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Cheesecakes And Whiskey

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CHAPTER 1


 

 

June 2008

Castiel woke up slowly, keeping his eyes shut at first, taking the time to appreciate the moment. He was sleeping on his back, his body all intertwined in his sheets, just warm enough so he wasn’t neither cold nor hot. He felt like he was lying on a giant cloud, soft and warm. Birds were chirping at his window, and Castiel could feel the first rays of sunlight on his soft skin. He finally, lazily, opened his eyes and turned his head toward his alarm clock.

6:48, he thought. Better get up now.

He pushed the sheets away, shivering slightly as he exposed his body to the chill air of the bedroom. He put on pyjama pants over his Batman briefs, stretched and yawned, and pushed the button of his clock to OFF before it rang, waking the entire neighbourhood. He didn’t put on a shirt, being comfortable with less clothes on in the morning. Castiel walked out of his bedroom and down the stairs, and made a beeline for the coffee pot standing on the kitchen counter. After pressing a couple of buttons and putting water in the coffee machine, he turned and opened the fridge to pour himself a glass of orange juice. Waiting for his morning fuel to be ready, he went back upstairs to fetch his phone : as expected, he had three unread texts.

From : Charlie

You up ?

It’s almost 7AM and I'm at your front door with muffins and bagels

... I bailed again :(

Of course. Castiel rushed down the stairs, made a sharp turn to the right and walked to the front door. He could already see a small body shape through the frosted glass, sitting on the porch. He unlocked the door, and as soon as it swung open, Charlie got on her feet and turned to look at Castiel with her best puppy eyes.

"Good morning", she said.

"Good morning", he answered with a smile. He looked behind her. "How the hell did you get here?"

"Took the bus. She only lives a few blocks from here. I was too drunk to drive last night so my car slept in a creepy parking lot."

"So it got serious again last night?"

"Please don’t judge me, Cas..."

"Come on, you know I won’t. You brought breakfast" he said, smiling even more and stepping aside to let her in. Castiel noticed she was still wearing the clothes she had yesterday. "You didn’t stop at your apartment before coming here?"

"I woke up at 6:15 and I didn’t want to miss breakfast", she said, walking toward the kitchen.

Castiel followed her. It was a tradition between them to have breakfast together when they worked the same shift at the restaurant. Today would be no exception, even if Charlie had had a late one last night.

"Ok, stop killing me with the tension. What happened?" Castiel replied, taking a bagel from Charlie’s bag and pulling his cream cheese out of the fridge.

Charlie let out a weird sound, something between a growl and a whine. Castiel started eating his bagel, pouring each of them a cup of coffee.

"I don’t know! I suck so bad at this", she started, talking fast. "We went to a bar and we really had fun, honestly. We hijacked the karaoke machine and sang until our throats were soar. And then we went to her apartment and I had the best sex in my entire life and I was so drunk and so tired after that I just fell asleep by her side. When I woke up she was glued to my side and when I tried to get out of bed, she hugged me tight and told me she loved me –"

"And that’s when you put your pants back on as fast as lightning and ran out the door."

"Yep" Charlie answered, lowering her head and taking a bite of her muffin. "Why do they always do that? Why do I always find girls who want serious relationships?"

"I don’t know, dear. You must look like someone who wants something more than just sex. Or you make them believe you want more than that."

"I should wear a sign around my neck."

"That is actually a great idea. Just get a tattoo on your forehead : No Love, Just Sex in big bold letters" Castiel grinned, finishing his bagel.

"Shut up, dude. It's not worth it. They won’t read it anyway. I don’t think the girl from yesterday even knew how to read."

They both laughed and started talking about all Charlie’s 'Best Relationship Fails', a thing they’ve been doing for a while now. They talked until 8:30 before Castiel excused himself to go take a shower and get ready for work. When he came down again, all dressed up and ready to go, Charlie was sitting on his couch, feet on the coffee table, reading one of her comic books.

"Ready to go?" Castiel asked, looking at his watch. "We only have 30 minutes left before our shift so let's just stop by your place and gather your things. I'll drive you to that creepy parking lot tonight after work."

"Such a good friend you are, dropping off a girl like me in a parking lot at night."

"First of all, it won't even be dark yet. Second of all, I dare anyone who tries to kidnap you to get it done without losing half of his or her teeth."

"You're right. I'm a badass."

Castiel rolled his eyes, a smile on his face. "Come on. Put your shoes on, Black Widow,  we're gonna be late."

***

Dean opened a sticky eye with a groan, the sun hitting straight in his face. His mouth felt like he swallowed a whole bucket of goo and he could still taste the whiskey on his tongue. Dean turned his head to the other side, as far away as he could from the sun, rubbing his eyes. A pain shot through his head. He really shouldn't have drunk that much last night. He lifted his head a bit, gently, to look at his clock.

9:16. Good. He could still sleep a bit.

Wait. What ?

He lifted his head fast again, sending a vivid throb in his head.

"Shit!" he said, ignoring his aching body. "Shitshitshitshit!"

He grabbed the first pair of pants he could reach, snatched his job uniform from the hanger in his closet and ran to the bathroom. His shift started at 9:30 and he could not afford to be late again. He put his toothbrush in his mouth and started putting on his pants and walking back to his room. He had one leg in and tried to put the second one in his jeans, but he stepped on the fabric and got his two feet caught up. He jumped awkwardly, trying to free either his pants or his foot, but his attempt failed miserably and he fell on the floor, knees hitting the ground hard.

"Son of a bitch!" he cried angrily.

He rolled on his back and pulled up his pants before getting up again. While brushing his teeth, he put on a random t-shirt and two different socks, not caring a second about how stupid he looked. He went back to the bathroom, rinsed his mouth, grabbed his shoes in a hurry and ran to his car without locking his apartment door.

"Sorry Baby, no time to warm you up this morning" he said, starting the engine of his Impala.

He got out of his parking space with a screech, and burned almost every stop sign he encountered on his way to The Galleria.

Dean arrived almost on time, but wasn't late enough to be noticed. He changed in the back store's bathroom and went up front to start his shift.  The only one who gave him an exasperated look was Benny, but Dean was used to his friend's attitude.

"Got a rough one last night, brother?" Benny said, a smile in his eyes.

"What can I say? Chicks dig me", Dean smirked. "One of them kept buying me drinks. You know me, I can't say no to free booze."

"Did you bring her home with you?" Benny asked behind the counter.

"Nah, didn't feel like it. But I have her number. I'll call her in a couple of days, let her steam a bit."

"You are unbelievable."

"Usually, I get that compliment in bed, but I'll take it whenever it comes, thank you", Dean replied with a smile. "Wanna come eat with me later?"

"Thanks, but I brought my lunch. As usual."

"I don't get how you can eat the same damned pork sandwich every day of the week."

"And I don't get how you can eat at the same damned Cheesecake Factory every day of the week", Benny immediately replied.

"At least I can try something different at every meal."

"And we both know you don't."

Dean laughed. He enjoyed a lot having the same shifts as Benny. They've known each other for a long time before work, and they were still seeing each other outside of work, and Benny was one of the few people Dean couldn't get tired of.

"You know, if you'd only give it a try, you'd see why", Dean answered before turning to his first customer. "Hi, welcome to MicroCell. What can I do for you today ?"

***

It was 6:04PM when Castiel finally went to his locker and untied his apron. Charlie was just beside him, waiting for him to be ready.

"You are so slow, Cas, it's impossible" she said.

"And you are always in a hurry" he answered back.

"Of course I am, I haven't had a shower in 48 hours and I didn't even brush my teeth this morning."

"Ok, I'll give you that one" Castiel replied, taking off his tie. "Let's go."

They got out of the restaurant and stepped into the mall. Castiel liked working in a restaurant inside a shopping center. There were always new customers and he could go shopping on his break. But parking was a real pain in the ass. He only found a place on the other side of the mall this morning, so they had to walk all the way through.

"Geez, you parked, like, in Mordor, today" Charlie said.

"Hey, it's entirely your fault. It's not my problem if you couldn't find your tie. We didn't have time to find a better place."

They reached Castiel's white Ford Focus. As soon as they got in, he plugged his phone in, connecting the bluetooth.

"What would you like to sing?" Castiel asked, his finger tapping to find his playlist.

"How about our all time favourite?"

"Okay, here we go" Castiel laughed.

They drove to the bar Charlie went to, the music at an ear-splitting volume, screaming more than singing the lyrics of I Want You Back by Jackson 5. They've sung it so many times, they worked out a way to do it as a duet. No matter how many times Castiel did this with Charlie, he always ended up with a huge smile.

After dropping Charlie off at her car and making sure she was safe, Castiel went home, glad the day was over. He couldn't wait to trade the crisp white shirt for a normal t-shirt (or no t-shirt at all).

He parked his car in the driveway and went inside to prepare himself dinner. He took a few minutes to cook some pasta to go with the piece of chicken breast he didn't eat last night and made a ceasar salad to complete his meal. He took a beer out of his fridge and dragged himself to the living room. Castiel sat on the couch and turned on the television, looking for the only episode he recorded that day. He started eating as Ellen Degeneres danced on stage, and Castiel swayed his hips with her, following the rhythm of the music, a small smile on his face. 

***

At 6:07PM, Dean was back to his car, driving to Bobby's garage. He was feeling a lot better and was ready to help Bobby for a few hours before heading home. Maybe working both jobs at the same time was hard, but Dean knew it was all worth it. His little brother had received his diploma a few months ago, and to see how happy Sam was just proved Dean that all the efforts he put in to pay for his brother's school were totally worth the shot. He just had to pay his debts and everything was going to be great. Plus, working with his uncle was all kinds of awesome. He'd always wanted to be a mechanic.

He parked the Impala behind Bobby's and walked in, all set for three perfect hours of cars and classic rock waiting for him.

***

Wednesday. Half of the week is behind me, thank God, thought Dean as one particularly insistent customer left the shop. It was almost time for his and Benny's break and he needed to eat something before he started to auto digest himself. He walked towards the back store to join Benny when suddenly, someone called his name.

"Mr. Winchester!"

You have got to be kidding me.

Dean took a second to put a smile on his face and turned around, facing his boss. Zachariah almost never came to the shop, being too busy doing some paperwork in an office somewhere else. Rumour had it that he wasn't actually doing anything, but no one could prove it. Dean hated the guy, and he was pretty sure the feeling was mutual.

"Hi Zach."

"How's the day going?"

"Fine."

They looked at each other for a few seconds, Zachariah waiting for Dean to elaborate, Dean certain that if he opened his mouth again, he'd regret it.

"Where's Benjamin?"

"On his break. Speaking of which, it's mine too" said Dean, turning around. "Have a nice day."

"Don't come back late, Mr. Winchester. If you take more than the hour you are supposed to, I'll take it off your pay check. Enjoy your lunch" Zachariah answered, fire in his eyes.

What an asshole, Dean thought, entering the back store. Benny was waiting for him beside his locker.

"That customer didn't want to let you go, huh?" Benny laughed.

"Yeah. And Zachariah showed up just after. We need to get out of here."

"Can't agree more. By the way, I'm coming with you. I forgot my lunch at home."

Dean smiled.

"Finally! I knew it was bound to happen. Come on, if I don't eat in the next 5 minutes I'm going to die."

They walked together to the Cheesecake factory, which was only a few steps away from MicroCell. As they entered the restaurant, a hostess welcomed them.

"Hey Dean! How are you today?"

"I'm great, thanks Tessa. How are you?"

"I had a rough morning, but I feel better since you're here" she said with a flirtatious look. "Table for two?"

"Yes, please" Dean replied with his best smile.

Tessa took two menus from under the counter and stepped to the right.

"Follow me. I can't give you your usual table today. We have a group of 16 people taking half of Jody's section, and the other half is already reserved for another group."

"Well, tell her I say hi, will you?" Dean said, following Tessa, Benny not far behind.

"Sure, sweetheart."

She dropped the menus on a small table on the far side of the restaurant, motioning them to sit.

"Enjoy your meal, guys" Tessa said, slightly brushing Dean's arm as she walked away.

Both men sat in front of each other as a waitress came to give them glasses of water.

"Can I bring you something else to drink while you look at the menu?" She said, looking at Dean.

"Not for me, thank you... Lisa" he answered, looking at her nametag.

"Ok well, I'll be back in a few minutes to take your orders. If you need anything..."

"We'll let you know" he said with a wink.

She walked away, swaying her hips way more than necessary.

"Am I invisible or something around here? She didn't even asked ME if I wanted something. She didn't even look at me!" Benny said, opening the menu.

"I'm telling you man, I can't walk around without having at least three women - or men for that matter - at my feet."

"You are so fucking pretentious, man, seriously. No wonder they can't stand you more than a night."

"Shut your face. I can get anyone I want, whenever I want, for as long as I want. You're just jealous" Dean said "and you have to try their burgers, they are delicious" he added, seeing Benny going through the menu a second time.

"I'm not jealous. If I don't bring someone home with me every time I go out, it's because I don't want to, not because I am ashamed or because I don't know how to get someone or whatever you might think. And I'll take the same thing as you" Benny said, raising his hand so Lisa could see they were ready. She raised a finger, showing she was coming in a minute. "I just think you can't actually get anyone you want. That's not how life works."

Lisa walked to them, cheeks a bright pink taint.

"What can I get you, boys?"

"We'll take two Americana Cheeseburgers. Extra cheese and extra bacon in one of them" said Dean.

"Comin' right up!" Lisa said, turning around with a stunning smile on her face.

Dean looked at her walking away, biting his bottom lip, envy in his eyes. Maybe he'll ask her when she finishes her shift. That is, if she doesn't tell him by herself.

"Ok, you know what?" Benny blurted out. "I am so done with your attitude. I've been putting up with it for years and I can never rub it in your face. I am ready to bet a whole lot of money that you can't get everyone. Next person that talks to us, is the one you have to make fall in love with you. If you do it, you win."

"That's too easy, man, that girl is already so into me, if I make a move, she'll come home with me tonight without hesitation."

"I'm not talking about sex, Dean. I'm talking about love. I'm talking about waking up in the morning and wishing you could stay in bed with that person instead of running away as silently as possible. I'm talking about someone who can deal with your ostentatious self for more than 24 hours and enjoy doing so."

"You can deal with me for more than 24 hours."

"First of all, I'm not into men -"

"Give me one night, darling" Dean cut with a wink.

"- And second of all, I know you, and I know it's just a cover for all your insecurities" Benny continued without flinching, accustomed to Dean's salty reply.

Dean suddenly got serious. He'd known Benny for a long time and they both knew talking about Dean's feelings was risky. It was like defusing a bomb : one wrong move, and you and half of the building you were in could be obliterated from the surface of the earth. He looked Benny straight in the eye, all fun erased from his face.

"Fine" Dean answered. "What are the stakes?"

"If you succeed, I'll help you pay your debts. You know I have the money. I can help."

It was true. Benny's parents gave him a huge inheritance when they died. The only reason why he was working was because he got easily bored and wanted something to do on weekdays.

"And if I fail?"

"I put your precious Baby on lockdown for three months. You can't drive her, you can't polish her, you can't even look at her."

"Are you planning on stealing my car?!" Dean exclaimed, outraged.

"Not stealing. Confiscating."

Dean looked at him, his forest green eyes wide with shock.

"You can't be serious."

"Oh believe me, I am."

"how would I get to work?"

"I can drive you. We did it for a while in college, it was fun. I don't mind doing it again."

Dean thought about it for a few seconds. He still had fifty grand in debts, which was a lot, and Benny paying a part of it, even if it was only a thousand dollars, would be a miracle. He also knew Sam would help him whenever he'd get a job, but the guy just got a house with Jess and Dean would feel like shit to ask his brother for money. It was Bobby's and Dean's decision to pay for Sam so he could live his dream, there was no way he'd crush his perfect life right now.

"How much time do you give me?" Dean asked.

"Let's say... six months?" Benny answered hesitantly.

Dean bit the inside of his cheek.

"You got yourself a deal. The next person that talks to us, women, men, whatever. I'll get him or her."

Benny looked surprised.

"You know you'll lose, right?" he said.

"Watch me" Dean answered with a predatory look.

The two men were so concentrated on each other that that they didn't noticed the waiter arriving at their table. He cleared his throat.

"Sorry to interrupt. Two Americana Cheeseburgers, one extra bacon and cheese?"

Dean and Benny looked up at the same time, surprised to hear a male voice. The waiter was wearing the Cheesecake Factory uniform, of course, but it looked... different on him. That's what Dean thought anyway. His white shirt was tensed over his strong arms, his colourful tie was hanging just the right way from his neck. He had the hands of a pianist, long and soft, and Dean thought for a second about holding that hand, and how comforting it would be. He had a strong squared jaw and he had stubble just the way Dean liked it. His hair was a dark brown, almost black, which only made his eyes look even brighter. They were a gunmetal blue, a color Dean only saw on cars until today, which was oddly exciting. And his lips.

God, his lips.

That was probably the most arousing thing Dean had seen in his entire life. He couldn't even describe how bad he wanted to kiss those lips and make them his. He wanted to bite them and make them swollen, and to continue until they both couldn't take it anymore. They looked so kissable, so perfect, like Dean's mouth was made to touch the waiter's. He couldn't stop staring. 

"Huh... I... Guess I got the wrong tab -"

"NO!" screamed Dean, Benny and him getting out of their numbness. "No no, sorry, the extra cheese and bacon is mine, thank you."

"Extras for you, and here's for you. Enjoy your meals" he said with a dazzling smile.

Oh Lord, my heart.

The waiter clapped his hands together and walked away. Dean let his gaze follow him until he couldn't do so without breaking his own neck. He turned back to Benny, to see his friend had the biggest grin he'd ever seen.

"You are so going to lose this thing, brother" he laughed, taking a sip of water. "I can already see you crying at my door to get your car back."

"Shut your face" Dean replied. "I'm gonna make it happen."

"Dude, I've never seen you that awkward in front of anyone. You completely lost it."

"I... It wasn't... I didn't... Oh, you know what, fuck you. I'll show you" Dean said, taking a huge bite from his burger. 

"You wish" Benny answered.

This is going to be a whole lot harder than I thought it would.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 2


 

 

Okay. Take a deep breath. You can do this.

It was two days after the 'Burger Catastrophe', as Dean called it in his head. Like Benny said, he had never lost control of himself like that in front of anyone. He couldn't let that happen again. It wasn't only a question of pride : if his head couldn't focus on the goal, he couldn't win this thing and he would lose Baby too.

He pulled his shoulders back, checked his breath and walked into the Cheesecake Factory, just to be welcomed, as usual, by Tessa. A huge smile came to her face when she spotted him.

“Dean, what a surprise! I only expected you for supper today. Don't you start at 1PM on Thursdays?”

“I do, I do. I just wanted to see someone before I start my shift in Hell” Dean answered.

“That’s so sweet of you to come see me” Tessa replied, stars in her eyes.

“It’s always a pleasure to see you, but I’m here for someone else.”

“Oh” Tessa said, slightly disappointed. “Who is it?”

“That’s the thing. I don’t know his name.”

“Well, I know pretty much everyone around here… What does he look like?”

“Blue eyes, dark hair, about six feet… He was wearing a blue and red tie two days ago. A girl named Lisa took our orders and the guy just came and gave us our plates and that’s it, he disappeared after that.”

Tessa took a moment to think about the description Dean gave her.

“I think I know who it is” she said slowly. “It must be Cas. He works at the bar. Would you like me to go fetch him for you?”

“No, no, it’s fine, I'll go myself. Thank you, darling.”

Dean made his way through the restaurant to the bar, which was in the far back of The Cheesecake Factory. He sat on a stool, hands sweaty. He's never been that anxious about talking to someone. Luckily for him, it wasn’t noon yet, so he was all alone. And swiftly, as Dean was macerating in his own self pity, there he was : white shirt, same tie, black pants hanging in his hips just the right way. Dean got lost, yet again, into this perfect being.

“Hello, sir” the barman said.

His voice was low and sexy, and Dean felt a familiar pang way down there, but it was the first time he’d ever felt it that strong without anyone touching him. His facial expression must have changed because the man suddenly seemed concerned.

“Sir, are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry. I’ll take a whiskey please. Make it double.”

I’ll need it, he thought.

“Here you go” the blue-eyed man said.

“Thanks.”

The barman started drying some glasses right beside Dean, not caring a second about him.

Okay, this is awkward. Say something. Quick.

“The first time I went to a bar, I ordered the exact same thing. I tried to take a sip and thought it tasted like gasoline. I spat the whole thing everywhere” Dean said, a weak laugh coming out of his mouth.

What the fuck was that? Great job, asshat!

The barman looked at him, smiling a fake smile, the one everyone who works with the public knows, the smile you reserve for weird, annoying customers.

 “So, what’s your name?” Dean asked, trying to defuse the tension. He couldn’t remember how Tessa called him.

“My name’s Castiel” the man answered, returning to his glasses.

“That’s a weird name” Dean said, without thinking.

“Yeah. I get that a lot.”

“You’re here often, Castiel?”

Dean regretted his words the moment they got out of his mouth. Castiel stopped his chores to look at him, mockery in his blue eyes.

Now you did it, fucktard. Of course he’s here often, he works here, you stupid, useless piece of shit.

“Okay, stupid question, sorry. I don’t know what’s happening to me, I’m usually not like that. Never mind. Forget it.”

Dean downed his whiskey in one long gulp, put a ten dollar bill under his empty glass and almost ran outside the restaurant, without looking back.

What the actual hell is wrong with me?!

 

***

 

Castiel was on his knees behind the bar, trying to place every empty bottle so they could fit on one shelf so they weren't taking too much space. He didn't really check if anyone was there, since there was rarely anyone before 2PM and it wasn't even noon yet. His legs were sore from being in the same uncomfortable position for too long. He finally ended his bottle Tetris game and took the tub lying beside him to fill it with ice.

Geez, I need to stretch my legs before I do that.

He got up painfully, using the counter to support himself, and he had the wind knocked out of his lungs when he saw someone sitting a few stools away.

Oh my god, it's Him!

Castiel had noticed him the other day, when he helped out Lisa. The poor girl had to help Jody with her two groups and asked him to bring a few plates for her own customers. Castiel did so happily, having nothing else to do. But when he got to the last table, everything in his head just imploded. That guy was all he'd ever wished for.

Okay, deep breath. I got this.

"Hello, Sir" he managed to say, surprised he could even talk.

He walked toward the man, legs weak, not knowing if it was because of his last position or because of those forest green eyes staring at him. Castiel noticed the man was just gawking at him with a vacant expression, like he couldn't get his eyes off him.

It can't be...

"Sir, are you alright?"

The man closed his eyes for a second, and seemed to come back to his senses. Castiel realised he wanted him to open them again because, for the love of God, those eyes were more beautiful than anything he had ever seen.

"Yeah, yeah, sorry. I'll take a whiskey, please. Make it double."

Castiel took the bottle of Bourbon beside him and poured the man a glass, his hands shaking.

"Here you go" he said, trying his hardest not to stare at his customer.

"Thanks."

Stop. Staring. At. His. Eyes.

Castiel decided to move his attention to something else and his eyes started travelling south, stopping at the man's lips.

Never mind. I don't got this.

He turned around and took a rag and a glass and started wiping it, even if it clearly didn't need it.

"The first time I went to a bar, I ordered the exact same thing. I tried to take a sip and thought it tasted like gasoline. I spat the whole thing everywhere" the man said, something like a laugh coming out of his throat.

Castiel didn't know what to say, so he just looked at him and smiled.

Why am I so awkward, geez, if I want him to come back, I need to step up my game, and fast.

"So, what's your name?"

"My name's Castiel" he said, snatching his eyes away again.

"That's a weird name."

Here we go again.

"Yeah, I get that a lot."

"You come here often, Castiel?"

Is he fucking kidding me?, Castiel thought, looking at him.

His thoughts must have shown on his face, because the man in front of him immediately continued.

"Okay, stupid question, sorry. I don't know what's happening to me, I'm usually not like that. Never mind. Forget it."

He finally took his glass, drank the whole thing, slid a ten dollar bill on the counter and left the bar, like he was late for something.

Shit. I totally blew it, Castiel thought.

He looked down at the glass he kept polishing before throwing the rag on the counter and placing the glass on the shelf behind him. He let out a groan and walked to the back store. Charlie was concentrating on her bow tie in the mirror, making last adjustments to her uniform before starting her shift. She turned around and looked at Castiel.

"What happened?"

Castiel froze.

"Nothing" he said after a short pause.

"Don't mess with me. I've know you for years and I know that face. You screwed something up."

"It's nothing, Charlie."

Charlie folded her arms over her chest and looked at Castiel with determination. He rolled his eyes and sighed.

"Remember the other day when I helped Lisa?"

"Yup."

"Well, I served a man. And that man was... my type, to keep it simple."

"Go on."

"He was there a few seconds ago, and I tried to talk to him but I couldn't and he was really awkward and I don't think he'll ever come back. See? I told you it was nothing. I don't even know the guy's name."

"Awkward how?"

Castiel let out a small laugh.

"He asked me if I come here often."

"Wow" Charlie guffawed. "That's a new kind of lame."

"I know but..." Castiel hesitated. "It was kind of cute."

"If you say so! I think it's lame but, hey, whatever floats your boat. Why do you think he won't come back?"

"Because he seemed pretty uncomfortable after pulling that one and almost ran away."

Charlie passed beside Castiel, heading out for the beginning of her shift.

"Well, he's the one missing out on one fine piece of ass" she said, poking him in the ribs.

Castiel rolled his eyes again. "Whatever" he said, following her.

They worked all day and ended their shifts at 9PM. They walked together, talking all the way to the locker room until Charlie took her phone from her locker and looked at it with concern.

"Seems like you're spending the night at my place" she said, tossing the phone to Castiel.

It was open on today's weather and it showed a big, dark cloud with lightning and rain coming out of it. Castiel's fingers went numb. He'd always been afraid of thunderstorms. When he was young, lightning hit his house, and half of it burned down, killing one of his sister in the process. Every time he could, when there was a storm, he'd spent the time with someone, mostly Charlie.

"Seems like it" he said, tossing back the phone.

"Do you want to stop at your place to get you clothes?"

"Nah, I still have a few at yours."

"Okay! I was planning on watching Harry Potter tonight. Is that okay with you?"

"Depends which one you wanted to watch" Castiel said.

They both looked at each other, a smile slowly forming on their faces.

"The Prisoner Of Azkaban!" they exclaimed together, laughing.

"Let's just stop for pop corn, I'm out" Charlie continued. "Here, take my keys. You won't have to wait in your car for me to get home."

"If you're not there in less than fifteen minutes after me, I'll start without you."

"And I have the Elder Wand hidden under my bed, so don't you dare! I can cast a spell on you and make you barf slugs."

"You are such a nerd" Castiel laughed.

"And proud of it!" Charlie exclaimed as she slapped Castiel's ass, taking him by surprise. "See you in twenty!"

 

***

 

"So how's the plan going, Lover Boy?" Benny asked as Dean walked into the store.

"Good." Dean lied, hoping his friend wouldn't notice the faint red tint reaching his cheeks.

"That's all you're gonna give me? Good?" Benny said, following Dean to the back store.

It'd been two days since Dean failed miserably to talk to Castiel. He had tried going back the next day, but the barman wasn't working. So here he was, with absolutely no idea what to tell Benny about Castiel, because well, he had learned nothing about the guy. And he certainly wouldn't tell about his attempt.

"Yeah, that is all you're gonna get for now" he said, tensed.

"Did you at least get his name?"

"Of course I did, I'm not that stupid" he said, facing his locker.

"And his phone number?"

Dammit, Dean thought. Of course Benny knew his modus operandi. He always had to get a name and a number. Always. Dean kept his mouth shut.

"You didn't?!" Benny exclaimed, noticing Dean's silence. "Damn, brother, it went that bad? You never, ever, don't get a number when you want one. I should lock up your Baby right now."

"You shut your face!" Dean said, turning to face his friend. "We agreed on six months, you don't touch her until then. Maybe it went bad, but I still have six months to make it work, and I swear to God, I'll make it work."

"Are you going to try again today?"

"If he works, yeah."

"Can I come? I wanna see you melt into a puddle of shame."

"Absolutely not!"

Benny laughed as he walked back to the front of the store.

"That's too bad" he said. "I'll just have to spy on you, then."

Benny just had enough time to close the door behind him before Dean's shoe hit hard, just where his head was seconds before. Dean heard him laugh again on the other side and couldn't help but smile as he picked up the shoe he threw.

 

***

 

Dean's shift ended at 6PM, but he wished it ended as soon as it started at eleven in the morning. Today was a day where he only had assholes who wouldn't let him finish his sentences and kept screaming at his head because obviously, it's totally his fault if their warranty is over. At least three customers asked to see the manager, and since Zachariah was never working with Dean, It was Benny's job to deal with them.

"Sometimes I hate being an assistant manager" Benny said, after another customer left, angrier than before. "I hate people."

"I know how you feel, man. That's why I like working at Bobby's. Cars, I get. People are crazy" Dean said, opening the door to the back store, Benny on his heels.

 They both changed in silence. Dean was hoping with all the fibers in his body that Benny had forgotten about where he was heading in less than five minutes, or at least, that his friend had the decency to not talk about it, unless it was to wish him luck.

"So, are you sure you don't want me to come with you? I could maybe prevent another humongous humiliation."

Dean rolled his eyes. "You are determined to make my life a living hell, aren't you?"

Benny guffawed. "On the contrary, my friend. I want to get you out of it."

"Well, thanks for your consideration, but I can get out myself. I told you. I got this."

Benny finished putting his shoes on with a little smirk on his lips. He got up and reached for the door before turning around to face Dean.

"Good luck, Lover Boy. Just... don't hurt your gorgeous little head trying to figure this out. I know it can be hard for you to think with something else than your dick."

"Get out of here, you asshat" Dean laughed. "You're ruining my mood."

"See you tomorrow" Benny replied, walking away.

Dean finished dressing up and packed his things. He slid his keys and wallet in his jean's pockets and dropped his phone in his backpack, on top of his uniform. He walked out of the store and slowly made his way to the restaurant, gathering his courage. Tessa wasn't working tonight so he just passed in front of the hostess with a weak smile directed at her.

As he approached the bar, his heart started beating faster, and he felt a shortness of breath. He stopped in the middle of the restaurant and took a minute to calm down. He took a few deep breaths, his eyes closed, and he counted to ten in his head before he opened them again and continued on his way. As the other day, the stools were empty, most people ordering drinks at their table instead of sitting at the bar. Dean took the same seat and put his backpack on the floor between him and the counter, as he waited for Castiel to show up. After a few seconds though, a tiny woman in the restaurant's uniform appeared in front of him. Her hair was tied in a ponytail and her bangs were just reaching under her eyebrows, highlighting her eyes. She looked at him with a charming smile.

"Hello, there! What can I do for you?" she asked, taking a glass from under the counter.

"I have a question, actually. Is Castiel working today?"

The redhead put down the glass and looked at him with sharp eyes, and Dean could automatically feel the girl putting her defences up.

"There's no Castiel here" she answered. The smile was still on her face, but Dean could sense it wasn't as sincere as it was a few seconds ago.

"What? No, there's someone here called Castiel, he told me his name himself."

"Well he must've given you a fake name, because there's no one here with -"

"It's okay, Charlie" a low voice said. "I'll take it from here. Thank you."

They both turned around to see Castiel coming out the door behind the bar. Charlie and him looked at each other, communicating in a silent language only both of them knew, before Charlie turned to face Dean again.

"Okay well, have fun, you two!" she said before letting her colleague take her place in front of Dean.

"Sorry about that" the bartender said. "She's really... protective sometimes. Same thing than last time?" he asked, taking the glass Charlie had left on the counter.

He remembers? That's promising.

"Yes, please" Dean answered, still confused by what happened. He waited for his drink in silence, trying to make sense of all this, before deciding it wasn't really important : he was here to talk to Cas, and he had a chance. Might as well take it.

"So" said the man, handing him his drink, "why were you asking for me? We only met once and it's not like we spent five hours together."

"As a matter of fact, that's exactly what I wanted to talk about. You deserve an apology."

Castiel looked puzzled. "For what?"

"My behaviour. I never act like that. I had a really bad day and the conversation wasn't going as I wanted it to go and it pissed me off. I was rude to you for no reason, so I'm sorry. Let's start this all over, shall we?"

Castiel looked at him for a moment before extending his hand.

"No hard feelings" he said with a smile.

"Great" Dean said, shaking his hand. "My name is Dean, by the way."

"Before you ask, yes, Castiel is my real name. Like I said, Charlie can be very protective in some situations."

"I guess it's too soon to ask why?"

"You guessed right" Cas answered.

"Fair enough" Dean said. "How long have you been working here?"

"I'll start my fifth year in November. And you? I've never seen you around until... two days ago."

"Yeah, I rarely come to this part of the restaurant. Usually I sit in Jody's section."

"So you're a regular."

"Yes I am" Dean answered with a smile. "I come every day on my break. I work at MicroCell."

"What's your favourite thing on our menu?" Castiel asked with a smile.

"I have to say, your cheeseburgers are phenomenal. Really. I always take the same thing."

"How about the dessert?"

"Well, I'm more of a pie guy, but" he added quickly, seeing Castiel's look, "the Black-Out cake is pretty amazing. What's yours? And please don't tell me your bestseller, I want to know your personal favourite."

"The white chocolate raspberry truffle" Castiel answered without hesitation. "No matter how much I want to try something else, I always end up with this one."

The conversation went on. Dean felt more and more comfortable and words were flowing easily between the two of them. Dean thought that maybe, when other customers would come, Castiel would stop talking to him but he realised soon enough that Charlie had it covered. Even when she had her hands full, Castiel would go help her and every time, he would come back to continue where they've left off. Dean even had one or two free drinks, followed by a wink from the bartender. The whiskey giving him the courage he needed, Dean tried a few times during the evening to send subtle messages to Castiel, to see if he could be interested in going out, but Cas ignored them.

"I don't go on dates with my customers" he'd simply replied when Dean decided to ask him out, loud and clear.

Dean kept drinking and obviously, kept pushing. The more whiskey he drank, the less subtle he became, until he voiced out loud his thoughts.

"It's okay if you say no today. I'll just come back tomorrow and ask again" Dean smiled. "And you can say no tomorrow too, but I'll be back the day after. And I will come back every day of the week, every day of the month, until you give me a chance."

"That sounds a lot like harassment to me" Castiel answered, trying hard to hide his own smile.

"Maybe" he said, brushing Castiel's words aside, "but I know you won't complain. I can't tell if you're into me as much as I am into you. Hell, I can't tell if you're into men in general. But I can tell you enjoy my company. You wouldn't come back after every other customer to continue talking if you were not having fun. Am I wrong?"

Castiel couldn't hide his smile any longer. It spread like a wave on the soft sand of the beach. It started at the right corner of his mouth, before reaching his upper lip, showing his gums and his perfectly aligned teeth. There was something about the way he smiled; the way it seemed to light up the entire room and the way it made you want to see more of it. He had the kind of smile that made you feel happy and privileged to be alive and just that little bit more human. Dean knew, right at that moment, that he would make everything in his power to be the only reason behind that smile.

"I guess you'll have to take the risk" Castiel said.

"Oh, I will. You can count on me" Dean replied with a wink.

He left shortly after, leaving his number on a napkin and a generous tip.

 

***

 

Dean closed the Impala’s door with a squeak and walked to his apartment building with a soft smile on his lips. He really had a great time this evening and he was feeling light headed. Whether it was the alcohol or his blooming relationship that made him feel that way, he didn’t care. He just enjoyed it.


He reached his apartment in a haze and finally snapped back to reality when he realised he was trying to unlock his door with his car key. Cursing silently, he switched to the right key, closed the door behind him and turned on the lights before looking at the clock. It was only 9:30PM and he wasn’t working before noon tomorrow, so he had a few hours to kill before going to bed. Dean slowly took off his shoes, tossed them in a corner and dragged his bare feet to the living room.


Dean loved videogames. He always did. Some people escape reality in books or music; Dean escaped his in videogames. At fourteen, he bought his first console with the money he was accumulating since his tenth birthday. Fifteen years later, he was the proud owner of over twenty different consoles and a little bit more than four hundred games. He switched the TV on and while waiting for his Xbox 360 to open, he took out his phone to call his brother.  

"Hello?" a voice said after a few rings

"Hey Sam" Dean answered.

"Hi, Dean, how are you?"

"Great, thanks! You?"

"Fine. As I was last week. You know, I’m not a kid anymore, you don’t have to call me every few days to check up on me. I have a house and a fiancé. I think I can take care of myself."

Dean could hear his smile, and he was sure Sam could hear his too.

"I gotta make sure Jessica treats you well ! This girl can get away with murder, I just wanna make sure you won’t be her next victim."

"Ha, ha, ha. She says hi, by the way."

"Put me on speaker for a sec." There was muffled sounds in the background as Sam put down his phone on a nearby table. "Hello gorgeous ! How are you ?"

"I'm good, thank you !" Said a bubbly voice. "And you ?"

"I'm awesome, thanks! Is Sam a good boy? You know, I tried so hard to train him when he was little but I couldn’t for the love of God make him stop barking. If you have troubles with that, usually a rolled up newspaper did the trick for me."

"You are a total dick, you know that?" said Sam's voice.

"See ? He can't help it !"

"I hate you" Sam continued as Jessica burst out laughing in the background.

"Aww, I love you too, baby brother."

"Come on, you two, be nice to each other" Jessica said. "I have to go and I don't want to find Sam curled in a ball under the bed when I come back."

"Hey! How da-"

Sam was cut off, probably by a kiss from Jessica, and a few seconds later Dean heard a door shut.

"You guys are so sweet I think I'm gonna throw up."

"Oh, shut up. What's gotten into you? You sound so… happy tonight."

"Nothing."

"Don't bullshit me. I know you."

"I'm telling you, there's nothing!"

"What's her name?"

"What?"

"You heard me."

"There's no chick dude. Anyway like you said, you know me. You know I don't do romance."

"Maybe, but I know for sure that you sound like someone beamed you up, even if you don't want to admit it. If there is no She, then maybe a He ?"

"You didn't think in your huge brain of yours that maybe it's a something, and not a someone?"

"So you're not denying it. Where did you guys meet? Is he a customer? Or… Maybe you are the customer. Is he working at that restaurant you go every day?"

Dean rolled his eyes. Really, that kid was too smart for his own good.

"You know, someday you'll get in trouble, insinuating things like that. I gotta go. Marcus and Dom are waiting for me to wipe out a locust nest."

"You're still playing that stupid game?"

"It's not just a game, it's Gears Of War, and it's not stupid. It's awesome. You have no idea how satisfying it is to slice a monster in two with a chainsaw."

"Yeah, whatever. Have fun."


Dean closed his phone and threw it beside him on the couch as a blood red skull surrounded by a cog appeared on screen. For a few hours, he tried his hardest to concentrate on the game, but he kept being distracted by blue eyes floating in the back of his mind.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 3


 

 

July 2008


When his alarm clock went off at ten on a Saturday morning, Dean almost decided to postpone his plans for today to next week. He was a mess of limbs and sheets and warmth and if his plans weren’t involving Castiel, he would probably have stayed in bed.  He slapped violently in the general vicinity of his alarm, trying to hit his snooze button. When he finally reached it and stopped the annoying buzzing sound, he let out a satisfied grunt and slowly opened an eye.

"Life is so cruel sometimes" he mumbled to himself.

He clumsily got out of his bed, eyes still mostly glued together. He reached his window and stretched before completely opening the curtains and rested his head directly on the glass, letting the late morning light wake him. He lost track of time, only getting away from the window when his alarm went off again. He turned around and shut it down for good before putting his pyjama pants on and opening his bedroom door. He made his way to the kitchen and put coffee in his coffee machine. His morning routine was usually simple: a good coffee to wake him up as he read today's newspaper, and then he was off to the bathroom for a quick shower, get dressed, brush his teeth and voilà, he was ready to leave. The whole thing normally took about thirty minutes, but today, he was determined to take all the time he needed to look his absolute best for Castiel.

Dean had spent the entire month of June trying to convince Castiel to go out with him. After leaving his phone number to Cas two weeks ago, he waited several days for him to text or call but it never happened until he intentionally missed one of his usual lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. He sat at the bar every day since he accepted Benny's challenge so  it was meant to caught Castiel's attention. He had explained his strategy to Benny when his friend saw him pull out a turkey sandwich from a lunchbox instead of heading out. Benny thought it would never work and was happy to make fun of Dean when their break was over because no one called or texted him. Dean, in return, was happy to make fun of Benny when they ended their shift, showing him a text from an unknown number he received a few minutes before.

 

From : Unknown. 16:45.

How dare you skip a cheeseburger and a Black-Out Cake? That's a national offense, coming from you.

 

They've been texting since then and Dean never skipped his lunch at the Cheesecake Factory again.

Dean finished his coffee without opening his newspaper, too busy thinking about all that happened in the last month. He got into the shower whistling a random song, which turned into full on singing  after a while. He only shut up when he had to brush his teeth and even then, he kept humming and moving to the beat. He took the time to really do something about his hair and to put perfume on. He shaved and spent about fifteen minutes looking blankly at his closet, wondering what he should wear. When he finally opted for a black t-shirt with a red and blue plaid shirt, it was almost noon. Dean put his shoes on, locked his door and ran down the stairs.

Dean didn’t believe in God. With all the crap happening in the world, with all the crap he’d been through, if there was really someone up there watching over the human race, then that someone was an asshole. He preferred the idea there was nothing rather than the idea there was someone who didn’t give a shit about human pain. So he stopped believing. But despite all that, despite everything, he looked up at the sky and let the sun blind him for a short moment as he sent a short prayer to nothing in particular, asking for his day to be as good as it could be. It had started pretty well; he just needed it to continue that way.

He got into his car and put the key in the ignition, starting his Baby with a roar that sent chills running down his spine.

Yep, this will definitely be a good day, he thought. He turned up the volume and started singing again before backing out of his parking space and swiftly making his way to The Galleria.

The closer he got to the mall, the faster his heart beat. There was something about Castiel. Calling it love would be a really long shot, especially for him, but Dean really enjoyed talking with the guy–as well as looking at him, although that was something he never spent a lot of time thinking about, scared of what he could find lurking underneath.  He was starting to feel bad for trying so hard to make the guy fall for him when he knew he would dump him as soon as the deal would be over. However, Dean never liked talking–or thinking, for that matter–about his emotions. Moreover, he had a special relationship with denial, so he did just that whenever these thoughts would came to him.

He found a parking spot near an entrance and hurried inside, going straight to the Cheesecake Factory. Tessa looked at him with surprise in her hazel eyes.

"Look who’s here! I thought you weren’t working on Saturdays" she said with a smile.

"Oh, I’m not. I have something to do."

"Is it involving your new crush?" His friend asked, winking at him.

"He’s not my crush."

Tessa raised an eyebrow and stared at Dean knowingly.

"Dean, do I look like I’m blind?"

"Okay, okay, fine" Dean answered, eyes rolling. "He might be a crush. Why do you care anyway? "

"I don’t know" she said, "I guess us girls love to hear about those kind of things."

"Whatever, I’ll leave you with your rumours and your fantasies. I wanna get there before he does."

"Go get him, tiger" she winked again.

Dean suppressed his smile and made his way to the bar, swaying between tables and waiters, until he reached the back of the restaurant and sat on his usual stool. Charlie smiled at him and finished a drink for a customer before walking towards him. In the past month, he had a lot of occasions to talk to her and she often joined him and Castiel in their conversations when there weren’t a lot of customers. They really got along, and soon he realized she was like his long lost little sister. Dean, however, avoided flirting with Castiel when she was around. He didn’t feel like it would be appropriate, for starters. On top of that, he was starting to think that maybe, Castiel and Charlie were more than just coworkers, hence today’s visit.

"Hi Dean" Charlie welcomed him. "You know Castiel only starts in fifteen minutes, right?"

"Yes, I know. I’m here to talk to you."

"If you’re stuck again in Twilight Princess, I am so not helping you. I know you can figure it out on your own. Hell, kids can."

Dean laughed.

"No, huh… I’m here for something a lot more serious."

There was a silence as Charlie stared at him, squinting.

"Keep talking" she said.

Dean took a deep breath.

"Oh man, this is gonna be awkward. Okay, here we go. Are you and Castiel, huh… ya know. Together, or something?"

Charlie’s eyes went from suspicious to incredulous in a few blinks. Since she didn’t say a thing, Dean continued talking, fast, being unable to deal with the silence.

"You know I keep trying to ask him on a date and he never says yes, and I’ve heard you guys talk about seeing each other after your shifts and if you guys are together I’ll stop I swear you just seem very close an –"

He was cut off by a resounding laugh and it took him a moment to realize it was coming from Charlie herself.

"What? What did I say?"

Charlie tried to talk, but she was laughing too hard to say anything clear. She had to take a minute or two to calm herself before finally looking at Dean, breathing hard.

"So, you are telling me" she started slowly, "that you think Castiel and I are screwing each other. Is that right?"

"Well… If you get to the basics… I guess, yeah, that’s what I think. I thought he might be interested at first, but seeing you around each other… I’m not sure anymore."

"Dude. I prefer tacos to burritos."

It took several seconds for Dean to assimilate what Charlie had said, but it finally dawned on him.

"Oh. OH. Wow, okay. I didn’t expect that. And… And him?"

"Oh, definitely burritos. You guessed right the first time."

Dean felt hope blooming inside his chest, but it was rapidly buried by incomprehension.

"Then why does he keep pushing me back? I know he likes me."

"It’s… complicated. But I know he likes you. He’s different when you’re around. He comes out of his shell. Just keep pushing; he’ll agree to go out with you eventually."

Dean had to hide the smile that was spreading across his face because Castiel chose that exact moment to come out of the staff room and join Charlie behind the bar. Dean had learned to read the man’s body language, and he knew he didn’t spent so much time in front of his closet for nothing.

"I didn’t expect you today" Castiel said, a radiant smile illuminating his whole face. "What were you guys talking about?"

"I was helping this dumbass with a game he keeps telling he’s the best at. Apparently he needs help the moment he gets to a boss fight" Charlie said, giving Dean a beer and a knowing look. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some things to do."

As she passed behind Castiel –who was too busy staring at Dean to notice anything– she looked at him and mouthed silently to DO IT, with her head pointing towards her coworker, making Dean choke on his first sip.

"You okay?" Castiel asked, concern in his voice.

"Yeah, yeah" Dean answered, still recovering. "Don’t mind me."

Charlie put her hand to her mouth to prevent her laugh to come out before she disappeared in the staff room.

"Actually, there is something I’d like to talk to you about" Dean started.

Castiel looked at his friend, his head tilted to one side.

"You look freakishly adorable when you try to understand something, you know that?" Dean said, unable to take his eyes off.

Castiel broke the staring contest they were having, pink colouring his cheeks. "Stop flirting with me." He still had a faint smile though, so Dean didn't take the order too seriously.

"That's exactly what I wanna talk about. Listen, I've been trying to go out with you like a madman for the past month. You're gay and single, I'm gay and single, we enjoy each other's company, I think you're hot, and I think you think I'm not so bad myself. Even Charlie thinks you like me." At these words, Castiel looked up again, exasperation in his blue eyes. He opened his mouth to say something, but Dean cut him off. "Let me finish. I am not asking for your hand here. I don't know why you are so stubborn to keep me away from you, I don't know what you're scared of, but I promise that if you give me one fucking chance" Dean emphasized, "you won't regret it. And I swear, if you don't want to go out again, I will stop asking. Please. Just one night, Cas."

They gazed at each other for what seemed to be minutes. That was something they've been doing since the beginning. Usually, Dean would feel uncomfortable if someone stared at him like that for too long, but apparently, Cas was an exception. Dean suspected Cas would be the exception to a lot of things. As for Castiel, he wasn't the type to stare; he ordinarily was the one to break eye contact, but it was nearly physically impossible for him to stop gawking at Dean. He always got lost in the tropical green of his eyes, in the dusk pink of his lips. He had frequent thoughts about kissing every freckle on Dean's face, to claim them his, forever. He imagined running his hands in Dean's hair, feeling Dean's body flushed against his as they kiss, the hotness of his skin. Dean and Dean and Dean.

Castiel closed his eyes, trying to wrap his mind around the word he's wanted to say the very first time Dean asked him out. "Yes" he said in a whisper, opening them again, looking at the unbearable hope in the man's eyes. "Okay."

Dean's jaw dropped. "Really?"

Castiel smiled at Dean's genuine surprise. "Yes, really. But you keep your promises. If I don't want to go on another date, you don't ask again. Ever."

"I swear! Are you free tomorrow night?"

"Slow down, cowboy. Why so fast?"

"Because I've been planning this for a fucking month, that's why!"

Castiel laughed. "Sorry, but I already have something tomorrow night. It's my brother's birthday. How about next Sunday?"

"Next Sunday it is." Dean took his phone out of his pocket and entered the event in his calendar. "There, you are now in my list of things to do." He winked at Castiel, who couldn't suppress a giggle.

"I'm so not answering that. Now leave me alone, I have work to do."

"Whatever you want" Dean answered. He got up from his stool and started walking away. He turned around to look at Cas, walking backward. "I'll text you the details tomorrow. Say thanks to Charlie for me."

"Thanks for what?" Castiel asked.

But Dean was already strutting to the front of the restaurant, too busy humming Metallica to even realize Cas had talked to him.

***

Castiel was in a dark room, standing up in the middle of nowhere. Nothing was clear in his mind; the place looked familiar, yet he knew he'd never seen it before. He could walk in the darkness without bumping in anything, only his instinct telling him there was something to bump into in the first place. The only thing he knew for sure was that he felt cold, and terrified. And lonely.

Where in the world... ?

He heard a creak behind him, and before he even turned around, he knew someone was there with him. He knew who was there with him, and he understood all at once why he was so terrified.

"Please, leave me alone" he pleaded. "Please."

The man in front of him didn't say a word. He just stood there, watching Castiel like a hawk.

"Please, Oh God... Don't hurt me."

They both started moving at the same time, like a well choreographed dance, Castiel moving backwards, the shadow moving forward. Castiel kept trying to put distance between him and the other man, always moving backwards for what seemed like an eternity, until his back knocked against a wall. He looked around to see he had reach the far end of the room. There was no escape.

"Please, you don't have to do this. I can do better, I promise. Please..."

The shadow was getting closer and closer, and Castiel couldn't suppress his scream any longer.

"GET AWAY FROM ME!"

He woke up screaming, sheets soaked in sweat. He was breathing hard, one hand on his chest trying to protect himself from an attack that would never come, the other clenched into a fist. Castiel turned his head to look at the clock and realized it was almost four in the morning. He heard footsteps rushing into the passageway and Charlie entered the room, hands tight around a wooden baseball bat.

"What is it?! Cas, you okay?!"

"Yes, I'm fine" he answered breathlessly. "Sorry. I had another nightmare."

Charlie relaxed a bit, looking sadly at her friend. "Same as usual?"

"Yeah. Same as usual."

She put the bat beside the door and sat down at the edge of the bed. "I don't want to intrude or anything but... Since your brother's birthday you seem a little off. I know you have one once every now and then, but you really looked tired at work this week. They are more frequent lately, am I right?"

Castiel didn't answer. He put his weight on his arms and lifted himself up, so he could sit in front of Charlie. "I'm truly sorry. I should've warned you before coming over."

"Don't you dare, Cas. You know I'm here for you, day or night." There was a few seconds of silence. "Would you like to talk about it, maybe?"

Castiel sighed. "It's always the same thing. I'm in this big room and it's dark and I'm freezing and suddenly He is behind me but I can't see his face, but I know it's him, and he gets closer and closer and just before he touches me I start screaming and I wake up. I just... I can't do this, Charlie. I know why they are more frequent. My date with Dean is freaking me out." He finished in a whisper, ashamed of himself.

"Why did you agree on going, then?"

"I kinda like the guy... Maybe he's going to be the one helping me out of this damn nightmare, who knows. It's just that I need way more time and I need to take it slower than most people and I don't think anyone can be patient enough to deal with my crap. No one's willing to go through all this just to be with me. It scares the shit out of me that if I keep saying no, he's gonna walk away, but if I say yes and he sees how messed up I am, he's gonna walk away, too."

"You have it that hard, huh?" Castiel looked up, tears in his eyes. "Come here, big boy."

He moved beside Charlie and she hugged him hard. "You are the greatest person ever. Don't forget that. He's not gonna leave you, okay? Believe me, you're worth it. He's gonna see that, even if you're not ready for more than friendship. Now, you still have four days to calm down before you go out together. You still have two days to engrave in this thick brain of yours that you can do this. I know you can."

They stayed like that for what seemed like hours. Eventually, Charlie let him go.

"Well, I don't think we'll go back to sleep. Want some coffee? I know the storm's over, but we can still enjoy each other's company for a few hours. I only have to leave at ten. Would you like pancakes too?"

"I'd like that, thank you" he answered with a weak smile.

"Great! I'll do that. Take your time, breathe, take a shower, whatever. Just don't cry on my Grumpy Cat pillow. It doesn't help much."

She walked away, leaving Cas alone in the guest room. He looked down at his hands before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. He knew he could do it, he just needed to breathe. It was one simple date, nothing more. Everything was going to be alright.

The rest of the week went by, punctuated by shadows and dark rooms.

***

 

To : Castiel Novak. 11:26

I'm gonna pick you up at 6 at door #2 :)

 

From : Castiel Novak. 11:31

I can go there by my own, Dean. Thank you.

 

To : Castiel Novak. 11:33

No you can't. I texted Charlie, you guys were together last night and she told me she's your driver for the day. Be there at 6. ;)

 

From : Castiel Novak. 11:58

... I hate you both. gtg. See you tonight.

 

Dean smiled at his phone. Having Charlie on his side was unexpected, but he was grateful for it. He was sitting in his kitchen, drinking his coffee and enjoying his day off. He tried to sleep last night, but his mind kept wandering to Sunday night. He tried to convince himself that he wasn't that much excited about it. It was only a date, right? He's done this so many times, it wasn't a big deal. But Dean had to face the truth when he turned in his bed and saw it was almost three in the morning, and still couldn't sleep. He was more than excited for tonight. His phone suddenly started vibrating in his hand, pulling him out of his daydreams. He smiled when he recognized the number.

"Hey Sammy, how are you?"

"It's Sam. Sammy is a chubby 12 year old. And I'm good, thank you. I wanted to ask you, Jess and I invited Bobby to dinner, wanna come too?"

"Thanks for the invitation, but I already have plans."

"Since when? You never go out on Sundays. Like, ever."

"Hey, I'm a grown ass man and I'm allowed to have fun once every now and then. And I'm not going out, I'm taking someone out, there's a difference."

There was a silence at the other side of the line. It lasted long enough that Dean started to think maybe there was a problem with his or Sam's phone.

"Dude, you still there?" he asked.

"Yeah, yeah. Dean, be nice to that guy okay? I know you want to keep your car, but if he makes you happy, just... Don't be stupid okay?"

Dean froze. He didn't tell Sam about Cas, even less about the bet he had with Benny.

"How do-"

"Come on, man. Benny is my friend too. I'm not as close to him as you are, but still, we talk. Just be nice. Castiel sounds like a nice guy."

"Okay Sammy, I'll be a good girl. Now be one too and go make the dishes before Jess comes back and rip your balls off and eat them for dessert."

"Ha. Ha. Ha. Jerk."

"Bitch. See ya."

Dean hung up, trying to forget what the end of his conversation with Sam woke inside him. Really, he didn't need his inside voice to materialize into his brother. He finished his coffee and stared blankly in front of him, before finally deciding the best way to deal about his unwanted emotions was to simply forget them. He got up, walked to his living room and fired up his Xbox 360.

He played all day, having nothing else to do and nowhere to go. By four in the afternoon, he was pretty confident again about tonight and decided it was time to get ready. He took a long, hot shower, put on tight navy jeans and a black shirt, letting a few buttons open and rolling up the sleeves to his elbows. He also put the necklace Sam gave him when they were young; He was always wearing it, and it soon became his lucky charm. he couldn't get out of his apartment without it. He added a few bracelets and his watch and by 4:45PM he was ready to go. He still had an hour to kill before leaving, but he didn't feel like playing anymore. Dean walked in circles in his living room, wondering what he could possibly do to kill time and stop thinking about his date, and finally decided to get his guitar. Playing music made him feel calm and usually helped him forget his troubles, so this was probably the best solution he had.

He walked to his room and opened his closet door, fetching his guitar before going back to the living room. He sat down on the couch and started playing with the strings, creating random melodies until he eventually began to play one of the songs he knew.

"Oh the summer time has come, and the trees are sweetly blooming, and the wild mountain thyme, grows around the blooming heather..."

He kept playing different songs until, finally, it was time to go. He grabbed his leather jacket and made his way to the mall, still singing under his breath.

***

Castiel grew more and more anxious as the minutes tick by. He was slightly nervous at 10AM when he started his shift with Charlie. He was anxious at 2PM and he was flat out panicked at 5:30PM. Charlie had to ask one of the servers to take their places for a few minutes as she tried her best to calm Castiel down after he rushed to the staff room when a guy in plaid ordered a whiskey.

"I think I'm gonna throw up" he said in a gravelly voice.

"How sure?" Charlie asked.

"High nineties." He winced and dropped on a chair nearby.

"Crap, okay, let me get you something." Charlie got out of the room and came back less than thirty seconds later with a plastic tub, a glass of water and some mints. "Here. Cas? Castiel! Breathe dude, you're turning purple. Come on, deep breath. Here you go, that's it."

"I can't do this Charlie, I just can't, I'm freaked out now, what do you think I'll look like at the restaurant? I couldn't eat a thing today and he probably expects me to eat tonight, I mean he takes me out for dinner, of course he expects me to eat and what if I can't eat and I throw up andwhatamIgonnadohesprobablyalreadywaitingformehow-"

Castiel was cut off by Charlie's hand slapping him directly on the cheek. He looked at her with wide eyes, feeling the burn on his face. She looked as surprised as him.

"You slapped me!" he exclaimed, outraged.

"I- I'm sorry, but you were talking and talking and talking and not thinking and I said your name three times but you didn't stop so I tried something else." It seemed to work, since Castiel kept staring at her like she popped out of nowhere. "Listen Cas, I know it's hard for you but you need to at least give it a try! I know you, I know you can do this. It's just dinner. He seems like a respectful guy and I'm sure that if you tell him you don't feel like doing this again, he won't insist. And so what if you don't eat? The important thing here is that you two see each other outside of work. Just do your best and be yourself and everything's going to be alright. If shit hits the fan, well, you know I'm never far. Text me or call me, and I'll come pick you up, no matter where you are or what time it is. Just. Calm. Down."

Castiel took a few deep breaths, his face in his hands, the glass of water and the mints discarded on the desk beside him. There was no reason for him to be this freaked out. Dean had been a sweetheart since the beginning and him and Cas were having a blast together. Really, there was nothing to fear. And as Charlie said it, she's never far and Castiel knew she could beat the shit out of Dean if it was necessary, and Cas had a doubt Dean knew it too.

"Thanks Charlie. I feel better now. I'm not great, but instead of being on the verge of a panic attack, I'm just... anxious."

"No problem man, that's what I'm here for. Listen, I gotta go back up front, but I'll tell the boss you were feeling sick. Take your last thirty minutes to breathe and put some colors back in your face."

Charlie hugged him and squeezed his shoulder before leaving Castiel alone. He took another five minutes to steady his breath before getting up and stripping from his uniform. He put on a blue shirt that brought out the color of his eyes and changed his blue and red work tie for a pitch black one matching his pants. He sat down again and spent the next fifteen minutes inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly, eyes closed, hands clasped together. He had to do this.

When he opened his eyes again, it was 5:55PM. He took his bag and exited the staff room, smiled at Charlie who had her two thumbs up in encouragement and made his way to Door Two. He easily spotted the Black 67 Impala parked a few feet away from the entrance and walked towards it. Castiel flinched a bit when he saw Dean get out of the car, but the man froze just long enough for Cas to see how Dean looked at him, and he was satisfied to know that he, too, could provoke something in Dean just by looking at him. Dean recovered quickly though, and circled his car to open the passenger's door.

"Good evening, Cas" Dean said with a blinding smile. "You look absolutely stunning."

"Hello, Dean." Castiel answered, blushing furiously. "Thanks. I could say the same about you."

"Thank you. Ready to go?"

"Sure" Castiel replied with false assurance.

"Then hop in" he said, his smile never leaving his face.

Cas sat in the passenger's seat and Dean closed the door. Really, that guy was too good for him. He made his way back to the other side and joined Cas effortlessly in the car. Dean started the engine and they slowly began to move. Everything in this car was Dean. It smelled like old leather and oil. There was a box full of old tapes at Castiel's feet, and he could read a few ones, seeing Metallica, AC/DC and Bob Seger in the bunch, all groups and artists Castiel knew but never really listened to.

"How was your day? Busy?" Dean asked after a while.

"Not so much, but I had a lot of things to get ready for next week, so it wasn't boring even if we had almost no costumer. You?"

"I didn't do much. I finally beat that crappy boss in Twilight Princess that Charlie didn't want to help me with. Other than that, boring day."

Silence fell again in the car, but it wasn't tense, as Castiel expected it. He looked discreetly at Dean, amazed by how he was comfortable, one hand on the steering wheel, the other lying loosely on his thigh. He seemed to become one with the Impala, like he drove it all his life. The car itself looked like it had been through a lot too. Castiel noticed a rattling sound coming from the ventilation and looked at Dean, about to ask what was doing that noise, but Dean answered his questions before he could ask them.

"This baby here was my father's. When we were young, Sam and I used to try sticking everything we could find in every crack there was. I managed to shove a few legos in the vents and Sam crammed a little army man in the ashtray. We even engraved our initials under the seat. It drove my dad crazy."

Dean smiled, sharing theses moments with Castiel making them even more precious to him.

"Is Sam older or younger than you?"

"Four years younger."

"You seem proud of your brother. Your eyes shine when you talk about him."

"Yeah" Dean said, scratching the back of his head. "I practically raised the kid."

Castiel wanted to ask how Dean ended up being more a parent than a sibling to his brother, but Dean was already parking the Impala in front of the Roadhouse. They both got out of the car and walked to the door, Dean opening it again for Castiel. He stopped once inside, waiting for a waitress or someone to lead them to a table, but Dean took his hand with a wink and pulled him to a table slightly away from the rest of the restaurant. As they sat, a cute little blonde in tight jeans and a black tee spotted them and came to their table, menus in hand.

"Hi Dean! Long time no see. How are you?" she said with a radiant smile.

"I'm great, thanks! Jo, this is Cas. Cas, Jo. Her mother's a family friend. She owns the place."

"Nice to meet you" Castiel said, extending his hand to shake Jo's.

"Nice to meet you too. Here are the menus. Anything to drink, guys?"

"Just a beer for me" Dean said. "Cas?"

"Same thing, please."

"He's polite on top of being gorgeous. Keep that one, Dean. Maybe you'll learn a few things." She winked and turned around. If she noticed Castiel blushing, she didn't say it.

"That's good. She likes you. She usually hates my dates."

"Because you usually bring your dates here?"

Dean looked at Cas with wide eyes, pink quickly reaching his cheeks. "That's not what I meant, I- I don't always bring people here, I mean, it's not like I do that a lot-"

"Dean" Cas said with a huge grin. "I'm messing with you. Stop freaking out."

"I hate you" Dean said, smiling.

"Quite the contrary, I think."

They looked at each other, both surprised by Castiel's words. Dean's smile widened, as Castiel's disappeared slowly. Thankfully, Jo was back with their beers five seconds later and broke the awkwardness creeping into their conversation.

"Just let me know when you guys are ready to order, I'll be at the bar." She was gone again.

Castiel took the menu and made his best to disappear behind it, but find himself incapable of reading it. It took him about two minutes to figure out the first item and decided to take it, because reading the entire menu at that pace would take the whole night. They ordered shortly after and made small talk until Jo finally arrived with their plates. Castiel found out he was starving and didn't felt so sick anymore and took a huge bite of his burger. It was absolutely delicious and he moaned over it before biting into it again. When he looked up, Dean was staring at him, cheeks pink again.

"What?" Castiel asked.

"N-nothing." Dean cleared his throat and grabbed his own burger, shifting on his chair. "So, tell me about you, Castiel."

"What would you like to know?"

"Anything! We've been talking for almost a month and a half and we only talk about our jobs and shitty customers. The only thing I know about you is that your middle name is Dmitri and that Charlie is your best friend. Even then, you didn't tell me, I figured that out by myself. So whatever, what's your favourite color, are you a dog person or a cat person, do you have siblings, anything."

"Green, dog person, yes."

Dean looked at him desperately, probably wondering what the hell was wrong with him, and Castiel couldn't resist laughing.

"Okay, I'll stop messing around, it's not fair. I'm having a great time and it's not right to make it hard on you."

"Asshat" Dean huffed before taking his first bite, making Castiel laugh even more.

"I have three brothers and one sister. I also had another sister, Naomi, but she died when I was five. Balthazar is the oldest, he's 35. Then there's me, followed by Michael who's 27 and lastly, Gabriel who's 23. Hannah is the youngest. She's still in high school. She's studying in Germany right now for a student exchange."

"It must be hard not seeing her for a long period like that."

"Not really. I mean, I do miss her, but the only one I talk to on a weekly basis is Gabriel. I only see the others during the holidays, so I'm kind of used to it. How about you? Anyone besides Sam?"

"Not really. I don't talk to my dad anymore and my mom died when I was four. There's Bobby who's like a father to me, and Ellen, Jo's mother, who took care of Sam and I a lot. I grew up with Jo and she's like my little sister, but none of us are related."

The conversation flowed after that, and they took turns asking questions. Cas knew Dean liked video games but he realized how much he enjoyed it when Dean talked to him about his evergrowing collection. He learned the Impala actually has a name, and that she's a girl in Dean's mind, and that he will forever take care of her like she's a real person. He learned Dean was afraid of flying, and that's why if he can drive to somewhere, even if it takes three days, he will. Dean, in return, learned that Castiel loved books maybe as much as he loved video games. He collected them, and even if he didn't like it, he wouldn't get rid of it, because he believed you leave part of your soul in every story you read. He learned Castiel can't get up in the morning without a glass of orange juice and a coffee. He learned that he's scared of thunderstorms and he prefers spending these moments with someone who can change his mind.

Both of them didn't see the time go by, and Jo had to come up to tell them the restaurant was about to close and they had to get out.

"What? Really?" Dean said, surprised.

"I'd keep feeding you, boys, but the kitchen's closed and we close in about ten minutes." She turned to face Castiel. "If you enjoyed your time so much you can always come back tomorrow morning. There's nothing like a great breakfast after a night with Dean Winchester."

Castiel suddenly felt his anxiety come back all at once and felt the blood leave his face. Dean must have seen it too, because he replied to Jo's comment with a shy "Okay, that's enough. We're leaving."

Soon after, they were sitting in Baby, an awkward silence slowly filling the place left on the seat between them.

"Sorry about Jo" Dean said after a while. "She loves to mess with me but sometimes she doesn't realise she crossed a line."

"It's okay Dean, really. It just took me by surprise." Castiel was maybe a little destabilized by Jo, but he was doing his best to keep his mixed feelings for himself. No way in Hell would he tell Dean what Jo had triggered. He wasn't ready for that much honesty, so the best thing to do was to keep it to himself.

"Shall I take you home?" Dean asked with a sheepish smile.

"That would be best" Castiel answered. "I start at ten tomorrow morning, I need my beauty sleep."

"I bet you do."

Dean's mood shifted fast after that, going back to his charming self again. Castiel gave him a few indications as they talked, trying his hardest to push down the anxiety that was growing stronger at every turn. The worst part wasn't the anxiousness itself : if it was just that, Cas could easily ask Dean to park his car and he could get off and call himself a cab. The problem was that Cas didn't know what he wanted. Dean was great, but was Castiel ready for a new relationship? Could he handle the fact Dean might try to kiss him once he gets home? He couldn't think, his brain stuck in Freak-The-Fuck-Out mode. Luckily enough, Dean was too busy talking about his cassette tape collection to notice how silent Cas was. Ultimately, they reached Castiel's house.

Please don't get out of the car, please don't get out of the car, please don't-

Dean turned off the ignition and opened his door, getting elegantly out of the car.

Fuck.

Castiel opened his door too and slid out, looking everywhere but at Dean who was standing three feet away.

"So..." Dean trailed off. "I had a great time tonight."

Castiel took a deep breath, finally turning to face Dean. "I had a great time too" he smiled.

And cue the awkward silence.

They looked at each other for a while, trying to find into the others eyes what they should say or do next. Dean was the first one to break eye contact, to Castiel's surprise.

"Listen, huh..." Dean looked extremely uncomfortable and kept playing with the last button of his shirt, like he didn't know what to do with his hands. "I really enjoyed our time together."

"You already said that, Dean."

"I know, I know, I suck at this. What I mean to say is that I want to do it again. You're special, Cas, I don't know what's with you but damn, I feel awesome when I'm with you. I... it's just..." He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Please go out with me again?"

Castiel opened his mouth, closed it, just to open it again. If his brain was freaking out earlier, now it was in Total-Panic mode, red lights flashing, alarms howling. His stomach curled, and he felt like he was about to throw up again. He put a hand to his mouth, eyes closed, breathing hard.

"Cas, you okay buddy?"

"I'm fine I just.. I'm sorry Dean I can't do this. I really appreciate you, I really do, but I've been through a lot this past year and I don't think I'm ready for all this yet."

"Do... Do you want to talk about it?"

"Just thinking about it makes me wanna throw up so no, I don't want to talk about it, I'm not ready. I just don't want to lose you as a friend because of that. I really do like you." Castiel was feeling worse with every word coming out of his mouth and he closed his eyes again. He felt everything turn and he tottered slightly.

"Whoa, careful there" Dean said, reaching out. "Sit down. Here ya go, take a deep breath. It's gonna be okay. You won't lose me Cas. I promise. I just told you I want to do this again, but it doesn't have to be a date, we can just go out as friends too. Would that be okay for you? I don't want to rush you or anything so if you just want to be alone, tell me and I'll go."

"I'd like that a lot. Going out as friends, I mean."

"Great" Dean smiled. "Next time, you invite me, okay? You'll know when you're ready and I'll wait for your invitation."

"Thank you, Dean."

"Can you get up?"

"Yes, I think I can."

Dean helped Cas up his stairs and stayed behind him as Cas fumbled with his keys, making sure he was alright before stepping aside.

"See you Monday?" Dean said.

"Sure" Castiel answered, a soft smile on his lips.

He closed his door and climbed the stairs slowly going straight for his bed, falling asleep almost instantly, exhausted. He didn't notice the roar of the Impala fifteen minutes later, as Dean finally took off after hesitating long and hard on Castiel's doorstep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

August 2008

''Happy birthday!'' screamed Charlie the minute she put her foot in the staff room, rushing to hug Castiel. ''Sorry, I don't have a gift for you, bro, everyone had to pitch in to buy the candles, there were too many to put on your cake!''

''Don't you think you're overreacting a bit? You're like six months younger than me" answered Cas with a smile, as Charlie turned around to open her locker.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day outside. The sun was burning hot, high in the sky, not a single cloud floating around, and a soft wind was blowing just strong enough to prevent you from feeling the heat. There was no way this wasn't going to be a great day, even if Cas had to work until 9PM.

"Exactly, that's why there's no gift. They had to pitch in to buy mine too. Did Dean wish you a happy birthday yet?" she asked, adjusting her tie. She kept giving side glances at Castiel to see his reaction and Cas cringed, anticipating the rebuke.

"No he did not, and for a good reason. He doesn't know it's today."

Charlie turned to stare at him, eyes growing huge.

"Why in Hell isn't he aware that today's your birthday? Why didn't you tell him?"

"I don't know, it just never happened to be part of the conversation. I don't know his birthday either!" Cas added, seeing Charlie's expression. She looked like she was about to strangle him to death.

"You, my friend, should be ashamed of yourself" she said, annoyance in her emerald eyes. "Ugh, whatever. I'll be up front. Don't be late!"

"I still have fifteen minutes before I start, but no, I won't be."

"Ok good. I just wanted to help you remember. You know, at your age, it's normal to forget some little things."

"Screw you" Castiel laughed.

"I love you too" answered Charlie before leaving the staff room.

Castiel smiled to himself as he slowly switched his tight black tee for a white one before slipping his white shirt on, his jeans also being traded for his work pants. Life was good these days. Real good. He only had one nightmare, just after his date with Dean six weeks ago, but that's the last time he saw the dark figure creeping up on him.

His sister also gave him one of her sparse phone calls, a few weeks back, just to give him news. She was doing well in Germany, having (as usual) exceptional grades and being first of her class. She took the time to wish him a happy birthday, though weeks in advance. The call didn't last long, being excessively expensive, but it lasted long enough for Cas to feel amazingly happy and light-hearted for a few days straight.

Things were going exceptionally well with Dean, too; Cas had thought that after he refused a second date (rather awkwardly, he might add), Dean would stop talking to him, but apparently the guy was ready to keep whatever Castiel was ready to offer, which was a great relief. They still went out a couple more times, but only as friends. Two guys enjoying a beer every Friday night after their shifts. Dean never made it awkward for Cas, and Castiel was eternally grateful for it. Obviously, Dean being Dean, continued to flirt with Cas, buying him a few drinks and letting out compliments here and there. They kept learning about each other and through conversations, they both realized they had way much more in common than they first thought.

His Friday nights were now a thing he was really waiting for, enthusiastic to spend the evening with the best friend he had (except for Charlie, of course).  He'd wake up earlier than usual, unable to sleep, and spend the day feeling the faint buzz of excitement rumbling low in his belly. Maybe that's why he felt like this was a particularly good day: it was Friday.

Of course, the enthrallment was still there. Castiel was still madly attracted to the man, but his guts could literally not take it. As much as Cas knew he was missing on something, his body couldn't handle the intimacy of a new relationship. Not yet. His heart and mind were still shattered in a billion pieces.

Castiel spent his last fifteen minutes daydreaming about green eyes, freckles and broad shoulders. He lost track of time, staring blankly at the wall without really seeing it, a faint, stupid smile plastered on his lips.

"Dude, seriously. You're not helping your case here. You're late, and on top of that I find you looking at nothing like you've forgotten your brain in your car. Really, you're not aging well, dear."

Castiel jumped and turned around, finding Charlie leaning against the door frame, arms folded on her chest, smirking at him.

"Sorry, I got... Distracted."

"Pfft. By green eyes and gold brown hair, probably.” She winked. “Come on, old man."

She was gone before he could come up with an answer. He rose to his feet and slowly walked up front. Really, the day was going to be excruciatingly long. He smoothed out his apron as he walked to the sink to wash his hands, not looking a second to the customer sitting a few stools away. He let the cool water run down on his fingers, eyes closed, breathing slowly, trying to sooth himself, when he heard a man clearing his throat just behind him. His eyes snapped open and he turned around.

"I'm sorry I didn't see y-... Dean? What are you doing here?"

"First of all, how rude of you to ask like that. Second, I'm here because I took a day off. I took three days off, actually, today being the first of the three."

"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that." Castiel turned off the faucets and took a towel lying beside the sink, drying his hands as he closed the space between him and the bar. "I'm just surprised to see you. You’re taking a long weekend?"

"Yeah, I got somewhere to go tonight, and it’s not close. I gotta leave soon, so this leaves me about an hour and a half to talk to you” he said, scratching the back of his head.

That was a sign Cas learned Dean would do only when he gets nervous. He usually had it whenever Cas would ask questions about Dean’s father. 

“So… I guess I’m not buying you a beer tonight, huh?” Castiel said, feeling a pang in his chest.

“Don’t be too excited about having a free night, buddy. I’ll need you today.”

Castiel could see a smile slowly growing on Dean’s lips. He felt a presence just beside him and spun around, just to see Charlie with the same smile. Something was off.

“How so?” Cas asked uncertainly.

Dean slowly shifted his weight to the right, fetching two pieces of paper from the back pocket of his worn-out jeans. He put them down on the counter, sliding them with two fingers towards Castiel, his gorgeous smile getting wider by the second.

Castiel looked down and noticed those were actually two tickets for a baseball game at the Globe Life Park at 7:30PM. Texas Rangers VS San Francisco Giants, the latter being Castiel’s favourite team.

This had been part of the conversation one night, when they couldn’t find a bar that was not crawling with people. There was a baseball game playing, a hell of a good one apparently, because every man in town decided it was a good idea to watch it with plenty of cold beer at less than 5 feet away. Cas had told Dean he wasn’t really the sport type, but he had played baseball a lot with his brothers when he was younger and he’d always root for his home team, San Francisco Giants.

“Happy birthday, Cas” Dean said, bringing Castiel back to reality.

“Dean, I... How did you… I can’t accept this, Dean, I would love to go with you, really, but I work until nine, I can’t go, and it’s a four hour drive, I would never get there in time anyway” Castiel blurted out, feeling a pang in his chest at the idea that he couldn't enjoy his gift.

“It’s a birthday gift, you can’t refuse it. Charlie here was a sweetheart and told me when your birthday was.”

Cas turned again to look at Charlie, who was radiating joy.

“But-“

“And” Dean cut, “she also made sure you would not work today. And tomorrow.”

“I got everything sort out with the boss” she said, her smile almost reaching her ears. “I’m making a double today, but you’ll have to take an extra shift for me next week. I hope that’s okay for you.”

Castiel looked at her in shock.

“If it’s o-“ He couldn’t repress his smile. “Of course it is okay! Charlie, it’s awesome! How are you guys even real!” he said in disbelief. He turned to Dean, excitement glowing in his eyes. “I just need to change and get a few things at home and I’ll be ready to leave.”

“Don’t stress it out, Cas, even if we leave in an hour and a half, we’ll still be on time" Dean laughed. “But, as a matter of fact, Charlie brought clothes for you. It’s already in my car. Go get changed, big boy. We’re leaving in fifteen.”

“How about my old baseball mitt?”

“Packed with your clothes” Charlie answered.

The next few minutes passed in a blur. Castiel hurried to the staff room and changed in a record time, not bothering putting back his black tee. He just put his white shirt in his locker with his work pants and jumped into his shoes. He almost ran to the door, but he had just enough dignity to control himself so he did not look like a 6 year-old learning he was going to Disneyland. He hugged Charlie, hard, and then followed Dean outside. Castiel’s car would spend a night in the mall’s parking lot, but he wasn’t really anxious about it. He’d done it countless times. His smile wouldn't leave his face, and he could feel the excitement bubbling in his stomach.

Dean, forever the gentleman, opened the passenger door of his Impala for Castiel and smoothly closed it once he was comfortably seated inside the car. Dean sat beside him seconds later.

"Ready for a little road trip, gorgeous?" He said with a radiant smile.

"Hell yes" Castiel answered, as an honest to God giggle escaped his lips.

The Impala roared under them, and they slowly exited the mall. Castiel opened his window and Dean did the same, letting the hot air of August wipe their hair in every direction as they reached the closest highway.

"Since it's your birthday" Dean said, "you can choose the music. Radio, tapes, whatever. Your choice."

"What happened to 'Driver picks the music'?" Castiel smiled.

"I'll make an infringement to the rule." He looked at Cas and winked. "It's your day; you can do whatever you want."

Castiel thought about it for a second. He didn't really have a preference regarding music, listening pretty much everything. He was a bit less familiar with classic rock, but being friends with Dean enlarged his repertoire.

"I want something we can both enjoy" Castiel replied after a few seconds.

He reached for the cassette tape collection under his seat and started fumbling through it, looking for a tape in particular that he saw the first time he looked at it. Castiel found what he was looking for in less than a minute, the case having a five-pointed star drawn in deep blue ink in the top left corner. He pulled it out of the box with a triumphant exclamation and showed it to Dean.

"Kansas? Last time I listened to that was when my father taught me to drive."

"Hey. My birthday, my choice."

Dean laughed before taking the tape from Castiel's hand, shoving it inside his radio and hitting Play. Castiel knew every Kansas lyrics, his brother Gabriel being a huge fan. Surprisingly enough, Dean remembered the lyrics too, and started singing as the first notes of Point of No Return blared out from the speakers. They sang along and kept at it for a while, going through The Wall and Dust in the Wind but eventually, halfway through Carry on my Wayward Son, Castiel had to stop to look at Dean. Maybe he was a little off key, maybe he wasn't singing exactly the right words, but damn he was a good sight. Dean was resting his left arm on the edge of the car, tapping his fingers to the beat on the gleaming metal, his right arm lazily resting on top of the steering wheel, muscles playing softly under his flannel shirt. His short hair was slightly moving in the wind, changing colors depending on the way the sun hit it, his eyes sparkling a wide range of greens and golds. The sun was brushing against his skin, revealing every single freckle perfectly spread across his nose and cheeks. Knees apart, his left leg was jutting up and down, his foot tapping to the music, his right one steady on the gas. He was literally glowing and Cas couldn't look away, the sight of Dean making him feel a turmoil of emotions inside his chest.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

***

They arrived in Arlington a little past five, leaving them around two hours before the game. Dean parked his car in front of the Sheraton Arlington Hotel, opened the trunk to get both duffle bags out, and Castiel followed him inside so they could check in. They went through the automatic doors and welcomed the cool air from inside as they made their way to the front desk, where a middle-aged woman with dirty blonde hair was typing at her computer. When she saw them walking her way, she plastered a smile on her face.

“Welcome to Sheraton, how can I help you?”

“Hi, I have a reservation for Dean Winchester” Dean said, smiling politely.

The lady typed some more on her keyboard asking a few standard questions to Dean, before landing them two cards.

“Here you go boys. Room 8015. You have full access to the Club Lounge on your floor, where you can enjoy evening snacks and drinks. Breakfast is served between 7:00AM and 9:30AM. Please enjoy your stay, and if you have any questions or requests, don’t be shy.”

“Thank you very much” Dean answered, giving one key to Cas.

They took the elevator up to the eighth floor, and Dean slid his key into the door mechanism, unlocking their room, revealing a spacious space with a table completed with two chairs, two chests of drawers under a 42” plasma television and two king size beds covered by crisp white sheets. There were so many pillows, Castiel was sure it would feel like sleeping on a fluffy cloud.

“I figured sleeping in the same room for one night wouldn’t bother you” Dean said as they walked in.

“It’s perfect, Dean” Castiel said, the grin returning to his face.

Dean dumped a duffle bag on each bed. “Come on, let’s go downstairs, there’s a Bar & Grill. I need to eat something before the game or I’ll faint. Dinner’s on me!”

“Dean come on, you’re already paying for everything, let me buy you dinner at least.”

“Nah, not gonna happen. Not today.” Dean winked.

Castiel rolled his eyes in exasperation, but his smile never left his lips, pink coloring his cheeks. He didn’t care if Dean was particularly on fire today. He didn’t care that maybe, he was sending the wrong signals. They made their way back downstairs, teasing each other, hands lingering noticeably longer on one’s shoulder or back, elbows lightly brushing. Castiel couldn’t find the energy to care. He was having the best time of his life, and it was all thanks to Dean. So screw this; screw those damn ‘signals’, screw those fears churning inside him. Castiel was determined to enjoy every single minute of his day.

Dinner went fast, both getting more and more excited for the game coming up. Dean paid for everything, claiming it was still part of the birthday gift. By the time they finished eating, it was almost seven. They went back to their room to get their mitts and when Castiel opened his duffle bag, he found that Charlie had also packed in his Giants jersey. He put it on, his smile so persistent his teeth were beginning to dry. They decided to walk, the ballpark being only ten minutes away. The sun was slowly setting, casting light orange rays on the road in front of them.

“Where are we sitting? I didn’t even look.” Castiel asked after a while of comfortable silence.

“You’ll see” Dean answered. “I’m sure you’ll love it.”

Turned out, Dean took tickets just beside the third base, offering a perfect view on the whole field. Once they found their seats, Dean left for a few minutes and came back soon after, a beer in each hand. He sat beside Cas as the pre-game festivities started, the excitement getting almost palpable in the stadium.

Beer was flowing, baseballs were flying, players were running. There were a few foul balls in their general direction and Castiel spilled half his beer when he lost balance trying to catch one. Every now and then, Dean would disappear, just to reappear minutes later with more beer. Really, this was the best day of his life.

***

They stumbled into the hotel lobby well past midnight, clutching to each other’s shoulders to steady themselves. 

The match was good. Hell, it was great. The beer was great. Cas was great. Dean couldn’t be more happy about how the day went. The joy illuminating Castiel’s face when he realized everything was planned out, the way he sang in the car, his big baby blues watching the road. The way he kept smiling. That smile was everything Dean was looking for. No matter how many times he could see it, it never felt like it was enough. He needed more of Castiel’s smile, so after the game ended, they walked to a nearby bar and played pool a couple of hours.

They were both obviously drunk. They finally reached their room after bumping in about every possible furniture that was on their way, laughing every time. Dean had to slide the key three times before the door open. Castiel leaned on the door the same moment Dean turned the doorknob, maybe thinking he still didn’t unlock it, making it swing open. Castiel lost his balance once again and grabbed Dean’s arm for dear life, dragging him inside unceremoniously.

Dean chuckled before taking Cas by the arm, helping him to his bed without opening the lights. He took a look at the alarm clock: it was almost five in the morning.

“There you go, buddy. Now, try not to get lost in those pillows and you should be alright” Dean said, removing Castiel’s shoes.

“I had the best night” Castiel answered, ignoring Dean, his voice even deeper than usual.

“Me too, man. I really had a great time.”

“No no no no, I’m serious. You really are the best. Come here.” Castiel clutched Dean’s hand in his own, pulling him on the bed with him. “Sleep with me tonight.”

“Huh, what?” Dean asked, unsure, shifting uncomfortably on the sheets. 

“I’m having nightmares, please stay with me” Castiel said in a slur.

“Nightmares about what?”

“That’s irrelevant.”

“Cas, I have a perfectly fine bed right beside you.”

“Don’t care” Castiel replied sleepily. He wrapped a possessive arm around Dean’s waist.

Dean wanted to move, but Cas had him in a tight grip and, well, he wasn’t about to complain. Dean knocked his shoes off awkwardly. Even though he wasn’t the cuddling type, being close to Castiel was something he had wanted for a very long time. He could feel his soft breath brushing against his neck, Castiel’s heat flushed against his body. He wasn’t even appreciating it in a sexual way; it was more like an overwhelming feeling of emotional and physical comfort, tenderness and serenity. He could feel the warmth spreading through his chest and pulled Castiel closer, feeling the need to protect him from whatever was causing him nightmares.

He had never felt like that for anyone in his whole life. Dean was whipped, and he knew it.

“I’m so fucked” he winced.

“Mmh..?” Castiel mumbled, getting even closer to Dean, snuggling in his neck.

“Nothing, buddy. I’m here. Just go to sleep.”

“Mrrmneed youmn..”

Dean felt butterflies in his stomach at those muttered words. Cas probably won’t remember he said them tomorrow morning, but Dean would. And that was all he needed.

“Me too, baby” he whispered. “Me too.”

Minutes later, they were sound asleep in each other's arms, softly snoring, as birds started chirping outside their window.

***

“Morning, sleepy head” Dean murmured, gently caressing Castiel’s hair.

Cas opened an eye, and just by the look on his face, Dean knew he was feeling like shit.

“What time is it?” Cas asked, his voice like gravel.

“Almost three.”

“In the afternoon?!”

“Yep.”

Castiel flipped on his side, rubbing his eyes. Dean sat on the edge of the bed, giving Cas a huge glass of water and three aspirins.

“Thanks. I feel like I drank an entire liquor store” Castiel grunted.

“You were close enough” Dean laughed. “I woke you because we have to check out before five. Take the pills, go take a cold shower. I’ll go fetch you something to eat. It’ll help.”

Dean left, leaving Cas alone in the room. He took the three aspirins with half of his glass of water.  Last night was a blur. He remembered the game, he remembered playing pool with Dean afterwards, but anything else was weirdly faint. He closed his eyes and searched his memories, scavenging for any hint about last night.

I need you.

Me too, baby.

His eyes snapped open, sending a rush of pain through his head. Did he dream that? He can’t have said it out loud. Could he? And Dean’s answer…

“Fuck me” Castiel muttered angrily.

He had to tell Dean he was sorry, that it was just a big misunderstanding. But what if it was just a dream? The memory (if it was one) was too frail to be certain.

He got out of bed and headed for the bathroom, realizing halfway that everything he needed was in his bag, on the ground next to the bed. Turning around, he saw that Dean’s bed was untouched.

He closed his eyes, nausea churning his stomach.

Dean slept in my bed. He slept beside me.

Castiel was feeling mixed emotions about that revelation. Of course, there was a part of him that was excited, happy. But a bigger part of him wasn’t appreciating the thought he was vulnerable. He let himself be vulnerable in someone’s arms. He opened the door and let Dean in, without even noticing. And that freaked him out.

He ran to the bathroom and threw up, emptying whatever was left in his stomach. He sat on the cold tiles for a while, breathing hard, forcing his mind to focus on something else. Minutes passed, hands clutched to the counter on his left and to the bath on his right. That’s how Dean found him when he got back.

“You okay there, buddy?”

Buddy. Not baby.

“It’ll pass” Castiel answered.

Dean dropped the small white paper bag he was holding on the bathroom counter, bending down to place a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. The touch sent a new wave of nausea through him, and Cas pushed Dean aside abruptly as he threw up again.

“Okay, okay take it easy. Breathe.”

“Just… Leave me alone for a few minutes. I’ll be fine, I just need some space.”

“Okay. I’ll bring you a fresh glass of water and I’ll leave you alone. I’ll close the door but don’t lock it, good? Just in case.”

Dean brought him his water and closed the door behind him, leaving Castiel alone on the floor. He took a few more minutes to breathe deeply, before removing his clothes and turning the shower on. He stood in the cool stream God knows how long, waiting for his urge to throw up to vanish. Feeling slightly better, he closed the water and wrapped himself in a towel before realizing he never got to his bag. No way in hell would he get out of the bathroom with nothing but a towel in front of Dean.

He opened the door a couple inches, about to ask Dean to bring him his bag when he noticed he already had. New clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste and hairbrush were placed in a neat pile, just in front of the door. He felt like he was on the verge of puking again.

He quickly grabbed everything before shutting the door again and dropping against it.

Castiel finally got out of the bathroom around 4:45PM. Dean had gathered their personal effects and was ready to go. Hearing the door open, he looked at Cas, apprehension in his gorgeous green eyes.

“Feeling better?”

“A bit” lied Cas. “I know we have to check out but are we obliged to go back home just yet? I don’t think my stomach’s ready for a four hour drive.”

“No problem, Cas. There’s, huh, a mall, I think just south of here. It’s open till nine. Would that be okay for you?”

“Yes, walking might help.”

“I brought you a bagel from the Lounge. Eat it. You’ll feel better. Here, take my car keys, make yourself comfortable. I’ll check us out.”

Castiel grabbed the paper bag still on the bathroom counter and took the keys before giving his card to Dean. He made his way to Baby and waited for Dean, lazily leaning on the hood. The fresh evening air was helping him feel better, and he bit shyly in his chocolate chips bagel. His favourite. Of course. 

Dean arrived five minutes later, carrying both their bags. Castiel opened the trunk before giving the keys back to Dean, and he dropped the bags inside. They drove to the shopping center, just five minutes away. Dean was wise enough not to mention what happened earlier. He made small talk, talking about Sam and Benny, commenting on things he saw in stores as they walked by.

Cas bought himself a humongous cup of coffee first occasion he had. He started laughing at Dean’s jokes again, and his eyes happened to be able to open wider than a few millimetres. By 8:30PM, light wasn’t hurting so much anymore and he was mostly back to his usual self.

They left Arlington at 9:15PM, after the mall closed.

The drive back home went smoothly, but this time they kept the music to a low volume, for Castiel’s sake.

They arrived at Castiel’s house at 1:30AM. Dean parked the car in front of the lawn, cutting the ignition. He got out of behind the wheel and opened the trunk to get Cas’s bag, as Cas walked to his front door to unlock it. When Dean climbed the steps to meet him under the porch, Cas was still fumbling frantically through his jean pockets.

“You have got to be kidding” he said, exasperated.

“What’s wrong?”

Castiel rested his head on the door.

“My keys. I left them in my work pants.”

“And where are your work pants?” Dean asked, starting to open Cas’s bag.

“In my locker. It’s the only damn thing I put in my pockets at work because there’s a few keys on my keychain I need. I was too excited yesterday and forgot about them.”

“It’s okay, Cas, shit happens.” Dean chuckled. “If it’s all the same to you, you can crash at my place for the night and I’ll drive you to work tomorrow to get your keys. How’s that sound?”

Castiel hesitated. Spending the night at Dean’s wasn’t something he was comfortable with. It wasn’t a place he knew, and after what he’d said before passing out, he was even more unsure. He needed time alone to sort through his thoughts. But what other choice did he have?

“Yeah, okay. I’m sorry for the trouble I cause you.”

“Meh, don’t sweat it. That’s what I’m here for.”

They got back into the car, and twenty minutes later, Dean expertly parked the Impala behind a small apartment building. Castiel followed Dean to the second floor, halting abruptly when Dean stopped in front of his door.

“Welcome to the Batcave” he said as he turned the doorknob, smirking.

Even though Castiel was filled with apprehension at the idea of sleeping at Dean’s place, he was still eager to see what it would look like. Stepping inside, he found himself directly in the living room. The couch was right beside Castiel, all in black leather, an acoustic guitar laying on the far end, facing a 56” plasma TV resting on a black glass television stand. Under the TV, placed in the tv stand, were all Dean’s gaming consoles, most of them looking so much alike Castiel couldn’t make the difference. Between the couch and the TV was a small black coffee table, with a diverse set of control stands, all flashing green. On both sides of the desk were standing two curios, containing majestic collection figures of what seemed like Dean’s favourite heroes and villains from various games or comic books. He turned to his right to see that the kitchen and the dining room were almost part of the living room, the whole apartment being a wide open space, except for what Castiel presumed were the bedroom and the bathroom. The kitchen walls were painted a Tea Green, cupboards an Eggshell White. Everything that could be in stainless steel was, giving the kitchen a modern look. On the refrigerator, Castiel could see a magnetic calendar with Dean’s schedules for both his jobs. Dean’s apartment was very… Dean, Castiel thought. No decorations, only whatever was useful and video games to entertain himself.

“It’s not much” Dean said, “But it’s home. First door near the TV is the bedroom, the other is the bathroom. You can go set your things while I get some blankets out.”

Dean yanked his duffle bag on his shoulder and walked to his room. Castiel made his way to the bathroom with the usual shyness people have when they first visit a friend’s place. The bathroom was painted in beige, the sink shaped like a giant glass bowl standing on a rustic walnut countertop.

Castiel opened his bag to get his toothbrush and placed it beside the sink before returning to the living room. He found Dean dropping a blanket and a pillow on the couch, whistling to himself. He took the guitar and turned around to lean it against the television stand.

“I didn’t know you played” Castiel said, leaning on the bathroom door frame.

“Yeah… It helps me feel better sometimes. You know, expressing things I usually am shit to express. Sometimes I played for Sam when he was younger. It helped him fall asleep.”

“Would you play something for me?”

The words came out fast, leaving Castiel’s mouth before he could even think about them. He blushed furiously, astonished by his own boldness.

Dean blushed too, scratching the back of his head. He seemed pretty uncomfortable, and Castiel felt guilty for putting him in such a state.

“Huh, yeah okay, sure.”

He picked up the guitar he just laid down and sat on the couch, motioning for Cas to come sit beside him. Cas followed, still feeling his cheeks burning. Dean plucked at the strings randomly, thinking about what he could play.

“I’ve been learning one, recently. It’s not my type, but it keeps playing everywhere these days and chicks dig it so…”

Dean couldn’t look him in the eye, and Castiel found it to be the cutest thing in the world. The guy who was oh so sure of himself was too shy to even look at him. He played the first strings and Castiel automatically recognized the song. He didn’t think it was possible to blush even more, but his body proved him wrong. Dean started singing, too, surprising Cas.

Well, you done done me and you bet I felt it, I tried to be chill, but you’re so hot that I melted, I fell right through the cracks. Now I’m trying to get back.

Dean’s voice was absolutely sublime. It didn’t sound like it sounded in the car. This time, Dean was spot on, singing the lyrics with so much more passion than before. The roughness of his voice mixed with the softness of the guitar was giving a little something more to the song; It felt like pouring honey over thunder. Dean finally looked up at Cas, the pink of his cheeks making his bottle green eyes pop out. A mix of emotions swirled in them, and Castiel felt goosebumps on his arms.

But I won’t hesitate no more, no more. It cannot wait, I’m yours.

It was Castiel’s turn to look away. His heart was suddenly beating frantically, and it felt like it was about to burst through his ribcage. He found himself fighting the urge to throw up again, but he did everything in his power to calm down. He wasn’t the one being vulnerable right now, Dean was. He could do this, for Dean. For himself. He forced himself to look back up, locking his eyes to Dean’s.

Do you want to come on, scooch on over closer, Dear, and I will nibble your ear.

Dean’s color changed from pink to a furious red, making Castiel laugh under his breath. It was reassuring to know he wasn’t the only one feeling uncomfortable and shy. He felt the urge to listen to the lyrics, sending a new wave of panic through him. He tried to focus on his breathing, but it seemed that now that they were looking at each other, they couldn’t do anything else.

Well, open up your mind and see like me, open up your plans and damn you’re free. Look into your heart and you’ll find that the sky is yours so please don’t, please don’t, please don’t, there’s no need to complicate, ‘cause our time is short. This oh, this oh, this is our fate. I’m yours.

Dean finished the song, but the air felt so full of electricity they couldn’t look away from each other. Dean’s eyes kept shifting between Castiel’s eyes and mouth, and he unconsciously licked his lips, slowly leaning closer to Cas. Time seemed to have stopped, and yet Castiel felt like everything was moving too fast. The air was still around them, but a storm was raging inside his mind and heart, part of him wanting to lean in and close the ever-shortening distance between Dean’s mouth and his, the other praying every living thing in this world for an escape. He wasn’t ready for this, he wasn’t ready at all. Castiel wasn’t ready for a new relationship, for intimacy, for vulnerability, for touching, for kissing. He wasn’t ready for Dean.

Despite all his insecurities, Castiel sat there, standing still as Dean continued approaching.

“Dean, wait.”

The words were out before he could think better of it. Dean blinked like he was waking from a trance, and sat back on the couch.

“I’m sorry Cas, I… I shouldn’t... I couldn’t…” He brought a hand to his hair, pain written all over his face. “Whatever. I’m sorry. Good night.”

He stood up, taking his guitar by the heel. Castiel felt a pang in his chest and reached for Dean’s other hand.

“No Dean, wait. It’s not what you think. Please, sit down. I want to talk to you.”

Dean sighed, sitting back down, leaning the guitar against the couch. He was looking everywhere but at Castiel.

“Look at me. Please.”

Their eyes met again, and Castiel could see for the first time how broken Dean really was. It gave him the courage to keep talking.

“Listen, there’s a reason why I keep pushing you away, but the problem’s not you, it’s me.”

“Like I’ve never heard that one before” Dean muttered, looking down at his hands joined on his knees.

"That’s not what I meant” Castiel grunted, both hands massaging his temples. “Stop being so defensive and listen to me.”

“Hey, you’re not the one being rejected for the second fucking time, here.”

“Dean, Jesus Christ, it’s not like I want to push you away.”

“Why the fuck do you keep doing it, then?”

Dean was up again, pacing in front of Castiel.

“Because I’m poisoned, Dean! I’m broken! I’m a mess and it’s ugly inside and I fear that if I let you in, you’ll leave for good.”

Dean stopped and looked at Cas incredulously.

“How can you even think I could ever walk away from you?”

“Don’t you get it? Someone fucked me up so bad, I can’t even handle the idea of you or anyone else getting close to me. Going out with me is like walking into a minefield, every move you make, every step you take, I could go off and hurt you in the process.”

Castiel’s voice was breaking up. This wasn’t happening. He was bursting, about to go up in flames. He could not possibly be talking about this, not here, not now. Things have been so perfect a minute ago and now… Now he was about to show Dean his true colors.

He felt ill so fast he had no time to think. He rose to his feet and pushed Dean aside, rushing to the bathroom without taking the time to turn the lights on. He gave back the little he had eaten, tears rolling uncontrollably on his cheeks. He gripped the toilet seat with both hands, like he was about to die and this was his only chance of survival. A sob escaped his mouth, Castiel being incapable of suppressing it. It was the first time in months he was completely losing control over himself, and it had to be in front of Dean. He stayed there for what seemed like hours before Dean finally sat down beside him on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor.

“Cas?” His voice was just a whisper. “I’m sorry okay? If I had known… My goal wasn’t to push you over the edge. But listen to me. Stay with me on this one, okay? I suck with words and feelings so just… let me talk.”

Castiel took a deep breath before nodding, giving Dean the cue he needed.

“I don’t care how broken you are. I’m broken too. Maybe not in the same way as you, but believe me when I say I’ve had my share of traumatic experiences. I’m scared too, for the same reasons you are. But I don’t know, Cas, I can’t get you off of my damn mind. I don’t know what you did to me, but I’m ready to fight for what we may have here. I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself but yesterday, when you asked me to stay in bed with you, I realized how extremely important you were to me and how good it felt to hold you close. I’m pretty sure you’re worth every shitstorm we can get in. Even if it takes months, years, we’ll get there. Just talk to me, okay? We can go through this together. Just tell me what sets you off, tell me what happened to you so I don’t fuck this up.  Please, Cas.”

Castiel was gripping the toilet seat so hard his knuckles were white. There was no way out of this. If he didn’t talk to Dean, he’d leave, simple as that. And Cas was afraid of that more than anything else. He took a few deep breaths and shifted in a more comfortable position, loosening his grasp.

“When I was twenty-two, I met someone. His name was Raphael. He was a few years older than me and I was so madly in love with him, I could have robbed a bank if it meant he would stay with me forever. I wasn’t in a good state of mind, shit was going down with my parents and Raph took advantage of the situation. It happened so slowly I never noticed. He started by saying he wasn’t feeling well every time I wanted to go out with my friends, that he wanted me to stay to take care of him, which I did. Then, he started making comments about how I was dressing, how he preferred my hair. He wanted to know who I was seeing, where I was going. It was all spread on three years so I never realized how unhealthy all those little requests of his were. It took me three damn years to get it. He became violent, and…”

Cas couldn’t continue. It was too hard. He could feel his heart beating in his chest, like if pounding hard enough would help it escape his ribcage. He felt tears rolling down his cheeks, unable to contain them. He screwed his eyes shut, trying to suppress the memories.

“It’s okay, Cas, I’m right here. Breathe.”

“He did things to me, Dean. He hit me, and he made me feel like it was my fault, like I deserved it. He used me, and whenever he felt the need he… He would…”

Realisation dawned on Dean and he shut his eyes, his hand closed so tightly in a fist his nails drew blood from his palm.

I guess I know now what the nightmares are about, he thought.

“I can’t handle anyone touching me. There are a few people I don’t mind, like Charlie, but I always feel sick whenever someone touches me, even if it’s just a brush. The idea of someone touching me makes me feel sick. The idea of letting someone in again makes me feel sick, because I’m scared it’ll break apart the small things I achieved putting back together.”

“Fuck, Cas I’m so sorry. If I knew, I-”

“It’s not your fault, really. You’ve been great. I mean, I’ve never been on a date since that. That’s probably what scared the shit out of me in the first place. You went through my barriers like it was nothing. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I let you in without even realizing it.”

They sat there in silence, looking at the floor, lost in their thoughts.

“I’m cursed, Dean. I break everything I touch. I don’t want to break you too.”

“Well, I’m an adult, Cas, I can make my own decisions. I know what I’m getting into, here. And I’d rather have you, cursed or not. I will help you get through this. We’ll go at your speed, one step at a time. I promise you I’ll be patient and I won’t push. I’ll just… Open a door, and if you don’t feel like taking it, just don’t. I’ll open another one later, and we’ll continue like this until you feel comfortable enough. How’s that sound?”

Castiel hesitated for a split second before answering.

“Okay. Okay.”

“Can… Can I hug you?”

Castiel snorted and nodded, touched by the fact Dean actually asked him. They scooched closer, Dean’s back to the wall, and Cas just put his head in the crook of Dean’s neck, his knees folded to his chest, Dean’s arms holding him tight. Castiel could hear Dean’s heart beating steadily. He was in a bubble of warmth, Dean’s strength and softness soothing him slowly.

“Baby steps” Dean murmured.

“Baby steps” Castiel repeated, laughing under his breath.

They stayed there for a while, just enjoying each other’s company. A memory suddenly came back to Dean, and he shifted on the floor.

“Is he the reason why Charlie was so protective of you the first time I asked for you at work?”

“Yes” Castiel answered. “When I finally realized that it was Raphael or me, I found the courage to break up with him. He was… Persistent, to say the least. I had to move. I moved here from San Fransisco, I stopped talking to every friend we had in common. I ran away. I changed my phone number, my car is registered under a friend’s name. Same thing for the house, it’s still under my parents’ name. Charlie was crazy enough to follow me when shit hit the fan. She wouldn’t let me go alone. Now, every time someone she doesn’t know asks for me, she says she doesn’t know anyone named Castiel.”

“Geez. Couldn’t you involve the police, or something?”

“I did. But the bastard was good. He kept calling me from different phones, and whenever he’d show up at my doorstep, the only thing they could do was to escort him back to his place because he actually wasn't doing anything. He would just sit there and wait for me to come out. They had no proof he was violent or aggressive.”

“How long ago was this?”

“I left him two years ago.”

“And you two are still scared?” Dean asked.

“You have no idea what he is- was, capable of.”

Silence fell again. At one point, Dean thought Cas had fallen asleep. He cleared his throat.

“Huh, Cas?”

“Mmmh?”

“I know I said I would never ask you again but after… All this, huh, I’m thinking… Would you go out with me again? We don’t have to hold hands or kiss or whatever, though if you feel like it we can do it, I won’t complain, but if you don’t-”

“Dean?”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll shut up.”

There were a few seconds of silence before Dean blurted out again.

“So is that a yes?”

“Didn’t you say minutes before that you wouldn’t push?”

“Fuck I suck at this, I’m sorry.”

“I’m kidding, Dean” Castiel scoffed. “Yes, we can go on a date. I’d like that a lot. Even if you are horrendously ugly, I like your personality, so I’ll give you a chance.  ”

“Fuck you.”

"I love you too" Castiel joked.

Dean smiled at that, pressing a soft kiss on Castiel’s temple before resting his chin on Castiel’s head.

They went to bed shortly after that, both exhausted by their emotional night.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

September 2008

"Hey, beautiful."

"Hello, Dean." Castiel turned around to look at gorgeous green eyes and freckles.

"You ready for your surprise?"

"Yes, almost. Just give me ten minutes. Would you like something to drink while you wait?"

"Just a glass of water."

Castiel opened an ice cold bottle from the fridge and poured the water in a glass before handing it to Dean. He checked with Charlie to make sure everything was under control, and when she looked at him with irate eyes, Cas smirked and headed for the staff room.

Things were going smoothly between Dean and him. Both of them were working hard, so they barely had time to hang out, but Dean was getting out of his way to see Castiel and kept coming to the Cheesecake Factory to eat his usual lunch, taking great care of sitting at the bar every single time. In return, Cas had rearranged his schedule so Dean and him could have a common free day to enjoy some real time together, other than one-hour lunches and the occasional strolls after their shifts.

Dean had told him to bring a sweater and jeans despite the hot weather of September, so Castiel changed into blue jeans and a tee, not wanting to put on the sweater yet in the afternoon heat. As he changed, his thoughts went back to the man waiting for him at the bar.

Dean had been extremely patient with him since the baseball game a couple of weeks back. He was always creating new opportunities so Cas could make a move, but Dean never took it personal or pushed it if Cas didn't take the chance.

It wasn't that he didn't want to, but every time he was analyzing the situation a bit too intensely, or asking himself a bit too much if he should jump right into this, the urge to throw up was coming back with the force of a crashing wave and Castiel had to break the already too long eye contact and the freakishly powerful sexual tension lingering between them.

Castiel put his shoes back on, grabbed his sweater and walked out of the staff room, excitement bubbling in the pit of his stomach. Dean was talking lightly with Charlie, his smile wide and bright, and Castiel could feel his heart beating slightly faster, tainting his cheeks a soft pink. He cleared his throat.

"What took you so long?" Dean said with a smirk.

"Making sure I was presentable for you" Castiel smiled back.

"Believe me, Angel, you look perfect" Dean answered, making Cas blush even more. "Take care, Charlie. See you tomorrow."

They got out of the restaurant in silence, walking side by side. Castiel didn't know where Dean wanted to go, so he followed him when Dean turned to the left, exiting the small corridor where they were, then turned right, heading for the stairs.

"Where are you taking me?"

Dean looked at him with an even brighter smile.

"You'll see. It's gonna be fun."

Dean took Castiel's hand and started going down the stairs, surprising him. Castiel could feel the warmth radiating from Dean. His hand was soft and rough at the same time, his touch gentle and harsh. He felt tingles starting from the tips of his fingers, going up his arm and sending a shiver through his spine.

They reached ground level, Dean still holding his hand. He dragged Castiel to a small booth near the stairs.

"Dean, you're kidding, right?" Castiel couldn't suppress his smile.

The Galleria was one of the biggest shopping mall in the United States, and had plenty of things and activities you could do, no matter the ages. You could find pretty much everything you'd want in there, going from the usual stuff you find in malls like restaurants and jewellery stores to things you don't normally see, like a Tennis and Fitness club. The mall was also big enough to have its own indoor ice skating rink, located on ground level, directly in the middle of the food court. And that's exactly where Dean had taken Castiel.

"Come on, it's gonna be fun! What's your size?"

It took them about 10 minutes to find the right size for both of them and put their skates on. A soft music was playing, most of it covered by the voices and cries of children and families already skating and enjoying their evening. There weren't too many people on the ice, which made Castiel feel a little bit better considering he had almost no experience in ice skating. He tentatively put his left foot on the ice, grabbing the railing with both hands, stabilizing himself. His right one rapidly joined the left, and he slowly started to let go of the wooden edge, awkwardly moving forward. Dean, on the other hand, seemed perfectly in control, as usual. He was moving with ease and elegance, making small zigzags in front of Castiel, then turning around in one swift movement to come back to Cas, his smile as white as the ice underneath them.

“Is it your first time ice skating?” Dean asked.

“It’s that obvious?” Castiel answered with a sheepish smile.

“Come here. Grab my hand.”

Castiel reached for Dean slightly too fast, making him lose his balance. In a fraction of a second, Dean was behind him, holding Castiel by the armpits, trying his best to help him back up on his feet. He was laughing so hard, people were starting to look at them.

“It’s not funny, Dean” Castiel could feel the shame rushing to his cheeks.

“Yes it is. Stop being grumpy and let’s have a good time. You are absolutely adorable right now and I want to make the most out of it. I’d love to teach you a few tricks.”

“Promise you won’t laugh at me.”

Dean couldn’t keep a straight face. “I promise.”

Castiel rolled his eyes, but didn’t comment. He started moving forward again, arms extended on his sides to help him keep his balance. He made a few steps, Dean close behind him, telling him how to push his feet so he would move faster with less effort, teaching him how to stabilize himself. Castiel was doing pretty well, until one of his blade got stuck in a crevice in the ice, making him fall face first. He protected himself with his arms and he landed on all fours in front of everyone.

Dean rushed to him, scared he might have hurt himself. “Dude, you o-”

He didn’t finish his sentence, his own blade getting stuck in the same crevice, sending him, too, on his hands and knees beside Castiel.

Castiel looked at him in surprise and slowly a smile formed on his lips. He started grinning and giggling, and finally laughed out loud when he couldn’t keep it inside.

“Hey, you said you wouldn’t laugh!” Dean exclaimed, his own smile getting wider by the second.

“No, you promised you wouldn’t laugh. I can do what I want.”

They ended up sitting side by side in the middle of the skating rink laughing too much to even get up, tears forming at the corner of their eyes. They spent almost two hours skating together, Castiel getting better by the minute, thanks to Dean’s teaching skills. They were enjoying each other's company so much, they didn’t notice people watching them with a smile, every stranger they were passing looking at them with tenderness in their eyes. Their simple joy of being together made couples reach for each other if they weren’t already holding hands and kids reach to their parents for the same support Dean was giving Cas. They started to dance to the music, Dean taking Cas by the hands and skating for both of them. It didn’t take long for everyone to do the same, boys and girls together, parents and children too. Eventually, a young couple stopped beside the small booth where they paid, talked for a minute to the employee, and continued skating. The song ended, and the employee spoke loudly in a microphone that must have been hidden under the table.

“We have a special request here, for all the couples out there. Enjoy!”

They kept dancing slowly to the music, Dean skating backwards, holding Castiel by the waist, making sure he was steady on his feet before making them swirl. Castiel’s only job was to be Dean’s eyes, telling him if there were any obstacles behind him. His grin was glued to his face, his hands clutched to Dean’s shoulders, his eyes shining with happiness.

The music slowed down and they stopped, looking at each other, suddenly realizing how close they were. Their smile faded away gradually, both of them feeling like time had stopped, and they imperceptibly leaned a bit more into each other, forgetting everything that was going on around them. They were alone in the world, in their own personal bubble, comfortable, intimate, looking through one another. They both could feel their heart beat faster, anticipating what was about to happen. Dean tightened his grip around Castiel’s waist, dragging him even closer. Castiel could feel Dean’s breath, smell Dean’s perfume, and the mix of mint, leather and Old Spice sent shivers down his spine, making him want to close the short distance left between their parted lips.

A cute little girl in a bright pink sweater let out a cry as she grabbed Dean’s leg and fell right beside them, breaking the moment. A blonde woman was by their side before neither of them could react to help the child.

“I’m sorry” the woman said. “She wanted to try skating without my help and she thought you seemed friendly and wanted to talk to you. I told her to leave you two alone but you know how kids are.” She laughed, taking her crying daughter in her arms.

“That’s okay” Dean answered. He turned to look at the child. “Hey, princess. What’s your name? My name is Dean.”

The little girl stopped crying and looked at Dean. “Katie” she said, wiping her tears. “You think I’m a princess?”

“You sure look like one” Dean smiled. “You like ice skating, Katie?”

She nodded. “Yes. But I want to be good and do it by myself. I’m not a baby.”

“You know, your mom is just trying to help you be better. I’m helping my friend here, too. He’s not a baby either, but sometimes it’s okay to need someone’s help when you want to learn new things.”

“So if I let mommy help me, I will be better?”

“100% sure.”

Katie looked at her mom, waiting for a sign of approval. “Ok” she finally said.

Katie’s mom gently let her down, taking her by the hand, before looking back at Dean. “Thank you for your patience. And sorry again. Have a nice evening!”

Both girls skated away, leaving Dean and Castiel alone together. Dean turned to look at Cas and was surprised to see the soft expression on his face.

“What?” he asked defensively.

“Nothing. You’re good with kids. She seemed to like you.”

“Yeah, well, chicks dig me.”

Castiel laughed and rolled his eyes. “I’m getting tired. Would you like to go grab a cup of coffee?”

“Great idea. Come on.” Dean said as he grabbed Castiel’s hand once more.

 

***

 

Cas was laying in bed, looking at the ceiling, lost in his thoughts. He replayed his night out with Dean, thinking about how attentive he was.  After getting off the ice, they went to a small coffee shop in the food court, still having a bit more than an hour before the mall closed. They had talked for a while, and they ended up inventing lives to strangers passing through. Castiel’s cheeks were stiff from laughing too much, and he was positive he would be sore in the morning. The only thing missing right now was Dean by his side. That was pretty much the only thing that was missing since the baseball game. Cas knew for sure now that Dean had slept beside him that night, and he was still beating himself up for not remembering even a single minute of it. The baseball game…

Dean also tried to kiss him that weekend. Two times now Dean had make a move without success. But things were different now. Castiel had wanted it this time, more than anything else. He couldn’t help himself, it felt like he was under a spell or something. He’d been drawn to Dean’s lips, like his mouth was an oasis in the middle of the desert.

But the same questions remained : was he ready to trust Dean? Was he ready to let someone in, to open himself up and accept the fact he could be vulnerable in front of Dean? Was he ready to drag someone else in all the crap he was going through, even if said person was willing to do so?

The thing was, he’d never know until he tried. And Castiel knew it. Actually, he was pretty sure he knew this was going to happen since that damn night after the game.

Well, third time’s the charm, he told himself as he closed his eyes, drifting into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

Dean was also laying in bed trying to sleep, but his mind kept going back to Castiel. At first, he had taken the whole thing as a game, but since Castiel’s birthday, things had gotten more serious. He was feeling things he’d never felt before and his bet with Benny seemed less important than in the beginning. It was just a car, a glorious one, but still. If Dean was given the choice between Castiel and Baby, he’d choose Cas in a heartbeat.

Of course, he could talk to Benny. Tell him he was falling hard for the guy and that he wanted to forget the bet and never talk about it again because things were getting out of hand. But Dean knew Benny wouldn’t let go of him and he’d tease him for the rest of his life, and Dean didn’t want that. At all. It was already hard for him to talk about his feelings, it was even worse when he knew he would be mocked because of them. Sam was the only one Dean could talk to without feeling like he was being judged.

But it wasn’t his type to walk away from a challenge, even less when he was obviously winning the whole thing. Plus, nothing in the agreement he had with Benny forced him to break up with Cas after six months. He was three months in and everything was going well. He just had to keep doing whatever he was doing for another three months to prove his point to Benny, and then everything would be back to normal and he could be with Castiel. Simple as that.

His cell phone rang on his bedside table. He answered at the second ringtone, surprised to see Sam’s number.

“Hey, Bro.”

“Hey, how are you?” Sam said, a hint of worry in his voice.

“I’m good, you?”

“I’m great. I’m not waking you up, am I?”

“No you’re not. I was lying in bed but I can’t sleep. What’s going on?”

“Oh nothing much. You haven’t called me this week. I thought it was a bit weird, considering you are still as protective of me as you were when I was five. Got much on your mind?”

Dean hesitated a split second before answering. “Yeah. A lot.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“You know what’s on my mind. Don’t act like you have no idea. I had one fucking subject of conversation for the last 3 months.”

“Let me guess. Things are getting a bit too well with your new friend and it scares the shit out of you because you are certain Benny will laugh his ass off when he’ll figure you actually have feelings for the guy. Imma right?”

Dean could hear Sam’s smile, but he knew it wasn’t malevolent. Sam had always read him like an open book, and today wasn’t about to be any different.

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know, honestly. We went ice skating today after work and-”

“Ice skating?” Sam interrupted. “Really, Dean?”

“Hey, you want me to talk about it or not? If you just wanna make fun of me, then good night.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. So you went ice skating. And?”

“And I don’t know, Sam! He’s… It’s just… When I’m with him everything feels different. Everything seems brighter, everything’s good. I don’t know how to explain it. Just seeing him smile makes me feel better. Hell, I let him choose whatever music he wanted to hear when we went to that baseball game three weeks ago.”

“Wow. Now I’m offended.”

“Shut up Sam. I’m not joking.”

“I know you’re not. You know Dean, I don’t want to alarm you or anything, or make it bigger than it is, but that’s pretty much how I feel about Jess. She makes everything seem better.”

“And that is supposed to calm me down?”

“Maybe, maybe not. I just hope it clarifies some things for you. But you should listen to what your feelings have to say, for once. He seems like a great guy, and I see you've changed for the better since you met him. He’s good for you.”

Dean had nothing to say to that. Sam had put words on what he knew he was feeling, but couldn’t explain. He must have stayed silent for longer than he thought, because Sam spoke again.

“Dean, you there?”

“Yes, yes. Sorry, I was… processing all this.”

“You know I can tell Benny to shut up if you want me to.”

“No thank you. I’ll do it myself. I’ll talk to him about Cas and all.”

“Okay. Call me if you need anything.”

“Good night, Sam.”

“Night.”

They both hung up.

Dean stayed there for a long time, with even more questions swirling inside his head than before. He turned around again and again in his bed, finally falling into a restless sleep after hours of unravelling and cogitating.

 

 

 

October 2008

It was almost one in the morning when Castiel and Charlie finally finished closing the bar on this cool Friday night. They had worked since four in the afternoon, and the flow of customers didn’t slow down before well past nine. They barely had time to talk, both of them always busy with someone or something. At midnight, when the restaurant closed, they rushed to clean everything up trying to leave as fast as they could, both tired because of their long day. Castiel wasn’t working Saturday, but Charlie wasn’t so lucky : she had to close the bar all weekend. She didn’t complain too much though, tips being pretty big on weekends.

They went to the staff room and grabbed their coats, not bothering to change back to their normal clothes, both knowing they would directly go to bed the moment they would step into their respective houses. Castiel also grabbed his Ipod, putting one earbud in, leaving one ear free so he could hear Charlie.

“I Don’t know why there are periods of the year when customers are suddenly transforming in total douchebags” Charlie said as they walked outside toward their cars. “I mean, seriously, that guy with his rum & coke just couldn’t let it go.”

“I know! And the one complaining because his scotch was too strong? It’s scotch, you moron, of course it’s strong. Next time, order a beer.”

“I’m hearing scotch and beer. You guys are talking about me?”

Charlie and Castiel turned around, surprised to hear the voice they’ve grown so used to listen to for the last couple of months. They both smiled as they watched Dean strut in their direction, and Castiel’s heart started racing a bit faster as a warm feeling spread into his chest.

“Hello Dean. What are you doing here?” Castiel asked, trying his hardest to hide his excitement.

“I knew you were finishing late tonight and I wanted to surprise you, maybe go on a small walk or something. We haven’t seen each other a whole lot this week.” He looked at Charlie, his eyes growing as he realized something. “Unless, of course, you two had something already planned out.”

Castiel opened his mouth to answer, but Charlie talked first.

“Nope. Nothing! Nothing at all.” She said, her smile so wide she looked like she was squinting. “You two go on together, walk under the moonlight, hold hands, you know. Have fun.”

And she walked away as fast as she could, almost breaking into a run, leaving Castiel alone with Dean.

“Okay, well, that was weird.” Dean said after a while, looking at Castiel.

He blushed furiously. “She really wants us together. She thinks we fit perfectly.”

“And she thinks making you uncomfortable in front of me would help?”

“She also thinks -and I quote- that I’m too cute for my own good when I blush.”

“She’s not wrong.”

Castiel blushed even more and smiled. “Shut up. Where would you like to go?”

“Same place as usual?”

They walked in silence for a few minutes before reaching a small park beside the mall. They reached the trail, and Dean took Castiel’s hand, proving to him that there was no limit to his blushing.

“So. Rough day, huh?”

“Yeah. I don’t know what got into customers these days, but they are really a pain in the ass most of the time.”

“Same for me. Apparently it’s my fault if they dropped their phone in the toilet and it’s also my fault if their car is broken.”

Castiel laughed. “Yeah, and I have nothing else to do other than putting one of my hair in a mojito.”

“Of course you don’t. It’s your signature move.”

“Dean Winchester, I hate you” he grinned, making both of them laugh again.

They settled in a comfortable silence, walking side by side, Castiel’s music playing softly in his ear. He suddenly let out a small giggle out of nowhere.

“What is it?” Dean asked.

“Nothing of importance.”

“Come on, talk to me.”

"It's nothing, really." Castiel looked down at his feet, not sure how to tell Dean how he was feeling. "The song I'm listening to is very fitting."

Castiel took a few steps forward but he was soon forced to stop. Dean, who was still holding his hand, had stopped and was looking at Castiel, a smirk forming on his lips. He gave a little tug on Castiel's hand, urging him to come closer. Dean looked at Castiel before slowly reaching for the second earbud dangling freely, taking it between two fingers and inserting it in his ear. They listened to the song for a few seconds, both of them incapable of breaking eye contact, not wanting to break eye contact. Dean gently placed his left hand around Castiel's waist, his right one still holding his hand. He slowly started moving his hips left to right, swaying to the melody, leading Castiel.

The gesture seemed so casual for Dean, but for Cas, it was a whole new thing. No one had ever done something like that with him, for him. A slow dance in a park, under the moonlight, just the two of them. Forgetting what was around, just appreciating one another's company. Plus, the song fitted to the situation so much, it seemed like a sign from God himself.

Caught up in this moment, Caught up in your smile

Check. Couldn't be more true.

I've never opened up to anyone

Check. He'd told things to Dean he'd never told anyone.

I know that if we give this a little time, It'll only bring us closer to the love we wanna find.

Castiel suddenly realized there was a strong energy flowing through them, like static, as they slowly leaned into each other, their lips parting.

It's never felt so real, no it's never felt so right

He could feel that attraction again, the same way he'd felt it on the ice. He was drawn to Dean, like he was the sun and Castiel was a planet. He couldn't look away, couldn't move away. He was caught up in the moment, like time had stopped yet again.

Just a kiss on your lips in the moonlight

Castiel couldn't take it anymore and closed the distance between them. Dean drew a sharp breath of surprise as Castiel did the complete opposite, exhaling like all the anxiety building up since they first met suddenly was off his shoulders. He felt Dean's tongue tentatively pushing against his lips and he was more than happy to invite him in. Castiel felt Dean's grip around his waist tighten, Dean's other hand letting go of his to grab his neck, pulling him even closer. Castiel rested both his hands on Dean's waist, trying to anchor himself to the ground, to reality, but the moment Dean pushed his tongue a little bit farther, Cas let out an unintentional moan.

Castiel couldn't explain the feeling. He had stopped counting the times he'd almost thrown up imagining how his first kiss with Dean would feel like, anxiety ruining his happiness every single time. But now that it was happening, it was like all that anxiety had vanished into thin air and he could feel the needs he'd ignored. He wanted Dean, like he had never wanted something or someone in his life before.

Dean abruptly let go, leaving both of them breathless and wanting more. Castiel felt like someone had removed every particle of oxygen in the air.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I... wow Cas, that was... I needed to stop myself. I don't want to push you too fast, I don't want to fuck this up."

"Dean?"

"What?"

"Shut up."

Dean's giggle was interrupted by Castiel's lips on his. Castiel's fingers slipped underneath Dean's shirt, exploring the skin he'd wanted to touch for so long now. Dean was gripping Castiel's hair, kissing him like there was no tomorrow.

"My place?" Castiel asked between two kisses.

"Your place."

 

***

 

They almost ran to their cars. Castiel drove recklessly, Dean following close behind him. He could feel the excitement bubbling low in his stomach, and his mind kept wandering back to Dean’s lips.

Two years. It’s been two years since he actually kissed someone, and much more than that since he kissed someone he wanted to kiss. Castiel realized all of a sudden the last time he felt like that was when he started dating Raphael, when his life felt like a fairytale. Raphael was so sweet in the beginning, taking care of him like he was the man of his life, like he was his sun and stars. Taking care of him like Dean was taking care of him. The thought sent an uncomfortable chill down Cas’s spine and he felt fear swiftly pushing away the excitement in his belly, nesting there.

No.

No way. Dean wasn’t like that. Dean had a golden heart, he was gentle, sweet, smart, loving. He was as broken as Castiel, and he’d never do something like that. It’s about time Cas let someone in. He was tired of being alone, tired of drowning in self pity and shame and guilt. Dean was a gift from above and he’d be totally out of his damn mind to reject him again.

Pedal to the metal, they reached Castiel's house in record time. They parked like assholes, almost in the middle of the road, not giving a shit, minds focused on each other.

Castiel got out of his car first and rushed to the front door to unlock it. He was feeling like a teenager again, emotions rushing to his head, making him think unclearly. He fumbled with his keys as Dean joined him on the porch, his hands taking him by the hips as he kissed his neck, sending shivers down Castiel’s spine, making him weak in the knees.

Castiel opened the door and grabbed Dean by the collar, dragging him inside, closing the door by pushing himself so hard on Dean they stumbled backward. It was the first time in his life Castiel had trouble kissing someone because he was grinning too much, unable to control how relieved he felt. He kissed Dean deeply, forcing his lips open with his tongue, and it was Dean's turn to groan. He moved his lips to Dean's jaw, ear, neck, licking and biting and sucking every inch of skin he could reach. He attained the crook of his neck, softly biting the skin, making Dean quiver.

"Fuck, Cas, you're driving me crazy."

Dean flipped them around, Castiel now being the one leaning against the door. He started kissing Cas the same way he'd done it to him seconds ago, his hands exploring Castiel's body. He pressed his own body against Castiel's, feeling his arousal. He started a slow rhythm, grinding into Cas, making them both moan into each other. Dean removed Castiel's trenchcoat as he tossed away his shoes, not bothering to remove them from the middle of the hallway. Castiel broke the kiss again to take Dean's hand and led him upstairs to the bedroom. Once there, Dean didn't take the time to look around, too busy touching and lifting Cas, lost in sensation.

They grabbed each other like they were the only thing keeping them alive, kissing and licking and breathing and grinding and moaning into the other. They were both lost in the moment, trying their best to move toward the bed without really looking. Dean’s knees finally hit the edge and, as he fell back, he grabbed Castiel’s tie and pulled him onto him, their lips never parting. Cas rolled beside Dean, his hands frantically playing with Dean’s belt, trying to unbuckle it.

Dean let go of Cas’s tie to put his hand on his and broke their kiss, leaving them both out of air. He looked at Castiel, and Cas saw again the broken boy that was Dean Winchester. He saw all the anxiety, all the self doubt in the depth of his emerald eyes, and he felt his insides melt yet again for the man laying beside him.

“Cas…”

“It’s okay Dean. I swear.”

Dean lifted himself on an elbow, hovering above Cas. He put his hand on Cas’s cheek, staring at him. He kissed him gently, just a brush of his lips on Castiel’s, breathing in the scent of coconut shampoo and coffee. It was a simple gesture, but full of meaning. They both took a deep breath, and Cas said what Dean was waiting for.

“I’ll tell you if you do anything off limits or if I’m not comfortable.”

With that, their mouths crashed together again unceremoniously, tongues tasting each other’s, hands gripping shoulders. Dean shoved his legs on both sides of Castiel and let go of him just enough to remove his own t-shirt. Castiel rested his hands on Dean’s thighs, admiring what was in front of him. He bit his bottom lip as he tried to suppress his grin, failing miserably. He lifted himself to reach Dean’s mouth again, as Dean fumbled with Cas’s shirt and tie, hands shaking.

They rolled on their backs to remove each other’s pants, and Castiel’s foot got stuck, making both of them giggle like teenagers. Dean rolled back on top of Cas, pinning him to the bed, nibbling at his neck with his teeth, making him shiver. Cas opened his legs to let Dean slid between them, and they started a slow rhythm. Castiel’s hands were everywhere on Dean, feeling the body on top of him, enjoying every inch of skin. Dean started trailing kisses on Cas’s  collarbone, shoulder, chest, and reached his nipple making him twitch underneath him.

“Shit, that’s good” Cas said in a breath.

Dean continued slowly going down on Cas, reaching his stomach, kissing his navel, biting his hipbone. He kissed the spot of precome forming on his underwear, Cas bucking his hips forward uncontrollably. He slid his fingers under the elastic band of Castiel’s boxer briefs, removing them in one movement, freeing Cas. Dean kept kissing Castiel everywhere, moving his tongue just around sensitive areas without actually touching them. After a few minutes of teasing, Castiel grabbed Dean’s arm and flipped him aside, breathing hard.

“If you keep doing that, I’m gonna come before we get the chance to do anything” Cas said, voice hushed.

“That’s the plan” Dean smirked back, arms folded behind his head.

Castiel smiled, eyes shining.

“That’s a game that two can play” Cas said, before gently squeezing Dean’s nipple between his thumb and index, slowly rolling his fingers.

Dean shut his eyes hard. “Shit, Cas!”

Castiel cupped Dean’s balls in his other hand and started kissing Dean in the crook of his neck. The moment his tongue licked the skin, Dean let out a shaky moan and grabbed the pillow above his head so hard, his knuckles went white.

Cas removed Dean’s underwear as fast as he could and took a moment to enjoy the view again. Dean was panting underneath him, rock hard, gripping the sheets for dear life, looking at him with so much apprehension and lust that Cas almost lost it right there. Without thinking much, Castiel laid on his stomach between Dean’s legs and took him in his mouth, moaning as he tasted the sweetness coming out of him.

“Holy FUCK, Cas!” Dean choked out, hips bucking upwards.

There was something about the way Dean was saying Castiel’s name that made him screw his eyes shut, concentrating on something else, work, tomorrow, his laundry, whatever that could ground him back to this ever loving Earth because Good Lord it was hot and he was about to lose his mind, but he kept wandering back to how he would be happy to ride Dean into oblivion until death takes him. He wanted to hear Dean’s cracked up voice say his name like that for the rest of his life and his tongue around Dean’s dick to be the only thing ever making him cry out for mercy. He was writhing underneath him, and it was probably the most arousing thing Castiel had ever seen.

Castiel started bobbing his head faster, taking everything and moving his tongue around Dean as much as he could, helping himself with his hand. Dean let out a sharp moan and grabbed Castiel’s hair with both hands, forcing him back off with a loud wet sound.

“You’re so fucking hot but for the love of God, stop it or I’m the one who’s gonna come before we do anything” Dean said.

Castiel gave one last long lick up Dean’s shaft, making him groan before moving back up, kissing everywhere and taking special care of Dean’s nipple, which made him curse loudly. He pushed Cas on the bed, climbing between his legs. Castiel stretched his arm and reached inside his bedside table to grab a small bottle of lube and a condom, tossing them at Dean. He opened the lube and poured a generous amount on his fingers before slowly pushing around Castiel’s rim with his index. At the same time he took Castiel’s dick in his mouth, playing with his tongue. It didn’t take long before he could insert a second, and then a third finger inside Cas, working him open. Dean kept licking and sucking on him and marvelled at how Castiel was unravelling under his expert touch.

Dean let go of Cas and grabbed him by the ankles, resting his legs on his shoulders as he ripped open the condom package and rolled it onto him. He angled himself and started pushing gently into Cas, head thrown backward. He waited a few seconds to let Cas get used to him, before pulling out slowly and pushing back in again at the same speed, focusing on Castiel’s reaction to make sure he was okay. He leaned forward, hands supporting him on both sides of Cas’s shoulders as he increased the pace, feeling Castiel’s toes curl in pleasure behind his head.

“Dean, oh my GOD, Dean!”

“Fuck, Cas, you feel so good you have no idea.”

“Come on, faster” Castiel said between two thrusts. “I want to feel it tomorrow.”

Dean kept pushing into him, listening to Castiel’s order to go faster, harder, deeper, as Cas’s nails dug into his thighs. They were both losing it, lost into each other, a mess of limbs and skin. Dean couldn’t stop looking at Cas, watching him writhe under him. He wanted to drive Cas over the edge until he couldn’t even remember his own name, to fuck him senseless until the sun comes up, but he knew he wouldn’t last much longer if he kept looking at the man in front of him. He tried to close his eyes or look away, but no matter what, Castiel’s twitching dick was printed on his eyelids and he couldn’t stop the hot feeling spreading in his groin.

“Cas, Baby, come on” Dean grunted. “You’re too good, I can’t hold it anymore.”

Dean’s words seemed to send Castiel over the edge, and he came with an astonishing force uttering Dean’s name over and over again.  His rhythm started to get incoherent and Dean gave one, two, three other thrusts and he came too, screaming a string of curses and Cas’s name.

Dean collapsed on top of Castiel, his breathing harsh, feeling dizzy, both of them slightly shaking. After a minute, Dean slowly pulled out of Cas and discarded the condom, and let Castiel snuggle beside him. They stayed there for what seemed like years before Cas finally stirred and raised on an elbow to look at Dean with adorable bed hair and gleaming in that wonderful after sex glow, his blue eyes full of love. Dean would usually get really uncomfortable when someone would look at him like that after sex, but not this time. He was actually pretty sure he was looking at Cas the same way, and right now, he couldn’t give a rat’s ass.

“Shower?” Cas mumbled.

“Shower” Dean answered.

They took their shower together, Castiel goofing around and making soap Mohawks to Dean, Dean making foam beards to Cas. They spent more time kissing and giggling than cleaning, and they were acting like children, but they didn’t care.

They didn’t bother to get dressed, just drying themselves with a towel and going back to bed. Castiel laid in Dean’s arms, happy to realize that this time, he could enjoy every second of it. Dean could say whatever he wanted, he was a hugger. Both his arms were wrapped around Castiel’s waist and arms, his legs intertwined with Cas’s. He couldn’t move, but he wasn’t complaining. He felt like he was in a cocoon of warmth and peace, safe from the rest of the world. They both rested in comfortable silence and slowly drifted to sleep, holding each other.

 

***

 

Castiel woke up gently, feeling the warmth of his sheets around him. He kept his eyes closed as he turned around, and he wondered why he was feeling so sore before last night came back to him. He opened his eyes, expecting to find Dean beside him, but instead found an empty spot in his bed. He sat, fully awake and looked around. Dean’s clothes were gone. Cas tried to listen, to see if Dean was in the bathroom or downstairs, but the house was as silent as usual. Just to make sure, he rushed downstairs and looked outside : the Impala was gone.

Cas went back up the stairs, and crawled back to bed, hiding himself under the sheets. That’s what he was scared of. Dean getting what he wanted and leaving him alone. He didn’t even say goodbye, not even a note. He just left. He would probably never come back to the bar and just go on and find someone else to fuck, no strings attached, because Cas was all about strings and Dean wasn’t. He got tired of Cas, as expected.

He felt so stupid. How could he let himself fall for Dean? He knew it wasn’t gonna end well. It’s not like he deserved to be happy anyway. He was nothing else but a boytoy, someone with nothing important to say, with no feelings, with no life meaning other than provide the relief others needed. He’d learned his lesson with Raphael, he just needed a refresh. Dean was life’s way to show him he was delusional.

He knew it couldn't end well. Dean's just too damn perfect for him. Maybe he was broken too, but he could never be as broken as Castiel. Most people can't handle much when it involves Castiel's feelings. Dean was just a bit more patient than most, but he got fed up anyway, because that's what Castiel does. He takes everything and never gives back. He's a ticking time bomb and everything and everyone around him gets destroyed when he gets too close.

He was so busy bashing his own head with his depressive thoughts that he didn’t hear the Impala in his driveway, nor the door shutting downstairs. He only realized someone was in his bedroom when he felt a weight on his bed beside him.

“Hey, babe. Are you awake?”

Castiel wiped the tears from his eyes before lifting the sheets, not believing his eyes. Dean was there, with a grocery bag in one hand, looking at Cas with soft green eyes. He put a hand on Cas’s head.

"Woah, are you okay?" Dean asked, seeing the tracks tears made on his friend's face.

"You're here" was all Castiel could answer.

"Huh... Yeah? What's wrong?"

Castiel's answer was a soft whisper that wasn't necessarily made for anyone to understand, but Dean heard it anyway. "I thought you'd left."

Cas could hear Dean's heart crumble to pieces as he climbed into bed next to him, hugging him so tight his breath was knocked out of his lungs. "Hey it's okay Cas, I'm right here, I got you. I'm not leaving you today. In fact, I'm not leaving you. Ever. I just went grocery shopping, but I'm back."

They fell into comfortable silence, Dean stroking Castiel's hair, both of them breathing deeply. Castiel knew he was pathetic, but right now, he couldn't give a damn. Dean was back, Dean was holding him, and he felt safer than ever in his arms. After a few minutes, as Castiel calmed down, Dean's words finally made their way to his brain.

"Why in hell did you go grocery shopping?"

"I didn’t know if I could look through your things so I went out and bought what we needed to make chocolate chips pancakes. Would you like some?"

Chocolate chips pancakes? Is this man even real?

"Of course. Just give me a few minutes to get dressed."

"No problem. I’ll get things going downstairs. Take all the time you need."

Dean kissed Castiel tenderly and left the room, leaving him alone. He pulled the sheets up his head again, his face buried in his pillow. How's that for a good impression? First night together, Dean wants to make something nice and romantic for him, and when Castiel sees he's gone, he cries like a child who just lost his favourite toy. A+ for maturity and self control.

Despite all that, Cas couldn't stop smiling. Because even though Cas acted like a desperate, attention-seeking, borderline, emotionally unstable shit, Dean came back and stayed with him.

He stayed.

And he's making chocolate chips pancakes. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

November 2008

On this absolutely beautiful day, Castiel couldn't be happier. Life couldn't be better lately : No nightmares for a while now, a perfect boyfriend, a beautiful sun in the sky for the last week, even customers were great and giving good tips. There was no one on the road, and he was driving with the windows down, good music blearing from his speakers, his thumb tapping the steering wheel to the beat. The weather was surprisingly warm for the middle of November, the sun hot on his skin and the light making the blue of his eyes shine like Benitoite. Leaves were lazily falling from the trees, dancing in the breeze, before landing elegantly on the grass.

Castiel entered the mall's empty parking lot, finding a place as far away from the doors as he could so he would enjoy the fresh morning air a bit more before locking himself inside until five. He removed the keys from the ignition, opened his door and slowly walked toward the entrance, his eyes closing peacefully as the wind blew his hair in every direction. Really, the only thing that could ruin his day would be to get stuck inside for too long, but even then... There were worse things in life.

"Morning, sunshine!" Charlie blurted out, seeing Cas making his way to the staff room. "What's going on?"

"Good morning Charlie. And nothing's going on."

"Don't 'nothing's going on' me. I know you, and I can say without a doubt that you are literally on cloud nine this morning."

Castiel rolled his eyes, his grin taking control of his whole face. "It's just a good day. Normal, but good."

"Had a great night?" Charlie winked.

"Yes, you can say that."

"What happened? And don't leave ANY crunchy details, I want to know everything about the two of you."

 "That's just creepy."

"Come on, man" Charlie whined. "My social life looks just like the Sahara Desert : Empty, boring, and not a single, normal living thing could survive it more than a few hours. So I'm basically living through you."

Castiel dropped his bag beside a stool and sat down, knowing he wouldn't get away from Charlie's questions until he gave her a few details.

"There are living things in the Sahara Desert, you know that, right?"

"Shut up, you get it."

"Okay, okay" Castiel laughed. "But nothing really happened. We just... played bowling and then head back to his apartment where he played video games and I watched him."

"Bowling? Really?"

"Hey, he forced me to go ice skating. I took my revenge. It was actually pretty fun."

"And you just watched him play after that?"

"Yeah, I kinda suck real bad at video games, as you know, and I like watching him play. It's like he's the star of an action movie."

"Nothing interesting happened?"

Castiel rolled his eyes again. "Charlie, I'm not gonna lay down my sex life in front of you so you can analyze it."

"So something happened" she said, grinning. "Tell me."

"Nuh huh. Use your imagination" Castiel winked, before grabbing his bag and entering the staff room.

The day went swiftly, customers rolling fast. Castiel kept his smile on, serving drinks after drinks, cleaning the bar when needed like it was his new purpose in life. Nothing could change the happiness he was feeling, not even the more and more worried looks Charlie was giving him as the day went by. He basically ignored her for the last two or three hours, avoiding eye contact and only talking business with her.

He trusted Charlie blindly, but today, he wasn't ready to hear any of her 'Be-careful-or-you'll-get-hurt' speech, because he had been careful and had walked on eggshells for way too long in his life and he was tired of it. If things had to go bad, they would've gone bad already. Dean was still there, and Castiel was seeing a very romantic side of him that he suspected not a lot of people knew about. They were learning about each other, and Castiel had opened up to Dean and told him things that only Charlie knew. Dean had done the same, telling him about his absent father and how he had to take care of Sam on his own, how he managed to go to school, work full time, help Sam with his homework, cook for both of them and take care of the apartment all by himself, just in the hope that Sam would have the best life he could give him. He told Castiel how he sacrificed everything he had for his little brother and how he ran away with Sam after his father started hitting both of them when he was drunk.

They were helping each other get over their past, something that never happened to both of them. Castiel had almost stopped throwing up when Dean was doing something romantic, and he hadn't have nightmares in days. They were healing together, and if this was not the proof that they shared a profound bond, then nothing was. Cas was still having some troubles with his self-esteem, but he was getting better every day, thanks to Dean. He was a blessing, a soft ointment to his life wounds. No wonder Castiel was feeling so joyful ; it was the first time in years he didn't feel like he had to hide from others. He was tired of surviving, he was ready to live.

At six, Castiel went back to the staff room accompanied by Charlie, as Ruby and Alfie took the evening shift at the bar. He changed back to his regular clothes and put on his trench coat, humming softly, thinking about what he'd do tonight with Dean. Lost in his thoughts, he didn't realised Charlie was staring at him until she carefully put an arm on his forearm. He looked up at her, already knowing what she was about to tell him.

"What is it?" He asked anyway.

"Just... Be careful okay? I'm glad you're this happy but honestly? I've never seen you like this. I know you enough to say you're probably the only person in this world that deserves to be on cloud nine right now and to stay there for the rest of your life, but I also know you enough to know that if something happens and things don't work out, you're gonna crash hard. And I don't want that. I care about you deeply, Cas.  I just want you to be happy."

Cas thought hearing Charlie's speech would piss him off, but instead, he felt a wave of love for his friend.

"Thank you, Charlie. I appreciate your concern, but there's nothing to worry about. I'm fine, I promise."

They hugged and kissed goodbye before Cas headed for his car. He and Dean had already decided to spent the night together after their shifts, and Castiel was supposed to meet him at Dean's place, since Dean had finished at five and was already home.

He drove mechanically, lost in his thoughts. Of course he was cautious; He wouldn't let his barriers down with a random stranger or someone he didn't trust. But Charlie still had plant the seeds of doubt in him. Was he really opening too much to Dean? They've known each other for almost 6 months and Dean had always been there for him and never judged him. If he'd wanted to leave, he would have fled by now.

The dark part of his mind brought back memories, and with them, self-deprecation. He arrived at Dean's place with a need for murder, and the incredible urge to turn around and head home. He got out of his car nonetheless, trying his damn hardest to keep his turmoil of emotions inside so Dean won't ask too many questions, but the moment the door opened, he knew he was screwed.

"Hey gor- What's going on?"

Castiel sighed. "Nothing. How was your day?"

Dean stepped away from the door so Cas could come in. "Mine was fine, but yours obviously didn't go well."

"Don't wanna talk about it."

For once, God must have heard Castiel's prayers because Dean let it go.

"You hungry?"

"Not really."

Dean let out a small sigh, trying to find a way to make the evening more pleasant and pull Cas away from his destructive thoughts.

"Come with me. It's not too hot outside, it's a beautiful day. Let's go take a walk. That's what I do when I'm pissed at something... or someone."

Castiel turned around, not sure of what to do. He knew that he couldn't sit still or he would implode, but the idea of walking and having nothing else to do then talk wasn't the best thing either. Dean was already halfway out the door extending one hand to grab his leather coat near the door, the other toward Cas, and he couldn't bear to hurt the man in front of him. Cas sighed again, but took Dean's hand anyway.

"That's my boy. Come on."

They walked back down the stairs of the apartment building and turned on a street Cas never went on. They walked in silence, Castiel letting go of Dean's hand after only a few steps. To his relief, Dean didn't try to reach out again, understanding Cas needed a bit of distance for the moment. He didn't try to talk either, just patiently waiting for his lover to be ready to speak. Dean brought Cas through a small park. They watched the sunset shine through the autumn leaves, the wind blowing sharply around them, and Castiel felt automatically calmer as he took a deep breath. He got his left hand out of his trench coat pocket and reached for Dean's hand. He didn't have to look at Dean to know he was smirking.

"Shut up" Castiel said. "Holding your hand doesn't mean you can laugh at me."

"I'm not laughing." Castiel could hear the smile in his voice. "I'm just glad it's working."

They continued their walk in silence, the gorgeous weather working its charm on both of them. Castiel started to feel better and push his demons away, just enjoying his time with Dean. After a few more minutes of walking in silence, Castiel finally felt good enough to talk.

"Can we sit?" he asked as they passed a wooden bench.

"Sure" Dean answered.

They sat together, Dean's arm around Castiel's shoulder, resting effortlessly on the backrest.

"Charlie warned me to be careful" Cas said, his chest constricting.

"Careful about what?" Dean asked.

"You. She says I'm getting too close. And she thinks it's gonna blow up in my face."

Castiel thought Dean would be pissed to hear that Charlie didn't trust them, didn't trust him, but too Castiel's surprise, Dean let out a small chuckle.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothin, it's just... We can't really blame her, can we? I mean, she knows what you've been through and she wants to protect you as best she can, and I'm not really the poster child for romance and long lasting relationships."

"Why are you so romantic with me, then?"

"Because you're special. I don't know what you did to me Cas, but I'm ready to do anything I can to keep you by my side." Dean paused, and since Cas didn't say a word, he continued. "If she warned you even though she knew you'd be pissed, that just means she's a damn good friend, Cas. She loves you and cares deeply about you and she's not scared to tell you the truth because she knows that's what you deserve."

The more he talked, the more Dean thought he should come clean and tell Cas about his stupid bet between Benny and him. But he knew this wasn't the time so he kept his mouth shut, promising himself he'll tell him soon.

"You're right" Castiel sighed again. "I guess what made me react like that was that I think the same way. It's not that I don't trust you; I don't trust myself. I'm scared I'm going to unconsciously sabotage this thing between us just because I'm terrified of what could happen. I'm scared I'm going to ruin what is probably the best thing that ever happened to me just because I think I don't deserve it."

"I think the complete opposite. After all you've been through, you deserve the very best. And that's what I'm trying to be. Your very best."

The silence grew between them, until Cas finally smiled. "For someone who doesn't like 'Chick Flick Moments', you're pretty good at them."

"Shut up. You know damn well it's my guilty pleasure" Dean said, poking Castiel in the ribs. "Come on, let's get home. I'm sure you're getting hungry and I have a few leftovers you can eat."

"Can we watch a movie together tonight?"

"Whatever you want, Angel."

***

Castiel went back at work the next morning feeling a lot better. Dean had taken good care yesterday to make him relax. They watched a movie, slowly getting closer and closer, which led to not even finishing the movie because they were too busy touching, kissing and grinding into each other, which also led to a sleep free of nightmares. Castiel slept like a baby, waking up only in the morning because Dean kept pushing him so he would turn off his alarm, which he never heard.

He was feeling lightheaded, ready to go through his day. Charlie wasn't working today, Monday being her day off. Anyway, there was never a lot of people at the beginning of the week and they always ended up bored as hell when they were two so it was better that way. Better than that, Cas wanted to surprise Dean and bring him his lunch after his shift, since Dean had to work until nine. A great day at work, a lunch with his boyfriend and a few episodes of Ellen Degeneres he'd kept for tonight to relax. This had to be a better day than yesterday.

As he suspected though, halfway through the afternoon, things got really boring. Everyone was already working, lunch hours were over, and no one sane would come eat a burger at 3:30 in the afternoon. Things were going slow, so Castiel tried to occupy himself until five by cleaning the whole bar, and preparing everything so Ruby wouldn't have too much on her plate tonight. He couldn't help his mind to wander though, and he kept going back to last night. Dean had been a sweetheart, as usual, particularly when they went to bed. Needless to say, he didn't get the sleep he wanted. Still, it was entirely worth it; Life had never been this good, and it was the first time in a really long time he completely trusted someone other than Charlie.

Around 4:45, Castiel went to the kitchen and asked the chef to prepare Dean's favourite burger and a piece of cheesecake, so he could pick it up on his way out. He walked back to the bar, to see that Ruby had already taken over.

"Already working as I can see" he said when he was close enough so she could hear.

"A customer came up while you were gone. Had to patch up. But hey, thanks for all the cleaning. You're day was that boring?"

"You have no idea. I had two customers every hour."

"Geez. I hope the night won't be like that too. I've got nothing to do since you've already done everything."

They talked for what was left of the time Castiel was working, and at a little past five, he walked to the staff room to change. A few minutes later, he went back to the kitchens, picked up his order and exited the restaurant as he texted Dean telling him he was on his way with a surprise for him, and headed straight for Micro Cell, a small smile on his face.

***

"So how're things going for you, brother?"

Dean turned around and looked at Benny, a shit-eating grin on his face. "Things are going great, thanks for asking. You won't have to drive me to work every morning, thank you very much."

"That great, huh?"

"Yep."

Dean turned back to what he was doing, which was to clean the front window of the shop. Benny had finished his shift, but apparently, he was ready to make Dean talk before he left.

"How can I be sure you're not bullshitting me just to keep your car?"

"What, you're asking for a proof?"

"I could meet him. Talk to him. That'd be enough."

Dean felt himself tense. The idea of Benny meeting Cas and spilling the beans, whether intentionally or not, was making him shiver. He faked being really concentrated on a dirty spot that wouldn't come off, trying to decide what he should tell Benny. He knew his friend would make fun of him, but he also knew he had no choice to talk about his feelings eventually.

"Can you promise you'll shut up about our bet?"

It was Benny's turn to look at him with a shit-eating grin. "Can't promise that."

"Come on man, could you just shut up for once? For me?"

"Why do you care so much?"

"I don't. I just... don't wanna hurt his feelings."

There was a silence before Benny answered. "Ohh... I see. You actually have feelings for him."

"What?! No.."

Now would be a good time to shut the fuck up, he thought.

"I never took you for a softy, Dean. You're surprising me. How did that happen? you walked hand in hand into the sunset and let the landscape get to your head?"

"Shut up."

Dean could feel himself turning pink, and he was slowly starting to boil inside. This was what he tried his hardest to avoid. Benny laughed, enjoying every second he was teasing Dean.

"Did he cook you a pie? That would definitely win you over."

He turned around to face Benny again, anger rising in the pit of his stomach. "Suck my dick."

"Oh I'm sure your new boyfriend can take care of that alright. But you know, you having feelings for him doesn't mean he does too. So until I have a valid proof, other than your word, I'll have to take your precious Baby. You know, I always wanted to try it. You seem to enjoy driving it so much..."

"You want proof? I'll give you some." Dean slowly approached Benny, ready to make him eat his goddamn smile. He was tired of Benny picking on him for the last five months, every time he had a chance to talk about Dean's love life. If he was happy with Castiel, than he deserved to be left alone and to enjoy his new relationship. But those aren't the words that came out of him. Instead, he spilled out all the hate he had build up inside for his whole life, his hate for his shitty boss, for his shitty job, for his shitty childhood, for his shitty father. "Cas loves me alright. Whether you like it or not, Benny, I played my game so well, I'm pretty sure that if you give me a few months, he'd be ready to come live with me. I could ask him anything and he would do it in a heartbeat. He trusts me so much that even though he's been abused by his ex, he still lets me fuck him senseless every night. I proved you wrong and the thing is, the fact I love him or not doesn't even fucking matter, because Castiel is my bitch now, and you can do nothing about it."

They looked at each other, both surprised by Dean's burst of anger. Benny didn't know how to react, and Dean didn't know if he should excuse himself and leave or if apologies were in order. Before he could take his decision though, he heard a loud thump by the window he was cleaning a minute ago. They both turned to see what had created the sound and Dean was taken aback by what seemed to be ketchup and mustard, slowly running down the glass. His gaze reached the ground where he saw what was left of a burger, before he looked up again in the opposite direction to see Castiel, standing there and staring at him.

Castiel's eyes were a storm of emotions, but all Dean could see was the pain he just had caused. He felt the panic rising in him, a wave of pure fear washing his anger away like a word in the sand. He heard Benny saying something in the lines of "Ah shit" but didn't bother to answer, since Cas was already aiming again, this time with a piece of cake.

Dean barely dodged it, but he clearly heard the scream of anger escaping Castiel's throat when he threw the cake at him.

"You son of a bitch" Castiel muttered before turning away.

"Cas. Cas, wait. CAS!"

But Cas never turned back. He just kept walking away, an aura of anger so powerful around him Dean had a chill run down his spine. Dean started running after Castiel, but Benny grabbed him by the shoulder.

"Let him calm down first" he said.

Dean turned around and looked at Benny, murder in his eyes. "I'm not gonna say this twice. Let. Me. Go. NOW."

A soon as Benny removed his hand, Dean sprinted after Cas. He didn't know how much Castiel had heard, but he knew it was too much. Hell, only a word of that was too much. He could feel his breath itching, his heart thumping in his ears. He couldn't think straight, he couldn't breathe. The only thing going through his head was Castiel's name, and the sensation that the world was crumbling around him.

This can't be happening. Please God, this can't be happening. I can't lose him.

How did they reached the parking lot, Dean didn't know, but here they were, Castiel a few feet in front of Dean in the cold breeze of November, his trench coat floating around him like it was pushed away from him by his destructive halo.

"Please Cas wait, let me expl-"

"Explain what, Dean?" Cas turned around in a swift movement, making Dean stop. "Huh? What do you have to explain that I didn't catch back there? Because if you were wondering, I heard the whole fucking thing and you have nothing left to explain."

"Cas, I was angry-"

"ANGRY?!" Cas cut again. "And that's a good enough excuse to spill out my secrets to the world?"

"No it's not, but listen to me Cas-"

"I TRUSTED YOU!"

At these words, Castiel couldn't hold back the tears any longer. They started pouring, and he knew they would continue for God knows how long. He could see the pain in Dean's expression, but he couldn't bring himself to care. Not after what he'd heard. "And I was apparently part of a bet. All this time, were you even listening to me? Did you even care? And when you were 'fucking me senseless' like you so respectfully put it, were you picturing your damn car instead of me?"

Dean had started crying too, incapable of holding back the emotions swirling inside him. He was starting to curl on himself, each of Castiel's words like a knife in his heart. He knew he deserved them because Cas had probably felt the same way when he heard Dean, but it still hurt like hell because he knew Cas meant every one of them. Castiel's screams had started to attract a few stares, but they both didn't notice, too lost in their own pain and anger.

"Cas please, I'm begging you..."

"Don't bother. It's not worth it."

Castiel turned around and started walking toward his car, and Dean finally moved again and reached for Castiel's hand, begging again.

"Please, Ca-"

Castiel swirled to face Dean, and all he could see in the brief moment their eyes met before he received Castiel's fist on his jaw was pure hate, the same pure hate he'd seen in his father's eyes so many times. The blow knocked him on his ass, his mouth quickly filling with blood. A shadow appeared on top of him and Castiel's low voice resonated in him, shaking him to his core.

"Don't. Ever. Touch me. Again", he spat before walking away.

***

His mind was a total mess. Castiel couldn't think straight and didn't know where to go or what to do, or what even happened. The only thing that was clear as water in his head for now was that he needed to get as far away as Dean Winchester as he could. He climbed into his car and started the engine before getting out of the parking lot, tires screeching. He didn't look in his mirror to see Dean, keeping his eyes on the road in front of him.

He had to find a place where to crash. He knew Dean would try his place, so his home was out of the question. He wasn't ready to face Charlie and all her questions, either. His sister was in Germany, and even though this was probably a really good idea for the moment, Cas couldn't leave for a few months and expect people to leave him be. There was only two options left : a random motel room or...

Castiel took out his phone and punched a number before putting it to his ear. He heard the ringtone a couple times and after excruciatingly long seconds, someone finally picked up.

"Hey, little bro! How are you? It's been a while" The voice said.

"Gabriel, I know we don't talk much but remember that promise you made me when I left Raphael?"

"The one where I said you could crash at my place for an undetermined amount of time if you ever needed it, or the one about making Raphael’s face look like a Picasso painting if you ever ask me to?”

“First one.”

“Of course I remember, why?"

"It's time to keep it."

"What happened?"

"Don't wanna talk about it. Please just let me come over."

"Sure thing, bro. I'm gonna prepare the guest room. Be careful okay?"

Castiel hung up without answering, pushing the pedal to the metal. throwing his phone away, he realized a sharp pain in his hand and stared at it, seeing a deep purple shade on his knuckles. He was astonished that he could actually managed to break his hand punching someone, but apparently, he can do it. Castiel took a deep breath, tears still running down his cheeks. He would call Charlie later and figure out what to do then, but for now, he needed to get somewhere safe, somewhere he could lie down and sleep and hope to wake up and realize this is all a terrible nightmare.

***

Dean heard Castiel's tires screech in the cold afternoon air, but he didn't look up. Just the thought of Cas leaving him was unbearable, he couldn't watch him do it. He stayed curled up in a ball on the ground, holding his head in his hands, slowly rocking back and forth, trying to make sense of what happened. He felt like his heart was about to burst out of his chest and explode in thousands of pieces, like his organs were all tangled in a giant knot. It was like some humongous hand had gripped him by the chest and was tightening its grasp, suffocating him. The pain he felt inside was indescribable. He wanted to scream, but no sound came out of his mouth. The cold was biting his skin, but he couldn't feel it, too shocked by what had happened.

Dean could've stayed there for a few seconds or a few hours, he didn't know and he didn't care. He finally got out of his numbness when he felt a hand land on his shoulder. He looked up to see Benny covering his shoulders with his leather coat. He helped him up his feet, dragging him to Dean's car to sit him down in a more secure place.

"It's okay Dean, breathe."

Dean heard the words but couldn't make sense of them. The entire world was spinning and he felt sick. Somewhere in his mind, he realized he was surprised by how much this was affecting him, and by how much this was painful, but his thoughts were covered by someone crying uncontrollably. It took him a few seconds to understand he was the one making those inhuman noises.

He put his hands on his face, trying to calm down as Benny grabbed the back of his neck. It took him a few minutes to get his bearings and stop crying long enough to get a few words out, to no one in particular.

"I can't lose him. I can't."

"If I knew how much he was important to you, Dean, I would've never done what I did. I'm truly sorry."

"It's not your fault, Benny. It's mine. I said those words, I hurt him. I'm the one who fucked up. I need to do something, to apologies, whatever. I can't lose him. I'll do anything."

"I'm not letting you drive like that, and I don't want you alone at home. I'll call your brother to see if we can go there, okay? You need to calm down before attempting anything."

Since Dean didn't answer, Benny pulled out his phone and called Sam. Dean didn't listen, didn't even realized he was dragged to Benny's old Ford. He had fallen back into some numbness, like his mind couldn't take the pain and was detaching itself from his body. Once at Sam's house, Jessica opened the door and helped Benny pull Dean inside and removed his shoes before covering him with a blanket as he laid on the couch.

He heard Benny talk to Sam and Jess, explaining how bad he fucked up, Jess answering that they would watch over him until he got back to his senses. Benny left shortly after, telling them he'd cover up for Dean's absence at work.

There was a blessed moment when he thought they would leave him alone, but Jessica was rapidly at his side, a glass of water and two tablets in her hands.

"Hey.." she said, unsure. Dean didn't answer, so she took that as a cue to continue speaking. "So things got bad, huh? I know you wanna go after him, Dean, but you have to rest for a bit. Your body is in shock, you keep trembling, you're sweating like it's a hundred outside, you can't stand properly without falling. Take these, try to sleep, and when you wake up, we'll try to talk about a way to get him back okay? We'll help you."

Dean turned his head and extended his hand to take the tablets, drank the whole glass of water and closed his eyes.

"I appreciate, but you can't help me. I would need a miracle to get him back" he whispered. He fell silent for a few seconds before adding, "I deserved it".

Jessica sighed. "You were an idiot, no one can tell you otherwise. But you're a good person Dean, and I know you didn't mean a word you said. And no one deserves the kind of pain you're in right now."

The extreme amount of emotions he had felt in the last hour had exhausted him and he could feel sleep slowly winning over his pain. Just before he dived into welcomed unconsciousness, he said a few last words to Jessica.

"I do."

Chapter Text


Castiel drove mechanically, his thoughts wandering back to the mall. He was lucky the roads were empty. He was feeling mixed emotions, going from hysterical laughters to unbearable sadness, but what he felt most was anger. Part of it was directed at Dean, but most of his hate was toward himself. He hated to be stupid enough to fall in Dean’s trap, to open himself to someone who doesn’t give a crap about him. He didn’t listen to his instinct, which was screaming since the beginning of all this that it was a bad idea. No, he had to put his trust in someone again, just to make sure. Well, now, he had his answer. He deserved the pain for being so fucking dumb and taunting fate.

Castiel arrived at Gabriel’s place two hours later. He climbed the steps to the porch slowly, like every movement was painful, and raised his fist to knock on the door, but Gabriel opened it before he could do anything. As usual, his brother had a small lollipop stuck in his mouth and his golden brown eyes were shining with mischief. He was the type of guy you wouldn’t trust easily, for he always looked like he was up to something, and his attitude was only making things worse. But Gabriel was actually a pretty good person, loyal, firm, honest and funny. Once you were part of his circle of friends, you were guaranteed a person who would never judge you, who would listen to whatever you had to say and who would always be there for you when needed.

“You look like shit” was the first thing that came out of his mouth as he saw Castiel.

“Thanks” Castiel answered sarcastically. Gabriel stepped aside to let his brother enter. Castiel went straight for the mini bar in the kitchen and chose an almost empty bottle of vodka. He didn’t bother taking a glass, only opening the bottle and taking a big gulp. The burning sensation in his throat was welcomed, making him feel something else than the anger and pain that was taking over his mind and body.

“Calm down here, cowboy” said Gabriel. “I know alcohol is really great to make you forget your problems for a short period of time, but that’s the thing. It’s only for a short period of time.”

Castiel answered by sending a murderous look at his brother and taking another mouthful of vodka.

“You’re gonna tell me what happened or do I have to torture you to get the answers I want?”

“Why do we call it a ‘No Questions Asked’ if you’re gonna try to make me talk?” Castiel hissed.

“Because there’s a goddamn limit to ‘No Questions Asked’ and you look like a semi-trailer truck ran through you.”

Castiel’s head dropped and he closed his eyes, trying to summarize everything in a few short sentences. Or one long one. As long as it didn’t take twenty minutes to explain the whole thing. He couldn’t handle it. Though he knew dropping the boyfriend thing would be a pretty huge bomb since… Well, everything.

“I met someone and things were getting serious until I heard him tell his friend that ‘he could fuck me senseless even though I had trust issues because of my ex’, to use his words.”

Here. That’s a good summary.

“Okay, first of all, you had a boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

“And things were getting serious?”

“Yes, I just told you.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Cas, I’m really happy for you. But after Raphael, I honestly thought you would die alone with forty-two cats and major trust issues. I’m glad to see I was wrong.”

“That’s not really helping, you know that?”

“How long were you guys together?” Asked Gabriel, ignoring Castiel’s comment.

“About four or five months.”

“Four or five months?!? Jesus Christ, we really need to talk more little bro.” Gabriel seemed to notice Castiel’s swollen hand because he frowned and gave him a puzzled look. “What happened to your hand?” A shadow passed through his eyes. “Did he do this to you?”

Here he is, Castiel thought. The protective big brother.

“No. I did this to myself.”

“How?”

“I punched him in the face.”

Gabriel’s face went from anger, to surprise, before a soft smile finally reached his lips.

“Well, if your fist looks like that, I don’t wanna see the other guy’s face.”

“I only punched him once, Gabriel.”

“Doesn’t matter. The important is how hard you punched, and apparently you didn’t go easy.”

They fell silent for a moment.

“So what are you gonna do?” Gabriel asked after a while.

Castiel swallowed what was left of the vodka and turned around to choose a second bottle, but when he put his lips on the bottleneck of whiskey, Gabriel took it from him.

“Nah-ah. First, I'm not gonna let you drink yourself to oblivion alone. You’re gonna act like an adult and talk to me.”

“If you want me to talk, give me back that bottle.”

“I said I wouldn’t let you drink alone, you grumpy bastard.” Gabriel opened a cabinet to pull out two glasses, added a few ice cubes and poured two fingers of whiskey in both of them before sitting in front of his brother. “Come on, talk to me. After that we’ll put some ice on that hand.”

***

They talked for hours, Castiel emptying everything he felt to Gabriel. He didn’t want to cry, but they came to a point where he couldn’t hold back any longer. Gabriel did his best to comfort him and listen, controlling the amount of alcohol Castiel was taking. He knew Cas could drink like crazy when he needed to, but he also knew how bad it could get when he did. When he got up to fetch an ice pack from his freezer for Castiel’s hand, he took the opportunity to hide most of his bottles, so Cas wouldn’t empty every single one of them.

Around midnight, he helped him up the stairs to his bedroom, helped him out of his shoes and trenchcoat, and covered him with a blanket before putting a few tablets and a glass of water on his bedside table for the next morning. He had no idea if his brother was suppose to work in the morning, so he put his alarm clock for 7AM, just in case.

He went back downstairs, thinking about recent events. No matter how relaxed he tried to be for Castiel’s sake, he was worried for his brother. He’d seen him after Raphael. He’d seen how destroyed he was, how fragile he’d become.

The more you break something, the harder it becomes to hold it together or repair it. The human mind was extremely fragile, and extremely hard to fix. Castiel had already been crushed to pieces, and he fixed himself up on his own. It was already surprising enough that after only a year or so, he decided to trust someone again. But two times in a row… If he didn’t have trust issues, he would have them by now. Let’s not even talk about anxiety, loneliness and self-esteem.

Of course, Gabriel had to take in consideration that everything happened a few hours ago and it was totally normal that Cas was acting like that. The thing was, he knew everything and everyone had a breaking point, and he was damn sure Castiel was close from his. Anyone would be, after what he’s been through. Sadly, there was nothing to do except wait to see how Castiel would feel the next morning.

He cleaned up the kitchen, picking up their glasses and dirty plates. He went to his home office and sent an email to his boss to explain that he might not come in before noon due to family business before heading back upstairs and going to bed. He put his alarm for 7AM too, and fell into a restless sleep.

***

Castiel woke up to the sound of his cellphone ringing. He opened and eye as he reached blindly to shut it down, feeling like the beeping sounds were knives in his brain. He finally grabbed it and looked at the time, only to see that he had about ten text messages from Charlie. He shut down his alarm before calling his friend.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Charlie…”

“You don’t sound good. Too much to drink last night?”

“Yeah, part of it.”

“What happened?”

There was no point in hiding it from Charlie.

“I think I broke up with Dean last night.” There was a silence at the other end of the line. Charlie was obviously in shock.

“Cas, is it because of what I told you? If so, I am SO sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you or-”

“It’s not your fault Charlie. Actually you were right. Listen, I don’t really feel like talking about it. I don’t feel well and I wanted to ask you if you wanted to take my shift tonight. I think I need to stay as far away as I can from him for a day or two.”

“Sure, no problem, Cas. You know you can call me whenever you want if you wanna talk. Do you want me to come to your place after work?”

“No, I’m not even there. I’m at Gabe’s.”

“Just take care of yourself, okay?”

Castiel wanted to tell her how bad he felt, how he wanted to hide under his blanket and never come out. He felt like crying again, like his life was crumbling down for the second time in just over a year. He felt lost, lonely, and empty. But “Yeah, promise” was all that came out of his mouth.

[C]***

Dean woke up around 6AM. There was a blissful second of numbness as he tried to remember where he was and what happened, but last night’s events soon came back, taking his breath away. He realized he was still on Sam’s couch, wrapped in a soft blanket. Dean opened an eye, telling himself that this was all a nightmare and that by opening his eyes everything would go back to normal, but seeing the empty living room didn’t stop the darkening pit forming in his chest. He closed his eyes again, trying to think.

This is not happening. I cannot have fucked things up. I can’t. Not this time.

But repeating this to himself just made things worse, for a second voice kept saying he had screwed this up, and that he deserved every second of pain he was in. He sat, the blanket falling from his shoulders to his lap, the cool morning air sending a chill down his spine. He rubbed his face with both hands, trying to focus.

He needed to talk to Castiel, no matter what. He had to. Sam, Jess and Benny and everyone else could say whatever they wanted, he didn’t care anymore. Anyway, his reaction last night was a good enough proof that he had strong feelings for Castiel, stronger than whatever he’d ever had for anyone.

The question was how in hell Castiel could accept his apology? If he was being honest with himself, he would be out of his damn mind if someone had done to him something like he’d done to Cas. He was feeling lost, alone in the world. The earth could’ve stopped turning and he wouldn’t care less, because what was the point to live in this world if he couldn’t be with Cas?

He was so lost in thoughts he didn’t hear Sam walk in the living room. He sat down next to Dean, giving him a cup of hot coffee.

“Good morning…. How are you feeling?” Sam asked hesitantly.

“I think you know the answer to that. Look at me. I’m a mess.”

There was a silence before Sam spoke again. “Dean, I don’t know exactly how long you two have been together, but it was only for a few months. I don’t want to minimize your relationship, but you guys weren’t together for like, ten years. You’re gonna get through this. I know it feels like the world is falling apart right now, but you’re gonna get through this.”

“Tell me, Sammy, how did you know Jess was the love of your life?”

Sam took a moment to answer, taking aback by Dean’s question. “I… I don’t know… I just knew.”

“What happened to make you realize that?” Dean asked, staring at his mug. Just thinking about eating or drinking made him feel sick.

“She gave her lunch to a homeless dude.” Sam said, without hesitation. “We were walking together to go to our first class of the day, and we came across a homeless man sitting on a bench and asking for money so he could eat. Jess took out her entire lunch from her lunchbox and gave it to the man, without a second thought. When I asked her later if she had any money to buy herself something to eat she said that she didn’t but she could survive until we get back to our apartment. She was ready to starve just so someone she didn’t even know could eat. That’s when I knew I couldn’t find better.”

“And how far in your relationship were you at that time?”

There was another moment of silence.

“Four months.”

Dean nodded. “For me, it was about two weeks ago. We were in the living room, and we were playing Mario Party and - don’t look at me like that, he likes Mario Party - and I don’t remember what happened but I made a move during a minigame that just cracked him up. He started laughing at me like I’ve never heard him laugh, you know? Hearing that sound was amazing. I know it sounds really cheesy and stupid and out of character but you understand what… love… can do to someone. I promised myself I would be the only one behind that laughter. I would be the only one behind that smile. He’d been through so much crap, I wanted to make all of it worth it. I wanted to make sure he would never go through that again. And I realized the only other person I wanted to protect like that was you, and God knows how much I love you, Sammy. There’s anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you. And I feel the same about Cas.”

By then, tears were flowing again on Dean’s cheeks, and he didn’t have the strength to hide them. Sam’s eyes were riveted to his hands, a weak attempt at giving his brother a minimum of privacy to regain control of himself. After a few minutes, Sam spoke again.

“So…. You’re telling me this Castiel is your Jessica.” It was more a statement than an actual question. “If that’s the case, then let’s clean you up a bit. It’s time for you to be the star of your very own chick flick moment. Don’t look at me like that; if you love him like you say you love him, you’ll do it, no questions asked.”

Sam got up, leaving Dean alone so he can calm down and get ready. He dressed up slowly, taking a few sips of coffee. The hot beverage made him feel slightly better, dragging him out of his dumbness little by little. He brushed his teeth with a new toothbrush Sam made appear out of nowhere and went back to the living room to fold his blankets before heading to the kitchen, where Sam was making breakfast, his cup of coffee never leaving his sight. Jessica was sitting at the table going through the morning newspaper, her own coffee clutched to her chest like she was scared someone could try stealing it from her.

“Hey Darling” she said with a smile smile when she saw him. “How are you feeling this morning?”

“Hey… To be completely honest with you, I have no idea. It’s too fucked up in my head to put words on it” Dean answered.

Before Jess could say anything, Sam put down two plates full of eggs, toasts, sausages, cheese and fruits in front of them.

“Eat” he said, seeing the look on Dean’s face. “You’re not leaving until your plate is empty.”

[C]***

After eating and talking about Dean’s strategy to win Cas back, Sam and Dean hopped in Sam’s car. The Impala has slept in the mall’s parking lot. The ride to The Galleria went in a deafening silence. Dean could hear his heart beating in his ears, and anxiety was creeping up on him as they got closer and closer. It didn’t take long before he started doubting himself. His strategy, as Sam put it, wasn’t even a strategy. He was only planning on being the most honest he’s ever been to show Castiel how much he was sorry and how much he meant to Dean. But a thousand things could go wrong and he was about sure he couldn’t handle the pain if Cas refused to listen.

Sam parked his car in front of the main entrance. “So…. Want me to wait for you?”

“No”, Dean answered after a small hesitation. “I need to bring Baby back home anyway. I’ll be fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I need to stop at work too. Gonna take a while. You go home, if I don’t feel good I’ll call.”

“Okay. Take care of yourself and call me no matter what happens. We’re here for you, Dean.”

Dean got out of the car, taking a deep breath to calm down. This was probably the most stressful moment in his life. He needed Cas to listen. He needed Cas to forgive him and give him a second chance.

He decided to go straight for The Cheesecake Factory, leaving work for later. He didn’t stop to say hello to Tessa, not even hearing her when she talked to him. He kept his focus on Castiel, and on what he’d say to him.

He knew something was wrong the moment he saw Charlie’s fiery hair at the bar. He knew she wasn’t supposed to be there. He just knew it. His feeling got even stronger when their eyes met and her face suddenly got way too serious for someone welcoming a good friend. She knew, that was clear enough. How much she knew, that was a question for another time.

“He’s not here” she said the moment Dean was close enough. “He called in sick this morning.”

He stopped dead in his tracks. He was expecting Cas to reject him, to yell at him, to hide from him. He didn’t expect a no-Castiel option. Everything he had in mind blew up to pieces, crumbling before he could even see Cas. He could feel the panic rising more and more, making his breathing harder.

“Do you know when he’s supposed to come back? I need to talk to him.”
“I can’t tell you that, Dean, you know it. And no offense, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to talk to you” she said guiltily.

“He doesn’t have to talk, just to listen to what I have to say. He needs to know.”

He didn’t give Charlie a chance to answer. He turned around, a new idea blooming in his mind. He hurried outside, fumbled for his car keys and jumped in Baby, starting the engine and leaving the parking lot in a hurry. If Cas wasn’t at work, he was home. It would be a better place to talk it out anyway.

But again, he knew something was wrong the moment he had Castiel’s house in view. The parking lot was empty, as the street. He still parked in front of the house, thinking that maybe he just didn’t look well. Or that maybe Cas had intentionally hidden his car on another street. He climbed the steps rapidly, knocking on the door softly, as if knocking too hard would fuck things up even more.

No answer.

The house was silent, lights were off, blinds were covering the windows. If Cas was there, he was either asleep or ignoring him. He knocked again, harder this time, but he received no answer.

He’s out for grocery shopping. Or somewhere else.

As stupid as he knew his thoughts were, he still decided to sit down on the porch and wait. Cas couldn’t be far away. If he was out, he would have to come back sooner or later. And if he was home, he would have to get out sooner or later. Dean would wait.

But even after hours of getting up to walk in circles before sitting back down, Castiel never showed up.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

After his failed attempt to talk to Castiel, Dean went back home, opened a brand new bottle of Whiskey and drank about half of it in the hour that followed. When his brother called to check on him, he was well past the point of no return.

The conversation didn’t last long, Dean being unable to keep track of Sam’s questions. Sam finally told Dean to go to bed and to take a big glass of water before doing so, and promised to call first thing in the morning before hanging up. Dean kept drinking, before passing out on the couch, the bottle squeezed under his arm.

The next morning wasn’t glorious either. Dean woke up to his phone ringing, just to find himself all sticky. It took him a moment to realize the Whiskey bottle had tipped overnight, spreading whatever was left in it everywhere on Dean and the couch. It smelled awful, and the moment he tried to sit up, a humongous headache appeared out of nowhere. He scrambled for his phone, to notice that Sam had tried to call three times already.

 “Hello?” He answered in a groggy voice.

 “Dean! Jesus Christ, it’s about time!” Sam’s voice was filled with panic and anger, but mostly with relief. “You scared the shit out of me, I thought you were in trouble or something.”

 “I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been better” Dean said, his head throbbing. “What time is it?”

 “Almost 11AM. Are you okay? Do you need me to come over?”

 “No, no, I was heading out anyway. I need to see Cas.”

 “Are you sure you don’t want me to come with? You don’t sound too great to me.”

 “I’m fine, Sam. Just a little hungover, is all.”

 Little was definitely not the appropriate term. He'd had rarely experienced such a headache. The room was still spinning, he felt like the ground was tipping over under his feet, and he knew he was about to throw up.

 “I gotta go.”

 Dean hung up before Sam could answer and tried to get up, seeking support on every solid surface he could find. He barely made it to the bathroom.

 It’s only a few hours later, after puking out pretty much everything he had in his stomach and after a long, hot shower that he finally summoned enough strength to get out of his apartment and get behind the wheel.

 Even though there was a good chance Cas wouldn’t be there today, he had to give it a try. If there was one thing that was clear in his mind, it was that he couldn’t give up just yet. He had to try again. He had to keep trying until Cas listened to him or until…

 He shut his eyes tight, trying to bring his focus back on the road. Concentrating was hard.

 He made it to the Galleria God knows how, and entered the Cheesecake Factory, ignoring everyone, Just like the day before. This time, though, Charlie wasn’t the one behind the bar. Castiel was.

 Dean was in shock. Castiel looked horrible. His skin was a pale, greyish taint, like Cas had been stuck inside for too long. His hair was greasy, he had huge bags under his eyes. His lips were more chapped than usual. He seemed tired and disconnected, like he had put his body and mind on autopilot. His eyes were still a magnificent blue, but they were lifeless, empty. The joy and happiness that were usually there were gone, to only show pain and loneliness.

 Holy shit, what have I done?

 He looked around and was glad to notice there was no one within earshot.

 “Cas?” He said hesitantly.

 The moment Castiel heard his name, he froze and closed his eyes. His face turned into one of pure anger and Dean could almost feel the emotions coming out of Cas, like he had the power to send whatever he was feeling through powerful waves. Dean wasn’t welcomed, and he didn’t need a neon sign to understand. Despite all that, he pushed anyway.

 “Cas, please, listen to me. I’m sorry-”

 “Charlie!” Cas yelled toward the staff room.

 There was a loud crashing noise, a few cusses and the door opened, letting a dishevelled Charlie pass through.

 “What?! What’s going on?”

 “Can you please escort this fucktard out? I’ve got important things to do. I don’t have time for this.”

 It’s only then that Charlie noticed Dean and by the look she gave him, he probably looked worse than Cas.

 “Cas, I-”

 “Now, Charlie” Castiel said in a tone so harsh, both Charlie and Dean flinched, before heading straight for the staff room.

 They both stood there in silence, looking at each other. Dean could feel his legs about to give up on him, his heart beating in his ears. He had Cas, right there in front of him, and he couldn’t say a single coherent word.

 “Dean, are you okay? Dean, look at me. Dean!”

 “Yeah, no, I’m not okay, I feel like I’m about to faint.”

 Charlie skirted around the bar and grabbed Dean’s arm, helping him to the nearest chair.

 “Stay there. Don’t move.”

 She got back behind the counter, poured him a glass of cold water and came back with it. She also had a damp towel in hand that she placed on the base of Dean’s neck.

 “Thanks” Dean mumbled.

 “What happened to you?”

 “Castiel, that’s what happened. More accurately, a very, VERY, pissed off Castiel. And a lot of guilt on my part.”

 “He didn’t tell me what happened. He just said you guys weren’t together anymore.”

 “I fucked up, Charlie. I was a dick. I said things I shouldn’t have said, to him or to anyone.” He took the towel and wiped his face with it, breathing deeply. “Please, let me talk to him.”

 “That is so not my call, Dean” she snorted. “I mean, you saw yourself how he reacted. He didn’t go easy on me either.”

 “I know, Charlie, but can you at least try? Don’t do it for me, I don’t deserve it. But please, do it for him. I hate seeing him like that, and I bet you don’t enjoy it either. This is not him. He deserves to be happy and he deserves the truth. And the truth is, Benny pissed me off and I reacted badly and I know it’s no excuse, but believe me when I say I regret everything I said and that I will forever feel guilty for what I did. I just wanted Benny to leave me alone. Charlie, I… I love him. Deeply. I don’t even remember what my life was like before him, and we’ve only been together five months. I just… I don’t know what to do. If he’s better without me, then so be it. But if you think there’s only a small chance that he could be happy with me, that we could be happy together, then please, I beg you, talk to him. Please.”

 Charlie was looking at Dean, unsure what to do. But after a moment of reflection, she finally answered.

 “You know, I’ve seen you two together. You guys are so in sync, it’s unbelievable. You walk at the same pace, you communicate with just a glance, and sometimes without even looking at each other. You just know instinctively what the other is going to do, you know how the other is going to move. I’ve seen that kind of chemistry only in old couples, and even then, it only happened a couple of times. And Cas was happy with you. The happiest I’ve seen him in a very long time. He opened up to you. So yes, I believe there’s a chance.”

 “You’ll talk to him?” Dean asked, hope in his voice.

 “Yes. But don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly pissed at you. Pissed doesn’t even start to touch it. And I swear, if this works and you break his heart a second time, I’m gonna kick your ass so hard you won’t be able to sit for a whole year. Did I make myself clear?”

 “Absolutely. And don’t worry about the ‘broken heart’ part. I promise I’ll take care of him.”

 “Yeah, that’s what they always say. Now go back home. Take some rest, you look like shit. I’ll text you when I have something.”

***

 Once Dean was gone, Charlie asked for one of the waiters with an empty section to manage the bar for a few minutes before heading for the staff room where Cas was still locked in. She slowly pushed the door open, to find him sitting on the ground, knees close to his chest, beside his own locker. She stood in front of him.

 “What the hell was that? Since when am I your bodyguard and since when am I supposed to take out your own trash?”

 Castiel dropped his head in his hands and let out a sigh. “I’m truly sorry, Charlie. I was pissed and anxious and I needed to get out.”

 “You know, Cas, you practically work side by side, you can’t dodge the guy forever. You’ll have to face him eventually.”

 “That’s exactly it : eventually. Not today.”

 Charlie sat down beside Castiel, resting her head on the locker behind her. “He’s really sorry. Really. He was on the verge of tears telling me how much he loves you and regrets what he said. That’s gotta be worth something.”

 “That’s also everything Raphael did and said after beating me to a pulp. Every time. So no, for me that’s bullshit. Actions and respect are worth something, not words.”

 “He came all the way here to explain himself. Two times already. You told me you punched him in the face and he didn’t even try to defend himself, and as I saw a few minutes ago, you didn’t go easy on him. Even when you gave him a reason, he didn’t raise a hand on you. How’s that for actions and respect?”

 “That’s not the question, Charlie. He basically said I was his personal toy and that he could do whatever the fuck he wanted with me. I don’t care if he meant it or not. He still said it.” Castiel unfolded his legs and stood up. “I don’t want to talk about him. This conversation is over.”

***

 Sam was lying on the couch beside Jess, both of them in a comfortable silence. She was reading a book, while he just lied there, trying to relax and enjoy this one rare moment of peace. He was about to doze off when his cell phone rang. He sighed.

 “Do you want me to get it for you, babe?” Jess asked.

 “No, it’s okay. It’s probably work anyway. Gordon was working one hell of a case this week, he probably just wants my opinion on something.”

 Sam got up and walked to the kitchen, unplugging his phone from its charger, and frowned as he saw Dean’s number flash on the screen.

 “Hello?”

 “Sammy! How’re you lil bro?”

 “I’m… Fine, but you obviously aren’t.”

 “Me? Pfffff, I’m feelin’ GREAT, bro!”

 Sam could hear the slur in Dean’s words, and even if he couldn’t hear it, he would’ve known Dean was wasted : he only called him ‘bro’ when he had too much to drink.

 “You shouldn’t be drinking right now, Dean.”

 “ ‘Mnot drinking.. Not now, ‘nyway.”

 “You know what I mean. Where are you? Are you home at least?”

 “Yes, yes I’m home. But I might go out. There’s no more beer. I need more beer.”

 “No you don’t. And you obviously can’t drive anyway.”

 “Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do. I’m a grown ass man.”

 “Okay you know what, I’m coming over. You need help.”

 “Bring beeeeeer, bro!”

 “You stay put, okay? I’ll be there in less than thirty.”

 “ ‘ll stay put if you bring beer!”

 “I’ll bring beer. Just relax and wait for me, okay?”

 “ ‘m gonna try.”

 “Dean, I’m serious, you wait for me.”

 “Yeah, yeah, hurry up” Dean said before hanging up.

 “Shit.”

 “Babe, what’s going on?”

 Jessica was standing in the doorframe, looking worried.

 “Nothing. Dean’s completely drunk. I’ll go check over him a bit, he worries me.”

 “Do you want me to come with you?”

 “Nah, I’ll be fine. I just want to be sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. I might sleep over to make sure he’s okay throughout the night, though.”

 “Okay.” She approached him and gave him a soft kiss. “Go change, I’ll prepare your bag.”

*** 

As promised, less than 30 minutes later, Sam was at Dean’s door. He’d made his best to look calm in front of Jessica earlier, but in reality, he wasn’t feeling good at all about this. His heart was beating a lot faster than normal, he could feel his brain trying to stay focus. He was trying his hardest to push away the flashbacks of his drunk father, and those fewer flashbacks of Dean being so drunk he couldn’t even stand.

 Of course, Dean was drinking a lot more than the average Texas man, but he rarely got really drunk. Because he hated waking up in the morning and be reminded of how much he’d acted like John. They’d fled to Bobby’s when Dean finally got old enough and strong enough to fight back and defend Sam, and he hated being in the same state of drunkenness their dad was half the time.

 But there were times when Dean’s demons wouldn’t go away, and those moments were the worst. Like tonight.

 Sam knocked and waited a few seconds, but when he realized Dean wasn’t going to answer, he pulled out his spare key from his jeans’ pocket and unlocked the door.

 “Dean? Dean, where are you?” he said, his voice betraying his nervousness.

 There wasn’t a whole lot of places where he could be, his apartment having only three rooms and a bathroom. When you stepped inside, you were directly in the kitchen. On the left, you had a small hallway with the bathroom being the first door you’d encounter, the bedroom being the second door, and at the end of the hallway, the living room.

 Sam went through the corridor, opening the bathroom door and checking in, without seeing his brother anywhere. He did the same with the bedroom, his anxiety rising by the second as he realized Dean was nowhere to be found. He ultimately reached the living room and let out a deep sigh as he saw Dean sprawled on his couch, looking vaguely at the ceiling.

 “Dean, man, answer me when I call you. You had me worried.”

 When Dean didn’t answer, Sam walked over to him and sat on the floor, so he could be at the same height as Dean. His brother’s eyes were fixated on nothing in particular, just wandering on the ceiling, looking but not seeing. He was clearly lost in thoughts, thoughts that were probably as smudged as Dean looked like. Sam took a few moments to collect himself before speaking.

 “So I guess your grand gesture didn’t work as well as planned?”, Sam said after a while.

 “I couldn’t even do the grand gesture, Sammy”, Dean answered. “When I got to the mall the other day with you, he wasn’t even there.”

 “I thought you said he was working.”

 “He was supposed to!” Dean said angrily. “But he called in sick. Probably because he knew I’d come.”

 “What did you do?”

 “I drove to his house, thinking he might be there. But he wasn’t. I waited a couple hours and he never came back.”

 There was a moment of silence as Sam processed what had happened. So that’s why Dean had drunk dialled him the first time. He’d probably went straight for his bottle of whiskey after coming back from Castiel’s. But then, what had triggered tonight’s episode of self pity? Sam decided the best thing to do in the circumstances, was to directly ask Dean. He was probably too drunk to even tie his shoes properly, so he probably wouldn’t get all the subtleties of Sam’s questions if they weren’t straight to the point.

 “And what happened today to get you to drink your entire stock of beer?”

 “I went back to his work. And he was there.” There was a moment of silence as Dean obviously got lost in thoughts again. “And he ran away. He asked Charlie to show me out.”

 Aouch, Sam thought. That’s harsh.

 But again, Dean kind of deserved it. Sam was all for helping his brother get Cas back, but he knew too that what had happened would be hard to forget for Castiel. Having your biggest insecurities displayed like they weren’t important, like they were there just to serve your attention seeking ass, that was one hard blow you had to get through, even though the blow was unintentional-ish. The thing was, Sam didn’t know if Cas could find in him the strength to forgive Dean. He didn’t know if he would find it in himself to forgive Dean if he ever did something like that to him.

 “Maybe he needs a bit of space to sort through his feelings. And I think you should consider doing the same.” Sam suggested, hoping his brother would get the hint.

 “I can’t, Sam. I can’t stand by and watch him walk away.” Dean’s voice cracked and tears filled his eyes. “I can’t lose him. Not him. Of all people, not him.”

 “I get it, Dean, I really do. But for now, there’s nothing you can do. Let me help you get to bed and we’ll talk about this tomorrow, okay? You’re in no state to take any big decision. As a matter of fact, any decision at all.” Sam rose, and grabbed Dean’s arm to help him sit up. “Come on. I’ll help you.”

*** 

When Dean woke up in the morning, the only thing he could really feel in his whole body was a colossal headache. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet and he knew that the pain would be even worse when he would. He started by moving his feet, then his hands and arms, but the moment his shoulders came in action, he felt a bolt of pain in his skull and he winced in agony. He vaguely remembered last night. He remembered Sam coming over. Sam helping him to bed. But what have they talked about? That was a complete mystery.

 He heard someone making coffee in his kitchen, and guessed Sam had spent the night. He wished he could stay in bed for the rest of the day, but he knew his brother would come in any minute to wake him up.

 It took him what seemed like hours to just sit on his bed, his palms on his eyes as he tried to stop the room from spinning. He found on his bedside table two pills and a glass of water Sam had put there somewhere between his arrival yesterday and this morning. It took the pills and drank the entire glass of water, hoping the cold drink would help him see clearer. The only thing it did was to wash off a bit of that acid taste he still had from the night before. The pills wouldn’t work for another 20 minutes, if they worked, but Dean had a feeling they wouldn’t be of much use. His head hurt so much, he could feel every single movement of every single hair. It felt like tiny needles all over his scalp.

 Before he could completely get up though, Sam carefully knocked on his closed door before entering, a fresh cup of coffee in one hand and another two pills in the other.

 “Morning..” he said, sitting beside Dean. “I see you already take two, but take two more. Pretty sure you’ll need it if you wanna get out of bed today.”

 Sam’s low voice brought him pain and relief at the same time, the sound in itself being hard on Dean’s fragile skull, but also being smooth and calming.

 “And what if I don’t want to get out of bed?”

 “Take them, no matter what. It’ll help.”

 Dean grabbed the cup of coffee and tablets from Sam’s hands and drank a few sips as he swallowed the pills again. He expected a rejection of some sort from his body as he tasted the coffee, but apparently his stomach was strong enough to take it, even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to eat anything for a few more hours.

 “So about last night…” Sam started.

 “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

 “That’s the thing, Dean, I don’t give a shit about what you want right now. We’re going to talk about this, no matter how much you try to flee. Besides, you don’t have to talk, you just have to listen.”

 Dean nodded, too tired and in pain to argue with his brother.

 “Good. It’s obvious that you need help. I know your breakup is fairly recent, but you can’t go on like this. I know working doesn’t sound like a good plan, but you can’t stay inside all day, having a pity party with yourself and your bottle of whiskey. Working is good for you, you need to think about something else, to let your emotions settle down. Plus, if you don’t go back to work, you might lose your apartment, and I know you don’t want that. I called Benny and he told me you were supposed to come in today, but he said he’ll cover for you if you take his shift tomorrow. That gives you today to relax and prepare your stuff for tomorrow. As for help, I also called Jessica this morning. We want you to come over in about a week, so we can talk about what we can do to help you get back on the right tracks. Again, I know it sounds a lot right now, but I’m doing this for you. You can’t keep going round and round in that vicious circle or you’ll lose yourself. I still can’t force you to do any of this, so I’d like you to tell me if that’s all okay with you.”

 “It is. You’re right. I shouldn’t let myself go, that’s not how I’ll get him back.”

 “Exactly. So you’re gonna sober up, go to work tomorrow and come over next week. It’s gonna get better Dean. I promise.”

 But as Dean heard these words, he had a dreadful feeling that this was just the beginning, no matter how much Sam wanted to help him. He knew, deep down, that he was doomed. He was  trapped in the ninth circle of Hell, swimming into deep water, that eternal lake slowly freezing around him keeping him prisoner, his head the only thing coming out of the ice. He was feeling the cold inside him, the exhaustion in his body, the pressure around his throat, choking him. He knew, deep down, that it wouldn’t get better. He knew he wouldn’t get out of this in one piece.

 “I know, Sam. It’s gonna be okay.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

 

Dean wasn’t feeling like going. This goddamn dinner with his brother and Jess was just a bad idea and he had this weird feeling in the pit of his stomach that he would regret going. It seemed like November had started shitty and Dean was convinced it would stay shitty. He was even sure December would be shitty too, and probably a few months after that.

He put on his boots and his leather coat, grabbed his keys and was about to walk out of his apartment when his mind wandered to the bottle of whiskey lying in his freezer. He knew he’d promised Sam he wouldn’t take anything before dinner, but he also knew he needed courage for tonight, and alcohol could provide that little bit of motivation he was looking for.

He hesitated a second longer before walking back to the kitchen, denying the guilt building inside him. He opened the freezer and grabbed the bottle, twisted the cap, and brought the neck to his lips. He took a long gulp, feeling relieved as the familiarburning of the alcohol made his way in his throat. He put the cap back on, closed the freezer and walked back to the front door.

As he sat in his car, his mind kept ruminating about what in hell Sam could have been working on for tonight. He only invited Dean for dinner, but Dean knew his brother enough to expect more than just dinner. Sam had probably watched plenty of videos on the internet about motivational speeches and depression, if he hadn’t hired a life coach for Dean. When it was about making his big brother feel better, Sam was ready to do anything.

Repulsed by his own thoughts, he turned on the radio to try focusing on something else. He expected classic rock to come on, but was surprised to hear something a lot more easy going, some pop song he only heard in clothes stores at The Galleria. It took him a few seconds to realise he was still listening to Castiel’s favorite station, not his. When his brain finally registered what he was listening to, and to whom this was all attached to, he reached the Off button as quickly as possible and pressed it so hard he heard a loud cracking noise.

“Shit, sorry darling” he muttered, putting his eyes back on the road ahead of him.

Of course, he’d forgotten about that. Last time he’d turned on the radio was before that fight, before everything blew up in his face. Cas had probably changed the channel, and he hadn’t listened to it since then. Life had to remind him of how miserable he was, just before heading to Sam’s place, just to be sure he’d be feeling blue before dinner. Great. Awesome.

He soon parked in his brother’s driveway. Dean took a few deep breaths before getting out of his car, trying to calm the rising anger inside him, trying to convince himself that everything was going to be alright.

He knocked on Sam’s door, and didn’t have to wait long before Jessica opened the door, a dazzling smile illuminating her face.

“Hi Dean, how are you feeling?”

She hugged him tightly before he could even enter the house, and Dean would have probably pushed her away if it wasn’t that, well, it was Jess. He knew she had not even an ounce of malice in her, and that she was just really concerned for him, so he let it go and hugged her back.

“I’m okay, thanks Jess. What about you?”

“I’m good! Come in, Sam’s in the kitchen setting the table. Want anything to drink?”

A whiskey. A huge whiskey. Actually, just give me the bottle.

“Just a glass of water would be great, thanks.”

They entered the kitchen, finding Sam busy stirring something in a fuming pot. The table was set, a bottle of red wine was open and waiting for them, and an apple pie was sitting on the counter. Jess patted Sam’s shoulder, asked him for a glass and filled it with water, bringing it to Dean as he sat down at the table.

“Hey, Dean. How you doing?”

“I’m doing okay, thanks.”

“Wanna eat now, or you wanna talk first?”

“Eat first, I’m starving.”

That was a lie, but it started getting dark outside and Dean thought that if he played his cards well, he could maybe get out of there before things get bad. If Sam wanted to talk after dinner, then Dean was ready to eat as slowly as he could without being too suspicious.

Jess sat down beside him and poured the three of them a glass of red wine as Sam put a generous amount of spaghetti and meatballs in front of Dean. He waited for everyone to be served and ready to eat before taking his first bite.

“So Dean, how are you feeling today?” Asked Sam, losing no time.

“Same as when I walked in 15 minutes ago. I’m doing okay.” Dean tried his hardest to remove any sarcastic note he could put in his tone as he answered Sam, but as usual, his brother could read him like a book.

“I’m not asking to be polite, Dean, and you know it. I want the truth.”

Dean took a huge bite so he didn’t have to answer right away. Plus, he needed to change his strategy and eat a whole lot faster.

“I’m doing okay, Sam, seriously. I’ve been better, but I can handle myself.”

“Better than last week?”

“Better than last week.”

There was a long awkward moment as they all eat their spaghetti in silence, and Dean thought he was out of the woods when Sam spoke again, this time his tone more careful than before.

“Jess and I talked about what happened to you and how you reacted, and… I checked a bit online about what the family should do in these situations-”

“Don’t believe everything you read online, I thought you knew that” he answered taking another gigantic bite, feeling that he wasn’t ready to hear what was coming.

“-and we both thought that, maybe, we could talk about it. Or if you don’t want to talk to us, maybe you’d want to talk to someone else.”

“Someone else? Who? Bobby? You know he doesn’t know shit about how to deal with things like this. He’s a good man, we all love him, but I’m not gonna talk to him about Cas.”

“We were thinking about someone you don’t know, you know, so you don’t feel judged or something like that.”

Dean stopped moving, his next bite suspended in midair between his plate and his mouth, and he looked at Sam with daggers in his eyes.

“Are you asking me if I want to go see a shrink?! Is that a… An intervention of some sort?”

“Dean, I did some research, there’s a lot of good psychologists around and it’s discreet and you don’t have to tell anyone if it bothers you that much.”

“I’m not crazy, Sam!”

“We know that”, Jess said in a reassuring tone. “We don’t think you are crazy, we just think that maybe, you would like to talk to someone other than us.”

“Please, Dean, hear us out.”

“No! This is stupid! I’m not crazy, I’m not going crazy, and you, out of all people, have no right to insinuate something like that.”

“Please, Dean… You can also come live here if you want to, we could take care of you...”

“I don’t wanna hear about this. I’m out of here. Thanks for the wonderful dinner, let’s never do that again.”

Dean stood up and grabbed his coat hanging on his chair, turned around and walked to the front door without looking back. He slammed the door when he got out of Sam’s house, fury oozing out of his pores.He jumped into his car and put his key into the ignition. He backed out of the driveway, wheels screeching, and put the pedal to the metal the moment he was on the road.

How could Sam do this to him? How could he? Dean knew that stupid dinner was a trap the moment Sam invited him over, and he'd known since the beginning he should’ve said no. But he was weak and dumb and this whole thing was a total mess and he was so pissed.

He screamed, punching the dashboard as hard as he could a couple times. His fist hit a few buttons, cracking one in two. The one to turn the radio on and off got punched so hard that it stayed shoved in there, starting the radio. Hearing Castiel’s channel again, Dean started cursing and tried pulling it out so he could stop the music, but it was pushed too deep for him to pull it out without tweezers.

That’s it. I need to hit something. Hard.

He stopped his car on the side of the road. There were only trees on this part of the road, so he wasn’t worried about people seeing him. Engine still running, he got out of the driver’s seat and opened up the trunk. He grabbed the crowbar he always left in there, closed the trunk again and started hitting the top of it with all the strength he could managed.

He didn’t care anymore. He didn’t care about his car, about his job, about his brother. All he cared about was to let out this rage that was building inside him before he exploded, before it consumed him. He kept hitting the trunk, and when the crowbar finally made a hole in it, he moved to his windows and doors, hitting and grunting, feeling the vibration of every hit he landed. He watched as the metal bent under his strength, as the glass exploded in millions of particles spreading on the road like snowflakes. He watched as the paint got removed in big chunks from the car, falling to the ground without a sound.

After what seemed to be an eternity, he threw the crowbar as hard as he could and crumbled down on his knees, a loud whine escaping his lips. He sat in the middle of the road, his back to his front wheel and put his head between his knees. A small voice in his head made him realize his car was now as damaged as he was. He let the tears flow, not bothering about what he might look like, about who might see him. The pain he was feeling inside was simply too much to bare. There was a big pitch black hole inside his chest, eating away everything he loved, everything he was. The more it absorbed, the bigger it was getting, and he didn’t know how to stop it from expanding to his whole body and mind. He could feel it getting bigger, moving, its long, dark tentacles anchored deep inside him. Nothing, except the one who created it, could stop it.

Two hands suddenly brushed softly his shoulders and landed on his knees, squeezing gently. He looked up to see a blurry Jessica kneeling in front of him, looking at him with a pained look. Without thinking, Dean opened up his arms and she rushed into them. He clutched to her like his life depended on it, his tears running down his cheeks and for the first time he thought that maybe, just maybe, they were right and he was losing it.

They stayed like that for a long time, Dean still sitting on the ground, Jessica on her knees  between his, slowly stroking his hair as he calmed down. When he stopped sobbing, she let him go and looked him in the eyes.

“Where are your keys, darling?” She asked in a soft voice.

“They’re still in the car.” He whispered.

She raised and opened the door to take the keys before closing it again. She kneeled beside Dean and held out her hands to help him stand.

“Come on, let’s go back home. Sam’s gonna take care of your car, he’ll be there soon. I’ll take care of you. You’re gonna be okay.”

 

 

 

December 2008

Castiel let himself fall on Charlie’s couch, exhausted. They both had an awful day at work, and Castiel’s general mood wasn’t getting any better. He almost flipped off a costumer for asking not so politely for a straw, which was not his normal behaviour. Charlie had noticed and decided it was time for an intervention, hence, the reason why he was now staring at Charlie’s ceiling wondering what the hell was gonna happen.

“You want something to drink?” She said from the kitchen.

“I’m fine, thank you.”

She sat down in front of him on her tiny coffee table with a beer in one hand and tissues in the other. They looked at each other as the clock was ticking on the wall, none of them saying a word.

“What’s with the tissues?” Cas finally said. “You gonna punch me on the nose and you don’t want me to make stains on your carpet, so you brought what you needed to stop the bleeding before it’s too late?”

“What’s going on, Cas?”

“Nothing.”

“If you lie to my face one more time, that’s what the tissues will be for. You’ve been a pain in the ass of everyone lately, including mine, and that’s not you. Now I wanna know once and for all what’s happening inside your thick skull.”

“You can’t do it” Castiel laughed. “I know you’re strong enough but we both know you love me too much to hurt me like that. You can’t even hurt someone you hate.”

Her shoulders dropped down, all the tension from it leaving her body.

“I know I can’t do it, but for the love of God, Castiel, please tell me what’s going on in your head. We’ve known each other for long enough. I know you better than you know yourself. I know you are not okay, you’re trying your hardest to hide it from everyone but it’s seeping from all the cracks and I know that if you don’t talk to someone, you’re not gonna get through this. You’ll keep absorbing all that negativity and you will explode one day or another and it’s not gonna be pretty. Please, Cas. Talk to me. What’s going on?”

There was a long silence as Castiel asked himself if he should or not talk to Charlie. He kept his eyes on the ground, trying to decide what the best option was. He knew Charlie wouldn’t judge him, no matter what. He knew he needed to get the whole thing out of his system before it ate him alive. The only thing preventing him from saying a word was the fear of what feelings he might let out unintentionally.

“If you want me to talk, I’ll need something stronger than beer” he finally sighed.

“Be right back!”

She ran back to the kitchen, and he heard her search into cabinets and drawers, unbottling God knew how many different bottles and then putting them all back where they were before she eventually came back with a green and pink hard plastic glass and a straw. She handed it to Castiel and sat back on the coffee table, obviously ready to listen to whatever was coming. He took a sip of whatever Charlie had put in his glass and he raised a brow, looking at her suspiciously.

“A long Island Iced Tea? Really?”

“You wanted something strong, I made you strong.

Castiel looked at his hands, unsure how to even put words to how, or what he was feeling.

“I don’t know how to start,” he said in a whisper.

“Just say it, Cas. I don’t care if it makes sense or not, you just need to let it all out before it kills you.”

“I…. I still love him, Charlie.” His eyes filled up with tears. “I still feel my heart beating faster when I think about him, or when I see him. I still remember how gentle he was, how loving. I remember our first kiss, I remember our first date. I can’t believe the Dean I love is the same who said those awful things about me. He’s tried to explain himself a couple of times and I didn’t even let him try and I feel horrible for that, but at the same time I just want to punch him in the face and make him feel just even a little bit what if felt like when he said those words.”

“Do you still love him enough to forgive him for what he did?”

“I don’t know.” Tears were now flowing. “I know I love him enough that I feel like I’m dying inside every moment we’re apart.”

Charlie took his glass and gave him the tissues as she came closer to her friend, sitting on the couch beside him.

“Am I a bad person, Charlie?”

“Of course not. Why would you say that?”

 “I mean… what kind of sick bastard would go back crawling to someone who treated him like that?”

“Cas, stop this.”

“I’m serious. Raphael must’ve fucked me up real bad.”

“And I’m serious too. Stop. It. You are not fucked up, you are not sick, you’re in love. What you guys had was amazing. You were the happiest I’ve seen you when you were with him. Yeah, okay, he screwed up, but we all do once every now and then. Yes, it was a huge, monumental screw up, but still, he is trying so hard to make it up to you. I don’t want to influence your decision in any way, but I’ve heard both sides of this and I’m pretty sure that if you give him a second chance, he will never ever hurt you again.”

“How am I supposed to get through this? How are we supposed to start over?”

“You do exactly that. You start over. You begin with a good discussion about how this made you feel and how much he has to do to win you back. You go on a date. I know it sounds hard but you got through Raphael. You can get through this by snapping your fingers. I know you can. And I know Dean would do anything to have a second chance.”

They stayed there, clutching to each other, Charlie slowly drinking her beer, Castiel drying his tears, his glass standing untouched on the coffee table.

“Okay.” He said eventually. “Next time he comes over I’ll let him talk. I’ll give him a second chance. If I don’t let him back in my life, it’s gonna kill me.”

 

***

 

Three weeks, Dean thought as he poured himself another shot of whiskey. Three weeks without him. Three weeks… of pure Hell. Three weeks but it felt like three months.

First week of December, and he still can’t talk to Cas. He still can’t explain to him what happened. Of course he went back to Castiel’s work, and tried tirelessly to speak with him, but everytime he got turned around by Charlie or anyone else from the staff. He tried waiting for him after the end of his shift, outside the mall, but that didn’t work either. He tried waiting for him at his car, but that only got him another punch in the face, and Dean decided that wasn’t gonna solve anything and stopped harassing Cas ; a restraining order wouldn’t help him at all.

He’d started working again, but his heart wasn’t into it. His heart wasn’t into it before any of this happened, so it wasn’t going to be better after. Zachariah was a pain in the ass as usual, Benny was always apologizing, and when he wasn’t, he kept checking on Dean, asking if he was alright, if he needed anything, which became very annoying very quickly. Working at Bobby’s was probably the only thing making him feel slightly better, but it still was hard to concentrate, and he couldn’t fuck up the paperwork and even less the cars he had to work on. Plus, Bobby had noticed Dean was drinking a whole lot more than usual, and wasn’t taking any shit from him, so Bobby kept giving him ‘easy’ jobs that a 5 year-old could do while trying to make him stop drinking which, obviously, wasn’t working all that well. He couldn’t even look at his own car after Sam made it towed to Bobby’s garage. Usually Dean would be working on her, but apparently, since he’s the one who wrecked it, he’s not allowed to even touch her. Rufus, one of Bobby’s friend, was doing the whole work for Dean. He had borrowed an old rusty 1980 ford mustang from Bobby while his gorgeous Baby was on hold, and it was probably the worst car he’d seen in his life. The doors were painted orange, the hood and the trunk were painted black, and the rims were blue. But that was all Bobby had left, and it was only temporary.

Dinner with Sam and Jess was also something he was trying hard to forget. He expected something awkward, but he got more than he bargained for. He expected a bit of “we’ll find a solution” and a bit of “please take care of yourself” and “don’t let this destroy you”. He got all that alright, but the shrink and the “come live with us” thing were a bit too much to handle. Obviously he had troubles dealing with his feelings but geez, he was going through a breakup, it’s kind of normal he couldn’t deal with it.

He tried making up excuses without success, and Sam came to the conclusion that he should be Dean’s babysitter: if he didn’t want to come live with them for a few weeks and didn’t want to see someone, then Sam would call him every day to check up on him. Dean refused at first, but apparently his brother wouldn’t take no for an answer and threatened to come live with Dean if he wasn’t okay with the phone thing. Dean finally accepted, thinking he could always ignore Sam’s calls. Wrong. If Dean didn’t return his calls back, if he ever missed them, Sam would be at his place in less than 20 minutes, no matter where in the world he was. Dean was still trying to figure out how the hell he was able to pull that off.

And now, ignoring Sam’s calls too often got him into another fucking dinner with mama and papa bear, and he seriously didn’t want to go but he knew better. Missing dinner with Sam would probably grant him a new permanent roommate, and he wasn’t ready for that. Better suck it up for one more night than for God knows how long. He just needed to keep his shit together and avoid another complete meltdown in front of Jess or Sam, and things would be fine.

He poured himself a last shot of whiskey before putting back his bottle in the freezer. He sighed, walking slowly to his living room to put on his coat. He realized he was slightly unstable and dizzy. How many shots did he take? In how much time?

Dean couldn’t remember. He staggered back to the kitchen and pulled out the bottle again to look at it closely.

“Hot damn” he said, giggling. The bottle was half empty and he’d been home for about an hour.

He knew he had too much to drink to drive, but he also knew he did drive while he was way more wasted than that when he was younger, so whatever. He would go to Sam’s anyway for his damn dinner. And the bottle was coming along too. If he couldn’t bring Cas as a date, that didn’t mean he shouldn’t bring a date at all.

He grabbed his keys and walked out of his apartment, the bottle tucked under his arm.

 

***

 

Sam flipped his burger patties on the grill and put his spatula down before putting his hand back into his coat. The night was cold, but he knew that if he wanted to have every ounce of Dean’s attention and put him in a good mood, homemade burgers were probably the best option. Jessica would also come back any minute with a 12-pack of Dean’s favorite beer, and a strawberry-rhubarb pie was filling the whole house with a delicious smell.

Sam really wanted to make things right with Dean. He knew he hadn’t used the best strategy the last time, and he understood now why Dean ran away. He wanted to try again tonight, but he also wanted to go a bit more easy on his brother. He wanted to let him know that he could do whatever he wanted, and that Sam will always be there to help him out and support him no matter his decision. Jessica would also be helping a lot. He knew Dean listened to her more than he listened to Sam. She had a way to talk to him that made him react less intensely, less dramatically, than when it was Sam.

The backdoor opened with a crack, pulling him out of his thoughts. He turned around to see Jessica in the doorway. The light shining beside the door illuminated her face, making her blonde hair shine.

“I just wanted to let you know that I’m back and I’ll set the table in a few minutes. D’you want a beer?” She said in a bubbly voice.

“Nah, thanks. I’m almost done anyway. Is Dean there yet?”

“No sign of him.”

“Ok well let me know when he gets here.” Jess turned around and was closing the door. “Hey Babe?”

She turned around. “What is it?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too” she answered, a gorgeous smile on her lips.

Sam focused on his burgers again, putting some buns on the grill to heat them. He had a feeling tonight was going to be good. He knew it. Jess was going to help a whole lot, they both had a plan. The food would definitely help. Everything was on their side; Things had to work out.

The door opened again, and Jessica’s head popped out.

“Your brother’s here.”

Sam frowned. “Okay, coming right up.” There was sometthing in her tone that made him uneasy. She said it with a joyful tone, but he knew her well enough to know she was hiding something. For the first time tonight, his confidence faltered. She wouldn’t hide something from him. Theydidn't hide anything from each other, and they could feel when the other wasn’t comfortable. Obviously, she didn’t want Dean to notice, then.

Sam hurried and put all the patties and buns in a huge plate, closed his grill and walked inside. He didn’t have to look too closely to understand what Jessica wanted to warn him about.

Dean was sitting at the table, his bottle of Whiskey beside him and he was obviously intoxicated. Sam and Jess exchanged a look, and both silently agreed on a new plan.

“Hey, look who’s finally here!” Sam said with a fake enthusiasm. “How are you?”

“I’m feeling good, thanks to my date right here!” Dean exclaimed, pointing his whiskey.

“Yeah, I can see that you brought a friend. But you know, Dean, we weren’t expecting your friend. We wanted a calm dinner, just the three of us. Would you mind putting her away for tonight?”

Dean sighed. “Yeah, I guess I can do that.” He got up, grabbed the bottle and walked to the living room, dropping his ‘date’ on his coat. Sam thought he could hear him say something in the line of “why do you have to suck the fun out of everything”, but he thought it was probably a better idea to minimize his reactions. Without being told to, Jess silently opened the fridge and took the 12-pack out, before going out by the backdoor and put it out of view. They both came back in the kitchen at the same time as Sam placed a burger in each plate.

They ate, the only thing breaking the silence being Dean’s moans as he devoured his burger. They watched TV, and when they finally reached dessert, Dean seemed more aware of his surroundings. He wasn’t holding himself on every piece of furniture he encountered and he could enunciate properly again. They brought their piece of pie to the living room and kept watching TV until Dean fell asleep around 10:30PM.

Sam and Jess got up and let Dean sleep on the couch while they washed the dishes.

 

***

 

Dean wasn’t entirely aware of what was happening. He knew he was lying on Sam’s couch, the TV was playing in the background, and he was really comfortable. He felt like he was on a giant marshmallow, all tucked in.

A clash of dishes dragged him out of his half asleep state. He realized Sam and Jess weren’t beside him anymore and he heard them talking in hush voices in the kitchen. He dragged himself out of the couch and silently walked to the kitchen, but stopped in his tracks when he heard Jessica say his name.

“What should we do about Dean?” She whispered.

“I don’t know” Sam answered. “For now he seems okay but I didn’t like the state he came in at all.”

“Do you think he’s been as drunk as this all week long?” You could hear the worry in Jessica’s voice.

“I think so. But I hope I’m not right.”

“What should we do? I mean, we can’t wake him up and tell him our speech like nothing happened. It’s a thing to be there for him, but your brother needs serious help, Sam.”

“I know.” There was a long pause, the plates clinking into each other and the TV breaking the silence. Dean stretched his neck so he could see them. They were side by side, Sam washing, Jessica drying. They were so close Dean couldn’t see anything between them, and when Jess switched her weight from her right leg to her left, pushing into Sam, his brother moved in perfect sync with her. Even the dishes were getting washed in sync. The moment Jess put down something, Sam was ready with another plate, or a knife. They were meant to be. They fit like two pieces of a puzzle.

Dean couldn’t look anymore. He was extremely happy for them, but seeing them so in love was too painful, because he knew he'd had all of this with Cas. He knew they had been doing the same thing at the same time, he knew that most of the time they hadn't had to talk to understand each other. Cas would pass him the bag of chips as they watched a movie because he knew Dean wanted some without even asking. Dean would automatically open up his legs and place a pillow on the ground when he was playing video games because he knew Cas loved to sit there and watch him play. Their feet would meet under the table as they took their morning coffee, their own little way of saying ‘good morning’ to each other. And his stupid ass had thrown it all to Hell.

“I think I’m gonna call Bobby” Sam said, pulling Dean back to earth.

“You think he can do something?”

“I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot. I know he’s gonna make Dean eat a whole can of whoop-ass. That might wake him up.”

Dean turned around and walked back to the living room. He grabbed his coat and put it on before heading directly To the kitchen.

“I’m gonna take off. Thank you for everything, the food was delicious.”

He turned around but got stopped by Sam.

“Wait, Dean! We haven’t talked yet, you haven't even told us how you were doing.”

“Cut the crap, Sam. I heard your little conversation. I swear to God if you call Bobby so he can put me in the corner, you’ll never see me again.”

“Dean, I just wanna help.”

“Well, it’s too late for that.”

Dean turned around and hurried to the front door, slamming it behind him. He was out of the parking lot before Sam was even out of the house.

 

***

 

“Dean. DEAN!” Sam yelled as he heard the door slam. “Shit.”

“Woah, there.” Jessica said. Sam never swore, so she knew he was really upset by how things were turning out. “He’s not drunk anymore, he can get home by himself. What’s freaking you out?”

Sam was drying his hands on the towel Jessica was holding. “I gotta go after him. This is not good. I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Then I’m coming with you. Let’s go.”

 

***

 

Dean let go of the gas after driving a few roads away from Sam’s place. He couldn’t believe his brother even thought about calling Bobby. That would’ve been the end for him. Bobby would’ve fired him from his garage, and he clearly wouldn’t give him his Impala back. He would probably have forced him to come live with him and would always be checking on him, like Sam wasn’t enough.

What he saw in the kitchen between Sam and his fiancé resurfaced in his mind. He didn’t know he needed this in is life before Cas. He didn’t know he needed a lot of things before Cas.

That big black hole was taking all the place inside him now. He could only feel the darkness moving under his skin. It felt like the hole had been kind of asleep before, but now, it was alive, curling, shifting, getting more and more aggressive, filling his entire chest cavity.

He suddenly got blinded by headlights reflecting in his front mirror. He stopped at a stop sign and looked closely at the car behind him.

“That son of a bitch.”

He stepped on the gas, making his wheels screech. Sam’s car followed him instantly. There was no way in Hell he would let his brother catch him up. What would it give him anyway? He would force him to stop on the side of the road to have a wonderful conversation about life and heartbreak and hug it out before deciding they would live together happily ever after? Bullshit.

His cell phone rang on the seat beside him. He picked it up and answered.

“What.”

“Dean for the love of God, stop your car.”

He was taken by surprise by Jessica’s voice.

“Jess? Where are you?”

“I’m with Sam, we’re in the car just behind you. Please, stop your car.”

A few seconds passed before Dean could answer. “I’m sorry, Jess.” He hung up.

Up ahead was a traffic light. That was probably a good way to leave them behind. If he could just time it perfectly, and if he was just enough reckless to do it, he knew Sam would never run a red light. He had too much to lose. But Dean had nothing to lose, so why the fuck not?

He stepped a bit more on the gas, never leaving the traffic light out of sight. He was at about  two hundred feet when it turned yellow. He didn’t slow down, knowing he would maybe be able to do it before cars started going forward at the intersection.

 

A hundred feet.

 

He seemed to be in luck : he couldn’t see any car waiting for the light to turn green, which might make things easier for him.

 

Fifty feet.

 

He looked in his front mirror to see that Sam was slowing down, definitely aware of what was ahead. He knew his brother was freaking out in his own car about how dangerous that was. He knew he’d be pissed and that he’d probably never hear the end of it. But at that moment, he couldn’t give a rat’s ass.

 

Thirty feet.

 

There he was, no turning back, now. At the speed he was going, he could clearly not stop his car before running the red light, even if he wanted to.

 

Fifteen feet.

 

He pressed his foot as far as he could on the gas pedal, wanting this whole chase to be over with as soon as he could.

 

Five feet.

 

A flash of light appeared on the passenger’s side. He turned around and looked at two huge headlights coming directly at him. Dean wasn’t scared. Actually, the only thought coming to his mind as he heard the deafening honk from the semi truck was that he would finally stop feeling this atrocious pain he’d been in for almost a month. He had enough time to realize that this was probably the last thing he would see, before he heard the sound of metal bending under the impact and the darkness surrounded him.

 

***

 

“I’m sorry, Jess.” The line was cut off.

“Dammit!” Jessica screamed. “He hung up on me.”

Sam didn’t say a word, his eyes riveted to the car in front of him. He was determined to stay as close as humanly possible to his brother. The bad feeling he'd had before wasn’t a feeling anymore; it was a certainty. Dean was driving recklessly, ignoring stop signs, lanes and speed limits. Sam slowed down at intersections without really stopping, checking swiftly left and right in case anything was coming their way. He had to be more careful than Dean, for Jessica’s sake. Even if his fiancée wasn’t with him, he wouldn’t drive this dangerously; Dean undeniably had a death wish that Sam was far from having.

Dean kept going faster and faster, driving more and more carelessly, clearly trying to put some distance between him and his brother. Sam, on his part, wasn’t leaving Dean’s car out of his sight.

They both noticed the red light up front at the same time. The air in the car seemed to change, becoming thicker, heavier.

“Sam?” Jessica said hesitantly.

“I know.” He could hear the panic gradually raising within Jessica’s voice.

“He’s not gonna stop.”

“I know!”

“He’s not slowing down.”

“I KNOW!”

Sam let go of the gas with an enraged grunt. He was about to lose him, and there was nothing he could do about it. He wasn’t bold enough to run a red light and Dean fucking knew it and was using it at his advantage.

He didn’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for himself though, since a flash of light abruptly ignited the right side of Dean’s car and the whining sound of metal scraping against metal filled the air around them. Jessica let out a terrified scream. Sam screamed Dean’s name with all the force his voice had, like if shouting ‘Dean’ loud enough would undo the horrible scene playing in slow-motion a few feet away from them. The Ford Mustang was propelled far on the left and the semi truck’s brakes cried in protest as the driver struggled to stop his giant wheels from doing any more damaged. Sam stopped his car abruptly and got out, followed closely by Jess. They ran to the side of the road, where Dean and the semi truck were finally coming to a halt.

“Call 9-1-1!” Sam screamed. “Dean! DEAN!”

The sudden silence was the first thing Sam noticed. He could hear Jess’ steps on the ground behind him, he could hear his own breathing. He could feel his heartbeat in his ears. After so much noise, it was a piercing-sound-in-your-ear kind of silence. Everything had stopped, the air was full of electricity, yet very still. Jessica’s voice seemed far away as she talked to an operator on her phone. Time had paused for them.

The smell was also something Sam would remember for a long time. The first thing he identified was the smell of gasoline. One of the two vehicle was emptying its content somewhere. He had a moment of panic as he realized that everything could catch on fire any second, but he wouldn’t let his brother die like that. No way.

There was also a burnt-chemical kind of smell floating in the air. Sam had no idea where that was coming from, but he didn’t stop to think about it. Smoke was coming out of the wreck of car parts in front of him and the probability of a fire came back to his mind. A metallic taste flooded his mouth and he realized he’d bitten his tongue hard enough to draw blood trying not to cry out desperately for help.

Please, God, let him be okay. Please. I wouldn’t be able to live without him. Please.

He crouched to look through what was left of what must’ve been the driver’s window. Dean was there alright, but he was unconscious. And there was blood. Lots of blood. Sam couldn’t see where all of it was coming from, if Dean had one major injury, or two, or more.

Even though he was scared to death to do so, Sam took Dean’s pulse to see if he was still with him. In all his confusion, it took him a few horrifying attempts to finally find one, and the relief he felt when he sensed Dean’s heartbeat on the tip of his fingers made him tear up. He thought about trying to drag him out of the car, but he was almost certain they would need a hydraulic spreader to do so. The metal was so torn, it was a miracle in itself that Dean was still in one piece.

Sam turned around to see Jessica finally getting beside him.

“They’ll be here any second. We’re lucky the closest hospital is only fifteen minutes away. I checked on the driver real quick, he’s fine, probably has a broken leg but he’ll survive. He can’t get out of his truck, the door’s all bent. Is it bad?”

She gasped when her eyes landed on Dean’s inanimate body, tears instantly filling her eyes. “Oh my god, is he… is he-”

“He’s alive. But I don’t know for how long.”

Sam grabbed Dean’s arm and leaned against what was left of the car. Jessica wrapped her arms around him, pulling him to her chest, one hand stroking his back, the other brushing his hair. They stayed there for what seemed like an eternity, counting every second that was ticking by. Dean couldn’t die. Sam was ready to live with a lot of things, but not this. Not if it was his fault on top of that. If only he’d let Dean leave. If only he hadn’t forced him to listen. He had to make things his own way, and that might just have killed his only brother.

Crickets were starting to sing again on the side of the road, the wind continued blowing in the trees. Everything was so peaceful, in total contrast with the destruction lying in front of them.

Sam only looked up when he heard the faint sound of sirens in the distance. He checked on Dean’s pulse again.

The paramedics had to sedate him because he couldn’t find it anymore.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

 

Dean was late. Again.

Benny had expected him to arrive maybe half an hour late, tops. But Dean was supposed to start his shift over an hour ago and he still wasn’t there. He had tried his cell phone a couple of times without success. Benny ended up calling the new guy so he could cover Dean’s shift.

He wasn’t worried yet. Well, yes he was, because Dean was acting like he’d lost the will to live since his breakup, but he wasn’t worried. He wasn’t at that ‘I can’t think of anything else’ stage yet. Dean was probably passed out drunk on his couch and forgot to put on his alarm for today. Or he had finally managed to talk to Cas and they were in a really long and serious conversation about what happened. That must be it. He was angry more than worried. Benny was tired of covering for his friend, even though he knew Dean wasn’t in a good state of mind lately. It was mostly his fault too; if he hadn’t teased him about all of this, they wouldn’t be in this situation today. But he was running out of excuses and it was taking its toll on him.

Benny’s lunch break couldn’t come fast enough. Seriously,  though, where the hell was Dean? By now his consistent phone calls would’ve woken him if he were asleep, and he would’ve picked up even if he were with Cas just to at least  tell Benny to fuck off, but none of that had happened yet. He’d heard Dean’s voicemail enough to memorize it word by word.

He eventually went on his break, but he wasn’t hungry at all. He decided to go to the Cheesecake Factory, in hope that Castiel was working today. Maybe he knew something. If Dean tried to talk to him yesterday and it didn’t go well, maybe Castiel would know about his whereabouts.

He’d never been to the bar, but he found it with the help of the hostess. The closer he got to it, the more he felt his anxiety rising. He saw Castiel before Castiel saw him, and decided to go for it.

“Hi. You’re Castiel, right?” Benny said hesitantly, putting his hands on the counter to prevent them from shaking too much. This was way more stressful than he thought it’d be. “My name’s Benjamin, I wor-“

“I know who you are” Castiel said, cutting him off. “He talked about you a lot. And you were there when... You know.” He lowered his eyes. He was obviously still ashamed about what Dean had said. “Did he send you because I refuse to talk to him?”

“No, actually. I wanted to ask you about him. He was supposed to come in to work this morning and he never showed up. I thought that maybe, if you guys had talked last night or something, you might know where he is.”

Castiel looked back up, puzzled. “No, I haven’t seen him in a couple of days. Have you tried his cell phone?”

“Yes, many times. Anyway, sorry for bothering you. I’m sure he’s fine. Have a nice day.” Benny turned around and walked away, but stopped after a few steps. He turned back toward the bar. “Castiel?”

“Yes?”

“For what it’s worth... Dean’s not like that. It’s my fault if he said those words. I’ve been pushing and teasing him for a few weeks and I went too far. He just wanted me to leave him alone. I know that doesn’t explain why he said what he said, but... he’s a really good guy, and he loved you. He still loves you. Anyway... See ya.”

“Wait, Benjamin...” Castiel hesitated for a half second. “When you find him, could you please tell him to come see me? I’ve been thinking about it and he and I should have a serious conversation about what happened.”

“Sure thing. I’ll let him know.”

Benny came out of the restaurant, feeling motivation bloom in his heart for the first time in a while. If Castiel was ready to talk, Dean might have a chance. If Castiel was ready to talk, maybe things would get better. If Castiel was ready to talk, there was hope. He really needed to talk to Dean.

He tried his cell phone one last time. If he didn’t answer, Benny would go directly to Dean’s place, praying to God he would be there. Someone picked up after the third ring.

“Hello?”

“Sam?”

“Benny, hi.”

“Is Dean with you? I need to talk to him, it’s important.”

“Benny, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but...” Sam sighed. He sounded exhausted and completely overwhelmed. “There’s no good way to tell you so I’m just gonna say it : Dean’s in the hospital, he got into a pretty bad car accident.”

The wind was knocked out of Benny’s lungs. “Is he okay?”

“We don’t know yet. He’s in surgery.”

“Fuck. Where? I’m coming.”

“Houston Methodist Hospital.”

“Do you need anything? How long have you been there?”

“Almost fourteen hours? I’m sorry I couldn’t call you earlier, it’s a long story. Could you please go to our place and bring Jess and me a change of clothes? We left the door unlocked, I think. If not, there’s a spare key taped behind the front porch lantern.”

“Of course, man. On my way.”

Benny hung up and ran back to work. He rushed to the backstore and grabbed his coat and his bag. He ran back up front, putting on his coat and checking if everything he needed was in his backpack.

“Kevin, you’ll find a list of everyone’s phone number in the first drawer under the cash register, call someone, anyone, to cover my shift, I need to leave.” When Kevin didn’t answer, Benny looked up. “Kev?”

Well, shit. Like I needed that today.

Zachariah was standing there, beside the counter, looking at Benny with reprimanding eyes. Kevin looked like he wanted to melt into the ground and disappear.

“Can I help you with anything, Benjamin?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. If you could cover my shift, that’d be great.” Benny answered with a shit-eating grin.

“Where’s Mr. Winchester?”

“That is actually why I need to go. Dean’s been in a car crash and I gotta go to the hospital. Now, if you’ll excuse me...”

“You can’t leave, Benjamin. He’s not part of your immediate family, so it doesn’t count as a family emergency.”

“In that case, I’m feeling really sick. I’m gonna go lay down.”

Benny walked toward the exit, passing in front of Zachariah without even looking at him.

“If you leave this place, Benjamin, I’ll have to fire you.”

Benny turned around, but kept walking backwards toward the exit.

“Don’t worry about that, Zachariah. You won’t have to fire me. I quit. Oh and I speak for Dean too! Have a great day!” He turned away again, flipping Zachariah off over his shoulder, and he was gone.

 

***

 

Sam and Jess were sitting quietly in the waiting room. The night had been mostly calm, but around 5AM it started to overflow with people. The nurse who had helped Jessica calm down when she came in, seeing she was still there, had showed them a more peaceful place to wait, so they could relax. They were now alone in a cramped space, but that was more than they'd wished for.

There was a soft knock on the door, and the same nurse popped her head in. “Hi, guys. How are you holding up?”

“As best as we can in these circumstances” Sam answered, a sad smile on his lips. “Thank you for what you’ve done. It makes it a lot easier for us, here.”

“That’s what I’m here for, darlings. There is someone here asking for you, Benjamin Lafitte. Should I send him your way?”

“Yes, please. Any news on my brother?”

“Still nothing, I’m sorry. We’ll let you know the moment we learn something.”

She fully opened the door to let in Benny, who looked like he hadn’t slept for the last three days. He was as pale as a ghost, and he seemed to be on the verge of a mental breakdown. Seeing Benny’s expression when their gaze locked, he realized he and Jess probably looked worse.

They got out of their chair and the three of them hugged each other tight, not saying a word. There was no need. They all had the same words of comfort in mind, as they also had the same fears.

“Hey guys.” Benny said, a tremor in his voice. “Here, I got you some clothes. And I brought coffee.” He pulled out a thermos out of one of his bags, followed by three paper cups. “Go change, I’ll check your stuff. You can fill me in after.”

The couple thanked him and left the room to go change. Benny sat down and took a few deep breaths, trying to calm down. It felt like he was having a bad dream and he couldn’t wake up. Everything from the moment he’d heard Sam’s voice on the phone was foggy, unclear. All of this couldn’t be happening. Dean was okay.

He placed the three paper cups on the tiny table full of old magazines that no one ever read anymore and filled them with coffee. He hadn’t thought about sugar and milk, but he couldn’t find the energy to care. He needed a strong coffee anyway. Anything to keep him grounded and alert.

Sam and Jess came back and thanked him again, each grabbing their own cup of coffee. They told him everything from the beginning, how Dean had arrived drunk, how they didn’t want him to run away so they didn’t say a word, how he'd fallen asleep, and how he’d heard them talk. They explained how they'd followed him and tried to make him stop his car.

“He died, Benny.” Sam said when the story was over. “Just when paramedics got there, I couldn’t find his pulse. I thought I’d lost him and I freaked out. They had to give me something so I could calm down. I was lucky Jess was there. She did everything she had to, and they revived him about a minute later. They pulled him out of there and rushed him here. He has as a severe head injury, the doctor said there was a lot of swelling. He has I don’t know how many fractured bones in his legs and arms. They also said there’s a lot of swelling around his spinal cord, which can cause significant nerve damage, but it seems stable. He went under a first surgery for a punctured lung when we first got here, came out, and went back in a few hours ago for internal bleeding.”

Sam explained all that in a mechanical way, as if he was narrating a part of a movie. It all seemed so unreal, and none of them could accept the truth.

 

“Jesus” Benny said after a while. He put his hands on his face, trying to make sense of all this. “When are we gonna know if he’s okay?”

“Mr. Winchester and Ms. Moore?” They all turned around and raised from their chairs, looking at the nurse waiting in the doorway. “Your brother is out of surgery, they managed to stop the bleeding. He’s stable, but we’ll put him in the intensive care unit so we can check up on him regularly. You’ll be able to visit him soon. You need to know that he’s in a coma, which is a good thing. His brain shut down to help the healing. He’ll come back to us when he’s ready, you just have to be patient and show him that you’re waiting for him, here. I must also inform you, he does not look good, so just prepare yourselves for this.”

The nurse walked all three of them to another room where four beds were lined up, all of them separated by thin white curtains. Sam braced himself for what he was about to see, but nothing in the world can prepare someone for what he saw. Dean was wearing a crisp white cervical collar, holding him in place. His right arm and leg were both in casts. He had a few bandages on his left arm, ruby red blood already piercing through them. He had stitches everywhere : on his hands, his left arm, on his cheek, above his eyebrow. Sam was convinced there were more, he just couldn’t see them, since Dean was covered with a blanket. He was wearing a mask covering half his face, so he could breathe normally despite his punctured lung. He was plugged in on three or four other different machines, every one of them making a different sound. He was pale, almost translucent, and Sam hoped the bag of blood hanging above Dean would help him get his colors back.

They all stood there in shocked silence, Jess clutching at Sam’s arm, Benny his hand over his mouth, suppressing his tears. No matter how horrible they'd imagined he’d look like, this was ten times worse.

Benny suddenly broke the silence. “Damn. Castiel needs to know.”

“I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care, Benny.” Jessica answered.

“No no no, he will. I was getting worried because Dean wouldn’t answer my calls this morning so I went to see him in case he knew something. He told me to tell Dean that he wanted to talk. I think he wanted to give him a second chance.”

Jess and Sam stared at each other in astonishment.

“Are you joking?” Sam said.

“He needs to know. Do you still have Dean’s phone? Castiel’s number must be in there somewhere. I’m gonna call him.”

 

***

 

It was a little past five when Cas opened his locker in the staff room and grabbed his coat before heading home. He pulled his Ipod out and plugged his earbuds in, before checking his phone. Still no call from Dean, and no sign of him today either. Maybe he’ll come tomorrow. He walked back up front, disappointment filling his heart.

“Still no news?” Charlie asked when she saw his facial expression.

“Nothing. Tonight, if you could just undo the dishwasher before you leave, that would help me. We’re supposed to receive a whole lot of stock tomorrow morning and I won’t ha-”

He stopped talking and they both looked at Castiel’s phone, ringing in his hand. Dean’s name was flashing on the screen. They stared at each other, and they were both obviously feeling the same excitement bubbling inside.

“What are you doing, answer your damn phone!” Charlie squealed.

Castiel pressed the green button and put his phone to his ear. “He-hello, Dean.”

“Castiel?”

“Benjamin?”

Castiel looked at Charlie with a puzzled look, and she seemed as puzzled as him.

“Benjamin?” She whispered. “Dean’s BFF?”

“Yes” Castiel mouthed.

“What the hell?”

“I don’t know” he mouthed again.

“Huh, listen..” Benny started again, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you won’t be able to talk to Dean for a while. He got into a car accident.”

Castiel felt the blood leaving his face. “What? When?”

“Last night, apparently. He ran a red light and was hit by a semi truck.”

Castiel’s heart stopped beating. This couldn’t be happening. He was feeling light headed, and everything was turning. He saw Charlie running toward him, grasping him by the shoulder. Her mouth was moving, but he couldn’t understand what she was saying.

“Where is he?”

“He’s at Houston Methodist Hospital. He just got out of surgery.”

Thank God he’s alive.

“Can I talk to him? Is he conscious?”

“He’s not. And we don’t know when he will be. He’s in a coma.”

He closed his eyes. With Charlie’s help, he sat down on the ground; the bar stool was too high and too far away. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. This was not happening. Not here. Not now. Not Dean, of all people.

He put his head between his knees, breathing hard.

“Hey, hey, hey, breathe man. He’s okay. He’s stable. Would you like to come see him?”

“Yes!” He struggled to say the word, his throat tight. He realized tears were rolling down his cheeks.

“Where are you? I’m not going to let you drive in that state, I’ll come get you.”

“At work. Please hurry.”

He hung up and dropped down his phone, holding his head with both hands. He tightened his hands into fists, gripping his hair, trying to remind himself where he was. He began rocking back and forth, unable to control the panic rising in his guts.

“Cas, Cas, look at me. What’s going on?”

He looked up at Charlie, sitting beside him behind the bar. She looked as pale as him, as panicked as him. He felt bad for making her feel that way.

“It’s Dean. He got into a car accident, he’s in a coma. I gotta go see him.”

“Oh my god, Cas, I’m so sorry.”

“I have to go.”

“I know, I know, but you can’t drive like that. Is Benny coming to fetch you or do you want me to drive you? I can find someone to cover for me.”

“It’s okay, he’ll be here soon. I’ll go wait for him outside.”

He got up to his feet, grabbed his phone and left, promising Charlie he’ll keep her posted.

 

***

 

It was almost midnight and Castiel was sitting beside Dean’s bed, holding his hand. He’d stopped crying a long time ago, his body apparently being unable to produce more tears. He still couldn’t believe what was happening. Sam and Jess had left around 8:00 to go home, both of them being exhausted. They hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours and the emotions they'd been through during those 48 hours would’ve been enough to exhaust anybody. Benny was waiting for Cas in the cafeteria, so he could have a bit of time alone with Dean.

Even though everyone told him that he shouldn’t feel guilty, Castiel couldn’t help it. It was his fault if Dean acted like that. It was his fault if Dean wasn’t happy anymore. He could’ve given him a chance to explain that this had been an honest mistake, a chance to show Cas he was better than that. But he didn’t want to hear it, because he wanted Dean to suffer as much as he’d suffered, and now… Now he didn’t even know if he would have the chance to hear Dean’s voice again.

The nurse came to see him after Sam and Jess left. She told him that some people believed that even when you were in a coma, you could still hear and feel what was going on around you. She told him that if he wanted to talk to him, it might help. That if he wanted to hold his hand, he should. If Dean knew someone was there for him, then maybe it would help him come back.

So Castiel did. He held Dean’s hand in his, brushing his thumb over the back of his hand tirelessly, drawing little hearts with his fingers on Dean’s wrist. He kissed each of Dean’s fingers softly and when he realized they were as cold as death, he massaged them to help the blood flow. When he saw that Dean had goose bumps, he asked for a second blanket and covered him up, making sure he didn’t disturb any tubes around Dean, or plugged in him. He couldn’t find the courage to talk, though. This was too overwhelming for him. Anyway, he had no idea what to say. He had no idea how to even begin.

Castiel looked at Dean one last time before finally getting up and pulling back his chair to where he took it. He had to go home and change, but he was reluctant to leave Dean’s side. What if he woke up when he was gone? What if he got worse?

He stopped his train of thoughts, trying to stay calm. Nothing would happen. Even if something happened while he was gone, Castiel had given his phone number as a second emergency contact after Sam, so he would automatically be informed. Dean could stay alone for an hour or two.

 

***

 

Benny drove him back to The Galleria, where Cas could take his car back to his place. He was kind enough to make sure Cas was okay to drive, even buying him a coffee so he stayed awake. They exchanged phone numbers so they could keep each other updated if anything new came up, and Benny left, so he could get a few hours of sleep.

Castiel climbed into his car and directly went home. He stayed in the shower, organizing his thoughts, taking deep breaths, until he ran out of hot water. He stepped out and dried himself before putting on more comfortable clothes than his work uniform, and started making his bag. He wanted to bring as much stuff as he could. He grabbed a few books, his phone charger, a pillow and a blanket. He grabbed a notebook and a pen, a few energy bars and his earplugs.

On his way back to the hospital, he called Charlie. He told her he wouldn’t come to work for a couple of days, that he needed to stay with Dean and she assured him she would be able to handle everything just fine. He told her everything he knew about the situation, and promised to call back tomorrow night. The conversation was short, both of them not really knowing how to react or what to say in that kind of situation.

At almost three in the morning, Castiel was back at the hospital and went straight for the intensive care unit, but was taken by surprise when he entered the room and found Dean’s bed empty. He turned around looking for a nurse or a doctor, someone, anyone who could tell him where Dean was, panic slowly rising in his guts. He walked back to the small reception desk at the end of the hallway and asked for him.

“His state was stable enough. He’d been with us for almost twelve hours and he seemed good. We decided to move him to a single room so we could give his place to someone else. You’ll find him in room 4202.”

Castiel inhaled slowly, breathing for the first time since he’s entered the intensive care unit. Dean wasn’t back in surgery. Dean wasn’t dead. Dean was okay.  He dragged himself back to the elevator and pushed the button for the fourth floor. He found Dean’s room easily enough. He knocked on the door before going in, feeling automatically stupid.

It’s not like he’s going to tell you to come in, dumbass. Just go in.

The room was dimly lit, and Dean’s bed was in the far back, beside a small window with the curtains fold. There was a small table with a few magazines and two black armchairs stuck between the door and the bed. A navy two place couch was on the other side of the room.

Castiel pulled out his pillow from his bag before throwing it on the couch and moved one of the armchair beside Dean’s bed. He was too drained to read or do anything, so he sat down, his pillow clutched to his chest. He took Dean’s hand and laid his head on the bed, his pillow preventing the metal bar of the bed from bruising his ribs. He fell asleep shortly after breathing at the same rhythm as the machines surrounding him.

 

***

 

Castiel felt a hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him. “Hey man, wake up.”

He opened a sticky eye, unsure of where he was, but it soon came back to him.

Dean. Hospital.

He realized he’d spent the night sitting beside Dean, holding his hand. His back was killing him for spending so much time in a weird position, half lying down, half sitting, and he could feel the imprint of the sheets on his right cheek.

He looked around and found the source of the voice. Sam was standing beside him, holding Castiel’s pillow in one hand and a duffel bag in the other.

“Good morning. I think you dropped this” he said, handing him the pillow. “You spent the night here?”

“Good morning, Sam” Castiel answered in a groggy voice. “Yes, I slept here. I couldn’t bring myself to stay home last night.”

Sam pulled the other armchair at Dean’s feet, sitting a few inches from Cas. He dumped his duffel bag beside him. There was a short moment of silence as they both watched Dean before Sam talked again.

“I didn’t tell you when we saw each other last night, but I’m happy to finally meet you. I had hoped for better circumstances, but still...”

Castiel smiled faintly. “I’m happy to meet you too. I’ve heard so much about you, it’s nice to put a face on the name.”

“Same” Sam laughed. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.”

“You did?” Castiel asked, puzzled.

“Oh yes. You were the only thing Dean could talk about in the last few months. Even after… You know… He couldn’t say a bad thing about you.”

Castiel looked at Dean, again, tenderness in his eyes. Sam cleared his throat.

“I know we only met a few hours ago but I think due to all of this“, he said motioning toward Dean, “ you deserve to know some things, and since Dean can’t prevent me from saying it, I think we should talk.” Sam took a pause as if silently asking Castiel for his approval. When Castiel didn’t answer, Sam continued. “I knew about the bet. I knew it wasn’t a good idea and I warned him, but you know how he is.”

Castiel scoffed. “Of course I know. I wasn’t even that surprised when I heard about it. I was pissed like I’ve rarely been pissed in my life, but not surprise. And I was even less surprised to know I was competing against his car.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk about. That car is way up in Dean’s priorities. He’d always taken care of her like she was a real person. He never told me directly, but he would’ve given her up in a heartbeat for you. Even before everything blew up. I think the deal was sealed when you guys went to that baseball game. After that, I’m convinced he would’ve let her gather rust in a corner if it meant he could be with you.”

“I don’t want you to feel guilty of any of what I will say next, okay? It is not your fault. You were trying to protect yourself and I totally understand that. Jess and I aren’t mad at you, and we don’t think you are less of a person for that. Everything that happened was part of Dean’s decisions, not yours.”

Castiel steeled himself for what was coming. He wasn’t sure he was ready to hear any of it, but apparently Sam needed to get it all off of his chest, so he didn’t stop him. Anyway, he was pretty sure he’d have to hear it sooner or later.

“He wasn’t doing great, Castiel. After you broke up with him, I mean. I’ve never seen him like that. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to help, to take care of him, but he started drinking a lot more than usual, and he became hard to control. I tried to talk him into seeing a psychologist, and that was definitely the wrong move to make. I should’ve known better. He was at my place just before the accident. I mentioned something to Jess and I thought he wasn’t listening, but he heard and ran away. We chased him, we tried to make him stop…”

Castiel could feel his eyes filling with tears, making it hard for him to see Dean clearly.

“He died for a few minutes, out there. And the only thing I could think of before I passed out was how you would never know how much he loved you. How much he cared about you. I’ve always been the most important thing in his life, but I’m convinced you were as important to him as I am. You managed to do that in less than a year, and he’s known me forever. You are special, and you are good to him in so many ways, and I think he was good for you in so many ways too. He still can be. But I also want you to know that if you feel like you can’t do this again, we understand. You can walk away now if you don’t think you have the strength, or if you just don’t want to try again. He’ll never know you were here, and we can keep it a secret. But if you want to stay, I’m convinced you two could go a really long way and you won’t regret it. He was ready to give up everything he had to be with you again.”

Tears were slowly rolling down Castiel’s cheeks. He was still holding Dean’s hand tight, like it was the only thing keeping him from drowning in the middle of the ocean. He had no idea what he would do if Dean didn’t wake up. It was a possibility so frightening, he refused to let himself think about it.

“I’m gonna go get some coffee” Sam said after a few seconds. He patted Castiel on the shoulder and walked out the room, closing the door behind him.

The moment Castiel heard the door click shut, he really let go of his tears. A long, painful whine escaped his lips and he closed his eyes. It felt like Sam had left with all the oxygen available in the room, and Castiel was having trouble breathing, suffocated by his pain. He brought Dean’s hand to his face, kissing every inch of it, trying to make Dean feel the love he had for him. He stayed like that for a long time, trying to pour every ounce of his love in Dean’s hand.

“I’m so, so sorry, Dean” he sobbed. “I love you so much. I never told you and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before, but I love you with all my heart. Please, come back to us. Come back to me. I can’t go on any longer without you in my life, it’s gonna kill me. And obviously it almost killed you. I’ll do anything, please Dean, I’m sorry. I love you.”

Castiel didn’t hear the door open again, or hear Sam walking in. He only realized when he saw a gigantic hand putting down a box of tissue on the mattress, beside Dean’s hand. He took a few of them and wiped his eyes as he tried to calm down.

“I’m sorry” he said between to sobs.

“Hey, it’s no problem man. It’s hard for me too, I just cried my eyes out yesterday. It’s your turn. I can leave you alone if you want, but I’m also here if you want to talk to someone. Coffee?”

“Yes, please.” Sam gave him a paper cup, and he took a comforting sip of the hot beverage. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure thing” Sam said, sitting down again in the armchair beside Castiel.

“Why are you so nice to me? I know you said I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. If I hadn’t been so selfish, he wouldn’t be here. I almost killed your brother. So why?”

There was a long pause as Sam turned the question around in his head.

“Well, it’s kind of simple. In my mind, and in Jessica’s mind, you weren’t doing anything wrong. You reacted like a lot of people would’ve react, because let’s be honest, he did screw this up real bad. It’s totally understandable, for us at least, that you refused to talk to him again. So maybe you think it’s your fault, but I don’t think you’re responsible for any of this. The only thing I know you are responsible for is Dean’s happiness until a few months ago. And I can’t be angry at you for making my brother a better, happier person.”

“What about Benny? Does he hate me?”

“Benny probably feels as guilty as you right now, if not more. He thinks he’s the reason you guys broke up in the first place. I think that when Dean wakes up, Benny will never tease him again, ever.”

“How can you be so sure he’s gonna wake up?”

“I just know. Dean’s not gonna leave us behind. He’s gonna fight with everything he has. Plus, if what the nurses say is true, he already knows you’re here. That will sure help.”

“What happened to the ‘he’ll never know you were here’ thing you told me?”

“I just wanted to give you the option to leave. I don’t want you to feel like you have an obligation toward him. It’s your choice.”

Castiel thought about everything for a few minutes as they both drank their coffee. Sam was right: it was his choice. No one knew if Dean would wake up, and if he did, if he would have any after-effects. Cas could still get out of this if he wanted to.

“I want him to know I’m here for him for as long as he needs me. I’m not leaving. I love him, and I want him to know that.” He turned around to look at Sam and noticed he had a huge grin plastered on his face. “What?”

“I’m just happy you decided to stay. Welcome to the family. We should throw you a welcome dinner or something, you made one hell of an entry in our lives. Would you like to join us tonight? Jess is supposed to bring Chinese after work, we’re going to eat here.”

Castiel’s eyes filled with tears again. “I would love to” he answered, smiling back at Sam.

 

***

 

Castiel, Jessica, Sam and Benny worked out a way to make sure there was at least one person with Dean at all time. They were all happy to do so, probably all feeling they had a part of responsibility in this even though they didn’t necessarily talk about it. They all brought things to pass the time, like books, magazines, a deck of cards, sudokus, crosswords, puzzles, a few movies and an old laptop to play them. The couch turned into a permanent bed with pillows and blankets. They also brought a big bag full of snacks they could all pick in if they got hungry, instead of eating the awful things they called ‘food’ at the hospital cafeteria.

Castiel had no idea what the others were doing when they were alone with Dean, but he was always sitting close to him. He thought talking to Dean, or touching him could help him come back faster. He also tried bringing things Dean would love, or at least appreciate if he was conscious.

“Hello, Dean” he said one morning after Jessica had left. “I found a book you might like. It’s not really my type, but I think it’s yours. I know you don’t read much, but I know you must be missing playing video games, so I thought this would be a great compromise between our two passions. It’s called Epic by Conor Costick. It takes place in a world where there’s no violence and any conflicts are resolved in a fantasy game. If you win in the game, you win in real life too. Anyway, I thought I could read you a few chapters and see how it goes.”

Other times, he would do crosswords and ask Dean for help as he did them.

“Okay, next one. Six letter word. ‘Sport played at Wimbledon’. I don’t know much about sport, but I’m not stupid either” he said as he wrote the letters ‘T-E-N-N-I-S’ in the blanks. “Next one is tricky, though. Four letter words. ‘Central attraction of Piccadilly Circus’. I don’t even know what the Piccadilly Circus is.”

He would also talk to him about his day at work, and how Charlie was doing, hoping that bringing everyday topics would trigger something.

“You know how she is. She always wants to help, but she’s so clumsy when she gets too excited. Believe it or not, she almost burnt down the bar. I told her it was a bad idea.”

When Cas wasn’t alone though, he used the time to learn about the others. He wanted to be part of Dean’s family so he really tried to be as friendly as he could. He realized he had a lot in common with Jess. Both of them enjoyed reading, they listened to the same music, liked the same movies. She was kind-hearted and funny, and her laugh was a delight to hear. She was easy going and always had something to talk about.

Cas already knew a lot about Sam, but spending time with him really showed him why Dean was so in awe with his little brother. Sam was a child advocate attorney, and a good one too. His work consisted of protecting kids’ rights in cases involving divorce, child custody, neglect or abuse, and juvenile court proceedings, something Castiel would never do even if his life depended on it. He was way too sensitive for that.

“It’s a good quality to have if you want to do the job, actually” Sam had said when Castiel mentioned it.

“Still, I wouldn’t be able to do it. You have all my admiration.”

Benny, on his part, was the one being the most awkward around Cas. It took them both a while to get used to each other. They both felt uncomfortable, Cas because he knew Benny was aware of his past (or part of it, at least), and Benny because he was convinced Cas blamed him for their breakup and everything that followed. They ended up having one embarrassing conversation about how they felt about each other before laughing it off. After that, things were great between them, and Castiel found himself enjoying Benny’s company as much as Jessica’s and Sam’s.

Bobby came to visit a couple of times, too, but never could stay for long periods, too busy with his garage. Castiel thought he seemed like a nice person, though he didn’t smile a lot and was grumpy 90% of the time. He was pretty sure Bobby was only hiding his feelings behind his bad temper : it showed in how he hugged Sam, in how he said hi to Jessica, in how he shook Castiel’s hand.

Even though they were spending a lot of time talking and watching over Dean, they could all feel the tension getting more and more palpable in the room. Weeks had passed without signs of Dean getting better. Christmas was coming fast, and Jessica had convinced Castiel to spend Christmas Day with her and Sam. He would spend Christmas Eve with Gabriel, the rest of his family being in Germany with his sister. He would come to the hospital on Christmas Day, so they could spend it with Dean too. Jessica even found a tiny Christmas tree and set it up in a corner, beside the couch.

Things were getting heavier and heavier as the days passed and Dean stayed in his coma. It was now clear they would spend Christmas in the hospital, and though everyone wanted to act like that was nothing, they were all feeling the sadness lingering every time they spoke about it.

Christmas Eve finally arrived, without Dean getting any better. He didn’t have bandages all over anymore, he could breathe on his own, and they had removed his cervical collar after checking a few things Castiel didn’t really understand. Apparently, the swelling around his spine was gone, too, and the doctors said he would not suffer from any permanent damage from that. But he wasn’t waking up.

Castiel had planned on visiting Dean a few hours before going to Gabriel’s place, so Benny could go to his family. Jess and Sam were supposed to get there by three in the afternoon, leaving Cas a good four hours with Dean.

He sat down at his usual spot beside Dean’s bed and grabbed his copy of Epic, lying on the table. They were almost at the end, and he wanted to finish what was left of the book before he left.

“Let me just go grab some coffee and we’ll start this up.”

He went downstairs and took his drink before going back to Dean’s room. He started reading, rapidly getting back into the story. It didn’t take him long to finish the last thirty pages of the book. Less than an hour later, he was done.

“Well, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I never thought I’d enjoyed it, but I really liked reading it to you.”

He stared at Dean, hoping helplessly for a reaction. After waiting a few excruciatingly long seconds, he looked down, taking Dean’s hand in his.

“I know I’ve said this countless times now, but I’m sorry, Dean. You know, I imagined a lot of things for us. I imagined our first date before it happened, I made about fifty different scenarios in my head. Same for our first kiss. And I’m good at making scenarios, not to brag.” Castiel laughed. “Charlie and I used to make games out of it in college. When teachers were late we’d try guessing why. I was usually the one with the right scenario. But you know what? No matter how much time I spent imagining how our first date would go, or our first kiss, you surprised me. I couldn’t for the love of me, have imagined the right scenario, for any of the things we did together. I imagined our first Christmas, too.” He paused, finding it suddenly difficult to breathe, his throat constricted by emotions. “This… This wasn’t part of any of my scenarios. You keep surprising me, Winchester.”

He couldn’t see clearly again, tears obscuring his vision. He got up and closed the distance between Dean’s lips and his, and planted a soft, tender kiss on Dean’s mouth.

“Merry Christmas, Dean. I love you. I miss your voice, I miss your laugh… I miss your smile. I miss the way you look at me, like I’m the most special person in the world. Please come back.”

Something squeezed his hand.

He lowered his gaze and looked at Dean’s fingers, convinced he had imagined things. His leg must have pushed Dean’s hand, making it feel like he’d tightened his grip for a second. But Castiel’s leg wasn’t even near Dean’s hand.

But Dean’s fingers tightened around Castiel’s again, making him inhale sharply.

"Cas..."

The word was so faint he thought he was hallucinating. His heart skipped several beats, and he was lucky he had something to hold on to, because he could swear his legs were about to give up on him.

“D-Dean?” he whispered hesitantly.

His eyes slowly went back to Dean’s face, and he saw Dean’s emerald green eyes looking back at him, knocking the wind out of his lungs.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

The feeling was weird. He felt like he was floating, like he wasn’t really in his body… Like he didn’t have a body. Everything was still, yet the air - if you could call it ‘air’ - kept moving around his mind. He could feel it, more than see it move, the same way you see smoke swirl when you blow on it. And there were sounds. Depending on the occasion, sometimes the noises would be muffled, faint, like it came from a long distance, other times it would be as clear as if someone was right there, talking beside his ear. He knew those sounds were words, though he could never really understand them.

But now, the voice was loud. Louder than usual. And he could feel something. He could feel something, someone, holding…. His arm? No. His hand. Yes, definitely his hand. And jesus, the pain. Every inch of his body was hurting, mostly his right arm and leg. He felt like every single one of his vertebra was trying to pierce his skin.

He felt a pressure on his lips. Nothing much, just a soft brush. The person holding his hand was still there. He focused every ounce of his energy to his hand, concentrating on making a simple movement. This was so much harder than he expected, but he managed to squeeze his fingers, just a bit. He didn’t even think it was enough, until he heard his name, so clear and loud, it sounded like it had been screamed.

“D-Dean?”

He focused on his eyelids, forcing them open. He briefly saw big blue eyes the color of the sky, before losing consciousness again.

 

***

 

The moment he found his breath again, Castiel called the doctor in. Nurses checked on Dean, and they ran some tests, before they told him that he was finally awake, just too exhausted to actually stay conscious. He just needed a couple of days to gather his strength.

Castiel couldn’t believe it. Someone had heard his prayers. Dean had heard him and had woken up. This was the best Christmas present he could’ve hoped for. Tears were forming in his eyes without him noticing, and he had a smile plastered on his face that he couldn’t suppress. Once the doctors and nurses left him with Dean, and he could place two words in a row without his eyes watering, he pulled out his phone and called Sam, then Benny, and finally his brother, to tell him he might be a bit late for dinner.

An hour later, they were all gathered in Dean’s room, around his bed. Jess was mindlessly brushing Dean’s hair away from his forehead. Cas was still holding Dean’s hand in his, Benny and Sam were at Dean’s feet, looking at him. They both looked agitated, probably wanting to shake Dean awake just to be sure this wasn’t all a sick joke or a hallucination, but Cas and Jess were keeping them away. Dean needed rest, and if this was the way to get him back, they would make sure no one would screw it up.

After a few more hours, Benny decided to go back home to his family, making Sam promise that he would call if Dean woke up again, no matter the time or the day. Cas asked for the same thing, and reluctantly left for his brother’s place minutes after Benny.

They all weren’t expecting Dean to sleep so much. It came to a point where they all thought Cas imagined things, Cas included. Days passed by, all of them watching for the smallest sign that Dean was there with them. Eventually, he came to him a second time, before falling back to sleep, making the tiny, flickering light of hope inside everyone burst with a new flame. Dean became more and more awake, each time he woke up growing longer, and his sleep growing shorter. Doctors made him pass some more tests, checking if he could remember his name, age, where he was, and why he was there. Turned out Dean got pretty lucky, and except physical injuries, his memory and brain were all fine. He would need a bit of physical therapy due to the atrophy of his muscles, but other than that, he seemed fine. Doctors were scared he would keep some scars or would have to deal with after-effects for the rest of his life, but they soon realized it was nothing too serious. He might have more headaches than usual and mild back pains, but that was pretty much it. They couldn’t believe how lucky he was.

When finally Dean could stay awake for an entire day, it became hard to stay alone with him for more than a couple of minutes, everyone coming in to say hi, or nurses checking up on him, or doctors dragging him away for more tests. Eventually though, Sam picked up on Castiel’s body language and asked people if they wanted to go eat to a small restaurant near the hospital, saying Cas could always keep Dean company while they go eat, promising he would bring something back for Cas. When Jess said it wasn’t nice to leave him behind, Sam hugged her and told loud enough so everyone could hear that it had been Castiel’s idea from the beginning, before murmuring to Jess something that Cas didn’t understand. He assumed it was about giving the both of them some private time, because her eyes opened wide for a second before she grabbed her stuff and almost ran out the door, dragging Benny with her. There were a few seconds of awkward silence, as they both searched how to start the conversation.

“Finally alone with you” Dean tentatively said after a while.

“Finally” Cas answered, looking at his hands.

Dean sighed. “Cas, I’m really sorry-”

“Don’t.”

“What?”

“Don’t apologize.”

Dean didn’t know what to say. The only thing he’d wanted to do since they broke up was to apologize, and even now, Castiel wouldn’t let him. He felt sad, devastated even, but he mostly felt anger in the moment.

“Why, Cas?” he asked, his voice cold. “Why won’t you let me talk to you? Why are you here if you don’t want to be with me? Is it just so you don’t feel too guilty?”

“You’re wrong.”

“Then tell me! Tell me why you’re here because it's driving me crazy that you're avoiding to look at me?

Castiel took a deep breath, steeling himself for what was coming. He closed his eyes and slowly raised his head towards Dean, keeping his eyes shut, as if not seeing him as he lifted his head would be less painful, as if opening his eyes after lifting his head would be a better transition between his contorted hands on his laps and Dean’s beautiful freckles than if he kept them open.

“I’m here because… I love you, Dean” he started, opening his eyes. “More than I thought I could ever love someone. You were right on one part. I do feel guilty for what happened to you. If I had listened to you, if I hadn’t been so selfish, we wouldn’t be here today. We wouldn’t have spent Christmas and New Year's here. Jess and Sam wouldn’t have those permanent tea bags under their eyes, Benny -and you- would still have your jobs. You wouldn’t be stuck in casts and in this hospital where the food doesn’t even look, or taste like food. I’m here because I feel guilty, yes, but also because I realized what a jerk I was and I wanna make it up to you. I still love you, and I’m pretty sure I will love you for the rest of my life, and I want to give us a second chance. I don’t want to hear you apologize, because I don’t deserve your apology. I fucked up more than you did. I almost killed you and myself because I was too stupid to listen to what I really felt.”

Castiel looked back down at his hands, knotted together. He could feel the sharp sting of fresh tears forming in the corner of his eyes. He was so sick of crying.

“Cas, look at me.” Dean’s voice was soft, low, like he didn’t want to scare him off. Cas raised his eyes again, trying to act strong even though he knew that he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. “What are you scared of?”

“I’m scared it’ll hurt even more to try again.” Castiel said this in a whisper, scared to say what had been on his mind since his discussion with Sam. “I’m scared that if I lose you again, I won’t be able to get through it. Not again. I swear, life has been Hell since we broke up. I want us to be together again, but I’m scared to death of what can happen. I don’t know if I’ll be able to trust you like I trusted you.”

“We don’t have to start again where we took off. We can start from the beginning. Would that be better for you? We start over, I ask you out again, we go on a few dates. And we see where we can go from there. How does that sound?”

Castiel could feel a ton of bricks being lifted from his shoulders. “Yes. That sounds good to me.”

“One step at a time?” Dean said with a smile.

“One step at a time.”

They looked at each other, wondering what to say next. Dean noticed how Cas’ eyes were full of hope, how desperate he wanted to believe that everything would be fine. But the truth was, Dean was scared too. Terrified. He wanted all this to work out, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Castiel, but he knew he had so much to do to gain him back.

“You know, I…. I think I dreamed about you. While I was out. I don’t know if you can call it a dream since I was unconscious, but anyway, I saw you.”

“It wasn’t a dream” Castiel scoffed. “First time you opened your eyes I was the one here with you. You probably didn’t realize you actually saw me.”

“No, I remember that. I remember you holding my hand. But the dream I’m talking about…” He looks away, his cheeks turning a faint shade of pink. “I was in Hell. Or what I think was Hell. There were all those big ass hooks in my flesh, pulling me apart. I was probably feeling the pain from the accident and my mind pictured it like hooks everywhere in my body. Anyway, so I was stuck in those hooks and suddenly you appeared, surrounded by a whitish halo. You ripped them out and grabbed me. You pulled me out of there. And that’s when I woke up to see you, and I thought it was the dream going on in the beginning but everyone told me how you were the one with me when I woke up so I realized soon enough that part wasn’t a dream.”

Castiel was staring at him, mouth open. He didn’t know people in a coma could dream. And that dream was pretty specific too. Castiel was a weird angelic figure in Dean’s mind, like he was the saviour and Dean the one who had to be saved.

“What?” Dean asked after a while, Cas just sitting there, saying nothing.

“Nothing” Cas finally answered, blinking. “It’s just… If you keep talking about me raising you from perdition, I might forgive you faster than I want to.”

Dean felt a smile slowly forming on his lips and he tried his hardest to hide it, but he saw Castiel was having the same problem. When their eyes met, they both started laughing.

“Come here” Dean said after they calmed down.

Castiel came closer, leaving his chair to come and slide beside Dean on the small single hospital bed, being careful not to hurt him. Dean planted a soft kiss on top of Castiel’s head, then on his temple, his ear, his cheek. Cas let himself enjoy the touch, chills running down his spine. He ended up turning his head unconsciously towards Dean’s mouth.

Their lips met, tentatively at first, and more and more intensely as both of them started losing control. Castiel broke the kiss after what seemed like an eternity to get some air, but he soon ran his mouth down Dean’s neck, licking and sucking on every inch of skin he could access, until Dean let out a soft moan that sent all the nerves in Cas’ body on high alert. He made his way up to Dean’s earlobe, but before he could get there, Dean put a hand on his shoulder, gently pushing him away.

“What? What’s wrong?” Castiel asked, breathless.

“Believe me, I want this as much as you do. But I am in no condition, and it kind of hurts to be so tensed up because I want you.”

“Oh god, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Castiel said, removing himself from the mattress.

“Because I love having you all hot and bothered for me” Dean said, smirking. “It’s worth everything. But we said we would take it slow, remember? One step at a time.”

“One step at a time. Sorry. I’ve missed you so much.”

“I know baby. I missed you too.”

 

***

 

A few days later, Dean’s casts were removed and he started physiotherapy to help him get his strength back. It wasn’t easy, especially for Dean. He had trouble accepting the fact that he wasn’t as much in shape as he was, and that he couldn’t even open a jar without someone’s help. Some days were worse than others, but he ended up making fast progress.

One particular day, Dean had texted Cas, obviously in a crappy mood.

 

From : Dean Winchester.  11:29

I know u were supposed to come at noon but don’t. I’m not of good company right now.

 

Cas obviously wouldn’t listen. He promised himself he would help Dean get through this no matter how hard it was. He knew how to make Dean smile. Cas took a few extra minutes to get ready, taking things out of his fridge, putting everything he could fit in his big beach bag, before leaving his place and heading for the hospital.

When he got there, he was welcomed by Dean’s grumpy face.

“I told you not to come.”

He really is in a shitty mood.

“I know. But I’m not leaving you alone with your dumb brain so it can ruin your day.”

“Well, I hope you’re ready to have a shitty lunch, because I’m not talking. I prefer my dumb brain’s company anyway.”

Castiel dropped his bag beside Dean’s bed, whistling softly as he grabbed the small table and dragged it near Dean. He did the same with one of the chair, before putting his bag on the table. He could see Dean looking at him with a puzzled look, but Cas knew Dean was too proud to ask what he was doing. Once everything was in place, he sat down on the chair and looked at Dean, unable to hide his smile.

“Dean, would you like to go on a date with me?”

“What?” Dean flinched, anger leaving place to astonishment for a split second.

“We said we would start over, right? Well, I’m asking you, would you like to go on a date with me today?”

“You know I can’t get out of here, Cas…”

“Just answer the question.”

“Of course I would like to, but I can’t get out of this room without a nurse dragging me back in.”

Castiel smiled. “You’re in luck, because I brought the date to you.”

Castiel stood up, placed the bag on his chair and unzipped it, pulling out a blue tablecloth and a small wireless iPod dock, along with fake little plastic candles. He placed the tablecloth on the table, sliding his hands across it to remove every remaining wrinkles. He turned the wireless speaker on, plugging his iPod in it and pressing play, the first notes of Stereo Hearts gently coming out of the speaker. He turned on his plastic candles, which Dean almost laughed at because this was so ridiculous, seeing Cas all busy and careful with them even though they couldn’t burn him, yet so cute to see all his attention to details. He then pulled out a thermos full of coffee, two hermetic juice containers, plastic cups, plates and utensils, followed by sandwiches, fruits, cheese, chips and some chocolate cupcakes. He placed everything around the table, putting his bag down when he was done and sitting back on his chair, a huge smile plastered on his lips.

“I thought we could go on a picnic, if that’s okay with you.”

Cas had to repress a laugh. Dean’s face was priceless. There was no more anger, just astonishment, and love and disbelief. His mouth was hanging open, his eyes going from Castiel to the candles, then back to Castiel before drifting to the food laid before them. The song playing ended, immediately followed by another one Dean didn’t recognize.

“How do you manage to do that, Cas?”

“Do what?”

“Make me smile even when I don’t want to. Make me forget I’m pissed at the whole world... Make me forget the pain.”

“Mmmh… You see, I’d love to answer that question, but I feel like it’s too early in the relationship. You know, I mean… It’s our first date after all.” Castiel answered with a wink.

Dean’s face suddenly lit up, his smile shining in the small room. He looked down at his hands, his cheeks getting pink. “Come on, let’s eat. I’m starving.”

Castiel poured him a glass of punch, before filling Dean’s plate with everything he asked for, making a gigantic mountain of food. He then proceeded to fill his own plate and pulling his chair closer to Dean’s bed.

They ate in silence for a while, before Castiel tentatively said, “Can I ask you a question?”

 “Shure” Dean answered, mouth full.

“You said I make you forget the pain. What is it? Physiotherapy was hard today?”

It took Dean a while to gather up the courage to speak. “Yeah, I guess. It’s harder than I imagined it would be. She’s asking me to do stuff that I always thought were just natural and I struggle doing them. And it pisses me off that I can’t control my body like I used to.”

“You need to give yourself time, Dean. You’ve been lying in a bed for almost a month, it’s normal that your body needs to adjust.”

Dean didn’t answer right away. He took a few bites of his sandwich, looking absently at the wall in front of him. “It’s not just the therapy. That hurts, I mean.”

Castiel felt his stomach clench, unsure of what was going to follow those words. He stayed silent, waiting for Dean to continue. He didn’t want to push him and risk losing him. Dean was about to pour his heart out, and Castiel knew better than to talk.

“I… I don’t especially like myself. I don’t think I’m special, I don’t think I deserve all the attention you guys give me. I don’t think I deserve much actually, even more after what I did.” Dean kept looking at the emptiness in front of him, unable to look at Castiel. “You know, that truck that hit me… I didn’t consciously throw myself in front of it, but in that split second where I realised there was no possible way to avoid it… I just gave up. I thought that if I could stop that pain I was constantly feeling inside my chest, that was the time. So I let go.”

Castiel was having a hard time focusing on his food. Everything was blurry around him, tears obscuring his vision. They weren’t falling yet, but he knew it wouldn’t be long if Dean kept talking. His heart was hammering in his chest like it wanted to escape his ribcage. Dean wasn’t doing better either. He was now looking at his hands, a single tear running down his cheek, leaving a wet track behind.

“But that pain is so much less intense when you’re with me, Cas. I feel so much lighter when we’re together. I feel invincible with you, I feel like I can go through everything. Like nothing’s gonna hurt me. The voices in my head telling me I’m not worth it shut up. I don’t feel my demons fighting inside when you’re here. I don’t feel that pain in my chest when I’m with you. And it’s hard for me to talk about this. But… I trust you enough with this, and I wanted you to know how important you're to me and how sorry I am for what I did.”

He had to close the distance between them. Castiel couldn’t stay apart from Dean any longer. He wanted to show him how much he still loved him, how much he was sorry for not listening, for not being there when Dean needed it. He felt responsible for letting that darkness consume Dean. Castiel reached for him, placing a hand on his neck, gently pulling him closer and planted a soft kiss on his lips. Dean quickly leaned into it, holding Castiel’s hand where it was. He parted his lips, inviting him in. Cas took advantage of it and deepened the kiss, their tongues brushing against each other.

There was no rush, no roughness in their kiss. They were stretching every second as much as they could, everything slowing down around them, enjoying each other. Castiel’s other hand came resting on Dean’s chest to feel the soft thud of his heartbeat, as Dean pulled Cas closer to him. They both wanted the moment to last forever, finding comfort in one another.

They heard someone clear their throat and they parted quickly, breathless, looking at the door. A nurse was standing there, looking at them disapprovingly.

“I know you just found each other again and that you feel like hormonal teenagers, but please keep it PG 13, will you?”

“Sorry, Missouri. We’ll be careful.” Dean answered. His smile was back, tears forgotten. 

“Don’t even think about going on when I leave. You know I have a sixth sense. I can feel when you disrespect the rules, Mr. Winchester.”

“We will not. Promise” Dean replied. Castiel was getting an alarming shade of red and Dean looked like he found the whole thing funny as hell.

Missouri left a few seconds later, not without giving them one last look. And sure enough, every time they tried to get a little bit closer than what was accepted, Missouri showed up. They never heard her coming in, not a single time. They only were realizing they were being watched when she cleared her throat when she was catching them. Which was every time.

“How the Hell does she do that?” Dean asked one day as they were caught using way too much tongue again, hands fumbling under the blankets.

“I told you, Mr. Winchester!” came a voice from the hallway. “I have a sixth sense!”

Castiel laughed. Even though the nurse was always breaking the moment and preventing them from actually enjoying each other, he liked Missouri. She was the type of person you did not mess with, and that had a strong personality with an opinion on loads of subjects, yet she never gave it unless you asked for it. She was good hearted, kind and funny, and her smile was bright enough to lighten up the room.

A week before he was supposed to be released from the hospital, a lawyer came to see him. Cas learned he was a friend of Sam, who had asked him to take Dean’s case. Even though he’d been badly injured by the accident, Dean was still charged with dangerous and drunk driving. He was going way too fast, he burned a red light and caused a major accident involving another vehicle, which meant he would probably end up with a sentence of some sort. They agreed on pleading guilty, which would give Dean better chances at getting a less severe sentence. They were both confident he wouldn’t get something too big, since it was his first offense and that no one died. He would probably get out of it with some community work and a fine.

Cas came back into Dean’s room when his lawyer left, eager to learn what was their plan of action. Obviously though, Dean was in a whole other mood. He was sitting in his bed, radiating joy even though he was probably in big trouble. His smile was so wide and permanent, Castiel was sure Dean’s teeth were dry by now.

“I guess it went well if you look like that” he said tentatively.

“I don’t care about the charges. Who would anyway?”

“Definitely everybody else I know, Dean. And if you don’t care, well… I’ll care for both of us.”

“Well, you shouldn’t. The most important thing to consider is that in five little days, we’ll be out of this hole.”

“This hole, like you call it, kept you alive. I dragged your ass out of that coma, I can throw you back in, so show some respect.”

“Stop sucking the joy out of everything and come here.”

Castiel grinned and sat beside Dean on the bed. The mattress sank a few inches when he put his weight on it, making Dean’s body lean towards his. Dean grabbed him by the neck and planted a rough kiss on his mouth, immediately parting his lips, encouraging Cas to do the same. They kissed for what seemed like minutes before Castiel pulled away quickly, leaving both of them craving for more.

“Missouri’s gonna catch us again if we keep going like that” he said breathlessly.

“She’s not working on Fridays” Dean winked. “Go close the door.”

“What?”

“Do what I say.”

Castiel felt butterflies in his stomach as he crossed the room to close and lock the door. Whatever Dean had in mind, it sure wasn’t suitable for everyone to see.

“Now, put your coat over the window, so no one can look inside. And turn off the lights”

Cas took his trenchcoat lying on the couch and tucked part of it in the crevices of the door, covering the small window efficiently. He closed the lights, sending the room into almost complete darkness, the only light guiding him coming from a street light outside and the faint crack at the bottom of the door. He tiptoed back to the bed, like it would help them keep their privacy longer.

He launched himself at Dean, their mouths colliding, hands searching for soft skin, tongues twirling, really tasting each other for the first time in months.

“We said we would take it slow” Castiel managed to say as he came up for air.

“Fuck taking it slow” Dean whispered. “I want you, here, now.”

As to prove his words, Castiel felt Dean’s erection against his hip. He was slowly feeling his jeans getting tighter and tighter, and he thought Dean was damn lucky to be in a hospital gown.

He left the bed again and dragged a chair to it, placing it right in front of Dean’s hips. Castiel ripped the blanket away, his mouth already watering.

Seeing where Cas was going, Dean gripped the rails of his bed tight, his breath short. When Cas lifted up Dean’s hospital gown, he felt a chill going down his spine, his hips bucking forward instinctively. Cas used that reflex and pulled Dean’s briefs down in one swift movement, freeing him. He didn’t stop to admire what was in front of him, too eager to taste Dean, after spending so much time apart. He needed to feel Dean, to make him his.

Cas took everything into his mouth, letting a soft moan escape his throat as he pulled back. Dean hissed, the rails creaking as he gripped them tighter, his head thrown backwards. Dean’s hips kept bucking forward, fucking Castiel’s mouth, making not only the rails creak, but the whole bed.

Cas pulled away, placing a warm hand on Dean’s stomach, gently pushing him back into the mattress. “You gotta stay still… We don’t want anyone hearing and interrupting, do we?”

Dean took a deep breath before looking at Cas. “Fuck, you look beautiful.”

“Do. not. Make. A. Sound.” Castiel said, punctuating every word with a kiss on Dean’s hip or stomach, before swallowing Dean up again with the last word.

Cas knew it wouldn’t be long for Dean to come. He could feel it in the way Dean breathed, the way he looked at him. The way his dick pulsed inside his mouth, the way his hands were gripping his hair. Seeing Dean unravel like that in front of him was so arousing, Cas was pretty sure he wouldn’t need a lot of time to come too. He was rocking his hips as he licked Dean’s shaft, the friction against his jeans almost unbearable.

He felt Dean tense, his hands pushing his head harder and faster in his dick. Dean stopped breathing, trying his hardest not to scream as he was so close.

Someone played with the doorknob. “Mr. Winchester?”

At the same moment, Dean gave two more thrusts into Castiel’s mouth and came, screaming loud and clear “FUCK!”

“Mr. Winchester are you alright? I’m coming in!” the voice said.

They heard a key sliding into the lock. Castiel untangled himself from Dean’s arms, throwing the blankets over his bare legs before running as silently as he could to the small bathroom beside the door to the hallway. He barely made it, closing it as the other opened.

There, in the dark of the bathroom, he unzipped his jeans and started jerking himself off. He couldn’t take it anymore. Dean’s face as he came was printed behind his eyelids, fueling his fantasy.

“What’s going on here? And why is there a coat on your door, Mr. Winchester?” he heard the nurse say, just behind the bathroom door.

Dean’s voice came a bit muffled, but Cas could still notice how breathless Dean sounded. “I was trying to sleep, and the light from the hallway was hitting me straight in the face.”

“Why did I hear you scream?” She was definitely suspicious.

“I… I had a bad dream. I guess that you startled me when you knocked on the door.”

Castiel had no idea why, but hearing Dean lie so easily, hearing both of them so close, and knowing how close they were of getting caught sent him over the edge. He bit his knuckles hard, trying not to make a sound as he came all over his hand.

“No more coat over the door. And no more locking it either. Am I clear?”

“Yes ma’am.”

Castiel waited about thirty seconds to let the nurse walk away, breathing hard. He blindly found some tissues and the sink and cleaned himself up as silently as he could before opening the door a few inches, looking outside.

“You can come out” Dean laughed. “She’s gone.”

“Damn” Castiel sighed. “That was close.” He walked to the couch and took his coat where the nurse left it before sitting back beside Dean.

“Yes!” He was still laughing, a hand covering his eyes. “But this was probably the best orgasm I’ve ever had.”

Castiel started laughing too, throwing his trench coat hard at Dean. “You moron.”

“I love you.” Dean said it with a soft smile on his face, like Castiel was everything he ever needed to go through life.

He realized, in that moment, that no matter what Dean had done to him, whatever he’d said... He forgave him. He knew Dean had a temper and said things as he was angry and out of his mind. He would never hurt him intentionally. Cas was pretty sure Dean would feel bad about all of this for a very long time, and that was punishment enough. No matter what Dean would do or say, he knew he would still feel the same way about him. “I love you too” he whispered, planting a kiss on Dean’s hand. “But no more stunts like that before you get out of here. My poor heart can only take so much stress.”

In answer, Dean burst out laughing and threw Castiel’s trenchcoat back at him. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 

On Dean’s birthday, January 24th, he finally got out of the hospital. Castiel came and helped him pack his stuff, gathering whatever was left in Dean’s room that they all brought during those months as sentinels. There wasn’t much : A few magazines, a pillow, and the laptop with a few movies that they left for Dean.  

Dean signed a couple of discharge documents, said goodbye to Missouri, and walked out the door with Cas by his side, smile wide. As he stepped outside his smile got even bigger, if that was possible, for his Baby was standing a few feet away, shining under the blue sky like a thousand suns. The paint job was flawless, every chrome lining spotless, hubcaps sparkling.

“I know you like to take care of her on your own, but I trusted Bobby would be able to restore her as you like her.” Castiel said, eyeing Dean’s reaction.

Dean didn’t say a word. He just turned toward Cas, dropping his duffel bag so he could grab Castiel’s face with both hands. He planted a rough kiss on his lips, their faces squished together. They broke the kiss moments later, when they couldn’t keep their lips together because they were smiling too much.

“Happy birthday” Cas whispered, baby blue eyes shimmering in the sun.

“You paid for this all by yourself?” Dean said in disbelief.

“Benny helped.”

“Of course he did” Dean laughed.

Castiel handed him the keys before snatching Dean’s duffel bag from the ground. He dumped their bags in the backseat, gently closing the door. He turned around to see Dean holding the passenger door open.

“Always the gentleman, I can see.”

“Always.”

Castiel sat down, the door closing shortly after. Dean circled the car and came sitting down beside Castiel on the driver’s side, not losing a second and starting the engine with a roar. Dean closed his eyes, his fingers lightly brushing the steering wheel, a low hum escaping his lips. Cas could watch him enjoy his car for hours on end and never get tired of it; He looked so at peace when he was behind the wheels. Dean took a deep breath before opening his eyes again, a new light in them.

“Wanna come over?” Dean asked, turning towards Cas.

“Absolutely. I just need to go home first, I want to grab a few things. Plus, you need to eat, and there’s nothing left at your place. Sam and I cleaned up your fridge. There wasn’t much left after almost three months of absence.... Your cheese almost jumped out of its container when we opened it.”

“What?”

“Dean, your food was so old, it came to life. So we threw it all away. Let’s not even talk about your milk, and the fruits you left on the coun-”

“Okay, enough” Dean said, his skin suddenly a faint shade of green. “I don’t wanna know. Thanks for cleaning that up, though.”

They drove to Castiel’s place in comfortable silence, holding hands in the space between the two of them. It felt good to be on Dean’s side again, to feel him steer the wheels, to feel him come to life. Cas had feared he’d never had this feeling again.

He knew he’d forgiven Dean fast. Too fast, for most people he knew. Charlie, for example was happy for him, but he could feel behind all those ‘I’m glad you guys are happy’ and ‘you seem to have it all figured out’ that she wasn’t entirely okay with it. Considering what Dean had done, he could understand her reluctance. But the truth was, he had forgiven Dean before all of this happened. He knew Dean’s temper, he knew he didn’t mean it. And he was happy with Dean. Mistakes happen. Everyone deserves a second chance, so he was willing to give Dean, to give them, a second chance. Cas would work on his trust issues, Dean would work on his temper, and everything would be fine. He knew it would be. It had to be.

Dean parked the impala in front of Castiel’s house. Cas unbuckled his seatbelt and opened his door, putting one foot outside before looking back at Dean. He opened his mouth for a second like he was about to say something and then closed it again.

“What? What is it?” Dean asked, noticing Castiel’s hesitation.

“Nothing. I wanted to show you something but it can wait. Give me five minutes, I’ll be right back.”

Just a few moments later, Cas was back in the car with a bag full of clothes, his toothbrush, and a second pair of shoes. They drove to the closest fast food they could find, ordered a couple of things and drove back to Dean’s place. They sat down at the table and ate in silence, feet teasing each other under the table, a small grin on their lips. After a while, Dean spoke.

“You know, it’s been a while since you came here.”

“I was here two days ago cleaning up with your brother. Wasn’t that long ago.” Cas answered, engulfing the last bite of his burger.

“Not that kind of coming, Cas.” Dean said, licking his lips.

Castiel rose an eyebrow, looking at Dean.

“God I love it when you have that Dom Eyebrow thing going on.”

“That what?” Cas asked.

“That Dom Eyebrow thing. When things don’t go your way you raise your left eyebrow, cock your head to the right and lick your lips and that’s the hottest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life.”

Castiel looked down, suddenly self conscious. “We’ve been out of the hospital for barely an hour and you already make that kind of comments. I will not allow this” he said with a smile.

“I love it when you’re bossy.”

“You are unbelievable, Dean Winchester.”

“What’s so wrong with me wanting you?”

“Nothing’s wrong about that. We just said we would take it one step at a time, and we’ve sucked at it since day one.”

“Oh yeah, for speaking of sucking at it?, you did great” Dean winked.

Castiel rolled his eyes as he burst into laughter. “Not only that, but the doctor specifically said you still needed to rest. It’s not because you’re out of the hospital that you can go play a football game and be fine afterwards. Same goes for sex.”

“Come on, forget about doctors and nurses for a second here and think about the fact that you and I haven’t had a chance in months to actually touch and feel each other.”

“What was that in your room last week then?”

“You know what I mean, Cas. I want something real, not just fooling around in a hospital room.”

“You’ll get your something real, just not now. Your health is more important.”

Dean dropped his head and sighed. “Fine, I get it.”

“We can still cuddle, though.”

“I’ll take whatever physical contact you offer, love.”

Castiel smiled and grabbed their paper bags, throwing them away. “What would you like to do then? Watch a movie?”

“Nah, I’m tired of watching movies. That’s the only damn thing I did after therapy. I want to play, I haven’t touched my controller for ages.”

“Okay. I brought a book, I can read by your side.” Cas got up and cleared the table, passing a wet towel on it to catch all the small crumbs left.

“I… I thought we could maybe play together. I have a few games we can play in co-op.”

Castiel looked surprisingly at Dean. He never expected him to offer to play together. “You want me to play with you?”

“Just if you want to. I think I know which one you would enjoy.”

“You realize you just gave me the opportunity to win against you and rub it in your face for the rest of your life?” Castiel couldn’t stop grinning.

“You won’t beat me. I’ve been playing video games since I could hold a damn controller.”

“There’s a lot you still don’t know about me, Dean. Come on. Show me what you got.”

Castiel really didn’t know how to play. The only games he’d tried were the one’s Charlie owned, and that wasn’t much, since the only console she had was an old SNES with Tetris and Super Mario World, and that was it. But he knew if he faked confidence, Dean would get nervous, and that would give him a chance to actually win.

They walked to the living room. Dean fired up his Xbox and pushed a CD inside. He grabbed two controllers from a small cabinet under the TV and sat down on the couch. Castiel took a seat on the carpet, his back on the couch, between Dean’s legs. The screen lit up, full of colors, and Castiel read the name of the game Dean had decided on.

“Worms? What is that?”

“You’ll see. It’s fun and easy. I used to play with Sam when we were young.” Dean gave Cas a gentle slap behind the head. “You don’t stand a chance.”

“Oh we’ll see about that” Castiel answered, pulling at the hair on Dean’s leg.

“Ow!”

“Never underestimate me.”

Dean explained to him the mechanics of the game, what every weapons did what he had to do and how to win. He gave Cas his controller and they created their character. Castiel opted for a pirate hat and an eye patch, and Dean took an army helmet. They chose the difficulty, the map they would play in, and they started the game.

Dean didn’t know if Cas was just incredibly lucky when he threw grenades or his banana peels, but he killed one of Dean’s worms every single time. The game ended when Cas didn’t listen to Dean and decided to use an item called Armageddon, wiping half the map out with meteorites, killing what was left of Dean’s team. He even beat Dean’s high score.

“YES!” Castiel raised his arms in victory. “I knew I could beat you!”

“You shut up, I want a rematch.” Dean said playfully.

So they played again. This time, Dean beat the crap out of Cas, so they decided to make a two out of three. Cas finally won the last match by throwing a Donkey in the middle of the map that ricocheted just the right way to kill Dean’s last worm.

“You would’ve wanted to achieve that and you would’ve never succeeded. That was pure beginner’s luck.” Dean mumbled, throwing his controller beside him.

“You’re just jealous because I’m better than you.”

Castiel turned around and rose on his knees, placing his own controller beside Dean’s. He placed one hand on Dean’s thigh, the other one grabbing Dean by his t-shirt and dragging him in for a kiss. Dean didn’t resist for too long, giving in in seconds.

“I love you” said Cas between two kisses.

“Come here” Dean whispered.

They knocked the controllers down, Dean lying down on the couch, Cas lying down on top of him. They kept kissing slowly, forgetting about time, nibbling at each other’s lips, brushing their fingers on each other’s skin. Eventually, Castiel pulled away and rested his head on Dean’s chest, listening to his steady heartbeat, his hands in Dean’s hair. Dean wrapped his own arms around Cas, holding him tightly, his thumbs brushing lightly against Castiel’s back.

“I want to do something special with you on Valentine’s day” Dean said after a while, as they both were slowly falling asleep.

“Yeah, sure” Cas mumbled, keeping his eyes closed.

“Could you take a few more days off? Just one or two would be enough. I already know what I want to do.”

“Sure. I’ll figure something out with Charlie” he yawned.

They fell asleep after about an hour, still clutched to each other, still holding onto each other like they wanted to melt together.

 

***

 

February 2009

 

Valentine’s day came faster than they thought, knocking at their door on a cold weekend. Castiel had taken Saturday and Sunday off of work so he could go with Dean wherever he had planned on taking him.

Cas had been living at Dean’s place for the last three weeks, taking care of whatever Dean needed and making sure he kept doing his daily exercises as the physiotherapist had asked him to do. He also took care of grocery shopping, as Dean wasn’t supposed to lift heavy charges for a while due to his back injuries. Things were weirdly domestic between them, but not weird enough to be uncomfortable. It was actually quite interesting; They moved around each other like they’ve always lived together, falling into a routine in a very short time without it being boring. Things were falling into place fast and they were just rolling with it.

Their alarm clock went off at 7AM. Cas got up easily despite the cold lingering in the bedroom. He put on one of Dean’s hoodies to help him stay warm and walked to the kitchen to start up some coffee for both of them. Dean stayed in bed, grumbling about the cold and the fact that it was way too early to wake up. As usual, Cas had to come back to bed and shower him with kisses and a backrub so he would get up. Dean wasn’t a morning person. Getting up with the sun was torture for him, and Cas had learned fast enough that he shouldn’t talk to him until he'd had his coffee. He wouldn’t be mean, but talking was off the table. They could say hello by playing with each other’s feet under the table, but that was as far as it went. Not even a ‘good morning’ would get through.

By 8AM, they were sitting in the Impala. Dean was already at his third cup of coffee, going through his cassette tapes to find something entertaining for the trip. Castiel decided to make himself comfortable, removing his shoes and folding his legs underneath him, his head resting on the window.

Dean ended up choosing a Bob Seger tape, shoved it in and started to pull away from his parking space. Castiel sang along to the songs he knew, Dean slowly following as he fully woke up. After a while, they started talking about anything, just enjoying each other’s company, and enjoying the morning sun shining in the cloudless sky.

Cas still had no idea where they were heading, Dean keeping his mouth shut every time Castiel asked for a clue. He tried looking at the road signs for hints, but they’ve been rolling down the highway for a while now, exits getting forever smaller in their mirrors. He did notice though that they were heading the same way as before, the same way as the day Dean took him to the baseball game in Arlington. There was a lot of towns in between, though, so Cas couldn’t help the excitement everytime they passed an exit.

“Can I at least try to guess what it is?” Cas asked tentatively.

“Oh you can try” Dean said, smirking, “But you won’t guess. Ask me as many questions as you want. I will only answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Good luck.”

“Do we still have more than three hours left to get there?”

“No.”

“Does it involve some physical activity?”

“Yes.”

“Are we sleeping there?”

“Not part of the plan, no. But we can change that if you want to.”

“That’s more than just a ‘yes or no’ answer.”

“I’m just saying we have the possibility to make it better if there’s something you want.”

“Okay, back to the physical activity. Is it running?”

“Nope.”

“Climbing?”

“What? No.” Dean laughed.

“Walking then?”

“Jesus, you think about climbing before walking? What is wrong with you?”

“Answer the question.”

“Yes.”

“For how long?”

“You know I can’t answer that by yes or no.”

“I was only trying to get something out of you. Next question. Are we gonna be all by ourselves?”

“No.”

“Is it gonna be romantic?”

“If you have to ask, you don’t know me.”

“So that’s a yes.”

The game went on and on, but the more questions Castiel asked, the more lost he felt. He couldn’t figure out where Dean was taking him, no matter how many questions he thought about. Dean’s answers didn’t make any sense, and Cas suspected him of answering randomly to mess with him.

In the end, Cas gave up. He changed the cassette tape, and when Dean complained about it, Castiel playfully said that since he didn’t have a say in where they were going, Dean wouldn’t have a say in what music they listened to, making him laugh.

They spent the rest of the trip teasing each other, and Cas ended up sliding over Dean’s side on the car seat and kissing the base of his neck, automatically finding his weak spot, just so Dean could shut up.

Eventually, Dean took the exit for Arlington, surprising Cas. He wasn’t expecting Dean to bring him back to the exact same town as before, but here they were, gliding through the streets, just minutes away from the baseball stadium. Looking around, Cas recognized a few shops they’ve seen on their first visit, as long as the mall they went before heading back home.

“Where are you taking me?” He asked again, trying to figure it all out.

“Do you really think I’m gonna tell you when we’re this close?”

They kept on driving for a few minutes, until Dean parked his car in front of a small diner. Castiel looked around, wondering if that was the ‘surprise’.

“Don’t worry, that’s not it. I just thought we could eat something before. It’s almost noon and I’m starving.”

They entered the diner and chose a table. Instead of sitting in front of each other, they sat side by side, a table being too much between them for the moment. Dean knew they were acting like those obnoxious couples that you see and automatically think they should get a room, but he couldn’t care less. He was out of the hospital. He was alive. He was with Cas. He was happy. So screw everybody else and their judgemental looks; There was no way this day wouldn’t be perfect.

“So can I keep asking questions?” Castiel said after they ordered.

“I thought you had given up?” Dean smirked.

They were sitting so close they only had to whisper when they spoke to each other. Dean had his back on the wall, one of his leg folded on the bench. Cas was sitting in a similar position, his own leg resting on top of Dean’s, their hands intertwined on Castiel’s knee. He was playing with Dean’s fingers, following the curves of his hands, of his nails, trying to remember every calluses, every line he could feel.

“I’m too curious for that.” Cas answered after a while.

Dean smiled, looking at him playfully. “Fine, go.”

Castiel kept asking more questions, kept trying to figure it out, without success. They ate in silence, Cas trying to guess where they were going, Dean trying his hardest not to laugh at Cas everytime he would cock his head to one side or another when he’d get an answer he wasn’t expecting. When they finished their plate, Dean paid for both of them and they walked out. Cas made his way to the Impala, but after waiting for Dean to hop in and unlock his door for several seconds without Dean actually showing up in his peripheral vision, he turned around, to see him a few steps away, looking at him.

“What are you waiting for?” Cas asked, puzzled.

“Let’s go for an ice cream.”

“Are you serious right now?”

“I totally am. I want an ice cream cone and there’s a place right down the street.”

Castiel rose his head toward the sky. “You know this is torture, right? Making me wait like that when we both know that surprise you planned is minutes away.”

“If getting ice cream with your boyfriend is torture, than I’m really curious to see what’s fun for you.” Dean was teasing him, of course, but the comment achieved its goal.

“You’re right” Cas smiled. “I’m an asshole. Let’s go.”

As they walked, they removed their coats, the sun being up high in the sky and warming the air around them. There wasn’t any sidewalk, so Dean took Castiel’s hand and helped him walk on the elevated curb, one foot in front of the other. Cas was slightly taller than him as he walked on the edge, his dark hair moving with the wind, his bright blue shirt fitting him like a glove. He looked at peace, Dean thought, like nothing could bother him.

They entered the ice cream shop, making the bell on top of the glass door ring cheerfully.

“Hi!” the young lady behind the counter said. “What can I get you boys?”

They looked at the different flavours lying in front of them. They both took a waffle cone, Dean with a chocolate and caramel ice cream, Castiel opting for lemon. Dean wanted to keep walking as they ate, so Castiel followed, still trying to guess where they were heading by looking at what was around them.

As they finished their cones, Dean suddenly took a sharp left turn and they ended up in the parking lot of the Texas Discovery Gardens. Cas looked at Dean, puzzled, just to find him looking at Cas with a tiny bit of apprehension and a small smile.

“I hope you’re gonna like this. I heard about it when we came over this summer for your birthday, but I didn’t know if you would enjoy it.” He reached behind his head, rubbing his palm against his upper neck, obviously nervous. “But I really think it’s cute and that we can have a great time. So here we are.”

“Dean.” Cas grabbed his hand and stopped walking, forcing Dean to turn and look at him. “As long as I’m spending time with you, I’m gonna like it. Stop worrying and enjoy the moment.”

They entered the Gardens and Dean immediately took Castiel on one side, dragging him in another room. They walked a long hallway and got to an elevator, which they took. When the elevator’s door opened again, Castiel’s lungs suddenly stopped working.

Butterflies were flying everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of them, all different species, flying from a flower to another, inside this big glass sphere they were in. The sun was shining through the roof, illuminating their colorful wings, making it even more surreal. The moment Cas stepped out of the elevator, one of them landed on his shoulder. It was crisp white, with thin black veins and a few black spots like smudged ink. Its body was white, too, except for a straight black line going from the top of its head to the end of its abdomen, splitting it in two identical halves.

“They seem to already like you.” Dean said, smirking.

“It’s so beautiful.” Castiel placed his fingers beside the butterfly, and it jumped easily on his hand. He played with it for a while, letting it walk around on him, before it went flying back and perching on his shoulder.

“Come on. I have something else planned.” Dean said, tugging at Castiel’s sleeve.

They walked to a group of people near a big tree, where each of them were trading a ticket for a small envelope. Dean took out two tickets from his back pocket, and handed them to the lady with the Gardens uniform. She gave them both an envelope, asking them to hold it really carefully. Castiel had no idea what was in there and he tried asking Dean, but the only answer he got was ‘wait for it’. So he waited, holding the paper like it would disintegrate at any moment.

“Does everyone have an envelope?” The lady asked. A faint mumble of yeses flew across the group. “Okay, so everyone, hold your envelope from beneath. I’m going to count to three, and when I say three, you’ll all open it at the same time. Are you ready?” A louder, more uniform yes from the crowd. “One… Two… THREE!”

Castiel opened his envelope, seeing Dean do the same thing beside him. As he opened it, a beautiful monarch came out of his envelope, as everyone else around him. They were surrounded by those gorgeous creatures being released in the greenhouse, spreading their wings, playing in the sunlight. It was absolutely magical. Castiel couldn’t take his eyes off them, turning on himself to see as much as he could. After only seconds, they started spreading, flying in their own direction, following their own instinct, the moment fading away with them. Cas turned back to Dean, expecting him to look at the sky too, but he found Dean looking straight at him. He was frowning, and his eyes had this vibrant emotion that Cas couldn’t exactly pinpoint. His lips were slightly parted, and he let out a shaky sighed.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.

“I love you so much.” Dean blinked. “I love you so much, it hurts. You’re beautiful.”

Castiel looked down, blushing furiously. “I love you too, Dean.”

 

***

 

After the long drive back home, Dean went directly to Castiel’s place, so he could grab some clothes. He parked his car in the parking lot and got out of it smoothly.

“You don’t have to come with me” Cas shrugged. “I’ll only be in a few minutes.”

“Yeah, well, I wanna come anyway, because a few minutes without you is way too long for me.”

“You can be so cheesy if you want to, you know that?” Castiel rolled his eyes as they climbed the step to the front porch, but his smile clearly said he liked it. A lot.

“Oh, I can be even more cheesy if you give me the chance.”

Once in front of the door, Dean spinned Castiel around and pulled him close, starting to shift his weight from one feet to another. They slow danced in silence for a few seconds, and then Dean started singing a soft melody Castiel had never heard before.

 

It's late, I don't wanna go back home

Cause it’s cold and you don't wanna sleep alone

You look like you need a hand to hold

If I go we'll just end up on the phone

 

Castiel leaned into Dean, looking at the emerald green of his eyes. He still had trouble getting used to Dean’s attention. No one had ever sang a song like that, just so they could dance on the front porch. And a fitting one on top of that. Dean was looking at him with so much love, Castiel felt the tears slowly forming in the corner of his eyes. He blinked a couple of times, trying to make them go away.

 

When I lose a bit of all your things

And break dishes that you left in the sink

You’ll trip over all my cheap guitars

When I'm making food so we don't starve

 

“Yeah, okay, I don’t think you can get more cheesy than that” Cas said in a miserable attempt to hold back his tears.

Dean nodded his head from left to right, putting his finger on Castiel’s lips, clearly motioning for him to let him finish.

 

I want a back splash and a house cat I wanna make a home for you

I want a T.V. and a seti I wanna live alone with you

And when you wake up in the middle of the night I won't complain if you turn on the light

Beside me you'd be happy you'll see

Can I get your house key?

 

When Dean reached the last verse, a smirk formed on his lips, and Castiel giggled, finally letting one single tear roll down his cheek.

“That’s real cute and all, but there’s one small problem” Cas said. “You’re allergic to cats.”

Dean rolled his eyes, still smirking. “Shut up.”

He closed the distance between them and gently kissed Dean on the cheek. “I have a gift for you too.” Castiel shuffled into his pocket and took out a small rectangular box with a design of twirls and leaves engraved in it. “You know, I’ve been thinking about something… In June it’ll be a year since we first met and, you know…” He kept toying with a small rock on the ground, pushing it around with the tip of his shoe. “With you losing your job at the Galleria and only working part time with Bobby, it might get hard to pay your debts and your apartment… Maybe, if you want to, we can… Huh, well, you could… Maybe move in with me.” Dean opened the box, revealing a small silver key resting inside. Castiel finally looked up, scared of what he might see in Dean’s expression. He was looking at Cas, frowning even more. His eyes were shining like he was on the verge of crying. “It’s really just if you want to, I don’t want you to think I pity you or something like that -”

“Cas” Dean interrupted.

“What?”

“Shut up.”

Dean grabbed him by the waist and pulled him closer, wrapping his arms around him. Their mouths connected roughly, Dean holding him as tight as he could without hurting Cas, trying to be as close as humanly possible to the heart of gold he was sure was beating frantically in Castiel’s ribcage. He couldn’t believe his luck.

They stumbled inside, not really bothering about locking the door, too busy kissing.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

It was sunday afternoon and Castiel and Dean were still lazily cuddling in bed. After coming back from Arlington, they ended up talking all night about how and when Dean would move in. Castiel didn’t own much, so it was easy to find enough space for Dean’s stuff. He would sell part of the furniture he owned, and the rest would follow him and replace whatever Castiel didn’t want anymore.

They fell asleep shortly after two in the morning, and woke up around 10AM, but couldn’t bring themselves to get dressed and do something productive, so Dean just went downstairs and grabbed a few muffins and two glasses of orange juice before coming back up to the bedroom. They ate in bed, wearing nothing but Castiel’s quilt. They talked some more and teased each other, half the time laying down, half the time sitting side by side, legs intertwined underneath the sheets. They watched a few episodes of Ellen that Cas had recorded, dancing like loons at the beginning. They drew random doodles on each other’s back with their fingers, trying to guess what the other was drawing. Around five in the afternoon though, they could feel hunger winning over. Castiel’s stomach growled loudly, making Dean laugh.

“I think you need more than just a muffin” he huffed. As he said these words, Dean’s stomach growled too.

“I think you do, too. Come on” Castiel said, rising up, “Let’s go make dinner.” Castiel started to get out of bed, but he seemed to remember something and fell down again beside Dean. “I wanna show you something first.”

He reached for the remote control and turned on the TV. Going back to his list of recorded episodes, he selected the first one on top. Dean noticed the time stamp and realized that the episode was old, at least a few months. It had obviously been watched, Castiel knowing exactly when to start it.

“Again?” Dean said as Ellen Degeneres’ face appeared on screen.

“Shut up and wait for it” Castiel answered.

Hello everyone! As you all know I love to dance and I love seeing other people dance. For a while now we’ve been doing dance dares, where someone dances behind someone else without getting caught. So here’s what I got for you guys today!”

The screen switched to homemade videos of people dancing behind friends or family members, and laughing as the other person kept walking, clueless. Two or three random videos went by, when suddenly Cas appeared on screen. He was obviously holding the camera himself, trying to dance as well as he could while still filming. Dean wanted to know who he was pranking, probably Charlie, he thought, since they were spending so much time together. But the camera shifted and he saw… Himself. Him walking in a hardware store, looking at different types of nails. Him cleaning the windows at MicroCell. Him picking something from the trunk of his car. Him walking towards the mall, The Galleria sign shining above their heads.

Dean looked at Cas, mouth open. “How did you… When-”

“In our couple first months together. I sent it to her team around the end of September.” Castiel was grinning, really enjoying Dean’s reaction.

“You are totally crazy” Dean said as he started to laugh. “I never noticed. How did I never notice?”

“I honestly have no idea. There were a couple times it got close, but other than that, you never saw me. People walking around us probably thought I was crazy, but just to see your face today, it was entirely worth it.”

“I can’t believe you did that to me. I’m offended.”

“I’m gonna cherish that video for the rest of my life and show it to everyone that knows you.” Castiel laughed and threw a pillow straight to Dean’s face. “And you’re never gonna convince me otherwise.”

“You are the worst boyfriend on the planet.”

“Birds of a feather flock together. Come on. Let’s go eat.”

“But I don’t want to” Dean whined. “Your bed is so comfortable, and it’s even better when you’re in it with me.”

“Come on big baby, we can always come back to bed after. We just need to put some food in that squishy tummy of yours.”

Castiel put on his pajama pants and a t-shirt, ignoring Dean’s complaints. He got downstairs and walked to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and looked in it, wondering what he could possibly make for both of them. He finally pulled out a few ingredients, deciding he had enough of everything to make chicken parmigiana with a caesar salad and rice on the side.

He was washing his lettuce when Dean’s hands brushed his hips. Dean inserted his pinkies under the elastic band of Castiel’s pants, his hands softly moving from Castiel’s sides to his front. He could feel Dean’s heat on his back before they actually touched. Dean started planting soft kisses on the back of Castiel’s neck, sending shivers down his spine.

“What are you doing?” Castiel asked, unable to hide the pleasure from his voice.

“Distracting you” Dean answered between two kisses. He glued his front to Castiel’s back, pushing Castiel’s hips on the edge of the counter. He bit Castiel’s skin, just in the crook of his neck, making his boyfriend moan. Dean closed his eyes. “Fuck, I love when you make that sound for me.”

He pressed his hips against Cas again, his hardening dick a proof of his words. Castiel responded to him by pushing back against Dean, but he couldn’t enjoy it for long since Dean moved away swiftly.

“Where are you going?” Castiel asked breathlessly.

“Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

He heard Dean go back upstairs. He took a deep breath and put down his overly washed salad, getting out the cheese and his grate. As he finished grating the cheese he heard Dean climb down the stairs.

Castiel looked up, appreciating the view for a few seconds : Dean had only his pajama pants on, hanging perfectly on his hips. Castiel’s eyes started their trip over Dean’s curves and angles there, at his left hip bone, making his mouth water. They moved a bit to the left, to Dean’s happy trail disappearing underneath the elastic band, moving in a thin straight line up to his navel. Hi eyes followed, going higher, stretching to the galaxy of freckles spread across Dean’s chest and exploding in thousands of brown little stars on his shoulders. It went more subtle on his neck, before expanding again all over his cheekbones and his nose, making his green eyes shine. His lips were stretched into a smirk, but Castiel could still catch a glimpse of how full they were and he suddenly wanted those lips somewhere, anywhere, on his body.

It’s only after thoroughly examining Dean’s body that he realized he was keeping his hands behind his back.

“What are you hiding there?”

“Turn around and close your eyes.”

“Dean-”

“Come on. Trust me. I wanna try something with you.”

Castiel sighed and did as he was told. He felt Dean’s hands lingering on his back, brushing against his arms. His lips landed on his shoulder, travelling from there to behind Castiel’s ear. He cocked his head to the side, making his neck more accessible, only wanting more.

He unexpectedly felt a soft fabric over his eyes, and his hands automatically went to his face as he tried to understand what was going on.

“Don’t.”

The word was said in a whisper, but it was so full of control, of dominance, that Cas stopped instantly.

“Now,” Dean said, biting Castiel’s earlobe, “you’re gonna tell me exactly what you have to do to make whatever you were planning on making. I’ll be your eyes.” He tightened the fabric around Castiel’s head in one movement, pulling hard enough so Cas could not remove it easily. Dean trailed his fingers down Castiel’s back. “If you do good, maybe” he said, his hands working their way on Castiel’s stomach, “just maybe,” his hands now going south in Castiel’s pants, “I’ll give you what you crave” he finished, pressing his fingers on Castiel’s erection.

Cas let out a shaky moan, his head thrown backward, lying on Dean’s shoulder. “The oven. At 350” he croaked.

Dean placed his hands back on Castiel’s hips and guided him to the oven. Cas extended his arm, trying to find the right button to push.

“Just a bit higher” Dean whispered in his ear. “That’s it. Now on your left. Right there…”

Castiel pushed the button and his oven made a small beeping sound. He knew it was automatically set to 350F, so he didn’t bother setting the temperature again.

“Good boy” Dean bit down on Castiel’s shoulder as one of his hand reached up and played with Castiel’s left nipple, making his legs weak. “What’s next?”

“We need two bowls, an egg and bread crumbs.”

The game seemed to last forever, and yet Castiel wanted it to last longer. He was used to making that dish, and every time he made something like it was supposed to, Dean congratulated him by kissing, sucking, biting, pressing or pulling, playing with him. He could feel every single cell in his body, and every time Dean brushed his lips on Castiel’s skin, it sent a shiver directly to his dick, making his hard on almost unbearable.

“The only thing left to do is to put the chicken in the oven for twenty minutes” Castiel finally said.

Dean helped him put on his oven mitts and guided him to the baking plate. They managed to put the chicken in the oven without too much trouble, and set the timer. Castiel closed the oven door with Dean’s help and when he removed his mitts, he heard Dean groan.

“It’s about fucking time.”

Dean grabbed Castiel by his arm and spinned him around, pushing him on the side against the fridge. The cold metal bit into Castiel's skin but he didn’t have time to really bother. Dean was moaning in his ear and grinding against him. Castiel’s sense were all on high alert, his eyes still blindfolded. He felt Dean’s erection graze against his own, Dean’s hands on his hips pulling them together. He heard him gasp as they both got closer. Castiel pulled on Dean’s hair, exposing his neck and licked his way up to his jaw. He was rewarded by Dean’s nails digging into his skin and his broken cry as he came, Castiel falling over the edge seconds later.

They stood there, seeking support from the fridge, panting into each other for what seemed like hours.

“Holy shit” Dean said after a while. “I never thought helping you cook would be such a turn on.”

“Me neither,” Castiel giggled. “We have to do that again, it was too much fun.”

Dean raised his head from Castiel’s shoulder, and gently removed his blindfold, looking at him with an absent smile plastered on his face. He dumped the fabric on the counter and rested his forehead on Castiel’s, his hands locking his head into place. He was looking at Cas like he was the only person in the whole world. Like nothing else mattered. Cas was pretty sure he was looking at Dean the same way.

“I love you” Dean whispered.

“I love you too” Castiel whispered back.

They kissed tenderly, neither of them wanting the moment to be over. After a while though, they went upstairs to change. They put on jeans and Castiel stole Dean’s t-shirt before heading downstairs again to put on the table as Dean cleaned the kitchen. Soon enough, the timer went off and Castiel set the plates.

They sat face to face, Dean starting digging immediately as Castiel poured some wine in their glasses. He let out a soft moan as he took a bite of his chicken, closing his eyes.

“Oh my god, dude. This is fucking amazing.”

“You’re just hungry, Dean.”

“No. No no no. I’m serious.” He took a second bite without finishing the first one. “This tastes like heaven.”

Castiel blushed slightly. “Well, thank you.”

“Where did you learn to cook?”

“My mom thought me when I was a kid. Then I went to culinary school.”

“You did? You wanted to be a chef or something?”

“I didn’t just want to. I was. Back when I was with Raphael.”

Dean stopped eating, feeling the tension in Castiel’s voice. “I’m sorry, babe… I didn’t know.”

“It’s fine. It’s not like I’m always talking about before.”

There was a moment of silence as they both ate. It wasn’t tensed, there was no awkwardness; They were just lost in thoughts.

“Do you miss it?”

“Miss what?”

“Being a Chef. Cooking for people. Working in a kitchen. You know, all that stuff.”

Castiel took a moment to think about it. “Sometime yes. I love cooking, I loved being the leader of a team. I loved having control over what was going out on the tables and pushing them into always doing better.” He looked at Dean, who was looking at him with a weird look in his eyes. “What?”

He snapped back to reality. “Nothing. I’m just a little surprised, that’s all.”

“Surprised about what?”

“You. About loving control. That’s just… Weirdly arousing.”

Castiel raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to the side.

“Fuck, you’re doing that thing again” Dean groaned.

“Are you telling me what I think you’re telling me, Dean Winchester?”

“I’m not telling you anything.”

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

Something in Dean’s expression changed, and he looked at Cas with a cocky smile. “What do you mean, ‘play dumb’ with you? I sincerely have no idea what you’re talking about, Castiel.”

They stared at each other for a tensed moment. Dean took another bite of his chicken, and as he closed his lips around his fork, he let out a soft moan, closing his eyes. Castiel even noticed him thrust his hips slightly, sending an echo of pleasure straight to his cock.

“So that’s how you want to play it, huh?” Cas whispered.

Dean flinched and turned bright red. “Still no idea what you’re talking about” he croaked, trying his best -and failing miserably- to look indifferent.

The game is on, Castiel thought.

“Here’s how it’s gonna happen”, he started. Dean was looking at him, eyes wide. “We’re going to finish our plates because, not to brag, but this dish is too good to waste. I’ll clean up the table while you stay put. I don’t want you pretty little self to burn priceless energy; you’ll need it.” Dean took in a sharp breath, gripping the side of the table with one hand. “And then”, he whispered, “I’ll fuck you until you don’t even remember your own name.” Dean whimpered, still looking at Cas. His knuckles were white from gripping the table too tight. “You will do exactly as I say. Otherwise I’ll leave you only wanting more. Did I make myself clear?”

“Yes” Dean answered, fast.

“Yes, sir.”

“Holy fuck, Ca- Sir.” Dean said, seeing the sharp look in Cas’s eyes.

“Good. Now finish your plate, it’s getting cold.”

They ate in silence for a time. The tension in the room was electric; They could feel it in the air, on their skin. Their jeans were too tight, too constricting, their lungs too big, feeling like breathing wasn’t an option with all that tension. Castiel suddenly had an idea.

“Stand up and remove your pants.”

Dean’s eyes widened, but he still did it, no questions asked. He tossed them on the floor beside him and sat down. Castiel waited for Dean to pick his utensils back and start eating again.

“Still have no idea what I’m talking about, Dean?”

“Nope. Not a clue.”

“Well then, let me enlighten you.” Cas wanted to erase the smug smile Dean had plastered on his lips, and he knew exactly how.

Dean was still playing with a few remains of his chicken. Castiel took the last bite of his plate and laid down his fork. He stood up and pushed his chair a solid three feet away from the table and knelt down. Dean was looking at him, his fork frozen midway between his plate and his mouth, clearly anticipating something.

“Did I tell you to stop eating?” He waited for Dean to take a bite before crawling underneath the table, towards him. He could only see him from the waist down, but that was all he needed. Dean was heavily breathing, waiting for Castiel’s touch. His boxer briefs were stretched under his hard on, his muscled legs tight from the anticipation.

Cas started by brushing his fingers against Dean’s feet, marveling at the way Dean’s toes curled under his light touch. He then moved to his ankles, then his calves. Dean moved forward on his chair, trying to get closer to Cas, and when his hands reached his knees, he opened his legs unintentionally, letting more space for Cas. He stopped for a moment, listening to Dean’s ragged breathing. Having him at his mercy like that was so much more exciting than what he expected, and he wasn’t ready to let it go yet.

Cas trailed his fingers over Dean’s thighs, moving slowly but surely higher and higher. When he reached his boxer briefs, he slid his thumbs underneath and pushed them upward, letting go of the fabric. When it came snapping back on Dean’s skin, he heard the clatter of a metal utensil falling on the table and a whimper escaped Dean’s mouth.

Cas grabbed Dean’s thighs, shifting his weight and kissing the wet spot forming on the fabric, making Dean thrust his hips forward. Cas took the opportunity to tug at Dean’s underwear roughly, his nails almost ripping a hole in them. He didn’t remove them completely, letting them rest a little lower than his knees, using them to prevent Dean from opening his legs too much. He pushed him back in his chair and went straight for it, licking Dean’s shaft from the bottom to the top. Cas heard him grab the edge of the table so hard it creaked.

“Holy fuck, Cas, you have to warn me before you do that” he said from above.

“I don’t remember you having a say in any of this” Cas answered, wrapping his fingers around Dean’s erection.

“Yeah well if you don’t want me to be done in five minutes you gotta- FUCK!

Castiel had wrapped his lips around Dean’s cock, his tongue already working on the head. The table moved a few inches above his head, Dean unconsciously pushing on it as he tried to control his body. He sucked Dean for a while, chills going straight down his spine every time he made him curse by moving his tongue. And dear lord, Dean had one hell of a filthy mouth.

Cas moved away with a indecent, loud pop, getting out of under the table. Dean was still gripping the table, panting, his lips slightly parted, his eyes filled with lust. Cas felt his dick twitched in his jeans, asking for more space.

He took their plates and discarded forks, along with their empty glasses of wine, walking deliberately slowly to the sink, his footsteps punctuated by Dean’s heavy breathing. He heard a chair scrape the floor, telling him Dean was standing up.

“No” he said without turning around, even though the idea of Dean standing naked and ready for round two was exciting enough to make him squirm. “I didn’t say you could move.”

He heard Dean grunt and the chair squeak as he sat back down. “Yes, sir.”

The last word gave goose bumps to Cas. Dean was so much more into this than he thought he would. Little did he know Cas had an entire plan written down in his mind. He looked around in the kitchen as he dumped the plates in the sink, and found what he was searching near the microwave. The thing Dean had used earlier to blindfold him was one of Cas’ old scarfs, long and dark. He took a second to consider his options, and after deciding it’ll work just fine, grabbed it and walked back toward Dean. It took him a second to see what Cas was holding, and his eyes widened instantly.

“Give me your hands” Cas said dominantly.

Dean let out a shaky sigh and raised his wrists. Cas tied Dean’s hands, making sure it was tight enough so he couldn’t escape, the two long halves of the scarf falling on the floor.

“Well, that’s a first.” A tiny, nervous laugh escaped Dean’s lips as he looked at his hands.

“You’ve never been tied up before?” Castiel asked raising an eyebrow.

“I put handcuffs on people more than once, but it’s the first time I’m the one stuck like that. Not too sure how I feel about it right now.”

“Do you want me to untie you?”

“No no no it’s hot as hell. I’m not used to it that’s all.”

“If I go too far, you tell me. I want this to be fun for both of us. You have to tell me if something makes you uncomfortable.”

“Okay.” Dean whispered. “I will.”

“Do you trust me?”

“With my life.”

“Then stand up and face the table.”

Dean turned around quickly and stood there, his back to Cas. He removed his shirt, and even though he would’ve liked to enjoy the view for a moment, Cas bent down and took the end of the scarf before walking around Dean, facing him on the other side of the table. He gently pulled on the fabric until Dean had no choice but to bend down, the cold wood supporting his weight. His arms were stretched above his head, his hands and wrists stuck in the fabric. His shoulders were tensed as he tried getting comfortable. Castiel took the first half of the scarf and stretched it until he could fasten it solidly to one of the table’s leg. He repeated the same process with the second half, tying it to another leg. Once it was done, he looked at his work : Knots were tight, so there was no way Dean could get out unless he asked for Castiel’s help. Dean was half lying on the table face down, completely naked. His back muscles were playing as he gently pulled on his joints testing the extent of his movement.

Cas went up the stairs and hurried to his room where he shuffled through his drawer to find the lube before heading back downstairs and dragging a chair behind Dean.

“Spread your legs” he ordered, popping open the lube. Dean obeyed without a word, his breathing getting shorter with every second that went by. “You tell me if I hurt you, okay?”

“Fuck, Cas, I’m not gonna break. Just do something!” Castiel chuckled as he poured a generous amount of lube over his fingers before he started lightly playing with Dean’s rim. He heard him hiss as he tried to push his body on Castiel’s fingers, clearly wanting more. Cas inserted a first finger slowly and Dean grunted, trying to push himself even farther on Castiel’s hands.

“Hey, slow down, cowboy” Castiel smirked. “We have all the time in the world.” Even though he wanted to take it slow with him, he had to admit, having Dean spread like that in front of him and craving for action was arousing as hell. Without listening to his own advice, he pushed further into Dean, stretching him open. It didn’t take long before he could insert another finger, Dean panting under his expert touch.

“I’m serious, if you don’t fuck me in the next five minutes, I’ll make you regret it” Dean groaned.

Castiel’s other hand went for Dean’s hair, pulling at it, making him cry out in pleasure. “How many times do I have to tell you you don’t have a say in this?” he whispered beside Dean’s ear, biting his shoulder. “You’re in luck though. I was just about to do that.”

Cas unbuttoned his jeans and he slipped out of them, kicking them to the side, his underwear following seconds later. He poured some more lube just for good measure and placed one hand on Dean’s lower back, helping himself with the other. He gently pushed into Dean, one inch at a time, listening to Dean’s groans and movements to help him know if he had to give him a break or go on. Once fully inside, he shut his eyes, savoring the feeling and letting Dean a few seconds to adjust.

“Cas?”

“What?”

Fucking. Move.

“You really don’t learn, do you?”

Cas pulled away before going back in even more slowly. He saw Dean shift, trying to get more of Cas but unable to do so, being already completely stretched on the table underneath him. For a few minutes, he kept going at a slow pace, both of them grunting, getting used to one another.

“Cas, I’m not gonna ask again-”

Cas pulled out quickly and slammed into Dean, making the table creak. Dean’s breath was knocked out of his lungs as he moaned loudly. “You and your big mouth.” He hold on to Dean’s shoulder before slamming into him again. “From now on, the only thing I wanna hear from you is how much you love being fucked from behind, otherwise I’ll stop and leave you wanting while I jerk off looking at you all spread before me. Did I make myself clear?”

“Y-yes” Dean answered.

“Yes what?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good boy.”

Castiel slid one of his hand between Dean’s body and the table, slowly stroking Dean’s length as he kept moving. He felt Dean’s legs shake under the pleasure, his cries sending shivers down Cas’s spine. He also had quite a view; Dean was mesmerizing, his skin glistening in the soft light of the dining room. The tough, untouchable Dean Winchester was squirming under his touch, willing to get tied up and be completely open and vulnerable for him, and that was probably the most erotic thing Cas had ever witnessed in his life. He knew he wouldn’t be able to last long, so he had to make the most out of it.

He started moving faster, resting one of his hand on Dean’s hips for balance as he smashed into Dean, listening to him as he screamed to go harder and deeper and faster, the table squeaking loudly underneath them, screws loosening with every thrust. Dean’s fingernails were scratching at the table in a miserable attempt for freedom, his voice getting hoarse from every ‘fuck’ he screamed. He was falling apart in the most beautiful way, and Cas’ rhythm became incoherent along with his breathing. He could feel Dean tightening around him and he knew he was close too.

“Jesus, Cas, I can’t - FUCK! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Each curses were punctuated by a thrust.

“I know babe” Cas grunted. “Just let go. Come on. I wanna hear you.”

Dean’s head snapped backward as he screamed, his legs quivering with the last ounce of energy he had left as he came all over Cas’s hand. Hearing Dean coming so hard sent Cas over the edge moments later as he thrusted one last time into Dean, screwing his eyes shut, and losing sense of time and space, concentrating only on Dean around him, Dean moaning, Dean trembling, Dean begging.

Cas finally stopped, exhausted, and rested his head on Dean’s back, one hand still holding him by the hip, the other arm wrapped over Dean’s shoulder. They stayed like this for what seemed like hours, trying to catch their breath and enjoying the aftermath of their climax, until Cas felt Dean moving underneath him.

“Cas?”

“Mmmh?”

“A little help here? I… I can’t feel my arms anymore.”

“Shit. Don’t move, I’ll untie you.”

Cas slowly pulled out and stretched over Dean, putting all his weight on Dean’s back, trying to reach the knot between his wrists.

It all happened in slow motion. They heard the table crack loudly and they didn’t realize they were falling until the wood underneath them actually disappeared. They fell heavily on the ground, surrounded by pieces of what once was Castiel’s dining table. Dean screamed out in pain, squished between Cas and the ground. Cas knocked his elbow hard as he tried to prevent his entire weight from crushing Dean. He rolled on the side, holding his arm, gritting his teeth.

“Are you alright?” Dean said, turning to look at Cas, his hands free now that there were no more table to tie him up to.

“Yeah” Cas said through his clenched teeth. “You?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

They looked at each other and started laughing, the situation way too absurd.

“I can’t believe we broke it” Dean laughed. He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. “That’s another first.”

“Well, I guess you’re not selling that table of yours anymore. We kinda need it.”

Soon after they went back to bed, still laughing, exhausted by their evening exercise. They left the wooden scraps where they were, agreeing that putting clothes back on just for that was way too hard for the moment and promising themselves they would clean the whole thing up in the morning. They fell asleep fast, arms and legs tangled. Even asleep, they couldn’t take their hands off of each other.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

 

April 2009

 

Dean parked his Impala in front of The Galleria and opened the door with a creak. The sun warmed his skin, and a soft wind blew his hair in every direction. He was wearing an old pair of jeans with holes around the knees, and a black tee that fitted him like it was made for him. Summer was slowly peaking the tip of its nose and it was warm enough for him to leave his coat in the car. He could’ve left it at home, but he knew it would get cold when the sun would go down.

He walked to the closest door and went it, heading directly for the Cheesecake Factory. Castiel had almost finished his shift and he wanted to have a drink before heading out with him. Dean couldn’t erase the dumb smile spread across his lips. Things have been going wonderfully between Cas and him. No fights, no arguments, they were just madly in love and ready to move on together with life. He had found someone to take his apartment for the beginning of May, so he had less than a month to pack his things and bring it all to Cas’s place.

Not Cas’s place, he thought. Our place.

His smile only got bigger. Sam could tease him for the next forty years, he didn’t care. For once, he had learned from his mistakes. He was happy, and he was in love, and that was all that mattered.

As he walked in, he nodded his head towards Tessa and she greeted him. He kept walking until he reached the bar and sat down, knocking on the varnished wood with his knuckles. Charlie turned around and smiled her brightest smile when she recognized Dean.

“Hi!” She said in a high pitched voice. “I wasn’t expecting you tonight. Cas is changing in the staff room he’ll be out in a few minutes.”

“Can I join him?” Dean asked, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

“For the hundredth time, no. I don’t wanna hear you monkeys doing the dirty, and I’m pretty sure customers aren’t interested either.”

“For the hundredth time, I’ll make sure he doesn’t make a sound.”

Charlie rolled her eyes, grinning. “What can I get you to make sure you patiently wait for him with your pretty little ass glued on this stool?”

“A whiskey on the rocks would be great.”

“Coming right up.” She pulled out a glass from underneath the counter and dropped three ice cubes in it before pouring two fingers of whiskey over them. She placed a small napkin in front of Dean and put the glass on it. “Are you planning on going somewhere tonight?”

“I thought we could go eat something, and then maybe just head home to watch a movie or something. I don’t have anything planned tomorrow so I’ll let him choose whatever he wants to do.” He took a sip of his drink, enjoying the burning sensation of the beverage as it trickled down his throat.

“That’ll probably help him relax a bit.”

Dean looked perplexedly at Charlie. “Rough day?”

“The actual ‘day’ wasn’t rough, but he was very twitchy and nervous for no reason. I tried to ask him why he was so nervous and he answered with the worst answer.”

“Which is?”

“Stuff.”

“That’s it? ‘Stuff’?”

“He didn’t say more. If you want my opinion he doesn’t know either what’s bugging him. Or he thinks it’s too stupid to even mention.”

Dean took another sip of his drink, thinking. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll make sure he’s okay.”

As he said this, the door from the staff room opened and Castiel appeared, wearing black worn out jeans and a crisp white shirt. He smiled to Dean, but Dean could see Cas wasn’t feeling so well. It was an honest smile, but he could see that Cas was exhausted and stressed out.

“Hey, beautiful” Dean said kissing him on the forehead and hugging him.

“Hello, Dean.” Cas hugged him back, tight, seeking energy and relief through him.

“Ready to go?”

“Yes.”

They said goodbye to Charlie and walked outside. Dean didn’t say a word, giving Cas a chance to speak by himself. Once in the car though, Cas still hadn’t said a word.

“I thought we could go eat somewhere, if you feel like it. Any idea where you wanna go?”

Castiel sighed.

It’s not a sigh of exasperation, Dean thought, observing Cas, more like he’s forcing himself to breathe. Like he’s tensed and he’s trying to calm down.

“How about that small Italian place we found last month?” Castiel said, forcing a smile. “It’s pretty good, and I’m craving pasta.”

“Small Italian place it is.”

Dean put the keys in the ignition and started the engine with a roar, slowly backing up from his parking space. He decided he would let Cas have until they had their plates to speak on his own. If by then, he still wouldn’t talk, Dean would start asking questions.

He turned on the radio, lowering the volume a bit, just in case. They rolled down the streets, surrounded by the sound of the car and the screams of the children playing outside, along with other cars passing by in the opposite direction. The drive to the restaurant was relatively short, and within a few minutes, they were parked in front of a small blue and white facade with ‘La Vita’ written in gold letters above the door.

They went in and sat down, and Dean ordered a bottle of wine as they looked at the menu. He chose quickly, knowing exactly what he wanted to eat. Cas, on the other hand, went absently through the menu about three times and downed two glasses of wine in a record time before Dean decided it was time for an intervention.

“Any idea what you’re gonna get?” he asked.

“Huh… Yeah, I’ll go with just the small pepperoni pizza.”

They ordered shortly after, and when Cas finished his third glass of wine and still hadn’t said a word except to place his order, Dean was done acting like everything was fine.

“Cas?”

“Mmmmh?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Nah-ah. You’re not going to lie to me about this. I know there’s something going on and I wanna know what.”

“It’s nothing, Dean, really.”

“It’s not nothing. You haven’t said shit since I picked you up, you look pale and anxious. I see how you’re constantly looking at the door like you expect some demon to waltz in, and you’ve been biting your nails, or more accurately, your skin around your nails, because there is no more nail to bite. There’s something bothering you, and you’ll never convince me that there’s not, so you better tell me now if you don’t want me harassing you.”

Castiel sighed. “It’s just…. It’s stupid okay?”

“I don’t care” Dean said, a little more softly. “It could be that your favorite flower died this morning, I don’t care. I’ll never make fun of you for something that bothers you so much, no matter what it is.”

“I saw -no, I thought I saw- Raphael this morning.”

Dean stayed silent. He wasn’t expecting that. He was expecting bad news from his sister in Germany, or his brother Gabriel being arrested for God knows what stupid bullshit. He was expecting Cas to lose his job for a dumb mistake, he was expecting money problems, anything, but not that.

“Raphael? Raphael Raphael?!”

“Yes, but…” He scrunched his face as he closed his eyes, his head moving from left to right as if he was trying to shake away an image glued behind his eyelids. “It wasn’t him. I thought it was, but after completely losing it I checked again and I realized it wasn’t him, it can’t be him.”

“Are you entirely sure it wasn’t him, Cas? Because I swear to fucking God, I will call the cops right this moment.”

“Yes. 200% sure. It was just another man looking a lot like him, but I can assure you it was only my mind playing tricks on me. It still freaked me out for the rest of the day though. It took me by surprise and I stayed on edge for my entire shift. And it keeps bugging me, I just don’t know why.”

“Where did you see him?”

“Is that really important, Dean? It wasn’t him.”

“Where, Cas?”

“On my way to work. I thought I saw him wandering in the mall. The man didn’t even look at me Dean, it wasn’t him.”

Their plates arrived and they stopped talking as the waiter put them down in front of them. Cas thanked him as he left, Dean still trying to work this out in his head. He understood now why Cas was so off. He thought about how he would feel if he’d been abused physically and mentally by an ex, and how he would feel if he thought he’d seen said ex walking down his street. There was an unpleasant shiver down his spine.

“I’m sorry about this, Cas” he said in a whisper.

“It’s fine, Dean. Really. It just took me by surprise and I didn’t know how to react except to be ready for the apocalypse all day long. It’s not your fault.

“Let’s make sure you stop thinking about this tonight, okay? I want you to feel great and to be happy.”

Castiel looked up at Dean, and saw the first honest smile on Castiel’s face today. It warmed his heart, and he extended his hand to grab his boyfriend’s.

“You always make me feel great and happy, love.”

They let go of each other’s hand and started eating, their feet playing against one another under the table.

“Do you wanna go see a movie after? I know that douchey vampire movie you like so much is out.” Dean said, trying his best to change the subject to something lighter.

“Twilight? You want to come with me see Twilight?”

“Why not? You love it.”

“I don’t love it. I like it. There’s a difference. I love Harry Potter. I just like Twilight. I read the books and they were good in my opinion. I’m just curious to see how they’ll adapt it.”

 “Whatever, same difference. I still wanna take you. And we’re about to live together, better get used to ‘Fanboy Cas’ now.”

Castiel rolled his eyes, a smile slowly stretching his chapped lips. “Fine. We can go to the movies.”

Dean smiled triumphantly, shoving his next way too big bite into his mouth. After chewing what seemed like an incredible short amount of time for the quantity of food he put between his lips and swallowing loudly, he continued.

“I’ve been thinking about moving in with you” he said. “Is it okay if I move in on the 25th? The new guy moves in on May 2nd, which is Saturday, and I won’t have time on May 1st to do it since I work until 10PM on Fridays. The apartment will be empty for only a week so it’s not too bad. I’ll just have to meet up with him to give him the keys.”

“If it was my decision, Dean, you would already be living with me. Of course you can move in on the 25th.” Castiel smiled and poked Dean’s hand with his fork. “Do you need help? I can ask for my day off.”

“Nah, I’ll be fine. Most of my stuff is already at your place, and Benny, Sam and Bobby are already coming to help and I don’t own much so it’ll be done in one afternoon.”

“I expect you waiting for me in your birthday suit when I get back from work.”

“Oh, you’re gonna have so much more than just that, sweetheart.”

Castiel blushed and giggled, playing with his food with the tip of his knife.

“I would lie down on the table with whipped cream on my body just where it needs to be,” Dean whispered, “but you know, we can’t afford to break this one too. So, maybe I’ll just be a little prick, stay dressed, and wait for Chef Castiel to spank me for not being an obedient little boy toy.”

Castiel’s mouth dropped open, his eyes wide, and he took in a sharp breath. Dean was proud of provoking such a reaction from Cas, and he felt his cock twitch hopefully.

Yeah, that’s an awesome way to distract him, Dean thought.

“How about I spank you tonight instead?” Castiel breathed out.

Fuck yes.

“I don’t know… I mean, you can’t punish me without reason. I would have to do something for you to do so.”

“I can’t believe you, Dean Winchester.” Castiel scoffed.

They changed the subject after that, both knowing they would never go to the movies if they kept talking about Dean getting spanked. They ate and talked about Dean’s work, and how he was planning on finding something a bit more well paid. He loved Bobby, and he loved being a mechanic, but now that he needed to pay part of the mortgage with Cas, he needed a second job. They talked about Cas’ day, what stupid things Charlie did to try to cheer him up. They talked a bit about Twilight, Dean wanting to be at least mentally prepared for what he was about to witness but still wanting to avoid spoilers.

Dean could see Castiel getting more and more relaxed, the tension in his shoulders flying away, his smile getting more and more natural, the sparkle in his gorgeous blue eyes coming back to life. He could see him breathing normally instead of being all closed on himself. Dean could slowly see the Castiel he fell in love with come back, and it warmed him to see he could make him smile no matter what was bothering him.

An hour later, they were peacefully walking toward the entrance of the movie theater. Dean opened the door for Cas, leaning forward and motioning with his hand for Cas to go in.

“After you, m’lord.”

“Dork.” Castiel snorted, going in nonetheless.

Dean bought the tickets for the movie, gentleman as always, and they talked and teased each other until the movie started playing. Dean was expecting something awful. Cas had told him it was a romantic story between a human and a vampire but when the 2ftx8ft plywood sheet -mostly known as Kristen Stewart- said that thing about being sure of three things, AKA that her crush was a vampire, that he wanted to eat her alive (and not in the fun way) and that she still couldn’t give a damn, he lost it. This movie was complete bullshit. But he kept watching, for Cas, because Cas was holding his hand, because Cas was slightly leaning into him, because Cas was randomly planting soft kisses on his cheek or in the crook of his neck, because Cas was most definitely his world and there were worse things in life than watching an atrocity made to fuel preteen age girls’ wet dreams with your boyfriend snuggled comfortably against you.

The movie finally ended, and Dean turned toward Cas. “So? Let me guess: the book was better.”

“The book is always better, Dean” Cas replied. “It was okay. How did you like it?”

“Meh, it was okay, like you said.”

Castiel looked at Dean knowingly. “Okay. Now that you haven’t hurt my feelings and that you know that you can tell me your real opinion, I’ll ask again. How did you like it?”

Dean looked around to make sure no one could hear him before saying “It was one big, fat pile of garbage.”

Castiel laughed and then kissed him, both of them grinning so hard there were more teeth than lips in their kiss. They decided it was maybe time to get out when a boy holding a broom and a black plastic container entered the theater and politely asked them to leave because he needed to clean the place before the other presentation.

 

***

 

It took them a while to start the car, too busy having their tongue down each other’s throat, but eventually Dean made the engine roar and they flew across the street.

“Now that we’re out of there and that you’re not scared anymore to be trampled by 12 year-olds, you can tell me everything that you think is wrong with this movie.” Cas said after a few minutes.

“Why do you wanna know so much why I hated it?”

“You’ve been through two and a half hours of ‘torture’ just to make me smile. You deserve to vent.”

“Fine.” Dean laughed. “If that’s what today’s kids picture when we say ‘vampire’ I don’t wanna live on this planet anymore. What happened to the evil, too-many-teeth, blood-sucking, human bats that we were scared of when we were kids? They’re supposed to inspire horror, not love. And why in the hell were they all sparkling in the sun, who thought that was a good idea? Let’s not even talk about werewolves and that weird puberty shit they had. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah.” Dean looked at Cas and grinned. Cas replied with the same smile on his face, and soon, they were both laughing. “You? You’re feeling better?” Dean asked when they could catch their breath.

“A lot. Thank you Dean. For everything.”

“It’s nothing sweetheart. It’s my job to make you happy.”

Castiel removed his seatbelt and scooted over on Dean’s side of the bench. He leaned in, licking the sensitive spot behind Dean’s ear, making his breathing hitch.

“Maybe you don’t deserve it, but I sure as hell would like to spank you tonight anyway…” He whispered, biting Dean’s earlobe.

The car swerved and the tires screeched when Dean tried to regain control of it. “Shit, Cas. If you wanna get home alive you gotta stop doing that.”

“What? You can’t focus on the road when I tell you how much I want you to beg for it?”

Dean shifted into his seat, the bulge in his pants obviously getting uncomfortable. “No I can’t” he said. “The blood that is supposed to be in my brain is kind of rushing elsewhere.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Castiel answered, grabbing Dean by the thigh and massaging his leg, going slowly up. Dean moaned, but it turned more into a whine when Cas scooted back to his original place, away from Dean.

“Why’d you stop?”

“I have so many plans for you. I want to get home alive, like you said, and execute every single one of them. Eyes on the road.”

The rest of the drive to their place was silent, except for the sound that Dean made every now and then as he shifted on his seat. He groaned a few times, trying to stretch his jeans in a desperate attempt to be more comfortable but obviously, and to Castiel’s pleasure, the more he pulled on his pants, the more friction it created. By the time Dean parked the car in front of the house, he was a panting mess.

They got out of the car. Castiel fumbled in his pockets to find his keys, but he suddenly froze, before starting to look inside every pocket he could have, going back into Dean’s car and then coming out again, looking a second time in his pockets.

“If you forgot your keys at work again, screw it, we’re going to my place.” Dean said.

“Not my keys. My phone.”

“Who cares about your phone, come on let’s go inside.”

“Dean, I need it. I’m not working tomorrow and Charlie is waiting on my instructions for the inventory. I need it.” As much as Cas wanted to go inside and fuck Dean into oblivion, he really needed his phone. He decided to turn the situation around, making it a bit more interesting for both of them. He slowly walked into Dean’s personal space, wrapping his arms around his neck. “Maybe we can let you stew in those tight jeans for a bit longer, what do you think?”

Dean moaned and tried to lean forward and kiss Cas, but he didn’t let him.

“Why are you such a dick tonight?” Dean whined.

“Because I like teasing the shit out of you” Cas whispered, biting Dean’s collarbone. “You’re gonna go fetch my phone at work. Then, when you’ll come back, I’ll reward you with everything you’ve ever wanted. You want me to bend you over and fuck you? I will. Or maybe you’d prefer to do it to me? No problem. Anything you want, Dean. Just make sure you stay ready for me at any time.”

“How am I supposed to go in there with a raging boner, Cas?”

Cas squeezed Dean’s bulge in his hand, making him shiver. “Figure something out.”

“Fuck, okay, okay. I’ll be quick.”

Dean turned around and jumped back into his car, wheels screeching as he drove away like a madman. Cas stood there for a moment, biting his bottom lip, until the Impala’s tail lights disappeared. He could feel the excitement growing inside him as he thought about the night ahead.

He finally turned around and climbed the steps to his porch, unlocking the door. He removed his shoes and walked to the kitchen. He grabbed a tumbler from his cupboard, opened the freezer and looked around, searching for the bottle of Whiskey he always kept there for Dean. He unscrewed the cap and poured a generous amount into his glass before drinking the whole thing in one shot. He poured himself a second, swallowing it as fast as the first one. The burning sensation inside his throat soothed him. He needed Dean to come back faster and touch him everywhere already. He was feeling all giddy inside, thinking about what he and Dean would do for most of the night. An honest giggle escaped his lips and he decided he should go upstairs and make sure he’s ready for when Dean would come back. (Not too sure of how to shape this sentence. Moving in 24h my brain is apparently not working anymore)

He put the bottle of Whiskey back in the freezer and climbed the steps to his bedroom. He flipped on the lights and started unbuttoning his shirt when he heard the door from his bedroom click shut behind him.

“About time you get home, Castiel” a deep voice said.

 

***

 

Dean was driving way over the speed limit, too eager to come back to Cas. His jeans were still way too tight, and his brain wasn’t working properly, his mind wandering back to his boyfriend. He thought about Cas waiting for him, lying naked in bed, or him tying some ropes he would find God knows where to his bed so Dean or him could be tied up. Or maybe Cas would magically materialize a purple butt plug - why purple, he had no idea - and stretch himself open before he’d come back.

He shifted in his seat as his pants got less and less comfortable with each passing minute. He even thought about turning around. Screw Cas’s phone. He could always drive to The Galleria early in the morning and go fetch it then. But if Cas said he needed it, Dean had to bring it back home. Plus, he knew Cas would reward him in the best possible way. He pressed in the gas pedal a little more, ignoring stop signs, making a small prayer that he could make it to the mall without getting arrested.

By some miracle, he reached the shopping center without getting any tickets. He parked like an asshole and climbed out of his car. He took a few steps toward the entrance before stopping dead in his tracks, eyes looking down at the noticeable bulge in his jeans.

I can’t go in like that, someone’s gonna tell security that a pervert is walking everywhere in there.

He turned around and walked back to his car, pulling out his coat and wrapping it around his waist. The tied sleeves were hanging in front of his crotch, efficiently hiding his boner.

There you go!

With a grin on his face, he made his way to the revolving doors.

 

***

 

Castiel’s blood stopped. It just stopped right then and there, stagnating in his veins. He couldn’t feel his heart beating, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t blink. Everything had stopped working. He knew that voice. The richness of it, the low baritone; it was engraved in his brain, branded there. He’d heard it for way too long, listened to it for way too long. Submitted to it for way too long.

Raphael.

He was more than scared. This wasn’t the type of feeling you have when you watch a horror movie and you’re scared of closing the lights when you go to sleep, or when you wake up from a nightmare and you have to go make yourself a cup of tea to help you fall back asleep. It’s not even close to the feeling of getting robbed in a dark alley, where you’re almost certain that if you do what the robber asks you, you’ll be fine. This was much, much worse. This was terror at its most pure, fundamental level.

Cas felt a single tear roll down his cheek. He hadn’t even noticed he’d started crying. He found the strength to button up his shirt again and wiped the tear from his cheek before slowly turning around to face his worst nightmare.

“Raphael. I wasn’t expecting you.”Cas was surprised by how steady his voice sounded.

“I can see that. I heard you with that boy whore outside.” He was standing tall in front of the door separating Cas from his freedom. Exactly like in his nightmares.

Castiel flinched at the words.

This has to be a nightmare. I fell asleep and I’m dreaming. Dean’s gonna wake me up soon. This can’t be real.

“Who is he?”

“I… He’s… He’s just a friend.” Castiel whispered, holding Raphael’s gaze.

“You know I can tell when you’re lying, Cassie.” Raphael’s voice was more like a growl then a human voice. “Is he your new boyfriend?”

Castiel took a deep breath before answering. “Yes.” He could feel rage slowly rising,mixing with the terror inside him.

He had no idea what Raphael was actually capable of doing and that was the most horrifying conclusion of all. He had no idea how he would get out of there alive, but he was sure of one thing: He was done hiding. He was done running away. This, whatever it was, ended tonight.

 

***

 

Dean strutted to The Cheesecake Factory, enjoying the way his dick brushed against the fabric as he walked. The mall was almost empty, since it was about to close down. A group of teenagers passed him running, trying to get to one last store before it locked its doors. Dean had a small thought for the salesmen rolling his eyes as he let them enter, knowing he would probably finish his shift a lot later than expected. Really, he didn’t miss working here.

He reached the Factory and walked through the doors. As he entered the restaurant, he winked at Tessa, making her blush.

“Already back? Did you miss me too much?” She said, pursing her lips.

“I always miss you, darling” Dean answered. “I wanted to say hello again, and I’m picking something up, too. Is Charlie still there?”

“Yes. You know where.” She smiled and started placing back the menus under her desk as Dean walked away, moving his ass more than necessary to give her a good show.

He walked to the bar, and waited for Charlie to come back from wherever she was. He played with the scratches in the wood, following them with his fingers, trying to distract himself from the urge he had of touching himself right then and there, the tension in his pants almost unbearable.

Eventually, Charlie walked out of the staff room holding plastic cups and a bucket of ice. It took her a moment to realize that Dean was sitting at the bar. She knew it was him, but it was clear in her head that she had trouble processing that he was here in front of her and not with Cas.

“Dean? Hi. Is everything okay?”

“Hi, and yes, everything’s fine, Cas just forgot his phone and since you’re supposed to call him tomorrow for God-knows-what, he wanted it tonight.”

“He could’ve called with your phone, it’s no big deal.”

“I know, but you know me. When Cas wants something, there’s no way I can deny it to him. So here I am.”

“Just wait here, I’ll go see if it’s in his locker.”

Charlie dropped the cups on the counter and placed the ice cube bucket in the freezer before heading back to the staff room. It took her a few minutes, but she eventually came out holding Castiel’s smart phone.

“The idiot hid it in one of his shoe. Here you go.”

“Thank, darling. Wasn’t too busy tonight?”

“Nah. I didn’t have much to do, actually.”

“It’s nice having a not so busy evening once in awhile. Enjoy them when they come.”

“Can’t agree more. It gave me time to think about how I’ll do that costume for my LARP thing I’m going to in July.”

“Nice. If you need help with anything I’m sure I can handle a few things for you.”

“Thanks! You know you can still register if you wanna join me, I’m sure we can have a lot of fun.”

“I’ll think about it.” Dean said rising from his seat.

“You better.”

“See ya.”

“Bye!”

He walked back to the entrance, waving to Tessa as he passed. He was about to leave the restaurant when he heard her scream his name. He turned around and looked at her, puzzled.

“Dean, wait! I just remembered… You were with Cas tonight right?”

“Huh, yeah, why?”

“Did you guys see his old school friend?”

“What friend?” Dean felt an unpleasant chill running down his spine. Castiel didn’t have much friends, and he knew every one of them.

“He said he was a friend from a long time ago and that he wanted to surprise Cas. When I said he wasn’t here he seemed really disappointed so I gave him directions to his place. I don’t remember his name, but it surprised me because it was an angel name like Cas’s. It ended with ‘iel’ or ‘el’ or something like that.”

“Raphael?” Dean asked, the blood leaving entirely his face.

“Yes! Yes, that’s it! Rapha- Dean? Dean, where are you going?”

Dean didn’t answer as he ran out of the restaurant as fast as he could, ready to punch anything or anyone that would try to stop him from getting to his car in the next ten seconds.

 

***

 

Talking. Be sure he keeps talking.

Castiel struggled to keep his emotions in check, making sure his anxiety and fear wouldn’t show. He had to stay in control, to be ready to react at any moment. He had to make sure Raphael would talk long enough for Dean to come back.

“How did you find me?”

The question was out of his mouth before he could really think about it, curiosity winning over terror.

“You really don’t know?”

“No.”

“Come on darling. Think about it. You’re smarter than that.”

Castiel tried to think, but his brain was frozen in place, focusing solely on Raphael, unable to think about anything else. After a while though, seeing him growing impatient, Castiel gave up.

“I’m sorry, Raphael, I really don’t know where you could’ve found-” Castiel stopped talking, finally realizing the huge mistake he’d made.

Oh my God. That’s where.

“You just figured it out, huh?” Raphael smiled dangerously.

“Ellen…”

“And we have a winner!” Raphael screamed in a grotesque voice. “You know you should take dance lessons, right? Your moves suck.”

“But how… How did you find me?”

“In that video, we see street names. And that big ass shopping mall, The Galleria. A quick online research showed me that those streets and that mall were all pretty close from one another. And that ugly car your new boyfriend is driving is quite unusual. I just had to pull a few strings and see that only three people in all Texas owned a car like that, and a certain Dean Winchester was the one living exactly around those streets I saw in your video. A few more strings and I learned he recently worked at The Galleria. A bit of eavesdropping and voilà, those morons working at MicroCell dropped that you were still working there, at some stupid, below your expertise, cheesecake restaurant. You know, I expected better from you. I expected you to be a chef in some big Casino or even a personal chef for a big shot actor. Instead you decided to be a barman in a mall? Come on, Cassie, we both know you’re better than that.”

His name on Raphael’s tongue sent unpleasant chills down Castiel’s spine. “Okay. I get that the video gave you pretty good hints on where I worked, or the general town where I spent most of my time. It still didn’t show my house, my address. How did you get here? How did you find me?”

“Don’t you get it yet? I knew you were working at The Cheesecake Factory. So I went there a few days in a row, waiting to see if I could spot you. It took me a while, because I thought you would work in the kitchen, where you belong. I waited for you outside, when all the chefs, and sous-chefs ended their shifts after cleaning up the night’s mess. But I never saw you. So I decided to be bold and to go in. And this morning I spotted you going through those doors. I gotta say, I thought you would see me. There wasn’t a lot of people around and I really thought you would notice me and run for your life. But I guess you didn’t. Or maybe you did, but didn’t recognize me. I did learn a few makeup tricks to alter my features just enough to make you doubt.”

Then, Raphael raised his hand and let his fingers brush his bald head, revealing a leather and gold watch. And everything clicked into place.

The watch.

The watch Cas gave Raphael for their first year together. The watch he’d spent so much time choosing. The watch he paid a small fortune to make sure it was just the way Raphael would like it. The watch that was on the man’s wrist this morning. Finally. Now he knew what bugged him so much about this mysterious man.

“You spent the day watching me?” Castiel asked.

“From afar.”

No wonder I was so twitchy, he thought.

“Why did you wait?”

“I wanted to make sure no one would interrupt us. But then…”

“Dean showed up” Castiel murmured.

“Dean showed up. I had to work out a new plan. I could’ve waited for another day, but you know, I’ve been looking for you since you left. I’ve been planning my revenge since you left. Now that you were so close, I couldn’t wait any longer.”

Castiel was shaking. It was clear that Raphael had horrible things planned out for him. He needed to find a way out. But something weird happens to people when they’re cornered and they feel like there is no escape. Castiel had felt it at the end, with Raphael. That feeling that everything’s over, that you are worthless, that there’s no way you could get out of that pit of darkness and fear alive. So you stop being scared. Just like that. Your brain realizes that, anyway, you’re already dead, so why not try one more time, and give everything you have, and try to get out of that pit. At least you would die trying. At least you would die fighting. At least you would die brave. And that’s exactly what Castiel was feeling.

“I waited for you two to leave, giving it enough time to be sure you were far gone. Then I walked in and asked the hostess if you were still working. She wondered why a complete stranger was looking for you, so I invented some bullshit, saying I wasa friend from college and that I’ve been travelling. I was back in the states for a few days and I wanted to surprise you. She was so excited about the idea that I didn’t even have to force the information out of her, she eagerly gave me your address.”

Goddammit, Tessa. What were you thinking?

But then, that meant Castiel might have a chance. She would want to know if the surprise worked. She would ask Dean if it worked. Dean was smart enough to connect the dots and figure it out, and then come back home. Castiel felt a spark of hope and excitement. They would have an advantage. Raphael had no idea Dean would be aware of his presence in the house. Castiel sent a quick prayer before focusing back on his ex.

 

***

 

Dean kept his eyes on the road, his foot pressing intensely on the gas pedal. Baby had power, but at that moment, it felt like she had nothing under the hood. Dean wasn’t getting back to Cas fast enough. He couldn’t - or wouldn’t - imagine what Raphael could do to him. He probably saw them fooling around in the parking lot, saw them kiss. He would probably be excessively jealous and might hurt Cas. If something happened to Cas, he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself…

He pressed a bit more on the pedal, ignoring stop signs and traffic lights. Every time he burned a red light, he felt his chest constrict and he had trouble breathing, the memory of his car crash still haunting him. But he couldn’t afford to wait for the light to turn green, not with a psycho locked in a house with Cas.

His wheels screeched as he turned a street corner. He almost lost control of his car, but brought her back on track in one swift movement. His mind was stuck in a tornado of fear and worry, his body rigid from the anxiety caused by the most horrible possibilities he kept imagining.

Please, sweetheart. Hang in there. I’m coming.

Dean pulled out his phone and dialed 9-1-1. He waited for a few long excruciating seconds before someone finally picked up.

“9-1-1 what’s your emergency?”

“I need cops and an ambulance at 5330 Fairdale Lane.”

“Is someone hurt?”

“I don’t know, maybe. I know something’s wrong. Someone might be in our house and my boyfriend’s in there alone, I don’t know what’s going on.”

“How old is he?”

“32.”

“Is he unconscious?”

“I DONT FUCKING KNOW HE’S ALONE!”

“Please stay calm. Police is already on its way.”

“Fucking hurry!”

Dean hung up, ignoring the operator asking him to stay on the phone. He made another sharp turn in an adjacent street. He could see Castiel’s house illuminated a hundred feet in front of him. There wasn’t anything abnormal from the outside, but he knew something was wrong, very wrong inside. He stepped on the gas and flew down the street, his eyes glued on the only lights on Fairdale Lane still gleaming in the night at this late hour.

 

***

 

“But enough talking” Raphael said. “I know you're just trying to stretch the conversation to give Dean enough time to come back. I’d like to have a bit of fun with you before he comes back.”

Raphael reached behind his back and fumbled a second with his jacket, finally pulling out of his belt one of Castiel’s long kitchen knife. He looked at him with anger and hatred in his eyes, and slowly stepped forward, walking like he had all the time in the world. He was looking at Cas like a predator looks at its prey, knowing they’d win the chase.

Castiel didn’t move. He waited for Raphael to be at a reaching distance before he spoke.

“I always knew you were one hell of a psychopath” Cas whispered.

Raphael launched himself at Castiel, a deep roar escaping his throat, knife high above his head ready to strike. Cas tried to step out of the way while blocking Raphael's arm. Even though Raphael was a lot stronger than him, his technique would’ve worked if Cas had noticed how close he was from his bed. His foot got tangled in his quilt, preventing him from stepping aside properly. He lost his balance for a brief second, but it was enough for his opponent. Raphael brought the knife down, slicing Castiel’s open hand in a vain attempt to protect himself.

Castiel hardly felt the pain, the adrenaline rushing through his body. He tried to run away, but Raphael grabbed him by the neck with his free hand and squeezed hard. Cas felt the pressure against his throat, followed by the pain as his adam’s apple got pushed back into his oesophagus. He attempted to grab Raphael’s hand and remove it so he could breathe, but it was useless; Raphael was way too strong.

He started to push Castiel away from the bed and slammed him into the wall between the bedroom door and his nightstand. He hit his head hard, dark little dots slowly blurring his vision. He needed to fill his lungs with air soon, or he would lose consciousness, and that would be the real problem. He knew fighting was his only chance of survival.

“I didn’t expect you to fight back.” Raphael leaned closer to Castiel’s face, raising the knife and pressing it on Cas’s cheek. “But that’s fine, it’ll just make it more exciting.”

He pressed harder on the knife, drawing blood. Castiel tried to scream but no air escaped his lungs, the pressure around his throat almost unbearable. He closed his eyes and focused on his hands as he tried to grab onto something, anything, he could use to free himself.

Suddenly, his left hand encountered a long, heavy wooden shape hidden behind his nightstand.

Baseball bat.

He had always kept something there to defend himself in case someone broke in. He gripped the handle tight and in one swift movement, he pulled it out, slamming it on Raphael’s temple. Castiel saw Raphael’s eyes grow wide as he realized what was about to happen, knowing he couldn’t avoid it. Raphael let out a screech when the piece of wood connected with his skull and let go of Cas’s throat as he fell down on the floor, holding his ear with both hands, the knife abandoned on the floor next to him. Castiel gulped in some air and coughed, black dots slowly disappearing. The blood was rushing in his ears, making every other sound hard to detect, but he still managed to hear the front door open and crash into the wall, followed by Dean’s voice screaming his name.

God, it felt great hearing Dean’s voice. Even through the pain and the terror still gripping his guts, he felt a bubble of excitement and happiness blooming in his chest. They were now two against one. Maybe they could get out of that mess alive.

He dropped the baseball bat and stumbled toward the door, flinging it open. He tried to scream Dean’s name, but his voice came out a faint, gravelly whisper. He grabbed the railing with both hands, scared he might fall since his vision was still blurry, and slowly went staggering down the stairs.

 

***

 

Dean nearly broke the door as he swung it open, creating a hole in the wall as the doorknob smashed into it.

“CAS!”

He received no answer except for something heavy and solid falling on the floor upstairs and rolling around, followed by the noise of a few hesitant steps walking in the hallway towards the stairs.

“Cas! CAS! Come on, Cas say something!”

Dean ran to the stairs and looked up, half expecting to see Raphael stand there, holding Cas at gunpoint. A wave of relief washed over him when he saw that only Cas was climbing down the stairs, holding to the ramp with both hands like his life depended on it. He was coughing, his face red, and in the dim light Dean noticed he had four nasty purple spots forming on the right side of his neck, and a fifth one on the left, clearly formed by strong fingers.

“Are you okay Babe? Come on, I know it’s painful but talk to me. Can you breathe?”

Castiel only bobbed his head, still coughing. He sat down on the third step, unable to go further down.

“Okay, good. Deep breaths. Stay there, I’m coming for you.”

Dean started climbing the stairs when he heard the floor creak above his head. He looked up, thinking Cas was still trying to reach him, but his blood froze in his veins when he saw a tall, dark figure standing behind Cas, brandishing a long and massive wooden baseball bat above his shaved head.

There was nothing he could do. Nothing. Everything happened too fast, yet it felt like time was in slow motion. He saw Raphael pull the bat even higher, even farther behind him, twisting his torso as he cranked all his might, all his anger in his swing. Dean noticed Raphael’s right temple was bleeding, and he still felt a tiny bit of satisfaction knowing Cas was strong enough to hurt the bastard.

He probably screamed Cas’s name, or something else, he couldn’t tell. But he made a noise of some sort, because Castiel opened his eyes and looked at him, fear and incomprehension clouding the blue of his irises.

He couldn’t take his eyes off Castiel’s as, in the last quarter of a second, realization dawned on him. Dean couldn’t take his eyes off Castiel as the bat hit him behind the head, just above his neck, the noise it made making his heart stop. He couldn’t look away as Cas’s head snapped under the impact, as his body became lifeless and fell down the stairs.

“NOOOOO!”

His scream resonated in the house and through his soul as he tried to grab Cas before he fell down the whole flight of stairs. Dean stumbled backwards, supporting almost all of Castiel’s weight and trying to prevent his head from knocking on anything else again, a string of no’s falling down his lips like denying the events that just unraveled before his eyes would make them a simple hallucination.

As he reached down the stairs with Cas in his arms, he laid him down on the floor. Dean hold Cas by the pit of his arms and kneeled down, carefully placing Cas’s head on his thighs.

“Come on Cas, talk to me. Come on baby, please, please, please, talk to me.” He gently slapped Castiel’s cheek, trying to wake him up. “Come on sweetheart, it’s nothing, you’ve been through much worse. Please, I’m right here, please, wake up.”

Dean reached between his thighs and tried to feel Castiel’s head and see if he had any wound. His hand came out full of blood, panic slowly taking control over him.

“No, no no no no no, baby don’t do this to me. Please Cas, please” Dean begged, tears blurring his vision, “Please, stay with me.”

Suddenly, a vivid pain at the top of his head made him scream. Raphael had come down the stairs and was pulling Dean by the hair away from Cas. Dean tried to free himself, pulling and gesticulating, the despair and rage he felt acting like the strongest analgesic he’d ever taken. He kicked and scratched and screamed until finally Raphael let go of him.

Dean didn’t even take a second to recover; the moment he was standing on his feet, he launched himself at Raphael, taking him by surprise. Dean slammed him into a wall, knocking the air out of his lungs, and then started to punch anything and everything he could reach. He was hitting with all the force he could manage, putting all the rage he had against Raphael in every punch, like every one of them could infuse some life back into Castiel, like it could make things better. He felt his knuckles break one by one, but the physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional distress he was experiencing.

Dean couldn’t think clearly. Life couldn’t be so stupid. Life couldn’t be so cruel. Surviving a car crash just to see your boyfriend get his brain bashed in by his psychopath of an ex? No. Nah-ah. This could not be happening. No way.

He couldn’t lose the only person in this world that made him feel wanted. The only person to love him unconditionally like he was. The only person so pure, so beautiful, so full of kindness and understanding that it was dripping from his pores like a saturated sunrise. The only person in this whole world to had enough to give for Dean, and that had the power to finally let Dean give in return.

He kept throwing hits and punches until Raphael’s hands stopped moving, lying on the floor beside his unconscious body. His face was hardly recognizable, blood covering most of his face, his eyes, lips and cheekbones swollen. One thing sure, he would have one hell of a headache when he’d wake up.

Dean stood up and kicked Raphael in the ribs just for good measure before walking back to Castiel, still unconscious at the bottom of the stairs. A crimson puddle of blood was forming underneath his head, but Dean didn’t care. He pulled Castiel into his arms and hold him tight, tears flowing again down his cheeks.

“Please, baby… Come back to me. Please, please, he can’t hurt you anymore, please come back. I love you. Please come back. I came back to you, you can come back to me too. Please, I can’t live without you. You’re my sunshine.”

Dean rocked Castiel back and forth, murmuring soft encouragements and love words to him, singing him his favorite songs to appease him. Dean put pressure to his head wound and trying to stop the blood until the flashing blue and red lights of a police car and the ear-splitting siren of the ambulance broke the darkness.

Chapter Text

Today

 

Dean looks at himself in the bathroom mirror and smiles. For someone who’s not used to wear suits, he nails it. His tie hangs just the right way, his jacket fits him perfectly, and his black belt shines under the light, matching his polished shoes. Really, Sam chose well.

He adjusts his tie a bit, passes a hand through his hair and leaves the bathroom. He grabs his car keys and the bouquet of flowers lying on the table in the living room and heads out, gently closing the door behind him. The sun shines bright in the sky, the warmth of its afternoon rays comforting Dean. He takes a deep breath as he locks the door, trying to relax.

Dean jumps in his Impala and starts the engine with a roar. No matter how many years will pass, the sound it makes will always send chills down his spine. There is nothing like it. He swiftly drives out of the parking lot and sets his route for a spot just outside of town. He turns on the radio, and softly sings to the beat, windows down.

It doesn’t take long for him to reach the area. He parks his car near the gates, grabs the flower bouquet and gets out, the door screaming in protest as he closes it. He walks through the metal gates on a small sidewalk, swaying between headstones on each side until he reaches a particular one he knows well. When he finally sees it, he walks to it and kneels down.

“Hey, beautiful” he whispers, his fingers brushing the side of the stone. “Long time no see.”

His last visit was over six months ago. He feels guilty for not visiting more often, but life got in the way.

“I missed you” he says. “You know, the last few months have been real busy. Jess is pregnant. I can’t believe Sam and her are going to have a baby. I feel like he’s still a baby himself, even though he’s almost 35. I guess he’ll always stay my little brother, even when we’ll be 60.”

He looks around, the wind blowing gently on his skin, the sun warming his soul; this couldn’t be a better day. He sits on the ground, his legs getting cramped from being folded underneath him. As he does, he lays down the bouquet in front of the headstone.

“Those are for you. I know you love white Calla Lilies, so I made sure the florist put some in there. I hope you like it.”

Dean keeps talking alone for a few minutes, marvelling at the beautiful weather, at how work is always a pain in the ass even though he knows Bobby isn’t doing anything wrong, how he came across a customer wanting him to repair a really cute baby blue 1965 Sunbeam Tiger. He talks a bit about Sam too, and how well the kid is doing in life. After a while, he looks at his watch and decides it’s time to go.

“I need to leave again, but I promise this time there won’t be 6 months between now and my next visit. I will come back soon with the answer to the grand question.”

He kisses his hand before putting it on the stone of his mother's grave. He gets up and walks back to his car, humming softly. He starts the engine, and make his way to The Angel’s Hive.

 

***

 

Castiel tastes the sauce he just made and closes his eyes. It’s perfect, just like he needs it to be. He searches for his utensil, wanting to pour it into a giant bowl so they can all have access to it.

“I can’t find my spatula, Benny.”

“It’s on your left, about an inch above your hand” a rough voice says beside him.

Castiel lifts his left hand a bit until he encounters a chill plastic handle that he grabs. With his spatula in hand, he fumbles to find his bowl, and when he’s pretty sure he’s not going to pour the whole thing on the ground, he starts tilting his pan.

“Charlie, how’s that chicken going?” He asks as he finishes pouring his sauce.

“2 minutes left, Chef” she says from his left.

“Good. How about those salads?”

“All ready, waiting for Charlie before putting the dressing in!” Says Kevin, a young Asian cook Castiel hired a few months ago.

“Perfect. Doing a good job guys, keep it up.”

People had frowned upon Castiel’s plan at first for wanting to open his own restaurant. It is true that after what happened with Raphael and all that ensued didn’t make things easier, but he wanted to do try anyway.

He had luck, no matter how bad it was in the beginning. When he opened his eyes for the first time after the attack and the doctor explained to him that he would be blind for the rest of his life due to the blow to the back of his head was… hard to accept. He wouldn’t be able to see Dean’s face ever again, he wouldn’t be able to see Charlie’s fiery red hair. He wouldn’t be able to see the food he prepares, or the flowers outside, or even just the sky. All he had left were memories, and he realized how quick they could become blurry.

But he learned how to see with his hands, and how to surround himself with people he could trust to be his eyes. He’s learned how to cook without his eyes (thanks to Dean and his fucking amazing way to reward him when he’d be able to cook a meal from A to Z). He’s learned how to choose clothes or shoes without seeing them; his walk-in is separated in colors, and he knows exactly where each color is. He’s learned to live with his blindness and to make the most out of it.

Benny had wanted to open his own restaurant for a while too, so they decided one day to just go for it. Benny had the money, Castiel had the concept, they both had the talent, and they already had a team building itself up. They’ve decided Benny would be Castiel’s eyes in the kitchen, keeping him informed on what was going on, who was where, what was where, along with making sure it was all a safe environment for Castiel to work in. A year later, The Angel’s Hive opened its doors for the first time and it has been a success since then.

“Your prince is here.”

Benny’s voice pulls Castiel out of his thoughts. Castiel turns around, and he feels the warm hand of Dean on his. He knows every inch of Dean. He could be able to tell, between five hundred different hands, that this one was Dean’s.

“Hey, Babe.”

The ruffle of fabric tells him Dean is leaning in to kiss him, so he closes his eyes and waits for Dean’s full lips to touch his. Kissing is the kind of thing you don’t realize you need your eyes to do it properly until you experience kissing someone in complete darkness. It’s hard to find someone else’s lips when you can’t see his or her entire face, so it’s clumsy most of the time.

But Dean still sees, so he plants a soft kiss directly on Castiel’s lips before pulling away.

“I brought you clothes for tonight. Are you ready to leave soon?” Dean asked.

“Yes. Benny can take care of things before Chuck gets here.”

“Good.” Dean grabs Castiel’s hand and places the hook of a hanger around his fingers, the cold metal biting his skin. “Here’s what you need. Now come with me, I’ll guide you to the bathroom so you can change.”

They walk together through the kitchen and the staffroom, Dean leading Cas to a small opening between the lockers.

“If you need anything, yell, I’ll be right here.”

“Thank you.”

Castiel closes the door without turning on the light. There is no point anyway. He finds the hook behind the door and hangs his clothes on it, before starting to undress. A few minutes later, he comes out of the bathroom, wearing his favorite dark blue three piece, and he asks Dean for help with his tie.

“God you look hot” Dean whispers as he knots Castiel’s tie. “If it didn’t take me 6 months to get this reservation I would take you back home…”

“Going to this place doesn’t mean you can’t take me back home after.” Castiel smiles and leans in to kiss Dean, using his hands to find his lips.

“I love you” Dean whispers.

“I love you too.”

 

***

 

The restaurant is close enough from Castiel’s workplace; in less than 30 minutes, they are both standing in the small hall, waiting for the hostess to find their table. Castiel is holding Dean’s arm with his left hand, his right hand tightly wrapped around his white cane. He can hear a band playing a soft melody, making the place feel really cozy and intimate. The smells coming from the kitchen are making Castiel’s mouth water.

“Tell me what it looks like” he asks.

“The walls are painted in the tones of beige and brown. The sealing is high, and there is a magnificent chandelier on top of us, with hundreds of crystals hanging from it. The way the light goes through them makes the walls shine with tiny rays and rainbows. The tables are small and round, with dark drapes around the chairs. There’s a flower bouquet in the middle of each table. And there is a band in the far back, playing I don’t know what.”

“It’s Jazz.”

“Yeah. That.”

Castiel could hear the smile in Dean’s voice. The first time he had asked Dean to described something, it was as precise as a 4 year-old would have described.

“Mr. Winchester?”

“That’s me” Dean says beside him.

“Your table is finally ready. Please follow me.”

They get to their table near the band and Dean helps Castiel choose his meal. He refuses to tell him how much everything costs, though. They also order a bottle of champagne, and when the waiter comes back with the bottle and two already filled flutes, they both rise their drink.

“To nine years of happiness” Dean softly says.

“To nine years and many others to come.”

They talk as they wait for their plates to arrive, Dean asking how Castiel’s day went, Castiel asking if Dean finally got his vacation for next week. They had planned a small road trip to go see Castiel’s family in Massachusetts, and they were just waiting for Bobby to approve Dean’s vacation.

“I’ll know tomorrow. Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go to the bathroom.”

“You went to the bathroom before leaving, how come you gotta go again?” Castiel asks.

Dean kisses him on the forehead and whispers, “I’m getting old.”

Castiel laughs and pats him on the shoulder as Dean walks away. He sits alone, closing his eyes and enjoying the music that plays just in front of him. The melody is soft, and calm, and he takes a breath as it comes to an end.

Someone clears his throat in front of the mic, breaking the moment of peace.

“Huh, Hi.” The voice seems unsure.

Uh oh.

“Sorry for bothering you all but I have a little something to tell to a little someone that is really important to me. So here goes…”

Castiel could recognize this voice everywhere.

What the hell is happening?

The first note of his favorite song start to resonate in the room, the guitar sounding amazing as the song moves between tables.

 

“When your legs don’t work like they used to before

And I can’t sweep you off of your feet

Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love

Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks”

 

Castiel puts a hand on his chest, the smile on his face as wide as could be. This couldn’t be happening. Dean singing in front of all these people, just for him? He could have done that at home, with his own guitar, but no. Apparently, he was going all in for their anniversary.

Castiel sways with the song, enjoying every single word Dean sings, every single note escaping the guitar. He still can’t believe Dean is up on stage for him.

 

“‘Cause honey your soul can never grow old,

It’s evergreen

Baby your smile’s forever in my mind and memory”

 

There’s suddenly a hand softly grabbing his arm, and a woman’s voice tells him to get up and follow her. Castiel does what he’s told, and the waitress gently pulls him towards the stage, warning him when they get to the stairs to climb on it. Castiel stands there, where he thinks he’s face to face with Dean who keeps singing. The moment is surreal. It’s probably the most romantic gesture Dean has ever done for him, and considering the fact Dean is a hopeless 14 year old girl when it comes to Cas, it means a lot.

The song comes to an end, to Castiel’s desolation, and he feels Dean grab his hand.

“Cas, the moment I saw you in that restaurant nine years ago, I knew my heart wouldn’t be able to live without you. We’ve been through our highs and lows, and God knows they were higher and lower than the vast majority. The first year was tough. But after all that, we remain together, and that made us stronger.”

Castiel is breathing hard, his free hand on his mouth in a vain attempt to keep a minimum of composure in front of everyone.

“I know we are meant to be together. The last nine years are a proof of that. I’ve never been so happy in my entire life, and I know you are feeling the same. It would be an honor for me to cherish you, and to dedicate the rest of my life to your happiness.”

Tears are flowing down Castiel’s cheeks. He can’t speak, he can’t move, he can’t breathe. This is the most beautiful thing someone has said to him. He hears a ruffle of clothes and he feels Dean kneeling in front of him.

Oh God, have mercy.

“Castiel Novak… Will you marry me?”

Castiel falls to his knees in front of Dean, sobbing.

“Of course, you crazy!”

They kiss, both sitting on the stage, as everyone in the restaurant claps and screams for them.

Yes, it’s been hard in the beginning. Yes, life threw some real shit at both of them. But the beautiful thing about love is that there will always be someone behind you, helping you back on your feet, helping you brave everything that life can throw at you. Dean was that person for him, and Casknows they will forever have each other’s back, through the good and the bad. So of course, the answer is yes. The answer will always be yes when it comes to Dean.