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He's a (Zoo) Keeper

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There was a giraffe in Dean’s passenger seat.

It was only a small giraffe. Full of beans. It had soft, fat legs that splayed out on the leather, and its brown jersey-fabric hooves slid along the seat every time Dean made a turn. The giraffe’s nose rested down, its eyes staring at everything and nothing, pondering the day’s events in Dean’s stead, as Dean really needed to concentrate on the road.

Soon the car pulled up outside his and Castiel’s apartment. Lights gleamed from the second level of their whitewashed block, which meant Cas was awake but all their neighbours were asleep.

Mrs. Patel had left her car in the single driveway they shared, and Dean had no intention of getting up at four a.m. to move the Impala so she could get out, so he parked in the road. As the Impala ceased to purr, Dean pulled the keys from the ignition, then turned to his six-inch giraffe.

He could probably just return it to the zoo’s gift shop. It still had the price tag on its cardboard label.

Or he could give it to Cas.

Yeah. Cas liked crap like that.

With a small, sad smile, Dean picked up the giraffe, snapped off the price tag in a fist, and exited the car. The night was a hot one, simmering in the pan like a greasy leftover afternoon. Making his way to the metal staircase that led to his floor, Dean perched the plush giraffe on his shoulder, a pirate with a parrot. It stayed there obediently until he’d trotted up the fifteenth stair, and then it fell in a nose-dive into the potted shrub by the front door.

“Ah, come on,” Dean warned it, plucking it out, dusting off the woodchips. “You’re gonna need a bath by the time I get you in.” He put the toy back on his shoulder, waited with a steady hand until it remained, then he put his key in the door.

Hold on...

He needed a moment.

Just to breathe.

God, what a day. What a fucking day.

Finally, still upset but stable, he unlocked the door.

A comforting coolness hugged him hello as he stepped in. “Hey, Cas,” he called tiredly, squinting one eye until he got used to the golden glow. Nobody was in the kitchen. “You go to bed already?”

“I’m here,” Castiel called from the living room, past the cracked linoleum tiles in the kitchen, past the wooden pillar that separated the counters from the couch. Dean approached, finding Cas curled up around a cushion, sulking. Castiel set the cushion aside and put on a smile as Dean came close.

Dean stood before the L-shaped couch, seeing at once that Cas was more upset than he was. So he plopped the plushie giraffe down in Castiel’s lap.

“That oughta cheer you up,” he said, taking off his canvas jacket.

Castiel smiled, looking up with tears shimmering in his waterline. He moved a hand to take the giraffe. “Why are you giving me this?” he asked, thumbing at its soft jersey ears. “I thought he was a gift for Autumn.”

Dean sighed dismissively, sitting beside Cas on the couch, bending forward to unlace his boots. “Date didn’t go so well,” he said. He glanced at his friend, then nudged him with an elbow. “Looks like you had a worse day, though. What the hell’s got you so glum, huh?”

Castiel’s inhale sounded wet and wide, like he’d been crying. “The company beehives were shipped out tonight. They’re on their way to Texas.”

“Oof.” Dean pressed his lips together sympathetically. “That far. Sorry, man. Been a long time coming, though.”

“Yeah.” Castiel hung his head, looking into the black bobble eyes of his new soft toy. “Of course this also means I’m out of a job, unless I relocate.”

“And... are you moving?”

Castiel met his eyes swiftly. “Well, you’re not going anywhere. So, no.”

Trying not to look relieved, Dean reached to pat Castiel’s knee. “Beer?”

“Something stronger.”

“Oh, you said it, pal,” Dean said eagerly, launching himself off the couch and towards the kitchen. “You said it.” He washed his hands with soap, dried them on a dishtowel, then opened two cupboards: one for glasses, and one for whiskey.

He returned to the couch and offered Castiel his drink, both half-full glasses pinched at the rim. Castiel took his, and Dean flumped beside him, knees apart, shoulders deep in the back cushion. He sloshed his three fingers of whiskey down his throat, then looked solemnly at the giraffe, which Castiel played with, trying to make it stand up on his thigh.

“They didn’t want to go,” Castiel said, after a minute of drinking. “They’ll miss me, I know they will.”

“The bees?” Dean raised his eyebrows, but then lowered them, smiling. He knocked his right knee into Castiel. “Anyone would miss you, Cas. They’ll be fine. Got good people looking after them.”

“I know,” Castiel said sweetly. “It’s just... I’ll miss them too.”

Dean nodded.

Castiel drank a little more.

After half a minute, Dean got up, got the bottle, sat down, and poured them another finger each.

Then he said, “At least you still have your semi-legal killer bees out on the balcony. So you’re not totally alone.”

Castiel scoffed. “They’re not killer bees, they’re Africanised bees.”

“A.K.A. killer bees, who, as a species, have collectively murdered over a thousand people.”

“Be quiet, Dean, we’re not having this argument again.”

“And you keep them on our balcony.”

“They’re gentle.”

“They’re bees.”

“Do you want me to move to Texas?” Castiel snapped. “Because I will.”

Dean laughed softly, folding forward to stare into his drink. “You know I don’t.”

“Then drop it.”

Dean raised his hand and his drink. “Fine. Dropped.”

“Thank you.”

Dean tossed back his second glass, starting to feel a faint buzz in his chest. He knew it was too soon for the alcohol to hit him, but even a hint was emboldening. He licked his lips, twirling his glass so the last amber drop circled the crystal. “Cas, look... uhh... Somethin’ happened for me today too.”

“What?”

“Um. Me and Autumn broke up.”

Castiel inhaled. “Oh.” He breathed out. “I’m sorry.” He looked down at his lap.

“Me too,” Dean admitted, holding out his glass as Castiel uncapped the whiskey and offered more. “Now her poor giraffe’s up for adoption.”

Castiel cracked a smile, hugging the toy under his chin. He gave Dean a look that said he’d decided to adopt it, thank you, no need to worry. Dean smirked back, clinking his glass to Castiel’s.

“What happened?” Castiel asked, looking carefully at Dean. “You and Autumn.”

Dean pushed a stiff smile up on one side of his lips. “Couldn’t tell ya.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

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

Dean asked the question upside-down, lying with his head off the foot of Autumn’s bed. He’d watched her undress from her work clothes, and now, wrapped in her kimono, she reached up to unclip her hair. Straight black locks fell to her shoulders, kinked halfway down by the day-long pressure of the hairclip. She looked at Dean with a vaguely interested expression.

“Just wondering,” Dean grinned. “Not proposing or anything, I swear.”

“Good,” Autumn said, pacing to the bed and sitting by Dean’s head, bending to stroke his hair. “That’s good. Because I don’t really see... that. Me. Getting married. Or even having a relationship for that long. Kind of bothers me to think about it, in reality.”

“Yeah?” Dean propped himself on one elbow, torso turned to his girlfriend. “So... you’d wanna be ready to mingle forever? Or you don’t see the point?”

“Both. I just never wanted anything that long-term, and still don’t.”

“Right. Right... I mean... that’s cool, I guess. Makes sense.” Dean rolled to stare at the ceiling. “I’ve just been thinkin’ about it a lot recently. My friend Charlie’s getting gay-married, which is... awesome. She’s real happy. They’re going big, with the white dresses and the flowers and the fish-or-chicken-or-tofu dinners. Renting a ballroom or somethin’. I dunno. Not saying it’s the wedding I want, but... the relationship? Lasting, and – and solid, you know? Everything Charlie tells me just makes me want it more.” Dean glanced at Autumn. “But that’s not your scene, huh.”

Autumn shook her head. “It doesn’t worry you?” She grinned, then lowered her head to peel off her fake lashes, revealing the natural elegance of her Asian eyes. Her winged eyeliner was still perfect. “Kinda sounded like you were hoping you and me were building towards something.”

“Yeah, but,” Dean shrugged, “we can date and not get married.”

“Do you want to get married?” Autumn asked, moving to sit against the headboard with Dean, wriggling until they were comfortably wrapped in each other’s arms. Dean kissed Autumn’s chest, softly, as Autumn played with his hair. “Not to me, obviously. I mean... to someone.”

“Maybe?” Dean shrugged. He lifted his head, then said with pursed lips and a dipping nod, “Actually, yeah. Banked on it since I was a kid. Been saving up for a wedding for the last... ah, five years, give or take. Fifteen if you count all the savings I blew before that.”

“Huh.”

“Super girly, I know,” Dean muttered. “No big whoop, though,” he smiled, returning to kissing Autumn’s shoulder, fingering her kimono aside so he could reach her neck. “Whatever, right? I’m not the one for you. But hey—” kiss, kiss, “at least we still get laid.”

Autumn’s laugh was blunt, but genuine. “Sure.”

Dean purred, tilting his head to tongue the side of Autumn’s neck, mouth open under her ear. “Hmmmm.”

“Dean?” Autumn placed a firm hand on Dean’s shoulder.

He responded by pulling back, smiling dopily at her. “Ye-huh?”

“I think – w-we should break up.”

Dean chuckled, rolling his eyes. “Uh-huh.” He snickered again as he got back to kissing.

“No, I mean it.” Autumn eased him away. “It’s been a good couple months. But I don’t think this is going to work anymore, going forward. You and I need to break up.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean shugged. “I dunno. She didn’t like the way I kissed her neck, or something.”

“What?” Castiel squinted. “Did you kiss her wrong?”

Dean spread his hands, accidentally slopping some whiskey onto the corner table of the L-shaped couch. He put his drink down there, then rubbed his palms together.

“I don’t understand your girlfriends,” Castiel said, with a perplexed sort of irritation. “They reject perfectly good band t-shirts, very nice little giraffes, good beer, the best vinyl pressings, fancy snack foods. They seem disappointed by your most creative date ideas. And they break up with you for the strangest reasons.”

“More for you, though,” Dean smiled.

Castiel grinned. “Yes.” He put his giraffe happily beside Dean’s unfinished whiskey. “I’m very lucky in that respect, it seems.”

Dean sighed. “Biggest downside to breaking up is now there’s no chance I’m gettin’ laid tonight. Too bad, huh.”

“Too bad,” Castiel agreed. He put his own drink down, then nudged his giraffe over so it could look out of the window at the town lights, white and sparkly against a black summer night.

An easy breeze came in through the top tilt of the window, sighing down onto Dean’s skin. It smelt like grass pollen, round and smooth and warm against the back of his tongue. Dean drew in a deep breath. “Maybe it was the stubble,” he pondered, fingers bristling through his facial hair. “Maybe I oughta grow the beard back.”

“Oh, no, I like the stubble,” Castiel complained.

Dean’s soul gave a surprised jump. “You do?!”

Castiel seemed to fluster. “Then again, I’m not being kissed by it, so I couldn’t give an opinion about that.”

Dean cackled and leaned closer, making kissy-noises as he neared Castiel’s neck – Castiel laughed and pushed him, but let him get closer, and Dean knocked his muzzle against Castiel’s jaw. Castiel yelped, laughing, head tipping back to expose his neck more. Dean giggled, putting a few squeaky kisses there, more noise than touch.

“Stop-stop-stohohop,” Castiel laughed, pushing Dean away by the face.

Dean sat up, heart aflutter, happier now. He and Castiel shared a playful grin.

“Honestly, Dean,” Castiel’s eyes dipped to Dean’s lips, “if you’re going to kiss me, do it properly.”

Dean cackled. “Properly?”

“Like you did with Autumn.” Castiel rolled a shoulder. “At least demonstrate what you did, and I can... I can tell you where you went wrong. I’m sure your neck kisses aren’t that bad.”

Dean scoffed, rolling his eyes.

“I’m being serious,” Castiel insisted. There was a hungry twinkle in his eyes as they lowered to Dean’s lips. “This has happened too many times with too many women, and I really can’t comprehend why. You must be doing something wrong.”

“You’d think so, right?” Dean spread his hands. Then he huffed. “You, uh... You really okay with that? You’re not pranking me or something.”

“I’m not pranking you.” Castiel glanced down, undid the top two buttons on his navy-blue cotton shirt, then rested back on the couch support, head on the palm-leaf poster tacked to the wall. He shut his eyes, then peered past his thick black lashes to wait for Dean.

“Okay...” Dean moved an inch closer. He licked his lips. Some foreign heat rose inside him, and he supposed he was too hot, so untucked his moss-green zookeeper’s shirt and wafted some air against his stomach. “You ready?”

“Mm-hm.” Castiel tilted his head to give Dean some kissing room.

“Right. Well... I was kinda... curled up with her... like this?” Dean lifted both legs onto the couch, bumping until he was as close to Cas as he could be, arms around his waist. “And...?” He hesitated, then bent his head to kiss Castiel’s collarbone. “Started...” He shut his eyes and kissed a few times, soft and nervous. Then he snorted and lifted his head. “Stop judging me.”

“I’m not judging you.”

“I can feel all the hair on the back of my neck standing up, which means you’re staring at me. I have a sixth sense for it.”

Castiel scowled softly. “I’m not judging you,” he smiled. “Just do what you did, I’ll tell you if it’s not right.”

“Okay, okay.” Dean lowered his lips back to Castiel’s clavicle, and opened his mouth there, wet, taking a soft bite with no teeth. “Mmm. Mm. Mwah.”

“Ah...?” Castiel breathed.

“Excuse me?” Dean murmured, smooching under Castiel’s shirt collar. “Problem?”

Castiel shook his head, jaw stubble touching Dean’s forehead. It was prickly but not unpleasant.

Dean put a hand on Castiel’s stomach, realising how strong he was; that was a solid middle. Dean moaned a little, squirming closer, letting a pulse of arousal catch him. He slowed his kisses, deepening them, tilting his head completely onto Castiel’s shoulder as he sucked his neck.

Uohh...! Dean...”

Dean’s body flushed hot as Castiel relaxed, head back, a weak hand touching and holding Dean’s bicep. “Still good?” Dean murmured against Castiel’s throat.

Castiel nodded. “F-Feels... nice. Very... very nice.”

“See?!” Dean yanked back, frustrated. “I’d wanna be kissed like that.”

“Sh-sh—” Castiel hushed, taking Dean’s head and pulling him back to his neck. “Continue your demonstration.”

Dean smooched and nuzzled a few more times, but then muttered, “Um. Cas?”

“Mm?”

“About now was when she broke up with me.”

Castiel complained with a hum. “Well, she shouldn’t have.”

“Well, she did.” Dean shut his eyes and kissed a bit more, his chest snug against Castiel’s. He leaned closer to his friend, and they slowly fell to lie lengthways on the couch, socked feet by the corner table, Castiel’s neck on the padded armrest.

Dean lifted his head to check if this was okay, and saw Castiel had his eyes closed, his cheeks pinkened, his lips parted, wearing a tiny smile. Dean sucked his lower lip, stunned by the view.

Castiel realised the kisses had stopped, so fluttered open his eyes. His gaze was lust-dark, intense on Dean’s.

Dean tilted his head in a questioning way.

Castiel’s eyes darted away, a puff of breath escaping him. A flicker of a frown crossed his face... but then he looked back. Asking. Pleading. He wet his lips and stretched out his neck for more.

So, after a breath to steady himself, Dean shut his eyes and carried on.

Seeing Cas with his guard down was weirdly thrilling. It couldn’t hurt to comfort each other a bit... right? Just for a few minutes...

Castiel moaned, arranging his waist so he could part his legs around Dean’s, twining over them, feet stroking each other. Dean felt a spark run up his spine as he let tame kisses turn to sultry ones, wet, quiet...

They shared breaths, they touched each other, stretching out together and somehow holding hands, fingers spread, locking tight. Dean groaned – then recoiled sharply, astounded he’d dare make that noise in front of his best friend.

Castiel made soothing sounds, however, smiling, placing a hand on Dean’s jaw. “It’s okay,” Castiel whispered. “You can moan.”

Dean flashed him a pained smile. “What the hell are we doing, Cas?”

Castiel shifted a shoulder. “Might be best not to think about it.”

Hesitant, Dean kissed his neck a few more times, enjoying the darkness beside Cas’ head, where the ceiling lights couldn’t get to him. Dean realised he was half-hard in his jeans. He pushed himself to Castiel, unable to explain aloud, just wanting him to understand what was happening – only for Dean’s skin to sear with pleasure as he felt Castiel’s own erection though their jeans.

Pulling back, Dean panted, eyes looking frantically between Castiel’s.

Castiel gazed serenely back. He started to smile, and shut his eyes – why? why was he shutting his eyes? – leaning in... pulling Dean down... kissing him on the lips.

A beautiful flame shot up from Dean’s groin; he moaned involuntarily, surging into the kiss, frenzied by it. A thick utterance fell out of him and painted itself onto Castiel’s lips; “Ohh my God, kiss me.” Dean breathed out hard, grasping Cas as Cas grasped him; they messed up each other’s hair, called out into each other’s mouths; breathed hard, hard, hot on each other’s cheeks. They fumbled and grunted and undid each other’s shirts. Quick-quick-quick. Dean grinned and sat up to rip his shirt off at last, unbuckling his jeans while Castiel unbuckled his own.

“Uah— Cas—” Dean opened his fly and fell onto his friend, pushing his cock to Cas’ cock, forcing their bodies together. Castiel shuddered and his breath went ragged, flustered smiles curling his lips on every exhale. He looked blissful, desperate. Dean groaned under his breath, fucking into Cas so they thumped the couch rather than slid together, not even noticing the bite of two zippers pressed between their hips.

“Yeah. Yeah.” Dean nodded, gasping against Castiel’s neck, replacing old kisses with new ones. “Mm. Oh, that’s nice. That’s good, Cas. Oh, just there.”

Castiel nodded, mouth dry as he rasped out, “I— Auhh—? Aauhhhh...”

Dean laughed, and then Castiel laughed, and they held each other tight as they moved. Castiel started to wriggle, and Dean let him wriggle, until he realised Cas was trying to get his pants off completely. So Dean sat back, and they turned to sit side-by-side, both rushing to get naked.

Cas won the race, but rather than use his advantage to get in position, he sat by Dean, watching him wrestle with an uncooperative sock.

He then took Dean’s jaw in hand, and rounded on him to kiss him. First it was a hard kiss, which got his point across: he had plans. Then it was sweet, as he tilted his head, playing a little. Then it brought lava broiling up inside Dean, as Castiel kissed like there were secrets behind his teeth, and Dean couldn’t have them yet. Castiel’s kisses descended, jaw to throat to clavicle, and Dean leaned himself on the couch backrest, eyes shut, soft sounds of pleasure fleeing his throat as Castiel made his bold way to the jungle down below.

“Holy shit, Cas,” Dean huffed out, right hand on the back of Castiel’s shoulders as his warm, determined mouth took Dean’s erection and suckled it gently. “You’re really gonna—?” Dean looked down, awed to see his best friend bobbing his head, sucking, sucking, pausing to swallow. “Oh my God.”

Castiel shifted off the couch, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand before kneeling at Dean’s feet, where Dean spread his legs around him. Castiel looked up – oh, blue, blue eyes – and gave Dean a darling smile before bowing to him, swallowing him down again.

Dean sobbed, whole body tensing as pleasure coursed through him, as his bowlegs wound their way over Castiel’s shoulders, crossed over his back. Now Dean had Cas in a thigh-lock, but didn’t squeeze; instead Dean writhed with delight, humping only a bit, panting and whining and nodding without thought.

Castiel’s hands grasped and stroked Dean’s outer thighs, soothing, holding him steady.

Dean watched with complete astonishment. He couldn’t believe Cas was sucking him off, for one thing, and for another, that he was this damn good at it. He had great rhythm, knew how to breathe, and every so often, tilted his eyes up to meet Dean’s, and gave him an eye-smile, which was near incendiary to Dean. All he could do in return was cry out and squirm for more, smiling open-mouthed all the while.

“Cas,” Dean breathed. “Cas, I wanna come. I wanna come.”

Castiel hummed, still sucking.

“Puh— Pull off,” Dean warned. “C’mon, I gotta— Hmmmm.” He threw his head back, legs squeezing Castiel’s shoulders. “Shit. Shit. Cas—”

Dean gasped as he climaxed, back arching, head dragged down the wall, pulling the poster down. It swashed past his ear, but he ignored it, frowning and gasping as his body stung lightning white, then – then – slowly settled with flashes of heat still pumping in his veins, spurts of fluid having gone God-only-knew-where.

After a few seconds of recovery, Dean lifted his head, half-blind eyes wandering the room before lowering to Cas, who knelt in Dean’s grip, contentment in his expression, semen striped down one cheek and under his lips. He tilted his head and rested his cheek on Dean’s inner thigh, both hands hugging both legs. He gazed at Dean for a while, then shut his eyes, smiling.

“Hm,” Dean said, tongue working to swallow so he’d have a voice again. “Was. Good.” He nodded a few times. “OhmyGod. OhmyGod.” He panted, head back on the wall again. “Shit.”

Castiel kissed Dean’s inner thigh, then ducked out of his thigh-lock, helping Dean lower his feet to the rug. He lifted a hand, about to touch the muck on his face, then thought better of it. He looked to Dean for instructions, or suggestions, or maybe comfort...

Dean slid off the couch and sat by him, biting his own lip in a grin. “You, uh,” Dean said, glancing down at Castiel’s full erection, “You want me to...?” Dean waggled a finger in a circle.

“Okay,” Castiel said. He shuffled to get comfortable, still kneeling. He knelt with his knees apart, cock jumping by itself as it waited for contact.

“Mm.” Dean got down onto his elbows, hips to the floor, and with Castiel’s hand in his hair for guidance, he approached, mouth open, ready—

Someone knocked on the apartment door, and Dean jumped. “Aw, come on!”

They knocked again, and Castiel looked over his shoulder too this time. “Sounds urgent.”

Dean pouted. “But I didn’t get my turn yet. Maybe if we stay quiet they’ll leave. Pretend we’re not in.”

There came a third knock, this one even louder and more urgent than before.

“Coming!” Castiel shouted, getting to his feet. “Coming, one moment please!” He soon added, quietly, “Ironic, I know,” as he hastily buttoned his shirt.

Dean huffed as he fought to get back into his clothes. He barely had a moment to breathe between buckling his belt and seeing Castiel sweep away, barefoot. Dean rushed after him, grabbing his arm. “Wait.”

Castiel eyed the door, clearly sensing the needs of the person on the other side. But he waited for a beat, waiting for Dean to speak.

Dean couldn’t find a single way to ask all the questions he had now. He had to let Castiel go, knowing they’d talk later. “Nothing,” Dean said. “Just. You got a little schmutz on your face. And a really obvious boner. I’ll get the door, you wash up and cool off.”

“Oh.” Castiel had covered his chin bashfully. “Thank you.”

He hurried for the bathroom, and Dean went to the apartment’s front door.

The moment the door opened, Charlie fell inside, her eyes red with tears and her jaw tight with fury. “The wedding’s off. Birdie and I broke up.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

“This is what I get for trying to marry up a class,” Charlie uttered bitterly, storming past Dean and snatching off her waistcoat, tossing it onto the back of a dining chair. “Did I think it would come down to money in the end? I damn well should’ve, shouldn’t I. God, I’m such an idiot.”

She fell into the chair, hands clutched in her tousled red lob, scrunching it up.

Dean rushed to her, crouching in front of the chair, hands on his friend’s knees. He gave her ripped pink jeans an encouraging rub, asking, “You wanna explain what happened?”

“The wedding’s cancelled, that’s what,” Charlie spat. “Properly defunct. Dead. Gone. We’ve broken up. And don’t say she’ll come around – because it was me who ended things.” Sniffing hard, Charlie pushed her hair out of her face and looked Dean in the eyes. “Like hell I’d want to marry someone that steeped in vanity. The worst parts of someone come out under pressure. And as they say,” Charlie grinned in an unhinged sort of way, “getting married is one of the most stressful things two people can do, besides move house or have kids.”

Dean sighed, lips pressed together. “Ugh. I’m sorry. That’s wicked frickin’ rough.”

“It’s not, though,” Charlie said, punching a tear from her cheek with the heel of a hand. “I’m relieved. I’m free! I saved myself months of planning, years of debt, and a doomed relationship. And a heckuva lotta paperwork.”

Castiel left the bathroom, sheepishly easing past Charlie’s chair, as it was inches from the bathroom door.

“My condolences,” Castiel said with a small nod. “And congratulations?” He tried to smile, and began to grin when Charlie sobbed out a smile too. Dean rubbed her knees, and shared her relief.

“What happened, exactly?” Dean asked, standing up, reaching blindly for the other chair. He perched on the edge of its seat, leaning close to Charlie. Castiel stood by Dean, leaning his hip on the chair’s frame.

Charlie looked up to the ceiling, wetting her lips. “You know how... traditionally, when a man and a woman get married, the bride’s family pays for the wedding?”

Dean cringed. Even through the fast-increasing blur of tipsiness, he already saw where this was headed.

Castiel, however, replied gently, not understanding yet. “Yes?”

Charlie nodded. “Well. Take a guess what happens when you have two brides.”

Castiel squinted. “Surely the cost would be split evenly.”

Charlie scoffed, head down. “Yeah. Logical. Logical! Easy assumption to make.”

“Cas,” Dean said softly, looking over at his roommate, “Charlie’s mom.”

Castiel drew a sharp breath. “Oh. Oh... no. Oh no.”

After a hard swallow, Charlie looked up at him. “Yeah. Me and my mom are still way, way deep in debt after her leukemia treatment. Birdie knows. So does her family, obviously I told them. But...” With a rattled, frustrated grin, Charlie turned her head and glared at a far wall. “Birdie wants her perfect wedding. And, let’s face it, I want a perfect wedding. I do. I know it’s frivolous and ultimately pointless. But wouldn’t it be kinda nice? One beautiful day just to celebrate finding each other. Heck, I just want a party.”

A difficult expression crossed Charlie’s face, and she sighed. She’d calmed down a lot now, and just looked defeated. “I was as open with Birdie’s family about my finances as I could be. I figured they’d get it. They have a big house, they have three BMWs, they have a pool, Birdie went to a fancy school. She’s the one who wants to go opulent and glorious, not me. I figured they’d cover things.

“So imagine my surprise today when I hear Birdie making some offhand joke about plunging us both into debt over a couple of matching wedding dresses.

“It was just a joke, sure. But...” Charlie looked up at Dean. “But it wasn’t a joke to me. It wasn’t. How shallow do you have to be to care more about how the wedding photos look and what label is on your dress than how you’re going to live your life in the years after? How insensitive? Especially after my mom’s cancer.”

Charlie watched Dean get up. He went to the corner table of the couch, picked up a bottle of whiskey, and brought it back to the table. He got a clean glass, slopped out a single finger, and handed it to Charlie.

Charlie sipped.

“Part of me thinks I overreacted,” she said. “But.” She swilled her drink, shrugging at Dean and Cas, who now stood shoulder-to-shoulder, Dean’s ass against the kitchen counters, Castiel’s back against the dividing wooden pillar. “But I can’t be with someone who’d make jokes about that. Who puts so much stock in value rather than just living a good life with me. I want a nice wedding, but I want a debt-free existence more. And... after a delightful hour-long argument... I’m h-happy to report...” Charlie’s voice broke, and she sobbed out, “Birdie feels the exact opposite way.”

Furious, Charlie tossed back her drink and slammed the glass bottom to the dining table, nostrils flared. “So the wedding’s off. And I’m better off without her. There’s smarter, saner, more empathetic women out there. I’ll find someone.”

Dean started to grin. “Sounds like you got your pep talk covered. What do you even need us for?”

“Kind of don’t, honestly,” Charlie said with careless drawl, now leaning back in her chair, one leg kicked over the other. “I just came here for the free ice cream.”

“Ooh, I got you,” Dean said, rushing to the freezer, which was the top section over the fridge. He pulled out two cartons. “Americone Dream or Cinnamon Buns?”

“Half-n’-half. Take whatever tub is emptier and dump in the other.”

“Can do.”

While Dean busied himself bending dessert spoons (they didn’t have an ice cream scoop), Castiel sat by Charlie, reaching to hold her hand.

“You’re really okay?”

“I will be,” Charlie promised, with a brave nod. She gulped, then turned in her seat to get her waistcoat. From a pocket, she pulled out a shiny hardback book, which was checkered red like a picnic blanket, and due to the yellowing pages, didn’t look especially new. “Here.”

Castiel took the book, reading the title.

How to Plan A Wedding.

It was published by Good Housekeeping Guide, which Castiel thought was intriguing.

“There’s gotta be some way to make it cheaper,” Charlie said. “This book takes you through the whole process, start to end, and frankly it didn’t look like it should be any more expensive than a birthday party. The planning process is complex, yeah. But swap out three-hundred-gram metallic-ink calligraphy cardstock snail-mail invites for postcards or an email and we could’ve saved ourselves a few hundred bucks right there.”

“And yet you went so wrong.”

“Yeah.” Charlie shrugged. “Anyway, you keep the book. I can’t look at that thing anymore.”

“Thank you.” Castiel set the book on the table, hand pressed over it. Then he turned back to Charlie and held her hands again.

“Special serving of Americone Cinnamon Bun Dream, just for you.” Dean swept the ice cream tub into Charlie’s space, presenting her with a new spoon.

Charlie took the lid from Dean, capped the tub, stole the spoon, and got up. “Thanks.”

“Wait— You’re not staying?”

“Nah, I wanna get home and watch trash TV before the ice cream melts,” Charlie said. Castiel hesitated, but helped Charlie to the door.

“Ciao,” Charlie said, waving at Dean over Castiel’s shoulder as they hugged. “Thanks for the—” She waggled her ice cream.

“You won’t stay the night?” Castiel asked in concern. “I can confidently vouch that our couch is quite comfortable for lying on.”

“Aw, nah.”

“Can we walk you home?” Dean offered, coming to their sides. “Seriously, whatever you need, we’re there. Both of us.” He squeezed Castiel’s shoulder, as Castiel nodded.

“I’m good. Really.” Charlie fingered tear-damp hair off her cheek, giving a smile. “Thanks though. I’ll text you when I get home.”

Dean brought Charlie in for a tight, long hug, swaying her on her tiptoes. He sighed, and finally let her go when she pushed back.

“Sorry again,” Castiel said, as Charlie stood on the porch, waistcoat hung over her arm. “For Birdie.”

“I wasn’t kidding, you know,” Charlie smiled. “I really do feel lighter. I think deep down I knew it wasn’t gonna work. When they’re the right person, you just know, you know?”

Castiel nodded. “I’m sure you’re right.”

Dean smiled sadly, wishing she was.

“Night.” Charlie kissed Castiel’s cheek, Dean kissed Charlie’s, then Charlie descended the staircase.

Castiel waited on the porch balcony to see her walk to the end of the road, then turn right. Dean stood by his side, a warm presence, watching too.

When Charlie’s shadow was swallowed by the shadows of trees, Dean patted Castiel’s ass once again, then cocked his head towards the apartment. “I belive we were in the middle of something.”

“How are you still in the mood after that?” Castiel exclaimed quietly, letting Dean pull him inside, door shut behind them. Dean dragged him close, and as Castiel complained, “Aren’t you even—” Dean kissed him, Castiel kissed back, “a little bit sad—” soft moan, deep breaths, tilted heads, harder kisses, “about...?”

Castiel fell against the hallway wall, moaning, Dean moulded to his front, working against him, hands on his waist, pushing up under his shirt. Castiel’s body flashed hot, eyelashes fluttering as he sank into a peaceful, thrilling little moment with Dean.

Damn it, Castiel was already getting hard for him. He couldn’t help it.

“She said,” Dean breathed, kissing down Castiel’s neck, undoing buttons, “people know when they – mh – find the right person. Mm. Mhh.” Dean tugged Castiel by the waist, urging him down the hall, towards the living room. “C’mon.”

Castiel’s heart was starting to blaze. “Dean,” he smiled, following Dean as he led him by the hand. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“Depends what you think I’m sayin’,” Dean uttered, smooching Cas as they backed into Castiel’s bedroom door and into the dark, not having made it as far as the living room.

“The right person...?”

Dean shoved Castiel to the foot of the bed, where he fell into a moonbeam with a chuckled yelp. Dean laughed over him, bowing in the dark to kiss his clavicle, hands fighting his belt to undo it.

“She’ll find the one,” Dean said, breathing down Castiel’s belly as he crouched before him. “Don’t worry about her.”

Castiel sat up, confused. “I don’t mean Charlie, I mean...? I mean you.”

Dean groaned deeply as he got what he’d been waiting for, mouth full of Castiel’s cock. Castiel shivered and fell back, back arching, hands flying to grip Dean’s tufted, gelled hair. “AAuh, Dean. Dean. Oh, yes. Oh.”

“Mm. Mm.” Dean sucked Castiel’s cock too fast, too eager – as if he’d wanted nothing else all his life, and was finally allowed to have what he craved. His hands roamed Castiel’s belly, up his chest, down to his inner thighs, splitting the fly of his pants wider, pushing his jeans down to his knees. Dean twisted his head and grunted, grunted, slick wet heat sliding-sliding-sliding deep over Castiel’s erection. Consuming. Gorging on the taste.

“I,” Dean said, coming up for air. He kissed Castiel’s inner thigh, up, up, licking the dark, musky, skin right at the top, “I don’t have a ‘one’ to meet, Cas.”

“What?”

“C’mon,” Dean laughed, tongue sweeping slick all the way up Castiel’s length. They made eye contact in the silver glow of the moon. “I don’t stay with people for that long, dude, you know that.”

“But— But surely there could eventually be someone more special than everyone else.”

Dean snorted, then shoved Castiel back down, climbing over him just enough to hunch over his crotch, swallowing him down at a different angle. Castiel shuddered, at once forgetting his questions and losing himself to pleasure.

“Dean...”

“Everyone’s special,” Dean said, kissing Castiel’s navel, nosing up, all the way to his throat. He sucked there, then paused, breathing, “But there’s no big ‘One’, Cas. That ain’t how I roll. That’s never gonna be how things are for me.”

“Oh.”

Dean crouched between Castiel’s legs again, head down, hands around his waist as he filled himself with something that, from the sound he made – a truly irreverent groan – seemed holy to him. Castiel tipped his head back and howled under his breath, shaking, never having been worshipped like this before. He trembled in Dean’s grip, yet felt secure.

“You,” Dean breathed, panting a little, looking up into Castiel’s eyes, “you okay if I swallow?”

Castiel breathed. “Y-You want—?”

Dean nodded, kissing Castiel’s stomach. “You taste awesome.”

Castiel blushed. “Really?”

“Mm-hm.”

Castiel shrugged. “I— I haven’t been with anyone since – h-him. And I didn’t have anything, last time I got tested. So... if you want...? Yeah.”

Dean purred and descended, moaning deeply. Castiel swiftly lost track of Dean’s movements, as he fell back to the bed and it all became one epic, gorgeous onslaught of pleasure, and all he could do was writhe, legs shaking, one bare foot up on Dean’s shirt-covered shoulder. Dean made such beautiful noises. And he wasn’t kidding about liking the taste – Castiel didn’t feel a single drop escape Dean’s lips as orgasm approached, thrumming in Castiel’s core, pounding, hurtling through him until—

“DeEEean!” Castiel spasmed on the end of the bed, a gasp slamming the base of his lungs as he came, and came, twitching into Dean’s mouth. “Aauhhhh...” His head lolled to the side, still feeling Dean sucking him, tongue teasing out the last spurt.

Dean swallowed loudly.

Then he bounced up to sit on the bed, lying back with a huge grin, thumb wiping beside his lips. “Ahh, that was fun.”

Castiel was still out of breath, looking dazedly at the skylight above him. The nine squares of glass were tinted orange, but still allowed the moonlight to pour through as silver as ever. His heart was jumping, his body was singing one long high note, and his left hand, so unexpectedly, was placed on Dean’s stomach. He didn’t remember putting it there, but it was there.

As Castiel turned to look at Dean, Dean gazed back, biting his lower lip as he grinned.

“What do you mean, exactly,” Castiel said, squinting, “when you say there won’t be anyone special? Howhh— How do you know?”

Dean shrugged. “I enjoy people and then move on. Always have. And I mean it, man: everyone’s special when I’m with them. But I’m not gonna settle for one person, no matter how much I’m into them. That’s just... never how things work out.”

“So potentially you’d date someone else tomorrow. Even after you and I just... did... what we did. This was just a one-off thing.”

“Was it?” Dean faltered, then smiled, nudging Castiel’s leg. “I mean, yeah. Obviously. Doesn’t mean I don’t like you, though. Promise.”

Castiel pondered for a while, then nodded slowly, supposing he understood. “Is there any possibility we could do this again, even so?”

Dean propped himself up on an elbow, turning his torso to leer down at Castiel. “You like feelin’ me swallow, huh?”

Castiel pushed Dean over and stared down at him with equal intensity. “Yes, I did. Very much.”

It was oddly satisfying to see Dean squirm bashfully at that, clearly pleased.

“What if,” Castiel started, rolling onto his back again, squashing his side to Dean’s, “you and I had an arrangement. Where we can... be intimate as much as we like. Because I would really like to do this again.”

“So, friends-with-benefits?”

“Oh. Right. That’s the term. We’re still friends, then?”

Dean scoffed, batting Castiel’s stomach. “Don’t panic, man. Yeah. We’re still friends. I can separate sex from romance, no problem. Drunk sex. Horny comfort sex. That’s all this was. It’s fine. We don’t gotta mess with a good thing. You can be my li’l side piece.”

“Right.” Castiel swallowed, finger tapping on his stomach. Then he frowned. “No. No, I’m not comfortable with that idea. That makes my stomach squirmy and my toes curl and I don’t like it.”

“Which part?”

“You seeing other people. I don’t want to be one of many, even if your other partners know about me, even if you’re open with me about when you sleep with other people. I still can’t— I can’t do that.” Castiel glanced unhappily at Dean. “You can understand why, can’t you?”

Dean’s eyes dipped low to the cigarette-burn scar on Castiel’s right forearm. He nodded. “Yeah. I getcha.”

“So what would you suggest?”

Castiel sighed, eyes shut. “I don’t know. But I did very much enjoy sharing a sexual experience with you, and under no circumstances will I allow this to be the last time.”

Dean smirked. “Aw.”

Castiel flustered quietly. “It was incredibly pleasurable for me.”

Dean kept smirking.

They went still for a while, unspeaking, unmoving except for two of Dean’s fingers, the backs of which softly stroked Castiel’s stomach, back and forth.

After a minute, Dean sucked in a breath, and his finger-stroke turned to an attention-grabbing pat-pat-pat. “What if you n’ me do whatever – y’know – between me seeing other people. My flings don’t usually last for all that long, right?” He shrugged. “Think about it, though. In that little downtime between actual relationships, you and me could... mess around. Nothing serious, obviously, we’re still roommates, don’t wanna complicate shit. But. Yeah?”

Castiel was already nodding. “And we have to stop when you find someone else.”

“Awesome.” Dean grinned, locking his hands behind his head, gazing starry-eyed out of the skylight. “That’s kinda sexy, actually. Now I get to look forward to breaking up with people.”

Castiel laughed, rolling his eyes.

“No, I would, though!” Dean rolled to look at him, beaming. “‘Cause the minute I break up I get a treat.” He placed a soft, sweet kiss on Castiel’s shoulder.

“I’ll be your fallback relationship,” Castiel nodded.

Dean gave Castiel’s chest a fist bump. “Awesome.”

They lay together for a while longer.

Then Castiel asked, “Can you sleep with me? Overnight, I mean. Share my bed.”

Dean shrugged. “Don’t see why not.”

Castiel smiled, content. “Can we cuddle?”

Dean quirked an eyebrow at him.

“Please?” Castiel asked.

Dean snorted. “Yeah. Yeah, c’mon, let’s go cuddle.” They slipped off the bed, and Dean took off his clothes, while Castiel excused himself to the ensuite bathroom. Dean laughed as the bathroom door closed. “Dude,” Dean called, ambling up to the glass door, peering through it. “I can see your whole ass.”

Castiel huffed. “Dean, I’m trying to pee, leave me alone.”

“Who puts a glass door on a bathroom anyway?”

“Dean!”

“Okay, okay, I’m going,” Dean said, biting his lip. He snuck one more glance, though, and then turned away to the bed. “Can’t believe you got the room with the ensuite, when I’m the one with sexy naked girlfriends who need a shower after having sex with me.”

“Well,” Castiel called, over the sound of the toilet flushing, “I’m also sexy and naked and need a shower after having sex with you.”

Dean grinned widely, lying back on Castiel’s bed. “True,” he said, mostly to himself. He felt so damn giddy right now, and he wondered if he had any right to be, given the events of the day.

Castiel’s cellphone buzzed on the nightstand a minute later. Charlie had texted Cas saying she was home, curled up in front of her laptop, spooning half-melted ice cream into her mouth. She also sent a smiley face, which was heartening. Dean texted her back from Cas’ phone.

[Hey, it’s Dean. Hope you have a good sleep. Btw I’m naked in Cas’s bed. ;-) Drunk conveniency hookup haha.]

Her reply: [Pff “conveniency”... sure.. Stay safe, kids. Don’t u dare break his heart, Dean!!! I’m watching u. (Ew not literally but u know what I mean lol)]

Dean was half asleep but still smiling when Castiel joined him. Dean barely woke up, but snuggled into Castiel’s warmth, purring in delight. “Mm. Clean,” he muttered against Castiel’s neck.

“You smell like Autumn,” Castiel whispered, his body stiff. “The woman, not the season.”

Dean blinked his eyes open, gazing softly at his friend. “You don’t like that, do you?”

Castiel shook his head.

Dean kissed him, then slipped out of the bed, stealing Castiel’s bath towel from the handle of his dresser. Without a word, he opened and shut the glass door, and went to have a shower.

When he came back, Cas was asleep. But Dean still got in beside him. His heart flipped as he did.

Weird.

Dean maybe understood what both Autumn and Charlie meant now. Autumn wasn’t the right person for Dean, and knowing that, she had acted before Dean had considered doing so. And now she was gone, Dean felt lighter. Better. He pressed himself to Castiel, and felt everything else fall away.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

One night later, the moonlight poured in at a different angle, cutting past the foot of Castiel’s bed and washing out the colours on his rug. Dean leaned in the shadows, as there were few other places to wait; besides that square of silver, the room was sunken in darkness.

The hiss of the shower faded, dripping...

Castiel took a while to brush his teeth, because he flossed too. Naked, Dean remained by the glass door, arms crossed, one bare foot kicked up on the wall.

As soon as Castiel left the bathroom, he exclaimed, “Oh helloh—-”

Dean smothered him with a kiss, hands in his hair, crotch pressed urgently against Castiel’s, only the bath towel between them. Dean turned his head, kissing harder, moaning. God, he wanted him so bad. He couldn’t think about anything else.

Castiel gasped, half-grinning. “Do I sense an implication?”

“Implying nothing,” Dean said breathlessly, backing onto the bed, sitting down, waiting for Cas to join him. “Let’s, uh... make out.”

Castiel chuckled, approaching slowly. “You look very attractive without clothes.”

With a charming grin, Dean reached and snuck his hand under the overlap of Castiel’s towel, and slid his hand into the humid warmth there. His fingertips found the tip of Castiel’s cock, and he pulled softly on his foreskin, plucking it. Castiel gasped, a shaky smile on his lips. His eyes gleamed with dots of silver, first set on Dean’s exploring arm, then meeting his gaze.

Castiel gulped, and undid his towel, dropping it to the floor. Without looking away from Dean, he crawled onto the bed with him, craning forward as Dean lay back, and they breathed together, noses inches apart, lips separated and licked wet. Dean nudged his nose closer, but didn’t make contact. Castiel exhaled, admiring Dean’s lips, his freckles...

Then he shut his eyes and kissed Dean, and Dean felt himself melt into the bed, purring deeply. Castiel’s hands snuck up his body, and Dean surged into his grip, crying, “Yeah! Auh.”

“Have you been waiting all day for me?” Castiel asked, his voice liquid gold gushing over black rock. “How badly do you want me to pleasure you?”

“Ah?” Dean shut his eyes and grinned. “Shit, Cas, you’re makin’ me tingly.”

“Good.” Castiel kissed Dean’s ear. “Good tingly?”

Dean nodded, smiling when he met Castiel’s amused gaze.

Castiel moved to lie down properly over the covers, and Dean lay beside him, moonlight flashing on their feet as they shifted to get comfortable. Dean gave himself over to Castiel’s kisses, letting himself be touched, held; Castiel slipped one hand between the pillow and Dean’s cheek, and the other wrapped around his waist, hand lowered to hold Dean’s ass. Legs entwined, Dean began to hump, just a little. Not enough to get him anywhere, just enough that it felt sexy.

“Mm. Mh,” Dean broke the kiss to stroke Castiel’s face, wanting to look into his eyes. “Ugh, you’re so pretty.”

Castiel chuckled, blushing as he lowered his eyes. “Thank you.”

“You are though,” Dean said. “The moon’s gettin’ your eyes just right. Sparkly.”

“Are you drunk?”

Dean laughed, kicking Cas gently. “Naw. Just in an appreciative mood.”

They sank back to kisses soon after, and that frantic energy Dean had brought in with him faded to a pleasant simmer, which he was happier to live with. Lust became comfort, and although he and Castiel both remained erect, softly pushing against each other as they lay on their sides, neither of them sought to do anything but kiss.

After a good ten minutes, Castiel smirked, lips parting from Dean’s with a huffed breath.

“What?” Dean smiled.

Castiel shrugged. “I can’t believe we’re doing this. You and me.”

“Is it weird?” Dean asked, curious. “‘Cause it’s a bit weird for me, not gonna lie.”

“It is strange, yes,” Castiel said. “But only because I care about you so much as a friend, and feeling – urges? – and wanting to touch you like this isn’t something I’m used to yet.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah. Me too. But. But it’s kinda nice too, right? It’s like we unlocked a secret level in the friendship game.”

Castiel grinned.

“Usually,” Dean went on, ponderously, “even if I sleep with someone on the first date, I spend a good few hours getting to know them first. But you—” Dean chuckled, nuzzling Cas with his nose, making Cas scoff and squirm away, leading Dean to chase after him, kissing his neck and under his ear. “You. Hmmmm.” Dean took a breath, eyelashes grazing Castiel’s neck. “I’ve known you, lived with you for five years. I know everything about you.”

“I’m sure there are things you don’t know.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Like...” Castiel shifted down in the bed so his eyes were level with Dean’s, and they could cuddle and talk more easily. “Hm. Like the fact I...” Castiel laughed, “I wanted a mullet haircut growing up but the foster mom I had at the time wouldn’t let me.”

“I had a mullet!” Dean cried, before tipping his head back to laugh. “Shit, man, I must’ve looked so bad.”

“Hm, I beg to differ. I think any fashionable haircut looks fine so long as it’s contained within the appropriate era.”

“Oh-ho, sure.”

Castiel kissed Dean’s nose. “Really. Besides, I think you have the sort of face that could pull off a mullet quite well.”

Dean kept grinning, happy to let Castiel kiss his neck for a few quiet, pleasant minutes.

“What about me?” Dean mumbled, as Castiel nibbled his shoulder. “What, uh. What secrets do you wanna know?”

Castiel lifted his head to look into Dean’s eyes. “Do you keep secrets from me?”

Dean rolled a shoulder. “A few.”

“Tell me one.”

Dean immediately blushed. “Crap.”

Castiel laughed. “You shouldn’t have brought it up if you didn’t want to share. Now I’m curious.”

Dean groaned, rolling Castiel over, pressing him down with all his weight. “No,” he whispered into his ear.

“Please?” Castiel replied, grinning against the sheets as Dean wrestled him into a motionless body lock, face-down on the mattress. “Pretty please?”

Dean chortled, headbutting Castiel’s back. “Only if you let me put my dick between your thighs.”

Castiel tried to look back but couldn’t. “Is that a thing? Thigh sex?”

“You... didn’t know that?”

Castiel shrugged. “I don’t watch porn.”

“Dude, I didn’t learn it from porn.” Dean kissed Castiel’s back. “Seriously, though. Yes or no?”

“Okay.”

Dean bit his lip and pushed between Castiel’s thighs, groaning lowly, relaxing.

A minute passed. He kept pushing, his rhythm slow, his weight steady, his hands holding Castiel’s ribs, occasionally putting kisses on his shoulder. All he could think about was the wording of his secret, how to say it so Cas wouldn’t laugh, wouldn’t think too differently of him afterwards. Shimmers of pink and satin kept rushing up in his mind but he couldn’t describe how he felt about it.

“God. No. I can’t.” Dean sighed on Castiel’s back. “I know exactly what I wanna tell you about but I can’t say it.”

“What’s it about?”

“Um. Clothes?”

“Okay...?”

Dean went quiet, blushing.

In the extended silence, Castiel said, “May I tell you a secret of my own, then?”

He tried to roll over, so Dean let him, and they embraced once more, Dean’s fist around Castiel’s cock as they snuggled. Slowly stroking him, Dean waited to hear the secret.

Castiel licked his lips and looked away. “Sometimes I wonder— I think...” He looked down at his erection in Dean’s fist, then placed a warm palm over Dean’s heart, soothing himself. “I think I might not be completely a man.”

Dean grinned. “What? What’s that mean?”

Castiel shrugged a tense shoulder. “I, um. I— I don’t feel much connection to being... ‘manly’. Or male. I don’t know, it’s silly. It’s just that when you call me ‘dude’ or ‘man’ it takes me a moment to remember that that’s me. Or it’s what I’m supposed to be, anyway. Realising you mean me is always a shock.”

Concerned, Dean asked, “Wait, am I not meant to call you ‘dude’?”

Castiel hesitated before shrugging. “I don’t mind it. It just doesn’t feel like me.”

Dean looked down at Castiel’s cock, slipping his thumb over the slit. “Is having a dick, like – upsetting for you?”

“Oh—? Oh, no-no, it’s nothing like that,” Castiel smiled. “I’m comfortable with how I look and function. It’s just... inside. Although sometimes I do wonder if I have the confidence to wear a dress.”

Dean burst out laughing, headbutting Castiel’s chest. “Cas— Oh m— Hahah—”

Castiel complained, “I’m not joking, Dean. This was very personal for me.”

“It’s not that, I—” Dean was still snickering when he lifted his head. He pressed a soft kiss to Castiel’s lips, then said, so easily, “I wanna wear panties.”

“Pant... what?”

“Panties. You know. Frilly pink ladies’ underwear?” Dean bit his lip and grinned widely, feeling himself glowing in Castiel’s presence. “That was my secret. Seems super hot to me.”

“Hot.”

Dean shrugged. “I tried it a few times. But mostly I just fantasise.”

“I fantasise a lot too.”

“About wearing dresses?”

Castiel was blushing now, but nodded. “It’s not... ‘hot’. But it is exciting.”

“Aw.” Dean let go of Cas’ dick and wrapped his arms around his friend, kissing his shoulder. “God, you’re such a sweetheart.”

Castiel cuddled back, and Dean felt his smile amongst the stubble pressed to his skin.

They held on for so long that their erections both faded, and Dean’s slow breathing led him halfway to sleep. He only stirred when he felt Castiel kiss his cheek, murmuring, “Do you still want to have sex?”

Dean blinked a few times, peering into those gorgeous blue eyes, a haze of moonlight around Castiel’s elegant form. “I kinda like cuddling.”

Castiel nodded, bending to kiss Dean’s lips. “Tomorrow, then.”

Dean smiled. “‘Kay.” He booped Castiel’s nose with a fingertip. “Not-dude.”

Castiel grinned, rolling his eyes. They did some wriggling to get under the covers, and then Castiel wrapped himself snug around Dean’s back.

Dean wondered for a minute about whether it meant something that he’d come in here to fuck his roommate and was somehow equally satisfied by a personal chat and a cuddle, but decided it implied nothing more than the obvious: Dean liked cuddling. Cas was his best friend. They were close. They had a connection that ran miles deeper than physical attraction, so that made it okay.

It was fine that Dean lay awake in Cas’ arms for over an hour, playing with his fingers, happier and more content than he’d been in months. It didn’t mean anything at all.

Eventually Castiel’s stomach growled, and Dean couldn’t help but laugh. He rolled over and checked the time on Castiel’s cellphone. Nearly midnight.

“Hey.” Dean kissed Castiel’s hand. “You hungry?”

“Yeah.”

“Hhhh. Alright. Let’s get up. And we can come back after. Snuggle some more. Then sleep.”

“Okay.”

Dean sat up. “C’mon. I’ll make us a snack.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Besides the first change in their relationship that occurred on Friday, and the snuggling on Saturday night, the Sunday that followed would have been uneventful, were it not for the peanut butter.

Castiel was on the hunt for a job, so had his nose in his laptop every waking hour, looking away only to check his phone. Now that his previous employer had shipped the entire apiary south, there weren’t too many beekeeping jobs left in this part of the state – even in midsummer, which was prime beekeeping season – so he was making sure to include non-profit volunteer spots, scientific research opportunities, and topic-relevant freelance writing in his search fields. Any time he wasn’t scouring job listings, he was replying to emails, printing resumes, making business cards that said ‘Castiel Tippens | Beekeeping Expert’ on them, or lying back on the couch, yanking at his hairline and trying not to kick the window.

Dean got most weekends off from his job at Boston Sanctuary Zoo. Usually he’d spend his time out on a trip with his current partner(s), or otherwise mowing the lawn, washing dishes, paying bills, and folding laundry. As he presently had nowhere to go and no-one to go there with, his Sunday morning disappeared the boring way: amongst paperwork and a run to the grocery store.

At least he came home with peanut butter, which Castiel had been requesting only when distracted, but forgot about any time he approached a shopping list with a pen.

Folding up an empty paper bag, Dean called past the wooden pillar, “Once you’re done clawing your eyes out, you want a snack?”

Castiel sat up with a sigh, looking tired. His eyes were half-closed, his mouth a flat line. His face was flushed from his sudden movement, but he soon returned to his summer tan, piercing blue eyes turned Dean’s way.

“I heard a peanut butter jar hit the shelf,” Castiel said.

Dean grinned. “P-B-n’-J?”

“Please.”

Dean washed his hands, and hummed to himself as he fetched two plates and set out two slices of chunky grain bread for two identical sandwiches. He pushed the peanut butter to the edges, and made sure the jelly covered all of it before he lowered the next slice of bread down like he was landing a spaceship.

He cut the sandwiches into triangles just as Castiel came into the kitchen.

The only window in the kitchen faced the balcony, where Castiel’s killer bees buzzed around in the blue shade of mid-afternoon. Strong gold came streaking down through the skylight, however, and Dean rubbed the back of his neck as he put down his sandwich knife, feeling the prickle of heat on his skin.

Wait... Only one thing made his hair stand up like that.

Dean’s lashes fluttered, and he looked at Castiel, smiling. “You’re staring. What’re you staring at?”

Castiel had leaned back against the counter, a coy look in his eyes. He checked Dean out, then looked into his eyes. “All of you.”

Dean blushed, reaching to pat Castiel’s bicep, hand dragging lower to touch the skin where his sleeves were rolled up. Dean pulled back – but Castiel followed, and Dean almost hiccuped in surprise as he found himself kissed.

“Oh,” he breathed, smiling. “Okay. Hi.”

“Hi.” Castiel’s eyes lingered on Dean’s lips. “I believe,” he said, “unless I’m much mistaken, Dean, we have some sex we need to be doing immediately.”

Dean’s lips parted, his chest suddenly tight. “Uh. Uh. Uhohhokay. Um. H’m-mh.” He shut his eyes and relaxed into Castiel’s kisses, because they came soft and fast and eager, and Dean wasn’t one to argue when he was given nice things.

Guided by Castiel’s desires, Dean’s lower back bumped the counter. While intimately engaged in their heated kiss, he reached behind him and pushed the sandwich plates out of the way – knife too.

Castiel, noticing the counter had been cleared, stepped back. Dean took a dazed moment to breathe, licking the swell of his lips, then rubbing his hand over his mouth. Lowering his palm, he revealed a grin – which turned into a pleased ‘o’ as Castiel unbuckled his pants and out flopped his half-hard cock.

Dean was ready to hear an instruction, but he received none. Castiel simply bent past him, rested his elbows and forearms on the counter, stuck his ass out, and waited with pink cheeks and bright eyes.

Dean gaped at Castiel’s bare ass.

“Y-You want... what, exactly?”

Castiel shrugged. “Surprise me.”

Dean huffed out a giddy grin. He gave Cas a light slap. “What is it, my birthday?”

“Or mine,” Castiel said. He tried to turn and see what Dean was doing, but Dean had dropped too low. “What are you going toUUHHHH—”

Dean sank his tongue deep between Castiel’s cheeks, mouth open, face burning but somehow feeling cool as he pressed between hotter buttocks. Castiel’s hole was wrinkled and tight, perfectly clean. So clean, in fact, that he tasted like lavender soap. Cas’ hands had gripped the side of the counter, thighs shaking. He couldn’t spread his legs as his jeans were half-down, but Dean buried his face in those plump, fleshy mounds, happy to be smothered by them.

“Dean,” Castiel rasped. “Oh, fuck. Fuck.”

Dean gripped Castiel’s calves as he nosed deeper, sniffing in a breath, hurling it under Castiel’s legs. The heat and the humidity made Castiel wail, and he damn near collapsed onto the counter. Dean could feel him trembling, heard him slam the counter with a fist.

Dean pulled back to grin. “You havin’ a good time up there?”

Castiel nodded but couldn’t speak. “Y— Hih— Hmmmm, Dehhhh...”

Dean lifted his hands and pulled Castiel’s buttocks apart, sinking his tongue in and wriggling it firmly. Castiel sobbed, clenching his hole, then relaxing.

Part of Dean wondered, even at a time like this, if other guys did this for their roommates. Dean couldn’t imagine why not, if not. Was freaking hot. Forget the P-B-n’-J; Cas was the tastier snack.

Without warning, Castiel pushed Dean away by the forehead. Dean backed up and got to his feet, expecting a stern word, but Castiel only stomped off his socks, wrenched his jeans and underwear off – then – holy shit – he hopped butt-first up onto the counter, put his heels up there, leaned back against the wall tiles, and bit his bottom lip. He had a deeply desperate, wanton look in his eyes.

Dean only took a split-second to admire him up there, navy buttondown shucked up to his navel, erection leaving a wet spot in the cloth; brown inner thighs, a deep perineum, soft, wrinkly scrotum hanging down in the middle. Dean huffed out a grin, then rushed to kiss Cas on the lips – smooch, smooch, bite – then groaned and lowered his head, kissing down Castiel’s cock from the head to the base, gulping down his balls, mouth wide—

Castiel breathed, a strain in his gasps. He was tense as anything, but relaxed his hips enough to rock, rock, presenting himself for Dean over and over.

Dean had to crouch a little to have his mouth meet Castiel’s hole, but he did it, and Castiel shrieked low, one hand seizing a handful of Dean’s hair, the other turning white on the edge of the counter. Dean slapped his own hand atop Castiel’s, holding onto him as he licked and sucked and tongue-fucked him to climax.

It wasn’t hard to do, really. Cas wheezed a few times, his cock bumping on his navel without a touch. Dean twisted his tongue and shut his eyes, moaning slowly so Castiel could feel the vibration, and that was all it took; the next time Dean opened his eyes, Cas had splattered his blue shirt with translucent white, his cock was shivering and wet at the tip. His expression detailed intense exhaustion, and he panted slower, slower, coming down from his peak.

Task now complete, Dean rose, sucking on his lower lip. His eyes met Castiel’s, and they shared an embarrassed, surprised sort of smile. Thank God, Dean thought. It wasn’t just him who was continually astounded that they had this kind of chemistry.

He helped Cas down from the counter with a steady hand, another pressed to his lower back.

For five years they’d been reliable companions for one another. They’d had mental breakdowns in each other’s presence, hugged for ten minutes when nobody was looking, watched movies that made them both cry, gone out to the yard to burn an old journal in a bucket; they’d given each other back rubs, undocumented financial loans, and two-minute DIY birthday cards; they’d shoved food in each other’s mouths; they’d drunkenly made each other pee in random people’s gardens on the way home from wherever they’d gotten drunk. They’d swapped beds for a week to check if they’d chosen the right rooms, then played rock-paper-scissors in the end because Castiel’s room was obviously superior. They’d done it all. As friends. Friends. Platonically. What the hell happened that changed it all?

Dean stood silently in the kitchen, on fire in a sunbeam, holding Castiel’s eyes as Cas slipped his hand into Dean’s underwear, rubbing one out for him.

They said nothing. Just watched each other.

Dean shivered as he came, one hand holding Castiel’s bicep, the other gripped in Cas’ wet shirt. A slow, relieved breath flew from Dean’s rounded lips, and he nodded, telling Cas he was satisfied. He didn’t care he’d only lasted a minute. Somehow it didn’t matter at all.

Castiel picked up his jeans and put them back on, buckling them up with his head down.

Dean zipped his own pants and washed his hands and face and mouth in the kitchen sink. He felt Castiel pat his back, then disappear for a minute to wash in the bathroom. Dean made a mental note to spray the counters down with disinfectant later.

Taking the two sandwiches to the dining table, Dean sat, staring at the food.

Eventually Castiel came to sit by him.

Their eyes met.

“Were you always attracted to me?” Dean asked.

Castiel lifted a triangle sandwich. He wasted no time denying anything – what would be the point? It was obvious they had something ferocious between them, pretending that same something had been tamed was useless.

“To be honest I only considered that I might be sexually attracted to you very recently,” Castiel said. “I could never think of a good reason to test, to confirm whether or not it was something I wanted to act on – until you said you kissed Autumn’s neck wrong. And then I couldn’t stop myself from asking. And then I didn’t care to stop.”

Dean smiled, taking the first bite of his food. “I think I only realised it when we kissed. I mean, it was obvious you were hot before then. But I only started wanting you when you kissed me.”

They shared a long look, both smiling.

“You make a good sandwich,” Castiel said quietly, eyes down.

A devilish smirk rose up one side of Dean’s face. “So do you.”

Castiel caught his eyes – and Dean had never seen anyone blush as much as Cas did, right then.

Oh. What a fucking treat he was.

Dean couldn’t wait to get another taste.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Being unemployed for the fourth day in a row, Castiel had expected to have time free to do things. Fun things, like taking a stroll to the park, or visiting a museum.

Except his entire Monday felt like Sunday had, and not in a good way. There was far more laundry than he’d expected, and the fridge was a mess, and there was something sticky on the doorhandles that hadn’t been there before. It came up to five p.m. and he realised he’d only done housework.

At that point he gave in, and changed task: if he was going to achieve anything that truly made him happy today, he was going to make the place welcoming for Dean. He would darken his bedroom, light a dozen candles – some shaped like ghosts from last Halloween, not that it mattered – and he was going to wait for him.

An effortless smile graced Castiel’s lips as he set his fourth lit match to the fifteenth candle, then shook the match until it puffed out. He drew a smoky breath, gazing contentedly at his soft-glowing room, points of gold amidst purples and umber.

Dean would be home soon. When he wasn’t out with someone, he was usually home by six.

The clock ticked in that direction.

Five-fifty-five.

Five-fifty-seven.

Castiel checked himself in the ensuite mirror, unbuttoning the top of his shirt. He tugged the collar open so Dean would see more of his skin. There was a flush on his cheeks, and a shine in his eyes; he was excited and he knew it.

Returning to his bedroom, Castiel took off his socks, then paced by his closed door. He’d hear Dean come home from here. He’d go out to him... and then kiss him hello.

Oh, the rush that idea gave him! Kissing Dean hello. Casually. Like it wasn’t a big deal at all, like they always kissed hello.

And then Castiel would lead him here, and they’d make love by candlelight. Just the thought of having Dean the moment he got home from work made Castiel’s temperature soar. Maybe Dean would smell like hay from the rhino paddock. Maybe he’d smell like summer sweat. They could have beautiful, dirty sex. Maybe on the floor? Castiel quickly rushed to straighten the rug so there wouldn’t be lumps.

He heard the clack of the front door lock.

Castiel went to his bedroom door, ready to welcome his roommate with a kiss—

Just leave your shoes on, it’s fine,” Dean’s low voice bled through the wall. “Uh. Kitchen. Living room. That’s my roommate’s bedroom—” A knuckle rapped twice on the door. “Cas, you in there?

Castiel hesitated, hand touching the handle but not turning it. Chills shot down his spine, because he heard a woman’s voice. “Which way’s your room? Dang, you weren’t kiddin’ about the bee stuff, were yeh?

That’s the main bathroom. Next one along’s mine. Yeah.” Tap-tap on Castiel’s door again. “Cas?” Dean turned and opened the door, and they met in the gap. Dean laughed and backed out, and Castiel hurried after him, closing the door so Dean wouldn’t see the candles.

“Hey.” Dean grinned. He was about to say something, but then his smile faded and he asked, “You all right?”

“Oh. Yes. Fine,” Castiel smiled. “Long day. I hear you brought someone home.”

“Uh-huh—” Dean reached for the woman who approached, and happily slung an arm over her low shoulders. She was a pale, petite little redhead, whose hair flared back past her shoulders, freckles over her nose, a slightly stern look in her eyes. “Lexie’s a kindergarten teacher, met her at the zoo today.”

“Your place is grand,” Lexie said, sticking out a hand to Castiel. “Nice to meet yeh.”

Castiel started to grin, shaking her hand. “Castiel. You’re Irish?”

“Yep. Grew up in a wee luttle place just south’a Dublin. Half Scottush though, on me mam’s side. Don’t let the accent fool yeh; the red locks are all hars.”

Somehow Castiel couldn’t help his smile; Lexie was charming. She wore a Harry Potter merch shirt with green cap sleeves, and she was already chatting about the beekeeping books piled up on the dining table. “Me sister and I always clambered down to the brooks to find wild ones. Got us a few stings—” she laughed with her eyes squeezed tight shut, “but aye, was it worth it! Never had better honey in me life.”

Dean chuckled, clapping Castiel on the shoulder. “Could leave you two to talk all night about bees. Wouldn’t that be fun.” He gave Castiel a dull look, and Castiel squinted before he realised Dean was implying he wanted to escape with Lexie.

“Oh. Yes, I’m sure we could,” Castiel said to Lexie. “But you and Dean have... um, things to do. So. And I also have. Things. Lots of things.”

Dean squeezed and rubbed Castiel’s shoulder, then headed away, following Lexie as she wandered back to Dean’s room, chatting all the way about the decor. “I had a table runner like that! Well, I made it. Craft class, year twelve. What is that, senior year? I had one more year’s schooling after that, though. Oh, look’a that! I have a copy. Have you read that one?”

The door closed behind them, and suddenly the hallway seemed very quiet. The bass of Dean’s voice rolled deep and distant, but after one boom of a laugh, he went silent.

Castiel drew a deep breath, returning to his bedroom. It smelled like candle wax and match-head fumes, but as he bent to start blowing out the candles one by one, the smoke of dead flames filled the room with a bitter grey scent, and a blurry haze.

Leaving the door open for ventilation, Castiel went back to the kitchen, washing his hands for something to do.

He fought against his disappointment, although he knew it was warranted. The harder battle, however, was against something that felt like a crushing sensation in his chest. He was less upset about what he didn’t get than what he did. There was somebody else in Dean’s room, probably kissing him by now. Given the speed at which Dean and Castiel went from kissing to sex, Dean and Lexie might even be coupling at this very moment.

Surely Castiel couldn’t be jealous. He wasn’t supposed to get jealous. He and Dean had agreed— They’d agreed! What they shared was temporary. It could only last until Dean found someone else. And now he’d found someone else.

Dean could’ve given a heads-up, though, couldn’t he? That wasn’t an unreasonable ask. Castiel had been a phone call away all day.

Not jealous, Castiel decided. Lexie was delightful. She and Dean seemed comfortable together. They’d make a lively couple. Given they both had green eyes and freckles, if they ever made it as far as breeding, they’d be an attractive genetic match.

Castiel wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but he thought about it anyway. He started washing and chopping tomatoes while putting potatoes on the boil, since dinner needed to be made, and Dean was too busy to do it. He smiled, because he liked the idea of cuddling Dean’s baby. Maybe Dean would name him as the godfather.

Or... not father. God...parent.

Or just a co-parent. That would be very special.

What if Dean and Lexie broke up and Dean was left with the baby and Castiel raised it with him? People would assume they were a couple when they went anywhere together. Maybe they’d become so entrenched in the domestic routine they shared, and had so much sexual chemistry, that eventually they’d both forget they weren’t a couple, and twenty years would pass, and Dean would wake up beside Castiel one morning and realise he hadn’t had been intimate with anyone but Castiel in all that time. And by then, he didn’t want to be again.

Castiel let out a longing sigh, pushing his casserole deep into the heated oven. He looked up at the clock and saw it was nearly seven. Surprised, he glanced around, realising he’d turned the kitchen upside-down, lost in fantasy this whole time.

Now self-aware, he frowned and scrubbed the chopping board in the sink, despairing at himself that the most exciting part of his fantasy had been the part where Dean forgot he wanted to sleep with other people. Castiel couldn’t believe he was excited by that. He had no right to be. Either he accepted that Dean would always be helplessly drawn to other people, or he and Dean cancelled their arrangement entirely, and Castiel did not want that.

Regardless, Dean understood why Castiel wasn’t at ease with his non-monogamy. And Castiel trusted that once they talked the subject over, Dean would tread gently.

That would be enough.

Castiel smiled when Dean came out of his room, swaggering to the kitchen in his boxers and a loose shirt that hung off one shoulder. He had a few red marks on his neck and below his lips, and he walked a bit unevenly.

“Hey,” he said softly, coming up behind Castiel.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel said, with equal warmth, as he wiped up surface crumbs with a damp towel.

Dean spanked Castiel’s ass, then pressed snug to his back, kissing the nape of his neck. “How was your day?”

Castiel shut his eyes, smiling, feeling himself melt into Dean’s heat. But he turned and shook his head. “Don’t do this. I know you have the capacity to love so many people at once, but... I really mean it, Dean, I don’t want—” a kiss, accidental – “I-I-I don’t want to be an after-thought. Commit to Lexie. You can have me again when you break up.”

Dean quirked up an eyebrow. “When we break up?”

“If.” Castiel smirked.

Dean grinned, patting Castiel’s cheek. “Okay.”

“And Dean—”

“Yeah.”

“I need you to warn me first. Before bringing someone else home.”

Dean nodded. “Uh. Alright. Can do that. Sorry about today, then. Didn’t think it was gonna—”

“It’s forgotten,” Castiel said. “Really. Let’s move on.”

Dean drew a solemn breath, taking a step back. “Can—?” He inched forward again. “Can I get one more kiss?”

Castiel chuckled, nodding, reaching for Dean as Dean fell against him, hands in Castiel’s hair. Dean sank down, some odd tension fading from his shoulders, from his face. He made the kiss linger, and linger, but then Castiel forced his fingertips between their lips, and the kiss broke with a shared sigh. Dean swallowed, then stepped back, taking Lexie’s caramel scent with him. He wiped his lips, not meeting Castiel’s eyes.

“Thanks,” Dean said. “What, uh. What’s cookin’?”

“Vegetable and beef-mince casserole, mashed potato on top. It’s almost done – look, the top’s turning golden.”

“Ooh.”

“Is Lexie staying for dinner?”

“She’s going in the shower, pretty sure she’d headed home. School night, and all that.”

“Right.” Castiel leaned on the counter, arms folded. “Was it... good? With Lexie.”

Dean met his eyes. “You never used to ask that.”

“Can’t I ask now?”

Dean rolled a shoulder, starting to grin. “Was awesome. I’m tellin’ ya, she talks non-stop, but the moment I got her G-spot, she went quiet. Kinda funny, huh.”

“Hm.” Castiel showed Dean a smile before Dean left for the bathroom. But the smile dropped the moment Dean’s back was turned.

Was he jealous? Was he? He couldn’t tell. But there was discomfort in the pit of his stomach, and he turned for the oven as it beeped, praying it was just hunger.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean had been dating Lexie for a few weeks, still ongoing. From Castiel’s perspective, there wasn’t much to say on the subject, as he didn’t attend their dates, he didn’t meet Lexie more than thrice, and Dean came home as he always did, tired and in need of a shower.

Castiel spent those weeks without a steady job, but put in some time and reaped the rewards of publishing a handful of online scientific articles, all on the topic of bee-killing pesticides and how they would legitimately doom all life on Earth to extinction if they weren’t banned by law. Besides that, his time was divided between housework and job-searches, and, of course, the care and keeping of his own bees. They got grumpy when it rained, so by week two of Dean-plus-Lexie, Castiel was mid-way through constructing an additional roof to put up over the hive for when the weather turned. Fall was only a couple of months away, and he intended to be prepared.

Once, at the tail end of a Tuesday, Dean fell with a sigh into the couch beside Castiel, rested for a moment, then tugged his phone out of his jeans. “Look,” he said.

He bent forward over his thighs, scrolling with a single finger until he found what he was looking for, and then handed over his phone.

Castiel saw the photo of a slimy baby giraffe on the screen and squealed, hand slapped over his mouth. “She had the baby! She had the b—” He threw his arms around Dean and sobbed for joy, glad to feel Dean squeeze him back.

“Little guy’s as big as me,” Dean said, pulling back, wearing a huge grin. “Plopped down in the dirt hooves and nose first. Was walking within fifteen minutes.”

“Incredible,” Castiel breathed, holding the phone in both hands, shaking his head in awe at even the blurriest photos. He scrolled through, flashes of smiles and happy grins bursting out every time he saw a new angle or a different hoof.

“Fifteen months,” Dean said proudly. “Fifteen months she carried that baby. We weren’t expecting him for another three days or so. But out he came. Plop.” He chuckled, leaning back on the couch. “Boy, am I exhausted. There were news crews and bloggers and happy schoolkids rushing all over the place with cameras. Baby giraffe’s gonna be tonight’s local front-page headline.”

“What are you going to name him? Has he been named already?”

“I mean,” Dean shrugged, “what do you call a six-foot baby? We’ve already got the sisters Zig and Zag, and then there’s the baby’s mommy, Tol. Like Charlie said to the news people, the obvious thing to call him is Smol – ironic as it is, given he’s a giant from day one.”

Castiel snorted, handing back the phone before snatching it again, wanting another look. “Baby Smol. Oh, that’s wonderful.”

Dean shut his eyes, taking a rest while he smiled.

“Look, friend,” Castiel said. “You have a new cousin.”

Dean peeked to see what Castiel was doing, and grinned when he saw him showing the cellphone photos to his plushie giraffe.

“You give that thing a name yet?”

“Not yet. But I think now I’ll have to call her Tiny.”

“Her? I thought it looked like a dude giraffe.”

Castiel shrugged. “She likes being a girl sometimes.”

Dean pursed his lips, putting a hand on Castiel’s upper thigh. “Did you notice I haven’t said ‘dude’ or ‘man’ in a couple weeks? Even when I’m not talking directly at you?”

Castiel blinked a few times, then gasped, “Oh! Now that you mention it—!”

Dean laughed, rocking his leg over to touch Castiel’s. “Love ya, buddy.”

Castiel lay back with him, gazing at him.

“Hey, uh,” Dean started. “Is it all right if I... tell other people about – you? You not being a dude.”

Castiel pondered. “Depends. Who would you tell?”

“I dunno, just, if it came up in conversation.”

Castiel smiled a little. “Sure.”

“‘Kay. Awesome.” Dean gazed back, smiling. Then he sniffed. “Oh—” He sat up, got up, and ran off.

“Dean?” Castiel waited, listening. He heard Dean rummaging through a bag, then his footsteps as he padded back to the couch. He sat down and handed Castiel a block of chocolate. It had a panda photo on the paper packaging, so Castiel knew it was from the zoo gift shop.

“Lexie’s vegan,” Dean said. “This crap’s dairy free, which I thought covered that whole deal, but, uh. Something about gelatin, I dunno. There’s jelly inside the blocks.”

“Ooh,” Castiel said in delight, as Dean finally took back his phone. Castiel unwrapped the top of the chocolate, breaking off a piece for him and Dean each. As the chocolate melted on his tongue, Castiel mumbled, “Maybe I shoulb be happy you’we dating uvver peopwe. More for me.” He cheerfully popped another jelly block into his mouth, enjoying the squish.

Dean chewed and swallowed, his eyes set thoughtfully on Castiel. Head slightly tilted, he asked, “You make it sound like you’re not happy. About me and Lexie, I mean.”

Castiel sat up straighter, the chill of discomfort settling on his shoulders. He swallowed, then peered down at the chocolate slab, pretending to read the label.

“Is—” Dean pushed up a nervous grin, peering into Castiel’s eyes in concern. “Are you— Cas, are you jealous?”

Castiel frowned, shaking his head. “No. No, it’s not that.”

“Then what?”

Castiel wet his lips, looking up to meet Dean’s eyes. “I’m doing my best to be okay with... you wanting her. That makes sense. It’s strange for me, yes, but I feel it getting easier. I know you’re still attracted to me, I feel it when you look at me, still. I’m not losing you to her. I know that. That’s not the problem. I’m not jealous.”

Dean turned on the couch to face Castiel more, listening.

“It’s just,” Castiel put down the chocolate and eyed the ceiling, letting out a breath. “I feel left out.” He hung his head. “Ugh, that sounds ridiculous. Especially because you live with me and Lexie goes home. You’re bringing me gifts. You eat dinner with me every night. I shouldn—”

“Cas, it’s okay,” Dean said, taking his hand. “That’s envy. You want somethin’ and you’re not getting it, but you know Lexie’s getting it. That’s pretty normal. C’mon. Don’t tell yourself you ‘shouldn’t’ feel something, bud. Even if it sucks, and you think there’s logical reasons why it’s irrational – if you feel something, you feel it.”

Castiel sighed, resting his face in his hands. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For saying I didn’t want you and then still wanting you.”

Dean laughed, placing a hand on Castiel’s back. Castiel looked up at him, and Dean just grinned. “You wanna spend more time with me, is that it?”

Castiel sat up. “What would we do?”

Dean shrugged. “Watch movies. Drink beer. Talk. Argue about bees. Y’know. All the crap we usually do.”

Castiel glanced away. “Right. Mm-hm. That sounds good.”

Dean tilted his head to catch Castiel’s eyes. “No it doesn’t. Quit lying to me, Cas, that’s not gonna get us anywhere.”

Castiel looked away again, apologetic this time.

“You...” Dean thought for a bit, then said, “You wanna do something special? Just you, me... Phones off. No interruptions.”

That seemed infinitely more appealing to Castiel. “Okay.”

Dean smiled. “Okay!” He reached up and knuckle-pushed Castiel’s jaw. “There’s a real smile. Look at that.”

Castiel grinned now, warm in the chest.

“Tomorrow,” Dean said. “Eight o’clock. Right here.”

“Okay.” Castiel was beaming now.

“Okay.” Dean stood up, then leaned down with one foot off the ground to smack a kiss to the top of Castiel’s head. When he stood back, he paused, and said, seriously, “Cas? Don’t lie about how you’re feeling. Not ever. Especially when it comes to relationships. Trust me, pal, it never works out. I think we both know that.”

Castiel held his eyes for a long while, sharing memories and comforting each other with nothing but an extended stare. Eventually Castiel nodded.

“Goodnight, Dean.”

Dean winked. “Night, Cas.”

And he sauntered off. Castiel reached for Tiny, the bean-filled giraffe, and his chocolate, smiling. He let Tiny have a nibble of a chocolate piece first, before tossing the rest into his own mouth.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

At eight o’clock that Wednesday, Dean presented Castiel a twelve-by-twelve-inch wrapped gift, with tigers on the paper. It was a slim thing, and light in Castiel’s hands.

“I think I know what this is,” Castiel smiled as Dean sat beside him. He carefully peeled up the wrapping tape so he didn’t damage the tigers, and when the paper folded out, he grinned, finding a brand new vinyl record inside, still shrink-wrapped. “I knew it.”

Dean shrugged. “Lexie doesn’t have a record player.”

Castiel’s eyes met Dean’s. “You bought Phil Collins’ ...But Seriously for Lexie?”

Dean’s lips parted. “Uh. Well.” He cleared his throat. “I mayyyy have bought it knowing full well she doesn’t have a record player and that Phil Collins is in your all-time top three. So.”

“So you bought it for me.”

“I bought it for you,” Dean said, one hand curled loosely by his grin, elbow propped on the couch back. “You wanna put it in now?”

“Can we?”

Castiel used his thumbnail to split the plastic, and it came away, clinging to his forearm with static. He brushed it off, and it clung to his hand, so he wiped it on Dean, who yipped in complaint, then laughed, shaking the plastic onto the floor, where it stuck to his sock.

Cracking open the gatefold of a new record was a heavenly experience for both Dean and Castiel, but for entirely different reasons. Dean liked the rush of getting some long-awaited record and adding it to his collection, the rest of which was framed thickly around the TV on the opposite wall – whereas Castiel liked the sensory experience of opening the cardboard gatefold like a book, touching it, feeling it, sliding out the records from the hollow edges, trying and failing to blow away the six flecks of dust that arrived out of nowhere. Dean insisted there were better ways to banish static dust than blowing spittle onto the record. Even so, Dean and Castiel could agree on the best parts: seeing the artwork, and listening to the music.

Castiel handed the first of two records carefully to Dean, fingers balancing the black disk by its edges. Dean took it the same way, and floated it over to the TV, underneath which was a table that looked like a side table, but was actually a record player.

Disk in, power on, Dean turned up the volume, and set the stylus on the edge of the disc as it spun.

Both Castiel and Dean’s shoulders sank down, blissed by the huge pow-wow first notes of Hang in Long Enough, with that hard-hit beat of the late 80s.

Dean made it halfway back to the couch before he stopped, and beckoned. “C’mere.”

Curious, Castiel went to him. Dean took him by the lower back, hand in hand, and swiftly but gently began to dance with him.

Castiel smiled. “Oh.”

They swayed, and swayed fast, then turned in place, and kept swaying. Somehow. in the darkness of the living room, bright lights appeared, glitter in the walls and flares of lights spinning around the room.

You never thought you'd eeee-ver get a taste

Castiel laughed, head back, as Dean swung him around by his lower back.

You never thought that it – could be – this good

Castiel twisted Dean, spun him, and Dean stumbled but came around, his eyes bright.

Just tell me what you want, and I'll find the key—
Reach out and touch!
It's all yo-o-urs!

“Ow!” Dean whooped, twisting Castiel’s arm over his head. spinning him. Castiel laughed, rocking with Dean, sway turning to a jive, both shimmying back and forth. Dean sparkled, Castiel shone, and they laughed and stepped as one, not caring how clumsy they were, how many times Castiel trod on Dean’s toes or Dean kicked Castiel’s ankles. No apologies needed. They just kept dancing.

The song kept them jumping, hearts pumping, bodies afloat; they grinned wide enough that their gums showed, their eyes stayed locked so they saw each other’s glimmer; they laughed, hands together, sweat on their foreheads, shirts untucked now. Their feet turned and skimmed the rug, Castiel barefoot and on tiptoes, Dean putting down a solid weight, losing both socks to friction halfway through.

They alwaaays saaaaay...
The best things in life are free
But you want to have ehhhverything—
Well you're going-to-have-to beg if you want it aaaaaaaaaall—

Castiel turned Dean around and splayed him out, arms long, then wrenched him close again, wrapping him up in his arms, holding him from behind.

Hang in long enouuugh,” Dean sang, head bobbing. “Yeah! You’ll do it...”

They panted, running out of energy as the end approached, trumpets and a small choir repeating the last lines, over, and over, and over, until—

Dean collapsed on the couch, laughing, hand pushing his hair off his forehead. He was loose-limbed and happy, and smiled wider as Castiel fell atop him, not touching him, resting all his weight on his hands plunged deep into the couch. Dean blinked tiredly, a lazy grin rising on one side of his face.

Rolling to lie down beside Dean, legs stretched over the now-rumpled rug, Castiel rested his cheek on Dean’s shoulder, catching his breath.

Phil Collins was halfway into That’s Just the Way It Is before either Dean or Cas could move again.

They sat up a bit more, but Castiel kept his cheek on Dean’s shoulder. Dean touched the other cheek with his own head, nuzzling.

They both rose to look at each other, still arush with endorphins. Castiel nosed forward a little, and so did Dean – but they both flinched, Dean drawing a breath, while Castiel swung away entirely, hand over his mouth.

Not meant to kiss.

Dean was still dating Lexie.

They’d agreed. No doubling up.

So Castiel slumped back, and let himself be content by Dean’s side, pressing to his heat, feeling that reassuring solidity pressing back. They shared another quick glance, and found it easy to smile.

They listened to the rest of the album in a quiet state of bliss. Dean flipped the disc the first time, and when that was over, Castiel changed to the next one.

Whether or not they could kiss, or make love, it hardly mattered, because Castiel adored every moment of this: being by Dean’s side, enjoying something together. By the look in Dean’s eyes when they finally packed up for bed, he might even have appreciated their night together more than Castiel. There was gratitude in every movement, and relief in his hug when they pressed together at last.

“Thanks,” Dean said, pulling back. He nudged Castiel’s chin. “We gotta do this again sometime. Soon.”

Castiel reached for him before he could step away. “Dean.”

“Yeah.”

“Did this feel like a date to you?” Castiel asked. “Was this a date?”

Dean’s gaze lingered, but he didn’t seem able to come up with an answer.

“You should tell Lexie,” Castiel said, lowering his eyes. “Tell her how we spent this time together. If you’re going to keep seeing her I don’t want her to think this was something that it wasn’t.”

“So it wasn’t a date,” Dean said.

Castiel lifted a shoulder. “If we’d kissed perhaps it would’ve been. But.” He blinked twice. “We just hung out. That’s all.”

Dean nodded. “Yeah.” He nodded again. “We just hung out. No big deal.” He grinned. “I mean, jeez, if I went on a date with you that would be, like... romance. Pff.”

Castiel chuckled. “Wouldn’t that be funny.”

“Hilarious.” Dean reached close and patted Castiel’s bicep twice. “Night, bud.”

“Goodnight, Dean.”

Dean took a step away, hesitated, then rushed forward and gave Castiel a kiss on the cheek. He backed up, colour on his cheeks. “Just— Didn’t feel right not to. I dunno.”

Castiel touched his fingers to his kissed cheek, smiling. “Go away already.”

“Right.” Dean shot a pair of finger guns. “Going. Bye.”

He hastened to his bedroom and shut the door – but not completely. He peered out one more time, meeting Castiel’s eyes. They both beamed. Even once Dean’s door was shut, Castiel grinned, and grinned, and grinned, turning away with his hands in his hair.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

To Castiel, Dean seemed happy. And why wouldn’t he be? He loved his job, he saw his beloved younger brother Sam once or twice a week, his apartment was clean and tidy, his sack lunches were prepared with love, he was dating a beautiful woman with a plethora of hilarious teaching stories tucked up her cotton cap sleeves, and to top it all off, despite having no paying job, Castiel was happy too – which, Dean had said once, just made him feel good.

Dean brought home a pair of Tinder hookups, two Saturdays in a row. One man, one woman, apparently a couple. Lexie joined them the second time. Castiel learned their names and then immediately forgot them, as he had his hands, his pillow, and a pair of headphones covering his ears while they were shouting those names through the walls. By the third weekend Dean had forgotten too. It was all Lexie, Lexie, Lexie again.

Castiel supposed Dean was really starting to adore Lexie. It had been well over three weeks and Dean had nothing but enthusiasm for her, and brought her up in conversation several times a night. He enjoyed her company, that much was obvious.

There was no reason to doubt Dean’s joy.

All of this – all of it – made it shock when Dean barged into the apartment one night, out of breath, visibly flustered, looking harried and determined. He shed his jacket on the kitchen floor, snatched the spoon out of Castiel’s hand, tossed it onto the counter, and kissed him with some kind of desperate, furious passion that Castiel had never felt in him before.

Dean panted, gripping Castiel’s shirt collar, then kissed him again.

“Dean,” Castiel whispered. “What—”

“We broke up,” Dean breathed, wet-lipped, dark-eyed. “Me and Lexie broke up.” Another kiss, his hips pushed hard into Castiel’s. “Hhmfuck me,” Dean begged, the moment their lips separated. “Take me to bed and fuck me, Cas. Hard.”

“When?”

“Now! Please.”

Castiel blinked a few times, brain finally catching up with Dean’s words.

Castiel held his eyes. Dean seemed to want something, yes, but it wasn’t just sex. He didn’t look lust-driven, there was emotion there. Maybe he wanted comfort. Deciding not to miss this chance, Castiel reached to twist off the oven dials, so at least the dinner wouldn’t burn. He nodded, jerkily, and was quickly taken into another kiss, Dean already unbuttoning his shirt for him.

Dean pulled Castiel by his open collar towards the bedroom doors, walking backwards as they kissed. Castiel expected to be dragged to Dean’s bed, where he took everyone else he slept with. But Dean led them into Castiel’s own room, pressing him up against the door in the dark.

“Dean, y-you and Lexie, what happ—”

Dean shook his head, breathing roughly, pulling Castiel towards the bed. “Doesn’t matter.”

Castiel shed his shirt, while Dean stepped back to denude himself in a rush, panting, diving to the bed the moment he was free of his boxers. He knelt chest-down on the mattress, facing Castiel, waiting for him.

Quietly appreciating Dean’s naked form, Castiel went to the side of the bed, placed a hand on Dean’s slick shoulder and used his body to guide his own close, lying by his side, setting a kiss on Dean’s arm.

“Fuck me,” Dean begged, squirming. “Fuck me in the ass, I gotta— Please. I need—?” There was no shame in his eyes, just want. “There’s condoms and stuff in my room.”

Castiel looked to his own nightstand. Wetting his lips, he drifted that way over the bed, hunching to pull out his drawer. He took out what he needed, then showed Dean. “Are these all right?”

“...Yeah,” Dean said, a surprised tone in his voice. “Why do you have condoms and lube? You don’t sleep with anyone.”

Castiel shrugged, sitting on the edge of the bed to masturbate, getting himself hard as Dean rolled onto his back and opened up the condom box.

“I like to be prepared,” Castiel said, looking softly at Dean, who had one jagged edge of a condom packet between his teeth, having torn it that way.

Dean wriggled closer, and with two well-practised fingers and a thumb, he pinched the tip of the condom and rolled the rest down Castiel’s erect length. Castiel sighed, eyes shut, head back, biting his lip as Dean’s touch filled him with something glorious. He’d missed this more badly in the last few weeks than he’d allowed himself to admit.

“C’mon,” Dean urged, lying on his front again, feet near the headboard. Resting his forehead down on the sheets, he spread his arms forward until his hands hung off the foot of the bed. “C’moooonnn...”

Castiel clambered to press against Dean’s ass, which Dean raised, his body arching, twisting, tense and shaky with need. One touch of Castiel’s hand on Dean’s lower back, and Dean moaned, knees inching apart a little more. He begged with every breath, spoken and unspoken, almost writhing by the time Castiel got the lube to squirt in the right place.

Now Dean’s hole was glossy with blue lubricant, and Dean breathed like he’d been running. “Cas. Cas—”

“One moment,” Castiel whispered. He took that moment to bend down, kissing Dean’s back. “Are you comfortable?”

Dean nodded. “Wanna— Fuck me. Fuck me, fuckmefuckme—”

“Okay, okay,” Castiel laughed, kissing Dean’s spine. “I’ll go slow until you’re stretched.”

Dean keened, long and low, as Castiel took hold of his cock, lined up the tip, then – carefully – pushed it in until he was swallowed up. He’d never played pitcher with anyone, but he knew how it worked as the catcher. What he hadn’t expected, however, was how good it would feel once he was all the way inside.

“Ouh—” Castiel froze up, immediately overwhelmed. “Oh my—”

“Cas,” Dean whispered, sinking down, rising up, all of him atremble. “Ah— Cas. Push. Push, c’mon.”

Castiel shut his eyes and gulped, putting his hands against Dean’s hips, cheek to his back. He pushed gently, crying out against Dean’s skin. He sank back, pushed in, and his cries blended with kisses, sweat prickling on his forehead, his chest. His body burned with Dean’s, setting fire to each other as they lowered completely to the bed, Dean flat under Castiel’s weight.

“Dean,” Castiel groaned, sinking slowly into him. “Aaaah...”

Dean shivered, his voice coming out only as shaken whimpers. He wrenched a hand back and patted blindly for Castiel’s, sighing in relief as they clamped hold, gripping tight in a joined fist.

“Harder,” Dean breathed. “Faster.”

Castiel needed a few more slow strokes into Dean’s intense warmth before he felt bold enough to speed up. He lifted his hips a few inches on his knees and elbows, then began to hump, pushing against Dean’s plump ass.

Dean grinned, a drone tumbling from deep in his chest. “Yeah. Just— Slam into me. Want it rough.”

“I’ve never done that,” Castiel told him, stroking his back with his free hand. “Won’t I hurt you?”

Dean shook his head. “My ass is pretty resilient.”

Castiel chuckled, hearing Dean’s amusement. “Can we hold hands while we...?”

Dean waved his other hand, and Castiel held that too. He wrapped both arms under Dean’s, so their forearms entwined, palms together. Castiel drew a deep, deep breath, legs extending straight beside Dean’s.

Gradually, he began to up the frequency of his pushes, from once a second to just a little more, but pressing in deeper. Dean grunted, forehead down, legs spreading further. He remained flat on the bed, spread-eagled as Castiel sped, bodies beginning to clap as they met.

Dean rocked with the pulse of it, grunting, huffing, uttering little words of delight – “Ah! Yeah!” and then moaning, hands squeezing Castiel’s, thighs working against their rhythm.

It didn’t take long before Castiel lost himself in a blaze of pleasure, giving over to Dean’s desires and forgetting to be careful; he threw his head down and plowed into Dean’s ass, barking pleasure, smacking his ass with seemingly his whole weight. They went no faster, but they went harder, harder, Castiel bucking into Dean with all the energy he had.

Dean began to scream low, but his cries never conveyed anything but relief, so Castiel kept going, going, hands white in each other’s grip, Dean’s ass blooming red as a summer rose as Castiel slammed it with his hips.

“Cas! Cas!” Dean surged up, squirming furiously in place. “Oh, yeah. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck I’m coming I’m coming— Ah...” He shook tremendously under Castiel, whose hands went numb from his squeeze. Dean then collapsed, utterly spent.

Dean’s collapse only tempered Castiel’s energy a slight; now he let go of Dean’s hands and gripped his thick waist instead, keeping him steady as he rode towards climax, keening as his eyes rolled back in his head, his mouth agape, fighting to take a breath between each moan. Dean’s hole was no longer tight but his internal pressure was awesome, and his heat seemed to have only increased. Castiel had never felt so much sensory input from another person’s body before, and could only express his appreciation in kisses – sloppy, clumsy, breathy kisses on Dean’s neck and shoulders, cusses leaving their whispered realm and turning to shouts—

“Fuck! Dean! Dean!” Castiel’s voice purled up his throat like a howl would, a squeal then booming as he grasped the back of Dean’s head and shoved him into the bed; Castiel’s mouth widened in a silent roar, exhaling without a whisp of air; he shut his eyes and ejaculated harder than he ever had before, snarling against Dean’s back. He bit him, then kissed him, and then fell on top of him as he slipped free of his heat, feeling the condom wrinkle.

“Uhh... Ah,” Castiel gasped, vibrating with leftover power. “Dean. Deahh...”

Dean patted behind him until their hands met, and they held on softly, stroking each other with their thumbs. Neither of them could speak.

Eventually Castiel rolled off Dean’s back, and lay with his head hung off the foot of the bed, still drawing cool breaths to calm himself. His ears were buzzing, his skin sweltering and slick with sweat.

He peeked at Dean, and was gratified to see him look so satisfied.

“Any good?” Castiel panted.

Dean bit his lip and nodded, eyes dipping to Castiel’s mouth. “Haven’hh been fucked like tha’ in years.”

“Like what?”

Dean shrugged. “Properly.”

Castiel laughed, eyes shut, soon gasping for breath because he hadn’t replenished his supply yet, and even a chuckle made him dizzy. He bit his lip and gazed adoringly at Dean, reaching to stroke his sweaty face with the back of his knuckles.

The contentment in Dean’s eyes shaded for a moment, becoming worry, and Castiel wondered what crossed his mind.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

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

Dean asked the question while sitting atop a picnic bench, his boots on the seat. He leaned back, hands resting his weight on the old wood, pressing lines into his palms. On the seat beside his right knee, Lexie sat eating a sandwich, her red hair blazing in the sun, some intense contrast between her form and the summer woodland behind her, although the verdant foliage matched her eyes perfectly when she looked up, swallowing her food.

“Marryin’?”

“Yeah.” Dean shrugged. “What kinda person would you settle down with? Have kids with, maybe?”

Lexie pursed her lips, gaze drifting to the nearest water fountain, over by the zebra enclosure. “Always saw meself with a horseback rider. Yeh know, that horsey girl. Tall, brown hair, sorta sounds like she has a British accent even when she doesn’t. Wears jodhpurs like they’re yoga pants, and riding boots like they’re sneakers.”

Dean cocked his head. “A chick?”

“Marriage equality exists now, hot stuff,” Lexie grinned at him. “Can yeh blame me fer thinkin’ I’d someday find meself that one perfect bitta fluff?”

“Aw, no, no, I get that,” Dean grinned, booting his girlfriend’s thigh gently. “Yeah. You and horse girl. I can see that.”

Dean tried to smile, but it felt kinda tense around his mouth, and it definitely didn’t reach his eyes, nor his heart. He hung his head and leaned forward over his thighs, giving up on smiling.

“Hey.” Lexie took a long look at Dean, sliding a hand over to hold his. “Didn’t mean yeh some offence. I’m as bi as you are.”

Dean chortled, glancing at her gratefully. He was about to say he was fine, and it didn’t matter – but he knew it would be a lie. So he pondered the point instead, wondering what to say.

Soon he took a breath, and knocked his zookeeper’s campaign hat upward with his knuckles. “Listen, I gotta ask. How do you know if someone’s ‘The One’? You’re – polyamorous, right? You’ve only ever crushed on multiple people at the same time, so how the hell do you know?” He looked imploringly at his girlfriend. “Do you think you’d change? Would you become monogamous when you meet him? Her! Her.”

Lexie tapped her cheek as she thought about her answer. “I don’t think I’d change, no. But if she’s really The One I think she’d get it – or at least try to understand, and make allowances for me. Maybe she’d forgive the occasional slip-up. Or even ask for a threesome, eh? Eh?” Lexie elbowed Dean playfully, but her grin subdued itself when Dean only smirked. “But also... if she’s really The One...”

Lexie now spoke to Dean, not about herself, and Dean noticed.

“Dean? Don’t ever lie about how yeh feel about someone else,” Lexie said. “Not to yeur partner, and not to yerself. And yeh better be damn sure that anyone else on the side is someone yeh trust, and yeur partner trusts them too.”

Dean looked at her, confused. “What? We’re not talking about me. It was just a question. You know. In general.”

With a knowing smile, Lexie stood up with her legs still locked in the picnic bench. She cupped Dean’s jaw in her hand. “Seein’ how you’s lookin’ at me right now? Aw, babe. I don’t think I am the right gal. Not for you. I’m not the one yeh see yehself with at the end of forever, am I?”

Dean shut his eyes, having felt a breakup coming the moment he asked his question. It always happened. Every time he asked. But this time he smiled. He felt relieved. Finally, after weeks of fantasising about it, he’d finally be allowed to be with Cas again. He knew exactly what he’d ask for when he got home, which bed they’d lie on, what position he wanted, how good it would feel.

“Dean?” Lexie caught his gaze. “Who is it? Who’s the special one?”

After a few confusing seconds, where Dean couldn’t imagine what his answer could possibly be, Lexie asked, “Wait... It’s Castiel, isn’t it?”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Castiel fingered Dean’s damp hair off his forehead. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

Dean gazed at him for a long time, a hand between the bed and his cheek. “Nothin’,” he said eventually, which came out too soft to be a lie, but still implied he’d given up on his train of thought. “Just something Lexie asked me.”

“What did she ask?”

Dean wet his lips, then rolled onto his back, staring out of the skylight. “Well, it was... about something I asked her. I asked how she’d know when she found the person of her dreams.” Dean lowered his eyes, almost shutting them. “We broke up ‘cause...” he shrugged, “I guess she realised she’d be happier with a woman.”

Castiel moved to rest his cheek by Dean’s shoulder, still playing with his hair. “I’m sorry,” Castiel said. “I’m sorry you had to experience that.” He drew a breath. “Did— Did you ask her that because... because you thought she might have been your dream partner?”

Dean turned his head to meet Castiel’s eyes. “What?”

“Lexie.” Castiel’s eyes hopped between Dean’s right and left, searching for answers. “Were you falling in love with her?”

Dean smirked. “A little.” He shut his eyes and kissed Castiel before Castiel had a second to think. “But I’m not her endgame boyfriend, Cas, so it’s over. Better I move on than linger over something that’s not gonna work out, right?”

Castiel sighed, combing his fingers back through Dean’s hair, gratified when Dean shut his eyes to savour his touch. “You’ve had to move on from so many people you care about. In your place I would’ve given up and assumed I’m meant to be alone. I’m amazed you still have the capacity to keep looking.”

“Well.” Dean grinned gently. “Haven’t found what I’m lookin’ for yet.”

Castiel nodded, retrieving his hand and resting his cheek on Dean’s shoulder. “I hope you find them. That person – people...? I hope you find them.”

Castiel felt a prickle at the back of his neck, which meant Dean was looking at him.

“Yeah.” Dean swallowed audibly. His hand came to rest on Castiel’s shoulder, arm wrapped around him. “Me too.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Around midday, Castiel left the apartment for an afternoon excursion to find pitted dates, because Dean wanted to bake date cake, but there was some misunderstanding at the local grocery store over whether ‘pitted’ dates had the pit removed or not. Having opened a new package to transfer the dates to a labelled tub, Castiel discovered that the so-called pitted dates were very much un-pitted, which were not impossible to bake with, but would require a lot of careful stabbing for pip removal.

Castiel wanted to leave the apartment anyway. Therefore: afternoon excursion.

Mid-afternoon, he received a text from Dean.

[Hey, is it ok if I bring a girl back? She’s been by the zoo a few times and keeps hitting on me :P Say no if u want, it’s fine.]

Castiel stood in the freezer section, freezing over. He couldn’t think. Instinct told him to reply both yes and no, and he couldn’t decide.

Eventually he leaned towards being nice to Dean, and replied: [Ok]

He returned home with his pitted dates, having gone to an organic store in the fancy part of the city and taste-tested five varieties before choosing the gooeyest, moistest kind, which happened to be especially expensive, as the pit was in fact the thing that helped dried fruit retain its gooeyness. Apparently.

Castiel was more of an expert than he had been that morning, but he remained confused about why ‘pitted’ meant both ‘with pit’ and ‘without pit’ to different people.

Yes, he returned with dates. But he also returned to an apartment that smelled sweet and fruity, an apartment where Dean stood in the kitchen wearing Castiel’s apron, butter knife in hand, chattering affectionately with a handsome, short-haired, bespectacled black woman who sat at the dining table, holding a plate with buttered date cake in the centre, half-eaten.

Castiel’s heart dropped to his feet, and he dumped his grocery bag down over a book on the table with far more force than necessary. “Hello,” he accused. He stuck out his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

The woman pushed her square glasses closer to her eyes, looking at Castiel carefully. “Is it?” she asked.

Castiel sucked his tongue, then sighed. “Apologies. I’m not mad at you.” He rounded fire-eyed on Dean. “It’s you. We were meant to wait for the weekend. And bake. The cake. Together.”

He wanted to sound polite and genteel as he spoke, but there was no hiding the shake of genuine upset. He scowled because he’d let his emotions show like that, but then wrapped his arms around himself, insecure under Dean’s gaze. He turned his back to the woman and paced forward from wood slats to linoleum, as she was a guest and shouldn’t be forced to witness their domestic disputes.

“I was out of ideas,” Dean whispered, a foot in front of Castiel. “Got here and the packet of dates was out on the side. Seemed kinda funny, too, I mean— Dates for a date. Heh.” Dean unhooked the apron from his neck and tossed it aside, coming to face Castiel, hands on his biceps. “Hey,” he said softly. “Cas, look at me?”

Castiel met his eyes.

“Do you want me to ask her to go? I can do that. I can drop her back home.”

“No,” Castiel complained quietly. “Dean, she’s not the problem. I just— The cake—!”

Dean inched closer for a kiss, then ducked his head before making contact. “I’m sorry,” he said, almost in a whisper. “I swear I just— There was no food already made up, so I panicked. You and me can do something else?”

“Um. Alright.” Castiel sighed, avoiding Dean’s eyes now. “Dean, stop looking so nervous, it’s fine. What’s her name?”

Dean managed a small smile. “Yeah. Uh, Cas—” Dean turned Castiel around and hung an arm over his shoulders, easing him closer to the woman, who’d stood up and was putting on a cropped leather jacket, ready to leave. “Cas, this is Chiquitita.”

“Chiqui— Oh! Like the ABBA song!” Castiel brightened, smiling.

Chiquitita rolled her eyes. “Yes, like the ABBA song,” she said flatly. But she then grinned, and gave Castiel an upward nod. “‘Sup. I hear I’m not allowed to call you dude, is that right?”

Castiel blushed, glancing at Dean. “Oh. Oh, yes, that’s.” He shuffled, rubbing the back of his neck. “That’s quite a new thing, actually, I don’t really know how to explain it.”

“What’s to explain?” Dean spread his hands. “You’re not a dude. So nobody should call you ‘dude’. Easy.”

“Cool-cool-cool,” Chiquitita said knowingly. “I get it completely.”

Dean snorted, clapping her on the back. “Go easy on the sarcasm, too, Cas’ processing gets iffy on that.”

“It does?” Castiel looked discerningly at Dean. “This morning you were single and now you have Chiquitita by your side. Have you talked about nothing but me in that time?”

Unexpectedly, Dean shot Chiquitita a warning glance.

Chiquitita looked back twice, not understanding, but then sucked in a breath as Dean’s eye-bugging and mouth-covering made sense to her. “No, no,” she said kindly to Castiel, while Castiel was still squinting at Dean, wondering why he was flustered. “We talked about plenty of other things. Baking! Lions! The fact my entire wardrobe is some combination of teal, turquoise, and light blue.”

“It suits you,” Dean said.

“It does,” Castiel agreed. “Especially with your dark skin.”

“I got the jacket in a thrift store on half-off day. Two bucks, hallelujah.” Chiquitita tugged firmly on the jacket’s bottom edge. “It’s fake-ass leather but who gives a flip? Makes me look like a snack.”

“Can say that again,” Dean purred, putting his arm around his new girlfriend (while his other arm was still around Cas), dipping his head a few inches to kiss her. She touched his cheek as she kissed back, smiling past her steamed-up glasses as they separated.

Dean flicked a glance in Castiel’s direction, double-checking his reaction. Castiel smiled, glad Dean had found someone. Maybe Chiquitita would stay with him for longer than a few weeks, and wouldn’t ultimately find a bizarre, arbitrary reason to leave him, like Autumn, like Damien, like Kora, Christine, Masami, Envy, the Pete-and-Jenni combo, Jaideep, Frida, or Ryan – any of the dozens of people Dean had dated in the past year.

Castiel ducked out from Dean’s under arm and turned to start putting the groceries away.

Dean excused himself from his girlfriend for a moment, placing his hand on Castiel’s back. “Hey, you want me to help?”

Castiel looked over his shoulder. “Oh. No, I’m fine by myself. You and Chiquitita can go to your room.”

That was less permission given and more of a strong suggestion. Dean let his hand slip down Castiel’s back, snatching it away. “Right. Thanks, Cas. Um. Help yourself to cake, there’s loads. Talk later, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Castiel kept his eyes on his task, boxes in the cupboard, jars in the fridge, working mechanically until he heard Dean’s bedroom door shut.

Then Castiel flagged where he stood, folding forward, head down in his hands as he groaned. He was hurt. He didn’t want to be hurt but he was; his stomach ached, his chest felt heavy, his legs wanted to kick things, and there was pressure in his head, in his eyeballs, tears that wanted to fall.

Last night he and Dean engaged in the most passionate, intimate sex Castiel had ever experienced. Dean had begged for it, and there was no doubt Castiel had satisfied him.

Afterwards, they’d kissed, conversed, and snuggled for over an hour, nearly two, that entire time peppered with Dean’s sweet compliments and hopeful thoughts about weekend activities.

For example: Dean had suggested baking in the kitchen, and Castiel agreed, and suggested the addition of anal fingering on the floor. Dean had jokingly suggested they go on a date first, and Castiel (also joking, but less so) suggested they use sweet dates in the baking. Dean had been enthused by that, then said, okay, after that, they should go get take-out and see a movie. Castiel had suggested they do all of the above, and then fuck in the bathtub and watch each other masturbate.

Dean had seemed keen on every one of those ideas – especially getting dinner and seeing a movie, because there was some action flick currently playing (with full-frontal nudity of both men and women) which he was obviously set on seeing. Reflecting his interest, Castiel had privately begun to fantasise about making out with Dean at the back of the movie theatre, Dean’s arm around his shoulders. Maybe they’d walk home holding hands and pointing out stars through the clouds.

After all their promises, Castiel had gotten his hopes up, and had it all whisked away in a second. He had emotional whiplash.

Castiel wondered if Dean had caught a show with Chiquitita instead. Perhaps he would use the bathtub with her the way Castiel had suggested. Maybe he held her hand. Dean had used up their non-pitted dates, so Castiel couldn’t just assume he wouldn’t do something like that.

Nothing was sacred anymore, clearly. Fine, yes, Castiel had agreed to let Dean bring someone home. But now the date cake had been made without him, and it seemed as if Dean saw any old idea as being free for the taking. Even if it was a special idea that Castiel wanted to keep just for them, not realising it could be stolen by a stranger.

If Dean was dating now, that meant all of their plans were off. No bath sex. No baking. No movie-and-dinner date that wasn’t actually a date because it was a joke. All of it. Gone. Castiel’s weekend calendar had been abruptly and violently cleared of all events. No job, no plans, nothing to do but laundry. But the laundry was done, because he’d done it six times this week. What the hell was he meant to do now?

Storming to the living room, Castiel flumped down, arms crossed, scowling at the darkening sky through the skylight above him. He thought hard about his feelings.

Dean’s accidental insensitivity aside, it quickly became clear that Castiel had a larger issue. He’d blown up at Dean, but ultimately Dean had done nothing with cruel intentions, only unknowing ignorance. He hadn’t actually broken their original agreement, and Castiel knew it.

Honestly, it wasn’t even about the dates, neither the fruit kind, nor the fun kind.

The problem was that Castiel had so little to occupy his hours these days, and he’d become desperate for Dean’s attention and time, feeling as if it was always being stolen away by something or someone else. But in truth, Castiel’s roommate was spending more time with him than he had in nearly five years, when they’d first moved in together. In short, Castiel was going stir-crazy without a purpose.

He sat up, wracking his brain for some project idea, something big and ambitious that he could really sink into. It couldn’t be something that would be over in an hour, or a week – he needed a project that would take months, a year, or change his life completely. Ideally it would generate a comfortable income. And, of course, it had to be something he enjoyed immensely.

Bristling his chin, he supposed he could start a business. He had severance pay from his beekeeping job, that could be an investment fund. He had a decent amount of savings to keep him supported for a few months. Dean was a good cook, and he’d willingly give up going out for a few nights per week to take over the housework. So Castiel could be left with nothing but free time. He could plunge himself into this, wrap his life around it, and work until it became a success.

But now he just needed an idea...

Over the years, his only business concepts centred around beekeeping. He could start a honey farm. An informative YouTube channel. A little bee zoo.

His eyes drifted to the kitchen window, seeing no bees, as it was growing gloomy in the late evening, and they were probably already tucked up in bed with their tiny cups of hot nectar and reading books. Castiel adored bees, but he couldn’t ignore Dean’s discomfort with them; they’d argued too many times about it, and now more than ever, Castiel didn’t want to do anything to upset his friend. Thus, Castiel’s business could not involve millions of bees, as it inevitably would if Castiel was truly serious about a big beekeeping project.

No. Not bees.

Something else.

He got up and walked around the apartment, plucking at the wall art, pulling at book spines. He hummed and examined the ceiling, then the wooden floor, then toed at the colourful rug, and scratched his head as he pondered the first stars through the skylight.

Wandering past Dean’s bedroom, Castiel was shocked to hear Dean’s pleasured moan. Hastening away, stomach rolling, Castiel stood in the hallway that led to the front door. He thought about everything from babysitting to cake delivery to starting a kibble cafe for dogs, but ultimately, at the end of twenty-five minutes, all he had was a red patch on his forehead from resting against the wall.

His skin bristled uncomfortably as he heard Dean’s headboard thumping. Somehow sex with other people seemed to last Dean an eternity, whereas sex with Castiel only lasted minutes. He probably took his time with other people. Or maybe Castiel was so under-practised in the physical self-restraint department that Dean reflected his low stamina so Cas didn’t feel bad. Either way, embarrassed thoughts soured Castiel’s mouth, and he tried to heave them away with a sigh.

His eyes fell to the dining table, as something red and checkered caught his eye. He leaned close, lifting off Chiquitita’s crumb-covered cake plate, finding the book Charlie had left him. He’d thumbed through it a few times during breakfast, but he hadn’t properly read it yet.

He picked it up with both hands and held it.

How to Plan a Wedding.

He turned it and read the back. Good Housekeeping Guide’s step-by-step program to creating your dream wedding from scratch, on a budget individual to you!

“Wedding planner,” Castiel murmured. He blinked. “Castiel J. Tippens, wedding planner. I plan weddings. Gay weddings! On a budget. Castiel Tippens: unique, creative and cost-effective wedding ceremonies. How can I be of service?”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Castiel waited until the weekend before bringing up the subject with Dean. He wanted to be sure this was the right idea, so worked secretly until then, reading Charlie’s book cover-to-cover twice over, copying down notes, going through his bank balance to be sure about his available funds, then making a first-draft business plan.

On Saturday morning, Chiquitita left after an overnight stay to go pick up her kids from her sister’s place. Castiel sat down at the dining table with Dean, bathed in golden morning light, a plate of toast in hand. Only then did he announce: “I’ve decided. I’m going to be a wedding planner.”

Dean looked up from reading his cereal box, still crunching. The grooves of his lips were shiny with milk. “Wuh?”

“My next project,” Castiel said happily, scraping a superfluous strawberry off his toast and putting it back in the jelly jar. “I’m starting a business, and it’s going to be the thing Charlie wanted but didn’t have for her wedding. I’ll organise and set up gay weddings for a more reasonable expense.”

“Oh!” Dean put down his spoon. “That’s awesome. Seriously, that’s— That’s a really good idea. I knew you’d come up with something sooner rather than later. Smart-ass like you.”

Castiel blossomed under his praise. “Thank you.”

“Sounds like fun, too,” Dean nodded, digging into his cereal again, a brightness in his eyes that wasn’t there before. “How are you gonna set up? I mean, business is one thing, but – how do you know how to do the actual planning? You’ve never even been to a wedding.”

“I went to Hannah’s wedding!”

“That wasn’t a wedding, that was a registry office signing.”

“That’s still a wedding.”

Dean pff’d.

Castiel smiled, shaking his head. “Charlie’s book is quite thorough, even if it was written for straight people. And I’ve done my research. There’s online courses I can take, as well.”

Dean hmm’d.

Noticing Dean’s uncertainty, Castiel supposed, “I do perhaps need to do a trial run...”

Dean nodded, wiping sticky lips on the back of his hand. “Can’t jump in with no experience. You gotta plan and execute something start to finish before you start fixin’ up real weddings for clients.”

Castiel wondered how he would do that.

“What if you planned out a theoretical wedding?” Dean suggested. “Budget to cake and dresses and whatever. Pretend it’s Charlie and Birdie. No, wait, not them... Charlie would hate that. Sore spot. Maybe... me. Me and someone. Then you have a realistic multidimensional character to work with, right? ‘Cause real customers are never gonna be straightforward, or match your expectations. Pretend I’m your client.”

As Castiel’s head began to bob, he asked, “Who are you marrying?” He dropped his toast and snatched his notebook from the kitchen counter, rushing back to the table to make notes. “Chiquitita?”

Dean laughed. “God no, Cas! I mean, pfft – I know we’re both bi, so it’s still a queer-ass wedding. But c’mon, I don’t know her anywhere near well enough to marry her.”

Castiel looked up, waiting for an answer.

Dean poked his tongue between his lips, holding his gaze. “Uh. No, someone I’m actually sure I wanna to be around for years. Someone I know inside-out and upside-down, so we don’t end up like Charlie and Birdie. Or like any of my actual past relationships.” Dean fretted, eyes skipping between Castiel’s. “M-Maybe make someone up. What kind of person would I wanna marry?”

Castiel only knew of one male person besides his brother that Dean knew that well. Even so, Castiel was joking as he suggested: “What about me?”

Dean smirked, and without hesitation, replied, “Sure.”

Tingles erupted in Castiel’s body, and he crossed his ankles under the table, knees squeezing. He held Dean’s eyes for a moment longer, then bent his head low and scribbled Dean’s name down beside his own.

Looking up for a moment, Dean and Castiel made eye contact. Castiel’s heart fluttered when he saw Dean start to blush. Quickly, Castiel ducked back down.

They both smiled.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Castiel set up a project board in the middle of the living room. He used an old artist’s easel from his stint as a landscape painter. It still had a crust on the tripod feet from being stationed in a muddy public park. Propped on the easel was the biggest, thickest posterboard they sold at the craft store, three feet across and two feet down. Using Blu-Tak and a firm thumb, Castiel adhered his fact lists about himself and Dean.

Dean Winchester
Age: 35 | Male (he/him pronouns)
Zookeeper (Feeding, Habitat Maintenance)
Favorite colors: Black, Brown, Ballet Shoe Pink, Hot Pink, Forest Green
Favorite song: “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
Favorite flowers: Fluffy pink ones
Favorite food: Pie (Fruit), Homemade Burger & Fries, Cake ← “guilty pleasure”
Favorite drink: Texan Star Beer, Jim Beam Whiskey, Space Cowboy Ale (local gay bar tap), Stout, Coffee with Half-and-Half Creamer, Boston Frappe, Mom’s Orange Punch (ask Bobby Singer for 1983-1987 family recipe book)

Castiel James “Jimmy” Tippens
Age: 37 | Agender (he/him pronouns, no other gendered terms)
Wedding Planner, Beekeeping Expert
Favorite colors: White, Warm Yellow, Navy Blue, Gold
Favorite song: ?? Phil Collins
Favorite flowers: White roses, Eucalyptus
Favorite food: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, White Castle Burgers, Dean’s Winchester Surprise
Favorite drink: Water, Black Coffee, Beer, Lime Cordial, Mulled Wine, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows

“I’ve broken the plan down into sections,” Castiel said, tacking his bullet-point list to the top left side of the board, holding the board in place so it didn’t wobble. “We’re going to have to decide everything from the flavour of the cake and who’d make it, to which shoes and socks we’d wear. And stay within budget, regardless of the expenses that may come up.”

Dean sat perched on their leather pouffe footstool, knees wide, hands between, palms rubbing together. “A’right,” he said lightly, eyes on the board. “Where do we start?”

Castiel poked a capped pen onto the top of his list. “Finances.”

Biting his lip, Dean thought, then freed his lip to ask: “Is the budget meant to be real money? Or do we just make a number up?”

“Um. I suppose, given we’re pretending we’re the clients, we should go based on what’s available to us. And actually set that money aside in our accounts so we know how doing so impacts daily living.”

“Right.” Dean reached for Castiel’s laptop, opening it. He spent a minute logging into his bank website, then scrunched his lips to the side. “See, I kind of already have a wedding fund. But it’s freaking tiny. I mean, obviously I started saving again after the divorce, but even after five years... Ahhh.”

“How much?” Castiel asked.

“Four thousand.”

“Oh! That’s decent.”

“Yeah, but weddings cost an average of about thir—”

“Thirty-thousand, yes, I know,” Castiel said. “I myself set aside just over two thousand for this, because I still needed to budget for the business set-up afterwards. Of course, this wedding is all fake, so eventually I can move that two thousand into the business fund. Actually, that money was what I’d saved for emergency living expenses, before you and I moved in together. But six thousand altogether, that’s not bad. I think I could do it for half that, if we cut out certain infrugalities.”

“Traditionally the parents pay,” Dean shrugged. “Too bad that option’s out for us both. Bobby might chip in for a pre-wedding spa day but he ain’t shelling out for the whole enchilada. If Rufus was still around he could’ve talked him into it.”

“I think it’s more modern to pay for ourselves, especially given we’re not financially dependent on anyone else. Do you have your heart set on the extra celebrations? The engagement party, the bachelor party – two, I suppose, with both of us – and an after-party? A honeymoon?”

Dean shrugged noncommittally. “Bachelor party’s kind of a requirement. And that’s Sam’s budget, anyway. He’d be my best man.”

“Charlie can be mine,” Castiel smiled, making notes. “We can think about the honeymoon later.”

“So we’re just planning the wedding.”

“Just the wedding,” Castiel agreed. “What—” He hesitated, scratching the back of his neck as it burned. “Um.” He glanced at Dean. “Would you... be giving me a ring?”

A grin tugged up one side of Dean’s lips. “Do you want me to give you a ring?”

“I-I-I mean, I don’t like wearing jewellery, not even watches... And they are horribly expensive.”

“Pfft, thank God,” Dean laughed, hand on his chest as he glanced away. “Yeah, nah, not my deal either.” He gave Castiel a delightful grin. “Glad we can agree on that.”

Castiel felt a surge of relief in his gut. Suddenly the project felt more comfortable, knowing Dean was the perfect first client. They could talk easily, and they might not even need to compromise on ideas, as they’d had five years of practise at finding a comfortable middle ground. And most of the time they were on the same page, anyway. Castiel liked Dean’s ideas, and Dean liked Castiel’s. They were just right for each other.

“Of course,” Castiel turned back to the board, “there are certain things we need to go over before anything else. Like the wedding date, who’d be invited, which venue we’d choose, what general theme we’d go with.”

“I wanna get married in the fall,” Dean said. He raised his hands when Castiel glanced at him. “Always have. Tail end of summer, when it’s still warm – I mean, warm for Boston – but the leaves are going brown? Can be outside with just a light jacket but it’s still nice to have a fire on inside.” He pressed a fingertip to his thumb, shaking his hand gently. “Perfect.”

“That does sound beautiful,” Castiel mused, tapping his pen on his lip. “What about the local park? There’s trees there.”

“Park?! Cas, come on, the zoo. Southwestern courtyard, near the giraffe enclosure. Trees all around. They do weddings there all the time, I set up the guests’ benches for a couple of them. They have this floral arch thing they put up, people get married underneath. And there’s a converted elephant house ten steps away, for the dancing n’ food n’ stuff.”

Castiel eyed his friend with a smile. “You’ve thought about this a lot, haven’t you?”

Dean ducked his head, hands clasped between his knees. “I mean, not about a wedding with you, but yeah, a wedding.”

While making notes, Castiel heard Dean inhale.

“Hm?” Castiel asked.

Dean wet his lips. “What... What’s your dream wedding?”

Castiel glanced his way. “Oh. I don’t know. I’ve never felt romantic feelings for anyone, so I never really planned on getting married. I... I suppose if I did find someone I’d be happy to get married in whatever manner and place they’d like. I’d be more interested in the relationship than the party.”

“So you never fantasised?”

“About...?”

“Saying ‘I do’.”

Castiel shook his head.

“Huh.” Dean sank down a little, still gazing at Castiel. “You know, I can’t really imagine being like you. Not being desperate to make a family. Not falling in love every other week.”

“I suppose it leaves me free to think about other things,” Castiel smiled. “Like planning your ideal wedding.”

Dean hummed. He sank down with his chin on his hand, looking up at the board. “Is this wedding happening this year, or next year? It’s just – I dunno, six weeks until the end of summer. Trees will start to turn. Usually people stay engaged longer.”

Castiel shrugged. “I have nothing to do but plan. It would be a good test: see if I can do it in six weeks.”

“Things might get booked up,” Dean warned. “Hell, they might already be booked up.”

Castiel gave Dean a perplexed look. “It’s not a real wedding, Dean. It won’t matter. A real wedding would be planned over a year or more. I’d take on multiple clients and overlap the projects.”

“Righrighright, yeah,” Dean said, sitting up. “I just. I meant. You should take booking schedules into account.”

“I... have. I am. That’s what we’re doing now.”

Dean cleared his throat. “Yeah. Okay. Look, is there something I can do besides tell you my favourite flowers? Can I do the music or something?”

“Oh... yes? If you like?”

“So a playlist for... while the guests arrive, and another one for the cake-cutting and whatnot?”

“Mm-hm.”

“And,” Dean licked his lips, “when you and me have our first dance?”

Castiel met his eyes, insides aflutter. “A slow dance?”

“Yeah, like, super romantic and stuff.”

Castiel smiled. “You know what I like. Pick something we won’t fight over.”

Dean winked, getting up. He patted Castiel’s back, squeezed his shoulder, then headed to his room, clicking his knuckles in preparation.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean had made many a mixtape in his time. He was an expert at pausing tape decks, finding songs on YouTube, blasting them through good speakers and recording them onto a cassette. He whiled away his entire afternoon happily scrunched up in his bed, digging through every song he’d ever heard, Googling their lyrics, adding to and tossing tracks from the list (written in orange marker pen on the back of his left arm) before settling on the right ones.

He emerged from his room when he was done, shocked to discover moonlit squares on the rug, the only warm light in the apartment pouring out as a single line of gold from under Castiel’s door.

He knocked, and when Castiel called, “Come in?” he entered.

Dean shuffled in, bleary-eyed, squinting against the light. “Jesus Christ, what the hell time is it even right now?”

“Um,” Castiel checked his Scooby Doo clock, “Two a.m.”

“Motherfucker,” Dean uttered. He dumped the cassette player on Castiel’s bed then headed back for the door. “No wonder I need to piss so bad.”

He slammed the door on the way out.

He also slammed it on the way back in, only marginally less irritated. “Eight tracks. A-side: pre-ceremony. B-side: first dance and reception party. You better fuckin’ like it or I’m gonna tattoo this shit on me out of spite.” He showed Castiel a rainbow-marked arm, where he’d crossed out and overwritten every track name a dozen times, starting with orange and going through red, blue, green, then black. ‘Cyndi Lauper’ was written on his bicep upside-down.

Castiel gaped for a while, then blinked. “Do I perhaps need to buy you a notebook?”

Dean’s lips parted. Then he closed his eyes tight, lips pressed furiously together. “God fucking dammit. Paper! Paper exists.”

Castiel laughed brightly, leaning back on his headboard, setting aside his book. “Come on, then.” He patted the bed beside him. “Play me the tape.”

Dean hopped up and planted himself as a grumpy lump beside Castiel, arms folded. “Can’t believe it’s two in the morning. I have a date with Chiquitita tomorrow and work on Monday, and I just screwed up my sleep schedule.”

“We could listen some other time?”

“Nuh-uh.” Dean reached for the tape player, checked it was wound to the beginning of the A-side, and hit play.

He smiled immediately: the opening notes of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger came a-plucking in, building to a thumping, expectant blare. A full drumbeat dropped, and Dean pursed his lips, happy as his chin bobbed to the pulse of it.

Risin’ up! Back on the stree-eet
Did my time, took my chances—
Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet:
Just a man, and his will – to surviiiive—!

“How is this romantic?” Castiel asked, head tilting.

“Are you kidding me?” Dean scoffed. “Cas, this is us. Don’t you remember how much crap we went through to get where we are now? You and me. Together. Fighting for this. Plus, like... zoo wedding. Tigers!”

Castiel flicked his eyes away, but smiled. Dean butted Cas’ wrist with the back of his hand, settling close to keep listening.

“Pure awesome,” Dean said knowingly, wagging a straight finger as the song came to its end. “Gets the guests revved up. You’re gonna love the next one.”

Bumbling along in Survivor’s tiger tracks came Queen’s You’re My Best Friend, jumping and cooing in compliments and sweetness. Castiel couldn’t argue with that one, Dean saw him sink his cheek into his hand, smiling softly as he gazed into nothing.

Ohhhh, you’re the first one
When things turn out bad!
You know I'll never be lon-nely,
You’re my only one
And I looove the things
I reaLLY LOVe the things that you do...
Ohhhh, you're my best friend...

Smug, Dean folded his arms, hoping the music would speak for itself, and he wouldn’t need to explain it.

Of course, no Dean-and-Cas playlist would be complete without Phil Collins. Here it was: True Colors came pumping softly through their veins, warming Dean, melting him against Castiel’s side. He slumped down, shutting his tired eyes as the music played.

And I see your truuue colours
Shining through!
I see your truuuue colours
And that’s why I lo-ove you!
So don't be afraid... to let them sho-ow
Your true colors
True co-uhl-ours
They’re beautiful (Beautiful)
Ooh, like a rai-hnbow...

Dean rested his cheek on Castiel’s shoulder. God, he was warm. Smelled nice.

...Show me your rainbow...

When Dean next blinked, the tape deck was halfway through playing the Bangles’ Eternal Flame. Dean gulped, eyes flicking up to Castiel, embarrassed he’d chosen that track. The others... they were about them as they currently were. Best friends. Those were tender and intimate songs, but they weren’t sensual like this one. This was romantic. This was about love, lust, desire, everlasting devotion. Dean’s face burned, scared Cas would misinterpret it.

Close your eyes... give me your hand, darling.
Do you feel my heart beating?
Do you understand?
Do you feeeeel the same?
Or am I only dreeeeam-ing?
Is this buuur-ning... an eeeeternal flame?

But which would be the misinterpretation? That Dean meant it romantically? Or that he didn’t?

Dean didn’t know.

Castiel said nothing. He listened, eyes glazed, pupils dilated and unfocused. A faint smile rested on his mouth, a fingertip curled on his lips.

Dean watched him until the song ended. Then he leaned forward to flip the tape. He fast-forwarded a chunk, however, shaking his head. “I gotta change that one.”

“Is that our first-dance song? What’s wrong with it?”

Dean licked his lips, shrugging. He settled once more, pressed even closer to Castiel than before. “These last three are more upbeat. For the dance party.”

They played through the last ones, Dean less self-conscious now, as they were songs he chose for the awesomeness factor rather than his person interpretation of how their lyrics matched his and Castiel’s lives.

“The Yardbirds’ Smokestack Lightning,” Dean said. “Can do a real jive to this shit. God bless Jimmy Page.”

“Diana Ross!” Castiel exclaimed, surprised when Upside Down started to play. “Really, Dean, I didn’t think you were the type.”

“Hey, I have ears,” Dean complained.

“Very good ones, apparently,” Castiel said, pleased.

Stevie Wonder’s As was the very last track.

“It’s just so damn good, though,” Dean said, hands spread to the tape deck, blasting music between their outstretched knees. “That chorus. Mm.”

He rested his head back against the headboard, eyebrows moving in time with the melody.

’Cause I’ll be lovin’ you, alwaaays...

Until the rain-bow burns the stars out of the sky! (Always)
Until the ocean covers every mountain high! (Always)
Until the dolphin flies and parrots live at seeea! (Always)
Until we dream of life, and life becomes a dream...

Dean drew a deep breath, rocking his nose towards Castiel, peeking out at him through blurry eyes. “Hmmm. What he said, Cas. What Mr. Wonder said.”

Castiel gazed back, and held on until the room went silent, the tape played hissing soft static. The most tender whisper: “I love you too, Dean.”

Easily... too easily, Dean fell asleep beside him.

‘Cause I’ll be lovin’ you, always...

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Dean planned to pick Chiquitita up at midday, but he figured he could prep later. Right now Cas needed him.

Paper after paper went up on the planning board – inspiration images, lists of potential caterers, and Mom’s orange punch recipe, which Dean was especially impressed about, because that recipe was in the care of one Bobby Singer, seventeen-hundred miles away in South Dakota. Overnight, Cas had acquired what looked suspiciously like a faxed copy – yet as far as Dean knew, Bobby still had a personal vendetta against his fax machine and only Rufus could ever cajole it into working.

“The big thing to tackle is the guest list,” Castiel said, standing before the board, sipping on the oatmeal-berry smoothie Dean had made him. “You have a small family but your zoo family is sizable, and if they’re going to be guests instead of staff, we need to treat them as guests, and they all need seats in the courtyard.”

“What about your folks?” Dean asked. “Gabriel and Hannah and whoever.”

Castiel chuckled. “Can you really imagine Gabriel in a suit?”

“Who said anything about a suit? It’s a fake zoo wedding, buddy. We can do anything crazy and obnoxious we want. We can go all-out with khaki and those domed explorer helmets. They sell ‘em in the gift shop. Everyone comes dressed like they’re about to cut down vines with a machete and ride elephants.”

Castiel rubbed his forehead, smirking.

“What, you got a problem with that?” Dean asked.

“No,” Castiel said. “I suppose themed weddings would be something I’d offer. The venue already makes it unconventional, and giving the guest some form of dress code is a requirement.”

“But we don’t wanna go tacky,” Dean said. “Call it, like... Uh...”

“Jungle Safari,” Castiel said.

“What version of Planet Earth have you been watching? Newsflash, Cas, the jungle and the savannah are in two totally different parts of the world.”

“And Boston Sanctuary Zoo houses animals from both, fifty feet apart,” Castiel said. “‘Safari’ just means ‘journey’, anyway.”

Dean blew a bubble in his smoothie by accident. “Huh!”

Classy Safari, then. At least it would give people a reason to dress up rather than down. Long pants rather than rolled-up shorts.”

“A theme, not a costume, got it,” Dean nodded. “Nice.” He leaned forward, tapping a photo Cas had pinned to the board. “What’s this about?”

“Oh, that’s from Pinterest,” Castiel said. “Mason jar lights. I looked up photos of the zoo’s converted elephant house, next to the courtyard you mentioned... I feel like the mood lighting could be improved. If we put tea lights in the jars and then—”

“Oh my God, you want to put a hundred tiny fires in a big old wooden building that’s been there a hundred years?”

Castiel stared at Dean. He wet his lips, then corrected, “Of course not. We can get battery-powered tea lights. From the ground nobody would be able to tell the difference.”

Dean nodded. “Cool.” He sipped, licked smoothie off his lip, then shrugged, “It’s cliche as fuck, but... looks pretty. I’m kinda into it.”

“Really?” Castiel raised his eyebrows. “Oh. Good.” His eyes roamed the board, alighting on a bullet point he’d highlighted in pink. “Photographer...”

“Ooh-ooh!” Dean put his smoothie glass down on the edge of the record player table, fingers wriggling. “My mom’s old friend Missouri? Her daugh— granddaughter, she’s a photography major in college.”

“If she’s a student, would she photograph for free?”

“Free? Pff! Yeah, sure, I’ll tell her she’s in it for the experience.”

“Oh, wonderful. Now, let’s see—”

“Cas. I’m kidding.” Dean grinned. “We gotta pay her. She’s nineteen and takes commissions, and you get a discount if you let her use your photos in her art portfolio.” When Castiel eyed him, Dean shrugged. “I looked up her Twitter while I was lyin’ in bed. It’s good stuff. All blurry in the background and this nice focus on faces? A two-hour photoshoot starts at three hundred but from what I saw, her work’s worth at least eight hundred bucks.”

“That much?!”

Dean laughed. “Christ. Yes, Cas. She’s selling herself short.”

Castiel fretted, but stepped up to the board and wrote ‘$850’ next to ‘Photographer?’

Dean frowned a little, watching Cas. “You get that the photos are a huge deal, right? The day ends, the balloons deflate, the cake gets eaten, the clothes are put away. We’re not doing rings. What do we have at the end of it? Memories. And until science invents mind-melds, we only got one way to share those memories.”

“Photographs,” Castiel said quietly, starting to understand. “Yes, you’re right.”

“Plus, don’t you hate it when you do a hundred-dollar job and only get a fifty?”

Castiel smiled. “I think anyone would.”

Dean checked his phone. “Ahh. It’s after eleven. I gotta do my hair and stuff. How much longer do you need me for?”

Castiel shuffled through papers, tapping his pen on them one-by-one. “We can get back to this later. Go see Chiquitita first.”

Dean was about to step away, but figured he could spare another five minutes. “What are we doing for clothes? Renting? Buying?”

“Well, you don’t wear a tuxedo in the savannah, so I suppose we buy an outfit each and have it tailored. Tailoring is about twenty to fifty dollars per piece.”

“Gotta make our butts look good,” Dean agreed. He reached over and slapped Castiel’s, making it jiggle. “Yours looks good no matter what, though.”

Castiel eyed him with a discerning smile. “Thank you?”

“Lucky there’s no princess dress to buy and wait for,” Dean said. “Charlie said hers was gonna be custom-made and she was told she’d have to wait eight freaking months. Would’ve cost her ten grand as well.”

Castiel swallowed, looking down. “Yeah.”

“What?” Dean nudged him. “You’re thinking. What about?”

Cas rolled a shoulder, not meeting Dean’s eyes. “I was actually considering that... I might wear a dress.”

Dean stuck his hands on his hips, beaming. “You serious?”

“I— I don’t know. I don’t kn—” Castiel covered his mouth with a hand. “I feel embarrassed talking about it. But...?”

“Hey! Fake wedding, right?” Dean opened his hands wide, grinning. “Wear the angelic fairy gown of your dreams, Cas.”

“What about a veil?” Castiel asked.

“I thought that was for virgins. After you nutted in my ass I kinda think you missed the boat on that one.”

“I know...” Castiel rubbed his forehead. “This seems silly, doesn’t it? There’s all these traditions described in the book Charlie gave me, ones that don’t even make sense for a modern, non-straight wedding. I mean, what’s the point of a virginity veil if you don’t believe in the concept of virginity? Why separate groom from bride the night before the wedding – given that the ‘bad luck’ was about the groom realising the bride was unattractive? Why have one of us ‘given away’ by a paternal figure like we’re property? Even down to having our families divided on either side of the aisle, when in reality I’m friends with all of your friends, and they’re my family already. None of these traditions apply to us. Maybe not to a lot of other queer couples, either.”

Castiel breathed out. “No, you’re right,” he added, firmly. “It is ridiculous. I’m not a woman. Just because I like the idea of being a bride more than a groom doesn’t mean I should fill that role.” He flinched with another thought: “And the fact I even see weddings between two people as two ‘roles’ to play— Oh, I really have no business planning gay weddings, do I? My whole internal concept of weddings is completely inundated with...” he tilted his head, “heteronormativity. That’s the word, isn’t it? Hetero-normative? As in, the ‘standard’ is straight, and everything else is based on that?”

Obvious dismay sank Castiel’s shoulders. “But that’s... That’s all I know.”

Dean hated to see Cas get all worked up about this, but one thing held him back from agreeing with everything he had just said. Dean licked his lips, readying himself to speak. “Listen, uh...”

Castiel glanced at him.

Dean offered a friendly nudge. “Cas? Fuck that noise, alright. We’re not picking ‘roles’. Even if you do lean towards some stereotype, that doesn’t mean that’s all you are, you know? It’s your wedding too, buddy. You wanna do all the traditions? Then let’s do ‘em. Even if they’re sexist garbage. We’ll make them better.”

“But why would I want them?” Castiel asked, hands out. “Just because I see them in movies? And they look romantic to me? That’s not a reason.”

“Sure it is.” Dean clapped Cas on the back. “You got no other frame of reference for romance, like you said. Makes sense movie romance is your go-to method of understanding how relationships work. Throwing that understanding out just ‘cause it’s not gay enough... Puh.”

With a sniff in, he concluded, “Ya ask me, Cas? Doin’ queer weddings gives you free rein to do whatever the fuck you want. You’re not tied down by traditions. So yeah, you can do none of the ancient stuff. Or you can. I’m your client here – but, Cas? – so are you. If you like the idea, I’m on board.”

Castiel swallowed, slowly moving to hug himself. He seemed to be considering Dean’s arguments. Soon he let his arms relax, and admitted, “I do like that one idea especially. You lifting my veil to kiss me.”

Their eyes met, sweet smiles ashine in their eyes.

“Then, what the heck, go for it,” Dean said. “Wear all the imaginary veils you like.”

Castiel seemed especially happy after that. “I think... I just want to be comfortable. The dress idea makes me far too divided. Maybe no dress. Just the veil. I like that.”

“Cas...” Dean thumbed at Castiel’s elbow, tugging on his rolled-up shirt sleeve. “Is it the idea of wearing a dress in public that makes you squirmy? Or people thinkin’ it’s weird?”

“I just don’t know whether I really want it or not.”

“What is a dress, anyway?” Dean said. “A long shirt? How is it different from other clothes you wear?”

Castiel chuckled. “When you put it like that...”

Dean came closer to rest his palm on Castiel’s back. “So,” he said, looking at the board. “What’s next?”

“Guest list,” Castiel said. He picked up his notebook, pen poised on a fresh page. “I suppose I ought to invite my family. Otherwise my side of the aisle would be very empty.”

1) Hannah
2) Michaela
3) Gabriel
4) Rachael
5) Duma
6) Samandriel
7) Lucy (DO NOT SIT NEAR MICHAELA)

Dean was still counting on his fingers when Castiel looked up. “There’s outdoor seating for about forty guests, can maybe squeeze in another ten standing. Not including the band and the st—”

“What band?”

“Oh, yeah, there’s a platform for a brass band in the courtyard.”

“I haven’t written anything down about a band. That sounds expensive.”

Dean shrugged. “A good, well-tuned speaker is basically a live band. There’s probably a recording of Here Comes the Bride on YouTube we can blast.”

As Castiel scrawled notes, Dean went on, listing family and friends off the top of his head.

8) Sammy (“Obviously...”)
9) Charlie
10) Jody (“Wait, is she officiating? I’m half-sure she’s ordained...”)
11) Bobby (“Gotta get him a plane ticket! Or take a road trip. Lucky the zoo has complete wheelchair access, whew.”)
12) Alicia
13) Max (“But he’s usually the zoo’s wedding usher, so either he’s working or the zoo’s gotta hire someone else.”)
14) Missouri
15) Patience (“She’s the photographer, though, so she’ll be on her feet during the ceremony.”)
16) Donna

“And two empty seats near the front,” Dean said. “For my Mom and Dad.”

Castiel nodded. “I’ll do the same.” He looked at the list. “You have five seated guests. Three of them are potentially there working. And Bobby would sit in his wheelchair. Sixteen total.”

“Small wedding party.”

“Small is good,” Castiel said. “It’s manageable. Are you inviting your cousins?”

“Invite the Campbells to my second gay wedding after they practically picketed the first one? Uh. No. No thanks. How are we doing the invites?” Dean asked, remembering his smoothie and snatching it up, scowling when he found the glass slimy with condensation and the smoothie warmer than he remembered. “Post ‘em, or what?”

“Given the time and budget constraints, especially considering the cost of a plane ticket for Bobby versus gas for the Impala, I’d lean towards email. It’s not elegant but it is accessible, and we can follow up with telephone calls if needed, so at least it’s personal.”

“Hey, I don’t hate that,” Dean said. “Don’t gotta spend a weekend getting papercuts and hand cramps. I do enough of that looking at porn mags.”

Castiel chuckled deeply, shaking down to his belly. His eyes seemed especially blue when he smiled over at Dean. But his smile dimmed a little, and he said, “Yesterday you said you couldn’t imagine being like me. I wonder the same things of you. How can you feel... so much? Lust, all the time? For everyone? How do you fall in love so easily? How do you know what your love for someone feels like, unless you know they feel the same way in return?”

Dean shrugged, looking at Castiel with affection tickling his chest. “If I’m honest...? Sometimes I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be friends with someone for... so damn long. And I still can’t be sure how I feel about them.” He gulped, head down, ears burning. “Thirty-five years old and I still gotta figure out what my feelings mean, sometimes. Swear it’s getting harder than easier.”

Castiel sighed around a smile. “You should go.”

“Go where?” Dean met his eyes. “You kicking me out now?”

Castiel gave Dean a baffled, amused look. “Your date. With Chiqui—”

“OH! Jesus fucking Christ, I’m gonna be late—” Dean tossed his phone on the couch and shot off to the bathroom, reaching for a toothbrush with one hand and hair gel with the other.

Once in his bedroom, he hopped from bare foot to sock, fresh jeans halfway up his thighs, when he heard Castiel call from the living room, “Dean! Chiquitita just texted you, should I text back?”

“What did she say?” Dean called.

“Running late. Fifteen minutes.”

“Ahh.” Dean buttoned his jeans, swaggering out of his room in a cloud of fresh cologne. “Tell her it’s fine, I’ll pick her up at quarter-past. Gotta plan my wedding with you.”

Castiel unlocked Dean’s phone and typed out a text. “You’ve told her about the wedding?”

“Oh— Oh, shit—” Dean snatched the phone and he panted as he deleted what Castiel had typed. “No. Haven’t. Um.” He bit his lip, looking guiltily at Castiel. “I think maybe that’s... something I gotta explain to her in person. There’s all sorta weird assumptions someone might make from that. Y’know.”

“Right. Yes.” Castiel gulped, holding Dean’s gaze. “Someone might assume you were in love with me and wanted to sleep beside me every night as we grow old together.”

Dean lifted a shoulder, head tilting, a shy grin coming out awkwardly. “Easy assumption to make.”

“Too easy,” Castiel agreed.

Dean wet his lips and buried himself in typing out a text, sending it. He took some revving up before he could look at his roommate again, at which time Cas was looking at the board, perhaps a little too intently.

Soon Castiel moved to pick up his laptop, advising, “We need to list everyone’s current email addresses and phone numbers. Should be easy. Need to know how long it takes for sixteen people.”

Dean sat by him, still watching him carefully. He couldn’t tell if Cas was upset or not.

“Who else do we know?” Castiel asked. “The venue seats forty, doesn’t it? There’s twenty-one empty bench seats. We could invite people who we both know. Mrs. Patel and her children from downstairs. Nineteen to go.”

“Sam would wanna bring Jess,” Dean said. “And, jeez, he’d be mad if he knew I didn’t already think of her. Actually, we oughta just let people bring a plus-one. Never know, Bobby might have a new beau we don’t know about. Definitely wasn’t him who sent you that fax.”

“Oh, that fills the seats perfectly,” Castiel chirped. “Sixteen guests times two, minus a seat for Bobby, plus the three Patels. Plus four for our parents. If we assume some people will turn up without RSVPing, but not everyone brings a guest, and not everyone can make it, we still have enough.”

“At least two seats spare,” Dean said.

Castiel copied over everyone’s email addresses into a Word document.

“What about...” Dean’s breath caught. “Nah. Bad idea.”

“What?”

“Crowley?”

Their eyes met. Castiel looked wary, but he didn’t shut Dean’s suggestion down with a smack in the face, which was odd.

“He did bring us together,” Castiel said. “I never would’ve met you without him.”

“Yeah, but,” Dean gave a nervous grin, “he’s the world’s biggest dick.”

“Careful, that sounds like a compliment.”

“Believe me, I meant it as an insult,” Dean said brashly.

They both ruminated over the idea. Castiel typed ‘Cro’ into his email address bar and found Crowley’s address.

Crowley MacLeod | hellboy@circle-beach-resorts.com

“To this day I struggle to comprehend how he played us both and we didn’t see it until towards the end,” Castiel said, squinting at the email address. “He literally called himself the King of Hell the day he first messaged me.”

Dean placed his hand on Castiel’s thigh and squeezed gently. “Like the devil, Cas, he starts you off easy.”

Castiel copied over the address into the list. He sighed. “Do you think he’d play nice?”

Dean snorted. “Oh, fuck no.”

Although he still seemed unsure, Castiel closed his email tab, and hit ‘print’ on the guest list. He handed Dean the laptop, then went to the printer, which was under his bed. He came back with a curled white page, which he tacked to the board.

He stared for a bit.

Then he exclaimed, “Are we crazy?! No!” He took a thick marker from the rug and dragged it through Crowley’s name. “He’s gone from our lives. Regardless of what we owe him, it’s not worth bringing back the dead.”

Dean nodded, setting aside the laptop. “Good choice.” He was deeply relieved. Crowley hurt Cas way more than he hurt Dean himself, so Dean was willing to leave it in Cas’ hands. But still. No doubt Dean would have a lot more fun at his wedding if evil incarnate weren’t present.

Dean gulped, remembering with a spark that it was a fake wedding, and Crowley wasn’t actually going to be there. Neither would anyone else. Dean almost laughed, folding forward, wiping his palms down his face, elbows on his thighs. “Easy tiger,” he breathed, too quiet for Castiel to hear.

His eyes lingered on Cas, however, captivated by the attention he gave to his planning.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, though? Dean felt a smile rise under his fingers. Marrying Cas. The idea felt pure and soft and pleasant in his chest, and he knew why: he’d be marrying his best friend. It wouldn’t be a big party for the sake of a big party, it would be... about them. About five years of deep, unbreakable friendship. About the connection they had, about the ways they’d helped each other through the toughest moments in their lives and brought each other out the other side, better, stronger, happier.

The things they’d given each other were innumerable. The things they’d helped each other find for themselves were just as abundant. They’d grown into new people because of each other, living new lives; safe and stable lives. Dean couldn’t imagine living without Castiel. He didn’t want to. He didn’t want to, not ever.

Dean turned to lie on the couch, smiling up into the sun through the glass roof.

Cas would wear something elegant, even if wasn’t a dress. Dean wouldn’t cry, seeing him – he’d just want to smile, he knew he would. Joy, that would be all he’d feel.

They’d make promises, glowing with sunlight, holding hands.

All around them would be people Dean loved, and people Castiel loved, and giraffes, and zebras, and elephants, and all the red pandas lying on the tree branches, watching. There’d be mice holding daisy bouquets, and birds singing the music.

And Dean would kiss his friend, and Cas would kiss back.

And they’d be married. Forever. Happily ever after.

All the elephants would trumpet and the giraffes would bray, peacocks and zebras whooping melodically as Dean and Cas ran off together, hand-in-hand, bound for a spectacular future, carefree.

Then, there was a world that came after that. Adventures. Decades, side-by-side as companions.

They’d have children... or pets. Or both. They’d share what they had. They’d make what they didn’t. They’d hold hands while the other underwent some minor surgery. They’d nag each other to take their vitamins and stay hydrated. They’d cry together as they left a home behind, and play together as they built a new one. They’d have a life. Not parallel lives, but one life, lived together.

Warmth had grown in Dean’s chest, now spreading like sparkling nectar to the rest of him, and he glowed, illuminated by his fantasy.

Dean turned to look at Cas, his beautiful dark hair turned brown in his sunbeam, his artist’s hands reaching to tack something else up. He wore a content smile. This project had brought him a new vitality, and Dean saw how it had brightened a dusty corner in Castiel’s mind, as it had in Dean’s.

Maybe it was the purpose it provided that they enjoyed. But maybe it was... this. Thinking about each other in a different way.

Together they were creating a new world, one where they were in love and wanted to remain bonded for all of time.

Funny, though. It seemed to Dean that this new fantasy world didn’t feel too different to the one they lived in now. Married or not, wouldn’t they do all the same things?

Dean smiled, and sat up. “Cas... I know it might sound crazy... but...? Do you think maybe, on some level, you and I might actually might want to get—”

Dean’s phone buzzed, and he saw Chiquitita’s name in his notifications. “Ah. Shoot. I gotta go.” He got up, stroking his hand along Castiel’s wide shoulders as he passed. “Keep it up, bud, I’ll check in when I get back.”

“Dean?” Castiel turned as Dean headed towards the kitchen on the way out. “What were you going to say?”

Dean looked back. “Uh.” He’d lost his train of thought. Lips licked, he tried, “I— Is it okay? Me seeing Chiquitita. Tell me honestly. It’s kind of hard to read you sometimes.”

Castiel stared for a while, starting to smile. “It’s fine, Dean. I’m really not jealous. I like Chiquitita as much as I’ve liked everyone else.”

“Yeah! I know. But.” Dean swallowed. “If I was anything like you, in your place, having been through what you’ve been through, I’d – kinda feel weird if my fiancé was dating someone while I’m planning our wedding.”

Castiel eyes darted around, trying to understand that comment. “But... if I did at any point feel uncomfortable with your other relationships, that’s for me to work on, or us to work on together. Besides, Dean,” Castiel’s smile widened in his amusement, “the wedding’s not real. It’s just a project. You’re not my fiancé . We’re roommates. Friends. That’s all.”

Dean thrust his tongue out to wet his lips. “Right. Yeah. Okay. Just... making sure. Emotional transparency, and all that.” He gave Castiel a soft smile, and turned away. “See you later, Cas.”

“Have a nice date, Dean.”

Dean tied his shoes and left, with that last conversation echoing in his head as he headed for his car.

For so long he’d preached honesty above all else. That was his number one instruction for his partners: be honest about those delicate feelings. Don’t conceal anything that might hurt you, or anyone else. If your feelings towards someone start to feel different, tell them. Tell everyone you’re involved with. Don’t hide it. It never goes well.

But Dean hadn’t realised until this moment how hard emotional honesty was to practise, from the other side.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Although Dean came alive in the autumn-time, there was something about the cloying, stormy humidity of summer that made him feel at home. He’d never thought too hard about it, but if he had, he would’ve privately decided it reminded him of his earliest memory: being a baby, unborn, still safe and warm inside his mother. Distant rolls of thunder sounded like a low voice, bringing affectionate messages from a world he didn’t yet know.

Dark clouds boiled on the horizon, lit with a golden edge that faced the daylight. Down below – far below – deep in a man-made jungle, heat hugged Dean from every angle, especially his shoulders, because that was where Angus was taking a nap.

Angus was Dean’s favourite red panda. Boston Sanctuary Zoo had five red pandas. They were kind of like raccoons, but rust-orange in colour, less obsessed with garbage, and much cuter.

Until Dean had been assigned to clean out the red panda enclosure every evening, he hadn’t realised that one red panda could be any different to another.

But Angus was the cuddly one. Gertrude was kind of a horny asshole, definitely leaning towards the ‘bear’ side of ‘cat-bear’, as red pandas were often known. Jalapeno was the one who stayed in the trees and watched with leopard eyes as Dean scooped up her droppings. Munchkin had the most fitting name: he bumbled around, grunting, grumpy, and hungry, always lost in his own world. Dean had never met Tabitha, and could only trust Jody’s word that there was even a fifth red panda in there with him.

Angus was to Jalapeno what marshmallow was to chili sauce. They had nothing in common besides their species. Dean could spend an hour in active, responsive conversation with Angus, while Jalapeno plotted Dean’s extinction from above.

This particular evening, as Dean bent one more time to brush a poop into his long-handled dustpan, he spoke softly to Angus, face unshadowed as his campaign hat was tipped back. “What is a patronus, anyway?” he mused. “I swear Charlie told me five times. Maybe I oughta read the books.”

Angus chittered a friendly “Chee-turrururk.”

Dean smiled, reaching to pluck a dead twig off a nearby bush. “It’s like... an animal that I relate to, right?” He tossed the twig in the sack with the poop, then scratched Angus’ fat, furry head with his cloth-gloved fingertips. “You guys are all so unique. How would I know what a red panda is like, in general?”

He swished his sack to the side, moving to pluck a waylaid stick off the pandas’ most-walked path, then hurling it deeper into the greenery. “I guess all of you combined make up someone sorta resembling me.” He laughed. “Five red pandas in a plaid shirt, walkin’ with bowlegs.”

Chirrip?

Dean shrugged. “You knock things off tables like cats. You tumble around like bears. Until Charlie said a red panda was my patronus I couldn’t decide if I liked bears or cats better. So.” He scritched Angus’ ears again, grinning when Angus honked. “Plus, you mate with multiple pandas during mating season...”

He lifted Angus off his shoulders, raising him in front of him, back legs and stripy tail dangling free. Angus licked his lips, blinking serenely.

Dean smiled back as thunder purred a few miles off. “Maybe you and I aren’t so different after all.”

Angus wriggled his nose, starting to make grabby-paws for Dean’s shoulders. Dean brought him close again, and Angus scrambled up, curling close around Dean’s neck.

“I have a question,” Dean said, starting to sweep dead leaves away from the food trough. “It’s kind of personal, do you mind?”

Angus said nothing, so Dean went on, “I know you’re big on cuddling, huh. Me too, I guess. Or not ‘I guess’, I am.” He wet his lips, and confessed, “I miss cuddling with Cas.” He sighed. “I know, I sound hopeless saying that, I know I’d only been dating Chiquitita for, what, a week? Nearly two? But it was just so – right with Cas. The way he talks to me... I don’t know. Nobody else looks at me the way he does.”

Dean marched deeper into the enclosure, always on the lookout for the ever-elusive Tabitha. “You remember, right? Cas and I have that arrangement. If I was seeing Chiquitita, I couldn’t snuggle with him. So. What’s the solution? Ask for a threesome. Or I break up with Chiqui.” Dean groaned, head down, scratching his forehead with the cuff of his leather glove. “God. I wish I didn’t have to. I still really like her, Angus. But God help me, I’m thinkin’ about Cas, like, all the freaking time. And she noticed.”

“Chrrrh? Chee-chee, chhh.”

Dean smiled in amusement, knowing that Angus said something very particular, just that Dean couldn’t understand. “Sure, pal. You said it.”

“Chirrhtk’tk’tk.”

“Maybe I oughta look on Tinder again,” Dean thought. “There’s gotta be some guys who’d be into cuddling without sex.” His stomach flipped, realising that distinction was odd for him. “I mean, sex too. No big deal. I could get me some dick.”

He hung his head, sadness and guilt tightening his chest. “But.” He rested his cheek on Angus’s warm, pillow-soft head. “But I want Cas.”

“Chee!”

“I don’t know why I’m resisting,” Dean sighed. “Maybe it’s just too complicated now. Having feelings.” He lowered himself and plopped Angus down, patting his furry butt towards the shelter. “Go on. It’s getting hot out here. Go hide before the storm comes.”

Angus ambled off, chirping and ch’king to Gertrude as he passed, only to bolt into a run when she gave chase. High above, up past a wooden barrier, some children cheered, pointing.

Dean waved, but then realised the kids were looking at a fuzzy red lump in the tree behind him. “Oh,” he said, meeting Jalapeno’s eyes. “Guess I live another day,” he grinned. He bent and took his sack, slung it over his back, and strode with confidence to the zookeepers’ exit. He slipped back the bolt, checked for pandas, then escaped quickly into a damp tunnel that ran under the bridge for zoo guests.

The tunnel opened out to another forest area, which Dean picked his way through, meeting a hidden path that wound around up a hill, connecting to the back of the snake house.

He let himself in with his keycard, and when the door bleeped, he entered, dustpan handle resting over his shoulder.

His mind was still on Cas. He craved his warmth, his smell, the way he grinned and showed his gums when Dean made him laugh. He seemed to grin wider when they were in bed together, all barriers down, all insecurities immaterial. Dean was about to go home to him and yet he missed him.

The snake house was low-ceilinged and wooden all around, except for the huge, wide glass windows opening onto each snake’s contained habitat, and the concrete floor scuffed with dust. Dean swept a little as he made his way from one door to the other, looking from the boa constrictor to the adder, giving them an up-nod. “‘Sup, bitches. Nice day?”

A black viper flicked his tongue at him and winked, and Dean winked right back. “Lookin’ good, Darwin. Lookin’ good.”

Dean halted with a stomp at the door: Jody emerged, holding a clipboard, looking studious.

“Oh, hey, boss,” Dean grinned, tipping his hat to her. “Watch where you’re going, almost mowed me down.”

“You watch where you’re going,” Jody joked warmly, patting Dean’s bicep as she passed. “Oh—” She turned. “I know you’re headed home, but make a note to check on the rhino enclosure tomorrow. Alicia said something about a wonky hinge.”

“Gotcha.” Dean saluted. “I can do it now if you want. Don’t want Tankini bustin’ loose.”

“Not urgent,” Jody assured him, tucking her pen behind her ear, losing it in her tufted grey hair. “You head home and take a shower, you’re filthy.”

Dean looked down at himself. “What? It’s only a little poop.”

Jody smiled, squinting. “Have a good night, Dean.”

“You too, boss.” Dean turned, taking off his gloves, leaning his cleaning equipment against the wall, then quickly sticking his tongue out at Darwin. One hand on the door, ready to leave, Dean drew a deep, ponderous breath of the musty snake-house dampness, and turned, calling: “Jody, one minute?”

Jody paused by the Komodo dragon’s terrarium, looked around, then turned back to Dean, curious. “Problem?”

“Naw, it’s just, uh.” Dean approached in slow, long, sweeping strides, eyes on his muddy boots. He wet his lips, coming up to Jody, scratching his ear. “Look, I... I know we do events here. How— How much would it cost to hire the place for a wedding? Southwestern courtyard.”

Jody seemed intrigued, eyebrows rising to her side-swept bangs. “Who’s this for?”

“Uh. Kind of... me?” Before Jody could choke on her surprise, Dean babbled, “No, not... Well, yeah, okay, me. It’s just this theoretical wedding my roommate’s doing. I mean, Cas. You know Cas. I dunno why I called him my roommate. H-He’s kind of my best friend too. Um.” The staff door opened again, creaking on its hinges, and Dean flinched at the noise, and at his own faffing manner. “Anyway, listen, that’s not the point. Point is, for so damn long I’ve really wanted a fall wedding, and I thought... I dunno, the zoo would be perfect.”

“Wait,” came a squeak from nearby, and Dean turned his head to see Charlie running closer in her dirty sneakers and moss-green zoo uniform, matching Dean’s for filth. “You’re getting married?”

Dean gaped, chilled to the bones. “Hey, whoa, hold your horses, it’s not a big deal, it’s just Cas, he just asked me if we could—”

“Oh my gosh!” Charlie threw her arms around Dean’s neck, squeezing the breath out of him. “Congrats.” She hugged him so tightly and for so long that Dean could barely pat her back. Through blurry eyes, he saw Jody grinning. But a faint croak was all that escaped him.

Charlie eventually fell back, eyes glazed with tears. “I’m so happy for you. Both of you.” She nudged his jaw with her knuckles. “At least two of us are gonna be happy. Cas is literally perfect for you. I always thought you had that kind of chemistry but – ugh, y’know. Didn’t want to assume.”

“You’re completely—” Dean shook his head. “Listen, that is really, ree-h’ally not what I—” He choked on his own panic, trying to swallow it down.

Jody pondered, “Do you call yourselves Dean-and-Cas? Or Cas-and-Dean?”

Dean shook his head, unable to speak. In his shock he’d totally lost his ability to make noise.

“Aw,” Charlie said. “Look at that blush.” She shared a fond look with Jody, and they turned back to Dean, unanimously moving to envelop him in a hug. He relaxed a little in the centre of their warmth; he was safe and loved, even if he was misunderstood.

He breathed slowly as they let him go. He smiled, biting his lower lip, eyes rising. “God, this is so messed up.”

“Aw, no,” Charlie cooed. “It’s gonna be great.” She leaned in and gave his cheek a peck, then darted away. “Giraffes to see to. I’ll see you tomorrow! Bye—! Bye Jody!”

Jody gave a quick wave, turning back to Dean. She grinned. “Boy, you really are blushing.”

Dean covered his face with both palms, whining.

Jody just laughed, one hand placed on Dean’s shoulder, squeezing. “You get ready to go home, I’ll go check on that wedding pricing for you. I’ll catch up with you in the parking lot.”

“It’s fine, there’s no rush,” Dean whispered, fighting to get his words out. “C’mon, it’s not even a real wedding. It’s— It’s a made-up wedding.”

“You mean it’s symbolic?”

“I mean it’s – fuck – it’s not gonna be a real wedding! We’re not actually getting married, for real. We’re just – pretending. We don’t have any legal forms and stuff, so it’s—”

Jody tutted, turning her back to leave. “I’m fully qualified to be your minister, Dean. All you had to do was ask. I can get those legal papers you need.”

“Oh, no-no, don’t—” Dean hurried after her, but then stopped, thinking about Cas and his determination to get this project done as fast as possible, to as high a standard as possible. Legal forms would actually be on his list of things to acquire. “Actually, that would be helpful,” Dean said softly. “Thanks.”

Jody smiled back at him. “Ten minutes. Go see to the emus on your way out.”

“Emus?”

“One of them has insomnia. Max said they like the way you sing lullabies to them, or something.”

“Aw.” Dean grinned, head down. “I didn’t know anyone heard me doing that.”

He left the womb of the snake house and emerged into a lighter, brighter world, one that was familiar and foreign at once. That storm was getting closer, and the light patches in the clouds were starting to fill in. Dean hadn’t seen a sky that dense or the sun that low in nearly a year, and he was reminded of the change that was coming: that seasonal turn of the Earth and how it twisted the light, and altered the lives of everything and everyone that dwelled under unseen stars.

He went to the emu field and stood on the wooden fence. The number of visitors were dwindling now, as the zoo was minutes from closing.

Max had heard a lullaby, and perhaps to some, Dean’s whoops and calls might sound like a song. He kept his voice in his head, not his chest, hurled along his top palate; he let his tongue dip at the back, and he howled easy, melodic notes.

It was an old Swedish thing, a bit like yodeling. Women used it to call the cows and goats home from pastures miles away. One long, minor-key coo went echoing for miles down mountainous valleys, and the only reply would be the faint tink-tonks of cowbells as the livestock came to see what the fuss was about.

“A-hooooo!” he called, hands cupped beside his mouth. “Eeeeeeeee-uuooooooo’wah!” He let his tone tilt up at the ends, while the rest came out melancholy and free-flowing, each note wholesome in his mouth, vibrating his back teeth. “Auoooo heeee, wooo’h!”

It was called kulning. Dean had no idea how or why it worked, but it worked. Dean had tried it once, with the elephants, and fell on his ass in shock when they came stampeding up to him, looking at him expectantly.

Then he’d tried it with the tigers, and was so damn glad there was bulletproof glass between him and that eight-foot Bengal kittycat, as it threw its body up against the divider. Dean was almost sure he heard a purr, though.

Penguins were confused by it, but they came to the fence anyway. They looked at Dean the way they looked at Charlie before she threw them their fish: heads tilted, eye contact intense.

So far Tabitha the red panda, and Mrs. Patel’s pet cat Ambala were the only two animals immune to Dean’s charm.

Dean tried not to think of himself as a Disney princess, but it was hard to ignore the comparison when on any given Monday he could have random wild ducks standing on his feet and a woodpigeon on his finger, while a chimp watched him from the top of a tree in the next enclosure along, and a red panda hung on his shoulders like it had no intention of being anywhere else, ever.

“Eeeeee-hoo-woooooo’hh!” Dean sang to the emus, and they flocked to him, feathered tails awag. “Ahoooo-weeee-ooooo-o-o-oo’wh!”

He didn’t know which emu had insomnia, but after a minute, when they realised Dean was no longer singing, they plodded away – and one went straight to its shelter, yawning.

Maybe to emus, kulning was a lullaby.

Dean headed towards the parking lot, determined not to meet the eyes of any visitors who’d seen his performance and were now applauding. Their claps seemed muffled, speckled here and there like smoke caps strewn about the place. Even the thunder crept closer, humming approval.

He was feet from the zoo’s main entranceway when he heard running feet approach. He turned, and nearly collided with Alicia, whose wild black hair looked wilder than usual, her golden eyes blazing with joy. “Congratulations!” she cried, taking his hands and jumping up and down. “Oh-oh-oh I’m so—! Yes!” She grasped his shoulders and swung around him. “Max is gonna shit himself when he hears.”

Dean muttered, “Awesome. News gets around quick, huh.”

“Like wildfire,” Alicia smiled. She stepped back, looking down at her white cafe apron, which was now smudged with colours almost as dark as her skin. “Great. Covered in panda particles.”

Dean chuckled, eyes flicking to the exit. “I gotta head home. But before I go... Just— God. Don’t believe every bit of gossip you hear, okay?”

Alicia’s face fell. “Haaaang on. So you’re not getting married? To your best friend Cas? Your best friend Cas who you obviously really like, and who you’ve brought to every zoo event as your plus-one since before I was even out of high school?”

Dean stared at her, watching the happiness in her eyes start to die. “Not saying that,” he muttered, lowering his gaze. “We’re just finding out how much a wedding here costs.”

“And then you’re getting married.”

“Not saying that either! Just saying...” He tucked his lower lip under his tongue. “Ah, who am I kidding. You’re the gimme-the-tea girl. You’re not gonna believe me no matter what I say. C’mere.” He noogied her head, then flapped a hand dismissively as he left, leaving her brimming with laughter and calling more congrats in his wake.

The sky was grumbling, laying down a tension that rang like bells under Dean’s skin, yet felt as comforting as a hug. He could smell the rain now. He inhaled, eyes rising to the thick piles of clouds, waiting for the release. It was coming. Any minute now. The world held its breath.

Dean made it to his car, unlocking it, keys in the door, one hand on the sun-hot roof. He opened up the door and sat down on the blanket he kept on the driver’s seat to protect it from animal dirt.

He tossed his hat down beside him and wound down the window, drawing in deep, long breaths.

Any moment now. Any moment. It was coming. He could feel it.

This would be the last of the summer storms; after today the showers would be cooler, arriving as the season shifted. Tonight it would roar on the tin roof of the apartment – and he knew it now, and he would know it then: everything was about to change.

The smell of rain began to sting in his nose. The hair at the back of his neck prickled, electric. It could have been the static charge in the air, but he liked to think that somewhere out there, Cas was thinking about him.

Dean was thinking about him too.

Here it came: the pitter-patter, coming close, rushing up the gravel parking lot on its way to his car. He looked for it, expecting to see a wall of water falling to darken the dusty grey ground. But it was only Jody, jogging towards him, clipboard in hand.

“Hey,” Dean said, giving his boss a smile. “You get me a quote?”

“I got you a discount,” Jody answered. “Ten percent off. Price for a wedding set-up, including pre-planning, seating, venue rental and security is usually just short of a thousand bucks, but you’ll have to book your date to get a specific dollar amount. It varies depending on the day. I had to look all this up – I don’t do the bookings myself, just the ceremonies.”

Dean wet his lips. “Um. S-So... to get the price, I have to book?”

“Pick a date and it’ll tell you. Here.” She handed him a slip of paper through the open window. It had a website address on it. It was Boston Sanctuary Zoo’s official website, but had ‘staff’ in the URL along with a code. Regular people like Castiel probably wouldn’t be able to access that just by Googling.

Uncertain but curious, Dean reached into his pants pocket and took out his phone. He turned on the wi-fi and looked up the website, spreading the paper over his thigh to copy the code out carefully.

The screen showed him this month’s calendar, with ‘August’ at the top in big letters. Every box before today’s date was shaded grey, and everything from tomorrow onwards was shaded yellow, except the two remaining Saturdays, which were filled in with red. Dean scrolled to ‘September’ and saw three Saturdays were booked up.

But his heart leapt and his skin tingled as he saw that Saturday September 15th was free and clear.

His heart started to pound. He could feel his ears pulsing.

His thumb tapped September 15th.

A new page opened, with a booking form. It wanted his full name, address, phone number, and his credit card number to pay his twenty-percent deposit. A little ‘STAFF: 10% off deposit & full payment’ banner floated at the bottom of the page, highlighted in green.

Dean’s eyes turned to meet Jody’s, looking at her for some hint of what to do. Again, he couldn’t speak. He just shook his head, lips parted, lost and terrified and yet fluttering with excitement.

Jody was leaning against the car, looking down at him. “Book if you’re thinking about it,” she said kindly. “The price goes up the closer to the date you book, and we need two weeks’ notice. Saturdays get taken fast; I’m surprised there’s any left, especially this time of year. You could put down that twenty-percent deposit and cancel after.” She winked. “I know you could make that deposit price up over a weekend.”

Dean gulped, looking at the shaking phone. There it was. The fifteenth day of September. Just within reach.

If he waited a single day longer, someone would take it. He knew they would. Saturdays were wedding days. And fall was the best season. He was already rushing with relief that the day he wanted wasn’t taken yet. But the rushes turned to jagged lightning, shocks in his fingertips and fire in his veins.

Marry Cas.

Marry Cas, his best friend, on Saturday, September 15th, in the zoo, just as the trees turned gold.

It would be an act of insanity to pass up the chance.

So Dean filled in the form and submitted it, refusing to think any further about what he was doing or why.

The second the website confirmed his submission, the storm broke. Thunder divested the Earth of its sense of security, but the rain came to wash away that fear. Dean felt relief like he’d never known it before.

He wanted it.

He wanted it to be Cas.

He wanted to marry his best friend.

Dean looked up with determination steeling his every movement, meeting Jody’s gaze with passion raging behind his eyes. “Thank you,” his said thickly.

Jody patted his arm. “I know you and Castiel will be incredibly happy together.”

She left without a goodbye, her tough, wiry form pacing into the greyness as the rain came down around her, filling Dean’s Impala with the stench of summer, dust washed away from the leaves of the trees, dirt swept from the enclosure roofs. With the gush of fresh water went any sense of uncertainty that Dean had harboured until now.

Dean took his phone firmly in his hands and typed out a text to Cas.

[Sept 15, southwestern courtyard, $924 total. 20% deposit. Done!]

His heart hammered as he hit send. Surely his ribs would crack if his heart beat any harder.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Now they had a date for the wedding.

Dean smiled, and sat forward, starting his car. Just as it rumbled to life, his phone buzzed, and he snatched it up.

[Oh that’s less than I expected!]

A long pause, with animated dots appearing and disappearing in Castiel’s chat bubble. Dean rubbed his lips with his knuckles, feeling himself smile.

Finally Cas texted again.

[I just got an email receipt from the zoo? Dean??? :O :O :O Wait, did you pay real money??? And used my personal email? DEAN]

[DEAN WHAT THE DUCK]

[*DUCK]

[DEAN]

Dean threw his head back and laughed, euphoric. He tossed aside his phone, put the car in gear, and drove.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

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.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Fall was on its way. That epic planetary shift had begun; the evenings were shrinking rapidly, and what seemed like ten minutes of daylight were eaten up by every night that came around.

The heat remained, and Dean doubted it would go anywhere until November. He didn’t remember the seasons being like this when he was a kid, but then again, he spent more time outside now than he ever had before. It was hard not to notice the daily changes, the monthly ones, and compare them to years gone by. Each season ended later than it used to, and aside from when it snowed, or hurricanes hit, the weather was generally warmer and wetter than it ever had been before.

Dean had spent the past week at Sam and Jess’ place. Luckily he’d arrived wearing his work uniform, so he didn’t need a single thing from home. Sam had everything else covered, from underwear to loungewear, to a toothbrush, to a razor, to that comfy couch piled up with pillows and the good blanket. Hugs too.

Trudging into the zoo for work on a weekday – forgetting which weekday, Dean wouldn’t dare guess – Dean set his head down and did his job, smiling when people said hi, saying thanks when they offered congratulations on the engagement. He tried not to have emotions.

It was definitely a Friday when he got a call during his lunch break. He nearly dropped his rake, but rested it carefully on the mud wall of the camel hut, and fiddled with his phone to answer it. “Yo.”

Dean?

“Cas. Hi.” Dean’s heart started to clench. “Didn’t think you were gonna call.”

I...” Castiel hesitated. “Are you all right?

“Oh. Yeah.” Dean shrugged. “Sleeping at Sammy’s place.”

I thought you’d come home by now. I— I didn’t want to rush you. I supposed I hurt you too much, and you might have some things to work through before you were ready to talk...

Dean picked at some dirt under his nail, having found nothing to say.

Castiel drew a deep breath. “Is there any chance you’re still interested in having the wedding go ahead?

Dean stood tall. “What?”

I just. Um. We got so far, you see, and you did make a financial investment, which I know I didn’t clearly appreciate at the time, but I can assure you now: your money doesn’t have to be wasted.

“Wait, you— You wanna marry me? You’re saying yes?”

It appears... to be an... ideal... business... opportunity,” Castiel said carefully, sounding like he was choosing his words one-by-one. “After all, if I mean to set up a business at the end of a test run, I do... need to have experience of all aspects of a wedding ceremony. Including the physical set-up. Including preparing for any eventuality regarding the weather. Including... well, the wedding service itself.

Dean was quaking inside. “So you wanna go through with it. I-I-I mean... Sam said he got an invite but I thought it was— I don’t know. I don’t know what I thought. You seriously want this?”

Only if you still want to... help me with my business.

Dean wet his lips, eyes settled on an alpaca who was having a sneezing fit. “I want to help.”

Oh...! Good. That’s good, Dean! I’m glad!” ‘Glad’ was an understatement; he sounded ecstatic.

Dean tried to contain his grin, but let it overtake as he uttered, “Getting married for science.”

For science,” Castiel repeated. “Yes.” Dean could hear his smile.

Dean bit his lip. “Guess I oughta start writing my vows, huh.”

Yes. Also, if you have time, would you show me the venue? I’ve seen photos but I haven’t visited the southwestern side.

“Sure!” Dean left his rake behind and began a stroll towards the giraffe enclosure. “I’m on break, so we can do that now.”

Yes, I know, I called at this time so I wouldn’t disturb your work flow.

“Work flow!” Dean laughed. He kept grinning, a hand in his pocket as he ambled from the alpaca field to the zebras, then on towards the giraffes. He could see their tall barn from here. “Hey, Cas, you wanna meet Smol?”

Baby giraffe Smol? Oh, yes, yes, yes, please. Absolutely.

“A’right, switching to video mode, hang tight.” Dean thumbed at his phone, and when he saw an unflattering angle of the underside of his chin, sun blazing over him, he switched out of selfie mode and raised his phone towards the giraffe barn. On his phone he now saw Castiel staring intently, waiting to see a giraffe.

“You got a lil peach fuzz,” Dean noticed, bristling his own jaw with the backs of his fingers. “You stop shaving when I left, or somethin’?”

Castiel covered his chin, then glanced away, smiling. “Something like that.

“Suits you.”

Thank you.

The giraffe enclosure was wide and flat, mostly sandy, but with big, rough patches of grass here and there, with tall trees grown strategically so the giraffes had shade but the zoo visitors could still see the animals from the viewing platform, where Dean stood, raised several feet from ground level.

“There’s Zag,” Dean said, holding up his phone and putting his finger in the right place so Castiel saw him pointing on his screen. “Aaaaaand... There’s Tol – over by the barn. Smol’s gotta be somewhere nearby. He naps a lot. Might be inside, he really digs the barn.”

Dean picked his way across the dirt path, hand over his eyes to shelter his face from the sun. He’d left his campaign hat at home, and still hadn’t decided whether to buy a new one. Thinking about that, he asked, “Hey, buddy? If the wedding’s on, am I allowed back home?”

Castiel seemed surprised. “Dean, of course.” His voice sounded so soft.

“Awesome.” Dean headed into the shade of the giraffe barn. He angled his phone towards the back of the barn, and bypassed a few Chinese tourists on his way to the wooden barrier. He stood on a thick rung and clambered over the fence, then hopped down onto the other side. “Cas, meet Smol.”

Dean crouched, smiling. Half a foot before him, the little baby giraffe took a nap in the hay, legs tucked under his brown-patched body, his neck curved over himself.

He looks like a basket,” Castiel smiled, delight brimming in his voice. “His neck being the handle.

Dean chuckled, reaching to touch Smol’s soft back. Smol’s ear twitched, but he was otherwise undisturbed.

He’s gorgeous,” Castiel smiled.

Those Chinese tourists were taking photos of Dean now, and Dean gave them a wink. He stood up, and launched himself one-handed over the fence, out of the hay-strewn area and back onto dust.

“So the southwestern courtyard is just out here,” Dean said. He cocked his head, heading around to the side of the barn, then following a path through a whitewashed tunnel, where ivy grew on both sides. The sound of his footsteps echoed faintly.

He came out on a sun-bathed plot of land, where the green of the grass faded to golden cobbles, seen through a hedge shaped into an arch. “This is the side entrance,” Dean said, taking Castiel through the arch. “Over on the far left, that arch, that’s where the brides come in when the music plays. Straight run up to the altar on the right. Over there, eleven o’clock, far side, those steps go up to a platform where the band would be, if we were havin’ a band. There’s a trellis and benches up there too, for putting a bar or something.

“Now down here,” Dean said, sweeping Castiel’s view along the wide expanse of cobblestones, “looks pretty blank right now, but this is where the benches go. They’d all face the wedding arch, which would be right where I’m standing now.”

Dean smiled, flipping the camera so Cas could see his face. “Do you, Castiel Tippens, take thee, Dean Winchester, to have and to hold... blah blah blah, yadda yadda, et cetera.”

Castiel beamed. “I suppose this is where we’d say ‘I do’.

“Sure is.”

I can see the giraffe barn past your head,” Castiel smiled. “And is that a peacock cry I hear?

Dean nodded. “You, uh. You have any preferences for who officiates? Jody said she’d do it. She ain’t religious, though. You want a pastor or someone?”

What about Pastor Jim? You said he and your father were close.

“Eh. Jody’s not gonna have opinions about the same-sex thing, though.”

Oh. Right.” Castiel took another look around as Dean rotated his phone. “Jody, then, Definitely.

“That, there,” Dean said, pointing to a Tudor-style white building with brown beams crossing every side, “that’s where the wedding reception would be. Cake-cutting, dancing, dinner. I don’t have the keys so I can’t show you, but you saw the pictures.”

Yes, it’s the one with mediocre lighting.” As Dean brought his phone back to centre, Castiel exclaimed, “Isn’t this exciting?! The place is so beautiful. And all those trees behind the reception hall, they’d make an exquisite backdrop for the photoshoot. I see what you mean about wanting to wait until fall. They’re all deciduous. The place would look like it’s on fire.

“Figuratively, not literally? Yeah. Gonna be sweet,” Dean nodded. “So, you’re happy with it?”

Completely. Thank you for making the reservation, Dean. I’m sorry I got mad. I know you were just trying to help.

“Hey, I kinda sprung it outta nowhere,” Dean shrugged. “A lot happened for me real quick, I guess I got caught up in the excitement.”

Castiel hummed. “Show me the giraffes again?

Dean laughed, taking Cas back to the giraffe enclosure. He stood on the fence between the sun-baked, sandy expanse, but didn’t see any giraffes. “They’re somewhere. Hang on. Aaa-hooooooo!” He cupped his free hand beside his mouth. “Y-ah-hooooooeeee—”

Dean... what...

“Don’t judge me, all right. Shut up. Look.” Dean pointed at a far side of the field, spying the tall, elegant shape of Zig running towards him. Soon came Zag, and Tol...

“A-yaaaaaaa-hhhhooooo’wh,” Dean called one more time, then laughed as the three adults came galloping up to the fence, making Castiel gasp and the zoo visitors coo and shriek with excitement.

“Last but not least,” Dean uttered, showing Castiel the little baby giraffe as he staggered from the back of the barn, joining his family and trotting up to Dean, curious, long-lashed eyes and a big, fat nose. Dean reached out his hand and placed it on Smol’s nose, making Castiel cry out in delight. “Heya, lil buddy. Sorry for screwing up your nap.”

Dean, this is incredible,” Castiel rasped. “Do they always respond?

“Never had a kulning call go unnoticed, if that’s what you mean. Cats aren’t the biggest fans, though. Or red pandas named Tabitha who turn out to be completely deaf.”

Kulning,” Castiel uttered. “You told me about this. A Swedish herding call. I’m amazed it works on giraffes.

“Just that Disney princess magic,” Dean grinned, cocking his head. “Hey, Smol. Say hi to Cas for me.”

As Dean lowered his phone into the enclosure, Smol rose up, sniffing. Dean heard Castiel’s happy chortle, just as Dean’s knuckles were tickled by warmth. When Dean took back his phone, there was giraffe fuzz on his camera lens, and Castiel looked beside himself with joy. He was hugging his toy giraffe under his chin, eyes shining, unable to speak but showing Dean exactly how grateful he was anyway.

“You’re welcome,” Dean said with a wink.

I love you, Dean,” Castiel whispered.

Dean paused, still hanging on the enclosure fence. “Wh... Why’d you say it like that?”

Castiel gave a soft, sweet smile. He took a breath to speak, when he was interrupted by a yelp behind Dean—

“FIRE!”

Dean turned in one swift motion, dropping from the fence and bolting towards the call.

“FIRE—”

Dean grabbed Garth’s narrow shoulders with both hands, nearly dropping his phone, while Garth dropped his rake. “Where?” Dean demanded. “Where’s the fire? Help me, we’ll put it out—”

Garth pointed a thin, shaking finger towards a patchy green hedge, through which smokeless flames were visible, flashing neon orange. Dean sprinted that way, Garth at his heels, Dean’s hand still clutching tight to his live call with Castiel.

Dean skidded on the dust, kicking up a cloud as he came around the hedge.

He clamped a hand on his chest, heaving relief. His heart was slamming his ribs, but he laughed, falling to his knees.

It was just a construction worker, digging into the grass to lay down a new pipe. His fluorescent orange vest moved in flashes, catching the daylight, and through the hedge it had looked indistinguishable from flames.

Garth gripped Dean’s shoulder. “Whew,” he breathed. “That was a close one.”

Dean got to his feet, knees now scuffed with dirt. “Sure was,” he agreed, clapping Garth on the back.

Taking deep breaths, Dean walked away, head down, unable to meet the worried eyes of zoo visitors. He left it to Garth to shout to them, “False alarm! False alarm, nothing to worry about! Can’t be too careful, that’s all! As you were.”

Dean put a good amount of distance between him and the giraffe enclosure before he lifted his phone, checking Cas was still there.

Dean?” Castiel was asking. “Is everything okay? Should I call the fire department? I have the landline ready.

“It’s fine,” Dean said. He went into a sheltered area and sat on a bench with his back to a jungle mural, breathing out, head down, phone hung in the cradle of his hands between his knees. “False alarm.”

His body was drained of all emotional energy, but his heart kept thumping. Thumping. Adrenaline still gushed through him.

What’s wrong?” Castiel asked.

“Jess said you don’t like showing weakness in front of me,” Dean said roughly, not looking at his phone. “And that’s gotta change. For you and me both.” He wet his lips. “I’m scared, Cas. Right now. Right now, I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scar—” He folded forward, sobbing into his inner elbow.

Dean— Oh no... No, no, my darling, no. I wish I could be there, I— What do I do? What can I do—

“I’m scared of fire,” Dean sat up, sniffing, pushing away tears with his fingers. “I wanna stop, you know, but it’s that exact middle between irrational and rational. Fire killed my freaking parents, Cas, and there’s no coming back from that. You don’t get over that. I’m scared of fire. All of it. Candles too. It sounds stupid, I know, but—”

No... No, it’s not stupid. It’s not stupid, Dean.” Castiel sighed. “You need to come home. Please. Ask Jody for the rest of the day off.

“N-n-n, I’m not—”

I’m coming to pick you up.

“You don’t have a car.”

I’ll take a bus.

“You hate crowded buses.”

I will take a bus, Dean because you need me and I’m not there.

Dean laughed, sniffing away his tears. “Cas, I’m fine. I’ll drive home at the end of my shift.”

Are you sure? You’ve had a shock, it’s clearly triggered something. You’re in no state to work.

“Work takes my mind off stuff,” Dean said. “Seriously, I’m good.” He pulled himself together, sitting up, taking a deep breath, head back on the mural. “I’m good.” Eyes shut.

Rest, then.

“Hey,” Dean looked down at him. “I’ll see you after work, okay? Six o’clock.”

I can stay on the line if you want.

Dean shook his head.

Is there anything I can do, then? Anything.

Dean started to smirk. “Make me pie?”

Hmm, apple? We have apples.

“‘Kay.”

Okay.” Castiel’s eyes wrinkled as he smiled. “You’re safe, Dean. Nothing’s going to hurt you right now. You’re okay, remember that.

Dean nodded, gulping. “Ain’t me I’m worried about. The animals—”

—Have great people like you looking out for them.

Dean let out a long, slow breath. “Six o’clock?”

I’ll be waiting.” Castiel leaned in and gave his phone a kiss, then smiled before he ended the call.

Dean shut his eyes, sobbing out a smile. His heart swelled with gratitude, so thankful for Cas that his chest started to ache. He turned his eyes to the heavenly blue sky and whispered a single word of thanks to anyone who cared to take the credit. Someone out there gave him Cas. And Dean owed them everything for that one kindness.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean staggered into the apartment trying to hold himself together, pretending he wasn’t floating in a post-shock stupor, numb, on edge, and slow. He remembered to close the front door behind him, moving forward towards the steamy kitchen, which smelled like a combination of American chop suey and apple pie, which didn’t smell great together, but still made Dean smile. Cas had made his comfort foods.

“You’re home,” Castiel breathed, leaving the wedding board behind, coming straight to Dean, taking his arms in his strong hands. Castiel drew a breath. “You’re trembling.”

Dean managed to meet his eyes, and they unexpectedly flooded with tears.

As Dean fell into Castiel, Castiel wrapped his arms around Dean, rubbing his back, chin-nuzzling his shoulder, pressing kisses to his work shirt.

“This is so stupid,” Dean breathed. “Nothing even happened. Nobody got hurt. It was just Garth being Garth. Why am I crying?!” He wrenched back, smacking tears off his face.

“Dean— Dean. Come here. It’s okay. Crying is okay. It’s more than what happened today, isn’t it? It’s your parents, it’s the wedding – it’s all so overwhelming, I—” Castiel got choked up too, and Dean saw the moment he stopped trying to fight it, and Castiel even started to smile, because tears poured from his eyes, his mouth tense and shaking. “I’m frightened too. This is a big thing we’re doing. We’ve been through much together, you and I. But somehow I think this is our biggest adventure yet.”

Dean reached up, awed. He touched a wet tear on Castiel’s fuzzy jaw, discovering two new things he’d never touched before.

“What are you afraid of, Dean?” Castiel asked him, softly.

“Losing everything,” Dean answered, voice rough. “I lost everything before. A hundred times, I’ve lost people I care about. My birth parents, then Rufus, then every – single – partner – I’ve had. Chiquitita too – we’re separated at the moment. And I— I can’t do it again. I can’t lose you too, Cas. Not ever.”

Castiel held Dean’s cheeks, thumbing away his tears, while his own went unwiped. So Dean reached up to brush them away, making Castiel grin, bashfully turning his head down.

Dean kissed his forehead.

I’m afraid,” Castiel said thickly, “of exactly the same thing. I don’t remember my birth parents, so I don’t carry the same weight as you. I never lost Crowley; I was freed from him. In some respects I’ve never lost anything. Which is what makes me so afraid of it. I’ve—” He breathed, struggling to speak, but forcing it out, looking Dean in the eyes. “I’ve never had anyone close enough to lose before.”

Just by the look in Cas’ eyes, Dean realised he himself was the most precious entity that had ever been part of Castiel’s life.

Although he now had strong suspicions, Dean was still not completely convinced Cas had the capacity to love him romantically. But in that moment, Dean ceased to care. Cas loved him more than anyone. And that was enough.

Dean shut his eyes, held Castiel’s jaw, and let Cas kiss him.

Somehow it felt like a first kiss.

It was a damp and hairy kiss, and Dean could smell his own anxiety, and the meaty pasta wasn’t helping. But it was still the best kiss he’d ever had. He loved Cas for precisely this reason: they were each other’s weakness. In each other’s presence, they became vulnerable. They could talk about their feelings and their fears and their failures, openly. And in Dean’s opinion, there was nothing more attractive than someone making him feeling safe enough to be openly vulnerable.

This was far from weakness. They kissed, and dried each other’s tears, and made each other strong.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean stretched in the bed, groaning. He felt the warmth of late-morning sunlight on his bare chest, felt the ruffle of sheets that weren’t his own around his waist. He smiled, licking slime from his teeth and swallowing before he opened his eyes.

Castiel was there, lying beside him, a rainbow halo of sunshine hovering over his tufted dark hair, and a faint, pleased smile on his lips. “Hello, Dean.” His voice was like a butter lump on hot pancakes: perfect.

Snuggling closer through glowing white sheets, Dean murmured, “How long’ve you been watchin’ me sleep?”

“Wasn’t counting the seconds,” Castiel said, slipping a hand around Dean’s waist under the blanket. “Only your breaths.”

“How many breaths?” Dean asked.

“A hundred and six,” Castiel whispered, placing a plump kiss on Dean’s lips. “Lost count of your freckles, though.”

Dean grinned, shutting his eyes as he sank close, smooching Cas, relaxed in his arms, at peace with every part of his past that had led him to this one infallible moment. If Heaven existed, this would be part of Dean’s.

“I missed this,” Dean admitted, watching his knuckles as they smoothed down Castiel’s cheek, meeting his lips, thumb plucking at the lower one. “I missed you, Cas.”

“I missed you too.” Castiel said it with absolute truth in those summer-sky blue eyes.

Dean started to smirk. He nudged his hips closer, touching his morning wood to Castiel’s thigh. “Wanna fuck me?”

Castiel grunted into his pillow. “Dean,” he complained, smiling when he looked up. “No. No, I don’t want to fuck you. Not right now. Just let me enjoy this, please.”

Dean rolled his eyes, but smiled, eyes falling shut as Castiel outlined his face with a fingertip.

Quietly, Castiel asked, “Do you think it’s a problem that I... I’m not like you? You seem to find what you need amongst... dozens of people. Friends, family, lovers. People come and go but you always seem content. But me...? I have friends, but they’re your friends. I have family but I’m closer to yours. What if, in all my life, there’s nobody else in the universe who ever compares to you? What if you’re the only one for me? The only one I’ll ever love this way?”

So many questions had been answered by that musing, that Dean grinned, sighing in relief. “Then it’s a damn good thing you found me, then, ain’t it?”

Castiel pressed his lips together, tipping his head into the pillow in a ‘true, true’ kind of way. As he relaxed again, his smile spread, and he gazed at Dean with total, complete adoration.

Yeah, Cas loved him. In every possible way, including romantically. Cas had looked at Dean that way so many times Dean was astounded he’d never realised what it meant until now.

Dean held Cas’ hand under the blanket, drawing it up to kiss it. “Cas...?”

“Yes?”

Dean gulped. “I have a question.”

“Okay.”

Dean met his gaze, heart pumping in his throat. “What kind of person do you see yourself marrying?”

Castiel stared for a while. Dean’s left eye. Right eye. Left eye again. “Dean,” he said, with a flicker of an amused frown pinching between his brows, “I know people like to say there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but I think that was quite possibly the stupidest.”

Dean huffed out a laugh, eyes lowered. “Humour me.”

“Hmm.” Castiel patted his head back on the pillow, gazing up through the skylight, pupils narrow. “Someone green-eyed. That’s very important. Tall, I like tall. Freckles are very fetching, too.”

“Personality, Cas,” Dean urged, although he was deeply flattered, not to mention relieved.

“Kind,” Castiel said, turning to look back at Dean. “So good that his urge to commit acts of kindness fuels his life. Every move he makes is founded in empathy, wanting to help others. But,” Castiel kissed their joined hands, as Dean had done, “he remains selfish when he must. He cares for himself physically, mentally, spiritually, if in unconventional ways. He doesn’t throw away his sense of self out of self-consciousness, not any more. On that note, he’s capable of change. He learns well. He listens. He’s patient even when he’s frustrated. He... chases the things that make him happy. He has so... so much love inside him that it would simply be too much for any one person to handle. So he shares his love with anyone who passes his way.”

Castiel smiled, bright-eyed. “He absolutely has to be a good cook, too. I’ll do dinner sometimes, but he’s doing breakfast. I refuse to spend my life in the kitchen.” His eyes seemed to twinkle even more as he asked, “Any chance you know someone like that?”

Dean’s happiness was not shown in a smile, but glowed from within him, so viscerally that he was sure his skin was alight with heat. “I miiiight know a guy,” he uttered.

Castiel chuckled, resting his forehead against Dean’s.

He stroked Dean’s neck, then whispered, “What kind of person do you want to marry?”

Dean ducked back, just enough that their noses could touch, eyes meeting.

“He has this thing for bees,” Dean said.

The biggest smile burst from Castiel, and all Dean could do was shut his eyes, lean into Cas, and kiss.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

“This is ridiculous,” Dean said to himself in the mirror, arms out at his sides. “I feel ridiculous.”

Sam stood as a blur in the background, smiling as he plucked at some lavish Indian fabric, then glanced towards his brother. “You did pick a safari-themed wedding, so whose fault is it that you feel silly now?”

“It started as a joke, that’s why. We got landed with a joke wedding.” Dean scowled, tugging on the lapel of his bush jacket. It was oatmeal-coloured, featuring twin breast pockets, a waist tie with a buckle, deep hip pockets, and stiff epaulettes on the shoulders. He’d ordered it online after about six hours spent hunting down ones he liked, listing them by price on a spreadsheet, then writing out pros and cons for all of them.

He’d settled on one of the mid-range ones, which set him back about two hundred bucks. At that price he’d expected it to be flawless, but after waiting over a week for delivery, he’d tried it on to realise it was about two sizes too big, despite having triple-checked every measurement on both himself and the website.

Not wanting to talk to Cas about it, to keep it a surprise, Dean had texted Chiquitita, and she recommended an Indian clothing shop with an in-house tailor, not too far from the apartment. Dean took Sam down there the very next day, and here he was: standing on a platform in front of six angled mirrors, arms out while Chiquitita’s other partner, Benjamin, squatted around Dean’s bowlegs and stuck pins in the jacket hem.

“Trus’h me,” Benjamin mumbled, eyes locked intently on one of Dean’s buttons, “Onsh I’hm dum wiff thish,” Benjamin pulled pins from between two very thick, dark lips, “it’ll look so exquisite on you that you’ll struggle to remember what it looked like before.”

Benjamin had a manner of moving and speaking that Dean wasn’t accustomed to seeing, but found alluring. Dean saw aspects of both masculinity and femininity in Benjamin’s appearance – shaven-haired, svelte, elegant, with a rise of a bosom under a slim-cut suit – but Dean couldn’t tell if the low voice was because Benjamin was Ghanan, or a man. Maybe they were both. Maybe they were a woman too. Maybe they existed outside the binary. Dean couldn’t get his head around it, but at the point Benjamin rolled up his sleeves for him, Dean decided it wasn’t necessary to categorise this new acquaintance of his. Benjamin was Benjamin, the way Cas was Cas, and so long as Dean didn’t trip up and use an unwelcome pronoun, they’d all be golden. Luckily Dean had had a lot of practise avoiding certain words.

“Still look ridiculous, though,” Dean uttered, even as the jacket came in by six inches, flush to his hips, somehow making him look taller. “I mean, it’s a freaking bush jacket. What am I doing, shooting lions and smoking a pipe? No. I’m gay-marrying my best friend. Couldn’t we have gone with rainbow bow-ties?”

Sam came up to Dean, wincing as Benjamin accidentally poked a pin where it didn’t belong and Dean yelped.

“You might as well have stopped by the costume rental place,” Sam smiled. “They’d have those explorer helmets, maybe.”

“Pith helmets,” Dean said. “They have them in the zoo gift shop. I never got one, ‘cause they remind me of that crazy guy chasing the kids around the store in Jumanji. But, uh. May as well go all-out, right? Grow a curly mustache and talk in a posh accent?”

“God, no,” Sam huffed.

Dean laughed, then uttered his thanks as Benjamin helped him remove the jacket, ready for alterations.

“No, but,” Sam smiled, “I’m surprised you actually bought anything. Fake wedding, and all that, right?”

“It’s not fake anymore,” Dean said, ambling to the store’s glass counter, where Benjamin printed a ticket and wrote out a pick-up time for later that day, and handed both over. Dean shucked on the denim jacket Sam handed him, and pocketed his ticket, peering down at the spangly silver bracelets laid out under the glass. “It’s a real wedding now. Cas said he loves me and stuff.”

“Uh-huh,” Sam said, giving Benjamin a nod. “We’ll be back at five. Thank you.”

“I swear it’s real, Sam!” Dean complained, lingering at the checkout while Sam headed for the sunny glass doors to the street. “Cas wouldn’t mess me around like that.”

“Oh, sure he wouldn’t,” Sam said, turning around. “Not like he has been doing for the last, what, six weeks? Eight?”

Dean seethed. “Neither of us were sure about our feelings, that’s all. Screw you.”

“So you’re not going through with the wedding just so Cas gets business experience. For ‘science’.”

Dean gulped down air. He snorted and looked away, embarrassed that Benjamin was overhearing all of this, and would probably go tell Chiqui at the end of the day.

“You’re not sure, are you,” Sam said, coming back to Dean, glancing once at Benjamin, then trying to keep his voice down. “You’re in love and you’re getting married but you’re not a-hundred-percent that those things are cause-and-effect. Are you?”

“Screw you,” Dean said again, weakly. He hated being made to doubt.

“If it helps your case at all,” Benjamin said coyly from behind the desk, black eyes atwinkle, “there was someone named Cas in here only a matter of days ago, very excited to get a sherwani adjusted to fit.”

“What’s a sherwani?” Sam and Dean asked at the same time.

Straight white teeth showed in Benjamin’s a broad smile. “One of these.” Benjamin went around the counter and went to a rack with sloping metal bars, where four items hung in descending order, each bright and colourful with golden embroidery on the shoulders. Benjamin held one up. It was a knee-length square dress with half-sleeves, splits up the thighs, and a split neckline, the edges of which were outlined in an inch-thick border, embroidered.

“It’s worn over ‘churidar’ – baggy cotton pants. You’d probably see them as ‘hammertime’ pants. The combination of the dress and pants can be light cottons for casual wear, or... like your friend Castiel brought in, something heavier, more extravagant for a wedding.”

Dean’s ears had started to burn. “You said Castiel.” Dean snatched Sam’s arm, staring at Benjamin still. “It was him. Cas brought something fancy in for tailoring.”

“He was gifted it by someone named Mrs. Patel,” Benjamin said.

Dean sank down, smiling. He turned defiant eyes to his brother and poked him in the chest. “There. You see. Cas brought in a dress. He talked to Mrs. Patel about it. Mrs. Patel gave him her husband’s old stuff, may he rest in peace. Cas is serious about this.”

“Dean, it’s a dress, it’s obviously not for Cas.”

“Actually, they can be worn by any gender.” Benjamin shared a knowing look with Dean, and Dean winked.

“Dunno about you, Sammy, but I’m leaving here satisfied. See you later, Benjamin. Winchesters out.”

Benjamin spoke softly to Sam, but Dean heard before he left: “Castiel was clearly overjoyed to be marrying his best friend. Perhaps that may sway you.”

Sam was quiet for a while, and Dean could tell he was smiling. “Consider me swayed.” With that, he followed Dean, shaking his head and grinning.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

A silent battle against the front door was fought and won by Dean, who managed to get his suit protectors inside without incident, and without dropping his keys a second time.

He purposefully didn’t announce himself as he made his way past the kitchen, teeth digging into his lower lip as he snuck behind Cas’ back on his way to his bedroom. It was impossible, though: his bush jacket and newly-fitted khaki pants were in wrinkly plastic, and wrinkly plastic was loud.

Castiel turned at a rustle, and exclaimed: “Dean!”

Dean tried to hide his tailoring behind him, putting on a bright grin. “Oh hey! Didn’t, uh... Didn’t see you there. Good day?”

Castiel approached, head tilted, trying to see what Dean was hiding.

Dean twisted on the spot so Cas didn’t see. Castiel leaned the other way and Dean leaned too.

Castiel stood back. They locked eyes.

A wayward wire hanger exited Dean’s hand and stretched the plastic, tearing it all the way down until the whole thing plopped with a loud smush on the floor. Castiel looked down. Dean grumbled, chin to his chest.

Castiel met Dean’s eyes again. He started to smile. He said nothing aloud to Dean, but it was all in his eyes. You went to the tailor. You spent a hundred dollars on alterations and fifty on dry-cleaning. You’re serious about this.

Dean looked back with a small smile. Yeah. I’ve spent more money on this fake wedding in two weeks than I’ve spent on hair-care in a year. I’m serious about this. Dean’s eyes lowered to Castiel’s lips. And you love me.

Castiel met Dean’s eyes, gazing at him softly. I love you.

Dean licked his lips, cocking his head to his bedroom. Gotta go put these away.

Castiel nodded, stepping back, pointing to the kitchen. Dinner’s ready.

Dean winked before he left. You’re dessert.

Okay, maybe that last part didn’t translate. But Dean definitely thought it.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

“Look, you gotta try this.”

“Deeean, nooo,” Castiel complained, slumped back at the dining table, hands on his stomach. “I’m so full already. And I want to go to behhhd.”

“But it’s berry! We’ve done chocolate, we’ve done vanilla, freaking Nutella— Cas, I just spent five hours making six tiny wedding cakes, you are not skipping out because – what – your little belly is full and you’re sleepy? Come here.”

Castiel leaned back in his chair, mouth open, eyes set uncaringly on the ceiling.

Dean spooned cake into his mouth. “This is a berry coulis. Essentially a sponge cake with berry dessert sauce, cream, dark choc frosting, fresh fruit.” As Castiel smacked his tongue against his palate, Dean sucked the remainder of Castiel’s mouthful off his spoon. “Ohhhh, damn that’s good. Gives me food tingles.”

Castiel looked annoyed. “It’s delicious!”

“And?”

“And they’re all delicious.” He bent down and scribbled furiously in his now-overstuffed notebook, which was surrounded by seven other mostly-eaten slices of cake, some of which were store-bought, some from local bakeries, and the rest of which were made by Dean, because apparently stroking Cas’ crotch through his pants and whispering things about dessert in Castiel’s ear made Dean turn his mind not to sex, but to baking.

“Well, I’m done with baking, that’s a bonus,” Dean said, sinking with a sigh into the other chair, back aching, legs splayed out in front of him. He nudged Cas’ leg with a sock. “C’mon, if you had to pick a favourite.”

“I would happily have taken any of them to bed,” Castiel grumbled. “And fucked it.”

Dean grinned. “You were the one who wished I’d cook more.”

“Not when I’m horny!” Castiel exclaimed.

Dean bit his lip and lifted a foot, placing it on Castiel’s crotch. “How about you, uh... massage my foot while you read me your notes.”

Castiel didn’t even consider arguing; he grabbed Dean’s foot and began to hump gently against it, getting himself hard in a no-nonsense sort of way while reading out: “The dense marzipan fruit cake from Teresa’s Bakery got a ten-for-ten on everything except flavour.”

“Which rules that out,” Dean said, as Castiel wrenched his sock off him, and Dean felt the bulging, hot crotch of Cas’ jeans, stitched seam standing out especially. “Flavour’s kind of a deal-breaker.”

“Mm. And.” Castiel swallowed, sitting more at the edge of his chair, pressing Dean’s sole deeply into the groove between his legs. “The one from Walmart was actually better than I expected. But unless we buy six and stack them up, it won’t go far.”

“Wasn’t my favourite, though,” Dean said, spreading his toes so Cas’ cockhead got some action through his jeans. “Plus, what a bummer, you know? Oh, who made your wedding cake? Some underpaid Walmart employee.”

“True.” Castiel drew an X by the Walmart cake in his notebook. “Push harder.”

Dean pushed.

“Hmm.” Castiel’s eyelids fluttered. “Ah. Yeah.”

“The downside of making it myself is that I end up baking for hours the night before my wedding,” Dean said, lifting his left foot, placing it beside his right, using both to spread Castiel’s legs, then working a heel into Cas’ erection, making him moan. “Charlie’s mom is great at baking— Hey, you think she’d help out? She’d probably come as Charlie’s plus-one, right?”

“I forgot to tell you, I invited Chiquitita,” Castiel breathed, quaking, turning his hips against Dean’s foot. “Ahh-aa— Tech— Technically I invited my tailor, Benjamin, but—”

“But Benjamin’s gonna bring Chiqui, yeah,” Dean uttered, nodding loosely in a resigned sort of way. “Go figure. And Chiqui’s gonna bring her kids. The more the merrier, right? So long as there’s enough cake for however many people, it’s fine.”

Castiel threw his head down and moaned, squirming under Dean’s touch. Dean could see a wet spot on his jeans now, and he tickled it with a toe, making Castiel spasm, and the wet spot grew.

“Unzip,” Dean suggested, putting an elbow on the table, a flirty fingertip between his teeth, eyes set hungrily on Castiel’s wet spot. “Get between my feet.”

Castiel panted, pushing Dean away so he could fumble with his zipper, fighting it open, ripping the two sides apart, shoving his jeans down a few inches before opening a hand to welcome back Dean’s bare feet. Dean placed his heels on Castiel’s inner thighs, pressed tight together to surround him completely. Castiel pushed in, sighing in relief as his cock shifted in that tight grip. Dean watched Cas’ foreskin bunch up, stretch out, bunch up again, starting to look wet.

“So come on,” Dean poked Castiel’s notebook, tap-tap. “My favourites were the ones I made, hands-down.”

Castiel shuddered, nodding, trying to fuck Dean and think at the same time, which was clearly a task and a half, and his obvious struggle was kind of a turn-on and funny at the same time. “But. Youhhh. Havefto. Hhmmm. Ngghh. Cake.”

“If I get a thumbs-up from Charlie’s mom I can just give her the recipe, and she’ll make it.” Dean shrugged, as pre-come trickled hot down the side of his ankle. “My mom would’ve loved her. They would’ve been besties. Recipes zapping back and forth in the post every weekend. Mom wouldn’t mind if Mrs. Badbury had her notes on berry coulis. For all I know Mom pinched it off the back of a frozen berry packet. From what Bobby said, Mary Winchester never cooked a damn thing from scratch after microwaves were invented.”

“AAAuhhh, Dean, Dean,” Castiel whispered, sitting at the very edge of his chair now, working in fast humps, making the chair scoot on the wooden floor. “Fuck. Fuck, shut up. Stop talking about your mom.”

Dean laughed. “Sorry.”

“Youhhhave,” Castiel gulped, “nice ankles.”

“Aw.” Dean smirked, pleased.

“III liked,” Castiel panted, “the chocolate.”

“The black forest or the Nutella?”

“Both.” Castiel moaned, sitting still now, gripping Dean’s feet hard, then pushing between them, his cock so stiff and his intentions so bold that Dean’s feet were pushed apart, and one foot dropped hard to the floor, bumping his heel.

“Ow.”

Castiel got up and rushed at him, dark-eyed, taking Dean’s face in both hands and kissing him deeply, moaning. He kissed in waves, rushing and nudging and sucking, making pleasured little noises. He climbed into Dean’s lap, and Dean pushed his chair away from the table so there was room. He held Cas around his lower back, and let his open-mouthed kisses meander from Castiel’s lips down to his neck.

“Auhh, yeah,” Castiel sighed, head falling back as Dean sucked his Adam’s apple. “Hmmm.”

Dean slid a hand between their tight-fitted bodies, only able to touch fingertips to Castiel’s cockhead. He made that enough; he fingered the slickness there, spinning a fingertip around Castiel’s slit, making him whimper. He pinched the foreskin and twisted it softly, making Castiel shiver, and bite his lip with a squeak.

Dean looked up at him, holding eye contact even when Cas didn’t look back. Without prompting, thoughts swayed within Dean, overtaken by warm feelings about how much he loved Cas, and how lucky Dean had been, and how damn good Cas looked with that red triangle-shaped blush on his cheeks and sex-plush lips, breathing all shivery and desperate.

“Dean,” Castiel sighed. “Ouhhh.” He bent forward, forehead to Dean’s shoulder. They rocked together, making the chair tip back then tap the floor. Castiel’s whole weight was on Dean’s thighs and Dean was already losing blood flow below there, but Cas kept squirming, which helped. No relief came to Dean’s toes, but it did come to his cock; Castiel leaned back just enough to unbuckle his pants for him.

Dean groaned unexpectedly, eyes shut, feeling a fresh burst of arousal as Castiel began to jack him off slowly, pressing their erections together.

Castiel then stood up – oh, blood in Dean’s legs at last, nice – and he beckoned Dean to his feet too. Dean hesitated, but then got up, and stumbled on slippery feet to Castiel’s room, following that horny little imp, who got there first.

Throwing off his clothes, Castiel sat at the foot of the bed, legs open, head back, perky nipples and strong body contoured in majestic silver by the moon in its third quarter. Dean stood before him and drank his fill, enjoying Cas while stripping himself naked.

“God, you’re freakin’ fantastic,” Dean murmured, tucking crooked fingers under Castiel’s chin, lowering it so their eyes met. “I dunno what I did right in my life, but I ain’t ever taking it back.”

Castiel smiled. He kept eye contact as he lay his torso down, waiting.

Dean wet his lips and climbed on top, kneeling over Cas, sitting down on his thighs. He had no plan, but took Cas’ cock in hand anyway, bending it towards himself. Shuffling closer, skin tacky together, Dean bent his own erection in a curve, grinning as he tried butting their heads together, making Cas gasp and himself sparkle with sensation.

Castiel reached to help, using fingers to pull back his foreskin, as Dean arranged them head-to-head, holding both with a fist so they didn’t slip apart. Castiel let his foreskin go, Dean pulled his hand back, and they both breathed out in pleasured amusement as Dean’s cockhead was covered up by Castiel’s foreskin.

Dean wrapped a hand around them both, and began shaking his fist, the fast pace of which surprised Castiel, making him writhe in the bed, legs shifting with movement under Dean’s ass as Cas’ heels hit the bed frame. His hands clutched the sheets, clawing shadows into the moonlit expanse. As his head tipped back, Dean watched his throat pulse, Adam’s apple bouncing between his fuzzy black almost-beard and speckled skin, moving every time Castiel gasped.

Dean moaned, eyes half-closed, mostly unfocused. He whispered Cas’ name, and – he wasn’t entirely sure, here – something about... sweet, beautiful cake? He wouldn’t dare quote himself on that. Before he knew it, he’d climaxed into the soft, intimate shelter of Castiel’s foreskin, semen spilling out between his fingers, dripping onto Castiel’s midriff. Castiel squeezed his legs around Dean’s lower back, watching this happen, watching Dean’s face. He smiled, Dean saw him smile.

Castiel took over, letting Dean’s cock flop away, now lying like a sleepy Dachshund in front of the fire. Castiel pulled down his own foreskin, as curious as Dean about the result. Dean’s ejaculate oozed down onto Castiel’s hand, glowing white, and it slicked his way as he began to masturbate, eyes on Dean’s.

Dean grinned lazily, slinking to kiss Castiel, then lie by him, hand on his chest, sliding down to play with the wet stuff on his belly. It was still warm, and Dean swirled it around, feeling Castiel’s semi-groomed pubic hair follow his fingers’ patterns, sticking that way.

Castiel turned his head, looking unblinkingly at Dean for a few long, quiet minutes. The only sound that breached their bubble was the click-click-click of Cas touching himself. Castiel occasionally gulped, and his eyelashes would flick the sheets as he glanced down to Dean’s lips, but otherwise, the world was empty. Sirens in the next street, the wind teasing a crack in the window, a gurgle in the pipes downstairs; none of it truly registered. Dean stroked Cas’ heart, kissed him, and heard only his hiccup as he came. And there was a little wet noise, but it was barely a sound.

Castiel breathed out deeply, mouth wide open, eyes falling shut.

“Feel better?” Dean asked.

“Berry coulis,” Castiel said tiredly. “That was my favourite.”

“Yeah?”

Castiel nodded. “It’s easy... to...” He panted, then stretched up in the bed, so his thighs were supported too. Dean scooted up to join him. Castiel wet his lips, then repeated, “It’s easy to enjoy even the most boring food on an empty stomach. But it’s quite the feat to appreciate the taste of something when you truly... truly want to reject the idea of eating another bite.”

Dean patted Castiel’s full stomach. “Good thing I gave you so much, then. Or we’d still be deciding between the P-B-n’-J cake and walnut.”

“Oh! I forgot about the P-B-n’-J—”

“Berry coulis!” Dean interrupted. “Berry coulis! You decided, no take-backs.”

“But I forgot— The jelly had berries in it too—”

“Nope! Nopenopenope.” Dean laughed and scrambled in a playfight, hands batting at Cas, giggling as he was pushed face-first into the mattress. Once allowed to roll over, Dean pecked a kiss to Castiel’s cheek. “I liked the coulis as well.”

“Hm.” Castiel combed his fingers back through Dean’s hair. “Alright. If we’re in agreement.”

Dean nodded, kissing Cas one more time. “Dibs on the shower.”

Castiel watched him head for the ensuite, shifting a leg to foot-butt him on the way. Dean slapped his foot, grinning, and they kept eye contact until the glass door closed between them.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Once showered and ready for sleep, Castiel approached the bed, slowing when he saw that Dean was sitting up, and had turned the nightstand lamp on. Dean glanced up, somehow looking serious in the amber glow, like a historian at his desk, lit by a candle.

“What’s the matter?” Castiel asked, slipping under the blanket beside him.

“Nothing,” Dean said, shrugging. “Kind of. I just wanted to ask something. It’s kind of a hard question.”

“Anything, Dean.” Castiel sat up too, palms sinking into the bed, lap draped with the top sheet.

Dean wet his lips with a fast tongue. “See. Thing is. I’m not seeing anyone else right now. Just you. And that’s clearly where you’re comfortable. That’s the only way you’ll have me, maybe. I’m just worried, I guess. If we’re actually gonna... go ahead with this...?”

When Castiel dared not fill in the blanks, waiting for Dean to finish his statement, Dean bowed his head, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Was this situation ever okay with you? Me... seeing Chiquitita. Seeing other people. Sleeping with someone else. Consent is a whole big deal in relationships, right? You gotta say yes and mean it. But right now, it kind of seems like all this time you were saying yes, because you thought you were supposed to, like you’d be selfish and unsupportive if you say no. You’re saying yes but not meaning it.” Dean caught Castiel’s eyes, searching inside him. “Is any of this resonating? Was— Is that what you’re doing?”

Castiel slowly... slowly raised a shoulder.

“Is that a yes?”

Castiel worked up some courage over ten difficult seconds, then nodded a few times, eyes down.

Dean let out a long breath through his nose. “Okay,” he said. “Good to know.” He reached over and held Castiel’s hand. “Listen, uh... it’s okay to say no. If me being with other people makes you squirmy – tell me, alright? What were you afraid would happen if you told me no?”

Castiel glanced around, then shrugged. “I... I’m not sure. I was trying to make you happy, that’s all. Maybe you’d be angry at me? Or do it anyway.”

Dean stared for a moment. “You mean... like Crowley would?”

Castiel averted his eyes, heart surging with trepidation.

“Cas,” Dean breathed. “God. We should’ve talked about this earlier. I’m sorry I— I obviously didn’t explain this well enough. The reason I asked in the first place was so I could make a decision based on your feelings. If I was gonna get pissy about your choice then—” He breathed an uncomfortable laugh. “I don’t know. I’d still ask anyway. And I’d still do what you needed. Or at least hammer out some agreement where we both get somethin’ of what we want. But, even there – you’d still have the final say. Because you’re a million times more important to me than some other partner, Cas.”

Castiel wasn’t sure how to interpret that. He’d never been told something like that before.

Dean wet his lips. “But. Um. Just so you know... Maybe you didn’t realise. You can’t really... do that, Cas. You saying you’re fine when you’re not, in my mind, is just as bad as me going behind your back to see someone else. It hurts to find out you lied, Cas. Do you get that? It hurts.” He touched his chest. “If you have to go out of your way, out of your comfort zone to be okay with my needs, my... desires? Then it’s gotta go both ways. If you need me to be fully monogamous, be attracted to you and only you... god, I’m gonna try, but I can’t promise that’s gonna happen. But that does not mean – look at me? – that does not mean I have to act on my feelings for other people. If you need me to chain up my dog, I will.”

Castiel chewed nothing, working his jaw as he lowered his eyes, tight-chested, fear and guilt and longing all at war behind his simmering eyes. Of all things, his greatest emotion was gratitude. He couldn’t believe Dean was this understanding. Castiel didn’t even know people could have conversations like this.

“You weren’t open with me for a while, Cas,” Dean said softly. “And that’s not cool. I hid some stuff from you too, about my feelings—? I’m real sorry about that. Damn. I just – wasn’t sure if what I was feeling for you was definite, and telling you would complicate matters if I wasn’t certain. Maybe ruin things between us.”

Dean drew a breath, reaching to lift Castiel’s chin. Their eyes met again, a kind smile in Dean’s gaze. “I’m not Crowley,” he promised. “You don’t need to hide shit from me. You can speak up. You can complain. You can ask me if you need something, okay? Doesn’t mean I’m perfect, though. But Cas, believe me here: you have every fucking right to have your needs met. And that includes not being hurt by my actions.”

Dean lowered his hand, holding both of Castiel’s now.

“Does all of this make sense?”

Castiel nodded.

“Okay.” Dean breathed in, head down. “But I gotta know—” He met Castiel’s eyes again. “Do you think you could be comfortable with me being attracted to other people? Ever? Or is it always gonna trigger that bad crap from the Crowley era?”

Castiel shook his head, waiting until he had control of his tongue before answering, “Perhaps it’ll be a lifelong struggle for me.” He kissed Dean’s cheek. “As it might be for you, too, finding the balance. I know you don’t want to hurt me. I suppose that’s what honesty is for.” He gave a guilty smile, which faded.

He lay down, and Dean followed him, still holding his hands, still looking at him with love.

“Tell me, won’t you?” Castiel whispered, worriedly. “If you find someone else.”

Dean chuckled. “Heyy. Whoever else I meet, Cas, you’re my priority. You come first. You’ll always come first.” He kissed Castiel’s hand. After a moment he smiled, and said, “Hey... Cas? Quick question.”

“Hm?”

“Ya wanna get married? You and me. For real. For love, not just for science.”

Castiel felt a hop of joy, followed by a swoop of immense elation, and he started to grin, clutching Dean’s hands tighter. “Yes,” he whispered. “Oh, Dean, yes. Yes.”

Dean’s eyes lit up, greener and shinier than ever before. “Awesome.”

Eyes shut, they snuggled close, and shared a smiley, giggly, snuffy kiss punctuated by grins and soft sounds of delight.

Unsaid in this, but fully understood by both of them: come rain or shine, they intended to be together forever. They were getting married for real – not merely in the case of the wedding, but in the case of the lifetime that came after. Once they were married, they would share a marriage. In having this serious talk tonight, they were preparing for what it all meant. Hard or easy, they intended to carry each other through. They would be honest. Open. Empathetic.

As they hugged close and turned out the light, ready to rest, the big day snuck up on them minute by minute, second by second, approaching by the twitch of the hands on Castiel’s Scooby Doo clock.

Now, less than a fortnight stood between this night, and the first night of the rest of their lives.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

“EYYYYYYYY.” Dean wrapped his arms aggressively around Donna, glomping her shoulders, rocking her from foot to foot. His enthusiasm ticked up with his grin as Max slunk through the front door behind her, golden-eyed as ever, carrying champagne. “Aw, yeah.” Dean moved from Donna to Max, then pulled them all inside as Alicia came after, then Charlie, and Sam.

Dean cheered as he was surrounded by love, bolstered and squashed as his friends gathered around.

“You ready?” Donna asked, pushing leopard-spotted fuzzy cat ears further up her head, flattening her blonde hair, then pushing it forward into a quiff. “We have a place booked.”

“Ooh, what kinda place?” Dean asked, still hugging Alicia, puffing her curly hair out of his face. “Are there strippers? Tell me there’s strippers.”

“Sadly, no,” Sam said, and everyone else groaned before Sam added, “Hey-hey, I said there’s no strippers – but there are go-go dancers.”

“Sooo, look but don’t touch? Awesome.” Dean held up his forefingers. “Gimme two minutes to change.”

He ducked into his room, threw off his bathrobe and got himself into a black tee with a neon 80’s logo front-and-centre, and his thinnest, most ripped and worn-down jeans – not just because he wanted to look sexy on his night out, but because they were the easiest to take off when he was drunk and desperately needed to pee. Nobody else needed to know that.

“A’right!” Dean exited his room, clapping his hands once and rubbing them. “Cas, we’re off. Bachelor party numero uno.” He swaggered up to Cas and kissed his neck, squishing his ass in both hands. “I’ll take notes, and after you’ve had yours we can compare!”

Castiel smiled secretively, looking back at Dean. “Mine’s tonight as well.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean raised his eyebrows. “Who’s even coming? I got the whole gang.”

Castiel shrugged stiffly. “I – have a long bubble bath, a wet shave, and a box of chocolates waiting for me.”

Look, Dean knew Cas well. That said, it didn’t take five years of friendship to figure out Cas preferred private, quiet activities, and therefore drinking champagne until he pissed himself and passed out in a corner was likely not high on the list of things he enjoyed. Except, the manner in which Cas detailed his plans for tonight sounded a little lackluster to Dean. Maybe Cas had seen the energy the others brought in with them, and saw Dean’s enthusiasm, and felt left out.

Dean had had enough of Cas being left out, and not expressing his loneliness outright.

“You,” Dean said, clicking his fingers. “Put on a coat, a t-shirt, some jeans. Eat a carb. You’re coming with.”

Castiel squinted, lowering the books he’d been putting away. “Dean, I’m your bride, I can’t come with you to your bachelor party.”

“Says who? I’m not leaving here without you, Cas.”

Castiel ducked his head, starting to smile. “Really?”

Dean kissed his ear, clapping his arm. “Go on, get.”

Castiel shot Dean a grateful glance, then excused himself past their hyperactive guests, heading for his room. While Cas was changing, Dean had Max open the champagne, and they filled up plastic glasses, which Charlie had brought in her adventure bag.

“Let me guess,” Dean uttered, pointing at Donna’s cat ears. “You ran with the zoo theme.”

“I was gonna come in my statie uniform but then Sam told me we’d get actual strippers,” Donna deadpanned, making Dean laugh loud and clap her on the back.

Sam patted Dean’s arm. “Look, your boyfriend’s ready.”

Castiel emerged from his room tugging at a black crop-top that showed his midriff, and low-slung jeans that highlighted the deep V of muscle on his hips. Dean whistled long and low, while the others roared, Alicia lifting her phone to take pictures. Castiel looked to Dean for reassurance, and Dean went to him, holding his bare lower back and kissing him, head tilted.

“Is this appropriate?” Castiel asked, still trying to tug the crop top down.

“You look hot,” Dean said, nodding. He beamed, then turned to his congregation. “And for the record, guys, Cas ain’t my boyfriend.”

“Awww,” Donna and Charlie yowled, annoyed.

“No, no, no, see,” Dean grinned, “‘cause first up, he’s not a boy, he’s, uh...”

“Agender,” Castiel supplied, pulling on his knee-length brown trenchcoat.

“What Cas said. That. Agender. Non-binary, and whatnot.” Dean nodded. “And second! He can’t be my boyfriend... because he’s my fiancée.” He beamed uncontrollably as he said it, making everyone melt and coo with delight. Dean turned back to Cas, glad to see his eyes gleaming and a content smile on his lips. They shared a kiss, then Dean cocked his head, inviting everyone outside. He snatched up his car keys and tossed them to Sam. “Don’t you dare drive into a tree.”

Sam saluted. “Bushes and walls only, got it.”

While Dean yelped in complaint, the others tittered, gathering at the door and heading down into the lilac glow of an early-autumn evening.

While Cas locked the apartment, Dean loitered and looked around, observing how the daylight hit the apartments opposite with a diagonal block of delicate gold, the sky beyond still shimmering with summer dust, especially nearer the horizon. The air had a chill though, and once at the bottom of the stairs, Dean’s first act was to wrap his arm around Castiel’s lower back, walking plastered to his side.

Sam got into the driver’s seat of the Impala and keyed the ignition. Donna and Max went to the front to cram in beside Sam, while the others piled in either side of Dean and Cas, Alicia armed with a silver case of makeup, Charlie bringing out sets of animal ears from her galaxy-print backpack.

“Tiger, koala bear, or giraffe?” Charlie asked, offering those fuzzy novelty ears to Dean and Cas. “I have two of each.”

Cas snatched the giraffe ears before Dean could breathe, but when Dean went for the tiger, Castiel hesitated, and complained, “I want to be a tiger too.”

Charlie handed him a second set of tiger ears. “Good thing I gave you first pick. Alicia had her eyes on those.”

“Fuggetabouhme,” Alicia said, rummaging through her makeup box. “Nobody’s being any zoo animal if I don’t find my brushes.”

Sam spun the car around a turning circle, and everyone in the back went “Whooooh,” as they squashed up on one door.

“Hey there,” Dean grinned, nuzzling at Castiel’s jaw. “Tiger.”

As the car straightened up, Max took a swig of the champagne straight from the bottle, then passed it over to the back seat. His sister took it, and drank before gulping in surprise, exclaiming, “Fuck it! No brushes. I’m doing finger paints.”

Bottle passed to Donna, Alicia swirled her finger in an orange eyeshadow, rounding on Dean, who offered his face, eyes shut. Dean held as still as he could, while the car trembled and shifted under them.

“How do I look?” he asked, opening he eyes to realise they’d crossed over two districts while Alicia had been decorating him. He took the champagne when Charlie handed it over.

“I’d make stripy tiger babies with you,” Castiel whispered in his ear.

Dean blushed. “Ooh.” He held Cas’ gaze as he took a bubbly swig of champagne, and didn’t look away until he handed over the bottle.

Castiel wiped the bottle rim with his crop top before drinking.

Dean smiled fondly, knowing Cas was just gonna get all those germs back once they kissed next, anyway.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

“Behold! The nightclub!” Max announced the venue in front of its main doors, arms wide. The last of the sunlight gleamed as a golden crown on his dark, shaved head, and caught his eyes with a spark as he turned. “One last heterosexual thing for you to enjoy, Dean. Don’t be surprised if us gays go up in smoke once we set foot on this hallowed ground.”

“Speak for yourself,” Charlie uttered. “If there’s half-dressed ladies in there, I’m not smoking out.”

Donna gave Castiel a soft nudge. “You okay going in there, sweetie?”

Castiel raised his eyebrows, looking down into the plump, smiling face of a very pretty leopard. “Of course.”

“You sure?” Dean checked.

“Dean,” Castiel chided, “I’m not incapable of knowing my own limitations. I know what a woman looks like. I can handle a dance club.”

“Ooh-wee!” Max and Alicia cheered, hands up. “Mic drop for Cas,” Alicia added, grinning past her panther eye-mask.

Castiel led the way inside, long coat swishing behind him as they crossed the street and entered through the glass doors. The smell of beer, fake strawberries, and sweat was immediately a surprise, but Castiel decided that if he became one with the beer, strawberries, and sweat, he wouldn’t notice it so much. He beelined for the bar, caught the attention of a tough-looking bartender, and ordered... champagne. Well, he didn’t plan on puking later. At least if he didn’t mix drinks he might go home in one piece.

“Make that five bubblies,” Dean said, leaning on Cas to speak to the bartender. “And keep ‘em coming.” He winked, then bent to utter in Cas’ ear, “I can’t wait to see you drunk. I love drunk you.” Dean grinned, shrugging innocently when Castiel looked his way. “You flirt.”

“Last time I got drunk was months ago.”

“And yet it took me all that time to realise why I love when you drink,” Dean shrugged. He leaned to pick up the champagne flutes that the bartender placed on the bar. “C’mon,” Dean urged. “Let’s get hammered.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

The music pumped through the floor like a drug in the veins, colours flashing, blaring, surging from every angle. Dean didn’t keep track of his drinks, as he trusted Sam and Charlie to keep him safe, as they weren’t drinking tonight, and watched him from a distance. And besides, Dean had gone too long regulating his intake of everything – it was fun just to let loose for once. Drink when he wanted to drink, slap Cas’ ass when he wanted to slap Cas’ ass, grind against him when Cas yanked Dean onto the dancefloor.

Cas kept the coat on, for whatever reason. Maybe his back was cold. But that slip of his midriff visible when Dean looked down was enough to keep him half-hard for about an hour, hands curious about touching.

They made out a few times, in the flashing rainbow wilderness of the party. Dean was vaguely aware there were go-go dancers around, but they were up on stages, wearing seven-inch heels and pastel-coloured pleather, looking ethereal, and there was no easier way to get a point across: they were all out of his league, untouchable, and forbidden. Well, that was the obvious reason he didn’t pay them much attention...

The less obvious reason – or not so unobvious, Dean realised, in a quiet, eye-squinty moment at a urinal – was that Cas was adorable and all for him, which meant there was really no point hitting on dancers. Cas was half-naked too. Cas was hot. He gave free lap-dances almost automatically if Dean collapsed into a lounge chair, as he did.

Dean had maybe one of the best nights of his life, in two hours flat.

He was surrounded by pretty girls, and his best friend kept giving him boners without using his hands once, which was a set of experiences that Dean was really, really hoping wouldn’t be blitzed out of his system by the morning. The bubbles in champagne always got him drunk way too fast.

It was after that thought occured that he started eating packets of peanuts to sober up, happily announcing that they were eight-dollar mouthfuls paid on Sam’s tab, not his own, before remembering that the salt made him thirstier. So he ordered a platter of tortilla chips and salsa, which in truth probably weren’t any less salty, but at least the food made him sure he wasn’t giving himself champagne-flavoured alcohol poisoning.

There were no chairs at the high tables, so Dean leaned his elbows on one, cramming food into his mouth, forgetting how a few times – triangle chip wedged between the corners of his mouth, ouch – and then, in a vague haze of pink lights and dizzy blinks, Cas arrived before him.

Dean jumped. “Whoa! Wear a bell, buddy. Made me jump.”

Castiel placed a chilled glass in front of Dean, sipping his own.

“Ah, pass, I’m sticking to champagne,” Dean said firmly. “I’m not twenty any more. Vodka? Nuh-uh.”

“It’s water,” Castiel said, pushing the glass closer.

Dean snatched it and guzzled it. “Haaah.” He shut his eyes in relief. “That’s what I wanted. Thirsty. God-dammit.”

“I’m drunk,” Castiel said flatly.

“Your tiger ears are on wonky,” Dean said.

“You have two noses,” Castiel said. He giggled. “Person nose and. Meow!”

Dean thought he wiggled his nose, but actually looked like he was about to sneeze. “Rrrrrrr.”

Castiel swayed and fluttered his lashes, seduced by Dean’s growl.

Dean leaned forward, craning over the table so he could murmur to Cas over the thump of the room and the yells of other men (and koala-eared Charlie) cheering at the girls. “Cas?”

Castiel leaned so close their noses nearly touched. He picked up a chip, scooped up salsa, and ate it, asking, “Yeah?”

“Do you ever get sad because... b’cause your life is so good?”

Castiel squinted. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean.”

“No no no but. Like. I’m havin’ a good time. And I’m sad ‘cause what about homeless people? When do they get to see strippers or eat tortilla dip with a leaf on top? Do they get enough hugs?” Dean pouted. “Everything sucks for evvveryone. And it sucks. And it sucks, and I’m not a fan. And I wanna fix it for everyone but what do I know? I’m a zookeeper. I roll that dice and I only have one special move. Summon Giraffe.”

“You can’t save everyone, my friend,” Castiel said wisely, before cramming a too-big chip in his mouth, making his cheeks pointy. “Shumpymshh oo goppa pocuff ob youhhshawf.”

“Wha?”

Crunch.

“Focus on yourself,” Castiel said, smudging his tiger stripes. “If you create an... an place, enviro-y thing. For all the people around you, then. Their goodness goes brrrrrrr.” He wriggled his fingers, indicating the wide dispersion of good vibes.

“But like. The world’s ending. And we’re in a strip club eating chips and gonna get gay-married but there’s... there’s people who can’t get gay-married. Can’t even be gay. ‘S not allowed, and they die. ‘N it suuuuuh-huh-huucks.”

Castiel nodded sagely, eyes drifting as he sipped his water. “It is indeed a conundrum.”

“I wanna punch a Nazi, Cas,” Dean grumbled. “I wanna time travel and go back and-and-and-and kill Hitler! Buh bhuh look, Cas, my point is... My point is...” Dean scratched his head. “Elephants.”

“Elephants.”

“Yeahyeahyeah. Gotta save ‘em. From poachers n’ shit. But they’re in Africa and we’re here.”

Castiel squinted. “If you can time travel why can’t you travel in space as well? Go to Africa.”

“I’m not the freaking Who doctor,” Dean said. “I’m just saying, okay! I wanna save the world but I’mmmmm. Dunno how to make the world suck less.”

Castiel nodded. “Voting, I suppose. Politics? Vote for nice people with nice brains.”

Dean grumbled. “But more than that! I can’t just throw a ballot in a box and say my job’s done.”

“Bees,” Castiel said. “Save bees. And the ice caps. Or we all die.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Dean leaned close, cupping his hand around Castiel’s ear, trying to whisper but speaking: “I don’t really hate bees.”

Castiel looked at him, awed. “You don’t?”

“They’re scary. ‘S all.” Dean crunched a chip, pondering its broken shard like a Shakespearian skull. “They attack if you’re scared, and that scares me.”

“You won’t be scared forever,” Castiel promised Dean with a chip-dusty hand clamped over his. “I’ll introduce you to all the bees in the world and then you’ll think, oh, a bee.”

Dean scratched his tiger ear. “Hm.”

A pretty, pastel-coloured lady breezed past as elegantly as a butterfly, and Castiel nearly fell over, running after her. “Candy! Candy!”

The lady – Candy, apparently – stopped in her tracks, looking in delight at Castiel. “Aw, hey, tiger! You havin’ a good time?”

“We’re saving the world later,” Castiel told her seriously, reaching back to hold Dean’s hand. “Do you want to help?”

“Would love to, babe, but I have a dance in five minutes.”

“Waitwait,” Castiel let go of Dean, rushing after Candy. “Can I try on your shoes?”

“My shoes?” Candy tucked her ombre pink hair behind her ear, looking down. “You’ll break an ankle.”

“I’ve been practising,” Castiel promised.

Candy laughed, rolling her glittery eyes. “Just for a minute, okay?” She bent to unstrap her Pleaser heels, and two thick, clear-plastic wedges tumbled onto the tiles. Castiel slipped his bare feet in – Dean wondered where the heck Cas had left his socks and shoes – and was even more surprised to see Castiel walk without a wobble, laughing as he paced around his dancer friend, holding her hands.

Cas was satisfied soon enough, and Candy helped him take them back off.

“Do you want to come to the wedding, Candy?”

Candy looked up, glossed lips parting. “Whose wedding?”

“Ours!” Castiel stumbled bare-foot over to Dean’s table. “Dean’s my fiancé now.”

Candy’s eyes lit up. “Hooooooooooly shit. Yes.” She gave Cas a high-five, which he accepted as a fist-bump. “I’ll text you. Gotta go!” She hopped to buckle up her shoes, and disappeared into the crowd.

“Since when do you know a stripper?” Dean asked. “Mnh – whoops, go-go dancer.”

“She was in my therapy group,” Castiel explained. “After Crowley.”

“Oh-oh-oh, right, right,” Dean nodded. “But I met that whole group, I don’t recognise her.”

“She didn’t have pink hair then. It was all black.”

“Wait— That’s Darby? Goth vampire Darby? Darby Peregrine Jones?”

“She teaches kung-fu now,” Castiel smiled. “And sometimes dances on stage and gets a lot of money. And she came out as gay. She’s much happier.”

“I’ll bet,” Dean said, grinning. “What about you? Are you much happier?”

Castiel gazed at Dean, a gooey, schmoopy look in his eyes. “Five thousand percent.”

Dean purred.

Who knew how they got from the dancefloor to here? They pushed against a wall in a private hallway outside the bathrooms, kissing like they invented it. Dean moaned, letting Cas turn his head, shoving his hips against the rusty-red wallpaper. “Mmmm. Cas. Cas.”

“Shh-hh,” Castiel hushed. His hand slipped into Dean’s soft jeans. “Get hard for me.”

“Aah?” Dean bit his lip, dizzy and happily drunk, humping Cas’ hand, both of them watching him stiffen inside the fabric. “Cas?” Dean whispered. “Can I tell you a secret?”

Castiel nodded, smooching behind Dean’s ear.

Dean licked his salty lips and uttered, “I’m wearing my sexy panties.”

Castiel looked down, and... curious, he unbuttoned Dean’s jeans. Cas’ shoulders dropped, a blast of air escaping him. He looked at Dean in adoration. “They’re so pretty.”

Dean blushed, all his attention on Cas. “Rrrawh.”

“Rrawh!” Castiel echoed, biting Dean’s ear. “Rrr.”

Dean let Cas push a hand into his jeans, holding his crotch, massaging him through his panties. Dean breathed deeply, hanging his weight on Cas’ shoulders, shuddering and shivering – then shocked when he felt two dry fingers push on his hole. “Oh my God. Ow. Cas. Cas. Auuuhhhhh... Fuck. Yes.”

Castiel pushed in, and Dean relaxed around him, vaguely wondering if he was imagining it, because no way Cas could go in dry. But it definitely felt like Cas was in. Dean rode into him, rocking up and down the wall, blissed out. He knew he was drunk, he knew Cas was equally inebriated, he knew they were practically in public, but damn, if Cas wanted to fingerfuck him right-here right-now, Dean was on board.

A chattering of voices came from nearby, beyond the double doors that led back to the dancefloor. “They’ve been in there a while, that’s all. I don’t wanna head into the men’s room if—

The door opened and Donna peeked in, overtaken by a concerned-looking Max, only for them both to stop, frozen, taking in the sight of Dean and Cas face-to-face, Dean with his jeans around his thighs, the leg-hole of his pink, satiny panties breached by two of Castiel’s fingers, Cas’ hips pushing into Dean’s, both of them too dazed to look straight ahead.

Dean vaguely registered saying “Uh?” by which time, Donna and Max were already gone, blasted away by their own laughter.

Dean hung onto Cas and let pleasure overtake him, deciding once and for all that it was pleasure, not pain, because it just felt weird, and he liked pleasure better. Dean looked deep into Cas’ eyes until, finally, in a sudden spasm, he relaxed, feeling heat in his panties. “Hmmmmm,” he said, in appreciation.

The next part was definitely more of a blur than other parts. Dean bumped his knees as he got down to the ground, and shut his eyes for most of the action, but when he opened them, Cas gazed down, out of breath, looking satisfied. Dean wiped his itchy face with the back of his wrist, but it was sticky and warm, and when he looked down, Cas’ jizz smudge was all black, and Dean yelped in panic, until Castiel laughed, muttering, “Your tiger stripes are all smushy.”

Dean got up, huffing in relief. “Thought you were a demon for a moment.”

“No,” Castiel assured him, holding Dean’s face. “All angel, here.”

They made their way to the men’s room, and Dean almost tripped on his jeans, but pulled them up as he reached the sinks. He washed his hands and face, growling tiger-like in the mirror, even as he rinsed his tiger face away.

Once Cas was washed, he snuggled up to Dean’s side and peppered his neck with kisses, which Dean purred at, rotating to embrace Castiel fully. They wobbled drunkenly in place, lit by bright white lights. Dean kissed his fiancée, and Cas kissed back, all soft.

“I ad-rorar you,” Dean whispered, on the edge of laughter.

Castiel snickered, forehead to Dean’s. “We’re really getting married.”

Dean nodded, nodding Cas’ head along with him.

Castiel’s smile was subtle, but unquestionably happy. “I’m more excited that words can say, Dean. So I’m going to roar. GrrOOOWWh.”

Dean threw his head back and laughed, because the noise was deafening in the echoey bathroom.

“GROWWWHOO!”

Dean threw out a kulning call too, just for the sake of it. “Aaa-hoooooooOOO!”

“GROWHHH.”

Sam burst into the bathroom, harried. “Oh my God.”

Dean and Castiel turned to Sam. “GraaahOOOOOOO’wh!”

Sam sighed. “You two are going home. Now. Let’s go. Dean, put your underwear on and do up your pants.” He stepped up to them and pushed them towards the door, where Max stood, holding it open.

Off they went, howling and growling, summoning giraffes and telling fellow tigers how much they loved them.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean and Castiel’s friends got them home safely, and they went willingly, if loudly. Charlie decided to stay the night at their apartment while Sam took everyone else home in his own car.

Once a makeshift bed was set up on the couch, Charlie helped Cas to bed, then rushed to the kitchen, because Dean was making himself mac-and-cheese and could not be trusted with a microwave when he was struggling to stand up straight.

While Charlie made the mac-and-cheese, Dean forgot he was hungry and took off all his clothes instead, crawling on all fours into Castiel’s bedroom, making tiger noises.

“Dean?” Charlie asked. “Don’t you want—?” Dean closed the door behind him. “Okaa-hay,” Charlie called to him. “It’ll be here when you need it. I’m going to sleep. Call me if you need me. Happy bachelor party!”

Castiel lay in the boughs of the jungle trees, chin on his paw, a striped orange shape among lush and verdant greens. He peered down at the rainforest floor, meeting Dean’s eyes with a sly smile. His tail swung, left, right, waiting as bait for his mate.

Dean prowled closer, tail swishing, hips ready to play. His eyes remained locked to Castiel’s as he sniffed out his territory, a territory which seemed to wobble and tilt with every movement Dean made. The world was very tired right now. Earth was drunk.

Earth needed to sleep.

Dean found his territory, and began to mark it... somewhat aggressively...

Still marking it...

A lot of very loud, wet marking to do...

After a full minute of high-pressure marking, he shivered, sighed in relief, then leapt up into his jungle tree, nuzzled with his mate, and flumped down in their leafy green nest.

Dean had no idea if tigers slept in trees.

They did now.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean sorted awake, slapping himself in the face. His face was crusty and drool-slimy, and his eyes were... confused.

He sat up, grunting. It was sunny.

“The fuck,” he said, as his brain announced its presence with a sharp shot of pain. Dean clutched his head. “Hnmmnnn.”

He looked beside him and saw Cas sleeping face-down, butt-naked. Dean let him sleep. He turned to get out of bed, putting his feet down—

“Yeek!” Dean lifted his feet. “What the fuck.”

Castiel stirred.

Dean stared at the massive puddle on the floor. “No. I didn’t.” He gazed at the glass bathroom door, which he definitely had not opened last night. “Oh, my fucking God, I did.” He lay down, head on Castiel’s lower back. He sat up just as quickly, feeling further discomforts, squirming on his bare ass. “Cas... What the hell did you put in my ass last night? Oh Jesus Christ— Did you go in dry?” Dean looked at Castiel in shock.

Castiel parted his lips, eyes roaming as he thought, then flicking to meet Dean’s. He looked guilty.

Dean chuckled, hanging his head. He dried his feet on the carpet and rolled back into bed, wrapping his arms around Cas. He shut his eyes, letting out a long, sour-tasting sigh.

Castiel stroked his face.

Dean peeked out, smiling, then smirking. “We’re gonna get married,” he whispered.

Castiel laughed, then rolled onto his back, arms up in celebration. “We’re getting married!”

Dean held tight to him, gazing at him, exhilaration stirring in his whole body. “Six days,” he said.

“Hmmm.” Castiel kissed him. “I can’t wait.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

“You’re home! How was the trip?” Castiel left behind the three friends who gathered around the wedding board, now approaching Dean at the front door.

Dean let Cas take him in his arms, eyes shut as they hugged.

“Good,” Dean breathed. He pulled back, and his view of Castiel blurred at the edges as emotion lifted within him, something loud yet peaceful. “Got Bobby and the wheelchair across the country in one peice. He refused to let anyone carry him up the stairs to get to this place, so I set him and Rufus up at a ground-level motel.”

“Ruf—” Castiel’s eyes widened. “Rufus Turner? They broke up years ago, what—”

“You’re telling me!” Dean laughed. “Those crazy sons of nutjobs left it until days before my wedding to tell me they ‘settled things’ together a month back.”

“Dean – oh, that’s incredible!” Castiel threw his arms around Dean’s shoulders, and they spun on the spot, laughing as Cas was lifted an inch from the floor. “So your parents will be there to watch after all!”

“Yeah, if they’re even looking the right way.” Dean put Cas down, shrugging. “Those two bickered non-stop from Sioux Falls to the front steps of Boston Paradise Motel. And even then! Put your back in to it, ya idjit. What kind of namby-pamby raised you?” Dean smiled. “They seemed happy.”

“I’m sure they were.”

Dean stepped back from Cas, taking off his canvas jacket one sleeve at a time. “Alright. I gotta take a whizz, and get some food in ma belleh. But then! You guys.” Dean clicked a finger gun in the direction of his found family, who waited by the planning board, going over the notes, but keeping an eye and ear on Dean. “Last minute prep.”

“Oh-ho,” Jody chortled, wrinkles of amusement by her grey eyes. “That ship sailed. We did last-minute prep in the two days you were gone. Everything from hanging mason jar lights to adjusting the length of your bootlaces. We’re just going over what you do and when, because as all-about-you this wedding is, I’m not having you messing around in my zoo any more than five minutes longer than you have to.”

“Gotcha.” Dean gave her a nod, then headed for the bathroom. “B-R-B.”

He came back and mingled with the chatting group soon after, fresher, in clean clothes, and with a box of leftover egg fu yung tucked under his chin, scooping it into his mouth with a fork. “Fwo. Whaff’f uph?”

“Hey.” Sam patted Dean on the back. “Dean, were you serious about Bobby and Rufus? They got back together – for real this time?”

Dean gave his younger brother a soft smile. He nodded.

Sam’s eyes glazed over, a grin tilting his lips as he looked down. “Wow.”

Dean patted Sam’s shoulder. “Seem pretty serious about it, too. Like, they’re taking each other to the grave, kind of thing. Hundred years from now, they’re gonna be bickering as ghosts.”

Sam put his hands in his jeans pockets, turning a content smile to Charlie.

Charlie took Dean’s arm and held it. “I did wonder what you and Cas would be like as queer, grumpy old men. Now I know. Like adoptive father, like adoptive son?”

Dean snorted. “Yeah, but me and Cas are an actual couple. Rufus and Bobby are...” Dean couldn’t think of a word. “Well. I guess they kind of are a couple. Love abound. But they don’t kiss. And they definitely don’t bump uglies.”

Sam chuckled. “You just don’t want to think about it.”

“True that, and don’t you dare make me,” Dean warned, hurriedly scarfing his food in case Sam kept talking anyway. Maybe the sound of chewing would blot him out.

Jody drew in a deep breath, smiling. “Right. Well. As exciting as that news is, Dean – really is – time happens to be running short. Back to business.” She tapped a pen on a top-down diagram of the southwestern courtyard, drawn on graph paper.

The outlines of the benches were set diagonally up the aisle, all facing the floral arch Dean had seen other people use now and then – although it just looked like a horseshoe on paper. “Here’s the altar,” Jody said. “You’ll all stand here. Me in the middle, officiating; Dean and Castiel either facing each other, or facing me, your choice. Just do what feels natural. Sam, Charlie, you’re on either side of them until the vows have been exchanged, as there’s no rings. Dean, you getting all this?”

Dean looked up, a noodle hanging from his lip. “Wuh? Oh. Altar, best man Sammy by me, best woman Charlie by Cas. Got it.”

“What I need to know,” Jody went on, as Dean looked around for a napkin, then just used the inside collar of his t-shirt... “What I need to know,” Jody said again, schooling away her disgust, “is whether one of you wants to walk up the aisle, whether you both do, or whether you both come in from the side arches.”

“Oh... uh...” Dean and Castiel exchanged glances. Dean shrugged. “Your choice, Cas.”

Castiel licked his lips, then turned to Jody. “I want to walk up the aisle to meet Dean. And Mrs. Patel from downstairs agreed to walk with me, since I have no parents and other no parental figures in my life.”

Dean swung a hand over to hold Cas’. Cas looked back, smiling.

“Mrs. Patel...” Jody looked down the guest list, giving an “Aha!” when she found the name, added in Dean’s handwriting underneath a thick black marker line. “She should be here while we’re discussing this, can we go and get her?”

“She’s working,” Castiel said. “Four a.m. to ten at night, every day except Eid celebrations. She’s very kindly agreed to take time off for the wedding.” Dean beamed, because Castiel tone of voice was genuinely honoured. His eyes fell back to the guest list. “We can explain... the routine to her... on the day.”

“Needs must, I guess,” Jody said. She tacked the guest list back to the board, then stuck her hands on her hips. “Dean, did you want to walk up the aisle first?”

“Sure.”

“Or come through an arch?”

“No preference.”

“Or come in casually with the rest of the guests?”

“Listen, boss, if you hired Captain Kirk to have Scotty beam me down, I’d take that option. But other than that, my top priority is to get there and stand there without ripping my pants or burping into those damn tiny clip-on microphones you keep insisting on. You tell me what approach works for you, Jody, and I’ll give you my best take.”

Jody smiled at him. “Left arch entrance it is. There’s more privacy on that side, you can mess around with your hair and shirt buttons without anyone bothering you.”

“Deal.” Dean rested a forearm on Cas’ shoulder, leaning on him. “Can’t believe after all this, we’re less than a day away. Think of that, Cas. This time tomorrow we’re gonna be boinking each other’s brains out.” Dean gave Cas’ arm a friendly fist bump, smiling. Cas took a moment to respond, so Dean looked over to make a joke about cold feet, but saw with a zap of shock that Cas was deep in the thrall of a blank-faced panic attack. His only tell was the slightly wide eyes and utter silence.

“O-kay, time out,” Dean said over whatever Sam was saying. “You lot carry on. Me and Cas just gotta— C’mere, buddy. C’mon.” Dean took Cas tight by both biceps, moving him gently but firmly across the living room and towards the bathroom. Cas’ feet were slow and he missed a few steps, but from the waist upwards was hard to tell as Dean supported him completely.

The bathroom was painted brown and had yet another skylight instead of a ceiling. Plants grew well in the humidity, so Castiel had installed a living wall by the door, which hung with flourishing ferns and succulents. Dean pulled Cas past it, brushing a fern frond out of Cas’ hair as he closed the door behind them, resting Castiel’s back on the door.

“Buddy,” Dean said softly, chin up, eyes set intently on Cas’. “Cas. Look at me?”

Castiel’s hurried, shallow breaths were more noticeable in the quiet room. His eyes skipped left, right, but finally found Dean’s gaze.

“Hey,” Dean examined Castiel’s gaze. “What’s going on?”

Castiel parted his lips, but not even breath came out.

“Alright. Alright, just breathe. Come on. In. Deep breath. Open your throat.”

Castiel ducked his head a few times, raking in a shivery, shallow gulp of air.

“Good. Now out. Slooooow. Wheeeewwhhh.”

Castiel huffed.

“IIIIInnnn.”

It took most of minute of Dean sticking to his guns, taking slow, paced breaths before Castiel managed to copy. Dean felt Cas relaxing slightly in his grip.

“We’re all good,” Dean promised. “It’s gonna be okay. It’s just a wedding. It’s not life and death.” Dean grinned. “It’s just a party.”

Castiel shook his head. “It— The.”

“Take your time. Keep breathing. I got ya.”

Castiel fought to swallow, eyes closed. He put a hand on Dean’s arm, stabilising himself. “It’s not you. Not you.”

“Not me what?” Dean started to grin nervously. “I’m not The One?”

Castiel hiccuped out a laugh. “No, you are. The. Hahhh. The.” He shut his eyes for a while, pulling himself together. “The problem. Is not you. It’s just – the culmination. Of such a big project. So big and – important. I-I-I have no experience! This was meant to be my wedding planning experience! But now it’s the most important one I could ever work on— What if it goes wrong? What if all the senseless, idiotic mistakes I made along the way come to bite us both in the ass?”

“Heyyy,” Dean soothed, stroking Cas’ hair back. “No matter what happens, Cas—? No matter if we run out of food, if I stain my shirt, if that funky Indian dress of yours isn’t everything you dreamed it would be – or, hell, if the world ends at nine a.m. sharp – so long as we get home tomorrow night in one piece, still a happy couple, then it’s fine. It’s all fine. You did good.” Dean smiled, lifting Castiel’s hands to kiss them both, holding his gaze.

“Get home— The honeymoon!” Castiel yelped. “I didn’t book anything! I didn’t even think about it!”

Dean chuckled. “How about a week in a motel room? Aw, make it a hotel. Treat ourselves. No clothes, no TV. Just you, me, a shower, a bed, take-out... Pizza delivery?”

Castiel had begun to smile, as Dean kept kissing his hands. “Okay,” he whispered.

“Okay,” Dean agreed, smooching Cas on the lips. “You feelin’ better now?”

“Much better, yes. Thank you.”

Dean gave him a nice, long hug. “What triggered this, anyway? Your chaotic filing system? Yeah, that would get me too.”

“No, it...” Castiel leaned back, hesitating instead of meeting Dean’s eyes. He let go of a breath through his nose, then said, “No, don’t worry. Honesty’s one thing, but you don’t need to hear about all my organisational screw-ups. You should just enjoy this. It’ll be fine. Things are the way they are, now. Like you said: regardless of what goes wrong, no matter who... shows up? We’re going to get married.”

“Damn right.” Dean hugged Cas’ lower back and brought him in for a snuffly, cuddly kiss, making him giggle, hands scrunched in Dean’s hair. They rocked from foot to foot a few times, they fell back, smiling.

“I love you,” Castiel said hopefully.

“Aw. Right back atcha, buddy,” Dean smiled, booping Cas on the nose. “I love you too.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Castiel had packed an overnight bag a full week ago, but tonight unpacked and re-packed it to include a certain item for the honeymoon, then declared he was ready.

Charlie looped her arm through Castiel’s, and they shared a smile, before frog-marching towards the door together as Charlie sang “We’re off to see the Wizard! The wonderful Wizard of Oz!

“Cas. Hold on.” Dean hurried after them. As Cas turned, Dean snatched him into a long, forceful, unmoving kiss. They broke apart with a huff of breath, both showing off sore-lipped smiles. “See you at the altar,” Dean said.

“Goodnight, Dean,” Castiel said warmly. “Sleep well.”

“You too.”

They gazed at each other for half a minute, until Charlie opened the front door, and Castiel remembered he was leaving.

“Look after him, Sam,” Castiel called. “Make sure he sleeps.”

“Will do,” Sam called from the living room. “See you tomorrow!”

Dean and Cas parted ways on the porch, waving. Dean leaned in the doorway, ankles crossed, watching with his heart in his throat as Cas descended the stairs with his heavy bag over one shoulder and his wedding dress in a zip-up protector over the other, crossed the lawn, and got into Charlie’s ricketty yellow car. Cas waved through the window as they trundled off, and Dean sighed, waving until the car was out of sight.

Dean returned to the quiet, basically empty apartment, feeling strange. Things were changing with every passing minute. He could feel the ultimatum of a lifetime sneaking up on his inner sheep like an eager wolf. He hoped to God it would only be a puppy when it came.

Pulling two beers from the fridge, Dean sauntered over to his brother, uncapping both bottles and handing one to Sam. Sam smiled. Dean sat beside him, turned on the TV and pulled up a recorded Red Sox game, and they drank in silence, still smiling.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

The exfoliation cream, the moisturising face mask, the foot bath, the slow jack-off before bed to a Led Zeppelin soundtrack – it was all meant to calm Dean down and make him feel sexy. Which it did. It sent him straight to sleep, feeling more pampered than ever.

But with sleep came a stampede.

Rhinos, elephants, tigers, leopards – hundred-year-old tortoises, a dozen lines of zig-zagging snakes, an army of high-bounding rats, flocks and flocks of pelicans and seagulls and inky-black crows – they all came rushing towards Dean in a cloud of savannah dust, howling and jibbering as they fled from something Dean couldn’t see through the chaos. The Earth shook, the sky was covered by the dust all those wings, paws, and hooves kicked up.

Lit by a vague golden light, Dean lay frozen in their path, too afraid to move, too blind to his environment to see where to go. He sat up and called out in fear, begging the stampede to stop, but they kept coming, heads down, eyes trained on Dean. They knew he was there to be trampled but they had no way to correct their course.

Dean shut his eyes but still saw it coming, felt the quake under his hands and ass as it surmounted to thunder, every yip and screech becoming one long, desperate scream.

Here it came: the End.

Then Cas whisked him away, a familiar hand gripping Dean tight by the shoulder and raising him from perdition. They tumbled together down a cliff, lost in the dusty haze. They collapsed into an unknown place, breathing hard, seeing nobody but each other.

It was quiet here. Still.

They looked at each other, smiling in relief.

Dean woke up with a gasp, hand on his chest as he determined he was breathing clean air, not the stinging yellow sandstorm of his dream. He looked about him, and saw no snakes, no elephants, no antelope or frogs. He breathed out.

He didn’t know how many dreams he’d had like that in the last five or so years. Sometimes it was zoo animals, but other times it was cars caught in smog, sometimes a fleet of planes on a misty runway, or black-eyed demons in business suits around a table in an alien lab, where Dean was strapped down. But there was one consistency, no matter what: Cas saved him every time.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Dean could barely believe he’d lived here at any point in his life, let alone just four months ago. The time away from Crowley had been freeing like nothing he’d ever known. Coming back here, to Boston’s famous Acorn Street, seemed like returning to prison.

The narrow, cobbled rise between bricked townhouses had looked like a delicate, private place in summer, but now, as Dean approached in his winter coat, nervous breaths clouding the air in front of him, it seemed like a desolate space. People still had their Christmas lights up in the windows, but the flashing colours lent no cheer to Dean, whose hands were clamped, frozen, around the most important document he’d ever signed.

Crowley’s house was twenty feet away. Its glossy black door had long-ago seemed stately to Dean, making him feel like he’d gone up in the world, and had finally made it. Now, with some distance and perspective, the same door and its lion-headed knocker just looked like a blockade between him and total, unequivocal release from his past mistakes.

Dean was almost ready to step forward and knock. He drew in a deep breath to steel himself, and once his lungs were full, he marched from the cobbles to the brick path—

“Get out, then! Get – out!”

Dean stopped in his tracks, hearing Crowley bellow through the wall. Dean only had time to dart back onto the roadway before the door wrenched open, and a shaken, half-dressed man was thrown down the step by a familiar, thick-fingered hand.

“If you want to leave, then leave!” Crowley stood boldly, filling the doorway, showing none of his short stature as his arms crossed. “See if I care!”

“I’m not leaving without my belongings,” said the other man, picking himself up off the cobbles, pushing messy, dark hair off his forehead. “Either you let me in to take my things or I’ll call the cops.”

“Hah!” Crowley straightened his black blazer in affront. “And what are they going to do, darling? What have they ever done for you? ‘I’ll call the cops!’ What a laugh.”

Dean picked his way forward, teeth gritted, fist around his envelope. He stood by the stranger who fumed in his underwear, busy wrapping a plaid shirt around himself.

“Hate to interrupt,” Dean said coldly, as Crowley saw him and began spluttering, “but I have some papers here I need you to sign. And like your friend here, Fergus, I ain’t leaving until I get what I’m owed.”

“Oh, I really know how to pick them, don’t I,” Crowley uttered, hatred in every word. “I’ll make this very clear, because I’ll only say it the once: neither of you.” He pointed. “Are getting. Anything.”

With that, he whipped like a snake back into his dark hole and slammed the door.

Dean turned immediately to the other man, who collapsed into a crouch, a hand pressed to a red mark on his forehead.

“Hey. Hey, man, you okay?”

“I’m fine, get off me,” the man said, shoving Dean away.

“Whoa.” Dean stood and backed up, hands up. “Cool it, dude, I’m not gonna hurt you.”

“I don’t know you, I don’t know what you’re doing here—” The man stood, rounding on Dean, cold fire in his blue eyes. “How about you tell me what you’re doing at my house, why you’re talking to my partner. What does he owe you? And—” The man’s expression changed, and he asked, “Can I use it to blackmail him?”

Dean laughed softly, hands up still. “I’m here to get my divorce papers signed.”

“Divo—” The man tilted his head, kind of like a bird. “Whose divorce?”

Dean waggled his big manilla envelope. “Mine. Mine and his. You gotta be his new boyfriend, right? Nice to meet you.” He held out his hand. “Dean. Birth name Winchester. Family name Singer. Legal name Dean Crowley, as much as it makes me wanna puke to say it.”

The man stared for an unusually long time, and didn’t shake Dean’s hand. “Castiel,” he said, dazedly. “I wasn’t aware Crowley was ever married.”

“He still is married, and he’s gonna stay that way until I turn these forms in. Trust me, pal, as much as it’s messing you up right now that anyone would marry that son of a bitch, it’s messing me up more that it’s taking so damn long to get him out of my life.”

“He’s married.” Castiel turned partly away, lips separating, his eyes unfocused.

“Uh. Yeah. But in case it wasn’t clear, the marriage is over,” Dean said, watching the other guy pace in bare feet, a hand over his mouth. “It ended four months ago, when I caught the guy cheating for the third fuckin’ time. I’m just trying to kill it dead in writing. I’d get a lawyer to come up and say ‘you have been served’ but apparently they charge extra for delivering mail. Besides, I thought I’d see what kind of sad-sack this asshole became without me.” Dean shot Castiel a smile. “Can’t be doin’ too bad, if he landed a tiger like you.”

“Oh, save the flirtation,” Castiel snarled. “If you think this is a good time to hit on me, you and Crowley might actually be a good match. I’m not remotely interested.”

“Sorry, nervous habit,” Dean said, looking away. He saw a curtain in the top floor window shift, and a spying shadow slid away to be with its kind. “Look, uh... Cas. What’s the deal here? You’re trying to dump his ass, right?”

“My private matters are no concern of yours,” Castiel spat. “And if I were you, Dean, I’d turn and leave. ‘Don’t make trouble’, he says,” Castiel grumbled to himself, apparently referring to Crowley. “Don’t want to disturb the neighbours. Oh, Fergus, is that what you want me to do? Stay QUIET?!” Castiel opened his arms and shouted to the street. “Be good? Be NICE?” His voice echoed down the road, caught by the icy wind. “Well! If you wanted me to play nice then—” Castiel looked around, locked eyes with a loose cobble, “maybe the last eighteen months talking to me online, inviting me to expensive restaurants, taking me home and fucking me in your bed shouldn’t have coincided with your relationship with your HUSBAND.” Castiel hurled a rock straight through the front window, shattering glass in every direction. Dean ducked, but it was over already.

“IS THAT QUIET ENOUGH FOR YOU?” Castiel roared, a ferocious expression on his face, cheeks red, almost red enough to mask the injury on his forehead. “You cheat on him, you cheat on me? You cheat your customers? Who haven’t you cheated, Crowley? If you wanted me to play FAIR—” another rock, another window, “maybe you should’ve played fair FIRST.”

By now white specks littered the road, a slight turquoise tint to the big piles against the house’s wall.

“Don’t cause trouble, he said,” Castiel uttered bitterly. “Ffffffuck you. I will be NOTHING but trouble for you until you give me back my LIFE.”

Crowley slammed open a window frame on the second floor. He spoke in a stage whisper, “Either you get inside and shut up, Castiel, or so help me, I will come down there. And—”

“Do I look like I give even a single fuck?” Castiel laughed back. “I’m not afraid of you, Fergus Crowley, I never was.”

Crowley slammed the window and fled, red-faced.

“Look, man...” Dean reached to touch Castiel’s arm, and it was only a testament to how angry Castiel was that he didn’t react. “I know you’re hopping mad right now, and I know you think the cops don’t care, and the neighbours turn a blind eye, but for your sake, I really think maybe you should take deep breath and chill out right now. Okay? Scared of him or not, he can still hurt you.”

“There’s nothing he can do he hasn’t done already,” Castiel sneered. “Is there?” He shouted to the house again, knowing it had ears. “Oh, he’s so polite! He’s British, he has money, he treats me to beautiful, expensive things I’ve never had in my life. He always asks nicely.” Castiel turned his eyes to Dean, explaining, “Who would say no to that? He asks nicely. He’s sweet and reassuring when you say it’s starting to feel strange. You think maybe it doesn’t hurt after all. Maybe I’m being selfish wanting to say no. Maybe I am a prude because it takes him an hour to convince me I want it, and I give in so he’ll let me sleep. Maybe the bruises are part of the fun. Maybe I’m crazy to feel violated. Or— Maybe I’m being RAPED.” Castiel launched a rock straight at the front door. It didn’t hit it; Crowley opened the door and the rock swiped right past his arm, probably denting the polished wooden floor.

“Get inside,” Crowley hissed, gesturing at the open door. “Get in before someone sees. Both of you.”

“I’m getting my stuff and I’m out of here,” Castiel said, storming up to the door, ready to go in.

But Crowley grabbed his wrist and their eyes met. “You’re not going anywhere, darling. Go inside and stay where I can see you. Dean and I need to have a little chat, first.”

“Let go of me.” Castiel wrenched his arm free. In a split second, he’d thrown a punch; in another second, Crowley elbowed back; in a third blink of an eye, they were tussling against he door frame, both trying to take each other out.

Dean bolstered his way between them, tearing Crowley’s hands out of Castiel’s hair, kicking both feet out from Crowley and shoving Castiel back to the street. With Dean panting between them, hands out to them both, Dean turned a warning glare to his husband. “Go back inside,” he said. “And you better believe I’ll be back later for my divorce.”

Crowley remained kneeling, touching a hand to his cut lip. He slowly got to his feet, and retreated behind his door.

Dean went to Castiel and swept past him, beckoning. “Come on! Now.” He bent to swipe up his divorce papers, which the wind had blown ten feet down the road. Another ten feet down, Dean pulled his keys from his pocket and unlocked his Chevy Impala.

Castiel approached warily, arms still wrapped around his middle. His legs were bare but for his blue boxers, and Dean could only guess he was freezing. Dean sighed, taking off his coat and tossing it over the roof of the car. Castiel caught it, but didn’t put it on.

“What do you want from me?” Castiel asked.

“What?” Dean squinted. “Nothing. Dude, just get in the car, we need to talk.”

Dean got into the driver’s seat, then leaned over to open the passenger-side door. Castiel just stood there.

Dean rolled down the window. “What’s the hold-up?”

With a derisive scoff, Castiel explained, “I don’t know you. I don’t know if I can trust you. For all I know you’re just as bad as he is.”

Dean sighed, glancing away. “Fine. See me however you want. But put the damn coat on, I can see your leg hairs hovering like an inch above your skin.”

Castiel looked down. He looked at the coat.

He put the coat on. Dean smirked a little – it was a perfect fit.

“Listen,” Dean said, still leaning all the way across the car, “we have an enemy in common. I need these papers signed, you want your crap. Far as I’m concerned, we can team up. You clearly got a neat right hook in you. I wrestle. Worst comes to worst, we can take him. We’ll grab your stuff and run.”

“And your papers?”

Dean raised his fingers, glancing away. “Right now you’re in a tougher situation. Much as it infuriates me to say it, I’ll have to come back some other day. Today’s battle plan is just get you wholly outta Dodge, so you never have to come back.”

Castiel hesitated. Then he opened the door and sat beside Dean.

“God. Okay. Let’s defrost, at least. Wind up the window, would ya?” Dean leaned forward and turned on the car’s heating. It blasted ice-cold air into their faces, and Dean uttered, “It’ll warm up.” He fiddled with the radio, then reached over for the glove compartment, pulling out a wad of cassette tapes. He chose the first one that wasn’t paused part-way through the reel, and shoved it into the slot.

The mellow, downplayed voice of Phil Collins filled the car, and Dean sank back in his seat, eyes shut.

The hair on the back of his neck started to prickle. But it wasn’t the heating. He peeked open one eye, and nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw Castiel was staring at him. Big blue eyes, pale face, a scruff on his diamond jaw. He seemed to be waiting for something.

Dean wet his lips. “Look. What’s the situation in there? What kind of stuff do you need, and where’s it kept? Please don’t say the attic, Crowley never told me where he keeps the key.”

Castiel shook his head. “Personal items. Clothes, books. My bears. My journal – that’s under the mattress in the guest room. Crowley doesn’t know about that. I’ve had to hide a lot from him.”

“Right.” Dean bristled his jaw, thinking. “I was gonna say, what’s in there that you can’t repurchase? But I guess a journal’s kind of irreplaceable. And probably full of legal evidence.”

“And my bears.”

“Bears?”

“Yes. Two bears.”

Dean wet his lips. “Okay. Fine. I’m good with bears.” He thumbed over his shoulder. “Big-ass car. Could probably fit a couple... bears.”

“Oh, they’re not too big,” Castiel said. “They’d fit in my lap.”

Dean blinked. “Alright?” He gave a bemused chuckle, then turned his eyes to the now-battered envelope on his lap. His heart and shoulders sank. “Man, I was so hoping today would be the day. Free at last.”

Castiel gave him a long look, then snorted. “You don’t have to look after me. I didn’t ask for your help. I’ve done things alone since I was a child, I hardly think this is any different.”

Dean levelled him with an equally-stubborn look. “I don’t care how independent you are, Cas, you’re not going back in there alone. He’s livid right now, and I know how he gets when he’s even a little mad.”

Castiel’s gaze softened, slowly, as Phil Collins offered goodness aplenty.

“Why did you forgive him?” Castiel asked, while shivering. “You said you caught him cheating three times before you moved to end things. How was the first time not enough?”

Dean rolled a shoulder. “Me n’ him both kinda flirt with anything that moves. We’d meet other people, then have threesomes and foursomes and whatever-somes. We had this thing with some triplets that was... uhmmm. Heh.” A tense half-grin rose and fell. “Anyway. Not the point. Him seeing people on the side without telling me... I figured a slip-up was a slip-up. I’m tryna be an understanding and a supportive husband, right? Said we’d work through it, because he promised not to do it again.”

“And the second time he cheated?” Castiel asked. “Why wasn’t that enough?”

Dean looked back. “How was the first rape not enough for you? How many rapes did you excuse away because it wasn’t violent, how many times did you mull your feelings over for days or weeks before deciding what it was? How many times did you talk yourself down, or let him talk you out of leaving, after you had your first argument about it? How many times did he apologise and say he intended to change, then made tiny, ultimately inconsequential changes very loudly until you believed him? How many times, Cas?”

Castiel didn’t blink. “Three times before I realised he wasn’t changing. And he became more and more aggressive and angry and controlling after that, which made leaving harder.”

“Like the devil, he starts you off easy,” Dean said. He sighed and looked forward, eyeing the cold, empty street, tiny shards of glass coating the whole of it like stars.

Dean and Castiel went silent, listening to the music, listening to the hiss of the heater as it finally got warm. They listened to each other breathe, and watched the winter world get dark, slowly, blue cloaking the grey until there was nothing left. Lights came on inside Crowley’s place, leaving stark squares on the opposite house as there was no glass left to diffuse it.

Then Castiel sighed. “There’s a box under my – his – bed. Has some old junk in it. If I empty that I can put the books in there, I can take everything else by hand.”

“How many trips?”

“One, probably, with both of us. I don’t have too many clothes.”

“You ready now?” Dean asked.

“No.”

They sat for a while longer. Dean turned the tape over twice.

It was nearly completely dark when Castiel asked, “What kind of person do you see yourself marrying?”

Dean startled at his voice, as it had been so quiet. Now he looked at Castiel, stunned. “What?”

“What kind of person. What would they have to be, to be someone you’d want to spend your life with, and be happy with?”

Dean’s lower lip bobbed. “Nobody’s ever asked me that before.” He looked to the street. “Probably should’ve asked myself that, given I got married to a world-class jerk.” He swallowed. “Um. Hot, I guess. It’s shallow – but whatever, it’s true.”

“And yet you married a toad.”

Dean chuckled. “Hey, I’m not one to say what makes someone hot. I thought he had nice eyes. Dressed sharp. Sexy voice.” Shrug. “I dunno. I’d want someone optimistic, probably. Or at least has a dry sense of humour. Someone who doesn’t hurt people, that’s for sure.” Dean fingered the bottom of his steering wheel, pondering. “Someone tough. Tough enough that I can lean on them when I’m feelin’ less tough. I don’t know. Just – someone. Someone awesome.”

Castiel sighed. “That’s practically what I wanted when I met him. I just wanted someone. Someone who paid attention to me.”

“Believe it or not, I’m a little more discerning these days,” Dean uttered, making Castiel chuckle.

After a bit, Castiel gave Dean a soft look. “So am I.”

Dean drew a breath. “Look, not to rush you or anything, but are you gonna be ready to go inside anytime soon? I gotta eat and sleep sometime this century.”

Castiel flicked his gaze to the roof. “Let’s go.” He opened the door and stepped out.

Surprised, Dean took a second to follow, but then turned on the car and rolled it slowly towards the house so they could easily load it up. The backs of Castiel’s bare legs were lit up by the headlights as he walked a few steps ahead.

Nice legs, Dean thought.

At the front of the house, Dean heard the tires rolling over the crunchy glass. He left the keys in the ignition and the engine running, door open. He followed Castiel to the front door, and knocked for him, hand on Cas’ bicep.

Crowley took over a minute to answer, but did at last, looking sour-faced.

Castiel pushed past him without a word or a glance. Dean followed, smashing his divorce papers into Crowley’s chest, pressing them there until he took them. “We’re getting Cas’ stuff,” Dean told him, walking a familiar hallway, finding it smelled different than he remembered. “It’s gonna take as long as it takes, and if you try and stop us, it ain’t ending well for you.”

Crowley responded with silence.

Dean followed Castiel to the bedroom, expecting to see the whips and wall-mounted shackles that were there when Dean was around, but it just looked like a pleasant country inn, with floral bedsheets and a linen duck-egg-blue headboard.

Castiel dumped out the junk box and went to a bookcase Dean had built himself, pulling out books on beekeeping, weighing down the box significantly with each tome. Dean took and held the box, wondering if Cas’ heart was racing, whether the blank look on his face was concentration or whether the wide eyes and slightly flared nostrils meant he was pushing down an emotional volcano just to keep standing.

They went from the bedroom to the walk-in closet, and Dean took piles of clothes over both arms as Castiel handed them over. Dean wondered what Cas would’ve been doing without him here, without a car. Was he intending to leave all this bulky stuff behind, originally? These were nice shirts. Fancy coat. They were new; Crowley must’ve bought them for Cas. Apparently Cas hadn’t had anything before, which must’ve been why he wanted to take them, even though they were gifts from his abuser.

Castiel led Dean down the hall to the guest bedroom, and dug out a leather-wrapped book from under the mattress. Dean elbowed on the lightswitch, and in the yellow glow he saw two teddy bears perched on the wooden headboard, staring ahead.

Castiel tucked the journal under all the clothes, hiding it. Then he turned for the bears.

He stopped.

And he really did stop. His hand had paused in mid-air. Dean waited for him to move, or speak, but then saw Cas had shut down completely, his eyes glazed, his mouth fixed, barely breathing.

“Hey, you okay?” Dean asked, while seeing that he wasn’t. Slowly, Dean put all the stuff down on the bed, and waved his hand in front of Castiel’s face. Castiel flinched and lashed out, smacking Dean in the throat, a gasp flying from them both.

Castiel’s hands grabbed Dean, whispering, “Oh, nonono, my apologies, I d—”

“It’s okay,” Dean rasped, clutching his throat. “My bad. Get your bears and let’s go.”

Castiel looked at the bears, then away. “They’re staying.”

Dean looked at the sorry plush animals. They looked old. Properly old, like they were childhood friends. One was made of brown terrycloth, with button eyes, the other was threadbare, with an arm in a different shade of white, and blue glass eyes.

“You serious?” Dean stepped after Castiel. “If you leave you’re never gonna see these things again. And you said you wanted—”

“They’ve seen too much,” Castiel breathed, not meeting Dean’s eyes. He left the room.

Dean looked back at the bears. Of all the things that could’ve driven Dean to want to tear Crowley apart – the escalating violence, the cheating, the rape, the endless manipulation, cutting Dean off from friends and family, any of it – what got Dean boiling with fury so powerful that he begged himself to leave this house without razing it to the ground – was that Crowley could be so cruel to a thirty-year-old man who’d kept his little teddy bears, that that same man would rather leave behind his most-loved possessions than be reminded of what Crowley did to him in front of their very eyes. Crowley stole an innocent man’s innocence, and there was no change he could ever make, no words he could say, no complete life turn-around that would ever make up for that.

Dean swallowed and ploughed on, because it wasn’t his place to be sentimental about other people’s things. He took the box and the clothes with the journal buried underneath, and made his way to the front door.

However, he set it all down, because he saw through the open door to Crowley’s study: Castiel was in there, handing Crowley a pen.

Castiel’s low voice muttered,“You really want me to stay? Then sign Dean’s papers. Or I will be out that door in a second, and you will never see me again.”

“Cas...” Dean breathed, coming up behind him, now lit by the reading lamp on that chunky wooden leather-topped desk that Dean once liked to be spanked on. “Cas, c’mon, don’t...”

Crowley snatched up the pen. Dean wished he knew what was running through his soon-to-be-ex-husband’s mind in that moment. Was he wanting Cas to stay because under it all, he liked coercing him into sex and cheating on him the best? Or was he concerned about Dean’s intention to sue for the divorce, and wanted to avoid a lawsuit? Or did he know how much blackmail material Cas had catalogued against him, and thought it better to keep him here, locked down, than out in the world where he could sully his good reputation and bring down his beach resort business?

It could have been anything, but Dean’s heart leapt as Crowley’s signature cut clean black over white, forced down with a dot at the end. He handed Dean the document with a hard glare.

“Tonight, I have a beeeautiful dinner planned just for the two of us, Castiel,” Crowley said tenderly. “I promise you, darling, you’ll never eat better.”

Somehow his offer was a carrot and a stick at the same time. He had a talent for that kind of torture.

Castiel gave him a wry smile. “Thank you for the offer.” He tossed down the pen. “But I have places to be. Dean.” Castiel swept away, badass despite being in his underwear, and Dean shot after him, realising with a thrill that Cas had played Crowley at his own game. Carrot and stick. Offer and threat. Sign and Cas stays, don’t sign and he leaves. Always a winner.

Dean reached for Cas’ stuff, but didn’t make it there – he heard the click of that old revolver Crowley kept in his desk, and it sounded too close for comfort.

“Stop. Right. There,” Crowley said gently. “Both of you.”

Castiel had his hand on the doorhandle. Dean stood between him and Crowley. The barrel of the gun pointed past Dean, at Castiel.

“Look, man,” Dean said placatingly, “there’s no need to go that far. You were concerned about the neighbours hearing. I know they give you a lot of leeway. But that gun goes off, they’re not gonna ignore another domestic dispute. A gunshot’s a gunshot.”

When Crowley’s eyes didn’t leave Castiel’s, Dean stepped closer. “Think of the paneling,” Dean said. “Just had it refinished, right? I can smell the varnish. You, uh. Don’t want blood on that. Or a bullet.”

Irritated, Crowley swung the gun towards Dean. They were two feet apart. “Shut up.”

“Okay,” Dean said. “Okay, I just have one question.”

Crowley sighed. “What?

Dean pointed behind him. “What the hell is that?”

Crowley turned, Dean jumped, grabbed the gun, twisted Crowley’s fingers until he yelped and dropped the pistol on the floorboards.

“CAS, RUN!”

Dean heard the door open and felt a rush of cold air. He kicked Crowley’s knee but Crowley was so stubborn and so stocky that it had no effect. Crowley elbowed Dean in the throat; Dean coughed and fell sideways to the wall, wheezing.

As Crowley approached, Dean launched forward, taking him by both shoulders and ramming him into the opposite wall. Crowley was unfazed, and kneed Dean in the groin. Dean folded forward, gasping—

At elbow thumped on his back, he spasmed to the ground, immediately trying to crawl away, but Crowley stomped the back of his knee. Dean went still, playing like he’d passed out, trying not to move or breathe, even though his body screamed, and all he wanted to do was curl up. He heard Crowley catching his breath.

There came a heavy footfall by Dean’s shoulder.

Dean wrapped an arm around Crowley’s ankle and yanked. Crowley stumbled back but didn’t trip, and the gun went skidding across towards the study. Dean staggered to his feet, throwing a hard fireman’s kick into Crowley’s ribs. Crowley went down with grunt, but lay back and power-thrusted both feet towards Dean as he approached, hitting his pelvis squarely.

Dean fell back on the wall once more, clutching it to prevent himself from hitting the ground. He was throbbing hard with adrenaline but although the pain seemed distant and numb, he was still injured, and couldn’t move the way he needed to. He pushed up to his feet, eyes locked with Crowley’s, both seeing in each other that a fight to the death had been long-awaited, and maybe now it was time.

Dean grabbed Crowley by his satin lapel and thumped him against the study’s door jamb. Crowley groaned, his black hair ruffled at the back. He folded forward, and Dean stepped back, only to be punched in the gut, hard.

With a yell that shook the walls, Dean took Crowley by both shoulders and ran him backwards, slamming him into the hallway wall again. But Crowley pushed back and took another swing; Dean ducked, snarling; his shoe kicked the gun.

Dean ducked and held his heaving chest, missing a lot of hits now, but getting one squarely in Crowley’s jaw.

But then came a kick to his back, and Dean dropped. His body was too shocked to move. He knelt face-down. He could barely breathe. Fingers curled into fists; at least Crowley wouldn’t stomp on his hands. Dean was beaten and he knew it. He tried to roll over, to at least reason with Crowley, but his eyes were blurry, his voice gone. He saw a weighty shadow approach in uneven steps, ready to deliver a final blow.

Dean tried to look him in the eye, no intention to go out with his eyes shut.

He heard a thwack.

Crowley’s entire weight thumped the ground beside Dean, unconscious.

Dean didn’t recognise the figure who had knocked Crowley out. They had the gun backwards in their hand. They wore Dean’s coat.

“Breathe,” they said, helping Dean onto his back, tipping his chin up. “Breathe, Dean.”

As Dean inhaled a painful, shaky breath, his confusion faded, his vision came clear.

It was Castiel crouched beside him.

Over a couple of minutes, Dean sat up in increments, then got up. Castiel held him steady, fists grasped in his overshirt.

“Come on,” Castiel said. “Quick, he’s waking up.”

He helped Dean limp from the hallway and out to the car. Once Dean was safely in the passenger seat, Castiel returned for his stuff. He put it all in the back seat, then went back to the house to close the front door.

He wasted no moment looking back. He got straight into Dean’s still-idling car, shut the door, and drove off down Acorn Street and took the first turning out of there.

Dean’s signed divorce papers sat on the pile of stuff in the back, flashing white then orange in the streetlamps as they passed by.

“Where are we going?” Castiel asked, forgetting to indicate his turn, driving through a red light before slamming to a stop, then reversing in a curve.

Dean stared at him. He glanced around, then decided. “My place,” he rasped, as it hurt to speak. “I got an apartment in West Roxbury, near Franklin Park Zoo. Gonna move once I have the coin, but there’s space for two if you need a place to crash.”

“You’d let me stay with you?” Castiel sounded astounded. “Your husband cheated on you with me.”

Dean grinned. “Say what you want about him, he has good taste in men. You seem pretty awesome.”

Castiel squinted. “Awesome,” he repeated, as if he’d never heard the word before. Content with that, he then asked, “How long can I stay?”

Dean shrugged, then clutched his injured shoulder with a wince. “Forever, if you need to,” he said, finding an odd sense of relief in saying it. “Honestly, I could do with some company.”

Castiel looked away from the road only long enough to catch Dean’s eyes. Perhaps he gazed for a few long seconds. But in that time, they figured each other out, realising they could relate to each other in ways few other people could.

And, slowly... gently... they shared a smile.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Weeks and weeks of enjoyable stress had given way to anxiety about a week before the wedding. Of course it came with a thrill, knowing what was to come. But still Castiel had felt fear, worrying he was doing the wrong thing, he’d planned something incorrectly, he’d failed already. Every waking moment, there was a buzzing in the pit of Castiel’s belly, which, a few days ago, turned to nausea, then to physical shakes whenever he didn’t have something to occupy his mind.

Dean hadn’t been here the last few days, as he’d taken two days off work to collect Bobby and Rufus, so he hadn’t known how fretful Castiel really was. And the final night, Castiel was alone with Charlie. And she slept, ready for the big day, Castiel didn’t want to disturb her.

So he lay awake, thinking.

The night was a dark one, a long one. A hopeful one.

Then, as dawn broke, a calm came over Castiel. He fell asleep, and slept deeply and peacefully. It seemed a miracle, but he woke at midday without a shred of doubt or fear in him, ready for anything. He rose from Charlie’s bed and made brunch for them both, smiling when she took her coffee from his hand.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

Castiel replied, “Yes.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

There was a low hum in the distance. Darkness crowded the horizon, forming clouds a dozen storeys tall.

But, miles and miles from the mountains and the rumble of thunder, the southwestern courtyard of the zoo was awash with sunlight, voices of guests bright and happy as they took their seats, laughing as they compared their safari outfits.

Off to the side, behind the converted elephant house, Dean checked Sam’s pocket watch for the fifth time. Quarter to five. In fifteen minutes he’d be getting married.

“Just relax,” Sam smiled, placing both hands on Dean’s shoulders, smoothing the epaulettes of his bush jacket. “You look great, the weather’s not turning bad until later, everything’s on schedule.”

“I am relaxed,” Dean said softly. He felt the sun catch his eyes as he looked past the hedge archway to the wedding arch, where petals were strewn about, and Jody waited, talking to Pastor Jim. “It’s funny, I’m... not even nervous. Just excited.”

Sam’s smile widened. Their eyes met, and Dean sighed, leaning in for a hug.

“Thanks, little brother,” Dean said. “Thanks for everything.”

Sam hugged tighter.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Castiel looked into the long mirror that was propped against the inside wall of the giraffes’ barn. He smoothed his hands down the embroidery on his chest, overcome with satisfaction. He wore the most beautiful dress he’d ever seen, and he still looked masculine. A sherwani was exactly what he’d wanted.

Charlie stood behind him, a hand on his back. “You look beautiful,” she said.

Castiel nodded. “I do, don’t I.”

Charlie stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek, a moment which was captured by the click of a camera shutter. Charlie looked, smiling and waving when she saw Patience half-crouched outside the barn, her dark hair tied in a ponytail, brown hands holding a heavy-looking camera. Patience waved back.

“I’m just going to check everything's set up,” Charlie murmured to Castiel. “I told Max and Alicia to light the lanterns by the benches, gotta make sure they’re not burning the place to the ground.” She patted Castiel’s back, catching his eyes before turning to leave.

Castiel was left alone. He wandered to the barrier between dust and hay, leaning on the wood. Smol the baby giraffe rested there, legs tucked under his patched body, neck long, chewing something and gazing at Castiel curiously. The door to the field was open behind him.

“I’m getting married,” Castiel told Smol. “In five minutes I’ll be Castiel Winchester.”

That serenity in Castiel seemed to swell. This moment between him and Smol would be seen by nobody, remembered only by the two of them.

“Thank you for being here, Smol,” Castiel said, reaching out an arm. Smol leaned close to sniff him. Castiel lifted his fingers and touched Smol’s soft nose, and joy burst in him. “Thank you.”

They shared a long, quiet moment of petting. Smol seemed to smile.

Finally Castiel pulled back, and turned—

Crowley leaned on the frame of the barn’s open doors, arms folded. He wore a white suit with a red ascot, which to Castiel looked like his heart was bleeding. In unavoidable fear, Castiel’s own heart began thumping like it was trying to escape his chest.

Unwilling to show weakness, Castiel approached the doors, head high, eyes focused on Crowley.

Crowley left the doorway and came close, meeting Castiel by the mirror. Castiel stood where he could see the congregation reflected, and they could see him, if they were to look.

“You don’t seem surprised to see me,” Crowley said. His rasping voice sent a shiver up Castiel’s spine.

“I invited you, didn’t I?” Castiel said coolly, no intention to imply it was a mistake.

Crowley seemed to process that for a while. His eyes lowered. “I’m... sorry... for what I did to you. You and Dean, both. Especially you.”

Castiel glanced at him. “Are you really?”

Crowley sighed. He did seemed ashamed. He didn’t meet Castiel’s eyes, but pulled out a paper gift bag and handed it to Castiel. “These belong to you.”

Inside the bag were two old friends. Castiel’s heart leapt, and he was grateful for the five years of healing that had passed between now and the last time he’d seen them, because now he could look at them as he once did, with love.

“Don’t thank me,” Crowley said, before Castiel could speak. “Don’t say anything.”

Castiel huffed. “I don’t take orders from you anymore.” He gave Crowley a long stare. “Thank you.”

Crowley had the humility to look more ashamed. His eyes turned to Castiel’s wrist, where the sleeve of his sherwani pulled back a bit. Castiel saw where he was looking and pulled down his sleeve, hiding the cigarette-burn scar. It had almost healed, but there was no mistaking what it was, or who gave it to him.

“Do me one favour, Fergus,” Castiel said quietly, moving towards the doors, picking up his veil and looking back. “Stay away from the ceremony. I don’t want you there. Watch from here if you must.”

Meeting his eyes with a stare as cold and grey as ever, Crowley reached into his pocket and took out a cigarette and a lighter. He put the cigarette in his mouth. Flicked the lighter, lit the cigarette. Clipped the lighter shut, pocketed it. Took the cigarette in two fingers, inhaled... exhaled, blowing smoke.

“Why invite me here,” Crowley asked, “if you don’t want me near the wedding?”

“I don’t want any trouble. That’s all.”

He turned and left the barn and stepped into the sunlight, teddy bears in one hand, his veil in the other. His heart still pounded. His last words echoed in his mind, remembering their separation just as potently as Crowley did: Crowley once asked the same courtesy of Castiel, and Castiel had ignored him.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Mrs. Patel stretched out her wrinkled, always-strong hand, her forty-year-old wedding ring glinting in the light. The sun lowered to the thickening clouds, a distant thrum shaking the air as Castiel took her hand and held it.

“You look as beautiful as my Muhammad did,” Mrs. Patel said to Castiel, dusting off his shoulders, then reaching up to adjust Castiel’s beekeeping hat, from which hung a white tulle veil, which she draped down over his face and tucked into his open collar. “Only long, happy marriages come from days like these.”

Castiel reached back to cup his free hand against Mrs. Patel’s cheek, her red jewelled hijab separating his palm and her oak-brown skin. She smiled at him the way a mother would, he was certain.

Charlie ran to them, looking like a determined wildlife journalist in her half-unbuttoned khaki shirt and riding boots. “Looks like everything’s ready. Everyone’s here. Everyone except—”

“Darby Peregrine Jones?” came a soft voice. “Am I late?”

Charlie looked over, and Castiel saw her eyes light up when she saw Darby’s pink-tipped hair and leopard-print catsuit. “I know you,” Charlie said. “Why do I know you?”

“A-K-A Candy,” Darby said. “We met Saturday night last week.”

Eyes sparkling, hips cocked to the side, Charlie purred, “Oh, yeah. I remember now.”

Darby gave Castiel an amused look. “Good luck, shortstop.”

Castiel smiled. He glanced at Charlie, then back to Darby. “You too.”

Charlie giggled.

“Charlie—” Castiel’s tone turned serious, and he reached to touch his friend’s arm. “Have someone keep an eye on Crowley. He’s in the giraffe barn.”

Charlie paled. Her eyes darted that way, then back. She nodded a few times. “I’ll— I’ll put Garth on it.”

Castiel gave her an assuring smile, then turned towards the courtyard, walking around it counter-clockwise with Mrs. Patel, making their way to the main opening in the hedge, which led straight up the altar.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

“They’re ready! They’re ready,” Sam uttered, seeing Jody give the go-ahead motion. “Music’s starting.”

Dean felt a funny twinge of pleasure as the music reached his ears. “That’s a band. That’s a live fucking band.”

Sam smirked. “Cas wanted a nice surprise for you.”

Dean laughed, chin down to his white ascot. He took his explorer’s pith hat, rotated it with a flourish, and placed it upon his head. He turned to Sam, arms open. “How do I look?”

Sam smiled. “Utterly ridiculous.”

“Attaboy.” Dean patted his brother’s shoulder and turned for the archway. Grinning, biting his lip, he strode slowly under the hedgeway, emerging into the courtyard. Whispers from the guests turned to cheers, and then applause and whistles as he made his way to the altar.

He passed by his side of the aisle, waving to Jessica, Rufus. He reached down to let Bobby give him a one-armed hug from his wheelchair, making eye contact as he pulled back, seeing tears of happiness in Bobby’s waterline.

Dean kissed his fingers and blew a kiss to Charlie’s mom, Gertrude, who’d made her cake look better than Dean could ever have dreamed. Max and Alicia quickly took their seats. Nearby sat Max’s best friend Kevin Tran, who reached out for a fist bump, and Dean delivered, grinning.

Dean’s eyes turned slow to the two empty seats closest to the aisle. Mary Winchester. John Winchester. They were here in spirit, Dean trusted. So were Castiel’s parents, although they were all long-gone from this Earth.

Sniffing, Dean turned from the aisle to the altar, and stepped onto the line-art drawn in chalk paint on the cobblestones, a beautiful blooming flower, scattered with white rose petals. Fluffy pink blossoms adorned the wedding arch, and Dean touched one as he stepped close, heart more full than it ever had been before. Castiel’s attention to detail was exquisite. These were Dean’s favourite flowers, and he didn’t even know what they were called.

He shut his eyes and let bliss overtake him. The band was playing a brassy, wholesome instrumental version of Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On. It used to describe his life, but no more.

He’d found his bluebird.

Dean locked eyes with Jody. She gazed at him, smiling. “Ready?” she asked. “He’s there. I can see him. He’s waiting for you.”

Dean just grinned, eyes falling shut again.

He heard the swish of Jody’s hand as she signalled the band.

The music cut short, and a new song started: the processional melody swelled almost as soon as it had begun, sweet cellos, and a deep, thrumming bass guitar, with a gorgeous twang of electric guitar that Dean hadn’t expected, but took delight in hearing.

He heard the click of a camera shutter nearby, and the gasps and coos of the guests as they saw Castiel emerge. Dean kept his eyes shut, imagining. Imagining the next few moments. And the life that would unfold after.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Castiel let Mrs. Patel lead him, the dazzling gold hem of her sari shifting petals as she walked slowly, keeping pace with his bare feet. He’d never found shoes he liked, and then decided he didn’t want them. He could feel the roughness of pale cream stone under his bare soles, and the waxy touch of petals, most numerous where he walked. His dress shifted around his knees, its fabric weighty enough to be elegant, light enough that he wasn’t sweltering in the sun.

So many eyes were on him, but he only looked at one person.

Back turned, Dean stood twenty feet ahead, his shape contoured by a well-fitted jacket, his bowlegs hugged by tight khaki, the hems perfectly cut at his ankles so the heel details of his boots were visible. He wore a domed sand-coloured helmet with a V-dip at the back. Even from behind he looked handsome.

When he turned, however, he was breathtaking. Green eyes twinkled in the sunlight as a storm rose in the distance. He sparkled, he shone, he smiled like he’d been handed a new world and a new life all in one. He reached out his hand.

Castiel turned to Mrs. Patel, and smiled as she kissed his hands. Castiel leaned down to rest his forehead on hers. She gave him a nudge, and Castiel chuckled, leaving her, watching her go to her young children in the third row, who were dressed like elephants. Castiel’s eyes shifted to the front row, seeing his family there. Hannah was already crying, clutching her husband’s hand. Gabriel gestured to indicate Castiel’s fly was open, and Castiel glanced down, only for Gabriel to bark a laugh.

Rolling his eyes, Castiel turned to the altar, and finally reached out to take Dean’s hand.

Dean’s hand was warm, dry, and steady. Castiel stood by him, gazing at him in awe. He was really here. They were really doing this. Dean looked back with unmistakable, untempered adoration.

Jody spoke, welcoming the guests, addressing the purpose of the day and what they were here to do. But Castiel didn’t hear most of it, and Dean probably didn’t either. With their eyes locked, they had a secret, silent conversation, grinning the whole time.

Nice veil, Dean said. You really like bees, huh.

Castiel shrugged. It seemed appropriate.

You look beautiful.

So do you. Are you wearing brown eyeshadow under your eyes or am I imagining it?

Just a touch. Good look, or no?

Yes. Very good.

“And, I know you have some vows prepared,” Jody said, touching both their biceps to draw their attention. “If you’d like to say them into the tiny microphones on your collars, aloud, rather than just telepathising to each other, that would be swell.”

The guests laughed, and Dean chuckled. Castiel just kept smiling, eyes on Dean. Charlie and Sam glanced at each other, then moved to take their seats in the audience. Sam gave one last pat to Dean’s shoulder before he went.

“I, uh,” Dean started, biting his lip, grinning, joyous wrinkles by his eyes. Even through his veil Castiel could see his freckles looked more attractive than ever. “Cas,” Dean said. He made his face blank as he concentrated. “A long time ago, the day we met... you asked me a question. It was the first time anyone asked me. And I’ve been asking it myself ever since. You asked, ‘What kind of person do you see yourself marrying?’”

The smile returned to Dean’s face, and he met Castiel’s eyes. “You asked me again recently. I think I made a joke, I can’t remember. But.” He swallowed. “I want to answer. Properly. Right now.

“The answer, Cas. Who would I want to marry?

“Someone brave.” Dean’s smile wobbled, tears flooding his eyes. “Braver than anyone else I’ve ever met. Someone who can be strong every day, but let their guard down with me when the moment’s right. Someone who trusts me, someone who I trust with anything.” A tear slipped from Dean’s eye and rolled down his cheek, his smile shaking but still showing only the most intense happiness possible. “Someone beautiful. Not just outside, but – every fuckin’ part of you, Cas, you’re the most amazing person I’ve ever met, known, loved. You – you radiate something I can’t put my finger on, but you take my breath away with your kindness, your care, your ferocity. Every damn day of my life.” Dean sniffed, gathering himself together so he could speak steadily: “There’s no words to say how happy I am to be here with you right now, buddy. I am gonna be your best friend for the rest of our lives. And I have this gut feeling that this ain’t anywhere close to where our love story ends. You saved my life the day we met and you’ve been saving me ever since. I only hope someday I can be as supportive to you as you have been to me.”

“Dean, you have!” Castiel blurted. He covered his mouth, then looked apologetically to Jody.

“Go ahead,” Dean uttered with a lopsided grin. “I was done.”

The crowd chuckled, and Castiel was glad the veil hid his blush. He breathed a few times, looking down at his hands entwined tightly with Dean’s.

“I’ve forgotten what I was going to say,” Castiel whispered.

Dean glanced around, maybe checking to see if anyone had a paper copy. But Castiel was ahead of him, speaking off the cuff, “I love you.”

Dean returned his gaze to Castiel’s, and held it.

“I love you,” Castiel said again, softer. “So much, Dean. By now how I feel for you is as much a natural process for me as... breathing. Every part of me loves you, Dean. I-I-I’ve lived most of my adult life trying not to feel too much, and trying to learn, only to feel everything and always know less than I’d like. But I’ve never felt anything so intense or known something so completely as my love for you. And I welcome it with my whole heart. But to know and learn that you love me back is...” Castiel shook, and Dean doubled his grip on his hands, enjoying Castiel’s emotion. “Dean...”

Castiel swallowed hard, and rapsed out the final words of his vow. “You say you haven’t saved me yet. I know it took me a long time to realise, but I’ve been slowly falling for you since we met. Always falling, seemingly lower every time. And all you’ve done is catch me, Dean. You’ve saved me. You have saved me. If I vow anything, it’s that we’ll someday move past saving each other, and, together, we’ll save the world instead.”

Everyone muttered in amusement, but Dean’s gaze held fast, and he smiled. He knew Cas was serious.

They gazed for a while, finding colours in each other’s eyes they’d never seen before. Thunder hummed, rain breaking on the horizon. The wind picked up, tousling Castiel’s veil, and Castiel breathed in the smell of a storm through the soft fabric.

Sensing it was time, Dean took the veil from the helpful wind and lifted it. Castiel ducked his head, eyes lowering, then rising as Dean tucked back the tulle to the brim of Castiel’s beekeeping hat, both hands then lowering to cup around Castiel’s jaw. Castiel reached up and held Dean’s left hand, fingers locked between Dean’s. Not even a blink could separate their eyes now.

Castiel’s heart swelled, seeing a desperate anticipation in Dean, darkening his gaze, even as a flash of lightning struck miles away and lit his curled eyelashes white.

“Then,” Jody said, smiling widely, “by the power vested in me,” she stepped out of the way, walking backwards out of the arch so Patience could get a good photo. “Dean Winchester... Castiel Tippens... I pronounce you man and spouse. You may kiss, and be married.”

“FIRE!”

Castiel didn’t even get as far as leaning in to kiss – the shout was truly urgent, and Garth’s bellow was familiar to Castiel, as he’d heard the same alarm call only weeks before. Dean turned too, as did most of the congregation.

But Dean chuckled. “Timing, man,” he uttered into his clip-on microphone. “Not a good time for a prank, Garth. C’mere, Cas.”

“It’s not some flashy jacket this time—” Garth came pelting down the aisle, shaking an arm past the hedge. “The giraffe shelter! It’s on fire!”

Dean’s eyes turned to the shelter. Castiel looked only at Dean, at the red and orange trees behind his head, how they blazed in the last light of day as the clouds consumed the sun. Garth must have made another mistake. They really did look like flames.

“Look!” came a shriek amongst the guests’ clamour. Castiel’s eyes shot to Alicica, who stood on a bench, pointing madly to the left of the courtyard, at a dark part of the sky.

Those weren’t clouds, not so close.

Smoke.

And amongst the smoke, a flicker of red sparks rose.

The giraffe enclosure was burning.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

“Everybody freeze!” Jody stepped forward, hands raised. “Remain calm, nobody panic, we can get this under control. Charlie, you call the fire department. Garth, run and pull the emergency evacuation alarm in the snake house. Dean,” she clapped him on the shoulder, “you’re with me. Nearest hose reel is by the zebras.” She rolled up her linen sleeves, fire reflected in her eyes.

Dean pulled free of Castiel’s hands, stealing one brief look back.

“Dean, no!” Castiel called, but Dean was already gone. “Dean!”

Dean sprinted by Jody’s side down past the benches, out of the courtyard. Arms shifted by his sides, breath hot in his throat. He could smell the burning wood. It smelled old, dry. If it weren’t so strong and so close he would’ve thought it was a perfect autumn smell.

Jody unhooked the hose reel, hands working fast and aggressively to the hand Dean the end, moving to wrench the red wheel atop the hydrant. Dean jogged backwards until the hose straightened, then he turned and ran down the pathway, hopping the uneven parts of the dirt, looking back often to check the hose didn’t tangle.

There it was; the giraffe house. He took a good look as he came up to it, its tall brown siding as normal as ever. But out of the side windows poured coils of smoke, black, hot enough that the sunset sky above rippled with waves.

Turning it on!” Jody yelled from the hydrant.

Dean planted his feet ten feet from the window and braced for the burst. As a two-inch wide line of white sprouted from the nozzle, he stumbled at the force of it, panting as he steadied himself. He wasn’t wearing the right boots for this.

He could hear screams from his guests, and realised why when part of the roof came down, spraying up red flecks that glowed against the sky, as the sky melted from pale pink to blue. Soon Dean heard bootsteps approaching, and startled when he saw it was Sam and Cas, followed by ten other people.

“The giraffes!” Castiel called, thirty feet away. “The baby isn’t with them!”

Dean’s blood ran cold. Sam reached him, and Dean handed his brother the hose without a word, eye contact between them saying everything that needed saying. Dean grasped Castiel’s hand then let go. “Cas, stay here, I’ll be quick.” He leapt into a jog, then pelted for the half-closed doors of the barn. “Get a chain of buckets going! They’re in the— Shit.”

Dean had opened the barn door with both hands, arm lifting to shield his face from the heat. It poured over him, the light of the fire nearly blinding him. It blazed yellow, licking at the walls, roaring high where the roof had come down. Hose water came through the top right window and splattered lightly on the ground on the far left, putting out one patch but doing little else.

He needed protection. Dean pulled his ascot from his collar, darting to the water faucet on the outside of the barn. He drenched his ascot, then wrapped it over his nose and mouth, tied behind his head, under the brim of his helmet. Cold water dripped down his shirt, no longer cold as he approached the open door again.

Deep breath of oxygen. Dean entered, pressing his pith helmet down tighter to his head. Ignoring his terror, he walked in slow steps across the dust, squinting to see through the trembling air. He could see the barrier between dust and hay; the fire hadn’t gotten that far yet.

But the giraffes’ exit was closed. And Smol was there, hurrying up and down, bleating urgently. Dean rushed to the fence and climbed over, reaching to unlock the door – only to realise it wasn’t locked, but was barricaded on the other side by something that was burning. Part of the roof.

“Okay,” Dean whispered, hands up calmingly to Smol. “We’ll go out the other way.” He didn’t know how – the fence was three feet high and had no gate. He looked back at Smol and gritted his teeth. “C’mere.” He herded the scared six-foot giraffe to the fence, hands firm on his back. Smol tried to kick, but Dean darted away and soothed, “Easy. Easy.” He flinched as another part of the roof came down, whispering death as red ghosts rose up from the sparkling beam. The hay around it caught fire with a whoosh.

Dean bent, and took Smol’s front hooves in his hands. He lifted both, against Smol’s will, but with some fighting, Dean got Smol’s front half over the barrier. Smol was trapped there now, front half on one side, back half on the other, and Dean couldn’t see enough to finish the job. His eyes were stinging, dry and watering, his lungs were choked up. He coughed, and coughed, and folded forward, hand on the fence.

Smol brayed, calling for his mama. Fuelled by desperation, Dean roared and stood upright, staggering to Smol’s backside, taking those massive fuzzy thighs in both hands and lifting with a heave. Smol tumbled down into the dust, neck and chest hitting the ground, kicking up a wave of sparks that stung him, startled him back to his feet.

Dean fell to his knees, coughing, pressing his ascot to his mouth, but it was dry already, and he could taste the smoke in the back of his throat.

“H... H-elp...”

Dean looked up at the sound. There was a man in smoky white beside a cracked mirror, Dean hadn’t seen him as he’d come in. He was curled up with his back to the wall, hands by his head.

With one more wincing heave, Dean got to his feet, trying to climb the barrier but falling over it. He crawled forward, coughing, and approached Smol, who still hurried up and down, lost and confused as his home came down around him.

Back on his feet, heaving for what little air was left to breathe, Dean first went to the doors, touched them – flinched, too hot – then used his elbows to push them open. With the rush of fresh oxygen came a huge surge of flame at his back. Heat was burning the back of his neck. “GO!” he yelled to Smol, and Smol wasted no time – he kicked up dust and bolted for freedom, jabbering in terror, calling for his mama and crying.

Then Dean turned for the man.

Crowley.

Their eyes met. Crowley had never looked more pathetic.

“I— I didn’t mean to— It just happened, I couldn’t stop it... It was a mistake, it was... all a mistake...”

Dean reached down and hauled Crowley to his feet. At this point in time Dean didn’t have the luxury of caring about anger, or hatred. Crowley was in danger and all Dean could do was throw him out the door—

The roof groaned, and Dean didn’t have time to escape.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

“Catch him!” Castiel gathered other wedding guests to him. “Mrs. Patel! Bobby, take everyone’s hand, form a barrier! Smol... Smol, come here. It’s okay. It’s okay, you’re safe. We’ll find your mama.”

Jody still shouted orders to the most able of the guests, and they’d removed their jackets and tied up their hair, collecting buckets and other receptacles from the reception hall, filling them with water, passing them in a relay chain down towards the barn. Even Gabriel had shed his waistcoat and used it to protect his hands as he hauled buckets directly into the flames.

One side of the barn was open wide now, flames pouring out as the fire ate up the old wood. Gabriel’s face was slick with sweat, his eyes locking with Rufus’, then Donna’s, as they worked together to splash the edges damp, which, if nothing else, kept the fire from leaving the barn and creeping to the dry fields.

Back on the path, Castiel took Smol around the shoulders, holding him secure. He whispered softly, kissing his sooty neck, “You’re safe now, friend. Come with me.”

He led him to the zebra field, where Hannah and all the children had herded the giraffes so they’d be out of the smoke. Castiel released Smol there. He brayed – and his mother called back across the enclosure, galloping to him as Smol galloped to her. Castiel didn’t wait to see the reunion – he locked the gate and picked up the hem of his sherwani, running back to the barn.

“Crowley!” Castiel swung past Crowley as he stumbled from the barn. His clothes were singed, and he coughed deeply. “Dean?”

“Still in there,” Crowley rasped, pushing off Castiel and pacing away to breathe. Lucy went to him, asking if he needed anything.

Castiel stood, a tiny silhouette before a building on fire, as the wind swirled; flames reached the roof and poured from the sides. The roar of it was beastly. The heat was scalding. It was getting worse. “Dean,” Castiel breathed.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Down came a roof beam, hitting another, one end thumping the wall – the beam split, splintered, smashing sparks in every direction. There was no time to jump away – Dean fell under the beam, face in the dust.

He could breathe better down here. Tasted like dirt. Sharp like glass on his cheeks.

He coughed, and a puff of sand shifted away from his mouth. Weak eyes looked up, looked around, unable to move his head. The heat was unbearable now. He didn’t know how close the fire was to him, but he could feel it. He didn’t know how long he had left.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Sam grasped Castiel’s arm. “No! The fire’s too bad, you can’t go in there!”

“Dean’s in there!” Castiel reached for the door, but Sam was stronger, and yanked and dragged Castiel away. “Sam, he’s your brother— SAM!”

“I am not losing you both in one day,” Sam said firmly. “He’s been in there too long. The roof’s come down. We’re not equipped to go in there, he shouldn’t have gone in there in the first pl—”

Castiel punched Sam and hurtled for the doors, but Sam leapt right in him and tackled him to the ground. “NO!” Sam held Castiel down. “You go in there, you’ll die!”

“Then let me die! Let me die with him!”

Sam helped Cas to his feet, but kept him close.

Castiel tried to pull forward, starting to cry. “Let me go.”

“No.”

“Let me go!”

“Cas...” Sam moved to embrace Castiel, holding him tight as he wept. “We have to close the doors, the oxygen’s fuelling the fire.”

Castiel still resisted, held back only by Sam’s hands gripped around his wrists. “DEAN!”

Nothing, no sign of him. Black smoke spewed from the open doors, the windows. Whatever fire was in there had been consumed by the smoke now, and it choked the air.

“Close the doors!” Sam shouted to Benjamin, who ran close with Chiquitita. “Close them tight!”

“NO!” Castiel struggled but Sam refused to release him. “DEAAAN!”

Chiquitita slammed the doors, but then hesitated at Castiel’s cry – Benjamin had to pull her away, and Chiquitita went with as much resistance as Castiel, trying to return.

“DEEEEAN!” Castiel keened with every whisp of air in his lungs, tears streaming down his soot-smudged face. “DEEEEEEEEEAAAN!”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean stirred. He was half-conscious, barely breathing. This felt like a bad dream he knew well; smoke around him, unable to see. The End was coming. But Cas would save him any moment now.

Now.

Now.

It didn’t happen. He could hear his voice but he couldn’t get here. Dean was alone.

He struggled to move his head – then with a sudden jerk it rose free. He lifted his chin, and realising his stupid helmet had saved his life. It was crushed between two crossed beams on the ground, where his skull just was. Dean looked along the beam and saw flames creeping to him, flickering within arm’s length. They were five inches tall, and leapt a foot when he pushed halfway to his feet, shifting the air.

He couldn’t see for the smoke. Inhaling, he found there was nothing to inhale. He coughed, but had nothing to refill his lungs.

DEAAAAAN!

Dean fell towards the sound. Maybe this time, he had to save himself. Maybe.

But he couldn’t breathe. He hadn’t breathed for too long. The doors were shut, fire rising up them. He couldn’t see a way out.

DEEEEEEAAAAAANNNNNN...”

Dean stepped over a flaming beam, then shut his eyes and walked straight into the fire, following the sound of Castiel’s voice.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Castiel fell to his knees, weeping. His eyes remained on the smouldering building, feeling rushes of cold, stormy air rush by, giving hope for just a moment before washes of insufferable heat came over him again.

Sam didn’t need to hold him any more. Dean had been gone too long.

“Dean,” Castiel breathed.

The doors to the barn swayed open...

Castiel perked up. He could see no fire inside, just clouds and clouds of smoke. Grey and black came out like ghosts, rising, falling, spreading out. The whole area was choked in smoke. Castiel felt it tickle his arm hairs as it slid past him, hiding Sam, hiding everything. Grey. Nothing but grey.

“Dean?” There was hope in Castiel’s voice.

No sound. Everything went silent. Just the distant crackle of flame, and an approaching fire truck siren...

Castiel breathed the smoke, watching the doorway...

It had been too long for anyone to survive, he knew it. But one more second. Another... One more...

He bowed his head, wet eyes placed into his palms. He shivered, feeling Sam’s hand on his back.

Dean was gone.

All Castiel could do was rest. Empty. Exhausted.

...Neck prickling.

Castiel gasped and got to his feet. “Dean?”

But the prickle came again, and he lifted a palm, looking up to the sky. The clouds were here, spitting tiny drops. Agony clenched in Castiel, and he cried out, shaking, about to fall to his knees—

Through the mist came a sauntering shadow, disoriented, and uncertain, but standing upright and searching for Castiel. He’d heard his name and followed it.

The sky rolled, and the drips turned to drops, hissing on the hot dust path around them, whisking the smoke into swirls. The barn started to smoulder.

“Dean?” Castiel said, not sure if he was real.

Dean went to him, hand out. Touched his cheek. Met his eyes.

Then Dean sagged and collapsed to his back, Castiel catching him on the way down. “Dean.” Cas’ eyes filled with tears of relief, head down to Dean’s chest. “You made it.”

But as he rested there, brimming with emotion, he realised Dean wasn’t breathing. “No.” Castiel’s head shot up. Other people gathered around him, now the fire was dying, as the rain began to pour. “Dean, breathe!”

Dean didn’t.

Castiel dropped him to the ground, raised his body over him, hands overlayed on his chest. He began thumping down, making Dean’s heart beat, forcing his lungs to inhale. Dean remained still, eyes shut.

The sirens stopped nearby, men shouting. Castiel shook his head, no intention of giving Dean up to anyone else and interrupting the CPR. His friends and family gathered close, watching, waiting.

“DEAN!” Castiel pushed down, over, over, over again. “So help me, Dean, BREATHE!”

Dean did.

His torso rose as he heaved in a huge rain-drenched gasp, eyes wide, hands clutching Castiel’s shoulders, eyes on the sky. He flopped down over Castiel’s lap as Castiel moved to embrace him, crying freely, sobbing so hard it hurt.

“Hheh-kff-kff— Hey,” Dean rasped, looking confused. “Did I make it?”

Castiel smiled helplessly, looking down, holding Dean’s cheeks and nodding. “You made it.”

Heavy boots thundered past as the firefighters entered the barn to put out what was left of the fire. Medics swarmed around, but Dean pushed one away, uttering, “One minute, one minute!” He took a few careful breaths, eyes meeting Sam’s, then looking for Jody’s. “We were—” cough, “kind of in the middle of – something.”

Jody scoffed. “Now?! You gotta be kidding me.”

Dean just looked lovingly at Cas, stroking a loose, dirty strand of hair off his forehead. “Do you... kff! – Cas— Castiel Tippens... take me... D—”

“Yes,” Castiel whispered. “And I do.”

Jody folded her arms, smiling as she sighed. “Then by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss.”

Castiel sobbed and pressed his lips to Dean’s, as Dean wrapped his arms around Cas’ head, smiling. They kissed hard, and they kissed for a long time, as the rain cascaded around them, as people cheered and high-fived.

Smoke and fear washed away. They separated, smiling, holding each other’s eyes before Dean turned away to retch horribly, rolling to kneel on his front.

Jody beckoned back the medics, and Dean let them look him over this time. He sat up, and caught Cas’ eyes. They held hands, the soot on their faces streaked by tears. Somewhere in all the noise, Castiel heard the click of Patience’s camera.

“There’s still papers to sign to make it official,” Jody reminded them, as Dean was helped to the back of an ambulance by two paramedics. “God, what a mess. My poor giraffes. How the effing hell did this start, anyway?”

“Crowley,” Castiel said, looking at Charlie across the path. “Cigarettes.”

Charlie looked to Donna.

Donna folded her arms. “Well! I’ve been wanting to arrest Dean’s ex-husband for something for five hecking years. About time.” She turned and marched off, muttering, “If I can’t get him on arson and attempted giraffe murder, I’ll settle for ‘carelessness with cigarettes in a non-smoking environment’. Take that, demon!”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Throughout all the time Castiel had planned the wedding, he’d thought about the feeling he wanted to create at each part of the event. The ceremony was supposed to float, it was supposed to move so smoothly and so lightly that Castiel could only look back on it and remember it as if the sight of Dean before him was the only thing in the world there was to see. He’d remember them glowing, surrounded by golden-white light and falling leaves. He wanted it to feel heavenly.

It had felt like that, for a time.

Now there would always be a black, hellish shadow in a corner of that memory, hurling out smoke, screams in the distance; Dean’s silhouette stumbling from the jaws of death as a hero. Yet the yellow and red of the fire against navy blue was still beautiful, in a strange, terrifying way.

Dean survived. Smol was unharmed. Every single guest – young, old, able or wheelchair-using – had joined forces and became heroes themselves, doing what they could to help. The two sides of the aisle, most meeting for the first time, had now bonded in unbreakable ways, via events that no-one could ever forget.

Despite the fear all the guests had endured tonight, they laughed. They held hands, they preened dirt off each other’s clothes. They took turns cleaning themselves up in the washrooms, but still nobody looked presentable. The official photography session was cancelled, obviously; they’d all be candids. The sun was gone, and nobody had the energy. The plan had fallen apart – but despite that, Castiel wasn’t upset. How could he be? Dean was alive, and they were married.

Castiel was still shaking, more now from exhilaration than shock. He heard the same tremor and tension in other people’s voices as they offered congratulations and held his hands. They were exhausted. They were happy. They’d be talking about this night for the rest of their lives.

The band responded to the jittery-yet-subdued vibe in the hall by forgetting the playlist, and just pouring out soft, easy-listening instrumentals. A vocalist occasionally sang the kind of songs she could sway to, eyes closed. The electric guitarist seemed happy enough, nodding his head behind Locs sunglasses as he thumbed out gentle melodies.

Castiel had felt his life change twice tonight. He gazed across the wood-panelled hall, past forty-something excited people, and caught Dean’s eyes. They shared a quiet smile.

The medics finally let Dean go free, but urged him to see a doctor at the soonest opportunity. He’d been perched in the back of an ambulance for an hour, then moved inside when the rain stopped and it got cold. He’d been sucking down oxygen from a mask, one finger in a white clip that checked the oxygen in his blood. Besides his fatigue, an occasional cough, and a sore throat, he was essentially fine now.

He couldn’t dance tonight. That was the rule. He needed to rest, even on his wedding night.

Sometime during the evening, Castiel had asked the firefighters and medics to stay, join the celebration. They couldn’t all stay, but a few did, as they needed to make sure everyone remained safe and stable. A tall, olive-skinned firefighter now danced with Missouri, side-stepping through lighter-skinned, smaller people and looking twice as regal. Donna’s niece Wendy offered a young paramedic a piece of gum next to the buffet table. Benjamin and Chiquitita hogged the only female attendant, comparing hairstyles and plaiting her dreadlocks over and over.

There were no big speeches to give, as the schedule was well and truly blown to bits. Even Jody didn’t complain they were over their time limit. People ate whatever they liked from the homemade buffet, whenever they liked, roaming with their plates. Mary Winchester’s orange punch recipe was a big hit. Sam hugged Dean an awful lot.

When Dean finally got to his feet, everyone seemed to drift to the cake on the buffet table, following him like guppies behind a more confident fish. Dean took a cake knife, and shot Cas a look.

Smiling, Castiel made his way close, reaching to take the hand Dean offered.

“Together?” Dean asked.

Castiel took the knife, hand over Dean’s. “Together.”

Wrapping himself around Dean’s back, they hugged as the knife sliced down the top tier of the berry coulis cake. It was dense and barely moved at all, and a chocolate-iced slice came out neatly, flopping onto a plate Sam offered them. A gorgeous red sauce spilled out, a blueberry tumbling away.

People cheered. Dean and Castiel just looked into each other’s eyes, looking past the soot and the lingering stench of smoke, just seeing a beloved soul, full of joy.

Dean took the cake in his bare hand and offered a bite to Castiel. Castiel opened his mouth, then squeaked as Dean crammed it in there messily. Laughing so hard his gums showed and his nose wrinkled, Castiel grabbed the same cake and smushed it onto Dean’s face, making him blow a raspberry, then duck, trying to scoop some cake into his mouth, as he’d gotten none.

They chuckled, holding each other for a kiss. Dean came away first, licking icing he’d swiped from Castiel’s face. The camera shuttered fast, catching every moment, every soft look they shared as they took napkins and wiped each other clean.

“I know y’all said I can’t dance,” Dean said to the medics, who’d integrated so well with the guests that they no longer stood out, arms hung over people like old friends. “But maybe one dance? A slow one.”

It hardly mattered whether they let him or not (they did) – Dean was going to dance anyway. He offered Castiel an open hand, and led him slowly to the centre of the hall. Halfway there, Dean bent down and took off his boots, kicking them towards Sam, who rolled his eyes and picked them up. He even pulled socks off his shoulder when Dean tossed them there.

“Ready?” Castiel asked, hands out again.

Dean took them. “Ready.” He gave an upward nod to the band. “Hit it.”

Castiel looked behind him, hearing the clatter as the backup singers and the bass guitarist jumped to their feet, suddenly alert and ready for something more lively. “What are they playing?” Castiel asked. He didn’t recognise the opening notes. “I didn’t put this on the set list.”

“You said pick something we won’t fight over,” Dean said, as an odd, warbling noise began, filled in with a soft piano chord, and Dean and Cas started to sway, barefoot in a circle of loved ones.

“Which means Phil Collins,” Castiel said, half statement, half question.

Dean smirked.

Castiel tilted his head. “You skipped this on your cassette when you played it for me. You said you wanted to change it. Did you?”

Dean shook his head.

Finally, the singer began to croon. “In the quii-iet time of eeevening... When the stars assume their paaa-tterns...”

“This isn’t Phil Collins.”

Dean shrugged, turning Cas, and six people moved out of the way, watching. “It’s Sting. Same difference, right?”

Castiel stared.

But you were kind to me,
And you reminded me
That the world is not my plaaay-ground,
There are other things that maaa-tter...

“Same difference,” Castiel said softly, sliding his hands up to hug the back of Dean’s neck. Dean chuckled, shutting his eyes and resting his temple against Castiel’s.

But you stayed... in my cor-ner
The only world I knooow is upsiiiide down

And now the world and me—
I know you carry me.

You – see – the – paa-tterns in the big sky...!
Those con-stell-a-tions look like you and I...

They tilted, and they turned, head to head, heart to heart, hands together, bare feet touching, treading on each other. Neither of them had ever been taught how to slow-dance, but Castiel was sure it was one of those things that was learned without instruction, making moves in response to those of another person. Like love.

I’m not as clever as I thought I was
I’m not the boy I used to beee, be-cause
You showed me something different!
You showed me something pure!
I always seemed so certain, but I was really never sure.

But you stayyyed!
And you called my na-ame
When others would have walked out on a lousy game
And look who made it through
But your funny friend and me...?

Dean lifted Castiel’s hand above them and they laughed as they turned, and turned, Dean grasping Cas by the lower back, shimmying close, warm and strong against his front. Dean snuck a kiss, and sank his hands deep into Castiel’s hair, scrunching it, kissing his cheek.

Castiel held onto him, wrapping arms around his shoulders.

You – see – the – paa-tterns in the big sky...!
Those con-stell-a-tions look like you and I...

Castiel felt emotion rising, and he felt no urge to stop it. He let himself cry softly on Dean’s shoulder, tired and happy and at the mercy of things he had no control over. They’d both faced their greatest fears tonight. And they’d won. How could either of them ever be afraid again?

The backup singers burst in for a repeat of the chorus, and the extra voices filled the room with an energy that lifted Castiel’s chin, made him smile up to the wooden roof, where chains of flowers and fairy lights hung between the glowing mason jars.

They spun in the centre of the room, as people cheered them, hollering sweet things and whooping. Dean cocked his head, eyes darting to everyone else, then back. Time to share?

Castiel nodded. Go on.

Dean threw out an arm and beckoned in the crowd. “Everybody!”

The song went up an octave, the sound lifting and filling out, wholesome like nothing else. Couples and children took to the available space with verve that seemed to burst from nowhere, hands lifting, dresses skimming the floor. Jody even threw an arm around Donna and they swayed side-by-side together, sipping their drinks and watching everyone else. Charlie and Darby were lost in their own world.

Now everyone was busy, Castiel and Dean had an unexpected moment of privacy. They kept dancing as they song played towards its end, as noise warmed their air around them. They were together and safe.

When the angels sing
That that unlikely blend
Are those two funny friends...
That's us.

The band rushed from My Funny Friend straight to Smokestack Lightning, upbeat and tumbling. Dean laughed, glancing around as people whistled and started to jive. Castiel could see in Dean’s eyes that he didn’t have the energy left for dancing, nor hearing other people’s congratulations and feeling pats on the back for bravery. This was his wedding, but at this point it was just for everyone else.

Castiel smiled, catching his eye. “Wanna get out of here?”

Dean shut his eyes in relief, then opened them and nodded. “Hell yes.”

Pulling Dean straight from the dancefloor, Castiel beelined for the door. He made quick pointing gestures to people who glanced his way, implying they were just going out for a minute. Even Sam gave a quick wave and turned back to Jess, who had a heart drawn on her cheek with soot.

It was cool outside, and fresh rain gave the night a pleasant aroma. The world had turned blue, and the smell of smoke was gone.

They walked in silence, barefoot on the sodden dirt path, hand-in-hand.

Moonlight touched their shoulders, and then their eyes.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

The wet ribbons tied on the Impala shimmered in the moonlight as they flapped. Castiel drove at a steady pace, stopping at every red light, indicating every turn. Dean rested beside him. He smelled of icing sugar and smoke, and Castiel thought he himself probably smelled the same.

Sliding through orange puddles lit by streetlights and plunging back to blackness became somewhat rhythmic, relaxing, as the road went on for miles, swipes of colour covering Castiel’s hands before vanishing. Barely any cars shared their lane. Diners and burger joints glowed in pretty neons by the highway, arrows pointing their way, but Castiel drove past, on and on and on. The car purred. Phil Collins sang quietly. Castiel felt small and innocent again, like he was a child, driven home at the end of a long day.

But they weren’t going home.

“Next left,” Dean said.

Castiel pulled up to an upscale motel, not quite a hotel but nice enough that he wouldn’t know the difference once they got inside. They pulled into their reserved parking space, and Dean groaned as he sat forward, coughing twice.

“You sure you’re okay?” Castiel asked.

“I’ll get through tonight,” Dean rasped. He gulped, then spoke more normally. “I’m good. Just gotta remember to breathe deep.”

He moved ready to open the door, but Castiel reached to hold him back. “Dean,” he started, “are you up to—? You know. Tonight.”

“What’s tonight?”

“You know. Making love.” Castiel spoke softly.

Dean grinned. “Go slow?”

Castiel leaned in and kissed him. Pulled back, eyes twinkling as he smiled. “The slowest.”

Dean reached into the back seat to get their overnight bags, then exited the car. He carried both bags up to their motel room, while Castiel went to the warmly-lit office to tell the owners they’d arrived, texting Sam while he was at it.

With his key ready, Castiel joined Dean on the top balcony, holding his eyes as he unlocked the door. They entered in single file, Dean’s hand on Castiel’s shoulder.

Castiel went to the nearest lamp and turned it on.

“Nice,” Dean said, content with their choice. The room was white and cushy, with floor-skimming bedsheets and piled-up pillows.

“Who washes first?” Castiel asked. “Only one shower.”

Dean shrugged. “I could use a nap.” How ‘bout you shower first, and I rest. Then I go in and... yeah?”

Castiel nodded.

“Awesome.” Dean dumped the bags on an ivory-striped wingback chair, then shedding his clothes where he stood.

“The motel owners were quite alarmed that I was all sooty,” Castiel imparted, undressing too, tossing his sherwani and churidar in the same pile as Dean’s. “I told them what happened.”

“And? What did they say?”

“Same thing everyone else did. You’re so brave, so lucky. Congratulations. If you can survive this you’ll survive anything.”

Dean smiled. “You think it’s true?”

Castiel went to him, stroking his cheek, then nodding. “Not a doubt in my mind.”

He then bent and stepped out of his boxers, and headed for the shower. Dean let him go.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Now clean, Castiel took his time preparing himself while Dean was in the shower. He styled his hair in a wall mirror, patted rosewater onto his neck and shoulders, then, with his breath catching in his throat, he lay his chosen outfit neatly on the foot of the bed, smoothing non-existent wrinkles from the tender satin.

Are you sure this is what you want?

Castiel lifted the lingerie by its lacy shoulder straps, looking at it.

Yes.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean dried between his legs with his towel while his other hand scrunched his hair taller. His eyes lingered on the outfit change he’d brought into the bathroom with him. It was just one ballet-pink item, folded inconspicuously on the ledge under the sink’s mirror.

Dean reached for it, towel dropped to his feet.

He held it up.

You ready, prettyboy?

He ran his thumb along the elastic edge, watching the soft lace scallops fold and pop back up.

Dean nodded. Yeah.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Castiel startled as there was a knock at the motel’s door. He rushed over, opening it to find a pizza delivery man out there, balancing two pizza boxes on a palm, about to speak but going silent when he saw what Castiel was wearing.

Self-conscious but not ashamed, Castiel tugged down the hem of his babydoll top, trying to hide the tip of his cock. “Did Dean order this? How much do I owe you?”

The pizzaman chewed on his gum, eyes rising to meet Castiel’s. “Bawht an’ paid faw ah’ready,” he said, in a strong Boston accent. “Weddin’ treat for yah, doll, cahrtesy a’ some folks cahllin’ themselves Sam and Jess. Gave me a hefty tip, too. Wicked nice folks, ah?”

“Oh. Yes, they are. Thank you.” Castiel took the pizzas, smiling. “Thank you very much. I hope you have a wonderful night.”

“You too... ma’am?” The pizzaman looked unsure, but when Castiel grinned, he tipped his cap and left, bemused, but apparently satisfied.

Castiel turned back inside and closed the door with his bare heel, still smiling to himself.

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean opened the bathroom door, already blushing. He entered the bedroom slowly with a hand on the back of his neck, hoping he sparkled and moved in slow-motion, looking nothing short of glamorous in the prettiest pink panties he’d ever owned.

He looked up and Castiel was waiting for him in middle of the room, devastatingly handsome, hair done up in a messy quiff, the hue of his eyes more stunning than usual, as he wore an incredibly short strappy satin dress in a grey-blue colour, that cupped in a feminine way around his pectorals and hung delicately past his strong hips. His legs were long and shaved and he looked at Dean with a growing smile, meeting each other’s eyes.

“Hello, Dean.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Dean’s eyes were dark, blazing with something that had hung around since the fire, but finally turned from ash back to ember. There was heat in him again. He sauntered to Castiel and held his waist, looking at his lingerie, then up to his eyes. “You look awesome.”

Castiel nosed close but didn’t kiss, fingers roaming the lace trim of Dean’s panties. “And you’re never looked more beautiful.”

Dean’s smile emerged from deep within him, but grew to eclipse any doubt he’d shown. He let out a breath, and sank into comfort, shutting his eyes and kissing.

This was the slowest, softest kiss they’d shared so far. The world melted away around them, as their lips stuck and squished together, arms around each other’s shoulders, fingers playing with hair.

They’d put out a fire tonight. But now they were ready to start another one.

This time they’d let it burn all night.

Gentle, deep breaths... Heads tilted, one way, then the other. Eyelashes grazing cheeks. Blushing.

They pulled back so their eyes could meet, wanting to see what their love looked like now. It had never been so intense. Castiel felt pleasure prickle up his back just from the way Dean looked at him, held his hips, and leaned in to have another kiss.

Soon they parted their lips, hugging instead, slow-dancing in place. No music, but a heartbeat. Dean hugged Castiel’s lower back with both arms, forehead down on Castiel’s shoulder. Castiel nuzzled Dean’s ear, kissing his neck. Eager hands drew up through Dean’s hair, parting damp locks, and the pressure made Dean moan softly.

“Let’s make love,” Castiel whispered.

Dean grinned lopsidedly, inching back. “You’re really gonna call it that?”

“Is it not descriptive?” Castiel turned and tugged Dean by the hand towards the bed, which was now clear of everything except the blanket, touching Castiel’s smooth leg as he got close. “I want to make so much love we’ll never run out.”

Dean chuckled, stroking Cas’ jaw as Cas sat down, and Dean stood before him.

Castiel held his eyes and lay back, arms rising, showing off his fluffy underarms, letting his tiny dress pull up just enough to expose his cock. Dean’s lips parted, bowing over him, hands on the bed; he took in the sight of Cas, wanting him, then wanting his body, appreciating everything with a curious hand, from his smooth-shaved thighs to the manicured toenails at the end of a moisturised foot. Sliding his hand back up, Dean lay his hand over the start of Castiel’s erection, and leaned down, sealing his lips to Castiel’s with a soft, warm breath.

Two nudges of their lips together, and their embers sparked up into a flame, fluttering in their hearts, bellies, in the soles of their feet.

Castiel sat up and guided Dean to the bed, and Dean lay down on his back, arms up to accept Castiel’s close embrace, and a dozen more smoochy, tongue-touch kisses, little smiles fit between each.

“I don’t want to wear you out too quickly,” Castiel muttered into Dean’s ear, kissing. “You just lie there. Let me...?”

Dean glanced at him and nodded. “I’m good with that.”

Castiel pecked his cheek. Straddling Dean’s upper thighs, he reached to the nightstand on his right, under the lamp, beside the pizza boxes and a glass of water. He picked up lubricant and condoms, and gave them both to Dean, wanting him to do it.

Dean was already hard in his panties, so after tucking the lace under his scrotum, he didn’t even need to touch himself before rolling a condom down his length. He jacked himself a few times to get the latex comfortable, then grabbed the lube and poured down a long blue trickle onto himself, hissing at the cold, both him and Castiel seeing his cock flinch inside the condom.

“Warm me up?” Dean asked cheekily, capping the lube and tossing it aside.

“I think I can do better,” Castiel breathed, leaning down to kiss Dean’s neck. Lifting his head just enough that they could look at each other, Castiel maneuvered his hips to press Dean’s cock to his hole, working back and forth a few times until Dean shivered, getting stiffer than before. When he was so firm he didn’t bob away when Castiel pushed, Castiel pushed, and they both felt the slick physical throb as Dean sank into Castiel’s hole, and Castiel welcomed him.

Sighing, eyes half-closed, Castiel rolled his hips back, learning to relax with Dean inside him. Dean held his hips, keeping him steady and secure, while also teasing up the lingerie so he could get a look at Castiel’s inner thighs and semi-erection.

Once comfortable, Castiel sat back, sighing as Dean was pushed deep, filling him completely. Castiel tipped his head back and groaned, running his palms up to rub his nipples through the satin.

“You’re so fuckin’ sexy,” Dean whispered, eyes dark, lips red. “God, I love you.”

Castiel grinned down, knowing a truth when he heard one. “I feel like I’m glowing.”

“You are,” Dean promised. He pulled Cas down and kissed him, deeply, breathing in past his cheek. Hands roamed Castiel’s back, palming the delicate straps that crossed against his spine, then sliding both hands over the softest satin to grope Castiel’s ass. Castiel chuckled, rocking in a gentle way now.

After a minute of slow pulsing, a sweat broke out on Castiel’s lower back, and he let heat consume him, knowing it would be counter-productive to resist for the sake of longevity. Dean was deep inside him, and it was obvious from the look on his face that he wasn’t going to last long.

Castiel was pleasuring his husband, and the thought of that aroused him acutely. They were married, and they held hands and kissed and made tender, beautiful love to celebrate.

Flames began to flare, flicking up the inner walls of Castiel’s body. He sat up, kneeling either side of Dean’s waist, and rode him more deeply but no faster, plunging onto his erection and feeling its girth wholly. Low moans smoked from Castiel’s lips, his muscles rolling, a hand around his own cock, rubbing satin against it; the other hand gently stroked Dean’s throat, feeling his heartbeat there. Dean’s hands never left Castiel’s waist, sliding up and down, reassuring and self-comforting as they were consumed by each other, by closeness and intimacy and dark, dark, dark eyes, hungry for this.

As the satin started to get wet with pre-come, the textural sensation of Castiel’s lingerie on his cockhead turned from sleek to gritty, and so he grasped it with both hands at the hem, crossed his arms, and lifted it away, sighing as he tossed it, leaning forward more, giving Dean a dirty little grin. Dean was gasping softly, eyes not sure where to land, clearly enjoying the show Castiel put on for him. Bouncing gently. Pushing, squishing, rocking; biting his lip.

Castiel remembered that the pizza was getting cold – so he darted over, opened up the top box, happy to discover it was Margherita. Sam knew him well. He wriggled a slice loose from the others, still rocking, still moaning. He sat still as he floated the pizza to his face, but kept his hips working as he tipped the point of the slice into his mouth, head back, groaning.

“Shit,” Dean whispered. “That shouldn’t be so hot.”

Castiel grinned down at him, chewing, greasy lips tugged into a flirtatious smile. “Want some?”

Dean opened his mouth.

Castiel rested a hand on his chest, still fucking him gently as he leaned down, placing pizza in Dean’s mouth, watching him shut his eyes as he ate. Castiel took the slice back and bit into it again, sighing in contentment.

“I wuff youhh,” Dean said with his mouth full. “You’re fuckin’ crazy.”

Castiel grinned until his eyes and bridge of his nose wrinkled, and kept munching into his pizza crust, enjoying the food as much as he enjoyed the sex. He swallowed, and relaxed again, squirming in place to give Dean a good feeling, gratified when Dean writhed, a deep moan emerging from his throat.

Too quick, Dean sucked in a breath and coughed twice – Castiel paused to let him recover, and when he swallowed and nodded, Castiel kept going.

“Still good?” Castiel asked.

Dean ran his hands up Castiel’s thick thighs. “Perfect.”

Bending close, Castiel gave Dean a string of appreciative kisses, lips, chin, neck. Dean returned the favour, cradling the back of Castiel’s neck, ruffling his hair.

“Cas,” Dean whispered. “Ah— Ouhh...”

“Feel good?”

Dean nodded, dizzy-eyed, blushing, fat-lipped and grinning shakily. “So good.”

Castiel reached for more pizza – Dean’s favourite this time: double meat and double cheese with black olives. Dean made a noise of exasperation, but ate from Castiel’s hand anyway, eyes shut, clearly finding the experience blissful. He finished the slice all by himself, and drank from the glass of water Castiel offered, Castiel’s hand holding Dean’s head up. Dean lay back, eyes bright, amused, but definitely aroused.

Castiel kissed the taste on his mouth, licking Dean’s plump lips, as Dean held them open, wanting.

Their kisses became longer, fingers playing with each other, then going still.

After four or five gorgeous minutes of changing up the rhythm or position every so slightly, Castiel hit an especially sensitive spot inside himself, and started to sigh with every thrust, then moan under his breath. In response, Dean moaned with a more questioning tone, asking wordlessly if he was allowed to come. The look in his eyes was desperate, his grip on Castiel’s hand tense and urgent.

“Don’t resist,” Castiel assured him. He lavished Dean’s ear with kisses, then a whisper, “Come now if you want.”

Dean needed another minute of stimulation, kisses, cuddles, but soon his gasps came quick and frantic and he whimpered, just once, eyes locked to Castiel’s. He was careful with his breaths for a while after, in through his nose, out through his mouth.

“Did you?” Castiel asked.

Dean nodded. He licked his lips shiny, and groaned quietly.

“Good.” Castiel caressed his cheek, then bent to kiss just under his eyes. “I love watching your face when you come.”

Dean still couldn’t speak. He was shaky and smiley but his eyelids were drooping, hands weakening on Castiel’s waist.

“Are you falling asleep?” Castiel asked, accusatory but grinning. “Dean.”

Dean sniffed in a breath, eyelashes fluttering. “Shudduuuhhhp. I’m tired as fuck, Cas. Freakin’ got married today. Oh... and ran into a burning building and nearly died. That too.”

“I know,” Castiel said sweetly. “Just let me come and we’ll sleep.”

“‘Kay.”

Castiel adjusted himself, trying to get the good spot again, but Dean was going soft inside him, and Castiel frowned, annoyed.

“Sorry,” Dean whispered.

“It’s okay,” Castiel said. He hummed and rolled off, one thigh up to ease Dean’s cock out of him. “Aw, it’s cute when it’s flaccid. Look...”

“Like I said before, Cas,” Dean uttered, “you’re crazy.” Now that Cas lay on his back, Dean snatched up a Kleenex from his side of the bed, removing his condom with a mutter of “Eww-hoo-hoo.”

Once the condom was in the trash, Dean turned back and snuggled up to Castiel. As Cas tucked Dean’s cock back into his panties for him, Dean peppered kisses on his clavicle. Those kisses moved to just under Castiel’s ear, and after a hesitation, Dean asked in a breath, “Can I swallow?”

Castiel glanced at him. “Swallow what?”

Dean’s eyes darted down.

Castiel’s skin chilled in delight. “Oh. I see.” It had been what seemed like months since Dean had last done that. And he’d made it very clear back then how much he liked it. “About time, I think. Yes.”

Dean grinned, and wriggled down the bed, kissing all the way. His late-night stubble bristled Castiel’s skin, and Cas flinched, legs curled, giggling. Dean embraced the ticklishness and kissed a dozen other places – stomach, ribs, hips, hands, the V of muscle under Cas’ hips, the sensitive little crook between genitals and thigh... Castiel stopped giggling there and started moaning, shivering, squirmy with anticipation.

He’d expected Dean to suck on him, but Dean did not: he kissed, and licked the meaty underside of Castiel’s erection, and lapped up all the slimy stuff, meeting Castiel’s eyes as he did. He blew warm air into the pubic hair Castiel had decided not to shave, and then set big, wet, open-mouthed kisses over the smooth parts. Castiel stretched out in the bed, blissed out at the attention. He spread his legs completely, enjoying Dean’s fingertips teasing his hole, tongue teasing his perineum.

“Dean...” Castiel smiled as he moaned. “Ohhhh, yeahh... mmm.” He bit his lip, humming. “Mmmm.”

Dean began to wriggle his tongue on the hard edge of Castiel’s cockhead, digging under his foreskin maybe by accident, but making Castiel yelp whenever he did. Two confident fingers sank into Castiel’s relaxed hole, and Castiel lifted his head from his pillow, panting, crying out, trembling.

“Ooh,” Dean chirped. “Prostate?”

Castiel nodded frantically, sweating, hands shaking so much he couldn’t even grip the sheets. “Dean I’mgonnacome I’m gonna come hhah— haa—”

“Go on then,” Dean whispered, wet lips on his slit.

“Aahhh— Dean. Deanhhh—” Castiel writhed in the bed, feeling that hot, relieving rush as his seed spilled from him, squirting only as far as Dean’s lips, as his tongue swirled the sensitive tip. “Fuck, Dean. Oh, fuck. Yes.”

He was still pulsing with heat five or six seconds later, still letting out huffs of excitement. “Dean.”

Dean wiped his lips with the back of his hand, eyes set on Castiel’s as he surged up to lie beside him, kissing his cheek. Nifty fingers gave Castiel’s prostate a few more strokes, then Dean pulled out, making Castiel spasm and come a little more, cock throbbing. And then it was definitely over, and Castiel relaxed, utterly destitute and unable to open his eyes.

“Now who’s falling asleep,” Dean said fondly.

“Shh. I did all the bouncing.”

Dean grinned. A kiss smacked to Castiel’s forehead, a hand patted his thigh, and then Dean rolled out of bed, making his way to the bathroom to pee and wash himself up.

“Hmm, Deeeaaannn...?” Castiel called, eyes still shut. “Bring me a moist towel or something.”

“Yah. Will do.”

Castiel lay there, smirking, embarrassed as Dean wiped him like a baby, hot towel tugging his cock and belly, then swiping between his legs. But Castiel relaxed after, sighing in contentment as Dean joined him in bed, shucking down the blanket so he could drape it over them both.

Castiel felt a prickle at the back of his neck. He peeked, and smiled when he saw Dean gazing at him from inches away, sharing the same pillow.

“Happy wedding day,” Dean whispered.

“Hmm, yes! We should celebrate this day, every single year,” Castiel murmured, eyes half-closed. “Like a wedding birthday.”

“Yeah?” Dean wheezed a laugh. “Call it an... annual thing.”

“Exactly.”

“Maybe add a little Latin to make it sound good, eh? Like, uh, versus, Latin for ‘to turn’. Representing every time we spin around the sun.”

“That sounds – auuuh – absolutely perfect,” Castiel said, while yawning.

“So,” Dean licked his lips, a smile audible as he muttered, “you’d wanna celebrate the wedding yearly, Cas? Like an... anni-versary?”

Castiel nodded. Then his eyes snapped open. “Dean—”

Dean burst out laughing, rolling onto his back, eyes crinkled tight, his mouth pulled into a joyous grin. “Cas, you really are somethin’ else.” He nudged close and gave him a kiss.

They breathed out together, cuddling tight under the blankets, keeping the bedside lights on so they wouldn’t miss a blink of the other’s face, even as sleep tiptoed closer.

But Dean suddenly inhaled and sat up. “Can’t sleep.”

“You haven’t tried.”

“I don’t wanna, is what I mean.” Dean bent his knees and folded his arms around them, hugging the blanket. “If we sleep the night’s over.”

“There’ll be more nights,” Castiel promised, sitting up too. “You almost died but you’re not dying. I’m more worried you’ll have a cough for a week than I am you’ll die from the effects of smoke inhalation overnight.”

“It’s not that.” Dean shook his head, and glanced at Castiel as he sat up too. “This has been— Fuck, this was one of the weirdest days of my life, Cas. Yours too, I’ll bet. Best. Worst. All of it. I’m terrified of fire and losing people, and I ran into fire because I didn’t want to lose that baby giraffe. And you almost lost me the same day Crowley showed up again. God knows why he was there, but— Isn’t that your worst nightmare too? Fuck, Cas, I am sorry. I should’ve thought more about what I was doing.”

Castiel sighed. “Yes. But no.” He placed a hand assuringly on Dean’s back, stroking smooth, freckled skin. “Crowley was there because I invited him by accident. I crossed his name off the physical list but his email was still in the digital list.” Cas rubbed his forehead in shame. “That was why I panicked last night. I realised the mistake I’d— I’d summoned my worst nightmare to me. But it was too late by then, I couldn’t—” He sighed, head down, but relaxed a little when Dean kissed his temple.

“Look,” Castiel said quietly, “You don’t need to be sorry. I just thank our lucky stars you made it out alive tonight.” He leaned close and placed a kiss on Dean’s shoulder. “You did the right thing, Dean. We’d only just vowed we wanted to go around saving animals, hunting adventures, and then you put that vow into action in almost the same breath.”

Dean pondered that, then looked unsurely at Castiel. “Do you think that was it? The adventure of a lifetime, over and done with already? Kicking our worst fears in the ass?”

Castiel gazed at him.

Dean gazed back, looking into one eye at a time.

Then Castiel shook his head. “This isn’t the end of our story, Dean. As much of a Disney princess you are, your narrative inevitably differs – it doesn’t end with the ‘happily ever after’ we got today. How could it? Our lives go on.” He went quiet, stroking Dean’s lips with his thumb. Then he asked, sweetly, “Do you remember when we met?”

A smile flicked up Dean’s face. “Uh, yeah. I got a divorce, almost got murdered, saved a stranger from their abusive boyfriend, and met and moved in with my future best friend and future spouse, all at once. Hard to forget a day like that.”

After a moment to chuckle, Castiel said, more soberly, “When Crowley pulled his gun I thought that would be the end of both of us. But was it?” He shook his head. “Not in the slightest. We had, and have lives ahead of us, Dean. Whole lives! We’ll thrive as we go on, as we did five years ago.” He stroked an affectionate fingertip over Dean’s ear. “There’s years of things to happen. Go wrong. Go right. If I were the sort to bet, I’d bet today’s adventure was one of many.”

With a slow nod, Dean agreed.

They were quiet for a while, thinking privately.

Then Dean asked, “So you’re going into the wedding-planning business, huh. That’s the next big adventure.”

Castiel inhaled through his nose. “Actually...”

Dean perked up.

With a shrug, Castiel said, “Our wedding came in well under budget. Even after we pay for your medical care, there’s about two thousand dollars left.”

“So invest it in your business,” Dean said, confused.

Castiel rolled a shoulder. “But if I do that... what changes? We had this big shift in our lives today. Not just the wedding, but the fire, saving the animals. How can we go back to daily tasks and not wonder what else there is to do in the world? How can you go back to mucking out red panda enclosures? How do I go back to making spreadsheets listing the cost of every individual box of streamers?” Castiel shook his head. “We’d both love that life, don’t get me wrong. It would be a fun, honest living, and really that’s all I ought to want. But we save nobody. Nothing. Novelty would become normal too quickly. Comfortable. Don’t misunderstand, I love home comforts, and I appreciate every corner of our lives right now, but I want—” He threw out his hands. “I want—?” He rubbed his forehead. “It sounds ridiculous, even to me, but I want our marriage to be more than just a legal agreement. I want our marriage to be... a full and complete partnership, in more ways than emotional or physical. For us to be...”

He ran out of sensible words. All he could do was hold up two fingers and entwined them, looking hopefully at Dean. “Like buddy cop movies. Back-to-back in a hailstorm of metaphorical gunfire that doesn’t actually kill us, just seems scary at the time. Do anything for each other, ride to Hell and back, but never giving up on fundamental humanitarian goals along the way.”

Dean was already smiling. “Sounds awesome.”

“Exactly!” Castiel gripped Dean and arm and shook him. “I want it to be awesome!”

Dean grinned. “So what do we do? Start hunting yetis? Build a rocket on the roof? Become spies?”

Castiel smile had started to spread. “I do have an idea, actually. I’ve dismissed it a few times because it is a big change... but the idea hasn’t left me alone since our conversation at the bachelor party. Honestly, if we told Sam this idea he’d think we were joking. But.” Castiel swallowed. “Dean. How do you feel about changing every aspect of our lives? Completely. Forever.”

 

·· · ·· ♡ ·· · ··


 

Chapter Text

Thunder had a way of rolling along unsurely before the big boom. It clattered across the sky, heading for the horizon, where dusk bled violet-blue down into orange, and the last of the sun glowed warm gold. Insects shivered as they sang, making the long grass whistle and click.

The humidity hugged at Castiel’s skin, clinging tight to his chest past his unbuttoned collar. Even as the day ended, the sweltering heat lingered.

“Told you,” Dean said, one hand on the elephant’s front leg, the other on its tusk. “Not so scary after all, huh?”

Castiel trembled with happiness, gazing at his new friend as she curled her dexterous trunk around the back of his neck, ruffling his hair up to see what it was. Castiel hand swiped for Dean’s, and Dean moved closer to hold it.

“This is incredible,” Castiel breathed, ducking, then laughing as the elephant blew hot air in his ear. “Do you think she’ll follow us when we leave?”

“Probably.” Dean adjusted his campaign hat, then glanced to the giraffe who stood nearby, eyeing Dean as it plucked leaves from the nearest tree. “Hey, big guy, you gonna come too?”

The giraffe just chewed, jaw shifting to the side, blue tongue poking out.

“Oh, Dean, look!” Castiel’s breath caught as he pointed, and Dean leaned past their elephant to see a baby giraffe coming closer through the whispering field, wanting to see what was going on. “She’s almost as big as Smol.”

Dean chuckled. “Didn’t I tell you a year ago that this would be the best freaking zoo in the world?”

“You did. And you were right.”

Dean patted Castiel on the back. “C’mon. We gotta go.”

“We’d better hurry,” Castiel said.

Side-by-side, Dean and Castiel picked their way through the sizzling grass in their boots and long socks, going ahead alone, then reaching back to take each other’s hands. The animals watched them go, but didn’t follow.

“Gazelle,” Dean pointed out, seeing dark, horned shapes through the grass.

“Antelope,” Castiel corrected.

Dean reached their Jeep, stood in the footwell, and took a better look. He laughed. “You hit the jackpot. They’re impala.”

Out there, a herd of impala gathered by a tree, bleating worriedly. Far across the savannah, a red line crept along the horizon, piles and piles of sepia smoke rising high into the sky, obscuring everything in the east.

“Be quick, Dean,” Castiel said. “If the wind changes the fire’ll be here in a matter of minutes.”

“Yeah.” Dean took off his hat, handed it to Castiel, who sat in the driver’s seat and started the engine.

Castiel drove the Jeep in a semi-circle, jolting the floor, but Dean was used to it by now. Once the Jeep faced the sanctuary, Castiel stopped the car and nodded. “Ready.”

Dean took a look at the wildfire on the left, eating up the plain. To the right was the rumbling thunder, a storm approaching, already drenching that side of the savannah. Dean and Castiel were right in the middle, surrounded by animals who were in mortal danger and maybe didn’t realise it yet, or otherwise didn’t know where to go. Ahead was safety.

Dean nodded. “Alright. Let’s do this.” He turned to face the back of the car, then cupped his hands to his mouth and took a deep breath in. “AAAA-HOOOOOOOO-W’H!

The herd of impala lifted their heads. The elephant flapped her big, flag-like ears. The giraffes left their tree alone and pricked their ears towards Dean and his bizarre call.

“AAA-hhWOOOOOOOOO-HOOYyy’ah!”

“It’s working,” Castiel called, seeing hares change course as they ran from the fire, darting towards the Jeep. “Keep going!”

“AAaayh-OOOOOOO-w’ah!”

Dean grinned, waving wildly to the elephant. “Come on, you big goofball, we’re savin’ your hide, here.”

The elephant trumpeted back, a big blast of noise that carried. The zebras a few miles away started to bray and whoop, and Dean saw that confused grey smudge in the grasslands start to turn towards them.

Dean called again, and again. Vultures started circling. A hare leapt into the Jeep, and Castiel had to nudge it back out because he couldn’t get to the vehicle’s foot pedals.

“A’right,” Dean uttered breathlessly, nodding as he saw the zebras were within visual range, and the giraffes had started to plod closer. “Let’s move.”

Castiel let the car v’room a couple of times to scare the creatures out from under the wheels, and then... slowly, he started to let it roll forward.

“Birds,” Dean pointed out, as a flock began to follow, hastening from one tree to the next. “Bees!”

Castiel dared not take his eyes off his intended path, but he chuckled. “I didn’t know bees responded to kulning.”

“Who knows,” Dean said. “But I know for a fact they hate smoke. And – shit – the smoke’s coming this way. Go-go-go, Cas. Put your foot down.”

Castiel shot over a grass lump, rushing across the plains now. Fifteen, twenty miles an hour. The giraffes started to run. The elephant hurried, trumpeting to her herd, who trumpeted back, probably on the move too. The hares came bounding high over the grass, voles and mice scuttling lower. The zebras mingled with the impala and they all stampeded together after the car as it picked up speed, thumping and leaping over uneven African ground.

Dean called again, and untamed wildlife came to him like hundreds of old friends, running for their lives and heading for the only offer of safety they’d had.

The fire raged across the tinder-dry land, and the storm mounted to something furious on the other side. Wind picked up in the valley where the two fronts met, plunging the dusk to something all-consuming. The only light came from the red of the fire now, illuminating the screaming stampede with red outlines.

“AAA-hooy-AAAAAHhoo—” Dean laughed, arms out as he faced the beasts as they ran for him.

Castiel breathed smoke, eyes flicking to the oncoming storm, then to the flames. The channel between was narrowing. The sanctuary was two miles away, Castiel could see the dusty airfields standing in for firebreaks in the distance. He looked up and Dean started to brace for impact, arm over his head as the rain started to lash down, hot water and a fast sting.

The animals cried and ran faster, somehow understanding the goal here. None of them spoke the same languages but they understood fear, and safety, and that long, unbroken, keening cry from Dean’s mouth.

Nature was encroaching from every side. Hundreds of souls out here had minutes to live. Castiel looked up at Dean with a manic kind of glee. “Are you scared?” he shouted, over the howl of the wind and the chaotic shrieks of fear.

Dean looked down at him, reaching to take his hand and hold it. “You kidding me? I’m terrified.”

“In case we actually die this time, I love you,” Castiel called.

“I love you too, Cas,” Dean shouted back.

The storm swallowed the fire, lightning stinking a tree into flames. The Jeep roared across the airfield and the stampede followed without hesitation, giraffes and elephants and the zebra-impala herd galloping past and overtaking entirely, as the smaller animals leapt onto the car and hung on for dear life as Castiel drove them to shelter. They’d be safe here until the world was quiet again.

Dean had had dreams like this for years: walled in on all sides, death impending, unable to see. In each dream, Castiel arrived out of nowhere, held him close, and transported him to some undefined asylum. Now, after so much practise, living it out didn’t seem like a nightmare anymore. Dean knew he could walk blindly towards his greatest fears and Castiel would steer him right, just by calling his name. Dean had done the same in return.

This part of the world was a dangerous one. There were venomous snakes, wildfires, storms, angry lions, life-threatening heatwaves, poachers with guns, rhinos running from the aforementioned poachers, and infected papercuts. Both Dean and Cas had almost died, like... ten times each. And they were just getting started.

As Castiel exited the Jeep under a corrugated tin canopy, he unbuckled the tiniest giraffe from the passenger seat to take inside with him. She was soft, and full of beans. She was Castiel’s lucky charm.

Soon there was also a real giraffe inside, gulping down a bucket of water as Dean stroked her sore back leg. Dean look across the massive cathedral of the sanctuary, past a dozen locals, bustling around, all glossy black skin and khaki, who told them for the hundredth time they they were absolutely crazy.

Cas was preparing a new home for the swarm of killer bees that six people were trying to wrangle into the conservatory. Dean caught his eyes, and nodded, lips pursed. Crazy for you.

Castiel rolled his eyes, but smiled. Always will be. He gave his husband a fond look, and Dean winked back.

Thunder rolled forever across the sky. It wasn’t so uncertain now.

{ the end}