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Under the Same Sun

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now we are under the same sun
feel it through the leaves; let it heal us

Dean drives until it feels right to stop. How long has it been? How long since the memory of a barn, the smell of hay, a white-hot pain in his back that was gone almost as soon as he realized what it meant, and his brother's hands on his arms, Dean's forehead on his shoulder, and Sam's eyes --

But the pain doesn't last long. Dean observes it almost neutrally, aware that that's how he died, but he can accept it, somehow. The memory flickers in and out of focus as he drives, a sense of peace that's so unnatural curling through him that it almost makes him pull over and try to take a few deep breaths. Is it possible to be this at peace? To be this... off guard? He's spent his whole life running, looking over his shoulder for monsters, for demons, for the things that go bump in the night trying to take Sam away from him, for his father -- and now he realizes he never even locked Baby's doors when he got into the car.

On the bridge, he's dimly aware of some passage of time, but really only once he feels Sam behind him. It's an odd sensation, actually, and Dean thinks as he drives Sam back to the Roadhouse that time almost feels like taffy here, pulling and twisting and stretching, but then you can squish it back together again.

When they get back, Bobby's still on the porch, and Dean wonders again if any time has passed at all. Or is that even a thing that happens anymore? Should he stop trying to mark the hours, the days, the minutes, and instead just... be?

"Yeah, took me a while to adjust to it too," Bobby says, Dean back on the porch, beer in his hand. Sam is visiting their parents, but Dean hasn't felt ready to see anyone yet. The bigness of where he is, the smallness of how he got here; it's all been too much to process and, he supposes, he needed a lifetime to start to figure out how he felt about it. Sam's lifetime, it turns out, though it didn't feel like anything to Dean.

"Feels wrong to feel like nothing's wrong." Bobby takes a sip of his beer, gazing out at the horizon, and Dean nods, the perspiration from the beer cold against his fingertips, and it's hard not to marvel at that, either, because he can feel it so -- perfectly. The dewy, cool glass feels just as it would've before, but not even in a physical sense; it feels like every time he ever sat down at the end of a long day and grabbed a beer out of the fridge, and that itself was satisfying.

"I don't know if I can get used to this," Dean says finally, honestly, and he wonders how that frank admission could be allowed here when it hurts him to say it.

Bobby's eyes are sad too when he looks over at Dean, but his smile is fond, and he finishes his beer then gets up to put a hand on Dean's shoulder.

"Give it time, boy. Or whatever it is we got now."

"Bobby?" Karen leans out of the Roadhouse, a smile on her face when she spots Dean. Dean's eyes are wide when he looks back to Bobby again, and Dean's aware that maybe he should've guessed that this is how Heaven would go, but he's still acclimating to this idea that here, family really doesn't end in blood -- the kind of blood that he's used to spilling, that he's used to washing off his hands after a hunter's funeral pyre.

Bobby gives Dean a yeah, you're seein' that right kind of smile, and then waves Karen on.

"Be right there." She slips back inside and Bobby looks out at the horizon again before turning back to Dean. "Don't do it alone, Dean," he says finally. "Don't try to figure this out all on your own. That's the best part of this place; you don't have to, not anymore."

He goes in, and Dean sits for a while longer -- he guesses, or maybe it's no time at all, just time enough for him to think about why it still feels like something's missing even when Sam's just down the road with their parents, talking about his son. For Dean, it was always just the two of them, just him and Sam, but Sam was always good about that other part of life; he had an easier time stepping out and building something for himself. Here at the end of everything, Dean wonders what it was that he managed to build -- not what he was able to keep standing, but what he built from scratch, just for him.

Time must do something, or else they just turn the lights down sometimes, to give everyone a little bit of everything, because the sun starts to set. People come and go, pat Dean on the shoulder, share a drink with him; he should probably be drunk by now, but he thinks the days of blacking out on top of an empty bottle of whiskey are over now. It's quiet again, eventually, or all at once, and he's alone, and the trees are rustling with a gentle breeze and there's nothing lurking in the dark, waiting to get him.

He hears a sound he hadn't thought he'd ever hear again -- the flutter of wings -- and suddenly there's Cas beside him, smiling, and Dean experiences two things at once; the first is a kind of happiness so intense, so vibrant that it blinds him a little bit and sends him careening into the other thing he's feeling, which is a kind of fear, of uncertainty, of painful anticipation, of unasked questions and unspoken thoughts.

"Hello, Dean," Cas says, and Dean's eyes are already starting to tear up because Goodbye, Dean had been in his dreams for months: every time he opened his eyes in the morning, every time he opened the trunk and saw the coat.

"Cas." He drinks in this sight of Cas whole and happy, and watches, almost waiting for the mirage to float away again as Cas crosses to the seat Bobby had been in hours ago, seconds ago.

Cas sits back and rests his arms on the chair, looking out at the sunset that Dean guesses he'd helped make, and still Dean has nothing to say.

"You... Bobby said you helped Jack do all this," he manages finally, trying to reconcile the two images of Cas he has in his mind now, like he'd had to do with the memory of his own death and his current reality. One image is of Cas here, and the other is of Cas in a dingy, dark room, but both have the same contented look on their face. Dean wonders where he fits into that, but can't quite put that feeling to words, not yet.

Cas nods, a gentle smile at the corner of his mouth. "Jack reset the balance for a lot of things. He restored Earth, but he also restored peace to the Empty. And, while he was at it, brought back any angel who wished to be restored," Cas opens his hands, as if he needed to tell Dean that he meant himself, "and a few demons."

Dean raises his eyebrows. "Crowley?"

"Is in Hell, with Rowena." He hesitates, another smile touching his lips. "Meg is here, though."

God, Meg. Dean remembers that night -- that was when Cas beat the shit out of him, when Naomi was controlling him, when Dean was on his knees and he'd said... He'd almost said... Then Cas was gone again.

The truth is, he didn't tell Sam because the kid deserved a rest, but he did try to get Cas out of the Empty. He looked for ways to open it back up, to get back in and pull Cas out, but it seemed like Jack had pretty well slammed that door shut. Dean had assumed when he fixed Earth that Jack just plugged up all the holes, but now he guesses it was a little more complicated than that.

"And then Jack and I set about restoring Heaven," Cas continues, looking out at the horizon again.

"So you're a head honcho here?" Dean asks, flashing back on a Cas with deceit and intent in his eyes, standing in an angel trap, and Cas shakes his head.

"No." In his voice, Dean hears a firmness to that, a totality, and he knows that Cas is seeing the same thing in himself. "More like... assistant manager. I help keep an eye on things, and remind people that someone's looking after them. We have a team of people who help run things, human and angel alike. Ash and Charlie are in charge of communications, and Kevin has started a kind of support group for the souls that have been stuck in the Veil. Some of them are having a difficult transition."

Hearing those names is a strange feeling, and Dean tries to imagine all those familiar faces finding some kind of peace here, something he couldn't give to them on Earth. The silence stretches out between them, long and companionable. Cas grabs a beer at some point, and the two of them sit, watching the sky slowly turn to a deep, infinite blue.

"It's hard to imagine that there could be..." Dean trails off, his voice too thick suddenly, and Cas finishes the thought.

"Peace?" He nods, and when he looks at Dean, something catches in his throat because Cas's eyes are soft, fond, loving, and it's too much to take in. "I know what you mean. But you earned it, Dean." Cas's voice is firm, the same insistent tone he'd taken when he was telling Dean about how much he cared, about how much he loved, about how he'd changed Cas in some way. "Even if you died not long after I saved you," he says with a wry, fond twist to his smile, "you earned this."

Dean blinks, nods, unable to respond to that, and he takes a long drink of his beer. This is probably when he should say something, and the silence that falls between them now is less companionable and more decidedly empty. After a moment, Cas finishes his beer and stands.

"Well, I..." His eyes are sad as he looks sideways at Dean, and then he gestures. "The bunker is over there. Jack and I restored it as it was. But you can stay wherever you want," he adds hastily.

Before Dean can reply, there's a flutter of wings, and Cas is gone. He'd forgotten how annoying that was, he thinks, warmly.

~

It turns out Ash and Charlie being in charge of "communications" meant that cell phones work in Heaven, which is convenient because it actually turns out that Dean has a lot of friends. He's never had this many alive -- or whatever this is -- all at one time, and it's kind of overwhelming. There are calls and texts, and people showing up at the Roadhouse, and it's all one big blur of familiar face after familiar face, one reunion bleeding into the next family dinner, and in between it all, sometimes Dean forgets to feel lonely.

Sometimes, though, it's too much, and one night when Dean slips outside, Charlie tags along after him -- his Charlie -- and they wind up in the bunker watching Netflix because, Charlie insists, it wouldn't be Heaven without streaming television. When else would anyone have the time to catch up on all their shows?

It's after the fifth episode of Killjoys when they break for food that Charlie touches him on the arm.

"Hey. You gonna fill me in on everything I missed?"

It takes more than dinner to catch her up, and they wind up in his room again, side by side on the bed, and eventually Charlie throws a leg over his so she can prop her head up and look at him sideways, and Dean remembers with a distant pang what it was like with Sam when they were little.

"Wow," she says finally, her eyes wide as she takes it all in. "Well, I guess have you to thank for saving the world. Again. So thanks. But there's one thing I don't understand..."

"One thing?" Dean asks, and she smacks his arm.

"Har, har, Colonel Mustard. No, you said Cas saved you," she starts, and Dean fidgets, suddenly and unexpectedly uncomfortable. "He had a deal with the Empty. What was the deal?"

It's funny; no one's actually thought to ask Dean that until now, but leave it to Charlie to find all the plotholes. He stiffens, his hand creeping around his arm, holding on as he lets himself go back to that moment. Usually, he's running away from it.

"He, uh..." Can you lie in Heaven? Maybe he's about to find out, but then he looks over at Charlie, earnest beside him, and he wonders: why bother? This is Charlie, and maybe -- maybe -- he wants to talk about this after all. Where it feels almost impossible with his brother, with Charlie -- with his sister, maybe, it feels less impossible. "The deal was he could live until he felt a moment of pure happiness, and then the Empty would grab him."

Charlie frowns. "Pure happiness? What made him so happy when you were both about to get killed?"

Dean closes his eyes. He remembers the speech almost word for word, but he's not really about to recite it all. "Um. He said... He said that I changed him, that I taught him how to care about the world. That he... He loved me." The words don't come easy, but they come, and Dean doesn't look at Charlie, though he can feel her sit up straighter.

"Um, what?"

"Yeah, I don't know," Dean says quickly, opening his eyes again, shrugging. "He said a bunch of stuff about me. That because of me, he could care about everyone else."

"What did you say?" Charlie's cross-legged next to him now, and Dean suddenly feels like he's in Grease, about to burst into song and start doing Charlie's hair. He hates it; he hates that this is so mundane, so easy, so almost gossip-y because this is Cas they're talking about.

"I... There wasn't time to say anything." Dean shrugs, and Charlie grabs his shoulder, giving him a look.

"You didn't say anything? Well, have you seen him since you got up here?"

Dean shrugs, nods, and Charlie gives his shoulder a shake.

"Dean. You're a dingus."

"No, it's not like that," he's already saying, trotting out another familiar speech, though this is one he's only said to himself. "He's an angel. He doesn't feel stuff like humans do; he said it himself. I helped him learn how to care about humanity, and that's what made him happy."

Charlie is silent for a bit too long, and when Dean looks over, he almost flinches under the severity of her glare.

"Let me get this straight. You think that was his moment of pure happiness?" She lifts her eyebrows. "You think that was it? A big thank you?" She whops him on the shoulder again. "Dingus."

"Ow," Dean protests. "What?"

"Dean, you don't say 'thank you' to someone and have it be some big moment of happiness, big enough to literally kill you. Okay?" Dean starts to argue, but she holds up a hand. "What else did he say? Come on, out with it, Winchester. I know you're holding back. It's all over your big, stupid, repressed face."

He scowls at her, but he's also aware enough to realize that he's having a very normal conversation about this, that Charlie hasn't blinked, except for when she hit him. That sense of normalcy is back, and he wonders how much of that is Heaven's influence or not. How much of his emotions are his own here? How much can he blame Heaven for how the tightness in his chest isn't quite as tight as it used to be whenever he thought about this? Or is it that, now that he's dead, he has to wonder: what does it matter anymore?

"He said that he wasn't even sure what his happiness would be until just then," Dean starts, defensive, but Charlie narrows his eyes and gestures impatiently for him to go on. "Because he... He said the one thing he wanted was something he knew he couldn't have. That he was happy just saying it."

There's a beat, and then, "Excuse me?" Charlie hits him again, harder this time, and Dean finds out that there's still pain in Heaven.

"Ow! That one actually hurt," he grumbles.

"Good! You're a moron. What about that didn't read 'big secret crush' to you?"

"No." Dean is already shaking his head hard. "No, he's an angel; he doesn't -- "

"What, feel romantically? Well, have you ever asked him that?" At his silence, Charlie sighs. "Yeah, I didn't think so." She goes silent for a moment, still, and Dean watches her as she builds up to something that she seems hesitant to say.

"How would you feel about that?" she asks softly, the one question that Dean had wished she wouldn't ask.

"What do you mean?" His voice is gruff, already hardening over.

"Your best friend maybe, probably, has a big, fat angel crush on you, and he's..." She lifts an eyebrow. "Y'know, he-shaped. How do you feel about that?"

Dean is silent. Again. How does he feel about that? The funny thing is that he'd done such a good job convincing himself that what Cas had said hadn't meant that, that he hadn't really done any exploring of his own feelings. That's because, though, they're locked behind a door that he slammed shut years ago, when he was a teenager spending a rare three months in one place, in one school, and he made a friend with deep brown eyes and an awkward athleticism that led Dean to coach him on basketball moves until well after practice was over, and he needed to get home to Sam, or the motel they were calling home those days.

The next time he'd tried opening that door, he was a little older, drunk, a man now, or so his father said before he punched Dean for screwing up a hunt and letting the vamp get the better of him. Dean found himself at a bar, feeling a dark, hot shame in him, and so what was a little more shame when the bartender asked him if he'd like another round after closing and flashed him wicked green eyes and a charming smile? So what was a little more shame if it let Dean tap into some part of him that desperately needed attention?

After that, though, it was easier to forget all that, all those urges, because -- well -- Dad went on a hunt and didn't come back. There was hardly any time for flirting, for sex, for feelings. The few times he had the opportunity, they all slipped away from him again like there just wasn't space in his life to make it happen. Even if he wanted to, even if he let himself dream, here and there, about when it might all be over and he'd settle down. Sam was always better at that than he was.

Then there was Cas. Sometimes it felt like Cas had always been there, and Dean guessed he was on some level, since the moment that Dean crawled out of a hole in the ground. Dean and Sam had always been a duo, but Sam was always tethered just a little less tightly than Dean. Then suddenly Dean had a guardian angel all to himself, and then a best friend, and then --

"Dean?" Charlie prompts softly, and her hand slides down his arm, giving a gentle squeeze now.

He blinks, coming back into himself, and he glances sideways at Charlie and back at the foot of the bed.

"Uh, yeah, I don't..." He clenches his jaw and thinks about how he should have an easy answer for that. That he's not gay, but it's not like he feels threatened by Cas; it's Cas. Sure, this makes things awkward now, and maybe they should have some space from each other for a while, but -- no, that's the end of it. Instead, though, that feeling, leftover from a forever ago when he was a skinny, scared kid in the gym with his father watching him get a little too close to a friend, seems so far away now. Dean's lived a whole lifetime since then -- a couple of them, if you count all the times he died along the way -- and is he the same person as he was then? Does he want to be?

"I don't know," he finally says.

"Oh." She slides back next to him and loops an arm around his shoulders, awkward because of their height difference, but she pulls him close against her side regardless. "What flavor of 'I don't know'?"

Dean takes a shaky breath and then lets it out in a rush. Is he really just pouring it all out like this, finally, after years? Is this what Heaven is for?

"Dean, you can tell me," she says gently, and then when Dean scrubs a hand over his face in response, she nudges his side, trying to catch his eye with a smile. "Was I right? That you had a little too easy of a time helping me flirt with that guard? Huh?"

His laugh is a broken sound, and then he's got his hand over his eyes again, and Charlie is pulling him tighter.

"Or is it just a Cas thing?"

The air feels thick, like it's getting stuck in his lungs, and every moment here is like a new revelation in how this place is and isn't like he'd thought it would be. His death is an abstract concept, but the pain of watching Cas die in front of him (again) is just as real as it was then (and the time before that, and the time before...). Time is hard to measure, but he's fully present here, now, with Charlie warm against him and the sheets soft underneath him, and the bed feels just like it did the first time he fixed it up right. No, he was never comfortable with this part of himself, but maybe Heaven is the place where he finally pulls that wall down. After all, what's he got left to lose? He already has literally everyone else he's ever lost -- except Cas.

"I told myself a long time ago," he stops, feeling Charlie's eyes on him, "that I was done with that. I couldn't be... that, and then after a while, it just didn't seem like it was in the cards for me either way."

His confession sits heavy between them, or at least it seems that way to Dean, and he feels a strange ache like he cut an infection out and now has to wait for it all to heal over. He knows that Charlie isn't going to judge him, but even then he only knows that on a hypothetical level. She could still judge him -- not that she ever has for anything before, not that she isn't gay herself, but still.

Charlie hugs him closer with her head against his shoulder, and after a while, Dean snakes an arm around her and hugs her back.

"You really are a disaster bi, aren't you?" she murmurs into his shirt finally, and Dean freezes, but she's grinning when she sits up. "I mean. Huge moment for you. I'm so proud of you. I love you, I support you, all that. Whatever you need, I'm here for you. But come on, dude. How long have you been sitting on the fact that Cas is in love with you, and you -- ?" She breaks off, raising her eyebrows.

Dean swallows thickly and shakes his head before he leans it back against the headboard.

"I can't," he manages.

"Why not? Hey." She touches his shoulder, and he opens his eyes. Her face is softer now. "Why not?"

He used to have a thousand excuses ready for that one, but he can't seem to find any that are worth bringing up now. His dad flashes into his mind then, and Dean tries to imagine taking Cas around to his dad's, and he just can't put it together; but his mom...

"Dude, you are in Heaven. The time is now. Everyone would be happy for you," she adds, trying to catch his eye again, trying to find the root of whatever it is that has Dean still sitting here, frozen. "Seriously. And if not, I'll punch 'em."

The mental image of Charlie decking his dad is enough to make him huff a laugh, and Charlie brightens at the sound of it. Somewhere in him, he knows she's right. He knows it, and he can almost accept it.

"Does this place mess with your head?" he asks, half playing it as a joke, but he's studying her now.

"You mean... Are these feelings yours, or is this place pushing you to be happy?" She nails it, and Dean nods, the joke fading quickly. Charlie shakes her head.

"This place... Near as I can guess, it's an amplifier. Everything that makes you human is still there, but everything is just a little more... more. I play a game I've played a million times, and it feels like the first time, but only when I really want it to. I can be bored still; people can still annoy me. I can still burn my popcorn; I can hate the finale of my favorite TV show. But... the things I didn't like about myself," she starts, "those don't seem to get in the way as much. At least, they're not immobilizing. You know? I can deal with it a little better. I can... I can look at my mom and not see her in the hospital."

She pulls away from Dean and draws her knees up to her chest, hugging them to herself.

"I still get sad. I still feel like I'm me, just... a little bit happier. A little more..."

"At peace?" Dean fills in, remembering Cas outside of the Roadhouse, and she cracks a smile.

"Yeah. So, no. I don't think this place is forcing you to embrace your sexuality and step out of the closet." Dean blanches, and she pokes his ribs. "I think that's all on you. You're ready."

Dean lets that sit for a moment, and then he finds that he's blinking back a tear or two.

"Yeah, alright," he says gruffly, and he starts looking for the remote. "Well, don't -- start a pride parade for me or something."

"Oh, you're coming to Pride. First, we need to organize one, but then you're definitely coming." She grins at him and they settle in to finish their show.

~

It was one thing to reconcile everything with Charlie; it's another to figure out just what exactly he's going to do about it. He can say that he -- yeah -- he wants to fit Cas back into his life, maybe wants a little more than that, but really underneath it all, all he wants is Cas back in the bunker. He wants to walk into the kitchen and find Cas fiddling with the coffee pot. He wants to stumble out of his room in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and find Cas reading and spend an extra twenty minutes having a midnight snack with him. He wants to figure out what to do with this slice of eternity with Cas.

Because Dean knows: Sam's going to leave him. Sam might be in the bunker for now, but soon enough, Eileen will join him; soon enough, other Dean will be here, and Sam will want a life of his own, a house of his own. It was always just the two of them, but in the end, Sam never belonged to Dean.

As he sits in the bunker, trying to figure out if he's about to do this, he wonders about how Cas has belonged to him this whole time, even though Dean always felt like he was losing him to Heaven and angel bullshit and that Cas was always one stiff breeze away from blowing away from him for good. It didn't help that he kept dying either. And so Dean pushed; Dean didn't stop him when Cas walked out. It was going to happen anyway, right? And if he'd really wanted, he would've stayed. So he thought then.

How much time did they waste? But he's counting chickens here, and -- isn't that what they have now? Time?

"Cas," Dean starts, his voice barely above a whisper. He has Cas's number; Cas has come to the family dinners, sat in the Roadhouse with them, met everyone that he hadn't had the chance to meet yet, and through it all, Dean managed to avoid needing to be alone with him. Finally, Bobby had snatched Dean's phone out of his hand and punched Cas's number into it. But he doesn't want to text Cas; this is bigger than that.

"Hey, um... I need to talk to you, man. I know you're busy, but I guess -- I mean you gotta still be able to hear this, right?"

"Yes, I can."

Dean nearly falls out of his chair, but Cas is in front of him, smiling, smug, a little shit. Again, he'd forgotten what it was like for Cas to have his wings, and though his heart's about to beat out of his chest, he's glad to see Cas like this again, like -- himself.

"Hello, Dean." Cas pulls a chair out and sits down with a sigh, leaning his head back in the chair.

"Long day?" Dean doesn't exactly know what it is that Cas does because any time he tries to explain, it starts to sound like blah blah, physics and molecules and politics, but Dean knows that he is involved in helping to keep everyone settled and happy.

"You could say that. Time is a construct here, though." He straightens up again, rubbing a hand at the back of his neck. Dean's reminded of a house, an impending apocalypse, a trapped archangel, an angry sexworker. "Angel politics. For the most part, they're content that there's an active presence ruling over things, but..." He trails off and gives a small, self-conscious shrug. "I did kill a lot of them."

"Yeah, that... That can't be good for morale." Dean's acutely aware now of how different Cas is from that first time he saw him in the barn, and even though Cas is fully juiced again, even though he's assistant manager to Heaven, that otherworldliness hasn't come back to him. He still looks like he fits into the bunker, here, with Dean.

"Hardly." He drops his hand into his lap and looks at Dean now, soft and happy and gentle, and there's another memory popping up now, just after Purgatory the first time, with Cas rifling through his dad's journal as he sits on Dean's bed. "What's going on, Dean? Are you okay?"

Dean nods at first, and then manages to dig up the words. "Yeah, I'm fine, just... wanted to talk to you."

Cas looks mildly surprised, and maybe a little cautious, but he sits up straighter and fixes Dean with a look that's all concern, all openness, all kindness. Dean balks under the weight of it, so he clears his throat and then gestures at the glass in front of him, but he's already up under the excuse of pouring a glass for Cas before he really agrees. With his back to Cas, he feels a little more steady; he pours the whiskey, then sets the bottle back down with a soft clink.

"I wanted to talk about what you said back..." Dean trails off, losing the thread already; a bad sign.

"When I summoned the Empty?" Cas supplies, and Dean looks sharply over his shoulder.

"Yeah. That."

Cas fidgets in his seat, and some of that confidence of a moment ago fades. "What about it?" he says finally, bringing his eyes back up to Dean's.

Dean scoffs, but he brings Cas his drink and sets it down in front of him.

"What about it? You just dropped that in my lap, Cas." Probably he should've planned a speech, but while Dean is typically prepared for many things, an emotional conversation is rarely one of them.

"To be fair, I thought I would never see you again," Cas says like that makes anything better, and Dean's face probably tells him that that's kind of a bullshit thing to say without Dean needing to add anything.

But Dean stops himself before he pushes, before he starts something that would just distract him from what it is that he's trying to do here. He shakes his head and tries again, sitting back down in his seat.

"When you said that you..." Dean stops, and again, Cas saves him.

"When I said that I loved you?" It's amazing sometimes how gentle Cas can look when Dean also knows exactly what he's capable of, the power that hums just beneath the surface.

"Yeah. What did you mean?" Dean immediately feels like a 14-year-old girl about to braid someone's hair again, and he practically scowls to himself. Cas is across from him, frowning now, his eyes narrowed. It's a familiar look, and Dean knows it well.

"What do you mean 'what did I mean'?"

God, this is going terribly, and Dean scrubs his hand over his face, trying to think of some way to salvage it, but he thinks he's just going to have to dive in.

"You said something about... wanting and having and being," Dean says, trying again, but also trying his best to skirt around all the words that still feel too big to say, that feel wrong somehow, stated so plainly, as if everything he and Cas are to one another could be summed up so easily.

Cas's eyes flick away as he nods once, slowly, warily, but he doesn't say anything else. Annoyingly. That leaves it to Dean who has to fidget in his seat, put his hands together on the table, try to figure out where and how this conversation should go, which is just overall a terrible idea.

"What did you want, Cas?" Dean's voice is soft, but still Cas almost flinches, his eyes still on some spot in the corner. Dean ducks his head to try to catch his eye, and again, he's flashing back to a time long ago, when it was just him and Cas against the world. Cas's eyes are uncertain, half apologetic.

"I didn't want anything to change," he says, not answering Dean's question. "I didn't -- I don't need anything to be different than it always has been, Dean, please -- "

But he cuts off whatever bullshit Cas was about to say with a sharp wave of his hand. His heart is thrumming, his blood pumping, adrenaline coursing through him telling him to run away from this because this? It might not be a bunch of clown-skull-wearing mimepires in a barn, but that at least, in its own weird way, had been familiar. This, now, is not something Dean's ever felt comfortable with.

"Not what I asked."

Cas's mouth was still open, and he shuts it then, annoyed, stuck, and he sits back, studying Dean with a painful intensity that shouldn't still give Dean goosebumps, but it does. Finally, Cas shrugs one shoulder.

"I wanted us to be us, just..." He trails off, inclining his head slightly, looking for the word. "More." When he looks at Dean again, his face is wide open, and that ghost of an apology is long gone, replaced with a Cas that was almost defiant, contentedly so.

Even though Dean didn't have a lot of excuses left for thinking anything different than that, the simple sincerity of Cas's words, of Cas's feelings, finally strewn out on the table in front of him -- it knocks the air out of him, and Dean almost feels the room tilt. Charlie was right, of course, and is probably right about how Dean doesn't have anything to be afraid of, but that doesn't make this any easier.

Cas is watching him closely, and he hasn't moved an inch. Dean's hand is still hovering in the space between them. Dean's mouth works, opening and shutting, licking his lips, and Cas's eyes never leave him. Finally, Dean decides that actions have always been a little easier for him, harder to screw up, and he drops his hand to the table, palm up, outstretched toward Cas.

Cas is an odd mix of amazement, confusion, and suspicion, and he looks from Dean to his hand and back again, like he's not sure what it is that Dean expects him to do with this. Dean flexes his fingers out toward him, reaching.

"More?" he asks, keenly aware of how Charlie had described Heaven, and afraid to let himself say anything more than that. Cas hitches a breath across from him.

"Dean..." he starts, with maybe a tear or two welling up in his eye, and Dean can't fucking take that, so he smacks his hand insistently against the table.

"Would you -- ? I'm trying to do a thing here, man." What it is, he doesn't know, but Cas gives a watery smile and finally takes Dean's hand. He'd expected it to feel electric. It wouldn't be the first time they've done this, but every other time, one or the other had been bleeding, or dying, or the world was falling down around their ears. This time, there's only the hum of the machines in the bunker, as familiar to Dean now as any home's ever been, and when Cas's fingers slide over his skin, there's a reverence, a care, like Sam when he's handling some new, fragile book he dug out of the archives. It isn't electric at all, but warm like a fireplace, and Cas's hand fits neatly into his, grips him firmly.

There's silence, and Dean couldn't say how long it lasts, not with the squiggly way time passes in this place. It might be the span of another lifetime on Earth, someone else growing up, living, dying in the time it takes for Dean and Cas to look at their hands on the table, with the names of Dean's family carved into the wood just a few inches away. It might be no time at all before Dean draws a breath, as best he can.

"Cas, I... I'm not good with this stuff," he says finally by way of apology, and really, he hasn't had all that much practice. It'd never felt right, even when he had it and he was happy in some way or another, but somehow, this feels like something Dean can hold onto it.

"I..." Dean stops himself, shaking his head, and decides -- well, if they're sharing the things that they want...? "Stay." He holds Cas's hand tighter. "I don't know what you do with your... assistant managing, but when you're done for the day -- " He shoots Cas a hard look when he opens his mouth to say something about how time is meaningless, and Cas shuts his mouth again. "Come back here. Come back to -- to me."

It's the closest Dean can get to those three words, and anyway, he thinks it's more accurate. It's not just that there's love here; it's that there's a life here, together, the two of them, and it's something that belongs entirely, completely, to Dean.

After a moment, Cas squeezes his hand back, a slow smile on his face.

"I'd like that."

Dean nods, like that's settled, but really, now he has no idea what to do. Should he kiss Cas? Does he want to kiss Cas? That's maybe a silly question, considering, but the honest truth is that the thought has never occurred to Dean. Instead, he clears his throat, and goes to pull his hand away, but Cas is reluctant to let go. Fondness seizes Dean's chest, taking the place of the anxiety that had been there before, and he smiles at Cas.

"Let's make dinner."

~

Though they're a little quieter than usual, there's an aching comfort in the way the two of them move around each other in the kitchen. Dean's doing most of the action, but Cas alternates between watching and helping, doing as Dean asks, setting the table, hovering about in Dean's space, but Dean can't say if he's any closer than usual, or if Dean is just paying closer attention.

They eat, and Cas tells him more about how he's been helping to establish an infrastructure that would allow the souls in Heaven to build something for themselves; Dean tells him about how he ran into Victor Henriksen, blast from the past, and the two of them had a beer together.

After, they bump elbows as they do the dishes, sneaking glances at one another, until eventually they're sharing a smile, back and forth, every time they touch, and Dean's filling up with a feeling that he's hesitant to name because it feels like happiness, like giddiness, like a goddamn teenager who snuck his boyfriend in while his parents were out, except Dean didn't really get to have that kind of thing, and instead now he's a 40-year-old man, dead, standing in Heaven with the angel that he's asked to stay with him for the rest of time, and Dean isn't sure what to do with himself.

At some point, he decides it would be best to flick the soapy water at Cas. If he's feeling like a teenager, he may as well act like one, right? Cas freezes, looks down at the bubbles on his coat, at Dean with a dish in his hand and mischief in his eyes, and Cas grins back. He flicks water back at Dean, aiming higher, getting soap on Dean's cheek. Dean wipes it off with a shrug of his shoulder, nodding, pursing his lips as he sets the plate down and casually shakes his hands over the sink.

Cas has angel senses, but he's not quick enough to dodge when Dean grabs the sprayer and turns it on Cas, full force.

Cas throws a hand up and sputters, stumbling away from the sink, and Dean lets him out of his misery; he primly returns the hose to the sink and puts his hands on his hips, grinning, his heart racing in his ears, heat flushing his face because god, he's freaking flirting with Cas, he thinks. That is what this is, isn't it? It's all still too big for him to really turn over in his mind, and it keeps him rooted to the spot as he watches Cas shake his head, reach up and rub at his eyes, look down at his coat, and back up at Dean.

He gives Dean an amused, yet annoyed, look as he moves back to the sink and starts mopping at himself with the towel he'd been using to dry the dishes.

"Aw, Cas," Dean says, still grinning, as he picks his beer up from the counter and leans back against it, taking a sip. "No hard feelings?"

"No," Cas says, and then he turns to Dean with the hose in his hand and sprays him, one quick, but thorough, burst of water. "No hard feelings." He returns the hose with an unceremonious plunk as it slides back into place, and he turns to face Dean, seemingly at ease, but there's a growing tension in the air. Dean's eyes dart to the hose; Cas's follow. They look at each other for a second longer, and then they both dart for the sprayer.

Cas is an angel, and closer to the sink anyway, so he gets there first and starts spraying Dean until he's soaked through his shirt. Dean grabs up the dish towel and holds it up like a cape at a bullfight, using it to block water as he approaches Cas, who's backing up as far as the hose will let him, until Dean's close enough to grab his wrist and twist. Again: Cas is an angel. So when he keeps the hose on Dean for another few seconds and then lets Dean wrest it from him, Dean wonders if he's going to spend eternity throwing his punches.

Before Dean has a chance to turn the hose around in his hand, though, Cas's hand is on his waist, and there's another on Dean's face, and Cas is kissing him, so maybe the transfer of the hose was part of his plan, in the end. Dean's frozen; the kitchen is starting to feel uncomfortably cold through his very wet clothes, but Cas's hands are warm, his lips warmer as he pulls Dean in against him, confident and strong, at least until Dean's frozen for just a beat too long. Then he starts to pull away, gets far enough to separate their mouths, to look from Dean's lips to his eyes and back again.

Cas's hair is damp and droplets are sliding down his forehead; his shirt is wet, and Dean can see the dark of his skin starting to shine through the material. His eyes are a deep blue, and Dean thinks about the night sky outside of the Roadhouse, the quiet moment he'd shared with Cas then.

It turns out that, yeah, he wants to kiss Cas. That maybe he and Cas want the same kind of more, and Dean's just never let himself open this door -- to Cas, to men in general, and on a grander scheme, to anyone really, not even Lisa, though he'd tried and almost succeeded there.

Dean swallows thickly, and then leans in to catch Cas's mouth, and where Cas had been confident, Dean is hesitant, his lips moving slowly, because this is all a new, unconsidered thing for him. Cas's grip is firm on his waist, his hand underneath Dean's flannel, warming him through the thin fabric of his T-shirt. Despite the blood rushing hot and insecure through Dean's ears, it's all too easy to fall against Cas, to nudge him back against the counter until Dean's pushing him into it, and Cas -- well, Cas is holding his own, his mouth moving against Dean's, tongue brushing his lips; his fingers sneak underneath Dean's shirt now, and the touch against his skin is almost ticklish in its gentleness.

Dean feels almost evil when he slips the hose between them and blasts Cas square in the chest, the back spray hitting him too, but it's worth it to see Cas jerk back, shock chasing away a particularly tantalizing darkness in his eyes. He blinks in surprise, and then gives Dean maybe the most devilish grin that he's ever seen on Cas. Dean's still turning that over in his mind when Cas grabs his wrist and, in one smooth motion, traps Dean against the sink. Dean decides that Cas isn't actually going to throw his punches forever as he keeps Dean pinned with his hips and plucks the hose out of his hand.

"That's enough of that," he says, reaching behind Dean to return the hose to the sink. Dean had gripped the counter instinctually when Cas shoved him back against it, but now that he's, well, been pinned by Cas and is dealing with how that makes him feel, he brings a hand up to the lapel of his coat and runs the fabric through his fingers.

He doesn't realize Cas is watching him until Cas gives a shuddery kind of breath, and Dean looks up at him. He shivers slightly then, the kitchen suddenly cold again against his back, and Cas frowns.

"You're cold," he observes, and he slides his fingertips up Dean's arm as if he can see the goosebumps under there. Dean nods, and Cas steps away. "Come on. You'll get sick."

"You know that's not -- " he starts, and Cas looks over his shoulder with an arched eyebrow and a look so scathingly saying don't ruin this for me that Dean snaps his mouth shut and nods instead.

His mind is buzzing with all the reasons that Cas doesn't need to link his fingers loosely with Dean and lead him to Dean's room. Number one is the obvious thing that cold clothes don't mean catching cold, followed closely by number two, which is really more of a question: can you get sick in Heaven? Number three, Dean thinks as Cas pulls him close, close enough to start pushing the flannel off his shoulders, is that Cas could probably just touch Dean and whammy the cold and the damp away.

If there's a four, he doesn't ever make it there, because Cas is kissing him again, gentle and exploratory, taking the kiss deeper, and his hand is at the back of Dean's neck, cradling him with a softness that Cas hasn't yet really shown. It grabs something in Dean's chest, reminds him that this isn't just some roll in the hay; this is Cas, and this is, maybe, forever.

Dean grips Cas's coat again, fingers curling in the fabric, and he thinks about all the months he spent with some version of this thing taking up space in his trunk, a memorial, a prayer that one day he'd be able to give it back to him. He pushes it off Cas's shoulders now, and it drops, heavy and wet, to the floor. He's never really been able to wrap his head around Cas without his usual uniform on, but now here they are, tugging at clothes and dipping their mouths to each other's skin, and soon Cas is down to his pants and just that shirt, clinging to his body, and Dean's reaching up to Cas's tie, pulling it looser and sliding it off Cas's neck. Cas's throat bobs and Dean watches it, his eyes dark, as he starts undoing the buttons of his shirt.

Cas had fewer layers to work with, so Dean's shirts are already in a pile at his feet. With his shirt gone, Dean's skin is clammy, and he shivers again, reflexively, his fingers working his way slowly down Cas's shirt. Cas reaches two fingers up to Dean's forehead, and suddenly the clamminess and that droplet that had been starting to slide down Dean's neck are gone.

"You little shit," Dean says fondly into Cas's grin as he leans in for a kiss and pulls Cas free of his also suddenly bone-dry shirt.

They kiss their way to the edge of the bed until they're sitting next to each other, bumping shoulders and elbows again, half-watching the other and half-racing, as calmly as possible, to pull their shoes off. Cas wins, having way less complicated shoes, and he sets about making it much harder for Dean to focus on his laces by bending over and kissing over Dean's back, fingers tracing up his spine.

Dean straightens up, prepared to be the one who pushes Cas back on the bed, but Cas is too fast this time, and Dean's head hits his pillow and Cas is on top of him, looking for all the world like he belongs there. And, Dean thinks, he does. This has been surprisingly, shockingly easy, once he got past the fact that he spent his whole life convincing himself that he couldn't want something like this. That seems stupid now, that fear seems so far away from here, from his room, from Cas's weight on top of him, from Cas's fingers sliding over his body like he's remembering when he remade Dean from scratch until Dean's not sure he can even breathe right anymore because no one's ever looked at him like he was the most precious thing in the world to them.

It's like his heart stutters over that thought, and Dean has to swallow a few times to remember what he's doing. His hands are on Cas's sides, fingers tracing over his ribs, and maybe it's his turn to marvel a little that this thing, this otherworldly creature, could look so right in Dean's arms, could fit so neatly in Dean's fucked up life, or afterlife. The line honestly feels pretty blurred at this point. Cas is thrumming with a kind of power he hasn't had in years, but there's nothing but -- well, love, Dean guesses, as he cups Dean's face and kisses him again, still full of the passion that for Dean had turned into a low simmer while he went through a whole emotional thing.

He's back now, though, when Cas deepens the kiss like he's been doing this for years, like he's kissed more people than he can count on his fingers. He wonders where all that confidence comes from, wishes he could maybe borrow just like a little bit of it, because while Dean isn't entirely inexperienced here, his stomach drops a little in a way he can't name every time the bulge in Cas's pants brushes against his own. This is uncharted territory for Dean, but that doesn't seem to faze Cas as he kisses down Dean's throat, onto his collar bone, over his chest, his nose brushing his skin and sending shivers radiating through Dean.

At some point between Cas's teeth dragging over him and tugging at the skin over his ribs, Dean realizes he's moving down his body with a purpose, and then his mouth is hot and wet over the outline of Dean's cock in his jeans and Dean makes a strangled sound. Cas, still a shit, does not look up, and maybe presses harder, leaving Dean gasping with his head back on the pillow.

"Did you learn that one from the pizza man?" he fumbles, scrambling to regain some kind of sense of mind because he shouldn't be the one losing his mind on the bed here; that's supposed to be Cas. Right?

"No," Cas says, voice gravelly and low but almost on accident because he's got his thinking face on, and a little frown and a crease in his forehead as he looks up at Dean. "From April. She -- "

Dean holds up a hand.

"Tell me about it later." He really doesn't need a reminder of Cas, shirt open and knife sticking out of his chest, or of what he and April had gotten up to the night before, not right this particular second.

With a rueful smile, Cas dips his head again, again mapping the length of Dean's cock through the fabric, a maddeningly deafened kind of feeling, that leaves Dean squirming underneath him, a hand fisting in the sheets. He's almost relieved when Cas stops, almost, and again he has to marvel at the fact that he's doing this -- this -- with a guy, and he's maybe whining a little without realizing it, and that's all somehow okay.

"...okay?" Cas is asking, and Dean blinks, looking down at Cas with his hand on his thigh, thumb over the button of his pants.

He takes a shaky breath and closes his eyes, remembers this is Cas we're talking about, remembers the kitchen and the hose in his hand, remembers a mixtape, remembers an appointment, years and years ago, that Cas dutifully kept. He opens his eyes and nods.

Then Cas's fingers are working at his fly, having a hard time with the thick fabric, until Dean mumbles something and does it himself. Cas sits back and watches, watches Dean's fingers, watches as he lifts his hips, watches as he wriggles himself free and kicks his jeans off the bed. Dean is used to, kind of, Cas's intense scrutiny, but he feels like he's moving in slow motion under the weight of his gaze as he lays back down and Cas lowers himself again.

This is far from his first blowjob rodeo, but still, he isn't prepared for Cas's mouth, for his tongue, for the faltering rhythm that takes a minute to even itself out, but he gets there. Dean has a minute to wonder how Cas learned all this, if it was all April or the pizza man or someone else, or some combination of the above; then Cas adds a hand to the mix, and Dean doesn't have time to think about anything at all.

Dean's dimly aware of making some kind of sound, but his reality has shrunk down to the heat of Cas's mouth, to the grip of his hand, to the nails that are gently pressing into the soft skin of Dean's inner thigh. All too soon, Dean fumbles blindly for Cas's shoulder, squeezing, his mouth trying to get out a warning, but he's not sure he manages to form any words in the end. Cas manages though; Cas manages just fine, and after the shockwaves finish rippling through Dean's body and he can catch his breath, Cas knocks it out of him again by sliding his hand over his cock again, thumb teasing at the head, until Dean tries to bat his hand away.

"Okay, okay. Give me a break," he huffs, smiling, maybe a little lightheaded, and he rubs at his eyes as he feels Cas move back up to lay at his side.

"It's a fascinating biological process," Cas is saying next to him by the time Dean can process speech again, and he cracks an eye to see Cas still just, like, staring down at his cock, but not in any kind of sexy way; more like he'd really like to take some notes on wonders of nature or something.

"It feels so different now." Cas pokes at his softening cock, and Dean wriggles.

"Hey, would you -- quit it?" He bats at Cas's hand again, but Cas catches it and twines their fingers together, and Dean winds up with their hands resting on his chest, Cas's thumb brushing a soft pattern against his skin. The tenderness of the moment is almost too much for Dean to bear, and so he grumbles, "You'll give a guy a complex."

"I like it just as much when it's curiously floppy as I did when -- "

Dean cuts off Cas's very earnest defense of his interest in Dean's cock with another grumble and a hand to the back of his head, and he rolls them over, kissing Cas deeply. It occurs to him a bit late that he's going to taste himself, but the salty tang isn't so bad when it comes with the reminder of what all Cas's mouth is capable of, and when the kiss draws to a natural close, Dean goes in again, wanting more.

Cas has the good grace to look flushed when Dean finally releases him, his lips red and wet, his hair rumpled, his eyes heavy with desire and want and, probably, love, though Dean's wonders how long he's been seeing that in Cas's eyes and just kind of skipping over it. Dean wonders how long it's been that this has just been a part of who they are.

"You're always gonna be a nerd, huh?" he murmurs fondly, his thumb tracing the line of Cas's jaw, and he thinks Cas attempts a shrug, though Dean's got him kind of trapped. "Keep the bees out of it this time."

One corner of Cas's mouth turns up in a smile. "I... do have a cabin where I've been spending some time, and I've started an apiary -- "

Dean groans and drops his head to Cas's shoulder, and Cas pauses, but then continues.

"They're a very complex species. It's gratifying to watch their work."

When Dean picks his head up, he finds Cas smiling, a knowing look in his eyes, and Dean cocks an eyebrow.

"You're doing it on purpose now."

Cas lifts his chin, defiant, proud of himself too, and Dean rolls his eyes.

"Can't believe you're who I'm shacking up with for eternity." He means it as a joke and ducks in for a kiss, which Cas allows briefly, but then he draws back, puts a hand on Dean's shoulder, his eyes searching Dean's face, and Dean realizes that it's the most he's really been able to verbalize since this whole thing started. It's Dean's turn to flush, but with self consciousness as he avoids Cas's gaze.

Cas tries to cup Dean's face, to pull Dean's focus back, but Dean's not really ready for all that; he catches Cas's wrist and pushes it back onto the bed above Cas's head, and he kisses him again, trying to get the ball rolling again, as it were. One fluid roll of his hips is enough to get Cas back into a better mindset, and he inhales sharply under Dean as he goes for a second round, just to hear that sound again. But the fabric of his suit pants is pretty scratchy, and Dean nips at Cas's throat before he draws back to start undoing his belt.

"Why're you still wearing pants?" Dean teases, sliding the belt from his waist, and Cas actually looks slightly embarrassed and perplexed as he looks down at himself.

"I... got distracted."

Dean laughs, a soft sound, and starts tugging at Cas's fly. "I guess I can allow that." But this is where Dean's confidence starts to fade because as he and Cas get him out of the rest of his clothes, Dean thinks back to those few instances where he ever came close to doing something like this, and he isn't particularly experienced. Obviously, he tells himself, neither is Cas in this area (He guesses? He's pretty sure, anyway), but then again, Cas is coming in with a lot less baggage too.

Maybe Cas senses it when Dean's hand hesitates, then slides up his thigh to rest at his hip, but stops there, because Cas puts a steadying hand on his chest.

"Sorry," Dean says, trying to clear his head with a shake, and Cas starts pulling at him.

"Come here."

Dean follows, laying back down on top of Cas, who presses a soft kiss to his lips, and then another, and the next one isn't as soft, and now it's Cas trying to distract Dean with kisses until the panic that had suddenly bubbled up starts to subside again. They break apart, Cas's hand moving in a gentle circle on his back.

"You don't have to -- " he starts, but Dean -- listen, Dean doesn't leave a job half finished. Never has, never will.

"Shut up," he says impatiently, fondly, and then he kisses Cas again at the same time that he takes his cock in his hand, and he relishes in the way Cas's sound of surprise is muffled against Dean's lips.

As he drags his hand over Cas's cock, Dean can't help noticing all the similarities and all the differences, like the strangeness of the angle, how it feels backwards from what he's used to on himself. Sure, he's done this a couple of times, and he can remember clearly the first time he took another dude's cock into his hand, the way it felt -- feels -- alive somehow, in a way that he can't quite place. But all of that was years ago now, and this may as well be something entirely new; he'd like it to be, anyway.

Cas's cock twitches underneath his palm, and his hips jerk when Dean brushes his thumb over the head, and Dean tries to do the things that he likes, but like, the mirror version of them, until Cas is gasping and clutching at Dean's shoulder, so he must be doing something right, at least. He thinks, as he watches Cas open his eyes, unfocused and dizzyingly blue as they stare at nothing, at everything, at molecules maybe over Dean's shoulder, that he's okay with learning how to get better at this.

Cas's orgasm seems to take him by surprise, and maybe it did; maybe he's still learning some things too. He clings to Dean through it all, forehead pressed into Dean's shoulder, until he relaxes back against the bed and seems to go all liquid. It's admittedly a pretty cute sight, and Dean wonders how many people get to call the assistant manager to Heaven "cute" as he flops back onto his back, his arm splayed over Cas's chest. Eventually, Cas reaches up to Dean's arm, and then eventually, Cas scoots over to put his head on Dean's chest.

Maybe Dean dozes, maybe he doesn't; all he knows is that there's some vague passage of time with his nose buried in Cas's hair, enough that he starts to get a chill again, that his arm starts to go to sleep, that Cas is tracing symbols over his skin and Dean thinks about asking him what he's writing, and then decides that talking is overrated.

He's finally convinced to move by the insistent vibrations of his phone on the nightstand, and he cranes his head to look at it, but it's face down. Ugh. He cranes to reach it, and Cas shifts, half-propping himself up, which is actually nice; feeling starts to return to Dean's arm as he pulls his phone over and checks his messages.

Charlie: Well????? Did you do it????
Charlie: Don't leave me hanging
Charlie: He's totally in love with you and you're totally an idiot, right? Tell me I'm right

"She's right, incidentally," Cas says, and looks down at Dean with a frown. "You really didn't understand what I meant?"

Dean's upset to find that he's blushing. "I had a lot to process!" he says defensively, and he's moving to sit up now. "And I didn't think you could... I dunno, it just always seemed like angels and humans had different definitions of emotions."

"And my speech about how you taught me how to love didn't indicate to you that I'd learned human emotions?" Cas is looking at him like he's an idiot, and though Dean deserves it, he doesn't really want to hear about it.

"Did we just have sex? Yeah? Cool it, then," he gripes, and Cas rolls his eyes as Dean starts texting Charlie back.

You were right your majesty

Charlie: KNEW IT. You're welcome. Stop texting me and go be gross. :)

Dean puts his phone back on the nightstand and turns back to Cas to find him sitting up in bed, staring at some faraway spot in the room, but clearly not really there anymore. He gives it a few, and then Cas blinks and turns to him.

"Sorry. There was an issue."

"Oh." Dean frowns, glancing over at his wall. "Do you need to," he gestures vaguely, "deal with that?"

"No," Cas says quickly. "No, Balthazar can deal with it. I am... 'off the clock,'" he says with what's almost a proud smile, and then adds, "Not that time means anything here."

"...means anything here, yeah, I got it," Dean says along with Cas, and they're smiling at each other then, and it's all so stupidly good that Dean doesn't know what to do with himself, and he wants to forget about these reminders that there are people outside of his room.

He yawns, and he guesses it's time to sleep, either because he's tired or because some part of him wants to sleep; he's found that it's kind of a tossup, really, and he looks over uncertainly at Cas.

"You, uh. Probably don't need to sleep, huh? You know, you could go do the... whatever," he finds himself saying, even though he doesn't mean a single word of it. He kind of hates himself for it, really, and remembers pushing Cas away before Cas had a chance to leave him on his own. "Let me get a few winks in. I'll see you... soon? I guess?"

"Dean." Cas fixes him with an intense stare, and Dean feels like a book that Cas has studied and memorized. "You're being an idiot again. Lay down."

Chided, Dean helps Cas get the blankets out from under them, and he settles down on his side; to Dean's surprise, Cas does too, laying on his back, and he reaches out to take Dean's hand.

"Jack made it very clear when he raised me from the Empty and asked me to help him." Cas hesitates, then presses on. "He said that he may need me to help keep an eye on things, but he wanted me to understand that this is my Heaven, too. That I was supposed to find as much peace as the human souls we shelter."

Dean can't help but feel a selfish satisfaction in that. Yes, of course, Cas deserves that, but Dean thinks he hears something in there about how that means Cas is going to make time for him.

"So, no, I don't need sleep. But technically, neither do you, and this is Heaven, so we can do whatever we want."

He starts pulling Dean against him now, and Dean follows, resisting the urge to find it weird to fit himself against Cas's side, to put his arm over his chest and tangle their legs together.

"I knew we didn't need to sleep," he mumbles, and Cas's soft laugh is the last thing he hears before he drifts off.

~

The morning -- or, you know, whatever -- brings sleepy, groggy kisses before they climb out of bed. Dean only gets dressed as far as pajamas, which leaves Cas looking at his pile of clothes on the floor, and then he rifles through Dean's closet.

"Uh?" Dean asks as Cas pulls on a flannel, and he shrugs, looking down at himself.

"Jimmy wore a lot of layers. It's cumbersome sometimes," he says, and then digs out a pair of pajama pants.

It isn't until Dean's in the kitchen making eggs, Cas behind him at the coffee pot, that he remembers Cas is a fully juiced up angel who could've either whammied his clothes back on or summoned his own set of pjs, and Dean shoots a fond look over his shoulder at Cas's back. Little shit. Dean's shirt looks good on him, though, and it's somehow strange to recognize that he can put that thought into words, even though last night (or whatever), Cas had his cock in his mouth and Dean was definitely into it.

The light of day and the domesticity of making breakfast cast everything in a different light, though. This isn't about sex; this isn't about resolving some unfinished conversation, rudely interrupted by Cas dying again, for the last time. This is about what comes next, and that road stretches out so long and so far that Dean can't see the end of it.

They haven't made it to the table yet, even though their eggs are getting cold, because when Dean turned around to hand Cas his plate, Cas had thanked him, taken it from him, and then set it down and pulled Dean in for a kiss. Dean's forgotten he's still holding his plate, actually, distracted as he is by Cas's soft, contented kisses; so distracted, it turns out, that he doesn't notice that they aren't alone anymore until someone clears their throat, loudly, distinctly.

Dean pulls away with a jerk, stumbling backward and nearly dropping his food. He recovers, just barely, and when he looks up, he sees Cas, rumpled and maybe mildly guilty, but only mildly, and Sam and Bobby in the doorway. Sam takes in Cas wearing Dean's clothes, and his eyes, bright and amused, immediately snap to Dean; Bobby, meanwhile, is doing a more studied examination of the scene, his expression almost impossible to read.

"We were gonna invite you over to breakfast at the Roadhouse, but it seems like you've got your hands full here," Bobby says finally, and Sam actually starts laughing, though he tries to stifle it against the back of his hand when he sees how pink Dean's ears have turned.

"Aw, come on, Dean. I've walked in on you doing worse," he says, and there's a deeper fondness there, a wistfulness that just doesn't seem to sit right with Dean, but that's because he still hasn't gotten used to this idea that his brother lived a whole lifetime without him, long enough to feel nostalgic about being scarred by his brother's sex life.

"So, he finally wised up, huh?" Bobby is talking to Cas now, and Dean looks between them, confused. Cas has the decency to look uncomfortable now as he shifts on his feet, gives Dean a sideways glance, and then turns his attention back to Bobby.

"Um. Yes," is all Cas says, and Bobby rolls his eyes.

"Idjits," he mutters, coming into the kitchen now and waving Dean away from the oven. "Move. Looks like we're having breakfast here."

Dean catches Cas's eye as he picks up his plate and they start moving to the table, and he mouths what the hell? Cas only shrugs and walks faster, beating him out of the kitchen. Once they're out of earshot, Dean grabs Cas's shoulder.

"You told Bobby?" he asks, somewhere between incredulous and maybe, genuinely annoyed, and Cas shrugs again, sitting down quickly.

"It came up."

"It came up?"

Cas is saved from trying to explain that one when Sam comes out with their coffees, and they sit, Cas and Dean eating cold eggs while Bobby fixes them all sausage. Sam starts asking things like how, and when, and starts tossing around words like finally and not really a surprise, and by the time Bobby is joining them, Dean still hasn't heard one single negative word. Again -- not like he thought he would, necessarily, logically, but there's still something coiled tight in him, a spring ready to snap, braced for the judgment that he always thought would come.

Somehow, the topic changes. Life goes on. Bobby talks about how Rufus and Aretha shacked up; Sam gives Dean another out of body experience by talking about his son's fifteenth birthday and how he got caught making out with his girlfriend behind the bleachers, and Sam struggled to keep a straight face in the principal's office.

They're laughing by the end of it, and there's a lull, and that's when Bobby nods at Cas across from him.

"Happy looks good on you, Cas."

Cas's answering smile is small, almost private, and Dean wonders just what he's missed in the time it took him to get up here. "Thank you."

"I'd like to say the same for Dean," Bobby continues, crossing his arms over his chest, "but he still looks like he'll spook if someone says 'boo.'"

Sam snorts, but Dean does not, in fact, relax; instead he gives everyone an annoyed look and retreats to his coffee mug, uncomfortable with the attention, with the jokes, with just about everything, really.

"Calm down, boy. Ain't nobody gonna bat an eye at the two of you. If they do," he adds, eyes narrowing, "they'll have bigger problems."

Dean nods, flashes a fake smile, and then Cas swoops in to change the subject. As soon as he gets the chance, Dean grabs up everyone's plates and takes them to the sink. This time, he doesn't miss when Bobby enters the room; Dean's hunter senses are dialed back on, nerves still on edge, and he's braced for -- something, he doesn't know what, when Bobby comes and starts drying the dishes.

"I mean it, son," he says quietly, looking at Dean out of the corner of his eye. "This is a good thing. This is what Heaven's for, what it should be for. Lean in."

All Dean can do is nod and hand him a plate, and Bobby sighs; he lets Dean have his silence for a moment or two. And then --

"If it's your father you're worried about..." Bobby's voice is gentle, and Dean freezes, feeling entirely like he just got blasted with cold water, and not in some kind of stupid flirty game, either. "Don't. He's changed a lot. Mellowed. He's happier too, and it... It shows."

Dean's a grown ass man now who's saved the world a couple of times, who took a beating from God, who left God in a field to die slowly and alone, in fact. Dean isn't the teenager who desperately needed his dad's approval; he isn't the kid who took in every word his dad said, every thought, every opinion, about everyone and everything, including things about the kind of guy that sleeps with other guys. But Dean is who he is both because of and in spite of his dad, and he's been wrestling with those two parts of him since -- really -- since he begged Cas don't.

"You gonna wait for it to wash itself?" Bobby blurts finally, and Dean starts, blinking away a wetness from his eyes, and this time, when he smiles at Bobby, it's genuine.

~

The afternoon stretches and shrinks, and at some point, Bobby leaves. It's just the three of them, sitting around the table, sharing a drink. Dean and Cas did eventually put real pants on at some point, and with Cas in his coat again, Dean thinks the whole scene is so familiar that it could've been any old day back on Earth.

But Sam starts talking about his kid again, about Eileen, wistful and dreamy and sad, and Cas is reaching over to touch his hand.

"They'll be here soon," he says gently, and Dean remembers that he and Sam are connected, yes, that he'll never be himself without Sam, and Sam will always miss Dean if he's not around, but the tether that joins them is longer than Dean used to think. Well, used to want it to be. He's always known that Sam was a flight risk.

Sam cracks a smile and nods, bringing his drink to his lips, and then he clears his throat and looks between the two of them, though his focus is mostly on Dean, in the end.

"Hey. I'm happy for you." His eyes are sincere, and Cas's smile is shy, but elated, and Dean still feels like he wants to sink under the table, but maybe it's less than it was before. "I mean it. It's..." He breaks off, opens his mouth, tilts his head, searching for what to say. "It means a lot to see you happy. Settled. I always -- " Sam chokes up a little here, and Dean's tearing up too, but this time, he doesn't mind it so much. Dean wonders just how much that always covers, if it started before that night in the barn or after.

"I always wanted that for you, Dean. Maybe I didn't picture it with Cas," he breaks off with a sideways smile that starts out half a joke but circles back around to something serious, something thoughtful, "but maybe I did, too, in a way."

Feeling self-conscious, fidgety, and strangely understood, Dean flicks his eyes to Cas to find him smiling warmly at Sam, at Dean, and then Dean wipes at his face with his hand.

"Yeah." He sniffs, and he nods at Sam as he pulls his drink closer. "Yeah, thanks, Sammy." There's a silence that none of them is particularly willing to disturb, until Dean starts to smile.

"Bitch," he says, half under his breath, and Sam grins.

"Jerk," Sam says back, and the two of them smile at each other, and for the first time since he got here, Dean starts to think that maybe this peace thing isn't so hollow after all.

Epilogue

The sun is bright and warm, and the bees buzz merrily around Cas as he steps carefully from hive to hive, checking on the colony, harvesting honey. He did manage to drag Dean in to help him briefly, and it was pretty cool to have the bees bumping into him and careening away again, looking like drunk little puffballs with wings, but this is more Cas's thing than Dean's, and eventually he drifted back to where he left his beer. Besides, it's better from a distance, he thinks, to see Cas with bees crawling on him, gently waving them away from his face as he studiously tends to them.

This cabin, Dean found out, is where Cas liked to spend his "off the clock" time before Dean showed up, and because Dean is still finding ways to dodge bringing Cas around to his parents' house, he convinced Cas to bring him up here. The meaninglessness of time means Dean's relatively certain that they won't be missed, that he can slip away with Cas and find this private, quiet space where Cas can putter around talking to his bees and Dean can sit at the end of a familiar pier, fishing pole in his hands.

Dean's not sure how long they stay here like this, Dean teaching Cas how to cook, Cas teaching Dean about the fabric of Heaven, and both of them learning how to be still, stationary. It still feels all too easy: the companionable silence as the stars start to appear while they sit on the porch, the way Cas's nose crinkles or his forehead creases at something on the show Dean gets him to watch with him, the way they seem to melt into each other at the kitchen table, on the couch, in bed.

He supposes they stay just as long as they need to. There comes a day when Cas is in charge of breakfast, flipping pancakes with about a 40% success rate, when Dean puts a name to the feeling that's been slowly taking shape in his gut. He's not sure how to put it to Cas, so he doesn't say anything, not yet. Cas puts their plates down and sits, and he shakes out a napkin, not looking up at Dean.

"It's time to go back," he says, half a statement, half a question, and Dean wonders if he's been looking in his head or if that's just how they are these days.

Dean nods, toying with his fork between his fingers.

"Are you okay with that?" Cas says finally, still not looking at Dean as he starts cutting pancakes that he doesn't bother to pretend he needs to eat. Are you okay with us? is what's underneath, and Dean hates that it's a fair question. Everything about this has been easy, behind closed doors. Charlie and Sam and Bobby -- they made this all easy.

Dean takes a breath and looks Cas over, from his rumpled hair to his coat, a splotch of honey on the lapel. He tries to imagine what he'll look like sitting at his parents' dinner table, and he finds that maybe it isn't all that hard after all, not if he can see Sam there too.

"Yeah," Dean says finally, and he reaches across the table again, hand outstretched, and Cas looks up, smiling, as he reaches out to take it. "Yeah, I'm ready."