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Castiel is standing in Robert Singer’s kitchen.

It’s dark outside and the lights are off. He doesn’t mind. He’s been standing there for quite some time now and has barely noticed the change.

He was in the other room before, the room where the lights are on and Dean and Sam and Robert are around the desk, trading books and discussing unimportant matters. He was in the room with them, until Dean said he was making him uncomfortable, with his eyes on them like a hawk. So Castiel had walked out of there and into the kitchen, from where he could still hear them and keep an eye on them like he’d been instructed for the night.

Then Robert Singer walks in. He throws a look his way then turns on the lights and Castiel watches him as he opens and closes the cabinets and starts preparing dinner.

He doesn’t expect it when he puts down the knife, turns on his heels and addresses him.

“Alright, listen,” he starts, gruffly, avoiding eye contact. He keeps his voice low, so as not to be heard from the other room. “I know it wasn’t really up to you, but I still - I guess I wanted to say thank you for bringing my boy back in one piece.”

Castiel immediately knows he is talking about his mission in Hell to save Dean. He nods in a gesture that conveys understanding although he does not fully understand what makes Singer claim Dean Winchester as his own and feel bonded to him by something that goes beyond biology.

Castiel studies his face for a long moment. It’s half turned in what seems to be embarrassment, and that also escapes Castiel’s understanding.

“I thought I’d never see him again,” he adds and lets out a shaking breath.

Castiel senses grief and sorrow that run deep. He senses that the man is about to weep. He doesn’t know what to say to offer comfort. What he did was not on his own initiative. He had orders and he executed them, so he’s not sure he deserves this man’s gratitude. He says “We made sure he was not harmed.”

Robert doesn’t say anything else, he just clears his throat and looks towards the other room.

Castiel follows his gaze. Dean’s leaning back in his chair. Castiel calculates the probabilities for it to tip over but there’s no danger. Dean is making faces at his brother who seems to be annoyed at him. Sam says “God, will you shut up?” and Dean laughs.

At Castiel’s side, Robert Singer huffs and curls his lips in something that resembles a smile; Castiel senses pride and affection, glowing and expanding and growing tall inside of him like baobabs.

Castiel focuses back on the very same scene and tries to see what he sees, feel what he feels. Or anything. But there’s nothing growing in him, only scorched earth with just poor imitations of weak seedlings.

Then Dean, still with his head thrown back, catches them watching.

Robert turns away quickly and busies himself with the oven and that leaves Dean to fix his gaze on Castiel who keeps staring back, unwavering.

Dean has a ghost of a smile on his lips.

He raises his eyebrows. “You okay there, angel? Need something?”

He is curious, teasing. Castiel knows that he spends a lot of time thinking about him. Castiel doesn’t intrude in his thoughts, even if he could. Dean told him that he’s got a right to his privacy and Castiel respects that. So he doesn’t know what he thinks about him but he senses that he does nonetheless. He knows he’s an anomaly in Dean’s life. He didn’t believe in his very existence before seeing him in that barn. Dean learned a lot from that day forward.

Castiel find himself thinking that he’s done just the same.

“I don’t need anything,” he says.

Dean raises one eyebrow, tilts his head, pursues his lips.

“Well if you ever change your mind - ” he says smirking, looking at him up and down. Sam scoffs behind him.

Castiel doesn’t understand the exchange, nor what he’s implied but he thinks that asking for clarification would show his ineptitude. He stays silent and lets his gaze travel on Dean’s body, his legs, his arms, his hands, the freckles on his cheekbones, the space between his nose and his upper lip.

“Hey,” Dean shifts on his chair, now frowning. His tone has changed as well, it’s sharper, “what do you want?”

Castiel meets his eyes again and something stirs in him.

He is surprised and terrified to learn that there are things that he wants. He wants to know, to understand. He wants to step closer, to touch. He thinks of Anna’s hand on his. The little seedlings grow an inch taller and the scorched earth inside of him smells of rain and fertile soil.

His eyes widen slightly at the scary and uncontrolled feeling that has him unbalanced. It’s bad.

He blinks and when he opens his eyes again he is outside, in the cold air of the night. The sensation that overwhelmed him quickly dissipate. He is safe, and from under the window of the living room, he can still hear the voices inside.

“What just happened?” Sam is asking.

“Hell if I know,” is Dean’s reply but his tone is evasive and thoughtful and Castiel feels Dean’s thoughts tugging at his grace for the rest of the night.