” Dean warned, anger getting the better of him. “I am nothing like my dad.”

“I can’t deal with this right now,” Cas said. “It’s been a long day.” He pushed past Dean towards the door, swinging it open dramatically.

Dean rushed after him and grabbed his arm to stop him. “Wait, Cas, no,” he said, finally finding his voice.

Cas was knocked off balance enough that Dean was able to tug him forward. Cas stumbled and, suddenly, they were face to face, only inches separating them. Cas’s eyes were as blue as Dean had remembered them, his lips as plush and full as ever. Finally, Dean fulfilled every adolescent dream he’d ever had and captured Cas’s mouth in an uncoordinated kiss.

Time seemed to stop, as if knowing the weight of the moment. Cas softly melted into Dean like they belonged together—which, Dean knew with certainty, they did. In the entirety of Dean’s life, he had never experienced anything as transcendent and perfect as the feeling of Cas’s lips against his.

In a rush, time caught up and the spell was broken, as Cas stiffened in Dean’s arms. “What the fuck was that?” he said, shoving Dean away.

At the furious look on Cas’s face, Dean’s heart broke—again. He knew what he’d done was stupid, reckless, inconsiderate, and probably offensive, but all he could feel was the crushing disappointment of another rejection. “That was our first kiss,” he mumbled.

Impossibly, Cas’s face grew darker, his nostrils flaring and his eyes narrowing. “That was not our first kiss. Our first kiss was fifteen years ago.”

Chapter Text

Dean kissed him. It was unexpected, to say the least. They’d been fighting, after all, about things that should not have ended in a kiss. For most of his life, Castiel had thought about kissing Dean. First, imagining what it would be like, then, after having it all go wrong, wishing he could do it again and have it turn out like his fantasies. This kiss was a little too forceful for his tastes. He preferred to take control in manners such as this, not to have it seized in a sudden and unwanted rush. He couldn’t help his body, however; it wanted what it wanted, and it had wanted Dean for so long that it operated against Castiel’s wishes. Dean’s mouth was soft and pliant against his. It was easy—too easy—to forgot how badly this had gone before and, instead, to focus on how wonderful Dean felt against him.

Until he remembered.

“What the fuck was that?” he asked as he shoved Dean away from him.

“That was our first kiss,” Dean replied. His eyes were wide and vulnerable, and his lips were still swollen from where they’d been pressed against Castiel’s own. He looked so innocent and young despite his lie.

“That was not our first kiss,” Castiel reminded him coldly. “Our first kiss was fifteen years ago.”

“That doesn’t count,” Dean coughed, his cheeks reddening. “That wasn’t a real kiss; we were just kids.”

“Fuck you,” Cas growled. “It was after you kissed Meg—your first real kiss. Dean, I won’t be your experimentation again. I can’t.”

“Look, Cas, I know I fucked up. I’m sorry.” He held his hands out in placation. It had been years since Castiel had last seen Dean, but he could still read him—at least he hoped he could. He should take it as the apology he never got, for Dean breaking his heart all those years ago.

He should have, but he couldn’t.

“Just because I’m queer, doesn’t mean I want to be kissed by any guy who comes along. You had no business kissing me again.”

“Yeah, I know, okay. What’s up with this again crap, Cas. We never kissed. We just pressed our lips together, and then Hannah interrupted.”

“What are you talking about? Hannah wasn’t there.”

“Sure, she was,” Dean insisted. “We were on the picnic table by the lake, and she came to tell us that Lenore and her dad were back from the hospital.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about—I mean, I know what you’re talking about, but why would I think that was our first kiss when we actually kissed.” He remembered what Dean was talking about. After saving Eli Taylor from drowning, Cas had freaked out. Dean had comforted him, and he’d thought at the time that Dean had been about to kiss him. He hadn’t, though.

“Okay, now I don’t know what you’re talking about. We never kissed.”

“Yes, we did!” Castiel all but yelled. “We made out on the roof on my birthday, and then the next morning you told your girlfriend it was like kissing a toilet seat.”

“No, we—what?” Dean sputtered. He genuinely looked shocked, and Castiel couldn’t understand it.

“We drank too much, shoved cupcakes into each other’s faces, then stuck our tongues in each other’s mouths.”

Dean grabbed him by the shoulders, and, for one crazy second, Castiel thought he was going to kiss him again. “Cas, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. That didn’t happen. We never…did that.”

“Yes, we did,” Castiel argued. He shoved Dean’s arms off his shoulders, but didn’t move away.

Dean examined his face, as if he was looking for a lie, even though Dean was the one who was lying. “Tell me what happened,” he growled.

“This is ridiculous,” Castiel countered. “We talked about it afterwards. You talked to Gabe about it, for fuck’s sake.”

“Just tell me,” Dean insisted. His hands had moved back to Castiel, nearly pinning his arms against his sides.

Castiel decided to humor him. “It was more than a decade ago, Dean. Charlie went to bed. She took my keys and left. You gave me my birthday presents: a copy of The Iliad—which I still have—a pocket knife—which I also still have—and a mix tape—which I… Anyway, I read from the Iliad, then we drank more, finishing the bottle. We tried to eat a few more cupcakes, smashed them into each other’s faces, and I thought it was a good idea to lick the frosting off yours. Long story short, tongues ended up in mouths, and we full on made out. But you’d had too much to drink, so I took you downstairs where we shared my bed, got discovered by the girlfriend, and you told her how disgusting kissing me was.”

“I don’t remember that,” Dean said hoarsely, his eyes wide. “I don’t remember anything past your presents. I never did. Not that morning—not ever.”

It was Castiel’s turn to be surprised. “What?” he gasped.

“I didn’t mean”—suddenly, Dean turned green—“I’m going to be sick.” He let Castiel go and turned, his hands going to his mouth, as he searched for a trash can or something. He found a planter first and emptied the contents of his stomach into the dirt and moss.

Even after all those years, Castiel still associated the smell of vomit with that night. Even after frat parties where drunk sorority sisters threw up on each other and continued partying, when you’d have to check whatever surface you ended up fucking on for someone else’s—possibly your partner’s—sick. Even after calling 911 after finding a friend drowning in their own vomit after OD’ing, the acrid smell of it was forever linked with Dean breaking his heart.

None of this made sense to Castiel. He didn’t want to believe Dean was lying, but the alternative was even worse. There were plenty of nights, days, weeks even, that Castiel would never be able to recall; whole years were spent in a daze of drugs, alcohol, and sex. They’d been lightweights when they were fifteen; Dean had probably never been drunk before. It was possible. He didn’t have a reason to lie after all these years.

Castiel patted him gently on the back as Dean wretched and gagged into the planter. When he turned back to look at Castiel, his mouth was filthy and disgusting and his eyes were wet. All of Castiel’s doubts were gone.

Dean hadn’t remembered that night.

Castiel felt sick himself. So much had been based off of Dean’s rejection and revulsion. Years of repression and self-hatred had been born that following morning, only to be fueled by what Crowley had done to him months later. Everything might have been different if only Castiel had realized Dean hadn’t remembered.

The sounds of voices in the hall drew his attention seconds before his and Dean’s brothers’ faces appeared in the door.

“What happened?” Sam asked, crouching next to his brother. “Was he drinking? He’s a lightweight; he should know better!”

“No, he—we—” Castiel stammered. He looked away to where his own brother was surveying the situation with a curious smirk. Gabe cocked a questioning eyebrow at Castiel while Sam tended to Dean.

“God, you smell rank,” Sam groaned, turning away from the source of the smell, even as a comforting hand stayed splayed on Dean’s back.

“Take him home, Sam,” Castiel told Sam over Dean’s still-bowed head.

“Yeah,” Sam breathed, straightening and looking for his keys in his pocket. “I’ll get him back to the hotel.”

“No, don’t—take him to your place,” Castiel ordered.

“We really don’t have the room, man. He can sleep it off in his hotel.”

“Find the room! He shouldn’t be alone.” He turned back to Dean and ran a quick hand through his sweaty hair. “Sam’s going to take you home, now. Drink some water, have some saltines—“

“With butter?” Dean croaked, looking up over his shoulder. The glisten of tears still shown in his eyes. “We had those that night. I remember that.”


They helped him up, Dean’s grip lingering on Castiel’s arm even as Sam led him out of the room. How could everything have changed in such a short time?

“What the fuck was that?” Gabe asked once they were alone.

“Dean kissed me,” Castiel blurted. There was no point in keeping it from his brother, not when Gabriel was the one person in the world who knew the story.

“What?! You’re shitting me!” Gabe howled. He gleefully pounded Castiel on the arm until Castiel knew his muscles would be sore the next day. He fixed his best glare on his brother, who pulled back his hand sheepishly. “Why do you look so upset?”

Castiel continued to glare at his brother. “I’m so very fond of being kissed out of nowhere,” he deadpanned.

“This is Dean,” Gabe implored.

“That’s not an improvement. You should know that.” He pushed past his brother and headed towards the door. He was still too thrown off and emotional to have this conversation.

“Well, at least you know that kiss when you were horny teenagers wasn’t a fluke,” Gabriel called after him.

Castiel turned back around to face his brother, resigned.

“Yes,” he sighed. “You know, when that happened, I might have understated how much we had to drink.”

“Okay, and? You’ve been wasted for most of your life since then, what’s the big deal?”

“And we were kids. I’d never had more than a beer, and neither had Dean.” Castiel pulled up a chair from the break table and sat down. His bones felt old, older than time, and the years since his fifteenth birthday seemed to contract into nothing. “We were drunk enough that details might have been fuzzy the morning after.”

“So, you what, made up the kiss?”

“No, Gabe, no,” he stammered. “Dean didn’t remember it. He never remembered. He thought when he kissed me tonight it was the first time. He had no idea.”

“So what the fuck was his rant the next morning about? Huh? What was that talk we had in the car?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask him. He just…” Dean’s vomit was still stinking up the room, sour and vile where it moldered in the planter.

Gabriel crinkled his nose at the smell. “I’ll get the cleaning crew to take care of that before they leave.”

“He was really fucked up about it, Gabe. I—I should—“ He stood up to leave, but a hand stopped him.

“Sam’s got him, man. It’s okay,” Gabe reassured him, keeping a strengthening hand on his shoulder. “Hey, why don’t you crash at my place tonight. Big empty house creeps me out.”

“First of all, your house is not big. Second, if you didn’t want your house to be empty, you could ask your wife to move here.”

“Hey, I don’t criticize your relationships. What Kali and I have works.”

“You never see each other, and I don’t have any relationships.”

“Tell me that, even after all these years, seeing Freckles doesn’t make your heart flutter just like it did the last time you saw him.” Castiel didn’t bother giving him an answer. The Castiel who had last seen Dean was not the man he was today. He’d been broken, cracked, and taken apart, and the person who had been put back together wasn’t anyone Dean should be kissing. Gabriel gave a gentle tug where he was still holding on to Castiel’s shoulder. “Come on. I’ll make you mushroom soup with buttered crackers and we’ll watch The Lord of the Rings—special edition.”

“I can’t. I left my cat alone all day.”

“Fuck your cat.”

“Gabriel,” Cas growled. “My cat is the only thing I haven’t fucked up.”

“Get out of here, then,” Gabe sighed. “Call me when you’re home. Call Lily if you feel twitchy. You’re not alone, little brother. We’ve all got your back. And worse things have happened to you than Dean kissing you.”

Chapter Text

Castiel woke up to warm breath against his face. Warm breath that smelled like salmon.


“I know, I know,” Cas murmured as the cat kneaded at his chest, her claws sharp against his bare skin. “I’m sorry for yesterday, Gracie.”

She headbutted his face and nuzzled against his nose. It wasn’t quite forgiveness, but Castiel would take it. He scratched behind her ears and stroked her head; she let out a long, low purr.

“How about some breakfast, huh?” Grace jumped off his chest as he sat up and dislodged her, and she followed him into the kitchen. He grabbed a mug—emblazoned with a rainbow and the words I Can’t Even Think Straight—and a can of food from the cupboard and set them both on the table. He grabbed for the coffee carafe, only to find it full of steaming hot, pale, brown water. “Shit. I forgot to reset the coffee pot.”

He dumped the unappetizing contents into the sink, and the old coffee grounds into the trashcan. He only had to press a few buttons before it ground the beans itself, heated the water, and began making blessed coffee. Grace meowed plaintively next to her bowl, staring up at him with her green eyes that reminded him too much of Dean.

“Hey,” he growled. “I can’t be expected to operate a can opener without caffeine.”


“Fine, I owe you for yesterday,” he conceded. He grabbed the can opener from its spot in the drawer and opened the can, dumping its contents into the dish on the floor. She went after it immediately, her little head bent over the dish as she devoured her breakfast. Castiel watched her until his coffee maker beeped, signaling his own breakfast was ready.

Castiel took his coffee back to bed, and, once she’d finished eating, Grace joined him, curling up into a ball and tucking under his raised knee. With every soft, sleepy breath, her fur brushed up against his bare skin, tickling him. It was just enough to relax him and wash away the last of his tension from the night before. He took a long gulp of his coffee and let himself savor its bitter richness. After draining the cup, he stood up and poured himself another cup in the kitchen. When he got back in bed, Grace was awake again, pawing at his sheets restlessly.

“Hey, you,” he said, tapping her paw playfully. “What do you say we go visit Father Honorio today? We can help with the boxes and you can prowl around his garden. He said he’d plant you some catnip. I can’t have controlled substances, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get high.”


“Yeah, you like that idea, huh,” he grinned. He scratched her behind the ears again until she batted his hand away in favor of playing. “Well, we’ve got a few chores to take care of first. I’ve got to wash those nasty sheets from our guests yesterday”—she meowed—“Yeah, you didn’t like them too much, did you? They were okay,” he shrugged. “But that’s what you get, you know, when you fuck up your whole life—talentless hacks who just want a fuck for the night. You don’t get…well, you don’t get people like Dean.”

He grabbed her feather teaser from the closet, and let her blow off some energy pouncing on it rather than his toes—or other, more sensitive, body parts that might be vulnerable to attack.

“You’d like him, I think. I mean, I don’t know him very well anymore, but he seems like someone you’d like. He’d hate you, though.”

Mrow. She jumped onto the feather, which he was holding too close to his knee.

Ouch. Sorry. Don’t blame me.” Her little claw hadn’t broken the skin, but it stung anyway. “He doesn’t like cats.”

There was antiseptic in the bathroom, so he dabbed some on the scratch. If he was up, he might as well get dressed and on with his day, as there was no benefit to lolling around bed in emotional distress all morning. He peed and, after washing his hands, splashed some water on his face, then smeared on a bit of his Hollywood actor skin care and went to the closet to get dressed. He grabbed a pair of jeans out of the dirty laundry pile and a clean T-shirt and boxer-briefs off the shelves and pulled them on. While he collected the previous morning’s discarded sheets and crossed through the apartment to take them down to the laundry, Gracie entertained herself by stalking and attacking his pillow. He would have been better off locking her in the bathroom while he was downstairs, but he didn’t have the heart. She’d been cooped up all alone for eighteen hours or so the previous day, so she deserved a little fun.

He loaded up the machine, poured the detergent in, swiped his card, and started it. He pretended not to notice the two college-age girls checking out his ass from near the dryers. He pretended to drop his laundry card and bent over to retrieve it to give them a show. It was only polite, and, if their muffled groans were any indication, they appreciated it. They probably lived in the building, so maybe they’d both be interested in joining him in bed sometime. He could fuck one while eating the other out, or he could alternate fucking them both if they were cool with that. His dick was stirring in his pants at his obscene fantasies, and he had the brief idea of changing his plans for the day and inviting the two young ladies up to his room to act on them. Some casual sex would get his mind off of the events of the previous night.


With that one flash of Dean, all those lascivious thoughts were wiped from his thoughts. A longing he hadn’t acknowledged in years swept over him, but he shook it away. Whatever that kiss had meant, whatever had happened all those years before, it didn’t change anything. Dean would always be more than Castiel would deserve—more than he could ever have. He couldn’t help but admit that seeing Dean reignited old feelings, and Dean kissing him all but set them ablaze. It wasn’t fair for Dean to confuse him again—to offer the impossible and then break his heart.

When he got back to his apartment, he found Gracie had gotten her legs tangled in the pull cord of the blinds. She meowed at him plaintively as he entered. “Holy shit, little girl. You’re going to get yourself killed.” He extricated her from her self-made shackles and plunked her back on his bed, before crossing back to the kitchen and pouring himself the last of the coffee. He settled next to her and let her gnaw on his finger, while he tried not to think about Dean.

He only had one alternative that would keep his mind occupied enough not to let it wander to unhealthy things. Phone in hand, he dialed a number and put it up to his ear.

“Hello?” the small voice said.

“Your mother lets you answer the phone?” Castiel asked.

Claire sighed. “Hey, Cas. Mom’s asleep.” He could hear the disinterest in her voice.

“It’s got to be almost noon there,” Cas scolded. “Who’s been watching you?”

“I’m old enough to watch myself,” she insisted. “Grandma Naomi took me shoe shopping while mom slept.”

“Is Grandma Naomi still there?”

“No, she left.”

“Why don’t you wake your mom up? Have you had lunch?”

“Mom’ll get mad at me if I wake her up. Grandma Naomi and I got pizza for lunch!”

“Did Grandma Naomi make you get veggies on your pizza?”


It was probably okay that Amelia was still asleep, Castiel figured. He was on the phone with Claire, so that meant if there were any problems he could deal with them. It wasn’t like she was alone. Even his mother had walked away from the situation, and he had a lifetime of knowing exactly how overprotective she could be. He wished he knew the right thing to do.

“Uh, I’m sorry I didn’t call when I said I would. I had to work late.”

“Mom says you went to a party.”

Thanks, Amelia.

“Yes, I went to a friend’s graduation party last night,” he explained. “It was at Uncle Gabe’s restaurant.”

“Did he make burgers?” She showed more enthusiasm for Gabe’s burgers than she had the entire conversation previously.

“Of course. Everyone loves Uncle Gabe’s burgers.” Grace had climbed up his arm and was trying to make herself comfortable on his free shoulder; he tried to nudge her off, but she dug in her claws and clung on.

“Was it your best friend’s party?”

“I guess,” Castiel answered. He shrugged, dislodging Grace; her claws caught on his shirt, pulling the neck tight and uncomfortable. He grabbed her by the scruff and placed her on his pillow where she couldn’t hurt anything.

“You guess? I know who my best friend is. Alice lives in the apartment upstairs; her mom drives me to school sometimes.”

“Okay, well, Sam’s brother used to be my best friend, but I haven’t seen him in a long time.”

“Why not?”

“I moved away,” Castiel answered simply.

“Did you forget how to use the phone?” she asked incredulously.

“Yes, I suppose I did.”

She let out a little bark of a laugh. “Predictable.”

He joined her in laughter, until a crash from next to him drew his attention. Grace had tried to leap off the nightstand and took his coffee with her. His mug was in pieces sitting in a pool of his precious coffee.

“Shit,” he swore, grabbing Gracie and getting her away from the broken pieces of the mug.

“You said a bad word.”

“Yes, I know.” He stepped over the mess, squealing cat and phone in hand. The cat was deposited safely in the bathroom to cry in peace. “My cat knocked over my coffee mug.”

“You have a cat?!”

“Not for much longer,” he said without thinking.

Cas!” she squealed.

“Sorry. She’s fine—she’s fine.”

“Be nice to your cat. I want to meet her someday.”

“Yeah?” Cas asked, a smile sneaking into his voice.

Cas heard Amelia shouting Claire?! through the line, then Claire shouting back “I’m on the phone with Cas, Mom!”

“About time he called!” Amelia yelled back. “Ask him if his support check is coming any time soon!”

Castiel could hear Claire sigh through the connection. “Uh, Cas, she wants to know—“

“I heard,” Castiel interrupted. “Please tell your mother that I will send the check on Monday as per our usual schedule. There’s a bit extra this month since I got my new job.”

“Cool. I’ll tell mom. I should probably go now. Bye Cas!”

“Bye, Claire.” He answered to the end call screen. His phone was warm in his hand as he watched the screen fade to black. It would need a charge before he left for the church. He plugged it in, then proceeded to clean up the mess Grace had caused. He mopped up the coffee and threw the shards of broken mug into the trash can in the kitchen, lamenting the loss of his favorite mug.

Castiel popped his head into the bathroom to check on the cat, only to find her snoring comfortably in the sink. “Silly rascal. I’ll give Father Honorio your apologies,” he muttered, leaving the door ajar so she could have free rein of the apartment when she woke up. It wasn’t quite a garden, but he wasn’t sure she’d stay safely within the fencing. He hid a few treats around the house, and scattered a few of her favorite toys where she could find them to keep her entertained.

After slipping on a pair of sneakers and a baseball cap, Castiel was ready to leave. He grabbed his phone off the charger, and had a thought. Grace was still snoring away in the sink, and he snapped a picture of the troublemaker to send to Claire later.

Castiel handed the last box to one of the other volunteers. It contained enough food for a family to cook dinner for a week. Now that kids would be out of school, it also contained peanut butter, jelly, and a loaf of bread for lunches. Castiel had practically lived off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the church gave him for a year. The boxes happened weekly, but anyone in need could get a sandwich any day. Usually, they provided bologna or ham sandwiches, but they would keep jars of peanut butter and grape jelly on hand specifically for Castiel.

That was when he first met Father Honorio, who had tried—and failed—to reach the damaged, drug-addicted young man. He’d never given up on Castiel, however, even though the addiction and self-hatred were too powerful. So he had focused, instead, on keeping Castiel alive and as healthy as he could. For that devotion, Castiel rewarded him with faithfulness.

“Will I being see you tomorrow, my son?” Father asked, as the volunteers dispersed and the last of those in need left with their food, leaving Castiel to put away the tables.

“I don’t think so, Father. I would have to take confession before communion,” he grimaced as he struggled with one of the tables’ sticky leg.

Father Honorio let out a small laugh; he bent down to help Castiel with his task. “Surely whatever sins you have on your soul do not keep you from celebrating God’s word with our community. I have told you this before, Castiel, God does not care who you sleep with. Do not let that sit on your conscience.”

Castiel blanched at the Father’s words, letting the bad leg fall. “Don’t let the Bishops hear you say that. The Church is one of the biggest supporters of Prop 8.”

“This isn’t about the Church; this is about you. You are too hard on yourself,” he said gently, a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. “You deserve happiness no matter where you find it, Castiel.”

Castiel let out an awkward cough and wrestled with the table leg again. It finally folded down with a loud pop.

“Have you eaten today?” Father Honorio asked with a sigh.


His answer earned a glare from the Father. “Come,” he said, turning and indicating Castiel to follow. “There’s a pot of soup in the rectory Father Bogdani has made, and only the two of us to share it.”

They wound through the Parish offices until they reached the private rooms of the four priests that lived in the rectory. As they walked, Father Honorio told him how Father Reynolds was in San Francisco, and Father Gregory was administering to the sick of the Parish, so it was just himself and the retired priest for the day.

Father Honorio ladled three bowls of thick bean soup and cut thick slices of warm bread. Father Bogdani took his bowl to another room, putting two of the slices of bread on his tray with a large dollop of butter. Father Honorio was placing the other two bowls on the table when Castiel’s cell phone rang in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw his agent’s name lit up onscreen.

“Is it an important call?” Father Honorio asked.

“My agent is probably calling to yell at me about something that happened at work yesterday.”

Father Honorio placed the bread and the butter dish between them on the table. “Then perhaps we will talk more freely without interruption.”

Castiel turned his phone onto silent and let Father Honorio put it in a drawer. Once his phone was away, they said grace together. The soup smelled delicious, and Castiel felt his stomach rumbling with hunger, but when he looked up from his prayer, Father Honorio had fixed him in a shrewd stare. “Talk to me, Castiel. What is on your mind?”

It was always difficult to lie in the scrutinizing gaze of a priest, but Castiel did not need the extra encouragement. He wanted to unburden himself; he needed to. “Someone I knew a long time ago came back into my life unexpectedly,” he explained.

“Is this someone who was a bad influence on you? Are you afraid of being drawn back into your old life?”

“No,” Castiel answered, popping a bite of usually forbidden bread into his mouth. “He knew me before all that; we grew up together. He…he was someone very important to me when I was young.”

“Then this sounds like a blessing. Why does it trouble you?”

“I was in love with him.”

“Ah. And he did not return these feelings?”

That was the question, wasn’t it? Castiel had gone fifteen years certain that Dean had not only not returned his feelings, but found them disgusting. In the light of the previous night’s revelation, however, he had begun to doubt that certainty. Dean had kissed him again, after all. If Castiel could travel back in time to that morning, he would have been thrilled to find out that Dean hadn’t remembered their kiss. Now, however?

Now, it just made him miserable.

“I think he wants me to be someone who no longer exists,” he shrugged.

“We are all guilty of nostalgia, Castiel. I am sure you will find yourself in the same position with your old friend. Now, eat your soup. I don’t like to see you so thin.”

Castiel took a spoonful of the soup. It was a little salty, but full of rich spices and chunks of sausage. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he smirked around a mouthful. “A lean physique is what casting directors want. I promise you, this is all muscle.” He poked himself in the stomach to demonstrate.

“Humility, Castiel,” the Father scolded him. “You are fortunate that you have the time, the space, and the strong body to focus on exercise for the sake of vanity. There was a time you forsook food because you had no appetite, not because you were attempting to look a certain way.”

“Yes, Father,” Castiel answered, kowtowed. “I know I’m blessed.”

“You are blessed that you have people who love you who did not want to see you throw your life away. Would it hurt you so much to welcome this old friend into the circle?” He refilled their empty bowls and placed two more slices of bread on the table. He indicated the bowl, and Castiel had no other option but to eat.

“He doesn’t know how badly I’m broken, Father.”

“I don’t know that you’re broken, either, Castiel,” he replied gently, dunking a chunk of bread into his soup. “Your past is a part of you; it has made you the very special person you are today. If this old friend can’t accept the dark parts of your history, then he does not deserve to be your friend.”

“He reminds me who I used to be. I can’t go back. I can never go back to the innocent boy he knew, but I want to. I want it to be Cas and Dean just like it was every summer. I want it to be simple, but it’s not simple. It’s not simple because he kissed me—he kissed me and I can’t handle it.”

A glass of water was thrust into his hands. “Drink, Castiel,” Father Honorio commanded him. “You get to define the parameters of your relationship. You’d rather leave this relationship in the past, that’s your choice. You’d rather have a shallow friendship and not worry about your problems, that is also your choice. You want to sleep with him?” He shrugged. “Just be careful, my son. He has given you a gift of someone you once loved, do not forsake it lightly.”

Castiel stayed with the Father after lunch to do the dishes and to gather some catnip for Grace.

“This doesn’t count as confession, Castiel. See if you can come on Thursday. I’d like to see you at Mass sometime.”

“Yes, Father. Thank you for your advice. I…I have a lot to think about.”

“You are stronger than you give yourself credit for, Castiel.”

He handed Castiel back his phone and led him back through the rectory into the bright sunlight. Castiel’s phone buzzed in his pocket. In the glare from the sun, it was hard to read the screen. He had a few missed calls from his agent. He did not have the bandwidth to deal with Zachariah reaming him out for either turning down a featured background part or, worse, for putting himself in the situation—against Zach’s suggestion—by taking the job as a stand-in. The new alert, however, was a text from Sam:

I need a run. You game?

Chapter Text

Cas’s lips were so warm against Dean’s—soft and warm and slightly sweet. This was the culmination of years of pining, of wanting and never being able to have, so Dean was desperate to commit every detail to memory. Cas’s tongue firm as it explored Dean’s mouth, his hands hot against Dean’s flesh—it all was so good Dean knew he was dreaming. He didn’t care, though. Kissing Cas was the best thing he’d ever done. The consequences didn’t matter; whatever came in the morning, he could handle it.

Dean pulled away just enough to kiss along Cas’s jaw, only to find it was just as sweet as his lips. There was something all over his face, something sweet and greasy—frosting.

The realization woke Dean up with a start.

It wasn’t a memory; he knew that. His long ago lost memories hadn’t magically returned once Cas had told him the truth. It was enough, however, to fill in Cas’s description with images built on what he did remember. Nevertheless, the ache where his heart sat didn’t care what was real or what was made up.

“Hey, you okay?” Sarah asked, rushing over to the bed where Dean was panting. Her presence was weird enough to break Dean out of his panic attack. She handed him a glass of water which he wished was something stronger. He was in Sam and Sarah’s bed; he remembered that now. Sam had spent the night in the armchair that was still pulled up next to the bed—Sarah slumped down in it now, but she must have spent the night at a friend’s or something. “You had a rough night, honey.”

“I remember,” Dean huffed. “Where’s Sam?”

“He’s out running errands. He was up half the night with you; I forced him to go take care of himself.”

“What time is it?”

“Quarter to one.”

“Shit,” Dean breathed.

“Well, Sam says you didn’t fall asleep until after six this morning. You kept trying to get out of bed and find Cas.”

Dean groaned and sunk back into the soft bed. It wasn’t anything like his memory foam back home, nor even as good as the hotel mattress from the night before, but it provided comfort. “I wasn’t drunk,” he explained.

“I know,” Sarah said with far too much understanding. “Sam explained that you suffered a head trauma when you were a teenager, and sometimes you don’t deal with things very well.”

“That’s a pretty fucking big understatement, but, yeah.”

She gave him a little slap on the knee, so he leaned up on his elbows to frown at her. “Last night was rough, huh?”

Dean only glared at her in reply.

“Okay, okay, fucking big understatement—I get it. Do you want to have some lunch—breakfast—brunch and maybe talk about it?”

“No,” Dean growled.

“Okay, big guy,” she said, her tone light. “No food for you.” Dean’s stomach chose that moment to let out a loud rumble, and Sarah let out a big laugh. “Okay, okay. I’ll see what we have in the kitchen.”

“Not salad,” Dean whined.

“If you’re going to be picky, you’re going to have to offer up an emotional truth.”

“Uh, I can offer help cooking,” Dean countered. He climbed out of bed, tripping on the ends of the pajama pants he was wearing. They were obviously Sam’s, and Dean remembered sulkily pulling them on before getting tucked into Sam and Sarah’s bed. The T-shirt was also borrowed and hung overlarge on Dean’s smaller frame. Dean rolled up the waistband of the pants until they were more comfortable and slipped into a pair of Sam’s huge slippers.

“I’ll take it,” Sarah conceded. She rummaged through the fridge and turned around with a dozen eggs in her hand. “Scrambled eggs. That’s one of the few things I can cook.” She pulled out a few more things from the fridge: a green pepper, a bag of spinach, and a block of yellow cheese.

“No spinach,” Dean warned her. “The pepper can stay. Do you have any bacon?”

“We probably have half a package in the freezer we can defrost,” she said, tucking the spinach back into the fridge and grabbing a plastic bag from the freezer. She also grabbed an onion from a bowl on the counter and set all her spoils on a cutting board. Their kitchen was tiny, so Dean remained on the other side of the breakfast bar-counter that separated it from the living area. He sat on one of the stools, waiting for the microwave to finish thawing the bacon.

“I’ll cut that,” he offered, once the microwave beeped. “You can handle the green stuff.” Sarah gave him another cutting board and a knife, and he went to town dicing the bacon into chunks. “Man, I’ve been making this scramble for years.”

“Sam makes his with lots of veggies and feta cheese,” Sarah said.

“Blasphemy. This is the way to do it,” he mused. He could almost feel the sun on his back, the cool breezes coming off the lake, and he was suddenly taken back. “Actually, I learned this recipe from Cas’s mom. It was her Sunday breakfast special, and we made it camping.”

“I can’t imagine Jamie camping,” she said.

“He hated it,” Dean laughed. “Until he got in the lake.”

“How come?” she asked, finishing up the onion she was badly chopping and moving on to butchering the green pepper.

“Cas was like a fish. The last time I saw him, he was going to get a fancy coach in the hopes of getting on the U.S. Team. Guess he doesn’t swim anymore.” Dean could still remember his last few days with Cas like they had been burned into his brain with the shock of his loss months later.

“People change,” Sarah said. “Priorities change. Hand me the bacon if you’re done with it, okay?”

Dean complied mindlessly, handing the pile of badly diced bacon over to Sarah. “Yeah,” he breathed, and then, because he couldn’t resist: “What’s he like?”

“Smart. Sarcastic. Reserved. Kind.” She left the bacon sizzling in the pan and reached across the counter and placed a gentle hand on his. “The kind of guy you might want to set up with your beloved big brother.”


“You know Jamie—Cas, whatever—was the guy Sam was hoping you’d hit it off with. We had no idea what an understatement that was.”

Her tone was still light, but Dean felt the bottom fall out of his stomach. He’d entirely forgotten about the set-up Sam and Sarah had been planning. “The tight jeans?” he croaked.

“Were we wrong?” she smirked, turning around and giving the bacon a stir.

“I kissed him,” Dean blurted out over the sound of the cooking bacon.

“I guess we weren’t wrong. What happened?”

“What do you think happened?! I didn’t exactly spend the night in bed with the man of my dreams!”

Okay.” She poured the cooked bacon onto a plate and started to sauté the pepper and onion in the bacon fat. “So you made a mistake. Apologize and move on. Why don’t you crack some eggs?”

“Uh, yeah,” Dean mumbled, squeezing into the kitchen to wash his hands and grab eggs and milk from the fridge, as Sarah handed him a bowl from the cupboard. He cracked eggs until it looked like as much as the two of them could eat, poured a giant glug of milk into the bowl, and beat it with a fork until frothy. The vegetables were tender, translucent, and brown on the edges, and Sarah added them to the drained bacon.

Dean prided himself on his egg scrambling skills, so, with a hip bump, he moved Sarah out of the way to cook the eggs himself. That it helped distract him from Sarah’s questions was a bonus, of course, as was making her grate the cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top.

Once two perfect plates of eggs were placed on the counter, Sarah started right back in with the Cas issue. “I know he gave you his number, call him and apologize.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Of course it is,” she insisted, her mouth full.

Dean took another bite himself, chewing slowly so as to delay the inevitable. “Thing is,” he started. “I got all romantic about it, and declared it our first kiss.”

Sarah let out a giggle before schooling her face back to a more serious expression. “That’s sweet.”

“Sure, except our first kiss turned out to be fifteen years ago, only I was too drunk to remember it.”


“Yeah.” Dean forced himself to take another bite, but his stomach turned sour again. “All these years, I thought he didn’t want me,” he said, his voice breaking. “I’ve tried to find someone to replace him, but it’s never worked out. Just ask Lisa or Nick, and they’ll tell you I just never seemed committed. Track down my high school girlfriends and see why we broke up. All these years I’ve just wanted him.”

“It’s okay, Dean,” Sarah said gently. Her food was also forgotten, and she shoved their plates out of the way so she could wrap her arms around him.

“It’s not okay!” Dean shouted. “He thought I rejected him. I was a coward and I lost him because of it!”

She let Dean sob in her arms without ever pointing out how immature and emotional he was being. He’d never really dealt with losing Cas. For months after Cas had disappeared, he’d acted out, siphoning all his emotions into stealing cigarettes from convenience stores, getting into fist fights after school, and falling to his knees in the boy’s locker room. After the accident, he’d had to deal with Cas’s absence, sure: at school, in his old apartment, around town at all their old hang outs, but he’d only ever talked about his feelings that one time with Sam when they cleaned out all his boxes. For nearly fifteen years, he’d repressed and avoided every complicated feeling he had about Cas, and it finally all came pouring out in the arms of the woman who should definitely become his sister-in-law.

“What if I lose him again?” he sobbed. “What if I drive him away?”

After letting him have his outburst, Sarah straightened him up and ran a soothing hand through his hair. “Stop wallowing,” she said, surprising Dean with her forcefulness. “The best friend you ever had is back in your life, and, judging by the way you two ignored the rest of the game last night to catch up, I think he’s just as glad to find you again as you are to find him. So things didn’t go the way either of you planned, big deal! You’ve got a second chance! Forget about the past.”

“I can’t,” Dean moaned.

“Yes, you can. Pretend he isn’t Cas. Pretend Sam introduced you to his hot actor friend Jamie, and you’d like to get to know him better.”

“I can’t face him after last night.”

“Of course you can. Listen, why don’t you take a shower. I’ll grab you some clothes from Sam’s stuff, since what you wore last night is still in the laundry. You may have to make do with shorts.”

“I don’t do shorts,” Dean glared.

“Then you’ll have to peg his jeans.” She headed to the walk-in closet that was probably half the size of the entire studio apartment. “There may be an opened pack of briefs somewhere in here,” she called from inside. “Unless you wanna wear a pair of mine.”

Sarah poked her head out of the closet before Dean could hide his blush. “I’ll take the briefs,” he croaked, before heading into the bathroom.

The water in the shower felt amazing on his body after the catharsis of letting out more than a decade of repressed feelings. So amazing, in fact, that his dick took an interest in the excellent water pressure as well.

Dean stared down at his wayward dick. “What the hell, dude?”

His dick only twitched in response.

“My brother’s girlfriend is in the other room, and that’s gross.”

It didn’t seem to care.

He wrapped a casual hand around his erection, and that felt even better. He let his mind wander where he hadn’t in so many years, at first because it hurt too much, and later because so much time had passed, he had no current idea of Cas to fantasize about. It was easy to slip into the new fantasy, and his brain easily supplied fodder in the form of Cas’s shower scene on Dr. Sexy.

Soon, he was fisting his dick in earnest, long strokes that ended with a twist at the head, short, fast strokes that made a tiny pearl of pre-cum bead at the tip. “Caaas,” he moaned against his better judgement, but the name felt so good on his tongue, he did it again. “Caaaas.”

Dean let his free hand cup his neglected balls, one finger rubbing against the sensitive skin behind them, before he gave up all pretense and reached behind himself. A soapy finger skimmed across his rim, and it was done. He came so hard he had come on his chin and all up the wall, despite having cleaned the pipes only the day before. A wave of guilt crested over him in the afterglow. It was one thing to masturbate while thinking about his best friend when he was a hormonal teenager, but to think about a very adult—albeit very hot—Cas without his permission felt pretty shitty.

Dean finished cleaning up and stepped out of the shower, deciding to leave what he’d done and the guilt in the shower. It had been a moment of weakness and best forgotten. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he left the warm, moist air of the bathroom into the rest of the apartment.

“Yeah, okay, I understand,” Sarah was saying into the phone. “Now? That might be a problem.” She turned to Dean and gave a nod to indicate the closet, where he found the clothes she’d gotten for him on a shelf. As he closed the door, Sarah’s voice became muffled, and he couldn’t hear the rest of her conversation.

Sam’s jeans were as long as promised—stupid, over-tall moose—and too big in the waist, but his belt from the night before fixed that problem. A size-too-large T-shirt completed the absurd ensemble, and Dean went back to where Sarah was hanging up on her phone call.

“Feel better?” she asked, slipping the phone into her pocket.

“Yeah, the shower was great.”

“So you might be up to an outing?” Sarah scrunched up her face like she knew what she was suggesting was going to be painful. “My boss just called, and her sister has gone into labor, so she needs someone to supervise the caterers setting up for a party tonight.”

“You want me to come help you watch people set tables?” Dean asked.

“No, no. I was hoping you could drop me off at work, then take the car and pick up Sam when he’s done.”

“Yeah, I feel up for that,” Dean shrugged. “Let’s get out of here.”

Chapter Text

Sam kept pace with Castiel with little difficulty. He didn’t know, of course, that Cas was deliberately holding back so as not to outrun his friend. Cas was not a competitive person, and it suited him to have a companion while he ran, even when, as they were now, the two ran in silence. The rhythm of their feet on the dirt path was a balm to Cas’s conflicted mind. The desire to talk to Sam about his brother was something Castiel had to fight with every footfall, but he resisted the urge.

Eventually, it was Sam who broke the congenial silence. “Hey, Cas, you want to take the long route?” he asked, as they reached a fork in the path.

“Yes, I think so,” Cas stuttered, taken aback. “You’ve adjusted to calling me that very quickly.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess. I’ve just—I’ve known Jamie for two years; I’ve known Cas for twenty.”

“We met only once.” Cas squinted into the bright sunlight.

“Well, yeah, but Dean talked about you constantly for years; I grew up with your picture on the wall of our bedroom in Lawrence.”

“You saw a photo of me every day and you still didn’t recognize me when we met?” Cas laughed.

“Okay, first of all, you were, like, ten. And second, Dean has obsessively rewatched your episodes of Dr. Sexy dozens of times, and he didn’t recognize you either.”

“Point taken,” Cas deadpanned. A tiny thrill vibrated through him at the thought of Dean seeing him naked. He had to shake the thought off; he wasn’t interested in that kind of relationship with Dean.

“Actually,” Sam said, breaking into a rueful laugh. “I kind of hated you.”

“What?” Cas came to a sudden stop. “Why did you hate me?”

“I thought my big brother liked you better than me. I thought he wanted you as a brother instead of me. He talked about you all the time, man. It was years before I realized he did not like you as a brother.”

Oh,” Castiel exclaimed. Sam was speaking so simply about something that had affected Castiel’s life so profoundly.

Sam had the good grace to turn red, and not from sunburn. “Sorry, man, I thought you knew.”

“I didn’t.”

They ran on in silence, as Castiel’s mind worked over what Sam had admitted. Dean’s feelings had been the same as Castiel’s, all those years ago. It was almost too impossible to believe.

“Did Dean tell you he had feelings for me?” Castiel finally asked.

“Yeah, he did,” Sam said gently. “He told me a long time ago, a few months after we moved in with mom.”

“He genuinely said those words?” Cas asked. He didn’t mean to harass his friend, but he couldn’t make himself believe what he was saying was true.

“I mean, you know Dean, he probably hemmed and hawed about it, but yeah. He told me he was bisexual, then he told me he—I thought…I thought you guys must have been dating he was so torn up about you leaving.”

A wave of guilt swept over Cas, and he nearly missed that Sam had turned onto a new trail. He stumbled over his feet as he caught up with his friend. It was uncharacteristic of him, but it wasn’t every day that he learned his whole worldview was based on a misunderstanding.

“Has he had relationships with other men?” Cas asked, once their pace had steadied.

"Yeah,” Sam answered breezily. “He had a boyfriend a few years ago; things didn’t end well. He had a girlfriend before that; things didn’t end well there, either. He’s single now, though. I had a friend I wanted to set him up with; I thought they’d be really good together.”

Castiel felt a surge of jealousy at this unnamed friend Sam thought was good enough for Dean.

“Dude, I mean you.”


Sam chuckled. “I’ve been trying to set you up with my brother since we met. We’re probably only friends because you’re my brother’s type. I thought he’d take one look at you and move out here, and I could have my brother nearby for the first time in a decade.” When he saw the look on Castiel’s face, he cowered. “Hey, man, he’s my brother; it’s a compliment.”

“Yes, thank you,” he said dryly, still concerned about his gut reaction to finding out Dean might have a suitor.

Castiel’s phone interrupted their conversation, and Cas pulled it out of his armband only to see his agent’s name lit up on the screen.

“Something wrong?” Sam asked.

“My agent has been calling me all morning.”

“Shouldn’t you answer it?”

Cas let out a huge sigh. “I fucked up at work yesterday, and he must have heard about it. I don’t need to hear Adler yell at me today.” He touched ignore and put the phone back in its slot.

“Sure,” Sam muttered. He took a long gulp from his water bottle, passing it to Cas, who declined. His dry mouth wasn’t from lack of water.

“I don’t want a relationship, Sam,” he admitted.

“I know,” Sam sighed. “I thought you’d like my brother as much as he’d like you. And I’m not wrong. I know I’m not.”


“You didn’t see him after you disappeared. I’d never seen my brother cry before the morning mom called and told him you were gone. He thought you didn’t feel the same way, and he’s never gotten past the broken heart you left behind.”

Cas’s stomach seized. “I was supposed to call. I promised Mary, but I didn’t have the courage. I…”

“It’s okay, Cas, I know why you left so suddenly.”

Castiel stopped so abruptly that he tripped over his own feet and fell to the ground, putting out his hands to catch himself like an idiot. From his spot on the ground, he could see a trail of ants crossing the path looking for food dropped by hikers and overzealous tourists. Sam dropped to his knees beside him to help him up, but Cas found himself unable to move. Longing for a hit for the first time in months, he forced himself to take deep, steadying breaths and to focus on his friend’s comforting hand on his back.

“What do you know?” Cas finally croaked out. “What did Mary tell you?”

“No, no—mom didn’t say anything. I saw it on the news.”

“The news?” Cas stuttered, feeling disoriented and confused.

Sam tugged on Castiel’s arm as a runner only just avoided a collision with them. “Hey, let’s get out of the path,” he said and led Cas, stumbling and numb, to a narrow shoulder ten yards behind them.

Cas’s hands and knees were scraped and scuffed, tiny pieces of gravel and dirt trapped in the scratches. Sam dumped water from his water bottle over the palms, letting the cool liquid wash away the dirt. It stung, but Cas welcomed the pain; it was a much-needed distraction. Once his hands and knees were clean, Sam handed the bottle to Cas. He took a long gulp. The water dripped from the corners of his mouth and ran down to mingle with his sweat.

“What did you see on the news?” he gasped.

“A couple of years after we moved to Oklahoma, there was a news story about a local man with mob connections who was murdered—a hit. It was the guy your mom was going to marry. Did your mom find out what he was? Did he threaten you guys?”

“He did threaten us. Jamie Milton isn’t just my stage name; mother changed all of our names until he was found dead and we were safe.” Cas didn’t even need to lie, though he did stifle a sigh of relief. “Did you tell Dean what you figured out?”

“Yeah. I marched right into our room, where he was doing homework, and announced that I knew why you and your family had disappeared into the night. He…uh…he didn’t have a good reaction. I still have a scar.”

“A week later, I found a collection of newspaper articles about it where his porn collection usually was. I knew better than to bring it up again. I should have known better than to bring it up in the first place. He never talked about you after you left; seven years of nothing but Cas this and Cas that, then fifteen years of silence. He loved you, and he’s never gotten over losing you.”

“I never got over leaving him.”

Castiel dusted himself off, and they headed back to the parking lot, their run cut short by Cas’s scuffed hands and knees. He was left with an uneasy, queasy feeling. He forced himself to focus on Father Honorio’s words, how who he told about his past and what he told them was his choice. Sam didn’t know. He thought he knew, yes, but Cas’s secrets were still his own.

“You have to promise me you won’t talk to Dean about what you figured out,” Castiel said, as he let Sam into the passenger side door. His car might not have had fancy remote locks or any of that shit, but it could be kept running with nothing but a wrench and a wire hanger.

“I told you—I told him about it more than a decade ago.”

“Sam, promise.”

“You should talk to him about it.” Cas started the car, it took two tries for the engine to turn over. “And get a new car.”

“Shut up about my car,” Castiel replied briskly. “Do you think it was easy for me to leave Dean? That he was the only one with a broken heart? Dean may not have talked to you about me, but I’ve talked about him to every fucking shrink I’ve ever had—and not good things.” Cas let out a long, shaky sigh; he felt ripped apart and put back together wrong. “Did he tell you about last night?”

“No, he was still asleep when I left,” Sam stammered uneasily. “He’s probably still asleep. I guess last night was pretty rough?”

“Yes, it was eye-opening”—understatement—“If you think Dean should remain undisturbed, we could head to my apartment,” Cas offered. He knew how Dean must have felt, as the night before also weighed heavily on him. “I should have the ingredients for smoothies.”

“Yeah, great idea, man,” Sam chirped.

Sam seemed unreasonably happy for the frozen fruit and spinach waiting for them at the apartment, so Cas could only imagine that Dean was even more worse off than he had expected. Fifteen years of heartache bookended by kisses; one to hurt, perhaps one to heal? His mind still focused on Dean, Cas pulled out of the parking lot, and turned onto the road. The DJ on the radio was yammering on, so he turned off the sound with a swift motion. “Dean kissed me,” he blurted out.

Sam seemed unsure of what to say, as he sputtered a reply. “Dude, I’m sorry.”

Castiel’s hand automatically moved to his mouth; he could still feel the plump touch of Dean’s lips there. He could let himself have that one thing, he decided, absentmindedly letting his finger trace where Dean’s tongue had tasted.

“Okay,” Sam drawled, pulling Cas out of his reverie. “Guess I’m not sorry.” Feeling his cheeks redden, he turned onto the street that would take him home rather than towards Pasadena where Sam lived. He could sense Sam restlessly squirming in the passenger seat, desperate to ask for more details. “So why didn’t things end well?” he finally asked.

Castiel sighed, resigned. “Dean thought it was the first time. It wasn’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that Dean and I kissed when we were teenagers, which he didn’t remember and I wish I could forget.” He pulled into his space and bolted out of the car as soon as the engine was off.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Sam asked, as he followed Cas up the stairs.

“No. I talked to my priest. Talk to Dean if you want.”

“Dean won’t talk to me,” Sam said incredulously. “Especially not about you. I told you, man, he never talks about you.”

They reached Castiel’s floor, and as their voices carried through the door, Grace started pawing at the other side and meowing plaintively.

“She’s going to make a break for it,” he warned Sam, stationing him down the hall in case the cat got past Cas. As he opened the door, Grace darted out, but Cas caught her with practiced hands. She’d stopped wailing, and stared at him silently with an imperious glare. “You looking to be homeless, little girl? Let me tell you, it’s not all that glamorous; it’s rough out there on the streets. You refuse to use the litter box if you think someone is watching.”


“Oh, yes, you are very clever. I won’t put up posters looking for you, you know.”


She did one last halfhearted wriggle as Cas carried her through the door, waiting until Sam was also through and the door was safely shut before depositing her on the ground. She slid over to Sam and began to sniff at his ankles. He didn’t hold her interest long, and she continued on to her half-filled dry food bowl.

“You have a weird relationship with your cat.”

“I think you mean I have the best relationship with my cat,” Castiel countered. “She’s just mad because I left her alone all day yesterday and didn’t take her with me to the church today.” Grace let out a meow as if in agreement and turned back to her afternoon snack. “You were asleep!”

“Very weird, man,” Sam repeated.

“Why is everyone giving me grief about my cat? Do you want a smoothie or not?”

“Yeah,” Sam shrugged.

“Why don’t you start them; I’m going to piss.”

Once he was in the bathroom, he closed the door and pulled down his running shorts. Taking his cock in hand, he relieved himself, and let his mind wander.

Dean had been in love with him. Dean had wanted him the same way he had wanted Dean. Finding him again and learning about their old misunderstanding awakened such long suppressed feelings that it was overwhelming. What made it worse, of course, was that Dean had grown into a beautiful man. Castiel had simple tastes when it came to the people he was attracted to. He wasn’t attracted to gender; it had taken him years to understand that, confused therapists who wanted him to admit he was gay, and made coming out a whole lot more complicated. He wasn’t exactly bisexual, either, though it made for an easier explanation when people questioned him. He still preferred queer, even with all the negative connotations it had, because it was the thing he couldn’t handle being for so many years. A pretty face was a pretty face to him. Bright eyes, soft lips, high cheekbones, sculpted jaws; most of the people he slept with would have been beautiful no matter what gender.

And Dean fit right in.

All his thoughts of Dean had caused his dick to thicken in his hand. He’d even begun stroking it absentmindedly, and, with the acknowledgement of his arousal, it quickly grew to full mast. Sam was in the other room, and Castiel was fantasizing about his brother. He wondered what Dean looked like on his knees, his sinful mouth closed around the thick shaft, his eyes half closed and covered by dark lashes. Pre-come spurted out the tip, and Cas gathered it and spread it down the length without thinking, his strokes increasing in speed and force as he slid his foreskin over the sensitive head. Dean would probably never subjugate himself like that, however, he was too large and manly to bottom. He’d never let Cas inside him, where he was hot and tight and sensitive. Cas tightened his grip around the head of his cock, thrusting into the circle of his fingers, his imagination running wild in forbidden fantasies.

And then he was coming, his eyes whiting out with the force of it and crying out. He’d painted the toilet with thick ropes of cum and hoped that the buzz of the blender drowned out his cry of pleasure. It was going to be mortifying enough to face Sam after masturbating in the other room; it would only be worse if Sam had realized what he was doing and why.

Sparing a moment for the afterglow, he cleaned up himself and the bathroom and prepared to rejoin his friend. Guilt bubbled up as Sam’s smiling face greeted him with a glass full of green-tinged smoothie. Sam leaned his long body against the counter extension; it was a casual gesture, but it somehow seemed forced as if he was hiding something. Cas could hardly look his friend in the eye, realizing he’d been louder than he thought. Sam must think him some sexual deviant.

“So, I called Sarah to come and pick me up. She’ll be here in a few. I just told her to come up.”

“Oh shit, I’m gross. Let me change or even shower.” He plucked at his sweaty T-shirt, clinging to his shoulders and chest.

“Nah, man, Sarah doesn’t care. You look fine.”

Castiel shrugged and drank his smoothie in the single chair at the tiny table that didn’t even fit in his kitchen. There was no sound in the apartment except for their slurping and the occasional patter of Grace’s paws on the linoleum and the crunch of her food, so Cas could hear everything outside the room with perfect accuracy: the sounds of his neighbors arguing about money, the zoom of a motorcycle on the street below, and a street performer playing the guitar. The knock on the door, then, startled him and sent Grace running for the walk-in closet.

“That would be Sarah,” Sam said. “You want to get it? It’s your place.”

Castiel rolled his eyes as he crossed to his door, and threw it open. “Dean?” he breathed.

Dean’s hand was still poised, ready to knock again, and his green eyes were wide in surprise. “I…” he stammered.

“I was expecting Sarah,” Cas said, letting Dean off the hook. He stood aside so his old friend could enter the apartment, but Dean stayed frozen at the threshold. “Dean, come in.”

That seemed to snap Dean out of it, and he stormed into the apartment, his finger raised angrily towards Sam. “You!--I’m going to kill you, and I’m going to kill your girlfriend,” he shouted at his brother, before whipping around and calmly saying, “This was a set up, Cas, I would never just drop in uninvited.”

Castiel felt his face soften. “How are you feeling, Dean?”

“Like I’ve been put through a meat grinder.”

“Gabe has one of those in the kitchen; he grinds the meat for the burgers himself. One of the soux chefs nearly lost a finger in it last year.”

Dean tossed back his head and let out a guffaw, bright and happy, and Castiel could feel his heart clench at the sound of it.

“I fucking missed you, man,” Dean said, once his laughter had faded but his smile hadn’t.

“Okay,” Sam interrupted. “That is my cue to leave. Dean, keys?” he held his hand out, and Dean tossed him a set of keys. “See ya, Cas, do you mind driving him back to his hotel later? Or not.”

He pushed past them with a wink, and then was out the door, leaving them alone in awkward silence.

“So this is where you live?” Dean asked.

“Yes, it’s small, but it’s home.” He took in the small studio. They were still standing near the door, where the extension of Cas’s counter created a small entry way. One step backwards and Cas would be in the only open area of the room where he worked out when he couldn’t get to the gym. Three more steps and he would be tripping over his bed, falling backward into the tangle of sheets.

Fortunately, Dean was preoccupied looking over the bookshelves to his right to notice Cas’s blush at the direction his thoughts were heading. “No, it’s great, man,” he said. He pulled a few books out and looked them over. “I read this one, too. It was so good. I’m thinking of teaching it to my juniors next year.”

“You don’t think the sex scene in chapter four is too much for highschoolers?” Cas asked, his voice cracking as he realized his mind was going towards sex again.

“Nah, everyone likes a little sex,” Dean chuckled. “Or a big—a lot—of sex.” His eyes traveled down Castiel’s body; Cas could feel the blush returning to his cheeks. Dean’s gaze stopped briefly at Cas’s crotch, his tongue slipping out to lick at his full bottom lip, before his eyes roamed up again. “Holy fuck, you’re hot,” he muttered.

Dean,” Cas scolded.

“What?” he grinned. “I know I fucked up last night. I should have said me, too or something supportive instead of—you know—kissing you.”

“It’s okay, Dean. Sam told me.”

“Yeah? He also tell you he and Sarah were trying to set us up last night?”


Dean left the books on the shelf and walked into the open space of the apartment. He began to pace, just a few steps each direction before he reached a wall, and ran a hand through his hair.

“I mean—is it such a terrible idea? We were the best friends there ever were. Inseparable. And now you’re grown and you’re gorgeous and smart and funny, and have the best ass I’ve ever seen, and I would want to date you even if you were Jamie and not Cas. I literally read for a living, I’m pretty fucking hot myself, and my brother is your best friend. It’s fate, Cas. We were meant to be together. We were meant to find each other again.”

He felt sick. Fifteen years before, he would have given up anything to hear these things come out of Dean’s mouth. He’d comforted himself after his disaster of a fifteenth birthday, listening to the songs Dean had picked for him, with feverish dreams that Dean would bust into his darkened room and tell him that he loved him, that he wanted him, that they were the same and felt the same way. Over the years, in the Cas who had struggled with what Crowley had done to him, with the self-hatred and disgust that had gone along with that, something had shifted inside him. He wasn’t capable of loving someone else—not romantically, not anymore.

Facing the de facto love of his life, Castiel could barely get the words out. Dean’s eyes were bright and innocent, and Cas knew he had to crush that optimism.

“No, Dean, we weren’t.”

Chapter Text

Dean didn’t let Cas’s negativity get to him. Cas was stubborn, sure, but Dean had always been more stubborn; he’d been able to convince Cas of all sorts of things when they were kids. This was just a minor road block.

“Okay, fine,” he conceded. “It wasn’t fate. It was a series of random coincidences, but who the fuck cares, man. You’re here now, and I’m here now, and I know you felt something when I kissed you last night.”

“Dean,” Cas said gently. “I’ve never been in a relationship. I wouldn’t know how. I fuck strangers, then I lose their numbers. I’m not anything you’d want.”

Dean looked him over again, letting his eyes take in Cas’s sculpted collarbone peeking out from the worn-out collar of his T shirt, his developed biceps and sinewy forearms ending in large hands that Dean wanted all over him—in him. “I think I’d disagree,” he joked.

Cas let out a huff of annoyance. The apartment was tiny, maybe 200 square feet, so there wasn’t anywhere he could go to get away from Dean, but he looked like he wanted to. Actually, he looked like he wanted a shower; a triangle of sweat made his T-shirt cling sensually to his smooth chest. It was a really bad idea, however, to imagine Cas in the shower, as Dean had a very vivid picture in his mind, plus years of fantasies inspired by it, including one not hardly an hour before.

“You should take a shower, man,” Dean finally admitted.

“While you’re here?” Cas narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

“Yeah,” Dean shrugged. “It’s your place. You should be comfortable. I’ll amuse myself by looking through your nightstand drawers and checking under your bed for the good porn.”

Cas’s eyes grew impossibly narrower.

“I’ll avail myself of your outstanding library over here, dude.” Dean gestured to the bookshelf behind him. “Unless that’s where you keep your porn.”

“Actually, it is where I keep my porn,” Cas smirked. “Are you sure? It’s sort of personal, isn’t it?”

“I think I can handle you showering in another room, Cas,” Dean scoffed, though he was pretty sure he couldn’t.

Cas shrugged, shaking his head, turned into the bathroom, and shut the door. A few seconds later, Dean could hear the sounds of running water. He needed to distract himself—quickly—so he moved to the bookshelf and began to peruse the shelves again. It was almost eerie how similar their tastes still were. Cas had at least three of the books Dean had brought on vacation with him. Dean pulled the one he’d read on the plane off the shelf, and Cas had scrawled little notes in pencil along the margins. Some of the notes were insightful analyses, while on one page Cas had written what a dick next to every line spoken by one of the characters.

Chuckling to himself, he put the book back on the shelf and continued to scan Cas’s collection. He came across The Failure of Sparrows, a book he loved so much he read if four times. It, too, was filled with scribbles and notes, clearly the result of multiple read throughs, some of it crossed out and newer notes underlined. There was some really perceptive character stuff, and Dean found himself thinking about the book in new ways. He reluctantly reshelved it, taking a few more books to browse through.

Then he saw it, the oldest book on the shelf, worn, dogeared, with the spine bent and broken. He picked it up reverently and cradled it in his hands like it was as precious as the ring was to Gollum. He was so focused on the book in his hands that he didn’t notice the water shut off or the door to the bathroom open.

“Dean,” Cas’s voice interrupted his reverie. “Dean, are you alright?”

Dean whipped around, book still in his trembling hands. The sight that met his eyes wiped all thoughts of the long-lost book from his mind.

Cas was still damp from the shower, towel draped low on his hips. His body was perfect: lean, muscular, and defined. Dean let his eyes trace from his broad shoulders down to his cut hipbones. A few of his tattoos were visible, a rosary on his collarbone, some writing low on his ribs, and a glimpse of something black under his arm.

“Dean, are you alright?” Cas repeated. “You were shaking.”

“I was?”

“Yes.” Cas made an aborted attempt to close the distance between them but seemed to think better of it.

“I’m fine. Just a little emotional. It’s been a long time.”

Cas smiled a small smile. “I’m going to get dressed, then,” he said, gesturing the door next to the bathroom that was probably a closet.

“Yeah, sure, go ahead.”

Cas turned around, so Dean got a look at his back tattoo. Following the contours of his muscled shoulders, there was a set of wings that seemed to be made out of pale smoke. Dean recognized the shape from Dr. Sexy, but Cas’s own tattoo was ten times more beautiful than what the show had done to it. Swirling shades of blue, rather than the harsh black and red his character had, danced across his back. Dean longed to reach out and touch, to trace his fingers along the muscle.

Once Cas closed the door behind him, Dean let out a shaky breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He was completely fucked. In the closet—no pun intended—Cas was talking low; Dean wondered if he’d made a phone call. If he did, it didn’t last long, because he became quiet almost immediately, and, a few seconds later, the door opened.

While Cas’s choice in clothes was arguably an improvement over his previous half-nakedness, Dean was not prepared for his friend to emerge looking so hot. It was just a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, but the jeans were tight enough that Dean pointedly avoided looking at Cas’s crotch. The T-shirt was also tight, exposing the tattoo on the underside of Cas’s arm. As he raised his arm to run a hand through his damp hair, Dean could finally discern that the tattoo was a feather.

“What’s that?” Cas asked, indicating the book Dean had forgotten he was holding.

“Just getting reacquainted with another old friend.”

Cas slid up next to him; he smelled sweet and clean. Dean found it intoxicating. Cas gently took the book from him, turning it over and examining it like he was the one who’d just been reunited with an old favorite. “Do you still…?”

“Yeah,” Dean breathed. “Charlie, too.”

Cas nodded emphatically in approval, but put the book back on the shelf. “It’s survived a lot.”

Dean had a funny feeling Cas wasn’t talking about the book. “I, uh, flipped through a couple of your books. When did you start writing in the margins?”

“Did you not get the note I left you?”

“Of course, I saw your note, but what—“ He stopped as he realized what Cas was suggesting and picked up The Failure of Sparrows again. “Cas, do you mean—all these notes are for me?”

“Yes,” Cas blushed. “I didn’t have anyone to share books with anymore, so I made do. I never expected you to see any of them.”

“Okay, then. Well, this is my favorite book of the last five years, so I am taking this and I am reading it.”

Cas let out a soft laugh. “They’re talking about making a movie. I’d be willing to kill someone to be cast as Tucker.”

“Not David?”

“David is straightforward. I love him, but I wouldn’t want to play him. Tucker is deep, interesting—“

“Crazy,” Dean finished.

“Perhaps. Read my margin notes and we’ll talk.”

“Yeah, okay.” Dean could hardly keep the smile off his face. This was what had been missing from his life for so long. It felt like Cas slipped right back into his old spot as if the years between hadn’t happened.

“Dean,” Cas scolded, like he had read Dean’s mind.

Dean sputtered, feeling caught in the act. “I’ve been a terrible boyfriend. I cheated on my ex-girfriend, and it was stupid, but I know why I’ve ruined every relationship I’ve ever had. I know it’s because I have never wanted to be with anyone but you.”

“I told you—“

“You’re wrong,” Dean insisted, his eyes watering. “I still love you—I’ll always love you.”

“You don’t even know me.” Cas’s face scrunched up painfully; he turned away from Dean as if he didn’t want him to see the emotions written so plainly on it. “I’m not the same person I was when I was fifteen. I’ve been through shit, Dean. I’ve done things you can’t even imagine; I’ve had things done to me that… I’m not someone who’s easy to love.”

Dean put his hand softly against Cas’s jaw and pulled his face forward. “I don’t believe that. Gabe loves you. Sam loves you.”

Cas sighed, but his face softened. “Then learn to love me as they do—like a brother, a friend.”

“Friends with benefits?” Dean suggested, waggling his eyebrows.

Cas narrowed his eyes, tilting his head in that familiar way. “You’d be okay with that?”

No, not at all. Not even a little bit.

“Yeah. I’m a grown adult, you’re a grown adult. I’m hot, you’re really hot. We could fuck—no strings attached.”

Cas still looked like he didn’t believe a word of Dean’s blatant lies. “No,” he said thoughtfully, shaking his head. “I don’t think that will work. I’ve fucked friends before, but I think there’s too much baggage between us.”

“Wow, Cas, way to be nice and rational about it.”

Cas whipped towards him; Dean swayed in the force of it.

“Okay, Dean, do you want me to bend you over my kitchen table; let you feel every inch of my big dick?”—Dean sputtered and coughed—“ I didn’t think so,” Cas barked, misunderstanding Dean’s reaction. “I don’t get fucked, Dean! So, if you’ve been fantasizing about spreading my ass and having a go, you’re just going to have to move on.”

“I…” Dean hesitated. “I don’t—I don’t want to use you, Cas.”

The fire immediately drained out of him, and he looked at Dean with soft eyes. “Of course, you don’t. I didn’t mean…”

Dean reached out and touched Cas’s arm; his hand brushed smooth skin and firm muscle. “It’s okay, man. I know I’m coming on a little strong. I just wish I’d had the balls to say something a long time ago.”

“Would we have ended up as nothing but a blip in a lifetime of partners?” Cas shrugged. “Perhaps it’s better nothing ever happened between us. We can be friends now.”

Dean shook his head. “I know you think that, Cas, but I also know how it felt to kiss you, and that did not feel like friends.”

“You’re simplifying things, Dean,” Cas said grumpily.

“That’s because it is simple!” Dean countered.

“I have a cat.” Cas looked as if that was the most serious thing in the world.

“Okay—that’s cool,” Dean shrugged.

“I really love my cat.”

As if on cue, a fluffy, gray cat skulked out of the closet, trailing a pair of blue boxer briefs stuck to one of her back paws. She shook them off and entwined herself around Dean’s feet, meowing and probably covering Dean with her dander.

“They do make allergy pills, Cas. It’s…cute.”

Cas closed his eyes against some emotion. He really did love that cat.

“I also have a kid.”

What? Like a goat? Dean was glad he didn’t say that out loud because, of course, Cas didn’t mean a goat. He meant a person. A little person. Dean found himself looking around the room like a crying toddler was going to stumble out of the closet, too.

“She lives with her mother, Dean.”

She. Cas had a daughter. “Oh, right,” Dean mumbled, bending down mindlessly to pet the cat still entwined around his ankles.

“Claire is eight; she and her mother live in Illinois, about twenty minutes from my mother, who is a doting grandmother.”

It took a moment for Dean to do the math; his mind was reeling. “Dude, eight years old? You’re twenty-eight; you’ve been a dad since you were twenty?!”

Cas ran a hand through his hair, making it more disheveled. “I haven’t ever been a dad. I met my daughter last year, when her mother contacted me through the courts. It was a one-time thing at a party in college; Amelia wasn’t even a student—she was visiting her sister. Of course, her parents kicked her out when she got pregnant, and she struggled for years as a single parent while I fucked the entire West coast high as a kite.”

“Cas…” Dean groaned. His head was spinning at Cas’s admission.

“I’m a stranger to my child, just like my dad was to me. The sole reason I know her is because her mother also watches Dr. Sexy, only she recognized me when she saw me.”

“I’ve got to sit down,” Dean breathed. The first thing he spotted in the small apartment was Cas’s bed, so he stumbled over the cat and fell onto it. The cat followed and jumped onto his lap, begging for attention. Petting it calmed him, so he scratched behind its ears. Cas’s bed was clean and warm and smelled like him, sweet and musky, so Dean let himself fall on his side and bury his head in Cas’s pillow. The cat followed and snuggled up against him.

A soft hand through Dean’s hair further calmed him.

“I told you that I’m not anyone you want to tie yourself to,” Cas murmured. “I ruin lives.”

“I know that’s not true,” Dean countered weakly. “I know you.”

“I’ve changed.” Cas crouched next to the bed, his hand continuing to brush through Dean’s hair.

“Not in here,” he whispered, pointing to Cas’s chest.

“When did you become a sentimental fool?”

“Around the same time you became a cynical asshole,” Dean chuckled and reached behind himself to pat the bed. Cas’s cat meowed in annoyance at the loss of his petting hand. “Get with the program, Novak, your cat is losing patience.”

Cas sighed and crossed to the foot of the bed, where he climbed behind Dean. “She doesn’t usually like strangers.”

“See, your cat knows we belong together—I’m not a stranger.” Dean pulled at Cas’s arm until it wrapped around him.

“This doesn’t feel especially platonic, Dean. We appear to be cuddling.”

“Humor me,” Dean growled. “And we’re not cuddling, we’re spooning. Grown men don’t cuddle.”

Cas harrumphed grumpily, but tightened his arm around Dean’s waist anyway.

Chapter Text

Dean woke up to warmth at his back and the ringing of his phone.

“Is that ‘Smoke on the Water?’” a deep voice asked blearily.

“Geez, yeah.” He fumbled for his phone, which was still in his pocket, onehanded. Cas’s cat was still asleep, curled up in the crook of Dean’s arm, so he didn’t want to disturb it. “Hello?”

“Hi, honey,” his mom’s voice came through the line. “Was there anything you wanted to call me and tell me about?”

“Hey, Mom,” Dean said meekly.

“Mary?” Cas shot up like a rocket next to him, and Dean was instantly embarrassed. He’d pretty much asked Cas to hold him while he freaked out over Cas having a kid. Dean sat up as well, waking up and dislodging the cat, who trotted off to the kitchen for a snack.

“Does this mean you talked to Sam?”

Behind him, Cas stood up. He stepped into the bathroom and shut the door. Dean’s own bladder complained about their impromptu nap, but he thought Cas might have been giving him a bit of privacy.

“He called me this morning; I suppose you’ve been preoccupied? My boys back together.” Dean could hear her sniffling, emotion coloring her voice. Again, he was reminded how other people had also missed Cas all these years. He’d been selfish and arrogant not to remember how his mother had also loved Cas.

“Yeah, it’s been a crazy day,” he answered. Less than twenty-four hours before, he hadn’t had idea Cas was about to be back in his life.

“Tell me about him. What kind of man is our Cas?”

Cas had finished the in the bathroom and was in the kitchen at the narrow fridge. He’d made a cursory effort to fix his hair, but it still looked like it had been slept on while still damp. Dean had to stifle the thoughts it created as he was on the phone with his mom.

“I just met him again, Mom. Ask Sam.”

“I know all about Jamie, Dean. I’ve been hearing about how wonderful he is for nearly two years. Your brother never knew our Cas. Is he still the same?”

Cas came back and put a glass of ice water in Dean’s hand. He took a long gulp as he thought of an answer; it cooled and rejuvenated him.

“Uh, yeah, I guess. He’s still stubborn, and over-dramatic, and too hard on himself.”

From across the room, Cas sent him an unhappy glare. His throat worked as he drank from his own glass, distracting Dean from Mary’s phone call as the long line of Cas’s neck undulated.

“He’s shorter than me,” Dean continued, furthering Cas’s dangerous glare.

Not where it counts Cas mouthed, and Dean nearly dropped the phone. Cas’s head was bent back in a silent cackle when his own phone started to ring from his pocket.

“Mother?” Castiel said into the phone.

“Hello, Castiel, dear. How are you?”

“I’m fine. I suppose Gabriel called you, too.”

Her manner changed instantly. “No, why would Gabriel call me especially? Is there something wrong?”

"No, no, of course, not, Mother, everything is fine,” Cas reassured her. “Why did you call?”

With all due respect to his mother, she wasn’t the person he would have preferred to be speaking to. Mary Campbell had been like a second mother, only Castiel had walked out of her life years earlier. Dean had lowered his voice, probably because Castiel had teased him. It was dangerous, this line they’d been walking all afternoon, and Castiel had to be careful that the chemistry between them didn’t combust. He didn’t want to ruin their friendship before it had a chance to blossom.

“I had a lovely visit with Claire, today. Were you aware that she still calls you Cas?”

“What else is she supposed to call me?”

“Father? Dad?” She said the word emphasizing a flat, midwestern vowel; it sounded foreign in her clipped, formal speech. She had, of course, never been mom or ma but had always been mother.

“Not having this conversation,” Cas complained. “Not now.” Dean was still having what seemed to be a pleasant talk with his mother, promising her photos of the two of them together.

“What’s wrong? You said everything was fine.”

“Yes—Dean is here.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Dean Campbell. My Dean. He’s here.”

“In Los Angeles?”

“In my apartment.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“No! Mother! Why would you…?” He pressed his free hand to his forehead.

“Well, it’s not uncommon. You have an illegitimate daughter.”

“That’s not…” Castiel stammered. “A miracle walked back into my life and all you can do is accuse me of being a slut.”

His mother let out a long sigh. “Honestly, Castiel, you wear your promiscuity like a badge of honor; pardon me for assuming that the long-lost object of adolescent obsession would earn a spot on your to-do list.”

“I don’t want to sleep with Dean; I want my best friend back.”

“Hold on, Mom,” Dean said into the phone. “Cas is also talking to his mom.”

…And I want to hear what he’s saying.

“Cas is there now?”

“Uh, yeah, we’re at his place catching up.”

“Why am I talking to you, then, silly?!” his mom laughed.

“Sure.” Dean joined her in laughter. “Hey, Cas?” he shouted across the room.

Cas lowered his phone. It was one of those fancy new iPhones, so it wasn’t like he could cover the speaker or anything. “Yes?” he said, his voice hinting at barely contained frustration.

“My mom wants to talk to you.” He held out his phone. Cas approached it like it was a wild animal that might freak out and bite him.

As he held out his hand to take Dean’s phone, Cas put his own back up to his ear. “Mother, Dean would like to say hello.”

They exchanged phones, but Cas didn’t put the phone up to his ear. Instead, he picked up his cat from where it was batting at his jacket’s zipper and took the phone into the bathroom. Over the silence in the room, Dean could hear the lock click.

Dean put the phone up to his own ear uneasily. “Uh, hey, Mrs. Novak.”

“Hello, my dear,” the familiar voice said. “I’m very happy Castiel found you again.”

If that was true, it definitely didn’t sound like it through the phone.

“I’m still reeling from it, ma’am,” he answered. He forgot how intimidating Cas’s mom could be. When they were kids, she’d always seemed to like him. Cas had clearly been through some shit over the years; perhaps her overprotectiveness of her second son had grown more intense.

“I think you could call me Naomi, Dean.” She said it with more gentleness than he would have expected. “You’re not a child anymore.”

“Neither is Cas.”

“No, he isn’t. He’s a complicated man, Dean. This isn’t some adolescent crush anymore.”

The bottom fell out of the Dean’s stomach. He stammered incoherently into the phone.

“My son says he doesn’t want a sexual relationship with you,” Naomi interrupted. “I suggest you honor his request.”

“Mary,” Castiel sighed into the phone, his voice echoing in his tiny bathroom.

“You sound older,” she said wistfully.

“I feel ancient—I’m just twenty-eight.”

Grace found the roll of toilet paper and began to gleefully unroll it into a neat pile next to Cas’s foot. He didn’t stop her; she deserved her fun, even if he was going to have to clean it up later.

“I still picture you as that sweet little boy who came over to do the dishes and change the litter box—the best friend my Dean could ever have.” She sighed.

“I wish I was still a kid. Things would be easier, life would be less complicated, I could do some things over.” He patted Grace’s head while she fought with the pile of toilet paper she’d made. She turned around and gave him an inscrutable look before prancing over and settling in the space between his legs. He stroked her head as she purred.

“I know what you mean,” Mary said. “I think all of us would have done some things differently. In our own lives, and…well, the adults in your life failed you, sweetheart.”

“Not you. Not mother. I never blamed… What…happened…still doesn’t excuse my behavior. I’ve fucked up for years.”

“Shhh,” Mary’s voice came through the phone in soothing whispers. Cas’s eyes began to well up, which pissed him off. He shouldn’t have to spare another thought for that monster, let alone any of his tears. It wasn’t fair; he’d ruined everything.

“Mary,” he sobbed. “I was going to call Dean. I wanted to call him, but I was too fucked up. I would have had to tell him, and, if I told him, he’d know it was my fault. He’d know that Crowley only—he only chose me because I was queer.”

“I have no interest in forcing Cas to do anything he doesn’t want to do,” Dean said coldly. He’d heard Cas’s side of the conversation—enough, at least, to know that Naomi had turned it around on Dean, when it was Cas she had been admonishing.

“I’ll hold you to that.”

Dean was desperate to change the subject. “I saw Gabe. You must be proud. The restaurant is fantastic.”

“Yes, we’re all very proud of Gabriel. He’s done well for himself.” Her voice was as clipped as always, but the fondness for her oldest son was obvious nonetheless.

“And Hannah?” Dean asked.

“Hannah is a police officer in Seattle. They—I assume Castiel mentioned his sister’s gender issues?”

“Uh, no.”

“My youngest child does not always feel comfortable with the gender attributed to them at birth. We use the pronouns they and them to describe Hannah unless she has expressed a preference at the time. My daughter is sometimes my son.”

“Okay,” Dean said, though he had the feeling Naomi was less than okay herself about Hannah’s gender preferences. He was pretty familiar with that, being bi. Straight people didn’t get it, and often the LGBT+ community didn’t get it either.

“They foster orphaned kittens when they’re not working.”

“I guess your family is full of cat people, then,” Dean quipped.

“Yes, they were inspired by their brother rescuing those kittens a few years ago. He kept one, you know.”

“I know. I’ve met it”—and slept with it curled in his arms as he was curled in Cas’s arms.

“And his daughter?” Naomi asked.

“Well, I haven’t made it to Illinois, yet, but he did tell me about her,” Dean answered. “I understand you and Claire are very close.”

“Yes. She’s my first grandchild. I think she’s likely to be my only grandchild, given my children’s proclivities.”

“I don’t think…” Dean stammered, offended by her bluntness. He had to take a second to calm his breathing, reminding himself that Naomi was being cautious for Cas’s sake. She had never been a bigot; Cas as a kid had been open and loving to all people because his mother had raised him that way. She was trying to scare Dean off; he realized that and couldn’t blame her for her protectiveness. Cas had gone through a lot of shit, but he had come out on the other side. Dean didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize Cas’s recovery process, either. If Cas didn’t feel he was in a position to have a romantic relationship with Dean, then Dean was just going to have to suck it up and deal with it.

“Dean?” Naomi’s voice came through his thoughts.

“Yeah, sorry, got distracted. My mom is pretty anxious herself about grandkids. Sam says he won’t even think about starting a family until he’s got his career on track.”

“And you? Do you want children?”

“Yeah. I do.”

“Don’t think like that,” Mary soothed. “It was not your fault. It could never possibly be your fault. Crowley was a predator; everything was his fault.”

Cas wiped the tears from his eyes; Grace stood on her hind legs and helped, licking the tear tracks from his cheeks. He nuzzled into the contact.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been through enough therapy that I shouldn’t have those thoughts anymore.” Seeing Dean again had brought back so many feelings, most of them good, but it was only inevitable that the bad would join in. “Did you know Dean was in love with me?”

“Yes. Things were rough for a while after you had to move away. His dad…” She paused, thoughtful. “Has Dean told you about his father?”

“No—I…” There had been enough said between the lines throughout his childhood that Cas knew that John Winchester had been a bigoted asshole. He’d accused Dean of being the same when he’d misunderstood Dean’s interest in his sexuality. For the first time, however, he realized that something horrible had brought Dean to live with his mom. Mary had tried for years to gain custody of her sons, failing every time. For her to succeed must have taken something terrible happening. “What did John do to him?”

“I can’t—I won’t tell Dean’s secrets any more than I’ll tell him yours, sweetheart.”

Something seized in Cas’s gut at her words. He couldn’t tell Dean what had been done to him; telling Dean meant reliving the worst thing to ever happen to him.

When Cas stepped out of the bathroom, Dean’s phone was in his hand, so he and Mary must have hung up, just as Dean and Naomi had.

“Your mother says goodbye,” Cas uttered.

“Did you know you have seven missed voice mails on your phone?” he said, snickering at Cas’s continued inability to return a phone call. Dean didn’t pry; it wasn’t his business who was calling Cas so desperately. When Cas didn’t answer, Dean realized he looked like he’d been crying. “You okay, buddy?”

Cas walked over to where Dean was still sitting on the bed, dropped Dean’s phone next to him, and pressed his forehead against Dean’s. Dean rubbed his hand on the back of Cas’s neck soothingly.

"Can we get out of here?” Cas asked softly, his breath warm against Dean’s face.

“Yeah, sure,” Dean stammered, feeling rather shaky himself. “What do you want to do?”

“I could eat,” Cas shrugged.

Dean’s stomach gave a noticeable growl, as if on cue; the tension broke and they both laughed.

“Maybe you have something I could borrow? I don’t want to be seen looking like an idiot in my giant brother’s clothes.” He pulled at his oversized clothes, which had become twisted and stretched during their impromptu nap and snuggle. He suppressed a shudder at the memory of Cas’s body warm behind his. He was going to stay just friends with Cas if it killed him—it probably would.

Cas pulled away just enough to take in Dean’s attire, leaving him breathless and dizzy. “I figured this was just how you dressed for casual occasions,” Cas deadpanned, a tiny smirk on his gorgeous face.

“Shut up,” Dean grinned, watching Cas’s face alight in a true smile.

“I’ll get you something,” he said, crossing the room towards the closet, leaving Dean alone while he sorted through his wardrobe.

“Nothing pink!” Dean shouted.

“You’d look lovely in pink,” Cas joked as he came out of the closet. “I’ve got a thirty-six and an old pair of thirty-fours.”

Dean reached out and grabbed the smaller pair of jeans with greedy hands. He checked the inseam length, and it was blessedly his own. He dropped Sam’s overly long, overly large jeans right there without thinking, pulling his belt out of the loops with a flourish.

“Just let me—“Cas stuttered. “Uh, I’ll see if my neighbor’s kids want to play with Grace while we’re out.” He took his phone from the nightstand where Dean had set it. Dean resisted giving a little wiggle with Cas in such close proximity again.

“Grace?” Dean asked, his pants still on the floor. He stepped into the new jeans and pulled them up.

“My cat.” Cas pointedly wouldn’t look at him, which was utterly adorable, and he snuck into the bathroom to call his neighbor or something.

“Right,” Dean nodded. The T-shirts Cas had were all a little snug on Dean, but the button-down he chose, a charcoal gray, fit perfectly except for the sleeves being an inch too short. He rolled them up, since it was hot anyway, so all was well.

When Cas emerged from the bathroom with his wriggling cat in one hand, he gave Dean an appreciative eyebrow raise and grabbed his keys from the table to throw them at Dean. “Meet me in the parking lot? I’ve got to get this little lady into her carrier and collect all her paraphernalia.”

“Yeah, sure.” Dean laughed. “Uh, what’s your make, model, and color.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Cas smirked.

Dean followed Cas’s directions to the resident parking lot, where he found a sea of Prius’s. His stomach turned as he imagined Cas’s car being one of those practical, hideous things. It would make things a lot easier, though, to stay just friends with Cas if he drove an LA car. Then he spotted it, a shitty old Lincoln. It had to have been from the seventies if it was a day, but someone obviously kept it lovingly washed and detailed.

Dean slipped the key into the lock and the driver’s door opened. He recognized the car from somewhere distant and hazy, but he couldn’t figure out how it was burned into his memory when he couldn’t recall anyone who had one. Dean unlocked the car from inside the driver’s side door, and made his way around the car to the passenger’s side, examining the car as he circled it. A ’78 Lincoln Continental, Mark V—why was this so familiar and why did Cas seem to know Dean would recognize it? He sat in the passenger’s seat, the windows rolled down, and tried to figure out how he knew the car.

“What do you think of her?” Cas’s voice said as the driver’s door opened.

“I…” Dean stammered. “I think I had a toy of this car when I was a kid.”

“Yes.” Cas looked at him with bright eyes. “You gave it to me. Check the glove compartment.”

Dean complied, finding the little toy car. Somewhere in a box in his attic was the little metal model of his Baby that he’d long ago forgotten about from the same set of classic cars. “Fuck, I’d forgotten.”

“Well, I hadn’t. I played with that thing every day for a year. I love this car. Your brother hates it.”

“My brother sucks. It’s a great car.”

“The transmission is shot, and she doesn’t work when it rains, but she’s never failed me when I needed her.” Cas ran his hands lovingly over the dashboard and seats. Dean had never quite been jealous of a car before, watching Cas caress it. He probably deserved it, though; he finally understood what Lisa had meant when she said he loved his car more than he loved her.

“I can take a look at her transmission. I helped rebuild my Baby when I was a teenager, and I do all her maintenance.”

“Thank you, Dean. Would tomorrow work? I have a toolkit.”

Dean’s heart soared as Cas put the car into gear—after three tries—and pulled out onto the road. He had his best friend back and he wasn’t ever going to let him go. Even if that meant never getting to be with the love of his life.

Chapter Text

Cas balanced the phone against his shoulder, as he reached for a bottle of dish detergent. “Hold on,” he said, knocking over a spray bottle of window cleaner. It dribbled onto the floor, and he wiped it up with a damp paper towel he’d grabbed for the purpose. Grace was safely sleeping in her favorite laundry pile, but she’d lick up anything that looked interesting, so he had to be careful. He’d actually put childproof locks on all the lower cabinets to keep her out of them. “Okay, I’m back.”

“What are you up to?” Lily asked through the phone.

“He’s coming over today; he’s going to work on my car. I’ve got a toolkit somewhere back here.” He moved a few more bottles and found the toolbox he was looking for.

“Is that such a good idea?” Her tone of voice was pointed.

“You’re not my mother, you’re my sponsor, Lily,” Cas countered. He had to take everything out of the cabinet to get the toolbox out. He hoped that the tools would work for what Dean needed to do; otherwise, he’d made a mess of his kitchenette for no reason. He supposed it needed a cleaning out anyway.

“You’re the one who called me, telling me how this old friend had reawakened all sorts of complicated emotions, making you feel vulnerable,” Lily scolded.

Castiel sighed in irritation. The sometimes antagonistic relationship he had with Lily made her a better sponsor for him, as she always challenged him, but it was just as often a source of frustration. He still remembered approaching her at a meeting and asking if she would be interested in sponsoring him. She’d told him that it was recommended that a sponsor be someone he’d not be attracted to, so she’d only be his sponsor if he were gay. Really, explaining his sexuality to her had marked the first time he’d come out as an adult, at least when he was sober. The thing was, every time Lily had spoken at meetings, it was about her beloved husband and their daughter and how getting clean was for them, so Cas had asked her whether she’d ever cheat on her husband. Perhaps it had been a cowardly move, to put the responsibility of it on her, but he’d joined Narcotics Anonymous after a fall off the wagon, and he wasn’t strong enough at the time to police himself. A happily married woman had seemed the safest option, and it had worked out for him, as he’d been clean ever since. It was still difficult, however, to deal with her unique method of sponsorship.

“Because I need help dealing with him being a part of my life again, not criticism.”

“I’m not criticizing you; I’m not even suggesting you don’t spend time with him. I just think that you're putting yourself in a situation where one of your triggers will be constantly poked at. You have told me time and time again that your addiction was born when you were a teenager. I’m concerned about you being faced with this again.”

Cas started putting all the bottles back, leaving out what was expired or disgusting, which he dumped out into the sink and threw into the recycling. “Which of the twelve steps is avoidance?”

Lily huffed in annoyance. “Illegitimate daughter, increased financial responsibilities but a dead-end career, the knowledge that fifteen million people have seen your—“

“Okay, yeah, I get your point,” Cas interrupted. “I still think you’re wrong, but I understand what you’re saying.”

“You coming to a meeting this week?”

“I’m working fourteen-hour days this week,” he replied testily, standing up and balancing his phone against his shoulder again so he could wash his hands. “There’s an AA meeting among the crew; they won’t mind if I come by.”

“Good. I’ll see you Friday,” Lily said. He could hear her daughter in the background, asking for waffles for breakfast. “I want to meet him.”

“Okay,” Cas relented with a sigh. He said his goodbyes and let Lily get back to her family. His phone chirped with another alert that he’d missed a call from his agent, but he still couldn’t deal with Adler, so he turned it to silent and slipped it into his pocket. He poured himself another cup of coffee, hoping it would soothe his nerves. He’d gotten up early to go to 7:30 Mass, earning a small smile from Father Honorio for his trouble. His stomach rumbled as he hadn’t yet eaten anything other than coffee, but he’d depleted his groceries. He didn’t expect Dean until just before lunch, so there was enough time to purchase some food.

He took the car to the closest Ralph’s. He would have jogged, as it was hardly over a mile, but he wanted to pick up some frozen foods to have on hand and didn’t want them to melt on the jog home. As he stood in the aisles, he found himself wondering what Dean would want to eat for lunch. As a kid, he’d eschewed all vegetables, but tastes changed. Cas hated avocados when he was young; now he couldn’t get enough of them. Dean had liked Gabriel’s burgers, but Cas couldn’t cook like his brother could. Frozen burgers would be an insult, and his usual lunch of salad was out of the question.

He was standing in front of the crackers when it hit him; he could make Gabriel’s mushroom soup with buttered crackers. Maybe it was too hot for soup, but he could make a couple of sandwiches to go with it, and a salad for himself. He grabbed a box of saltines from the shelf, then mushrooms and onions for the soup and his usual purchase of veggies and greens for salads and smoothies. He got milk, cream, and butter—the latter two not being things he usually bought himself—and the makings of sandwiches from the deli. He picked himself a robust wheat bread, planning to stick the rest in the freezer, and a big grinder roll for Dean.

“Jesus,” he muttered, looking down at the phallic piece of bread in his hand. “Why don’t I just offer him my dick for lunch?” He put the roll back in favor of a loaf of sliced sourdough bread from San Francisco.

His cart was full by the time he checked out. He wasn’t going to even be home to eat most of this stuff; he ate breakfast and lunch on set—dinner, sometimes, too. He suddenly wanted his little apartment to feel like home, now that Dean was spending time in it. He loaded up the car and made the short drive home.

He quickly got to work, chopping the onions and mushrooms, sautéing them in butter, and adding flour to make a roux. He had a handwritten recipe from Gabriel next to the stove, and he followed as best he could. When Gabriel made it for him, he added a splash of wine and cooked it out, but Cas wouldn’t keep alcohol in the apartment, so it was crossed off the recipe in a big red line. The little apartment smelled amazing; even Gracie popped her head out to sniff the air interestedly. She hadn’t yet had breakfast, so Cas popped open a can of her favorite food and filled her dish.

It was a pleasant thing, cooking for Dean with Grace winding around his feet, hoping for scraps, and music on the iPod speaker in the bookcase. He hummed along to Oh! You Pretty Things, swaying his hips to the music, as he stirred the soup. It was thickening nicely, so he added the rest of the milk and let it simmer. It could stay that way until Dean was there and they were ready to eat. He turned his attention, instead, to chopping some veggies for their sandwiches—not that he thought Dean would want any—and for the week ahead.

A dance song that they played in the gay clubs came on, and he started dancing for real. Putting down the knife, he wiggled his hips with abandon. It wasn’t like he went that often, but he liked to dance on occasion, and gay clubs had the best music. If he occasionally ended up in the bathroom trading blow jobs, that was a bonus rather than an intention. Grace seemed confused by his movements, and she crab-walked out of his way. He grabbed her and clutched her in his arms like an infant, as a slow ballad by a jazz singer came on, singing about the man she loved, and he continued to dance.

Mrow, she cried, her eyes wide and terrified. She struggled in his grip, so he let her leap to the ground and away from him.

“You’d think the damn cat had never seen me happy before,” he called after her, as she escaped to the safety of the closet. He was pretty certain that wasn’t true. At least, he hoped it wasn’t true.

Grace poked her fuzzy head out of the closet doorway, sniffing the air, as if to determine if her human was still crazy. The verdict was clearly yes, as she scurried back into the closet like the scaredy cat she was. She’d come back out for turkey as soon as she heard the packaging crinkle.

Cas returned to his work, shaking his head at the cat’s shenanigans. He’d had her since she was barely a few days old, orphaned by her mama and crying out for milk. He’d fed her and her brother from a bottle every few hours, cleaned them, and taught them how to be a cat, so it’s really no surprise she’d ended up the world’s most neurotic feline.

The soup was simmering away, so Cas let it be and put the chopped veggies into storage containers and into the fridge. I’m Only Happy When It Rains came on his playlist; Cas didn’t even know why he put it on there, except that the teenage Castiel had thought it well represented his teenage alienation. After that came Black Hole Sun, then Moonage Daydream, and, still the soup simmered on. Cas checked the clock on his microwave. Dean should have already gotten there. Cas wasn’t worried, not really—at least, he wasn’t worried about Dean’s safety. This was their first planned interaction after years apart, and Cas was afraid that Dean had backed out.

He poured the hot soup into a jar and added it to the collection in the fridge. His stomach rumbled angrily, but he didn’t feel like eating alone. He turned on the TV, collapsed onto his bed, and let reruns of M.A.S.H carry him into an uneasy sleep. The last thing he registered was Grace’s soft fur brushing against his arm as she joined him.

Some time later he was awoken by a pounding on his door. Grace leapt off the bed to take refuge in the closet again, and Cas roused himself to get to the door. He had that groggy, disoriented feeling that came from a very short nap. A glance at the clock indicated he’d only slept for about twenty minutes. He opened the door to Dean, who wasn’t dressed for working on a car. He was wearing a nice button down and a pair of nice gray slacks. Cas grumbled, “You’re late.”

“Yeah,” Dean said, breathless from the stairs. “Didn’t you get my text?”

Cas fished his phone out of his pocket. As he pressed the home button, it lit up with a text from Dean: Brunch ran long. Gonna be at least an hour late. Sorry.

“I turned the sound off,” Cas moaned, dropping his head into the palm of his hand.

Dean chuckled as he walked into the apartment, gym bag in hand. “Still can’t use a phone, Novak.”

“My agent is harassing me,” he lamented, turning the sound back on.

“Have you thought about answering one of his calls?”

“But then I’d have to talk to him,” Cas frowned.

Dean let out a hyena-like laugh, his head thrown back and his Adam’s apple quivering. “Good point,” he conceded, once he’d calmed down.

They continued to stand, awkwardly, in the space between the front door and his kitchenette. “So I suppose you’re not hungry.”

“No, sorry,” Dean shrugged. He really did look like he felt bad about it. “But it smells awesome in here, so I will probably be starving after an hour or so of fixing your bucket of bolts. Have you eaten?”

Cas frowned. He didn’t want to make Dean feel worse by admitting he hadn’t eaten breakfast, but he was also starving. His stomach chose to make the decision for him and let out a rumbling growl they could hear over the reruns on the TV.

“Yeah, I thought so,” Dean admonished. “I’m sorry about this. Sam had made the reservations when mom was coming out, so…”—he shrugged—"I wanted to invite you along, but he said you went to Mass Sunday mornings.” His eyebrows rose up in a clear question.

“I did,” Cas replied simply. “I do.”

“Well, I’m here now,” Dean said, holding his arms out as if presenting himself. “I brought a change of clothes, since I had Sam drop me off after brunch. Why don’t I change and you eat?”

“I don’t want to spoil lunch,” Castiel hesitated, though his stomach still rumbled emptily.

“Shut up,” Dean growled. He spotted the bread on the counter where Cas had left it. “Make some toast, put some peanut butter on it, don’t pass out while you’re passing me tools.”

His tone bore no resistance, so Cas let him take his clothes into the bathroom without further argument and set about making himself some toast. His toaster was a piece of shit, so Dean was done in the bathroom before the bread was a golden brown.

Castiel had regrets—many regrets.

Dean stepped out of the bathroom in a T-shirt and jeans, but the T-shirt was worn soft by wear, so it clung sensually to Dean’s broad shoulders, and the jeans were practically threadbare, emphasizing the bend of his legs and giving Cas all sorts of thoughts about them wrapped around his waist.

“Cas?” Dean’s voice shook Castiel out of his stupor. “Your toast?”

Cas turned around to where he’d missed his toast popping up from the top of the toaster.

He knew how it felt.

Cas focused, instead, on plating the toast and spreading it with peanut butter—the natural, good kind. He poured himself a glass of water, offering some to Dean, who declined, to wash it all down with. While he ate, Dean rifled through the tool box.

“Is there anything you can work with?” he asked, mouth full of toast.

“Yeah, you’ve got some wrenches and a screwdriver that’ll work, but I had Sam drop me off at a hardware store before brunch to pick up a socket set and a few other things we might need.”

“Is that why you were late?” Cas asked shrewdly.

“Nah,” Dean dismissed, but a bit of pink colored his cheeks. “I walked back from the store to find them still waiting to be seated. Sunday brunch, man—it’s a thing.”

“So, I’ve heard,” Cas deadpanned.

“Not your style either? I mean, don’t get me wrong, the food was fucking amazing, but I’m never going to be the guy sipping mimosas as he waits for his eggs benedict.”

“No?” Cas asked, popping the last bite of toast in his mouth. “When we moved in with my grandparents, that was the kind of life they lived. I felt like the poor relation, which, I suppose, was true.”

“You mean after you left Oklahoma,” Dean said, eyes dark. The wrench he’d been examining dropped with a clang into the little toolbox. “Can we not talk about that?”

“Of course, Dean,” Cas said softly.

“Okay, yeah,” Dean sputtered. “Let’s go see what we can do about your car.”

“Hand me the new pan,” Dean demanded, his hand thrust out from underneath the car.

Cas complied. Dean had been able to diagnose the main problem without even looking underneath the hood and proclaimed that it was not a moment too soon to have him look at it. Dean had topped off the transmission fluid and they’d driven the Continental to a salvage yard to find the replacement parts. They’d jacked up the vehicle and Dean was busy taking the leaky pan off.

“How’s it going?” Cas asked.

“I’m not wearing transmission fluid, if that’s what you’re asking,” Dean joked.

“If you were, you could borrow clothes from me again,” Cas replied without thinking. He was grateful Dean was still hidden under the car and couldn’t see his blush. It had never been a thing for him to have lovers wear his clothes; usually, it annoyed him that they took the liberty. He had to force himself to stop thinking of Dean as a lover. They were friends, nothing more.

A few minutes passed with only Dean’s bowed legs to keep him company, but then Dean was pushing himself out from under the car. Cas held out a hand to help him up, leaving his own greasy and stained. He took the offered rag to wipe up the mess.

“Now, I’m going to show you how to tune up this…uh…baby,” Dean chuckled, lifting the hood and gesturing over the mess of an engine.

“Thank you, Dean,” Cas said, but he couldn’t make it sound genuine. All Dean’s promise meant was that, after this short vacation, he’d be going back to the other side of the country where Cas would hardly see him again.

“No problem, man.”

As Dean pointed out all the places where regular maintenance was needed, he’d find problems that would need fixing, so he ended up spending less time teaching Cas about how to tune up an engine and more time teaching him about socket wrench sizes. It was such an undertaking that they broke for lunch not halfway through.

“So, what are your plans for the week?” Cas asked while the soup was reheating on the stove.

“Judging by the smell in here, letting you cook for me every day.”

Cas sighed. “I wish I could, but I’ll be working all week. Besides, this is one of Gabe’s recipes.”

“But I have to pay for his food,” Dean whined.

“You have to pay for this food, as well—in car maintenance.”

Dean pulled a face as Cas gathered the ingredients for sandwiches from the fridge and handed them to him. Dean didn’t use any of the vegetables Cas had prepared, which was little surprise, but it nonetheless filled Cas with longing for days past.

Cas served two bowls of soup in his mismatched tablewear and brought them to his little table. He’d pulled it out from against the wall so there was enough room for the two of them to sit at it. When he put a plate of crackers spread with butter between them, he couldn’t look Dean in the eyes. Fortunately, Dean didn’t say a word but took three of the crackers and dropped them into his bowl. His moans around the taste of the soup, however, were as bad as any wistful comment would be. At least nostalgia wouldn’t result in the tightening of Cas’s jeans.

Dean seemed not to notice Cas’s difficulties, as he asked, mouth full of sandwich, “So Gabe came out here to take care of you?”

“Yes. He was living in London at the time. He left behind a girlfriend and a good job to take care of his fuck-up brother.”

“Girlfriend—is that the mysterious wife?” Dean asked.

“Yes. They got married almost three years ago after he opened the restaurant here.”

“Then where is she?” Dean gestured around the room like he’d find Kali hiding behind the television set.

“Kali splits her time between offices in London, Mumbai—”

“Los Angeles?”

“When the mood hits,” Cas shrugged. Kali didn’t visit often, preferring Gabe to leave the restaurant in his capable sous chef’s hands and meet her in whatever far off location her International Law office had sent her. “It works for them. I don’t know why, but they’re happier long distance.”

Dean hummed thoughtfully and focused on his food once again. He took several large spoonfuls of soup, dropping another few crackers into the thick liquid, before speaking again. “And Hannah?”

“Hannah lives with their partner, Mirabel. Jesus, this is hard to explain. They’re platonic life partners, I suppose.”

“Roomates who cuddle?” Dean suggested. “That doesn’t sound too bad. Do they have sex?”

“I don’t think that’s any of our business, do you?” Cas asked, frowning. He knew Dean hadn’t meant anything by it, at least not about Hannah.

“No, fuck, of course not.” Dean looked as though he was going to be sick, and Cas instantly forgave him. “I wasn’t thinking about them as people—especially not as people I knew once. I was thinking…” He trailed off, but he didn’t need to finish the sentence anyway as his meaning hung heavy in the air. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for the two of them, but Castiel still remembered the possessiveness and jealousy he’d felt when fifteen-year-old Dean had been dating Tessa. He didn’t think he was capable of half-assing it when it came to Dean.

“It works for them,” he conceded, speaking more to himself than to Dean. “Mirabel isn’t attracted to anyone sexually, and neither is Hannah.”

“So they’re in love but probably not having sex?” Dean asked, this time to clarify, rather than out of any ulterior motive.

“Not really, no,” Cas replied carefully. “Mirabel has no interest in romantic relationships either. I believe Hannah has romantic feelings for her, but respects Mirabel’s feelings—or lack thereof, as it were.” Castiel could see Dean’s mind working, trying to understand Hannah’s complicated situation. “Romantically, Hannah isn’t attracted to gender, but to other traits. Something we share; though I also feel that way physically.”

Dean paused, spoon raised halfway to his mouth, which was set in a frown. “I thought you were bi?”

Cas shrugged. “I have no problem saying I’m bi. I first came out with that word, even though I call myself queer most of the time.”

Dean had the expected reaction to Cas’s use of the word, but he schooled his expression quickly. “Why queer?” he asked.

“It was the word I was most afraid of being,” Cas shrugged. “Coming out wasn’t easy for me, and saying I was bi never felt right. I kept waiting to feel attracted to men, women—something that said these are the genders you want to fuck. Any gender, you know. It never felt right. I never felt like someone’s gender was anything that I felt attracted to. I wasn’t attracted to you”—Dean’s eyes went wide and his pink tongue flicked out to taste his lips. Castiel cleared his throat and continued—“when we were teenagers, because the world sees you as a man. I was attracted to your freckles, to your pretty green eyes with those long, thick lashes, to the way your legs bent outwards at the knees, to your warm smile, your humor, your frustrating habit of talking around your feelings, the way you took care of everyone around you—”

“Okay, okay,” Dean interrupted, blushing. “That’s enough, Romeo. You already told me I don’t get to hit that, you don’t get to rub it in.”

“Apologies,” Cas deadpanned, though he didn’t feel any remorse. His adolescent feelings had been true; he’d felt enough guilt at the time for them, so he didn’t have any left.

“Yeah, well,” Dean stuttered, face still red. “I was really interested in your dick.”

“I can’t say I wasn’t curious,” Cas admitted, his own face turning red enough to match Dean’s.

The silence in the room was deafening with everything unsaid. Finally, Dean cleared his throat. “So, uh, Hannah doesn’t have sex.”

Talking about Hannah seemed safe enough. “It was Hannah’s partner who first helped me get clean, actually. She was a police officer here in LA. She and Hannah had met at a conference or whatever police do when they get together. She recognized my name as Hannah’s brother when they arrested me and called them. Being related to cops is handy, as I wasn’t even charged, thank God. My family stepped in, Gabe moved out here, and Hannah and Mirabel hit it off enough that she moved to Seattle the next year. I may have nearly ruined my brother’s relationship, but it worked out for Hannah.”

He was so engrossed in telling the story, that he hadn’t paid much attention to Dean’s reaction. He was watching Cas with his mouth open, jaw dropped, and his eyes narrowed curiously. “Arrested? For what? Drug possession?”

“Ah, no,” Cas said, lunch turning sour in his stomach. “Prostitution.”

Dean stammered and sputtered. “Prostitution,” he finally croaked. “You mean…”

“I was soliciting johns, yes,” Cas answered, keeping his voice carefully modulated.

“Why would you? How could you…?” Dean had about as good of a reaction as Cas could have hoped, but it still wasn’t good.

Cas steadied himself and sighed. “I was broke and desperate, Dean, what do you think—I enjoyed it?”

“No—God, I didn’t mean that.”

“Because I didn’t,” he continued stubbornly. “I was too off my head to care much, but I wasn’t proud of myself when I kneeled in an alley for drug money.”

He left his lunch where it was and pushed his chair away from the table, standing up and getting as far from Dean as he could in the tiny apartment. Dean followed and cornered Cas as he tried to hide in the bathroom.

Cas,” Dean breathed, taking hold of Cas’s arm.

Cas fixed him with a glare, but he didn’t try to pull away. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he growled.

“You brought it up, Cas,” Dean countered.

“True,” Cas sighed, leaning against the door jamb. “I did get myself into this situation.”

Dean swept his hand down Cas’s arm to grab his hand. Cas followed the movement and he couldn’t help but stare, entranced, at where their hands were joined. “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, Cas.”

“Thank you,” Cas answered softly. He still couldn’t take his eyes off where Dean was touching him, as Dean rubbed his thumb over the calloused skin in a soothing rhythm.

“Hey, I’m not going to judge you, man. I was just surprised.” With his free hand, he tipped Cas’s chin up, so he’d meet Dean’s eyes. “Tell me about it.”

Dean,” Cas protested, pulling away.

Dean persisted however, nearly pinning Cas in his own bathroom, but it wasn’t aggressive or threatening. It was intimate, and that was more terrifying than anything else.

“I’m not afraid of the truth, Cas,” Dean whispered. That was intimate, too, as if they were the only two people in the world. Perhaps if that had been true, then Dean’s statement would also have been true. There was so much truth unsaid between them that one more moment of honesty would be a drop of water in the bucket.

“Coke is a party drug,” he began, clearing his throat with a rough cough. “Especially out here. Most people think they have a handle on it—they don’t.”

“And you?”

“Me?--I didn’t care,” Cas shrugged. “I liked myself when I was high.” He took a deep breath and willed his hands to steady. Dean tightened his grip, his fingers weaving between Cas’s. Cas wished it could have steadied him, but Dean was intrinsically tied to the feelings that had led to drugs in the first place. “But the party always ends, and there were no more couches to crash on, or friends to mooch off. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have money, and the good stuff costs. I didn’t have many options left.”

“Crack,” Dean offered darkly.

Cas let out a rueful laugh. “Ms. Houston was not lying, you know. It is definitely whack. I was on the streets for about six months, getting high so that I could stand to prostitute myself to pay for getting high. The only things I ate were forced on me by the priests at Blessed Sacrament. I was killing myself, and I didn’t give a fuck.”

Dean didn’t say a word, but he slowly moved his arms so that Cas was embraced within them. His steady heartbeat was more reassuring than any words of comfort he could have offered. As Cas indulged in the closeness, he wondered if he could tell Dean the truth about everything eventually, and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

Chapter Text

Cas melted into Dean’s arms; Dean fought against his instincts, trying to keep his cool and not to sexualize it. No wonder Cas had fucked up ideas about relationships and sex, if he’d been on the street, turning tricks. Even Cas’s warm, taut body against his couldn’t break Dean’s resolve.

When Cas finally pulled away, his eyes were red-rimmed and watery, but he was smiling.

“Thank you for understanding,” he said, his voice even hoarser than usual.

“Hey, man,” Dean said, just as hoarsely. He clapped Cas on the arm in an attempt to remind them both that things were just platonic between them—and would stay that way. “I’m in it for the long haul. You’re stuck with me. I don’t care if you bent over for the whole West Coast, okay.”

“That’s…that’s good to hear,” Cas replied, surprise evident on his perfect face. He straightened his twisted shirt collar, backing away to a respectable distance. “We should finish lunch.”

“When you’re ready,” Dean said gently. “We’ll probably have to nuke it, anyway.”

“With my baggage,” Cas groaned, “we’ll be reheating the soup for dinner.”

“That’s cool,” Dean shrugged, keeping his voice casual. “We might want to stick it in the fridge, then.”

Cas looked at him gratefully, then seemed to buck up and regain his strength. “No, let’s eat. I’m hungry.”

“You sure?”

“I’m a grown man, Dean. I know my own mind, and I’m fine.” Cas fixed him with a ghost of his usual imperious glare, but it was enough to convince Dean.

“Don’t I know it,” he laughed. Cas turned pink at Dean’s joke, and a small smile softened his expression.

They crossed the small apartment back to the table in the kitchenette, where their soup had, in fact, gone cold. Cas ate his as it was, but Dean popped his bowl into the microwave for a minute to reheat while he finished his sandwich. His mind was on what Cas had told him about his past. He tamped down the embarrassing feelings of jealousy that Cas would have sex with strangers, but not Dean. This—this was worth more than any quick fuck; he had his best friend in the world back, and his adolescent feelings had been returned. So, it wasn’t romantic anymore and it wasn’t going to be sexual, that didn’t mean Dean wasn’t the luckiest bastard alive.

He’d finally be able to let go of the weight he’d been carrying for almost fifteen years. He could move on, meet someone who was interested in having a relationship, and start a family with his best friend by his side.

As a friend, not as a boyfriend—a husband.

Now if only he could make his heart believe that.

Cas brought his iPod speaker out with them, so they could listen to tunes while Dean finished up the work on the car. When the sweet sounds of Bowie came out of the speaker, Dean breathed a sigh of relief.

“Thank God your taste in music doesn’t suck.”

“You haven’t heard all of it,” Cas answered darkly.

“If Jefferson Starship shows up on that thing, this friendship is over,” Dean growled. Cas looked at him curiously, as if he was waiting for the punchline of a joke, but Dean didn’t joke about terrible music.

The standoff ended when the opening riff of a Queen song came on. Cas’s eyes grew wide and terrified and he jumped up from where he was leaning against the car door. The song stopped immediately.

“Hey,” Dean started. “That’s a great—"

“It’s not supposed to be on this playlist,” Cas said, his voice thick. He scrolled through his iPod and a Motown song came on instead.

“What do you have against Queen?”

“Nothing,” Cas snapped. “I own it, don’t I?”

Dean stopped himself from snapping back. He couldn’t help but feel a little rebuffed, though he didn’t know why Cas was so upset about it. A wall had suddenly gone up between them, and he was reminded of how Cas had stopped talking to him months before his family disappeared from Oklahoma. Suddenly, he was that fifteen-year-old boy again, unrequited and unfulfilled, desperately in love with a best friend who’d never love him back. It was even shittier the second time around.

He threw himself into fixing Cas’s car, since he couldn’t fix whatever was broken between them. He tightened every bolt—twice—until the old hunk-of-junk was going to purr like she had just come off the assembly line. The busy work improved his mood so much he started absentmindedly humming a tune that was stuck in his head.

“Dean,” Cas interrupted.

Dean looked up to find Cas frowning at him.


“You’re humming it,” he scolded.

“Humming—?” Dean slammed a greasy hand against his face. “Why do you hate a song that you have on your iPod, dude?”

“I don’t hate it. I just…you honestly don’t remember?” His face softened, and he crossed back to the speaker and switched the song. The opening riff started, then the familiar sound of Freddie Mercury’s iconic voice, then came the part Dean had been humming.

You’re the best friend that I ever had…” Dean had heard it a thousand times; his dad had A Night at the Opera on vinyl, and Dean had recorded it... “Shit, Cas. I’d forgotten.”

Cas harrumphed in annoyance, rolling his eyes.

“It’s been fifteen years, man.” Dean continued. “It’s not like—"

“John Deacon wrote it for his wife,” Cas interrupted. His voice was small but tinged with anger and something that Dean wanted to call wistful. “It’s a love song.”

Dean coughed and sputtered. “I know—but I, uh, didn’t know that at fifteen. It was how I felt, though—I knew that.”

Cas let out a soft breath, then moved his hand so it gently grazed Dean’s filthy one. “I hated that mixtape,” he sighed. “I loved it, too,”

The song played on, and Dean listened to it with the years between on his mind. He imagined Cas looking like a teenage version of his character on Dr. Sexy sitting alone in a fancy house listening to words Dean found easier to let others say for him. He imagined a drug-addled Cas pulling out an old Walkman and playing the mixtape to forget about turning tricks for drug money—maybe clutching the worn copy of Return of the King to add to the image. It was fucked up—he knew that—but he hoped that Cas had drawn some measure of comfort from Dean’s imagined presence for all those years.

“Was everything bad?” Dean asked.

Cas looked off into the distance, his eyes focusing on something that wasn’t there. “Sometimes,” he shrugged. “Other times, it was a lot of fun. Drugs, sex, alcohol—life was one long party. Even in high school. It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of me—as long as I was high.”

“Nope,” Dean said.

“Excuse me?” Cas broke out of his reverie and faced Dean down with one of his inscrutable stares.

“That wasn’t the drugs, Cas,” Dean breathed. “Trust me, I knew you for years. That’s just you.”

"No, it’s—Dean.” Cas was flustered, wringing his hands and staring at them as if they held the secret to his irresistibility.

“Seriously, man, didn’t you know? Half the girls in your class, me”—he shrugged self-consciously—"Bart Boyle?”

He remembered Naomi’s fiancé being obsessed with Cas, too, but, according to Sam, he was involved with Cas leaving so suddenly, and Dean didn’t want to think about that. It was a moot point, anyway, as Cas was wide-eyed and surprised at Dean’s admission.

“Bart didn’t…”

Dean leveled Cas with a disbelieving look. “Trust me. He is definitely gay, and he was definitely into you. He came all the way to the ten-year reunion last year hoping someone had managed to track you down.”

“And that was a big deal?”

“Well, yeah, he…Bart’s dad was a big religious freak, remember? He found out about Bart, and…well, praying away the gay didn’t work out so well.”

Bart had disappeared from school for a few weeks near the end of their junior year, only to return wooden and unfamiliar, spouting quotes from the bible about sin and revelation. He’d drifted away from their group of friends, too, isolating himself in the library. By the time the rumors started to spread about the Gay Conversion camp his dad had sent him to, he seemed like a lost cause. Dean hadn’t thought about him since graduation, but the guy Dean had met last Fall had been comfortable with himself and his sexuality. And very certain about what he wanted from Dean.

“I fucked him,” he blurted out, on the sudden thought that Cas should know about it.

“I’m sorry?” Cas asked. His voice was calm, but his eyes narrowed dangerously.

“At the reunion, we had sex. The last time I had sex, actually.”

Bart had wanted Cas, Dean wanted Cas, and it was the best they had at the time. It was pretty fucking great—and pretty great fucking—even if Dean had topped. Now, however, if felt empty and pointless. Cas was right in front of him, and he was irreplaceable.

“Why the fuck would you tell me that?” Cas growled, his eyes electric blue in the afternoon sunlight.

“Full disclosure?” Dean shrugged.

“You’re an ass,” Cas groaned, but a smile teased the corners of his mouth.

“Well, considering I topped, my ass wasn’t part of the equation.”

If Cas rolled his eyes any harder, he would have seen the inside of the back of his own head.

Somehow, they ended up heading over to Revelation for dinner. Gabe wouldn’t take no for an answer, and Dean couldn’t find an excuse good enough to get out of it. Sam and Sarah weren’t expecting him back anyway, since he’d planned on spending all day at Cas’s. He still had his clothes from brunch in his duffel, so being underdressed wouldn’t work, and he could wash off the grease in Cas’s shower—a very cold shower, given the places his mind went with the association with Cas, showers, and his dick.

Cas took the second shower, then pulled on a sweater and a dark pair of jeans that made his ass look distractingly good, and they hopped into Cas’s newly repaired car.

“How did you do that?” Cas frowned, as the engine turned over without growling and hissing.

Dean held his hands up. “Natural God-given talent, and years of practice.”

They parked the car, and headed into the restaurant, where every server and regular greeted Cas like he was a king returning from war.

“See what I mean,” Dean whispered, as the hostess led them to their table after finally letting go of Cas. “They all can’t get enough of you.”

“That’s not what…” Cas sighed.

“And it’s not just because you’re a hot piece of ass, man.”

“Thank you,” Cas deadpanned.

“Dean-o! Little bro!” Gabe greeted them almost as soon as they were seated. “No menus,” he said, dismissing the server. “I’m taking care of these two, myself.”

“Why does that sound like a threat?” Dean asked, at the same time Cas groaned, “Gabe.”

“Probably because it is, bucko. I’m going to head into the kitchen and get started on your first course.”

“Was Gabe always this weird? I swear he was cool when we were kids.”

Cas shrugged. “I still think he’s cool.”

“Little brothers, man.” Dean shook his head fondly. “Sam still thinks I hung the moon.”

“Are you forgetting that I know Sam?”

Before Dean could come up with a pithy retort, their server came back with a pair of club sodas with lime and a little spoonful of something on a plate.

“It’s an amuse-bouche,” Cas explained. “It’s like a one-bite appetizer. They’re gratis and a chance for the chef to experiment. Gabe usually has a sense of humor about them.”

Dean looked down at the spoon with trepidation, but it looked alright. “Is this mac and cheese?”

“No,” the server answered haughtily. “It’s a fonduta of artisanal California cheeses enrobing conchiglie and topped with toasted panko.”

Cas snickered across the table from Dean. “Yes, it’s mac and cheese.”

The server huffed and left them, but Dean raised the spoon to his mouth. He moaned around the spoonful. It was cheesy and rich; he could’ve eaten a plateful, maybe two.

Cas smiled and lifted his own spoon. He parted his perfect lips and tipped the contents into his mouth. Holy shit, he was gorgeous. The light in the restaurant was flattering and soft, casting Cas’s features into something Dean could definitely imagine seeing on a movie screen.

It almost felt like a date, except that between courses, Gabe came out to bug them. He was still a joker, but he clearly took food seriously. When he brought out a course of braised short ribs and potatoes, something pinged in the back of Dean’s head.

“Are you making food from our childhood?” he asked Gabe when he came out with a cheese plate.

“Why, yes, Dean-0, I am,” Gabe smirked. “All of your favorites. Except for the burger, since you can have that any time.”

“So, is there a reason for the walk down memory lane?” Cas asked.

“We’re all together again, little bro; it’s a chance to celebrate.”

Cas narrowed his eyes at his brother suspiciously but said nothing more. He clearly thought Gabe was up to something. Dean shot him a quizzical look, but Cas only shrugged.

It wasn’t until after a server brought out dessert that Gabe’s ulterior motive became clear.

“Hey, Dean-o, can I speak with you for a minute,” he said as soon as Dean had taken one heavenly bite of cherry pie.

Gabe,” Cas warned.

“Don’t worry, little bro, I won’t hurt him.”

Dean looked towards Cas—and his half-eaten pie—plaintively, but there was nothing his old friend could do. He felt like a victim fattened up before a sacrifice to a pagan god as Gabe dragged him off to the break room he and Cas had talked in just a few nights before.

“The planter’s gone,” Dean remarked. The contents of his stomach gurgled ominously at the memory. Friday night seemed so long ago. The changes that started that night had snowballed into something he could never have predicted.

“Yeah, we burned that shit.”

Dean crossed his arms protectively. “If you’re going to warn me about hurting Cas or pressuring him or anything, your mom already gave me a lecture.”

“Mother can be a bit overbearing, I guess,” Gabe answered carefully; Dean let out a disbelieving harrumph. “Okay, yeah, she’s terrifying. But Cas has had a hard time of it; we have reasons to be overprotective.”

“I don’t want to hurt Cas, believe me,” Dean said, trying to look as innocent as possible. “We’re just gonna be friends, man.”

“What? No!”

Dean was so surprised by Gabe’s reaction that he backed up into a table. “You don’t want us to be friends?”

“Don’t be an idiot,” Gabe groaned. “Friends are easy to come by.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

The implication caught Dean by surprise and he faltered again, leaning a hand against the table to steady himself. “He said he doesn’t want to,” he sighed.

Gabe shoved at him lightly, digging the edge of the table into the backs of his thighs. “And the fact that you’re going to try and honor that is pretty much reason number one why you shouldn’t.”

“Gabe,” he said shakily, “I won’t pressure Cas.”

“Sit, Dean-o,” Gabe commanded and pulled out a chair from the table Dean was still leaning against. Dean obeyed, despite feeling like a dog being ordered around by his master. It made Gabe taller than him, and Dean was oddly intimidated by the usually smaller man. “This may surprise you, but neither Cas nor our mother is right about things like this.”

“Hey,” Dean started. The desire to protect Cas from any suggested criticism was instinctive if ill-advised. He was speaking with probably the only person in the world who loved Cas more than he did.

“He’s scared. Of course, he’s fucking scared. He’s been through shit you couldn’t even imagine.”

“He told me.”

“Everything?” Gabe asked, straightening in surprise.

“Drugs, turning tricks, police…”

“Yeah, okay,” Gabe dismissed. “So, yeah, he deserves to be happy. I want him to be happy. You could make him happy.”

“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a person you haven’t seen in a decade and a half, man,” Dean groused, though his heart was beating against the inside of his chest. “You don’t even know me.”

“I know enough. You two crazy kids didn’t find each other again after all these years to give up because it’s too difficult.” Gabe pulled up a chair and sat down next to him. “Hey, I left behind a woman I loved when I came out here to take care of Cas. She was amazing; fierce and beautiful and everything I never knew I wanted. But family comes first, you know? My little brother needed me, and I couldn’t abandon him, so I left her behind in London.”

“Is that your wife?” Dean asked.

Gabe fixed him with an angry glare. “Jump to the end of the story, why don’t you. Yes, Kali is my beloved wife. We found a way to make it work. Sure, it’s unusual, but it’s worth it.”

“Congrats on the happily ever after, pal, but I don’t think that’s in the cards for me and Cas.”

“Sure,” Gabe shrugged. “I’m not saying jump his bones the minute you get back to the table. I don’t have the money to disinfect the whole dining room.”

“It’s not gonna happen,” Dean repeated grouchily.

“Well, it should. Be patient, be understanding, and he’ll come around.”

“I gotta pie waiting for me, Gabe, I can’t…” Dean excused himself and returned to the dining room in a daze.

“You’re alive,” Cas said with a sigh of relief as Dean plopped down at the table. Cas’s pie was still untouched and he took a tentative bite.

“Yeah,” Dean replied more gruffly than he intended, ignoring his own pie.

Shit—what did Gabe say to you?”

“Uh, nothing”—Cas gave him a disbelieving stare—“Same thing as your mom. Don’t hurt Cas or I’ll kill you,” he lied.

“I’ll kill him.”

Cas. He’s just worried about you.”

Cas sighed, leaning back in his chair. “I shouldn’t blame my family for thinking I can’t take care of myself, but I can—and I trust you.” He looked at Dean with those huge blue eyes; Dean’s stomach squirmed at his blatant lies.

“Sure, yeah, okay,” he mumbled.


In Cas’s intense gaze, Dean couldn’t help but think over Gabe’s words. If Cas’s brother thought they had a chance, maybe they did. They’d settled so easily back into friendship, and Dean’s feelings were percolating just as they had when they were teenagers. He was as smitten with adult Cas as he ever had been with adolescent Cas.

“I wish I could see you all week,” he breathed in a heavy sigh.

Cas’s face lit up before he schooled his expression into something calmer. “Unfortunately, I have to work all week—fourteen-hour days. I’d much rather be with you.”

“Man, that sucks. Can I see”—shit, that sounded too much like a date—“can we hang out on the weekend?”

“Of course.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Actually, I have a performance Friday night.”

“A performance—like a play?” Dean asked.

“Yes,” Cas smiled. “I’m performing in a play. Gabe and a friend are coming, would you also like to come? Sam and Sarah, as well, if they’re interested.”

Dean’s heart soared against his better judgement. “Uh, yeah, I’d love to see you in a play.”

“Thank you.” His smile spread to a gummy grin which crinkled his eyes and nose. “I’m filling in for a friend, so it’s just the one night. I’ll email you the details later this week.”

“Can’t wait.” He took another bite of his pie; it was maybe better than his mom’s.

There was no bill to settle, as dinner had been Gabe’s bribe or a dowry or something, so they finished their dessert and said goodbye to Gabe—who gave Dean an obvious wink—so Cas could drop Dean off at his hotel before turning in early for work in the morning.

Dean changed into sweats and called Sam before tucking himself into bed. He pulled out one of his novels, but it couldn’t hold his interest. He remembered Cas’s copy of The Failure of Sparrows, still unread on the desk by the window. He knew the story by heart, and he wasn’t interested so much in the words of Carver Edlund, but in Cas’s scribblings in the margins.

His phone lit up, and he dragged himself away from the insights and jokes Cas had written.

He had a text from Cas: Goodnight, Dean, it said. I’ll see you Friday.

Friday couldn’t come soon enough.

Chapter Text

Castiel swore as his water bottle rolled under the car. He’d tried to fit in a run before an early call, but his late night with Dean—and the subsequent fitful sleep caused by dreams of Dean—got him off to the wrong start. Especially since he woke up to six new messages from his agent, which he didn’t take the time to listen to. He didn’t need to focus on one more thing he’d done wrong.

The parking lot was full, but few cars were active, so he crouched on the ground and tried to fish the bottle out from under the new pan Dean had installed for him.

Ten minutes later, he was making his way into the studio only to find his fellow stand-ins already in their color cover and ready to go to rehearsal.

“We thought you weren’t going to make it,” Inias said.

“I’ve still got another fifteen minutes until my call time,” Cas answered, confused.

“Oh,” Inias shrugged. “I guess your actor isn’t working until later.”

Cas felt like a different person from the last time he’d seen his coworkers. It was almost difficult to focus on being Jamie Milton, the actor turned stand-in, when he felt so specifically like Cas, Dean’s best friend.

“Hey, Jamie,” Muriel said, as she arrived with two coffees in hand. She passed one to Inias. “I would have brought you one if I’d realized you’d make it.”

“It’s Cas,” he blurted out.

“What’s Cass?” she asked, her pretty brow set in a frown.

“My name,” Cas explained, seeing their faces soften in understanding. “Jamie is a stage name. I’d like if you—both of you—called me Cas.”

Neither of his coworkers realized the significance of the moment; they shrugged and agreed on the new name. He supposed it wasn’t uncommon in their line of work, so it wasn’t as big of a deal as it felt like.

“Is Cas short for something?” Inias asked. He took a sip from his coffee and winced when it proved too hot.


Muriel let out a laugh. “No wonder you go by Jamie professionally.”

“My father was very interested in Angelology.” His name was one of the few things his father had ever given him. That and twenty-plus years of daddy issues. “My siblings’ names were much more socially acceptable, however.”

“I guess you got teased in high school,” Inias chuckled.

Cas frowned. In high school he’d been both the popular jock and then the bad boy with a bad reputation. “I never got teased in high school.”

“Of course not,” Muriel sighed. “Look at you.”

Cas had the good sense to appear humble and embarrassed, but he was so used to flattering comments on his appearance that he hardly cared.

A wardrobe rack rushed past, filled with soldier’s uniforms. Cas felt a pang of regret that he hadn’t taken the offered featured extra roll Friday. At least it would have been a chance to act, no matter how insignificant or career damaging. He couldn’t wait until the play this weekend, when he’d finally get to stretch his wings again.

“Jamie Milton?”

A young woman approached them; she looked harried and stressed.

“Yes,” Cas replied, and she sighed in relief.

“Thank God, I figured you’d gotten lost or something. They’re waiting for you in the production offices.”

“The production offices?” Cas repeated, confused. He appealed to his fellow stand-ins, but they shrugged—as perplexed as he was.

“Yeah, follow me,” she said. “We were so lucky you were available. You’re SAG, right?”

“Yes,” Cas said, though he still didn’t know why they were discussing his union status.

“See, that is so great,” she mused, as they crossed into a low office building. “The other guy wasn’t, you know? AFTRA—soap opera actor. He got promised a big summer story if he wouldn’t abandon ship, so here we are. You have the sides?”


“I grabbed them for you.” She handed him a small pile of papers. “I know how unconventional this is, so thanks for being so accommodating. Your agent faxed over your resume and headshot, so all we’re missing is you.”

Cas looked down at the papers in his hand. They were script pages—audition sides, actually—for a principal role. His hands started shaking, but he forced them steady. This didn’t happen; it never happened. All those stories of starlets being discovered waitressing in diners, of teenagers stopped in shopping malls and being offered movie roles, of unknowns being thrust into stardom—they weren’t true. They were lies compiled by thirsty publicists and desperate agents to sell a fantasy of Hollywood.

He read the character description at the top of the page:

TOMMY, 18-25, a soldier

So he was a little old for the role, but he could play younger. His mind started racing as he sped through his lines. It was a small part, just a soldier for the lead to interact with before the big battle, but it was progress in a career that had stagnated. However this had managed to fall into his lap, he wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. The PA dropped him off in a hallway, and he sat down to plan out his strategy. Why hadn’t he answered his agent’s phone calls?!?

There was a nice little monologue on page two, which he could do quite a bit with. Normally, he’d work the sides over, finding beats and figuring out intentions and motivations, but there wasn’t time for that. He analyzed what he could of the words on the page, but then a door opened, and it was time.

He passed by what must have been another actor auditioning. He was younger than Cas, blond, and a different type, but Cas didn’t let that affect him. This was his audition to lose. He never understood why so many actors looked at auditions as something negative; the producers needed someone, and you could be the person to fulfill their need. There was a long table filling half of the small office. He recognized the director and the line producer from around the set, and there were a few other people, probably producers and the casting director.

He introduced himself; none of the men and women at the table had met him before and probably—hopefully—had no idea he’d been working as a stand-in. He had the first line, so he started as soon as he got the signal. One of the producers at the table read the other lines for him in a dispassionate voice. It wasn’t anything he could work with, but that was the point. They wanted to see what he could do.

“I ain’t afraid, sir,” he read. “I’ve got a girl back in Cleveland and I promised her I’d come home.”

He thought of Dean, of being reunited with him after all these years, and used that to bring realism to his performance. He may have derisive views of method acting, but that didn’t mean that Stanislavski’s methods weren’t useful. That he thought instantly of Dean when playing long separated lovers was not something he had the time to worry about at that moment, so he filed it away for later and continued.

“Sometimes we make promises we can’t keep,” the producer read.

“Yes, sir,” he said, pausing to look down emotionally. “But I can’t bear to think of her out there, alone. Perhaps she’s clinging to my photograph, staring up at the sky, wishing we were together.”

Again, his mind went to Dean and all the years they were separated. How many times had he dug out an old photo and thought of Dean, wondering where he was, how he was, and if he still remembered his old friend?

The monologue turned darker, with his character musing on whether his girlfriend would get the news that he’d died in battle. Cas had a lot of friends from his druggie days who were still using—Benjamin, Kelly, Anael. He knew he was lucky to get out, but he couldn’t help but feel like he’d abandoned them. Every once in a while he’d get a call from one of their numbers and his heart would start beating fast. He would never have to give his family—Dean—that kind of scare.

And then he was done. However well he had done, it was out of his hands. If he didn’t get this part, then he was back exactly where he was the day before. It was some sort of miracle that he even had the chance at all.

He was lead out by the same PA who’d brought him. Just before the door slammed closed he heard a voice. “How the fuck did he drop into our laps?”

By the time he made it out into the sunset, he felt like he was floating. Drugs had never felt like this. He didn’t know what to do. He should have probably found the 2nd 2nd AD to figure out if he was working. The PA had left him, but no one questioned his presence as he’d been a regular on set for weeks. He made his way over to the soundstage where second team was just finishing up.

Inias blanched as he saw Cas. “Jamie…uh…Cas, look, they needed somebody to cover your actor and you were nowhere to be found, and I…”

“It’s alright, Inias, I—”

“First team!” an AD shouted and Cas was caught up in the rush to get to the monitors and out of the way of the actors and director who were going to film. He watched the action with a new outlook. He tried not to get his hopes up, but it was hard not to. He’d thought he’d had his big break before, and it hadn’t gone anywhere. This would probably blow up in his face, too.

A tug on his arm brought Castiel’s attention to Inias. His friend dragged him away from the crowd to where they could speak privately.

“You should stay by the monitor,” Cas admonished.

“But not you?” Inias countered.

“I won’t be continuing.” Cas had made up his mind; whether or not he got this miracle role, he wasn’t going to continue in this job. It was an important job, honorable in its simplicity, but Cas had realized he was meant for more, even if he failed.

“What happened?” he asked, concerned.

“They’ll probably ask you to take over; you have my blessing—not that you need it.”

“Jamie, seriously—”


“Cas, you’re kinda weirding me out,” Inias sighed. He examined Cas’s face. Cas didn’t know what he was trying to find there, but Cas wondered if this was how other people felt in the scrutiny of his own gaze. “You had an audition.”

“This was never a career for me.”

Sure.” He sounded bitter and turned away, unable to look at Cas. It stung, as Inias could have become a true friend in time, but if this was his true nature, then Cas had dodged a bullet.

There was nothing for Cas to do, at least not until the people he needed to speak with were done with their important jobs. He hung around in holding while it was empty, reading his book and trying not to freak out. It wasn’t until they broke for lunch that he was able to catch anyone.

“You’re quitting?” the 2nd 2nd AD repeated, her face screwed up in confusion.

“Yes, I won’t be able to stand-in anymore.”

“You didn’t show up on time, then you disappeared, and you’re quitting. Buddy, you’re never working on this set again.”

He had a biting retort on the tip of his tongue—resisting it was more than he could bear—but his phone began to vibrate in his pocket.

“Excuse me,” he said instead. “I have to take this.”

“I want you off this set by the time lunch is over.”

Cas shook his head in disbelief and stepped away into holding to take his phone out of his pocket. Zachariah’s name was emblazed on the screen. Hands shaking, he answered it.


“Pick up your fucking phone when I call you!” Zachariah’s voice was so loud, Cas had to pull the phone away from his ear.

Cas sighed. “I had a shitty weekend.” It was the farthest thing from shitty but explaining what had happened to his agent was more than he was up for.

“Yeah, well, you’re not entirely useless. I don’t know how you did it, but you did it. This is a pretty last-minute thing, as you know, so they want you to head over to wardrobe by 2:00 and get fitted because you start filming tomorrow.”

“I start tomorrow?”

“Don’t fuck this up,” Zachariah said unhelpfully and hung up.

Cas needed to sit down. He was overwhelmed by too many good things. Dean comes back into his life, and, three days later, he gets a chance at his big break. He didn’t deserve this sort of luck; he didn’t deserve anything like it. He was a fuck up.

He had affirmations for these exact problems, but he just couldn’t remember them. He plugged headphones into his iPhone and put on a playlist.

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside, Elton John sang. It made Cas smile and close his eyes, knowing what a cheesy little fucker Dean was as a teenager. He let nostalgia carry him to a healthier mindset; his breathing calmed and steadied in the wave of Dean’s adolescent music choices. He was halfway through "Brown Eyed Girl"—a song they’d sung while camping that he only remembered through the first haze of alcohol—when a shadow crossed between him and the sun.

He looked up to see Joshua watching him.

“How did it go, son?” Joshua asked.

“How did you know about the audition?” Cas asked; then realization dawned on him. “Did you set this up?”

Joshua chuckled. “Chuck mentioned an actor dropped out; I said I had a friend who’d be perfect for the part. Casting took care of everything else.”

“Thank you.” He’d never meant it more.

“I take it then I’ll be seeing you in front of the camera tomorrow.”

“You will,” he answered, a blush coming to his cheeks. “I hope I can live up to your expectations.”

“Don’t worry about me, son. I have to shoot you whether you stink up the place or not.”

The sitcom actor pretending to be a dramatic one walked past at that exact moment. Cas had to stifle a laugh at the timing of it all. His one regret in all of this good fortune was that he was going to have to act opposite that guy.

Cas was exhausted by the time he got back to his apartment, but it was the best sort of exhausted. He’d been poked, prodded, and pinned; his costume was fitted to him perfectly. Actually, he had four costumes. One for the battle scenes he’d be filming the last week and a half of the shoot, one for the aftermath, one for the scene he’d auditioned with, and another for a bar scene. The hairstylist had run her hand through every strand of his hair, giving him a trim and a few blond highlights, since they were afraid he looked too similar in coloring to the main actor.

He ran a hand through it as he stepped through the door into his apartment.

“Gracie, I’m home!” he announced, to be greeted by the little patter of her fluffy kitty feet across the linoleum. He bent over to give her a chin scratch and she meowed happily. “Let’s have some dinner, okay, girl?”


“Well, that’s settled then,” he chuckled.

She danced around his feet while he got the second half of her morning can of food from the fridge, along with the makings for a salad. He put a chicken breast to defrost in the microwave and got his grill pan heating up while he dumped the contents of the can into her bowl. He quickly grilled himself a chicken breast and dumped a pile of his prepared veggies on a plate. Once the chicken was done, he sliced it, dropped it on top, and sat down at his tiny table to eat. It was back to its original place at the wall because he was eating alone again.

Grace had finished her canned food before he’d even grilled the chicken, and she parked herself at his feet to beg for pieces of chicken.

“Just this once,” he said, as he acquiesced, passing her a slice. “We’re celebrating.”


“A part—a good one—fell into my lap.”


“No, it’s a good thing.” It had felt like a good thing when it happened, despite how he seemed to be dreading it now. He glanced at the empty side of the table and sighed. He dropped his fork onto the plate, frightening Grace in the process, and fished his phone out of his pocket.

He scrolled through his contacts until he found the newest one and pressed the call button. A gruff voice answered.

“Hey, Cas, what’s up?”

“Hello, Dean.”

Chapter Text

“I thought I told you not to show up here again.”

Cas narrowed his eyes dangerously. “The callsheet says otherwise,” he intoned. “Jamie Milton.”

The AD narrowed her eyes, too, but looked at the information on the clipboard in her hand. “Uh, yeah,” she said, her voice flat.

“It’s alright,” he said, sighing and putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. “I was given an opportunity to audition yesterday, otherwise, I wouldn’t have missed my stand-in work. It happened very fast, and I didn’t have any time to make other arrangements, nor would I have wanted to draw attention to it.”

She instantly switched to the sort of fawning obsequiousness that followed actors around and passed him off to her superior. He was shown to a two-banger with Tommy written in black sharpie on a paper attached to the door. He had fifteen minutes before he had to go to the hair and makeup trailer or pick up his costume in wardrobe, so he settled in.

He dropped his bag next to one of the two comfy chairs. The trailer was one room with a little kitchenette tucked into a corner with a mini fridge and the makings for coffee. Cas had developed a taste for craft services coffee, so he’d pick some up on his way to hair and makeup. There wasn’t a bed or a shower because he wasn’t a star, but, for the next three weeks, this little half-trailer was his. It was more than he’d let himself imagine in the last few years, however—a real part in a real movie, not a short directed by a film school dropout, where he provided his own costume and brought a bag lunch.

He made his way through the studio buildings to wardrobe, pulling open the familiar door with new purpose.

“Oh, I know you!” the wardrobe girl shouted. “They said the new guy was coming in, but you’re not new!”

“No, I’m not,” he smiled softly. “I’m here to pick up my wardrobe.”

“It’s still in alterations. You’re, uh, bigger than the other guy they’d cast, so there was a lot of letting out seams.”

“What should I do?”

“Head on over to hair and makeup and get prettied up; they’ll probably be done by then.”

Cas shrugged and headed out, feeling a tinge of guilt over putting the costume and wardrobe staff through a mad dash to get a costume ready for him. Being an actor involved a lot of struggle to make it, but the rewards were tremendous: fame, fortune, accolades. The people behind the scenes worked hard every day, and only a handful would ever be recognized for it. It put his own struggles into perspective, especially in light of this part falling into his lap.

His phone chirped in his pocket. He should probably turn it to silent before filming could begin. He pulled it out and saw he had a few texts.

Gabriel sent him words of encouragement, and Hannah texted him a picture of a kitten holding a good luck sign—or rather, trying to eat a good luck sign—and there were three texts from Dean.

Break a leg!

Do you say that for movies?

Castiel honestly didn’t know. Film actors were moderately less superstitious than theatre actors, but Cas was a theatre actor at heart. He’d take every stupid superstition that could help.

Whatever, man Dean’s texts concluded. You’re going to do awesome no matter what I say

Thank you, Dean he texted back. I’ll take all the luck you can give me

When in doubt, just rely on your pretty face

Castiel frowned at his phone. This wasn’t the first time that Dean had said something that could be construed as flirting since they’d decided to remain nothing but friends. Perhaps he didn’t realize that the things he said came across that way, or perhaps…

Cas shook his head of the thought. Things weren’t going to happen between them; Cas wouldn’t be able to handle it. He’d be nothing but a disappointment to Dean: emotionally, sexually, romantically. It was better to let Dean down once by insisting on staying platonic than to do so every day for the rest of their lives.

He detoured towards craft services and poured himself a cup of coffee; he gulped it down, hot as it was. It burned his throat, but the discomfort distracted him from his dangerous thoughts.

He took his half-full cup with him to the hair and makeup trailer. He’d met them the previous day, and it wasn’t as if he required elaborate makeup anyway. A bit of foundation, a touch of bronzer, and a few spots of dirt was all he needed besides the mandatory ten minutes to cover up his undereye bags. The hairstylist then parted his hair, spritzed it with water, and blew it dry, then added a cream to slick it down, pulling a few loose hairs out of the front. In the mirror, he didn’t see Cas, or even Jamie, but a young and naïve World War I soldier on the cusp of battle.

When he finally got his costume from wardrobe and changed into it in his trailer, the transformation was complete. There was a full-length mirror on the inside of the closet door, and he took in the perfectly worn-in uniform and all the tiny details that made Tommy into a person rather than just a name on paper.

He was ready for his big break.

“You look familiar,” the actor he’d been doubling for weeks said once they got into place for rehearsal with the director. There were only a few people milling around, and no sign of Inias or any of the other stand-ins. They’d watch another rehearsal later; this was for the actors and the director to work on performance. It was the closest filmmaking got to Cas’s original discipline of live theatre.

“I’ve been working on the production since the beginning.”

“Oh,” he acknowledged distractedly. “I didn’t think Tommy was all that important.”

Well, at least he’d read the script, Cas thought, checking three times that he hadn’t actually said it aloud.

The director arrived, so the conversation died as they began rehearsal. It was the scene he’d auditioned with the day before. The production had been kind enough to rearrange the filming schedule so that he could film the only scene he already knew first. That meant changing the location, so they were inside the studio, rather than the exterior battlefields where the scene was originally set; they’d be filming there for the last two weeks of the shoot. Those scenes would mostly be background work for Cas—though he’d still get the same pay he was getting as a principal—and they’d be long days in the hot sun.

They’d created an exterior in the studio, with a green screen behind to fill in the fields of France. Two of the other soldiers in the scene were also principals, so they were at rehearsal, but the rest would come for the blocking rehearsal when they were done. Cas knew one of them from the audition circuit, and the other was the blond guy from the previous day. They didn’t have much to do, but they were playing Cas’s friends and fellow soldiers, so the director had them pal around for a few minutes before “Frank” arrived. One of them had been given a prop letter, so they ribbed him about his sweetheart, which prompted Tommy to think about his own sweetheart.

The director had Frank enter, and Cas scrambled to give his character’s superior officer the proper honors.

“Is that your real eye color,” the director stopped to ask.

“Huh?” Cas said, pulled out of character. He stumbled for real.

“You, pretty boy, are you wearing contacts?”

“No,” Cas frowned. “I have 20/20 vision.”

The director laughed like Cas was telling a funny joke instead of getting pissed off that the director interrupted his process. “Okay, okay, say your next line.”

Cas continued on with the scene, until they got to his monologue.

“Isn’t it a little long?” the actor playing Frank interrupted just as Cas finished.

“I don’t think so,” the director frowned.

“A glorified extra getting a half page monologue?”

“I thought maybe it should go to someone who could act”—he turned to Cas—“Fantastic job, Jamie.”

“Thank you.”

“Get a drink, everybody, five until blocking rehearsal,” the AD called out.

Cas grabbed a water bottle and downed half of it before he caught sight of Inias entering with the group of people who’d been waiting outside. He was dressed in costume, which meant he was working background, too. He obviously caught sight of Cas, but he didn’t look surprised.

“I saw the call sheet,” he said, as Cas approached him. “You could have told me, man.”

Cas shrugged. “It happened quickly. They hadn’t yet made a decision the last time we spoke. I wasn’t trying to keep anything from—”

“Congratulations,” Inias interrupted. He appeared to mean it, as well; whatever hurt feelings he’d had from the previous day had dissolved.

“Will you be standing in for me?”

“Yeah, I’m, uh, doing double duty for Tommy and Frank.”

Cas took another long gulp from his water bottle. “I’ll stand-in for myself,” he finally said, his mind made up. Some actors preferred to, and it wasn’t as if first team would even know he was standing in for himself. He could see the tension drain out of Inias.

“You wouldn’t mind now that you’re a principal?”

“I wouldn’t mind helping out a friend.”

“Thanks, man,” Inias smiled.

They were both called to blocking rehearsal, so they parted and took their marks. The blocking was simple, as it was mostly a talking heads scene, but Inias would have had to remember his own as well as both Tommy’s and Frank’s. This way, Cas could continue to interact with his friends, and help the DP who got him the job in the first place.

Frank was no better at the blocking rehearsal than he’d been at the first rehearsal. It was like acting opposite a tennis ball, only the tennis ball was getting paid more than him. Film acting was already such an odd thing compared to theatre acting, though; his teachers in school described it as separating your acting into parts of your body. If he could accomplish acting with his eyes, or his hands, or even his ass, then he could act opposite a skill-less hack.

When they’d finished, the AD called out “Second Team,” and the director and the other actors scattered.

“You coming?” one of them called out to him.

“I’m going to do my own standing in,” he replied.

“You know they pay people to do that,” Frank whispered conspiratorially, sidling up to Cas so that the rest of the crew couldn’t hear him.

Cas tilted his head, a quirk he’d never been able to outgrow, and stared down his now-costar. “They also pay people to body double your dick,” he growled, gesturing to his crotch.

The other man turned white, then red, as anger took over from shock. “What the fuck do you know about that?”

“I’ve been standing in and doubling for you the whole shoot,” Cas said, indignation making his voice strangely calm.

“Fuck,” Frank swore under his breath.

Cas narrowed his eyes in his deadliest glare and turned his back on the other guy to return to his job and his friend.

Cas wasn’t finished for the day, but he wasn’t needed for a few hours while they filmed other parts of the scene, so he was waiting in his trailer until he was called again. It was a good opportunity to get some chores out of the way, like learning his lines for the next day’s filming, going over his contract, returning phone calls to his agents, and rehearsing his part in the play he was doing on Friday.

What he was actually doing, however, was texting with Dean.

I’m at the art museum, Dean wrote.

You like art? Cas texted back.

Not really. Sarah does, though. It’s close to their apartment and she has the day off. It’s cool though. I didn’t even know West coast had this kind of stuff.


Yeah, you know, ballet dancers and angry Jesuses. Nudes. I figured all that shit didn’t make it out of New York or DC.

We try.

Dean didn’t reply promptly, so Cas hoped he’d found something especially interesting. He busied himself with the scene they were filming the following day, an expository scene in which his character was interacting with the other male lead—the one Inias had been standing in for—and two commanders who hadn’t yet filmed. They all had big chunks of dialogue, so he had a lot of work ahead of him. At least Frank wasn’t in the scene, so he’d great a break from the talentless asshole. He wasn’t filming Thursday or Friday, as he had stunt training for the battle scenes in the morning and rehearsal for the play Friday night in the afternoon. He wouldn’t have any time to see Dean before the play.

Just as he let himself think of Dean again, a text began to load. It was taking forever, so Cas knew what it was before it materialized on screen: a photo of Dean standing in front of a cubist painting of a woman.

Isn’t she hot? he wrote.

I guess if that’s your type, Cas typed back.

Jealous, much?

It felt like Dean was flirting with him again. Castiel wasn’t happy with the way his heart danced at that thought. He gazed down at the picture Dean had sent him. It was a good picture; Dean had a pleased smirk and was as handsome as any face on a movie screen.

A dangerous plan began to form in Cas’s thoughts. He closed the messaging app and opened his contacts.

“Hello,” a bored female voice said. “Winged Victory Background Casting.”

“Ambriel?” Cas replied. “It’s Jamie Milton.”

“Oh, Handsome Jamie who gave up on his acting career.”

“I didn’t give up”, he argued. “I moved on. I have an acting job, anyway.”

“Uh huh,” she muttered. “What can I do for you?”

“I have a favor to ask.”

Chapter Text

A pile of books beckoned Dean’s attention. He grabbed one, paid the lady at the table with a twenty, and got into line behind a teenage girl and her mother. He liked to keep up on Young Adult literature to know what his kids were reading for fun, but he still felt out of place surrounded by a bunch of teens and their parents.

He hadn’t even heard of the book in his hands, let alone read it, but, for all he knew, it would be the only thing his students read over the summer. He hadn’t planned to have to fill so many hours himself, but Sam had his new job and Sarah had been called in to the gallery unexpectedly. Cas was working all week, and, even though that was the coolest thing ever, Dean couldn’t help but wish they were spending this time together. Instead, he was friendless, carless, with hours of free time to waste—some vacation—so he’d scoured one of the newspapers in the lobby of his hotel for something to do and braved the disaster that Los Angeles called public transportation. All so that he wouldn’t freak out about Cas’s play that night.

He slid his book onto the table, and the handler opened it to the title page to pass onto the author. He hadn’t paid much attention to the picture on the back of the cover, but she was a pretty redhead about his age. She looked up in surprise before a smile bloomed on her face, her eyes fluttering seductively as she took him in.

“Uh, I’m an English teacher,” he mumbled awkwardly, feeling self-conscious.

“Lucky students.” She scribbled something in his book and closed it, handing it back to him with that same smile.

Dean bolted out of the reading room as fast as his legs could take him. He opened the book to find exactly what he expected: seven digits that he probably would have been thrilled to receive hardly a week earlier.

He stuffed it into his bag without a second thought and got in line for a computer. Sam had a laptop, but he and Sarah’s apartment was tiny and full of boxes from their impending move, so Dean couldn’t spend much time there. Two or three people in line ahead of him found computers, so Dean was next. He spotted an empty computer in the corner and headed there. The previous user had left six websites open, so he closed all of them and logged into his email. He deleted a few spam emails, read one from the Classic Car Owners Association which was promoting a car show outside of Boston. The last time he’d borrowed Sam’s laptop, he’d sent Charlie a rundown of everything Gabriel had said at dinner. It seemed easier to do it in writing than to tell her over the phone.

I expect to be best person at the wedding, dude. Seriously, could fate knock you over the head with this any more?

Dean sighed and began to type. You don’t think Cas maybe gets a say in this? He’s not interested. Am I supposed to keep waiting for him to change his mind? I can’t live like that.

He clicked send without giving it any more thought. He and Cas had been texting regularly since the weekend and talking on the phone whenever possible. It was nice—too nice. He was getting in too deep with this fantasy that he and Cas could have something romantic. It didn’t help that his palms turned sweaty when he saw the next email was from the man himself.

Dear Dean,

You, Sam, and Sarah are on the list for tonight. Tell them your names at the gate and they’ll let you park; it costs ten dollars. Gabe and my friend Lily will meet you at the theater. Hopefully, I’ll be able to join you all for dinner. The café is open late because of the show; the food is good. Gabe will probably nitpick, but I’ve been enjoying it.

I can’t wait to see you. :)

Dean could have analyzed that last line like he was back in college. Cas probably only meant it in a friendly way with the smiley face at the end. That didn’t stop Dean from smiling like an idiot himself. It had only been five days since they’d seen each other, but it felt nearly as long as the fourteen years before. He wrote something vaguely flirty back, promising that he was looking forward to the play himself—he was—and that he couldn’t wait to see Cas again—he couldn’t.

He almost deleted the next email, as it was from an unknown email address, but the subject heading piqued his interest.

Monday Call Times and Information

It was a pretty weird coincidence that Cas was an actor and Dean got an email about call times, but there had to be some sort of mistake. He clicked it open, and it was exactly what it promised. A quick google search confirmed it was a legitimate casting agency, but any information on the movie was probably secret. Actually, it asked for actors to have neat, short hair and to be cleanshaven in the style of WWI, which was the era Cas’s movie was set. Dean wondered exactly how many WWI movies were filming in Hollywood at one time. He took out his phone and sent Cas a text asking him about it, but Cas was in rehearsal and probably wouldn’t look at it for hours.

He read the email over again. It sounded like a pretty cool idea; they warned that it was going to be at a football field in the hot sun all week, but there would be WWI reenactors as extras, too. It wasn’t all that different from the larping Charlie dragged him to on the weekends in summer that he pretended not to like. If this was a Cas thing, then Dean was one-hundred percent in; if it wasn’t, then Dean just didn’t have to show up Monday morning, and no harm done.

He returned an email from his mom, and there were two from school about their summer program, which he wasn’t teaching at, so he didn’t care. He surfed the internet once he’d finished, checking out a few classic car message boards he belonged to and answering questions about classic Chevys and car restoration. The damn book with its unwanted phone number was still burning a hole in his bag, however. He felt like he was cheating on Cas just by having it, even though he and Cas were about as far from being a couple as they were before Sam’s party.

He was just signing out of his email when he spotted the author walking through the library, probably on her way out. She had an entourage of two or three people Dean recognized from the signing, probably agents or library employees in charge of guests. He packed up as quick as he could, grabbing the book out of his bag.

“Hey, it’s hot teacher,” she purred. “I’m sorry I don’t have the time for anything fun at the moment, but…”

“I wanted to return this.” Dean ripped the page out of the book and held it out for her.

“You don’t want it?” she asked, her eyebrows raised suspiciously.

“It’s not that I don’t…I’m not…”

“Oh,” she sighed. “I figured—no ring you were fair game. Lucky girl.”

“Uh,” Dean hesitated.

“Geez,” she sighed, realizing what he wasn’t saying. “I’m batting a thousand here.”

“It’s complicated,” he shrugged. “If it wasn’t for him, though, I’d totally…”

“Sure,” she said, a wry turn in her voice. “Somehow I think that isn’t an option.”

Dean clearly hadn’t brought enough nice clothes for his vacation, so he’d spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for something to wear to the play. If the sales associate told him that the color of the shirt brought out his eyes, and the slacks made his ass look fantastic, that was just a coincidence. He simply didn’t have anything appropriate to wear, and, though he would deny it under oath, he enjoyed shopping. He needed new work clothes, new club clothes, new date clothes whether or not he was hoping Cas would change his mind, and there was no better place to buy them than Rodeo Drive. He was pretty sure he saw Paris Hilton buying her tiny dog a diamond collar while the cute twink salesman tried to convince him to try on a fur trimmed cape.

He took public transportation back to his hotel, where he showered, pulled the tags off his new purchases, got dressed, and waited for Sam to pick him up for the play. He couldn’t sit on the bed, since he didn’t want to wrinkle the fabric, so he stood awkwardly, leaning against the desk while he waited. An hour and a half later, Sam and Sarah finally knocked on his door.

“You’re dressed up,” Sarah exclaimed as he opened it. Sam quieted her with a not-so-surreptitious elbow to the ribs.

“What she means, is you’re all LA-ified, man.”

“When in Rome, dude,” Dean snapped.

Sam let out a noncommittal grunt and pushed past Dean into the hotel room. “It looks like you’ve moved in.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t supposed to be left alone without a car my entire vacation.”

“We’re sorry,” Sarah said. “We’ve been terrible hosts. Next week will be better, we promise.”

She sat down on the edge of his perfectly made bed, wrinkling the bedspread. Dean frowned down at her. “Does that mean you’ve found a new place?”

“We did.” Sam’s face broke into a wide smile; he leaned in to pinch Sarah’s shoulder. “We move in on Wednesday. It’s a one bedroom, so there’s a couch with your name on it if you want to ditch the hotel room.”

“And give up this luxury? Thanks, but I”—he thought of the mystery email—“might have plans this week—weird hours, you know.”


“Yeah, I’ll tell you about it later.” He held out a hand to Sarah and helped her up. “Let’s get to the play, huh?”

“Man, I’d love to get my baby out on that road!”

“Your car would never survive LA traffic,” Sam countered sensibly.

“You shut your mouth!”

“It can’t be a practical car in Philadelphia, either, man.”

Dean grumbled a response as they walked to the theater. Sam wasn’t wrong; weeks could go by and Dean wouldn’t have taken the Impala out once. The rowhouse he rented didn’t have a garage. It didn’t even have a carport or street parking, so his baby was parked in a rented garage where she was safe from the elements and sticky fingers. They didn’t have highways like the PCH out in Pennsylvania; the best he could do were the rural roads, straight and flat with sunlight dappled on the asphalt from between trees. It was pretty in its own way, he supposed, but nothing like the cliffside path that twisted and turned along the coast. He’d always wanted to road trip across the country; maybe he’d head out west again next summer. Cas could fly out to meet him and they could drive back out to LA, so they could make the trip together like they used to talk about when they were kids.

Of course, they could get up to things they wouldn’t have as kids. If those things were even things they started doing, which Dean really wanted to do. If Cas would only get on the same page, they could have a lot of fun.

Dean’s mind was still on blowing Cas in the backseat of his car when they arrived at the theater, where Gabe, a tall red-headed woman, and Cas were standing by the building. Cas looked good enough that the situation in Dean’s tight dress pants, previously under control to the best of his abilities, ran the risk of being very obvious. His hair was damp and tousled, and he was wearing nothing but a thin T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants. It was like being punched in the gut.

And being grateful for it.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas said as they approached. “Sam. Sarah.”

“Hey, buddy,” Dean choked out, gripping Cas’s shoulder. The thin fabric of his T-shirt let Dean feel the sinewy muscles underneath. He tugged his hand back, like Cas’s skin was lava.

“Dean?” Cas frowned. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah. It’s…uh...good to see you, man.”

Cas’s frown softened into a shy smile. “Yes, I’ve been working quite a bit this week.”

“Well, you’re going to be a movie star,” Gabe interjected.

Cas levelled his brother with an annoyed stare. “Hardly. It is a good role, and I’m making more than scale, so I’ll be able to send extra to Claire and her mother. I am not, however, going to think of this as my big break.”

“It’s totally your big break.”

“Not you too, Dean,” Cas groaned.

Gabe held a hand aloft for a high five, so Dean clapped their hands together in solidarity. Cas rolled his eyes, but fondly, and Dean knew he was secretly pleased at their confidence in him.

“Self-deprecation is no way to actualize your success, Castiel,” the red-head chimed in. Dean pulled his gaze away from Cas to really look at her for the first time. She was very tall and very beautiful; an unbidden wave of jealousy soured his stomach.

“You a shrink or something?” he asked, bitterness coating his tongue.

“I’m a professor of Medieval Theology at Loyola Marymount.”

“Dean, Lily is my NA sponsor,” Cas said, his hand grazing Dean’s arm gently. Dean turned towards him at the contact; his face was soft and vulnerable. Any ridiculous jealousy Dean had felt faded to a distant memory.

“Thanks for helping him out,” Dean breathed, his eyes still on his old friend.

They began to walk towards the restaurant, through the theater where Cas would be performing in a few hours. The whole place was like a Roman Villa and beautiful in the summer afternoon light. Dean wanted to hold Cas’s hand and walk through the gardens; his hand twitched with longing at his side. They seemed to naturally drift away from the crowd, conversation flowing easily.

“Hey, man,” Dean asked. “I got a weird email today.”

“I got one once that was offering Russian grandma porn.”

“Did you click it?” Dean joked, then hesitated and held Cas back as their friends continued walking towards the café. “No, Cas, I got an email saying that I was signed up to be an extra in a movie.”

“And what did you think about that?” Cas asked, his voice even, though his eyes glowed with something that made Dean squirm.

“I thought it might be a scam.”

“And if it wasn’t a scam?”

“I mean, when in LA, right? What’s more Hollywood than being in a movie?”

“No idea,” Cas grinned.

“Hey, guys,” Dean shouted at the rest of their group, who’d nearly reached the café. “I’m going to be an extra in Cas’s movie!”

They all turned around in one movement, confusion and surprise obvious in their matching expressions.

“Who’s idea was that?” Lily asked.

“Mine,” Cas frowned. “Dean has had nothing to do this whole week, and filming a movie can be fun.”

“Why didn’t you sign me up?” Gabe pouted, crossing his arms petulantly.

“You’re a full-time chef and restaurant owner, Gabe, plus I didn’t sign Dean up, I submitted his information and he fit the criteria, so they hired him.” Cas looked stern and adorable defending himself to his brother.

“Sure,” Sam said. His voice said he didn’t believe it, but his smile said he thought it was a good idea anyway.

“We’re going to play outside and pretend to shoot things; it’ll be awesome.”

“It’ll be hot and tiring and you’ll probably not end up on camera.”

Dean shrugged, his cheeks hurting so much from smiling. “I’ll get to see you be on camera, though, right?”

“I have a few scenes to film, yes,” Cas said. “But most of the time, I’ll be an extra just like you, only I’ll be paid more.”

“Wait, shit, I get paid?”

“Yes, it’s not much, since you’re not SAG, but it’s worth the gas money—and you get free food.”

“Okay, okay, enough flirting, let’s eat, I’m starving!” Gabe shouted dramatically.

“We weren’t—” Cas and Dean said in tandem. Dean felt heat come to his cheeks as he looked over at Cas.

The rest of the gang turned their back on them again, rolling eyes and muttering to each other.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean breathed. “I’m really excited about this week.”

“Me, too.”

Chapter Text

Dean took a class of his seniors to see a play every year. He’d make his syllabus after researching what plays were going to be performed around Philadelphia, then he’d make the kids read and analyze it from a literary perspective before seeing it performed. More often than not, it was something by Shakespeare, but he once took the kids to see Oedipus Rex, so he felt pretty prepared for what was going to happen onstage.

He fingered the little piece of paper they’d tucked into the program: Tonight the role of Polyneices will be played by Jamie Milton.

Cas had explained that the situation had not been resolvable with an understudy, as the cast was too small, so he had had to learn the role in two days. By the time Cas showed up on stage the show was over half over, but he made quite an entrance. The costume designer deserved a raise for what—he checked the program—she put Cas in: some sort of toga like thing, bare chested, with a short skirt and a cloak hanging from his shoulders. It showed off his muscular runner’s legs and his sculpted chest, and—yep, Dean was hard. He dropped his program in his lap.

On stage, Cas was killing a monologue long enough to make one of Dean’s seniors sweat in their desk, but Dean was completely unable to pay attention to it. His dick was ruining something nine-year old Dean would have given up a kidney for—something that sixteen-year-old Dean, staring covetously at a picture of Cas in Julius Caesar, would have punched him in the face for ruining. And sixteen-year-old Dean would have at least had the excuse of out-of-control hormones to blame. Dean fidgeted in his seat, trying to find a position that didn’t result in his hard-on pressing uncomfortably against his tight pants.

Next to him, Lily elbowed him in annoyance as soon as Cas wasn’t speaking anymore. “What’s your problem? Can’t you sit still?” she whispered.

“I’m just uncomfortable,” Dean whispered back.

She glanced down at his crotch and her face turned even sourer. “You sick fucker,” she said, her voice raising above the polite whisper it’d been before.

“Shut up,” Dean snapped back. Someone behind them hissed an angry shhhh, distracting Lily enough that she stopped worrying about Dean’s dick. He rearranged the program, so it covered the offensive organ better and turned back to the stage. Cas had started speaking again:

First will I call in aid the god himself,
Poseidon, from whose altar I was raised,
With warrant from the monarch of this land,
To parley with you,

Averting his gaze from Cas, Dean was able to concentrate on the beauty of the ancient words delivered in Cas’s rich voice, and everything else faded away. Before he’d finished the monologue, Dean stopped thinking about how hot Cas looked and was completely convinced he was watching and listening to the doomed elder son of Oedipus.

It was all over too soon; Cas had finished his scene and exited. He’d be onstage again, in a different costume as a guard or something, but Dean and the play itself mourned his presence. Cas was electric, legendary, magnetic; no wonder they’d put him in the movie. He was a star, and Dean was a nobody. He was usually proud of his job—teaching kids to love reading the way he did—but Cas entranced a whole audience while Dean was lucky if his seniors didn’t fall asleep.

His chest tightened and his breathing shallowed. The gear switch between turned on and freaking out was sudden enough to worsen things. Dean felt separated from himself, like he was watching himself watch Cas onstage. He wasn’t going to ever be with Cas because Cas was ten levels out of his league. It was pointless even to hope. As Oedipus died, the chorus cursing his fate, Dean wondered if he and Cas were also destined to be miserable and alone.

The audience applause pulled him out of his spiral just in time to whoop and holler along with Gabriel and Sam for Cas’s curtain call. It was hollow, but Cas needed to know he was loved, even if Dean had to pretend it was only platonic.

If he didn’t scare Cas away with his disgusting self, first.

They waited around in the theater until the rest of the audience had dispersed. Nowhere else was open, so if they wanted to stay and wait for Cas, that was the only option. Dean wanted to get away almost as much as he wanted to see Cas. Lily was eyeing him like he was the devil incarnate.

“Just leave me alone,” he growled as she approached him menacingly.

“No,” she countered. “I care about Cas; he’s my responsibility. I thought it was a bad idea for him to reconnect with you, and now I know it is.”

Dean rolled his eyes and moved to put Sam and Sarah between them, but Lily followed.

“I thought it was just because you’d be a trigger for him, but now—meeting you—you’re just a piece of shit.

“Fuck off, Lily. Don’t you think I know I don’t deserve him?”

“It’s not about deserving people, dumbass,” she hissed, rounding on him. “He’s not a prize to be won. He’s a person who deserves healthy relationships and positive presences in his life. You—you’re selfish, lackadaisical, a pervert—”

“You pervert—disgusting, disgraceful pervert,” his dad yelled, his fingers digging into Dean’s shoulders as he pushed him towards the car. “You dirty little fag—don’t deserve to breath let alone eat my food and sleep under my roof. All that time with your ma turned you queer.”

“Shut up about Mom!” Dean shouted. “At least she loves me.”

“Who could love a dumb faggot!”—slap—“You get on your knees like a whore for any guy!”—shove—“Worthless!”—punch—“Useless!”—punch—“Faggot!”

Dean’s eye had started to swell up, and he could smell the booze on his dad’s breath. He tried to say something, but his lip was bleeding, and it came out as indecipherable muttering. Not that his dad would have listened. He shoved Dean into the Impala, not caring that Dean hit his head on the way in.

He’d forgotten the details of that night in the ensuing accident and the head trauma that kept him in a coma, but they’d all come back in a rush as Lily berated him.

“Hey, hey, are you with me?” a deep voice said softly. Dean blinked up into vibrant blue eyes. Large hands cradled his face. It was soothing, so he leaned into the contact. Cas.

“What happened?” Cas’s voice quietened, even as it became more urgent, like its owner had turned its head.

“He just started staring off into the distance like a thousand-yard stare.” Dean recognized Lily’s voice.

“Because you were yelling at him!” Sam’s voice was full of barely suppressed anger.

“I think you should go. Whatever you think you’re doing for me, it’s not your place.” Cas’s voice was deadly in its calmness.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know he’d react like that. I really am sorry.”

“I know.” Dean could hear her high heels clicking as she walked away. When Cas’s attention returned to Dean, he brought the straw of a water bottle up to Dean’s mouth. “Just take a sip.”

“I’m sorry I’m so much trouble,” Dean mumbled.

“You’re no trouble,” Sam said. Dean looked up to see him standing behind Cas, a stalwart presence in the chaos.

“You’re worth any trouble, Dean,” Cas added, bringing the bottle to Dean’s lips again to drink. “I love you.” His free hand ran casually through Dean’s hair. “We all love you.”

Dean let out a hoarse laugh. Suddenly, however, Cas was lit up with a bright light. Dean closed in on himself again, as a it turned out to be a security guard sweeping through the area with a flashlight. “Hey guys, you need to get out of here,” he said.

“They’re with me,” Cas called out. “I’m authorized to be here.”

“Still gotta get out, man, or you’ll be locked in all night.”

Somehow, Dean was led to a car—whose he didn’t pay attention to—and they all parted ways.

The music in the car wasn’t crappy, so Dean looked over to see Cas in the driver’s seat of his Continental.

“I’m grateful to have had you tune this up, Dean,” Cas said gently. “She never would have made this trip in the condition she was in.”

“Yeah,” Dean breathed. “I, uh, I’m not normally this fucked up.”

“If this is fucked up, then I’d hate to know what you thought of me at my worst.”

“That’s different.”

Cas turned away from the road long enough to give Dean a soft glance. “How?”

“Well, your body was addicted to drugs. I’m just—my head doesn’t work the way it did when we were kids.”

Cas let out a soft scoffing noise. It wasn’t mean-spirited or anything, just disbelief. “I didn’t let myself get addicted because I was a well-adjusted human being, Dean. I was fucked up in the head, too.”

“Hey, can you pull over?”

“Of course,” Cas said. He turned the car off onto the next side street without a second thought.

They pulled into the parking lot of a closed coffee shop, and Cas turned the car off. “Are you okay?” he asked, his voice soft but serious.

“Yeah—I mean—I didn’t ask you to stop because I was freaking out, I just wanted to talk.”

There was a dim glow from the street lights, illuminating half of Cas’s face, but Dean felt self-conscious even in the darkness. At least he wouldn’t have to see the look of pity in Cas’s eyes.

“Look, I live a normal life, man. I’ve just been emotional the last few days, and sometimes I just don’t deal well.”

“I understand. I’ve felt similarly overwhelmed. I believe that was the impetus for Lily’s behavior.”

“I deserved it—I did.”

“No,” Cas disagreed. Dean felt the warm pressure of Cas’s hand on his arm.

“That’s not the point, okay? I just. I told you I got into an accident when I was in high school. It’s why I gave up baseball. It’s why—”

“It’s why Mary got custody of you and Sam,” Cas finished.

“Yeah,” Dean breathed. “My dad was…uh…he was driving drunk and crashed into another car. The car was wrecked; they had to cut me out, they said. And I was pretty bad—I spent about a week in a coma, and they had to operate to reduce pressure on my brain. We thought I was fine afterwards. I knew my name, I knew my mom, Sam, and Charlie, I knew who the president was, and all that shit, so everyone—including me—thought we’d dodged a bullet—that I was lucky. Broken leg, broken head, but nothing that wouldn’t heal. Not everyone was so lucky.”

“Did your dad…?” Cas asked tentatively.

Dean shook his head despite the darkness. “He’s in jail. It was the other car…”

“Jesus,” Cas swore.

“Of course, I was emotional after the crash. Two people had died, my dad was in jail for the next thirty years, I’d just lost my—God, Cas, it wasn’t even six months after you’d disappeared—and you were more than a best friend. My heart was broken. My life was in shambles. That I was depressed and anxious and angry at everything seemed just a side effect of what had happened. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that anyone had suggested that I could have long-term brain injury from it. I had a girlfriend.”

“Do I want to hear about this part?” Cas asked slyly.

“She became obsessed with my sexuality. She wanted us to invite a guy into bed with us. I’d never done that sort of thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Cas laughed throatily. “I’m always the third, Dean. I don’t think I could handle my partner—if I ever had one—with another person, even if I was invited to the party.”

“Well, neither could she. I didn’t handle it well, either. As she grew distant, I started hanging out more with our third, Nick. Hanging out turned into hooking up. By the time Lisa was ready to cut me loose for a real man—her words, not mine—I was moving on with Nick. That lasted a few months before he did the same thing to me that I’d done to her. Like this fatalistic pall hung over my life for months after. I was worthless, useless, pointless, miserable. Shrink took one look at my medical history and explained to me that even minor brain injury can affect personality and cause anxiety and depression.”

There was a thoughtful moment of silence as Cas digested everything Dean had said.

“That’s a lot to take in,” he finally murmured, his voice soft but even.

“Yeah, sorry.”

“You don’t owe me any apologies. Fifteen years is a long time. There are things I haven’t told you, as well.”

“Ominous,” Dean joked. He felt tired and drained. There were still things he hadn’t told Cas about that night, but he couldn’t muster up the courage. It would wait for another day, another time, when Dean was feeling stronger.

Cas started up the car again and pulled back out onto the road. He had to have questions, but he didn’t press the matter.

There was time enough for the truth now that they’d found each other again.

Chapter Text

Sam and Sarah’s studio apartment was so small that the three helpers they had packing up their stuff hardly fit in the one room. Cas and Gabe took the kitchen, putting into boxes everything but the barest necessities Sam and Sarah would need over the next few days. They were eating out a lot with Dean, so Cas and Gabe mostly left behind cereal bowls and things for them to take to work for lunch. Gabe had cleared out a lot of the food in the fridge and freezer by cooking up a big breakfast hash for all of them. They wouldn’t cook again before the move, so all the pots and pans made it into a box once they were scrubbed clean. Somehow that ended up being Cas’s job, so he donned rubber gloves and got to work.

“I shouldn’t have put you out on the floor, little bro, you’re a natural dish washer,” Gabe joked.

Cas scoffed and put another clean dish into the drying rack. He glanced to the walk-in closet where Dean and Sarah were packing away all but three days’ worth of her and Sam’s clothes.

“I’m going to tell him,” Cas muttered over the splash of the running water.

Gabe stopped with a bottle of soy sauce poised in his hand. “Is that something you even want to talk about?”

“Last night, as I was driving Dean home, he told me about a traumatic event in his life. I owe him the same honesty.”

“There’s trauma and then there’s trauma,” Gabe argued.

“It’s not my business to tell Dean’s story, but it was…Gabe, I’ve never wanted to just hold someone so much in my life.”

“Uh huh,” Gabe chuckled darkly. “Those I love yous were flowing pretty easily last night, too.”

“But I do love him,” Cas clarified.

“The best buds, broskies, dude kinda love?”

“Yes,” Cas replied emphatically. He drowned Gabe out by turning the water up and spraying the caked on cheese off the last dirty breakfast plate.

“…less like platonic dudebros and more like true love-soulmates-forever-and-ever-amen,” Gabe finished.

“I don’t care what it sounds like.” He put the dish in the drying rack and grabbed a towel to start drying. Sam and Sarah’s dishwear was eclectic, clearly collected from hand me downs, garage sales, and thrift shops. He picked up a cup with an 80’s pop culture icon on it that probably came from a fast food restaurant promotion. Dean probably knew exactly who was on the cup, but Cas had no idea. When they’d been kids, Dean had been Cas’s main introduction to the world outside his mom’s strict control. He’d taught Cas to love TV and movies, while Cas had helped teach Dean to love books. The men they were today were created by their childhood bond; their traumas did not have to define them.

“Man, Sammy, you guys sure have a lot of shit for such a tiny apartment,” Dean called out as he emerged from the closet.

“That’s because you wear the same plaid every single day,” Sam shouted back.

“I do not!” Dean said, affronted. “I don’t,” he repeated to Cas this time. “We have a dress code at work. It’s slacks and button downs every day. Sometimes, I wear a sweater.”

“I’m going to need a picture of you in a Mr. Rogers sweater ASAP, Dean-o,” Gabe joked.

Dean flipped Gabe off and disappeared back into the closet.

“Aw, you two were meant for each other.”

Cas flipped his brother off, too.


Every temporarily expendable item was successfully packed into boxes. The rest of Sam and Sarah’s clothes were packed into suitcases they’d live out of for the next few days—“Just like me,” Dean had said with a roll of his eyes.

“What now?” Sam asked.

“I could eat,” Sarah answered.

Gabe took a glance towards the pristine kitchen. “Nuh uh,” he groused. “I’m not touching that kitchen for a thousand dollars.”

“What about Revelation?” Sam suggested.

Gabe crossed his arms and snapped, “Sure, then we’ll head on over to JPL for some jet propulsion fun, then sell a bunch of overpriced pieces of paper to rich idiots. You wanna go hang out at your place of work on your day off?”

“Of course not, Gabe,” Cas said soothingly. “No one wants to put you out.”

“Yeah, man,” Dean agreed. “It’s not our fault you have the best restaurant on the West Coast.”

Dean glanced in Cas’s direction, a soft smile on his freckled face, like they had so many times when they were young. Gabe had always been quick to anger, but easy to soothe with candy and compliments laid on thick. That hadn’t changed, as Gabe began to preen in response, looking like the cat who caught the canary.

“I say we introduce Dean to the LA institution that is Pinks,” Gabe suggested.

The famous 60-year-old hot dog restaurant was closer to Cas’s neighborhood than where they were in Pasadena. His apartment building was near the heart of old Hollywood, full of Art Deco buildings like his. Hollywood and Vine, Paramount Studios, the Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Forever Cemetary, the Hollywood Wax Museum and other highlights were nearby. He liked to plan his runs to go by them sometimes when tourists weren’t around and imagine himself at the height of Hollywood glamour, escorting starlets to movie premieres while he kept his sexuality hidden behind the scenes. It wasn’t all that different from the life he was living today when he thought about it.

Since Dean hadn’t had much of an opportunity to play tourist anyway, the group decided to head straight to the restaurant, then wander around the area.

Gabe handled the ordering. “Two chili dogs—extra onions—a guacamole dog, a pastrami Reuben dog, 2 spicy polish dogs, a bacon burrito dog, a La La land, a Brando, a Planet Hollywood Dog, 2 Lord of the Rings Dogs, Chili Fries with Cheddar, Onion Rings, three cups of sauerkraut, two cups of coleslaw, a cup of nacho cheese, a cup of barbecue sauce, and a side of pastrami. Oh, and five Dr. Brown's root beers.”

Gabe,” Cas warned.

“Uh, yeah, that’s way too much food,” Sam agreed, only to find everyone else staring at him in confusion.

“Sorry,” Gabe said to Cas, then turned back to the cashier. “Uh, four root beers and a diet crème.”

As they found a table, Dean remarked, “They put a lot of shit on their hot dogs out here in California.”

“We lack a definitive cultural identity, so we make up for it with condiments,” Cas explained.

Dean let out a bark of laughter and slapped Cas on the shoulder. “I’ll have to get you a dirty water dog, Philly style.”

“I thought Philadelphia was best known for their cheesesteak sandwiches?” Cas frowned, ignoring the suggestion that he visit Dean in Philadelphia.

“Sure. But also soft pretzels, tomato pie, hoagies, Italian roast pork sandwiches, and scrapple.”


Dean’s grip tightened on Cas’s shoulder. “Trust me, you don’t want to know.”

With a smirk, Cas pulled out his smart phone and typed scrapple into the web browser. It was a mixture of pork offal and cornmeal, congealed, sliced, and fried as a breakfast meat. “Everything but the oink,” he read aloud. “It certainly sounds interesting.”

Dean grabbed a chair at the plastic picnic table Gabe found them. “I said scrapple was regional, I never said it was appetizing.”

“Is that why you made me eat some at that diner?” Sam asked.

Yeah,” Dean grinned.

“Well, jokes on you—I liked it.”

Cas smiled at the brotherly bantering. He’d known both Dean and Sam so well, if at different times in their lives, but never as brothers. They reminded him so much of himself and Gabe, that he felt he was understanding Dean better now than he had when they were young. He’d grown into such a vibrant, beautiful man.

The food was ready, so Cas stood up and got the trays with his brother. They each had to balance two, as there was so much food piled on them that they threatened to overflow. They weren’t just introducing Dean, Sam, and Sarah to one of LA’s most iconic restaurants, but this was a Novak brother tradition. When they celebrated their milestones—Cas’s recovery process, his first job, Gabriel’s wedding—they’d buy a ton of food, then share it with anyone interested. They’d eaten everything on the menu several times over. After they’d set the trays onto the table, they started in with the plastic knives immediately, cutting everything into pieces.

Dean let out an understanding grunt, grabbed a knife of his own, and began to slice the polish dogs in half. He picked up a piece and started eating. “Man, this is good,” he moaned around the sausage in his mouth. He caught Cas watching him and winked.

Cas reached over and took a piece, shoving the hot dog into his mouth and biting through the firm casing, as juice spurted onto his face.

“Do you need a room?” Sam joked.

“Cas and the hotdog, or Cas and Dean?” Gabe waggled his eyebrows with a leer.

“Just eat,” Cas snapped back, but he put down the rest of the food in question for a piece of the burrito dog Gabe had just split. His face was red, but he hoped his companions mistook it for the heat of the day instead.

So he was attracted to Dean. Anyone with a pulse and a sexuality that included being attracted to men would be. That didn’t mean he would act on it. He knew his limits; he was a being of reason and restraint. Dean offered him nothing sexually that he couldn’t find in a thousand other men. They weren’t even compatible sexually; Dean was obviously a top. He’d spoken about fucking Bart; he’d given Cas all the details, making it crystal clear he’d been the penetrating partner. There wasn’t enough of a reward to ruin their friendship. He’d survived years of the same when they were teenagers, after all.

“Fuck, I am so stuffed,” Dean moaned.

“That’s what she said,” Gabe quipped.

“Guys say it, too,” Dean added, his eyebrows raised knowingly.

Ew, Gabe and Sam chorused.

“Why is it that straight men always think gay sex is gross?” Cas asked, leaning forward to steal the last chili fry. It was cold and tough as he chewed it, but it kept him from making eye contact with Dean.

“Because things go in places where things don’t belong,” Sam explained.

“I’ll remember that on your next birthday,” Sarah snapped, rolling her eyes.

“No, wait, I didn’t mean…” Sam stammered. His face was as red as the old ketchup dried to the plastic picnic table.

“We all know what you mean, Sammy,” Dean groaned.

“That table over there with the family of tourists knows what you mean,” Gabe added. They all turned in embarrassment to the family, who were entirely engrossed in their meal and gave no sign they’d heard any of their conversation. Still, it was enough to kowtow them all into silence.

They cleaned up their table and threw away the garbage. They’d left a Lord of the Rings dog, half the burrito, two halves of the chili dogs, half the Rueben dog and all the extra pastrami, and a cup each of the coleslaw and sauerkraut. Cas took it all, bagged it up, and scanned the street for someone who needed it more than the landfill. They were going to head over to the cemetery to see if they could get into the Cinespia movie, so Cas sent his brother to take their friends ahead to get in line.

He turned the corner and heard footsteps on the sidewalk behind him. “Hey, man,” Dean’s voice rang out.

“Hello, Dean.” He stopped to let Dean catch up; Dean jogged towards him.

“Whatcha doing?”

“I think you should join our brothers at the cemetery.”

“No offense to Sammy, Sarah, and Gabe, but I”—Dean shrugged self-consciously—“I like you better.”

A smile pulled at the edges of Cas’s mouth, despite his serious mission. There was something deeper at work in the dark recesses where Cas didn’t like to look. He’d had trouble sharing Dean when they were young: with Mary, with that girlfriend, even with Charlie. He didn’t have romantic relationships as an adult, so he never had to deal with his jealous and possessive streaks. Dean’s words, however, left that dark place purring like Grace on catnip. It was a scarier sensation than the attraction.

“I’d like to be alone right now,” Cas said.

“Because of what they were all joking about? Everyone thinks it’s gross until they…” He trailed off, blushing. “You know what I mean.”

“No, I—” He held up the plastic bag of food for Dean to see. “I’m going to find someone who needs our leftovers.”

Dean’s brows shot up in understanding. “You mean you’re going to find a homeless person who might be hungry.”

Cas sighed and moved out of the way of a group of teenagers wearing Disneyland memorabilia. “This food is perfectly good, and it would be wasteful to throw it away when it could help someone.”


“It’s basic human kindness, Dean. It’s the least we can do.”

Dean nodded curtly, then grabbed Cas’s arm and pulled him along the sidewalk. They walked arm in arm for half a block until Dean stopped.

“What about him?” He nodded towards a young man with a beard and an overstuffed backpack. He could have been a hipster college student, but Cas was pretty sure Dean was right.

“Hey, man,” Dean said as they cautiously approached. “You hungry?”

“Who’s asking?” The young man narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

Cas stepped forward and held out his free hand for a handshake, which the young man took limply. “My name is Cas, and this is my friend Dean. What’s your name?”


“Hey, Ennis,” Dean said. “We have some extra food and we were wondering if you would like it.”

“What is it?”

“Pinks hot dogs,” Cas explained.

Ennis shrugged. “Yeah, okay,” he drawled in a defensive tone, taking the plastic bag from Cas’s outstretched hand.

Dean also stuck out a hand, but his had a twenty tucked into it. “Take care, Ennis,” he said, as Ennis took the money and shook Dean’s hand.

Dean turned to leave Ennis with his bounty, but Cas put a hand on his arm to stop him.

“Do you know the Catholic Church on Sunset, Ennis?”

Ennis’s comportment immediately changed. His shoulders hunched, his eyes narrowed, and he took a step backwards away from them. “Hey, man, if this is a religious thing, I don’t want the dogs.”

Cas shook his head. “It’s not, I promise. They just want to help people. I needed”—he glanced at Dean, who gave him the softest of smiles—“They used to help me, when I needed it.” His words seemed to echo in the gathering evening. He felt Dean give a squeeze to his shoulder; its firm pressure assuaging his fears. Ennis, too, seemed to soften again. “They always have a sandwich, shaving kit, toothbrush, or bus fare available for those who need it. No matter what it feels like sometimes, you aren’t alone. There are people who will help—even if it’s just hot dogs.”

“Nothin’ in return?”

“Nothing in return.”

“Thanks, man.”

They left Ennis to his dinner and took off in the opposite direction to find their companions at the cemetery.

“You know,” Dean started, as they stood at a corner, waiting for a light to change. “You’re not alone either.”

“Dean, I’ve made peace with most of my demons.”

The light turned green, and they crossed the street, passing by tourists and locals alike, all intent on their own lives. Dean pulled him through them to an empty square of sidewalk.

“I know I used to disappear every Fall, but that was never my choice. I’m here now, and I’m never going away. Even when I return to Philadelphia, I’ll always be here.” He took Cas’s hand in his and squeezed it.

“I can’t believe you’re a sap,” Cas choked out through emotion.

Dean threw his head back and laughed, then wrapped an arm around Cas’s shoulders. They walked like that down the street until they ran into Gabe, coming the other way.

“Well, don’t you two look cozy,” he quipped. Dean instantly dropped his arm in embarrassment. Cas found himself missing the contact more than he knew he should.

“Why aren’t you at the cemetery?” Cas asked, the ghost of Dean’s touch still on his skin.

“The movie is a no go,” Gabe announced. “We’ll be in line all night and probably not make it in.”

“That’s okay,” Dean shrugged. “I’m sure there’s tons to do. This is LA.”

“You couldn’t be more right, Dean-0. We’re going dancing.”

Cas and Dean glanced at each other. “Dancing?” they asked in unison.

“Come on, boys, gotta get you glammed up before we hit the clubs.”

As they followed Gabe back to the cars, Cas turned to Dean. “Are you alright with this change of plans?”

“Sure, man,” Dean exclaimed. “Hot club, sweaty dancers, flashing lights, dark corners—what’s wrong with that?”

Cas gulped. What was wrong with that was that nothing sounded wrong with that.

Chapter Text

Sam parked his car in a small, crowded lot. The evening had been spent driving all over LA and getting ready to go out. The Novak brothers had gone to Gabe’s house, so he could change, left his car at home, then swung back up to Cas’s in the Lincoln where Cas dressed. Dean had texted Cas there when Sam had picked him up at his hotel, so they could all arrive around the same time. He’d bought clothes for the occasion, but he was pretty sure his idea of going clubbing had not included his brother, his brother’s girlfriend, or Gabe.

Cas’s car pulled into another spot in the parking lot, with Gabe behind the wheel. Dean could see Cas through the windshield; his face was red and scrunched up in anger.

“I can’t believe you thought you could pull one over on me!” he shouted as they stepped out of the car.

Gabriel just shrugged. “What kind of club did you think we’d be going to? I’m married, Sam and Sarah are together; you and Dean are the only single ones out tonight, so…”

Cas opened the car door, got out, and slammed it with a bang. “I’m going to kill you and bury you in your own backyard,” he groused.

“Uh, hey,” Dean said cautiously as he approached. “What’s up?”

As soon as he saw Dean, Cas’s face softened. “I’m sorry, about this, Dean,” he said. “Our brothers think they’re clever or something. We can go somewhere else, if you’d like.”

Dean looked from Cas to Gabe, who was gingerly climbing out of Cas’s driver’s seat. Both the Novak brothers’ faces were set in determined expressions, giving away nothing except their disagreement. “Am I missing something?”

“We’re in West Hollywood, Dean.”

“Okay, is that supposed to mean something to me?”

“West Hollywood is where most of the gay bars and clubs are,” Cas explained with another annoyed glance at his brother.

Dean looked between the guilty parties for confirmation; they all shrunk back like they knew they’d fucked up. He didn’t really understand; Gabe had been so gung-ho that Dean should try and pursue something with Cas.

“It’s not like we’re going to Lions and Tigers. This is Jaded. It’ll probably be half bachelorette parties in there,” Gabe said. “There’s no reason that just because we’re all in relationships, that you two can’t have some fun.”

He tilted his head between Dean and Cas imperceptibly, sending Dean a meaningful glance. It all fell into place. This was definitely an attempt by their brothers to put the two of them in the right place at the right time. If only Cas was willing.

“Yeah,” Sam agreed. “We’re cool with it. The music is better anyway.”

Cas sighed. “There are men in speedos dancing in cages,” he deadpanned.

“And?” Gabe shrugged. “If I can deal with seeing my little brother’s ass on national television, I can stand to see some dude in a banana hammock.”

“Dean?” Cas approached; he was suddenly standing very close. He smelled of an expensive cologne, spicy and musky, distracting Dean from the words coming out of his perfect mouth. “Is this okay for you?”

“Uh, Cas,” Dean murmured. “I do not have a problem with men in speedos.” He raised his brows suggestively.

“The LA gay club scene can be intense.”

“So can the Philly club scene. I know what happens in the bathrooms, Cas. I’ve taken part in what happens in the bathrooms. I can handle LA gays.” He shrugged. “I’m kinda looking forward to it.”

He was. Sure, he didn’t like being tricked, but at least dancing with Cas was on the table—and possibly on a table if things were as crazy as the Gaybourhood. He wasn’t sure he was dressed for a gay club, though. He had on tight gray pants he’d bought the previous day; they were cuffed at the ankle. He wore them with a button down in a dark burgundy and loafers that he also bought in LA. He would’ve worn the low V neck T-shirt he’d bought, too. It draped just right over Dean’s soft stomach and clung perfectly to his shoulders and chest. It wasn’t anything he’d wear to a straight club, though, so he hadn’t put it on. Cas looked like sex on a stick in black jeans, a Henley, boots, and his leather jacket. He’d get into any club in the country, gay or straight.

Cas shook his head in resignation but gestured to the group to head out of the parking lot and towards the street. As they walked the block to the club, he went over the rules. “You do not leave a cup unattended and return to it. If you leave it, it is dead to you. You do not hold a cup below your line of sight in a crowd. If you lose sight of your cup for any reason, it is now dead to you. You do not accept a drink from any person who is not the bartender themselves; ask him to let you watch him make it. If it ever leaves your sight, that drink is dead to you. You notice you—or anyone else—seems drunker or sleepier than they should, call 911. You notice anyone putting anything in someone’s drink, tell the bartender or call 911.” He glanced at Dean, his expression was mysteriously vacant, except for his eyes, which sparkled intensely in the light from bars and street lamps. “No drinking and driving.”

“Uh, yeah, if you guys want to drink, Cas and I will drive you all home,” Dean added, meeting Cas’s eyes significantly.

“You are free to drink, too, Dean,” Cas countered.

“Nah. I don’t need booze to have fun, man.”

They reached the end of the line and waited behind a group of guys in leather. They gave all four of the guys appraising looks, one of them lingering on Cas for just a little too long for Dean’s comfort.

This was going to be quite the night.

Dean was not dancing. He had been dancing, but he was now sitting at a table with Sam, Sarah, and Gabe, nursing a drink. Cas was, of course, still on the dance floor, torturing Dean from afar. It was marginally easier to take from the safe distance of the bar, if a less enjoyable view. Cas wasn’t even dancing with anyone; he’d turned down every offer, every guy who snuck up behind him and rubbed himself all over him, every guy who butted up in front of him where Dean belonged. Dean could just make him out in the crowd, moving like every wet dream Dean had from the age of fourteen to…well…every night of the past week.

“You guys suck,” he said, slamming his barely drunk whiskey on the table.

“How dare you—I haven’t been to the men’s room once tonight!” Gabe quipped, taking an affronted pose with his hand by his face.

Dean responded with the deadliest glare he could manage when multi-coloured strobe lights were flashing in time to an electronic beat.

“What’s the problem?” Sam asked. He was trying to sound sincere, but his bright eyes gave away both how he wasn’t and how much he’d had to drink that night.

Dean hung his head in his wet hands, trailing splashes of whiskey over his flushed face. “Cas,” he mumbled, then, looking up, added. “And you guys did this to me!”

“What did you say?” Sarah asked, her voice having more mirth than concern.

“Did he say ass?” Sam added with the same annoying tone.

“I think he said mass,” Gabe said knowingly.

“Fuck you all!” Dean shouted loud enough that the table next to them looked over in surprise. This was some sort of game for them, but it was very real for Dean—and Cas. He grabbed his drink and took a sip from it, letting the burn of the alcohol make him forget the longing deep in his soul.

“You know, Dean, if you lightened up a little, you might have some fun,” Sam said. He leaned forward like he was telling Dean a great secret. “Like Cas.”

Dean narrowed his eyes further, glaring at his ridiculous little brother. “Yeah, Cas,” he moaned. “Cas who is out there dancing, and I am over here not dancing because Cas is out there dancing!”

“Why don’t you just dance with him?” Sarah asked. She, too, had had a little too much to drink and leaned onto her boyfriend drowsily.

“I can’t dance with Cas,” Dean sighed.

Gabe, at least, sobered immediately. “Why not?” he asked with real alarm.

“We’re not exactly in a comfortable situation,” Dean sighed. He glanced over to the dance floor again, but Cas was nowhere in sight.

“I thought you two picked up right where you left off,” Sam said.

“Exactly,” Dean sighed. Fifteen years later and he was still pining.

Sarah reached a gentle hand out to stroke his arm. “We wouldn’t have brought you guys here if we didn’t think you two could find happiness together. The past is the past; we all”—she gestured around the table—“think you and Cas should be together, even if you’d never met before last week. You’re perfect for each other.”

Dean looked into the three eager faces. It was almost sweet, really, the way they were rooting for him and Cas, if he could ignore their scheming and lies. He tried to imagine meeting Cas for the first time, just Sam’s good-looking actor friend. Without all the baggage, he’d definitely be out there on the dance floor.

“If we were just friends, I could dance with him. If we were boyfriends, I could dance with him. Friends who want to be boyfriends can’t dance,” he lamented. “Not like this.” He gestured to the dance floor, where guys in mesh shirts were grinding and humping to the beat. It was super sexy, and that was the problem. He’d be popping boners all over the place.

“I think this is exactly what friends who want to be boyfriends should do to get themselves from friends to boyfriends,” Sarah suggested.

“Whose boyfriend?” a voice that sounded suspiciously like Cas’s asked from behind Dean.

Dean turned to see his friend fresh from the dance floor. His eyes were bright with exertion, and there was a fine sheen of sweat over his face. He’d checked the leather jacket at coat check when they’d arrived, so the soft fabric of his Henley clung to his muscled torso. Dean gulped the rest of his drink in one swallow.

“Uh, we were just wondering how many people here were in relationships,” Sam stammered. Dean let out a huff of annoyance at the blatant lie. If they thought Cas should be kept in the dark, maybe they didn’t have their best interests in heart.

Cas grabbed a chair from another table and folded himself into it. “You weren’t on the dance floor,” he said to Dean, his eyes a laser focus. “I went looking for you. Why aren’t any of you dancing? Isn’t that why we came?”

“Yes, it definitely-one-hundred-percent is why we came here, little brother,” Gabe said. “To dance with you.” He smiled dangerously at Dean, waggling his eyebrows.

“We’ll all come dance, Cas,” Dean added, giving Gabe a pointed glare of his own.

“Oh, good!” Cas smiled delightedly.

They put down their drinks—for good, Cas made sure—and headed out in a single line to the dance floor. The crowd parted like the Red Sea to let them through until they were in the center of the chaos. Gabe danced like Cas did, like the music was part of their bones. It must be a Novak thing. Sam danced like an overgrown moose, all flailing limbs and a lack of rhythm, while his girlfriend clearly learned her moves at frat parties in college. Dean’s own moves were little more than a desperate attempt to not look like he wanted to get fucked, despite the fact that he wanted more than anything to get fucked. He ended up looking like a mannequin come to life in a bad B movie.

One song after another, they danced. Dean danced with Gabe, Cas danced with Sam and Sarah, and they all danced together, doing cheesy dance moves like the Shopping Cart and the Typewriter. Dean avoided all physical contact with Cas, however, even when they accidentally bumped elbows while trying to do the Running Man. Dean had jumped back, knocking into two guys who were definitely not happy to be interrupted.

“My feet are killing me,” Sarah whined. She climbed into a chair and, crossing her legs, pulled off one of her shoes. She plopped it on top of the table.

“Serves you right for wearing heels to dance in,” Gabe laughed.

Dean collapsed into a chair with a groan; he reached out and unsuccessfully swatted at the shoe in disgust. Who knew what that shoe had stepped in on the floor of the club. “There are queens in six-inch heels still on their feet; you’re just a wimp.”

Sam sighed and sat down between them. “Then I’m a wimp, too, because I’m out.”

“Yeah,” Gabe agreed, taking the last chair. “I’ve got brunch in the morning. Let’s get out of here.”

Dean peered from one of them to the other. He was exhausted, too, but he wasn’t ready to give up. “Nope. I’m on vacation, and you guys dragged me out here,” he argued, standing up and finally knocking Sarah’s shoe off the table. “I’m going to help Cas with the drinks.”

The bar was packed, so he couldn’t even see Cas at the front of the line, getting bottles of water, so he stood behind the throng, waiting.

“Hey,” a voice said in surprise.

Dean looked over to see a very young man staring at him eagerly. He was vaguely familiar, but Dean couldn’t think of a time they’d met. “Hey,” he replied.

“I sold you that shirt.” It was more flirtation than declaration despite their age difference.

“Oh, yeah,” Dean said. The crowd had parted, and he could make out Cas paying the bartender behind the crowd.

“I didn’t tell you just how good it looked on you, though,” the guy added, blatantly looking Dean up and down. “Do you want to dance?”

“Uh, well, uh,” Dean stammered dumbly. “My, uh, my friends were just talking about leaving.”

“Who needs friends?” he said with an unattractive sneer. It didn’t make Dean any more interested in dancing with him, even if he wasn’t creeped out by the guy’s age. He couldn’t have been older than some of Dean’s students.

“They’re my ride.”

“I could be your ride,” he offered, then his gaze turned hot. “Then I could ride you.”

“That’s…uh…that’s not gonna…I’m here with someone,” Dean sort of lied.

“Other than your friends?”

“One…of…my…friends…is…more than a friend,” Dean stammered. Again, it wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t exactly the truth, either. Cas was a complicated thing, but it wasn’t like Dean had any interest in being with anyone else anymore. It was Cas or no one.

“Sure,” the guy said, as if he didn’t believe Dean. It wasn’t like it mattered; let him think it was a soft no and leave with his ego intact.

Once he’d gotten rid of his unwanted suitor, Dean turned to look for Cas. The crowd at the bar had dispersed, and the bartenders were busy making drinks for the few that remained. Cas, however, was nowhere near. Dean wandered back to the table, hoping that Cas had just gone ahead.

Gabe, Sam, and Sarah were alone at the table, and they were drinking from bottles of water. Cas was again nowhere.

“Where’s Cas?” Dean asked.

A pall instantly came over the table. Sam seemed ready to say something, but at a look from Sarah, he hesitated. Sarah gave Gabe a nudge, urging him with a nod of her head.

“On the dance floor,” Gabe admitted with a shrug. “He’s…uh..he’s going to stay.”

“We’re going to drop Gabe off at home before heading back to our place,” Sam added. “Are you gonna come?” Sam asked.

“Cas just left to go dance more without us?” Dean asked instead of answering. He needed to understand why Cas wasn’t there.

Another glance was exchanged between the trio. Dean’s stomach fell; he knew what was coming before Sarah answered.

“He wasn’t alone.”

To her credit, she looked about as upset as Dean felt.

“Yeah, you should probably come with us,” Gabe added. “I’m sorry. My brother can be a—"

“No, Cas will take me home,” Dean insisted. This was just some sort of misunderstanding. They thought Cas went to dance with some guy, but he was probably just…


“Cas wouldn’t abandon me. He’ll take me back to my hotel. You guys can go.”

They got up to leave, Sarah slipping her shoe back on before standing. “Call a cab, okay, Dean. Don’t get your heart broken again.”

Dean wandered back to the dance floor in a daze. Maybe Cas had changed in the years since they knew each other because the Cas that Dean knew and loved wouldn’t abandon him for some one-night stand. That’s the kind of thing Dean might have done, sure, but he was kind of an asshole at fifteen. He was the one who’d brought a girlfriend to Cas’s birthday party. Of course, Cas managed to find a girl—or five—to make out with in response.

Dean probably looked like a fool standing on the dance floor while everyone around him was dancing. He got bumped by a group of women, probably a bachelorette party judging by the Bride sash one of them was wearing, and he somehow joined their group. They’d all drunk too much and were flailing like trapped birds. He took a turn with each of them, until they grew tired of his attention and let him go.

He passed the go-go cages, where some guy in leather bondage gear was gyrating to the music. He gave Dean a seductive grin, but Dean moved on, crossing to the stairs, hoping to find Cas and see for himself.

And then Dean saw him on the balcony. He couldn’t make out the other guy’s features, but he was pressed up close to Cas. He thought for a fleeting second that Cas had looked down and saw him, but nothing had changed between him and the guy on the balcony. It should have been enough to confirm what their friends had said, but Dean’s feet took him faster, up the stairs, then across the dance floor, up another set of stairs, and to the balcony.

As soon as he stepped foot on it, he heard voices above the music and noise of the crowd.

“I’m sorry, this isn’t what I want. This isn’t anything I want.”


“Hey, man, I thought we were cool,” another man’s voice said.

“I just…”

Cas came out of the crowd so fast that he nearly collided with Dean.

“Excuse me,” he stammered. Then he looked up. “Dean, I…”

“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, unable to keep the smile out of his voice. “Do you wanna dance?”

Chapter Text

The music thumped in time with Castiel’s body. It should have been sexy, grinding against a good-looking man, but Cas was uninterested in him. He was nothing but a means to an end. If Dean could flirt with a twink, then Cas could dance with an interested guy. He’d certainly turned down enough offers out of hope something would come of this disaster of a night, but Dean had kept enough space between them that his Catholic School principal would have thrown confetti.

“You are so hot,” his partner whispered in his ear, rubbing his crotch against Cas’s hip.

Cas looked down at the floor below them; he didn’t want to see the lust in this stranger’s face. He thought he could make out Dean in the crowd, and that didn’t make sense; Dean would probably be humping the twenty-one year old in some darkened corner or maybe they’d already left. The man who he thought was Dean looked up, and—shit—that was Dean. Cas tensed, suddenly feeling trapped in his impulsive decision.

“Hey, baby,” the other man said. “You alright?”

“Yes,” Cas lied. “I’m done dancing.”

“Great,” the man said as his face broke into a Cheshire cat grin. “You want to get out of here?”

“No,” Cas breathed, stepping away. “I’m sorry, this isn’t what I want. This isn’t anything I want.”

You aren’t anything I want.

“Hey, man, I thought we were on the same page,” his former dance partner said, pulling Cas back towards him.

“I just…” Cas wrested himself out of his arms; the guy fell against the balcony railing and let out a swear. Cas rushed through the crowd, shoving men aside, only to bump chest first into a solid body. “Excuse me,” he muttered, then looked up into a familiar face. “Dean, I—”

“Hey, Cas,” Dean interrupted. His eyes were bright but soft, and a smile that would dazzle anyone lucky enough to bathe in its glory lit up his gorgeous face. An almost unbearable pain gripped Cas’s heart. How could someone so good, so beautiful, so wonderful think Cas was worthy of his love? “Do you wanna dance?”

Cas was dumbfounded. “Shouldn’t we catch up with Gabe and the others and get out of here?”

“They’re gone,” Dean shrugged. “I said I’d get a ride home with you. We’ve got all the time in the world.”

The music changed to something slow and sultry, with a thundering base that rattled Cas’s bones. He hadn’t made a conscious decision to dance, but he’d started swaying with the music until he and Dean were moving together, pulled towards each other by something bigger than them. Dean wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer, bumping their foreheads. Cas could feel Dean’s breath against his face, heady and warm.

Dean’s hand stroked down Cas’s back, lingering on the top of his ass before sliding to a safer place on his hip. His other hand made contact with Cas’s other hip, and he tugged.

“Dean,” Cas tried to scold, but it ended up sounding more like a moan than Cas was comfortable with.

“It’s just dancing,” Dean murmured, brushing their faces together as he leaned in to whisper. “I only want to hold you.” He tightened his grip; his hands slid across his skin to meet each other on the small of Cas’s back.

Cas let himself go boneless in Dean’s arms and they swayed like that, touching from shoulder to knee. Dean sighed and leaned his head against Cas’s shoulder, tightening his grip to bring them impossibly closer. It was slow and sensual, but it wasn’t sexy. Cas wouldn’t let it be, so he arched his back to keep their crotches from coming into contact. It was hard enough to stay away from Dean without knowing if they were both hard. Dean held on, even as the song faded into something faster. They probably looked ridiculous, like some cross between awkward preteens at a middle school dance and the lovers in Titanic. Cas couldn’t bear to let go, however, and Dean only clung on more desperately.

Another song came to an end before the moving bodies on the dancefloor jostled them, and they finally separated.

“Sorry,” Dean huffed, ruffling his hair. His red cheeks were visible even in the club light. “I’m usually a better dancer than that.”

“I have no complaints,” Cas replied, shaking out the haziness. “But I’m sure you can prove it to me.”

Dean threw back his head in a joyous laugh, and tugged Cas towards him again. “Oh, man, you are on.” He started some sort of two-step, taking one of Cas’s hands in his.

“We are in the wrong club for that,” Cas laughed.

“We are two guys from Oklahoma, Cas” Dean reminded him. “This kind of shit is in our blood.”

“Neither of us have lived in Oklahoma for more than a decade,” Cas countered. “Plus, I believe that this”—he gestured between the two of them—“still isn’t that popular back home.”

“Well, Cas, if you’d like to dance with me in a way that befits our location, then I’m absolutely okay with that,” Dean said, his smirk growing with each word.

Cas put a hand on Dean’s chest to keep him at a distance, but he could feel Dean’s heart beating in time to the thumping base. It was far too intimate, so he pulled his hand away, letting Dean close the distance between them once again.

“This is a terrible idea,” Cas moaned.

Dean let out a groan and threw an arm over Cas’s shoulder.

“I told you this was a bad idea,” Cas muttered, his breath ragged.

“It was a fantastic idea; it just didn’t end well,” Dean complained. He shifted his weight off his bad leg, leaning more heavily into Cas.

“Can you make it all the way to the car, or should I drive it back around?”

“Yeah, I can walk.”

He wobbled, Cas taking most of his weight on his shoulder. He’d been lying about being able to walk, but Cas preferred the difficulty of getting him to the parking lot than to leaving him alone on the street.

Where some guy could try and pick him up.

It wasn’t Cas’s place to worry so much. Dean was a grown man, tall and broad-shouldered, attractive to most people. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t already been hit on; Cas’s bizarre jealousy was unwarranted. Whoever that young guy he’d been talking to at the bar had been, Dean hadn’t gone home with him or even danced with him. Dean had danced with Cas instead. For most of the night.


Too close.

If anyone else had been as blatant about their attraction as Dean had been, Cas would be going home with him for an entirely different reason.

“You shouldn’t have been showing off,” Cas admonished, if only to distract himself from Dean’s warmth.

“Those guys baited me.”

“And you showed them,” Cas teased.

“Fuck, yeah, I did,” Dean laughed.

As they reached the car, Cas let Dean stand on his own while he fished his keys out of his pocket. Someone was drunkenly singing into the night, and Cas said a silent prayer in hope they weren’t going to operate a vehicle in their state. He wasn’t looking forward to driving all the way to Pasadena this late at night, but the alternative was taking Dean to his apartment, and that was an increasingly terrible idea. Every touch made Castiel want another. It took every ounce of restraint for Cas to let Dean go once he was seated comfortably on the passenger’s side.

Cas slipped behind the wheel. His phone let out a chirp and he found a scolding text message from his brother. Cas sent back something rude and stowed his phone back in his pocket with a sigh.

“Hey,” Dean said softly. “You okay?”

“Yes,” Cas lied. “Tonight was quite the night.”

“Yeah,” Dean chuckled. “Our brothers are idiots, but this wasn’t so bad.”

They were silent as Cas maneuvered his way onto the freeway; there were few cars on the road, at least for LA, so the drive would be uneventful. Dean fiddled with the stereo, finding a classic rock station that played the stuff from the seventies and eighties he loved.

Some song that Cas only knew in pieces came on, and Dean hummed along softly. Cas wanted to turn off the radio, so he could listen to Dean alone, pull over to the side of the road, so he could watch him drum his fingers along his thigh in time to the music—be in the moment.

“I’m sorry I ditched you,” he said, finally filling the silence to curb his instincts.

“Yeah, man, that pretty much sucked.”

“I’m glad you didn’t leave, however, so that I could remedy the act.”

Dean hummed in agreement, which turned into humming another song along with the radio, this one from the sixties. The lyrics hit too close to home, however, and Cas reached over to switch the radio to an obnoxious Top 40 station. Dean glared at him but didn’t change it back.

“It’s cool, you know. You dancing with somebody,” he started. “Just because…I…want to, uh, be with, you know, uh, you, doesn’t mean I expect you to, uh, be a monk.”

“The same goes for you,” Cas lied. “You could have just left with that twink if you’d wanted to.”

“What twink?” Dean frowned.

“The one at the bar,” Cas answered. If they were being honest about their strange relationship status, then there was no reason not to be honest about the twenty-one-year old who wanted to eat Dean up. “He looked at you like you were the King of Dick.”

Dean let out a laugh that echoed in the car, drowning out the insipid pop playing on the radio.

“I like that; I’m going to use that sometime,” he joked, sending a glance towards Cas’s crotch.

“I, uh,” Cas stammered, warmth coming to his cheeks.

“Seriously, dude,” Dean said, his manner echoing the sentiment. “Barely out of high school twinks are not my thing. Not since I was one, too, at least.”

Cas scoffed. “There is no possible way you were ever a twink.”

“You shut your mouth,” Dean laughed. “I was skinny, I was pretty, I was out in the real world for the first time, I owned a pair of platform boots—I was textbook.”

“You wore platform boots?”

Dean shrugged. “Once. To a rave. I tripped, tried to catch myself on some girl’s candy necklace, sent a hundred pieces of candy flying in every direction.”

“You did not,” Cas said in disbelief.


A glance over at Dean did not clarify the matter; he was smiling like the Mona Lisa. The exit to Dean’s hotel was coming up, so Cas moved over as soon as the lane allowed him.

“You know,” Dean continued, the same smile on his face. “Or at least you should know exactly what my type is.”

Even with his eyes on the road, Cas couldn’t miss the once over Dean gave him.

Dean,” he scolded.

“What can I say, you imprinted on me like a mama duck.”


Dean gave him another heavy gaze, licking his lips obviously. “In this case, yeah.”

He needed to pay attention to driving, even though Dean’s blatant flirting was enough distraction to nearly make him miss the exit. He maneuvered through the neighborhood; every time he glanced over to Dean, Dean was looking at him like he wanted to eat him up. The shivers down his spine at the attention did nothing to improve his concentration. By the time he pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, the air in the car was thick with promise.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, his voice throaty and deep. “You’re going to have to help me to my room.”

The walk through the lobby had been uneventful, the trip in the elevator awkward, but the walk through the hall to Dean’s room was pure agony. His warm weight against Cas’s side, his pained and panting breaths, the scent of sweat and cologne—his mind was conjuring up dangerous things. He tried to focus his attention away from Dean, but that resulted in knocking Dean into the wall.

“Focus, Cas,” Dean growled.

“I’m trying. You’re not making it easy.”

“Trust me, I’m easy,” Dean quipped. The smile on his face faded when he saw Cas’s reaction. “Sorry,” he shrugged.

“This is very hard for me—” Cas began, only to stop once he realized the double entendre. He silenced Dean’s laughter with a glare.

Dean hobbled away from him, leaning against the wall for support instead. “I get it, Cas. I can make it down the rest of the hallway myself. You drive home safely, okay?”

Dean took a step forward to prove he was stable, and Cas acquiesced. “Perhaps it is better if you finish on your own.”

“Oh, trust me, I will definitely be finishing tonight.”

He took another step, but hubris caught up with him and he lurched in pain. Cas rushed forward to catch him. Dean let Cas take his weight, leaning into Cas’s personal space with more intent than accident. His eyes dropped to Cas’s mouth, and his tongue flicked out to moisten his own lips.

“What’s your room number,” Cas asked, his voice rougher than he would have liked.

Cas,” Dean said, half pleading, half questioning.

“I’m going to help you to your room”—Dean inhaled sharply—“then leave you there, alone, by yourself…to be in pain…” Cas trailed off; he’d gone too far. “I’ll, uh, I’ll get you some ice and a painkiller first, and maybe put a pillow under your knee.”

“Thanks, Cas,” Dean chuckled. The spell was broken; they parted to a respectable distance, Dean’s arm slung around Cas’s shoulder again. The pressure of Dean’s weight took Cas’s mind off the heat of his skin even with his leather jacket between them.

Dean fumbled for his key once they’d reached the door to his room. He couldn’t reach his wallet in his back pocket with his arm around Cas’s shoulder, but he tried several times before giving up in frustration.

“You’re going to have to grab it for me, man,” Dean said, his breath tickling the sweat soaked hair behind Cas’s ears.

“I am not reaching into your back pocket,” Cas said sternly.

“You are absolutely no fun,” Dean pouted, but he successfully retrieved his hotel room key and unlocked the door. They hobbled in sideways; Dean flipped on the lights, and Cas shut the door with his foot behind them.

“I thought we had a lot of fun tonight,” Cas countered.

"We did.” There was a rail along the wall; Dean put a hand on it to support his weight. Cas extricated himself from under Dean’s arm and let him lean against it instead. Dean looked up at him through heavy lashes. “Everything is more fun with you.”

“That can’t be true.” Cas stepped away; there was surely something that could give Dean a more comfortable night’s sleep—Advil, a glass of water, something. If only he could focus on anything other than Dean long enough to find it.

“You were always the best part of my life,” Dean went on. “Even when you weren’t there.”

“Dean,” Cas murmured.

Dean reached out and grabbed Cas’s wrist with his free hand, rubbing his thumb against the tender skin. Sparks ignited in Cas’s veins, and he leaned forward. Dean nuzzled into the contact and sighed as their lips made contact. His lips were soft, supple, yielding, so Cas pressed forward, flicking his tongue into Dean’s waiting mouth. Dean let out a low moan and his hand moved from Cas’s wrist up to his bicep and squeezed, holding him there. His other hand passed under Cas’s jacket, resting on the small of Cas’s back possessively, like he expected Cas to run away.

Instead, Cas pushed into the kiss, tilting his head and deepening it as he put one hand flat against the wall for traction. He ground their clothed bodies together, chest to chest, groin to groin. Dean’s grip tightened as their cocks rubbed together through their pants. Dean pulled away, breathless, his eyes wild and searching. There were still only inches between them, as Cas kept Dean pinned against the rail with his hips. Dean looked well-fucked—his full lips bitten, his cheeks flushed and glistening with sweat, his hair mussed where Cas had apparently run his hands through it. He answered the question in Dean’s face with a nod, words failing him as want soared again.

Dean finally moved his hands to tug at the jacket on Cas’s shoulders; Cas let him pull it off his arms. It dropped to the floor with a satisfying thump. The new freedom of movement let Cas wrap his arms around Dean, threading one hand through his hair—on purpose, this time—and tugging on the short strands. He kissed along Dean’s jawline, tasting the saltiness of his sweat, then found a spot behind his ear that seemed awfully tempting. Dean moaned in response, so Cas redoubled his efforts to take him apart. He worked at the buttons of Dean’s shirt to expose more delicious skin. Dean’s hips seemed to work of their own accord as he humped against Cas, bringing their hard cocks into contact with every thrust.

Nothing had ever been as overwhelming as this. The voice in the back of Cas’s head said that the reason for that was his attraction to Dean was matched with genuine emotions, but he silenced it in favor of taking Dean’s mouth again. Every one of Cas’s senses was heightened; Dean seemed to have a preternatural sense of everything Cas liked. He gently stroked his fingers against the back of Cas’s neck, while the other hand played with the hem of his Henley, tugging it upward. Cas pulled away to let Dean remove his shirt, and then it was bare skin on bare skin. The hardened nubs of their nipples brushed against each other, making Cas’s cock throb within its denim case. He wanted more—he wanted everything, but he’d take whatever Dean was interested in giving. On that matter, his hands moved to the fly of Dean’s jeans, and he popped the button. Easing down the zipper, he rubbed the base of his hand into Dean’s crotch. Dean let out a low whimper, which was quickly overtaken by the sound of ringing coming from Cas’s back pocket.

Cas pulled away reluctantly but completely. His groin was still throbbing, but he knew what the sound of that ringer meant, and it wasn’t good.