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He's a (Zoo) Keeper

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Between exiting the Impala and dashing up the staircase for the shelter of the porch, Dean’s clothes soaked through. His moss-green shirt turned three shades darker, his pants were now striped and speckled, and his bare forearms were sticky. He could feel water droplets running down his cheek like tears as he wiped them away. Even the brim of his campaign hat wasn’t enough to keep the rain off him.

Unlocking the front door, Dean entered the pleasantly cool apartment, but was surprised that the lights were off. “Cas?” he called, taking off his hat.

Inside, he realised there was one light on: the single golden wall sconce outside on the balcony. Thunder growled, shaking the window panes between Dean and Castiel. Out there, Castiel was getting drenched in the rain, busy putting up a new roof over his beehive. His expression was neutral, though his brows wrinkled a bit against the raindrops trickling down his forehead.

If Cas was happy to get wet, Dean decided he didn’t mind it either. He spun his hat like a frisbee past the kitchen and onto the couch, going back to the glass doors that opened onto the porch. He opened both doors at once, creating a bellows that sucked hot summer air and rain into the apartment, splattering the wooden floor. Dean left the doors open, moving to Castiel’s side as Cas left behind his completed task and moved to hunch against the ivy-covered balcony barrier.

“Hey,” Dean smiled.

Castiel barely spared him a glance. “Hello, Dean.” He gazed out at the view, where only the faintest, blurriest lights bled through the dark haze. The hiss of the rain was deafening, splashing into a puddle underfoot, and the slam of water on the metal roof beat like a hundred drums, riling Dean up.

Dean pressed to Castiel’s arm, smiling at him. But when Castiel did not react at all, and even resisted Dean’s friendly nudge, Dean’s smile fell. Cas was upset.

Dean hung his head, looking down into the grass one level below. “Talk to me, Cas,” he uttered, as warm rainwater rolled down the back of his neck.

Castiel wasted no time. “Why did you book the venue?” he demanded.

“I didn’t,” Dean said calmly, though his heart had started to jump. “I put down a deposit. I saved the date so it wouldn’t get claimed by anyone else, and so the price wouldn’t go up later. And so you have a solid deadline to work for.”

“You said the deposit was twenty percent of the full price.”

“Yeah.”

“So you paid a-hundred-and-eighty-four dollars.”

Dean shrugged. “Mm-hm.”

“But why?” Castiel looked despairingly at Dean, squinting and tense-mouthed, his cheeks shiny with rain. “This is supposed to be a fake wedding. A trial run for a potential business I might start. We don’t actually spend the money we set aside. We don’t need to buy anything. What are we supposed to do with the booking now?”

Dean pursed his lips, head tilting playfully. “Use it?”

“For what, a birthday party?”

A grin crooked up on Dean’s lips. “A wedding, Cas. Our wedding.” Still smiling, Dean nudged Cas’ side again, as his heart skipped a beat. “Ya wanna get married? You n’ me. For real.”

Castiel stared back, stumped.

Stumped turned to stunned.

And then he looked quietly aghast, which immediately became furious. He huffed, eyes rolled away, and then he followed his gaze physically, storming off as the thunder shook the world under their feet.

“Cas?” Dean turned swiftly. “Cas— Hey, buddy, where’re you goi—”

“I don’t want to talk to you right now, Dean,” Castiel called from inside, irritation dripping from his words like the water dripped from his hair.

Dean was about to call for him again, but jumped when Castiel’s bedroom door slammed.

Dean’s heartbeat kept on thumping, as his eyes skipped about, mind reeling. What the hell just happened? Why was Cas mad at him?

Had Dean just... fucked up?

Hand to his spinning head, Dean realised he was too overwhelmed and emotional to pick this apart himself. So he took his car keys from his pocket, went back inside and closed the doors. It was far from quiet inside, as the downpour still attacked the roof. That chaotic, too-loud, everlasting noise was exactly what the inside of Dean’s head sounded like.

He left the apartment, trotted down the slippery metal stairs, and went back to his car, grim-faced and determined.

Chiquitita wasn’t the person to help him right now. She had kids to look after, she didn’t need another whiny preteen. Besides, Dean needed to talk to someone he had a deeper connection with, someone who knew him better than he knew himself.

Charlie— Dean shook his head, clambering into the Impala, starting the engine. To explain anything to Charlie, Dean would have to first correct all the misunderstandings that came from their interactions earlier this evening.

No. Dean pulled into the road and turned the car around, zooming off in the only direction that seemed sensible. He needed someone who understood him, who was on Dean’s side regardless of the situation. Someone who knew enough about him that Dean wouldn’t have to explain, but someone unaware of the change that had occurred between Dean and Castiel in recent times, and therefore had a neutral impression.

Only one person would do at a time like this.

Dean drove straight to his brother’s house, parked outside on the curb, and surged up the steps to his porch, dripping on the welcome mat as he waited for someone to answer the doorbell.

Jessica was the one who opened the door, wearing low-cut sweatpants and a cropped sweater, showing off her four-month-pregnant belly. “Aw, hey! It’s you! Ew, gross, you’re soaking. Come in. You want dinner? Sam did clam chowder.”

Dean stayed on the porch, shaking his head. “I just need to talk to Sammy.”

“Okay, come in quickly, I’ll tell him you’re here.”

“I can’t, I— I’ll get your floor wet. Tell him to meet me out here.”

Jessica sensed the urgency and emotion in Dean’s voice, and didn’t argue. She left the door open and faded into the light of the house, her long blonde hair shifting halfway down her back as she walked.

Sam returned with Jess less than a minute later, almost as broad-shouldered as the door as he stepped out. “Hey,” he said, frowning. “You won’t come in?”

Dean watched Jessica push the door to rest closed, giving the brothers privacy. Standing in the dark, as the thunder rolled, Dean let tears flood his waterline, his voice crack, his confessions slip out in a trembling, hurt voice. “I think I just proposed to Cas. And I th—? I think he just said no.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean sat wrapped in a wool blanket, cocoa in his hands, dressed in Sam’s yoga pants and an old t-shirt that Dean himself wore as a teenager. He’d been pushed inside, told to get changed, handed a towel, and forced onto the couch and now he was being made to drink things.

Okay, fine, it was all done with love. He’d been carefully urged inside, encouraged in with a soft voice. He’d been given warm clothes, a warmer towel that smelled like flowers, and the couch was nice and dry and good for curling up cross-legged, and there was maybe not a single mug of cocoa in the world that could rival Jessica’s.

But Dean didn’t want to feel better until he’d fixed his problem. Yet, at this point he was struggling not to smile, just a little.

“Okay,” Sam said firmly, sitting on the other couch, at a right angle to Dean. He patted his own knees. “Go from the top. What happened?”

Dean’s breath shook, but he took a sip of cocoa, and sank down, relaxing. The noise in his head became more like an ocean wave. There were moments of silence, and in those small windows, he could piece together thoughts.

“Cas and I have this arrangement,” he started.

“Okay?” Sam said, as Jessica sat beside him, looking equally as concerned as Sam.

Dean shrugged a shoulder. “It’s a sex thing. Or at least it was.”

When Sam and Jessica didn’t react, Dean took one more gulp and let the whole story pour out.

“When I’m dating, I can’t fool around with him any more. That’s the rule. But when I’m single— He’s my fallback relationship. It’s like... neutral-feelings sex. No romance. Friends-with-benefits. I thought it would be fine, you know? We were both really into each other, sexually, which was kinda weird at first, but su-hoo-uuper hot—” Dean quirked up a grin, then realised this probably wasn’t the right audience for the sexy kind of sex talk, so schooled his expression and ventured on, voice gruff: “There was no reason to think we couldn’t seperate sex from feelings. Because it was just casual sex with my best friend. It was for fun.”

Dean shrugged, sipped his cocoa, then looked down, watching the whipped cream swirl fast, little bubbles grouped around a gloopy pink marshmallow like the last survivors of a sunken ship clinging to a melting iceberg.

“But then Cas started this project. He decided he’s gonna be a wedding planner.”

“Oh!” Jessica chirped. “That sounds exciting.”

“It was,” Dean nodded. “It is. But in hindsight that was where we went wrong. God. We decided to use the two of us for the test run. I’m Cas’ fake client, and I’m fake marrying him. So we gotta plan our fake wedding.”

Sam gave an amused huff, head down, hiding his face behind his shoulder-length hair.

“Yeah, laugh all you want, Sammy, it gets funnier,” Dean uttered bitterly, tipping back his mug to swish more cocoa down his throat. He swallowed, then rasped out, “I’ve been dating this girl while this was all happening. Chiqui. She’s, uh, five-seven, five-eight, Jamaican, wears square glasses, raising kids with her sister. Got booty and brawn. Dating someone named Benjamin on-and-off, I never met the guy. Yeah, I mean... Chiqui’s awesome.

“But... essentially? While I’m dating Chiqui, and Cas is planning our wedding,” Dean licked his lips, “I can’t kiss him. Can’t mess around with him. That’s the arrangement. So when I start missin’ the way he touches me all I can do is – friggin’ – yearn for him, or whatever.” Uncomfortable with having to say that aloud to someone other than a red panda, Dean hung his head, plucking at the stretchy yoga bottoms’ material, the hem of which was cropped at his knee. “Kinda goes without saying that I realised I’m in love with him. Go figure.” He sighed.

“Everyone at work thinks I’m gonna marry him for real. They think we’re great together. Cute couple!” Dean waved a hand and danced a little to illustrate other people’s enthusiasm, though his eyes stayed dull and he sobered quickly. He shrugged. “Jody handed me my ideal wedding date and venue on a silver platter. And.”

Dean drained the last of his cocoa, steeling his nerves.

“And I couldn’t pass it up. I took it, I paid the deposit, and I went home to Cas. Asked him if he wanted to marry me. Kept it light, you know? Kind of a joke, in case he wasn’t actually into me that way. But, uh.” Dean sniffed and looked away, face burning, forcing back tears. “He didn’t assume I was kidding.”

“But he said no,” Sam asked.

“He said he didn’t want to talk to me and slammed his door,” Dean chuckled coldly. “Sounded like a no to me. I dunno where I fucked up, but clearly I did.”

Sam shared a look with Jessica. Then he turned back to Dean frowning a bit. “Do you really not know what you did wrong?”

“Do you?” Dean scoffed.

Sam started to smile, confused. “Dean, you’re still dating someone else. Dating Chiqui, then coming home to propose to Cas— You gotta see how that pretty much violates that arrangement of yours, right? And if you have that agreement in place for the reasons I think you do... Because of his trauma after Crowley? Then...?”

Dean groaned, head down in his hands. “Shit, I didn’t tell him about Chiqui. I was so excited about the perfect wedding date. God-dammit!” Dean threw himself back into the couch, glaring at the rotating ceiling fan high above. He vaguely registered it was spinning the wrong way to be of any use.

“Even with your arrangement, Dean,” Jessica said, sitting forward a bit, catching Dean’s eyes, “given his history with Crowley, maybe you seeing other people is a deeper problem for Cas than he tells you. I don’t know him especially well but I’ve seen how much he struggles to show weakness in front of you.”

Dean scoffed. “Oh, bull! He goes doe-eyed and wibbly over a stuffed toy with a loose thread.”

He caught sight of Sam and Jessica’s disbelieving expressions, and he quickly sat forward over his thighs, firm-jawed. “You serious?”

“Yes.” Jessica sighed. “When it comes to important personal things... particularly when they affect you? He’s more controlled. When he broke his wrist, and I was there as his nurse— He smiled and told you he was doing fine. But his expression changed when you left the room. He was in pain and he was scared to show it.”

“After everything he had to hide from Crowley,” Sam added, “it does track. Maybe he doesn’t trust men. Or – it’s not that he doesn’t trust you, it’s just a subconscious reflex.”

Dean glanced away, lips parting. He didn’t know how to process that. How long had Cas been lying to him? How had Dean not noticed?

“Your roommate is mad at you, Dean,” Sam said, softly, “because first off, you’re dating a girl, which I’d bet anything he has underlying issues with, whether he discusses it with you or not. Second, if you phrased your proposal like a joke – you gotta know how that would come across to someone who actually likes you, right? Or, alternatively....” Sam sighed, looking sadly at Dean. “Nowhere in all the time we’ve known Cas, nor in what you’ve told us just now, have you detailed a moment where he showed you he loved you romantically, or wanted anything other than what you already have. From where I’m sitting – and maybe as far as Cas is concerned, too – this was a legitimate business venture that you took too far when you mixed business and pleasure, and got confused between friendship, sex, and romance. They all invite emotional connection, of course they do. But what even made you think he would say yes?”

Dean grumbled, head in his hands, shaking it. “No. Nnn. Back up, here.” He drew a breath, eyes rising to the ceiling, hearing the rain tap-dancing above. Although Dean was embarrassed, he decided to reveal another part of the story. “Something happened,” he said. “A few days ago, when I went to visit Chiqui. Midday date, she was fifteen minutes late. Her kids were at her sister’s place for homework and a movie so we had the whole day. Stayed out all afternoon and evening, until it got dark.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

The Impala rumbled under their thighs as they pulled up to the last set of lights. As soon as the lights flashed glorious green against night-black, Dean angled the car towards the first turn.

Chiquitita’s place was only minutes away. Since she worked as a by-the-hour contractor at a construction site where the project was finally picking up momentum, and she had to balance all that with her family and other partner, Dean knew he might not be able to catch a night out with her for some time. If he was going to ask, he ought to ask now.

“Chiqui, I’ve been thinking.”

“Would you accuse me of more dad jokes if I said ‘Very dangerous of you’?”

Dean chuckled, rolling his eyes. “Who knew there was such thing as a mom joke?”

“I think the point is that ‘dad joke’ is synonymous with ‘bad joke’. Moms always seemed less embarrassing to me.”

Dean snorted. “I wouldn’t know, I barely remember my mom. I was raised by two war-veteran dudes.” He grinned though, shooting Chiqui an assuring glance. “Hey, we’re here.” He pulled into a gritty-gravel parking lot, spinning the car around the empty space, watching a hundred colourful city lights spin in the other direction.

He came to a stop, front wheels against a brick border, leaving the hood overhanging the sidewalk. As the engine cooled, Dean breathed in, bristling a hand down his chin. “Look, uh. Would you— Heh. Okay, I’m just gonna ask, Any chance you’d be into a threesome?”

“A threesome?” Chiqui sat up, rotating her torso to face Dean and grin, elbow on the passenger seat’s backrest. “Yeah, I’m not against it. Benjamin would wanna get to know you first, though.”

“Oh-ho, right, see.” Dean shook his head, flashing a nervous grin. “Yeah. No. Not Benjamin.”

“If Benjamin says yes I’d be fine with another chick,” Chiqui said. “Could be hot.”

Dean gulped, chin to his chest, eyes on the steering wheel. “Tempting.”

“Buuuuut?”

“But.” Dean scratched his neck. “Was kinda hoping it could be Cas.”

Chiqui drew a surprised, wary breath.

“C’moooon, he’s really sweet, I promise,” Dean assured her. “I know he acts like he doesn’t like you, but every time I’ve asked he’s given me rave reviews, so—?” Dean shrugged. “He’s super hot, right? And he cooks, and cuddles!” Dean angled himself to face Chiqui, enthusiasm for Cas taking over. “Swear to God, he’s my buddy through-and-through – when life’s good, and when the going gets tough. And he’s great to relax with, too, have a few beers. Cry with. Or fight with, and both come out better for it. Kiss all night. And— And? God – his dick tastes awesome. I could suck that thing forever.” Dean nodded, grinning. “You’ll fall head-over-heels in love with him, Chiqui, I fuckin’ swear. Honestly, it’s... it’s kind of hard not to.”

His forthright tone faded to realisation near the end.

He went quiet, gazing blankly at the lights on the cars driving past.

That was the moment it happened: Dean understood something important about himself, and it was this: he was deeply in love with his best friend. He might’ve been in love with him for longer than he could bear thinking about.

He turned to sit forward again, numb with shock.

He expected Chiqui to ask more questions about inviting Cas to a threesome, or maybe she’d start a fight about God-knows-what, because Dean lived to be attacked about his feelings, especially the confusing, personal ones. But the argument never came, and neither did the questions. Chiquitita sat with him, in a companionable quiet, as if she’d realised in the same moment where Dean’s heart was.

After two long, exhausting minutes of silence, Dean asked his question.

“What kind of person do you see yourself marrying?”

Chiqui looked back at Dean with an amused smile. She thought about it, then shook her head. “You’re not looking for my answer, are you? Whatever I say, it’s not going to describe you. And you don’t want it to.” She reached over and took Dean’s hand. “Don’t ask me,” she said. “What about you? Who do you want to marry?”

Dean gazed at their joined hands, dark over light. As a car passed by, white light flashed over Chiquitita’s grip, and in that instant Dean saw Castiel there beside him.

All Dean could do was shut his eyes. No matter how badly he wanted the fantasy, it wasn’t real.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

“We broke up temporarily,” Dean said, hands tucked under his arms. “She said she’d noticed I was... struggling to focus on her while we were... uh, together. Was taking me way too long to... finish. Y’know. Um. Look, we wanted to have a few weeks apart, me n’ her, so I could focus on Cas. God, Sam, I’m not a total nutcase, okay, I wouldn’t’ve friggin’ proposed to Cas if I was still dating her.” Dean snorted. But his affront faded, and he added, with regret, “What I did fail to do was tell Cas about breaking up. Like I said: I got too excited. If he hadn’t strutted off, and he’d let me talk it over with him, I would’ve explained. But, nope. Never got that far.

“I genuinely thought he’d say yes,” Dean went on, rubbing his forehead. “The way we act around each other, the way he looks at me, the things he says to me—” Dean eyes flicked up. “I know he loves me. I have no idea if he’s in love. He said to me he’s never been in love with anyone. But what does it matter? Marriage is marriage. You get legal benefits and stuff. And we’re gonna be together forever anyways, so who cares if he’s full-on gay for me? We fuck, we cuddle, we make each other dinner, we mostly like the same TV shows and music, we’re best friends. We’d take a bullet for each other, literally. Isn’t that everything? Seems like everything to me.”

Avoiding Sam and Jessica’s eyes, Dean confessed one last thing. “A while back, Cas mentioned something about a record I got, and I realised something else.” He swallowed, and met his brother’s gaze, needing to impress how important this was: “For years... years, okay, I’ve been getting gifts for the people I date. Clothes. Vinyl records. Food. Dumb little cuddly toys from the zoo gift shop. Trinkets, concert tickets, whatever. But... half the time... these people don’t want my crap. It’s not their thing, they don’t have a record player, they’re too small to fit that shirt size, they take a moral stance against the ingredients in the fancy chocolate. If they’re not completely happy with what I got them, I offer to take it away and get somethin’ else.”

Dean gulped, sighing as he slumped deeper into his blanket cocoon. “This whole time I just wanted to get gifts for Cas. I didn’t realise I was doing it. All that crap never went down with all those people – why? Because it was never meant for them. I bought it – all of it – for Cas. And he’s the one who enjoyed it in the end.

“Look, I really wanna get married. I jumped into that bullshit with Crowley because I thought I just wanted somebody. I wanted a wedding, not a marriage. But... now?” Dean sank a cheek onto his palm, looking sadly at Sam’s knees. “What I wanted all along was to be with someone I loved and could support for the rest of my goddamn life. What kind of person do you see yourself marrying?” Dean clicked his fingers either side of his head. “I quit on people the second I hear the wrong answer.

“I think...” He drew a wet, ragged breath. “I think I fucked up tonight because I am terrified that if I ask Cas that question... he won’t answer with my name.

“But it’s over. All of it. I’m fucking done asking. Subconciously I’ve done nothing but look for The One, fighting myself because – fuck – I hoped maybe there’d be a hundred people out there who were perfect for me. But I never hung in long enough to find out.

“And that’s why,” Dean wet his lips, nodding, “it’s Cas. He’s my One. Because after five years, he’s still right by my side, closer than ever. And because he’s the only person on Earth who, when I ask that question, I actually wanna hear the answer.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

“I cant believe he would do that!” Castiel snarled into his cellphone, free hand flipping his wedding binder closed. “I’m astounded that one man can make so many mistakes in one move. What possessed him, Charlie? What made him think that was okay? Proposing to me like that.”

At the other end of the line, Charlie said soothingly, “Maybe he was scared to ask you any other way.

“I don’t want to understand him, I’m mad at him,” Castiel snapped.

Oh, right. Okay. Yes. Bad Dean! Grrr.

Castiel sighed, ripping papers down off the planning board, tossing them in a messy pile on the couch. “I’m just— I’m furious!”

I’m sure it was very... terrible, what he did.

“He just! Stood next to me! And asked if I ‘wanna get married’!”

Oh no... How could he...

“You don’t understand, he— Was this all a joke to him? My feelings? This project, even? I started this project to take my mind off him, Charlie—”

Did you? Then why was he your test subject?

Castiel tipped his head back in despair. “Oh, thank you, yes – remind me how many mistakes I’ve made. I chose him because I— It was too much, it was too much, seeing him with other people and pining for him. I started to understand Crowley, of all people, and do you know how much that hurts? To start to think maybe that manipulative, demonic bastard wasn’t so bad, because through my struggle with feelings for Dean, I began to empathise with what Crowley did behind my back. I was wanting something that wasn’t mine, the way Crowley did. I wanted Dean, despite everything, despite the rules I set for us both. Every day I was fighting down jealousy, then it was envy, and I’m telling myself it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, we agreed to this, he still loves me, he still loves me, he still loves me...”

Castiel sat on the couch, palming away tears as they fell. “I just wish he’d told me he loved me romantically, Charlie. Before tonight. Before asking. I wasn’t ready. I had no idea it was coming. I wish he’d told me because then I wouldn’t have felt guilty for falling in love with him. I thought I wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t part of the arrangement. It wasn’t part of our friendship. It wasn’t anything to do with the sex. But there’s... something about romantic love... it bridges all of those things together. It does that in ways I didn’t know were possible. I’ve never felt like this, Charlie. I can’t bear it. Loving him with everything I have and knowing it’s just a bonus for him, when he has so many other people.”

But he did propose. So he does love you more than anyone else.

“I don’t think he understands what he’s asking,” Castiel uttered through his tears. “He married Fergus Crowley. They had a wedding. Dean gives his heart away so quickly, so carelessly, sometimes to the worst people. I have no guarantee that his proposal is any more genuine for me than it was for Crowley.

“And to top it all off,” Castiel sniffed, lifting his head as he pulled himself together, “he didn’t ask about putting down the deposit first. He just wasted nearly two hundred dollars, non-refundable.”

Is it wasted, though?” Charlie asked. “Don’t you... maybe... want to marry Dean?

“That’s entirely besides the point!” Castiel snapped, getting up to rip down his poster board, throwing it flat on top of the pile of notes, smashing scraps of paper away. “If he wanted to marry me maybe we should’ve talked about it beforehand. Discussed what marriage would entail. Pondered, if you will, how we would go about it.”

Haven’t you been doing exactly that? Planning your wedding?

“Well— Yes— But...” Castiel fretted. Then he exploded, “Stop making me understand his reasoning, you’re making it very hard to stay angry!”

Sorry. Seriously, I’m Dean’s other best friend, I can’t help it.

“I know.” Castiel pinched the bridge of his nose between thumb and finger. He exhaled slowly. “I think I need to hang up. As much as I appreciate your help, what I’m actually looking for right now is just to simmer in my own fury for a while. Hard to do that in pleasant company.”

Um. Okay... Call me back when you’re ready to calm down?

“Oh-ho!” Castiel grumbled. “Undoubtedly.” He gritted his teeth and ended the call with a forceful thumb. “Hah!”

He left the carnage of the wedding planner board where it was, kicking over the easel for good measure. He then strode to his laptop, which was open on the dining table.

There he sat down, head in his hands, elbows on the table, staring at the screensaver, which featured a pair of tropical fish swimming around together in a turquoise reef. Castiel had paid eighty cents for the second fish, because the first one seemed lonely. Dean had seemed astounded that anyone actually paid money for anything, especially a digital fish, but then he saw the animation where the two fish kissed, and immediately purchased the exact same screensaver for his own laptop, but with “more awesome” fish in a “more epic” location. (Piranhas, in a deep black ocean full of oozing lava.)

Castiel watched the screensaver and smiled into his hands, feeling nothing but love for Dean. He hated how much he loved him. He never meant for this to happen. He didn’t even know how or when it had happened, but in all likelihood, Castiel had been in love long before he ever thought about kissing Dean. His only evidence: his feelings hadn’t changed in the last couple months, only grew less easy to ignore or excuse away as something else.

Now those feelings were howling. A trapped wolf had broken out of its cage and pelted for the nearest hilltop, as it saw the moon rising and had no purpose but to howl, and howl, and howl. Castiel could no longer keep his feelings from doing what they were meant to do.

Castiel wriggled the laptop cursor, making the fish disappear.

He felt a pang of annoyance when the window open underneath was the template email he’d been drawing up for the wedding invites, before the rain started and he’d had to cover the bees.

He’d been so close to finishing, too. It was all formatted elegantly, central on the screen, with Dean’s casual language mixed in with Castiel’s insistence on formality.

———
What’s up, awesome people?

You (and one guest) are warmly invited to the wedding of

Dean Winchester
&
Castiel J. Tippens

(time), (place).

Dress code: Classy Safari.

No gifts are required, but please bring a delicious homemade dish to share!
Monetary offerings will be donated to the Boston Bee Preservation Society.

RSVP to castiel.tippens@zmail.com before (date).
———

Castiel’s eyes watered, and a lump formed in his throat. What was he so mad about, anyway? Dean had asked Castiel to marry him the only way he’d ask anyone: casually. And he had warned him, hadn’t he? He’d used Castiel’s personal email for the deposit form, and Castiel had received the payment confirmation on his phone. It took Dean twenty-five minutes to get home, and if Castiel hadn’t been so distracted by the bees and the rain, maybe he would’ve realised what it meant. Dean had told him without telling him. And then he’d asked.

And like Dean, Castiel had given an answer without giving one. A slammed door must’ve sounded like a reverberating ‘no’.

Castiel looked again at the incomplete invitation. Now the frustration was gone from him, he felt lethargic and in need of comfort.

He found it comforting to format text to be aesthetically pleasing. So he added in the time and place that Dean had provided him, thus making it complete.

———
What’s up, awesome people?

You (and one guest) are warmly invited to the wedding of

Dean Winchester
&
Castiel J. Tippens

Boston Sanctuary Zoo
Southwestern Courtyard
5pm | Saturday September 15th

Dress code: Classy Safari.

No gifts are required, but please bring a delicious homemade dish to share!
Monetary offerings will be donated to the Boston Bee Preservation Society.

RSVP to castiel.tippens@zmail.com before September 1st.
———

It made Castiel happy to look at it. Not merely a smile, not a flip in his chest, but something deep and dark and lonely inside him suddenly felt the first touch of sunlight.

He opened Microsoft Word and found ‘Wedding plan – Dean and Cas test run – GUEST LIST 1.doc’ in the recent files.

For the sake of seeing how it would look with everyone’s name in the address bar – just in case he never got another chance, just in case, just to see – he copied over the whole list and pasted it in the BCC box.

There it was. A completed wedding invitation.

Castiel wondered if he’d ever seen a more wonderful sight. He’d impressed himself, getting this far. Making it look so perfect. So professional. Maybe he was cut out to be a wedding planner, after all.

Most wonderful of all, though, was seeing his and Dean’s names there, nestled close. As if they were always meant to be together.

But Castiel wasn’t about to make the same mistake Dean had just made. If he was going to send out invites, he was damn well going to ask Dean about it first. With a snort, Castiel highlighted the entire address bar and hit enter to delete it all.

The laptop processed for a moment, then the screen returned to Castiel’s inbox.

Castiel blinked, wondering if he’d minimised the email. But looking around, he saw a notification saying ‘Sent!’ disappear in a flash.

“No,” Castiel said, grabbing his laptop screen, making the gel ripple with rainbows. “No!” He shook his head, quickly checking his sent messages. There it was: You are invited... in the subject line. “Nonononononono—”

He started to hyperventilate, hands on the table, eyes unfocused.

Too late now. The wedding was going ahead.

Still apanic, he supposed he could send an “oops” email and explain. But...

But he wanted it. Perhaps he’d done all of this on purpose, without even realising. Up to and including hitting ‘enter’ instead of ‘delete’.

For too long he’d been holding off on allowing romantic feelings for Dean to contaminate their relationship, but now that Castiel was sure: Dean did love him that way... every little feeling came rushing in, then rushing out, a wave as wide as an ocean.

Oh, here was his heart, beating Dean’s name.

Castiel smiled, and sobbed, and bent down to weep into his hands. All he felt now was core-deep, indescribable euphoria.

 

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