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Dean takes a breath in through his nose and lets it out through his mouth, watching it condense in the night air and catch the light of the moon. It isn’t full, not yet, but the sky is so clear that when Dean blinks up at the stars, he swears they blink back. Like two big familiar eyes watching him. The thought would’ve made him feel like a softie two weeks ago, but something about witnessing your best friend die and then killing God to get him back puts things into perspective.

He misses Jack. Fuck, he misses Jack. The kid was nothing but trouble, and yet, he was still his kid. He never thought he’d get any of this, a chance at being a dad, not even in the unexpected way that it all happened. The son of Lucifer. Go figure. He thinks about the day when Cas brought Jack back to them, how good it had been to see his boy’s face again. His chest feels so tight, and it’s odd to think that those little moments are over. He’s been told that it’s never easy when your kid flies the coop, but no one told him how to handle his son becoming the literal God.

And then there was Cas. Castiel, Angel of Thursday, Warrior of the Lord. One of the many reasons Dean finds himself outside in the cold right now. Cas’s presence in the bunker has been nothing if not welcomed, may be the only reason Dean feels like he can stand upright these days, but the air between them is thick with Cas’s parting words. They still haven’t talked about it.

Because once they talk about it, there’s no going back. Something curls in Dean’s chest at the thought, protective in a painful vice in awareness of what is at stake, of what he has to lose.

That’s the thing, isn't it, that really scares him. The ability to lose. And to lose something, you must have it first, so follows the fear of having. And, god, is Dean terrified. It all circles around like a vicious dog biting its own tail, and he feels stuck in his own behaviors that, for the first time in his life, he wants to break out of. Like, finally, there is something worth breaking them for.

Even now, with the last few days of walking around Cas on eggshells, Dean feels gratitude well up in him. Jack had done it. He had brought Cas back and better than ever, his grace as powerful as Dean had first met him, a static that sets the hair on Dean’s arm on end when they’re in the same room. Jack had promised not to meddle, and really, he hadn’t. Even God needed helpers. With so many angels dead, the big bads gone, there were position openings for archangels, and Jack had known exactly who to fill the first spot with.

Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, Dean looks up at the sky above him to mumble, “You did real good, kid.” His hands warm against the now nipping night air in response, and his eyes sting with tears that he blinks away.

He can imagine the scene inside that he left behind with the flimsy excuse that he needed to get some fresh air. Sam, Cas, and Eileen were probably in the den watching a movie, some chick flick that Sam insisted was necessary for Cas to see. The thought of their patchwork family together again, safe, possibly even content, has Dean’s heart tripping over relief and fear between beats. Another reason he makes these nightly visits to Jack. It makes him nervous, all of his newfound peace.

His brow furrows and he frowns up at the stars when he hears the telltale sound of wings to his right. Dean ignores the way his stomach flips over, the way he can feel his soul pulling in Cas’s direction, and the way that it sings out He loves you like a mantra.

“You know, it takes, like, two seconds to walk here from the Bunker,” Dean says gruffly, trying to sound annoyed but finding it difficult with the smile fighting its way onto his face. He keeps his eyes towards the sky, feeling unstable, like one look at Cas might topple him over.

“Perhaps,” comes Cas’s deep voice from Dean’s periphery. “However, flying is much more practical.”

Dean doesn’t think he’s imagining the teasing lilt in Cas’s tone. He lets the smile break through, and the two stand in silence together. Just when the isolated sound of crickets chirping drags out onto the side of awkward, Dean speaks.

“What’s up? Something wrong?” Even he can hear the strain behind the question. Yes, yes, this is the other shoe dropping, the moment when Castiel tells him they have more work to do. He stares pointedly at the stars.

“Nothing at all,” Cas replies, “Sam asked me to retrieve you for hot chocolate.”

The soft, happy spark that rises at Cas’s words douses itself out in rapid succession. The paranoia crawling under his skin represses the warmth trying to rise with a desperate fear like drowning, like waking up and realizing your nightmare was actually a memory. All that comes out of Dean’s mouth is a noncommittal, “Ah.”

Cas’s stare on the side of his face is like a brand.

“Something wrong?” Cas mimics Dean’s own words back to him almost coldly.

Dean’s first instinct is to laugh, to let the words run off of him and into the ground, even though it’s obvious what the answer to the question is. Wasn’t there always something wrong with Dean Winchester? At this point, Dean thinks Cas just asks out of courtesy. It’d be so easy to brush Cas’s concern away, and yet. And yet, he thinks of all of the ways Chuck had been a part of this thing, had broken him over and over again in the name of his stupid fucking stories. He thinks about what Chuck’s Dean would have done, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. He can almost hear his own voice, “‘Course not, Cas,” with forced cheer, “Let’s go get some hot cocoa.” If nothing else, he can tell himself what he says next is out of spite.

“Yeah,” Dean starts, stops abruptly.

He can feel the disbelief radiating off of Cas at his response, and is almost impressed when all Castiel has to say is, “Dean,” in that soft tone he has. That soft tone he only uses on Dean. He loves you, Dean’s soul calls out again. He holds the thought close to his chest and summons up the courage to say something honest for the first time in his goddamn life. But it’s Cas standing beside him, and that makes the words easier to get out, easier than anything else Dean’s been trying to tell him the last few days.

“It feels too good, Cas.” Dean looks over at the angel for the first time since he arrived. “It feels like I’m gonna blink, and it's gonna- poof! Like Chuck’s gonna show up and tell me he planned this too, wanted to give me things just so he could take them away. I want… I want this- for things to be this easy, more than you could probably ever know. But if I let myself believe it, just for it to disappear again… I couldn’t live with it, man.”

Dean is raw all over. Exposed like a live wire and lit up like a Christmas tree under the look Cas’s giving him now. Like maybe Castiel understands or gives a shit. He loves you.

“Dean,” Castiel repeats. “I am… so sorry that you feel this way. It’s not something you deserve or should have to live with. However, it’s nothing if not completely reasonable.”

Dean frowns at him but doesn’t interrupt. Cas continues.

“You have rather recently discovered that your whole life has been an elaborate plot to a book, in which you and your brother are the main characters, and are relentlessly tortured both physically and emotionally at the hands of the Creator. This life, it has not been kind to you, Dean. Even less kind when understanding that someone was doing these things to you purposefully, perhaps even making you do things you may not have wanted to do. There is nothing wrong with how you feel.”

And there’s that smile, that close-lipped Cas smile that brings the corner up further to one side like maybe he barely knows how to smile at all but the sheer need to show his happiness seeps out into his vessel. Dean loses his breath. It’s enough, for now, to keep reaching out even though he’s terrified of the way his words could be used against him.

“It’s like everything is finally catching up with me, ya know? All the people we’ve lost… all of the things I’ve lost. Hell, my relationship with my dad.” Dean gives a dry laugh, wipes his cold palms on the thighs of his jeans even though they’re not sweating. “Like everything finally got quiet enough out there that it got loud again up here.” He taps a finger on his temple. He doesn’t even know where his words were coming from, just that they’re true, feel good to say. He wonders if Cas has something to do with that.

And Dean is furious, stupidly, heartbreakingly gutted when he takes a moment to look back. He doesn’t know what to do with it all, with that little part of him that started crying when his mom died and never stopped, even when Mary had returned to them. But what a sorry thing to catch up with now, at the ripe age of 42 and the killing of God under his belt. Does it ever stop? Apparently, now it has, and yet the trunk of emotional baggage he carries with him shakes and screams like something is trapped inside, and Dean is too afraid to open it.

“And my brain just runs itself in circles, man, like it won’t turn off. I haven’t been sleeping very well.” Dean finishes lamely, suddenly wishing he’d never said anything at all and had just gone inside for hot chocolate.

There is a moment of silence, as if in absorption. “You and Sam have lived a life more difficult than most, if not all,” Cas states matter-of-factly, but not unkindly. “It sounds like these are symptoms of human anxiety, which may be linked to a trauma response. To put it bluntly, if you or Sam were not currently exhibiting symptoms of PTSD due to your life experiences… I would be seriously concerned.”

It’s the way Cas says it, the way he looks at Dean with mirth shining in those blue eyes without pity, like they both know exactly how fucked up this whole situation is, that sets Dean off. He howls with laughter, almost doubling over with the force of it. It’s like a release that Cas has set off and Dean’s a leaky hose that’s suddenly gushing water. All of the tension and the built-up emotions shed themselves as he laughs until tears form in his eyes. Cas watches with warm affection and pride, pleased with his own successful attempt at humor.

When a few minutes have passed and Dean has collected himself enough to let out happy, little laughter sighs, the two look up at the stars together.

“He does hear you, Dean,” Castiel says softly.

Dean’s face drops. The words rip him open and heal him all at once, in a way that only Cas is capable of. He turns them over in his head but doesn't respond, doesn't need to. It feels good to know definitively though, that Jack was getting his messages. It makes his reality a little steadier under his feet.

“As for your current predicament… there may be something I can do to help.” Cas looks hesitant even as he says it, casting his eyes sidelong at Dean.

Dean turns to him. “What d’you mean?”

Castiel’s lips press into a thin line, all of the jovial glint gone from his eyes. “PTSD and trauma can alter pathways and connections in your brain, in a very physical way. Because these changes are physical… it may be possible to… heal them, in a sense.”

“Heal my brain?” Dean shoots back incredulously.

“That is the dilemma.” Cas sighs, deep and labored, and Dean wonders how long he’s been waiting to bring this up, the concept seeming a burden. “The brain is very complex. I could attempt to heal some of your neural pathways, but I fear the consequences. I’ve never done anything like this before. You may lose memories or become disorientated. You’ve had too many entities meddling with your brain, Dean. I would not like to add to the stress of that.”

There’s a palpable nervousness coming off of the now archangel. If Cas could sweat, Dean was sure his hairline would be shining with it. Instead, he shifts from foot to foot in a decidedly un-Castiel way.

“I trust you,” Dean replies.

Castiel stares at him. Dean’s pinned in place with that steady gaze that gives light to only a fraction of the power Cas holds. It’s so intense, in a way that Dean would have made a joke about if this had been before. Instead, Dean holds Cas’s eyes and resists the urge to squirm.

“You don’t even know what I would be doing to you.”

“Don’t need to.” He loves you.

From the look that crosses Castiel’s face, he can tell there will be no changing Dean’s mind.

And maybe this was about more than just Dean’s fucked up pathways. Maybe this has been a long time coming for a lot of different reasons. Like an olive branch that extends back years, that covers fights and resentment and distrust. That after everything Dean had been through with Michael, he’s willing to let someone else in. But it had to be Cas. It was only ever Cas.

The look they share is loaded, and the universe seems to freeze, watch, as Castiel finally steps closer. He’s close enough to make Dean nervous in a way that he would have never admitted to before, like his stomach is about to bottom out. His throat bobs.

When Cas raises his hand to Dean’s face, it reminds him of that terrible day, when Naomi had control of Castiel. Cas had healed him just like this afterward. Except, it wasn’t the same at all, and Cas’s palm hovers over Dean’s cheek, close enough that Dean can feel the warmth of it against his chilled skin. Instead of Cas’s whole hand becoming a cradle, the only point of contact is the pad of Cas’s middle finger which rests steadily against Dean’s temple, the one he had pointed at earlier himself.

Nothing happens, and for a second, they simply stand in each other’s space, closer than they’ve been in a long time. Not as close as Dean wishes they were. Castiel only hesitates for that moment though, as if giving Dean one last chance to change his mind.

“Ready,” Dean breathes out, and then closes his eyes.

The sensation, once it starts, is hard to describe. Dean knows what Cas’s grace feels like when it’s binding his flesh back together, how the area grows warm like he’s holding it in front of the heater of his car. This is something quieter, more intimate, than that. Dean tries to pin down his thoughts, but they flit away like dry leaves that he doesn’t bother trying to catch. Maybe that should worry him, maybe it would have in any other situation, but he feels so safe. Yes, that’s it. That’s the sensation. Like the buzz of white noise that lulls you to sleep. He wants to fall into it and never come out. His eyes roll back in his head under his eyelids, from the power and the silence of it all. For once, there is peace without fear.

And then Cas’s hand is gone.

When Dean opens his eyes, he sees blue. That rich heavenly blue that traps Dean in his place. He’s never seen something so beautiful, the color of Cas’s eyes, and it’s like sinking into the safety of Cas’s grace all over again. Maybe he hadn’t really resurfaced from it at all. Why was he fighting so hard against this again?

“Dean,” Cas’s voice is so deep and soothing. Dean wonders what it would sound like reading one of those books Dean had always meant to get around to (but would never admit to) except the world was literally ending. “Are you alright?”

Oh, yeah. Cas was just tooling around inside of his brain. Dean is loose and relaxed like he was just on the receiving end of a deep tissue massage, but he still feels like him. He does a sweep in his mind, like a tongue running over teeth after a dentist appointment, checking to see if anything is out of place.

He holds up a finger to Cas to indicate that he needs a moment.

Dean recalls memories, thinks about Sammy and apple pie and Baby. Next, reluctantly, he nudges at the grief he knows is just below the surface. To his surprising relief, it’s still there. There’s still that tug in his chest for all of the people he’d lost, his gut still clenching at the thought of those days when Michael controlled his body. But it’s quieter. When the distress surfaces, it stays put instead of frantically trying to escape and winding Dean’s brain too tight.

Everything is easier to assess, easier to look at head-on.

“Yeah,” Dean’s eyebrows raise appraisingly. “Feels good, Cas. Real good. Like ‘just did your laundry and all of your clothes are clean’ good.” He nods his thanks in Cas’s direction.

Castiel’s concerned expression doesn’t let up.

“And your memories?”

“All intact.”

When Cas still doesn’t look convinced, Dean rolls his eyes.

“Listen, if something was wrong, I’d be the first one to point it out,” Dean grumbles, and then realizes that the statement is completely false. Cas must also be aware because that annoyed I am so over this Winchester shit look that he gets sometimes crosses his face.

“Okay, okay, maybe not. But I promise, this is my brain we’re talking about, and I’m getting too old for this sneaking around shit. Everything feels good, Cas. It’s just… not as loud.”

Cas’s worried look morphs into something more gentle and Dean’s heart is wobbling in his chest at being the recipient of it. An archangel looking at him like that. He loves you. Yeah, that’s still at full volume.

“I’m happy that I could help, Dean. If anything changes, I trust that you’ll let me know.” This time, Cas speaks with confidence. Maybe this was Cas’s olive branch back.

The two share a smile, and Dean feels inexplicably shy.

“Thanks, Cas.”

Castiel’s smile warms, “You’re welcome, Dean.”

Just as Dean opens his mouth to suggest going back inside for that hot cocoa, a wave of exhaustion hits him, and it snaps shut so quickly that his teeth click together. His newly quieted mind is no match for the insomnia he’s been experiencing the last few, fuck, weeks. Years. Like if he closed his eyes right now, he could fall asleep standing up.

Cas must notice the sudden change in demeanor because he says Dean’s name quietly, inquiringly.

“Yeah, Cas, I’m good. I’m just so fucking tired. Been a while since I’ve gotten some good shut-eye.”

“Let’s get you to bed, then,” Cas’s low voice holds no suggestiveness, if anything it’s tender, but Dean can’t help but flush, and what is he, thirteen?

They walk in together, the sudden warmth of the bunker hitting Dean like a blanket. His eyelids are already drooping, and he allows himself, for the first time in a long time, to imagine the amazing sleep he’s about to get. He wonders if the nightmares will be any better with the new change or not. Shuffling in the direction of his bedroom, he turns to Cas.

“Tell Sam ‘n Eileen I’m heading in early, okay? Maybe we can do hot chocolate again tomorrow night?”

“I’ll let them know,” Cas replies, nodding as if to himself, the weariness that had been hanging on his face since he returned all but gone.

As Cas turns to go do just that, Dean watches his back as he walks away. The memories of those last moments in the dungeon creep in, the words said there that they still haven’t talked about. Dean wants to talk about them. He’s so scared. But for once, the fear doesn’t echo around in his brain until he’s deaf to anything else, it just looks at him expectantly.

“Cas,” Dean calls down the hallway before he can convince himself not to.

Castiel turns around, tilts his head to the side with attentive eyes.

“Will you come to my room when you’re done?”

Dean has never been more grateful for anything when Castiel doesn’t ask questions, just smiles. “Of course, Dean.”

...

What the fuck was he thinking?

He’s laying in his bed staring up at the ceiling and trying to figure out what he’s going to say when Cas shows up. To be honest, he doesn’t really feel like saying anything. It’s just, there’s an itch in Dean’s brain that he can’t seem to scratch, a part of him that wants Cas so close and in his presence that there is no mistaking the fact that Cas is back. There is no mistaking that Cas is real. He’s lost the guy so many times it’s all he can do not to latch on and never let him out of his sight again.

Dean had already nervously changed into a t-shirt and boxers, after some deliberation of whether that was weird to wear around Cas or not, and then landing on the fact that that is simply what he slept in and he worried too much. So, he’s under his warm covers, fighting the way his eyelids droop, hoping that Cas will hurry up and also that Cas never shows up and they can both pretend Dean’s groggy ass had never opened his mouth.

Of course, this is the precise moment there’s a knock at Dean’s bedroom door.

“C’m in.”

The door opens and a slightly apprehensive Castiel peeks his head through, before entering fully. He walks to the foot of Dean’s bed and stands there, looking down at him. Dean opens his mouth to say something, but Cas standing over him is just too damn weird, so what comes out instead is, “Sit down, Cas, you’re makin’ me nervous.”

Cas purses his lips in indignation, but sits down at the desk by the door as requested, turning the chair around to face the bed.

“Is everything still alright?” Cas asks, because, yeah, that’s the only logical reason that Dean would’ve asked him to come to his room after what just transpired and the fact that Dean has been somewhat avoiding him the last few days.

“No, no, Cas, it’s not that. I just…” He can feel the words on the tip of his tongue. Say it, Winchester! “I- uh- Well, I missed you.” Bam.

Now Castiel looks slightly alarmed. “Are you sure your head is alright?”

Dean doesn’t know whether he wants to laugh or cry. What a fuck up he’s had to have been, to make Cas think that the only way he’d miss him is if something was wrong with his brain. The thought hurts in a new way, in its own way, when Dean realizes how much pain he must have caused Castiel through the years. The one thing I want is something I know I can’t have.

“My head is fine,” he snaps, and he realizes it’s more at himself than at anything Cas has said. He growls, digging his palms into his exhausted eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Cas. I never meant to-” There are too many words he could put into that pause, but none of them feel big enough. When he pulls his hands away from his face, his eyes are wet, and Castiel is looking at him with concern and rapt attention.

He makes himself look Cas in the eyes as he continues. There was a time once, in Purgatory, when he didn’t get to say these words out loud like he wanted to.

“I’m sorry if I-I made you feel like I wasn’t happy that you’re back. Because I am. I’m… I’m so glad that you’re back, Cas. And I missed you. And it hurt like a bitch to lose you again. But you came back,” to me. “And we’re here now.”

It must be Castiel’s turn to look broken, because his eyes are so large and shining in the lamplight, his lips ajar like he can’t keep his mouth shut. He takes in a deep breath and blinks in succession.

“Yes, Dean,” his voice gruff to the point of splintering, “we are here, now… I’ve missed you, too.”

Dean wonders if they should talk about it. For the first time since Cas got back, he feels like he may be able to. But Dean’s so tired, can’t get his now quiet and sleepy brain to filter any of the emotions he’s processing and turn them into the right words. So he settles on a watery smile in Cas’s direction. Just knows that he wants Cas to stay. How nice it would be even if he did startle from a nightmare to find Cas safe and sound within reaching distance.

“Remember, right after you…” Dean doesn’t know how to say it, exactly. He doesn’t like talking about his time in hell, and especially now that it barely seems like it should be a blip in his past considering what he’s been through. And yet, it still feels so fresh, and he doesn’t want to admit that most of the nightmares he has are about his time there. “...saved me,” is what he finally lands on.

Castiel watches him like he understands the difficulty Dean is having with getting the words out, but it’s tinged with curiosity.

“I’d wake up to you standing there like you’d been watching me for hours. Ha,” Dean laughs to break the seriousness of his statement, how his stomach flutters at the memory. “I used to get so mad. But, ya know, lookin’ back, it wasn’t so bad. It was kinda nice, in a weird way… to know that nothing was gonna happen to me or Sammy. I always slept better when you were on lookout, even though I never would‘a admitted it.”

Understanding seems to dawn on Cas. He looks at Dean so softly it reminds him of his mom in a way, and that makes Dean feel like crying all over again. He swallows around the lump in his throat.

“Well,” Cas sighs almost impishly, “I’ve been meaning to have some quiet time, think over some new plans for a subsection of heaven that Jack and I are redesigning,” he glances over at Dean like it’s an inside joke that Cas finally understands. “It can get a little lonely, though. I don’t mean to impose, I know you’re probably exhausted, but would it be too much to ask if I sat in here while I worked things out? I promise not to bother you while you sleep.”

And Dean loves him. Dean loves him and loves him until it feels like it’s got a hold of his throat and it’s wringing him dry. He’s hanging on a clothesline in the breeze of a summer day in the warmth of the sun, of Cas’s gummy smile, of the light coming off of a celestial wavelength that wants to hold his hand. Everything is coming to a head in a point so sharp that it becomes a needle, and Dean is a pincushion. How inescapable is his blooming chest in the low light of his bedroom, the feeling of being held in place feeling so much more like being held? Held in the way that he’s always wanted, the way he hasn’t been since he was four years old. Since someone took care of him, and not the other way around.

“Yeah,” Dean all but chokes out. He clears his throat and it does nothing. “No prob at all. Wouldn’t want you to get lonely or nothin’.”

When Castiel looks at him, he doesn’t acknowledge Dean’s cracking voice or watering eyes. His face is patient, it is kind. “I appreciate your hospitality. I’m sure I’ll be much more comfortable here. But please, don’t stay awake on my behalf. You look like you could use some sleep. In fact,” Cas snaps his fingers, and the lamp turns itself off, leaving them in the dark. Show off. “Good night, Dean.” He loves you.

“Good night, Cas.” I love you, too.

 ...

When Dean comes to, the room is almost pitch black. Usually, his internal clock is impeccable, and his four hours wake him up right on time at a cool 6:30. He’s never felt like this before, though. The waking up is always ragged, either from a nightmare or a sharp jolt, and when he opens his eyes he feels like he’s gone blind in the dark of the room. Sometimes, when he wakes up, he feels like he has to relearn every one of his atoms, the entire English language, like waking up is the most exhausting part of his day. Once he realized how much the feeling bothered him, he started keeping the door cracked to let the generator hallway light in, just enough to let him know that light still existed, somewhere.

But now, he unfurls. He’s blooming into existence like someone is easing him into it with a hand on the small of his back. The grogginess isn’t new, but it feels pleasantly warm like he could close his eyes and fall right back asleep. No, this is not the same at all.

And then he remembers Cas, the conversation they had last night, and he turns his blurry eyes towards his desk. The weak glow of the hallway light through the crack in his door barely catches Castiel’s shoulder, but it’s enough that if Dean squints he can make him out. When things start to focus, Dean almost does a double-take. Cas appears to be reading a book with rapt attention in the complete darkness.

“Hey, Cas?” Dean mumbles, not wanting to startle the angel.

Cas shows no sign of surprise, however, just looks over to where Dean had spoken from.

“Dean,” he affirms, softly.

“What time is it, man?”

“It’s 9:14,” Castiel says with confidence, and Dean is sure it’s for good reason. Now that Cas is a capital-A Angel again, he could probably tell Dean what time it was down to a millisecond. “How did you sleep?”

Dean doesn’t even have it in himself to downplay it. “It was fucking awesome, Cas. God, best sleep I’ve had in, hell, in decades! A whole ten hours,” he lets out a whistle. “I think that may be a world record for me. Whatever miracle juice you injected into my brain, dude, you gotta give some to Sammy. Lord knows the kid could use it.”

The white of Cas’s teeth as he smiles is visible even from where Dean is laying.

“That’s good to hear. I’ll be sure to talk to Sam about our discovery. I already told him that you’d be sleeping for longer than usual, and it seems he’s gone out to breakfast with Eileen.” He waves a hand to the lamp behind him on the desk. “Would you like me to turn the light on?”

As if Dean couldn’t do it himself, it’s not like he was incapable of leaning up to turn on his bedside lamp. He’d chew Cas out for it if he wasn’t so comfortable… and yeah, maybe a little bit because of the caring way that Cas says it.

He really should get up. Sleeping past 6:30 feels like a deadly sin at this point in his life, over luxurious and indulgent. But then, he’d already been to hell and back, hadn’t he? And if Cas was right, Sam wasn’t even around to worry over him or question him about his change of schedule. He’d always secretly been envious of teenagers in movies and the way they all seemed to sleep in until noon, cocooned inside of their warm blankets without a responsibility in sight. In a way, he guesses for the first time in his life he doesn’t have any either.

“Naw, you can- you can leave it off for now. I’ve got nowhere to be. Do you-“ Dean almost doesn’t want to ask because he doesn’t want to hear the answer. He’s pretty sure he already knows what it’s going to be. “You have anywhere you need to be?”

To his surprise, Cas says, “Nowhere at all,” in a contented way that Dean hasn’t heard in a very long time. Silence falls again, and Cas goes back to reading his book.

It’s odd. For as much as Dean intimately knows Cas, he feels like there’s so much to learn that he never bothered to listen for. Most of that is probably Dean’s fault. He’s always been particularly talented in the ‘pushing people away’ aspect of his life. Now, here, where it is safe and warm and there is no looming threat, he watches the dorky little angel.

“Whatcha readin’?” Dean sits up as he asks, his legs bending in front of him, his arms resting across his knees, while his covers pool around his waist.

He hears more than sees Cas shuffling through the pages as if marking his spot, before closing the book and setting it down on the desk, like he wants to give Dean all of his attention. That twists a knot in Dean’s chest that walks a thin line between nervous and elated.

“It’s a book about honey bees. They’re so fascinating, with their intricate dances and innate navigational skills. Some of them are even domesticated to help with crop production, did you know that? The way one would own pets, but also not. I feel like I am constantly learning from them. I certainly have a fondness for them that I don’t have for some other creatures…” Cas trails off, managing to sound disdained and guilty at the same time from the omission. “This may sound silly, but I’ve been thinking about making a section of heaven for them.”

Dean blinks, not knowing how to even process that. “For- For the bees?” He asks, aiming for true neutral so that he wouldn’t hurt Cas’s feelings. They’ve already made so much progress, no use fucking it up by judging an archangel on his choice of heavenly construction.

Cas sighs like he hears right through it. “I know, I know, it may not make any sense. But there’s something about them that makes me feel that they deserve eternal rest. They’re workers, hard workers, and their work benefits so many. Technically, they don’t have the same moral dilemmas as human beings, but they do have souls as all living things do, which means that they have the ability to enter heaven. Even the smallest bee contains magnitudes of positive and selfless productivity.”

And, God, if that isn’t Cas in a nutshell. Love for every last creature, every living thing, down to even the most forgettable of nature’s interactions. Dean has never once in his life seen a bee pollinating a flower and given it a second thought, much less considered the bee as a little creature with its own soul, and here Cas is trying to create a whole heaven for it. Sometimes, Dean wonders if Cas feels the same way about humans. Both must be just a blink in his lifetime, billions of them, all the same, all disposable to an angel, and yet Cas values each one individually, with a soul and identity. Dean feels exactly as insignificant as those honey bees when he looks at Cas and tries to imagine the vastness of him.

Cas, to be honest with you, buddy, I don’t think the bees give a fuck where they end up when they die.

As easy as it would be for Dean to say it, he doesn’t think it’s what Cas wants to hear right now. So he puts on his big boy pants and tries to round up all of the manners and conversation skills he’s learned in the long, long, 42 years he’s been alive.

“Well, uh, ya know.” Great start. “When I think of bees, I think about how they make honey ‘n stuff, right? Like the, uh, pet bees you were talkin’ about. But, if you’re using the logic that bees are getting into their own heaven because of their, uh, selfless work, then wouldn’t you be separating them from the selfless work they’re doing by making them a heaven outside of humans? Not that humanity doesn’t fuck up, like, everything. But bees and people, they kinda lean on each other, I guess. Maybe some people’s heaven can only exist if bees are in it, and maybe some bees only view heaven as a place where they can help people. So…” God, he has no idea what the fuck he’s talking about.

“So bees should coexist with humanity in heaven to make it truly paradise for both parties,” Cas finishes for him as if every word Dean said made perfect sense. The way Cas is smiling gently at him makes Dean want to take credit for the idea anyway.

“If you wanted, Sam and I could build you one of those beehive boxes above ground. That way you could have your own pet bees.” But that feels as foolish as his Heaven recommendation, useless with building things the old fashioned human way while Cas could snap his fingers and create nebulas. His gut sinks until it hits his knees, and suddenly he doesn’t like this conversation very much.

But Cas looks at him, barely distinguishable in the dark room, like he said something miraculous.

“You would do that?”

Dean doesn’t know whether he should feel embarrassed or proud. “I mean, yeah, especially with all the free time I have now. It’ll probably only take me a week to get antsy enough to start working on shit again.” He rubs a nervous hand across the back of his neck.

“I would love that, Dean,” and Dean’s breath catches, just for a second, on the L-word. Oh, right. He loves you.

He clears his throat, “Settled. We’ll get started once it warms up outside.”

And that’s that. Except it’s not, because that word is rattling around in his brain now, bouncing off of the quieted walls and right back to front and center. It’s unavoidable where it stares him down. There’re so many things he doesn’t understand, so many emotions and moments he knows he’s going to fuck up because he never does any of this right. But the sound of Cas picking up his honey bee book again and flipping through the pages makes him want to try anyway. He wants so badly that it feels like he’s been shot, like the damage has already been done. There is no way out of it, and if he’s honest with himself, he doesn’t think he wants there to be.

Because he looks at Cas and everything in him tugs. It’s physical and emotional and overwhelming, the way Cas feels like a fountain in the middle of a desert. Dean doesn’t know what to do with the way Cas seems to caress him between his first layer of muscle and last layer of skin even when they’re not touching, like sinking into the longest, most satisfying stretch of his life. The idea of sinking into things makes him flush, and he rubs his ankles together underneath his bedsheets.

Maybe it’s the darkness that he can pretend to hide in, or his sleepy brain, or the miracle juice, or the way he is warm right down to his feet, that prompts him to say: “When did you know you loved me?”

Dean expects shock, shyness maybe, not the fond long-suffering sigh that comes from Castiel. The angel puts his book back down and leans back in the chair, focused on Dean once again.

“Would you like a summary or the full transcription?”

Dean throws his hand up nervously in a ‘whatever’ kind of way and repeats, “I’ve got nowhere to be.”

“Alright,” Cas nods to himself, seemingly deciding where he wants to start. “Well, I suppose it happened in stages. There was certainly a difference between loving you, realizing that I loved you, and then accepting that I loved you.”

Cas says it so casually, as if he’s talking about a crossword puzzle that he was trying to solve in the morning newspaper and he just realized what number five-down was supposed to be. Dean can’t handle this. They’re just gonna talk about it like this? The tension in the air that they’ve been tiptoeing around for over a decade, and now they’re just talking about it? The words feel taboo, and shouldn’t we be avoiding this all together? Cas doesn’t seem to have the same qualms, but he was always braver than Dean was.

“I’ve loved you since I first laid a hand on you in Hell. Your soul was a beacon in even the foulest of places. It was like a song, humming out the most beautiful melody, ringing like a bell. The definition of righteous: acting in accord with the divine, free of guilt or sin. Oh, yes, there was no doubt in my mind that you were the Righteous Man. And when I held your soul, it was…” Castiel’s eyes close in memory. “It was like love was bleeding from it. You were wounded and tortured and oozing enough love to cripple any entity that wasn’t an angel. And when I pulled you out, you clung to me, and I understood. I felt love in a way that I’ve never experienced love before, and I suppose that was the beginning of the end for me.”

Oh, God. Dean kind of wants to puke. Words like beautiful and divine absolutely do not apply to him. His hands are filthy with blood and his soul is covered in scar tissue, his whole being a scab that never seems to heal. Certainly not ringing like a bell, certainly not righteous.

“You never told me any of that,” Dean says, and he can’t help the way his tone is slightly accusatory with the need to cover up the way his chest is tightening.

“Would you have listened?” Cas replies, and Dean feels his jaw set because he knows it’s true even though he wishes it weren’t. “I understood why you avoided talking about your time in Hell, and it felt wrong of me to try to mention it to you.”

Dean doesn’t know what to say to that, so he just nods at Cas to continue.

“I was aware that something was off, but it was very hard to pin down. Imagine trying to explain what human love feels like to someone who has never felt it. It would be like trying to describe the color red to the blind. All of this, in the midst of trying to figure out where my loyalties lie. It was very… confusing.” Even in the dark, Dean can see the way Castiel’s face pulls down into a frown. “But the longer I watched you, watched humanity, things started to make sense. I think my first mistake was underestimating what romantic interest felt like.”

Dean wants to laugh, except Cas’s words really aren’t funny at all, and he almost chokes on his spit.

“I knew that I felt differently for you than I did for Sam, but I had assumed it was because of our bond. Part of me always knew that wasn’t the case, but I clung to the idea because I was… afraid. Once I broke allegiance with Heaven, it was much easier to face. But even after I was able to recognize what I was feeling, I was… unsure of what to do with it.”

Castiel pauses and looks away. Dean waits for him to continue, but he remains silent

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dean prompts quietly, afraid of his own voice. It feels like the air has been sucked out of the room, sucked out of his lungs. One stiff wind could topple him.

Frustration crosses Castiel’s face, and his eyes meet Dean’s again. “When you are hungry, you eat. When you are tired, you rest. When you are dirty, you bathe. But what are you supposed to do with love?”

The words come out mean. They’re coated in guilt and confusion, and make Dean fracture right down the middle. When he opens his mouth to respond, nothing comes out. Cas watches his mouth open and close like a fish, and deflates, looks away again as he relaxes back into the chair.

“Do you remember when Sam was ill to the point we worried he may need to see a doctor?” Cas asks the wall to his right.

It doesn’t take Dean long to figure out what Cas is talking about, the memory of that terrible week ringing out clear as day. “You mean a few years ago when Sammy had the stomach flu?”

“Watching you care for him- that was when I started to accept the way I felt for you.”

“When I was cleaning puke out of the bottom of our garbage cans?” Dean asks sarcastically.

Cas turns back to look at him pointedly. It reminds Dean of the old days, a little bit, when Cas used to stare too long and stand too close, and Dean didn’t want to admit he was scared of him.

“You cared for Sam in a way that I have never seen you before. You’ve always been Sam’s protector, of course. But being a protector implies that there is a threat, that you are a barrier between Sam and violence. When Sam was sick, there was no amount of cruelty that could better the situation. So you left cruelty behind in favor of comfort. You were there to take his temperature and bring him soup and rub his back. Watching the way you showed love for your brother reminded me of the day I saved you, the way you were bleeding out in my arms as I raised you to the surface. I was okay, then, with being in love, as long as it was with you.”

Dean doesn’t know how Cas manages to make the words sound like both a compliment and a threat. And the things Cas had said to him the last time they parted suddenly start to form a clearer picture, a puzzle full of pieces Dean never understood until now.

He distantly thinks that he’s shaking. His bones rattle like windchimes and he wants to argue, No, I don’t understand what it means to be gentle, to comfort, but Cas leaves little room for debate.

Cas stares into him, and the room is dark, and they are quiet.

“Oh.” Suddenly, Dean feels like a child. His tired eyes are wet and irritated. “Right.”

The chair groans as Castiel stands from it, and he walks to the foot of Dean’s bed to look down at where Dean sits. They are only a few feet apart, now.

“I meant everything that I said to you, Dean, before the Empty took me. Do not- Do not think so lowly of yourself. You are loving and inherently worthy of love.”

Dean can feel it like a frayed rope holding up a piano when the last thread holding him together snaps.

The tears that had been gathering in his eyes roll down his cheeks, catching in the stubble on his jaw, and playing Plinko down onto his neck. They’re wet the same way that summer rain makes women’s hair frizz out, and his skin itches. He’s overwhelmed like the room is spinning, but what else is he supposed to do, when it’s Cas saying this, the one person whose opinion rivals Sam’s in its value to him. What is he supposed to do when someone loves him and means it?

And the tug in him that never left is stronger now, calling him to reach out to where Cas is standing, because Cas is so strong, maybe strong enough to hold Dean in the way he can finally admit he needs. He clambers up onto his knees, only throwing a spare thought to the fact that he’s in his boxers, and closes the distance between them until he has both hands balled in Cas’s dress shirt, resting back onto his heels. Even like this, Cas still has a good half-foot on him, and Dean has to look up to meet his eyes. And he looks up, and he sees heaven in the tenderness of Cas’s expression.

Everything makes too much sense all at once, and Castiel’s head tilts to the side in understanding, his brows drawn up in sympathy. Dean feels a tentative hand rest on the tense muscles where his shoulder meets his neck, and Castiel’s fingers squeeze comfortingly at the tendon.

If Dean thought he had snapped before, it is nothing compared to the way he buries his face in Cas’s chest, the dress shirt buttons pressing into his forehead and nose while the soft, blue tie rubs against his cheek. He mouths at the fabric with the sobs that wrack him, that have him trembling and white-knuckled and sharp around the edges. The starched shirt grows wet against his face, and he’s so embarrassed, but it’s like once he’s started he can’t stop. It’s easier here in the dark where he can hide his face and pretend that there are no consequences to his little breakdown. So the tears keep coming messily, while Castiel’s hand has moved to cup the back of his neck.

“It’s alright,” Cas whispers down to him, watery in his own way. “It’s alright, Dean, I have you.” The fingers on his neck rub softly through the short hair on Dean’s nape.

Who is Dean to argue with that?

But, eventually, he must come down, come back to his body, and the realization that he just cried all over Cas’s shirt like a kid who didn’t get the birthday present he wanted. He stiffens up and carefully tries to extract himself, except the hand on the back of his neck keeps him firmly in place.

“Don’t,” Castiel says resolutely, not even giving Dean enough space to turn his head to look up at him. Dean breathes into the wet fabric. “I don’t need to read your mind to feel the shame coming off of you right now. You have nothing to be ashamed for.” The hand squeezes again. “In all of the years that I’ve known you, I have never seen you as brave as you are right now.”

It’s the sincerity in his voice that stops Dean from arguing, and instead, he rubs his nose into Cas’s sternum. “You know, you’re, like, one of my favorite people, ever?” Dean’s voice muffled against the fabric covering Cas’s chest.

That finally makes Cas relent, and he lets Dean pull away from him. When Dean looks up again, Cas is smiling down at him, and How did I never see it before? “Well,” Cas says smugly, “you are my favorite person ever.”

Dean laughs, throws his head back with it, and he feels lighter than he has in a good, long while. He’s sure he looks crazy, laughing while his eyes are red and puffy and there are still tears drying on his face. “Alright, jackass, trying to one-up me when I’m complimenting you.”

And then Cas looks so insufferably Cas when he says, “Oh, Dean, it’s sweet that you threw the word ‘trying’ in there. I think you meant, ‘succeeding’.”

“Fuck you, ‘succeeding’,” Dean moves to kneel up so that he’s eye-level with Cas. “How ‘bout this for one-ups?” and then leans in for a proper hug. It’s an absolute misdirection, and he can tell it works by the way that Cas’s arms surround him and then relax against him. The angle gives Dean perfect access to the stubble on Cas’s neck that leads up under his ear, and Dean breathes warm against the skin, feels Cas freeze. Gotcha. His lips are so close that they brush the shell of Cas’s ear when Dean whispers, “I love you, too, ya know?”

All three of the dark lightbulbs in Dean’s bedroom burst.

Dean reels back in shock, looks at Cas with wide eyes even as Cas doesn’t seem to see him at all, face glazed over and eyebrows pulled up in pleasant surprise.

And then Dean hears it coming, from a distance, from the other end of the long hallway outside. Pop! Then a second later, closer, pop! As if on a metronome, the lightbulbs lining the hallway explode one by one while Dean and Cas stare at each other. Pop! A beat. Pop! A beat. Pop! Ten seconds later, and the two are holding onto each other in the room even darker than before, no light in the hallway to even trickle in.

“Uh,” Cas says, eloquently. “Whoops.”

With a wave of his hand, the shards of glass scattered across Dean’s bedroom shiver on the ground before slotting elegantly back into place, the lamp on his desk turning itself on. There seems to be a similar commotion happening in the hallway because the generator lights kick back in, adding to the room’s new glow.

Dean is, maybe, a little hard, which is embarrassingly noticeable through his cotton boxers.

“Well, shucks, way to make a guy feel special,” Dean jokes, but it comes out bordering on sincere, and suddenly with the light on they’re too close to each other. He pulls his hands out of Cas’s shirt to rub them nervously on his thighs.

Castiel continues to stare at him blankly, “You love me?”

Dean feels his face soften, his teasing smirk falling away. “‘Course I do, Cas.”

When Castiel doesn’t seem particularly reassured, Dean huffs and rolls his eyes, mostly to cover his nerves, and sits back on his heels again. The clock that’s been counting down to this moment has finally run out, and Dean is almost grateful for it. “I guess now is probably a good time to have this talk, anyway.”

“What talk?”

“Cas,” Dean sighs, “I- Well, I’ve just been trying to grow a pair an’ talk about this since you got back, man. I know I’ve been avoiding you, but I guess I just didn’t know what to say.” Dean looks down at the bedspread, at the corner of the wall, anywhere that isn’t Cas. “Or how- how to say it. You made this whole big speech that had me crying like a baby and then threw yourself into black tar Dante’s Inferno for me. How am I supposed to top that? I can barely tell someone I need to use the bathroom without feelin’ like I said too much. And I’ve never been good at this shit, but every time I lose you, it’s like, why didn’t I just fucking say something this time? What if you’re really gone for real? But then you beat me to it,” Dean laughs and it comes out like a hiccup, “‘cause you’re Cas and you’re awesome like that.” His half-hearted smile fades. The bedspread he’s focused on is a drab pink, and he presses his lips into a line and forces himself to meet Cas’s watching eyes.

“So, yeah, I love you. I-” Dean clears his throat, looks at Cas like he dares him to laugh, “I’m in love with you. It’s not my fault that you’re badass and hot as fuck, alright?”

Cas manages to look absolutely taken aback and fond all at once.

“You… think I’m attractive?” Cas teases softly, and he’s smiling a new smile that Dean has never seen before. It’s like Dean’s stomach finally has permission to feel now, because suddenly it’s turning over and squirming at the look, embarrassingly pleased to have drawn it from the angel. I did that. Me. Dean. It’s enough to push him to break the tension, bring the interaction back to familiar territory.

“Yeah, yeah, don’t let it go to your head, Zoolander.” Dean pushes at Castiel’s shoulder. Except, when he makes contact with Cas’s solid form, the angel’s hand grabs him deftly by the wrist. When Dean pulls, Cas doesn’t let go. His squirming stomach drops.

Dean.” Castiel rumbles, and he looks confident. Hungry, like he can read all of Dean’s hesitance and see right through it, right to the place where Dean is begging for more, begging to touch. Dean can hear himself gulp. For the second time this morning, Dean opens his mouth for words that never come out.

Castiel guides Dean’s hand the short distance from his shoulder up to his mouth, and it’s like he’s staring into Dean’s soul when he raises his knuckles to his lips. Maybe he is. It’s just a brush at first, and then it’s more, the chapped surface pressing a kiss to the knuckle of Dean’s middle finger in a way that is both soft and rough.

“Such beautiful hands,” Cas murmurs against his skin. Dean’s breath is stuck in his throat. “Capable of such strength, and yet such tenderness.” The kisses continue, knuckle by knuckle until Castiel opens his hand up to get access to his palm, and Dean sucks in a breath between his teeth. He watches Cas’s actions like he’s having an out of body experience.

When Cas presses his lips to Dean’s palm, they’re open and wet, trailing spit behind them as Cas moves to Dean’s thumb. “I’ve always wanted to…” and then his lips part and there’s soft heat enveloping the digit down to the first knuckle.

Holy fuck,” Dean wheezes.

Cas pulls away. “Dean,” he repeats. His eyes are wide and vulnerable like he wasn’t just sucking Dean’s finger, and Dean’s heart aches. “I want…” Cas’s eyebrows draw together, he looks away, looks back up, “I want.”

There Cas goes again with his bravery, and Dean thinks he may owe him for the rest of his life. Shame burns deep down in Dean’s gut, still, in a place that’s most likely going to take a while to clean out all of the way, because it’s one thing to say the words and another thing to act on them. But Castiel always knows, and he offers his own confession like an outstretched hand for Dean to take.

“Okay,” Dean chokes out. “We can- yeah.”

 

And then they’re leaning in, meeting somewhere in the middle after both of Cas’s hands come up to frame Dean’s face, Dean’s hands finding their way to Cas’s lapels. It’s achingly hesitant when their noses bump, and they exchange breaths in the minimal space between them. Dean lets himself savor it, the proximity, the closeness. His eyes fall shut and his stomach is a fluttery mess, a nervous excitement he hasn’t felt since he was in high school, but it’s even better because it’s with Cas. Dean closes the distance.

Maybe he should have prepared himself a little bit better. Maybe he got cocky, thought that the long list of women he’s slept with and his age would minimize this into something familiar. Ha. There’s nothing familiar about the way Cas’s stubble catches against his and creates friction, the way that Cas’s baritone voice echoes in Dean’s throat as he swallows the angel’s hums. When their tongues touch, Dean has to stop himself from reeling back from the way it’s too much at once. But one of Cas’s hands has found its way into Dean’s hair and holds him still, keeps him locked in the loving way that Cas licks over his teeth as if categorizing them.

It reminds Dean of Cas’s power, the otherworldly strength that could hold Dean in place with a pinky finger. A little part of Dean wants to test it. He wants to feel the effortless way that Cas could move his body around and hold him down, because there’s something about the contrast of his Cas now with the power of the Castiel he first met that sets his blood boiling, like maybe how far they’ve come together over the years is what makes this so different, in the end.

He hopes Cas can feel it. Dean knows words aren’t his strong suit, but he thinks the way their lips drag tenderly could be, and he hopes Cas can feel how much Dean loves him. The familiar overwhelming swell of emotion is rising up again in his chest and he’s helpless to it. Twelve years is a long time to be in love. But the way Cas catches his bottom lip between his teeth before soothing the pull with his tongue makes it all feel worth it.

When they separate, Dean’s lips are wet with Cas’s spit and his face is burning.

“Cas,” he means to say, but it comes out like a croak. Cas’s hand tightens in his hair and he has to bite back a whine. God, if he thought he was easy before, it’s nothing compared to the way he’s turning into putty under Cas’s touch.

“What-what do you- I’ve never done this before…” Cas looks at him from under his eyelashes, “with someone that I love.”

God, Dean feels himself choking up all over again. “It’s been a while for me, too, man.” When Cas continues to look at him nervously, he feels a protectiveness surge under his skin, and he swallows down his own anxieties because he can do this, for Cas. “But, I mean, we can go at whatever pace we want, right? Do this however we want. That’s what free will is all about.”

And Dean knows he said the right thing when Cas’s frightened look morphs into a shy smile. Dean can do this after everything Cas has done for him. Dean can be brave, too.

He moves his hands to the knot of Cas’s tie. “Is it alright if I take this off?” Maybe Cas was right, about the being built on love thing, because Dean always liked this part, the softness that comes with being intimate with someone. In the past, it felt like having sex was Dean’s only outlet for tenderness; when the girl knew nothing about him other than the fact that he made her come four times and she got to walk away happy.

But this is even more than that because that soft feeling is going somewhere, into Cas where it belongs. Dean can admit that he likes the way Cas evokes that soft feeling in the first place.

“Yes, that’s-yes,” Cas replies, and so Dean gets to work on ridding Castiel of his office attire. The tie comes off easily, and Dean is giddy with how long he’s been wanting to do that, loosen Cas’s tie as he undresses him. Maybe in the future, he’ll get the opportunity to rip it off while they have angry makeup sex or something. That can wait, though. Now, Dean throws the tie down onto the floor and grips at the lapels of Cas’s khaki jacket until the angel nods and Dean pushes it off all the way, and there’s a soft thud when it follows the tie to the ground. The blazer comes next, and then Dean is left to appreciate Cas in just his dress shirt.

“You look good like this,” Dean says appraisingly, and Cas honest-to-god blushes. The compliment seems to give Cas the confidence to continue undressing himself, as he pulls back from Dean’s space and starts popping the buttons, slim fingers working meticulously, and Dean can’t drag his eyes away. The dress shirt is finally off, followed by the undershirt Cas tugs over his head, leaving him bare from the waist up.

Dean’s throat is really fucking dry. Cas is all tanned, toned skin, and muscle, his nipples hard in the cool Bunker air. Cas moves in close again. Dean’s brain jerks back and forth between emotions: the want to touch, the knowing that he can’t, and then the realization that he can. He raises a barely shaking hand out and traces the line of Cas’s collar bone into the dip of his throat before it slides down until his palm rests flat over Cas’s heart. For a moment, the silence of the bunker is an alternate reality where no one else exists, and Dean and Cas share a look that makes Dean feel like this is the first time in his life he’s been on the exact same page as someone else.

It makes a laugh bubble up inside of him and it comes free into the yellow-lit bedroom without fear. He thinks Cas gets it because Cas smiles back in a way that reaches all the way up to his eyes

“May I return the favor?” Cas asks, face still contented, and touches the hem of the t-shirt Dean slept in. Dean can only nod helplessly.

Once they’re both shirtless, Cas uses his leverage to push at Dean’s shoulder, guiding him back to lie down, and Dean goes willingly. His heart beats faster when Cas joins him on the bed, crawling to hover over him with hands on either side of Dean’s head and knees on either side of his hips. Cas leans down to kiss him again. It’s been a while since Dean was this close to someone, physically, and Cas’s mouth tastes like a rainy day while the presence of his warm body feels like a barrier between Dean and the rest of the nightmares of the world. Yeah, Dean could get used to this.

They kiss until Dean can feel his pulse in his lips, and the wet friction is enough to make him want to crawl out of his skin. His hands spread across Cas’s back, molding over the sharp angles of each shoulder blade and then holding onto the nape of his neck. Dean wants more, wants closer, because it feels like all there’s ever been between him and Cas is too much space. He tries to get the point across by pulling down on Cas’s neck, and it seems to work because Cas’s lips leave his in favor of kissing along his jaw.

God, god, knowing that the gentle kisses below his ear are from Cas is so fucking good Dean thinks he’s shivering, jaw clenched to keep his teeth from chattering together. Cas’s lips trail down Dean’s neck, and Dean has to stop himself from squirming at how sensitive his skin feels under Cas’s attention. When their stubble catches again, pulling in just the right way, Dean’s toes curl and his breath hitches. Cas hums in response, seemingly pleased.

“I’ve thought about doing this for a long time,” Cas sighs into his skin. “I would watch you when you were drinking a beer. Your head would tip back, and your throat would bob. I wanted to bite it.”

The words swirl hot and low in Dean’s gut. If Cas keeps this up he’s gonna cream his boxers like a goddamn teenager. He groans, low, “Then do it.”

Cas’s teeth scrape softly against the column of Dean’s throat and then solidify where they capture his skin, biting down and worrying the area in a way that Dean knows will leave a hickey. Cas only pulls away far enough to reposition his mouth right under Dean’s Adam’s apple before going to work again. Dean doesn’t know when the hollow of his throat became an erogenous zone, but it’s really fucking doing it for him. He grabs onto Cas’s head to hold him there and cards his fingers through the feather-soft dark hair to encourage him.

Dean bets the bruises on his neck from Cas’s teeth are gonna look real nice in the bathroom mirror when he brushes his teeth after this. The idea of being Cas’s is a feeling he’d never allowed himself until now, but it makes him want to purr like a goddamn kitten. He knows, logically, that he would never do it, but there’s a little part of him that wants to strut around covered in Cas’s marks, gun in hand, dare anyone to question him.

His train of thought is broken by one of Cas’s hands coming up to brush over his nipple, his thumb circling it until it hardens, and, fuck, they’re just as sensitive as Dean remembered. Dean’s dick twitches in his boxers and suddenly everything goes from 0 to 100 real quick.

“Shhh- Shit.

And Cas must like that reaction because his forefinger joins his thumb and he pinches.

Dean’s a little embarrassed at the keen that punches out of him. Cas, however, doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest, because suddenly Cas’s hand is being replaced by his mouth, and a warm tongue plays with the bud. Yeah, Dean’s not gonna survive this one. All he can do is tip his head back and groan, his fingers twisting knots in Cas’s hair that would probably border on painful if Cas wasn’t an angel. “That's- You’-” Dean gasps, only to be cut off by Cas’s mouth moving to his other nipple to repeat the process. When Cas’s teeth scrape against it, Dean’s hips jump off of the bed into the air between them on their own accord. “Oooooooh.

Cas’s chest is heaving as he pulls away so he can look down at Dean, intense eyes flitting around like he’s trying to soak up every detail before landing on Dean’s face and groaning at whatever he sees.

“I am the most fortunate creature to have existed, to be able to witness you like this,” Cas states as though it is a God-given fact. His voice is so whole, so reverent, that Dean doesn’t know if he wants to curl away from it or bask in it.

But Dean is saved from having to reply by Cas’s hand trailing down over his ribs to the waistband of his boxers and petting the skin just above them. “I would like to remove these if you are comfortable with that.”

“Yeah, Cas,” Dean breathes out, “you can take ‘em off.”

The boxers come off easily and with little preamble. Cas moves off of him to work them down his legs, leaving Cas standing at the foot of the bed still in his pants and Dean as naked as the day he was born. Dean resists the urge to cover his junk over the dissecting gaze Cas is directing at him, which only breaks for a moment when he spreads Dean’s legs gently with his knee, just enough to make space for himself. He kneels between Dean’s shins with his feet hanging off the edge of the bed.

Dean wants to say something to crack the tension because Cas is seriously just staring at him and his boner, but the words die on his lips like even they can sense the shift in emotions in the room. So Dean lays still, watches Cas watch him, and waits for an explanation for the change of pace.

“The last time I saw you like this, I was rebuilding your body.” Cas’s fingertips are a whisper from Dean’s shin up to his kneecap. He looks like he’s remembering something, the resurrection of Dean presumably. It sets Dean’s body up in white-hot chills like a fever is consuming him.

Because Dean likes it. It’s like Cas’s newly blooming hickeys on his neck, but so much more. Every cell in his body recreated and mended by Cas’s gentle hands. A mark so much deeper than a handprint on his shoulder, until no one can see it besides maybe Castiel himself.

“I’m glad it was you,” Dean admits because he’s already naked and what does he have to lose? “Knowing what I know now about those dicks with wings, it’s kinda a miracle that it ended up bein’ you in the first place.”

Cas looks absolutely moved with tears gathering in his eyes. Oh god. Not this. Not that look that’s burned its way into Dean’s brain. His gut lurches, but Cas is already talking again.

“Miraculous. That’s a good word for it. I’ve never been more grateful for my fate than the moment that we met each other.” He squeezes Dean’s knee, and it calms some of Dean’s turbulence.

“I wish I remembered it. Feels like I got robbed, couldn’t even tell you anything about the first time we met.”

“I’ll show you, someday, if you’d like,” Cas says kindly, and if Dean weren’t naked he wouldn’t believe that a minute ago they were going hot and heavy. But, hey, he did say they could do this however they wanted. And if that includes intermissions for Cas to work through some stuff, then Dean can deal. “Of course, there are some things I may have to omit for your safety, but I think I could ‘whip something up’ for you.”

The smile that stretches across Dean’s face is so genuine it almost feels wrong, like a programming error. “I’d like that, Cas.”

And while the conversation may have been an intermission, it certainly wasn’t the end of the show, as the hand on Dean’s knee cap travels higher into the uncharted territory of his thigh.

“Yes,” Cas says, sounding amused, “I think I did a wonderful job.”

The words force an incredulous laugh out of Dean that cuts short when Cas’s hand travels higher, his other hand joining in to mirror its path. Instead of heading towards his groin, however, they pass up over the hinge where Dean’s thigh meets his waist, a sensitive area almost never seen by the outside world. Not seen by anyone but himself in longer than he’d like to admit.

“This joint was particularly tricky to recreate. The angle of your leg is quite specific, and a good center of gravity can be the difference between life and death when hunting. I had to make sure it was perfect.” Cas’s voice is gruff now, a fondness seemingly marred by simmering arousal and possessiveness that makes Dean shiver. The looming heat in his gut is steadily growing with Cas’s words, and he holds his breath, waits to hear more.

As if understanding Dean’s unspoken request, Cas’s hands move up over his ribs.

“Your abdomen was almost unsalvageable,” and Dean expects a flinch that never comes. It’s hard to think back to the damage that the hell hounds did to him while the angel who wove him back together is touching him like he’s something precious. “I rebuilt all of your organs, first, and then your ribs. I slotted them into place meticulously. I knew their importance, that they would protect your new heart and help you breathe. Of course, I also later inscribed them with wards written in my own tongue, so that you’d be safe.”

It’d almost be ticklish if the sensation wasn’t so deliberately teasing when Cas’s fingers count down Dean’s sides where he innately knows his ribs are, and then move in to skirt around his belly button. Dean’s dick is certainly getting back with the program, and it bobs when Cas’s hand passes across his treasure trail.

But it’s not just his dick that seems interested. Dean feels like a flare shot into the sky. He knows that Castiel rebuilt him, but hearing him talk about it in detail is a different story. Because Dean aches with the want to remember what Cas is describing, and there’s awe deep in his bones that reaches out to Cas like it’s trying to go home. He misses the way that Cas was in his head last night, rewiring stuff upstairs, and Dean now realizes that’s probably the closest he’s ever gotten to interacting with the real Cas. With Castiel, the archangel, not just Jimmy’s body.

“Cas,” comes desperate and wrecked off of his lips, and he doesn’t even have time to blink before Cas is hovering above him again, bringing them face to face. He looks down at Dean fearfully, as his eyes dart back and forth between Dean’s.

“Dean, what’s wrong?” Cas’s voice is urgent like he’s one minute from gathering Dean into his arms and flying him two states over to keep him safe.

“Nothing, Cas, I just- ” He raises his hand to Cas’s cheek, just to touch him, and it seems to soothe some of Cas’s worry. “You-” Dean tries again, before giving a resigned sigh. There’re no easy words to explain how he feels and how he wants Cas closer to him, how even with Jimmy’s body pressed against his, the sensation of skin on skin is an obstacle instead of a gateway. Dean looks up at Cas and wills him to get it, but the angel continues to look at him warily.

“I wish… that I could see you.” Dean finally says, and he feels stupid. His face is burning with the omission.

Cas, on the other hand, lights up in realization, and he seems relieved that Dean isn’t in distress. “Of course,” Cas says confidently, fondly, “I should have realized being the only one naked may be strange.”

Before Dean can explain that that’s really not what he meant at all, Cas is standing back up and shedding his pants and underwear. If there’s one thing that can be said for Dean, it’s that he never looks a gift horse in the mouth. Cas may have completely misunderstood what Dean was trying to get at, but at least he’s naked.

Dean knows that he’s staring, but it’s kind of difficult not to. Not when Cas looks so strong, the muscles of his thighs defined from hunting and the V of his hips prominent down to where he’s very obviously hard. He reminds Dean of an ancient Greek warrior, all level-headed, unselfconscious power, which makes a lot of sense given Cas’s background. It makes Dean ache to touch. He wonders how much of the body’s physique is inherited from Jimmy and how much is from Cas inhabiting the vessel after Jimmy left. It’s odd how the lines blur between the Cas that he sees and the Cas that he most likely wouldn’t even be able to comprehend.

“Come ‘ere,” Dean finds himself saying with his tongue teasingly peeking between his teeth, and Cas is quick to comply. He crawls back over Dean again, and still with the space, so Dean tugs down on his hips until Cas’s full weight falls on him. They’re touching all over now, with their hard-ons pinned between them, and Dean is alight with it. He couldn’t even hold in his pleased noise if he tried. It still doesn’t feel like enough, but it’s more than he could have ever hoped for.

“You feel so good, Cas.” The honesty in his own voice scares him, and he hides his face in the side of Cas’s neck.

Cas groans and his hands latch onto Dean’s hips in return to grind against him. He uses Dean’s position to his advantage and kisses along his exposed neck again. Suddenly, they’re rutting together on top of Dean’s comforter, every drag of their hips making Dean pant and squirm, aroused by the unfamiliar sensation of the fine hair of Cas’s thighs rubbing against his. He claws at Cas’s back, and when his short fingernails catch the skin, Cas shakes and moans into Dean’s ear. It’s a fragile sound in contrast to the machine of his body.

“Yeah, Cas,” Dean hisses in response, and the positive reinforcement makes Cas groan even louder.

With a final nip at Dean’s neck, Cas pulls away, forcing Dean out of his hiding place so that he can look Dean in the eyes. His hips haven’t stopped moving, though, and a particularly hard thrust with unnatural strength sends Dean spiraling. His whole body tenses, his sweaty hands clutching desperately for purchase on Cas’s back. “Oh, f-fuck.”

“Dean,” Cas growls, their faces only inches apart, and Dean snaps to attention. Cas is staring down at him with those unfathomably deep eyes, an eternity stuck behind them, making Dean feel swallowed in their intensity.

“I know that you worry, Dean, that you’re scared that someone could take this away from you. But I need you to understand that that will never happen. I won’t allow it. I am the most powerful being walking Earth at this very moment, and nothing would dare touch you. Nothing would dare,” Cas snarls, “even think about trying to harm you. I would reduce them to ash with a thought. I will protect you, the way that I couldn’t for so long, and you will finally be safe.” His bright, tense eyes soften minutely, “I will keep you safe, Dean. You are safe.”

Dean is a faulty wire. His brain sparks trying to put two thoughts together but nothing happens. Castiel is still staring down at him, grinding into him like the world’s greatest weighted blanket that can make you come. The words beautiful and loved and safe rattle around inside his head like they might finally stick for the first time in his life, because Cas is safe on top of him, and Dean is safe below him. All at once, the press of their bodies isn’t enough. Closer, closer, closer, his mind demands in a harsh whisper.

He knows exactly what he wants, but he can’t get his mouth to form the words. The shame in his gut swells up and he hates that he’s so pathetic, can’t just say the stupid fucking thing that in reality, Cas would never judge him for. Cas has specifically not judged him for a lot worse.

“Cas.” The name comes thick and heavy out of his mouth. Castiel watches him carefully and slows his movements until they’re just rocking against each other. This feels good too when Dean stops to think about it. Their bodies are tangled up, Dean’s sweat transferring to Cas’s body as they slide together, their dicks hot and tucked close. It’s intimate, Dean realizes. Dean doesn’t know if he’s ever been intimate with a person before.

It takes a minute to register the fact that he’s just staring up at Cas and not saying anything. Castiel’s infinite gaze is still at full force, securing him inside of his body and making him feel achingly small, achingly new like a baby bird that still can’t fly, and Cas is the nest that’s holding him up in the tree.

“What do you need, Dean?” Cas asks softer than fleece.

“I-” Dean starts, and then gets stuck on the rest. There’s a strange new anxiety that he’s never felt before rising in him, and he looks to Cas for reassurance. And Cas is right there, like always, watching him so patiently. “Will you-” His heart is hammering against his ribs. The ones that Cas built. He lets out a shuddering breath, “In me.”

If Cas is surprised by his request it doesn’t show on his face. His hands come up to cradle Dean’s cheeks and he kisses him gently, like a thank you. “Of course,” Cas whispers as he pulls back.

Cas’s hands flit down Dean’s body until they re-establish their hold on his hips. Even the rocking has stopped now, as they press together in stillness, nothing more than touching. Cas’s thumbs rub circles on his hip bones.

“Would you like me to prepare you traditionally or with my grace?”

Dean’s eyes bug a little out of his face. “Dude, you can do that?”

The excitement in Dean’s voice makes Cas laugh, the cheerful noise and his squinting eyes lightening the intensity between them. “Yes, Dean,” Cas teases so affectionately it probably would have been enough to kill Dean a decade ago. Now, it just makes Dean smother a pleased smile.

“Then, yeah, that. The grace, I mean.” He wonders what it’ll feel like. If it’ll be a slow stretch or if it’ll be instantaneous. One day, one day, he’ll let Cas do it the old-fashioned way with his fingers. They’re long and strong and elegant, and Dean bets that Cas could break him apart with them. But they have time to spare like they never have before, and right now the idea of Cas’s literal angelic essence opening him up for Cas’s dick has him shifting eagerly.

“Whenever you’re ready,” Cas says quietly.

Dean barely lets him finish his sentence. “Now.

Cas’s warm hands tighten on his hips, and suddenly Dean is stretched and slick. He can’t contain the gasp that comes out of him. Cas, the bastard, doesn’t even seem concerned, just looks down at Dean greedily like he wants to eat him alive.

His fingers are on the move again, Cas’s right hand rasping fingernails through the soft hair above his cock before they wrap around it. It’s the first deliberate contact his dick has gotten, and it twitches in Castiel’s strong grip, starts leaking pre-come when Cas strokes slowly.

Dean actually whimpers, his eyes snapping shut, and his legs shuffling uselessly. “Yeah,” he pants, and then Cas’s hand is moving faster, collecting precome at the top of the movement and bringing it back down again. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and it grows in pitch, in volume, through a clenched jaw.

Just when it almost feels too good, and the rough slide of Cas’s callouses have him on the brink of telling Cas to get a move on or they’re not gonna get to the final event, Cas’s hand stills. It grips almost painfully tight around the base of his cock, staving off the way Dean’s body was working itself up, and Dean outright moans. It’s loud and desperate where it echoes off of the concrete walls. He throws his head back into the resistance of the pillow under his head.

Fuck,” he spits out the sensation ripping through his chest. Tremors wrack his body, “H-hoooly shit.”

“Did you like that, Dean?” comes Cas’s deep voice, almost mockingly, and it makes Dean seize all over again. When he finally opens his eyes, he meets Cas’s eerily still stare boring into him, pupils eating away at his blue irises. It reminds Dean of a bird of prey locking onto some unsuspecting mouse.

Cas’s head tilts almost imperceptibly. He backs off slowly, moving down Dean’s body. The hand that was on Dean’s hip moves to grip his thigh, and the hand on his dick trails lower, over the sensitive skin of his sack, to where he’s stretched and loose. When the pad of a finger touches his hole, Dean chokes on an aborted exhale. His hips try to move, both towards the sensation and away from it at the same time, but the hand Cas has on his thigh keeps him stone still.

“Oh, God, Caasssss,” he groans in realization.

“I like the way you say my name. All of the time, but especially like this.” Cas’s face is hovering around the area of Dean’s sternum, and he leans down to kiss the skin. “I’m going to make you feel good the way that you deserve. You are worthy of love,” a kiss, “and safety,” a kiss, “and pleasure.”

He slithers back to the foot of Dean’s bed, curling up on himself so that he fits in the space between Dean’s legs. And then one of Cas’s fingers slips easily inside of him.

It’s like Dean’s brain tells his body to tighten up, but it just doesn’t listen. Cas’s mouth presses to the crease between his thigh and his groin, licking there while his stubbled cheek bumps against Dean’s throbbing dick, his finger working in and out at a lavishly slow pace. Cas certainly doesn’t seem shocked by Dean’s lack of ability to clamp down on him, because he adds a second finger alongside the first with no warning.

Again, Dean finds his hands tangled in Cas’s hair. The sensation of something inside of him is new, but not painful. Whatever Cas did to him worked because he feels so slick and open that it’s kind of a turn on in and of itself. He moans Cas’s name, tugging at the strands locked between his knuckles when Cas’s fingers curl inside of him and press against something that makes Dean see stars.

His feet are moving on their own accord and one stray kick hits Cas in the side. The angel doesn’t seem to notice or care, biting hickeys into the inside of Dean’s thigh and rubbing circles against his prostate. Dean howls at the ceiling with sweat dripping from his temples down to his neck, every part of him wet, every part of him open other than where his eyes are clenched shut. His head lulls from side to side and he thinks he’s yanked so hard on Cas’s hair that he felt some of the strands snap.

Cas pulls his mouth away far enough to say, “What was it that you wanted, Dean?”

“I want- I want-” he gasps. Closer.

“Please,” Cas’s voice is firm but pleading, “please, Dean, I want to hear you say it.”

“Inside,” Dean groans. Cas’s finger hit his prostate again and he whines his own, “Please,” right back. The words come out of his mouth rushed and through gritted teeth, “Castiel, so fucking help me, I want you inside of me now.

That’s all it takes. Before Dean can even register Cas’s fingers leaving him, he’s being filled up with Cas’s cock in nearly one push. It’s big and it stretches him out just right. His body accommodates for it as if it’d always been inside of him, like a key into a lock, made to take Cas like this. Castiel looms over him once again, and Dean’s arms wrap around him to clutch him close. He can feel the way his fingernails are digging in so harshly they’re most likely breaking skin, but he can’t get himself to let go.

It feels like he’s been waiting his whole life for this moment. Like nothing was true about his purpose in the grand plan before this. In a lot of ways, with Chuck’s meddling writing, it really wasn’t. But this. Dean could believe that he was made for this. Made to take Cas inside of him. It finally feels close enough, and Dean would be purring if he could.

“Mmmmm.” Dean rubs his stubbled chin across the top of Cas’s shoulder, likes the idea of leaving red marks of irritation there. His brain feels like it’s melting out of his ears. “Love you,” he mumbles.

Cas’s arms hold him tightly in return, and it feels so fucking good to have no space at all between them. All skin, all warm, touching, and inside. “I love you, as well,” Cas breathes into his ear.

It’s been a while since Dean’s been held, he’s certainly never been held like this, and all of the tension seems to be cut loose from his limbs. When Cas starts moving inside of him, he can tell he’s not going to last long.

The way they’re pressed so close doesn’t allow for any big or fast movements, but Dean doesn’t mind. Cas doesn’t seem to mind either, judging by the content little moans that leak out of his mouth. They rock and rock, breathing into each other, and Dean just closes his eyes and hangs on, let’s someone else bear the responsibility for once. Maybe Cas was right, maybe he did deserve this. It’s odd how the peace almost makes him feel sleepy now, even after waking from a long night’s rest, a post-coital haze even though he hasn’t come.

The pleasure is building, though, especially with how long they’ve been at it already. His skin is burning up. He’s rock hard in between the press of their bodies, to the point that it’s almost painful, and every one of Cas’s thrusts rubs his stomach against the head. The heat in his gut swirls like a dam about to burst.

“Cas,” Dean murmurs. Cas repeats his name softly back but does nothing else. Dean tries again, “Castiel.”

This seems to catch the angel's attention because he pulls his head back just far enough that he can look Dean in the eyes without focus, the tips of their noses brushing together. Cas’s hips continue to hitch into him. It weirdly reminds Dean of how you would slow dance with someone.

Dean pats clumsily along Cas’s right arm, tugging at it from where it’s trapped from the elbow down underneath him and shimmying to allow it free. Cas looks on questioningly but lets himself be moved around. When Dean finally gets Cas’s hand available, Cas seems to have a moment of realization and goes to pull his hand out of Dean’s to presumably touch his dick. Because that’s what he thinks Dean’s asking for. Angels can be so stupid when they want to be.

Dean doesn’t let go when Cas pulls, and instead brings Cas’s hand up to the side of his face, resting what he hopes are clean fingertips against his temple. Cas leans back a little further, looking confused.

Dean takes a steadying breath. “Want you inside.”

Castiel’s brows furrow perplexedly. Dean squeezes the hand he’s still holding in his. When Cas finally gets it, his face melts into a look so loving that Dean can hardly stomach it. His features soften, soften, soften until his eyes are made of down. “How would you…?” Cas trails off.

“I trust you,” Dean says, rough like gravel. It's the second time in twenty-four hours that he’s said those words, and he thinks that may be a record for him.

Their gaze holds, and Castiel applies pressure to Dean’s temple without the assistance of Dean’s own hand. “I cannot wait to be close,” Castiel whispers ardently, and Dean’s eyes widen in shocked realization. Before he can get a word out, he feels Cas’s power flowing through him.

It’s complete. It’s absolute. There is very little physical sensation for Dean to cling onto, though if he tries, he thinks he can still feel where Cas is deep inside of his body. It’s like he’s floating in a cloud, except for the fact that the cloud is actually Cas himself. And then something brushes against his conscience like it’s petting him, gentle and encompassing. Dean. He’d recognize the way Castiel says his name anywhere, even without a voice.

Dean falls back into him like he’s jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. No more barriers, no more trivial bodies to get in the way. They’re blending down to the atom, down to where Dean can feel his soul crawling out and unraveling. He’s so sensitive, he realizes distantly. Everything is raw like newly healed skin that hasn’t seen the light of day. But it feels so good.

He lights up with pleasure. Loved, he hears, he feels, and there’s no room for questioning the validity when Castiel, the real Castiel, is rubbing all of his nerves at once. Safe is possessive, and it’s like Dean gets a glimpse into the Cas that wants to take him in and never let him go so that nothing can hurt him. Dean understands the sentiment all too well.

What follows it is much more reserved, almost shy, and if they were corporeal Dean would assume Cas was blushing. Maybe Cas is blushing, and Dean’s brain just can’t comprehend it. Mine like a whisper that sends chills through him.

Yes, Dean feels out happily. Yours. Mine, too.

The pressure building inside of Dean is like a tea kettle about to go off. Castiel rubs and touches and sets him off with ecstasy. But as it grows, he feels Cas pulling away. He wants to latch on, cling to him, but finds that he can’t. Easy, Cas soothes, and Dean’s surprised when it actually works. I’m here. Follow me. The words are smoky and hazy and they surround him.

It doesn’t take much thought for Dean to follow Cas’s direction. He’s not sure exactly what’s happening, but there’s the sensation of the two of them floating up towards a light above them, looking like the sun shining refracted through water. They’re almost there, Dean can feel it, and they hold on to each other as they breach the surface.

Dean’s body is writhing around on the comforter, and he almost jolts himself off of the bed with how hard he gasps at being slotted back into physical sensation. His face is soaked with what he assumes are tears, and he looks up to see Castiel above him, eyes glowing with grace as he pounds his hips deeper, deeper, until Dean is full to the brim.

He detonates.

His eyes are rolled so far back into his head that it’s painful. He’s screaming. He’s crying. There’s no other choice but to let go as his body thrashes from side to side. He thinks his soul is trying to unravel the seams of his body to escape. Cas is pinning his hands down to the bed, their fingers laced together, probably to stop him from accidentally throwing a punch in all of the chaos. But the feeling of Castiel’s strength does nothing but strengthen the fire burning up in him, and he can’t stop coming.

It’s already all over his chest, but Cas is still fucking into him, and Dean feels like a ragdoll choking on his own tongue.

His cock is throbbing so hard that it’s painful where it has no friction against it. As if reading his mind, which Dean wouldn’t put past him, Cas’s strong hand grips him again and works him through the rest of his orgasm

It’s blinding pleasure that turns numbing. There are spots swimming in his vision and his mouth opens and closes mindlessly, and he thinks he may be drooling onto his pillow.

Cas slows, finally and too soon all at once. Dean’s whole body is still twitching. He doesn’t know if it’ll ever stop, if he’ll go through the rest of his life shaking like a leaf with Cas beside him. He hadn’t realized just how loudly he had been crying. Now that his blood isn’t rushing in his ears and Cas has stilled inside of him, he hears his own big, whooping sobs, trying to draw air into his lungs.

But Cas’s voice is soothing from above him. Dean can’t make out what he’s saying, thinks that some of it’s in English and some is in Enochian. It’s as warm and familiar as the rumble of Baby’s engine, and Dean floats on top of it while he tries to catch his breath. Tremors are still working through his body, but Cas’s fingers trace them and work them away, rubbing at the muscles of his neck and arms, over his chest, and down to his waist.

Distantly, Dean realizes that the tackiness of the come on his chest has disappeared and that Cas must have used his angel mojo to clean him up. Fine by Dean.

With a start, he also realizes that Cas is still hard inside of him.

“Whassit…” Dean mumbles. He uses his now free hands to rub his eyes and forces himself to open them. Cas is exactly where Dean remembered, but instead of a few inches separating them, Cas has pulled back further to caress Dean’s skin.

Dean tries again. “You didn’t come?” is the best he can manage through his uncooperative lips.

“No. I had to make sure you were alright. That was extremely demanding on your body. You were in no danger, but I would have been uncomfortable with not being able to help you through your orgasm because I was experiencing my own.”

He didn’t really catch all of that if he’s honest, but he nods anyway.

“But you’re gonna come, right?”

Cas huffs at him with exasperation. “Now that I know that you’re fine, yes, I would like to come.”

“Mmmm,” Dean hums happily, smiling and closing his eyes again. The satiated feeling is interrupted by the sensation of Castiel slowly pulling out of him.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Dean gripes more intensely than necessary. It gets Cas to stop though, and he looks at Dean in alarm. “Where do you think you’re going, hotshot?”

Castiel stares at him like he’s crazy. “You- But you- I was going to remove myself from you to achieve orgasm with my hand. This,” he rolls his hips gently into Dean, “can’t be comfortable for you.”

“It can and it is. Feels fucking good, sweetheart.” This, Dean is good at. The dirty talk, the teasing in his voice. He’s too fucked out to even try to be self-conscious about it, not after Cas was all up in his business and canoodling with his soul. “You’re so deep in me, Cas. Wanna feel more. Mmm, love the way you feel inside me.”

Dean’s hands drop to hold onto Cas’s hips and urge him forward. It doesn’t take much persuasion before Cas is rocking into him again with slow deliberate strokes. “Deaaaan.”

“Yeah, just like that, Cas,” Dean encourages him. Each thrust sends a twinge up his back, makes his spent dick ache, but even those feelings are welcome when he gets to keep Cas close like this. If Dean were ten years younger, he might even have been able to get hard again.

Cas’s hips pick up the pace and so do his moans. They’re broken, high pitched huffs that almost sound like cries in time with the thumping of the bed against the wall.

When his thrusts start to stutter, Dean clasps a hand across the back of his neck. “That’s it, Angel.”

“Dean,” Cas sounds caught between his own pleasure and panic. He casts wide, unsure eyes down at Dean.

“Inside,” Dean purrs, “In me.”

Cas’s eyes don’t even close when he comes. A long, guttural moan breaks from his mouth that pitches up into a whine while his hips twitch helplessly into Dean’s body, but he’s watching Dean the whole time. His jaw is clenched so that each staccato exhales turns into a grunt, the tendon in his neck standing out in sharp relief with the strain. He looks powerful. He looks beautiful.

And then Dean is warm inside, and wet, and he thinks he sees the appeal of not wearing a condom for the first time in his life. It’s not like Cas could give him anything anyway or get him pregnant. He squirms his hips down and sighs happily.

Cas then proceeds to collapse on top of him, all of his weight coming down at once and knocking the air out of Dean’s lungs, but Dean welcomes the way Cas’s body grounds him.

Warm kisses are pressed to his neck, and Dean lets himself be spoiled. “Feels nice.”

Cas responds with continued kisses across his throat and to the other side of his neck, which Dean bares to give him more space. With Cas still inside of him like this, everything is perfect. Not even his own paranoia could touch him.

“Can’t wait to see you, again,” Dean mumbles.

Cas kisses his neck again, then hums thoughtfully. “I understand what you mean, but there is more of me in this body than you think. Of course, there are parts of myself that I can’t show you like this, but don’t think that I’m not here with you just because I’m contained in this body. No one else is in this vessel but me. When my hands touch you, they are my hands, and when my lips kiss you,” he pauses to kiss Dean’s jaw, “they are my lips.”

Dean trails his fingers up and down Cas’s spine. “Alright, I believe you. Still, that was one hell of a ride.” He’s not sure how he manages to feel so shy after everything they’d just done, with Cas’s dick literally inside him.

Cas’s hand is warm where it cradles Dean’s cheek, and Dean pushes into it.

“You’re soul is just as beautiful as I remembered,” Cas praises. He leans in for a real kiss.

...

Dean isn’t really sure what to expect when he and Cas emerge side by side into the main room where Sam and Eileen are sitting together at the table. The room is completely silent while they have a rapid conversation with their hands, the warm overhead light creating a cozy environment. Whatever Eileen signs makes Sam burst out laughing. It’d almost be sickeningly sweet if Dean wasn’t so happy for his brother. Happy for himself, too, he can finally admit, that Eileen is part of their family as well.

It takes Dean and Cas walking a few feet closer to the enthralled couple for Sam to look up at the sound of their footsteps. Whatever he sees makes him gawk. Dean wonders if it’s their wild hair, the hickeys on Dean’s neck, or the fact that Cas is wearing Dean’s clothes. Probably all of the above.

Eileen looks puzzled at Sam’s expression and turns to see what he’s gaping at. When her eyes fall on them, a hand comes up to cover her own mouth in surprise.

For a long, lingering moment, the only sound in the bunker is the hum of the lights.

“Oh my god,” Sam finally says. “Jesus Christ.”

“Sam, please,” Cas replies disapprovingly.

But Sam is already on his feet, making his way over to where the two of them stand to wrap them in a massive hug between his tree-trunk arms. He kisses them both on the crown of their heads with an exaggerated smack. “Mazel tov!”

“Sam, you’re smothering them,” comes Eileen’s voice from somewhere in front of them, but despite her warning words, her delight is obvious. Traitor.

When Sam pulls away, he looks between the two of them again and starts crowing. “Years! A decade! I had to watch you flirt, I had to sit in a car with you for hours and pretend I couldn’t hear you pining. I just-” Sam runs his hands through his ridiculously long hair. He proceeds to walk a lap around the table, leave the room, and then come back again.

“It’s really happening, oh my god,” Sam is mumbling under his breath as he paces.

Eileen isn’t even bothering to stifle her laughter, letting it echo freely off of the walls. Dean doesn’t want to admit that he’s a little amused as well, a happy part of him curling up inside at Sam’s ecstatic reaction, because, yeah, Dean finally got his head out of his ass. When he glances at Cas, the angel is smiling as well, and Dean reaches over to grab his hand. He squeezes, and Cas squeezes back.

“I have to-” Sam sputters, “I gotta get a cake! Pie! Whatever! If we hadn’t already killed God, this may have been one of the best days of my life.”

“Alright, Sammy, we get it.” Dean tries to sound threatening, but it’s overwhelmed by giddiness that he can’t stomp out.

This makes Sam finally pause, and he looks at the two of them again. His eyes linger where their fingers are now interlocked between them. The harshness of excitement in Sam’s expression eases until he’s watching them with understanding. “I’m really fucking happy for you guys.”

Dean rolls his eyes to hide the way they tear up, “Sammy-”.

“What Dean means is thank you, Sam,” Castiel interrupts with a warm tone. “Also, pie sounds like a fantastic idea.”

And so all four of them pile into the Impala together to make a trip to the local bakery and come back with a warm pie in each of their laps, even Dean at the steering wheel.

Once they’re home and plates and forks are distributed, they crack open an old bottle of champagne and crowd back around the table. Dean pretends to complain about the champagne being too girly, but the other three sets of eyes in the room see right through him and pour him a glass anyway.

“So, spill.” Sam finally says.

“About what?” Dean asks around his bite of pie, deliberately playing stupid.

Sam rolls his eyes. “Listen, I don’t want details judging by the hickeys on your neck, but also, what the fuck happened?”

Cas smiles at Dean mischievously, as if giving him permission, and since Dean is the older brother and also the best storyteller of all time, he begins. “So, Cas injected my brain with this miracle juice-”.