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Fatal Flaw

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It happened again.

It happened far too often, these days, when Castiel accompanied the brothers on a hunt. It was typical of Sam to be making a stop somewhere for food or supplies, and so the task of checking in was usually left to the two of them. It had taken Castiel a long time to figure out what had bothered Dean so greatly about motel desk clerks who thought they’d want a room with one bed. At first he’d assumed it was for comfort purposes, as putting two or three grown men in a rather small space seemed like it would be inconvenient, even if Cas himself didn’t require a bed. But the questioning always seemed to make Dean downright angry, and Cas could almost time the reaction, from the moment the words left the clerk’s lips to the harsh stiffening of Dean’s posture, the false politeness and barely-concealed disdain he used to correct them.

It had taken a long time, but slowly, as he’d come to learn more about the humans, he understood. The questioning, the single bed, meant that the clerk had assumed he and Dean had known each other, in the biblical sense, that they were in what humans called a “relationship”, which came with a lot of rules, most of which Castiel would admit to not quite understanding. The one thing he did come to understand, though, is that intimate relationships between people who seemed to be of the same gender made some humans of this time period uncomfortable. Humans like Dean, he supposed, considering his reaction to the desk clerks. And while the case could be made that Cas himself didn’t exactly have a gender, at least not in the typical human sense, he knew that humans, Dean included, viewed him as male, due to the presentation of his vessel. He’d briefly considered trying to explain this nuance, to alleviate Dean’s stress about it, but quickly abandoned the idea, as any attempt at discussion of such things made the human flustered and defensive.

He could’ve gone on ignoring this behavior, as he had with many behaviors of humans over the years, were it not for one small detail: that Castiel had come to realize that he very much desired a different sort of relationship with the human. Many humans entered these relationships to fulfill their more base desires, but Castiel didn’t think his own interest was entirely rooted in the need for physical stimulation. He wanted something deeper than that, though he’d never quite been able to explain it, even to himself, and Dean was the only human he’d ever had such desires with. In moments of madness, he’d even considered if maybe Dean would be more at ease if Cas found a new vessel, a female one; if maybe the change might cause him to reciprocate. But some part of him worried that maybe it was just the angel himself that made Dean so uncomfortable. He supposed that was why Dean’s reaction to even the insinuation of something more between them had started to hurt so much, even though he’d long since given up the idea of telling the human of his affection. It was a nagging, burning kind of pain, but one he’d grown used to, and resolved never to reveal.

What he hadn’t expected was the hot flash of anger upon hearing the human describe his frustration. They’d gone on a hunt, just the two of them, while Sam was occupied back at the bunker. Dean’s mood had been more bitter than usual from the moment the desk clerk had asked the question, and hadn’t really improved, despite the easy hunt. Upon returning, Cas had walked down the hall to put some supplies away, and on his way back had frozen in the doorway into the war room, as Dean was recounting his latest indignity to Sam, his back turned to the angel.

“The dude actually winked at me, Sam! I mean seriously, gross. Why does everyone always assume we’re a couple ?”

Sam noticed him first, his eyes widening.“Uh, Dean...look it’s not a big deal...”

“It is a big deal!” Dean insisted. “It’s weird, and creepy, and they have no right to assume-”

Sam swallowed as he took in the angel, fuming in the doorway. “Dean, I really think you should calm down...”

Dean scowled, plowing through his protests. “I mean it’s bad enough when they do it with me and you, but Cas ?!”

“Dean, stop!” Sam shouted.

Dean froze, suddenly noticing the nervous looks Sam was throwing over his shoulder. He turned, his face going pale as he took in the angel’s expression. And Castiel knew that it was no longer the careful mask he’d perfected, that every ounce of shame and rejection and rage was storming across his face just as it was thundering through the rest of him, and for once he couldn’t bring himself to care. “Excuse me,” the angel managed through clenched teeth. The brothers stared silently after him until he made it to the bathroom at the end of the hall, slamming the door shut hard.

It wasn’t that Castiel needed to shower, but the hot rush of water over his vessel helped him focus sometimes, especially when his treacherous emotions rebelled against him. It was also a guaranteed way to be left alone, he assumed because the thought of accidentally seeing him naked might cause Dean to vomit. But now the spray did very little to calm him, even as he turned the water up to scorching. That these feelings that he shouldn’t even have , the very evidence of his defect, were now betraying him, made him feel sick. And Dean had seen it, had witnessed his weakness, and now he knew. Now he’d want even less to do with Castiel than he had before.

It was part of what Naomi had tried to erase from his mind, his attachment to Dean the fatal flaw that had foiled her plans. Some days he wished she had been successful in removing it. His continued existence would certainly have been less painful that way. But it seemed his fondness for the human was etched into his very existence, and no combination of death, grace removal, logic, intent, or mind control could dislodge it. Dean didn’t think of him that way. He never would. The angel was lucky if Dean thought of him as anything more than a powerful ally. Part of him was grateful that he could be useful, which meant he was allowed to stay in contact with the human, to be around him. Another part of him wished Dean would throw him away for good this time, so he wouldn’t have to witness his absolute disdain. He wasn’t sure which option would be less painful. Probably neither. But he supposed now he’d get to find out.

The quiet knock at the door was startling, as was the voice that followed. “Cas?”

Dean sounded almost embarrassed, but the knot in Cas’ chest only clenched tighter. “I’m busy.”

“Come on man, I know you don’t really need to shower. You’re avoiding me.”

The angel frowned at the shower wall. “That’s none of your business.”

He heard Dean sigh, and the sound of the knob jiggling, before the bathroom door opened, Dean’s silhouette appearing behind the shower curtain. “Look, I know you’re mad...can we talk?”

“It seems you’ve decided that for yourself,” Castiel answered, unable to keep the venom out of his voice.

“I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t...you weren’t supposed to hear that...”

Cas scoffed, turning the water off. “How kind of you to hide your true loathing in an effort to spare my feelings, but I happen to be a powerful celestial being, Dean, I don’t require your coddling,” he spit. “Are you going to give me a towel or would you prefer I come out naked?” A white towel was shoved through the curtain, and he scowled as he took it, wrapping it tightly around his waist. “Why are you here?” he asked while he worked up the courage to open the curtain. “I’m sure it’s because Sam insisted you apologize.”

“What? No. I mean, he did, but I...I’m worried about you. Aren’t I allowed to be worried about my friend?”

It’s the pain that has him ripping the shower curtain to the side, and Dean nearly flinched at the motion, and at the storm still brewing in the angel’s expression. “Worried about me. Right.” Dean took a deep breath before trying to respond, but his current state of undress made the human flush and look away quickly, in what Cas could only assume was revulsion. The shame burned through him, hot and sticky, and on its heels was the anger. A bitter laugh escaped the angel, and he shook his head, heading for the door. “Excuse me. I’m sure you’d rather not speak to me without a few more layers between us.” In truth, he’d like to put on every item of clothing he could find, or maybe bury himself under a pile of blankets, where Dean could never look at him like that again, where he could figure out how to squeeze all these emotions back inside their cage where they belonged.

It was Dean’s voice that stopped him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Cas scowled, fixing him with a glare. “I’m aware that you find me truly disgusting, Dean. There’s no need to discuss it any further. I’ll still be available to use my powers when you need them, and in the interim, you can drop the charade of finding my presence at all enjoyable.”

Dean’s eyebrows climbed steadily toward his hairline. “Whoa, where the hell did that come from?”

The rage returned, bright and searing, and Castiel was almost dizzy with it. “Where? Where did it...Seriously Dean, that’s your question? When not ten minutes ago you were making a diatribe against the very idea of caring for me?”

“I...that’s not what I said!” Dean insisted, the color rising in his face.

“No,” the angel agreed. “You said you find the notion some people have of us being anything more than acquaintances  ‘gross’, ‘weird’, and ‘creepy’, and that their assumption of a relationship between you and I was even worse than them assuming you were in a relationship with your own brother. Even the insinuation disgusts you, and you let it ruin your mood for days! I’m already aware that it upsets you when people think that we have had ‘relations’,” he muttered, punctuating the words with air quotes. “But then to come in here and say you’re here because you care ? Do you think I’m really that naive?” Dean stared at him, shocked and quickly going pale, and Castiel laughed again, cold and bitter. “Some days I wish you’d just stop pretending. Maybe then it would hurt less. And then to think I wouldn’t notice how utterly repulsed you are at the mere mention? In case you’ve forgotten, I’m a formidable celestial being, the sight of which would vaporize your very existence, who could smite you at any moment. I’m not your ‘pet’. I don’t need your inane human pity, and I never will, you insufferable mud monkey!”

Dean’s face crumpled, confusion and hurt playing around the edges of his expression, and the angel couldn’t bear to watch it anymore. He wrenched open the door, fleeing quickly to the room that the brothers had deemed his, though he really had no use for it. He sank down against the door, pain sharp and biting in his chest. He should leave, he knew, should turn his back on the infuriating human now that he’d heard the truth, now that he knew he was an annoyance, and a revolting one, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. Another weakness he couldn’t quite cast off. Still, the hall remained quiet, and Dean didn’t come after him, which he supposed was a fitting end to what he’d once falsely hoped might have been something resembling friendship.






He wasn’t sure how long it had been, but the pain had dulled to a familiar ache, and the rage had receded, leaving Cas cold and drained, two more things he was fairly sure he shouldn’t be capable of feeling. He was still on the floor in front of the door, as if to barricade it, but no one had come to find him. He hadn’t yet brought himself to move, but he had managed to put clothes on, and the layers helped, if only a little bit, though the images continued to run through his mind. He should leave. He knew he shouldn’t be here anymore, but something in him refused to do it. Through all of the pain and anger and rejection, he still had a soft spot for Dean. Not that the human would want him here, especially after his outburst. But he could pretend to be okay, could figure out how to keep his emotions locked away again, as he’d once done, if it meant keeping his stupid human safe. At least, he hoped he could.

He’s startled out of that particular thought by the soft knock against the door. He knew who it was even before the voice followed, could feel the pull in his chest. “Cas? Look, I know you’re pissed at me...Just...let me know you’re okay in there?”

The angel’s stomach heaved at the note of worry in Dean’s voice, sure he’d imagined it. “I don’t see why it matters,” he muttered miserably, resting his head between his knees the way humans in old TV shows did when they thought they might vomit. It didn’t help.

There was something close to a relieved sigh, and the sound of Dean sinking down against the door, his voice much closer to Cas’ head when it started up again. “You have every right to be upset...I fucked up, okay? I get that. I shouldn’t have said that stuff. But...I’m really confused out here, man. I don’t even know what the hell just happened. I haven’t seen you that mad in...shit, I don’t even know how long...”

“Are you here to ask me to leave?” Castiel inquired softly. “Because if you are, just tell me and I’ll go.”

“What? No! I don’t want you to leave, that’s not...just talk to me, Cas. You’ve been mad at me plenty of times, but I’m pretty sure you’ve never looked at me like that before. I’d really like to understand whatever the hell I did to piss you off that royally.”

Cas’ insides lurched, and he just barely resisted the urge to smack his head back against the door, if only to experience pain that could be traced to an easy, knowable source. “Why are you here?” he asked again, trying and failing to keep the tremble out of his voice.

“Because I care about you,” Dean said firmly, and Cas’ heart clenched so hard with the desire to believe him that he thought it might turn to diamond in his chest. “I know you don’t believe me, but I do, okay? We’ve been through a lot together, we...we’re family.”

And there it was, the beautiful lie that still made him feel warm and wobbly, though now it only lasted a moment before he went cold again. “It hurts, Dean,” he whispered, mostly to himself.

“Cas...please,” Dean murmured, followed by the dull thunk of his head against the door. “I wasn’t trying to upset you. Let’s just talk about this. Open the door, please.”

Castiel frowned, perplexed by the pleading note in Dean’s voice, one he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard there. “Why do you need me to open the door to talk?” he asked after a long moment.

Dean sighed. “Because, I...this is something I need to say to your face. Please don’t make me spill my guts to the hallway dude, it’s embarrassing.”

The angel considered it. Serious talks were not typically an activity Dean participated in unless he had no other choice. “Are you drunk?”

“No. God, I wish,” Dean laughed, though it sounded tired. “Figured it would kind of lose the effect if I was drunk enough to make this suck any less. Please let me in, just for a minute. If you still hate me after, well, I guess I deserve that. But let me explain first.”

Cas knew he shouldn’t open the door, that seeing Dean’s face, watching the words come out of his mouth as he told the angel he hated him would shatter him beyond repair. He should refuse, or leave, or really anything besides comply with Dean’s request.

And yet.

Had he ever refused a request from his human? He couldn’t recall a time when he’d put his own well-being above Dean’s, even to spare himself great personal anguish, and apparently that wasn’t about to change, because Cas was standing already, his hand on the doorknob. The door opened so suddenly that Dean almost tumbled backwards into the room. He pulled himself up quickly, clearing his throat, his expression a mix of relief and nerves as Cas stepped back to let him into the room. There was something else, too, something like fear, but Cas couldn’t imagine what he might be afraid of. It was the angel who should be afraid of whatever Dean was about to say. He wasn’t sure he could handle another rejection so soon. Or another lie. It was unsettling, and Cas stared mostly at the floor to steel himself. “What is it you want?”

Dean hesitated, his hands fidgeting anxiously for a moment before he shoved them into his pockets. “I...I think maybe there’s been...a miscommunication here.”

Castiel frowned at the carpet. “I think you were pretty clear when you said you’d rather be implicated in an incestuous relationship than in a relationship with me.”

“That’s not what I...” Dean started, then stopped, frowning slightly. “Oh...is that...that’s what pissed you off so much?” he asked cautiously. And Cas felt the heat rise to his face, once again betrayed by these feelings , by his own inability to keep them under control. It was probably safer to say nothing, but Dean continued to look at him curiously, even as the angel’s eyes bore into the carpet. “Cas...’s there something you need to tell me?”

I love you. I’ve always loved you. And I hate myself for it. The thoughts pushed at his mind, desperate to break free as they tried to pry open his mouth, but he couldn’t allow the weakness. He could leave this with at least some shred of dignity. All that escaped was a laugh, twisted and sour, and listing dangerously into the territory of hysteria. “You’re awfully presumptuous for someone that was begging to be let in not two minutes ago.” The tone was harsh and biting, felt wrong in his mouth, but Dean flushed and looked away, and some part of him reveled in turning the tables on the human, if only for a moment.

Dean rubbed at the back of his neck, sighing deeply. “Right, sorry, I...I just...I don’t understand. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have said that crap, but...I’ve said stuff like that a million times before, and it’s never made you go all super Saiyan on me. Why did it make you so mad this time?”

“Have you stopped to consider that maybe it’s the sheer number of times I’ve heard you say things like that? That maybe it’s not the easiest thing, to hear you obsessively rail against the idea that maybe, by some miracle, you might actually want-“

He cut himself off then, shaking his head as he forced that particular thought back. Too close, he’d come too close to letting it out and ruining everything. It was fine, he’d always known Dean didn’t share his affection, there was no reason to ruin this...whatever it was they had with his stupid feelings. He should tell Dean that he forgave him, go back to pretending...

“Want what?” Dean asked quietly, and Cas felt it surge up again.

“ME!” he shouted, realizing only by the shock taking over the human’s face that the thought had escaped him before he could stop it. The shame burned through him again, along with the panic, and when he chanced a look up he immediately wished he hadn’t. Dean’s mouth hung open in a silent oh , and he seemed frozen in place for a moment before he slowly started drifting closer. “D-Dean, I...I’m sorry...I never intended...it’s fine, I can just...” The half-formed thoughts spilled out of him as he backed up until he hit the wall, Dean still moving toward him. He was briefly shocked into silence when the hunter pressed forward, kissing him hard. He melted into it for a short, incredible moment before he remembered. This was reality, not one of his daydreams, and Dean didn’t love him.

It was excruciating, to push him away when every fiber of Cas’ being was screaming to drag him closer and not let go, but he managed, breathing hard, though it was unnecessary and did nothing to calm him. “Dean...you can’t...you can’t just do that... I can’t...I can’t fix this if you’re going to do that...please...”

Dean was still much calmer than he had any right to be, especially when, inside the angel, there was a riot . He did frown at the broken, pleading note in the angel’s voice, though. “Why can’t I?” he asked softly.

“Because, I...because I love you,” Cas choked out finally, voice shaky and frightened. “I’m so broken, I went and...I fell in love with you, and I tried not to, I really did...but I know you don’t...you don’t love me, so...I’m trying...trying to make it go away, so you won’t hate me, so you’ll still want me here, and when you...I can’t stop it when you do things like that, when you touch me, it gets all mixed up in my head, and I...”

Dean frowned slightly, and Cas watched in slow motion as his hand rose to settle on the angel’s cheek, carefully wiping away a stray tear he hadn’t realized was there. The pain seared through him again, and he made a motion somewhere between a flinch and a shudder, trying to pull away and lean in all at once. “Please...” he heard himself whimper. “It hurts...”

Something in Dean’s expression broke at that, but he removed the hand, and immediately Cas ached for it back, even as he cursed himself for it. “Oh my god,” the human muttered. “I’m such an asshole...fuck...”

Cas frowned slightly at that. “It isn’t your fault,” he managed, his instincts still pushing him to comfort the human. “You can’t help who you are and aren’t attracted to...I shouldn’t have gotten so upset. I apologize, if you just...give me some time, I can figure this out, and things can go back to how they used to be...”

“What if I don’t...want things to go back to how they used to be?” Dean asked carefully.

It was that question that made the angel drag his gaze up from the floor. “I...I’m not sure I understand...”

“Cas, I...fuck, I’m sorry. I was so concerned with trying to hide it that I didn’t realize...I’ve been putting you through hell, haven’t I?”

“It...was not pleasant,” the angel agreed.

Dean nodded, biting his lip. “How long have you known? That you loved me?”

Cas hesitated. “I’m...not exactly sure...years. My brothers and sisters...they believed that I was created...flawed. That my love of humanity is what led me to rebel against my own kind. But, since I’ve met you, I...I’ve developed a different theory. I believed I possessed a love of humanity...because I was destined to love you. Despite everything we’ve been through...it doesn’t go away. The ‘bug’ in my programming...it was you. It was always you. I love you, in every way a human can perceive love, and maybe a few that they can’t.” His voice hardened again. “But that doesn’t matter. The fact is that you don’t want me that way. Or any way, really. You can’t even bear the thought of it. So I’ll...I’ll keep it in check, when you have need of me. And when you don’t, you can stop pretending that you want me around.”

A small, surprised laugh escaped the human, and he shook his head. “Jesus Cas, I...God, I fucked this up. No wonder you were so upset. All the stuff I said...you thought all that was about you...”

The angel frowned, trying to read Dean’s expression. It was somewhere between relief and fear, and he couldn’t make sense of either emotion. “I’m...not sure who else it would be about,” he said slowly. “Unless...is there someone else you wish to be in a relationship with?”

“No!” the human said quickly. “God no. Okay, look...I should never have said that stuff, especially not the way I said it. I was upset, and it all came out wrong.”

Cas hummed in agreement. “You were being a...what is it you humans like to say? A...phallus?”

Dean’s expression softened with something like fondness. “I’m pretty sure the expression you’re looking for is that I was being a dick. And you’re right. I was. But this is what I’m trying to tell you, Cas, I...all that stuff I said, the things I was feeling...I may have said that it was about you, but...I meant it about myself.”

“What does that mean?” Cas asked, puzzled at the conflicting feelings cycling through Dean’s face.

Dean took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment before he started to pace across the floor. “It means, I...look, Cas...I’m nothing, okay? I’m just...me. I’m...broken, and angry, and I can’t talk about shit, and I drink my problems away instead of dealing with them. And you...you’re this incredible, powerful, kind, smart, funny guy...uh, being, I guess...I could never in a million years deserve anyone like you. I was shocked you’ve even stuck around this long, why on earth would someone so incredible want anything to do with me and my dumb feelings?”

Castiel raised an eyebrow at him, processing this. “I’m...still not entirely sure what you’re saying...Are you...are you saying you have...feelings, about me, that aren’t purely platonic?”

“I...I’m saying that I love you, and I’ve been so goddamn terrified that you’d hate me for it that I ended up making you think I hated you!”

Cas sucked in a breath at the admission, the sharp edge of pain slicing under his ribs. “No,” he murmured, shaking his head. “You...that can’t be true. You’re lying to me to make me feel better.”

“I’m not,” Dean insisted. “Cas, I love you. And I know I messed up, and I hurt you, and I’m so, so sorry...”

“Dean,” Cas murmured, shaking his head. “You can’t...you can’t love me. I’m...my vessel...it’s male.”

The human snorted at that. “I may be dumb, but I have noticed that much. Is that what you thought my problem was?”

“I’d considered it,” Cas admitted. “And then I thought perhaps...perhaps it was just that you didn’t like me.”

“That was never it,” Dean said softly. “The problem was...I loved you. I loved you probably more than I’ve ever loved anyone, and I...I don’t deserve you. I was scared, and trying to protect myself...and I didn’t even realize how much I was hurting you in the process. I know you don’t have any reason to forgive me, or even believe me, after the way I’ve treated you... but I...I can show you. Read my mind, and I’ll prove to you that I’m not lying.”

The angel hesitated. He wasn’t sure he could handle the confirmation of his fears, that this was just a ploy to keep him around. “Dean...are you sure about this?”

Dean nodded, coming to a stop in front of him. “I’m sure. I need to show you the truth. Please.”

Cas nodded, slowly bringing his hand up to Dean’s forehead. The push of memories is fast and distressed, but each moment they’d shared together over the years was tinged with fondness, affection. Cas searched hard, but the emotions behind them were unmistakably love, and there was no hint of any of the anger or disgust he’d feared. When the stream slowed he removed his hand, finding Dean staring at him intently. “Dean...” he started softly, then stopped, unable to untangle the many words trying to escape him.

“You see?” Dean asked. “I love you, Cas. I’ve loved you for years. I was just...too stupid and...scared to be honest with you. I didn’t want to lose my best friend. What I said earlier...I didn’t mean that the thought of being with you disgusted me more than the thought of being with my brother. I was just...with Sam, I can brush it off. But when it was you...it hurt like hell, whenever they’d say stuff like that. Because all I could think about was how wrong they were, how impossible it was that you’d want me that way. I was angry, and disgusted, but never with you. With myself, for even feeling those things for you, knowing I didn’t deserve you. I don’t get to keep the good things, Cas, not ever. I thought if I told you the truth, you’d...laugh at me, or flutter off somewhere, and I’d lose you forever. But I couldn’t stop them. I loved you, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself I couldn’t have you.”

The angel nodded slowly. “So...your discomfort was not because I have a male form?” he asked.

Dean shook his head. “No, that’s...I mean, it’s not exactly my greatest area of expertise, but that’s not why I acted the way I did. I was trying to stop myself from ruining everything. I just never realized I was hurting you too.” He shook his head, laughing slightly, though there was no humor in it. “God, I fucked it all up...I’m...an idiot, and a dick, and a...what’d you call me earlier?”

Slowly, Cas edged away from the wall and settled at the end of the bed, trying to process this strange turn of events. “An...insufferable mud monkey,” he murmured faintly.

“Yeah, that too. But I’m also horribly, insufferably in love with you. And I...I get it, if you don’t want anything to do with me now. I know this whole thing is just...messy, and complicated...and I know I hurt you, badly, for a long time. But I wanted you to know the truth.”

The angel considered him for a moment, taking in his expression, now a mix of fear and hope. “I...I could show you too,” he decided finally.

“Show me what?”

Cas shrugged. “The truth. My truth, anyway.”

Dean nodded hesitantly, moving closer and allowing Cas to touch his forehead again. He crumpled to the floor under the weight of the memories, the fear and pain and love that Cas had gone through, but he watched them all anyway, tears in his eyes by the time Cas’ hand fell away. “God,” he murmured after a moment. “I really did fuck this all up, didn’t I?”

Cas hummed softly. “I suppose you did. But...I didn’t tell you of my affection either. You got so angry at just the mention of it, I was worried you wouldn’t want me around anymore, if you knew how I really felt...”

Dean nodded slightly, biting his lip. “So...what do we do now?”

Castiel considered it for a long moment before sinking down to the floor with him. “I suppose that depends on what you want to do. I...my offer still stands. We can...we can be friends, if you prefer.”

“Is that...what you want to do?” Dean asked.

The angel smiled weakly, shaking his head. “Not really...it would still hurt. But it would be better than losing you completely.”

Dean hesitated, considering him for a moment. “Well then...if you could make the choice...what would you want to do?”

“I...I’d want you to kiss me again,” Cas murmured, the heat rising to his cheeks once more. “But I can’t...I can’t do that, if that’s all you’d want with me. I couldn’t be like the girls you pick up at bars. I think it would break me...to have you touch me that way and not desire anything more.”

The human nodded for a moment, staring down at the carpet. “And...what if I did...desire more?”

The angel looked up sharply, unable to smother the small flame of hope that sprouted in his chest. “Well then, I...I’d be very happy to explore that with you...Dean, what...what is it that you want? With me?”

Dean smiled, pink staining his cheeks for a moment. “Well, you know, I’ve done the friends with benefits thing before...but I was kinda thinking maybe it’s time to try something new. Maybe we could...give all that girly shit a try...hand holding, and...going to dinners, just the two of us...maybe even cuddling, as long as you don’t tell Sam. Look, Cas, I...I may not be real good at this, but...you’re important to me. Like really important, and...if you were willing to put up with my stupid ass...I’d really like to try...ya know, this whole...relationship shebang...It’s kind of a new thing for me, and I’ll probably be kinda shitty at it, but...you’re worth learning some new tricks for.”

Cas felt himself flush again, though now it was for an entirely new, more positive reason. “It would be new for me as well...but I’d enjoy that, Dean.”

Dean grinned, nodding and pulling the angel into a tight hug, feeling Cas melt into the contact. “It’s a plan, then... I’m so sorry, Cas. I made you feel terrible, I made you think I hated you, when really I was just...too scared to tell you the truth...”

“I’m sorry too,” the angel murmured, clinging to him tightly. “I should have been honest with you earlier. And I’m sorry for calling you a mud monkey. That was rather rude of me.”

Dean laughed, hugging him closer. “‘S okay,” he answered. “As long as I’m your mud monkey.”

The angel grinned. “Well, you’ve always been that.”

The knot in his chest finally relaxed as their hug went on far longer than Dean usually allowed, and Cas couldn’t help but melt into it, relief and exhaustion and elation growing into a heady mix. He felt the human turn to look at him after a few quiet minutes, but couldn’t quite bring himself to shift from the comfortable spot he’d found in Dean’s shoulder.

“Hey Cas?”

“Hmm?”

Dean chuckled, rubbing his back lightly. “Would it be alright if I kissed you again?”

The angel sat up at that, nodding eagerly, and Dean laughed, his hand coming up to cradle Cas’ cheek again, though this time there were no tears to wipe away. Cas leaned into the touch happily. Dean smiled, though there was a shadow of nervousness there, but pressed forward to kiss him softly. It was slower now, Cas thought, but just as sweet, and more perfect than anything he’d imagined during his years of pining. Dean broke away first, being the only one who really needed to breathe, and he grinned so wide that Cas couldn’t help but laugh before pressing forward again.

Dean loved him. The angel was almost giddy with the knowledge. He’d never thought he’d be able to say that, to have his feelings reciprocated. But now he knew beyond a doubt that the human truly, deeply loved him. Cas’ ability to experience emotions had long been a burden, but it didn’t feel that way anymore. He supposed his fatal flaw couldn’t really be that horrible, if it also allowed him to feel such astronomical joy in the arms of his stupid, beautiful human.

“Hey Dean?” he murmured after a while. The hunter raised an eyebrow at his grin. “The next time we go on a hunt...can we get a room with one bed?”

Dean just laughed, nodding and tugging him into another kiss.

And for the first time in a very, very long time, nothing hurt.