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Grooming Instincts

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That’s it. That’s the last. Fucking. Straw.

Dean storms down the hall toward Cas’s room, ready to spit gravel. “CAS!” He bellows, pounding on the door. “Cas, open up! We gotta talk!”

The door blows open of its own accord. Cas is poised like a caged lion, ready to fight. Dean barges in and slams the door.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” he demands. “That was totally uncalled for!”

Castiel says nothing, just rolls his eyes and starts pacing, restless, scowling. Dean jabs a finger at him.

“You can be a dick to me if you need to, OK? Hell, you can be a dick to Sam. We can take it. But Charlie? Kevin? No way. You hurt them, you’re going to have to answer to me.”

“They are not physically harmed,” Cas growls, almost subsonic.

“You made Charlie cry, Cas! That counts!” Dean can hardly believe what he’s hearing. He knew Cas was a little bit stupid with emotions but the level of dickishness he’d been displaying for the past few days was unprecedented. He’d be worried about the guy if he weren’t so pissed off.

“It’s not important.”

“Uh, yes it is. I’m telling you that it is, Cas.”

“Her hobbies --” he says this with a curl of his upper lip that Dean wants to slap.

“Her hobbies are important to HER, you ass. Jeeze. What’s gotten into you lately?”

Cas stops pacing and draws himself up, nostrils flaring. “It’s. None. Of your. Concern.”

“Bullshit. What, is this some kind of angel PMS you got going on? Huh?”

Suddenly Castiel is right up in Dean’s face, barely a handspan between their noses. “You will keep your misogynistic commentary to yourself, Dean,” he growls. “I told you to stop prying, so please. Leave.” Across the room, a light bulb pops and shatters with a bellish tinkle. Dean doesn’t blink. Bingo. He’s hit a sore spot and he knows it.

“That’s it, isn’t it?” Dean almost crows, pushing back into the angel’s space. “This is some holy time of the month or something?”

“Dean... no,” Cas says, turning away. He doesn’t start pacing again; just stands there in the middle of the room, presenting Dean with a standoffish wall of trenchcoat. But Dean has spent a lifetime of getting answers out of reluctant people. He can wait him out.

Patience pays off when Cas sighs, shoulders sagging. “I’m.... molting.”

That -- He can’t have heard that right. Dean blinks hard as if that will make the words make sense. “You -- you’re what?”

Cas turns back, still slumped in defeat and his expression sour. “Molting. Or at least, that’s the closest analogy in your language.”

“Huh.” That was... definitely not what Dean was expecting. “I didn’t know angels even did that.”

“I’m certain it hasn’t happened on Earth in several millennia,” he says, rolling his neck from side to side. “It’s very uncomfortable.”

Come to think of it, he does look uncomfortable. Dean takes a closer look at his friend, stepping near. His face is blotchy, both pale and flushed, and he looks like he hasn’t slept in -- well, he doesn’t sleep ever, but he usually doesn’t LOOK like he hasn’t slept in weeks. He keeps rolling his shoulders like he’s trying to work a kink out of his neck or spine. “Huh,” Dean says again. “So... do you guys actually have, like... feathers?”

And then Cas gives him a truly withering look, all cracking ice, and ok, maybe that was a little personal. Dean holds up both hands in surrender.

“Ok, alright, I’ll drop it. But look.” He brings out his Serious Dad Face, which he never thought he would have to use on Cas, but, well, there it is. “I get that you’re grumpy and hormonal or whatever. But you can’t be taking it out on Kevin and Charlie like that, ok? It’s just -- They don’t deserve that.”

Cas... actually looks chastised, which is surprising. Dean was expecting another sneer and scoff, but he purses his lips at the floor and sighs. “I may have been out of line,” he admits. “I will try to find alternative outlets for my... frustration.” He growls the last word a little, hunching his shoulders again.

Dean nods. “Well, um. Good.” That seems to be the end of his task here, but something keeps him from turning his feet to leave. He stands there like a dumbass, letting the silence stretch thinner and thinner and thinner until he finally asks the stupid question that’s hovering behind his lips --

“Is there, um. Anything I can do? To help?” he asks.

Cas looks up from the floor then, sharp and wide-eyed. His lips fall open, but he closes them again in less than a breath. “No,” he says, with a quick shake of his head. “No, there’s nothing.”

He’s probably lying, and not well. But it’s also probably personal, this whole molting process and whatever it entails, so Dean accepts his rebuttal with as much dignity as possible. “Alright. Just -- let me know if -- yeah.” Finally, his feet obey his directions to lead him out of the room. Even if they make a couple of unplanned rest stops. “And you’ll apologize to Charlie, right?” he asks with one foot angled into the hall.

Cas restrains an eyeroll, but it looks like it costs him something. “Yes, Dean, I will apologize to Charlie.”

“Okay. Okay. Great. I’ll just --” Dean almost runs into the door on the way out, and decides that it would be more graceful just leave that sentence unfinished.

~*~

That night, out of a deep sleep, Dean startles awake to a metallic crash. He almost puts a bullet through the door, but manages to control his trigger finger at the last second to tuck his gun back under his pillow. He’s fine. Safe. He’s still not used to it -- not used to the memory foam bed and the closet space and buying groceries instead of take-out -- but he’ll get there. Having Cas and Charlie and Kevin around all the time is helping. Sam too, of course, but Sam is a given.

The crashing comes again, startling Dean to his feet, gun in hand, just in case. He’s not gonna get caught with his pants down, even if he is in his boxers. He tiptoes to the door and down the hall toward the only source of light he can see: the kitchen. He can hear heavy breathing, shambling footsteps, and his not-quite-awake brain is working overdrive, his heart pumping adrenaline. Slowly he shifts down the hall, back to the wall and gun low but ready, until he can peek around the door frame.

It’s Cas. Cas, and a pile of pots and pans on the floor, knocked off their shelves and hooks. Dean sags in relief and he goes to tuck his gun in his waistband -- only to realize a second too late that he is still not wearing pants, and the gun flops over the elastic and onto the floor. For one heartstopping moment Dean throws himself against the wall, but all that happens is a clatter and skitter of metal on flagstone.

“Dean?”

Welp. Jig is up. Dean picks up his gun and moves into the kitchen, setting it down safely near the coffee pot. “Hey, Cas,” he says. “I thought I heard something. Something dangerous, I mean.”

“Oh,” he says, frowning down at the pots and pans as if it hadn’t occurred to him that they might be noisy. “I’m sorry to disturb you. I was restless.”

“I can see that.” When he takes more than two seconds to look at Cas himself... he’s removed his trenchcoat and suit jacket, his tie is tugged loose and limp around his neck, and he’s sweated through his white shirt. Which is weird. Angels don’t sweat, do they? His face is damp too, and his hair is standing on end like he’s been raking his fingers through it for hours. “You look like hell,” he says.

Cas actually almost laughs at that, then sits on one of the stools, hunching over the table with his head in his hands. Dean takes the seat opposite, waiting to see if Cas will speak. “This -- process,” he says. “It’s significantly more uncomfortable than I anticipated.”

“Have you -- I mean, you’ve done this before, right?”

Cas rolls his shoulders again and speaks to the table top. “No.”

“Really?” That’s.... unexpected. “But aren’t you like... billions of years old?”

Cas sends him the most corner-of-the-eye glare Dean has ever seen. “Do I question you on when you first grew pubic hair?”

That startles a laugh out of Dean. “Uh. I guess not. So... is that what this is? Angel puberty?” Dean asks. He sees Cas tense a little and quickly adds, “I’m not trying to pry or anything. If it’s personal or whatever, tell me to fuck off and I will, but, um...” Dean swallows, and realizes he has nothing to end that sentence with that wouldn’t be uncomfortably revealing. He’s worried. He cares about the angel and would really like to help him through this in any way he can, because seeing him suffer like this pulls like a fishhook under Dean’s ribs. “I just wanna help,” he finishes lamely.

Cas pulls his head out of his hands to look at Dean, expression unreadable. Dean faces the scrutiny head-on. Finally, Cas closes his eyes and straightens up. “It’s not easy to explain in three-dimensional terminology. It’s a... metamorphosis. Puberty is not an inaccurate analogy. No less accurate than molting.” He sags back to his elbows on the table, cupping the back of his neck with both hands. “This would be a thousand times easier in Heaven,” he mutters.

“Because you wouldn’t be all pent up in a human-shape?” Dean guesses.

Cas slams a palm on the counter. “No, Dean, because there would be others! I wouldn’t be alone here, I --” And then his eyes shock open wide and he draws back, like he can’t believe what just came out of his mouth, and like he really really didn’t mean to say that. Dean stares at him, eyebrows up.

“Dude,” he says with half a chuckle. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, you’re not alone here.”

Castiel’s eyes squeeze shut. “That is --”

“Is it something only other angels can help with?”

Cas frowns, still wary, but considering. “Not necessarily,” he says slowly. “But --”

Dean cuts him off. “Ok then. I’m here. Just tell me what you need and I’ll do it, okay?” And now he can’t help it, he reaches out and clasps Cas’s shoulder.

He’s tense. The muscles under his skin are like bars of iron, and he jerks under Dean’s touch like he’s shocked him with an electric prod. “Woah, easy. Hey. Look at me.” Cas meets his gaze, barely. Dean can see that he’s on guard, conflicted, breathing heavily through his nose and flinching under Dean’s hand. “Look, I may not know much about angel biology, but -- you gotta relax, man. And, uh.” He bites his tongue, but there’s nothing for it. In for a penny, they say. “That’s something I think I can help with. If you want.”

Cas blinks at him, more confused and head-tilty-squinty than Dean has seen him in a long time. It’s... goddamnit, it’s cute. Dean grins. “C’mere,” he says, and lets go of Cas’s tense shoulder. It takes him a second to actually follow Dean out of the kitchen, but when he does, it’s a relief. Because otherwise Dean was going to feel like an idiot.

He doesn’t even stop to consider that this is a Bad Idea. Or the fact that he’s in a T-shirt and boxers, which will hide absolutely NOTHING. Or that Cas is only wearing one layer of shirt, which makes him almost as undressed as Dean is, relatively speaking. All he’s thinking about -- all he’s letting himself think about -- is the fact that Cas needs his help, and this might not be perfect, but it’s something he can provide.

When they get to the couch, Dean plops down, seated sideways with one leg folded up in front of him. “Have a seat,” he says, gesturing in front of him.

Cas sits cautiously, sitting properly on the couch, facing forward. “What are you going to do?”

Dean sucks in a breath. “I’m just going to rub your shoulders a bit. See if I can work out some of the tension. Is that okay?” He doesn’t add that he’s mostly only done this for women he was trying to sleep with. There’s no reason for Cas to know that. That’s not what this is. It’s not. Really.

Cas’s expression clears. “That... yes. That might help.”

“Good. Now turn, sit sideways so I can get your back.”

It’s awkward. The angle is terrible, and Dean is reaching too far forward so it’s going to put an awful kink in his own shoulders. The muscles under his hands... He’s not even sure if he’s going to be able to help because Cas feels like he’s made out of wire and plywood. There’s no give. None at all.

Dean shifts a little closer -- his bare shin presses against the warmth of Cas’s hips -- and starts to move his hands in long circling sweeps over the breadth of Cas’s shoulders, and a shiver races over him from neck to tailbone. He gasps, then lets out one long, gravelly groan before he clams up and goes rigid again.

“Just relax,” Dean murmurs, a whisper and not entirely intentional.

Cas breathes out again, not quite a sigh but not not a sigh. Dean sweeps his hands in big, broad movements, more just brushing the shirt around than actually massaging, just getting Cas used to his hands. Cas starts to move with the rocking of his hands, so he applies a little more pressure along the edge of Cas’s shoulder blades, up the line of muscle to his neck, firmer over the rounds of his shoulders. By the third circle, that wire-tension starts to give under his hands.

“Feel good?” Dean asks.

Cas’s hair brushes Dean’s fingertips on the next upstroke as he nods. “Yes,” he murmurs on an exhale.

Feeling bold, Dean smirks and starts kneading firmly at the muscles at the top of Cas’s shoulders. It’s different, massaging a dude. The women he’s done this for, he felt like he could break them if he pushed too hard. Their skin gave easily and their muscles and bones were like soft putty in his hands. But Cas? Even after he starts to melt under Dean’s touch, Cas remains reassuringly solid. Thick and firm. Even if he weren’t an angel, Dean could probably stand on him and he wouldn’t feel the pinch.

Dean can feel Cas loosening up under his thumbs, his shoulders starting to roll forward, swaying with the pressure. Dean wants to turn him so that he’s braced against the back of the sofa, but... that might get a little suggestive. He’s already feeling a low swirl of heat in his gut just at getting his hands all over the guy he’s secretly had the hots for since before the apocalypse. It’s not a dangerous situation yet, but if he --

“Ohhhhhhh....” A low moan rumbles into his hands from Cas’s ribs.

A-yup. There it is. Dean tries not to freeze, to just continue the slow rolls of his hands over Cas’s loosening shoulders, even when heat rushes to his groin and he feels himself starting to chub up. He clears his throat and shifts his legs on the couch cushion. This is fine. He’s fine. He’s in control of the situation.

He switches tactics, kneading and squeezing at the swell of Cas’s shoulders until they start to loosen and roll of their own accord. When Cas sits up a little straighter Dean hears his spine crack and chuckles. “I heard that. Feel good?”

Cas just nods. “Harder, please,” he says, and it comes out breathy and low. That... that is not helping.

Following the thick lines of tension, Dean circles his fingertips down both sides of the spine. He finds a knot under the right shoulder blade that gets a soft gasp from Cas as he works and rolls it away; there’s another one on the left and Cas moans. He works lower until he’s pulling and rolling at Cas’s low back with his palms, Cas leaning forward now of his own accord to grant Dean better access. Still, the angle is terrible down there, so he tugs on the shirt a little to pull him up, tries not to think about other reasons he might have for pulling on Cas’s clothes and.... Yeah. Never mind that.

When Cas is sitting up again, listing to the side a little, Dean rolls his shoulders around a little bit, then starts working his way gently up the back of his neck. Cas presses back under his hands, angling his head from side to side to expose new pressure points to Dean’s fingers. He finds the hard ropes of tension on either side of the back of Cas’s neck and starts rolling his thumbs over and over the crunching knots.

“Ah!” Cas gasps.

Unable to help himself, Dean leans up and sinks his fingers into Cas’s hair. It’s thick and wild, and when Dean tightens his grip Cas hummmms, practically purring. Dean alternates short tugs and sweeps through his hair with rubbing slow, small circles into Cas’s scalp, watching Cas slowly melt sideways into the sofa back.

Eventually, his shoulders start to protest at the reach, and he lets his hands sweep down Cas’s neck and shoulders as he pulls away. “Better?” he asks.

Castiel just mumbles into the couch cushion. Dean chuckles at him, shifting himself to make sure he’s decent -- he’d hoped his dick would get the memo that there was no further action to be had, but that had only kind of worked. When he stands up, Cas flops backward against the back of the sofa and all of Dean’s efforts at controlling his body’s reaction goes straight out the window.

Dude looks like he needs a cigarette. There’s a dewy glow in his eyes and a dopey smile on his face, and he’s flopping against the back of the sofa like Dean removed his bones instead of just a few knots from his shoulders. He looks like he’s been dosed with some serious happy drugs, and Dean’s not sure what to make of it. “Guess you needed that, huh?”

“Deann...” is all that Castiel says, and it’s a long quiet moan that Does Things to Dean’s nether regions. He bites down hard on his tongue.

“Yeah?” he answers.

“Thank you. That --” Cas sucks in air and melts a little deeper into the couch cushions. “That was exactly what I needed.”

In spite of the awkward arousal circling his gut, Dean can’t help a shy grin. “No problem, buddy.” Now turn and walk away, Winchester. Just turn. And walk away.

Dean moves around the back of the sofa toward the hall, reaching over it to pat Cas’s shoulder one last time. “Just, uh -- let me know if there’s anything else I can do, alright?” he says.

Cas nods, and Dean could swear he nuzzled his hair against Dean’s wrist on purpose. The wrist of the hand that is still lingering near Cas’s collarbone. The hand that he really should withdraw, like he should withdraw himself from this entire situation. “I will,” Cas promises, and Dean pretends that he doesn’t feel that rumbling voice right through his fingertips.

Finally retrieving his hand, Dean nods. “Well, um. Good.” Step toward the door, Winchester. “Uh. G’night, Cas.” One more step toward the door.

“Good night, Dean.”

And with that, Dean leaves the punch-drunk angel and scurries back down the hall toward his room. He doesn’t exhale until he’s closed the door behind him.

~*~

“Blue shell. BLUE SHELL! -- NO, ugh, stupid mushroom.”

“Get her -- Dammit, Charlie, how’d you get so far ahead?”

“Pffft, it’s called a shortcut, Dean, OBViously!”

“Kevin, get her -- GET HER!”

“I can’t! AAAHHH NOOOO!!”

“WOOO! Suck it, bitches!”

Kevin’s Yoshi follows Charlie’s Toadette across the finish line with a desultory slide, then several computer-controlled characters, and then Dean’s Bowzer in a semi-respectable 9th place.

Well. Respectable for Dean, at any rate.

Charlie does a victory lap around the living room, pausing only to beg a high five out of Sam, then hops up on the couch cushions to crow, “I am the undisputed Kart Champion of the bunker! WOO!”. Dean can’t argue that point, but Kevin still stands half a chance at unseating her.

As they’re debating a (third) rematch, out of the corner of his eye Dean notices Cas shuffle awkwardly into the room, though nobody else seems to. He’s all quiet-like and keeping his back to the wall, and he’s eyeballing Charlie like he doesn’t know quite what to make of her. Dean has seen the guy face down archangels and princes of hell with less trepidation than this.

Which is why Dean can’t help but be a little bit of a dick. “Hey, Cas,” he says, shining a spotlight right on the poor guy. Charlie’s grin falters a little and her friendly debate with Kevin sputters to a halt.

Cas spares a glare for Dean, then he bravely steps toward Charlie. “I want to apologize for last night,” he says. “I was not feeling well. My words were harsh. I’m sorry.” Dean bites down on a smile and wonders how many times he practiced that.

Charlie blinks in surprise, but her grin grows back to full brightness. “S’okay,” she shrugs. “Wanna play Mario Kart?”

“Here -- take my spot.” Dean hands his controller to the angel and vacates his seat. Cas frowns down at the buttons like he’s not sure which side is up, but he gamely takes Dean’s seat on the couch and focuses intently on the screen. While Charlie gleefully explains the basic premise of the game, and Dean sidles slowly back toward where Sam is leaning against a wall, just watching.

“She’s gonna eat him alive, isn’t she?” Sam asks.

“Oh, probably,” Dean grins.

Sam nodded like this was some kind of cosmic justice. “How’d you talk him into apologizing?”

Dean shrugs as easily as he can. “Told him he was out of line. That’s about it.” That’s about all he was willing to reveal, anyway. Half the story wasn’t his to tell, and the other half.... he didn’t really want to get into how he’d spent half an hour fondling the angel in the middle of the night.

“Really? That’s it?”

“Hey, don’t look at me, dude was just having a bad day and I called him on it.”

Sam’s eyebrows quirk in skepticism, but he doesn’t push. Dean looks back at the little group on the couch. Cas looks better, all things considered: less tense and tired. He sits up straight-backed sandwiched between Kevin and Charlie, and they jostle him a little as they lean side to side as if that will help them steer better. Cas just gingerly prods at his joystick and watches his little car move in slow circles. Fond warmth blooms through Dean’s chest and he has to fight a fool grin off his face.

“So. What’ve you got?” Sam has clearly been waiting for the fun to die down long enough for him to bring up the stack of papers he’s got tucked under one arm; Dean knows a case when he sees one.

Sam just grins as he hands the stack to Dean. “Looks like a tulpa. We’ll want Charlie’s help on this one.”

Dean scans the news articles, moving quickly from confusion right through disbelief and landing on incredulous amusement.

“Seriously?” he asks. “Mutant... Ninja... Turtles?”

~*~

“Dean?”

“Hmfgh?” It’s a testament to how deeply asleep Dean is that Cas’s presence only got him a sleepy rumble rather than a loaded gun in his face. Dean pulls his face out of the pillow and squints up at Cas’s face, swimming in the darkness. “Whuzzup Cas?”

“I --” Cas stops. He’s trembling, and he’s stripped down to his shirtsleeves again. “I need help.”

That works wonders to clear the cobwebs from Dean’s brain. He rolls and shifts, wipes a puddle off his cheek -- embarrassing -- and scoots over. “Kay. Hop in.”

He may only be barely awake, but there is no question in his mind about what Cas needs. He’s too dozy to even second-guess his willingness to let Cas crawl right under his lifted blankets. “Turn around,” Dean murmurs, maneuvering Cas with a hand on his shoulder. Cas more or less settles down with his back to Dean, still sort of stiff but making himself comfortable on the pillow.

It’s not really much of a massage this time. Dean’s sleep-drunk hands just sort of wander over the broad planes and firm lines of Cas’s back, digging in here and there when he remembers the supposed purpose of all this, but mostly he’s just... touching. Aimless and slow, soft and circling. It seems to do the trick though and Cas soon sighs and starts to melt into the mattress. He rolls on his belly, and if Dean didn’t know any better he’d say that Cas was settling in to sleep there with him. Dean scoots closer so that he can reach all the way across the breadth of Cas’s back. He feels good there, a warm solid line from Dean’s chest down to his toes. The shirt is a shifting, rough-textured barrier between Dean’s hand and Cas’s skin, and though it carries the heat and warmth of Cas’s skin with it, Dean wonders how much better this would be if Cas weren’t wearing a shirt at all. If he could run his hand over smooth, warm, unhindered skin. Maybe press his lips to a bare shoulder, the nape of his neck, nuzzle his nose into the little curl of his hair...

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Suddenly the little space between their bodies feels like a molten chasm, and Dean snaps abruptly into total lucidity. “Um.”

Cas must feel him freeze up, or maybe he can hear Dean’s heartbeat revving like a shitty engine. Either way, he goes still -- the wrong kind of stillness -- and murmurs into the pillow, “If you’re uncomfortable, I can leave.”

The way he says it is so small and flat that it catches Dean off guard. “No, it’s okay,” he hears himself saying. And it is. It really is. He’s not bothered or uncomfortable... not for the reasons he should be, anyway. Maybe a little bothered, but only in the “hot and” sense.

Easy tiger, he berates his over-eager body. Down boy. There is not much space between Dean’s groin and the swell of Cas’s hip; Dean shifts back to avoid inadvertently bridging the gap.

Cas doesn’t say anything further, so Dean just lets his fingers and palm continue to shift the shirt around, skating up and down the lines of his back and shoulders. He’s not as tense as he was the previous evening, so Dean doesn’t feel too bad about this less-than-effectual massage. Though he’s.... really not sure what this is doing to help with the molting or whatever. The previous evening was about relieving tension. This? He doesn’t really know what this is about. Maybe he should sit up and give Cas an actual massage if that’s what he came in here for... but then Cas gives a little sigh and he sounds so contented that Dean can’t find it in him to suggest anything other than what they’re doing right now.

Fuck it, Dean thinks. If it’s working for Cas, he’s not gonna question it. Maybe he just likes the comfort. Dean doesn’t remember the last time someone just rubbed his back like this, and all at once he aches and itches for that little comfort. Almost asks Cas to return the favor. But no. Hell no. That would be -- no.

Cas snuggles deeper into Dean’s pillow, and Dean’s hand slows as sleep drags at the edges of his consciousness. Through the wooly fuzz of his sleepiness, he can almost imagine that this is an every-night occurrence. That the warmth of Castiel next to him is something he can just have, always, whenever he wants it. That his hands are accustomed to the shift of muscle under Cas’s skin, sharp wing bones softened by the feathers of his shirt. That the breath fanning out over the pillow is nothing more or less than the flutter off a wing coming in for a landing.

In the morning, Dean has vague memories of pulling Cas close to him in sleep, and he’s all set to be equal parts embarrassed and nervously excited to face him.... but he’s alone. If he goes ahead with being honest, it’s a bit disappointing.

Then he spies it. There in the center of the pillow Cas had claimed as his own, there lays a single long oil-slick black-and-blue feather.

~*~

“Ok. Fill ‘er up, Sammy. I’ma get snacks.”

“Why do I have to pump the gas?”

“Once a little brother, always a little brother. Do you want anything?”

“Just something that’s not full of trans fats and salt, please?”

“So that’s a no, then. Got it.”

Charlie follows Dean into the blissful chill of the air conditioned mini-mart. “Jeeze,” she says, “You’d think you guys were brothers or something.”

“Yeah, well, we’ve done this a few times.” Dean shrugs and starts grabbing snacks off the shelf. They don’t have his favorite jerky, but they do have hand-pies, so that’s something. “See anything you want?”

Charlie snags a package of Red Vines, chewing her cheeks and giving Dean a definite side-eye.

“You got something to say?” Dean finally asks.

“I saw somebody coming out of your room last night,” she says, all faux-casual hands in her pockets and eyes on her shoes.

Dean freezes with his hand on a box of Cheez-its. “Uh. W-who?”

“You know exactly who I’m talking about.”

Dean shifts down the aisle, nervous and shuffling. “Look, Cas was just --”

“I KNEW IT!!” Charlie’s tiny fist goes flying, striking the meat of his bicep with surprising force. “Dean! You sure kept the lid on that one. I mean obviously you guys are head over heels for each other but I didn’t think you were brave enough to actually do anything about it! Why didn’t you tell me? Does Sam know?”

Dean rubs at the smarting spot on his arm as his mind does double-time to try and sort out what she knows and what she thinks she knows. “There’s nothing going on,” he says, and even though it’s the truth it doesn’t feel like it. “He’s just... going through... something, and I’m... helping him out. That’s all.” And wow, when he puts it like that it sounds even worse than it is. He sneaks a glance at Charlie out of the corner of his eye. She is bright pink and her eyes are as round as saucers.

“Is this like... some kind of pon farr thing? Are you sure we should have left him alone with Kevin?” she asks from behind her hand.

“What? No! No, it’s -- it’s not a ‘pon farr’ thing. It’s just... I’m just helping a friend, ok?”

“In the middle of the night. In your bedroom. With his shirt unbuttoned. And his hair all...” she wiggles her fingers over her head, “... pillow-fluffed.”

Dean sighs and tries his goddamned hardest not to grin at the mental image. “Look, will you knock it off? I’m serious.” They’re almost at the register; as an afterthought he grabs two sad, green-and-bruised bananas for Sam.

“Okay, okay,” Charlie concedes. “I’ll allow that maybe nothing is currently going on with you two.” And jeeze, she doesn’t have to sound so put out about it. “But -- you want there to be something. Right?”

Dean doesn’t answer right away. He’s distracted by something in a case of sundries beside the register. It’s a strange assortment, including bandannas, bizarre and useless knives, resin casts of gaudy bald eagles, and...

Charlie is nattering on about how she’s always got a bit of a bi vibe off Dean and “I’ll shut up if you really don’t want to talk about it but you should really talk about it,” but Dean is busy. The crusty old man in front of them finishes purchasing his cases of beer and cigarettes, and Dean shuffles forward with his basket full of goodies.

“And, uh -- one of those,” he points at the back of the case, where a long, curved strip of wood hangs in a plastic wrapper.

The bored pimply teenager behind the counter rings him up, and they step out into the sticky heat of late spring in Missouri.

“What’s that for?” Sam asks as they stroll up to the car. Charlie seems to have taken Dean’s silence for the hint it sort of is and has stopped talking about sensitive subjects. But Sam is looking at the unusual purchase poking out the top of the bag.

“What. Never seen a back scratcher before?” Dean blusters, digging into the depths of the plastic. “Here,” he tosses Sam his bananas. “Don’t spoil your dinner.”

He ignores the bitchface Sam sends him in favor of popping the trunk. He nestles the back scratcher carefully down the side of his duffle, right next to the silky blue-black angel feather.

~*~

The hunt takes them three days plus a day of driving on either side. When they get back to the bunker, Charlie is still ecstatic.

“But SPLINTER! Actually! A rat! And the pizza boxes, just -- EVERYWHERE! UGH I am LIVING for this!”

Dean slumps his duffle on the table in the war room, grinning as he stretches the road kinks out of his back. Charlie’s enthusiasm is catching... but he’s more than ready for a shower and a nap.

And then, of course, Kevin comes barreling in.

“Hey guys? I -- I think something’s wrong with Cas.” That’s the first thing he says.

Dean snaps to attention, vague fantasies of hot water and pillows vanishing from his mind. “What -- Why? What’s going on?”

Kevin looks equal parts worried and frustrated. “First he got all moody again after you guys left, but like, worse than before. Then on the second day he started tearing the place apart.”

Sam spares a concerned glance for the artifacts in the room, but Kevin reassures him, “Nothing important broke. I had to change a lot of light bulbs and the library’s gonna need some re-organizing, and... well, we might need a new TV, I’m not sure....”

“Where is he now?” Dean asks.

“In his room, I think. He hasn’t come out all day.”

Dean is gone before Kevin finishes talking. He only pauses for a second to grab the back scratcher out of his duffle.

There’s no answer when he knocks on Cas’s door. “Cas? You in there?”

No verbal answer, anyway. But the light over Dean’s head browns out a few times, fizzing and sputtering. Dean’s pretty sure the Bunker’s ancient wiring is not to blame.

It might have been against his better judgment, but he turns the door knob -- unlocked -- and steps inside.

Kevin may have been able to restore or rescue the rest of the bunker from the angel’s frustrated wrath, but it’s clear that this room has borne the brunt of the assault. The room is a tornado-wrecked shambles. The hideous green loveseat is overturned, lamps are shattered and toppled off their tables. Bedding ripped off the bed, down to bare mattress, and piled in a heap in the middle of the floor. Books are flung off the shelves like baby birds that never made it to flight.

Dean doesn’t see Cas. He takes two steps in and his foot comes down on a shattered framed photo -- some vaguely pretty architecture -- with a loud crunch.

“Dean?” comes Cas’s voice from the direction of the heap of twisted blankets and pillows. The pile squirms and shifts, and Cas’s head pops out from deep within the folds.

“Holy crap, Cas, what happened to you?” He looks awful. Bloodshot eyes, exhausted pallor in his cheeks, dry lips, and unless Dean is very much mistaken, he has been blowing his nose with sandpaper. “Are you sick? Do angels even get sick?” Without thinking about it Dean moves close and lays a hand on Cas’s forehead. “Dude, you’re burning up --”

Cas whimpers and leans his head hard into Dean’s hand for just a second before pulling away with a wince. “It’s -- I’m fine. It’s related to my -- my molting.”

“Yeah, I could have guessed that one,” Dean says with a frown. “How long is this gonna last?”

The blankets move in what might be a shrug. “Until it’s finished.”

Dean moves closer, on his knees, almost kneeling at the edge of Cas’s cocoon. That’s probably what this is, actually -- some kind of makeshift chrysalis. Dean has the weirdest urge to crawl in there with him, burrow into the blankets and wrap Cas up in his arms. It’s probably wildly inappropriate, even if all he wants to do is cuddle the shit out of him, but physical contact seemed to help the last few times. Maybe he’s not too far off base...?

Then he remembers his flimsy excuse for coming in here. “Oh. Hey. I got you something.” He reaches back to where he’d absently set down the flimsy strip of wood with the finger-curve on one end. Cas lifts his face out of the blankets again and blinks gummy eyes at Dean and the back scratcher. It’s a silly gift, maybe, impulsively purchased, but for a guy who seemed ready to itch himself right out of his skin... “It’s, um. For your back. I mean. I dunno. I just thought -- I mean, not that I’m not here to scratch your back for you, if you want, but -- um.” He shuts his trap as Cas shoulders his way out of the blankets, cocking his head all perplexed-like. “I guess it’s kinda stupid, I’ll just --”

“It’s a gift?” Cas asks.

Dean stops in the act of trying to find somewhere to hide the back scratcher of shame. “Uh. Yeah. I guess.”

One of Cas’s arms extends slowly from the cocoon, palm up. Dean places the back scratcher in Cas’s open palm and it disappears within the depths of the blankets as if swallowed by some great beast.

“Thank you,” Cas rasps.

“Sure thing.” Alright, Dean, escape, now, while you’ve still got some dignity left. Abort, abort, red alert, now, leave.

“Would you --?” Cas’s voice stops him before he makes it two backwards steps toward the door. He can see both of Cas’s shoulders now, and his elbow as he’s shoved himself further out of his nest. There’s a patchy pinprick flush spreading up his neck.

“Would I what?” Dean asks.

The flush consumes the pallor of Cas’s face and he closes his eyes, pulling back in on himself. “You -- you said you would still-” He stops, but what he wants is abundantly clear.

“Yeah, Cas, of course.” In a heartbeat he’s back over by the nest. “Um. Let’s get you back up on the bed, okay?”

Cas is barely better than dead weight when Dean reaches into the tangled blankets and sheets, but he grabs hold under his armpits and hauls him free of the nest. The sight that greets him is… well. Castiel is never exactly immaculate, but now his clothes are rumpled and musty, as if he’s been sleeping in them for three days straight. The shirt hangs off Cas’s shoulders, unbuttoned and hanging open over his bare chest, and his pants are slung low across his.... hipbones. Jesus. Dean tries not to stare -- no really, he tries really fucking hard not to notice the cut of those hipbones. Or the definition of his abs and chest. Or the little mole above his right nipple. No. No noticing.

“You, uh,” he gulps. “This might work better if you lose this shirt?” And where the hell had that come from? He didn’t actually mean to suggest that.

Cas just nods vaguely and stands there, staring at Dean all gummy-eyed and slack-jawed, rumple-headed and -- “Oh,” he says at last, and starts shrugging the shirt off his shoulders.

Only to get caught at the wrists because he hasn’t unbuttoned the cuffs. He struggles weakly for a moment before Dean steps in close and takes his wrist in hand. “Here, hang on --” he says as he works the button free. “There.” Then he does the same to the other side, unable to meet Cas’s dumbfounded gaze straight on, unwilling to acknowledge the pinking blush he can feel in his cheeks. “Go lay down,” he says, and it’s probably too gruff but Cas shuffles toward the bed anyway. Dean grabs a pillow for him but leaves the rest of the blankets where they are.

The sight of Cas face-down on the bed, showing Dean an all-new view of his muscular back and shoulders... Dean is 34 years old. The sight of a dude’s bare back should not be making his belly go supernova with nervous arousal, but, well, there it is. He’s felt those lines before, through the shirt, but like this, nothing but bare skin and the shift of muscles underneath --

He’s so fucked.

But it would be dickish to back out now, so Dean just kicks off his boots and kneels next to him. His knees bump Cas’s hip, warm through Dean’s jeans, and his throat dries up like summer in Nevada. “So --” he coughs, swallows. “Do you, uh. Do you just want me to --?”

“Anything,” Cas sighs into the bare mattress. “Just -- touch. It should help.”

Not like that Winchester, not like fucking that, keep it in your goddamn pants. Dean swallows again and rubs his palms together to warm them up. Anything. Just touch. Yeah. Sure.

Dean starts with his fingertips at the low dip of Cas’s lumbar curve. The skin jumps under his hand, a tremor that ricochets up Cas’s spine and comes out his mouth as a gasp. Dean traces long slow circles over the too-hot skin, from low back to shoulder blades and then out to trail his fingernails down the backs of his arms. Castiel sighs then, a long low exhalation as he wriggles deeper into the bare mattress. Scratching it is, then, gentle blunt nails leaving fine white lines like a musical score over the broad planes of skin. Dean can’t help but be entranced by the shift and play of muscles under skin, bones under muscle, the knowledge that something unseen is going on even under that. Molting, Cas had said. Metamorphosis. And whatever that means to an angel in heaven, here on earth it means that Cas is trapped inside a human body -- one that’s more firmly his than most -- and that doesn’t seem to be doing anything to stop the change. Dean just hopes it’s not complicating the process.

“Is it, um. Going ok?” Dean asks. “Your molting -- thing.”

Cas sighs into the pillow, long and heavy. “It’s... difficult to say.”

Dean waits, still tracing fingertip lines, but Cas doesn’t say anything more. Alright, if he wants to be tight-lipped about it, he can. That’s his prerogative. Dean switches from languid scratching to long, deep rolls with his palms. Cas isn’t so tense on the surface level this time, so he can really get in there, rolling the flesh around, getting to the deeper tension underneath. It would probably work better if he were seated on Cas’s hips but -- no. Absolutely not. He’s already fighting with his body about crossed wires just with the feel of Cas’s skin. He’s not going to go making it worse by having Cas’s hips actually between his legs.

This isn’t about that.

“Ohhh.... Dean......”

... Is it?

Dean’s attention snaps back from the skin directly under his hands to see all of Cas again. Cas is shifting, restless, rolling his spine in a wave down the mattress that ends in a telltale flick of his hips. Fuck. Suddenly Dean is in full meltdown mode, blood pumping to his groin so hard his toes go numb. Son of a bitch. He shifts so he’s more parallel with Cas’s side, fitting his palms on either side of Cas’s lumbar spine, slides up -- should really get some massage oils or something -- sliiiiiiiides his thumbs into the hollows between spine and shoulder blade and --

“AH!” Cas cries out and Dean sees his hands clench into fists. “Dean -- please --”

“Please what?” Dean’s heart is racing. He leaves his thumbs exactly where they are, pressing firmly right at that spot that made Cas light up like Christmas. Cas thrashes, pushing back into the pressure and then squirming away, panting into the pillow. “Does that hurt?”

Cas stills himself with what looks like a lot of effort and, after a moment, says “No.”

“Are you lying?”

“No,” and it sounds truer this time as Cas arches his spine into Dean’s hands. “Please...”

And oh. Fuck. Hearing Cas moaning ‘please’ like that is doing things to Dean’s libido that he really should not encourage. Actually he should probably put a stop to this before Cas notices.

Dean.

But he’s already here, and he can’t -- he won’t leave Cas like this. Dean takes a steeling breath and starts to circle his thumbs into the trapezius muscles, working around and over the shoulder blades and apparently driving Cas absolutely crazy. He’s panting and squirming and clenching his fists and Dean can’t tell if he’s in agony or so turned on he can’t help himself -- maybe both? He’s not saying anything intelligible, but the sounds from his lips are practically pornographic, all please and Dean and half-formed curses.

But the balance tips toward frustrated agony with Cas slamming his fists on the bed, his shoulders locking up like he’s bracing himself for impact, and Dean lets his hands still on the wings of his shoulder blades. “You okay?”

Cas growls and slams both fists down on the mattress. “NO!” he bellows. Behind them, a mirror cracks down the middle and Dean’s hands pop free of Cas’s overheated skin. “I am not! This isn’t -- aaaaaaaaaagggghhh --”

Dean scoots away. “Woah. Hey. Buddy. I was just --”

Castiel glares over his shoulder with a snarl on his lips and a spark of electric blue behind his eyes. “You said you would HELP! THIS IS NOT HELPING!” And there’s a skree of the static electricity in the air, that overdriven whine that nearly burst Dean’s eardrums the day he was pulled from the pit.

“I’m doing the best I can, Cas!” he shouts back. “I thought I was helping! How can I help you if I have no clue what you need?”

Cas’s expression slams closed, and in a flash he’s leaping to his feet, tearing at his hair. “I don’t KNOW -- You’re supposed to --”

Dean pushes himself off the bed, glaring at Cas over the bare mattress. “Don’t go blaming this on me, alright? You can’t even tell me what’s really going on!”

Cas snarls at him, animal and low, but dissolving into an anguished whimper. He curls in on himself, doubles over, long fingers clutching at his hair, his shoulders, anything. “I need --” he pants nonsense against the mattress. “Dean, I can’t… you are -- But I -- I don’t know…

Dean’s anger banks, and he clenches his fists against the urge to pull Cas against his chest and just… “Yeah, well. If you figure it out, give me a call, okay?” He stands up off the bed, bends to grab his boots -- and spies the stupid back scratcher half-buried in the blankets. With a tired sigh he picks it up and edges back toward where Cas is curling in on himself on the bed.

“Here,” he murmurs, poking the angel not-quite-gently in the side. Cas jerks around and stares at Dean and the back scratcher. Then he closes his fingers around the handle. Dean tosses out a wry smirk that falls flat. “Better than nothing, right?”

Cas doesn’t say anything, just looks confused with a squint in his eyebrow as he pulls the little strip of wood closer. He’s practically cuddling it by the time Dean, awkward and wrong-footed, finally flees the room.

~*~

“You sure you gotta head out?” Sam asks Charlie with a face full of sad puppy.

“Yeah,” Charlie sighs. “There’s this cute brunette on a motorcycle waiting for me in New Mexico.”

“Hey, if she ever wants to come back to Kansas, let her know she’s welcome, alright?” Dean reels Charlie in for a hug. “Don’t be a stranger,” he says into her hair.

Charlie nods against Dean’s shoulder, and as he tries to let go she just holds on. “Don’t forget about your own cute brunette, ok?”

Worry cinches tight in Dean’s gut. He’d felt awful all last night, torn back and forth between wanting to find Cas and apologize and still being angry -- and he’s not even sure what happened. It had been a very confusing fight and he’d spent a very confusing evening mulling it over, coming to zero conclusions.

In the morning, Cas hadn’t been in his room. Or anywhere else in the bunker that Dean could point to, even though he’d found his trenchcoat wadded up under the overturned loveseat in his bedroom. So he wasn’t gone, gone, but still...

Ok, sue him, he was worried.

When he pulls back from Charlie’s hug, he’s pretty sure that worry is written all over his face, but she just gives him a sympathetic smile and a pat on the arm. Then she’s turning to be dwarfed by Sam’s giant octopus arms, and Dean’s gaze slides up over the hill on the other side of the road to a place where the sun shines down....

Oh. There he is.

Cross-legged in the grass with his face turned up to catch his own personal ray of sunshine. The cuffs of his shirtsleeves are still undone, shoved up to the elbow, and something about that makes Dean’s chest ache. It’s the contrast between the tan forearms and the stark white shirt; or maybe it’s the fact that he unbuttoned those cuffs. Or both.

Dean ambles slowly up the hillside, giving Castiel plenty of time to tell him to fuck off if he needs to and feeling vaguely nauseated. It feels like every emotion he’s ever felt regarding his angel has been poured into his gut at once, and he’s not sure which will come out on top.

“Hey Cas,” he says when he’s in easy hearing distance. “Can we, um. Can I talk to you?”

If Cas is surprised by his presence, he doesn’t show it. He just cracks his eyes open a sliver and gives Dean a quick glance, a barely perceptible nod.

“I, uh.” What the hell was he supposed to say now? “I’m sorry,” he says. “I know this isn’t easy for you, and... I’m just sorry I can’t do more.”

Cas puffs out a sigh. “I’m sorry too,” he says. “Last night was -- it’s not your fault, and you’ve done nothing but try to help.”

“Yeah,” Dean huffs. “Which amounts to about jack squat.”

“That’s not true.” Cas’s eyes open fully and they are startlingly blue, not the electric grace-glow of the night before but a pure earthly blue, like the reflection of the sky in a lake, and Dean’s breath catches for a second. When Cas opens his mouth to speak again no words come out, so he shuts it. “Thank you for this,” he says instead, holding up the back scratcher.

“Oh. Uh. Sure.” Yeah, ok. He can take a hint. Apparently a cheap gas station novelty can get the job done just as well as he can, with less drama. “I’ll just, uh.” He gestures back down the hill. “Come back down when you’re done up here, ok?” He half-turns and starts to walk away.

“Dean.”

Oh thank god. Dean turns back.

Cas pushes himself to his feet and takes two shaky steps toward Dean. “It’s not enough,” he says, staring at the ground between their feet. “If you still want to help --”

“Of course I do, Cas.” With all his heart, for reasons he has been denying for a very long time, he wants to help.

“We need to get deeper.”

Dean’s eyebrows hit his hairline. “‘Scuse me?”

“Simply working with my vessel won’t be enough. I -- I need you to touch -- my grace.”

“Your grace?” Dean’s heart skips a beat.

Cas nods. “Part of my true form, Dean. My -- my wings.”

“Oh.” That. Breathe, Dean. That. Okay.

“Are you willing?”

“Of course, Cas. Anything.” It really should sound more alarm bells, the gravity with which Cas asks that question. In hindsight Dean is reminded uncomfortably of the required permission to become an angel’s vessel and wonders if this might be a similar thing, but -- even if it is, it’s too late. He agreed without a second thought, and he’d do it again. It’s Cas. He’d do anything.

Cas’s relief is visible as he sighs his head forward. “Thank you. Here.” He reaches into the pocket of his trousers and pulls out a piece of paper. It looks like it’s been folded and refolded a dozen times, worried by nervous hands. “You’ll need this.” He hands it to Dean without looking at him and Dean could swear that was a blush on his cheeks.

He opens the paper, turns it the right way to see the sigil scribbled in pen. It’s not terribly complicated, but it contains symbols Dean has never seen before.

“This’ll let me touch your wings?” he asks.

Exactly one heartbeat too much silence passes before Castiel says, “Yes.”

Ahh, there are those alarm bells. There’s something Cas isn’t telling him. Dean opens his mouth, fully prepared to call him on it -- but then his teeth click back together. What would it change? What could Cas possibly tell him that would change a damn thing? This molting business is personal, and he’s already trusting Dean farther than he really deserves.

So. Okay. There’s more going on. But whatever it is, either Dean doesn’t need to know about it or he’ll find out when it’s relevant. “Okay,” he says. “When do you wanna, um, do this?”

“Tonight?” he asks.

“Sure, Cas. Whenever you want.”

As he heads down the hill, Dean tries and fails to keep a fool grin off his face. He resolutely does not finger the edge of the paper he’s tucked safely in his pocket. And he reminds himself -- firmly -- that this is not a date.

~*~

Dean Winchester does not stand in front of mirrors debating his appearance.

Especially not for platonic not-dates with outcast angels who just need a little assistance with their biological processes.

Which is why you will absolutely never find Dean freshly showered at seven o’clock at night, carefully shaving the scruff from his neck (he just happened to notice he was looking a little scraggly around the edges, that’s all).

It’s not until he finds himself debating green plaid vs solid blue that he realizes exactly what a huge child he’s being about this. He grabs the closest shirt -- blue -- and books it to the kitchen. He needs a fucking beer.

He drinks two beers and gets into one pseudo-argument with Sam about the merits of reading the Game of Thrones books over just watching the show (“It’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Dean, Game of Thrones is just the first one.”). Once Kevin joins in on Sam’s side, he decides he’s had enough getting ganged up on for one night and has probably dawdled long enough. So he makes his meandering way down the hall toward Cas’s room. Just heading to Cas’s room. No big deal. Not like anything’s gonna, y’know, happen. Or anything.

The door is open a crack when he gets there. His heart beats high in his throat as he knocks twice before pushing it wide.

The room has been put to rights since the morning, bed made and lamps repaired or replaced. Cas jumps up from whatever book he was pretending to read at the desk. At least he looks just as nervous as Dean is.

“Hey,” Dean says, shutting the door and lifting his hand in an awkward little wave.

“Hello.” Cas gestures at the jug at the foot of the bed, not meeting Dean’s eyes. “I have the holy oil.”

Dean draws a blank. “Holy oil?”

“For the sigil.”

Oh. “Oh! Right. Obviously.”

“You’ll have to draw it on my back, between my scapulae, from the 12th to the 19th vertebrae.”

“Oh. Uh. Sure.” Dean digs the sigil out of his pocket. “I hope that doesn’t need to be exact, because --”

“Approximations will be fine.” Cas starts unbuttoning his shirt, revealing that the blush in his cheeks goes all the way down his neck to his chest. He still hasn’t buttoned his cuffs, so it slips right off his arms as he turns toward the bed.

“Cas, are you sure you’re ok with this?” Dean asks, even as he moves closer. “I know I’m probably not your first choice for this, but --”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Cas says, still facing the bed. “There is no one else I would share this with, even if I could.”

“Not even -- I mean, if there were other angels around, I’m sure --”

“No.” Cas turns around then and finally looks up to meet Dean’s gaze, and there’s an intensity to his stare that brooks no argument, even if Dean doesn’t really understand what he’s being told.

“Ok. I believe you.” He feels his arm reach out as if it belonged to someone else, feels his hand cupping Cas’s elbow. His skin is cool to the touch, dry under the brush of his thumb, and he watches a prickle of gooseflesh rise from his touch up to Cas’s shoulder. “Um. On the bed?” His tongue is thick in his mouth.

Cas turns to lay himself out face down on the bed, and all at once the realization smacks Dean in the gut -- he’s about to see Cas’s wings. The ones he’s only ever seen in shadows. The wings that had shocked him to the core that first night in the barn. Cas’s actual wings. He doesn’t know how many humans have ever had this privilege, but he’s pretty certain it’s a short list. “Uh. This might be a stupid question, but I’m not gonna get my eyeballs burned out, am I?”

Cas snorts into the pillow. “No, Dean,” he says. “I wouldn’t put you at risk.”

“Right.” Dean nods, then reaches for the jug of oil. Here goes nothing. He climbs onto the bed, places Cas’s drawing of the sigil on the pillow where he can see it, then after a moment’s deliberation swings his knee over Cas’s hips. “Is this ok?” he asks, trying to quell the racing of his own heart as he settles down on the swell of Cas’s ass.

“Fine,” Cas sighs.

Dean shifts a little on his seat. Nope. Better not do that too much. Already this position has his heart thumping, blood warming at the root. He gets one foot up on the bed, which raises him up out of the danger zone well enough, angling his pelvis so that if he gets a hard on -- when he gets a hard on, let’s be honest -- it won’t be pressed directly against Cas’s rump.

But thinking about this is not helping. This is just about Cas, he reminds himself firmly. Just... deal with it.

“Ready?”

Cas nods against his folded arms.

The holy oil is cold and slick on his palm -- unnaturally cold, like menthol or freezing rain. He glances at the sigil, then down at Cas’s shifting shoulders. Takes a deep breath. And starts.

Two fingers trace a circle in cold fire on warm skin. In the wake of the smooth glide of his fingers, the holy oil starts to glow, soft and blue, and Cas sucks in a sharp breath. “Cold?” Dean asks.

“No,” Cas breathes, clenching a fist. He doesn’t elaborate, so Dean just keeps going, following the pattern and trying to pretend that this is just another sigil on a wall, another devil’s trap or banishing spell. As if he could ignore the swells and valleys his fingers pass over, the shuddering breaths and flexing of muscle under his hands, the warmth of pliant skin. Tension starts to seep down from Cas’s shoulders to his lower back, his hips shifting between Dean’s thighs. It’s... distracting, but he keeps working, until the room is bathed in the sigil’s electric blue-white glow.

When at last he connects the last line of the sigil, Cas spasms underneath him, and there is a great whoosh of circling wind. Dean blinks against it, and when he opens his eyes the glow has vanished, and in its place --

“Woah,” he breathes.

Two great wings arch up and out from Cas’s shoulder blades and tuck demurely down his sides. Dean’s almost kneeling on one, they’re tucked so close to his body. For a long moment he just... takes in the sight. They’re not quite what he was expecting. Near his body they are solid and feathery, like he thought they’d be -- inky black feathers with a sheen of blue and green -- but as he lets his gaze sweep along the long lines, past the great bend of the wing, the more ethereal and otherworldly they appear. The feathers sharpen, edged like they’re cut from glass, and at the same time they lose some of their physical presence, turning first translucent and then transparent. By the time he reaches the long primary feathers -- down past his knees -- they are defined only by their edges, like he’s seeing them and looking through them at the same time.

“Dean?” Cas shifts under him, looking back over his shoulder. Dean shakes himself. Probably rude to stare.

“Uh --” he stammers. “Yeah. Sorry. This -- this is incredible.”

Cas ducks his head back down to his arm pillow. Dean could swear he sees the feathers fluff up a little bit, like they’re responding to the praise. “Thank you,” he murmurs quietly.

With a great deal of effort Dean reminds himself that he’s here to do a job, in theory. “So, uh. How do you want me to do this?” he asks. “I get to touch ‘em, right?” He hopes Cas doesn’t notice how eager he sounds, but the truth is he’s already clenching his oil-slick hands trying to keep them to himself.

Then Cas arches in something like a yoga move and the wings arch with him, stretching up and out like he’s rousing them from a long sleep, then tucking them back down. Dean sucks in a breath, because woah they are awesome when they move. “Yes, that is very much part of the plan.”

Cas already sounds breathless; Dean’s not sure he’s gonna survive this. He sucks in a deep breath and begs for strength, then spreads his hands through the oily sigil nestled at the base of the wings. Best to start with something familiar, he figures. The breadth of both hands barely fits nestled between the feathers, and the skin there is warm, slippery with oil. Dean gives a few longs slow rubs up and down Cas’s spine, and then with a thick swallow he moves both palms out and up the arch of each wing.

Cas goes rigid for a moment beneath him, but he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing; he pets his hands up and down the feathery arches. Under his hands the feathers fluff and rise, so he smooths them back down into place. Every few strokes he returns to familiar territory to catch his breath, easing tension in Cas’s neck and spine and delving under his wings to maneuver his shoulder blades around. The holy oil lets his hands slide, slick and smooth over warm skin.

“Mmmmm... Oh--” Cas’s voice is a low constant rumble below him, and whenever he moans Dean can feel it in his hands, through his ribs, and somehow it echoes down his wings too in a vibrating wave. The nascent arousal Dean had been fighting off comes roaring back twofold.

But there’s something.... odd. It takes him a while to put his finger on it, but then... “You sure you’re molting?” Dean asks as he works his hands softly through the feathers. “Because you really just look --” Perfect, he catches himself. “All normal and healthy to me.”

“It’s --” Cas gasps as Dean pushes his wings forward, maneuvering them this way and that and exploring their motion. The wings press back into his touch but don’t resist, and the length of them stretches out to either side, unfurling from their tucked position. “It’s not a perfect metaphor. Just -- keep going, please.”

Alright, if that’s how he wants to be, Dean shrugs to himself and figures he’d better roll with it.

He sticks to the more earthly feathers for a while, learning how they lay, how they connect to the skin. They seem more or less like normal feathers, though he’s never spent a lot of time around birds. He’s loathe to rub them the wrong direction, but they fluff and rise under his hands in a way that encourages him to dig his fingers under the softness (and this leads to some delightful panting and shivering from Cas so it’s probably along the right track). Then he gets braver, moving down the bend of the wing to where the feathers start to fade back into the other world, wherever they live when he can’t see them.

Further down, they feel like... like curtains of soft, cool water, like electrified silk. He pets his hands up and down the long, fine structure, and in the wake of his hands, a change takes place: the ethereal feathers shimmer, phosphorescent and glowing under his touch. The feathers shine briefly a brilliant blue white like the sigil’s glow, then dull back down to their black-brown-green translucency. It’s like fingerpainting with light over a canvass of spreading feathers, and Dean is entranced. Cas unfolds his wings some more, expanding Dean’s canvas up and out so that he’s walled in a V of glowing softness.

He worries at first that where the wings start to fade he might just put his hand right through them, but no -- it’s like pushing on a magnet. They’re there, but they’re not, and wherever he traces his fingers he leaves a glittering white trail. At the farthest end of his reach -- not even halfway down the long primaries that arch up over his head -- his hands start to tingle with a soft static charge.

On a whim, he strums his fingers across the bars of the secondary feathers, watching the bright white splash and flare in the wake of his fingers. They ring out like guitar strings on a subsonic level, vibrating the resonating chamber of his ribcage, and Castiel --

Castiel gasps, and then cries out hoarse and breathy. Dean’s attention snaps to him --

“Cas, are you okay?” he asks in alarm. The angel below him is shivering, rigid like if he lets go of himself he’s going to fly to pieces. His head is hanging down to the pillows and his wings are fully extended, above Dean’s head and far out to the sides, his feathers spread and vibrating and making Dean’s hair stand on end.

“Yes, Dean, I’m fine,” it comes out in a rush. “Please.

And then Cas’s body does a lithe, sinuous roll underneath him, a telltale rocking of his hips between Dean’s legs.

Oh.

Dean’s heart hammers in his chest and his breath comes short. With a shake in his fingers, Dean returns his hands to the skin between his wings. His skin feels so warm now, compared to stroking through the cool solid-air feeling of his wings.

It’s also -- very slick. He rubs his hands and rolls them over the skin and through the feathers at the joint of human body and angelic wing, and when he touches there, the air punches out of Cas and he goes boneless where he was rigid before, wings splaying out over the bed like Dean’s just cut his strings.

“Cas, there’s um. More oil here than I started with.”

Cas doesn’t answer in words. But his wings lift up again, exposing the apparently sensitive joint between body and wing, and he rocks in a steady rhythm into the bed. The trembling feathers stand up in waves, flashing blue-white deep under their depths.

Dean reaches where Cas seems to want his touch the most, down right where the wings join flesh. When he rubs there with the flats of his fingers he feels a slick rush of oil from the pores, and fuck that probably shouldn’t be hot, but with the way Cas is squirming and pushing up into his hands, it definitely is. “Cas are -- are you leaking?”

Cas still says nothing; just hides his face in the pillow. The oil is light but viscous, and it smells faintly of almonds and damp green growing things. It’s discordantly earth-bound and biological compared to the diaphanous shimmer of the wings around him, but when Dean rubs the oil up into the feathers, Castiel gives him a long open-mouthed moan. It’s encouraging.

“Dean -- Oh -- Yes-- Ahhhhhhh,” Castiel is panting over his shoulder, and the words hit Dean right in the gut. “That’s -- touch me there -- spread it through my feathers. If you would. Please.”

Fuck, yeah, he can do that. Dean shifts his hips to make sure his erection is still out of the danger zone -- it is, no matter how much he wants to grind down on Cas, nestle his cock between his ass cheeks, bend down and press his mouth to the place where skin meets feathers and see if that oil tastes like it smells, fuck, is that kinky? He thinks that might be kinky -- but he doesn’t. This is not about him or his desires. It’s about Cas.

“You good?” Dean asks, and his voice sounds gruff and low to his own hears.

Cas nods furiously, fists twisting the sheets below him. “Yes. It’s good. It’s -- helping.”

Dean nods and turns his attention back to the bright walls of wings around him. He presses his fingers in to stimulate the pooling oil, then sweeps his hands up and over the feathers. “Up here too?” he asks, bringing some of the oil to bear on the cut-glass sparkle of the secondary feathers. Cas just nods, so he spreads oil up and down methodically over every feather he can reach, going back to the source periodically for more oil and just to feel Castiel squirm beneath him as he rubs the sensitive glands.

Sue him. He’s only human.

“Dean --” Cas gasps. “Dean, please,” as one of his hands fumbles back until he can grip weakly at Dean’s knee. Even through his jeans Dean can feel his skin jump, like he’d forgotten he could be touched in return. “Please,” Cas breathes as his fingernails scrabble at the denim seam.

Dean stills with his hands cupped around the slick juncture, both thumbs idly brushing over the joint. “What do you need, angel?” he asks, low, and soft. Like a prayer.

“I don’t -- I don’t know, Dean.” There is breathless frustration here, but it is not the anguish of the previous evening. His fingers clutch harder, finding purchase in his jeans and pulling. “Just -- please.

Aw, hell. With a swallow and a nod, Dean shifts his knees until his pelvis dips forward. He leans until he can nuzzle between Cas’s wings. “Fuck, Cas...” he murmurs against the oil-slick skin. He inhales deeply against his skin, rubs his nose and cheeks into the oil and, yeah, it’s all over his face now but that is fine. Just fine. In fact, he opens his mouth and lets the flat of his tongue lick a broad, clean stripe right up the base of one of Cas’s wings.

“AH!” comes the shout from beneath him, and Cas is grinding up and back with his hips, grinding with hot satisfaction against the rise in Dean’s jeans. Groaning into Cas’s skin, Dean pushes back, pressing him into the mattress and he can’t even remember why he was trying not to. Not when his head is buzzing from the static tingle of the wings quivering on either side of him and he has a head full of the heavenly-earth scent of wing oil. He lifts his lips from the juncture and presses them to the downy feathers. It feels like pushing his face through an electrical storm, but the shocks are all pleasure and bliss. He wraps his arms under Cas’s chest, nuzzles down the quivering feathers, spreading oil with his lips. Cas is shaking all along the length of his spine where they’re pressed together. Dean can feel his wings pinching back and in, pinning Dean in a strange backwards embrace.

“Ohhh angel... Cas,” he murmurs against the pinions as he rocks his hips gently against his angel. Arousal melts through him, lava-hot in the bowl of his pelvis, urgent in his cock with every push against the resistance of Cas’s ass cheeks. Goddamn, he’s going to come in his pants like a horny teenager and there’s nothing for it but to try and make sure Cas is at least on board the same boat, so he sits back a bit -- Cas follows with his hips, apparently unwilling to relinquish the contact now that he’s got it, which Dean is totally okay with -- pulls Cas’s hips further back into him and reaches around, under. One hand stays high on his belly, just stroking the soft definition there, while the other finds what he’s looking for.

“Ohh fuck yes --” he groans. Cas’s cock is a rock-hard line in his trousers, humid-hot, and Cas chokes on a gasp.

“Dean -- I can’t -- I’m --”

“I know, sweetheart, I know,” Dean murmurs, rolling his hips and stroking Cas’s cock, nuzzling lips and nose into the slick joint of his wing. “Me too,” he pants.

“Dean -- Oh -- DEAN --”

Then several things happen at once.

Just as the wave of Dean’s pleasure starts to crest, he is buffeted by a storm of electric wind. He’s knocked straight off the bed onto his ass, and his poor frustrated dick doesn’t know what to do with this new development but it definitely seems to be a turn for the worse.

Cas is off the bed too, cowering back against the wall, showing his teeth in a feral grimace. His wings are flared out wide, arching up to the ceiling, lightning tips brushing opposite walls. They are flashing, pulsing, striations of blue-white racing from shoulder to wing tip in a rapid-fire dance, and his eyes are glowing electric blue.

“Cas --?”

Cas jerks at the sound of Dean’s voice, and all at once, as Dean pushes himself up to reach out to him, Cas draws his wings back and with one huge flap of wind --

He’s gone.

Chapter Text

Shit shit shit shit shit fucking shit.

What the hell just happened? He’d thought -- it had seemed like -- but then --

Once his heart stops feeling like it’s going to pound right out of his mouth, Dean is up and out and searching the halls for his wayward angel.

To no avail. Once again, Cas is nowhere to be found in the bunker. Dean even checks the hill outside just in case that’s where he always goes when Dean can’t find him, but nope -- nothing but wind and chilly moonlight. For all Dean knows, he could be on the other side of the planet by now, leaving Dean with the sense memory of electric feathers all around him, the scent of his oil all over Dean’s hands, his face, his chest... man, that stuff gets everywhere.

After an extremely thorough shower, Dean crawls into his own bed, ready to be done with the world for the day. But sleep doesn’t come. The sour pit in his stomach yawns in the darkness, and he lays there for fitful hours, turning everything over and over in his mind.

This is so wrong. He fucked up. Badly. Took advantage of his friend when he was vulnerable, when he’d trusted Dean at his most exposed. And now -- now there’s no telling if he’ll even come back. Who knows? Maybe this is the last straw and now he’s done with Dean and the Winchesters entirely. Maybe he’s gone back to make amends with heaven.

And shit. Maybe. Maybe it’s better that way.

When his alarm goes off, it’s almost a relief, because it means he can stop laying there pretending he’s going to drift off. Feeling gritty and raw, Dean wanders into the kitchen, even though he is the exact opposite of hungry. Maybe some coffee.

Sam is already there, munching on some sort of fruit and yogurt... thing. But Dean does smell coffee, thank God. He grabs a mug at random and pours.

“Morning.” Sam sounds entirely too chipper; Dean just grunts at him. “Rough night?”

Dean doesn’t answer that. He’s too busy staring down at the mug he’s just filled. It’s an Air Force mug. Complete with winged insignia.

Of course it is.

“You seen Cas this morning?” he asks. Completely casual. Turning around to lean on the counter and sipping his still-scalding coffee. There’s every chance that the answer will be a puzzled no, confirming what Dean had found last night: Cas had flown the coop, and if he didn’t want to be found then it was gonna be one son of a bitch trying to find him....

“Yeah, he’s in the library,” Sam says instead.

Oh. Well. That was… far easier than Dean had expected.

Shit, that means he’s actually going to have to talk to Cas, and boy howdy is he ever not ready for that conversation.

He stays rooted to the spot, the hand that’s not holding his mug clenching tight on the edge of the counter. What the hell is he supposed to say? Thanks for letting me rub off on you last night, sorry if I got a little handsy? Hey man, your wings are awesome and there is nothing I want more than to touch them again and you seemed like you might be into that but then you wigged out and I’m a little concerned as to why? Hello, Castiel, Angel of the Lord, whom I totally thought was enthusiastically consenting all over the place last night but apparently --

“Dean? Earth to Dean?”

Dean snaps out of it when Sam waves a hand in front of his face. “Huh?” Dammit. Play cool. Innocent face, Winchester. Innocent. Face.

Sam is already smirking though, clearly not buying it. “I asked if something happened between you two?”

Dean gapes at him. “Wha -- I, uh. No. Pff. No. What something? Why, did he say anything?”

Yeah, Sam is not buying shit, and Dean can’t really blame him. In his defense, the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. “Nope,” Sam grins, then dumps his yogurt bowl in the sink and strolls to the door. “I think I’ll go for a run,” he says, and Dean wants to smack the smug smirk right off his big smug Sammy face. “Good luck with your nothing.”

What a bitch.

Unfortunately, with Sam gone, there’s really nothing but a cup of coffee between Dean and an intensely uncomfortable conversation. He stands in the kitchen for a long time, chewing on words and sipping his slowly cooling cup until he’s out of excuses. Finally, he pushes off the counter -- he’s been standing stock-still for so long that moving feels almost like an out of body experience -- and meanders toward the library.

Cas is there, fortunately. Probably fortunate, at least. He glances up when Dean enters, but quickly blinks back down to whatever book he’s reading.

At the edge of his vision, Dean could swear he catches a flash over Cas’s shoulder, a heat-shimmer of blue-white in the air. But it’s gone before he can look directly at it. If it was ever there in the first place. For just a moment Dean lets himself wonder about Cas’s wings: whether they’re still there, just beyond his perception, or if drawing the sigil had drawn them out of the ether in some more tangible way than just for his benefit. He wonders if they are tucked demurely against Cas’s back, or maybe relaxed down over the back of the chair, draping over the floor. He wonders if Cas can wrap them around himself like a shield. Or a blanket.

Then he blinks back to the here and now, and guilt rises slick and nauseous in his throat again.

Well. Here goes nothing.

“Hey, Cas,” he starts. “Uh... How you feeling?”

Cas looks up, his expression blank, unreadable. But after a moment he closes the slim volume he’s reading and tucks it away.

“Improved,” he says, like a gavel dropping.

“Oh. Uh. Good.” Yeah. Good. Great. Dean swings his arms and tries not to feel like the hovering elephant in the room. Should he sit? There’s an open chair opposite Cas, but. What if that’s too familiar? Silence stretches out, marked by the squeak of Cas’s chair shifting, the pounding of Dean’s own heart.

“Cas I -- I’m sorry,” he finally says. “I shouldn’t have --” A thick swallow, and he can’t meet Cas’s eyes. “I misinterpreted the situation and I -- I got carried away.”

He hears Cas’s chair squeak again, louder, and he risks a darting glance up to see Cas standing, crossing the room slowly.

“I’m not going to make excuses for myself,” he continues, still speaking to the floor. “I crossed a line, and I know that, and -- I mean you, you trusted me, and I blew it, and I honestly didn’t even expect you to still be here, but --” Cas is moving closer, close enough that Dean finds himself staring down at the tugged-loose knot of his tie. “But maybe we can -- I dunno -- move past this? I swear, it was a misunderstanding and it won’t happen again. I promise.”

Finally, Dean looks up to meet Cas’s eyes, and the angel is just looking at him with that perplexed puppy-tilt, a furrow in his brow. Dean waits under that curious stare for several long moments before he cracks.

“You gonna say something?” he asks with a nervous chuckle.

Cas closes the final distance between them, and for one dizzying moment Dean thinks Cas is going to kiss him, and woah that is not where he expected this to go -- but instead he reaches out a hand toward Dean’s face. “W-what’re you --?”

Cas pinches lightly at the skin beneath Dean’s eye; after his first reflexive jerk backwards, Dean just stands there like a confused chump and lets him. He feels the dry, cool pressure of Castiel’s index finger, and then he’s pulling away.

“Uh. What?” Dean stammers.

“You had an eyelash,” is all Cas has to say.

Before Dean can get anywhere with that, Cas brushes past him in a rustle of trenchcoat and heavy footfalls. By the time Dean turns, he’s gone.

~*~

That’s the first time it happens.

A few days pass, uneventful and slow. Sam helps Cas replace the broken mirror in his bedroom with one scavenged from one of the unused rooms, and Dean tries not to feel jealous. (It’s just manual labor, come on. Yeah, but it’s MY manual labor, I should be helping him with that. Don’t you think you’ve helped him enough? And so on, down the spiral of sad guilt.)

Sam’s smirks don’t help the situation, but those smirks turn into confused frowns when Dean and Cas continue to dance around each other. When Dean enters a room, Cas will find an excuse to leave -- or sometimes he’ll just straight up walk out without a word -- and when Cas comes in, Dean will develop sudden urgent business literally anywhere else. It’s making the bunker feel tiny and claustrophobic for all the space they have.

Sam even goes so far as to try and broach the subject with Dean. He comes into the library where Dean’s been idly skimming through a book about Enochian sigils for No Particular Reason, and plops down with his laptop. “Hey, uh. So. I was kidding the other day when I asked if anything happened between you guys but, seriously. Did something happen?”

Dean is much more prepared this time. He gives him the most innocent eyebrows he has in his arsenal and a smooth, “No idea what you’re talking about, Sammy.” Which shuts him up pretty effectively. Even if he’s not happy about it.

“So get this,” Sam says instead, and launches into a summary of a potential case he’s found. (Dean knows he should probably get back to looking for hunts too, most of them seem to come from Sam these days, but right now he’s distracted. Can’t muster up the energy. Just one more thing to feel guilty about.)

“What do you think?” Sam concludes.

“I dunno, Sam. I mean, there’s gotta be more to it than just a dead uncle, a will, and an abandoned mill, right? Is this even our kind of gig?”

Sam rustles his papers with an eager expression. “That’s just the thing, Dean, there has to be more to it...” aaannnnd he’s off again. It actually doesn’t sound like half bad a case -- disappearances going back at regular intervals for decades, some shady business with the uncle’s uncle back in the Depression, and so on -- but Dean is so busy trying to look bored that he doesn’t notice Cas has entered behind him until Sam tries to recruit him for backup.

“Cas, tell him what you found out about this yesterday --”

Dean’s stomach jolts. He follows Sam’s eye line to where Cas is standing in the door -- just in time to watch Cas’s gaze skitter away from him. He tries to ignore the skip-and-beat of his pulse and dredges up a snarky grin. They’re gonna have to get past this eventually; maybe if they can at least work a case together, that’ll break the ice. “Just in time, Cas,” he says. “Save me from my brother’s harebrained ideas, please, I’m begging you.”

Cas hesitates, and his squinty gaze keeps flickering up as high as Dean’s shoulder and then down again, but he moves into the library. “Are you referring to the discrepancies in the burial records?” he asks, coming to stand behind Dean’s chair.

Dean abruptly tunes out, even more than before, because while Sam and Cas are spitballing back and forth about cremation vs burial and whose body was actually in which box, all he can focus on is the fact that Cas is gripping the back of his chair with both hands. He’s not technically intentionally touching Dean, but he can feel Cas’s knuckles, the backs of his fingers, nudging softly into his shoulder blades. Cas looms behind him. Dean can almost detect his breathing ruffling his hair, and it’s not only closer than they’ve been since -- since -- but it’s closer than they usually stand, even with the angel’s disregard for personal space. It’s an intimate distance, weighty in a way that shatters Dean’s loose focus on the case and puts white noise in his ears. He finds himself torn between leaning forward and putting some space between himself and the angel and pushing back into that ghost of a touch.

Then he feels it.

One hand lifts from the back of the chair, hovering in the air behind his head for just a moment before he feels a soft pluck-pluck at his shoulder. Sam’s rambling abruptly cuts off, and he grins at whatever is going on over Dean’s shoulder.

Which Dean is going to pretend to ignore for now. “What?” he asks Sam.

“Uh. Nothing,” Sam says, failing to fight down his grin.

Pluck. Pluck.

That’s it. Dean turns. Cas is frozen, looking the picture of ‘hand in the cookie jar’ caught, bending toward Dean’s shoulder, his hand caught in a weird halfway gesture with his forefinger and thumb pinched together.

Dean blinks at him. “What... are you doing?” he asks.

Cas swallows, then flicks his two fingers. The light catches on a long fine red strand. “You had a hair on your shoulder,” he says quietly.

Dean has absolutely no idea what to make of that. “Huh.”

“There’s another,” Cas says to the chair back that he’s now gripping again, white-knuckled.

Dean cranes his neck and spies a long, incongruous red hair clinging to his flannel. He reaches out to pluck it off himself. “Blame Charlie,” he says. “She’s contagious.”

But Cas is still hovering behind him, looking like he’s sucking sour lemons. Whatever. Dean turns back around, ready to actually focus on the hunt now. Cas can keep his pissy angel face to himself.

Sam is grinning behind his hand, clearly delighted to have a front row seat to this little exchange. He looks like he’s not sure whether he should be stepping between them or taking pictures. Dean leans forward and says, firmly, “So. Tell me more about this case.”

“You hate this case,” Sam says.

Dean plasters on his absolute best shit-eating grin, the real McCoy, and says, “Nah, you were just getting to the good part. Please,” he makes an expansive gesture over Sam’s pile of notes. “Continue.”

Dean does his absolute level best to ignore the angel hovering too-close behind him, the heat he can feel creeping up the back of his neck. But when they break to go make their preparations to head out, he realizes he still hasn’t absorbed a damn thing Sam had said.

~*~

“C’mon, Cas! Daylight’s a-burnin!”

What does an angel even need to pack, anyway? This hunt shouldn’t take more than a day or two, and it’s not like he even changes clothes. Sam is making sure Kevin remembers the lockdown procedure (“Yes, dad, I was in AP calculus, I think I can remember which buttons to press.”) but other than that they’re ready to roll.

“C’mon, Cas! You coming or what?” What in the world is taking so --

Cas appears, striding down the hall toward Dean. He has a wad of fabric in his hands and he is staring critically at Dean’s red plaid flannel shirt. “You are not wearing that,” he grouses.

Dean pulls a face at him. “What are you, the fashion police? It doesn’t matter, let’s just go.”

“No. Here.” Surly and obstinate, Cas holds out a different flannel shirt, this one navy blue with a subtle white plaid.

“Where’d you get that?” Dean asks. “Were you in my room?”

Rather than answer Dean’s totally reasonable question, or hell, even look him in the eye, Cas just shoves the shirt more firmly at Dean and growls, “Put. The shirt. On.”

“Cas -- no! I’ll wear the shirt I wanna wear, okay? It doesn’t matter --” Dean holds his hands up, refusing to touch the apparently preferable flannel. Cas growls, then moves around behind Dean and starts trying to pull the red flannel off his shoulders. “Hey -- hey! Watch the merchandise! What are you --”

Dean should pull away. He should just step out of the angel’s reach, should brace his arms forward to maintain his dignity. But he doesn’t. Must be shock. That’s it. That’s gotta why he just stands there and lets himself be manhandled out of his overshirt.

He stands there in a T-shirt, and this time when Cas pushes the shirt into his chest he just takes it, reflexively. He didn’t WANT to take it. He just. His hands had minds of their own, that’s all. He clutches the shirt Cas picked out for him to his chest, defensive in the chilly air of the bunker. Cas is still scowling. Their gazes lock, and Dean can’t look away, the cool air sends goosebumps in a wave up his arms. Yeah. That’s it. It’s just. Cold in here.

A loud and conspicuous throat clearing interrupts their -- whatever this is. Sam is staring at them with his eyebrows trying to merge into his hairline and a gigantic smirk on his smug face.

“Should I plan on getting my own room this time?” he asks archly.

“No!” Dean almost howls, his face flaming red.

“That would be impractical and unnecessary, given that I don’t sleep,” Cas deadpans.

“Right,” Sam nods, but his gleeful expression only gets brighter. “Well. I’ll be in the car. You kids just... take your time.” He beats a retreat before Dean can fire off a comeback.

The silence stretches between them until Dean unballs the blue plaid shirt he’s still holding and slides it over his arms. “There,” he says, arms wide for inspection. “Happy now?”

In lieu of answering, Cas lets his gaze rake slooooowwwly up and down Dean’s chest, and that deliberate, possessive gaze... it does things to Dean that he promised himself he wouldn’t allow anymore. It can’t mean what he thinks it means. Whatever this is, it’s not -- it can’t be that. He resolutely ignores the heat in his gut and his cheeks and busies himself with buttoning the shirt.

“Leave it,” Cas orders, and his voice is all rough-timbre whiskey and fireplace crackle. Dean swallows on nothing and his fingers fall away from the buttons.

He has a hard time meeting Cas’s eyes this time, certain that if he does Cas will see exactly what that voice does to him.

Then Cas strides past him, moving toward the garage, and Dean could swear that he feels a raw-silk tingle pass over his shoulder, an invisible caress as Cas passes by him. A shiver races down his spine and settles at the root.

Fuck.

What the hell was all that about?

~*~

The worst part is, he can still sort of see Cas’s wings.

Not all the time, and it’s just glimpses at the edge of his vision that make him wonder if he’s imagining things. But as they drive down the highway, he’ll glance in the rear view mirror and catch a dark ragged-edged arch looming under his field of vision. When he turns to look properly, it’s just Cas, squinting out the window.

Or when Dean is trying to wheedle information out of a reluctant sergeant and he can see Cas loitering on the pavement. Cas has his face turned to the sun’s rays, eyes closed, and a faint golden shimmer over his shoulders suggests cool feathers turning to catch the warmth. Dean tries to blink away the weird double-vision image of sunlight glinting off invisible feather-tips, glittering on the down.

Or when they’re poring over local maps, clustered around their motel room’s tiny table. Cas pauses to stretch his back, and Dean’s eye tracks up a shadow stretching out behind him, a silhouette of feathers. He can almost picture the luxurious space he’s stretching out between those stained glass feathers. If he closes his eyes he can see it, an imprint on the inside of his eyelids. The thought sends chills down his spine and he realizes that he’s in the middle of a page that he’s pretended to read three times and the last thing he remembers is five pages ago.

“I’m getting a Coke,” he says just a little too loudly, jostling the table as he stands, and slamming the door before either of them can respond.

The walk to the Coke machine is not nearly long enough. When he gets there he leans his forehead against the softly-glowing surface and sighs out his frustrations.

It’s not even really a Coke machine. It’s fucking RC Cola. Just one more indignity.

He has got to get over this. He has to. It becomes a mantra as he beats his head not-quite-gently against the plastic. Must -- beat -- get -- beat -- over -- beat -- Cas -- beat --

“Dean?” It’s Sam. “Hey, are you okay?”

Game-face time. Dean pulls back, ready with a slick ‘It’s nothing Sammy,’ but one look at Sam’s face and he knows that won’t fly this time. His smooth facade cracks and crumbles, and he leans back against the RC Cola machine, letting his silence speak for him.

Sam speaks first. “Look, I uh. I was just kidding with all that stuff, but... Can you tell me what’s going on? Because you and Cas have been acting really weird around each other. And it’s fine, you guys work out whatever you need to work out, but I just... I need to know if... if you’re okay to be hunting right now?”

Dean’s head snaps up. “Of course I’m okay to be hunting,” he barks. Just because he’s got his head twisted around over this doesn’t mean he’s incompetent. “I can do my damn job.”

“Okay, okay,” Sam holds his hands up. “I’m just making sure. You know what can happen --”

“It’s a salt-n-burn, Sam.”

“I know. But you know what can happen.” Sam is staring hard just to the right of Dean’s elbow and yeah, Dean knows what can happen.

“I’m not gonna let myself get hurt or killed just because of some stupid --” crush, he can’t quite say.

“Good,” Sam says, and Dean has the sneaking suspicion he heard the end of the sentence anyway. “Just. Keep your head in the game, okay?”

“Okay, jeeze. Lay off. I’m just getting a Coke.” He turns to the machine, digging around in his pocket for a dollar that he -- yeah, absolutely does not have. In any of his pockets. Shit.

“Here.”

He turns to see Sam holding out a crisply folded bill, and his smirk isn’t quite so... smirky as they have been. Dean snatches the dollar out of his hand. “Thanks. Bitch.”

Sam chuckles as he steps away. “Jerk.”

At least some things never change.

~*~

It’s only a little after midnight when they leave the old abandoned sawmill, and none of them are injured or covered in questionable fluids for once. So when they pass by a 24-hour diner on the way back to the motel, Dean pulls in without a second thought. He’s got a craving for chicken fried steak.

They settle into a booth, Cas opposite the brothers, make it all the way through placing their orders, and... and Cas just keeps looking at him. Not quite staring, more than glancing. Dean can’t keep his gaze from slipping over Cas’s shoulders, hoping for a glimpse of his wings. He wonders how Cas manages to sit with the hard back of the booth behind him. Are they wedged in behind him? Splayed wide? (Fuck... better not think about that too hard.) Maybe they’re clipping through the back of the booth, insubstantial now that they’re invisible on this plane.

He wonders if Cas is doing ok... if Cas’s molt is finished or if he’s still tense and twitching out of his skin with the need to rub his grace, his body, all over something. Somebody.

But not Dean, apparently.

“I gotta hit the head,” Sam says, fleeing the silent table where Dean and Cas are both trying to discreetly stare at each other. Ugh. Stupid.

Dean wonders vaguely if he should... try to talk about it again? They didn’t really get anywhere last time, but maybe this time, with a little distance, he could get a straight answer out of him.

Yeah. Right. When has that happened, ever?

Worth a shot though. At least he’d be trying. Dean glugs a fortifying mouthful of beer, then sucks in air through his teeth. He can do this. He can. “Cas, um --”

That’s as far as he gets before Cas stands from his seat, moving around to steal Sam’s seat next to Dean. Dean chokes. Cas sits, half-turned toward him, arm along the back of the booth and crowding him into the wall. He’s not actually that close, nothing unseemly or even unusual, but his presence, his warmth, his scent, the blue of his eyes, the distracting line of his jaw -- all of it combines to suck the air right out of the handful of inches between them in the booth.

“Uh --” For the second time in three days, Dean thinks Cas is going to kiss him, and this time, even if his heart seizes sideways, even if they are in an alarmingly public place, Dean finds himself licking his lips in ready anticipation. Cas’s hand rises from the back of the booth behind Dean to card through his hair at the base of his skull, and Dean lets his eyes fall shut, almost leans in himself --

But. That’s all there is. Three short rakes of his fingers and Cas drops his hand back to the booth. “Sawdust,” he says with a wide-eyed shrug.

Oh. “Sawdust.” Kay. “Right.”

What.

Cas turns properly to sit at the table then, and Dean would bet money that he spies a hint of a shy grin on Cas’s lips. Sam gives them a snarky comment when he returns, and Dean can see the curiosity in the glances he sends back and forth, but Dean barely pays attention. He’s too distracted for the rest of the meal, in fact, by the static-silk heat he can feel draped over his shoulders.

~*~

The final straw comes after they get back to the bunker.

The hunt is logged in their books -- not that it was really necessary, it was a pretty run of the mill salt and burn (heh, mill), but Sam and Kevin had been nagging him about proper bookkeeping, so, whatever. Dean has showered and slept, Sam’s out on a grocery run, and Dean is whistling on his way to the laundry room with a full hamper when he is ambushed -- literally ambushed. He drops his hamper as Cas pushes him up against the wall, not even a handsbreadth between their noses. Cas’s expression is stricken and stormy, red cheeks and bitten lips and blue eyes dark, and Dean trembles. This is it. It has to be. This is the moment, this is when he’ll have his answer, this is the moment on which the axis of his life will turn because this is Cas shoving him up against a wall without anger or danger. Just the two of them, alone, in a secluded hallway in their home. Dean’s stomach floods with buzzing heat and his lips part, half questioning, half waiting, and he can feel Cas’s breath on his lips, and this is it --

“You have a blemish,” is all Cas says before leaning in, not to Dean’s lips, but aiming to the left, toward a pimple that Dean knows is nestled in the crook of his nose next to his nostril. Cas’s hands smoosh all over his face trying to find a good angle, and he is not, he is fucking not --

Dean slaps Cas’s hands away and wriggles out from between him and the wall. “What the hell, man?! What is with you?” He can’t help the way his heart is still racing.

Cas jerks away, pole-axed. “I, uh.” He swallows, fear starting to edge into his eyes. “I was trying to help.”

“I can handle my own pimples, thanks,” Dean says, scrubbing at his face. “What has gotten into you, man? Seriously!” he finally asks, and that is really, really not how he wanted to broach the subject.

“I don’t -- I don’t know what you mean,” Cas stammers, his hands curling into loose fists over and over again.

“I’m talking about this -- this whole thing where you -- look. A guy needs his personal space, right?” And if that isn’t an argument as old as the hills between them. Dean’s mouth keeps moving but he’s not really sure what’s coming out of it anymore. “Is this related to your -- y’know -- what you’re going through? Somehow? Because I’m gonna be honest, after -- after what happened the other night, man, the last thing I expected was for you to get all -- handsy.”

Cas is shaking his head slow, staring at the floor. “You don’t understand.”

“You’re damn right I don’t understand!”

“You have every right to be angry with me --”

“I’m not angry, Cas, I’m just confused!”

“You have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

“There’s an easy fix for that, if you’d just tell me --”

“Hey guys?”

Dean’s head whips around at the intrusion. Kevin hovers at the end of the hall, nervously shuffling. “First promo is out for the new Game of Thrones season. Thought you might wanna watch it?”

“In a minute,” Dean snaps, turning back to Cas -- or rather, where Cas was. Now he’s just facing open air and a blank stone wall. “Dammit.”

“Sorry. I interrupted something, didn’t I?” Kevin asks, grimacing.

“Yeah, Kevin, you did,” Dean mutters, but then he pulls up short and looks at Kevin with a new sharpness. “Kevin.” He strides toward the young prophet with determined footsteps. Kevin backs away a couple steps, unnerved by Dean’s sudden mood swing. “Can you translate something for me?” he asks.

“Uhh.” Kevin blinks, trying to catch up. “Sure?”

Dean digs through the laundry basket, looking for the right pair of jeans, hoping it’s still in the -- yes. He digs out the crumpled paper and unfolds it to reveal the sigil. It’s raw at the edge where he may or may not have been fingering it anxiously, and there’s an oily thumbprint stamped into the corner. The reminder of what had happened the other night twists in Dean’s gut, some weird mix of guilt and rushing lust. Suddenly that single oily thumbprint seems more incriminating than if he’d just walked up and said “Hey Kevin, I had sex with Cas (almost).”

Too late now, though, so he just sucks it up and hands the paper over.

Kevin takes the sigil, turns it -- then bursts immediately into startled laughter. That’s probably a bad sign. “What?” Dean asks. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh man -- Did, um. Did Cas give you this?” Kevin asks around his giggles.

“Um.” Shit. “Look, it doesn’t matter, can you just tell me what it means? Please?”

Kevin sobers a little; Dean can tell it’s taking effort. “Ok. Uh. Yeah. It’s... basically somewhere between marriage vows and a dick pic.”

.... Shit.

For a few moments, Dean can’t quite process what he’s just heard. “Um. Run that by me again, please?” he stutters.

Kevin frowns at the sigil. “This kind of sigil is only ever used during angel mating season,” he explains.

“Angel whating what?” He cannot have heard that right. This makes... okay, actually it makes a lot of sense, but it still can’t be right.

“Well, it’s not really a season, I guess, and it’s not exactly mating...” Kevin waves a hand, dismissive. “Look, angel biology is weird, alright? Near as I can tell anyway, they seem to have a drive to... I dunno, bond? I guess? When they have their... their molting... thing... Look, I dunno, man, it’s all super fuzzy and not a clear picture. But anyway, shouldn’t you be talking to Cas about this?”

“Why would I want to do that?” Dean squeaks.

“Uh. Because he’s an angel?”

Oh. Right. Obviously.

“And because this is his sigil and no one else’s. Seriously. If he gave you this?” Kevin blows air out through his lips. “Stick a fork in him, he’s done.”

Dean chews on his lip for a long moment, trying to think rationally and failing. He snatches the sigil out of Kevin’s hand and marches back down the hall.

“‘Thank you Kevin,’” Kevin says in a mockery of Dean’s low voice. “’For your assistance in this sensitive and important manner.’ Oh sure Dean, no problem, any time.”

~*~

Fuck fuck fucking fuck fuck fuck.

That is the extent of Dean’s thought process for a good five minutes.

Then he progresses on to a much more articulate what the fucking hell?!

Ok. Ok. So. Castiel. Angel of the Lord. Mating season. Right.

All the backrubs and the moaning suddenly make a lot more sense, but if Cas’s problem was that he was horny as fuck, and if he’d been at the point of giving Dean his apparently Extremely Intimate Personal Sigil, then why had he wigged out so bad?

Maybe Cas just didn’t want him. The guy was cut off from heaven and other angels and… Maybe he’d given him the sigil out of duress because he was the only willing partner around. Which... Ok, yeah, that would kinda hurt, but Dean is a big boy. He can handle it.

But what about all the -- the touching and the picking and the monkey grooming and -- wait. Was this. Cas trying to return the favor? If angels did their whole molting thing at the same time as their mating-bonding-whatever, and Dean had been helping him “shed his old form” or whatever, maybe all that was… trying to engage in… mutual molting?

It sounded fucking stupid. But it made more sense than any other wild theory he’d come up with.

Dean flops on his bed with a huge sigh, burying his face in his hands. He was going nowhere fast with this train of thought. Time to switch tactics.

What did he really want from Cas? If this was some bonding or mating ritual that he’d unwittingly taken part in... that was honestly fine by him. He knew which way his heart pulled on this one, even if he didn’t want to admit it. He loved Cas. He would follow him to the ends of the earth and into whatever fires they had to face together, hand in hand. He’d known that for a long time, but now... now there was something he could do about it.

But if Cas wasn’t -- If all Cas needed from him was a convenient pair of hands to ease his molting pains and he didn’t want anything further... well. He would just have to take it like a man.

But ultimately, what he really had to do was pin the angel down and get a straight answer from him.

Which.... Alright, that mental image was definitely distracting. Maybe... maybe he could actually do that...

No. Talking first.

Then pinning.

Maybe. If he’s lucky.

Focus, Dean.

~*~

He finds Cas in the most unlikely place he can think of: doing the laundry that Dean had abandoned in the middle of the hallway. Dean stands there for a minute, affectionately perplexed as he watches Cas separate the darks from the lights, sniffing delicately at the detergent, inspecting the inside of the washer. He’s gingerly liberating a dryer sheet from the box when Dean speaks: “You were closer with the detergent.”

The box clatters to the floor; Cas whips around. “Dean --! I. I was just.” He gestures lamely at the half-started laundry, casting around for an excuse, a reason, anything.

“Hey. It’s okay.” Cas stands there like he’s waiting for the firing squad as Dean moves closer. “So, uh. I was talking to Kevin. I showed him the sigil.”

Cas blanches, alarm written all across the lines of his face. “What did he tell you?” he asks.

“Not a lot. Mostly that I should be talking to you about it. But. He told me that this --” he pulls the sigil out of his pocket. Cas stares at it like he hopes if he stares hard enough it will spontaneously combust. Dean speaks around his heart, beating in his throat. “This isn’t just something to let me see your wings. This is. Um. This means something, doesn’t it?”

Cas tries, he really, really tries to hold himself rigid, but after a few moments he sags forward in clear surrender. “Yes. I’m sorry,” he says.

“You don’t have to -- Cas, I just want to know what’s going on. Okay? Please.” Dean reaches out and cups Cas’s shoulder in his palm, curling his fingers around and giving a gentle squeeze.

“I should have told you from the start that this was a possibility.”

“What -- that what was a possibility?”

Cas worries a bottom lip. “I would prefer to have this conversation somewhere more private.”

Before Dean can say another word Cas reaches out and presses two fingertips to Dean’s forehead. This time Dean has a brief glimpse of the great shadowy bulk of Cas’s wings billowing around them as they are whisked through the ether -- at right angles to every direction Dean can point to -- and then all at once they are standing in Dean’s bedroom, and, well... Dean can’t exactly argue about it.

“Okay...” This is not the time to argue about the importance of pooping. Dean settles on the corner of the bed. “What can you tell me?”

Cas looks like he’s about to shake out of his boots, but he settles in a chair by Dean’s desk and searches for words. Dean just sits there and gives him time.

“What I told you before,” he says at last, “that was true. This is... a process that all angels go through. Some many times.”

“But you never have until now, right?”

Cas shakes his head. “It’s not unheard of. Unusual, perhaps, but I’m not the only one. It’s a process of change, growth... as I said, metamorphosis. And it’s not usually done solo. In heaven there would be anywhere from a dozen to a hundred angels going through this at once.”

“So, are we talking, like... angel orgy?”

Cas frowns. “It’s not... sexual, as you are implying. More like... angel cuddle puddle, if I am understanding that term correctly.”

Dean can’t help laughing, because that is definitely not something you hear every day. “Did you get that from Charlie?” he asks.

Shyly, Cas nods. Dean keeps grinning for a moment, grateful to let go of some tension.

Eventually, though, he sobers enough to lean forward and ask, “So, that’s what I was doing for you earlier, right? You really just needed...” He can’t say cuddles. He refuses. If he says cuddles he’ll be lost to another gigglefit. He will. Not. Say. Cuddles.

“Physical contact,” Cas supplies instead. “It helps us to shed our old forms and grow into our new ones.”

“What does that mean, exactly?” Dean asks. “Are you going to... change, somehow?”

Cas frowns and cocks his head. “Humans are always changing,” he says. “This is not really any different. My true form will change, but not in ways that will affect... me. The me that you know.”

Dean nods, slowly. “But this whole process. It’s not, um. Sexual.” He can feel his cheeks warming, embarrassment and just a trace of phantom arousal swirling together under his surface. He can still picture Cas underneath him, the feel of Cas’s rock-hard cock in his hand, the way he’d pressed his hips back into Dean’s... things he had firmly locked away and told himself he wasn’t going to think about. “Do angels even have sex?” Dean hears himself blurt out.

“Not in the way you think of it. We crave closeness with one another, but it is not a procreative act. More like... communion.”

“Is that why you wigged out the other night? That’s just... not something you’re wired for?”

“No, that was not the problem.” Cas says. “The sensations were... unexpected. Unfamiliar. But not unwelcome.” Cas is silent for long enough then that Dean dares to look up and meet his gaze. Cas looks away but Dean definitely caught how he was looking at him. With heat. With longing. With hunger. Then Cas wets his lips and draws breath to continue. “There are sometimes... bonds so strong between angels that they pair off from the group. These pairs -- they are rare, and they are special. After the metamorphosis, they are, for lack of a better word, united. They have metamorphosed together, and it creates an unbreakable bond. That is… the closest approximation to sex that exists between angels.”

Dean nods. “I, uh --” he clears his throat and has to look away. “Wasn’t sure if you just... didn’t want it, or didn’t want it. Y’know. With me.” Man, when did it get so hot in this room?

Cas shakes his head a little and looks at him, eyes turned down the corners. “Dean. You misunderstand me. You are the only being I desire.”

The floor drops right out of Dean’s stomach, and he gapes up at Cas. “Why me? Are you -- are you saying that we -- what, we’re... soulmates?”

“I’ve felt it from the start,” Cas admits. “From the first moment I laid a hand on you. There is a resonance between us that should not be possible between an angel and a human, but it’s there.” He shakes his head. “And then, when this began, I. I knew it would be difficult. But I thought I could control the -- urges.”

Dean feels a bright flare of heat in his gut at the way Cas says ‘urges.’

“I didn’t mean to leave that feather on your pillow,” Cas admits, apropos of nothing. Dean’s confusion at the non-sequitor must be apparent on his face, because Cas smiles a bit. “Small gifts or tokens are not unique to humans as part of a courtship ritual.”

Oh. That. Actually makes perfect sense. “And then I gave you that back scratcher.”

Cas’s smile tics up on one side. “Yes, you did. And your repeated offers of assistance and solidarity... They were more appreciated than you know.”

“So I’ve been accidentally courting you this whole time?” Dean shakes his head at himself with a grin. He fucking would, wouldn’t he?

“Yes. You had no idea what you were doing, so I didn’t know if I could reciprocate the way I wanted to. Until.”

“Until the other night,” Dean fills in. “When I --”

“You still didn’t know, Dean.” The sudden force of Cas’s words rocks right through Dean to the core. “I could feel my grace reaching out for your soul, and I couldn’t -- I would not let that happen without your consent. This isn’t just a ‘roll in the hay’ for me. It never could be.”

Dean sucks in a deep breath and resolves not to break eye contact. “Me neither, Cas.”

But Cas shakes his head. “I’m not just talking about human levels of commitment. I’m talking about an eternal union -- a covenant, Dean, that cannot be broken, even in death.” He sighs and looks down at his hands. “It’s already started. I can feel it. But it would still fade with time. If we -- If we were to. Consummate --” Cas’s cheeks pink a little and his gaze hovers near Dean’s navel. “I would never force the bonding on you --”

“No, Cas, listen -- don’t even worry about that. I.” Dean swallows hard. “I’ve wanted -- more -- with you... for a long time. It’s -- those feelings aren’t going anywhere, okay? I tried denying it, I tried getting over it, but I still --” He sucks in a breath and takes the plunge. “If you would have me, I’d have you. For. Y’know. Forever.”

They sit there for a long moment, Cas staring at Dean with big watery blue eyes. Dean squirms under the gaze and finally asks, “Unless… Unless you don’t want to? Do the whole… bonding thing?” He steels himself for rejection, for Cas to sigh with guilty relief, say that that’s exactly why he was holding back, because he doesn’t want to saddle himself with someone like Dean, that he can’t do this with a human...

But in a flash, he sees Cas’s wings clearer than he has since he drew the sigil, blinking brilliant white over his shoulders. Yes, that flickering flash cries, Yes Dean Please. It rings out clear as a bell, and when Dean sees it, hope and relief flood through him, so sudden and sure he feels a bit dizzy. There’s a chance. And yet, Cas shrugs, looking away. “I am incapable of being objective in this case,” he says.

“Screw objective,” Dean barks, more forcefully than intended. “That’s not what this is about, Cas. I asked,” he swallows again. “Do you. Do you want to bond with me?”

Cas looks at him then, eyes crystal blue and sparkling. Instead of answering, he slides off the chair into the space between them, edging into Dean’s space. Dean’s palms go sweaty and his stomach turns over, and he opens his knees to let Cas in. Suddenly his whole world is Cas, all his perceptions are full of him -- blue blue eyes and pink lips, the heat of his hands on Dean’s knees, the scent of him like wild wind and cedar trees. And a glimpse like a heat shimmer over both shoulders, an aura of fluttering feathers.

“More than anything,” Cas says.

Joy and relief wash over him in a dizzy rush. Things like this just don’t happen to Dean. He still wants to ask why me, of all people? I don’t deserve this.... but he’s not going to turn him away. Not now. Just this once, he’s going to reach out and grab what he wants, selfishly or otherwise.

“Can I kiss you?” Dean asks.

Cas’s gaze drops to Dean’s lips, and he nods. His tongue flicks out to wet his lips, and he inhales deep as Dean leans in to close the distance.

When he first knows what Cas’s lips feel like as they slide together, cool, then heated, it feels like the whole world exhales with him. He’s wanted this for so long, it’s a heady rush to feel it, finally. Cas gives him a soft, low moan, and his head cocks to the side just so and Dean can’t help it. He guides Cas’s mouth open with his lips, threads his tongue out to slip between them. Cas’s breath rushes out of his body and Dean feels it against his cheek, and oh, he tries, he tries to keep the reins on himself, tries not to overwhelm the guy, because he’s done this before and he’s overwhelming himself -- but he can’t help it. He pushes forward hard, sucking on Cas’s tongue and clutching him close.

Cas pulls back just a hairsbreadth, just far enough to search Dean’s eyes for a moment. He must like what he finds there because he just murmurs, “Dean...” against his lips. God, his voice sounds like the purr of Baby’s engine and it goes down like a swallow of good scotch, warming in Dean’s belly. Fuck. One kiss and he’s addicted. He dives back in, sliding his hands up to thread through Cas’s hair and angle him just right to delve deep into his mouth.

Cas takes to this remarkably well, tentative at first but responsive to Dean’s little gasps, moans, chuckles. He learns quick, and soon his hands are skimming up from Dean’s knees to pluck at the T-shirt at his waist, then slide around it, under Dean’s flannel. He gives playful lip-nips when Dean has to pull back for breath. He explores and entices with his little flicks of his tongue when Dean opens wide and sucks him in. Groans and fanning breaths, their chests pressing close, and --

Dean swears he can feel the enveloping swirl of feathers and electric static. Shivers race over his skin and he hears a fluttering fluff, feeling charged air scooping around his back, cocooning around him. How is it that he ever lived without knowing what it was like to be enveloped by an angel’s wings? He pushes back into that caress, tilts his head to nuzzle one soft curve, but when he opens his eyes --

They aren’t there. He can’t see them.

“Cas,” he pants against his lips, “Can I -- I wanna see your wings.” Needs to see them is more accurate. Dean wonders if this is what Cas meant when he talked about his grace reaching out for Dean’s soul.

Cas nods. “One of us is going to have to get the holy oil.”

Dean is not a fan of the idea of separating, and apparently neither is Cas because he doesn’t move. He opts instead to brush gentle fingertips over Dean’s face, wonder in his eyes like he can’t quite believe he gets to touch. He trails his fingers over Dean’s ears, brushing through the fine short hair behind and sending a shiver of goosebumps down Dean’s neck and spine. When he starts to tug at Dean’s clothes, though, Dean puts up a token resistance. “Cas --” he almost whines, “I wanna see your wings.”

“You will,” Cas promises. “But I want to see your skin.”

Jesus. That -- Dean’s belly goes white-hot supernova and he just. Stares. Mouth dry and blood pumping south. “Yeah, okay,” he says, then starts pulling at his outer layers, but Cas stops him.

“Let me,” he begs, soft and low. Dean relinquishes his grip on his overshirt and lets Cas take over.

Cas’s hands and gaze are reverent as he pushes the shirt from Dean’s shoulders. Like every newly revealed layer and inch of skin is fascinating, something to be cherished. Explored. With the overshirt gone he sweeps his hands up Dean’s arms to where the T-shirt covers, then pulls that up and off too. Dean sucks in his gut a little at first, but lets him look, lets him touch, and yeah, he feels exposed, but in a good way. He just lets Cas explore. Lets him scale his fingertips up his chest, tracing the edge of his tattoo. Soon he’s growing bolder, cupping the round of his shoulder while the other palm curves around the dip of his waist. Dean tries to control the urge to squirm, but those touches, simple as they are, breathe fire under his skin.

When Cas’s hands start to drift lower, lower, angling toward the fly of his jeans, Dean’s heart gallops, and he stops him. “Cas. Holy oil. Then it’s your turn.”

Cas looks down at himself like he’s only just remembered that he’s clothed. “Yes. I’m sorry.” And then he really does get up to fetch the jug of holy oil from the shelf.

“You don’t have to be sorry for trying to get into my pants,” he grins, reaching down to adjust himself. “I just don’t wanna be the only one exposed here is all.”

When Cas turns back, he almost drops the holy oil as his gaze locks on where Dean is still ‘adjusting himself.’ And ok, maybe he’s a little closer to groping himself now. Dean grins a smirky grin and fans his fingers out over his growing length under dark denim. “See something you like?” he asks with a suggestive little thrust of his hips.

There’s fire in Cas’s eyes when he drops the holy oil, and it’s a miracle the urn doesn’t break. Any doubt that Cas is a being totally capable of sexual desire flies out the window when he falls to his knees before Dean, pushing his knees wide -- shit -- burying his face between Dean’s legs to breathe out hot on the rise of Dean’s cock, closing his teeth over the shaft through the denim, and Dean goes very very still. Everything goes a bit white around the edges, and the air punches out of his lungs, but then Cas is releasing him to stand back up.

Dean is still trying to process the fact that he just got his dick bitten by an angel (and he liked it, oh holy hell did he ever) when he sees that Cas is busily shucking his trenchoat.

“Hey hey --” he pushes himself to his feet because something about that just doesn’t seem right. “Let me --”

Cas freezes with the coat halfway down his arms and Dean moves around to pull it free. If the gasp Cas sucks in is anything to go by, he’s on the right track. So he keeps going, pulling at layer after layer of clothing, hands clumsy in his eagerness. “Shedding your old form, right?” he asks, murmuring into Cas’s ear as he unbuttons his way down the white shirt. “I can help you with that.”

Soon they are both down to their pants, and Cas stares at Dean like he’s been struck with a two by four. Standing nose to nose, bare chest to bare chest, Cas leans to capture Dean’s lips in a kiss again. Dean surrenders willingly, letting his hands rove over the now-familiar hollows of Cas’s back.

What is not familiar, but which he could definitely get used to, is the way Cas bows against him as he strokes his fingertips down Cas’s shoulder blades, where he knows those wings are seated. Where he knows the oil glands nestle. He can’t feel them now, but he wonders if that’s why Cas is always so sensitive there.

“Ohh angel,” he murmurs and wraps him up tight in his embrace, burying his face in Cas’s neck, breathing deep to feel skin brush against skin. It’s -- it’s Cas in his arms, and he can’t get over that. Cas clings to him, arms around Dean’s neck, and he can hear the soft whuff of his tight breathing in his ear. He leans back to see him, then can’t abide the distance and leans in to kiss him. Softly. Slowly, as Cas opens below him.

His hands roam further, faster. Dean maps the lines of Cas’s ribs and strokes the cut of his hip bones while Cas’s tracing fingertips send skittering shivers over his shoulders, down his back. He feels goosebumps prickling his lower spine all the way down his ass to his thighs, and he wants Cas’s hands to follow them. “Where can I touch you?” he asks, hoping the answer is everywhere.

“Anywhere,” Cas breathes against his lips.

“Me too, angel,” Dean replies, then moves his hands down to tug at the the waist of Cas’s trousers, hoping he’ll mirror the action -- he does, fuck yeah, and both of them surge forward with their hips and hiss in gasps at the muted brush of their cocks together. “You’re incredible,” Dean murmurs in his ear.

“Likewise,” Cas replies. Then he’s pulling away to tug at the fly of Dean’s jeans.

“Oh, fuck yeah,” he says, and their wrists tangle trying to get each others pants undone, but it doesn’t occur to either of them to step back and do their own. Soon Dean is stepping out of his jeans and toeing off his socks, and when he pulls Cas back into his arms there is so much skin from lip to knee, only the soft warm cotton of their boxers between them. Cas feels so good, so right in his arms, filling up all the empty spaces in Dean’s embrace. He breathes in at the hollow under Cas’s ear, inhaling the secret scent of his skin, both human and not, earthy and heavenly.

“Dean,” Cas sighs, “The sigil?”

That pops him free. “Yeah,” he says. “Yes. Um.” Dean casts around for the holy oil while Cas moves away to lay face down on the bed.

For all that it’s brand-new and startling, not being able to feel Cas’s skin suddenly feels like torture. It’s made somewhat worth it when Dean turns, urn in hand, to see him laid out long on the bed. He lets his gaze rake up from crossed ankles to thick, muscular thighs, the pert roundness of his ass in dark boxers, the definition of his back and shoulders where he’s propped up on his elbows, throwing the lines into sharp hills and valleys. A firecracker of lust goes off low in Dean’s gut, punching the breath out of him.

“Fucking hell, Cas,” he says on a sigh. If he lets his eyes unfocus just a little, he can see a platinum shimmer race down the length of his still-invisible wings. He kneels on the bed astride Cas’s knees, scoots up so that he’s resting on Cas’s hips, and this time he has nothing to hide. He sets the urn aside, leans forward on his hands, looming over Cas, and gives just one sweet little roll of his hips. Just pressing the bulge of his cock into the swell of Cas’s ass, humming with the pleasure. “You feel so good,” he murmurs, and does it again.

Cas’s head tips back, and he can see Cas’s mouth hanging open. “Dean...” His hips are starting to move on their own, warm and squirming between Dean’s thighs, just tiny little wriggles into the mattress. Dean grins, then leans back and uncaps the holy oil.

Annnd of course that’s when he realizes that he doesn’t have the sigil. Crap. Is it still in his jeans pocket? Shit. He really doesn’t want to get up again. Maybe he can remember...?

Yes. When Dean closes his eyes, he can see the sigil outlined in his mind’s eye, glowing blue-white, clear as if he were still looking at it. It doesn’t even occur to him that it might not be correct, because that is the sigil. He knows it. With a little grin he pours some holy oil and finally, finally, gets his hands back on Cas’s skin.

The glow seems brighter this time, lights up faster as Dean sweeps his fingers over Cas’s skin. He follows the circles and angles he can see in his mind, working quickly, with his heart doing double-time just to keep up. When he finishes, there’s that rush of wind, but this time he keeps his eyes open to watch as reality ripples and Cas’s wings solidify out of thin air. He has them relaxed on the bed, spread out to either side, and the splay of his feathers looks somehow wanton draped over the pillows like that. Dean smiles and sighs as he drinks in the sight. It’s... a relief, almost. Like something had been missing, like he’d misplaced something important, when he couldn’t see Cas’s wings. “You’re so beautiful,” he murmurs, and he reaches out to brush his fingertips over the stained glass softness of the secondary feathers. Saying hello, he thinks, just wanting to watch them flash from blue-black to white gold under his touch.

Cas sucks in a breath and Dean can feel him tensing between his thighs; he lets out a long, low purr. Dean grins down at him and keeps petting streams of light over his feathers. “Does this feel good?”

“You have no idea,” Cas replies.

“How about this?” Dean reaches out further on one wing, toward the drape and droop of the huge primary feathers. The glittering glow follows his hands, and Cas arches his wing up to met Dean’s touch.

“It’s... very nice,” he says.

“But it’s better up here?” Dean moves his hands back up to the silky smoothness of the shorter feathers under the elbow joint. The color change isn’t quite so obvious here in the more corporeal feathers, but it definitely still happens, like sprays of glitter and stardust through the inky black. Following his touch, the feathers fluff, standing on end, and they are so soft, Dean wants to bury his face in them. Maybe in a minute. He’s still exploring.

“Ohhhh yes,” Cas breathes, his hips starting to roll and rock into the mattress. Dean reaches over to the other wing now too, petting his hands up both arches, burrowing into the softness. Cas lifts his wings and spreads them wide under Dean’s touch, drops his head down to the pillows, pushing his hips back and up into Dean’s. Dean doesn’t even try to stop a gasp, just pushes back down with the swell of his groin nestling in warm recess of Cas’s ass.

“What about here?” he asks, his thumbs and fingers circling down closer to the joint of wing and shoulder blade. Cas is tense and almost writhing below him now, hands gripping the sheets and hips rocking between Dean and the mattress. Dean shifts himself, reaching down with one hand to point his erection up and then squirming his hips back down so that he is sliding right along the crack of Cas’s ass through their underwear.

“Dean--” Cas sounds desperate now. His wings pinch in and up, walling Dean in on all sides in a backwards embrace, and Dean turns his head to nuzzle at the feathers just under the wing elbow, where they are short and downy. Cas whimpers.

“How bout here?”

He knows exactly where he’s going. He slides his fingertips down to caress the seam where flesh and feathers meet. Already his fingertips slide easily down the joint, and Cas lights up, firecracker-bright, flashing from root to wingtip. “AH,” he exhales, and a gush of slick oil under Dean’s hands tells him all he needs to know. “Oh ffff -- Dean, please... aahhh...”

“Yeah, that’s it... I wanna hear you, angel,” Dean murmurs against the downy feathers. “I got you,” Dean whispers, “I got you, I promise, I got you.” He massages deep into the oil glands for long moments, until Cas is a shivering mess under him. Then he sweeps the oil up and down the feathers with both hands. The tension relaxes out of Cas once his fingers are off the glands, his breath coming in rough pants. “Is this good?” Dean asks. Cas nods vigorously in response, his face hidden in the crook of his elbow. Dean returns his hands to the slick joint, and Cas thrashes below him again. Over and over, he runs his hands up and over the flashing feathers, then return to massage oil out of his glands and feel his angel writhe in pleasure.

With his hands slick with Cas’s sweet-smelling oil, he can’t help but sweep them around the skin of his back as well as his luscious wings. The oil glistens on his skin and lets Dean’s hands glide up his flanks, down his lumbar curve, up the center dip of his spine and back up over the strong arch of his wings. Dean lowers himself so that his forehead presses against the flexing strength in his shoulders, the secret place between his wings. The scent of him is overwhelming here. His heat, his light, his warmth. Before he can question himself, he’s opening his lips against the joint, slipping the tip of his tongue out to taste. Below him, Cas cries out and jerks harder than before, shaking fit to break.

The oil tastes sweetly neutral, like nuts and earth and most of all like Cas. He could absolutely get used to it, and to the way Cas’s wings lift and flap and writhe around him. “You’re not gonna throw me off again, are you?” Dean asks as he teases with his tongue along the tender line, down one side, up the other.

“Not unless you -- oh. Not if you. Keep doing that,” Cas pants.

“I’m getting mixed signals here,” Dean teases. “You want me to stop?”

“Don’t you dare.” And he tries so hard to be fierce, Dean can’t help but laugh, just a little, against the warmth of his wing.

“Ohh angel, you are --” Dean buries his face deeper, wrapping one arm up under the base of Cas’s wing to press it closer “--fucking gorgeous.” He plants his other hand on the bed for leverage. He might have thought his cock would quiet down while he was playing with Cas’s wings, but nope. He’s so hard he sees stars as his length rides up and down the groove of Cas’s ass.

“Wouldn’t this be -- much more pleasurable -- if we were naked?” Cas asks between huffing pants.

“Mmmmmmm,” Dean humms against the feathers. “You are a goddamn genius,” he says, and then he’s working his hands down. Oily hands leave darkened handprints on the boxers as he tugs them down Cas’s rump, and he has to get his lips, his teeth, on every inch that he exposes. Cas lifts his hips so that Dean can work them down, and he feels them catch on the stiff length of Cas’s cock, and fuck. He hasn’t even seen his dick yet and that is the hottest thing --

Once he’s got Cas’s boxers off, it takes only a moment to tug his own down off his legs, and then before Cas can do more than fluff and fold his wings and glance over his shoulder, Dean is back, perching on his ass again bare and hot and holy shit, yeah, that’s better. He reaches down with one oil-slick hand and finds his own hard cock, giving himself a hot squeeze before dipping his hand down into the space between Cas’s thighs.

Cas sucks in a stuttering breath at Dean’s first touch to his naked ass, and his hips tip up and back for his hands. “Dean -- what are you...?” he asks.

“I want to try something,” Dean says. A few more scoops of oil spread into the space between Cas’s thighs, and Dean aims his cock into the slippery space he’s created for himself. He can see the moment Cas gets the idea: his wings flare bright and feathers open for a moment, and Dean’s cock slips in easily between his thighs.

“Ohhhfuck,” he sighs, pressing his forehead down between Cas’s wings as he rolls his hips. It’s a hot, slick glide and it strokes his arousal higher. If he aims right he can just feel the head of his cock nudging the back of Cas’s balls, and he rubs there, higher, tighter. Cas bucks back and tenses his thighs tight on Dean’s cock and everything is slippery and warm and perfect, Cas’s wings shimmering, feathers spread wide. It’s incredible.

Dean’s losing himself, not anywhere close to coming yet but feeling it build up huge and slow, when Cas does throw him off with a great flurry of wings and a shove of limbs.

For just a moment Dean is all confused panic and hurt, but then he finds himself pinned under Cas’s strong chest and hands. Cas’s eyes are crackling blue as he pushes himself into the space between Dean’s knees and hauls him in for a bruising kiss. Dean moans into his mouth, letting Cas’s tongue open him wide, letting him taste his own oils. He’s a little starry-eyed by the time Cas lets him go.

“I wanted to see you,” Cas murmurs.

Dean grins a little. “Hi,” Dean says, and yes. This was a good idea. He can see Cas’s face, his eyes -- their electric flash has faded a bit so Dean can’t tell if they’re still glowing or if they are really just that blue, that bright.

Apparently Cas meant he wanted to see with his hands, because suddenly his touch is everywhere, and not just in the places Dean expects. He brushes briefly over a nipple, sure, but he also lifts Dean’s arm to tickle at his armpit. He rakes his fingernails from bicep to wrist and back again, pausing to circle in the skin of his elbow. He spends a few minutes massaging Dean’s navel with his thumbs, turning it all funny shapes, and Dean would be self-conscious about his less-than-firm stomach if the look on Cas’s face weren’t so... entranced. Mesmerized and adoring. Dean blushes at that and squirms.

“You’re not gonna start popping my pimples again, are you?” Dean asks.

Cas ducks his head. “I’m a bit embarrassed about that,” he admits.

“Yeah, what was all that about anyway?” he asks, gasping as Cas adds his mouth to his explorations, lipping at his collarbone.

One of Cas’s shoulders twitches in a shrug, and the corresponding wing flicks with it. “Instincts,” he says. Before Dean can ask him to elaborate, Cas is scooping him up in his arms and wings, arms around his waist and his wings folding around his shoulders -- God, that silken softness is everywhere. Dean feels cradled by the air itself, floating and flying and falling all at once, but at the same time anchored, as Cas settles with Dean in his lap, astride Cas’s thighs.

“Shit, Cas,” he gasps, and scoots forward until he’s belly-to-belly with Cas and their cocks push against each other. Cas hisses in through his teeth and the cocoon of feathers tightens around him. When Cas opens his eyes he looks devastated by pleasure, and when Dean rolls his hips, rubbing so that the head of his cock catches on Cas’s, Cas cries out like he might die. Hot skin on hot skin, and Dean twines his arms around Cas’s shoulders, searching for the glands.

He finds them, and Cas groans into his neck, alternately tensing tight as a bowstring and going lax against Dean’s chest as the pleasure rolls around him. Dean rubs and massages with his fingertips until the oil is flowing freely, his hands soaked up to the elbows, and his angel is a flushed, panting mess, pushing his face into Dean’s chest. Cas’s hands are everywhere, exploring the hollows of his spine, digging into his hair, skimming the backs of his thighs. When they venture into the crease of Dean’s ass, Dean feels his heart thumping crazily and his hips twist into the touch.

Dean pulls back a fraction, just far enough to maneuver one oil-slick hand into the humid heat between their bellies to wrap sweetly around their cocks. Cas’s hips surge up and he grips Dean’s hips with bruising force, grinding up into his grip. Dean just hangs on, pumping with a firm fist, watching with wide-eyed fascination as Castiel falls apart underneath him.

“Dean -- Dean. Please. I,” he pants.

Dean cards his other hand through Cas’s hair, heedless of the sweet-smelling oil -- they’ll need a shower after this anyway. “What do you need, angel?” he murmurs against Cas’s stubbled cheek.

Cas opens his eyes and there is a flicker-flash of glowing blue again. “You,” he says. “I. We need to be closer. Can we?”

And god, that suggests something Dean had hardly dared to want, but yes, absolutely fucking yes. “Yeah,” he murmurs. “Yeah, we can, sweetheart. Just gimme --”

He doesn’t want to leave the bed to get lube, but the oil that is staining his hands and sheets is viscous and plentiful enough that it just might work. He keeps one hand going around their cocks, tightening and rubbing and sending sparks shivering across his skin, but the other hand takes one last languorous swipe down the crook of Cas’s wing before he reaches around behind himself. His arm nudges Cas’s wing out of the way, all soft heat as he slides his fingers down to tease the rim of his own ass.

It’s been a while, but he’s always loved this -- loved the stretch and burn of his own fingers slipping inside himself. Or someone else’s, but that’s been even longer. Pleasure burns molten and slow through his bones and he pistons his hips between his own fingers in his ass and Cas’s cock nestled next to his.

Cas cranes his neck, trying to see around Dean’s shoulder. “What are you doing?” he asks, and in his curiosity one primary feather slides up the crack of Dean’s ass and fuck, Dean lights up like a lightning storm. He slides in another finger.

“I’m.” He could be coy about it, but honestly he doesn’t have the mental fortitude right now. “I want. Um. You can be inside me. If you want,” he stammers, his face flushing hot. “Okay?”

Cas sucks in air like it’s going out of style and his wings flare bright white all down their length. All at once Dean finds himself on his back with his legs in the air and Castiel crouching between them, ready to pounce. “Say I can, Dean,” he growls, and there’s that whine again, just the barest thread of his true voice ringing in Dean’s ears.

He nods, sliding his fingers free. “Fuck yes, Cas,” he whimpers, grinding his hips up and letting his legs splay wide in offering.

Cas is on him in an instant, pressing his knees back and lining his cock up with uncanny precision for someone who’s never done this before. He pushes deep, slow, spearing into Dean, and fuck, he feels huge, but there is no pain. Just bliss as Dean’s brain starts to fuzz out white. Cas looms over him, eyes crackling and wings flared out like an enormous stained glass canopy overhead, pulsing with rhythmic striations of blue-white, gold and green. By the time Cas seats himself, hips flush to Dean’s ass, he is wrecked and shivering. Dean skims his hands from skin to feathers and back again, stroking and petting his angel and then burying his hands in the softness, hanging on for dear life.

When Cas’s hands sweep over his body... never has Dean been touched so lovingly. Something lurches in his chest and he desperately hopes he’s not about to cry. Cas pulls back, then grinds forward and Dean feels him everywhere, like he’s being hollowed out, broken so that Cas can put him back together. Castiel, inside him, surrounding him, everywhere, otherworldly and sublime. Cas’s lips draw on his for a kiss, deep and searching and so full of love that Dean really does feel tears prickle in the corners of his eyes. He clenches tighter with his whole being.

His next inhale is cold like winter air, and it makes him shiver, not wanting to exhale. His vision goes wobbly -- colors brighter, lines both blurred and sharpened.

“What’s -- what’s happening?” he asks through chattering teeth; his voice sounds bellish in his skull.

“It’s my grace,” Cas says, and there again is that whine of his true voice, but Dean thinks he might be starting to hear what it’s supposed to sound like -- like every voice that ever spoke words all in harmony at once. “We’re -- we’re sharing my grace.”

It should be off-putting -- he can see the lightning crackle, the glowing smoke of his grace between Cas’s teeth -- but it’s not. It’s incredible. Dean pulls Cas down again for another kiss and he can see the white flare of his wings though his eyelids. He opens wide and feels grace flowing down his throat, sweet-water cold and effervescent, jittering in his teeth. In return he tries to kiss back with all the love he has to offer, feeling his heart open wide to let Cas in, to give of himself freely as he never has with another person in his life...

Cas breaks the kiss with a moan as he shoves forward with his hips. White-hot pleasure rocks Dean to the core. “Oh fuck yes, Cas --” he moans around the sweet penetration, the sinful ache of bearing down and squeezing around Cas’s stiff cock. Cas whines into Dean’s neck, biting, marking, as he grinds deep and thrusts in again. Dean loops his hands under his shoulders, finds purchase in the crook of those wings where he can grab and hold on while Cas pistons into him.

“Oh Dean... Oh --” Cas groans against Dean’s throat, right under his ear, and Dean watches through glazed eyes as Cas’s wings glow like a supernova, constant and sure. The pressure of pleasure coils tight inside Dean, sizzling along his nerves and quickening in his blood.

“Fuck -- Cas -- Aahh-- I’m close, I’m so close.” Dean feels like he’s been on the brink of orgasm for days. His cock is fat and heavy between them, and Cas a solid stretch inside him, hammering home in all his sweetest places.

“Dean,” Cas murmurs, pulling back to look at him through grace-glowing eyes. “What do you need?”

Dean groans and fucks his ass up into Cas’s thrusts, whining, “Just touch -- touch me --”

Cas reaches between to get one hand on his fat, dripping cock, and the sensation crackles over Dean’s skin. “JESUS, ah fuck--” Just a few firm pulls and Dean’s pleasure spikes, building up and up and crashing over him in a tidal wave of ecstatic bliss. “AHH --” he cries, “Fffffffffffffff ahahh--” Castiel catches the sounds as they fall from his lips and Dean shakes apart, blind and writhing and painting their stomachs white.

He’s only barely started to come down from the high when Cas’s grip on his hips seizes down, his thrusts huge and erratic. Cas latches on, clutching him close. His wings flare golden white over them, and Dean opens his eyes wide to watch their frenzied fluttering, while Castiel pushes deep and cries out loud against Dean’s shoulder. Dean feels the slick, dirty grind of Cas coming deep inside him, and that is the last thing he knows before the world fizzles, all static, and goes white.

~*~

“Dean? Dean. Wake up.”

As he slowly drifts back to consciousness, Dean’s first sense is of expansive space all around him. He feels like he’s lying in a wide field with acres of open sky above him and empty grass all around. He thinks for a moment he can even smell the wildflowers and feel the breath of wind over his naked body.

Why is he naked in a field?

Then he pries his eyes open and is mildly surprised to find himself in his own bedroom in the bunker. He blinks a few times, then turns his head.

There’s Cas. Castiel. Smiling down at him with a sigh of relief. One hand and one wing sweeping up and down Dean’s chest.

One bright white wing, shimmering gold, softly glowing like the sun behind clouds.

“Huh,” Dean smiles.

“Dean,” Cas murmurs, and the wing over him clutches tight. “How are you feeling?”

It takes a moment for Dean to find an answer that question. Wrung-out. Extremely well-fucked. Exhausted. Satiated and whole in a way that he didn’t really think was possible.... But something tells him Cas is not just talking about general well-being. He’s asking ‘how does it feel to be bonded to an angel’s grace?’

“I feel awesome,” he says with a grin. “Better than ever.” When he thinks about it, he’s pretty sure he can see a little sharper than he could before. He listens to the noises of the bunker and he thinks he can pinpoint them with greater accuracy. All the minor aches and pains that he’s grown accustomed to seem to have vanished, though that could just be the endorphins. “So. Is it over? Your, um... molting thing?”

Cas stretches one newly-white wing out high above them, until the tips of his primaries brush the ceiling. They still fade to stained-glass translucency at the tips, but even so, they seem more solid, more real, than they had before. “Yes,” he says, and he sounds content.

“And how do you feel? Different?” Is it weird being attached to a human’s soul?

Cas folds his wing and tucks it back with the other, then cocks his head to the side, thinking. Searching. “I feel well,” he says. “More attached to my skin, perhaps, than I was before.” He flexes one hand, as if exploring the sensation of his skin moving over his muscles and bones. “I doubt I will have to endure that again for quite some time.”

Dean shifts a little, trying not to feel disappointed. “Oh. Uh. Good.” It comes out sounding flat, and he knows it and winces. “It’s just, I was... kinda hoping we could, y’know. Make a habit out of this.” He gestures lamely between their naked bodies.

Dean finds himself all at once pinned under Cas’s naked body, cocooned by his wings as they fold down to the bed to either side. “That is not what I meant, Dean,” he says, and bends to press a line of kisses down Dean’s jaw. “I wanted you before this, though I could not express it. I want you after. As long and as often as you will have me.”

Dean grins and pulls Cas in for a shallow but lingering kiss, just to celebrate the fact that he can. “Good,” he says. “That’s good.” Then stretches languorously as Cas rolls to the side again, snuggling close to rest his head on Dean’s chest. Dean curls his arm around Cas’s shoulders and tries to find his habitual ire at cuddling... but it’s not there. So he stops looking, and just lets himself enjoy the slow, sure beating of Cas’s heart against his side. He strokes his fingertips from shoulder to wing-bend and back again. The feathers under Dean’s hands fluff up, inviting him underneath. Dean burrows his fingers in and sighs against Cas’s hair. “So am I always gonna be able to see your wings now?” he asks.

“I assume so, if you can see them now,” Cas replies.

Dean smiles and lets himself drink in the sight of fluttering white-gold feathers. My angel, he thinks. My angel wings. “Awesome.”

A long moment of silence passes, and Dean has very nearly drifted into sleep when he hears Cas whisper, “Thank you.”

“Hmm? What for?” Dean mutters.

“Everything,” Cas says. “For being you.”

Dean grins helplessly into his hair, mussed and messy, and squeezes him tight. “Any time.”